December 2013 Archives

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

bourbontea02

Task #62 in challenge.

Although I have a big alcohol collection, it’s mainly wine, whisky and some beer, hardly conducive to making cocktails. The best candidate for cocktails would be the whiskies, particularly the bourbons so I was on the lookout for whiskey cocktail ideas. This one of bourbon sweet tea looks good, and uses ingredients that I can get readily. I halved the recipe and converted to metric.

1.5 cup (350ml) water
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 tea bag — I used earl grey
1/2 cup (120ml) bourbon
1/2 lemon
1/2 lime
1/2 orange

Dissolve sugar in boiling water and let tea bag seep for 5-10mins. Remove tea bag, add sliced lemon, lime and orange and bourbon. I have a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 open which at 55% is a bit stronger, so I only used 100ml. Chill in fridge or serve over ice.

Quite strong, both in bourbon and tea taste. Easy to make and easy to drink, good with steak or sweet dessert.

in photography is life |

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer


I posted 3,512 photos and 21 videos (total 3,533) to flickr in 2013. With trips to the Mediterranean, Scandanavia and Japan there were many candidates for best 10. I ended up picking mostly ones of beautiful and memorable scenery.

in techtalk |

Our online lives has gotten really busy. Status update on facebook, witty observations on twitter, ideas on tumblr, food porn on instagram, funny videos on youtube, deep thoughts on wordpress (or MT like me), other people’s deep thoughts to read on feedly, organising our lives on evernote, and not forgetting calendar and email. So if I took a pic of my lunch with instagram, I might want to crosspost to flickr, facebook, twitter and my blog, then back it up to dropbox, send the links to evernote, and send my family an email so they can check it out. I don’t want to physically do all that, I need automation.

Happy to come across IFTTT, which stands for if this then that, and does the automation between web services via what they call recipes. Services like facebook and twitter are called channels and the recipes link 2 channels together. One of the most popular recipes links twitter with facebook:

ifttt-twfb

I’m working through the 101 best recipes, that’s a nice weekend project.

The motivation for this interest in IFTTT came from a problem with my feed. Whenever I add a new post, I had set up networked blogs to create a corresponding post in fb. It’s not the most reliable or prompt service — I never know if a post will show up and when. Things got worse ever since flickr changed their embed method:

ifttt-rssfb1

The link and titles are still there, but the thumbnail didn’t get pulled, even though there is an image associated with the post. A screenshot of the website shows up instead. This is not the first time it happened with flickr images, so time to ditch networked blogs. The IFTTT recipe goes:

ifttt-rssfb

Took a few tries to get the recipe right, detailed process and analysis in a separate technical section post.

ifttt-rssfb4

The only slight complaint was the excerpt wasn’t included as an ingredient in the IFTTT recipe. May be an improvement for future.


in techtalk |

Resurrecting tumblr, see how the blog feeds to it now. I stopped using tumblr when they stopped taking full post rss feeds, but I can probably live with truncated post or a link now. I changed the website landing page back to tumblr. This post will feed to both fb and tumblr via ifttt. I have to figure out whether I want tumblr or twitter or facebook at the beginning or the end of the process.

Here’s a picture:

emptypianostage

a bunch of blockquote text


A random link: 10 rules of surveillance dystopia stories on io9.

in eating and drinking |

christmasbeer02

Another batch of Christmas present from my sis was a big box of craft beers, which had arrived a week or so ago. I brought one of the bottles to share with my dad. After I took the group picture I re-wrapped them in the bubble wrap they came in so I had no idea what I picked.

Turned out, it was a bottle of aztec sacrifice (second from left at back, with red cap) which the brewery described as a

big, bold malty red India Pale Ale with a wallop of citrus hops and specialty malts. Rich toffee and caramel notes with a hint of roasted barley and firm hop bitterness. This is how red ales are done on the west coast!

Wow. Big, malty and wallop definitely describes it. Extremely hoppy and quite bitter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love strong bitters, but this one was a tad over the bitterness line for me. But that’s why craft beers are so interesting. Can’t wait to try the rest of the box.


in techtalk |

places086matterhorn

Sidebar widgets removed, flickr embed this time. Please show up, Matterhorn.

in techtalk |

places086matterhorn

so if I remove the bottom sidebar widgets, including the powered by MT button, will the matterhorn show up as a thumbnail on fb?

in family first |



Everyone’s mood seemed to have improved, so it looked like it would be a nice day. There was still quite a lot to do in terms of cooking, so I made a rough schedule and banned my parents from the kitchen. Too many cooks and all that. Sis arrived at around 10.30am so she helped with a lot of prepping and was in charge of the salad and gravies. With 2 out of 8 being vegetarians, plus limited hob and oven space, I had to be careful food didn’t get cross contaminated, were cooked properly and all ready at around the same time. Didn’t help with hob space that I decided to make the mulled wine early so Sis and I could drink it while cooking, heehee!

 

I was aiming for 12pm, and everyone was sat and eating by 12.15pm. Happy and proud of that. Turkey and bratwurst were cooked and heated in the small oven. Potatoes dominated the large oven for most of the morning — chopping, parboiling and roasting 12 potatoes to crunchiness was important. Made a large pan of mixed mushrooms, white bamboo asparagus and cabbage. Two types of gravy, cranbery sauce and a greek salad. For the veggies there was vegetarian sausage and a nut loaf. For ease of washing up we used paper plates and plastic utensils.



My plate looked like a mess but everything was GOOD! Had second helpings too.

In the end, we decided against steaming the pudding for 2hrs and microwaved it instead. Took around 10mins, perfect time for me to make the custard. Lots of leftovers, which I’m actually looking forward to.

Opened presents, we all kept mainly to food this year: chocolate, biscuits, nuts, crisps. Sis gave me a bottle of chocolate wine and I got a multi-purpose wine opener from T&D, there’s a theme here! Played the wii with my niece for a bit, then they went home mid-afternoon. Too full for dinner, I just had some fruit.

in family first , how the day went |



Turkey is traditionally eaten at Christmas. My parents prefer to buy ready cooked, so…okay. It’s quite small, in the US it’d be a large chicken. Rather than carve it the traditional (and according to many chefs the wrong) way I broke it down into manageable pieces — drumstick, thigh, wing, back, breast so it’s easier to carve. I even managed to keep the wishbone intact. Laid the pieces on a baking tray ready for carving and serving tomorrow when we will have our family gathering proper. Could have used the carcass for gravy but I used some roast chicken bones I had in the freezer instead. Made normal gravy and vegetarian gravy for the nut roast they are bringing tomorrow.

Turkey is also a colloquial term for failure, a dud, something that was unsuccessful. And that sums up my christmas day. All I’ll say is that it only takes one person to ruin the entire day for everybody. Makes me wish again that I can spend christmas alone, away from unnecessary drama. Poor mm, I spent half an hour on line complaining to her, at least she had a better day with her mum.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |



Task #50 in 101 in 1001 challenge: 2 of 10 new recipes.

I’ve made yule log before, and it is a sort of family tradition. I wanted to find a recipe that was less sweet, and was pleased that bbc goodfood came through again. I made some adjustments to the recipe, taking out some more sugar, substituting honey for golden syrup and using the chocolate cream for both filling and icing.

for the sponge:
3 eggs
85g sugar
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp bp
2 tbsp cocoa powder

for the filling:
50g butter
150g dark toblerone
250ml carton + 5tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp honey

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift flour, bp, cocoa and fold into egg mixture. Bake in a swiss roll tray for 10-12mins at 200°C. Remove from oven, roll in the greaseproof paper and leave to cool.

Melt the butter and chocolate on a bain marie, cool. Add honey and 5tbsp cream. Whip the carton of cream until soft peaks then fold in the chocolate mixture.

Unroll sponge and spread filling generously. Roll carefully into log shape. Cut off one end as the branch. Ice with rest of chocolate cream.

We didn’t have icing sugar so I sieved some caster sugar over as the snow. I like this chocolate cream filling much better than using butter icing. It was very rich, I cut a thickish slice and divided it into three for me and parents, it was enough.

in |



Test post for IFTTT. Created a recipe that takes the RSS feed and posts to fb. Hopefully the pic is included. Matterhorn 2002, flickr embed.

in techtalk |



Test post for IFTTT. Created a recipe that takes the RSS feed and posts to fb. Hopefully the pic is included. Matterhorn 2002, flickr embed.

in about me , family first |

 

Two years ago, I had one of the best christmas day ever. I started cooking early in the morning, put the guinea fowl, duck & pheasant ballotine from m&s in the oven together with my vegs. Dessert was stollen from Prague with sparkling cranberries and a dollop of marmalade. Aside from skyping with the family and a visit to my downstairs neighbour for tea, I had no other human contact for the entire long weekend.

Bliss.

Whenever I’m on assignment people always say to me, “don’t spend Christmas on your own” before proceeding to invite me to their christmas do (like my downstairs neighbour). Sometimes it’s great, sometimes I want nothing more than to be able to plan the day, make the food, enjoy the day, all on my own. It’s a quiet time of year, and I want to make full use of that quietude.

I’m also aware that not everyone share my sentiment. It is important not to forget family, friends, neighbours and strangers at this time of year, and it can be particularly hard on people who are lonely, away from home, sad or need the positivity that the spirit of Christmas brings.

I’m just comparing that London Christmas to the Christmas this year with family. No one seemed to be able to make a coherent decision and I’m not even sure our parents want us to have the gathering at their place. Some people live in delusion about the Christmas card picture of a family gathering in front of a fireplace with a huge tree and mountains of presents; others don’t offer any opinion, still others want something to happen but only if everyone else do the work and organisation. I guess it’ll be a pleasant gathering on boxing day. I’m hoping people can tone down their sense of entitlement or constant moaning. Boy, do I sound like the Grinch today.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |



Task #64-68 of 101 in 1001 challenge: try 5 new whiskies. This is the first new one.

I finished the bottle of glengoyne burnfoot I bought in Dubai, so it was time to open a new whisky. This Auchentoshan Three Wood I bought in the summer and since I hadn’t tried Auchentoshan extensively, it made sense to open this. Auchentoshan is the one of the few lowland distilleries and this particular expression was matured in 3 different cask types: bourbon, Oloroso sherry and Pedro Ximenez sherry. There is no age statement, although it appears to be a 12 year that was matured in bourbon casks for 10 years, then one year each in the sherry casks. Tasting notes from the distillery:

To The Eye: Rich golden bronze.
To The Nose: Blackcurrant, brown sugar, orange, plum and raisin.
To The Tongue: Fruit and syrup. Hazelnut with hints of cinnamon and lemon. A butterscotch sweetness adds to the overall complexity.
To The End: Fresh and fruity, with long lasting oaky sweetness.

Mr Murray didn’t like it, only awarding 76 points:



The comments on TWE are somewhat divided, some thought it was really smooth, others thought it was unbalanced. Most agree it was sweet.

I thought it was delicious and way too easy to drink. Then again I prefer smooth, sweet, sherry-casked whiskies. There is definitely butterscotch and some fruitiness. In terms of colour, it’s darker than other Auchens I’ve tasted. It’s not fair of the one commenter to compare it with Laphroaig Three Wood, can’t compare a lowland whisky to one of the most peated whiskies from Islay. At around £40, it is fantastic value and the sweetness perfect for a cold Christmas evening. I’m so glad I bought 2 bottles, I’ll save the other one for another winter.

in 101.1001 , challenges , money business |

finances201312

Task #77 in 101 in 1001 challenge: build a net worth calculator.

Personal finance websites talk a lot about calculating net worth and balancing chequebooks. I’ve always been a bit confused about why it’s such a big deal, and why it’s apparently so hard to figure out net worth. It’s a simple spreadsheet exercise. Add up assets, add up debts, take one away from the other.

Took me about an hour, to find all the statements or log onto bank websites. The only current liability is credit card debits waiting for the next statement. I didn’t include this because: a) trivial amounts and b) they’ll get paid once I get the next statement. Since it’s impossible to have the exact figure — statement dates, some investment accounts only report annually, fx etc — it will always be an estimate. Everything got converted to GBP and USD to create the sum total.

Data is summarised by currency and by subtotal of banks vs investments vs property. I don’t know what is an optimum ratio between cash and investments. Advisors say have at least 1 year’s worth of expenses available as cash, so I think I should move more cash to a safe vehicle to generate a return as opposed to it sitting there doing nothing.

in easily amused |

Lots of cool lego stuff lately.

  • amazing lego machine that I can’t stop watching, and want to be there to personally follow that tiny blue ball around the room.




  • full sized lego car powered by compressed air




  • trailer for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug in lego




  • the upcoming lego movie




  • lego star wars on the iphone




  • the 50 US states represented by typical (stereotypical?) lego figures, available as individual prints, here’s New Mexico and Iowa

    lego50nm lego50iowa


  • lego scavenger hunt at CERN, where the smart scientists hid a bunch of lego figurines including aliens, a werewolf, a gorilla, a leprechaun, a pharaoh, a skater and a skier prior to google street view showing up

    legocern legocern



in photography is life , techtalk |

It’s fairly widely reported today that yahoo changed the way flickr embeds work. At first glance there is no difference, but hover on the pic and the enhancements become visible. The small difference is the username, filename and flickr logo are prominently displayed at the bottom when hovering. There is no way of deleting the text, it’s part of the iframe. I’m not altogethr happy about this, but it will make embedding from other users easier, that I don’t have to separately add text to attribute the pic to them. And if anyone has access to my embed codes, I get the attribution credit.

The bigger change is the ability to scroll from the pic itself. Hover on the pic and two scroll arrows appear. Try it.



This was a rare snow scene at my local park in London, taken early in the morning on the way to the tube station. Scroll through to see the adjacent pics in my photostream. Apparently there is a way to enable scrolling through the set the pic is in, which I haven’t figured out how to do yet. This I like, very much.

For the moment, the old style embed is still available, so here’s the same pic again.

ldnsnow2012021001

in being healthy |

milemarker

It’s cold and very windy, I thought about going running, but decided to try something else. So I dusted off mum’s stationary bike and did a quick 20mins. It’s a really really old stationary bike, all the electronics are shot so no display of any sort. The belt still works and because it’s old and stiff, it provided effective resistance.

Normally I would just track the time, but I want distance to include in, guess what, the 101.1001 challenge. The trick is to try to convert 20mins stationary biking to equivalent in running or road cycling distance.

Naturally the actual distance covered on a stationary equipment is 0 miles. I’m aware of that.

It’s like asking does running 1 mile burn more calories than walking 1 mile. Most of the answers will be that we shouldn’t compare apples with oranges. Factors like pace, road surface, gradient, wind resistance make the activites differ. That said, there have been attempts to come up with some ratio based on calorie burnt, ie effort. Others anecdotally quote ratios ranging from 3:1 to 10:1, most commonly comparing a marathon with a century (100 miles bike).

There’s also a big difference between cycling on a road bike vs a stationary bike. Wind resistance and undulating surfaces primarily. I do find that with a road bike there’s also the momentum factor. Stop pedalling on a stationary bike and it does just that, it stops. In terms of effort, I’d say road bike requires more effort even with momentum.

Anyway on the ancient stationary bike I worked up a decent amount of sweat, my arms and thighs are stiff, so I did put in some effort. My current slow running pace is around 12min/mi so 20mins is 1.7miles. Using a very conservative 2:1 ratio and generously rounding up, I’m awarding myself 4 miles, or a mile every 5 mins. Who knows if it’s accurate, I’m sticking to it.



in arts and media |



Kottke called this apple’s best ad ever, which is very fitting for the times. How many times have grown-ups shake their head at their teenager burying their heads in their iphones. Good ending to this ad.

The fact that many videos are now taken on iphones and other smartphones mean that there is a new phenomenon, portrait-orientated videos. Personally I don’t like them, and I tend not to take portrait-orientated pictures either. The ad showed the teen shooting in portrait but the playback was in landscape, which led to a twitter discussion about how wrong it was. There’s even discussion about human fields of view and other tl;dr stuff involving a NASA paper.

Back to the apple ad. Is it the best? Absolutely not; may be second best. The best will always be the 1984 superbowl ad, back when using apple products were not mass market.

And the best christmas ad? All of the John Lewis ads, the latest one, the bear and the hare another tear jerker.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking |

lebkuchenchoc01

Task #49 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: 1 of 10 new recipes.

Lebkuchen are German gingerbread-like biscuits that are traditionally made at christmas. We bought some at my niece’s school fair, loved them and I decided to try my hand at making them. This recipe is from bbc goodfood, which was hands down the easiest.

250g plain flour
1 tsp bp
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch each of ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper
85g butter
200ml clear honey

  • sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  • heat the butter and honey until the butter has melted and add to the dry ingredients
  • mix well, cool mixture to room temperature
  • roll the dough into 30 balls, flatten on baking sheet, bake at 180°C for 12-15mins
  • cool on wire rack, pretend to be Jamie Oliver by flicking melted chocolate haphazardly over biscuits

I very nearly burnt the first batch of 15, another minute and they would have to go into the bin. Luckily the second batch were okay. I think they were too small, next time I’ll make 20 instead of 30.

I think the jury is still out on the rorschach style of decoration, which I saw on a Jamie Oliver christmas program the other day. That’s all he seemed to be doing nowadays, either piling food on a platter or wooden board and then flicking whatever sauce or dressing all over the place.

I wouldn’t say this recipe was 100% successful. It tasted quite nice, I like using honey instead of sugar and having lots of spices made the whole kitchen smell of christmas. Because they were so small, they weren’t as chewy as I’d like. Next time I’ll also grate in a little ginger to give it more of a ginger taste.


in eating and drinking |

goodchickenrice01 goodlaksa01

Mum and I went shopping for christmas presents for sis, rob, gis and the inlaws. Mainly snacks at the place that had 30% discount at the weekends. Got chocolate, crisps, pudding and other favourites. Went to the department store next doors, got a replacement iron for mum and a kitchen scale for when I’m baking at their place.

She took me to lunch at this place called good satay that was completely hidden in the back corners of the first floor mall of an old office building. The units around it were either closed or closed down and the corridor was more suitable for delivery or maintenance people. But the restaurant was packed, we were lucky we got there at noon and found a table large enough for us and our shopping.

No frills and authentic singaporean-malaysian food. So good we ordered 3 dishes and took the remainder away — chicken rice, laksa, beef rendang with roti prata; and black sticky rice pudding to finish. I was immediately brought back to those couple of years when I did a lot of travelling to Singapore, so much so that I was almost a local. Will definitely return to try the other things on the menu — satay, rojak, mee goreng, bak kuh teh, cendol.


in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #92 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: count how many swatches I have.

I was a bit of a collector when I was younger. Stationery, coins, stamps, stickers, matchboxes, pencils all had their place. My first watch was a seiko that my grandparents gave me; when I started college I started wearing swatches and then I started buying some more. I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore collector, I just buy the ones I like the look of. It’s been a while since I last bought a swatch though, so my collection isn’t likely to grow by a lot. Currently it stands at 158, with the majority unused and still in their original box.

This video was taken on my coffee table, 6 separate instagram videos edited together in imovie. The music is a piece called the syncopated clock by leroy anderson performed by markus staab. I picked it because of the watch/clock theme, and also because syncopated is a new word for me. In musical terms it means off-beat, which can also be applied to this quirky collection and typically wonky instagram video.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |

[slideshow at bottom of post.]


Task #91 on 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

My first hard rock café shirt was London, a long long time ago and it cost £20. I think it was one of my first ever visits to the HRC. Still have it, albeit a lot frayed now (it’s the second one in this set). Then I started buying a few more, and fell into the habit of wearing dark polo shirts all the time.

I try to visit the hard rock café whenever I travel to a new city and buy one of their polo shirts. There are 14 here, I thought I have more. There is one from Singapore that was green with blue collars and the one from Gatlinburg that I either lost or gave away. There is only one duplicate — the blue striped one I got at London and Prague. Usually when I see duplicates I don’t buy it, which is probably why I have fewer than expected. I know I passed on Dallas, Universal Orlando, Copenhagen and Osaka in just the last few years. I also don’t get to swing by the local HRC every city, which is okay, I’m not too bothered if I miss out because they are rather expensive.

[p.s. I think I prefer showing sets using pictobrowser here rather than flickr slideshow yesterday, more a habit thing.]


in 101.1001 , challenges |




Tasks #22 and #23 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

The challenges were to complete a photochallenge using a photo app and to complete an alphabet food challenge, ie 26 pics of food from a-z. Two challenges for the price of one, I did an alphabet food & drink challenge using instagram. The list of foods:

  1. apple — a frozen apple dessert
  2. beer —- at humperdink’s dallas
  3. cheesecake — homemade for dad’s birthday this year
  4. doughnut — cruise breakfast
  5. egg — baked in potato, delicious
  6. fish & chips — in fake newspaper print paper
  7. grapes — frozen, which gave it a different texture
  8. hummous — from the food court in dubai
  9. ice cream — nice
  10. jelly — with raspberries
  11. kale — with tahini sauce, i miss kale
  12. lemon — with mini grater
  13. mango — cut up nicely
  14. noodles — fried noodles with eel
  15. okra — grilled at high temperature at home
  16. passionfruit — recently discovered a great market stall
  17. quiche — at a party
  18. raspberry — on the vine at parkside pyo farm
  19. steak — this was in dublin
  20. toast — over open fire
  21. uni — sea urchin sushi
  22. veal chop — from whole foods high street kensington
  23. waffle — and chicken at ihop
  24. xialongbao — taiwanese small steamed dumplings
  25. yogurt cheese — made by straining plain yogurt overnight
  26. zinfandel — could have used zucchini, but they are courgettes to me


in eating and drinking |

lizaveggieslunchset

We went for a quick lunch at a vegetarian canteen type restaurant. The chef-proprietor used to have a smaller place nearby which was very simple — you get served a plate of vegetarian food with rice. There would be a soup of the day at the side of the dining room that you served yourself — as many refills as you liked. Rice as much as you liked too. She closed a while ago and mm managed to find where she moved to.

It’s much more commercialised now, with a larger space and more restaurant like furniture. For lunch it was choice of 3 dishes from 6, which the cashier wrote on a piece of paper. For instance I picked #1, 3, 4 and that was what she wrote. We queued up to the serving counter where the chef served out the dishes. Soup and rice already on the tray, and refills available next to the counter. Like before, you cleared the dirty plates yourself, and everyone complied.

I had mixed beancurd, steamed egg and yam stew. Two bowls of rice and 3 bowls of soup. We were there early and by the time we left the queue was out of the door. It’s not cheap, around the same price as other fast food places, but there is still a homemade feel to the dishes and it being vegetarian it’s healthier.

in techtalk |

locationpin

Been ranting about lightboxes and blog terminology, so in the spirit of keeping good things in threes, here’s a post on how I feel about location tracking.

It wasn’t until this time round living in Asia that I realised how bad online personalisation and tracking has become. When the likes of amazon started addressing me by name and suggesting stuff I’d like to buy, I hated it but I can ignore the one line at the top of the page. But tracking is no longer as simple as that nowadays. It’s big business. Most websites are less interested in delivering content or providing services, users are little more than monkeys to display advertising to and the most important department is the marketing department. The marketing department tells web designers to write algorithms to target the monkeys’ activity with “appropriate” ads.

On the one hand, we have Forbes’ four lessons for internet marketers, which talks about transparency and the need for explicit approval; on the other hand we have spurious data supporting personalized marketing. Clearly, marketing departments are drinking their own kool-aid.

My view of this type of intrusion into my privacy has always been that I tolerate it being collected but I abhor it being used in a way that only benefits the collector. It cannot be a one-way street. So if I googled “how to make a bomb and destroy government buildings” I expect government agencies to pick it up and monitor my activities, and as a member of public I want government agencies to stop people who intend to do such terrible acts. But I do not want to have ads by fertiliser companies or gun clubs in my local area to start populating my facebook wall and following me around for a month. There is a difference between tracking for national security and tracking for my “enjoyment.”

I can use ABP and ghostery (and NoScript occasionally) to block trackers, and I delete cookies and LSOs regularly. What I’m struggling to do, is to stop being recognised and tracked because of my geographic location through my IP address and whatever else data is mined on my iphone. Of course I’ve checked-in on facebook and I also have an account at foursquare, but in those instances I’m broadcasting my location willingly.

yahoohk

It was fine living in the US and UK, but here, every time I clean up my history and cache and then go to yahoo or blogger, I have to navigate through another language. It is becoming more and more annoying to go back to the English version. I hate it. I have to be careful and paranoid, to avoid something like what happened to this guy when he went to another country and lost all his e-books. As Wil Wheaton commented,

meanwhile, someone who got those books some other way, perhaps from a certain Bay, for example, would be able to read them anywhere on the planet, as long as that hypothetical person had electricity


My itunes account is US-based, I have both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, I make sure I buy only DRM-free e-books and I keep backup copies on my mba and in dropbox. I do not want my activity checked, controlled or manipulated because of my location. Leave me alone, don’t call me by my name because I’m not your friend; don’t show me something in a language I barely read; don’t try to determine my likes or try to predict my behaviour.

Be it geo-restriction or DRM, or both, I’m on the side that believes that DRM is a bad thing, and there’s recent evidence that removing DRM improves sales. As the WSJ said,

The line between personalization and manipulation is a fuzzy one, but one thing is certain: We can never know if the line has been crossed if we’re unaware of what companies know about us.


in techtalk |

On my twitter feed and my facebook wall are occasional status updates to the tune of “check out my newest blog!” I do a double-take every time because that particular social media friend already has a website and did it mean that in addition to blahblah01.wordpress.com and the blahblah02.wordpress.com newest blog she announced last week, she now has blahblah03.wordpress.com?

By saying “check out my newest blog!” she was actually trying to alert us that she has a new blog post up as opposed to a spanking new blog site. There is a subtle difference. And this casual interchangeability of two related but different terms kinda bothers me a wee bit.

I searched “new blog” on twitter, and it was about 80:20 split between new blog posts vs new blog when they mean new blog post. PwC Australia does it the correct way:

blogpostright

whereas the Arsenal fans’ tweet was misleading:

blogpostwrong

Of course there were people who genuinely did start a new blog:

blognewright

or people who have new things happening at their blog (typos not withstanding):

blogright

Apparently it is a very common mistake. I thought it’s a rookie mistake, but according to Slate, people like the late great Roger Ebert, geek royalty Amanda Palmer and…gasp…Arianna Huffington also do it.

Sigh.

Let’s go back to the very beginning. The term blog is an abbreviation of web log, or in its early incarnation, a web diary. Blogs are made up of posts. You tend to only have a new diary every year, although you will have scores of entries inside. Another good analogy:

  • blog = newspaper
  • blog post = newspaper article

Try this: The journalist wrote a newspaper about last month’s unemployment figures. See what I mean?

So my social media friend who has just added content to her blog, would have been more correct in telling us to “check out the newest post on my blog!” I’m guessing the additional words make it more clunky and is potentially less impactful? IDK. People have the tendency to squish words together, so may be in the future it’ll be “check out my newest blost!” Snerk.

Why am I getting worked up about it? Aside from it sounds weird? I’ll categorise it as a pet peeve, like your vs you’re and their vs there. If someone is making a living writing for a blog, they should know the basic terminology of their job, right? Even if it’s just a personal blog, good spelling, grammar and proper word usage make a good impression. Slate was harsh, but take away the snarkiness and they have a point,

I’m not going to sugarcoat this—is that calling a post a blog makes you sound stupid. That may seem harsh, but I’m doing you a favor. Every time you make this mistake, it sounds like you don’t understand this newfangled thing, the World Wide Web.

I know I’m right about this. I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging blogs and posting posts for over 10 years.

in techtalk |

In the early days of internet, everything was free. Then it got commercial and ads started appearing on webpages. At first the ads were at the side of the page, then they got large and loud and obtrusive with huge flashing banner ads and popups that can’t be closed. Nowadays it’s even worse — users’ online activity and geographic location are collected and ads are targeted. All very annoying and intrusive and creepy.

Thank goodness for plug-ins like adblock plus and ghostery.

But we have a new threat.

in easily amused , eating and drinking |

mandarinstrip03

Here’s a fun distraction from the 101 in 1001 stuff. This is a fairly recent lifehacker post that references an older article elsewhere. It shows us how to unroll a mandarin orange into a pretty strip using 4 simple steps:

  1. cut off the top
  2. cut off the bottom
  3. make a vertical slit on one side
  4. carefully roll it out

I tried with a mandarin, and it worked until it broke in half. My fault for not unrolling on a flat surface and not gently enough. Eight points for following instruction, 9 for easy handling and, hmm, 5 for presentation. Of course it’s a lot easier with a mandarin than an orange because the peel of a mandarin comes off readily. Had to clean off the white pithy bits, all in all a very successful quick experiment. Next time, try with an actual orange.

[ETA: now it’s on huffpo]

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #89 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

This is a list of things I’d like to do someday, with varying degrees of achievability. There is some overlap with the 101 places to visit list, I got tired of trying to distinguish between them. Seems like I need to plan on doing a lot of driving, eating and running.

  1. build a sand sculpture
  2. buy a second home
  3. car owner —- again
  4. cater a dinner party and get paid for it
  5. climb a mountain
  6. dig for abalone, clams, mussels
  7. draw/paint a picture — of decent quality, I can’t draw or paint
  8. draw a picture on an app — that’s wishful thinking, that an app will help drawing skills

  9. ldn086bus praha085cartour
  10. drive a bus — preferably double decker
  11. drive a classic car
  12. drive a convertible — can combine with #10
  13. drive a hummer
  14. drive a jetski
  15. drive a race car around a race track
  16. drive in sand dunes
  17. earn money from baking

  18. cwall164creamtea ledbury020turbot
  19. eat all the omnivore’s 100 — i was at 73 in 2008, around 80 now
  20. eat at a three-star michelin restaurant — been to one- and two-stars
  21. eat something deep fried on a stick — at one of those big fairs
  22. encourage someone to start a bucket list challenge (bonus if 101.1001)
  23. experience zero gravity
  24. explore a cave
  25. extreme couponing
  26. fishing

  27. hksaikung013kite sf200dbike
  28. fly a kite
  29. get a motorcycle licence
  30. get published
  31. go surfing, bodyboarding or flyboarding
  32. hot yoga
  33. in the credits of a film or tv program
  34. jump on a trampoline
  35. hunt truffles
  36. learn a dance step
  37. learn a magic trick
  38. learn to change a flat tire
  39. learn to code / write an app
  40. learn the alphabet in ASL (already know BSL)
  41. leave a 100% tip
  42. make a classic dish
  43. make a list of 101 things I would never do (some people’s definition of a reverse bucket list, more like an anti-bucket list)

  44. brus324brewery ldn067milkcart
  45. make own beer / wine / whisky
  46. make own cheese — ricotta counts
  47. milk a cow or goat
  48. own business
  49. pan for gold
  50. participate in the greatest international scavenger hunt
  51. pay for the person in the queue behind me
  52. photobomb someone
  53. photography: bokeh
  54. photography: take a “frame and hang on wall” worthy photo — some of these may work
  55. plant a herb garden
  56. plant a kitchen garden
  57. play 18 holes of golf
  58. play the drums
  59. read from modern library’s best 100 novels list
  60. retire and live on investment income
  61. ride a bike around a velodrome

  62. runningmedals01 tall038bounty
  63. running: sub-25 5k
  64. running: sub-60 10k
  65. running: 5.00 marathon
  66. running: 4.30 marathon
  67. running: 4.00 marathon
  68. running: big sur marathon
  69. running: marathon du medoc
  70. running: northern lights marathon
  71. running: tokyo marathon
  72. running: trail race
  73. sail a boat
  74. scan all documents
  75. scan all photos
  76. scuba diving
  77. ski a black run confidently
  78. ski cross-country
  79. skydive indoors
  80. sleep in a hammock
  81. slide down a fireman’s pole
  82. start a fire without matches or flint

  83. ara202bamboo ldnhawks009cocktails
  84. stay at a silent retreat
  85. stomp grapes
  86. take a bartending class
  87. take a course at a cookery school
  88. take a first aid class
  89. take a flying lesson
  90. take a photography class
  91. take an advanced driving class
  92. take up archery or shooting for real
  93. transport: 25 different modes of transportation
  94. try a new sport
  95. try pottery
  96. volunteer, help build a house
  97. walk on hot rocks
  98. watch a drive-in movie
  99. wear a tuxedo
  100. weights: 101 pushups
  101. weights: 30 day shred
  102. weights: at least one pullup
  103. weights: bench 25% body weight
  104. weights: bench 50% body weight
  105. whitewater rafting
  106. write a readable letter left-handed
  107. zip down a zipline


in eating and drinking |

boomf

I came across instagrams printed on marshmallows, with a simple process:

  • login to instagram
  • pick 9 images
  • pay £12
  • “scrumptious, squishy, shareable” marshmallows appear in mailbox

Available in UK only, and £12 for 9 marshmallows is a bit steep. Good for a laugh or a personalised gift.

Found a recipe for fluffy vanilla marshmallows. The ingredient list isn’t too taxing, although I’m not sure if I can find sugar cane syrup. The process seems really fiddly and involves a stand mixer which, well, I don’t have. It’s easy enough to buy I suppose, and I think I have a cooking thermometer somewhere.

A little more digging gave me another recipe that uses egg whites — and easier for me to read because it uses metric measurements and not cups. It also uses 9 sheets of gelatine, and that’s the fiddly part for me. I’m never comfortable with gelatine, for some reason.

If I’m feeling adventurous one of these days, I’ll give making marshmallows a go.


in techtalk |



Last week we went to the apple store and got mm upgraded to the iphone 5s, from her iphone 3g. It’s really light and very sharp with the new case we found. My target upgrade is the iphone 6 or 6s, perhaps even 7 if my iphone lasts that long. The reason for waiting is I want to get an ipad mini first, and I’m not one of those recent apple converts who need to own every idevice.

That is, until I start spotting cool things and apps that are only compatible with iphone 5 or 5s.

This lightstrap cover is a new kickstarter project, and is basically a flash built into the case. A bit expensive though, and I don’t understand why the lower donation amount gives earlier access to the product.


nikeplusmoves

Like many people this Christmas, I’m on the hunt for an activity tracker, and was thinking of getting either a fitbit or a fuelband. The fitbits and newest fuelband sync through bluetooth, which requires iphone 4s, sigh. And the nike+ moves app, which doesn’t even need a band, needs the iphone 5s’ M7 processor.

Argh! May be I’ll just go to the sports store and get an old fashioned pedometer for the time being and stop thinking about iphone 5s stuff.

in 101.1001 , photography is life |

hrcshirtoslo02 hrcshirtoslo01

101.1001 task #91 is take pictures of all my hard rock café shirts. So I took out my current favourite, the black one from oslo. The picture of it hanging on the closet door is creepy and sad, and since selfie is word of the year, I took one of the shirt. Yeah, the selfie one wins.

in 101.1001 , challenges |

101100120131202


So I started my 101 goals in 1001 days challenge yesterday and started working on those goals already. I made notes and folders in evernote for all the lists I should be making — places travelled, places to visit, food tried, achievements, books read, walking distance tracker. But mainly I worked on the places and foods list. But then I realised, I should be putting those lists together at the end of the project and not the beginning. Ack. Now I need to work on other non-list goals.

in 101.1001 , challenges |

hok230panorama

Between 1 December 2007 and 28 August 2010 I participated in the 101 things in 1001 days challenge. The mission is to complete 101 preset tasks in 1001 days (2.75 years).

I ended up checking off about half the the original list, the reasons for a rather poor completion rate:

  • timing — 2008 was a big business trip year for me, that was the year I clocked 100,000 miles, which was great for my airmiles account (#45) and getting upgraded to first (#44) but not so great in terms of getting other challenges done
  • lack of opportunity — for instance, I never got a chance to visit San Diego zoo (#40) or go rock climbing (#51)
  • overly ambitious — visiting India (#41) was more a someday goal, buying another property (#70) when I only paid off the mortgage was definitely a pie in the sky
  • too many sub-tasks — 10 new restaurants in 10 new cities (#67), that was one task when it was actually 10 tasks — together with all the subtasks, I was working with 232 tasks, which made it much more difficult and demotivating
  • laziness — it would have taken an hour to count all my swatches (#96), so i should have completed that one

I’m a very task-driven person, I function best when I have preset achievable goals in front of me, preferably in an organised list. I was pretty disappointed I didn’t do better, and it sort of put me off long term challenges for a while. I did a few TDP monthly challenges, but I always deliberately set goals that were achievable, to the point that they were too easy.

Not that I’m bored with running x km or staying away from alcohol for y days, it’s now time to go back to the 101 in 1001 challenge and push for completion this time. So I made a new 101 things in 1001 days list which will run until sunday 28 August 2016. Some of the incomplete tasks from 2007 I rolled over, the ones that I’m interested in completing and have a realistic chance too. I didn’t buy a lomo last time, but it’s pointless to do it again when I have plenty of lomo apps on my iphone. No more subtasks either, so visiting 3 new countries are #28-30.

The tasks vary in difficulty, but this time they should all be achievable. Some I know will get done, #38 is go on a cruise, and it’s already booked for Feb next year. The lists 101 of things done (#87), places visited (#26), places to visit (#27) — those should be easy to do. The ones that are harder include #1 update macOS, since I’m still wary of updating to Mavericks, I tend to update only when I buy a new machine. Walk to Mordor, or 1779 miles from Hobbiton to Mount Doom (#40) will be interesting to track, since I usually track running only. I don’t yet have a solution for tracking yet, there are plenty of options but not all are suitable, that’s a post for another day.

The dayzero people don’t have an app yet, so I’ll be tracking progress here, posting when a task is completed. In progress tasks will be tracked on Evernote; after all, I want to become proficient in it (#3).

Google “101 in 1001” and there are a lot of other people doing or having done the challenge. There is a top 101 goals list and it’s interesting to look at other people’s tasks. Current top 10:

  1. donate blood — which I can only do in the UK; the American Red Cross still claim people who lived in the UK between 1980-1996 have vCJD aka mad cow disease, so most other countries follow
  2. write a letter to myself to open in 10 years — I find communicating with future selfs a bit odd
  3. get a tattoo — no, no, a million no
  4. sleep under the stars — don’t like camping, too many bugs and dirty ground
  5. leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find — I like this, and have included as #90
  6. answer the “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind” — these inspirational quote things always make me laugh
  7. don’t complain about anything for a week — don’t complain much, don’t talk much
  8. kiss in the rain — sigh, not gonna happen
  9. fall in love — no comment
  10. watch the sunrise and sunset in the same day — I can just imagine it being an extremely stressful and busy day

So, let’s get it started.


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