lookback 30-may

Been a while since the last lookback post so here’s one for 30-May. Trying not to limit myself to landmarks like one-, three-, five years ago.

2017chocolate truffle ice cream

Ah, that was the day we met our friend L for lunch, went to look for fridges for mm, and had early dinner at hmv.


We also exchanged 2 vouchers I had for chocolate truffle ice cream. Truffle as in the fungus found in forests not the cream-melted-chocolate mixture. Even one year later I can still smell it and there’s memory of an awful ice cream. Seriously, I like truffle, but paired with chocolate ice cream is such a bad idea.

2014new state: alaska


The cruise arrived at Alaska. I saw glaciers, whales, bald eagles. Lots of snow, ice, pristine scenery. Ate king crab, went gold prospecting in the Yukon, saw a snowplough taller than me.

2013lunch at le fauchon

Hahaha, even more vouchers! This one at the French bistro near central, for a set lunch. After lunch, walked mm back to the office. She was still working then.

2008 — <a href=”http://www.invisiblecompany.com/2008/05/30/” title=”post>i will possess your heart

Wow wow wow, ten years already? DCFC’s I Will Possess Your Heart dropped. I have the short version on my running playlist. I love that the video was filmed in so many favourite and instantly recognisable places–London, Paris, Tokyo.


Hahaha, the sound of a lightsabre turning on.

5000 posts


I didn’t even notice, I passed 5000 posts on the website. Post #5000 was the one about the Japanese oogui eater on 10-May-2018. Granted, 5000 posts on this WP installation is different from the original MT installation, because I reorganised.

Anyway, I can argue with myself about the date of post #1.

The post with the earliest date is 30-Apr-1996 because I was writing up past trips and that was the trip to Guilin. The post itself was probably written in 2006 or later.

The actual first post on the website was 23-Sep-2003 which I have in my mind as my website anniversary. I’m going to call this post #1.

Between post #1 and post #5000:

  • 14 years, 7 months, 17 days
  • 5,343 days
  • 128,232 hours
  • 7,693,920 minutes
  • 461,635,200 seconds

Next 5000 posts, may be in 5000 days.

retroactive posting, and nothing’s changed much in 11 years

This post is dated 02-May-2018 but is written on 07-May-2018. Most posts dated April were written several weeks later, because I went through most of the month not feeling stable enough to post every day. I find lately that posting is cyclical: I go through days without bothering, and then I do a massive catch-up, writing 3-4 retroactive posts a day. All because of a perverse need to continue the one-post-a-day streak that has been going since 25-jun-2007. That’s not a typo, I’ve managed one post a day for almost 11 years.

I don’t think the quality or content of a post deteriorates if it’s written days or weeks afterwards. If anything, I think it filters out the less interesting topics. I instapaper articles, videos, images that I find interesting and find that I delete around half when I come to writing about them, because I no longer find them worth writing about. There’s a recent guardian article about delaying reading the news for a few days. Because of the always-on 24/7 nature of the news cycle, mental exhaustion creeps in, and anxiety level increases.

Of the 45 troubling things you saw on Twitter this morning, two or three may prove to be signs of the rise of fascism/the destruction of the environment/the collapse of Brexit Britain. Yet the rest won’t.

I still read the news everyday, but I take my time. I don’t rely on twitter for breaking news, and I spend no more than 15mins a day on fb. By the time a news item has settled, then I feel like I can read more.

Still, why do I feel like I need to post everyday? I have no idea. Routine, may be. Fear that if I missed a day the momentum is lost. In a way, it’s the same mentality of regret that I felt when I missed nano2007. If only I just wrote rubbish, any rubbish, to get to 50k. It’s a missed event I can never get back.

A few weeks ago, Jason Kottke wrote that blogging is almost certainly not dead and I find myself nodding in agreement. I didn’t get a chance to submit my website, but thousands of others did. One of them, karigee talked about why she’s kept her blog for 15 years:

I also keep it out of spite, because I refuse to let social media take everything. Those shapeless, formless platforms haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it. I’ve blogged about this many times, but I still believe it: When I log into Facebook, I see Facebook. When I visit your blog, I see you.

Emphasis mine, and how I agree.

Let’s look at the 25-jun-2007 post that started the streak. Entitled new old thoughts, it’s my usual jumble of weird thoughts. To my 2007-self’s credit, reading the post brings me back to my situation then. There was an upheaval at work, my last day was that week, and I’d booked myself on a month-long trip to the US and Chile, the first and only time I visited South America. It’s interesting to read about ex-colleagues, some of whom I have kept in touch with but most of them I haven’t.


The big trip is worth reading about, it started off on day 1 with a flight cancellation at JFK, where I had to sleep on the floor next to a vending machine overnight before rather recklessly deciding to drive to Chicago. Once I got to Chicago, we almost immediately hopped into the car to drive to Dallas, Fort Worth, and eventually to Washington DC to see the 4th of July fireworks and the museums. The Chilean leg of the trip was equally impressive, with skiing, wine train, and beaches. Holy moly, I did all that?

Anyway, going back to the post, this is how it ended:

But right now my brain is in a state of frozen limbo shock. I can’t believe I quit my job. I can’t believe I quit my job with no new job to go do. I can’t believe the things that our new management team is getting away with. I can’t believe I’m going on such a long trip. I can’t believe I basically have no plans beyond this July trip.

None of this is new. Nor is it a surprise.

Frankly, nothing has changed in almost 11 years.

cpu minutes

CPU usage spiked heavily lately. ISP support says it’s okay but I’m worried. I had this problem before and thought it was fixed. I have no idea why it’s using this much CPU time, and I really wanted to get to the bottom of it.

The culprit must be wordpress, but what exactly is causing it? I don’t open the dashboard until I’m ready to post, I barely even use the system. Most articles and forum posts say plugins, some say themes too. I don’t have that many plugins, having stripped to the most essential. Then I found a really detailed and helpful guide.

Step 1: check system

I followed the guide and checked awstats, server response time, GTmetrix. The website is slow, but not alarmingly so. From awstats I saw I was being pinged a lot by crawler bots, with bingbot taking almost 5GB bandwidth. I googled around and added to my robots.txt file, I’ll check back in a week or so. I don’t really care about SEO ranking and being visible on search engines so I’ll test by banning all the big searchbots, especially bing.

The guide has a link to a huge list of bad bots I can add to .htaccess, I’ll see if the robots.txt fix works first.

Step 2: configure wordfence

Wordfence also has some controls that limit crawlers and physical views. The lower the time I allow crawlers and the fewer chances I give them, the better. The guide also gives me settings to reduce the CPU time Wordfence itself uses, it’s quite a demanding plugin. An example is its live traffic report, which I don’t use.

Step 3: install WP-Disable and WP-Optimize

Seems counter-intuitive, to install more plugins. WP-Disable lets me turn off a lot of CPU intensive tasks, so I’m happy to install it. I disabled or reduced emojis, google maps, fonts, pingbacks, and the like. These features aren’t in use, so why not turn them off.

WP-Optimize cleans the database, I can schedule it to automatically clean once a month. It’s like defragging a hard disk I suppose.

Step 4: uninstall high CPU plugins

There is a list of slow loading or high usage plugins. Jetpack and WP-Statistics are the only two I use and I went into their settings to disable unused functionalities.


There are other things to do, that I didn’t think applied to me. I’m not sure I can justify more additional cost by using a CDN. And the last part of the post is basically an ad for an ISP, so I ignored that.

The results are striking. Such a big relief, looking at this week’s CPU resource usage. I wish I had the patience to only make one change at a time, so I can see what was the culprit. I still don’t know what exactly was causing the heavy CPU time, but it’s okay, it’s the end result that matters. The obvious ‘if-only’ is if only MT didn’t stop working. Even after 2 years, I’m not at all happy or confident of WP.

changed theme

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

website hacked


The website is down. Got an email from ISP support saying it was hacked via FTP so they changed the FTP password, locked the website and restored from backup. I can’t remember when was the last time I used the FTP function, so I’m going to leave it disabled. Changed CP password and scanned the mba too. Very annoyed it’s been one issue after another since I had to switch to WP.

one year on wordpress


When my old website conked out because it became incompatible with Movable Type, I was forced to switch to WordPress. Exactly one year ago, I finished moving all 4,000 posts to WP. It was a massive copy and paste exercise that took a few weeks. I took the opportunity to put static pages to the travel and food sections, and the new look website went live.

So how has it been, one year on WP? Truth be told, I don’t feel comfortable using it. I can’t put my finger on it. There’s nothing wrong with the interface, it’s easy and straightforward to add a post. But still, it’s not MT. For some unknown reason it’s using up a lot of CPU minutes and try as I might, I can’t figure out how to reduce the usage. Googling hasn’t helped. My ISP says it may be due to the dashboard being open and I’ve gotten so paranoid that I’m writing posts on textedit and copying them over. It’s NOT how I want to operate. It’s gotten better recently though but again I cannot explain why and I hate being in the dark.

Posts take forever to save, tags need to be separated by commas, categories have to be selected via a long scroll in a tiny window, I can’t get the RSS to feed full post: these are all negatives in my book. Small things, but they add up to a not quite happy experience. I know there are plenty of add-ons and themes and stuff like that but I don’t feel like tinkering is intuitive. I still don’t know how and where I should be editing files.

There seems to be always someone trying to hack into the website. So much so that my ISP had to add a password to the admin files and it’s screwed up other files too. Annoying.

I know i can’t go back to MT and I’m stuck with WP. Story of my life, being stuck in a situation with no way out. Hate.

WP theme, donation begging


I grudgingly make the concession that one of the best things about WP is that I can change themes with just a few clicks. I found one called SoSimple that is, well, so simple. I tweaked it a little, disabled the forced uppercase and changed the link colour. I still need to increase the padding on main entries, but other than that, it’s clean, sharp and uncluttered.

The only problem is that every time I go to the dashboard there is a donation begging notice from the developer.


It’s a bit small on the image, it says:

Hi! This is Fernando, developer of the SoSimple theme :).
I am doing my best to make SoSImple [sic] the perfect free theme for you. If you think it helped you in any way to build a better web presence, please support its continued development and updates with a donation of $20, $50,…

I understand that the dev has put in a lot of time and effort to create the free theme. Same with devs working on plugins and everything else available on the web for free. But forcing a begging notice on users is not the way to go. It’s tacky. Like authors who are constantly posting “buy my book” on social media; the good intention becomes a turn off.

A little digging reveals the begging button and text are in the file admin.php. I thought deleting the file would solve the problem, but it wasn’t so simple (pun not intended). There change needs to be in functions.php that calls admin.php. I commented the whole section out:

* Add admin notices

add_action ( ‘current_screen’, ‘thisScreen’ );
function thisScreen () {
$currentScreen = get_current_screen();
if( $currentScreen->id === “dashboard” ) {
add_action ( ‘admin_notices’, ‘donation_notice’ );
add_action ( ‘admin_head’, ‘donation_style’ );

function donation_notice () {
require get_template_directory () . ‘/lib/admin.php’;

function donation_style () {
wp_enqueue_style ( ‘don-style’, get_template_directory_uri () . ‘/lib/admin-style.css’, array (), ” );


I don’t have any qualms about doing this. The whole philosophy behind WP is that it’s free. If a dev wants to make money, make a premium version, or offer support for a subscription. Anyway, looking at the code, it’s obvious that the dev intends for the begging to continue regardless of whether the user has donated or not. Every time I navigate to the dashboard, I’d get the notice which I then have to dismiss. Again, tacky.

#websiterebuild recipes menu

Took an easier approach with the recipes section. As I only have around 120 recipe posts in total and I’m not bothered about putting them in any sort of order within their corresponding category, I used the functionality that converts a custom page to a menu item.

If I wanted the recipe for chocolate truffles, I can click on the FOOD menu and select DESSERT. In fact, clicking FOOD calls all posts tagged with recipe.


I like looking at recipes, especially ones with pictures. So I don’t mind scrolling down till I see chocolate truffles.


I just have to make sure I tag a recipe post using one of the menu items. I can also change the menu items quickly, as long as I have a tag for it. The other advantage is I can tag, say, vegetarian lasagne both main and vegetable and it shows up under both menus. Honestly, I could have done this with the travel section, but it’s more important trips are listed in an orderly manner.

In terms of website rebuild, this is 95% of everything I want to do. Personal 25 square pages remain, and I have to figure out the best way to display them that doesn’t involve faffing around with css. Otherwise, switching to maintenance mode.

#websiterebuild travel menu

All the individual trip reports have been merged to the main section and identified by categories/tags. So what used to be in MT terms its own blog, is now incorporated into the site proper.

I could just leave it at that. If I want read about, say, that time we went to Alsace for wine tasting, I could simply do a search for travel,alsace and scroll through the results. Except I hadn’t tagged properly and that post wasn’t included in the results.

With a little effort, I consolidated all the trip reports and listed them out neatly by region. So the same search for the Alsace trip will start at the TRAVEL menu at the top.


The EUROPE page lists trips in chronological order. I can scroll down, or do ⌘-f and search for alsace. Hey presto!


It took a lot of copying and pasting, and now I can type out ul, li and <a href in my sleep. But it’s all setup effort, adding new trips won’t take long. Yes, it’s a manual process, but I don’t mind doing it because I like the result. If I’m really OCD about it, I’ll list out all trips by year on a single page. Or not.

Next task, do the same for recipes.

#websiterebuild 4000 posts


All posts that I want to move over, have been imported. All of the main, technical, travel and recipe sections, with the exception of a few useless posts (IFTTT tests, for example). Other sections will not be moved. They won’t be deleted, just not visible from the homepage.

Posts in what used to be the travel and recipe sections are merged into the main section and tagged. Now I just need to build corresponding main menu pages for them. That’s a lot of copy-pasting. Tedious work that will take another day or two.

#websiterebuild 3000 posts


It’s taken 2 weeks to import 1000 posts; just finished jan-2008 today. Been fixing flickr and youtube embeds to html5 so they can be viewed without flash.

Funny to skim through the old posts to see how quickly some topics become out-of-date. These are all from jan-2008:

Then again, some things never change:

including what Jason Kottke calls the editorial direction of the website:

The best posts from jan-2008: paid off my mortgage and watched layer tennis:


Just over 4 years to go, to backtrack to sep-2003. Beyond late 2007, it’s not one post a day, so hopefully I can push through the months quicker.

#websiterebuild 2000 posts


#websiterebuild is up to 2,000 posts. Going back in time, I just finished importing sep-2010. Importing around 1,000 posts from the last milestone took just under 2 weeks. Plus of course new posts and I’m counting the drafts that will be scheduled.

It’s quite interesting to read through some of the old posts, like looking at old photos or movies. Moving to London, then leaving. In 2010 I was just about to leave Chicago. My first marathon in 2010. How much more cooking I used to do when I had ingredients I liked. Still lots of travelling. How I saw mm more often when we were living on different continents than this year, when we’re less than an hour away.


#websiterebuild 1032 posts


#websiterebuild continues. The last 2 weeks has been spent importing old posts from MT to WP. As I can’t access the MT dashboard to export the DB; and am uncomfortable working with mysql and myphpadmin, it’s a labourious process using a html import plugin. It takes


static html files from a directory within the same server and imports them to WP as posts or pages. There is limited customisation, the most important being I can specify the tags containing the content I want to import. I know that the actual post content is inside the <div class=asset-body> tag, so it strips out the header, tabs and sidebar of a single post.

The imported post isn’t perfect, the <div> container tags are included, and stupid WP adds <p> tags all over the place. Other manual adjustments: date (everything gets imported with 21-sep-2015 for some reason), categories and tags. Every post has to be opened and edited, no bulk editing available.

I’ve been slowly importing month by month, working backwards in time. I’m now at apr-2013 and have reached 1000+ posts. Only about 3000 to go on the main page. Then I have to tackle the old travel and food sections. May be even the old technical section, although that was mainly how to install MT. Hidden doors will likely not be imported.

Working with WP on a daily basis is like going on an immersion course. Do I like it more now? No. I’m tolerating it. It still feels like a shotgun marriage, where I had no choice. Perhaps the resentment will fade in time and I accept it more. The biggest complaint is the editor. I don’t like the editor font, I hate that it adds stupid <p> tags and ignores my <br /> tags. There’s a lot of scrolling up and down to select categories. Month is a dropdown, why can’t I just type it in a box? After 12 years writing in the MT editor it’s an awkward transition. And I’m talking about the text editor, not the visual editor. Oh, I know there are plugins to fix all that–I read the plugins’ reviews and am not keen to install them.

I’ve also noticed that people (or more likely, bots) are trying to login and attack my website. WP sites are notoriously vulnerable because of its popularity and that it’s open sourced. A bit like PCs back in the day. I installed jetpack and wordfence, which seem to offer good defences. It’s just disconcerting, watching the number of blocked malicious login attempts go up every day. Never had that problem with MT.

So what’s good? It’s quite simple to use, almost too simple. The scheduled post function works. There’s a decent sized support community and codex. If I have a problem, chances are someone has encountered it before.

test ifttt (3)

with excerpt, no image.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor. Pellentesque auctor nisi id magna consequat sagittis. Curabitur dapibus enim sit amet elit pharetra tincidunt feugiat nisl imperdiet. Ut convallis libero in urna ultrices accumsan. Donec sed odio eros. Donec viverra mi quis quam pulvinar at malesuada arcu rhoncus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. In rutrum accumsan ultricies. Mauris vitae nisi at sem facilisis semper ac in est.

Vivamus fermentum semper porta. Nunc diam velit, adipiscing ut tristique vitae, sagittis vel odio. Maecenas convallis ullamcorper ultricies. Curabitur ornare, ligula semper consectetur sagittis, nisi diam iaculis velit, id fringilla sem nunc vel mi. Nam dictum, odio nec pretium volutpat, arcu ante placerat erat, non tristique elit urna et turpis. Quisque mi metus, ornare sit amet fermentum et, tincidunt et orci. Fusce eget orci a orci congue vestibulum. Ut dolor diam, elementum et vestibulum eu, porttitor vel elit. Curabitur venenatis pulvinar tellus gravida ornare. Sed et erat faucibus nunc euismod ultricies ut id justo. Nullam cursus suscipit nisi, et ultrices justo sodales nec. Fusce venenatis facilisis lectus ac semper. Aliquam at massa ipsum. Quisque bibendum purus convallis nulla ultrices ultricies. Nullam aliquam, mi eu aliquam tincidunt, purus velit laoreet tortor, viverra pretium nisi quam vitae mi. Fusce vel volutpat elit. Nam sagittis nisi dui.

test ifttt (2)


two images. 1 = strawberries.


2 = ice cream van. See which one the feed picks.

No excerpt. How many words will it post?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor. Pellentesque auctor nisi id magna consequat sagittis. Curabitur dapibus enim sit amet elit pharetra tincidunt feugiat nisl imperdiet. Ut convallis libero in urna ultrices accumsan. Donec sed odio eros. Donec viverra mi quis quam pulvinar at malesuada arcu rhoncus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. In rutrum accumsan ultricies. Mauris vitae nisi at sem facilisis semper ac in est.

Vivamus fermentum semper porta. Nunc diam velit, adipiscing ut tristique vitae, sagittis vel odio. Maecenas convallis ullamcorper ultricies. Curabitur ornare, ligula semper consectetur sagittis, nisi diam iaculis velit, id fringilla sem nunc vel mi. Nam dictum, odio nec pretium volutpat, arcu ante placerat erat, non tristique elit urna et turpis. Quisque mi metus, ornare sit amet fermentum et, tincidunt et orci. Fusce eget orci a orci congue vestibulum. Ut dolor diam, elementum et vestibulum eu, porttitor vel elit. Curabitur venenatis pulvinar tellus gravida ornare. Sed et erat faucibus nunc euismod ultricies ut id justo. Nullam cursus suscipit nisi, et ultrices justo sodales nec. Fusce venenatis facilisis lectus ac semper. Aliquam at massa ipsum. Quisque bibendum purus convallis nulla ultrices ultricies. Nullam aliquam, mi eu aliquam tincidunt, purus velit laoreet tortor, viverra pretium nisi quam vitae mi. Fusce vel volutpat elit. Nam sagittis nisi dui.

#website rebuild: xmlprc

Continuing to work on the WP installation. Internally, I’m copying over old posts. November and October 2015 were done manually (as in, copy-and-pasting each post individually) before I discoverd html-import plugin. The posts still need cleaning up after import, but it’s much more time efficient.


I was also trying to install the popular jetpack plugin. With over 1 million installs (wordpress.com and hosted) it seems to offer a lot of useful modules. Installation wasn’t successful, I got a site inaccessible error.


So I thought I’d leave it and go do the next thing on my list, set up in IFTTT. Argh. More errors. I have never had trouble activating any channel on IFTTT before.

A lot of googling show tons of similar errors and pleas for help with both errors. Most of the answers were unclear and didn’t offer much in the way of practical solutions. I tried all but the technical suggestions:

  • lame: use www, don’t use www, use http://, don’t use http://
  • somewhat makes sense: disable other plugins, point to wp install directory vs site url, disable two-factor authentication
  • way too technical: DNS/CNAME issue, enable non-https

Turns out, both errors relate to the xmlprc.php file. People are advised to check with their ISP whether this file is restricted. I could see it in cpanel but I got a “Page not Found” error when I tried to access it on my browser.

A little more googling and I found someone with the exact same error who is also an icdsoft customer. So I emailed suresupport and I got my reply in under 10mins (I love suresupport):

Blocking access to the xmlrpc.php file has been implemented as an additional security measure, because xmlrpc.php is a common target for hackers who scan for outdated and flawed versions of WordPress.

Support gave me some code to add to htaccess in the wp directory (not the root htaccess) and that worked. Jetpack installed and configured. I only activated a few of the available options, primarily mobile site and security.

IFTTT channel activated after I figured out the url is domain.com/wp rather than just domain.com. The issue is that IFTTT doesn’t trigger with a test post I added. Seems to be more complicated than it needs to be. What I’m not liking about WP is that there doesn’t seem to be an actual page generated per post. The permalink isn’t html or php–it’s an entry in the database. Same with rss links, I’m used to them being atom.xml or such like, and again there isn’t a actual url. All the stuff I’m having to learn and get used to.

As of right now, my verdict on WP is I’m tolerating it because I have no choice. Yes, the straightfoward stuff is fairly easy to figure out. It’s too easy sometimes, there’s not enough flexibility to tinker and fiddle around.

Oh, I got rid of the slider on the homepage, it was driving me crazy.


playing with themes


Played around with themes. Initially found one that was like the modern magazine, with boxes for posts. Looks good but I didn’t like just excerpts on the homepage.

Found another clean looking one that shows full posts but, argh, anyone can see it’s a wordpress theme with their eyes closed. Nothing wrong with the classic look…I’m looking for something a little different.

This is the ifeature theme. At the top is a slider where I can place 3 images. Underneath are 3 pinned boxes. For me, a great place to feature various flickr sets. Full posts with right sidebar and space in the footer for more links.

While I was at it, I copied over the About pages and put them in the nav menu. The 101.1001 challenges are also on the top menu.

wp installation


Long story short, I haven’t updated MT since 2007. ICDSoft upgraded their server software causing massive errors to MT and I can’t access the dashboard. MT now costs $499 which, SixApart are you serious?

Options to continue include wordpress, tumblr, medium. Since moving to WP has always been on my mind, WP it is. Played around the free site (wordpress.com). Saw that you can buy a domain name and point it there, so I emailed ICDSoft support on the feasibility. No, no, no. If I point invisiblecompany.com at wordpress.com, it’s for the ENTIRE site. I’ll lose my cpanel and control over all pages and files.

So hosted WP it is. But there is a silver lining, it’s a software included in my domain name. It takes a few clicks and a little tinkering with html and htaccess and it’s done.

Installed a theme, configured footer, added some plugins. Not too bad.

Now comes the hard part. Since I can’t access the MT dashboard, I can’t export the database. It means copying over all 12 years’ worth of posts. I’ll do it slowly, it’s a good opportunity to clean up links and images anyway.

change atom feed to excerpt

The atom RSS feed is full post plus excerpt. I prefer reading full posts in my feed so I don’t limit it. I also use IFTTT to crosspost to fb. Before, it only allowed the entry title, URL and image. Now it allows entry content. I want to change the atom feed so fb shows title, URL, excerpt and image.

A post from 2005 from LMT saves the day.

Find the following code in your Atom Index:

<$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$> <$MTEntryMore encode_xml="1"$>

Delete the $MTEntryMore line for just main body, not extended. Replace with both lines with

<$MTEntryExcerpt encode_xml="1"$>

for excerpt. Actually, just insert the entryexcerpt field from the dropdown. It works. Now I have to worry about writing good excerpts as opposed to copying the title.

lookback 24-aug

Time for another lookback post.

one year agotokyo trip planning

24-aug-2014 was a sunday; later that week we would be going to tokyo for a short trip, so the post was about trip planning. I made a list of places to go, let’s see how many we actually managed:

  • sukiji fish market — yep, twice
  • ginza — we walked past it, on the way somewhere else
  • shinjuki 新宿 for more shopping — don’t think so
  • shibuya 渋谷 for the iconic busy crossing, shopping at Tokyu Hands and Takashimaya — yep, interestingly our first time to the shibuya crossing, also found a farmer’s market and then visited the meiji temple
  • ebisu 恵比寿 for restaurants and izakayas — nope
  • roppongi 六本木 for bars and clubs — again, walked past
  • akihabara 秋葉原 for electronics — went past on subway
  • ueno 上野 for park and zoo — yep, this was a really interesting area, especially the discovery of Ameya-Yokochō アメヤ横丁 shopping and eating alley
  • asakusa 浅草 for a bit of history, culture and religion — nope
  • odaiba お台場 artificial island with a bridge, beaches, exhibition halls and shopping — nope

View post on imgur.com

Another tidbit from the post was a pic of greater tokyo compared with london. Astounding.

three years agolunch at ledbury, dinner at hawksmoor

It was mm’s last full day in London after visiting me for 3 weeks. We were both really sad that the holiday was over. I was sad to see her leave, but I’d quit my job by then and I knew we’d see each other in a couple of months when I move back.

2012ldnled001 2012ldnled003

I took her to the ledbury for lunch. Borough market and vinopolis in the afternoon and then hawksmoor for dinner. I still think she preferred hawksmoor over the ledbury, and if I had to choose, I’d go for hawksmoor too. Ledbury dinner prices is sky-high but lunch is okay, around the same price as hawksmoor dinner. Still, we can say we’ve been to one of the best restaurants in London.

five years agobooks vs ebooks

A link to a newsweek article on books vs ebooks. Unfortunately 404 error means can’t find page anymore.

ten years agocrimson room game

No post on the 24th, nearest was 25-aug-2005 when I reported that I was playing this game that required finding 13 objects to escape from the room.

If you found:
0-6 items, your IQ is very low, total idiot
6-8 items, Low IQ, you are an idiot
9-10 items, you are normal
11-12 items, your IQ is high, above the average
13 items found and get out of the room, there are less than 4000 people in the world can do it.

I found 12. Sherlock gave me the game, sigh, I need to get back in touch with her. Original link no longer exists, but a little googling gives lots of options. It’s a flash game so I won’t play on the mba. The exact game isn’t an app, but there are now plenty of room escape apps available.

lookback 14-jan

One of the tasks for the 30 day challenge is to look back on old posts.

one year agolookback

I deliberately chose today because the post on 14-jan-2014 was…a lookback post hahaha. One year ago, the lookback post looked back to 2013 with a delightful video series of Rino the Japanese gourmet toddler. To 2011 with a surfing video, to 2009 with thoughts about BRICs and to 2004 about bonuses.
Yep, meta.


three years agorestaurant: goodman


Three years ago, I was in London. RM and I visited Goodman steakhouse at Canary Wharf. We’d visited Hawksmoor previously and wanted to try the other well-known steakhouse. Similar cuts, but instead of sourced from one farm, the steaks were sourced from around the world. I had a charcoal-grilled 650g (23oz) bone-in sirloin and a side of truffle mac-n-cheese. I was in the middle of Brighton marathon training so that big a meal was okay for me then. I note from the post that I enjoyed the steak, but thought Hawksmoor was better.

I miss London.


five years agoweekend plans

eggpotatoskin02 muffinblueberry02

Five years ago, I was in Chicago. It was a friday and I was making plans for the long weekend. I was quite excited about the Martin Luther King holiday because I never had it (although not getting Boxing Day the December before was horrible). I wanted to do some cooking, and I ending up making tons of stuff including braised turkey legs, roasted brussel sprouts, eggs baked in potato skin, chicken & mashed potato for the rest of the week, and blueberry muffins.


As if that wasn’t enough, I also planned, and managed to go skiing at Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin. Well, it’s more like a hill covered with man-made snow, but I hadn’t skiied for a while, I missed it and it was a nice day out. Turned out, I didn’t get many more opportunities to ski since then.

I miss skiing.


ten years agoback to the gym

Heh, I forgot I used to be a member of the gym near my then office. That was before I started properly running. I went for a few months, mostly at lunch time. No record of my speed or distance from then; I hadn’t started keeping track. Most of the post was about this woman at the elliptical who was impeccably made up, with a fancy watch and loads of jewellery. Apparently she was also wearing tights underneath her shorts, plus socks and the obligatory cute sneakers. Unfotunately, even ten years on, there are people who go to the gym like that.

Sometimes I miss having the facilities of a gym, especially a treadmill with intervals setting. But I’ll make do with going to sis’ place occasionally.




Culture, fashion, trends. They all seem to go through cycles, don’t they. People left right and centre are declaring that they are getting back to blogging. Matt Haughey (mefi founder), Andy Baio (XOXO co-founder), Gina Trapani (lifehacker founder) are all doing it. I feel like it’s like something that was old-fashioned one minute is suddenly the cool thing to do again.

Except I never stopped. And neither did a bunch of others like Jason Kottke, John Gruber and all the people I follow on feedly, so back is neither here nor there, really.

People abandoned blogging for twitter, facebook, tumblr, youtube, instagram, snapchat and all that. Then came medium and everyone was excited again. Yet medium is considered longer, more journalistic writing. (Or so I wanted to believe, until it slammed its doors in my face.)

A lot of emphasis on simplicity lately. With so many outlets, it does become a personal choice on which platform(s) to use and what to write about. Most of my posts fall under the definition of short- or mid-length. Taking a note of Gina Trapani’s new rules for blogging, with one or two exceptions:

  • if it’s a paragraph, it’s a post — thank you, thank you, thank you. Sometimes I find it hard to write more than a few sentences, so it’s validation of sorts. I’ll even go as far as saying, if it’s just one photograph, it’s a post
  • negotiate a comfort zone on two axes — tech/personal, travel/running something like that. I really have to tighten up my topics
  • traffic is irrelevant, don’t even measure it — my traffic has always been depressing, so let’s give up on monitoring it
  • simplify, simplify — she suggested no comments (yep), no categories, tags, footnotes, special post styles, pages (categories and tags are habit I’ll keep though), default wordpress template (does it mean I don’t need to redesign the site? that’s good news)
  • ask for trusted collaborator feedback — I dunno, I never had collaborators or guest bloggers, I can’t see it happening
  • have fun — I like this one

In sort of related news, I see someone I follow on social media referring to updated posts on livejournal. I’m trying not to roll my eyes here. I think that’s taking simplify and back-to-basics a bit too far. Then again, George R.R. Martin still updates his livejournal. I don’t know what to say.

writing for myself in a social vacuum

A few years ago, I thought about moving to tumblr, because it was it for a while and I was at a low point, trying to find a purpose:

What is the No. 1 reason that people quit blogging? Because they can’t find and develop an audience

At the end it was login problems that prevented the move so I’m still stuck on ancient MT4 on my own website. I know I have a few readers (waves thanks!!!) but mostly I think it has become an internal process. It’s almost like a daily task, and I admit sometimes I write a post for the sake of checking the one-post-a-day task on my invisible to-do list. May be that’s why I don’t have six million views a year, because who wants to read about something that occupies the same level of priority as brushing my teeth or mindful meditation.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh. Most days I try to think of something worthwhile or interesting to write. It’s still primarily writing for myself rather than readers (waves some more). I should pat myself on the back for maintaining a website for 10 years and almost 7 years of one-post-a-day.

That’s why I was quite excited when I discovered medium. For me, it fills a space somewhere in between my website and tumblr. It’s more public (at least before the recent collection changes, more in a bit) and for some reason I feel obliged to take more care about the craft of writing on medium. I had in mind that I’d crosspost more thoughtful and serious posts to medium, almost like writing for a magazine. When I post on medium, I imagine that I’m writing for my readers.

I was quite sad when I posted my most recent medium article and found that I could no longer submit to collections. Instead of posters being able to freely submit to any number of collections, they have changed it to only one collection and only if you are already the owner or a writer of that collection. Sigh. This is so disappointing. What I liked about medium was that all members were treated equally, that anyone can write anything and submit to any collection. The chance being discovered was equal. With this new change, it’s getting back to the age-old clique. The most popular collections will be of named and featured writers, while us peons will continue to languish at the bottom of the pit. As one prominent user lamented:

It turned a system that was beautifully democratic and turned it into a system of clique based collections that are closed off to the average creator. It’s like content communism.

My cynical view is that the ultimate end game is monetisation. They can charge to feature certain collections belonging to coporates and writers will clamour to be included in that group in order to get exposure. Imagine a Huffpo or Upworthy collection with millions of followers, who wouldn’t want their article to be a part of that?

Will I continue to post to medium? Perhaps. I’ve had to create my own collection. I’m the only writer, and I’m back to writing for no one / myself. It’s a copy and paste job, and my posts look pretty on their clean interface.

What then becomes of tumblr? My login problem has resolved, so it’s active again. I’ve noticed that I’m using it not as a blogging platorm, but to curate content.


Like many people, I have far too many social media accounts (am I spread too thin? That’s another question for another time). When I signed up for IFTTT i had to figure out how my online presence flows. Where are my active vs passive presences. How I use each site:

  • website: traditional blogging — personal thoughts, experiences, longer posts
  • medium: public writing — more “interesting” posts
  • twitter: random observation, log exercise, feeds to google doc for record keeping
  • instagram: started off as food pics, trying to expand and be more interesting, a little more social, keep an eye on niece
  • flickr: photo repository, not using for social purposes
  • facebook: community, sharing, keeping in touch
  • tumblr: curation for my own and other people’s content

Originally I wanted to curate everything to tumblr, then to facebook. I decided against it and made both tumblr and fb end points to the flow. There are certain things I prefer to curate rather than share openly. There are people on my fb friends list that constantly share cat (and worst, dogs, yuck) pictures, inspirational quotes and minute details of their lives. I don’t want to be the tool who does that. I may experiment a little though, not post for a while, over post for a while, crosspost. I doubt anyone will notice, it’s all an empty vacuum anyway.

random post topic


Yet more people on my twitter and facebook feeds telling the world about their new blog. SMH. And most of them are WRITERS. I wish they’d learn the difference between blog and blog post. grrrrr.

Stop. Take a deep breath. Remember what SB&T has been teaching.

Let it be.

Alright. Do something else. What shall I blog about today? How about using random topic generator. As one blogger described it,

a tool for bloggers utterly devoid of inspiration and internal thought process

Good one. Sometimes though, I do find myself utterly devoid of inspiration and internal thought process. The most exciting I did in the last 24hrs was I cooked pork chops and okra for dinner. I could write about that, I suppose. How to pan-fry okra without them going slimey. Except I’ve done that already. Or that I made a packet of instant grits, added too much water and had to use up another packet. Note to self: add instant grits to US shopping list.

So, back to random topic generator. Not sure how random it is, or how many topics it has in its database. It splits topics into 12 categories, so let’s try a few of them.

health — eating late at night

I try not to eat after around 9pm, even though my bedtime ranges from 11pm to 1am. Not quite for health reasons, I just don’t like going to bed with a full stomach and (TMI) don’t like waking up all the time to go to the loo. My family’s dinner time is early, sometimes even before 6pm and I try to have some fruit after dinner too.

Even in my younger days when I used to go out drinking, I was never tempted by the post-pub foodstuff like a greasy kebab or fish & chips. There’s a program on tv called last call food brawl where chefs face off against each other cooking epic iconic late night food of whichever city they were visiting that week. The creations are more gigantic, stodgy, crazy than epic. Anything deep fried, smothered with sauce with bacon added seemed to qualify. Who in their right minds would want to eat that? I guess only drunk people at 2am.

Another image of eating late at night is of Nigella, in her sleeping gown, raiding the fridge and getting something yummy she made earlier, be it ice cream, biscuits, leftover dinner or fish finger sarnie. Then smirking at the camera with a combination of self-satisfaction and guilt. Now that’s eating late at night.

science — early uses of the abacus


I’m not sure what early uses mean. Abacus is a calculating device used in many parts of the world dating back to BC times. It’s pretty much used for the same purpose. Early uses that didn’t include calculation? As a weapon? As a foot massager? To build houses? The random topic generator should have said, uses for abacus in early history.

I was taught how to use an abacus, I can read numbers off it and probably use it very slowly if necessary. It was more a toy. Very occasionally in one of those traditional herbal medicine shops I may see one in use, I hope I remember to take a picture if I see it.

technology — european architecture


I wouldn’t put architecture under technology, but I get what is given to me, right? Anyway, one can’t live in or travel to europe without having some appreciation of architecture. Do I know the difference between romanesque and renaissance? I could probably recognise examples if someone told me or I looked it up. Like for romanesque imagine the Tower of London, St Albans cathedral and L’Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque in Provence, where we visited a couple of years ago.


And for renaissance what better example than St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

recreation — history of baseball

Skipping the topic. I only have a small passing interest in baseball. I guess if I grew up in the US I’d like it better, I do like playing rounders.

opinion – chocolate or vanilla?


Vanilla. That’s all.

all — cities to visit


There are other categories like businss, world, people, art, music. And then the all categories gave me cities to visit. Now that’s a task by itself. A long list. The next city I’ll visit will be Seoul, going there with mm in a few weeks’ time. New Orleans next July hopefully. There may be others in between.

In terms of travelling, I tend to prefer cities rather than, say, beach resorts. Nothing much there to do at beach resorts since I’m not a big fan of swimming in the sea or getting a tan. I’d rather find quiet time in a park or village café.


lookback 14-may

one year ago


Good timing, a year ago I just got back from the norway cruise and posted my trip highlights. Great memories of Copenhagen, Kiel, Geirangerfjord, Flam, Bergen, Oslo and Dubai. How will the glaciers in Alaska compare with the fjords of Norway as I prepare for the cruise next week. I’ve been a bit down and meh about the trip (not related to the destination because…Alaska) and looking back at the highlights of the norway cruise cheered me up a little.

five years ago


For the five year lookback I’m going to cheat a little. On 14-May-2009 the post was about coldplay’s latest album which they were giving away as a free download. Aside from gossip inches about chris martin, I hadn’t noticed a lot of news about coldplay in 5 years.

The post that was important that week 5 years ago was on 16-May-2009, when I signed the lease for my chicago apartment. I had been living out of suitcases in a serviced apartment for 5 months so it was particularly exciting to finally have my own furniture and stuff. I would call that place home for the next 18 months and it’s probably my favourite out of all the places I’d lived in my life.

ten years ago

I did not make a single post during May 2004. Those were the early days of blogging and I was travelling quite a bit. The closest was 26-Apr-2004 when I complained of gaining weight. Nothing new, but it would be a good few years before I finally got round to seriously losing that weight.

my first medium post

The challenge is a fresh challenge

I thought I’d give medium a go. Medium has impressive pedigree, founded by @ev and @biz from twitter. I check out posts there a few times a week, and there seems to be a common theme, at least the articles I enjoyed—tight writing on a variety of popular topics by a tech-savvy group of contributors. The Atlantic summarised it as:

a place to read articles on the Internet. Medium is a blogging platform, like WordPress or Blogger. Medium is the new project from the guys who brought you Twitter. Medium is chaotically, arrhythmically produced by a combination of top-notch editors, paid writers, PR flacks, startup bros, and hacks.

Certainly, it feels somewhat like early blogger (before it was google-ized), or even harking back to the wild, wild days of early livejournal (before it got bought for no good reason by sixapart and is now russian-ized). All packaged in an astoundingly clean and oh-so-easy to use interface.

The design and the way articles are grouped in collections means that writing at medium has a different feel to writing on my own website, on tumblr or on facebook. Here on the website, I write whatever I like, and I indulge in topics that may only be interesting to me. Yes, it means I jump from topic to topic and despite it being in existence for 10 years, it’s virtually unmarketable. I don’t do much on tumblr and facebook/twitter updates are as throwaway as yesterday’s lunch leftovers.

Writing on medium is one step up, I guess. Although its referral system works much like reddit, which means my post will likely languish at or near the bottom, I still have a responsibility to write a coherent post, in case it does get some attention. I don’t want to have a popular or even viral post with typos, for instance.


I’m not at a point where I can write about tech, or food, or travel, or current affairs. So I picked a topic that is on my mind and allows me some room for musing. So, well, here’s the post: The Challenge is a Fresh Challenge, took me about half an hour to write.

It’s not clear to me whether the post will be published immediately or whether it needs to go through a review process. I like the discipline. Find a suitable title, write a tagline, write the article. I agree with Slate’s prognosis:

If I didn’t care about getting paid or having a job and just wanted to write something, Medium is the tool I would use.

look back 21 march

It’s spring. Let’s do another look back in time post.

1 year ago
Video link post about pro scooter riders doing tricks on scooters just like they are skateboards. Awesome. Watch:

I would very much like to have been good at skateboarding, but alas no. I also missed out on the free running / parkour movement. Sigh.

3 years ago
A post about spring, plus the obligatory flower pic. Nice tulip.

5 years ago
Wow, has it already been 5 years? That was the first time I went to a reading. In Chicago. At Women and Children First. I met these awesome people for the first time:


I consider them friends now, some I’ve kept more in touch with than others. I’ve bought every single book this group has published since 2009, and some of the books I read and re-read time and time again. I’ll say it again, an awesome group.

10 years ago
No post on the 21st, but bookended by two strange posts. A random post on the 19th about hair, and I don’t even remember the people I was talking about; and then on the 23rd a depressing, incoherent post about the state of our relationship. Wow, nothing has changed in 10 years.

today we fight back


Visitors to the website today 11-feb-2014 may get a black overlay banner that asks them to join a virtual movement to fight back against mass surveillance. Reddit and tumblr and upworthy and many other sites are also part of today’s movement. In the US the purpose is to ask people to ask their legislators to support the USA Freedom Act; in other parts of the world it’s to raise awareness and to ask them to sign a petition in support of the principles against mass surveillance.

I know i’ve said before that I don’t like overlays but THIS IS IMPORTANT. There is such a massive amount of stalking and surveillance by governments that is becoming creepy and intrusive. I’ve also said that I accept that my online activity is being tracked, but I’m angry at the denial and the seemingly ineffectiveness of said surveillance.

Will this protest work? It’ll probably make only the tiniest of dents, as the guardian (always good for an NSA surveillance story) points out,

the relentlessness of the surveillance forces and their enablers in the technology industry, and the fecklessness of the politicians who are supposed to honor their oaths of office, make it hard to be optimistic

For me, the recent Edward Snowden and NSA revelations have made me realise much more about what is going on behind our backs. Is it all in the name of “it’s for your protection and your own good” as governments claim? I think it started there, but has become more of a desire to control and exert power over people rather than to protect them. Governments, corporations and individuals all need to abide by a set of moral code, and although morals have grey areas, respect for human right is so basic that it cannot be disputed.

And privacy is a human right so it’s up to all of us to respect and be aware of it.

look back in time

I have 10 years’ worth of posts here, so it may be interesting to look back in time to see what I was posting.

one year ago:
kids on food

Nice post about eating habits around the world, inspired by a couple of Jamie Oliver food programs and a youtube channel Rinozawa of a Japanese toddler who loves to try new food. The one that caught my eye was the one where Rino, the kid, tries pho. Seems like Rino now has a younger brother, Yuuma, but their foodie ways continue. This one is where they try satay. There are also videos of Rino cooking with mum, she made scrambled eggs and chocolate madeleine, so delightful.

The thing is, Rino is an exception. Many parents I know would have baulked at serving satay to a young child — flavour too strong, too unfamiliar etc. And many parents would have taken the meat off the skewer onto a plate instead of letting their child try the food the way it should be eaten, because skewers are difficult and dangerous if the sharp point accidentally pokes through the mouth. Note that Rino is supervised by both her parents, and they aren’t afraid of letting her eat off the skewer.

Jamie Oliver’s food revolution is still ongoing. American kids still do not recognise potatoes unless in the form of fries. Idiot parents bring an 8-month old screaming baby to a 3 michelin star restaurant. The comments from the Alinea kerfuffle are all focused on “if I paid $400+ per head for dinner I want to enjoy it” are of course true, but my opinion is that it isn’t the price tag, it’s the fact that Alinea serves a tasting menu that lasts several hours in the evening and why would the parents think it’s appropriate to bring a baby to an event lasting that long? It’s not appropriate to bring a baby to the theatre for the same reason.

three years ago:
long surf ride

A video post of a 5-mile surf in Alaska. Beautiful scenery, beautiful photography. Quite peaceful to watch.

five years ago:
cheap brics

Investing in the BRIC markets. It was the thing back then to invest in the BRIC markets, and the 5-year performance chart validates the decision to buy in 2009.


Performance since 2011 has been mediocre, and I’ve mostly exited in favour of the more stable European market. My US investments have done pretty well too, over 5 years.

ten years ago:
bonus matters

Back before attention fell on financial services bonuses, even people like us in support functions got a small share of the pie. Interesting to read my reaction to a lower bonus compared with the year before; that is why I’m not in the front office. I think I got that special award because of participation in a global project, whatever it was, it was great to be recognised for contribution.

Things are so different now, 10 years later. So many scandals, the whole industry dragged down the entire world economy. Huge income inequality and bankers are now regarded as vile. True, the bonuses were outlandish and mostly ill-gotten, but what most lay people don’t realise is that these huge bonuses only apply to the people at the top. When the pie is smaller, these people don’t get smaller bonuses, they get larger share of the pie at the expense of junior people and support staff. Don’t laugh at everybody who lost their jobs when the likes of Lehman collapsed, the top people got their golden parachutes but how about the desk assistants and account clerks and IT staff?

Am I sorry I ended up in the financial services industry as opposed to, say, pharmaceuticals or engineering? I worked long hours and saw a lot of ugliness, but I also got sent all over the world and managed to save up enough to be semi-retired. All in all, not too bad.

look back summary

Hey, this was fun, looking back over past posts. May do it again some other time.

a better feed

Our online lives has gotten really busy. Status update on facebook, witty observations on twitter, ideas on tumblr, food porn on instagram, funny videos on youtube, deep thoughts on wordpress (or MT like me), other people’s deep thoughts to read on feedly, organising our lives on evernote, and not forgetting calendar and email. So if I took a pic of my lunch with instagram, I might want to crosspost to flickr, facebook, twitter and my blog, then back it up to dropbox, send the links to evernote, and send my family an email so they can check it out. I don’t want to physically do all that, I need automation.

Happy to come across IFTTT, which stands for if this then that, and does the automation between web services via what they call recipes. Services like facebook and twitter are called channels and the recipes link 2 channels together. One of the most popular recipes links twitter with facebook:


I’m working through the 101 best recipes, that’s a nice weekend project.

The motivation for this interest in IFTTT came from a problem with my feed. Whenever I add a new post, I had set up networked blogs to create a corresponding post in fb. It’s not the most reliable or prompt service — I never know if a post will show up and when. Things got worse ever since flickr changed their embed method:


The link and titles are still there, but the thumbnail didn’t get pulled, even though there is an image associated with the post. A screenshot of the website shows up instead. This is not the first time it happened with flickr images, so time to ditch networked blogs. The IFTTT recipe goes:


Took a few tries to get the recipe right, detailed process and analysis in a separate technical section post.


The only slight complaint was the excerpt wasn’t included as an ingredient in the IFTTT recipe. May be an improvement for future.

test tumblr

Resurrecting tumblr, see how the blog feeds to it now. I stopped using tumblr when they stopped taking full post rss feeds, but I can probably live with truncated post or a link now. I changed the website landing page back to tumblr. This post will feed to both fb and tumblr via ifttt. I have to figure out whether I want tumblr or twitter or facebook at the beginning or the end of the process.

Here’s a picture:


a bunch of blockquote text

A random link: 10 rules of surveillance dystopia stories on io9.

rss to facebook

The blog feeds to facebook via networked blogs which generates a status message that includes the url to the post, entry title, excerpt and a thumbnail of the first image. Most images are stored at flickr, but since they changed their embed method the feed has not behaved.


The link and titles are still there, but the thumbnail didn’t get pulled, even though there is an image associated with the post. A screenshot of the website shows up instead. Looks boring on my fb wall.

I thought the problem may be with networked blogs, in any case I’ve been wanting to find an alternative for a while — they are not reliable and there is often a huge delay. I like the look of ifttt, aka if this then that, which allows me to use a recipe:


The result is better:


No screenshot of the website, but the first image it pulled was the powered by MT4 icon at the sidebar. Not what I wanted either. To find out why, I had to look into the templates. The entry template gave me the resaon:


The sidebar came first then entry detail. There are a bunch of buttons on the sidebar:


They were fun 10 years ago, to show the how the site was made and how it’s w3c compatible and all. Not very interesting now, so I pulled them.

I wanted to check if flickr was actually the problem so I made a couple of test posts which used the old html embed and the new iframe embed.


No problem, so it wasn’t flickr. The only slight complaint was the excerpt couldn’t be included, as it’s not offered as an ingredient in the ifttt recipe. May be an improvement for future.

this is not a blog…

On my twitter feed and my facebook wall are occasional status updates to the tune of “check out my newest blog!” I do a double-take every time because that particular social media friend already has a website and did it mean that in addition to blahblah01.wordpress.com and the blahblah02.wordpress.com newest blog she announced last week, she now has blahblah03.wordpress.com?

By saying “check out my newest blog!” she was actually trying to alert us that she has a new blog post up as opposed to a spanking new blog site. There is a subtle difference. And this casual interchangeability of two related but different terms kinda bothers me a wee bit.

I searched “new blog” on twitter, and it was about 80:20 split between new blog posts vs new blog when they mean new blog post. PwC Australia does it the correct way:


whereas the Arsenal fans’ tweet was misleading:


Of course there were people who genuinely did start a new blog:


or people who have new things happening at their blog (typos not withstanding):


Apparently it is a very common mistake. I thought it’s a rookie mistake, but according to Slate, people like the late great Roger Ebert, geek royalty Amanda Palmer and…gasp…Arianna Huffington also do it.


Let’s go back to the very beginning. The term blog is an abbreviation of web log, or in its early incarnation, a web diary. Blogs are made up of posts. You tend to only have a new diary every year, although you will have scores of entries inside. Another good analogy:

  • blog = newspaper
  • blog post = newspaper article

Try this: The journalist wrote a newspaper about last month’s unemployment figures. See what I mean?

So my social media friend who has just added content to her blog, would have been more correct in telling us to “check out the newest post on my blog!” I’m guessing the additional words make it more clunky and is potentially less impactful? IDK. People have the tendency to squish words together, so may be in the future it’ll be “check out my newest blost!” Snerk.

Why am I getting worked up about it? Aside from it sounds weird? I’ll categorise it as a pet peeve, like your vs you’re and their vs there. If someone is making a living writing for a blog, they should know the basic terminology of their job, right? Even if it’s just a personal blog, good spelling, grammar and proper word usage make a good impression. Slate was harsh, but take away the snarkiness and they have a point,

I’m not going to sugarcoat this—is that calling a post a blog makes you sound stupid. That may seem harsh, but I’m doing you a favor. Every time you make this mistake, it sounds like you don’t understand this newfangled thing, the World Wide Web.

I know I’m right about this. I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging blogs and posting posts for over 10 years.

landing page


One of the tasks I set for the october tdp challenge was to decide on what to do with the homepage. One of the problems with a website like this which is neatly organised into sections — blog, writing, pictures, travel, food — is that the landing page, ie invisiblecompany.com itself, is redundant. If I were a real writer I’d have images of my books on the landing page; if I were a restaurant it’d inevitably be a fancy flash page with mood music designed to annoy customers; if I were a business I’d have huge banners advertising my products with links to prices, company information etc. But I’m a person, and not a very interesting one at that.

For the longest time the landing page redirected (automatically through htaccess) to tumblr which I had intended to be a catch-all for my website, tweets, flickr, facebook posts, interesting links and random stuff. But when they took away full post importing from MT blogs, I stopped using tumblr. Don’t have time to maintain multiple presences.

So I just did the most simplest and laziest thing, to redirect invisiblecompany.com to invisiblecompany.com/quiet. Again, a one line htaccess statement.

What I’d like to have as a landing page is a welcome statement, some words and/or images of what I’ve done, and recent posts from around the website. But I’ve yet to a) achieve anything worth putting on a homepage and b) figure out how to bring in posts from another blogid. So I just did something temporary:

  • wrote some welcome blurb and saved as a static page, called it using a template module, or what MT calls a widget
  • created a new index template that outputs a file called home.php, using the main index template as base — the index uses mt:include to call the welcome module and the last post on the blog
  • redirected in htaccess to home.php

A bit boring, but a start. Not sure whether I should include just the most recent post or, say, the most recent 3 or 5 posts. Ah well, I’m sure no one cares.

happy 10th birthday, website


With all my focus on the Japan trip, I almost missed that this webite turned 10 years old last week. The whole invisiblecompany.com dates back longer than that, I first registered it in 1997, early versions of the very basic website was hosted at xoom, which doesn’t exist anymore (xoom.com is now some sort of money transfer site so don’t click on it). Transferred over to tripod, anyone remember that? As Steve Jobs said,


Got my own host and started designing Sept 2003. With a basic siteplan. And those first posts seem so lame now.

Who knows what will bring in the next 10 years? Who will still have blogs? Or self-hosted sites. It’ll all be mobile and instant gratification. The whole concept of websites will probably be something kids scoff as being so old fashioned.

website moved servers


Hosting on the website will expire at the end of September. I’ve been with icdsoft for 10 years, and although they are not the cheapest, it’s worked for me so far—barely any outages and prompt response whenever I had to contact support. When I clicked on the link to renew, I was a little bit shocked that I’m being quoted $296 to renew for 2 years, I can’t remember it being this expensive. Looking at their price comparison chart gave me a clue—I’m on the iAdvantage server, which is the most expensive. I’m sure there wasn’t any price difference when I started.


So what did I do? I got Support to move the website to Savvis. They were fine about it, and it took them about an hour. Now I’m on server 327 instead of 212. When I first clicked to check, I saw a “website has been moved” notice, and it told me to reset my DNS server. There are a few methods: for PCs it involves cmd/ipconfig and for macs it’s a Terminal command. I’ll leave google to provide the answers for anyone needing it.

I’m not seeing any difference in terms of…anything, so it’s all good. The renewal price for housing the website at Savvis is now $200 for 2 years. May be one of these days, I’ll look at alternatives.

movable type year 12


Movable Type turns 12, which surely is fit for celebration. In this day and age of twitter, tumblr and mobile computing, it’s probably old-fashioned to be blogging, let alone blogging on a self-hosted CMS platform. From its early life as Ben and Mena Trott’s baby, to the glorious early SixApart days, to the disasters that were livejournal purchase, vox and to a certain extent, typepad, it’s been interesting to watch and experience.

I started with version 2 before quickly migrating to version 3. Stayed with version 3 for ages. Now still on version 4. More than 8 years with them.


Since the Japanese took over development at version 5, there have been lots more improvements. I’ll get round to upgrading one day. Will I ever switch to wordpress or tumblr? Every so often I think about it, and then I procrastinate.

China IP block


Bandwidth is getting used up faster than I liked, even though I disabled comments sitewide and added the offending IP & domains to the protection control panel. Looking at the stats last night, that did nothing to keep the spammers out, so I emailed my ISP support. Ack, how could I forget? Using the control panel doesn’t work, it has to be done using the .htaccess file. Suresupport kindly added the few IPs I mentioned as well as the awful 163data domain.

It looks like all of this spam is from China, one of the worst spam producing countries. (I was surprised the US is #1 and twice as bad as China, I guess it’s email spam and not this dreadul comment spam.) A little research told me that I could block entire countries by IP. This is exactly what I’m looking for. I copied the entire IP block allocated to China into my .htaccess and denied them all. Yes, it means my website cannot be accessed from anywhere in China, ie if mm and I go to her flat for holiday (moot point, she has no internet there). But it can’t be helped. I’ve been monitoring the stats all day and it seems to have stopped the spam attack.

really invisiblecompany


An unexpected consequence of the comment spam attack was that the website exceeded the 20GB monthly bandwidth limit. A normal month, I’m probably at 2GB, and the whole of 2011 totalled 30GB, so this was a big spike. I didn’t even realise it until when I logged in a couple of days ago and saw the error message. Ouch. I had to wait till today to get access back and the first thing I did was to disable comments sitewide. Then it was a matter of going through the stats, picking out the offending domains and IPs and adding them to the blocked list. There are honestly too many, and I’m not sure blocking will do the trick. I’ll have to be extra vigilant. And make time to upgrade to MT5.



I struggle to get readers on my website. Well, that’s not entirely true because I don’t do any marketing or self-promotion or anything like that. I’m not famous or good looking or have books published or say anything remotely interesting, all I do is post about running and food and stuff I do so who the hell do I think I am?

So far, I’ve escaped the dreaded spam infection that seems to hit hosted websites like wordpress or blogger. MT used to be the market leader (within the tech geek community anyway) but it has been overtaken by the aforementioned wordpress, blogger and even tumblr.

Which is why it amused me to no end when I did routine maintenance and found that I had over 50 spam comments. They don’t show up because I set it so that I need to approve comments. These comments are twisted! For example,

The man underwear hiding more than 10 live hummingbirds were attempting to smuggle, customs and the hummingbird is wrapped body hidden in the men’s underwear, still survive in the new network on 28 September, the smugglers to steal the motion through the customs practices can change rapidly, according to Hongkong “astral island daily” reported on 28, the near future, a Holland tourists have more than 10 hummingbird living hidden in the special underwear, attempting to smuggle clearance, but ultimately not long.It is reported, the capital airport in French Guiana Cayenne, the Holland man put a dozen live hummingbirds with independent wrapped up, to prevent their wings flew, and put them away in only a slit in the underwear special packaging bag.The customs officers noticed the man “suspicious appearance and movements”, in the inspection requirements of he untied the briefs, they found about 12 live hummingbirds, subsequently, authorities seized.Reported that, the man in possession of a hummingbird, no birds anesthesia.It is reported, this man had a criminal record, has since tried to smuggle hummingbird convicted.According to introduction, the hummingbird is the world’s smallest known birds, by flapping wings hovering in the air, about 15 to 80 times per second, the speed of the body depends on the size of.

Seriously!!???!! I guess it’s just random words, they just want the link. But it’s a long way from the makfncilgoiereunarqf from the olden days. Another hilarious example, this is a comment so bot attempted to post on my sparkling cranberries post at Christmas,

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