#fourfoods of the apocalypse

There was a game a few years ago that asked, what food will you choose to eat after the apocalypse. The rules:

the world has ended…somehow you have a magic refrigerator. This brilliant genius of an appliance holds a constant supply of salt, pepper, oil, flour and sugar — and four other foods.

PICK FOUR FOODS.

Assume there are cooking and storage facilities; and no need to worry about pesky things like nutrition and vitamins. The food has to be core ingredients, so no meatlover’s pizza or chicken curry with rice or beef wellington. And these are all the food you will eat for the rest of your existence.

The authors of the article asked their colleagues and on twitter and came up with a good selection, some are quite specific like sharp white cheddar:

  • whole chicken, spinach, bacon, vanilla ice cream
  • dark chocolate, avocados, eggs, tomatoes
  • eggs, apples, butternut squash, hot sauce
  • heirloom tomatoes, sharp white cheddar, pork belly, eggs
  • steak, black beans, avocado, bourbon
  • coconut, papaya, eggs, rum

They even asked professional chefs:

  • Curtis Stone: asparagus, avocado, eggs, goat cheese
  • Jessica Koslow of Sqirl: feta, brown rice, meyer lemons, kale
  • Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Café: tomatoes, garlic, eggs, pecorino cheese
  • Thomas Kelly of Mexicue Kitchen + Bar: chilies, eggs, rice, lemons
  • Zak Walters of Salt’s Cure: whole chicken, avocados, collard greens, Beaujolais wine

fourfoodsapocalypse

Sis says: rice, eggs, tomato, chocolate; my niece says: rice, eggs, cheese, chocolate; can’t quite remember what mm says but it’s something like: fish, eggs, beetroot, and one other, probably chocolate.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off. My choices:

  • eggs — it seems to be very popular with many people, because it’s so versatile and can be used for baking, cooking, frying. I’m going to cheat and say live chicken or duck, so I get meat, bones and eggs. Even at the cost of having to learn how to kill them. I mean, it’s the apocalypse, so I’ll have plenty of time. Personally I’ll go for duck because it’s tastier and I can get lots of duck fat, good with…
  • potatoes including sweet potatoes — this is supposed to be a good choice because if we had to survive on one single food forever, potato is one of the best. The leaves from the sweet potatoes will be my green veg element and takes the place of kale or savoy cabbage, which would have been my first choices for veg. I can use potatoes to make yeast and use it for bread and for fermentation. Imagine potato vodka, beer, and even wine because I’ll have…
  • grapes — not only wine, but I can make vinegar from it, that provides the essential acidic element for cooking. Many people choose lemons, but I think grapes have more potential. In addition to eating whole and making vinegar, they can be dried to get raisins, and frozen grapes are a delicious treat. Even though for some reason grape ice cream isn’t a thing, it is possibe in small batches, provided there is…
  • coconut — to make coconut milk which is supposed to be a great base for non-dairy ice cream. Originally I thought of picking milk for this spot, but most of what milk can do, coconut milk can do. With whole coconuts, there’s delicious coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil, and the flesh can be used as food or dried for seasoning and crunch. With vinegar made from the grapes, I should be able to make some sort of cheese-like curd or yogurt with the coconut milk

So all in all, I’m fairly happy with my choices. If duck+eggs isn’t allowed, I’ll go for just the duck and sacrifice eggs. If duck+eggs is allowed and I get additional spots, I’ll add prawn, avocado or cheese: proper cheese and not the iffy stuff I’ll get from coconut milk, grape vinegar and whatever else I conjure up.

Some games allow for one luxury item and people may pick steak, chocolate, or some other indulgence. It’s a no-brainer for me: whisky.

#firstworldproblem: sausage rolls vs bake-off #gbbo

A truly British #firstworldproblem cropped up today. I had a craving for sausage rolls for a couple of days, and forgot to get them yesterday when I went to the market. It’s dead easy to get, if I’m not picky. The chain bakery has branches everywhere, including at most stations.

The problem is, Bake-off season 8 is on just when I wanted to go get the sausage rolls. They’re showing 2 eps back-to-back; today is eps 3 and 4.

Well, okay, moot point. I’m recording the entire season so I can watch it anytime. So I went to the station, got my sausage rolls, stopped off at the small supermarket to get staples like spaghetti and ketchup, and was back home in time to watch the second ep of the day. I can go back and watch the other ep later.

flowatermeloncake

I was all prepared to dislike this season because of the follow the dough thing but I’ve enjoyed watching it so far. Same format, same tent, same music. Prue is a good Mary substitute, and I can get my Mary fix on her own program anyway. Sandi sounds almost like Mel and Sue, and although not as cheeky, she is warm and funny, as we know she is. Noel started off unsteady but ignoring the comparisons with Mel & Sue, he’s quirky and likeable. He seems genuinely pleased to be there and mingling with all the bakers. And it’s the bakers that are, as always, the stars of the show. This group is the same, with casting as diverse as a mainstream program can get. My favourites so far are Liam with his flavours and Yan with her scientific, and sometimes not so scientific (making caramel by sight without a thermometer?), approach. And how about Flo’s watermelon cake? Wow.

I know the elimination order, which is the one disadvantage of watching such a popular program after the fact. But it doesn’t matter. I’m just grateful I can watch it and let’s forget the irony of season 8 on a BBC channel.

r/mildlyinteresting

Lazy weekend with zero plans, aside from going to the market to stock up on veg. Which I did, and came home huffing because I bought almost exclusively roundish, heavy veg–potato, sweet potato, jicama, kohlrabi, celery (okay, not round), pepper (okay, not heavy). The small supermarket is 33% off, so I bought wine and a pack of 6 fizzy water. Everything in my backpack and one shopping bag; my other hand had to carry the water.

So, what better to spend the rest of the day looking through r/mildlyinteresting stuff.

Top post this week: This library has a directory for topics people might be embarrassed to ask for

librarytoughtopics

Once and again, librarians prove they are wonderful people. A librarian chimed in:

The profession has something called the Code of Ethics which we are all supposed to follow. Part of those ethics are: I. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources. II. We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted. III. We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.

And of course, some “concerned parents” in Albany, NY saw a version of this poster and complained, saying that the library shouldn’t be encouraging kids to look up this type of information. Luckily, according to the library’s assistant director, they had mostly positive feedback. Hope they don’t buck to the pressure and change or take down the poster. Never cater to the lowest common denominator.

Top post this month: This Toothpaste describes what each of its ingredient is and its purpose

toothpastepurpose

Not as interesting as the library poster, which is why the sub is for mildly interesting things. The interesting thing for me is how water is described as aqua and its purpose is as a moistener. And here I’m reminded that moist is the most hated word in english.

The toothpaste in question is kingfisher, and the mildly interesting factor is I’ve never heard of it before.

Top post this year: Without barriers the British still know how to queue!

britishqueue

Someone recognised it as the O2 arena, so people are getting inside for a concert or something like that. In any event, it’s a long queue and it makes me proud to see the organised snake formation even without barriers. On reddit, people make a big deal (and show a lot of admiration) for the British way of queuing. I think the orderliness appeals to many redditors who are basically introverts and like organisation.

Sometimes I see queues that go beyond the barriers and they deteriorate into an utter mess even though people are trying to queue. In some other places or countries the queue will be a single line that extends to past the main doors and to the outside, very ineffective usage of space. One of the most irritating things to see is a queue for an ATM where people stand right on the pavement and block foot traffic, instead of queuing up parallel to the wall.

That said, the intricate snail-like line at the pokemongo fest in Chicago last summer was a work of art, even though there were volunteers there directing traffic. And I can imagine a similar scenario in Japan, the queue will be even more organised.

gifts for writers

treepod

My friend S linked to this wonderful page of best gifts for writers.

On fb she tagged me, saying that the treepod would suit me. OMG, how did she know!?!11!?!! The treepod is a portable treehouse made from either canvas (for indoors) or canvas+mesh (for outdoors) that is secured to any ceiling or tree to give a private sanctuary for writing and other activities like reading or relaxing. It’s one of the gifts on the list that appeal most to me, even though there is zero space in my room right now. If I were back in the flat, I can consider it, it’ll probably fit the bay window space pretty well. Other drool-worthy gifts include a global wifi hotspot, not for writing per se but for travelling; and a bunch of notebooks, some of which are wifi enabled. I’m not big on notebooks, I can do with evernote, instapaper and scrivener plus a plain text editor. Talking about apps, scrivener is on there too. Hmm, I have a nano code again this year that I don’t need.

For some reason, the list has A LOT of coffee products. If I received any of those they will go straight to mm, hahaha. There’s snack box and wine subscription, and of course the obligatory Writers Tears, which I can get at the local m&s. There are some intangible gifts too that will benefit some people. Apps, membership of relevant societies, spotify subscription.

Get to the bottom of the list, and S has one of the best gifts:

helping your beloved author’s career

by buying their book, gifting their book, and helping promote it by reviewing it. Good one.

bbmm happy hour at jamie’s

hhjamies201712

Met mm in the evening. Initially we were meeting at 7pm at the apple store so I can show her the mbp I have my eye on. I was early because I wanted to get some errands done first, but I was done by 6.30pm. Walked past Jamie’s and saw they had a tiered happy hour, between 6-7pm selected drinks only local$10, or around £1. Double the price between 7-8pm and triple between 8-9pm. Even then, $30 is good value. Only a slight catch, must only order from hh menu (ie house wines only) and standing room at the bar, not even high stools. The house red is malbec, and the house white veneto. There was also prosecco, beers, 3 cocktails and 3 mocktails. Decent selection.

Good thing I stopped there instead of heading to the apple store because mm was, what a surprise, late. She didn’t get there till 7.30pm. We ordered some bar snacks and I had another glass of wine.

By the time we were ready to leave it was 8.30pm. We thought of going to a AYCE hotpot place, but I had my reservations because it’d be late when we finish. We ended up having sashimi rice at a place a couple of doors down from Jamie’s. It was better than hotpot, the fish was fresh and the rice was well cooked.

pan-fried quail

quail201712

I see a lot of masterchef contestants make quail, because it’s quick to cook yet needs confidence because it’s not as commonly available or as easy to cook as chicken or duck. Plus, it’s chef-y.

I bought frozen quail from the japanese supermarket. Quite expensive, but definitely less expensive than eating out, as usual. I remember mm used to use it to make soup back when we were living in london.

The first batch a few weeks ago I roasted in the oven with a knob of butter inside. Took around 15mins, and it was really delicious. This time, I wanted to treat it in a more classic way. What’s more classic than to follow Jacques Pépin’s method for deboning? He made it look so easy. I was able to do it more or less the same way he did, although the end result didn’t look as neat. I used the bones to make sauce, supplementing it with a few more duck bones. Such a huge advantage to have bones in the freezer. Browned the bones for a good 20mins, then deglazed the pan with chicken stock. Ordinarily they teach us to deglaze with wine, but unless there’s a bottle already open, or I was about to start drinking a bottle, it’s not practical.

Pan fried the quail for around 10mins, until just cooked. I think I may have overcooked the breast, because it didn’t have the pinkness of medium rare meat and were a tad mushy. Overall, I found quail to be more forgiving than I expected because everything tasted great. When I was browning the duck and quail bones, there was a bit of fat rendered off so I used it to sauté leftover baked potato that I cubed.

I spent more time deboning and making the sauce than the actual cooking of the quail. Flavour-wise I prefer the last batch because: a) roasted on the bone and b) butter, butter, butter. Next time I’ll spatchcock then roast in butter, I think this will give the best tasting and best looking results.

eat more chocolate, win a Nobel prize

chocnobel

This came from a reddit thread about a paper presented in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 entitled Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates. The paper needs to be accessed from authorised (aka paid) sources but it was extensively discussed by Stanford professor Sanjay Basu in his public health blog. The NEJM paper claimed that:

chocolate consumption enhances cognitive function

based on the correlation between chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel Laureates in a selected sample of countries (r = 0.791 P < 0.0001). According to the authors, this is due to the beneficial effect of the flavanols contained in cocoa.

Prof Basu rightly called the paper:

the worst example of medical statistical misadventure we’ve seen in years.

Researchers from Belgium wrote in the Journal of Nutrition and sided with Prof Basu in dismissing the paper. They pointed out that this is a classic case of ecological inference fallacy, where conclusions about group data is drawn from individual data with no relationship between group and individuals presented. In other words:

the observed correlation is in fact based on country-averaged chocolate consumption and not on the actual consumption of Nobel Laureates themselves.

The two sets of data points have no commonality whatsoever. Chocolate consumption was over a 2 year period for the entire country, whereas the count of Nobel Laureates was over time. Some of the said laureates weren’t even alive during the 2 year chocolate consumption period. The Belgian researchers found an even higher correlation (r = 0.82 P < 0.0001) between the number of Ikea stores and Nobel Laureates in a country, a correlation they used to illustration the fact that it’s so meaningless that it’s laughable. All correlations do is to give a numerical relationship between data points, it’s up to the researcher to give meaning to the correlation. In some cases, there is no meaning.

The interesting observation is how the original paper even got through peer review into a journal. Was it meant to be ironic or humorous? Who knows. The research design comes into question. I’ve always thought of research as following the process of: do experiments -> make observations -> arrive at conclusion -> propose theory. This is the most traditional research method, especially in the natural sciences. In talking with mm, her professor seems to take the opposite approach: predict desired outcomes for theory -> design experiment/study -> get results that confirm theory. Seems to be a common method in social sciences.

researchmethods

There are different names for these research designs. Bottom up research is called exploratory or inductive research. The opposite, the top down approach, is called confirmatory or deductive research. Which is better, which more effective, that’s a difficult question to answer. It depends on the overall goals and the specific topic, I guess. Doing a lot of experiments lead to more new knowledge. Knowing what results you want may lead to more effective experiments but may not advance the overall knowledgebase. I don’t know the answer. All I know is, eating more chocolate does not, unfortunately, lead to winning Nobel Prizes.

ublock origin

I finally made the switch from adblock plus to ublock origin. I haven’t been 100% happy with ABP for a while, the process for adding filters wasn’t straightforward and they kept letting facebook ads through. Perhaps more of a fb issue rather than eeyo’s, but for the end user, it’s all the same.

uBlock origin overtook ABP around 1-2 years ago in terms of functionality and success in blocking ads. There’s still a lot of discussion about which is better. ABP is a more recognised brand, and most newbies stick to it. uBO appeals to the more technical minded.

The long and short of it is, both are good. And whichever one the user picks, is better than no adblocker at all. The more compelling arguments for uBO:

  • lighter strain on CPU and RAM
  • more available filter lists
  • ABP has better UI but uBO has more functionalities for techies to customise
  • opensource and a developer who isn’t out to make money by offering advertisers a place on the whitelist in exchange for payment

ublockorigin

I used it out of the box and it’s more or less the same as ABP for most websites. Where there was a difference, was on fb. I use fb much less than before and when I’m on I’ve been battling ads, sponsored posts and the “people you may know” stupidity, but wasn’t able to get the filters right in ABP. uBO gave me 2 straightforward ways of handling them, the easiest is to enable Adguard filters. For the odd annoyance that slipped through, adding the fiter is so intuitive. Click on the element picker eyedropper, highlight the whole element and create the filter. uBO also handled blocking the right column better, as in I was able to block the entire right column vs in ABP that caused the css to go funny.

Seriously, if you don’t have an adblocker, get one. All those arguments that adblocking is evil and all that is rubbish and selfish. Those people do not have the users’ best interests in mind at all.

p.s. yes I know about fb purity, I want an add-on that can handle ads and annoyances outside fb too.

the last jedi supercut

It’s December, which means ep 8 soon.

Someone put together a 4min supercut of all trailers and commercials we’ve seen so far. There are naturally A LOT of theories and analysis of the trailers, and I’m trying to stay away from them all. I’m focusing on reading about the events that happened between ep6 and ep7, all gathered from canon and EU places like novels, games, comics.

But anyway, mm has promised to watch it with me. She has a few days off after the 15th so we can even try going on a weekday.

food broken down to ingredients

via colossal, Danish photographer Mikkel Jul Hvilshøj arranged raw ingredients that make up a recipe in a photoshoot for a cookware producer. Have to think about some of them, it’s not immediately obvious.

foodingredients01

This is breaded fish filet, I’m guessing. The fish is filetted then coated in breadcrumbs and pan-fried.

foodingredients02

Carrot, onion, celeriac, oil, bones, tomato. I’m thinking soup or stock. More likely soup, because of the celeriac.

foodingredients03

This I have no clue. Milk is the only ingredient I can safely identify, unless it’s cream. What are the dry ingredients? Sugar, salt, flour? And the dark powder is chocolate? The pyramid at the lower right looks like either butter or cheese. The circular blob top right, I give up. Honey? Argh.

nano validated

nano

Finished november at 52,028 words. I validated as soon as it was available, on the 20th or 21st, I can’t remember.

Since I got to 50k, I’ve been adding 50-100 words a day, just to keep the 30-day streak going. I was skyping with Car the other day and she asked me how nano was going. “Or did you finish 2 weeks ago?” she joked, although she probably guessed I was done. Well, yes. I finished 2 weeks ago. The chart becomes meaningless once I hit 50k.

make your own slime

slime

I remember playing with slime when it oozed into the world. It came in one colour, green, and was icky and fun at the same time.

TIL not only has it endured the years, it’s now possible to buy kits to make your own, and somene reviewed the best slime-making kits. Just in time for Christmas. According to the testers at Wirecutter, slime can be made from everyday ingredients including glue, contact-lens solution or borax, baking soda, and optional mix-ins, such as food coloring or glitter. The kits come in convenient packages that saves parents the trouble of hunting down the ingredients. And look better as a present.

I would have loved to be one of the testers. It took only around 10mins to make each batch, so it was quick fun. The best kit according to the testers is Cra-Z-Art Nickelodeon Slime Super Slimy, the name alone is worth one extra mark. It came first because

it included all the required ingredients packaged as safely as possible, and it offered the biggest variety of mix-ins for making all different kinds of slime

including all the bowls, cups and spoons needed.

The runner-up Mr. E=mc² DIY Slime Kit gave the most and best quality slime but fell down in the areas of packaging and didn’t include bowls and such. It’s also more expensive. Looking further though, it’s from a husband and wife company in Minnesota who develops, tests and assembles the kits with the help of their kids. Compared with the brand name Nickelodeon product, it’s worth the additional price, I think.

Um, not that I’m going to buy a make your own slime kit. Well, may be not.

duck, cable car, fishing village

Another full day of adventure with my friends J&T. Met them for lunch at Spring Deer. They told me that they like sake so I asked about it when I called to make a reservation. The lady said just ask the wait staff and they’ll take care of it. The problem is, I can’t be sure what sake they get and I don’t want to drink 7-eleven sake, which is more than likely the outcome. So I went out earlier to citysuper and got a bottle. I didn’t know if my friends like hot or cold so I asked for a recommendation. The one I got was really good, medium dryness, Junmai Daiginjō-shu from Niigata. The wait staff at the restaurant were wonderful, they put it in a traditional wine jug and warmed it up for us. Corkage only local$50 so well worth it. Basically, we only had hot & sour soup and peking duck. The soup was well balanced but the star of the meal was the duck. We managed to finish it all and I took the carcass with me. I thought the sake went extremely well with the duck, the smoothness and flavour cutting back the fattiness of the duck.

I gave my friends the option of going to the beaches or the fishing village and they opted for the fishing village. To get to the fishing village, we took the famous cable car to the big buddha first. It’s a first for me, and i actually enjoyed the trip. I thought it was all going to be a tourist trap, but it was okay. I get a discount by showing my ID card and most people had opted for the ride with the transparent floor. Honestly there is no advantage to the transparent cable car as most of the view is out of the windows. They crowd so many people in the transparent cars, we’re seeing 10 people inside each one whereas we only needed to share with 2 Thai ladies.

The cable car ride was very long and the scenery pretty good. Lots of greenery around and underneath us, and we could see a hiking path too. The airport in distant view. Eventually we went over yet another hill and saw the big buddha. It’s probably the #1 tourist attraction and is supposed to be the biggest buddha of some sort. Between the cable car station and the buddha is what can only be described as an artificial village that is full of shops and restaurants. Nothing authentic about it. We stopped at a couple of shops though, and T bought a fridge magnet. It was a nice walk anyway.

threelanternstaio

We were just in time to catch the bus to Tai O, the bus arrived just as we walked up to the bus stop. And there were feral cows at the bus stop too. It was only 10mins, when I’d read somewhere that it’d take 20mins. We walked around the stilted houses of the villages, declined the offer of boat trips to see dolphins, and ended up at the Three Lanterns café. This time there was no thunderstorm and we got to sit on the terrace with a direct view of the river. Nice to relax and have a couple of beers. The nice owner lady remembered me and gave us a pot of lavender tea too.

Lucked out again with buses, only 5mins wait. The ride was long, back to the train station but comfortable. I was quite tired and we were all still full so I said goodbye to my friends on the train, got off at an earlier station to catch the bus home.

We covered a lot during the few days my friends are here. I hope it wasn’t too hectic for them. We did lots of walking, ate lots of food, chatted away and I for one had a really wonderful few days out and about.

walk, tram, ferry, minibus…and feral cows

Early start, was over at the flat to meet my friends J&T at around 9.45am. I did some research for hiking yesterday but decided against going on the ones that are too strenuous. J actually walked up to the peak yesterday and said it was really nice, but crowded.

Instead. I took them on a gentle stroll on Bowen Road, just a little past the park in the middle and turned around at the shrine. Walked down the steep path back to town. They commented on how quiet and peaceful it was, and yet we were right bang in the city with buildings and roads within view. Ended up at the Stone Nullah Tavern for a quick refresher and I took them to Crystal Jade for dumplings. I think I definitely over ordered! And I feel bad because T grabbed the bill and paid it while I was in the loo.

Took the tram then ferry then train then minibus to sai kung. Quite a long trek, but I thought they might want to see the countryside. We walked all the way to the beach and they took off their boots to dip their feet into the water. They told me it’s a tradition, to put their feet in different seas so this is a new one for them. How wonderful. I love how they are racking up experiences, rather than materialistic souvenirs.

It’s a weekday so the place was more civilised and less crowded. There were the usual fishing boats at the pier where customers pick out their seafood and the fishing people used a net to send it up and collect money on return. I had planned to take them for seafood but the harassing salesladies and remembering the last time I went with Mum how disappointing it was–cold food, small portions, mediocre quality put me off. We had happy hour at Classified and went to a Thai restaurant instead. This is the place mm and I went to and is Michelin mentioned. The food was really great but the portions way, way too large. I was quite stuffed so I had green curry veg. We even got a free yellow curry chicken that none of us could touch so I took it home.

saikungcows

Oh, cows. On the way back from the beach next to the car park we saw 4 cows grazing on the grass where people normally fly kites or walk their dogs at the weekend. We saw collars on the cows so figured they must belong to someone although we couldn’t see any farmers or someone who looked like they were herding cattle nearby. I googled when I got home and found out that they are feral cattle descended from animals that were abandoned in the 1970s when industry transitioned from agriculture to manufacturing. There are over 1,000 cattle and water buffaloes scattered around, mostly inside country parks but some venture out to built-up areas. The government has been putting GPS collars to track them. They are not protected wildlife but the government recognises that they are more tourist attraction now. From the AFCD website:

cattle and buffalo are part of the heritage of rural Hong Kong and that it brings pleasure to visitors and locals alike to see these animals in a natural environment.

creamy scallop spinach pasta

scallopspinachpasta

Mum was out all day, she went out to lunch after mass, came back with shopping and met with her friends for dinner. I spent the day reading, didn’t even go out when mm texted and wondered if we should go out to enjoy the sunny weather. It was almost 3pm and we decided we should both just chill at home and get rested.

Leftovers for lunch but actually made dinner. For some odd reason I had a small carton of cream in the fridge. I made mushroom cream sauce the other day and there’s still around 2/3 carton that needs to be used. Made a rich sauce with lots of garlic, a little butter and about 150ml cream. Should be able to keep in a tight container for a few days. I spooned a little over the scallop and spinach pasta I was making for dinner which made the dish much more decadent. This is the type of dish that takes absolutely no time to make.

hosting friends

My friends J&T from London are travelling around the world and I’ve been following their adventures through Europe, Africa and SE Asia. I PMed them a few weeks ago to see if they were planning on coming this way and if they were, the flat’s empty. They originally weren’t coming this far north, but they took a special detour from Vietnam to come to visit me. How wonderful!

Between Sis and I, we managed to set up the flat so there is basic accommodation. I borrowed my niece’s camping stuff, a couple of sis’ fleece blankets and her garden chairs. From home I took a couple more blankets, pillows, towels, hairdryer, kettle and small kitchen stuff. I got them crisps, beer and wine in the hope that I can get them drunk enough to ignore the very, very basic setup. I met them at the airport express station and we took the train for 2 stops–the queue for the taxi was so long that it was quicker by public transport. I did the brief tour and told them where the important stuff were. Since they’ve been travelling so much, the least I can do is to offer the use of my washing machine. Except I forgot to bring the drying rack, so they will have to improvise with hangers and the pullup bar the tenant left behind, hahaha.

linh01tables

Walked down the escalator to show them shops and the like. My plan was to go to the Globe in case they were homesick, but it turned out they were much more adventurous and they had turkey and trimmings for Thanksgiving the other day. So whilst we chilled with beers, I called ahead to Lin Heung to see if they had availability. 7pm on a Saturday night, hmm. We lucked out, we only had to wait around 5-10mins for a table. We were looking at what other people were eating and decided on roast pork and a healthy looking mix veg pot. I added stuffed crab claws (one each) and what looked like their signature fried rice. The rice was brilliant, it’s Hokkien fried rice which came with a thick sauce that was just right–not salty, not overly oily, not stodgy. It’s been many, many years since I was at this restaurant last (2009, that’s the pic above) and I’m glad the quality is still there. The restaurant originated in 1889 when it opened in Guangzhou and came to HK in 1926, so almost 100 years. It remains one of the few places that has trolley dim sum and still a favourite with locals and visitors. The type of traditional place that families go generation after generation.

I think my friends liked the food. Afterwards, we went to M&S and they walked back up the escalator. Hope they have a good visit.

old golf

keysE114FLB

When it was my niece’s 16th birthday a couple of weeks ago, Sis wanted to find fake car keys for her as a birthday present, because she can theoretically start driving lessons. Couldn’t find them, alas. As per sod’s law, this week I was tidying my drawer and what do I find? Car keys. Actual keys, not fake ones. These are for the golf. Those were the days when you need keys to open doors and start the car.

scan26golf

I loved that car, even though it was an automatic, a rarity in the UK. Those mark II golfs sure look fantastic. I mean, I like the mark III and subsequent models, but this one has a special place in my heart. I took very good care of it, even though poor thing it had to be parked on the street. I was T-cutting it one day and someone stopped and asked if I were selling it.

It’s more than likely scrap metal now, so I don’t need to hide the licence plate. The only available online information about the licence plate is that it was first registered in 1987-1988 (anyone can tell this, it’s an E reg after all) and in NW London. Nothing confidential about that, we bought it at Karmann in Barnet, which doesn’t exist anymore.

random photography art

One boredpanda user told a story of how his boss took advantage of him by getting him to take promotional pictures for free. The business was a liquor store and the photographer naïvely agreed because the boss said the magic word: exposure.

terryis02
©Terryis Xmun

He took it seriously at first but soon regretted his decision to work for free so he started not caring as much.

Callous disregard for form and aesthetic took on a form and aesthetic unto itself. Items were tossed roughly into bushes, placed literally on streets…The nastier I could get, the better.

terryis01
©Terryis Xmun

The images ended up on the company’s fb page and no one questioned the insanity. His boss seemed to accept them. The beer company for this pic even liked the image. The user is puzzled as to why people seemed to like the pics. Personally, I like some of them. There’s an urban jungle randomness that a lot of commercial marketing photography tries to achieve but it’s obvious they try too hard. By not trying hard at all, he found a certain style.

Just goes to show, one person’s rubbish is another person’s art.

a day of bad decisions

skyballoons

My head wasn’t right today. Distracted. One bad decision after another.

I needed to replace the spotlight in the bathroom. I should have gone to the computer centre district because there are plenty of electronics shops. But I walked instinctively towards the regular bus stop with buses that go to the opposite direction.

And then once I was committed to going to the flat and trying to find a shop over there, I should have taken the train, but again, I walked towards the bus stop and stood there waiting for 10, 15mins.

I saw the faster bus coming, it stopped at the traffic lights. Then the slower bus turned the corner and was in front of the faster bus. I should have waited one minute for the fast bus. What did I do? Got on the slow bus that took the longest time and the longest route.

To add insult to injury, I couldn’t find any shop that sells spotlights nearby. So all I did was remove the old light and now there’s a hole in the bathroom ceiling.

Try again tomorrow, when I’m feeling more human.

kcl group drinks

kclgroupdrinks201711

KCL drinks tonight, at B’s office, ie the office I worked at for a little while. We ended up being 6 people and simply sat around the conference table and chatted. Drank 2 bottles of wine, and ate up snacks people brought: baguette, cheese, prosciutto, salami, melon, grapes, tomatoes. B made fresh bread rolls too, she has a bread maker and small oven in the office.

Our aim is to continue the meetup streak so we tentatively agreed the next meetup will be in January.

r/oldpeoplefacebook

oldpeoplefb

Saw this post on fb and in a fit of meanness, posted it on r/oldpeoplefacebook. Most of my reddit posts and comments get buried, but this one, oh boy, made it to the front page of r/all. It now has over 32,000 upvotes and my karma has shot up from 800-ish to almost 8,000.

I can see stats for the post’s journey to the front page. It took 3hrs 24mins from when it was first posted to reach r/all, and stayed there for 5hrs 10mins. The highest rank was 4 and there are over 600 comments. Most of it took place when I was asleep because I posted it before bed. I didn’t read all the comments, but most were decent by reddit standards. There are threads discussing memorialising the account of people who have passed away, and others gave examples of how friends and family maintain the account of deceased users. Some said it was sad, not funny, and I agree to an extent. See earlier post on why I think “I’m old, I don’t know computers” is an excuse for not making an effort.

Anyway, I now get to post on select subreddits for users who’ve made it to the front page. It’s supposed to be a big deal. Reddit is, after all, the front page of the internet.

random things I’ve been up to

Last of the catch-up posts, I think. What I’ve been up to during the past 3 weeks.

pumpkinsoup201711

I had a big bag of chestnuts that mm gave me. I wanted to roast them, peel then put in a braised chicken. But disaster happened! The chestnuts wouldn’t peel properly and stubbornly stuck to the shell. All I got was a big container of chestnut breadcrumbs.

Had to change plan, so made pumpkin and chestnut soup instead. The chestnut acted as perfect thickening agent, so the soup ended up quite thick. For liquid I made fresh turkey stock. Really, really nice. Served it with roti prata, which alas was store bought. Sprinkled on grated cheese.


sunset201711

We went for a drive one weekend, no real plans. Ended up at this oyster farm near the shenzhen border that has nice view of sunsets. Sunsets come early now, it starts getting dark at 5pm and full dark at 6pm. We brought picnic–mm brought an old bottle of macallan and some glasses which we sipped as we enjoyed the view. Only a small sip, since she’s driving.

We got chatting with a guy who had 2 tripods set up taking time lapse pictures. One was a Sony alpha 7 and the other was an iphone. He told us he just came back from Japan and he’s also been to a few other places to take timelapses of sunrises and sunsets. He collects the end results on his youtube channel. The timelapse here was at a place near where we were on that sunday.


frites01 frites02

A weekday evening out, met up for happy hour at frites. I started with trusty st bernadus abt 12, and then asked the assistant manager for a recommendation. He said to try the het kapittel watou prior, which is another trappist beer. Lighter that st bernadus, with chocolate tones. Nice alternative.

We weren’t that hungry, so we shared some miniburgers and a portion of frites.


musebar02

Met mm after her saturday appointment. Originally we were supposed to meet at the novotel but when I got there I discovered that happy hour had been pushed back to 6-8pm, and it was quite busy. I walked around the area wanting to find an alternative and came across this place called muse wine bar and art gallery. It was located in the basement of a boutique hotel and pretty quiet. They had a big wine list of bottles and a smaller list of by-the-glass wines. Not only the usual, but 3-4 pages of both red and white wines. The price was higher, but the tradeoff was quality and tranquility.

musebar04

On the walls were some ink art, I didn’t pay too much attention to the artist, but the artwork tied in with the quiet nature of the bar.

Next time we go there, I’ll order a bottle. Three glasses of wine came to around the same price as their cheapest bottle.


drago1

I stopped playing pokemon go. No incentive anymore, even with the last migration of legendary raids. I saw some people gathered around a gym while getting ready to get off the bus and didn’t bother running back like I would have before. The unfairness of raids, the stupid EX-raid invitations, the lack of pokemons other than commons, and I’m still bitter about no tauros, all contribute to my lethargy towards the game.

Some people have made the move to draconius go, which has all the features of pogo with fewer problems. Select a character and walk around to capture monsters. With names like Potty, these mythical creatures are cute as button, there are a total of 125 of them and they show up on a tracker at the bottom right of the screen. There are pillars of abundance (ie stops) where spinning grants random items that are useful in the game. Occasionally the adventuer gets attacked while walking, and has to battle the beast. Fighting can also be done in arenas (ie gyms). There are also many other features, refer to this useful beginner’s guide is on r/draconiusgo.

drago2

For some players, the playing experience is so much better, with more stops and creatures. For me, though, I stopped playing after a few tries. The two screenshots were taken from the same spot just down the road from where I live. The triangular area is the small local park. On the left, pogo with a gym and a bunch of stops. On the right, drago with…nothing. It’s the same picture everywhere else. The other disadvantage is my mobile provider isn’t counting data usage for pogo, they made a big deal when the game first came out and never took it away. So few people play now that it’s not worth them bothering with it. But with drago, I can’t imagine going out for hours and hours and eating into my mobile data allowance.

So, not playing either game. Not playing much else, just reading.

what did i miss part 3

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 3. Sports and drinks, not sports drinks, two separate topics.

1a. marathons #1 — elites

The headlines all shouted “Galen Rupp is first American winner of the Chicago Marathon since 2002.” And although some of them clarifies that it’s the first American male since 2002 (last American female was Deena Kastor in 2005) it still feels like a huge, huge disservice to Tatyana McFadden, who has won the women’s wheelchair race fo the past seven years. I swear, paralympic athletes get an even worse deal than women athletes, the sort of media attention they get, ie zero. Not to take away Rupp’s victory, but the blatant inequality really needs to be addressed.

In the NYC marathon, Meb, in his last NYC, finished in 2:15:29, putting the 42 year old in 11th place. The women’s race was won by Shalane Flanagan. So the two big autumn US marathons both had American able-bodied winners. That’s good for the US. Much needed good news for them.

In unrelated news, Mo Farah is moving up to the marathon. And he got knighted. Yay Sir Mo!!


1b. marathons #2 — blind solo runner

Simon Wheatcroft finished the NYC marathon in 5:17:40. An unremarkable time, but what’s truly remarkable is that he is a blind runner who ran the race solo.

I ran a night race a couple of years ago and there were a number of visually impaired runners. They were just as fast and just as good as able-bodied runners. The route was through part of the country park so the terrain was rough with narrow and winding paths; the runners and their guides negotiated those with ease and I could hear the guides telling the runners to make a right turn or there is a hump coming up. I’m full of admiration for them, as I am with all paralympic athletes.

Wheatcroft suffers from a rare genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, and his sight has gradually deteriorated since he was a teenager. Nowadays, he can distinguish changes in light and darkness, like seeing the world through a fog. He knows when someone stands in front of him, because he sees a blurry shadow, but that’s it. He is also an experienced runner, marathoner and ultramarathoner, previously running with guides and trains by running up and down a straight abandoned road near his home in Doncaster. He memorises routes, obstacles, and navigate along the slightly raised edges of painted double yellow lines along the road.

In recent years, there have been massive inroads made in providing assisted technologies to help visually impaired people “see” by using AI and VR technologies. However, these type of technologies are limited–it requires outside help, or only work in static situations. For instance, a google glass subscription called aira connects the blind person and a sighted person so the sighted assistant can give verbal clues to tell the blind person what they are seeing through the glasses. The subscription costs US$349 per month, which is really expensive. Most assisted technology solutions are built around some sort of visual input and an audio output, but audio output is cumbersome. The Verge:

Imagine a Siri or Alexa-like interface describing every single object in your field of vision. Consider the cognitive overload that it would create on an already loud street crowded with obstacles.

wearworks

Wheatcroft set out to look for alternatives and came across Wayband, a product from a company called WearWorks that uses haptic technology, which provides output through the sense of touch rather than audio. The company was cofounded by 3 graduates of New York’s Pratt Institute and just finished a 3 year residency at Brooklyn’s Urban-X incubator. Wayband was featured at SXSW and uses two technologies. First, it uses known GPS technology (google maps, OpenStreetMap) to map a route for the runner, the signal is transmitted via bluetooth using an armband which buzzes in a sort of Morse code (eg 2 long taps to turn right). This pairs with an ultrasonic device called the Tortoise that broadcasts and receives ultrasonic pulses. If there is an object or person in range, the ultrasonic waves that reflect back are changed and the device lets the user know using a series of vibrations. This is not new, devices that help people park their cars use similar ultrasonic technology.

During the NYC marathon, Wheatcroft started by using this system, the first time it had been tested in a race. And what a way to test. Not a small local race, but one of the largest marathons in the world, with more than 50,000 runners. During the race he was also accompanied by Kevin Yoo, one of the founders of WearWorks as well as Neil Bacon and Andrea Corak, his longtime friends and guides. They ran behind him and were there as a last resort, to prevent him from running into another runner and ruining their marathon.

It wasn’t perfect: tall buildings affected the GPS which incorrectly told him he was off course, the rain caused the Tortoise to stop working at mile 15, and at one of the water stops another runner stopped abruptly in front of him. Even a sighted runner would have found it difficult to stop in time and there was a small collision. Neither runner was hurt. The team ended the race with guides running next to Wheatcroft as per usual, but the experiment was by and large successful. There is still a way to go before the product can be marketed but the team now knows what those improvements are.

The implications are huge. Not only for running or sports, this system can help a blind person navigate through normal life. Wheatcroft on NYT:

It’s not the end, it’s just a start.”


1c. marathons #3 — grass root runner

The running bubble has popped, says the NYT on the day of the NYC marathon. A strange thing to say, considering 50,000 participated and the success rate for applications was 17%. I got my annual VLM rejection in October, so from my perspective the running bubble hasn’t quite popped.

Thing is, although interest in the big races have held steady, less well known races and shorter distance races have seen a decline in participation. Some reasons:

  • cost — gone are the days of US$10 or $25 races, now the cost is astronomical, Las Vegas RNR 5k is $79.99!
  • too much focus on charity running — while an honourable effort, it has become blackmail with too few places available for non-charity runners and huge amounts that needs to be raised
  • too many races, and competition from speciality races like mud runs
  • competition from other fitness activities like cross fit

The industry has become a victim of its own success and commercialisation. Once a race gets taken over by corporate interests, something goes missing. Not only will I not pay $80 for a 5k, I won’t ever run a RNR race again whatever the price because they have become pure greed. I remember a long time ago an ex-colleague asked me if I was running the NYC marathon and I said it’s too expensive ($295 now). She was so surprised, she thought it was free and you just showed up. I wish.

I’ve written about charity running before. TL;DR: I hate it with the venom of a million exploding suns.

What we need, is a return to grassroots. Running clubs are still popular and just look at the success of parkruns in the UK. Another reason I want to go back to the UK.


2a. drinks #1 — alcohol and cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncological published a report that says even light drinking can cause cancer. Yet another study that tells us not to eat or drink something, so much so that there was a study on the study of what foods are bad for us–in 2013 researchers took 40 ingredients from an ordinary cookbook and found 264 studies on whether at least one of those ingredients causes cancer. We’re talking about ingredients that are in almost everybody’s cupboards: salt, pepper, flour, egg, bread, butter, lemon, onion, carrot, milk, cheese.

We know that heavy or even moderate drinking has detrimental effects. The report says in the US, 3.5% of cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol. But as the NYT says in a more-or-less rebuttal:

this means that 96.5 percent of cancer deaths are not attributable to alcohol. If we eliminate heavy drinking, which no one endorses as healthy…that number climbs. If we also eliminate those who smoke…the number of cancer deaths not attributable to alcohol approaches 100 percent.

These reports mean well, but they tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies and then the media reports them using scaremongering headlines. The traditional image of a researcher is someone who observes or achieves some results and then postulates a theory that explains those results. There are researchers that are basically reverse-researchers, they know what result they want and then they do so-called research till they get those results. I call them hacks.


2b. drinks #2 — bartending in antarctica

antarcticabar

Interesting article about bars in Antarctica. There are 45 research stations in Antarctica, with thousands of researchers there in the summer but only a few hundred during the winter. Each station has its own bar with names like Gallagher’s Pub, Southern Exposure, Tatty Flag. The bars had no owners, no official hours, and no price. People shared their stash of personal alcohol and were in luck when one of the researchers also have bartending skills. Bartending in Antarctica is voluntary and requires creativity and innovation, as not all ingredients are available. The good thing is, no fridge is needed, just put the stuff outside.

Drinking can be a problem in Antarctica, because of the monotony of life, especially in the winter months. The bars became social focus points, and bartenders did the job all other bartenders do all over the world. One bartending researcher said he:

swapped out soda for booze when people drank too much…and kept them inside the bar rather than watching them stumble out the door where, completely inebriated, they could hurt themselves or pass out in the snow.


2c. drinks #3 — escape from IPA

escapefromipa

I do quick research during nano and I came across this beer called Escape from IPA from Pipeworks brewery in Chicago. What I found hilarious is the label, which is in line with all their other labels. Look at that Han Solo pirate escaping helicopters and red F1 racing cars, kinda comic book cliché.

With a name like Escape from IPA, it suggests that it’s the anti-IPA (scourge of craft beers). But it’s actually a 10% West Coast styled triple IPA made from 3 hops with the fancy names of Equinox, Galaxy, and Centennial.

Some people bet on racehorses based on their names or the colour of their jockey’s shirt. This is definitely one instance where people may pick a beer based on name or garish label. That’s exactly what my character did.


2d. drinks #4 — free beer while shopping

So a Morrisons in Leeds started offering free beer to shoppers while they go about their weekly shop. Not just beer, they have cider and wine too. The beer they serve is Saltaire Blonde ale from a local brewery.

morrisonsbeer

It’s a whole pint, according to the daily mail (not linking to that drek). Sounds like a good idea, except I’d prefer half or 1/3 pints because of drinking and driving. They should put the featured beer on its own display stand and study how sales increase. I’m very sure more people will buy it because they are given a sample.

what did i miss part 2

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 2. All London related.

1. how to pronounce some place names

londonnames

This is from a few years ago, Londonist’s guide to how to pronounce names of London place names, which cropped up on r/london recently.

No, it’s not Lie-sester Square it’s Lester Square; and Marylebone always stumps non-Londoners. Apparently Rotherhithe too.

Personally, I don’t agree with Ommer-tun for Homerton, I’d pronounce the h. And I always say Aldwych as All-witch.

We shouldn’t make fun of non-locals. I don’t expect to know place names in countries where I don’t know the language, but there are some names in the US and Australia that I can see the word and it’s made up of letters but I cannot put the letters together to form coherent sounds.


2. map of walking times between tube stations

walkingtubemap1

TFL published a map that shows the walking distance between tube stations. There’s also a map that shows the number of steps between stations, so they can put a spin on the “steps = exercise” trend.

Practially, this is a useful map for visitors and newcomers. Every Londoner knows it’s pointless to take the Piccadilly Line between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Between waiting for the train, the actual journey, and the horrendous wait for the lift at Covent Garden, it may take 10-15mins. Walking is 4mins.

walkingtubemap2

There’s another leaflet, journeys that could be quicker to walk [pdf] that is also very useful. For instance, the map would suggest it takes 18mins to walk between Queensway and Bayswater (via Notting Hill Gate) but the journey leaflet tells us it’s only 5mins. Google maps actually say 2mins, but that probably needs running at nighttime with no other pedestrians.


3. john snow’s cholera map

I saw this on a tv program about sewage and how the world’s cities made the jump from being disease infested to, well, less so. It’s all about clean water.

choleramap

The story of how John Snow discovered that cholera spreads through water rather than through the air by plotting a map of outbreaks that showed occurrences near to a water pump in Soho is well known. His use of data mapping is as revolutionary as the discovery itself. The blob of black dots around the pump at Broad (now Broadwick) Street as pretty horrible. But the interesting thing is workers at the nearby brewery were not affected because: a) they drank mainly beer and b) the brewery had its own water supply. That would not have been the case if the disease spread in th air.

So many diseases from 100, 200 years ago are under control. Cholera, TB, measles. Have we reached peak discovery? There doesn’t seem to be huge discoveries like this anymore, more like small incremental ones. Then again, it could be that they were low key. HIV has been contained, and many cancers are less life-threatening now. We have so much to learn.


4. property prices

londonhouseprices

According to bloomberg, london house prices are coming down, with more sellers reducing their prices from originally marketed. A report published by Rightmove says on average the reduction is 6.7% due to:

initial over-optimism and a tougher market

That said, the average in november is still an eye-popping £628,219. I mean, that’s staggering compared with a national average of £311,043.

The article immediate below the one about housing talks about more bad news for the pound, with further drops possible. An uncertain brexit, Theresa May’s uncertain future, all lead to the market being bearish on the pound. This actually is good news for us, since it means we can buy more.

Around the table on tuesday’s lunch we were all talking about property, as a group of middle-aged professionals are wont to do. If only we’d all bought a place in London when we graduated, we’d be all sitting pretty now. Ah well, can’t turn back time. The consensus is, £ and house prices haven’t seen bottom, so it’s worth waiting a little while longer.


5. decadent hot chocolate

Have to end on a more cheerful note. How about the most decadent hot chocolate in the capital. Fortnum’s chocolate bar, Flotsam And Jetsam’s rainbow-coloured white unicorn chocolate, Fattie’s Bakery’s with a toasted marshmallow rim, and the best chocolate café name of all, Choccywoccydoodah. Some of them look like they have far too much whipped cream. My 2 favourites on this list:

darksugars

The one from Dark Sugars that has a mountain of chocolate shards shaved on top. The way the shards melt into the chocolate…

hotelchocclassic

And finally, the classic from Hotel Chocolat. Who needs fancy when you have classical elegance and top quality ingredients.

what did i miss part 1

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 1.

1. paradise papers

chi233fed

The Paradise Papers came out. Just like the earlier Panama Papers, this series of leaks showed yet again how the rich got richer and the rest of us got left behind. BBC summary:

The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance…how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures to protect their cash from higher taxes.

The issue is, off-shore accounts aren’t strictly illegal. There’s some sort of competitve sport behind the idea of trying to avoid as much tax as possible. Show me one person who actively wants to pay taxes. But the flipside is, how are governments supposed to operate without taxes? If there are no taxes, there’d be no police, no sewage system, no healthcare. Oh wait, that’s exactly the thinking of the pro-busines conservative right. Privatise it all. Instead of paying the government, we pay corporations to provide security, sewage, healthcare. Sounds idyllic, except once profits come into it, imagine how much these corporations will charge, imagine the lack of oversight, imagine the lack of budget for non-essential functions. I’m no economist, but a completely free market depends on compassion and not just profit. Trickle-down economics is all smoke and mirror, unfortunately.

On the one hand I look at all the people and corporations being named–the Queen, Apple, Bono–and I feel zero sorries for them, because the world has gotten so unequal that any attention to the issue is good. On the other hand, I can’t help but think the real people to blame are the lawyers and accountants and financial advisers who thought of the schemes and the politicians who didn’t close the loopholes.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough attention paid to this. Most people don’t have exposure to the shady world of off-shore accounts, and funnelling money to the likes of Bermuda and the Channel Islands isn’t illegal. But as quartz said, this touches on the question of:

the difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law.”

We’ve reached the point when the world’s richest 1% own 50% of all wealth, and yet one US political party wants to further reduce the tax burden on the richest individuals and corporations. NYT:

The Republican tax plan would shift more of the tax burden onto those who can least afford to shoulder it and relieve those who are already starving the government of tax revenue. The Paradise Papers shine yet another spotlight on how the rich and powerful game the system to avoid paying what they would otherwise owe. The rest of us suffer for it. Why hand them even more favors?


2a. trivial tech stuff #1 — twitter now @280 characters

Twitter doubled its character limit to 280 per post. Can’t say I like or dislike it. All it means is a tweetstorm is now 10 posts instead of 20. Talking about tweetstorm, they are testing a new tweetstorm feature that will allow users to draft a series of tweets before posting them together all at once. Instant tweetstorm!

2b. trivial tech stuff #2 — most downvoted comment in reddit history

In reddit, users upvote or downvote posts and comments to improve the visibility of said posts and comments, to show support (upvote) or to indicate their displeasure (downvote). Technically, downvoting should only be for comments that don’t contribute to the thread. The most obvious example is spam comments, with dodgy links and gobbledegook text underneath a perfectly normal post or comment.

redditdownvotes

What happened over a very short 24 hour period was one comment made by Electronic Arts (EA) in response to a post about the microtransaction system of the game Star Wars Battlefront II got so many downvotes it smashed downvote records. The OP had a point, the game already cost US$60 or whatever it is to buy, then to unlock main characters it cost something like $80 on top, per character. I’m no gamer, but that sounds super greedy.

EA didn’t help matters by responding to the OP with a condescending comment full of rubbish corporate speak. As a result that comment received over 677k downvotes before it was locked. That’s far and beyond the most downvoted comment in recollection. Interesting that EA was responsible for a lot of downvoted comments too. They may or may not have listened to the feedback, shortly afterwards they reduced the cost to unlock the characters.

2c. trivial tech stuff #3 — new corporate font from IBM

Unlike Apple or Microsoft, IBM has traditionally used Helvetica. But since it’s not their own font, they’ve had to licence it from Monotype. Now they don’t have to anymore, with the creation of its own bespoke font, called unimaginatively IBM Plex.

ibmplex

I like it. Clean, modern, sans serif. Quartz called it a:

graceful hybrid of blocky, engineered shapes with natural gestures from handwriting.

What’s more, it’s not like frutiger or other pricey fonts, IBM has made it free to download.


3. john lewis christmas ad

Finally, some cheering up. John Lewis’ 2017 Chrismas ad debuted on the 10th of november. I’m furiously trying not to dwell on the fact that it cost £7 million, and how that could have been used better. Not my favourite John Lewis Christmas ad, but still very charming.

nano day 15 | 50213 words total

nano

1640 words | 50213 total

I was out all day, lunch with King’s friends, setting up stuff at the flat for visitors, and meeting mm for drinks and walking around a department store that was having a sale. Home, showered and it was 10.30pm. So the dilemma was, write a few words so I won’t miss a day, or push on to finish.

Obviously, I ended up getting enough words to hit 50k. Yay!!! Finish on day 15 means my average goes from day 16 to day 15. It’s a meaningless statistic and is neither here nor there.

There are some discrepancies with wordcount, depending on tool. Scrivener is the most generous, which is the most dangerous because it made me think I’d reach 50k when I hadn’t. On the nanosite it showed 49k so I had to add a few hundred words to make sure I hit 50k. That’s always been the risk, it was never a good idea to stop at 50000. So, out of the various programs:

  • word: 50211
  • nanosite: 50213
  • google docs: 50236
  • scrivener: 50312

Like whether I average day 15 or day 16 finish, these are meaningless stats and neither here nor there.

There’s this badge for updating wordcount for 30 days, so I’ll add a few sentences a day to keep it ticking till day 30. The story itself is around half done. I was looking at the outline and there were good ideas that I skipped in earlier chapters. If I ever edit it, that’s an opportunity to add more interesting parts.

But to all intents and purposes, it’s another successful nano year.

nano day 13 | 44440 words total

nano

4053 words | 44440 total

I was home all day, and I didn’t have to do a lot of cooking so there was time for nano and reading.

Steady progress throughout the day, with only one jarring incident. I caught myself writing your when I meant you’re. This is serious, because I never used to make this type of mistake. It’s only seeing way, way too many people misuse these two words that now my brain is fried and I’m getting confused myself.

[Yes, I edit somewhat during nano, mostly for typos. And my sentences are properly capitalised. I write I’ll instead of I will. I’ll type people’s full names out sometimes, and add I said instead of leaving it out to bolster wordcount.]

Someone posted on one of the nano forum threads (which I thought I saved but can’t find) that they love their story but not their writing. I’m not sure if they mean they’re not writing well or they think they’re not writing well. A lot of writers suffer from imposter syndrome. Anyway, that was how I was feeling a few chapters ago, that the story had potential, but I wasn’t doing it justice. Too much backstory, nothing much was happening, the characters weren’t interacting. The feeling disappeared soon, because guess what, it’s nano. In november, only wordcount matters.

nano day 12 | 40387 words total

ldn044poppy

4186 words | 40387 total

I’m at 40k. That’s always a good feeling. It’s like I’m driving home on the motorway and the first time the signs say “London” it’s a feeling that I’m closer to home, even though it can be over 100 miles away. Get to 40k and 50k is only a few days away.

The second sunday of november is also remembrance sunday. Regardless of how anyone feel about wearing the poppy or not wearing it, we must all take a moment to remember the war dead and thank our armed forces. And it’s now time to listen to I Vow to Thee My Country.

The second sunday of nano is traditionally when I do a massive backup of the novel. Every day I backup the scrivener file to dropbox and a flashdrive. I also copy to word and google docs; the word file also gets backed up to dropbox and the flashdrive. On massive backup day, all the files get backed up as usual plus to the time machine and 2 external hard disks.

nano day 11 | 36201 words total

nano

4625 words | 36201 total

I have no idea what day of the week it is. I wake up in the morning and one of my first thoughts is to figure that out. Every day is the same. Weekdays there’s masterchef, weekends there’s strictly, that’s the extent of how I keep track.

Home all day, and not quite as distracted. Soft target was to get to 35k, reaching 36k is a happy bonus.

I have a new buddies on the nanosite this year, and there’s a publisher’s group on fb doing nano too. I keep forgetting to check in with them. So happy to see so many people reporting their wordcounts and making great progress. I’m probably a little ahead of some people, but it’s not a competition. I have to remember to participate in that group more.

nano day 10 | 31576 words total

nano

2522 words | 31576 total

There are days when writing is difficult because of external influences and strains. Today was one of those days. I had wanted to go run some errands then meet the family for dinner. Somehow that didn’t happen and I was forced to make the decision to stay at home all afternoon. In theory that meant more time for nano but in practice I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

Still, I managed to eke out 2500 words.

creperie20171110

Anyway, it’s my niece’s birthday and we met for dinner at La Crèperie. I had a galette with ham, cheese and egg and shared a sweet galette with her. Independently we both came up with our choice–vanilla ice cream and salted caramel. Sis, Rob and I also shared a bottle of wine and another bottle of cidre. The cidre was very sweet, at 2.4% alcohol tasted more of apple juice.

nano day 09 | 29054 words total

nano

4046 words | 29054 total

Yay, a 4000 word day. I was home all day, and mostly on my own so I didn’t have a lot of distractions. Spent a lot of time reading, but spaced it out so it was a reward for reaching certain milestones. Got to 28k before dinner and the usual 1000 words after dinner, shower and masterchef.

I was hoping it wouldn’t flare up, but it did. My wrist. Sigh. I just moved it up and down and it cracked like fireworks. Wrist brace for the rest of the night and when sleeping tonight. Necessary evil.

nano day 08 | 25008 words total

nano

2715 words | 25008 total

Met up with mm in the afternoon and evening, drove out to the beach with free parking and sat at a bench taking in the sea air. She had some work to do so she took her mb, I brought my ipad and read, having failed in getting scrivener to sync. Dinner near her place, fish and noodles. She drove me to my flat to check the mailbox and to drop some stuff there. I got home, showered and it was 10pm. Instead of relaxing, I spent 2hrs writing.

Because I wanted to get to 25k today.

Halfway on day 8 projects to finishing on day 16. Off the top of my head my average is around 15, 16 days so I’m bang on target.

nano day 07 | 22293 words total

nano

2113 words | 22293 total

I met sis for lunch and we went shopping for gifts in the afternoon, followed by a quick happy hour. I got home just after 5pm and was sooooo tired. I just sat at my desk and I had no energy to do anything. Eventually I napped for 10 mins.

Didn’t have a chance to write in the morning, so today’s nano was just under 2hrs before bed. I was determined to get at least my target minimum of 2000 words. Finished chapter 4, and our MCs still have not interacted. Definitely in chapter 5, I promise.

nano day 06 | 20180 words total

nano

4057 words | 20180 total

This accurately describes my november: eat, sleep, read, write. Repeat, lather and rinse. We ate mostly leftovers since I went overboard with cooking late last week. I’m not sleeping well, but I never do. I sneak reading time and give myself proper reading time when I reach a milestone. And I write towards soft targets, the only hard target is 50k by the 30th. I’m not bothered by the exact day I get to 50k, although I’m sure I’ll do a little analysis like I do every year.

Since I stayed home all day, I was confident of reaching 20k. Not a lot of distractions aside from reading. Got to 19k before dinner, then finished off the remainder 1k in less than an hour after masterchef and shower. 40% in, and the MCs are finally in the same room. I’m thinking, they may get to speak to each other or at least have some interaction within the next few scenes.

nano day 05 | 16123 words total

bonfirenight

2306 words | 16123 total

It’s Guy Fawkes’ Night. But no fireworks here. It’s sunday though, and I was out with mm all day. We had a leisurely late lunch at a new korean place near me. Then we drove out all the way to this fishing village that is supposed to have a good view of sunset. Without consulting each other, we both brought some whisky to share. She brought the macallan that we’ve had for years and years and I brought a hipflask filled with dalwhinnie. She even brought glasses! We didn’t have a lot, probably half a dram each. The weather was good, we could sit by the shore and it wasn’t too hot. We even got talking to a guy who had set up 2 tripods to take time lapse pictures of the sunset. Early sunset, the sun started turning orange at around 5pm.

Drove to another town for dinner, one of those hawker centre hot pot places. Lots of customers meant decent food. Soft drinks included, I had my fill of cream soda.

I managed to get to 15k this morning, before mm arrived. Not a lot of time left to write at night, just an hour or so. Quite pleased to get another thousand words.

nano day 04 | 13817 words total

nano

3630 words | 13817 total

The first saturday of november is double up donation day and the idea is to double wordcount target and donate to the cause. The goal is US$125k 175k and 125 million words in 24 hours. Donate $25 and receive $50 donor gifts. I’m never bothered about the gifts, it’s the donation that matters, though having a halo is cute.

I also didn’t double up my wordcount. I was distracted. I got too involved in reading in the afternoon. I did get to 13k before dinner then after dinner I was flipping channels and there was Strictly.

This was week 5 which was originally shown in the UK 2 weeks ago. The most important bit of the entire episode wasn’t any of the celebs dancing, but Craig impersonating Bruno. I’ll take multiple clones of Craig over Bruno any day. There were still 12 contestants so the ep was long (we get both regular and results show at the same time). By the time I finished watching, showered and got back to my room it was 10pm.

Managed around 800 words. Yes, I can push on for another hour or so to get to 15k but why the unnecessary stress. On to chapter 3 now, a tiny step towards advancing the story.

Overall, didn’t double up my wordcount; 3630 words is okay.

nano day 03 | 10187 words total

nano

3007 words | 10187 total

I had to go to the market and supermarket so lost a few hours during the afternoon. The soft target today was definitely 10k, and here I am on target on day 3. I’m still on chapter 2 and pretty much still backstory. Not filler, it’s just taking its time getting to the beginning of the core of the story. I had a rough outline of 15 timeline items that would take us to around the halfway point and I’m on item 3. Today’s research learning experience is about personal injury and how insurance companies try to get out of paying compensation to the victims. They seem to be particularly uncooperative compared with travel insurance, health insurance or home insurance claims.

9.30pm finish again, I’m not stress at all. I was skyping with Car this morning and I said one of these days it’ll be november and I’ll be like, “Why am I doing this again?” Will I ever get bored of nano? Will I get to 2025 and say, hey it’s year 20, time to hang up my boots. At this point, it’s very simply something that I do. It’s like when you get on a bus you pay the fare. Well, it’s more seasonal that that, it’s more like it’s Christmas so buy presents, order turkey, carols & mince pies at the yacht club on Christmas Eve.

nano day 02 | 7180 total

nano

3812 words | 7180 total

Uneventful day. I made lunch, wrote a bit, hit 5000 and gave myself a small reward of reading. Reached 6300 by the time I had to go make dinner and got the rest in by 9.30pm. At this early stage, I’m introducing characters left, right and centre. I’m using a combination of scrivener’s name generator and behind the name‘s random name generator which helpfully gives basic stats and life story. This year’s nano takes place in a pretty homogeneous suburb, so I’m sticking with simple westernised names.

Update nano site, update website, save, back up, done. Reading time.

The only eventful event that happened today was I roasted some chestnuts and was unsuccessful in getting them out of the shells. I have no idea why. When I cracked the shell, the nut would break in two and I had to use a spoon to get the flesh out. So now instead of the expected whole chestnuts I have a container of chestnut breadcrumbs. I was going to use them in a stew but now I either have to make soup (I saw recipes for carrot & chestnut and cauliflower & chestnut soup) or a dessert or use as ice cream topping. I guess it’s not a huge disaster.

nano day 01 | 3368 words

nano
3368 words

I was still up at midnight so I got 300-odd words in as a headstart. Title, synopsis and prologue.

Went about my usual morning routine, started writing in the afternoon. Progress was very slow but steady. Target was 2000 by dinner and I got to 2300. Watched masterchef australia and added another 1000 words. Saved and backed up. I’m off to read, not going to stress about getting to, say, 5000.



This video of a logging truck making a sharp 90-degree turn from a narrow road (more like a path) onto a tiny bridge was making the rounds today on digg and boingboing. The driver was so skilled and I bet this isn’t the first time. It also illustrates tangents. Note how when the truck was in the middle of the turning circle around the one-minute mark, the logs are actually on the curve and not the bridge. The position of the logs at 1:12 is the tangent of the corner. Good thing the bridge has low walls, if they were higher than the clearance underneath the logs, the turn would have been so much more difficult.

storytelling

nanoready

Less than an hour to go till november, and since I was out at dinner and just got home, I’m not in sleeping mode yet. May be I’ll stay up till midnight and make a start on nano.

I was reading an article on fastcompany about the non-profit Charity:Water that successfully raised US$260 million since 2006 using storytelling techniques. There are 2 charitable causes close to my heart. One is clean water in developing countries, I support folia water’s low cost paper water filter that provides one week of safe water for only 50 cents. The other is the star foundation that specialises in giving people with disabilities real life opportunities, like their award-winning restaurant where people with disabilities are chefs and wait staff.

Anyway, back to Charity:Water, their emphasis on storytelling seems fitting for the day before nano. They shared their 5 key lessons for success and I think it applies to fiction storytelling too

  1. good stories have more faces than facts — a non-profit may tell the story of how they helped one specific person or family, which will resonate with potential donors; in writing, strong, believable and relevant characters are essential to the success of a story
  2. good stores spark memories — non-profits try to make connections between donors and recipients; in writing locations, events, and personalities are useful tools to draw the reader in
  3. good stories combine head and heart — Charity:Water publishes success stories, like how clean water in Nepal reduced diahorrea cases from 6433 to 182 in four years; in writing I think the technique is show vs tell and using narration vs dialogue
  4. good stories give context — here’s where good research and a rich backstory comes in
  5. good stories empower people to take action — I guess this is more important with a non-profit than writing a book, but there is a similar idea, a good story will inspire readers no matter it is to support the author or make changes in their own lives

nano prep

tangentcurve

Finally outlined this year’s nano. Tentative title is Running Tangents or may be Run the Line which gives me one extra word. In geometry, a tangent is a straight line that touches a point on a curve or a circle, but does not cross it. In races, a tangent is the line that touches the inside of a curve and is the shortest distance around that curve; in big races it’s marked by an actual physical line on the road. But in life, it’s almost never possible to take the shortest or easiest route. This story is centred on two MCs who were forced into each other’s lives when one ran over the other in a car accident. A radical punishment by the judge pushes them into constant contact. It’s about redemption but is also about forgiveness too.

I’m not sure I’ve fleshed it out sufficiently to carry through to 50k; I need more side characters and events other than physiotherapy, training and races. Anyway, there are tried and tested nano tricks and I trolled the dares thread:

  • one of your characters is really protective about their hair and is deeply offended / outraged at anyone mocking it
    BP: They have a really weird / unusual hair style (e.g. Extremely long hair, Pompadour, has thousands of curls [Even the curls have curls!], has a gigantic bow tied in it, Is very spiky, etc)
  • have your characters visit a train station (Either travelling somewhere or for other reasons.). Describe the train station in detail and some of the random travellers that pass by.
  • your group of characters now have a team pet / mascot
  • the next chapter you write is completely filler. It cannot advance the plot in any shape or form
    BP: the Filler Chapter is never referenced again within your novel
    DBP: if a minor character was introduced in said Filler Chapter, when / if they show up later in the novel, no one knows who they are and threaten to call the police if they don’t leave them alone!
  • your characters have gotten lost. Start the next chapter you write, in a completely new and unrelated location from the end of the previous one
  • reference every previous nano story you’ve written
    BP: work the verbatim titles of every previous nano into your story in a logical, coherent way
    DBP: include a cameo appearance of at least one character from every previous story
    Super Bonus Bragging Rights: this means 12 previous stories and characters
  • have a character who is addicted to their cell phone.
    BP: if their phone addiction forwards the plot
  • your character(s) explore an abandoned building
    BP: they find something important/of value
    DBP: they hadn’t realized they needed this object until they found it
    TBP: they’d never been in the building before, and/or had no reason to be in it
  • include the following line: “The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity”
  • use “hedgehog” in an insult
  • include a chicken, duck and a penguin in your novel
  • a character’s house is haunted
    BP: f the ghost leaves random messages around the house
    DBP: if those messages are things like “You’re out of milk.”


Next step in prep, start the scrivener file and update the excel template. Funny thing, I shared on fb that I have an excel template for keeping track of wordcount during nano and it plots pretty charts too. Something like 20 people responded that they’d like a copy. Some of them are published authors too! I’m usually flabbergasted when I get more than 3-4 of reactions to my fb posts, it’s not like I’m popular or anything.

I’ve been using this report card for so long, when someone thanked me for the effort of making it, I realised I had to clarify that it isn’t mine. Someone shared it on the nano forums and I made some changes–took out some features that I didn’t use and added a sheet to keep track of number of words by chapter. I guess I’ve made it mine over the years.

nanoreportcard2005

At first I thought that it’s been around since 2009 and in those days nano wasn’t that well known and mostly only geeks knew about it. I searched through my mba folders and found an earlier version from 2005. I think they had it in 2004 already, but I was a) so late; and b) so new that year I may have missed it.

nanochart

Wow, 2005. Talk about longevity. I still love the simple progress chart. This was from last year, which bucked the recent norm because I kept on adding a few words every day even after I reached 50k. The novel’s not finished. Some time around 2008 I realised it wasn’t necessary to finish a novel at 50k words. Out of 12: 4 finished, 1 finished but half lost due to flashdrive accident, 7 in progress (aka stopped at 50k mark).

happiness and people

peopleinacircle

Went over to meet mm in the afternoon. And we were joined by her mum’s friend P. Didn’t do much, just walked along the seafront near her place to the shopping centre and bought ice cream using my almost-expiring coupons. P has been super supportive of her mum and the family during her mum’s illness. She’s close enough to their family to be able to offer honest and practical advice. But there are still things mm can only tell me, not only because I understand, but I, luckily, have her trust.

P had to go home for dinner and we stayed around the shopping centre, browsing around supermarkets. Walked back and had Japanese set dinner–chirashi for me, grilled mackerel for her. Didn’t do much, but it was necessary social support.

There’s an article in the NYT called Happiness is Other People that seems quite poignant today.

There seems to be a trend that promotes self-awareness, self-discovery and self-everything, the starting point being: the search for contentment is an internal, personal quest that doesn’t involve other people. I totally embrace the concept of finding happiness internally or engaging in activities alone or in a group without interaction (eg running in a race with tens of thousands of people). A fb friend posted a question on what would make a perfect birthday and most people replied along the lines of spending time with loved ones, a nice meal, receiving presents. I remember one year, I took the day off work and told everyone not to contact me on the day. I didn’t think people would appreciate me posting that as a comment so I stayed silent.

There’s some pushback on all the internalising. Pretending to live in a virtual desert island doesn’t work all the time. It may be harmful rather than beneficial. There are studies that say lack of social interaction is as dangerous to health as smoking and obesity. NYT:

Self-reflection, introspection and some degree of solitude are important parts of a psychologically healthy life. But somewhere along the line we seem to have gotten the balance wrong. Because far from confirming our insistence that ‘happiness comes from within,’ a wide body of research tells us almost the exact opposite….if there is one point on which virtually every piece of research into the nature and causes of human happiness agrees, it is this: our happiness depends on other people.

I think it comes down, as with many things in life, to balance. Imagine a spectrum that has complete social isolation at one end and constant social interaction on the other, each of us falls somewhere in the middle. Some peole prefer to be surrounded by people all the time, some people want more “me time.” What I think is also of extreme importance, is the quality and worthwhileness of the interactions. It takes a lot of time, energy and commitment to maintain strong social connections; as someone on mefi said:

it’s about the same level of energy (emotional, physical, logistical) required for dating…it’s a constant struggle against a lot of ingrained ideas I have about what counts as a “worthwhile” investment of my time.

Also important, is having the strength to leave toxic connections. Is it a fear of losing out, or fear of isolation, or resistance to change? Most of us are guilty of keeping toxic connections that are draining and too needy. Almost impossible to leave when it’s family, and here is when those other quality and worthwhile connections that can help negate the negativity. Sometimes the mere availability of those positive connections can carry us through tough times. The thought that I can go to certain friends is enough, I don’t necessarily have to actually reach out to them.

At the moment, mm and I are each other’s social support and we’ve either isolated ourselves or through circumstances found ourselves isolated. All the more important to have more “us time” even if it’s just walking in the park to the shopping centre to get ice cream.

meatball pasta attempt

pastameatballs201710

Today’s attempt at cooking was meatball pasta. Around 60:40 pork and beef mince, and I used the guardian’s method of substituting eggs with breadcrumbs soaked in milk as the binding agent. Supposed to keep meatballs lighter. Problem was, they were so light that some fell apart when I was browning them.

The sauce was canned tomato, tomato paste, fresh cherry tomato and sun-dried tomato. Enough tomato or what. Added chicken stock and lots and lots of herbs–basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme. I think it was too tomato-y, it tasted primarily of tomato paste and I had to add sugar. Simmered for around 1hr.

I let the meatballs and bits of mince that were broken meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 20mins. Ended up with a pasta dish that was part ragu and part meatballs. I guess it’s all the same.

vending machines hokkaido

via colossal, all images ©Eiji Ohashi

hokkaidovending01

I can’t stop looking at these from Japanese photographer Eiji Ohashi, who photographed vending machines in Hokkaido at night. This combines so many of my likes: Hokkaido, vending machines, photography, stillness. There are over 5 million vending machines in Japan, selling everything from the usual drinks and snacks to toys and clothing. They’re located inside buildings, outside buildings, on roads and, in rural areas, in the middle of a field. What Ohashi-san did, was notice how the light from the machine would shine on its surroundings:

vending machines downtown or in the wilderness, placed to stand in solitude, are an image of loneliness. They work tirelessly, whether it is day or night.

hokkaidovending02

They’re especially beautiful when covered in snow. It’s almost like they stand there in defiance of whatever the elements throw at them.

This is part of a series called Time to Shine, more on his website.

coincidence photography

I had my eye on a small lightbox that folds to the size of an A4 piece of paper, but am slightly put off by some of the negative reviews. Price is good though.

Anyway, talking about photography, I saw these photos as part of a project called the coincidence project by Denis Cherim who arranged to take his photos as certain times and angles. Good use of

perspective, scale, and certainly a bit of luck

coincidence01

coincidence02
All images ©Denis Cherim

More on his website. Cherim is currently on a 3-month residency in Taiwan. He’s also on instagram.

iphone ice cream

iphoneicecream

Sis gave me a bunch of haagen-dazs vouchers that had been sitting in my backpack for months. They expire on 31 oct so I’ve been a little stressed out trying to figure out how to use them up. I gave them to mum last sunday but she came home empty-handed claiming the shop only served scoops. She also thought we can use them at the supermarket. Um, mum, you can’t use vouchers for shop A in shop B even though shop B sells A brands. That’s r/talesfromretail territory. Plus I know H-D shops have tubs, just need to ask.

Today mum’s out to lunch with her friends so I walked to the H-D shop in the nearby shopping centre. Lo and behold, they do have tubs, only they’re not obviously displayed. They have a special offer of two family-sized tubs for local$238. So I used up 4 of the $50 vouchers. They can put 2 flavours in each tub so I came home with 4 flavours: chocolate, macadamia brittle, blueberry, yuzu. The tubs are pretty large and the server really packed the ice cream in tight. I was showing mm the size and used my spare iphone as unit of measurement.

I had a total of $350 in vouchers so I need to use up the remaining $150. The plan is to meet up with mm at the weekend and go to the H-D shop near her. Neither of us have enough space in our freezers but we can just get scoops.

family and bbmm day

Met uncle A and auntie J to visit my grandparents and great-grandmothers at the cemetery. As usual we met at the flower market, but when mum and I got there, the usual flower shop has closed down. In its place is an empty shop currently undergoing renovation. Mum usually gets handmade small baskets but most of the other shops don’t do them. We walked around and decided to get some really beautiful potted flowers instead. For my grandparents we got a large pot of…some red flowers and for the great-grandmothers smaller pots of…other red flowers. Okay, I’m really terrible at flowers and I forgot to take pictures.

wontonfriedfishballs

Quick lunch of wonton noodles, this place used to serve giant wontons but nowadays they are definitely deflated. Also got a dish of deep fried fish balls, so piping hot when they came to the table they scalded the tongue. There was enough time to walk around before meeting my uncle and aunt and we ended up in a small supermarket that sells a lot of Tesco products. I have my eye on olive oil, juice and wine. Will need to make a shopping trip one day.

We were efficient at the cemetery. There were quite a number of people there today, unusual for a weekday. The weather was nice, a little cooler than before so may be that’s why.

Had tea and cakes afterwards and then we said our goodbyes. Mum went shopping and I took the bus to mm’s place. I was really early so I bought some snacks and walked one stop. We were going to skive but then her mum texted inviting us to dinner. There was about an hour before we had to get going so we tried to fit in a happy hour drink. Didn’t work. We’d only started on our drink when I glanced at the clock and it was already 5.20pm. We were supposed to pick her dad up and then drive to the restaurant at 5.30pm. Yikes. So we asked the bar if they had takeaway cups and thankfully, it being a mexican place, they had those plastic cups with dome lids they probably use for margaritas. We hurried and managed to get to her dad’s place at 5.45pm.

Dinner was nice, her mum’s friend P was also there. I managed to take an orange and some dessert home with me.

there’s a new apple in town

honeycrispapple2015

This time of year means honeycrisp apples. Which I can’t get and is a sob-worthy moment. It’s really the only apple I like even though at a pinch I’ll have the readily available fuji. But never, ever red delicious. I’d rather have an orange.

NPR is reporting that in Washington state, apple farmers are ripping out existing fruit trees and replacing them with a new variety because of falling demand of the aforerejected red delicious. The new variety is called cosmic crisp which was developed over 20 years at Washington State University by Dr Bruce Barritt and when he retired, Dr Kate Evans (originally from Kent). 12 million cosmic crisp trees will be planted by 2020, all of them tracing their origins from ONE mother tree still standing in the university’s research orchard.

It will be grown exclusively in Washington state for ten years since farmers there partially funded the breeding program and are investing something like US$50,000 per acre, high stakes for a new product. The first harvest will be in 2019.

Considering the taste and durability of its parents–honeycrisp and enterprise, there is high hopes for cosmic crisp. Honeycrisp is successful because of its taste and crunch but the flavour doesn’t last and the variety is hard to grow. Enterprise’s best characteristic is that it can be stored for a long time and is resilient. In terms of taste, the NYT described cosmic crisp as

dramatically dark, richly flavored and explosively crisp and juicy

We’re in for interesting times with many new varieties of apples in development or hitting the market soon. SweeTango and Juici comes from Minnesota; a more complex and aromatic derivative of golden delicious called Opal from the Czech Republic; and Kanzi, a gala-braeburn cross from Belgium.

Because we get crappy apples, I don’t eat them. But with so many new varieties coming to market around the world, fingers crossed I get to try at least some.