ski robots olympics

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I didn’t get to see as many winter olympics events as I would have liked because of limited coverage. Mostly I read about the sports, the competitors and winners. Not that medals are the be all and end all of the Olympics, but Team GB came home with 5 medals, 1 gold and 4 bronze.

One event wasn’t part of the official Olympics but was so cute and worth watching was the Ski Robot Challenge. It took place at a ski resort about 1hr away from Pyeongchang and had 8 teams competing from universities and companies. The skiing robots

had to be more than 50cm in height, be able to stand on their own two legs, have independent power systems, use skis and poles, and have joints that allowed them to bend their knees and elbows

Like toddlers skiing. Not only cute, but useful research too.

bbmm home cooking

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Best day ever! And we didn’t do much. I keep saying I’ll cook lamb rack for mm so today I went over to her place with a couple of racks marinating in olive oil, rosemary and pepper. We can’t just eat lamb so we walked over to the market to look for inspiration. What a great market! We got there around 5pm and stallholders were beginning to discount their produce. Got some portabello mushrooms as well as prawns and clams for starters. The seafood was so fresh that all we needed was to drop them in boiling water. I overcooked the lamb slightly but it had lots of flavour and was still tender.

Opened a bottle of cabernet that a friend of hers brought back from California. Highly recommended, very fruity and not too tannic. Great for sipping whilst cooking and eating.

Watched HP 1 and 2, we decided to watch all 8 films as a goal this coming few weeks. Much more preferable staying home and cooking vs going out to eat.

milk tray

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Trying to clear some space in the fridge, so I opened this big box of Milk Tray that’s been there for a while.

I’m not a big chocolate eater so one or two pieces was enough. Most were way too sweet for my taste. The only one I like is apple crunch.

There’s a lot of disappointed and frankly angry people in the UK because Cadbury’s gone downhill since being taken over by Kraft. It’s broken promise after promise both to staff and consumers; now come in smaller sizes, higher price and changed taste; and closed several factories.

And of course the creme egg scandal that substituted Dairy Milk with disgusting American

standard cocoa mix chocolate

They lost £6m, but of course didn’t admit it was the change of recipe. Honestly, Americans should stay away from trying to make good quality chocolate.

There are 2 layers in the box, so it’ll take me a while to finish it. In the meantime, I’m looking on youtube for old “And all because the lady loves Milk Tray” ads.

snake soup

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Took my niece out for snake soup, because she wanted to try it and she asked me to take her. Sis won’t because she’s much more of an ethical/healthy type of eater, well actually she’s more squeamish. Rob won’t because he’s vegetarian lol. There are a few choices of restaurants but I picked one that is near my niece, has a good reputation and is a sit-down restaurant. Some other places I go to are holes-in-wall at markets and I wanted my niece to have a better experience first.

Snake soup is on many, many people’s bucket list. To be honest, it’s not so special although it’s not something I have all the time. I guess it’s like people don’t go out for clam chowder all the time. So, everything you want to know about snake soup:

  • it’s a soup made with snake meat, bones, chicken, mushroom, ginger, herbs and simmered for hours–since snake meat doesn’t have too much flavour it’s like a very rich chicken soup
  • the snake meat is shredded to thin slivers and looks quite similar to chicken, it can be distinguished in the soup because it’s slightly more brown and is a little bit tougher
  • snake soup has been around since the 3rd century and was a luxury dish enjoyed by the wealthy
  • it’s becoming more rare nowadays because special training is required to handle the snakes, most businesses are family-run

The place we went to has been around for almost 130 years and is currently run by the fourth generation family. It’s been in its current location since 1989. So, very traditional although it’s probably the one to take tourists and people who are trying snake for the first time.

And still a luxury. The soup is made from hours and hours of cooking and has additional ingredients to make it richer and sweeter. Equivalent to over £10 per bowl. I also had a bowl of rice with sausage and gis had rice with salted eggs.

The most pressing question, did she like it? Yes she did. She said it was unexpectedly good. She loves rich, almost gloopy soups and this one was exactly to her taste. The snake meat itself was pretty innocuous. May be next time I’ll take her to the really local one at the market.

pokemongo dratini day

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It’s pokémongo community day #2 and it’s dratini this month. Good motivation:

  • increased dratini spawn
  • dragonite evolved during the window will get draco meteor moveset
  • 3x stardust for all catches
  • 3hr lures

I have over 500 ultraballs and around 60 pinaps in my bag (just because, not on purpose), so I was in good shape. I thought the event started at 12pm but when I went out at around 11.30am I saw a bunch of dratinis already. Of course it being niantic, there were problems galore: network error, error 2, error 22, error 26, no gps, and couldn’t login sometimes when I tried to restart the game. There were times after loading when no stops or pokémons could be seen. That went on for a good 1-2hrs, which was alright because I was at lunch.

Sometime around 2pm everything seemed to have gotten fixed. I went to central piers where there is a good 700-800m stretch facing the harbour where commuter ferries dock. Normally it’s already a great spot for dratinis and water-types and today it was a veritable bounty. I ended up using a couple of lucky eggs and basically walked up and down between pier 2 and pier 9 catching everything. Tons of stops, all lured and sometimes in one spot there’d be 6-7 dratini spawning one after another.

I saw on twitter that they knew there’s a problem and the event will be extended. In the end I was there for around 2hrs. I forgot to track my starting stats, rough numbers:

  • dratini caught: around 120
  • of which shiny: 5
  • evolved to dragonair: 1 shiny
  • evolved to dragonite: 1 shiny, 3 regular
  • stardust: no idea, but 120x100x3=36,000 and I caught others too
  • xp: no idea, I was at 3xx,xxx and now I’m at 448,000

Didn’t manage a 100% IV dragonite, the best is 98% IV which I’m really happy about. Threw away a lot of low IV dratinis, and the worst one I didn’t throw away is a shiny at 19% IV. I was using pokeassistant initially and got 18% but pokemeter and pokegenie both gave me 19%. It’s the absolute worst ever pokémon in my collection. Since it’s a shiny, and since it’s so terrible, I simply must keep it.

I also like the comments from pokemeter. “Your Dratini has an awful IV, but it’s happy!” Snerk.

hello, human person

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This is a fun way of wasting a few minutes. An online word association game called Robot Mind Meld. Both human player and robot attempt to come up with the same word that associates with words each had already came up wth. The idea behind the Numberbatch AI is that it thinks quantitiatively about how words relate to each other by

analyzing millions of documents for patterns, these “numberbatches” now play a role in most programs that process language, from speech recognition to machine translation.

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At first, I couldn’t get anywhere and got stuck after more than 10 rounds. But then bingo! We did it in 3 rounds.

I’m not that great with word associations because I either use very literal relationships or go off in a weird tangent. Some of the answers from the mefi users were odd and funny too. Some only took 2 rounds, someone took 79. I LOLed at this:

1 gun boat
2 gunboat gunboat

harry potter’s large pile of ash

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Last year, the folks at botnik programmed an AI to write a chapter of a Harry Potter book, by having it learn and analyse all seven books to find combinations of words likely to follow each other according to the style of the writer and then generating text using their predictive keyboard. The result was Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash and it was, as the guardian described it:

gloriously bonkers.

It started promising, describing a castle that could be Hogwarts and the surroundings which was

snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.

But then it rapidly descended into chaos:

Ron was standing there and doing a kind of frenzied tap dance. He saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione’s family.

Uh-oh. A few favourites from the chapte:

“Death Eaters are on top of the castle,” Ron bleated, quivering. Ron was going to be spiders.

They looked at the door, screaming about how closed it was and asking it to be replaced with a small orb. The password was ‘BEEF WOMEN,’ Hermione cried.

The tall Death Eater was wearing a shirt that said ‘Hermione Has Forgotten How to Dance,’ so Hermione dipped his face in mud.

Several long pumpkins fell out of McGonagall.

One more:

Harry could tell Voldemort was standing right behind him. He felt a great overreaction. Harry tore his eyes from his head and threw them into the forest. Voldemort raised his eyebrows at Harry, who could not see anything at the moment.

And now they’ve recorded the chapter, with delightfully literal animation by Jamie Loftus and perfectly voiced by Rachael Wright. Must watch.

visiting papa

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Visited Papa. I looked out from the terrace and realised I was looking at the same place mm and I went yesterday. The slightly curved shoreline with trees on one side that ends at a bunch of residental buildings? That’s one end of the waterfront bike path. It didn’t click yesterday because our attention was focused on the new residental buildings being built and were wondering what it’d be like to live there. Didn’t think to look beyond and up the hill. Plus, it’s further than it looks. Next time we go, I’ll know where to wave to Papa.

bbmm cycling day out

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The sun came out so we went cycling. There’s a waterfront bike path near the velodrome park that we’ve been talking of trying out for a long time. It turned out to be perfect! A little out of the way, we each have to travel around 1hr to get there, but once there it’s pretty easy. We explored signing up for one of the dockless bike schemes that seem to be everywhere nowadays but opted for the more expensive, but safer and more reliable, option of renting from a proper bike shop. We weren’t the only ones, plenty of other people were renting from him too; we’re glad the shop isn’t suffering because of the dockless bikes. The advantage of the dockless bikes is they’re so much cheaper, but that’s about it. Some of the bikes weren’t in the cleanest condition, and they had no gears. The bike shop guy let us try out machines until we found the ones we liked, he checked everything, put in a basket and gave us his mobile number in case of problems. The additional customer service is worth it. May be for other purposes we’ll try the dockless bikes another time.

Like I said, the bike path was great. Well used, but thankfully not overcrowded. Can imagine gridlock at the weekends. There were of course the usual idiots who think they’re Chris Hoy as well as whole families spread out along the entire width but by and large, fairly civilised. After negotiating our way past housing estates, the velodrome and a sports stadium we found our way to the waterfront area. Flat and straight almost the entire way. There was a bridge which provided the only gradient and even then for the lazy, there was a lift.

We brought snacks for a picnic, and there were lots of benches along the waterfront to rest and take in the view. A few boats moored around the end of the canal, a few people put-putting their small boats around. Other people running, walking, just enjoying the day.

We kept track of distance and out and back was only 5k, so a nice gentle day out with fresh air and a bit of exercise.

how far can the eye see

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How far can the human eye see?

Think about it.

What’s the answer?
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I saw this on an r/askreddit thread that asked: “What’s the smartest thing you’ve ever done?”

seeingmoonreddit

Duh.

Probably further, because some stars are way, way past the moon. The andromeda galaxy, located 2.6 million light years away, is the furthest object visible with the naked eye under the right conditions.

Those military higher-ups were probably asking how far can the human eye see on earth and with the ability to see details. Or the more common question, how far can a human eye detect a candle flame? The quickest answer from googling is 48km. Researchers at Texas A&M university say it’s less than that, at around 2.5-2.8 km.

It’s surprisingly hard to test, because there are assumptions and external variables. Do we take into account the earth’s curvature? At around 3km it’s less significant than 48km. How about light pollution? Even in completely rural areas, are we seeing the candle flame absent light from the stars and the moon? How about under conditions of absolute darkness?

I can see why there was a discussion.

changed theme

The feed between the website and fb has been weird lately. More often than not, the image inside the post doesn’t get through and only the default website logo shows up. If I’m doing multi-day catchup posts, my timeline looks like a series of very boring links with the same maratree image.

Not that it matters. I deleted fb off default tabs and only check it once or twice a day if I remember. I’ve been slowly becoming disinterested in what I’m seeing on there; plus I’m fed up with its algorithms and how it’s so desperate for me to see what it wants me to see rather what I want to see. They’ve been in the spotlight recently, none of it good: it’s undisputedly the place where fake news fester and breed; its Protect feature is advertised as a security function but it actually installs spyware on the users’ phones; it spams users on the phone number provided to activate two-factor authentication.

So when the feed image problem started, I thought it was something to do with fb. I know that if they had their way, they won’t allow cross-posting via rss and instead force me to blog using their native Notes. If they stopped the IFTTT feed, I’m not going to spend the effort copy-pasting posts. I won’t play in their closed garden.

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But when I checked feedly, the image problem was there too. So it’s more likely my rss feed.

I’ve switched to wordpress for just over 2 years now, and I’m still not finding some of the under-the-hood stuff intuitive. I kept googling and trying to look for how to edit and modify the wp-include files. I mean, yes, I can do it all the way at website level but surely there’s somewhere in the wp dashboard that allows that?

I finally found where I could be editing but couldn’t fix the image issue. I didn’t have much luck editing any of the rss files directly in the website’s control panel. either.

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I should have gotten a clue when editing functions.php is under the themes sub-menu. So may be it’s time to try a new theme.

I suppose I have to grudgingly accept the versatility of wordpress and how easy it is to change themes. Just a few clicks and the problem seems to have been solved, at least for the last 3 posts. It’s not a bad theme either, still keeping to the clean and simple look I prefer.

cny dinner

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Family dinner tonight at the posh club where sis and Rob are members. A bit of fun beforehand, sis booked the bowling alley and the three of us (me, niece and rob) tried to bowl. My scores were abysmal, the highest round was 95, ugh.

The dinner was buffet at the garden lounge at the top floor of the club building. Unlike hotel buffets, it was very civilised and the atmosphere very pleasant. There were only around 20 tables, so that was an advantage already. Soup and a half lobster salad were served at the table. My niece doesn’t like lobsters so mum had a whole one!

Both sis and I opted to add-on free flow drinks, which included champagne, red and white wine, and sake. We mostly stuck to champagne, I tried the sake with dinner and it was really good. Not dry, and went well with food.

Food was the usual buffet fare. Cold seafood of oyster, crab leg, prawn, clams were alright. Sashimi was fresh and enjoyable. I had two huge plates of rocket and beetroot salad and a little bit of cold poached trout. Skipped most of the hot food although the others said it was good–steamed fish, beef checks, iberico pork chops, curry. There was a noodle station which had very little business. Outside on the patio was a bbq station with skewers, roast rib-eye and other bbq meat. The skewers was disappointing, either overcooked (chewy and dry) or undercooked (the scallops were almost raw and not charred outside).

Had a sorbet and some macarons for dessert. There was a cheesecake with chestnut topping, I only ate the topping. Half my plate was full of delicious blackberries.

cny day

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Most people spend CNY with family. All I did was stay home and cooked lunch and dinner. No difference from any other day.

Lots of greetings received on whatsapp groups. I looked and looked to find ones that didn’t have dogs, which was pretty difficult. These are from one of the priests mm follows on fb, he made them himself. I especially appreciate the explanation at the side, together with a pronounciation guide. With so much negativity around the use of fb (I deleted it from default tabs and check it once a day if I remember), it’s nice to see something that isn’t an ad, a stupid meme or spam.

cny eve market

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Traditionally people go to a flower market on CNY eve to buy flowers and to participate in the festive atmosphere. Last time I went was so many years ago and all I remember is the crowd.

We set off around 11.30pm on the tram, the slowest means of transport. It was nice to enjoy the view and the cool breeze and not have to hurry. Catch pokemons too, tram is slow enough.

When we got closer to the flower market park, we saw the beginnings of the hoard. The station was completely blocked and there was a queue along the pavement to cross the road. Lots of police officers there to direct traffic and keep it orderly. It was very crowded, but organised.

There was a one-way system in place at the market, so we had to go up one aisle of stalls and down the next. So crowded that progress was slow, may be a few steps every minute. The market split into roughly two sections; one for flowers and one where mostly school and college kids sold soft toys, cushions and other festive stuff. Cute at the time, but incredibly useless and tacky a few days later. This year, there were so many dog soft toys it was hard to find anything else.

We only managed half of the souvenir section, there was one part that was completely gridlocked. When we calculated that we’d moved may be 10 steps in 20mins, it was time to give up. The flower section was marginally less crowded, so we headed there. Many stalls had discounted flowers, the market had been in place for about a week and it was the last few hours. We left with a few bunches of flowers, mostly for mm’s mum. I got a pot of basil for the equivalent of £1.

By the time we left it was something like 3am. Amazingly there were still people heading into the market. These wise and persistent individuals were there for last minute bargains, good luck to them.

14-feb

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My contribution towards Valentine’s Day? I cancelled lunch and a day out with mm. She’d booked an Indian buffet for lunch but I wasn’t feeling 100% when I woke up. Strange headache on the left side of my head behind my ear, sometimes it’d feel hot and sometimes it’d feel a bit numb. Occasionally there’d be a sharp pain. But not debilitating like a migraine. Thought it was best to stay home and rest. Headache persisted throughout the day, even with panadol. Drank a couple of large cups of green tea and took a 20-min walk to the small park to get some sun and fresh air. Slight improvement. Probably need a good night’s sleep or rather, a week of consecutive good nights’ sleep.

Anyway it wasn’t a proper v-day event, we were just talking about Indian food and how long it’s been since we had it. We usually don’t pay much attention to v-day. More importantly, it’s Ash Wednesday. Busy this week, between Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and CNY coming up on Friday. May be it’s the trying to keep track that’s giving me the headache.

single atom photograph

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via giz, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (“EPSRC”) just announced the winner of its annual photography prize, which goes to David Nadlinger of Oxford University for a photography of a single strontium atom. The atom was excited by a laser, absorbs the energy, re-emits the light, and was held stationary by electric fields. The process occured sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture.

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Zoom in and the atom may be seen clearly. Images © David Nadlinger.

There were over 100 entries to the competition, in 5 cutely named categories: Eureka & Discovery, Equipment & Facilities, People & Skills, Innovation, and Weird & Wonderful.

The ESPRC was formed in 1994 after the SERC was split into reserach councils responsible for engineering & physical sciences, particle physics & astronomy, and biotechnology & biological sciences. Every scientist in my university cohort who went beyond first degree knows the SERC very well.

benign existence

Not much happened recently, so in the spirit of r/benignexistence here’s a list of mundane things I did this week that are, in the sub’s definition perhaps relatable but do not necessarily evoke a strong reaction:

  • low level headache that refuses to go away, ran out of paracetemol blister packs, went to pharmacy to buy some
  • visited a local small restaurant that apparently has been there since before I was born, their speciality is Thai food–chicken rice, braised duck, red and green curries
  • bought a small amount of global leisure fund, top 5 sectors:
    1. software
    2. media
    3. internet & direct marketing retail
    4. hotel, restaurant & leisure
    5. household durables
  • completely vacuumed under the bed, including taking out and cleaning shoeboxes
  • in addition to morning yorkshire tea, drank two large cups of mint or green tea in the afternoon
  • caught some gen 3 pokémons and participated in legendary gyms
  • removed ghostery because it’s on the side of the advertisers, installed privacy badger, which is from the EFF instead: why privacy badger is better
  • searched my flickr to see what ‘boring’ will bring up

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What flickr gave me as ‘boring’ was based on my description of the pics of Kiel on one of our cruises. Here’s some random crates we saw at the flea market. Benign existence enough.

rock stacks, leaf circles

via colossal, a series of amazing rock stacks and other nature art.

My niece and I play with stacking rocks whenever we visit middle island, but our efforts are small fry compared with these work by James Brunt, a Yorkshire-based artist who uses materials found on a beach or in the woods–rocks, leaves, twigs and such like–and arranges them in complex geometrical patterns. Images ©James Brunt.

Rocks:
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Leaves:
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Twigs:
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More on twitter and prints are available on etsy.

He also talks about how he works, with particular care about the environment. He doesn’t take materials like stones or leaves away from their habitat and if necessary he will get permission first. His installations tend not to last more than a few hours, and in terms of damage to the environment, probably has the same impact as kids making sandcastles on a beach.

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There has been some controversy about people stacking rocks and such like. Opponents call these rock stacks, aka cairns, graffiti, vandalism. They have a point, especially when they seem to be everywhere, like this riverside littered with them at Zion National Park. If people take rocks from one place to another, or dig them up from the ground, or remove them from rivers or lakes or seas, then it’s the opposite of the mantra of leave no trace.

Perhaps the trick, like many things in life, is a little care and moderation. Do as James Brunt does, only take materials from where they are found. Knock the stacks over or scatter the leaves when finished. Return nature the way we found it.

australia is a continent not a country

I spotted this on buzzfeed and watched it make its way around social media. I posted it to r/facepalm and so far I’ve gotten more than 10k views and more than 1k points.

The gist of the facepalm-worthy story is that a student who is doing an online sociology degree at Southern New Hampshire University was doing an assignment comparing social norms of America vs another country. She picked Australia. This seems to be a good topic, and a simple google found me several interesting articles for later reading: quora answer on cultural and lifestyle differences; businessinsider’s 20 things about Australian culture that can surprise non-Aussies; long article comparing differences.

The student’s professor gave her a F for her paper. The reason? I’ll let the professor explain herself:

facepalmaustralia

The student appealed, and sent a link to the Australian government website that describes Australia as both a continent and a country.

The professor dug her heels:

Thank you for this web-address

After I do some independent research on the continent/country issue I will review your paper.

Mysteriously the paper’s grade was adjusted to B+ but there was no apology or further communication. Subsequently, the college issued a sort-of apology via twitter:

Still, looking at both the reddit and twitter threads, there were people who defended the professor. A sociology professor doesn’t need to know geography. It’s just a mixup and the professor shouldn’t have lost her job for it. The correct name of the continent is Oceania (wrong, see below).

SMH.

oceania

I can’t remember how old I was when I learned about continents and first heard of Australia. I’m very sure I was very young, primary school age. This is basic knowledge. Australia is a large enough country, with so many wonderful exports that I have a hard time reconciling the fact that a professor who teaches at a college has never heard of it.

There seems to be confusion between Australia the continent and Oceania the region. First of all, Australia is a country located on the continent of Australia. It’s the only country on earth to occupy an entire continent. A continent is a large land mass and again this is basic knowledge that there are 7 continents. Not all countries are located on continents, for example many of the Pacific islands are too small to be considered as being on a continent. Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia for the geographic region of Oceania. Clear?

random finance

We met a friend of ours, P, for lunch at a Japanese restaurant he recommended. Good choice, the food was fresh and the location convenient for all. P said he bought a small apartment in the Ōta region of Tokyo, which is southwest of Tokyo towards Yokohama. So jealous!! I wonder if we can rent it from him for short visits.

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We talked about current affairs, Brexit, property, where we like travelling to in Japan, and since he is a branch manager of a local bank, what investment products are good right now. He stayed on the conservative side, telling us about guarantee funds, life insurance based products, and mortgage funds. Have to do some reading on mortgage funds, not as familiar as I would like. I do know that they are supposed to be relatively low risk and generate returns a bit better than money market funds. They’re supposed to be more resistant to interest rate fluctuations–when interest rates are low, income from mortgages are low but underlying equities do well; when interest rates are high, equity markets tend to correct but mortgage funds have higher payments supporting it.

Red flags to watch out for in mortgage funds: where it invests, the type of underlying loans, entrance fee, exit fee, management fee, whether it pays all dividends or partial dividends.

My risk appetite is higher than this although I try to take a balanced approach. Anyway I should take a look at my investments, seeing how volatile the market has been this week. I’m not going to panic sell, because I’m not in need of any of those funds. But it may be a good opportunity to find some bargains.

making the hasselblad x1d

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One lucky reporter at The Verge visited Hasselblad’s factory in Gothenburg and got a tour of how the X1D is made. Amazing series of pictures. Top image from Hasselblad, all other images © The Verge.

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The building is nothing fancy, and the company is small enough to feel personal. The parts may not be all manufactured in Sweden (eg the sensors are made by Sony), but everything is assembled, calibrated and tested in Sweden. Almost all the process is done either by hand, or closely monitored by a human being if done by a machine. Dust is the enemy of all cameras, and the factory is spotlessly clean. All workers and visitors wear lab coats, hairnets and gloves if necessary.

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As expected, quality control is of the highest standard. Parts are tested continuously and each body comes with a signed release by the person who inspected it. Testing is treated as part of the manufacturing process rather than something that needed to be done afterwards. Here the camera is being tested on how well it reproduces the blue of the test sphere.

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Even though the cameras are state of the art, the manual manufacturing process means not all the tools used are hi-tech. They’re still using Windows XP and old Dell and Sony computers. Cleaning is done by hand using tiny brushes. Each one comes with certificates of quality and exhaustive paperwork.

Just for reference, the price of this camera is over US$10,000 for the body alone, and is Hasselblad’s cheapest camera. It’s the first mirrorless medium format camers available. Medium format photography is so far above my skill level that I still think of the old Mamiyas with 120mm films rather than modern digital cameras.

The X1D looks nothing like those old Mamiyas, or indeed like the first image of Hasselblad that comes to mind. It’s simply…breathtaking. It’s been described as the Ferrari of cameras. Is it for everyone? The professional photographer at petapixel correctly says no. It’s way too expensive for amateurs, and not even professionals who work with high resolution images. For professionals whose work are likely to be printed in ginormous sizes, like artists, fashion or portrait photographers, this is ideal. He’s definitely keeping his:

While I can’t say with any finality whether this camera is worth it for anyone else, I can say that you’ll do better trying to wrench a soup bone out of a pit bull’s mouth than to wrest the X1D from my firmly clenched grip.

there’s a car in orbit around the earth

I’d read about SpaceX but hadn’t paid a lot of attention to what is happening, so I was pretty excited to read that they just lauched their latest rocket, Falcon Heavy. The rocket launched from Cape Canaveral and is hugely significant: the rocket is intended to be reusable and it’s the heaviest rocket ever launched. The two outer boosters landed safely back on earth but the centre core didn’t land safely althought it was supposed to. The 27 engines produced 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, meaning it’s able to take a payload of 140,000 pounds and put it into the earth’s lower orbit. The launch video is 35mins, but all of it worthwhile viewing.

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To test the rocket’s capacity meant trying to put a heavy object into orbit. While SpaceX could have just put a pile of scrap metal, a useless satellite, or something unimaginative, they put the silliest thing Elon Musk could imagine: his red Tesla Roadster. Definitely a great sense of humour, in the passenger seat is a spacesuit wearing a seatbelt just like it’s driving the car that is called Starman.

Other cool trivia associated with this launch, aside from the obvious supercool thing that THERE’S A CAR IN ORBIT AROUND EARTH:

  • the launchpad was the same one used for Apollo 11
  • the rocket launched to David Bowie’s Life on Mars
  • there’s a sign that says ‘Don’t Panic’ on the dashboard of the Tesla
  • apparently inside the glovebox: Asimov’s Foundation series, a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and a a towel

spacexteslaorbit

Originally the Tesla was headed to Mars, but then it overshot and they said it would go into the asteroid belt. NASA calculated the Tesla’s orbital trajectory and they predict that it will stay closer to the sun and end up in an orbit somewhere between earth’s and mars’. It’s still visible from telescopes but will soon travel too far away. Astronomers say it won’t be visible again until late 21st century. TIL NASA has a articifial object database of things in space.

Trivla and coolness aside, the reusability and power of the rockets have the most value. They are still testing, but already on the schedule is a communications satellite from Saudi Arabia and a test payload for the US military.

bbmm afternoon outing

Cold but sunny day. We decided we needed some fresh air so we headed out to the wetlands countryside area. Late lunch at an AYCE Japanese bbq place, then followed the signs to an “eco farm.” It was a big letdown. They charged an admission fee and it looked from the map outside that the so-called farm consisted of walking paths, small gardens, a playground and a kids’ petting area. There was one other car in the carpark which didn’t bode well either. We decided to save our money and give this placa a miss.

nam003bike

Ended up at the small village at Nam Sang Wai. First thing we saw when we parked the car was a row of dockless bikes that have invaded the city. No fewer than 3 different companies with yellow, green and blue bikes. To the credit of the users, the bikes were parked in a neat row. We saw others in poorer shape elsewhere–covered in mud or just thrown into an unsightly pile. How these schemes make money we don’t know.

nam012bridge

The famous “wedding bridge” had been slightly repaired, and handrails added. This is the place where a lot of people come to take wedding pictures, because of the beautiful scenery. The bridge is more a small wooden pier but its location at the side of a canal and the background of trees and a small hill is ideal for photography. This was taken on the iphone and with no adjustments whatsoever. I know, golden hour and all that. Still, pretty.

nam023path

Walked further into the small village. There are around a dozen houses, mostly metal-cladded and quite run down. People do live there though; we saw a young woman watering her vegetable garden, heard the sound of a tv or radio through the gap of another house, and there’s laundry out to dry in front of several houses. The concrete path turned into one that was basically rotten wooden planks, which is part of the charm.

The wooden planks lead to another small pier, this one at the side of a river/canal. There’s a boatman who rows people across to the other side, probably the shortest river crossing ever. Equivalent to 50p per crossing, add 10p per bike. Very sedate. A sign says it’s around 15mins’ walk to the nearest train station from the other side of the river. During the 10mins that we were there, we saw a good 5-6 people crossing, one came back to this side with his bike and 2 bottles of either detergent or comfort in the basket. Looks like it’s widely used by locals.

We caught the sunset as we were walking back to the car. It was quick! We were both full from lunch, so decided to call it a day. I was home by 7.30pm.

sleep or read, a dilemma

cattune005rest

Almost every night when it starts getting late, after 11pm or so, I look at the clock constantly. The dilemma is, sleep or read on, because I’ll inevitably be reading a book.

It’s very cold the last few days, at night it’s below 10ºC. I can hear some people scoffing already, pffft only 10ºC, stop complaining. Consider this: our buildings have no insulation and no heating. Most of us get by with a small fan heater which is okay for heating a small area but nothing more than 10 steps away. Heat leaks out through the walls and the windows. Next time it gets to below 10ºC, turn your heating off and open your windows (to simulate the lack of insulation) for three days and just use a fan heater. See how you get on.

I’ve been wearing socks all day, so my feet are warm. Ease of falling asleep is directly proportional to feet temperature, more specifically temperature at bottom of feet. There’s an old study in Nature:

As we approach the threshold of sleep the body’s temperature regulation system redistributes heat from its core to our extremities. The phenomenon is closely related to the release of hormones such as melatonin, which regulate sleepiness and wakefulness.

Anyway, because of the cold weather, I find that I’m waking up later because it’s nice and warm underneath my duvet. This is a great duvet, even better than the 13.5 tog white goose down one I’ve had forever, this one mm ordered for me at a duvet making place, it’s supposedly handmade and very, very warm. Regardless of when I finally climb into bed, I tend to wake up around the same time. Late.

I’ve always been more of a night owl than a morning person. Luckily I only remember one all-nighter when I was studying, that one time I tried to do what people said to do and drank some coffee which resulted in me getting more sleepy and not liking coffee ever. I don’t exactly find myself getting more energetic as it gets later, it’s just that I find it quieter with few distractions. So I’m up past midnight and I’m reading, or writing a post, or doing something else. Again, there’s a study on this phenomenon which they call delayed sleep-wake phase disorder:

a typical sleep pattern that is “delayed” by two or more hours…Once sleep occurs, the sleep is generally normal. But the delay leads to a pattern of sleep that is later than what is desired or what is considered socially acceptable.

It’s not a disorder, really, is it. Following a different sleeping-hours pattern is not wrong, and people should stop discriminating against others who are simply different. As long as I get my work done, when does it matter what time I did it? Of course it’s easier when I had the freedom of living on my own, and not have to go to work at regular hours. Even people who work at home find it challenging.

Back to my original dilemma. Sleep or read? Let me go read for a little while longer, then I’ll decide.

dark coin puzzle

Very cool quick puzzle that has a “surprisingly easy solution.” I had to think about the solution to fully realise, yes it is surprisingly easy.

darkcoinpuzzle

You’re in a completely dark dungeon room with hundreds of coins; each coin has a silver side and a gold side. There are 20 coins with silver side facing up, the rest has its gold side facing up. You are to separate the coins into two piles, and each pile must contain the same number of silver-side up coins. The size of the piles may be different. The coins feel the same and flipping is allowed.

Hint: algebra is involved in the solution.

yorkshire pudding pizza

yorkiepizza

To coincide with yorkshire pudding day, Morrisons has launched a yorkshire pudding pizza. The base is a 6.5-inch yorkie, and it’s filled with tomato sauce, mozzarela plus one of two fillings: pepperoni or meat feast which is meatballs, pepperoni, spicy beef and jalapeño. Seems to be quite small, and will be sold at 491 morrisons for £3.

This is also not new, a diner in yorkshire did it first.

The trend of food mashups continue but this one should work. A base that is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, filled with traditional pizza ingredients. It’s not unlike Chicago deep dish pizza really, if you think about it.

we are not original

via petapixel

We go through flickr, or google photos, or instagram, or facebook, looking at our friends’ travel pics. Even notice they’re essentially all the same shot. Different weather, time of day, and if they are normal people who stand in front of the landmark or scenery, the difference is in the people and where they stand.

Instagrammer Oliver KMIA made a video slideshow of almost identical images of planes, people, and instantly recognisable landmarks photographed in the exact same way, calling it:

a photogenic mass tourism experience

What he’s missing is what I see a lot on my friends’ fb posts: pic of the airport gate showing where they are going, and an image of their boarding pass. (And here’s why we must NEVER EVER post pictures of boarding passes anywhere.)

To my horror, I find that I’m also guilty of some of these clichéd pics, even though I will never do the let’s-pretend-we’re-pushing-the-leaning-tower-of-pisa atrocity. Like this arashiyama bamboo forest pic, I know I took it, I can show the EXIF and prove that I was, well, in Kyoto that day. But will anyone be any wiser if I had downloaded it off google images or flickr or instagram and added it amongst all the others I took on the same trip? I doubt it. I’m conscientious about linking and acknowledging, but not everyone is. Both my friend A and I have had people link and copy our images without crediting us, but that’s not the point of this post.

As for the photogenic mass tourism experience, dpreview said

We can’t decide if the video is funny or depressing

I think it’s both and neither. It’s a sign of the times.