We woke up late again, heehee. Brunch was at myeong-dong, the main shopping area. We had ginseng chicken congee which was very good. Then it was almost the whole day of shopping nightmare for me. Socks, jewellry, clothes, clothes, bags, clothes, accessories. Cosmetics, including these silly named masks. Ack. None of which was interesting for me, and I had to maintain a neutral / happy face. I did manage to buy a few socks and a bag myself but it took me 1 minute to decide on what I wanted, then it was 20 minutes of waiting. The worse thing was having to pick different earrings, I don’t wear earrings, I have no interest in earrings, they all seemed the same to me. Torture.
In between all the shopping I got an ice cream cone for myself and we visited a cat caré for coffee. There were something like 20 cats there. I took an anti-histammine before we went in so I was okay for allergies. They were mostly docile but not too friendly, they wouldn’g come up to us on their own. The owner gave us small dollops of cat food and only then did the cats rouse themselves and came up to us. Mostly a teenaged / twenty-something girlie thing to do.
Shopping at myeong-dong was supposed to be an hour or so, it was 5 hrs before we left. Next stop was back to gwangjang market. No, we didn’t try the dog soup (because we didn’t have room). We had pancakes at a different stall as yesterday — more beanspouts and crunchier, we liked this one. Just as we were about to leave, these 3 drunken korean men came to sit at our table and proceeded to chat with us in broken english. I was having none of it, but mm was chatting back to them. Ugh, I put my foot down and we said our polite goodbyes.
Bought small ginseng pieces and pickles from 2 separate stalls. Small melons completed our grand total purchases. I ended the day with some socks, a small bag, some chocolate and 200g ginseng. All of the rest were mm’s purchases. We went back to the hotel to dump all our bags then headed for dinner at the barbeque place a few doors down. Highly recommended, today we had beef short ribs and pork ribs. I’d had enough for the day so I ordered a soju to go with the meal. Back to the hotel to finish the fruit in the fridge and packing.
We’ve woken up too late every day for breakfast, just as well because it means we can have more lunch. Today’s destination was gwangjang market’s meokjagolmok (food alley). Plenty of choices — pancakes, mixed rice bibimbap, traditional blood sausage, tteobokki, noodles, soups, even one stall that had just one big tureen bubbling with a meat soup. We didn’t see the sign at first, then we spotted it “healthy dog soup.”
Like many people who headed for this meokjagolmok, it was for the pancakes made with ground soy bean, flour and fried with a little onion. Really good, would have loved another one except we were saving our appetite for other food. We walked around some more and decided on a stall that offered traditional meat dishes. Most of the stalls were small, with benches in front seating at most half a dozen people. Some stallholders were very enthusiastic whilst others were too busy chatting on their mobiles. This one had a nice friendly lady. We had blood sausage (they call it sundae), a plate of spicy mixed pig’s skin and chicken feet, and a stew that was definitely offal (we think stomach or lung). All were nice, although admittedly not to everyone’s taste.
When we came out of the market it was raining somewhat, but we decided to walk to our next stop because we were full from lunch, and it looked complicated by subway. Only 1.6km (1 mile) but 2-3 changes involved. Iniitially it was nice but the rain started getting very very heavy, we had to take refuge in a coffee shop, and then the lobby of a hyundai car showroom.
Despite the rain, it was worth the effort to go to the mural village at ihwa-dong. The village was located on the hillside and many houses, walls and signs were painted by local artists. Cute bunny rabbits, flowers, children, one wall was painted black with the title before i die but most were of happy themes.
Part of the fun was traipsing around the village’s narrow alleys and stairs trying to spot the murals. With the rain we probably walked through half the village, and we had to remember to look left, right, up, down and even behind us. This flower painting was on the steps and if we hadn’t looked behind us when we walked down we would have missed it.
The rain eased a little after we finished, so we walked to dongdaemun. Early dinner of soy sauce crab and beef tartare. The so-called market there was several buildings full of shops for clothes, accessories, shoes. We bought a sweatshirt each, some bags and accessories for gift. By then it was 8.30pm but we had one final stop at lotte mart near seoul station. Reminded us of a chaotic superstore. We bought a case of noodles and some ready meals of ginseng chicken and soup. Tempted by the fruit. Too many shopping bags, we took a taxi back to the hotel.
Task #48 of 101.1001 is to eat an insect and task #17 of 30in30 is to try a new food. I’ve never knowingly tried insects before, so we bought a small cup of beondegi or silkworm pupae at namdaemun market. This is a typical Korean street food, the pupae were boiled and eaten with toothpicks. One small cup was KRW2,000 or two dollars so it was worth trying.
When I initially set this challenge, I envisioned trying the cricket chocolate from Wittamer, but the box went mouldy on me. I have been reading a lot of articles about the benefits of eating bugs — they are sustainable, nutritious and 80% of the world’s cultures already eat insects. As global population grows exponentially, there is a lot of thinking that the future human population will turn to insects for protein source. I guess people in 200, 500, 1000 year’s time will look back on our diet with the same shock as us looking at the diets of people hundreds of years ago.
I wasn’t really prepared to try bugs that look scary. I don’t think I’ll let anything with legs come near me, so spiders, grasshoppers and ants were out. I was okay about trying mealworms so when I read about beondegi in the course of my seoul research, I thought it may be alright to try.
First, it’s served hot, in a seasoned sauce. People complain about the smell, but it was no worse than other meat-based street food. You eat the whole thing, just pick it up with a toothpick and pop one in your mouth. The outside had the texture of boiled peanuts, a little crunchy, a little soggy. The inside was a little gamey, like mild liver. I won’t say I’m in any hurry to try it again, but if offered I won’t refuse it.
A tale of two markets today. Lunch was at Noryangjin fish market. A huge place, with hundreds of stalls on the ground floor selling fresh fish, crab, prawn and all manners of shellfish. On the first floor were small restaurants that would cook the fish customers bought at the stalls.
After watching the action and a short debate, we decided on a plate of assorted sashimi, spoon worm that looked and tasted like pig’s intestines, fresh steamed fish and one of the food items on all adventurous food challenge lists: sannajki or live still moving octopus.
Yes, the tentacles were still moving and the suckers made it difficult to remove from the plate. People who tried it always said the tentacles stuck to the inside of their mouths but I didn’t get that. It was pretty much like a gimmicky octopus sashimi. The head was awful though, I chewed and chewed and chewed and didn’t get anywhere, had to spit it out. Not the taste but the fact that it was unchewable. Everything else was great, especially the steamed fish.
Market #2 was the famous namdaemun market. Namdaemun means south gate and the gate formed one corner of the ancient seoul fortress. The gate burned down in 2008 after an arson attack, it was meticulously restored and I couldn’t tell the difference between the old and new one.
The market itself was your standard street market with stalls selling clothes, snacks, household items, accessories and souvenirs. There was a street with food and another area with a few snack carts. We bought some dried cuttlefish, sweet potato and chocolate from a nice lady who let us try everything and gave us some sweets as freebies. We were quite tired by then so we found a coffee place to rest for a while before heading back to our hotel.
Dinner was at a barbeque place a few doors down from the hotel. Belly pork and beef ribs, the meal total came to KRW25,000 (USD25). We walked around the Ewha University shopping streets after dinner and bought a few small accessories. It started raining so we made our way back to the hotel.
We didn’t set the alarm, woke up at 9.30am. By the time we got ready it was around 10.30am. First stop was myeong-dong to exchange money, our friend recommended a place called embassy forex that had no commission and good rates, and we found that this was the only place with a queue and the rate was good.
A few stops on the subway brought us to the samcheon-dong area, the guidebook that mm borrowed from her friend recommended a great restaurant for soy sauce crab or ganjang gejang — blue swimmer crabs marinated in a special soy sauce, served raw. The sauce marinates the flesh and gives it a fantastic flavour and texture, the swimmers were full of roe. I’d never heard of this dish, apparently it’s part of a traditional royal palace meal and I can see why. Not cheap, KRW93,000 (USD93) for two of us, but well worth it. The crabs were super fresh and the banchans really nice.
The area around the crab restaurant was full of small souvenir and craft shops. Socks for KRW700 (70cents), clothing and accessories. I like these lego keychains.
Apart from shops the area was also near to the historical bukchon hanok village. Traditional houses still occupied. Very neat and pretty and well kept.
We stopped for coffee at a café called the hanok, mm had americano coffee and I had a red bean ice. I was quite thirsty by then so the shaved ice was perfect.
South of bukchon area was insadong, a touristy pedestrian street with traditional craft shops and galleries. It was quite busy when we got there around 5.30pm, we browsed around souvenir shops and craft shops, bought some small souvenirs and a couple of painted cups. We wanted to go to the same small family restaurant we went to in 2006. We found the alley no problem, and the women there still couldn’t speak english. We weren’t able to ascertain whether they were open, so they cleverly brought us to a nearby shop. Funnily the other person told us that they were too expensive, which was right. In 2006 it was KRW20k per person and now it was KRW40k (USD40). Considering our crab was double that, we could afford it, but we decided to explore other places.
We found another food alley off insadong. Several restaurants including ones that looked touristy and the one we ended up at, which was run by 3 family members. A traditional set was KRW13k per person, including banchans, porridge (delicious), soup, spicy pork, pancake. I had a soju and we totally enjoyed our dinner. Walked around the night stalls a little, then made our way back to our hotel. Another nice day.
Task #83 of 101.1001 and task #19 of 30in30 is to do a new activity with mm. We are in seoul for holiday and as soon as we got off the plane and deposited our luggage at the hotel, we headed to a jjimjibang spa to rest and pamper ourselves. We got the deluxe package at KRW100,000 (USD100). We ended up staying from 10am to 5pm so it was worth it.
The spa says it’s the largest in Korea. At a sprawling 7 floors I can believe it. There are sauna, steam areas, baths, massage rooms, sleeping rooms, relaxation hall, restaurants, a rooftop garden, internet café even a cinema.
First we got keys to our locker. The key was a regular locker key as well as a smartchip that recorded any purchases or treatments. We had a quick shower at the large bath area. Korean baths are like Japanese baths, sexes are segregated and you don’t wear anything inside except a small towel to strategically cover certain areas.
First stop of our treatment was the herbal steam bath. We were seated on wooden stools with an opening in the middle. The herbs and water were heated and the steam rose up through the opening. We were covered in a sort of plastic tent to keep the steam in. Quite surreal, the herbs smelled really nice though.
After the shower and steam we changed into standard issue pajamas—t-shirt and shorts. Everyone inside the facility was dressed in these pajamas. The massage part was 90mins of a mix of acupressure and thai style. The young technician got almost every troublesome spot in my shoulders, lower back, arms and definitely hit the ITB around my left knee.
At the end of the massage it was around 1pm so time for lunch. The spa had a cafeteria and 2 restaurants. We went to the self-service korean restaurant and had tofu soup and beef rib soup. Came with banchans and I had a tasteless beer.
We found massage chairs in the main hall and fell asleep for around 1.5hrs. One of the features of traditional korean spas is the sight of people asleep at sleeping rooms and areas. Admission is 24hrs so some people stay the night.
Then it was time to check out the heat rooms. The traditional pine scented one was so hot inside we could barely walk, our soles were burning up. Lasted 10 seconds inside there, max. The himalayan salt room was a pleasant 52°C, blankets were provided so we lay down and rested on pink salt crystals. The charcoal heated rooms were good too, we went into the high temperature one, around the same as the salt room. In between rooms, we sat in the ice room to cool down, and then on the floor.
Last stop was the baths area. There was a steam room and half a dozen baths at different temperatures. We like the outdoor ones for the fresh air, the ones with jetstream massage and the cold 24°C cooling pool.
Great day, and the perfect cure for a night spent on a red-eye flight.
Early start, flight at 1am arrived 5.30am. Didn’t get much sleep on the plane, slow moving immigration meant we were out at arrivals after 7am. After a little walking around, we finally found the right stop for the airport bus to take us to our hotel. Trip was over 1hr, so we managed to nap a bit.
Way too early to check into hotel, so we left our luggage and headed to the subway. Got a t-money (like octopus) and our brains weren’t working, we initially only filled up for KRW1,000 (USD1.00). Hahaha. Caught the mistake easily. The destination was dragon hill spa, a traditional korean spa occupying 7 floors of a building. There were spas, steam rooms, dry heat rooms, saunas, massages, restaurants, resting area and even arcade games and a rooftop garden. We went for the massage package at KRW100,000 (USD100) including 30mins of herbal steam bath, 90mins of acupressure massage. The steam bath was interesting, and the massage was excellent. Lunch was typical korean food of tofu soup and beef rib soup. We got to the spa around 10am and we left at 5pm. Lots and lots to do in term of rest, pampering and relaxation.
We took the subway at rush hour back to our hotel area at Ewha Women’s University. The night street vendors were just starting and we grabbed a bowl of extremely spicy tteokbokki (aka topoki) and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.
Hunting around the street market area looking for dinner led us to a homely upstairs place serving tofu hotpot with spicy squid. Wow, food in korea is hot! The tofu was wonderfully silken. Of course, walking back to the hotel we saw many other restaurants, but we were happy with our choice. Popped into a supermarket to get water and green tea for the next few days.
The hotel is new, it’s more like a serviced apartment with a small kitchenette, a full sized fridge, a washing machine, a closet and even a shoe cupboard. Happy with our choice and happy to be settled in early.
Originally I was gonna go trampolining with sis and my niece over the weekend, but tiredness and too much homework scuppered that plan. Sis and I could have gone one morning by ourselves but we wanted to wait for my niece.
Anyway sis had a cocktail event tonight with IC MBA alumni. She asked if I was interested (I’m an IC MBA alumni too) but I had zero interest in these social events. Instead I volunteered to babysit my niece so sis can go. Not really babysitting, a 12 year old at home requires minimum supervision. I was responsible for making dinner so I teenager favourite food — steak, mashed potato and cherry tomato. Sis opened a bottle of red wine for me too, I had a glass.
Since yesterday was no snack day, today is let’s have a snack day. Snack also is one of the entries in the random instagram challenge I came across. I only later realise the post is 1 year old, but the entries still work.
The snack in question is very simple cheese & caramel flavoured popcorn. A small bowl, I guess it’s not heavy on the calories.
What, no crisps, no biscuits, no cheese, no popcorn? It’s fine. I managed. Although I had a couple of slices of lemon curd toast for tea. In my mind tea is a meal, like breakfast, lunch or dinner, so doesn’t count as snack.
A combination of task #96 of 101.1001 and task #13 of 30in30: drink more water, drink mostly water.
We all know that water is good for us and we should drink lots of it every day. I don’t know if it’s circumstances or age or becoming healthier, I don’t mind drinking water as much as before. I’ve always drunk a lot of liquids, when I was working it was soda water and coke zero all day. In the US I bought these gallon containers of arizona green tea. Then of course there were the beer and wine and whisky. And the vital cup of tea in the morning.
Don’t have access to gallon containers of tea anymore, and I’ve cut down the coke zero to one can a day. Alcohol consumption is down too.
I’m making up the quota with water. Here we boil our water then let it cool to room temperature. Tastes bland. I kinda miss the mineral taste of London hard water. I keep my room temperature in a glass bottle I bought at John Lewis. I also keep bottles of water in the fridge. I find cold water tastes much better than room temperature or warm water and I can drink more of it. It’s surprising how quickly I finish a bottle of 500ml ice water.
Task #13 of 101.1001 is to read Mythology for Dummies. This is one of the incomplete tasks carried over from the 2007 list.
I didn’t have an arts education. Although I read steadily as a kid, it was fiction or those big general knowledge books. I knew about various myths but never paid much attention to them, and certainly never remembered much or was able to associate mythology references in books I read.
There are a lot of books on mythology. A lot of general, beginner, summary type of books. The dummies series seem to tackle subjects in a casual manner. The tone of the writing was definitely on the silly side, with chapter titles like “Snow, Ice, and Not Very Nice: Norse Deities.” Almost 1/3 of the book was devoted to Greeks and Romans. Extremely superficial coverage of European, Middle Eastern, Eastern and American mythology. Some of the sections were more description of religions than mythology.
It was an easy read, and I like that the authors didn’t try to make mythology sound mystical or serious. May be too light-hearted in places. What did I learn? Mythology around the world and along history was remarkably similar. Some version of a god or gods creating the universe, some gods bigger and older than others. Lots of murder, jealousy, incest and illogical behaviour. They married each other (sometimes at the same time), bred like rabbits, had a tendency to fight or kill each other off for no good reason, then are consumed with remorse.
I was interested in the Greeks but lost interest in the Romans. Had a hard time keeping track of the names and relationships. Nordic mythology was interesting, as was the legend of King Arthur and his Knights at the Round table. Too brief on the rest. I guess a book I’ll keep around for reference if and when I need it.
Task #8 of 30in30 is to do mindfulness meditation for 20mins.
I’ve been diligently doing sb&t daily and although I’m not sure I’m seeing results, it’s a nice way to close my eyes and slow down for 10mins. I particularly enjoy the body scan meditations, which is just slowly becoming aware of parts of our body moving through head, neck, shoulders, back, arms and legs.
I found this 20min guided mindfulness exercise that is 100% body scan. It took me a few beats to get used to a new voice — this one is a British guy vs the usual American woman on sb&t. Once I got past that, I was able to follow the meditation.
I even tried a few steps of mindful walking when I was walking to the bus stop. May be I’ll download something to the iphone to listen to next time I’m out and about.
I said I wanted to build up some momentum for PP, so I made myself sit down in the afternoon to get 1000 words. Start wordcount=2472, finish wordcount=3604 so actual words written=1132.
The story is set in Franklin TN. Here’s when I wish I still lived in Chicago. It’s about 8hrs to drive there, so research in person is feasible. Lots also to do in nearby Nashville. Important things happen during the cherry blossom festival in April. MC1’s dad worked at Nissan and they even offer factory tours. Plus of course, the bourbon trail distilleries are on the way from Chicago to Nashville.
Task #25 of 30in30 is to outline this year’s nano.
Original plan was to write spotter this year, but I don’t feel like it, mainly because I’m having too much fun with it in my head and writing it down will take the fun away. In any case I want to get some momentum going for party planner, so I’m going to tackle PP this year. And since it’s already outlined, I’m sort of cheating on the task, but whatever. I’ll call it auto-completed.
I’m also cheating on nano because there’s about 2,000 words already written. Technically, nano is supposed to be writing 50k words from scratch. But hey, I’ve been doing nano enough years to know that it’s the spirit of writing 50k new words that count and it’s about time I joined the nano rebels group for a year. I just did a calculation and this will be my 10th nano.
Chugging along. I look at the list every night and decide which task I’ll tackle the next day. The first half of the month is easier, I’ll have to plan more towards the end of the month, especially since we’ll be away from the 26th. Have to reserve some tasks for then and complete other tasks I can only do at home.
do more than 50 squats in one set // done 06-sep-2014
do more than 50 crunches in one set // done 07-sep-2014
Task #10 of 30in30 is to turn off electronics 1hr before bed.
Everyone will agree that we are too dependent on being connected. Our blackberrys chime and we are compelled to look at it, even though we know it’s work and we hate it. We can’t help but check fb or twitter constantly, in case we are missing out on…something. There’s a lot of advantages for unplugging occasionally, and the national day of unplugging is in March.
Anyway, I’m coming down with something. Cold, cough, flu, whatever. Tired all day. So I shut everything down at 8.45pm. It’s fine to turn off electronics, the only difficulty was I couldn’t use the ipad to read, so I had to find a paperback. I think next time I’ll unplug from internet but I can use electronics for standalone tasks like read books or use the calculator.
I haven’t been drinking a lot, so It’s no big deal. I think up to this point in the month, I’ve had one whisky and one beer. I can do no alcohol week too. I’m quite happy about this, taking a rest from alcohol, not completely but a nice balance.
Task #22 of 30in30 is to celebrate a bizarre holiday. Since I have homemade vanilla ice cream, it’s perfect to celebrate chocolate milkshake day.
All I did was blitz together 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate milk. It seemed the easiest, without having to buy chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, which are the usual ingredients used. It wasn’t chocolate-y enough so I melted some 70% chocolate into the mixture. Why 70% chocolate? I only have baking chocolate in my fridge.
Very rich, a little to sweet for my taste, which I know because the ice cream was too sweet. Chocolate isn’t my first choice for ice cream or milkshake, so if it weren’t for the national chocolate milkshake day, I would probably just had the vanilla ice cream on its own or with some fruit. I can’t imagine how many calories, I made myself go running for 5 miles in torrential rain for this.
When I was in Chicago during the summer, I walked past a Williams-Sonoma, couldn’t help but go inside and ended up buying a couple of zoku ice cream makers. I don’t have space for an ice cream maker, so this small bowl seemed to be a great idea — no churning, and it claims to make ice cream in 10mins.
I’ve watched enough cookery competition programs to know that the best ice cream is made from a custard base. The recipe I used is from david liebovitz, one of the few american cookery writers who give metric measurements. I used half his recipe.
125ml milk — I used hi-calcium 2% milk, because that’s what I have in my fridge
75g sugar — I think this is too much, next time I’ll start with 50g
3 egg yolks — I splurged and bought best quality organic “intense flavour” eggs from japan
250ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod — if I halved the recipe I should have used half a pod, but I used a whole one anyway, I scraped the seeds out and the pod is now soaking in bourbon to make vanilla extract
Gently heat milk, sugar and vanilla seeds until sugar has melted. Slowly add to egg yolks, whisk and return to pan. Heat very slowly, stirring constantly to make the custard, it will be ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.
In a separate bowl, cool the cream in an ice bath. Add the custard, stir and whisk until thickened and cold. The mixture can be kept in the fridge until ready to make the ice cream.
The instructions for the zoku is to chill the inner bowl in the freezer for 12hrs. The bowl is made of an inner metallic bowl and an outer ceramic bowl with coolant inside. At room temperature I can shake the bowl and feel the fluid sloshing inside. When frozen the coolant feels solid.
To make the ice cream, add a portion of the custard mixture to the frozen bowl, no more than half full. Then stir, fold and scrape for about 10mins until the mixture turns from a thick liquid to frozen ice cream. It really works!
Because all the ingredients are fresh and of good quality, and because I used real cream and a whole vanilla pod, the ice cream tasted unbelievable. Smooth and rich and creamy and simply irrestible.
This week’s theme is nightfall. This was taken from the balcony of our cruise ship cabin at Glacier Bay in May. What it didn’t show was that I was taking a picture every few minutes waiting for the perfect sunset shot, this was around 9-10pm.
Task #6 of 30in30 is to do 3 sets of 12 weights or TRX.
Lots to do tonight: sort out some spreadsheets, update apps, buy the all-season pass for run zombies (on sale for $9.99), defrost my fridge (again) and other stuff at home. In between I found time to get a TRX workout in, because: a) it’s one of 30in30 and b) I haven’t done TRX for a while.
I don’t usually do so many TRX reps. Two sets of 10 or 12 is what I usually do, so 3 sets of 12 was a little more strenuous. And it was great! My shoulder and triceps are already telling me they got a workout. The TRX is one of the best things sis ever gave me.
Lots of possibilities here. Since task #26 is to write 1000 words and tasks #28-30 are photo challenges, I should try something else. Draw something, crochet a blanket or make bunting. Ack, no good at any of those. No artistic talent there.
What have I been doing recently? I sorted through the Tokyo pics. 414 pics and 2 videos into 2 sets: tokyo 01 | tokyo 02. So may be I can do something fun with them. I don’t like photo montage apps but I did use a webapp to create a mosiac out of all 400+ pics. Took a few minutes to upload and compose, I picked the bowl of chirashi from tsukiji market and the water bath outside meiji shrine as base pictures. I think the results are pretty cool.
Did that count as something creative? Or should I have drawn something or folded an origami swan? It’s creative enough for me. YMMV.
crossposted to medium as Getting the World to Read.
Today, Monday 8 September, is International Literacy Day. The day has been celebrated since 1966, after the World Conference of Ministers on the Eradication of Illiteracy adopted the view that literacy is a means for development and an integral part of the development process.
To mark International Literacy Day, there are events in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, New Zealand, Rwanda and other countries celebrating and promoting literacy. The big UNESCO event at Dhaka has two parts. First, a conference on the 2014 theme of “Literacy and Sustainable Development” with special emphasis on Girls’ and Women’s Literacy and Education; second, prizes will be given out for outstanding performance and innovative practices in literacy.
Former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, wrote about 15 countries that have joined together to become Learning Champions to focus on improving literacy and numeracy in the world’s poorest countries. The first country to launch the initiative was Kenya, with countries in South America, Asia and the Middle East to follow.
It is well accepted that increased literacy leads to better quality of life, improved health and economic success. To that end, it is one of the most important aspect of humanity. From UNESCO:
Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.
Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.
The numbers [pdf] are staggering, and staggeringly desparate:
16% of the world’s population are illiterate
64% of illiterate adults are female
61% of illiterate youths are female
171 million people will be out of poverty if they had basic reading skills
15% fewer child deaths if the mother had primary education
Although there have been progress, such as primary school enrollment reaching 90% in developing countries (as of 2010), there are concerns about the quality of education in all, even developed countries. In the UK, as reported by The Guardian:
One in six adults in Britain now has a literacy level below that expected of an 11-year-old
The most commonly read material by children is text messages.
I can’t imagine not being able to read. The earliest books I remember reading was a children’s weekly magazine that had short stories and cartoons. At school one lesson a week was going to the school library and borrowing a book to read. I read abridged biographies of composers, that was my interest area when I was about 7. Growing up, I devoured Enid Blynton, the Hardy Boys (didn’t like Nancy Drew that much) before moving onto classic science fiction and fantasy. Even now as an adult I love paranormal adventures and mystery thrillers. Romances are my guilty pleasure.
As part of a 1001 day challenge I have been keeping track of my reading and I’ve read over 90 books in 9 months. My most recent book was a funny paranormal adventure with a sarcastic and annoying main character who happened to be Death’s daughter. Very engaging read, and I would love for more people to read the book. I would assume that everyone I tell about the book will have the ability to read it; whether they choose to, that’s another matter.
Today I went grocery shopping and there are so many things I take for granted because I can read. Bus numbers and destinations, road signs, shop names, product names, prices, even the doorcode to get back home. All assume an ability to recognise words and numbers. Imagine only relying memory to know which road to take, or only recognising items by colour or size, or not even knowing how to write my name. It’s unimaginable.
What can we do to help global literacy? I don’t know. I know it’s a problem, but not until today when I looked into International Literacy Day more carefully did I realise how severe the issue is. I bought one of the One Laptop per Child laptops because they said for each one bought, they’d donate one to a child. I hope it helped a child somewhere.
There are so many charities and causes vying for our attention nowadays, global literacy needs is its equivalent to the ALS ice bucket challenge. May be we can challenge someone to read a book and donate $1 or donate $100 to a reading charity. Or may be we can start small:
give a book as a gift and include a note about literacy is so important
get involved in reading / literacy charities — start by going through a useful list of 150+ such charities
donate our used books — to the library, to a school, to a local organisation. Some charities collect used books for developing countries, some sell books with profits going to literacy causes
support, donate to our local libraries
spread the word
I don’t know what I can do aside from becoming better informed and writing about it. I know I should get more involved in charitable giving and may be it’s time I did more. i know reading and writing are topics dear to me. And on that note, I’m off to read another book.
Sis asked me for my recommendations for science fiction books for my niece. Ah the memories. I can’t remember if I started reading scifi books at 12, definitely at around 15-16 I was going through the shelves at the library — hitchhiker’s guide and the foundation series came first, because they were there alphabetically. I can’t remember half the ones I read now. I switched to fantasy soon. I still have both sets of David Eddings’ Belgariad as well as his other books, all (I think) of Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series on my shelf, even after downsizing from 2 full bookcases of fiction to half a bookcase.
So when sis asked me, I went and looked to see what physical books I had left that I could lend to my niece. Anne McCaffrey and Philip Pullman. I’d love to introduce her to the world of Pern but I think I’ll start her with The Ship Who Sang. I also got a few recs from my fb friends. It’s enough for her to borrow from the library or get on kindle.
I also noticed the couple of Ghosts of Albion collectible hardbacks, and then I remembered I still haven’t read Amber Benson’s Calliope Reaper-Jones series. The first one, Death’s Daughter, was published in 2009, and I went to the signing in Chicago. I wanted to see if I can recommend it to my niece.
I’m a bit of an Amber fan. Tara of course. I have a small signed Chance poster framed on my wall. I remember reading that one of the locations for Ghosts of Albion was St Mary’s le Strand and it brought warm fuzzy feelings.1 I follow her on twitter and fb and instagram (but not in a stalkery way, I don’t think I’ve ever DM or commented on her posts.)
The publisher’s blurb for Death’s Daughter:
Calliope Reaper-Jones so just wanted a normal life: buying designer shoes on sale, dating guys from Craigslist, web-surfing for organic dim-sum for her boss.
But when her father—who happens to be Death himself—is kidnapped, and the Devil’s Protégé embarks on a hostile takeover of the family business, Death, Inc., Callie returns home to assume the CEO mantle—only to discover she must complete three nearly impossible tasks in the realm of the afterlife first.
Reviews for the book is mixed. Some outright fan fawning vs people who don’t think actors should write. I’m not a fan of these reviews. Actual reviews of the book are also mixed. And I can see why.
Callie is forced to return to the family fold after her father is kidnapped and she is the designated person to save him and the family business, Death. Reluctantly she drags her tank-topped and Jimmy Choo-heeled self to Hell (literally) and back in order to complete 3 tasks before a) her allocated time and b) her competition beats her to them. She’s whiny, contradictory, frustrating and basically bumbles along with help from friends, her sister and various mythical beings. Everybody talks like a SoCal teenager, even though they are mythical being or, in the case of Callie, a twentysomething immortal who lives in New York. There’s Bollywood dancing and an inordinate amount of ogling of the male body. On almost every page there are numerous pop culture references.
But that’s the point. I don’t think it’s supposed to be taken seriously, it’s not like it’s the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Yes, Callie is, like, annoying, but her heart is, like, in the right place (that’s, like, how she speaks). I can get past the juvenile speak and get behind snarky Callie. Yes, the mythology is mixed up, with a Cerberus that acts in a surprising manner and the Indian goddess Kali acting like a mean girl and using words like “dipwad.” So what. It’s tongue-in-cheek, people.
The story itself is your standard do-3-impossible-tasks-to-save-the-world deal. Interesting twists on all 3 tasks. A flawed, reluctant heroine (like Buffy s1 or General Buffy s7) who is more concerned with shoe shopping and boys. The cover has a tough looking girl with short dark hair but for some reason I picture Lindsay Lohan (the actor with some talent, not the drug-addled failure). Hotter than hell…Hell, a castle with walls made from tortured people, a bottomless black pit and a 14-room house in New England are some of the locations. Plus a supporting cast of misfits. I can see it as a funny indie film.
It’s not a perfect book. Needed tighter editing to fix the spelling mistakes and superfluous parts. The dialogue doesn’t flow in all places and the plot jumps with no reason—they are screaming and yelling at each other then suddenly her dog bites her on her ankle.
The motivation for reading is to see if it’s suitable for a 12 year old. The story itself, yes I think a 12 year old will enjoy it. The silly speak and sarcasm too, i think a 12 year old will get the funny. I won’t be recommending it to my niece though, not until she’s older. There are too many inappropriate words and sexual references. It’s a shame, because these were the superfluous parts that didn’t add value to the story.
Death’s Daughter is the first of a series, there are 4 books now. I like this first book enough to want to get the other 3. Now here’s the problem, ebook vs paperback. In order of cost:
3 used paperbacks shipped to US = $12 (I can get all 3 at 0.01+3.99 shipping)
3 new paperbacks shipped to US = $21.57 (7.19 each, free shipping if I borrow the use of Prime)
3 new paperbacks at paddyfield = $24.61 (64 each — paddyfield is a local online bookseller who sells English books from US/UK at almost direct fx conversion)
3 new paperbacks shipped here from amazon = $26.56 (7.19 each plus 4.99 total shipment)
4 kindle = $31.96 (7.99 each)
If I get the paperback, cheapest is used shipped to the US which means I have to wait till July. The advantage of ebook is obvious, and I’ve been 100% ebook for a few years now. I’ll think about it, I’m not in a big hurry.
1St Mary’s le Strand is a tiny church on the Strand rather pitifully divided by 4 lanes of traffic rushing either on the Strand or turning left onto Waterloo Bridge. It’s also directly opposite King’s, so I would have walked past it at least twice a day for 7 years.
Task #3 of 30in30 is to do more than 50 squats in one set. Task #44 of 101.1001 is to do 101 squats in one set.
I’d originally aimed for the set of 50, seeing that I haven’t been working out as rigorously as I used to. I got to 50 and felt fine, so I carried on. A little tight at 80, at which point it was worth pushing on to finish at 101.
Slow squats, on form, trying to keep a 90 degree angle at the bottom of each motion.
Both my grandfather and father had cameras when we were small; my dad still has his camera and my grandfather even took 8mm videos. Before the age of digital cameras and social media, photographs were carefully composed on 35mm film, developed at a shop and stored in photo albums. We have a lot of family albums. A couple of shelves in their cabinet and I have 2 boxes myself. It’ll take a long time to organise and scan them all, I want to make a start somehow.
These are small 3.5”x2.5” pics of me and sis. I love the small format, these are firm favourites. There are 16 double-sided pages in this album, each page holds 8 pics so 256 total. Scanned the first 24, all b/w, I was about 4 or 5 years old. Still good quality albeit a little yellowed, adds to the charm.
p.s. image is deliberately small and blurred, I don’t want our faces to be recognisable.
I haven’t been sleeping well. I wake up in the middle of the night, usually 3 or 4am, then can’t get back to sleep until 5 or 6am. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m stressed. I don’t drink anything with caffeine after around 3pm, I don’t eat anything substantial after 8pm and because I don’t need to get up for work there are days when I’m in bed till 9 or 10am.
Task #12 of 30 in 30 is to eat 3 different fruits in a day.
I had 13 giant peaches in the case from tokyo; one was extremely squashed and three were quite squashed. The figs I bought were also a little squashed. I had diced giant mangos in the freezer so it was an easy job to assemble a fruit salad. Even the extremely squashed peach had good bits, and 2/3 of a squashed peach tasted just as delicious as a whole peach.
I went to sis to give her the ikura, a few peaches and the pokemon soft toy to my niece. She had watermelon so total I had 4 fruits today.
Checked out early and had breakfast at a bakery café at the station. Today’s plan: last day shopping.
My niece’s request for a pokemon soft toy at the shop at the station was checked off first. I took a video of the shelves and she picked the toy she wanted, way to go social media.
Back to Ueno and bought a case of giant peaches, ikura, unagi, pickles, snacks, popcorn and scented sys masks. We made time to stop for green tea ice cream at a specialist green tea shop that was delicious. They had benches inside the store, and also served us green tea to follow the ice cream.
Back to the hotel to repack, both of us managing to squeeze everything aside from the 5kg case of peaches into our suitcases. Wheeled the heavy suitcases to the other side of Tokyo station to go back to Hanamaro conveyor belt sushi. More tuna, salmon, scallop, squid and ikura sushi.
Narita express train to the airport, a little more complicated and harder than the limousine bus, but we prefer to skip the traffic. Dropped our bags, went through immigration and onto the duty free. There was whisky and sake tasting, we bought more yoichi 15, so value for money at ¥5,500. Final shopping was for snacks, there was a potato snack that was limited to 5 per person and we saw people with their full limit. We were more restrained, only one each. Chocolate popcorn, green tea roll cake and mm bought kitkat cheesecake.
Loaded with shopping and happy memories, we were just in time for boarding. I’d checked us in early on Sunday and grabbed exit row seats. The flight wasn’t full so we had the whole row. The flight was 45mins early but bags were delayed. I was home just after 11pm.
Task #7 of 30 in 30 is to do mindfulness meditation for 10mins.
Today was a travelling day. We did tons of walking, shopping and pushing suitcases along the streets of Tokyo before flying home. Got home around 11pm, unpacked and showered. So it was good to sit quietly, close my eyes and listen to the meditation for 10mins.
Rain most of the day, pretty miserable. We started the day late as usual, headed to Kitte mall next to Tokyo station for brunch at Nemuro Hanamaro conveyor belt sushi, this is our favourite place in Sapporo and I was happy to see that they have a branch at Tokyo. We had ikura, scallops (3 plates), tuna, salmon, hamachi, some other white fish and a bowl of yummy crab soup. 15 plates including the soup for ¥5,000.
Took the subway to Asakusa, one of the older areas of Tokyo. The major landmark is Sensō-ji, the oldest shrine in Tokyo, founded in 628. The pedestrian street leading up to the shrine is lined on both sides with stalls selling souvenirs, kimono, fans, snacks and sweets. The area surrounding the shrine is also made up of small streets lined with shops and restaurants.
It had been raining throughout the day and it got steadily heavier. We sought cover at a coffee shop where we enjoyed a coffee (for mm), tea (for me) and cakes. The place only had one table occupied when we went in, but it filled up quickly with people with the same idea.
We walked around a little more in the area, both at the small streets and at a couple of department stores. Found a supermarket and bought some snacks and cakes. There was a food store at the basement of Seibu that turned out to be a Walmart branded supermarket, wandered around there too.
The reason we stayed in the area and waited around for dinner was because we came across a restaurant that served fugu, or puffer fish. This is the highly poisonous fish that requires very careful handling, that chefs must be specially trained and certified before they are allowed to prepare it. The waitress told us that a set is enough for two, so that’s what we ordered. Small dish of starter, fugu sashimi, fugu hot pot and congee made from the soup. One set, with two drinks came to just over ¥5,000. No one said fugu is cheap.
Stopped by the whisky place near the station to sample some more whisky. In addition to the Amrut fusion I bought earlier, I bought a Yoichi 15, a 500ml Miyagikyo NAS and the green Ichiro’s malt.
Our last night at the hotel, same routine of going downstairs to the onsen then peaches for dessert.
Task #14 of 30in30 is to have no red meat during the day. The last time I did 30in30 was april 2014, and it also coincided with bbmm going to Japan. Co-incidence much.
It’s so easy to skip red meat in Japan. We had sushi for lunch, cake for tea and went to a fugu restaurant for dinner — the first time we tried the infamous poisonous pufferfish. In between, we sampled some potato snacks and red bean sweets at stalls around the Sensō shrine. If we hadn’t bought a couple of skewers of squid and chicken liver for snack, i could say it was a no meat day.