jicama salad

jicamasalad

Mum bought a jicama from the market, her friends told her they eat it raw in a salad. It must be good because her friends are not the type to eat raw vegetables.

I’ve never knowingly tried jicama although apparently it’s an ingredient in popiah and rojak. It’s interesting to see it being described as the most exciting vegetable you’re not eating. I see it in the market fairly often and never thought to buy it.

Lots of salad recipes, usually with fruit like mango, or orange and a lime chili dressing. It seems to be a little tasteless, like a savoury apple, so need stronger flavours.

I julienned half of one and had it with salad greens, cucumber, cherry tomato. I could have used orange, apple or watermelon but there were fresh lychees in the fridge so I popped a few in. Normally I don’t use dressing in salad but for this one I whisked up some lemon juice, white balsamic, honey and evoo.

It’s really good. Crunchy with some texture. Definitely somewhat like an apple or pear. Really helps add depth to a salad.

pokemon go fest chicago

pogofest

Niantic announced that for pokemon go’s first anniversary in july there will be a bunch of new features. There will also be physical events: a large event in chicago, sponsored events at a bunch of shopping centres in europe, and the annual pikachu outbreak in yokohama will be enhanced.

The event in chicago, <a href=”http://pokemongolive.com/fest” title=”pogofest’>pokemon go fest will be at grant park on 22 july. They haven’t published a details but looks like there will be challenges, a special medal, an exclusive 2km egg. Plus probably merchandise, food and other festival things. I’m still in chicago then so it was a no brainer to plan to go. Ticket sale started at 11am central time. I stayed up watching the website and as soon as the page changed, I clicked in to get my ticket.

I don’t know whether it’s cheap or expensive. $20 for the ticket but then there’s $6.18 additional fee and $5 shipping. I guess it’s affordable.

Aapparently the tickets sold out after 4 minutes. If it’s because bots and scalpers get them, it’s terrible. It simply never occured to me to get extra tickets.

pogofestheracross

The biggest tease they have on the website is a heracross. Will it migrate north? I’d love to catch one. To be honest I’m very worried about tauros because I’m reading disappointed accounts from people visitng the US and finding that it’s become extremely rare since gen 2.

I will have my Three sim card that gives me 3GB. By the time the 22nd rolls around, i’d be at the end of my trip, hopefully I still have enough data left or they provide wifi at the event. I’ll even pay for a wifi day pass if necessary.

father’s day

paparaptor

Father’s Day. Weather is still horrible but we still met up to go visit papa. Sis and I tried to be positive and cheerful but mum was just an unresponsive blackhole.

Afterwards, sis and I went to dan ryan’s for a drink. I was so fed up at that point I ordered a whole bottle of wine, a cabernet franc.

I’m this close to using the uber bag.

saturday adventures

Meeting mm’s family for lunch. The weather is grotty and heavy rain and thunderstorms all day. She said 12.30pm. When I arrived at the restaurant around 10mins early, I couldn’t see anyone. No one by the correct name on the reservation list either. I sat on one of those plastic circular stools in the lift lobby to wait.

Around 12.50pm, mm called. They changed the restaurant without telling her, which had the knock-on effect of not telling me.

I was pissed. Jumped on a minibus to go to the new restaurant but at the back of my mind I was considering not going. Poor mm, I took it out on her because she’s the nearest. It’s not her fault and she was very angry too.

I’ll probably not go to a lunch or dinner with them for a while.

The main purpose of us meeting up was to go to sam’s. I needed a haircut and she wanted highlights. I waited till he got her started then he cut my hair then I waited till she finished. I could have gone out to walk around or pokemon but the weather was simply too bad.

passiondinner201706

Dinner was at passion, opposite sam’s. We got a whole bottle of house red and munched on a brie & onion palette (flat bread), braised pork rib with chickpeas and a 3 item salad of beetroot, quinoa & feta and orzo.

It was absolutely chucking down with rain when we left. I got a taxi and thought she would too, but she went to the sweet shop and took a bus.

foam roller bottle

foamrollerbottle

I’m not running, and one of the consequences is I get more aches and pains than before and I need to roller my back fairly often. I’m starting to think about what to pack for chicago and mulling whether I should take my foam roller. It comes with a travel bag and I can just take the outer one and stuff clothes and shoes inside. Still, it’s not practical; it’s too bulky.

Sis shared this roller bottle with me. Two purposes in one. Stainless steel bottle and the whole thing tested for 350 pounds. Most pictures show people rollering their feet or arm so I wonder if it’s strong enough or large enough for using on the back. I guess the 350 pounds bit means it does. Is it hard enough? And most importantly, it seems a tad small to cover a large area like the back. $40 is expensive too, considering a regularfoam roller is under $20. There’s another brand for arund $28.

The biggest advantage is convenience, especially for travelling.

I’m undecided.

killers new song


The Killers just released The Man, their first single in 5 years. From the upcoming album Wonderful Wonderful.

Much more upbeat than their previous work. Very catchy. Brandon Flowers:

sonically, it’s pretty funky, funkier than we’ve ever done before

lolla041killers

And they’ll be at lollapalooza, which is where I first saw them live. Holy moly it was 8 years ago.

handmade coconut oil


So much time and effort went into stripping, grating, setting, straining, cooking one hundred coconuts to make coconut oil, all by hand at the village food factory in India. The reward, chicken drumstick grilled over open fire and basted with the coconut oil, looks absolutely scrumptious.

The hilarious thing is, the title of the video is instant coconut oil and there is nothing instant about it. I saw this via boingboing and the comment is:

Arumugam and a friend make quick work of 100 raw coconuts

Quick work. Am I missing something? Must be irony week and nobody told me.

karuizawa ballot

twe

The ballot for two karuizawa golden geisha whiskies have begun at TWE. There are a very limited supply, only around 350 bottles combined. Needless to say, the price is also very high: £2500 for the 31 year and £2750 for the 33 year. The ballot gives the lucky person the chance to buy one but not both the bottles.

I lucked out on another karuizawa ballot a few years ago and was initially thinking this is too expensive for me. But it costs nothing to enter the ballot so, yes, I put in my email.

Karuizawa the town is between Tokyo and the Nagano region. It’s possible to plan a trip from Tokyo to Karuizawa then to Takayama and Kanazawa. Of course the distillery is closed, but there’s plenty to see and do what is one of Japan’s most upmarket resort area.

make fire with water

24shiny

Sis is a bit obsessed with survival gear, and it’s spread to me. I have an emergency go-bag in my wardrobe, small survival stuff in an altoid tin and a couple of knives in my drawer. My amazon order history includes MRE packs and firestarters.

Life Below Zero has been showing at lunchtime and there’s Glenn showing us how he makes fire without matches.


So I was interested in this video showing how to make fire using a ziploc bag and water. Although the video seems a bit too good to be true, the process looks possible with strong sunshine. The same idea as starting a fire with glasses may be. The most useful tip I learned is to wave the bundle around after the ember is formed.

home alone dinner

cucumbermiso

Mum went out with her friends so I was home alone in the evening. I finished off the giant red velvet cheesecake factory cheesecake she bought the other day and was too full for dinner. I had cucumber with miso and an orange, that was it. Felt healthy, and my stomach wasn’t as bloated.

If I’m at home by myself I usually just eat leftovers or a whole packet of ham. There are days when I wish I could go back to those days and not have to cook 2 meals a day.

kcl group lunch

kcllunch20170610

One of the kcl group is here for a quick visit. She is now in India, having been to 8 countries over the years (her husband is in the diplomatic services). Everyone is a lot older now, although physically the change is subtle, all are recognisable.

Had lunch at a chiu chow restaurant. We were one of only 2 tables there so we had a great time. Good food too, ordered the set for 12 people. Assorted starters, soup, pepper prawn, black cod, whole chicken, really great vegetable with soup, fried rice, sugar & vinegar crispy noodles and a dessert of deep fried taro strips which are then covered in sugar.

Met mm afterwards, looked at fridges, bought some dvds then camped out for almost 3 hours at dan ryan’s. Two glasses of wine, complimentary olives and a hummous plate snack. Proper dinner was at the supermarket foodcourt of chirashi.

organised socks

socksorganised

One of the consequences of packing a uber bag is I learned about how to ranger roll clothes. It works with smaller items of clothing like thin t-shirts, underwear and socks. I’m not very proficient at rolling larger t-shirts, sweatshirts or jeans. I think it’s because I’m not rolling the initial parts tight enough so the end bundle is too fat.

I found out a way to fold socks that folds in the ankle then two simple folds. It’s different from ranger roll and results in a flatter end product. Barely takes up any space. I went through my socks drawer and refolded everything. Now it looks very neat. I’m very proud of myself.

uk election

ukelection2017

When I woke up, counting was already underway. I’m very grateful that I was able to follow bbc’s election coverage on youtube.

First, the exil poll that had the Tories at 314 and Labour at 267. The magic number is 326 so no outright majority. The next few hours were riveting, delivering surprise after surprise. Nick Clegg lost his seat; SNP lost seats; the Home Secretary scraped home after a recount.

I caught the results of Islington North and Maidenhead where Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May both won comfortably. The difference in body language were stark: Corbyn was all smiles and Mrs May looked grim. Corbyn’s words about Mrs May’s mandate:

Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence

While the Prime Minister seemed resigned to the result:

If, as the indications have shown, and if this is correct that the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability

ukelectionbarnet

Previously seemingly unassailable constituencies like Ipswich and Canterbury turned red. There had been a Conservative MP in Canterbury since 1918! Chipping Barnet stayed blue but with a majority of only 353. Unthinkable when I was growing up. It’s a sign of the times, I feel like one of those 11.5% in Barnet that swing Labour–a previously lifelong Conservative, they offered us nothing whereas Jeremy Corbyn ran an energetic campaign and, unthinkable at the start of the election, looks the part of a future PM.

ukelectionwestminster

My home constituency of Westminster North stayed Labour. I discovered that I can’t just register as an overseas voter, I have to apply for postal voting to get a ballot paper. Next time.

I stayed watching throughout the UK morning. There were 20 constituencies still to declare and at that point the Tories needed 20 seats. Labour held Southampton so mathematically no party was able to secure an outright majority.

Theresa May gambled on what was a huge lead in the polls and suffered a humiliating defeat, even though her party had the most seats and votes. Over the next few days and weeks there will be copious analysis on what went wrong; the demographics of who voted where; and much handwringing about what happens next. Nobody expected a hung Parliament, but that’s what we have. It may not be a bad thing. Mrs May is right on one count, we need stability. But the message is her version of ‘strong and stable’ is not the right one. I am looking forward to a rejuvenated opposition and very curious as to what Jeremy Corbyn will do in the next few years.

coke plus

cokeplusjapan

Coke launched coke plus a few months ago in japan, a zero calorie coke with

five grams of indigestible dextrin – a source of dietary fiber

I saw it in Japan; it’s being marketed towards the over-40s with the emphasis on health and was approved as Food of Specified Health Use (FOSHU). I just got a bottle from the small supermarket. It’s about 50% more expensive than the other cokes, possibly because it’s an import. In terms of taste, cnn says it

is like drinking an ultra-sweet cola-flavored jelly with a heavy dose of faux citrus and a biting carbonation

I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s somewhere between diet coke and coke zero in terms of fizziness and citrusness. I’ve cut down a lot on coke the past couple of years; if there’s a slight chance that it may have some health benefit, I won’t mind switching to coke plus. Until it’s more widely distributed, the higher price point is a good incentive to continue to limit consumption to the current average of one a week.

emergency uber bag

emergencyuberbag

Met mm for drinks. She had a rollercoaster day of expectations and disappointment. We’re both in need of social support.

I told her I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own room. The atmosphere at home is miserable. I have no patience to listen to pointless talk or answer inane questions. I can’t deal with stupidity and ignorance and laziness from a lifetime of having other people taking care of everything. I don’t know how much longer I can stand this.

Bless her, mm said she’s only an uber away and I should pack an uber bag in case I need it. What got me depressed was I couldn’t think of where I could store my uber bag. There’s crap everywhere. Things that no longer work and we’ve bought replacements for. Empty boxes. The clear plastic bag toilet paper came in.

I then realised I don’t need a full bag, definitely not my emergency go bag or stuff recommended on quora like a knife or documents. So now I’ve packed a plastic bag of basic toiletries, medicine, t-shirt and shorts. Small enough to quickly stuff inside my regular backpack. Everything else mm will have. Unless the situation is very dire it’ll only be for a night or two. If the situation is dire, I’ll be packing a suitcase.

With only so few items, I don’t really need to pre-pack. But it made me feel marginally better. I also learned about ranger rolling and skivvy rolling clothing. The ranger roll is very neat and skivvy roll puts socks and underwear inside a larger item of clothing.

more nyt feel-good stories

I needed this, NYT’s latest stories that have nothing to do with politics in which they discover and share stories from around the web that take us away from the current newscycle of politics, terrorism, pain and suffering.

world’s smallest violin

violin64

Atlas Obscura has a story about the world’s smallest violin, at 1/64th normal size measuring less than 12 inches in length. The fraction represents the volume inside the instrument compared with regular violins. Mostly they go to 1/16th so 1/64 is tiny and rare. These small ones are made for kids, with this 1/64 model for 2 year olds. Yep, two years old and learning the violin. I do know that with learning, especially languages and music, the best results are to start young. Most young violinists start off with an instrument constructed from a box–the idea is to get them used to the feel and bow movement before actually getting them to produce sound.

One of the manufacturers of small violins is Stentor Music from the UK (their image above), who started making them in the 1980s. They have a factory in Mainland China where small violins are handcrafted. There is a limited demand, because kids grow out of them, so they only make a few hundred a year. I don’t think they are concert quality, but definitely serve a purpose. I wonder how many young musical prodigies started with a 1/64.

happy ending maths problem

happyendng

Quanta magazine tells the story of Hungarian mathematicians Esther Klein and George Szekeres, and their friend Paul Erdős. The problem is dubbed the happy ending problem because Klein and Szekeres fell in love and got married. Anyway, the original problem:

Given five points, and assuming no three fall exactly on a line, prove that it is always possible to form a convex quadrilateral — a four-sided shape that’s never indented (meaning that, as you travel around it, you make either all left turns or all right turns)

They proved it for 5 points to make a 4-sided polygon f(4); and 17 points to make a hexagon f(6). The general solution they proposed, the formula for the number of points it would take to guarantee a convex polygon:

f(n) = 1+ 2(n–2)

was only recently solved by Andrew Suk of the University of Illinois in Chicago. It gets a bit too technical for me, involving what’s known as the cups-caps theorem and an area of maths called Ramsey theory that says:

within large disorganized sets — like a set of points dispersed randomly on a plane — you will always be able to find well-organized subsets

And this is when I wish I were better at maths. I can understand the simple one page wikipedia entry but not the more complex explanation on quanta.


Luckily, numberphile has a video. It was made in 2014 which pre-dates Andrew Suk’s proof but is a good introduction. Talking about happy ending, Klein and Szekeres moved to Australia after WW2 and passed away within an hour of each other on 28 August 2005.

marriage made tidy

The NYT itself had an article about marraige turning a slob magically tidy. Before she got married, Helen Ellis was a slob-hoarder, who didn’t bat an eyelid when she had food crumbs on her sofa, or even bothered to close cabinet doors and drawers. Her husband still married her.

A year into our marriage, my husband said: “Would you mind keeping the dining room table clean? It’s the first thing I see when I come home.”

What I heard was, “I want a divorce.” What I said was, “Do you want a divorce?”

“No,” he said. “I just want a clean table.”

I called my mother.

She asked, “What’s on the table?”

“Oh, everything. Whatever comes off my body when I come home. Shopping bags, food, coffee cups, mail. My coat.”

Her mother called her husband a saint and told her to learn how to clean.

And she did.

She bought storage boxes and gave away stuff. She started dusting and treating making the bed as cardio exercise.

I guess there are two kinds of people, those who tidy up after themselves and those who don’t. I can’t even let a drawer be a centimeter not closed. Everything has to be put back. A slob, even a recovered slob like Ms Ellis has to remind herself to tidy up, it’s not second nature to her.

london

unionjack

Terrorist attack at London Bridge and Borough Market on Saturday night.

White van crashed into pedestrians then a horrific stabbing spree. Seven dead, 48 injured. All over in 8 minutes. [Edit: 8 dead.]

It’s hard to comprehend. I’m not in London, but I could have been. Saturday night out at Borough Market, something that any Londoner could be doing.

It’s hard to have the right words, reaction, feeling.

We’ve been through this before. Too many times. Regent’s Park, Harrods, Victoria station, 7/7, Woolwich, Westminster.

Guardian journalist Owen Jones, Sunday morning on facebook (and this illustrates my point earlier about not able to link, embed or save worthwhile fb posts):

London has far more love than the terrorists have hatred. London is just as it always was today. It’s a Sunday so it’s quieter than usual. People are in cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Parents have taken their children out. People are laying in parks. Dogs are being walked. Box sets are lazily being watched at home. People who are standing on the left side of the escalator are being tutted at, as are tourists who suddenly stop in the middle of busy walkways and people who are listening to music on their headphones on public transport too loud.

That’s not because London isn’t angry at the terrorists, or not mourning the lives of those murdered by these twisted extremists. It’s because a city which has endured all sorts of horror and attack is not going to surrender to terror and fear, which is what the terrorists want.

Let’s remember those who died, let’s come together, let’s debate how we defeat extremists – and let’s also do what the terrorists don’t want: for us to get on with our lives without fear and hatred.

family & bbmm day

Met Uncle P for lunch at queen’s café. Old styled “western” food like borscht and skewers and beef strogonoff. He brought a copy of the photoessay book he’s been working on. Photographs from the 1970s to 2000s. I really like the theme and the photos are of course top-notch. Tried explaining the concept of crowdsourcing to him but I think he prefers the traditional publisher route.

Everyone had plans afterwards so I met up with mm. Hot day, walked a little then found a happy hour place. I was going to have beer but had a glass of wine instead. Korean bbq for dinner although we didn’t eat that much.

wordflowkeyboard

She was telling me about her supervisor who got her PhD in 2.5 years and is able to read 11 pages of academic journal in 2 minutes. Sounds really smart. So we were texting afterwards and we were both googly eyed. I was also trying to use the wordflow keyboard that I downloaded. I tend to type one-handed and thought the curved keyboard may help. Gave up after a short trial. I can’t figure out where to get stickers quickly. It wants to capitalise the first letter even though I turned it off. And I don’t like predictive keyboards. So three strikes and out.

fb vs open web

Dave Winer was short and succinct on reasons why he doesn’t link to facebook blog posts, which are mostly to do with the closed garden aspect of fb. If the facebooker has (correctly) tightened up their privacy settings, the post is invisible. There are only limited things users can add to a post: one link, one image or video, that’s it.

John Gruber added his two cents and explained more about the closed garden aspect. fb doesn’t allow its content to be indexed, so posts do not show up on search engines. I’ve seen thoughtful posts by friends on a variety of topics, but the only way to remember is by taking a screenshot, or reposting it myself. If I’ve scrolled past or closed the tab, I can’t google because fb content is only searchable within fb. I hadn’t thought about it, because most of fb content is not worth saving. But what if it were because it’s noteworthy or, at the other extreme, controversial. Not allowing its content to be indexed means fb doesn’t respect the open web. It’s not possible to go back in a few years’ time and find the post on archive.org.

I’ve spent less and less time on fb recently because it’s becoming a frustrating experience. Two reasons: content and functionality. I hide stuff I don’t want to see but they always come back. I’m seriously not interested in those friends I may know. And it’s not smart enough to know the reason I hide all dog posts is because I don’t want to see dogs. Plus there has been a huge increase in American current affairs and political posts. I’m certainly sympathetic to the views expressed by my friends, but to see post after post can get overwhelming. I don’t want my friends to stop posting, as their messages are important, so I’m making the choice for myself on how much I want to be exposed.

fbfeed01

The functionality issue is even more problematic. Even though I have friends lists, the algorithm ignores them and I miss posts. I find myself constantly having to switch to most recent. Worst, they’ve starting lying to me: the dropdown says most recent but it’s actually top posts, the telltale “viewing most recent posts” is missing and this post at the top is one day old.

fbfeed02

Then when I do get most recent posts, I get ads. I have my own filters in addition to a few other tools that are supposed to take care of annoyances and ads. I used to be able to block the entire #rightcol but they’ve circumvented the filter and it messes up the css. Leaving just birthdays and the ticker label is all I can tolerate.

I have to refresh the page half a dozen times to get the filter to work. It’s simply not worth the hassle some days.

social media border control

socialmediaborder

It was just announced that US consulates can ask visa applicants from certain countries for social media accounts, email addresses, phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information. This is for visa applicants, like for the B visa, not visa waiver / ESTA applicants.

My ESTA is coming up for renewal so I went online to fill out an application. They do ask for employment information and social media accounts. Employment is mandatory and social media optional. Seems to be something implemented by the current administration since the beginning of the year. Don’t forget, this is an application form that asks if you have engaged in or plan to engage in terrorist activities. Who would put yes?

As the social media section on the ESTA form is optional, I left it blank. The ESTA was approved, so at least that hurdle is successfully negotiated. But of course there’s no stopping them from making us hand over devices and passwords. When I tell my US friends, they rightly get outraged and other people online have mentioned the ACLU. There is a huge difference–the rights of Americans returning to the country and visitors visiting the country. Naturally the former gets more protection and attention from the ACLU; I doubt there is much they can do if visitors feel their rights have been threatened. Visitors have very few rights.

TBH, if I didn’t have to be there at the conference this year, I’ll stay home or go on holiday someplace else. America is such a joke nowadays and I feel guilty about saying it.

family visiting

My uncle P is visiting. Haven’t seen him in years and years and years!! He lives in SFO, is focusing on his photography and gave me his email so we can keep in touch better. He is quite possibly my favourite uncle because he does engineering for a bit for money then he goes off to do photography, which is the way to live. Now he’s into cooking so I love him even more.

He’s already been to PRC and Burma to take pictures. He says he is focusing on trees. Hopefully when he gets home he can share some of his work.

Met for lunch with sis, mum, uncle A and auntie J, and sis. We’ll meet again on saturday so sis can bring my niece.

chocolate truffle ice cream

Met mm and lily for lunch to share japan travel experience. At first we talked about going together but extensive communication with lily showed that we have different travel styles so best if we stuck to sharing experiences.

We went to toast box and had laksa. It’s a casual semi-fast food place so we could sit there as long as we liked; and we ended up having more drinks. Singapore place, so teh-o for me. It was a hot day but dry so we walked around for a bit after lunch.

Lily went home for dinner and we continued to look for a replacement fridge. My credit card points run out tomorrow so we were especially in a hurry. The problem was the available space, width and height were okay but not deep enough for most of the models we thought we okay. The smart shop assistant suggested we call up the bank to check if I can extend the points and, yay, success! Three months’ extension which solves the urgency issue.

We had wine and pizza at hmv café to celebrate and then went to find this ice cream stall. I had 2 vouchers for a free ice cream cone that expire tomorrow and no extension this time. This was from a chocolate place called dalloyau that we’d never heard of. Their shops are in the high-end shopping centres and they seem to peddle expensive chocolate, cake and coffee. The vouchers are for specifically, chocolate truffle ice cream.

choctruffleicecream

As soon as the assistant handed me the cone I knew it wasn’t quite the chocolate truffle we were thinking of. Instead of truffle made from hot cream/milk and chocolate, this is truffle the mushroom-fungus that grows in the ground and gets shaved over food like pasta and omelettes. The smell is distinctive. The problem for me, it overwhelmed the rich chocolate taste of the ice cream and left an unpleasant aftertaste.

Adding truffle to a dish instantly signals it’s something luxurious and exclusive. And like the gold leaf ice cream we didn’t try in Kanazawa, truffle in ice cream screams of pretentiousness, pointlessness and frankly, lack of palette. At least gold doesn’t taste of anything. I have come across truffle in dessert before and mushroom dessert is unusual, but can be tasty. Obviously no one in dalloyau watched the episode on MKR where truffled truffles with truffle ice cream got creamed by the judges.

The conclusion is, this shop added a luxurious ingredient for marketing purposes and we are clearly not shallow enough to be in their target market.

feeding wolves

asi726franciswolf

I saw this post at kottke during the Japan trip and saved it to read again later. This is one of the stories from Ethan Hawke’s Rules for a Knight:

One time, on a sweltering August night, Grandfather and I made camp down by the ocean. He said, “While I teach you about the ways of war, I want you to know that the real struggle is between the two wolves that live inside each of us.”

“Two wolves?” I asked, seated on an old log near the fire. My eyes were transfixed by the flames twisting uncomfortably in the night air.

“One wolf is evil,” he continued. “It is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, deceit, false pride.” He paused, poking at the embers of our fire with a long stick he’d been carving.

“The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, humility, loving-kindness, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith.”

I considered that for a minute, then tentatively asked, “Which wolf will win?”

Sparks danced towards the stars as the old man stared into the glare of the flames and replied, “Whichever one you feed.”

I was at the right age to be profoundly affected when Reality Bites was released and have a copy of Hawke’s The Hottest State. He’s always appeared to be a thoughtful actor and his writing seems to be that of a sensitive person underneath a broody exterior. Quite intrigued by the book, will put it on the list.

Kottke’s self-reflection on the story is so on point:

I’ve been feeding the wrong wolf recently. He’s so hungry and there’s been a lot of available food, but I’ve got to get back on track.

The pic is the statue of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio at Basilica di Santa Maria Degli Angeli in Assisi. That is another thought-provoking story.

cucumber miso

cucumbermiso

Something we discovered in Japan: cucumber with miso. Saw it at many izakayas and street food stands, ordered it a few times ourselves and fell in love with it. I bought some yuzu miso at the supermarket yesterday and chopped up a Japanese cucumber. Absolutely delicious. So simple, so healthy.

bbmm filler day

kor005hotel

Met mm to go fridge shopping. Alas she forgot to bring measurements so we ended up just looking. There are a couple of models that we like. The preference is to have the freezer compartment at the bottom. The supervisor at the store told us to make sure to measure: a) available space, not size of current fridge; b) available width of kitchen with door open to its maximum. Good advice.

Went to the supermarket and bought ready-to-eat stuff: pork knuckle, whelks, chicken wings. Opened a bottle of wine. It’s not like in Japan where we have too many choices of places to eat. We couldn’t think of a restaurant so home was best.

nagoya trip summary

ngo061car

Finished writing up trip and uploaded pics. This was a fantastic trip, and I’m very glad I insisted on going to a new destination rather than Hokkaido or Tokyo. It was a bit hectic, we tried to cram probably one or two stops too many, but we both agree it was worth the hassle. Having a car really, really helped. Some numbers:

  • duration: 8 days, 7 nights
  • hotels: 4 total
  • distance driven: 882km (548 miles)
  • pics taken: 976 original, trimmed to 696 in 6 sets

201705nagoyaexpenses

Total spend excluding personal shopping around USD2,200 per person. The package was decent value, notwithstanding the 4 nights that the agent incorrectly booked. They confirmed they will refund my credit card, so it’s all good. Transport was expensive, between car rental, tolls, and the alpine route ticket. Looking a past Japan expenses, transportation is always expensive.

Posts:

flickr sets:

Some more interesting pics. Takayama traditional house:
tak033house

Saw a group of customised motorbikes in a car park at Takayama:
tak183bike tak185bike

Cannot get enough of the view from our onsen hotel room:
tak322roomview

Koi kites at Shirakawa-go:
shi032koikite

Tilt-shift Shirakawa-go village:
shi99viewtiltshift

Sake, sake, sake:
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tak112sake tak233sake

Trolley bus through Tateyama tunnel felt like something out of a sci-fi film:
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Waiting for the bus, and then two comes at the same time:
alp141snow alp142snow
alp143snow alp144snow

Kenrukuen panorama:
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Lanterns:
kan236chaya kan238chaya

Manhole covers:
ngo008manhole shi187manhole

cauliflower steak

caulisteak

I made not very successful cauliflower steak. This is one of the trendy cauliflower food that has cropped up recentlly, a far cry from the awful soggy cauliflower we used to get when we were younger.

It’s simply a matter of cutting the stalk part of a cauli, seasoning with s&p, chopped garlic and lemon juice, and roasting in the oven. 200ºC for around 45mins. I think these weren’t as successful as I wanted them to be because I was using a different type of cauliflower. Not the usual tight bulb with white florets, these have more space between the branches and so didn’t give a whole steak. Tasted nice though.

chicago flight booked

Cathay Pacific Economy Class Cabin
image via flickr user lukelai under cc

I bit the bullet and booked my flight to Chicago. There are 2 airlines with direct flight and since one of the is UA, I only have one realistic choice. Been waiting and waiting for CX to come up with offers but no luck. I hate that they’re going the route of other airlines, nickel and diming passengers. The cheapest fare has no points, can’t reserve seats and is generally extremely inflexible. From what I can see, the flight is pretty full and available seats in that booking class are middle seats. Argh. Not for 16hrs.

Discussed with mm and we both agree it’s worth splashing out on the next booking class. 100% points, more choices and can pre-book seats. This is what economy class flying has come to, what a shame.

friday food fiesta

fridayfoodfiesta

There was (still is, technically) a flickr group called friday food fiesta where we post pics to a weekly topic. It was quite active, then less active and then totally inactive;. the last weekly topic was set in December 2011.

For some reason pics started getting posted there recently. I guess people are just blindly posting to groups that mention food. I don’t mind, the pics are good quality, food-related and it’s nice to see activity in a long dormant group. I don’t see even the admins active on flickr anymore, which is sad.

Ah, nostalgia and the days when being social online seemed more fun and interactive.

back to daily drudge

Current -- In Explore 14 Nov 2015
image via flickr user thadz, public domain

Tired. And feeling lost and stuck and hopeless. It’s uncanny how the negative feelings come back so quickly as soon as I woke up and realised I was back at home. There’s even a funny smell around the flat, like someone’s cooking cabbage and it’s way past overcooked.

Have to do through the daily drudge again. I really do not feel like any of it.

nagoya trip day 08: flight

Checked out at 10am. We had loads of time, slowly wheeled our luggage across the station to catch the train to the airport. In retrospect we should have left our bags with the hotel and gone looking for chicken wings, but ah well.

ngo059sushi

The counter wasn’t open so we took our luggage with us to the food court. Had a decent local fish chirashi, then some shopping at muji and the pokemon store.

Flight was full, but we’d strategically picked aisle seats in the middle section and the seat between us was vacant, so yay. Watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which was very enjoyable. Too tired to get the bus home, took a taxi.

nagoya trip day 07: suganuma, nagoya

sug021village

Sniff sniff, our last full day. It’d been a hectic trip, we probably tried to cram in too much. But all of the places we visited had been worth it.

Went to a bakery café at the station for breakfast, bought additional bread and doughnuts for the road too. Went to the supermarket to get apples, and bought a small bottle of sake.

sug032roofworkers

The drive to nagoya was just over 3hrs so we had plenty of time, setting off at 10.45am. Around half an hour in, we saw the signs for gokayama so we decided to take the detour. Gokayama is another world heritage gassho heritage village like Shirakawa-go. Somehow we ended up at Suganuma despite following the signs. No matter, what a revelation. Smaller than Shirakawa-go but so much more peaceful and with only a handful of tourists. All the houses were concentrated around a small area and there were even workers working to replace the roof of one of the houses.

sug114camp

Lunch was soba, fried tofu, hida beef buns and unfiltered sake. All the delicious food we have been trying on the trip. The other side of the main village, through a short tunnel, were more gassho houses. Completely empty, until we noticed a map that said it was a youth camp. Probably the off-season and it seemed like a great place to camp in the summer. Both Suganuma and Shirakawa-go offered ryokan accommodation; next time it’d be something we will consider. Tha facilities would be basic, no air-con and likely shared bathrooms, but the villages offered tranquility and the opportunity to get away into nature.

ngo044hotel2

Long drive back to nagoya and the GPS took us to some odd building, not our hotel. Google maps to the rescue, it was just a few blocks out. The hotel was a higher class business class hotel than the no-frills one we were supposed to be booked into. Double the price. Really nice room with large beds, a sofa and a large bathroom. Top floor with floor length windows offering views of the city. Just a few minutes’ walk from the station. We went to the petro station, returned our car (882km total, less than one tank of petrol and an eye-popping ¥18650 in tolls), walked to Jins to get our glasses and did some drugstrore shopping.

ngo053wings

Seemed like the Chūbu region is more famed for cooked food than sashimi so we walked around the station looking for chicken wings. This izakaya we came across was cozy and had a great Friday evening atmosphere. Our new favourite drink was umeshu soda and we ordered 10 chicken wings, plus an assortment of other small dishes. Another new favourite was cucumber with miso, this we could make at home easily.

Last minute shopping at lawson’s then back to hotel to pack and rest for the night.

nagoya trip day 06: kanazawa market, kenrukuen, higashi chaya

kan342grill

At last, a leisurely day with no huge pressure to wake up early. First stop was the fish market, which after more walking than we preferred, we found a place that served sushi. We both got the tuna, ikura and crabmeat chirashi. Some Korean tv crew came into the restaurant whilst we were eating and filmed some tv star eating the restaurant’s largest sushi dish at one of the outside tables. It attracted a crowd, but we were never sure who the star was so we focused on eating our meal. The sushi was okay, nothing special. Had grilled eel and fish at another nearby stall and then we left for our next destination.

kan106garden

The highlight of Kanazawa was Kenrukuen garden, one of Japan’s Three Great Gardens. It had all the elements of great garden design like tranquility, harmony, water feature. Although it was fairly crowded, we never felt bothered and we could always find a quiet spot. There was a beautiful lake, and the trees and flowers were in perfect harmony with each other. A great place to walk around, breathe in the fresh air and take in the features.

kan153kimono

Even the shops outside were nice, we bought even more folders and I got a salty soda which tasted like upmarket fizzy pocari. We saw a group of three women in kimonos, whether they were geishas or just women in traditional costumes we didn’t know.

kan231chaya

From the garden we drove to higashi chaya tea house district. Traditional wooden houses in a pedstrian district, the houses used to be inhabited by geishas, hence the tea house aspect. Lots of picture opportunities and we stopped at a teahouse–iced matcha for me, hot matcha latte for mm and we shared a tea-flavoured chiffon cake. One thing we did resist throughout the day was the gold leaf covered ice cream that seemd to be everywhere. Kanazawa produces the majority of Japan’s gold leaves and these ice cream are supposed to be unique. Problem was, gold leaves are tasteless and we didn’t see the point of trying plain vanilla soft serve. We had green tea and sesame ice cream near kenrukuen and it was much better.

A few minutes from higashi chaya across town was a shopping district. We hadn’t done much shopping on this trip so it was nice to stop by tokyu hands. Bought some stationery and mm bought more cosmetics. Looking at google maps we saw a nearby chicken restaurant. We were early so were the only customers. The chicken skewers and chicken wings were nice, but nothing to write home about, so we went back to the hotel for ramen, bath and dessert in our room.

Our travel agent had been in touch throughout the past two days, trying to find a hotel for us in nagoya. Not successful, so we’re keeping the one we reserved ourselves.

nagoya trip day 05: tateyama-kurobe alpine route

6.30am alarm, we set off before 7.30am. The destination was tateyama-kurobe alpine route 立山黒部, or alpenroute as they shortened it. This region of the japanese alps get huge amounts of snow every winter and the buildings at the top of tateyama are snowed in until they can get snow ploughs going in march. A narrow corridor gets opened along the road up to the hotel at the top and the snow can reach 20m. A few years ago they realised they could turn this into a tourist attraction, and in typical Japanese fashion, came up with a route that goes from Tateyama up the mountain, along the snow corridor, down via ropeway and cable car to Kurobe dam on the other side. Several different modes of transport on one ticket. There are also a couple of companies that lets people drop off their car and then pick it up on the other side. We opted for a return from Tateyama to Kurobe dam and I bought the ticket online earlier, with a specific start time of 10am.

The GPS guidance up to now had been stellar. The navi systems in Japan allows us to enter a phone number of the destination as well as name. There was a hiccup this time round to Tateyama, almost at the end it took us to a steep footpath with an abrupt dropoff on the driver’s side. I shouldn’t have followed it but I did. Luckily we got through and rejoined the road, but it was scary for a moment.

alp005cablecar

We had experience with a planned, organised route through a sightseeing area before when we did the Hakone loop, but that didn’t prepare us for the sheer mayhem that was the alpenroute. We joined the queue at 9.55am for the 10am cable car, which was completely full. It took us up a 24% incline to the next stop where we joined another queue for the bus, which was also full. So full that a few people had to sit on the additional tour guide seats that opened up between the regular seats. The bus trip was almost one hour, and it took us from temperate temperatures to snow. Then we drove through the snow corridor, literally a corridor opened up with walls of snow either side of the road.

alp043ropeway

We made an executive decision once we got to Murodo, the end of the bus leg and where the snow corridor attraction was. The place was pandemonium, people everywhere. The reason was it was around noon, and people who started their journey on both the east and west points on the route were converging at the same time on Murodo. Since we were going roundtrip as opposed to one way, we decided to get to our end point, Kurobe dam, then make our way back, to avoid the crush. So it was a matter of hopping on even more modes of transportation: a trolley bus that went through a tunnel in the mountain, the ropeway and another cable car.

alp064dam

It was a good decision. The dam was really peaceful and the weather was good. Took around 15mins to walk across to the other side and then it was time for lunch; I had katsu-don and mm had tempura udon. Probably the most disappointing food on the trip so far, definitely below par and tasting like fast food. Served its purpose, filled us up considering we didn’t have a proper breakfast.

alp153snow

Went through the clouds on the way back up and down the mountain, which was an interesting experience. By the time we arrived at the snow corridor it was around 3pm and the crowd had thinned out somewhat. The snow corridor was basically a stretch of road leading to the bus stop, with one side of the road roped off for pedestrians. A sign at the end of the roped area showed where the snow was highest, 16m this winter. People queued up for pictures and the gentleman who took our picture tried to get a bus in the background. As it was nearing the end of the tour day, there were plenty of buses along the road, which was the perfect way of showing how high the wall was. To be honest, at that point we were quite tired from all the travelling and found the snow wall a bit underwhelming. The light didn’t give pictures as good as postcards and the snow wall itself wasn’t pristine white. Still very nice and an interesting sight.

alp193snowroad

The map showed a trail to a small lake at the back of the building and we thought we might try going there. Problem was the path hadn’t been ploughed and it was slippery to negotiate. We needed boots and poles. Gave up after about 100m and took the bus and cable car back to the bottom of the mountain. I like this pic that shows a bus coming up through the corridor. When we got back down the mountain to Tateyama station we still had a 1.5hr drive back to Kanazawa but it was a good day out and we were back in our room by 7pm.

kan371wings

The hotel recommended a nearby izakaya, around 5mins’ walk. Unfortunately it was full and everyone was smoking so we left and went to one across the road. It was a good choice. I had a much needed beer and we ordered yakitori, chicken wings, chicken cartilege and a really yummy asparagus-mushroom dish. They were sold out of beef and gizzards, and chicken wings too when we tried to order a second portion. We went back to the hotel, went to the bath and had the hotel ramen. Did laundry too, the washers were free and the dryers ¥100 for 20mins.

nagoya trip day 04: shirakawa-go

tak453view

We asked for a window seat at breakfast and were not disappointed. What a view! The server told us that we were looking at umbrella mountain, the #1 mountain in Gifu Prefecture (Fuji is #1 in Japan, he acknowledged). The breakfast was even more satisfying than yesterday’s, if that was possible. The tray was positively brimming with smal dishes and we got to grill our own fish too.

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We set off at 10am to head to Shirakawa-go 白川郷, around 1.5hrs. The village is a UNESCO World Heritage site of gassho thatched cottages, or steep high-sided thatched roofs intended to withstand the heavy snowfalls in winter. The name gassho meant prayer hands, because of the shape the roof made.

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The entire site was quite crowded with many tour groups. There was the inevitable commercialisation of the village, with the main street full of souvenir shops and food stands. Didn’t detract from its natural beauty though; after the region attained world heritage status, the houses had to be maintained using thatched roofs but we could see a few that had been modernised before they got the status. We stopped at one of the shops that had a sake bar and ordered one sake and one unfiltered sake. The unfiltered one was absolutely delicious. The intense taste of the rice that was still present in the liquid, so sweet and so satisfying. We bought a jar to take home with us.

shi092view

We didn’t go inside the houses that were open to the public. At the top of the village was a steep path that led to a viewpoint up the hill. Good exercise and worth the walk. Stunning views of the village, surrounded by green mountains and there was still snow at the top of the mountains in the background. I played around with the tiltshift app on my phone, the small lego-like houses were perfect for this purpose.

shi145house

Despite the commercialisation, it was still a working village. Away from the main street, villagers were farming the land or in greenhouses. It wasn’t as remote as it seemed–there was no part of Japan that was truly remote–the villagers went about their business, there were plenty of cars around and we saw the post being delivered throughout the day. Lunch was soba with a small bowl of flavoured rice. The cold, refreshing soba dipped in sauce was the perfect lunch, not too heavy and no need for meat.

shi178teacoffee

Explored the lower end of the village and stopped at a café-shop. I had iced matcha latte and mm had coffee. The matcha latte was just like green tea milkshake and better than ice cream. The shop sold cute accessories and stationery; I bought a couple of notebooks for my niece. We’d been stocking up on folders along the way and I had a good selection already.

shi222museum

The last stop of the day was the open air heritage museum. By the time we got there we were the last people to enter and the place was completely empty. Didn’t think the tour groups went there anyway. There were around 20 thatched houses that we learned were transported from the village to the museum and faithfully reconstructed. The interiors were large and open plan. We ventured up to the first floor of one but didn’t go to any more because the stairs were pretty steep and precarious. A couple of houses were showing videos of the village’s history and there was one video of how the thatched roofs were made. Very manual and intensive. Takes a lot of skill and knowhow to add the thick layers in the right way to ensure support and protection. Thick ropes and needles secured the bundles to interior beams.

From Shirakawa-go we headed to Kanazawa for the next 3 nights. When we got to the hotel we discovered to our horror that our agent had booked us on the wrong dates (June instead of May). The hotel front desk staff were wonderful, they got the manager’s approval to let us have a vacant room they saved for emergencies even though they were officially full. Additional cost, but we would claim this from our agent. We discovered the next hotel was also booked for the wrong date and the staff called for us, even though it was a different chain. Unfortunately there were no rooms so first thing we did when we got to our room was hit up hotels.com. Pretty full but I was able to find a room near the station. It was nice to have a bigger room for 3 days, the room was probably saved for VIPs as it was on the top floor and larger than the usual rooms.

Pretty tired after the long day so we walked to the station, found a supermarket and bought sushi to eat back in our room. The hotel had a sento, aka public bath. A small indoor pool, an even smaller outdoor pool and a sauna. The water didn’t feel like onsen water, we could smell chlorine. The sauna was great and much needed after a long day’s walking and driving.

nagoya trip day 03: takayama

tak404miso

Breakfast at this hotel was served in the restaurant, which was a change. A nicely presented selection of small dishes, with fish as the protein. What was outstanding was the miso heated over shiso leaves: a combination of salty, sweet, smoky. Yum.

Drove out to Takayama, parked in town today. Typical efficient Japanese carpark, only a few spaces with automatic sensor. A ramp comes up underneath the car when it senses movement, when we leave we pay at the machine and it tells us how much. The ramp lowers and we have 3 mins to move the car. We had been noticing yesterday, so were on the lookout for cheaper hourly places.

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The destination this morning was miyagawa morning market by the river. Mainly stalls selling fruit, vegetables and some craft. A mix of local and tourists. We bought really huge juicy apples and sake from a sake shop. Stopped at a coffee stall run by an elderly lady. Two things on the menu-coffee and iced coffee–I was even okay with the coffee provided I added lots of cream. There was a sign that the stall had been in business since 1975. We felt proud to be part of its history.

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Lunch was at a butcher shop-restaurant. Weekday lunch special, A5 hida beef that we grilled at the table, this time cut in cubes. The best beef on the trip so far in my opinion. Polished off with a bottle of cold sake.

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There was more time to walk around Takayama old town, and by the end of the afternoon we had covered almost all of it. It being a monday, there were definitely fewer people than yesterday and we were able to spend more time exploring the souvenir shops, sake shops or take pictures of the traditional wooden houses.

tak023house

There was even a visit to a miso / soy sauce shop and they were serving samples of miso soup. Discovered the souvenir find of this trip–plastic folders! We’d gotten to the point of not wanting to buy too many souvenirs, and tired of always buying the same mochi or sweets. Folders are cheap, useful and make great souvenirs.

We saved enough time to drive to a drugstore we saw yesterday. Bought tea and mm bought some cosmetics.

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Time for onsen before dinner, and a little time to sit at the rest area to have a cup of tea or coffee too. The rest area looked out onto the deck, if we had more time at the hotel it would be so peaceful to sit out there and absorb the mountain view.

Kaiseki dinner started with a really refreshing yogurt liquor. The starters, sashimi, sticky dumpling. Hida beef was cooked as a shabu shabu, and the soup was used to make udon at the end. We were both full by then but the udon was so good we managed to eat a bowl each.

Time to pack and sleep.

nagoya trip day 02: takayama, onsen

Our hotel included breakfast. It was pretty much a mad scramble with around a hundred people in a canteen-like dining room with long tables and everything self-serve. Curry, rice, scrambled eggs, sausages, heaps of salad, fruit. I made tea from hot water. Even though it was a mad scramble, everyone was well-mannered and organised. No shouting, no pushing, no cutting in line. There was even a queue to return dirty trays and people wiped the table after them using the cloth provided. This is what I love about the Japanese people.

We checked out and crossed the street to pick up our rental car from the toyota rent-a-car office. Spending time on research means picking the correct location. Our car was a blue Aqua, which is the local equivalent of a Prius C so basically we were renting Ryan for a week. Added ETC card rental because we knew there would be lots of tolls.

tak176sake

Attempted to go to the central market but it looked closed so we headed straight onto the motorway towards Takayama. Easy 1.5hr drive. We drove around the town, through the middle of the mass of tourists at the old town area and ended up at a shopping street 10-15mins’ walk from the station. Parking there was free, ostensibly for the shopping street only so we made sure to visit there first. Already we saw stuff we love: Japanese sweets and local sake. The nice lady gave us samples and we tried valiantly to communicate with each other using broken English and copious domo arigatou gozaimasu.

tak243hidabeef

We walked around the old town quickly to find lunch. We knew we wanted hida beef, the local speciality that has similar marbling to kobe and matsuzaka beef. We chose the grilled thin-sliced A5 grade hida beef rice set. It was served hitsumabushi style, with condiments and broth. Fantastic. Tender and juicy beef and everything so well balanced.

tak011river

We had around 2 hrs after lunch to explore around town. Saw part of the old town main street, bought cute ceramic ornaments, sampled more sake. Ate green tea ice cream that was disappointing (too icy). Bought fruit and tea at the supermarket. Walked back to the shopping street to buy souvenirs and a bottle of sake from the nice lady.

tak321room

We were on a schedule. It was around 1hr’s drive to the onsen hotel and we wanted to get there before 5pm. It’s a big sprawling hotel with several wings. Luxurious lobby and an entire shelf of yukatas so we could pick the pattern we liked. We found out our dinner slot was at 8pm so that meant we had time to rest. Our room was absolutely wonderful and totally exceeded our expectations. It was a suite! The bedroom was tatami, with low mattresses and more than enough room to lay our suitcases out. Then there was a sitting room with sink and fridge, and a massage chair. The view from the sitting room out to the garden was spectacular, there was a small stream and daffodils just beginning to appear. Best of all, we had our own onsen bathtub, wow. Everything was clean too, so it wasn’t a case of not wanting to touch or use the tub.

There was time before dinner to go to the onsen. There was a large indoor pool, a couple of tubs outside and an outdoor pool. Not too crowded and all very nice. Oh, a low temperature sauna too. We needed the relaxation of an onsen, it was great to just soak in the hot water. Fresh milk was available for free in the small sitting area outside the baths, we shared one bottle so as not to ruin our appetite.

tak377hidabeef

The restaurant was quite posh and as usual the kaiseki menu had lots of courses. Started off with an alcoholic aperitif, then starters, sashimi, sticky dumpling before the main course. It was the local attraction, hida beef, which we grilled ourselves at the table. Really yummy. Finished off with beef pot, rice and dessert.

tak343bath

Even though we’d already used the onsen, I wanted to wash my hair because of the grease and smell from dinner. So I used our private onsen tub. It was okay, took a long time to fill, by then I was bored so I only soaked for a few minutes.

Long day travelling, picturesque traditional town and an outstanding hotel room. Totally worth it.

nagoya trip day 01: flight, nagoya

Early start, 5am alarm because mm was setting off before me and I wanted to make sure she got up. I was planning on catching the 6.30am bus, managed to catch the one before that. It was standing room only! Seemed like I was sharing the bus with airport workers going to work and a few travellers catching early flights. Since I was early I went to get the pocket wifi before meeting mm. Check-in was easy and we were inside quickly. Breakfast was eggs I made yesterday (perfectly soft boiled if I may say so myself) and sandwiches mm made. The alternative would have been Mcdonalds and we only got tea and coffee from them.

The flight was almost full. I got us adjoining aisle seats when I checked in, on purpose. Watched La la land which, for all the hype, was a little disappointing. Not the sort of film I watch on planes.

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The plane was a litte early. We checked the transportation board and confirmed that the limited express train was the best way. The information centre had a helpful hand-drawn leaflet too, so cute. Only 30mins to Nagoya main station. Our hotel was around 10mins’ walk and the only difficulty was figuring which direction. Pocket wifi and google maps took care of that. We were only there for one night, so the no-frills business semi-double room suited our purpose.

ngo003tower

The area around the station was full of modern buildings and posh shops. Our first destination was Jins glasses shop. My research showed us it was at the station mall and we found it easily enough. Quite comical, trying to get my eyes tested and barely able to communicate with the optican there. I have the frame which I bought in Tokyo and it’s ¥5000 per feature–I needed graduated lenses and I added UV-sensitive coating. Economical price, and I’ll get the new glasses in 1 week.

ngo017hitsumabushi

More research told us foodwise we should be trying the unagi hitsumabushi. The eel in Nagoya are fatter and tastier river eels and they grill the entire fish instead of steaming then grilling in other locations. The idea is to add flavour and smokiness. Hitsumabushi means to sample three ways: plain, then with condiments, then dipped in a dashi broth. We found a restaurant in a mall next to the station and gave it a go. It was definitely tasty, as expected from well executed unagi. Plain, with wasabi and with broth were all great. I ended up mixing the eel and rice with wasabi then eating with the broth.

On the way back to the hotel, we visited drugstores we noticed earlier. Bought snacks and a 2l bottle of tea for travelling. We only started noticing drugstores last time in Tokyo, turns out they have an enormous selection of toiletries, cosmetics but also snacks, household goods, gadgets and interesting stuff.

tv day

TV catchup day. 2 eps of masterchef australia at lunchtime, followed by australian bake-off. Regular 2 eps of masterchef again at night then TAR. In between, I finished packing and did a load of laundry. I’m sad that I’ll be missing an entire week’s worth of masterchef, especially since we’re now in top 9. Ah well. May be I can find old episodes online somewhere. May be I’m getting older and more out of touch, I don’t know how to find stuff as easily as I used to.

mum birthday

mumbday01dinner

Mum’s birthday! We went out for an errand, had tea at mcdonalds. I left mum with her cheesecake and met sis for an hour at a wine tasting event. It’s an english sparkling wine company that is expanding and they had 4 different wines for tasting. I focused on the drinking and eating some of the canapés while sis was busy socialising. I did some small talk but found the posing, invisible social jostling and marketing speak way too fake for my liking.

Picked mum up from marks where she went after she fnished at mcdonalds. Dinner was at Jimmy’s Kitchen, an old colonial era restaurant. Except for my niece who opted for pasta, we all had the set menu. I had tuna tartare as starter, mum and sis had roast beef salad which sat on top of a chewy, hard cold yorkshire pudding. For mains sis and mum had rainbow trout and I had slow cooked lamb shoulder.

Sis ordered a baked alaska for dessert and they wrote happy birthday on the plate. Nice meal, predictable food.

which big tech to drop first

tech5

NYT asked which of the 5 tech giants would we drop.

If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

My choices are in a different order than a typical American, I suppose. Here’s my order, with explanations:

  1. amazon — I order from amazon once a year, when I go to the US. I’m not a prime member, I don’t read using a kindle, I have no intention of getting an echo and I don’t use any of the services owned by amazon like goodreads, audible, zappos. So it’s a no-brainer to drop amazon first
  2. microsoft — the NYT warns that dropping microsoft means no windows and I’m like, I don’t care. Not having ms office is a pain but there are alternatives. I skype with Carleen almost weekly, but we can switch to another service
  3. facebook — not because of facebook itself but because of whatsapp and, to a certain extent, instagram. Whatsapp is how almost everyone in my RL communicate with each other, so we’ll have to switch to something like line–and have to educate mum
  4. alphabet — obviously losing google, google maps and gmail is a big deal so I’ll try to keep google products as long as I can, the alternatives aren’t up to scratch
  5. apple — on my desk within easy reach: mba, ipad, 2 iphones. It’s not just the hardware, it’s ibooks, which is how I read

Poor yahoo, not in the cool 5 club. Which is a saviour in this exercise, because it means I still have yahoo mail and flickr.

trip errands, happy hour

Went to the bank, changed some yen for our trip. Then met mm at the transport department to get our international driver’s licences. I’m so used to using either my UK or US driver’s licence to rent cars that I almost forgot Japan didn’t accept them. They do accept, amongst others, Swiss driver’s licence but I’ll have to get a certified Japanese translation. Less trouble to get the international one. We tried making an appointment online but couldn’t get one so it was walk-in. Argh, there was a loooooong queue. As usual, it involved queuing up for ages to go to one counter to hand in our application and another queue to pay. At least we got the licence there and didn’t have to go to a third counter. Government bureaucracy. Took 1.5hrs.

tequila

Went to happy hour at the place sis and I went to in April. Two-for-one drinks plus a small cold buffet bar with proscuitto, cheese, bread, olives, fruit. Instead of wine or beer or even whisky (they only had Chivas and Jack Daniels) we ordered tequila, after our experience at frites. The drink came with salt and lemon.


There are right and not so right ways of drinking tequila. The clichéd method is salt on back of hand, shot in one then lemon wedge. Or neat, as zagat suggested in the video. We sipped it like whisky. Added a little salt and a drop of lemon juice, but mostly as a slow drink to enjoy the taste. We’re not yet at the point where we know what is good tequila, and I didn’t make a note of the brand. No wonder people get drunk off it, it’s so easy to drink. Good thing there was food. That was my dinner, I didn’t feel like eating anything else; mm had a meeting so I walked with her part ways until my bus stop. I was home by 7.30pm.

ronnie o’sullivan 147

elonex

I was reading a post about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fastest 147, which may have been even faster than recorded. To remind ourselves, he made his first 147 at the Crucible at the 1997 world championship, at the record-breaking time of 5:20. Apparently the time is wrong. Going back 5 minutes 20 seconds from the end of play, ie when the last black was potted, gives a point when the other player was still playing. Which means the actual 147 took less time than 5:20:

  • 5:05 if the clock started when he hit the first white
  • 5:15 if the clock started when his opponent’s ball came to rest

Technology wasn’t as sophisticated in 1997. There at around the 3-minute mark is the Elonex logo, so the BBC must have been using Elonex computers then. Not the computer’s fault, it’s likely a human operator had to start the clock. I’m just blown away by seeing Elonex. It’s a name long ago buried in the past, like Amstrad or Sinclair or Commodore. I can’t remember if I ever bought an Elonex; they were good computers for that time. I wonder if they’re still in business.


It doesn’t matter whether it’s 5:05 or 5:15 or 5:20. The break is still worth watching. Deadspin positively gushes about Ronnie O’Sullivan, comparing him to Roger Federer, Lionel Messi, Brian Lara, LeBron James, and Mozart:

when in the zone, he seems to have mastered the natural universe around him. His play is symphonic, orchestral, balletic, majestic, beautiful.

In the days of only 4 terrestrial tv channels, I grew up watching a lot of afternoon sports like cricket and snooker. Ronnie O’Sullivan brought a lot to the sport, and is still going strong, winning the 2017 Masters.

almost #breaking2


2:00:25.

So close. Eliud Kipchoge almost succeeded in Nike’s #breaking2 marathon challenge at Monza F1 course. Even if he had gone sub-2 it wouldn’t have counted as a world record because he had 30 pacers and a lead car. Plus Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoes and sports drinks delivered by moped were questionable against IAAF rules.

The amazing thing is, he was on pace until around 30km, when he dropped back. Regardless of whether it was a staged event, and regardless of the fact that he didn’t go sub-2, it was still, as the Guardian said,

the most glorious of failures.

breaking2split

Just look at his splits. Wow.

symphony for a broken orchestra

We can do with as much good cheer as possible right now. NYT has a page of 12 great stories that have nothing to do with politics. Between US politics, the French and UK elections, I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’ve stayed off fb mostly. I understand my American friends’ frustration with the recent healthcare situation, but I only have so much empathy to share. UK elections is no better, I used to lean Conservative, but I can no longer stand them. The problem is there is no alternative.

brokeninstruments

Anyway, one of the great stories is about symphony for a broken orchestra. It all started when Robert Blackson of Temple Contemporary, a part of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, learned that there are over 1000 musical instruments in the Philadelphia school system that are broken but can’t be repaired due to lack of money. Mr Blackson collected the instruments for an exhibition and is planning a performance of a piece, Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, composed by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang. The composition

is written specifically for the sounds these instruments can only make in their broken state

They are still looking for volunteers to play the instruments, help with aspects of the performance and to repair the instruments. People can donate and adopt an insrument: after the performance the instruments will be repaired and given back to the schools so young people can learn and enjoy playing music. Here’s some more information:


gelato university

siena018gelato

I saw an article about a gelato university in Italy, of course.

A little googling reveals that it’s a combined museum and school in Bologna, offering different courses in 4 languages:

to assist all those entrepreneurs throughout the world who want to open gelato shops, as well as those who are already working in the sector but seek to strive towards gelato excellence

Courses range from casual one day tasting at €100 to a fully immersive 4 week course that combines their basic, intermediate, advanced and internship courses for €4000. Students learn techniques, recipes, recipe design, flavour balance and the business aspects of running a gelato shop.

Sounds fun. €4000 is a lot, and here are also accommodation, airfares and daily expenses to consider too. In comparison, the 9-month pastry course at le cordon bleu in Paris is €22800. Guess it’s a matter of supply vs demand. There are people who want to open gelato shops and they may see the course as investment.

And talking about gelato and ice cream, here’s a sort of related but not really sandwich alignment chart that was on twitter:

I’ve had ice cream in a sandwich made with bread. I’ve had sandwiches made with waffles. So ice cream between waffles is definitely a sandwich. Anything between or wrapped in an edible container is a sandwich.

vlm2018

vlm2018

I’ve gained all the weight I worked hard to lose, and then some. I’ve lost every scrap of fitness I also worked hard to get.

I’ve made a couple of pathetic attempts at running in the past 13 months but currently I’m unmotivated, lethargic and alternate between having zero interest in or mildly angry at the world around me.

It must be some sort of pavlovian response. See that it’s the week VLM lottery is open, click on the link, fill in the form.

Sod’s law means the year I’m in no shape physically or mentally to train for a marathon is the year I’ll get in the lottery.

lunch platter

lunchplatter01

Lunch today consisted of food Lily brought plus other ingredients from all over the world. Smoked eel, reypenaer cheese and foccacia from the Netherlands. Brunost brown cheese from Norway I’ve had in the fridge for a while. Coppa from Italy. Grilled asparagus from…the supermarket (I think they’re from the US). Leftover hollandaise from the other day. Apple & plum chutney from Bosham church fair–that’s West Sussex, UK.

I only have a small wooden chopping board so I couldn’t serve it Jamie-styled. I used my large chopping board instead, the effect isn’t as pretty but it got the job done.

Nice lunch. I’m reminded how I love cheese. The smoked eel was as spectacular as expected. We finished one packet, there is only one left. 🙁