March 2013 Archives

in how the day went |


Happy Easter! I’m at parents’ and having a quiet weekend. Nothing traditional, no easter eggs, no ham, no hot cross buns. Made roast lamb with the trimmings and orange rice cake for tea.

in techtalk |


I was horrified when I read that google reader will close in July. My first rss reader was bloglines and by the time it closed in 2010 (I think), I’d migrated to greader, which was part of the reason bloglines got left behind. Thing is, there’s no better reader than greader, so that’s not the reason it’s being chucked. Actually, as one of the few who used the service day in day out, I still can’t get my head round to why.

The Indy article suggested that perhaps it’s the rise of twitter. Most newspapers and big sites have twitter feeds of their articles, so perhaps. But twitter can never replace greader. One of the best descriptions of how most greader users use the service is that they


web content in a highly personalised manner. For instance, my subscriptions include big names like boingboing, gizmodo, lifehacker, kottke and simply recipes; I also follow my own friends as well as smaller sites dedicated to food, gardening, design or writing—sites that don’t necessarily have a twitter feed to announce new content. Besides, I can read the full article on greader and not have to click on a tweet.

Which brings me to a thought—rss full feed may also be a factor. Full feeds are great user experiences—no need to get distracted by advertising or other stuff on the main website. You’re not even going to the main site, meaning no trace or cookies left behind. But lots of site owners don’t like it for the exact reason—every view on an rss reader is a click, aka advertising opportunity, lost. It’s moot in this age of ABP or ghostery, and besides rss is old tech, but the suspicion runs deep. I’ve noticed more and more sites switching to excerpt or truncated feeds whilst closing down their full feeds. If it’s a site I normally just skim, I’ll unsubscribe. Their loss.

No matter what google’s reason is, the fact is that greader is going away. And since I don’t want to rely on just twitter, time to find alternatives. My criteria: web-based, can show full feed, uncluttered. One of the most written about is feedly. What sold me was that all I needed to do was to sign in using my google account, and that was it. I’m guessing this is a temporary feature, to capture ex-greader users. Once the greader API goes away, feedly will run their own and hopefully the transition for users will be smooth.

So far, I like it. I can toggle between a compact headline view, the traditional full feed view and a flipboard-like magazine view. Simple UI, clean lines, and I can use it anywhere. This is the great thing about the internet; if a popular service shuts down there will be others willing and able to step into their shoes. We saw it happen with picnik, and now with greader.

in easily amused |

While my niece is away on holiday, I’m taking care of her sea monkeys. I have no idea what they are, and had never heard of them before. Taking care is easy, feed them every other day and that’s it. They are apparently tiny brine shrimps, but some people think they’re from Mars. Heehee.

in being healthy |


6.40km 50.49min 7.56min/km (12.47min/mi)

It’s been pissing down with rain, but I was determined to go running today and managed to take advantage of a lull in the storm. Pretty slow, but it’s nice to be active again.

And as usual, I posted to twitter, which auto-posts to fb; and updated fitocracy. No action required on nikeplus, it syncs by itself. Compared to other obsessive people, I don’t think I post too much about my running or weight training or other exercise activities.

I don’t post to brag — my results aren’t good enough. I post because I want someplace to record my efforts. It’s motivating, in a way. I made sure I speeded up when my speed fell below 8min/km because I’d be embarrassed to show this slow speed on a public forum.

Seems though that perhaps others don’t share my view. Apparently, people who post about their diet and fitness progress are the worst thing about social media.

Ugh. At least I’m not an overly proud parent, ticket seller or serial commenter.

in eating and drinking |


March 27th is international whisky day, a global celebration of whisky originally set up to honour the late Michael Jackson:

On this date let every whisk(e)y lover annually raise a dram - wherever in the world he or she may be - to honour the many unsung heroes of the past and present, who have been crafting the King O’ Drinks for centuries and will hopefully continue to do so till the end of time.

I have 3 bottles of whisky currently open at home:

  • edradour — the smallest distillery in Scotland. When I had that terrible 3 week bronchitis, I made serious inroads into the bottle making whisky, lemon and honey, aka hot toddy
  • ardbeg — peat monster, no introduction needed
  • kavalan — from taiwan, one of the newer and more unusual whisky producing countries

I think this is a good strategy, to have a selection always on the shelf. A highland / speyside / lowland, an Islay / island and then one from the rest of the world: either a bourbon or one from an unusual location. Three seems to be a good number.

in eating and drinking |

nanami03porkchop nanami02yakitori
nanami01starter nanami04custard

Went with sis and gis to a small, family styled japanese restaurant for dinner. Only a few tables, patchy service, but very sincere. I had one of the set: selection of small starters, deep fried pork chop with chicken rice, honey custard pudding. Sis had yakitori and udon. Gis had pork chop and rice, no set. The set came with sake, plum wine or calpis soft drink. We had the sake, one hot and one cold.

in eating and drinking |


Lunch today was unlimited japanese hot pot. Beef and pork sliced from the freezer. Vegetables and noodles and tofu at the buffet bar. Plus soft ice cream and soft drinks. Yet another day where lunch was also dinner.

in eating and drinking |


Went to Korean bbq lunch with parents, an all-you-can-eat affair. Small banchan selection (kimchi, spinach, potato etc), hot food, lots of meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, squid) and vegetables. Dessert included sweet tofu, coconut pudding, ice cream, fruit. Plum juice and soy milk at the fountain. Very full. Enough for the whole day, we all just had a little fruit for dinner.

in wheels in motion |

We test drove the Toyota Ractis yesterday, and the Prius c today. First the Ractis. It’s been Japan only for a while, only venturing overseas the last couple of years. Apparently it’s the Yaris replacement, and in Europe it’s known as the Verso. Standard Japanese compact hatchback. Everything is middle of the road, nothing spectacular. Handling a little light, not in the same league as the Golf we tried out on Monday. Like, duh. The test drive route involved mostly city driving and going up a fairly steep hill. There’s a 7-speed pseudo manual control that revs up the engine and makes the car go faster. I had better use of it than mm, she was too timid to step on the pedal. All in all, an “okay” car.

The Prius c is the smallest version of the Prius range, the sporty hatchback version. The selling points are price (the magical sub-US$20,000 mark) and the fuel economy. It’s the first time either of us had tried a hybrid car. Very impressed with the handling and fuel economy. City driving meant a lot of times it switched to the electric engine and it was very quiet. The biggest online complaints are lack of acceleration (0-60 in 11 sec advertised) and struggles to get uphill. Both valid complaints, but nothing too concerning for us. I found it noisy going up the hill, the same hill I had to switch to 2nd gear in the Ractis yesterday. Yet once it got going, we preferred its handling and performance. Probably due to the lower centre of gravity. Yes, it’s not fancy, no bells and whistles, no pretty flashing light gadgets. But, we’re not looking for bling.

There is a price difference, around US$3,500 between the two, with the Prius being more expensive. I was only there as the second driver to give my opinion, ultimately it’s not my decision.

in in the news |

image from flickr user PhilCLogo

It’s officially spring, and it means it’s getting warmer and it’ll soon be humid as hell. The laundry is already taking far too long to dry. Time to run the dehumidifier for a few hours. It’s amazing to read how it works. Ah, just like the smell of freshly mowed grass, the sound equivalent is droplets of water dripping into the container as the dampness gets sucked inside the machine.

in sports active |

One of my fb friends said she got a new scooter. It turned out she meant the motorcycle scooter, like a Vespa. But my first thought were the skateboard-with-handlebars that were the rage that year I was in NY. Like everyone else, I got one as well, and gave it to my niece a few years later. And I discovered that there are people who do scooter tricks, like skateboards. Wow.

in eating and drinking |


Normally I don’t drink white wine; it gives me a headache. But with Indian food with Sis yesterday, it was the better choice — I would have liked a rosé but the shop didn’t have any ready chilled. So I got this riesling which went by a long name: Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten. The vintage was 2011. And it was very nice, very sweet, and didn’t give me a headache. I took the rest of the bottle home.

in eating and drinking |


Went over to sis’ in the afternoon. Dinner was at a nearby Indian restaurant, we were the only customers but the food was good. Fish curry, lamb biryani, mutter paneer, samosas, peas rice, roti canal. BYO Riesling. I’d go back again.

in wheels in motion |

Met up with mm at lunchtime to test drive the new Golf TSi bluemotion. Went up the steep hill, around the traffic and a little bit of accleration on a straight bit of flyover. Drives like a Golf, as expected. Smooth and stable and comfortable. But the acceleration is slower than we’re used to in other Golfs. Not quite perfect, but definitely at least 4 stars.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


8.25km 1.04.39hr 7.50min/km (12.37min/mi)

I need to pull my finger out and get over this lethargy. No running for 3 weeks, stuck inside for a whole week? Pitiful and lame. So I went running after lunch. 8.25km is just over 5 miles. Mostly ran slowly, with some walking at the water fountains. Just getting back to the rhythm.

And because it’s St Patrick’s Day, the reward is pork chops, roasted cauliflower and a big bottle of Guinness Foreign Extra. Yum.

p.s. that glass is an extremely heavy ML crystal glass that I got when I reached 5 years’ service, there’s a tiny bull engraving at the front. Wonder if it’s a collectors’ item now.

in eating and drinking , how the day went , on the relationship front |

shanghaineselunch eelnoodle

Met up for mm, she had car hunting on her mind having all of a sudden decided she wanted to buy a car. Had shanghainese lunch — eel noodles, snow peas with dried tofu and jellied pig’s trotter. It’s been a long time since I had the sautéed eels, used to have it a lot with my grandparents. Fried with bean sprouts and noodes, it was more filling and less oily.

Then went to a bunch of dealers, first to look at new cars. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford. Then to a second hand place. Saw a lovely BMW 118i that I liked. Not many golfs so we headed to the VW dealer. Booked a test drive for next week.

It was like going out with a good friend. That’s as much as I can expect nowadays. 10hrs together is better than sitting around like an idiot at home.

in workstuff |


Went for an interview with a regional bank that the headhunter set up. It’s quite a large bank, mainly in wholesale and consumer banking but with some sales and trading. The role is quite good, although everyone agrees that I’m probably overqualified for it. Thing is, I’m okay with doing something I’ve done before, I’m not in a place where I’m overly ambitious and want to get up the career ladder. We’ll see.

in all about people |


I was watching an old episode of Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, the one where he arrived at Languedoc and met up with some English people living in rural France. Ah, that’s something that has been a fancy of mine, having a holiday home somewhere in France. Provence, Franche-Comte or Alsace. Sigh. Definitely just a fancy.

One bit that got me LOLing was when he met Helena Frith Powell, who was telling him about a book she had written about living in France and how to help the French understand their new neighbours. The way she described the poor French people’s new neighbours as “nos amis le roast beef” was funny.

in evidence of my insanity |

I was watching a travel program where an American couple got to visit some of those “1,000 places before you die” bucket list places. This program was in France and they played the roulette in Monte Carlo, painted in Provence and in Paris they got to eat at Taillevent. Wow.

What made me cringe a little were the way they ate: the young woman grabbed her wine glass with her hand all over the bulb instead of the stem, and they both ate by scooping the food up in their forks held in their right hand. Left hand under the table, no sign of a knife. Very politely, of course, but still didn’t look right to me. It’s probably me, because I hold the knife and fork in their original hands during the entire course. It seems that either style is correct, although I think that if I were to have the opportunity to eat at Taillevent I’d go for the European style. Who am I to say, I don’t have the world’s best table manners.

in eating and drinking |


While I’m not sure, sadly, if I’ll ever get fresh yellow beets again (the ones in the pic are from the farmers market in Chicago), I can get the regular red beets. Easy oven job, roast beets, roast corn on the cob, chicken drumsticks.

in arts and media |


Probably the only good thing about being here is that I get to watch TAR again. Half a day behind the US isn’t bad either, so I’m always up-to-date. And boy, did we have a great episode this week. Idiots who got eliminated went to some poor guy’s house thinking it was where they had to do the detour; then they bald-snarked for an unknown reason; and then when it was quite clear that at the roadblock they were one of the last teams, they decided not to use their express pass. Someone asked on twop which was more stupid: being eliminated with 2 immunity idols in Survivor or with an EP on TAR.

Lots of great camera work and editing as usual, this is the Emmy episode if the producers are smart. And Phil’s “Oy vey” at the end? Priceless.

in family first |


It’s UK Mother’s Day. Went for buffet lunch with the family. Quite nice meal: salad, salmon, prime rib, yorkshire pudding, curry, all day breakfast. Plus a bread pudding made from pancakes, and the usual chocolate cake, fruit, mousse desserts. Shared the bill with my niece. I think Mum enjoyed it.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Feeling depressed. Tried to meet up with mm, did a bit of shopping. Went for a glass of wine at the place where you get unlimited peanuts and you throw the shells on the floor. On the floor, that’s what I feel like right now. In my life, in everything. Not sure what I’m doing here in a place I hate, not sure what I should do, not sure of anything, full stop. Feel like I’m struggling to push myself into a rare timeslot she has graciously made available for me out of pity. Need guidance from angels on what to do now, and what future to look forward to. Not in a good place.

in evidence of my insanity |

Sis was asking me what I wanted to do for my birthday next month. Hmm. The boring thing to do would be go out for a meal and then struggle to find something to do afterwards. The other alternatives include indoor skiing, baseball or climbing. Climbing sounds really interesting.

in outside interests |


I hopped into a taxi and promptly saw an iphone on the floor. Told the taxi driver immediately, and luckily we weren’t far from the taxi stand; he slowed down, we all looked around and saw a couple frantically waving at us. All was well, they’d discovered they lost the phone, and we got it back to them quickly.

But what if we were too far away, or there weren’t frantic owners? My first instinct would have to take it to a police station. But a little bit of googling gave me ideas on what I could have done first. Like almost all smartphones, the passcode was on, so I couldn’t have looked through the contacts list for someone like “Mum” or “Home” to call. I could still use Siri or voice call with the screen locked and asked the iphone to call. The problem is it doesn’t work very well. I tried calling Mum via voice control and my iphone called some random number instead. (May be I wasn’t enunciating correctly.)

In any case, the carrier’s name is on the top left, and the online consensus is that it’s probably better to return it to them than to a police station. They can take the sim card out and figure out the owner. Okay, I could have taken the sim out too, but it’s better done by the carrier.

I have a folder on my iphone for emergency apps, one of which allows me to type in name, blood type, allergies as well as emergency contacts and have it displayed as my lockscreen password. May be it’s not so confidential to display Mum’s number, but it’s a risk worth taking for peace of mind.

When I stepped out of the taxi, I automatically patted my back pocket to check I still had my iphone.

in arts and media |


Went to a piano recital by 20 year old Piao Xingji. Very impressive. Started with a piece by a composer I’d never heard of, contemporary Charles Griffes. Then moved onto Brahms, Prokofiev, Liszt to end with Schumann’s Carnaval Op 9. There were 2 short encores, a nice way to spend 2 hours. Highlights for me were the Prokofiev sonata No 4 in C minor Op 29, and parts of the Schumann. The only complaint was that the complimentary red wine we had at interval was undrinkable. Besides, we only had 15mins so not enough time to drink even if it were drinkable.


in workstuff |


So I finally got off my butt and sent off my cv to a headhunter. Within 2 hours I’d gotten a call back and a meeting set up for tomorrow. She has a couple of assignments at hand already. Okay, this doesn’t count the agent who contacted me through linkedin, this one is a “proper” headhunter. I’m not sure I want to get back into working mode yet, it’s been almost 10 months since I worked, and even though I’m bored sometimes, it will be tough to get back to office hours.

in on the relationship front |


I thought that mm and I could go out sometime over the weekend but she didn’t have time. She suggested that we met up today for happy hour and dinner. I felt like she did it out of obligation. And then she messaged me to say that there’s a memorial mass for the mother of her friend. So off we went. And had a quick Vietnamese dinner afterwards.

I feel so superfluous. She has so much in her life. One of these days, He will take her away from me. I should know, it’s been like this for so many years.

in eating and drinking |

I found this video on my iphone. Last year mm and I went to a Japanese whisky bar, and the bartender / owner demonstrated to us how to make a perfectly round ice sphere from a large cube of ice by hand. There are moulds and machines on the market, but this guy did it using 3 different knives. In 3 minutes. I snipped repetitive parts, and also so it fits within the 1:30 limit.


Trust the Japanese to invent something so odd, yet so beautiful. The theory is that the sphere has the smallest surface area of all 3-dimensional objects so a spherical block of ice will melt slower than regularly shaped ice cubes. This is especially important for whisky, you want the whisky to get cool but don’t want it to get watered down so quicky.

in evidence of my insanity |


I have a trivial, eye roll-worthy, first world problem. I have a mixed selection in my biscuit tin (am: cookie jar), currently it’s about 1/3 filled with rich tea, shortbread, raspberry puff and some cute curly butterfly biscuits. The curly butterflies are also quite lardy and the grease has transferred to the side of the tin. There are also crumbs at the bottom.

So the dilemma is, do I finish off everything in the tin and wash it; or accept that a buttery, crumbly biscuit tin is a sign of a well used tin and break open the next packet of biscuits?

in eating and drinking |


It’s not really a mushroom fricassee, just 3 types of mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, enoki) thrown together with some leftover chestnuts. And fried hard tofu. Served with quinoa. Very brown and plain, but tasted nice.


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