nano validated

nano

Finished november at 52,028 words. I validated as soon as it was available, on the 20th or 21st, I can’t remember.

Since I got to 50k, I’ve been adding 50-100 words a day, just to keep the 30-day streak going. I was skyping with Car the other day and she asked me how nano was going. “Or did you finish 2 weeks ago?” she joked, although she probably guessed I was done. Well, yes. I finished 2 weeks ago. The chart becomes meaningless once I hit 50k.

make your own slime

slime

I remember playing with slime when it oozed into the world. It came in one colour, green, and was icky and fun at the same time.

TIL not only has it endured the years, it’s now possible to buy kits to make your own, and somene reviewed the best slime-making kits. Just in time for Christmas. According to the testers at Wirecutter, slime can be made from everyday ingredients including glue, contact-lens solution or borax, baking soda, and optional mix-ins, such as food coloring or glitter. The kits come in convenient packages that saves parents the trouble of hunting down the ingredients. And look better as a present.

I would have loved to be one of the testers. It took only around 10mins to make each batch, so it was quick fun. The best kit according to the testers is Cra-Z-Art Nickelodeon Slime Super Slimy, the name alone is worth one extra mark. It came first because

it included all the required ingredients packaged as safely as possible, and it offered the biggest variety of mix-ins for making all different kinds of slime

including all the bowls, cups and spoons needed.

The runner-up Mr. E=mc² DIY Slime Kit gave the most and best quality slime but fell down in the areas of packaging and didn’t include bowls and such. It’s also more expensive. Looking further though, it’s from a husband and wife company in Minnesota who develops, tests and assembles the kits with the help of their kids. Compared with the brand name Nickelodeon product, it’s worth the additional price, I think.

Um, not that I’m going to buy a make your own slime kit. Well, may be not.

duck, cable car, fishing village

Another full day of adventure with my friends J&T. Met them for lunch at Spring Deer. They told me that they like sake so I asked about it when I called to make a reservation. The lady said just ask the wait staff and they’ll take care of it. The problem is, I can’t be sure what sake they get and I don’t want to drink 7-eleven sake, which is more than likely the outcome. So I went out earlier to citysuper and got a bottle. I didn’t know if my friends like hot or cold so I asked for a recommendation. The one I got was really good, medium dryness, Junmai Daiginjō-shu from Niigata. The wait staff at the restaurant were wonderful, they put it in a traditional wine jug and warmed it up for us. Corkage only local$50 so well worth it. Basically, we only had hot & sour soup and peking duck. The soup was well balanced but the star of the meal was the duck. We managed to finish it all and I took the carcass with me. I thought the sake went extremely well with the duck, the smoothness and flavour cutting back the fattiness of the duck.

I gave my friends the option of going to the beaches or the fishing village and they opted for the fishing village. To get to the fishing village, we took the famous cable car to the big buddha first. It’s a first for me, and i actually enjoyed the trip. I thought it was all going to be a tourist trap, but it was okay. I get a discount by showing my ID card and most people had opted for the ride with the transparent floor. Honestly there is no advantage to the transparent cable car as most of the view is out of the windows. They crowd so many people in the transparent cars, we’re seeing 10 people inside each one whereas we only needed to share with 2 Thai ladies.

The cable car ride was very long and the scenery pretty good. Lots of greenery around and underneath us, and we could see a hiking path too. The airport in distant view. Eventually we went over yet another hill and saw the big buddha. It’s probably the #1 tourist attraction and is supposed to be the biggest buddha of some sort. Between the cable car station and the buddha is what can only be described as an artificial village that is full of shops and restaurants. Nothing authentic about it. We stopped at a couple of shops though, and T bought a fridge magnet. It was a nice walk anyway.

threelanternstaio

We were just in time to catch the bus to Tai O, the bus arrived just as we walked up to the bus stop. And there were feral cows at the bus stop too. It was only 10mins, when I’d read somewhere that it’d take 20mins. We walked around the stilted houses of the villages, declined the offer of boat trips to see dolphins, and ended up at the Three Lanterns café. This time there was no thunderstorm and we got to sit on the terrace with a direct view of the river. Nice to relax and have a couple of beers. The nice owner lady remembered me and gave us a pot of lavender tea too.

Lucked out again with buses, only 5mins wait. The ride was long, back to the train station but comfortable. I was quite tired and we were all still full so I said goodbye to my friends on the train, got off at an earlier station to catch the bus home.

We covered a lot during the few days my friends are here. I hope it wasn’t too hectic for them. We did lots of walking, ate lots of food, chatted away and I for one had a really wonderful few days out and about.

walk, tram, ferry, minibus…and feral cows

Early start, was over at the flat to meet my friends J&T at around 9.45am. I did some research for hiking yesterday but decided against going on the ones that are too strenuous. J actually walked up to the peak yesterday and said it was really nice, but crowded.

Instead. I took them on a gentle stroll on Bowen Road, just a little past the park in the middle and turned around at the shrine. Walked down the steep path back to town. They commented on how quiet and peaceful it was, and yet we were right bang in the city with buildings and roads within view. Ended up at the Stone Nullah Tavern for a quick refresher and I took them to Crystal Jade for dumplings. I think I definitely over ordered! And I feel bad because T grabbed the bill and paid it while I was in the loo.

Took the tram then ferry then train then minibus to sai kung. Quite a long trek, but I thought they might want to see the countryside. We walked all the way to the beach and they took off their boots to dip their feet into the water. They told me it’s a tradition, to put their feet in different seas so this is a new one for them. How wonderful. I love how they are racking up experiences, rather than materialistic souvenirs.

It’s a weekday so the place was more civilised and less crowded. There were the usual fishing boats at the pier where customers pick out their seafood and the fishing people used a net to send it up and collect money on return. I had planned to take them for seafood but the harassing salesladies and remembering the last time I went with Mum how disappointing it was–cold food, small portions, mediocre quality put me off. We had happy hour at Classified and went to a Thai restaurant instead. This is the place mm and I went to and is Michelin mentioned. The food was really great but the portions way, way too large. I was quite stuffed so I had green curry veg. We even got a free yellow curry chicken that none of us could touch so I took it home.

saikungcows

Oh, cows. On the way back from the beach next to the car park we saw 4 cows grazing on the grass where people normally fly kites or walk their dogs at the weekend. We saw collars on the cows so figured they must belong to someone although we couldn’t see any farmers or someone who looked like they were herding cattle nearby. I googled when I got home and found out that they are feral cattle descended from animals that were abandoned in the 1970s when industry transitioned from agriculture to manufacturing. There are over 1,000 cattle and water buffaloes scattered around, mostly inside country parks but some venture out to built-up areas. The government has been putting GPS collars to track them. They are not protected wildlife but the government recognises that they are more tourist attraction now. From the AFCD website:

cattle and buffalo are part of the heritage of rural Hong Kong and that it brings pleasure to visitors and locals alike to see these animals in a natural environment.

creamy scallop spinach pasta

scallopspinachpasta

Mum was out all day, she went out to lunch after mass, came back with shopping and met with her friends for dinner. I spent the day reading, didn’t even go out when mm texted and wondered if we should go out to enjoy the sunny weather. It was almost 3pm and we decided we should both just chill at home and get rested.

Leftovers for lunch but actually made dinner. For some odd reason I had a small carton of cream in the fridge. I made mushroom cream sauce the other day and there’s still around 2/3 carton that needs to be used. Made a rich sauce with lots of garlic, a little butter and about 150ml cream. Should be able to keep in a tight container for a few days. I spooned a little over the scallop and spinach pasta I was making for dinner which made the dish much more decadent. This is the type of dish that takes absolutely no time to make.

hosting friends

My friends J&T from London are travelling around the world and I’ve been following their adventures through Europe, Africa and SE Asia. I PMed them a few weeks ago to see if they were planning on coming this way and if they were, the flat’s empty. They originally weren’t coming this far north, but they took a special detour from Vietnam to come to visit me. How wonderful!

Between Sis and I, we managed to set up the flat so there is basic accommodation. I borrowed my niece’s camping stuff, a couple of sis’ fleece blankets and her garden chairs. From home I took a couple more blankets, pillows, towels, hairdryer, kettle and small kitchen stuff. I got them crisps, beer and wine in the hope that I can get them drunk enough to ignore the very, very basic setup. I met them at the airport express station and we took the train for 2 stops–the queue for the taxi was so long that it was quicker by public transport. I did the brief tour and told them where the important stuff were. Since they’ve been travelling so much, the least I can do is to offer the use of my washing machine. Except I forgot to bring the drying rack, so they will have to improvise with hangers and the pullup bar the tenant left behind, hahaha.

linh01tables

Walked down the escalator to show them shops and the like. My plan was to go to the Globe in case they were homesick, but it turned out they were much more adventurous and they had turkey and trimmings for Thanksgiving the other day. So whilst we chilled with beers, I called ahead to Lin Heung to see if they had availability. 7pm on a Saturday night, hmm. We lucked out, we only had to wait around 5-10mins for a table. We were looking at what other people were eating and decided on roast pork and a healthy looking mix veg pot. I added stuffed crab claws (one each) and what looked like their signature fried rice. The rice was brilliant, it’s Hokkien fried rice which came with a thick sauce that was just right–not salty, not overly oily, not stodgy. It’s been many, many years since I was at this restaurant last (2009, that’s the pic above) and I’m glad the quality is still there. The restaurant originated in 1889 when it opened in Guangzhou and came to HK in 1926, so almost 100 years. It remains one of the few places that has trolley dim sum and still a favourite with locals and visitors. The type of traditional place that families go generation after generation.

I think my friends liked the food. Afterwards, we went to M&S and they walked back up the escalator. Hope they have a good visit.

old golf

keysE114FLB

When it was my niece’s 16th birthday a couple of weeks ago, Sis wanted to find fake car keys for her as a birthday present, because she can theoretically start driving lessons. Couldn’t find them, alas. As per sod’s law, this week I was tidying my drawer and what do I find? Car keys. Actual keys, not fake ones. These are for the golf. Those were the days when you need keys to open doors and start the car.

scan26golf

I loved that car, even though it was an automatic, a rarity in the UK. Those mark II golfs sure look fantastic. I mean, I like the mark III and subsequent models, but this one has a special place in my heart. I took very good care of it, even though poor thing it had to be parked on the street. I was T-cutting it one day and someone stopped and asked if I were selling it.

It’s more than likely scrap metal now, so I don’t need to hide the licence plate. The only available online information about the licence plate is that it was first registered in 1987-1988 (anyone can tell this, it’s an E reg after all) and in NW London. Nothing confidential about that, we bought it at Karmann in Barnet, which doesn’t exist anymore.

random photography art

One boredpanda user told a story of how his boss took advantage of him by getting him to take promotional pictures for free. The business was a liquor store and the photographer naïvely agreed because the boss said the magic word: exposure.

terryis02
©Terryis Xmun

He took it seriously at first but soon regretted his decision to work for free so he started not caring as much.

Callous disregard for form and aesthetic took on a form and aesthetic unto itself. Items were tossed roughly into bushes, placed literally on streets…The nastier I could get, the better.

terryis01
©Terryis Xmun

The images ended up on the company’s fb page and no one questioned the insanity. His boss seemed to accept them. The beer company for this pic even liked the image. The user is puzzled as to why people seemed to like the pics. Personally, I like some of them. There’s an urban jungle randomness that a lot of commercial marketing photography tries to achieve but it’s obvious they try too hard. By not trying hard at all, he found a certain style.

Just goes to show, one person’s rubbish is another person’s art.

a day of bad decisions

skyballoons

My head wasn’t right today. Distracted. One bad decision after another.

I needed to replace the spotlight in the bathroom. I should have gone to the computer centre district because there are plenty of electronics shops. But I walked instinctively towards the regular bus stop with buses that go to the opposite direction.

And then once I was committed to going to the flat and trying to find a shop over there, I should have taken the train, but again, I walked towards the bus stop and stood there waiting for 10, 15mins.

I saw the faster bus coming, it stopped at the traffic lights. Then the slower bus turned the corner and was in front of the faster bus. I should have waited one minute for the fast bus. What did I do? Got on the slow bus that took the longest time and the longest route.

To add insult to injury, I couldn’t find any shop that sells spotlights nearby. So all I did was remove the old light and now there’s a hole in the bathroom ceiling.

Try again tomorrow, when I’m feeling more human.

kcl group drinks

kclgroupdrinks201711

KCL drinks tonight, at B’s office, ie the office I worked at for a little while. We ended up being 6 people and simply sat around the conference table and chatted. Drank 2 bottles of wine, and ate up snacks people brought: baguette, cheese, prosciutto, salami, melon, grapes, tomatoes. B made fresh bread rolls too, she has a bread maker and small oven in the office.

Our aim is to continue the meetup streak so we tentatively agreed the next meetup will be in January.

r/oldpeoplefacebook

oldpeoplefb

Saw this post on fb and in a fit of meanness, posted it on r/oldpeoplefacebook. Most of my reddit posts and comments get buried, but this one, oh boy, made it to the front page of r/all. It now has over 32,000 upvotes and my karma has shot up from 800-ish to almost 8,000.

I can see stats for the post’s journey to the front page. It took 3hrs 24mins from when it was first posted to reach r/all, and stayed there for 5hrs 10mins. The highest rank was 4 and there are over 600 comments. Most of it took place when I was asleep because I posted it before bed. I didn’t read all the comments, but most were decent by reddit standards. There are threads discussing memorialising the account of people who have passed away, and others gave examples of how friends and family maintain the account of deceased users. Some said it was sad, not funny, and I agree to an extent. See earlier post on why I think “I’m old, I don’t know computers” is an excuse for not making an effort.

Anyway, I now get to post on select subreddits for users who’ve made it to the front page. It’s supposed to be a big deal. Reddit is, after all, the front page of the internet.

random things I’ve been up to

Last of the catch-up posts, I think. What I’ve been up to during the past 3 weeks.

pumpkinsoup201711

I had a big bag of chestnuts that mm gave me. I wanted to roast them, peel then put in a braised chicken. But disaster happened! The chestnuts wouldn’t peel properly and stubbornly stuck to the shell. All I got was a big container of chestnut breadcrumbs.

Had to change plan, so made pumpkin and chestnut soup instead. The chestnut acted as perfect thickening agent, so the soup ended up quite thick. For liquid I made fresh turkey stock. Really, really nice. Served it with roti prata, which alas was store bought. Sprinkled on grated cheese.


sunset201711

We went for a drive one weekend, no real plans. Ended up at this oyster farm near the shenzhen border that has nice view of sunsets. Sunsets come early now, it starts getting dark at 5pm and full dark at 6pm. We brought picnic–mm brought an old bottle of macallan and some glasses which we sipped as we enjoyed the view. Only a small sip, since she’s driving.

We got chatting with a guy who had 2 tripods set up taking time lapse pictures. One was a Sony alpha 7 and the other was an iphone. He told us he just came back from Japan and he’s also been to a few other places to take timelapses of sunrises and sunsets. He collects the end results on his youtube channel. The timelapse here was at a place near where we were on that sunday.


frites01 frites02

A weekday evening out, met up for happy hour at frites. I started with trusty st bernadus abt 12, and then asked the assistant manager for a recommendation. He said to try the het kapittel watou prior, which is another trappist beer. Lighter that st bernadus, with chocolate tones. Nice alternative.

We weren’t that hungry, so we shared some miniburgers and a portion of frites.


musebar02

Met mm after her saturday appointment. Originally we were supposed to meet at the novotel but when I got there I discovered that happy hour had been pushed back to 6-8pm, and it was quite busy. I walked around the area wanting to find an alternative and came across this place called muse wine bar and art gallery. It was located in the basement of a boutique hotel and pretty quiet. They had a big wine list of bottles and a smaller list of by-the-glass wines. Not only the usual, but 3-4 pages of both red and white wines. The price was higher, but the tradeoff was quality and tranquility.

musebar04

On the walls were some ink art, I didn’t pay too much attention to the artist, but the artwork tied in with the quiet nature of the bar.

Next time we go there, I’ll order a bottle. Three glasses of wine came to around the same price as their cheapest bottle.


drago1

I stopped playing pokemon go. No incentive anymore, even with the last migration of legendary raids. I saw some people gathered around a gym while getting ready to get off the bus and didn’t bother running back like I would have before. The unfairness of raids, the stupid EX-raid invitations, the lack of pokemons other than commons, and I’m still bitter about no tauros, all contribute to my lethargy towards the game.

Some people have made the move to draconius go, which has all the features of pogo with fewer problems. Select a character and walk around to capture monsters. With names like Potty, these mythical creatures are cute as button, there are a total of 125 of them and they show up on a tracker at the bottom right of the screen. There are pillars of abundance (ie stops) where spinning grants random items that are useful in the game. Occasionally the adventuer gets attacked while walking, and has to battle the beast. Fighting can also be done in arenas (ie gyms). There are also many other features, refer to this useful beginner’s guide is on r/draconiusgo.

drago2

For some players, the playing experience is so much better, with more stops and creatures. For me, though, I stopped playing after a few tries. The two screenshots were taken from the same spot just down the road from where I live. The triangular area is the small local park. On the left, pogo with a gym and a bunch of stops. On the right, drago with…nothing. It’s the same picture everywhere else. The other disadvantage is my mobile provider isn’t counting data usage for pogo, they made a big deal when the game first came out and never took it away. So few people play now that it’s not worth them bothering with it. But with drago, I can’t imagine going out for hours and hours and eating into my mobile data allowance.

So, not playing either game. Not playing much else, just reading.

what did i miss part 3

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 3. Sports and drinks, not sports drinks, two separate topics.

1a. marathons #1 — elites

The headlines all shouted “Galen Rupp is first American winner of the Chicago Marathon since 2002.” And although some of them clarifies that it’s the first American male since 2002 (last American female was Deena Kastor in 2005) it still feels like a huge, huge disservice to Tatyana McFadden, who has won the women’s wheelchair race fo the past seven years. I swear, paralympic athletes get an even worse deal than women athletes, the sort of media attention they get, ie zero. Not to take away Rupp’s victory, but the blatant inequality really needs to be addressed.

In the NYC marathon, Meb, in his last NYC, finished in 2:15:29, putting the 42 year old in 11th place. The women’s race was won by Shalane Flanagan. So the two big autumn US marathons both had American able-bodied winners. That’s good for the US. Much needed good news for them.

In unrelated news, Mo Farah is moving up to the marathon. And he got knighted. Yay Sir Mo!!


1b. marathons #2 — blind solo runner

Simon Wheatcroft finished the NYC marathon in 5:17:40. An unremarkable time, but what’s truly remarkable is that he is a blind runner who ran the race solo.

I ran a night race a couple of years ago and there were a number of visually impaired runners. They were just as fast and just as good as able-bodied runners. The route was through part of the country park so the terrain was rough with narrow and winding paths; the runners and their guides negotiated those with ease and I could hear the guides telling the runners to make a right turn or there is a hump coming up. I’m full of admiration for them, as I am with all paralympic athletes.

Wheatcroft suffers from a rare genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, and his sight has gradually deteriorated since he was a teenager. Nowadays, he can distinguish changes in light and darkness, like seeing the world through a fog. He knows when someone stands in front of him, because he sees a blurry shadow, but that’s it. He is also an experienced runner, marathoner and ultramarathoner, previously running with guides and trains by running up and down a straight abandoned road near his home in Doncaster. He memorises routes, obstacles, and navigate along the slightly raised edges of painted double yellow lines along the road.

In recent years, there have been massive inroads made in providing assisted technologies to help visually impaired people “see” by using AI and VR technologies. However, these type of technologies are limited–it requires outside help, or only work in static situations. For instance, a google glass subscription called aira connects the blind person and a sighted person so the sighted assistant can give verbal clues to tell the blind person what they are seeing through the glasses. The subscription costs US$349 per month, which is really expensive. Most assisted technology solutions are built around some sort of visual input and an audio output, but audio output is cumbersome. The Verge:

Imagine a Siri or Alexa-like interface describing every single object in your field of vision. Consider the cognitive overload that it would create on an already loud street crowded with obstacles.

wearworks

Wheatcroft set out to look for alternatives and came across Wayband, a product from a company called WearWorks that uses haptic technology, which provides output through the sense of touch rather than audio. The company was cofounded by 3 graduates of New York’s Pratt Institute and just finished a 3 year residency at Brooklyn’s Urban-X incubator. Wayband was featured at SXSW and uses two technologies. First, it uses known GPS technology (google maps, OpenStreetMap) to map a route for the runner, the signal is transmitted via bluetooth using an armband which buzzes in a sort of Morse code (eg 2 long taps to turn right). This pairs with an ultrasonic device called the Tortoise that broadcasts and receives ultrasonic pulses. If there is an object or person in range, the ultrasonic waves that reflect back are changed and the device lets the user know using a series of vibrations. This is not new, devices that help people park their cars use similar ultrasonic technology.

During the NYC marathon, Wheatcroft started by using this system, the first time it had been tested in a race. And what a way to test. Not a small local race, but one of the largest marathons in the world, with more than 50,000 runners. During the race he was also accompanied by Kevin Yoo, one of the founders of WearWorks as well as Neil Bacon and Andrea Corak, his longtime friends and guides. They ran behind him and were there as a last resort, to prevent him from running into another runner and ruining their marathon.

It wasn’t perfect: tall buildings affected the GPS which incorrectly told him he was off course, the rain caused the Tortoise to stop working at mile 15, and at one of the water stops another runner stopped abruptly in front of him. Even a sighted runner would have found it difficult to stop in time and there was a small collision. Neither runner was hurt. The team ended the race with guides running next to Wheatcroft as per usual, but the experiment was by and large successful. There is still a way to go before the product can be marketed but the team now knows what those improvements are.

The implications are huge. Not only for running or sports, this system can help a blind person navigate through normal life. Wheatcroft on NYT:

It’s not the end, it’s just a start.”


1c. marathons #3 — grass root runner

The running bubble has popped, says the NYT on the day of the NYC marathon. A strange thing to say, considering 50,000 participated and the success rate for applications was 17%. I got my annual VLM rejection in October, so from my perspective the running bubble hasn’t quite popped.

Thing is, although interest in the big races have held steady, less well known races and shorter distance races have seen a decline in participation. Some reasons:

  • cost — gone are the days of US$10 or $25 races, now the cost is astronomical, Las Vegas RNR 5k is $79.99!
  • too much focus on charity running — while an honourable effort, it has become blackmail with too few places available for non-charity runners and huge amounts that needs to be raised
  • too many races, and competition from speciality races like mud runs
  • competition from other fitness activities like cross fit

The industry has become a victim of its own success and commercialisation. Once a race gets taken over by corporate interests, something goes missing. Not only will I not pay $80 for a 5k, I won’t ever run a RNR race again whatever the price because they have become pure greed. I remember a long time ago an ex-colleague asked me if I was running the NYC marathon and I said it’s too expensive ($295 now). She was so surprised, she thought it was free and you just showed up. I wish.

I’ve written about charity running before. TL;DR: I hate it with the venom of a million exploding suns.

What we need, is a return to grassroots. Running clubs are still popular and just look at the success of parkruns in the UK. Another reason I want to go back to the UK.


2a. drinks #1 — alcohol and cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncological published a report that says even light drinking can cause cancer. Yet another study that tells us not to eat or drink something, so much so that there was a study on the study of what foods are bad for us–in 2013 researchers took 40 ingredients from an ordinary cookbook and found 264 studies on whether at least one of those ingredients causes cancer. We’re talking about ingredients that are in almost everybody’s cupboards: salt, pepper, flour, egg, bread, butter, lemon, onion, carrot, milk, cheese.

We know that heavy or even moderate drinking has detrimental effects. The report says in the US, 3.5% of cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol. But as the NYT says in a more-or-less rebuttal:

this means that 96.5 percent of cancer deaths are not attributable to alcohol. If we eliminate heavy drinking, which no one endorses as healthy…that number climbs. If we also eliminate those who smoke…the number of cancer deaths not attributable to alcohol approaches 100 percent.

These reports mean well, but they tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies and then the media reports them using scaremongering headlines. The traditional image of a researcher is someone who observes or achieves some results and then postulates a theory that explains those results. There are researchers that are basically reverse-researchers, they know what result they want and then they do so-called research till they get those results. I call them hacks.


2b. drinks #2 — bartending in antarctica

antarcticabar

Interesting article about bars in Antarctica. There are 45 research stations in Antarctica, with thousands of researchers there in the summer but only a few hundred during the winter. Each station has its own bar with names like Gallagher’s Pub, Southern Exposure, Tatty Flag. The bars had no owners, no official hours, and no price. People shared their stash of personal alcohol and were in luck when one of the researchers also have bartending skills. Bartending in Antarctica is voluntary and requires creativity and innovation, as not all ingredients are available. The good thing is, no fridge is needed, just put the stuff outside.

Drinking can be a problem in Antarctica, because of the monotony of life, especially in the winter months. The bars became social focus points, and bartenders did the job all other bartenders do all over the world. One bartending researcher said he:

swapped out soda for booze when people drank too much…and kept them inside the bar rather than watching them stumble out the door where, completely inebriated, they could hurt themselves or pass out in the snow.


2c. drinks #3 — escape from IPA

escapefromipa

I do quick research during nano and I came across this beer called Escape from IPA from Pipeworks brewery in Chicago. What I found hilarious is the label, which is in line with all their other labels. Look at that Han Solo pirate escaping helicopters and red F1 racing cars, kinda comic book cliché.

With a name like Escape from IPA, it suggests that it’s the anti-IPA (scourge of craft beers). But it’s actually a 10% West Coast styled triple IPA made from 3 hops with the fancy names of Equinox, Galaxy, and Centennial.

Some people bet on racehorses based on their names or the colour of their jockey’s shirt. This is definitely one instance where people may pick a beer based on name or garish label. That’s exactly what my character did.


2d. drinks #4 — free beer while shopping

So a Morrisons in Leeds started offering free beer to shoppers while they go about their weekly shop. Not just beer, they have cider and wine too. The beer they serve is Saltaire Blonde ale from a local brewery.

morrisonsbeer

It’s a whole pint, according to the daily mail (not linking to that drek). Sounds like a good idea, except I’d prefer half or 1/3 pints because of drinking and driving. They should put the featured beer on its own display stand and study how sales increase. I’m very sure more people will buy it because they are given a sample.

what did i miss part 2

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 2. All London related.

1. how to pronounce some place names

londonnames

This is from a few years ago, Londonist’s guide to how to pronounce names of London place names, which cropped up on r/london recently.

No, it’s not Lie-sester Square it’s Lester Square; and Marylebone always stumps non-Londoners. Apparently Rotherhithe too.

Personally, I don’t agree with Ommer-tun for Homerton, I’d pronounce the h. And I always say Aldwych as All-witch.

We shouldn’t make fun of non-locals. I don’t expect to know place names in countries where I don’t know the language, but there are some names in the US and Australia that I can see the word and it’s made up of letters but I cannot put the letters together to form coherent sounds.


2. map of walking times between tube stations

walkingtubemap1

TFL published a map that shows the walking distance between tube stations. There’s also a map that shows the number of steps between stations, so they can put a spin on the “steps = exercise” trend.

Practially, this is a useful map for visitors and newcomers. Every Londoner knows it’s pointless to take the Piccadilly Line between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Between waiting for the train, the actual journey, and the horrendous wait for the lift at Covent Garden, it may take 10-15mins. Walking is 4mins.

walkingtubemap2

There’s another leaflet, journeys that could be quicker to walk [pdf] that is also very useful. For instance, the map would suggest it takes 18mins to walk between Queensway and Bayswater (via Notting Hill Gate) but the journey leaflet tells us it’s only 5mins. Google maps actually say 2mins, but that probably needs running at nighttime with no other pedestrians.


3. john snow’s cholera map

I saw this on a tv program about sewage and how the world’s cities made the jump from being disease infested to, well, less so. It’s all about clean water.

choleramap

The story of how John Snow discovered that cholera spreads through water rather than through the air by plotting a map of outbreaks that showed occurrences near to a water pump in Soho is well known. His use of data mapping is as revolutionary as the discovery itself. The blob of black dots around the pump at Broad (now Broadwick) Street as pretty horrible. But the interesting thing is workers at the nearby brewery were not affected because: a) they drank mainly beer and b) the brewery had its own water supply. That would not have been the case if the disease spread in th air.

So many diseases from 100, 200 years ago are under control. Cholera, TB, measles. Have we reached peak discovery? There doesn’t seem to be huge discoveries like this anymore, more like small incremental ones. Then again, it could be that they were low key. HIV has been contained, and many cancers are less life-threatening now. We have so much to learn.


4. property prices

londonhouseprices

According to bloomberg, london house prices are coming down, with more sellers reducing their prices from originally marketed. A report published by Rightmove says on average the reduction is 6.7% due to:

initial over-optimism and a tougher market

That said, the average in november is still an eye-popping £628,219. I mean, that’s staggering compared with a national average of £311,043.

The article immediate below the one about housing talks about more bad news for the pound, with further drops possible. An uncertain brexit, Theresa May’s uncertain future, all lead to the market being bearish on the pound. This actually is good news for us, since it means we can buy more.

Around the table on tuesday’s lunch we were all talking about property, as a group of middle-aged professionals are wont to do. If only we’d all bought a place in London when we graduated, we’d be all sitting pretty now. Ah well, can’t turn back time. The consensus is, £ and house prices haven’t seen bottom, so it’s worth waiting a little while longer.


5. decadent hot chocolate

Have to end on a more cheerful note. How about the most decadent hot chocolate in the capital. Fortnum’s chocolate bar, Flotsam And Jetsam’s rainbow-coloured white unicorn chocolate, Fattie’s Bakery’s with a toasted marshmallow rim, and the best chocolate café name of all, Choccywoccydoodah. Some of them look like they have far too much whipped cream. My 2 favourites on this list:

darksugars

The one from Dark Sugars that has a mountain of chocolate shards shaved on top. The way the shards melt into the chocolate…

hotelchocclassic

And finally, the classic from Hotel Chocolat. Who needs fancy when you have classical elegance and top quality ingredients.

what did i miss part 1

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 1.

1. paradise papers

chi233fed

The Paradise Papers came out. Just like the earlier Panama Papers, this series of leaks showed yet again how the rich got richer and the rest of us got left behind. BBC summary:

The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance…how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures to protect their cash from higher taxes.

The issue is, off-shore accounts aren’t strictly illegal. There’s some sort of competitve sport behind the idea of trying to avoid as much tax as possible. Show me one person who actively wants to pay taxes. But the flipside is, how are governments supposed to operate without taxes? If there are no taxes, there’d be no police, no sewage system, no healthcare. Oh wait, that’s exactly the thinking of the pro-busines conservative right. Privatise it all. Instead of paying the government, we pay corporations to provide security, sewage, healthcare. Sounds idyllic, except once profits come into it, imagine how much these corporations will charge, imagine the lack of oversight, imagine the lack of budget for non-essential functions. I’m no economist, but a completely free market depends on compassion and not just profit. Trickle-down economics is all smoke and mirror, unfortunately.

On the one hand I look at all the people and corporations being named–the Queen, Apple, Bono–and I feel zero sorries for them, because the world has gotten so unequal that any attention to the issue is good. On the other hand, I can’t help but think the real people to blame are the lawyers and accountants and financial advisers who thought of the schemes and the politicians who didn’t close the loopholes.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough attention paid to this. Most people don’t have exposure to the shady world of off-shore accounts, and funnelling money to the likes of Bermuda and the Channel Islands isn’t illegal. But as quartz said, this touches on the question of:

the difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law.”

We’ve reached the point when the world’s richest 1% own 50% of all wealth, and yet one US political party wants to further reduce the tax burden on the richest individuals and corporations. NYT:

The Republican tax plan would shift more of the tax burden onto those who can least afford to shoulder it and relieve those who are already starving the government of tax revenue. The Paradise Papers shine yet another spotlight on how the rich and powerful game the system to avoid paying what they would otherwise owe. The rest of us suffer for it. Why hand them even more favors?


2a. trivial tech stuff #1 — twitter now @280 characters

Twitter doubled its character limit to 280 per post. Can’t say I like or dislike it. All it means is a tweetstorm is now 10 posts instead of 20. Talking about tweetstorm, they are testing a new tweetstorm feature that will allow users to draft a series of tweets before posting them together all at once. Instant tweetstorm!

2b. trivial tech stuff #2 — most downvoted comment in reddit history

In reddit, users upvote or downvote posts and comments to improve the visibility of said posts and comments, to show support (upvote) or to indicate their displeasure (downvote). Technically, downvoting should only be for comments that don’t contribute to the thread. The most obvious example is spam comments, with dodgy links and gobbledegook text underneath a perfectly normal post or comment.

redditdownvotes

What happened over a very short 24 hour period was one comment made by Electronic Arts (EA) in response to a post about the microtransaction system of the game Star Wars Battlefront II got so many downvotes it smashed downvote records. The OP had a point, the game already cost US$60 or whatever it is to buy, then to unlock main characters it cost something like $80 on top, per character. I’m no gamer, but that sounds super greedy.

EA didn’t help matters by responding to the OP with a condescending comment full of rubbish corporate speak. As a result that comment received over 677k downvotes before it was locked. That’s far and beyond the most downvoted comment in recollection. Interesting that EA was responsible for a lot of downvoted comments too. They may or may not have listened to the feedback, shortly afterwards they reduced the cost to unlock the characters.

2c. trivial tech stuff #3 — new corporate font from IBM

Unlike Apple or Microsoft, IBM has traditionally used Helvetica. But since it’s not their own font, they’ve had to licence it from Monotype. Now they don’t have to anymore, with the creation of its own bespoke font, called unimaginatively IBM Plex.

ibmplex

I like it. Clean, modern, sans serif. Quartz called it a:

graceful hybrid of blocky, engineered shapes with natural gestures from handwriting.

What’s more, it’s not like frutiger or other pricey fonts, IBM has made it free to download.


3. john lewis christmas ad

Finally, some cheering up. John Lewis’ 2017 Chrismas ad debuted on the 10th of november. I’m furiously trying not to dwell on the fact that it cost £7 million, and how that could have been used better. Not my favourite John Lewis Christmas ad, but still very charming.

nano day 15 | 50213 words total

nano

1640 words | 50213 total

I was out all day, lunch with King’s friends, setting up stuff at the flat for visitors, and meeting mm for drinks and walking around a department store that was having a sale. Home, showered and it was 10.30pm. So the dilemma was, write a few words so I won’t miss a day, or push on to finish.

Obviously, I ended up getting enough words to hit 50k. Yay!!! Finish on day 15 means my average goes from day 16 to day 15. It’s a meaningless statistic and is neither here nor there.

There are some discrepancies with wordcount, depending on tool. Scrivener is the most generous, which is the most dangerous because it made me think I’d reach 50k when I hadn’t. On the nanosite it showed 49k so I had to add a few hundred words to make sure I hit 50k. That’s always been the risk, it was never a good idea to stop at 50000. So, out of the various programs:

  • word: 50211
  • nanosite: 50213
  • google docs: 50236
  • scrivener: 50312

Like whether I average day 15 or day 16 finish, these are meaningless stats and neither here nor there.

There’s this badge for updating wordcount for 30 days, so I’ll add a few sentences a day to keep it ticking till day 30. The story itself is around half done. I was looking at the outline and there were good ideas that I skipped in earlier chapters. If I ever edit it, that’s an opportunity to add more interesting parts.

But to all intents and purposes, it’s another successful nano year.

nano day 13 | 44440 words total

nano

4053 words | 44440 total

I was home all day, and I didn’t have to do a lot of cooking so there was time for nano and reading.

Steady progress throughout the day, with only one jarring incident. I caught myself writing your when I meant you’re. This is serious, because I never used to make this type of mistake. It’s only seeing way, way too many people misuse these two words that now my brain is fried and I’m getting confused myself.

[Yes, I edit somewhat during nano, mostly for typos. And my sentences are properly capitalised. I write I’ll instead of I will. I’ll type people’s full names out sometimes, and add I said instead of leaving it out to bolster wordcount.]

Someone posted on one of the nano forum threads (which I thought I saved but can’t find) that they love their story but not their writing. I’m not sure if they mean they’re not writing well or they think they’re not writing well. A lot of writers suffer from imposter syndrome. Anyway, that was how I was feeling a few chapters ago, that the story had potential, but I wasn’t doing it justice. Too much backstory, nothing much was happening, the characters weren’t interacting. The feeling disappeared soon, because guess what, it’s nano. In november, only wordcount matters.

nano day 12 | 40387 words total

ldn044poppy

4186 words | 40387 total

I’m at 40k. That’s always a good feeling. It’s like I’m driving home on the motorway and the first time the signs say “London” it’s a feeling that I’m closer to home, even though it can be over 100 miles away. Get to 40k and 50k is only a few days away.

The second sunday of november is also remembrance sunday. Regardless of how anyone feel about wearing the poppy or not wearing it, we must all take a moment to remember the war dead and thank our armed forces. And it’s now time to listen to I Vow to Thee My Country.

The second sunday of nano is traditionally when I do a massive backup of the novel. Every day I backup the scrivener file to dropbox and a flashdrive. I also copy to word and google docs; the word file also gets backed up to dropbox and the flashdrive. On massive backup day, all the files get backed up as usual plus to the time machine and 2 external hard disks.

nano day 11 | 36201 words total

nano

4625 words | 36201 total

I have no idea what day of the week it is. I wake up in the morning and one of my first thoughts is to figure that out. Every day is the same. Weekdays there’s masterchef, weekends there’s strictly, that’s the extent of how I keep track.

Home all day, and not quite as distracted. Soft target was to get to 35k, reaching 36k is a happy bonus.

I have a new buddies on the nanosite this year, and there’s a publisher’s group on fb doing nano too. I keep forgetting to check in with them. So happy to see so many people reporting their wordcounts and making great progress. I’m probably a little ahead of some people, but it’s not a competition. I have to remember to participate in that group more.

nano day 10 | 31576 words total

nano

2522 words | 31576 total

There are days when writing is difficult because of external influences and strains. Today was one of those days. I had wanted to go run some errands then meet the family for dinner. Somehow that didn’t happen and I was forced to make the decision to stay at home all afternoon. In theory that meant more time for nano but in practice I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

Still, I managed to eke out 2500 words.

creperie20171110

Anyway, it’s my niece’s birthday and we met for dinner at La Crèperie. I had a galette with ham, cheese and egg and shared a sweet galette with her. Independently we both came up with our choice–vanilla ice cream and salted caramel. Sis, Rob and I also shared a bottle of wine and another bottle of cidre. The cidre was very sweet, at 2.4% alcohol tasted more of apple juice.

nano day 09 | 29054 words total

nano

4046 words | 29054 total

Yay, a 4000 word day. I was home all day, and mostly on my own so I didn’t have a lot of distractions. Spent a lot of time reading, but spaced it out so it was a reward for reaching certain milestones. Got to 28k before dinner and the usual 1000 words after dinner, shower and masterchef.

I was hoping it wouldn’t flare up, but it did. My wrist. Sigh. I just moved it up and down and it cracked like fireworks. Wrist brace for the rest of the night and when sleeping tonight. Necessary evil.

nano day 08 | 25008 words total

nano

2715 words | 25008 total

Met up with mm in the afternoon and evening, drove out to the beach with free parking and sat at a bench taking in the sea air. She had some work to do so she took her mb, I brought my ipad and read, having failed in getting scrivener to sync. Dinner near her place, fish and noodles. She drove me to my flat to check the mailbox and to drop some stuff there. I got home, showered and it was 10pm. Instead of relaxing, I spent 2hrs writing.

Because I wanted to get to 25k today.

Halfway on day 8 projects to finishing on day 16. Off the top of my head my average is around 15, 16 days so I’m bang on target.

nano day 07 | 22293 words total

nano

2113 words | 22293 total

I met sis for lunch and we went shopping for gifts in the afternoon, followed by a quick happy hour. I got home just after 5pm and was sooooo tired. I just sat at my desk and I had no energy to do anything. Eventually I napped for 10 mins.

Didn’t have a chance to write in the morning, so today’s nano was just under 2hrs before bed. I was determined to get at least my target minimum of 2000 words. Finished chapter 4, and our MCs still have not interacted. Definitely in chapter 5, I promise.

nano day 06 | 20180 words total

nano

4057 words | 20180 total

This accurately describes my november: eat, sleep, read, write. Repeat, lather and rinse. We ate mostly leftovers since I went overboard with cooking late last week. I’m not sleeping well, but I never do. I sneak reading time and give myself proper reading time when I reach a milestone. And I write towards soft targets, the only hard target is 50k by the 30th. I’m not bothered by the exact day I get to 50k, although I’m sure I’ll do a little analysis like I do every year.

Since I stayed home all day, I was confident of reaching 20k. Not a lot of distractions aside from reading. Got to 19k before dinner, then finished off the remainder 1k in less than an hour after masterchef and shower. 40% in, and the MCs are finally in the same room. I’m thinking, they may get to speak to each other or at least have some interaction within the next few scenes.

nano day 05 | 16123 words total

bonfirenight

2306 words | 16123 total

It’s Guy Fawkes’ Night. But no fireworks here. It’s sunday though, and I was out with mm all day. We had a leisurely late lunch at a new korean place near me. Then we drove out all the way to this fishing village that is supposed to have a good view of sunset. Without consulting each other, we both brought some whisky to share. She brought the macallan that we’ve had for years and years and I brought a hipflask filled with dalwhinnie. She even brought glasses! We didn’t have a lot, probably half a dram each. The weather was good, we could sit by the shore and it wasn’t too hot. We even got talking to a guy who had set up 2 tripods to take time lapse pictures of the sunset. Early sunset, the sun started turning orange at around 5pm.

Drove to another town for dinner, one of those hawker centre hot pot places. Lots of customers meant decent food. Soft drinks included, I had my fill of cream soda.

I managed to get to 15k this morning, before mm arrived. Not a lot of time left to write at night, just an hour or so. Quite pleased to get another thousand words.

nano day 04 | 13817 words total

nano

3630 words | 13817 total

The first saturday of november is double up donation day and the idea is to double wordcount target and donate to the cause. The goal is US$125k 175k and 125 million words in 24 hours. Donate $25 and receive $50 donor gifts. I’m never bothered about the gifts, it’s the donation that matters, though having a halo is cute.

I also didn’t double up my wordcount. I was distracted. I got too involved in reading in the afternoon. I did get to 13k before dinner then after dinner I was flipping channels and there was Strictly.

This was week 5 which was originally shown in the UK 2 weeks ago. The most important bit of the entire episode wasn’t any of the celebs dancing, but Craig impersonating Bruno. I’ll take multiple clones of Craig over Bruno any day. There were still 12 contestants so the ep was long (we get both regular and results show at the same time). By the time I finished watching, showered and got back to my room it was 10pm.

Managed around 800 words. Yes, I can push on for another hour or so to get to 15k but why the unnecessary stress. On to chapter 3 now, a tiny step towards advancing the story.

Overall, didn’t double up my wordcount; 3630 words is okay.

nano day 03 | 10187 words total

nano

3007 words | 10187 total

I had to go to the market and supermarket so lost a few hours during the afternoon. The soft target today was definitely 10k, and here I am on target on day 3. I’m still on chapter 2 and pretty much still backstory. Not filler, it’s just taking its time getting to the beginning of the core of the story. I had a rough outline of 15 timeline items that would take us to around the halfway point and I’m on item 3. Today’s research learning experience is about personal injury and how insurance companies try to get out of paying compensation to the victims. They seem to be particularly uncooperative compared with travel insurance, health insurance or home insurance claims.

9.30pm finish again, I’m not stress at all. I was skyping with Car this morning and I said one of these days it’ll be november and I’ll be like, “Why am I doing this again?” Will I ever get bored of nano? Will I get to 2025 and say, hey it’s year 20, time to hang up my boots. At this point, it’s very simply something that I do. It’s like when you get on a bus you pay the fare. Well, it’s more seasonal that that, it’s more like it’s Christmas so buy presents, order turkey, carols & mince pies at the yacht club on Christmas Eve.

nano day 02 | 7180 total

nano

3812 words | 7180 total

Uneventful day. I made lunch, wrote a bit, hit 5000 and gave myself a small reward of reading. Reached 6300 by the time I had to go make dinner and got the rest in by 9.30pm. At this early stage, I’m introducing characters left, right and centre. I’m using a combination of scrivener’s name generator and behind the name‘s random name generator which helpfully gives basic stats and life story. This year’s nano takes place in a pretty homogeneous suburb, so I’m sticking with simple westernised names.

Update nano site, update website, save, back up, done. Reading time.

The only eventful event that happened today was I roasted some chestnuts and was unsuccessful in getting them out of the shells. I have no idea why. When I cracked the shell, the nut would break in two and I had to use a spoon to get the flesh out. So now instead of the expected whole chestnuts I have a container of chestnut breadcrumbs. I was going to use them in a stew but now I either have to make soup (I saw recipes for carrot & chestnut and cauliflower & chestnut soup) or a dessert or use as ice cream topping. I guess it’s not a huge disaster.

nano day 01 | 3368 words

nano
3368 words

I was still up at midnight so I got 300-odd words in as a headstart. Title, synopsis and prologue.

Went about my usual morning routine, started writing in the afternoon. Progress was very slow but steady. Target was 2000 by dinner and I got to 2300. Watched masterchef australia and added another 1000 words. Saved and backed up. I’m off to read, not going to stress about getting to, say, 5000.



This video of a logging truck making a sharp 90-degree turn from a narrow road (more like a path) onto a tiny bridge was making the rounds today on digg and boingboing. The driver was so skilled and I bet this isn’t the first time. It also illustrates tangents. Note how when the truck was in the middle of the turning circle around the one-minute mark, the logs are actually on the curve and not the bridge. The position of the logs at 1:12 is the tangent of the corner. Good thing the bridge has low walls, if they were higher than the clearance underneath the logs, the turn would have been so much more difficult.