June 2013 Archives

in going places |

gcls13313confbrunch gcls13322sake

Sunday wrap up at the con. Always sad to say goodbye. The day started late, but with quick announcements and goodbye the brunch was served. Lots of food, we were very hungry by then.

Staying behind so saw lots of people leave. Sniff. Hugs all round.

Took the shuttle to Target to start personal shopping. Vitamins, shower curtain liner, chocolate. Back to hotel and shuttle again to the mall. Met up with another group to see The Heat. Very funny, but I fell asleep a little because I really was tired. Dinner at Kona where I had a sushi roll and a sake flight.

in going places , random words |

gcls13172auction

Starbucks breakfast of sausage sandwich again. On the program today: keynote speech, membership meeting and more sessions. It was an emotional meeting, our ED announced she was stepping down after having done a brilliant job in turning around the organisation. The silent auction ended at lunch, with lots of donations like books, photos, paintings and souvenirs. I brought a selection of “unfortunately named Japanese chocolate” like collon and melty kisses.

By the afternoon I was getting irritatble and tired. Running around the sessions and being alert constantly whilst jetlagged was quite taxing. Plus a couple of people had been a little rude. They probably didn’t realise we weren’t professionals and not exactly being paid for this. We gave up our time, and our opportunity to attend sessions to help out. I only managed during the whole con to attend one full session, the others I only caught a snippet. So I took a rest in the main room.

Ha! Rad comes in and I had to get to work again. Sigh.

Dinner with A at iHOP. I had chicken and waffles and a salad. And the root beer float I wanted from In-N-Out. All in all, too much fast food.

Highlight of the con was the awards ceremony. I was allowed to go inside the closed stage area early to set up the tripod and camera. Turned out to be a good spot, I caught a few winners as they came off the stage and got them grinning happily. So happy for them.

After a few pictures at the dance, I declared myself off duty. Not much of a dancer, besides no one asked, heehee. Left at 11pm, well before the best bits.

in going places , random words |

gcls13210whisky

Breakfast was from Starbucks opposite the hotel. Needed the energy for the running around today. Special speaker, author auction, author autographs as well as all the sessions. The author auction brought in over $8,000 for the scholarship fund, with 3 authors going for $1,000 (the top bid was $1,050). Needed the early afternoon rest and early dinner of steak at Humperdinks.

Karoke night theme was western so there were many hats, boots and costumes. Singing and dancing. And photography. And whisky. Adrian brought a bottle of Glenfiddich and I brought small bottles of Yamazaki and Hibiki. We were happily drinking away when the hotel intervened and told us off. Guess they only wanted us to buy from their bar. We put the whiskies away in a bag.

I was pretty wiped out with all the running around. Stayed for the traditional “I Feel Pretty” tribute and left before the end. Was going to shower and sleep but ran into a problem reading my CF card. Panic stations. After an hour, of poking into the card reader with my swiss knife and restarting the mba, it was fixed. Phew. We’re up to 4,500 pics between us so far.

in going places , random words |

gcls13007program

The proper start of the conference. Welcome from the Executive Director, welcome to the newbies, then lots of sessions. Very organised — track 1 was master classes, usually with 2 parts; track 2 was panel discussions and track 3 chats and readings. A and I decided that we’d both try to go to all sessions to get maximum chance of getting good pictures. The one challenge was that tracks 1 and 3 were at lobby level but track 2 was up at the top floor. Lots of riding up and down on the lift.

Honestly, I couldn’t remember which sessions were which. Some I stayed longer, some I just stayed long enough to take enough pictures. Lunch was included, sandwich buffet, chips and dessert. Soft drinks were plentiful and constantly in supply.

There were more sessions in the afternoon. I skipped one because I met up with Adrian for our whisky exchange. I got a VAT 69 at DXB and she got me a Blanton’s. We ended up opening the VAT 69, teehee. I love my Blanton’s.

gcls13305allrobbq

Dinner was at Sue Ellen’s, a small party hosted by Allison and Ro. Had barbeque with lots of sides. Really nice, I went for seconds. I was pretty tired when we got back to the hotel, in bed by 9.30pm.

in going places |

gcls13016toast

9.30am in the hotel lobby to join a small convoy to pick up boxes from one of the Dallas committee members’ home. The ground committee had been outstanding this year, the first time there was a ground committee. They did so much on the ground stuff, organised airport transportation, sourced great hotels, researched information, and even donated space in their home for boxes to come in the post. It didn’t take long for the boxes to be loaded, transported to the hotel and unloaded.

The hotel has a shuttle that brings you to anywhere within a 3 mile radius, so A and I went to the mall to look for a hat. Not much choice, so we decided to give up. Lunch was salad and frozen yogurt from the food court.

Back at the hotel and the conference preparation started. I had volunteered to help with setup and packages but was invited to a board sub-committee meeting. Well, it’s still helping with the con and group as a whole.

Nice chicken sandwich with pesto from the hotel bar which we ate in the room. The conference started properly with the meet’n’greet. So many friends and new faces!! A and I were asked to step in as the official photographers this year, so we roamed the room and did our thing. There was news that DOMA had been repealed, with perfect timing, and we all made a toast in celebration. The meet’n’greet had ice cream and an open bar, I ended up having neither, just some water. Hopefully not a sign of things to come in the next few days.

in going places |

fw030tcufrog gcls13291inout

Early start 6am, driving to Fort Worth to have breakfast at Ol’ South for pancakes. This is where we went last time. Afterwards it was visiting TCU, which had really expanded and changed. Then to Staples where Car got official stuff done.

For lunch I dragged Ann to In-N-Out because of all I’ve read about their burgers and the not so secret menu. I had a double double, mustard grilled with well done fries and peppers on the side. The burger was…a burger. The fries were nice and crispy even though I only ate a quarter. The peppers were hot!! Didn’t have the appetite for a root beer float, next time.

Rested in room until around 4.30pm where we were picked up by the Dallas committee members for dinner at El Fenix with a group of people. I was full and tired, so I opted for a margarita and a salad. Then it was back to the hotel for a book club reading. Originally the reading was at their usual location but they moved it to our hotel for a bigger room and so more people could come. Lee Lynch read and chatted, it was so great to see her in such great spirit.

in going places |

nrtwhiskytaste gcls13272humpbbq

I set off at 7.30am from home, knowing that it was coming up to rush hour and there won’t be too many taxis. I was right, it still took me a good 5-10mins to get one. I thought the check in process would be straightforward, but for once in my travelling life, it was a nightmare check in. My flight goes via NRT to DFW, and the first leg was a codeshare with CX. Turned out, the CX flight had not run for months, so AA tried to rebook me onto a JL flight that took over that particular timeslot. For some reason they never completed the booking and I wasn’t on the JL passenger list. Very alarming.

So I sat and stewed around for almost 2 hours. Basically neither JL nor AA were any help. No effort made, nothing. CX did their utmost, above and beyond, 3 people got involved in calling. Finally I had to drag my luggage to the train and rush to the airport, where another CX staff waited for me at the platform to rush me to the JL counter 5mins before check in closed. Thank you CX.

Other than that, the JL flight was uneventful. Arrived at NRT tired and hot. So I splashed out ¥1,000 (around $11) for a shower. Best ten bucks or so I’ve spent. There was time to walk around the duty free and even try free whisky samples.

Next leg to DFW was 12hrs and I wanted to be as clean as I could. The AA flight was okay. I’d paid extra for an aisle seat at the front section, the configuration was 2-5-2 and I was in seat B, with a nice enough neighbour. Had salmon pasta, bad red wine, turkey sandwich and bad pizza. Watched some films and TV, slept about 3hrs.

We were almost 1hr early, arriving at 3.10pm CST. Just as well, because the queue at immigration took 2hrs. Very slow moving, only 6 or so counters open, and people allowed to cut in because they have connecting flights. By the time I got to the conveyor belt, the luggage had been moved to the floor. Car and Heather came to pick me up, and as usual I was too tired to spot them. So grateful to them for coming all the way, and it was so very nice to see them.

Very fast check in at the hotel. I dumped my stuff, went downstairs and already started seeing friends. We’d arranged to have dinner with Erica and her husband and we headed over to Humperdinks, near the hotel. I had a barbeque plate and a medium beer called Buttface. Of course I picked it for the name.

More socialising at the hotel lobby, I sneaked back upstairs for a shower and a change of clothes. Around midnight people started dispersing, I went back upstairs and Ann came in around midnight. Caught up a bit, but was started to fade. I’ll fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

in how the day went |

restrictedarea

mm has been on retreat this weekend, she finished early and picked me up in her car. Went to visit her family friend, a uncle who is going through illness. A long way out to the edge of the countryside, long drive. He was well enough to drive us in his car to the local river to see carps and other fish thriving in the murky waters. That area had opened up recently, it’s very close to the border with Shenzhen and we could see the buildings over there easily. There’s one remaining sign at the side of a path.

Dinner at a nearby town, we were blessed with finding a parking space relatively quickly. Simple dinner set at local diner, followed by dessert at a crowded place. I still had to do laundry and finish packing so she took me home fairly early.


in outside interests |

aquaponics

Sis and I went to a talk about growing your own vegetables sponsored by the slow food movement. There were 4 speakers talking about their experiences, as well as what they are doing in schools to help kids learn and grow their own fruit and vegetables. There was one speaker who introduced us to the concept of aquaponics which combines raising fish (or shrimp or the like) and a soil-less vegetable planting system. The waste water from the fish tank is pumped into the vegetable growing tub, where the plants absorb nutrients and clean water pumped back to the fish tank. When running, it’s a self-sustaining system.

I remember when I used to keep tropical fish how my window plants really thrived when I watered them using the fish water. Makes sense. Aquaponics systems can be set up in a small area in the garden, on a balcony and even on a very small scale indoors. Here’s a video made by the University of Hawaii.



It doesn’t seem impossibly difficult, just need the space, the parts and some tools. I’d much rather set it up outdoors, need lighting and a system to reduce humidity indoors. The sort of fish can be edible, like catfish or tilapia, or just plain goldfish for those who are squeamish about killing fish. Plants are usually leafy lettuce, pak choy or herbs like basil and mint. Sounds awesome.

in eating and drinking |

hkjojo001salad hkjojo002grill
hkjojo003curry hkjojo004gulabjamun

We had indian buffet for lunch, a place near the office. Good value, US$11 including one drink. We ordered lassi and beer respectively. The selection was pretty good: chickpea & potato salad, regular salad, poppadums, dips for starters. A grill tray including tandoori chicken, lamb and chicken skewer. Another couple of hot trays of curry: chicken curry, butter chicken, mud-cooked lamb, lamb rogan josh, vegetables and daal. We love the okra and the mushroom was slightly spicy. For dessert there was watermelon, rice pudding and the very sweet gulab jamun.

We’ll definitely go again.

in going places |

prov181gordes paris057clermkt

I’m still unhappy that I lost my camera in Paris because I lost all my Provence and most of my Paris pictures. Luckily we have mm’s pics, so it’s a blessing. I’ve had a mental block against dealing with them so they’ve sat in a folder on my desktop for 10 months. Can’t delay any more, so I hunkered down, sorted the pics and wrote up the trip.

Posts start at Provence and continue to Paris.

Pics: provence, paris

in eating and drinking |

Here’s another post that belongs in London 2012. The Exotic Meat Company at Borough market is my go-to place if I’m there at mealtimes. They have a grill that sells ostrich or kangaroo rolls for around £5-6. The stall sells mainly ostrich from Gamston Wood Farm but also stocks exotic burgers like springbok, kudu, bison, zebra, impala and crocodile. Aside from the exotic nature of these meats, they tend to be leaner and healthier than beef. Mum and I bought a bunch of these burgers to try out over the course of a couple of weeks. Here in reverse order of our preference:

game004camel

5: camel
The toughest of the lot. Fatty and tendon-y. It’s a delicacy in the middle east, but since most of the meat comes from the hump, it stands to reason that it is really fatty.

The flavour is okay, a bit like veal. But the reason it comes 5th is down to the fattiness, it was like eating a mouthful of fat.

game010zebra

4: zebra
I’ve had zebra before, in Kenya and found it tough then. Still finding it tough this time. Quite chewy, but not as fatty as the camel. Again, it’s a meat that is supposed to be leaner and healthier than beef. Some describe it as tasting a little like rabbit while some describe it as tasting like horse or beef. Gotta laugh, rabbit and horse taste nothing like each other. I thought the camel tasted more like horse than rabbit, it’s not as delicate or tender, which is what I’d expect from rabbit.

game009llama

3: llama
Llama, not surprisingly, is traditionally eaten in Bolivia and other South American countries. It’s supposed to taste like less greasy beef and lamb. I liked the taste, which was like lower quality, coarser beef. It was nice and meaty, although on the dry side.

game007elk

2: elk
Considering elks are a member of the deer family, elk meat will be like venison. A large animal found in North America and some parts of Asia. Some people lump elk with deer and all them all venison anyway. I thought it was less red meat-like than venison, tasted more like beef and a little like veal.

game001springbok

1: springbok
Springboks are antelopes, so technically it’s another venison. Commonly found and served in South Africa. It’s a smaller animal than the elk, and this is reflected in the meat. Very tender, very subtle, lean and not gamey. Definitely our favourite in terms of taste, texture, colour and flavour.


in eating and drinking |

I should have written this post last year, when I was still in London. Just as well, because I’m missing London a hell of a lot nowadays. So many things I should have done while I was there (bought a flat, for instance), so many things I could still do (buy a flat, for instance).

Anyway, last summer I tried out the famous lobster rolls at burger & lobster and hawksmoor.

ldnlobsterburger007

I went first to Burger & Lobster. The nearest tube to the mayfair branch is green park but I walked from bond street via grosvenor square. It’s in the posh part of town behind park lane. No reservation, so I purposely went after the lunch rush. The restaurant décor is of modern wood and served 3 things: burgers, grilled lobsters and lobster rolls. I picked a high table and ordered a lobster roll and a bull & bear cocktail which was woodford reserve, blackberries, raspberries, mure and zinfandel. The lobster roll was great, the melted butter enhanced the flavours and made it all very yummy. £20 was okay, considering it’s london and the location.

ldnhawkslobster01

Hawksmoor next. Oh, what can I say about the place. It’s no secret I’m totally in love with the restaurant. I went to my usual branch, seven dials, and found a perch at the bar. The lobster roll came with their triple cooked chips and homemade ketchup. I had a dark porter with it. Really, really nice. £25.

Which one won? I can’t decide. Both are great. I guess for value for money it’ll have to be burger & lobster. Hawksmoor for atmosphere. If I get a second chance, I’ll try the grilled lobster at burger & lobster and stick to my usual steaks at hawksmoor.

in sports active |



After almost a year, I finally got round to dealing with pics from August / September 2012. Olympics, Prague, Provence, Paris, London and Paralympics. There is also a folder of misc pics that I want to sort too.

Anyway, full Olympics set, 195 photos, 12 videos. Includes Olympic torch, screenshots from opening ceremony, beach volleyball, archery and both diving finals (3m and 10m). There’s still the Paralympics pics to sort.

in photography is life |

cfcard8MB

I’m taking both cameras to gcls this year. Going through my kit for the big camera: check lenses, check flash, check battery, check memory cards. Found this CF card that came with my first digital camera, a EOS350D, which I bought in 2005. No, it’s not 8GB. It’s 8MB. At today’s image sizes, it can hold all of 4 jpgs.

CF cards are way more expensive than SDHC cards. I bought a new high speed 16GB card, even with shopping around it ended up costing almost $50. I simply couldn’t justify getting a 32GB card. May be I should go find an SD-CF adaptor.

in outside interests |

hok724takuservice

It’s Father’s Day weekend. We went to anticipatory mass at a faraway church (because mm wanted to catch up with one of the Fathers from the church she was baptised), the theme was love and the reading was from Luke.

Then Jesus took him up and said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say on, Master.”
“There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty.
“They were unable to pay, so he let them both off. Which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one who was let off more, I suppose.” Jesus said, “You are right.”
4Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair.
You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.
You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
For this reason I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love.”

The Father who conducted the mass today is one of the most senior and well known fathers, and his homily was simple. Do you deserve more of God’s love because you have forgiven more; or do you give more love and so God will love you?

There seem to be several lessons to be learnt here. Simon the Pharisee’s preconceived idea about the woman sinner, he can’t see her love for her great sins. The woman displayed great love for Jesus, despite her sins, and for that she was loved and forgiven.

For me, it seems to be a matter of intentions. Forgiveness as a currency of sin, yes. But do you forgive so you get love; or do you love anyway with no regard for the amount of love you get back?

Parental love, that’s the latter. It’s unconditional. At the end of the mass, he asked all dads to line up in the middle aisle and he blessed them all one by one. They each got a small gift too. How wonderful.

in eating and drinking |

brunchclubcroque

Sis, gis and I went to this place that served all day brunch. Sis ordered their regular dinner set of camembert toast, steak and lemon cake. Gis had banana chocolate crêpes (yes, for dinner). I ordered croque monsieur that came with an egg, making it a croque madame.

May be it’s the dreadful weather, or I was too thirsty, or I didn’t have much of an appetite. I did not like it at all. The bread was soggy in the middle and the crunch of the crust was more due to staleness than properly toasted. There wasn’t enough cheese and the béchamel sauce overwhelmed everything. The egg on top, well it was pretty sad. Came with a salad and a hash brown. Honestly, I would have preferred a normal ham and cheese toastie.

The only good thing about the meal was Gis’ crêpes which were pretty okay. And we were there during happy hour (5-9pm, quite generous) so wine was 2-for-1.


in in the news |

nofb

I’ve been following the story about the NSA PRISM scandal, not obsessively but with the interest that such a big international, important, story deserves. “What is PRISM?” JFGI, okay?

It’s not for me to judge whether the actions of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower, were legal or not; it’s up to the courts to decide. It’s also not for me to decide whether it was morally just; he believed that what he did was right. And when we look back on this episode of history, my hope is that history and the public will decide correctly. That said, I feel compelled to put down my thoughts as I am pulled in different directions on this issue.

right or wrong

Technically, what he did was wrong. It’s surely, at the very least, against the confidentiality agreements that he must have signed with his employer. And since he had access to information way up in the confidentiality stratosphere, he probably broke the law. However, breaking the rules is part and parcel of being a whistleblower; almost by definition, you have to do one to be the other.

He has said in his guardian interview, that he believed what he blew the whistle on was a matter of public interest. I was talking with mm about this, and she asked me what was my take. For me, I’m glad he did what he did. Yes, he broke the law, but the sort of revelations he made, it’s knowledge that I as a member of public want to know. Not that I was under any illusions that surveillance wasn’t happening, I wanted acknowledgement that it was.

under surveillance

The revelation is that the NSA has been collecting, on a massive scale, metadata on phone calls, internet activity and all sorts of stuff people do on a day to day basis. The surveillance is conducted on everyone, rather than just the people who are under suspicion. There are big players involved: verizon, google, facebook, to name a few. Rightly so, the EU is aghast, because if the NSA has been spying on EU citizens, it’s potentially against EU privacy laws. The EU has a different approach to privacy than the US, the main difference being the question of who owns personal data. The EU gives the right to the data subject whereas the US gives the right to those who have access to the data.

The rapid growth of CCTVs in the UK has brought concerns, although by and large, my feeling is that people have gotten used to it. Being recorded hundreds of times a day and watched by unnamed government employees (or worse, poorly trained TSA types) should worry us, but anecdotally, people around me take the pragmatic way: we’d tolerate having our privacy invaded if it leads to criminal convictions and it prevents crime. Whether or not criminals are actually deterred, and whether or not CCTV footage have helped solve crimes, that’s another debate.

The NSA surveillance is like CCTV, except in a much hugher scale. Their justification is that they’ll collect and store the information to help them with the fight against terrorism, amongst other things. But does it really help? What do they do with the data? Have they been able to stop criminals and terrorists?

not so angry

Perhaps John Scalzi summed it up nicely, why he didn’t have anything angry to say about the whole affair.

I have assumed the US government was getting my data one way or another. At the end of the day, the Internet was born out of ARPANET, and the US government has never been keen of letting the Internet go entirely private. Once more, I’m slightly surprised people seem surprised.

Why anyone is surprised that their online activity is being monitored is surprising. If you use the internet, you need to realise that what you do and put out there will be there forever for all to see. And that the email you send via gmail doesn’t belong to you. Google isn’t a charity, it’s not providing a free email service out of the kindness of its heart.

At work, the employee handbook specifically said that emails sent via the company’s email system belong to the company — they are open about it, and there are company policies that tell employees that yes, what you write in you emails, what you save on shared drives, everything you do on company time…the company owns it, has a right to inspect and as such, you have no privacy. There are no is and buts.

It’s also well accepted that countries like China and certain Middle Eastern countries heavily censor internet usage by its residents. They do it, and they don’t apologise for it. In a way, a country that doesn’t have a surveillance system is far too naïve in today’s political environment. If other countries are doing it, then we need to have solid defences.

a different sort of anger #1

There are 2 things I’m angry about. First, is how quickly the likes of google and yahoo fell over themselves to deny that data mining is taking place. Oh please. Be transparent about it. Acknowledge that, yes, the data is collected by the government. Make public what type of data it is. Tell the public what they do with it, how they store it, how they maintain its integrity, who has access to it and what are the checks and balances in place.

I hate companies who sell my personal information to telemarketers, because that’s abuse of my providing the information to them. I’m usually uncomfortable providing personal information to companies.

But surely there is a difference when it comes to government access? They have my passport number, they have access to my tax and medical information. It’s a matter of trust. I need to trust that the government respects my privacy and won’t abuse the huge amount of information it has on me. Make me glad that it’s the government, acting in my best interest, and not unscrupulous corporations that has my data. Hiding behind the laws and pretending PRISM doesn’t exist, that makes me angry. Please, treat the public with a bit more respect.

a different sort of anger #2

The second thing I’m angry about is more simple. If the government is collecting all this data in the name of crime and terrorism prevention, then why didn’t they stop the Boston bombers? Why didn’t they stop all the other atrocities that have occurred lately? Why are there so many drug dealers and rapists and murderers still at large? When we see some real results?

hong kong, china

Edward Snowden has escaped to, of all places, hong kong. I don’t particularly advertise it openly, but that’s where I’m right now. I’ve lived here on and off throughout my life, which makes me a tiny bit of an expert, especially amongst the few readers I have on this blog. So anyway, it was quite a surprise that he’s decided that HK is relatively safe for him. Unrelated, it’s a good opportunity for the rest of the world to learn about this place. Yes, technically it’s a part of China. No, we have different judiciary, financial and education systems. The judiciary progression of district court, high court, court of appeal and court of final appeal has its basis in the British system, not the mainland system. China isn’t supposed to interfere except on matters of defence and foreign policy.

Many commentators are opining on what China would do. Me, I wish China’d stay out of it, to show the world that HK really has the autonomy that it claims we do. The part in the Basic Law about China having a veto on extradition proceedings is for Chinese nationals only, not a American citizen like Mr Snowden. Whatever the US government does next, and whatever requests they make to the HK government, all need to follow the proper due process, away from interference by parties that have no business interferring.

I was surprised Mr Snowden praised the “strong tradition of free speech” in HK. That is true in a way. Lots of protests, just last week thousands of people attended a June 4th memorial event (China pretends nothing happened on June 4th 1989), and people can say and do whatever without fear of repercussions. Most people just regurgitate what they hear on tv, so I can’t attest to their intelligence level. I guess the point is, they are free to be as stupid as they like without repercussions.

The problem is, the tradition of free speech that Mr Snowden alluded to, has been eroded in the last few years. The CE is obviously pro-Chinese. The pro-China movement has grown stronger, and the unwelcome influx of Chinese immigrants and tourists has increased tension with locals. The judiciary system is still seen as above the fray and able to claim to be just and neutral. But it’s a matter of time before it’s tested.

And then onto China. Evil. Over the weekend mm and I were in Shenzhen, just over the border from HK. We were having lunch at the swanky Hyatt hotel. Attentive staff, good food, amazing views. But when I turned on my iphone to check facebook, I was greeted with the everspinning “loading” wheel. It wasn’t because of slow wifi connection. Belatedly I remembered, facebook and twitter and the like are all banned. One thing you can say about the Chinese government, they don’t hide or deny stuff like this. They are open about blocking facebook, they are open about tracking people’s internet usage. They don’t hide. And that, is what I think the US government needs to come to terms with.

ongoing

Coverage of the story seems to have tapered off, even the Guardian has it underneath the headlines today. I hope that this has been an eye-opener for all. About the workings of secret government sections, about the need to be open up front versus asking for forgiveness when discovered. Will my phone or internet habits change? I doubt it. It is what it is.

in being healthy |

badminton01

Woke up at 6am to take the bus to the sports centre near mm to play badminton. It’s been a long time since we played, so long that we bought new rackets. Good game, we played casually for an hour, and managed a good number of rallies. Hadn’t forgotten how to play. Next game is next week, already looking forward to it. Must keep it up.

in being healthy |

runningmedals01

Went to get some medical insurance information fro my financial adviser. All of them very comprehensive, but I need to do more research. At the moment, it’s probably okay to get hospitalisation only, because the difference in premium between in-patient and out-patient is more than I’d spend seeing the GP anyway. It’s always best to start thinking about getting medical insurance while I’m relatively healthy.

in eating and drinking |

rainbowteppan02

Went to a teppanyaki restaurant with sis and gis, shared a seafood set for 2: scallops, black cod, squid, oysters, king prawns as well as the usual fried rice and vegetables. A bottle of warm sake. Nice place, nice meal. Been lacking in seafood lately, been catching up this week.

in going places |



So finally all the pics are uploaded and the entire trip written up. No thanks to flickr not working half the time. The posts are backdated, which means unfortunately the posts won’t show up on the RSS feed. Links to posts:

Sets:


The video is of the mini avalanche I caught from our balcony when we were about to sail out of Geiranger. I heard this roar, and a bunch of snow and ice started falling down the cliff. When it was over, it was as if nothing had happened.

in eating and drinking |

szhyatt050seafood szhyatt047pizzabanana

Met up with mm and took the train to SZ. Lunch was the extensive buffet at Grand Hyatt, located next to this empty luxury shopping mall.

Huge restaurant with high ceilings and a multitude of stations. Cold meat, salad, the seafood counter had blue swimmer crabs, prawns, clams, scampi and mussels. There was also a rather tasteless salmon tartar. The Japanese station had soba, sushi, sashimi and chefs grilling skewers to order. The choices were chicken, chicken heart and okra. The western station had roast beef and lamb with the usual veg as well as pizza. Banana pizza was great, the roasts had no seasoning and was a bit tough.

Free juice, coffee, 6 types of tea and another station of Chinese food and the dessert station. Overall a good buffet, with enough good food outweighing the small number of misses. Pluses for me: cold seafood, grilled okra, banana pizza. Minuses: some food lacked flavour, I think it’s a question of palate and taste; dessert station rather mediocre. Still, relaxing environment so we had a good time.

Here’s the flickr set.

in eating and drinking |

lambcurrycwbmkt

Mum took me to the halal stall inside the cooked food centre at “goose neck” wet market. We’ve been meaning to go there for ages, but they close early so we often miss it. Dinner at 5pm doesn’t faze us, we eat early, my family.

I had lamb curry with rice, Mum had lamb curry with noodles. Guess what the stall is famous for? It’s one of those small, a little grubby, family run hole-in-a-wall place that gets featured in an Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern program. Sort of secret known only to locals.

That lamb curry was excellent. Seriously excellent. The sauce must be decades old and very spicy. Served in an unassuming small bowl perched at the side of the plate of rice. My lips were buring and when I wiped my mouth on a napkin, there’s the satisfying tell-tale yellow stain. The lamb itself was succulent, and not fatty at all. The portion was more than enough for me, there were quite a few pieces of meat, mostly on the bone. And I got a large piece of bone to suck on, yay!

The cost for that lamb curry rice was 35 local dollars. Less than £3.00 or $4.50. Seriously. We had pomelo skin stewed with prawn bits and I drank a whole bottle of 600ml Kronenbourg. They also sell roast duck to die for, apparently my dad gets the roast duck rice and ask for curry sauce on top. Next time I’ll do that. And there will be a next time.

in workstuff |

I went for an interview with a consultancy for a role of senior consultant. I think, I believe, I have the experience and technical ability to do it. But talking to the director, it seems like they have a certain idea of the type of candidate they want and I’m not entirely sure I fit. There were 2 hypothetical ad hoc case studies and I’m not sure I gave them the answer they were looking for. I hate these scenarios where there is not enough information and I’m told to make assumptions.

I hate interviews anyway. I hate the process of selling myself, and one of the things you have to do in professional services firms is to do business development and say “yes, of course” to clients. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m not a strategist, not a pioneer, not an ideas person. Give me a problem, I’ll solve it. I’ll think of ways to help you, I’ll even be creative. But don’t ask me to butter people up, or even be nice to them when they’re not nice to me.

So, yeah. I’m not sure about this job. I went into the interview with the attitude that it doesn’t matter, if I don’t succeed it’s because of different culture. But as I came out and got on the bus, I realised that success matters more to me than I thought. I don’t want to fail because they perceive that I don’t have the knowledge of ability. Mutually deciding it’s a different fit, yes. It’s an ego thing, I suppose.

in eating and drinking |

catfishbreaded

I have very little comprehension of American southern food. It seems that everything is fried and there’s a lot of carbs, although I understand how frying makes everything taste good. To be honest and like many non-Americans, I’m horrified by Paula Deen but on the other hand I secretly want to try her restaurant just once. Preferably during the latter stages of marathon training when my metabolism is turbo-charged and I can eat whatever I like.

So, I have a couple of catfish filets in my freezer. Normally I’d just grill them or lightly pan-fry but I was surfing around and it turns out that fried catfish is a typical southern dish. It’s coated with cornmeal and fried. May be worth trying.

I have no cornmeal, it’s an ingredient I’m unfamiliar with. I doubt I can find it — or it’d be extremely expensive. I do have polenta except the box isn’t opened and I don’t want to use it yet. So I breaded the fish with a packet of instant grits. It’s either that or normal flour, or oatmeal. Grits is basically a coarser version of cornmeal, right?

Standard breading procedure — flour, eggwash, grits. The grits were flavoured with s&p, a little paprika and some oregano. (I felt like oregano, it’s not obviously a southern herb.) Then fried. I was using the grill pan for courgettes so I just used the same pan for the fish, ideally I should have used a normal frying pan.

Tasted great, even though it didn’t look that good. Fish was succulent and the breading was crispy. I know, I need to work on my presentation.

in easily amused , techtalk |

cuteusb choccollon01

No chocolate shoe for this year’s gclscon, instead I have probably 3 lots for the silent auction. I’m sure about #1 and 2, not sure about #3, whether there will be any interest:

  1. cute flash drives I saw at the outdoor market. I have: yoda, piglet, spiderman, psy and bart simpson as well as a chocolate ice lolly and a fake mercedes key fob. I kept the angry bird for myself
  2. whatever strange Japanese chocolate/candy I can lay my hands on. I think at the very least: collon, melty kiss, pocky
  3. some running swag like the Polar F6 that has been sitting in my drawer for a while, a fake spibelt, may be one of my running books. I wish I hadn’t given away so many race shirts to charity, that would make a good set

If I have time and can find it during my layover at Narita, may be a Japanese whisky. I like nikka straight from barrel because the bottle looks like a perfume bottle. I have a bottle myself and Mr Murray gives it 91 points.

in random words |

reading

Was up till 3am last night reading, and spent most of today reading too. Jane Fletcher’s Lyremouth series. Probably the 3rd or 4th time I’ve read the books but I still like them. Just broke off for half an hour’s swimming, food and then tv in the evening.

in how the day went , on the relationship front |

hk215taipomkt

Met with mm and her mum for lunch. Turned out, her mum’s friends were also there so when I got there early a stranger was already sitting at the table. What would a norml person do? Sit down and introduce themselves. But I’m not normal when it comes to social interaction. I went back to the reception area and messaged mm, and then I stayed there to wait till they showed up. Nothing against the strange ladies, I just don’t like having to interact with strangers.

After lunch, mm and I drove to a new area. She wanted to go to a sauce and salt shop to buy dried soy salt, but they don’t have it available yet. So we bought some top quality soy sauce and some Australian sea salt. Then set off to explore the wet market where we went crazy buying very cheap fruit and veg. So much that we had surplus and ended up driving to my parents’ place and giving them some of the purchases.

Back to Admiralty for dinner (cos she has free parking vouchers). Fast food, waited for her mum and then she drove me home.

in all about people , eating and drinking |

monparty001salad monparty004quiche

Went to mm’s friend M’s place for a small gathering — only 4 of us plus her helper. Potluck where our friend, mm and I all contributed something. For starter, I made warm roasted peppers, courgettes and butternut squash on green salad. Used the juice from the roasting as dressing plus a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. The butternut squash was a bit sloppy but tasted nice. The peppers were roasted the safer way, in a hot 200°C oven. The skin was nicely charred but the insides were beginning to melt due to too much cooking. Normally I roast my peppers directly in the hob but mm was horrified. I think I’ll go back to the risky way next time.

For second course M made a bacon, asparagus and mushroom quiche that was simple and tasted great. We agreed the pastry could have been thinner but we were just being deliberately picky, it was great. M also made sangria, quite a lot of soda as she didn’t want too much alcohol for her other guest, I.

monparty011tart monparty015scones

Mains was roast lamb rack and stir-fried green beans, cherry tomatoes and mushroom made my M’s helper. Good stuff. For dessert, I made the french apple tart that didn’t quite work last time. Better this time, I made sure everything including the pastry and filling were chilled for 2 hours and the oven was set at over 200°C. Needed some glaze, but I forgot. Served with vanilla ice cream that, ah, M’s helper mistakenly put in the main compartment in the fridge so it was more like semi-frozen cream. Tasted fine. I really need to work on presentation.

Played mahjong for a bit. Tea time was provided by mm who made cranberry & orange and raisin scones. Very good. Light and fluffy, not too sweet. She was up till 4am last night making them, poor thing.

We all agreed it was a successful gathering and already have plans for our next time. It’s not too common for people to entertain at home here (most people have helpers and don’t know how to cook) but we much prefer this method than going out to a restaurant. More relaxing. Better food.


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