Recently in outside interests Category

in outside interests |


The conference started in the morning with volunteers gathering to help with stuffing the swag bag, setting up tables, organising the silent auction. The venue in the hotel is based on a courtyard concept, with rooms radiating from the central courtyard. Of course it became the focal point and meeting place. There were hugs galore as we see friends and meet new friends.

I brought a bottle of Nikka from the Barrel for the silent auction. I found out that because it’s 500ml it’s not considered a regulation size for import into the US, which means it’s not available in the US. I also put some in a hip flask and told people to come find me for samples. The usual suspects came up to me, as well as a couple of new friends. I think at the end of the day the auction has reached $55.


The conference proper started after lunch (we had chicken salad we made from stuff we bought at the supermarket) when the director made a welcome speech. The first session after that was a readers trivia session. I wasn’t planning in staying, but I ended up staying the whole session. I even won a book! (real physical book, which now I need to figure out how to take home, it’s one on my list to buy.)

Went running at the gym while the con virgin meeting was going on, took a quick shower and was back for the ice cream social. More hugging friends and meeting new friends.

Dinner was at M’s house, she invited a bunch of people to her place for bbq. We had cocktail, very juicy pork, dirty rice, boiled peanuts, bread pudding. She showed me how to make a mojito and let me make a couple. There were a lot of people, and I was getting a bit angsty because of the crowd. Took a taxi back with a few others just in time to catch JD in concert. Good attendence and she was absolutely fantastic. A long, event-filled day. Exhausting but fun.

in outside interests |


There seems to be some sort of universally acknowledged rule, that if you need to make an appointment for a technician to come to your home to fix something or to set up something like the internet, a) they can only offer you a vague, not useful time range; b) they are always late.

I spent the whole day waiting for someone to come fix my fridge. When I came back from shunde wednesday night, I discovered that the fridge and freezer had stopped working sometime between Monday afternoon and Wednesday night. The light was on in the fridge compartment so it wasn’t the power supply. For good measure I reset the fuse box of the whole flat. Nope. Everything in the freezer had defrosted so I had to throw most of them away, luckily I didn’t have ice cream that would have made a mess, or raw meat that would have smelled. I did however have some leftovers from the restaurant yesterday and some fruit that is barely surviving at room temperature. It’s hard not to have a fridge in 33ºC weather.

Anyway, the appointment was 1-4pm. I waited, and watched tv, and did a bit of TRX. 4pm rolled by, of course he hadn’t showed up. I called the service centre and was told he was still stuck at another job and it’d be an hour. Sigh. When will I ever get to be the 1pm appointment?

Almost 6pm and still no one. I called the service centre and no surprise they’re gone for the day. I called up the sales department and wouldn’t let them fob me off. I told them I was aware they were the sales department but if there was someone there who could help me please. To their credit, they found the appointment in the computer and rang the guy for me.

Technician showed up around 6.15pm. The fix took him all of 10mins. Apparently the timer on the thermostat flipped and was stuck at the off position. Argh. He also told me to leave an even larger gap between the fridge and the wall to let the heat dissipate. Strange, because my fridge isn’t in an enclosed space, but whatever. At least my food isn’t going to spoil anymore. There’s nothing in the freezer apart from dried food and film (35mm film, from pre-digital camera days) so I’ll have to do a mini shopping run soon.

in outside interests |

sunset20150528 sunsetlionrock

Had early dinner with my dad, we decided the restaurant wasn’t worth going back to—indifferent service, mediocre food. Did some basic shopping then we caught separate buses home (he has senior discount, so he can take any bus; I took the cheaper one).

Sat on the upper deck, caught a bit of the sunset. While it’s all very nice to see a sunset, I’d rather it was raining and the temperature cooler.

in about me , outside interests |

I’m vindicated. There’s science behind why this 100% introvert doesn’t like speaking, can never come up with a witty repartee and generally has lousy comic timing (or any sort of interaction timing). Another thing I hate is phone calls. The stupid phone rings, and we’re expected to drop everything and respond immediately, without knowing what the other party wants. At least with caller display, we know who is calling.

I don’t do voicemail. Even when I was at work. I had to be subtle about it, but I managed.


I was the first one in my family to ditch my landline. In London I was forced to sign up for a landline because BT bundles it with internet. I hardly ever answer the phone anyway, so landlines are useless to me. When I was in the mood and bored, I remember having a grand time winding up this PPI scammer who called, so much so that he hung up on me. Victory!

It’s truly the end of an era when this week, my parents cancelled their landline. Generally the older generations tend to hold onto older technologies because they are used to them. But as my dad said, when almost 100% of calls on the landline are telemarketers or estate agents, then it’s a waste of money to keep it.

My dad is a very very late adoptor of technology and even he has a mobile now, albeit an old nokia non-smartphone. I notice they still have the Pavlovian response to phone calls, mum gets all upset and uptight at missed calls, whereas my iphone is permanently on DND. Anyone who wants to reach me can whatsapp (no one uses text anymore). Even email is passé.

There a small tinge of sadness. We’ve had our parents’ number for over 40 years. Phone numbers used to be 6-digit, then 7, then 8. It’s a good number, but it’s time to let it go.

Now if only the government will pass legislation restricting telemarketing calls on mobiles, the world will be a better place.

in going places , outside interests |

Since we will be in Rome over Easter, we investigated whether it was possible to participate in a mass at the Vatican. Turns out, general audiences and liturgical masses conducted by the Pope are free and open to the public. Over Easter there are special masses:

  • Thursday 2, Chrism Mass, at 9:30 am, in St Peter’s Basilica
  • Friday 3, Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, at 17.00, in St Peter’s Basilica
  • Friday 3, Way of the Cross, at 21.15, in the Coliseum
  • Saturday 4, Easter Vigil Mass, at 20.30,, in St Peter’s Basilica
  • Sunday 5, Easter Sunday Mass, at 10.15 am, in St Peter’s Square

The Prefecture of the Papal Household is responsible for administering the tickets. Application involved downloading a form at their website and completing it precisely indicating:

  • Date of the General audience or Liturgical celebration
  • Number of tickets required
  • Name / Group
  • Mailing Address
  • Telephone and Fax numbers

The form then has to be faxed over. Argh. Printers and faxes, how 1990s. My printer is at my parents’ place so it was straightforward. The problem was faxing. In the past we would have just used the fax at work, but we can’t do that anymore. And who faxes nowadays?!

I googled and found a few free online fax services. Some limit the number of pages; others only send to certain countries. I ended up using myfax which offered one free fax to 41 countries per 24hr period. We wanted to apply for all the masses so I split the applications into 2 faxes over 2 days.

That was about 3 weeks ago. We aren’t sure how we’d know if we are successful. The website said tickets are to be collected the day before at the Prefecture office but does it mean we automatically get tickets? There was nowhere to put our email and we’re sure if we called or faxed to enquire, no one will be able to help us (imagine thousands of people calling up to ask about the status of their application). Our plan is to go to the office once we get to Rome and hope that they have our names on a list or something like that.


Imagine my surprise when I received a letter in the post. I recognised the stamps—one had Pope Francis on it. A paper letter. Can’t remember the last time I got one. The first paragraph:


Perfect timing. This is an absolute blessing indeed.

We’ve seen the Pope’s Easter and Christmas masses and address on the news. This year, we’ll be there in person. How cool is that?

in outside interests |

minecraftlego02 minecraftlego01

My niece, bless her, got all top marks in her school report. So as a reward, sis and I got her some minecraft lego figures we spotted when we went to the computer place. They’re not proper lego, they look like lego but don’t have the branding. The figures are really cute though, my niece put them together and they are lined up on her windowsill.

in outside interests , photography is life |

201412landmark01 201412landmark02

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

in outside interests |


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

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

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

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


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

in evidence of my insanity , outside interests |


Sometimes I wonder about the weird direction our conversations take. No idea why or how we started talking about peanut butter, mm says she likes planters and I say I like skippy. Why? No clue. I guess for me, skippy is one of the brands that has been available all over the world and is often on sale. It’s less a matter of taste or brand loyalty. Besides, I don’t eat at lot of peanut butter anymore—although at my peak I eat it straight out of its jar on a spoon. Peanut butter and apple, that’s the perfect snack for when I was training.


And then the conversation moved to toothpaste. Now it’s definitely a matter of taste and brand loyalty. Everywhere I go, in supermarkets and pharmarcies, the shelves are overwhelmingly full of colgate. When I was young, all my parents used was colgate (still do). I had to use it too, and I didn’t like the taste or the amount of froth. I switched to crest as soon as I learned of its existence and even though it was (and still is) very hard to get, I stock up whenever I travel to the US.

So mm says she needs to restock her peanut butter supply and issued me a challenge. She’d switch to skippy if I switch to colgate. Hahaha! I said no. Unless it’s a travel size tube of colgate. Then she said it’s not fair, it’s just a sample.


So I offered her an even bigger concession. I’d switch to Tetley instead. This is HUGE. I’m a diehard PG drinker and believe the only cuppa is a PG cuppa. She didn’t believe I’d do it. Ha! Anyway, we have to see if we can find Tetley here first.

I think i have to tag this into the evidence of my insanity category.

in outside interests |


A fb friend asked me to get a couple of pairs of these converse 2014 holiday chuck taylor star collection color weave sneakers because apparently they are limited edition APAC only. I went over to sneaker street to see if I can get them. The first shop was sold out of all but the smallest sizes but luckily the second store had them. I got the last pair in the larger size and there were only about 3 left of the smaller size. The sales associate told me they are Japanese limited edition, but I can’t find any reference to Japan online. Ah well.

I guess if I were a die hard converse fan I’d get a pair for myself too, but I decided against it. They’re equivalent to USD110, and I can get 2 pairs of Nike Airs at the outlet for that price. Guess I’m not a die hard converse fan.

in outside interests |


She’s right, that Sylvia Plath, bless her. Yes, I established that one paragraph or one pic or whatever I like constitutes a blog post, but that’s everyday writing. Non-fiction. Doesn’t apply to fiction. That’s pretty much why I don’t write fiction as easily anymore, except for the annual nano-hand-wringing-exercise. Or why I only take pictures of food and travelling. My niece has started instagramming her sketches, and they are good. Reminds me of how I absolutely cannot draw. Or appreciate music, and forget about playing it.


So as my 10th nano approaches, I tell myself, this is the year. This is the novel that can be polished up to a real book. I’ve outlined, and broke the rules by writing the first few thousand words, and gotten a bunch of research saved in evernote.

Let’s see. Come back at the end of november and see how I feel about the end result. I’ll complete nano, I usually do but as ever, I’ll probably end up doubting and disparaging those 50k words. And then it’ll sit in its neatly archived folder doing nothing.

How to get out of the self-doubt hole? Loads of advice, like getting support from others, finding a creative zone and just going for it. Others describe how to banish distractions and overcome imposter syndrome. All sounds a little dubious to me. Or may be my right brain is the one that needs fixing.

Apparently, the secret to creative success is to leave out brain cell hogging stuff like deciding on what to wear:

decision fatigue or making a bunch of small decisions like what to wear and what to eat wears out your brain and saps your mental power for more pressing matters

I could have told the author that doesn’t work. I pretty much wear the same hard rock café shirts all the time, and I don’t feel I have that much more mental power.


I know what the answer is of course. It’s so obvious. Shut down parts of the brain that thinks logically and pays attention. Blur your eyes. Get into a state of sleepiness or drunkenness. Drink beer. Look at the number of alcoholic writers, there probably is truth to the saying

there are famous drunk artists, but no famous drunk accountants

Hmm, how much whisky will it take?

Then again, just cut the bullshit and make time to write, it’s that simple.

in outside interests |

hollowbook01 hollowbook02
hollowbook03 hollowbook04

Here’s something for the person who has everything, via bb, an etsy store that sells hollow books: hollowed out hardbacks with matching whisky flask. Edgar Allan Poe, Pride and Prejudice, DC comics, even the Bible.

I’m trying to de-clutter and minimalise my life. I have been collecting whiskies, now should I get one of these book whisky flasks to enjoy a wee dram? Tempting.

in outside interests |


Whatsapp with sis:

me: I’ve just been reading for 2 days
sis: you are ok?
me: oh yes quite relaxing
sis: [talk about new noodle shop near her place]

She has a family and household to run but she has never been a big reader anyway. She reads more literary fiction when she does, and the rest of time she reads cook books and books on health & beauty. I don’t think she’s ever spent a whole day doing nothing but reading. Whereas I’ve been reading since Sunday night and don’t have any intention of venturing out unless necessary.

For me, just like having no plans is the perfect plan, doing nothing but reading is the perfect activity.

in evidence of my insanity , outside interests |

Now that we’re back from the road trip and I have a week in chicago I’m catching up on reading. Some random odds and ends on my feedly over the past fortnight.


For most of the trip I was the navigator and had a grand old time looking at the thick pile of AAA maps. Yes, I’d rather play with one of those impossible to refold maps than play with GPS. Since my mind is still on maps, here are 19 US maps that will blow your mind. They are a combination of interesting trivia (19 state names end with a and none end with z) and random animation.


We had trouble a couple of nights finding a hotel because they were all booked with other tourists or for some event. Perhaps next time we’d tow this bike camper with sleeping compartment behind the car. Made by Dutch artist artist Bas Srakel the tricycle is meant for homeless people and urban nomads but could work for roadtrippers without hotel rooms.

We ate far too much fast food but had a few nice meals. Sometimes we’d get bread, cheese and cold meats from the supermarket and make sandwiches. Two people in an SUV meant there was room to pack lots of stuff, including suitcases, soft drinks, food, snacks, stuff for the conference, souvenirs and a cooler. By bbmm travelling standards, Carleen and I packed a lot, but we did not reach the levels required for Victorian camping:

Axe (in cover). Axle-grease. Bacon. Barometer (pocket). Bean-pot. Beans (in bag). Beef (dried). Beeswax. Bible. Blacking and brush. Blankets. Boxes. Bread for lunch. Brogans (oiled). Broom. Butter-dish and cover. Canned goods. Chalk. Cheese. Clothes-brush. Cod-line. Coffee and pot. Comb. Compass. Condensed milk. Cups. Currycomb. Dates. Dippers. Dishes. Dish-towels. Drawers. Dried fruits. Dutch oven. Envelopes. Figs. Firkin. Fishing-tackle. Flour (prepared). Frying-pan. Guide-book. Half-barrel. Halter. Hammer. Hard-bread. Harness (examine!). Hatchet. Haversack. Ink (portable bottle). Knives (sheath, table, pocket and butcher). Lemons. Liniment. Lunch for day or two. Maps. Matches and safe. Marline. Meal (in bag). Meal-bag. Medicines. Milk-can. Molasses. Money (“change”). Monkey-wrench. Mosquito-bar. Mustard and pot. Nails. Neat’s-foot oil. Night-shirt. Oatmeal. Oil-can. Opera-glass. Overcoat. Padlock and key. Pails. Paper. Paper collars. Pens. Pepper. Pickles. Pins. Portfolio. Postage stamps. Postal cards. Rope. Rubber blanket. Rubber coat. Rubber boots. Sail-needle. Salt. Salt fish. Salt pork. Salve. Saw. Shingles (for plates). Shirts. Shoes and strings. Slippers. Soap. Song-book. Spade. Spoons. Stove (utensils in bags). Sugar. Tea. Tents. Tent poles. Tent pins. Tooth-brush. Towels. Twine. Vinegar. Watch and key.


Every year when I leave the conference I get motivated to write and I tell myself to finish LL. This year, I did finish it and I sent it to people for comments. So may be one of these days I don’t have to admonish myself for procrastinating. The whole publishing process is quite daunting and unknown to me. One of the things I want to explore doing myself is the book cover. Here’s something different, vintage book posters that feature books in books. My favourite I also find a little creepy.

iphonepenguin holmeswatson

Book posters don’t appeal? How about 18 quirky literary items available on etsy. I like the Penguin iphone covers and wish they would make the Holmes & Watson earrings into cufflinks.

bowtieperiodic bowtietardis

Speaking of etsy, I also came across speicher bow ties. Several friends like to wear bow ties at the conference, during social events and at the awards ceremony. My favourite is the periodic table one, they also have physics, tardis and star trek bow ties amongst others.

And finally, a SMH funny-but-not-really incident, of appalling tactics by comcast when an ex-customer tried to cancel. Talk about persistent, annoying and condescending. The actual recording is cringe-inducing so for the faint of heart there is also a transcript.

in eating and drinking , outside interests |

Task #79 of 101 in 1001 is to invest in a kickstarter type project. There are so many opportunities to take part in a crowdfunding project nowadays, from books, films, music to gadgets, food trucks and medical needs. I’ve been looking for something worthwhile and noticed this one that has received some press lately.

We take clean water so much for granted. There is a big water problem in some parts of the world, where the water is contaminated and full of bacteria.

The Drinkable Book was developed by Dr Theresa Dankovich together with a team of scientists and engineers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia and designed by typographer Brian Bartside for non-profit organization WATERisLIFE. Each book is about an inch thick with 20 pages. The paper is embedded with silver nanoparticles which kills microbes; each sheet can filter up to 100 litres of water.


The pAge technology has been tested in South Africa on a small scale. The team are crowdfunding to make 1000 drinkable books to test in Ghana and other parts of the developing world. Although each book only costs about 10cents to make, the goal is $20,000 to include scaling up, equipment and travel costs to field sites. Only a few more days to go, for a $50 donation, I get a square pAge and a water bottle, neat.

in about me , being healthy , outside interests |

The challenge is a fresh challenge

I thought I’d give medium a go. Medium has impressive pedigree, founded by @ev and @biz from twitter. I check out posts there a few times a week, and there seems to be a common theme, at least the articles I enjoyed—tight writing on a variety of popular topics by a tech-savvy group of contributors. The Atlantic summarised it as:

a place to read articles on the Internet. Medium is a blogging platform, like Wordpress or Blogger. Medium is the new project from the guys who brought you Twitter. Medium is chaotically, arrhythmically produced by a combination of top-notch editors, paid writers, PR flacks, startup bros, and hacks.

Certainly, it feels somewhat like early blogger (before it was google-ized), or even harking back to the wild, wild days of early livejournal (before it got bought for no good reason by sixapart and is now russian-ized). All packaged in an astoundingly clean and oh-so-easy to use interface.

The design and the way articles are grouped in collections means that writing at medium has a different feel to writing on my own website, on tumblr or on facebook. Here on the website, I write whatever I like, and I indulge in topics that may only be interesting to me. Yes, it means I jump from topic to topic and despite it being in existence for 10 years, it’s virtually unmarketable. I don’t do much on tumblr and facebook/twitter updates are as throwaway as yesterday’s lunch leftovers.

Writing on medium is one step up, I guess. Although its referral system works much like reddit, which means my post will likely languish at or near the bottom, I still have a responsibility to write a coherent post, in case it does get some attention. I don’t want to have a popular or even viral post with typos, for instance.


I’m not at a point where I can write about tech, or food, or travel, or current affairs. So I picked a topic that is on my mind and allows me some room for musing. So, well, here’s the post: The Challenge is a Fresh Challenge, took me about half an hour to write.

It’s not clear to me whether the post will be published immediately or whether it needs to go through a review process. I like the discipline. Find a suitable title, write a tagline, write the article. I agree with Slate’s prognosis:

If I didn’t care about getting paid or having a job and just wanted to write something, Medium is the tool I would use.

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 arts and media , outside interests |


A new free online tool from squarespace is a quick way to make a logo. A small avatar and thousands of fonts are available. The target audience seems to be

individuals and small businesses with limited resources to create a simple identity for themselves

Took me just a couple of minutes to come up with an invisiblecompany logo. Quite clean and using similar website colours (same blue but the orange text had to be sharpened to be more visible.) Definitely great for people who want something just for fun, or others without the budget to pay for art and design. The danger of course is that these logos will be instantly recognisable as created by squarespace.

The disclaimer by the company about individuals and small businesses came after some online backlash from designers. Fair, because it did seem to encourage people to bypass using their services, but unfair in the way they mocked the exact people who can’t afford, nor need their services. As one commenter said,
Yeah, it detracts from the quality of logos out there, but these people would be using clipart or dingbat fonts for logos if they didn’t have this tool

Or, gasp, comic sans. The designers up in arms about this tool seems to have forgotten that there is a whole sector of the market who knows nothing of design, and tools like squarespace do a lot to push them gently in the right direction. I’m still seeing new websites with terrible colours and layouts that hark back to the 1990s; not that I have a fantasic website, I know I need a redesign but I also know where I may be lacking.

in outside interests |

I hate shower curtains. They get icky and grimy and wet. They flow inwards and cling to my arms when the shower is on (there must be some physics that explains this). Anyway, I hate shower curtains.

In the absence of shower doors, because installing it will involve $$$ and a workman, I wanted to get a curved shower rod which gives more space in the shower. Problem is my shower rail is L-shaped, and I have yet to see an L-shaped curved shower rod.

Then I saw this idea on indiegogo, of shower curtain rings that pushes the curtain outwards to give more space. $35 for a set and $55 for two. Comparable to the curved shower rod with the advantage that existing shower rods can be used.

The project isn’t very well funded right now, less than 5% with 15 days to go. I wish there were more funders, then I’m more comfortable at putting my contribution in. Thinking about it.

in outside interests |

I have 10 years’ worth of posts here, so it may be interesting to look back in time to see what I was posting.

one year ago : kids on food

Nice post about eating habits around the world, inspired by a couple of Jamie Oliver food programs and a youtube channel Rinozawa of a Japanese toddler who loves to try new food. The one that caught my eye was the one where Rino, the kid, tries pho. Seems like Rino now has a younger brother, Yuuma, but their foodie ways continue. This one is where they try satay. There are also videos of Rino cooking with mum, she made scrambled eggs and chocolate madeleine, so delightful.

The thing is, Rino is an exception. Many parents I know would have baulked at serving satay to a young child — flavour too strong, too unfamiliar etc. And many parents would have taken the meat off the skewer onto a plate instead of letting their child try the food the way it should be eaten, because skewers are difficult and dangerous if the sharp point accidentally pokes through the mouth. Note that Rino is supervised by both her parents, and they aren’t afraid of letting her eat off the skewer.

Jamie Oliver’s food revolution is still ongoing. American kids still do not recognise potatoes unless in the form of fries. Idiot parents bring an 8-month old screaming baby to a 3 michelin star restaurant. The comments from the Alinea kerfuffle are all focused on “if I paid $400+ per head for dinner I want to enjoy it” are of course true, but my opinion is that it isn’t the price tag, it’s the fact that Alinea serves a tasting menu that lasts several hours in the evening and why would the parents think it’s appropriate to bring a baby to an event lasting that long? It’s not appropriate to bring a baby to the theatre for the same reason.

three years ago: long surf ride

A video post of a 5-mile surf in Alaska. Beautiful scenery, beautiful photography. Quite peaceful to watch.

five years ago: cheap brics

Investing in the BRIC markets. It was the thing back then to invest in the BRIC markets, and the 5-year performance chart validates the decision to buy in 2009.


Performance since 2011 has been mediocre, and I’ve mostly exited in favour of the more stable European market. My US investments have done pretty well too, over 5 years.

ten years ago: bonus matters

Back before attention fell on financial services bonuses, even people like us in support functions got a small share of the pie. Interesting to read my reaction to a lower bonus compared with the year before; that is why I’m not in the front office. I think I got that special award because of participation in a global project, whatever it was, it was great to be recognised for contribution.

Things are so different now, 10 years later. So many scandals, the whole industry dragged down the entire world economy. Huge income inequality and bankers are now regarded as vile. True, the bonuses were outlandish and mostly ill-gotten, but what most lay people don’t realise is that these huge bonuses only apply to the people at the top. When the pie is smaller, these people don’t get smaller bonuses, they get larger share of the pie at the expense of junior people and support staff. Don’t laugh at everybody who lost their jobs when the likes of Lehman collapsed, the top people got their golden parachutes but how about the desk assistants and account clerks and IT staff?

Am I sorry I ended up in the financial services industry as opposed to, say, pharmaceuticals or engineering? I worked long hours and saw a lot of ugliness, but I also got sent all over the world and managed to save up enough to be semi-retired. All in all, not too bad.

look back summary

Hey, this was fun, looking back over past posts. May do it again some other time.

in outside interests |


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

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

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

we all have the same number of minutes in our day

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

in outside interests |


One of sis’ i-school mom friends is involved in this case studies research centre where they hire people to write case studies for business schools. Pretty decent pay, about $3,500 per case if accepted. We met for drinks a few weeks ago, I sent in my CV and they asked me to go to their office for a writing test. Pick one of 2 articles and write a case study introduction, ie the paragraph or two that comes before the meat of the case. The obvious article would have been one about a bunch of bankers being sued for poaching clients but I didn’t see the teaching point for that. I worked on the other article, about “newer” (the article was dated 2008 so “new” is relative) sovereign wealth funds moving into riskier global markets and because of their size, potentially having an impact on the markets themselves.

Also had to list some teaching points. Um, okay. Difference between investment aims of different investor types. Discuss how global markets may potentially be influenced. Discuss the role of politics in government-managed funds.

The test was supposed to be 2.5hrs. I was done by 1hr; with checking and re-writing I was done by 1.5hrs.

in outside interests |


Sis and I went to a talk about growing your own vegetables sponsored by the slow food movement. There were 4 speakers talking about their experiences, as well as what they are doing in schools to help kids learn and grow their own fruit and vegetables. There was one speaker who introduced us to the concept of aquaponics which combines raising fish (or shrimp or the like) and a soil-less vegetable planting system. The waste water from the fish tank is pumped into the vegetable growing tub, where the plants absorb nutrients and clean water pumped back to the fish tank. When running, it’s a self-sustaining system.

I remember when I used to keep tropical fish how my window plants really thrived when I watered them using the fish water. Makes sense. Aquaponics systems can be set up in a small area in the garden, on a balcony and even on a very small scale indoors. Here’s a video made by the University of Hawaii.

It doesn’t seem impossibly difficult, just need the space, the parts and some tools. I’d much rather set it up outdoors, need lighting and a system to reduce humidity indoors. The sort of fish can be edible, like catfish or tilapia, or just plain goldfish for those who are squeamish about killing fish. Plants are usually leafy lettuce, pak choy or herbs like basil and mint. Sounds awesome.

in outside interests |


It’s Father’s Day weekend. We went to anticipatory mass at a faraway church (because mm wanted to catch up with one of the Fathers from the church she was baptised), the theme was love and the reading was from Luke.

Then Jesus took him up and said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say on, Master.”
“There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty.
“They were unable to pay, so he let them both off. Which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one who was let off more, I suppose.” Jesus said, “You are right.”
4Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair.
You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.
You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
For this reason I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love.”

The Father who conducted the mass today is one of the most senior and well known fathers, and his homily was simple. Do you deserve more of God’s love because you have forgiven more; or do you give more love and so God will love you?

There seem to be several lessons to be learnt here. Simon the Pharisee’s preconceived idea about the woman sinner, he can’t see her love for her great sins. The woman displayed great love for Jesus, despite her sins, and for that she was loved and forgiven.

For me, it seems to be a matter of intentions. Forgiveness as a currency of sin, yes. But do you forgive so you get love; or do you love anyway with no regard for the amount of love you get back?

Parental love, that’s the latter. It’s unconditional. At the end of the mass, he asked all dads to line up in the middle aisle and he blessed them all one by one. They each got a small gift too. How wonderful.

in money business , outside interests |


Met with my financial advisor about the state of my investments. Emerged from the meeting fairly happy. I did task her with investigating if I have enough capital to generate enough income so I don’t need to work. I think I’m okay, just about.

We are also converting a couple of my accounts to another platform, one that is more flexible, easier to use online and has more investment options. One of the options we talked about was to invest in some single company funds. The one she recommended was a Barings Germany fund. In the past, I could invest in pan-European but not just Germany.

Why Germany? It’s been voted the most positively viewed country in the world. Economic stability is first a foremost. As is frugality, organisation and just that particular German way of doing things. I probably won’t like living there, then again, I loved loved loved Switzerland and I was living in the German-speaking part.

in outside interests |


I hopped into a taxi and promptly saw an iphone on the floor. Told the taxi driver immediately, and luckily we weren’t far from the taxi stand; he slowed down, we all looked around and saw a couple frantically waving at us. All was well, they’d discovered they lost the phone, and we got it back to them quickly.

But what if we were too far away, or there weren’t frantic owners? My first instinct would have to take it to a police station. But a little bit of googling gave me ideas on what I could have done first. Like almost all smartphones, the passcode was on, so I couldn’t have looked through the contacts list for someone like “Mum” or “Home” to call. I could still use Siri or voice call with the screen locked and asked the iphone to call. The problem is it doesn’t work very well. I tried calling Mum via voice control and my iphone called some random number instead. (May be I wasn’t enunciating correctly.)

In any case, the carrier’s name is on the top left, and the online consensus is that it’s probably better to return it to them than to a police station. They can take the sim card out and figure out the owner. Okay, I could have taken the sim out too, but it’s better done by the carrier.

I have a folder on my iphone for emergency apps, one of which allows me to type in name, blood type, allergies as well as emergency contacts and have it displayed as my lockscreen password. May be it’s not so confidential to display Mum’s number, but it’s a risk worth taking for peace of mind.

When I stepped out of the taxi, I automatically patted my back pocket to check I still had my iphone.

in outside interests |


Some executive search guy got into contact with me through linkedin. We chatted a bit yesterday and he asked if I could come to his office for a more in depth meeting. Not inclined to look for a job yet, but I thought why not. This meant finding my nicely dry cleaned suit, ironing my shirt and cleaning my boots for the meeting. The meeting was okay. He had an assignment but we agreed it’s not what I would be interested in. Just as well.

I took the bus down and back, and there was a little bit of walking in the business district. Not used to wearing anything other than siders or sneakers. My socks kept falling inside my boots. Argh. They’re new and very elasticated as well so I’m not sure why they keep falling down. Rubber bands next time, I think.

Heh, My Socks Keep Falling Down in My Boots. Sounds like a country song.

My socks keep falling down in my boots
The Sheriff doesn’t ask questions before he shoots
[guitar twang twang twang]

in outside interests |


I already have 4 driver’s licences, so I’m pretty sure that when we go on holiday next weekend and want to rent a car, one of those licences will work. But apparently, it’s better to get an international driver’s licence, so okay. I tried the government website, and found the page that has a online form for the said licence. Happily filled it out, and then…all it did was to complete my details on a pdf which I had to print out and take to the transport department! I could have printed the blank page out and hand filled the boxes quicker. That is not an online form.

So, I asked mm to print the form for me and toddled off to the transport dept office. The queue for the international driver’s licence was the same as for regular licences, so it was pretty long. About half an hour later, I finally got to the window. I handed in my form, 2 photos and payment to the friendly official. The official checked the details, glued one of the photos on the licence (yes, using a Pritt stick), and then…told me to go to another window to wait for my licence. Um, it’s right there in your hands, ma’am.

It turns out, another person at another window had to re-check and then stamp the licence. How did the paperwork get from one window to another? The official at the first window placed it in her in-tray, and every 10 or so minutes, another worker walked around all the windows and hand-delivered the paperwork to the final window. I kid you not. Picked up by hand and delivered to a desk 20 feet away. Of course, the paperwork was sitting on both in-trays for a while, I know because I can see it.

Kind of incredible, how government processes haven’t come out of the 19th century. Although, all the officials were helpful and cheerful, a bit like labourers who are happy in their slowpoke ways.

in outside interests , random words |


Registered for the 2013 GCLS conference, which will take place at the end of June in Dallas. Got the early bird x2 ticket with A. Getting flights will be more of a challenge, so I need to start researching earlier. This will be my 5th con, I think. But I won’t get my 5 year anniversary badge because I forgot to renew one time so I had to restart a few months later. Ah well. It’s a great conference, and I’m looking forward to readings, lectures and the annual catch up with friends. Not to mention visitingTexas again and may be this time I’ll shell out for that $200 cowboy hat.

They have a silent auction at the conference, and this year’s chocolate shoe went down very well. Not sure how to top that next year, I wonder if I can get my hands on some strange Japanese candy. Failing that, there’s always melty kisses, the winter special editions are hitting the shelves now.

in outside interests |


I’ve been keeping an eye on the status of my shipment. Gone are the days when the packers take away the stuff and there’s an information blackhole until they call to arrange delivery. I can now go online and track, either through the shipment company or, since I know that my stuff will go on a container ship called MOL Competence, I can track the ship on its journey. The ship arrived at Southampton from Hamburg, and after my container (plus others of course) is loaded, it is scheduled to leave port this weekend.

in outside interests |

There were some fireworks at night. Sis, Rob and my niece came over for dinner and we watched it all together. On TV, and we could see a little of it from the balcony. Fun to have the live and broadcast effect, looks like there’s a one second delay.

in outside interests |


We took the train, 45mins, went through two vastly different immigration checkpoints (one side fully electronic with fingerprint sensor, the other a scramble and long queue), checked in with the counter at the station and within minutes were at the queen spa complex. Seven levels of relaxation, wow.

First, we were directed to the lockers where we were given a security wristband with a number. This number will be used at the end to settle up. Then it was time for sauna, steam room and a shower before changing into the uniform pajamas. Then the fun begins. The menu had a selection of body massage, facial, hand, foot, head, back massages as well as manicures, pedicures and even hairdressing. One floor was massage, another was the pool, the main lobby had huge armchairs with personal tv sets.

We opted for 90min body massage. It’s pretty standard, my muscles were sore afterwards because it’s been a while for me. There were free fruit, ice cream, snacks, tea, coffee and soft drinks. After the massage it was time for dinner. Again there were choices — the main restaurant upstairs, the smaller restaurant on the main floor or sit at the armchairs and order noodles. The food was good, relatively expensive.

Head and foot massage for 90mins after dinner. By then it was 10.30pm and we’d been there over 5hrs. Total bill including tips worked out to be just over £100 for 2 people. The tip situation is always awkward, they push for big tips and give limited choice on the slip you sign at the end of each procedure. The smallest amount is already 30% of the cost of the massage and it goes up to several times the cost. Reading the reviews it seems to be a persistent issue and I won’t be surprised that westerners or people who can’t read have been scammed into giving a biggest available tip amount.

Although called a spa, and having the usual spa facilities, it’s too family like, noisy and busy to be truly relaxing. Staff are polite but quite in-your-face. It’s the nature of the beast I suppose. Go without expectations, know what you want and it will be a good experience.

in on the relationship front , outside interests |


She’s been going to piano practice very diligently while she is in London, getting up in the morning and taking the bus to Edgware Road. Mostly, I stay home and meet her afterwards or she comes home and we cook. I’m so glad I found this place, it’s not expensive, £12 for a grand piano and £20 for the Fazioli.

Drumstick, ribs and brie for lunch. Soup and salmon for dinner.

in outside interests |


Hot on the heels of olympics tickets are the paralympics tickets, which were delivered today. I have day passes for the olympic park and excel, for events such as wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, football, fencing, basketball, volleyball and boccia. I’ve always been interested in the paralympics, and these events I am looking forward to attending.

in outside interests |


Olympics tickets are being sent to successful ticketholders. They tried delivering mine 2 weeks ago when I was in the US. I got an email about the non-delivery and went online to reschedule delivery, that’s one good thing I’ll say about locog (or rather, the royal mail). I have 8 tickets, all women’s diving: 2 each for the 3m springboard semi-final and final, and 4 for the 10m platform final. All of them very desirable events.

The Diamond Jubilee was really successful and set the scene for a great summer for the UK and London in particular. There are differences between the jubilee and olympics events though, and I’m not convinced that locog will run the olympics as well. First, there will be vastly more people in London. It’s less than a month, and I have yet to feel the excitement. The tickets come with free zone 1-9 travelcards, and that’s the first dread — the crowded and hot tube ride to Stratford. The sessions are 1-1.5hrs, and it takes me longer to get there.

Then all the rules in the spectator guide — can’t bring water, only one small soft-sided bag per person, get there 2 hours before your event is due to start, be prepared to go through security — sounds familiar? It’s like going to the airport and going through security theatre.

Don’t even get me started on the ticket sale fiasco. Anyway, I have tickets so I can’t complain. I should be grateful and treasure this olympics event. It’s going to take place in a city where I live. I’ll be able to sample the atmosphere and explore the olympics park. I have some great tickets. The best thing is, mm will be here with me. Get those union jack bunting out, dust off the union jack hat, get ready for the olympics.

in going places , outside interests |


I first did it when I went to Prague with Mum last year. I most recently did it just this past weekend when we went to Stockholm. I’m sure I’ll continue doing it going forward.

Do what?

Borrow travel guides from the local library. The books are up to date, and the DK guides have plenty of pictures and maps. Perfect for travelling. I can take the books out for 3 weeks at a time. What a great resource.

in outside interests |

Newspaper grape purple
image courtesy flickr user ns newsflash

I spilled some of the sauce from my lunch inside my backpack and there’s salmon smell everywhere even after I cleaned up. Lots of ideas on how to get smell out including baking soda, coffee grinds and activated charcoal. Hmm, I have none of that, or may be just a small tub of baking soda. I do, however, have newspaper. I sprinkled a few drops of lavender scent and stuffed a few wads inside the backpack. Hey presto, it worked.

in eating and drinking , outside interests |

ldnjpn059sushiplate ldnjpn049sakefutaho

I had a groupon for the hyper japan festival this weekend. Billed as the UK’s biggest j-culture event, I was intrigued.

There were lots of stalls for gadgets, toys, comics, dvds and all sorts of Japanese cute stuff. A couple of stalls selling sweets like collon, melty kiss and this PSP sour candy. I wasn’t tempted, because I know where to get these stuff cheaper. And I’m less interested in the cosplay and video games stuff anyway.

The main reason I wanted to go were the sushi and sake tasting events. Each of the competitor stalls will give you a sample so you can score and vote. There is also a chance of some big prizes. It was interesting, but also quite disappointing. 5 pieces of sushi for £20 and a chance at a prize draw is not good value for money. Same with the tiny sips of sake and a minute piece of cheese or snack they give you, for another £20. If I hadn’t had the groupon, I would have felt badly ripped off.

I had some yaki soba and gyoza too. Grabbed a few free bottles of yakult and was out of there before noon.

in outside interests |


It’s traditional to give red packets for luck. Growing up, it was only my parents so we missed out on a lot of money-gathering opportunities lol. It’s given by the older generation to the younger generation, but in practice it’s married people to single people. Since I’m technically single, I get given them too. It’s a little embarrassing, I accept because it’s polite to do so. If the giver has children, I make sure I give one to their kids.

Although most envelopes are red, there are also gold ones. SC gave me this cute one with a cartoon dragon, it being the year of the dragon. Quite festive.

in outside interests |

I went to the Christmas concert at Westminster Cathedral earlier this evening. There are 2 concerts, tonight and tomorrow night. I just got the £10 tickets, and ended up sitting at the last row. Doesn’t matter, I could still hear the choir and the readers.

It wasn’t a mass, just the cathedral choir and a few readings. No communion although there was a Blessing and the Archbishop of Westminster said a few words. Finally I’m beginning to feel a little Christmas-y. Most of what the choir sang I didn’t know, although I liked them (except the Bach one in German that went on and on and on). There was audience participation with a few traditional carols like Once in Royal David’s City and O Come All Ye Faithful. One of the best readings was Peter Bowles reading the poem Christmas by John Betjeman.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

in outside interests |


I bought 10 ebooks over the weekend, a mixture of new releases, earlier works and some from a sale event. I started on one of the 10 yesterday, but found it a hard slog. It’s not very well written: pov jumps all over the place; massive amount of telling vs zero showing; unconvincing dialogue; the characters have no character. The premise is decent, some important social issues are addressed and there is, on paper, a lot of potential. If only the writing matches the idea. I tried a couple more chapters today, but when I checked the page numbers I see that after all that, I’m only at page 110 of 260. Not even halfway. I can’t see myself sustaining any sort of interest so I gave up. Sorry, [author]. (And, I’m intentionally vague because I don’t want to upset people associated with the book.)

in outside interests |

Fabulous idea that Tesco introduced in Korea. Posters that mimic supermarket shelves at subway stations. Scan the qr code of the item, checkout via an app, the stuff is delivered. I’d be all over this.

in outside interests |


In this unusually hot weather it was nice to ride on one of those air conditioned Metropolitan line trains. I’d forgotten that the tube, or for that matter almost all the UK, isn’t air-conditioned. It is gratifying to read that by 2016 40% of the tube will use the air-conditioned trains. Can’t come soon enough for me.

I was thinking last night how I can get my fan shipped over. Of course the cost of shipping is greater than buying a new one here. I can’t remember summers being this hot when I was growing up, I’ll wait and see if I can survive this summer without any cooling electrical appliances.

in outside interests |


“You’re going to the Olympics!” said the email. I have 8 tickets for diving. All women’s, 3m springboard semi-final and final plus 10m platform final. I didn’t get any other sport, which surprised me. No table tennis, badminton, synchronised swimming or taekwondo. I’m quite happy that we get to go to Olympics Park and I have tickets at all. Still, the process of taking money from people’s account and making them wait 4 weeks before knowing what they’ve bought irks me.

in eating and drinking , outside interests |


There are 5 Whole Foods in London, the largest, at high st ken is only a bus ride away. I’m so glad I made the trip. Had lunch at their restaurant — a kind of high end food court with salads, sandwiches, hot food, Mexican food, vegetarian, pizza, Japanese. Tried the shabu shabu of lamb with udon and veg. Nice, but pricey. A very decent iphone pic here.

The store itself is split on 2 floors and by London standards very large. Actually, it’s comparable in size to the Ashland store. I couldn’t help myself and came home with a veritable treasure trove of food I love and have missed: t-bone steak, osso bucco (in brown packaging underneath steak), tahini, clay pot yogurt, my beloved goose island beer, passion fruit, legbars (blue) eggs, abate pears, heirloom tomatoes, coulommiers cheese, st nectaire cheese — altogether £53, not cheap. I remember Car saying Whole Foods = whole paycheck.

And then I had to go to Tesco afterwards to get regular stuff like ham, fruit, vegetables and salmon, which set me back another £20. I was on whatsapp with mm throughout and I told her I bought more than enough food for 2 people for a week. Hee.

in outside interests |


Today was a brilliant sunny day, and what better than to visit the local farmer’s market. This one at queen’s park would have been a long walk, but I zipcar’ed it. There were stalls for meat, fruit, veg, tomato, mushroom, cheese, bread, soups, pies and cooked food. Not cheap, I spent a fortune there — organic carrots and parsnips, cauliflower, bag-your-own rocket, a vegetarian pie, top quality calves’ liver and a jointed wild rabbit. I’d already gotten some venison sausage from m&s yesterday so I didn’t get any venison. It takes 35mins by bus according to tfl, probably the same time to walk. Dare I take the bike next time? I’m still not comfortable cycling on the road.

in outside interests |

I’ve been reading some of the books marked for disposal, a kind of “last goodbye” thing. While others I’ve put away in boxes and not thought about, there are some that I am giving up in the interest of space. I managed to condense all my books from what used to be 4 bookshelves to 1. (Okay, some of that space was used for photo and stamp albums and I’ve put them somewhere else.) I suppose I might miss some of them, may be in a few months’ time I’d want to read a particular book and discover that I don’t have it anymore. Unlikely. And besides, I can get it again as e-book.

in outside interests |

video link:

Not a surfer at all, but fascinated with watching surfing. This is rather sedate, but still fascinating. A phenomenon called tidal bore in Alaska presents a chance for long 5 mile rides on these big standup boards. Wow.

in on the relationship front , outside interests |

Because of the pre-Christmas bad weather and the VAT increase in January to 20%, it’s expected to be a bumper boxing day sales. We made our way to lakeside in the morning, and spent the day walking around the shops. Didn’t buy anything though, nothing screamed out to be bought. On the way back, we went to the bagel shop to get plain bagels, then it was home early so I can make mediterranean chicken stew with cous cous. Another great day for bbmm.

in arts and media , outside interests |

Santa Lucia (or St Lucy’s) Day is celebrated in Sweden and other Scandanavian countries on 13 December. Thursday I went with J&R to the harcourt arms, opposite the swedish church for a short Santa Lucia Day recital. The main attraction was the choir singing the santa lucia song. The girl at the top of the procession wears candles on her head representing the fire that refused to take her life when she was sentenced to be burned.

in all about people , outside interests |


via kottke, a map of Europe according to Americans. There are other stereotypes, including Europe according to Britain (most of mainland Europe = Evil Federated Empire of Europe), France, Germany and Italy. Pretty accurate, IMO.

Reminds me of a recent joke that was circulating around fb:

A teacher at an International School gave a class assignment: “Describe your own personal opinion of the food shortage in other countries around the world.”

African student: what is “food”?
European student: what is “shortage”?
Chinese student: what is “personal opinion”?
American student: what is “other countries”?

in how the day went , outside interests |


It was raining this morning, and I thought I might have to stay indoors all day. Luckily it cleared out after lunch so I took the bike out. Rode to the totem pole. The path was pretty clear, not many riders. Quite a few runners though, I guess a few of them would be doing their long runs for marathon training.

Went over to the german festival over at lincoln square. Too used to driving, so I initially cycled on the main road. Did not like that one bit, too close to cars. Turned off into smaller streets and was less stressed. The festival was exactly like the maifest last year (didn’t go this year) — beer tents, food tents selling the same bratwurst meal, and even the arcade game stalls were identical. I am not going to make a comment about german consistency and reliability. (Heh, and I just did anyway.)

As it happened I was there for the General von Steuben parade. I had absolutely no idea it was happening, but figured it something was up with the large number of people lining the streets around the festival. Apparently:

the parade celebrates Baron Friedrich von Steuben, who came to this country as a volunteer offering his services to General George Washington. General von Steuben converted the revolutionary army into a disciplined fighting force, instilling in them much needed inspiration, confidence and competence.

There were many floats, people in traditional german clothing, marching bands, local dignitaries, politicians and even the truck of a moving company.


Had a bratwurst, potato salad and sauerkraut meal washed down with a large beer. With perfect timing the sun came out. Walked a little along the square exploring the german deli and a kitchen shop. Cycled back home via Ravenswood, and stopped at george’s for their yippee skippy (ie peanut butter) ice cream.

in 101.1001 , evidence of my insanity , outside interests |


There’s some part of me, the occasionally whimsical (or whimsy-wannabe) part, that fantasizes about volunteering. I’ve always wanted to research organisations like the vso, earthwatch and when I’m being ultra whimsical, the peace corps, even though I don’t qualify, not being a US citizen and all.

Thing is, I don’t even do domestic volunteering, like help the homeless or join a green program. I don’t feel it’s me. So why would doing volunteering overseas be me? I guess it’s the adventure, or perception of adventure. There’s an old nyt article about ecotourism, and it hits the nail right on the head:

“People selfishly want experiences that are real — they don’t want canned tours, they want to meet the park ranger, they want to help in an orphanage,” said Blue Magruder, director of public affairs for Earthwatch. “And an increasing number of people want their time on the planet to count.”

So i did look into earthwatch and such like programs. They are fairly expensive, in the thousands of USD for 7-14 days. I don’t think I’m quite at the place where I feel a burning need to go on one of these trips, educational and valuable they are. It has to be the right time and for the right reason. It may come. I’m hopeful that it may come.

in 101.1001 , outside interests , random words |


I think I blew this one out of the water. When I started 101.1001 amazon had only just released the kindle and the ebook market was still in its infancy. I thought at that time that I’d try downloading a few ebooks and reading it on the mbp using the ereader software.

I now have 93 ebooks in my ereader (the hardware, heh, the same name thing is confusing). This includes 90 full length books and 3 short stories but excludes the free classics downloaded from sony. I’ve read almost all of them, so yes, I read 5 ebooks…in the last 2 weeks. They cost the same as regular paperbacks, so at an average of $12-13, that’s over $1000 I’ve contributed to the industry since march 2009. Do I get an award or what?

At the moment, I’m using one of the least popular readers, and there’s a lot of “me-too” pressure to get the kindle 3, which ships this week. The formats and industry are starting to settle, there will be a clear standard and device winner soon. Interestingly, I don’t think it’ll be the ipad, it will be a dedicated ereader. I’ve not even been tempted to read on the ipad so far.

in outside interests |


Click on image for larger version, originally at newsweek. No need to add any comment, it speaks for itself.

in how the day went , outside interests |


Another summer festival, this one the Korean festival. Only a 10-minute drive away, so no excuse. Plus unlike the ginza festival, no entrance fee. They closed 2 blocks of the street, and the stalls varied between food, community groups, a Hyundai dealership and others selling crafts or korean toiletries and other stuff. There was a sand wrestling competition area and inflatable castles for kids.

My main purpose is for the food, naturally. I had the spicy rice cake (dukbokki) and fish stick in soup. I remember the first time I had the spicy rice cake, on a bitingly cold day in Seoul, I had no idea it was that spicy. Since acquired a taste for it, cos I know what to expect. The fish stick is just like any fishball, just in a flat form. Stayed away from all the fried food. Everything washed down by an OB beer. Just one, cos I’m driving. Didn’t get the jinru either, cos I’m driving.

The food and beer came to $15, which is a better value and more authentic than the $20+ half chicken I had yesterday. The lady at the food stall gave me too much change actually, but I gave the correct amount back to her.

in outside interests |


Full set here

This is my second year at the air and water show. Last year I went in the afternoon on the second day at the south end of oak street beach. This year, I went at 10.30am on the first day and decided to go right where the action was, at north avenue beach. I figured, it’d be crowded but it should be feasible to find space for one person. I was right. I got a spot at one of the concrete jetties facing south, it was perfect. It was also extremely hot and though I had sunscreen on, I could feel the UV. I brought a beach towel to sit on, I ended up huddling underneath it for most of the day, to block out the sun.

The show started with skydivers, and then there were military planes, helicopters and aerial gymnastics from at least 3 teams. It was fantastic. The buzz and roar of the planes, the skills of the pilots. I wish I knew more about planes to be able to recognise them.

The highlight was of course the finale, the blue angels flying F/A-18 Hornets. There was a lot of anticipation, about where they’d “sneak” up on us, people were watching the skies all over. Then we saw a huge plume of grey smoke from the lake and there they were! Great end and I didn’t feel like I’d been sitting on concrete under the baking sun for 5 hours.

It was only a 10-15min walk to the ginza festival. I was pretty hungry and thought I’d get dinner there. It turned out to be a very expensive dinner. The entrance of $4 (normally $5 but I had a coupon), plus food and drinks used a ticket system of $1 per ticket. Half a teriyaki chicken was 10 tickets, a beer 5. I had 5 left over so I had a red bean dessert and a serving of edamame. I suppose I could have watched the performance, but it wasn’t interesting. The stalls sold stuff that seemed to come from somewhere between a $10 shop and Sogo. I had to remind myself that I’m not in Asia, and some of these crafts and merchandise are pretty unusual here.

in outside interests |

Took forever to photoshop all the con pics. Even though I’d set white balance, they still came out yellow and I had to cool them down somewhat. Lost a lot of blurry ones. Upload some, but tons more to upload.

in outside interests |

adidas’ world cup star wars cantina.

in outside interests |

The last day of the con. Sad. Too many good-byes. Next year seems such a long way away. Note, if I remember: bring some frangos for the silent auction. No need to pack a suit, there were lots of people in casual clothing. Bring the hilton honors card.

I was way early for the airport, even though I already got a bus later than the concierge suggested. Mortified to find that there is no admiral’s club at MCO (they want us to do more shopping), but balanced out by free wifi. Played with both the iphone and ipad till boarding. Flight was uneventful. I read amy dawson robertson’s book, which I couldn’t put down! Had to switch the reader off for landing, but I was reading it at the luggage carousel and when I got home. Ignored all my mafia wars and vampire wars requests to finish it in bed. It really was that good.

in outside interests |


The day began with the keynote speech with Lee Lynch. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. What an amazing, friendly, generous person, completely without pretension, treats everyone like a personal friend. The rousing standing ovation was well deserved.

Then it was time for the author auction. There were the expected — rachel’s and lynn’s outfits; kg lost her sandals. But there were a few unexpected turns too. I have pics, but I’m not going to post them. Not that they are particularly risque, just that out of respect for the authors’ regular lives, the auction is something that should be kept private. The only remaining note is that over $3000 was raised.

I had a short meeting after lunch, so missed some of the sessions. Skipped the last session to go running. I treated myself to an ice cream after running, but got into a bit of frustration. Ordered a double cup, 2 different flavours. Not sure if the server was new or what, she gave me 2 single cups and charged me like that. According to her nametag she is from estonia and looked so lost, I couldn’t be bothered to argue with her anymore.

Printed my boarding pass, and was on my way back to the room when I got sidetracked into hanging out at the bar. Ended up having 2 beers, in my crappy t-shirt and shorts. Heehee.

The main event this evening was the award and dance. My hat did its rounds again, and I took lots of pics. This one is of the Outsiders group winning the award for short story/collections. I think it’s iconic and captured a nice moment. All the awards were well deserved and I’m happy for all the winners. Afterwards was the dance. I pretty much stayed till the end, there was enough to keep me busy without going dancing.

Car and her mom drove back tonight, so I had the room to myself.

in outside interests |

The con began with the meet and greet this evening. Unlike last year, we had the whole of the ballroom annex. I was so excited to see so many old friends. It’s strange, last year was my first time and I knew no one. Was very shy. This year, I saw chef, screamed like a girl and she picked me up and twirled me around for a quarter circle. Shy no more.

I didn’t bring the big camera, but when the board president asked if I could help take pictures of the saturday award ceremony, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

in outside interests |

Nike’s World Cup campaign. Wayne Rooney channeling some serious Vinnie Jones. Hahaha.

in outside interests , techtalk |


I was saddened to learn that Prof Fritz Sennheiser has passed away. He was of course the founder of Sennheiser, one of the biggest names in audio technology. Microphones, speakers and headphones with the Sennheiser name usually mean high quality.

When I started using my ipod again, I was immediately on the lookout for earphones to replace the original apple ones. Shures and Boses were too expensive. Skullcandies didn’t fit. Everywhere I looked, the answer was Sennheisers. For everyday listening, I use the twist-to-fit models. I used the green ones for running for the longest time until I broke the arm so I was on the lookout for replacement ones last week.

These are adidas branded but made by Sennheiser pmx680. I was at first skeptical of the behind the head arrangement cos I thought there won’t be room around my ears to fit these and my glasses. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry. These absolutely stay in place, even better than the twist-to-fit. The sound quality is excellent and I like how it comes with a short cord for armbands and an extension for other use. I’m not using the armband anymore, having switched to a spibelt (well, Nathan shadowpak), that’s another post.


in outside interests |

What does “BQ” mean to me? Before, it’d be B&Q for DIY stuff (UK equivalent of Home Depot, for non-Brits). The last few years it’s the beauty queens from TAR.

But now, it easily means boston qualifying. Even though some say it’s gotten too big, the Boston Marathon is still probably the world’s most prestigious marathon.

The marathon was today, and it was won by Robert Cheruiyot in 2:05:52 and Teyba Erkesso in 2:26:11. I was also moved by the wheelchair winners Wakako Tsuchida and Ernst Van Dyk.

To BQ is a holy grail of sorts for runners. For me, it’s so out of my reach that it’s not worth even thinking about. I’ll be lucky if I finish in 5:30 for Chicago so coming in under 4hrs? Yeah, right.

in outside interests |

A whole bunch of senior managers are here, hence the reception yesterday. It also means I’ve been wearing a suit this week, though I still cheated and wore my Timberland boots. I don’t mind wearing suits, the ones I have are pretty comfortable. My favourite is a blue pin-striped combo I got from Racing Green. Sigh, that was one of my favourite clothing stores. Am a bit chagrined when I looked online that is now a small store in Yorkshire, and the one that I so loved was sold to Burtons and the brand no longer in existence. Sniff.

In other news, I’ll be in London in May. Trying to find where Leroy my hairdresser has gone to. It’s been so many years, everything that I took for granted and was familiar with had gone and changed on me.

in outside interests |


A $2.99 paint kit, a dozen eggs and I was happily colouring easter eggs. What can i say? I’m easily satisfied.

in outside interests |


8.30pm local time today around the world is earth hour when we’re supposed to turn our lights off for 1 hour.

Honestly, I couldn’t see any visible participation. I think one window had their lights off at 8.30, then turned it back on at 9.30. Otherwise windows that were dark before were dark after. I had my fireplace on, a candle in the kitchen and used one of my hand-cranked torches to get around. The mbp was on throughout — they didn’t say turn off laptops! Many cities participated. It’s Las Vegas’ turn now, I’d be interested to see how the Strip looks, if they killed the neon.

in outside interests |


Even after several visits, as recent as a year or so ago, my friend commented that I walked around chicago like a tourist — with my head tilted up looking at the architecture. Today my colleague C was visiting and we were walking around the Loop after work to our dinner restaurant. She was the one with the head pointed up. I was the one telling her about the buildings and patiently waiting till she got her pictures.

Heh. Somewhere down the line, I became local(-ish).

in outside interests |


This fun star wars weather tool shows the weather around the world in terms of star wars places. So like it’s cold here in Chicago, but it’s much more fun to say it’s like Hoth. The description goes, “cold, ice, freezing desolation. you may have to climb inside a tauntaun for warmth.”

A little view page source tells me there are 9 places:

  • tatooine — hot, dry, occasional sarlacc — utinni!
  • dagobah — hot and wet and not in a good way — Yoda might be hiding somewhere
  • yavin 4 — hot and cloudy — bits of the Death Star might fall on your head
  • endor — temperate, grey and cloudy — stick around and you may get your own animated series
  • bespin — fog, mist, cloud, can’t see a thing — Lando is going to betray you.
  • kamino — wet — there’s also a significant chance of unconvincing CGI aliens
  • naboo — temperate, dry and pleasant — meesa like-a the weather these days
  • hoth — cold, ice, freezing desolation — you may have to climb inside a tauntaun for warmth
  • alderaan — huh? does not exist

So Hoth isn’t good, we should aim at Endor or Naboo.

[via giz]

in being healthy , outside interests |


Because of all the eating over the Thanksgiving holiday, I knew i had to do some serious running for the remainder of the weekend. The weather had been good, and then today when I woke up…it was raining and i heard rumbles of thunder. Sigh.

I did go out after lunch, and now with my new long-sleeved running shirt on top, and running gloves. I ran south along the lake, past Montrose beach. It was pretty deserted, I saw fewer than 10 other runners. At first it was fine, and then after I turned around it started to get very, very, very windy. The worst was that I was running against the wind, which slowed me down a lot. And then it started drizzling. Sigh. I was glad of my dryfit shirt and my hat.

So now I have to be prepared for winter running and figure out how to do it when it starts snowing. There’s a lot of good clothing and tips out there:

  • attire — layers, shell, hat, gloves, probably have to wear long pants soon — remember to wear a technical shirt underneath and not cotton
  • visibility — I’m thinking of getting some reflective strips for extra visibility, the neighborhood street lamps aren’t terribly bright
  • safety — I used to run at all hours, like 11.30pm, midnight. Not anymore in Chicago cos it’s unsafe, and I’d never go out to the lake in the dark. I already carry my ICE card in my ipod pouch, I’m gonna get a road ID soon

in outside interests |

Black Friday in the US means the day after the Thanksgiving holiday when shops give big discounts to lots of stuff. They open at funny hours like 4am and people queue up overnight to get the best deals, which they call doorbusters.

Though we didn’t get up at early hours, we did set out early at 9am. We hit Sears, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Staples, Tiger Direct in quick succession. The others had specific stuff they wanted to buy, I didn’t. At the end I bought a wii fit ($99, not at discount) and an Epson NX415 for half price at Staples.

in outside interests |

I was watching the baseball last night, it’s the World Series between the Yankees and the Phillies. First of, competition between teams in the same country does not “world” make, but I give up re: Americans’ lack of awareness of the rest of the world. Anyway, the game was interesting, albeit boring with all the stop-starts (another characteristic of American team sports, think American football. The other insane characteristic is the obsession with numbers and statistics). The Yankees won, which I’m mildly happy about.

Then I read today about where commemorative t-shirts from the losing team go and I’m very very happy that they go to charity and then to people in poor countries.

The merchandise doesn’t go to waste, people living in poverty receive new, clean clothes, and the clothing makers recoup some of their losses—they get tax credits for the charitable donations. Why don’t the clothes go to needy families in the United States? Overseas donation is part of the agreement between World Vision and the leagues. The farther away the clothing is, the less likely it is to offend a losing player (or heartbroken Buffalo Bills fan).

in eating and drinking , how the day went , outside interests |


My second Landshark event today was the oyster festival at Roscoe Village. According to the original blurb in Time Out it’s supposed to be a Guinness and oyster event; but somehow Guinness disappeared.

The entrance fee was $5, and of all the events I’ve been to this year, this $5 was a waste. First off, I expected oysters — as in raw bar oysters. Was very disappointed that there was only one stand, selling baked stuffed oysters at $20 for the half dozen. I guess Americans have this paranoia about serving raw seafood, but if that’s the case why have the festival in the first place. Tasted okay, and nice with beer, but nothing like fresh raw oysters, right? Sigh.

Still hungry, so I had a lamb kebab and another beer. Took the bus and was home by 5pm.

in how the day went , outside interests |


The Air & Water Show took place over this weekend. I found a spot at the lakeside between Oak Street Beach and Ohio Beach, it wasn’t as crowded as the main area at North Beach. Weather-wise it would have been better to come yesterday, cos today it was overcast and rained a bit. I had my hat on so I wasn’t bothered, I was more annoyed at the lack of blue skies and good light. I got there just before 2pm. Seemed like I just missed whatever was on the program before cos it was a good 30-40mins before the display started again.

I must confess I have no idea what models the planes were, just that they were very impressive — both the planes and the pilots’ flying skills. I was a bit too far south to be in the middle of the action, even though I could see pretty well. First there was a series of single plane displays. The biplane was especially crazy.


The main attraction was of course the US Airforce Thunderbirds and even I knew they were flying F-16s. The cloud cover gave them an advantage to sneak up on us, I was looking around trying to spot them approaching. All in all it was a magnificent display of precision flying. And the noise!! Especially when they flew over my head.

I had both my camcorder and my camera. The photos needed to be photoshopped, and somehow the audio went missing when I converted the mpg to mov. Need to fix that sometime.

video of thunderbirds (no audio):
photos full set:

in 101.1001 , how the day went , outside interests |


I spent 9 hours (1-10pm) on Sunday at lollapalooza, which is one of America’s prime music festival events. It’s a 3-day event, but as I looked at the lineup, I decided I could only do one day, especially since I had to go to work friday. I was a bit bummed that I missed Depeche Mode on Friday and Gomez, TV on the Radio and Tool on Saturday. Ah well, next year.

lolla023cool lolla021crowd

It was a HOT, HOT, HOT day. We were allowed sealed bottle water, and throughout the day I made sure I was hydrated. Okay, I had 3 Bud Lights in addition to the water, watermelon and smoothies I enjoyed. I also diligently bought and used sunblock; and a cute fedora I bought at one of the stalls. The first pic here shows a fire department “mobile ventilation unit” which they used to fan water for a cooling shower for the participants. The second pic shows what seems to be all 225,000 attendees.

lolla011airborne lolla030djboyz

There were 8 stages, and with Grant Park 1 mile long, it was essential to plan. There were only a couple of overlaps where I had to decide, most of the time it was obvious who I wanted to see. I caught the end of Bat for Lashes, who I’ve never heard of but will likely buy their album now. Then mid-afternoon it was Airborne Toxic Event, who were more subdued than I expected. I wondered if I should have gone to see Kaiser Chiefs instead. I was fairly close to the stage, although being short it was difficult to see over the shoulders of people in front of me.

A short break afterwards, during which I chomped down a portion of Jack Daniels bbq wings washed down with a watermelon wedge. Then it was back to the same stage to see Vampire Weekend, which got us jumping and doing screams. I only know their most well-known songs, and I sang along like the other audience members.

It was then time to explore the other side of the festival, more food, looking around the stalls, bypassing the autograph area. Found myself in the dance pit section, where DJ Boyz Noise was spinning. Then caught the end of Dan Auerbach before heading to Lou Reed. Unfortunately Lou was disappointing, so I walked the whole mile back to the south end, got a tamale/taco combo, a smoothie and a frozen kefir (like frozen yogurt), my last Bud Light and found a seat on the lawn to wait for The Killers.


Brandon Flowers and gang did not disappoint, opening with Human, rocking hard through their repetoire and finishing with a flourish with Read My Mind, Mr Brightside and All These Things that I’ve Done. We sang “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” over and over and over again, it was brilliant. Two encores later, I joined the thousands on my way home, very satisfied, very buzzed and feeling a little like I was 21 again.

in habitat , outside interests |

cablebox01before cablebox02after

Sooner or later, with all the gadgets we own, we end up with a mess of wires everywhere. There are plenty of cable organisers around. I bought 3 of these cableboxes for: a) their aesthetics — they’re well designed, almost Swiss; and b) their capacity. I was able to fit a wide surge protector, the mbp adaptor, the airport, stiff cable wires, adaptor for the modem and usb charger for the iPhone/iPod into the box. Impressive.

space01before space02after
While I was on their website, I ordered a spacestation to replace the usb hub and other wires for the mbp. This one isn’t as useful as I thought, and since I already have a coolsink, the “prop the end of the laptop for cooling” bit is less relevant. Still, looks nice.

in outside interests |

[facebook readers: click on “view original post” to see pics]

somarfest01 somarfest02

Midsommarfest is:

one of Chicago’s most unique street fairs. Born out of Andersonville’s Swedish heritage, Midsommarfest retains its quaint, international flavor. Old-world Swedish traditions, including a festive dance around the Maypole, are incorporated into an unrivaled array of entertainment for families and adults.

Considering I live 3 minutes away, it’s a no-brainer, especially when the weather was so nice. I thought I’d get some good pictures too. But no, it was too crowded and the stalls not that interesting. There were lots of arts and crafts, food and beer. Religious, political and community groups were well represented. I took a picture of one of the stages, and one of the spit roasting pork, that was it.

I actually went back home, dropped my camera and went back. Tried a 10” long Italian sausage sandwich, a corn dog and a sangria that everyone was drinking. It was a nice way of spending the late afternoon.

in arts and media , outside interests | | comments (1)


gama-go are the people who made the boing boing hoodie, which I missed. :( They’re now doing the boing boing t-shirt, but I’m not interested. Instead, I entered into thehoodie roulette in which I sent in $40, and they sent me back a hoodie. The fun part is that I didn’t know what the design is until I receive the package.

It turned out, I got #61/360 of the pastoral dirty bird design. Pretty cool.

in outside interests , techtalk |

Yes, I’m a gadget freak, and I love looking at shiny gadgets. Interestingly though, I’m not an early adoptor, and I use gadgets for a long time. The mbp is an original from 2006, camera is a 350D from 2005, cellphone is from 2007, i only got my ipod nano recently. So it’s a pleasant surprise to hear Anil Dash and Gina Trapani talk about how cool it is to keep using older gadgets. Anil has even set up a new website last year’s model to promote the idea:

It’s totally normal to lust after the hottest new geeky gadgets. It’s also cool to put some thought into what we buy, and what we throw away. So this is a place to show the world that a lot of us are choosing to use Last Year’s Model.

To support, twitter #lastyears.

in outside interests |

gamma-go, maker of the boing boing hoodie, is having a hoodie roulette. At $40 each, we don’t know what we’d get in the mail, only that it’ll be one of their limited editions. but design? Pot luck.

in outside interests |

calendar strip

We had this at OldJob last year and it proved very useful. via lifehacker, a great little strip calendar from marlie’s creative universe. Doesn’t fit on the mbp or the flat screen monitors at work but I will be pinning them on the bottom of the monitor stand or the top of the keyboard. It’s very convenient. There are two versions to fit different sized paper: letter, which is okay on A4 paper too; and legal for a longer strip.

in outside interests |

This should be on the tumblelog but I can’t resist. I mean, TWO Doctors in the same Tardis? :drool. People say “your” Doctor is the one you grew up with; and I grew up with Peter Davison. This mini-episode entitled Time Crash was produced specially for Children in Need and has the 5th Doctor (Davison) as well as the current, 10th, reincarnation. I must say, I lurve David Tennant’s hair.

in outside interests |

Well, I’m officially a web-lemming. I got the download link for Radiohead’s In Rainbows today. The download was fast and in no time at all I had a zip file of shiny new songs from one of the best group of musicians today.

A bit of technical information — 10 songs, 160kbps, DRM-free. Even though there were no advanced copies, reviews are already appearing. I think it’s a brilliant marketing move.

All ten songs were previously available on youtube as live versions and a cursory check shows that the album versions are already on limewire. I don’t know why I thought otherwise — to think that people won’t make the songs available for downloading out of respect for the artist is wishful thinking. The argument is that they don’t deserve special treatment just because; then again they’ve gone out and done something that shakes the music industry on its head and they should be recognised for that. It’s interesting to read that Nine Inch Nails, Oasis and Jamiroquai are considering going down the same route of disintermediation. It’s like giving the power back to the people who created their work.

This is the way the world is heading, of direct interaction between suppliers and end users — it boggles my mind to remember the days when we can arrange travel only through a travel agent, for instance. The music and entertainment industry has to evolve, but only time can tell if they are successful in changing their working model.

Meanwhile, I’m in rainbowland.

in outside interests |

of course I pre-ordered the latest Radiohead. Of course I could have put £0.00 in the checkout box. But I didn’t. I paid what I would normally expect to pay for a CD. It really was up to me.

I’m not a big enough fan to pay £40 for the gorgeous-looking discbox, though I was tempted if only to show support … and the novelty factor. I’m sure a lot of people paid a minimum and many more will download it. But the online consensus seems to be that this is a great move, a challenge to the stale operating model stubbornly followed by the recording industry.

Many indie bands and writers do this, Jane Siberry does it, fruit sellers in sleepy European villages do it, Just Around the Corner restaurant has been around for ages. But what makes this event powerful is that it’s Radiohead, a known super-selling entity with clout and a huge fanbase. Kudos to them. I hope this model works and more follow. What would also be great is an easy way to search for bands distributing their own music.

in outside interests |

I was watching the Postmarks’ Goodbye on youtube (because listening to music on youtube is interesting) when I clicked on a few more links and came across this — Advice for Young Mothers to be by the Veils. What caught my eye? The song title. What was surprising? Good song.

I should have known. The Veils and the Postmarks come from the stable as Brookville and Midlake. My type of music. What’s even more cool? This song, as well as many others, are available for download from world’s fair own website — click on the artists’ names under the Releases menu.

in outside interests |

via cnet and a bunch of techie, geeky, weird stuff websites, here’s one rollercoaster for the adventurous, but only if you have lots of insurance.

The Skycycle (Japanese site — English translation) in Okayama Japan isn’t terribly terrifying — it doesn’t have any loops or whizz its passengers around while seemingly suspended in mid-air or offer experiences of near-zero gravity. Instead, the passengers do all the work, they need to pedal themselves around the track quite a height above ground. The “bikes” look like the ancient types you see in very old fashioned amusement parks.

Heh. Take that, spinning.


in outside interests |

March 26 things is done. From the trip of course.

1. camera10. clutter19. plastic
2. fancy11. love20. home
3. smile12. surprise21. sleep
4. spots13. candid22. the great outdoors
5. curl14. button23. fizz
6. belly15. apple24. family
7. take off16. morning25. glow
8. row17. your favourite beverage26. train
9. library18. square

full set at flickr


in outside interests |

I really wanted to do 26 things, and I wanted for all the pics to be from the trip. So I enlisted everyone to help, and I’m happy to report that I completed it. The first time I actually completed it.

full sized pics at flickr

01overcome 02atthetop 03pileof 04coated 05button 06soft 07strange 08package 09team 10fly 11words 12traffic 13fresh 14craving 15town 16smallspaces 17scream 18boring 19shadows 20curvaceous 21blur 22tv 23meaningoflife 24price 25mirror 26macro

in outside interests |

Okay, I don’t normally frequently post stuff that’s more than PG-13 (um, except the one about the customised paddles or the other one about the SMS-enabled vibe) but I just gotta admire how entrepreneurial this guy is.

Via USA Today. Now couples who want to join the mile high club but don’t want to be rushed, or cramped into tiny smelly airplane bathrooms (cos, not many people dare, or have the opportunity to, do it in the passenger cabin) should make their way to Atlanta.

$299 buys them a whole hour in the secluded cabin of a specially customised Piper Cherokee 6 that is guaranteed to reach an altitude of at least 5,280 feet, an ultra discreet pilot, a bottle of champagne and a certificate. Oh, and “you get to keep your sheets as a souvenir of this special event.” Although I have reservations about the sheets, they’re this awful pink colour.

This seems a tad too deliberate for me. I thought part of getting to be a member of the mile high club involves a certain degree of illicitness, adventure … and the fear of being seen / found out. That’s the adrenalin rush that makes it so titillating. Paying for it and enjoying an hour of fun is all very well, but it doesn’t beat the real thing.

IMHO, YMMV and all that.

in outside interests |

I threw out the fish tank today. It’s the end of our fish-keeping days. It all started when mm and I went to a funfair in Hampstead and won a goldfish. I remember buying a small glass bowl, but then realising we need more — food, filters, aeration and such like.

So we bought an aquarium system and learnt how to keep tropical fish. The goldfish we gave to a friend of ours. We kept to easy fish like guppies, angel fish and catfish. We always preferred live plants. Water must stand in buckets for a while before adding. Change water regularly. Add fish slowly, let them have a taste of the aquarium water first. All these became second nature.

Then I started having to travel a lot, so the fish became neglected and eventually they all died. The tank’s been empty for a couple of years, and starting to look grotty.

I suppose one day we might go back to keeping fish. I like it, watching them, it’s peaceful.


in outside interests |

I watched the trailer for World Trade Center the film. I didn’t think I would be affected, not after so many years, not after so many other tragedies and atrocities. But I had goosebumps all through.

Watch the trailer:

My NYC hotel room overlooked ground zero. Every day we walked past the site to get to the office. There are always people there peering over the fencing and taking pictures. The PATH station is fully operational of course, but everything around is still a big construction site. This is from my room, click for the larger version at flickr.


in outside interests |

I should be excited. I should be watching, following, reading. But not yet. The football doesn’t interest me yet. I read somewhere that the last time the 666 dates appeared, at 6.6.66, England won the World Cup, so they should win again this time, because it’s 6.6.06. Snerk. Judging from the first game, they need a bigger miracle than coincidental dates. This from the London metroblog.

in outside interests |

From metafilter, the top 15 skylines in the world. Some of the entries are contentious and subject to debate on metafilter, but most are agreed on #1. Heh, my reaction has a huge dollop of “yeah right” in it, simply because most days it’s impossible to enjoy a single bit of that skyline — everything is covered by a thick dark blanket of disgusting smog.

In other news (and this is for mary), Klimpton is the best hotel chain for wifi. I remember my problems at the Oberoi in Mumbai, where the wireless conked out without notice and took almost 2 hours to return. While I’m traveling I usually have to wrestle with awful in-room internet services that are expensive and not always Mac compatible. So it’s refreshing to read about a hotel chain that not only provides free wi-fi, they make sure the network covers the entire hotel. Like the article says, the hotel is perfect for “business travelers, hip leisure travelers, and globe-trotting bloggers.” Globe-trotting? They mean ‘North-American continent’ trotting surely? The chain is only found in the US and Canada.

in outside interests |

metroblogging redesigned. It’s now kinda grey and the fonts are larger and seems to have more ads. With my interest in so many cities it’s one of the sites that i visit often. I’m not sure about the new design — it’s neither better nor worse than the previous one, just different and something I won’t even think about when I get used to it. They’ve added a lot more icons and the navigation is more hidden. Lots of good stuff to come apparently.

All I can say is, with 42 cities, it’s an impressive website and makes someone like me who doesn’t live in a “mainstream” location (ie one that doesn’t have enough contributors for our own metblog city) feel closer to the people who do.

in outside interests | | comments (3)

Saw Harry Potter 4 today. I was trying to finish the book in NZ, knowing we’d see it when we came back. And throughout the film, I had the the feeling I know the story. And at the end … yep I’d read the book, I’ve just forgotten about it. Ooops.

Dinner at her place, she cooked. mm is such a great home cook.

I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.

in outside interests |

What can I say? I'm in my hotel room and on TV it's been Iron Chef, Mortal Kombat and Friends. I'm b.o.r.e.d. so I started looking for things to do. This from otto's monday madness.

  1. Do you prefer to be out in the sun or in the shade?
    In the shade, where it's cool and not so bright.
  2. Regarding the walls in your house, do you prefer neutral colors or bright colors?
    Neutral colors, they're cool and not so bright.
  3. When hanging pictures on your walls, do you like things symmetric or asymmetric?
  4. How about where you'd like to live; country or city?
    I've only lived in cities all my life, can't imagine if country suits me. City.
  5. Your blog; Blogger, Blogdrive, Blog-City, or another one altogether?
    Movable type.
  6. Email; Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, or other?
    Yahoo, I'm still waiting for a gmail invite. I have a lead though ... and I'll never be caught dead voluntarily using something that comes out from Redmond.
  7. Air conditioning or just a fan when it's hot at night?
    Aircon, I need it to be cool.
  8. Dinner; seafood or steak?
    Steak, rare.
  9. Your all-time favorite music media; CD's, cassette tapes, or vinyl (or 8-tracks)?
    Anything that can fit on the iPod, failing that CDs I guess. I used to own some vinyls, they were great though.
  10. When learning a new software program, do you find it easier to follow a book or an online tutorial?
    Book, I need to finger the pages.
in outside interests |

Winter was officially over and the day passed me by. Hmmm. Not so much in tune with nature am I. It's interesting to note the main pagan holidays, something I only had a slight awareness of before I researched it for my stories.

Candlemas falls on Feb 2 and marks Mid-winter. Also known as Imbolc and Brigits’s Day. Brigit, or Bridget of Kildare, or Bìghde is the the Celtic goddess of fire, the hearth, smithy, fields, poetry and childbirth.

Spring Equinox marks the first day of spring, March 21, when the farming year begins. Also known as Ostara.

Beltane May Day, or May 1. When the seeds that have been planted in the spring start to grow. In pagan terms the day is one of celebration of all things godly.

Summer Solstice the first day of summer, normally June 22, is the longest day of the year. Hence it's alternative name of MidSummer.

Lammas or Lughnasadh August 1 when fruit begins to appear and can be harvested.

Autumnal Equinox marks the first day of autumn, around September 21.

Samhain also called All Hallows Eve or Halloween and falls on October 31. When the barriers between worlds are thinnest and those who have gone on before can walk in this world. A day of rest and reflection.

Winter Solstice the shortest day of the year around December 22nd marks the first day of winter.