new year’s eve

Went with Sis to the New Year’s Eve event at the FCC. They have unlimited food & drink from 7pm, so we got there early and found our table. Luckily it’s in the quiet room. The FCC is a narrow building so guests were seated in all the different restaurants and bars. The food was also spread out: cold buffet at the bistro on the ground floor, hot food in the main restaurant upstairs, dessert downstairs at the bar. The wait staff kept the prosecco and wine coming.


The food was a bit hit and miss. The cold seafood was great. Sashimi cut fresh and oysters shucked fresh too. It meant a long queue, but no one seemed to mind. Other seafood included prawns, crab legs and lobster. All very good. The hot food consisted of roast (a dry-looking beef, another dry-looking ham and lamb rack that was really rare), an entire row of deep fried food, an Indian station and pasta. There was no hot veg. Seriously, I got the lamb and was looking around for something simple like carrots but nope. I ended up snagging some sag paneer. Dessert was nothing to write home about either. But again, no one seemed to mind. Free flow alcohol and a good atmosphere made up for the mediocre food.

There was a band upstairs and a DJ on the ground floor. At close to midnight, everyone congregated in the main areas and there was a big cheer during the countdown.

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

True to tradition (it is the FCC after all), a real bagpiper played Auld Lang Syne.

We left around 12.30am. Sis got a taxi and I walked a mile uphill back home. I think I had 4 proseccos, 3 (or 4?) red wine, 1 whisky (glenfarclas 12) and a mint tea. Sounds like a lot but it was over 6 hours with food.

#43: 101 crunches


Task #43 of 101.1001 is to do 101 crunches.

Compared with 101 squats, this took longer to achieve because I’m poorer at crunches than at squats. What helped a great deal was I’ve been following a 30-day challenge that focused on crunches, squats, lunges and wall-sits. Started with 10 crunches on day 01 and reached 100 crunches (plus 75 squats and 100 lunges) on day 30. Not a problem to add one extra to get to 101.

A bunch of other people on fb are also following the program, which makes it more fun. It’s well known that crunches, squats and lunges are beneficial for all levels of fitness. I should continue the program to help strengthen my hips and core for running.

flickr best of 2015

Top 10 flickr pics of 2015. Had a difficult time, as usual, paring down from 3,565 to 10. A mixed bag of pics this year, mostly of travelling. Some instagram included, because it’s part of culture now.


I like this one of San Damiano. It’s a boring touristy pic, but it has so many good memories of our trip, and it’s a place of such importance, that I want to include it.

bbmm shunde 03


Another leisurely morning. There is never enough time even though we’re not in a hurry. Only able to go to the supermarket today. Lunch at the foodcourt, at a korean bbq place. Bought some biscuits then it was time to head to the bus station. Seems to be a longer trip back, more traffic and more passengers.

Originally, dinner with her family at around 6.30pm but there was a delay. Met up with her brothers and family for quick happy hour before going for dinner. More food, lots of food, very full.

bbmm shunde 02

No social or other obligations, so we stayed in to enjoy our tea and coffee. Played a bit of marble game too. Still full from last night so we ended up skipping lunch.

The main itinerary for today was to go to the massage place. Had full body and foot massage for 4hrs. Ate 3 oranges and 2 bowls of herbal jelly as sort of lunch substitute. My muscles completely ache all over now. Surprisingly, I thought my left leg where the ITBS is would hurt, but it didn’t. I got a long lower feet and hand/arm massage though, that was sorely needed.

sde012lambhotpot sde013lambhotpot

On the way to town we saw a sign for a lamb place so we went there for dinner. Hotpot with all sorts of lamb parts that can be ordered. We had the set, which included sliced lamb, bones, belly, offal, claypot rice and green vegetables. Would have loved to try some more, like blood or marrow or placenta, but too full.

The gas meter was fixed, so there’s hot water. And now the washing machine isn’t working. Argh. Too sore from the massage, and no internet so I was asleep by 10pm.

bbmm shunde 01


Woke up early to catch the 8am bus with mm to shunde. Made pretty good time, after 3 bus journeys we arrived at her flat around noon. Apparently her parents had asked us to lunch but never informed her–that happens a lot. Luckily we got the information just in time and took a taxi to the restaurant. Normal mainland food of chicken, beef, fish, vegetables.

Most of the afternoon was spent at the bank, or rather two banks. There was absolutely nothing for me to do so I sat at the waiting areas mindlessly.

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

Dinner with her parents again. Oddly, at the same restaurant, even the same table. Had more vegetables, fried rice and this drunken goose. We thought they’d flambé the goose itself, but it was just a lame lighting of flames around the lid. The goose was a bit tough too.

Too tired for anything else, was home before 10pm. I guess we hadn’t visited for so long, the gas meter wasn’t working. The option was go to her brother’s for shower or take cold shower. It wasn’t so cold, we turned the bathroom heater on and quickly showered with cold water. Argh.

christmas day dinner


Christmas Day dinner was traditional and fairly straightforward. Mum and I went to the market in the morning to get potatoes, carrots, salad and other veg for the week. We even found a chicken carcass for the gravy.

Menu was turkey, lamb rack, roast potato & carrot, salad. As per our family tradition, the turkey was bought pre-cooked. It’s actually really nice, juicy and not dry at all. The problem was because it doesn’t come with giblets and we can’t use the bones for this meal there is nothing to make gravy with. Hence the chicken carcass from the market which I used to make stock together with mirepoix and some herbs. Two hours at a simmer, then use it to deglaze the lamb rack roasing tray before reducing to the proper consistency. I made the lamb a tad on the rare side so it’ll warm up with the gravy and the leftovers isn’t overcooked.

Sis’ family is in the UK, so she came over. We facetimed them and shared our dinner plans.

No room for dessert, we finished off a bottle of really nice gewurtz from the US and some non-alcoholic mulled wine.

christmas eve at the yacht club


The yacht club does this every year. Early evening on Christmas Eve means mulled wine, mince pies, hot chestnuts and carol singing.

yclub201518wine yclub201510mincepies

Didn’t feel like it’s Christmas Eve because it was 27ºC. Argh, I was sweating buckets. The mulled wine was of course hot, so made me even hotter. It was nice though, could do with more spices and fruit. The mince pies were great–not too sweet, flaky pastry, small enough to handle. The queue at the candyfloss station was too long and too many kids so we didn’t even try.

Sis got other snacks too–satay, sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and chips. The satay was their usual high standard.

Carol singing started at 6pm. The enthusiastic choir was mostly kids of all ages with a few adults. Started with Away in a Manger, went through the classics like Deck the Hall, Jingle Bells, The Holly and the Ivy and one of my favourites, Once in Royal David’s City. If only the crowd would have quietened down so there was less background noise.

pic of my chair may breach copyright


I’m home for a few days, and I reminded myself to take a picture of my aeron chair. Why? Because apparently, the UK government will soon require people to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects, even if you own that object. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 says that copyright of artistic objects cover 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. This is something like 100 years after the object was designed and during that 100 or so years, taking a photo will require a licence from the copyright owner. Note, it’s the copyright owner not the legal owner of the object.

The aeron chair was designed in 1994, so there’s plenty of time left for that copyright licence.

Stupid or what.

running 10 miles


16.42km 2.13.36hr 8.08min/km

The 5-day rest seemed to have helped. I rearranged this week’s runs since I won’t have time on saturday or sunday to do the long run. Started off fine, pretty decent (for 2015) pace and good range of motion around hips and knees. Slowed down as I got tired. Around 12km the spot above my knee started to hurt, and it persisted till the end. Overall, the pain was manageable.

I split the run into 3 different missions, with two drinking breaks between missions. Miscalculated a bit, should have doubled back 500m or looped around a side street. The scheduled run is 11 miles or 17.6km, I was short 1km.

What I don’t like about zombiesrun is that it doesn’t give pretty graphs like nike+. I suppose I can turn on both nike+ and zombiesrun, they seem to coexist happily enough. It’ll be a drain on the battery.

#websiterebuild 2000 posts


#websiterebuild is up to 2,000 posts. Going back in time, I just finished importing sep-2010. Importing around 1,000 posts from the last milestone took just under 2 weeks. Plus of course new posts and I’m counting the drafts that will be scheduled.

It’s quite interesting to read through some of the old posts, like looking at old photos or movies. Moving to London, then leaving. In 2010 I was just about to leave Chicago. My first marathon in 2010. How much more cooking I used to do when I had ingredients I liked. Still lots of travelling. How I saw mm more often when we were living on different continents than this year, when we’re less than an hour away.


whisky vs whiskey (again)

I was browsing through amazon, looking through the first few pages of a book that I thought may be interesting. Seemed promising until someone got a drink. The drink was even named: Chivas. A few sentences later it was described as whiskey. Argh. I was so put off I browsed for another book instead.

In this day and age, a simple google search will give the answer, and another one that gives more colour and explanation. Quite interesting that even the mighty NYT had to change its house style after stubbornly, and wrongly, defending their use of the word whiskey when describing a Speyside whisky. A rare case of Americans acknowledging the rest of the world is correct. Now onto fahrenheit, paper sizes, voltage and socc(–argh, I can’t use that word), haha.

Anyway, TWE has a simple graphic using flags so people can remember. I’ve also read somewhere that countries with ‘e’ in their name–United States of America, Ireland–use whiskey and countries without–Scotland, Canada, Japan, India–use whisky. Hmm, may be not anymore as many countries are bringing out their products; the English Whisky Company, Penderyn, Mackmyra, Millstone all use whisky and they have ‘e’ in their country names.



I think the easiest way is also the most respectful: look at the label. What do the distillers and bottlers, ie the people whose product it is, call it? So it should have been easy for the everyone involved in that book I was looking at to google an image of a Chivas bottle and see that it’s whisky, not whiskey.

With so many choices of books available to me, this poor book has now been pushed to the bottom of the queue. While it may seem a trivial reason not to buy a book, this is one of my pet peeves. Readers are fickle and books have been rejected for lesser reasons.


drinks and dinner with sis

My niece flew to the UK to spend christmas with robert and his parents. Sis isn’t going, so she asked me to go with her to drinks and dinner tonight, otherwise she will be too worried about my niece on the plane.

proseccohh201512 camembert201512

We started off with prosecco and I also ordered a baked camembert to nibble on. Quite nice, but the bar didn’t have happy hour. We moved to another bar that had happy hour at the hotel next door. Sat outside, it was just about warm enough not to need a coat.

cocktail201512 sausageplatter201512

Dinner was at a german restaurant called Berliner. Sis had two vouchers, one for a free cocktail and the other gave a discount, both had to be used by 31-dec. The free cocktail was a sweet gin and juice concoction. For mains we had sausages and more sausages. I ordered the huge sausage platter, ate around 1/3 and took the rest home.

running rest


Last run was Tuesday. Have only been walking and doing bodyweight exercises since then. Knee, hip and sometimes calf hurt. Taking a leaf out of how elites treat ITBS in 5 days:

  1. stop running — the advice is simple: if it hurts to run, don’t run
  2. increase strength — the #30daychallenge I’m following has squats, lunges and crunches, it’s perfect for my injury
  3. massage the injured area — foam rollering every day, it’s painful but needs to be done
  4. sleep more — trying, but not always possible

Honestly I’m not seeing huge improvements. I did some running on the spot and it still hurts. I can feel the tightness even when I’m sitting down now. Let’s see how I feel over the weekend, may be a short run.

episode 7 #starwarsforceawakens


This part is safe to read: teasers and trailers only

From the first few seonds to the very last scene, this was the Star Wars that we know and love. We’ve heard so many hints and statements that

everything old is new again

and that’s so true. My first reaction when I came out of the cinema was “he completely rebooted it.”

We know from trailers and teasers that there will be new characers, and old characters like Han and Leia are back. Almost every scene is something nostalgic, something that brings a knowing smile or grimace. Rey and Finn, the newbies, meet on Jakku, a Tatooine-like planet. Rey is a local resident, a parts scavenger; Finn is a newcomer, he arrives in a stormtrooper uniform. We follow them on their adventures as they get involved in the fight between the good guys and the evil bad guys. The actors, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, do a good job although there is room for improvement. They seem to be intimidated in the presence of the more experienced actors and the entire Star Wars universe. Hopefully they will grow into their roles in eps 8-9. Can’t blame them really, I was very moved when Han, Chewbacca, Leia and others appeared and very glad to see they weren’t there to play cameo parts but were integral to the story.

The other new actors impressed too. Oscar Isaac is a resistance pilot reminiscent of Wedge. Lupita Nyong’o is great as Maz Kanata. Domhnall Gleeson suitably stiff upper lipped nasty. Andy Serkis is a master in what he does. Adam Driver brings depth and intrigue to a Vader-like villain. The CGI…I never noticed the CGI, which is a sign that it’s bloody excellent. When you see the special effects, it’s a sign that it’s done badly.

There are a lot of familiarities in ep7. From the aforementioned Tatooine-like Jakku to a Hoth-like ice planet, a Death Star like menace (prominent on posters), star destroyers, X-wings, TIE fighters, blasters, light-sabers, side characters, bickering between characters, old fashioned fight sequences. A lot of new experiences too. New characters. New information to digest. New questions raised. The dialogue is okay, way better than anything George Lucas did and, phew, no mention of midi-chlorians. At one point, someone says “I have a bad feeling about this.”

The less impressives: there’s a lot of exposition and backstory. I get that it’s necessary, to explain what’s happened in the 30 years between eps 6 and 7 but sometimes it’s like being hit by the cartoon anvil. The plot reveals aren’t exactly subtle either. Some we’ve guessed from teasers, some are obvious 10 seconds before we are shown what it is. Then again, it’s Star Wars, the plot has always been linear, with “surprises” coming at us at regular time intervals.

The biggest question is, is the film any good.

Oh hell yes.

It’s a worthy successor to eps 4-6, it carries on the tradition and rewards fans with copious nods and reminders of how good the originals were. A small scene change, a gesture, a line of dialogue and it’s like “oh, it’s just like [something from before].” Made me forgive eps 1-3.

Usually at the end of recaps and reviews people include language about whether readers should go see the film/read the book/buy the product. I know everyone will go see this one, so no need to say anything. The only thing I will say is, it’s worth it. The wait, the hype, the secrecy. I’ll probably see it a couple more times, with mm and then with sis, may be with mum. The film is meant to be seen unspoiled, which one can only do once, but I don’t mind seeing it again. And again and again.

[spoilers below, do not scroll down until you’ve seen the film, I mean it.]
spoilers start here


First, the New York Daily News published an enormous spoiler on Wednesday, before the rest of the US got to see the film. It’s terrible and I think they were disrespectful. Like I said above, the film is supposed to be seen with a clean slate, and we can only be unspoiled once.

I stumbled on some spoiled information before going to see the film. I wish I hadn’t, but on the other hand, it prepared me emotionally, especially for the one the NY paper spoiled.

Kylo Ren is Han and Leia’s son and he killed Han. Leia felt it when it happened.

They killed off Han.


I can see the purpose, from a writer’s point of view. It’s like when JK Rowling killed off Dumbledore. That said, I want to see the payoff in subsequent episodes, they better make his loss worthwhile in the grand scheme of things.

But first, talk about other stuff.

There are too many places where ep7 reboots ep4, even ep5. JJ Abrams certainly used all the tropes in his arsenal. From the beginning, the iconic upscreen scroll that tells us that Luke has disappeared and the Resistance continues to fight against the evil First Order. We pan from a starry sky to a planet, and then a star destroyer moves across the screen, it’s so huge that it eclipses the planet. We move to Tattooine–oh sorry, Jakku–where we see a secret entrusted to a droid (BB-8, the new Artoo) who then is found by a poor scavenger, Rey (the Luke-like main character). Rey even dresses like Luke did on Tatooine and yells at someone looking like a Tusken raider. Oh, and Jakku is littered with crashed ships; Rey lives in a downed AT-AT.

The other main character, Finn, is a stormtrooper with conscience who deserts the First Order and rescues Resistance pilot Poe Damaron in a TIE fighter. They crash on Jakku and get separated. Finn is rescued by Rey (or he thinks he rescued her) and they escape the oncoming stormtroopers on the Millenium Falcon. They meet up with Han, Chewie and then later Leia and the rest of the Resistance. The rest of the film is a lot of action and ups and downs. Pretty predictable–the Resistance needs to find a weakness in the Death Star v2.0 planet called the Weapon before it destroys entire systems. A group goes physically down to the planet to disable the shields while another group in X-wings bombard from above. There is a big emotional reveal then more gut-wrenching fights between Kylo Ren and first Finn and then Rey. Kylo Ren, a trained dark lord, is injured, which is why both Finn and Rey can use a lightsaber, a weapon they’ve never seen before, against him. And it’s Luke’s iconic blue lightsaber. At the end the group on the planet escapes with casualties and the Weapon is of course destroyed.

The action plot part is predictable, but I don’t mind that. All action movies are predictable. The fight scenes are awesome without being overwhelming. There’s enough mix between old moments (hit the target at the end of a trench) and so many new things, not just in the action scenes but other scenes too. The cantina scene is reprised. Maz Kanata is as wise as Yoda, and more streetwise. Kylo Ren does the Yorrick thing with his grandfather’s skull-like helmet. He is trained by a decidedly Emperor-looking Supreme Leader Snoke. [The CGI there is so good, we don’t realise it’s a hologram until Snoke fades out.] His lightsaber, with its 2 small crossguards, is different to familiar lightsabers and we see how the crossguards can be useful when he sizzles into Finn’s shoulder with it.

The personal aspect of the film is less predictable, only marginally. We see the embrace between Han and Leia in the teasers and now I realise it’s for the last time. *sniff* We see Han explaining the Force to Rey and Finn, remembering that Han thought it’s mumble jumble. I already figured Kylo Ren is Han and Leia’s son from the teasers. But less idea about Rey’s parentage. Someone or someones abandoned her on Jakku, for safety? Is she Han and Leia’s daughter? Luke’s? There’s one teaser of Luke’s voice telling her that the Force is strong in his family and now it’s her turn that isn’t shown in the film, suggesting she is the new New Hope. I want to see the film again to see what’s the ship that flew off with her screaming “come back” at it. It doesn’t look like the Falcon.

The “I am your father” moment is when Kylo Ren kills Han, the moment of betrayal is a literal stab in the heart. The narrow bridge even resembles the original setting. At the back of my mind, I want Han to survive. May be in a fanfic world. I doubt anyone will survive a lightsaber stab through his body and a fall to nothingness though. *cry*

The film feels like the end of Act 1, which it is. Rey is the new pilot of the Falcon and she sets off to a remote island (Skellig Michael, yay!) to find Luke. Does she find out Han is her father, thus firing up her passion just like when Uncle Owen, Aunt Beru and later Obi-wan were killed? How will she come into the Force? Will Kylo Ren go through the same redemption arc like Vader/Anakin did? What about Finn? We left him unconscious, but obviously he’ll recover. What is his role, aside from loyal hero?

I didn’t come out of the cinema whooping or smiling. Instead, I felt like I did at the end of Empire Strikes Back, and not merely because of the same bleakness surrounding what happened to Han. There are things to remember, emotions to analyse, questions to be asked. If only we didn’t have to wait 2 years for ep8.

star wars ticket


In a few hours, The Force Awakens premieres at midnight. I’ve never been a big enough fan to queue up at midnight for something, not for the iphone, Harry Potter, Hunger Games or anything like that. The initial plan is to go see it when mm’s term ends next week.

The buzz is too tempting. So I went online idly to see if it’s feasible to catch one of the midnight shows. Ah well, only a handful of seats left at the front row. That’s settled, I’m too old to stay up so late anyway.


Instead, I got a ticket for the 10.25am showing thursday morning. The advantage is that it’s the first show of the day, so there’s a discount. Now the question is, do I wear my Darth Maul hoodie? Bring my lightsaber? I gave my Jedi robe to my niece so she can wear it when she goes to see it on Friday.

12 hours. I’ll watch the teasers and trailers before I go to bed.

#25 find colour in an unusual place


Task #25 of 101.1001 is one of the incomplete ones from the 2007 challenge. This was from tues, find colour in an unusual place:

any color, bright or drab that you wouldn’t normally find in place. (example, on a steel gray manhole cover a small scrap of brilliant pink colored wrapping paper)

I’m not a very observant person when I’m out and about. Mostly I want to get to my destination with the minimum interaction with the external environment. I also keep forgetting this task. Sometimes I do see possibilities, like flower petals on a concrete slope, or oddly coloured flowers we saw at the market last year.

This was on my run today. A bunch of blue and white balloons were stuck underneath a park bench. The blue and white are not colours we expect to see at a park, especially the blue which was more aquamarine. I’m thinking someone had a wedding or graduation photoshoot there and left the balloons. All the better for my challenge.

It’s also poignant. tues set this assignment in 2007, and I took this on an iphone and instagrammed it. In 2007 the iphone just came out and instagram wouldn’t appear until 2010.

egg turns into rick grimes

TIL The same Andrew Lincoln who plays Rick Grimes on the Walking is the same Andrew Lincoln who was Egg on This Life. Egg the football-mad slacker!

This Life was very important to me. It followed the life of 5 twentysomething lawyers who was just starting their careers in the City. It was the tail-end of the yuppie era, when things were still good in the world–1997 would see the beginning of the financial crisis, with Asian markets collapsing in 1997 and the LTCM bailout in 1998, both of which were, in hindsight, precursors of what was to come in the next 10 years.

Anyway, I was around the same age as the This Life protagonists and many of us then identified with one or more of the characters. It was gripping drama. More memorable that it only lasted 2 seasons.

Egg wasn’t the most memorable character; he was almost a side character really. I’m in awe of Andrew Lincoln though, to make the transition to US tv in such a convincing manner. When I started watching the Walking Dead I had no idea he’s British, let alone tweaked that he was Egg. Here’s Egg practicing his shooting skills, that will come into use later as Rick.

ginseng fruit

ginsengfruit ginsengfruit02

I saw these fruits at the market, labelled ginseng fruit 人参果. They are the size of tomatoes with a yellow skin with dark stripes. Why they are associated with ginseng I have no idea. I asked the stallholder how they taste and was given the answer of “melon.”

I tried looking online, but very few hits. Most links in searching for either ‘ginseng fruit’ or ‘人参果’ gave, weirdly, images and articles about fruit that look like/carved to look like mini buddhas. Like I said, weird. The best, and only, article refers to it as sapodilla. The wikipedia article on sapodilla suggests that the fruit is actually pepino, a southern hemisphere fruit. The confusion is probably due to sapodilla being translated as ginseng fruit when it should be heart-shaped fruit 人心果.

I expected it to be like plums, but the stallholder was right, it does taste of melon. Jucier and less sweet, kind of bland really. I wonder if it’s tolerable for people who are allergic to melon, like mm. The skin is too tough to be eaten, so it’s easier to either peel it off or scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

It’s quite cheap actually. I bought 6 for local $13, or just about £1.

best vietnamese streetfood


We visited Nha Trang Thanh, which consistently makes lists such as the best cooked food centre restaurants around. What does cooked food centre restaurant mean? It’s basically a stall inside a wet market building, the type of place that is messy and just that little bit not-so-clean. This place has apparently one of the most authentic phos and vietnamese food around.

The owner was a very friendly and chatty auntie, apparently they are returnees, having emigrated to Canada and come back. She treated us like we were visitors in her own home, helping us order and making sure we have everything. I ordered lime soda and she told me to wait while she ran downstairs to the market to buy limes!

We ordered a starter plate of chicken wings, pork chops, vietnamese spring roll and cha lua (pork roll). At her suggestion, we ordered the beef pho, bun bung (noodles in tomato soup) and bun thit (cold vermicelli). The soup that the pho was served in was a broth made from beef bones boiled for many hours, it was tasty and yet not oily. Very nice.

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

Dad ordered (or rather, Auntie made him order) the vietnamese drip coffee. We tasted a little, leaving the rest for tomorrow morning. Even I liked it, rich in coffee flavour but not bitter.

The bill, for all these, came to local $160 or US$20. No sevice charge, no tips. The best of street food.

best steak restaurant london 2015


@newopenings had a twitter competition to find the best steak restaurant in London. The finalists, to no one’s surprise, were: Goodman and Hawksmoor. Hawksmoor won by a small margin.


My love for Hawksmoor is well known and well documented. I’ll take anyone and everyone there. If I can’t take them, I’ll recommend the place. Their steaks are from the ginger pig and chargrilled to perfection. Their sides are great, their bone marrow heavenly and their sticky toffee pudding…no words. Plus £5 corkage on mondays.


I’ve also visited Goodman and their steak was excellent too. Personally I prefer the atmosphere at Hawksmoor, and I’m more used to it.

twitter lists


Seriously, it’s taken me this long to get round to sorting out people I follow on twitter. Normally I just let the feed scroll. If I miss a tweet, I miss a tweet. No big deal.

Then suddenly for no good reason I feel like getting organised. Argh, the list function on twitter is rubbish. Slow, slow, slow and who invents a list function and then not let people sort alphabetically? Stupid.

The best I can do, with almost 800 people I need to add, is to use a rudimentary list manager. Marginally quicker than twitter, and better visualisation.

It’s pretty neat, to have a dedicated column in tweetdeck so I can check on actual friends instead of random people I follow. I wonder if there is a function where I can add multiple lists to one column. Doesn’t seem like it. No big deal.

#websiterebuild 1032 posts


#websiterebuild continues. The last 2 weeks has been spent importing old posts from MT to WP. As I can’t access the MT dashboard to export the DB; and am uncomfortable working with mysql and myphpadmin, it’s a labourious process using a html import plugin. It takes


static html files from a directory within the same server and imports them to WP as posts or pages. There is limited customisation, the most important being I can specify the tags containing the content I want to import. I know that the actual post content is inside the <div class=asset-body> tag, so it strips out the header, tabs and sidebar of a single post.

The imported post isn’t perfect, the <div> container tags are included, and stupid WP adds <p> tags all over the place. Other manual adjustments: date (everything gets imported with 21-sep-2015 for some reason), categories and tags. Every post has to be opened and edited, no bulk editing available.

I’ve been slowly importing month by month, working backwards in time. I’m now at apr-2013 and have reached 1000+ posts. Only about 3000 to go on the main page. Then I have to tackle the old travel and food sections. May be even the old technical section, although that was mainly how to install MT. Hidden doors will likely not be imported.

Working with WP on a daily basis is like going on an immersion course. Do I like it more now? No. I’m tolerating it. It still feels like a shotgun marriage, where I had no choice. Perhaps the resentment will fade in time and I accept it more. The biggest complaint is the editor. I don’t like the editor font, I hate that it adds stupid <p> tags and ignores my <br /> tags. There’s a lot of scrolling up and down to select categories. Month is a dropdown, why can’t I just type it in a box? After 12 years writing in the MT editor it’s an awkward transition. And I’m talking about the text editor, not the visual editor. Oh, I know there are plugins to fix all that–I read the plugins’ reviews and am not keen to install them.

I’ve also noticed that people (or more likely, bots) are trying to login and attack my website. WP sites are notoriously vulnerable because of its popularity and that it’s open sourced. A bit like PCs back in the day. I installed jetpack and wordfence, which seem to offer good defences. It’s just disconcerting, watching the number of blocked malicious login attempts go up every day. Never had that problem with MT.

So what’s good? It’s quite simple to use, almost too simple. The scheduled post function works. There’s a decent sized support community and codex. If I have a problem, chances are someone has encountered it before.

a huge box of christmas presents


The post office left me a card on Friday that I have something to be picked up. I went over today and was pleasantly surprised that it was a HUGE box! It fit perfectly inside my backpack, leaving space for nothing else.

I saw from the stamps that it was from A. Yay!!! Christmas presents.


Everything inside was perfect. Dutch sweets and biscuits, as well as a packet to make the wonderful apple tart. Even the card was Dutch, a beautiful scene of bikes on the canal.

But wait, there’s more. British stuff!! PG Tips, jaffa cakes, a mini christmas pud and QUAVERS!!! I don’t care that I’m going overboard with the exclamation marks. My friend sent me QUAVERS!!! A is the most thoughtful, most considerate friend ever. Or, I’m so transparent about what I like and don’t like, teehee.

And there’s even a moleskin notebook for Washington DC. Moleskin is the sort of geeky stuff I’ve been hankering after, but never quite bringing myself to buy. Now look what she’s started. Then again, it reminds me that I won’t see her next year. I must remember to include her vicariously in everything I do in DC.

hip stretches

I decided that my ITBS and loss of pace are both partially due to hip issues. The tightening of the hip flexor makes the legs feel heavy and severely limit the range of motion around the hips and knees. Started training for a week now and each run is accompanied by either hip or knee pain, sometimes both.

This is the first time I’ve had hip pain. So I added hips to my foam roller routine. I’ve also been doing some of the back stretches I found earlier this year when I had lower back pain, because it’s all connected. The hip flexor group of muscles goes from the lower spine through the pelvis and to the thigh. The hours spent sitting on a chair all day fix the muscles at a compressed position. Obviously the less time sitting the better, but other than that I need to find a way to release the shorted muscle group.

This is one hip flexor exercise I found on youtube. Initially I was only able to hold the position for 10 seconds, especially with the problematic left side. The purpose is to reverse the chair sitting posture.


Looks similar to some yoga poses, like crescent or low lunges.

It’s hard to tell whether any of this is effective. The weekend run was faster, although I’m pretty sure it’s because it was absolutely pouring and I was hurrying home. The long run today was just as slow as before–there was knee pain but minimum hip pain.

tasting menu at Counter 3.Five.VII

The closest to Austin I have been was to Dallas/Fort Worth, and meeting my friend DS (who lives in the Austin area) at Waco–halfway between DFW and Austin. If I ever visit Austin, I’ll want to give counter 3.five.vii a try. Interesting concept: a 25-seat restaurant where diners sit at a counter whilst the chefs work in front of, and interact with them. The menu consists of three tasting menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses, with or without wine pairings. The eater video shows typical 5- and 7-course progressions. Extremely modern cooking–menu changes weekly, they grow their own microgreens, there are foraged ingredients.

More interesting concepts: there are no servers and no tipping. So the 5-course, at $80, is really $65 with a 20% tip. Very decent reviews and very much a special occasion restaurant.

all the burger (buns) in the world


It started with a pic of a mac-n-cheese burger I instagrammed my niece. Yes, instead of the regular buns, rockit burger bar in chicago used mac n cheese. I’m guessing it’s related to the ramen burger that was the craze a couple of years ago. I tried making ramen burger once, I don’t think it was very successful.

I was randomly googling and found out there are a lot of different ideas for replacing the buns. Not only variations of bread like english muffin, scone, wraps, baguette, other food that can be shaped into a container. If it can hold a burger and trimmings, then someone has thought of it:



Actually I’d eat a burger with yorkies as buns. This 5,000 calorie behemoth was described as a roast dinner burger with yorkies:

two 20oz patties, mozzarella cheese, slow cooked beef brisket, pulled chicken in homemade onion gravy, and hand cut chips sandwiched between two giant Yorkshire puddings

Together with a pint of milkshake it was an eating challenge: if completed within 30mins, the brave person gets a free t-shirt and the meal free. The restaurant has now discontinued this particular challenge but they still have other challenges including one with 3 cheeseburgers, 3 chicken breasts, 3 rashers of bacon, 12 ounces oí pulled pork, 12 ounces oí brisket, a pound of chips and a milkshake.


Grrr, even typing all that made me feel like I’m overstuffed with carbs. There are even more creative ways to substitute the bun to make carb-free burgers: mushroom, sweet potato, tomato. Reminds me of this really delicious-looking tomato burger from mos burger in tokyo. If tokyo is a bit far, those in the US with in-and-out can just order protein style, ie lettuce as buns, from the not-so-secret menu.


Then again, why not skip the carbs and the veggies and put the burger in between two intricately weaved squares of bacon. Because bacon.

goodbye to the stockpot


Anyone who was ever a student in London, rich or poor, would have eaten at The Stockpot. It’s an institution. I remember three: one around the corner from Harvey Nicks, one at Haymarket and one at Old Compton Street.


The prices were affordable, especially for Central London. It was comfort food: spag bol, roasts, liver & onion, fish & chips. Plus puddings, ice cream, jelly and custard. Notice the spotted dick on the menu.

bbmmldn023beef bbmmldn024crumble

A sign of the times, that the last time we were at a Stockpot, in 2011, we had grilled halloumi–gasp, so cosmopolitan. Luckily the staples were still around. I had roast beef, mm had sea bass and we both had apple crumble. They even gave us extra custard. The crumble was good. The roast beef was on the well done side of very well done. But hey, lots on the plate and swimming in gravy too.

I did notice when we were in London earlier this year that the one at Haymarket had gone. We had other dining options, so we didn’t go searching out for the others. Now I read that the last remaining one at Old Compton Street has closed, as its owners retire. I guess it was inevitable, I just mentioned that we had plenty other dining options in London. It belonged in a different era, that it was:

part of a tradition that went back to Lyon’s tea shops – restaurants where the cooking was not really that important. You went for the gossipy atmosphere or for sustenance or because you wanted to be back in the Soho of Lucien Freud and Sebastian Horsley and this was the nearest you were going to get.

The site at Old Compton Street will be taken over by yet another hipster, modern casual burger restaurant. Times change.

gourmet eating out day


Sis and I went out for lunch and dinner last week, the day when I was looking after my niece for part of the day. Lunch was at Jason Atherton’s Aberdeen Street Social. Downstairs is the more casual bistro. I had what was on the menu as sea bass “BLT” which was seabass, pork belly, sautéed cabbage, mushroom and a tomato sauce. The seabass was really nice, fresh and flakey. They should have served it with the crispy skin though. For a small additional charge, it came with a glass of wine and dessert, which was chocolate cake.


Dinner was at Mr & Mrs Fox, a sprawling modern industrial-looking bar and restaurant. Noisy happy hour folks downstairs at the bar; we ate upstairs at the restaurant. Started with oysters, which were fresh but disappointing because they seemed to have washed them before serving. To me, that’s sacrilegious as all the taste of the sea is gone. My steak was a 16oz bone-in strip; rare and perfectly cooked. Soft and flavourful too. Their house wine came in draught form, so we could order any amount we wanted. We’d had wine already earlier so it was just one glass.


#90: leave an inspirational note


Task #90 of 101.1001 is to leave an inspirational note for someone to find.

Originally I envisioned getting a postcard with a motivational message and leaving it in a random book at a bookstore. I forgot to get it done at Powell’s in Portland, which would have been really great seeing that it’s a huge bookstore.

For once, I’m glad I procrastinated. Two things happened in parallel.

A few weeks ago, mugglenet started #potteritforward, where participants could

share messages of love, friendship, or bravery with the next generation of Harry Potter readers by tucking a note into the pages of a bookstore or library copy of the boy wizard’s adventures.

Naturally, it’s a hashtag and pictures have been shared all over social media.

The second thing that happened was when I was talking to my niece and finally she’s ready to read the HP books. I said she can borrow mine, if she promises to keep them in good condition.


So that’s how I came to incorporate #potteritforward into lending my HP books to my niece. Since most people have been putting notes in either the first chapter of the first book or last chapter of the last book that’s exactly what I did. There is a third note about Dementors hidden somewhere in the one of the middle books, when Harry used Expecto Patronum on Dementors.


test ifttt (3)

with excerpt, no image.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor. Pellentesque auctor nisi id magna consequat sagittis. Curabitur dapibus enim sit amet elit pharetra tincidunt feugiat nisl imperdiet. Ut convallis libero in urna ultrices accumsan. Donec sed odio eros. Donec viverra mi quis quam pulvinar at malesuada arcu rhoncus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. In rutrum accumsan ultricies. Mauris vitae nisi at sem facilisis semper ac in est.

Vivamus fermentum semper porta. Nunc diam velit, adipiscing ut tristique vitae, sagittis vel odio. Maecenas convallis ullamcorper ultricies. Curabitur ornare, ligula semper consectetur sagittis, nisi diam iaculis velit, id fringilla sem nunc vel mi. Nam dictum, odio nec pretium volutpat, arcu ante placerat erat, non tristique elit urna et turpis. Quisque mi metus, ornare sit amet fermentum et, tincidunt et orci. Fusce eget orci a orci congue vestibulum. Ut dolor diam, elementum et vestibulum eu, porttitor vel elit. Curabitur venenatis pulvinar tellus gravida ornare. Sed et erat faucibus nunc euismod ultricies ut id justo. Nullam cursus suscipit nisi, et ultrices justo sodales nec. Fusce venenatis facilisis lectus ac semper. Aliquam at massa ipsum. Quisque bibendum purus convallis nulla ultrices ultricies. Nullam aliquam, mi eu aliquam tincidunt, purus velit laoreet tortor, viverra pretium nisi quam vitae mi. Fusce vel volutpat elit. Nam sagittis nisi dui.

test ifttt (2)


two images. 1 = strawberries.


2 = ice cream van. See which one the feed picks.

No excerpt. How many words will it post?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor. Pellentesque auctor nisi id magna consequat sagittis. Curabitur dapibus enim sit amet elit pharetra tincidunt feugiat nisl imperdiet. Ut convallis libero in urna ultrices accumsan. Donec sed odio eros. Donec viverra mi quis quam pulvinar at malesuada arcu rhoncus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. In rutrum accumsan ultricies. Mauris vitae nisi at sem facilisis semper ac in est.

Vivamus fermentum semper porta. Nunc diam velit, adipiscing ut tristique vitae, sagittis vel odio. Maecenas convallis ullamcorper ultricies. Curabitur ornare, ligula semper consectetur sagittis, nisi diam iaculis velit, id fringilla sem nunc vel mi. Nam dictum, odio nec pretium volutpat, arcu ante placerat erat, non tristique elit urna et turpis. Quisque mi metus, ornare sit amet fermentum et, tincidunt et orci. Fusce eget orci a orci congue vestibulum. Ut dolor diam, elementum et vestibulum eu, porttitor vel elit. Curabitur venenatis pulvinar tellus gravida ornare. Sed et erat faucibus nunc euismod ultricies ut id justo. Nullam cursus suscipit nisi, et ultrices justo sodales nec. Fusce venenatis facilisis lectus ac semper. Aliquam at massa ipsum. Quisque bibendum purus convallis nulla ultrices ultricies. Nullam aliquam, mi eu aliquam tincidunt, purus velit laoreet tortor, viverra pretium nisi quam vitae mi. Fusce vel volutpat elit. Nam sagittis nisi dui.

4 second boomerang videos

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on


Been playing around with boomerang, a new app from instagram that takes a burst of photos and stitches them into a forward and backward 4 second video. It’s quite silly but fun. There are other apps that does this; I was looking into one called phhhoto–I think I didn’t like the lack of privacy in that one.


A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on


And this one is the guitar player at the school fair over the weekend. I think there’s lots of potential for silly gif-like pics.


paris marathon training


5.51km 45.44min 8.18min/km

18 weeks before the marathon means the start of training. Higdon novice 2 got me through chicago, but I felt undertrained. The difference between novice 2 and intermediate is the extra weekend run (in red). I’m going to try to add more miles if I can; I doubt I will make all the extra runs, let’s see.

The 5k today to start the program is supposed to be easy. No more excuses of hot and humid weather. It’s around 23ºC in the afternoon.

But hell damnations. First run of training and within 400m it’s ITBS. Bloody hell. And I rollered it beforehand too. Hoping that rollering, stretches and squats will improve hip extension and loosen the IT Band.

#website rebuild: xmlprc

Continuing to work on the WP installation. Internally, I’m copying over old posts. November and October 2015 were done manually (as in, copy-and-pasting each post individually) before I discoverd html-import plugin. The posts still need cleaning up after import, but it’s much more time efficient.


I was also trying to install the popular jetpack plugin. With over 1 million installs ( and hosted) it seems to offer a lot of useful modules. Installation wasn’t successful, I got a site inaccessible error.


So I thought I’d leave it and go do the next thing on my list, set up in IFTTT. Argh. More errors. I have never had trouble activating any channel on IFTTT before.

A lot of googling show tons of similar errors and pleas for help with both errors. Most of the answers were unclear and didn’t offer much in the way of practical solutions. I tried all but the technical suggestions:

  • lame: use www, don’t use www, use http://, don’t use http://
  • somewhat makes sense: disable other plugins, point to wp install directory vs site url, disable two-factor authentication
  • way too technical: DNS/CNAME issue, enable non-https

Turns out, both errors relate to the xmlprc.php file. People are advised to check with their ISP whether this file is restricted. I could see it in cpanel but I got a “Page not Found” error when I tried to access it on my browser.

A little more googling and I found someone with the exact same error who is also an icdsoft customer. So I emailed suresupport and I got my reply in under 10mins (I love suresupport):

Blocking access to the xmlrpc.php file has been implemented as an additional security measure, because xmlrpc.php is a common target for hackers who scan for outdated and flawed versions of WordPress.

Support gave me some code to add to htaccess in the wp directory (not the root htaccess) and that worked. Jetpack installed and configured. I only activated a few of the available options, primarily mobile site and security.

IFTTT channel activated after I figured out the url is rather than just The issue is that IFTTT doesn’t trigger with a test post I added. Seems to be more complicated than it needs to be. What I’m not liking about WP is that there doesn’t seem to be an actual page generated per post. The permalink isn’t html or php–it’s an entry in the database. Same with rss links, I’m used to them being atom.xml or such like, and again there isn’t a actual url. All the stuff I’m having to learn and get used to.

As of right now, my verdict on WP is I’m tolerating it because I have no choice. Yes, the straightfoward stuff is fairly easy to figure out. It’s too easy sometimes, there’s not enough flexibility to tinker and fiddle around.

Oh, I got rid of the slider on the homepage, it was driving me crazy.


school christmas fair



Spent the whole morning, from 9am to 1pm on my feet and running up and down 6 flights of stairs. It’s christmas bazaar at my niece’s school. Somehow I found myself with a volunteer badge, because sis was helping out at the glühwein stall. The lady in charge of the stall made the wine, all we needed to do was serve it and collect money. They also served a small slice of stollen with each cup, so I ended up being in charge of slicing the stollen.

As with past years, the marzipan and chocolate stall was full of people. I fought my way through and bought a bunch of marzipan and lebkuchen. Sis bought some christmas decoration for gifts.

The bazaar was split over all 6 levels (plus basement) of one of the school buildings. There were a couple of stalls at ground level and basement we were interested in, so we were running up and down. The students ran the games area in the gym so that was where my niece was.

Ate a lot too. Waffles, bratwurst, noodles with curry chicken. One beer and total around 3-4 cups of the glühwein. Tiring morning, but quite fun.

playing with themes


Played around with themes. Initially found one that was like the modern magazine, with boxes for posts. Looks good but I didn’t like just excerpts on the homepage.

Found another clean looking one that shows full posts but, argh, anyone can see it’s a wordpress theme with their eyes closed. Nothing wrong with the classic look…I’m looking for something a little different.

This is the ifeature theme. At the top is a slider where I can place 3 images. Underneath are 3 pinned boxes. For me, a great place to feature various flickr sets. Full posts with right sidebar and space in the footer for more links.

While I was at it, I copied over the About pages and put them in the nav menu. The 101.1001 challenges are also on the top menu.

wp installation


Long story short, I haven’t updated MT since 2007. ICDSoft upgraded their server software causing massive errors to MT and I can’t access the dashboard. MT now costs $499 which, SixApart are you serious?

Options to continue include wordpress, tumblr, medium. Since moving to WP has always been on my mind, WP it is. Played around the free site ( Saw that you can buy a domain name and point it there, so I emailed ICDSoft support on the feasibility. No, no, no. If I point at, it’s for the ENTIRE site. I’ll lose my cpanel and control over all pages and files.

So hosted WP it is. But there is a silver lining, it’s a software included in my domain name. It takes a few clicks and a little tinkering with html and htaccess and it’s done.

Installed a theme, configured footer, added some plugins. Not too bad.

Now comes the hard part. Since I can’t access the MT dashboard, I can’t export the database. It means copying over all 12 years’ worth of posts. I’ll do it slowly, it’s a good opportunity to clean up links and images anyway.

paris marathon prep

Am I still going to Paris marathon next April? France has extended its state of emergency for 3 months, and Belgium is on lockdown. Germany, Holland, the UK, Spain and all European cities are on high alert.

If I’m still going, training starts next week. 18 weeks isn’t a long time for the state of alert to die down. Then again, if we give in to our fears, then the terrorists have won. I’m going to go on the basis that I will be there, unless the organisers and/or the French government say otherwise. Last year’s race went ahead 2 months after Charlie Hebdo, so I think they will try to keep business as usual as much as possible.

Flights are still expensive, they’re mainly booking for Christmas now so I’ll look later. There are plenty of options on where to fly into. Aside from Paris itself, London, Barcelona, Geneva, Brussels, Amstersdam are all reachable by train. The problem is, it’s the week after Easter so I have to be careful of blackout periods.


What’s more pressing is finding somewhere to stay for the weekend, starting from expo to at least the day after the race. I started looking in the area close to the start and end of the course. The race starts on Champs, just down from Arc de Triomphe (blue circle centre right of map) and ends on Avenue Foch, near Port Dauphine (red checkered circle left of map). All the red blobs are hotels that are fully booked, and of the blue ones left many are expensive.

The good thing about making hotel reservations is I can hold it till nearer the time and keep searching. I made 2 reservations, on the basis that mum will be travelling with me. One is within walking distance of both start and end (white label)—perfect location but €240 per night, yikes. I’m only holding onto this one in case there is nothing else. The other is €150 per night, one stop NW of the map on line 1. I’ll keep looking, and at first glance on airbnb there may be something more affordable.

donate a photo, help a cause


The donate-a-photo app has been around for about 2.5 years now; I only just spotted it recently on instagram. The idea is to share a photo a day, and Johnson & Johnson will donate USD1 for every photo.

Each cause will receive a minimum donation and will appear in the app until its donation period ends or its goal is reached.


Sounds simple and innocent enough. Win-win all round. Right? Everything I read online about it has been generally positive. Except my first reaction was skepticism. Originally the app used the tagline selfless selfies and encouraged people to upload their selfies. That was a massive red flag. Invasion of privacy, facial recognition, profiling. It’s yet another data gathering exercise to market their products.


My second reaction was, what will happen to these photos? This is a good way of gathering thousands of photos that they don’t have to pay royalties for. Rule #1 of sharing a pic with a big brand is be careful. They mislead, engage in bait-and-switch tactics and generally don’t give credit or compensation. Over the years, I’ve had requests on flickr to add to a website or use in a magazine (the biggest was Travel and Leisure). I’ve found that the ones that promise “credit and exposure” without paying are the worst, they don’t even send you back the link to the story (no, T+L never sent anything back). I’ve stopped responding.


The donate-a-photo app does say that the photos shared will be added to a gallery to promote the app,

but they will never be used to sell any products or for any other commercial.




What’s the harm, I thought. I’ll upload some innocuous pics and if it gets money to the right causes, it’s all good. So far I’ve added a couple of pics of trees and one of smiley pastries. I also signed up for the UK version as opposed to the US version. It’s smaller in scale, in terms of causes included—only 2 so far this week. Unlike the US charity navigator I can’t find any good UK based charity vetting services. I may switch to US so I know more about the causes offered.      




As of today, J&J claims that they have received 801k photos, which suggests they have donated $801k. Over 2.5 years it’s roughly $320k per year. Even rounded up to $500k, this is probably just a fraction of their philanthropy budget. According to this infographic, they gave $131 million in 2011, representing 1.1% of their pre-tax profits.


Creating an app like donate-a-photo is a smart idea. Lots of good publicity, and using the sharing economy concept to run the campaign. They already have a department that liaises with causes, just agree on an amount to donate and timeframe. Once the amount is reached or timeslot completed, move the next cause up the queue. Run a report every once in a while, send the money, update the app and website, claim the tax benefits. The general public do all the work of populating the galleries and spreading the word to their friends. And it makes everyone feel good.


photofriday: yellow

Photofriday challenge this week is yellow.

title: tram from castro to the ferry terminal, san francisco
description: each tram is distinctive and meticulously archived; #1811 is a Peter Witts design repainted into the original 1928 Milan livery of yellow and white with black trim
date: october 2006

Click here for full-sized and other details
©invisiblecompany 2015, all rights reserved



#17 outline book ideas



Task #17 of 101.1001 is to outline book / story ideas.

Since nano is done this year, it’s worth using some of the momentum for writing and related. I have ideas dating back a long time, yet I never get round to starting, let alone finishing them. It’s not good. As time goes by, I get more ideas and the backlog gets bigger. Definitely not good. Anyway, it’s all in Evernote:

lamplight universe

  • lamplight
  • lamplight follow-up with Kian and Anna in Albania and the Balkans
  • shep (nano 2009)
  • the house on the lake (nano 2013) — indy and pete building indy’s dream house with a green roof

melody universe

  • party planner (nano 2014) — melody is trying to organise a retirement party for her dad and meets restaurant manager samantha
  • melody on church (tight, nano 2005) — sam’s dream of starting her own restaurant becomes embroiled with melody’s strange obsession and sam’s own family weirdness
  • in pieces (nano 2006) — sam’s descent into insanity while melody decides she wants to be a nun, needs a happy ending

healing series

  • short story prequel, robot sheepdog project, how they met
  • short story ghost
  • the actual novel where MC1 goes to oxford to gain closure with joey’s parents and meets MC2 in bath

london stories

  • drive (nano 2011) — minicab driver and missing child
  • tips (nano 2012) — heir hunters at harrow road

work travel

  • work travel go (nano 2015) — tech startup CEO goes undercover at travel destination, meets volunteer
  • how the hosts met — 1990s story of how dee and sm met, why sm needed wheelchair 25yrs later

master will universe (obviously need to change names)

  • days of innocence lost (earth as a short story prequel) — may be expand to novella length?
  • days of innocence returned — 150 years from now, w has been a good vampire, reinventing herself every few decades, enrolling in universities to try to find a cure for cancer. and then t comes back
  • there was a third planned but I can’t remember what it’s about


  • summer into winter — inspired by david harsent’s book
  • bigtown — post apocalypse universe, hacker vs tyrannical dictator
  • magic — need to find the outline
  • 12 races in chicago (nano 2010)
  • spotter — what if the world’s most tragic person invented a time machine to go back to history to eliminate disease, disasters and wars? the world’s population has grown to the point where it is impossible to sustain, and going to the future reveals everyone dies of famine; spotters are sent out to mark people out for elimination or retention, what if a spotter spots the wrong person
  • unmasked — short story, starts in a blind restaurant


#15 nano 2015 validated

Task #15 of 101.1001 is to complete nano 2015. Got to 50k on day 15, but to truly complete means having it validated on the nanosite and getting the winner’s badge. Validation started today, and I validated at 52,219. Scrivener gives me 52,282 and google docs 52,199—there’s always a discreprency when using different tools.

There’s an achievement badge for updating wordcount 30 days in a row, so I’ve been writing a few hundred words a day to keep it going. I’ll try to remember to continue until the 30th. I think badges reset every year so I’m not entirely sure why I’m so keen to get the badge. I suspect it’s OCD, that I can’t bear to have one greyed out badge amongst the entire set. 

trip pics loaded | RAW vs jpg


Finally uploaded trip pics:

  • chicago — mainly marathon
  • albany — firefighters memorial
  • ptown — town, harbour, beach, cemeteries, lighthouse, whale-watching
  • scranton — cemetary, former orphanage
  • state college — penn state



May be it’s because of the beautiful weather, I’m liking how most of these turned out. I do see a difference between using the big camera vs the small camera. Not bad for an entry-level 10 year old DSLR. I’m not happy with the small camera; at the back of my mind I’m still missing my s90 and not liking the newer s110. I hardly used it on the trip.


May be also due to the good weather, minimum adjustments needed for the outdoor pics. Some cropping, some levels. There’s a speck of dust or a scratch inside one of the mirrors so a little cover up needed. The indoor pics, especially at the Sage Inn, had to be re-levelled, because the interior was so dark.


A friend at Ptown brought along her brand new, fabulous, envy-worthy lens. She kindly let me borrow it for a second and I quickly snapped this one of the whale-watching signboard from far away. Nice. Thanks, Dutch!

We were also talking a little about over-processing of pics. I see a lot of, especially landscape and nature photography, that are rich and complex but then I realise how much the pics have been processed and I’m less impressed. I admit, processing in Lightroom is also a skill, it just seems less photography than digital manipulation.

Interesting that Reuters just issued a worldwide ban on RAW photos from their freelance photographers, to

increase both ethics and speed

I can only applaud the decision. RAW images are flexible and can be processed much more than jpgs. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Seeing this comparison:


image from manners photo

who wouldn’t want to use RAW? The question then is, which is real and which is manufactured. I’m all for relatively small adjustments to exposure, level, colour—I do it all the time. But professionals who earn money taking action news photos as they happen should present the most realistic picture (pun not intended) of what is happening, hence Reuters’ emphasis on ethics.

Also fitting that in the middle of teasing me the other day, mm reminded me that I actually got paid for a photo I took when we visited whitstable. That one was literally a quick snap with none of the post-processing Lightroom stuff (well, cos I don’t shoot in RAW). Each to their own, I suppose.

the hunt bbc

Need some escape from real life. Luckily the hunt is on. No, it’s not some walking dead program from the zombies’ pov. It’s a on bbc and a nature program focused on predators hunting their prey. Exec producer Alastair Fothergill:

the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey

It’s not just lions and polar bears, the big predators. There was a sequence of the sparrowhawk hunting small birds and another on army ants, the most successful predator in the forests. Brilliant as only the bbc, and David Attenborough’s narration, can be.

I haven’t been able to catch all of the series so far. Knowing BBC Earth, it’ll repeat. If only iPlayer works outside the UK. Seriously, I’d pay a subscription, like I do to my cable company, to get iplayer.



england vs france at wembley, the score didn’t matter

image from the independent

If I were still in London, I would have thought about going too. And I’ve never gone to a football match.

On Tuesday night, France came to Wembley to play a football match with England, four days after the terrorist attack in Paris, during which their own game with Germany was under attack at la Stade de France. While most people will agree that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, this time

football itself has been rather thrust forward into the vanguard of the response to the horror in Paris.

Kudos to the FA their french counterpart and the government, for the determination that the game will go ahead,

defiance, normality, business as usual: this was the message.

It was always going to be an emotional night. It was well known beforehand that the Duke of Cambridge, Cameron and the team captains would lay wreaths on the pitch; that there would be a minute’s silence; that the words of La Marseillaise would be shown on the big screen so England fans can sing with their counterparts.

I looked for videos of that. I did not expect to be so moved. Wonderful display of Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Yes, the words were mangled, the band wasn’t perfect. It was perfect:

it suited the often funny fraternity between France and England: our closest neighbour, but a sibling kind of relationship that leaves each afraid to say to the other how much we care, until something truly awful happens.

In the meantime, politicians, most especially Republican governors in America are portraying Muslims and Middle Eastern refugees as all terrorists and falling over each other to slam the door on Syrian refugees. Wow, that’s inhuman and cruel.

Oh, the final score was 2-0 to England. It didn’t matter. Marchons, marchons.