avocado toast

avotoast

Saw avocados at the supermarket 3 for US$5, large and ripe too. So it’s a no-brainer to make avo toast for lunch. There are plenty of recipes out there, that combines the avo with poached eggs, smoked salmon, feta cheese. Many recipes smash the avos and season with s&p. I just sliced mine and arranged on toast, didn’t need seasoning.

Yummy yummy yummy.

It seems to have become some sort of hipster, millennial food and attracted some unwanted attention when an Aussie baby boomer scolded millennials for ordering

smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop

(that’s AUD) instead of saving up to buy a house. Honestly, with so much corrupt 1% money floating around the world, young people will need to skip thousands of avo toasts in order to afford to buy property.

avotoasthousing

The BBC did an avocado toast housing index. They:

took the average cost for avocado toast in a handful of cafes in each city, and looked at how many you’d need to forego to afford a 20% deposit on a home. House prices are based the average price for a 90sq m apartment outside the city centre

67 years in London, 54 years in HK, 32 years in Sydney. For Aussies, it’s ironic. When Chef Thomas Lin from Ruby’s, an Australian café in NYC, arrived in the US, he was surprised that people treated avo toast as a fancy, trendy food item rather than something normal people ate for breakfast:

There are two things you have in the morning on toast. You have Vegemite on toast, or you have avocado on toast. Sometimes you have Vegemite and avocado on toast.

I hope avo toast doesn’t go the way of artisanal anything, matcha-flavoured everything, food served Jamie-style on chopping boards and gets classified as a food trend that needs to die. Because it’s delicious, simple and healthy.

More avo! More avo toast!

day out in chicago

Went out to the city to walk around, check out new places, do a little pokehunting.

chi158pokebbq

I got to la salle station around 11am. Bought the return ticket and headed out. I really wanted to go to Girl and the Goat but they open at 4.30pm, no lunch service. After researching various other options, I decided to go to revival food hall. It’s a glorified food court, much like the Smorgasburg at south street seaport in NYC. The idea is

an all-local dining concept spotlighting the best of Chicago’s acclaimed culinary scene under one roof

There are 15 stalls, featuring hipster fast food like artisan pizza, ramen, salads, seafood, barbeque, poké. I heard good things about the barbeque so I got a brisket sandwich that came with 2 sauces, I picked memphis and luling, TX to give some tang and a little spice. Didn’t order the sides because instead I got the medium poké with salad. Tuna, edamame, avocado with a spicy yuzu sauce. Can’t get more extreme american food than this–southern vs fusion hawaiian. Combined, came to around $20 so not cheap.

chi175adler

I wanted to go out to grant park and the lake. Missed the bus so I got the divy bikes. $10 for a 24hr day pass and 30min free rides. Same model as NYC citibikes. It was really nice to bike along the lake on the bike path. I went all the way to adler planetarium. It gave a great view back to the skyline and the lake.

The reason I headed to adler was because I’d read that it’s a good pokemongo spot. And there were quite a few. Two problems: mostly commons, and I spent more than half my time there trying to get a decent signal. I’d get no service, or no data, or 2G. Even tried switching to the brand new simcard. The coffee shop in the planetarium had wifi but it screwed up the gps so much that I was either jumping all over the place or it had me out in the water. Overall, did not meet expectations.

chi192millers

Biked back to the loop and ended up at Miller’s Pub. It’s been YEARS since we went there for happy hour. Asked the bartender to recommend an amber ale and he served up a good one. I’d been walking or biking for over 2hrs and the drink was much needed.

Walked over to Sears Tower because again I read that there may be tauros there. Guess what? Nothing. Zero. Zip. The pokemon experience in chicago so far has been atrocious. Needing to restart every 2 mins, the app crashing every 5 mins, nothing worthwhile to catch. Disappointing.

Instead, I biked around a little more. The streets are okay for biking, traffic is slow and the roads are straight. Drivers aren’t that crazy. A couple of streets have dedicated bike lanes.

Got to the station at 3.47pm and was able to catch the 3.50pm. No waiting. We had tacos for dinner and it was yummy. Great day out, had fun walking and biking. I sure hope saturday’s pokemon fest isn’t a complete disaster.

neighbourhood walk

chi154stwalters

Nice day to go out for a walk around the neighbourhood. Clear skies but dry enough that I’m not dripping with sweat. Quite pretty around St Walter Church.

chi166house

The houses in this area are pretty. To my standards, they are all large and even the ones that look small from the outside are deep so there is plenty of space inside. This interesting one has the remains of a wall around the front gate. I wonder what the story is.

chi168breadbottle

I walked to the orphanage again, and over to this small store. It’s a pokestop too. But I didn’t go inside, apparently it’s a dodgy place where suspected drug dealers hang out. Safe enough during the day (from across the road) but I won’t go near it when it’s dark.

There were very few pedestrians around. This being America, with drive-thru restaurants and ATM machines and even drive-thru postboxes, most people out and about were driving. I saw a postal worker delivering mail, a couple of people walking their dogs, a kid on his bike, people waiting for the bus, that was about it. There was a group of 4 women having a picnic at the lawn near the church. Perhaps having lunch? It was around noon.

paris cake walk

pariscakewalk

Keeping this in my food and travel research file, food52’s paris cake walk. The plan:

We’re going on a cake walk, straight through the glamorous heart of the old school 7th arrondissement, steeped in Belle Epoch spirit, stuffed with gorgeous museums set in formal gardens (coucou, Musee Rodin). On the way, we’ll be collecting a grand assortment of the finest pastries, cakes, and chocolates that the City of Light has to offer. Then, we’re going to sit on a specific park bench and enjoy them.

The walk starts at Musée d’Orsay station. The walk itself according to google maps is around 15mins but the actual time taken will be much longer because of the stops. At least 10 pâtissières along the way where we have the option to get macarons, chocolate ganache, pralines, truffles, fruit jellies, cakes, tarts, breads and all manner of delectable goods.

The walk ends at the Square des Missions Étrangères with a marble bust of Vicomte Châteaubriand, politician, writer and who had a steak named after him. One of the best cuts of steak too.

paris055clerpatiss

There are so many great food destinations in Paris that it’s hard to go wrong. Each neighbourhood will have its greengrocer, butcher, cheesemaker and baker. Hope we can take a trip back to europe soon.

wonder woman

cokefreestyle

Saw Wonder Woman at the local cinema today. Lots of screens, large cinema, quite crowded. We bought a combo of large popcorn and 2 large drinks, the total came close to the price of 2 tickets. The drinks was coke freestyle which meant I could play around and get all sorts of coke products. I mixed orange flavoured coke zero, lemonade, sparkling water and a little mixed berry juice. Doesn’t taste as awful as it sounds.

The seats were all reclining so the footrest comes up. Comfortable.


As for the film itself, so much has already been said. US$380 million domestic sales, overtaking Deathly Hallows Part 2. US$760 million worldwide. Top grossing film by a female director. Best DCEU film.

It did well not only in box office numbers, but reviews too. 92% at rotten tomatoes, high scores from major newspapers, good reviews everywhere I read. All my friends are raving about it.

They handled the backstory and the reboot into WW1 timeline very well. It suited the backstory–amazon princess misplaced in ‘modern’ era but one without computers or anything too technical. All too often, superhero films and tv programs fall into the trap of making their heroes too idealistic, too wonderful, too much of everything that it becomes a bad cartoon. Patty Jenkins and her team didn’t do any of that. Gal Gadot had an air of determined innocence which was balanced well with a low key performance by Chris Pine. Love the supporting cast too. No one too OTT, too much of a stereotype, never took away the limelight from the main characters. The Verge:

Wonder Woman represents a number of delicate balancing acts: between humor and gravitas; angst and adventure; full-blown, unvarnished superhero fantasy and the DCEU’s usual unpacking of what those fantasies mean.

There’s a lot of attention on the film’s message of empowering women and certainly it has a wonderfully encouraging message to girls and women everywhere. For me though, ultimately I thoroughly enjoyed the film not because it was a film directly by a woman, or had women in starring roles, or even that they had real athletes playing the amazons. In fact, I’m meh at strong women dressed in amazon costumes–I’m not a fan of Xena or the tv Wonder Woman. I guess what I’m saying is that I liked the film despite of that. Because it was a story well told, with exciting fight scenes and believable characters. I think many people feel the same, male or female. As producer Charles Roven said:

Historically, audiences in this genre are male — 60 to 40 percent — but if you can really tap the market and maintain the males and actually add a significantly greater female audience, it’s a great win-win.

lazy day

A lazy day. I did go out for a walk around the neighbourhood, it was a hot day but not so humid that would make spending any time in the sun horrible. I started playing pokemongo one year ago so I went round to the nearby pokestops. Either the signal was bad or the app was in its usual poor performing state I found myself having to stop every 2 minutes to restart it. So frustrating.

I went to the local church and the park outside, where I did a lot of running last time I was here. The park was fenced off, with a sign that said they were returfing it. I walked a little further and found an orphanage, with a pretty building and a gym at its front door. Couldn’t do much with the gym because the app wasn’t working. In the end, walked for about an hour and it felt good.

threemilkcake

The reward (and more than the calories spent walking) was a slice of three milk cake I bought at the bakery yesterday. Three milk cake is also known as tres leches cakes, where the cake is soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. Rich in taste but still light in texture. Found a useful recipe with lots of pictures.

visiting friends

We drove up to the city to visit our friends C and A, who had recently moved into their new home in Jefferson Park, which they say is like living in the suburbs but still in the city. Their house is on the corner and the cross street is Balmoral, what a coincidence. They have just begun to decorate it and it’s already looking homely and comfortable. Lots of beautiful artwork. There is the front room with modern fireplace, a cosy library with books, books, books, stainless steel white goods in an open kitchen. Two bedrooms upstairs and tv room in the basement. Plus a porch and a two-car garage.

We chatted and chatted and chatted. Played with their friendly cats too.

ribsdinner

Made a simple choice for dinner, ordered from an italian place to pick up and eat at their home. Much more relaxed than eating out. I shared a full slab of ribs and got a side order of spinach. The ribs were good. Tasty and tender. On the way to pick up dinner, we stopped at a bakery and got cakes that looked delicious.

Long day, including a 2hr traffic jam when going there, but really nice.

comfort food

crackerrainbow

We had a few errands to run–clinic, post office. While we were out we went to cracker barrel for late lunch / early dinner. It was around 3.30pm and the place was pretty busy.

Cracker Barrel serves comfort food. Big cooked breakfasts, american styled biscuits and gravy and grits. I used to have either the breakfast or angst over what to eat. Nowadays I have the fish. Their grilled rainbow trout is pretty tasty and comes with 3 sides. I got hash brown, broccoli and the new brussels sprouts & kale salad. Unlimited iced tea.

I even bonded with the server. I had pokemongo open and we chatted a bit. He saw a snorlax the other day but his phone died when he was trying to catch it. The pokemongo experience for me so far has been disappointing. More than disappointing. Common catches, no stops nearby and login issues. I’ve given up on daily stop bonus.

Talking about comfort food, there seems to be some hullabaloo about mince toast. To recap, eater visited a british restaurant and declared the mince on toast is a

quintessential British comfort classic

I can imagine what mince on toast will taste like but I’ve never eaten it nor have I ever come across it.

Eater later backtracked, calling it a quintessential British dish but it’s still wrong. There’s nothing quintessential about it. Again, not dissing it, because I can imagine it can taste good. It’s just wrong for people to randomly assign things to us in this day and age of #alternativefacts.

ten years | random

Ten years. I’ve added at least one post a day since July 2007. Sometimes I backpost a week’s worth of posts, yes. And other times the post of the day is pure filler. But still, thousands of posts.

Just for fun, I generated a few random dates and went back to see what I posted on that day.

29 june 2009

Another anniversary, the walkman was 30 years old, which means it’ll be 40 years old in 2019. Crikey. I think I still have this Walkman in my desk drawer, and some tapes mm and I recorded for each other in our early days. I don’t have my case of mixed tapes anymore though.

7 may 2013

geir168fjord

We were on our scandanavian cruise and on that day we reached Geiranger. Even now I remember the beauty of the fjords. We docked early in the morning and it was a tender port. Walked a bit to the waterfall, the fjord centre and around the port. Didn’t go on any excursions. The scenery as we sailed out was spectacular.

12 july 2007

Wow, this is freaky! Exactly 10 years ago. Day 15 of my big trip. I’d started with an awful delay experience at JFK (the last time I flew delta and likely the last time ever). I rented a car and drove in the night, by myself, from JFK to Chicago. 19hrs, I think. Then Car and I went on a road trip to Fort Worth and Washington DC, arriving on 4 July to watch the fireworks. Got back to Chicago and on that day we went to an outlet mall. A restful and boring day.

laundry!

chi131carne

I needed desperately to do laundry, after a whole week away at the conference. So that’s what we did. We went to the mexican place first for late lunch. I had a carne asada which is skirt steak with trimmings. I asked for the steak rare so it wasn’t overcooked. Tasted like they put it in baking soda to tenderise it, and needed seasoning. It was okay. I ddin’t eat the tortillas that came with it.

So happy to have a full collection of clean clothes. I lost a sock though, either at the laundrette or it’s stuck inside an item of clothing.

july london events

I’m coming across stuff to do in london this summer. Of course, I’m not going to the UK because the round-the-world ticket was too expensive. But it doesn’t stop me looking. There’s a sculpture exhibition at regent’s park until october; kerb’s guiltiest pleasure festival featuring dumplings on a pizza, fried chicken with blueberry pancake bun and strawberry milkshake filled donuts; and half a dozen beer festivals in july alone.

paintedhall

An interesting tour, and educational too, found via the londonist, the old royal naval college in greenwich is offering tours to its painted hall to view the beautiful painted ceiling. The tour is 1hr and gives visitors the opportunity to climb 60 feet to view the ceiling up close and personal. The Painted Hall is called the sistine chapel of the UK and features baroque murals painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726.

Not bad, £10 for adults and free for children under 17. Tours end september.

conference day 05

The last day of the conference. Brief opening remarks then brunch and goodbyes. A was checking out today so I packed my bags and left them in the main room. I helped break down the vendor table, packing books in boxes. Then I went off with Car to look for a staples to get packing materials.

We were one of the last ones to leave. We packed up official boxes into 2 cars and returned to the storage place–the stuff will sit there until next year.

beggarspizza

Totally pooped so we just ordered pizza. Around 5.30pm my eyes couldn’t open so I took a nap. Turned out I was asleep for 2hrs. I was still able to sleep, just to show how tired I was.

conference day 04

Didn’t really go to any sessions in the morning. Saturday is always a stressful day for me and I spent the morning finishing up the awards presentation.

The keynote speaker was after lunch and we had Lesléa Newman this year, the author of Heather Has Two Mommies as well as a huge portfolio of books. She talked about how she stood on the shoulders of giants to influenced and guided her. She also read from some of her work. I don’t read poetry but I was so moved by her recital of several pieces of her poems. There was a beat, a rhythm, to her reading and I was tapping my fingers following her. I sat next to a friend T at an earlier author spotlight session and she said she always listened to people reading with her eyes closed and I spotted her tapping out a beat with her fingers at a reading too.

The very last session I went to at this conference was moderated by two authors who run a successful writing group. Our group exercise was to talk about setting up a writing group and we had a nice discussion. Our group focused on what we wanted from a group and we agreed that honesty and having common goals were important factors.

While the majority of the conference goers went off to rest and have dinner, our stress started. Rehearsal for presenters went well. I had about 30mins to eat dinner–I asked for a takeout box at lunch to grab some turkey salad I put in the fridge. A had a can of coke zero for me too, it was perfect. At 5pm it was setup time. The helpful staff at the hotel helped us set up computers, sound, video cameras, the stage, furniture and lots more. We had a small team–2 of us at the tech table, 2 at the awards table next to the stage, 3 videographers, 1 photographer and the MC. People tried to come in early but we sorted them out.

gcls2017logo

The awards started and for the 4th year in a row, I was running the deck. Started off well until the first award that was announced. As soon as the presenter announced the winner my powerpoint crashed. Luckily the hotel AV person had set up a dump screen (static screen of our logo) for us so Car switched to it quickly while I restarted and found my place. Altogether we were down for about 20 seconds. People said to me afterwards they noticed the glitch but were amazed we got it back so quickly. It’s not about the glitch or error, it’s about how you recover.

The rest of the presentation was fine. I kept up with the presenters and followed the scripts for special awards. We did away with proxies coming on stage this year and the whole ceremony took only around 2hrs. We had lots of praises, about how smoothly it went and how they appreciated it finishing early.

As usual, I spent the dance in a perpetual state of drunkeness. On our table we had writers tears, port and wine. I wasn’t drinking that much, but it was the relief of getting the awards over with. Someone bought a beer for me late in the evening too. Went to bed at 2am.

conference day 03

ladder

Again, being good students, we woke up early to go to the 8.30am sessions. I was so glad I did. The one I went to, the presenter talked about the ladder of inference. We all do this, we take external data, filter and make decisions or perform actions based on our own experiences and belief system. The trick is to recognise we are doing this and learn how to expand our thinking and be open to unfamiliar experiences. It’s very interesting, so much so that I texted mm about it. We’ll need to discuss it more when I get back.

There was another great session on the intersection of identities, where the panel made up of authors from different ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, nationality, ages. They talked about their personal experiences and how they incorporated their different backgrounds into their books.

At the break I got talking to a new friend and missed the session before lunch. Not sorry at all. My new friend S had lived and travelled all over the world and was in her previous life a tv and film producer. We bonded over our shared view of Cannes (a dump) and shared life stories. I would need to read her books asap as they sounded like they would be wonderful. She gave me a tip, to approach someone I looked up to and who had the closest style to mine (or what I aspire to) and ask for their help. I realised I may have been asking the wrong people or asking the wrong questions. I need to be more focused and targeted.

After lunch was our special speaker. The great thing about this conference is I learn about and meet people who I would never have the chance to. As ever, our special and keynote speakers talked extensively about their lives, their writing and impart great wisdom for us to take away. After the special speaker I went to a session about juggling romance with kids (real life and in books) and one where authors talked about how their faith influenced their lives and writing. I hadn’t planned on going to either of these, but I was glad I did. I also got to sit with my friend Jane who I haven’t had much chance to chat with this year.

chi122gibsons chi125gibsons

A and I decided to go to gibson’s for dinner. It’s in the hotel next door and a short walk. Yes, expensive but we both liked a good steak. We shared half a dozen oysters to start, they were good flavoured and balanced. Shared a bone-in ribeye for mains, which was really good. Not quite as good as hawksmoor because it wasn’t chargrilled enough. I also found it needed a tad more seasoning. For drinks I had a cinnamon infused makers mark 46. Wow, yummy.

The evening social event was karaoke. Good atmosphere this year. My name was even called out but it was because I got the group together to sing “I feel pretty” for our late friend Pam Butler. Stayed later than I expected.

conference day 02 | hamilton

To get up early for the 8.30am session or not, that was the question. We were good students, so we did. The day was full of educational sessions. One that touched on the current political climate, a masterclass on great openings, an update on the legacies project documentary, a discussion on swearing. The membership meeting highlighted the contributions made by volunteers and that the organisation was in good hands.

One of the most important meetings I went to was the one on awards changes. I had some input to this and we were excited with the improvements suggested. Seemed to be well received by the membership too, so the effort wasn’t wasted.

chi091hamilton

We finished early and met at the lobby for the drive into the city. The destination, Hamilton the musical. Car had gotten tickets as soon as the booking window opened and a group of us piled into her car. There were a number of our friends who were there also. I hadn’t had dinner so I bought some of their “pyes” ie small apple and cherry pies. The theatre was completely full and as soon as the house lights went off the audience cheered loudly. And the cheers didn’t stop. The show was really amazing. I know very little about Alexander Hamilton except he was one of the group that included George Washington, James Madison. I was able to follow the story easily. The music was a departure from usual musical style, I had listened to the soundtrack so I knew it was mostly hip hop. Simply put, very well done and a fantastic show. Up there with Les Miz.

conference day 01

tealiqueur

If I’d thought about it more, I would have bought croissants, yogurt, fruit for breakfast. But I forgot so breakfast was a bagel and cream cheese from the hotel café. Wednesday morning of the conference is usually setup and I found myself in the main room helping with the silent auction, moving stuff, introducing the official photographer to various people. This year’s silent auction has so much stuff. A and I each brought whisky. There were plenty of books, posters, gifts, food baskets. A member donated a lovely bowl she made herself; there was a set of 3 beautiful pics taken at venice; lots of doctor who and xena memorabilia too. Editors offered manuscript critique, writers offered characters in their books, a leathercraft company offered custom made gloves. I have my eyes on a set of miniature bottles of tea spirits from thomas and sons distillery that my friends J and H brought from portland. I wonder if they were one of the ones I could have visited when I was in portland in 2014.

A and I planned to go to one of the nearby steakhouses for lunch but we were invited to lunch at the hotel by the awards review committee. I had the burger and a glass of wine. I heard the burger was good, it was okay.

And so after lunch the conference officially started. Over 350 attendees, the biggest yet. After the opening remarks the sessions started and there were so many to choose from. I went to an open mic, a coffee chat and had some ice cream at the meet’n’greet in the evening. They also had hot dogs (we being in chicago and all) but I only had the sausage and some tomato slices; I was calling it sausage salad hahaha.

Had some official things to do afterwards, which didn’t take long.

In the evening, I and a group of others were invited to a dinner celebrating the wedding of our friends L and C. They had officially gotten married a few months ago and wanted to celebrate with us, it was very sweet. The event started with a lovely, loving movie and several people stood up to make short speeches. Very touched to have been invited and I wish the couple the best.

chicago trip day 08

Woke up at 5.30am because we had an early start. We loaded up my suitcase and muji bag of things for people and the silent auction and were off at 7am. It being a public holiday the roads were relatively clear. I took a chance and asked reception if the room was ready and it was. I dumped my bags and joined the group for breakfast and part of their meeting.

chi022wrigley

Very interesting meeting but I and another meeting attendee had to leave at 11am to get a lyft to Wrigley to see the baseball game. A was at a downtown hotel and would meet me at our seats. I’m not sure why we needed to get to the park so early, we got there at 11.45am and they wandered off to their seats. I walked around the outside of the stadium, made my way inside and explored the concession stands. Lots of food–beer,hot dogs, snacks. Souvenir shops too. I got a goose island beer (had to look for it, it was mostly budweiser) and a giordano’s pizza–I asked for cheese and got pepperoni, sigh. Our seats were in the shade behind first base. The game started at 1.20pm, I had over an hour to wait. Again, not sure why the friends took that lyft so early.

chi033flag

It being Independence Day, there was a parade of military personnel, a display of an American flag that covered most of the field, and we stood for the National Anthem.

chi043baseball

To be honest, I found the game boring. There’d be short bursts of action then long periods of waiting around for teams to get organised or change positions or talk strategy. It’s not continuous and makes the game very long, total I think this game was 3 hours.

The cubs were playing tampa bay rays. Cubs took a 1-0 lead but rays in one innings went up 1-6. It wasn’t till the end of the 9th innings that things got exciting. Cubs fought back to 5-6. Two out and two strikes there were people on bases. If the batter hit the ball far enough they’d have a chance to win. But in the end they didn’t so final score cubs 5 rays 6.

We took the red line to A’s hotel, stopping off to get some stuff at walgreens and visit cheesecake factory. Taxi to a blue line station, L to rosemont then taxi to the hotel.

chi113quesadilla

A little tired but hungry. Walked over to the retail park 5mins from the hotel. There was a band and food stalls as people celebrated the holiday. We found seats at a mexican place and I had blackened shrimp quesadilla which was quite good.

chi081fireworks

Had a wine at the hotel bar and joined others to watch fireworks. Long day and tired.

chicago trip day 07

gcls201702storage

Conference starts this week. Today we needed to move the boxes that are in storage to the hotel. We took a few larger boxes and drove over to the hotel, around 30mins away next to the airport. It’s my first time at the hotel.

Just a couple of steps into the lobby and I started seeing familiar faces. Lots of hellos and hugs. Couldn’t talk to someone for long because someone else would coma along and there would be a new round of hellos and hugs. It’s good.

Eventually we rounded enough people and cars to go to the storage place. Total 5 cars. I rode with Brenda since I know the way, BadgerBliss followed us. Good drivers, Brenda always knew where Karen was and Karen followed closely.

When we go to the storage place, we found that one of the cars had gone missing. Yikes!! Luckily everyone had mobile phones so no one is completely cut off or lost. We started loading and were so efficient that we were done within 10-15mins. The lost car arrived, and it turned out we didn’t need it. Clearly it’s a group who knew how to stuff and pack because we got everything into the 4 cars. Great teamwork.

The staff at the hotel met us at the loading dock and helped us unload the cars and bring the boxes to where they needed to be. We were quite tired at the end of the exercise, said goodbye to people and went home.

chicago trip day 03

Carleen had a hair appointment so I went with her to the mall and walked around during her appointment. Didn’t by anything, although towels and a suitcase ($109 only) were tempting.

Mostly, I hit the 4 pokestops in the middle of the mall. Pokemon go is very disappointing here, now I understand what people are saying about suburbs and rural: I can see pidgeys and spinaraks around the house and there is one stop at the now-empty Radioshack store. That’s it. St Walter’s is a gym and there are 2 stops there. There are no chance for raids. I’ll have to figure out a way to go to a stop once a day. That said, I think I’ve evolved all the gen 2 level 2 that I can and for the others I have the evolution item and need more candies. I’ll have to find a way to go into the city one day to try to find tauros.

The salad I bought at the supermarket was nice and the fried chicken too.

chicago trip day 02

I woke up in the middle of the night, as expected. But managed to fall back to sleep and woke up at a decent hour.

Mostly resting today. Went to the supermarket and bought food: ham, bread, eggs, milk, yogurt, snacks, wine. Plus 10 instant rice that was on sale for $10.

Got tired early so went to bed early too.

chicago trip day 01

cxpe

Left at 8.15am and should have remembered it’s rush hour. Took around 15mins to get a taxi, I was looking at uber when one arrived. The driver was joking that he was looking for a public bathroom, so I told him about the one in the small park. He was okay, he could wait till we get to the station. Hahaha, TMI.

Check-in was fast. The plane was full, I got upgraded to premium economy. But no lounge access.

Had breakfast in the airport, made an attempt at walking around the shops and sat at the gate for over an hour. Not bored, though. Because it was a US flight, there was secondary screening security theatre. Another queue, and then another to get on the plane. The seats are 2-4-2, so not that much extra width; slightly more legroom than regular economy. I was in seat D and the 3 seats next to me were a group of three colleagues so they never got in my way.

Saw Hidden Figures, Passengers, Star Wars ep 7 and 5 eps of X-files 2016 season. Not sure why they only had 5 eps instead of all 6. Hidden Figures was wonderful, justifying every positive review I’ve seen about it. Passengers was meh, it was the best of the meagre superhero/sci-fi film selection that I like watching on the plane.

Food was okay. Overcooked beef filet for one meal and sea bass with skin still on and bones for the other. Ate everything because I was hungry. Got instant noodles too.

Arrived at around 1.30pm, taxi to the terminal was around 10mins. Got through passport control super fast–the e-passport really works. One suitcase came out relatively quickly but the other one was almost the last one out, after a long wait. Another queue to hand in the custom form at the end. Carleen met me at the carpark and we were on out way soon.

usairspace

Carleen had been tracking my flight. Look at all the planes over US airspace at one moment on a weekday afternoon.

Early dinner at the steakhouse. Then back to the house. Rested, read, washed the sheets.

I lasted till 9.30pm, then my eyes started drooping and it was bedtime. Tired, long day but glad to have arrived.

the day before the flight

The day before the flight is usually extremely boring. I’ve checked in, I’ve packed my suitcases, I’ve saved the episodes of mkr and masterchef australia that I will watch in parallel so I’m up to date when I get back. I even roasted a whole chicken so mum can have leftovers tomorrow.

I was looking on google maps, checking the bus schedule when I realised the normal bus will take too long. Plan B is to take the airport express. So it involved going to the nearby travel agent and getting tickets. They only have 2 single instead of a return but still cheaper than to use the regular fare.

sliderdanryans

Met mm at dan ryan’s after dinner for a drink. Bless her, she came all the way over here so I didn’t have to travel. I was still extremely early so we could have met someplace more central. Ah well. They have all day happy hour so it was worth it. We had our usual glass of wine and ordered their daily bar snack, for mondays it’s philly cheesteak sliders. Very, very salty. We’re glad the sliders are small. It’s unlikely we will order these again. They have a hummous plate that we like, so next time that’s what we will stick to.

Instead of walking in the heat, I took the minibus home. Showered and now it’s a matter of tidying up and then going to bed.

checked in, packed

I was in the middle of binge-watching bake-off when I remembered I have to check-in. The flight is either completely full or I didn’t put my number in so I can’t see available seats. Anyway, I have an aisle seat because the ticket let me pre-book seats. This is also a 100% mileage flight, so I start accruing miles for a change.

Finished watching all the bake-off episodes and it was time to pack. I was considering whether to bring the large suitcase or two medium. Opted for 2 medium to spread the weight out. One has almost all stuff that I’ll leave behind: whisky, timtams, souvenirs, gifts.

packingcubes

I also used the packing cubes I got from muji. Very neat, the medium cube fits into the bottom of the suitcase and the small one plus the toiletries bag take up the top quarter. I thought about getting compression cubes, but decided these light ones work just as well. The electronics grid-it holder will flip over and fit over the two small items. The large grey plastic bag top left is full of timtams and picnic.

bbmm tea, beer, dinner

Met mm after her appointment. Lots of catching up, just a couple of cups of tea. Then went walking for a bit, went to a gift shop so I can get some small presents then to a clothing store where she got a t-shirt. I was looking at some cargo pants and when I put it back my finger caught the metal hanger. At first it was an annoyance, then it started bleeding quite heavily. The staff reacted quickly and put 2 plasters over it. It’s like a paper cut but much deeper.

On the way to the restaurant for dinner we came across a small craft beer store with a blackboard outside that said free tasting. They were featuring beers by Singapore brewlander brewery and we got to chat with their brewer John Wei. He started as a home brewer and only started producing commercially a few months ago. The beer is actually brewed at premises he rented in Cambodia. The first beer we tried was a light, floral brew that is supposed to be perfect for the hot, humid tropical summer. We also tried their saison beer and liked both.

japbuffet201706

For dinner we went to a japanese ayce place. I think I was there with my parents a long time ago but haven’t been there with mm. The usual ordering method by ticking various pieces of paper of sashimi, sushi, grilled, deep fried etc. The sashimi selection was good, although not fantastic. They had a special offer of complimentary uni which was well received. Drinks including sake, beer, soft drinks were buffet style so we can fill our own sake jug. I tried half a glass of Orion beer and it wasn’t as good as the brewlander so I stuck to sake and tea.

world skipping record


Spotted via bb, the guinness world record for

most skips over a single rope in one minute by a team

was just broken by a team of 14 students from the Fuji Municipal Harada Elementary School. The epitome of teamwork, 12 students run around in a figure of 8 formation and achieved 225 skips in one miinute.

skipping

The real heroes are the the two rope turners, you can see how strenuous it is, to keep rhythm and not slow down.

tech accessories

extbattery

Went to the computer area to sort out electronics and accessories for the trip.

The primary target was an external battery. My current one is around 2 years old, 6000mAh and doesn’t charge very well. My baseline is an anker 10000mAh for US$34.99 on amazon, although sometimes it gets discounted below $30. The branded batteries at the computer centre were around that price, or even more. But the trick is to explore the side streets and electronics street nearby. The small shops had 10000mAh batteries for $10-20. These are not branded, and do not come with warranties. But at 1/3rd the price, they’re worth trying. The new one (on the right) is one of those $10 ones, 10000mAh and surprisingly, weighs the same as the old one.

I also got a replacement cover for the ipad and keyboard cover for the mba. I don’t need sim cards, I have the 30 day one and the 360 day one. I did see that Three has new cards, 30 days 9GB (12GB in UK) for £30.

red bull illume photography competition

The Red Bull Illume photography competition says it’s the greatest international contest for adventure and sports photography. With 5,646 photographers from 120 countries invited to submit to 10 categories and over 34,500 images received, it is certainly great.

The Atlantic covered some of the award-winning entries. I really like reading the descriptions that the photographers wrote to accompany the images too.

lorenzholder
© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

This is the amazing image by overall winner Lorenz Holder: “Senad and I were on the way to a different location early in the morning when we passed this scenic spot. We saw a sign from the street and I had some pictures in mind that I’d seen from this bridge on the internet. When we got there the sun was just above the trees and it was lighting up the full color-spectrum of the autumn leaves in a very soft way. I’d chosen a very low camera position to get an almost perfect mirrored scene on the water surface. The bridge looked like a perfect circle and the light was still very good. When Senad was on the bridge, it took us two or three tries to get the shot. There was also no more time for another try because the wind came up and the perfect reflection on the water was gone.”

Timing is everything, but it takes a masterful photographer to spot the correct light, setting and action.

jicama salad

jicamasalad

Mum bought a jicama from the market, her friends told her they eat it raw in a salad. It must be good because her friends are not the type to eat raw vegetables.

I’ve never knowingly tried jicama although apparently it’s an ingredient in popiah and rojak. It’s interesting to see it being described as the most exciting vegetable you’re not eating. I see it in the market fairly often and never thought to buy it.

Lots of salad recipes, usually with fruit like mango, or orange and a lime chili dressing. It seems to be a little tasteless, like a savoury apple, so need stronger flavours.

I julienned half of one and had it with salad greens, cucumber, cherry tomato. I could have used orange, apple or watermelon but there were fresh lychees in the fridge so I popped a few in. Normally I don’t use dressing in salad but for this one I whisked up some lemon juice, white balsamic, honey and evoo.

It’s really good. Crunchy with some texture. Definitely somewhat like an apple or pear. Really helps add depth to a salad.

pokemon go fest chicago

pogofest

Niantic announced that for pokemon go’s first anniversary in july there will be a bunch of new features. There will also be physical events: a large event in chicago, sponsored events at a bunch of shopping centres in europe, and the annual pikachu outbreak in yokohama will be enhanced.

The event in chicago, pokemon go fest will be at grant park on 22 july. They haven’t published a details but looks like there will be challenges, a special medal, an exclusive 2km egg. Plus probably merchandise, food and other festival things. I’m still in chicago then so it was a no brainer to plan to go. Ticket sale started at 11am central time. I stayed up watching the website and as soon as the page changed, I clicked in to get my ticket.

I don’t know whether it’s cheap or expensive. $20 for the ticket but then there’s $6.18 additional fee and $5 shipping. I guess it’s affordable.

Aapparently the tickets sold out after 4 minutes. If it’s because bots and scalpers get them, it’s terrible. It simply never occured to me to get extra tickets.

pogofestheracross

The biggest tease they have on the website is a heracross. Will it migrate north? I’d love to catch one. To be honest I’m very worried about tauros because I’m reading disappointed accounts from people visitng the US and finding that it’s become extremely rare since gen 2.

I will have my Three sim card that gives me 3GB. By the time the 22nd rolls around, i’d be at the end of my trip, hopefully I still have enough data left or they provide wifi at the event. I’ll even pay for a wifi day pass if necessary.

father’s day

paparaptor

Father’s Day. Weather is still horrible but we still met up to go visit papa. Sis and I tried to be positive and cheerful but mum was just an unresponsive blackhole.

Afterwards, sis and I went to dan ryan’s for a drink. I was so fed up at that point I ordered a whole bottle of wine, a cabernet franc.

I’m this close to using the uber bag.

saturday adventures

Meeting mm’s family for lunch. The weather is grotty and heavy rain and thunderstorms all day. She said 12.30pm. When I arrived at the restaurant around 10mins early, I couldn’t see anyone. No one by the correct name on the reservation list either. I sat on one of those plastic circular stools in the lift lobby to wait.

Around 12.50pm, mm called. They changed the restaurant without telling her, which had the knock-on effect of not telling me.

I was pissed. Jumped on a minibus to go to the new restaurant but at the back of my mind I was considering not going. Poor mm, I took it out on her because she’s the nearest. It’s not her fault and she was very angry too.

I’ll probably not go to a lunch or dinner with them for a while.

The main purpose of us meeting up was to go to sam’s. I needed a haircut and she wanted highlights. I waited till he got her started then he cut my hair then I waited till she finished. I could have gone out to walk around or pokemon but the weather was simply too bad.

passiondinner201706

Dinner was at passion, opposite sam’s. We got a whole bottle of house red and munched on a brie & onion palette (flat bread), braised pork rib with chickpeas and a 3 item salad of beetroot, quinoa & feta and orzo.

It was absolutely chucking down with rain when we left. I got a taxi and thought she would too, but she went to the sweet shop and took a bus.

foam roller bottle

foamrollerbottle

I’m not running, and one of the consequences is I get more aches and pains than before and I need to roller my back fairly often. I’m starting to think about what to pack for chicago and mulling whether I should take my foam roller. It comes with a travel bag and I can just take the outer one and stuff clothes and shoes inside. Still, it’s not practical; it’s too bulky.

Sis shared this roller bottle with me. Two purposes in one. Stainless steel bottle and the whole thing tested for 350 pounds. Most pictures show people rollering their feet or arm so I wonder if it’s strong enough or large enough for using on the back. I guess the 350 pounds bit means it does. Is it hard enough? And most importantly, it seems a tad small to cover a large area like the back. $40 is expensive too, considering a regularfoam roller is under $20. There’s another brand for arund $28.

The biggest advantage is convenience, especially for travelling.

I’m undecided.

killers new song


The Killers just released The Man, their first single in 5 years. From the upcoming album Wonderful Wonderful.

Much more upbeat than their previous work. Very catchy. Brandon Flowers:

sonically, it’s pretty funky, funkier than we’ve ever done before

lolla041killers

And they’ll be at lollapalooza, which is where I first saw them live. Holy moly it was 8 years ago.

handmade coconut oil


So much time and effort went into stripping, grating, setting, straining, cooking one hundred coconuts to make coconut oil, all by hand at the village food factory in India. The reward, chicken drumstick grilled over open fire and basted with the coconut oil, looks absolutely scrumptious.

The hilarious thing is, the title of the video is instant coconut oil and there is nothing instant about it. I saw this via boingboing and the comment is:

Arumugam and a friend make quick work of 100 raw coconuts

Quick work. Am I missing something? Must be irony week and nobody told me.

karuizawa ballot

twe

The ballot for two karuizawa golden geisha whiskies have begun at TWE. There are a very limited supply, only around 350 bottles combined. Needless to say, the price is also very high: £2500 for the 31 year and £2750 for the 33 year. The ballot gives the lucky person the chance to buy one but not both the bottles.

I lucked out on another karuizawa ballot a few years ago and was initially thinking this is too expensive for me. But it costs nothing to enter the ballot so, yes, I put in my email.

Karuizawa the town is between Tokyo and the Nagano region. It’s possible to plan a trip from Tokyo to Karuizawa then to Takayama and Kanazawa. Of course the distillery is closed, but there’s plenty to see and do what is one of Japan’s most upmarket resort area.

make fire with water

24shiny

Sis is a bit obsessed with survival gear, and it’s spread to me. I have an emergency go-bag in my wardrobe, small survival stuff in an altoid tin and a couple of knives in my drawer. My amazon order history includes MRE packs and firestarters.

Life Below Zero has been showing at lunchtime and there’s Glenn showing us how he makes fire without matches.


So I was interested in this video showing how to make fire using a ziploc bag and water. Although the video seems a bit too good to be true, the process looks possible with strong sunshine. The same idea as starting a fire with glasses may be. The most useful tip I learned is to wave the bundle around after the ember is formed.

home alone dinner

cucumbermiso

Mum went out with her friends so I was home alone in the evening. I finished off the giant red velvet cheesecake factory cheesecake she bought the other day and was too full for dinner. I had cucumber with miso and an orange, that was it. Felt healthy, and my stomach wasn’t as bloated.

If I’m at home by myself I usually just eat leftovers or a whole packet of ham. There are days when I wish I could go back to those days and not have to cook 2 meals a day.

kcl group lunch

kcllunch20170610

One of the kcl group is here for a quick visit. She is now in India, having been to 8 countries over the years (her husband is in the diplomatic services). Everyone is a lot older now, although physically the change is subtle, all are recognisable.

Had lunch at a chiu chow restaurant. We were one of only 2 tables there so we had a great time. Good food too, ordered the set for 12 people. Assorted starters, soup, pepper prawn, black cod, whole chicken, really great vegetable with soup, fried rice, sugar & vinegar crispy noodles and a dessert of deep fried taro strips which are then covered in sugar.

Met mm afterwards, looked at fridges, bought some dvds then camped out for almost 3 hours at dan ryan’s. Two glasses of wine, complimentary olives and a hummous plate snack. Proper dinner was at the supermarket foodcourt of chirashi.

organised socks

socksorganised

One of the consequences of packing a uber bag is I learned about how to ranger roll clothes. It works with smaller items of clothing like thin t-shirts, underwear and socks. I’m not very proficient at rolling larger t-shirts, sweatshirts or jeans. I think it’s because I’m not rolling the initial parts tight enough so the end bundle is too fat.

I found out a way to fold socks that folds in the ankle then two simple folds. It’s different from ranger roll and results in a flatter end product. Barely takes up any space. I went through my socks drawer and refolded everything. Now it looks very neat. I’m very proud of myself.

uk election

ukelection2017

When I woke up, counting was already underway. I’m very grateful that I was able to follow bbc’s election coverage on youtube.

First, the exil poll that had the Tories at 314 and Labour at 267. The magic number is 326 so no outright majority. The next few hours were riveting, delivering surprise after surprise. Nick Clegg lost his seat; SNP lost seats; the Home Secretary scraped home after a recount.

I caught the results of Islington North and Maidenhead where Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May both won comfortably. The difference in body language were stark: Corbyn was all smiles and Mrs May looked grim. Corbyn’s words about Mrs May’s mandate:

Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence

While the Prime Minister seemed resigned to the result:

If, as the indications have shown, and if this is correct that the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability

ukelectionbarnet

Previously seemingly unassailable constituencies like Ipswich and Canterbury turned red. There had been a Conservative MP in Canterbury since 1918! Chipping Barnet stayed blue but with a majority of only 353. Unthinkable when I was growing up. It’s a sign of the times, I feel like one of those 11.5% in Barnet that swing Labour–a previously lifelong Conservative, they offered us nothing whereas Jeremy Corbyn ran an energetic campaign and, unthinkable at the start of the election, looks the part of a future PM.

ukelectionwestminster

My home constituency of Westminster North stayed Labour. I discovered that I can’t just register as an overseas voter, I have to apply for postal voting to get a ballot paper. Next time.

I stayed watching throughout the UK morning. There were 20 constituencies still to declare and at that point the Tories needed 20 seats. Labour held Southampton so mathematically no party was able to secure an outright majority.

Theresa May gambled on what was a huge lead in the polls and suffered a humiliating defeat, even though her party had the most seats and votes. Over the next few days and weeks there will be copious analysis on what went wrong; the demographics of who voted where; and much handwringing about what happens next. Nobody expected a hung Parliament, but that’s what we have. It may not be a bad thing. Mrs May is right on one count, we need stability. But the message is her version of ‘strong and stable’ is not the right one. I am looking forward to a rejuvenated opposition and very curious as to what Jeremy Corbyn will do in the next few years.

coke plus

cokeplusjapan

Coke launched coke plus a few months ago in japan, a zero calorie coke with

five grams of indigestible dextrin – a source of dietary fiber

I saw it in Japan; it’s being marketed towards the over-40s with the emphasis on health and was approved as Food of Specified Health Use (FOSHU). I just got a bottle from the small supermarket. It’s about 50% more expensive than the other cokes, possibly because it’s an import. In terms of taste, cnn says it

is like drinking an ultra-sweet cola-flavored jelly with a heavy dose of faux citrus and a biting carbonation

I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s somewhere between diet coke and coke zero in terms of fizziness and citrusness. I’ve cut down a lot on coke the past couple of years; if there’s a slight chance that it may have some health benefit, I won’t mind switching to coke plus. Until it’s more widely distributed, the higher price point is a good incentive to continue to limit consumption to the current average of one a week.

emergency uber bag

emergencyuberbag

Met mm for drinks. She had a rollercoaster day of expectations and disappointment. We’re both in need of social support.

I told her I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own room. The atmosphere at home is miserable. I have no patience to listen to pointless talk or answer inane questions. I can’t deal with stupidity and ignorance and laziness from a lifetime of having other people taking care of everything. I don’t know how much longer I can stand this.

Bless her, mm said she’s only an uber away and I should pack an uber bag in case I need it. What got me depressed was I couldn’t think of where I could store my uber bag. There’s crap everywhere. Things that no longer work and we’ve bought replacements for. Empty boxes. The clear plastic bag toilet paper came in.

I then realised I don’t need a full bag, definitely not my emergency go bag or stuff recommended on quora like a knife or documents. So now I’ve packed a plastic bag of basic toiletries, medicine, t-shirt and shorts. Small enough to quickly stuff inside my regular backpack. Everything else mm will have. Unless the situation is very dire it’ll only be for a night or two. If the situation is dire, I’ll be packing a suitcase.

With only so few items, I don’t really need to pre-pack. But it made me feel marginally better. I also learned about ranger rolling and skivvy rolling clothing. The ranger roll is very neat and skivvy roll puts socks and underwear inside a larger item of clothing.

more nyt feel-good stories

I needed this, NYT’s latest stories that have nothing to do with politics in which they discover and share stories from around the web that take us away from the current newscycle of politics, terrorism, pain and suffering.

world’s smallest violin

violin64

Atlas Obscura has a story about the world’s smallest violin, at 1/64th normal size measuring less than 12 inches in length. The fraction represents the volume inside the instrument compared with regular violins. Mostly they go to 1/16th so 1/64 is tiny and rare. These small ones are made for kids, with this 1/64 model for 2 year olds. Yep, two years old and learning the violin. I do know that with learning, especially languages and music, the best results are to start young. Most young violinists start off with an instrument constructed from a box–the idea is to get them used to the feel and bow movement before actually getting them to produce sound.

One of the manufacturers of small violins is Stentor Music from the UK (their image above), who started making them in the 1980s. They have a factory in Mainland China where small violins are handcrafted. There is a limited demand, because kids grow out of them, so they only make a few hundred a year. I don’t think they are concert quality, but definitely serve a purpose. I wonder how many young musical prodigies started with a 1/64.

happy ending maths problem

happyendng

Quanta magazine tells the story of Hungarian mathematicians Esther Klein and George Szekeres, and their friend Paul Erdős. The problem is dubbed the happy ending problem because Klein and Szekeres fell in love and got married. Anyway, the original problem:

Given five points, and assuming no three fall exactly on a line, prove that it is always possible to form a convex quadrilateral — a four-sided shape that’s never indented (meaning that, as you travel around it, you make either all left turns or all right turns)

They proved it for 5 points to make a 4-sided polygon f(4); and 17 points to make a hexagon f(6). The general solution they proposed, the formula for the number of points it would take to guarantee a convex polygon:

f(n) = 1+ 2(n–2)

was only recently solved by Andrew Suk of the University of Illinois in Chicago. It gets a bit too technical for me, involving what’s known as the cups-caps theorem and an area of maths called Ramsey theory that says:

within large disorganized sets — like a set of points dispersed randomly on a plane — you will always be able to find well-organized subsets

And this is when I wish I were better at maths. I can understand the simple one page wikipedia entry but not the more complex explanation on quanta.


Luckily, numberphile has a video. It was made in 2014 which pre-dates Andrew Suk’s proof but is a good introduction. Talking about happy ending, Klein and Szekeres moved to Australia after WW2 and passed away within an hour of each other on 28 August 2005.

marriage made tidy

The NYT itself had an article about marraige turning a slob magically tidy. Before she got married, Helen Ellis was a slob-hoarder, who didn’t bat an eyelid when she had food crumbs on her sofa, or even bothered to close cabinet doors and drawers. Her husband still married her.

A year into our marriage, my husband said: “Would you mind keeping the dining room table clean? It’s the first thing I see when I come home.”

What I heard was, “I want a divorce.” What I said was, “Do you want a divorce?”

“No,” he said. “I just want a clean table.”

I called my mother.

She asked, “What’s on the table?”

“Oh, everything. Whatever comes off my body when I come home. Shopping bags, food, coffee cups, mail. My coat.”

Her mother called her husband a saint and told her to learn how to clean.

And she did.

She bought storage boxes and gave away stuff. She started dusting and treating making the bed as cardio exercise.

I guess there are two kinds of people, those who tidy up after themselves and those who don’t. I can’t even let a drawer be a centimeter not closed. Everything has to be put back. A slob, even a recovered slob like Ms Ellis has to remind herself to tidy up, it’s not second nature to her.

london

unionjack

Terrorist attack at London Bridge and Borough Market on Saturday night.

White van crashed into pedestrians then a horrific stabbing spree. Seven dead, 48 injured. All over in 8 minutes. [Edit: 8 dead.]

It’s hard to comprehend. I’m not in London, but I could have been. Saturday night out at Borough Market, something that any Londoner could be doing.

It’s hard to have the right words, reaction, feeling.

We’ve been through this before. Too many times. Regent’s Park, Harrods, Victoria station, 7/7, Woolwich, Westminster.

Guardian journalist Owen Jones, Sunday morning on facebook (and this illustrates my point earlier about not able to link, embed or save worthwhile fb posts):

London has far more love than the terrorists have hatred. London is just as it always was today. It’s a Sunday so it’s quieter than usual. People are in cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Parents have taken their children out. People are laying in parks. Dogs are being walked. Box sets are lazily being watched at home. People who are standing on the left side of the escalator are being tutted at, as are tourists who suddenly stop in the middle of busy walkways and people who are listening to music on their headphones on public transport too loud.

That’s not because London isn’t angry at the terrorists, or not mourning the lives of those murdered by these twisted extremists. It’s because a city which has endured all sorts of horror and attack is not going to surrender to terror and fear, which is what the terrorists want.

Let’s remember those who died, let’s come together, let’s debate how we defeat extremists – and let’s also do what the terrorists don’t want: for us to get on with our lives without fear and hatred.

family & bbmm day

Met Uncle P for lunch at queen’s café. Old styled “western” food like borscht and skewers and beef strogonoff. He brought a copy of the photoessay book he’s been working on. Photographs from the 1970s to 2000s. I really like the theme and the photos are of course top-notch. Tried explaining the concept of crowdsourcing to him but I think he prefers the traditional publisher route.

Everyone had plans afterwards so I met up with mm. Hot day, walked a little then found a happy hour place. I was going to have beer but had a glass of wine instead. Korean bbq for dinner although we didn’t eat that much.

wordflowkeyboard

She was telling me about her supervisor who got her PhD in 2.5 years and is able to read 11 pages of academic journal in 2 minutes. Sounds really smart. So we were texting afterwards and we were both googly eyed. I was also trying to use the wordflow keyboard that I downloaded. I tend to type one-handed and thought the curved keyboard may help. Gave up after a short trial. I can’t figure out where to get stickers quickly. It wants to capitalise the first letter even though I turned it off. And I don’t like predictive keyboards. So three strikes and out.

fb vs open web

Dave Winer was short and succinct on reasons why he doesn’t link to facebook blog posts, which are mostly to do with the closed garden aspect of fb. If the facebooker has (correctly) tightened up their privacy settings, the post is invisible. There are only limited things users can add to a post: one link, one image or video, that’s it.

John Gruber added his two cents and explained more about the closed garden aspect. fb doesn’t allow its content to be indexed, so posts do not show up on search engines. I’ve seen thoughtful posts by friends on a variety of topics, but the only way to remember is by taking a screenshot, or reposting it myself. If I’ve scrolled past or closed the tab, I can’t google because fb content is only searchable within fb. I hadn’t thought about it, because most of fb content is not worth saving. But what if it were because it’s noteworthy or, at the other extreme, controversial. Not allowing its content to be indexed means fb doesn’t respect the open web. It’s not possible to go back in a few years’ time and find the post on archive.org.

I’ve spent less and less time on fb recently because it’s becoming a frustrating experience. Two reasons: content and functionality. I hide stuff I don’t want to see but they always come back. I’m seriously not interested in those friends I may know. And it’s not smart enough to know the reason I hide all dog posts is because I don’t want to see dogs. Plus there has been a huge increase in American current affairs and political posts. I’m certainly sympathetic to the views expressed by my friends, but to see post after post can get overwhelming. I don’t want my friends to stop posting, as their messages are important, so I’m making the choice for myself on how much I want to be exposed.

fbfeed01

The functionality issue is even more problematic. Even though I have friends lists, the algorithm ignores them and I miss posts. I find myself constantly having to switch to most recent. Worst, they’ve starting lying to me: the dropdown says most recent but it’s actually top posts, the telltale “viewing most recent posts” is missing and this post at the top is one day old.

fbfeed02

Then when I do get most recent posts, I get ads. I have my own filters in addition to a few other tools that are supposed to take care of annoyances and ads. I used to be able to block the entire #rightcol but they’ve circumvented the filter and it messes up the css. Leaving just birthdays and the ticker label is all I can tolerate.

I have to refresh the page half a dozen times to get the filter to work. It’s simply not worth the hassle some days.

social media border control

socialmediaborder

It was just announced that US consulates can ask visa applicants from certain countries for social media accounts, email addresses, phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information. This is for visa applicants, like for the B visa, not visa waiver / ESTA applicants.

My ESTA is coming up for renewal so I went online to fill out an application. They do ask for employment information and social media accounts. Employment is mandatory and social media optional. Seems to be something implemented by the current administration since the beginning of the year. Don’t forget, this is an application form that asks if you have engaged in or plan to engage in terrorist activities. Who would put yes?

As the social media section on the ESTA form is optional, I left it blank. The ESTA was approved, so at least that hurdle is successfully negotiated. But of course there’s no stopping them from making us hand over devices and passwords. When I tell my US friends, they rightly get outraged and other people online have mentioned the ACLU. There is a huge difference–the rights of Americans returning to the country and visitors visiting the country. Naturally the former gets more protection and attention from the ACLU; I doubt there is much they can do if visitors feel their rights have been threatened. Visitors have very few rights.

TBH, if I didn’t have to be there at the conference this year, I’ll stay home or go on holiday someplace else. America is such a joke nowadays and I feel guilty about saying it.