things i’ve stopped doing

ynp205moon

Things I used to do and feel important that I do them and now I don’t anymore. Some are good and some are less good.

  • keep track of food eaten — I’ve tracked calories on TDP, now livestrong, since around 2008. Seems to be increasingly pointless. So what if I met my calorie goal, or was under, or go over
  • eating healthily — I had 4 timtams at teatime today and yesterday, that’s way too much. I can’t seem to stop if I’ve opened a packet of something
  • running and exercise — it’s marathon season and I’ve mostly avoided reading and posting about them. I know I need to run, but there is zero motivation
  • sleeping well — I either stay up too late then wake up late; or I wake up at 3am and can’t go back to sleep
  • listen to music — not getting much enjoyment out of
  • i stopped reading for about a month, recently started again — quite relieved
  • I average one coke zero or diet coke once every a week or less frequent — there are times when I want fizz or fizz with taste, I drink sparkling water and have discovered a stash of cranberry satchets in the fridge so I don’t even need to buy iced tea when I’m out and about
  • care about…anything

I don’t want to self-diagnose but typical depression symptoms include:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Sigh.

flickr explore | old websites

Tim Carmody who is standing in for Jason Kottke this week has been asking interesting hive-mind questions, like best wesbsites that are gone, hidden gem websites and best things in the history of the internet. The hidden gems list is interesting by itself.

Matt Haughey, in response to the best historical internet questions, wrote about flickr explore. Flickr has been through a lot, especially since it was bought by yahoo. Most of it negative as users abandoned it for other sites that offered more instant gratification. As an image repository, it’s been overtaken by facebook. As a social app, it’s been replaced by almost everything–snapchat, instagram, facebook again. The flickr explore page isn’t perfect, there are too many landscape pics, too many macro pics, and too many overly HDR pics. But there’s at least one that is inspiring and unlike instagram, no one is trying to get me to follow them or sell me something.

flickrexplore2017

I just clicked on the page. Random pics and I daresay I find something pleasing in every single one.

p.s. he also asked about great websites that are gone and the top one is google reader. For me, it’s google reader too, but I won’t forget about harpold.com

snap general election

parliamentunionjack

The Prime Minister has called a snap general election on 8 June. What on earth? Most of us kept hearing her say no, there won’t be a general election soon. Clearly she’s changed her mind or is plotting something.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Some analysts say she’s done it to clarify the Brexit mandate. She inherited Cameron’s mess and this is her way of stamping her own authority. Basically it’s a threat, vote for me on my merit or suffer the consequences. She’s also likely to be taking advantage of a big lead in the polls. Labour isn’t an effective opposition party and hasn’t been for a while. The Lib Dems are still too tiny and the SNP is stuck north of the border.

It’s Hobson’s Choice for the voters. One of my fb friends said it best:

would I rather have an incompetent prime minister with his heart in the right place, or one who I disagree with 75% of the time, but who has the ability to deal with foreign leaders, internal dissent, day to day chaos

As disillusioned as I am with the Tories, I cannot stomach voting for Corbyn. Like my fb friend said, nice guy but no presence.

I’m glad I renewed by voter registration. Let’s see if this time roung I get a ballot paper.

spring marathons #bostonstrong

It’s spring marathon season. Brighton was last weekend, Paris was yesterday, London is next weekend. Today is Boston, which is an anomaly in world marathons in that it’s run on a monday.

I’m mesmerised, watching how they let pedestrians cross the street in the middle of the marathon course. Effective and using low tech ideas. Just a few officials, a couple of signs, rope and a rectanglar box in the middle of the street. Very clever.

switzer

And talking about Boston, it’s the 5th anniversary of the bombing so #BostonStrong. The biggest finisher wasn’t Geoffrey Kirui or Edna Kiplagat (yay for Kenya) but bib #261, Kathrine Switzer, aged 70. Ms Switzer was the first woman to officially run Boston in 1967, having registerd as K.V. Switzer. The iconic photo of the race director trying to grab her mid-course seems so ridiculous now, but what she did for women’s sports was set a fantastic example and role model. 70 years old and she finished in 4:44:31. Amazing.

The BAA has retired her bib #261, in her honour.

tabletop bbq

bbq15

Met mm and her brother’s family for bbq. This is a style of bbq we’ve never tried before–table top bbq. We’re all sat around a wooden bench and they brought a rectangular charcoal grill which sat on top of some bricks. The charcoal was already lit and ready for grilling immediately.

All you can eat for 3 hours. The ingredients are in an indoor pantry area, the meat in a large fridge unit and vegetables on shelves. Most food was skewered so the grilling was super easy and efficient. Much safer than the traditional bbq pit and so much faster; there was no wait for the food to cook unlike the pit bbq. We had king prawns, clams that cooked in a claypot, steak, ribs, tongue, chicken wings, fish balls, courgettes, mushroom, pumpkin, enoki mushrooms in aluminium foil. I got a bucket of beer.

Liking this style of bbq a lot, would want to try again.

burgers off- and on-menu

nyc082spottedburger

Interesting long read about the rise of restaurant quality off-menu burgers in the US. How a gastropub that usually served small plates was saved from the brink of failure by objectively the best burger in New York that the chef initially put on the lunch menu and was hesitant about putting on the dinner menu.

There seems to be two totally unrelated factors going on here. First, many of these good and “famous” burgers are not common and garden fare. Daniel Boulud’s db burger, made with sirloin and has fillings like black truffle and foid gras, debuted in 2001 at $27. It’s now $35. There is an emphasis on quality ingredients and care in cooking, partly to justify the high price and partly because we’re talking restaurant chefs, not Mcdonalds.

Second, the off-menu aspect. For example, In-and-Out’s secret menu isn’t a huge secret. There’s probably some psychological high reached when people perceive they are getting a better deal than other customers. Or it’s an opportunity for oneupmanship, to show off, or in general be cooler, hipper, than one actually is.

There is cultural currency in speaking the language and knowing how to get the good stuff.

That said, it’s interesting to read about the burger eclipse effect. Like

if you build it, they will come

the rule is, if there is a burger on the menu, customers will order it. It’s predictable, it’s familiar, it’s satisfying. But it also means customers are not ordering food that the chef may consider more special, more worthy, more interesting.

One chef who has a great burger on the menu is April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig, who another chef described as the queen of burgers. It’s been almost a year, I can still taste it.

bbmm day out

Day out with mm, she brought Ryan (after jumpstarting) and drove out to saikung. It being a public holiday the area was crowded so after one turn around the streets we decided to park at the car park instead.

Nice short walk along the shore front. It was low tide so some people had ventured to the rocks opposite the promenade. There were boats, fishing people selling seafood from their boats, people with their annoying dogs, kite fliers, a small craft market–the usual stuff.

bbmmthai201704

We had dinner at a nice thai restaurant. Whole fish in tom yum soup, green curry lamb, gai lan. The first time either one of us had come across thai lamb curry, it was good. Very coconut-y, not spicy at all. If anything, a tad too sweet. The fish in tom yum was great, especially the tanginess and spice of the soup. Quite a popular restaurant, it was full and lots of families there too.

While walking around afterwards we spied a supermarket with a poster that says they sell Tesco goods. Immediately crossed the road. Wow, lots and lots of Tesco goodies. And extremely reasonably priced too, cheaper than the supermarket and almost 759 level of pricing. We ended up buying a lot, I got museli for mum, canned tomatoes, olive oil, grapeseed oil and halloumi. If we had space I would have bought some wine too. It’s a bit far away, but if we’re there for a day out next time, we are sure to revisit this special supermarket.

ex-colleagues dinner

bdaycake02

Yesterday we met up with the ex-office girls for dinner at a thai place. There was a slight panic when we were told we can only have the table for 1.5hrs, but in the end it was an empty threat–there was no one in the queue after 1.5hrs so no need to return the table. Nice food, the place has the same name as a dingy, crowded place I’ve been a few times, wonder if they are the same.

Satay, spicy chicken feet salad, green curry chicken, pad thai, pineapple fried rice. We had beer and the girls had lime soda. I’d actually gone out earlier to run errands and attempt to pokehunt. Errands took quicker than expected, coudln’t lot into pogo and it rained very hard so I spent more than an hour at a happy hour place nearby and had 2 beers already. Too much beer!

The girls brought a nice green tea cake for dessert. Perfect small size for 5 people. Great to catch up.

make tea in microwave, outrageous

inst001kettle

Some scientists in from the University of Newcastle in Australia are claiming that making tea using a microwave is the best method as it’s supposed to release more of tea’s beneficial active ingredients. They placed a tea bag with water, microwaved it at half power for 30 seconds and let it sit for a minute.

No.

No.

No.

As the Independent said, it’s

likely to appall any self-respecting Brit to their very core

and there is an uproar on twitter about this.

I’ve learned to compromise when I visit friends in the US. Yes I have to use the microwave to heat tea and I’ve had to use…gasp…half and half when I had no other choice. But I didn’t expect this travesty to come from the Aussies. I remember thinking when we were in Australia recently thank god the Aussies know how to make tea. I’m so wrong.

But seriously, there are rules for tea making:

  • USE A KETTLE, water must be freshly boiled
  • under no circumstances is lipton acceptable
  • teabag in or out is personal choice
  • milk first only with loose-leaf tea, never with tea bags
  • USE A KETTLE

family day, happy hour

Bank stuff in the morning with Sis. Mum went to get a table for dim sum lunch. After lunch we went to visit Papa. It’s turned warm and humid and people were burning stuff so there was smoke all over the place. The taxi queue back to the station was very long, fortunately the wait wasn’t that bad.

Since we were out and there was time, Sis and I went to the probate office to file an amendment. Typical bureaucracy: queue up at one counter, queue up at another, then another, form filling, more queuing.

hh20170411

We needed to sit down afterwards and went to a new restaurant-bistro type place at the spot that used to be grappas. They had two-for-one happy hour plus a small plates counter. We had wine: barbera d’asti for me and malbec for sis. The small plates counter was good: sandwiches, olives, artichoke-pepper, lots of cheese, two types of charcuterie, fruit and a nice selection of relish and chutneys. For some reason I totally adore chutneys and can eat it on its own. They also had a blackberry chutney that I also liked.

There was an app that kept track of happy hour places but they change to quickly the app can’t keep up. Stone Nullah Tavern that used to have $1 drinks that doubles in price every 20mins is now all-you-can-drink for a set price. The old reliable bars like Canny Man are pretty consistent, with 30-40% deals. Passion near the office was good, they do two-for-one but perhaps due to the inexperience of the staff they allow two people to share one deal vs most places the offer is per order. Increasingly, there is a tendency to serve snacks. The french place we were going to go to serves a small plate of parma ham and HMV has small plates too, though I haven’t been there for a while.

bbmm lunch

simplylife20170410

Late lunch with mm, she had an appointment nearby so I walked down to the simplylife at festival walk. I’d already had lunch at home so we shared the meal. Spinach & mushroom pizza was nice, thin crispy crust and good flavour from the chanterelles. They initially brought us a chicken pizza and when we flagged a server down they realised it was for the table next to ours.

They have a really great selection of breads and cakes. It’s the same place I got the raspberry truffle cake and chestnut cake for mm’s birthday last week. Today we had a chocolate jaffa tart. Their chocolate pastries are good! The ganache was rich and the sweetness was balanced by real mandarin pieces. I found some frozen chocolate shortcrust pastry in the freezer the other day, I hope I can still use it, make chocolate tart.

Anyway, she wanted to go home to rest so we walked around the mall a little then she took the train. I stopped quickly at the supermarket and got tomatoes and carrots. I have an oxtail in the freezer, I want to use it this week.

the end of an era

lloydsbranchclose

When I was at school, lower or upper fifth year IIRC, I entered a short general knowledge quiz. Those days, there was no internet so I had to write the answers on a postcard and mail it back to the organisers. I won £5 in a Lloyds savings account.

When I started at King’s, I opened a bank account with Barclays because they gave out all sorts of goodies for freshers and I didn’t qualify for those benefits as an existing Lloyds customer (I assumed, I didn’t ask). I closed the Barclays account shortly but kept the Lloyds account. I can’t remember whether I was already at Southampton Row when I was at King’s but definitely when I started working at Astra my branch was there. Even when I went to Imperial, changed jobs and left the UK I never moved branches. When I was back in London a few years ago, I still kept my branch there.

Lloyds, like many other banks, have been closing branches during the past few years. There was a big cull in 2016 and I wasn’t affected. Recently they announced 100 branches will close including Lloyds, Bank of Scotland and Halifax branches. This time I’m not so lucky, I just got the letter than Southampton Row will close.

Sigh. The end of an era.

It’s not so surprising, really. People hardly go to branches to conduct banking business anymore. Online banking, phone banking and simply using the cashpoint have all but taken over.

My account will move to 113 Oxford Street, with no change in sortcode. This is important as the sortcode is ingrained in my mind. According to google maps, the branch is at the corner of Wardour Street and Oxford Street. I can’t picture it, but it doesn’t matter. To be honest, I’m more likely to be in that area than Holborn so no big deal for me. It’s just for sentimental reasons that I lament the closure of the branch I’ve banked with for so many years. Best £5 they ever spent, all those years ago.

new books

nyc655books

Favourite bookseller is having a sale: buy 2 get one free. I got caught up with some book shopping, got 7 books total for US$40. Good motivation to start reading again, haven’t read anything for a few weeks.

Finished one book in a few hours. An easy-to-read romance from an author who is consistent, reliable and I know it’ll be well written. While the premise is formulaic, I was still absorbed in the story. Our MCs meet, fall in love, some obstacle happens, they break up and get back together again. And lived happily ever after.

I always feel very sad when I read traditional romances. It’s so easy for them. Oh, there are always obstacles, but it’s a guaranteed happy ending so the angst never last long. Not real. You don’t look across the room and feel everything fade to the background with only your soulmate lit up like a spotlight. You don’t start finishing each other’s sentences after talking to each other for five minutes. Friends and family and colleagues and society are not that accepting. Life is not that smooth. It’s a fantasy. Sometimes I hate these characters; it’s so unfair that they get to find the one and spend the rest of their lives together.

What about those of us to struggle and know there is no solution, no happily ever after. The angst doesn’t get resolved. Problems build instead of dissipate. Mere living, the act of staying alive, is tough.

May be we put too much emphasis on love. After all, it’s just an emotion and we can’t live on emotions. It’s not like food, shelter, air, water. Argh, I’m too cynical and jaded. Jeanette Winterson was writing in the Guardian about how the concept of marriage has changed from ownership of women a thousand years ago to business and convenience a few hundred years ago to marrying for love, a decidedly Victorian idea. On the topic of love, she says,

love is like gardening, or writing, or working out, or cooking, or eating, or meditation, or reading – it’s an everyday activity that needs to be fresh and alive every day, tended, and with tenderness.

Pretty idealistic but practical too. What of marriage in the future? May be we move away from the boxes society places upon us. Some people want to be married to one person; some people don’t want to be bothered with the grand declaration; some others have no option to be with someone but need to escape loneliness. It comes down to the different types of love. Does romantic love have to be the ultimate goal? What about the love of family, good friends, close community.

I’m getting off-topic. The next book in the newly purchased stack I’m going to read falls firmly in the adventure category. No danger of becoming even more sad reading about perfect couples with perfect relationships.

birthday

2017bday039lunch

Sis treated us to lunch at ON dining. It’s busy at lunchtime, good to see that business is good.

For starters I had pork knuckle carpaccio, which is pork terrine sliced very thin with an emulsion of egg and herbs topping. Mum and sis got an amuse bouche of soup since they didn’t order starters; gis had onsen egg with black truffle sauce.

Mains Sis and I had pigeon with foie gras. Perfectly cooked pigeon, delicious. Gis had beef and mum had hake.

I got a surprise birthday cake, their raspberry & yuzu that was on the menu. Mum got the same cake for dessert. Sis and I both ordered cheese so we got a large cheeseboard of comté plus six strong, oozy, yummy, cheese.

Met mm after lunch. We were going to have drinks but I thought we could get haircut since that was our original plan for saturday. Even better, because sam said he was pretty booked on saturday.

2017bday065shot

Early dinner at frites. It’s rugby sevens weekend and friday and we didn’t have a reservation. If we sat at a table we’d have to give it back by 7.30pm, but we were free to sit at the bar for as long as we wanted. So I picked the bar. We shared a plate of fried camembert and a pot of mussels. I had a beer and mm had a glass of red wine. Really lovely. The manager gave us each a complimentary shot of tequila for birthday, and I got a discount card too.

It was a nice birthday. Everybody made an effort and I felt blessed and loved. I just wish I felt better and more cheerful inside.

for sale: castle plus house £550k

mollys01

Savills has the smallest castle in the UK listed for £550,000. It’s called Molly’s Lodge, a Grade II listed building in Long Compton in Warwickshire. Lots of pics at Country Living magazine. If it weren’t for the turret, it’d be a pretty stone cottage, not a castle.

mollys02

Inside, it has one bedroom, one bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and a metal spiral staircase. Beautiful gardens that has fruits, vegetables, herbs and a chicken run to be self-sufficient.

What grabbed my attention, aside from the prettiness of the exterior and modern interior, is that there is a second house included on the property. Can see it perpendicular with the castle on the top picture. Called Molly’s Mews it has a one bedroom flat with open kitchen, double garage and an office. Perfectly livable, and the castle can be rented out on airbnb for income. The price tag of £550,000 seems too good to be true, I guess it’s because both houses are just one bedroom. Can’t even get a decent one bedroom flat in London for that price.

sleep on the sofa

nappack

A creepy-crawly flew into my room and even though we sprayed like mad, we can’t reach it. Hopefully the spray did the job.

I slept outside in the living room. I don’t mind, I like sleeping on my sofa; mm too, when she used to come over she’d fall asleep on the sofa as soon as she sat on it. In fact, I think I slept better on the sofa than my bed. It’s also much quieter on that side of the flat.

Lately, I’ve found it hard to fall asleep. Or I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep at all. I guess I’m not alone. It’s likely sleep-onset insomnia, or I may have some negative associations with trying to sleep in bed.

It’s not ideal, to sleep on the couch. Softness of the cushions, the cloth material not suited to dissipate body heat, limited space to move are all factors that may affect the quality of sleep.

I’ll continue for a few more days, until mentally I’m okay with being back in my room. Soon it’ll get hot and I’ll have to go back to my room to turn the air-con on.

mm birthday

mmbdaycakes

It’s mm’s birthday. We were going to go have haircuts but it seemed our hairdresser is closed today for public holiday. She also seemed to be not answering my telepathic pleas to decide on when and where to meet.

So finally we fixed a time. I detoured to simplylife and bought 2 slices of cake: raspberry truffle and chestnut. They turned out to be very, very nice.

mmbdaysteak

Walked a little, then settled on dinner at the hotel near her. Semi-buffet. Salad bar was pretty good: salad, charcuterie, oysters, crab legs, mussels and a nice poached salmon that ran out way too quickly. For mains we shared the 400g rib-eye that came with shoestring fries and waldorf salad. The server tried to flambé the steak with a tiny shot glass of Jack Daniel’s and it was a pretty sorry sight. The steak was average, mm says I cook them better.

pillastro wine

pillastro2014

Normally when I drink wine at home I use a mug. Yes, it’s terrible.

So I opened a bottle of Pillastro Primivito 2014 that sis gave me. I thought I should do it better justice and use a proper wine glass. Okay, it’s still a stemless, not a fancy one but it’s an improvement.

Nice wine. Primivito is the same grape as zinfandel apparently. No wonder it was fruity and fragrant. Easy to drink too.

bones 12.12

I was flipping through channels and managed to catch Bones s12e12, the series finale. I hadn’t been diligently watching every single episode; I’d watch what I can when I see it’s on and usually on flights. I do know that it’s the series finale. Episode title “The End in the End.”

The body and villain of the week were dispatched quickly, it’s a continuation from evidently the previous episode(s). It’s hard to cram so much into 45mins, but they did a pretty good job. Everybody was there, including Caroline, my favourite character. All the available squinterns were there, and there were shout-outs to Mr Nigel-Murray and Zack. And Sweets, poor Sweets.

It wasn’t like they were closing down the Jeffersonian permanently. Bones and Booth still walked off into the sunset, the ending in the “and they lived happily ever after” vein. Hodgins got to be King of the Lab. There is the understanding that their lives will go on, it’s just that we the audience won’t be a part of that family anymore. Kinda sad.

Found a 21min retrospective featuring cast and crew. The family vibe was strong.

random reddit

I’m bored so I’m clicking the random button on reddit, which brings me to, well, random subreddits. Yes, reddit has a bad reputation and there are some cesspool subs that shouldn’t exist. But mostly, it’s people getting together because they have a common interest. I’ve come across subs on games, tv shows, anime, sports teams, cities/countries, tech etc. Sometimes the topic is a complete mystery to me.

No wonder certain newspapers steal–um, borrow–content from reddit. A celebrity does an AMA and an article is written as if they gave an interview. Sometimes there are nice human interest stories. There’s one recently, on r/talesfromtechsupport about a tech support person fixing a simple skype issue so an elderly hard-of-hearing person can video call his wife, who is deaf and abroad for a 2 year temporary work assignment:

I looked up and there was Pete, crying while waving to his wife through Skype. Pete called her and she picked up! He introduced me to her and told me that it’d been 3-weeks since they’d heard from each other.

Anyway here are the most recent 5 random subs and some random posts.


r/minimalism

A place where people gather to talk about simplicity. I have now subscribed to it. Posts about people’s experiences like a post on decluttering using the one in, two out method. Most of us have heard of one in, one out but throwing or donating two out will definitely declutter. The OP says,

it makes me want to replace and upgrade the things I already have, rather than buying entirely new things

which sounds like a solid reason to try the program.

lv225sky

Many image posts of minimalist pictures. The was one with blue sky and a part of a slanted roof. I can do better, here’s one I took ages ago in Las Vegas.


r/dbz

dragonballz

I know very little about dragonball z, even though it’s been around for ages and ages and ages. The subreddit has discussion posts on all sorts of topics including specific episodes. What is dragonball z:

it follows a boy named Son Goku from childhood to adulthood, as he trains himself in martial arts with the goal of growing stronger. Throughout his adventures, he and his friends search for seven magical Dragon Balls that, when gathered together, can grant a single wish

There are posts with titles like What would happen if Dai Kaioshin was removed from Majin Buu? which are meaningless to me. Lots of fanart and I can see the effort that has gone into it. Not surprised that fans are gathered on this sub, this is exactly what the site is about.


r/cactus

Hahaha, a subreddit dedicated to cactus. Mostly pics of people’s plants, identification requests and posts with questions on caring for their cacti. Again, I love that there is a space online that people with similar interests can gather.

hkcchau020cactus

My contribution. We saw this whilst walking around one of the islands a few years ago. I’m loving the flickr search function.


r/historywhatif

Wow, I hadn’t realised there are whole subreddits on history whatif, future whatif, time travel whatif, even magic whatif. Very interesting, if one is interested in history. The top post is entitled Republican Spain wins the Spanish Civil War?

So lets assume that by means of less army defections or more international support or any combination of factors leads the Republicans to oust the fascists from Spain by April 1939(The end of the OTL civil war).

Not a historian, but food for thought. I started clicking on the other whatif subs and now I can see why whole hours, days, weeks, can be wasted.


r/submechanophobia

Okay, I was like, huh? This sub, which has almost 40k subscribers, is all about:

the fear of partially or fully submerged man-made objects

Ah okay. The banner pic is a cruise ship half sunk in the water and most posts are pics of submerged objects like ships, WW2 fighters, cars, submarines. One thread is entitled I will never become a Navy SEAL.

The best thing, I learned a new word.

brexit triggered

brexit

The Prime Minister triggered Brexit on Wednesday 29 March 2017. It’s a bit like knowing exactly when a bomb will go off but not having any choice in the matter. All we can do is watch the ripples spread out in concentric circles as we, as the Guardian described (it’s their banner here) we’re stepping into the unknown. There are tons and tons of opinion articles on this, from doom and gloom to glee. I’ve saved an extremely helpful BBC article all you need to know about Brexit. Many sensible questions, like:

What impact will leaving the EU have on the NHS?

But some equally amusing ones like:

Will we be barred from the Eurovision Song Contest?

Most of the answers to questions are variants of “it depends.” No one knows how the negotiations will give us. The overriding lesson from the past 12 months is: take nothing for granted, the world is unpredictable, people do not behave in ways we assume they would. No one person has the same circumstance as anyone else. Naturally I’m hoping for a soft Brexit, with as little disruption to everyday lives as possible. It’s probably naïve and unrealistic because of special interest groups and people with different agendas to ours.

There are a lot of people immediately affected by Brexit; I’m in the last group which arguably is the least affected:

  • 63 million people living in the UK
  • 58 million British people living in the UK
  • 2.9 million EU citizens living in the UK
  • 1.2 million British people living in the EU
  • 4.3 million British people living overseas (excl EU)

My primary income and financial assets are not in in the UK, so I’m less affected by the fluctuation of GBP or, to a lesser extent, EUR. If anything, sterling is cheaper for us so we should go back to visit or look into buying property. That puts me in an embarrasing predicament, because I can stand to gain from Brexit. What does it say for me as a Remainer, do I take advantage of FX volatility and falling house prices? Do I take the high road and not try to use this opportunity to my personal advantage? It’s stupid to take the naïve moral stand, TBH. When I can get us organised, I’m persuading mm to go for a househunting trip.

Aside: Scotland is in an interesting position. They voted overwhelming to Remain. If there is a second IndyRef, and if they vote for independence, will it then be a feasible location to move to? I don’t know.

There’s a part of me that still can’t believe how we got ourselves in this mess. I don’t know anyone who voted Leave but I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive them. I’ll wait and see. And hope for the best.

duck risotto

risottoducktomato

When we took my great aunt to lunch a few weeks ago for peking duck we came away with leftover duck meat and the carcass. They’ve been sitting in the freezer so i should use them.

I made stock with the carcass. Half the stock I used in congee, which seems to be traditional at least in my family; the other half I made risotto whch is less traditional–I think I’m the only one who makes risotto. Honestly, it’s not difficult.

Heat the stock and keep at a low simmer. Sauté garlic in olive oil, add risotto rice to toast for a little bit. Add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed. Total time was around 40mins until the rice was cooked. I added sun-dried tomatoes (soaked and diced) and fresh tomato because that’s what I had in the fridge; plus the duck meat. It’s good use of leftovers.

One thing I’ve notice about my cooking the past year, I’ve barely done any baking or made food I used to eat when I was living by myself. Whereas in the past I’d stick a tray of chicken thighs in the oven, cook a whole savoy cabbage and eat that 3 days in a row, that’s hardly what I can serve to mum. She’ll say she’s fine but I bet opening a whole packet of ham and calling it a meal is not something she would be happy doing. I’ve had to plan what I cook for lunch and dinner almost every day and try not to repeat two meals running. Mostly it’s pedestrian food. Fry or grill some protein (salmon, pork chop), add simple vegetables (greens from the market) and some form of carb (mash, rice). Try to make soup (pork+carrot+sweetcorn) every week. Everything is seasoned with s&p and italian seasoning. Perfectly edible but no spark.

recipebooks

I can’t remember when was the last time I flipped through a recipe book for inspiration. I don’t know where the creativity has gone. What happened to a whole weekend of cooking, or beetroot & sweet potato stack, or summer lasagne, or vegetarian savoury bread pudding, or roast belly pork, or delicious chocolate quinoa cake. Sigh.

What has worked is forward planning and cooking for multiple meals. Adam Liaw, masterchef australia s2 winner, wrote that the fundamental issue with modern day recipes assume it’s for one discrete meal:

Making a simple dish that’s over and done with in under an hour is all well and good, but it is also a very inefficient way to cook.

He gave examples: Japanese cooking relies on pickles and condiments made in advance; French cooking is full of sauces and stocks that cannot be made in the alloted 15-, 30- or 60-minute timeframe of a typical recipe.

Motherjones takes it further and tells us we’re using recipes wrong and the one-meal recipe is not a good use of time or money. We should be taking the long view:

Say on Sunday, you cooked a pot of beans, roasted a whole chicken (tip: butterfly it), and whipped up a simple vinaigrette as a salad dressing and marinade. Monday’s dinner could be a quick chicken-bean soup; Tuesday could be taco night; Wednesday, these elements could be incorporated along with some quick-sautéd vegetables into a pasta.

I’m fully on board with this. Planning and leftovers are such an important part of my daily cooking. Here’s to the duck that was first served as fancy Peking duck, its carcass made into stock and two different dishes came out of it for multiple meals.

Next up, 101 Cookbooks’ one tomato sauce, three lunches. All vegetarian too and I’m loving those tiffin boxes.

writers tears label

writerstearslabel

A friend wanted the label from the bottle of writers tears I opened, um, less than a fortnight ago. I decanted most of it to a flask so the bottle is empty. At first I thought it’d be straightforward, just soak in water. But soaking overnight in a bucket of water didn’t work. Google to the rescue, wikihow gives 4 methods for removing a wine label intact: soak in hot water for 10-15mins, heat the bottle in the oven at 250ºC for 10mins, fill bottle with boiling water or use chemical means like goo gone.

Didn’t want to use chemicals or set the oven that high so tried the simplest method of filling the bottle with hot water. Didn’t work, those labels sure are sticky. What I ended up having to do was to heat the bottle in a large pot for 20mins, I could see the label bubbled as the glue melted. Here’s the trick, let the label dry then remove it carefully using a paper blade while the bottle is still hot. When I tried to take the back label off whilst it was still wet, the paper fell apart. At least the front label is intact. There’s still glue on the reverse sides so I’ve placed them on greaseproof paper to dry and for storage. If I open another bottle I’ll save the labels too, in case someone else wants them.

I felt guilty that I was using a 8l pot. The water couldn’t be reused because it had bits of paper and glue. The only use I could think of was to [tmi]flush the loo[/tmi].

the last day i was happy

I remember 26-Mar-2016 as the last day I was truly happy. We were supposed to have dinner to celebrate my birthday. Papa didn’t come because he wasn’t feeling well, Mum went back to stay with him so Sis and gis and I had dinner.

Everything went to shits after that.

Edit: I accidentally clicked on posts for March-April last year, argh. The actualy date is 23-Mar-2016.

bbmm dinner drinks

nanliangarden2017

The plan was to meet mm late afternoon after her appointment. There’s a pokemongo water event going on and I was looking at appx trying to see if lapras was anywhere. There’s an area between 3 stations that showed promise so I left earlier and headed over there. Turned out to be part of a temple complex, the garden was pretty with lots of traditional plants, a pagoda, bridges and a waterfall. Good tourist spot, good photo ops and there’s a shop and restaurant. Good spawning selection too, got a few new gen 2. Then I saw lapras’ shadow and was so grateful for the footprints showing exactly where the stop was. It was an athletics track at a nearby school and I ran through another garden and jaywalked across the road to get there. Sign that not many people are still playing, there were only around a dozen people there.

Met with mm around 5pm and went to a hotpot restaurant. They have a 10% discount for the 5-7.30pm slot. Instead of going for tea then walking then dinner we thought we’d have dinner first. Great idea, the place gets very crowded at normal dinnertime but so early it was relatively quiet. Food was good, we liked the prawns and vegetables; tried fish soup this time which went well with our favourites.

Time enough to walk around and we ended up at the heritage house bar. No happy hour and fairly expensive but we had the place to ourselves for a good 2 hours before a few people came in for after dinner drinks.

running around for no purpose

We need to deal with some official bureaucracy regarding the lease of my grandparents’ shops. Or the shops that now belong to mum and my uncles and aunt. So mum and I caught the bus to the stamp duty office to get the tenancy agreement signed. Then the kind lady at the counter reminded us that it’s only $5 extra to get both landlord and tenant copied signed but if done separately will be charged full price for each. So we caught the bus back to the shop and got the tenant’s copy. Some more paperwork with my uncle and aunt around lunch. Back to the stamp duty office with both copies. Long queue, and typical of government bureaucracy it involved queuing up at 3 different counters: present the documents, pay, wait for the stamped documents. Took over an hour. I was pretty tired and pissed off because there was zero value to me being there.

We had dinner of lobster and fish as sort of reward. Total cost for my transportation the whole day was almost $50. It’s alright for mum, only $10 for her. Again, total wastage of my time and money.

magic cake

magiccake01

The ingredients for magic cake are straightforward: butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk. The magic is created with the proportion of the ingredients and when baked at a low temperature, it separates into 3 layers: the lowest layer is a dense cake, the middle layer creamy custard and the top layer is a crunchy, light genoise sponge. This recipe was from the telegraph.

500ml milk
2 vanilla pods
4 eggs, separated
150g sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
125g butter
110g flour

scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods, heat seeds and pods with milk until boiling
remove and leave to cool and infuse for 1hr
beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla extract until thick
melt butter and add to mixture
fold in flour
add milk little by little
whisk egg whites till soft peaks and fold into mixture, no need to mix thoroughly, there should be lumps of egg white floating in a liquid mixture
bake at 150ºC in a lined tin for around 50mins
leave to cool in tin before turning out, chill in fridge to set

Very tasty and rich. A little less sugar next time, I find with most baking recipes I need to reduce the amount of sugar. My magic cake didn’t separate as well as the ones people post; the bottle dense layer probably needed a little more cooking. I was also impatient and ate a slice before it had a chance to chill in the fridge.

Definitely must make again. Most people credit jocooks as the originator of magic cake recipes and she has many different flavours like lemon, chocolate, butterscotch (ouch, too sweet probably), coconut.

hotel hunting in japan

I’m helping out a friend who will be travelling to Japan for 2-3 weeks. Tokyo–>Hakone–>Kyoto–>Osaka. Her first time in Japan so I’m sharing my notes of places to visit, things to do, food, markets, transportation. I hope it’s useful.

The current focus is hotels. Budget is €80. What we found out, and are advised by frequent travellers to Japan, is to consider business hotels, or bizunesu hoteru. Seriously, read that out loud and marvel at the Japanese language. These business hotels, quite a number are part of a chain, are not only for business people. They’re no frills, reasonably priced and well located (next to a train station for instance). No frills means no gym, no room service, and some only change bedding every 3-4 days. The rooms will be functional and, since it’s Japan, quite small. But also since it’s Japan, they will be clean and the service polite and efficient.

tok093hotel

We stayed at a Tokyu Stay hotel last time and there was a small kitchenette and a washing machine in our room. A small seating area in the lobby served simple breakfast in the morning and a coffee machine served free coffee the rest of the day; there were also the ubiquitious vending machines for drinks and snacks. A helpful notice board showed nearby restaurants. The front desk helped us book a taxi for 5am check-out. The trip several years ago we stayed at a Superhotel and they had a daiyokujo hot spring bath on site. Next time I’ll also include Daiwa Roynet and Dormy Inn when searching for hotels.

That’s in cities. What we are finding is that Hakone hotels are much more expensive, €100 rooms are really basic. Not a big surprise because hotels there are mostly hot spring resorts that also include dinner.

hak077lake

Sigh. Hakone. Now I want to go there again. Go to Moto-Hakone, stare at Mount Fuji, go back to the hotel and have a full course kaiseki dinner, soak in the onsen and sleep on tatami mats. Heaven or not.

soju and beer

I was watching this video about why korean bbq is better in the US than in korea. I disagree, korean bbq in korea certainly has fewer choices–i’ve been to small restaurants where there is literally one thing on the menu, but it was one thing done well–it’s a matter of taste. Americans like lots of choice and lots of everything. That’s not necessarily the way it’s done traditionally.

Anyway, the host was drinking a mixture of soju and beer. I slapped my head, duh!!! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? I’ve drunk soju on its own and obviously beer on its own.

It’s apparently a big thing. They even have specially marked glasses to get the ratio just right. 30:70 soju:beer is popular. There are also other methods to fix the drink, including swirling or mixing with a chopstick to create a foam on top.

And there’s the famous soju bomb, which involves dropping a bunch of shotglasses of soju in glasses of beer, like a domino effect. Very cool.

sojubeer

All I did was mix a splash of soju with beer; I got cass so it’s all korean. The ratio was around 1:4 soju:beer. I can taste the sweet soju in with the mild beer. The alcohol % of the drink is more than beer; soju is 17%. It’s probably something I’ll try in a korean restaurant if there are enough people to finish one soju, otherwise it’s more of a novelty drink for me.

lego tape

legotape

I’m keeping an eye on this campaign for lego tapes, officially called nimuno or toy block tapes. It looks superduper fun, a tape that can stick on anything and then add lego bricks. I particularly like the tape around the bottom of sneakers, because why not. It’s one of those things that have absolutely no use whatsoever except for entertainment value.

They’ve reached almost $1.5mm funding. Right now for US$13 we get 2 rolls and for US$36 one roll each of different 6 colours: green, blue, purple, black, red, grey. The campaign has 20 days to go. I’ll wait till almost to the end because they seem to be constantly adding colours.

looking at backpacks

I’m looking at backpacks. I usually use fairly standard ones as long as they have what I want: padded laptop pocket, more than one compartment, space for pens, keys and small items, preferably mesh outside pocket for water bottle. My current one is from samsonite I bought at a discount.

The easiest place to get one is a department store, sports shop or the markets. Or wait for one of those sports and discount events that happen once in a while. I was idly looking on kickstarter and indiegogo and there are a few that caught my eye.

nomatic

nomatic $179 — a large weekender that opens up all the way round

what i like: large capacity, zip that goes all the way round, useful laundry bag, hidden pockets, top pocket, laptop compartment inside back flap

what i like less: looks bulky and heavy, probably okay as a weekend bag but too big for day-to-day use, water bottle holder is buried somewhere inside


tgo

tgo tom $159 — another weekender

like: large capacity, opens all the way round, expands, dividers like a camera bag, comes with accessories that go on the straps and around the waist, lots of small hidden pockets

dislike: bulky, doesn’t look elegant, too many additional pockets adds to the weight and shape, shoebag that hangs outside the main bag is unsightly


lifepack

lifepack $269 — backpack that includes solar powered powerbank battery/speaker

like: looks cosmopolitan, small enough for day-to-day use, external battery charges phones etc, clever idea to have it solar powered, hidden pockets, small accessories included (bottle opener, lock and cable)

dislike: expensive, what happens if battery stops working or backpack breaks, i have no use for speakers, only one main compartment


I like the first one, the nomatic, because it’s functional but it doesn’t scream out to me to get it. There seems to be an endless stream of travel bags offered on kickstarter and indiegogo so I’m not in any hurry. LIke a lot of crowdfunding projects they are priced a little too high for my liking. I get it, they’re not mass production prices. The problem is that I can get a not as fancy backpack for 1/3, 1/4 the price.

refugeebag

The one project I’ll do more research on and likely to back is operation refugee child. They distribute backpacks to refugee children and families in Greece. Basic necessities like first aid kit, soap, toothpaste. Underwear, socks, blanket. Toys, crayons and stationery. Protein bar. From their website:

it’s not just a backpack, it’s everything they have

$10 gets a backpack and $45 gets a filled backpack delivered to a child or mother in need.

randomly curated links

I don’t maintain a sideblog, partly because I don’t have material all the time. That said, I have been saving a bunch of articles that would perfectly fit a sideblog. Random topics I’m interesting in like tech, travel, photography, entertainment.


icecaves

In the far, far north of Canada, which spends the most of the year under snow and ice, tides are extreme. When it’s low-tide, caves form as the topmost layer of ice remains while the water underneath recede. The native Inuits take the window of opportunity to climb underneath the ice to hunt for mussels. The caves underneath look magical, but only for a short time.

Before long, the sound of ticks and pops signaled the returning tide as it lifted the ice on the bay. Soon, the water would fill the caverns.

Beautifully photographed. I’m a big fan of alaska, life in the cold stories and this article confirmed the region’s harsh climate and even harsher way of life.


amazon’s continued online shopping dominance

A couple of months old, but still interesting is jason kottke’s account of online christmas shopping. The drone that his son wanted was out of stock at amazon, so he shopped with the manufacturer direct. Multiple emails and phone calls to verify the order and suddenly the order was refunded even though he never requested the cancellation. He couldn’t complete his purchase at Walmart’s online shop. Target’s website was slow and the item arrived late. The point is, everyone hates amazon, but it’s the only one that consistently works.

The site is always fast, I have never seen a 404’d product page, the URLs for their products haven’t changed in almost 20 years.

Come to think of it, that’s true. Product urls at amazon never 404. My only complaint is that there are now way too many products and it’s becoming more difficult to search. I need replacement lightning cables and I remember reading about some sturdy kevlar ones. Search for “kevlar lighting cable” returned 130 results, some of which are variations of the same product.


Talking about search, here’s 10 ways of searching for information on google, some I know, like searching through a specific website or url; some didn’t know about.

For instance if I were looking for an onsen in either kyoto or osaka I can search: onsen kyoto or osaka. If I want to exclude certain results, like if I want to search for interesting books but I don’t want to buy any I can search: interesting books -buy.


Musical interlude. Here’s the latest from The xx called Say Something Loving. I don’t know The xx very well, this song has grown on me. Plus the video is all.about.London albeit a London from a young person’s point of view. Video arcades (Trocadero may be), the skate park under the National Theatre, the Coronet.

We wanted to celebrate our home town and revisit some of the places that reminds us of our friendship when we were growing up.


Via the always reliably interesting boing boing a video breakdown of the Battle of Helm’s Deep. They talk about use of colour, silence in the cinematography. I didn’t realise it was 40mins long, my attention never faltered from the first anticipatory shots of silent waiting to the arrival of Gandalf. Classic.


Even darker, a LA Times long read about revenge that I spotted, fittingly enough, on r/prorevenge. Very long read, very riveting and surreal.

tl;dr: Entitled rich lawyer mom somehow perceived her precious snowflake son was slighted by the PTA President. Hatched an elaborate scheme with her (also lawyer) husband to place drugs in the hapless lady’s car. Police officer didn’t take the allegations at face value and turned the investigation to the husband and wife instead. They were arrested and jailed. Both lawyers were disbarred. The civil suit for damages was in favour of the president for $5.7million.

Apparently, a film is in the works, with Julia Roberts attached as producer and star.


Here’s a cruise I’d never go on, travelling on container ships. It’s okay for a young, single guy. It’s not only the time needed–2 weeks to cross the Pacific, for instance, it’s just that they’re not geared towards passengers:

You are a liability to the ship, and there is no reason why they should bring you onboard. Most ports are secured to a level where you cannot access them. Life onboard the ships come down to a few things: work, eat, sleep, recreation. A passenger is an interference to the ships routine.

So why do it? Because it’s there. And because someone thought about it as an idea and did it. There are apparently good things too. The passenger can share in the facilities and one ship had a sauna. There’s a lot of downtime. The view is different. And once past the bureaucracy of getting onboard, it’s cheap.


nyc549citibike

A form of cheap transport that I do like is bike sharing schemes. I was surprised and quite proud of myself at how I took advantage of NYC citibikes last year. Manhattan was surprisingly easy and safe to navigate on a bike, unlike London where I tried cycling to Harrow Road post office once and gave up. I think it’s the attitude of London drivers towards cyclists as well as the hunking buses that make it dangerous. When it works, there’s very little to dislike about these schemes. They are eco-friendly, cheap, convenient and healthy.

bikesharegrowth

Even in car-centric America, bike sharing schemes are growing. Granted, most of the growth is in cities–85% of all rides are in 5 cities: NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, Miami, Boston. It doesn’t fit everywhere. Seattle cancelled its scheme due to low usage (weather, hills and lack of commitment from local government). Schemes probably won’t work very well in rural areas.

One statistic that is impressive is how safe bike sharing is. The possible reasons make sense: the bikes are sturdy, making them heavier and also slower; they have working lights and brakes, users tend to only use them for short distances and are less experienced so they are more careful.

The world seriously can’t rely on petro-driven cars forever. Electric cars and self-driving cars may be the future but there’s also room for low tech transportation like bikes.

writers tears

writerstears2017

Finished the bottle of Dalwhinnie. It’s okay, middle of the road.

While thinking about the next bottle to open, I’ve been buying scads of Writers Tears, which is back at m&s at a lower price. I haven’t tried WT extensively, so it was an easy decision to open a bottle for the next rotation.

There’s something about Irish blends, that make them different from Scottish or Japanese blends. The Famous Grouse series is the only ones I like in the Scottish blends stable, and I’ve tried so very hard to like Hibiki but nope. Irish blends are usually a mix of malt, pot still and grain, I think the pot still tempers the harshness. WT is a blend of pure pot still and malt, no grain. Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin:

A deliciously soft, sweet, easy drinking dram.

Mr Murray gives it 93 points:

the arrival is an alternating delivery of soft and hard waves, the former showing a more bitter, almost myopic determination to hammer home its traditional pot still stand point; the sweeter more yielding notes dissolve with little ot no resistance, leaving an acaia honeyed trail

The fruity but not overly fruity notes on the nose is oh so pleasant. The palate is smooth and sweet with just enough kick. The finish is lingering and I have to say pleasant again. I love cask strengths and this one at a normal 40% tastes almost of cask strength. It’s cheaper than HP12, around the price of 2 bottles of good wine and can easily become my day-to-day dram.

p.s. posted on st patrick’s day

london bridge has fallen

London Bridge Roundel
photo credit: flickr user diorama_sky, under CC

I can even fathom, but one of these days the Queen will pass away. Spent a few minutes (more like 20, it’s a long read) reading the Guardian’s article about Operation London Bridge, or the top secret plans for the few days after the Queen’s death. The extension plans cover both the Queen’s death and Charles’ ascension and have been in place since the 1960s. The group of people involved (government departments, the police, the army, Palace staff, the media) meets regularly to update the plans and there are rehearsals for all manner of eventualities.

The middle of the article talks about Britain’s decling power compared with when Queen Victoria died. Then, we had the Empire. Now, there’s Brexit. But the Empire is gone, it’s nothing to be ashamed about; the world changes and evolves. Britain will still mourn the death of our monarch with dignity and it will be done with full-on British precision and ceremony. Extensive procedures will be followed, every detail, from the thickness of the cloth covering the bell of Big Ben that will ring the start to the Queen’s funeral to stockpiling of condolence books in all corners of the country, are in the playbook. The Prime Minister will be informed, Parliament will be recalled. TV and radio programs will stop and networks will merge with the announcement. The BBC, other channels as well as newspapers and magazines will have material already prepared.

The royal standard will appear on the screen. The national anthem will play. You will remember where you were.

And it being a completely modern world, the news will spread very, very quickly. It took hours before George VI’s death was announced; the press who were in Paris with Robin Cook who was travelling with Princess Diana knew within 15mins. Now, it’s as fast as data is carried over the internet.

There will be a profound outpouring of grief. Some observers predict an increase in patriotic feelings.

People who are not expecting to cry will cry.

I don’t cry a lot and I was close to tears just reading this.

illustrated marathon maps

marathondrawinglondon

Went running the other day, did 5k around the reservoir park. Extremely slow and there is no doubt I’ve lost 100% of my fitness, probably more since I need to lose weight too. It’s been a year since my last serious run. I still follow Paris Marathon on social media but I don’t dare think about any of it. I wonder when I’ll be ready to go back to running.

Saw the reddit thread by an artist who produced illustrated marathon maps. He’s done maps for Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, MCM, New York, Pittsburg, San Francisco, and Tokyo. All the drawings are fantastic, my favourites are London and Tokyo mainly because these are two cities I know and love. Definitely worth checking out the full gallery.

marathondrawingtokyo

The prints are available for sale. $28 isn’t too bad though I wish they sold postcard sized too so I can get the whole set. If they did a Paris map I’ll consider getting the print; it’s the one that got away, innit.

iphone case is an android phone

iphoneandroidcase

I have 2 phone numbers: a personal number and a public number. Two sim cards, two physical phones. It’s becoming more and more unnecessary as telephone call usage has decreased to almost zero. I never answer an unknown number on my personal phone and only if I’m expecting a call (electrician or delivery) on the public phone. That said, sometimes it’s useful to have 2 phones.

This is being reported everywhere recently: guardian, indy, engadget, mashable: an iphone case that is an android phone. The project is fully funded and the makers claim an impressive list of features:

a 5 inch display, battery power, up to 256GB storage, SIM slots, an IR blaster & wireless charging!

The case is bulky, and I’m guessing vulnerable to cracking as both sides have a glass screen. Most of the reporters are puzzled at why anyone would want to pay $95 (wifi only) or $129 (mobile) when it’s essentially, as the verge pointed out:

duct-taping an Android phone to the back of your iPhone

The only use I can think of is for people who have multiple phones and want to consolidate. Or people who want to run apps that are only available in either the google playstore or itunes store. It’ll be less bulky for me to have to carry 2 phones, but for everyday use it seems overkill. If the price were lower or if I spotted it during the super early bird period when it was offered for $69 I might have considered it. To be fully useful for me, I’d have to go for the $129 (which will go up to $189) version and I don’t think I want it that much.

numbers are fun

traincups

I found an absolutely fantastic youtube channel numberphile, which posts videos about science and maths in an interesting and fun way.

This one with Professor Tadashi Tokieda, Director of Studies in Mathematics at Trinity Hall, Cambridge where he explains why train wheels are shaped the way they are so they can go around bends safely. It’s all to do with large circles travelling longer distance per rotation than small circles. He illustrates it using disposable plastic cups taped together. What an engaging professor, he made it so easy to understand.

buffy 20-year anniversary

It’s 20 years since Welcome to the Hellmouth. I didn’t watch Buffy when it was on the air but caught up later and followed on twop before watching it all on dvd. Took me a while to get to s7. It’s one of those tv shows that has a special place in pop culture. Here are some top moments, not a bad list. The ultimate recent list is vox’s ranking of every single episode, from #144 Beer Bad to #1:

spoiler
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Once More with Feeling

Makes me want to rewatch the dvds again.

bbmm wine at home

Just a few hours a week isn’t much, but we tried to make the best use of them. We wanted to go to the travel agent but mm wanted to meet for drinks beforehand. I checked that the german bierhalle had happy hour and we had a glass of house red each. Not very inspiring house red, it suited our purposes.

For the travel agent visit, we got one of the really knowledgeable agents there. He asked a few questions about where, when and what sort of things we liked doing and proceeded to plan our itinerary. Even looked up options for airports in/out and how we can add our friend lily to the trip. Whilst mm was asking him other questions, I asked my original agent about the NCL refund and she said still waiting. Not her fault, local NCL is being slow and useless. More about our possible trip later.

margaux201703

Instead of going to a restaurant, we went to the market, bought hainanese chicken and veg, and had dinner at her place. So much nicer, and watched Bones too. Finished about 2/3rd of the whole chicken, plus giblets. The wine was great! It’s so rarely that I get to try someone more expensive than the regular cheap zin or pinots I drink at home. What we both liked about this margaux was how fragrant it was, so fruity, so full of berry notes. We both swirled the wine (not overfilling the glass) and inhaled the rich blackcurrant aroma, it was enough sometimes, no need to drink it. When we did taste, it was sweet and smooth without being overly caramel-y and hardly any tannic aftertaste.

We polished off the entire bottle.

Good food, good wine, good company. Definitely have to do it again.

lunch with great-aunt

auck061star

My great-aunt from canada called out of the blue this morning. She’s visiting for a week. Turned out she went on a last minute cruise with some friends. Now the coincidence is, they were on the Star and boarded in Auckland on the 18th!!! That’s exactly the leg after ours and we actually got to Auckland just in time to see it sail off that day. I showed her this pic I took as the bus was turning into britomart and she was there on the ship. If only we’d known. Their itineray was changed too, but at least the azipods kept on working. Theirs was a 19-day cruise that took them back to Sydney then to cairns, darwin, bali and singapore.

springdeer201703

We treated her and her friend to lunch at the traditional restaurant spring deer. Shark’s fin soup, peking duck, minced pork and pastry parcels. Way too much to eat, we took the duck carcass and leftovers home. Lovely to see her and we enjoyed the food. Not too expensive, local$ 1600, around UD200, for 4 people. I remember going to this restaurant with my grandparents, it looks the same and the food is the same high quality. Okay, it’s controversial to have shark’s fin soup nowadays, we don’t really make it a habit. The soup was mainly a chicken soup with depth of flavour; shark’s fin itself is bland.

food at home

butternutsquash

Mum bought a small pre-cooked chicken from the frozen food shop last time she went to the market. The cooking instructions were to remove outer packaging and put chicken in inner wrapping in boiling water for 17mins. I had it boiling in the bag for around 30mins just to make sure it’s heated all the way through. Quite nice, can buy again.

I put the bones in a ziploc bag and realised I already have 3 large bags of chicken and turkey bones. Time to make stock.

Went to the market and bought a ginormous butternut squash to make soup. Some carrots, an onion and a couple of tomatoes too. I have celery at home. Then because I couldn’t resist, broccoli and cauliflower. Also a loaf of bread and a bottle of korean rice wine that was on sale. Pretty heavy load to take home.

fearless girl

fearlessgirl
photo credit: Federica Valabrega

Advertising firm McCann New York placed a statue of a girl opposite the Wall Street charging bull on behalf of their client State Street Global Advisors. The statue, called Fearless Girl, was by sculptor Kristen Visbal and will be there for a week. The purpose is to bring attention, on International Women’s Day, to diversity and gender equality issues. She starts down the bull and plaque at her feet says

Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.

State Street is refreshingly unusual in having 3 women on its 11-member board. Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Tisdalle:

She’s not angry at the bull — she’s confident, she knows what she’s capable of, and she’s wanting the bull to take note.

If only the rest of Wall Street is as enlightened as State Street. More than 80% of FAs are men and 25% of Russell 3000 index firms have no women on their board. I mean, has anyone been to the pit that is a trading desk? Sigh.

Come to think of it, I think my friend Larry went to State Street. I think he’s still there, global head of mobility.

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And another thing, they must have roped off the statues for photographers or the photographers got there early. When I was there last year, there were so many people taking selfies with the bull I could not get a proper pic at all.

sis lunch and bank

Met up with sis to deal with the last of the probate stuff, but it turned out we had to go to another office to get another piece of paper first. So much bureaucracy. Since I didn’t bring the necessary documents we’ll have to go another day.

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Long lunch at the globe. She had beef & mushroom pie and I had the set lunch. Lamb chops and cheesecake. The lamb was salty, just like most food outside is salty. I don’t remember the taste of the cheesecake it was that memorable. Between us we polished off the equivalent of a bottle of wine, should have ordered by the bottle vs glass.

Went to the bank to put some of the joint account money to work. Too much cash, so we invested some: switched some to a better performing global income and growth fund, switched some to high yield bonds, and bought a new multi-income fund. One thing I’ve noticed about sis, she is quite impatient with investments, not experience enough to take the long view and gets panicky when there’s a loss or the return isn’t high enough.

website hacked

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The website is down. Got an email from ISP support saying it was hacked via FTP so they changed the FTP password, locked the website and restored from backup. I can’t remember when was the last time I used the FTP function, so I’m going to leave it disabled. Changed CP password and scanned the mba too. Very annoyed it’s been one issue after another since I had to switch to WP.

stopped going to church

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I stopped going to mass. Mum still goes but I told her I’m taking a break. For the longest time we never went, and then when Papa was in hospital we started going again and continued after he was gone. I thought it might help me, get some peace and support for my spiritual and faithful side. I prayed the rosary for weeks.

May be it’s because I never learned how to pray or go to church or open myself to receiving God’s blessing. I don’t feel like it’s helped. I search and I try to feel and all I get is blank.

It’s not like when people declare that they’ve turned their backs on their church because of scandal or politics. It’s nothing like that. I think I still believe in God. There has to be a purpose to our miserable lives. But I decided when I started feeling like going to mass every sunday felt like a chore, I should stop. Again, no earth-shattering reason. It’s like someone suddenly decided to stop eating onions or going to a particular restaurant. There’s no concrete reason.

bbmm wine hotpot

Met up with mm in the afternoon. We had a couple of hours to kill so went to a hotel bar and ordered a bottle of wine. A whole bottle! It was nice to just sit there and chat. Now that she’s working full-time in the university research department we hardly get time to text, let alone meet up. We decided that she needs more play time. Dinner was simple hotpot, we were early so were done by 7.30pm. A little walking then home early.

iphone connection

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I’m not getting any internet when connected to the phone network (wifi is okay). Tried swapping for my other sim card and the Three UK card and they both work so it’s likely my primary carrier. Have to get it fixed, I just renewed and there’s no point using them if it doesn’t work.

Edit: so, quite embarrassingly, it turns out I’d used up my data allocation. Probably when I was tethering to upload pics. It’s easy (too easy) to buy an additional 1GB for local$ 50.