bird’s nest soup


A lifetime ago when I was doing the 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge, one of the tasks was make a list and photoset of 101 bucket list food items I’ve already tried. Food and drink like absinthe, century egg, deep dish pizza, insect. I had 101 items which I’ve tried but there were a handful of pics pending because I ate them so long ago, before the age of taking pics of food. Imagine having food in front of us and not taking out a camera or phone, quelle horreur!

One was bird’s nest soup.

And finally I’m able to add to the photoset; we tried it at the streetfood market at Bangkok Chinatown.

Bird’s nest soup is made from the solidified saliva nests of swiftlets, and expensive due to the rarity and difficulty in harvesting the nests. With all these weird foods, it’s supposed to be good for health. Usually eaten as a soup flavoured with a little rock sugar, the nests pretty much have no flavour. Texture like soft gelatin, or as the marketing folks say, caviar-like. The overwhelming taste is the sugar syrup. The last time I had it was probably 10+ years ago and I think the frequency of once every 10 or so years is enough for me.

photofriday nature


Photofriday challenge this week is Nature.

They changed the website in September, instead of linking to our own page we upload a pic to theirs. Modern thumbnail look, infinite scrolling page etc. Need to create an account there now. On the one hand I get why, because the flickr links were getting ridiculous and the whole flash display was slow AF. The cynical me thinks it’s all to do with data mining, because that’s what it takes nowadays. I’m having problems both signing in and uploading images, and it’s not worth my trouble to dig into why.

Anyway, the pic I would have submitted is of the Mendenhall glacier in Alaska, which mum and I saw when we went on our cruise a couple of years ago. It’s probably one of the most photographed glaciers, seeing that it’s quite accessible and so many people have gone to Juneau. I’m reminded of how fragile our planet is, the glacier has receded a lot in recent years and we really have to watch climate change.

#46 wall climbing


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=”” 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.






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


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


  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
    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

  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

  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 // done 18-feb-2014
  28. tues’ assignment: find colour in an unusual place** // done 26-dec-2015

  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

  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
    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
    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

  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

  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
    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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


  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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

#68 new whisky arras cask strength


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.

101.1001 challenge: day 760 update


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


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


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


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.


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.


photofriday: yellow

Photofriday challenge this week is yellow.

title: tram from castro to the ferry terminal, san francisco
description: each tram is distinctive and meticulously archived; #1811 is a Peter Witts design repainted into the original 1928 Milan livery of yellow and white with black trim
date: october 2006

Click here for full-sized and other details
©invisiblecompany 2015, all rights reserved



#17 outline book ideas



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


  • 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

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. 

#nano day 15: 6297 words | 50345 total



Done. I’m surprised and happy about finishing on day 15. I barely managed the goal 2k during the first week (blue vs red on chart). Once I got some peace and quiet and am mostly over jetlag it got better (blue line growing exponentially). Did a big push today, and the characters helped. Resolved a big conflict and made a lot of progress in the relationship. These are good characters, I quite like them. There is a good crew of side characters too. Originally I didn’t think this story is publishable, now I think there are possibilities.

If novels were 50k in length, I can type in THE END. But they are not, so I’m giving the characters another adventure. A change in location, trying to find a little conflict, developing the relationship further, happy ending. I say this every year, that I’ll try to contine writing until the story is finished vs stopping at 50k, but I never do. Let’s see.

The traditional statistical part of the yay, 50k post:

  • 50,345 words in 15 days = average 3,356 per day
  • highest wordcount day = day 15 at 6,297 words
  • lowest wordcount day = day 03 at 1,305 words — I was surprised I got any words in, that was the day of my flight
  • dares used = 1 — Mr Ian Woon only, didn’t even look at the dares thread
  • total nano years = 11
  • lifetime nano words = 568,301
  • finishing on day 15 is the average finish day
  • quickest finish = 10 days (2004)
  • slowest finish = 23 days (2011)

Validation is from the 20th this year. Oh, remember the book I was reading? I got distracted by #paris news cycle, I finished nano before I finished the book. Wrist pain update: painful from the first day, relieved by wearing brace all day and using the smaller foam roller on hand, wrist and arm.



nano day 14: 3633 words | 44048 total


3633 words | 44048 total

Woke up to the sad news of the tragic terrorist attack in Paris. So awful. Spent the morning glued to the livefeed from the guardian and NYT (they took down the paywall) as well as twitter. Hence no writing got done.

The target was to get to minimum 2000, so am happy that I found more. It’s a day off for the MCs, They started the day with declarations of love (yay!) and then spent the day touring a chocolate factory (yay!) and more kissing. Going okay.



nano day 13: 5096 words | 40415 total


5096 words | 40415 total

For most of the day I had the flat to myself. Distracted with reading and cooking. Just managed to squeak past 5k.

The thing about the middle third of a novel is, there never seems to be enough material to go around. I can’t just have one conflict, one suspicious act, then it all gets resolved straightaway. Have to drag it out, have more discussions, more layers.

Today is also love your ML day. I have friend who was ML for a while, when nano was still small. Don’t know if she’s even involved anymore. #weloveML


nano day 12: 5116 words | 35319 total


5116 words | 35319 total

Some years I’m done by day 12, it’s my highest ranking finish day—4 times in total. Anyway another 5k day is worth feeling good about. I finished the book I was reading and immediately moved to the sequel. It may become a race, finish the book first or finish nano.

And finally at 35k we make a move to act 2. A little intrigue, some suspicious behaviour and look! first kiss. The story and characters are surprising me in how well they are coming together. I shouldn’t jinx anything though.

The next nano event is backup day, which falls on the middle sunday, I think. I hope I’m sufficiently backed up. I’m writing in scrivener, which gets copied every day to google docs and a word doc. The scriv file, the word docs and the xls tracker are saved on the mbp, dropbox and my flashdrive. Basically everything is on the mbp, somewhere in the cloud and on my flashdrive.



nano day 11: 5025 words | 30203 total


5025 words | 30203 total

A 5k day to get to 30k, it’s all good. Which is a relief because I started reading a book last night and: a) it’s a good book; b) I shouldn’t be reading during nano. It acts as a good reward system though—get to x and read a chapter.

For a nano that wasn’t well planned, the pieces are coming together quite nicely. I don’t just write, I do research and look stuff up as I go along. So far, I’ve have information not just on work travel but mapped out the past trips of MC2, who’s been doing this for 9 months. Other research include flight departure & arrival times, art exhibtions at airports, a brewpub beer menu, shower facilities at a beach, the nearest mcdonald’s to an airport, alaskan tribes, ATV riding on sand dunes, sunset times, rice & water proportions to make congee for a layman. I quite like this doing research as I’m writing, in fact I haven’t taken out my handwritten planning sheet yet.

Mr Ian Woon has made his annual appearance. This year, he is an outfitter ATV expert who takes guests from the ranch on four wheeler trips on the sand dunes of southern oregon.

Of course at 30k, my left wrist has been hurting for a few days. Hurting a lot today, I have the brace on almost the entire time.


nano day 10: 3958 words | 25178 total


3958 words | 25178 total

Halfway on day 10. Reasonable progress. I’ll be fine if I finish on the 20th; I hope I can finish earlier.

Chapter 4 is done. MC2 completed her long journey to the destination and MC1 was the volunteer who picked her up from the airport. The sign spelled her name was wrong so they had a humourous introduction. There’s already some mild flirting.


nano day 09: 3685 words | 21220 total


3685 words | 21220 total

I think this is the first full day I’ve stayed in, without going out. I suppose I have to start running again some time. Ah well.

Received some very sad news in the morning, that our friend had passed away. Lots of tributes and heartfelt posts on fb. She would have wanted us to carry on living our lives in full as before.

Took it easy with the writing, didn’t stress myself out too much. Around 1k in the morning, more in the afternoon and another 1k after dinner. Finished chapter 3, MC1 arrived at the destination and met a bunch of side characters. I took time out to create the side characters in scrivener. In chapter 4 it’s MC2’s turn to travel. A longer flight, with 2 layovers. They will meet at the end of the chapter.


nano day 08: 2500 words | 17535 total


2500 words | 17535 total

Went out to Jamie’s Italian for my niece’s birthday lunch, had a mussel pasta that was actually quite bland, the gelato dessert made up for it. Too full for dinner, just had a plum.

Got to an even 2500 words for the day and it’s a good point to stop. Not very often do you get even wordcount like this.

MC1 had breakfast at the airport, then boarded a flight heading west. There was a layover, which added words. It’s an actual flight, I got the details on departure, arrival times, layover times and even layover terminal map. She arrived, got a rental car and found a place to have a late lunch. Everyone is proceeding to the destination slowly.

nano day 07: 2022 words | 15035 total


2022 words | 15035 total

It’s #doubleupday, and we’re encouraged to:

  • double your wordcount or daily goal
  • donate $25 to get $50-level goodies
  • enter into the Grand Prize and hourly prize draws

I didn’t double my daily goal or anything ambitious. Tired today, so utilised an old trick to add wordcount, wrote 1000 words explaining sharing economy. Seeing that MC1 is the CEO of one such startup, it’s not too far off track. In the editing process, information dump (or writersplaining, a sibling to mansplaining) like this will be deleted or dramatically cut.

Anyway, day 7 and I’m at 15k, which looks more impressive when it’s converted to a pie chart. It’s a good achievement considering I spent almost one complete day travelling and the next 4 days jetlagged. But if I’m only at 30k next weekend, I’ll be disappointed.

Just started chapter 3 after 2 lengthy introductory chapters. MC1 is in the process of flying to the destination, hence the discussion about uber vs taxi and airbnb vs hotel. She’s not even at the airport. There will be some more padding about flying tomorrow, hahaha. MC2 isn’t on the same continent, so she needs to find her way there. Not before saying tearful goodbyes with her friends.

nano day 05: 2253 words | 11278 total


2253 words | 11278 total

It’s Bonfire Night. Celebrated with a whisky, small one because I’m sleepy. Woke up at 5am, went out to the post office to pick up a registered letter and stopped off at the supermarket to get food. No fridge, so limited in selection. Bought carrots and kale to make carrot soup. The kale came in a big bunch so used the stalk in the soup too which was an improvement in flavour.

Continued with chapter 2, it’s dragging a bit now, but good for nano. Averaging 2256 words after 5 days, extrapolating finish on the 23rd.

nano day 04: 1945 words | 9025 total | flight home


1945 words | 9025 total

Day of the flight. Car’s cousin Mike kindly took me to the airport and I was checked in and through security in no time. Bought a Balvenie triple cask 16 that we first tasted in Heathrow, then bought 4 pork buns at wow bao for lunch. Beer at the bar next to the gate was expensive, $11.

The flight was full, and I got upgraded to premium economy. Here’s the dilemma, which is the better seat: an aisle seat in economy or a middle seat in premium economy? I would have preferred an aisle seat but the lady sitting next to me was nice and slept most of the way. The additional seat width and leg room were good in helping to make 15hrs pass faster.

Disappointed that there wasn’t much to watch, no big action film, no Bake-off and too many old tv programs (Prime Suspect s1, Entourage s1, ugh). Watched Spy (funny, good) and The Hundred-Foot Journey, which was a real gem. An Indian family’s car broke down in the middle of the French countryside and they decided to settle down roots, opening a restaurant directly opposite a Michelin-star establishment. War ensued, but of course it was a happy ending in the end. Helen Mirren was brilliant in this predictable feel good movie, perfect for watching on the plane.

PE had better food. Filet steak and creamy shrimp on rice. I had half a glass of wine, but mainly stuck to coke zero and sparkling water.

Door to door was 20hrs, and I lost most of Wednesday. Got home around 9.30pm, showered and unpacked quickly.

My nano time is based in Chicago so when I woke up at 5am there was enough time to write and assign it to day 4. I wanted to get around 1000 words in, and am pleased that I got almost 2000.


nano day 03: 1305 words | 7080 total


1305 words | 7080 total

My flight is at 2pm so there was time in the morning to get some writing done. It would have been nice to get to the 1667 minimum but I’m pleased at the progress. Chapter 2 introduces MC2, sitting at a bar with a view of a nice bay sunset. I’m not being very creative this year, I’m using locations I’m sure I’ve used before, but these are locations I’m familiar with. If/when this one ever gets moved to the possibly publishable list, then I’ll rewrite.


nano day 02: 3029 words | 5775 words total


3029 words | 5775 words total

My last full day in Chicago, I’m still home alone. Another brilliant blue sky day that was too good to stay in all day. I continued with the story, getting 1000 words in before heading out. Walked 2 miles to a really nice supermarket, with so many great fruit & veg, meat and other goods I so desperately want to buy. But I can’t. I limited myself to a thin sliced porterhouse, which was on discount. One artichoke and some biscuits for Mum and Gis. The steak, together with leftover kale and two green tomatoes I bought at the Mexican supermarket yesterday, was for lunch.

Packed up both suitcases and tidied up a little. Watched a bit of tv then wrote some more. Made dinner of cornish game hen and artichoke. Watched more tv, writing some more during comercial breaks. Finished chapter 1 after the program finished, MC1 is introduced. The chapter dragged on a bit, isn’t as punchy as a first chapter as I’d like. Quite pleased that I reached 5k on day 2.<p>&nbsp;</p>

nano day 01: start


It was funny to see last night on #nanowrimo people in Australia and Asia already starting. For the next few days I’ll be at the end of the nanoday, before doing back to being at the start. I’ll miss a day or two when I’m on the plane which is okay.

There was also the #moranstrong 5k to run this morning. It was supposed to be yesterday but a) it was raining heavily and b) I had a bad cough. Wrote about 1000 words before setting out.


Had lunch then went outside for a walk since it was such a nice day, and such contrast to yesterday. It was about 1 mile to Blue Island “high street” which was mostly closed except for a few eating places, a bakery, two liquor stores, a Mexican supermarket and a few bars. Not a very prospering town centre. The strange thing was that I encountered barely any pedestrians during the walk and back. May be 10. A few people waiting for the bus, a couple of cyclists, two men smoking outside a bar. I guess people simply don’t walk here. Americans are so dependent on their cars.

Came back before 4pm. The clocks changed last night so sunset was earlier. Wrote some more. I’m most proud of the 520k lifetime average. Aiming at 2500 per day.


nano prep



It’s almost nano time again. Year 11. I see many more people signing up, because nano has gone mainstream. I also see many people saying this is the month they will add 50k words to their 30k manuscript. Sigh. Another problem with going maintream. Traditionally, and for purists like me, nano means starting a novel from scratch and getting to 50k words. But no, the faq has been changed:

Traditionally, NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. It may be an arbitrary distinction, but we’ve seen that novelists do better (and have more fun) when they’re free from the constraints of existing manuscripts. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate!

That said, we welcome all writers at any stage. Outlines, character sketches, and other planning steps are encouraged. Just be sure to only count words written during the month.



Anyway, I’ll continue to do it the traditional way. This year, I struggled to come up with a theme. And took a long time before I was able to come up with some semblance of a plot. But I finally was able to scribble a pageful of stuff. I may have to resort to more dares than usual.

The setting is based on a review I read on workaway, a sort of airbnb for working holidays. The website matches hosts who need help, for instance at a farm, with volunteers who offer around 5hrs of work a day in exchange for room and board. The comments on the review was that the location was great but the host was disorganised and volunteers were not treated with respect. Got me thinking along the lines of undercover boss meets secret diner. Let’s see at the end of the month if it works.


september 2015 challenge final


Completed, sort of.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles // 207km / 129 miles done
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles // done — 17 miles long run
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs // done (sort of) — followed the plan; ran HM distance in 3.05 in hot and humid conditions, I’m allowing it and calling it done
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles // done — switched with week 2 to get 20 miles long run
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills // done
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2 // x2 done

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20 // x 20 done — this is normally my nemesis, I have to watch the days very carefully, can’t have a little bit of whisky on a day I feel like it
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month // done
  • vegetables x24 // x30 done
  • fruit or juice x24 // x29 done — missed one day
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu // done


  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • renew website // done — sometimes I wonder why I’m paying $100 a year when I could get it free on oh wait, I like the control
  • things for sale // done — I’ve identified the things, photographed the things but haven’t put the notice up yet
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • plan nano // done, sort of — not fully mindmapped, this is probably the one year when I don’t have a strong idea or detailed plan


september 2015 challenge mid-month update


Not too bad. Running is on track, this is the most important. Need to get on with the other tasks.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles // 120km / 75 miles done
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles // done — 17 miles long run
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles // done — switched with week 2 to get 20 miles long run
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2 // x1

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20 // x9
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month
  • vegetables x24 // x15
  • fruit or juice x24 // x15
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu


  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • renew website
  • things for sale
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • plan nano

september 2015 challenge


The focus for this monthly challenge has to be #chimarathon training. That said, I don’t want my entire month to be nothing but running, so I’ve included the usual other goals.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu


  • family activity x1
  • bbmm activity x1


  • renew website
  • things for sale
  • photofriday x1
  • plan nano