best of: 2017 pictures

best of: 2017

I uploaded 2,575 pics to flickr during 2017, compared with around 1,500 in 2016 and 3,500 in 2015. The ANZ cruise-to-nowhere and 2 trips to japan provided all of the worthy top 10 pics. Honestly, I think it’s the scenery and nothing to do with my skill as a photographer.

Scroll through the set using the arrows on the left and right of the image. I have:

  • a mountain–Fuji
  • a lake–the champagne pool at wai-o-tapu geothermal park
  • a garden–kenrokuen in kanazawa, one of japan’s three great gardens
  • two houses–one at suganuma near shirakawa-go and the other at hobbiton
  • a lantern–at the historic higashi chaya tea house district in kanazawa
  • a couple of sculptures–one at the hakone open air museum and the other at waiheke island outside auckland
  • wine tasting at waiheke island
  • a snap of the tugboat Hastings at the bow of our stricken cruiseship, preparing to tow us back to port

No homemade food, because it’s already a struggle trying to figure out what to cook for everyday meals, I barely experimented and probably baked just a handful times.

family morning, bbmm afternoon

Although we said goodbye to my cousin’s family yesterday, we saw them again when mum convinced me to join them to visit our grandparents and great-grandmothers at the cemetery. We had an interesting time telling the kids about their great- and great-great-grandparents. My great-aunt (my grandpa’s sister) is still alive, and the kids know her, having gone to visit her in RI several times–they’re only like 4hrs’ drive away. So it was easier to have them relate to her.

They went back to their hotel for other appointments afterwards, this time it was hugging them goodbye for real, they’re flying home tomorrow, sniff. Mum and I had lunch at the foodcourt and she went shopping while I met up with mm. We slowly and aimlessly walked around, covering the flower market, the fruit market, the street that had fish (for pets) shops, and then looking for a birthday card for one of her family friends. It’s surprisingly hard to find cards nowadays and the place we ended up finding a suitable one was at the Catholic shop at one of the old buildings.

tap02

There was still time before she had to go to dinner with her folks, so we headed to a craft beer place I saw a while ago. They had a selection of around 20 on tap. I had one called torikage birukatsugan, apparently named after a ninja leader. It’s a black IPA made with lots of hops and dark malts and is roasty and bitter but not overpowering. She had a blueberry fruit beer that is very different from mine–the scent of blueberries come through and it’s very refreshing without being tart.

Nice morning and afternoon. I was home by 6pm to cook dinner.

And, the modem failed. All the lights went off except the power one, which blinked so sporadically and weakly that I could barely see it. I even changed to another wallplug with no success. Called in and luckily the technician will come tomorrow. Meanwhile, I can tether.

big family outing

Big family outing day. Early start, everyone met at the train station to go take the cable car up to the big buddha. The cable car was very crowded but since there were 10 of us, we had our own. The journey was long, around 20-25mins, with really good views. I’d dismissed the cable car as a touristy gimmick but was as pleasantly surprised as when I went on it for the first time a few weeks ago.

2017xmas060buddha

We walked along the shopping village, which my cousin A described as being like in Disney but in a good way. For some odd reason, we had a few free coupons for snacks at specified restaurants, including an ice cream place so the kids could get cones. Walked to the end of the village towards the big buddha. I still don’t know what record it holds, largest outdoor sitting buddha with a raised hand? My cousins and the kids walked up to the top while I went to explore possible lunch places.

2017xmas085cow

We saw several feral cows. They were just laying there on the grass enjoying the sun, people were going up close taking selfies and petting them and they didn’t seem bothered. My nieces were fascinated and J said it’s the best thing she’s seen all trip. I told them the story, that they are descended from farm animals that were abandoned. But looking at them, they don’t seem to be starved or suffering. If anything, helping with tourism.

2017xmas121taio

Vegetarian lunch at the temple starts at 1.30pm so we decided to go elsewhere. I ran ahead to check the bus stop and found the one to the fishing village just about to depart. The extremely nice stationmistress said she’ll hold it for me so I ran back to the group to tell them and got mum, my two aunts and my uncle (all retirees) to run for the bus, hahaha. Only 10mins to the fishing village with stilted houses. Not too crowded on a weekday, so a pleasant walk exploring the houses and shops. Lunch was at my “usual” deck café where we had the entire upper deck. Just pizza, fish cakes and soft drinks. But the view, wow, still spectacular even after so many visits.

We lucked out on the bus again, only 5mins’ wait back to the cable car. But the return trip had a 30min queue. My nieces were taking time lapse videos but for some reason mine didn’t work, sigh.

Dinner was buffet at the hotel restaurant. Really nice and everyone had a great time.

sushi train, escape room

Met sis, gis, my cousin and his kids for lunch at a sushi restaurant sis suggested. It used to be a conveyor belt restaurant, but now it’s a sushi train. We order via a tablet, the food is prepared in the kitchen and sent to us on a miniature train. We take the plate and push a button to send the empty train back. It’s very, very cool. Much better than conveyor belt because the food is fresher and we can actually pick what we want instead of sitting around hoping for something good to arrive. The kids loved it.

2017xmas042lost 2017xmas043lost

After lunch, sis had booked us all to go to an escape room game at a place called Lost. The coolness of the day continued. We played a game called Alcatraz, where we were split into 3 teams and locked in 3 cells: Red, Green & Blue. We had to work together, solve puzzles and escape from the cells. The puzzles, in retrospect, were pretty straightforward, but in the moment when everything was unknown and we were all trying to scream at each other, it felt more stressed. Plus there’s always the time limit–45mins. We all managed to escape our cells but ran out of time to solve the last puzzle to escape from the room itself. A huge amount of fun and something I’d do again in a heartbeat. The kids say it’s one of the best they’ve played.

Everyone had separate plans so I ended up sitting in a Mcdonalds for 2hrs drinking one small coke zero and reading on my ipad. This branch is pretty good, not very crowded. I was waiting for mm to finish to meet her to help her with shopping. Her family is having a gathering this weekend and doing a New Year’s version of Christmas Secret Santa. The budget is local$200, but the difficulty is the gift has to be suitable for her parents (in their 70s) as well as her nieces and nephew (teen and pre-teen). I gave her a magnetic noughts-and-crosses game I’d originally bought for my nieces and she got a box of nice biscuits and a bottle of sparkling grape juice. Under budget too.

We weren’t that hungry so dinner was just noodles. Went to HMV to have a beer and chat for a bit until time to go home.

lisa os

oslisa

Something to look forward to in 2018. The Computer History Museum will be releasing the source code of the legendary Lisa operating system next year, free of charge, for all the play with and sigh nostalgically at the black & white windows that are the precursor to Mac OS.

The story is that in 1979 Steve Jobs visited the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center to check out mouse-driven graphical interfaces. Xerox didn’t know what to do with the technology and allowed Apple engineers to play with it for three days, and the Lisa OS was created based on what they learned at Xerox. Lisa, named after Jobs’ daughter, was very expensive and wasn’t a success, selling only about 100,000 units. Jobs was removed from the Lisa team and placed in the Macintosh team and, well, the rest is history. I’m typing this post on a computer that can trace its tech origins to those three days at Xerox PARC.

Legend is that Bill Gates also visited Xerox PARC and from the visit grew Windows. Jobs accused Gates of stealing from Apple, to which Gates replied:

I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.

I think it’ll be fun to have old Lisa and Mac OS to play with. So many of the menu items and GUI are still relevant today.

lazy day and a still-funny video

It’s Boxing Day and I’m so glad I have no plans. Originally the family was going to do something like an outing but the kids are too tired and they made the decision to take a resting day to shore up energy for the rest of their trip. Very wise. I’m tired and I’m not jetlagged. I spent the day reading, playing candy crush and browsing reddit. Even cooking lunch and dinner were lazy, leftover jobs and I managed to scrounge around and find suitable fresh veg.

This is from 2013, but I was watching it again and it still gave me a big laugh. Background, in May 2013 Microsoft had a one of the worst marketing disasters ever when they launched the Xbox One, which was described by business insider as “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.” The Xbox One was supposed to be the follow up to the hugely successful Xbox 360 but they included features that instantly turned customers away:

  • the console had to be constantly connected to the internet because it needed to be verified every 24hrs and must be online to play
  • all games must be installed to the hard drive, and then the disk will become useless
  • cannot re-use or re-sell the game disks, confusing rules about sharing games with friends
  • $500 price point, $100 more expensive than its rival the PS4

Whoever at Sony came up with the “official playstation used game instructional video” that trolled Microsoft so hard is legendary. 22 seconds of pure genius. It’s almost 5 years old and still funny.

family christmas

Herding cats. I don’t recommend doing it. Still, it was a reasonably enjoyable day. And I don’t remember spending christmas day with so many family members.

Met the extended family and took them via the bus to Middle Island. At least my cousins and their kids were smart, followed directions and it was a joy to see them take in everything. The weather was brilliant, and the 15min walk from the bus stop to the boat pier was really, really nice.

Sis, Rob and Gis had gone there early to get a table, and the food was good as always. I was in charge of the barbeque and grabbed the kids to help me. There was way too much food and we took some away with us.

2017xmas017rocks

Gis took the kids to the beach to play after lunch. So much fun with just sand and rocks. When I joined them we started building rock stacks and ended up with a village. Would have been nice to see the faces on the next set of people to visit the beach.

2017xmas026peak

Braved the crowds and went up to the Peak, had to split the group up into 3 taxis, making sure there’s at least one person in each that knows what they’re doing. A friendly taxi driver in Sis’ group told them that we should get the Madam Tussaud’s combo to skip the peak tram line, which probably saved us 1-2hrs because the queue was horrendous. The waxworks were quite interesting actually, there were movie stars, sports stars, a bunch of unknown K-pop singers and the biggest queue was for President Obama.

I did a bit of playing around on HDR on photoshop, which is why the pic above looks very processed. Uncle A is a big fan of lightroom and I see him play around with it on his phone whenever he takes a group pic. I tend to edit on the mba; on the iphone I just used the camera roll editing tool but I’ll start using either lightroom or photoshop cc.

By the time we escaped from the peak, everyone was tired and still full from lunch. Dinner was wonton noodles and steamed egg custard at the old places. Lots of nostalgia.

bbmm christmas eve

It doesn’t feel like Christmas. I turn around and it’s Christmas Eve already. We have zero decorations at home and only managed to get gifts for my cousin’s family yesterday at the last minute.

Met mm in the afternoon for a simple walk at the fishing village she can reach by ferry. I took the train and walked 10mins. We walked to the end of the promenade, where the shrine is, then back. Played a little pokemon go, some new gen 3 came out.

leiyuemun11sunset

Took the ferry back to her place and it was perfect timing to catch the sunset. Found a hotpot restaurant nearby with unlimited food and they had beer too. Not a huge selection, but suited us. The small selection is probably why we were able to walk-in at 6.30pm.

I was going to take the bus home but mm said she’d drive me. Which involved getting the emergency mechanic out to jump start the car, the battery is so dead that even the doors couldn’t open. We drove to a nearby dessert place but decided against switching off the car so I went and got takeaway dessert. We ate in the car at the park near me, still with the car idling. Hopefully the drive recharges the batteries.

family visit

My aunt L, cousin E and his family from Long Island–his wife A and kids K, M, J–arrived for a visit. I haven’t seen them since I visited them in 2016, and aside from my aunt and cousin, the others had never visited. We’ve been planning and organising lots of stuff to do with them.

Dinner tonight with the whole group at the traditional restaurant where my grandparents first took us. Poor kids, they’re so jetlagged. Little J, who is only 10, spent the entire dinner sleeping in A’s arms.

2017xmas006lights

The eldest, K, who is in college, wasn’t jetlagged so after dinner we took her and auntie L on a whirlwind tour to see the Christmas lights. Very crowded but pretty. Within about 2hrs we took in the harbourfront, Peninsula hotel, the star ferry and lights at Central. Not too shabby for a night’s work.

winter solstice

solstice

Happy Winter Solstice! Supposed to be a traditional family day but it was just a normal day for us. I did make duck breast and a warm quinoa salad for dinner instead of eating leftovers.

It’s the shortest day of the year and the day that marks the beginning of winter. Here’s an oddly satisfying video of two people removing a huge amount of snow from a roof in Nagano prefecture. It’s more than winter in northern Japan, the Tateyama-Kurobe pass is closed and they’ve had winter weather for a while now.

thai rice whisky

We booked and paid for our running away trip to Bangkok in January so it’s time to start putting together some research. Bangkok is an easy city to visit and we know roughly what we want to do already–markets including weekend markets, floating markets, the train market; poking around up and down the river, Ayatthaya if we have time, massage, street food, rooftop bars.

laokhao

mm asked me if Thailand has whisky and I said I don’t think so. Someone did a rundown of alcohol found in Thailand and the selection seems dismal. In terms of locally produced alcohols, it’s beer, some sort of rum, and lao khao which is made from rice. A description of the taste:

initial taste is sharp and sweet though soon the punch of alcohol with a hint of diesel kicks in, burning the throat and filling the nostrils…The burn lasted far longer than should be acceptable and I must admit that I didn’t love the bitter aftertaste.

It’s traditionally made in villages and is a working class drink. An excerpt from chef Andy Ricker’s book The Drinking Food of Thailand:

if you’re making three hundred baht (about nine dollars) a day toiling for twelve hours in the rice fields, you come home not only eager for a drink but also eager for that drink to be strong and cheap. Two bottles of lao khao cost about 130 baht and will get two guys drunk. Two similar-size bottles of beer cost about the same and will get no guys drunk.

Basically, it’s Thailand’s version of moonshine. I can imagine how it tastes–bold, strong and you can feel it going all the way down your throat. It’s made from a starter yeast cake, containing aromatics such as chillis, lemongrass, galangal as well as remnants from previous batches of yeast cakes. Not unlike sourdough starters where each batch contains parents, grandparents, great-grandparents of an aged original product. The cakes are dried then mixed with steamed sticky rice and water to make the beer. Fermentation takes 5-8 days then distilled. In the distillery in Baan Mai that Ricker visited, the distillate is heated over wood fires which gives a subtle smoky flavour. The short fermentation period and lack of aging means the product doesn’t have time to mellow and its edges smoothed out.

It’s not the most refined liquor and is usually drunk with soda water, coke or juice. It’s 2/3rd of all alcohol consumed in Thailand and is apparently very easy to get drunk with it. Alcohol content around 30-40% so it needs to be treated with respect. We should be able to find this at local shops. Probably will get a small bottle and we’ll make sure to have it after lining our stomachs with food beforehand.

turkey->bacon->breakfast

Went to the supermarket to get turkey. Definitely dwindling supplies, most of the ones available are 17-18 pounds. Ovens are small here, so it’s not a surprise that the smaller ones go first. After digging around, I unearthed one that is 14 pounds. Local$360 or £35, not cheap but half the price of the cooked version. Next to it in the freezer cabinet, sausagemeat for stuffing which I passed on. Looked anaemic and expensive too. I did splash out on streaky bacon. None of the fake ham-like bacon normally available. For the purpose of roasting turkey, American bacon will be better than British back bacon but I’m glad I got Waitrose brand.

britishbfast

Talking about bacon, here’s a nice article about full breakfasts in the UK and Ireland, which talks about how different breakfasts reflect their regional origins. All delicious. In England there is fried bread in addition to the full English, nomnomnom. Haggis in Scotland. Potato farls, soda bread, black and/or white pudding in Ireland. In Wales there’ll be the laverbread (not lava bread in the image).

In addition to the laver/lava bread confusion, there’s another HUGE mistake in the image. There’s a bottle of “tomato sauce” in the centre when everyone knows it should be BROWN sauce. Did a non-British person draw this?

the last jedi

lastjedi

I saw The Last Jedi on the first day it came out. My initial reaction was wow, it’s brilliant. Hard to articulate emotions or responses because I was trying to absorb it all.

Second viewing, and I was able to pick out specific scenes, dialogue and action. I still couldn’t absorb everything.

There must be a pavlovian response, because my entire body and mind reacted to the logo, the first bar of the music, and the scroll. There were other trigger points during the next 153 minutes that evoked similar visceral responses. Someone said something; someone did something; a certain scene or shot appeared. The response was duller the second time, because I knew what was happening.

My overall impression, it’s quite Empire like, not only because it’s the middle one of a trilogy, but: a) it’s quite personal and b) the MCs spend the film separated in different places. I thought Kelly Marie Tran as Rose was the standout, not only of the new characters, but of the entire cast. Laura Dern did a good job as Holdo but I didn’t think the character was needed. Benicio del Toro was intriguing. Of the ep7 characters, all the new generation actors did a fantastic job, I followed their progress–rooting for them, being frustrated at and for them, crossed my fingers for them, went on their journeys with them. Mark Hamill acted his socks off and Carrie Fisher was so natural as Leia. Can’t help but have a lump in my throat every time she appeared on screen.

Spoilers from this point, and apologies that there’s not much logic to my thoughts.



Skellig Michael is so beautiful it takes your breath away and it’s the perfect setting for the location of Dagobah v2.0 because of how different the two planets look. Ahch-To is barren and yet as Rey sees in her first Jedi lesson, there is life and death and life again. And we learn the first lesson with her. The Force is around and inside all of us, it’s an energy not just a power that can be gained to do party tricks like lift rocks. And not due to some stupid midichlorian count ridiculousness. The prequels suggested genetics play a big part in acquiring the Force, even though we don’t get any explanation of, say, Obi-Wan’s or Yoda’s parentage. Now we learn that no, that’s not entirely true. A Nobody from Nowhere like Rey (and the broom boy at the end) can also be strong with the Force. When mm asked me about it at the end of the film, I explained it in terms of Harry Potter, which she is more familiar with. Hermione’s parents are muggles and she’s both talented and powerful whereas Ron, with his long Weasley heritage, isn’t automatically born a great wizard.

Luke, in spite of his experience and age, hasn’t changed a whole lot. He’s still whiny and full of self-pity. It’s irritating to hear him say “go away” to Rey one more time. Lucky for him, Yoda is still around to be the voice of reason. With a few sharp words and a few sharp prods he admonishes Luke. Keeping the sacred texts sacred for no good reason, riveting reading they are not. Failure is a part of learning. And when he says, “We are what they grow beyond” it ties in with one of the two biggest messages of Last Jedi: change and renewal. Kylo Ren says it in many ways too: let the past die, kill it, time for something new. GQ‘s review:

This is The Last Jedi’s most brilliant subversion of The Empire Strikes Back, and the moment when it severs ties with the Chosen One narrative that has driven Star Wars since the very beginning.

And that’s why the film is called The Last Jedi. Luke is the last of the old Jedi tradition, and Rey and others will become new Jedi or create a new Jedi-like entity. I think of it as being like Buffy‘s last episode. Instead of one girl in each generation who has the burden of being the slayer, all the Potentials are activated so there will be many, many slayers. The way things work, the universe, everything will be new and different.

But is Luke really gone? I doubt it. If he’s as powerful as we know he is, and also with the way he physically fades away with the tell-tale flutter of his robe, a reasonable explanation is he will return as a Jedi ghost like Yoda and Obi-Wan. He all but assured us of that, his last words to Leia:

No one’s ever really gone.

And to Kylo Ren, sounding just like Han:

See you around, kid.

So we have a good foundation to build on for ep9 and the various spinoff films to come. Even though the entire surviving Resistance can fit comfortably into the Falcon, they will rise again and ignite the spark that Leia talks about again and again.

What about the dark side?

I didn’t see Snoke’s end coming and it took the second viewing to fully appreciate where Kylo Ren is coming from. Forget Snoke, forget Vader, forget the Skywalker/Solo legacy. He’s going to dictate his own future his own way. Well, he wants Rey in with him, but after rejecting him multiple times and finally, symbolically, closing the Falcon‘s door on him, he should learn that it’ll never happen. His character development has been pretty outstanding and it’s time to stop the “bad guy who has good in him” trope and make him a worthy villain. There’s still the power struggle with Hux, and I’d like to see the fabled Knights of Ren make an appearance next.

The battle betwen good and evil will be epic because the other biggest mesage of the film is: balance. The more powerful Light or Dark grows, there will be an equally powerful counter growing to balance it out. That isn’t always addressed in literature or film. Good always wins, and evil is always banished forever. Isn’t Balance a better target because many books and films are about “good turning into bad because there’s no counterbalance.”

Jumping around, sad about the demise of Phasma, she had so much buzz. Not much hope that she can be revived, falling into a huge ball of fire like that. I read a review that questioned the entire exercise of hiring Gwendoline Christie and the most we get to see is one eye. She’s destined to be the Boba Fett of this trilogy.

Sad also about Holdo, but there are some commenters that say it’s a waste of a new character. While an act of heroism is needed, why not have Admiral Ackbar be the one? He’s been with us for so long. Whatever the opinion about Holdo, there is absolutely no question that the scene of the cruiser smashing into Snoke’s ship at light speed is a masterstroke of cinematography. The Atlantic:

Using big ships to crash into other ones is a trope of Star Wars space battles…So: Viewers saw this coming, perhaps shortly before General Hux did. But they didn’t see coming just how beautiful it would look and sound.

The use of slow motion, black and white, and the utter silence. The standout shot for me.

Other random thoughts:

  • love the porgs and the caretakers on Ahch-To; fathiers on Canto Bright are a good idea but the CGI too obvious and they seem fake; meh about the crystal critters on Crait
  • not sure what the point is of Luke milking those lounging creatures then drinking the milk. To show his routine, as Rey says, he’s not busy. To try to shock her? A callback to the blue milk we first saw him drink when he was still living with his aunt and uncle on Tatooine?
  • Rey getting sucked into the black hole that symbolises the dark side and confronting her darkest fears is exactly the same as Luke going into the cave at Dagobah
  • “I’m holding for General Hugs” — the subtitles say “Hugs” and even if it’s creative licence from the subtitlers it’s great
  • Leia surviving space and floating back to the cruiser defies all logic and yes, I know they are trying to say it’s the Force
  • rebel cruiser running away from first order fleet to stay out of canon range before running out of fuel sounds almost like a joke
  • Canto Bright is too contrived, our first look at the casino and the music sounds a little like the Cantina but it all falls short
  • R2D2 being crafty and playing Leia’s message from all those years ago to Luke
  • Crait is very cool, red clay underneath a salt crust
  • how did Rey get from Snoke’s ship to the Falcon in time to lure the First Order fighters away? Anyway, love love love when Finn says, “Oooh, they HATE that ship”
  • “I changed my hair” — cry
  • “lifting rocks”
  • it was more obvious on subsequent watching that it’s Luke’s projection that is fighting against Kylo Ren, I didn’t catch Luke’s shoes twisting on the ground and no red footprints first time
  • nobody said “I have a bad feeling about this”

Last words? I don’t have any myself. I’ll borrow from a redditor who described himself as a jaded fan:

I have always maintained that a movie isnt good unless you can leave from it with something changed within you. And looking back, there was more meaning in this movie than I would have ever given it credit for going into it. Was it a good story? It was alright. Was it perfect? In no way. But it did its job. It took a jaded fan, broke his heart and rebuilt it with new hope. It gave me a different perspective on my life, and the changes I’ve made since I was that 6yo kid first watching Star Wars. And it showed me that its ok to feel that way, too…but to never forget why.

And I hope I dont.

“It’s not about fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”

bbmm accidental whisky tasting

Went out for haircut then met mm, our plan was to go to the expo. Ha! Talk about best laid plans of mice and men.

We saw a whisky shop and the rest of the day was shot.

whisky20171218

We were just browsing and then got chatting with the gentleman who worked there. They had samples for tasting, like HP12, Glenfarclas 105, Ardbeg Corryvrekan. Then as we talked more and tasted more, he introduced us to Aberlour a’bunadh, Glengoyne and several different ages of Glenfarclas, which was what we were interested in. He also gvae us several independent bottlers samples of Mortlach, an islay blend that was so fantastic, and one from cambeltown that I can’t remember the name.

The one independent bottler he recommded for daily drinking was Mcdonald’s Ben Nevis which was a special edition to celebrate Ben Nevis’ 185th year and the whisky was made in a way that attempted to recreated the traditional taste. NAS and apparently only 5 years old but tasted richer, with notes of dried fruit and subtle peat. Ben Nevis was bought by Nikka in 1989, who had been purchasing grain and malt from the distillery for years. Normal Ben Nevis uses the distinctive NIkka bottle but Mcdonald’s follows a more traditional model.

And finally, he brought out the big guns. We asked him which were his favourites and he went to the back and brought out a few bottles, saying let’s try sherry casks. The Glengoyne 21 (£110) we tasted already, Glendronach 21 Parliament (£115), and The Macallan 10 cask strength that is no longer available and sometimes available at auctions for over £500. He has it for almost £700. For the same price, there’s a 41 year old speyside whisky (can’t remember distillery) and he only has 3 bottles left.

We were tempted by the Macallan 10 and the 41 year old, but decided to think about it first. I did end up getting a bottle of the Mcdonald’s Ben Nevis.

Oh, he has Ardbeg Alligator, Rollercoaster and Supernova too, but I didn’t see Galileo. I need to get that Alligator.

By the time we left the shop it was too late to go to the expo. We had a quick dinner and went home.

you don’t take a photograph; you ask quietly to borrow it

You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it — Unknown

A couple of photography related topics.

kurvdcover

First, this universal lens cap currently available on kickstarter. US$30 each, but one free if the campaign is shared on social media, making it $15 each. It’s a stretchable material that covers the entire lens and is supposed to be waterproof, dirtproof and shatterproof. It can completely cover a small lens which does give it more protection.

A generic 77m replacement lens cover is $4.99 on amazon, so does the kurvd cover justify being three times the price? I’m attracted to it being able to cover more of the lens than just the cover and the plastic material helps if the lens is dropped on a hard surface. The problem with these small accessories is they’re not too expensive and it’s easy to spend money on them.

As a distraction, here’s the most popular photo from flickr’s top 25 photos of 2017, say goodbye…” by Iwona Podlasinska. There are also various themed top photos like architecture, landscape, sports as well as top photos from countries like Canada and India.

say goodbye...

According to fastcompany, the photos were initially picked based on how often an image was viewed, shared or bookmarked but human editors had the final say. Although over 50% of photos uploaded on flickr were taken by an iPhone, all of the top 25 were taken using a conventional camera. What struck me about some of the photos that made the top 25 lists, is how artificial some of them are. Not to knock the photogrpher’s skill, but it seemed that Lightroom skills were more important than framing, lighting and composition.

thank you, @mrdavidwhitley

farageskint

This was on twitter and too good to pass up. Background: Nigel Farage says he’s skint. Yes, the Nigel Farage who lives in a £4m house in Chelsea, and draws a £90,000+expenses salary as an MEP. That the ultimate Brexiter is an MEP is an oxymoron in the extreme. Anyway, this is the tweetstorm thread from David Whitley.

Or to read on this page, thanks to spooler for storifying it:

I hope his boiler breaks down.

I hope he loses his car key, and getting it replaced is a costly bureaucratic nightmare.

I hope the delivery he was waiting for arrives when he’s at the sorting office picking up the delivery he missed two days ago.

I hope his favourite pub gets turned into a Zizzi.

I hope his bank makes him change his online banking password to something he’ll never remember, and he has to go through a needlessly complicated reset password procedure every time he tries to log on.

I hope he goes to a toilet in a shopping centre, has a shit, then realises there’s no toilet paper.

I hope he puts a washload on, forgets about it for two days, and when he finally opens the machine all his clothes have attained a permanently damp smell.

I hope he has to spend a day repeatedly going back to B&Q.

I hope he gets home hungry, puts a ready meal in the oven while he has a shower, then comes back downstairs 25 minutes later to find he didn’t turn the oven on.

I hope the chip in his passport breaks, so he has to stand in a queue every time rather than going through the e-gates.

I hope he drops his phone in the urinal, leading to it only working intermittently, but being fine when he takes it into the phone shop to see if he can replace it for free under contract.

I hope he gets a cotton bud stuck in his ear while trying to dewax it, then has to explain it to a nurse who keeps saying: “You do know it specifically says not to do that on the box, don’t you?”

I hope he spills a glass of red wine on his carpet, then when frantically trying to clean it, knocks the table, sending the rest of the bottle onto another bit of the carpet.

I hope, while wrapping presents, he slightly misjudges the amount of wrapping paper needed, and has to start over again. Then, when there’s one present left, to run out of wrapping paper.

I hope he’s horrifically hungover and gets stuck in traffic with a really chatty taxi driver who just won’t take the hint.

I hope Windows 10 does a massive update on his computer when he’s trying to print out tickets at the last minute.

I hope he’s away for bin day after Christmas, and his neighbours don’t put his bin out for him.

I hope his favourite Quality Street is discontinued.

I hope his hotel room has really inadequate curtains, and there’s a streetlamp directly outside.

I hope there’s a little icon at the top of his phone, indicating that he has new messages, but he never has any new messages and doesn’t know how to make the icon go away.

I hope he has to wait in all day for an electrician, and when the electrician finally arrives, he doesn’t have the part needed and it’s too late to go and buy one.

I hope he loses the pub quiz by one point, following an answer that is technically correct, but the quizmaster won’t allow it because it’s not what he’s got written down.

I hope he changes mobile phone service provider to save £5 a month, then realises the reception is really poor in all but the least used room in his house.

I hope he orders a lot of furniture from John Lewis that he thinks will be delivered ready-assembled, but actually requires a whole weekend of flat pack self-assembly.

I hope he cuts his lawnmower cable while mowing the lawn, spends £75 on getting an electrician to repair it, then immediately cuts it again in a different place within three minutes of restarting lawnmowing duties.

I hope he gets a document that’s slightly too big for the drawer in the filing cabinet it belongs in, meaning he has to change his entire filing system to accommodate it.

I hope his credit card company blocks his card as a precautionary measure every time he tries to use it abroad, even though he repeatedly tells them he spends a lot of time abroad for work.

I hope all the chargers for his electrical devices require slightly different connections.

I hope the alarm on his phone has failed to go off on at least two occasions, so that he’s now eternally paranoid about it not working, and can never get to sleep when he’s got an early start the next day.

I hope all supermarkets remove his favourite sandwich from their Meal Deal.

I hope every time he fills in a passport application form, he absent-mindedly puts the current year instead of his year of birth, then has to go back to the Post Office the next day to get another form.

polar city books

polarcitycover

I finished the Deverry series, will write up my thoughts later. May be after I read them all again, going through the storyline chronologically; I was keeping track as I was reading along.

Next up, Katharine Kerr’s science fiction books, starting with Polar City Blues and Polar City Nightmare. It’s definitely a change from fantasy and took a little getting used to. The setting is the future, on a very hot planet called Hagar that humankind from Old Earth had settled at some point. There are many different species of the Mapped Sector, of which humans are one. Humans and lizards are part of the Republic, a small “country” system dwarved by two larger civilisations called the Confederation and the Alliance. Both the Cons and the Lies have embassies on Polar City, which is where the action happens.

The MCs are Mulligan, a psychic who is bitter that his psychic abilities prohibited him from playing in the baseball majors, and Lacey, an independent ex-military information-gatherer / ears-on-the ground type of anti-hero. There are other side characters like the police chief, a doctor for the homeless, and Lacey’s computer Buddy. Computers in that universe are more AI with sentient capabilities than mere machines. Others include police and embassy staff, and in the second book, a lot of baseball players. Baseball seems to be a big thing there.

Both books are mysteries, Polar City Blues revolve around a new alien species and killer bacteria; Polar City Nightmare about the theft of an important artefact and a few murders. Both are enjoyable, to a point. The writing was great, the story was fast-paced and the ideas a combination of new and old. I liked Polar City Blues more because the characters are more interesting. In Polar City Nightmare I felt there were too many characters and I was beginning to lose track.

There are some interesting tropes. Causasian people are a minority and speech patterns have changed to reflect some sort of pidgin, Spanish-based English. Instead of saying “I’m not giving that woman any money” they say “I no give that donna no money.” Instead of “didn’t” it’s “dint.” The way psychics communicate is a jumble of words and emotion:

Little brother >be calm.
Can’t. Killer want>find me>>slit my throat.
Rick guard>I guard> you>>be calm. No/wait. >We do work>> distract. Garden work? [gladness]
Not garden work. Mind work. [pain, irritation, reluctance]

Time is flipped over too. They still use standard time like us, but because the planet is so hot, they go to bed during the day and wake up during the night. So their day will start around 1700 or 1800 and lunch is at 0000.

Polar City Nightmare was written with Kate Daniels, and about a carli (one of the other species) artefact stolen from the embassy somehow ending up in the possession of a player from the baseball team that won the planet’s equivalent of the world series. Many people from many different groups are after the artefact, there are bodies everywhere, and it’s up to Lacey, Mulligan, Chief Bates and a slew of other characters to solve it all. I felt it has a lot of potential but faltered in the execution. I don’t know why, may be because it was co-written or may be it needed better editing. For instance Lacey will be referred to as Lacey or as Bobbie (her first name). I can understand the narrator using Lacey and a family member referring to her as Bobbie, but in the same sentence is a bit jarring and is due to lacklustre editing.

This is what Kit said about Polar City Blues:

In some ways Polar City Blues is my tribute to the classic SF I read as a teenager. In other ways, it’s a heavily Revisionist book, where the Hero is female and the Object of Desire is male. Mostly, however, it’s a fast-paced adventure story complete with dead bodies, hookers, drugs, mysterious aliens, and several high-speed chases both on the ground and elsewhere.

There’s a short excerpt on her website too.

Next up, the Nola O’Grady series.

roast beef

roastbeef

Was at the supermarket to check out turkey for Christmas. Normally we get ready cooked but it’s too expensive and the size is no better than a large chicken. So I’m going to cook it myself this year. Not a huge selection: 10-12, 12-14 and 14-16 pounds. We have to clear space in the freezer before getting one. And I have to find a good stuffing recipe.

What I saw was a beef joint for roasting in the fresh meat section. Sell-by date today so discounted to 1/3rd its sticker price. I can’t remember the last time I made roast beef, may be 20 years ago in London. It’s only a small joint, just under 1kg, and off the bone. I had to double check the roasting time and after researching, decided to follow a mix of Leiths’ and Jamie’s methods.

The timing is from Prue: 20mins at 220ºC then 30mins at 170ºC for this 1kg joint. The vegetable trivet idea is from Jamie: place the seasoned joint on a bed of mirepoix to catch the drippings. I had space in the roasting tray so I cubed some potatoes to make roast spuds. During resting, I made the gravy directly in the pan from the mirepoix, drippings, added chicken stock and a glass of red wine. I didn’t strain off the veg, kept it in the gravy.

There’s a bit of chewy sinew that made carving slightly difficult but I was well pleased that I got it rare-medium rare. Good beef taste; it’ll last us 3 meals.

bbmm lunch, travel agent

daikiya01sashimi

Met mm for lunch at the AYCE Jap place that opened a new branch in cwb. It’s very spacious, and offers set lunches too. Not many people for the buffet which suited us. Instead of ordering via the thick menu books, we order via an app. Of course, there’s an app. Items not on the app menu are at the central counter so we can take ourselves. Large drinks selection too, in addition to a huge fridge of soft drinks, juices, beer and cider plus another area for hot drinks, there were dispensers of cocktails, umeshu and hot and cold sake. Their other shop only allows one special ice cream per person but here it was as much as we like.

Quality was good, especially the sashimi and sushi selection. We found the grilled food selection extremely salty so kept to vegetables which were less salty. Despite the free-for-all ice cream, we only managed one. Oh, lots of hot sake too.

Walked around afterwards, at the dollar store and then at the park. Stopped off at the travel agent to get information about our long awaited running away trip. Not too far away or too ambitious, just to bangkok. Last time we went was coming back from safari in kenya, and that was almost 10 years ago.

Too full from lunch, didn’t need dinner at all.

india club on the strand

indiaclub

This was one of Marina O’Loughlin’s last reviews for the guardian and found its way to londonist too. I’m talking about The India Club restaurant at the Hotel Strand Continental.

The Hotel Strand Continental, despite its location on the Strand, is nothing to write home about. It’s looks rundown from the outside, and the entrance is next to what used to be a newsagent/Indian shop and is now apparently Gregg’s. I must have walked past it a couple of thousand times because of its proximity to King’s. But I never ever gave it a second thought. I asked mm and other KCL friends and no one remembers it.

Oh what a missed opportunity. The restaurant has been there since 1946, when it was founded by Krishna Menon, the first Indian ambassador to the UK. Its poximity to India House, both King’s and LSE, Fleet Street, and so many chambers means it’s a favourite for academics, judges, lawyers, journalists and embassy staff. The prices seem to be from 1946 too. The menu is a plastic sheet and full of familiar south Indian fare: masala puri chaat, lamb bhuna, butter chicken, masala dosa. Nothing to write home about, not instagram worthy, and they may or may not make their own naan. But BYOB and £15 per head average. Ms O’Loughlin said she’d go back again and again, not because of the food, but:

out of deep affection. I love it in the same way I’m drawn to the novels of Anita Brookner or EM Forster; to small films set in run-down Roman apartment blocks and gloomy Indian call centres; to side streets in unknown cities where old milliners and haberdashers miraculously survive, their windows shielded by sepia-coloured film.

It’s no Dishoom, but seems more the vibe and atmosphere that Dishoom wants to emulate and “modernise.” And the fact that it’s not modern seems to be the charm. £15 in central London? Right next to our beloved college? Definitely a must-visit when we finally make it back to London. I hope that it’ll still be there because it’s in danger of being swallowed by greedy property developers. There’s a petition and a project to get English Heritage listed status for the building. Good luck to them.

#fourfoods of the apocalypse

There was a game a few years ago that asked, what food will you choose to eat after the apocalypse. The rules:

the world has ended…somehow you have a magic refrigerator. This brilliant genius of an appliance holds a constant supply of salt, pepper, oil, flour and sugar — and four other foods.

PICK FOUR FOODS.

Assume there are cooking and storage facilities; and no need to worry about pesky things like nutrition and vitamins. The food has to be core ingredients, so no meatlover’s pizza or chicken curry with rice or beef wellington. And these are all the food you will eat for the rest of your existence.

The authors of the article asked their colleagues and on twitter and came up with a good selection, some are quite specific like sharp white cheddar:

  • whole chicken, spinach, bacon, vanilla ice cream
  • dark chocolate, avocados, eggs, tomatoes
  • eggs, apples, butternut squash, hot sauce
  • heirloom tomatoes, sharp white cheddar, pork belly, eggs
  • steak, black beans, avocado, bourbon
  • coconut, papaya, eggs, rum

They even asked professional chefs:

  • Curtis Stone: asparagus, avocado, eggs, goat cheese
  • Jessica Koslow of Sqirl: feta, brown rice, meyer lemons, kale
  • Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Café: tomatoes, garlic, eggs, pecorino cheese
  • Thomas Kelly of Mexicue Kitchen + Bar: chilies, eggs, rice, lemons
  • Zak Walters of Salt’s Cure: whole chicken, avocados, collard greens, Beaujolais wine

fourfoodsapocalypse

Sis says: rice, eggs, tomato, chocolate; my niece says: rice, eggs, cheese, chocolate; can’t quite remember what mm says but it’s something like: fish, eggs, beetroot, and one other, probably chocolate.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off. My choices:

  • eggs — it seems to be very popular with many people, because it’s so versatile and can be used for baking, cooking, frying. I’m going to cheat and say live chicken or duck, so I get meat, bones and eggs. Even at the cost of having to learn how to kill them. I mean, it’s the apocalypse, so I’ll have plenty of time. Personally I’ll go for duck because it’s tastier and I can get lots of duck fat, good with…
  • potatoes including sweet potatoes — this is supposed to be a good choice because if we had to survive on one single food forever, potato is one of the best. The leaves from the sweet potatoes will be my green veg element and takes the place of kale or savoy cabbage, which would have been my first choices for veg. I can use potatoes to make yeast and use it for bread and for fermentation. Imagine potato vodka, beer, and even wine because I’ll have…
  • grapes — not only wine, but I can make vinegar from it, that provides the essential acidic element for cooking. Many people choose lemons, but I think grapes have more potential. In addition to eating whole and making vinegar, they can be dried to get raisins, and frozen grapes are a delicious treat. Even though for some reason grape ice cream isn’t a thing, it is possibe in small batches, provided there is…
  • coconut — to make coconut milk which is supposed to be a great base for non-dairy ice cream. Originally I thought of picking milk for this spot, but most of what milk can do, coconut milk can do. With whole coconuts, there’s delicious coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil, and the flesh can be used as food or dried for seasoning and crunch. With vinegar made from the grapes, I should be able to make some sort of cheese-like curd or yogurt with the coconut milk

So all in all, I’m fairly happy with my choices. If duck+eggs isn’t allowed, I’ll go for just the duck and sacrifice eggs. If duck+eggs is allowed and I get additional spots, I’ll add prawn, avocado or cheese: proper cheese and not the iffy stuff I’ll get from coconut milk, grape vinegar and whatever else I conjure up.

Some games allow for one luxury item and people may pick steak, chocolate, or some other indulgence. It’s a no-brainer for me: whisky.

#firstworldproblem: sausage rolls vs bake-off #gbbo

A truly British #firstworldproblem cropped up today. I had a craving for sausage rolls for a couple of days, and forgot to get them yesterday when I went to the market. It’s dead easy to get, if I’m not picky. The chain bakery has branches everywhere, including at most stations.

The problem is, Bake-off season 8 is on just when I wanted to go get the sausage rolls. They’re showing 2 eps back-to-back; today is eps 3 and 4.

Well, okay, moot point. I’m recording the entire season so I can watch it anytime. So I went to the station, got my sausage rolls, stopped off at the small supermarket to get staples like spaghetti and ketchup, and was back home in time to watch the second ep of the day. I can go back and watch the other ep later.

flowatermeloncake

I was all prepared to dislike this season because of the follow the dough thing but I’ve enjoyed watching it so far. Same format, same tent, same music. Prue is a good Mary substitute, and I can get my Mary fix on her own program anyway. Sandi sounds almost like Mel and Sue, and although not as cheeky, she is warm and funny, as we know she is. Noel started off unsteady but ignoring the comparisons with Mel & Sue, he’s quirky and likeable. He seems genuinely pleased to be there and mingling with all the bakers. And it’s the bakers that are, as always, the stars of the show. This group is the same, with casting as diverse as a mainstream program can get. My favourites so far are Liam with his flavours and Yan with her scientific, and sometimes not so scientific (making caramel by sight without a thermometer?), approach. And how about Flo’s watermelon cake? Wow.

I know the elimination order, which is the one disadvantage of watching such a popular program after the fact. But it doesn’t matter. I’m just grateful I can watch it and let’s forget the irony of season 8 on a BBC channel.

r/mildlyinteresting

Lazy weekend with zero plans, aside from going to the market to stock up on veg. Which I did, and came home huffing because I bought almost exclusively roundish, heavy veg–potato, sweet potato, jicama, kohlrabi, celery (okay, not round), pepper (okay, not heavy). The small supermarket is 33% off, so I bought wine and a pack of 6 fizzy water. Everything in my backpack and one shopping bag; my other hand had to carry the water.

So, what better to spend the rest of the day looking through r/mildlyinteresting stuff.

Top post this week: This library has a directory for topics people might be embarrassed to ask for

librarytoughtopics

Once and again, librarians prove they are wonderful people. A librarian chimed in:

The profession has something called the Code of Ethics which we are all supposed to follow. Part of those ethics are: I. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources. II. We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted. III. We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.

And of course, some “concerned parents” in Albany, NY saw a version of this poster and complained, saying that the library shouldn’t be encouraging kids to look up this type of information. Luckily, according to the library’s assistant director, they had mostly positive feedback. Hope they don’t buck to the pressure and change or take down the poster. Never cater to the lowest common denominator.

Top post this month: This Toothpaste describes what each of its ingredient is and its purpose

toothpastepurpose

Not as interesting as the library poster, which is why the sub is for mildly interesting things. The interesting thing for me is how water is described as aqua and its purpose is as a moistener. And here I’m reminded that moist is the most hated word in english.

The toothpaste in question is kingfisher, and the mildly interesting factor is I’ve never heard of it before.

Top post this year: Without barriers the British still know how to queue!

britishqueue

Someone recognised it as the O2 arena, so people are getting inside for a concert or something like that. In any event, it’s a long queue and it makes me proud to see the organised snake formation even without barriers. On reddit, people make a big deal (and show a lot of admiration) for the British way of queuing. I think the orderliness appeals to many redditors who are basically introverts and like organisation.

Sometimes I see queues that go beyond the barriers and they deteriorate into an utter mess even though people are trying to queue. In some other places or countries the queue will be a single line that extends to past the main doors and to the outside, very ineffective usage of space. One of the most irritating things to see is a queue for an ATM where people stand right on the pavement and block foot traffic, instead of queuing up parallel to the wall.

That said, the intricate snail-like line at the pokemongo fest in Chicago last summer was a work of art, even though there were volunteers there directing traffic. And I can imagine a similar scenario in Japan, the queue will be even more organised.

gifts for writers

treepod

My friend S linked to this wonderful page of best gifts for writers.

On fb she tagged me, saying that the treepod would suit me. OMG, how did she know!?!11!?!! The treepod is a portable treehouse made from either canvas (for indoors) or canvas+mesh (for outdoors) that is secured to any ceiling or tree to give a private sanctuary for writing and other activities like reading or relaxing. It’s one of the gifts on the list that appeal most to me, even though there is zero space in my room right now. If I were back in the flat, I can consider it, it’ll probably fit the bay window space pretty well. Other drool-worthy gifts include a global wifi hotspot, not for writing per se but for travelling; and a bunch of notebooks, some of which are wifi enabled. I’m not big on notebooks, I can do with evernote, instapaper and scrivener plus a plain text editor. Talking about apps, scrivener is on there too. Hmm, I have a nano code again this year that I don’t need.

For some reason, the list has A LOT of coffee products. If I received any of those they will go straight to mm, hahaha. There’s snack box and wine subscription, and of course the obligatory Writers Tears, which I can get at the local m&s. There are some intangible gifts too that will benefit some people. Apps, membership of relevant societies, spotify subscription.

Get to the bottom of the list, and S has one of the best gifts:

helping your beloved author’s career

by buying their book, gifting their book, and helping promote it by reviewing it. Good one.

bbmm happy hour at jamie’s

hhjamies201712

Met mm in the evening. Initially we were meeting at 7pm at the apple store so I can show her the mbp I have my eye on. I was early because I wanted to get some errands done first, but I was done by 6.30pm. Walked past Jamie’s and saw they had a tiered happy hour, between 6-7pm selected drinks only local$10, or around £1. Double the price between 7-8pm and triple between 8-9pm. Even then, $30 is good value. Only a slight catch, must only order from hh menu (ie house wines only) and standing room at the bar, not even high stools. The house red is malbec, and the house white veneto. There was also prosecco, beers, 3 cocktails and 3 mocktails. Decent selection.

Good thing I stopped there instead of heading to the apple store because mm was, what a surprise, late. She didn’t get there till 7.30pm. We ordered some bar snacks and I had another glass of wine.

By the time we were ready to leave it was 8.30pm. We thought of going to a AYCE hotpot place, but I had my reservations because it’d be late when we finish. We ended up having sashimi rice at a place a couple of doors down from Jamie’s. It was better than hotpot, the fish was fresh and the rice was well cooked.

pan-fried quail

quail201712

I see a lot of masterchef contestants make quail, because it’s quick to cook yet needs confidence because it’s not as commonly available or as easy to cook as chicken or duck. Plus, it’s chef-y.

I bought frozen quail from the japanese supermarket. Quite expensive, but definitely less expensive than eating out, as usual. I remember mm used to use it to make soup back when we were living in london.

The first batch a few weeks ago I roasted in the oven with a knob of butter inside. Took around 15mins, and it was really delicious. This time, I wanted to treat it in a more classic way. What’s more classic than to follow Jacques Pépin’s method for deboning? He made it look so easy. I was able to do it more or less the same way he did, although the end result didn’t look as neat. I used the bones to make sauce, supplementing it with a few more duck bones. Such a huge advantage to have bones in the freezer. Browned the bones for a good 20mins, then deglazed the pan with chicken stock. Ordinarily they teach us to deglaze with wine, but unless there’s a bottle already open, or I was about to start drinking a bottle, it’s not practical.

Pan fried the quail for around 10mins, until just cooked. I think I may have overcooked the breast, because it didn’t have the pinkness of medium rare meat and were a tad mushy. Overall, I found quail to be more forgiving than I expected because everything tasted great. When I was browning the duck and quail bones, there was a bit of fat rendered off so I used it to sauté leftover baked potato that I cubed.

I spent more time deboning and making the sauce than the actual cooking of the quail. Flavour-wise I prefer the last batch because: a) roasted on the bone and b) butter, butter, butter. Next time I’ll spatchcock then roast in butter, I think this will give the best tasting and best looking results.

eat more chocolate, win a Nobel prize

chocnobel

This came from a reddit thread about a paper presented in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 entitled Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates. The paper needs to be accessed from authorised (aka paid) sources but it was extensively discussed by Stanford professor Sanjay Basu in his public health blog. The NEJM paper claimed that:

chocolate consumption enhances cognitive function

based on the correlation between chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel Laureates in a selected sample of countries (r = 0.791 P < 0.0001). According to the authors, this is due to the beneficial effect of the flavanols contained in cocoa.

Prof Basu rightly called the paper:

the worst example of medical statistical misadventure we’ve seen in years.

Researchers from Belgium wrote in the Journal of Nutrition and sided with Prof Basu in dismissing the paper. They pointed out that this is a classic case of ecological inference fallacy, where conclusions about group data is drawn from individual data with no relationship between group and individuals presented. In other words:

the observed correlation is in fact based on country-averaged chocolate consumption and not on the actual consumption of Nobel Laureates themselves.

The two sets of data points have no commonality whatsoever. Chocolate consumption was over a 2 year period for the entire country, whereas the count of Nobel Laureates was over time. Some of the said laureates weren’t even alive during the 2 year chocolate consumption period. The Belgian researchers found an even higher correlation (r = 0.82 P < 0.0001) between the number of Ikea stores and Nobel Laureates in a country, a correlation they used to illustration the fact that it’s so meaningless that it’s laughable. All correlations do is to give a numerical relationship between data points, it’s up to the researcher to give meaning to the correlation. In some cases, there is no meaning.

The interesting observation is how the original paper even got through peer review into a journal. Was it meant to be ironic or humorous? Who knows. The research design comes into question. I’ve always thought of research as following the process of: do experiments -> make observations -> arrive at conclusion -> propose theory. This is the most traditional research method, especially in the natural sciences. In talking with mm, her professor seems to take the opposite approach: predict desired outcomes for theory -> design experiment/study -> get results that confirm theory. Seems to be a common method in social sciences.

researchmethods

There are different names for these research designs. Bottom up research is called exploratory or inductive research. The opposite, the top down approach, is called confirmatory or deductive research. Which is better, which more effective, that’s a difficult question to answer. It depends on the overall goals and the specific topic, I guess. Doing a lot of experiments lead to more new knowledge. Knowing what results you want may lead to more effective experiments but may not advance the overall knowledgebase. I don’t know the answer. All I know is, eating more chocolate does not, unfortunately, lead to winning Nobel Prizes.

ublock origin

I finally made the switch from adblock plus to ublock origin. I haven’t been 100% happy with ABP for a while, the process for adding filters wasn’t straightforward and they kept letting facebook ads through. Perhaps more of a fb issue rather than eeyo’s, but for the end user, it’s all the same.

uBlock origin overtook ABP around 1-2 years ago in terms of functionality and success in blocking ads. There’s still a lot of discussion about which is better. ABP is a more recognised brand, and most newbies stick to it. uBO appeals to the more technical minded.

The long and short of it is, both are good. And whichever one the user picks, is better than no adblocker at all. The more compelling arguments for uBO:

  • lighter strain on CPU and RAM
  • more available filter lists
  • ABP has better UI but uBO has more functionalities for techies to customise
  • opensource and a developer who isn’t out to make money by offering advertisers a place on the whitelist in exchange for payment

ublockorigin

I used it out of the box and it’s more or less the same as ABP for most websites. Where there was a difference, was on fb. I use fb much less than before and when I’m on I’ve been battling ads, sponsored posts and the “people you may know” stupidity, but wasn’t able to get the filters right in ABP. uBO gave me 2 straightforward ways of handling them, the easiest is to enable Adguard filters. For the odd annoyance that slipped through, adding the fiter is so intuitive. Click on the element picker eyedropper, highlight the whole element and create the filter. uBO also handled blocking the right column better, as in I was able to block the entire right column vs in ABP that caused the css to go funny.

Seriously, if you don’t have an adblocker, get one. All those arguments that adblocking is evil and all that is rubbish and selfish. Those people do not have the users’ best interests in mind at all.

p.s. yes I know about fb purity, I want an add-on that can handle ads and annoyances outside fb too.

the last jedi supercut

It’s December, which means ep 8 soon.

Someone put together a 4min supercut of all trailers and commercials we’ve seen so far. There are naturally A LOT of theories and analysis of the trailers, and I’m trying to stay away from them all. I’m focusing on reading about the events that happened between ep6 and ep7, all gathered from canon and EU places like novels, games, comics.

But anyway, mm has promised to watch it with me. She has a few days off after the 15th so we can even try going on a weekday.

food broken down to ingredients

via colossal, Danish photographer Mikkel Jul Hvilshøj arranged raw ingredients that make up a recipe in a photoshoot for a cookware producer. Have to think about some of them, it’s not immediately obvious.

foodingredients01

This is breaded fish filet, I’m guessing. The fish is filetted then coated in breadcrumbs and pan-fried.

foodingredients02

Carrot, onion, celeriac, oil, bones, tomato. I’m thinking soup or stock. More likely soup, because of the celeriac.

foodingredients03

This I have no clue. Milk is the only ingredient I can safely identify, unless it’s cream. What are the dry ingredients? Sugar, salt, flour? And the dark powder is chocolate? The pyramid at the lower right looks like either butter or cheese. The circular blob top right, I give up. Honey? Argh.