in challenges , eating and drinking |

Task #18 in 30 in 30 is to plan a three course menu. Note, it’s plan not execute. Two reasons: I had wanted to do a homecooked 3-course meal for my birthday but a) it was met with general skeptism (“are you sure you don’t want to go out for a meal? So much trouble”) and b) I was on vacation. But I still want to plan this, because I think it’d be fun and it’s a task in 101 in 1001. Which means I have until 2016.

In thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that there are at least 2 different menus. One is the menu I want to cook and the second is the one I will end up cooking because of time, skill and also to fit the tastes of other people in my family.

ideal menu

salmoneggroll RIMG0011
xmas11004ballotine queenofpuddings01

starter — salmon three ways
salmon sashimi with ikura (salmon roe), grilled teriyaki salmon bites, salmon egg roll
Salmon with ikura is pretty standard sashimi fare, I’m thinking of dicing the salmon and serving it with the ikura on a spoon. The teriyaki recipe I haven’t tried, but sounds straightforward. The salmon roll is a Donna Hay recipe from one of her books: smoked salmon and crunchy greens rolled in a thin omelette. I made it for an office pot luck it was very popular and it’s an easy recipe to follow. The good thing about all three salmon dishes is that they can be served cold.

main — ballotine of duck with roasted beetroot, sautéed potatoes, pumpkin purée and red wine jus
I’ve made poached chicken using the ballotine, or roll, method. I’ve also cooked with duck. Found a recipe for duck ballotine that involves rolling it in pancetta. Sounds good. Instead of duck trimmings and assorted herbs for the filling, I think using a combination of smoked duck and duck offal will work. Hopefully it’ll look like the three birds ballotine from m&s I bought a couple of christmases ago.

I’d like to use red and yellow mini beets, but I know I won’t be able to get them, sigh. Duck goes with fruit like orange or plum or berries. I think though that with the beets and pumpkin there is enough sweetness in the dish and just a normal red wine reduction will work better. May be a squeeze of orange juice.

dessert — queen of puddings
This is one of the great british puddings I haven’t tried yet. It’s basically a breadcrumb custard topped with meringue. I’m looking at a couple of recipes, one by Mary Berry who is the queen of puddings and baking, and one for manchester pudding which is the same as queen of puddings.

I rather like the idea of serving in individual glass ramekins, except I don’t have any. My ramekins are ceramic for soufflés, and my glass dishes can’t be used in an oven. Ah well.

actual menu

surfturf02 bakedcheesecake03

starter — salmon three ways
I think I can stick with the salmon three ways starter. I do need to find myself a rectangular plate though.

main — surf and turf
If I’m making something for the family, or for a birthday, it’s better to make crowd-pleasing items. What’s better than surf and turf? I used to have a tradition of making it for my birthday, back when I was in Chicago or London and can actually get good quality steak at reasonable prices. The surf part can be either lobster or prawns, to be honest I prefer the latter.

dessert — baked cheesecake
Another crowdpleaser and something I made before. Again, suitable for birthdays and family gatherings. Best thing is, it has to be made the day before.

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in challenges |


15 days. 15 tasks done. I set the challenge knowing that I will be on vacation for part of it, with tasks generic enough to complete wherever I was. I don’t think it affected the quality of the challenge.

  1. do more than 50 squats in one set // done
  2. do more than 50 crunches in one set // done
  3. 30 day shred level 1
  4. 30 day shred level 2
  5. 30 day shred level 3
  6. run/walk/bike 30mins // done
  7. run/walk/bike 60mins // done
  8. take a walk somewhere with fresh air // done
  9. do something relaxing // done
  10. sleep early // done

  11. food & drink
  12. 5 different vegetables in a day // done
  13. 3 different fruits in a day // done
  14. no red meat day // done
  15. no alcohol day // done
  16. no snack day // done
  17. new savoury recipe
  18. new sweet recipe
  19. plan 3 course menu

  20. family
  21. treat for my birthday // done
  22. treat for mm birthday // done
  23. activity with family
  24. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11

  25. read/write
  26. finish outline for PP
  27. 1000 words PP
  28. find font for LL cover
  29. read a new author

  30. photography
  31. submit to a photography challenge
  32. photo topic: box
  33. photo topic: travel
  34. photo topic: water // done

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in being healthy , challenges |

Task #6 in 30 in 30 is to run/walk/bike for 30 mins.

Continuing the “back to exercise” and “slowly letting the knee heal” themes, I did 30mins on mum’s stationary bike. The gears had come loose earlier but they recovered all on their own and I can go back to adjusting the tension. The electronics are still kaput so I continue to use the 1 mile per 5 minute estimate.

I’ll get back to running soon, I promise.

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in being healthy , challenges |

Task #2 in 30 in 30 is to do a set of 50 crunches.

Even though it was mainly seafood, I ate more than usual on holiday and it’s time to get back to working out. I tested the knee and it was just about okay to do 10 squats, not sure about more vigorous sets or running. Crunches are fine for knees, I did 50 each of regular crunch, reverse crunch and oblique crunch, very slowly.

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in challenges , eating and drinking |


Tast #19 of 30 in 30 is a treat for my birthday, which was last week while we were on holiday. We had a great lunch and travelled to the first of our onsen hotel, where we enjoyed the spa before and after dinner. Dinner was served in our room, which was a treat in itself. So I had lots of treats for my birthday. To top it all, the day before we set off, a package got delivered that made me super excited.

Earlier this year, TWE had a lottery for Karuizawa whisky 1984 sherry cask #3663 bottled in 2013 at 56.8% . Karuizawa is a Japanese distillery that is no longer in production, and is in demand by collectors and investors. I put my email in the lottery for fun, and got the confirmation after the lottery closed that, as expected, I wasn’t allocated a bottle. I thought, while we’re in Japan, we’ll continue looking for interesting Japanese whisky.

Then in March, I got another email from TWE that I had been allocated a bottle of the Karuizawa. That was a surprise, because I’d already forgotten about the earlier lottery. I guess people either were disqualified because of too many entries, or people who were allcoated didn’t follow through with the purchase, or another reason. The fact was, I was being offered an opportunity to purchase one of a limited supply (reputably 240 bottles) of a highly rated whisky.

I didn’t decide straightaway, because of the £300+ price tag. That’s a lot, even for a 29 year old single cask rare whisky. I did some research first. nojatta said,

If you manage to get your hands on a bottle of this, you really have won the lottery

whisky investor said,

Strong buy. Any single cask releases from Karuizawa are towards the top of the ‘buy’ list

In the end, I decided that I would probably regret it if I didn’t get it. I saved on VAT, but had to pay shipment and customs, which added to the total cost. I handled the bottle very, very carefully when the delivery person came, and it’s now safely tucked away on my whisky shelf. All the talk about whisky investment is irrelevant to me, because I’m not an investor. Will I ever open the bottle? Eventually. Have to be a special occasion, I think.

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in challenges , photography is life |


Task #30 in 30 in 30 is a photo challenge with the topic: water.

This is a panorama of the lake at the absolutely beautiful historical village of hokkaido which was taken using mm’s iphone. We chose the coldest, windiest day to visit the outdoor village and it actually started snowing heavily when we were there. At that point we were probably the only visitors on site. But we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. At one end of the village was a small lake, which was partially frozen. So pretty and now that our trip is over, I want to continue with all things hokkaido for as long as I can.

This is just a self challenge, this week’s photofriday challenge is glorious, which I think fits this pic too. But I guess using an iphone panorama pic isn’t quite the thing to do for a photo challenge.

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in challenges , eating and drinking |

00sap15lunch 00sap16crab
00sap17tuna 00sap18roe

Task #13 in 30 in 30 is to have a red meat free day.

Reason #1 I can live in Japan: delicious, fresh seafood. Everything so appealing, visually and taste. I like my red meat, but given a choice between never eating steak or never eating seafood, I’ll stick with the seafood.

Otaru today. For lunch we had uni and ikura don, abalone sashimi, grilled cuttlefish and steamed king crab claws in broth. A luxurious and sumptious meal. For dinner we went back to the conveyor belt restaurant and ordered our hearts out.

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in challenges , going places |

00sap10lunchset 00sap11tempura
00sap12mushokra 00sap13pepper

Task #11 in 30 in 30 is to have five different vegetables in a day.

I didn’t specify 5 portions or 5 different vegetables. If I were at home I’d aim for 5 portions, but since we are still on vacation and eating out, having 5 different vegetables is okay for this task.

Lunch was at the food court of an outlet. Sushi rice bowl, tempura and soba for only ¥1,080. There were green pepper, carrot and lotus root in the tempura. Dinner was at kushidori, a yakitori place. We had grilled mushroom, okra and small green peppers. So actually, six different vegetables in a day.

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in challenges , going places |


Task #8 in 30 in 30 is to take a walk somewhere with fresh air.

Did more walking yesterday around lake shikotsu and jozankei itself. This morning after we checked out of the ryokan we walked to the small waterfall that the ryokan is named after. We could see how much snow there had been, the roads were all ploughed but parts of the pavement had a bank of snow and ice more than 3 feet high. There is a bridge that crosses the part of the river in front of the waterfall but it was inaccessible, all iced in. There was an access road that led to an electricity plant that was behind the bridge so we could take pictures — the bridge is in the foreground.

Not too cold, definitely lots of crisp, fresh air.

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in challenges |


Task #10 in 30 in 30 is to sleep early.

Woke up early today, and fit a lot in: onsen before breakfast, drive around jozankei, drive to lake shikotsu, check into onsen ryokan, more onsen, scrumptious dinner. The hotel we woke up in and the hotel we ended the day in are actually only 5mins’ drive from each other although very different in style.

A lot of waking up early, lots of travelling, a lot of spa, all in all it meant I was really really tired. No internet so after dinner I read for about 15mins before flopping down on the tatami bed and falling asleep at 10pm.

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in challenges , going places |


Task #9 in 30 in 30 is to do something relaxing.

Day three of our vacation, drove a short 45min down from sapporo to jozankei where we have 2 nights at 2 different onsen hotels. Today is at shogetsu grand. We visited the onsen before and after dinner. The onsen has 4 different spas and a steam room. One large spa, a cooler one with space to lie down, a really hot one and our favourite, the outdoor spa. Although outside, it is covered and secluded so there is privacy. Very important since at japanese onsens no clothes are allowed. We’re also not supposed to take cameras and mobile phones inside but we sneaked our iphones and took some pics and video while the place was empty.

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in challenges |


Task #7 in 30 in 30 is to run/walk/bike 60mins.

Day two of our Hokkaido vacation. Today our plan was to cover the main area of downtown Sapporo. We walked to the red brick government building, the clock tower, odori park, nijo market, tanukikoji shopping arcade, susukino, ramen alley and back to sapporo station to our hotel. Lots and lots of walking. Quite a lot of pictures. It was a little chilly, there was still some snow on the ground and late afternoon we got some heavy sleet.

We set off at 10am and came back to our room at around 4pm. Not all walking, there were stops at nijo market for oysters and clams, at ramen alley for ramen and at a fabulous cake shop for fabulous strawberry cake. All in all though, I think we walked for something like 3-4hrs today. My knee held out, it got a bit sore towards the later part of the afternoon, which was why we went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

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in challenges , eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Task #20 in 30 in 30 is to treat mm for her birthday.

Our Hokkaido vacation is partly a treat for both our birthdays. We arrived at Sapporo and checked into the hotel late afternoon. First order of business was to find dinner. I’d already suggested that our first dinner here would be at yakitori, so we could enjoy a drink and order a bunch of skewers. We got a restaurant map at the hotel and found a small but popular place about 10mins walk. We both had umeshu and we ordered mixed chicken, vegetables, grilled fish, sashimi, tofu. Made a toast for her birthday, a great start to our vacation.

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in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #12 in 30 in 30 is to have three fruits in a day.

I try to have at least one serving of fruit after dinner, sometimes I mix it up with different fruits. So it’s easy to put a fruit salad together with what I have in the fridge. An apple pear, a sweet ripe mango and red grapes that I’d peeled and deseeded. Peeling the grapes means I have a quarter cup of grape juice to finish. Good stuff.

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in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #14 in 30 in 30 is to have a day without alcohol.

I woke up today with the knee swelling way down and I was able to walk around without the walking stick. Still a bit stiff and I am limping but the acute pain is gone, just a lot of stiffness. Happy about the quick recovery. The doctor at the hospital gave me a course of NSAIDs for my knee. So it’s time to stay away from alcohol for a couple of days. Even when I went out for dinner with sis and my niece, I had a virgin margarita. This is the first time I ever ordered a virgin cocktail, because I’m of the opinion that if you can’t handle a cocktail, order a coke instead. The margarita tasted like iced lemonade served in a martini glass, it was okay.

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in being healthy , challenges |


Task #15 in 30 in 30 is no snacks in a day.

Yes, I completed the task, but under annoying circumstances. It was slippery out, I tripped and fell on my bum, didn’t hurt my bum or back but 3 hours later my left knee got very painful and swelled up like a balloon. Had to go to the hospital to get it x-rayed and checked. No broken bones, a sprain with swelling. Argh!! And two days before we’re supposed to go on holiday.

With all the fuss and loss of appetite because of the pain, all I had today was pork chop for lunch and a pear in the evening so I could eat something with the medicine. The swelling seems to have gone down and less painful now. I’m using the walking stick, don’t want to graduate to the crutches yet, I can’t actually find the purple crutches, they should be in the closet but they are not.

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in being healthy , challenges |


Starting 30 in 30 from the top, although the intention isn’t to work down the list daily. Task #1 is to do more than 50 squats in one set.

Squats are not difficult, but they are not easy either, especially to keep to good form towards the end of a long set. I ended up doing 3 sets @75 reps per set. Knees are a little sore, but it’ll pass. I think I can work up to a 101 rep set soon.

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in challenges |


I thought I’d try another monthly challenge format. This is 30 tasks in 30 days. There are many versions around: fitness, photography, diet or personal development related. Some are no more than prompts for blog posts and then there are some downright odd ones like this manga challenge (day 3: your favourite manga character).

What I’m going to do is a simplified version of the on-going 101 in 1001 challenge: 30 tasks, each should be achievable in a day. Let’s see how this goes.

  1. do more than 50 squats in one set
  2. do more than 50 crunches in one set
  3. 30 day shred level 1
  4. 30 day shred level 2
  5. 30 day shred level 3
  6. run/walk/bike 30mins
  7. run/walk/bike 60mins
  8. take a walk somewhere with fresh air
  9. do something relaxing
  10. sleep early

  11. food & drink
  12. 5 different vegetables in a day
  13. 3 different fruits in a day
  14. no red meat day
  15. no alcohol day
  16. no snack day
  17. new savoury recipe
  18. new sweet recipe
  19. plan 3 course menu

  20. family
  21. treat for my birthday
  22. treat for mm birthday
  23. activity with family
  24. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11

  25. read/write
  26. finish outline for PP
  27. 1000 words PP
  28. find font for LL cover
  29. read a new author

  30. photography
  31. submit to a photography challenge
  32. photo topic: box
  33. photo topic: travel
  34. photo topic: water

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in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |


Task #2 in 101 in 1001 is to get a new idevice. Originally I thought it’d be an iphone 6 or later, seeing that my iphone is 3 years old. Then my kindle stopped charging. Nothing wrong with the battery, I just wasn’t able to get the pin to connect to the jack, something inside seems to have shifted and no amount of wriggling or even turning the device upside down could get the parts to click together. It seems to be a common problem with many complaints and a repair that involves taking it apart and soldering the jack to the motherboard.

I could claim that the kindle problem is an excuse, but it isn’t really. I was always going to get an ipad mini, it was just a matter of time and which generation. I was gonna get it at Christmas but never got round to it. Now this is supposed to be an early birthday present from parents and sis. I paid for it myself, I’m sure they will reimburse me.

First order of business, make sure I have epub versions of my ebooks. I usually buy in epub format, even when I only had the kindle — I would just convert to azw in calibre. But it wasn’t as easy as just uploading the epubs into ibooks. I have to complain to publishers one of these days, there are 2 things I really hate that they do: a) what possess them to add tags to their books? If I want tags, I’ll add them myself. Plus having tags for “science fiction,” “sci-fi,” “sci fi,” “science fiction fantasy” and all the different permutations by different publishers is NOT helpful; and b) do they think I am stupid when they automatically give their books 5 stars?

The least said about the DRM on kindle books, the better. Hate. That’s why unfortunately I don’t have books by authors who are primarily only available at amazon.

The most time consuming part of setting up is to get the apps in. To stay consistent, the ipad has the same apps and the same layout as the iphone. There are a couple of apps that are iphone only, and of course there is no phone on the ipad. If there is an ipad version, I went through the trouble of downloading it.

So far, works like a dream. Reading is just as good, and it’s a lighter and thinner device so a plus. I have to start games from the beginning, which is a good thing, I like going back to level 1 on angry birds and making my way through the series.

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in in the news |

festivalwalkblackrain01 festivalwalkblackrain02

So I’m at parents’ and just getting settled for the night after an early dinner. All of a sudden, it started pelting down with rain. We couldn’t get our windows closed quickly enough. Rain was quickly followed by thunder and what sounded like hail. It was completely dark outside with the rain like a ominous curtain. The thunderstorm and rain warning went from amber to red to black in just one hour.

So glad we were all indoors, mm pinged me that she was safely home, having gone gravesweeping with her family. She also told me about how the rooftop windows of a shopping centre nearby (my nearest apple store) got hit by either a column of rain or hail and there was water everywhere. Thanks to the power of social media, pictures are already all over twitter, instagram and facebook. Wow it looks like an indoor waterfall. When it rains here, it’s serious about rain. Welcome to the start of spring, finally!

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in |

I didn’t grow up listening to country & western music, I’m simply not knowledgeable nor had sufficient exposure to appreciate it fully. It’s not the first genre I’d pick (not second, or third either, and I don’t apologise for it) but when I do hear a c&w song, I may stop and listen to it, and I may even like it.

That said, here via slate is a short film of three different musicians / groups covering Johnny Cash’s album out among the stars. This album was recorded in the 1980s, but for whatever reason it was never released. His son discovered it in the archives after his death and it has just been released posthumously to great reviews all around.

Okay, I confess, it wasn’t Johnny Cash that caught my eye, but the mention of Brandon Flowers in the headline. The Killers, well, they will be near #1 on my list of music to listen to, and I won’t apologise for this either. I can listen to him all day, and his rendition of “I Came to Believe” was interesting — not a Killers sound, but even to my uneducated ear, quite Johnny Cash-like. I also really enjoyed the other artists on the film, Father John Misty and Local Natives, even though I’d never heard of them before. The video is 16mins long, it’s a good way to spend 16mins.

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in techtalk |


Terrible news. televisionwithoutpity is closing. No more recaps, forums will close on 31 May. And, something fishy is going on, because the entire site will be going offline. It’s not enough that there won’t be any new recaps, we can’t even go back to read old ones. There’s closing, and then there’s completely closing. It’s very distressing.

Many TWOPers have been there since MightyBigTV days, I joined a little later but when it was still an independent site. Like many, it was Buffy recaps and forums, which had one of the most active participation. Buffy ended with the explosive growth of reality tv, and those provided even more snark opportunity. Every week after an episode of TAR or Survivor (when I was able to get Survivor), I’d read the recap and go to the forum to see what everybody thought of the ep. I just spent one evening last week going through all the posts for Gold Rush.

I guess it’s a stretch to ask a big corporation like NBC to get TWOP. It has been a surprise that it’s lasted this long. People don’t watch tv like they used to, in the days of instant gratification, on-demand and social media, reading a long recap about an episode on tv seems almost quaint.

Thankfully, God got out of the bathtub this time. Sars, Wing Chun and Glark are now at, together with a slew of TWOP writers and hopefully they will ensure the spirit of MBTV and TWOP continues.

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in eating and drinking |


Had a few errands to run in the afternoon, was done by around 5pm. All walking today (okay a fair bit on the escalator). Went to a British pub and had a couple of their house draft seafarers ale. Scotch eggs for dinner, I’m on the fence about whether these were made by the kitchen, they look a bit too amateurish to be shop bought. Besides, not easy to find stuff like scotch eggs at the supermarkets. Stayed for a while, reading, while more people came in and the volume increased.

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in eating and drinking , going places |

hok041melon hok007sappshop

Only ten days till our trip to Hokkaido. Yay! This time we are not being overly ambitious and just staying in and around the Sapporo area. Every time we go to Hokkaido, we land at Sapporo then travel immediately to elsewhere on the island and miss that area completely. We’ll still have our onsen experience, with 2 nights at Jozankei, which is 75mins away by bus; and Otaru / Nikka whisky distillery, only 30mins by train.

The biggest draw for going to Japan is the food. Not just the fresh seafood — king crabs, snow crabs, scallops, sashimi — but also the fruits. Sweet melons are a speciality of Hokkaido, and the beautiful displays at the shops!

I’ve been reading a lot at medium recently, and was interested to see this post about why japanese food is better. Sound arguments:

  • there is no need for special “organic” labels because most food is organic, seasonal and often sourced locally
  • simplicity — most dishes are cooked and presented simply and separately, no overcrowding a plate with 20 ingredients; there may be many, many small dishes, but they are intended to be enjoyed on their own
  • presentation is everything — each dish is treated as an artform, down to the pattern on the bowl to the placement of garnishes
  • and most of all, they respect food and treat food as part of life

Yep, agree with all these points. Japanese food is fresh, tastes clean and looks enticing. Definitely prepared with respect and pride. Yes, it’s still regarded with suspicion by some (“raw fish, ewwww!”) but as more people try it, I challenge anyone NOT to fall in love with it. There’s more than raw fish, sushi can be prepared with cooked ingredients, and what about yakitori, tempura, teppanyaki, ramen and don’t forget the yummy sesame dressing they use in salads. Plus, I’m trying to introduce US friends to delicious tasting, oddly named Japanese chocolates and sweets.

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in money business , my inner science geek |


I was googling for images of the 2-line stock market ticker for LL cover when I came across this, a periodic table of the stock market. I get excited when I come across displaying information or ideas as a periodic table (or as tetris). In this one, the atomic symbol corresponds to the ticker symbol of the stock. Based on the NYSE and Nasdaq. So the top of group 6 is occupied by C for Citigroup. There are quite a number of blanks, but it’s pretty great anyway.

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in techtalk |

Prompted by a picture of an old AOL free trial disk, gizmodo asked, how were you using the internet in 1999. Their comments are filled with tech types who were already coding or building websites or chatting in chatrooms but mostly playing games.

In 1999 I had dial-up at home and a performa 6200 which stumped the techs at the ISP because they had zero experience in dealing with macs. All they knew was how to rebuild the desktop, hahaha. Actually even now, some techs are still stumped by macs, but they have been rendered irrelevant since we can google most problems.

How was I using the internet in 1999? Definitely not spending a lot of time online. Browsing experience was frustrating because almost all the population used PCs, Windows and IE. Optimising for Netscape (no firefox yet then) wasn’t something webmasters did then. I wasn’t, and am still not, a gamer. I played a few simple games, that was it. Other than that, I was on ICQ. Yeah, ICQ. Mainly just with mm, although we spent most of our chats arguing, we weren’t in a very good space then.


I moved in New York in the summer. Didn’t take the performa with me, bought the then spanking new iMac SE as soon as I got settled into my apartment. This is the iMac that people use as fish bowls nowadays. I had a one bedroom apartment with an enormous open living room that could be divided up and one corner became the study.

I did pick up one of those free trial disks to get online initially. AOL or Earthlink or Mindspring. I didn’t want to continue using them though, so I searched for other ISPs, trying to find a free one. I was still using yahoo search (google just starte), buried a few pages deep into the search was metconnect, who provided free ISP service for New York. All I had to do was sign up and dial a 212 number. Amazingly, they are still around.

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in 101.1001 , challenges , money business |


Task #78 of 101 in 1001 is to have a money-free weekend.

Which is easy to achieve by simplly staying at home. There was enough food at parents’ place to last a while, and I made glazed chicken wings and ribs for dinner on saturday night. Instead of running outside I used the stationary bike. Most of Saturday was spent reading.

Sunday I did research for the April trip to Hokkaido with mm. Put all notes and links in an evernote notebook, including hotel details, maps, things to do, restaurants, bars and transportation. What I don’t like is you can’t print a whole notebook, you have to print individual notes separately. I printed them to pdf them combined them into a master pdf document. Our accommodation is finalised — start with 2 nights at a regular hotel in Sapporo, then 2 nights at 2 different onsens in Jozankei (5 mins’ walk from each other, so no problem with transferring), then back to Sapporo for 3 nights at an apartment I found on airbnb. It’s the first time I used airbnb, last time in Kyoto it was the more established homeaway/VBRO. Looking forward to the food there — king and snow crab, fresh sashimi, uni, salmon roe, even the famous sweet melons. And of course our visit to Yoichi distillery.

I guess not going out was a sort of cheat’s forced way of having a money-freen weekend. Then again I could have gone on an online shopping spree. And of course there’s the overhead spending — electricity, utilities, food already in the fridge. There are loads of other ideas, I like ideas such as having a cupboard potluck, organising one’s finances / house / junk, pottering around at home and generally doing stuff that is more relaxing and simple. We could all do with a simple weekend.

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in photography is life |


This week’s photo friday challenge is flowering which I take to mean fresh spring blossoms. This is an old pic, taken at Changdeokgung Palace Seoul, of cherry blossoms in April.

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in about me , evidence of my insanity |

It’s spring. Let’s do another look back in time post.

1 year ago
Video link post about pro scooter riders doing tricks on scooters just like they are skateboards. Awesome. Watch:

I would very much like to have been good at skateboarding, but alas no. I also missed out on the free running / parkour movement. Sigh.

3 years ago
A post about spring, plus the obligatory flower pic. Nice tulip.

5 years ago
Wow, has it already been 5 years? That was the first time I went to a reading. In Chicago. At Women and Children First. I met these awesome people for the first time:


I consider them friends now, some I’ve kept more in touch with than others. I’ve bought every single book this group has published since 2009, and some of the books I read and re-read time and time again. I’ll say it again, an awesome group.

10 years ago
No post on the 21st, but bookended by two strange posts. A random post on the 19th about hair, and I don’t even remember the people I was talking about; and then on the 23rd a depressing, incoherent post about the state of our relationship. Wow, nothing has changed in 10 years.

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in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #64-68 of 101 in 1001 : try 5 new whiskies. This is the second new one.

I finished the Ardbeg 10, which I exchanged for airmiles a few years ago, so I looked especially carefully at the Islay selection at Dubai when I was transiting there. May be Caol Ila, may be Lagavullin, may be stretch the category to island and get a Talisker. In the end, I couldn’t resist the temptation of Laphroaig PX Cask. I already have a bottle, so I bought one I won’t feel guilty at opening. Something like £60-70 I think.

First time I tasted PX was at Heathrow with RM when we were on our whisky binge that year. Heathrow didn’t have any in stock — it’d just been released and quickly snapped up — we eventually found them at Aberdeen airport.

This PX Cask has no age statement, but is distinguished by the type of wood casks it matured in, which seems to be a trend nowadays. It’s also duty free only, which seems also to be a trend. There are the regular single malts (10, 12, 18yrs) and then increasingly there are ones matured in various casks and carrying various special names. It’s hard to keep track. It follows the successful Quarter Cask and Triple Wood and sits on the duty free shelf together with the QA Cask.

I love Laphroaig. I love Islay whiskies anyway, and have very fond memories of the fantastic distillery tour. While the likes of Bowmore don’t even let you photograph inside the distillery, at Laphroaig we were encouraged to stick our fingers into the spirit safe to sample the freshly distilled spirit. What a difference. The tasting at Laphroaig was also memorable.

It’s no secret also that I prefer sweet, sherry-cask matured whiskies. This is a lovely combination of Laphroaig peat and top notch Pedro Ximenez (hence PX) sherry cask. 48%, which is what I like too. The smoke is heavier on the nose than the palate, which is smooth with vanilla and not too strong caramel.

Mixed online reviews. Some feel it’s too young and not peaty enough. Some like the sherry taste. No different from many whiskies, there will be people who like it, and people who don’t. I don’t have the most recent book by Mr Murray, so I don’t know if he has a view on it.

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in eating and drinking |


Very common in Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia is food flavoured with pandan leaves. It imparts a bright green colour and a gentle coconuty fragrant. They use it mainly with desserts and curries.

You can get pandan cake even at Singapore airport. The shop is right next to the departure gate so you check your luggage, go get your cake and then go through immigration. Easy peasy.

Pandan cake is basically a chiffon cake flavoured with pandan. I spotted a packet of pandan sugar at an indonesian store the other day and thought i should give it a try. They have a recipe at the back, although not completely clear (they don’t tell people to whisk the egg white and no oven time or temperature specified).

5 eggs, separated
2 tbsp cooking oil — i used grapeseed
4 tbsp coconut milk
150g SR flour
120g pandan sugar

Mix egg yolks with half the sugar until thick. Normally the mixture turns pale but with the green sugar I had to use texture and experience—took about 10mins vigorous hand beating. Add ccoking oil, coconut milk and fold in flour.

Beat egg whites until soft peak stage, add rest of sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into egg yolk mixture.

Bake at 180°C for about 1hr until a skewer comes out clean.

Very light, fluffy and the pandan flavour was subtle. Some people may be put off by the strange green colour but it really was very good.

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in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #29 in 101 in 1001 is to visit a new country. Israel makes it new country #2 of 3 for this challenge.

jer027oldcity jer102sepulchre

I never planned on visiting Israel. Never thought I’d have the chance. Yes, I know people who have gone on pilgrimages to the holyland, but those are not for me. I’m not Jewish, nor is Israel on a layover route.

I’m so glad I got the chance to visit. To me, Jerusalem is holy. To be immersed in so much spirituality and so many places that are mentioned in the Bible, it’s impossible not to be moved. The old city, the wailing wall, the church of the holy sepulchre, the different atmospheres in the different quarters. Probably too risky to visit on our own, but part of me wanted longer at the holy sites.


In contrast, Haifa was a pretty port with a world heritage hanging garden. Great to spend half a day because there wasn’t an excursion to the Dead Sea. Like the saying goes, Jerusalem prays, Tel Avia plays and Haifa works. It’s true.

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in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #28 in 101.1001 is to visit a new country. As part of the cruise, I visited Greece for the first time.

There are a few places I’m surprised I hadn’t visited, or taken me so long. Spain, Portugal, Greece, the land of packaged holidays (may be that’s why). But Greece’s history and significance means it has to be visited, someday, somehow.

gre054olympia gre165shop

First stop was ancient Olympia. Coming 2 years after personally attending the Olympics, and in the middle of a WInter Games, it’s poignant. I was surprised at the sheer size of the site, imagine the thousands upon thousands of spectators cheering their champions. Sports has changed a lot since then of course, and Olympia will forever have its place in sports history.

Second stop, Heraklion in Crete. No time other than to go to the market and do shopping. The market was fascinating, a mix of tourist shops and local shops. We bought €1 coin holders at a local shop, went to a supermarket, then doubled back to a touristy shop to buy ouzo, spices and typical souvenirs. There are other sights on Crete, hopefully I get a second chance.

gre325parthenon gre358view

Third stop, Athens. And to stand in front of possibly the most important structure in the history of earth. The parthenon was obscured by a giant crane and it was an awful rainy windy day, but its grandeur was no less diminished.

I thought what I saw and experienced was only the tiniest tip of what Greece has to offer. There wasn’t even an opportunity to have a sit down meal, I consider it luck to have at least tried a few pastries and a souvlaki to take away. It’s not merely checking the country off on a list, I really hope I get another chance to visit and see the sights as they are meant to be seen.

use 1 mar as post date

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April 2014

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