new year’s eve

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

nyefcc03lobster

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

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

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

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

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

#43: 101 crunches

30daychallenge

Task #43 of 101.1001 is to do 101 crunches.

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

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

flickr best of 2015

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

asi591damiano

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

bbmm shunde 03

sde015koreanbbq

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

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

bbmm shunde 02

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

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

sde012lambhotpot sde013lambhotpot

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

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

bbmm shunde 01

sde001river

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

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

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

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

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

christmas day dinner

xmas201502dinner

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

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

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

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

christmas eve at the yacht club

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

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

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

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

pic of my chair may breach copyright

aeronchair2015

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

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

Stupid or what.

running 10 miles

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16.42km 2.13.36hr 8.08min/km

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

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

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

#websiterebuild 2000 posts

website2000posts

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

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

Halfway.

whisky vs whiskey (again)

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

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

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

 

chivasbottle

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

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

 

drinks and dinner with sis

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

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

cocktail201512 sausageplatter201512

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

running rest

bbktapeknee

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

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

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

episode 7 #starwarsforceawakens

starwarsbb8

This part is safe to read: teasers and trailers only

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

everything old is new again

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

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

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

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

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

The biggest question is, is the film any good.

Oh hell yes.

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

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

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

Ready?

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

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

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

They killed off Han.

Arrrrrggghhhh!

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

But first, talk about other stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

star wars ticket

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

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

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

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

#25 find colour in an unusual place

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

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

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

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

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

egg turns into rick grimes

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

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

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

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

ginseng fruit

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

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

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

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

best vietnamese streetfood

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

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

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

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

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

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

best steak restaurant london 2015

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

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

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

twitter lists

twitterlists

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

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

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

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

#websiterebuild 1032 posts

wp1032posts

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

well-formed

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

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

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

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

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

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

a huge box of christmas presents

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

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

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

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

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

hip stretches

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

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

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

crescentlunge

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

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

tasting menu at Counter 3.Five.VII

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

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

all the burger (buns) in the world

maccheeseburger

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

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

 

yorkieburger

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

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

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

 

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

baconburger

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

goodbye to the stockpot

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

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

bbmmldn023beef bbmmldn024crumble

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

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

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

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

gourmet eating out day

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

mrmrsfox04steak

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

 

#90: leave an inspirational note

hp02collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hp16notes

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

 

test ifttt (3)

with excerpt, no image.

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test ifttt (2)

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two images. 1 = strawberries.

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

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4 second boomerang videos

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

 

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

 

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

 

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