september 2015 challenge final


Completed, sort of.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles // 207km / 129 miles done
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles // done — 17 miles long run
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs // done (sort of) — followed the plan; ran HM distance in 3.05 in hot and humid conditions, I’m allowing it and calling it done
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles // done — switched with week 2 to get 20 miles long run
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills // done
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2 // x2 done

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20 // x 20 done — this is normally my nemesis, I have to watch the days very carefully, can’t have a little bit of whisky on a day I feel like it
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month // done
  • vegetables x24 // x30 done
  • fruit or juice x24 // x29 done — missed one day
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu // done


  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • renew website // done — sometimes I wonder why I’m paying $100 a year when I could get it free on oh wait, I like the control
  • things for sale // done — I’ve identified the things, photographed the things but haven’t put the notice up yet
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • plan nano // done, sort of — not fully mindmapped, this is probably the one year when I don’t have a strong idea or detailed plan


running on relatively fresh legs


6.5km 51.13min 7.53min/km

Rested for 2 whole days, what a luxury. It’s still ridiculously hot and oppressively humid, but I felt good running on relatively fresh legs. I also strongly believe it’s mental—I know it’s only 6km today so I allowed myself to go out faster.

Someone on runnit asked why marathon training plans top out at 20 miles when the race is 26.2 miles. What I’ve always been told is that race day adrenaline and (hopefully) crowd support will get us through the last 10k. There’s also the fact that it takes a few days to recover from a long run; during training we’re going into weekend long runs tired from all the running during the week and we need too many days to recover from 26 miles to fully follow a 4-5 times a week training program. If we taper correctly, we’ll be starting the race having rested and recovered by doing shorter runs.

Marathon season is in full swing. Berlin last weekend. Brussels, Cologne, Kuala Lumpur, Portland (Maine and Oregon), Minneapolis/St Paul this coming weekend. As I run Chicago, others will be participating in Budapest, Munich, Buenos Aires, Ottawa, Lake Tahoe, Albany and my family’s hometown of Newport RI. Then in the coming weeks it’s the MCM in DC, NYC, Niagara Falls, Snowdonia, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Melbourne, Seoul, Jo’burg and the Antarctic Ice marathon on 19 November. Plus many many more, too many to list.

What will all of these marathons have in common? A winner, probably from Kenya or Ethiopia. And someone who finishes dead last. Just in time for marathon season is Nike’s newest ad, in which they salute the last place finisher. It’s so realistic. To the sound of Every Little Bit Hurts by Aretha Franklin, the stragglers slowly trudge through on a carpet of paper cups and dodging the cleaning crew and the pedestrians who’ve already begun to reclaim the road. The voiceover (Rooney Mara!) is guaranteed to bring tears to any runner’s eye:

You are not a runner.
You are especially not a marathon runner.
But at the end of this, you will be.

The ad promotes the nike+ running, and even though I don’t use it any more, I started with nike+ and it’s a place where runners of every ability can find inspiration and motivation.

Okay, enough running posts. Only a couple more weeks to go then I’ll stop the incessant posting.


ad blocking ios9

When apple announced the features of iOS9 attention immediately went to how safari will be able to block ads. Joyous response from users and tales of doom from publishers.

I’ve blocked ads for a long long time on the web. My browsers are locked down with ABP and ghostery. Publishers who whine and cry about lost revenue have no sympathy from me, because they only have themselves to blame. Pop-ups, pop-overs, flashing banners, autoplay videos, lightboxes, the list goes on. The system is broken. Everyone is trying to pass the buck. And they wonder why users are so put off by advertising they take a sledgehammer approach and refuse to engage at all.

Here’s an example, a video capture of a user trying to read a NYT article, ironically on reactions to ad blocking in iOS9, and not able to because a huge banner ad at the top of the page refuses to move and refuses to let him scroll down to read the article.

Someone else did a very comprehensive and technical study that shows that video ads and large jpg files were called but not served to the mobile browser. In other words, the publisher was charged for the advertising, the user’s phone data was used and yet nothing happened beyond an enormous delay on pageload. So who is the victim here?

Publishers must know what is going on on their website. I found 3 trackers on my own website, when I don’t even have advertising. I got rid of the sitemeter tracker but the other two—yahoo and doubleclick—come from youtube and flickr links so I can’t get rid of them. For my readers, please install Ghostery to block these trackers.

Because trackers are the worst offenders. As Ben Brooks pointed out in his meticulous series on mobile adblocking,

While advertising is visually ugly, it is rather harmless. Trackers on the other hand are invisible and are privacy nightmares.

His analogy for trackers throw all those whining of publishers and advertisers out of the window,

I’ll look at a shitty, innocent, picture of a product on your site, but in no universe does me reading your story give you the right to follow me around for the rest of the day.

Put another way: just because I showed up for your free book reading, doesn’t mean you get to come to dinner with me to tell me more about your awesome book. I came, I saw your book, it sucked, I left, our interaction is over.

As soon as iOS9 was available, ad blocker apps came online. I was too late to download Peace so I’ve been looking at Crystal and Purify. The problem is that none of the blockers work all the time, and news is emerging that crystal is allowing in advertisers who paid a whitelist fee. This is simply not acceptable. There are other options and perhaps 1Blocker is worth considering.


In the absence of anything better, I’ve now switched to ABP browser instead of safari. Sledgehammer approach? Absolutely. Until and unless publishers and advertisers start listening to users and consumers, I have no choice if I want to protect my browsing experience.


new york nostalgia

I sometimes humblebrag joke that my career consisted of being sent to various places around the world to play with excel. It had to start someplace, and it was 16 years ago that I went on my first assignment to New York. As a junior intern, it was the epitome of excitement and privilege. I didn’t know what to expect.

New York will forever have a place in my heart as the city where I saw in the millenium. New Year’s Eve I was at a stranger’s roof at a stranger’s party, having gone there with people I just met earlier that day. It was a bit surreal. All I can say about living in New York was, it was an interesting experience, it’s a place where one can very easily disappear and become invisible.

My boss called me as I was leaving so I spent a good many minutes talking to her on the (then swanky) mobile in the lift lobby. My cousin picked me up at JFK and brought me to the serviced apartment I was booked in. I stayed at that serviced apartment for 2 months, then moved to my permanent place at 175 E96th between 2nd and 3rd Ave. It was the first time in my life I rented, but even with the application form filling and not having a credit history it wasn’t as troublesome as it could have been. I was a bit clueless then, and my furniture hadn’t arrived so I moved the suitcases and boxes I had accumulated at the serviced apartment on foot about 3 blocks.

monterey01outside monterey02view

Reason I chose this apartment was I liked the bright airy feel and the beautiful view over the East River. On a clear day if I looked south from my living room I could see the Empire State Building. From the outside the building was imposing and my first thought was of a large drum. There were a lot of apartments per floor however the beauty of the cylindrical design was no one had to look at a neighbour’s apartment. I tried taping a big “X” on the living room window but it was too small to spot from the street. Hee.

It was only a few minutes’ walk from the subway and shops. My weekend routine would be wake up, read the paper and go to the neighbourhood supermarket run by Spanish speaking Koreans. More shops at 86th Street were only a few bus stops away, and since it’s only 10 blocks, on a nice day I sometimes walked down there. Once or twice I even ventured up past 100th Street in the middle of the day, I kept to the busy roads so I wasn’t that scared.

I did a lot of walking in New York. Some Saturdays I’d visit the Union Square market and then walked all the way down to Chinatown. Or I’d take the bus down to South Street Seaport and walk around there. I’ve always been a bus person because I liked looking out at the scenery, the subway had no view. In those days internet was dial-up. I subscribed to the weekend editions of the NYT and there would be small announcements of where street fairs would be that weekend.

New York was the place I learnt about food. Hours and hours of watching the Food Network and some of the enthusiasm certainly rubbed off. Food was abundant, cheap and portions huge. I thought nothing of having grilled strip steak once a week. The aforementioned Union Square market with fresh fruit & veg stalls, fresh meat and even a wine stall. Visits to the big name fancy food shops like Dean & Deluca and Zabar’s were a special day for me.


But most of the time I stayed at my little place. I might order $20 worth of Chinese take-out, gorge and then stick the rest in the freezer. When the Razor rage erupted that year I bought one and was happily speeding from the front door to the living room window, it was a good 30ft run. There was only one bedroom so my desk was at the corner of the living room. The only thing I still have is the desk. The chair, the glass cabinet, the iMac and the (gasp) cassette player, all thrown away or donated.


My assignment was supposed to be 3 years. The office was in Stamford so it was 1.5hrs by train each way every day. Once a week I’d work in the office in the city, which was at the bottom end of Broadway. My global head moved me to Zurich after one year so on 9/11 I wasn’t in NYC anymore. But I could have been.

It wasn’t long enough, one year, to live there. Took me a while to get used to it and I never made any friends. There were places I wanted to visit but I never got round to it. Fortunately in the years to come I’d get a chance to visit the US and eventually had my second US assignment to Chicago. Fewer regrets in life.


long run and lying about running marathons

20.25km 2.57.42hr 8.47min/km

The last >10mile long run before the race, next weekend’s scheduled run is 8 miles. Sigh, it’s end of September and still 33ºC and 90%+ humidity. No breeze at all. I could feel sweat dripping down my back and it’s quite uncomfortable running in clothes that are completely soaked, even though they are made from dry-fit material.

At my last stop, one of the people who were cleaning at the park said that it’ll start raining soon. That’s it, it felt exactly like the oppressive heat that comes before a thunderstorm. True enough, it started raining after lunch.

I’m very relieved that it’s the start of the taper. Feeling tired both physically and mentally. I know I only got up to 20 miles once, and today I was supposed to go up to 15 miles / 25km but I simply was wiped out. Just hoping the training is enough and fingers crossed for better weather conditions at the race. Cold (10ºC will be perfect), dry and a little wind.


On the topic of marathon training, someone posted a screenshot on runnit, of someone’s job application. The question was “Describe a time when you had to set and achieve an ambitious personal goal.” The applicant went into a detailed account of how he trainied for the portland marathon in 2.5 months, getting to 15-20 miles two to three times a week and exactly 26 miles at least once. He claimed he finished his first marathon in around 2hrs.

When I posted on fb, all of the friends who answered spotted the lie. The marathon world record is 2.03, and portland’s record is 2.17 so there’s no way this first timer with 10 weeks’ training could finish in around 2hrs. The training he described was improbable too. Seemed like someone downloaded a few training plans and pretended to have followed them.

It takes a lot of training and talent to be so close to 2hrs. People don’t realise how fast the elites really run. This was a few years ago on the NYC subway, when people were challenged to beat Ryan Hall over a short distance. Even Ryan himself showed up. Have to remember that he runs at that pace for 26.2 miles.


bbmm (sort of) happy hour

whiskyflightboard earlgreybourbon

Met mm for happy hour. She had classes till 5.30pm, then needed to meet with her group. So I estimated they’d be done by 6.30 so I said let’s meet around 7-7.30. I went for a haircut and had plenty of time so I scouted around for a venue.

I should know this by now. After so many hours wasted, I should know this. We have different time concepts. If I’m meeting someone between 7-7.30, I get there at 6.45; mm starts leaving at 7.30. She’s improved over the years so nowadays she’ll try to leave at 7. So when I texted her at 7 and she said she’s leaving, I presume she’s getting ready to leave.

Which is a long way of saying I got there really early and sat around for over 1hr nursing one drink. A nice cocktail too: earl grey vodka, bourbon, lime and honey. I thought we’d go to this bar because they have a whisky flight of 6 drams: taketsuru 12, kavalan, monkey shoulder, linkwood 15, longrow peated, laphroaig 10. I was especially keen to try the longrow. But since mm was late, by the time she got there I was irritated and the bar had turned into a very busy and noisy restaurant.

We had a fried calamari, and decided against dinner there. The food looked good, if expensive. We went to a beef shabu shabu place instead. I’m sill annoyed but didn’t want to spoil the evening. It ended pretty okay.


chocolate vegemite tasting


When I found out that Cadbury is bringing out vegemite chocolate I got very excited. Vegemite is one of those either/or foods: you either love it or hate it. Food like Marmite/Vegemite, durian, liquorice, oysters, blue cheese, offal, century eggs. I’m in the I love marmite/vegemite camp. (Hate durian, liquorice.)

So anyway, a kind friend from Australia, D, offered to send me a couple of bars. I received them last week, they were a little melted so I put them in the fridge. There were other things to eat first so I didn’t get round to tasting till today.


The packaging says milk chocolate with flowing caramel and vegemite. From the Guardian’s tasting I know that the vegemite flavour is very subtle, like a hint of salted caramel. What surprised me was that it was almost not there. I held the bar up close to my nose and all I could smell was chocolate and caramel. It was the same with the tasting. Overwhelmingly chocolate and caramel, very sweet. I struggled to find the saltiness of the vegemite. There was a little more in the aftertaste, when the chocolate has melted, but not enough.

My verdict? I don’t like it because there isn’t enough vegemite. I don’t like milk chocolate, I certainly won’t buy regular milk chocolate with caramel (the sickly sweetness scares me). I’ve had sea salt caramel dark chocolate and it’s nice. I guess they tried to be very subtle about the vegemite so they don’t scare people away. The problem is that the people who are likely to buy this vegemite chocolate are people who like vegemite anyway, so give them what they like. Don’t skimp on the one ingredient that is selling the product.

In other vegemite news, buzzfeed has this quiz that can tell the kind of person you’ll date with just 4 vegemite-related questions. One of the crazy vegemite creations include vegemite chocolate but I chose vegemite gelato. For relationship type I got:


Hahaha, wonder what mm thinks of that.


the $220 calculator and the $329 smartphone with no apps

I’m by no means a Luddite, nor do I buy the newest gadgets as soon as they come out. Of course there are gadgets I covet, and who won’t want a new iphone, ipad, macbook pro, apple watch, go pro, fitbit, pebble, xbox, camera, printer…the list goes on. Some gadgets are simply ridiculous for the price they are sold for. Remember the $999 I am Rich app that did nothing but put an icon that said “I am rich” on the loser user’s iphone?


One that has me scratching my head lately is the newest casio calculator. I remember the first calculator I had at school was a casio scientific calculator, I still have it. But this luxury S100 costs $220. For a calculator. It has no wifi, no apps, no camera, not even the more advanced scientific functions. Only 5000 will be released to mark the 50th anniversary of casio’s first calculator with memory. I’m guessing the limited edition aspect will appeal to

consumers who seek the highest quality in the daily products they use

In other words, people who don’t need a calculator to, like, calculate anything. Just as a piece of expensive sculpture to show off on their pristine, mahogany desk.


Another piece of pretty but expensive technology is the punkt mp01 smartphone. Swiss designed, so we know it’s made from the highest quality materials using the highest quality craftsmanship. It follows the footsteps of the vertu in style over substance. What are its functionalities?

  • make and receive phone calls
  • make and receive texts
  • calendar
  • alarm clock
  • store 3000 contacts
  • write reminder notes
  • change ringtone
  • switch bluetooth on and off

That’s it. I wonder about the $329 price tag. I still use my nokia 6300, from 2007, which has a pre-paid number I give out to the public (utility companies, bank, cable, maintenance people). The phone probably has depreciated to zero value now, and the pre-paid sim card costs me $12 a year. It has all the functions of the punkt, and more. I have a few mp3s there, and don’t forget snake the game!

The one function the punkt has is that the sim card can be twinned with an existing number, making it a second phone for use when we want to switch off from our iphone and android obsessed smartphone world and just have a device someone can call us in an emergency. Um, I can forward calls on the iphone to the nokia. And just because someone sends me a text or fb message or whatsapp or email doesn’t mean I need to read and respond to it right now.

I can see the reason behind why they made this phone. It’s for people who can’t switch off from their smartphones. The idea is to physically disable the smartphone (eg by not bringing it with you on holiday) so you’re forced to switch off. If you need to make a call or a text, there are none of the usual notifications distraction you. Pfffft I don’t need an expensive device to force me to switch off, I have enough discipline to do it myself.



happy news: young woman runs own business

Sometimes heart-warming stories come out of reddit. This is a story about Jo and her incredible daughter Emma. 21 year old Emma has Downs Syndrome, autism, hearing loss and a cleft palate, which prevents her from learning to read and write. After an encounter with a girl who lost her mother, Jo realised that she needed to help Emma plan for her life as Jo won’t be there forever.


Turns out, Emma’s inability to read and write is a bonus, and now she runs her own successful shredding business, Master Shredder. Her clients include a solicitor’s and a credit union; they give her confidential documents and she shreds them in a non-recoverable way. Jo:

If I look at this from the perspective of confidential documents that’s great, she can’t read it. You could put a state secret in front of her and she won’t know.

It’s also really heartwarming to watch Emma working very diligently; and how happy she looks when with other people. Beautiful story.


I May Need To Upgrade Soon


I bought the mba in 2010, just before I left Chicago. By the time I fully switched over, the previous mbp was 4 years old. So the mba is 5 years old and I use it nearly every day. The apps are getting long in the tooth now, people send me xlsx, docx, pptx and I have to use openoffice to convert before I can use my office 2003. I use photoshop cs2, and other old software. I’m still on snow leopard.

Recently I’ve noticed it to be struggling in some tasks. Firefox gobbles huge amount of memory and the fan goes crazy. If I have to temporarily reinstall flash for whatever reasons the fan goes supercrazy. Things came to a head over the weekend when I had to run a webex meeting. It’s another service, not webex, but similar. I simply could not get the meeting controls to work, it kept teling me I had to pick an application to open the controls, then it crashes. Digging through the help documentation, I found out that the minimum requirement is 10.7, although to use all functionalities I need 10.8 or newer.

So annoyed. I had to borrow mm’s mbp, albeit at 10.7 it’s only marginally newer. She was working in the uni library and wasn’t getting home till 8pm and I had to get home by 9pm. It was a rush, to meet up with her, test the mbp briefly and I had to get a taxi home. Expensive way of running that meeting.

The seeds of thought are germinating. Sooner or later all computers become obsolete. Possibly time to start thinking about replacing the mba. Another mba or the macbook. I’d love to get the mbp, it’ll be great for speed and power but too heavy. May be by next summer, see what 2016 refreshes are like.


“this is an empty box”


Via metafilter and digg.

What if Microsoft redesigned the iPod box. Alternative link to wmv file, and as another grrrr comment in Redmond’s disfavor when I first downloaded the wmv at the second link (youtube was down) it forced me to install Windows Media Player and attempted to hijack all my media files, plus it put shortcuts all over my desktop and menu bar without my permission. grrrrr again.

The consensus is that this is so true. The simplicity of the Apple design vs the clutter and overinformative parody MS design is another example of the differences between the two companies. The spoof MS design isn’t bad, it’s just extremely boring and corporate and definitely lacks the coolness factor.

I’m watching it again. It’s so funny and addictive. I’m so easily amused, especially if it: a) pokes fun at MS and b) reinforces my Apple love.

#chimarathon countdown 3 weeks


It’s starting to sink in. Three weeks till the marathon. The participant guide arrived via email, the hardcopy would have been sent by post. I need the hardcopy to claim my bib and packet at the expo. No escaping anymore.

With the guide also comes confirmation of my start corral. I’m in corral G, wave 2 8am start. I also have a map to see where my gear check is, and where the corral will be located. It’s quite a way down, almost to Buckingham Fountain. The guide has lots of information about the expo, start line and also where aid stations are. Even what is available at each aid station in addition to water and gatorade (chews at mile 12.5, powergel at mile 18, bananas from mile 20 onwards).

There are pace teams for 4.40, 4.55, 5.00, 5.10, 5.25 and 5.45. I haven’t seen pace teams go this much down the order. I’m tempted to sign up with them. In years past I followed them, but was never part of the group. I’ll chat the pacer at the expo to see.

What I don’t see is anything about a BoA customer tent. It was really useful in 2011 but it’s been 4 years. I have been tempted to sign up for either the official hospitality tent or the CARA VIP experience. Not sure if it’s worth $40 for private gear check, lounge, food & beer. They’re at the Radisson Blu, which is little bit of a walk to the start. I’ll probably just hang out like the other 40,000 people in the park.


run light stand race

7.0km 53.09min 7.36min/km

Whilst Chicago people are doing the ready to run 20 miler this weekend, I tested my race readiness by running a local 7k night race. It’s the first time I’ve participated in a night race.

Not a big race, around 1000 people. The race itself is along a dam then into a park. Took over 1.5hrs to get to the starting point, via train then bus.


There were 2 races. The kids race started at 6pm, a shorter 1.5km distance. Those kids were fast. The winner of the age 6-8 category ran the distance in something like 6mins, which I can’t even do. What’s great was the top 10 in each category got prizes, and that probably covered every single kid in the race.


The adult race started at 7pm and by then it was dark. They gave us temporary tattoos and the shirt was a little flourescent too. Some people were prepared with headlamps or made bracelets from glowsticks. Since it was along a dam and into parkland there were no streetlights at all. A couple of volunteers with glowsticks stood next to the various sleeping policemen along the way telling us to be careful. I couldn’t really see where I was going, I tried to follow people with lights as much as I could.

There were also a group of visually impaired runners with their guides. They were fast too. The guides had lights and shouted warnings when they approached. I always get a warm feeling when I encounter disadvantaged athletes.

My time was…okay. Faster than normal training runs, and conditions were similar. Even though it was night, it was still hot and humid. I hung around for a little bit to watch prizes given out. The top male runner finished in 23mins; the top runner in my division finished in 37mins.


mcdonald’s apple pie sundae

I wanted to get a mcdonald’s ice cream cone the other day after running, a treat for myself on the walk home. Something was wrong with their machine and there was a 20-min wait so I left without it. I then spotted a video about mcdonald’s pies around the world and saw that I can get apple pie à la mode. (Taro and red bean pies are my favourites, the usually sell out quickly so we get a few more and freeze them if we come across them.)


Normally iIt’s an easy hack, just order an apple pie and an ice cream and either ask them to mix or mix it yourself. But this was a genuine menu item that could be found on the promotions website, cost around the equivalent of 99p. They break an apple pie in two, add ice cream and choice of strawberry or chocolate sauce.


It’s cheaper than getting a pie and regular sundae separately, but the amount of ice cream is lesser, around the same as the plain cone. Which then makes it not good value because pie+cone cost less than apple pie sundae, perhaps the extra cost is the sauce? Or novelty factor? Ah well, it’s such an insignificant amount, not worth worrying about. It’s not very likely I’ll order it again any time soon.

Sometimes the actual item looks nothing like the official pics, in this case the resemblance is not too bad.


cooking with friends menu

Dinner with friends a few weeks ago and someone mentioned party venues with kitchen facilities where we can have a dinner party. I think those places are mainly for people who want to have a birthday party and bring in drinks and snacks. Some of them seem to have kitchens with microwave, oven and hob. I bet the ‘oven’ is a small electric countertop one. Then again if rachel khoo can run a restaurant in her tiny paris flat with a small electric oven, I can manage too.

I played around an online menu generator for the menu. They make you sign up and pay to save the graphic so I just took a screenshot.


I figured, we can munch on something before dinner, and I like the idea of small profiteroles with a mushroom filling. On second thoughts, I may need to find an amuse bouche recipe that doesn’t need an oven, or one that only takes a few minutes to make. May be the salmon egg rolls from Donna Hay.

The salad is easy to make, and I can get around the limitations of small ovens by making lamb rack. If the oven is too small, I’ll probably switch to mashed or sautéed potatoes. The apple crumble was what everyone voted to have, it can bake in the oven while we’re having our mains.

It’s not exactly what I want to cook for a 3-course menu, but I have to take into account the limitations of an unknown kitchen. Anyway, this is all a fantasy right now, I’m not that close with those friends who suggested the gathering, I’d go only for the opportunity to cook.


change atom feed to excerpt

The atom RSS feed is full post plus excerpt. I prefer reading full posts in my feed so I don’t limit it. I also use IFTTT to crosspost to fb. Before, it only allowed the entry title, URL and image. Now it allows entry content. I want to change the atom feed so fb shows title, URL, excerpt and image.

A post from 2005 from LMT saves the day.

Find the following code in your Atom Index:

<$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$> <$MTEntryMore encode_xml="1"$>

Delete the $MTEntryMore line for just main body, not extended. Replace with both lines with

<$MTEntryExcerpt encode_xml="1"$>

for excerpt. Actually, just insert the entryexcerpt field from the dropdown. It works. Now I have to worry about writing good excerpts as opposed to copying the title.

bourbon heritage month


September is bourbon heritage month so I thought I’d bring out my collection of bourbon and other American whiskeys and have a toast.

From back: Jim Beam Black, Woodford Reserve, Makers Mark 46, Breckenridge, Blanton’s, Knob Creek single barrel, Bulleit, small Jack Daniels. The tasting glass is from 1792 distillery.

I really like bourbon. The good ones are smooth and sweet with a nice finish. (Although, some are rubbish.) One of my favourite meals is Hawksmoor steak with Blanton’s. It’s also at Hawksmoor that I learned to appreciate rye whiskey.

september 2015 challenge mid-month update


Not too bad. Running is on track, this is the most important. Need to get on with the other tasks.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles // 120km / 75 miles done
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles // done — 17 miles long run
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles // done — switched with week 2 to get 20 miles long run
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2 // x1

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20 // x9
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month
  • vegetables x24 // x15
  • fruit or juice x24 // x15
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu


  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • renew website
  • things for sale
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • plan nano

animating chopin using harmonic colouring

Spotted via digg, a graphical visual representation of Chopin’s Etude opus 10 no 12 in C minor. There are so many others in the same youtube channel, not only Chopin but Bach, Brahms and even Beethoven symphonies.

The project and software is harmonic colouring, a method for assigning colours to musical pitches. They use 2 methods to assign colours. The first is the simple scale that starts with C:

C, C-sharp, D, D-sharp, E, F, F-sharp, G, G-sharp, A, A-sharp, B, back to C

The second is called the circle of fifths is based on frequency of pitch classes where the frequency ratio is approximately 3:2:

F, C, G, D, A, E, B, F-sharp, C-sharp, G-sharp, D-sharp, A-sharp, back to F


I understand the first method but not as familiar with the second method. Anyway, using these methods, a wheel of colours is determined. Then it’s just a matter of assigning colours to a score. They use a software called music animation machine. It’s really fascinating. This is Brahms’ piano quartet op 60 in C minor:


Talk about a symphony of senses.

running 20-miler


32.04km 4.56.47hr 9.16min/km

I moved the 20-mile training run up one week because: a) I had the time; b) I have a race next weekend and c) I was worried about it so wanted to just get it over with. So I set off for bowen road armed with a 1l bottle of flavoured water and 4 gu packets. I planned my breaks so they were all at the second water fountain. It was fine to leave the water bottle there too, lots of people do that.

Started off not too badly, it was hot but there was a little breeze. Many people hiking and running but by and large they knew how to share the path. No stupid mainland tourist groups. Pretty boring, running up and down one path. Pace was slow and the last 5km had a lot of walking. I did it though, so it’s one training goal finished.

The last 20-mile training run was 4 times around Hyde Park and with a much more respectable pace of 7.24min/km. I’m still hoping I’m so slow now because of the hot weather.

After that 20-miler in London I treated myself to a big huge 24oz bone-in rib-eye, which I couldn’t finish. This time round, I don’t have the luxury of getting lovely steak from Whole Foods. I debated whether to go out or to stay in. My calves were hurting so on the way back home I stopped at the supermarket and bought chicken legs which I baked. Lots of foam rollering and I kept my legs elevated, feeling tired but not injured tired.

bbmm whisky and goose


Went over to mm’s place to hang out and relax. We talked about going out, but decided against it. We did go outside for a little while, to get some food for dinner. Got half a roasted goose, some grapes and plums. Simple dinner. The goose was really, really good.

Made some inroads into our whisky collection. Started with macallan, moved onto taketsuru 17 and then one of the nikka pure malts. Watched tv, then frozen. It’s good to stay in and do very little.

running not in $99 gear

8.0km 1.11.07hr 8.53min/km

Humidity is marginally lower, but speed is still not here. Whatever.

I try to think back to why I started running. What I posted 4 years ago is still relevant. I hadn’t made much progress in 4 years, due to lethargy and lack of interest in participating in the local running scene.

Anyway, another reason for starting running was the cost, or supposed lack of cost. I don’t like joining gyms, I hate group classes. I love racket sports but have no one to play with. I love basketball but haven’t played in 20 years.

So yeah, cheapest sport. Everyone should have t-shirt, shorts or loose clothing. Most people will have sneakers or comfortable shoes. Tell the time using a watch, or check the clock on the way out and way in. Check distance by measuring on a map or run around a track. So in theory it costs nothing, but of course it doesn’t work that way. Gear creep starts with shoes, then it’s tech shirts, then GPS, then wearables, then all the various and sundry accessories.

Shoes come first for me. Initially I went to the running store to get the latest models but I quickly learned how to seek out good running shoes for under $100. One pair can last something like 500 miles, so it is worth the investment, unlike cheap $16 walmart shoes that are so terrible they aren’t even worth paying for.

I used to have a nike+, then a polar HRM, then a garmin. I just use the iphone nowadays. Zombies run is free, although I did pay $9.99 for a full version before they messed up the pricing and update. It was worth the money, especially since legacy pro users came out ahead after the mess.

Other gear I’ve bought include a very useful spibelt, water bottle belt, earphones, knee braces, KT tape, foam rollers and compression socks. I don’t think I’ve been that indulgent. Many of the gear is from 4-5 years ago and I’ll keep on using them until they need to be replaced. I run in tech shirts from races, cheap shorts from the market, ordinary socks and a towel, the sort we get from the market to use around home.

I guess if I wanted to, I can splash out a lot for clothing. But I won’t. I’m certainly not going to pay $89, or $99, or $129 full price for this ridiculously named PHYSICLO x RXACTIVE: Activewear series of shorts and leggings with

custom power mesh panels that push your leg muscles to work harder, resulting in increased muscle tone and caloric burn


The claims are equally impressive outlandish: 23% more muscle activity, 14% more calories burned, 8% increase in heart rate. What’s amazing is over 850 people have bought into the indiegogo campaign. Hive mindset or people with too much money or people wanting to get in on the lastes, coolest, gear?

star wars poetry


Everyone is looking forward to episode 7 when it comes out in December. I’m sure the build-up and the anticipation will be felt all the way across the Empire. The prequels will be, thankfully, not directed by George Lucas. I’m in the camp that thinks he messed up ep 1-3. So much so that I’ve pretty much blocked most of those films from my mind.

Some people are more generous. There’s an extensive essay, star wars ring theory, that argues that he used a technique called ring composition in the films, where themes and images are repeated. Some of the argument, and images in the essay, were put together by filmmaker pablo fernandez eyre who made a stunning video that shows the places where ep 1-3 echo ep 4-6. Fittingly titled, Star Wars Poetry:

I watched the video, then I watched it again. Then I watched frame by frame so I could take in both the top and bottom screen. And I try to remember the good things about ep 1-3, but can only come up with Darth Maul. I try. Mostly I remember Jar Jar Binks, the trainwreck that was Anakin and what the hell were midi-chlorians in relation to the Force? So I went back to the beginning of the video, where George Lucas says

you see the echo of where all is gonna go. It’s like poetry, they rhyme

and I almost believe he knew what he was doing and planning, and I forgive him a little. May be even feel sorry for him, that he’s misunderstood.

Thanks, gizmodo, for putting poetry in my feed.

long to reign over us

image: getty

Today, the Queen becomes the longest-reigning monarch in British history, overtaking Queen Victoria’s 63 years, seven months and two days. It’s both a sad and happy day, as it marks the day she lost her father, George VI. Lots of commemorations and celebrations in the news. The bbc has a wonderful series of pictures from each year of her reign. The Telegraph has this video that transforms her from when she was 25 years old to now, at 89:

Even the stoic Independent is full of praise for her, recognising her dedication, sense of duty and the rock on which the country has built on for 63 years. How many 21 year old princesses would say this:

I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family, to which we all belong

She’s the only Queen I’ve known. There’s an unspoken sense of awe, respect and…love for her that isn’t there for the other members of the Royal Family. It’s like it’s baked into our core. Even the people who want to scrap the monarchy have to admit that she has been a great queen, seeing the country transition from the glory days of the Empire through devastation following WW2 and then to the modern age.

Of course we can’t hope for another 63 years, but we’ll take as many as we can while she is with us.

paris marathon apr-2016


I was clicking around marathon websites over the weekend (don’t ask) and realised I missed the registration for Tokyo. Then I spotted that Paris registration opens at 8am on 08-sep. I mean, it’s Paris. The course map above is small, but the route is clear. Start at Champs Élysées, run across the city past landmarks—Concorde, Louvre, Bastille, Notre Dame, Eiffel, along the Seine, finish within sight of Arc de Triomphe. It’s not a World Marathon Major event, but in terms of attractiveness of venue, is hard to beat.

The one thought I had going through my head during the last few weeks of Chicago training was: “why am I doing this? I’m never running a marathon again.” I hadn’t deliberately remembered Paris registration time until I looked at the clock, then checked the world clock: it was 7.55am Paris time. I found myself on the website, then to the registration site, then entering my details. I couldn’t even be bothered to switch to english, forms asking for name, DOB, address, t-shirt size are similar whatever the language.

The final step was to pay. It took me to a page that said redirecting and it will take some time. If I were just messing around, it was my opportunity to close the tab. But I left it, thinking if I get in, then it’s fate. If the page refreshes to quota full, then it’s also fate.


I went back to what I was doing, reading a book and surfing through feedly. Occasionally I’d glance at the redirect page, only to see it’s still waiting. More than 30mins later, it changed to give me the payment form. No going back now. €99 is a lot of money but at US$110 equivalent it’s 2/3 the price of Chicago and half the price of NYC. We get an image of our bib and race number immediately. Hopefully I’ll combine it with a trip to London and/or Amsterdam and/or elsewhere in Europe. Yikes, mm is going to kill me.

So, provided I finish Chicago next month, marathon #5 will be Paris. Or #6. London lottery results come out in october, wouldn’t it be just my luck if I got in? I can’t possibly run 2 marathons three weeks apart so I’ll have to defer one. Well, no sense thinking about that now. Back to Chicago training.

ardbeg in space


Ardbeg is one of my favourite Islay whiskies, and the first distillery I ever visited. In 2011, they sent a small vial of whisky distillate along with shavings from a charred oak barrel to the International Space Station, another vial of the same whisky was kept at the distillery as control. This week, they revealed the findings of how the two whiskies compared, with the space whisky having spent 2.5yrs in space in a white paper [pdf link].

Both samples went through gc, gcms and hplc analysis for organic chemicals produced during the fermentation and maturation process in order to determine if the micro-gravity conditions in space affected the composition of the distillate and whether micro-gravity may be used to develop novel flavours found in whisky. Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling and whisky creation, discussed the results with the CEO of space research company NanoRacks and whisky expert Charlie Maclean.


The gc and gcms results, testing for alcohols, aldehydes, ketones and esters, found only small differences between the 2 samples. More interestingly, the hplc results that tested the presence of flavour compounds released from contact with wood showed there was a difference between the earth and space samples. The presence of what they call key wood extratives is lower in space samples. They didn’t say whether space conditions affected the actual extraction itself or the rate.

Enough about the scientific process. What does it mean in terms of nose, flavour, finish? Seems the space sample was more intense with different types of nose and aftertaste. Dr Lumsden summarised:

The space samples were noticeably different. When I nosed and tasted the space samples, it became clear that much more of Ardbeg’s smoky, phenolic character shone through – to reveal a different set of smoky flavours which I have not encountered here on Earth before

Tasting notes for earth sample:

  • woody aroma, hints of cedar wood, sweet smoke and aged balsamic vinegar
  • on the nose, raisins, treacle toffee, vanilla and burnt oranges
  • dry palate, woody/balsamic flavours, sweet smoke and clove oil
  • fruitiness (prunes/dates), some charcoal and antiseptic notes
  • lingering and typically Ardbeg aftertaste, with flavours of gentle smoke, briar wood, tar and some sweet, creamy fudge

Tasting notes for space sample:

  • intense and rounded, with notes of antiseptic smoke, rubber, smoked fish and a curious, perfumed note, like cassis or violet
  • powerful woody notes, hints of graphite and some vanilla leading into very earthy/soil notes, a savoury, beefy aroma, and then hints of rum & raisin flavoured ice cream
  • focused flavour profile, smoked fruits (prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries), earthy peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham
  • pungent, intense and long aftertaste, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and
    rubbery smoke

Does it mean we’ll see distilleries in space some time in the future? It’ll be very expensive, at least in the beginning. I was reading a novel based on Mars colonisation, and I’m convinced this is possible in the future. I envy the people in the next few centuries; they’ll probably think back to us now in the 21st century as doing something so stupid and backwards as drinking whisky distilled at earth gravity.

japanese miniature meals

The combination of reddit and Japanese things gives new meaning to weird. These are, for want of a better description, miniature happy meals that you make by mixing packets of powder with water and microwaving.


This kit by Kraci and called Hamburger Popin’ Cookin’ kit DIY candy, is available on amazon. Apparently taste of the real things (burger, fries, ketchup, cola) as opposed to candy flavoured. There are other kits: sushi, donuts, cake. A 9 box bundle is also available for only $15.47 (plus shipping). Tempted for the silly fun factor.

running 17mi/27km


27.06km 4.12.33hr 9.20min/km

Long run this week according to higdon is 19 miles, according to the one-year plan is 18 miles. Since I’m only up to 13 miles, I didn’t want such a big step up so aimed at 16/17 miles (26/27km).
Not much to report, aside from the sheer mind-numbingness of running for 4hrs up and down a stretch of 4km running path. Not too many people, and I recognise a couple from last week. Everyone was faster than me. Had a couple of breaks, at 12km then 8km. Progressively slower, the last 7km was pretty much walking.

Completely knackered. Cooked mushroom pasta (with a whole can of cream of mushroom soup) for lunch. Didn’t have energy or appetite for big dinner. Even with my usual unhappiness about the slow pace—9.20min/km is 15min/mi and just about makes the 6.30hr cut off point for the marathon—I’m a bit more encouraged, that I have this long run under my belt.

bbmm beach drinks korean bbq


It’s a special-for-this-year-only public holiday today, which has zero significance for me except mm has free time. We drove out to one of the beaches, sigh, it’s terrible with the public holiday crowd. No street parking so we headed straight to the paid car park.

My original intention was to walk around the beach then explore the shops around the town. I remember there is a cheese and wine shop that is interesting. Instead, we plonked ourselves at the outdoor bar at the beach and ordered a couple of glasses of wine. A cab for mm and a german pinot for me, both were good. Chilled, in chilled glasses, which was strange, but in the heat everything got to room temperature quickly.

Mostly mm did the talking, telling me about her new classmates in her new course. My job is to be supportive and to tell her to chill out a bit, it’s only been a couple of days, no need to get frustrated at people who aren’t perfectionists.

Didn’t go anywhere else after the bar, we were both hungry so we took ryan back to mm’s car park and took public transportation to a korean bbq. We noticed that no koreans ever tend to go to these buffet places. We had beef, lamb, pork, chicken, sausages, mushroom as well as lots of lettuce and chili sauce. The banchan wasn’t impressive, only the pickled cucumbers passed muster. Nice to have a day out to chat and catch up anyway.

september 2015 challenge


The focus for this monthly challenge has to be #chimarathon training. That said, I don’t want my entire month to be nothing but running, so I’ve included the usual other goals.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu


  • family activity x1
  • bbmm activity x1


  • renew website
  • things for sale
  • photofriday x1
  • plan nano