happy birthday, papa

westvleteren12

Today would have been Papa’s 80th birthday. We met at the foodcourt for lunch–korean food at 1/10th the price of jinjuu and the bibimbap actually had crust. The cemetery was very quiet, we were the only people visiting while we were there. Must have been papa looking out for us, our taxi driver was actually waiting at the taxi stand when we were about to leave. He claimed he was taking a break but he did let slip that he figured we would have problems getting a taxi. Smart of him.

One of my regrets is I saved up a bottle of westveleteren 12, the best beer in the world, for a special occasion and never got to share it with papa. Westvleteren has the smallest production of the Belgian Trappist monasteries and sale of this beer is limited to one crate per buyer who had to call ahead to reserve their purchase (if they get through on the phone). It’s been described as the holy grail of beer. This one treasured bottle I managed to find in Brussels five years ago during my chip- and chocwalk with my friend A.

Papa would have loved the beer. It’s dark and strong, at 10% alcohol. Rich, smoky, creamy. Tons of fruity, caramel notes–like it’s been soaked in dried fruit. It’s definitely one for sipping slowly. It’s a small 330ml bottle; but the complexity and higher alcohol content makes it more staisfying. It would have been great shared between the two of us.

Happy Birthday, Papa.

low volume hearing

nosound

Allergies have been bad. More than the usual itchiness and sneezing, it’s graduated to my eyes hurting and for the past few days, one of my ears is blocked. I’ve tried the usual methods, irrigating it and adding oil.

It’s my left ear so it’s the less dominant one. I guess I’m just an average person in peferring to listen with my right ear.

I suppose I should go to the doctor’s to have it looked at, since I’m experiencing small headaches like if I clench my jaw too tightly. I’m sort of enjoying the lower volume though, less ambient traffic sounds, and I can use it as an excuse not to talk.

lunch at jinjuu

jj22meal

Met with sis and gis for lunch at jinjuu. Korean place with ayce starters and we can choose one main dish. They gave us one of each of the starters and then we can order extra. Sort of fusion korean food: beetroot cured salmon, dumping soup, chicken skewer, grilled corn with sweet spicy sauce, kimchi arancini, grilled prawn. The salmon was too tart, too much vinegar in the cure. The dumpling was good, with a little bit of theatre as the broth was poured in from a teapot. i thought the chicken was tastless but gis liked it. I liked the corn but since they didn’t like it I ended up eating their portions so I didn’t have to order extra. The arancini and prawn were the two better starters.

For mains I chose barley bibimbap and I had may be 3 spoonfuls. The taste was okay, but nothing spectacular, underseasoned. The greatest thing about every bibimbap is the crust, and this one had zero crust. I didn’t mind that it was all vegetarian but the execution was disappointing. Sis had ramen and she said it was boring. Gis had a rice doughnut filled with bulgogi beef that she said was okay. Mum had the best main dish, of fried chicken.

Dessert was one plate of a mixture of ice cream, sorbet, and two cones. The ice cream was meh, the sorbet was okay, it was all a melting puddle when it reached our table.

For an additional charge sis and I had the 2hr freeflow drinks package. I started with a spicy kimchi mary which was a bloody mary with kimchi flavours and pepper flakes stuck to the outside of the glass. The flakes were useless and I could barely taste the kimchi. Not bad as a bloody mary. I moved to prosecco and ended up drinking quite a few glasses. They ran out of prosecco and for my last glass they gave me champagne, moët too. I liked the prosecco better.

Jinjuu is in london too and Jay Rayner described it as

glossy

and the brainchild of celebrity korean-american chef Judy Joo. It seems that neither Mr Rayner nor Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard were that impressed with the london branch.

Expensive too. Brunch for 4 people came to local$2200, or US$280. Okay, two of us added drinks but actually the drinks was the best value because we took full advantage. I don’t shy away from expensive meals, if they are good. I just don’t feel like this was value for money at all.

The silver lining I could muster is I was too full to have dinner so I can argue the cost covered meals for one whole day. Not very convincing, right?

mm family dinner

Went over to mm’s parents’ place for dinner. Her mum is looking better, more energy and alert and she’s up and walking around. They have 2 helpers now, one to take care of household chores and the other is a carer for auntie. The household helper apparently isn’t a very good cook so mm and auntie were supervising the cooking today.

Simple home cooked meal, limited by what auntie can eat. Steamed eggs, steamed pork, steamed fish, vegetables. Yes, mostly steamed but there was plenty for everyone, tasted good and everyone had a nice dinner. We opened a bottle of wine and shared with auntie’s friend. After dinner we played a game of checkers then it was time for them to get some rest.

Staying with mm tonight. Initially we thought we might chat but after showering we were too tired and went to bed.

yay, science

The spring issue of the Imperial magazine arrived in my postbox. So rare to receive an actual paper magazine nowadays. Lots of interesting reading.

you are your brain — the feature of this issue talks about how it is our brain that makes us who we are, it is

icmag42brain

the storehouse of personhood – of emotion, thought, memory – of all the things that make us the individuals we are

Several departments at IC look at how the brain works. Neuropathology looks at the structure of the brain; the Intelligent Systems and Networks group in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering studies how electric current from neuron to neuron which is how our brains process information; and the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology considers the changes in our brains when under the influence of psychedelic drugs. The research carried out by all these scientists go towards improving our knowledge of how the brain works, and more importantly, how we can better diagnose and treat brain disorders. For instance, a team at St Mary’s has developed an infra-red scanner that checks for blood clots and has a 90% accuracy in a hospital setting.

standard matter 3.0 — this article about theoretical physics and the large hadron collider at CERN is a little above my head. I’m fascinated by it, yet I always find theoretical physics (and chemistry) difficult to fully grasp.

icmag42matter

My takeaway is that there are 12 fundamental particles (including quarks and leptons) that are subject to 4 fundamental forces of the universe (eg electromagnetic). This is the Standard Model which has been accepted since the 1960s and confirmed by what the large hadron collider has found: nothing new. The concept of particle physics is so vast and so much of it is still unknown. Professor Henrique Araujo:

We know a lot about five per cent of our universe, and almost nothing about the other 95 per cent

blockchain — the price of bitcoins reached US$3500, so $100 invested in bitcoins in 2010 will be worth millions. Who was to know? Bitcoin has been lauded as the future, but the image is poor as it is the currency of choice for hackers and blackmailers. The technology behind bitcoin, blockchain, is sound and researchers point out, secure since all transactions are distributed amongst the entire network without a central server. Every computer in the network stores and authenticates the transaction in real time,

but once it is added, a transaction record is permanent and cannot be changed – it’s ‘immutable’ in blockchain-speak – because altering it would require access to millions of separate computers

Outside of the financial services industry, uses include any item or commodity that is distributed globally. There was an article in the NYT about how bananas are shipped to new york and this will be a good use of blockchain technology. At every step of the way, from the farmer who grew the banana to the ship that carried the banana to the supermarket that has the banana on its shelves, every party registers information about the banana and it makes it easy to collect and retrieve records of the banana’s production. Important if something goes wrong along the way, or someone is trying to commit fraud.


The magazine isn’t all about academics. Articles about student activities and alumni news too. Apparently alumni can purchase a lifetime membership for £40 and use all the union activities including the bar and join clubs and societies. If I’m back living in London and near South Ken I may do that. I should check out King’s alumni membership too.

hyde park relays — the biggest student race, a 5k team relay with representation from IC as well as other universities. Costumes optional. Past racers include Dave Moorcroft and Seb Coe, who helped Loughborough to victory.

the gliding club — formed in 1930, it’s the oldest gliding club in UK universities. Club secretary Amy describes the sensation when launching:

you go from 0 to 60 mph in a few seconds. And from the canopy it looks like you are going straight up into the air

I don’t even want to go parachuting but there’s something peaceful about gliding that is appealing.

tsingy de bemaraha national park

We had very tentative plans to travel later in the year, but nothing fixed. May be Japan again if we only have a week; Europe if we have longer. With mm’s mum’s health situation, those plans are probably out. I may still get to travel before the end of the year, but I’m not sure.

tsingy
© Dave Stamboulis, BBC Travel

I’ve been looking at the bbc photoessay about Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar, one of the most difficult UNESCO site to reach. First, it’s in Madagascar, already one of the world’s most remote location. Secondly, the national park is in the northwestern part of the island and accessible by a dirt road that is a muddy swamp 6 months of the year. When it is relatively dry to travel, there are still 2 rivers to cross, both crocodile-infested.

Tsingy is the local language for “the place where one cannot walk” describes the sharp limestone formations in the national park. A series of suspension bridges, steel cables, pegs and ladders together with train guides allows visitors to see the spiky formations up close. UNESCO describes this world heritage site as:

impressive ‘tsingy’ peaks and a ‘forest’ of limestone needles.

I usually do quite well in those global places I’ve visited quizzes. I don’t see this often on those list challenges and it should be. I doubt I’ll ever get a chance to go but looking at the pics is enough. Spectacular.

new look store room

edestoreroom

Mum’s friends introduced her to a part-time helper who can come once a week to help with household chores. We started with tidying the store room, aka the maid’s room that we have been using as store room. There is no ‘before’ pic because: a) I didn’t think of it and b) it was extremely horrible with stuff thrown all over the floor.

We threw away so much stuff! I’m so happy we can see the floor, albeit it’s 1960s style tiled floor. Most stuff we threw away are old or hasn’t been used for years. Organised other stuff that mum bought, put in a bag or box, and promptly forgot about it. That’s why we have so much toiletries, they were hidden in boxes and bags.

Next week, we’ll tackle the bridge and part of the kitchen.

less facebook; more reddit

As I become more and more disenfranchised about facebook (constant switch to top stories, ‘helpful’ posts I may like / friends I may want to add, same old posts I’m only marginally interested in), I only open it once a day. I think I’ve spent a total of 20mins during the past week, and most of that time was refreshing to get most recent, get rid of annoying stuff on the right column, hiding posts. Actual reading and commenting, hardly any time spent.

And as they announce that they will be adding stories to the desktop, I don’t forsee me adding it back to my browser home.

I’m back spending more time on reddit. Inc. quoted Obi-Wan when talking about how reddit isn’t as bad as everyone thinks:

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

But like the patrons inside the cantina in ep 4 or Maz Kanata’s tavern in ep 7, there is much good hidden underneath the scum and villainy. Isn’t that one of the takeaways of Star Wars? Recently, I read about good stealth trolls, who

hijack or preemptively create pernicious subreddits and turn them benign

Here’s where the term trolling means something wider on reddit. On a site like twitter, trolls are toxic. They abuse and doxx anyone they don’t like, if they think they are SJWs or simply by being a professor of classics at Cambridge. On reddit, the act of trolling is still undermining or derailing. But on alt-right, white supremist subs, trolling means taking over as a moderator and turning a hate-filled sub into one that, well, isn’t. An example is r/whites which used to be full of white supremist mumblings. After a white hat (pun intended) moderator took over, it now has posts entitled WHITE POWER showing a power generator that is white and a link to how white light can treat winter depression.

sf057paint

Here’s my contribution, a guy on the street of san francisco in a white shirt painting the outside of a house white.

climate change and the food of the future

It’s very, very hot. Climate change deniers may insist otherwise, but we are slowly and surely destroying our planet. I confess I’m also guilty of not doing as much as I can–I don’t sort my rubbish (we have no recycling collection separate from regular rubbish collection), I’ve been turning the air-con on a lot, I still eat meat.

That said, I take public transportation, I cook my own food from fresh ingredients, I try not to waste food and resources. I walk in the afternoon heat to the market before taking the shuttlebus home. It’s my reducing carbon footprint, getting exercise, and daily pokémongo activity. I’ve also been reading about how climate change affects food production and availability. Already, several food crops have been identified as being at risk:

  • coffee, chocolate, avocado — in 2016, Brazilian coffee farmers lost 90% of their crop due to drought and heat, many farmers in South American are turning to cacao. This drives cacao prices down and affects the livelihood of traditional cacao farmers in west Africa. Another knock-on effect is Californian farmers are now turning to coffee, which replaces their previous avocado crop. It’s simple economics. There’s a trend towards carob production, replacing cacao. The dessert of the future may be carob based
  • wine — as the world becomes warmer, vineyards will move closer to the poles. UK, Canada, China may be the wine producing countries of the future
  • honey and maple syrup — both very fickle products and at risk with changing climates
  • seafood — overfishing and pollution are two important factors in seafood production; as sea levels rise the type and location of seafood will change
  • sea vegetables — seaweed, kelp and sea vegetables may be the food of the future, they are hardly in difficult water conditions, absorbing nitrogen from waste
  • red meat — will become increasing rare and expensive, alternate protein meat sources will need to be found

Artist Allie West initiated a project to bring to life a possible dinner party of the future:

visualizes the possible future effects of climate change on our food system

All images below © Allie West, Heami Lee, C.C. Buckley, and Rebecca Bartoshesky.

seafood

The starter will be from the sea. Mussels and seaweed are both easy to grow and can survive in different conditions.

main

There will be no meat for main, because of rarity and price. Instead, it will be foraged vegetables such as burdock and mushrooms.

dessert

As mentioned above, carob will replace chocolate.

I don’t mind all these food. I love shellfish and can’t get enough of sea vegetables like samphire. I’ve had carob before, and although I’m not so keen, I’m okay with it taking a larger part of our diet in place of chocolate. But it’s not about me changing my palette to carob, or eating more oysters and mussels. Those are #firstworldproblems compared with actual suffering in regions that have been ravished by drought, or the refugees fleeing to Europe because They.Have.No.Food.

President Obama, writing about food and climate change says he will devote time to create a global network of activists to tackle climate change. But he also says he wants everyone to be involved–young people, families, people in developed nations and in developing nations. Make what we do on a daily basis matter:

It’s millions of decisions that are being made individually that end up having as much impact as anything

two contests

A couple of contest winners, can’t be more different.

National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

I can’t get into the natgo website, but the Atlantic has a great gallery. I’m also including the photographers’ captions.

natgopowernature
© Sergio Tapiro Velasco, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

The Power of Nature – Grand Prize and 1st Prize Nature Category. Powerful eruption of Colima Volcano in Mexico on December 13th, 2015. That night, the weather was dry and cold, friction of ash particles generated a big lightning rod of about 600 meters that connected ash and volcano, illuminating the dark scene. In last part of 2015, this volcano showed a lot of eruptive activity with ash explosions that raised 2-3 km above the crater. Most of the night explosions produced incandescent rock falls and lightning not bigger than 100 meters in average.

Or as kottke called it, Mount Doom.

A couple of others caught my eye.

natgoforest
© Yutaka Takafuji, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

Forest of the Fairy – Honorable mention, Nature. This photograph was taken in the evening hours of a humid early summer day in the forest of a small remote village in the Tamba area of Japan. It beautifully captures the magical atmosphere of princess fireflies carpeting a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people.

I love this, dream-like and surreal.

natgotrain
© Moin Ahmed, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

The Man’s Stare – Honorable mention, People. The photo was taken on July 23rd 2016 at Tongi Railway Station in Gazipur, Bangladesh. I was there taking photos and waiting for a moment. A train from Dhaka toward another district stopped at the platform for 5 minutes for lifting passengers. It was raining a lot. Suddenly I found a pair of curious eyes looking at me through the window and on his left an umbrella has been put to protect from the rain. I got the moment.

This is almost like a painting.


The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

This is for the WORST opening sentence. Not in a real novel, but participants try to write the worst opening line. Kat Russo was the winner for:

The elven city of Losstii faced towering sea cliffs and abutted rolling hills that in the summer were covered with blankets of flowers and in the winter were covered with blankets, because the elves wanted to keep the flowers warm and didn’t know much at all about gardening.

Pam Tallmann, in the Crime/Detective category:

As hard-boiled detective Max Baxter ate his soft-boiled egg, he thought about the gorgeous dame he’d found last night lying in a pool of her own blood—it being inconvenient to lie in a pool of someone else’s blood—and wondered how she liked her eggs.

They even have a Purple Prose category. Tyson Canale won with:

A sweaty Hector threw off his shirt, passion burning, skin glistening, his deodorant congealed to little chunks ensnared among the matted jungle of his armpits like so many crumbles of pungent blue cheese over a bed of sprouts, moistened with a dressing of perspiration, and lustily asked, “Are you as hungry as I am?” to the confused busboy.

ravenhearst

ravenhearst1

I’ve spent the past few days playing the old Ravenhearst game. I got the original ten years ago, when for a short while I subscribed to monthly games. I still have 4 credits leftover at big fish games so I redeemed a credit for the sequel. And then they had a sale so I got #3 and #4.

I like playing these hidden object games on the mba, not so much on the ipad. Not merely because the screen is bigger so the great graphics can be seen better. There are too many ads and restrictions for the ipad versions–they make you wait for hours or even a day to replenish lives, or give hints, or other in-game features. There are no distractions or in-game cash grab for the mac games. The only problem is the mba heats up like crazy with these flash games. I can ignore it, but I make myself stop and logout after a while.

The first Ravenhearst game is pretty simple: mostly hidden objects with a few puzzles and solving the crime by completing jigsaw puzzles. Straight-forward gameplay and the puzzles are interesting. I didn’t pay that much attention to the diary entries that are supposed to be central to solving the crime; just finding the objects and finishing the crime computer jigsaw puzzles moved the game forward. The only notes I had to make was to remember the location of various keys in the different rooms.

ravenhearst2

Ravenhearst #2, or Return to Ravenhearst, is more sophisticated. Still hidden objects, but the crime and puzzle-solving elements taking more centre stage. Lots of rooms and areas to explore, I almost had to draw a map to remember all the locations; I’d go down to a basement and there is an entire street with shops and, hey, a dark cave. It’s fun to explore, and the puzzles were varied and challenging. One of my favourite games.

I’ve just started #3, Escape from Ravenhearst. It’s very different and I’m not 100% liking it. The hidden object element is now morphing objects: there’s no list of objects to find, we have to identify random objects that change form. After a couple of scenes, I have the hang of it and find that they are on par with traditional hidden objects. What I have trouble with, is the story and gameplay. As in #2, there are lots of different locations, some hidden, and it’s part of the puzzle to open up a new area. The problem with #3 is, I’ve found myself finishing a puzzle and then I don’t know where to go or do next. No new areas, no new clues.

The second complaint is the puzzles, they are not obvious. With the previous games, I could sense what I need to do to solve the puzzle. With #3, I’d open up a scene and have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. Give an example, in #2 there was a puzzle where I had to switch numbers on a dial so they were in the right order; there was also a whack-a-mole game and I figured out hitting red moles took away points. In #3, I zoomed into a dial that had 3 push levers and there’s nothing to tell me what I should be aiming to do. I’m also having to constantly write down notes of random numbers and letters I’m seeing, they aren’t stored in the casebook and there are no clues about where they may be used. Way, way too obscure. I don’t want to read through the walkthrough constantly, but that’s what I have been doing.

I’m only around halfway done with #3 and reading the reviews make me go ‘hmm’ because the storyline is dark. The locations include a creepy hospital, a horrible house and a mental institution. Not sunshine and flowers this one. There’s always been a supernatural element to the series but in addition to the macabre twist the ghosts who appear in #3 are not helpful, all they say are “don’t come here, you’re in danger!” Duh, yes. That’s why I’m playing the game, do they want me to hit the quit button? I’ll work on finishing it slowly.

bake-off channel 4


Ugh. Channel 4’s Bake-Off trailer is here. This is not the Bake-Off we know. Channel 4’s Jay Hunt:

It’s got a new tone to it.

bakeoffch4

If we get it here, I know I’ll watch it. But it’ll be accompanied by much hand-wringing that I’m somehow not being loyal to the BBC version. However good they are, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding are not Mel and Sue. Prue Leith is okay. I just don’t feel any warmth or cosiness in this group. Quite the opposite, there’s something creepy and off-putting. Sandi Toksvig is the only one who looks normal and approachable.

I’m looking forward to Mary Berry’s new show to find Britain’s best cook. Not that keen on Mel and Sue and the Generation Game though.

ingredient vs cook

lambrack04

The small supermarket had rack of lamb, buy 2 packets at 30% off. We don’t have room in the freezers for 2 packets so today’s lunch was rack of lamb #firstworldproblems.

From start to finish, 45mins. I seasoned with s&p and rosemary, browned in a pan then put in 180ºC oven for around 15mins. I almost overcooked them because I put the rested chops back in the oven (now off) to keep warm but luckily they were still pink inside. Making rack of lamb is straightforward for me, I consider it an easy staple. Occasionally I undercook or overcook slightly but I’ve always been happy with the results. Mostly, the lamb we get are frozen and from new zealand. I’ve also tried australian, welsh and scottish with good results.

It occurred to me that it may not be as simple to make for other people. How hard is it to ruin lamb? How hard is it to ruin good ingredients?

Which comes first, the ingredients or the cook. Difficult to answer. A good cook can make the most of poor quality ingredients: beef stew instead of steak, using vegetables wisely. But give a perfect wagyu to a cook who only knows how to boil meat or grill steak until well done and the meal is ruined.

google doodle cricket game

googledoodlecricket

I’ve been playing the google doodle cricket game a lot. The doodle celebrates the start of the ICC tournament. We play a cricket character, batting against the snail team. Good hits go for 6 and well placed shots at mid-off go for four. I haven’t been able to get close to a century though, my highest score is 42. And being a flash-like game, it makes my mba fan go crazy.

new router

router

One of the errands last week was to go to the internet company and ask about better wifi. The long and short of it is, we have a new router. It’s supposed to give us better range. The technician moved it to the living room and I’m able to get 2 bars wifi in my room. It also means there’s wifi in the living and dining rooms.

Unfortunately he disconnected the cable for the tv and I don’t have a LAN cable long enough. The whole setup is now back on my desk so we can watch tv. I’ll have to go get a longer cable then start again with everything outside.

Our building is old and the infrastructure simply isn’t there to get better internet. The cables from the street are limited and there are no spare outlets to use the home wiring system. The 8Mbps speed is the max we can get; speedtest pings give me 6Mbps. We can’t even opt for HD channels because it’ll take up too much bandwidth. Sigh.

turkey quesadilla

turkeyquesadila

I’m gradually becoming more knowledgeable about mexican food. I wish I can eat at Rick Bayless’ place all the time but mostly it’s tex-mex that I encounter. I know I prefer soft tortillas and I don’t like gigantic burritos–just looking at it kills my appetite. I’m nowadays more likely to order quesadilla.

We made really nice homemade tacos in chicago, I enjoyed it very much. So much so that I took the remaining tortillas home. Actually, quesadillas are very easy to make, hardly need a recipe. I had to go to the more expensive japanese supermarket to get grated mexican cheese. Then it’s just heating a tortilla, sprinking cheese and adding turkey (from the freezer), then more cheese on top and another tortilla. Flip so both sides are golden brown. I used the 2 tortilla method instead of folding one over.

So yummy! I have to check if I can get tortillas, too much trouble to make my own.

bbmm social support day

saltedpigbeercrackling

Went to the hospital to visit mm’s mum, she found out she was ill mid-july when I was in chicago. I’ve been trying to support and cheer up mm. I feel guilty about being in chicago when it all happened and she was all on her own taking care of her parents. I feel much better that I’m close by and she can talk to me more.

After the hospital visit we went for a quick drink at the salted pig, one of those places along the shoreline 5mins’ walk from her place. She had a wine and I had a rather expensive craft beer. It being saturday 8pm everything was full price.

Ordered crackling which inexplicably came with guacamole. Guac from a jar, no taste of fresh avo at all, ugh. The crackling tasted like it was from a packet too, which was surprising because this was supposed to be a pig restaurant.

Staying over with her tonight, so we can talk till later and I don’t have to take a taxi home. We’re both pretty exhausted, early to rest.

new tv

sonytv49

Our new tv arrived. For some reason the delivery slot was after 6pm, which meant waiting around all day. The crew merely delivered the box, leaving it in the dining room. We had to call to get the Sony technician to come install it. So bureaucratic.

Took him just 15mins to set it all up, including assembly. All the channels plus cable. We have to get used to a new remote control.

But now at least we can watch tv and catch up on masterchef australia and mkr. Added bonus, there are 3 usb slots and I can simply stick the flash drive in one of the slots and hey presto! Masterchef Australia in HD, down to tenplay logo.

pokemon go fest refund

gofestrefund

This arrived via email. So they will refund the cost of the ticket (and fees), give everyone $100 worth of pokécoins, and add a legendary lugia. In order to get the $20-plus refund, we have to fill in a form and wait till 1 September. The coins and lugia will be added to the account of everyone who checked in by scanning (or trying a thousand times to scan) the QR code. Let’s see how long it takes, they say 7 business days.

I’m so tired I can’t get the energy to go out to find an articuno raid. I have no idea if people are raiding and I don’t want to show up at a raid and see no one. I can only see what’s around me and I know there are very few people around. I know I’m missing out. After the disaster that was the go fest experience I’m becoming salty about the whole game.

errands

I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, but I was still pretty groggy when I woke up in the morning. I unpacked my stuff, again thankful that I was able to do laundry and was using packing cubes. Paid the bills that accumulated over the past month. I don’t have that much mail, bank statements are online and I don’t get much spam.

After lunch, mum and I went out for errands. Bank, teachers’ union to get a form, look for storage boxes, and to buy a tv. After 9 years and going around the world a full circle, my trusted tv finally broke down a couple of weeks ago. Yes, mum waited till I’m back so we could go get a new tv together, I have no idea why aside from it’s a ploy to continually annoy me. She knew which brand and model already. The 49″ turned out to be about the same dimensions as my old 40″ because of much smaller bezel. So thin too, and light.

Took longer than expected to pay–I wanted to use credit card points, the remainder was on another card because there was a rebate offer. Had to register by phone, then add the card to my iphone wallet for a second rebate. I suppose with the tv being a high expense item, going through all the hassle is worth the rebate. I think altogether I get something like 8-9% back.

I’ve only just started using apple pay. It is very convenient but I have to make sure I’m using the right credit card. Well, not the card but using the card in the right country and currency. I haven’t noticed how widespread it is, since it’s not my default method of payment I don’t look out for the terminals. I get the sense that it hasn’t been widely adapted. The older generation will never use it, both my parents and mm’s parents still believe in going to the bank counter for transactions, they don’t even trust ATMs let alone asking them to use their mobile phone. In the US, where data is most widely available, in 2016 around 1% of transactions used apple pay. There’s a long way to go.

daikiya01sashimi

We stayed out for dinner. Tried out a new ayce jap place. Very crowded and the tables very close together. There was a large self-service area for salad, drinks and dessert. They had free flow umeshu and sake too. I was playing with the sake machine. Food-wise, we decided it was average. Sashimi was average, grilled food was average, the soup was nice. I’d go back for the umeshu and sake and most of these ayce jap places are pretty similar anyway. The platter of sashimi was no different from platters from other places.

shortest day

edebed

Flying this way over the international date line means my ‘day’ started at 8.45pm when the plane landed. I was out at luggage claim by 9.10pm when I called mum. Luggage came out quickly too.

Airport express then taxi. Home at arond 10.15pm. Door-to-door 21 hours. I remember there were times when it was over 24 hours.

I was tired. Too tired to eat even though I was hungry. Too tired to unpack, other than food that needed to go into the fridge, which is unusual for me.

Talked with mm for about an hour, eventually I had to cut her short because I was about to fall asleep. It’s good to be back in my own bed.

flight

Left around 12.15pm, got to the airport around 1pm. No wait for bag drop. No upgrade unfortunately but the counter agent said they were having a special offer for premium economy upgrade, only $650. I was like “only” $650, you’re kidding. When I checked in on saturday I saw that the flight wasn’t that full so I passed.

There was a queue at security, nothing unexpected. I wandered around the duty free; I’d decided that I wasn’t going to buy anything no matter how tempting. I have no room at home. I got to sample the standard Jack Daniels and got chatting with the gentleman in charge of the tasting table. He gave me a small sample bottle of brandy!

ordpoke

Decamped to the bar. A glass of wine and spicy tuna poké for lunch. Interesting, this poké trend. I like it, the tuna was marinated, a little spicy which balanced out when mixed with the rice and avocado. There were also two large rice cracker pieces. Felt like I was eating something healthy, most people around me were having a burger.

cx807seat

The flight was definitely not full. My bulkhead aisle seat gave me lots of legroom and the seat next to me was empty. If i’d stuck to my original selection of seat D I would have gotten the whole row but that was always a risk. I was able to sleep for about 5-6hrs in total on the flight. The film selection was one of the poorest in recent trips. Nothing I wanted to watch at all, and the ones that appealed to me were old films like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Iron Man. I ended up watching the two John Wick films and some old tv series. The John Wick films were surprisingly good, mindless action. And surprisingly good reviews too. Food was mediocre, beef stew with potatoes that had no flavour for dinner and chicken stew with mash that had spring onions for lunch. Didn’t touch either potato sides. At least the cup noodles was consistent and there were plenty of snacks.

chicago trip day 27

chi151park

I’ve packed almost everything, just the last minute items to go in before leaving tomorrow morning. For the longest time I thought I was flying on tuesday, because I usually fly on a tuesday. I checked my ticket a few days ago and realised I was actually flying monday, so one less day than I thought.

Went to Aunt C’s house for lunch. So wonderful to see so many family members there! The kids have grown so much. I remember little A when she was a baby and J is now an adult and sporting a beard too (it’s for an event and he said he’ll shave it off afterwards). The spaghetti and salad were delicious as always and I had two generous helpings.

Day 27 of my trip and looking back, I didn’t do a whole lot. Except for the week of the conference it was mostly staying in or doing laundry or going to the supermarket. Went out to the city twice, once to walk around and another was yesterday’s disasterous go fest. I feel rested and not stressed until this past few days when I started thinking about having to go home. There’s a part of me that can’t wait to go home, to see mm, read at my own desk and sleep in my own bed. There’s another part that has been enjoying how laid back staying at Car’s house has been. We went out or called out for meals a few times, to the usual places–steak, mexican, beggar’s, portillo’s, cracker barrel. We also cooked a few meals at home–pasta, potato frittata, cheeseburger. Sometimes I simply made ham & egg sandwich or toasted some waffles. We would be sitting at the dining table reading, and it’d be peaceful. There was no schedule, no anxiety. Grateful to my friend Car and her cat Midi for making me feel so at home (and I’m not saying this because I know she will be reading this, waves to Car).

pokémon go fest

pokefest015stage

I was quite looking forward to the pokémon go fest event in chicago, having been lucky enough to get a ticket. Niantic was advertising all sorts of fun events: raids, global catch challenges, legendaries and special pokémons. The trainers at go fest were supposed to lead the world in catch events that were to take place in 30-minute windows.

So I got on the 9.12am train, stopped by 7-eleven to get water, and made my way towards grant park.

And that began a day that can only be described as a complete fail.

The event was supposed to start at 10am. I got to the entrance around 10.15am to see a long queue stretching down columbus. Walked to the end of the line to see an enormous mass of people snaking around buckingham fountain. Snaking like an intricate maze. I joined the queue and it took more than 2 hours to get to the entrance. They had one entry point for 20,000 people. There was nothing to do, the app took forever to open or crashed when I was trying to do anything. Someone mentioned we walked 7km just queuing up, she either was able to keep the app open or had a fitbit.

pokefest021stop

Actually getting in was fast. Go through bag search then scan the wristband. Once inside, we were given an envelope that had a badge and a QR code. The idea was to spin at one of the official physical pokéstops and scan the QR code to get the event badge. Sounds easy enough? Ha! There was NO SIGNAL. If we could get in, the app crashed after a minute. It took mutiple tries to get the app open and 4 tries to get the QR code to scan and the badge to show up. It wasn’t just me, it was everyone at the park. It was supposed to be an event where 20,000 people worked together to catch or raid pokémons but it ended up being 20,000 people with their heads down staring at their phones trying to get connected to the network or load the app.

I was there for a bit over 2 hours. In total I spun 2 stops and caught 2 pokémons: onyx and magikarp. A grand total of 200m was registered. Hatched an egg (rhyhorn) but couldn’t start to incubate or spin at a stop to get a new one. At least I got the event badge.

Left around 2.30pm and went to get something to eat. I hadn’t eaten anything and only drank a bottle of water up to then. The people at the next table were also from go fest and everyone expressed disappointment. The worst was when I was walking out and I heard a dad said to his son,

I’m sorry this was such a bomb.

I tried the app while I was eating and saw to my amazement, a porygon and then a chansey. The app crashed when I was catching the porygon but I got the chansey, phew I needed the chansey more. I started walking slowly to the station because I had around an hour before the train. Saw a bunch of people outside an alley and it turned out to be unown.

Niantic CEO and CMO got booed when they went on stage in the park to greet the crown. Turned out, they hadn’t informed the cellular providers they were having an event where 20,000 people would try to get on the internet. They had “forgotten” to install wifi towers. The servers couldn’t take the strain (nothing new there, par for the course for Niantic).

pokefestreward

So they extended the catch radius to two miles outside grant park. Those of us who were finally able to get a signal saw the promised rare pokémons. In addition to the porygon and chansey I also got unown and heracross. My recents don’t look so bad.

As I was taking the train back to the house, I was reading about possible compensation. The official Niantic apology to registered attendees:

  • refund of the $20 ticket
  • $100 worth of pokécoins
  • radius of special pokémons and eggs extend 2 miles for 24hrs (only visible to registered attendees)
  • legendary pokémon lugia to be automatically added to the account

I haven’t received any notifications yet; the compensation seems to be just about enough to shut people up. Doesn’t take away the fact that they ruined many people’s day. People came in from all over the US or around the world to play and they couldn’t. Especially sorry for all the families who were there, the kids must have been gutted. Trainers around the world who had organised their day to coincide with the event were also left confused and with no information. A good rundown of the how the day went is at heavy.

Apparently within the 2 mile radius after the event it’s super fun. Lures and legendary raids everywhere. But most attendees have probably gone home or away from the area.

Anyway, I’m leaving on Monday and I still haven’t seen a single tauros shadow. That’s another complaint for another day.

avocado toast

avotoast

Saw avocados at the supermarket 3 for US$5, large and ripe too. So it’s a no-brainer to make avo toast for lunch. There are plenty of recipes out there, that combines the avo with poached eggs, smoked salmon, feta cheese. Many recipes smash the avos and season with s&p. I just sliced mine and arranged on toast, didn’t need seasoning.

Yummy yummy yummy.

It seems to have become some sort of hipster, millennial food and attracted some unwanted attention when an Aussie baby boomer scolded millennials for ordering

smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop

(that’s AUD) instead of saving up to buy a house. Honestly, with so much corrupt 1% money floating around the world, young people will need to skip thousands of avo toasts in order to afford to buy property.

avotoasthousing

The BBC did an avocado toast housing index. They:

took the average cost for avocado toast in a handful of cafes in each city, and looked at how many you’d need to forego to afford a 20% deposit on a home. House prices are based the average price for a 90sq m apartment outside the city centre

67 years in London, 54 years in HK, 32 years in Sydney. For Aussies, it’s ironic. When Chef Thomas Lin from Ruby’s, an Australian café in NYC, arrived in the US, he was surprised that people treated avo toast as a fancy, trendy food item rather than something normal people ate for breakfast:

There are two things you have in the morning on toast. You have Vegemite on toast, or you have avocado on toast. Sometimes you have Vegemite and avocado on toast.

I hope avo toast doesn’t go the way of artisanal anything, matcha-flavoured everything, food served Jamie-style on chopping boards and gets classified as a food trend that needs to die. Because it’s delicious, simple and healthy.

More avo! More avo toast!

day out in chicago

Went out to the city to walk around, check out new places, do a little pokehunting.

chi158pokebbq

I got to la salle station around 11am. Bought the return ticket and headed out. I really wanted to go to Girl and the Goat but they open at 4.30pm, no lunch service. After researching various other options, I decided to go to revival food hall. It’s a glorified food court, much like the Smorgasburg at south street seaport in NYC. The idea is

an all-local dining concept spotlighting the best of Chicago’s acclaimed culinary scene under one roof

There are 15 stalls, featuring hipster fast food like artisan pizza, ramen, salads, seafood, barbeque, poké. I heard good things about the barbeque so I got a brisket sandwich that came with 2 sauces, I picked memphis and luling, TX to give some tang and a little spice. Didn’t order the sides because instead I got the medium poké with salad. Tuna, edamame, avocado with a spicy yuzu sauce. Can’t get more extreme american food than this–southern vs fusion hawaiian. Combined, came to around $20 so not cheap.

chi175adler

I wanted to go out to grant park and the lake. Missed the bus so I got the divy bikes. $10 for a 24hr day pass and 30min free rides. Same model as NYC citibikes. It was really nice to bike along the lake on the bike path. I went all the way to adler planetarium. It gave a great view back to the skyline and the lake.

The reason I headed to adler was because I’d read that it’s a good pokemongo spot. And there were quite a few. Two problems: mostly commons, and I spent more than half my time there trying to get a decent signal. I’d get no service, or no data, or 2G. Even tried switching to the brand new simcard. The coffee shop in the planetarium had wifi but it screwed up the gps so much that I was either jumping all over the place or it had me out in the water. Overall, did not meet expectations.

chi192millers

Biked back to the loop and ended up at Miller’s Pub. It’s been YEARS since we went there for happy hour. Asked the bartender to recommend an amber ale and he served up a good one. I’d been walking or biking for over 2hrs and the drink was much needed.

Walked over to Sears Tower because again I read that there may be tauros there. Guess what? Nothing. Zero. Zip. The pokemon experience in chicago so far has been atrocious. Needing to restart every 2 mins, the app crashing every 5 mins, nothing worthwhile to catch. Disappointing.

Instead, I biked around a little more. The streets are okay for biking, traffic is slow and the roads are straight. Drivers aren’t that crazy. A couple of streets have dedicated bike lanes.

Got to the station at 3.47pm and was able to catch the 3.50pm. No waiting. We had tacos for dinner and it was yummy. Great day out, had fun walking and biking. I sure hope saturday’s pokemon fest isn’t a complete disaster.

neighbourhood walk

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Nice day to go out for a walk around the neighbourhood. Clear skies but dry enough that I’m not dripping with sweat. Quite pretty around St Walter Church.

chi166house

The houses in this area are pretty. To my standards, they are all large and even the ones that look small from the outside are deep so there is plenty of space inside. This interesting one has the remains of a wall around the front gate. I wonder what the story is.

chi168breadbottle

I walked to the orphanage again, and over to this small store. It’s a pokestop too. But I didn’t go inside, apparently it’s a dodgy place where suspected drug dealers hang out. Safe enough during the day (from across the road) but I won’t go near it when it’s dark.

There were very few pedestrians around. This being America, with drive-thru restaurants and ATM machines and even drive-thru postboxes, most people out and about were driving. I saw a postal worker delivering mail, a couple of people walking their dogs, a kid on his bike, people waiting for the bus, that was about it. There was a group of 4 women having a picnic at the lawn near the church. Perhaps having lunch? It was around noon.

paris cake walk

pariscakewalk

Keeping this in my food and travel research file, food52’s paris cake walk. The plan:

We’re going on a cake walk, straight through the glamorous heart of the old school 7th arrondissement, steeped in Belle Epoch spirit, stuffed with gorgeous museums set in formal gardens (coucou, Musee Rodin). On the way, we’ll be collecting a grand assortment of the finest pastries, cakes, and chocolates that the City of Light has to offer. Then, we’re going to sit on a specific park bench and enjoy them.

The walk starts at Musée d’Orsay station. The walk itself according to google maps is around 15mins but the actual time taken will be much longer because of the stops. At least 10 pâtissières along the way where we have the option to get macarons, chocolate ganache, pralines, truffles, fruit jellies, cakes, tarts, breads and all manner of delectable goods.

The walk ends at the Square des Missions Étrangères with a marble bust of Vicomte Châteaubriand, politician, writer and who had a steak named after him. One of the best cuts of steak too.

paris055clerpatiss

There are so many great food destinations in Paris that it’s hard to go wrong. Each neighbourhood will have its greengrocer, butcher, cheesemaker and baker. Hope we can take a trip back to europe soon.

wonder woman

cokefreestyle

Saw Wonder Woman at the local cinema today. Lots of screens, large cinema, quite crowded. We bought a combo of large popcorn and 2 large drinks, the total came close to the price of 2 tickets. The drinks was coke freestyle which meant I could play around and get all sorts of coke products. I mixed orange flavoured coke zero, lemonade, sparkling water and a little mixed berry juice. Doesn’t taste as awful as it sounds.

The seats were all reclining so the footrest comes up. Comfortable.


As for the film itself, so much has already been said. US$380 million domestic sales, overtaking Deathly Hallows Part 2. US$760 million worldwide. Top grossing film by a female director. Best DCEU film.

It did well not only in box office numbers, but reviews too. 92% at rotten tomatoes, high scores from major newspapers, good reviews everywhere I read. All my friends are raving about it.

They handled the backstory and the reboot into WW1 timeline very well. It suited the backstory–amazon princess misplaced in ‘modern’ era but one without computers or anything too technical. All too often, superhero films and tv programs fall into the trap of making their heroes too idealistic, too wonderful, too much of everything that it becomes a bad cartoon. Patty Jenkins and her team didn’t do any of that. Gal Gadot had an air of determined innocence which was balanced well with a low key performance by Chris Pine. Love the supporting cast too. No one too OTT, too much of a stereotype, never took away the limelight from the main characters. The Verge:

Wonder Woman represents a number of delicate balancing acts: between humor and gravitas; angst and adventure; full-blown, unvarnished superhero fantasy and the DCEU’s usual unpacking of what those fantasies mean.

There’s a lot of attention on the film’s message of empowering women and certainly it has a wonderfully encouraging message to girls and women everywhere. For me though, ultimately I thoroughly enjoyed the film not because it was a film directly by a woman, or had women in starring roles, or even that they had real athletes playing the amazons. In fact, I’m meh at strong women dressed in amazon costumes–I’m not a fan of Xena or the tv Wonder Woman. I guess what I’m saying is that I liked the film despite of that. Because it was a story well told, with exciting fight scenes and believable characters. I think many people feel the same, male or female. As producer Charles Roven said:

Historically, audiences in this genre are male — 60 to 40 percent — but if you can really tap the market and maintain the males and actually add a significantly greater female audience, it’s a great win-win.

lazy day

A lazy day. I did go out for a walk around the neighbourhood, it was a hot day but not so humid that would make spending any time in the sun horrible. I started playing pokemongo one year ago so I went round to the nearby pokestops. Either the signal was bad or the app was in its usual poor performing state I found myself having to stop every 2 minutes to restart it. So frustrating.

I went to the local church and the park outside, where I did a lot of running last time I was here. The park was fenced off, with a sign that said they were returfing it. I walked a little further and found an orphanage, with a pretty building and a gym at its front door. Couldn’t do much with the gym because the app wasn’t working. In the end, walked for about an hour and it felt good.

threemilkcake

The reward (and more than the calories spent walking) was a slice of three milk cake I bought at the bakery yesterday. Three milk cake is also known as tres leches cakes, where the cake is soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. Rich in taste but still light in texture. Found a useful recipe with lots of pictures.

visiting friends

We drove up to the city to visit our friends C and A, who had recently moved into their new home in Jefferson Park, which they say is like living in the suburbs but still in the city. Their house is on the corner and the cross street is Balmoral, what a coincidence. They have just begun to decorate it and it’s already looking homely and comfortable. Lots of beautiful artwork. There is the front room with modern fireplace, a cosy library with books, books, books, stainless steel white goods in an open kitchen. Two bedrooms upstairs and tv room in the basement. Plus a porch and a two-car garage.

We chatted and chatted and chatted. Played with their friendly cats too.

ribsdinner

Made a simple choice for dinner, ordered from an italian place to pick up and eat at their home. Much more relaxed than eating out. I shared a full slab of ribs and got a side order of spinach. The ribs were good. Tasty and tender. On the way to pick up dinner, we stopped at a bakery and got cakes that looked delicious.

Long day, including a 2hr traffic jam when going there, but really nice.

comfort food

crackerrainbow

We had a few errands to run–clinic, post office. While we were out we went to cracker barrel for late lunch / early dinner. It was around 3.30pm and the place was pretty busy.

Cracker Barrel serves comfort food. Big cooked breakfasts, american styled biscuits and gravy and grits. I used to have either the breakfast or angst over what to eat. Nowadays I have the fish. Their grilled rainbow trout is pretty tasty and comes with 3 sides. I got hash brown, broccoli and the new brussels sprouts & kale salad. Unlimited iced tea.

I even bonded with the server. I had pokemongo open and we chatted a bit. He saw a snorlax the other day but his phone died when he was trying to catch it. The pokemongo experience for me so far has been disappointing. More than disappointing. Common catches, no stops nearby and login issues. I’ve given up on daily stop bonus.

Talking about comfort food, there seems to be some hullabaloo about mince toast. To recap, eater visited a british restaurant and declared the mince on toast is a

quintessential British comfort classic

I can imagine what mince on toast will taste like but I’ve never eaten it nor have I ever come across it.

Eater later backtracked, calling it a quintessential British dish but it’s still wrong. There’s nothing quintessential about it. Again, not dissing it, because I can imagine it can taste good. It’s just wrong for people to randomly assign things to us in this day and age of #alternativefacts.

ten years | random

Ten years. I’ve added at least one post a day since July 2007. Sometimes I backpost a week’s worth of posts, yes. And other times the post of the day is pure filler. But still, thousands of posts.

Just for fun, I generated a few random dates and went back to see what I posted on that day.

29 june 2009

Another anniversary, the walkman was 30 years old, which means it’ll be 40 years old in 2019. Crikey. I think I still have this Walkman in my desk drawer, and some tapes mm and I recorded for each other in our early days. I don’t have my case of mixed tapes anymore though.

7 may 2013

geir168fjord

We were on our scandanavian cruise and on that day we reached Geiranger. Even now I remember the beauty of the fjords. We docked early in the morning and it was a tender port. Walked a bit to the waterfall, the fjord centre and around the port. Didn’t go on any excursions. The scenery as we sailed out was spectacular.

12 july 2007

Wow, this is freaky! Exactly 10 years ago. Day 15 of my big trip. I’d started with an awful delay experience at JFK (the last time I flew delta and likely the last time ever). I rented a car and drove in the night, by myself, from JFK to Chicago. 19hrs, I think. Then Car and I went on a road trip to Fort Worth and Washington DC, arriving on 4 July to watch the fireworks. Got back to Chicago and on that day we went to an outlet mall. A restful and boring day.

laundry!

chi131carne

I needed desperately to do laundry, after a whole week away at the conference. So that’s what we did. We went to the mexican place first for late lunch. I had a carne asada which is skirt steak with trimmings. I asked for the steak rare so it wasn’t overcooked. Tasted like they put it in baking soda to tenderise it, and needed seasoning. It was okay. I ddin’t eat the tortillas that came with it.

So happy to have a full collection of clean clothes. I lost a sock though, either at the laundrette or it’s stuck inside an item of clothing.

july london events

I’m coming across stuff to do in london this summer. Of course, I’m not going to the UK because the round-the-world ticket was too expensive. But it doesn’t stop me looking. There’s a sculpture exhibition at regent’s park until october; kerb’s guiltiest pleasure festival featuring dumplings on a pizza, fried chicken with blueberry pancake bun and strawberry milkshake filled donuts; and half a dozen beer festivals in july alone.

paintedhall

An interesting tour, and educational too, found via the londonist, the old royal naval college in greenwich is offering tours to its painted hall to view the beautiful painted ceiling. The tour is 1hr and gives visitors the opportunity to climb 60 feet to view the ceiling up close and personal. The Painted Hall is called the sistine chapel of the UK and features baroque murals painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726.

Not bad, £10 for adults and free for children under 17. Tours end september.

conference day 05

The last day of the conference. Brief opening remarks then brunch and goodbyes. A was checking out today so I packed my bags and left them in the main room. I helped break down the vendor table, packing books in boxes. Then I went off with Car to look for a staples to get packing materials.

We were one of the last ones to leave. We packed up official boxes into 2 cars and returned to the storage place–the stuff will sit there until next year.

beggarspizza

Totally pooped so we just ordered pizza. Around 5.30pm my eyes couldn’t open so I took a nap. Turned out I was asleep for 2hrs. I was still able to sleep, just to show how tired I was.

conference day 04

Didn’t really go to any sessions in the morning. Saturday is always a stressful day for me and I spent the morning finishing up the awards presentation.

The keynote speaker was after lunch and we had Lesléa Newman this year, the author of Heather Has Two Mommies as well as a huge portfolio of books. She talked about how she stood on the shoulders of giants to influenced and guided her. She also read from some of her work. I don’t read poetry but I was so moved by her recital of several pieces of her poems. There was a beat, a rhythm, to her reading and I was tapping my fingers following her. I sat next to a friend T at an earlier author spotlight session and she said she always listened to people reading with her eyes closed and I spotted her tapping out a beat with her fingers at a reading too.

The very last session I went to at this conference was moderated by two authors who run a successful writing group. Our group exercise was to talk about setting up a writing group and we had a nice discussion. Our group focused on what we wanted from a group and we agreed that honesty and having common goals were important factors.

While the majority of the conference goers went off to rest and have dinner, our stress started. Rehearsal for presenters went well. I had about 30mins to eat dinner–I asked for a takeout box at lunch to grab some turkey salad I put in the fridge. A had a can of coke zero for me too, it was perfect. At 5pm it was setup time. The helpful staff at the hotel helped us set up computers, sound, video cameras, the stage, furniture and lots more. We had a small team–2 of us at the tech table, 2 at the awards table next to the stage, 3 videographers, 1 photographer and the MC. People tried to come in early but we sorted them out.

gcls2017logo

The awards started and for the 4th year in a row, I was running the deck. Started off well until the first award that was announced. As soon as the presenter announced the winner my powerpoint crashed. Luckily the hotel AV person had set up a dump screen (static screen of our logo) for us so Car switched to it quickly while I restarted and found my place. Altogether we were down for about 20 seconds. People said to me afterwards they noticed the glitch but were amazed we got it back so quickly. It’s not about the glitch or error, it’s about how you recover.

The rest of the presentation was fine. I kept up with the presenters and followed the scripts for special awards. We did away with proxies coming on stage this year and the whole ceremony took only around 2hrs. We had lots of praises, about how smoothly it went and how they appreciated it finishing early.

As usual, I spent the dance in a perpetual state of drunkeness. On our table we had writers tears, port and wine. I wasn’t drinking that much, but it was the relief of getting the awards over with. Someone bought a beer for me late in the evening too. Went to bed at 2am.

conference day 03

ladder

Again, being good students, we woke up early to go to the 8.30am sessions. I was so glad I did. The one I went to, the presenter talked about the ladder of inference. We all do this, we take external data, filter and make decisions or perform actions based on our own experiences and belief system. The trick is to recognise we are doing this and learn how to expand our thinking and be open to unfamiliar experiences. It’s very interesting, so much so that I texted mm about it. We’ll need to discuss it more when I get back.

There was another great session on the intersection of identities, where the panel made up of authors from different ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, nationality, ages. They talked about their personal experiences and how they incorporated their different backgrounds into their books.

At the break I got talking to a new friend and missed the session before lunch. Not sorry at all. My new friend S had lived and travelled all over the world and was in her previous life a tv and film producer. We bonded over our shared view of Cannes (a dump) and shared life stories. I would need to read her books asap as they sounded like they would be wonderful. She gave me a tip, to approach someone I looked up to and who had the closest style to mine (or what I aspire to) and ask for their help. I realised I may have been asking the wrong people or asking the wrong questions. I need to be more focused and targeted.

After lunch was our special speaker. The great thing about this conference is I learn about and meet people who I would never have the chance to. As ever, our special and keynote speakers talked extensively about their lives, their writing and impart great wisdom for us to take away. After the special speaker I went to a session about juggling romance with kids (real life and in books) and one where authors talked about how their faith influenced their lives and writing. I hadn’t planned on going to either of these, but I was glad I did. I also got to sit with my friend Jane who I haven’t had much chance to chat with this year.

chi122gibsons chi125gibsons

A and I decided to go to gibson’s for dinner. It’s in the hotel next door and a short walk. Yes, expensive but we both liked a good steak. We shared half a dozen oysters to start, they were good flavoured and balanced. Shared a bone-in ribeye for mains, which was really good. Not quite as good as hawksmoor because it wasn’t chargrilled enough. I also found it needed a tad more seasoning. For drinks I had a cinnamon infused makers mark 46. Wow, yummy.

The evening social event was karaoke. Good atmosphere this year. My name was even called out but it was because I got the group together to sing “I feel pretty” for our late friend Pam Butler. Stayed later than I expected.

conference day 02 | hamilton

To get up early for the 8.30am session or not, that was the question. We were good students, so we did. The day was full of educational sessions. One that touched on the current political climate, a masterclass on great openings, an update on the legacies project documentary, a discussion on swearing. The membership meeting highlighted the contributions made by volunteers and that the organisation was in good hands.

One of the most important meetings I went to was the one on awards changes. I had some input to this and we were excited with the improvements suggested. Seemed to be well received by the membership too, so the effort wasn’t wasted.

chi091hamilton

We finished early and met at the lobby for the drive into the city. The destination, Hamilton the musical. Car had gotten tickets as soon as the booking window opened and a group of us piled into her car. There were a number of our friends who were there also. I hadn’t had dinner so I bought some of their “pyes” ie small apple and cherry pies. The theatre was completely full and as soon as the house lights went off the audience cheered loudly. And the cheers didn’t stop. The show was really amazing. I know very little about Alexander Hamilton except he was one of the group that included George Washington, James Madison. I was able to follow the story easily. The music was a departure from usual musical style, I had listened to the soundtrack so I knew it was mostly hip hop. Simply put, very well done and a fantastic show. Up there with Les Miz.

conference day 01

tealiqueur

If I’d thought about it more, I would have bought croissants, yogurt, fruit for breakfast. But I forgot so breakfast was a bagel and cream cheese from the hotel café. Wednesday morning of the conference is usually setup and I found myself in the main room helping with the silent auction, moving stuff, introducing the official photographer to various people. This year’s silent auction has so much stuff. A and I each brought whisky. There were plenty of books, posters, gifts, food baskets. A member donated a lovely bowl she made herself; there was a set of 3 beautiful pics taken at venice; lots of doctor who and xena memorabilia too. Editors offered manuscript critique, writers offered characters in their books, a leathercraft company offered custom made gloves. I have my eyes on a set of miniature bottles of tea spirits from thomas and sons distillery that my friends J and H brought from portland. I wonder if they were one of the ones I could have visited when I was in portland in 2014.

A and I planned to go to one of the nearby steakhouses for lunch but we were invited to lunch at the hotel by the awards review committee. I had the burger and a glass of wine. I heard the burger was good, it was okay.

And so after lunch the conference officially started. Over 350 attendees, the biggest yet. After the opening remarks the sessions started and there were so many to choose from. I went to an open mic, a coffee chat and had some ice cream at the meet’n’greet in the evening. They also had hot dogs (we being in chicago and all) but I only had the sausage and some tomato slices; I was calling it sausage salad hahaha.

Had some official things to do afterwards, which didn’t take long.

In the evening, I and a group of others were invited to a dinner celebrating the wedding of our friends L and C. They had officially gotten married a few months ago and wanted to celebrate with us, it was very sweet. The event started with a lovely, loving movie and several people stood up to make short speeches. Very touched to have been invited and I wish the couple the best.

chicago trip day 08

Woke up at 5.30am because we had an early start. We loaded up my suitcase and muji bag of things for people and the silent auction and were off at 7am. It being a public holiday the roads were relatively clear. I took a chance and asked reception if the room was ready and it was. I dumped my bags and joined the group for breakfast and part of their meeting.

chi022wrigley

Very interesting meeting but I and another meeting attendee had to leave at 11am to get a lyft to Wrigley to see the baseball game. A was at a downtown hotel and would meet me at our seats. I’m not sure why we needed to get to the park so early, we got there at 11.45am and they wandered off to their seats. I walked around the outside of the stadium, made my way inside and explored the concession stands. Lots of food–beer,hot dogs, snacks. Souvenir shops too. I got a goose island beer (had to look for it, it was mostly budweiser) and a giordano’s pizza–I asked for cheese and got pepperoni, sigh. Our seats were in the shade behind first base. The game started at 1.20pm, I had over an hour to wait. Again, not sure why the friends took that lyft so early.

chi033flag

It being Independence Day, there was a parade of military personnel, a display of an American flag that covered most of the field, and we stood for the National Anthem.

chi043baseball

To be honest, I found the game boring. There’d be short bursts of action then long periods of waiting around for teams to get organised or change positions or talk strategy. It’s not continuous and makes the game very long, total I think this game was 3 hours.

The cubs were playing tampa bay rays. Cubs took a 1-0 lead but rays in one innings went up 1-6. It wasn’t till the end of the 9th innings that things got exciting. Cubs fought back to 5-6. Two out and two strikes there were people on bases. If the batter hit the ball far enough they’d have a chance to win. But in the end they didn’t so final score cubs 5 rays 6.

We took the red line to A’s hotel, stopping off to get some stuff at walgreens and visit cheesecake factory. Taxi to a blue line station, L to rosemont then taxi to the hotel.

chi113quesadilla

A little tired but hungry. Walked over to the retail park 5mins from the hotel. There was a band and food stalls as people celebrated the holiday. We found seats at a mexican place and I had blackened shrimp quesadilla which was quite good.

chi081fireworks

Had a wine at the hotel bar and joined others to watch fireworks. Long day and tired.

chicago trip day 07

gcls201702storage

Conference starts this week. Today we needed to move the boxes that are in storage to the hotel. We took a few larger boxes and drove over to the hotel, around 30mins away next to the airport. It’s my first time at the hotel.

Just a couple of steps into the lobby and I started seeing familiar faces. Lots of hellos and hugs. Couldn’t talk to someone for long because someone else would coma along and there would be a new round of hellos and hugs. It’s good.

Eventually we rounded enough people and cars to go to the storage place. Total 5 cars. I rode with Brenda since I know the way, BadgerBliss followed us. Good drivers, Brenda always knew where Karen was and Karen followed closely.

When we go to the storage place, we found that one of the cars had gone missing. Yikes!! Luckily everyone had mobile phones so no one is completely cut off or lost. We started loading and were so efficient that we were done within 10-15mins. The lost car arrived, and it turned out we didn’t need it. Clearly it’s a group who knew how to stuff and pack because we got everything into the 4 cars. Great teamwork.

The staff at the hotel met us at the loading dock and helped us unload the cars and bring the boxes to where they needed to be. We were quite tired at the end of the exercise, said goodbye to people and went home.

chicago trip day 03

Carleen had a hair appointment so I went with her to the mall and walked around during her appointment. Didn’t by anything, although towels and a suitcase ($109 only) were tempting.

Mostly, I hit the 4 pokestops in the middle of the mall. Pokemon go is very disappointing here, now I understand what people are saying about suburbs and rural: I can see pidgeys and spinaraks around the house and there is one stop at the now-empty Radioshack store. That’s it. St Walter’s is a gym and there are 2 stops there. There are no chance for raids. I’ll have to figure out a way to go to a stop once a day. That said, I think I’ve evolved all the gen 2 level 2 that I can and for the others I have the evolution item and need more candies. I’ll have to find a way to go into the city one day to try to find tauros.

The salad I bought at the supermarket was nice and the fried chicken too.

chicago trip day 02

I woke up in the middle of the night, as expected. But managed to fall back to sleep and woke up at a decent hour.

Mostly resting today. Went to the supermarket and bought food: ham, bread, eggs, milk, yogurt, snacks, wine. Plus 10 instant rice that was on sale for $10.

Got tired early so went to bed early too.

chicago trip day 01

cxpe

Left at 8.15am and should have remembered it’s rush hour. Took around 15mins to get a taxi, I was looking at uber when one arrived. The driver was joking that he was looking for a public bathroom, so I told him about the one in the small park. He was okay, he could wait till we get to the station. Hahaha, TMI.

Check-in was fast. The plane was full, I got upgraded to premium economy. But no lounge access.

Had breakfast in the airport, made an attempt at walking around the shops and sat at the gate for over an hour. Not bored, though. Because it was a US flight, there was secondary screening security theatre. Another queue, and then another to get on the plane. The seats are 2-4-2, so not that much extra width; slightly more legroom than regular economy. I was in seat D and the 3 seats next to me were a group of three colleagues so they never got in my way.

Saw Hidden Figures, Passengers, Star Wars ep 7 and 5 eps of X-files 2016 season. Not sure why they only had 5 eps instead of all 6. Hidden Figures was wonderful, justifying every positive review I’ve seen about it. Passengers was meh, it was the best of the meagre superhero/sci-fi film selection that I like watching on the plane.

Food was okay. Overcooked beef filet for one meal and sea bass with skin still on and bones for the other. Ate everything because I was hungry. Got instant noodles too.

Arrived at around 1.30pm, taxi to the terminal was around 10mins. Got through passport control super fast–the e-passport really works. One suitcase came out relatively quickly but the other one was almost the last one out, after a long wait. Another queue to hand in the custom form at the end. Carleen met me at the carpark and we were on out way soon.

usairspace

Carleen had been tracking my flight. Look at all the planes over US airspace at one moment on a weekday afternoon.

Early dinner at the steakhouse. Then back to the house. Rested, read, washed the sheets.

I lasted till 9.30pm, then my eyes started drooping and it was bedtime. Tired, long day but glad to have arrived.