masterchef desserts

Getting quite tired with the bingewatching. Last night the last episode didn’t finish till 2.30am and since it was a Heston episode we stayed up to watch it. Then today sitting in front of the tv from 11am. The grand final was 10pm-midnight, so an ‘early’ night. All finished now. Very pleased we managed to catch it, it was a fantastic season.

mystique pear

The memorable dishes were the ones at the pressure (elimination) test. They get a famous chef to bring one of their fancy creations, or get a Nobu to make them make a plate of sushi. The standouts were Christy Tania’s Mystique and the pear, walnut crumb, nest dessert by Dave Verheul which the contestants had to decipher from just a critic’s review.


The deceptively simple looking ice cream cone from gelato messina caught our eye. Not because of how complex it was to construct, but because it’s now on our list of places to try in Sydney. Good thing they have several branches around the CBD. I also learned that what we call choc ice they call choc top. Anyway, they have a lot of choices, may be we’ll need to go twice. And again in Melbourne.

sake kitkat


Still bingewatching Masterchef Australia. But now I have snacks. Got these last week and only just got round to opening the packet.

Yep, it’s sake flavoured kitkat. It came out last february in Japan. 0.8% alcohol, so it’s really just for the taste.

Honestly, they taste pretty good. Can definitely smell the sake aroma as soon as the packaging is opened, although the taste isn’t as pronounced. I think they use white chocolate so it’s less overpowering, and so it looks nice. May be I’ll think about taking a supply to the conference this year to give out. They’re more expensive than regular sweets and chocolate, so it’ll have to be only for selected few.

masterchef australia marathon

Masterchef Australia marathon is on. The entier season 6 all day from 11am to 1am. Yep, 1am. We hadn’t seen this season, it’s before we got this channel. It’s on all this week until Friday and there’s no break.

Fantastic. Downside is I have to plan cooking and doing other stuff around this. The entire day is gone. I use the time before 11am to prep for lunch and commercial breaks during the afternoon to prep for dinner. It’s good practice. And why we have ovens. Pumpkin soup, chicken curry from the freezer, sausages, beef stew are on the menu for the next few days.

turkey and kale frittata

turkeykalefrittata01 turkeykalefrittata03

When I was stripping the turkey we got for Christmas I ended up with a box of small bits of meat too small to serve on its own. It’s useful for fried rice, soup, filling for baked potato, pizza topping. I made frittata.

Fry some kale until soft, add turkey and season. Pour in 8 eggs and cook until bottom is done. I had to add more eggs as the pan is too large. Put under the grill to firm up the top. Very easy and tasty. I drizzled some sriracha on my slice.

cruise trip research

More trip research. Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Not only where to go but transportation to, from and around each destination.

We have less than 24hrs in Singapore. There’s time for a short walkaround in between checking into the hotel and dinner. May be over to the gardens by the bay for views of the marina bay sands. Dinner either at the east coast lagoon food village or at the food court in the mall next to the hotel. The places at east coast are better (aka the stalls are more famous): chilli crab, popiah, bak kut teh, satay but it’s outdoors. At the mall it’s a food republic although I also saw that it has a Nando’s. Argh. We love Nando’s but go all the way to Singapore and the only meal we have is Nando’s, that doesn’t make sense.

Sydney we arrive late in the day so something quick that night for dinner. Our first full day is a saturday so we can find some markets. Carriageworks market which used to be eveleigh market, seems to be a perfect candidate: half an hour from the hotel, great looking produce and apparently Kylie Kwong has a stall there and may make a personal appearance.


Fish market naturally. And Harry’s pies of course. Yum. I came across Mr Crackles for roast pork and crackling sandwiches. Yum yum. That doesn’t leave time for proper sit down meals so no time for Colin’s restaurant 4fourteen or the one at Darling Harbour where mum and I had this awesome seafood platter that year we visited.

The other destinations are day trips along the cruise. I detest that we only have limited time and always have to aim at getting back to the ship before 5pm. None of the excursions are any good. Too expensive, too guided.


Melbourne has either a shuttle bus or tram to CBD. Plan is Federation Square, free tram area and Queen Victoria market. Lunch at the market hopefully. If there’s time we can walk around the park along the river. I remember it being very pretty.

Last stop in Australia is Burnie in Tasmania. There are excursions to Cradle Mountain and other scenic areas. If it’s running, I want to go on the hop-on hop-off bus that goes to a couple of scenic areas but most importantly, the Hellyers Road distillery. There are now 22 distilleries in Tasmania and Sullivan’s Cove near Hobart won best single malt in 2014.

First stop in NZ after 2 days at sea and one day cruising Milford Sound is Dunedin. There is a shuttlebus to city centre. Enough places to walk around, including Cadbury World and a couple of craft breweries. We’ll have to rent a car or go on an excursion to Penguin Place. We loved it when mm and I went, but I wonder if it’s worth it this trip.

Akaroa is a tender port and can be explored in around an hour. Or see what local tour companies offer. There are dolphin tours, nature exploration and specialist tours in vintage cars, for example. We’ll probably do what some guides suggest, find a nice restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine portside.

Wellington has a walkable city centre. A cable car goes uphill for views and the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary. Back downhill, the waterfront is walkable and I came across a couple of seafood places for crab, oysters and native green-lipped mussels. There’s also a chocolate factory / store and something I’ve never seen, a craft soda shop.

Our first stop on north island is Napier. Doesn’t seem to be much there aside from art deco architecture, aquarium and Hawke’s Bay wines. People take excursions to Christchurch which doesn’t interest me.

My biggest dilemma is the next stop, our last full day, in Tauranga. There’s a beach and a walkable route around Mount Maunganui where we dock. This is one destination where I’m tempted to go for an excursion. Rotorua is less than an hour away and another popular excursion is to Hobbiton movie set. The Shire is pristinely preseved there and they have a 2hr walking tour around the set. It’s 2hrs from Tauranga and since we’re not allowed to explore the set on our own, the options are to join a tour (ship or local) or rent a car and book a tour beforehand. OTOH, it’s 2hrs from Auckland and we can go there ourselves. May be visiting the geothermal areas around Rotorua works better, it’s 3hrs from Auckland and I don’t want to drive that far.

We have a couple of nights in Auckland. If we take a day trip to Hobbiton, we’ll have one day left for CBD, which I remember there isn’t much to see or visit one of the outlying islands.

Research mostly done. Most days are planned and we have a few decisions to make.

family christmas

Christmas Day at middle island. Quite a long journey for mum and I, but the 260 bus came first and it turns out that it’s really, really quick–only 3 stops and no one got on at the intervening 2 stops. A long walk from the beach to the landing pier, we literally ran into Tony who was walking slowly on his own while R and D was out hiking. Everyone gathered at the small pier for the shuttle boat.


Not very crowded at middle island. Mum and I ordered lobster roll and we all ordered stuff for the bbq: prawns, sausages, veggie sausages, potato, corn. The prawns were ginormous but the lobster roll was anemic. Since it’s something like double the price of lobster rolls I’ve had in the US, I won’t order it again.


Sis and G didn’t come to lunch as G wasn’t feeling well. We went back to their place in the afternoon to rest. I helped sis cook dinner, mostly vegetarian–roast potato, carrot, parsnip, pumpkin, onion, garlic with vegetarian bacon. There was non-vegetarian fried rice from middle island too.

No turkey today, but we do have our traditional turkey. A whole cooked one from the gourmet supermarket. More like a large chicken, the label says 9 pounds. My parents always get this cooked one so I’m not going to go against tradition and make a roast one. I stripped it into several ziplac bags of meat and two bags of bones. Surprisingly not as much meat as I expected.

christmas eve at the yacht club


Christmas Eve always means mince pies and Christmas carols at the yacht club. Sill as crowded as past years around the chairs set out for elderly guests. Still drank too many glasses of mulled wine. Still brought ziploc bags for mince pies and chestnuts. The choir was pretty inept, depending on one person who knew the lyrics and could sing. Ah well, it’s Christmas spirit that is important.

Went back to the brands expo since mum wanted to buy more vitamin E cream. Had frozen yogurt finally, enough for dinner after the mince pies.

tokyo trip research

Started doing consolidation and research for the trips. No need for Tokyo, have notes from last time. Cancelled the superhotel in favour of an apartment hotel in ginza, overall ¥17k savings, or one night. Yes, it means we won’t have onsen bath in Tokyo but since we’re at an onsen hotel in Hakone I’m okay with it.

Spent a lot of time on Hakone research. We last visited Hakone last century when we first started working. My ex-boss’ secretary’s husband owned a travel agent that was one of the first ones to specialise in Japan, and they’ve grown so much since then. Anyway, I have vague recollections of the trip–our first Japanese onsen, riding the local bus, visiting a volcanic valley–but no notes or even photos. It was before the days of evernote, flickr or even my website. I hadn’t switched to digital camera then so there may be physical photos in one of the boxes.


I remember going on a cable car and a gaudy pirate ship on a lake. Turns out they’re part of the hakone loop. The hakone free pass covers all transportation in the area and they even recommended a circular route:

  • hakone-yumato –> gora by tozan train 35mins
  • gora –> sounzen by cable car 10mins
  • sounzan –> togendai by ropeway 30mins get off at owakudani
  • togendai –> hakone machi by pirate boat 30mins
  • hakone machi –> moto hakone by boat/bus 10mins or walk 30mins
  • moto hakone –> hakone-yumato by tozanbus 30mins

We’ll likely do the loop, or part of it. If we have time, I’m going to suggest visiting yunessun hotspring amusement park, which has 2 sections: a regular onsen and a swimsuit area that has wine, sake, coffee, green tea baths as well as waterslide, sauna and pool. Found a discount coupon for 39% off a combined ticket. Must remember to bring swimming costume.

We’ll have 3 full days in Tokyo. Depending on how cold it is, we’ll go outside or stay inside at department stores. We went to ueno, shibuya, asakusa and meiji shrine last time. This time may be shinjuku, ikebukuro (pokemon mega center!) and the articificial island of odaiba. Fish market of course.


Met mm for lunch with mum at the nice jap ayce place. Her appointment ran late so she didn’t come till 1.30pm. We were still eating at 3pm but the restaurant was clearing up already. Unlike the other place, this one needed us out. Disappointing.

Went to the brands expo to walk around. Bought dried mushroom, honey, cordial and various home stuff like shower head, smelly wood and shampoo.

So full that I wasn’t even interested in the frozen yogurt stall.

christmas poinsettia


Lunch with sis, niece and her grandparents at the yacht club. It’s curry buffet day, which means something for everyone. Their taxi pulled up just as mum and I were walking into the club car park, great timing. Poor T, one of us always has to help him walk, he uses a scooter at home but obviously can’t bring it with him. The vegetarian curries ended up being better than the meat ones, only chicken was okay. Beef and pork were tough and the salmon in the fish curry was fishy, even smothered in curry sauce.

It’s christmas when there are christmas trees and poinsettia everywhere. It was raining this morning so drops of rainwater was still on the leaves. Looks a bit like snow. Pretty.

After lunch G is off to see rogue one with her friend. For some reason sis’ credit card didn’t work so i had to use mine to book the ticket. This means I had to go with her to the cinema to pick up the ticket. No big deal.

rogue one

Saw Rogue One. Took mum to the first showing at 11.30am, she even got a senior discount.

I’ve been not very in touch with what’s happening in the world lately, so I was less familiar with R1 than ep 7. I knew it’s coming out, I knew it’s about the rebels getting their hands on the death star plans, I knew it’s a spin-off / side story. And I knew I need to go see it.


It was totally worth it. They chose the timeline and setting for this first spin-off perfectly. Eps 7-9 is on-going so we should get to ep 9 before tackling that universe. Eps 1-3, ugh. Nostalgia for the shappy space chic of ep 4 is more bankable and fan-acceptable. And every fan will have a great time spotting familiar elements. One of the first scenes, with Galen Erso standing next to a piece of equipment on his farm, an echo to a similar shot with Luke on Tatooine. So many nods to what we already know and recognise. And yet enough differences for it to hold its own as a standalone.

I haven’t seen ep 4 in a while, but like everyone who grew up with it, it’s ingrained in my mind. Variety called R1 Episode 3.9 and said,

for the original generation of “Star Wars” fans who weren’t sure what to make of episodes one, two, and three, “Rogue One” is the prequel they’ve always wanted.

It does the impossible, it explained one of the biggest plot holes of the entire series–how can the indestructable death star be destroyed by one single shot. That said, the journey to that single shot by Luke is not easy. The rebels are horribly outnumbered and R1 doesn’t cushion us with touchy-feely, feel-good vibes about their situation. It’s very grim. Vox summed up R1’s theme:

People die in wars.

It’s obvious, the whole franchise is called Star Wars. The Atlantic goes further, describing R1 a war movie, with

a different, and somewhat more impersonal, story to tell. None of its protagonists are discovering hidden blood relatives or training to be Jedi masters.

The majority of the characters are humans or normal of their species, only Chirrut Îmwe has a vague ability with the Force. Even the Imperial characters like the main villian Orson Krennic are simply human. It’s a bit like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focusing on the humans of S.H.I.E.L.D. rather than the superheroes. That’s why Vader is so deadly and scary when he finally appears. The problematic part is that the rebel team, when we finally get to the action after planet-hopping in the gigantic interplanetary geography lesson that is Act 1, is a bit clichéd. The war movie is now interspaced with a heist movie

and like every good heist movie, it must assemble a motley crew of specialists.

There’s Jyn Erso, our hero with a tragic background who turns from being cynical to giving a rousing rebel speech. There’s Cassian Andor, a supposedly cruel, unfeeling rebel captain whom she has zero chemistry with. Bodhi Root, an Imperial pilot who defected to the rebels. The best characters IMHO are blind warrior monk Chirrut Îmwe and his guard Baze Malbus who has this awesome machine gun blaster. The team goes off, with Cassian’s snarky droid K-2SO to steal and send the Death Star’s blueprints.

We all know they get the plans. I didn’t expect them all to die, but towards the end I realised that’s exactly what will happen. It makes sense. None of the characters are in ep 4 and it solidifies the theme. War is horrible. People die in wars, good people and bad people both. It takes guts, to kill off the entire main cast, and points to director Gareth Edwards for making me not feel gutted about it. The breathtaking the last few minutes of the film helped. The precious data disks gets away by the skin of its teeth. It’s given to none other than Princess Leia who tells us about “hope.” We get the optimism even though we know what will come literally during the next 10 minutes. We know Vader (the only time a lightsabre appears) is about to chase after her and capture her. But we also know the rest of the story. That’s the beauty of this film. We can go from the very last second of R1 and seamlessly transition to the very first second of ep 4.

The special effects are mostly great. There’s one shot of a star destroyer coming out of darkness into the light and it looks like a tiny plastic model. The battles were nicely done but I wasn’t blown away. The CGI renditions of Tarkin and Leia, wow. Some people have commented about the creepiness of using a CGI-Peter Cushing. I thought he’d only be in a scene or two; with such a significant role, they could have used a real actor. The CGI of Leia looks like CGI, sorry I’m not convinced. What I really love is using original footage of Red and Gold leaders, and that sound when the death star’s ignition sequence is fired up.

The locations–Iceland, Jordan, the Maldives–are pretty and the cinematography stellar. Where the film falls below par, for me, is in the character department. Jyn and Cassian don’t even feel like siblings / friends. There’s barely time for character development. Reviews complained of a script that would even embarrass George Lucas, summing it up as a thoroughly mediocre movie which is basically a saga of data transmission when it’s hard to find a good signal.


I won’t go as far. I enjoyed it and want to see it again. After all, what’s not to like about a film that gets boycotted by Trump supporters because it’s too non-white (kudos for diversity!) or because the writers changed their twitter profile to add a safety pin, or, gasp, it’s about people who believe in fairness and freedom fighting against a swampful of autocrats. If ever a film set in a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is a fitting commentary of this crazy 2016 year, it’s Rogue One.

buying presents


My cousin and family will be visiting, so mum and I went out to buy presents for them. Nothing too heavy or bulky. We’re poor present buyers so we decided to keep it simple and get food. Bought a variety of chocolate, biscuits and savoury snacks. Saw boxes of cheesey chips at a discount. The saleslady said they’re nice so we bought a few boxes for my niece and her grandparents who are also visiting. Opened a box ourselves to try and they are very good! Crispy and crunchy. Can taste the cheese flavour but not too salty. Went back and bought even more boxes, we ended up getting 15 boxes in total. I’ll give a box to mm and mum wants to give to her friends.

I was reading this thread about last minute gifts on reddit, this actually seems like a great idea:

I didn’t have any time or cash, so I bought a $2 photo album and photoshopped his face to a bunch of stock photos I found online. Made him laugh for hours.

I think it’ll be even funnier if OP had printed the stock photos and stuck the recipient’s face on them physically. I may do that for mm one day, find various generic photos like travelling, skiing, being a clown and replacing them with her head. Hahaha.

There are some hilarious gems in that thread, like:

a bottle of whiskey and a packet of white sauce

which people guessed was the gift buyer putting both items together at the shop and forgetting to take out his sauce. What about:

a pineapple, wrapped in newspaper


A hedgehog exercise wheel.

I do not own a hedgehog.


a disposable emergency rain poncho

or (this is reddit, after all)

When I was 9 my grandmother got me a pubic hair trimmer.

zero motivation


I have stuff to do.

Organise documents for tokyo trip, research tokyo trip, look for alternate hotel for the last 3 nights.

Documentation for the cruise, research for the cruise, look for alternate hotels for pre- and post-cruise.

Update my cv because a friend texted me to ask if I’m interested in joining his new venture.

Pay bills.


I barely found enough energy to cook two meals. The other time was spent on reddit, reading a book, playing games.

Zero motivation to do anything.

home stuff, bbmm with mum

Homeowners’ meeting this morning, to go through the work needed after our mandatory building inspection. External walls need to be patched, cracks on common area walls, broken windows, roof waterproofing, sewage pipes and all that. Quite a lot. The contractor went through the tender items and we will need to invite for tender. There are only 16 units and one company owns 5 so it’s not a big group. Couple of things I learned. First, charge an admin fee for contractors interested in submitting a tender, to filter out riff-raffs. Second, it’s so easy to get everyone’s agreement on common sense stuff. There isn’t enough funds so the management fee goes up. Other places will need a formal quorum, vote etc. We just all said, yeah, we’ll have to increase. It’s all for the building anyway.


Lunch at home then met mm for tea with mum. Went to the pokka café so mum can try their hot chocolate. Fancy thick chocolate in a jug that she could pour over cream, and a container of marshmallows on the side. Less rich than the iced chocolate I tried at the other café.

With mum’s card, mm was able to get her shredder, coffee grinder, alarm clock and stationery. We bought a basket-full of snacks, toiletries and miscellaneous stuff.

It was already quite late. After looking on the restaurant app and calling a few places, we ended up at another ayce japanese place. This is for shabu shabu. Extremely cramped tables but we liked it because: a) the food was good and b) the service was fast and pro-active. The usual beef, pork, seafood, vegetables. We also had sashimi. Good value, especially for dinner. Apparently the place only opened a couple of weeks ago, so kudos to them for getting it right so quickly.

bbmm day together


Met mm and our ex-colleague opera for lunch. Nice dim sum restaurant. Modern and looks quite new. Fancy looking dim sums with cute designs and some gimmicks like serving bird-shaped pineapple pastries inside s miniature birdcage. The buns were made using different coloured pastry and we could see a chef putting on the eyes and ears by hand. Luckily it’s not a matter of style over substance and the food itself tasted good too. They advertise no msg, have a substantial vegetarian menu and even happy hour. Definitely not a traditional dim sum place.

Long lunch. Afterwards mm and I went to the computer / electronics street to poke around. I wanted to get a universal remote for mum’s tv and found several stalls that actually repair remotes. Next time I’ll bring the broken one to see if they can repair it. We spent something like an hour at a shop because mm wanted to buy lightbulbs. Normal people like me would just get lightbulbs whenever and wherever, but she wanted to ask a million questions, compare prices, bargain and have all the bulbs checked. We shop so differently. She also bought a new iphone cover but couldn’t find her other target purchase, a shredder.

Dinner was at our favourite ayce japanese place. Very crowded, and even though I had 3 sakes, it didn’t have any effect on me, I think they over-warmed it and evaporated the alcohol. Sashimi, sushi, tempura, yakitori, our table was full of food.

Took her to the teacher’s union shop and we did see a shredder that fit her requirement. She had her eye on a coffee grinder and lots of stationery too. Will need to get mum to come along to use her card.

running, christmas pikachu

5.25km 47.25min 9.02min/km

My last recorded run was in June. My last serious training run was in March. It’s been a long time. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet, but an occasional 5k will do me good. Luckily, the charmander nest had gone from the small park, so only regular walkers were there. The gps went a little wonky, I was able to estimate total distance. The usual complaint, slow af.


Went to morse park after the run. The new nearby screen had a christmas pikachu and I was able to find it easily. The new nearby screen is both good and bad; it enables us to go after pokémons that are spawning near stops but the ones that aren’t near stops are totally invisible and depend on luck to find them. It is what it is.

2016: tl;dr

It’s december and time for best of, worst of, retrospective of, summary of and all that of the year. How to start? Sigh. This was on reddit: what’s the tl;dr for 2016 and some great answers. Two most meaningful ones for me, the first for the world in general:

2016 is the year we went from thinking that there might be alternate universes, to realizing that we are the alternate universe

The second one from someone who said exactly what was on my mind:

My dad died, and the world literally stopped making sense

And then someone put all of 2016 in a song. Like what the first comment said, no need for me to say which song it’s based on, by the chorus readers should start humming along:


maya angelou still i rise

via kottke, a recital of Still I Rise from its author, Maya Angelou. Honestly, I know very little about the poet, other than she is extremely well respected. I was mesmerised by this performance. Hopefully I won’t get C&Ded if I quote the entire poem.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

hotel planning

Spent the entire afternoon booking hotels. First for the cruise trip in feb. Need 1 night in Singapore, 3 nights in Sydney and 3 nights in Auckland.

The criteria for Singapore is not too far from the airport and food options nearby. We arrive early afternoon and leave first thing the next morning, so I wasn’t even looking at Orchard Road, Esplanade area. There’s a new Holiday Inn Express along the ECP, 15mins taxi from the airport, next door to the i12 mall. That’s perfect. If I were by myself I may not even have booked a hotel. I will likely store my luggage at the airport, go out somewhere to walk around, hawker centre for dinner then back to the airport to spend the night. There are spas, showers and transit hotels at Changi.

Anyway, Holiday Inn Express it is. The odd thing is, was showing me hotels in Johor and Batam when I searched for Changi. I mean, geographically those places are near, but…they’re in another country! What good is a hotel in Malaysia or Indonesia when I’m transiting for one night in Singapore.

flickr peter hardy

Sydney I was initially looking at airbnb, but they’re not that much cheaper than hotels. All in all, expensive either way. The one I liked, near Darling Harbour, mum didn’t like because they’re doing construction work outside. I reserved a hotel by the curious name of the Tank Stream. A little googling tells me that the tank stream was originally a fresh water tributary that provided water to the new colony in the 1800s. The stream is now a drain channel but there are commemorative signs dotted around.

Auckland was the worst. Expensive airbnbs. Hotels were split into 2 types: expensive brand names and motels outside the city. Must be some event going on, so many hotels are already booked. I reserved a serviced apartment near the ferry terminal that had really good reviews. Hopefully it’s okay.


Started looking at airbnbs for our tokyo trip in jan, mm found one that is in a residential area with its own sento (public bath) but not available on our dates. I saved it in my wishlist for next time. There are a lot of availability, so it was a matter of too many choices.

Our flight home is 9am so I was also looking at how to get to the airport that early. The NEX train arrives at 7.17am, the TCAT has 6.45am and 7am arrivals and the limousine bus 6.45 and 7am too, from Tokyo station. The other alternative is to stay at the capsule hotel the night before. I was looking at Shinjuku but I realise I should be looking at Tokyo station for the limousine bus. I should also check out superhotel lohas where we stayed at last time, near Tokyo station, and with its own spa.

washing machine, happyhour, pokehunting

No office this week, I finished my project. Still went out early to walk around and explore a supposed seel nest. Only got 2 despite walking around for more than half an hour.

Then it was a long long wait at the flat for the washing machine delivery. First I had to disconnect the old washing machine and pipes because the delivery people only deliver. Took me about 10-15mins, had to figure everything out. After delivery, another 2-3hr wait for the technician to come and install it. He told me I could have arranged for someone to disconnect for a small fee. He was quite chatty, changed the socket and installed a filter between the outlet pipe and outside pipe to get rid of the sewage smell. All done at 4pm. Waste of a day. I hope the tenant appreciates it.


Needed something to eat and some wine. Saw an italian restaurant, Al Dente, near the escalator with 2-for-1 happy hour between 3-8. I was the only customer there. Asked for the snack menu and then the waiter said chef isn’t here yet so i said okay, no problem. He was thankful I was understanding. The house chianti was nice. When the chef came back, I ordered the anchovy butter bruschetta. Didn’t realse it’d be 6 pieces! Ordered a second round of wine, which the waiter comped. I gave him a 20% tip on top of the 10% service.

The bruschetta was filling enough to serve as dinner, so I went to a new area by the harbour that saw 4 porygons one day last week. Didn’t get lucky, walked to the end of the path and back. Got some various pokemons, probably should have stayed longer. At that point, I’d walked 10km for the day so I wanted to get home.

errands with mum, japanese dinner


Went to collect rent with mum. So stupid, why do we have to go in person? No one heard of autopay?

Went to the supermarket to order christmas turkey. Yes, there’s only the two of us and before only 3 with dad. But don’t think those are normal sized turkeys, they’re more like large chicken. And cooked too. We freeze most of it, I take the carcass for stock.

Walked through the park with mum, it’s now a omanyte nest so pretty fruitful. We were looking for something to eat at teatime and walked past the luxurious AYCE japanese place we like, and made a reservation for dinner. Of course it was only 4pm. Sat for a while at a pizza place (shared one slice) then went back to sit at the park. The jap place was completely full! The sashimi were very fresh and they also had uni. The best dish for us were plain congee (with dried scallops) and movenpick ice cream.

washer, library, happyhour


The tenant emailed to say there is something wrong with the washing machine, a puddle of brown water in the drum. It’s time to replace rather than try to get it fixed. In the long run, it’s better for my wallet and time. I went to the electronics shop and bought one that was fairly cheap with good functionalities and the longest warranty they had. Not a bad price $3600. Siemens.

Had time to wander around. Ran some bank errands, went to the library to look at travel NZ books and to make notes.

Was meeting mm and her brother for happy hour. We said between 5-5.30, I got there quite early at 4.40. But they didn’t show up till around 6, I was pretty annoyed. But nothing I can do. I can’t change her, she’ll always be late. I would have been sitting at another hh place myself anyway.

Dinner with her family. Sat with the nieces and nephew and they told us lots of jokes. Useful day.

wifi mesh networking


The wifi at home is atrocious. I have the router sitting on my desk and sometimes my ipad has issues connecting. Poor mum has to sit in the dining room to get a signal sometimes since it doesn’t extend to the living room. Where the tv is, there is zero signal.

In my flat I use a devolo powerline that extends wifi using the electrical wires. Here it’s not possible because there are not enough sockets. The powerline must be plugged into a socket and not an extension cord. I tried buying a second router and extending but couldn’t figure out how to set it up.

Something worth keeping an eye on is the development of wifi mesh networks. Mesh networks allow

different types of devices to piggyback off each other as nodes in a network, each node spreading the radio signal a little further than the last

The newest offering is from eero, with a kit at USD500 that includes 3 nodes. Plug one into the modem and place 2 strategically around to get maximum coverage. Everything can be managed using an app. Sounds really good, except for the price tag. Hopefully it’ll go down soon and I can think about getting one. It’d be great to watch netflix or get an apple tv.

p.s. as an aside to how atrocious our wifi is, I finished reading the lifehacker article and was about to save it to instapaper when the entire connection went down, including tv which mum was watching. Took about 5-10mins for it to come back on and I had to restart the modem. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to restart the modem. Seems quite appropriate, just as I was reading about mesh networking.

photofriday nature


Photofriday challenge this week is Nature.

They changed the website in September, instead of linking to our own page we upload a pic to theirs. Modern thumbnail look, infinite scrolling page etc. Need to create an account there now. On the one hand I get why, because the flickr links were getting ridiculous and the whole flash display was slow AF. The cynical me thinks it’s all to do with data mining, because that’s what it takes nowadays. I’m having problems both signing in and uploading images, and it’s not worth my trouble to dig into why.

Anyway, the pic I would have submitted is of the Mendenhall glacier in Alaska, which mum and I saw when we went on our cruise a couple of years ago. It’s probably one of the most photographed glaciers, seeing that it’s quite accessible and so many people have gone to Juneau. I’m reminded of how fragile our planet is, the glacier has receded a lot in recent years and we really have to watch climate change.

i dream of lapras

I never remember my dreams. I never know what they’re about but recent ones have felt busy. As in, mundane stuff and talking and going about daily stuff. Or something like that.


May be I’m still thinking about pokehunting. I dreamed I caught a lapras. Sigh, if only. I’m close to getting enough candies to evolve charizard, cloyser, dewgong and weezing so I’m not worried about them. The ones I’m missing are the usual: snorlax, lapras, chansey, porygon. Plus regionals, but I have enough travel plans to have them covered.


During US Thanksgiving last week there was a double XP and stardust pokemon go event. I didn’t take advantage of it; aside from remembering to go outside at least once a day to get the daily bonus I hadn’t been playing systematically.

There was also the appearance of ditto, one of the ones in the pokedex that wasn’t previously available in the wild. People reported that they caught commons like rattata, pidgey and zubat and instead of the gotcha message they got an oh? and it transformed to a ditto.

I was planning to go walk around on Thursday after work, to rattata heavy places to see if I can find a ditto. Today, though, I had to go to the market to get onion and celery for the braised pork knuckle I want to make on Friday. Went earlier to see what’s going on at morse park. At the spot where there’s a gym and 4 stops there was a cluster of 2 bellsprouts, 2 slowpokes and a pidgey. Normally I’d go for the slowpoke but somehow I clicked on the pidgey. One red ball carelessly thrown and I wasn’t even looking closely at the screen when I got the oh? message. Yay, my first ditto!


Got a second one at carpenter road park that has an abra nest. After walking one circuit around and catching 3 abras, a geodude, a rhyhorn and other commons I was walking back to the market and there was a zubat. I hadn’t bothered with zubats for a long time. This one was quite stubborn, I was out of red balls and got it from my 4th or 5th great ball. The oh? screen again. Two dittos in an hour, I’m happy. Thursday’s plans now have to be amended. May be I’ll go to signal hill again, or I may try a new area where people have reported chansey, porygon and possibly lapras.

shy fern


When I was young, we could find what we called “shy fern” around the car park. As the slope got concreted, the ferns disappeared. Every time I’d see a small green fern I’d touch them in the hope that the leaves would fold, but usually I was disappointed.

I was waiting outside for mm to drive up and saw a small cluster. Without any expectations, I touched the leaves with my shoe and was pleasantly surprised that they folded immediately. I thought they’d gone from the area.

thought they're gone forever! #shy ferns that used to be everywhere around our car park

A video posted by mal088 (@mal088) on

Googling tells me that the plant is called mimosa pudica, commonly called shy plant, sensitive plant or sleepy plant. The leaves fold inwards when disturbed to protect themselves and re-open a few minutes later. I hope this plant survives and spreads back to the car park. It seems to be doing okay growing in gaps in the concrete.

tv sunday

Spent the whole day watching tv. Amazing Race Canada is on, 5 episodes every Sunday. First time I’ve seen TARCAN, we’re up to season 2. The format is the same. In s1 they stayed in Canada and it was a great advertisement for the country, so beautiful. A couple of overseas locations in s2, but still a lot of Canada. The teams are the usual mix, they are competitive like Americans and some are also as arrogant and nasty. Mostly polite though.

Harry Potter 7 and 8 were also on at dinnertime. Seen them many times but can never resist. And this is the best scene.

school christmas bazaar


The start of Christmas season is the school bazaar. Every year I say I won’t go again because it’s too far away, too crowded, too expensive. Every year I come back.

Mum didn’t want to go so I went on my own, which made the journey quicker. Grabbed stollen, lebkuchen and some cheap decoration for gifts before the crowds descended. Sis and I were queueing for the hotdogs when we saw that they had the whole pack of bratwurst on sale so we grabbed one each. Luckily there was a cloakroom to store our shopping.

The clothing and treasure trove stall in the basement gave some real treasures. Cake pop and macaron baking sets for next to nothing. I bought a few sets for presents. Kept one macaron set for myself.

By then it was getting crowded as lunch loomed. After meeting R and G, we went off on our separate ways. I went to pick up my iphone with the new screen and went home.

cruise 2017

Mum needed to go to the clinic so I went with her. After she finished, we debated where to go for lunch. Ended up getting on a bus and going to HMV café. Nice john dory fillet, very healthy.


Went to the travel agent to look at brochures and ended up booking a holiday!!! Australia and NZ cruise next February. 12 days, with extra days in Sydney (embarkation) and Auckland (disembarkation). They only had 2 inside cabins left at that price and if we booked by 30 nov we could pick 1 out of 4 offers:

  • unlimited drinks
  • speciality dining package
  • free wifi
  • pre-paid service charge

We opted for the service charge. They charge ridiculous servce charge on cruises so we’re saving a lot.

After the travel agent we went to Ikea to get salmon only to discover they’d sold out. Sold out. Incredible. Have to try next month. Then went to the cold meat place and bought a whole steak filet. Grabbed a few pieces to take to sis’ place. She has a function tonight so I’m teenager-sitting. I made two potato mash and fried up the steak. Veg was cherry tomatoes. Mostly I was watching tv or reading in the living room and gis was in her room. Sis and R came back at 11pm, I waited downstairs and took their uber home. Had to re-book but since he was the nearest driver he naturally responded. Chatty guy, a professional by day who liked driving so he usually did weekend nights. Clean and comfortable Tuareg.

iphone screen crack


Normal office day. Project almost finished so I told B I’ll be in next week and then off for the rest of the month.

Ran a couple of errands before lunch. On the way to the post office I tripped on one step, fell and my iphone fell face first on the pavement. It had no chance. Argh!! So many cracks! It was barely held together by the screen protector. Luckily it seemed to be working fine. Was able to get a same day appointment at the genius bar. It’ll cost an arm and a leg to replace the screen.

This is when I’m super glad I have 2 iphones. Swapped the sim card into the spare one and I’m good to go. Couldn’t get LINE connected so switched to Whatsapp. Strange that Whatsapp is linked to the phone and the spare number rather than my regular number. I didn’t want to lose the data so I told all 4 people I normally communicated with (mum, sis, gis, mm) to use the spare number.

Thing with the spare iphone is that the battery behaves strangely. I was at 80% battery when it buzzed once and the screen went blank. Had to plug in the external battery and the red low battery icon came up. After a few minutes it started up again and was back to 80% battery. It doesn’t matter. It’s a spare phone and I have an external battery.

Logged into pokemon go on the spare phone and went to the park where there was an omanyte nest. Got enough to evolve, a good end to a day that could have been horrible.

flat maintenance, bbmm drive

Had to go to my flat in the morning to meet the handyman to sort out a couple of things. Apparently the aircon switch doesn’t work and there’s sewage smell in the bathroom and kitchen. The aircon didn’t work because the tenant had the unit in the off position!! I wonder if he’s ever seen a window aircon unit before, I bet in LA he has central aircon.

The sewage smell was due to stagnant drain. It’s the floor drain next to the bathroom that I never bother with. I’m supposed to pour water down it occasionally. So when the handyman did that, it solved the problem. I went out to the supermarket and bought a large bottle of disinfectant and now the bathroom smells nicer. The kitchen smell was due to the washing machine drain and the handyman told me to get some electrical tape and seal it off.

Met mm for lunch. Went to the DVD place and got The Fall s1 and 3, have to order s2. I wanted The Librarians but they don’t have it. Mum and I were watching over the weekend and looked interesting.

Grotty weather, drizzle and rain. We collected mm’s car that was at the dealer’s and drove out to the beach. Normally at the weekends it’s bustling. Today we were hard pressed to find a store that was open. Had ice cream and a beer. Walked around the village but retreated to the car when the rain got heavier.

Home for dinner.

nano 2016 validated


Validation started. Scrivener says I’m at 50819 but the validator says 50727. That’s almost 100 words, not sure why such a huge discrepancy. No big deal. Green bar turned to purple bar, yay.

I’ve been adding 100 or so words a day and will do so until the 30th. I hope that when I come back and edit this one I can do better than have the characters constantly going to restaurants and have talking heads conversation.

I’ll wait till next year to activate my evernote upgrade. Disappointed that there’s no sponsor offer for Scrivener app, apparently they can’t use coupons or discount codes on the app store. Frustrating. Their price doesn’t make sense, you have to pay for different platforms so someone with a pc, a mac and an iphone will have to pay 3 times.

office day

Office day. The latest project is almost finished. Very thankful to a proactive intern who did above and beyond and helped a great deal.

On my own for dinner, as mm was busy so couldn’t meet. Went to signal hill to see what pokémons are spawning there. From the peak of hundreds of people there were around 30. But the stops were constantly lured. None of the very rare ones although I finally got enough candies to evolve muk, machamp and primeape.

I hung around there till around 7pm. Found a place that had happy hour till 9pm. No wonder they have such long happy hour, I’m not sure how they can survive. The bar had may be 5 occupied tables. I asked the waiter about happy hour and was told discount price for cocktails. I saw the sign outside that beer was at lower price too but he didn’t say anything, I should have asked. Ordered a caipirhina. Took 20mins for it to arrive. Seriously. A couple of guys came in and asked also about happy hour, but the waiter was too clueless. It’s advertised as a craft beer place and when the guys asked for a small tasting sample, and then more information about how the beer tasted, the waiter couldn’t help them. Service wasn’t bad, it was just inept. I didn’t leave a tip.

Quick dinner of noodles and back home.

nano day 16 | 3306 words 50131 total


Done. Another nano. Yay. Took me less than 2hrs to get the final 3000-ish words to get to 50k.

I’ll probably continue writing small amounts up to the end of the month, to earn that update wordcount every day badge. I think after this, I’ll put this story to one side even though it’s far from finished. Probably only half done. The premise was good, the interactions between the characters was good but the execution or progression of the mystery wasn’t that good. I got more interested in the people than the mystery. Ah well. That’s the point of nano, to get a novel started. Hopefully it gets finished one day, I’d like to seek some help and bounce around some ideas with other people.

Validation starts on the 20th I think. Another purple bar. Yay.

nano day 15 | 3468 words 46825 total


Had some bank errands to run, then went to the market. Writing was done between 8-10pm. I’m getting a bit bored with the mystery. I have an idea of the outcome and now I have to lay red herrings and explore various people’s motives and action before I can go to the big reveal. We have a couple of suspects and a couple of missing people. I’m not convinced the suspects are suspects. They are not all aboveboard, but are they directly responsible for the friend’s disappearance? May be I should take the MCs in a different direction. The mystery is nowhere near close to being wrapped up.

The good news is, I’m at 46k. One, max two more days to go. So here comes the dilemma I face every year. Do I stop at 50k or do I continue with the story. Grr, I know what will happen. I’m disappointed at myself already.

nano day 14 | 3070 words 43357 total


Went with mum to the clinic in the afternoon and ended up having shabu shabu dinner. This was an ayce place and we could choose soup base and quality of beef. Usually with mum or mm I pick the second cheapest option, which comes with freeflow soft drinks. I splashed out today and picked the third cheapest option, of Australian beef. It turned out to be a great choice, the meat was tender and not fatty. The kind waitress gave us lean meat when we said we prefer it over fatty meat. She seemed surprise that I keep thanking her whenever she came to clear our plates or give us extra meat. Are manners that lacking in our society? Anyway another benefit was freefow Asahi in additional to soft drinks. May be this third cheapest is an option for next time I go with mm.

Wrote a little after lunch before we went out but the bulk of today’s writing was done after we got home from dinner. Wanted to get 3000 words for the day. The MCs are enjoying their alone time too much but I made one of the suspects call them up and arrange a meeting, so more to come and we can get back on track with the mystery in the next chapter.

Wrist update: under control. Foam rollering and wearing the brace to bed are effective remedies.

nano day 13 | 4072 words 40287 total


Target of 40k this weekend reached. More about machine learning, and description of MC1’s home. I didn’t go overboard with the description, one paragraph per room. There’s quite a lot more of the story to write about, especially about the mystery which has gotten neglected.

Non-nano stuff, themes from today’s readings and gospel were apt for these troubling times. We had a father visiting from Italy and he told us: for those who despair and there seems to be no hope, the sun is coming. There will be good shepherds to lead us. The gospel warns us that there will be people who come in Jesus’ name who will deceive and persecute and hate us, but we are not to despair:

by your perseverance you will secure your lives

It’s also Remembrance Sunday. I didn’t see any place that sold poppies this year (some people say m&s but I didn’t see it). Anyway, I guess it’s what is in our hearts. I kept listening to this moving I Vow to Thee My Country, from the festival of remembrance at the Albert Hall a few years ago. It’s a hymn I know very well, we sang it often at school.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

nano day 12 | 5002 words 36215 total

5002 36215


When I woke up this morning I had no motivation to carry on the story. Not that I was out of ideas, I just didn’t feel like it. The trick was to skip the section that was coming up, which I didn’t want to write about, and then onto the sections after that. That worked. It’s only 9pm, I could have pushed further but I’ll leave it till tomorrow. Another 5k Saturday, there’s a chance I can get to 40k tomorrow.

Most of the last 2000 words were filler. MC2 runs a startup that has a product in the internet-of-things / machine learning field. I was doing research on machine learning. (Yes, yes, I know no research during nano.) So fascinating. Sigh, what if I had taken computer science at school? I would have loved to know more about machine learning, neural nets and artificial intelligence. The famous google alphago algorithm that beat a professional go player, self-driving cars, the machine that raced a journalist to write a short financial news report, even the basic teach a robot to pick up pieces of legos, all examples of machine learning.

This is a great video of ten must see machine learning products.