April 2011 Archives

in eating and drinking |

windsorknotale

Still on the royal wedding theme, I had this Windsor Knot Ale made by windsor & eton brewery with my dinner today. It’s nice, pretty strong hop flavour.


in in the news |

ldnrw02couple

This was the moment when the royal couple stepped out from Westminster Abbey. Confetti showered us at Hyde Park as we watched on the big screen. Yes, I woke up early enough to make my way there, got there at 9.30am, bought a roast pork bap for breakfast and found a spot with a view to one of the screens. It was moving, watching as the guests arrive at the abbey, the wedding parties departing from Clarence House and Buckingham Palace, the extended royal family in the very non-traditional minibuses and of course the bride and groom themselves. A big cheer when Kate stepped out into the waiting car and the world saw her dress for the first time.

Impeccable service, we belted out Jerusalem and God Save the Queen, or at least most of the 100,000+ crowd did. There were union jacks galore and a cheer for the royal couple and the Queen every time they appeared on screen. Kate’s dress was perfect, in fact all the guests’ suits and dresses were amazing.

It was at the moment when they were in the state landau making their dignified way back to Buckingham Palace, and accompanied by all the guards in their full regalia, that I realised, for the first time since I moved back, how glad I was to be in London. I didn’t stay after the service ended, walked up Edgware Road (which was very, very quiet), quickly went to Tesco, hopped on a bus and was home in time to see the royal kisses. Watching the crowd march with such calmness up the Mall to fill up the space outside Buckingham Palace, or learning that the bells of the abbey were to ring for a full 3 hrs, I was a little regretful that I didn’t go to St James’ Park or Trafalgar Square instead, but oh well.

One of the top trending topics today on twitter is #proudtobebritish. I’m naturalised, but that’s not unusual; it’s not such a big deal here. Today is William and Kate’s day, the Royal Family’s day and Britain’s day. It is a day to say to the world that I’m proud to be British.

in in the news |

royalplate

Everyone is gearing up for the royal wedding on Friday. While it’s true that much of the frenzy is probably whipped up by the media, no one I know here in the UK is complaining because this will be our second consecutive four day weekend. So, may as well show our appreciation by joining in the festivities. I’m still undecided, if the weather is okay, I might brave the 200,000 crazies expected at Hyde Park.

in techtalk |

devolo

The useless virgin superhub wifi signal barely reaches the kitchen and not at all in the small bedroom, so I’ve been doing research on wireless extenders. The obvious candidate is a time capsule + airport express combo, but I thought I’d expand my horizons to beyond Apple. A little more digging led me to devolo, who makes products that sets up a home network using the electrical wiring system. I’d never heard of this method, and was skeptical until I read all the reviews on amazon.

I walked over to PCWorld after work, because they were selling the wireless starter kit for £89.99, even cheaper than amazon. My thinking is that if it doesn’t work, I can always return it.

Setting up was incredibly easy, took all of 5mins:

  1. connect the extender (smaller unit) via an ethernet cable to the modem and plug it into a wall socket
  2. note down the security ID at the back of the adaptor (larger unit)
  3. plug the adaptor to the wall in the remote room
  4. search for the “devolo” network and enter the security ID

That was it. Basically attach a cable and plug 2 things into the wall. The adaptor also has 3 ethernet ports to connect non-wireless devices like printers or tv and there is dashboard software that gives more functionality like configuring the network. The only minor disadvantage I can see is that both units have to be plugged directly to the wall — using an extension cord will degrade the signal. May be a problem for houses with insufficient wall outlets.

Overall, both thumbs up. Not particularly cheap but worth the money. I’m blown away by the simplicity of setup and the strength of the signal. I’m getting full bars in every room and no drop in signal. This means I can start using the small bedroom as a study and switch between the mbp there and the mba in the kitchen. I was able to make a little progress in the LL rewrite over the Easter weekend, which can only be a great thing.

in being healthy |

running20110426

5.01km 29.29min 5.53min/km

Sub-30 5k. Neat. Of course, I’d have to run sub-25 to have any chance of coming in the top 10, and sub-20 to be in the top 3 in my AG in races. I just have to settle for just under 30 consistently.

Talking about sub-30 makes me sad. It’s the ravenswood 5k this weekend. Last year I ran 29.53, which is still my 5k PR (Corporate Challenge was faster, but it was 3.5miles). I think that if I were to run again this year, I could beat that. The Ravenswood is a fast course, and because it’s so close by I don’t have the stress of travelling all the way downtown. Big sigh. I can just imagine cycling down to the start, running the race and cycling home.

Final running news today. I registered for the 2012 london marathon ballot. I’m hopeful, but trying not to get over-excited. I was entry #122,000+ this morning, and there will inevitably be a huge demand. People who don’t get in through the ballot can donate their £32 entry fee to charity and get: a) a “loser” running jacket and b) a NYCM ballot entry. I already registered for the 2012 brighton marathon, as a fallback. It would be great to run london in london olympic year though.

in eating and drinking |

rabbitcasserole01

Vegetarians and those who are squeamish about their food should skip this post. (Although I should have posted the photo under a cut. Ah well.)

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I only realised it when I had finished and was washing up, that it’s Easter Monday and I had rabbit casserole so I ate the Easter Bunny, ack! It was totally unintentional. I bought a nice duck and needed the freezer space so the rabbit and venison sausages came out. I had the rabbit from last time I was at the farmer’s market, it’s chopped up, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it. I’m not that squeamish about my food, but I can’t get used to a rabbit-shaped rabbit yet. It’s like people say cuy, or South American guinea pig, tastes wonderful but on most travel and food program they serve it whole and I don’t think I’ll be able to tackle it looking like that.

The options were to roast, pan fry or make a casserole. Mum says that when she was younger she had roasted rabbit, which was quite nice. I had a bunch of carrots and root vegetables so I thought I’d casserole it. Pretty standard recipe — rabbit, sausage, garlic, onion, carrot, swede, red wine, canned tomato, in the oven for 2 hours. There wasn’t a lot of meat, less than a chicken, hence the addition of the sausage. I deboned it and served with rocket and roasted butternut squash. Tasted a little more gamey than chicken, but still pretty mild.


in being healthy |

running20110424

10.80km 1:11:54hr 6.39min/km

I rarely run in the morning, except when there is a race. Given a choide I’d never do a morning run during the work week because I can’t imagine waking up so early. Very occasionally at the weekends. The track was pretty crowded at 9am, but I’d planned on heading towards Regent’s Park anyway. Ended up doing more than 10k. Much higher mileage than last week, definitely more than 10% increase, but it’s relatively small distances so it shouldn’t matter.

Skyped with Sis and Mum, then spent the rest of the day reading, writing and playing mw. Didn’t go out at all. In lieu of easter eggs, I had a few candy cane frangos that I’d brought over with me.

in how the day went |

hotcrossbun2011

The problem with waking up at 3.30am is that I can’t stop eating and by the time I get up again, properly at 8am, I’d already eaten into (pun intended) a chunk of my daily calorie allowance. Plus today I hadn’t planned on going running, just as well because it got dark and there was a thunderstorm attack at 5pm. Since it’s Easter, it’s time for hot cross buns. No, I didn’t make these, they are from the supermarket.

in eating and drinking |

salmonorganic

I don’t do the give something up for lent thing. No particular reason. I do, however, abstain from meat on good friday. No particular reason either. This was a beautiful Scottish organic salmon fillet that I got from Waitrose this morning. I was stuck by how pale it was, there was almost no pink and when cooked the colour was more chicken breast than salmon. As for taste, it was good.

in eating and drinking |

312beer

It’s “friday” and a colleague’s birthday, so naturally we went for a drink. I only had 2 beers, one Amstel and an Estrella, nothing too intense. But that was enough for me already. Have I been too used to weak American beer? Age? Not running enough? I’m glad though, the days of 6 pints in one sitting have no appeal anymore. I do find myself missing a good 312 beer.

in arts and media |

killers2011

No lollapalooza this year, so it’s hard rock calling instead. No 3-day ticket deal, and the line up is so much smaller. It’s a different sort of event really. The choices for headliners for the 3 days are: Killers, Bon Jovi and Rod Stewart. No brainer isn’t it. I actually thought that it’s a Killers only concert before I realised it’s a 3-day event. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, but as a vodafone customer I’m able to order 48hrs in advance, so I have my ticket already.

If it weren’t so expensive I’d get a ticket for Sunday too. I have zero interest in Rod Stewart, but Stevie Nicks, Rumer and Lighthouse Family are also playing. Then again, no one goes to a concert to see the supporting and guest acts, do they?

in |



  • Emmanual Mutai won London in 2:04:40
  • Geoffrey Mutai won Boston in 2:03:02
  • Mary Keitay won London in 2:19:19
  • Caroline Kilei won Boston in 2:22:36

Four great results. Geoffrey Mutai’s time was the fastest in a marathon, but is not recognised as a world record because the Boston course is a) point-to-point and b) downhill with tailwind. Nevertheless, it’s still a fantastically fast time. In fact, both Mutai wins are fast times. I’d be ridiculously happy if I ran a half-marathon that close to 2 hours.

As a result of these times, there’s a lot of talk about when we’d see a sub-2 hour marathon. There’s a great chart on bbc that shows the evolution and everyone agrees that it is just a matter of time. However, the prudent thought is that it will take someone very extraordinary, and may not happen this generation:

reducing it from 2:16 to 2:12 took seven years, 2:12 to 2:08 took 19 years, and cutting it from 2:08 to the current mark of 2:03:59 took 24 years.

Amidst all the marathon celebration, a sad piece of news today, that nine-time NYC marathon winner Grete Waitz has passed away aged 57. I’m old enough to remember her in the 1984 Olympics, taking silver behind Joan Benoit. I can say I ran in the same marathon as Joan last year in Chicago (she ran 2:47:50, the fastest woman over 50), I can never have the same honour with Grete. What a legend.


in in the news , objects of desire |

london2012

Submitted my application for the 2012 olympics. Only 20 sessions allowed per application so I chose the ones that mm, sis, my niece and I were interested in. And then planning where to go each day. Ended up with quite a diverse selection — diving, table tennis, badminton, taekwondo, swimming, gymnastics, athletics, cycling, fencing. I have no idea if I’ll get all the tickets I applied for. Heh, if I did, I’d have to make sure I have an astronomical amount of money in my account.

in in the news |



I had thought about going out to watch the marathon but at the end I didn’t feel like fighting with the crowds. Looking from this video I could have staked a spot along the Embankment and gotten a good view. Ah well. It was a hot day, and the Kenyans dominated. A good day for the sport. Congratulations to David Weir, Mary Keitany, Emmanual Mutai.

in all about people |

openclosedsign

I had a visitor this week, my friend A, who is a regular London visitor and was the first user of the spare room. I hope it wasn’t too weird for her, I now realise I’ve been living in my own place too long and not an easy person to live with. My parents and mm know the rules, but it’s not like I have them written up on a noticeboard in the hallway. Everyone has their own way of doing things in their own home, especially the small things, and it really is a delicate balance when people visit.

One of my American friends here have a revolving door of family and friends visiting, I don’t know how they manage it. Well, I guess that with a house with multiple bathrooms, a whole floor dedicated for visitors and a weekly cleaner they don’t have much difficulty. My flat in London is too small to entertain guests for any length of time. I think in small doses (1 person, 1-2 nights) it’s be fine. More than that and I will get antsy Again, parents and mm are the exception. I could have accommodated all of them in Chicago, but here they’ll have to stagger their visits. Heh, there goes my charge-an-arm-and-a-leg plan for people coming for the Olympics.

in mind babble , workstuff |

lazybumper

This idea came from Michael Arrington’s rant at being tied up by bureaucracy within his own company when he asked for a phone. It’s an amusing read and for most of us who work in the corporate world, touches a nerve far too closely.

Towards the end, he mentioned something that a mentor told him, “I’m lazy, so I do things right the first time.” Oddly very very true for me. I even made a tacky funny bumper sticker.

in wheels in motion |



I’ve done zipcar a few times now, and as car insurance keeps going up, it’s becoming more and more obvious that it was a good decision not to buy a car.

And now I have yet another optios, as Hertz, yes the Hertz, just launched a rent-by-hour electric car service in London. Same annual fee £50 as zipcar, and prices from £5 an hour, £50 a day. The biggest selling point is that all the connect cars are electric, and it looks like they have vans too. The downside is there are fewer locations, looks like hertz offices only. Still, these car club / sharing initiatives can only do good for the environment, congestion and even the economy. How so the economy? Fewer uninsured cars, fewer actual cars on the road, people saving money in one area and spending or saving in another…hey, I’m not Paul Krugman, so no deep think about economics and politics.


in being healthy |

giz10runtools

A lot of people say, it’s easy to start running. All you need is a pair of sneakers. But that’s not strictly true. Very appropriately, gizmodo combined the love of running with the love of gadgets and came up with 10 tools for runners. I won’t go as far as calling them tools, and some I disagree with.

  1. running shoes — they specified particularly a reebok, when every self-respecting runner will know that shoes are very personal and it’s highly recommended to get fitted. Ii do think that the trend for too much specialisation is marketing, but I absolutely think that it’s up to the individual to find shoes that work for them
  2. compression shorts — I guess they are useful, I’m not seeing a need for them for me
  3. nike+ gps watch — this is one of the most looked forward to products in running circles. I’m a big nike+ fan, but I’ll stick with the iphone app and garmin for the time being
  4. sennheiser PMX680 headphones — yes!!
  5. foot spa — nice to have, but doesn’t have a place in a top 10. Ice bath and a foam roller may be
  6. massage mat — see above, a foam roller does the job much better
  7. iTreadmill — I wonder why they picked this app, sponsorship? Runkeeper and the nike+ apps are better
  8. Tech shirt — run in enough races and there’s no need to buy tech shirts, in the US anyway
  9. ipod shuffle — if they are saying at the iTreadmill on the iphone, then there’s no need to take the shuffle as well for music
  10. pedometer — feels redundant, with all the apps that they’re suggesting

I would combine a few of them, and substitute the foam roller for the massaging tools. I’d also say a garmin is better than the nike+ watch. And they missed a couple of very important runners’ tools — bodyglide and spibelt. Still, not a bad list.

in techtalk |

speedtestlondon speedtestchicago

I’m finding my internet slow, but according to speedtest it’s considerably faster than my Chicago connection. I’m not getting the 30Mb/s that I’m paying for so that’s probably why it feels so slow. Speedtest varies though, I have gotten 30Mb/s, but I’ve also gotten 6Mb/s in the space of 20mins.

in techtalk |

firefox4

I finally upgraded to firefox 4. It’s fast, I was about to defect to chrome with the slow and clunky 3.xx versions. I’m still going to use chrome a little bit more, but for the time being I’m staying with ff as my main browser. I have to get used to the tabs at the top of the window, and the open new window / open new tab sequence swap, I’m positive they do that to test us. In the meantime, I’m waiting for some of the add-ons (coughsearchbarautosizercough) to catch up to 4.


in outside interests |

ldn204queensparkmkt

Today was a brilliant sunny day, and what better than to visit the local farmer’s market. This one at queen’s park would have been a long walk, but I zipcar’ed it. There were stalls for meat, fruit, veg, tomato, mushroom, cheese, bread, soups, pies and cooked food. Not cheap, I spent a fortune there — organic carrots and parsnips, cauliflower, bag-your-own rocket, a vegetarian pie, top quality calves’ liver and a jointed wild rabbit. I’d already gotten some venison sausage from m&s yesterday so I didn’t get any venison. It takes 35mins by bus according to tfl, probably the same time to walk. Dare I take the bike next time? I’m still not comfortable cycling on the road.


in habitat |

nextfurniture

I gave away my living room furniture — both sideboards, the glass cabinet, coffee table, side table and small cabinet. It’s doubtful if they will survive another container move, and besides I’ve had them for 12 years, it’s time for a change.

So the task this weekend is to go living room furniture hunting. Set off early to Tottenham Court Road area. Heals is having a 50% sale, and habitat is conveniently located next doors. But I was disappointed, didn’t see anything I liked, not even the non-sales items. Surprisingly, it was at next home that I saw a few likely candidates. This is my favourite, from their Seattle range. The tv cabinet and shelf fit my current space perfectly. I’ll probably get the coffee table too. No, I don’t intend to get the big red flower wallpaper, this is just from their online catalogue.

And to totally satisfy myself, I’ll have to make a trip to Ikea to see if there is anything there that could work.


in photography is life |

canonad

Spotted on photojojo, this could be the best camera ad ever.

in about me , how the day went |

surfturf220110407 swedishapplecake01

My obligatory once a year day off. Weather was nice, 20°C. Spent the morning skyping with sis and mum, I’m glad we finally got round to fixing everyone’s logins. Mum kept worrying about image quality, but as long as I can see her, I’m not complaining. We even did a 3-way conference call. Talked with mm when she called too, told her about plans for the day and just chatted. It was nice.

Went for a very slow 5-miles around the park, then to the local shops to get some baking ingredients. Last year it was croquembouche, this year I made a flourless swedish apple cake. It was too moist and didn’t hold its shape very well, but tasted perfectly fine.

For dinner I made surf and turf. Ack, I did the same last year, so it’s a tradition now. It’s also supposed to be national beer day so I got a vedett beer from belgium to go with my dinner.


in wheels in motion |

zipcargallegos

Ms M’s comment on fb reminded me that I promised to take a pic of one of the zipcars. I didn’t take it at its home spot, this was last saturday in front of my apartment.

in money business |

moneygrowth

Today is the last chance to get an ISA for this tax year, so I made an appointment at my bank. Got my ISA for this tax year, and tomorrow apply for a new one for the next tax year, maxed out on both years. Shifted a couple of old, old ISAs to this account so they’re all managed under one roof. The investment questionnaire shows that I’m a progressive investor, which is one step down from adventurous and one step up from balanced. The progressive funds are 70%-ish equities, 15% commercial property and the rest commodities and bonds. Sounds about right.

I have yet to meet a financial adviser who wanted to do this, but one of these days I need a review of all my accounts in all the countries. Problem is most of my advisers are focused only on their countries or regions, and I don’t qualify for private banking. The good news is that I have good geographic coverage, now in all 3 major continents, so it should be fine.

in on the relationship front |

bspicecheesecake

It’s mm’s birthday today. I called her at her midnight, and then again her dinnertime. Not enough time to talk. I have to make it up to her somehow. Not just cake, take her someplace nice like south of France or Venice. This is the cheesecake we had at the place on Warwick Ave when she was here in Jan.

in eating and drinking |

shakshuka01

I came across yotam ottolenghi’s shakshuka recipe the other day. I’m not familiar with chef ottolenghi, although I gather he’s fairly well known in the UK. Shakshuka is a middle-eastern dish that has many variations.

The normal recipe calls for sweating onions in olive oil, but I skipped it and used 2 cloves of garlic instead. Then I added sliced peppers, one red and one orange. Cooked for about 5mins with fresh basil, thyme, paprika and cumin till soft. Added 1 can of tomato and cooked even more until the peppers were very soft and the mixture with a consistency of pasta sauce. Made 2 depressions and cracked in 2 eggs, covered the pan and cooked until the eggs were just done.

The best thing about this dish is that it’s so delicious that you just eat it straight from the pan. Scoop it out onto bread and that’s it. Heavenly.

in being healthy , challenges |

milesmissingpeople2011

nike+ time: 9.82km 1.03.11hr 6.26min/km
chip time: 10k 1.02.45hr 6.16min/km


My first UK race, miles for missing people 10k at regent’s park. Differences between this race and chicago races:

  1. bib was mailed to me, there was no packet pickup
  2. t-shirt given out at the race itself, cotton not tech
  3. 10.30am start
  4. only 600 runners (I think they ended up with 650)
  5. no corrals — in fact the 10k, 2k fun run and walkers all started together
  6. rudimentary chip, which had my number handwritten with a felt tip pen and was attached to the shoe using disposal wire ties
  7. no idea if I’ll get the results, I can’t find even a link that talks about results on the website

All in all, less slick professional organisation, but in the typical “amateur” british way, it was endearing and worked well. I got a zipcar for the whole day (brent cross and tesco in the afternoon) and by sheer luck parked at the right entrance, only 5mins walk from where the race tents were.

I guess they couldn’t have more than 600 people, the start was a narrow gate that led out to a path that must be only 10ft wide. They had 3 events — 10k, 3k fun run and a walk. See #5 above, everyone started at the same time. This meant the first 1k I ran faster than I usually do, to get some room for myself. I faded towards the middle, and got passed by a ton of people. Doesn’t matter. I don’t know if I’ll get the results by mail or email, there’s nothing on their website.

What I really enjoyed was rock choir singing before and after the race. Some of them took part in the fun run and walk too. I’ll have to explore a little more about them.

Overall, it was a good race. The fastest finishers were all sub-40, and they had wine and chocolate as prizes. Sue Cook was there to present the prizes, now that’s a name I recognise.

ETA: I got the results via email in a spreadsheet. Had to do my own calculation for placing:

  • overall: 333/505
  • gender division: 126/262
  • age division: 13/22


ldr

in on the relationship front |

mm has a long weekend, and it’s her birthday soon, so she’s going up to her holiday flat. Which means she’ll be less in contact for me, not that we speak a lot at the weekends. We were on the phone for over an hour the other day, watching the clock till I can leave. I’ve been away too long, I miss her.

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