Recently in 101.1001 Category

in 101.1001 , being healthy |


42.2km 6.35.15hr 9.22min/km

overall: 36785 / 46033
gender: 16841 / 16955
age division: 1029 / 1041

Set alarm at 5am but woke up at 4am. Tea, a couple of waffles, a banana and a cereal bar for breakfast. Superfriend Carleen dropped me off and I joined thousands of people walking towards the start line. Found a quiet spot to watch the sunrise then joined the horrendous line for the portaloo. After half an hour in the cold wind the line hadn’t moved much but then someone came over and told us about other portaloos with shorter lines.

The corral was crowded. Wave 2 start was 8am, I crosssed the start line at around 8.11am. I felt great and happy. The crowds were fantastic and pushed me on, soon I found myself at LaSalle and 5k already. Lots of fun signs from spectators urging us on.

chimarathon049theatre chimarathon063drums

Things haven’t changed from 2010 and 2011: I stopped for the traditional pic outside the chicago theatre, there was warm support at Moody’s church, music at boystown, Japanese drummers at mile 10, the lasalle church opening their toilets up for us at mile 11. The roar of the crowds really did help.


I also caught up with a runner holding an American flag at lincoln park, same as 2011 but different guy. Saw a fireman in full gear too. And a man in his 70s with “50th marathon” on his shirt. I spent quite a bit high-fiving kids and grinning.

Around mile 10 was when it started going pear shaped. First I got a nasty side stitch, which I hardly ever do. Then my left knee started hurting, which affected my calf and then moved to my right leg and finally my back. Basically anything that could hurt, was hurting. So disappointing, the wall came early. Even the biofreeze and tylenol at mile 12 wasn’t much help.

chimarathon071beer chimarathon077turbo

It’s always good to reach halfway, located just behind the old office. HM was at almost exactly 3hrs. I was pretty behind schedule at that point. After mile 13, the crowds thinned out and there wasn’t much shade. I started slowing down significantly and walked a lot. From mile 14 onwards it was boring and tough. Mile 19 was good, loud crowds through Pilsen. Lots of music and drums. Still a lot of walking. When first the 5.10 then 5.25 and finally 5.45 pace groups caught up with me, I tried my best to follow them for as long as I could.

After mile 22 from chinatown to sox park it was awful. Walking and walking. Turning into IIT and back north on michigan was more walking. I was keeping track of my time and I knew I was perilously close to the 6.30 cut off time. At mile 25 it was the final push. I picked up the pace and ran the last mile. It seemed forever before I saw the screen and the right turn up the hill. 400m, 200m and then it was finally the finish line. My iphone registered 6.33. I think they pushed the cut off time because of the hot weather.

chimarathon092finish chimarathon096medal

I collected my medal, a couple of bottles of water and a banana. There was a beer truck right at the finish, but unfortunately the beer was warm. The best thing was a cool, wet towel they gave us. Had my pic taken with the medal, couldn’t be bothered to go to the other side of the park for the tents. The exit closest to me was nearest the train station so that was where I headed.

I had more than 30mins to wait for the train. Felt a little dizzy and realised I hadn’t had much to eat for 7 hours apart from gu, bloks and gatorade. Fished through the goodie bag and found chocolate, and chocolate milk. That helped.

Carleen picked me up at the train station and we had pizza for dinner. I was more tired than hungry, and my feet were hurting. I came back to the house with the news that my fb friends had been tracking my progress online and there were dozens of comments and well-wishes. So moving. I posted a thank you status plus a pic of the medal and there were even more well-wishes. My fb friends are so wonderful. I didn’t even meet my most basic goal (beat 6.30) but the overwhelming support from the organisers, volunteers, fellow runners and my friends more than made up for the disappointment. Looking on the positive side, I finished. And that’s the most important accomplishment.

I didn’t take my camera with me, just used the iphone: uploaded to flickr.

p.s. this also counts as #99 of 101.1001 because I found a race, and I trained for it

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the walk to mordor challenge of 1779 miles / 2863km.

Today I reached milestone 3: from lothlorien down the anduin to rauros falls at 1309 miles / 2106km. According to people who keep track of such things, this part of the journey took 11 days and was mostly paddling on the river. From then on the fellowship breaks up and continue independently: frodo and sam 470 miles to mt doom; merry and pippin 355 miles to isengard; aragorn, legolas and gimli takes a longer route of 484 miles to isengard.

There are only 470 miles left on the task, I will be able to complete this. A goal is by the end of the year; B goal is by the end of Q1 next year. I’ll probably do the back part of there and back again: after being rescued by giant eagles there is the 1625 miles from minas tirith back to bag end.

in 101.1001 , sports active |


Task #83 of 101.1001 are 3 activities with family. This is 3 of 3.

Sis invited me to go on an outing at the beach today. My niece had a playdate with one of her school friends to go kayaking. Very easy, rent a kayak or stand up board from the people at the beach, that was it. No need for life jackets, although we thought we should have been offered the option. The part of the beach was quiet and not very deep anyway.

I tried both kayaking and stand up boarding, both for the first time. The light kayak was very easy to handle, and I went out past the parked fishing boats to one of the buoy markers. I was a bit wary of the stand up board, starting off sitting and paddling around, but after a while I found courage to first kneel then stand up. Took more concentration than sitting in the kayak, trying to keep balance.

Great fun. Only around £5 for an hour, and we could swap between kayak and stand up board as we wished. I think it may be a new activity, will try to get mm to come with me next time.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

onyourfeet01oriental onyourfeet02curtain

Task #7 of 101.1001 is to go to a new musical. Today I went to see on your feet at the oriental theatre in chicago.

There are so many new musicals that I’ve lost touch at what is showing and which one is new. On Your Feet is a show about Gloria Estafan and her husband Emilio: how they met, how they worked to become successful in the music business and how a bus accident almost derailed their lives and careers. Some reviews likened it to a feel-good tv movie. Although there are similarities to a tv movie, the energy, the music and the overall production pushed the standard much higher.

I can’t name a single Gloria Estafan (with or without Miami Sound Machine) song, but I could recognise the bigger hits when I hear them. And I did, the bigger hits. The songs I hadn’t heard of before were a revelation to me, I enjoyed them too. The dancing was great and the energy was infectious.

The singing. Wow, the singing. Ana Villafane plays Gloria, looks like Gloria, and sounds like Gloria. Superb. The other cast members were memorable too, from Josh Segarra who played Emilio and the family members: Gloria’s mom, grandmother, father and sister all excelled. The boy who played both her son and a dancing bar mitzvah boy was wonderful. At the end of both acts, the audience were on their feet, clapping and dancing, that was how much everyone enjoyed the show.

in 101.1001 , being healthy |

boxinggloves boxingring

Task #45 of 101.1001 is to take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class. This is one of the ones carried over from the 2007 challenge. This time I was determined to sign up and attend at least one class. The opportunity came when Sis said to come with her to kickboxing class. That counts as a martial arts, right?

The gym looked pretty serious, with separate men’s and women’s sections separated by the reception area. There is a small changing room with showers. Sis had spare gloves for me but I had to get wrapping bandages for my hands and ankle protectors. The class was definitely a beginners’ class and it was more like using kickboxing moves in a cardio routine. Punching with or without gloves, kicking in the air or against the punchbag, squats, pushups, and combinations. The first part of the class was easy enough, and then the instructor started giving us more complex routines. Burpees combined with punching and kicking; crouching (as if to avoid an opponent) and crunches.

All in all, an intense workout. I got tired towards the end. Not sure if I’ll go again, perhaps. Some people like class exercises, I don’t. I prefer running and doing weights at home so I don’t need to be in the company of other people. Plus, I don’t see the point of paying so much for gym or kickboxing studio membership and class fees.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #97 of 101.1001 is to stop using as much salt and substitute with herbs &amp spices.

One of the biggest advantages of staying at an airbnb is home comforts like a kitchen. The flat we stayed in London had a nice kitchen with proper hob, oven and utensils. The downside is that you’re limited to what is already present, unless you buy or bring your own flavourings. I was making roast lamb shoulder. There were olive oil, salt and pepper. Although half a drawer was full of herbs & spices it was chilli, curry powder, star anise and the like. I could use them, of course, but what I really wanted was rosemary, which wasn’t available. I didn’t get any fresh sprigs when I bought the lamb, so I improvised with other dried and fresh ingredients.

I used some italian seasoning, s&p. The side dishes with the lamb were roasted fennel and asparagus. I finely chopped bits of fennel and asparagus offcuts, and used those as the fresh herbs.


It’s definitely the quality of lamb, but I’m hoping the improvised seasoning helped too. The lamb was roasted to perfection and the side vegetables were really good.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #5 of 5.

Our friend invited us to dishoom behind king’s cross for lunch. Our first impression was how the area had completely changed. Where it used to be dangerous and derelict, it’s now modern and stylish full of office buildings and fancy restaurants.

Dishoom’s theme is Indian street food. The restaurant’s decoration is a mix of old school colonial train station, gentrified godown and steampunk. Great atmosphere. There were a large number of small plates to share. We ordered chilli cheese toast, okra fries, calamari, lamb boti kabab, greens with a fabulous chilli & lime dressing, daal, naan and roti. Everything was delicious, we ordered extra lamb. For drinks I had a bhang lassi, which had mint, ginger, candied fennel and coconut milk.

The small plates were less than £6, the lamb less than £10 so pretty good for London prices. Lots of flavour, and different flavours too, to the usual curries and biryanis. Indian food has been described as Britain’s national dish, and if all Indian food were like Dishoom’s, then it’s not a surprise. Definitely worth returning. Repeatedly.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #4 of 5.

We were in Dublin for my birthday and based on previous experience, I picked butcher grill in ranelagh and made a reservation a few weeks in advance. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the oysters and côte de boeuf, even though the service was quite arms-length. We didn’t have a lot of time in Dublin and when I read about a new-ish restaurant specialising in less popular cuts of meat, I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to try it out.

As it happened, we made time to go to bear in south william street just west of grafton street. Having read that they didn’t take reservations for two, we went early and got a nice windowside table. There was a bar parallel to the front of the restaurant with the rest of the tables on a mezzanine behind. The wait staff, who were the poster boys & girls of hipserhood, were a little distracted preparing for guests but we’d just come from Italy so were in slow food mode.

Aside from the usual ribeye, sirloin, chicken and ribs they also had, as expected, some unusual steak like rosary cut, feather, bavette, flank and onglet. Well, actually I thought bavette and flank are the same, obviously not. I’ve cooked bavette before and liked the flavour. It was what the waiter suggested so we ordered that, to share. For sides we had cauliflower cheese and crispy kale.

Yes, the bavette was tougher than sirloin. I’d say it was even tougher than rump. It was quite lean and the grain more pronounced than on other steaks. With lesser chefs and lesser quality meat, it’d be more a stir-frying or stewing beef. For us, it was perfect. Bags of flavour and didn’t need any sauce. Slightly underseasoned, solved by a little s&p.

I was very good (or mm was an effective controller), didn’t have any wine or beer. That said, we’d been at tullamore dew earlier so I’d had a couple of whiskies already.

The steak was €40, with sides the bill came to €50, good value for steak dinner in a city centre. We’ve been talking about it since, and will be one of the first places to stop if we visit Dublin again.

in 101.1001 , going places |

eutrip012flrponte eutrip027stfrancis

Task #98 of 101.1001 is to visit one of the 101 wishlist travel places defined in task #27. I managed to check off two from that list: assisi and tuscany on our europe trip.

Not going to repeat the travel reports, linking:
florence: day 06 | day 07 | day 09 | day 10 | day 11
siena: day 08
assisi: day 12 | day 13 | day 14 | day 15

There’s a reason why these places are on so many bucket lists. We spent almost a week in florence and 4 days in assisi and barely scratched the surface of what there was to see and experience. We also were very blessed with the people we met, and got to take part in palm sunday in assisi. We agreed that we could have stayed much, much longer. Weeks, months. Tuscany has everything: beautiful scenery, culture, food, a magical vibe. Assisi has the spirituality, and beautiful scenery too.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #39 of 101.1001 is to run/walk/bike 1001 miles. I originally put 1001km, then I upped it to miles. I went past 1001km in novembe. The red line shows the growth in mileage lately as I’m building base for marathon training, it looks like a taper for the last datapoint, but bear in mind March is only halfway gone.

I crashed my knee on sunday’s race which scuppered the planned 10 mile weekend long run. I should be resting but I did a fast 5k around the neighbourhood:

  • I noticed I was only 3 miles from the 1001 milestone and I’m not going to let poxy ITBS stop me from getting there
  • I don’t know how much time I’ll have to run on the trip, so it’s like a final run before we fly tomorrow
  • I wanted to stretch the knee out a little

The initial 1km up the hill was uncomfortable, the knee kept wanting to give out. I changed to a flatter route and by the end of the run the knee was sort of okay. I rollered the IT band together with my back and boy, it was painful.

This task is done, but there’s still #40 walk to Mordor, next milestone is 1309 miles from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls. If I can consistently hit 80-100 miles a month, I’ll get there hopefully by June or July.

in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |

Task #3 of 101.1001 is to become proficient in evernote.

As a nano winner, I got 3 months of evernote premium, which just ended. I’ve been using EN for a while, and now have over 250 notes. I know, I know, proficiency isn’t measured by quantity. However I think that I can claim to have at least basic proficiency. Like many tech services, I signed up for an account ages ago but never got round to using it until later. When I did get started it was just playing around with to-do lists. I read up on how other people use it and I really appreciated its power and functionality when i started using it to organise travel. And then I started using it more. The rest of this post is how I currently use EN. Warning: may be boring for some, not everyone is into organising their lives in such detail.

in 101.1001 , challenges , photography is life |


Task #20 of 101.1001 is to reach 1001 instagram/vine/snapchat total. I tried vine and it was fine, but instagram offered similar videoing functionality and I’m used to using instagram, so my vine count is still under 10. I never got round to using snapchat.

Without me noticing it, I reached 1001 instagrams a couple of weeks ago. This was taken when mm and I drove out to South Bay on a nice cool evening and the place was empty. The lifeguard towers looked sad and forlorn on the beach.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the 1779 miles walk to mordor challenge.

I reached milestone 1: hobbiton to rivendell or 458 miles in august-2014. Today, as I reached 87 miles for the month of feb-2015, I passed milestone 2: rivendell through moria to lothlorien for a total of 920 miles. More than halfway, 859 miles to go. I’m ahead of scheule—marathon training has me running a lot, and I’m still only at the base building phase. Proper training starts in june.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101.1001 are to try 10 new recipes. It’s great that the 10th one turned out so nice.

I’ve mentioned before that even though I’ve been baking for a long time, it’s usually cakes and biscuits. I only tried bread a few months ago and choux is the only pastry I’m comfortable with. I rarely work with the most basic pastry of them all: shortcrust.

So we were watching MKR4 repeat and I decided to try the double chocolate tart one team made, because it looked so indulgent.

for the pastry:
150g cold butter
185g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
350g chocolate
80ml cream
50g brown sugar
2 eggs + 4 egg yolks

Sift the flour, cocoa and icing sugar into a large bowl, mix butter until resembling breadcrumbs. In the recipe they use a food processor but I couldn’t find mine, and besides I’m not sure it works anymore. Takes longer using hands but it’s not too bad. Put the mixture back in the fridge for 5mins to cool, then add the egg yolk. Combine into a dough. Initially I thought one egg yolk surely wasn’t enough to bind so much dry ingredients, but it worked after a bit of elbow grease. Knead on a flat surface briefly. Chill dough in fridge for 30mins.

Roll out dough to a tart tin. Well, I don’t have a tart tin, so I used half the dough and rolled out into a regular small cake tin, mending gaps where necessary. I tried to trim the side so it was flat. Cool the pastry in the fridge for 5mins, then blind bake at 180°C for 15mins with baking beans, followed by 10mins without. Didn’t have baking beans at parents’ place, so substituted with rice.

While the baked pastry case cools, make the filling. Melt chocolate and cream in a bain marie. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk and sugar until frothy. Combine with melted chocolate carefully then pour into pastry case. Bake at 160°C for 30mins. Cool at room temperature, then in fridge until set.


The pastry was quite short, may be a tad too short, but I like it. The filling was rich and, yes, indulgent. Should have served it with strawberries or raspberries but didn’t have it. Added to the richness by pouring a little cream over. I’ll have to buy a proper tart tin, it’s one of those desserts I’m going to add to my repertoire.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #64-68 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new whiskies. This is #4 of 5.

I finished the dalmore 18 fairly quickly, about 6 months, probably because I didn’t quite like it. The next in the mainland rotation should be either the magnificent dalwhinnie, a strangely-named ancnoc from my sis, or perhaps mortlach 16. But I opened a bunnahabhain cruach-mhona instead, because…I don’t know why. May be it’s because I had 2 bottles? Anyway it means I currently have 2 islays open, this one and laphroaig PX. Co-incidence much? Both are duty free only.

Bunnahabhain and laphroaig are like heaven and earth when it comes to peatiness. Bunnas’ peatiness is subtle, while laphroaigs are peat monsters. I loved visiting both distilleries though. Bunna was closed when we went there, but the location and the weather that day brought home how wild and unfettered the distillery was. I’d love to go back there when it is open.

Anyway, I love Bunna 12 and I completely adore Bunna 18. Cruach-mhona in gaelic means peat stack, although its peatiness is nowhere near laphroaig or ardbeg. It’s un-chill filtered and uncoloured, resulting in a very light golden colour, like sunflower oil without the viscocity. NAS and doesn’t taste very old, may be 10-12 years. Peaty and seaweed on the nose. In terms of taste, slightly smoky, sweet, smooth with a long finish. Reviews are average and Mr Murray gave it a not terribly mind-blowing 83 points. I like it myself, I’m sold on the smoothness and the long finish.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

Task #47 of 101.1001 is to make a list and photoset of 101 food & drink items that are on popular bucket lists. These lists are subjective: exotic to one person may be normal for another. I’ve tried a number of items from the ominvore’s 100 and various food challenge lists, i’m at 92/100 on the foodie list. This list combines typical bucket list foods with food from a specific place.

Pics are clickable thumbnails, there’s also the full size set

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #87 of 101.1001 is to make a list of 101 notable things and activities achieved, excluding food and travel. These are tasks/goals that are popular on bucket lists—when I started putting this challenge together I was like, “drat I’ve done this, it can’t go on my list.” Sometimes referred to as a reverse bucket list.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Task #59 of 101.1001 is to make vanilla extract.

Vanilla beans are expensive, so it’s a waste to discard the pods after using the beans. (In my case the beans went into some really creamy homemade vanilla ice cream.) Vanilla extract, the good stuff, is also quite expensive. It’s actually really easy to make from vanilla beans and some alcohol. Most recipes use vodka because it’s flavourless, but bourbon, brandy or rum can also be used to impart an extra flavour dimension.

I’ve had one bottle with bourbon sitting for a couple of months, and it smells divine. The bottle is just a screwtop soft drink bottle, I could use prettier bottles or mason jars but why waste money? I also have another bottle with vodka in the cupboard, that one is newer, about 2-3 weeks. The good thing is I can continue to add used vanilla pods and alcohol and the extract lasts for years.

Haven’t used it in cooking yet, can’t wait.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #94 of 101.1001 is to pack an emergency go-bag. This started with Sis, who is obsessed with survival. She’s had an emergency duffel bag for a long time, and I bought her some survival stuff and a few MRE packs in the US last year.

Supposedly, a go-bag should have enough supplies to survive for 72hrs when evacuating from a disaster. Some people pack for longer, and there are dependencies for factors such as climate and location. Typical survival programs talk about surviving in the wilderness but realistically, I think my go-bag should cater for an urban environment since I live in a city. We can even buy ready packed emergency bags, even deluxe editions, for 1, 2 or 4 persons. Mine is from stuff I already have, supplemented by a few specialist survival items.

  • backpack — one of the company swag I got from Communications, good regular size with outside pockets
  • food — one MRE pack, cereal bars. gu, chewing gum, sweets
  • drink — 500ml water, empty water bottle, lifestraw water filter, tea bags
  • small keychain hipflask with whisky — because whisky is important
  • medicine in a ziploc bag — painkiller, anti-histamine, band-aid, mentholatum, mask, tissues
  • toiletries in a ziploc bag — toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, deodorant
  • spare clothes — t-shirt, zip-off pants, hat, underwear, socks — I should find a lightweight jacket or something long-sleeved to add to the kit
  • spare glasses
  • notebook, pen, sharpie, chalk — the notebook has personal information, contacts, passwords and passport photocopy
  • wallet with money and a few photos — photos for ID and to show people if I need to search for family or mm
  • carabiner with keys for my place and parents’ place
  • flashdrive with documents and personal information
  • hand-cranked radio torch with USB port — supposed to be able to hand-crank enough charge to make phonecalls, which is all that is needed in an evacuation or emergency
  • world adaptor, charger, cables for iphone, ipad, microusb
  • small towel
  • survival blanket
  • survival pouch — flint, waterproof matches, whistle, parachute cord, ties, rubber band, sewing kit
  • swiss knife, nailclipper — may want to swap for a leatherman
  • survival quick guide leaflet

Everything packs neatly inside the backpack and I can carry it comfortably. I’ll need to grab the iphone if I need to run, and I’ll just have to contend with whatever shoes I have on me at the time. It’s not a perfect kit, but it’ll do if there really is an emergency. I could pack more, or use a bigger bag, but I decided a backpack is the easiest and most flexible.

I’ll check and swap out food items every year. The idea is that the bag will never be needed.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Update for 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.
tl;dr version: 365 days, 58 tasks done, 43 tasks remaining

No need for a sophisticated chart or analysis to see that the challenge is going well. I hesitate to use ahead of schedule because of the relative difficulty / time-consumingness of the tasks.

I picked off some low hanging fruit, like use my library card, make a cocktail and make a list of 101 places to visit. I was also incredibly lucky to go with my parents to new countries, try the foodcarts in Portland and spend a day at a korean spa with mm. The strangest task was eat an insect and I ended up finishing the whole cup. I made bread for the first time and invested in a worthwhile cause.

I’ve managed to complete at least one task in each of the 11 sections, and have made a start on some of the ongoing tasks. Of the remaining 43 tasks, some are potentially harder than others. Need to do a bit of strategising.

on track — ongoing or cumulative tasks:

  • 3. become proficient with Evernote — I’ve done a lot with EN this year, and I’m in the process of migrating my instapaper clippings to EN
  • 5. 1001 posts on website — currently at 439, since I aim for at least one post a day, this is one of the tasks that will go almost all the way to the end
  • 16. finish Lamplight — the second (or third?) draft is done, so technically I can claim this task is complete, once the current round of rewriting is done I’ll claim the goal
  • 17. outline book ideas — mostly done
  • 20. 1001 instagram/vine pics — at 367, which averages to just over 1 day day, need to do better but should be on track
  • 39. run/walk/bike 1001 km/miles — 1001km is done, at 660 miles with 341 to go should be no problem
  • 40. complete walk to mordor challenge — at 660 miles, with 1119 to go, been averaging over the required mileage, so don’t forsee a problem
  • 47. make a list and photoset of 101 food already tried — list is done, just need to revisit a few foods and take pics
  • 59. make vanilla extract — vanilla pod has been soaking in bourbon for a few weeks, need to add a few more used pods
  • 74. put away $10 for every goal achieved — this will be a task to be completed on the last day, but no big issue
  • 75. set aside $1 for every goal achieved for charity — again, a last day completiong, no big issue
  • 80. scan 101 family pics — scanned 24 already
  • 87. make a list of 101 things achieved — list is done, need to scan and sort some old pics
  • 94. pack a go bag — on track, gathering items
  • 99. find a race and train for it — at week 8 of the 52 weeks marathon training program for chimarathon 2015

doable — haven’t started but are doable:
  • 15. nano 2015 — nano #11
  • 18. design a book cover — have ideas, need execution
  • 30. new country (#3 of 3) — technically I can claim Palestine, I’ll see if I get to go to another new country, if not I’ll retroactively complete this
  • 42. db bench PR — slowly working up to it
  • 43. 101 crunches — also slowly working up to it
  • 58. new recipe (#10 of 10) — one more new recipe to complete the set of 10
  • 60. open a cookbook and make whatever comes up — choose the cookbook carefully
  • 61. plan, make and serve a 3-course meal with wine — need an appropriate occasion, I have a good idea of the menu
  • 67. new whisky (#4 of 5) — have idea of which bottles to follow in rotation
  • 68. new whisky (#5 of 5) — see above
  • 72. new restaurant (#4 of 5) — next time we travel, may be London or Chicago or Tokyo
  • 73. new restaurant (#5 of 5) — see above
  • 76. make a will — keep needing to remind mm to lend me hers
  • 83. new family activity (#3 of 3) — sometimes we do new stuff but it’s not so remarkable to write up
  • 90. leave an inspirational note in a book for someone to find — I forgot to bring a postcard when I was at Portland, otherwise it would have been awesome to leave it in a book at Powell’s
  • 97. stop using so much salt and substitute with herbs & spices — I do this already, I want to come up with a really good dish
  • 98. travel to one of the 101 places to visit — technically I’ve done that, gone to Athens and Jerusalem and Alaska, I should write it up retroactively

need work — harder tasks for various reasons:

  • 1. upgrade macOS at least once — the mba is still on snow leopard, but it works great so I don’t want to upgrade it to mavericks or yosemite, I may tweak this task to target upgrading iOS instead
  • 7. new musical — there are lots of musicals I want to see, it depends on travel plans
  • 8. old musical — depends on travel plans and timing
  • 19. write a short story — I used to churn them out like clockwork, but haven’t had much inspiration lately
  • 25. find colour in an unusual place — this is a task left over from the original 2007 challenge, I kept forgetting it then, and I keep forgetting it now
  • 41. break a running PR — I’m 1-2 minute per km slower than my baseline speed, it will take lots and lots of training to get this
  • 45. take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class — thing is, I’m not that interested in them right now, I don’t belong to a gym and I haven’t bothered to look at places that offer first class free
  • 46. rock climbing — there are only a handful of places here, I should enquire at the YMCA, I think they have a wall and classes
  • 88. make a list of 101 favourite things — surprisingly this has proved difficult; I’m stuck at 52 things
  • 95. learn how to rocher — I need materials and a container to practice
  • 101. be more grateful to family — how do I determine if I complete this task? it’s so subjective

in 101.1001 , challenges , family first |

gsisxmas2014005 gsisxmas2014036

Tasks #81-83 of 101.1001 are to participate in 3 new family activities or go to 3 new places. This is 2 of 3 and task #82.

I went to 2 family events today, first with my own family then with mm’s family.

In the morning, I braved the long bus journey (that didn’t make sense geographically speaking) to go to my niece’s school’s christmas bazaar. The bazaar was split into 2 buildings and 2 main areas. One had stalls selling all sorts of stuff: christmas decorations, chocolate, gluhwein, stollen, jams, cards, clothing and bric-a-brac. The other area had food & wine stalls selling sparkling wine, wine, beer, bratwurst, raclette, asian food, cakes and waffles.

We wandered around the selling area and mum bought biscuits and chocolate while I bought a couple of stollen. In the food area we had bratwurst and waffles. I tried a couple of their beers.

Very tired. I conked out on sis’ sofabed for 45mins in the afternoon.

whbbq008pig whbbq041cake

The evening activity was mm’s niece’s birthday. Her parents organised a bbq at a large outdoor bbq establishment. The staff set up our pit and we had a set of the usual: pork chop, chicken wing, scallop, prawn, fish balls, sweet potato and the like. The main attraction was a whole suckling pig which we grilled ourselves on a rotisserie set up over the pit. The suckling pig had already been partially cooked so it was just a matter of browning the meat and crisping up the skin.

When the skin was crisp enough, the staff came and chopped it all up for us. Yes, definitealy crispy skin and juicy meat.

Ice cream birthday cake to follow. I had 2 portions. All in all, a family day and very tired.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #14 of 101.1001 is to complete nano 2014. It’s one of those tasks I put in there because I knew I’d get it done. It’s not me trying to show off or anything, the fact is that I’ve finished all the nanos I’ve started, so the odds are very good.

I’m very pleased they opened up validation on the 20th this year, I think it’s the earliest they’ve done so. Actually I don’t see why validation isn’t available on day 01, since there are people who challenge themselves get to 50k in one day, and the validation code surely hasn’t changed in years.


Anyway, I validated at 60k words, but actually only 57k was written in november. I could have deleted the pre-nano words when I copied over to validate, but I couldn’t be bothered. Details, details. I got to 50k on day 12, which is pretty good. (My average finish is day 15.) Since day 12, I’ve slowly written a few hundred words a day. I’m not sure if I’ll finish it now, or leave it till later. It’s not a bad story.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #39 of 101.1001 is to run/walk/bike 1001 km/miles. It started off as 1001 km, but then I changed to 1001 miles, since I was going for the 1779 mile walk to mordor (task #40) anyway.

Of course there’s a spreadsheet, keeping track of actual km/miles as well as progress needed to complete the 3 goals of 1001 km, 1001 miles and 1779 miles in 1001 days. I count running, walking, cycling and swimming too.


I’ve tried to follow the mordor target (green line), so the actual (red line) fairly mimics it. Today’s run of 5km brought me past the 1001km mark. Almost 1 year, from 01-dec-2013. More walking and stationary bike during the summer months, more running to come with winter and marathon training.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are 10 new recipes. This is #9, and the first bread recipe.

I’ve been baking since I was 11 or 12, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve made bread. I’ve been watching too many GBBO and masterchef episodes and I want to have a bread recipe I can master and keep in my back pocket. This is based on a jamie recipe.

500g strong bread flour
15g (or 1.5 packet) yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
1tbsp sugar
300ml water

Mix the dry ingredients with about half the water, add more water to get to a sticky consistency. Knead until a silky, elastic dough is formed. Leave in a covered bowl for 30mins to prove, until doubled in size.

Knock the air out and knead a little more. Tear off chunks of the dough, add fresh rosemary leaves and roll into small balls. Pat between palms into flat shapes about 0.5cm thick.

Pan fry in olive oil until golden. Sprinkle sea salt and drizzle rosemary & oil.

I’m very pleased with the results. A little yeasty, I think I added too much yeast. They fluffed up nicely during cooking and had a wonderful golden brown colour. Slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I’ll definitely make them again.

in 101.1001 |


Task #10 of 101.1001 is to read 101 books.

I started 101.1001 on 01-dec-2013 and I finished reading the first book on 04-dec-2013. So it’s taken around 10 months. In other words 10 books a month or 2.5 books a week or around 3 days per book. Of course sometimes I finish a book in one day and some books take longer to read. I finally finished all Harry Potter books as well as one from the 2007 challenge, mythology for dummies. I would say 70:30 new vs re-reads; when I buy a new book from an author sometimes I go back and read all the previous books, especially if it is part of a series.

Book #101 was Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. It’s all because I was looking at sci-fi books for my niece and I’ve had the hardback since it was published.

The book is set in an alternate, steampunk, universe of WW1. The blurb:

It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.

Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.

Marketed as a YA book, I must admit I really, really, really enjoyed it. The book had everything — smartly written story, fun main characters, realistic side characters, fantastic clanker machines, amazing darwinist beasties and great setting. There was a real sense of adventure and wonder, made me want to be Alek or Deryn. Barking spiders! Plus a side of history too, even though it only skirted with actual history. Unlike the other book I was reading for my niece, Death’s Daughter, I’m happy to recommend Leviathan. Not just for kids, adults too.

Since it’s #1 of a trilogy, I’m faced with the same dilemma as before. Complete the series by buying secondhand print books (under $10 for even hardbacks) or switch to ebooks ($30 for all three). Sigh, sigh, sigh.

So anyway, I’m already on books #102 and 103. I have a bunch of new books to read, and every month there are more new books. I sat on my sis’ armchair reading for a couple of hours the other day and she remarked that I could happily stay there for a long time. Absolutely true.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #48 of 101.1001 is to eat an insect and task #17 of 30in30 is to try a new food. I’ve never knowingly tried insects before, so we bought a small cup of beondegi or silkworm pupae at namdaemun market. This is a typical Korean street food, the pupae were boiled and eaten with toothpicks. One small cup was KRW2,000 or two dollars so it was worth trying.

When I initially set this challenge, I envisioned trying the cricket chocolate from Wittamer, but the box went mouldy on me. I have been reading a lot of articles about the benefits of eating bugs — they are sustainable, nutritious and 80% of the world’s cultures already eat insects. As global population grows exponentially, there is a lot of thinking that the future human population will turn to insects for protein source. I guess people in 200, 500, 1000 year’s time will look back on our diet with the same shock as us looking at the diets of people hundreds of years ago.

I wasn’t really prepared to try bugs that look scary. I don’t think I’ll let anything with legs come near me, so spiders, grasshoppers and ants were out. I was okay about trying mealworms so when I read about beondegi in the course of my seoul research, I thought it may be alright to try.

First, it’s served hot, in a seasoned sauce. People complain about the smell, but it was no worse than other meat-based street food. You eat the whole thing, just pick it up with a toothpick and pop one in your mouth. The outside had the texture of boiled peanuts, a little crunchy, a little soggy. The inside was a little gamey, like mild liver. I won’t say I’m in any hurry to try it again, but if offered I won’t refuse it.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


A combination of task #96 of 101.1001 and task #13 of 30in30: drink more water, drink mostly water.

We all know that water is good for us and we should drink lots of it every day. I don’t know if it’s circumstances or age or becoming healthier, I don’t mind drinking water as much as before. I’ve always drunk a lot of liquids, when I was working it was soda water and coke zero all day. In the US I bought these gallon containers of arizona green tea. Then of course there were the beer and wine and whisky. And the vital cup of tea in the morning.

Don’t have access to gallon containers of tea anymore, and I’ve cut down the coke zero to one can a day. Alcohol consumption is down too.

I’m making up the quota with water. Here we boil our water then let it cool to room temperature. Tastes bland. I kinda miss the mineral taste of London hard water. I keep my room temperature in a glass bottle I bought at John Lewis. I also keep bottles of water in the fridge. I find cold water tastes much better than room temperature or warm water and I can drink more of it. It’s surprising how quickly I finish a bottle of 500ml ice water.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #13 of 101.1001 is to read Mythology for Dummies. This is one of the incomplete tasks carried over from the 2007 list.

I didn’t have an arts education. Although I read steadily as a kid, it was fiction or those big general knowledge books. I knew about various myths but never paid much attention to them, and certainly never remembered much or was able to associate mythology references in books I read.

There are a lot of books on mythology. A lot of general, beginner, summary type of books. The dummies series seem to tackle subjects in a casual manner. The tone of the writing was definitely on the silly side, with chapter titles like “Snow, Ice, and Not Very Nice: Norse Deities.” Almost 1/3 of the book was devoted to Greeks and Romans. Extremely superficial coverage of European, Middle Eastern, Eastern and American mythology. Some of the sections were more description of religions than mythology.

It was an easy read, and I like that the authors didn’t try to make mythology sound mystical or serious. May be too light-hearted in places. What did I learn? Mythology around the world and along history was remarkably similar. Some version of a god or gods creating the universe, some gods bigger and older than others. Lots of murder, jealousy, incest and illogical behaviour. They married each other (sometimes at the same time), bred like rabbits, had a tendency to fight or kill each other off for no good reason, then are consumed with remorse.

I was interested in the Greeks but lost interest in the Romans. Had a hard time keeping track of the names and relationships. Nordic mythology was interesting, as was the legend of King Arthur and his Knights at the Round table. Too brief on the rest. I guess a book I’ll keep around for reference if and when I need it.

in 101.1001 , being healthy |


Task #3 of 30in30 is to do more than 50 squats in one set. Task #44 of 101.1001 is to do 101 squats in one set.

I’d originally aimed for the set of 50, seeing that I haven’t been working out as rigorously as I used to. I got to 50 and felt fine, so I carried on. A little tight at 80, at which point it was worth pushing on to finish at 101.

Slow squats, on form, trying to keep a 90 degree angle at the bottom of each motion.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #8, the third savoury and only the second meat recipe.

One of the classics in tv cooking history was Jacques Pepin deboning a whole chicken, stuffing it and making a galantine, a truly amazing demonstration of butchery and cooking skills. Nowadays I see chefs on masterchef and cookery competition programs making ballotine of chicken, duck, veal or another meat. There are many names: Pepin’s galantine, Americans favour roulade and ballotine seems to be used in the UK and commonwealth. It all comes down to the same concept: meat swiss roll with some stuffing (meat, vegetables or a combination) rolled up in an outer layer of meat.

This is a recipe I worked out myself, inspired by bonappetit. Serves 4 with sides, or 2 very hungry adults:

  1. pan fry 2 chicken thighs, season and dice to small bite-size pieces
  2. dice mushroom into small pieces, cook with chopped reconstituted dried porcini and sun-dried tomato, season
  3. combine thigh with mushroom mixture to make the filling and leave to cool
  4. butterfly 2 chicken breasts, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly — not as flat as an escalope, around 1cm thick, season with s&p
  5. layer jamon, fresh basil, emmental slices on top of the chicken breast — jamon because the packet I bought was from spain, I was initially aiming for prosciutto; emmental because that’s what I found in the fridge, mozzarella or provolone will work just as well
  6. spoon on filling and roll carefully, secure with toothpick if necessary — it was difficult to roll so I used another slice of jamon on the outside
  7. sear in a pan until golden brown
  8. transfer to oven and bake at 180°C for 10mins
  9. rest for 5mins then slice


Served the ballotine with roast potatoes, mushroom and cherry tomato. I made some sauce by combining the mushroom cooking liquid with the water from the porcini and sun-dried tomato. It tasted really good, I only cooked the chicken breast for 10mins so it was still juicy.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #40 of 101 in 1001 is to complete the walk to mordor challenge, following Frodo and Sam’s journey from Hobbiton to Mt Doom. It’s a total of 1779 miles.

No, I haven’t gone that far yet, though I’m determined to finish this task by the end of 101.1001. I’m happy to say that I’ve reached a milestone: 458 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell.

This was from a combination of walking, running and cycling (both real bikes and stationary bike). Didn’t keep details of how many miles by each method, I think at the end of the day it’ll balance out.

Next milestone is 462 miles away. This is where Frodo and Sam set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell, through Moria, to Lothlorien to get to 920 miles total.


So it’s taken me 265 days to complete 459 miles. I’ve used up 26.4% of my time allocation to achieve 25.8% of my goal, so I’m very slightly behind. I have 736 days to cover the remaining 1320 miles, at just over 1.79 miles per day. So far I’ve averaged 1.73 miles per day so I just have to ramp it up a notch and I’ll be back on track.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #7 and the 5th baking recipe so far.

Mum went to lunch at the restaurant of a training hotel the other day. She had chocolate mousse (“like really bad ice cream”) and tried her friend’s key lime pie (“it was good”). Sis and gis had key lime pie recently and liked it. It’s my dad’s birthday. So all these events combined mean I should make key lime pie.

Yes, it’s quintessentially American, but the recipe I trusted was from bbc good food because: a) hob nobs!! and b) grams not cups.

300g hob nobs
150g butter
3 egg yolks (I used 4 because the eggs were small)
1 can (397g) condensed milk
zest and juice from 4 limes (these were tiny limes so I used 5)

Make the base from crushed hob nobs and melted butter. Allow to cool. Whisk egg yolks for about 1min, add the condensed milk and whisk for 3mins. Add lime zest and juice, whisk for another 3mins. Pour over base, bake at 160°C for 15-20mins. Leave in tin to cool overnight in fridge.


I tried to make candied lime peel. Blanched lime slices in hot water then simmered in a simple syrup made from equal quantities of sugar and water for 15mins. Was still quite bitter (from peel, not pith) so I didn’t use it to decorate. Instead I whipped up some cream and used strawberries. Couldn’t be bothered to break out the piping bag so I just quenelled the cream.

Everyone seemed to like it and no complaints. I thought it was an extremely simple recipe, I liked that it was loaded with lime flavour and wasn’t too sweet. Next time I’ll make mixed citrus peel, may be that’ll work. Or just grate lime zest over a heap of cream.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Tasks #64-68 of 101 in 1001 is to try 5 whiskies. This is #3 of 5.

Next in the highland/speyside rotation is the bottle of The Dalmore 18 I bought at DXB last year. It was on special offer, and I couldn’t help remembering that Dalmore boasts the most expensive whisky in the world, a very limited (12 bottles total) edition of the 1962 sold at Chiangi airport for US$250,000. My flawed theory was, if they can sell the world’s most expensive whisky, their other offerings must be good, right?

Well, not so much. I found the 18 to be flat and abrupt with barely any finish. It’s smooth enough, I must say. Some notes of bitter chocolate or bitter something. The first few sips were disappointing, then I got used to it and was prepared for the lack of finish. Not quite sure why it gets such good reviews, may be it’s my palette.

It costs around the same as Macallan 18 and even though I’ve pretty much gone off Macallan, I think the Dalmore compares poorly with Macallan and other high street 18s. The problem with Dalmore is that they’re trying too hard to market themselves as a premium brand, with a distinctive bottle, stag logo that screams county squire, and gimmicky £1 million pricetags.

Yes, there are people with more money than taste who will throw money at something very expensive because it is expensive. But to make it as a premium brand, the product itself has to be of sufficiently high quality consistently. In the crowded 18yr category, I’ll take Highland Park 18 any day, or Bunnahabein 18 (£70 at TWE, a bargain) or the stunning Yamazaki 18 (a bit higher in the price bracket, but I can get it when I travel to Japan). I think I should have saved my money or gone for the 12 or 15 if I wanted to try Dalmore. Mr Murray gives the Dalmore 18 a disappointing 76.5 points and I think it’s about right. Nice bottle design though.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #100 of 101 in 1001 is to try meditation.

Most people will agree on the benefits of meditation. There are many different types and practices of meditation, some relating to religious practices. I didn’t want to get into religious meditation, and didn’t want anything too fancy or new age-y or deep. A free app is perfect for trying. Stop, breathe and think is

a friendly, simple tool to guide people of all ages and backgrounds through meditations for mindfulness and compassion

I’ve used the app daily for a week now. It’s a simple process — check in, note physical, mental and emotional status and the app will present a few meditations to follow. For a few minutes, it tells me to close my eyes and be aware of my breathing, then it tells me to think about happiness and compassion and noticing what is around me. It may tell me to think about my current position, then expand to the room, the city and then the whole world.

Before I started reading up on the app, I thought meditation was basically sitting there with your eyes closed and not thinking. As usual, that’s over-simplification. The SB&T app teaches mindfulness, which a fellow user aptly describes as a non-judgmental, neutral state of mind:

mindfulness is all about acceptance. Feeling shitty? Want to rip your hair out? Waiting for Tylenol to kick in? Super jealous of your friend’s new car? Want to punch that guy in the face? Well, ok then. Just feel that for now

I like the just let it be part of the teaching. If I had to state a goal for trying meditation (aside from checking off another 101.1001), it’s to temper my constant anger towards people, because they exist. Whenever I have to venture outside, I look at all the people around me and I wish they could be exterminated. The other extreme is I completely don’t care about anything or anybody. I think I need to find some middle ground that acknowledges that, like it or not, other people exist in this world and I have to tolerate them. May be mindfulness meditation can help.

It’s only been a week, too early to tell if it works. I try to focus and follow the app, but i must admit I still get distracted sometimes. Instead of getting uptight about it, I allow myself to be distracted while the rest of the meditation plays and I can usually get back to it. If I don’t want to follow the recommended meditation I can go to the main menu and select another one. There are longer meditations available as IAP but for the time being I’m sticking with the free ones.

There are loads of mediation apps, including best selling mindfulness meditation and headspace. I already have apps that play relaxing melodies or white noise. Lots of resources.

in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |


Task #4 of 101 in 1001 is to complete an online course.

I was working on a javascript coding course on codecademy but have sort of given up because I got stuck and the instructions weren’t clear. So for just for the hell of it I started browsing around other online education places and came across some simple short courses on graphic design at udemy.

The free courses are all very basic. The one on introduction to graphic design took less than 30mins to finish and I took away some theory:

6 elements in design = line, form, colour, texture, mass space
5 principles of design: alignment, balance, contrast, proximity, repetition

I also took one called real life graphic design: photoshop and illustrator. I learned how to darken a blue sky using gradient, add a sunset, use curves in photoshop — all of which I know. The course also touched on Illustrator, which I don’t have much experience or confidence in using. I learned basic manipulation. There was one comment in the course, that the instructor went too fast. I totally agree. I know what he was doing in photoshop because I’m really not a beginner, he was clicking and telling us what he is doing without explaining where the controls are or what settings. That said, I think I can start practicing using Illustrator for simple graphics.

It’s a good way to spend a couple of hours, better than playing a game. I get nifty completion certificates too. I’ll definitely go through some more free courses on the site, not ready to pay for anything yet.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places , on the relationship front |

taio017houses taio010bridge
taio026village taio028village

Tasks #85-6 in 101 in 1001 are to do 3 new things with mm. This is 2 of 3.

We met up after mm’s piano lesson and took the train all the way to the end of the line, then another bus for almost 1hr to go to the fishing village of Tai O. It was an extremely hot day, the queue for the bus was long and it was crowded. We discussed for half a second whether to go, and decided that we should persevere since ee’d been talking about going there for ages. The village itself is more a tourist attraction now, although some of the traditional activities like fishing and preparing dried seafood still remain.

We walked to one end of the village, doubled back and shared a snack of fried rice and squid with shrimp sauce at a local place. Walked to the other end and went through the market and the pretty waterways area. One of the attractions of the village is houses on wooden stilts, many were destroyed in a fire in 2000, thankfully some are still standing. Other houses in the village were constructed from metal, tin or aluminium I think. They must be scorching inside, although some have been modernised with air-conditioning.

Right at the end of the waterfront is a hotel converted from the old police station. Very colonial in architecture and with great views out of the pier and sea.

A nice afternoon out, very hot and we were grateful for some shade and areas where we could feel the breeze. I didn’t have my camera, so everything was taken using the iphone. Not a bad set.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states. Tasks #31 and 31 ware Wasthington and Alaska respectively, when Mum and I went on the Alaskan cruise. I had to decide which state to use as task #33; on the roadtrip from Chicago to Portland and back I visited 7 new states: nebraska, wyoming, utah, idaho, oregon, montana, south dakota. Nebraska was a drive through, wyoming had yellowstone, utah had salt lake, idaho had twin falls, oregon had portland, montana had part of yellowstone and an interesting prison museum. I decided on south dakota, the last new state, because of: a) it’s a state I’d never expected to have the opportunity to visit and b) there were so many things to see.

Trip posts: deadwood and crazy horse, mount rushmore, bear country, badlands | flickr sets: deadwood, mount rushmore, bear country, badlands

We stayed in a motel straight out of the 1950s called dakota cowboy inn:


ate buffalo steak:


visited Deadwood, a wild west gold rush town with a dubious history, which it tries to maintain today:


got a rock from the crazy horse mountain, knowing that the monument won’t be completed in our lifetime:


suitably awed by the mount rushmore national monument:


drove amongst bears at bear country:


and entered an alien landscape at badlands national park:


in 101.1001 , being healthy , eating and drinking , going places |

sd121winery sd127winery

Task #63 of 101 in 1001 is to go to a wine/beer/whisky tasting. This was at prairie berry winery located between deadwood and custer in south dakota.

The first sign for the winery was a large poster of a red donkey, words that said “red ass rhubarb wine” and encouragements to turn here. The large main room served as a combination of shop, caf&233; and two long bars facilitated tasting. By no means a sit down tasting, each visitor could taste 5 small samples free of charge.


I was given a form to indicate my choice of 5. There were three main types and the prices were also helpfully included:

  • crab apple — semi-dry white with a tart aftertaste, good clean finish
  • gold digger — made from 100% pear, quite sweet like riesling or gewurtztraminer I bought one as a gift and was lucky enough to taste it when she opened it
  • buffaloberry fusion — dry white, like chenin blanc, my least favourite
  • chokeberry medley — red, from chokeberry with some elderflower to combat the bitterness, but I could still taste the fruit’s skin
  • red ass rhubarb — 90% rhubarb with 10% raspberry, the winery’s most popular wine and it isn’t just because of the catchy name, it really is very good, I bought a bottle to try with mm

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

port077foodcart port073foodcart

Tasks #69-73 are to visit 5 new restaurants in 5 cities. This is 3 of 5, and instead of the traditional concept of a restaurant, I’m stretching the definition to include food carts in Portland because eating at food carts is a very Portland thing to do, with over 600 operating in the city.

The dictionary definition of restaurant is an:

establishment where refreshments or meals are served to paying guests

or quite simply:

a place where you can buy and eat a meal

Honestly, if Mcdonald’s is a restaurant, the far superior quality of food served at any of the portland food carts qualifies them as a restaurant. A group of food carts is called a pod and I visited a couple of them during my visit.

Visiting the food carts was definitely a too-many-choices situation. I was tempted by hawaiian, ethiopian, vegetarian, middle eastern, mexican, american barbeque and many others. Not tempted by the korean, chinese and japanese carts though.

port085lunch port187lunch

Visited on 2 consecutive days. The first day I had dumplings, stuffed flatbread and salad from a georgian cart, the second day I was really hungry and went for a 4 cheese grilled cheese sandwich washed down with a vietnamese iced tea.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states. #31 was Washington, this is the second one, I went to Alaska.

Alaska is the biggest state and one that is on many, many bucket lists. I read several books set in Alaska and the theme is very similar—city slicker goes to Alaska, has adventures, falls in love with the environment, perhaps even fall in love with someone living in Alaska, ends up moving there. And no wonder, the scenery is fabulous and it’s so peaceful. That said, it can be rough, lonely, cold and living standards isn’t as high as the US mainland leading to a high crime rate. So there are romantic notions, but reality may be very different.

It’s all moot anyway, I was only there as a tourist. Going on an Alaskan cruise is also on many, many bucket lists. We did a roundtrip from Seattle to the Inside Passage and saw the usual places: Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan.

There was water in its liquid form:


Water in its solid form:


There were whales:


and bald eagles:


and we ate a lot of delicious king crab:


The Inside Passage is only a small sliver of the state, there is still vast areas of Alaska worth exploring. Definitely worth returning.

posts: Juneau | Skagway | Glacier Bay | ketchikan
flickr sets: set 1 | set 2

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |


Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states—visit, as in stop, go to places, photograph and experience as opposed to drive through. This is the first one, where I visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time.

I travelled to Seattle via Vancouver with mum to go on an Alaskan cruise. Got there a couple of days beforehand as we’d never visited that part of the US before. Saw Pike Place Market, Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass. People say it rains a lot in Seattle; aside from a little rain in the morning, we had really good weather so no complaints.

The highlight was definitely Chihuly garden. Well worth the price of the combo ticket with Space Needle. On the whole I liked Seattle (notwithstanding the homeless behind Pike Place market). It’s relaxed, pretty and doesn’t have the manic busy feel of New York or LA. They have fresh seafood at Pike Place market, access to great wines from Washington state and Oregon plus lots of craft beer choices. If I were a coffee drinker, it’s a big coffee city too.

Full writeup: here | flickr set: here

in 101.1001 , arts and media , challenges |

As soon as I read about Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle as part of our cruise research, I knew it was a must visit. Situated next to the iconic Space Needle, the museum is a showcase for the works of glass artist Dale Chihuly. I remember seeing the glass ceiling at the Bellagio in Vegas and thought it was brilliant.


The museum is organised into separate galleries that holds pieces that are colourful, intricate and breath-taking in detail. The first gallery has an early piece, Glass Forest, with vertical blown glass lit by neon. Just beyond features a room with an American Indian feel, of large glass bowls/ baskets and a tapestry made from blankets.


Then it’s the sealife room with a huge tower of blue seaweed and golden sea creatures hidden in the swirling mass.


The Persian Ceiling gallery had flowers in all colours suspended from the ceiling. Lighting effect brings the colour to the walls and floor of the room. This was the first room where I felt a big wow.

The next gallery was even more wow-worthy. Called Mille Fiori, Italian for a thousand flowers, it was like a big garden where everywhere you looked there was something new, something to study and discover. Many different shapes including spheres and stalks and leaves. There was just enough messiness for it to feel like it was based on a real garden.


Talking about spheres the next gallery was all about them. The Ikebana and float boat had perfectly formed glass spheres apparently inspired by blowing glass into a river in Finland. After the large hectic garden, this felt more peaceful as if the rowing boats were really floating on a river.


The small room next had chandeliers, and it brought us to the Macchia Forest. The pieces shaped like bowls were actually very technical in terms of colour. Instead of simple solid colours or patterns, there were unexpected specks scattered in the glass made by rolling the molten glass in other pieces of coloured shards before blowing. Truly great.

sea313chihuly sea316chihuly

The second part of the museum was the outside garden. The Glasshouse, the centrepiece of the museum, dominated the garden. A 40-foot tall conservatory with a 100-foot long piece in autumn colours. Seen from the right, the Space Needle loomed over it through the glass panels of the glasshouse.


And then we reached the garden, with a mixture of real plants and glass plants. A new vista at every angle and every perspective. Many of the spheres reflected the Space Needle in the background, giving a different backdrop.

A great find, a great museum, so happy we visited.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

sea009fivepoint sea010fivepoint
sea012fivepoint sea011fivepoint

Tasks #69-73 are to visit five new restaurants in five different cities. This is the second one.

Mum and I got to Seattle after flying to Vancouver and driving down. By the time we checked into our hotel, got settled and everything it was too late to venture downtown. The friendly cashier at the nearby Walgreens directed us to the 5 point café which is somewhere between a diner and a bar. I had chicken fried steak and Mum had the steak dinner. Large portions and even though we were pretty hungry after our long day we couldn’t finish the large mound of mash that came with each dish. The food tasted okay, no complaints.

They also had nice craft beers, I had two: a Maritime Pacific dark and an amusingly named Northwest Crazy Bitch IPA. The bill came to $50 including tips.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


Task #21 of 101 in 1001 is to reach a total of 20,001 photos on my flickr account.

Considering the start count was 18,555, this was always going to be an easy task especially since I’ve already been on several trips since the beginning of 101.1001. But silly me, I forgot to keep track of exactly which photo was #20,001 so I had to backtrack and count. The page numbering system on flickr is currently broken but I think this is the one. This was at kushidori yakitori restaurant, of the young chef tendering our precious skewers of food.

in 101.1001 , challenges , on the relationship front |


This is a combination of #84 of 101 in 1001, a new activity with mm and #22 of 30 in 30, to give thanks at 11.11.

Woke up early to go to mass with mm, I should try to go to mass at least at Easter and Christmas. We then lunch with her family before driving out to the NW, to a couple of places near Deep Bay.

First was Lau Fau Shan, which is famous for its dried fish and oysters. The oysters can’t be eaten raw, they are either braised, barbequed or deep fried. Quite a rich flavour and texture, great for snacks since we weren’t hungry.

About 20-25 minutes’ drive along a narrow winding and surprisingly busy road was Ha Pak Nai, just a tiny village with some fishing ponds and a couple of houses. A muddy path led to marshes at the bay, and quite a lot of people had gathered there to watch the sunset.

It was a hazy day, but we were still able to catch some of the sunset. It was a nice evening, not too hot yet and a little romantic. The first time we’d gone specially to watch a sunset. Went back to her place to watch Sherlock. I looked up and it was 11.11pm, sometimes it works this way. Perfect way to end Easter Sunday.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

sap260hanamaru sap264hanamaru

Tasks #69-73 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This counts as the first one.

After an extraordinary busy day of travelling that brought us from jozankei to nikka distillery to otaru to sapporo, we checked into our airbnb apartment and thought about where to go for dinner. We had researched and seen the queues at the famous hanamaru conveyor belt sushi restaurant and thought we should see if the queue was a reasonable size. And because it was already past 8.30pm, there were only about half a dozen people in the line.

sap269order1 sap274order2

There is good reason why there is a permanent queue outside. The food is fantastic. Fresh and simply delicious. We asked for an english menu and quickly figured out how to order like a local. We had uni, squid, ikura, ikura soy, crab roe, salmon, blue fin tuna, medium tuna, scallop — total stack of 14 plates. It was a feast.

in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |


Task #2 in 101 in 1001 is to get a new idevice. Originally I thought it’d be an iphone 6 or later, seeing that my iphone is 3 years old. Then my kindle stopped charging. Nothing wrong with the battery, I just wasn’t able to get the pin to connect to the jack, something inside seems to have shifted and no amount of wriggling or even turning the device upside down could get the parts to click together. It seems to be a common problem with many complaints and a repair that involves taking it apart and soldering the jack to the motherboard.

I could claim that the kindle problem is an excuse, but it isn’t really. I was always going to get an ipad mini, it was just a matter of time and which generation. I was gonna get it at Christmas but never got round to it. Now this is supposed to be an early birthday present from parents and sis. I paid for it myself, I’m sure they will reimburse me.

First order of business, make sure I have epub versions of my ebooks. I usually buy in epub format, even when I only had the kindle — I would just convert to azw in calibre. But it wasn’t as easy as just uploading the epubs into ibooks. I have to complain to publishers one of these days, there are 2 things I really hate that they do: a) what possess them to add tags to their books? If I want tags, I’ll add them myself. Plus having tags for “science fiction,” “sci-fi,” “sci fi,” “science fiction fantasy” and all the different permutations by different publishers is NOT helpful; and b) do they think I am stupid when they automatically give their books 5 stars?

The least said about the DRM on kindle books, the better. Hate. That’s why unfortunately I don’t have books by authors who are primarily only available at amazon.

The most time consuming part of setting up is to get the apps in. To stay consistent, the ipad has the same apps and the same layout as the iphone. There are a couple of apps that are iphone only, and of course there is no phone on the ipad. If there is an ipad version, I went through the trouble of downloading it.

So far, works like a dream. Reading is just as good, and it’s a lighter and thinner device so a plus. I have to start games from the beginning, which is a good thing, I like going back to level 1 on angry birds and making my way through the series.

in 101.1001 , challenges , money business |


Task #78 of 101 in 1001 is to have a money-free weekend.

Which is easy to achieve by simplly staying at home. There was enough food at parents’ place to last a while, and I made glazed chicken wings and ribs for dinner on saturday night. Instead of running outside I used the stationary bike. Most of Saturday was spent reading.

Sunday I did research for the April trip to Hokkaido with mm. Put all notes and links in an evernote notebook, including hotel details, maps, things to do, restaurants, bars and transportation. What I don’t like is you can’t print a whole notebook, you have to print individual notes separately. I printed them to pdf them combined them into a master pdf document. Our accommodation is finalised — start with 2 nights at a regular hotel in Sapporo, then 2 nights at 2 different onsens in Jozankei (5 mins’ walk from each other, so no problem with transferring), then back to Sapporo for 3 nights at an apartment I found on airbnb. It’s the first time I used airbnb, last time in Kyoto it was the more established homeaway/VBRO. Looking forward to the food there — king and snow crab, fresh sashimi, uni, salmon roe, even the famous sweet melons. And of course our visit to Yoichi distillery.

I guess not going out was a sort of cheat’s forced way of having a money-freen weekend. Then again I could have gone on an online shopping spree. And of course there’s the overhead spending — electricity, utilities, food already in the fridge. There are loads of other ideas, I like ideas such as having a cupboard potluck, organising one’s finances / house / junk, pottering around at home and generally doing stuff that is more relaxing and simple. We could all do with a simple weekend.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #64-68 of 101 in 1001 : try 5 new whiskies. This is the second new one.

I finished the Ardbeg 10, which I exchanged for airmiles a few years ago, so I looked especially carefully at the Islay selection at Dubai when I was transiting there. May be Caol Ila, may be Lagavullin, may be stretch the category to island and get a Talisker. In the end, I couldn’t resist the temptation of Laphroaig PX Cask. I already have a bottle, so I bought one I won’t feel guilty at opening. Something like £60-70 I think.

First time I tasted PX was at Heathrow with RM when we were on our whisky binge that year. Heathrow didn’t have any in stock — it’d just been released and quickly snapped up — we eventually found them at Aberdeen airport.

This PX Cask has no age statement, but is distinguished by the type of wood casks it matured in, which seems to be a trend nowadays. It’s also duty free only, which seems also to be a trend. There are the regular single malts (10, 12, 18yrs) and then increasingly there are ones matured in various casks and carrying various special names. It’s hard to keep track. It follows the successful Quarter Cask and Triple Wood and sits on the duty free shelf together with the QA Cask.

I love Laphroaig. I love Islay whiskies anyway, and have very fond memories of the fantastic distillery tour. While the likes of Bowmore don’t even let you photograph inside the distillery, at Laphroaig we were encouraged to stick our fingers into the spirit safe to sample the freshly distilled spirit. What a difference. The tasting at Laphroaig was also memorable.

It’s no secret also that I prefer sweet, sherry-cask matured whiskies. This is a lovely combination of Laphroaig peat and top notch Pedro Ximenez (hence PX) sherry cask. 48%, which is what I like too. The smoke is heavier on the nose than the palate, which is smooth with vanilla and not too strong caramel.

Mixed online reviews. Some feel it’s too young and not peaty enough. Some like the sherry taste. No different from many whiskies, there will be people who like it, and people who don’t. I don’t have the most recent book by Mr Murray, so I don’t know if he has a view on it.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #29 in 101 in 1001 is to visit a new country. Israel makes it new country #2 of 3 for this challenge.

jer027oldcity jer102sepulchre

I never planned on visiting Israel. Never thought I’d have the chance. Yes, I know people who have gone on pilgrimages to the holyland, but those are not for me. I’m not Jewish, nor is Israel on a layover route.

I’m so glad I got the chance to visit. To me, Jerusalem is holy. To be immersed in so much spirituality and so many places that are mentioned in the Bible, it’s impossible not to be moved. The old city, the wailing wall, the church of the holy sepulchre, the different atmospheres in the different quarters. Probably too risky to visit on our own, but part of me wanted longer at the holy sites.


In contrast, Haifa was a pretty port with a world heritage hanging garden. Great to spend half a day because there wasn’t an excursion to the Dead Sea. Like the saying goes, Jerusalem prays, Tel Avia plays and Haifa works. It’s true.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #28 in 101.1001 is to visit a new country. As part of the cruise, I visited Greece for the first time.

There are a few places I’m surprised I hadn’t visited, or taken me so long. Spain, Portugal, Greece, the land of packaged holidays (may be that’s why). But Greece’s history and significance means it has to be visited, someday, somehow.

gre054olympia gre165shop

First stop was ancient Olympia. Coming 2 years after personally attending the Olympics, and in the middle of a WInter Games, it’s poignant. I was surprised at the sheer size of the site, imagine the thousands upon thousands of spectators cheering their champions. Sports has changed a lot since then of course, and Olympia will forever have its place in sports history.

Second stop, Heraklion in Crete. No time other than to go to the market and do shopping. The market was fascinating, a mix of tourist shops and local shops. We bought €1 coin holders at a local shop, went to a supermarket, then doubled back to a touristy shop to buy ouzo, spices and typical souvenirs. There are other sights on Crete, hopefully I get a second chance.

gre325parthenon gre358view

Third stop, Athens. And to stand in front of possibly the most important structure in the history of earth. The parthenon was obscured by a giant crane and it was an awful rainy windy day, but its grandeur was no less diminished.

I thought what I saw and experienced was only the tiniest tip of what Greece has to offer. There wasn’t even an opportunity to have a sit down meal, I consider it luck to have at least tried a few pastries and a souvlaki to take away. It’s not merely checking the country off on a list, I really hope I get another chance to visit and see the sights as they are meant to be seen.

use 1 mar as post date

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |


Task #38 of 101 in 1001 is go on a cruise. This was carried forward from the 2007 challenge; in those days we hadn’t started our cruise career.

I finally finished uploading 860 pics and writing up the entire cruise. I have different feelings after this cruise than after the Norway cruise. I loved the Norway cruise, the fjords, the mountains, Bergen, Oslo — all places I wanted to go to and enjoyed going. I was oddly indifferent going into this cruise, even though the itinerary was stunning — Greek islands, Athens, Jerusalem, Rome — all the classics and so many important world heritage sites. I think I was just (correctly) dreading how frustrated I would be because of the lack of decisions and therefore the need for me to be free tour guide throughout.

Anyway, enough complaining. You get given such a chance to travel, make the best of it. And aside from family frustrations, the places we visited were definitely awe-inspiring. Highlights for me: running at the athletics stadium in ancient Olympia, touching the spot where Jesus was born in Bethlehem, everything in Jerusalem, stepping on the marbles at the Acropolis.

Posts for the trip:

flickr sets:
msc fantasia
greece: katakolon, heraklion, athens
holyland: jerusalem, bethlehem, haifa

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Day 100 into 101 in 1001. According to the official list I have completed and written up 25 tasks, but because it’s so close to the end of the trip, there are a few I hadn’t written up yet so the unofficial count is 29.

    technology — need to get some of these done
  1. upgrade macOS at least once
  2. get a new idevice — the plan was to get an ipad mini at christmas but I’d been dragging my feet so I may wait for the next iteration
  3. become proficient at Evernote — what is proficiency? using it daily? if so, then this is completed
  4. complete an online course
  5. 1001 posts on website (start count=3,775) — 102 done so far

  6. arts, media, books
  7. visit an art exhibition / museum**
  8. new musical — wonder what’s showing in Chicago this summer?
  9. old musical
  10. use my library card** // done 12-feb-2014
  11. read 101 books — 32 read so far, so definitely on target
  12. finish a book in one day // done 20-jan-2014
  13. finish all the Harry Potter books** // done 10-jan-2014
  14. read Mythology for Dummies**

  15. writing
  16. nano 2014
  17. nano 2015
  18. finish Lamplight (seriously, get this done, no excuse) — technically it’s done, just need to edit it a bit
  19. outline book ideas — on track
  20. design a book cover — have idea, just need to execute which is easier said than done as I’m not good at art
  21. write a short story

  22. photography
  23. 1001 instagram/vine/snapchat total (start count: instagram 452+vine 1 = 453) — 102 done
  24. 20,001 flickr photos total (start count=18,555) — will get above 19,000 once trip pics are uploaded
  25. complete a photo challenge using a photo app (was lomo)** // done 12-dec-2013
  26. complete an alphabet photo series // done 12-dec-2013
  27. try one of the challenges on // done 18-feb-2014
  28. tues’ assignment: find colour in an unusual place**

  29. travel
  30. make a list of 101 landmarks and notable places visited // done 06-feb-2014
  31. make a list of 101 places to visit // done 07-feb-2014
  32. 3 new countries**: 1. should add greece
  33. 2: should add israel
  34. 3: not sure if I should add palestine, its status as a country is controversial
  35. 3 new US states**: 1.
  36. 2:
  37. 3:
  38. make a list of World Heritage sites visited // done 09-jan-2014
  39. 3 new World Heritage sites: 1. greece — archeological site of olympia (23-feb-2014) and acropolis athens (01-mar-2014) // done
  40. 2: israel — old city of jerusalem and its walls (26-feb-2014) and baha’i holy places in haifa and western galilee (27-feb-2014) // done
  41. 3: palestine — birthplace of Jesus church of the nativity and the pilgrimage route bethlehem (26-feb-2014) // done
  42. go on a cruise** — definitely done this, need to write it up

  43. health/sports
  44. run/walk/bike 1001 miles — 177 miles done
  45. complete the walk to mordor challenge — 1779 miles from Hobbiton to Mt Doom (bonus return trip 1625 miles from Minas Tirith to Bags End) — 177 done, long way to go!
  46. break a running PR
  47. db bench PR
  48. 101 crunches — up to 50
  49. 101 squats — up to 50
  50. take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class**
  51. go rock-climbing (real or wall)**

  52. food & drink
  53. make a list and photoset of 101 bucket list foods already tried — list is done, need to get pics
  54. eat an insect
  55. 10 new recipes: 1. lebkuchen // done 16-dec-2013
  56. 2: chocolate log // done 24-dec-2013
  57. 3: baked cheesecake // done 23-jan-2014
  58. 4: roast belly pork // done 04-feb-2014
  59. 5: roasted cabbage // done 09-feb-2014
  60. 6:
  61. 7:
  62. 8:
  63. 9:
  64. 10:
  65. make vanila extract — just need to gather ingredients
  66. open a cookbook to a random page and make whatever comes up — have an idea
  67. plan, make and serve a three-course meal, with wine** — in planning stage
  68. make a cocktail // done 31-dec-2013
  69. go to a wine/beer/whisky tasting**
  70. 5 new whiskies (bonus if they are in 101 whiskies book): 1. auchentoshan three wood // done 22-dec-2013
  71. 2:
  72. 3:
  73. 4:
  74. 5:
  75. 5 new restaurants in 5 cities**: 1.
  76. 2:
  77. 3:
  78. 4:
  79. 5:

  80. home & finance
  81. put away $10 (or equivalent) for each goal achieved — $250, pretty good
  82. set aside $1 for each goal achieved and donate to charity - $25, I wonder if I can get people to match
  83. make a will**
  84. build net worth calculator // done 21-dec-2013
  85. money-free weekend
  86. invest in a kickstarter-type project — invested, waiting for product to be made and shipped

  87. family
  88. scan 101 family pictures
  89. 3 new places/activities with family: 1. gingerbread house // done 12-jan-2014
  90. 2:
  91. 3:
  92. 3 new places/activities with mm: 1.
  93. 2:
  94. 3:

  95. personal
  96. make a list of 101 things already achieved — sort of done
  97. make a list and photoset of 101 favourite things — this is proving to be more difficult
  98. make a 101 someday list // done 06-dec-2013
  99. leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find
  100. take pictures of all my hard rock café polo shirts** // done 13-dec-2013
  101. count how many swatches I have** // done 14-dec-2013
  102. make a font from my handwriting // done 04-jan-2014
  103. pack a go bag — in planning stage

  104. 7 things: this is another dayzero project — an alternative to boring new years’ resolutions
  105. learn how to…rocher (single spoon quenelle)
  106. start…drinking more water
  107. stop…using as much salt and substitute with herbs & spices
  108. take a vacation to…one of the 101 travel wishlist places (see #27) — done, need to write it up
  109. find…a race and train for it — found the race, need to train
  110. try…meditation
  111. be more…grateful and patient with family

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Tasks #35, 36, 37 in 101 in 1001 are to visit 3 new world heritage sites.

The cruise actually took me to 5 (new ones, vatican and rome have already been checked off the list), so I’ll group by country. More detailed description in daily cruise trip reports.

cruise001olympia cruise002parthenon

#35 greece: a) archeological site of olympia, visited 23-feb-2014. This was where the ancient olympic games were held and some of the temples as well as the stadium ruins remain; b) acropolis athens, visited 01-mar-2014. One of the most important historical sites in world history, with the parthenon and the erechtheion both still standing

cruise003westwall cruise004crucifix

#35 israel: a) old city of jerusalem and its walls, visited 26-feb-2014. The prayers at the wailing wall, the ancient via dolorosa (road of sorrows) that traced Jesus’ path up to his crucifixion, the church of the holy sepulchre which marked the crucifix and tomb. Very crowded, but still very significant and powerful;


b) baha’i holy places in haifa and western galilee, the baha’i hanging gardens at haifa visited 27-feb-2014, although only from the outside as we didn’t go inside to the shrines


#37 palestine: birthplace of Jesus church of the nativity and the pilgrimage route bethlehem, visited 26-feb-2014. Going into bethlehem involved crossing the border into palestine-held west bank. We were able to squeeze into the church before it closed for service and there was a scrum down to the grotto. It did not take away the emotions that came with touching the spot where Jesus was born.

in 101.1001 , challenges , photography is life |


Task #24 in 101 in 1001 is to try a challenge at They take photography very seriously and post weekly challenges aimed at stretching participants’ photography skills. The submissions are great, and even though I joined their flickr and facebook groups, I’ve felt too imtimidated by the quality of work there to attempt myself. They also encourage submissions of work taken during that week, and sometimes I don’t have time or am in the right place to participate.

The challenge in week 7 is still life: camera. And because we are preparing for our trip next week, we have cameras on our mind. I asked my dad if his old camera is still easily reachable, and it is! Just hiding at the back of his wardrobe.

The camera is a Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35S and it’s older than me. Fully manual, and still in its now very stiff leather casing. The protective UV lens is fogged up and useless now, but is easily replaced. It’s taken all our childhood photos, and I remember my dad lugging it around with us. It’s less heavy than I remember, probably because to a young child, it would have felt quite heavy. I still have a few rolls of 35mm film in my freezer, so I may play around with the camera one of these days.

Not much still life composition or special lighting or background to speak of. Just natural light from the window onto the desk in my room, which thankfully is a neutral grey colour. Ideally I’d use my big camera, but it’s at my place so I’m stuck with the s110.

The one I ended up submitting is the one with camera and paraphrenalia scattered around, supposedly tastefully. I also took a couple from traditional angles.

icarexcamera02 icarexcamera03

I uploaded to their flickr group, not confident enough to upload to their fb group yet, I think people on flickr are more welcoming and tolerant than on fb. May be it’s just perception. Hopefully I get some good comments.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |


Task #9 in 101 in 1001 challenge is to use my library card. This is carried over from the 2007 challenge, mainly because I was working and travelling and moving countries during those 1001 days that I never got round to using libraries.

Going with parents and family friends on a cruise next week. Cruise #3 for us. Itinerary is Greece (Olympia, Crete, Athens), Israel (Haifa with shore excursions to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Dead Sea possible), Italy (Rome). Time to do some research.

Mostly, I research online and summarise my findings in evernote. Additional research for cruises is always necessary because some ports are not next to town. The cruise company obviously hardsells their excursions, but personally I hate the cattle herding feel of guided tours. Interesting to read cruise forums, most people are not DIYers, I would say they err very much on the safe and timid side. I guess it’s the sort of people who go on cruises a lot.

That said, I’m travelling with 4 seniors, so that needs to be factored in.

Guidebooks are useful, and have lots more information than a webpage. Afterall, they’ve done the research already. The problem is that guidebooks become outdated and there’s a limit to how many you can buy and carry.

Sometime during my stay in London, when I was making lots of small trips, I started getting guidebooks from the library. I’d get a few before a trip and may be bring one with me during the trip. It has worked absolute wonders, and I’m so glad libraries stock such a great selection of travel books.

These are from the small local library. Also came with maps, which is super helpful. I find it’s easy to borrow English books here, even in a small library like this one. It’s the minority language afterall. I have to go to a bigger library to find an Israel guidebook though. Off to start reading…

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #53 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 5 of 10 new recipe.

I was making honey soy chicken wings (strictly speaking, also a new recipe — marinade chicken wings in soy sauce, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard, olive oil and roast at 180°C for 30mins) and was looking in the fridge for vegetables. Found a small cabbage, perfect. Normally I’d be boring and just boil it, but anyone who has ever suffered school lunches will have dire recollections of overboiled cabbage and brussels sprouts. Speaking of brussels sprouts, my favourite method is to roast them at high heat with olive oil and lots of salt so the edges of the leaves are almost charred. I was sure this method also works for cabbage.

Yep. Recipe from thekitchn, who recommended roasting cabbage wedges with bacon. They were positively gushing about the end result,

the high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped into the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside

Wash cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have wilted. Cut the whole cabbage in to quarters, remove some of the core and cut in half again, ending up with 8 wedges. Roughly cut up 4 bacon rashers and sprinkle on cabbage wedges. Drizzle olive oil and season with pepper and mixed herbs (no salt). Roast at 180°C for about 30mins until slightly charred.


I now know the reason behind the gushing. It was crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside, none of the boiled cabbage smell or flavour. The bacon was a perfect accompaniment — the bacon I found in the fridge wasn’t crispy American bacon or meaty British back bacon but something in between that is ham-like and didn’t render a lot of fat — still worked okay with the dish.

I don’t think I’ll ever make boiled cabbage again, roasting was so simple and so delicious. Served it with the equally successful chicken wings and some cheese grits I found in the cupboard. See, I don’t always eat strange food.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #27 of 101 in 1001 challenge is to list 101 wishlist travel places and experiences. I have deliberately left some places vague. For example, burma or baltic states: i want to visit, I don’t have specific itineraries or destinations in mind. Activities, then by country (** world heritage):

    Barges on the Canal du Midi at Argeliers 2
    image courtesy flickr user DBarefoot

  1. activity: cycling holiday
  2. activity: canal boat norfolk broads, provence or portugal
  3. activity: clam/abalone fishing
  4. activity: cookery class france, italy or thailand
  5. activity: go into space
  6. activity: marathon/ destination race
  7. activity: ski in canada or usa
  8. activity: ski in japan
  9. activity: ski in norway
  10. activity: sports game, baseball, basketball, cricket, rugby
  11. activity: stand on the tropic of capricorn
  12. albania
  13. antarctica: cruise or visit, this will make it 7 continents
  14. argentina/brazil: iguazu falls and national park**
  15. austria: concert at wien musikverein
  16. australia: great barrier reef**
  17. australia: tasmania

  18. Pinnacles Desert Nambung National Park Western Australia
    image courtesy flickr user iansand

  19. australia: western australia food and wine country, pinnacles desert, nambung national park
  20. baltic region: estonia, latvia, lithuania
  21. bhutan / nepal (kathmandu**)
  22. bolivia
  23. brazil: amazon rain forest
  24. cambodia: angkor, siam reap area, kampong fishing villages
  25. canada: poutine in old quebec
  26. canada: vancouver and other parts of BC
  27. caribbean island
  28. central asia: azerbaijan, georgia
  29. chile/argentina: patagonia region
  30. chile: easter island

  31. Huangshan 黄山 - View from Flying-over rock 飞来石
    image courtesy flickr user Kwong Yee Cheng

  32. china: anhui hongcun ancient village (安徽宏村), huangshan (黄山)
  33. china: sichuan jiuzhaigou (四川九寨沟)
  34. china: terracotta army xian
  35. christmas markets in europe
  36. croatia: old city of dubrovnik**
  37. cuba: sip rum and smoke a cigar in havana**
  38. egypt: pyramids**
  39. finland: dog sledding
  40. finland: northern lights and lakes
  41. france: brittany
  42. france: long stay at provence, camargue
  43. france: wine tasting
  44. germany: brandenberg gate
  45. germany: oktoberfest in munich
  46. gibraltar
  47. greece: acropolis athens**

  48. Santorini Cliffs
    image courtesy flickr user andos_pics

  49. greece: santorini, island hop
  50. greenland
  51. india: taj mahal agra**
  52. indonesia: bali
  53. iceland: blue lagoon, surtsey**
  54. israel: holy jerusalem**
  55. israel/jordan: swim in the dead sea
  56. italy: assisi**
  57. italy: carnivale at venice
  58. italy: mount etna and pompeii**
  59. italy: south coast campania, calabria, puglia regions

  60. Tuscany Cipresses
    image courtesy flickr user maarten van hoof

  61. italy: tuscany
  62. japan: cherry blossom festival
  63. japan: hiroshima peace memorial**
  64. japan: hitachi seaside park hitachinaka, ibaraki prefecture
  65. japan: ice breaking ship and sapporo ice festival hokkaido
  66. jordan: petra rock structure**
  67. korea: jeju volcanic island**
  68. malaysia: penang
  69. mali: timbuktu
  70. malta: valletta**
  71. mexico: chichen-itza**
  72. mexico: drink tequila, eat real mexican food
  73. myanmar
  74. norway: hurtigruten cruise
  75. norway: north to svalbard, lofoten islands, finnmark

  76. Trolltunga Hike
    image courtesy flickr user aram k

  77. norway: trolltunga overhanging rock
  78. pacific island: tahiti, fiji, samoa, png
  79. peru: try cuy
  80. peru: historic sanctury of machu picchu**
  81. portugal: aveiro canals
  82. russia: st petersburg, kremlin and red square moscow**
  83. sahara: sleep in the desert with bedouins
  84. seychelles: beaches
  85. south africa
  86. spain: barcelona (works of gaudi)**
  87. spain: san sebastian 3-star restaurants
  88. spain: coastal regions
  89. sweden: stay at the ice hotel
  90. switzerland: geneva (seriously)
  91. taiwan: bike around sun moon lake
  92. tanzania: kilamanjaro national park**
  93. tanzania: wildebeest migration
  94. thailand: songkran (water festival) or loi krathong (floating flowers festival)
  95. tunisia: star wars canyon
  96. turkey: grand bazaar istanbul**
  97. turkey: step between asia and europe
  98. ukraine: klevan tunnel of love
  99. vietnam: halong bay, danang, dalat
  100. vietnam: pho at a street stall
  101. uk: distillery on scotland mainland
  102. usa: alaska
  103. usa: grand canyon national park**, antelope national park or any other national park
  104. usa: new orleans
  105. usa: one world trade center
  106. usa: pacific northwest

in 101.1001 , going places |

Task #26 of 101 in 1001 challenge: make a list of landmarks visited and travel things done. I’ve included destinations on typical bucket lists as well as some things I’ve done. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to see, experience and live in all these places. (** means a World Heritage site.)

  1. 3 countries in a day — drove from alsace france to schaffhausen switzerland, the route home to zurich took us through germany; also drove through lichtenstein to get from switzerland to austria, those countries are so near each other
  2. abbey road zebra crossing — it’s up the road from my flat; hate the tourists who cross and re-cross that zebra crossing causing traffic to standstill, they also stand like stupid idiots on the entire pavement, how is anyone supposed to walk past them *smh
  3. an aquarium — sydney aquarium was an uexpected find, and was surprisingly fabulous
  4. backstage at the theatre — my friend took me to visit her friend who was working backstage at wicked chicago, it was (pun intended) wicked

  5. places005bangkok

  6. bangkok floating market — interesting experience, have to get up early in the morning to go, the sales pitch can get pushy
  7. bath** — to think i almost ended up going to college there, the roman baths and the georgian architecture make it a worthwhile destination
  8. beijing: great wall of china** — part of a tour with parents, all I remember is that it was overcrowded with unruly people and a tourist trap
  9. beijing: imperial palace, summer palace** — it’s probably changed a lot since I last viisted
  10. beijing: tiananmen square — is as big as you see on tv
  11. burj al-arab dubai — didn’t stay or go inside because they charged a fee, just stopped and took pictures from the gate
  12. channel tunnel — drove through it, took eurostar

  13. praha133charles places013gruyere

  14. charles bridge prague — yes there are touristy stalls all along the bridge, but between the view of the river and the holy statues there are spots of great beauty
  15. cheese producing place — cheddar with its gorge and the pretty, pretty village of gruyeres
  16. christmas market in germany — lots of seasonal and traditional stalls in the huge square in munich
  17. christmas tree at rockerfeller center — that was the last year of the millennium 1999
  18. chicago architectural boat tour — my frist visit to chicago
  19. cruise the mediterranean — barcelona->tunis->palermo->rome->genoa->marseille

  20. mpchi055dinosaurs

  21. dinosaurs at the field museum chicago — wow, wow, wow
  22. dinosaurs at the natural history museum london — a bit faded now, and last time I went was under construction
  23. disney park #1: disneyland LA in the 1980s
  24. disney park #2: disneyland paris in the 1990s
  25. disney park #3: tokyo disneyland in the late 1990s - early 2000s
  26. disney park #4: hong kong disney in the 2000s
  27. disney park #5: walt disney world orlando 2009-2011
  28. distillery: bourbon trail kentucky — drove down from chicago, visited 8 distilleries
  29. distillery: scotch whisky — islay over the long easter weekend, visited almost all the distilleries
  30. distillery: world whisky: yamazaki at the beginning of our kansai trip

  31. nz0551minus nz1610zorb

  32. drinks at an ice bar — queenstown new zealand, at a place called 5-degree
  33. extreme sport 1 — did one run in a zorb in new zealand
  34. extreme sport 2 — paragliding at pattaya beach, just for about 5-10mins, the most enduring memory was how quiet it was up there
  35. fjords norway** — waking up and seeing that we’d cruised into geirangerfjord and then walking around the village was one of the highlights of the cruise

  36. places032azur

  37. france: côte d’azur — drove from zurich, stayed at nice, pebble beach at cannes, beautiful coast
  38. france: paris sights — eiffel tower, champs elysée, place de la concorde, notre dame, sacre coeur, le louvre (the mona lisa is smaller than expected and hidden behind hordes of people and a thick, thick glass case), musée d’orsay, seine cruise
  39. france: provence — no wonder people want to spend all of their holidays there, or move there entirely
  40. gamble in las vegas — mostly slots
  41. gamble in macau — slots too and i think some craps, hated the smoke
  42. glacier — franz josef glacier new zealand, probably one of the top 3 best experiences in my life, we took a helicopter up to the glacier, had a 3 hour walk and helicopter down
  43. glass floor up high — cn tower in toronto
  44. greenwich meridian (part of maritime greenwich**) — one foot on either side of GMT, fun
  45. ground zero nyc — just a year before 9/11 I was a new yorker, it was too close to home and i still feel so sad about it
  46. guinness in dublin — the guinness factory is the #1 attraction in dublin but more of a touristy museum, the admission included the oppotunity to pull and enjoy your own pint (bonus: jameson and redbreast in dublin too)
  47. hawaii — went when I was quite young so I don’t have many memories aside from pristine beaches
  48. hawker centre singapore — so much food, so little time

  49. hkhome005nightview

  50. hong kong — it’s on some people’s bucket list, stuff like peak tram, normal tram, star ferry, big buddha, night markets; i can also see part of the symphony of lights from my living room
  51. hot spring — onsen hotel in japan, hokkaido and shirahama. cameras are not allowed but i took some during the day when the onsen was empty
  52. independence day fireworks at the mall washington dc — wow
  53. japan bullet train — we travelled from tokyo to the fuji mountain area on the shinkasen
  54. kangaroo and koala in australia — just petted them, didn’t hold the koala, do people realise how stinky they are?
  55. kyoto temples and palaces** — beauty, tranquility, dignity
  56. lavender fields — farm tomita at furano japan
  57. legoland — the one at windsor with sis and gis
  58. little mermaid copenhagen — smaller than expected
  59. loch ness — no, there is no monster there, only a very pretty highland landscape
  60. london — it is one of the most important cities in the world, and so much to do. did the touristy stuff but what i see when i think about london are the parks, the markets, the architecture, restaurants, pubs, theatre, museums, street performers, the history and the people

  61. places055lendl places055martina

  62. major sporting event — went to wimbledon, the players that day included ivan lendl, martina navratilova, chris everett, those days a ground ticket got us into court 2
  63. maze — completed the maze at hampton court
  64. monaco grand prix — drove part of the grand prix circuit in a volvo estate — okay, the monaco grand prix circuit is basically the roads in and around monte carlo so anyone can do that but still, I can say I’ve been to monte carlo
  65. museum of modern art nyc — enjoyed it very much, even though not a big art or museum person
  66. new zealand — we were there for 2 weeks, it was nowhere near enough time

  67. mpngra002amfalls tor190falls

  68. niagara falls — has been on mum’s wishlist for a long time, so I made sure she got her wish
  69. niagara falls completely frozen — the entire waterfall was frozen, and some of the lake too, it was awesome

  70. aus012koala

  71. night safari — in singapore and australia, so different to be going around in pitch darkness and keeping very quiet
  72. olympic games — sigh, London 2012 Team GB. saw the torch, beach volleyball, archery, 2 diving finals, not forgetting the paralympics athletics, tennis, rugby, football, goalball and boccia, table tennis, fencing, volleyball
  73. outdoor concert event — hard rock calling london, lollapolooza chicago
  74. pisa — climbed to the top of the leaning tower, did not do the stupid tourist optical illusion of propping it up
  75. rome historical sites** — including colosseum, wedding cake (vittorio emanuele monument), spanish steps, trevi fountain
  76. safari — we went to the masai mara reserve in kenya — africa changes people, we saw giraffe, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, servor cat, baboon, monkey, zebra, rhino, wilderbeest, topi, gazelle, impala, hartbeest, eland, waterbuck, bushbuck, hyena, jackel, warthog, wild pig, mongoose, vulture, eagle, malibu, flamingo, pelican, ostrich, camel
  77. safari park — disney’s animal kingdom doesn’t count? anyway i’ve been to woburn and longleat
  78. san francisco — mission, haight/ashbury, the castro, lombard street, cable car, ferry building, fisherman’s wharf, golden gate bridge — personal motorbike tour

  79. ork181brodgar

  80. scottish island — the main purpose of going to orkney was to visit the highland park distillery but the rest of orkney blew us away (metaphorically and quite literally)
  81. sears tower — no, not willis tower, sorry, and not a tourist attraction for me cos the office was a few blocks away, visited the observation deck when i had visitors
  82. ski on fresh snow — sigh, beautiful, at st anton austria
  83. sleep in an airport — it was that epic journey 15hrs to JFK then the connection to ORD was cancelled and I slept overnight on the floor next to a vending maching at JFK. still no flights the next day so I rented a car and drove 16hrs to chicago
  84. sleep on a train — overnight sleeper from zurich via leipzig to prague with my friend ah tan, quite an old train, it said Deutsche Bahn but we thought it was an east german train 2001
  85. sleep under the stars — on safari in kenya; technically it was a tent, with beds and a basic ensuite bathroom; it was completely dark outside, we could hear animals in the wild and see the sky filled will stars
  86. smithsonian washington dc — awesome


  88. snow and beach together — visited chile, went skiing one day then to the beach another
  89. souk — the souk at tunis was part of a shore excursion and honestly we felt ripped off
  90. st peter’s vatican** — there is a chapel at the side for prayers only, this was my favourite place it was so quiet and spiritual
  91. stand on the equator — even got a certificate
  92. stand on the tropic of cancer — on the east coast of taiwan
  93. statue of liberty nyc** — we could climb all the way to the inside of the crown, a very cramped space with enough time for a quick look around and a picture
  94. stay in a capsule hotel — not quite as small as the ones in japan, I stayed at the yotel at heathrow a couple of times
  95. stay in a tatami room — our first choice in japan, if a hotel offers traditional vs western rooms, is to opt for the traditional tatami room
  96. stonehenge** — back then it wasn’t roped off and we could walk around the stone circles

  97. swiss alps — i left it till quite late in my switzerland residency to visit the matterhorn, drove over to zermatt, stayed overnight to see the mountain in the morning; also been to lauterbrunnen valley, skiing at st moritz, davos and a few other places on the mountains; spent christmas at murren, a hamlet accessible only via cable car, no cars, 2 streets
  98. swiss lakes — luzern, interlaken, thun, lugano not to mention lake zurich isn’t bad either
  99. switzerland panoramic train journeys — did glacier express and the train to jungfraujoch
  100. sydney opera house** — first time in 1999, then many subsequent visit
  101. times square on new year’s eve — okay, I cheated, I went during the afternoon of 31-dec-1999 and had a look-see before the crowds; at midnight at the end of the millenium I was at a rooftop party somewhere in east village NYC
  102. tokyo tsukiji fish market — tiny stalls with the freshest sushi, long queues but definitely worth the wait
  103. tree top walk — at the macritchie nature reserve singapore


  105. uk historical buildings — let’s see, buckingham palace, windsor castle, tower of london, parliament, westminster abbey, canterbury cathedral, leeds castle, hever castle, blenheim palace, woburn abbey, edinburgh castle, longleat house, too many to name
  106. uk museum: british museum, natural history museum, science museum, national gallery, national portrait museum, victoria & albert museum, the museums at greenwich, RAF museum at hendon
  107. vasa museum stockholm — the most visited museum in scandanavia and I can see why, lovingly restored the only remaining 17th century boat in the world
  108. venice** — there were the canals, the lagoon and the bridges, and crossing from one side of a canal to the other on the standing gondola. we also found small squares and wine bars just outside the hustle and bustle of the main tourist spots
  109. vienna historic centre** — who says the city of romance is paris, it should be vienna: from the cathedral to the opera house to the parks with graves of mozart, beethoven, strauss — small enough city for walking


  111. vineyard — australia, new zealand, alsace, chateauneuf-du-pape, sonoma valley, wine train chile
  112. waitamo caves new zealand — glow-worms, and our timing was so lucky
  113. whale and dolphin watching — kaikura new zealand
  114. wizarding world of harry potter at universal orlando — the dizzy hogwarts ride and butterbeer

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

roastbellypork01 roastbellypork03

Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.

The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.

Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.

Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.

Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.

I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


I usually make chilled cheesecake rather than baked, but after this one I think I’ll switch to baked. Recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course. I used blueberries instead of his raspberries.

500g cream cheese
150g sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp flour
zest of 1 lemon
200g blueberries

Mix cream cheese and sugar, add eggs a little at at time, then flour and the lemon zest. The mixture looked a bit thick at that point so I added the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir in the blueberries and transfer to baking tin. Tap firmly to get rid of air bubbles and distribute blueberries. Bake at 180°C for about 45mins-1hr.

Like I said, I don’t usually make baked cheesecake. I forgot that you’re supposed to let it cool completely in the tin before removing, so when I took the outer ring off like I would do with cake, I ended up with Michelin man cheesecake that had bulged in the middle like belly fat. Argh. Put the ring back on immediately and let it cool overnight in the fridge.

That said, it was delicious. Rich, good taste and texture. The recipe doesn’t have a biscuit base, and I don’t think it needs it.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #11 in 101 in 1001 is to read a book in one day. Something I have done quite often. Not one of the Potter books I’d just finished, especially the later ones. Of course, one of these classics would have been okay.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gerri Hill last summer at Dallas; and I’ve read many, if not all, of her 20+ books. Her newest is Weeping Walls which has the same MCs as a previous book, Keeper of the Cave. It’s something she has done several times before, using the same characters or bringing back characters as side characters. It works, because these are good characters.

This book is somewhere in between a mystery, paranormal adventure and romance. The FBI team works well, the 4 agents have distinctive personalities and their interactions are realistic. Also it’s great not to have superhero characters, one of the characters is afraid of ghosts and the others also have their hangups and shortcomings. We don’t need heroes who can fly, walk on water, write prize-winning novels and knit a scarf at the same time.

The case the agents are investigating is a missing person that links to cold cases and involves a haunted house. The paranormal aspect was unexpected, although after the prior book, I should have known. It wasn’t rammed down my throat, and I appreciated not being scared shitless — I don’t read horror stories and there’s a reason why.

The romance is not about two people meeting and falling in love. They did this the other book. This is about what happens after the initial falling in love, and there is skill in writing this stage of a relationship.

I read Keeper of the Cave over a 24hr period too (started late on one day and finished the next). When it comes to sequels I like to read the entire series from the start, and I didn’t mind re-reading. Weeping Walls is a solid, great read. If there is another book with the same set of characters I look forward to reading it again.

in 101.1001 , challenges , family first |

Task #81 in 101 in 1001 challenge is to try a new activity with family.

I’ve never made gingerbread houses, never ever. No special reason, just never had the chance. Sis bought a couple of kits but we never got round to making them over Christmas; doesn’t matter, we can still play with them in January.

Pretty fiddly actually, especially since the walls of my house were broken and had to be repaired with icing. The icing bag also broke so instead of piping, I was using a knife to spread it on — not as delicate and my fingers were soon covered with icing. I picked quite small sprinkles also, and arranged some all around the seams, the windows, the roof and scattered some marshmallows around the house for effect.

All in all, a lot of fun. Sis decorated hers with savoury snacks and mine (the last one on the right) was voted most colourful.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #12 of 101 in 1001 challenge is one carried over from the previous round.

I got up to Order of the Phoenix when it came out. It wasn’t my favourite, it felt like it was the Empire Strikes Back of the Potter series with endless exposition of Grimmauld Place, stupid Dolores Umbridge, grumpy Sirius and teenage angst with all the hookups and jealousy. The Dumbledore’s Army arc was great, so that was a silver lining.

I dutifully bought books 6 and 7 when they came out, but then sort of lost interest so they’ve been sitting on my bookshelf following me around the world for years. I saw all the films of course, so I knew what was going on.

It was time to finally finish reading the series. It seems like some sort of cultural heresy that I hadn’t. So I started with Philosopher’s Stone, and the magic came back. Yay! Hard to pick a favourite, I’m going say Deathly Hallows and Goblet of Fire. Despite all the despair and trudging around the country searching for horcruxes, DH was extremely well written. Plus, Neville! Easily my favourite character outside the three. Goblet of Fire I loved the whole idea of the Triwizard tournament, and it was IMO when Harry started growing up. Shame about Cedric, I hadn’t expected it when I first read it, was still sad upon re-read. A strange tidbit is that Mum’s copy of Goblet of Fire is an American version (all mine and all her others are UK) so it was odd to read about people running toward something and all the other American spelling. Didn’t really fit with such a British book and set of characters.

The great thing about reading the books now is that I don’t have to rush to find out what happens at the end. And hats off to the filmmakers, the casting was so spot on that I can picture very clearly all the characters and scenes while I’m reading. Made it very, very enjoyable. In fact, I might re-read the whole series again in a while.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #35 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge: make a list of World Heritage sites visited. This is as of January 2014. 45/981, by country:

  1. australia: blue mountains — first visit was 1999
  2. australia: sydney opera house — same visit in 1999, then many many subsequent visits

  3. wh003schonbrunn wh004vienna
    schönbrunn | vienna

  4. austria: palace and gardens of schönbrunn outside vienna — visited twice, once when I was very small on a tour with parents, then in 2001 with mm, but I never wrote up that trip
  5. austria: historic centre of vienna — same as schönbrunn visits, such a beautiful, walkable city
  6. belgium: la grand place brussels — twice in 2012, once during chip and choc walk and then with mum
  7. chile: historic quarter of valparaiso — part of my big trip in 2007 to visit my friend K
  8. china: imperial palaces beijing — beijing tour, sometime when I was still at school
  9. china: summer palace bejiing — same tour
  10. china: temple of heaven beijing — tour again, this was actually quite nice
  11. china: great wall — all I remember was how crowded and unruly the people there were, a tourist trap
  12. czech republic: historic centre of prague — first visit was in 2000 when the eastern european bloc were just opening up subsequently visited in 2011 and 2012
  13. france: palace & park of versailles: with parents on that european tour
  14. france: banks of river seine at paris: not going to count how many times, most recently in 2012
  15. france: historic centre of avignon — avignon was our de facto base of operations during our provence trip, beautiful historic town
  16. hungary: banks of river danube at budapest: same trip as vienna in 2001 that I never wrote up
  17. italy: historic centre of florence — been there several times, first with parents then the fortnight with mm in 1997
  18. italy: piazza del duomo at pisa — parents tour trip, pisa was a bit of a tourist trap

  19. wh018venice wh020verona
    venice | verona

  20. italy: venice and its lagoons — long weekend from zurich 2001 with my friend tan
  21. italy: historic centre of rome — so many places to visit, colosseum, spanish steps, wedding cake, trivoli fountain, something to see everywhere; multiple visits, most recently during mediterranean cruise in 2013
  22. italy: city of verona: long weekend from zurich 2001, really a city of romance
  23. japan: historic monuments of ancient kyoto — there are so many historical sites, temples and palaces it will take several visits to cover them all, we did a few on our first trip 2013
  24. korea: changeokgung palace complex at seoul — on our birthday trip 2006
  25. macau: historic centre of macau — usually don’t associate macau with world heritage sites, but it is worth visiting and there are more to see than casinos and furniture shops
  26. new zealand — te wahipounamu south-west new zealand including mount cook national park and fjordland national park visited during the two week driving trip 2005

  27. berg109harbour wh030lauterbrunnen
    bergen | lauterbrunnen valley

  28. norway: bryggen — the old wharf at bergen was part of the cruise trip 2013 with parents
  29. norway: west norwegian fjords — also on the same 2013 cruise trip we sailed around the fjords with geirangerfjord being one of the highlights
  30. switzerland: st gallen abbey — easy train ride to st gallen from zurich 2000, we went there to visit the olma, an agricultural fair
  31. switzerland: old city of bern — the swiss capital was kinda boring, but worth a visit
  32. switzerland: 3 castles, wall and ramparts of bellinzona, switzerland — the italian part of switzerland was a bit further to drive but so beautiful, went there a few times either to lugano or on the way to italy
  33. switzerland: swiss alps jungfrau-aletsch — took the train up the jungfrau during christmas 2000 and then with mum
  34. tunisia: medina of tunis — what we visited was a world heritage site? perfume shop, carpet shop, tourist traps
  35. uk: city of bath — to think that I almost did my first degree there — bath accepted me for chemistry before king’s came through the last minute
  36. uk: blenheim palace — back when we felt like we were tourists we did blenheim and oxford in a day

  37. wh034canterbury wh042stonehenge
    canterbury | stonehenge

  38. uk: canterbury cathedral — my college friend came from there and she invited me to stay, and then of course mm went to school nearby
  39. uk: cornwall and devon mining landscape — what a beautiful part of the country, last visited cornwall
  40. uk: devon and east devon coast: pretty sure we’ve stopped off there
  41. uk: old and new town of edinburgh — first visited when young, then with mm and a bunch of friends, then with RM and mum 2012
  42. uk: maritime greenwich — lots of changes there, much more to see now
  43. uk: royal botanical gardens at kew — in my mind kew = M4 roundabout, but there is the renowned Kew Gardens there
  44. uk: heart of neolithic orkney — even though the purpose of going to orkney was to visit the highland park distillery, the standing circles at stenness were very impressive when we visited 2012
  45. uk: stonehenge, avebury and associated sites — went to stonehenge when we first came to london, in those days it wasn’t roped off and we could walk inside the stone circles
  46. uk: tower of london — visited when we first came to london, then never again
  47. uk: palace of westminster and abbey — seen it, ran past it, drove past it
  48. usa: statue of liberty — visited when young, when we could climb all the way up to the crown
  49. vatican: vatican city — every catholic should go at least once

in 101.1001 , challenges , easily amused |


Task #93 of 101.1001 is to make a font from my handwriting.

It’s one of the simplest and most fun things to do on the list. I used a free site called paintfont: downloaded a template, filled it in with a black sharpie, scanned the 3 pages and within a minute or so the font was ready for download. Had to go back and fix some dots in photoshop to eliminate extra white space but still easy.

Not exactly how I’d write a sentence, because handwriting tends to join up the letters, but if I had to write something in print, this is close to how it would turn out. The 7 things card was written in my font.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


I don’t normally set new year’s resolutions, they seem kinda generic. For quantifiable tasks and goals I do the odd monthly TDP challenges, scheduled challenges like nano, or photo challenges that crop up here and there. I just started the 101 in 1001 challenge, which will give me structure for the next 2.5 years.

Anyway, the people who brought us 101 in 1001 have come up with an alternative to boring new year’s resolutions with seven prompts to get people thinking about what they want to achieve in 2014, like learn how a new skill, start a new habit or try a new thing.

It’s still kinda generic, but I thought I’d give them a go. I incorporated them into 101.1001, because I was thinking about it in December. I’ll come back at the end of 2014 to evaluate these 7 tasks.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #62 in challenge.

Although I have a big alcohol collection, it’s mainly wine, whisky and some beer, hardly conducive to making cocktails. The best candidate for cocktails would be the whiskies, particularly the bourbons so I was on the lookout for whiskey cocktail ideas. This one of bourbon sweet tea looks good, and uses ingredients that I can get readily. I halved the recipe and converted to metric.

1.5 cup (350ml) water
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 tea bag — I used earl grey
1/2 cup (120ml) bourbon
1/2 lemon
1/2 lime
1/2 orange

Dissolve sugar in boiling water and let tea bag seep for 5-10mins. Remove tea bag, add sliced lemon, lime and orange and bourbon. I have a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 open which at 55% is a bit stronger, so I only used 100ml. Chill in fridge or serve over ice.

Quite strong, both in bourbon and tea taste. Easy to make and easy to drink, good with steak or sweet dessert.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

Task #50 in 101 in 1001 challenge: 2 of 10 new recipes.

I’ve made yule log before, and it is a sort of family tradition. I wanted to find a recipe that was less sweet, and was pleased that bbc goodfood came through again. I made some adjustments to the recipe, taking out some more sugar, substituting honey for golden syrup and using the chocolate cream for both filling and icing.

for the sponge:
3 eggs
85g sugar
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp bp
2 tbsp cocoa powder

for the filling:
50g butter
150g dark toblerone
250ml carton + 5tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp honey

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift flour, bp, cocoa and fold into egg mixture. Bake in a swiss roll tray for 10-12mins at 200°C. Remove from oven, roll in the greaseproof paper and leave to cool.

Melt the butter and chocolate on a bain marie, cool. Add honey and 5tbsp cream. Whip the carton of cream until soft peaks then fold in the chocolate mixture.

Unroll sponge and spread filling generously. Roll carefully into log shape. Cut off one end as the branch. Ice with rest of chocolate cream.

We didn’t have icing sugar so I sieved some caster sugar over as the snow. I like this chocolate cream filling much better than using butter icing. It was very rich, I cut a thickish slice and divided it into three for me and parents, it was enough.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

Task #64-68 of 101 in 1001 challenge: try 5 new whiskies. This is the first new one.

I finished the bottle of glengoyne burnfoot I bought in Dubai, so it was time to open a new whisky. This Auchentoshan Three Wood I bought in the summer and since I hadn’t tried Auchentoshan extensively, it made sense to open this. Auchentoshan is the one of the few lowland distilleries and this particular expression was matured in 3 different cask types: bourbon, Oloroso sherry and Pedro Ximenez sherry. There is no age statement, although it appears to be a 12 year that was matured in bourbon casks for 10 years, then one year each in the sherry casks. Tasting notes from the distillery:

To The Eye: Rich golden bronze.
To The Nose: Blackcurrant, brown sugar, orange, plum and raisin.
To The Tongue: Fruit and syrup. Hazelnut with hints of cinnamon and lemon. A butterscotch sweetness adds to the overall complexity.
To The End: Fresh and fruity, with long lasting oaky sweetness.

Mr Murray didn’t like it, only awarding 76 points:

The comments on TWE are somewhat divided, some thought it was really smooth, others thought it was unbalanced. Most agree it was sweet.

I thought it was delicious and way too easy to drink. Then again I prefer smooth, sweet, sherry-casked whiskies. There is definitely butterscotch and some fruitiness. In terms of colour, it’s darker than other Auchens I’ve tasted. It’s not fair of the one commenter to compare it with Laphroaig Three Wood, can’t compare a lowland whisky to one of the most peated whiskies from Islay. At around £40, it is fantastic value and the sweetness perfect for a cold Christmas evening. I’m so glad I bought 2 bottles, I’ll save the other one for another winter.

in 101.1001 , challenges , money business |


Task #77 in 101 in 1001 challenge: build a net worth calculator.

Personal finance websites talk a lot about calculating net worth and balancing chequebooks. I’ve always been a bit confused about why it’s such a big deal, and why it’s apparently so hard to figure out net worth. It’s a simple spreadsheet exercise. Add up assets, add up debts, take one away from the other.

Took me about an hour, to find all the statements or log onto bank websites. The only current liability is credit card debits waiting for the next statement. I didn’t include this because: a) trivial amounts and b) they’ll get paid once I get the next statement. Since it’s impossible to have the exact figure — statement dates, some investment accounts only report annually, fx etc — it will always be an estimate. Everything got converted to GBP and USD to create the sum total.

Data is summarised by currency and by subtotal of banks vs investments vs property. I don’t know what is an optimum ratio between cash and investments. Advisors say have at least 1 year’s worth of expenses available as cash, so I think I should move more cash to a safe vehicle to generate a return as opposed to it sitting there doing nothing.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Task #49 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: 1 of 10 new recipes.

Lebkuchen are German gingerbread-like biscuits that are traditionally made at christmas. We bought some at my niece’s school fair, loved them and I decided to try my hand at making them. This recipe is from bbc goodfood, which was hands down the easiest.

250g plain flour
1 tsp bp
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch each of ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper
85g butter
200ml clear honey

  • sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  • heat the butter and honey until the butter has melted and add to the dry ingredients
  • mix well, cool mixture to room temperature
  • roll the dough into 30 balls, flatten on baking sheet, bake at 180°C for 12-15mins
  • cool on wire rack, pretend to be Jamie Oliver by flicking melted chocolate haphazardly over biscuits

I very nearly burnt the first batch of 15, another minute and they would have to go into the bin. Luckily the second batch were okay. I think they were too small, next time I’ll make 20 instead of 30.

I think the jury is still out on the rorschach style of decoration, which I saw on a Jamie Oliver christmas program the other day. That’s all he seemed to be doing nowadays, either piling food on a platter or wooden board and then flicking whatever sauce or dressing all over the place.

I wouldn’t say this recipe was 100% successful. It tasted quite nice, I like using honey instead of sugar and having lots of spices made the whole kitchen smell of christmas. Because they were so small, they weren’t as chewy as I’d like. Next time I’ll also grate in a little ginger to give it more of a ginger taste.

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #92 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: count how many swatches I have.

I was a bit of a collector when I was younger. Stationery, coins, stamps, stickers, matchboxes, pencils all had their place. My first watch was a seiko that my grandparents gave me; when I started college I started wearing swatches and then I started buying some more. I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore collector, I just buy the ones I like the look of. It’s been a while since I last bought a swatch though, so my collection isn’t likely to grow by a lot. Currently it stands at 158, with the majority unused and still in their original box.

This video was taken on my coffee table, 6 separate instagram videos edited together in imovie. The music is a piece called the syncopated clock by leroy anderson performed by markus staab. I picked it because of the watch/clock theme, and also because syncopated is a new word for me. In musical terms it means off-beat, which can also be applied to this quirky collection and typically wonky instagram video.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |

[slideshow at bottom of post.]

Task #91 on 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

My first hard rock café shirt was London, a long long time ago and it cost £20. I think it was one of my first ever visits to the HRC. Still have it, albeit a lot frayed now (it’s the second one in this set). Then I started buying a few more, and fell into the habit of wearing dark polo shirts all the time.

I try to visit the hard rock café whenever I travel to a new city and buy one of their polo shirts. There are 14 here, I thought I have more. There is one from Singapore that was green with blue collars and the one from Gatlinburg that I either lost or gave away. There is only one duplicate — the blue striped one I got at London and Prague. Usually when I see duplicates I don’t buy it, which is probably why I have fewer than expected. I know I passed on Dallas, Universal Orlando, Copenhagen and Osaka in just the last few years. I also don’t get to swing by the local HRC every city, which is okay, I’m not too bothered if I miss out because they are rather expensive.

[p.s. I think I prefer showing sets using pictobrowser here rather than flickr slideshow yesterday, more a habit thing.]

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Tasks #22 and #23 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

The challenges were to complete a photochallenge using a photo app and to complete an alphabet food challenge, ie 26 pics of food from a-z. Two challenges for the price of one, I did an alphabet food & drink challenge using instagram. The list of foods:

  1. apple — a frozen apple dessert
  2. beer —- at humperdink’s dallas
  3. cheesecake — homemade for dad’s birthday this year
  4. doughnut — cruise breakfast
  5. egg — baked in potato, delicious
  6. fish & chips — in fake newspaper print paper
  7. grapes — frozen, which gave it a different texture
  8. hummous — from the food court in dubai
  9. ice cream — nice
  10. jelly — with raspberries
  11. kale — with tahini sauce, i miss kale
  12. lemon — with mini grater
  13. mango — cut up nicely
  14. noodles — fried noodles with eel
  15. okra — grilled at high temperature at home
  16. passionfruit — recently discovered a great market stall
  17. quiche — at a party
  18. raspberry — on the vine at parkside pyo farm
  19. steak — this was in dublin
  20. toast — over open fire
  21. uni — sea urchin sushi
  22. veal chop — from whole foods high street kensington
  23. waffle — and chicken at ihop
  24. xialongbao — taiwanese small steamed dumplings
  25. yogurt cheese — made by straining plain yogurt overnight
  26. zinfandel — could have used zucchini, but they are courgettes to me

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #89 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

This is a list of things I’d like to do someday, with varying degrees of achievability. There is some overlap with the 101 places to visit list, I got tired of trying to distinguish between them. Seems like I need to plan on doing a lot of driving, eating and running.

  1. build a sand sculpture
  2. buy a second home
  3. car owner —- again
  4. cater a dinner party and get paid for it
  5. climb a mountain
  6. dig for abalone, clams, mussels
  7. draw/paint a picture — of decent quality, I can’t draw or paint
  8. draw a picture on an app — that’s wishful thinking, that an app will help drawing skills

  9. ldn086bus praha085cartour
  10. drive a bus — preferably double decker
  11. drive a classic car
  12. drive a convertible — can combine with #10
  13. drive a hummer
  14. drive a jetski
  15. drive a race car around a race track
  16. drive in sand dunes
  17. earn money from baking

  18. cwall164creamtea ledbury020turbot
  19. eat all the omnivore’s 100 — i was at 73 in 2008, around 80 now
  20. eat at a three-star michelin restaurant — been to one- and two-stars
  21. eat something deep fried on a stick — at one of those big fairs
  22. encourage someone to start a bucket list challenge (bonus if 101.1001)
  23. experience zero gravity
  24. explore a cave
  25. extreme couponing
  26. fishing

  27. hksaikung013kite sf200dbike
  28. fly a kite
  29. get a motorcycle licence
  30. get published
  31. go surfing, bodyboarding or flyboarding
  32. hot yoga
  33. in the credits of a film or tv program
  34. jump on a trampoline
  35. hunt truffles
  36. learn a dance step
  37. learn a magic trick
  38. learn to change a flat tire
  39. learn to code / write an app
  40. learn the alphabet in ASL (already know BSL)
  41. leave a 100% tip
  42. make a classic dish
  43. make a list of 101 things I would never do (some people’s definition of a reverse bucket list, more like an anti-bucket list)

  44. brus324brewery ldn067milkcart
  45. make own beer / wine / whisky
  46. make own cheese — ricotta counts
  47. milk a cow or goat
  48. own business
  49. pan for gold
  50. participate in the greatest international scavenger hunt
  51. pay for the person in the queue behind me
  52. photobomb someone
  53. photography: bokeh
  54. photography: take a “frame and hang on wall” worthy photo — some of these may work
  55. plant a herb garden
  56. plant a kitchen garden
  57. play 18 holes of golf
  58. play the drums
  59. read from modern library’s best 100 novels list
  60. retire and live on investment income
  61. ride a bike around a velodrome

  62. runningmedals01 tall038bounty
  63. running: sub-25 5k
  64. running: sub-60 10k
  65. running: 5.00 marathon
  66. running: 4.30 marathon
  67. running: 4.00 marathon
  68. running: big sur marathon
  69. running: marathon du medoc
  70. running: northern lights marathon
  71. running: tokyo marathon
  72. running: trail race
  73. sail a boat
  74. scan all documents
  75. scan all photos
  76. scuba diving
  77. ski a black run confidently
  78. ski cross-country
  79. skydive indoors
  80. sleep in a hammock
  81. slide down a fireman’s pole
  82. start a fire without matches or flint

  83. ara202bamboo ldnhawks009cocktails
  84. stay at a silent retreat
  85. stomp grapes
  86. take a bartending class
  87. take a course at a cookery school
  88. take a first aid class
  89. take a flying lesson
  90. take a photography class
  91. take an advanced driving class
  92. take up archery or shooting for real
  93. transport: 25 different modes of transportation
  94. try a new sport
  95. try pottery
  96. volunteer, help build a house
  97. walk on hot rocks
  98. watch a drive-in movie
  99. wear a tuxedo
  100. weights: 101 pushups
  101. weights: 30 day shred
  102. weights: at least one pullup
  103. weights: bench 25% body weight
  104. weights: bench 50% body weight
  105. whitewater rafting
  106. write a readable letter left-handed
  107. zip down a zipline

in 101.1001 , photography is life |

hrcshirtoslo02 hrcshirtoslo01

101.1001 task #91 is take pictures of all my hard rock café shirts. So I took out my current favourite, the black one from oslo. The picture of it hanging on the closet door is creepy and sad, and since selfie is word of the year, I took one of the shirt. Yeah, the selfie one wins.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


So I started my 101 goals in 1001 days challenge yesterday and started working on those goals already. I made notes and folders in evernote for all the lists I should be making — places travelled, places to visit, food tried, achievements, books read, walking distance tracker. But mainly I worked on the places and foods list. But then I realised, I should be putting those lists together at the end of the project and not the beginning. Ack. Now I need to work on other non-list goals.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Between 1 December 2007 and 28 August 2010 I participated in the 101 things in 1001 days challenge. The mission is to complete 101 preset tasks in 1001 days (2.75 years).

I ended up checking off about half the the original list, the reasons for a rather poor completion rate:

  • timing — 2008 was a big business trip year for me, that was the year I clocked 100,000 miles, which was great for my airmiles account (#45) and getting upgraded to first (#44) but not so great in terms of getting other challenges done
  • lack of opportunity — for instance, I never got a chance to visit San Diego zoo (#40) or go rock climbing (#51)
  • overly ambitious — visiting India (#41) was more a someday goal, buying another property (#70) when I only paid off the mortgage was definitely a pie in the sky
  • too many sub-tasks — 10 new restaurants in 10 new cities (#67), that was one task when it was actually 10 tasks — together with all the subtasks, I was working with 232 tasks, which made it much more difficult and demotivating
  • laziness — it would have taken an hour to count all my swatches (#96), so i should have completed that one

I’m a very task-driven person, I function best when I have preset achievable goals in front of me, preferably in an organised list. I was pretty disappointed I didn’t do better, and it sort of put me off long term challenges for a while. I did a few TDP monthly challenges, but I always deliberately set goals that were achievable, to the point that they were too easy.

Not that I’m bored with running x km or staying away from alcohol for y days, it’s now time to go back to the 101 in 1001 challenge and push for completion this time. So I made a new 101 things in 1001 days list which will run until sunday 28 August 2016. Some of the incomplete tasks from 2007 I rolled over, the ones that I’m interested in completing and have a realistic chance too. I didn’t buy a lomo last time, but it’s pointless to do it again when I have plenty of lomo apps on my iphone. No more subtasks either, so visiting 3 new countries are #28-30.

The tasks vary in difficulty, but this time they should all be achievable. Some I know will get done, #38 is go on a cruise, and it’s already booked for Feb next year. The lists 101 of things done (#87), places visited (#26), places to visit (#27) — those should be easy to do. The ones that are harder include #1 update macOS, since I’m still wary of updating to Mavericks, I tend to update only when I buy a new machine. Walk to Mordor, or 1779 miles from Hobbiton to Mount Doom (#40) will be interesting to track, since I usually track running only. I don’t yet have a solution for tracking yet, there are plenty of options but not all are suitable, that’s a post for another day.

The dayzero people don’t have an app yet, so I’ll be tracking progress here, posting when a task is completed. In progress tasks will be tracked on Evernote; after all, I want to become proficient in it (#3).

Google “101 in 1001” and there are a lot of other people doing or having done the challenge. There is a top 101 goals list and it’s interesting to look at other people’s tasks. Current top 10:

  1. donate blood — which I can only do in the UK; the American Red Cross still claim people who lived in the UK between 1980-1996 have vCJD aka mad cow disease, so most other countries follow
  2. write a letter to myself to open in 10 years — I find communicating with future selfs a bit odd
  3. get a tattoo — no, no, a million no
  4. sleep under the stars — don’t like camping, too many bugs and dirty ground
  5. leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find — I like this, and have included as #90
  6. answer the “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind” — these inspirational quote things always make me laugh
  7. don’t complain about anything for a week — don’t complain much, don’t talk much
  8. kiss in the rain — sigh, not gonna happen
  9. fall in love — no comment
  10. watch the sunrise and sunset in the same day — I can just imagine it being an extremely stressful and busy day

So, let’s get it started.

in 101.1001 |

To recap, I set myself 101 tasks in 1001 days:

  • mission: complete 101 preset tasks in 1001 days
  • criteria: tasks must be realistic and specific, requiring actual effort and with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined
  • start: Saturday 1 December 2007
  • end: Saturday 29 August 2010

The result:

  • out of 101 total: 52 completed
  • weighted: 57.7 completed
  • including sub-tasks: 147 tasks completed / 232 total

Basically, I set myself 232 tasks, not 101. Some of them I didn’t have an opportunity to do (visit India as a tourist); some I didn’t find the time (go rock climbing) and some I no longer have the interest in doing (10 photoshop tricks). I’ll roll over most of the remaining ones to a new list, and this time only 1 task per unit.

in 101.1001 |

Actually it’s 1015 posts. I’ve posted at least one entry a day for over 1001 days. What do I find to post about? In the past it’s a lot of tech stuff, nowadays it’s running. And always food.

in 101.1001 , evidence of my insanity , outside interests |


There’s some part of me, the occasionally whimsical (or whimsy-wannabe) part, that fantasizes about volunteering. I’ve always wanted to research organisations like the vso, earthwatch and when I’m being ultra whimsical, the peace corps, even though I don’t qualify, not being a US citizen and all.

Thing is, I don’t even do domestic volunteering, like help the homeless or join a green program. I don’t feel it’s me. So why would doing volunteering overseas be me? I guess it’s the adventure, or perception of adventure. There’s an old nyt article about ecotourism, and it hits the nail right on the head:

“People selfishly want experiences that are real — they don’t want canned tours, they want to meet the park ranger, they want to help in an orphanage,” said Blue Magruder, director of public affairs for Earthwatch. “And an increasing number of people want their time on the planet to count.”

So i did look into earthwatch and such like programs. They are fairly expensive, in the thousands of USD for 7-14 days. I don’t think I’m quite at the place where I feel a burning need to go on one of these trips, educational and valuable they are. It has to be the right time and for the right reason. It may come. I’m hopeful that it may come.

in 101.1001 , outside interests , random words |


I think I blew this one out of the water. When I started 101.1001 amazon had only just released the kindle and the ebook market was still in its infancy. I thought at that time that I’d try downloading a few ebooks and reading it on the mbp using the ereader software.

I now have 93 ebooks in my ereader (the hardware, heh, the same name thing is confusing). This includes 90 full length books and 3 short stories but excludes the free classics downloaded from sony. I’ve read almost all of them, so yes, I read 5 ebooks…in the last 2 weeks. They cost the same as regular paperbacks, so at an average of $12-13, that’s over $1000 I’ve contributed to the industry since march 2009. Do I get an award or what?

At the moment, I’m using one of the least popular readers, and there’s a lot of “me-too” pressure to get the kindle 3, which ships this week. The formats and industry are starting to settle, there will be a clear standard and device winner soon. Interestingly, I don’t think it’ll be the ipad, it will be a dedicated ereader. I’ve not even been tempted to read on the ipad so far.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I read about summer lasagna recipes at the kitchn. I never make lasagna because it takes too long and it’s too stodgy for me, but take out the baking and the heavy sauce and it’s a great version of a traditional dish. They had a few recipes, this one at framed was the closest to how I wanted it, and had the best picture.

Normally lasagna is made with ricotta but I didn’t have it, and besides I’m not a huge fan. I substituted mozzarella instead.

  • cook lasagna sheets in water until done — took longer than the packet said, then I realised the packet assume the sheets will be baked later; altogether around 15mins
  • sauté courgettes in garlic until soft — the pic doesn’t show it well, I had both green and yellow courgettes
  • once courgettes are almost done, toss cherry tomatoes into the pan to cook for a bit, then add red pesto
  • start building — vegetables, pasta, cheese, vegetable, pasta, cheese, vegetable
  • decorate with fresh basil, a drizzle of EVOO and fresh ground pepper

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


Saw these two people in angel and devil costume outside grant park during taste.

in 101.1001 , family first , going places |


This is a great idea — postcards with pre-paid postage. Yes, more expensive than regular postcards+regular postage but for tourists who don’t have time or knowledge to go to a post office to get stamps, it’s oh so convenient.

I hope she likes it. We emailed her some pictures and her reaction to the falls “bigger than I thought” heehee.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


My previous experience with chinese buffets in the US was in NYC. All I remember was the sheer amount of food, the crowds, and it bears repeating, the sheer amount of food. This one in Toronto, Imperial Buffet, is no different.

Except there was even more food.

My relatives took us to the one at Ajax, apparently it’s the best. The main attraction was the mountain of alaskan king crab legs. Cold and hot. Clams, mussels, sushi, fish, salad, prime rib, 3 stations of hot food, chocolate fountain, huge dessert station, ice cream.

Everything was good. I tried to limit to only the food I wanted to try, and to limit the size of the portions. Easier said than done. The crab legs were as good as expected. The prime rib was tender but a bit tasteless. The vietnamese rice roll was scrumptious. And there was a coconut ice cream that was particularly nice.

Gah. I’m stuffed.

in 101.1001 , family first , going places |


Mum has always, always wanted to go to niagara falls. So early this morning, we got into the taxi and off we went to ORD. It’s the first time I’d flown on American Eagle, that part of the terminal is nice. I got all of us into the admiral’s lounge, so we could relax for a bit. The plane was small, the flight short, and it took far too long for the luggage to come out at BUF. Still, it was fine. We got our rental car, a subaru impreza, and despite an early hiccup, found our route to niagara quickly.

An hour or so later we were crossing over the rainbow bridge. A short wait at Canadian immigration and we checked into Sheraton-on-the-Falls before 3pm. They offered us an upgrade to a partial view room, which we gladly took. Only 3/F but we had a full view of the American Falls.

It was still afternoon so we went out for our first experience of the falls. All I can say. Wow. Fantastic. Impressive. No wonder people flock to see them. The American Falls are more square and immediate; the Horseshoe Falls shrouded by mist but its shape is awe-inspiring. The walk all the way to the Horseshoe Falls was probably an hour, it was hot and I was really thirsty by then.

The town itself is way too commercialised for my taste. Then again, they have to make money off the falls somehow, right? Fast food restaurants, hotels, amusement arcades, souvenir shops all along the Clifton Hill area. We had dinner at Ruby Tuesday, after nixing hard rock café and rainforest café. Ribs, steak & lobster plus salad bar. Good for sharing.

Papa went back to the hotel and Mum and I explored the souvenir shops. Mum bought a stack of small calendars and I bought a couple of pre-stamped postcards. Back at the hotel we were surprised at 9.30pm by the sound of fireworks coming from over the US side. It was a nice 30-minute display, a huge bonus to end the day.

Internet is extra in the room so I used the free machines in the lobby. Despite being in Canada I was able to pick up at&t so could do a little on the iphone. That’s enough for me.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Bongwater is Michael Hornburg’s first book, published in 1995. It tells the story of 3 twentysomethings in Portland. Courtney burned down the house she shared with David and ran away to New York. David had a crush on Jennifer and Jennifer ran away to New York to join Courtney. In the meantime, David met Mary and went on a road trip with her to visit his weed-growing friend Phil.

Nothing much else happens. Arguably David and Courtney are the main characters but they don’t meet up again till the end. Jennifer is the glue. Mary is somewhere in between. David crashes with two gay guys who steals Jennifer’s underwear. Courtney and Jennifer does a round of New York clubs and comes back to Portland.

The characters are cynical and innocent at the same time. They do drugs and each other. But no one judges. It just is. The end of the book doesn’t have resolution; instead there is the hint of a beginning.

I get confused between Gen X and Y. Of course I’m reading this book 15 years after it was published, and I think about those days in the early 1990s with nostalgia. Now I identify with them — not the drugs or alcohol or sex or partying, the sense that we are just observing and living our way through life.

Reviews are mixed. Some readers get it. Others find it boring and without plot. Even others dislike the prose. I liked it. It feels superficial, but is deeper than it appears. Was Mr Hornburg sending life lessons? No, of course not. It just is. I get the feeling that there’s a large autobiographical element in the book. Nothing wrong with it. It just is.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I went to nobu. I think I can stop writing now, the place speaks for itself. This one, nobu fifty seven, at 57th and Fifth, isn’t one of the michelin-starred locations, so I can’t claim that. I sat at the sushi bar, and had an impressive chef’s selection of sashimi and sushi which the chef made in front of me. Everything was fresh and savour-worthy.

Needing more, I ordered a king salmon nigiri, japanese uni sushi and a salmon skin roll. I would have tried the hot food but I was pretty full already. And mindful of my wallet. The bill, plus a sake, would feed me for 2 weeks. Heehee.

Was it worth the hype? The dishes were indeed good, but I’ve also had fish cheaper and equally fresh. I guess you’re going there for the brand and the location and all that. It’s a special meal type of place.

in 101.1001 , going places |


Drove through Atlanta this morning. Too early even for the hrc shop to be open. Ah well, another time. There were quite a bit to see even on a short drive-through. The Olympic park, cnn center, aquarium and coke museum. Now I know that if I get to visit, there’ll be lots to see and do.

It got steadily hotter and hotter. And then we were in Florida. Yay! We got to orlando one day earlier than expected, and the hotel was very accommodating. The room we’d booked was occupied so they gave us the room next to it, so we move tomorrow. Already seeing people coming in for the con, it’s going to be a fun week.

in 101.1001 , going places |

nash006bridge  nash003carriage

So we set off at 6.30am to drive our way to orlando. It was a pleasant drive, much more relaxed since there are 3 of us. We’d made sandwiches last night, and loaded Car’s truck with snacks. The plan was to hit Nashville by the afternoon. I think we drove through TN on the way from TX to DC a couple of years ago, but it doesn’t really count.

With the wonders of the iphone and car’s mom making the reservation, we got ourselves a nice room at the residence inn. Original plan was to visit the grand ole opry, home of country music. Of course, we’re in tennessee. Unfortunately, it was closed due to flooding. So sad.

Went to mass at a nearby church. It was an…interesting experience. Clearly everyone knew each other, and we were stark outsiders. The possession went in and out at lightning speed and everyone began chatting and leaving even during the last hymn. Unusual.

We did make our way downtown for a brief looksee. Went to the hard rock café to get a shirt and bought a fedora in the process. These were taken just outside the hrc — opposite the river looking at the bridge, and a touristy horse-drawn carriage.

Dinner was at boundry, with car’s cousin. We were early so we sat in the very nice bar watching the hockey. So funny to be watching the chicago blackhawks even while travelling. The restaurant was okay. Service was very very slow so we didn’t get out till late.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


Milan Kundera is perhaps best known as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I hadn’t read that; nor actually seen the film. My impressions and perceptions prior to reading was that it would be thoughtful, philosophical and may be even melancholy enough to be not too heavy.

Identity was written in 1996, the author’s second book after moving from Czechoslovakia to France. I read the English translation, having had this one on my shelf for something like 10 years.

This was the story of two lovers, Chantal and Jean-Marc, which started while they were on holiday on the Normandy coast. She arrived before him, and each in their own ways were thinking about themselves. About who they were. (Hence the title.) Gradually, parts of their lives and personalities were revealed, like layers of an onion. The book moved from purely situational to having some sort of a plot when she started receiving anonymous letters complimenting her and yet was stalkerish. In fact, he wrote them. The conflict was when she didn’t tell him about the letters, and they started second guessing each other. Finally she walked out, got on a train to London. And he followed.

I guess it’s too philosophical for me. I was waiting for something to happen, and then i realised that it wasn’t that sort of book. The structure, with no chapter titles, only short vignettes almost alternating between the characters’ pov, was like two parallel streams of thoughts occasionally intersecting. The part I enjoyed most was towards the end when unwanted visitors arrived, children misbehaved by trashing her room and she unceremoniously kicked them out. It had little to do with the main story, and the only tenuous connection was that it made her though about her son, who died when he was five. Nonetheless, when Chantal broke down and Jean-Marc was left throwing his keys into the Seine I finally felt like they had awoken from author-induced intellectual stupor.

I’m at the margin of this world. You, you’ve put yourself at the centre of it.

Even though both Chantal and Jean-Marc found out more about themselves during the course of the book, at the end I felt like I’d only glimpsed a part of their journey. That there was more to come. The end was both ‘fade-to-black’ and sudden. I can’t decide which, because I was flipping the pages too fast to get to the end. I also can’t decide if I wanted to know more about what happened next. Basically, I can’t decide if I like this book, or I was bored by it. It’s strange. Perhaps it will permeate and brew more in my head.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


I could have gone to see a musical I hadn’t seen, yet I decided to go see wicked instead. May be if it hadn’t been on the 101.1001 list? Hmm. No. It’s been a few years since I last saw it in Chicago, and I wanted to see the London company perform. Must admit it was strange yet refreshing to hear dialogue and singing in British accents. It’s been a long time.

Enjoyed the show very much. I had to stop myself singing along. It wasn’t superstar gasping level, I was happy I got a centre stalls seat. I hadn’t heard of the cast — Rachel Tucker as Elphaba, Louise Dearman as Glinda, Lewis Bradley as Fiyero — the ladies deserved the standing ovation they received at the end.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


It doesn’t get more traditional than cauliflower cheese. And no, New York Times, it’s NOT cauliflower and cheese. No, no, no.

I used yellow cauliflower, so now I’ve had white, green and yellow. Next up, purple.

  1. trim off leaves, steam the whole head for about 15mins till tender
  2. cut into florets, arrange in a single layer in oven dish
  3. make a roux from 2oz butter, 3tbsp flour
  4. add about 3/4 pint milk (I used a mixture of cream and milk) slowly, stirring constantly until just bubbling
  5. add 4oz shredded cheese
  6. pour sauce over cauliflower, season
  7. bake at 200°C for 30-40mins until golden brown

Big, big difference between this one and what used to be served to us at school. No comparison.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


A croquembouche is a showpiece dessert of French origin that is popular at big events such as weddings and anniversaries. It’s basically a tall tower of profiteroles. Lots of recipes and writeups about it.

I have a foolproof choux pastry recipe from the Sainsbury’s home baking book. I’ve been using this recipe for years and years and years.

  • 4oz butter
  • 300ml water
  • 5oz plain flour
  • 4 eggs

Heat the butter and water until boiling. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. I’d double sifted the flour beforehand. Beat with wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the saucepan. Add eggs a little at a time, combining well. Spoon onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 200°C for 25mins until golden. Make a slit at the side and cool. I used regular whipped cream sweetened with a little icing sugar for filling. This made 24 small profiteroles.

Carefully melt caster sugar in a heavy pan. When caramelised, dip profiteroles one by one and arrange. The caramel acts as glue to bind the puffs together. To make the sugar decoration, dip a whisk in the caramel and flick it across 2 sticks (I used planting sticks, although rulers might have worked better).

Normally croquembouches are very tall, hence their centrepiece nature. Mine was more like a mini version.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

broccorabe01 broccorabe02

A lively discussion was had when my post about broccoflower fed over to facebook. Among the topics discussed were canned asparagus and broccolini. Broccolini is known in the UK as tenderstem broccoli and was the featured ingredient in the 2008 bbc good food calendar. I’ve never seen it in any of my supermarkets or markets here, but I still decided to look for it this weekend.

Not surprised that I couldn’t find it. I did however find broccoli rabe (aka rapini) at Edgewater Produce (can always rely on them for fruits and vegs, and an overflowing shopping basket for around $20, that’s another post). A number of recipes online use it like broccoli, especially in a pasta dish. So that’s what I did. Sautéed it with garlic, threw in a few cherry tomatoes for colour and served it with rigatoni. Needed to carb up for a 10k practice run, so it was perfect.

It has more “green” flavour than broccoli, that’s true. I didn’t find it bitter, the trick when cooking is to teat it like any other stem-y veg you find at Asian wet markets — in terms of taste and appearance it’s more like gai lan or choy sum, so I added soy sauce and a bit of sugar in addition to the usual s&p. I’ll buy it again, for sure.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

broccoflower01 broccoflower02

That actually is a green cauliflower, I’m not kidding. It’s a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower called broccoflower. In terms of taste, it’s like broccoli. You cook it like either. I stir-fried it with red peppers and chicken. Tossed in some tagliatelle in place of regular noodles and it was a very nice tasting and looking dish.

in 101.1001 , challenges , photography is life |

Get the flash player here:

26 things for feb 2010:

  1. structure
  2. follow
  3. covet
  4. triple
  5. hands
  6. eye
  7. fancy
  8. time
  9. rainbow
  10. sadness
  11. stack
  12. line up
  13. wheels
  14. an insect
  15. into the air
  16. direction
  17. new
  18. half
  19. set up
  20. 10 mins away
  21. in my mailbox
  22. sometimes
  23. bottle
  24. behind the scenes
  25. corner
  26. a door

In the middle of all the holiday eating, meeting with people, shopping stuff, I decided to do this month’s 26things in HK and completing another 101.1001 task, which is to use a colour theme. It wasn’t hard to decide on red. Click on each pic for brief notes. Link to full set: here

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |

This was written for the author’s challenge for the radlist yahoo group. It used to be that there were more published authors on the challenge but recently more first-time / unpublished writers have sent in their contributions. I know I need to transition to “real” writing, with my own characters and stuff. So when I saw the signup invitation I started thinking about what I could write. This time the theme is “surprise party” and we could interpret freely.

I’m glad I have an archive of shorts and 5 nanos. I focused on nano 2005, which I hadn’t looked at since more than half of it was lost in the NZ flashdrive death incident. If I were to rework it to an original, most of it had to be rewritten anyway. The most exciting bit was finding that I still had the mindmap, so all isn’t lost.

Then it was a matter of writing building the back story (including changing the gender of one of the MCs) and writing the challenge. The result, party planner, is a nice prequel. The original title of the main story was tight, and I’m tentatively changing it to Melody’s on Church. The setting is now at Franklin TN, where Nissan has its headquarters — I met a Japanese HR manager at a networking event and he was telling me a little about life there. The title is the name of the restaurant, and I’ve further defined its cuisine as Japanese-fusion.

The short is the story of how the MCs met. I’m pretty pleased with it, yes it’s a bit fluffy, but hopefully not clichéd. It’s kinda cute and sweet.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , how the day went |


I woke up to a brilliant sunny morning. Perfect for skiing. It was so nice out that I didn’t go to four lakes, instead I ventured a little further to wilmot mountain in wisconsin. I figured it’d be a nice drive, and I can go to four lakes next time I want to ski and the weather (and therefore drive) isn’t as nice.

The weather report there actually showed fog when I left. It’s under 1.5hrs drive, and I got there at around 1pm just as the sun came out. It turned out to be a glorious afternoon and I got in plenty of skiing.

Yes, yes, I know. Compared with everywhere I’d skied, this is a tiny hill with artificial snow. But it was still fun. To get back to pre-accident proficiency I’d have to go back to live in Switzerland, or move to a place with real mountains, and that isn’t going to happen soon. Anyway, back to wilmot. It’s very well organised, with something like 10 chairlifts going up various slopes. The runs are mostly greens and blues, with some blacks — well, the blacks are easy reds IMO. I tried almost all of them, except the baby slopes, the ones at the far side and the mogul run.

Of course I picked one of the busiest weekends of the year to go, so there was a queue for rental and everything else. The queues for the lifts were manageable — there are so many, and they are pretty close together that it’s less than 5 mins to slide to the next one if the queue is too long.

I pretty much skied non-stop for 2-2.5hrs, taking a small break to get a drink from the car. Another thing — the carpark is right next to the mountain, well convenient. By 4pm I was getting tired, the sun had gone and the fog started to roll back in. The place opens till 11pm for night skiing, but I was done for the day. Left at 5pm and was home, showered and eating dinner by 7pm.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I discovered quinoa over the summer and has made it several times as a salad or as the starchy part of a meal. Little did I know, until I read more about it, that chocolate and quinoa go so well together.

This recipe is adapted from here. The author thoughtfully tried to convert American cup measurements to metric but failed in a spectacularly cute way — there is no way on earth that flour and sugar are measured in ml.

3 eggs
150g sugar
100g butter
100g chocolate
225g cooked quinoa
175g flour
1 tsp bp

  1. whisk egg and sugar until pale and thick
  2. melt butter and chocolate over bain marie
  3. add chocolate mixture to egg mixture
  4. add quinoa
  5. sift in flour and bp
  6. bake at 180°C for 30-35mins

Okay, this is just…phenomenal. The quinoa gives it a chewy crunchy texture that is unique and the cake itself is moist and fluffy. I ate a slice, then half of one, then the bits that fell off when I moved it. I’ve never been so lacking in discipline, and I don’t usually like chocolate.

in 101.1001 , random words |

I finished posting my latest story on pens. This will probably be my last. Towards the end I double posted 2 chapters each time, just so I can get it over with and finish. I lost the attachment to that place a long time ago — most of my peers have moved on, there are only a handful of good stories, and they are hard to find amongst the less good ones. I don’t want to be dismissive, since I applaud everyone’s efforts in writing their story, but there has been a noticeable decline in quality over the last few years.

The story I posted was the one I wrote for nano08, with a bit of editing and filling in the parts I left blank. I guess at the end it turned out to be a decent story. The comments, few as they were, talked about how raw and dark it was. The timeframe switches back and forth, between the present, a few years ago and a few weeks ago. I also switched pov between chapters — some were written in first person, some in third. I’m not sure if it was too confusing or whether it made sense. I don’t think any of my writing group even knew I was posting, let alone give me comments.

I was tidying up the html on some of the stories on hidden doors, and surprisingly enjoyed reading some of my early work. Well, those I could stand re-reading anyway. I’m going to have to step up and get back to those days if I have any chance of reaching the published stage.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Come to think of it, making yule log is one of my family’s christmas traditions. This is a nigella like recipe made from a flourless cake mixture and chocolate butter icing.

6 eggs, separated
6oz / 150g sugar
2oz / 50g cocoa powder + 2tbsp for icing
3oz / 75g butter
8oz / 250g icing sugar

  1. whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks, then add 50g sugar
  2. in a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, rest of sugar until pale and mousse-like, add cocoa powder
  3. fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture
  4. bake at 180°C for 20mins until cake springs back when pressed
  5. cool for 5mins, then turn out to greaseproof paper sprinkled with sugar on a wet tea towel
  6. make icing by whisking butter, icing sugar, 2tbsp cocoa, 2 tbsp milk
  7. spread icing on cake, then roll up like a swiss roll
  8. cut off a branch, stick to main branch using icing
  9. spread icing all over, sieve icing sugar and decorate

It was too sweet, next time I’ll use crème au buerre filling and ganache as icing.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

butternutapplebake stuffedpepper03

I’m very happy I set myself this goal. I’m not vegetarian, but in the end it was super easy to be a vegetarian for a week. I didn’t miss meat at all and didn’t feel like any of the food was a compromise. Of course it was made easier because I had control over what I cooked and ate. So, a representation of what I ate this week:

  • butternut squash and apple bake, with chickpeas and cranberries
  • red bell peppers stuffed with tomato and mozarella
  • pasta with brie and tomato
  • mushroom & asparagus bread pudding
  • normal salads with spinach, peppers, tomato and regular ingredients
  • cheese pizza — from beggar’s on friday, we also had sausage pizza and I wasn’t even tempted

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I hadn’t given savoury bread puddings much thought, because of the whole carb thing. But I was looking for new vegetarian recipes and came across this at 101 cookbooks. And the more I read about it, the more sense it makes that it will be a nice, filling dish for main course or as a side dish.

I cut up about 2/3 of a round of sourdough bread into cubes. The bread needed to be stale, and mine had only been out for a day. So I took as much of the crusty part as possible. Instead of sourdough, I think any type of crusty, heavier-than-sliced-white bread will do.

I then added diced mushroom and asparagus. Ended up about half a punnet of mushrooms and about 12 stalks of asparagus. There really is no need to measure, but put in as much as the pan can fit.

The liquid was a mixture of 2 eggs plus 500ml milk and stock (about 2:1 ratio). The recipe talked about cups, which always confuses me. I used ‘normal’ milk, I think skim milk will be too thin. And because this was vegetarian week I used vegetable stock, any other time I would have used chicken stock.

I let the liquid soak into the bread for a bit, then baked at 200°C for 1 hr until the bread is golden brown. Let the pudding stand for 5-10mins before serving.

It’s good! I’ll definitely make it again. There are so many other vegetables that can be used — peppers, butternut squash, root vegetables.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


This is an old recipe revisited. I got this off an early Jamie Oliver series, may even have been the original Naked Chef. Now that’s memories.

It’s so easy to make, no cooking apart from the pasta. I used fettuccine rigate, which is like regular fettuccine except with ridges along the length of the noodle. Basically, cook the pasta, drain and add cubed brie and cherry tomatoes. I used a mixture of fresh and roasted tomatoes. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese. Season and drizzle with olive oil.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , techtalk |

I bought wii fit plus during black friday even though it wasn’t on sale. At the time, I was debating between this wii fit, which I’d always wanted, and the new Tony Hawk skateboarding game.

The first time I started it up, the program did some body measurements — height, weight, bmi, balance. Then there are some basic exercises — yoga, strength training, cardio, which are pretty decent. I tried the balance training ones — skiing, heading a football etc and not only did I suck, it told me I was unbalanced. Heehee.

I did better at the advanced games, and these are fun! Segway, biking, martial arts, flying — all involve some form of balance, cardio or at the very least, moving the body. They really did great on the games.

Its selling point is that it’s a fitness program. Hmm. I’m on the fence on this one. I know people have claimed to have lost weight on wii tennis, I’m just not sure it’s an effective weight loss program. It will benefit people who aren’t active normally. For me, it’s a fun game. It’s not gonna replace running or strength training.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


The first time I came across quince paste was in Australia, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had quince paste in my fridge for many years. I had to throw them away when I moved. Which was why I was so ecstatic to see fresh quinces at the store last week.

Quince the fruit looks like a pear, which was a surprise to me. I’d never googled it, for some reason in my little brain I thought it’d look like kumquats for no good reason other than the ‘q’ factor. Heehee.

This time I did google, and learned that in its raw state the fruit is inedible. Mostly it’s cooked and made into a paste or jelly. In Spain it’s called membrillo and is eaten with manchego, a hard cheese made from sheep’s millk — to the extent that it seems to be the national snack.

quince01 quince04

This quince paste recipe is straightforward but time consuming:

  1. peel, core and chop 6 quince fruits (about 4-5 pounds)
  2. cover with water and simmer for 1-1.5hrs until tender
  3. strain water away, blitz until smooth
  4. return to pan and cook for 2hrs until thick — took me longer than that
  5. dry in low oven (100°C is the lowest mine goes) for 12hrs — again, took me longer than that, and it never really solidified like the commercially bought ones I used to have

Oh, so worth it, so delicious. And I went especially to the new french market to get the manchego cheese. Then I spread the paste over like jam. The manchego is nice, it had a rosemary crust and a mild taste. I’m thinking I can substitute comté or gruyère to pair with the quince.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


The idea is always the same: brown the protein, add vegetables, add liquid and cook slowly for 2-3hrs until the meat is tender. Serve over some sort of carb that can mop up the sauce.

I saw oxtail and I was so excited. It’s been a long time. I braised it with a bottle of guinness and several ice cubes of chicken stock. The vegetables were standard mirepoix plus canned tomato. I let the finished product sit in the fridge overnight so the extra fat can solidify to be scraped off.

This was served over potato and turnip mash.

in 101.1001 , habitat |


I did this ages ago, long before they got packed up in the shipment. I haven’t had plants for over a year, but these nice aluminium planters are ready for next spring, if I decide to grow anything.

in 101.1001 |


Most people my generation have heard of Ethan Hawke, the epitome of intense and pretty. He of Reality Bites, Before Sunrise and a version of Hamlet. No, he won’t be the first actor to branch out to writing, singing or race car driver, and he won’t be the last.

The Hottest State was published in 1996 and was Mr Hawke’s first novel. The state in the title refers to Texas, where the narrator, William, was from. The novel was set in New York, where William had moved to be an actor. One night at a club he met Sarah, who just moved to New York, and coincidentally lived in an apartment opposite William’s. Soon they began a love affair, the sort that people in their early twenties engaged in — tugs-of-war of emotions, co-dependency, and a tendency to talk a lot and not at all about the important matters. She held off having sex with him for the longest time; they went to meet her mother; went away for a week; then she broke up with him.

The second half of the book was about how William tried to get Sarah back, alternating begging and making a fool of himself with being mad at her and life in general. Heartbroken, or so he thought, he tried to find solace with his friend Samantha, and then returned home to look for his father.

It’s a small book, less than 200 pages. The writing is sparse, though it took me a while to get into it. Or rather, I never totally got into it. It is one of those books I like, where there was a story, but not completely overshadowed by the characters and what they thought/felt/did. In terms of nano, it’d be classified as a literary fiction.

Most readers would assume that the book was partially autobiographical. I can’t tell one way or the other, it feels like there’s some of the author in William — that’s always the danger of first person narration. I never warmed to William, he seemed kind of a jerk to me. Sarah said it best,

“You don’t love me.” She was gesturing at the ground. “I could be any girl. This is about you.”
“Everything is a big game of pretend with you. ‘Let’s pretend to get married.’ ‘Let’s pretend I’m gonna be a big country star.’”

Perhaps it’s immaturity, and hopefully by the end he would have taken this heartbreak and grown a little.

I finished the book, then got the dvd immediately on netflix. Some of it seemed clearer in the film, written and directed by Mr Hawke. William was still a jerk, Sarah still lacked self-confidence and they both did not communicate. This is one occasion where I think the film complemented the book.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Am I being a jerk if I say “that was easy”? Because, well, it was. I made good progress every day, not always hitting the 5k target, which I later revised down anyway. I got to 50k by the 12th, and this year I even typed it all with capitalisation and punctuation. None of those time saving tricks for me. Plus I didn’t use any dares.

Officially the wordcount is 50,038, which is lower than the Word and writely counts but I don’t really care. There are parts still missing, and will likely remain forever missing.

How do I do it? I think it’s definitely a case of practice. And being relaxed. I have no deadlines except the 30th; my own soft target is always the 15th. I’ve never found writing difficult, provided I have a story. And I outline. For nano I always outline by chapter. For a project manager like me, having a set goal and an outline is something so familiar that I can slip into the process as soon as the first day of november comes round.

I have to think of a decent storyline for next year’s, because this year’s story is the worst I’ve written in my nano career. Heck, my entire writing career. But hey, quality isn’t the point of nano. A lot of people forget that.

Which brings me to a little rant. I’m a nano purist, I make no apologies for it. I’ve been at it long enough to earn it. I see people who are writing a continuation of an existing novel, or rewriting an already written novel, or worrying about editing, and I cringe. That’s not the point. The point is to write a 50k novel from scratch, without editing. We have edmo in march for editing. And I would have thought ‘from scratch’ is self-explanatory. Ah well, that’s other people. It’s a self-challenge and in theory someone can write a single word 50,000 times and still win. Everyone’s mileage varies. nanochart

in 101.1001 , how the day went |

video link:

Friday was mm’s sis’ anniversary and I said the rosary for her. There’s been too many passings this year, and the prayer was also for everyone.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


Peter Mayle is famous for his autobiographical A Year in Provence. I haven’t read it, nor did I see the film, but I’ve always been aware of him. Mr Mayle was a sort of expert on Provence, and France in general. And France is where this little novel, Chasing Cézanne is partially set it. It’s one of those books whose characters think nothing of stomping all over the world. It starts in New York, makes several visits to the south of France, the Caribbean, the English countryside, and of course Provence.

The characters fit the globetrotter type too — our MC, a “dashing” photographer who works for a glamorous magazine, his agent/soon-to-be girlfriend, a powerful editor who constantly reminds me of Anna Wintour, the villain with the Germanic name and the eccentric art dealer who acts as both catalyst and tour guide. Add a scandalous art scam and a little romance and we have the ingredients of a light-hearted comedy romp.

Some reviewers on amazon complain that the characters eat out at restaurants too much, or that Mr Mayle is too keen to show off his knowledge of French cuisine. Blah I say, that’s the point of the book. It’s not supposed to be War and Peace deep, people. If anything, I find the “elaborate” restaurant meals kinda boring, and want even more descriptions. I guess that’s the effect of the passage of time. The book was first published in 1997, those were the days when photography was still done using film, people were beginning to travel as opposed to just laying on the beach, and food programs on TV were mainly instructional (think Delia Smith and how to boil an egg). Foodie terms like velouté, sabayon, amuse-bouche and ceviche weren’t part of our everyday lexicon then, but have become oh so familiar (well, to those of us who are dedicated followers of the food network anyway). In other words, the readers then weren’t as sophisticated as we are now, and were more likely to be wowed by a French word by virtual of that word being French alone.

The art scam itself is pretty unremarkable and the resolution did come rather too quickly, almost like our villain has run out of steam, or has become so bored with the proceedings that he decided not to be a villain any more. It’s still a decent enough book, easy to read, and mostly enjoyable. Mr Mayle does know his food and France, no question. And for the record, I, an amateur cook, have made sabayon and if need be, can produce an amuse-bouche or two, but not in 1997.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I’ve always thought risotto is difficult to make, at least perfect. I knew I’d have to try to make it one day, and with the mushrooms I bought at the farmer’s market early this week, it’s a good opportunity. This recipe is inspired by, no surprise, Elise, with modifications. And I didn’t measure.

  1. sauté mushrooms with butter, garlic and cream; set aside
  2. meanwhile, heat up a carton vegetable stock to simmering point
  3. melt butter in heavy pan, add arborio rice
  4. slowly, add stock one ladle at a time, stir until completely absorbed before adding next ladle
  5. when all liquid is absorbed and rice cooked, add mushroom mixture
  6. season, serve with shavings of pecorino (or parmesan)

The verdict — it was scrumptious!!! I can’t stop eating it. It’s like congee made with cream of mushroom soup. The cream and mushroom flavours really came through. And the rice wasn’t hard to make. All I needed to do was focus on what was going on in the pan and not multi-task. The actually cooking of the rice took about 20mins. Can’t wait till I make it again.

in 101.1001 , random words |


It took me a while to write the next 20 6-word novels, but here they are. A varied bunch, I think. My favourites: #21 for its cheekiness and #33 cos I have a specific idea for that storyline.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


For some reason I was under the impression that panna cotta is difficult to make. Perhaps it’s because it tastes so decadent and creamy that it must be hard to make, right?

Oh my, how WRONG.

This recipe is from Chocolate & Zucchini, and even Ms Dusoulier acknowledged how easy it was.

  • bring to a simmer 250ml whipping cream, 250ml whole milk and 50g sugar, stirring occasionally to ensure the mixture doesn’t boil
  • soak a packet of gelatin in a little water to soften, add to hot cream mixture to dissolve
  • cool, then transfer to bowls quickly rinsed with cold water (for easy removal)
  • refridgerate for 3 hours or overnight until set
  • to make the coulis, chop 250g strawberries and heat with a simple syrup of 50g sugar and 2tbsp water, then blitz till smooth
  • decorate with strawberries

It was so good, I had to exert a great deal of self-control not to have a second helping.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


This recipe is from a book that is not a cookbook. It’s unusual to find recipes in hidden inside fiction, but that’s what Karin did with Making up for Lost Time, one of my favourite romances of hers. There are other recipes in there I will try, and I really really would like to have a copy of that From the Waterview cookbook that Jamie Onassis wrote.

This is a lighter version of the traditional chicken cacciatore, and like many traditional dishes each cook will do it differently. I diced the vegetables quite large, and kept the sauce thin. I froze the sauce after cooking, to add to the chicken when I was ready to make the dish.

For the cacciatore sauce:

3 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 red peppers, diced
8oz mushrooms, diced
large can plum tomato
oregano, basil

drain artichokes, keeping the liquid
cook carrots in artichoke juice until soft
add garlic, onions, celery, peppers and mushrooms and heat until cooked
add a little red wine to deglaze
add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 1 hour, adding water if too thick

The chicken was baked separately, adding the sauce about 15mins from the end. I served it with rigatoni, perfect for soaking up the sauce.

in 101.1001 , arts and media , random words |


I read Michael Ridpath’s first book, Free to Trade, when it came out in 1996. It coincided with the beginning of my career in financial services, and it was unspoken required reading. It painted an exciting, if superficial, picture of what it was like to be on the trading floor of one of the bulge bracket firms.

This one, The Marketmaker, was his third book and set in the world of Emerging Markets. The MC was a Russian scholar who found himself needing money and employed at the premier EM Fixed Income brokerage in the City, specialising in Latin American bonds, but aiming to expand into Eastern Europe.

I had it on my shelves for since it was published in 1999, and it was interesting to read about the markets then. It was before the term BRIC was even invented; before the LTCM failure; and just after the Asian financial crisis. Those were the days when the words banker and excess were synonymous, before all the scandals that eventually brought about Sarbanes-Oxley. It was also interesting to remember that the bulge bracket was bigger then, and there were more players on the street.

Our MC started all starry-eyed at the broker. There was a charismatic owner / mentor; a dodgy enforcer type with hints of mafia links; a best friend who had to make a choice between friendship and own gains; a beautiful, smart heroine who the MC fell in love with; even a cockney, pudgy East End boy. He was in turns fascinated by the City and angsty that he’d sold his soul. Then he discovered by accident something suspicious, and a series of seemingly unrelated circumstances only heightened his suspicion. He and his colleague-new lover were kidnapped, and he managed to escape himself but leaving our heroine in the clutches of evil kidnappers. In keeping with the “financial thriller” theme that the writer is known for, there were thinly disguised i-banks to give the feel of authenticity and much technical name dropping. I couldn’t help wondering if Bloomfield Weiss was Goldman Sachs and there’s no prize for guessing who the large Dutch bank KBN was named after.

The first half had some exciting trading scenarios and a touching philanthropic initiative. The beginnings of the romance was always hovering as a possibility. Unfortunately the financial backdrop faded to exactly that, a convenient background. The kidnap was a little too drawn out, and the solution to the story a tad too incredible. I was sympathetic towards our MC at first, but the Like (fb term) didn’t stay. I felt the writer was checking off cliché after cliché, the characters and story was pretty formulaic. Towards the end it read like an airport thriller and while there is nothing wrong with that (airport thrillers tend to be best sellers), the twists and resolution were pedestrian and I couldn’t wait to get to the last page.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

warm quinoa salad with 5 vegetables

Quinoa is new to me, I’ve read many good things about it. I ended up picking at it while cooking and it’s kinda addictive. As usual Elise has the perfect description,

It has this wonderful nutty flavor, that actually doesn’t need much added to it; I used to make a quick batch, pour on some flax seed oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and gobble it up.

This dish is based loosely from a recipe from 100 cookbooks. Well actually, the only things I have in common with Heidi’s recipe are the quinoa and tomatoes. But that’s the point of this recipe, its flexibility and how it’s a great use of whatever vegetables and ingredients are sitting around in the fridge.

  1. cook quinoa according to instructions — simmer in double volume of water until completely absorbed, very similar to cooking rice
  2. in a frying pan, heat 1 clove of garlic with olive oil, then add the quinoa
  3. add vegetables — i had leftover carrots, mushroom and i supplemented them with frozen corn and spinach. Frying them all up it’s a bit like making fried rice
  4. add diced baked bread cheese just before turning off the heat
  5. season, and dress with red pesto
  6. top with dried cranberries and roasted cherry tomato

Basically, any dried robust vegetable can be used. Use tofu, halloumi or feta in place of the baked cheese. This is a completely vegetarian dish, but it didn’t taste like it’s just vegetarian.

in 101.1001 , money business |


I signed and sent my tax return back to my friend AK, who doubles as my tax consultant while I’m on assignment. Last year’s total comp managed to reach a milestone I’d set for myself. It’s a decent amount, although I’m sure it will not be repeated this year cos of the market conditions.

in 101.1001 , habitat |

pan006bath pan005kitchen

I left my flat in the good hands of my parents, who I trust to have better taste than me. Mum did call me a couple of times to make decisions on colour and materials.

So both the bathroom and kitchen were renovated. The pics above were taken just after the movers left in April. The ones below are new. There’s also really beautiful new flooring and closet doors. Papa and Mum made good choices.

pan014bath pan012kitchen

in 101.1001 , all about people , photography is life |


This was taken a couple of weeks ago at market days. This little girl was dancing at the corner of the stage where the ABBA tribute band was playing. Cute expression and good background. I guess it’s the music as a whole, can’t believe she knows any ABBA songs per se. Way before her time.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

video link:

Bat for Lashes was the first act I stopped to watch at Lollapalooza, just because it was the first stage I came across, and because the music kinda grabbed me. There was a pretty, dark-haired girl and a voice that was, even at an open stage, ethereal. I filed the band’s name away in my head, and went off to see the likes of the Airborne Toxic Event, Vampire Weekend and the Killers.

So at the weekend I decided to browse amazon for their music, and I ended up buying both albums, fur and gold and two suns. Bat for Lashes is actually Natasha Khan, the practice of calling oneself a band continues, in the NIN and Badly Drawn Boy tradition. She’s from Brighton, looks a little like Lily Allen, has a hipster new wave fashion style. She’s been compared to Kate Bush and Bjork and has opened for Radiohead. Thom Yorke is a big fan.

I find her music clever and just that bit whimsical. Descriptions abound from reviewers like magical, dreamy, luminous. I actually can’t stand Kate Bush or Bjork, but Natasha isn’t grating like the former or batty like the latter, she manages to balance pureness of voice with pop; cute whimsy with solid musicianship. She’s indie without trying too hard, if that makes sense. Someone to watch out for, definitely.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I saw this recipe on chocolate et zucchini and immediately thought about all the various courgettes, zucchinis and squashes that are available during the summer months at farmer’s markets.

These are small patty pan (aka scallop, aka button) squash. Only $2 for the punnet. Of course at the farmer’s market the produce are not standard shaped like what you’d get at a supermarket, and that’s part of the charm.

I topped and tailed the squash, slicing into wedges — 8 for a large squash and quartered for smaller ones. Roasted at 200°C with salt and olive oil for 30mins until slightly browned.

In the meantime I made the dressing. And here is where I deviated from Clotilde’s recipe. Instead of mint, chives and coriander I only used mint cos that’s the only one I like. I didn’t have lemons but I had limes, which I thought gave it better flavour. I chopped the mint with lime zest. Mixed with lime juice, a few capers, black pepper and EVOO. I didn’t have paprika or cayenne so I left it out. It was a bit too salty so I added a dash of balsamic vinegar.

When the squash was done, I tossed the wedges and drained chickpeas with the dressing. Oh my, very delicious!

in 101.1001 , how the day went , outside interests |


I spent 9 hours (1-10pm) on Sunday at lollapalooza, which is one of America’s prime music festival events. It’s a 3-day event, but as I looked at the lineup, I decided I could only do one day, especially since I had to go to work friday. I was a bit bummed that I missed Depeche Mode on Friday and Gomez, TV on the Radio and Tool on Saturday. Ah well, next year.

lolla023cool lolla021crowd

It was a HOT, HOT, HOT day. We were allowed sealed bottle water, and throughout the day I made sure I was hydrated. Okay, I had 3 Bud Lights in addition to the water, watermelon and smoothies I enjoyed. I also diligently bought and used sunblock; and a cute fedora I bought at one of the stalls. The first pic here shows a fire department “mobile ventilation unit” which they used to fan water for a cooling shower for the participants. The second pic shows what seems to be all 225,000 attendees.

lolla011airborne lolla030djboyz

There were 8 stages, and with Grant Park 1 mile long, it was essential to plan. There were only a couple of overlaps where I had to decide, most of the time it was obvious who I wanted to see. I caught the end of Bat for Lashes, who I’ve never heard of but will likely buy their album now. Then mid-afternoon it was Airborne Toxic Event, who were more subdued than I expected. I wondered if I should have gone to see Kaiser Chiefs instead. I was fairly close to the stage, although being short it was difficult to see over the shoulders of people in front of me.

A short break afterwards, during which I chomped down a portion of Jack Daniels bbq wings washed down with a watermelon wedge. Then it was back to the same stage to see Vampire Weekend, which got us jumping and doing screams. I only know their most well-known songs, and I sang along like the other audience members.

It was then time to explore the other side of the festival, more food, looking around the stalls, bypassing the autograph area. Found myself in the dance pit section, where DJ Boyz Noise was spinning. Then caught the end of Dan Auerbach before heading to Lou Reed. Unfortunately Lou was disappointing, so I walked the whole mile back to the south end, got a tamale/taco combo, a smoothie and a frozen kefir (like frozen yogurt), my last Bud Light and found a seat on the lawn to wait for The Killers.


Brandon Flowers and gang did not disappoint, opening with Human, rocking hard through their repetoire and finishing with a flourish with Read My Mind, Mr Brightside and All These Things that I’ve Done. We sang “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” over and over and over again, it was brilliant. Two encores later, I joined the thousands on my way home, very satisfied, very buzzed and feeling a little like I was 21 again.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I’ve had this book since it came out in 1997, together with Goodbye Johnny Thunders and Elvis Has Left the Building, Tania Kindersley’s other books. She was someone in my generation, catching the end of the yuppie 80s, the generation for whom it was almost easy to achieve success and wealth, provided we went out to look for them.

This book chronicles the friendship of a small group of young people, from their undergraduate days at Oxford to their burgeoning careers (or not) as they found themselves entering their thirties. The focus was on the narrator, Ashley, and her best friend, Virge.

One of the most noticeable things about this book is its atmosphere. I look for atmosphere in books, in the same way that I look for plot in films. The poignancy reminds me of another “atmospheric” book, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which I return to again and again when I’m in search of those quiet, deep moments. There are shades of Jake Barnes in Ashley; and a lot of Brett Ashley in Virge.

That the characters are privileged and indulgent and petulant is no question. However, they oh so charming and nonchalant about it, because they didn’t set out to be arrogant. This is a generation that reinvent themselves on a whim, and has very little patience for those who can’t keep up. A side character described Virge as” shallow and fey and smug” but Ashley never felt it. She was upset and angry, but her response to that jibe was that the person could feel whatever he feels about Virge. In a way, Ashley doesn’t feel any need to justify Virge, and by extension herself, to anyone.

Ultimately, it’s about growing up and leaving the comfort of college to face the outside world, which they do in various shades of success.

“No one has told me,” said Virge with sudden violence, “that it was this complicated. Why do they never tell you that?”

Here the atmosphere evoked is This Life, so much so that the characters could almost interchange.

The blurb is that the story is all about friendship. Ashley and Virge are opposites who attract. We hear mainly Ashley’s voice, about her feelings for Virge,

and because i didn’t believe in coincidence, I felt utterly unsurprised that she should be here, back from America on the very day that I had fought my way out of the months of darkness and despair and self-doubt, because she was the one person in the whole wide world who always made me feel that I was lovable and desirable, and good enough.

And later on,

“You do know, Ash, don’t you,” said Virge, “you do know that you are the one I love best. I never loved anyone so much as you.”

I keep waiting for them to cross the line from friends to lovers, which they never do. Perhaps I’m projecting, or perhaps the writer intended this as the pure, unconditional kind of love that can never be tainted, even by sex.

As is life, nothing is perfect and golden forever. Throughout the story, the copious reference of looking back suggests to me that Something Big will happen at the end. And again, to mimic life, it’s not one big event that gives ample warning — it’s a series of littler events that chip away at the perfection, and then finally, something explodes.

The events at the end were actually not unexpected, though just as tragic. The last pages were sad and, again the word is poignant, but it seems to me that a page has been turned. What is past is gone, and there is a future that is more mundane and less rose-tinted.

Don’t ask me why, but that’s just how life is, isn’t it.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


This is a recipe from Donna Hay’s A New Cook. I’ve been looking for ways to use the beets I bought at the farmers market earlier this week. The beet greens recipe based on one from Elise Bauer.

marinade chicken in balsamic vinegar, garlic rub, s&p
scrub beets, keeping skin on, add olive oil, salt and bake at 180°C for around 40mins until soft enough for a knife to run through
about 15mins before the beets are cooked, brown chicken in a pan and add to the beet pan to finish in oven
wash beet greens thoroughly, remove tough stalks and chop roughly
dice 2 slices of bacon, fry in hot pan
add beet greens to bacon, add water, cover and simmer for 10mins until soft; season with worcester sauce and a little sugar
when everything is ready, peel beets, cut into wedges and serve

I bought a couple of bottles of wine, this is Old Moon old vine zinfandel.

in 101.1001 , going places |


It’s been a while since I visited a new US state, and I deleted a few off an earlier list cos I just drove through them. This new one is genuine, I arrived in Orlando today for a week of combined holiday and conference. This is just a quick snap that I twittered, it was taken as we were walking from our hotel to the restaurant at Downtown Disney. It was threatening to rain, hence the blue-grey sky. There will naturally be a full set of pics and detailed write-ups when the trip is done.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

Interesting that wisebread just had an article about the bargains at the local Asian market. That’s exactly what I did, went to the Asian supermarket to get soy sauce and fishballs. I was so happy to see these long beans that I immediately got them, then thought about what i had at home. My fridge and pantry aren’t really that stocked up yet, but I had scallops in the freezer and I usually have bell peppers for salad.

Perhaps unexpected, I’m actually not very good at asian food. The basics of stir-frying I know, even though I hardly do it. Cook the meat first, until almost done then remove. Then cook the vegetables and return the meat at the end to heat through and season. This combination was simple and great. I served it on couscous cos, well, i felt like it. There’s this saying that good food must have colour, smell and taste and i think i achieved that.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


One of my favourite memory is picking rich, deep, almost black cherries from the tree. Cherries, at their sweetest, is simply heaven. So when I saw these rainier cherries, I was intrigued. Yellow with red tinge, i thought they’d be more tart than regular cherries. Oh, was I wrong. These were really really good — sweet and with a soft almost creamy texture. Apparently this variety was developed specially at Washington State University and is, no surprise, a big seller in Japan.

in 101.1001 , objects of desire , techtalk |


I can’t get away with just yesterday’s one line post about the iphone right? Of course not.

So, i’ve had 24 hours with it, is there anything new I can add to the millions of words already out there about the device? No, not really. All I want to do is add this: SQUEEEEEEEE!!!

In a way, I feel like I have 2 years of catching up to do. That I couldn’t be a part of the early adopter crowd, or the 3G excitement last year, only to partake vicariously. But, c’est la vie, I wasn’t living in the correct part of the world. Then again, I am glad that this is my first, that I won’t be holding onto a 2G or a 3G and wishing I can get a 3GS.

Early impressions:
pros — fast, fast, fast. apps. easy to use. easy to sync. apps. beautiful. great functionality (see that apps wall at WWDC this year?)
cons — my fingerprints are all over the screen! luckily i have one of those sticky protectors. and it’s a bit big for my pockets, especially when wearing work clothes, i probably need to get a holster.

Basically, I can see why Apple sold 1 million in the first weekend. I know i’m guilty of disdain / contempt at people who’ve recently jumped on the Apple bandwagon — that i’m no longer the anomaly with the cool computer — i guess it’s either swallow my pride and be one of the masses or get on another train. I suppose I could have gone the Gina Trapani Android route, if it were any manufacturer but Apple i may have. As it is, I’m seeing a long and mutually enjoyable relationship with my iphone(s). And I haven’t even been tempted to jailbreak it yet.

in 101.1001 , techtalk |

I went to the Apple Store after work and got my iPhone. Enough said.

in 101.1001 , challenges |

I’m not going to set any exercise or food challenge. With me moving in, a business trip to London next week and various summer festivals/events coming up, I think I’d be too stressed out to, say, make sure I run 50k or do 500 squats.

I am still going to set some goals, cos it’s fun. So the challenge for June is: complete 10 goals or sub—goals from the 101 tasks in 1001 days list.

Background: way back in December 2007 I set 101 tasks to be completed in 1001 days. I have until August 2010. I kinda screwed up by setting tasks into sub-tasks, which meant I had to finish 238 tasks. Silly me. Anyway, I’m not doing terribly well, so it’s time to try to catch up.

in 101.1001 , being healthy |

I went for massage in some shape or form for 4 days in a row. Foot massage, spa massage, lymphatic drainage and then facial at L’Occitane. I was feeling quite miserable cos of the throat infection. It was a “Velvety Apple Almond” course. Cleanser, then…oh sweetness…10mins of STEAM treatment!!! It was supposed to be for my face, and both my face and my throat was ever so grateful. A little bit of pain as the therapist squeezed the blackheads off my nose, then a couple of masks. Feeling good afterwards.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


Tilt-Shift miniature faking takes a real life picture and manipulates it so it looks like a miniature scale model. This view of Sydney Harbour from top of the gap at Watsons Bay is one of my favourites and is perfect for trying it out. The recommendation for selecting a suitable candidate pic is that the viewpoint is high. So, I’m trying out 2 methods.


This one uses a straightforward photoshop method, according to this tutorial:

  1. switch to quick mask mode (hit “q”)
  2. choose gradient > reflected gradient
  3. draw a line from the centre of the in-focus area to the end will be where the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus is completed
  4. return to standard mode
  5. play with blur > lens blur
  6. increase saturation, adjust curves if necessary


This second one simply uses the online tiltshiftmaker. The gradient and blur effects are pretty similar, but the ability to adjust saturation, colour and curves makes the photoshop method better. Then again, there’s the big price different between a free website and CS3.

This is fun. I can see me doing more tilt-shifts in the future.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I’ve always found soufflé intimidating. I suppose I shouldn’t, cos I’m not a bad pastry chef. A few weeks ago my friend Car remarked nonchalantly about something or other that I should make chocolate soufflé for her family. It was meant to be a tease, or challenge, or punishment, i can’t remember. I didn’t put up any argument, just said, “okay.”

Not surprisingly there are a lot of recipes. Because I don’t have my cookbooks I focused purely on the ones available online. After a little research I decided on the one at cooking for engineers. It seemed straightforward and I appreciated the step-by-step pictures.

The first challenge was that I didn’t have time to go shopping during the week for the chocolate I wanted to use. At the end I got 2 packs of baking chocolate and mixed the 100% and 54% together.

In a bain marie, melt 8oz chocolate, 1tbsp butter and 60ml double cream. Meanwhile, whisk 5 egg whites with 1/2 tsp cream of tartar till soft peaks, then add 70g sugar and whisk till the stiff peaks stage.

Add 4 egg yolks to the chocolate mixture, then fold in the egg whites. Bake at 190°C for 20mins, serve immediately.

The good news is that it was mostly successful. The soufflés didn’t deflate, and were very rich. The bad news was that the chocolate didn’t work out and it wasn’t sweet enough. It actually wasn’t good enough quality. Next time I’ll use proper high quality chocolate.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

swede01 swede04

I was looking at recipes for lamb shanks, and the one by elise which i made last weekend is with roasted root vegetables of carrots, parsnips and rutabaga. I didn’t know what rutabaga was, aside from that it’s related to turnips. When i got one at the supermarket, it turned out that it’s a swede. I was relieved, cos I can deal with swede, though i’d never cooked with it before.

As with root vegetables, the options are to boil, mash or roast. It’s just a matter of dicing them up, tossing in olive oil, season and roast for 1 hour. I added some fresh rosemary cos I had it for the lamb. I’ll use it again, as substitute for sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Or in addition.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


This is a simply recipes recipe. I spotted lamb shanks at the supermarket, and decided that this cold weekend would be the perfect opportunity to make it. In steps:

  1. wash, trim lamb then season with s&p and coat lightly with flour
  2. brown in garlic and onion
  3. remove from pan, then add dice carrots and celery. optional is to add leeks, but i don’t like leeks

lambshank03 lambshank05

  1. return the lamb to the pot, add chicken stock, canned tomato and fresh rosemary
  2. simmer for 2.5-3hours until tender
  3. meanwhile dice carrots, parsnips and swede, toss in olive oil and season, roast for 1 hour

swede04 lambshank07

  1. make couscous according to packet instructions
  2. build the dish: couscous at the bottom
  3. then roasted vegetables
  4. stack with whole lamb shank
  5. drizzle sauce, then sprinkle pepper and rosemary

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


This was really delicious using vegetables I have in the fridge. The scallops were frozen, in a perfect world I’d get fresh ones. Wash the scallop, driy them over paper towels and pan-fry them in olive oil. Just s&p as seasoning. It only takes a few minutes to get them medium — do NOT cook them completely.

In another pan, cook the rigatoni. When done, drain and add spinach which will cook in the heat of the pasta and pan.

Remove the scallops and quickly toss some yellow pepper pieces into the frying pan. Throw the pasta and spinach in with the peppers to remove the residue at the bottom of the pan. Add a teaspoon of red pesto for flavour.

Arrange the scallops on top of the pasta and veg, add a little black pepper to finish. I suppose a real chef will drizzle over some olive oil but i didn’t do that.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

watercourgette01 watercourgette02

saw these in the market. the sign says greenhouse water [generic word for melon], or water courgettes. They look more like cucumbers, although the flower at the top suggests strongly they are in the courgette family. Never seen them this long though.

I never peel courgettes but the skin on these were tough, so i did peel them. Sautéed them in olive oil with some leftover vegetables — pumpkin, carrots, chestnuts. Added half a spoon of red pesto for flavour. Very easy dish to make, very healthy, very tasty. And the water courgettes taste just like regular courgettes, only a little more watery.

in 101.1001 , being healthy |

I tested on the treadmill at Car’s home on 6 July 2008. At 0% incline I ran 1 mile in 14.31mins. When I went running today on the treadmill here at PT, I thought it’d be interesting to see how I’m doing in terms of speed. Random incline, between 0.4 and 1.6%, ran 1 mile in 12.30mins.

That’s 13.9% faster. Probably can do even better if I run all out.

in 101.1001 , being healthy |


New Year’s Day is the most popular time to set resolutions. And losing weight / exercising is probably the most popular resolution, like, ever.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions, and originally I didn’t want to post this cos a) i might get complacent and b) i really didn’t want any jinx effect. But it being new year resolution day I think I can afford to give myself some encouragement.

Anyway I discovered the daily plate way back in 2006, but only used it to track food very occasionally (ie when I remembered). When I started running, I used TDP to track food, exercise and weight. It’s a good tool, easy to use, easy to get into a habit of updating. it doesn’t have all the food I eat so I estimate; it overestimates the impact of exercise so I report 5-10mins less, it’s no big deal.

So, yeah, I lost like 15 pounds since October. Pretty neat.

in 101.1001 , how the day went |

We didn’t go to midnight mass last year, probably because of tiredness or something. This year I’m on my own on Christmas Eve — went with family to the yacht club mulled wine and carols event that finished by 7pm — and the thought of going to midnight mass was strong.

The main cathedral is only 15-20mins walk, it’s on one of my running routes. So I headed out at 11.20pm, and when I got there it was crowded already. No seats left inside, and only a few left at the seating areas they’d set out outside, with big screen tv view.

Before the service the choir sang carols. At one point a soloist sang O Holy Night, my absolute favourite. She was good. Not as good as these ladies but very touching.

I opted to stand during the mass, and it was a nice service conducted by our Cardinal. There were announcers, telling people when to stand and when to sit — there’s usually a lot of people who a) don’t go to church often or b) aren’t Catholic but wanted to experience midnight mass. Before the communion, they announced twice that communion was for baptised Catholics only. The communion inside had holy wine, but not for us outside.

Yes, I don’t go to church often, but I love the belonging feeling everytime I go.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Every Christmas and other holiday, danish butter cookies in their distinctive round blue tin comes out. I defy anyone to say they don’t like these beauties.

So I was reading how Molly from orangette made them. Anyone who regularly reads food blogs will appreciate that orangette isn’t just a food blog with recipes, it’s a full-on foodie experience. Anyway, I was intrigued with the recipe, which was from the December 2008 edition of Gourmet and apparently is one passed down through several generations.

I used scaled down proportions, because I didn’t need so many. It’s easy for me to get the authentic Danish Lurpak butter; I generally use Anchor but Lurpak is only slightly more expensive, and probably worth it to follow the recipe. The American convention of using cups instead of weight fazed me a little, but I’ve converted it.

8oz butter
1/3 cup sugar, or around 3oz
2 cups plain flour, or around 12oz
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 small egg, for eggwash
sugar for sprinkling — the recipe calls for sanding sugar, I just used demerara

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then the recipe says beat the flour and baking soda in using the electric whisk, which…is an invitation for having flour flying everywhere. I folded the dry ingredients in using the more trusty spoon spatula method, only when mostly combined then I whisked the mixture till it was like crumbs.

Work the dough between 2 sheets of clingfilm, then roll out to a rectangle. I found that folding the clingfilms so they form the rectangular shape made rolling much easier, and the dough kept to the shape. Chill in the fridge for at least 30mins.

Remove the top sheet of the clingfilm and cut into 1” squares. This was the shape I liked most, and the easiest to work with. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the demerara sugar.

Bake at 160C for 15mins. I found it needed an extra 5 mins to get really pale golden brown, I guess it’s my oven. Anyway, watch them till they get pale golden. Cool for 5mins then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes around 50 cookies.

danishcookies001 danishcookies002

Okay, mine don’t look as pretty as the blue-tinned danish cookies. In fact they look kinda like sad shortbread, and very difficult to photograph (as warned by orangette). But man, they taste decadent.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


One of my stand-by ingredients for fruit salad is dragon fruit. It provides texture, bulk and is low in calories. The only thing is that it’s pretty tasteless — an advantage in some ways because it can be paired with stronger tasting fruits.

Except the blood red variety. This has a more distinctive flavour and it colours everything purple and red. It’s so much fun.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


I know this by several names — persimmon, sharon fruit and kaki. When ripe it’s soft, stringy and very very sweet. So soft that I like using it as sauce for fruit salad or yogurt. There is another type that has tougher skin and the fruit itself less soft. It gives a funny textured after taste which I don’t quite like. I’m not sure how to distinguish between the two though.

Plentiful during autumn and sold in large packs. My favourites are the Japanese varieties and the ones I used to get in Switzerland, from Italy I think.

in 101.1001 , being healthy |


I half-heartedly tried running a few times throughout the years, but could never get into it. I got breathless to quickly, my knees hurt, I felt I was going too slowly. The lesson of 2 10km races with no training weren’t heeded properly.

I started being serious about running 2 months ago when I got the ipod. Then I got the nike+ and being able to keep statistics was the biggest motivation. I should have realised that all it took was a geeky angle.

I was very slow initially. Added the inconvenience of street running — traffic, stupid pedestrians who block the whole pavement, dogs and their walkers — meant an inordinate amount stopping and starting. The first record on my nike+ showed a speed of 8min/km, a result of jogging for a block or two, walking, and walking during the final 20mins. Mostly I’ve been keeping in the 7-ish min/km tempo. Occasionally I’d break 7mins.

The knees haven’t stopped hurting, but in only 2 months I’ve done pretty okay. I’ve made an effort to run at least 4-5 times a week; other times I walked or if I’m at a hotel I use the elliptical. One day a week is rest day.

The latest big breakthrough is this weekend when I decided instead of running around the block, to run over to Bowen Road and use the “dedicated” running route. Boy it made such a huge difference! There were a lot of people, but it was never crowded. The initial parts were shared with traffic, but it then quickly became pedestrian only. Conditions were ideal, yesterday I ran until the 3km marker on the route, and including the distance from home it ended up being almost 12km.

Today I selected by distance. 5 mins walking warm-up before starting the workout. Hardly any traffic stops and running all the way, no walking. Turned the voice notification on and stopped the timer at 10km exactly. Then another 10 mins cool down walking home.

1.08 is still slow, I’d like to get to under 30mins per 5km. But as a target reached I feel I deserve a little self-congratulation. There’s lots of room for improvement, plenty of time for building up speed and strength.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Matt Ward (M. Ward) is an indie singer-songwriter from Portland who manages to combine country, blues, pop, and folk into a unique package. He’s toured with Bright Eyes and is mentioned in the same space as the Decemberists, the Shins and Feist. I keep expecting to see his name on the Garden State, or some other Zach Branff film, soundtrack.

Zooey Deschanel (awesome, awesome name) is an actress who has small roles in films like Almost Famous, and increasingly larger roles in films like Elf, and was Trillian on Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Matt and Zooey met on The Go-Getter, in which they sang a duet together. Some correspondences led to the formation of She & Him and their first cd Volume One. The first single, Why don’t you let me stay here, is kinda bouncy and folksy. Another of my favourites is their cover of Smokey Robinson’s You Really Got a Hold on Me, when Zooey channels some serious Patsy Cline.

She has a distinctive voice, he has a way of arranging the music that is simple and effective. There’s a cute, retro, kitschy feel to the songs. Paste magazine said in their review,

the 13 songs on Volume One are lovely throwbacks to blissful 60s pop, tastefully arranged and produced by the uber-talented Ward

They should know, they just named She & Him — Volume One as their best album of 2008.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


Thought I’d test out the gorman-holbert method on people. Not exactly a portrait, this is a picture of two Japanese kids at Farm Tomita at Furano. Turned out pretty nicely.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


This was converted using the gorman-holbert method, named after Greg Gorman and Mac Holbert. It’s another method developed by Rob Carr and gives outstanding results, especially for portraits.

This is from the millenium forest in hokkaido.

  • Select Image > Mode > Lab Color to convert the image to Lab mode
  • Go to the Channel palette and select the Lightness channel
  • Select Image > Mode > Grayscale and discard the “a” and “b” channels
  • While holding the Control key click on the Gray channel
  • Select > Inverse to select the shadows
  • With the shadows selected select Image > Mode > RGB Color to convert back to RGB
  • Go to the Layers Palette
  • Create a new Solid Color layer
  • Select a color from the color chooser
  • Change the Blending Mode of the solid color layer to Multiply
  • Hit Command-Option-Shift-E to create a new merged layer
  • Change the blending mode of the new layer to Overlay. Set opacity to 20%
  • Select Filter > Other > High Pass
  • Set the radius to 50 pixels
in 101.1001 , photography is life |


The lighthouse at Rose Bay, Sydney using the same b&w method. This lighthouse as a mosque feel, and i like how the dome at the bottom looks like it’s lighting up the side of the tower.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


One of the [many] great features of photoshop is that we can create and store actions. This is a black and white action from eliot shepard which is based on one by bob carr.

This is the lobby of the Westin in Sydney, the one where they converted the GPO to a swanky hotel, restaurant, shopping complex.

  • Convert to Lab Color (Image > Mode > Lab Color)
  • Select the Lightness channel (Channels palette > Lightness channel)
  • Convert to Grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale)
  • Make the new channel the selection (Control-click the thumbnail in the new Gray channel)
  • Invert selection (Select > Inverse) (Leave this selection active for the next steps)
  • Fill the selection with black (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color > Select color #000000)
  • Tweak the opacity of the fill layer (Layers palette > select Color Fill > set opacity to ~50%)
  • Create a new Levels (or Curves if you prefer) adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels)
  • Tweak the levels in the adjustment layer as you like
  • Select Background Layer (Layers palette > select Background)
  • Duplicate layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer)
  • Run the High Pass Filter (Filter > Other > High Pass > Radius 10)
  • Convert the filtered layer’s blending mode to Hard Light (Layers palette > Select Background copy > set blending to Hard Light)
  • Reduce the opacity of the Background copy layer to a good point (I start at 25%)

in 101.1001 |


I started my 101 tasks in 1001 days project on 1 December 2007. To recap, the aim is to assign 101 tasks and then complete them in 1001 days. In my case, I have until 29 August 2010.

It’s been a year, time for a progress report. First, like an ambitious idiot, I set more than 101 tasks, by splitting certain tasks into sub-units. For example #21 is

read 10 books on the bookshelf that I haven’t read before

All in all, including the multiple item tasks, I set a total of 238 tasks for myself. Sigh. Whatever was i thinking of? Anyway, some tasks were easy, like

#2 get an airline adaptor for the mbp

some i can see may prove to be difficult, like

#41 visit India as a tourist

others just take time

#67 10 new restaurants in 10 cities

If I count the main 101 tasks, I’ve done 25.1 (sub-tasks are broken down into 0.1 units); if I count all 238 tasks, I’ve done 59. Either way, I’m at around 25%. Which is NOT GOOD, cos 365/1001 days = 36%, meaning I’m behind. And for an overachiever (heehee) like me, it’s unacceptable.

There are a few tasks which I’ve done but have yet to write up. Even so, I have to get on with it!

in 101.1001 , all about people |


I wish I could have taken this from the front but it would have been an invitation to get punched. Or at least majorly scowled on. I was walking from my hotel to the office in London and spotted this girl walking right in front of me. And this lightbulb totally went bing in my head. I mean, fedora, buzz-ish cut, mobile phone glued to ear, low slung jeans, flannel (I think, at least it’s checked) shirt, messenger bag, dunks.

Need I say more?

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Helen Sandler used to be the editor of Diva, and still freelances for them though nowadays she’s more known as a poet. I haven’t read Diva in many years and I have a feeling my copy of this book was a freebie with the magazine. Published in 2001, it’s Helen Sandler’s proper book about “sanity, secrets and cybersex”.

Some of it seems at once to be both relevant and dated. People still IM and email and (may be) do cybersex. But there’s so much more to online life today that the protagonists would simply be overwhelmed — all the social networking, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, twitters, tumblrs and just completely conducting one’s life online — all pretty unthinkable in the early part of the millenium.

It’s a nice book to read on the plane, not too heavy and just enough humour mixed with angst to make the story interesting. The main character, Joss, tends to whinge and feel sorry for herself way too much but I suppose we all do that. Weird neighbours, well-meaning friends, boring job, a relationship without commitment are all familiar in real life. Meeting someone online and falling in love may seem a novel idea in 2001, but nowadays it’s almost a norm.

Like I said, the writing is light and funny. There are bits between chapters providing insights from the point of view of a side character that are amusing. The main characters are real enough, though in the spirit of being light, not hugely developed. Not a book that left me deeply affected, I enjoyed it.

I think I’ll try to make it a habit, read one of the bookshelf books when I’m travelling.

in 101.1001 , random words |


I’m so glad I made myself do nano this year, and was not too overly freaked out about it. I think I’ve learned a couple of lessons: a) I can write 50k words fairly easily and b) keep to reasonable wordcount targets. Looking back, nano 2008 is characterised by an almost laissez-faire approach. I actually enjoyed it. Naturally nano 2009 may not be the same, I may end up stressing about it, trying to get 5,000 words in every day. The standard has been set, that I finish no later than the 15th.

There’s a thread on the forums called “nano isn’t a chore for me” and I think this is where I find myself this year. I keep wanting to place a qualifier, that it is this year rather than all nanos going forward because I don’t want to jinx anything. I see a lot of people for which writing 50k words is very painful, needing word wars, sprints, write or die or small gifts to keep going. Well, bully for them and I really think that they will get a lot of satisfaction out of winning.

What keeps me going, and makes me return year after year, is the sense of achievement. And the sense of belonging (although I keep very quiet and never post in the forums) to a community. People ‘in the know’ when I mention nano, will immediately get it and there’s a strong bond when I meet another nano-ite. It’s a special feeling.

I know the quality of this year’s novel isn’t great, that I tend to use the same simple words rather than trying to think of a more appropriate description. But surprisingly, aside from not capitalising, the draft is in pretty good grammatical and spelling shape. I’m also easily distracted — I’d write 300 or 500 or 1,000 words and then I need to go do something like reading, check greader or play on facebook. This to me forms part and parcel of the whole experience.

And so, what until november 2009? I think I’ve written myself out of writer’s block a little. I will try to edit this story for publication — either at pens or change the names and…gasp, oh the pressure…go for real. I’ll need to finish those CM wips and dust off Atonement. Making it a 101 task was a brilliant idea, I think that was the final push.

Final official wordcount is 51,477. I have a bunch of winner’s badges, the certificate and of course the chart.


in 101.1001 |


Imagine this.

The oldest rapid transit system in the world. 11 lines, 268 stations. 400 km (250 miles) of track. Over one billion passenger journeys per year. 55% above ground.

The Tube. Not known by any other name.

Here’s a train on the Hammersmith & City line at Barbican station, taken on a Saturday morning. The whole Circle Line was closed that day, together with a huge chunk of the Metropolitan from Wembley Park and a smattering of odd stations. I mean, give it a break, it’s almost 150 years old.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


Belgo isn’t exactly new new — I’d eaten there before, many years ago. I’ve always wanted to try their beat-the-clock menu — you pay according to the time on your order, so if the order is 5.45pm, you pay §5.45 — but we usually have something else to do between 5 and 6.30pm on a weekday. Anyway, the reason it makes this list is because it’s become my go-to restaurant, especially if I’m a) on my own and b) in Central London. With branches in several locations, and I have the one in Chalk Farm in mind, it could have become our special place, since L’Ecluse is gone.

Belgo offers Belgian food (duh). This means moules frites and beer. How can they go wrong? There is a separate menu for beer, offering on tap, monastery brewed, fruit beers, white beer and speciality (aka strong) beers. I had a Chimay Bleu, 9% dark ale and considered the classic Chimay. I also tried one of the fruit beers — the waiter suggested the Floris Apple, but I found it tasted too much like cider, nothing special.

Oh, moules frites. I had moules provençal, ie in tomato and garlic sauce. Very very nice. The kilo pot disappeared far too quickly. There were other items on the menu like chicken, sausage and steak but I question anyone who goes to Belgo and not order mussels. The frites were more like British chips to be honest, but notice how they automatically comes with mayonnaise? Gets another star in my books.


in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I heard this song from The Airborne Toxic Event on the plane, and had to scroll back and listen again. What caught my ear was how much like Chasing Cars it sounded. And I’m big on Snow Patrol. No wonder, this LA group has been compared with The Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse. Mixed reviews, mostly with critics wanting more from them than sounding like yet another one of those bands.

But you know what? I don’t care that they don’t sound quite original, it’s the style I like and there’s never too much of a good thing with stuff you like.

and all of these memories come rushing
like feral waves to your mind
of the curl of your bodies
like two perfect circles entwined

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


I bought a stack of CDs lately, the new ones from: Kings of Leon, Jason Mraz, Keane, Airborne Toxic Event, James Morrison, Katy Perry, Oasis. I’ve gone back to buying physical CDs, for no good reason that I feel like it.

So now I have over 10,000 songs in my iTunes library. Most are ripped from CDs, quite a few are freebies from everywhere and, okay, there’s a bunch that comes from frostwire.

in 101.1001 , family first | | comments (1)

My great-aunt and aunt are visiting — I hadn’t seen them in years and years. When Mum told me they are visiting, and that they plan to go to the cemetery, I made sure I booked my flight back from Chicago to ensure I’m home today.

My grandfather passed away in 1992 and my grandmother in 2002. I can still remember how I found out. I was in London in 1992, fresh out of college and newly with mm. We’d been at Margate on Sunday and I got the call early Monday morning from my dad. I felt guilty that while everyone was at the hospital I was out having fun at the beach, though being 8000 miles away and unaware of the situation there was nothing to be guilty about. I got a ticket that day and it was a long, lonely plane ride to the funeral.

I was home in 2002, fresh back from Zurich. My grandmother had had a stroke a couple of years prior and was being cared for by Mum and my uncle. Mum called on Saturday morning, I dressed quickly and was lucky that the first taxi I flagged down knew the way to the hospital, even directing me to where the entrance was when we got there.

I don’t consider it morbid to visit my grandparents and great-grandparents in the cemetery. I suppose it could be a scary place at night but in the light of day all I feel is respect and a sense of purpose. How can there possibly be malignant forces present at such an overwhelmingly Catholic place?

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Bret Easton Ellis defined my writing. I was very affected by Less than Zero and American Psycho. Not so much The Rules of Attraction but still. It’s the style, the tightness of language and ultimately the blank emptiness of his characters, his stories and his locations that got me. Deeply.

The Informers came out in 1994. My copy is actually signed, I bought it in London. Strange that it’s taken me 14 years to finally sit down and read it. I’d tried numerous times, but never got round to finishing. When I’m stuck on a plane with no access to my books, it’s a good incentive to finish.

Not so much a novel as a collection of short stories about a group of people who are loosely interconnected. Almost all written in first person and, honestly, it sometimes took me a few pages to figure out who was narrating.

Nothing of import went on. Set in opulent LA we had people doing drugs, doing each other, aimlessly going from one place to another, and not even death can pull them out of their self-absorption. The actions shock, but are not written to shock. Some of the chapters held my interest more than others. Some of the characters I could recognise — Julian, Tad, Alana and Blair from Less than Zero, or just characters with the same names. Tim was just like Clay. Sean. The characters are grotesque, in their tanned, Porsche-driving, Spago-dining ways. But they are just who they are. He doesn’t judge, or glamorise, he just paints the picture.

Now I need to read Glamorama.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


More Chile pictures. This is of the vina del mar coastline. Converted to b&w using the same gradient method.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


I hadn’t chatted with K for ages and she showed up on chat tonight. It was great to catch up. Reminds me of my visit last July. This is one of the parks in Santiago. Converted to b&w simply by:

add adjustment layer > gradient > b&w adjust levels, curves or add burn /soft light adjustment layers to increase depth

in 101.1001 , random words |

Something good came out of being jetlagged and can’t sleep. I ended up Friday night (well, Saturday early hours) writing a response to the fractured fairy tales weekly potluck challenge on the Bella/Spinsters Ink Books Forum. The idea is to create a new fairy tale or fable, “fractured”, or in our case, “queered”.

My first idea was to write one about Goldilocks, the jock, the femme and the baby butch. But someone else posted one about Goldilocks and the thick-haired bears before I even started. Sure, I could have written my version, but I didn’t want to seem like I was competing, you know. Especially cos the other entry was by one of the published authors, all of whom I feel have a superior status than us readers on the forum. I’m not complaining or anything, but my experience with forums is that any time an admin or moderator posts, it has more impact somehow.

It didn’t matter, there are so many fairy tales to choose from. So I started thinking about Cinderella, and it was so darned easy to queer it up. Give her a toolbelt and change her name to Dell, cos “Cinderella” is so girlie. Add 2 evil stepsisters (Lipstyck and Celesbyan), a sassy fairy godmother, a Princess Charming and instead of glass slippers, rainbow crocs. It was always going to be modernised, so I put in references to twitter, 2009 cars and Rachel Maddow. Hee.

And there we have it: Cinderella, Modern and Gay. I don’t think I’ve ever written a post so explicitly gay on this website, so enjoy it.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I had just over half an hour to spare today so I hung out at HMV listening to new releases. The station that had the new James Morrison and Daniel Powter also featured someone I’d never heard of before, Jason Mraz. I listened to We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things and immediately picked it up, as well as his previous CD, Mr A-Z.

I can’t find a lot of articles on him, but it doesn’t matter. A peek at his website confirmed my first impressions — quirky, fun, nerdy and downright left of centre. The Hawaiian influence reminds me of Jack Johnson except I’m liking Jason Mraz whereas I can’t get into Jack Johnson at all.

I tend to listen to too much depressing indie rock, this cheerfulness is a nice change.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


This was a quick dish I threw together cos I didn’t want to spend too much time prepping and cooking. I got the peeled shrimps from the supermarket. Fresh but packaged. Normally I’d go for the larger fresh (still swimming) prawns, cook a large batch and freeze them.

I sautéed the shrimps and set them aside. While the pasta was cooking I chopped up a couple of ripe tomatoes and reduced them till they were soft and just like a sauce.

When the pasta was ready, I tossed everything together.

Simple and quick. Not a jar of sauce in sight.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


This is one of my favourite photos. I took it in San Francisco and I’ve used it as a base when I want to try out various photoshop effects. original | movie-like effect

As the last picture, converted using the lab color method.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


Tram interior, San Francisco. original

Converted to b&w using the lab color method in this tutorial. Pretty straightforward: convert to lab color, select lightness channel, copy, revert to rgb color, paste into r, g and b channels, save image. Adjust curves, levels, channels as needed.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


This is the second in the New Zealand series I converted to b&w. It’s from the willow bank wildlife reserve in christchurch. Original.

I dunno. I think it’s overcontrasted, making it seem like one of those very old b&w pictures. Ah well. Next in the series I’m gonna try another technique.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


I had always wanted to learn black & white photography and in the days of film camera I tried taking a couple of rolls of b&w film. Was never really happy with the results. No surprise.

With the advent of digital photography, it’s not as if we can get b&w memory cards. Taking b&w pictures can be done using a filter. Some cameras have in camera settings. The other method is to post process. Photoshop, iPhoto and all photo editing software has this functionality.

Even within photoshop there are several methods. This tutorial has simple to follow instructions. Also, this one.

This picture was of the Cardrona Hotel on that lonely road between Queenstown and Wanaka, New Zealand. I tried the simplest channel mixer method and set it to black&white infra red filter. Then used levels and curves to add contrast. original colour version.

in 101.1001 , random words |


They come to me in drips and drabs, but here are the first 20. The first 8 are my entries for the forum challenge. The winning entry was the first one.

It’s not exactly based on any real event or whatever, it was just a feeling. Symbolism, if you will. The idea is to create sufficient depth so the readers’ minds can take it to the next step. The other ones that I like are #15 and 20. And then there’s #6, which appeals to the geek in me.

in 101.1001 , random words |

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Ernest Hemingway called this 6-word story his best work. In those concise few words, he told a story, but not the whole story. I think the idea is to introduce enough elements in order for the readers to interpret the story. Why were the shoes never worn? Miscarriage? Duplicate baby gifts? Why are they being sold? Where did this ad appear? The brevity and complexity are outstanding.

It’s a popular writing challenge topic. Blackbook magazine ran one in 2004, from 25 influential writers.

“Forgive me!” “What for?” “Never mind.” — John Updike

He remembered something that never happened. — AM Homes

All her life: half a house. — Jamie O’Neill

Wired magazine ran one for 6-word sci-fi stories.
Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so. — Joss Whedon

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly. — Orson Scott Card

Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht. — Margaret Atwood

Commas, see, add, like, nada, okay? — Gregory Maguire

Smith magazine took it one step further by asking for contributions to 6 word memoirs from the public. A book came out of that exercise.

Recently on a writing forum I visit, there was a 6-word novel challenge which attracted a lot of entries. This week I found out that one of my entries came in the top 3. Wow. The prize is a signed copy of a book by the author who posted the challenge. Except I already have that book, so she was very kind and promised me a signed copy of her next book.

It was fun to do, and I’m going to amend my 101 in 1001 list, replacing a duplicate entry with the task of writing 101 6-word novels. I’m going to post these on the 6wordnovel twitter account I created for this purpose.

in 101.1001 , money business |

mm and I have a few joint investments. The lumpsum account we opened 5 years ago was a pooled account so we qualified for a larger bonus, and it has grown pretty well since. The markets are down, so we lost some of the gains, but looking at the longer term it’s doing fine.

It’s gotten to the point when we can split the account and open our own single name accounts. Same reasoning…to get a new account bonus. Plus our investment philosophies are sometimes slightly different. She thinks about it more, and actively follows the market. I tend to be more laid back and conservative. This probably means she gets better returns, but it’s fine by me.

So after my big trip to Chile, seeing the prosperity there and talking to K a little, I’ve been wanting to put some money into Latin America. Not a lot, but as a diversification. Mostly, our FA says she’s not as familiar with the market and if we were to put money in Latam why not Eastern Europe or BRIC?

Today we went to sign documents for the account and we ended up deciding to put a little into Latam. The fund she recommended was Templeton Latin America Fund [pdf] and I put 2% of my portfolio there. We maxed out on # of funds at 10. The mix is 25% hedge fund, 25% student accommodation, 35% fixed income and only 15% equities. We’ll switch from FI to equities in stages, the aim is 70% equities but this is too much of a bear market to do that in one go.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


We have a proliferation of gift fruit baskets lately. Aside from the expected apples, oranges, grapes, bananas and mangoes there are a lot of these crisp, crunchy, juicy apple pears. Great in a fruit salad or on their own.

Properly called nashi pears, these are not a cross between apples and pears but are actually part of the pear family. Called commonly apple pears cos of their shape.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


When we were at the hoosoka viewpoint at kushiro wetlands, I rotated through and took a series of 7-8 kinda sorta overlapping pictures.

Autostitching in photoshop appears to be straightforward according to this tutorial. I tried, but the results using Auto-Align weren’t good, the contrast and exposure between pictures didn’t match at all. I guess it’s because there was too much green and the details aren’t clear enough to distinguish using an automated program.

I ended up eyeballing most of it, matching layers adjusting levels, curves and exposure layer by layer. The Auto-Blend function was useful though, took some guesswork out of the exercise. For the remaining parts I did some smudging and copying to eliminate as much of the obvious line up points as possible.

in 101.1001 , about me |

Together with staying at home and not spending money, I enjoyed a silent weekend. I called Mum Friday evening and we chatted for about 15 minutes; the next person I spoke to was mm when I called to wake her up at 6.30am this morning. In between, no people interaction, what bliss. Last time I tried for a no-speaking weekend, Mum called on Sunday to invite me out to dinner and ruined it. She didn’t laugh at me when I told her she’d ruined things, she knows me well enough to know that I mean it when I say I want a quiet weekend.

I have poor verbal skills anyway, which perhaps is surprising since I have decent written skills so you’d think I know how to string a sentence together. I don’t mind talking to people I know or on topics I’m interested in, but not for any length of time. People who can’t.stop.talking amaze and irritate me. Yes, I mean you, the one who nattered and yabbered continuously for the entire time I was on the bus.

May be I’m anti-social. So what. When there is no talking, no harm is done.

All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm

Lyrics from Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode. I found another video of them performing the song on the roof of the WTC but it creeped me out too much to post it.

in 101.1001 , about me |


I wanted to include this task in 101.1001 but I didn’t want to name it cos it’s deeply personal. It involved being disciplined and reaching certain milestones a certain number of times during one day (either a 24 hr period or from waking to sleeping). I’ve tried a few times before but have come up short. I’m glad I finally managed it.

in 101.1001 , how the day went , money business |

The rules are simple:

We are not allowed to spend any money on anything, no matter what. In other words, we can’t make a run to the store to buy food, we can’t spend money on any sort of entertainment, and so on.

No additional expense on utilities (eg no premium movies on cable). They even updated recently with a list of 100 things to do over a money-free weekend.

It’s very straightforward for me. All I did was stay home. I didn’t do grocery shopping — I have enough food for the weekend and even through Monday and Tuesday so I can do shopping during the week. I wasn’t tempted to buy anything from amazon, I didn’t pay any bills, in fact I didn’t even speak to anyone between talking to Mum on the phone friday night and going to bed sunday night.

I read, napped, played computer games, did a couple of food memes, enjoyed several foot massages on my uSqueeze, made fruit salad, made lunch for Monday.

This type of weekend, I never want to end.

in 101.1001 , going places |

hok151marimo hok670seasons hok378forest hok176spa hok035seafood

It has been 5 years, it was a long wait, but it was well worth it.

We took over 1,500 pictures which I’ve trimmed down to 873 and 8 videos in 3 flickr sets: part 1 | part 2 | part 3

There’s a thread in one of the flickr groups called the 5-shots-a-trip game where you’re supposed to show a trip using only 5 pictures. My choices were based on what they brought to me:

  • something new — marimo
  • something breathtaking — sunset at bibaushi
  • something delicate — millenium forest
  • something indulgent — the joy of hot springs
  • something fulfilling — all that seafood

The whole trip has been written up:

day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | day 5 | day 6 | day 7 | day 8 | day 9

Not including flights, hotel and car rental we spent ¥307,823, or approx $2,800 so double that for the whole trip. I’ve broken down the cash spending into categories.

Should really take out mm’s Burberry shopping. Heehee.


We want to go back already. Even with 2 trips there are so many places in Hokkaido we hadn’t explored. The far south Hakodate, the ice boats at Abashiri, the tiny islands off the NW side, Jozenkei Onsen, skiing at Niseko and many more.

An old New York Times article so aptly described why visitors to this magnificent island return to it again and again.

[T]he primary difference between Hokkaido and the rest of this heavily industrialized, crowded country is that it is still raw and largely unsettled. Hokkaido is Japan’s frontier and looks the part. In a country where little goes to waste, the Japanese have set aside large expanses of this countryside.

We’ll try not to let 5 years lapse before our next visit.

in 101.1001 , habitat |

hkhome011pillow hkhome012pillow

I needed to get new pillows cos the old ones are 10 years old and have gotten soft. I’ve been using the neck support pillows for a long time. The old ones I got from a regular store, it’s the first time I’ve seen them without the cover and it turns out that they are a sponge.

The new ones, on the right, are memory foam pillows by tempur. Needless to say they’re stiffer and more supportive, not only cos they are new but I suppose the technology is better.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


Jetlag has been bad. I don’t know why I’m not completely exhausted cos I’ve been waking up at stupid hours all week. 1am, 3am, 4am, 5am. I give up on trying to get back to sleep once it gets to around 5.30am.

I took this at just before 6am from my study. The sky was full of reds and oranges for just those few minutes. The trees around the swimming pool act as a good foreground to the skyscrapers in the background.

I entered this for the flickr 888 event. Some people actually take pictures of three 8s, I wish I had the opportunity to do that.

in 101.1001 , habitat |


The air-conditioner in my bedroom should have been replaced 3 years ago, I just never got round to it. Lately it’s been making such a racket that I have difficulties sleeping (jetlag notwithstanding). Once I decided, I acted quickly. Went to the electronics store on Tuesday and bought 2 — one for the study too since it’s as old as the one in the bedroom. Originally they were supposed to be delivered yesterday but it got cancelled because of the typhoon. Today they arrived. It took the technicians about an hour to install both, they even took the old ones away.

All in all, a nice deal. I didn’t get fancy ones, just store branded. It’s fine for the time being.

in 101.1001 , all about people , photography is life |

One of the specialist chefs at the Peking Garden restaurant in Hong Kong. This is one of the best restaurants for Peking duck and when we were there on a Saturday lunchtime, the ducks were served non-stop.

The duck would come out of the kitchen, shiny and fresh. The waiter would present it to the table for inspection, then it goes to the chef’s station. Diners have a choice of skin only or skin with meat. In short precise strokes the chef slices even portions onto an oval platter with a duck handle.

It’s one of the greatest dishes in the world, and you can see the focus and expertise in this chef’s action.

in 101.1001 , being healthy |

mm belongs to a traditional sports club, nothing fancy but lots of activities. It also has one of the oldest and most active bowling facility around.

We’ve been meaning to go, but never find the time. So today we made a special effort. Had to wait half an hour, which we spent watching some really good players. You can tell they’re good players by their robotic wrist guards, own shoes and own balls — often one player will have 2-3 balls.

My grandfather played in the league and my dad isn’t bad either. Me? I used to play a bit, but now I’m totally out of practice. After a few bowls I realise I need one of those wrist support cos I was all over the place. I managed to get 107 and 114; mm got 105 and 98. We had a really enjoyable time.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |



Tokoro at the Langham Hotel HK opened earlier this year to much fanfare. It sells itself as The Spirit of Roppongi where the theatre of robatayaki and the flavours of authentic Japanese cuisine come together. A robata is a busy open space where a team under chef Takanori Hirayama grill the freshest of seafood, meats and vegetables.

mm and I went with a friend who suggested this place. We started with a supreme 18-piece sushi plate and a lobster salad. Fairly standard cold appetisers, fresh and crisply prepared.

The grilled foods included the chef’s special minced chicken skewers, scallops with mushroom in its own juice, tempura and kurobuta pork chops. Kurobuta pork is the pork equivalent of wagyu beef, coming across as slightly crunchy and well marbled.

Dessert was a tofu mousse with red bean, green tea and lime cremes, and an fantastic apple sorbet. I couldn’t help it, I kept taking spoonfuls of mm’s sorbet. Hee.

tokoro005mousse tokoro006apple
They even had wine flights — we shared a pinot noir and a chardonnay selection of 3 glasses each. As an indulgence I even tried a sake cocktail — sakarina was made with sake, lime juice and a little sugar.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

courgetteflowers02 courgetteflowers06
I tasted a tiny slice of heaven today. I’ve heard about courgette (aka zucchini in some parts of the world) flowers and how delicate they are. There are recipes for deep fried or stuffed with cheese and all looks good.

So Car’s grandmother received a small handful of freshly picked courgette flowers yesterday. They can’t keep so she had to prepare them today. First she cleaned them carefully, then parboiled in water until they were soft. Even after parboiling the orange colour was still dominant. She then dipped them in a batter made from flour, baking powder (obviously SR flour will also do), water and beaten egg. She then pan fried them. There was leftover batter so it became a sort of frittata-like fritter.

It took all of 10 minutes for the plate to disappear. Very delicioius.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

I’ve been to many good restaurants in Chicago, mostly as a guest of my work colleagues. But none had the impression that Hamburger Mary’s made.

I’d been out in the sun watching the parade, then got rained on; the bus ride to the restaurant was long and full of traffic; I was dehydrated and hungry. So to be greeted by a larger than life plastic waitress with a huge burger in her hands gave me a big smile. This is a franchise chain started in 1972 with several branches all over the US. It’s a kinda burger joint, a kinda bar, quaint and a little camp. Beer on tap included Miller’s and Sapporo, food was the expected American casual burger fare.

I had a guacamole burger. The beef was good! Juicy, nicely flavoured and came with a giant steak knife stabbed in the middle of it. I had coleslaw with it, not having enough energy to face fries or mashed potatoes.

Strange that I pick a burger place for this entry, but it’s my choice if I had to bring anyone out for a meal.


in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |


It’s Mum’s birthday and Mother’s Day, so she deserves something special. I said I’d make a cake. I used to make cheesecakes, but this time I wanted something I’d never made before, so she can try something new.

This apple & blackberry crumble cake recipe is from bbc good food. It’s one of the more involved recipes I’ve tried. Nothing difficult, just time consuming and fiddly.

For the cake:
150g unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g crème fraiche

For the fruit topping:
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
4 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
150g blackberries

For the crumble topping:
50g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g plain flour
50g blanched hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Step 1: make the crumble topping
melt the butter, then mix in the sugar, cinnamon, flour and nuts. Set aside

Step 2: prepare the apples
melt the butter in a frying pan, add the sugar and apple wedges
cook for 10-15mins until the apples and soft and golden. Set aside to cool

Step 3: make the cake
cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
add eggs one at a time
fold in flour, baking powder
add crème fraîche

Step 4: assemble
spoon roughly 2/3 of the cake mixture into a round cake tin
scatter 1/3 crumble mixture
top with the remaining cake mixture
scatter 1/3 crumble mixture
arrange apple and blackberries
top with remaining crumble mixture

bake at 190°C for 1.5 hours, covering with foil halfway through if crumble browns too quickly
cool for 10 mins then cool on wire rack
serve with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and crème fraîche

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

From Delia’s winter collection. Yes, I know it’s May and it’s not winter, but who cares when there’s brownies? I don’t usually like nuts, but this was good.

1oz each of macadamia, pecan, hazelnut, brazil nut
2oz dark chocolate
4oz butter
2 large eggs
8oz granulated sugar
2oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Roughly chop and roast the nuts for exactly 8 minutes
Melt chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water
Cool, then mix in all the other ingredients
Bake at 180°C for 30 mins, cool, then cut into squares

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

It all started with this week’s friday food fiesta topic, which was olives. It got me thinking how I can use olives to make a quick and simple dish. Aside from serving them on their own as tapas of course.

It was unbelievably easy to make with this. I had all the ingredients in my fridge. Tossed cooked penne in a generous dollop of red pesto, then added pitted kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes and the last of my jar of peppadew. Season, adding a little dried basil. An altogether sweet combination. Worth making again, just as soon as I get more peppadew.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

This is a Donna Hay recipe (though I don’t understand why she doesn’t take advantage of the internet and post some of her recipes on her website). Very simple and easy to make.

marinade chicken in balsamic vinegar, garlic, olive oil and pepper
place on grill
add limes to grill halfway through
serve on a bed of salad, i used a red salad of carrot, tomato, yellow pepper and sweetcorn

I had the leftovers cold today, as a grilled chicken salad and it was just as good.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

This is a New York Times recipe, a great way of combining the special (asparagus) with the mundane (eggs). It really is very simple and surprisingly, very delicious. The recipe calls for cheese, which should work wonders. Of course I don’t like cheese in my pasta so there.

Timing is important, so all the ingredients are ready at the same time.

put water to boil and cook spaghetti
in a frying pan heat olive oil and add 2 cloves of garlic, crush the garlic to infuse the flavour into the oil
when garlic is beginning to brown, remove and toss in chopped asparagus, fry quickly
drain pasta, reserve a little cooking water
toss asparagus with pasta and the reserved liquid
crack an egg into the frying pan and fry quickly until the whites are just set
plate pasta and put egg on top
when ready to eat break the egg, allowing the yolk to run into the warm pasta which will cook the egg

in 101.1001 , photography is life |


I like this picture. It was taken at Pitt Street Mall in Sydney; I’d just came up from the Myers food court and it was the string quartet that caught my attention. There was quite a large crowd, and they were good. It was only after a while that I noticed the mime. My intention was to contrast the stillness of the mime against the musicians but there were too many pedestrians distracting the background. I’m glad I got the movement effect of the passers-by walking past.

in 101.1001 , all about people |

Because of Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank’s Nobel Prize, we’re pretty familiar with the concept of microfinancing. Lenders pool together to lend small amounts to the borrowers in mostly poorer countries who don’t have access to the traditional bank loan facilities. Over time, the loan amount is repaid. This is an good way to connect people who want to help with people who need help.

One of the more accessible organisations, and certainly one that fully uses the advantages of the internet, is kiva. Kiva describes how its members can participate simply as:

Choose an Entrepreneur, Lend, Get Repaid

A few months ago, around Christmas and New Year, there was so much attention (helped by coverage on Oprah) that there were a shortage of loans requested and lenders were limited to $25 each. Now that the year is underway and the New Year resolution fever died down, things are back to normal. I decided to wait at Christmas, and I find that it was a good decision.

Scrolling through almost 30 pages of loans reqested, the loan amounts requested were small (a few hundred dollars, not many over $1,000). Most of the purposes were to buy goods for resale, retail, transportation, construction, and home improvement. Some are near their target already. I was caught by the entry for a lady in Benin. I have to admit I won’t be able to point out Benin in a map, but it didn’t matter.

I put down $50. Payment is through PayPal (who doesn’t charge their usual fee for kiva). Kiva collects the funds then distributes to the Field Partner for further dissemination to the entrepreneur.

It felt good to be able to help someone. It’s a small amount for me, but if it can help make a difference, then I’m only too happy to do my part. Virginie Bahini, I wish you the best.

in 101.1001 |

tky032subway tky031subway
Tokyo’s subway system is a maze. It’s large, and extensive, and can be confusing. 14 lines, 280+ stations and almost 8 millions passengers daily. Imagine the level of computerisation and control. On top of that, there’s the Yamanote line of the JR that is like the Circle Line, running in a circle connecting all the important stations.

These were taken at around 6pm at Ginza on the Ginza line. Surprisingly it wasn’t as crowded as I expected on the train but the station itself was very busy. There really wasn’t sufficient room or lighting, but Photoshop did the rest.

For reference, here’s the Tokyo subway system map.

subway tokyo

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

There are tens of thousands of restaurants in Tokyo. In a busy district such as Shibuya, Shinjuku or Ginza, entire buildings are taken up by restaurants, one on each floor. The problem for non-Japanese speakers is that it’s hard to figure out what is offered inside. Some restaurants helpfully provide plastic models but I suspect the good ones don’t, cos they don’t need the advertisement.

Staples of Japanese food are well known — sashimi, sushi, teppanyaki, grilled food, noodle bars, deep fried pork chop, shabu shabu and tempura. That these have become so ingrained internationally is a testament to the popularity of Japanese food.

If ever there is a restaurant I will return to again and again, it’s Ginza Tenkuni, which has been serving tempura since 1885. From a small beginning as a street stall it now occupies a whole building in one of the most expensive areas in Tokyo. The restaurant has 4 floors, and it’s interesting that each floor serves a slightly different style (and price) of tempura.

  • basement — counter table but don’t be fooled, dinner starts at ¥10,500
  • ground (what they call first) floor — casual seated tables, a simple bowl of tempura on rice for only ¥1,000 to larger sets up to ¥4,725
  • second floor — banquet floor with table setting or tatami room, sets start at ¥6,300
  • third floor — large tatami room for banquets, tempura is fried at the table

I’ve only eaten on the ground floor, but the selection is already enticing enough. Even a simple set comes with sashimi, pickles, side dish and miso soup


A more sophistical set is the bento box. It comes delicately presented, with several side dishes, soup and flavoured rice.


The best set I’ve enjoyed is a special winter set. It starts with a small salad, moving onto a plate with grilled fish and tiny small bowls of accompaniment.

There’s also sashimi and finally tempura of large prawn, small prawns, fish and vegetables. There’s even a scoop of ice cream to end.


in 101.1001 , random words |

It took me almost 3 months to write 9,000 words, which is kinda shameful if I think about it. I know I can do better but I’ve been in bad form for a couple of years. Still, I finished The Dressmaker’s Hands yesterday. It’s not a CM, cos it’s set in an undefined historical period and it’s too much of a cop-out to force coffee in there someplace. So I created a new category for these non-CM short stories.

The premise is based on the segment of the film Eros called The Hand. That film was split into 3 segments by 3 directors — Wong Kar Wai, Steven Soderberg and Michelangelo Antonioni. For me the segments decreased in quailty so by the time I got to Michelangelo Antonioni’s I was utterly bored. Anyway, Wong’s segment provided inspiration for my story, down to the title. It can be classified as erotica, with a small plot. I feel like a fraud every time I write a sex scene. By committing those emotions into words I’m implying that I know what I’m talking about. Heh. Will anyone believe me when I say all I have to offer is a good imagination?

Like I said, 9,000 words. Car said “so your entire story is shorter than one of my chapters, eh?” Heehee. Even more evilly, I’m posting in 4 parts because there are time gaps between each small part. In any event, my long stories are usually of 1,500 to 2,500 words each chapter, so I’m not deviating from my norm here.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

All the restaurants I went to on the trip to Pairs were new. I hadn’t been back in Paris for 6+ years, and my eating habits have changed somewhat since then. I remember always looking out for moules frites and though I still love the dish, I’m looking for something different.

If I were to return to Paris in the near future, and I’m only allowed to pick just one restaurant to revisit, I’d choose Aux Lyonnais. Yes, it’s probably the most touristy of the bunch, but there were dishes on the menu that intrigued me, and I want to try. I was extremely adventurous and tried the tripes but as we were leaving I looked over at a nearby table and saw someone tucking into the most scrumptious looking calves liver — thick, soft and cooked pink. Then every review I read talks about quenelle de brochet et ecrevisses, so how can I not try it?

And the île flottante aux pralines roses et tarte aux pralines, so worth trying again. Though next time I will try the soufflé (didn’t this time cos of the wait) and definitely the creamy St. Marcellin cheese my colleague had.

in 101.1001 , going places |

I got invited to the departmental steering committee meeting in Paris. It was a last minute affair — one minute I was going, the next I wasn’t, then it was on again. There was a bit of a scramble to get tickets earlier this week.

I got to the in-town check-in early. There was no wait at the counter where I was promptly told that business class was full so I was being upgraded to first. First class. On a 12-hour flight. Oh man.

The seats were huge — 79” long and 22” between the armrests. They also recline fully into a flat bed. Aside from the usual amenities kit we were given a comfy pajamas and slippers set. It was easy to cocoon myself, and not have to deal with the other passengers.

The entertainment program was the same on-demand as in Business. I watched Bewoulf during dinner. Now dinner, that was different from Business. It was full service, like in a restaurant. The menu:

Caviar and Balik Salmon with Krug grande cuvee

Lobster bisque

Mesclun salad with olive, sun-dried tomato and balsamic vinaigrette

Grilled beef tenderloin with gratin potato, asparagus, carrot and red capsicum
Pesto tortellini with tomato sauce and pinenut

Cheeses — cambozola, appenzeller, double gloucester and somerset brie

Fresh seasonal berries

Ice cream

Tea and coffee

I finished the film and went to sleep. Not blankets but a proper duvet. I managed to sleep for 6-ish hours, which is not bad nowadays.

As a flying experience went, it was extremely comfortable. I can only hope I can have another opportunity another time.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

When I think of sponge puddings, it’s usually the upturned pudding basin-shaped cake swimming in custard or golden syrup — oversweet, thick and stodgy. After a couple of bites, it leaves me full and wanting fruit or sorbet. I guess it’s an English prerogative, the heavy sponge pudding that shocks the arteries.

Which was why I was so excited to find this recipe from Nigel Slater’s Appetite. It’s been a good book of cooking tips and recipes for me. His website seems to have disappeared but I found an excerpt at The Guardian that quoted this particular page. The best thing is that it’s delicious and very light. The citrus makes sure that it’s not too sweet and gives it a bright tang. I think I left mine in the oven too long and the sauce dried out a bit, but it’s still very yummy — the top is a light (here’s that word again) crust and the bottom is this exquisite custardy, lemony soft sponge. It has to be tasted to give it full credit.

If I were to plate this properly I’d serve it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone or a pretty lemon sauce and a raspberry or two. Accompanied by limoncello, of course.

100g butter
175g sugar
1 lemon + 2 oranges or 4 lemons — I used all lemons this time
4 eggs, separated
40g plain flour
400ml milk

cream the butter and sugar
add egg yolks followed by flour and milk alternatively until the mixture resembles a soft cake batter
add zest and juice of fruit
beat egg whites until stiff peaks and fold into mixture
bake in basin over a roasting tin of water at 180°C for about 1 hour

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I cannot believe it’s taken me this long, have I been living under a rock or something? A Popstars phenomenon since 2003, their success can’t be attributed to simply being manufactured fake reality stars. Seventeen consecutive Top 10 singles in the UK can’t be scoffed at.

So anyway, I heard Call the Shots on the plane and thought, “hmm, very catchy.” I had to wait for a second cycle to catch the band’s name and I had to write it down on my bookmark. And that was my introduction to Girls Aloud.

The more I listen, the more I like them. Yes, they’re pure pop. Yes, they sell glamour. Yes, I can’t tell the girls apart. So what? Like my first impression, they have catchy songs and that’s enough nowadays. I went out and bought Tangled Up and I’m enjoying it. It appeals to the part of me looking for instant gratification, ice cream and something different from the broody music I’m usually drawn to. The appeal of girls aloud is loud and clear.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

He’s been around since the 1980s, so it hardly qualifies as new. But I’ve never truly gotten into Nine Inch Nails, or more precisely Trent Reznor. I find the music a little too electronic, a little too industrial, for my taste even though peripherally I know I need to explore the music more.

I was glad to be given an excuse when Ghosts I-IV was released. Definitely setting a great example of how the way music should be distributed in this day and age, the album is available in a variety of formats and prices. Tracks 1-9 are available for free download; the whole album for $5; a double CD for $10; a special edition for $75 and an ultra deluxe limited edition for $300. Needless to say, and as an affront to the RIAA, the $300 edition sold out quickly.

I was perfectly happy to pay $5 for the 36-track digital album and also happily found a review that included a little summary of each track. Very useful, especially for an instrumental album like this, where it’s easy to lose track (heh, no pun intended) of the tracks. One reviewer on amazon suggested listening to each section separately, but listening closely for the first few times then letting it wash over me works better for me. I’m at the listen closely stage and liking the variety as well as the different mood that each piece strikes.

in 101.1001 , thing-a-day |

It was a short post on mefi but it got my attention. The thing-a-day is simple, during the month of February:

  • make one thing (eg project, sketch, exercise) a day
  • document this work in anyway necessary to prove to the world that you’ve made something new: write, take pictures, videos, post things online
  • entries are posted on the official page, which is a wordpress blog with multiple authors

I made a list of what I could be doing, but it ended up less creative than I intended. I tended to go back to tried and trusted “things” like cooking and photography. I tried drawing, but it really didn’t turn out well. I documented it fully though: here on the website and over at the official site. What I liked were the comments and “I like it” features on the official site. I’m not sure if the site owner(s) will publish statistics, the latest is that 1,418 people signed up and 609 started. I’d be interested to know how many completed the whole 29 days — I suppose I can scroll through the authors list and count the number of people with the required number of posts.

There were a few days when I was struggling for things to do, or more likely time to do them and post. Especially during the week when it was busy as hell at work and I was getting ready to go on vacation. Now that it’s finished I’m sure I’ll miss it, and there are several ideas I hadn’t had time to do. A short summary of what I did each day:

  1. made a list of what I could be doing — it was kinda cheating but I wanted to get my thoughts together
  2. chicken stock — cooking thing #1; the stock was good
  3. made an ebook, and most amusingly, a video of how I made the ebook. now I know I’m nuts
  4. care package for hospital visit
  5. mediterranean chicken with chickpeas — cooking thing #2, for both thing-a-day and 101.1001
  6. badly drawn doodle — yeah that was ugly
  7. rkt completion ratio chart — long overdue so it was a good opportunity to update
  8. movie poster effect — I really liked that, it turned out pretty
  9. brätwurst mit rösti — cooking thing #3, the weekend means I do more cooking
  10. butternut and chickpea salad with tahini — cooking thing #4, yep more cooking
  11. pickled eggs — cooking thing #5
  12. flash animation — it was follow the instructions which I could do, but it doesn’t mean I now know flash
  13. running kit — that was kinda cheating cos I didn’t “do” anything except queue up for 2 hours to get my marathon stuff
  14. sharpie doodle — it looks juvenile but I’m secretly pleased with it
  15. macro shot of clock — that was the first time I consciously used the macro function on the camera, a comment on the main site was like “fantastic! at last a non-flower macro shot
  16. origami paper dolls — these had been in my drawer since 1997! My version wasn’t as good as the sample but at least it passed as a final product
  17. 10km run — I’m glad I went. my time was slow but what the hell, it’s not a competition
  18. baked pasta with tomato & mozzarella — cooking thing #6, and the sole purpose was to use up the mozzarella ball that got delivered to me by mistake
  19. grilled tuna head — cooking thing #7, almost cheating cos I merely reheated the food. that it’s part of a tuna head was interesting
  20. crystal apple — man, that photo turned out to be awesome
  21. bionicle robots — I wish I had more of these to construct and play with
  22. travel day — there wasn’t any time that day to do anything but pack and travel. took me 25 hours door to door to get to chicago
  23. pandora — god I miss pandora
  24. shopping day — got lots done
  25. breaded pork chop dinner — cooking thing #8. one of the things I like about visiting is that I get to hang out with Gram and help her with cooking
  26. mind maps — it occurred to me that I should be mindmapping this post
  27. optical illusion — that one was interesting, and I so want to be able to have the mouseover here but I can’t figure out how to use that javascript for only one post
  28. fried rice — cooking thing #9, it was well received
  29. a day in the life — wow, i actually completed 3 challenges in one day

in 101.1001 , arts and media , thing-a-day |

One of my 101.1001 tasks is to learn flash. I guess it’s like photoshop and illustrator, the basics are straightforward to learn, once you grasp the toolbar system and understand the concept of layers and timeline. But with such a complex program, to get any good takes a long time.

So I followed an informative video that shows how to create a simple animation with falling text effects in flash. It was fun.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

This recipe is adapted from orangette who adapted it from the absolutely fantastic casa moro cookbook. I actually have the first moro cookbook, and it looks like I should get the second one too.

Pumpkin and squashes are high on my favourites list. Creamy soup, roasted as side dishes or as a substitute for mashed potato, there’s nothing that beats the chill of winter than a warming, welcoming squash dish. The tahini adds a touch of arabia to the proceedings, and lifts it up beyond just a warm pumpkin salad.

for the salad Peel a whole butternut and dice into 1-1.5” pieces
Season with olive oil, minced garlic, salt & pepper and mixed spice — the recipe calls for allspice but I didn’t have that
Roast at 200° for 25mins or until soft
At the last 5mins or so chuck in a can of drained chickpeas to warm them up

for the tahini dressing Whisk together 2tbsp tahini, 2tbsp lemon juice, finely minced garlic and sea salt
Add water to dilute
Add oilve oil and whisk to a thick consistency
Season to taste
I found it still too lemony so I added a few drops of sesame oil for balance

assembly After removing from the oven, cool the squash to warm temperature
The recipe uses red onions but I don’t eat onions, so I added celery chopped into small bits for the crunchiness
Toss vegetables in tahini and serve

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking , thing-a-day |


season 4 chicken portions with cumin, tumeric, salt & pepper (I used drumsticks this time)
brown in a casserole dish or deep pan with garlic
add a can of chick peas and a can of chopped tomatoes
simmer for 25-30mins until chicken is done and the sauce has reduced
throw in green peppers
serve over garlic mash — or cous cous for more mediterranean flavour

in 101.1001 , going places |

I did a lot of flying over the past 6 months. I was 13,000-ish miles, or one long haul flight, away from advancing to gold status on my frequent flyer card. My membership year starts in August so I’m very sure I’ll get there.

Surprise surprise I got a package today congratulating me on reaching gold status. So they didn’t even need me to put in the additional 13,000 miles. woot! Gold means I have priority waitlisting, even more extra baggage allowance. Lounge access and priority boarding applies for all oneworld airlines, not just my home airline. That will be very useful.

This means my airmiles is reset and I have to start another 12 months afresh. Hopefully I can get enough miles. I think a couple of business trips to Chicago will be good enough. I’ve been a member since 1999, I wonder if they’ll give me some benefits next year on my 10th anniversary. Hee.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

When I read about layer tennis I thought: “okay, it’s a bunch of designer-bloggers doing their small clique thing again, to show off to the general public why they are so cool and why other uncool people can’t get into their club.”

Well okay that was a little harsh. The idea of layer tennis is that at a pre-determined time (usually 2pm Central time on a Friday), two contestants

swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a “volley”

The file is published to online viewers and a third person provides commentary. Most matches are played in photoshop but there’ve been matches played in after-effects, flash and illustrator. It’s really a test of visual design skills in a short period of time rather than how well they know how to use photoshop filters.

There’s been 15 sessions so far, this weekend’s featured two simultaneous matches and it was touted as a “finale” so I’m not sure if it’s the last scheduled or what.

Do I understand it? Yes I do. And I’m pretty impressed with the creativity and ideas. This is from one of my favourites, between Veerle Pieters and Cindy Li on 11=Jan-08.

layer tennis01

layer tennis02

It was also interesting to read the participants’ thoughts on the match: Veerle Pieters | Cindy Li. Of course there was a large dose of inside jokes, as they know each other. Not a huge amount of technique commentary, mostly thoughts of how they arrived at each volley. Seemed like fun was had by all.

in 101.1001 |

Did a little clean up today. I have too much stuff — intended presents and just general junk. Threw a bunch of them in a big plastic bag to give to Sis. Apparently my niece’s school will be holding a jumble sale soon so these will be handy. Some of them are still in their original wrapping so hopefully people will buy them.

Here’s 30 of the jumble sale items. Altogether there’s 40 items in the batch.


In the basket is an olive oil jar, 3 small rugby balls, a neck cushion, a pig photo frame. There’s also some tapes of very old sitcoms, a candle set, tiny Paris pictures, toy car, snoopy puzzle, Nigel Slater’s Appetite (which is a duplicate), a portfolio, a couple of umbrellas, a poster, Monty Python rude sayings keychains and a couple of stamp albums I found in my mailbox unexpectedly one day (that’s a story idea). Nice stuff, not rubbish. But still, cluttering up my home.

Also threw away my old scanner, about 50 tapes and other junk that aren’t sellable. Put some old clothes in a bag for Sis’ helper. Total is definitely over 101 items.

in 101.1001 , techtalk |

That was one of the easiest tasks on the list. The magSafe airline adapter works with macbook and macbook pro and connects to in-seat empower and 20mm power ports on planes where DC power ports have been enabled.

I haven’t tried it out, cos normally I eat, watch movies and read on planes. May be on my next long haul flight.

in 101.1001 |

I’ve been thinking about this, and finally I decided to go ahead and do the 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

I’ll keep the master list over at the personal section and open up a new category here for tracking.

101 tasks in 1001 days

mission: complete 101 preset tasks in 1001 days
criteria: tasks must be realistic and specific, requiring actual effort and with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined

start: Saturday 1 December 2007
end: Saturday, August 28, 2010

tasks completed: 005
tasks remaining: 096

  1. upgrade to leopard
  2. get an airline adaptor for the mbp // done
  3. get an iPhone
  4. get wii fit
  5. learn flash
  6. create an access database
  7. play with or install linux
  8. understand layer tennis // done
  9. 1001 posts total on entire website (including tumblr)

  10. arts
  11. visit an art exhibition
  12. see Wicked in London
  13. see Wicked in New York
  14. go to an outdoor concert
  15. 10,000 songs in my iTunes library
  16. listen to 10 new singers / bands
  17. finish watching all 7 seasons of Buffy

  18. reading
  19. use my library card
  20. read mythology for dummies
  21. read a book of poetry
  22. finish all the Harry Potter books
  23. read 10 books on the bookshelf that I haven’t read before
  24. read 10 books recommended to me

  25. writing
  26. 2008: 100k words
  27. 2009: 100k words
  28. finish nano again, not necessarily in november
  29. write 5 short stories
  30. post one more story on pens

  31. photography
  32. buy a lomo
  33. complete 26 things using lomo
  34. complete 26 things using a colour as theme
  35. photograph a sunrise
  36. take 10 photos of people
  37. take 10 photos of subway trains
  38. take 10 photos with “untitled” as theme
  39. take 10 b&w photos
  40. tues’ assignment: find colour in an unusual place

  41. travel
  42. 3 new countries
  43. 6 new US states
  44. visit San Diego zoo
  45. visit Easter Island
  46. visit India as a tourist
  47. go to Hokkaido in the winter
  48. go on a cruise
  49. fly first class
  50. get to gold status on airmiles card // done

  51. health
  52. get a health check
  53. walk home from work 10 times
  54. 10km in under 1:20
  55. take a tai chi, yoga or other martial arts course
  56. play 18 holes of golf
  57. go rock-climbing (real or wall)
  58. go on an overnight hike
  59. go bowling
  60. go skiing or snowboarding
  61. get a facial
  62. lose 10 pounds

  63. food
  64. 10 new fruits / vegetables
  65. 10 new savoury dishes // [1] [2]
  66. be vegetarian for 1 week
  67. make a croquembouche
  68. make panna cotta
  69. plan, make and serve a full course meal, with wine
  70. make a Mediterranean meal
  71. make an Indian meal
  72. make a Thai or Vietnamese meal
  73. 10 new dessert / pastry recipes
  74. 10 new restaurants in 10 cities
  75. eat at a truck stop
  76. eat at a Michelin-star restaurant

  77. home
  78. buy another house / apartment, or equivalent in property funds
  79. throw away 101 clutter items // done
  80. clear out window-boxes
  81. change foam filling for sofa cushions
  82. get new pillows
  83. get new air-conditioners
  84. renovate bathroom
  85. renovate kitchen

  86. finance
  87. make a will
  88. total comp = x (this is deliberately vague)
  89. total asset = x (this is deliberately vague)
  90. invest in a latin american fund
  91. microfinance someone on kiva
  92. sell an item on ebay

  93. family
  94. take parents to niagara falls
  95. treat parents to spa
  96. and sis too
  97. send my niece a postcard when I’m travelling
  98. visit grandparents’ and great-grandmothers’ graves

  99. personal
  100. complete the thing-a-day challenge // done
  101. go a whole weekend without speaking
  102. go to midnight Mass
  103. pray the rosary
  104. buy 3 items of clothing that are not black or blue
  105. take pictures of all my hard rock café polo shirts
  106. count how many swatches I have
  107. speak french, en france
  108. look into earthwatch or similar program
  109. sign up for gimme your stuff
  110. go to a baseball game
  111. own / rent / drive a convertible

There is a big master list and it’s interesting to look at other people’s tasks. Some tasks are very popular, but I can’t include them because I’ve done them. To give myself some encouragement, I’ll list them out as an achieved pre-list.

  1. buy a house
  2. personal finance tasks such as reduce debt, pay off mortgage, put money in a monthly savings plan, buy stock
  3. learn how to drive stick — I have to put on a straight face whenever I see this one
  4. get a passport — oh, Americans
  5. visit New Zealand, the Smithsonian, Niagara falls, Vegas or go on a long road trip — yep, been to all these places
  6. go whale watching, dolphin watching, touch a koala — yep, done these too
  7. get website, re-design website, learn html, learn css — may be after 1001 days I’ll need to re-design again
  8. write a book — I figured I’ve done 3 nanos, those count
  9. complete 26 things — so I gave myself more specific 26 things goals instead
  10. try acupuncture, reflexology, Thai massage, yoga
  11. pack own lunch to work — that’s like my default
  12. there’s also one popular and meaningful task I can’t do — give blood. Most countries politely refuse donors who stayed cumulatively more than 3 months in the UK between 1980 and 1996. I can only give blood in the UK, and since I’m not living there right now…