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in in the news , sports active |

image from the independent

If I were still in London, I would have thought about going too. And I’ve never gone to a football match.

On Tuesday night, France came to Wembley to play a football match with England, four days after the terrorist attack in Paris, during which their own game with Germany was under attack at la Stade de France. While most people will agree that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, this time

football itself has been rather thrust forward into the vanguard of the response to the horror in Paris.

Kudos to the FA their french counterpart and the government, for the determination that the game will go ahead,
defiance, normality, business as usual: this was the message.

It was always going to be an emotional night. It was well known beforehand that the Duke of Cambridge, Cameron and the team captains would lay wreaths on the pitch; that there would be a minute’s silence; that the words of La Marseillaise would be shown on the big screen so England fans can sing with their counterparts.

I looked for videos of that. I did not expect to be so moved. Wonderful display of Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Yes, the words were mangled, the band wasn’t perfect. It was perfect:
it suited the often funny fraternity between France and England: our closest neighbour, but a sibling kind of relationship that leaves each afraid to say to the other how much we care, until something truly awful happens.

In the meantime, politicians, most especially Republican governors in America are portraying Muslims and Middle Eastern refugees as all terrorists and falling over each other to slam the door on Syrian refugees. Wow, that’s inhuman and cruel.

Oh, the final score was 2-0 to England. It didn’t matter. Marchons, marchons.

in all about people , in the news |

I woke up this morning to the news of the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. It’s been a dreadful few weeks, with the sudden loss of a friend to cancer, a death in the family and now this. I was about to start looking for flights and hotels too.

As with many news events nowadays, social media played a big part in both dissemination of information and for people to express their feelings. What I observed on my fb, twitter and instagram feeds was quite interesting:

  • fb — fb friends’ demographics are fairly homogeneous in terms of background, education and values. It’s a close and tight community. Plus, I’m careful about whose friend request I accept, which perpetuate the sameness. The reaction to #fusillade was overwhelmingly outrage, sadness and sympathy
  • twitter — I follow all sorts on twitter: runners, professional athletes, whisky & wine lovers, travellers, nano participants, artists, writers, photographers, chefs, GBBO partipants, journalists, tech people, gamergate people, celebrities. Some I follow to see what sort of mischief they get up to. Some are people whose views I may not necessary agree with. I don’t check twitter all the time, but if there is an important event, it’s the first place I go to. Most of the updates for #fusillade was via twitter and the reaction was varied, from sadness and sympathy to more controversial views
  • instagram — instagram was quiet, people continued posting as normal albeit slightly subdued, a couple of the parispaix image

image via the guardian

I spent most of the morning following the livefeeds on the guardian and NYT (they disabled the paywall for this event) as well as #paris and my own feed on twitter.

For some reason, one person’s twitter posts stood out. Suffice it to say they are an author and possibly self publish, I’m not sure. I’ve noticed the tweets by this person for a long time, because it’s all the same: “buy my book” multiple times every day. RTs are when they are @mentioned by others, also writing and publishing and book buying related.

So when the news in Paris broke, and everyone was waiting with bated breath as the police operation went underway, what did this person do? A “buy my book” post. Seriously. In the middle of the largest attack on a western city since 9/11. Where was the common sense? Where was the perspective? Where was the empathy towards the dead, the injured, le gendarmarie?

I don’t know this individual personally.1 I could have, and arguably should have, sent them a friendly DM. But I didn’t because I thought a DM from a stranger will likely be taken the wrong way and have the opposite effect.

I’m not saying don’t post. Life goes on. My feed gradually filled up with non-Paris posts, although I noticed they were more low key. If I had gone running, I would have done my normal running post too. My issue with this author was the constant barrage of promotional posts did not stop2 when it was clearly inappropriate. The excuse that they weren’t aware of what was happening doesn’t fly because they were RTing Paris stuff too.


It was the last straw. So I vented on fb. I added that I’m sad and pissed off. I figured, in a while, I’ll calm down and I’ll delete it. No one will be any wiser.

The post blew up. Mainly agreeing. Like I said, homogeneous group. The post isn’t public, only people I have personal interactions saw it. The comments were somewhat valid, so I thought I’ll leave it up. There were hints that certain commenters saw the same tweets.

One person called me out on it. She disapproved of the way we seemed to have gone all lynch mob on the author. That it was disappointing that no one thought to educate instead of hanging someone out to dry. That we should be more forgiving about mistakes. Since it is someone I really respect, it was time for self-reflection. Was it wrong to say something so harsh? Should I have said nothing? Should I have contacted the author to understand where they were coming from?

I looked at the author’s twitter feed again. Another promotional post had gone up in the meantime. This is the gist of what I added to the OP:

  • it’s common sense to know what to not do in times of tragedy
  • how many times have people written about written about the perils of constantly bombarding readers with “buy my book” posts? Everytime, the answer is don’t do it
  • if you’re on social media, be ready that someone will disagree with you
  • we should stop catering to the lowest common denominator in society

I mean what I say, about lowest common denominators in society. Because a handful drunken louts damaged a property, now no one can go inside [a park, a building etc]. Because one person freaks out at witchcraft and sorcery, Harry Potter books are banned. Because someone has no common sense, we should use kid gloves to oh-so-gently nudge them in the right direction. How many people will step up when a customer insults an autistic employee when most businesses would act the opposite way?

Was I a meanie, posting on fb? Possibly. Did the author deserve it? Possibly, since they seem to have taken a what-not-to-do guide and did exactly those things (yet another promotional post came up later). They probably deserved a more reconciliatory tone. Would I do it again? I sure hope that the circumstances leading to needing to rant never occur, ever.

1 This person posts a lot. Yet I have no clue about their personality. Do they like where they live? Favourite food? Do they have pets? Post something other than writing or RTs that make me interested in you AS A PERSON. For all I know, this is a bot.

2 A thought occurred to me that they are scheduled. I don’t have the energy to check timestamps. Even if they were scheduled, turn it off.

in going places , in the news |

I checked in as soon as the 48hr window opened up. The flight looks around 90% full already, but I got the seat I wanted. Since I’ll be travelling for almost 1 month, and into November, I figured I need to pack my coat and a couple of sweaters.


The forecast for race day is 15-23ºC, feeling like 25ºC. Ugh. Too hot, with no clouds. It’d be great if it’s 10 degrees cooler. The 2 days before and after are supposed to be cooler, so I’ll keep an eye out on the weather.


The weather in Ptown looks variable too. From 20ºC down to 10ºC. Add the windchill from the exposed position, definitely need my coat and fleece lining.

Packing is done. Taking enough clothes for 7-10 days. Hopefully we can find laundry facilities in Ptown, and I can handwash if necessary too.

in all about people , in the news |

Sometimes heart-warming stories come out of reddit. This is a story about Jo and her incredible daughter Emma. 21 year old Emma has Downs Syndrome, autism, hearing loss and a cleft palate, which prevents her from learning to read and write. After an encounter with a girl who lost her mother, Jo realised that she needed to help Emma plan for her life as Jo won’t be there forever.


Turns out, Emma’s inability to read and write is a bonus, and now she runs her own successful shredding business, Master Shredder. Her clients include a solicitor’s and a credit union; they give her confidential documents and she shreds them in a non-recoverable way. Jo:

If I look at this from the perspective of confidential documents that’s great, she can’t read it. You could put a state secret in front of her and she won’t know.

It’s also really heartwarming to watch Emma working very diligently; and how happy she looks when with other people. Beautiful story.

in in the news |

image: getty

Today, the Queen becomes the longest-reigning monarch in British history, overtaking Queen Victoria’s 63 years, seven months and two days. It’s both a sad and happy day, as it marks the day she lost her father, George VI. Lots of commemorations and celebrations in the news. The bbc has a wonderful series of pictures from each year of her reign. The Telegraph has this video that transforms her from when she was 25 years old to now, at 89:

Even the stoic Independent is full of praise for her, recognising her dedication, sense of duty and the rock on which the country has built on for 63 years. How many 21 year old princesses would say this:

I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family, to which we all belong

She’s the only Queen I’ve known. There’s an unspoken sense of awe, respect and…love for her that isn’t there for the other members of the Royal Family. It’s like it’s baked into our core. Even the people who want to scrap the monarchy have to admit that she has been a great queen, seeing the country transition from the glory days of the Empire through devastation following WW2 and then to the modern age.

Of course we can’t hope for another 63 years, but we’ll take as many as we can while she is with us.

in in the news |

Read about a couple of studies in the news. The results are so blindingly obvious that one wonders who a) thought of the study and b) who funded it. As someone from reddit commented (I can’t remember which subreddit)

in other news, studies found that water is wet


Blindingly obvious study #1: to avoid hangovers, drink less. Some scientists studied 1,600 students in the Netherlands and Canada, measuring their blood alcohol levels after a night of alcohol consumption. The results is a straight-line graph:
the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover


Blindingly obvious study #2: exercise is good for you. A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress of 69 people who normally don’t exercise and then started walking for 6 months buys between 3 to 7 additional years of life. Exercise is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, it may retard the onset of dementia and basically
when people exercise regularly, they may be able to retard the process of ageing

in in the news |


Today the observatory recorded the highest temperature since records began in 1885. Although 36.3ºC isn’t that hot compared with many other places (I remember driving in Provence during a 40ºC heatwave, and the car thermometer reached 100F/38C on the way back to Chicago), it was very uncomfortable with the triple whammy of extreme heat, over 90% humidity and horrible pollution. The forcast says 31-32ºC but in reality it will feel hotter because of the humidity.

The reason behind the weather is the monster typhoon Soudelor. We can see its size in the pic from the international space station.

So on the hottest day in recorded history, my fridge decides to stop working. I’ve had it repaired a couple of times already, the freezer coils frost up and the fridge compartment doesn’t get cold. The technicans say it’s either the thermostat or the timer. I got rid of the freezer coil frost and dismantled the back to see if I can reset the thermostat but I couldn’t get it working again.

I have 8 salmon filets and a bunch of frozen stuff I do not want to spoil, so I packed everything up into a suitcase and got a taxi to my parents’ place. Their fridges are usually pretty full and mum did grocery shopping today. My dad is so smart, he managed to find space for my stuff. Yay for parents!

in in the news |


I was texting mm about various stuff and she mentioned it’s typhoon signal #8. This means a typhoon is nearby and all schools and businesses are closed. Normally weather doesn’t get covered around the world but the fact that three typhoons are lined up to attack is covered in mashable and other places.

The first of the trio, typhoon linfa, has already made landfall. It’s the middle one, chan-hom, that is the biggest threat. It’s forecast to reach super typhoon status, with winds reaching 155km/hr, passing north of Taiwan to make landfall around Shanghai. That’s equivalent to a category 3 hurricane in the US.

It’s rare, to see three typhoons coming in so close to each other. The whole of June was ridiculously hot, looks like July is going to be wet over in that part of the world.

in in the news |


My fb feed, twitter feed and all the news sites I visit are full of happy rainbows today, as the US supreme court voted by 5-4 to make gay marriage legal. What a day for marriage equality. I especially like the big picture gallery.

lovewins. It is so ordered.

in in the news |

My niece was complaining about her Chemistry teacher so I offered to give her some Chemistry help over the summer holiday. She didn’t really say yes or no; can’t blame her, who in their right minds will voluntarily do schoolwork during the summer holiday? Anyway, I’ll have to read up on the topic if I do need to help her, I’d all but lost my chemistry knowledge. Why did I leave my research job? It was boring and there didn’t seem to be a good career progression.

A dinosaur masquarading as a Nobel Laureate made stupid comments about “girls” falling in love and crying when criticised and was asked to resign from his post at UCL. I agree with the outcome, and even though I should feel sorry about the speed and ferocity of his treatment by social media and his employer, I don’t. He claims it was a self-deprecating joke and he’s been hung out to dry but again, no sympathies.

People are allowed to express their opinions in private; this is the basic tenet of a free world. But he wasn’t in private, and as a Nobel Laureate, he is a role model and speaking from a position of eminence. Did he think before he spoke? Obviously not. Did he think what he said was wrong? From his half-hearted apology afterwards, no. He only apologised more profusely after the backlash. It’s another case of being sorry that his remarks were heard by journalists.

Here was someone who took credit for work done by scores of undergrads, postgrads and postdocs under his supervision, and yet his attitude towards 50% of the population is so backwards that I wonder at atmosphere in his labs. Then again it’s likely that his labs had around the national average 12.8% women (oh sorry, Prof Hunt, “girls”) so it’s not like they count, right.

Lots of commentaries, tweets and opinions about this incident. Women scientists started posting pictures of themselves looking #distractinglysexy. Other prominent male scientists rushed to his defence. Even Boris Johnson chimed in. Astrophysicist Dr Katie Mack summed it up nicely:

scienceresearch01 scienceresearch02

In other news, scientific research is bizarre. In Ways of Knowing, photographer Danier Stier took photos of actual research going on at actual research institutes. He says,
we get the wrong idea of science when we look at something like National Geographic, we think of lab coats, high-tech equipment—the realities couldn’t be more different

Hmm, there aren’t that many women in the photos either. Credit to them that they’re not crying.

in arts and media , in the news |

8.5km 1.12.30hr 8.32min/km plus 1.5km walking

I took advantage of a little breeze and cloud cover to go to the park. It was still a bit of a struggle as the temperature was high and I was dripping with sweat very quickly. Argh.

Need something positive, and I came across an article in medium called the superhero runner. The author’s son (age 5) is British and was born in Japan and lived there till he was 2.5 years old. Naturally he feels a connection with Japan. His parents are also avid runners so when his homework was about his own personal real-life hero, he wrote about Yuki Kawauchi, the “maverick” civil servant runner from Saitama.

Kawauchi is fast, very fast. 2:08 at the 2011 Tokyo marathon, multiple victories in a year and a member of the Japan world championship team. He is also one to buck the system. In Japan, professional runners are part of a coporate or university team. Kawauchi still has a day job as a government clerk, pays for his own expenses and generally does things his own way.

Great role model for a 5 year old.

Even better news is that after his dad tweeted his homework, the folks at Japan running news passed on the image and Kawauchi sent a response:

I’m not quite the fastest in Japan yet but I’m very happy to hear that English children know and value that I try to be competitive and to never give up. I will keep trying to really become the fastest in Japan. Thank you.

in in the news |

lego parliament via mashable

I tuned into BBC as soon as I woke up and one of the first MPs returned was 20 year old Mhairi Black from the SNP. That would set the tone for the entire general election results. I watched as the SNP annihilated Labour in Scotland; then the Tories proved too strong for both Labour and the LibDems, who ended up getting decimated. Cameron got elected back to No. 10 without needing a coalition partner.

I’m not 100% happy but I’m not all that sad or angry at #ge2015 results. It was a shock to watch the decimated LibDems and Labour’s poor showing, though in hindsight there wasn’t a real alternative to the Conservatives—Miliband and Clegg were gracious in their resigations, where was the backbone before the election?

ge2015scotland gd2015maggiesimpson

Quite astounded at the SNP landslide. A lot due to Nicola Sturgeon’s good performance, though ironic that she wasn’t even standing. I don’t know a whole lot about Scottish politics or the everyday priorities of the Scottish people. It seems to me that they voted in the SNP not because they want independence, but because they want effective representation in Westminster. It’s telling that the voice of non-public school, London-centric Britain now falls to a party that was, many years ago, considered marginal. I hope they reward their constituencies’ faith in them and not hijack issues for their own purposes.

#ge2015 live cross-stich via tom katsumi on twitter

It’ll be a very different Britain in the next 5 years. I want to be hopeful that Cameron & Co will do the right thing, but I’m more afraid that they will put the interest of their corporate buddies before that of the British people.

charts via independent

People have been talking about electoral reform. That the UK needs to move to proportional representation because how come the SNP had 1.4mil votes and got 56 seats, while the Greens got 1.1mil votes and only one (yay for Caroline Lucas, btw).

What alarms me is that, if we had PR, Ukip would have won 80+ seats. That’s scary. I grew up in a Tory stronghold (Chipping Barnet has returned a Conservative MP since 1974, when the constituency was created) and I have some empathy towards the Little England view of immigrants (despite the fact that I’m one such immigrant myself). I felt the change in Britain since I left. In the space of 2.5 years it does seem that we have been overwhelmed by newcomers. No one on the tube spoke English, no one selling us tea or coffee were native English speakers, house prices have gone through the roof with foreign investors and their buy-to-leave tactic. I get it. People who move to a new country must do so sympathetically and respectfully and there are people from certain countries that simply do not (it’s not just a UK problem, those people are everywhere in the world.)

The world is still reacting to #ge2015 results. Financial markets were up, and share prices for property related shares shot up with the news. Is that a good sign? Can economic recovery be sustained for the next 5 years? What about small businesses and taxpayers? Children and pensioners? Europe? I don’t have a good feeling, I think the country will become even more extreme as the wealth gap increases. I hope that Cameron means it when he says stuff like “one nation” because we need to be one country.

in in the news |


The obligatory CNY greeting. Year of the sheep this year. Woke up, hugged parents, got red packet from them, sent greetings to sis and mm, spent the day reading and watching tv. Had a chuckle to see the previews of the Great British Sewing Bee; I don’t think it’ll be as popular as Bake-off. Yes we had the non-vegetarian version of the traditional vegetarian dish 齋 for lunch accompanied by abalone and turnip cake but that was it.

in in the news |


Met with my FA, and remember why I’m so glad I don’t need to brave the traffic jam and huge crowds every day to go to and from work. The flipside of not working is, of course, the need for money to pay the bills. I don’t spend a lot, so it’s an easy request for her to make a small withdrawal from the account. Hopefully by the time I need the next withdrawal, the portfolio will have regained that amount…and more. We’re switching out of Europe into UK, and exiting Latin America. There’s some in Energy that has gone down, but we’re not panic selling.

The CNY decorations are up. The Landmark mall has a display with clouds and sheep and a big tree in the atrium. Not sure why clouds, but they look quite cute.

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.


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.


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 in the news , sports active |

I love cricket. Summer in the UK, in the days before internet and cable, was spent a) outside playing in the garden and b) sitting in front of the tv watching cricket. In those days there were only 3 tv channels and during cricket season, BBC2 showed the test matches all day. Cricket was a new sport to me then, but I had great teachers. Between the likes of Richie Benaud, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and a revolving chair of experienced commentators, I learned how the game worked, how to score, the terminology and strategy.

I never got the chance to play (aside from bowling a tennis ball at the garden wall occasionally) or to attend a game in person (the only time I made it to Lord’s was for Olympic archery) and I don’t follow the sport as much nowadays (cricket channel is an expensive add-on to my cable).

This week, the cricketing world was shattered by the news that Australian batsman Phil Hughes died after being hit at the side of his head by a bouncer. I don’t know why, I’m even more affected by this accident than normal. We read about tragedies all the time on the news and they are all extremely sad. This one came as such a shock that it’s hard to put my head around it. People don’t die playing cricket, and for this to happen to a 25 year old, world-class batsman, it’s so awful, so awful.

Around the world, people are paying tribute to Phil Hughes on twitter, instagram and social media by putting their bats outside. The images under the #putoutyourbats hashtag are fitting, dignified and very powerful. This is from former Australia captain Adam Gilchrist:

I don’t have a cricket bat (on this occasion, substituting a baseball bat is not appropriate) and I lost my cricket ball during the move back from London. So all I’ll do is pay my respects silently, and share on these images instead. This next one is from the New Zealand team:

Sincere condolences to the Hughes family, but the thoughts of every cricket fan and player are also with Sean Abbott, whose pitch hit Phil Hughes’ head. It was a freak accident, there was no fault.

in in the news |


This week marks one month since police threw 87 cannisters of tear gas at unarmed people who were fighting for something quite fundamental: a say in the way their city is governed. The background and development of how #occupycentral turned into #occupyhk and #umbrellarevolution have been well documented and analysed. Here are some personal thoughts, observations and pictures.

in in the news |

A potential diner rang a restaurant to order take-out, but the restaurant said they didn’t offer take-out, so the diner posted a poor review on yelp. The restaurant replied with a rather epic take-down. Read the eater article, it’s worth it.

Some restaurants offer take-out food, some don’t. Personally I won’t expect an upscale restaurant to, and if they don’t specify (or specifically say they don’t) I won’t expect them to change their policies for me. This is what the yelper did. Expected to be accommodated against the rules, and repeatedly tried to intimidate by saying that her husband was a lawyer. I suspect that if she had asked nicely, or asked about which menu item could possibly be boxed up, the restaurant would have considered her request.

I’m glad the restaurant wrote their reply, even though it was a little snarky. Far too often we see 1-star amazon reviews because the packaging was torn, or people with entitled attitudes thinking the world evolve around them. I remember asking a guy who brought his dog into my garage when I had a garage sale, and was met with snark. Every dog owner before him tied their dog outside before coming in, isn’t that common courtesy?

I don’t think I’ve ever left a review for anything. If I liked a restaurant I wouldn’t necessarily gush about it on yelp. What if their standards change or next time I go, I don’t enjoy it as much? I have been known to recommend Hawksmoor enthusiastically, by bringing friends there so they can experience it themselves. And if I didn’t like a restaurant, I just won’t go again. I tend to believe that if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.

in in the news |

I cleaned out some old folders recently and found this video I took of the Chicago Apple Store in 2011; Steve Jobs died three years ago today.

It’s also really nice of Tim Cook to email apple staff with a tribute.

It just occured to me, how similar the tributes around Apple Stores around the world 3 years ago are to the message walls scattered all around #occupycentral protest sites this week.

SteveJobs8 oclp073msgwall
flickr / image on left via user morgan schmorgan, image on right is mine

Simple, elegant, heart-felt. That’s the power of a small post-it note and a pen.

in in the news |

oclp003central oclp013admiralty

Day 5 of #occupycentral started slowly, with only a few people at the main sites in the morning — 30 reported at TST and a handful at admilralty. I walked down after lunch, turned out that my black t-shirt fit in with the unofficial protester dress code. The bottom of garden road was deserted, ironically also the road outside the BoC building with its national day banner. Walked up the flyover towards admiralty and the scene was different — people milling around the nornally busy road, student protesters sitting at the side of the road and impromptu gatherings giving anyone and everyone their 3-minutes to address the crowd.

oclp022angrysign oclp046draw
oclp072msgwall oclp142cardsign

Lots of signs, almost all of them handmade. People could just grab a piece of cardboard, a post-it note or a blank sheet of paper and write or draw whatever was on their minds. The signs were then displayed at various locations — along the side of the concrete flyover, on the pavement, at the side of a building. Some signs were by and in different languages too, it was moving to see. It was, like the #occupycentral movement itself, ad hoc and free of rules or pretentions.

in in the news |


Saw this sign in the middle of Montana of all places. Had to smile when I saw it, and immediately snapped a pic.

A recent guardian article about the perils of air travel devolved in the comments into small amounts of mud-slinging because the columnist talked about the

9/11 tragedy
and in an earlier version of the article said
simple math
The article, in the comments (ie not news) section, was serious enough. There had been 3 fatal incidents involving airplanes in the past week which may make people regularly travelling, or just about to travel, by air nervous. Basically the message was, it’s still safer to fly than drive and passengers are more likely to choke on one of the peanuts served on planes.

The ruckus from guardian commenters weren’t about the content of the article, the protest was against the americanisation of a British paper. One comment, perhaps in bad taste, asked
what’s the significance of the 9th of November?
to which another commenter answered
Remember, remember the 9th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

No wait… that’s not right.

Another commenter put their point across simply


I’ve been in the US about 1 month now, and it did take me a few days to get used to the, um, uniqueness that is America. The illogical way dates are written, the use of non-metric measurements in daily life, use of other words to describe the same thing (cart vs trolley, cookie vs biscuit etc). I still have to think after someone speaks and before I speak, which sometimes makes me seem like I’m not listening or slow.

At least I’m less petrified of tipping now, because I’ve adopted the practice of stop overthinking tipping and just put down 20 percent.

Anyway, apropos of nothing, via kottke is actor Siobhan Thompson demonstrating 17 different British and Irish accents.

in in the news |

festivalwalkblackrain01 festivalwalkblackrain02

So I’m at parents’ and just getting settled for the night after an early dinner. All of a sudden, it started pelting down with rain. We couldn’t get our windows closed quickly enough. Rain was quickly followed by thunder and what sounded like hail. It was completely dark outside with the rain like a ominous curtain. The thunderstorm and rain warning went from amber to red to black in just one hour.

So glad we were all indoors, mm pinged me that she was safely home, having gone gravesweeping with her family. She also told me about how the rooftop windows of a shopping centre nearby (my nearest apple store) got hit by either a column of rain or hail and there was water everywhere. Thanks to the power of social media, pictures are already all over twitter, instagram and facebook. Wow it looks like an indoor waterfall. When it rains here, it’s serious about rain. Welcome to the start of spring, finally!

in in the news , outside interests |


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 in the news , techtalk |


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 in the news |


Chicago is frozen and much of the UK is flooded. Here it’s been cold enough for 2 duvets and a fan heater. Today it’s almost t-shirt weather but I would still much rather be anywhere but here. I haven’t been outside since Friday, and I’m perfectly happy to stay indoors for days. I guess I don’t suffer from cabin fever a lot.

in in the news |


A lot of anticipation as the biggest storm of the year, the super typhoon usagi, approached. It did terrible damage to the Philippines and Taiwan, but when it arrived (an almost direct hit, passing only 100km from here) it was a giant let down. Waited the whole day for #8 storm signal to be raised, finally it got hoisted at 7pm. A little windier than usual but not much rain at all. I suppose I should be grateful but I was looking forward to a bout of heavy rain and bad weather. I’m strange that way.

in in the news |


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

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

right or wrong

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

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

under surveillance

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

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

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

not so angry

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

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

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

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

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

a different sort of anger #1

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

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

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

a different sort of anger #2

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

hong kong, china

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

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

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

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

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


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

in in the news |

It’s been a bad week. Boston bombing, Texas fertiliser plant fire, Lady Thatcher’s funeral. Been following the manhunt for the bombers on social media, on livefeeds, on newspaper sites. News travels fast, credit to the journalists who managed to report the right news. BBC timeline.

in in the news |


Spring is well and truly here. It’s been cloudy and showery all week. Too much pollution for the sun to come out for more than a few minutes at the time. I try to open the windows for a bit of circulation but there’s hardly any wind. The showers can get heavy, it’s awfully humid inside the flat and I have the dehumidifier working hard rotating between rooms. And I’m this close to turning the airconditioner on at night—I’ve had the living room one on for about half an hour when it got too hot and humid. The aircons in both rooms are new, so it’ll be breaking in new appliances.

in in the news |

Watched Lady Thatcher’s funeral service on BBC World News. A State funeral in all but name. Surprised at the American accent of her granddaughter who did the first reading. Glad that the Bishop of London and others who led the prayers stuck to simple and sombre subjects above politics. Found my hymn book and followed the hymns sang during the service—for a Catholic, both my bible and hymn book are CofE, from school days. (I wonder if I should get proper Catholic stuff, but it shouldn’t matter.) The final hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country was powerful and poignant.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are Peace.

There’s a picture of the family waiting on the steps of St Paul’s at the end, with the Queen at the background. Not very often that the Queen isn’t front and centre, and it felt right.

in about me , in the news |


I shouldn’t have been surprised at the polarising reaction to Lady Thatcher’s passing. From sadness to street parties, from tributes to glee, and even lack of recognition from the younger generation. I didn’t expect such strong emotions, so openly expressed on social media. She was the first PM I remembered, and I was the right age to be considered one of Thatcher’s children. Miner’s strike, Falklands, Big Bang, yuppies, poll tax—I lived through them all. I thought she did what she believed was right for Britain at that time; some of it worked and some of it didn’t.

Personally, I benefited from that time so my regard for her is, accordingly, positive. None of my family worked in any of the industries that were union-driven or eventually privatised. I got my first mortgage, like many others under the “home ownership” spell. I still have those BT shares. She even made it okay to study chemistry at uni. I know, I know. There are areas in the country that still haven’t recovered, she never supported equality for anyone, and her ethos of extreme capitalism led to the unregulated greed that caused financial crisis after financial crisis. Like I said, some good, some bad.

Her story, as well as reactions to her policies and her death, is, in part, one of class. And so with impeccable timing, last week the BBC featured an article on the Great British class calculator. Apparently the tradition demarcation of upper, middle and lower class doesn’t work anymore, and there’s now people fit into 7 classes depending on economic, social and cultural capital. Taking the calculator revealed that I’m in the technical middle class:

a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy

Which accurately describes how I take the bus to Waitrose, buy expensive wine then go back home to drink it all by myself. There’s a big section on cultural that asks questions like if you visit museums or listen to hip-hop music. Didn’t do very well there. Seems to me that this calculator tries to define classes less by birth and education factors but by, dare I say, more superficial and “American” values like whether you own a house or have a large number of friends on facebook. Oh, I’m not trying to pick on Americans, but at times she seems to like America much more than Britain. Hmm.

in in the news |

image from flickr user PhilCLogo

It’s officially spring, and it means it’s getting warmer and it’ll soon be humid as hell. The laundry is already taking far too long to dry. Time to run the dehumidifier for a few hours. It’s amazing to read how it works. Ah, just like the smell of freshly mowed grass, the sound equivalent is droplets of water dripping into the container as the dampness gets sucked inside the machine.


in in the news |


It’s the year of the snake. Hmm. It’s supposed to be an exciting year and it’s important not to keep secrets (cos snakes are all mysterious and suspicious and all). There’s also a possibility of great advancement in science and technology. LOL may be facebook comes out with more apps, or twitter stops getting hacked.

Snake years are supposed to enhance people who were born in the year of the snake. Both good and bad qualities. Watch out.

in in the news |


On the way back from running I bought a newspaper. A physical paper. Can’t remember the last time I did that, I tend to read online. So, what was in the paper? Politics, protests, lament at falling language skills, American football shared space with test match cricket. The magazine had an article by a reporter who tried 7 different diets on each day of a week — he lost 3.5kg (almost 8 pounds) but had zero energy and didn’t seem to enjoy any of it. There was also the listing of the week’s TV, which at the end of the day, was the most useful for me.

in in the news |


The first Tube journey took place150 years ago today. We complain about it, of course. Crowded, old carriages, constant delays, stifling hot in the summer. But its importance is illustrated by the facts: over 1.1million passengers made 1.1billion journeys per year. And the Jubilee Line held up during the Olympics, phew.


The iconic map was based on circuit diagrams, and designer Yuri Suzuki, as part of the Designers in Residence program at the Design Museum, made a working radio with circuits that look like the tube map. Very cool, very intricate.

in in the news |

It’s that time of year. This is google’s year in review: what the world searched for. Powerful stuff.


in in the news |


One of the happy things about being here is that I get to watch TAR again. I missed a few seasons, and yes I could have caught up on youtube but it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. This week they are in Moscow and it’s a thrilling episode. The teams are surprisingly split into 2 bunches with a good 10+ hours between them. There’s a team who has lost their passport. Teams who aren’t realising it’s a RAAAACE.

And a timezone task. Russia has 9 timezones, and the map they were shown showed Moscow at UTC+4, then other regions and cities. I was surprised at how many teams didn’t know what UTC means. I always thought it was GMT+1 but actually it’s still GMT, but using an atomic clock to measure which means a leap second added once in a while.

in in the news , sports active |

Watched the London 2012 Paralympics Games opening ceremony. It was on Channel 4, so there were differences between that coverage and the BBC’s for the Olympics. Some of the presenters were the same (Clare Balding, yay!) but overall it wasn’t as good, primarily because the commentary was poor and, ugh, there were ad breaks.

The theme of discovery and ideas was thoughtful and beautiful. Highlights for me were: Stephen Hawking’s words, Princess Anne waving her scarf and the countries represented by wild card athletes — the first country in the parade, Afghanistan and the single female athlete representing Syria. It’ll be a great next 10 days.

in in the news |


Locog are trying to get us more into the Olympics spirit. Additional Olympics tickets are being released. I guess they are the ones with low takeup or returned for resale, because they are all at the higher price categories. There are even opening and closing ceremony ones, so if I had a spare £1,600 or so I can go to the opening ceremony. Um, no thanks. There’s wrestling, weight-lifting, gymnastics, basketball and volleyball (regular and beach) as well as scads of football tickets. Even the diving final that we are going to, the top price tickets are available.

I could be patriotic and go to women’s football at Wembley to see Team GB play Brazil. Or volleyball at Earl’s Court — both men’s and women’s preliminary round matches involving Team GB are available. How about beach volleyball at Horse Guard’s, there are loads of sessions available. The venues are better for me, no need to trek all the way over to Stratford. Problem is that they are all category A or B tickets, do I want to see women’s football for £45 or beach volleyball for £50?

I think I will try to go watch the marathon though, support Paula and Mara and Claire in the women’s event. I’ll be in Provence for the men’s.

in in the news |

It was 30°C a couple of weeks ago, I had to go out to buy a fan. And now it’s June. It should not be so cold I want to turn the heating back on. It shouldn’t be gale force winds outside.

in arts and media , in the news |

I’ve been catching up on the jubilee festivities. The pageant on Saturday was a bit boring to watch on iPlayer, but I watched the jubilee concert on Sunday in its entirety. Super production, very moving, all the performers, comedians and 600 support staff. Shows the world how it’s done, and I think I’m like a lot of people trying to avoid saying something like “Gary Barlow did a good job, take that!”

This is Sing, written by Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Weber and performed by the Commonwealth band/choir and the Military Wives. All (?definitely most) of the performers are not professionals, but their voices are simply magical. Beautiful song, beautiful performance.

in in the news |

I wasn’t technically born British (slight complication with it being a British territory and not part of the UK proper) and didn’t acquire full citizenship till I was in my teens, but I’ve only known one Queen and she is celebrating her diamond jubilee. Setting aside the union jack plates, buntings and fairy liquids for sale, there is a real sense of pride and patriotism for someone who was never born to rule, but has done so with such dignity and poise for 60 years. God Save the Queen!

in in the news |



Spotted via bb, the Abbey Road live webcam. I live down the road from there, and I try to avoid that area especially when driving. It’s a residential area with no facilities for tourists and yet they keep coming.

Looking at some of the static screen grabs, the top one shows the classic 4 people crossing mode, just like the Beatles. The second one shows what it feels like for us locals, of hoards of tourists around trying to cross and recross the zebra crossing. Basically the stupid tourists stop traffic from moving along or congregate on the pavement not allowing pedestrians to walk. So annoying.

in in the news |

I only wear about 10-20% of all the clothes I own, I wear the same items of clothing all the time and the rest just sits in the closet. I did a mini clearout when I moved into this flat, but I think I should be more aggressive and downsize even more. And now M&S has come up with shwopping in partnership with Oxfam. Recycle old clothes while we buy new ones. Something to add to the weekend to-do list.

in in the news |

Claire Squires collapsed and sadly died during last Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon. She was only 30 years old, and this was her second marathon. She was running for the Samaritans and had raised around £500 for them. Since Sunday, donations on her donation page has surged and is now over £700,000. With giftaid and justgiving waiving their fee, the total donations will top £1 million.

Except for the first £500 donors, most of us who did put in a small amount didn’t know Ms Squires. I’m not a big fan of charity running, and I must admit I don’t give as much as I should to charitable causes. But her death has touched something very raw and emotional — she was a healthy young woman who should be alive today. As a marathoner, there is this fear at the back of our minds that it could happen to any of us, and just as suddenly.

There is so much sadness and tragedy in the world. When we read or watch the news, there is often a sense of helplessness. There is a want to do something, and I’m thinking this is why people have donated to her page. It was very easy, just a few clicks. There is also, at least for me, a sense of comfort, that it is through justgiving, and to the Samaritans, both reputable and trustworthy. If this huge donation can help the Samaritans provide more and better of their invaluable services, then there is something good that comes out of this tragedy.

in in the news |


Clocks changed last night; it’s 7.15pm and still just about light out. summer is here, wait till it’s 10pm and still light. Looking forward.

in in the news |

snow again

Snowed again last night. It was cute this morning, walking on fresh snow. A lot had melted during the day. Clear skies tonight, ugh. It feels really really cold. Cold do with some of those 5-min microwave jacket potatoes.

in in the news |


I was right, it snowed last night. Yes, it’s still piddly, and when I went to bed the chair on the balcony had about 2 inches of accumulation. Some of that melted overnight, and throughout the day, it seemed to turn slushy. I’m very relieved I didn’t have to go out. Now the snow has turned to ice, will have to be careful tomorrow.

in in the news |


Been following the bbc’s live coverage of #crash24 today, in which a team of bbc journalists have joined London ambulance paramedics to get an insight into a typical day on the city’s roads. The field journalists shadow a paramedic, and there is also coverage from the control room. An average day has around 100 casualties, the latest on the map shows 60 incidents.

It is a fascination that is a tad inappropriate, because it is intrusive, to be reading about someone getting hurt. But the way it’s been covered has been superb, as expected from the bbc. Very moving to read about the professionalism of the paramedics, how they manage to negotiate London’s roads at high speeds (up to 100mph) in order to reach an incident within minutes. They patrol the streets rather than sitting around at the station. Many casualties are treated straight at roadside, so not all cases need to be taken to hospital. There’s been lots of fender benders, all sorts of pedestrian vs car incidents and way, way too many bike accidents that reaffirms my resolve not to cycle in London. Just last half hour the report has shifted to a serious pile-up on the M4.

Debabani Majumdar, one of the journalists shadowing the paramedics wrote,

It was an exciting as well as a humbling experience. The sound of the sirens and the rush of adrenalin as we sped through the capital is indescribable. It was humbling because we were racing against time to reach somebody who has been in an accident and the paramedic doesn’t know the exact condition of the patient until he reaches him or her. In addition to their medical training, they need presence of mind to calm agitated victims, at times explaining why their case is not treated as a priority, and try to forge a road through the solid wall of traffic during the rush hour.

All I can do is tip my hat at the paramedics and thank them from the bottom of my heart at the great job they do day in day out. People take them for granted, but the service they provide to the public is priceless. I hope I never have to use them ever, but I know that if I do, then I’ll be in good hands.

in in the news |

I’m not hindu, but I’m still fascinated by all the colours of diwali which literally means, festival of lights.

in being healthy , in the news |


The obsession began a week or so ago, but every Chicagoan knows that it’s pointless to try to predict the weather here. But less then 36hrs from the start, I think I can officially start obsessing.

It’s been hot the past week, so it’s no surprise that the forecast is warm but not extreme. Probably better early in the day than last year, and then it will get hot towards the end. Another reason to work on speed next year rather than marathon distance races. The article, and the people on the rw forum say,

this is nothing drastically different than what they’ve been running in all summer and what they’ve been training in

Sigh. Except that some of us have been training during a


summer that is coldest in 13 years.

in going places , in the news |

youtube link:

So Britain is basking in the glorious sunshine of an indian summer with temperatures predicted to reach 29°C over the weekend. And what will I be doing over the weekend? Flying to Chicago, where it is currently raining and grotty. I’m looking forward to it very much though, to see my friends. Oh, and that wee 26.2mile race Sunday week.

in being healthy , in the news |

Hurry Home
pic courtesy flickr user LaN_Luis

Should have known. Took a train forever to arrive, we were told there was a signal failure at baker street. Then at farringdon it was “all change please” and no prospect of continuing the journey westbound. What I should have done: walked to chancery lane or holborn, caught the central line. What I ended up doing: walked all the way home. I don’t believe in recording anything but runs on the nike+ but I thought it’d be informative: 7km+ 1hr 20mins 11.27min/km.

Lots of tube delays lately. How will they cope next year?

in in the news |


ARGH!! It’s the end of August already. It’s been the coolest summer for 18 years. There were only a few days when I missed air-conditioning. Today I starting contemplating turning the heating on at night. Not fair, not fair.

in in the news |


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that anything bad can be cured by a cup of tea. It is something so uniquely British, and now through the operationcupoftea movement — hashtag on twitter and facebook page, ordinary people are making a cuppa to show that the rioters won’t win.

Nothing brings out the community spirit than a crisis. The other top trending topic has been riotcleanup. Looking at the picture of broom-wielding volunteers who turned out to help clean up affected areas, how can anyone lament the decline of society? It’s not society that has declined, but rather the standard of behaviour of certain sections of the populace.

I’m also glad that there are so many CCTVs around. Yes, there have been complaints but without CCTV there won’t be so many pictures of looters for the Met to post in public for identification. I say post these pics, as large and as widespread as possible. Let them be identified, arrested and made to pay. 700+ arrested, 100+ charged. Already I’m reading that they are using the “I was just going along with everyone else, I wasn’t thinking” defence. What crock.

in in the news |


I’ll be honest, when I heard news of the riots on Saturday, I was appalled but didn’t feel personally affected. No one would have expected what happened last night, when it seemed the whole of London was under attack. I was about to go to bed at 11pm when I caught the initial reports of trouble at Croydon, Clapham and Ealing. Areas completely unrelated to Tottenham, and pretty normal residential areas that one won’t associate with this type of violence.

And then it started. I followed on bbc but it was twitter that had the most up to date and scary updates. I watched and listened in horror as flashpoint after flashpoint erupted, buildings were set on fire and people and journalists started telling the night’s story. There was trouble at Notting Hill, and hoodies were reported to be moving north from Camden through Kentish Town towards Hampstead. Too close to home. Logically they shouldn’t come through this area, they seem to be intent on stealing and causing damage to shops that had TVs, mobile phones, sports equipment and money. There was a bad joke going round that a bookstore or jobcentre were the safest hiding places. But barbarians do not follow logic.

It was surreal and horrific. When it seemed to quiet down at 2am, I finally went to bed but not before calling my parents and mm to report that I was okay.

Perhaps the initial disturbance was about the man who was shot, but the subsequent events were simply that of criminals who stole, robbed and had no regard for the law, people or property. Hundreds arrested, and I hope the police get them all. Cameron said rightly,

if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishment

This is the guardian’s map of affected area as of lunchtime today. I’m precariously near to a couple of those spots. 16,000 police officers will be deployed tonight. It will be tense night here in central London.

in in the news |

It’s August and finally the hot weather is here. Apparently london is hotter than malibu this week, topping 30°C, plus thunderstorms. Luckily, not too humid. Unluckily, it’s damn hot at home because of no air-conditioning.

in eating and drinking , family first , in the news |


Met Sis’ friend C and his partner for dinner at Strada. Pretty okay food, nothing special. The best was the garlic pizza bread starter. I had risotto. First time I’ve met them together (can’t remember C that well), but we had a great time and good conversation.

In other news, after a week of outlandish and outrageous revelations, the announcement came in the afternoon that the news of the world will close after sunday. I’ve been following the story all week, and I can truly say good riddance. There are no words to describe what they did, the invasion of privacy of ordinary folks at their most vulnerable is just…inhuman.

in in the news , objects of desire |


We’re definitely going to the Olympics next year. I checked my account yesterday and money has been deducted. Excluding the 4x£995 Opening Ceremony tickets (which were a punt anyway), I got about 25% of what I applied for. I can’t tell exactly which sessions but worst case is we’re going to 3 events; we may have up to 5-6. Fingers crossed we get something good.

Considering that 250,000 people didn’t get a single ticket they applied for, I think I’m pretty lucky. I understand why locog did it this way, but I can’t help the feeling that we the public are being cheated somehow.

  • no indication of how many tickets are really available in each price bracket
  • they take money from me but I have to wait 3 weeks to know which sessions
  • money taken over 1 year in advance, think of the interest earned
  • most people who got tickets are for the less popular events, so who really got tickets to the best events
  • people in Germany or US or other countries didn’t have to go through this painful process

in in the news , money business |


Despite actions to the contrary, with inflation at a record breaking 4.5%, astronomical taxes, killer housing costs and a net take home that feels like it’s been halved (I dare not do the analysis lest it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy), I can only tolerate so much. I know I’m already very lucky, that my complaints boil down to how much less I’m saving and not that I can’t afford to buy food. Still am unhappy about this. And don’t start about work. In my mind I have dates and plans, preliminary at this point.

in in the news |


I loosely follow cycling, if I see it on TV I’d watch it a bit. I was very saddened to read about the horrific accident that claimed the life of Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt. I can’t help but cry at watching his teammates and friends lead the peloton in a tribute on the neutralised stage 4 of the race. Each of the 23 teams took turns leading the peloton, and his team Leopard Trek the last 6km to the finish line, together with his best friend Tyler Farrar. Not many videos yet on youtube because of copyright, but this picture tells the story already. To see the sombre faces of the racers, the dignified way they paid tribute to their colleague, and to read that his team Leopard Trek has pulled out of the race. Very very sad.

in in the news |


I haven’t been following the debate on alternative vote as closely as I should have so no, I didn’t vote. I’m so used to living in countries where I can’t vote that I was surprised to receive my poll card a few weeks ago. I put myself on the electoral register for the purposes of getting a parking permit (in case I wanted to buy a car), certainly not for political reasons.

in in the news |


This was the moment when the royal couple stepped out from Westminster Abbey. Confetti showered us at Hyde Park as we watched on the big screen. Yes, I woke up early enough to make my way there, got there at 9.30am, bought a roast pork bap for breakfast and found a spot with a view to one of the screens. It was moving, watching as the guests arrive at the abbey, the wedding parties departing from Clarence House and Buckingham Palace, the extended royal family in the very non-traditional minibuses and of course the bride and groom themselves. A big cheer when Kate stepped out into the waiting car and the world saw her dress for the first time.

Impeccable service, we belted out Jerusalem and God Save the Queen, or at least most of the 100,000+ crowd did. There were union jacks galore and a cheer for the royal couple and the Queen every time they appeared on screen. Kate’s dress was perfect, in fact all the guests’ suits and dresses were amazing.

It was at the moment when they were in the state landau making their dignified way back to Buckingham Palace, and accompanied by all the guards in their full regalia, that I realised, for the first time since I moved back, how glad I was to be in London. I didn’t stay after the service ended, walked up Edgware Road (which was very, very quiet), quickly went to Tesco, hopped on a bus and was home in time to see the royal kisses. Watching the crowd march with such calmness up the Mall to fill up the space outside Buckingham Palace, or learning that the bells of the abbey were to ring for a full 3 hrs, I was a little regretful that I didn’t go to St James’ Park or Trafalgar Square instead, but oh well.

One of the top trending topics today on twitter is #proudtobebritish. I’m naturalised, but that’s not unusual; it’s not such a big deal here. Today is William and Kate’s day, the Royal Family’s day and Britain’s day. It is a day to say to the world that I’m proud to be British.

in in the news |


Everyone is gearing up for the royal wedding on Friday. While it’s true that much of the frenzy is probably whipped up by the media, no one I know here in the UK is complaining because this will be our second consecutive four day weekend. So, may as well show our appreciation by joining in the festivities. I’m still undecided, if the weather is okay, I might brave the 200,000 crazies expected at Hyde Park.

in in the news , objects of desire |


Submitted my application for the 2012 olympics. Only 20 sessions allowed per application so I chose the ones that mm, sis, my niece and I were interested in. And then planning where to go each day. Ended up with quite a diverse selection — diving, table tennis, badminton, taekwondo, swimming, gymnastics, athletics, cycling, fencing. I have no idea if I’ll get all the tickets I applied for. Heh, if I did, I’d have to make sure I have an astronomical amount of money in my account.

in in the news |

I had thought about going out to watch the marathon but at the end I didn’t feel like fighting with the crowds. Looking from this video I could have staked a spot along the Embankment and gotten a good view. Ah well. It was a hot day, and the Kenyans dominated. A good day for the sport. Congratulations to David Weir, Mary Keitany, Emmanual Mutai.

in in the news |


Tomorrow when I log into my PC at work, I won’t be bringing up the NY Times homepage anymore because tomorrow is the day when the NYT goes behind a paywall. I know I get 20 free articles a month, but that’s nowhere near enough, so I may as well not tempt myself.

To read more than 20 articles, I’d have to pay. I understand their dilemma, they need revenue. The problem, as has been pointed out by many, is that it’s too expensive, and the pricing structure is too complicated. $15 for 4 weeks (not a month) for basic access, and then there are the different prices depending on hardware. I’ve never heard of anything so…weird. Imagine TV programs or netflix subscriptions that are charged depending on the size of your TV set. Sounds underhand, and not something the esteemed Times will stoop to.

But they have. The fact is, they are way overcharging, as this chart by the understatement shows. Yes, there are many workarounds, and I’m sure there will be even more. I don’t want to cheat them out of revenue, but I don’t think their pricing is fair. So instead of using a workaround, I’ll simply not bother.

I’m not sure this development will be successful. The argument that the WSJ and FT are both behind paywalls and they get many subscribers doesn’t hold that much water. Those are distinctive newspapers, serving a particular market. I bet a lot of those subscriptions are paid by corporate, not individuals. I don’t know if the UK Times paywall lost readers, I know for sure that I don’t visit timesonline.

Truth is, if the NYT charged $5 a month (not 4 weeks, please, that is underhand) for across the board digital access, I’ll be more than happy to pay. As it is now, from tomorrow, I’ll be getting my news from cnn, bbc, the Indy, LA Times and many other sources, because news is just news, you can get it anywhere. I will miss the health, technology and opinion sections. And most of all, comments. I wonder if they will see a dramatic decrease in number of comments. In a way I hope so, so they realise how many readers they’ve lost.

in in the news |

video link:

My lights were off for earth hour, were yours?

in in the news |


How embarrassing. On the day that 2012 Olympics tickets go on sale online, there’s a glitch with visa purchases (only visa is accepted). And to add insult to injury, the official countdown clock stops working only hour after it goes live.

That said, I was able to login tonight and start applying for sessions. So far I’ve got:

  • opening ceremony
  • beach volleyball
  • diving
  • athletics
  • cycling
  • handball
  • swimming

and I’m still going through the calendar. Maximum possible ticket cost so far is £6,000, but I doubt I’ll get allocated all the tickets I applied for.

in in the news |


Caving and climbing, that’s 2 activities I’d fantasised about doing, but will probably never manage to. So great to see the national geographic feature on Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, recently found and explored.

in in the news |

youtube link:

In the absence of decent tv and most importantly, all my favourite reality tv programs, I’m left with watching police chase programs. One of the good ones is road wars, which follows officers on drug raids and car chases.

The topic of police chases reminds me of the NYT article over the Christmas period. A matter-of-fact description of a bad decision. That the only consequence that time was of fines and time spent when it could have been worse. That some of the comments implied that the offender had no choice is alarming. Too many stories of drink driving, and now driving while texting, why do people still do it?

in in the news |

Widespread delays and chaos all over the country. Heathrow is suffering, only a maximum of 1/3 normal service due to run till Wednesday with more bad weather expected. I really need LHR to clear up, mm is arriving on Saturday and I do not want her to spend Christmas Day not able to get on the plane or stranded at a European airport.

in in the news |


With all the furore about tuition fees and now the NHS, I just realised this: when we left in 1995 John Major was Prime Minister. Now I’m back in 2010, David Cameron just got elected. This means I missed all the Labour years. I don’t have any opinion on that, it’s just a fact.

in in the news |

cbs news had a report on school lunches in France and how good they are. It’s a great report, and highlights the biggest difference between the US (and to a certain extent, UK) and France: attitude towards food. Food as nutrition source or a source of enjoyment? Oh, I’d so eat those deep fried broccoli.

in in the news |


I got this postcard in my mailbox. Normally I’d be suspicious but my sis had actually ordered something for my niece to be delivered to me, so I was expecting a package. I called the number on the front and was put on hold for a long time, but I held on. Then when I was finally connected the operator started telling me that I was selected to receive a global vacation package. There were 3 options, but I wasn’t listening at that point. I’d figured it was a timeshare type scam. When she finished her speech she said that to start with she will need to ask me some questions. The first was “are you single or married?” To which I answered “No thank you” and she hung up. I should have kept her talking.

Quick googling led me to several places that tells me that it was, as I thought, scam. Now I’m worried that they have my name, address and phone. At least it was the office phone. I reported the incident to the BBB. Be on the alert, people.

in in the news |

I was too busy with gcls pics and watching top chef that I missed the fact that there was a hockey game. Then there were fireworks, and I only made the connection later.

in in the news |

video link:

I was following the nyt liveblog of the US Senate hearing on Goldman Sachs during the day. The bank is clearly on the defensive, and the senate committee members’ questions were smart and to the point. I’m thinking the headlines around the world tomorrow will focus on how GS was unrepentant and their statement that they didn’t cause the financial crisis.

My view of this is different from that of most people and, in this climate, probably considered politically incorrect and arrogant. No, GS didn’t cause the financial crisis. Nor Lehman or Bear or Citi or ML or AIG. Nobody could have predicted how bad and how long this crisis has lasted. The media portrays i-bankers as unethical and greedy. I’m not necessarily defending them, but there are certain aspects of the financial services industry that are unique. The pace and complexities. The unpredictability of the market. Comp structures.

Some of the comments in today’s hearing focused on how the bank sold derivatives that they were themselves short on. Um, that’s hedging. That’s how it works. Should those products have even been created in the first place? That’s the real question.

in in the news |

The weather has gotten steadily worse since afternoon. Very windy. Heavy rain. Thunderstorm brewing. Gonna be cold too. Grrr, I’m hoping the rain and wind goes away overnight.

Race tomorrow at 8am. Any cancellation will be on the day, not in advance. Unless there’s a tornado, I’m determined to participate. Just a little planning with gear and i’ll should be okay. Feeling a little hardcore here, heehee.

in being healthy , in the news | | comments (1)

This is the title of a thread on the runner’s world forum.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The Associated Press

FREDERICK, Md. — A driver who fatally struck a jogger from Zelienople who was running in the road near Emmitsburg has been fined $500 under a plea agreement.

Twenty-nine-year-old Joshua Cool pleaded guilty Monday in Frederick to failing to exercise care to avoid a pedestrian. In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of negligent driving and other offenses.

Mr. Cool was charged in the death last April of 22-year-old Elizabeth DiNunzio. She was a Spanish major at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg.

Defense attorney Kate English says her client was devastated by the accident.

Mr. Cool’s parents were fined $200 each earlier this month for letting their son drive the uninsured pickup truck that hit DiNunzio.

I don’t know the circumstances of this case. On the thread there are opposing thoughts — that the punishment was not severe enough vs it was an accident. There’s some information that suggest to me that the driver did indeed get away with it. Although he wasn’t drunk or anything like that, he was driving a truck that he wasn’t covered in the insurance. In fact, he was specifically excluded in the policy. It also matters to me whether he showed remorse, and what, if anything, he will do to show he has learned his lesson. From some of the comments, it seems that he hasn’t. So, yes, I’m going to condemn this person and wish that he suffers from the thought of having killed an innocent 22-year old all his life.

In memory of Ms DiNunzio, there’s going to be a 5k run /1 mile walk at Zelienople PA on 24 April. If it didn’t take 8 hours to drive there, I’d go there in a minute. I started my running career on the road. Now I run by the lake, but I have to run on the street and across a couple of main roads to get there. Traffic is thick. Cars come out of alleys and make turns with very little regard for pedestrians. I’m ramping up this year, this is important to me.

in in the news |

Yesterday I didn’t even need a coat, I was just in my sweatshirt. This morning, I woke up to…snow and wind. It snowed steadily all day, sometimes horizontally. There’s now about half an inch of accumulation on my balcony. Concrete surfaces like pavement and road are clear though.

It’s the shamrock shuffle tomorrow. It’s not gonna be pleasant.

in in the news |

Mixed in with the thousands of articles in my greader is news that google has bought picnik. Heh, this feels like writely 2.0, yet another hidden gem that’s been snapped up by the google monster. I hope they keep what’s good about picnik, how easy it is to use, how convenient. It’s no match for full blown photoshop (although it may be a competitor, I don’t know I don’t use, for quick edits I prefer it.

in in the news |

Parts of the East Coast got hammered with 2-3 feet of snow in what the President called snowmageddon. Airports are closed, state of emergencies declared and the brave citizens hunkered down.

Between that, and the record blizzards over in London, I think we’ve fared pretty well in Chicago this winter. If I wake up early enough tomorrow, I’ll probably go skiing.

in in the news |

It’s supposed to be groundhog day. Aside from the film of the same name, I have no clue what it means. Something about winter and predictions and shadow seeing? Googling hasn’t really helped. Apparently we may or may not be getting 6 more weeks of winter. What kind of prediction is that?

in in the news |


Today JD Salinger’s wikipedia entry was briefly changed. Fitting in its austerity. [via toc]

in in the news |

Lots of coverage in the UK about the Edlington brothers who were jailed for the torture of two young boys. The two were 10 and 12 when they committed the horrific, sadistic attacks on 2 boys, aged 9 and 11, who were just out riding their bikes on a saturday morning.

There has been a media blackout on the brothers’ names, Edlington is the town near Doncaster where it happened. Unlike Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, their names will not remain in the halls of infamy forever. Although their notoriety will. I couldn’t believe it when I read that they

beat, strangled and sexually degraded their victims, before putting a plastic sheet over them and setting it on fire. It was only tiredness that caused them to abandon their victims, they presumed, to die.

Fingers have been furiously pointing since the case came to light. Social Services admitted that the attacks could have been preventable and I’m sure there will be people fired for lack of action. The Times talked about the irresponsible society in Britain, I dread to read what the Mail or Mirror have to say about the issue — no doubt something indignant and sensational, I shan’t be tempted to go to their websites.

Rightly so IMO, is that the spotlight has been placed on the parents. “Toxic” family life has been used to the point of overuse. I believe the spotlight should remain on them. No matter how badly the government and local authorities failed, ultimately it’s the PARENTS who are responsible for the actions of children of that age. They did issue a statement saying how sorry and upset they were, but I just can’t help but feel they will try to shift the blame to someone, anyone, else. I’m glad to read that they may be prosecuted and hope that they too are punished. I find that my anger at the parents far, far exceed how I feel about the brothers. I’m sure, like everyone else in the UK, I want to just ask them, “How could you?”

Related to this news is a brilliant, in-depth article in the Independent about Britain’s child prisons, where the brothers will be detained (in separate facilities). A very lengthy article that I read with interest, about how life looks like for children who commit crimes but are too young to even be classified as ‘young offenders’. How because of their age, and over 90% have suffered some sort of abuse, it’s not a matter of all punishment all the time, but that they may be rehabilitated, educated, and given structure in their lives.
These children are taken away from disrupted backgrounds, with no boundaries, and dangerous adults, and are put somewhere where they are safe, fed and housed and told No by people who understand how to set limits. It’s tough love. It’s a great skill, creating an experience that approximates to a proper family life.

Sober reading, but there is some level of hope. Oh, and I can’t believe that an issue of this magnitude of importance has received zero coverage here. I know Haiti takes precedence, but I couldn’t even find the story when I navigate to the Europe section of the big broadsheets — NYT, LAT, Washington Post, Trib. Shame, shame.

in in the news , money business |

So google is getting out of China, and most publications in the English speaking world are hailing GOOG’s ethical and principled stance against cyber attacks, censorship and even human rights.

While I think a certain amount of (admittedly western) moralistic approach was behind the decision, I do not for one moment believe it’s the main reason. If any, I’m willing to bet it ranks may be within the top 10 reasons, and that’s it. Who is google to think that they can influence an entire government? If they want to operate in a country, they need to obey the laws of that country.

The main reason has to be business driven. That google is losing market share to baidu is very significant. First, baidu is associated with the mainland government, so there is validation in the eyes of the population. Second, if I get blank screens or crap results every time I search, I’d eventually stop using that search engine — much like how microsoft and yahoo bled search market share to google.

Lots of commentators say that it’s China’s loss, that it’s the start of the road to oblivion. How wrong, arrogant, and presumptious they are. Sarah Lacy at techcrunch said it best:

We tend to have the view that China is some copycat Internet backwater, and that’s just not true. China has formidable engineering talent, plenty of venture capital, the world’s largest Internet audience, and in many cases better methods of monetization

There is perception that China is still some backwards third world country where people use ricksaws to move around and eat rice with their hands. I shake my head at that ignorance. Google (heh, ironic) any image of Shanghai, or Beijing, or any of the Pearl River delta cities and you’ll see luxury cars, brand name products and a general prosperity that surpasses any city in the world.

Compare China with America and what is the most striking commonality? Sheer size. In terms of geography and population. Dominated by large cities situated at coastal regions (something that Russia can’t compare). Which means…single market. Why is it that American products are so different from the rest of the world? It’s because it’s enough for them to develop in their home market and make good profits. This is why the American mobile and internet market lags behind, American cars are poorly designed and American domestic flights are no better than torture. American consumers don’t know better, and there are enough of them who utilise mobile and internet, drive cars and fly on planes to pad the bottom lines of American businesses.

I’m not trying to slag off American business. My point is that in a similar way, China’s single market is in the same position. There is such a vast pool of people wanting to move up to middle class through consumption that Chinese businesses don’t have to worry about the rest of the world if they don’t want to.

And that is one of the scary things keeping CEOs of non-Chinese companies up at night.

in in the news |

The New York Times had an interesting article today about, yet again, a Brit’s impression of Americans. Ultimately, I agree with the author, that Americans are polite though personally I find them overly friendly. And the reason for the loud American phenomenon:

Americans have no fear of being overheard. Civic life in Britain is predicated on the idea that everyone just about conceals his loathing of everyone else.

Ah, so true, so true! It’s a glass half full vs glass half empty scenario. In America, everyone is assumed to be nice; in Britain, other people’s presence are merely tolerated. So much irony.
Talking about irony, I totally laughed at this:
A couple of years ago a survey indicated that British Muslims were the most fed-up of any in Europe: a sign, paradoxically, of profound assimilation.

in in the news |

Around the office today were copies of a memory book produced in honour of the 69 staff who were lost. That was a significant % of total US staff at that time, when they were based at 92/F on Tower 1. It’s a beautiful book, with tributes from family and colleagues. It’s an event still remembered, and the financial services industry was hit hard.

in in the news |

Originally I’d wanted to go to the grant park music festival because a) I’ve never been; b) it’s free; c) it’s outdoors but mostly d) it’s Rach 3! But this morning there was a huge thunderstorm, I went out to the drugstore (1 block) and got completely soaked even with an umbrella. So no, I didn’t go to the concert.


in in the news |

I’m guilty too. Over the last 20 years I have forgotten, and become uncaring.

I was still young, but old enough to take to the streets when it happened. There was a big gathering on Gerrard Street, then a march up Regents Street. I was near the front, and when we reached Oxford Circus, the end was still filling up Piccadilly Circus, there were that many people.

I have pictures, they’re up at home. I can’t post them anyway cos I don’t have a scanner. But it’s all coming back to me now, and I have to remember.

in arts and media , in the news |

The concept of extreme opinionated news reporting baffles me. News, by definition, should be neutral. Now of course people can’t help but to have views. But, shouting? We have people screaming on ads — I can’t put these on mute fast enough, otherwise my ears will burst — and i don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the shouting and dramatics on American news shows.

Anyway, this is the astute Charlie Brooker on the difference between US and UK news.

Sigh. Americans [/Giles]

in in the news |

The big news today was the resignation letter from an AIG senior executive. Why the letter was made public is another matter. I have my thoughts on the whole AIG bonus issue, which is probably different from the popular sentiment, but as I don’t know all the details, I’ll refrain from going into it now.

in in the news |

This is one of those moments in history where you have to remember where you were when it happened. I watched the Inauguration of President Obama at work. Corp Communications have a TV, usually it’s on mute but people started gathering around it around 10.30am (CET) and the numbers grew, watching the ceremony.

in arts and media , in the news |

Tony Hart has died. It’s probably difficult for Americans and younger people to comprehend how utterly devastating this news is for me. I feel like Mr Hart watched me grow up, with programs like Vision On and Take Hart taking prime place in my childhood viewing schedule. I’ve never been able to draw, but watching him was inspiring enough. There’s a longer bbc tribute, but embedding has been disabled. Watch that video in addition to this ITN news item, if you have any love for children, art and fun.

in in the news |

Of course there is the thought every time I get on a plane, that it could be my last. I can’t imagine how flight crews deal with this fear. I watch and read the news of the heroic landing of flight 1549 in New York, I can’t watch the eerily silentcoast guard footage of the landing and rescue more than once. The pov switching from the plane, where the passengers were out on the wings already, and the ferry rushing towards it, was more intense than any movie. It seemed to take forever.

The BBC’s report, together with a realistic flight simulation is just as moving.

in in the news , my inner science geek |

I’m still obsessed with the cold weather. I want to go outside and throw a container of hot water into the cold and watch it freeze instantaneously.

in in the news |


So I look out this morning to this view. Nice, eh?

It’s been like this all day:


in eating and drinking , in the news |

squirrel crisps

I’ve eaten snake, ostrich, crocodile, kangaroo and I’m not afraid of trying new food. i’d like to try south american guinea pig only if they would cut it up though. Lately, there seems to be a new meat, which surprises me a bit, because i’d never thought about eating squirrel. Yes, squirrel.

Thinking about it, it makes sense. It’s just another gamey meat isn’t it. I imagine it’s a little like rabbit, or probably a dark meat version of rabbit. Though it’s kinda small, and according to the NYT, quite fiddly.

One might think that because of easy availability, squirrel would be the perfect meal-stretcher for these economically challenged times, but it takes a lot of work to get the meat off even the plumpest squirrel

The latest squirrel-y craze? Walkers just brought out cajun squirrel crisps.

in in the news , photography is life |
smiley sky

This was earlier this month, via sfgate. That’s Venus on the left, Jupiter on the right, and the crescent moon at the bottom making for a smiley face sky.

in in the news |

I stand here today and say shame to both the current as well as the former Directors who allowed this former CEO to wreak havoc on this great company. Shame on them for allowing this former CEO to consciously and openly disparage Mother Merrill, throw our founding principles down a flight of stairs and tear out the soul of the firm.

Shame on these Directors for allowing this former CEO to rid the firm of thousands of years of experience. Shame of them for allowing this former CEO to surround himself with many people who did not have the perspective of other market cycles and the experience of time. Shame for allowing this CEO to surround himself with many people who did not share the same values that made us great and appreciate our winning culture. Shame on them for allowing this CEO to cut costs and businesses so severely and bluntly for the sake of short term earnings that he cut out future growth. Shame on them for allowing him to over leverage the firm and fill the balance sheet with toxic waste to create short term earnings.

Win Smith’s speech at the shareholders’ meeting that gave the go ahead for MER to merge with BoA, via here is the city.

Ouch, ouch, ouch. And a side of bitter much. He doesn’t name names but it’s obvious enough. To give him credit, it’s not sentiment that is new…he’s just put in words what many feel. And to take it away from it being a total personal attack, substitute Merrill with any Wall Street firm and it’s still true.

And that is the real shame.

in in the news |

world aids day 2008

Every 1 December is World Aids Day and today it’s the more poignant because it’s the 20th anniversary of the campaign. The theme for 2008 is lead, empower, deliver and certainly there is still not enough awareness and education.

It’s sad, that even after so long that we still can’t be rid of the threat of AIDS. According to UNAIDS, an estimated 33million people were living with AIDS as of 2007 (the last full year of data available) although the rate of infection has decreased since 2001 from 3million to 2.7million. Still, unacceptably high numbers. Download the 2008 reports, they make grim reading.


in in the news |

…that’s between 7 to 10 times used in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, as The Atlantis, on the man-made Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, launched yesterday. More than 2000 guests attended the party, Kylie sang, lobsters were consumed, and the UAE showed that despite the global economic crisis, excesses still abound in certain echelons of society.

in arts and media , in the news |

omg, i’m getting this giant totally inappropriate crush on Rachel Maddow. She’s so smart. She’s on twitter. She cares about technorati searches. Yet she claims to be just a normal person. Here she is interviewing John Hodgman, another crushworthy guy — he’s “PC” on the mac vs pc ads (I know, I know, Justin Long has the better hair but John is a cutie). Mr Hodgman has a new book out on fake trivia and he’s guest blogging on boing boing. All round coolness.

Back to Dr Maddow. She’s got huge attention as her new msnbc show is doing great in ratings. A whole slew of articles on her: new york times magazine AND arts section, washington post, la times and time magazine, too many to list.

in esoteric meditations , in the news |

Just as well that I’m in the US. Like millions of people I caught Sarah Palin on SNL. I thought it might be funnier, I guess the “Tina Fey does kickass Sarah Palin” is getting old. Amy Poehler was great though.

I learned that people are already able to do early voting. Hopefully most people have made up their minds on who they’d vote for. I’m not American, but if I could vote — yes, I know who I’d vote for. I’m finding that there is a lot of intense, powerful opinion for or against either Obama or McCain, much more emotional than I’d ever experienced with a general election. I was staying with my friend’s family over the weekend and they are extremely staunch supporter of one of the candidates. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and feelings, and I respect it very much. Which is why I listened intently and with a lot of interest, it’s not my place to agree or disagree; and I’m not as well informed to be able to have a meaningful discussion.

in in the news , money business |


The headlines: Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; Merrill Is Sold.

It wasn’t unexpected. After all, we’ve had Bear Stearns and a bunch of US financial institutions fail. We’ve seen share prices for banks plummet. We’ve seen CEOs ousted, massive write-downs by otherwise safe financial institutions (UBS, Citi) and a very jittery industry trying to just survive through 2008.

The consumerist quoted this from bloomberg:

“We are unwinding what has been years of silliness in the financial markets, and the silliness is being vaporized as we speak, unfortunately with the stock price of a number of companies involved in it.’”

Notice no one is laughing at the silliness of it all?

Still came as a shock, for news on both Lehman’s bankruptcy and Merrill’s sale to BoA to hit in the same day. It’s no secret that I work in a financial institution though I’d prefer not to say where. This hits home big time and yes, I am personally affected by this (though, fingers crossed, not my job).

mer 1 yr

The blame game has already started. But for me, hoping that those who created, sold and mismanaged these toxic instruments will get their comeuppance is simply not realistic. For every million-dollar producer there are 10, 20, 30 back office staff — the IT technician who set up his 15 bloomberg screens, the settlements officer who cleared his trades, the payroll administrator who processed his salary. It’s the same junior employees, back office staff, innocent customers and beleaguered homeowners who will end up paying with their jobs, their mortgages and their lives, all without a fat bank account to break their fall. What justice is that?

in in the news |

I’m fascinated by the current round of American presidential nomination drama. I didn’t see Senator Obama speech but I’m sure I can find it on youtube. And now Governor Palin’s nomination as VP candidate, and her announcement that her daughter is pregnant.

I’ve been reading the newspapers all day, and can’t get enough of readers comments. On the New York Times the consensus seems to take the form of a collective disbelief that the Republicans want to force people to behave in the judgmental, morally superior way they think of themselves, and then on the other hand have their poster child du jour behave in the complete opposite way.

I also like the LA Times’s columnist who said

The point is that the Palins were able to make all these decisions according to the dictates of their own consciences, formed by their own religious convictions, within the privacy of their own family and according to its values and traditions. What they decided is nobody’s business but theirs; the fact that they were free to arrive at their own decision is everybody’s business.

The particular brand of social conservatism in which Sarah Palin quite evidently believes deeply would deny other American families and other American women the freedom to make these same intimate decisions according to the dictates of their own consciences, religious convictions and traditions.

When will certain Americans learn that values, beliefs and behaviours are not black and white? And that there is nothing to gain by forcing one’s viewpoint on others. It was certainly naïve arrogance on Gov Palin’s part to subject her young children to the scrutiny of the world. By hijacking the word “choice” for their own purposes, the social conservatives are shooting themselves in the foot all by themselves. They really need to take a look at their own houses before deigning to butt into other people’s private homes.

Heh. I bet this becomes outdated news soon. That’s the beauty of news, right? That it holds our attention for its alloted 15 minutes of fame, then we move onto another subject with equal passion.

in in the news |

To be consistent I took the medal tables off local yahoo sites. Yahoo China took forever to load so I took yahoo HK. From top left: US, HK, Japan, UK.

o-us o=hk

The most widely used classification method is by number of gold medals, which places China absolutely at the top. It’s only the Americans who use total medals. It should be obvious why, and hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Guardian even calls them on it.

Thinking about it, ranking by the number of gold medals isn’t right either cos this belittles the achievements of the silver and bronze medalists. Applying a weighting of gold=3, silver=2 and bronze=1 doesn’t change the top 4.


The next country down apart from US that benefits from counting total regardless of colour of medals is Australia and look how they see themselves:

May be the Canadians have it right. Put the US at the top using total medal count, then add a column to show position. Smart and tactful.


in being healthy , in the news |

We missed the closing ceremony — it had just begun when the plane landed and I was too intent on unpacking, showering and doing laundry to catch the end.

Although I missed the handball and water-polo, 2 sports I love watching but only get to see every 4 years; and I was on vacation, I thought I did well in terms of catching the important sports. Japanese tv repeated and repeated on their athletes’ wins, and why not? They showed a collage of their medal winners (and those who didn’t win), I couldn’t understand the commentary but I was still moved. It doesn’t matter which country, the joy when an athlete gets a medal has no boundaries.

There’s been so much said about China. The no-expenses-spared extravaganza. The haul of medals. The volunteers. The military precision organisation. The pride.

There is one group I was particularly interested in, the older-than-usual athletes. The New York Times summarised their amazing achievements. Notable:

  • Constantina Tomescu-Dita, 38, Romania, women’s marathon gold medal
  • Dara Torres, 41, US, oldest swimming medalist with 3 silvers
  • Hiroshi Hoketsu, 67, Japan, dressage, the oldest competitor

And so to the final medal count. I must admit the immediate reaction the first time I saw the final table wasn’t at the 51 golds that China won, I’d expected to see them at the top and wasn’t surprised. It was the UK at #4. I mean, wow. Ahead of Germany and Australia? That’s an achievement. I saw a Rebecca Adlington interview video on the Guardian and if she’s a typical Team GB athlete, then the UK must be doing something right.

I don’t want to be harsh but of course it matters whether it’s a gold, silver or bronze. The Americans are deluding themselves by counting the total number of medals rather than what the rest of the world uses, # of gold medals. More analysis next post.

in arts and media , in the news |

oh. my. lord. I’m watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

It’s spectacular.

in in the news |

(photo by law_keven)
It’s been raining since I got home. Mum told me that it’s been like this since I left, a whole month ago. Wow.

in in the news |

Mark Wilson wrote a surreal, horrifying personal account of an encounter with a tornado on giz.

Maybe this was just a bad rainstorm.

Then, almost on cue, three funnel clouds dropped from the dark mass, flittering in the sky. It was almost beautiful.

They didn’t reach the ground; the storm was almost toying with us. While my stomach dropped and my eyes began to well, the former hodgepodge of frightened travelers in the window became a paparazzi shooting gallery armed with digital cameras and cellphones, as if Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were slam dunking their baby in the parking lot. Naked.

In among the near death experience, people were gathered next to the glass windows shooting videos for youtube, or getting weather updates from their cellphone.

Yeah, surreal.

in in the news |

Congratulations to the couples getting married in California. It’s as simple as this — two people want to commit to a life together, so they should not be prohibited from doing so. I don’t get the arguments that it is an oppression of [someone’s] religious beliefs.

The New York Times asked for stories to same-sex marriage. If stories about two women in their eighties getting married are not touching enough, what is? One of the comments that caught my eye:

My partner, Doug, of 37 years and I were second to marry in Sonoma County, California at 5:15PM last night (Monday, 6-16)


This morning, Doug and I are back home with our wonderful Golden Retreiver, Woody, living life as we have during the past 37 years. We will not be threatening the stabilities of heterosexual families, nor challenge the beliefs of religions. Our neighbors and friends–mainly straight–will embrace us with their love as they always have. The sky will not fall. Nothing will change, except no more sleepless nights wondering what would happen to the other when one of us dies. It’s just business as usual.

Come to think of it, we should stop using the term gay marriage. Marriage is marriage is marriage. I think it was Liz Friedman who said something along the lines that she has lunch every day, but she doesn’t have gay lunch.

in in the news |


via new york times, an absolutely amazing picture of a tornado, taken by Lori Mehmen in Iowa. Yep, it pays to always have a digital camera on you, this is a picture every photographer dreams of taking. Luckily, no one was hurt.

in in the news |

Something I expect to be posted on future perfect. I spotted this sign on an escalator in Tokyo airport, I guess they want to avoid $7million lawsuits. I mean, it’s easy for shoes, heads, arms and fingers to be caught in escalators — those are dangerous mechanics that we take far too for granted. I dunno, it seems to me that people need to be more responsible for their own safety and action.

in in the news |

So they made it. It’s a great moment.

in in the news , money business |

The New York Times featured an excerpt from “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker,” by Steven Greenhouse, a Times reporter. The book, published by Knopf last week, examines difficulties faced by workers at companies like Fed Ex and Wal-Mart, and points to Patagonia and Costco as models for corporate America.

In his job at a Wal-Mart in Texas, Mike Michell was responsible for catching shoplifters, and he was good at it, too, catching 180 in one two-year period. But one afternoon things went wildly awry when he chased a thief — a woman using stolen checks — into the parking lot. She jumped into her car, and her accomplice gunned the accelerator, slamming the car into Michell and sending him to the hospital with a broken kneecap, a badly torn shoulder, and two herniated disks. Michell was so devoted to Wal-Mart that he somehow returned to work the next day, but a few weeks later he told his boss that he needed surgery on his knee. He was fired soon afterward, apparently as part of a strategy to dismiss workers whose injuries run up Wal-Mart’s workers’ comp bills.

Immediately after serving in the army, Dawn Eubanks took a seven-dollar-an-hour job at a call center in Florida. Some days she was told to clock in just two or three hours, and some days she was not allowed to clock in during her whole eight-hour shift. The call center’s managers warned the workers that if they went home, even though they weren’t allowed to clock in, they would be viewed as having quit.

The book opens with damning examples of unfair worker treatment, painting a bleak picture of how actual earning power for lower skilled workers in American has decreased as the economy boomed, and corporations raked in the profits.

Corporate profits have climbed to their highest share of national income in sixty-four years, while the share going to wages has sunk to its lowest level since 1929. “This is the most pronounced several years of labor’s share declining,” said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard. “For as long as we’ve had a modern economy, this is the worst we’ve seen it.” Very simply, corporations, along with their CEOs, are seizing a bigger piece of the nation’s economic pie for themselves, leaving the nation’s workers and their families diminished.

America has never had the concept of lifetime employment like Japan. However it seems that if someone were to work for an employer, they should expect at least a basic level of reward for their time and effort. Is it 8 years of a business-friendly government? Or simply corporations becoming more greedy? The bottom line, shareholder value and P/E ratios have completely taken over any humanity in corporations, and there seems to be no sign of this stopping.

I found the excerpt of chapter 1 interesting. I’m not sure it’s a book I’d buy, but I could think about getting it from the library.

in in the news |

I posted this on the kb recently, and vacillated at posting it here. Why? Not because I want to distance myself from issues, but because I’ve always felt uneasy about being too controversial or too political here on the website. I’ve had a couple of days to think about this, and I haven’t been able to cast it from my mind. Which is a sign, I think.

I read this Advocate article (full page version) by Thomas Beatie, who is carrying the child he is expecting with his wife. Scientifically it is possible because Thomas is transgender, but in his own words, had

decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights

when he transitioned FTM. His wife, a natural female, is unable to carry children due to a prior illness.

What I felt touched was the mature, quiet tone of the article, as well as the couple’s commitment. Their rejection by the medical establishment and their own family must have been heartbreaking. Facing a life-threatening situation after a failed first pregnancy, and then to try a second time, is an act of true courage.

What I also realised, is a confirmation that gender is fluid. Even myself, I have to purposefully stop making any judgmental reaction to the article until I’ve finished and absorbed it. It took a few rounds of churning in my head before I got it, and where I got to the point where I was thinking, “this is a good thing.”

Too often, we confuse gender with sexuality. And too often, we want to categorise and label people. It’s understandable, because there is so much going on in the world, so much information to absorb, so many changes in society’s views and culture and we have to sort things out somehow. It can’t be helped. But when someone wants to push out of those confines and be their own, there is no reason why they should suffer other people’s prejudices. It’s a co-incidence perhaps that the New York Times had an article last week on

gender nonconforming

college students. May be it wasn’t a co-incidence. May be it’s time to bring these issues out to the open.

I found the Advocate article through metafilter and I was so blown away by the tide of support offered by the mefi community. Whether or not this will make a difference to the Beaties’ life, and that of their child, will remain to be seen. Oddly enough, once the pregnancy is over and the controversy has died down, they will revert to a “conformist” image of dad, mom and kid. I challenge anyone to say this is wrong…because for sure, it is 100% not.

in in the news |

I woke up this morning and it was dark outside. Not cos it was early but because of the brown smog. Yuck.

Can anyone tell me why in the middle of frigging January I went out tonight in short sleeves and had to have the dehumidifier on all evening?

Come back, winter! All is forgiven.

in in the news |

While I have almost zero understanding of how an American voter would view the current elections, I must admit, perhaps controversially, that I was glad that Mrs Clinton won the New Hampshire primary. It is shaping up to be an extremely interesting election, with both sides not having a clear favourite. I haven’t been impressed by the Republicans; perhaps they privately feel that the current administration has tarnished the name of their party beyond repair … at least for the foreseeable future.

I’m hesitant to get caught up in the Obama juggernaut. Yes, Mr Obama is charismatic, idealistic and so very appealing. It’s easy to get riveted at one of his speeches. But he doesn’t scream leader, not yet. Mrs Clinton may not be perfect, but now I think her experience will count.

Keeping my mind open though.

in in the news |

There’s a lot of [insert topic] of the year all over the place right now. One of the most popular being pictures of the year. Many very impressive pictures. These are reuters pictures of 2007. Who would have thought news pictures can be so impactful.

in in the news |

I don’t need an excuse to visit Chicago, it’s rather well known. And now that NewJob headquarters is there, I’m likely to get on a plane at the drop of a hat.

Problem is, I’m not sure if I’m welcome anymore. As the Chicago metblog reports, via bb, the city of Chicago just issued a public awareness bulletin [pdf] that asks Windy City residents to be on the watch out for terrorists. All good and well, and definitely in the public interest.

The Chicago police gives a list of potentially suspicious activities, including attempts to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammonition, dangerous chemicals etc; and presence of individuals who do not appear to belong to workplaces, business establishments or near key facilities. That’s fine. Some of the other suspicious activities seem to smack of paranoia and overkill. For instance, any of the following is considered suspicious and must be reported immediately:

  • note taking
  • binocular use
  • camera, video
  • mapping out routes
  • timing traffic lights

Damn. And I was planning to take my stopwatch and time traffic lights all day. I have to be careful of taking pictures and going on treasure hunts too.

Scotland Yard has also issued a similar warning. At least the poster is much better designed. Click on images for full size.

alertchicago alertlondon

in all about people , in the news |

I was reading the Style section of the New York Times. More specifically an article about the American tea revolution — how tea sales has grown 4 times over the last 10 years, how Lipton (eww) will soon sell a range of long-leaf teas in pyramid-shaped nylon bags; and how US tea drinkers are becoming more discerning.

Newsflash. Whittard’s has been selling large-leaf teabags for years and they have all sorts of different varieties — Earl Grey, darjeeling herbal, even ginger & peach flavoured green tea. And we’ve had Pyramid tea bags since 1996. So what has the NYT all excited is old news, stale tea dregs if you may.

And this palaver about premium brands? Marketing, so people pay more for their teas. Apparently, the “English often drink tea with milk and sugar, so they like it dark and strong, just the way cheap tea bags make it.” OH MAN! Is that why I can’t get any decent tea in the US? Because they associate dark and strong with cheap, so they make their tea light and tasteless instead? I thought it was the water, now I know it’s not so simple.

Anyway, this post isn’t about tea. It’s about my eye being caught by the large photo at the bottom of the style section, where it gives me a snippet of what is in other sections. Clicking on the Weddings & Celebrations section brought a pleasant, though slightly uneasy, surprise.

There, the top wedding & celebration of this weekend is the commitment ceremony at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the restaurant in Pocantico Hills NY where Mr Adam Berger and Mr Stephen Frank played hosts to 120 guests. A nice pic of the groom and groom and a clichéd “we were so clueless, to not see it immediately cos we were both dating women” story.

I’m supposed to be happy, that this is reported in the NYT in such a matter-of-fact way. But somehow the article reads very contrived and too “fairy-tale” like. May be it’s the fact I’ve never found the NYT writing style to be smooth, I think they like mashing up their words into a hard to digest ball of pretentiousness. I don’t know how the NYT determines which couple makes the top story, I sincerely hope it’s not the fact that one is a VP at GS and the other an associate at a law firm. No I don’t think so, they are common fodder in the NYT society section.

The political argument against gay marriages doesn’t make sense. Why does it matter to me who someone marries? As long as they don’t affect me, doesn’t cause any harm to the planet, and is not taking anything away from someone else, I have absolutely no grounds to object. This is so stupid.

in in the news |

In time, the decision to close Heathrow and Gatwick to short-haul flights and to implement such drastic measures for air travellers will prove to be a correct one.

baa airports

Despite the severity of the situation, I feel a sense of resigned calm. It is the right thing to do, to be cautious, even though it’s so inconvenient. And think about all the summer holidays ruined. I’m glad I don’t have a trip coming up in the next week or so, airports will be crazy.

I can’t help but be proud at how the British public and police have handled this though. There is a sense of “get on with it, what else can we do” that permeates. On the other hand, reading CNN and other US news sites gave me the feeling that the Americans are tottering on the edge of a freak out. Again. Sigh.

Thing is, the panic and the airport closures and the general disruption to air traffic is already a “victory” for the terrorists. Murray Walker, who is stuck at Aberdeen trying to get to Silverstone, said, “It’s better safe than sorry, but I have a problem with those who are making this happen.” Hear hear, Murray.

in in the news |

heh, the world didn’t end.

How disappointing.

in in the news |

The Airbus A380 lands at Heathrow, after a fly-pass over sites at Filton and Broughton, where its wings were made.

BBC pictures.

in all about people , in the news |

I guess it’s mm’s influence, but articles about religion catch my eye more nowadays. Or perhaps not, because I would have zoomed in on any article that tells us about monks in Wisconsin with a laser cartridge filling business.


I mean, think about how monasteries, any religion, and how they cover their expenses. Most do not receive any financial help from the government or the church. Donations, fund-raising events, tourism (selling souvenirs), farming, wine- and cheese-making are the activities that come to mind.

Looks like the monks have finally entered the 21st century and the wonders of e-commerce. Behold Laser Monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank in Wisconsin. Founded in the late 1920s, their fund-raising efforts have included selling cheese gift boxes, farming, real estate development, they had even considered building a four star golf course.

That was, until Fr. Bernard McCoy, O. Cist., Steward of Temporal Affairs at the abbey, also CEO of Laser Monks, decided to look for print cartridges for their laser printers.

In my search for a toner cartridge, I was suddenly struck with how incredibly expensive this black dust and a few squirts of ink were. “There must be a better way,” I said to myself.

What started as a small business grossing $2000 in 2002 has grown into sales of $2.5 million in 2005, with expected sales to exceed $5 million in 2006. That’s phenomenal in any accountant’s books. They do very little advertising, but they don’t seem to need it, with international coverage in the likes of cnn money.

After expenses are deducted, the rest of the profits go toward charity and various programs.

The retail and services industry is so cut-throat that consumers will latch onto any gimmick or novelty that catch their fancy. A Catholic abbey selling cheap print cartridges (they recently expanded to office supplies) where profits go to charity? It appeals to anyone looking for a bargain and to get a sense that they’re “doing good.”

A little research, for a HP Q7560A (HP 3000 series), Laser Monks sell for $128.95 while both staples and HP sell for $134.99. The cheapest at is at $115.30 but for some reason I’m hesitant to buy automatically from the cheapest place.

If I had a printer, I’d buy from the monks too.

in in the news |

From Comcast news.

Man Hits His Own Car Then Sues Himself
by Associated Press

LODI, Calif. - When a dump truck backed into Curtis Gokey’s car, he decided to sue the city for damages. Only thing is, he was the one driving the dump truck. But that minor detail didn’t stop Gokey, a Lodi city employee, from filing a $3,600 claim for the December accident, even after admitting the crash was his fault.

After the city denied that claim because Gokey was, in essence, suing himself, he and his wife, Rhonda, decided to file a new claim under her name.

City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said this one also lacks merit because Rhonda Gokey can’t sue her own husband.

“You can sue your spouse for divorce, but you can’t sue your spouse for negligence,” Schwabauer said. “They’re a married couple under California law. They’re one entity. It’s damage to community property.”

But Rhonda Gokey insisted she has “the right to sue the city because a city’s vehicle damaged my private vehicle.”

In fact, her claim, currently pending at Lodi City Hall, is for an even larger amount — $4,800.

“I’m not as nice as my husband is,” she said.

This is funny and stupid. Wonder if anyone outside the US legal system would even remotely think about this?

in in the news |

I’m going to Mumbai on Sunday for business, coming back on Friday. Seems like everyone and their second cousin thrice removed are flying there, it was hell to get a business class ticket.

There was a travel advisory because Dubya is visiting India, but I didn’t think the protests would be so widespread until I checked out the mumbai metblog. More about anti-Bush protests organised by the Committee Against Bush Visit.

I think he leaves before I get there. He’d better.

in in the news |

From the Guardian.

College security ban on hijabs and hoodies
Polly Curtis, education correspondent
Thursday November 24, 2005

Imperial College London has banned staff and students from wearing hijabs or hoodies on its campuses as part of an effort to improve security.

The college’s management board approved the new dress code at the beginning of the month. “Clothing that obscures an individual’s face is not allowed on any of the college’s campuses,” it reads. “Employees and students should refrain from wearing clothing which obscures the face, such as a full or half veil, or hooded tops or scarves worn across the face.” College officials said the move was part of renewed efforts to improve security after the summer bombings in London. It was also an attempt to combat theft and deter animal rights activists.
— snip —

Understandably the students are planning to seek to amend the code to to allow the hoodies and religious dress. They believe that “students should not to have to seek permission to wear any religious item.”

The folks at the Register thinks that it’s “more likely that the college authorities, fully cognisant of the naturally rebellious tendencies of the average 19 year-old, has introduced the ban as a cunning marketing ploy to drive sales of” the sweatshirt, with the IC logo.

Riiiight. And I went there once upon a time?

in in the news |

Clocks in many countries change today. In the Northern Hemisphere the clocks turn back an hour — it’s 02.59.59 then it becomes 02.00.00. In the Southern Hemisphere the clocks advance an hour.

No change here. But it means I’m even further away from people at the other side of the world, makes me feel even more isolated.

in in the news |

From the guardian.

For an organisation that didn’t officially exist until 1994, it has come a long way. Last week, MI6 launched its own website. It even has a Careers section and says it’s looking to recruit staff at all grades. In today’s international arena, the website is also available in French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese.

MI6, or the Secret Intelligent Service (SIS) as they prefer to be known, is the counterpart of MI5 (domestic security) and GCHQ (communications). It has been in existence since 1909 and its main tasks is to gather intelligence abroad to protect British interest. In other words, spying.

Glamorised by books and films (James Bond, anyone?), recruitment into MI6 has always been thought of as very cloak and dagger affairs, involving secret winks and taps on shoulders for the “right” recruit while up at Oxbridge. Now they’re telling wannabe spies “if you think you have the qualities described on the Web site please apply, don’t wait for us to get in touch.”

The application procedure itself is simple, just send in your CV. But there are nationality rules and candidates go through extensive security clearance during the interview stage. They’re also told that they can’t tell anyone other than a spouse or partner that they’re applying. They emphasize the family atmosphere at their HQ and the sense of adventure of working there.

Seems fun and worthwhile, and why not?

in all about people , in the news |

From booman tribune and progressive independent via boing boing

Boy am I glad I don’t live in Indiana. If this is real it’s a joke. The “lawmakers” there are drafting legislation that requires potential parents who want to become pregnant via assisted means such as IVF and sperm / egg donation to be married. Performing an unlawful artificial reproduction procedure is a criminal offense.

okay, that means unmarried people who conceive by means other than regular sex are criminals?

One of the readers commenting asks the interesting question: does that mean that the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit will be hauled up before the courts, cos the conception of Jesus was definitely “assisted” and definitely “by means other than sexual intercourse.” Mary may not have been given a choice in the matter, which bodes even worse for the

Imagine being handcuffed while still holding your turkey baster. LOL.

Here’s the original article

The Crime of “Unauthorized Reproduction
by Laura McPhee

Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant “by means other than sexual intercourse.”

According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg donation, must first file for a “petition for parentage” in their local county probate court.

Only women who are married will be considered for the “gestational certificate” that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the pregnancy. Further, the “gestational certificate” will only be given to married couples that successfully complete the same screening process currently required by law of adoptive parents.

As it the draft of the new law reads now, an intended parent “who knowingly or willingly participates in an artificial reproduction procedure” without court approval, “commits unauthorized reproduction, a Class B misdemeanor.” The criminal charges will be the same for physicians who commit “unauthorized practice of artificial reproduction.”

The change in Indiana law to require marriage as a condition for motherhood and criminalizing “unauthorized reproduction” was introduced at a summer meeting of the Indiana General Assembly’s Health Finance Commission on September 29 and a final version of the bill will come up for a vote at the next meeting at the end of this month.

Republican Senator Patricia Miller is both the Health Finance Commission Chair and the sponsor of the bill. She believes the new law will protect children in the state of Indiana and make parenting laws more explicit.

According to Sen. Miller, the laws prohibiting surrogacy in the state of Indiana are currently too vague and unenforceable, and that is the purpose of the new legislation.

“But it’s not just surrogacy,” Miller told NUVO. ” The law is vague on all types of extraordinary types of infertility treatment, and we wanted to address that as well.”

“Ordinary treatment would be the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm. But now there are a lot of extraordinary thing s that raise issues of who has legal rights as parents,” she explained when asked what she considers “extraordinary” infertility treatment.

Sen. Miller believes the requirement of marriage for parenting is for the benefit of the children that result from infertility treatments.

“We did want to address the issue of whether or not the law should allow single people to be parents. Studies have shown that a child raised by both parents - a mother and a father - do better. So, we do want to have laws that protect the children,” she explained.

When asked specifically if she believes marriage should be a requirement for motherhood, and if that is part of the bill’s intention, Sen. Miller responded, “Yes. Yes, I do.”

ETA: Looks like the proposal was dropped. Still, it’s scary that it was out there at all.

in in the news |

I read this on bbc news, but it’s all over the net now. There’s an initiative to add an entry “ICE” on people’s mobile phones. ICE stands for In case of emergency, and it’s so that emergency workers / police / hospitals etc can find out the emergency contact in case something happens. It’s not being morose, just a simple idea that can work, if enough people do it. It will save time, precious time, cos the emergency workers don’t need to look through people’s phone contacts to find the right person to call.

I added 2 entries, cos you can have more than one.

in in the news |

I was gonna report on how my day was — normal, went to dinner with SC colleagues and tried out a combination hotplate, steamboat and … iced hotplate to make your own ice cream on, very cool.

But what of my life. How can it be compared against the horrible bombings. It brings it home to me, that they were at Edgware Road, Moorgate, Aldgate and Russell Square — these are places I know so well, so close to home, school, college, work — I have no words. All I want to do is cry.

in in the news |

I was there, watching it on TV. I hadn’t been following it, but with so much hype, and it taking place in Singapore, I can’t help but notice it.

I was so happy when London won, and yes, I did jump up and down when it was announced.

in in the news |

I've kept bank accounts and credit cards in all the countries I've lived in, the reason I give myself is so that I can have access to cash through ATMs should I visit. Now, I'm doubly glad, reading about the idiocy of british airways is. They won't sell you a ticket over the web if you don't have a credit card billed to the country you are flying from.

You can buy over the phone (4x the price) or via an agent (2x the price) but you get ripped off.

It's not the first time, friend of mine tried to order something through the Disney catalog in the US only to run into a similar problem cos her credit card billing address is in a different country as where she wants the stuff to be delivered to.

It's a well known fact, a roundtrip ticket on BA from London is cheaper than the one way. So, London to Zurich for a week can be as cheap as £92 return, yet one way it's £386. I mean, what? How idiotic.

I have total trust booking my flights through swiss or cx websites, but that's about it. Don't trust at all.

in eating and drinking , in the news |

From Associated Press.

Spoons are so old school. And so slow.

In the age of TV dinners and fast food comes prepacked food that don't even need utensils. Heat-and-sip cups of soups, spray-on butter, cookies in cans that fit car cup holders, even frozen PBJ sandwiches.

Next, yogurt in squeezable toothpaste-like tubes. Stonyfield Farm, the makers of the ubiquitious Squeezers, has positioned the line to be appealing to children (the fun factor) as well as for adults, who want more "natural" convenience foods.

What next?

in arts and media , in the news |

Orange, the mobile phone services provider, is at odds with the easyGroup, of easyJet fame, over the use of the colour orange. This from bbc news.

Does a company “own” a colour? The issue of names, logos and images is very contentious in the global marketplace. Trademarks mean firms have a right to protect “shapes, sounds or colours if it's distinctive as part of their business”, according to an IP lawyer interviewed.

This usually means as long as Joe Public can distinguish between the different branding it's companies are protected. Example is Cadbury's distinctive purple can't be used by other chocolate makers, or Heinz with its turquoise colour, Toblerone and triangular chocolate boxes. But it can't stop, say hat makers from making hats in Cadbury purple.

The issue came about because easyGroup is expanding onto Orange's turf, with its new easyMobile service. Orange is claiming that if easyMobile uses orange in their branding it will cause confusion among customers and damage its business. Orange has the trademark on the colour registered as Pantone #151.

Hmmm. Can I claim ownership to the colour white please.

in in the news |

Yes I'm obsessive about protecting my privacy. I can be fairly anal about it. But I feel a little vindicated, to see an extreme (but scarily realistic) example of what the government and corporations may be doing with our personal data. Who would have thought ordering pizza can lead to so much infringement?

in arts and media , in the news , techtalk |

The Guardian has a weblog, of posts by their journalists I guess, short "interesting" pieces of news. Much like the weblog of a real life blogger. Except it only has a date and name of poster, no comments, no trackback, quite static in feel.

Getting on the bandwagon much? All the politicians, pundits and celebrities are doing it. Soon it'll be like the iPod, the novelty factor, the sense of uniqueness, ok the superiority complex, of being an iPod owner, quickly disappears as it's invaded by the masses. Every day hundreds, thousands of new weblogs are created and millions are updated.

I'm certainly one of those masses, joining the party late. I'm still amazed that no one I know seems to be aware of this global phenomenon.

Back to the Guardian weblog. What caught my eye was a week-old post, that Countdown has been renewed by Channel 4 for another 5 years. Truly, it's a wonderous program, the first to be shown on Channel 4, and continues to be as fantastic as ever. Even now that the presenters have become celebrities, they continue with the tradition. I remember watching the first Countdown and whenever I'm back in the UK I try to watch it. I don't think I'll ever tire of it, it's so simple yet intelligent, that's a sure sign of good programming.

The second funny tidbit about this particular post is that the Guardian links to the story on the Independent. Perhaps because the Guardian missed on the story? Or trying (too hard?) to look and feel like any old weblog.

I like the Guardian's weblog, they've been at it for 3 years, so they must be doing something right. I just wished the Independent had one too, sigh. I've been disappointed with the Indy recently, with the change to tabloid format and a boring website — you have to type in the www, just typing doesn't work, in this day and age it's not acceptable — it's not the Indy I used to be fanatically loyal to.

in about me , in the news |

I read about a newest sensation gripping the media world - Pope Deathwatch. Sigh. People are so cruel. Just when the world should be celebrating 25 years of the papacy, attention is diverted to how frail he is and when is he going to die and politics surrounding who will succeed him. All valid questions and succession should be worked out to avoid being caught unprepared. But do they have to be so blatant and go about it with so little dignity?

As a Catholic we are brought up to revere the church and obey the Pope. Even though personally there are major areas of disparity, like I totally disagree with the church's stance on contraception, abortion and homosexuality, I still look to the Pope as someone to respect. Much more so than say the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Dalai Lama. Because the Pope is my leader.

Am I a bad Catholic because I think modern society needs contraception and abortion and because I don't think being gay is a sin? Or because I hardly ever go to mass? Probably.

But my belief is on such a personal level I don't think it's possible for me to articulate, much less share with others. I do like going to mass but I don't believe God is keeping tabs, like He doesn't look at someone who goes once a week and gives them one gold star and someone who goes everyday gets 3 gold stars and someone who goes once a year gets negative stars. There shouldn't be a quota for being "good", should there?