Iron Chef USA

I watched Iron Chef USA on TV. I didn’t know about it before and was a bit surprised. The formula’s the same, challenger and iron chef; kitchen stadium; the Chairman; theme of the day; frantic commentary.

But somehow, it’s not as good. William Shatner as the Chairman is too over the top. The chefs are too full of themselves. The atmosphere too self-congratulatory. The cooking and the dishes look great and I’m sure these are top grade chefs.

But the fun, the kitsch, the life dependency, it’s missing.

If it’s on, I’ll watch it, it’s a cookery program afterall, but it’s not the same as the original.

r&r

Went to St Gregory’ spa with AL and RO yesterday — my ex-colleagues from my previous company. Funny that none of us are doing the same job we were when we knew each other, 2 of us have left the company altogether. But we miss the family atmosphere, I’ve been where I am for 2.5 years now and if I think back at the days when I’ve done 2.5 yrs at the previous place, there’s a big difference. I don’t feel loyalty, don’t feel like I belong, no teamwork. We’ve been well and truly spoiled.

Anyway I did a body scrub and hair therapy massage at the spa. The scrub was nothing out of the ordinary, just some scrubbing with gritty bits that are supposed to exfoiliate, then wrapped in plastic and a simple head massage. The hair therapy was fun. Wet hair, then lots and lots of cream massaged into the scalp, with a finger massage. Then as it gets absorbed, a neck, shoulder and hand massage. Then a bit of steaming before more massaging and washing off. My hair was definitely softer afterwards. I was told not to wash it till Monday but I thought to myself there’s no way I can stand not washing my hair for 2 days.

The spa is part of the complex at the Plaza Hotel, there’s also a pool, a gym and a climbing wall I was eyeing, but never had the nerve to try. I was the first to finish, so I got a carrot juice while I waited. Afterwards we took a taxi to Suntec and had prata and gravy at the famous place there. I was already full.

Hung out at my room to play ligretto, wow, it’s been a long long time since I played. Next time I’m back in Switzerland I’ll have to remember to buy a box.

They left around 6pm, I was far too full from the prata to eat, so I took an early shower and turned on the Powerbook. But ezboard was down and I was soon getting tired. Nothing on TV either.

Decided to take a nap around 8.30pm. Next thing I know when I opened my eyes it was nearly 10pm and I was a bit cold. Turned the aircon down and went back to sleep. Woke up this morning at 8.15am, having slept for nearly 12 hours.

I needed that.

Came back from a big breakfast — birchermuseli, fruit, sausages, chee cheong fun, fried bee hoon, kaya toast. Hence the unusual phenomenon of posting at 10.30 in the morning.

No plans today, meeting C&R for early dinner, may be.

family rights

From yahoo news, Wal-Mart expandes definition of Immediate Family.

For the purposes of employee ethics, the biggest retail chain in the world expanded the definition to include same-sex partners. But haven’t revealed whether it includes benefits coverage.

My current employer already does that, which is quite gratifying, considering we are as global and on the same sort of scale as Wal-Mart (though employing a different type of employees, not so many casual workers).

An immediate family member, or a “qualified adult” is covered for benefits provided certain conditions are met and the employee makes a declaration. This includes living together at least one year and have demonstrable means of showing an exclusive relationship such as joint account and mortgage. It’s very fair, and the language of the policy doesn’t make any reference to gender, so it applies to both same- and different-sex relationships.

stats

I added a link to the site stats under the tmi section. Links to the left hand nav bar are includes, so it was just a matter of adding the link to sidebarmain.inc.

Ever since I started subtly including the link to quiet thoughts as my sig in some forums (nanowrimo, pens etc), I’ve had a few visitors that way. Don’t think many, but at least one person has mentioned it to me on one of those forums. Now I look at stats pretty much everyday, whereas before I might look once a week or fortnight.

I have 2 stats available: /stats and /stats/awstats. awstats look prettier so I tend to look at that, but I think it’s understated, plus it only gives me current month. stats give monthly summaries that I can click to drill down.

awstats say I’ve had a total bandwidth usage of 865MB up to today, and stats say 1.05GB. Control panel agrees with stats. So now this month’s the first time I’ve gone over 1GB. Luckily I have 4GB left.

As for visitors, I passed 200 on 15 Jan. Not sure what I did on that day, but there was a lot of traffic. Most common hits are the CA gifs on pens and the rotating image on each page. Basically, it’s an illusion, the so-called visitors are pages calling the images and not really actualy human eyes.

Almost all hosts are me anyway, I recognise 199.201.45.129 which is the IP address of my work machine. The others are netvigator IP addresses generated everytime I logon. So again, it’s just me.

Whatever.

in hiding

I admit it. Workwise I like it a lot more here in Singapore. No bitchy non-team players, no hassle of stuff being pushed back and forth, no need to pretend or put up a front. I can behave like myself in the office, the people here are way way nicer, and I’m almost moved to tears when I heard them discussing issues and problems amongst themselves so it gets resolved.

Of course, I’m just covering. And like I tell the team, I’m just their pretend boss, not their real one. Heehee. So it’s more relaxed.

Been to Carrefour already on Wednesday, got a roast chicken, salad and a loaf of cranberry bread. That’s been my dinner for the past 3 nights. Lunch is something simple from the food court. Duck rice yesterday, soup bee hoon today. Not in any hurry to overeat this time.

The best thing about this time is I get 2 bottles of water and 2 cans of soft drinks everyday. I exchanged the coke for diet coke yesterday and asked for it to be permanentlyl changed. But they forgot and today I got another normal coke. I’ll keep it for the guys at the office. I can’t drink it all anyway. And since I’m on a business trip for this long, I can claim laundry, I didn’t last year, always washed by hand. Now this time, I’ve decided to have the shirts laundered and wash socks, underwear and small clothes myself.

Another year. Another round of travelling. It starts.

on the road again

When I left the office today, hefting my backpack, my colleagues wished me happy journey, now I’m on the road again. The start of another year’s travelling, I expect.

Was quite a hectic end of day. Had to go to the bank to transfer money, the cake shop to find cakes for the HRSC staff, the phone shop to look for a protective strip for the phone (unsuccessful), then bus home. Clear the fridge, iron the mountain of clothes on the couch, another load of laundry, plus drying, take shower. Pack.

I’d almost forgotten, I had a conference call at 9pm. Gee, who in their right minds organise conference calls at 9pm. Wait, yes, people in my company, that’s who.

Then Mum called to say she’s coming over. Is there enough time??? She came right at the beginning of the call, so she had to sit around waiting for it to end. I showed her my fun new phone and she amused herself by reading the manual.

So, everything’s almost done. Just the drying left. Even the garbage is cleared.

Have to set the alarm for early tomorrow, but still I don’t feel like sleeping.

my new phone

which phone did I buy at the end? Remember which one I really wanted? The Nokia 7280. I wanted to take a photo of my actual phone and not use one from nokia, but they didn’t turn out that good. So it’s here again.

nokia 7280

No particular functions, just contacts, calendar, bluetooth, the usual. Nothing fancy. But man, it looks fine, so fine.

I have to re-enter the contacts, IR the stored pictures, set everything again. But that’s nothing.

errands

It’s an errand running sort of day. We met our financial advisor for an update meeting on the state of our affairs — we have some joint investments together — and it’s looking fine. Made some switching decisions but didn’t add more money. I think part of my cash bonus will go to repaying the mortgage rather than anything fancy.

Had lunch, surprisingly restrained of us, we didn’t have a lot.

I was going for a haircut while she visited the clothing shop she buys most of her work clothes. But, wow, the hairdresser’s was packed. So I ended up going with her to the shop, sitting on a pretty stool with her bag on my lap listening to the iPod while she tried her clothes on.

Then I went for my haircut. It was still busy but they fit me in between the perms and the other haircuts and the coloring. It took longer than usual but I guess it’s a good sign that they are busy. I remember around a year ago when competition opened up nearby and the economy wasn’t as good, they were empty.

We met up again and had an early dinner. Went to a new (for us) Korean place that was, to our surprise, staffed by many Koreans and with many Korean customers. A sure sign of an authentic place. We had too much (heehee) — bbq pork and lamb, noodles with sauce, hot stone rice, plus all the condiments and soup. Fruit and ice cream were also included and we shared a bottle of plum wine. Mucho satisfied thank you very much. Definitely a place worth returning.

We were very full so we decided to walk a couple of stops. But before that, time to buy my new phone. Had 2 choices, and I finally decided on the more extravagant one. Wait till tomorrow when I play around with it a bit, then I’ll write it up.

pizzaorme

I noticed through bloglines that mm has updated her weblog with 4 entries! And I totally missed them, what sort of webmaster am I?? Well, the sort that turned off email notification, that’s how.

They’re such great entries, I have to go read them again and add my own. I feel proud of her achievement, but on the other hand, a little worried cos she’s got so much pressure and expectations placed on her shoulders.

lulu book

I discovered, through the nanowrimo forums, that 2 copies of the book was ordered. I know one is my “order”, but who was the other? It seems like the people at lulu.com may have ordered a copy, may be for their records?

Anyway, I think it’s pretty wise of them. According to their instructions, I set the royalty to zero, cos I haven’t read it properly and not edited. Once I edited and am happy, I can get an ISBN and set the price properly and all that, or I could retire the book. So they’re getting it at cost, just their own printing costs, and before it disappears. Yep, it’s real clever of them.

Do I mind? Do I think they’re being sneaky? May be they should have told us, but then they gave us this great offer of free printing, I’m okay about them having a copy for whatever reasons they have, as long as it’s not made too public. Then again they have thousands of books, so it’ll probably get buried.

Which is fine finey mcfine by me.

Look, boxes

Most of this site is made up of “weblogs” that do not have date based archives, out of the 8 sections, only 2 are true date based weblogs. No, I didn’t include pizzaorme cos, well, I didn’t.

So, for writing sections the index page has the categories and individual entries, easy to do cos most entries have titles like Part 1, Part 2 etc. For picture sections the index is kind of a mix.

For d&f my biggest regret was losing the 3×3 format. So I thought about it, and tried to put the categories and entries in a div that’s defined as 150×150 boxes.

So, in the index template replace:

<MTCategories>
<h2 class=”date”><a href=”<$MTCategoryArchiveLink$>”><$MTCategoryLabel$></a></h2>
<$MTCategoryDescription$><br /><br />
<MTEntries sort_by=”title” sort_order=”ascend”>
<a href=”<$MTEntryPermalink$>”><$MTEntryTitle$></a> <br />
</MTEntries>
<br />
</MTCategories>

with:

<MTCategories>
<div class=”box150″><span class=”smalltitle”><a href=”<$MTCategoryArchiveLink$>”><$MTCategoryLabel$></a></span>
<$MTCategoryDescription$><br /><br />
<MTEntries sort_by=”title” sort_order=”ascend”>
<a href=”<$MTEntryPermalink$>”><$MTEntryTitle$></a> <br />
</MTEntries>
</div>
</MTCategories>

The box 150 div class is defined as:

.box150 { /* creates boxes 150x150px */
float:left;
font-family: verdana, arial, geneva, helvetica, sans-serif;
font-size: 9px;
color: #999999;
margin: 1px;
padding: 4px;
width: 150px;
height: 150px;
border-width: thin;
border-style: solid;
border-color: #cccccc #999999 #999999 #cccccc;
}

 

it’s a habit

It’s the second Wednesday of me staying at her place. It’s becoming a habit, yay.

Bonus communication today. Remember last year? I had no expectations, and even though it was less, I was happy.

This year’s bonus was higher than last year’s, and I got a 3% salary increase, which was unexpected. I’m happy. I know other people probably got more, but I’m still happy with what I got.

So we went out to celebrate, for a Japanese meal. Twitching fish, fish soup, extra sashimi, grilled fish. I had a choya.

It’s a good feeling, hope it can become a habit.

share jobs

It does seem to be work out this way, but I don’t think it’s set in stone or mandatory. And she commented on it this morning.

It usually works out that if we’re at my place I cook and if we’re at hers she cooks. Witness today. We started the day at my place, so I made lunch of steamed sausages on rice and veg, plus dumplings. After lunch we hung out leisurely for a bit, she washed her hair, checked email. Then we took a bus out to the beaches and walked around. Ended up at her place. And now it’s time for dinner and I’m playing on the iMac while she makes our dinner of crab, fish and soup.

Really, it’s a coincidence but that’s exactly how it happened.

podmania

Last weekend we went out and bought her a mini iPod, her Christmas present from her sf. Before Christmas there were no stock, so we’ve left it till now.

It took her like half an hour to decide on a colour — pink in the end.

The problem is it ships with iTunes 4 which only works on OSX, her iMac is still on OS9 and though I can switch to OSX on the Powerbook I hardly use it. So it’s been a week since we got her new toy and we’re only now getting round to playing with it.

I loaded 3 CDs as a test and to show her how it’s done, she’s real happy. She’s at her Mum’s today and is taking it with her to show off.

For most of today I switched over to OSX, loaded her iTunes and uploaded a bunch of my CDs. So now she has 400+ songs in her library. I need to figure out how to copy songs back and forth between my library and her library, especially if I’m moving to OSX sometime, it’s just more efficient, not having to upload again.

Anyway, just as we have her new toy, Apple decides to bring out the newest iPod, the iPod Shuffle. I’ve read that it looks like a pregnancy test stick and it does. It’s tiny alright, but it only has max 1GB and that’s only 240 songs and that gets tired easily, I want to carry my entire library with me at all times, I don’t care if it’s 1,772 songs and 5 days of continuous listening. I want to choice.

back on track

After an absence of a few weeks, I went back to the gym at lunch. And am paying the price for neglect, my arms and back got stiff afterwards. But I tell myself I have to continue.

They’ve put in more TVs, so people have more to watch when they’re running away. But the fun’s been discretely watching other people, you know.

A lot of people have iPods. Good for them. Good for Apple, except I suspect most of these iPods are PC ones. Necessary evil I have to concede.

Anyway, this woman got on the crosstraining machine next to me, and she was, gasp, impeccably made up, with a fancy watch and loads of jewellry. I can’t help but think, don’t these people sweat when they exercise? I break out in rivers and streams and I can’t stand it if I have a watch or anything. Weird.

What’s more, she was wearing tights underneath her shorts, plus socks and the obligatory cute sneakers. Huh? And a double huh? This is so weird.

attention

I’m checking stats everyday, both on the website and my Common Areas hits. Website is averaging around 70-80 hits a day, according to awstats, but that’s again probably me and the CA avatar. So it’s a bit overstated to say I have more visitors. CA has reached 9,300+ since first post, but if I don’t update within about 3 days it stagnates.

I’m still my only subscriber on bloglines. Imagine people like Dave Shea getting 2,500+ subscribers and even antipixel has a few hundred, I’ll be happy if one day I manage 10.

Now I see people’s obsession on hit counters and the like. Though I’ve always said that I don’t want to be know and want this space to be quiet, I do wish more people can come visit this little garden occasionally and enjoy a little quiet thoughts here.

all too rare

We had last weekend’s episode of a program we needed to watch, cos we have to catch up. I recorded it on my video but we were at her place over the weekend. So anyway I took it as an excuse to see her. We met for simple dinner, walked home to her place and watched it together.

Just a rare weekday we can spend together. šŸ™‚

work and work

There was a time when I didn’t get home till 9, or 10, or later. Day in, day out. It was a time for ambition and climbing the corporate ladder and working, working, working.

I can’t do that anymore. I just don’t have the inclination or motivation.

Had a conference call at 7.30pm that threatened to go on till later, luckily the other participants had to sign off at 8.30, so a reprieve. But only half the items on the agenda was discussed so needless to say there’ll be another one.

Not that I mind, I had things to do.

But getting home late and not feel like eating anything till now (nearly 11pm) and just finished reheating some soup and eating it at this hour is not of the good at all.

Feels like part of my free time’s gone, just like that. And I don’t like it.

downloadable stories

Created a static page in hidden doors where pdf versions of completed fics can be downloaded. Just copied the hidden doors main index, stripped out MT related code and wrote the rest in a text editor.

It’s a static page, not controlled by MT, so I need to update whenever I finish a story and want to make it available.

Will probably do the same for innermost room, except most of the stuff there aren’t even on Word.

nano book

I finished editing the book already last week. Used the preset 6×9 template and copied the text into it.

Set the margins to 1″, justified text. Debated on which font to use, the template came with Garamond but I really don’t like serif fonts, so I used Verbana.

Formatted for each chapter, indenting the paragraphs, this is new to me, haven’t done indents for ages and ages. But paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter and after each section break don’t have indents, so it’s a matter of manual formatting. Yuck.

Each chapter title has its own page, on odd pages, so, more formatting.

The footer on text filled pages has a top border line and page numbers, but the blank pages and chapter pages don’t. So more formatting and manual page numbering. Total page = 190.

Fun with Word, yeah.

Then to design my own cover. Played round with various colours and, surprise surprise, background is dark blue. The image uses one of the photoshopped versions of the Nice chair. Spent some time writing the backcover, not that easy.

Created an account in lulu, uploaded the content. They usually accept .doc but I converted to pdf already, after a couple of mishaps with embedded fonts it was loaded successfully. Then loaded the front and back covers as jpg.

Then picked the spine.

And I’m done. ID is 98805.

big cook sunday

I made lunch today, thought I’d get it ready when she woke up. Okay, I was woken up by the phone this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. She was so peaceful in bed so I went and played on her iMac. Then it was nearly lunchtime and even though we usually follow the “I cook at my place, she cook at hers” rule, I wanted to get the lunch done.

Egg and minced beef on rice. Something we’ve been having for years and years and years. As soon as the rice is in and water started to boil, add marinaded minced beef and crack a couple of eggs. Then turn the gas right down and watch the rice cook with the beef and the egg. Add soy sauce and that’s it. We had 3 bowls each!

Came home early. Made beef, tomato, carrot, potato and cabbage soup. Put everything in the pot and simmer for 2 hours. My dinner for the next 3 days.

Roasted a whole butternut squash. Going to add it to rocket, cherry tomato salad then sprinkle some blue cheese on top. Lunch for tomorrow and the day after.

Got to start planning healthy menus again.

plans, what plans

Our plan was, meet for lunch with her friend, then we’d go and pick up her glasses, and I go to the bookstore, then we go watch a film.

It ended up with late lunch, just the 2 of us. Then I had to rush home cos my sis was bringing some furniture round and they’re not sure if they have my key and they were gonna leave them outside my front door. Then to pick up her glasses, then meet her friend for film and dinner.

So Friend got more time than initially allocated. She did ask me, bless her, if I minded the “lightbulb”, which I admit was my first reaction. But then Friend doesn’t seem to have plans so I guess we should be generous.

Finally saw Ocean’s Twelve. Fun. Funny. The “introducing Tess as Julia Roberts” was priceless. Steven Soderberg’s camera work and direction were idiosyncratic. There was this shot I absolutely loved, of a camera at ground level but tilted 90 degrees to normal, tracking the path of a plane. Fantastic.

The ending was a little deus ex machina for me, though I enjoyed how it was told.

We had Japanese for dinner. Had the live fish sashmi, where the fish is sliced while alive and is served with pieces of its flesh together with the head, tail and rest of the body. It’s still twitching. Can be very disconcerting and perhaps cruel. But we like it. The bones go into a milky soup that’s the best I’ve tasted.

one free copy

I’d noticed it already, but a) didn’t think I’d get it edited on time and b) had reservations about publishing/printing a draft copy. But I looked and looked and thought and thought.

So finally I decided, may be I should.

For nanowrimo winners, they’ve been able to negotiate 2 offers, one from iUniverse that costs USD309 and includes printing, cover design, 5 free copies and listing on the likes of amazon. Deadline 1 March 2005.

The second from lulu is less sophisticated, but it’s free (in US, Canada, I think for countries outside they only charge postage). The catch is the author has to do all the formatting, uploading and cover graphics.

I don’t want to pay $309, though the idea of having a listing on amazon and bn.com is tempting.

The offer from lulu has a deadline of 15 Jan. And since I haven’t started seriously editing, I didn’t think I could make it.

Then it occured to me, just do as much initial editing, get rid of typos and yucky parts, and get a copy in my hands. Why not? Cover design? It’s not like I’m a complete beginner at Photoshop, shouldn’t be too hard, especially when they have ready made templates already nicely sized.

So, next project. Finish editing. Finalise cover design. Add the front pages. Format the body. Send it off and get a nice printed, bound copy.

Gotta get it done by this weekend though.

mmmbath

We bought these days of the week bath salts many months ago, could even be as much as a year ago. A packet of 7 of course, that’s been sitting idle on my bathroom shelf.

So it’s been cold and suddenly I feel like a bath, so I maxed the hot water heater, put the kettle on (cos the boiler doesn’t give enough hot water for a whole bath) and went about making myself a bath. Or as the Japanese say, a soup.

The Monday bathsalt is “Ocean” and it’s blue. Nice.

I stepped into the tub and had to jump out cos the water was too hot, but I mixed in some more cold water and after some adjustment all was well.

It’s been a while since my last long bath and boy was it nice. The best feeling? When I slid down and I felt the heat on my shoulders and my neck, it’s like I’ve been cold for a long time and finally I can feel the muscles relaxing.

healthier teeth

I was thinking, it’s the second day of new year and I’ve run out of things to say already??? We’ve kind of decided not to go out today either, I mean I have to go back to my place eventually tonight, and the supermarket before that. But it’s still the afternoon so there’s time. She’s better today, the proof is she’s busy tidying up. And then she gave me my Christmas present — an electric toothbrush. Something I’ve been thinking of buying for a while but not got round doing it. I gave her a couple of DVDs. I know, we’re too practical.

But healty teeth, is worthwhile in the long run. So when I’m old she doesn’t have to worry about my teeth falling out. Heehee.

cold

I didn’t realise how cold I was until dinner time when we watched TV under the blanket. She’d just come out of bed so was very snuggly and warm. My hands and feet were freezing.

And then it truly hit me how cold I was when I took my shower and the hot water hit my skin and I felt the warmth spread through, at last.

words and many more like it

From yahoo news.

Irritating words of 2004 include: flip flop when used as a verb, improvised explosive device or what once was known as a bomb, carbs, “You’re fired”, uber, wardrobe malfunction, blog, body wash or what used to be soap.

These are taken from the Lake Superior University Banished words list.

Strangely enough, some of the banished words have been voted words of the year by the American Dialect Society. Words like blog and the 2003 entry, metrosexual.

Just to show, each to their own.

just another day

We woke up feeling the cold. It’s cold, I have a thick shirt on and long pants. Indoors. That shows how cold it is.

She’s really not feeling well so we’re not going out today. Had sweetcorn soup and left over chicken wings for lunch. I’ll have to find something for dinner, she’s got a lot in the fridge so no problems.

Watched The Office Christmas Special 2003. Better than the other ones. Really brought the characters down before giving them a ray of hope. Funny.

Let’s see how the rest of the day goes. She’s gone back to bed, I think I’ll go play Bandits.

Not much for New Year’s Day but hey, it’s just another day.