what did i miss part 2

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 2. All London related.

1. how to pronounce some place names

londonnames

This is from a few years ago, Londonist’s guide to how to pronounce names of London place names, which cropped up on r/london recently.

No, it’s not Lie-sester Square it’s Lester Square; and Marylebone always stumps non-Londoners. Apparently Rotherhithe too.

Personally, I don’t agree with Ommer-tun for Homerton, I’d pronounce the h. And I always say Aldwych as All-witch.

We shouldn’t make fun of non-locals. I don’t expect to know place names in countries where I don’t know the language, but there are some names in the US and Australia that I can see the word and it’s made up of letters but I cannot put the letters together to form coherent sounds.


2. map of walking times between tube stations

walkingtubemap1

TFL published a map that shows the walking distance between tube stations. There’s also a map that shows the number of steps between stations, so they can put a spin on the “steps = exercise” trend.

Practially, this is a useful map for visitors and newcomers. Every Londoner knows it’s pointless to take the Piccadilly Line between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Between waiting for the train, the actual journey, and the horrendous wait for the lift at Covent Garden, it may take 10-15mins. Walking is 4mins.

walkingtubemap2

There’s another leaflet, journeys that could be quicker to walk [pdf] that is also very useful. For instance, the map would suggest it takes 18mins to walk between Queensway and Bayswater (via Notting Hill Gate) but the journey leaflet tells us it’s only 5mins. Google maps actually say 2mins, but that probably needs running at nighttime with no other pedestrians.


3. john snow’s cholera map

I saw this on a tv program about sewage and how the world’s cities made the jump from being disease infested to, well, less so. It’s all about clean water.

choleramap

The story of how John Snow discovered that cholera spreads through water rather than through the air by plotting a map of outbreaks that showed occurrences near to a water pump in Soho is well known. His use of data mapping is as revolutionary as the discovery itself. The blob of black dots around the pump at Broad (now Broadwick) Street as pretty horrible. But the interesting thing is workers at the nearby brewery were not affected because: a) they drank mainly beer and b) the brewery had its own water supply. That would not have been the case if the disease spread in th air.

So many diseases from 100, 200 years ago are under control. Cholera, TB, measles. Have we reached peak discovery? There doesn’t seem to be huge discoveries like this anymore, more like small incremental ones. Then again, it could be that they were low key. HIV has been contained, and many cancers are less life-threatening now. We have so much to learn.


4. property prices

londonhouseprices

According to bloomberg, london house prices are coming down, with more sellers reducing their prices from originally marketed. A report published by Rightmove says on average the reduction is 6.7% due to:

initial over-optimism and a tougher market

That said, the average in november is still an eye-popping £628,219. I mean, that’s staggering compared with a national average of £311,043.

The article immediate below the one about housing talks about more bad news for the pound, with further drops possible. An uncertain brexit, Theresa May’s uncertain future, all lead to the market being bearish on the pound. This actually is good news for us, since it means we can buy more.

Around the table on tuesday’s lunch we were all talking about property, as a group of middle-aged professionals are wont to do. If only we’d all bought a place in London when we graduated, we’d be all sitting pretty now. Ah well, can’t turn back time. The consensus is, £ and house prices haven’t seen bottom, so it’s worth waiting a little while longer.


5. decadent hot chocolate

Have to end on a more cheerful note. How about the most decadent hot chocolate in the capital. Fortnum’s chocolate bar, Flotsam And Jetsam’s rainbow-coloured white unicorn chocolate, Fattie’s Bakery’s with a toasted marshmallow rim, and the best chocolate café name of all, Choccywoccydoodah. Some of them look like they have far too much whipped cream. My 2 favourites on this list:

darksugars

The one from Dark Sugars that has a mountain of chocolate shards shaved on top. The way the shards melt into the chocolate…

hotelchocclassic

And finally, the classic from Hotel Chocolat. Who needs fancy when you have classical elegance and top quality ingredients.

what did i miss part 1

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 1.

1. paradise papers

chi233fed

The Paradise Papers came out. Just like the earlier Panama Papers, this series of leaks showed yet again how the rich got richer and the rest of us got left behind. BBC summary:

The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance…how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures to protect their cash from higher taxes.

The issue is, off-shore accounts aren’t strictly illegal. There’s some sort of competitve sport behind the idea of trying to avoid as much tax as possible. Show me one person who actively wants to pay taxes. But the flipside is, how are governments supposed to operate without taxes? If there are no taxes, there’d be no police, no sewage system, no healthcare. Oh wait, that’s exactly the thinking of the pro-busines conservative right. Privatise it all. Instead of paying the government, we pay corporations to provide security, sewage, healthcare. Sounds idyllic, except once profits come into it, imagine how much these corporations will charge, imagine the lack of oversight, imagine the lack of budget for non-essential functions. I’m no economist, but a completely free market depends on compassion and not just profit. Trickle-down economics is all smoke and mirror, unfortunately.

On the one hand I look at all the people and corporations being named–the Queen, Apple, Bono–and I feel zero sorries for them, because the world has gotten so unequal that any attention to the issue is good. On the other hand, I can’t help but think the real people to blame are the lawyers and accountants and financial advisers who thought of the schemes and the politicians who didn’t close the loopholes.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough attention paid to this. Most people don’t have exposure to the shady world of off-shore accounts, and funnelling money to the likes of Bermuda and the Channel Islands isn’t illegal. But as quartz said, this touches on the question of:

the difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law.”

We’ve reached the point when the world’s richest 1% own 50% of all wealth, and yet one US political party wants to further reduce the tax burden on the richest individuals and corporations. NYT:

The Republican tax plan would shift more of the tax burden onto those who can least afford to shoulder it and relieve those who are already starving the government of tax revenue. The Paradise Papers shine yet another spotlight on how the rich and powerful game the system to avoid paying what they would otherwise owe. The rest of us suffer for it. Why hand them even more favors?


2a. trivial tech stuff #1 — twitter now @280 characters

Twitter doubled its character limit to 280 per post. Can’t say I like or dislike it. All it means is a tweetstorm is now 10 posts instead of 20. Talking about tweetstorm, they are testing a new tweetstorm feature that will allow users to draft a series of tweets before posting them together all at once. Instant tweetstorm!

2b. trivial tech stuff #2 — most downvoted comment in reddit history

In reddit, users upvote or downvote posts and comments to improve the visibility of said posts and comments, to show support (upvote) or to indicate their displeasure (downvote). Technically, downvoting should only be for comments that don’t contribute to the thread. The most obvious example is spam comments, with dodgy links and gobbledegook text underneath a perfectly normal post or comment.

redditdownvotes

What happened over a very short 24 hour period was one comment made by Electronic Arts (EA) in response to a post about the microtransaction system of the game Star Wars Battlefront II got so many downvotes it smashed downvote records. The OP had a point, the game already cost US$60 or whatever it is to buy, then to unlock main characters it cost something like $80 on top, per character. I’m no gamer, but that sounds super greedy.

EA didn’t help matters by responding to the OP with a condescending comment full of rubbish corporate speak. As a result that comment received over 677k downvotes before it was locked. That’s far and beyond the most downvoted comment in recollection. Interesting that EA was responsible for a lot of downvoted comments too. They may or may not have listened to the feedback, shortly afterwards they reduced the cost to unlock the characters.

2c. trivial tech stuff #3 — new corporate font from IBM

Unlike Apple or Microsoft, IBM has traditionally used Helvetica. But since it’s not their own font, they’ve had to licence it from Monotype. Now they don’t have to anymore, with the creation of its own bespoke font, called unimaginatively IBM Plex.

ibmplex

I like it. Clean, modern, sans serif. Quartz called it a:

graceful hybrid of blocky, engineered shapes with natural gestures from handwriting.

What’s more, it’s not like frutiger or other pricey fonts, IBM has made it free to download.


3. john lewis christmas ad

Finally, some cheering up. John Lewis’ 2017 Chrismas ad debuted on the 10th of november. I’m furiously trying not to dwell on the fact that it cost £7 million, and how that could have been used better. Not my favourite John Lewis Christmas ad, but still very charming.

storytelling

nanoready

Less than an hour to go till november, and since I was out at dinner and just got home, I’m not in sleeping mode yet. May be I’ll stay up till midnight and make a start on nano.

I was reading an article on fastcompany about the non-profit Charity:Water that successfully raised US$260 million since 2006 using storytelling techniques. There are 2 charitable causes close to my heart. One is clean water in developing countries, I support folia water’s low cost paper water filter that provides one week of safe water for only 50 cents. The other is the star foundation that specialises in giving people with disabilities real life opportunities, like their award-winning restaurant where people with disabilities are chefs and wait staff.

Anyway, back to Charity:Water, their emphasis on storytelling seems fitting for the day before nano. They shared their 5 key lessons for success and I think it applies to fiction storytelling too

  1. good stories have more faces than facts — a non-profit may tell the story of how they helped one specific person or family, which will resonate with potential donors; in writing, strong, believable and relevant characters are essential to the success of a story
  2. good stores spark memories — non-profits try to make connections between donors and recipients; in writing locations, events, and personalities are useful tools to draw the reader in
  3. good stories combine head and heart — Charity:Water publishes success stories, like how clean water in Nepal reduced diahorrea cases from 6433 to 182 in four years; in writing I think the technique is show vs tell and using narration vs dialogue
  4. good stories give context — here’s where good research and a rich backstory comes in
  5. good stories empower people to take action — I guess this is more important with a non-profit than writing a book, but there is a similar idea, a good story will inspire readers no matter it is to support the author or make changes in their own lives

“I’m old, I don’t know computers”

toolbars

My anecdotal experience is the stereotype of older people not able to use technology is well and true. Far too often, we hear: “I’m old, I don’t know computers.” They don’t seem to have either the ability or desire to become familiar with tech related stuff. Random examples:

  • confusing chrome with google
  • can’t tell the difference between browser, url, and email address
  • thinking the on/off button on the monitor turns the computer on/off
  • getting flustered and in a panic when they can’t remember their username and password (how about clicking the ‘forget password’ link)
  • trying to explain their computer problem to you over the phone and expecting that you have Superman’s eyesight
  • no concept of memory, RAM, bandwidth, speed, wifi vs mobile data–no, a couple of whatsapp messages won’t eat into you 3GB monthly allowance
  • long email subject line as the content of the email
  • forwarding jokes/memes/health tips/multi-level marketing scam
  • can’t upload files, only now discovering facebook albums, not deleting duplicate or crappy pictures so their phone memory is full
  • on the one hand is paranoid about sending personal information online; on the other hand clicks on links without checking the url
  • wondering why the computer is so slow, and there are 10 installed toolbars

There are studies and articles about why people who didn’t grow up with technology find it difficult to learn. Small setbacks, like touchscreen sensitivity or small fonts, erode confidence and add fear. The elderly are definitely not unintelligent, there simply seems to be some sort of mental or psychological block, or it could be that learning agility slows with age. There’s an ELI5 explanation that uses language as analogy:

Imagine that you’ve made it through into your adult life using English. Then one day, you hear someone speaking LangX, a totally new language that they claim is going to change the world. For the next decade, only a few people speak it, and no one you know has ever really used it. Another decade later, and its catching on. You’ve heard kids using it, and its starting to gain traction, but it hasn’t really been important for you to learn it. You retire from work just as your workplace gets its first expert in LangX.

So you cruise into retirement, content knowing that you’ve worked your ass off, and now get to enjoy the simpler things in life. All of a sudden, everyone uses LangX, and no one speaks English any more. You go the the grocery store, or to the bank, and the employees get mad at you for using English. Your grandkids refuse to translate things for you anymore. Your kids keep buying you books written in LangX, thinking that that will help you learn the language.

I know a lot of people who are in the middle-age and senior age range who are very good at technology. They may or may not have a scientific or technical background; seems to me that they made the effort to learn and ask the right question. Computers are not new. Consoles like atari, commodore and sinclair were available by the early 1980s, the IBM PC with the 8088 processor was introduced in 1981, the original Mac appeared in 1984. By the 1990s, home computers were fairly common and relatively affordable–the first iMac, Dell, Compaq, all these names were familiar late 20th century brands.

All that happened 20 years ago.

Isn’t “I’m old, I don’t know computers” getting, well, old? Isn’t it one of the many excuses for mediocrity? Just like it’s not okay to use age as an excuse to be rude or entitled or misogynistic/racist/homophobic; it’s not okay to use it as an excuse to be lazy or complacent or negative. I’m not saying become a php expert or start writing apps, I’m saying learn how to google, learn what is a browser, learn how to swipe on a smartphone. Computers and devices are very user-friendly nowadays. A few weeks ago my aunt called mum via whatsapp, mum got in a panic and shoved the phone at me. The screen said swipe up to answer, so I swiped up to answer. What was so difficult about it?

Another day, she asked me to write an email reply, a simple thank you to someone. In the past I would have written it for her, just like I swiped her phone to answer the call for her. This time I said to do it herself but do it in front of me. She hit reply on her ipad, typed it all out and hit send. She missed a full stop but I didn’t correct her. She can do it herself, she just needs to stop automatically expecting that I’d do it just because she doesn’t want to.

We need to stop feeding the beast by giving in and doing it for them because it’ll be 100 times quicker and involve less hair-pulling attempts at explanation. It’s better in the long run.

whitesplaining food and cooking

Learned two new terms recently.

Whitesplaining — a Causasian person explains, in a condescending manner, something that many people, usually non-Causasian, already know about.

Columbus syndrome — people in a dominant culture claim they have discovered something that has existed elsewhere for a long time.

First, it was the NYT’s article on bubble tea. I won’t link to it, because it’s condescending af. They claim, in an article written in 2017, that this drink that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s is so newfangled, “alien” and “exotic.” The “blobs” were painted as something to be afraid of, Fu Manchu-like. The backlash was immediate and they had to issue an apology. Confused about why? One reader’s comment on the article:

It highlights otherness rather than uniqueness, defines familiarity through a nondiverse lens, and for me evokes the unpleasant feelings of being the kid in a nondiverse neighborhood bringing ‘weird’ lunches to school.

sap152fishstand

And as if the lesson hadn’t been learned. Lifehacker came up with an article (again, not linking) that lists the various new ways people can use chopsticks to cook. You know, like using it to beat eggs, or flip meat while frying, or take small pieces of food out from a jar. It’s apparently an “under-rated” kitchen tool that is usually relegated to the junk drawer. So while the NYT may be forgiven for thinking a drink invented 30 years ago is new, how abot Lifehacker doing some research and realising that chopsticks have been used for cooking for THOUSANDS of years. I’m not even going to dignify it by googling archeological or literary evidence. To write about this everyday tool used by millions of people around the world as if it were some new discovery is colour-blind, tone-deaf and downright daft.

So I learned about Columbus effect from Edward Anderson at the Centre of South Asian Studies in Cambridge.

And don’t get me started on yellowface.

star wars stamps

starwarsstamps

The Royal Mail has started taking pre-orders for its October set of commemorative Star Wars stamps. Commemorative stamps are released around once a month and I have two boxes of stamps and first day covers from my philately days.

These stamps are designed by UK digital artist Malcolm Tween; some of the stamps feature secret details revealed only under UV light. There are already previous Star Wars stamps featuring Luke, Leia, Han, Obi-Wan and many others. Out of the newest 8, my favourites are BB-8 and Maz Kanata. Of all stamps in the collection, it has to be Boba Fett. That guy’s just cool.

There are also framed stamps, medal covers and display units for sale. Some are limited edition. I’m considering the £19.99 medal cover that R2 on one side and Princess Leia on the other side of the medal. I dunno, I’m trying to figure out how to sell my stamp and FDC collection, not add to it.

millions dream of the lives we are living

millions

I saw this on an askreddit thread but forgot to save the page so I can’t even remember the question. I do remember being momentarily floored by this simple comment.

We must be more grateful for our lives.

The 2016 World Bank report on Poverty and Shared Prosperity is almost 200 pages long, so I didn’t read it. But looking at the World Bank page on poverty just hammers home how lucky I am, and everyone around me, and everyone who is reading this.

globalpoverty

There has been progress:

  • in 2013, 10.7% of the world’s population lived on less than US$1.90 a day, compared to 12.4% in 2012 and 35% in 1990
  • nearly 1.1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty since 1990

But the fact is that there are still 767 MILLION people who live in poverty, defined as living below US$1.90 a day. I cannot for the life of me imagine living on that tiny sum a day.

Which is the bigger problem, inequality. The Gini index measures wealth gap. A perfect distribution of wealth within a group means a Gini index of zero. A Gini index of one is where one person in the group has all the wealth and the others have none. So, the lower the better. Here’s another World Bank chart:

gini

The global index (blue line) has decreased since 1988, in part due to globalisation and rapid growth by developing countries–countries are more equal as shown by the light orange between-country index. But look at the dark red in-country index that has gone up a whopping 75%. In real terms, this means the rich in one country has gotten richer, and richer, and richer. It’s a challenge to explain this. Politics, economics, taxation, market movement, greed, these are all factors.

Going back to the reddit comment. I don’t know how to solve inequality aside from being aware of the issue. Just let’s be more grateful, okay?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:


snap general election

parliamentunionjack

The Prime Minister has called a snap general election on 8 June. What on earth? Most of us kept hearing her say no, there won’t be a general election soon. Clearly she’s changed her mind or is plotting something.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Some analysts say she’s done it to clarify the Brexit mandate. She inherited Cameron’s mess and this is her way of stamping her own authority. Basically it’s a threat, vote for me on my merit or suffer the consequences. She’s also likely to be taking advantage of a big lead in the polls. Labour isn’t an effective opposition party and hasn’t been for a while. The Lib Dems are still too tiny and the SNP is stuck north of the border.

It’s Hobson’s Choice for the voters. One of my fb friends said it best:

would I rather have an incompetent prime minister with his heart in the right place, or one who I disagree with 75% of the time, but who has the ability to deal with foreign leaders, internal dissent, day to day chaos

As disillusioned as I am with the Tories, I cannot stomach voting for Corbyn. Like my fb friend said, nice guy but no presence.

I’m glad I renewed by voter registration. Let’s see if this time roung I get a ballot paper.

spring marathons #bostonstrong

It’s spring marathon season. Brighton was last weekend, Paris was yesterday, London is next weekend. Today is Boston, which is an anomaly in world marathons in that it’s run on a monday.

I’m mesmerised, watching how they let pedestrians cross the street in the middle of the marathon course. Effective and using low tech ideas. Just a few officials, a couple of signs, rope and a rectanglar box in the middle of the street. Very clever.

switzer

And talking about Boston, it’s the 5th anniversary of the bombing so #BostonStrong. The biggest finisher wasn’t Geoffrey Kirui or Edna Kiplagat (yay for Kenya) but bib #261, Kathrine Switzer, aged 70. Ms Switzer was the first woman to officially run Boston in 1967, having registerd as K.V. Switzer. The iconic photo of the race director trying to grab her mid-course seems so ridiculous now, but what she did for women’s sports was set a fantastic example and role model. 70 years old and she finished in 4:44:31. Amazing.

The BAA has retired her bib #261, in her honour.

random reddit

I’m bored so I’m clicking the random button on reddit, which brings me to, well, random subreddits. Yes, reddit has a bad reputation and there are some cesspool subs that shouldn’t exist. But mostly, it’s people getting together because they have a common interest. I’ve come across subs on games, tv shows, anime, sports teams, cities/countries, tech etc. Sometimes the topic is a complete mystery to me.

No wonder certain newspapers steal–um, borrow–content from reddit. A celebrity does an AMA and an article is written as if they gave an interview. Sometimes there are nice human interest stories. There’s one recently, on r/talesfromtechsupport about a tech support person fixing a simple skype issue so an elderly hard-of-hearing person can video call his wife, who is deaf and abroad for a 2 year temporary work assignment:

I looked up and there was Pete, crying while waving to his wife through Skype. Pete called her and she picked up! He introduced me to her and told me that it’d been 3-weeks since they’d heard from each other.

Anyway here are the most recent 5 random subs and some random posts.


r/minimalism

A place where people gather to talk about simplicity. I have now subscribed to it. Posts about people’s experiences like a post on decluttering using the one in, two out method. Most of us have heard of one in, one out but throwing or donating two out will definitely declutter. The OP says,

it makes me want to replace and upgrade the things I already have, rather than buying entirely new things

which sounds like a solid reason to try the program.

lv225sky

Many image posts of minimalist pictures. The was one with blue sky and a part of a slanted roof. I can do better, here’s one I took ages ago in Las Vegas.


r/dbz

dragonballz

I know very little about dragonball z, even though it’s been around for ages and ages and ages. The subreddit has discussion posts on all sorts of topics including specific episodes. What is dragonball z:

it follows a boy named Son Goku from childhood to adulthood, as he trains himself in martial arts with the goal of growing stronger. Throughout his adventures, he and his friends search for seven magical Dragon Balls that, when gathered together, can grant a single wish

There are posts with titles like What would happen if Dai Kaioshin was removed from Majin Buu? which are meaningless to me. Lots of fanart and I can see the effort that has gone into it. Not surprised that fans are gathered on this sub, this is exactly what the site is about.


r/cactus

Hahaha, a subreddit dedicated to cactus. Mostly pics of people’s plants, identification requests and posts with questions on caring for their cacti. Again, I love that there is a space online that people with similar interests can gather.

hkcchau020cactus

My contribution. We saw this whilst walking around one of the islands a few years ago. I’m loving the flickr search function.


r/historywhatif

Wow, I hadn’t realised there are whole subreddits on history whatif, future whatif, time travel whatif, even magic whatif. Very interesting, if one is interested in history. The top post is entitled Republican Spain wins the Spanish Civil War?

So lets assume that by means of less army defections or more international support or any combination of factors leads the Republicans to oust the fascists from Spain by April 1939(The end of the OTL civil war).

Not a historian, but food for thought. I started clicking on the other whatif subs and now I can see why whole hours, days, weeks, can be wasted.


r/submechanophobia

Okay, I was like, huh? This sub, which has almost 40k subscribers, is all about:

the fear of partially or fully submerged man-made objects

Ah okay. The banner pic is a cruise ship half sunk in the water and most posts are pics of submerged objects like ships, WW2 fighters, cars, submarines. One thread is entitled I will never become a Navy SEAL.

The best thing, I learned a new word.

brexit triggered

brexit

The Prime Minister triggered Brexit on Wednesday 29 March 2017. It’s a bit like knowing exactly when a bomb will go off but not having any choice in the matter. All we can do is watch the ripples spread out in concentric circles as we, as the Guardian described (it’s their banner here) we’re stepping into the unknown. There are tons and tons of opinion articles on this, from doom and gloom to glee. I’ve saved an extremely helpful BBC article all you need to know about Brexit. Many sensible questions, like:

What impact will leaving the EU have on the NHS?

But some equally amusing ones like:

Will we be barred from the Eurovision Song Contest?

Most of the answers to questions are variants of “it depends.” No one knows how the negotiations will give us. The overriding lesson from the past 12 months is: take nothing for granted, the world is unpredictable, people do not behave in ways we assume they would. No one person has the same circumstance as anyone else. Naturally I’m hoping for a soft Brexit, with as little disruption to everyday lives as possible. It’s probably naïve and unrealistic because of special interest groups and people with different agendas to ours.

There are a lot of people immediately affected by Brexit; I’m in the last group which arguably is the least affected:

  • 63 million people living in the UK
  • 58 million British people living in the UK
  • 2.9 million EU citizens living in the UK
  • 1.2 million British people living in the EU
  • 4.3 million British people living overseas (excl EU)

My primary income and financial assets are not in in the UK, so I’m less affected by the fluctuation of GBP or, to a lesser extent, EUR. If anything, sterling is cheaper for us so we should go back to visit or look into buying property. That puts me in an embarrasing predicament, because I can stand to gain from Brexit. What does it say for me as a Remainer, do I take advantage of FX volatility and falling house prices? Do I take the high road and not try to use this opportunity to my personal advantage? It’s stupid to take the naïve moral stand, TBH. When I can get us organised, I’m persuading mm to go for a househunting trip.

Aside: Scotland is in an interesting position. They voted overwhelming to Remain. If there is a second IndyRef, and if they vote for independence, will it then be a feasible location to move to? I don’t know.

There’s a part of me that still can’t believe how we got ourselves in this mess. I don’t know anyone who voted Leave but I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive them. I’ll wait and see. And hope for the best.

randomly curated links

I don’t maintain a sideblog, partly because I don’t have material all the time. That said, I have been saving a bunch of articles that would perfectly fit a sideblog. Random topics I’m interesting in like tech, travel, photography, entertainment.


icecaves

In the far, far north of Canada, which spends the most of the year under snow and ice, tides are extreme. When it’s low-tide, caves form as the topmost layer of ice remains while the water underneath recede. The native Inuits take the window of opportunity to climb underneath the ice to hunt for mussels. The caves underneath look magical, but only for a short time.

Before long, the sound of ticks and pops signaled the returning tide as it lifted the ice on the bay. Soon, the water would fill the caverns.

Beautifully photographed. I’m a big fan of alaska, life in the cold stories and this article confirmed the region’s harsh climate and even harsher way of life.


amazon’s continued online shopping dominance

A couple of months old, but still interesting is jason kottke’s account of online christmas shopping. The drone that his son wanted was out of stock at amazon, so he shopped with the manufacturer direct. Multiple emails and phone calls to verify the order and suddenly the order was refunded even though he never requested the cancellation. He couldn’t complete his purchase at Walmart’s online shop. Target’s website was slow and the item arrived late. The point is, everyone hates amazon, but it’s the only one that consistently works.

The site is always fast, I have never seen a 404’d product page, the URLs for their products haven’t changed in almost 20 years.

Come to think of it, that’s true. Product urls at amazon never 404. My only complaint is that there are now way too many products and it’s becoming more difficult to search. I need replacement lightning cables and I remember reading about some sturdy kevlar ones. Search for “kevlar lighting cable” returned 130 results, some of which are variations of the same product.


Talking about search, here’s 10 ways of searching for information on google, some I know, like searching through a specific website or url; some didn’t know about.

For instance if I were looking for an onsen in either kyoto or osaka I can search: onsen kyoto or osaka. If I want to exclude certain results, like if I want to search for interesting books but I don’t want to buy any I can search: interesting books -buy.


Musical interlude. Here’s the latest from The xx called Say Something Loving. I don’t know The xx very well, this song has grown on me. Plus the video is all.about.London albeit a London from a young person’s point of view. Video arcades (Trocadero may be), the skate park under the National Theatre, the Coronet.

We wanted to celebrate our home town and revisit some of the places that reminds us of our friendship when we were growing up.


Via the always reliably interesting boing boing a video breakdown of the Battle of Helm’s Deep. They talk about use of colour, silence in the cinematography. I didn’t realise it was 40mins long, my attention never faltered from the first anticipatory shots of silent waiting to the arrival of Gandalf. Classic.


Even darker, a LA Times long read about revenge that I spotted, fittingly enough, on r/prorevenge. Very long read, very riveting and surreal.

tl;dr: Entitled rich lawyer mom somehow perceived her precious snowflake son was slighted by the PTA President. Hatched an elaborate scheme with her (also lawyer) husband to place drugs in the hapless lady’s car. Police officer didn’t take the allegations at face value and turned the investigation to the husband and wife instead. They were arrested and jailed. Both lawyers were disbarred. The civil suit for damages was in favour of the president for $5.7million.

Apparently, a film is in the works, with Julia Roberts attached as producer and star.


Here’s a cruise I’d never go on, travelling on container ships. It’s okay for a young, single guy. It’s not only the time needed–2 weeks to cross the Pacific, for instance, it’s just that they’re not geared towards passengers:

You are a liability to the ship, and there is no reason why they should bring you onboard. Most ports are secured to a level where you cannot access them. Life onboard the ships come down to a few things: work, eat, sleep, recreation. A passenger is an interference to the ships routine.

So why do it? Because it’s there. And because someone thought about it as an idea and did it. There are apparently good things too. The passenger can share in the facilities and one ship had a sauna. There’s a lot of downtime. The view is different. And once past the bureaucracy of getting onboard, it’s cheap.


nyc549citibike

A form of cheap transport that I do like is bike sharing schemes. I was surprised and quite proud of myself at how I took advantage of NYC citibikes last year. Manhattan was surprisingly easy and safe to navigate on a bike, unlike London where I tried cycling to Harrow Road post office once and gave up. I think it’s the attitude of London drivers towards cyclists as well as the hunking buses that make it dangerous. When it works, there’s very little to dislike about these schemes. They are eco-friendly, cheap, convenient and healthy.

bikesharegrowth

Even in car-centric America, bike sharing schemes are growing. Granted, most of the growth is in cities–85% of all rides are in 5 cities: NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, Miami, Boston. It doesn’t fit everywhere. Seattle cancelled its scheme due to low usage (weather, hills and lack of commitment from local government). Schemes probably won’t work very well in rural areas.

One statistic that is impressive is how safe bike sharing is. The possible reasons make sense: the bikes are sturdy, making them heavier and also slower; they have working lights and brakes, users tend to only use them for short distances and are less experienced so they are more careful.

The world seriously can’t rely on petro-driven cars forever. Electric cars and self-driving cars may be the future but there’s also room for low tech transportation like bikes.

london bridge has fallen

London Bridge Roundel
photo credit: flickr user diorama_sky, under CC

I can even fathom, but one of these days the Queen will pass away. Spent a few minutes (more like 20, it’s a long read) reading the Guardian’s article about Operation London Bridge, or the top secret plans for the few days after the Queen’s death. The extension plans cover both the Queen’s death and Charles’ ascension and have been in place since the 1960s. The group of people involved (government departments, the police, the army, Palace staff, the media) meets regularly to update the plans and there are rehearsals for all manner of eventualities.

The middle of the article talks about Britain’s decling power compared with when Queen Victoria died. Then, we had the Empire. Now, there’s Brexit. But the Empire is gone, it’s nothing to be ashamed about; the world changes and evolves. Britain will still mourn the death of our monarch with dignity and it will be done with full-on British precision and ceremony. Extensive procedures will be followed, every detail, from the thickness of the cloth covering the bell of Big Ben that will ring the start to the Queen’s funeral to stockpiling of condolence books in all corners of the country, are in the playbook. The Prime Minister will be informed, Parliament will be recalled. TV and radio programs will stop and networks will merge with the announcement. The BBC, other channels as well as newspapers and magazines will have material already prepared.

The royal standard will appear on the screen. The national anthem will play. You will remember where you were.

And it being a completely modern world, the news will spread very, very quickly. It took hours before George VI’s death was announced; the press who were in Paris with Robin Cook who was travelling with Princess Diana knew within 15mins. Now, it’s as fast as data is carried over the internet.

There will be a profound outpouring of grief. Some observers predict an increase in patriotic feelings.

People who are not expecting to cry will cry.

I don’t cry a lot and I was close to tears just reading this.

fearless girl

fearlessgirl
photo credit: Federica Valabrega

Advertising firm McCann New York placed a statue of a girl opposite the Wall Street charging bull on behalf of their client State Street Global Advisors. The statue, called Fearless Girl, was by sculptor Kristen Visbal and will be there for a week. The purpose is to bring attention, on International Women’s Day, to diversity and gender equality issues. She starts down the bull and plaque at her feet says

Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.

State Street is refreshingly unusual in having 3 women on its 11-member board. Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Tisdalle:

She’s not angry at the bull — she’s confident, she knows what she’s capable of, and she’s wanting the bull to take note.

If only the rest of Wall Street is as enlightened as State Street. More than 80% of FAs are men and 25% of Russell 3000 index firms have no women on their board. I mean, has anyone been to the pit that is a trading desk? Sigh.

Come to think of it, I think my friend Larry went to State Street. I think he’s still there, global head of mobility.

nyc295bull

And another thing, they must have roped off the statues for photographers or the photographers got there early. When I was there last year, there were so many people taking selfies with the bull I could not get a proper pic at all.

subscribe to newspapers

nytsub

How is the NYT really doing, asked om malik. Newspapers are painfully transitioning from print versions to digital versions, some with more success than others. I can understand the constant calls to subscribe, or to put articles behind a paywall–they have to make money after all. I left the NYT when they started their paywall, but have enjoyed a free trial subscription thanks to my friend R for the past 3 months. The question is, do I continue subscribing once the free period is over? Their income from ad revenues has gone down significantly although their digital subscription rate has gone up, possibly due to the US election. A basic subscription is only USD2.75 a week, and I really should support that.

The alternative is to subscribe to the guardian, which is marginally more expensive at USD3.85 per week. There obviously is room for both, it doesn’t work out to be that much.

Thinking.

US politics #resist

Something heinous and sinister is happening in the US. The new president, KGB Agent Orange, enacted a series of measures in his first week of being president that are intended to bully, divide and self-promote. I watched my fb and twitter feeds this morning as the drama of people detained at various airports unfolded. People who have valid visas; green card holders. In which mature and civilised country is this right? This makes me think very carefully about whether I want to travel to the US. The last thing I want to experience again is the SSSS “random” screening every time I passed through a TSA checkpoint. It wasn’t random. It was racism, no denying it.

parkrangers

That said, it’s great to see how people are coming together with the same reactions and goals. The protests and marches. Friends who believe in doing the right thing becoming passionate activists. Urging people to contact their representatives to make their voices heard.

One of the best things that happened last week came about from another of those heinous and sinister measures. Orange banned staff at several agencies from speaking directly to the public, including via social media. This prompted the setting up of various unofficial alt-twitter accounts: the National Park Service, Forest Service, NASA, FDA, EPA, DOJ, State, DHS, Treasury, WH staff etc etc all have private accounts that aim to keep the public informed and not be gagged. Of course, we have to be careful about these accounts but they seem to all have good and honourable intentions. Definitely not what dystopian novels predicted, that park rangers will be leaders in the resistance.

What’s been very prominent in going through my feeds is that we all seem to be talking to each other in a bubble. I get why people unfollow or unfriend their friends / relatives who do not hold the same view. But not knowing, denigrating and arrogantly ignoring the opposition is perhaps one of the factors that cost the Democrats the election. In order to win, one must understand one’s enemies. I’m still subscribed to a couple of reddit threads that have right wing views, to see what’s on their minds and their interpretation of what’s been happening. It’s amazing how utterly different the perception is from the other side.

One of the vast number of post-mortem articles about the election is this thoughtful piece in the Guardian that paints one side of the picture of how Orange won in rural small towns

despite his vulgarity and his big-city ways

because the people who live in those dying towns are desperate. Not because they are ignorant or small-minded or ill-advised. Because there is no longer any industry in their town, there are no prospects, and they see their way of life eroded by corporatisation. The result is the rise of nostalgia. There’s been a lot of snorting and head-shaking about Orange supporters’ perceived yearning for the good ol’ days. The article suggests that we shouldn’t laugh it off.

There is nothing un-progressive about wanting your town to thrive, about recognizing that it isn’t thriving today.

And surely these are the people Democrats need to win over.

May be my blood pressure hasn’t shot up and I can read the alt-right stuff unemotionally because I’m no more than a distant observer in this. Yes, world economy and world politics will be affected, but America is only one country and it has a tendency of overestimating its importance. I’m closely watching what’s going on in Europe too. And of course our own upcoming CE “election” (a rigged vote cast by 1,200 people in a city of 7 million is not an election). Here, the feeling is positive about the US because relaxation in oversight and Orange’s obvious pro-business stance means more profits and better investment opportunities. Two different bankers told me this. I’ll absorb this piece of information, just like I’m mopping up all the news that is already overwhelming and it’s not even the end of January.

2016: tl;dr

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

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

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

My dad died, and the world literally stopped making sense

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

2016tldr

typhoon haima

typhoon

No 8 signal all day today as typhoon haima was almost a direct hit. Windy definitely but quite quiet actually, not a lot of rain. Probably once it passes us.

Good thing mum went to the market in preparation yesterday, we have plenty of food, enough to last more than a week.

at the banks

Bank day. Met sis at 10am at bank #2 and stayed there for over 2hrs. We had to open a joint account, a securities account, an investment account and close Papa’s accounts. There was a mountain of paperwork. Thought nowadays banks should be more automated, but there seems to be only more and more forms to fill in. The staff weren’t slacking, they had 3-4 people working on our case and it still took them to lunchtime to finish.

Lunch was at a conveyor belt sushi place. The set was nice, the sushi plates on the conveyor belt were barely touched, as most people ordered directly.

In the afternoon we went to bank #3. The staff there was also very helpful and there were also forms to fill in. We have to come back in about 2 weeks’ time after they sort out one of the bonds.

Long day and pretty tired. Bought meatballs and salmon from Ikea and took the bus home.

2016 olympics

2016olympics

The Olympics finished. Didn’t watch a lot because the tv channel only showed the big sports like swimming and athletics. Very happy and proud that Team GB finished second in the medals table. So many greats, Katherine Grainger, Mo Farah, Andy Murray, Nicola Adams, Giles Scott, Max Whitlock, Nick Skelton, the divers, the hockey team and the entire cycling team. 67 medals in total, 2 more than London 2012, an impressive achievement for an away games.

Another way of looking: 7th weighted medals by team size which is very good too.

Special shoutout to the 10 countries winning their first gold medals: Bahrain, Fiji, Ivory Coast, Kuwait (as Independent), Jordan, Kosovo, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Tajikistan, Vietnam. It’s easy to focus on the big countries and big crowd-pleasing sports, the achievements of the smaller countries and smaller teams is proportionately even larger. And what about Sakshi Malik, who won India’s first ever medal, a silver in wrestling. Imagine the difficulty she’s had to overcome.

sportsmanship

There are no better embodiment of the Olympic spirit than Nikki Hamblin and Abbey d’Agostino, who were awarded the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal for fair play. One of the best moments of these Games.

olympics is here, remembering london 2012

The 2016 Olympics is here! Whilst there are undoubtedly problems due to many factors such as weather, illness, incompetence, corruption, the fact is that it’s an event that is worth getting excited about. I hope I can get my once-every-four-years fix of sports hardly seen on tv like handball, rowing, dressage. I’m also hoping that there is more coverage of the Paralympics, the athletes deserve so much more exposure.

Nostalgia time. Four years ago I experienced London 2012 at first hand, having been lucky enough to be in London at the right time and getting lucky with tickets. Been looking through my pics and posts. Pics: olympica | paralympics

ldnolytorch031change

Catching the torch on the last full day before it got to Olympic Park. So, so, so glad I decided to hop on the bus. Holland Park was a good spot to see the relay pass not once but twice. Was at the right spot to see one of the handovers too.

ldnolybvolley033chgr

Getting a last minute ticket to see beach volleyball at Horse Guards’. Got a nice seat, the atmosphere was carnival-like and for a change I didn’t mind the drunken loud people around me. Watched until the last game ended at almost midnight shivering in the summer chill. Saw two big US names: Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor.

ldnolyarch026gbmog

Another last minute ticket to see archery. Walking distance, at Lord’s. Even tried my hand at it in the play area.

ldnoly011stadium

I had tickets for 3 diving events, gave one set to Sis’ FIL. The first one was women’s 3m springboard final. First time at Olympic Park too, went there with mm early so we could explore. It was super sunday and I remember someone shouting that Andy Murray had just won the tennis gold medal and there were cheers all round.

ldnoly091diving10m

Diving was quite spectacular but ended quite quickly. The second diving was women’s 10m platform final, I had 4 tickets so CC and M could join.

ldnpara033wheel

What was really enjoyable and eye-opening was going to see the Paralympics. I got a last minute ticket to see athletics. I’d never been to a track and field event in person. It was absolutely wonderful. Highlight was definitely David Weir winning the T54 1500m final.

ldnpara097murder

I had a day pass at Olympic Park and managed to see tennis, football, wheelchair rugby (murderball) and goalball. All very different. Tennis was wheelchair players. Murderball was so exciting, I can’t believe it’s not shown more on tv. Football was 5-a-side and blindfolded. Goalball was played in absolute silence.

ldnpara146fencing

My last Olympics/Paralympics outing as at Excel. Saw boccia, table tennis, wheelchair fencing and sitting volleyball. Love the quiet dignity of boccia and the excitement of fencing.

typhoon last night

We got a direct hit from typhoon Nida last night. It made landfall 40km away and there were winds at 150km/hr plus more than 60mm of rain. Many places were flooded. T8 was raised.

Apparently.

treedowntyphoon201607

I heard some gusts of winds just before I went to bed but I slept through it all. When I woke up, there were winds and some rain but nothing out of the ordinary. There were bits of leaves over the windows but it was only when I looked outside that I realised it was a ferocious one. Branches all over the ground, the cover of our neighbour’s car had blown off and a couple of the papaya trees in the garden had fallen over.

I’m with her

Been quiet about the US presidental election while watching from the sidelines. Like most outside the US, and many (hopefully many, many) inside the US, I shake my head as Trump gets nominated in his party by behaving ridiculously towards minority and talking utter rubbish all the time.

Resisted until this week, then couldn’t help but tune into the livestream of the DNC. President Obama’s speech was awe-inspiring. Don’t boo, vote.

Khizr Khan talking about the loss of his son in Iraq and telling Trump he has sacrificed nothing was one of the most heartfelt speeches I’d watched for a long time.

And then Hillary Clinton walked out.

I watched most of her speech live, then had to go out. Watched it again in full later. Here are some highlights.

If I can vote for her, I will. I hope and wish that my friends who can, not only go out and vote in November, but spread the message amongst friends and family that there is too much at stake this time. Learn from Brexit. Look at the big picture. Don’t let anger and frustration destroy everything.

brexit: what have we done?

In the end, my vote wouldn’t have mattered. Westminster voted 69% for Remain. But that’s where the good news ended. The rest of the UK, outside of London & the Southeast, Northern Ireland and Scotland (and Gibraltar), mostly voted to Leave.

brexitmap

It’s the biggest event in the UK for several generations. The bbc map and analysis shows a country divided. The analysis also showed that by and large:

  • young people voted Remain; older people voted Leave with the crossover point at around the mid-40s years old, the same age range as our EU membership
  • people with higher degrees voted Remain; non-graduates voted Leave
  • people who self-identified as English voted Leave

I was watching the live results. It was a big shock as constituency after constituency returned Leave. A little respite when the first of the London results came in for Remain, but it was shortlived.

brexitmarket

Even though the European markets were closed, 24/7 trading meant it was possible to see the moment when the world realised Leave was going to win.

brexitfx

The £ dropped to a 30-year low. I’d bought some last week, when it was around 11.01 against local$, and when I checked my bank it was 10.75. Even as I typed in the online order it dropped to 10.62. Texted sis and mm, mm was able to get some at 10.55.

My FA texted. We were going to sell off one of my GBP accounts anyway, and she wanted to put the order in as soon as the markets open. I said it’s the worst time to sell, since there’d be lots of panic selling and the indices will be sure to fall. It’s not like we were desperate for the money. FA was more pessimistic than us, she thinks the markets will fall further. In the end, we set a line, if the drop is less than a certain % then sell, wait and buy back when it’s still cheap. Otherwise sit tight.

If I weren’t flying to the US next weekend for the conference, I would have dragged mm to London so we can go house-hunting. House prices are expected to drop, even though the top end of the property market will probably go up because of the cheap £.

I sound like one of those detested bankers! Taking advantage of a horrible chaos to try to make money.

markets20160624

And chaos it was. I turned on the tv to bloomberg to watch Cameron resign, and the markets go crazy. Interestingly the FTSE-100 only dropped 4% compared with the CAC and DAX. World markets closed for the weekend with red everywhere. One of my uni friends on our whatsapp group joked:

Brexit to be followed by Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Fruckoff, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovlong, Latervia, Byegium until the EU reaches the state of Germlonely

And still the recriminations continue. I try to understand where the Leave voters were coming from, which boils down to:

if you’ve got money, you vote in; if you haven’t got money, you vote out

It was all voting from the heart, coming from resentment of a government that has failed the entire country whilst lining the coffers of their one-percenter friends. There is no excuse from the government, but let’s vote them out at the next general election and not use the EU referendum as a temper tantrum.

There was a lot fearmongering about immigration too, that the heart listened to. I get it. I saw my own neighbourhood change when I was back in London after more than a decade away and it wasn’t for the better. It’s true, many people who come to the country didn’t bother to assimilate, but Britain is also the country where a hijab-wearing woman whose parents come from Bangladesh can win the most popular baking competition ever and goes on to bake a cake for the Queen’s 90th birthday. That’s British identity, not Nigel Farage’s stupid poster.

The heart that voted for Brexit didn’t listen to the head and forgot about consequences. How leaving the EU will affect pensions, mortgages, job opportunities, the economy and, closer to home, making their Costa del Sol holiday even more expensive now.

And we’ll have to be British about this. Apologise to the world about the mess we created. Make the best of the situation. Europe already wants us out. Best case scenario, our politicians (and please do NOT elect Boris Johnson) salvage some of the EU benefits and we become like Switzerland or Norway. Worst case scenario…ugh, that’s a bottomless pit.

What have we done?

EU referendum didn’t vote

euballotpaper

Results are starting to come in for the EU referendum. Despite me being a good citizen and registering to vote, I did not get my chance to vote. Why? Because I didn’t get my ballot paper. I have no idea why or what happened. I received a confirmation from Westminster council, which I duly filed away. Then waited and waited and waited. Most info and articles were geared towards people in the UK. It’s hard for people outside to find instructions. I wonder if I should have registered for a proxy vote, but I don’t know anyone in Westminster.

So that was the tactic then? Not send the ballot papers or send it so we get it after the event. I wonder how many of the millions of overseas voters got their voting card on time and had their vote count.

What’s this about #yourvotematters? Clearly mine didn’t matter.

A bit mad, to be honest.

p.s. for the record, Remain.

welcome home Major Peake

After a 6-month stay at the ISS, Tim Peake came back to earth.

The first UK astronaut to spacewalk; the second astronaut to run a marathon (London, which he completed in 3.35). I’ve been following him on the news, on twitter and flickr. He’s safely back on earth now, but not before a final tweet from space:

Beautiful pics on his flickr feed. Aside from the marvel that is seeing the Earth from space, there’s his keen eye too. It’s good to be reminded of how beautiful our planet is.

The Earth:
Planet Earth

Aurora over Canada:
Aurora masterclass

Sunlight reflecting on a Himalayan lake:
Stunning colours

p.s. all pics copyright Tim Peake ESA/NASA, from Tim’s flickr.

jo cox

sg013temple

What an awful week. Still reeling from Orlando. And now Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen.

Like most people, even in the UK, I haven’t heard of Jo Cox before. But reading all the tributes, watching her maiden Parliament speech, she was just one of those politicians who are what we want from a politician: hardworking, bright, working for her constituents and her country rather than blagging and hogging the spotlight with empty promises.

She achieved so much. Head girl, Pembroke College, Head of Policy at Oxfam. A

tireless campaigner

for Syrian refugees.

She even lived on a houseboat! She left behind her husband, Brendan, and two young children.

What is the world coming to? Awful, simply awful. There are eyewitness reports that her attacker shouted “Britain First” and although it’s not confirmed the fact that organisations like Britain First exist in the first place is a terrible reflection of how the world has become.

This quote from her maiden speech sums up how we should carry on her legacy:

we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us

We simply must do better.

orlando

cpride001flag

Not sure if I can articulate my thoughts about the Orlando shooting. Many others are doing it more eloquently. Most western news media outlets have lots of reports and opinions.

As the guardian said so many faultlines.

Discussion about whether it was terrorism or hate crime. Put the blame on radicalisation or lack of gun control. Anger at poliicians using a tragedy to push their own agenda. Censorship on r/news. Reopening arguments about immigration. Mental health issues. Still waiting for the day homophobia is no longer in existence.

Words.

I look at my other feed and there is nothing there. It’s as if my RL friends and family are a world away from what happened half the world away. It’s my perennial conflict, what happens in my community life has no overlap with my real life.

#yourvotematters

ukexpatsvote

I didn’t vote in the last general election because I didn’t keep up my registration on the electoral register when I left the UK. Not that my one vote would have counted, I figured. Except that’s exactly the wrong attitude. I’ve been following what’s going on in the SMH-worthy US primaries. Time and time again people are telling their friends to go vote, because their one vote does count. People who are passionate about their parties and issues are more likely to vote in large numbers, and sometimes that’s led to bad results because people with extremist or discriminatory views have simply cared more than the lethargic majority.

Sis has been nagging me about 2 things: get health insurance and register to vote. We were talking about Brexit and she reminded me to go register asap. The FCO has been calling on the estimated 5.5 million overseas British citizens to exercise their right to vote.

It’s really easy to do online and yes it only took around the time to make a cup of tea. R is registered in Chichester; Sis and I are in Westminster. When I have time, I’ll register for mm too. Seems like the publicity is working with over 2000 registering every day.

The criteria is that the person has to have been registered as a voter or left the UK in the last 15 years. Don’t know why it’s 15 years, sounds arbitrary. Some people who left more than 15 years ago are also fighting to have their voting rights recognised.

Hopefully more than 106,000 overseas British citizens bother to vote at the June referendum. That’s the number in the last general election.

#bruxelles

Another senseless terrorist attack. Ths airport and Maelbeek Metro station in Brussels came under attack on Tuesday.

lemondebruxelles

There’s a small part of me that is angry at TPTB. They knew the Paris bombers lived in Belgium, there was talk that an attack on Brussels was planned / foiled. But honestly, all the police in the world can’t stop someone with a backpack going to the landside of an airport, or a metro station. Mostly, I’m sad and want to reach out to the victims and everyone in Brussels. This drawing from Le Monde is poignant and full of sympathy. We all feel like France at this moment.

In less than 10 days’ time, Mum and I will be in Paris and then mid-April we’ll be in London. Am I worried? I’ll be a fool if I said flippantly, “no.” But am I tempted to cancel? Absolutely not, and reddit agrees it’s still safe to travel to Europe. I’ll be vigilant and prepared to go through plenty of security checks. It’s a way of life in the world now, I doubt the threat of terrorism will decrease during my lifetime.

brus094frites2bar

I have good memories of Brussels and this is what I will think about today. A beautiful, cosmopolitan city with beers, chocolate and frites.

brus006lecomet

Great architecture and a pleasurable city to walk in. That’s the Brussels of my mind.

running Paris marathon for the GCLS

I’ve done the running sponsorship once before and that’s it. I remember telling my friend CC about Chicago marathon and her first reaction was to reach for her wallet and ask “who are you running for?” So sweet, but I explained that I wasn’t running for any charity. She was puzzled; like many non-runners she associated races with sponsorships. All well and good, but that’s one of the reasons I don’t run for charity–while I cheer on the fundraising and good cause, I hate the way that races have been taken over to the point of being hijacked by charities. How many years have I entered for the VLM lottery? 100% failure rate.

parismarathon

I guess it’ll have to be a really great cause to get me to go the race sponsorship route. I’ve been involved with the GCLS for a few years now, I feel like I’m contributing, and they appreciate my efforts by giving me an award last year. As the organisation grows, so do operating expenses and the need to provide even more to members in the form of scholarships and technology. It seemed an opportune time to combine Paris marathon with the GCLS.

As I don’t live in the US, I approached the Board to figure out a way that works best for everyone. I initially thought about having sponsors fill out a form (so I can track total amount) and then donating directly. The Board did one better: they kindly created a fund just for me, to provide a convenient place to make and collect donations. That’s simply…awesome.

Here is the call for sponsorship that I posted on fb earlier, and is also on the description on the fund page:

On 3 April 2016 I will wake up early, gobble down several delicious French pastries, lace up my best running shoes and participate in the Paris Marathon. This is my 5th marathon and my first race on Continental Europe. The course takes us past sights such as Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

This year, I will run in honour of the GCLS.

As many of you know, the GCLS is close to my heart and I am involved in their mission to educate, recognise and promote lesbian literary work. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organisation, entirely run by volunteers and funded through donations. Please consider sponsoring me in my efforts to help in their cause.

Here’s the link to donate online: http://www.goldencrown.org/donations/fund.asp?id=14228

Every little counts! Thank you in advance for your sponsorship. Look out for updates and race pics in April.

pic of my chair may breach copyright

aeronchair2015

I’m home for a few days, and I reminded myself to take a picture of my aeron chair. Why? Because apparently, the UK government will soon require people to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects, even if you own that object. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 says that copyright of artistic objects cover 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. This is something like 100 years after the object was designed and during that 100 or so years, taking a photo will require a licence from the copyright owner. Note, it’s the copyright owner not the legal owner of the object.

The aeron chair was designed in 1994, so there’s plenty of time left for that copyright licence.

Stupid or what.

donate a photo, help a cause

 

The donate-a-photo app has been around for about 2.5 years now; I only just spotted it recently on instagram. The idea is to share a photo a day, and Johnson & Johnson will donate USD1 for every photo.

Each cause will receive a minimum donation and will appear in the app until its donation period ends or its goal is reached.

 

Sounds simple and innocent enough. Win-win all round. Right? Everything I read online about it has been generally positive. Except my first reaction was skepticism. Originally the app used the tagline selfless selfies and encouraged people to upload their selfies. That was a massive red flag. Invasion of privacy, facial recognition, profiling. It’s yet another data gathering exercise to market their products.

 

My second reaction was, what will happen to these photos? This is a good way of gathering thousands of photos that they don’t have to pay royalties for. Rule #1 of sharing a pic with a big brand is be careful. They mislead, engage in bait-and-switch tactics and generally don’t give credit or compensation. Over the years, I’ve had requests on flickr to add to a website or use in a magazine (the biggest was Travel and Leisure). I’ve found that the ones that promise “credit and exposure” without paying are the worst, they don’t even send you back the link to the story (no, T+L never sent anything back). I’ve stopped responding.

 

The donate-a-photo app does say that the photos shared will be added to a gallery to promote the app,

but they will never be used to sell any products or for any other commercial.

 

donatephoto20151121

 

What’s the harm, I thought. I’ll upload some innocuous pics and if it gets money to the right causes, it’s all good. So far I’ve added a couple of pics of trees and one of smiley pastries. I also signed up for the UK version as opposed to the US version. It’s smaller in scale, in terms of causes included—only 2 so far this week. Unlike the US charity navigator I can’t find any good UK based charity vetting services. I may switch to US so I know more about the causes offered.      

 

donateaphotoimpact2015

 

As of today, J&J claims that they have received 801k photos, which suggests they have donated $801k. Over 2.5 years it’s roughly $320k per year. Even rounded up to $500k, this is probably just a fraction of their philanthropy budget. According to this infographic, they gave $131 million in 2011, representing 1.1% of their pre-tax profits.

 

Creating an app like donate-a-photo is a smart idea. Lots of good publicity, and using the sharing economy concept to run the campaign. They already have a department that liaises with causes, just agree on an amount to donate and timeframe. Once the amount is reached or timeslot completed, move the next cause up the queue. Run a report every once in a while, send the money, update the app and website, claim the tax benefits. The general public do all the work of populating the galleries and spreading the word to their friends. And it makes everyone feel good.

 

england vs france at wembley, the score didn’t matter

englandfrance20151117
image from the independent

If I were still in London, I would have thought about going too. And I’ve never gone to a football match.

On Tuesday night, France came to Wembley to play a football match with England, four days after the terrorist attack in Paris, during which their own game with Germany was under attack at la Stade de France. While most people will agree that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, this time

football itself has been rather thrust forward into the vanguard of the response to the horror in Paris.

Kudos to the FA their french counterpart and the government, for the determination that the game will go ahead,

defiance, normality, business as usual: this was the message.

It was always going to be an emotional night. It was well known beforehand that the Duke of Cambridge, Cameron and the team captains would lay wreaths on the pitch; that there would be a minute’s silence; that the words of La Marseillaise would be shown on the big screen so England fans can sing with their counterparts.

I looked for videos of that. I did not expect to be so moved. Wonderful display of Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Yes, the words were mangled, the band wasn’t perfect. It was perfect:

it suited the often funny fraternity between France and England: our closest neighbour, but a sibling kind of relationship that leaves each afraid to say to the other how much we care, until something truly awful happens.

In the meantime, politicians, most especially Republican governors in America are portraying Muslims and Middle Eastern refugees as all terrorists and falling over each other to slam the door on Syrian refugees. Wow, that’s inhuman and cruel.

Oh, the final score was 2-0 to England. It didn’t matter. Marchons, marchons.

 

 

paris fusillade last straw, or how I was a meanie

I woke up this morning to the news of the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. It’s been a dreadful few weeks, with the sudden loss of a friend to cancer, a death in the family and now this. I was about to start looking for flights and hotels too.

As with many news events nowadays, social media played a big part in both dissemination of information and for people to express their feelings. What I observed on my fb, twitter and instagram feeds was quite interesting:

  • fb — fb friends’ demographics are fairly homogeneous in terms of background, education and values. It’s a close and tight community. Plus, I’m careful about whose friend request I accept, which perpetuate the sameness. The reaction to #fusillade was overwhelmingly outrage, sadness and sympathy
  • twitter — I follow all sorts on twitter: runners, professional athletes, whisky & wine lovers, travellers, nano participants, artists, writers, photographers, chefs, GBBO partipants, journalists, tech people, gamergate people, celebrities. Some I follow to see what sort of mischief they get up to. Some are people whose views I may not necessary agree with. I don’t check twitter all the time, but if there is an important event, it’s the first place I go to. Most of the updates for #fusillade was via twitter and the reaction was varied, from sadness and sympathy to more controversial views
  • instagram — instagram was quiet, people continued posting as normal albeit slightly subdued, a couple of the parispaix image

 

parispaix
image via the guardian

I spent most of the morning following the livefeeds on the guardian and NYT (they disabled the paywall for this event) as well as #paris and my own feed on twitter.

For some reason, one person’s twitter posts stood out. Suffice it to say they are an author and possibly self publish, I’m not sure. I’ve noticed the tweets by this person for a long time, because it’s all the same: “buy my book” multiple times every day. RTs are when they are @mentioned by others, also writing and publishing and book buying related.

So when the news in Paris broke, and everyone was waiting with bated breath as the police operation went underway, what did this person do? A “buy my book” post. Seriously. In the middle of the largest attack on a western city since 9/11. Where was the common sense? Where was the perspective? Where was the empathy towards the dead, the injured, le gendarmarie?

I don’t know this individual personally.1 I could have, and arguably should have, sent them a friendly DM. But I didn’t because I thought a DM from a stranger will likely be taken the wrong way and have the opposite effect.

I’m not saying don’t post. Life goes on. My feed gradually filled up with non-Paris posts, although I noticed they were more low key. If I had gone running, I would have done my normal running post too. My issue with this author was the constant barrage of promotional posts did not stop2 when it was clearly inappropriate. The excuse that they weren’t aware of what was happening doesn’t fly because they were RTing Paris stuff too.

batmanbuybook

It was the last straw. So I vented on fb. I added that I’m sad and pissed off. I figured, in a while, I’ll calm down and I’ll delete it. No one will be any wiser.

The post blew up. Mainly agreeing. Like I said, homogeneous group. The post isn’t public, only people I have personal interactions saw it. The comments were somewhat valid, so I thought I’ll leave it up. There were hints that certain commenters saw the same tweets.

One person called me out on it. She disapproved of the way we seemed to have gone all lynch mob on the author. That it was disappointing that no one thought to educate instead of hanging someone out to dry. That we should be more forgiving about mistakes. Since it is someone I really respect, it was time for self-reflection. Was it wrong to say something so harsh? Should I have said nothing? Should I have contacted the author to understand where they were coming from?

I looked at the author’s twitter feed again. Another promotional post had gone up in the meantime. This is the gist of what I added to the OP:

  • it’s common sense to know what to not do in times of tragedy
  • how many times have people written about written about the perils of constantly bombarding readers with “buy my book” posts? Everytime, the answer is don’t do it
  • if you’re on social media, be ready that someone will disagree with you
  • we should stop catering to the lowest common denominator in society

I mean what I say, about lowest common denominators in society. Because a handful drunken louts damaged a property, now no one can go inside [a park, a building etc]. Because one person freaks out at witchcraft and sorcery, Harry Potter books are banned. Because someone has no common sense, we should use kid gloves to oh-so-gently nudge them in the right direction. How many people will step up when a customer insults an autistic employee when most businesses would act the opposite way?

Was I a meanie, posting on fb? Possibly. Did the author deserve it? Possibly, since they seem to have taken a what-not-to-do guide and did exactly those things (yet another promotional post came up later). They probably deserved a more reconciliatory tone. Would I do it again? I sure hope that the circumstances leading to needing to rant never occur, ever.

 

1 This person posts a lot. Yet I have no clue about their personality. Do they like where they live? Favourite food? Do they have pets? Post something other than writing or RTs that make me interested in you AS A PERSON. For all I know, this is a bot.

2 A thought occurred to me that they are scheduled. I don’t have the energy to check timestamps. Even if they were scheduled, turn it off.

 

 

getting ready, checking weather

I checked in as soon as the 48hr window opened up. The flight looks around 90% full already, but I got the seat I wanted. Since I’ll be travelling for almost 1 month, and into November, I figured I need to pack my coat and a couple of sweaters.

weatherchicago

The forecast for race day is 15-23ºC, feeling like 25ºC. Ugh. Too hot, with no clouds. It’d be great if it’s 10 degrees cooler. The 2 days before and after are supposed to be cooler, so I’ll keep an eye out on the weather.

weatherptown

The weather in Ptown looks variable too. From 20ºC down to 10ºC. Add the windchill from the exposed position, definitely need my coat and fleece lining.

Packing is done. Taking enough clothes for 7-10 days. Hopefully we can find laundry facilities in Ptown, and I can handwash if necessary too.

 

happy news: young woman runs own business

Sometimes heart-warming stories come out of reddit. This is a story about Jo and her incredible daughter Emma. 21 year old Emma has Downs Syndrome, autism, hearing loss and a cleft palate, which prevents her from learning to read and write. After an encounter with a girl who lost her mother, Jo realised that she needed to help Emma plan for her life as Jo won’t be there forever.

mastershredder

Turns out, Emma’s inability to read and write is a bonus, and now she runs her own successful shredding business, Master Shredder. Her clients include a solicitor’s and a credit union; they give her confidential documents and she shreds them in a non-recoverable way. Jo:

If I look at this from the perspective of confidential documents that’s great, she can’t read it. You could put a state secret in front of her and she won’t know.

It’s also really heartwarming to watch Emma working very diligently; and how happy she looks when with other people. Beautiful story.

 

long to reign over us

queen2015
image: getty

Today, the Queen becomes the longest-reigning monarch in British history, overtaking Queen Victoria’s 63 years, seven months and two days. It’s both a sad and happy day, as it marks the day she lost her father, George VI. Lots of commemorations and celebrations in the news. The bbc has a wonderful series of pictures from each year of her reign. The Telegraph has this video that transforms her from when she was 25 years old to now, at 89:

Even the stoic Independent is full of praise for her, recognising her dedication, sense of duty and the rock on which the country has built on for 63 years. How many 21 year old princesses would say this:

I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family, to which we all belong

She’s the only Queen I’ve known. There’s an unspoken sense of awe, respect and…love for her that isn’t there for the other members of the Royal Family. It’s like it’s baked into our core. Even the people who want to scrap the monarchy have to admit that she has been a great queen, seeing the country transition from the glory days of the Empire through devastation following WW2 and then to the modern age.

Of course we can’t hope for another 63 years, but we’ll take as many as we can while she is with us.

hottest day in history, my fridge broke down

hkweather201508

Today the observatory recorded the highest temperature since records began in 1885. Although 36.3ºC isn’t that hot compared with many other places (I remember driving in Provence during a 40ºC heatwave, and the car thermometer reached 100F/38C on the way back to Chicago), it was very uncomfortable with the triple whammy of extreme heat, over 90% humidity and horrible pollution. The forcast says 31-32ºC but in reality it will feel hotter because of the humidity.

The reason behind the weather is the monster typhoon Soudelor. We can see its size in the pic from the international space station.

So on the hottest day in recorded history, my fridge decides to stop working. I’ve had it repaired a couple of times already, the freezer coils frost up and the fridge compartment doesn’t get cold. The technicans say it’s either the thermostat or the timer. I got rid of the freezer coil frost and dismantled the back to see if I can reset the thermostat but I couldn’t get it working again.

I have 8 salmon filets and a bunch of frozen stuff I do not want to spoil, so I packed everything up into a suitcase and got a taxi to my parents’ place. Their fridges are usually pretty full and mum did grocery shopping today. My dad is so smart, he managed to find space for my stuff. Yay for parents!

three typhoons

typhoons

I was texting mm about various stuff and she mentioned it’s typhoon signal #8. This means a typhoon is nearby and all schools and businesses are closed. Normally weather doesn’t get covered around the world but the fact that three typhoons are lined up to attack is covered in mashable and other places.

The first of the trio, typhoon linfa, has already made landfall. It’s the middle one, chan-hom, that is the biggest threat. It’s forecast to reach super typhoon status, with winds reaching 155km/hr, passing north of Taiwan to make landfall around Shanghai. That’s equivalent to a category 3 hurricane in the US.

It’s rare, to see three typhoons coming in so close to each other. The whole of June was ridiculously hot, looks like July is going to be wet over in that part of the world.