October 2012 Archives

in challenges , random words |


November tomorrow. Time for nano. I’m as ready as I can be, considering. After 8 years, I know what prep I need:

  • story outlined — this year there’s even a drawing!
  • spreadsheet updated for 2012
  • google doc ready and saved
  • flashdrive for backup at hand
  • new icons uploaded

Not making any predictions or target. Relax and enjoy it, that’s my motto for this year.

in arts and media |

So Disney buys Lucasfilm. The news was surprising, but then again not. There’s the Star Tours ride and Indiana Jones show at Hollywood Studios; and some of the themes touched by both companies’ films do overlap.

Some fans are aghast, not wanting change, not wanting the Star Wars franchise to become Disney-like (aka childish, predictable, too much sugarcoating). I get that. Will Princess Leia become yet another Disney princess? Will we get even more Jar Jar Binks soft toys?

Personally, I think it’s a good move. I fall into the camp of original Star Wars fans who absolutely hate, hate, hate Episodes 1-3. To me, George Lucas already turned the franchise into a second rate Disney with the prequels and the Ewok cartoons. Darth Maul was the only saving grace. So my take is, it’s about time someone else takes it over, inject some new ideas and give it back its edge. Yes I think Disney is capable of producing films that are a little bit darker. Plus, I’m glad that there’s the mighty Disney $$$ machine behind it that it will continue for many more years to come.

Anyway, on the Star Wars theme, here’s a fantastic flash mob by the WDR Radio Orchestra who treated an unsuspecting crowd at Cologne Wallrafplatz with a…treat.

in habitat |

lights lights

I think I’ve found the lights I’m looking for. For the living and dining rooms I’ll go for the more traditional (the catalogue calls it heritage) look. For the bedroom and study it’s more contemporary.

in being healthy |


5.25km 41.18min 7.52min/km (12.40min/mi)

I can’t wait to be home. It’s getting tiresome, to be living on one suitcase of clothes, to have to eat at a certain time, to lose so much of my own space. Shouldn’t complain.

Finally the weather turned cooler for me to go for a run. Excuses, excuses. It was still hot, though thankfully with a breeze. Slow. Very, very slow.

in eating and drinking |


We took the train over the border to SZ to hunt for lights. They are cheaper, and I saw a couple I liked. There was this building where the whole floor was dedicated to light fittings, but just our luck that the entire building had a power cut. It’s fine to look for most stuff without lights, but not light fittings. The effect just isn’t there.

Resolved to come back, we spent the rest of the day relaxing. Went to a large bookshop where mm bought some piano music. Early dinner of individual hotpot at a nice foodcourt. We both opted for the tomato soup base and then we had the usual trimmings — beef, lamb, vegetables, fish.

in eating and drinking |

hkfrenchwin006seafood hkfrenchwin007brest

Dinner with my ex-colleagues at the French Window. RM’s new company owns this, so he gets a discount, and is greeted by the staff. Nice food and great view. Expensive, only saved by the discount and we didn’t order wine. Strange way of having French food though, we shared everything: seafood platter, mussels, steak tartare, lamb then dessert of paris brest, rum baba and apple tart.

in eating and drinking |


Lunch at Saboten, a tonkatsu specialist. Tonkatsu is fried pork chop, although they also have chicken and prawns. Lunch set consisted of 3 different pieces — regular pork chop, pork with cheese and crab cake. Came with miso soup and unlimited rice, salad and pickles. The rice was either normal white rice or brown rice; salad was shredded cabbage that came with the exquisite sesame dressing.

in easily amused |

Mum and I went over to Sis’ place to pick up my niece, who is coming over for a night. She has my ipad but she isn’t allowed to play games on it, and out of all her immediate family, I have the most games on my iphone. So I introduced her to bad piggies, and she raced through the first level. She’s 10, it’s second nature to her.

in techtalk |


Will I buy the ipad mini?

Please rephrase.

When will I buy the ipad mini?

Thought so.

Unless someone offers it to me for Christmas, I’ll save it for a special occasion. What special occasion? Not sure yet, I’ll leave it open for my own discretion.

I’ve had the kindle for a while now, and it’s been completely indispensable. I take it everywhere, but I don’t use it except for reading and games as I haven’t put many apps on it. Paid for angry birds (for the 3rd time, that’s an issue) but all other apps are free. An ipad mini will be even more perfect, if apple gets the multiple device app purchase issue sorted out.

in eating and drinking |

holga003apples applepear01

I stayed home while my parents went out for lunch and to do grocery shopping. There’s a lot of food at home, ranging from snacks and cereal bars to tons of unknown boxes in the freezer. My dad does the cooking, and he cooks healthy food — lots of veg and very little oil. It’s still not my own food, and I feel fat and bloated lately. So I just had an apple pear for lunch. These are not tiddly conference pears, they’re the size of a grapefruit, crunchy and juicy. To try to control my eat-too-fast habit, I cut it up into little chunks.

Fruits are different here. Lots more tropical fruits like mango, papaya, dragon fruit. We have oranges, tangerines, red plums, green plums, apples, aforesaid apple pears and kiwi fruit in the fridge. At the market are ridiculously over-priced Japanese fruit but we like going for the value pack instead. To be honest, I’m missing American honeycrisp apples right now.

in family first |

We all went to see my niece’s taekwondo exam today. She’s at red-black belt and today’s exam will bring her from one to two stripes — she can’t get the black belt and dans till she’s 15. There were about 30 kids altogether taking the exam, ranging from around 4 years old to older kids who look 15-16. The test consisted of some set moves, self defence, plank kicks, plank punches and two spectacular moves — high jump kick (plank at tip of outstretched hand height) and obstacle jump kick. She got a few A grades, really spectacular. Both sis and I got pics and videos, but I’m not posting them. Instead, this is a video of a couple of really really cute tiny kids sparring.

in on the relationship front |


We were watching Fringe till late last night. Had a relaxing morning — mm played the piano whilst I played mafia wars and then read a little. Brunch was plain noodles and broccoli. By the time we made a move it was 3pm.

We caught the bus to TT reservoir, getting off at the stop just before the dam and finding a really hidden walkway down to the bottom. It was a nice walk around the reservoir, people were fishing, boating and there was even a middle-aged man at the side practising bagpipes. We didn’t walk a lot, may be around 45mins.


Went to one of the houses where they have set up a large area into a bbq centre (not restaurant per se, more like a house converted to an eatery). Tables and grills are all set up, they make the fire for you too. Food is provided — the usual steak, pork chop, chicken wings, sausages, fish balls, fish, mushroom, sweet potato, corn and other vegetables. Refills available. What I enjoyed most was making toast — this style of barbeque involves stabbing the food with a bbq fork and grilling it over the fire, no wire mesh or grill cover in sight, just a small shelf at the side. The hardworking staff made sure to add charcoal whenever it was running low.

We also ordered a bottle of wine, I chose the savignon blanc because the alternative was a bulgarian merlot which sounded way too risky. Switched to beer (for me) and soft drinks after we finished the bottle. We started the bbq when it was still light out, by the time we finished it was dark. A little bit of an adventure to get home, especially for me, but I still managed to get back by 11pm.

in eating and drinking |


Autumn marks the start of the hairy crab season. Small crabs from a specific region near Shanghai, they have little meat and are fiddly to eat. It’s the smooth, cholesterol-laden yellow roe inside the shells that make these a delicacy.

It’s been years since we had them. So I met mm after work, went to a reliable shop and bought two each. Just steam them and then tuck in. Yummy.

in easily amused |


So misuse, misintepretation and mistranslation between languages occur in all directions. I found this website with examples of poor usage of asian languages in western culture. People even send in pictures of their tattooes to ask whether they got what they asked for. A lot of surprises and disappointments when the explanation comes through in the comments — far too many of these Chinese / Japanese / Korean character tattooes are made up of complete gibberish. Or truncated words. Upside down. With missing parts. Just flinging together some random strokes, circles and dots doesn’t a word make. And it’s permanent.

One of the most unfortunate is this boy’s sweater, the character translates roughly to hemorrhoid. Oh dear.

in easily amused |


I saw a notice on the bus that said a particular route will be advanced effective a certain date. It’s a football club that will get promoted up next season? Upon further examination, it turns out that advancement means the timetable will be extended, and there will be an extra stop somewhere along the route. I’m thinking someone’s vocabulary needs to be advanced.

Far too many examples of poor English usage that ends up being hilarious (or sad, depending on your POV). Reminds me of this “germy” bread I spotted a while ago. Some type of super word association must have gone on — it’s wholegrain breadrolls, and wheat germinates, hence germy.

I wonder what these people are thinking. Their excuse is English isn’t their first language. (Except, um, google translate.) Then again, it wasn’t the first language I learned either and I turned out okay. Shrug.

in eating and drinking |


Took a break from home stuff to do personal stuff: got a haircut, went with sis to foot massage, and tried out a whisky bar I found. With a name like “Malty” it’s a risk — personally I think it’s a bad name, too cheesy. It’s more like a normal bar with a few more whiskies than a real whisky bar. They had vertical flights of glenfiddich, glenlivet, macallan and the like. Nothing terribly exciting, although more than an average bar/pub. We ordered a basic flight of 3x30ml drams — balvenie doublewood, highland park 12 and laphroaig 10. Sis had never tried highland park before and I think I have a convert.

in habitat |


I’ve made decisions or purchased everything required so far: paint colour, kitchen cabinets, wardrobe, oven, hob, extractor, windows, sockets. And now I need to buy new airconditioners for both bedrooms because the existing ones are too old. I went over to Philco and bought 2 new ones, no thinking or hesitation. Sigh. It just adds up doesn’t it.

in arts and media |


This is a fantastic deal. The idea behind the humble ebook bundle is pay whatever you want for 6 sci-fi ebooks, available in the popular formats, DRM free:

  • Invasion by Mercedes Lackey
  • Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
  • Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
  • Pumpsix and other stories by Paolo Baclgalupi
  • Stranger Things have Happened by Kelly Links
  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

There’s a sweetener, pay more than the average and get two more books: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi and a graphic novel Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

Of the six starter books, I’d only heard of Mercedes Lackey as an author and Cory Doctorow as one of the people at boingboing. But I have heard of John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman, who are I guess the bigger draws.

I could have paid a tiny amount ($1) and gotten the first 6 books, but the average when I saw the deal was $11.95 so it was a no brainer to shell out $11.96 for 8 books. I’m sure I’ll find something to enjoy; and even if I didn’t like them, it’s $11.96 I don’t mind spending. None of it goes to Big Publishers, the buyers can set how much is split between the authors, charities such as the EFF, and an admin fee.

The current average is $12.53 so it has been creeping up slightly. Almost 44,000 purchases totalling $550,000 since launch a week ago. Linux and mac users are more generous than windows users, heehee. There’s less than 10 days to go on this deal. They also bundle games, music and movies, I’ll be keeping an eye out for future happenings.

in habitat |


The one big item I haven’t been able to make a decision on is the wardrobe doors. Can’t change the inside, so it stays being wood. This means outside, it’s better to stick also with wood. Went with mm to look at wood board samples. Walked up and down the street, then sat down for sushi with the book. I think we’re decided.

in photography is life |


I said I’d get it, so I did. I saw the ad on the subway last week, but only had time to go to the shop today. Around US$470, so no big difference in RRP. I did get some extras: spare battery, 16GB card, mini-tripod, screen protector, canon case and a pair of puma socks.

Battery is charged, haven’t played with the wifi yet, I need to log into the canon network, and I’m still thinking of whether to do that.

in eating and drinking |


It’s been almost one month since I cooked food I liked in my own kitchen. So as to remind myself that I can cook, this is an asparagus and mushroom savoury bread pudding.

in being healthy |


I ran my first marathon 2 years ago, on 10.10.10. It was a struggle due to the heat and slight undertraining. Still, I did it and no one can take it away from me. This past weekend, I followed the 2012 Chicago marathon from afar, saw that two Ethiopians won and, most importantly, a couple of my close ex-colleagues finished. I was sad that I couldn’t make it, and sadder that I haven’t kept up my running. The sooner I get my life back into normal mode, the better.

in techtalk |


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

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


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

in habitat |

egyptiancotton 20yy60104

The task sounds simple. Find and decide on the paint colour to use in my flat. The flat in London uses egyptian cotton, very readily available at the likes of B&Q and Homebase. I bought a small tester pot for touching up before I left. I actually had a spare pot but who takes paint tester pots with them when they move countries?

Ah, if only.

When the contractor showed me the colour sheet available here, it turned out they don’t have this colour. I should have know, I really should have. He said to look it up and give him the code and may be he can find it. Okay, I said. I’ll go to their website.

First I wanted to find out the product number for Egyptian Cotton. Problem #1, they don’t use code numbers in the UK. Right. A little googling brought me to a huge database of colour swatches and I was able to find it, even came with the various colour coding notations:

  • RGB hexdecimal: #D6CEC1
  • RGB 0-255: 214, 206, 193
  • RGB %: 83.9, 80.8, 75.7
  • CMYK %: 0, 4, 10, 16
  • grayscale: 207
  • L: 83, a: 1, b: 8
  • hue: 37°, saturation: 10%, lightness: 84%
  • X: 59, Y: 10, Z: 84

I’m familiar with RGB and CMYK, having used them at work to define corporate colours for presentations; and way, way back when I knew how to use Pagemaker. I never got into the exact science part, of using mathematical models to describe colours. Just like fonts, it’s a topic that I have a small fascination with but no time yet to fully learn or explore.

Armed with so many different notations, I thought I was sorted so I went to local dulux, which has a nice colour palette page. HA! Problem #2, the selection for neutral colours uses yet another notation. I’d never seen this before, it took more googling to discover that it’s the munsell system, which looks academic and complicated.

Problem #3, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way of converting RGB to Munsell, I couldn’t find any free online converters. The nearest is an app (yes, there really is an app for anything), but I’m not keen on spending £2.99 on one colour. Then again, the tester pot was about £2.59 so I may be tempted.


Using the most primitive method, aka The Eyeball, I tried to find the nearest equivalent. Very difficult, The Eyeball isn’t precise enough. Back to google, and I found colorzilla, a neat firefox plugin. I scrolled through the extensive palette but none are exact RGB matches. The best is 20YY 60/104, which has a RGB value of 216:202:183 (vs 214:206:193).

Anyway, Mum and I went to a paint shop today, and all they have is the same original colour sheet that my contractor gave us. To get this 20YY 60/104 I may have to go direct to Dulux, and even if they do custom mixing it’ll cost much more. After all that, I may end up having to pick something else more generic. Just like in fashion, there’s haute couture and ready-to-wear, looks like I’ll have to go pret a peindre.

in how the day went |


Stayed home all day. Played computer games, read some, did research into paints colours. The most constructive thing I did was to replace the hinges on one of the kitchen cabinet doors. These spring-loaded hinges look complicated, and I had difficulty figuring out how to open them. But the mechanism of how the 2 parts fit was pretty straight-forward, once we took out the old ones and replaced with new ones. Even managed to adjust the doors properly.

in easily amused |


The folks at Rovio, of angry birds and bad piggies fame, are planning something nefarious. Their first tumblr post has just a gif and a place/time: Times Square, New York, October 8th, 10am EST. There’s also a hint, to head to Toys’R’Us at 8am.

Sounds innocent enough? Except it’s Angry Birds. And the image is of a figure hidden inside a jedi robe holding a LIGHTSABRE. Angry Birds Star Wars! Wow. I need to stop hyperventilating. Now why did I leave NYC again?

in outside interests |


I’ve been keeping an eye on the status of my shipment. Gone are the days when the packers take away the stuff and there’s an information blackhole until they call to arrange delivery. I can now go online and track, either through the shipment company or, since I know that my stuff will go on a container ship called MOL Competence, I can track the ship on its journey. The ship arrived at Southampton from Hamburg, and after my container (plus others of course) is loaded, it is scheduled to leave port this weekend.

in arts and media |

bookcover bookcoverlondoners

Looking at flavorwire’s recommended october books, it occurred to me that this is a nice bunch of bookcovers. A little aghast that my favourite is a Tom Wolfe I’ll never read. The most intriguing author on that list, to me, is Chinua Achebe, not least because I just read a small article about the memoir and it seems to be one of those important books that one reeds to read.

On a separate note, the list of 50 best book covers of 2011 is also interesting. The only book on that list that I have is londoners, although the cover that won is only for the UK edition, in the US it’s a more boring, generic cover. The publishers are not doing the reading public justice, it’s not just Londoners who will get that the colours on the cover correspond to all the tube lines, there are lots of people around the world who have travelled to London or recognise the clever play on colours. Sigh. Publishers really shouldn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. Anyway, here’s a snippet towards the end of the Introduction:

The only definition of a Londoner I followed was the people you see around you. The ones who stock the Tube trains and fill the pavements and queue in Tesco with armfuls of plastic-wrapped veg. Whatever their reason or origin, they are laughing, rushing, conniving, snatching free evening newspapers, speaking into phones, complaining, sweeping floors, tending to hedge funds, pushing empty pint glasses, marching, arguing, drinking, kneeling, swaying, huffing at those who stand on the left-hand side of the escalator, moving, moving, always moving. It’s a city of verbs.

He’s still not quite a Londoner. He should have said Tesco’s, not Tesco. It’s always the doctor’s, not the doctor’s office.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |


All the palaver about Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, I almost forgot about the other book published this year also called Sweet Tooth. Not a spy thriller, but a sort of personal-discovery-essay-history of sweets, aka candy, by Kate Hopkins, more well known as the Accidental Hedonist.

The kindle page has no kindle version available. I can get it directly on my kindle though. Strange. I haven’t gone through with the purchase, I wonder if it will work.

in random words , techtalk |


I’m thinking of buying Ian McEwan’s latest book, Sweet Tooth, a layered intrigue set in 1972 during the cold war.

I do a little comparison, amazon uk £8.09 ($12.99) and amazon us $13.99. Even without the small price difference, I want the UK edition because I prefer the cover and I’d like to read it in the English it was written (I’m assuming it gets “translated” to US English). There’s just a couple of tiny problems:

  • my kindle is registered to my US account, so it will automatically go to amazon.com
  • amazon.co.uk won’t let me buy kindle books if I’m outside the UK

It’s not just amazon, WH Smith, kobo and ebook all sell a DRM epub version (just ignore the dirty word DRM), all impose geo restrictions, I guess by IP address. What if I were travelling, does it mean I have to wait till I get home to buy? What a ridiculous concept.

The twist is that amazon lets me buy the paper book from anywhere in the world but not the ebook. Apparently it’s due to contractual agreements. This post talks about Australia but is a good illustration. It’s also from 2010 and hints that things are changing. Riiiiight. It’s now 2012, isn’t it time for country boundaries in the electronic world to go away?

I’ve spent enough time on this today, there are other things vying for my attention. I’ll read another book (from an international-reader-friendly publisher/seller — thanks Bella!) or I’ll play bad piggies or whatsapp mm. It’s likely that Mr McEwan will never get my sale, the US book comes out in November and I doubt I’ll remember. Fine. I’m just one insignificant person, Random House doesn’t care about me. The problem is that Random House and the other Big Publishers insist on putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of legitimate book buyers, who then get frustrated and what will they do? They’ll give up and not buy the book. If the book is that good, it’s not like the buyer roll over and wait like a meek little sheep to buy at the store and price that Big Pub dictated, right? The best case scenario is to use a proxy, then at least there is a sale. Nowadays, unfortunately, the more likely outcome is a torrent, and that’s an ugly unending downward spiral.

in outside interests |

There were some fireworks at night. Sis, Rob and my niece came over for dinner and we watched it all together. On TV, and we could see a little of it from the balcony. Fun to have the live and broadcast effect, looks like there’s a one second delay.


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