October 2013 Archives

in challenges |

brownie010

Monthly challenge #11 done. Hey, it’s not my first rodeo. There’s a part of me that wants to set really challenging goals as opposed to a glorified to-do list, but another part that is simply happy to have achievable goals. We’ll see.

Didn’t register for the race, not for want of trying. Going to count it as done, even boycotting is an action.

health

  • run / walk / bike 50km // done — 43 running, 11 walking
  • weights or calisthenics x8 // done
  • register for feb 2014 race — HM registration starts 22/10, 10k starts 29/10, opens 7am // consider as done — atrocious registration website, boycotting the event

food

  • try the 5:2 diet x1 // done — can’t say it made much of an impact
  • non alcohol days x12 // done
  • vegetables x24 // done
  • fruit or juice x24 // done
  • new recipe x2 // done [1] [2]
  • old recipe x2 // done [1] [2]

family

  • visit parents x7 // done
  • bbmm date x2 // done

misc


in arts and media |



Ah, Morph. Sidekick to Tony Hart. So many hours of my childhood watching them. Mr Hart passed away in 2009, but the creators of Morph, Aardman Animations, are planning to bring Morph back. They have a kickstarter project for 12 new 1-minute online episodes. The £100 pledge is interesting — 60 minute Morph masterclass at google hangouts — I think my sis and niece will be tempted.

in being healthy , family first |

running20131029

5.21km 41.03min 7.52min/km (12.40min/mi)

Dragged mum out to the park with the jog/walk trail for a bit of exercise. She was a trooper, she walked the entire time I ran. Together with walking to the park and back home it was almost an hour. It’s important we all remain active.


in outside interests |

cwall016denham

I was watching a program about a celebrity chef touring around southeast Asia. Every destination, there was a big banquet with lots of famous people and people who paid big money to sample the chef’s food. He was in Malaysia, stressing out over food preparation, presentation. And then the guest of honour was late, over an hour late. Apparently “traffic” was the cause of the lateness. Poor chef, fine dining food will start to lose their flavour if they aren’t served at the time they are ready, he was a picture of frustration over the lateness.

His next stop was the Fullerton in Singapore. Guess what, the dinner started bang on time. No surprise to anyone involved in the organisation or even us watching the program on TV.

Why. How did it get to be okay for people to be habitually late. Most people will forgive the unexpected — traffic, medical reason, legitimately running late. If someone is always on time, but is late for just the one time, it’s mostly acceptable. It’s people who are late all the time, and the people who never apologise for being late, these are the people I will unfriend. A couple of comments stand out on this article:

we all have the same number of minutes in our day


early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable


in eating and drinking |

paczki

TAR this week featured paczki, or polish doughnuts. They look like doughnuts but are actually much richer and denser. The first, and only, time I had it was when my Chicago colleague treated us to some she brought in on Fat Tuesday “to make everyone Polish for a day.” She made sure I had one because she knew I’d never tried it before, she was so sweet. Seems like there’s lots of tradition around the Christian world of indulging before Ash Wednesday, in Poland they have Fat Tuesday and in the UK we have Shrove Tuesday which means pancakes, yay!

I’m a bit overwhelmed at the recipe for paczki. Quite a lot of flour and using mostly egg yolks mean a rich cakey dough. It’s not something I’ll ever make, because it’s deep fried. My colleague’s paczki came with a thick sweet, almost clotted, cream and preserved strawberries. I enjoyed it, I was still living in PT then and I made pancakes for dinner that night. Ah, memories of Chicago. Sigh.

in eating and drinking |

brownie014

Based on Nigella’s recipe for snow-flecked brownies. Half the recipe quantity was perfect for the square tin.

melt 190g chocolate + 190g butter over bain marie, cool
whisk 160g sugar and 2 large eggs until pale and thick
combine chocolate and egg mixtures
add 50g mixed nuts
fold in 115g plain flour
bake at 180°C for 30mins until top is dry

The recipe uses 100g white chocolate buttons, when I first made it I used dark chocolate but this time I just used nuts, and a smaller quantity because I didn’t want the brownie to be overwhelmed by nuts. We had peanuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews in a snack jar so that was what I used. Although I cut it into 3x3 squares for presentation, 4x4 squares is probably a more reasonable serving size.

There is a debate about whether brownies should be cakey, gooey or fudgy. These were somewhere in between gooey and fudgy. The tops were crispy and the inside quite dense without being too sticky. The rich chocolate taste came through, which is always important.


in techtalk |

abpfb

Adblock Plus is the most popular firefox add-on, by a long way. And now they’re even better! They just introduced a means to filter out facebook annoyances. In addition to blocking all ads, sponsored stories, and promoted posts, which it already does, we can now block stuff like:

  • music / entertainment / games you may like
  • add to tv shows / music
  • rate books / movies / tv shows / music / places
  • recommended pages
  • suggested groups / friends / find more friends

With the recent troubles that social fixer ran into and had to make changes to, it’s great that ABP has stepped in and delivered where Matt Krause had to compromise. Just my conjecture but I think the difference is that ABP is a German corporation, rather than Mr Krause, who falls under US law. Also ABP is a browser extension, as opposed to, until now, targeting specific websites.

ABP has its attention on twitter, with an open letter that asked twitter to join its Acceptable Ads campaign. Hopefully they will keep an eye on the instagram ad situation too.

Online advertisers hate ABP, because it takes away their access to their potential audiences. But as one of its 50 million users, I can categorically say that the presence of an ad, or any attempt at personalisation, tracking or data mining, instantly turns me off and I’m more likely to not use a particular advertiser if I see their ad. To me, online ads mean giant flashing banners, multiple popups, pages that hijack and won’t close, autoplaying videos and generally poor quality and taste. Plus the idea of personalised ads because a website has tracked my activity is very, very scary. I will continue to use ABP, ghostery and some form of noscript to protect my online activity.

And now if someone please write a customisation or extension so I can block all pics of dogs, mentions of dogs or anything about dogs on my fb wall. That will make for a more pleasant fb experience for me.


in being healthy |

So I’m trying to pitch and write a MBA case study on the economic and other impact of holding a marathon, with focus on Tokyo, since it just joined the world marathon series. Trying out an introduction and putting down thoughts for rest of the paper.

————————————————

Joining the Super Elites: Economic and Other Impact of Tokyo Marathon Joining the World Marathon Series

wmmhistory

In 2013, only 6 years after its inauguration, Tokyo became the sixth member of the prestigious World Marathon Majors (“WMM”). The other races are: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York. These are the most prestigious marathons in the world, attracing over 200,000 participants between them. The total prize money tops $1 million, shared between the 6 races.

Marathon races have become big business, with the World Marathon Major series as the top running brand in the world. Major marathons are profit-making as well as boasting millions of dollars of impact on the local economy through visitor spending, sponsorship and increased media exposure. It is also the largest source of fund raising for many charities.

Tad Hayano, the race director of the Tokyo Marathon, wanted to join the World Marathon Majors “to promote the Tokyo Marathon to the world.” The WMM previously had rules for inclusion including a large pro and mass participation, prize money, significant news coverage and a history of 25 years or more. Tokyo Marathon was able to request for, and received an exception to, consideration of the last rule.

The first WMM Tokyo Marathon was April 2013. What, if any, were the impact of WMM membership? What will future races be like? What lies ahead for other regional marathons, in Japan and in the surrounding Asia Pacific region?

Sections:

  • growth in sports participation, focus on running and races — no of races, participation growing exponentially
  • economic impact of sporting events — summer olympics
  • impact of marathons — NYC, Chicago, London study + even smaller marathons
    • economic impact — visitors spending (NYC 2 million visitors), sponsors, vendors, positive marketing
    • charitable impact — millions raised for non-profits
    • community impact — local schools and clubs participation, volunteers

  • how and why tokyo joined marathon majors
  • possible and desired impact — prize money, sponsorship, revenue, visitor spending
  • runner and world reaction
  • knock on effect on other japanese marathons, other asian marathons

in being healthy |

hkmarathonreg

I never learn. I’m like the alcoholic wanting just one more drink; or the celiac’s last bite of a croissant. I never have a good experience registering for this race and yet every year like a lemming, I return. In the early days, 2007-ish, the online registration website only worked with IE, but at least I could get in through my work PC and there was plenty of time to register.

Even when the website went firefox, then eventually mac-friendly, registration was always slow and the website would inevitably crash. Two years ago it crashed in the middle of me filling my my details, before I was able to pay, and by the time I got back in, I couldn’t register anymore. Last year, I was able to get my credit card details in before it crashed.

Where the hell did they hire their programmers from? A bunch of incompetents.

This year, registration was staggered for FM, HM and 10k. There was even a queuing system in place when I logged in first thing in the morning. Ha! I rejoice too early. By the time I got into the website and clicked on the race I wanted (HM race 1 — there are 3 races in total), the next page was an announcement that the marathon was full. Yes, I know that, marathon registration was last week. I had to go back into the queue, wait another half an hour. Still the screen that the FM was full.

My conclusion was, either the website crashed again or the HM was full but they were too lazy or stupid to change the wording on the notice.

I have never seen such a fiasco of a website or so much incompetence. I found out in a local runners’ forum that the FM was full in 3hrs, and the HM was full very quickly — no one knew when but it was less than 2hrs after the site opened.

Registration for the 10k opens on the 29th. I think I’m going to give the whole event a miss, this year and probably going forward. No sense supporting idiots. I saw another race happening at around the same time, a local 10k. Registration involved printing out a form and mailing it to the organisers. I mean, how stupid and how old fashioned is that? This place really needs to pull its finger out and get with the program, it’s being left behind.

in eating and drinking |

pannacottayogurt004 pannacottayogurt008

The kitchn described panna cotta as the perfect dessert because it’s easy to make, using standard ingredients. It is also incredibly versatile: substituting ingredients or reducing the sugar level doesn’t seem to bother the recipe at all. Last time I made it, it was a little too firm. Tasted good, but it was like cream flavoured jelly.

This is a slightly healthier version of the traditional panna cotta, with less sugar and uses yogurt instead of a lot of the cream. Recipe from smitten kitchen and all credit goes to Deb Perelman for converting her American measurements to metric.

  • 475ml mixture of milk and cream — use as much or as little of each, even 100% milk or 100% cream, using just a little cream will make it so much richer; I used 200ml whipping cream and the rest was reduced fat milk
  • 450g yogurt — most recipes use greek yogurt, it just happened that mum made natural yogurt which worked equally well
  • 75g sugar — recipe says between 50-100g
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2.5 tsp gelatin powder
  • 2 tbsp lime juice — recipe says lemon juice but we ran out of lemons so I substituted lime

Dissolve the gelatin in water, set aside
Combine the yogurt with half the milk+cream
Slowly heat sugar and the remaining milk+cream to a gentle simmer, then pour onto the dissolved gelatin
Add the milk+cream mixture to the yogurt mixture, whisk until smooth
Add lime juice
Pour into oiled containers and set in fridge

There was richness from the cream, tartness from the yogurt and the texture was suitably wobbly and creamy. Strawberries and other berries are expensive recently so mum suggesting using nutella. I tried to do a little fancy decoration with the thick spread and some museli crumbs. The chocolate and crumbs actually went well with the panna cotta.


in money business |



Watching a program about superyachts and a preview for Extreme Couponing comes on. Talk about extremes.

Those superyachts are all basically the same — 100ft+ monsters with multiple staterooms all decorated with shiny wood paneling and gold sinks, galleys that are larger than some people’s homes, and in-your-face opulence everywhere. The only difference is the number of electronic gadgets, jacuzzis and sun decks they have. Costs are measured in the millions of dollars. The ultra rich live in another reality as far as I’m concerned so I don’t think about them, except when these wealth display programs come on. Being rich is fine, but the obsession with displaying the wealth is a little unhealthy.

That’s why the preview for Extreme Couponing was so out of place in the middle of a program on the super rich. Can’t imagine any of those yacht owners couponing. People make fun of extreme couponers but mm and I can’t stop watching the program. Some of the couponers featured started couponing out of economic necessity, to make sure their families have food and household supplies they need, for as little cost as possible. Yes, no one would ever need hundreds and thousands of boxes of toilet paper or toothpaste, but if they can benefit the couponers, their friends and families and even the ones who donate the goods, then it’s all good.

Professor Robert Schiller, one of this year’s Nobel Laureates in economics, said that income inequality is the most important problem we are facing today. I’ve also been watching and reading about the documentary Inequality for All, which was a Sundance winner. There’s an hour long interview with Robert Reich, who presents the film, on democracy now and he talks quite eloquently and convincing about his cause. This seems to be a thought-provoking film, I hope I can find a dvd when it comes out.

Everyone has a different view on wealth and wealth distribution. Some people are richer, some are pooer; some earn more than they should, some earn much less. But the gap between the top and the bottom has grown too large, too alarming. It’s also a global, not merely American problem. What can those of us who fall smack bang in the squeezed middle class do? Individually, we are more concerned in the last few years in holding onto our jobs, to make our net income (which has been falling in real terms) go further; in other words to survive. I guess it starts with us being aware of the issue, and to acknowledge that income inequality is a problem rather than accept the argument the top 1% keeps rolling out, that the markets are always correct. Remember, the very people who run the markets are the same people who manipulate it to suit them. Mr Reich said,

We make the rules of the economy, and we have the power to change these rules

We need to better educate ourselves, and hold those we trust with these rules of the economy to strict standards and governance. We are all born and raised unequal, but something I fervently believe in, is that ethical standards should apply to all equally.


in all about people |

helpinghands

Met up with mm and her mum for lunch, then went to the hospital to visit 87 year old Sister Catherine, who was the principal at auntie’s old school. She had an operation a few days ago and is resting — she looks fine, if a little tired and in slight pain. Auntie and a few of her friends are active in the old students’ association and often lend a helping hand to the sisters and staff there.

Then it was to auntie’s home to pick up a few bags and boxes of household stuff she had in surplus — clothes hangers, hand towels, kettle, pots and plates. The purpose was to visit a newly opened shelter for 14-18 year old girls who needed a place to stay. Either their parents could no longer take care of them, or they were in situations involving possible abuse; in any case all are under the care of a social worker who is responsible for recommending them to the shelter. The home is brand new, in a housing estate, and in need of household things. We found out from the social worker on duty that they are in dire need of rubbish bins. It’s run by another sister and the girls are placed in bunk-bed rooms that sleep 2-8. There are also study rooms, meeting rooms, a kitchen and a communal bathroom. Very impressed with the simple facilities .

Puts our privileged lives in perspective. The selflessness of the sisters, the dedication of the social workers, the plight of the girls, now with hopefully a better future. Sometimes, we need to meet people like these, step back and think about what we can do for the community.


in techtalk |

homepage201310


One of the tasks I set for the october tdp challenge was to decide on what to do with the homepage. One of the problems with a website like this which is neatly organised into sections — blog, writing, pictures, travel, food — is that the landing page, ie invisiblecompany.com itself, is redundant. If I were a real writer I’d have images of my books on the landing page; if I were a restaurant it’d inevitably be a fancy flash page with mood music designed to annoy customers; if I were a business I’d have huge banners advertising my products with links to prices, company information etc. But I’m a person, and not a very interesting one at that.

For the longest time the landing page redirected (automatically through htaccess) to tumblr which I had intended to be a catch-all for my website, tweets, flickr, facebook posts, interesting links and random stuff. But when they took away full post importing from MT blogs, I stopped using tumblr. Don’t have time to maintain multiple presences.

So I just did the most simplest and laziest thing, to redirect invisiblecompany.com to invisiblecompany.com/quiet. Again, a one line htaccess statement.

What I’d like to have as a landing page is a welcome statement, some words and/or images of what I’ve done, and recent posts from around the website. But I’ve yet to a) achieve anything worth putting on a homepage and b) figure out how to bring in posts from another blogid. So I just did something temporary:

  • wrote some welcome blurb and saved as a static page, called it using a template module, or what MT calls a widget
  • created a new index template that outputs a file called home.php, using the main index template as base — the index uses mt:include to call the welcome module and the last post on the blog
  • redirected in htaccess to home.php



A bit boring, but a start. Not sure whether I should include just the most recent post or, say, the most recent 3 or 5 posts. Ah well, I’m sure no one cares.

in eating and drinking |

pancakeblueberry01

Another request from mum. Recipe from bbc goodfood.

200g SR flour
1tsp bp
1 egg
300ml milk
125g blueberries
pinch of salt
knob of butter, melted

Sift flour, bp and salt into a large bowl. Lightly whisk egg and add to milk. Create a hole in the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet ingredients, mixing to get a thick smooth batter. Add melted butter and 100g blueberries.

Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter into a hot pan and cook until bubbles form on top, then flip and continue cooking till browned. Serve with remaining blueberries and maple syrup.

We didn’t have syrup (golden or maple) so we substituted honey and the lemon curd I made earlier. Recipe says it makes 10, I got 12 out of it.


in habitat , random words |



This year’s nano is inspired by a Grand Designs episode that featured two women who built a beautiful, eco-friendly, grass-roofed, larch-cladded house on the Isle of Skye. Grand Designs, for those unfamiliar, is a UK tv program that follows home building projects. While that description seems bland and boring, it is quite the opposite. Most of the homes featured are unusual, thoughtful and frankly covet-worthy.

This is one of my favourite episodes because this one was all about following and realising a dream. From a young age, one of the owners have dreamed of having her own house with a grass roof, and this is the story of how she achieved that. The episode is also about compromise, and living within one’s means. The resultant house isn’t grand: it’s only 90m2, with one bedroom and an end window that would have been spectacular if it were higher. There’s a wistful and sort of inspriing quote that comes out of this:

better to have a small amount of something you love than to have too much of something you don’t need

I also found another inspiration recently, of a young couple who build a glass house from recycled windows. It’s a peaceful, fantastic house with another story about another couple. Theirs is also about a dream, but also about creativity and finding a particular way of life.

The practical side of me questions these designs. Do houses with grass or flower roofs really work? Won’t they flood or collapse? A house with top to bottom windows sounds so precarious, surely it can’t withstand heavy rain or strong winds?

But that’s me. If everyone were like me, these projects would never have seen the light of day.

I’m almost done outlining the story. The MC inherited some land and a dilapidated hut/cabin. She wants to build her ideal house, but has to balance between her past life and lifestyle with her idealistic view of her future life. The second MC has already achieved her ideal orderly life, and she doesn’t need creativity or dreams, or so she thinks. Hopefully I can come up with some good interactions and character development. Still have to do some research into the logistics of house building, find info about where to set the story and decide on the supporting cast. The house itself will be a character in the story too, since its growth is so intricately tied to the growth of the MCs. It’s almost like I can name chapters based on each stage of the process.


in evidence of my insanity , family first |

swisspersilbox

Mum decided to clean out her place. It’ll be a gargantuan task because I don’t think she’s ever thrown anything away. She started with the storeroom and uncovered loads of clothes, decorations and stuff that needed to be trashed. There was also a box that appear to contain my stuff. Wow, things I wasn’t able to take with me to Chicago and have forgotten about — mostly small electronics like kettle, iron, stick blender. Plus a 3-pack of Persil. Yes, washing powder. Since the packaging is in German, it must have been from Switzerland, which means it dates back to 2001. Yes, 12 year old washing powder that my old-old company paid to ship across continents and sitting in a box at my parents’ place for 5 years.

It’s not money or action figures but hey, I was just running out and needed to get washing powder next time I’m at the supermarket so I save a buck or two.

in challenges |

lemonblueberrycake005

health

  • run / walk / bike 50km // 31km done (23 running, 8 walking)
  • weights or calisthenics x8 // 5 done
  • register for feb 2014 race — HM registration starts 22/10, 10k starts 29/10, opens 7am // site not open yet

food

  • try the 5:2 diet x1 // 1 done
  • non alcohol days x12 // 9 done, a few nights out means wine and beer, sigh
  • vegetables x24 // 15 done, vegetables every day is not hard
  • fruit or juice x24 // 13 done, missed a couple of days
  • new recipe x2 // [1
  • old recipe x2 // [1

family

  • visit parents x7 // done — lately I’ve stayed with them more often than at home
  • date with sis / niece x2 // 1 done, yacht club breakfast
  • bbmm date x2 // done — I’m surprised, I didn’t set a higher number because I didn’t think we’d be able to spend a lot of time together

misc

  • finish nano outline // almost done
  • research and write intro for case study // not started
  • figure out what to do with homepage // not started


in being healthy |

running20131014

5.01km 41.21min 8.15min/km (13.16min/mi)
This included walking and stopping at 7-Eleven. True running was just 5k. Too slow. What’s worrying is that it didn’t feel slow. I’m over 2min/km off my baseline of around 6.40. Lack of training? Extra 10 pounds? The heat? Frustrated.

in family first |

Met up with sis, my niece, parents for breakfast at the yacht club. Hot day, little one was going to go practice long jump but some people were occupying the track and pit. Decamped to the library next to the track. They went home to rest, I went with mum to the market to buy vegetables. We don’t seem to do a lot as a family, or may be it’s because there is absolutely nowhere to go in this stupid city.


in how the day went |

Spent most of the day with mm, we drove out to the mall and hotel complex near the airport and had tea buffet. The mall had outlet stores, and it was a nice enough hour of walking around, but nothing much worth buying. Driving back to town we got waylaid by the lane system and had to take a long way round. Ended up at a bar near the office quite late. Buffalo wings, a glass of rosé for me, sangria (which I finished half) for her. She needed some distraction, I hope I was able to cheer her up a little.

My mba is at parents’ so I got the mbp out. It’s pretty slow and a lot of webpages didn’t load. Almost midnight and I think I’m gonna vacuum the flat.

in evidence of my insanity |



A question on ted conversations asked

If you had to lose one of your 5 senses, which one would it be, and why?

While this is a terrible question and insensitive to those who unfortunately don’t have full use of their senses, the overwhelming response, and on other forums where I’d googled the question, was the sense of smell.

Most people went through a logical process, eliminating the senses they would absolutely not want to lose — sight and hearing, followed by touch. Smell and taste are so closely linked that some people put them together. In any case, it seemed more people were willing to lose their sense of smell than any other sense.

I’m trying to think which one will be least awful for me. First are the senses I don’t want to lose: 1) sight, so much of how we connect with the rest of our world and the external environment is through sight, I cannot imagine seeing only darkness; 2) touch, how can we go about living our ordinary lives without touch; 3) taste, I like food too much.

That leaves hearing and smell. I could go with the majority of people and say smell; I don’t have a great sense of smell and a lot of smells make me want to sneeze. It is the one sense we do tend to underuse.

But I’m going to pick hearing. I don’t like noise. I find people talking around me annoying, why is the bulk of the human population so in love with the sound of their own voice? My hearing comprehension is a little weak anyway — sometimes I’d hear that someone is talking, I know there are words, I can see their lips moving, but I can’t make sense of the words. It’s all noise that i can do without. I’m happy enough reading subtitles on tv. Yes, it’d be a shame never to hear beautiful music, but the upside of not having to listen to people or get disturbed by outside sounds.

Interesting to read about the NY restaurant that holds a monthly event where people eat a meal in silence. While not everyone’s cup of tea, the writer says

it feels like a reprieve. I calm down, slow down and take a long time over every mouthful

It’s certainly not a new concept. There’s a ramen place in Tokyo where talking is not allowed. I wonder if people slurp there? Slurping is mandatory when eating ramen in Japan. Hmm.

When I’m at home, I eat on my own but I have the TV on. Same if I’m at parents’. Most restaurants I go to have a certain amount of noise, most are far too noisy. I’d love to go to a restaurant where the silence is part of the experience and not because of awkwardness with my dining companions. Blind restaurants have been successful (although they are probably the noisiest restaurants in the world) so why not deprive another sense — one that does not interfere with the enjoyment of the actual food.

in objects of desire |

ikeaceramicknives03

My parents don’t own very good knives. They tend to use one very blunt paring knife for everything, and even though there are 3 other knives in a block they are also extremely blunt and useless. When I was breaking down beef cheeks for braising, i had to abandon the knives and use a pair of scissors instead. They just don’t cook the way I do, so they don’t need the same equipment.

Since I’ll be staying with them more often, and therefore doing more cooking in their kitchen, I decided to upgrade their kitchenware somewhat. Mum and I went to a restaurant supply store and bought mixing bowls, a whisk, measuring spoons and the like. Last week when I was at Ikea I bought a set of ceramic knives — 2 large and 1 small. I threw away the box so I can’t remember the product name.

I’ve always fancied getting a new set of knives. Good knives are hugely expensive, so even though I was in a restaurant supply street in Japan, and even went inside a couple of knife stores, I didn’t get any because I’m not in a money-splurging space right now.

Ceramic knives are supposed to be the next big thing. Made of zirconium oxide that is harder than diamonds, they retain their sharp edge and don’t require much maintenance. The downside is that they are also more prone to chipping than steel knives and can’t be used for hard stuff like bones. For everyday use, they are fine — fruits, vegetables, boneless meat. They are as light as plastic so are more suitable for elderly people or people who are not comfortable with their knife skills.

I’ve been using them for fruits and veg as directed. Compared with what was available, of course they are way better. Cut through everything really easily and nice to grip too. Good value too, $25 for the set. There is another set at $65 I might buy for myself.

in eating and drinking |

lambshank012

This is my standard stew recipe. Brown the meat, remove. Deglaze pan with mirepoix and cooking liquid. Add canned tomato, put meat back, season, cover, cook in oven at 160-180°C for 3 hours. Remove lid/foil about 30mins from the end. It’s pretty foolproof.

The meat this time was lamb shank, and nowadays I’m chef-y enough to trim the ends to expose the bone. The cooking liquid was a dark beer my dad found in the cupboard. I like Guinness and ales and dark beers but this one was actually too harsh to drink. As a braising liquid, it worked well, giving the sauce an intensity without bitterness that was different to wine.

I took some cous cous from home, intending to serve with the shanks but mum wanted mashed potatoes. Cous cous next time.

in arts and media |



Saw Gravity in 3D. No need to write a summary of the story, nor to repeat the massive amounts of positive reviews a simple google search will show. I find this comment from wired interesting, the reviewer described the film as a one-room play. I thought it was very apt, to compare the film to a play — with just 2 (technically 3, but…well) characters, one of whom is only there as support, it’s highly a emotional, personal drama set as a space thriller. There have been other one room films, but this one is set in a room that is endless, and the sense of claustrophobia / paranoia imposed by the universe is just as constricting as a 10x10 room.

After the film, mm asked what was my favourite part. Difficult to pick one. Hers is when Kowalski told Stone to let go which is of course the metaphor for her letting go of the demons in her life. Mine is early on when they were happily bantering and then the voice of Houston (Ed Harris!) abruptly told them to abort mission in the same calm tone he was bantering with them just seconds ago. That in one second, with a few words, so much would change.

Anyway, the Wired review heading is:

Don’t Even Read this Review, Just Go See Gravity

so, well, please do that.

in arts and media , techtalk |



One thing about not living in the US or UK is missing the new season programs. Some we get on local cable…eventually. They tend to get scattered on various channels, which means subscribing to each one. This can get pricey. The one must for me is TAR, which thankfully I get to watch 12hrs after it airs.

Mum found a way to catch new programs. Not going into details but so far I’m at ep 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which makes me very happy. I’m not big on comics, I watch the films whenever I can. Great to see Joss back, it warms my heart to see the “Grr-Argh” logo at the end.

Next up, Downton Abbey, Blacklist, Orange is the New Black and the required viewing of Breaking Bad.

in eating and drinking |

berliner003pizza berliner001wurst

We went househunting, for the fun of it. It started when mm had to look for a new parking space, then she got talking with the agent about the market for apartments. Next thing I knew, she called me and I was out over her area looking at apartments.

Afterwards we returned to the oktoberfest restaurant where we had beer with our friend the other day. Shared a bottle of beer and ordered the eisbein that she wanted to try last time. Berliner eisbein is salt-cured pork knuckle cooked in a spiced brine for several hours until very soft. As the name suggests, it’s a Berlin speciality although I remember having it in Munich. (Or was it the roast knuckle.) The meat was tasty and our favourite was the skin — very soft, gelatinous and not fatty at all. We also ordered a pizza although we struggled to finish it. Should have had a salad or starter instead.

in being healthy |

tdp20131005

According to tdp saturday was a calorie deficit day. I know trying the fast diet is one of my october challenge goals, but not a deficit. I certainly didn’t do it on purpose. I went running for 5 miles, then walked to several shops looking for cheap glass jars for lemon curd. Then I got busy making the lemon curd, which was too runny even after cooking for 30mins so I had to spend even more time fixing it. Before I knew it, it was 10pm and I didn’t feel like eating anything.

Ah well, a day of low calorie intake won’t hurt me.

in eating and drinking |

mus116beer

Short answer: Switzerland.

Long answer: as a result of all my travels.

Went out with mm and our friend to a bar and caught their oktoberfest special. Everyone ordered 500ml beers — they had Erdinger weissbeer and dunkel and I had a bottle of Schneider-Weiss tap 7 — an amber wheat beer. We also shared a platter of sausages and sauerkraut. So German, love it. Naturally I finished mine way faster than them, but before I waved down a server and ordered another one, they gave me 1/3 of their remaining glasses. So I had like 800ml total and they each had 350ml or so. Ah yes, I can drink more than my friends in general.

When I was young, as in pre-teen, our grandfather and even my dad would let us kids try a little bit of beer or brandy that they were drinking with their meals. Just a small touch or a tiny sip. No harm done, it meant I didn’t find alcohol a big deal.

I didn’t drink when I got to drinking age. Oh, I think I had the required Newcastle Ale in college, but I don’t remember liking it. I was the one with the car amongst my friends, who weren’t big drinkers anyway, so it didn’t even enter my mind that alcohol should be part of my life. I didn’t drink throughout my twenties. Not the teetotal type of non-drinker, just very, very rarely.

When I learned to drink, was in Switzerland. That was when my group of friends then liked to drink. Eating out was expensive, so our gatherings were always at someone’s apartment. And someone would inevitably bring a couple of bottles of wine. Or vodka. Or something equally strong. We got into Swiss wine in a big way, knowing that it was only available inside Switzerland. Proximity to France, Germany and Italy helped too. Wine tasting at Alsace was one of the highlights of those couple of years. We made watermelon vodka, jelly shots, caipirinha. I first tried this shot with baileys floating on creme de menthe that was extremely addicting.

Moving to Asia gave me access to a new type of drink. Sake and umeshu from Japan and soju from Korea. New World wines dominated the market (and were much, much cheaper) so it was cabs and chardonnay from Australia for a while.

In the US I discovered craft beers. A race in Chicago would be sponsored by 312 or Goose Island and if I ignored the buds and millers, aka water, that are on the supermarket shelves, there’d be another section of wonderful special beers in interesting bottles.

And then came whisky. When RM came to London, he introduced me to world of whisky. And the rest is history. I’ve visited distilleries on 3 continents and developed a taste for Highland Park, Blanton’s and Yamazaki. I now have almost 50 bottles of whisky and whiskey at home, not counting the half-shelf of sample bottles. It’s becoming an interesting, if expensive, hobby.

I’m not drinking as much as when I was in London. I love buying though, so my living room cabinets are filled to the brim with whisky, bourbon, grappas, vodka, limoncello, pear liquor, tomato liquor and a bourbon cream I bought at Buffalo Trace. And a bunch of wines from our trip to Provence or from London that I brought with me in my shipment. They all just sit there, waiting to be tasted…someday.

I’m also seeing my taste develop somewhat as I get older. It can’t be any ol’ wine, beer or whisky, I know generally what I like and what I don’t like. I’m still game for trying new stuff, and there’s so much more to experience. Cheers.

in eating and drinking |

four nut brownie

The short answer: cooking shows on tv.

The long answer: cooking shows in tv, mostly. At school we had home economics lessons, quite lame, I remember knitting a scarf and learning how to make tomato soup and rock cakes. We bought some 99p cookery books from Sainsbury’s that I still use. Then it was Delia Smith and even simple stuff on Blue Peter.

I took more notice of food and cooking in NY when I got addicted to the Food Network. There were still Julia Child eps, as well as Emeril, Alton Brown and original Iron Chef. I wasn’t much of a cook, and these shows opened my eyes to the concept of cooking. I also learned new words, like cilantro (coriander), broil (grill) and grill (barbeque).

Fast forward several years and nowadays there are so many food and travel programs on so many channels. Our eyes have definitely been opened, almost forcibly. We take in our strides ingredients like quinoa, eel and kumquat, that were relatively unknown before some tv chef or food adventurer made it popular.

There seems to be a “return to roots” trend going on recently. Shows like food glorious food and my grandmother’s ravioli focus on traditional recipes handed down through the family. The picture of a large 3, 4-generation family sitting down at a table sharing a home-cooked meal triggers feelings of warmth and nostalgia.

Neither of my grandmothers did much cooking. My maternal grandmother came from a rather affluent family and the cooking was done by the servants (none of this “helper” PC crap, they were maids, albeit much loved). I’m sure the recipes could have been passed down, but I’m not sure. My grandma was a lovely, warm-hearted person and my memories of eating with her were mostly eating out at restaurants. There used to be a pancake place outside of town she loved taking us to, it was an outing.

My paternal grandmother was an intellectual. I’m sure my love of reading comes from her, she lived with us for a while and I remember her reading these thin novels that had tiny words and were part of a series. My great-aunt lived with her and did most of the cooking. Now, my great-aunt, she could cook and I wished she had passed some of her recipes to us.

My parents can cook, but not those big family meals we see on tv. Mostly it was good enough for feed a small family in a no-frills manner. Mum made delicious roast belly pork with crispy skin and Dad made soy milk from soy beans and could cook a mean steak. My sis and I made fairy cakes, my parents supervised not the recipe but the safety of letting two kids use electric whisks and the oven. Definitely Sis and I are better bakers than my parents, which is why I bake so much for them. I have lived in more places and probably watched more cooking shows, so why not share the knowledge and love of food?

So I asked my dad what he’d like me to bake next and he said brownies. Hmm. I’ve only made brownies a couple of times and they come out more like cake. Nice enough, but I really need to find a fool-proof recipe that gives the crispy skin and gooey inside that I’d like to achieve. May be this is the one time I have to look for an American recipe.

in eating and drinking |

lemonblueberrycake001 lemonblueberrycake003

Based on a bbc recipe. Lemon and blueberries go so well together.

175g butter
175g sugar
3 eggs
200g SR flour
100g greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon curd
zest & juice of 1 lemon
punnet of blueberries (around 100g)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs. Add yogurt, lemon curd, lemon zest & juice. Fold in flour.

Spoon half the mixture into tin, sprinkle half the blueberries. Add the other half of the mixture, and the rest of the blueberries.

Bake at 180°C for about 45mins. Serve with more lemon curd and blueberries.

in challenges |

shakshuka01

health

  • run / walk / bike 50km
  • weights or calisthenics x8
  • register for feb 2014 race — HM registration starts 22/10, 10k starts 29/10, opens 7am

food

  • try the 5:2 diet x1
  • non alcohol days x12
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • new recipe x2
  • old recipe x2

family

  • visit parents x7
  • date with sis / niece x2
  • bbmm date x2

misc

  • finish nano outline
  • research and write intro for case study
  • figure out what to do with homepage


about

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