February 2014 Archives

in going places |

Woke up early, so went over to the treadmill and did 30mins, showered then breakfast. Now my breakfasts are bacon and egg sandwich, baked apple and semolina. Back to my cabin to read and rest.

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Lunch at restaurant: surimi (fake crabstick) pie, salad, clam chowder, gnocchi, cordon bleu, linzer torte with ice cream. The surimi pie was surprisingly good, the cordon blue dry and not enough cheese. It’s always their mains that disappoint.

Walked around the deck and went with papa to a behind the scenes presentation. Quite amateurish powerpoint slides of the bridge, control panel, engine, galley. Just as the most interesting video of the kitchen came on, they had technical difficulties. Just have to laugh.

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Dinner at restaurant: fried baccala (salted cod), salad, pasta, rack of lamb, pear tart, sacher torte. Now this time the rack of lamb was good. More walking around the deck, which was quite windy.


in going places |

haifa overnight - 4pm

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It would have been great if there was an excursion to the Dead Sea, but it was only available on day one of our stop and it was more important to go to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. There was a €250 overnight excursion to all three places, but would have been too much hassle for the seniors and it wasn’t even considered.

So we spent half a day at Haifa. I made a bacon and egg roll for breakfast, plus the usual baked apple. Walked outside to the terminal and the very helpful information desk gave us maps and travel directions. Went to the FX place to change some shekels, then it was a straightforward trip on the #136 bus to the top of the Baha’i Gardens.

Another world heritage site, these terraced gardens built around the shrine of the báb were only open to the public going to one of their tours or people going into the shrine. We took plctures at the top looking down, got the #136 bus again and took more pictures looking up from the German Colony.

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We walked around trying to find a market and discovered a small one that was very local with a few stalls selling fruits and vegs. Not very successful and in the absence of any input from anyone else we walked back to port.

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Lunch at restaurant: courgette stack, salad, spaghetti aglio e olio (always good, although it was about 30sec too al dente), meatballs, chocolate tart. There was time before departure for mum and I to visit the duty free. I bought a magnet and mum bought some dead sea mud stuff.

Departure time was 4pm. I went to deck 7 for another zombie run and the engines still hadn’t started a 3.45pm. Then it became clear, the overnight excursion group arrived back at just before 4pm. Wow, they must have had some delays. Yet another good reason why it would have been too tough on mum for 2 long travel days.

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Dinner at restaurant: asparagus beef, salad, prime rib, ricotta pie, clafoutis. Up to the cafeteria for more of the chocolate tart from lunch.

in going places |

Haifa 8am - overnight

Assembly for the shore excursion to Jerusalem and Bethlehem was at 6.30am so it was 4.45am alarm and 5am breakfast. Too early for appetite so I just had a croissant and a baked apple. Saw a German cruiser at the next table making sandwiches so I copied him and made a few ham and egg rolls. Only mum and I with our friends on this excursion, papa wasn’t interested so there wasn’t any point spending the whopping €110 on the excursion.

We were on bus #22 and left Haifa port at 7am. The drive to Jerusalem was 2.5hrs on the highway, initially free of traffic though we did run into rush hour traffic near Jerusalem. Our guide gave us some spiel at the beginning, and he told us that the best guidebook for Jerusalem (or the whole Israel) is the Bible, and it did help to have knowledge of biblical events throughout the day.

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The first stop was Mount of Olives where we spent all of 10mins looking at and photographing the view of Jerusalem old city. My first view of the holy city was quite impressive. All the houses were built with stone, giving the city a uniform off-white look.

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Then it was a short journey down to the actual old city and the famed western wall. Our guide told us to leave everything on the bus — backpacks, wallets, money — and just take our cameras. Security (we were able to breeze through bypassing bag check) and pickpockets were his reason. The wailing wall was divided into male and female sections. It was strange, while the devout were praying against the wall, tourists were rushing around and climbing on chairs — the two groups seemed to co-exist yet completely ignore each other. A group of schoolboys were in the male section chanting, but the women’s section was crowded with people praying.

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Next stop was via dolorosa or the way of sorrows, which traced the path that Jesus took when he carried the cross up to his crucifixion. The pathway supposed hadn’t changed in 2000 years, with the same market stalls and old houses lining the route. The path ended at the church of the holy sepulchre, marking where Jesus was crucified and buried. There had been a church on the site since 300AD, when it was built by Helena, mother of Emperor Constatine. It was definitely a holy place, although seemed to be shared between all the different branches of christianity.

Our guide led us up some dark narrow steps and we were at the shrine that marked the crucifixion. There was a queue to get closer to touch the statue and altar but our group didn’t enter. It was a whirlwind tour, crowded and a mix of tourists and pilgrims. It was best to ignore the touristy aspect and focus on the religious significance. Everybody was suitably respectful which was good.

On the way back to the bus along the Christian and Armenian quarters, there were interesting stalls of souvenirs, breads and sweets. But of course none of us had any money. Lunch was included in the excursion and it was at a hotel. Roast chicken, potatoes, vegetables, salad, assorted cakes and jellies. Probably the most neutral and unoffensive type of food to serve.

The stop after lunch was for souvenir shopping. Now I realised why our guide told us to leave our wallets on the bus. The place we were taken to was a small dilapidated hut that had olive wood items, crosses, jewellry at rip off prices. Typical. I did manage to buy a few mother of pearl crosses for a reasonable price. There was no chance of shopping elsewhere, that was my assumption.

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Next stop was Bethlehem, which involved crossing a heavily armed checkpoint into the west bank. This was palestine controlled territory and there was a sign forbidding israeli citizens from entering. Our guide had dual nationality so he came with us. A local guide also joined, and he hustled us off the bus hurriedly into the church of the nativity without giving us a chance to stop. There was a reason, because we were one of the last groups allowed in before the doors were closed for a service, so thank you to our local guide.

It was an unassuming semi-circular opening with steep steps into a tiny space. The star grotto marked the spot where Jesus was born, and again it was extremely crowded. I could ignore everything because I was able to touch the spot, and mum too. There were cameras around me, but I could still get a small moment of peace and thanks.

Not a lot of time although we stopped at the catholic chapel for a little while and there was time to take a couple of pictures at manger square. A wait for our bus driver meant I was able to get a bottle of coke (I’d stuffed a couple of dollar notes in my pocket). A long drive back to Haifa with a stop at a service station along the way.

I’m not as outwardly religious as mm or some others. It’s important to me, and mum, when we are at a holy place, to say a prayer. I know the significance of the sites we visited today, although they still seemed to suddenly appear without warning. Like all of a sudden, we were climbing the steps to where Jesus was crucified. I don’t think I had enough mental preparation for that, and the importance hits quickly. But the tour group also didn’t hang about, so I had to be both spiritual and efficient in getting pictures. It’s quite a balance.

When I was doing research beforehand, I thought about whether we needed to join the expensive excursion. There’s a train that goes from Haifa to Tel Aviv, then an express bus to Jerusalem. There were enough tourists there for us to have been able to walk around. But I’m glad we opted for the safety of the ship excursion. We didn’t know Hebrew or Arabic, and there would have been a high chance of us being hassled or targeted by pickpockets. I didn’t like that our guide told us to leave our money on the bus for all the stops before bringing us to an obviously rip-off place. That said, once we got back on the ship, we overheard other people saying that their group didn’t have the same warning and someone did lose their wallet and perhaps even passport. If I had to do it again, I still say go with the excursion, leave our bags and money on the bus but keep $10 or so in a pocket for small purchases.

Dinner at the restaurant, which opened later due to the excursions: salad, spaghetti bolognese, veal layered with spinach, black forest (full of cream), white chocolate mousse (more cream). Had to go upstairs to the cafeteria afterwards to eat a large plate of rocket to compensate.

full flickr set: holyland


in going places |

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Nice to have an at sea day after 2 ports of call. Had breakfast at the restaurant rather than the cafeteria: toast, eggs benedict, grilled tomato, sausage, croissant. One of the eggs was overcooked, the other was nicely runny. Typical of the kitchen — mostly hit and miss.

Everybody felt noticeably heavier so went for a walk around the deck. Mum found a stretching class so she joined it. I ended up doing 55mins for around 2.5miles — took 5mins for each circuit which I attributed 0.25 miles. Booked our excursion for tomorrow and retrieved our passports. The Israeli authorities gave us a landing card instead of stamping in our passports.

Lunch at the restaurant: salad, ham & mushroom pasta, grilled squid, carrot cake, ice cream. As usual the dessert was the best course with the main course mostly forgettable.



We were each entitled to one free photo, so we opted for 3 of the same one of us at dinner. Quite a lot going on to keep people occupied on a sailing day, dance classes, quizzes, and most bars and lounges were filled with people drinking or chatting. The music at the atrium lounge was always worth stopping for a few minutes.

It was sort of raining in the afternoon so I went to deck 7 (lifeboat deck) to try out the zombies run app. Wonderful! Plus it didn’t need GPS to work, although I had to guess and enter the distance manually.

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Another gala night dinner: beef carpaccio (more like ham), asparagus, salad, pasta, guinea fowl (dry), chocolate parfait, yogurt cream. We ordered a carafe of red wine (€7 for 500ml, good value) and they gave us a glass of champagne after the meal. The cheap red was much more palatable than the dry tasteless sparkly. I tried the ouzo back in my room while reading and watching Euronews. Ack, just like aniseed, it’ll be hard to finish even this small bottle.

in going places |

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Heraklion 8am - 4pm

Docked 8am at Heraklion, Crete. Breakfast of hardboiled egg white, bacon, melon, porridge and honey. The port authority provided a free shuttlebus to the terminal, from where it was about 20mins’ walk to the city centre. There was even a very helpful yellow line that led from the cruise terminal to the city centre.

Windy and rainy day. The biggest objective was to go to Odos 1866, the pedestrianised market street. It was a mixture of souvenir shops for tourists and actual market for locals. There was a nice supermarket, fruit stalls, fishmongers, a butcher and even a €1 store. Lots of cafés and bakeries too. Then in the middle were shops selling olive oil, ouzo, spices and souvenirs. Bought some coin holders for €1 and bought lots at the supermarket — balsamic vinegar, spices, honey, biscuits. Bought local raki, rather like ouzo.

Followed the map guide around to a bakery, where we bought cheese pie — this one with shortcrust pastry wasn’t as good as the one with puff pastry from Olympia. I thought we might find a restaurant to have kebab, but it started raining and they wanted to go back to the ship. Sigh, I know lunch is included in the cruise, but why not take advantage of the 4pm departure to stay onshore a little longer? That’s why I prefer travelling with mm.

Lunch at the restaurant — ox tongue, salad, gnocchi, awful tofu ratatouille, chcolate almond tart, creme caramel. Went to the gym to use the treadmill for 25mins, yes definitely fewer people and the ones who were there looked like they knew their way around a gym.

Mid-afternoon there was an ice cream decoration demo at the piazza coffee shop. Turned out to be extremely silly. The “expert” decorator proceeded to place slices of fruit on a dish where there were already 3 scoops of ice cream, then he squirted whipped cream from a can and the final flourish was an umbrella. Seriously? And a group of 50 people, mostly adults, were being entertained by this. We’ve lost our minds.

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Dinner was italian night: antipasti plate, salad, pasta with tomato & seafood, seafood mixed grill (prawn, swordfish, cuttlefish), cheese, tiramisu, ice cream, artificial mint sorbet.

Thought we’d go check out bingo (see above re: losing our minds) but it was €20 per card. We hadn’t lost all of our minds just yet. Back to cabin early.

in going places |

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Katakolon 9am - 3pm

The first port of call on this trip. Docked at Katakolon at 9am. I had to go earlier to the customer service desk to retrieve my passport, which had been taken from us when we boarded for Israeli immigration. I thought I needed the passport to pick up the rental car, but actually they didn’t need it, just my driver’s licence. (That said, I deliberately used my UK licence and credit card, so may be it was an EU thing.)

Anyway, the port was pretty. There was a short walk from the terminal to the main street. I’d booked the car at Avis, €65 for an Astra. Originally for 5 people it would have been a bargain, for 3 it was more comfortable but less value for money. Still, the excursion to Olympia was €65-75 per person, and they didn’t tell us about the €20 per person shuttle until we got on the ship. It was a good opportunity to drive, and it gave us freedom to move around and stop. The rental office told me that to fill the tank back to its original position would be €15, and we decided to fill up on the way rather than the way back. Cute little petrol station, surrounded by orange trees and with a few cats wandering around.


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The drive to Olympia was around 30mins, very easy and straightforward. When we got there the car park was overrun with cruise tour buses so we parked around the corner away from all the chaos. Entrance to the site was €6, mum and I went while papa waited outside. The site was very big, even with all the tour groups it didn’t feel all that crowded. The important sites were the temple of Zeus, the temple of Hera, the semi circular Philippeion and the remains of the Stadium. The stadium wasn’t like the modern ones, there were no seats—although 45,000 people could have sat on the embankment either side. The most popular activity was to run along the strip of track where athletics took place, and I duly did 10m while mum took pictures of me pretending to be an Olympian.

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Olympia village itself was a short high street full of touristy shops. Bought a couple of cheese pies at a small bakery—very delicious! Puff pastry filled with feta cheese was just right. Returned the car back at Katakolon, then walked the whole length of the village high street. It turned out that small souvenirs at Olympia were cheaper than Katakolon, to note for next time. Went to a small supermarket and bought some biscuits and a small bottle of ouzo to try.

Late lunch back on the ship and the cafeteria was crowded as most people had the same idea. Long queues to get roast beef, mini burger, cous cous and panna cotta. Returned my passport, walked a little around the ship, read and watched Euronews. Then it was time for dinner: proscuitto & melon, salad, basil risotto, terrible boiled leather steamed fish, zuppa inglese (italian trifle), rice pudding.


in going places |

fan147bfast fan210croquette

There are many at sea days on this cruise, distances between stops are longer. Good to have a day to rest after the stupid long flight. Familiar breakfast buffet — bacon, sausage, all sorts of eggs, my favourite baked apple, semolina, croissant, fruit. I’d forgotten there were cakes and pies for breakfast too.

Headed to the gym, which was extremely crowded and I didn’t even get my full 25mins on the treadmill. Hopefully it’ll be less crowded later on in the cruise.

Already time for lunch, which we took at the restaurant. Cheese croquette, salad, pasta chicken ragout, ricotta stuffed vegetables, fruit tart and ice cream.

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In the afternoon we sailed past the volcanic island of Stromboli, which looked quite surreal with a ring of cloud surrounding the volcano. Also managed to catch a rather pretty sunset.

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Gala dinner, which meant free drinks at the bars at 5.30pm. Dinner was veal salad, greek salad, seafood bisque, ravioli, roast lamb, pannacotta and poached pear. We’d already mastered the trick of ordering multiple desserts.

After dinner show at the theatre was a presentation of officers followed by an acrobat show with a Zorro theme. Their shows tend to be a bit…simple, but the performers are enthusiastic. Nice to go back to my cabin, read and relax.

in going places |

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Transit at Dubai was 3-4hrs, from midnight to 3-4am, so it was tough and tiring. Looked around the duty free for whiskies to buy on the way back, but spent most of the layover sitting mindlessly at the gate. Flight to Milan was around 5hrs. Had chicken sandwich, chocolate muffin, cheese omelette, croissant, fruits and a very milky tea. Why is it that no one outside the UK knows how to make decent tea? Watched more Walking Dead eps.

Arrived Milan airport 7.30am. Breezed through customs only to be confronted with the scrum to get onto the bus transfer. The nightmare about so many other cruisers is true. Ugh. Transfer to Genoa about 2.5hrs, and there was another scrum to check in and board. Something like 7-8 coaches arrived at the same time so there was a long queue to check in.

MSC Fantasia is the same class as the Splendida, with capacity for 3,000 passengers. Everything looked familiar and we were able to find our way around quite easily.

Our cabins weren’t ready so we headed to the cafeteria for lunch. Ha! It’s EXACTLY THE SAME FOOD as the other 2 MSC cruises. The same roast, pasta, pizza, salad. I guess it’s good in a way that we are familiar and know what to expect.

I have my own cabin, and the inside cabin is larger than the ones with balconies. Didn’t feel too closed in, yes having a balcony would be great, but since we’re paying for the single supplement, we didn’t want even more additional costs. The luggage took a long, long, long time to arrive, and I immediately took a shower as soon as it did. Then it was straight to the emergency drill. We sat opposite a group of nice German cruisers and they gave us a couple of tips.

fan205mussels fan208deliceopera Dinner at the restaurant on 6/F: mussels, salad, spaghetti carbonara, cod, limoncello delice, opera. The starters, salad and pasta were okay, the cod was terrible, the desserts redeemed the meal somewhat.


in going places |

Flight in the afternoon, so I cleared everything at home, cleaned up and headed to the airport early. Not happy to see all the other fellow cruisers at the airport, felt like going on a packaged tour with all these idiots. I’ll have to spend the next 2 weeks avoiding them.

First leg of the flight was 7hrs. Had chicken and rice, rice pudding and no alcohol. Watched Bones, Brooklyn Nine-nine and got started with some Walking Dead. Saved the tuna mayo sandwich for the stopover at Dubai. Say what you will about Emirates, they have lots of entertainment.


in going places |

cruise01

Will be away for 2 weeks, going on another cruise with parents and family friends. Greece, Israel, Italy, a few at sea days.

cruise02

No idea why I agreed to go on a cruise again, there was so much I didn’t enjoy about being on a cruise: at close proximity with people I absolutely detest, the horrible scrum at the cafeteria, the rip-off excursions, and the fake formality of the MDR. Parents and family friends have very different style of travelling to me, and it’s more frustration than relaxation. I just feel like my time and money could be better spent on other holidays.

Sigh. Look on the bright side. I’m sure that the sights will be great. There is a potential to see Olympia, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Acropolis. I’ll get lots of pictures.

in 101.1001 , challenges , photography is life |

icarexcamera01

Task #24 in 101 in 1001 is to try a challenge at photochallenge.org. They take photography very seriously and post weekly challenges aimed at stretching participants’ photography skills. The submissions are great, and even though I joined their flickr and facebook groups, I’ve felt too imtimidated by the quality of work there to attempt myself. They also encourage submissions of work taken during that week, and sometimes I don’t have time or am in the right place to participate.

The challenge in week 7 is still life: camera. And because we are preparing for our trip next week, we have cameras on our mind. I asked my dad if his old camera is still easily reachable, and it is! Just hiding at the back of his wardrobe.

The camera is a Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35S and it’s older than me. Fully manual, and still in its now very stiff leather casing. The protective UV lens is fogged up and useless now, but is easily replaced. It’s taken all our childhood photos, and I remember my dad lugging it around with us. It’s less heavy than I remember, probably because to a young child, it would have felt quite heavy. I still have a few rolls of 35mm film in my freezer, so I may play around with the camera one of these days.

Not much still life composition or special lighting or background to speak of. Just natural light from the window onto the desk in my room, which thankfully is a neutral grey colour. Ideally I’d use my big camera, but it’s at my place so I’m stuck with the s110.

The one I ended up submitting is the one with camera and paraphrenalia scattered around, supposedly tastefully. I also took a couple from traditional angles.

icarexcamera02 icarexcamera03

I uploaded to their flickr group, not confident enough to upload to their fb group yet, I think people on flickr are more welcoming and tolerant than on fb. May be it’s just perception. Hopefully I get some good comments.

in in the news , outside interests |

orrery

Hard to believe that so many people believe the sun revolves around the earth. While I had to stop for 10 seconds to remember the correct order of the planets (Jupiter comes before Saturn, I always get confused; I’m good with the rest), it’s a little shocking to learn that there is a gap in education or belief system in some pockets of the population. Wow.

I also learned a new word: orrery, which means a mechanical model of the solar system. The epitome of steam punk art, if you asked me. I spotted this post via flipboard, of a beautiful orrery designed and handcrafted by ken condal.

If only we can show this to the people who think the sun goes around the earth, hopefully we can reduce the ignorance.

in evidence of my insanity |

hok376forest

Close your eyes, sit still, breathe slowly. What do you hear?

Unfortunately for me, it’s not just the clock ticking or the faint turn of the fan on the computer, it’s a constant, inescapable cachophony of traffic and people noises. I can’t hear myself think, I can’t relax, it’s very disruptive and annoying. If I had to lose a sense (and no disrespect to those who have) I have always said I’d rather be hard of hearing.

Where to find quiet places? Truly quiet, tranquil places free of human or human-made sounds. Surprisingly, it’s not Antarctica because of all the tourist and research activities. Not the North Pole or Canada or Siberia due to commercial aircraft routes. In order for an area to qualify as a quiet place, it has to be at least 1,200 square miles, large

enough to create a sound buffer around a central point of absolute quiet

According to bbc future, only about 12 of these places exist in the US and there are more in South America and Scandanavia.




Seems that to experience true quiet, these places have to be built. Called anechoic chambers, they are both sound proof and sound wave-absorbing. The quietest place on earth is a room at Orfield Laboratories, Minneapolis, which can apparently drive people mad. With no sounds, the only sounds a person hears are heartbeat, breathing and the rushing noise made inside the ear. May be we could all do with a sound absorbing room in our lives.


in on the relationship front , wheels in motion |

mmcar01

We had buffet shabu shabu lunch and were very full afterwards. Walked around the mall, then took mm’s car out for a drive. More walking around, no particular theme or aim. Too full for dinner, just had a coffee and dessert.

Been doing this quite often lately. She doesn’t need a car, sometimes she doesn’t use it for weeks. But it has been nice, giving us something to do and places to go.

The licence plate starts with RY, so she named it Ryan. I don’t get the need to name inanimate objects like cars or computers, then I remember that she used to have names for our cars in London. Have to ask if she can remember the names, because I can’t. I guess when we go for a drive, it’s like there are 3 of us rather than just two.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |

salmonfishcake01

Didn’t make any plans with mm. How I spent the day? Errands. Got train ticket for trip next week, picked up stuff I ordered with expiring airmiles. Went to market. Made salmon fish cakes from some cheap salmon filets I had in the freezer. Grilled the fish then spent forever getting the bones out, including small fiddly pin bones. Will never buy fish so poorly prepped again.

Mixed the salmon flakes with mashed potatoes, dipped in flour, egg and panko then pan-fried for about 5mins each side. Didn’t have time to rest them in the fridge prior to frying so they had to be carefully handled otherwise they would fall apart. Drizzled over some sriracha and a dollop of mayo. Not bad, primary taste was potatoes. At least it was a way to use up salmon I would have probably given up and thrown away.

in photography is life |

This week, flickr turns ten. Thanks, Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake. To celebrate, they asked people to add their ten best shots to the flckr10 group.



I joined a year after its launch, in 2005, because we went to New Zealand and came back with so many pictures I needed a place to store and display them. I now have 18,754 images on my account and quite honestly it’ll be hard to narrow down to just 10. My favourites set currently has 125 pics. I’ve done a best of set every year since 2007.

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


This is my interesting set which is automatically created by dopiaza’s plugin which takes 100 pictures based on interestingness, tags, number of likes and some other random criteria.


nz0005portabello

So anyway, this is the first image I uploaded. Taken in December 2005 at the portobello motel at Dunedin, the first stop on our NZ trip. A bit gloomy, but pretty views and we had a nice room with kitchen.


hok147marimo

My most popular pic, with 4,959 views, is of a marimo (moss) ball taken at lake akan hokkaido.


eggpotatoskin02

My most popular food porn / recipe pic is this one of eggs baked in potato skin. So easy to make, I think I’ll make again soon.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

guidebooksgreece

Task #9 in 101 in 1001 challenge is to use my library card. This is carried over from the 2007 challenge, mainly because I was working and travelling and moving countries during those 1001 days that I never got round to using libraries.

Going with parents and family friends on a cruise next week. Cruise #3 for us. Itinerary is Greece (Olympia, Crete, Athens), Israel (Haifa with shore excursions to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Dead Sea possible), Italy (Rome). Time to do some research.

Mostly, I research online and summarise my findings in evernote. Additional research for cruises is always necessary because some ports are not next to town. The cruise company obviously hardsells their excursions, but personally I hate the cattle herding feel of guided tours. Interesting to read cruise forums, most people are not DIYers, I would say they err very much on the safe and timid side. I guess it’s the sort of people who go on cruises a lot.

That said, I’m travelling with 4 seniors, so that needs to be factored in.

Guidebooks are useful, and have lots more information than a webpage. Afterall, they’ve done the research already. The problem is that guidebooks become outdated and there’s a limit to how many you can buy and carry.

Sometime during my stay in London, when I was making lots of small trips, I started getting guidebooks from the library. I’d get a few before a trip and may be bring one with me during the trip. It has worked absolute wonders, and I’m so glad libraries stock such a great selection of travel books.

These are from the small local library. Also came with maps, which is super helpful. I find it’s easy to borrow English books here, even in a small library like this one. It’s the minority language afterall. I have to go to a bigger library to find an Israel guidebook though. Off to start reading…

in in the news , techtalk |

screenshot20140211

Visitors to the website today 11-feb-2014 may get a black overlay banner that asks them to join a virtual movement to fight back against mass surveillance. Reddit and tumblr and upworthy and many other sites are also part of today’s movement. In the US the purpose is to ask people to ask their legislators to support the USA Freedom Act; in other parts of the world it’s to raise awareness and to ask them to sign a petition in support of the principles against mass surveillance.

I know i’ve said before that I don’t like overlays but THIS IS IMPORTANT. There is such a massive amount of stalking and surveillance by governments that is becoming creepy and intrusive. I’ve also said that I accept that my online activity is being tracked, but I’m angry at the denial and the seemingly ineffectiveness of said surveillance.

Will this protest work? It’ll probably make only the tiniest of dents, as the guardian (always good for an NSA surveillance story) points out,

the relentlessness of the surveillance forces and their enablers in the technology industry, and the fecklessness of the politicians who are supposed to honor their oaths of office, make it hard to be optimistic

For me, the recent Edward Snowden and NSA revelations have made me realise much more about what is going on behind our backs. Is it all in the name of “it’s for your protection and your own good” as governments claim? I think it started there, but has become more of a desire to control and exert power over people rather than to protect them. Governments, corporations and individuals all need to abide by a set of moral code, and although morals have grey areas, respect for human right is so basic that it cannot be disputed.

And privacy is a human right so it’s up to all of us to respect and be aware of it.

in arts and media |

Prompted by this bell’s whisky ad spotted at gizmodo, I’ve been coming across great drinks ads lately.



I don’t drink bell’s but this ad, for the south africa tv market, really tugs at the heart’s strings. Now this is what a whisky is for, to celebrate something wonderful. A couple more ads after the cut.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

roastcabbage01

Task #53 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 5 of 10 new recipe.

I was making honey soy chicken wings (strictly speaking, also a new recipe — marinade chicken wings in soy sauce, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard, olive oil and roast at 180°C for 30mins) and was looking in the fridge for vegetables. Found a small cabbage, perfect. Normally I’d be boring and just boil it, but anyone who has ever suffered school lunches will have dire recollections of overboiled cabbage and brussels sprouts. Speaking of brussels sprouts, my favourite method is to roast them at high heat with olive oil and lots of salt so the edges of the leaves are almost charred. I was sure this method also works for cabbage.

Yep. Recipe from thekitchn, who recommended roasting cabbage wedges with bacon. They were positively gushing about the end result,

the high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped into the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside

Wash cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have wilted. Cut the whole cabbage in to quarters, remove some of the core and cut in half again, ending up with 8 wedges. Roughly cut up 4 bacon rashers and sprinkle on cabbage wedges. Drizzle olive oil and season with pepper and mixed herbs (no salt). Roast at 180°C for about 30mins until slightly charred.


roastcabbagewings02

I now know the reason behind the gushing. It was crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside, none of the boiled cabbage smell or flavour. The bacon was a perfect accompaniment — the bacon I found in the fridge wasn’t crispy American bacon or meaty British back bacon but something in between that is ham-like and didn’t render a lot of fat — still worked okay with the dish.

I don’t think I’ll ever make boiled cabbage again, roasting was so simple and so delicious. Served it with the equally successful chicken wings and some cheese grits I found in the cupboard. See, I don’t always eat strange food.

in eating and drinking |



Plans to go cycling were scuppered when it started raining. So we ended up just walking around, window and market shopping.

And eating strange normal food. For tea/early dinner we went to a place that served snake. They only had a few items on the menu, most of which were snake related. We had a set that included snake soup, the spiny meat is snake but the stock is actually chicken soup. Snake broth (no meat) and glutinous rice. I could have had a small glass of snake wine, but decided against it.

oysterswinelangham

Too full for dinner, we took the scenic route bus back to town and had drinks at the langham. Surprisingly for a saturday they had 2-for-1 happy hour. We ordered red wine and a combo of sparkling wine and 4 oysters. Nice wine, nice oysters.

Completely unplanned, we had food that makes other people squeamish. *shrug*

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #27 of 101 in 1001 challenge is to list 101 wishlist travel places and experiences. I have deliberately left some places vague. For example, burma or baltic states: i want to visit, I don’t have specific itineraries or destinations in mind. Activities, then by country (** world heritage):

    Barges on the Canal du Midi at Argeliers 2
    image courtesy flickr user DBarefoot

  1. activity: cycling holiday
  2. activity: canal boat norfolk broads, provence or portugal
  3. activity: clam/abalone fishing
  4. activity: cookery class france, italy or thailand
  5. activity: go into space
  6. activity: marathon/ destination race
  7. activity: ski in canada or usa
  8. activity: ski in japan
  9. activity: ski in norway
  10. activity: sports game, baseball, basketball, cricket, rugby
  11. activity: stand on the tropic of capricorn
  12. albania
  13. antarctica: cruise or visit, this will make it 7 continents
  14. argentina/brazil: iguazu falls and national park**
  15. austria: concert at wien musikverein
  16. australia: great barrier reef**
  17. australia: tasmania


  18. Pinnacles Desert Nambung National Park Western Australia
    image courtesy flickr user iansand

  19. australia: western australia food and wine country, pinnacles desert, nambung national park
  20. baltic region: estonia, latvia, lithuania
  21. bhutan / nepal (kathmandu**)
  22. bolivia
  23. brazil: amazon rain forest
  24. cambodia: angkor, siam reap area, kampong fishing villages
  25. canada: poutine in old quebec
  26. canada: vancouver and other parts of BC
  27. caribbean island
  28. central asia: azerbaijan, georgia
  29. chile/argentina: patagonia region
  30. chile: easter island


  31. Huangshan 黄山 - View from Flying-over rock 飞来石
    image courtesy flickr user Kwong Yee Cheng

  32. china: anhui hongcun ancient village (安徽宏村), huangshan (黄山)
  33. china: sichuan jiuzhaigou (四川九寨沟)
  34. china: terracotta army xian
  35. christmas markets in europe
  36. croatia: old city of dubrovnik**
  37. cuba: sip rum and smoke a cigar in havana**
  38. egypt: pyramids**
  39. finland: dog sledding
  40. finland: northern lights and lakes
  41. france: brittany
  42. france: long stay at provence, camargue
  43. france: wine tasting
  44. germany: brandenberg gate
  45. germany: oktoberfest in munich
  46. gibraltar
  47. greece: acropolis athens**


  48. Santorini Cliffs
    image courtesy flickr user andos_pics

  49. greece: santorini, island hop
  50. greenland
  51. india: taj mahal agra**
  52. indonesia: bali
  53. iceland: blue lagoon, surtsey**
  54. israel: holy jerusalem**
  55. israel/jordan: swim in the dead sea
  56. italy: assisi**
  57. italy: carnivale at venice
  58. italy: mount etna and pompeii**
  59. italy: south coast campania, calabria, puglia regions


  60. Tuscany Cipresses
    image courtesy flickr user maarten van hoof

  61. italy: tuscany
  62. japan: cherry blossom festival
  63. japan: hiroshima peace memorial**
  64. japan: hitachi seaside park hitachinaka, ibaraki prefecture
  65. japan: ice breaking ship and sapporo ice festival hokkaido
  66. jordan: petra rock structure**
  67. korea: jeju volcanic island**
  68. malaysia: penang
  69. mali: timbuktu
  70. malta: valletta**
  71. mexico: chichen-itza**
  72. mexico: drink tequila, eat real mexican food
  73. myanmar
  74. norway: hurtigruten cruise
  75. norway: north to svalbard, lofoten islands, finnmark


  76. Trolltunga Hike
    image courtesy flickr user aram k

  77. norway: trolltunga overhanging rock
  78. pacific island: tahiti, fiji, samoa, png
  79. peru: try cuy
  80. peru: historic sanctury of machu picchu**
  81. portugal: aveiro canals
  82. russia: st petersburg, kremlin and red square moscow**
  83. sahara: sleep in the desert with bedouins
  84. seychelles: beaches
  85. south africa
  86. spain: barcelona (works of gaudi)**
  87. spain: san sebastian 3-star restaurants
  88. spain: coastal regions
  89. sweden: stay at the ice hotel
  90. switzerland: geneva (seriously)
  91. taiwan: bike around sun moon lake
  92. tanzania: kilamanjaro national park**
  93. tanzania: wildebeest migration
  94. thailand: songkran (water festival) or loi krathong (floating flowers festival)
  95. tunisia: star wars canyon
  96. turkey: grand bazaar istanbul**
  97. turkey: step between asia and europe
  98. ukraine: klevan tunnel of love
  99. vietnam: halong bay, danang, dalat
  100. vietnam: pho at a street stall
  101. uk: distillery on scotland mainland
  102. usa: alaska
  103. usa: grand canyon national park**, antelope national park or any other national park
  104. usa: new orleans
  105. usa: one world trade center
  106. usa: pacific northwest


in 101.1001 , going places |

Task #26 of 101 in 1001 challenge: make a list of landmarks visited and travel things done. I’ve included destinations on typical bucket lists as well as some things I’ve done. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to see, experience and live in all these places. (** means a World Heritage site.)

  1. 3 countries in a day — drove from alsace france to schaffhausen switzerland, the route home to zurich took us through germany; also drove through lichtenstein to get from switzerland to austria, those countries are so near each other
  2. abbey road zebra crossing — it’s up the road from my flat; hate the tourists who cross and re-cross that zebra crossing causing traffic to standstill, they also stand like stupid idiots on the entire pavement, how is anyone supposed to walk past them *smh
  3. an aquarium — sydney aquarium was an uexpected find, and was surprisingly fabulous
  4. backstage at the theatre — my friend took me to visit her friend who was working backstage at wicked chicago, it was (pun intended) wicked


  5. places005bangkok

  6. bangkok floating market — interesting experience, have to get up early in the morning to go, the sales pitch can get pushy
  7. bath** — to think i almost ended up going to college there, the roman baths and the georgian architecture make it a worthwhile destination
  8. beijing: great wall of china** — part of a tour with parents, all I remember is that it was overcrowded with unruly people and a tourist trap
  9. beijing: imperial palace, summer palace** — it’s probably changed a lot since I last viisted
  10. beijing: tiananmen square — is as big as you see on tv
  11. burj al-arab dubai — didn’t stay or go inside because they charged a fee, just stopped and took pictures from the gate
  12. channel tunnel — drove through it, took eurostar


  13. praha133charles places013gruyere

  14. charles bridge prague — yes there are touristy stalls all along the bridge, but between the view of the river and the holy statues there are spots of great beauty
  15. cheese producing place — cheddar with its gorge and the pretty, pretty village of gruyeres
  16. christmas market in germany — lots of seasonal and traditional stalls in the huge square in munich
  17. christmas tree at rockerfeller center — that was the last year of the millennium 1999
  18. chicago architectural boat tour — my frist visit to chicago
  19. cruise the mediterranean — barcelona->tunis->palermo->rome->genoa->marseille


  20. mpchi055dinosaurs

  21. dinosaurs at the field museum chicago — wow, wow, wow
  22. dinosaurs at the natural history museum london — a bit faded now, and last time I went was under construction
  23. disney park #1: disneyland LA in the 1980s
  24. disney park #2: disneyland paris in the 1990s
  25. disney park #3: tokyo disneyland in the late 1990s - early 2000s
  26. disney park #4: hong kong disney in the 2000s
  27. disney park #5: walt disney world orlando 2009-2011
  28. distillery: bourbon trail kentucky — drove down from chicago, visited 8 distilleries
  29. distillery: scotch whisky — islay over the long easter weekend, visited almost all the distilleries
  30. distillery: world whisky: yamazaki at the beginning of our kansai trip


  31. nz0551minus nz1610zorb

  32. drinks at an ice bar — queenstown new zealand, at a place called 5-degree
  33. extreme sport 1 — did one run in a zorb in new zealand
  34. extreme sport 2 — paragliding at pattaya beach, just for about 5-10mins, the most enduring memory was how quiet it was up there
  35. fjords norway** — waking up and seeing that we’d cruised into geirangerfjord and then walking around the village was one of the highlights of the cruise


  36. places032azur

  37. france: côte d’azur — drove from zurich, stayed at nice, pebble beach at cannes, beautiful coast
  38. france: paris sights — eiffel tower, champs elysée, place de la concorde, notre dame, sacre coeur, le louvre (the mona lisa is smaller than expected and hidden behind hordes of people and a thick, thick glass case), musée d’orsay, seine cruise
  39. france: provence — no wonder people want to spend all of their holidays there, or move there entirely
  40. gamble in las vegas — mostly slots
  41. gamble in macau — slots too and i think some craps, hated the smoke
  42. glacier — franz josef glacier new zealand, probably one of the top 3 best experiences in my life, we took a helicopter up to the glacier, had a 3 hour walk and helicopter down
  43. glass floor up high — cn tower in toronto
  44. greenwich meridian (part of maritime greenwich**) — one foot on either side of GMT, fun
  45. ground zero nyc — just a year before 9/11 I was a new yorker, it was too close to home and i still feel so sad about it
  46. guinness in dublin — the guinness factory is the #1 attraction in dublin but more of a touristy museum, the admission included the oppotunity to pull and enjoy your own pint (bonus: jameson and redbreast in dublin too)
  47. hawaii — went when I was quite young so I don’t have many memories aside from pristine beaches
  48. hawker centre singapore — so much food, so little time


  49. hkhome005nightview

  50. hong kong — it’s on some people’s bucket list, stuff like peak tram, normal tram, star ferry, big buddha, night markets; i can also see part of the symphony of lights from my living room
  51. hot spring — onsen hotel in japan, hokkaido and shirahama. cameras are not allowed but i took some during the day when the onsen was empty
  52. independence day fireworks at the mall washington dc — wow
  53. japan bullet train — we travelled from tokyo to the fuji mountain area on the shinkasen
  54. kangaroo and koala in australia — just petted them, didn’t hold the koala, do people realise how stinky they are?
  55. kyoto temples and palaces** — beauty, tranquility, dignity
  56. lavender fields — farm tomita at furano japan
  57. legoland — the one at windsor with sis and gis
  58. little mermaid copenhagen — smaller than expected
  59. loch ness — no, there is no monster there, only a very pretty highland landscape
  60. london — it is one of the most important cities in the world, and so much to do. did the touristy stuff but what i see when i think about london are the parks, the markets, the architecture, restaurants, pubs, theatre, museums, street performers, the history and the people


  61. places055lendl places055martina

  62. major sporting event — went to wimbledon, the players that day included ivan lendl, martina navratilova, chris everett, those days a ground ticket got us into court 2
  63. maze — completed the maze at hampton court
  64. monaco grand prix — drove part of the grand prix circuit in a volvo estate — okay, the monaco grand prix circuit is basically the roads in and around monte carlo so anyone can do that but still, I can say I’ve been to monte carlo
  65. museum of modern art nyc — enjoyed it very much, even though not a big art or museum person
  66. new zealand — we were there for 2 weeks, it was nowhere near enough time


  67. mpngra002amfalls tor190falls

  68. niagara falls — has been on mum’s wishlist for a long time, so I made sure she got her wish
  69. niagara falls completely frozen — the entire waterfall was frozen, and some of the lake too, it was awesome


  70. aus012koala

  71. night safari — in singapore and australia, so different to be going around in pitch darkness and keeping very quiet
  72. olympic games — sigh, London 2012 Team GB. saw the torch, beach volleyball, archery, 2 diving finals, not forgetting the paralympics athletics, tennis, rugby, football, goalball and boccia, table tennis, fencing, volleyball
  73. outdoor concert event — hard rock calling london, lollapolooza chicago
  74. pisa — climbed to the top of the leaning tower, did not do the stupid tourist optical illusion of propping it up
  75. rome historical sites** — including colosseum, wedding cake (vittorio emanuele monument), spanish steps, trevi fountain
  76. safari — we went to the masai mara reserve in kenya — africa changes people, we saw giraffe, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, servor cat, baboon, monkey, zebra, rhino, wilderbeest, topi, gazelle, impala, hartbeest, eland, waterbuck, bushbuck, hyena, jackel, warthog, wild pig, mongoose, vulture, eagle, malibu, flamingo, pelican, ostrich, camel
  77. safari park — disney’s animal kingdom doesn’t count? anyway i’ve been to woburn and longleat
  78. san francisco — mission, haight/ashbury, the castro, lombard street, cable car, ferry building, fisherman’s wharf, golden gate bridge — personal motorbike tour


  79. ork181brodgar

  80. scottish island — the main purpose of going to orkney was to visit the highland park distillery but the rest of orkney blew us away (metaphorically and quite literally)
  81. sears tower — no, not willis tower, sorry, and not a tourist attraction for me cos the office was a few blocks away, visited the observation deck when i had visitors
  82. ski on fresh snow — sigh, beautiful, at st anton austria
  83. sleep in an airport — it was that epic journey 15hrs to JFK then the connection to ORD was cancelled and I slept overnight on the floor next to a vending maching at JFK. still no flights the next day so I rented a car and drove 16hrs to chicago
  84. sleep on a train — overnight sleeper from zurich via leipzig to prague with my friend ah tan, quite an old train, it said Deutsche Bahn but we thought it was an east german train 2001
  85. sleep under the stars — on safari in kenya; technically it was a tent, with beds and a basic ensuite bathroom; it was completely dark outside, we could hear animals in the wild and see the sky filled will stars
  86. smithsonian washington dc — awesome


  87.  

  88. snow and beach together — visited chile, went skiing one day then to the beach another
  89. souk — the souk at tunis was part of a shore excursion and honestly we felt ripped off
  90. st peter’s vatican** — there is a chapel at the side for prayers only, this was my favourite place it was so quiet and spiritual
  91. stand on the equator — even got a certificate
  92. stand on the tropic of cancer — on the east coast of taiwan
  93. statue of liberty nyc** — we could climb all the way to the inside of the crown, a very cramped space with enough time for a quick look around and a picture
  94. stay in a capsule hotel — not quite as small as the ones in japan, I stayed at the yotel at heathrow a couple of times
  95. stay in a tatami room — our first choice in japan, if a hotel offers traditional vs western rooms, is to opt for the traditional tatami room
  96. stonehenge** — back then it wasn’t roped off and we could walk around the stone circles




  97. swiss alps — i left it till quite late in my switzerland residency to visit the matterhorn, drove over to zermatt, stayed overnight to see the mountain in the morning; also been to lauterbrunnen valley, skiing at st moritz, davos and a few other places on the mountains; spent christmas at murren, a hamlet accessible only via cable car, no cars, 2 streets
  98. swiss lakes — luzern, interlaken, thun, lugano not to mention lake zurich isn’t bad either
  99. switzerland panoramic train journeys — did glacier express and the train to jungfraujoch
  100. sydney opera house** — first time in 1999, then many subsequent visit
  101. times square on new year’s eve — okay, I cheated, I went during the afternoon of 31-dec-1999 and had a look-see before the crowds; at midnight at the end of the millenium I was at a rooftop party somewhere in east village NYC
  102. tokyo tsukiji fish market — tiny stalls with the freshest sushi, long queues but definitely worth the wait
  103. tree top walk — at the macritchie nature reserve singapore


  104.  

  105. uk historical buildings — let’s see, buckingham palace, windsor castle, tower of london, parliament, westminster abbey, canterbury cathedral, leeds castle, hever castle, blenheim palace, woburn abbey, edinburgh castle, longleat house, too many to name
  106. uk museum: british museum, natural history museum, science museum, national gallery, national portrait museum, victoria & albert museum, the museums at greenwich, RAF museum at hendon
  107. vasa museum stockholm — the most visited museum in scandanavia and I can see why, lovingly restored the only remaining 17th century boat in the world
  108. venice** — there were the canals, the lagoon and the bridges, and crossing from one side of a canal to the other on the standing gondola. we also found small squares and wine bars just outside the hustle and bustle of the main tourist spots
  109. vienna historic centre** — who says the city of romance is paris, it should be vienna: from the cathedral to the opera house to the parks with graves of mozart, beethoven, strauss — small enough city for walking


  110.  

  111. vineyard — australia, new zealand, alsace, chateauneuf-du-pape, sonoma valley, wine train chile
  112. waitamo caves new zealand — glow-worms, and our timing was so lucky
  113. whale and dolphin watching — kaikura new zealand
  114. wizarding world of harry potter at universal orlando — the dizzy hogwarts ride and butterbeer



in eating and drinking |

chocolatrouge

Sis gave me a bottle of chocolatrouge wine for christmas, I saw it at the supermarket the other day which prompted me to open and try it. This is the milk chocolate one. It also won some prizes and is described as

a luscious blend of rich chocolate flavors and fine red wine

I gakked the pic from their facebook page. Didn’t look like wine when poured out, it looked like baileys or the mozart chocolate liqueur I used to see in Austria and Switzerland. Similar taste too, the chocolate is definitely the dominant taste and smell. But there’s also an underlying hit of alcohol that gives a pleasant buzz. I guess wine snobs will sneer at this, but I think it goes with dessert, as an after dinner drink or in sweet cocktails.

Because it said wine on the label, I drank it like wine. It’s way, way, way too easy to drink that way and half the bottle is gone already. Heehee. Should drink it like whisky, in a tumbler with ice and slowly.

It’s not expensive, under $10. They also have a dark chocolate and a sweet wine flavour. I think it’s worth trying them too.


in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

roastbellypork01 roastbellypork03

Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.

The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.

Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.

Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.

Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.

I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.

in techtalk |

Introducing Paper from Facebook on Vimeo.



With some fanfare, facebook launched a new app, paper. US app store only, but for the impatient there is a simple workaround. My itunes account has always been in the US so I was able to download the app without problem on Monday.

Positive reviews all around. The best facebook app, the future for facebook and facebook replacement are some of the accolades being thrown all around.

First impressions, clean interface and yes, very flipboard-like. It’s obvious they built the app from scratch rather than use the existing problematic facebook app. There are 2 sections, the top is the cover of different categories (or papers) I set up; the bottom shows the individual posts from that category.

paperapp"

I don’t mind that I must have my fb newsfeed as a category, it looks way better than both the webpage and the old app. Here the top is a pic recently posted by my friend Rachel, and the bottom shows recent timeline posts by other friends. For a start, no game posts, yay. I tap on the pic and it expands to full page so I can view, like or comment on it. Same with the timeline posts, I swipe up and then sideways to navigate through the posts. No refresh needed, new posts populate live.

The other categories I can choose include the usual broad categories such as news, tech, sports, food, home and design. One complaint is that there is a limit to the number of categrories (I have to start getting used to using the term paper). The good thing is, fb hasn’t limited my subscription to only the pages I liked—tech has posts from ars, cnet, sfgate etc and news has articles from BBC, NYT etc.

The most direct comparison is with flipboard. Even the use of gestures is similar. I haven’t been using flipboard long, and I’m still getting to grips with the concept of magazines. There are more options with flipboard—I can see what’s going on in my twitter feed, tumblr follows and google+ universe—these competitors will probably never show up on paper.

There are some negatives. It loads slowly, I guess it’s because many people are playing with it. What’s available in each category are the usual big name sites that dominate everywhere; it would be nice to discover smaller, individual pages the way tumblr radar works. I’m subjected to the same stupid pictures of people’s dogs that I am on the regular site, and I can’t immediately find a way to get rid of them the way I can hide or report that post on the web app. Only the main timeline is shown and there doesn’t seem to be a way to read by custom list so I have to see posts by people I have no interest in reading (but don’t have the heart to unfriend). And I’m just waiting for the inevitable intrusion into my privacy, forcing me to read what they think I should read, and the ads, oh the ads are definitely coming.

All in all, it satisfies my need to find things to read as well as keeping up with what is happening with my online friends. I’ve already replaced the traditional fb app with paper on my iphone. Why it works for me is that although it is an app by facebook, it’s not a facebook app—if that makes sense. I can see that I’ll use it as a fb replacement at the same time as complementing flipboard, feedly and the occasion foray into digg reader to find new things.

in eating and drinking |

cocosugarcandy02 cocosugarcandy04

One of mm’s aunts does sells snacks wholesale so we’ve been able to order the best fresh snacks from her, mainly biscuits. She gave me some of these old-styled candy snacks that we used to see sold on the street. The sellers were very distinctive, with their metal case with a glass front.

The idea is to sprinkle dessicated coconut and sugar ona honeycomb sugar slab then wrap it up in a thin pancake. The pancake is slightly salty and the honeycomb very light and brittle. It’s one of those snacks that needs to be eaten quickly in a few mouthfuls otherwise most of the filling ends up on the floor.

I never knew what these are called; mm said they are 糖蔥餅 which literally translates to sugar spring onion cake. It’s also difficult to google either a translation or even a description of the snack. The best I’ve come across is coconut sugar wrap although someone actually called them spring field pizza, which totally doesn’t make sense.



In any event, mm’s aunt gave me the individual components, and I did a fun video of how to make one. Good thing instagram pauses and picks up immediately, it was a challenge to hold the iphone and fold the thing with one hand.


in eating and drinking |

wildfirewurst20140201

Continuing on the theme of atypical cny meals, went with mm to the german restaurant near her place. She had a glass of wine and I had a german mule, which I guess is a play on the moscow mule cocktail: jagermeister, vodka, lime juice, ginger beer topped with weissbier. Can taste all the elements, pretty refreshing.

Shared a plate of bratwurst with mash and sauerkraut. We had lunch with her family so we were both full. The bratwurst came in portions of 6, 12 or 18 pieces, for sharing or for large appetites.

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