Recently in thing-a-day Category

in photography is life , thing-a-day |


The last day of our road trip, my small camera broke down all of a sudden. All I was doing was turning it on to take a picture. The lens extended part way, then there was some grinding noises of it trying some more, then a couple of beeps. The display said lens error and the camera shut down with the lens extended. I don’t know if it was the heat of the badlands or if a grain of sand had gotten inside or if I’d been turning it on and off too many times.

We had atrocious internet that night at the Ramada Inn Mitchell, I spent the little connection I had on the iphone in the lobby googling how to fix lens error. Methods included cleaning around the lens with the edge of a sheet of paper and tapping the side of the camera. Nothing worked. Fortunately a) it was the end of the road trip and b) I had my big camera. Worse case scenario, the iphone camera takes acceptable pics. Lesson learned: bring 2 cameras on a long trip, even though it’s a pain to lug the big camera.

The small camera is my day-to-day camera, so I have to get it repaired or replaced pronto. I bought it almost 2 years ago, so it’s out of warranty. Official repair quote was US$170. Gulp.


A little more digging led me to a small local shop that quoted me US$50. I figured, this guy Raymond has good reviews online and it’s worth a gamble of $50. The tiny shop, more a glorified store room, is located on the 22/F of a dingy office building in the middle of the most crowded shopping district in town. The shop is stacked full of boxes and equipment and parts with a tiny space just inside the door for customers to stand. They’re professional though, taking care to mark down my camera’s serial number, not charging till it’s fixed and giving a 30 day warranty. Took them a few days to get the parts and fix the camera, I picked it up yesterday and it’s working fine. Raymond told me that the lens mechanisms on s100 and s110s last about 500-600 times, so obviously Canon doesn’t test like Ikea.

Since there were no other customers, I asked him for recommendations and tips. We agreed that the s90 and s95 are better and more reliable cameras than the newer models; the product cycle for modern electronics is too short for meaningful testing. Interestingly second hand s95 cameras are still costly, which reinforces our argument. I’m also half thinking of replacing my almost 10 year old EOS 350D. His response, ditch the dSLR and instead look into the G1X. It occupies an undefinable place in the market, with all the power of a dSLR (except detachable lens) and yet too large to be a real point-and-shoot. He showed me the quality achieved by the 4x digital zoom and it’s impressive.

Reviews are okay, there are some issues like slow auto focus (which I also find with the s110), macro needs filter (macro on s110 isn’t up to par with s90) and it’s neither here nor there in terms of size and weight. It’s more expensive than the s110, and the s110 was already at the top of my price tolerance.

I’ll always want a small camera that fits in my pocket so the question is whether the G1X is the right camera if I want to downsize from the big camera. I need to think about what I really use the big camera for: the last few years it’s been events like conference and weddings. Can a mid-range camera do the job? Should I get a second hand dSLR instead? The ideal set up will be s110, G1X and either 5D or 7D. That’s wishful thinking, I don’t do enough photography to justify the expense.

in thing-a-day |

The third thing-a-day starts today. Considering my schedule this month, and how I’m having less than the usual inspiration to maintain the daily blog, I’m giving it a miss this year.

I’ll take this opportunity to look at last year’s things.

in 101.1001 , thing-a-day |

It was a short post on mefi but it got my attention. The thing-a-day is simple, during the month of February:

  • make one thing (eg project, sketch, exercise) a day
  • document this work in anyway necessary to prove to the world that you’ve made something new: write, take pictures, videos, post things online
  • entries are posted on the official page, which is a wordpress blog with multiple authors

I made a list of what I could be doing, but it ended up less creative than I intended. I tended to go back to tried and trusted “things” like cooking and photography. I tried drawing, but it really didn’t turn out well. I documented it fully though: here on the website and over at the official site. What I liked were the comments and “I like it” features on the official site. I’m not sure if the site owner(s) will publish statistics, the latest is that 1,418 people signed up and 609 started. I’d be interested to know how many completed the whole 29 days — I suppose I can scroll through the authors list and count the number of people with the required number of posts.

There were a few days when I was struggling for things to do, or more likely time to do them and post. Especially during the week when it was busy as hell at work and I was getting ready to go on vacation. Now that it’s finished I’m sure I’ll miss it, and there are several ideas I hadn’t had time to do. A short summary of what I did each day:

  1. made a list of what I could be doing — it was kinda cheating but I wanted to get my thoughts together
  2. chicken stock — cooking thing #1; the stock was good
  3. made an ebook, and most amusingly, a video of how I made the ebook. now I know I’m nuts
  4. care package for hospital visit
  5. mediterranean chicken with chickpeas — cooking thing #2, for both thing-a-day and 101.1001
  6. badly drawn doodle — yeah that was ugly
  7. rkt completion ratio chart — long overdue so it was a good opportunity to update
  8. movie poster effect — I really liked that, it turned out pretty
  9. brätwurst mit rösti — cooking thing #3, the weekend means I do more cooking
  10. butternut and chickpea salad with tahini — cooking thing #4, yep more cooking
  11. pickled eggs — cooking thing #5
  12. flash animation — it was follow the instructions which I could do, but it doesn’t mean I now know flash
  13. running kit — that was kinda cheating cos I didn’t “do” anything except queue up for 2 hours to get my marathon stuff
  14. sharpie doodle — it looks juvenile but I’m secretly pleased with it
  15. macro shot of clock — that was the first time I consciously used the macro function on the camera, a comment on the main site was like “fantastic! at last a non-flower macro shot
  16. origami paper dolls — these had been in my drawer since 1997! My version wasn’t as good as the sample but at least it passed as a final product
  17. 10km run — I’m glad I went. my time was slow but what the hell, it’s not a competition
  18. baked pasta with tomato & mozzarella — cooking thing #6, and the sole purpose was to use up the mozzarella ball that got delivered to me by mistake
  19. grilled tuna head — cooking thing #7, almost cheating cos I merely reheated the food. that it’s part of a tuna head was interesting
  20. crystal apple — man, that photo turned out to be awesome
  21. bionicle robots — I wish I had more of these to construct and play with
  22. travel day — there wasn’t any time that day to do anything but pack and travel. took me 25 hours door to door to get to chicago
  23. pandora — god I miss pandora
  24. shopping day — got lots done
  25. breaded pork chop dinner — cooking thing #8. one of the things I like about visiting is that I get to hang out with Gram and help her with cooking
  26. mind maps — it occurred to me that I should be mindmapping this post
  27. optical illusion — that one was interesting, and I so want to be able to have the mouseover here but I can’t figure out how to use that javascript for only one post
  28. fried rice — cooking thing #9, it was well received
  29. a day in the life — wow, i actually completed 3 challenges in one day

in photography is life , thing-a-day |

From the makers of 26 things, a day in the life project for 29 February. What a neat coincidence. The aim:

do something you’ve never done before and/or always wanted to do - and photograph it! One photo an hour for as long as you’re awake during this leap day

I’m on vacation in Chicago, and I stayed at home today. But there was enough to photograph; and I did something I’ve never done before. The flickr set is shown in pictobrowser format, don’t forget to click on the notes.

Here’s a summary of each “hour”:

  • 0800 - woke up to snow
  • 0900 - conference call with work
  • 1000 - mmm tea and Tim Tams
  • 1100 - Joxer at the window
  • 1200 - pasta lunch
  • 1300 - snow shoveling, before
  • 1400 - snow shoveling, after
  • 1500 - relax with a good book
  • 1600 - beautiful scenery
  • 1700 - preparing dinner
  • 1800 - pasta dinner
  • 1900 - should I have some strawberries or not
  • 2000 - Joxer and the pot
  • 2100 - calling mm
  • 2200 - work on the set

in eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

I’d promised to make the family fried rice for many many visits now, and finally I got round to it. It’s a good thing that I don’t tend to go out when I visit. Fried rice traditionally is a way of using up leftovers so there’s a lot of flexibility about what goes into it.

cook the rice the day before or in the morning and let cool
dice chicken, cook and set aside
in a hot frying pan or wok, sauté mange tout beans until just tender
add beaten eggs and lightly scramble
add rice, add a splash of water if too dry
return chicken to pan and heat through
season with soy sauce, salt and a touch of sugar

in easily amused , thing-a-day |

via mefi, an interesting and simple to make optical illusion.

Instructions: stare at the black dot, don’t look elsewhere. After 20 seconds the image will shift. If you don’t shift your gaze it will appear to be in colour, but as soon as you look somewhere else it goes back to black and white.

The instructions are very straightforward.

  1. open the original colour image in photoshop and create a duplicate layer
  2. select the bottom layer and do image —> adjustment —> desaturate
  3. pick a 50% grey from the colour palette
  4. select the top layer and do edit —> fill; use foreground colour, mode = luminosity; opacity = 100%
  5. still on the top layer image —> adjustment —> invert
  6. make a new layer and draw a black dot in the middle
  7. save as jpg
  8. delete bottom layer and save as a second jpg
  9. either create an animated gif or follow instructions to make a mouseover effect

I did an even more fun standalone page where you can control how long you look at the negative image, then you mouseover to flip to the actual image.

in thing-a-day , workstuff |

mindmap01 mindmap02
I read a recent bb post about a diagram on how to cook chicken. The commenters pointed out that it was a mind map. And so true. Mind maps have been used to graphically present semantic information in a non-linear fashion.

I use it a lot in presentations. On one page it shows information in a easy to digest format that may take 5 or 6 (or more) slides full of bullet points. And how many of us have been guilty about using too many bullet points in too many slides? Anyway I went into the office today and gave a little update for the Chicago staff and I made a few mind maps.

in eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

porkchops01 porkchop02
I helped Gram make breaded pork chops. She uses regular pork chops, nothing fancy. I did all the prep work — dip in flour, then egg then what she calls crackermeal which turns out to be crackers that have been ground finely. The chops are then shallow fried. I don’t know what seasoning she puts in but they’re very yummy and never ever dry. It’s an art.

in how the day went , thing-a-day |

The thing today was we went shopping. I hate shopping, but today was productive. Car wanted some bookshelves and I wanted socks, so we have target places to go. So here’s what we bought:

  1. car wash — no, not the car wash itself (though that would have been profitable) but one cycle at the car wash place. It’s different from what I’m used to. We had to get out of the car, the workers cleaned inside, stuck it inside the tunnel where the belt took the car through, and we picked it up the other side
  2. wii games — Harry Potter and Transformers. For me of course
  3. a 24-pen pack of colourful sharpies — so I can attempt more doodles
  4. blank dvds — $20 for 100, a good bargain
  5. Age of Empires games — not for me cos they were PC only, grr
  6. bookshelves for the basement — actually a double storage cabinet with shelves and doors
  7. 6 pairs of socks — with discount coupons they came to under $5
  8. 2 pairs of work trousers for Car
  9. Chicago Bears crocs for me, I’m such a tourist

And then we got chocolate milkshake from oberweis. I didn’t get a picture because: we took drive-thru and were moving in the car; I was too busy eating the shake. Oh yes, so thick that I needed a spoon. Very yummy.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |

One of the best things about being in the US is having access to Pandora again. In fact, I deliberately didn’t bring my external hard disk cos I knew I’ll have lots of music at my fingertips here. Yes, I know I can access pandora using other methods but it didn’t seem worth the trouble.

Anyway, first thing this morning after getting online is setting up a few new personal stations. I added one for the music from Once, let’s see what it brings me.

in thing-a-day |

I’m all packed and ready to go. I’ve checked in, my fridge is clear, I sent the powerpoints across to the office. Friday night and I’ll be in Chicago.

in easily amused , thing-a-day |

bionicle toys
Why yes, I know that bionicles are meant for 7-16 year olds and I’m … not 7-16. But I got these, and they were fun to make!!! The blue one is Takadox and the red one is Kalmah. Hee.

I photoshopped them against a vaguely threatening robot computer evil face background I found on google images. The shadows are photoshopped too.

in photography is life , thing-a-day |

A long day of meetings today. I was sitting looking outside, day-dreaming, thinking about stuff other than work. And then my colleague’s crystal decoration caught my eye. It perfectly caught the reflections of the buildings outside.

I had my camera with me today, so I snapped this.

in eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

This is actually leftover from a Japanese restaurant meal but the subject is too interesting to pass up.

Grilled tuna head. Grilled fish heads are a big part of Japanese cuisine, because they use so much fish for sashimi there’s always the head remaining. Salmon head is very filling, hamachi head is very good. This is the first time I tried tuna head. There’s a surprising amount of very tender flesh, anyone who’s tried fish cheeks will know the degree of tenderness. Usually I’m scared of eating fish cos of the small spine bones but with head, the bone is so large it’s impossible to choke on it.

The way the gill bone is served here makes the whole dish look rather like salmon steak actually.

in eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

I had a whole mozzarella ball in my fridge so I thought I’d try this Jamie recipe for a simple baked pasta dish. I made the sauce yesterday and the rest of the dish today.

for the sauce
sweat 3 cloves of garlic and half an onion until soft
add a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of water
add seasoning — the recipe calls for chili which I usually don’t have, nor do i use often; but I did add a dash of tabasco, some worcestershire sauce and Italian seasoning
simmer until the sauce thickens
blitz slightly, just enough to break the tomato pieces but not so that the sauce ends up being a paste

for the dish
cook pasta according to package instructions
drain and toss with half the sauce
arrange half the pasta at the bottom of an oven dish
spread over half the remaining sauce
slice up the mozzarella and arrange over the sauce
add the rest of the pasta, the rest of the sauce and the last pieces of cheese
bake at 200°C for 20mins

There’s supposed to be liberal amounts of parmesan sprinkled in with the mozzarella but I, um, don’t like parmesan. Yes, really.

in being healthy , thing-a-day |

I finished the 10km race in 1.36, which is very slow but I don’t care.

It was cold, but I didn’t want to leave anything with the bag drop cos of the long queues at the end of the race at the pickup point. So I went out in shorts and a fleece sweater. The sweater went round my waist as soon as the race started and stayed there till I got home, so it was kinda pointless.

I ran the first 2.5km, which I thought was pretty good. The next 5km was walk-uphill-run-downhill. The last 2.5km was mostly walking. There were whole families, kids, and a couple of disabled athletes, it was pretty relaxed.

I was home and showered by 9.30am.

And my shoes stayed intact this time.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |

I found a Japanese kimono dolls origami kit at the bottom of a drawer. This must be at least 10 years old, the way they look so at home at the very bottom of the drawer.

kimonodolls01 kimonodolls02

So I thought I’d give it a go, knowing full well I’ll make a mess and it’ll look like crap. No shred of artistic creativity. Just as well that the instructions are illustrated cos I couldn’t make heads or tails of the Japanese. Also, very nice of them to enclose a sample. Took me forever to get it done, including looking for glue in my rarely opened stationery drawer.


The one on the left is my attempt; the one on the right is what it should look like.

in photography is life , thing-a-day |

I bought this small desktop clock in a tiny curio / antique shop in Switzerland. Was probably in Zurich itself but could be any of the towns, can’t really remember. I couldn’t exactly not have a Swiss-made clock at home now could I. What caught my eye was the overall design of the clock, but also the intricate patterns on the face. The needles are actually pretty fragile, and there’s no glass or anything to protect them.

This is the macro view from above. I know I should be playing around with the macro setting more often, may be I’ll start a study of small things at home. hmm.

in easily amused , thing-a-day |


I love sharpies. mmmm. They’re colourful enough to disguise my poor drawing skills. Well, it’s only a doodle, not supposed to be the Next Big Turner Prize.

in being healthy , thing-a-day |


After work I went to the park where I queued up for almost 2 hours, shuffling slowing in a never-ending snake-like line. The purpose was to get my marathon race kit. Yes yes yes, i’m running the 10km not the marathon but this is what the event is called. The kit comprises: a T-shirt, baggage tag, coloured bag for baggage, race magazines, a souvenir coin and most importantly, my race number label and the timer chip. The timer chip is the black widget at the bottom there.

Race this Sunday. Have to get up at at 5.30am for a 6.40am start. Wish me luck.

in 101.1001 , arts and media , thing-a-day |

One of my 101.1001 tasks is to learn flash. I guess it’s like photoshop and illustrator, the basics are straightforward to learn, once you grasp the toolbar system and understand the concept of layers and timeline. But with such a complex program, to get any good takes a long time.

So I followed an informative video that shows how to create a simple animation with falling text effects in flash. It was fun.

in eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

My previous batch of beet eggs ran out around Christmas and I haven’t had time to make some more. So I took this opportunity during thing-a-day to make a fresh batch.

I hard-boiled 6 medium sized eggs and peeled them. Then I opened a jar of pickled beets, poured the juice in a pan and arranged the beets with the eggs. To the juice I added 150ml cider vinegar and half that in volume of sugar. Dissolved the sugar and simmered for 10mins. Once done I immediately poured the hot liquid over the eggs and closed the jar. Now I have to wait at least a week.

These eggs are delicious. Perfect with a salad or on a sandwich. I can’t believe I’m so addicted to them.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

This recipe is adapted from orangette who adapted it from the absolutely fantastic casa moro cookbook. I actually have the first moro cookbook, and it looks like I should get the second one too.

Pumpkin and squashes are high on my favourites list. Creamy soup, roasted as side dishes or as a substitute for mashed potato, there’s nothing that beats the chill of winter than a warming, welcoming squash dish. The tahini adds a touch of arabia to the proceedings, and lifts it up beyond just a warm pumpkin salad.

for the salad Peel a whole butternut and dice into 1-1.5” pieces
Season with olive oil, minced garlic, salt & pepper and mixed spice — the recipe calls for allspice but I didn’t have that
Roast at 200° for 25mins or until soft
At the last 5mins or so chuck in a can of drained chickpeas to warm them up

for the tahini dressing Whisk together 2tbsp tahini, 2tbsp lemon juice, finely minced garlic and sea salt
Add water to dilute
Add oilve oil and whisk to a thick consistency
Season to taste
I found it still too lemony so I added a few drops of sesame oil for balance

assembly After removing from the oven, cool the squash to warm temperature
The recipe uses red onions but I don’t eat onions, so I added celery chopped into small bits for the crunchiness
Toss vegetables in tahini and serve

in eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

It’s funny, when I lived in Switzerland I never made rösti from scratch. I guess it’s because it was so easy with the packaged stuff, just empty into a pan and fry up. And lots of flavours too!

When I left, my friends gave me a couple of Swiss cookbooks, one of which is Cooking in Switzerland by Marianne Kaltenbach. There on page 66 is a recipe for traditional rösti.

Parboil potatoes until partially tender, then cool and leave overnight
Peel and grate coarsely
Heat a knob of butter in a heavy frying pan and add the potatoes
Season with salt & pepper
Squash with a wooden spoon then sprinkle about 1 tbsp milk on top
Cover the pan and lower the heat
After about 20-25mins a crust would form and the rösti can move about in the pan
Carefully turn out onto a plate

What better to serve with traditional rösti than traditional brätwurst? Holy smokes, this all taste exactly of Switzerland.

in photography is life , thing-a-day |

I’ve been meaning to try out this tutorial on how to turn a photo into movie-like effect. It’s basically methodically adjusting hue, saturation, exposure, blur and a neat layering mask trick.

Here’s the original, which was taken at this hip coffee shop at Mission in SF.


in my inner science geek , thing-a-day |

We started in 2005 with 7 writers and 2 betas. We’ve had a total of 14 individuals writing for the group at one point or the other. Our current membership is 12 writers and 2 betas, although one of our original betas is now a writer and we have a new beta member. I’ve been keeping track of the group’s achievements in terms of ongoing and completed stories in a spreadsheet. Of course where there is data I will chart it. So here’s the rkt achievement chart.


The difficulty with comparing long and short stories is that one short story is not equal to one long story. So I’ve used a weighting system, estimating that one short story is ‘worth’ 10% of a long story. This makes the total more reasonable.

Another problem is that it may look like some people have low completion ratios, but what the data doesn’t tell us is how long someone has been writing. The long term writers have a larger portfolio of work whereas the writers just starting out will not. It’s amazing to project that once Car finishes CB and K finishes OF their completion ratio goes to 100%.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |

badly drawn doodle
Over on the main site there are drawings and crafts that are so creative. So just to reinforce my knowledge that I have not a single artistic cell, here’s my attempt at art. This was created, not very creatively, at online sketchpad.

in 101.1001 , eating and drinking , thing-a-day |


season 4 chicken portions with cumin, tumeric, salt & pepper (I used drumsticks this time)
brown in a casserole dish or deep pan with garlic
add a can of chick peas and a can of chopped tomatoes
simmer for 25-30mins until chicken is done and the sauce has reduced
throw in green peppers
serve over garlic mash — or cous cous for more mediterranean flavour

in thing-a-day |

My friend is in hospital after an operation. She’s cheerful and well on her way to recovery, even sounding like her usual self on the phone. I went to visit today and I made a care package for her. The basket is recycled from the gift baskets we get at work, I got a couple of large pears, a punnet of strawberries and some cherries. Add to that is a package of Japanese Oreos, for the sole purpose of testing to see if the Japanese Oreos taste the same as regular Oreos. Photo quality is not good cos it was taken using my cellphone.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |


So yeah, we’ve been a little ebook crazy lately. And I finally bought ebook studio for $26.95 (I found a 10% discount code). It’s dead easy to use, it can read txt, rtf, html — the more stripped down text formats and conversion to pdb takes one minute. Of course, to add more features like images, page breaks, table of contents will take longer but the basic action takes a minute.

So for my thing-a-day today I made a video of me converting lamplight to ereader format to show: a) I made an ebook and b) it really only takes a minute.

in eating and drinking , thing-a-day |

I’m at home today so I’m making chicken stock from the stuff I had in the freezer. I’d saved the bones from various roast chicken meals and in small ziploc bags I had vegetables I couldn’t quite finish.

I put the chicken bones, carrots, celery, half an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and some mixed herbs in cold water and brought the whole mixture to boil. Then it gets simmered for 4 hours. After cooling, I’d strain the solids away using a colander and the stock goes into ice cube bags to be used whenever needed.

in thing-a-day |


Perhaps I’m a huge dork but I’m kinda challenge crazy. My newest adventure is the thing-a-day challenge. The challenge is simple, during the month of February:

  • make one thing (eg project, sketch, exercise) a day
  • document this work in anyway necessary to prove to the world that you’ve made something new: write, take pictures, videos, post things online
  • entries are posted on the official page, which is a wordpress blog with multiple authors

So for my thing-a-day today, I’m making a list of things I can be making during February.

  1. write a drabble
  2. write an outline for a new story
  3. write a chapter of a wip story
  4. twop pixel challenge
  5. make panna cotta
  6. make apple crumble
  7. make chocolate mousse
  8. make fried rice
  9. make something from the old recipes page
  10. make new dishes from recipe books
  11. make a cocktail
  12. calculate total asset
  13. make a charitable donation
  14. update rkt completion ratio spreadsheet
  15. make ereader books
  16. read oldboy
  17. draw some doodles
  18. take random pictures
  19. part of 101.1001 — photos of people
  20. part of 101.1001 — photos of subway trains
  21. part of 101.1001 — untitled photos
  22. part of 101.1001 — b&w photos
  23. part of 101.1001 — colour in an unusual place
  24. do the A Day in the Life photo challenge on the 29th