#46 wall climbing

bbwallclimbing01

The one task I didn’t fully complete from 101.1001 was #46, to go wall climbing. I counted it as complete because I made the booking before the end of the challenge. So today was the booking.

I got to the ymca around 20mins before the course, to fill in forms and give them a couple of photos. There are 2 sections there, and one of the sections had a kid’s birthday party going on. It was a small class, just me and 3 young women, friends from Singapore I think. The first hour was going over rules, safety and first of all learning how to fall. Then it was earning how to use the harness and belaying system. Learning how to make knots, use a carabiner, use a <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigri_(climbing)” title=”wiki’>grigri. We could climb up to 3m without a harness but anything above that we need someone to belay.

We were then paired off for our first climb as a team. Learned how to belay and steady our teammate. Checking each other’s equipment was paramount, as were the signals we have to give. Also learned how to fall and brace someone who is falling. The first time I did the fall I pushed off using my arms only and fell upside down, hahaha.

“Climbing.”

“Okay.”

“Tension.”

“Lower.”

“Falling,”

Climbed up and down a few times. I got stuck at the bit that was an outcrop but it didn’t matter. It was fun.

After 2 hours’ instruction was the assessment. Went through everything that we learned so far and made sure we did everything correctly. I was nervous and didn’t do too well. Was tired at that point too so couldn’t even climb very far. But I passed the assessment, so yay! Now I can book climbing sessions myself, but obviously without a teammate can only do the 3m or less bouldering. Definitely need more practice.

completed: 101 tasks in 1001 days

chiptr012finish

So I set out on 1 December 2013 on this 101.1001 challenge. I was determined to finish, having failed the last time in 2007 because I was actually doing 232 tasks.

The tasks varied between easy and more involved. I added 1001 posts to the website, 1001 pics on flickr and 1001 posts on instagram. I read a bunch of books, went to an art exhibition and saw a couple of musicals. Completed both nanos that coincided with the challenge, finally finished LL and designed its cover. Writing a short story was more difficult, but I got it done.

New countries, new US states, new World Heritage sites visited. New restaurants, new recipes and new whiskies too. Ate some insects. Ran and walked 1001 miles, then the 1779 miles of the Walk to Mordor challenge. Did some activities with family and mm, sorted out finances and achieved some other personal goals.

The one task that isn’t 100%, but I’ve checked it off as done, is go wall climbing. Because the courses are fully booked, I’m going in October. But I went and made the reservation and paid the fee before the end of this challenge, so I will definitely go.

Here for the final time, are the tasks with links to the posts corresponding to their completion:

101 tasks in 1001 days

mission: complete 101 preset tasks in 1001 days
criteria: tasks must be realistic and specific, requiring actual effort and with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined
rollover: incomplete tasks from original 2007 list are marked with **

start: Sunday 1 December 2013
end: Sunday 28 August 2016

    technology

  1. upgrade macOS at least once // done 01-feb-2016
  2. get a new idevice // done 31-mar-2014
  3. become proficient at Evernote // done 07-mar-2015
  4. complete an online course // done 05-aug-2014
  5. 1001 posts on website (start count=3,259) // done 25-may-2016
  6.  
    arts, media, books

  7. visit an art exhibition / museum** // done, chihuly garden & glass seattle 23-may-2014
  8. new musical // done 02-jul-2015
  9. old musical // done 13-jul-2016
  10. use my library card** // done 12-feb-2014
  11. read 101 books // done 26-sep-2014 (posted 08-oct-2014)
  12. finish a book in one day // done 20-jan-2014
  13. finish all the Harry Potter books** // done 10-jan-2014
  14. read Mythology for Dummies** // done 21-sep-2014
  15.  
    writing

  16. nano 2014 // done 12-nov-2014
  17. nano 2015 // done 20-nov-2015
  18. finish Lamplight (seriously, get this done, no excuse) // done 17-aug-2016
  19. outline book ideas // done 21-oct-2015
  20. design a book cover // done 16-aug-2016
  21. write a short story // done 20-aug-2016
  22.  
    photography

  23. 1001 instagram/vine/snapchat total (start count: instagram 452+vine 1 = 453) // done 03-mar-2015
  24. 20,001 flickr photos total (start count=18,555) // done 25-apr-2014
  25. complete a photo challenge using a photo app (was lomo)** // done 12-dec-2013
  26. complete an alphabet photo series // done 12-dec-2013
  27. try one of the challenges on photochallenge.org // done 18-feb-2014
  28. tues’ assignment: find colour in an unusual place** // done 26-dec-2015
  29.  
    travel

  30. make a list of 101 landmarks and notable places visited // done 06-feb-2014
  31. make a list of 101 places to visit // done 07-feb-2014
  32. 3 new countries**: 1. greece // done 23-feb-2014
  33. 2: israel // done 26-feb-2014
  34. 3: vietnam // done 16-mar-2016
  35. 3 new US states**: 1. washington // done 24-may-2014
  36. 2: alaska // done 30-may-2014
  37. 3:south dakota // done 20-jul-2014
  38. make a list of World Heritage sites visited // done 09-jan-2014
  39. 3 new World Heritage sites: 1. greece — archeological site of olympia (23-feb-2014) and acropolis athens (01-mar-2014) // done
  40. 2: israel — old city of jerusalem and its walls (26-feb-2014) and baha’i holy places in haifa and western galilee (27-feb-2014) // done
  41. 3: palestine — birthplace of Jesus church of the nativity and the pilgrimage route bethlehem (26-feb-2014) // done
  42. go on a cruise** // done 05-mar-2014
  43.  
    health/sports

  44. run/walk/bike 1001 miles // done 16-mar-2015
  45. complete the walk to mordor challenge — 1779 miles from Hobbiton to Mt Doom (bonus return trip 1625 miles from Minas Tirith to Bags End) // done 19-feb-2016
  46. break a running PR // done 14-mar-2016
  47. db bench PR // done 25-aug-2016
  48. 101 crunches // done 30-dec-2015
  49. 101 squats // done 06-sep-2014
  50. take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class** // done 24-apr-2015
  51. go rock-climbing (real or wall)** // done 26-aug-2016
  52.  
    food & drink

  53. make a list and photoset of 101 bucket list foods already tried // done 09-jan-2015
  54. eat an insect // done 28-sep-2014
  55. 10 new recipes: 1. lebkuchen // done 16-dec-2013
  56. 2: chocolate log // done 24-dec-2013
  57. 3: baked cheesecake // done 23-jan-2014
  58. 4: roast belly pork // done 04-feb-2014
  59. 5: roasted cabbage // done 09-feb-2014
  60. 6: no-bake chocolate tart // done 19-apr-2014
  61. 7: key lime pie // done 15-aug-2014
  62. 8: chicken ballotine // done 27-aug-2014
  63. 9: rosemary flatbread // done 31-oct-2014
  64. 10: double chocolate tart // done 18-jan-2015
  65. make vanila extract // done 07-jan-2015
  66. open a cookbook to a random page and make whatever comes up // done 22-jun-2016
  67. plan, make and serve a three-course meal, with wine** // done 13-jul-2016
  68. make a cocktail // done 31-dec-2013
  69. go to a wine/beer/whisky tasting** // done 18-jul-2014
  70. 5 new whiskies (bonus if they are in 101 whiskies book): 1. auchentoshan three wood // done 22-dec-2013
  71. 2: laphroaig px cask // done 20-mar-2014
  72. 3: dalmore 18 // done 11-aut-2014
  73. 4: bunnahabhain cruach-mhona // done 13-jan-2015
  74. 5: arras // done 15-apr-2016
  75. 5 new restaurants in 5 cities**: 1. sapporo hanamaru // done 09-apr-2014
  76. 2: seattle five points café // done 22-may-2014
  77. 3: portland food carts // done 07-jul-2014
  78. 4: dublin bear // done 09-apr-2015
  79. 5: london dishoom // done 13-apr-2015
  80.  
    home & finance

  81. put away $10 (or equivalent) for each goal achieved // done 27-aug-2016
  82. set aside $1 for each goal achieved and donate to charity // done 27-aug-2016
  83. make a will** // done 30-jun-2016
  84. build net worth calculator // done 21-dec-2013
  85. money-free weekend // done 23-mar-2014
  86. invest in a kickstarter-type project // done drinkable book 24-jun-2014
  87.  
    family

  88. scan 101 family pictures // done 19-jan-2016
  89. 3 new places/activities with family: 1. gingerbread house // done 12-jan-2014
  90. 2: christmas bazaar & bbq // done 29-nov-2014
  91. 3: kayaking // done 06-aug-2015
  92. 3 new places/activities with mm: 1. easter sunset // done 20-apr-2014
  93. 2: day trip to tai o // done 02-aug-2014
  94. 3: jjimjibang korean spa // done 26-sep-2014
  95.  
    personal

  96. make a list of 101 things already achieved // done 08-jan-2015
  97. make a list and photoset of 101 favourite things // done 09-aug-2016
  98. make a 101 someday list // done 06-dec-2013
  99. leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find // done 03-dec-2015
  100. take pictures of all my hard rock café polo shirts** // done 13-dec-2013
  101. count how many swatches I have** // done 14-dec-2013
  102. make a font from my handwriting // done 04-jan-2014
  103. pack a go bag // done 05-jan-2015
  104.  
    7 things: this is another dayzero project — an alternative to boring new years’ resolutions

  105. learn how to…rocher (single spoon quenelle) // done 26-jan-2016
  106. start…drinking more water // done 22-sep-2014
  107. stop…using as much salt and substitute with herbs & spices // done 16-apr-2015
  108. take a vacation to…one of the 101 travel wishlist places (see #27) // done 19-apr-2015
  109. find…a race and train for it // done 11-oct-2015
  110. try…meditation // done 09-aug-2014
  111. be more…grateful and patient with family // done 25-mar-2016

Time to set a new challenge? Not sure. I can’t think of 101 new tasks to do, and repeating some of these ones is kinda boring-souding. I have started making a list of 101 things I never want to do, like bungee jumping, eat durian or do the iditarod. It’s an interesting list.

#74, #75 set aside money

moneyjar

Tasks #74 and 75 of 101.1001 are money related.

#74: put away $10 (or equivalent) for each goal achieved and #75: set aside $1 for each goal achieved and donate to charity. At first I started doing it, then I thought I’d just allocate a portion of my account at the end of the challenge for these. Interestingly I never thought about which currency. Local dollars? USD? AUD? Or even GBP / EUR?

Putting away $10 will give me $1010. I’m going to use this towards buying a new macbook later this year, when hopefully the new model comes out. I may get the new model or I may get a refurbished one year old model, depends on what’s available.

$101 for charity, but which charity? I have in mind two. Initially I thought of pAge drinking paper, which was #79 of this challenge. They’re no longer a non-profit and have set up a for profit company to distribute the book. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s still a very important cause, to make sure people in need get clean water.

I’ll probably end up giving to the charity mm helps out with, that deals with mental health issues. They are quite small scale and fairly new, so every little counts. She puts in a good deal of work so I want to show my support.

#46 wall climbing

wallclimbymca

Task #46 of 101.1001 is to go wall climbing. I have researched, and one of the best places to go is the YMCA. To begin with, everyone must go through an introductory course, which is great. Unfortunately they don’t accept bookings on the phone or online. It’s stupid. Anyway we were going pokéhunting in the area so I got off the bus one stop early and went up to the office.

They’re fully booked. The earliest available class is in October. There was a class of young kids when I was there and it looked like a lot of fun.

I’ll check it off, because it’s the last task. I’ll update after the class.

edit: completed 08-oct-2016, went to introductory class and passed assessment.

#19 write a short story

moderator

Task #19 of 101.1001 is to write a short story. The idea came to me after seeing the call for submissions for a gcls fundraiser anthology.

Pretty standard romantic tale. For some reason I decided to write it like the narrator is telling the story back to the two MCs so second person pronouns are used. I don’t know if it works. I have no idea if I’ll even submit it because of possible conflict of interest.

2,871 words written between tuesday and saturday. That’s slow for my standard but I can’t compare with the writer!me of 10 years ago.

#16: finish LL

llblur

Task #16 of 101.1001 is to finish LL. Actually finished a while ago, but still not 100% happy.

I have a deadline now. I need to get it ready and submit it by next summer. One of the best publishers I’ve ever met asked me. Face to face. There is no excuse.

There are parts in the middle that need to be expanded and better explained. Probably need more character growth too. I should stop tinkering with it and let good editors take a look so I can learn and improve.

#18: design a book cover

llcover

I have to start working on writing again. Task #18 of 101.1001 is to design a book cover. I had in mind to take some pics in NYC for LL. Not as many or as good potential as I wanted.

The background is of stock market quotes in a newspaper from flickr user andreas poike under cc by 2.0. If/when I get a chance to submit a cover myself I’ll get a copy of FT and substitute my own image, I just didn’t have any newspaper at hand.

The Wall Street street sign and SMELLS graffiti are my own, from the most recent trip. I have a couple of pics of the charging bull but there were so many tourists I had to borrow from someone, this from flickr user sam valadi also under cc by 2.0.

The play on the son of man is based on a pic of me taken at Carleen’s friend Tom’s costume shop last year. The apple is also my own image and the frame from a random google image search for free images. Photoshopped to make it blurry and more like a painting. It’s something that will be referenced in LL, which I’ll need to edit in.

Is it a good cover? A passable attempt I guess. Can be so much better in the hands of a professional.

#88: 101 favourite things

It’s taken me almost to the end of the challenge to complete #88 of 101.1001: make a list of 101 favourite things that make me smile. I didn’t want to list a whole bunch of food or places visited, so I tried to be a little more casual. Had to get help.

aeronchair2015

  1. aeron chair
  2. air-conditoning in summer
  3. heating in winter
  4. alaska daily life / survival programs
  5.  

    daikiya05all

  6. all you can eat japanese buffet
  7. the amazing race
  8. autumn colours
  9. bag of clothes and stuff for charity
  10. basketball
  11. coedobeerflight2016

  12. beer flight
  13. goodfoodmag2014

  14. bbc good food magazine calendar
  15. bless the lord my soul at the end of mass
  16. bouncing on huge hotel beds
  17. checking things off lists, completing lists
  18. chicagosign

  19. “chicago” from licence plates I bought from my ex-landlady
  20. clean crisp sheets
  21. clear skies, no pollution
  22. clothes that just came out of the tumble-dryer
  23. cookery competition programs
  24. cycling along the lake
  25. darth maul double lightsaber I made at disney world
  26. driving
  27. duvet “fluffy” that mm bought for me
  28. eating an ice cream cone huddled together outside in the freezing wind
  29. avmarket20090916

  30. farmer’s markets
  31. fast internet
  32. fizz in soft drinks (was coke zero, now more likely to be soda water)
  33. cx1st04steak

  34. flying first class
  35. flying with entire empty row
  36. foam-rollering my back and hearing it crack back into place
  37. sg061seafood

  38. food that need all fingers to eat
  39. fresh herbs
  40. giant fruit — giant mangoes, giant peaches
  41. mini fruit — mini watermelon
  42. good investment return
  43. half my hair gone after haircut
  44. homemade jam & marmalade
  45. squashsoup03

  46. homemade butternut squash soup
  47. hot shower
  48. leaving/escaping the region, no matter how short
  49. maps on a road trip
  50. menthol crystals that have been in my family for decades
  51. mindfulness
  52. new restaurant
  53. no need to talk
  54. no plans is the best plan
  55. bwp5004

  56. noise isolating headphones on the plane
  57. o holy night
  58. oncoming runner who waves or smiles at me
  59. joz070spaoutdoor

  60. onsen in japan (hot springs)
  61. paddington recreation ground, maida vale
  62. panettone at christmas
  63. parking perfectly into a narrow space (“one hand wheel”)
  64. peace and quiet
  65. dub088guinness

  66. perfectly poured pint of beer
  67. pg tips
  68. photograph that just works
  69. photoshop magic
  70. playing old school games–scrabble, marble checkers, trivial pursuit
  71. playing with excel
  72. propping my knees with a pillow in bed
  73. rachmaninoff piano concerto #3
  74. rain after a hot day
  75. random kindness
  76. tinychoccake07all

  77. recipe successfully executed
  78. reading a new book, discovering a good author
  79. re-reading a favourite book
  80. flr033dining

  81. retreat houses and convent stays in italy
  82. running along the lake in chicago with snow still on the ground, in shorts
  83. running around hyde park in the pouring rain, water dripping down my cap and everything completely soaked
  84. running around reservoir park except at weekends when it gets crowded with baseball players
  85. chimarathon093finish

  86. running: completing a race
  87. saying thank you at 11:11 or 1:11
  88. seafood so fresh, you can taste the sea
  89. scented candles
  90. sharp knives
  91. skiing on fresh snow in the alps
  92. smell of baking in the kitchen
  93. smell of freshly mowed grass
  94. soft, fluffy, thick bathrobe
  95. sourdough starter
  96. ldnhawks043chateaubriand

  97. steak at hawksmoor with a glass of blanton’s
  98. steak from less popular cuts
  99. sunset over water
  100. surprise presents from abroad
  101. tech that follows me everywhere — iphone, ipad, mba
  102. travel research
  103. travelling — anywhere
  104. hrcshirtnewyork

  105. uniform of hard rock cafe polo shirt, jeans, sneakers
  106. vegetables I can’t get readily — kale, savoy cabbage, fennel, parsnips
  107. view of british hedgerows and farms from the plane
  108. wallpaper of queenstown nz at sunset, still not tired of looking at it
  109. warming my hands on the radiator
  110. watching bbc programs outside the uk
  111. watching cricket, wishing I can play
  112. nikka106tastebar

  113. whisky — japanese whisky from nikka distillery
  114. whisky — wee dram of highland park, doesn’t matter which year
  115. whisky hip flask
  116. whisky tasting and discovering a new good one
  117. wine all the time
  118. wine tasting at the winery

#8: old musical | #61: 4-course meal

Completed a couple of 101.1001 tasks during the trip.

nyc431matilda

Task #8 is to go see an old musical. I saw Matilda, which I’d seen in 2012 in London. Love the production, I can see myself seeing it even more times in London again, in other locations and if it goes on tour. Although based on a children’s book and targetted at children, it has a lot going for adults too. I’m still humming When I Grow Up.

Task #61 is to plan, cook and serve an three-course meal, with wine. I had an idea of what I’d like to cook when at home, which I may still do so another time. This meal was actually a 4-course meal I planned at the last moment when I was in the huge seafood store in Chelsea Market. The sheer variety of seafood there was enough to make anyone want to make a feast.

course03clams course04main

For starter I had a mixture of topneck and littleneck clams. I preferred the small littlenecks, with their sweeter flavour but the entire dish was fresh and fabulous.

For mains I panfried a skate wing with spot prawns and kale. I haven’t had skate for a while, can’t get it at home. Probably overcooked it a little, but still tasty. The prawns were wonderful.

course05cheese course06dessert

A small cheese board of cranberry and goat’s cheese I got from the supermarket, a Paymaster goat’s cheese from Brooklyn that was washed in chocolate whiskey and an Alderney hard cheese made from raw organic hard cheese, from a creamery in the Catskills.

Dessert was stuff I had in the fridge: blackberries and raspberry sorbet.

Funny when I posted on fb, people were congratulating me on my cooking. The clams were simply boiled in water until they opened and seasoned with a little fennel tops. The fish, prawns and kale had the most cooking but, er, pan-frying is one of the easiest things to do. Cheese and dessert were putting food on plates. But all in all, I’m very satisfied with the meal. Since it was only me, I couldn’t go crazy with wine and stuck with the one bottle.

#60: tiny but intense chocolate cake [recipe]

Task #60 of 101.1001 is to open a cookbook to a random page and make whatever comes up.

Because of differences in terminology and how ingredients are measured, I never use American recipes. For the longest time the only American food website I visit was simply recipes because of the old MT-loyalty thing. Gradually I added smitten kitchen, especially after Ms Perelman added proper measurements to her recipes. I bought her book when it came out, even got an autographed copy.

tinychoccake01book

So when I decided I should start cooking again, as in not just day-to-day cooking, I grabbed the book and opened it up. There, on page 250, is a recipe for tiny but intense chocolate cake. Looks divine, and very simple to make with easy ingredients. Can’t find it on her website, but it was on house and garden. I love the description:

In the short list of recipes I think any baker should have – or simply any person with friends, who delights in making those friends happy – is a chocolate cake to be thrown together just because I… Well, actually I did not know today was your birthday. Of course I am free tonight!

85g butter – the book says 85g, online recipe says 115g
115g chocolate
3 eggs, separated
65g sugar – online recipe says 45g
vanilla extract – i made it myself
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cinnamon

Melt the butter in a small saucepan until almost brown. Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Let the mixture cool.

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon until smooth. I only used about 10g sugar because I was using toblerone instead of 70% chocolate. Add chocolate mixture. Whisk egg whites separately until stiff peaks, then fold into chocolate mixture.

Bake at 180ºC for 15-20mins until skewer comes out clean.

Remove from oven, allow to cool inside tin. The cake will deflate and come away from the side of the tin, at which time it’s okay to take out.

tinychoccake04top

The recipe says to use one 15cm/6-inch tin, but I only have the standard sized ones so I used even smaller 12cm/5-inch tins. Yielded 3 cakes.

Very, very light! It was like biting into air. Flourless cake, that’s why. I used barely any sugar so it wasn’t too sweet. From start to finish, less than 1 hr and it took that long because I couldn’t be bothered to get the electric whisk out and whisked the egg whites by hand.

Excellent last minute recipe and definitely worth making again.

#5: 1001 posts on website

website4280posts

Task #5 of 101.1001 is to add 1001 posts from the start of the challenge on 01-dec-2013. Total post count was 3259 then (adjusted for migration from MT to wordpress) so 1001 = 4260 total posts.

With all that has been happening, I hadn’t been keeping track. When I finally checked today I see I’m at 4280 total so at some point in the past few weeks I reached my 1001 goal.

post20160502

I counted backwards and post #1001 was on 02-may-2016, the day of Papa’s memorial mass.

#68 new whisky arras cask strength

ldnwhiskyex012casks

Tasks #64-68 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new whiskies. This is the last one.

I finished both the Laphroaig PX and Bunnahabhain Cruach-Mhona. Wanted something to fill my flask that I keep with me on my desk. Decided to open this one that I bought at TWE from their “fill your own bottle” casks.

arraswhisky

It’s a blended whisky called Arras. Cask strength at 54.2%. I can’t find much info on it online, the only pages point to TWE’s own promotion. No tasting notes anywhere I can find either.

Pleasant on the nose, slight sherry sweetness. Not smoky or peaty at all. Since it’s cask strength, I find the first sip fairly strong. Once it settles down, I taste fruitiness: pineapple and citrus primarily. Add a drop of water and the aroma spreads. Reasonably smooth, with more citrus aftertaste. Medium tail.

IIRC it was £40 for 500ml, which puts it in the expensive range, especially for a blend. Worth it, though. TWE obviously select their casks carefully. I may not get this one next time, but I’ll definitely think about their other “fill your own bottle” options.

#101 be more…grateful and patient with family

00chapel02

So on this Good Friday, I want to express my gratitude for my family. My dad has been feeling poorly the last few days with what we initially thought was the flu. His temperature was still up this morning when he went for a repeat consultation at the doctor’s. I was out at lunch with mm when Mum called to say doc said it’s pneumonia. Ack. I went home asap.

Apparently it’s community-acquired bronchopneumonia. Coughing, tiredness and not enough oxygen leading to shortness of breath and increased heart rate. Doc actually recommended an overnight hospital stay but there weren’t any beds so dad got a shot instead. He slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon and wow, the shot was good. Temp down to 37.4ºC and he felt good enough to walk around, take a bath and even attempted to wash dishes before we shooed him away.

Mum and I made dinner. Congee with veg for dad and leftover noodles for us. We called Sis to update her. Doctor’s orders were that no one visits, so we told sis to stay put. Doc also said mum and I are likely already infected but our bodies may be able to fight it. Reminds me of that Plague game I play. I had a sore throat a couple of days ago and right now I feel a little discomfort in my chest and have a slight cough. Went running with no problems though and have been drinking water.

Our family tends to not communicate; we can sit around the dinner table in total silence. Sometimes communication takes the form of irritated words. A small illness like this made us work better together. I’m doing my very best to be patient and understanding. Mum is also stepping up. I know Sis will pitch in immediately whenever she is needed. We spend too much time normally arguing about tiny things, it’s not worth it and I should always try to be positive and supporting.

The trip to Europe is at risk. We’ll see how it goes over the Easter weekend. Mum will probably cancel her ticket so now it’s up to me to decide if I want to continue the trip on my own or shorten it.

#30 new country: vietnam | cruise day 03: halong bay

halong002port

Tasks #28-30 of 101.1001 is to visit 3 new countries. Did greece and israel on the cruise in 2014. Although strictly speaking, visiting Bethlehem meant I could add Palestine too, I wanted to add a new country during another trip. So, here is Vietnam.

Arrived at Halong Bay at 8am. Miserable, misty day that did very little to highlight the beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage site. We joined the ship’s excursion so duly showed up at the theatre at 9am. It was organised chaos with hundreds of people waiting for their tours. We got a small sticker and waited for our number to be called. The ship was moored in the bay itself, instead of getting a tender and boarding the tour boat, we went straight on our tour boat.

halong031bay

Total 31 people on our tour, so not too bad. Everyone seemed fairly quiet and educated. The guide spoke mandarin, a feature on this cruise, so I didn’t listen and went outside to try to take pictures. The weather didn’t help. Most of these have been photoshopped. I can imagine how the rock formations will look like when there’s no fog and the sun is out. One of our tourmates described the scenery as like a watercolour painting. He was being generous.

halong041bay

Still quite spectacular, especially the pillars that simply jut out of the water.

halong051rock

Possibly the most iconic image of Halong Bay is the one of two chicken-shaped rocks, popularly called either the kissing rocks or the fighting rocks. Other tour boats were in the way, it’s useful to use them as a scale. These are two of the smaller rock formations in the bay.

halong087cave

Stopped off at thien cung cave, a steep walk up into the 10,000 sq meter cave with several floors and high ceiling.

halong105cave

Impressive limestone stalactites and stalagmites lit in several places by lights. Too dark to successfully take pictures, I’m glad I got a few that were in focus.

halong115cave

At one point our guide pointed out an opening to the outside. Probably that was where the cave was first discovered. I dunno, I didn’t understand what he was saying.

halong132store halong134store

After the tour of the bay and cave, we returned to Halong town. The excursion became bizarre. We got off the boat into a coach, about 10mins drive to what looked to be a newly developed…street. We were escorted into a building, given badges and were shown around a department store. Salespeople flocked around us trying to hawk pillows, mattresses, towels, clothes and even toothbrushes. Everything looked cheap, outdated and tacky. Felt like we time travelled back to a 1970s communist store, any moment an official will demand our ID book and shopping permit.

halong152market halong155market

The street outside the store was empty and devoid of people, except tourists bundled off coaches. The street ended abruptly with tarmac one minute and muddy fields the next. There was a market one block down selling souvenirs. Most people opted to buy food–coffee (including civet cat coffee) and cashew nuts. The cashews were pretty good, so we bought a couple of packets too.

halong172cafe halong178noodles

By then everyone was hungry and looking for food. Not many options, the only one seemed to be a bar café whose enterprising staff set up a table outside cooking noodles. I guess this is our experience of pho in Vietnam. The noodles were okay, no different from what I’ve had all around the world. A sign of the times, they accepted CNY. But we only had large notes and didn’t want to accept change in local currency. Somehow we got the waitress to tell us the price in USD. We calculated the meal to be $7, she quoted $8. Was quite happy to give them the extra dollar.

halong191bike

This whole last part of the excursion was weird and staged. Definitely were brought to an area dedicated solely for unsuspecting tourists. On the way back to the tender, we passed by real local streets and I wish we had the time to walk around there instead.

Impression of Vietnam: not enough to gauge really, a guided excursion where we were spoonfed stuff is not the best way to experience a new country. Halong Bay was beautiful, although I was a little underwhelmed. Too crowded and too little free time to truly take everything in. There was a part of the town I saw on the coach that had narrow, colourful colonial houses. There were small tiny local eateries too, as well as giant luxurious hotels. Felt like a developing SE Asian country, somewhere between mainland China and Thailand.

Full set: flickr

vic102minestrone vic103pasta
vic105brulee vic106cheesecake

Dinner was now a theme: barely edible overcooked food. Spicy chicken where the chicken was dry, watery salad, green minestrone (I’ve never come across green minestrone), spaghetti arrabiatta that was not spicy, green crème brûlée that had no custard or brûlée topping–it was yet another mousse-like concoction. Cheesecake was passable. Our routine after dinner: salad on 11/f then back to cabin.

#41: running PR

running20160314

Task #41 of 101.1001 is to break a running PR.

When I started the challenge, I thought I’d be able to get a PR at one of the races if I pushed myself to do marathon training. It’s been very difficult to gain speed, and I’ve all but given up.

The weekend long run went well, so while I had a little time before we need to set off for our cruise, I went off for a quick run. It was pretty good, even a little flow-like. Felt like old times.

The problem was the GPS. There is no way I did km 3 in 1.37. That’s equivalent to running 100m in 9.7 seconds. Km 4 and 6 were weird too. Luckily I was running at the baseball park so I was able to estimate distances. I think the GPS overestimated my run by around 1km.

wonky GPS: 8.0km 46.59min 5.52min/km
more realistic: 7.0km 46.59 6.43min/km

If we believe the GPS, it’s a PR by 1 second. Of course, it’s more realistic to stick with the 6.43 number, which is close to what used to be my baseline of 6.40. This is the best since I started 101.1001 and is basically telling me not to write myself off. May be there’s time to get a real PR in the next few months.

#40 walk to mordor 1779 miles

mordorwalk1786

20.75km 2.56.00hr 8.29min/km

Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the walk to mordor challenge of 1779 miles / 2863km.

With today’s long run, I’m now at 1786 miles / 2874km, so I’ve reached the target. This is the last part, when the fellowship broke up at Rauros. Frodo and Sam travelled 470 miles to Mt Doom in a tough 30 day journey, first paddling and then climbing, climbing, climbing. Plus meeting and fighting Gollum.

mordorwalk1786chart

It’s taken 26 and a bit months to do this. Some months I clocked more than others. Initially I was just getting through the minimum and then marathon training helped a lot–probably if I weren’t training for 2 marathons I may find if hard to finish.

To recap:

  • 458 miles: from Hobbiton to Rivendell
  • 462 miles: set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell through Moria to Lothlorien = 920 miles total
  • 389 miles: from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls = 1309 miles total
  • 470 miles: Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom = 1779 miles total

101.1001 challenge done, but the overall challenge continues. I wonder how long it’ll take me to complete the remaining 1618 miles / 2604km that takes the fellowship from Minas Tirith back to Bag End especially since there’s no deadline. I work best with a target date.

#1 upgrade macOS

snowleopardpatch

Task #1 of 101.1001 is to upgrade macOS at least once. When I set the challenge, I thought I’d follow the normal upgrade route to 10.7, 10.8 etc. We’re at 10.11 now.

I’m still running 10.6, because of old software and old hardware. I normally upgrade when I get a new mac, and credit to the little mba, it’s still running well after more than 5 years. I’m quite happy with status quo, making me one of around 5% of mac users still on 10.6.

In a way this is a slight cheat, but my challenge…my rules. Last week there was an upgrade to snow leopard, a small patch to ensure continual compatibility with the mac store. Not that I use the mac store, but I upgraded anyway.

This is all because I want to delay getting a new machine for as long as possible.

#95 learn how to rocher

Task #95 of 101.1001 is to learn how to rocher, or single spoon quenelle.

rocher03

Mine wasn’t perfect, but I’ve figured out how to do it. Very important to dip the spoon in hot water, and the cream or ice cream being scooped should be fairly soft.

Need more practice.

#80 scan 101 family pics

familypic

Task #80 of 101.1001 is to scan 101 family pics. The idea is to slowly scan the boxes and boxes of photo albums.

This album has small format 3.5”x2.5” pics of me and sis, from when I was around 4 to 9 years old. Quality still good, well preserved. Each page has 8 pics, so scanning all 16 pages = 128 pics in total.

101.1001 challenge: day 760 update

1011001chart2015

Update for 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge; less than 8 months left.
tl;dr: 760 days, 80 tasks done, 21 tasks remaining

    on track–ongoing or cumulative tasks:

  • 5. 1001 posts on website–in the middle of copying old posts from MT to WP so the count is suspended; should complete before last day as there are days with more than one post
  • 16. finish writing lamplight–it’s actually finished, I need one last review
  • 40. complete a ‘walk to Mordor’ challenge–currently at 1650 of 1779 miles, should reach goal in one or two months
  • 74. put away $10 for every goal completed–this will be done on the last day
  • 75. set aside $1 for each goal achieved and donate to charity–again, a last day task
  • 88. make a list and photoset of 101 favourite things–list is still incomplete
  •  
    doable–haven’t started but are doable:

  • 18. design a book cover–I have a few designs in my head
  • 19. write a short story–the plan is to write about a couple of side characters in nano2015
  • 30. new country (3)–if I don’t add a country next year, I’ll claim Palestine
  • 42. db bench press PR–train more
  • 46. go rock-climbing (real or wall)–the YMCA has a beginner’s course, I need to ring them up and make a booking
  • 60. open a cookbook to a random page and make whatever is on it–get it done, it’s not hard
  • 61. plan, make and serve a three-course meal, with wine–menu is planned, need occasion
  • 68. new whisky (5)–finished 2 bottles in the rotation, will open a new one soon
  • 80. scan 101 family pictures–I’ve just been too lazy to get this done
  •  
    need work–harder tasks for various reasons:

  • 1. upgrade macOS at least once–I know the mba will need to be replaced eventually; I’m hoping it can last a while longer, may be I can change the task to iOS
  • 8. old musical–depends on travelling plans next year
  • 41. break a running PR–it’s both a question of running more and staying injury free
  • 76. make a will–either use sis’ or mm’s; or make an appointment with a lawyer
  • 95. learn how to rocher–I almost did it, need practice
  • 101. be more grateful and patient with family–so subjective

#43: 101 crunches

30daychallenge

Task #43 of 101.1001 is to do 101 crunches.

Compared with 101 squats, this took longer to achieve because I’m poorer at crunches than at squats. What helped a great deal was I’ve been following a 30-day challenge that focused on crunches, squats, lunges and wall-sits. Started with 10 crunches on day 01 and reached 100 crunches (plus 75 squats and 100 lunges) on day 30. Not a problem to add one extra to get to 101.

A bunch of other people on fb are also following the program, which makes it more fun. It’s well known that crunches, squats and lunges are beneficial for all levels of fitness. I should continue the program to help strengthen my hips and core for running.

#25 find colour in an unusual place

parkbenchballoons2015

Task #25 of 101.1001 is one of the incomplete ones from the 2007 challenge. This was from tues, find colour in an unusual place:

any color, bright or drab that you wouldn’t normally find in place. (example, on a steel gray manhole cover a small scrap of brilliant pink colored wrapping paper)

I’m not a very observant person when I’m out and about. Mostly I want to get to my destination with the minimum interaction with the external environment. I also keep forgetting this task. Sometimes I do see possibilities, like flower petals on a concrete slope, or oddly coloured flowers we saw at the market last year.

This was on my run today. A bunch of blue and white balloons were stuck underneath a park bench. The blue and white are not colours we expect to see at a park, especially the blue which was more aquamarine. I’m thinking someone had a wedding or graduation photoshoot there and left the balloons. All the better for my challenge.

It’s also poignant. tues set this assignment in 2007, and I took this on an iphone and instagrammed it. In 2007 the iphone just came out and instagram wouldn’t appear until 2010.

#90: leave an inspirational note

hp02collection

Task #90 of 101.1001 is to leave an inspirational note for someone to find.

Originally I envisioned getting a postcard with a motivational message and leaving it in a random book at a bookstore. I forgot to get it done at Powell’s in Portland, which would have been really great seeing that it’s a huge bookstore.

For once, I’m glad I procrastinated. Two things happened in parallel.

A few weeks ago, mugglenet started #potteritforward, where participants could

share messages of love, friendship, or bravery with the next generation of Harry Potter readers by tucking a note into the pages of a bookstore or library copy of the boy wizard’s adventures.

Naturally, it’s a hashtag and pictures have been shared all over social media.

The second thing that happened was when I was talking to my niece and finally she’s ready to read the HP books. I said she can borrow mine, if she promises to keep them in good condition.

hp16notes

So that’s how I came to incorporate #potteritforward into lending my HP books to my niece. Since most people have been putting notes in either the first chapter of the first book or last chapter of the last book that’s exactly what I did. There is a third note about Dementors hidden somewhere in the one of the middle books, when Harry used Expecto Patronum on Dementors.

 

#17 outline book ideas

stg275museum

 

Task #17 of 101.1001 is to outline book / story ideas.

Since nano is done this year, it’s worth using some of the momentum for writing and related. I have ideas dating back a long time, yet I never get round to starting, let alone finishing them. It’s not good. As time goes by, I get more ideas and the backlog gets bigger. Definitely not good. Anyway, it’s all in Evernote:

lamplight universe

  • lamplight
  • lamplight follow-up with Kian and Anna in Albania and the Balkans
  • shep (nano 2009)
  • the house on the lake (nano 2013) — indy and pete building indy’s dream house with a green roof

melody universe

  • party planner (nano 2014) — melody is trying to organise a retirement party for her dad and meets restaurant manager samantha
  • melody on church (tight, nano 2005) — sam’s dream of starting her own restaurant becomes embroiled with melody’s strange obsession and sam’s own family weirdness
  • in pieces (nano 2006) — sam’s descent into insanity while melody decides she wants to be a nun, needs a happy ending

healing series

  • short story prequel, robot sheepdog project, how they met
  • short story ghost
  • the actual novel where MC1 goes to oxford to gain closure with joey’s parents and meets MC2 in bath

london stories

  • drive (nano 2011) — minicab driver and missing child
  • tips (nano 2012) — heir hunters at harrow road

work travel

  • work travel go (nano 2015) — tech startup CEO goes undercover at travel destination, meets volunteer
  • how the hosts met — 1990s story of how dee and sm met, why sm needed wheelchair 25yrs later

master will universe (obviously need to change names)

  • days of innocence lost (earth as a short story prequel) — may be expand to novella length?
  • days of innocence returned — 150 years from now, w has been a good vampire, reinventing herself every few decades, enrolling in universities to try to find a cure for cancer. and then t comes back
  • there was a third planned but I can’t remember what it’s about

standalones

  • summer into winter — inspired by david harsent’s book
  • bigtown — post apocalypse universe, hacker vs tyrannical dictator
  • magic — need to find the outline
  • 12 races in chicago (nano 2010)
  • spotter — what if the world’s most tragic person invented a time machine to go back to history to eliminate disease, disasters and wars? the world’s population has grown to the point where it is impossible to sustain, and going to the future reveals everyone dies of famine; spotters are sent out to mark people out for elimination or retention, what if a spotter spots the wrong person
  • unmasked — short story, starts in a blind restaurant

 
 

#15 nano 2015 validated

nano2015
 
Task #15 of 101.1001 is to complete nano 2015. Got to 50k on day 15, but to truly complete means having it validated on the nanosite and getting the winner’s badge. Validation started today, and I validated at 52,219. Scrivener gives me 52,282 and google docs 52,199—there’s always a discreprency when using different tools.

There’s an achievement badge for updating wordcount 30 days in a row, so I’ve been writing a few hundred words a day to keep it going. I’ll try to remember to continue until the 30th. I think badges reset every year so I’m not entirely sure why I’m so keen to get the badge. I suspect it’s OCD, that I can’t bear to have one greyed out badge amongst the entire set. 
 

#40 update: lothlorien to rauros falls 1309 miles

mordorwalk1309

Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the walk to mordor challenge of 1779 miles / 2863km.

Today I reached milestone 3: from lothlorien down the anduin to rauros falls at 1309 miles / 2106km. According to people who keep track of such things, this part of the journey took 11 days and was mostly paddling on the river. From then on the fellowship breaks up and continue independently: frodo and sam 470 miles to mt doom; merry and pippin 355 miles to isengard; aragorn, legolas and gimli takes a longer route of 484 miles to isengard.

There are only 470 miles left on the task, I will be able to complete this. A goal is by the end of the year; B goal is by the end of Q1 next year. I’ll probably do the back part of there and back again: after being rescued by giant eagles there is the 1625 miles from minas tirith back to bag end.

#07: new musical on your feet

onyourfeet01oriental onyourfeet02curtain

Task #7 of 101.1001 is to go to a new musical. Today I went to see on your feet at the oriental theatre in chicago.

There are so many new musicals that I’ve lost touch at what is showing and which one is new. On Your Feet is a show about Gloria Estafan and her husband Emilio: how they met, how they worked to become successful in the music business and how a bus accident almost derailed their lives and careers. Some reviews likened it to a feel-good tv movie. Although there are similarities to a tv movie, the energy, the music and the overall production pushed the standard much higher.

I can’t name a single Gloria Estafan (with or without Miami Sound Machine) song, but I could recognise the bigger hits when I hear them. And I did, the bigger hits. The songs I hadn’t heard of before were a revelation to me, I enjoyed them too. The dancing was great and the energy was infectious.

The singing. Wow, the singing. Ana Villafane plays Gloria, looks like Gloria, and sounds like Gloria. Superb. The other cast members were memorable too, from Josh Segarra who played Emilio and the family members: Gloria’s mom, grandmother, father and sister all excelled. The boy who played both her son and a dancing bar mitzvah boy was wonderful. At the end of both acts, the audience were on their feet, clapping and dancing, that was how much everyone enjoyed the show.

#45 kickboxing class

boxinggloves boxingring

Task #45 of 101.1001 is to take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class. This is one of the ones carried over from the 2007 challenge. This time I was determined to sign up and attend at least one class. The opportunity came when Sis said to come with her to kickboxing class. That counts as a martial arts, right?

The gym looked pretty serious, with separate men’s and women’s sections separated by the reception area. There is a small changing room with showers. Sis had spare gloves for me but I had to get wrapping bandages for my hands and ankle protectors. The class was definitely a beginners’ class and it was more like using kickboxing moves in a cardio routine. Punching with or without gloves, kicking in the air or against the punchbag, squats, pushups, and combinations. The first part of the class was easy enough, and then the instructor started giving us more complex routines. Burpees combined with punching and kicking; crouching (as if to avoid an opponent) and crunches.

All in all, an intense workout. I got tired towards the end. Not sure if I’ll go again, perhaps. Some people like class exercises, I don’t. I prefer running and doing weights at home so I don’t need to be in the company of other people. Plus, I don’t see the point of paying so much for gym or kickboxing studio membership and class fees.

#97 use more herbs & spices

eutrip075lamb

Task #97 of 101.1001 is to stop using as much salt and substitute with herbs &amp spices.

One of the biggest advantages of staying at an airbnb is home comforts like a kitchen. The flat we stayed in London had a nice kitchen with proper hob, oven and utensils. The downside is that you’re limited to what is already present, unless you buy or bring your own flavourings. I was making roast lamb shoulder. There were olive oil, salt and pepper. Although half a drawer was full of herbs & spices it was chilli, curry powder, star anise and the like. I could use them, of course, but what I really wanted was rosemary, which wasn’t available. I didn’t get any fresh sprigs when I bought the lamb, so I improvised with other dried and fresh ingredients.

I used some italian seasoning, s&p. The side dishes with the lamb were roasted fennel and asparagus. I finely chopped bits of fennel and asparagus offcuts, and used those as the fresh herbs.

eutrip076lamb

It’s definitely the quality of lamb, but I’m hoping the improvised seasoning helped too. The lamb was roasted to perfection and the side vegetables were really good.

#73 new restaurant london: dishoom

eutrip069dishoom

Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #5 of 5.

Our friend invited us to dishoom behind king’s cross for lunch. Our first impression was how the area had completely changed. Where it used to be dangerous and derelict, it’s now modern and stylish full of office buildings and fancy restaurants.

Dishoom’s theme is Indian street food. The restaurant’s decoration is a mix of old school colonial train station, gentrified godown and steampunk. Great atmosphere. There were a large number of small plates to share. We ordered chilli cheese toast, okra fries, calamari, lamb boti kabab, greens with a fabulous chilli & lime dressing, daal, naan and roti. Everything was delicious, we ordered extra lamb. For drinks I had a bhang lassi, which had mint, ginger, candied fennel and coconut milk.

The small plates were less than £6, the lamb less than £10 so pretty good for London prices. Lots of flavour, and different flavours too, to the usual curries and biryanis. Indian food has been described as Britain’s national dish, and if all Indian food were like Dishoom’s, then it’s not a surprise. Definitely worth returning. Repeatedly.

#72 new restaurant dublin: bear

eutrip059bearsteak

Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #4 of 5.

We were in Dublin for my birthday and based on previous experience, I picked butcher grill in ranelagh and made a reservation a few weeks in advance. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the oysters and côte de boeuf, even though the service was quite arms-length. We didn’t have a lot of time in Dublin and when I read about a new-ish restaurant specialising in less popular cuts of meat, I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to try it out.

As it happened, we made time to go to bear in south william street just west of grafton street. Having read that they didn’t take reservations for two, we went early and got a nice windowside table. There was a bar parallel to the front of the restaurant with the rest of the tables on a mezzanine behind. The wait staff, who were the poster boys & girls of hipserhood, were a little distracted preparing for guests but we’d just come from Italy so were in slow food mode.

Aside from the usual ribeye, sirloin, chicken and ribs they also had, as expected, some unusual steak like rosary cut, feather, bavette, flank and onglet. Well, actually I thought bavette and flank are the same, obviously not. I’ve cooked bavette before and liked the flavour. It was what the waiter suggested so we ordered that, to share. For sides we had cauliflower cheese and crispy kale.

Yes, the bavette was tougher than sirloin. I’d say it was even tougher than rump. It was quite lean and the grain more pronounced than on other steaks. With lesser chefs and lesser quality meat, it’d be more a stir-frying or stewing beef. For us, it was perfect. Bags of flavour and didn’t need any sauce. Slightly underseasoned, solved by a little s&p.

I was very good (or mm was an effective controller), didn’t have any wine or beer. That said, we’d been at tullamore dew earlier so I’d had a couple of whiskies already.

The steak was €40, with sides the bill came to €50, good value for steak dinner in a city centre. We’ve been talking about it since, and will be one of the first places to stop if we visit Dublin again.

#98: visit one of 101 wishlist travel places

eutrip012flrponte eutrip027stfrancis

Task #98 of 101.1001 is to visit one of the 101 wishlist travel places defined in task #27. I managed to check off two from that list: assisi and tuscany on our europe trip.

Not going to repeat the travel reports, linking:
florence: day 06 | day 07 | day 09 | day 10 | day 11
siena: day 08
assisi: day 12 | day 13 | day 14 | day 15

There’s a reason why these places are on so many bucket lists. We spent almost a week in florence and 4 days in assisi and barely scratched the surface of what there was to see and experience. We also were very blessed with the people we met, and got to take part in palm sunday in assisi. We agreed that we could have stayed much, much longer. Weeks, months. Tuscany has everything: beautiful scenery, culture, food, a magical vibe. Assisi has the spirituality, and beautiful scenery too.

#39: run/walk/bike 1001 miles

1001miles20150316

Task #39 of 101.1001 is to run/walk/bike 1001 miles. I originally put 1001km, then I upped it to miles. I went past 1001km in novembe. The red line shows the growth in mileage lately as I’m building base for marathon training, it looks like a taper for the last datapoint, but bear in mind March is only halfway gone.

I crashed my knee on sunday’s race which scuppered the planned 10 mile weekend long run. I should be resting but I did a fast 5k around the neighbourhood:

  • I noticed I was only 3 miles from the 1001 milestone and I’m not going to let poxy ITBS stop me from getting there
  • I don’t know how much time I’ll have to run on the trip, so it’s like a final run before we fly tomorrow
  • I wanted to stretch the knee out a little

The initial 1km up the hill was uncomfortable, the knee kept wanting to give out. I changed to a flatter route and by the end of the run the knee was sort of okay. I rollered the IT band together with my back and boy, it was painful.

This task is done, but there’s still #40 walk to Mordor, next milestone is 1309 miles from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls. If I can consistently hit 80-100 miles a month, I’ll get there hopefully by June or July.

#3 become proficient with evernote

Task #3 of 101.1001 is to become proficient in evernote.

As a nano winner, I got 3 months of evernote premium, which just ended. I’ve been using EN for a while, and now have over 250 notes. I know, I know, proficiency isn’t measured by quantity. However I think that I can claim to have at least basic proficiency. Like many tech services, I signed up for an account ages ago but never got round to using it until later. When I did get started it was just playing around with to-do lists. I read up on how other people use it and I really appreciated its power and functionality when i started using it to organise travel. And then I started using it more. The rest of this post is how I currently use EN. Warning: may be boring for some, not everyone is into organising their lives in such detail.

travel planning and research

I started using EN to plan the cruise to eastern Mediterranean. There were too many new places and too many important places to see on that trip that organised research was necessary. The 201302 cruise notebook has 6 notes: 1 for itinerary, maps and general information, and then one for each stop. Each one had information about docking and all-aboard times, sights to see, transportation, places to eat and anything else interesting. The whole notebook printed out to a 9-page doc which proved invaluable during the trip.

entokyo201408food

I have similar notebooks for the alaskan cruise and trips to hokkaido, tokyo and seoul. A simple illustration is my tokyo notebook with 4 notes: hotel, things to do, day trips, food&drink. What I like is how I can keep the notebook and pdf in my files for another time. I didn’t do one for the big US trip last summer, mainly because it was too long, and we weren’t really planning a particular route.

lists

Here is where EN is so easy to use, especially cross platform. I keep all sorts of lists: grocery shopping list, presents for people, wishlists, important information like phone numbers and scanned copies of documents. I also have my running PR (although I haven’t transferred the master running spreadsheet from google docs yet), my whisky inventory, restaurants worth remembering as well as other random lists I keep for myself.

goal setting / challenges

en1011001

I keep track of challenges in EN. For example I can know with one click that I’m 65 tasks into 101.10001, with 36 left. I can keep track of my progress for tasks that are cumulative, like walking to mordor, or reading 101 books. If I’m doing a 30 day challenge, I’m constantly referring to the list throughout the month. Each completed task has a link to the writeup.

creative projects

Whilst I don’t think EN is a good writing tool because its text editing functionality is poor, it combines well with scrivener. Do the research and store information on EN, then do the writing itself in scrivener. It’s also a depository for my list of ideas, random writing and other useful links. I started to use EN more when I was writing PP for nano.

EN is also useful to store photography too, even though obviously the main bulk of my photography is at flickr. I have a scanned copy of the Oldie magazine article, the one where I got £60 for my picture of Wheelers in Whitstable.

reading: combining feedly, instapaper, evernote

It took a while, but I finally transferred all my instapaper and pocket links to evernote.

Way back when, at the beginning of the internet, when we found a page we were interested in, we bookmarked it. Those of us who were a little more OCD organised our bookmarks in folders. But the web grew and amount of content grew. It wasn’t just blindly clicking on links to search for stuff to read. Blogging became popular and the de rigeur thing to do. With blogging software came RSS feeds. Enter bloglines.

Google entered the fray and gave us the wonderful google reader. It killed bloglines but was then killed off a couple of years ago for no good reason. I moved to feedly.

There is now so much content that if I don’t look at my feedly for a few days, thousands of posts accumulate. Feedly isn’t my only source of discovery, I use digg, flipboard, reddit, metafilter, twitter and others. As a result of this huge volume, read later apps were developed to let us clip pages we want to read later. Pocket (which used to be called, literally, readitlater), instapaper, readability, tumblr and pinterest can be used to store and sort posts.

enreadflow

Even though EN developed a web clipper for reading later, like others I don’t use it as my read later app. I’ve settled on a workflow that works for me, h/t to jamie todd rubin for diagram format.

I use instapaper as triage. Once in a while I review instapaper and move articles to EN using clearly. Yes, it’s time consuming and I could use an IFTTT recipe to save directly to EN. I do this because: a) if an article is still interesting after a couple of reviews, then it’s worth keeping and b) I sometimes want to save the full post rather than just a link.

clearlybefore clearlyafter

An aside about EN Clearly. With just one click it converts a page to a clutterfree format for easy reading. No ads, no headers & footers, no sidebars. The example above, of a random guardian article. The one on the left is the regular page—I have ABP, otherwise there would have been ads too; the one on the left is on Clearly. It’s clearly spectacular, pun intended.

tags vs notebooks

Initially I only used the notebook filing system. 3-tiers that went from stacks to notebooks to notes, examples:

travel > 201408 tokyo > things to do
food&drink > whisky > whisky tasted

Then I read Michael Hyatt’s article that advocated using both notebook filing and tagging to make cross-referencing better. I started tagging, blatantly coping his nested tag scheme. It seems to work fine.

unused functionality

There are other functionalities I don’t use. I don’t use scheduling because I don’t keep a diary. When I was at work, I just used Outlook (or Lotus Notes, ugh) to keep calendar invites. I hardly blocked off timeslots or budget my time. I remember personal schedules in my head, or write them on my trusty wall calendar.

I don’t use contacts either, so EN’s OCR ability to store business cards is wasted on me. This is related to my not being very contactable and not having a wide network.

For the same reason I’ve always been inbox zero (even at work when I get hundreds of email), I don’t need the integration with email.

I wish I’m one of those talented people who can sketch on their cool moleskin notebook and transfer to EN. But alas I can’t draw. I ogle at the pics on the moleskin fb page though. Anyway, moleskines are expensive.

get even better

Yes, I have a 4 drawer filing cabinet at home that is very full. I have been quite good at going paperless though, switching to e-statements whenever possible. I’d like to scan more physical documents and EN seems to be a natural repository. May be not super confidential documents but definitely receipts, instructions and bits of paper. I was excited when EN released its own scanning app, and was disappointed when I saw that it’s ios 8 and above. I’ll keep with scanner pro for the time being.

I’m continually trying to streamline my workflow. Getting feedly, instapaper/pocket and EN to work together is an achievement. There are other IFTTT EN recipes to explore, like saving tweets, crossposting from instagram, iphone camera integration, even fb status integration. Not that I’m that keen to store my fb statuses, although twitter integration will be useful—instead of saving to google docs like right now, tweets can go to EN. Then again, its text and table handling need to get better first. We all have room for improvement, EN included.

My nano-sponsored premium account just expired. Will I start paying for a premium account? Right now the answer is no. The feature I appreciated most was additional bandwidth, I barely used the other premium features. I don’t use EN so much that I’m in danger of exceeding my quota, I’ll continue with the free account and monitor my usage.

#20: 1001 instagrams total

southbay011tower

Task #20 of 101.1001 is to reach 1001 instagram/vine/snapchat total. I tried vine and it was fine, but instagram offered similar videoing functionality and I’m used to using instagram, so my vine count is still under 10. I never got round to using snapchat.

Without me noticing it, I reached 1001 instagrams a couple of weeks ago. This was taken when mm and I drove out to South Bay on a nice cool evening and the place was empty. The lifeguard towers looked sad and forlorn on the beach.

30.30 #15: new recipe onion soup

onionsoup201503

Task #15 of 30in30 is to try a new recipe.

Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?

Ha!

There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).

Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.

After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.

The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.

I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.

#40 update: hobbiton to lothlorien 920 miles

mordorwalk920

Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the 1779 miles walk to mordor challenge.

I reached milestone 1: hobbiton to rivendell or 458 miles in august-2014. Today, as I reached 87 miles for the month of feb-2015, I passed milestone 2: rivendell through moria to lothlorien for a total of 920 miles. More than halfway, 859 miles to go. I’m ahead of scheule—marathon training has me running a lot, and I’m still only at the base building phase. Proper training starts in june.

#67 new whisky bunnahabhain cruach-mhona

bunnacruachmhona2015

Tasks #64-68 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new whiskies. This is #4 of 5.

I finished the dalmore 18 fairly quickly, about 6 months, probably because I didn’t quite like it. The next in the mainland rotation should be either the magnificent dalwhinnie, a strangely-named ancnoc from my sis, or perhaps mortlach 16. But I opened a bunnahabhain cruach-mhona instead, because…I don’t know why. May be it’s because I had 2 bottles? Anyway it means I currently have 2 islays open, this one and laphroaig PX. Co-incidence much? Both are duty free only.

Bunnahabhain and laphroaig are like heaven and earth when it comes to peatiness. Bunnas’ peatiness is subtle, while laphroaigs are peat monsters. I loved visiting both distilleries though. Bunna was closed when we went there, but the location and the weather that day brought home how wild and unfettered the distillery was. I’d love to go back there when it is open.

Anyway, I love Bunna 12 and I completely adore Bunna 18. Cruach-mhona in gaelic means peat stack, although its peatiness is nowhere near laphroaig or ardbeg. It’s un-chill filtered and uncoloured, resulting in a very light golden colour, like sunflower oil without the viscocity. NAS and doesn’t taste very old, may be 10-12 years. Peaty and seaweed on the nose. In terms of taste, slightly smoky, sweet, smooth with a long finish. Reviews are average and Mr Murray gave it a not terribly mind-blowing 83 points. I like it myself, I’m sold on the smoothness and the long finish.
 

#47 101 foods tried

Task #47 of 101.1001 is to make a list and photoset of 101 food & drink items that are on popular bucket lists. These lists are subjective: exotic to one person may be normal for another. I’ve tried a number of items from the ominvore’s 100 and various food challenge lists, i’m at 92/100 on the foodie list. This list combines typical bucket list foods with food from a specific place.

Pics are clickable thumbnails, there’s also the full size set

    hksaikung022abalone praha096absinthe hknamahbakedalaska gre498baklava

  1. abalone — they can be expensive even in canned form, very nice steamed on the shell
  2. absinthe — tried in France, don’t like the aniseed taste, can’t say I’ll drink it again
  3. baked alaska — flambéd at the table
  4. baklava — comes in different sizes and varieties, first experience was from my local shops in London, have also tried ones in Greece and the middle east
  5. banh mi — before it became hipster food, we took the overnight ferry (no channel tunnel yet) and drove to the 13th arrondissement in Paris just to get them
  6.  
    hok422kumagera osa096belly dal146dfwbeerita bittergourdomelette

  7. beef: kobe beef — in Osaka, was very tender and tasty
  8. beef: wagyu beef: again in Osaka, grilled at our table
  9. beer above 15% — 16% beer at the Zeughauskeller that may have also been the one that was flambéd
  10. beerita — tried at DFW, a corona inverted into a frozen margarita, now that’s a cocktail I can sink into
  11. bird’s nest soup — the bird’s nest doesn’t taste of anything, it’s the sweet soup that gives the dish flavour
  12. bitter gourd — didn’t like the taste when I was younger, but I quite like it now and it gives an extra flavour when mixed with apples and carrots in a fresh juice
  13.  
    islay713bfastday2 stj015marrow strawberrypbsandwich sisuk039publunch

  14. blood — back pudding is something you can get at Tesco so it’s not really a bucket list item for me, but I guess it’s unusual for people outside of UK and Ireland; other blood products include pig’s and chicken blood tofu in congee, blood sausage in korea
  15. bone marrow — nose-to-tail at fergus henderson’s st john restaurant and at hawksmoor with steak, utterly delicious
  16. bread from poilane — best.bread.ever, yes I’m aware I put strawberry on the best sourdough bread ever
  17. british dishes with unusual names but common ingredients — see these on bucket lists all the time: bangers & mash, bubble & squeak, neeps & tatties, ploughman’s, toad in a hole, welsh rarebit
  18.  
    etonmess01 shun043qqtea uni115butterbeer chikiki003cassoulet

  19. british puddings — apple crumble, arctic roll, bread & butter pudding, eton mess, jam roly-poly, spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding, suet pudding, summer pudding, trifle—yummy yummy yummy
  20. bubble tea — hot or cold, in sweet tea or milk tea or fruit tea, or even not tea like juice or milkshake, these bubbles are pretty versatile
  21. butterbeer — at hogwarts
  22. cassoulet — at a french restaurant in chicago, very classic
  23.  
    vegcaviar centuryegg lou02sausage citic003chickenfeet

  24. caviar — it’s nice, though not something I’d order because of its price, I’ve tried vegetarian caviar and I quite like it
  25. century egg — black, quite soft, nice in congee or with pickled ginger as an appetiser
  26. chicago deep dish pizza — I prefer Lou Malnati, though Gino’s East is okay
  27. chicken feet — shrug, it’s dim sum food, can be eaten steamed with black beans or pickled until they turn white
  28.  
    goodchickenrice01 sg061seafood brus395hotchoc pt245chowder

  29. chicken rice — tender chicken poached then blanched in ice water, the chicken juices and fat used to cook the rice, the trio of sauces — i used to buy them at the hawker centre, transfer to tupperware and take them home with me on the plane
  30. chilli crab at singapore’s east coast — holy cow those are good, expect to get sauce over all 10 fingers and have no shame at licking it all off
  31. chocolate in belgium — best hot chocolate at wittamer, and all the other stores too
  32. clam chowder at cape cod — they do taste different in new england, and they taste great
  33.  
    cwall166creamtea mb051thali green curry vegetable durian

  34. cream tea in devon and cornwall — scones with clotted cream and jam, can’t get more English than this
  35. curry in india — colleague took us to an all-vegetarian restaurant where we got a thali each, with rice and dishes being served to us constantly
  36. curry in thailand — green curry, red curry, yellow curry, at small places as well as higher end restaurants
  37. durian — probably my #1 most hated food. my grandparents, sis and mm all love durian so I tried one bite and I spit it out
  38.  
    gold331escargot dragonfruit02 kangaroosteak02 stk398meatball

  39. escargot — used to buy them in large bags at the hypermarket in Calais or Boulogne, love it with lots of garlic and butter
  40. exotic fruit — dragon fruit, jackfruit, kalamansi, kumquat, mangosteen, quince, rambutan, star fruit, sugar apple
  41. exotic meat — camel burger—quite tough, crocodile, goat, horsemeat, kangaroo steak from the tail—like good quality beef, llama—like coarse mince beef, ostrich—which we’re eating a lot of nowadays, pigeon, rabbit, venison—normal venison is widely available, but I’ve also tried other deer like hartbeest, elan & springbok, zebra—at Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi
  42. faggots — meatballs, basically
  43.  
    gold354fishtaco ldn145goldhind courgetteflowers06 bluebutcher032foie

  44. fish taco — first experience was in san francisco when I visited my friend tues at a hole-in-the-wall place, it was great
  45. fish and chips — is a very popular bucket list entry, and you have to have it wrapped in newspaper, smothered with salt and vinegar with mushy peas
  46. flowers — courgette (zucchini) flowers cooked by Carleen’s Grandma that were sublime
  47. foie gras — I have a couple of blocks in my cupboard, it’s now a sunday brunch item
  48.  
    beetchicken03 hk206ricepot tok0028puffer praha312gelato

  49. fried green tomato — made it myself
  50. frog’s legs — like tender chicken, can be stir-fried, steamed on rice or in hot pot
  51. fugu — aka puffer fish or blowfish, the slightly poisonous fish that requires chefs to be specially trained and certified, shared a set at a fugu restaurant of sashimi and shabu shabu fugu, quite expensive and nice texture, no sign of the tingling some people report
  52. gelato in italy — is definitely the real deal
  53.  
    hklym15geoduck ediblegoldcake hkgcrab002inside hawaiianroll

  54. geoduck — as sashimi or quickly cooked in a hotpot
  55. gold — edible gold found sprinkled on top of some desserts, don’t see the point
  56. hairy crab — small freshwater crabs that have little meat but lots of brown roe in their shell, can’t have too much because of the cholesterol
  57. hawaiian rolls — king’s, which I could get at my local supermarket in chicago, it’s your typical american non-bread bread
  58.  
    stk017bfastherring nyc112papaya hok492tomita silkwormbeondegi

  59. herring — one of our favourite snacks in amsterdam was pickled herring, also had it at breakfast in stockholm
  60. hot dog at Papaya King NYC — there’s a branch at 86th and 3rd; I used to live at 96th and 3rd so I used to walk down at weekends just to get the hot dog and papaya smoothie combo
  61. ice cream made from vegetables — tried potato and pumpkin ice cream at hokkaido
  62. insect — a 101.1001 challenge on its own — silkworm pupae from a street vendor in seoul
  63.  
    tky069kitkat korfood003kimchi kopiluwak lassisweet

  64. japanese chocolate — for instance, kitkats that come in all sorts of flavours
  65. jellied eel — tasted fine if a bit slimy, I didn’t like the bones
  66. kimchi — it’s now an intangible heritage as determined by unesco
  67. kopi luak (civet cat coffee) — tried a couple of sips from mm’s cup, not enough of a coffee drinker to tell either way
  68. lassi — both sweet mango and savoury, no wonder it’s a perfect accompaniment to curry
  69.  
    pt248lobsterbefore vegemite01 frontera003trio 18before

  70. maine lobster — new year’s eve 1999, I met with some friends of a friend and they had a whole bucket of main lobsters, totally scrumptious
  71. marmite / vegemite — either one, I like them both and yes, it’s an acquired taste
  72. mexican at frontera grill — just walked in by myself, even got into a twitter exchange with rick bayless (or his social media people)
  73. noodles — laksa (both singapore style and penang style), pho, wonton noodles—japanese ramen is its own category
  74.  
    ducktongue szhyatt017okra nz1548waitomo kent022oysters

  75. offal — pretty much tried them all: chicken gizzards, chitterlings, pig’s ears, tongue, kidney, heart, tripe, calf’s liver, brain
  76. okra — they are great grilled, not slimy at all, this is one of the food on this list that I have regularly, now that okra is easy to find at the market
  77. ostrich egg — one ostrich egg = 24 hen eggs, bought a quarter portion and made omelette
  78. oyster — I think people who don’t like the sliminess or texture haven’t tried delicate, sweet oysters
  79.  
    paczki ldn174mktpaella pannacottayogurt007 2012hkpeking03duck

  80. paczki — my colleague treated me
  81. paella — we went skiing in andorra and were so tempted to buy our own paella pan
  82. panna cotta — i make it occasionally
  83. peking duck — it is more a special occasion food
  84.  
    ctaste018goat ldnstrfood013hogroast purplesprouts02 kan012kyotoramen

  85. plantain — at taste of chicago, interesting texture and taste, don’t know if I’ll know how to cook with it
  86. pork crackling — way too yummy and way too unhealthy, when I tried making pork belly myself, had to slice the skin off and fry separately to get crackling
  87. purple vegetables — purple cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, purple peppers, purple sweet potato, love love love purple vegetables
  88. ramen in japan — authentic ramen from a hole-in-the-wall where you buy the appropriate ticket and pass to the server or chef, the sort of place david chang will approve
  89.  
    sisuk006bday whbbq013pig quaileggmkt01 sushiuni

  90. red velvet cake — red velvet cheesecake is our favourite at cheesecake factory, also got sis a giant red velvet cupcake for her birthday one year
  91. roast suckling pig — the crispy skin and the tender meat, a dangerous combination, especially when we barbequed it ourselves
  92. quail’s eggs — so fiddly to shell, delicate taste but too high in cholesterol
  93. sea urchin — uni sashimi, sushi or handroll, yummy
  94.  
    gcls13291inout sprdeer002shark snakesoup kan015calpis

  95. secret menu — at in-n-out: double double, mustard grilled with well done fries and peppers on the side
  96. shark’s fin soup — it’s become highly controversial and people are substituting for other soup, which is a good thing, the flavour comes from the chicken and herbs rather than the shark’s fin anyway
  97. sichan spicy hot pot 麻辣火鍋 — can I say, hot hot hot
  98. snake — good stuff, especially in a soup on a cold winter’s day, and yes it tastes like chicken (may be it’s because the soup base is chicken soup and there is a lot of shredded chicken in the bowl)
  99. soft drinks that are slightly unusual — gunner (ginger beer+ginger ale), arnold palmer (iced tea+lemonade), irn bru, watermelon soda, pocari sweat, bikkle, yakult, coffee pepsi, calpis, soft drink served in a plastic bag in singapore
  100.  
    hk420nhacrabroll tx123babe spacefood01 paris101beeftartine

  101. soft shell crab — I like it as a handroll
  102. southern fried chicken — the greasy, crunchy, big-plated kind you find in Texas
  103. space food — they all have the same consistency and look like a freeze dried block, but it definitely taste like what it says on the package, I’d like to sprinkle space mint choc chip ice cream on real mint choc chip ice cream
  104. steak tartare — there’s a place in Paris near pompidou called Dame Tartine that serves the best steak and fish tartare, so good we went there twice
  105.  
    goodstickyrice01 tw234stinkytofu praha031ham kor653snack

  106. sticky rice — white and black sticky rice with mango = one of the best south-east asian sweets
  107. stinky tofu — it just smells funny, in terms of taste it’s deep fried tofu, crunchy on the outside and soft inside
  108. street food — in nyc, in portland, in most asian cities, eastern europe, in london there is a street food festival on the south bank every weekend during the summer; street food is big nowadays
  109.  
    tok026chirashi hk273sashimi ledbury011asparagus ledbury030souffle

  110. sushi at Tsukiji market tokyo, fish market osaka, fish market sapporo — having sushi at the top fish markets in the world is special
  111. sushi from live fish ikizukuri — and lobster too; still moving when we ate the flesh, then the carcass was used to make soup
  112. tagine — with cous cous or bulgar wheat, was almost tempted to buy a tagine myself
  113. tasting menu at a michelin star restaurant — both lunch and dinner, the first time at the ledbury was for mum’s birthday and they gave us a brilliant soufflé to celebrate
  114.  
    tehtarik syd104harrys ldngoodman018mac xmas11007plate

  115. teh tarik — india and singapore, there’s something about the pulling that gives the tea its signature lightness
  116. tiger at harry’s café de wheels sydney — beef pie, mash, peas and gravy, can’t find a better combination anywhere in the world
  117. truffle — one time when we were still poor students, we went to Carlucci’s and splurged out on white truffle omelette, lately there’s a lot of truffle macaroni cheese in restaurants
  118. turducken — instead of chicken in duck in turkey, I had guinea fowl, duck & pheasant
  119.  
    twinkies wasabipeas ork00highlandpark sd128winery

  120. twinkies — THE American snack food, I thought it tasted sweet and like processed sponge, unlikely to try again unless starving
  121. wasabi peas — i can eat the whole packet
  122. watermelon vodka — took a week to make, very interesting taste, easy to get drunk on it, also was in charge of making caipirinha at the same party, parts of which I have no memory of
  123. whisky more than 30 years old — highland park 30 and 40, plus held a 50yr HP bottle
  124. wine made from peach, pear, rhubarb, blackcurrant, preserved plums, rice, soaked with snake, vampire wine, wine in a bottle shaped like a lighthouse, writers tears irish whiskey, and soju, the world’s best selling liquor — if it has alcohol, I’ll try it

 

 

#87: 101 things done

Task #87 of 101.1001 is to make a list of 101 notable things and activities achieved, excluding food and travel. These are tasks/goals that are popular on bucket lists—when I started putting this challenge together I was like, “drat I’ve done this, it can’t go on my list.” Sometimes referred to as a reverse bucket list.

  1. act in a play — extremely amateur college group, for 2 nights only; i was the leader of some sort of rebel group and started off being prisoners in chains (aka grey cardboard rings around our necks), I can’t remember the rest
  2. acupuncture — I used to have back pain and had to go to this doctor who would stretch my neck using a traction machine, acupunture my back, then manipulate my spine until it cracked, it was temporary fix. Interestingly the back pain went away when I started running
  3. appear on the news — I was walking on the street behind the reporter on the way to college, didn’t notice anything and only knew about it because mum saw me on tv
  4.  
    kerrautograph amberbenson01

  5. author autographed book — i have a lot of writer friends and when I was buying physical books I was lucky enough to have them signed; the first author signing I went to was Katherine Kerr in London, the one that brought out the fangirl was Amber Benson in Chicago
  6. be on a tv show — when I was very young, like may be 5 years old, my sis and I were on an episode of a children’s program, that’s all i remember
  7. burn spaghetti cooking in a pot of water — I wasn’t much of a cook then
  8. buy a car — took me a long time to buy a car with my own money
  9. buy a house / apartment — bought before the bubble burst, took forever for the price to come back up to breakeven
  10.  
    nz0491fishing nz0525salmon

  11. catch, cook, eat a fish — lake wanaka new zealand, we went salmon fishing then prepared it in our little hotel room, sashimi and other parts microwaved
  12. character in a book — won a charity auction, and the lovely writer wrote a character who was so endearingly me, wearing a shirt I want to own and in a scene with a good friend that was incredibly realistic
  13. collect things — stamps, coins, banknotes, leather bookmarks, stationery, pencils, rubbers (american: erasers), pencil cases matchboxes, swatches, whisky miniatures. Only swatches, some banknotes and whisky miniatures are left, I’m trying to figure out how to dispose of my leather bookmark and stamp collections profitably
  14. crack an egg with one hand — I can cut stuff up the chef-y way too, and cut onions fast enough without crying
  15. cut my thumb with a bread knife, blood all over the kitchen, wrapped the injury in a dish towel, remembered to set the timer to record X-files, got a taxi to the hospital and had 5 stitches—still have a slight fear of bread knives and have permanent numbness of said thumb but didn’t miss that X-files episode—I got my priorities right
  16. do something from the analog age — rotary phone, pay phone that you had to put in 2p before the pips ran out, 35mm film, vinyl record, record music off the radio onto cassette tapes
  17.  
    nyc128nobu ky207wildwarehouse

  18. do stuff alone — went to the cinema, ate at Nobu, moved around the world all on my own; did the bourbon trail on my own too, taking the samples with me in the car to enjoy back at the hotel
  19. dress up in fancy costume — there’s a picture of me at 3 years old in a cute indian (as in cowboys and indians) costume; there’s also one of me at 10 years old dressed as a tree, both for school
  20. drive stick shift — this shows up on so many bucket lists. I can drive any car as long as I can reach the pedals/controls, manual or auto transmission, on both sides of the road
  21. drive 120mph on the motorway — don’t do this, kids
  22. donate blood — just once in London, to get my blood type, other countries don’t want my blood because they think people from uk have mad cow’s disease
  23. eat at a Michelin star restaurant — one star: l’atelier de joel robuchon | two stars: the ledbury
  24.  
    nz1612zorb scan05gun

  25. extreme sport — did one run in a zorb in new zealand
  26. famous encounter — went to college with Viscount Newry and Mourne—actually was in the same MBA study group and didn’t know Rob was a peer until very late in the school year. Also was in the same school year as Bobby Moore’s daughter, Dinah Rose QC and once queued behind Gary Lineker at a sandwich shop—none of these people will remember me
  27. fire a gun — first term in my undergraduate year I joined the gun club and learned how to shoot a handgun; the club closed when someone accidentally shot someone else in the foot
  28. flat stanley project — for my niece, her paper doll was called flat neena
  29.  
    cx1st02salad a38017landing

  30. fly first class — did that a few times, so luxurious I didn’t want to leave the plane
  31. fly in an A380 — from singapore to sydney, and on Emirates, not such a big deal now
  32. garage sale — made over USD150
  33. get a degree — yep
  34. get a postgraduate degree — yep
  35. have a portrait drawn — had a caricature drawn in Paris, it’s around someplace
  36. help a charity — my money has been working hard at kiva for a few years helping microfinance several small businesses
  37. hold a snake — at one of those shops that sell snake soup, I was too fascinated to be scared
  38. jump off a diving board — way back when I was a teenager, at the school pool
  39. jump into a pool of icy water straight from a sauna — it’s what they recommended, but omg it was sooo cold
  40. knit a scarf — can’t knit or sew; this was part of a school homework and my grandmother had to help me finish it, I’m sad that I can’t find it anymore
  41. live in a foreign country — yep, but I’m not sure what is foreign, my definition of home used to be where my furniture is and now it’s where my electronics are
  42. lose x pounds — between late 2008 and 2009, I started running and counting calories, max weight loss was closer to 30 pounds but I’ve gained some back
  43. mad scientist — walked around most of my college years in a lab coat with spatulas and pens and goggles hanging out of the pockets, played with liquid nitrogen, sniffed chloroform, poured conc. sulphuric acid from one bottle to another without gloves and without a drop spilling (do not do this EVER, kids)
  44. make a snowman — very cold winter in London, we had over 12 inches of snow that year and was the first time i saw snow
  45.  
    lemoncurd201302 beet eggs day 1

  46. make my own jam — marmalade and lemon curd too
  47. make something pickled — beet eggs, so delicious
  48. mile high club — totally meaningless
  49. money: be debt free — apart from mortgage and car loan I took out for credit rating, have never been in debt and since both are paid off, is debt free
  50. money: earn more than x a year — a popular milestone set by many people
  51. money: have more than x total — another popular miestone
  52. money: invest in shares — the first shares I bought were BT shares when they were privatised, have a few more since then
  53.  
    huntingknife02 ldnpara00T54

  54. own a weapon — excluding baseball bat, I have this rather lethal looking hunting knife i bought in switzerland
  55. participate in a lifesaving drill — at school, i was the victim and had to be rescued by my friend who was taking the test
  56. participate in a mexican wave — at the athletics stadium during the london 2012 paralympics
  57. participate in a protest — the day after June 4th 1989, there was a massive spontaneous protest at chinatown, the march to the chinese embassy stretched from the top of regent’s street all the way to piccadilly circus [edit: #umbrellamovement recently, of course]
  58. photo challenge: did numerous 26things, a day in the life and 31in31 challenges, check flickr sets
  59.  
    visitedcountries

  60. pin all countries visited on a map of the world — it’s the home page of my travel section
  61. play a musical instrument — piano lessons when I was a kid, got to grade 6
  62. play in a school sports team — i was basketball captain even though I was the youngest, probably the shortest and wore glasses
  63. play paintball — on a cold december day, the ground was frozen so even more pain
  64. pray at the vatican — at the side of the main area at st peter’s is a peaceful, pretty chapel for praying only
  65.  
    kent001wheelers scan02whitstable

  66. publish in a magazine — my picture of Wheeler’s restaurant at Whitstable was published in the oldie magazine, I got £60 out of it
  67. publish in a magazine 2 — a picture of my hands holding a separating funnel once appeared in the new scientist
  68. publish in an academic journal — there are 7 papers at the Journal of Organic Chemistry, although my supervisor wrote them, I only did the work
  69. read a banned book — American Psycho, Animal Farm, Grapes of Wrath, Nineteen Eighty-Four — surprised I haven’t read more
  70. read all the books by an author — the earliest example was Desmond Bagley
  71. register as an organ donor — problem with living in multiple countries is that it is different everywhere, anyway my NHS donor card is always in my wallet
  72. ride a camel — at the great wall, I think, it was a long time ago
  73. ride a chair lift — lots of those on ski slopes
  74.  
    scan16heli wdwdhs054rock

  75. ride a helicopter — at a fair (Welwyn Garden City or Hatfield) with mum, it cost £20 or 25 per person for a 15min ride, worth every penny
  76. ride a horse — there are stables at hyde park and you can take a ride with an instructor for a few hours, can’t say I’m in any hurry to do it again
  77. ride a rollercoaster — I got dragged into trying the rock’n’roller coaster and tower of terror at walt disney world, ack never again, too scary
  78. ride a routemaster — or, jump on and off a routemaster, better known as the red london buses that have a platform in place of a door at the back
  79. ride a segway — when my friend RM came to chicago for a visit, we went on a segway tour, it was a lot of fun
  80. ride a sled — still own that sled that sis gave me
  81. ride in a stretch limo — only in New York, with fellow interns
  82. run through a sprinkler or fountain — in Singapore and at Orlando, had to quit because i was competing against kids
  83. running: charity run — don’t do a lot of running for charities, the one where I raised the most money was AIDS runwalk 5k, where I raised USD1,400
  84. running: run a marathon — chicago 2010, chicago 2011, brighton 2012
  85. running: sub-30 5k — 29:53 mins at Ravenswood 5k, one of my favourite races, it was through my local neighbourhood
  86. saw a ghost (possibly) — or may be it was just a woman in a flowing white dress walking at the side of a dimly lit road with no houses nearby
  87. see a ballet/opera/classical music concert — yep, done all of these, the most memorable was a marathon of Beethoven symphonies 1-9 at the festival hall, a whole day event
  88. see a broadway play/musical — saw rent and phantom of the opera when I was living in NYC
  89. see a cirque du soleil show — quidam I think, they were touring in switzerland in 2000-2001 and the entire staff of UBS Zurich were treated to a performance
  90. see a west end play/musical — can probably have its own mini-list — phantom, les miserables, chess, cats, miss saigon, love never dies, chicago, wicked, singin’ in the rain, matilda are the ones off the top of my head
  91. shuck an oyster — surprisingly easy
  92. sing karaoke — don’t like it, but I have done it
  93. sit for a professional photograph — I had graduation photos done when I got my first degree; and when mm got hers done I had a couple of portraits done at the same time
  94. speak another language — I would stop short of saying I’m fully bilingual; in terms of speaking I can do both, reading I’m one and a bit, as for writing it’s only english
  95.  
    scan17archery stg014kski

  96. sport: archery — did a couple of times, thought it was great fun
  97. sport: fencing — went to a few fencing club lessons during my first year as an undergraduate, still remember some of the moves
  98. sport: ski or snowboard — I got to be quite a good skiier in Switzerland; tried snowboarding and never liked it
  99. sport: ski or snowboard on a dry slope — there used to be a dry ski slope in Beckton on the A13, it was the earliest experience; lately tried some indoor ski and board slopes where the slopes are like huge conveyor belts, the perspective is very different when the ground is moving
  100. survived an accident — ski accident at Flumserberg of all places; luckily no bones broken, but I was brought down the slope by mountain rescue in a sled-stretcher and now own a pair of purple crutches
  101. swim in the sea — don’t like how I can’t see the bottom, but went swimming when I used to go on boat rides
  102. teach a class — used to teach primary school level language for a bunch of kids, same class for about 4 years
  103. tech: have a website — yes, this is a website, i’ve had it since 2003
  104. tech: write a blog — the entire website is built using movabletype, i’ve written a blog post every day since july 2007
  105. travel internationally without a passport — it was pre-9/11, i’d lost my passport that day with no chance of getting a replacement. the first leg was domestic LGA—>SFO and I got by with a photo ID; international out of SFO there was no additional security, I just had to present my boarding pass
  106. volunteer — visited and helped some OAPs as part of a school thing, it was a really great experience
  107. walk away from an unsatisfactory job — did that without anything else lined up, but things worked out pretty well at the end
  108. walk behind a waterfall — did that with mum at niagara
  109. win an academic prize — won a couple of year prizes at school, we could pick a book of our choice and get a nice certificate stuck inside
  110. win nanowrimo — every year since 2004, except 2007
  111. win the lottery — small amounts here and there, nothing more than £25
  112. work at a call centre — did a few days’ temp work picking people’s names and numbers out of the telephone directory and asking them something (can’t remember the script) when I was in college

 

#59 make vanilla extract

vanillabourbon2015

Task #59 of 101.1001 is to make vanilla extract.

Vanilla beans are expensive, so it’s a waste to discard the pods after using the beans. (In my case the beans went into some really creamy homemade vanilla ice cream.) Vanilla extract, the good stuff, is also quite expensive. It’s actually really easy to make from vanilla beans and some alcohol. Most recipes use vodka because it’s flavourless, but bourbon, brandy or rum can also be used to impart an extra flavour dimension.

I’ve had one bottle with bourbon sitting for a couple of months, and it smells divine. The bottle is just a screwtop soft drink bottle, I could use prettier bottles or mason jars but why waste money? I also have another bottle with vodka in the cupboard, that one is newer, about 2-3 weeks. The good thing is I can continue to add used vanilla pods and alcohol and the extract lasts for years.

Haven’t used it in cooking yet, can’t wait. 

#94 pack a go bag

emergencygobag201501

Task #94 of 101.1001 is to pack an emergency go-bag. This started with Sis, who is obsessed with survival. She’s had an emergency duffel bag for a long time, and I bought her some survival stuff and a few MRE packs in the US last year.

Supposedly, a go-bag should have enough supplies to survive for 72hrs when evacuating from a disaster. Some people pack for longer, and there are dependencies for factors such as climate and location. Typical survival programs talk about surviving in the wilderness but realistically, I think my go-bag should cater for an urban environment since I live in a city. We can even buy ready packed emergency bags, even deluxe editions, for 1, 2 or 4 persons. Mine is from stuff I already have, supplemented by a few specialist survival items.

  • backpack — one of the company swag I got from Communications, good regular size with outside pockets
  • food — one MRE pack, cereal bars. gu, chewing gum, sweets
  • drink — 500ml water, empty water bottle, lifestraw water filter, tea bags
  • small keychain hipflask with whisky — because whisky is important
  • medicine in a ziploc bag — painkiller, anti-histamine, band-aid, mentholatum, mask, tissues
  • toiletries in a ziploc bag — toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, deodorant
  • spare clothes — t-shirt, zip-off pants, hat, underwear, socks — I should find a lightweight jacket or something long-sleeved to add to the kit
  • spare glasses
  • notebook, pen, sharpie, chalk — the notebook has personal information, contacts, passwords and passport photocopy
  • wallet with money and a few photos — photos for ID and to show people if I need to search for family or mm
  • carabiner with keys for my place and parents’ place
  • flashdrive with documents and personal information
  • hand-cranked radio torch with USB port — supposed to be able to hand-crank enough charge to make phonecalls, which is all that is needed in an evacuation or emergency
  • world adaptor, charger, cables for iphone, ipad, microusb
  • small towel
  • survival blanket
  • survival pouch — flint, waterproof matches, whistle, parachute cord, ties, rubber band, sewing kit
  • swiss knife, nailclipper — may want to swap for a leatherman
  • survival quick guide leaflet

 
Everything packs neatly inside the backpack and I can carry it comfortably. I’ll need to grab the iphone if I need to run, and I’ll just have to contend with whatever shoes I have on me at the time. It’s not a perfect kit, but it’ll do if there really is an emergency. I could pack more, or use a bigger bag, but I decided a backpack is the easiest and most flexible.

I’ll check and swap out food items every year. The idea is that the bag will never be needed.

 

101 in 1001 challenge: day 365 update

1011001dec2014

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

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

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

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

on track — ongoing or cumulative tasks:

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

doable — haven’t started but are doable:

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

need work — harder tasks for various reasons:

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

 

#39a: run/walk/bike 1001 km/miles

1001kmtable

Task #39 of 101.1001 is to run/walk/bike 1001 km/miles. It started off as 1001 km, but then I changed to 1001 miles, since I was going for the 1779 mile walk to mordor (task #40) anyway.

Of course there’s a spreadsheet, keeping track of actual km/miles as well as progress needed to complete the 3 goals of 1001 km, 1001 miles and 1779 miles in 1001 days. I count running, walking, cycling and swimming too.

1001kmchart

I’ve tried to follow the mordor target (green line), so the actual (red line) fairly mimics it. Today’s run of 5km brought me past the 1001km mark. Almost 1 year, from 01-dec-2013. More walking and stationary bike during the summer months, more running to come with winter and marathon training. 

#10: read 101 books

leviathan

Task #10 of 101.1001 is to read 101 books.

I started 101.1001 on 01-dec-2013 and I finished reading the first book on 04-dec-2013. So it’s taken around 10 months. In other words 10 books a month or 2.5 books a week or around 3 days per book. Of course sometimes I finish a book in one day and some books take longer to read. I finally finished all Harry Potter books as well as one from the 2007 challenge, mythology for dummies. I would say 70:30 new vs re-reads; when I buy a new book from an author sometimes I go back and read all the previous books, especially if it is part of a series.

Book #101 was Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. It’s all because I was looking at sci-fi books for my niece and I’ve had the hardback since it was published.

The book is set in an alternate, steampunk, universe of WW1. The blurb:<

It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.

Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.

Marketed as a YA book, I must admit I really, really, really enjoyed it. The book had everything — smartly written story, fun main characters, realistic side characters, fantastic clanker machines, amazing darwinist beasties and great setting. There was a real sense of adventure and wonder, made me want to be Alek or Deryn. Barking spiders! Plus a side of history too, even though it only skirted with actual history. Unlike the other book I was reading for my niece, Death’s Daughter, I’m happy to recommend Leviathan. Not just for kids, adults too.

Since it’s #1 of a trilogy, I’m faced with the same dilemma as before. Complete the series by buying secondhand print books (under $10 for even hardbacks) or switch to ebooks ($30 for all three). Sigh, sigh, sigh.

So anyway, I’m already on books #102 and 103. I have a bunch of new books to read, and every month there are more new books. I sat on my sis’ armchair reading for a couple of hours the other day and she remarked that I could happily stay there for a long time. Absolutely true.

 

101.1001 #48 | 30.30 #17 new food: insect

silkwormbeondegi

Task #48 of 101.1001 is to eat an insect and task #17 of 30in30 is to try a new food. I’ve never knowingly tried insects before, so we bought a small cup of beondegi or silkworm pupae at namdaemun market. This is a typical Korean street food, the pupae were boiled and eaten with toothpicks. One small cup was KRW2,000 or two dollars so it was worth trying.

When I initially set this challenge, I envisioned trying the cricket chocolate from Wittamer, but the box went mouldy on me. I have been reading a lot of articles about the benefits of eating bugs — they are sustainable, nutritious and 80% of the world’s cultures already eat insects. As global population grows exponentially, there is a lot of thinking that the future human population will turn to insects for protein source. I guess people in 200, 500, 1000 year’s time will look back on our diet with the same shock as us looking at the diets of people hundreds of years ago.

I wasn’t really prepared to try bugs that look scary. I don’t think I’ll let anything with legs come near me, so spiders, grasshoppers and ants were out. I was okay about trying mealworms so when I read about beondegi in the course of my seoul research, I thought it may be alright to try.

First, it’s served hot, in a seasoned sauce. People complain about the smell, but it was no worse than other meat-based street food. You eat the whole thing, just pick it up with a toothpick and pop one in your mouth. The outside had the texture of boiled peanuts, a little crunchy, a little soggy. The inside was a little gamey, like mild liver. I won’t say I’m in any hurry to try it again, but if offered I won’t refuse it.

101.1001 #86 | 30.30 #19 bbmm activity: korean spa jjimjibang

kor0003spasalt

Task #83 of 101.1001 and task #19 of 30in30 is to do a new activity with mm. We are in seoul for holiday and as soon as we got off the plane and deposited our luggage at the hotel, we headed to a jjimjibang spa to rest and pamper ourselves. We got the deluxe package at KRW100,000 (USD100). We ended up staying from 10am to 5pm so it was worth it.

The spa says it’s the largest in Korea. At a sprawling 7 floors I can believe it. There are sauna, steam areas, baths, massage rooms, sleeping rooms, relaxation hall, restaurants, a rooftop garden, internet café even a cinema.

First we got keys to our locker. The key was a regular locker key as well as a smartchip that recorded any purchases or treatments. We had a quick shower at the large bath area. Korean baths are like Japanese baths, sexes are segregated and you don’t wear anything inside except a small towel to strategically cover certain areas.

First stop of our treatment was the herbal steam bath. We were seated on wooden stools with an opening in the middle. The herbs and water were heated and the steam rose up through the opening. We were covered in a sort of plastic tent to keep the steam in. Quite surreal, the herbs smelled really nice though.

After the shower and steam we changed into standard issue pajamas—t-shirt and shorts. Everyone inside the facility was dressed in these pajamas. The massage part was 90mins of a mix of acupressure and thai style. The young technician got almost every troublesome spot in my shoulders, lower back, arms and definitely hit the ITB around my left knee.

At the end of the massage it was around 1pm so time for lunch. The spa had a cafeteria and 2 restaurants. We went to the self-service korean restaurant and had tofu soup and beef rib soup. Came with banchans and I had a tasteless beer.

We found massage chairs in the main hall and fell asleep for around 1.5hrs. One of the features of traditional korean spas is the sight of people asleep at sleeping rooms and areas. Admission is 24hrs so some people stay the night.

Then it was time to check out the heat rooms. The traditional pine scented one was so hot inside we could barely walk, our soles were burning up. Lasted 10 seconds inside there, max. The himalayan salt room was a pleasant 52°C, blankets were provided so we lay down and rested on pink salt crystals. The charcoal heated rooms were good too, we went into the high temperature one, around the same as the salt room. In between rooms, we sat in the ice room to cool down, and then on the floor.

Last stop was the baths area. There was a steam room and half a dozen baths at different temperatures. We like the outdoor ones for the fresh air, the ones with jetstream massage and the cold 24°C cooling pool.

Great day, and the perfect cure for a night spent on a red-eye flight.

101.1001 #96 | 30.30 #13: drink mostly water

teacokewater

A combination of task #96 of 101.1001 and task #13 of 30in30: drink more water, drink mostly water.

We all know that water is good for us and we should drink lots of it every day. I don’t know if it’s circumstances or age or becoming healthier, I don’t mind drinking water as much as before. I’ve always drunk a lot of liquids, when I was working it was soda water and coke zero all day. In the US I bought these gallon containers of arizona green tea. Then of course there were the beer and wine and whisky. And the vital cup of tea in the morning.

Don’t have access to gallon containers of tea anymore, and I’ve cut down the coke zero to one can a day. Alcohol consumption is down too.

I’m making up the quota with water. Here we boil our water then let it cool to room temperature. Tastes bland. I kinda miss the mineral taste of London hard water. I keep my room temperature in a glass bottle I bought at John Lewis. I also keep bottles of water in the fridge. I find cold water tastes much better than room temperature or warm water and I can drink more of it. It’s surprising how quickly I finish a bottle of 500ml ice water.

#13: read mythology for dummies

mythologydummies

Task #13 of 101.1001 is to read Mythology for Dummies. This is one of the incomplete tasks carried over from the 2007 list.

I didn’t have an arts education. Although I read steadily as a kid, it was fiction or those big general knowledge books. I knew about various myths but never paid much attention to them, and certainly never remembered much or was able to associate mythology references in books I read.

There are a lot of books on mythology. A lot of general, beginner, summary type of books. The dummies series seem to tackle subjects in a casual manner. The tone of the writing was definitely on the silly side, with chapter titles like “Snow, Ice, and Not Very Nice: Norse Deities.” Almost 1/3 of the book was devoted to Greeks and Romans. Extremely superficial coverage of European, Middle Eastern, Eastern and American mythology. Some of the sections were more description of religions than mythology.

It was an easy read, and I like that the authors didn’t try to make mythology sound mystical or serious. May be too light-hearted in places. What did I learn? Mythology around the world and along history was remarkably similar. Some version of a god or gods creating the universe, some gods bigger and older than others. Lots of murder, jealousy, incest and illogical behaviour. They married each other (sometimes at the same time), bred like rabbits, had a tendency to fight or kill each other off for no good reason, then are consumed with remorse.

I was interested in the Greeks but lost interest in the Romans. Had a hard time keeping track of the names and relationships. Nordic mythology was interesting, as was the legend of King Arthur and his Knights at the Round table. Too brief on the rest. I guess a book I’ll keep around for reference if and when I need it.