how to square large numbers

I know up to 152, above that I need a calculator. Until today. via lifehacker, john graham-cumming gave us a great method using mental arithmetic. So if I want to find out what is 482.

  • round up the number to be squared to the next 10 = 50
  • how many to do the round up? 50-48=2
  • take 2 from 48 = 46
  • multiply 46×50=2300 (it’s easy to do in the head)
  • add 22 2300+4=2304

Seems more trouble than it’s worth.

a runner’s life is worth approx $500

This is the title of a thread on the runner’s world forum.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The Associated Press

FREDERICK, Md. — A driver who fatally struck a jogger from Zelienople who was running in the road near Emmitsburg has been fined $500 under a plea agreement.

Twenty-nine-year-old Joshua Cool pleaded guilty Monday in Frederick to failing to exercise care to avoid a pedestrian. In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of negligent driving and other offenses.

Mr. Cool was charged in the death last April of 22-year-old Elizabeth DiNunzio. She was a Spanish major at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg.

Defense attorney Kate English says her client was devastated by the accident.

Mr. Cool’s parents were fined $200 each earlier this month for letting their son drive the uninsured pickup truck that hit DiNunzio.

I don’t know the circumstances of this case. On the thread there are opposing thoughts — that the punishment was not severe enough vs it was an accident. There’s some information that suggest to me that the driver did indeed get away with it. Although he wasn’t drunk or anything like that, he was driving a truck that he wasn’t covered in the insurance. In fact, he was specifically excluded in the policy. It also matters to me whether he showed remorse, and what, if anything, he will do to show he has learned his lesson. From some of the comments, it seems that he hasn’t. So, yes, I’m going to condemn this person and wish that he suffers from the thought of having killed an innocent 22-year old all his life.

In memory of Ms DiNunzio, there’s going to be a 5k run /1 mile walk at Zelienople PA on 24 April. If it didn’t take 8 hours to drive there, I’d go there in a minute. I started my running career on the road. Now I run by the lake, but I have to run on the street and across a couple of main roads to get there. Traffic is thick. Cars come out of alleys and make turns with very little regard for pedestrians. I’m ramping up this year, this is important to me.

photographing restaurant meals

citic003chickenfeet nz1074franz

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started, but I have been taking pictures of food for a long time. Both what I make, and when I eat out. To the point that none of my friends and family bat an eyelid when I take my camera out before a meal. They either continue eating, or even help me find the best angle. Why do I do it? I dunno exactly, if pressed I’d say one of the reasons is to have a visual record of what I experience in life. How else would I remember chicken feet, or brie and cranberry sauce pizza?

I read on timeout chicago about Grant Achatz’s take on people photographing their meals at alinea. Now alinea is a progressive, awesome, difficult-to-get-reservation restaurant that serves delicate, delicious tasting menus with as many as 30 courses. Chef Achatz is not against his customers taking pictures, but questions

why people so passionate about food would sacrifice the integrity of the courses, instead prioritizing the documentation

Some of the examples he quoted did seem pretty extreme. Setting up a tripod and spending 3 mins moving plates around and finding the right light; videoing the kitchen staff; using voice recorders to describe the food. I agree it’s taking things a bit too far.

One of the reasons I got the s90 is because of its ability to perform under low light conditions. I always keep the flash off because flash can be very distracting and I don’t want other customers to be bothered by it. I’m usually pretty quick about it. I’m not using it for commercial purposes, and I hope that too many foodies taking pictures won’t alienate restaurants owners and managers and they start banning it.

#59(9) rigatoni with broccoli rabe

broccorabe01 broccorabe02

A lively discussion was had when my post about broccoflower fed over to facebook. Among the topics discussed were canned asparagus and broccolini. Broccolini is known in the UK as tenderstem broccoli and was the featured ingredient in the 2008 bbc good food calendar. I’ve never seen it in any of my supermarkets or markets here, but I still decided to look for it this weekend.

Not surprised that I couldn’t find it. I did however find broccoli rabe (aka rapini) at Edgewater Produce (can always rely on them for fruits and vegs, and an overflowing shopping basket for around $20, that’s another post). A number of recipes online use it like broccoli, especially in a pasta dish. So that’s what I did. Sautéed it with garlic, threw in a few cherry tomatoes for colour and served it with rigatoni. Needed to carb up for a 10k practice run, so it was perfect.

It has more “green” flavour than broccoli, that’s true. I didn’t find it bitter, the trick when cooking is to teat it like any other stem-y veg you find at Asian wet markets — in terms of taste and appearance it’s more like gai lan or choy sum, so I added soy sauce and a bit of sugar in addition to the usual s&p. I’ll buy it again, for sure.

turn those lights off


8.30pm local time today around the world is earth hour when we’re supposed to turn our lights off for 1 hour.

Honestly, I couldn’t see any visible participation. I think one window had their lights off at 8.30, then turned it back on at 9.30. Otherwise windows that were dark before were dark after. I had my fireplace on, a candle in the kitchen and used one of my hand-cranked torches to get around. The mbp was on throughout — they didn’t say turn off laptops! Many cities participated. It’s Las Vegas’ turn now, I’d be interested to see how the Strip looks, if they killed the neon.

hunch twitter predictor game


I love hunch. I haven’t used it that much to ask questions, cos I don’t have a lot of decisions such as “what should I do during my commute?” or “which space heater should I buy” to make in my life. I answer all the questions though. So last week they released the hunch twitter predictor game whereby hunch will guess the answer to a series of questions based on who you follow on twitter. It guessed pretty well so far.

almost local


Even after several visits, as recent as a year or so ago, my friend commented that I walked around chicago like a tourist — with my head tilted up looking at the architecture. Today my colleague C was visiting and we were walking around the Loop after work to our dinner restaurant. She was the one with the head pointed up. I was the one telling her about the buildings and patiently waiting till she got her pictures.

Heh. Somewhere down the line, I became local(-ish).

#57(10) new veg: broccoflower

broccoflower01 broccoflower02

That actually is a green cauliflower, I’m not kidding. It’s a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower called broccoflower. In terms of taste, it’s like broccoli. You cook it like either. I stir-fried it with red peppers and chicken. Tossed in some tagliatelle in place of regular noodles and it was a very nice tasting and looking dish.

shamrock shuffle


My second race this year — shamrock shuffle 8k

There was still a little snow on the ground when I left, and it was chilly windy. I get to experience the first advantage to being a cara member — gear check at the congress plaza hotel. Plus waiting inside out of the cold. It was cold to be standing out there waiting for the start. Not having participated before, I was in the open corral. It took me over 28mins to get to the start line after the gun. To give some perspective, the winner came in at 23-ish mins, which means he was back when the rest of us were still standing around at the start.

There were a good 25,000 runners. I tucked in behind the crowd at an easy pace. I got passed, but I managed to pass quite a few too. It was very nice to run through the city streets and not have to stop at traffic lights. I see what people mean about the finish at the chicago marathon — the last incline into grant park sapped energy. I must make a note to have some in reserve.

Finished in 55.23mins at 6.28min/km. Big crowd at the end too, gotta be aware of that for the marathon. Got my backpack from the hotel and went back to the park for after-race beer. I can’t remember who asked me, and was surprised that there is a fee for races. It’s for the organisation, volunteers, swag and of course the beer.

ETA: official results are in. I managed 53.50min, better than my own time. Overall 18204/25559. There’s no age category, gender classification 8640/14045.

#15(7) new music: daniel merriweather

Daniel Merriweather’s latest, love & war came out last June. In the UK. I waited and waited and waited for it to become available here, or at least available for download. But no, it didn’t show up. Boy, was I tempted to get it elsewhere. Luckily, when I was on home leave I made a point of going to hmv to get the cd. It’s as good as I expected. And I noticed it’s just come out on amazon US. This is the first single, Change featuring Wale, which reached #8 on the UK charts.

I heard about Daniel Merriweather on twitter. I follow Mark Ronson, who produced the album. I didn’t realise he’s from Australia — guess he’s another transplant. His style has been described as r&b, with a mix of pop. I like it, I have the whole cd and every song deserves its place on the iphone and nano.

experiencing blindness

I’ve always known that out of all my senses, sight is the one that I depend on most. I’m very weak on hearing — is there a hearing equivalent to dyslexia? Many times I hear people speak but can’t get the words or string the words into a sentence. The others are at best average. Sometimes at night when I go to the bathroom I keep my eyes closed and I’m able to move around with no problem. But that’s because I know the layout of the apartment.

What if I’d never seen it? What is it like to experience blindness?

If I’m in Atlanta this year, I’d like to go to the dialogue in the dark exhibition. This is a travelling exhibition originating in Germany that has already been to 22 countries and opened the eyes (pun not intended) of 5 million visitors to a one hour experience where:

visitors are led by blind or visually impaired guides through a specially constructed and totally darkened Exhibition, in which sounds, wind, temperatures, and textures convey the characteristics of common daily environments such as a park or cityscape.

blind skiing

I wrote vision quest almost 3 years ago, a short story about a blind skiier [warning: fanfic]. At that time I tried looking for examples of how skiier and guide function as a team, and there were only a few articles and videos.

There are more now, just search ‘blind skiing’ on youtube. As the winter paralympics get underway, I just want to express my amazement and awe at the skill and teamwork that goes into a blind skiing team. This is Jessica Gallagher winning Australia’s first ever medal, a bronze, at the winter paralympics.

new number

A stupid, annoying number has been calling my iphone 3 times a day for the past 2 weeks, always at the same times. Silence when I pick up, and unreachable when I try to call back. I think it’s a fax or modem or something automatic that got programmed wrong. Finally I couldn’t stand it and I called at&t. The rep and I tried to think of possible solutions. There is a blocking plan but it costs $5 a month. Finally I said, why don’t I just change the number. Seeing that only 6 people have my iphone number, it’s no big deal.

In any case, I’m switching to my google voice number so I can have better control. I can block numbers in gvoice, as well as get notifications inside gmail. I’ve been juggling multiple numbers for a while, I seem to have gathered a horde of them:

  • iphone — secret number only 6 people know
  • google voice — “public” number
  • pre-paid plan I use for the nokia — disposable number for services etc
  • office
  • blackberry

Ironic, since I never answer if I don’t recognise the caller and the only people I call are my parents and mm. Looking at my account, I’ve used up all of 9 mins this month. Shock.

running in the cold in a t-shirt

5.03km 33.53min 6.44min/km

The sun was out when I drove home mid-afternoon. It was very pleasant and I knew I had no excuse. I must have had a brain freeze cos I started making beef stew, and suddenly realised it needs to be cooked for 3 hrs.

I took the risk. Once it was in the oven and stabilised, I quickly got ready to go running outside. Of course by that time clouds have moved in, but I was still in sunny mode. Ran outside in just a t-shirt. I was cold, especially my hands weren’t happy being attacked by the wind. Warmed up at 2k, and the rest was at usual pace.

cross gaming


So earlier we had a bunch of farmville people come to mafia wars because they had to get to level 6 and Bangkok (or something like that) in order to get a tractor (or something like that). There was an ad for mw in vamp wars but no requirement to go there yet.

The newest scam is that mw players have to play zynga poker until level 6 to get an ace in the sleeve loot. I don’t like poker. I know the rules in theory but I’ve never been interested or good at it. But I went there anyway. It took me a few tries to realise that I should be playing differently. The objective isn’t to win chips. It’s to gain experience point so I can level up. Even if I fold, I get xp for playing a hand. It took me a while to figure out that strategy, and to realise higher stake tables give more xp. I did occasionally win a hand, but it didn’t take too long to get to level 6 and leave.

I’m dreading the day when we need to play farmville or cafe world. I can understand mw/vw crossover if they do it, but those farming games are really boring for me.

the great british pickle


An article in kitchn about cheese and onion sarnie led to another one about ploughman’s lunch. According to the people at AT, a ploughman’s consists of:

  • Branston pickle
  • a few pieces of your choice of English cheeses; Cotswold, Huntsman, Stilton, Shropshire Blue, English Cheddar, etc.
  • a hunk of crusty bread
  • a pint of good English ale
  • (optional) cold cuts or pâté
  • (optional) apples
  • (optional) hard boiled eggs or pickled eggs

I would normally not eat the pickled onions and no, the apple isn’t optional.

And now I have a craving for branston, even though I didn’t usually have it even in London. Sigh. It’s available in the US from amazon and other online british food places. What I find interesting is the “other customers also bought” bit which shows: HP sauce, marmite, golden syrup, piccalilli and ribena. Double, triple, quadrupole sigh. Major homesickness about to hit in 3, 2, 1….

p.s. Brits — did the packaging on the branston change? it’s different from before.

how to design a book cover

If/when I become published I want to design my own covers. I won’t be able to paint or draw them since I’m an awful painter, but I can photoshop and I have definite ideas about what visual elements I want in my book covers.

I have a long way to go and much to learn though. This time lapse video from Lauren Panepinto, the creative director of orbit books shows the amount of skill needed, condensing 6 hours of work into 2 minutes. There’s even a brief interview about her approach. My awe of designers just went into orbit (pun intended).

Comments at bb rightly pointed out how effective this was as a marketing tool for the book. I must admit I am not bought into video trailers for books but based on this particular video, I can see myself checking out the book (due out Sept 2010 and is part of a series). Of course it helps that it’s steampunk and has vampires in it.

#30: 26 things in red

  1. structure
  2. follow
  3. covet
  4. triple
  5. hands
  6. eye
  7. fancy
  8. time
  9. rainbow
  10. sadness
  11. stack
  12. line up
  13. wheels
  14. an insect
  15. into the air
  16. direction
  17. new
  18. half
  19. set up
  20. 10 mins away
  21. in my mailbox
  22. sometimes
  23. bottle
  24. behind the scenes
  25. corner
  26. a door

In the middle of all the holiday eating, meeting with people, shopping stuff, I decided to do this month’s 26things in HK and completing another 101.1001 task, which is to use a colour theme. It wasn’t hard to decide on red. Click on each pic for brief notes. Link to full set.



6.26km 41.38min 6.39min/km

The sun was out today, about time I went for a run. It has been a while. My legs felt heavy and sore, so the time is only average. Time to start training.

Standchart results are in. As expected my time was 1:14:59. Within my class I came in 132/243. Overall for the 10k challenge I was 3914/5144. The winner of my class completed in 38.37, very impressive. Like I said, time to start training. I’m now confirmed for the rock and roll half in August.

google picnik

Mixed in with the thousands of articles in my greader is news that google has bought picnik. Heh, this feels like writely 2.0, yet another hidden gem that’s been snapped up by the google monster. I hope they keep what’s good about picnik, how easy it is to use, how convenient. It’s no match for full blown photoshop (although it may be a competitor, I don’t know I don’t use, for quick edits I prefer it.

chicago deep dish pizza


We had a visitor from the london office this week, and my nice colleagues took her out for chicago style deep dish pizza. I tagged along to Lou Malnati’s, which according to some people, has the best deep dish pizza in town.

The pizza itself was pretty good. We had two: the Lou’s which is spinach, mushroom and sliced tomato; and the sausage. Personally I prefer the vegetarian one, the sausagemeat was a whole layer spread on the crust which was too much for me. Man, the slices were thick and the crust as crunchy as expected.

What I can say is that the pizza is the best thing at the place, possibly the only good thing. Service was mediocre, on the slow side. Initially they placed us in a desolate upstairs area when downstairs wasn’t even full. We had to ask to be moved downstairs to better surroundings. The pinot noir we ordered with the pizza wasn’t bad. Compared with Giordano’s I probably prefer the latter.

home leave day 18 | flight

Long day today, because of the flight. Parents booked the taxi to take us to the airport, I was at the lounge for about 1 hour. Now that I’m “only” at gold level I don’t get upgraded, but I absolutely cannot complain. Food was good, watched The Blindside and lots of Deadliest Catch. Up in the Air was also on, and I guess we could have not gone to see it, cos mm is also on a plane today, to London. Nah, it was worth it to go with her.

Layover at LAX was 2 hours. I was worried. You never know what’s gonna happen at US airports, they’re the epitome of what airports should not be — unpredictable, crowded, disorganised, bad. I was one of the first off the plane, immigration was fast, but my luggage got mixed in with the regular luggage. X-ray check was painless, so I got lucky. Was able to check my suitcases right outside the exit, and then something surprised me — 2 staff members were on hand to ask where I was going and to help direct me to my next terminal. Wow. Well impressed.

The American terminal is just around the corner from the international, 2mins walk, no big deal. Security was decent, and I got into the first class lounge for some odd reason. Much needed 45mins rest, and to have some food.

Flight to ORD was full. Long walk to taxi stand. Home at 10.30pm. Door to door, over 21hrs. The snow that I had to drive through 3 weeks ago is still here, looks like they kept it cold for me.