December 2014 Archives

in photography is life |

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


I posted over 6,000 photos and videos to flickr in 2014. And I thought 3,500 in 2013 was a lot. So many trips this year: Mediterranean cruise to Greece, Italy, Israel, West Bank; cruise to Alaska including stayover at Seattle and Vancouver; month-long visit to the US including epic road trip from Chicago to Portland that took in several national parks; 2 trips to Japan: Hokkaido & Tokyo; an end of year trip to Seoul. Not to mention family events, outings with mm (and her family). Plus my part in documenting the 79 days of the umbrella movement.

It was very tough to narrow 6,000 pics to ten. Mostly I went for scenery or ones that were memorable for me. I tried to include diverse regions but it was difficult, for instance most of the pics from Tokyo and Italy were repeats or food, since it’s not the first time I’ve visited those places. That said, I guess I managed to pick pics of the sea, lake, mountain and desert.

vic159vsunset

This was a surprising one. Out of the entire Alaska cruise trip, many pics of glaciers and mountains made the shortlist but this one of sunset at Buchart Gardens stayed with me longer. The light was fading fast, we’d just gotten to the bottom of the Japanese garden and making our way back to the entrance. I had to stand on a fence to get this quickly. No filters, no adjustments.

Not as good a year for food photography. Most food pics were instagram eating out, I had a rather poor cooking year. The product I was proudest was making a box of truffles for my niece’s birthday.

in eating and drinking |

2014christmaspud

We purposely didn’t buy christmas puddings before christmas, hoping that they’d be on sale afterwards. Mum went to the shops at the weekend to look for them, but was disappointed that they were not there anymore. The supermarket even told her that they took them off the shelves after Christmas.

I think it depends on the area. Parents don’t live in an expat area so the demand for themed food like christmas pud probably does wane after the holiday. Plus, the shops in the area main cater for f@#king mainland locusts who probably can’t recognise christmas pud even if someone explained to them in tiny words.

I went back to my area to look at the supermarkets and shops there. Lo and behold, puds and mince pies were 35-50% off. Got her a couple waitrose ones and a couple of m&s ones. She’s the only one who likes them, and she has supplies to last a year. What a relief. To my chagrin, panettones weren’t on sale yet, may be a couple more days.

in outside interests , photography is life |

201412landmark01 201412landmark02

Had some errands to run in the afternoon, walked from PP to Central and even up the escalator to almost back home. Not as crowded as normal, except nearer the end of the working day. Saw the christmas decoration at the atrium of Landmark mall. Pretty. And the bright lights of Harvey Nics in the background helped. There’s a sort of tilt-shift quality to the pic but when I put it through the tilt-shift app it didn’t work out as well as I thought. Original instagram on the left, tiltshifted on the right.


in outside interests |

powderpuff03

Saw a pretty red wildflower at the side of the beachfront path to Middle Island on Christmas Day. Spherical red tendrils, and there were berries on the bush too.

Since I’m no good at plants and can only identify a handful of common flowers, I set about trying to find out the name of this flower. Surprisingly, google image came up short, presenting similarly shaped red flowers but not the one I took.

There are apps that identify flowers if you upload an image, or check off some descriptive criteria. The results were disappointing—either no result or another flower. Weird. It was a wildflower I saw at the side of the road, it can’t be that rare.



So, I turned to twitter. The result came in within 15mins. I was well impressed. Calliandra haematocephala, commonly known as the Powder Puff Tree, native to South America. There are comprehensive planting instructions too. Must have been carried by the wind from a garden nearby.

powderpuff02

The new filters on instagram gave it a weird pop and texture, cute.

in eating and drinking |

oneglasswinepouch01

Saw these 100ml single serve wine pouches from oneglass the other day, apparently a new product. They claim the paper, plastic and aluminium packaging is eco-friendly, easy to use and easy to carry.

I can see the advantages of taking one, or several, pouches when taking part in outdoor activities. I read a couple of books where our protagonists brought a whole bottle of wine on hiking or sledding trips and got gently told off by their friends. The problem is the heavy glass bottle that they also have to carry home empty. No such problems with these pouches. That they were on sale at the yacht club adds sailing/boating/kayaking as another activity that can benefit from these pouches.

Will I buy them? I might get one, for the fun factor. They are expensive. Haven’t tried the wine inside, but multiplying the cost of one pouch by 7.5 gives me almost double the price I’d normally pay for a bottle of cab or sangiovese. I guess they’re charging extra for design and gimmickiness. To be honest, if I were going hiking or sledding or kayaking and want to bring wine (or any drink), I’d use one of those to go bags popular in Singapore and other SE Asian countries. Or those flexible, collapsable water bottles. Or use a couple of ziploc bags.

in eating and drinking , family first |

2014xmas31turkey

Since we went out on Christmas Day, the traditional turkey and presents was on Boxing Day. Parents opted for a pre-cooked turkey, around 10 pounds. I thought it was more like a large chicken. They’ve always gotten the pre-cooked, and it’s butterball from Marketplace, which is pretty good quality. If it were up to me, I’d roast the turkey myself, but I do appreciate the convenience.

The turkey was good, even the white meat was tender and not dry. The biggest issue was that it didn’t come with giblets or gravy. And since it only got an hour’s reheating in a low oven, there was no possibility of making gravy from it. I learned this lesson from last year. This year, I was prepared. I made chicken stock (roasted bones, mirepoix) a couple of days ago and continued working on the gravy all morning. I cooked the vegetables in the stock so they exchanged flavour with each other and it also meant the veg was healthy, not cooked in oil but tastier than steamed. I added about half a glass of red wine and reduced the stock to 50%. I then made a roux to thicken it to the desired consistency. It seemed a lot of trouble for gravy, but from watching so many cookery competition programs, I know that sauce/gravy is as important as the main ingredients on the plate.

2014xmas33meal

Side dishes were carrots and green beans cooked in the aforementioned gravy. The potato element was bubble & squeak, which is kinda traditional Boxing Day fare made from leftover potatoes, cabbage and sprouts. True to the spirit, I actually made mashed potatoes and cooked a head of cabbage yesterday to use today as “leftovers” hahaha.

All in all, we were very pleased with the meal. Didin’t really have any dessert, just some small mince pies Sis brought over. Exchanged presents and facetimed G and R, who apparently are hoping that it’d snow in the UK. Let’s see if they get their wish, snow is predicted in parts of the UK but may be not as far south as West Sussex.


in family first |

2014xmas01middle 2014xmas05middle

It rained almost all day, but it didn’t dampen our mood. We trekked all the way out to middle island for lunch. Long bus ride, long walk along the seafront (so windy umbrellas were useless) then the rickety small boat came and picked us up.

2014xmas11fondue 2014xmas13squid
2014xmas14rice 2014xmas21dessert

We had cheese fondue, calamari, satay, fried rice and for dessert shared an apple pie and a small pavlova. One bottle of wine. Not a typical Christmas meal, everything was enjoyable. It’s been a long, long time since I had fondue and this one was good.

2014xmas15bbq

It was still raining but we decided to check out the bbq option. The staff there tended to the pits, and it was just a matter of ordering from the counter. We got a few giant tiger prawns and a set of cumberland sausages. Too full to eat, we wrapped everything up to take home.

Home by 4pm. Did prep for tomorrow’s turkey lunch. Quite tired, and with a sore ankle (sprained it yesterday, no running for a few days). No need for dinner, just had some fruit. A peaceful, quiet Christmas.


in family first |

starstchurch2014

Went with sis to midnight mass. Well, 10pm Christmas Eve mass to be exact, at the small church within walking distance of her place. More than the normal number of attendees of course, but not like the huge crowds at the main cathedrals. From The First Noel with the procession, to Silent Night at Communion and Joy to the World at the end, it was a really nice service. The gospel was from Luke and the homily told the story of a Danish king who gave up his throne to marry a peasant girl. The story hasn’t ended yet so we don’t know if they live happily ever after; much like the story of Jesus coming to live amongst us—the story is ongoing.

beth235stargrotto

When the Father got to the part in the gospel where Jesus was born, he took the baby Jesus doll from the crib in front of the lectern and we all sang out “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” It was quite moving. I had a flashback to when Mum and I visited the Star Grotto in Bethlehem, and touched the spot where He was born, and it seems a very fitting bookend to my 2014.


in arts and media |

I just spent an hour or so voluntarily making myself cry (or weep silently) over a few ads. Of course they are heart-wrenching, they are the British Christmas ads, which are like the superbowl equivalent.



Top of the class is, as always, John Lewis. This year’s Monty the Penguin. John Lewis never, ever fails the GBP (great british public), they are as dependable as, well, John Lewis. Three tissues. (John Lewis is a well-respected, well-loved employee-owned department store. If I need something for the kitchen, or linens, or electronics, I will go to John Lewis first.)



Second is the gingerbread stall, a story of overcoming shyness, from Waitrose. One tissue, I think. BTW, Waitrose is a part of the John Lewis Group.

The Tesco, Boots and Mulberry ones are good too. I tried to like the Sainsbury’s one about the famous WW1 football match, but felt my emotions were too manipulated. Check out the rest at mashable.

Well, Happy Christmas anyway. I always say Happy Christmas rather tha Happy Holidays / Hannukah / Solstice / [other festive occasion in December]. Christmas is Christmas. It’s a time for families, food, presents, reflection and rest. The guardian had an article about new arrivals’ first Christmas in the UK and one of the interviewees, an Indonesian, said,

although I am a Muslim, I celebrate Christmas because it’s an important part of British culture and I feel it is respectful

Embrace the occasion. Forget unnecessary political correctness.


in objects of desire |

hipflasksteel hipflaskcopper

I can’t think of anything I want for Christmas. On my shopping list are a new ipad cover (but no hurry—the current one is chipped), a belt (more urgent as the current one is getting grotty) and a foam roller that I can store at parents’ place.

Everywhere I look, there are lists of what to buy as presents. What caught my eye was a list of best hip flasks from the people who recently took us on the bourbon trail and to whisky in Scotland.

And besides, I have a weakness for hip flasks, remember the ones inside hollowed out books.

Two caught my eye, and they can’t be more different. A bog-standard $10 stainless steel flash that looked surprisingly good with its clean lines and sturdiness. At the other end of the spectrum is a $200 copper flask because: a) copper and b) cork stopper.


in easily amused , eating and drinking |

beerproblemsolver

According to a Copenhagen-based brewery, drinking their problem solver beer will help, well, solve creative problems. Apparently an alcohol level of 0.075% is just the right amount to get the creative juices flowing. As the independent helpfully explained,

it is thought to come with a feeling of relaxation that stops you from being ‘too-focused’, but is not drunk enough that your verbal and cerebral ability will be impaired

The 7.5% IPA comes in a 750ml bottle that has a printed scale to indicate exactly how much to drink to get to that sweet spot, depending on gender and weight.

Of course it’s clever marketing, it’s a campaign from agency CP+B Copenhagen.

Now forgive me while I go drink some beer and churn out the Next Great Novel.


in eating and drinking |

2014122001winkles 2014122002clams
2014122004abalone 2014122003prawns

Totally unexpected but a pleasant surprise, we had another gathering with Uncle Wong’s family. He took us to the market and bought lots of fresh seafood again. The dinner banquet had winkles, clams, abalone, prawns, chicken and vegetables. We bought him a chestnut chocolate cake to celebrate his 70th birthday, which was last time but it didn’t matter that it was a couple of weeks late, everyone enjoyed it. Uncle Wong is the most generous, most optimistic and thoughtful person. He is going back to Canada soon and due to his health, we’re not sure when we will see him again. I wish him the best of health.


in eating and drinking |

nullahcocktails201412 koreanfriedchicken201412

It was raining so I went to sis’ to use the threadmill there. Natually we ended up going out to eat. First stop was Stone Nullah Tavern for a quick cocktail. I had something called Hillsboro Mile which had bourbon, pimms, mint—I can’t find it on google. Sis had an earl grey martini that did have a nice tea flavour. We munched on fried artichokes and kale. Both were nice but portions were small and not value for money.

Dinner was at a Korean fried chicken place. Korean-styled fried chicken is superior to almost all fried chicken in that the batter is thin, super crunchy and the whole dish very addictive. This place we went to had yummy fried chicken. I think the plate was the whole chicken. Quite heavily seasoned and peppery-spicy with juicy meat. I’d go again.


in eating and drinking |

ludwigcocktails201412

It’s the start of overeating and drinking season. Met mm for lunch at a korean place, we had miso tofu soup and mixed offal soup. Warming and filling for the chills. We split up for about an hour to run separate errands then met with her mum and family friends for happy hour at the german bierhalle place. The others had cocktail but I stuck with a weissbier.

motorino02wine

The rest of the group went off for dinner without me. I’d promised sis that I’d hang out with her. We went to Motorino for pizza. We shared a mushroom pizza and a salad. They had on their menu a wine they claimed was the perfect pizza wine. I’d never heard of Gragnano before, it was quite drinkable, a little sweet and as the menu said semi-sparkling. Sis says it tastes like fizzy ribena, hahaha. I googled it, and the “perfect pizza wine” came from New York Magazine.

motorino03calzone

For dessert sis had tiramisu and I tried their special of the day—nutella and marshmallow calzone. It was extremely large, and I think the size put me off so I could only take a few bites. I took the rest of it home. There should be running tomorrow so it can be the after-running snack.


in going places |



Houshi Ryokan in Awazu Onsen is the oldest family-owned hotel in the world and second oldest owned hotel. Beautiful ryokan, beautiful onsen, beautifully shot video. Sad too. The ryoden passes down through the eldest son and the current owner, Zengoro Hoshi, is the 46th generation. His son died suddenly, and the film also focuses on Hoshi-san’s daughter, and her struggle to take responsiblity for the business, responsibility and pressure she hadn’t thought was hers.

in photography is life |



As instagram overtakes twitter by reaching 300m mau, it’s worth looking back to my first posts on both services. Joined twitter august 2007. It’s easy enough to find a user’s first tweet through twitter’s discovery service. Not much meaning to that first tweet, which means I used it for the correct purpose, hahaha. I use twitter primarily to record my running and workouts, and for the longest time it was pretty much the only things I posted. I’m trying to vary the content a little more nowadays.


inst001kettle

Joined instagram july 2011 and the first pic was of my kettle. Very mundane. Most of the instagrams in the first few years were of food, and like twitter I’ve tried to diversify somewhat lately. Most pics I take on the iphone get instagrammed, and as new filters are announced, my view of quick pics has changed. I took pics of the recent pannacotta I made on both instagram and my camera and as I was photoshopping the camera pics I was looking for the effects I’m getting on instagram.

All my instagrams are automatically posted to twitter, and all tweets are automatically saved to a google docs spreadsheet; the automation achieved by IFTTT recipes. Because of IFTTT I don’t have to pick any one service, they seem to co-exist quite happily. I have mostly different followers so there isn’t so much overlap.


in in the news |

After 79 days, the last of the #occupyhk #umbrellamovement camps at Causeway Bay was cleared on Monday, following the Mongkok site clearance two weeks ago and the main Admiralty site clearance last week. There was polite, peaceful resistance to the end.





About 20 people were arrested, adding to the 200-odd arrested and 900-plus whose ID card details were registered by police at Admiralty. Those arrested included Uncle Wong, a elderly supporter who had already been arrested last week at Admiralty. Go Uncle Wong!

What next? The CE declared the end of the protests and people went back to going about their daily business, or so the blue ribboners think. Students and protesters are regrouping.

oclphk371wewillbeback

That the Movement lasted over 2 months is beyond everyone’s expectation, but its scale and spontaneity are unlikely to be repeated in the near future. The next wave of activities will likely be smaller, more covert and unexpected like #9wu shopping trips and guerilla banners. Communication will continue to take place over social media. The idea, as the last ditch banner in Admiralty said, is that we’ll be back.

oclp356ribbonumbrella

As for me, I’m tucking my yellow ribbon and yellow umbrella away into my coin holder. This way, they’re with me all the time but not forgotten. When the time comes again, they and I will return.

p.s. after I published the original post, I received a couple of messages on twitter. I think we’re onto something.




in eating and drinking |

pannapeach03

I had some cream in the fridge I needed to use up, so I made pannacotta. Four ingredients: 500ml double cream, heated with 50g sugar and the seeds from one vanilla pod. When almost boiling, remove from heat and add to 2tsp gelatin powder already soaking in 3tbsp water.

A little too set, due to unfamiliar gelatin. But so rich, and so vanilla-y, can see all the seeds in the dessert. There was some discussion on a Paul Hollywood Pies & Puds program about the colour of pannacotta, whether it should be white or yellow. The chefs say white, but he had guest dairy farmers who brought in the richest, creamiest clotted cream from Devon and the pannacotta he made was yellow. It depends on the cream. The cream I used was good double cream, and the result was defiantly creamy yellow.

Ideally I would have liked to serve it with mixed berries or at the very least strawberries. Alas, the strawberries at the market were expensive and looked terrible. So mum opened a can of peaches. Heh, we’re not running a michelin star establishment here.


in eating and drinking |

panevino2014121302 panevino2014121304

For early family christmas lunch we opted for an italian restaurant near my place. We all chose the antipasti buffet which came with unlimited prosecco and soft drinks. Quite nice food: salmon, cold cuts, salad, grilled vegetables, stuffed tomatoes, bread. Worth it for the prosecco, not so value for money for mum and niece, I had niece’s portion of diet coke.



in photography is life |

med236sidihouse

This week’s photofriday challenge is blue. This was taken in the picturesque village of Sidi Bou Said near Tunis, which was a pretty touristy village with whitewashed houses with windows and doors painted a uniform blue colour.


in easily amused |

christmasmalteserstree

Our first Christmas decoration this year. Hahaha. It’s a cardboard tree that came free with a couple of bags of maltesers. Took 10mins to assemble and is now sitting on the tv cabinet. We have a 70s silver fake tree, but I don’t think we’ll put it up. We don’t really do christmas decoration.


in eating and drinking |

2014121001prawns 2014121002abalone
2014121004fish 2014121006veg

Original plan was to visit mm’s family friends for a bit, then do our own thing. We ended up visiting with them all day. It was uncle wong’s 70th birthday, and he was preparing his own birthday dinner. He took us all over the place to shop—specific shops for chicken, roasted meat and seafood. It was a veritable feast that was better and healthier than what you’d get at a restaurant. Lots of seafood, mostly steamed and the chicken and meat were from outside.

He made steamed sea prawns, steamed abalone, winter pickle steamed lion fish, steamed lung dun fish, scallops with vermicelli, vegetables, chicken, chicken feet, roast suckling pig. Delicioius, the sign of someone who loves cooking.


in techtalk |

Software update told me that it’s my turn to update to firefox 34. I read earlier that yahoo will replace google as the default search engine on firefox 34 and I was curious to see if that was the case for me.

Surprisingly, no. That’s because I have the always google.com in english plug-in and I use searchbar autosizer to customise other aspects of the search bar.

If firefox had forced me to default to yahoo, I would have changed it. If it wouldn’t let me change, I would have switched to chrome immediately. I remember using yahoo when I first started on the internet, that was before google existed. I haven’t used it for a long time, only when there’s a problem with google. And lately I’ve positively hated yahoo, it never respects my location preference: even if I type yahoo.com manually it forces me to go to the local site, in a language I can’t stand to read and displaying stuff I’m not interested in. Even if I type yahoo.com/ncr, the preference disappears after I click around and go back to the homepage. Ridiculous.

I’ve noticed google doing the same. Even with the add-on that’s supposed to force google.com, it brings me search results on the local site. And changes the url of sites like blogger and youtube to force me to the localised version. It is not an enhanced experience. It is lack of respect of people’s preference.

And makes it so obvious that I’m being tracked, and my data used for marketing. Targeted ads don’t work on me though, I’m very tightly defended by adblock plus.

I switched search engines. I’ve been using duckduckgo for a couple of weeks and I’m pretty happy with the switch. There are many good things about duckduckgo, primarily it’s about privacy, as fastcompany pointed out:

When you do a search from DuckDuckGo’s website or one of its mobile apps, it doesn’t know who you are. There are no user accounts. Your IP address isn’t logged by default. The site doesn’t use search cookies to keep track of what you do over time or where else you go online. It doesn’t save your search history. When you click on a link in DuckDuckGo’s results, those websites won’t see which search terms you used.

No wonder its usage has skyrocketed after the Snowden affair. Although my searches aren’t confidental or sensitive, I’m still happy that I have privacy. That little toggle button on the right that enables me to turn off region, that’s what I like. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.



It looks simple and the results are straightforward. When I searched for gameboy, it brings me first to the official site (something that sometimes ad-driven google doesn’t do) then it’s wikipedia, amazon and ebay—pretty much the expected results. For specific results on a specific site, I just have to add !site in front of my search. So

!amazon gameboy

brings me directly to the amazon search results for gameboy, saving one click. This is only one of a bunch of cool features available.

Of course, it’s not perfect. Search results tend to deteriorate after half a page to weird sites. For more complicated searches I’ve had to go back to google. There is no image search, news article search, map or other google features. Recipe searches bring me to US sites rather than my preferred bbc and UK sites (one advantage of google’s tracking I suppose). These are minor inconvenience, I can live with using duckduckgo for the majority and reverted to google when necessary.

Plus, it’s been blocked behind the great firewall of China, there’s no better endorsement than that.



in techtalk |

gameboyfixed01

When my niece learned that I have still have my old gameboy (pocket, I must have given the original one to the charity shop ages ago), she asked if she could have it. When we tried to turn it on, we could hear the sound, but the screen only showed one horizontal line.

me: you can definitely have it, but it doesn’t work
niece: it doesn’t matter, it’s a gameboy
me: you sure? it doesn’t work
niece: it’s a gameboy

I could hear her emphasis and I guess I can see her fascination with something that is older than her. I know she’d be happy with the non-working gameboy, but what if I can get it working again? Gameboys are still available on ebay, and there are videos and instructions on how to fix them. One option is to mod it using a raspberry pi.

I don’t have the skills or confidence for that sort of repair, so I took a chance and went to one of those messy computer malls and found a hole-in-the-wall stall amongst the computer and video game repairs section. After taking it in for inspection, the young man called me back after a few days and said it’d been repaired. Yay!! For the equivalent of USD20-ish, they replaced the circuit board and I have again a working gameboy.



I remember bubble bobble being one of my favourites. I can play it, but I can’t for the life of me get beyond the first level. Argh! May be my niece will teach me.



in being healthy |

running20141206

9.02km 1.18.34hr 8.42min/km

This is the longest I’ve run since I started the 52 week marathon training program. End of week 8 already. I haven’t followed the plan exactly. I’ve run fewer days but longer distance each run. Week 8 weekend run is 4 miles (6.5km) and total for the week 12 miles over 4 runs. I did 15 miles (24 km) over 3 days this week.

I’m trying not to get too unhappy about the speed, or utter lack of it. My baseline is 6.42 and I’m two whole minutes slower. I have only myself to blame for losing my fitness level, so I’ll have to get over it. The good thing is, I ran all 9km. The only stopping breaks were at traffic lights to cross the road and a couple of stops at the water fountain. So if I don’t have my speed back, at least I’m working towards getting my endurance back.

There’s a long way to go yet. I should get started on hills or strides soon. I’m using the zombies run app so there is an element of intervals. It really is a very good app, I paid $9.99 for an all access pass when the offer was on, and it’s money well spent.



in eating and drinking |



Gear patrol spent 5 days visiting a bunch of bourbon distilleries. Fascinating posts, for all bourbon, whiskey and whisky lovers.

I recognised some of the distilleries that I visited myself when I went on the bourbon trail a few years ago. The bourbon trail passport now requires stamps from 9 distilleries (used to be 6 when I went). This means a longer trip, which I guess is what they want. Ah, commercialism.

ky055buffwarehouse

One of the people interviewed on the video looks familiar. Yep, it’s our guide at Buffalo Trace. I have a picture of me and him too at the tasting bar, he was super nice and a great guy. No, I don’t post pics of me.


in eating and drinking |

winehumancannonball01

Mum and I went to the Japanese snack store, the one that also sells non-snacks and grocery items at almost wholesale prices. Mum got noodles and some snacks. I saw this wine and I had to get it. I mean, it’s the human cannonball wine. Cabernet merlot 2012 to be precise.

I can’t find too much about it, apart from the bottler. I don’t think they are a winery, rather a bottler and producer of wines and spirits. The blurb for the human cannonball wine is pure marketing. I can imagine PT Barnum shouting this out to the crowd:

Step right up! Get your ticket and experience the eighth wonder of the world. Yes, you heard right. The Human Cannonball is here! Your mind will not believe your eyes and you brain will not believe your taste buds. The bravery and courage is the spectacle, this fearless death defier will leave your mouth wide open & chanting for more. Tell your friends and bring your family… The Human Cannonball wine range is the lighter path to drinking serious wines. Instead of being clad in leather and tweed, we encourage our drinkers to wine down (pun intended) and be the spectator of something truly amazing. What colour is your ticket?

It’s not an expensive bottle, in the region of what I’d pay for wines I use for cooking. Since I usually cook with half and drink the other half of the bottle, I’ll see when I use it whether it’ll leave me wanting to wine down (pun intended).


in arts and media |

bonesinfographic

I used to love Bones. I still do, but I don’t watch it often enough. To celebrate the 200th episode, dedicated fans made an amazing infographic that shows the 10 seasons by the numbers. For instance there have been 83 punctures, 67 gunshots, 57 bludgeonings, 28 poisonings, 26 suffocation and 92 unknown causes. Brennan tried to tell a joke 30 times, B&B kissed 36 times and “King of the Lab” was mentioned 27 times.

This is only a small part of the infographic. Full size here or at official site.


in objects of desire |



When I was talking to sis’ restauranteur friend about a whisky bar, he mentioned about an idea he had about whisky and waffles. Quite intriguing. The main reason is that using standalone waffle irons or electric griddles falls under a less stringent food licence. And waffle irons can be used to cook all sorts of food other than waffles.

We ended up not going through with the whisky bar idea. And waffle irons do come in other shapes like animals, the state of Texas and of course Hello Kitty.

keyboardwaffle

I was reminded of our idea when I saw this keyboard waffle iron kickstarter project featured all over the place. I can imagine geekily shaped waffles and whisky being an interesting idea for a bar-café. And for an alternate breakfast idea, how about keyboard waffles with this pg tipple cocktail made from pg tips, marmalade and bulleit bourbon.

$60 for a waffle iron is on the expensive side—most kickstarter projects are expensive I find. If I were going for the whisky & waffle bar idea then I’d probably get a couple of these.



in eating and drinking |

garlicprawns201412

We’ve seen enough food & travel programs to know that often the best food is found in unexpected, down-to-earth places. Dad took us to a foodcourt in a downmarket shopping centre and we found really great food. Value for money, naturally.

The highlight were these tiger prawns stir fried with garlic, spring onions and pepper. Huge portion, we think there are 11-12 prawns. Would have been the same price, even more, to buy fresh from the market. We also ordered squid with vegetables and noodles. Came with rice and a nice homemade soup. This being a foodcourt, there were other choices and we had lamb curry with roti from the Nepalese / Indian stall and I got a winter melon tea from the Taiwanese stall.



in 101.1001 , challenges |

1011001dec2014

Update for 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.
tl;dr version: 365 days, 58 tasks done, 43 tasks remaining

No need for a sophisticated chart or analysis to see that the challenge is going well. I hesitate to use ahead of schedule because of the relative difficulty / time-consumingness of the tasks.

I picked off some low hanging fruit, like use my library card, make a cocktail and make a list of 101 places to visit. I was also incredibly lucky to go with my parents to new countries, try the foodcarts in Portland and spend a day at a korean spa with mm. The strangest task was eat an insect and I ended up finishing the whole cup. I made bread for the first time and invested in a worthwhile cause.

I’ve managed to complete at least one task in each of the 11 sections, and have made a start on some of the ongoing tasks. Of the remaining 43 tasks, some are potentially harder than others. Need to do a bit of strategising.

on track — ongoing or cumulative tasks:

  • 3. become proficient with Evernote — I’ve done a lot with EN this year, and I’m in the process of migrating my instapaper clippings to EN
  • 5. 1001 posts on website — currently at 439, since I aim for at least one post a day, this is one of the tasks that will go almost all the way to the end
  • 16. finish Lamplight — the second (or third?) draft is done, so technically I can claim this task is complete, once the current round of rewriting is done I’ll claim the goal
  • 17. outline book ideas — mostly done
  • 20. 1001 instagram/vine pics — at 367, which averages to just over 1 day day, need to do better but should be on track
  • 39. run/walk/bike 1001 km/miles — 1001km is done, at 660 miles with 341 to go should be no problem
  • 40. complete walk to mordor challenge — at 660 miles, with 1119 to go, been averaging over the required mileage, so don’t forsee a problem
  • 47. make a list and photoset of 101 food already tried — list is done, just need to revisit a few foods and take pics
  • 59. make vanilla extract — vanilla pod has been soaking in bourbon for a few weeks, need to add a few more used pods
  • 74. put away $10 for every goal achieved — this will be a task to be completed on the last day, but no big issue
  • 75. set aside $1 for every goal achieved for charity — again, a last day completiong, no big issue
  • 80. scan 101 family pics — scanned 24 already
  • 87. make a list of 101 things achieved — list is done, need to scan and sort some old pics
  • 94. pack a go bag — on track, gathering items
  • 99. find a race and train for it — at week 8 of the 52 weeks marathon training program for chimarathon 2015


doable — haven’t started but are doable:
  • 15. nano 2015 — nano #11
  • 18. design a book cover — have ideas, need execution
  • 30. new country (#3 of 3) — technically I can claim Palestine, I’ll see if I get to go to another new country, if not I’ll retroactively complete this
  • 42. db bench PR — slowly working up to it
  • 43. 101 crunches — also slowly working up to it
  • 58. new recipe (#10 of 10) — one more new recipe to complete the set of 10
  • 60. open a cookbook and make whatever comes up — choose the cookbook carefully
  • 61. plan, make and serve a 3-course meal with wine — need an appropriate occasion, I have a good idea of the menu
  • 67. new whisky (#4 of 5) — have idea of which bottles to follow in rotation
  • 68. new whisky (#5 of 5) — see above
  • 72. new restaurant (#4 of 5) — next time we travel, may be London or Chicago or Tokyo
  • 73. new restaurant (#5 of 5) — see above
  • 76. make a will — keep needing to remind mm to lend me hers
  • 83. new family activity (#3 of 3) — sometimes we do new stuff but it’s not so remarkable to write up
  • 90. leave an inspirational note in a book for someone to find — I forgot to bring a postcard when I was at Portland, otherwise it would have been awesome to leave it in a book at Powell’s
  • 97. stop using so much salt and substitute with herbs & spices — I do this already, I want to come up with a really good dish
  • 98. travel to one of the 101 places to visit — technically I’ve done that, gone to Athens and Jerusalem and Alaska, I should write it up retroactively



need work — harder tasks for various reasons:

  • 1. upgrade macOS at least once — the mba is still on snow leopard, but it works great so I don’t want to upgrade it to mavericks or yosemite, I may tweak this task to target upgrading iOS instead
  • 7. new musical — there are lots of musicals I want to see, it depends on travel plans
  • 8. old musical — depends on travel plans and timing
  • 19. write a short story — I used to churn them out like clockwork, but haven’t had much inspiration lately
  • 25. find colour in an unusual place — this is a task left over from the original 2007 challenge, I kept forgetting it then, and I keep forgetting it now
  • 41. break a running PR — I’m 1-2 minute per km slower than my baseline speed, it will take lots and lots of training to get this
  • 45. take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class — thing is, I’m not that interested in them right now, I don’t belong to a gym and I haven’t bothered to look at places that offer first class free
  • 46. rock climbing — there are only a handful of places here, I should enquire at the YMCA, I think they have a wall and classes
  • 88. make a list of 101 favourite things — surprisingly this has proved difficult; I’m stuck at 52 things
  • 95. learn how to rocher — I need materials and a container to practice
  • 101. be more grateful to family — how do I determine if I complete this task? it’s so subjective




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