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.

nano day 11 | 154 words 30213 total


Office day, busy and didn’t get much chance to do personal stuff. Met mm for happy hour and dinner, so was home late.

Wrote a couple of sentences. Added a couple more sentences after getting home. It’s fine, I expected few words on an office day. I may not be able to get to 40k by Sunday, it’s also fine.

Had some time to do a little research today on machine learning. MC2’s startup is related to that. Fascinating topic. Don’t understand the technology or how the algorithms work, the concept alone is worth finding out more.

nano day 10 | 2682 words 31059 total


My niece’s birthday today, so we have dinner plans. I wanted to go out earlier to find a book for her, I already have her birthday presents, the book is an addition.

Nice dinner at a great burger restaurant. The adults shared a bottle of wine and everyone tucked into the starters and burgers. Mum and I had lamb, sis had cheeseburger, gis had bacon cheeseburger and Rob had beetroot burger. I told the server it’s my niece’s birthday and they gave us dessert on the house.

I worked hard to get to 30k words before going out. Too tired after coming home to add to it significantly. This is the part of the story that delves deeper into the MCs’ lives and secrets. Will they accept each other’s secrets or will the secrets drive a wedge through them? evil laugh

nano day 09 | 3260 words 28377 total


I woke up and found a livestream to watch the US election. Watched in horror as the results started coming in. It got too much, I had to go out to the park for a walk (and pokehunt). Coming home it was even worse. I tried to stay watching until I couldn’t take it anymore. First Brexit, then China meddling with our indepedent judiciary system, then this Trump. I feel like there’s nowhere to run away to.

I had no motivation to continue with nano. Then when I started I found it cathartic and somehow incorporated today’s dismal news into the story. Dark elements rear their heads. It wasn’t just the MCs’ missing friend, it was something bigger that involved organisations in other parts of the world that were up to no good. Terrorists, arms dealers, the alt-right in America that has declared war on their neighbours at home.

Target wsa 28k. I’ll be busy tomorrow and Friday but no plans at the weekend. Hopefully I can get to 40k by the end of Sunday.

When I updated wordcount on the nanosite, I saw that I’d gone over 600k lifetime nanowords. One tiny thing to smile about.

nano day 08 | 3012 words 25117 total


Went grocery shopping but detoured to the small park I used to do short runs, apparently it’s a charmander nest. I managed to catch 6 or 7 within half an hour; a couple ran away. Then it was as if they were taking a break and none appeared for the next half hour, so I went off to the market. Got home around 4pm. Was distracted by the NYT’s opening up access for free until Wednesday. Lots of articles to read.

Target was 25k. Just managed to get to 23k before dinner and added the usual 2k before bed. Getting to the halfway point on day 8 is right on schedule. Also right on schedule is pain in my left wrist. I wore the brace to bed last night, it looks like a bout of serious rollering before bed is needed.

This next chapter isn’t finished. I’m focusing more on the various characters’ secrets which get revealed as part of the investigation. Ultimately, whether the main mystery is as important remains to be seen.

nano day 07 | 3557 words 22096 total


No plans today. I should go grocery shopping, may be tomorrow. I also sorted out more bank stuff, online access is so convenient. Basically a lazy day that if I weren’t in the middle of nano, would have been spent reading.

Target was between 21.5k and 22k, so that I can aim at 25k tomorrow. I got to 20k before dinner and now I’m at 22k. I find I’m writing almost a chapter a day. In this next one, the MCs finally do some work investigating the mystery. All I can say is, oftentimes it’s the staff and domestic servants that provide the most information and insight. Oh, and bring cakes and pastries.

nano day 06 | 3350 words 18539 total


Homily today was about living in the present and not dwelling on the past which has…passed and not thinking all the time about the future that we have no idea what will bring us. Make the best of the current moment because that’s what we can control.

There was a lot on tv for a change. 5 episodes of TAR Canada, which I’d never seen before. Then Harry Potter 1 and 2. Argh. No time for nano. I watched the TARCANs and gave up on the HPs.

Target today was 18k total. The MCs are spending too much time hanging out with each other, going on weekend outings and sitting at outdoor cafés watching an elderly fisherman hauling crab pots. Not doing much work on solving the mystery of their missing friend. But hey, another chapter finished.

nano day 05 | 5163 words 15189 total


Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Happy Guy Fawkes’ Night! Nothing is happening here but I always remember bonfire night even when I’m not in the UK.

Today is double up day. Things we can do include doubling our donation and getting, for instance, $50 gifts for $25. We can also aim at doubling our current wordcount or doubling our daily wordcount target.

I always try to get 5000 words a day at the weekends. Today I had no plans to go out but plans to make chicken curry for dinner so I split the writing into chunks. I wanted to get to 12k by the time I started prepping the chicken, which I did. I chopped up 4 chicken legs, on the bone. Mirepoix, garlic, ginger, potato, carrots, curry paste and coconut milk. While the chicken was cooking, I aimed at getting to 13k by dinner. Another 2000 words between 8.30pm and 10pm and I’m at 15k. Yay.

Chapter 4 is done, the MCs went to dinner and took a late night stroll along the seafront park. The beginning of chapter 5 is the next morning. I’m going through the days slowly. They are going about their day separately today but they made a date to have phone lunch together. Hahaha.

nano day 04 | 2246 words 10026 total


More bank stuff with sis. Lots of waiting and signing forms. This one bank is done. Lunch at a foodcourt, went with her to the supermarket, bus home by 2.30pm.

Did filing and other stuff. Long dinner and watched tv till 9pm so bulk of writing was done between 9.30pm and 11pm. The target today was to get to 10k to get back on track.

The MCs continued their investigation and met with one of the dinner participants. Originally the chapter was on their missing friend but I’ll tackle the secret of this other friend first after she unwittingly revealed possible motive. It’s interesting how the characters and the story takes on a totally different direction by themselves. The second half of the chapter is the MCs’ car breaking down and they spend some time chatting and getting re-aquainted. I have an idea of what MC2’s secret may be. Everyone seems to be having financial troubles.

nano day 03 | 392 words 7780 total | office bbmm


In the office today, started a new project, not much time to slack off. Wrote one paragraph in the morning, that was it.

Met mm after work to visit a craft exhibition. All sorts of masking tape in different colours and patterns. The idea is to decorate plain objects like cups, books, picture frame with these tapes. I got something like 20 rolls for my niece as birthday present next week.

Sake and umeshu tasting at the supermarket, bought more bottles.

Dinner was at the food section of a wet market. It’s a housing estate we’d never heard of before, let alone visited. Found it online, good reviews. Definitely one of those unassuming neighbourhood places. Lots of customers, reasonably clean. All you can eat seafood hotpot. The clams, fish and prawns were okay, nothing to write home about. The crabs though were fantastic so we focused on that. Small flower crabs, fiddly to eat. We were there until 12am, one of the last tables to leave. The friendly ladies there gave us two large crabs that weren’t part of the buffet. We were too full by then so we cooked them and sneaked them inside a plastic bag to take home.

Caught the last train to mm’s stop and she drove me home. By the time I showered it was almost 2am. Wrote another small paragraph. Not worried about nano, I knew today would not be productive so banked wordcount the past 2 days.

nano day 02 | 4227 words 7388 total


Wrote on and off from 10.30am to 9.30pm. The first few years when I was giving myself too much pressure to get 5000 words a day I would have continued until bedtime. The last few years I’ve taken a more relaxed attitude. Since I’m in the office tomorrow, I wanted to get a decent wordcount today and 4000 is okay.

It was so easy to slip back to nano mode and deploy the tried and tested tricks. One of the MCs is called Sarah Jane, her name is never shortened to Sarah or SJ. Keep all dialogue tags, delete the extraneous he said, she said when editing. Padding in the form of weather and food description. Have the MCs drink sauvignon blanc not chardonnay; pinot noir instead of malbec.

In the early years, and even now, we are taught to just type. Never hit backspace, ignore punctuation, forget about capitalising the first letter of of sentences, use abbreviations (eg the aforementioned Sarah Jane would be S J when typing). I don’t need to do that.

Chapter 2 is done. The MCs meet up to plan their next steps. Make a list, make notes, do research. I could do an American Psycho and spend pages, or a whole chapter, talking about using evernote, onenote, google drive, dropbox. I don’t need to do that. I’ve made a start on chapter 3. More meeting up for lunch. The next part is where the investigation starts. I’m trying to plant clues about secrets. I know what MC1’s secret is, but I’ve yet to figure out MC2’s. I still don’t know the outcome of this story, it’s like writing a whodunnit without knowing up front who did it.

nano day 01 | 3161 words


It’s november again. Even though I don’t feel like writing, I know I’ll regret it if I DNS, like how I hate that I didn’t even try in 2007 and it’s too late to go back.

I procrastinated all morning. Read the news, bummed around reddit, played candy crush. Anything to avoid making a start. But I forced myself to open up scrivener at 10.30am. Mum was out for most of the afternoon so I made some progress. I haven’t been able to focus for long periods of time lately so I typed a few paragraphs and did something else. Got to 1667 mid-afternoon and 2000 before dinner.

Finished the first chapter at 9.30pm and it’s a good place to pause. Initially I thought this might be a prologue but it’s okay as chapter 1. Mostly backstory, introducing the cast of characters and the backbone of the storyline. Since it’s a what-if on what happened at the reunion dinner with my actual college friends, I’m using their real names in the interest of typing fast. I’ll change to fake names when I edit, it’s easier to have a picture of the person in my mind when writing. I really haven’t seen these people for years, so characterisation is perception, memory and imagination. Only the two MCs have fake names, since they’re made up people.

Most of chapter 1 is written as text messages as the group communicate with each other on whatsapp. At first I’m typing the texts like dialogue, with quotation marks, but it didn’t look right. I asked my JAFC crew and they said to use italics. It looks so much better. I’m also not labelling the texts with the person. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who spoke something. When necessary, I’ll have someone call someone else out by name. I wish I can layout the texts like how they look like on the iphone, it’ll be much clearer.

There are 12 people at the dinner and the idea is that all 12 have secrets and are potential suspects in the mystery. My aim is to focus on one person per chapter, then a wrap up at the end. Thing is, I’m not even sure that the mystery is, or even the final outcome. That makes it a very interesting writing exercise.