not the superhero runner

8.5km 1.12.30hr 8.32min/km plus 1.5km walking

I took advantage of a little breeze and cloud cover to go to the park. It was still a bit of a struggle as the temperature was high and I was dripping with sweat very quickly. Argh.

Need something positive, and I came across an article in medium called the superhero runner. The author’s son (age 5) is British and was born in Japan and lived there till he was 2.5 years old. Naturally he feels a connection with Japan. His parents are also avid runners so when his homework was about his own personal real-life hero, he wrote about Yuki Kawauchi, the “maverick” civil servant runner from Saitama.

Kawauchi is fast, very fast. 2:08 at the 2011 Tokyo marathon, multiple victories in a year and a member of the Japan world championship team. He is also one to buck the system. In Japan, professional runners are part of a coporate or university team. Kawauchi still has a day job as a government clerk, pays for his own expenses and generally does things his own way.

Great role model for a 5 year old.

Even better news is that after his dad tweeted his homework, the folks at Japan running news passed on the image and Kawauchi sent a response:

I’m not quite the fastest in Japan yet but I’m very happy to hear that English children know and value that I try to be competitive and to never give up. I will keep trying to really become the fastest in Japan. Thank you.

eminem lost yourself in ASL

This one has been doing the rounds lately, it’s Eminem’s Lose Yourself interpreted in sign language. It’s incredibly cute and uplifting. From the comments, it seems that the interpreter doesn’t always sign every single word, but rather signs the meaning and context, which is rather important in rap, where words machine-gun by very fast. The great thing about this video is that the interpreter Shelby adds her own movements and expressions to enhance the experience.

Even more uplifting is to find out that signing at concerts is nothing new. I’m so glad that deaf and hard-of-hearing people can also get to enjoy concerts.

As an aside, Eminem is my secret guilty pleasure. Great running songs.

interesting holiday houses

I was reading a book where one of the MCs went off to live in a cottage in the Lake District for a few months. Nice, nice, nice. Reminds me that I have a couple of self-catering places saved in instapaper.

orton01 orton02

In Orton, outside the actual Lake District, there’s a small cottage called the gatehouse. The bedroom is on a gallery level that overlooks the living room, there’s even a grand piano there for mm (I’ll forgive the zebra print throw). Looks very quaint and quiet. Not bad for around £500 a week in peak season, and drops to under £400 in September. Then again, it’ll start getting cold around September already.


In Bowness is the dome house which was on grand designs. I remember watching that episode, as the owners battled lack of funds to produce a house with stunning geodesic design, green roof and timber cladding. Turning part of the house into a b&b was part of the financial solution, I guess. There are 2 apartments and a studio, with lap pool and spectacular lake views. Price is something £200 per night, so in the luxury camp.


If there is land somewhere, this ecocapsule from Slovakia can be a portable home anywhere. It has solar panels and a little wind turbine. The interior has a foldable bed, kitchenette and proper (probably chemical) loo. I really do like the idea of off-the grid, green homes but bathroom and kitchen facilities are important too.

sunset from bus

sunset20150528 sunsetlionrock

Had early dinner with my dad, we decided the restaurant wasn’t worth going back to—indifferent service, mediocre food. Did some basic shopping then we caught separate buses home (he has senior discount, so he can take any bus; I took the cheaper one).

Sat on the upper deck, caught a bit of the sunset. While it’s all very nice to see a sunset, I’d rather it was raining and the temperature cooler.

impact of heat and humidity on running

The problem with entering a race in October is the bulk of the training takes place during the summer months. If the weather regularly reaches over 30ºC and 90% humidity, it’s very unpleasant for being outdoors, let alone trying to run. I’m still not back at pre-holiday form, and add on the weather, recent outdoor runs have been poor:

  • 09-may: 9.5km 1.23.45hr 8.49min/km
  • 18-may: 10.02km 1.40.00hr 9.59min/km
  • 21-may: 5.01km 39.40min 7.55min/km
  • 25-may: 8.0km 1.16.45hr 9.36min/km *
  • 27-may: 6.36km 49.13min 7.44min/km

*wanted to do 10k, had to cut short because it was so hot, barely any shade.

It’s common sense, that heat and humidity affects performance. The explanation is fairly scientific too: when it’s hot, body temperature rises. Sweating is a mechanism for the body to cool down (thermodynamics: energy is required to convert liquid to gas, the energy in this case comes from body heat). When it’s humid, sweat can’t evaporate into the saturated atmosphere and stays on the body. Body temperature continues to rise causing heartrate to increase. The body compensates by diverting blood and oxygen from muscles to skin capillaries for cooling, and the body slows down.


The best condition for running is cold (around 10-12ºC) with a breeze and preferably with lots of shade or cloud cover. Running coach Jeff Galloway has a chart that correlates pace with temperature (I converted to ºC). It’s not scientific, but based on his and other runners’ experiences. It makes sense.


The folks at runontexas (via) has a table that shows the change with heat and humidity. This is in seconds per mile and assumes humid conditions means over 60%. It’s not hard to project that the effect when it’s over 90% will be even more pronounced.


As always, plotting data out in a chart makes it even easier to understand. The decrease in pace is exponential, once it gets to 30ºC and humid, expect to add 3 minutes per mile, that’s 2 mins per km.


Translating that to my own running. If I optimistically assume a base pace of 6.40min/km (10.45min/mi), then with current conditions, um, first of all it’s not recommended. If I did go running, then it’s a minimum of 8.32 pace. Since I’m nowhere near my base pace, I should expect to go even slower. This puts my recent runs into perspective, I haven’t been doing too badly on the shorter runs, need to build up endurance for longer runs. Wear a hat, find shade, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The latest run was decent, I stuck to shaded paths and drank about 1.5l of sports drink during the run, and more afterwards.

So this is all kinda depressing, but looking on the bright side, there is a silver lining:

when cooler weather returns you will be surprised at how you are in better condition and can run faster than you expect – often coinciding just in time for your goal fall race

I can only hope.

apple watch sports

Super Low-Tech Apple Watches
super low-tech apple watches by flickr user hiné

I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to tha apple watch, apart from acknowledging that it’s out and people are wearing it. I’m still testing out the mi band that we wore to Europe and I’m waiting for my atlas which is a year late (long story).

I do wonder what it’s like to actually wear the apple watch. If I were to get one, I’d most likely get the sports version. There’s some good reviews from people who are serious about exercise on how it stacks up as a fitness tracker:

Part of the allure here is owning a single device that tells time, alerts you of notifications and triples as a fitness tracker.

It’s probably not advanced in its current form to use as anything other than a tracker of casual cardio exercise. If Six-to-Start get their act together and fix zombies, run it’ll be a great integration with the Watch.

Will I get it? No, not now. I’m not obsessed enough about the minute details of my exercising and I don’t care about notifications. Battery life isn’t good. There are a ton of competitors (like the aforementioned late Atlas and the really good Pebble time). I just can’t see the purpose of smartwatches.

DTP revisited: learning InDesign


Desktop publishing was why I got into macs so much earlier than the rest of the world. I did a sort-of monthly newsletter for our student group for a couple of years when I was in college. Back then, we used Pagemaker and the then industry standard, QuarkXPress. (I personally was better at Pagemaker, that’s just me.) The software came from, ahem, dubious sources, those were the days.

I hadn’t used DTP since then, and my skills are sadly long forgotten. I idly noted Adobe bought Pagemaker and brought out InDesign. I read articles about the demise of QuarkXPress. When CS2 became free, I grabbed Photoshop straightaway. As an afterthought, I got Illustrator and InDesign too.

I still don’t know how to use Illustrator very well and until this week InDesign was a bit of a black hole too. What prompted me to sit down and focus on getting basic proficiency: a) I need to design and prepare a large number of graphical…stuff that are text- and layout-heavy; b) the professional designer who helps us with our graphics uses InDesign and c) I thought it’d be a good skill to re-learn. I was asked to help design a few small pamphlets a year or so ago. I used Photoshop because I was most comfortable with it, but it would have been more appropriate to use a DTP software.

My first reaction in opening InDesign was, ooops, how to I start. I figured out how to create a new document and set parameters such as margins and number of columns. I clicked on the text tool and tried to type, but I wasn’t seeing anything on screen and the cursor kept jumping to other selections on the menu. Something was wrong. Luckily there are plenty of guides and videos online. I realised that I had skipped the step of defining the text box before I started typing. Schoolboy error.


Took me the better part of 2 days to do this very simple layout. There are around 20 to do. I’m a bit petrified, but I think it will get easier once I get familiar with the controls: I know what I want to do, I just need to know the workflow and learn some tricks. The first page took the longest, getting the shaded highlights took a while and then the second page was simply copy and paste. It’s nice to get back into this, I look at the sample files that came with the software and I think to myself, something that looks similar is within my ability.

bbmm simple day out


Very wet day, started with heavy rain, red rain warning in the afternoon.

We had a simple day out. Met at Ikea then went to a Korean restaurant for lunch, which lasted 2 hrs as we chatted. Then decamped to a pub for coffee (mm) and beer (me) and stayed there till past 4pm. Walked around a pound shop then a supermarket. That was it. Nothing stressful, nothing special. Just a good day together.

The wait for the bus was horrendous, normally the maximum wait is around 10mins, I waited something like 45mins. Rain and heavy traffic. Still, it didn’t dampen our good moods. May be we are getting simpler in our old age.

london by night HD @LaforetAIR


via mashable, a set of truly stunning night photos of London by photographer Vincent Laforet as part of the AIR project:

AIR is a creative project that started with a series of spectacular photographs above New York City. Through unprecedented viral momentum, the project is expanding to other cities around the globe with the aim to:

Show the world that it is connected

Engage people from all around the world to connect with one another.

Previous cities included New York and Los Angeles. The London pics were shot around 12-13 May, the next scheduled project flights will include Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Venice.

Very interestng write up and observations (and loads more pics) about the project shoot in London, from initial worries about getting through the bureaucracy for permission to fly, the lack of a grid system and the dreaded British weather to realisation about the distinctive architecture and colours. Interesting tidbit, when they were flying over Buckingham Palace:

Within a few minutes we were (unusually) politely asked by Air Traffic Control how long we planned on flying around that specific area. There was no suggestion of asking us to move – but the high level of politeness sent an even stronger message.

Watch the video again, look at the London gallery again. Look at the details, the light, the colours, the buildings, the streets, the bridges. I challenge anyone to not feel completely in awe of probably the greatest city in the world.

flickr 4.0


As I was uploading trip pics I noticed yahoo rolled out yet another new look for flickr. The main photostream page still isn’t as good as the original layout, but better than the horrible 3.0. Less cluttered with sharper, cleaner lines. Can sort by date taken or different permission views. The set (sigh, album) page looks cleaner too, although I’m still not a big fan of infinite scrolling.

The two major new features are auto uploading and auto-tagging for a more powerful search.

At 1TB, flickr offers more storage than dropbox, icloud and many other storage sites. Free. I’m not even at 10% of my capacity with 27k images so there’s no danger of running out (nor any desire to renew my pro account). The new uploadr, plus the 1TB storage, lets people dump all their images into flickr automatically from computer and smartphone. No need for there to be pics stored here, there and everywhere. We can still use instagram or vine or fb, but now flickr can act as central repository for all our image files.

Will I use uploadr like that? Yes on mobile, no for computer. I already use flickr as my image repository, but I go through the process of sorting and organising before uploading. Imagine uploadr taking all 3267 trip pics and uploading into one album for me to organise—-no, no, no. I want to control how and where my pics are uploaded, even though it takes me longer.

It’s a different picture for mobile. I’m pretty good at sorting my iphone camera roll, I review and delete pics that are duplicate, poor quality or temporary. Currently, I use dropbox to transfer to the mba (yes, I know I should be using pushbullet) then manually upload to flickr. If I can skip the dropbox step it will be a time-saver. It took the app a few hours to process my iphone camera roll, but going forward it will be quicker. Liking the app too, used to be clunky and non-user friendly, now I may start using it more.


The other major new feature is a powerful search engine using image recognition algorithms that sees the content of an image. As an example, I had basic tags to this pic of an Assisi chimney, the flickrbots are smart enough to add building, architecture, roof and outdoor tags:


Some users are up in arms about this, because they want control over their tags. I’m fine with the concept.


Another example: this week’s photofriday challenge is “detail” and when I plug that in as a search term, I get fairly interesting results, and advanced options to drill down into colours, dates etc. Before the update, I’d get an error or a no result page because I haven’t tagged any pic using the term detail. This is an improvement.


Where all the new features come together is the camera roll. I can set it to display by the traditional, boring method of date taken. Or I can use the new magic view which sorts my pics into, well, tags. Magic view shows my pics under common criteria, when I select pattern from the sidebar, it shows patterned pics (although I wouldn’t necessarily include the pic of the space needle). I can’t stop playing around in magic view, it really is magical.

Another new feature is bulk processing: bulk download, bulk sharing, bulk editing, bulk delete. The downloading feature is one that has been requested for a long time, it’s not relevant to me but may be for people who use flickr as triage.

Not everything is positive in the update. Thumbnails are too large. For a time all my pics defaulted to family & friends instead of public. All my sets in organizr are called auto upload. My biggest complaint is that getting the html link involves a popup lightbox as opposed to a simple hover menu before. I can’t get the html code for videos. Notes have been discontinued. They are moving in the right direction for a change. The Verge has a good summary of the new design:

What’s impressive is what it’s doing for free: backing up a terabyte of photos from your main computer and your mobile devices, then making them easily searchable in the cloud. The rest of Flickr is still there: you can still follow great photographers, browse beautiful photos, and showcase your own. But among the solutions for backing up your photos online, Flickr has moved from the back of the pack to the front.

the end of an era

I’m vindicated. There’s science behind why this 100% introvert doesn’t like speaking, can never come up with a witty repartee and generally has lousy comic timing (or any sort of interaction timing). Another thing I hate is phone calls. The stupid phone rings, and we’re expected to drop everything and respond immediately, without knowing what the other party wants. At least with caller display, we know who is calling.

I don’t do voicemail. Even when I was at work. I had to be subtle about it, but I managed.


I was the first one in my family to ditch my landline. In London I was forced to sign up for a landline because BT bundles it with internet. I hardly ever answer the phone anyway, so landlines are useless to me. When I was in the mood and bored, I remember having a grand time winding up this PPI scammer who called, so much so that he hung up on me. Victory!

It’s truly the end of an era when this week, my parents cancelled their landline. Generally the older generations tend to hold onto older technologies because they are used to them. But as my dad said, when almost 100% of calls on the landline are telemarketers or estate agents, then it’s a waste of money to keep it.

My dad is a very very late adoptor of technology and even he has a mobile now, albeit an old nokia non-smartphone. I notice they still have the Pavlovian response to phone calls, mum gets all upset and uptight at missed calls, whereas my iphone is permanently on DND. Anyone who wants to reach me can whatsapp (no one uses text anymore). Even email is passé.

There a small tinge of sadness. We’ve had our parents’ number for over 40 years. Phone numbers used to be 6-digit, then 7, then 8. It’s a good number, but it’s time to let it go.

Now if only the government will pass legislation restricting telemarketing calls on mobiles, the world will be a better place.

running shoes: new, cheap, how to lace and tie

nikefree201501 Saucony Kinvara 4 Running Shoes
nike frees are mine, kinvaras courtesy sprogz

Always on the lookout for running shoes and related news. Gear Patrol has 25 best running shoes of 2015, and the trend is the blurring of lines between the traditional neutral, stability and minimal labels. Looking at the road (vs trail) selection, there are the usual brooks, mizuno, nike, new balance (ugh) as well as the more unfamiliar skora, karhu and APL. I’m surprised there are no sauconys or asics, I adore my kinvaras especially since they are in orange.

They’re all expensive, US$100 or more; the nike lunar 3 are $200. Eeep, eeep and double eeep.

I think anything over $120 is excessive, my preferred price point is $50-80. There’s an argument that even $50 is too expensive. Supermarkets and high street shops offer way cheaper models. Saw that someone reviewed $16 walmart running shoes. They do look pretty good, probably because they’re a copy of nike free 3.0s. But that’s where the positive ends. The foam at the bottom comes off, there is no grip, the material is even more inflexible than a regular leather shoe. The takeaway lesson: $16 walmart running shoes are really bad. Save up, look out for prior years’ models or watch out for runningwarehouse specials. For instance, mizuno waves are $55 and kinvara 5s are $60. These don’t cause blisters and last for thousands of miles.

Talking about sneaker reviews, here’s a hilarious one via digg of a seriously monotone review of air jordans including an incredibly detailed description of every.single.side of the box:

on this side of the box there is the color black

Anyway, once we get our new running shoes, we need to learn how to lace and tie them properly. There are so many methods of lacing for different purposes. Sometimes I get nagging pain at the top of my foot so the hotspot method may work. The runners’ tie that loops around the top eyelet is well known and a good tip.


I’ve also been taught to lace my sneakers so the laces end up on the inside at the top. Securely tie and the knot stays in place to make it easy to slip off and put on the shoes. There’s this way of lacing so that the laces are hidden inside the shoes and don’t get tangled up, may be I’ll try this out too.

#zombiesrungame v4.0 or how not to roll-out a software update

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first. I love the zombies, run app; I paid for the all access pass, it’s my most expensive purchase in the app store; if Six to Start claims there are 1 million users then I’m one of a million.

So I should be all over the new version, right? Existing players instantly get seasons 1-3 plus interval training plus race missions. Prettier interface, recaps of prior missions, autoplay next mission, spotify support, adjustable chases, integration with healthkit. All sounds fabulous.

zombiesrun401 zombiesrun402 zombiesrun403

I expected great things when I opened the updated app, and it did look pretty. But I was quickly disappointed. Many many issues, and from fb / twitter it seems like I’m not alone (phew, I guess). Here’s a quick summary:

the good

  • brilliant graphics — the old app was pretty, the graphics on v4.0 really popped
  • time based missions — big improvement on before when the duration of a mission was a) based on the normal or long setting; b) a guessing game on exactly how long. Now I can see that a mission is 40mins, and I can set the intervals of the clips (announcements) to fit a mission into my run
  • most of the other functionalities seem to be there, plus some new ones
  • my township hasn’t changed, although the old-styled graphics aren’t up to par with the new design


the bad

  • space hog — its easily the app that uses up the most storage on my iphone, aside from music and photos. I remember i had to delete apps and mp3s from my old iphone 4 because I was running out of storage space
  • pay-to-play — a legacy runner would have paid around US$25 if they’d purchased each module at full price; an all access pass up to season 3 was $18 full price or $10 if we were lucky enough to get it during one of the sales. The new pay-to-play costs $20 a year (or $8 for legacy runners) and includes all modules up to season 4. This means a dedicated user, having spent $25 already, will need to pay an extra $8 a year. A new player only needs to spend $20 this year. Doesn’t seem very fair to legacy users. That said, the other option is to not get sucked into the subscription model and wait for each mission to be rolled out. I’m only at season 2, so I’m perfectly happy to wait it out, by the time I reach season 4, most if not all the missions would have been rolled out
  • missions reset — this was the biggest shock and frustration in the new version, to see that I’ve been reset to s1m01. The odd thing is, my run log shows my runs so it means the data is there somewhere and they haven’t ported it to the new version. Why they would do that, it’s puzzling
  • all settings lost — had to redo settings like units, not unusual when there are new features but not good from a customer experience point of view
  • had to redownload all missions — I think it’s related to the data migration, I have to download all missions from scratch, it’s very annoying
  • missions after May missing — more data migration issues, the zombielink webpage is down, and they say it’ll be back soon. Again, it means the upgrade to v4.0 was not seamless and actually was a backwards step
  • many report of crashes — the first few days over the weekend the fb page was full of reports of the app not opening or crashing. Fingers crossed I don’t have that issue, I feel sorry for the people experiencing the problems
  • music cut off for mission clips — this is supposed to be an improvement, but it’s proving to be a bad user experience. There I was, happily listening to music while running when it suddenly stops and I hear silence for 5 seconds, then the story clip plays. At the end of the clip, there’s again silence before music plays again. In prior versions, clips played after a song finishes, not in the middle of a song, it’s jarring and very annoying, especially the silence. Music fades when we pick up a supply or material, why can’t clips play with the music faded in the background?
  • story clips not audible — the volume is set too low or something, I can’t hear the clip properly, I want to listen to Sam and Janine and everyone
  • radio abel — doesn’t play after mission is completed
  • new players get 3 materials per mission vs 1 for legacy players — small gripe, typical of new versions of games, new players always have it easy
  • fewer chases — in prior versions, there were about 2-3 chases every 30mins, now there’s a good 30-45min gap between each one. I don’t always use chases, because I may be stuck at a traffic light when a chase is on, but it can be an issue
  • automatically continues to next mission, no radio abel — this is what I read on fb, I don’t know if turning off automatic continuation will solve this

the ugly

  • lack of response on issues, FAQ not updated — aside from a few lame “sorry about that, please log in again” replies, the devs have not responded to the majority of fb and twitter comments, the FAQ has a known issues section, which hasn’t been updated. Most of us are used to updates and glitches in software, where a company succeeds is when they are upfront about the glitches and at the very least acknowledge that there are issues and they are working on it
  • product rolled out without proper testing — seems to be a classic case of a product rolled out without adequate testing. Whether or not it’s due to commercial pressure or what, we don’t know. I’ve been involved in implementing new software, upgrading software or introducing new features into software, and the number one most important thing before approving a rollout is that the product has been tested to death. Rolling out a snazzy looking new version that forgets a user’s progress, especially in something like running training, is a fatal error. Are the devs runners themselves? Do they use the app? Did they take it out for a run during UAT? The issues like crashes and progress reset would have been blindingly obvious if they’d beta tested properly. Remember all these bad software updates? Yep, people still remember them

It’s the worst thing, when data is migrated properly everybody starts where they left off and all is good. If they are still working on data migration now, what will happen to runs and missions while the migration is taking place? Will new missions be merged or overwritten? I didn’t want to randomly select a mission, or even pick up where I left off in season 2, so I did a supply run. Worst case scenario, I lose the supplies I picked up. Again, it’s okay for a running app, imagine it’s people’s finances or a company’s HR roster. If a bank rolled out a new version where people’s bank accounts are reset to zero balance, they would be out of business by the end of the week.

If all this sounds negative, it’s not really. It’s one person’s account of experiencing an update. My app works, I have a workaround and it’s not the end of the world if I have to restart from s1 or hold off building my township for a while. I’m okay about waiting till data is ported over. Like one fb poster who put it succinctly:

just embracing the chaos

el gamma penumbra tribute to mother nature

My dad didn’t used to like watching tv, he even didn’t like us watching tv when we were younger. Recently, he seemed to have a change of heart. Or it’s because we are watching more travel and food programs and he’s interested in those.


He was the one who reminded us that it was the final of AGT last week, and we all sat down to watch the finalists. Very deserving win for shadow dance group El Gamma Penumbra from the Philippines, with their touching tribute to mother nature. Performance until around 2:30, then it’s judges’ comments which can be skipped (unless you’re a fan of Mel C).



It’s world whisky day. It was also raining and thundery so the ideal dram would have been Talisker. I haven’t opened the bottle of Storm yet so I celebrated by going to another island—the Orkneys—for my absolute favourite go-to whisky: Highland Park 12. Yes, favourites are best. I’m still annoyed at all the different NAS expressions HP is bringing out, that I can’t keep track of. Still, on my to buy list is the ever-present HP 12, 18, 21 and I might shell out for a 25 one of these days. Duncan Ross at TWE also recommended Dark Origins, so it’s now on the list. So many whiskies to buy, so little time to drink.


In other whisky news, I can now get Writers Tears at M&S. At TWE it’s £32.95, price here is equivalent to £50, so there is a markup. Still cheaper than shipping it then risking customs. I’m still hankering after that £100 cask strength that I may have to have shipped.

pan-fried salmon with caramelised fennel


Continuing the theme of eating more fish, I made salmon and fennel for lunch.

Standard salmon fillet from Ikea—the best value and best tasting salmon available to me. I had a head of fennel but I didn’t want to turn the oven on for just one head, so I looked for pan-frying recipes. The one from Delia at bbc goodfood looks great, but like most Delia recipes, seemed a bit fiddly. My simplified method was to slice the fennel and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, then brown in a pan with apple balsamic, worcestershire sauce and honey. Took around 10-15mins. Pushed the fennel to the side of the pan then cooked the salmon, which is why it looks so burnt on top, it absorbed the fennel debris.

Sigh, I’ve come to realise that the vegetables I love to cook with like fennel, kale, savoy cabbage, I have limited access to. They are also extremely expensive. The salmon (frozen) was also twice the price of fresh salmon in the UK.

crispy skin sea bream with cauliflower cream


Had lunch with my college friend CH, we’d only recently started getting back in touch after not seeing each other for more than 10 years.

We went to a spanish restaurant and amongst the choices of wagyu beef, iberico pork, lobster, seafood fettucine we both chose…fish. Most of our conversation evolved around her son, schools, travelling and keeping healthy. It’s strange, we all seem to feel our age lately. I would never have even considered ordering fish at a restaurant until recently.

That said, the fish was very good. Crispy skin, fish flaky and cooked perfectly. I just feel like I’m turning into the middle-aged boring person who orders fish and skips dessert. Oh yes, I don’t drink as much either, whereas I would have been able to finish off most of a bottle of wine, it took me the better part of a week to drink a bottle of wine lately.

It’s not a bad thing, staying on top of our health. Still a way to go: even less coke, more running, get a body check.

chilled cheesecake


I realised I don’t have searchable recipe for chilled cheesecake. It’s hidden on an old page that was part of v1.0 of the website and no longer linked. And it’s so old it’s in ounces, so I need to update it. I’ve also based the new recipe on the packaging of ingredients available to me; the recipe converts to 350g cream cheese, but cream cheese packets are 200g, so I used 2 packets.

50g butter
120g digestives
400g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
gelatine — about 1 tbsp in 3 tbsp hot water, this is powdered
250ml double cream
3 egg whites
1 punnet blueberries, or other fruit

  1. make base using butter and digestives, chill until set
  2. break up cheese, add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice
  3. dissolve gelatine in water, add to cheese mixture
  4. add fruit
  5. whisk cream until soft peaks, fold into mixture
  6. whisk egg whites until firm peaks, fold into mixture
  7. pour mixture over base and chill till set

mum’s new tech toys, ice cream


Spent most of the day setting up mum’s new ipad. Her old ipad (my original gen 1 ipad) didn’t have that many apps on it, so I thought it’s simpler to download new apps fresh from the app store. Ended up getting her new apps like bbc news, travel, tv guide, games, dictionary and the new flickr app. Since she uses yahoo, I got her the yahoo mail app instead of the native mail app. And since she thinks the page is a browser (and I’ve given up trying to explain the difference between browser and webpage) I replaced safari with google app.

After setup, we went to the computer place to get a cover and screen protector. She took a liking to the girl who sold us the screen protector and after browsing around other stores, went back to the girl’s shop to get a cover.

While we were at it, I got her a mifit step/sleep tracker, it’s now even cheaper, more like USD15. I set up the mifit app for her on her phone, and told her to wear the band to bed. Let’s see how it tracks her sleep.

One good thing about all this setting up, I’m a little bit more familiar with android than before.

We met up with my dad at the food court near the computer place for dinner. For all my efforts today, I thought I deserved a little reward. There’s this ice cream stall that sells 5 scoops of ice cream for USD1.50, so the 3 of us got 5 scoops to share. Chocolate, chocolate banana, mint choc chip, tofu, sesame. The scoops are small, which we liked. In terms of taste not stunning but not bad either. Definitely good value and worth trying again.

mum’s birthday


For mum’s birthday this year, we had dinner at an italian restaurant near a) sis’ place, b) my old office. We stayed home for lunch cos it was so hot. Mum had her regular physiotherapy session which she didn’t want to reschedule. I went earlier to stop by the apple store to get her a new ipad—she said it was fine to get it later but I wanted her to have her present on her birthday.

The restaurant wasn’t crowded, mostly people at the bar out front taking advantage of happy hour. Mum had salmon, Papa had lasagna, sis had veal, my niece had spag bol and I had spaghetti aglio e olio. I asked mum over the weekend what sort of cake she wanted and she said cheesecake, so I made blueberry cheesecake. I asked the restaurant when I made the reservation if they would let us bring a cake and they said sure thing, no charge. Very nice of them! When we arrived, the manager took the cake to keep in the fridge, after our mains he brought it out and the staff had decorated the plate and put a few strawberries as decoration. I scattered more blueberries on top. It was well received, it’s one of the lightest cheesecakes I’ve ever made. We gave the restaurant a big tip.

I think Mum was very happy at her birthday celebration. She seemed to have a good meal and she complimented me on the cheesecake. She was happy, of course, with her ipad. Yay!! If she’s happy, we are all happy.

trip pics and writeup


I finally got the trip pics sorted and uploaded. From 3267 I whittled them down to just over 2000 in 10 sets:
holland belgium: lily | almere, naarden, oostvaardersplassen, amsterdam | antwerp, brussels, mechelen
italy: florence | siena | assisi | rome
ireland, uk: dublin, cork, ring of kerry | london | cotswolds


If I had to pick just one image from each set. First in our friend’s house I’ll pick one of kaocao, her cat, who was instrumental in bringing us close together and a great little cat to boot:

Holland will be Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve, it made me want to move to Holland to enjoy the wildlife and running paths:

Belgium will be the strangely cosy café at Het Steen, especially after hearing the story of the tyrannical prince who lived there:

Florence is difficult, we were there the longest of all stops. So many great memories. I’m going to pick two, the first is hanging out at the retreat house. It was so peaceful and calm that some days, we didn’t want to venture outside: flr061garden

The second is us walking all the way to oltrarno and up the hundreds of steps to piazza michangelo to take in the view of the city:

In Siena it’s this strange, rather creepy statue of a semi-naked woman peeping out of a first floor window:


In Assisi it’s watching the sunset from our room. There was so much to see and experience in Assisi, it was a blessing to return to our room every night and relax:

Rome, hands down, seeing the Pope: rom126papa

After the spirituality that was Italy, my memory of Ireland is the breath-taking views in Kerry:

In London it’s cooking at home:


And not forgetting the picturesque Bibury:

We were lucky that we had internet almost every day, so I was able to upload a few pics and post daily reports. Made the writeup so much easier, it was just a matter of grouping by location and fixing some typos. I also added a few more pics. Still came to 6 travel posts: holland belgium | florence siena | assisi | rome | ireland | uk

Quite an epic trip, and memorable too.


lego parliament via mashable

I tuned into BBC as soon as I woke up and one of the first MPs returned was 20 year old Mhairi Black from the SNP. That would set the tone for the entire general election results. I watched as the SNP annihilated Labour in Scotland; then the Tories proved too strong for both Labour and the LibDems, who ended up getting decimated. Cameron got elected back to No. 10 without needing a coalition partner.

I’m not 100% happy but I’m not all that sad or angry at #ge2015 results. It was a shock to watch the decimated LibDems and Labour’s poor showing, though in hindsight there wasn’t a real alternative to the Conservatives—Miliband and Clegg were gracious in their resigations, where was the backbone before the election?

ge2015scotland gd2015maggiesimpson

Quite astounded at the SNP landslide. A lot due to Nicola Sturgeon’s good performance, though ironic that she wasn’t even standing. I don’t know a whole lot about Scottish politics or the everyday priorities of the Scottish people. It seems to me that they voted in the SNP not because they want independence, but because they want effective representation in Westminster. It’s telling that the voice of non-public school, London-centric Britain now falls to a party that was, many years ago, considered marginal. I hope they reward their constituencies’ faith in them and not hijack issues for their own purposes.

#ge2015 live cross-stich via tom katsumi on twitter

It’ll be a very different Britain in the next 5 years. I want to be hopeful that Cameron & Co will do the right thing, but I’m more afraid that they will put the interest of their corporate buddies before that of the British people.

charts via independent

People have been talking about electoral reform. That the UK needs to move to proportional representation because how come the SNP had 1.4mil votes and got 56 seats, while the Greens got 1.1mil votes and only one (yay for Caroline Lucas, btw).

What alarms me is that, if we had PR, Ukip would have won 80+ seats. That’s scary. I grew up in a Tory stronghold (Chipping Barnet has returned a Conservative MP since 1974, when the constituency was created) and I have some empathy towards the Little England view of immigrants (despite the fact that I’m one such immigrant myself). I felt the change in Britain since I left. In the space of 2.5 years it does seem that we have been overwhelmed by newcomers. No one on the tube spoke English, no one selling us tea or coffee were native English speakers, house prices have gone through the roof with foreign investors and their buy-to-leave tactic. I get it. People who move to a new country must do so sympathetically and respectfully and there are people from certain countries that simply do not (it’s not just a UK problem, those people are everywhere in the world.)

The world is still reacting to #ge2015 results. Financial markets were up, and share prices for property related shares shot up with the news. Is that a good sign? Can economic recovery be sustained for the next 5 years? What about small businesses and taxpayers? Children and pensioners? Europe? I don’t have a good feeling, I think the country will become even more extreme as the wealth gap increases. I hope that Cameron means it when he says stuff like “one nation” because we need to be one country.


village on the river

After 2 months’ of inactivity, mm’s car’s battery died. The mechanic from roadside assistance arrived quickly and we all spent a considerable amount of time trying to find the battery!! The car is a hybrid so there are 2 engines under the bonnet; ah, modern engines, we couldn’t find the point for jump starting the car. The mechanic had to call in to his colleagues for help. The battery is actually located underneath the back passenger seat, strange.

rivervillage01farm rivervillage02farmer

Anyway, we got the car started and went off to charge up the car with a long drive to the countryside. We ended up at “village on the river” 河上鄉 where uncle wong lives. Had all-you-can-eat sweet tofu and walked around the canals and farms. Luckily there was a breeze otherwise it would have been a very hot day. The fields were photogenic and we saw a woman farmer crouched in the middle of the field.

rivervillage04oldpianos rivervillage03pianoweeds

Between the fields and the canal there was a corner where we spotted a bunch of old pianos, just abandoned there. So sad. No clue how and why they were there.

invented cocktail: vodka, grand marnier, raspberry granita


The horrors, sis ran out of wine at home and we didn’t feel like whisky so we were playing around with the supplies she had to make cocktails. Vodka martini didn’t taste quite right, even with lemon juice and an olive. Couldn’t find olive brine for dirty martini. Still didn’t taste right, a bit one dimensional.

Sis suggested to try adding some of the raspberry granita she had in the freezer. Great granita, from fresh raspberries and sugar syrup. I mixed vodka and grand marnier in a 2:1 ratio, with a few drops of vermouth and a tablespoon of the granita. It quite nice, like a cosmopolitan but with raspberry instead of cranberry juice. Not usually a cocktail person, it was quite good for something I invented from available ingredients.

maureen fusion restaurant

maureen01tomato maureen02egg
maureen04lamb maureen03noodles

Sis, bless her, invited me over to her place knowing I’ve had an intensive couple of days. She and my niece took me to dinner at a fancy fusion place called Maureen (I think the owner’s name is Maureen). Their spiel is that they sous-vide their food. We had the tasting menu:

  • smoked scallops with oyster sauce
  • “perfect” egg with mushroom truffle sauce
  • braised duck leg with plum sauce
  • lamb rack with hoisin wine sauce / lobster with salted duck egg
  • lo mein with pork broth
  • chocolate mousse with fruit

My niece had marinated cherry tomatoes and noodles. Overall, it was okay. Not stunning, and definitely not as fancy or chefy as they purport to be. The “perfect” 63-degree egg was creamy, I found it overcooked. The duck was tender but like any duck we get a restaurant and the lamb, um, I make better lamb rack (I’m not being cocky, I make lamb racks that people like). The noodles were good, the pork broth the best thing on the menu—rich, intense with depth of flavour. Not much comment about the mousse, it was like warm cream that came out of a nozzle although the chocolate flavour was present.

We had a bottle of Italian wine that was good. Will i go back to this restaurant? Probably not for the tasting menu. Everything on the menu came under the category of “something good-something bad.” May be for the noodles, because of the broth.

golo 2

Today we take Golo on his final journey. There were set procedures to follow, with small comforts of tried and tested routines. The officials were well organised. The older generation of family and friends will not accompany the group to the “hill” so they sat in one side of the hall. Friends and family who will go to the hill on another side. We lined up for the final viewing, and each placed a flower on the coffin.

Two coaches were provided for the 45min drive to the crematorium. The ceremony was fast, we paid our respects by bowing, and his wife and kids sent him off with us all saying “goodbye.”

The coach dropped us in town for lunch. We all tried to keep the atmosphere cheerful and positive, to remember good times. Some friends took the day off from work so the King’s crew occupied an entire table.

The lunch finished around 2pm and we said our goodbyes. It was a very sad two days, the silver lining was I met up with so many old friends I’ve lost touch with. We promise we’d keep in touch and the next time we meet will be for good reasons. We even have a whatspp group now.

Got a nice message from his closest friend on behalf of his wife:

On behalf of P and Golo’s family, they would like to thank you all for your help, concern and prayers to Golo in the past 4 years especially in his final days. The money for the wrath and education fund for his daughters are most appreciated.

On a personal note, I hope the memorial and funeral services that was organised in such a short time have given you sweet and happy memories we all had with Golo in the past 20 or 30 years! Although sad and unfortunate, we must thank Golo for providing us this opportunity to get together! Some of the faces we have not seen for years have emerged, some of the contacts we have lost have been reconnected!

All the photos that were showed in the memorial video will be uploaded soon in Dropbox or similar website for you to download and the video will be on YouTube. Thanks to those who provided some of the photos but because he just had too many photos, not all your photos could be included, hope you understand!

Finally I hope we can all treasure this great friendship we have had and take care of your health and love your closed ones, these are more important than making money and any other matters!

Tired. Fell asleep on the bus back home.



Golo 高佬 literally translates to Tall Guy. It’s the nickname of my college friend D, who, at 6’, is tall. With this height advantage, he played basketball, volleyball and was one of the first of our group to take up running. He was also smart, gaining a First and completing the research for a PhD. We didn’t keep in close touch after college, meeting up very occasionally when I’m not travelling or living all over the world. I see pictures of his kids on fb. He likes my posts on food and cooking.

Golo passed away 2 weeks ago. Today was his funeral.

I’ve lost people in my life, family members and friends and acquaintances. Some lived a long and (hopefully) happy life; some left us way too early. It’s been hard to come to terms with losing Golo, because I only knew of his illness and how serious it was on a Tuesday and by Wednesday night he was gone. Technically it was Thursday morning around 1.30am, mm and I were amongst the last few visitors who left the hospital at around 10.30pm. Should we have stayed a few more hours? Would we have intruded?

It’s been hard to reconcile that it was lung cancer. Why would a healthy non-smoker, a runner, a loving father of two, get lung cancer? Genetics? Second hand smoke? Carcinogen from way back when he was working in the lab?

<OT>I’m feeling anger towards smokers again. When I was young, I was quite militant about smoking and was a paid-up member of ash. I swore that I would never, ever, ever, become friends with smokers. I’ve mellowed out a little since then, I have a few friends who smoke and even though I wish they’d stop, I respect their decision and will offer sincere support when they decide to quit. Anyway, people reading this. Stop smoking. Please. Please stop. </OT>

When we went to visit at the hospital, so many old college friends were there, someone said there were more people than at an alumni gathering. Such was Golo’s personality, he had so many friends. There was a memorial segment at the funeral today, when they showed a slideshow of pictures donated by friends and family (I sent a couple myself) and there were eulogies from his oldest friends, his sister and his widow. The hall was packed, standing room only. Three hundred people or more, there to pay their respects to a great friend who will be sorely missed.

Tomorrow morning, we accompany him on his final journey.

drowsy nap


Allergies have been hitting me hard since I came back from our trip. My preferred anti-histamine is triludan but I don’t have a lot of readily available supplies. I’ve sort of kept the allergies under control for the last couple of years with claritin, or rather the generic version, loratadine. The recommended dosage is 1 a day, but there have been days when I’ve had 2-3 a day. It works slowly and doesn’t make me drowsy.

Just to switch things up a little, I tried taking zyrtec last night. Woke up with low grade itchiness so I took another one. It’s not supposed to make people drowsy. I don’t know if it’s a new drug, or I’m tired, but it made me drowsy. I had to climb into bed for a quick nap in the afternoon.

Needless to say, today’s plan of going running got threw out of the window. Stupid allergies. I hate this part of the world.