She’s right, that Sylvia Plath, bless her. Yes, I established that one paragraph or one pic or whatever I like constitutes a blog post, but that’s everyday writing. Non-fiction. Doesn’t apply to fiction. That’s pretty much why I don’t write fiction as easily anymore, except for the annual nano-hand-wringing-exercise. Or why I only take pictures of food and travelling. My niece has started instagramming her sketches, and they are good. Reminds me of how I absolutely cannot draw. Or appreciate music, and forget about playing it.
So as my 10th nano approaches, I tell myself, this is the year. This is the novel that can be polished up to a real book. I’ve outlined, and broke the rules by writing the first few thousand words, and gotten a bunch of research saved in evernote.
Let’s see. Come back at the end of november and see how I feel about the end result. I’ll complete nano, I usually do but as ever, I’ll probably end up doubting and disparaging those 50k words. And then it’ll sit in its neatly archived folder doing nothing.
How to get out of the self-doubt hole? Loads of advice, like getting support from others, finding a creative zone and just going for it. Others describe how to banish distractions and overcome imposter syndrome. All sounds a little dubious to me. Or may be my right brain is the one that needs fixing.
Apparently, the secret to creative success is to leave out brain cell hogging stuff like deciding on what to wear:
decision fatigue or making a bunch of small decisions like what to wear and what to eat wears out your brain and saps your mental power for more pressing matters
I could have told the author that doesn’t work. I pretty much wear the same hard rock café shirts all the time, and I don’t feel I have that much more mental power.
I know what the answer is of course. It’s so obvious. Shut down parts of the brain that thinks logically and pays attention. Blur your eyes. Get into a state of sleepiness or drunkenness. Drink beer. Look at the number of alcoholic writers, there probably is truth to the saying
there are famous drunk artists, but no famous drunk accountants
Hmm, how much whisky will it take?
Then again, just cut the bullshit and make time to write, it’s that simple.
Culture, fashion, trends. They all seem to go through cycles, don’t they. People left right and centre are declaring that they are getting back to blogging. Matt Haughey (mefi founder), Andy Baio (XOXO co-founder), Gina Trapani (lifehacker founder) are all doing it. I feel like it’s like something that was old-fashioned one minute is suddenly the cool thing to do again.
Except I never stopped. And neither did a bunch of others like Jason Kottke, John Gruber and all the people I follow on feedly, so back is neither here nor there, really.
People abandoned blogging for twitter, facebook, tumblr, youtube, instagram, snapchat and all that. Then came medium and everyone was excited again. Yet medium is considered longer, more journalistic writing. (Or so I wanted to believe, until it slammed its doors in my face.)
A lot of emphasis on simplicity lately. With so many outlets, it does become a personal choice on which platform(s) to use and what to write about. Most of my posts fall under the definition of short- or mid-length. Taking a note of Gina Trapani’s new rules for blogging, with one or two exceptions:
- if it’s a paragraph, it’s a post — thank you, thank you, thank you. Sometimes I find it hard to write more than a few sentences, so it’s validation of sorts. I’ll even go as far as saying, if it’s just one photograph, it’s a post
- negotiate a comfort zone on two axes — tech/personal, travel/running something like that. I really have to tighten up my topics
- traffic is irrelevant, don’t even measure it — my traffic has always been depressing, so let’s give up on monitoring it
- simplify, simplify — she suggested no comments (yep), no categories, tags, footnotes, special post styles, pages (categories and tags are habit I’ll keep though), default wordpress template (does it mean I don’t need to redesign the site? that’s good news)
- ask for trusted collaborator feedback — I dunno, I never had collaborators or guest bloggers, I can’t see it happening
- have fun — I like this one
In sort of related news, I see someone I follow on social media referring to updated posts on livejournal. I’m trying not to roll my eyes here. I think that’s taking simplify and back-to-basics a bit too far. Then again, George R.R. Martin still updates his livejournal. I don’t know what to say.
The good thing about having decent hotel connection is I managed to write up the trip daily, just like when we went to Tokyo. So the experience feels fresher. The trip summary merges all the daily posts.
The slight negative is I had to pick just a few daily pics to upload and post. The entire set of 521 pics and videos didn’t take long to sort and rename, but I forgot to upload them when I was at home and using mum’s slow internet it’s taken almost a week to upload since I had to do them in batches of no more than 30 at a time, and when no one else is using the internet. Anyway, set 1 and set 2.
Some more that didn’t make it into the daily posts. Doors at bukchon, decorations and from ihwa wall mural art village. We were there almost 5 full days and didn’t make it to any of the palaces, world heritage sites, parks, river walks and a few areas like itawon and gangnam. I like our new style of travelling, not in as much hurry as before, trying to fit everything in. Because you can’t. We’d wake up whenever, have brunch, walk around our destination of the day, stop for coffee tea and take our time.
Surreal past few days, with acute allergy attack and medicine that made me extremely drowsy. Will probably take the last of the piriton tonight, get lots of sleep and then try to get back on track tomorrow. Or rest another day then start week 2 on monday. Luckily it’s the beginning of the training and missing a week is insignificant. I still can’t figure out what caused the allergy attack. I’m a little scared of eating shellfish or nuts or even wheat that past few days, although I’ve never had any food allergies. Most likely it was an airborne allergen or I got bitten by something.
Slept almost 12hrs, with itchiness throughout the night. The angriest red patches have gone, just lighter patches remain. The redness and itchiness are moving to the extremities — both hands are swollen, both feet very red and even the scalp is irritated. I guess it’s like poison moving away so it dissolves. One would hope.
Really bad day. Rash has spread everywhere, feels hot and itchy. So much so that I sat in the bathtub with cold water to cool down. Then after dinner I may have developed a fever, so time to break out the cold towel. Going to bed early, piriton makes me drowsy.
All of a sudden I’m itchy all over and I have red splotches everywhere, like multiple mosquito bites. Allergy attack but I can’t think of a trigger. Food? I was sitting on mum’s armchair, may be got bitten? Went to the outpatient’s clinic and got some medicine. They gave me a piriton shot too. Feeling miserable.
New article 4 actionable ways to start improving your running. Makes sense.
run at an easy pace, and then gradually get faster until you’re at about 95% of your maximum effort. Hold that for about 2-3 seconds, and then gradually slow to a stop
Another type of intervals, a bit like sprints. The advice is to start with 4 strides, then increase to 6-8.
2. balanced strength training
There are 3 types of workouts: front & back, lateral, and rotational. Running is front & back, so to balance, do exercises that are lateral and rotational like side lunges and hay bales. Hay bales are like goblet squats with rotation.
3. negative splits are good
Some trainers say negative split means not enough effort has been put in the first half of a race. This advice says it improves endurance.
4. different long runs
Accepting that long runs are boring, it’s good to add some variety and fun. Hills, farteks, progressions.
The 52 week marathon training program I found calls itself couch to marathon. I’m not a big fan of the name couch-to-[distance] but I guess I have to accept that this is exactly what it is. It doesn’t make any fancy claims:
You won’t break any records by following this plan, but it will get you to the point where you can finish a marathon with periodic walking breaks in a year’s time
It starts off really easy, and builds up distance. There are a lot of walk and rest breaks. For example week 10 mid-week 3 miles come with the instruction to run 1 mile, rest 3 mins then repeat. By the time we get to week 40 mid-week 8 miles, it’s run 4 miles then rest for 3 mins. The weekend long runs, which get up to 24 miles in week 49, tells us to run 1 mile then rest for 1 min. Honestly week 49 is the last week before taper and I should think that by then I can run more than 1 mile before resting.
I think I will follow the plan with variation, the 4-times a week schedule I like, the distance progression makes sense too. I’ll use the plan as minimum and try to do more, better. For the mid-week runs the breaks can be used as interval training; for the long runs I will let myself walk or rest more. I think that in the past I’ve done too much boring useless steady-state running as opposed to intervals.
Every training plan tells us to cross train. I have at my weights, TRX and found a bunch of interestingly named bodyweight workouts. With names like mulan, hold my beer and sherlock workout, I’m sure I’ll find a fun one.
So today is week 01 day 01. The instruction is to jog (not run) 1 mile then walk 1 mile for a total of 2 miles. That’s it. And so I did my usual 5k run except I just ran around the flat instead of bothering to go outside.
Another #randomflickr, this one was taken in Prague oct-2011. Pretty autumn colours along the river vitava from the end of charles bridge.
An article on quartz talked about twitter bots. An interesting one is pixelsorter which
sorts the rows (or optionally columns) of an image according to a specific method like hue, red, brightness, luma, etc
Just tweet @pixelsorter and attach an image. It’s a bit like playing with the multitude of filters on photoshop.
There are also a few preset commands which give other results. This is the effect using preset[triphop]. Pretty cool. I love discovering quirky pointless stuff like this.
We joke that one of the benefits of #occupycentral is the lower pollution level. We wish. Still, it’s been marginally less hot so it’s feasible to go outdoors without getting completely soaked or needing a ton of anti-histamines.
We met up at a fishing village called 三家村 (three families village) that is one of our favourite places to visit. I took the subway and mm took a ferry from near her place. There is still some fishing there, but mostly it’s tourism and seafood restaurants nowadays. We had lunch at a local diner then walked to the tip of the village. The stilted houses and narrow alleys are interesting and pleasant.
Afterwards we visited a shopping centre nearby and had tea/coffee. It’s a nice day out.
Four years ago today on 10-10-10, I ran my first marathon, Chicago, in 5:38. This coming Sunday, 45,000 people will race the course over 19 neighbourhoods. Next year, I hope to join them. I deferred my 2014 place so I basically have a guaranteed entry for 2015.
I’m both scared and excited. I have not been running as much for the past year or so. I found a 52 week training plan which includes runwalking and allows short breaks during longer runs. Towards the last 18 weeks, it puts in more mileage than the Higdon novice 2 plan and gets up to 24miles (vs 20 for Higdon). Sounds good.
Technology and theories have changed since 2010, the market is flooded with wearables and fitness trackers. I retired my garmin, because it’s too bulky, too limited, and takes too long to find a satellite signal. Saw a new sock sensor that does real-time analysis of foot-striking position and stride and gives feedback via an app. Not sure I want a voice shouting “you’re heel striking!” in my ears when I’m struggling in the middle of a run though.
Ah, heel striking. That’s me, 2011 chimarathon. Note the knee brace, the KT tape, the orange sauconys and the heel striking. I have repeatedly been told that heel striking is bad, it increases the chances of injury and all that. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to change to fore- or mid-foot striking, and whenever I manage it, I feel quicker. When I’m tired, I lapse back to my natural heel striking form.
Turns out, heel striking isn’t the enemy of good running form. Changing footstrike may reduce knee injuries, but it may also lead to other types of injuries. My takeaway from the article is, it’s okay to heel strike at slower paces, it seems that both stride and strike will change with faster speeds. Since I’m aiming for a 12:00/mile, it probably doesn’t matter that much.
I’m trying to start a new trend on twitter, to post random flickr image. It’s a good way for me to look back at old pics. I used a random number generator to get a page number (I have a total of 239 pages) then I picked an image that I liked. This was during Taste of Chicago jul-2010, my parents were visiting and we were having a great time.
This is my second attempt at #randomflickr. Let’s see if the trend picks up. Not harbouring a lot of hope. I did a quick count, even though I have 197 followers on twitter, only around 20 are active. There are about 100 real people who haven’t posted for ages, or have automatic feeds from their fb statuses. The rest are commercial or fake accounts, I also attract a fair number who probably wanted to follow @wattpad, and for some odd reason, a bunch of indonesian / filipino followers.
That said, I’m enjoying hanging out on twitter and instagram. Much more rewarding than fb, which has turned into a sad popularity contest.
Task #10 of 101.1001 is to read 101 books.
I started 101.1001 on 01-dec-2013 and I finished reading the first book on 04-dec-2013. So it’s taken around 10 months. In other words 10 books a month or 2.5 books a week or around 3 days per book. Of course sometimes I finish a book in one day and some books take longer to read. I finally finished all Harry Potter books as well as one from the 2007 challenge, mythology for dummies. I would say 70:30 new vs re-reads; when I buy a new book from an author sometimes I go back and read all the previous books, especially if it is part of a series.
Book #101 was Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. It’s all because I was looking at sci-fi books for my niece and I’ve had the hardback since it was published.
The book is set in an alternate, steampunk, universe of WW1. The blurb:
It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.
Marketed as a YA book, I must admit I really, really, really enjoyed it. The book had everything — smartly written story, fun main characters, realistic side characters, fantastic clanker machines, amazing darwinist beasties and great setting. There was a real sense of adventure and wonder, made me want to be Alek or Deryn. Barking spiders! Plus a side of history too, even though it only skirted with actual history. Unlike the other book I was reading for my niece, Death’s Daughter, I’m happy to recommend Leviathan. Not just for kids, adults too.
Since it’s #1 of a trilogy, I’m faced with the same dilemma as before. Complete the series by buying secondhand print books (under $10 for even hardbacks) or switch to ebooks ($30 for all three). Sigh, sigh, sigh.
So anyway, I’m already on books #102 and 103. I have a bunch of new books to read, and every month there are more new books. I sat on my sis’ armchair reading for a couple of hours the other day and she remarked that I could happily stay there for a long time. Absolutely true.
Testing iFTTT again. A random number generator gave me #17 from my flickr interestingness set. A simple noodle dish with egg, sausages, chicken wings and pork chop at a local family place called happy diner, hence the dish’s name of happy noodles. High rent and poor economy means the place has been replaced by expensive faux hipster joints.
A potential diner rang a restaurant to order take-out, but the restaurant said they didn’t offer take-out, so the diner posted a poor review on yelp. The restaurant replied with a rather epic take-down. Read the eater article, it’s worth it.
Some restaurants offer take-out food, some don’t. Personally I won’t expect an upscale restaurant to, and if they don’t specify (or specifically say they don’t) I won’t expect them to change their policies for me. This is what the yelper did. Expected to be accommodated against the rules, and repeatedly tried to intimidate by saying that her husband was a lawyer. I suspect that if she had asked nicely, or asked about which menu item could possibly be boxed up, the restaurant would have considered her request.
I’m glad the restaurant wrote their reply, even though it was a little snarky. Far too often we see 1-star amazon reviews because the packaging was torn, or people with entitled attitudes thinking the world evolve around them. I remember asking a guy who brought his dog into my garage when I had a garage sale, and was met with snark. Every dog owner before him tied their dog outside before coming in, isn’t that common courtesy?
I don’t think I’ve ever left a review for anything. If I liked a restaurant I wouldn’t necessarily gush about it on yelp. What if their standards change or next time I go, I don’t enjoy it as much? I have been known to recommend Hawksmoor enthusiastically, by bringing friends there so they can experience it themselves. And if I didn’t like a restaurant, I just won’t go again. I tend to believe that if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.
I cleaned out some old folders recently and found this video I took of the Chicago Apple Store in 2011; Steve Jobs died three years ago today.
It’s also really nice of Tim Cook to email apple staff with a tribute.
It just occured to me, how similar the tributes around Apple Stores around the world 3 years ago are to the message walls scattered all around #occupycentral protest sites this week.
flickr / image on left via user morgan schmorgan, image on right is mine
Simple, elegant, heart-felt. That’s the power of a small post-it note and a pen.
I’m so glad TAR is back. And the fan shout-outs celebrating 25 seasons. Phil in season 1, ex-racers at the starting line, re-visiting tasks. And at least a few racers who know the race, rather than generic YDC / models recruited by production.
I have pre-race love for the food scientists, the cyclists and the high school sweethearts. Looks like the dentists and surfers are strong racers who may go far. Let’s see how far they go.
Wow, 25 seasons. So many great memories. The slide in quality the middle seasons. The end of twop. Thank heavens for previously. I’ve decided to rewatch s1 on youtube. Sigh, so sad to see Nancy of Momily. RIP.
My life is surreal. Yesterday I spent the afternoon at #occupycentral with thousands of students and protesters calling for democracy. Today I spent the late afternoon at a 5-star hotel within walking distance from the protest site, sipping red wine at an invitation-only contemporary art show.
The show was unusual in its location. They rented 4 floors of the hotel and each room was occupied by a different gallery. The art was displayed cleverly on the beds, the walls, propped on top of the tv cabinet and even in the bathroom. There were some really great pieces, even an art idiot like me appreciated it. I chatted with an Aussie artist who lived in Holland and really really loved her piece with a beautiful night sky, a bike and grassland. I was too busy talking with her that I forgot to take a picture. It was for sale at the equivalent to £1,000.
Another interesting work were these of Audrey Hepburn and a mashup of a dollar bill and a RMB bill. I was only at the show for about an hour, managed to see about a third of the exhibits.
Surrealness #2 was going to dinner with King’s friends. This is my group of friends, as opposed to joint friends with mm. We used to me very tight when we were undergraduates and some of them I hadn’t seen in 20+ years. But it was really great to see them and yes, we’re all much older, but nobody had changed too much.
Day 5 of #occupycentral started slowly, with only a few people at the main sites in the morning — 30 reported at TST and a handful at admilralty. I walked down after lunch, turned out that my black t-shirt fit in with the unofficial protester dress code. The bottom of garden road was deserted, ironically also the road outside the BoC building with its national day banner. Walked up the flyover towards admiralty and the scene was different — people milling around the nornally busy road, student protesters sitting at the side of the road and impromptu gatherings giving anyone and everyone their 3-minutes to address the crowd.
Lots of signs, almost all of them handmade. People could just grab a piece of cardboard, a post-it note or a blank sheet of paper and write or draw whatever was on their minds. The signs were then displayed at various locations — along the side of the concrete flyover, on the pavement, at the side of a building. Some signs were by and in different languages too, it was moving to see. It was, like the #occupycentral movement itself, ad hoc and free of rules or pretentions.
We don’t know if it’s a blessing or curse, mm woke up with severe stomach pain and suffered the whole day with diahorrea. We stayed in our hotel room as long as we could, left at 11am. Got the airport bus, checked in and through immigration. By then it was past 1pm and I was really hungry, but she wasn’t. We found the food court, I wolfed down a beef bibimbap (stone pot mixed rice) and she went to the lounge to find something she could eat. The flight was very full, I watched Transformers 3, ate her portion of fish dinner. Luggage was out before us.
With #occupycentral blocking the main road, my taxi home was twice as long and double the normal price, but I don’t mind. It a small inconvenience for me, and it’s far more important to keep the big picture. Quite tired, need a shower and took me a while to unpack. Tempted to walk down to see what’s happening with the protests tonight, but decided against it.
A bit of planning needed to manage the daily tasks due to travelling. Another monthly challenge completed, happy now.
- run/walk/bike 30mins // done 20-sep-2014
- run/walk/bike 60mins // done 27-sep-2014
- do more than 50 squats in one set // done 06-sep-2014
- do more than 50 crunches in one set // done 07-sep-2014
- weights/TRX 3 sets of 10 // done 19-sep-2014
- weights/TRX 3 sets of 12 // done 10-sep-2014
- mindfulness 10mins // done 02-sep-2014
- mindfulness 20mins // done 17-sep-2014
- sleep early // done 04-sep-2014
- turn off electronics 1hr before bed // done 14-sep-2014
- 5 different vegetables in a day // done 18-sep-2014
- 3 different fruits in a day // done 03-sep-2014
- mostly water (1 tea, 1 coke zero only) // done 22-sep-2014
- no red meat day // done 01-sep-2014
- no alcohol day // done 13-sep-2014
- no snack day // done 23-sep-2014
- new food/recipe // done 28-sep-2014
- family activity // done 25-sep-2014
- bbmm activity // done 26-sep-2014
- scan 10 family pics // done 05-sep-2014
- gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11 done 21-sep-2014
- celebrate a bizarre holiday // done chocolate milkshake day 12-sep-2014
- 25 squares // done 30-sep-2014
- do something creative // done 09-sep-2014
- outline nano 2014 // done 15-sep-2014
- 1000 words PP // done 16-ssep-2014
- read a new author // done 08-sep-2014
- photofriday challenge // done 11-sep-2014
- random from photo-a-day // done 29-sep-2014
- random from instagram challenge // done 24-sep-2014
food & drink
The last time I put up 25 squares was november 2013. I must not let so much time pass between entries, except that my life isn’t interesting enough. Here is the latest. What is 25 squares? It’s 25 random current tibits about me.
We woke up late again, heehee. Brunch was at myeong-dong, the main shopping area. We had ginseng chicken congee which was very good. Then it was almost the whole day of shopping nightmare for me. Socks, jewellry, clothes, clothes, bags, clothes, accessories. Cosmetics, including these silly named masks. Ack. None of which was interesting for me, and I had to maintain a neutral / happy face. I did manage to buy a few socks and a bag myself but it took me 1 minute to decide on what I wanted, then it was 20 minutes of waiting. The worse thing was having to pick different earrings, I don’t wear earrings, I have no interest in earrings, they all seemed the same to me. Torture.
In between all the shopping I got an ice cream cone for myself and we visited a cat caré for coffee. There were something like 20 cats there. I took an anti-histammine before we went in so I was okay for allergies. They were mostly docile but not too friendly, they wouldn’g come up to us on their own. The owner gave us small dollops of cat food and only then did the cats rouse themselves and came up to us. Mostly a teenaged / twenty-something girlie thing to do.
Shopping at myeong-dong was supposed to be an hour or so, it was 5 hrs before we left. Next stop was back to gwangjang market. No, we didn’t try the dog soup (because we didn’t have room). We had pancakes at a different stall as yesterday — more beanspouts and crunchier, we liked this one. Just as we were about to leave, these 3 drunken korean men came to sit at our table and proceeded to chat with us in broken english. I was having none of it, but mm was chatting back to them. Ugh, I put my foot down and we said our polite goodbyes.
Bought small ginseng pieces and pickles from 2 separate stalls. Small melons completed our grand total purchases. I ended the day with some socks, a small bag, some chocolate and 200g ginseng. All of the rest were mm’s purchases. We went back to the hotel to dump all our bags then headed for dinner at the barbeque place a few doors down. Highly recommended, today we had beef short ribs and pork ribs. I’d had enough for the day so I ordered a soju to go with the meal. Back to the hotel to finish the fruit in the fridge and packing.
We’ve woken up too late every day for breakfast, just as well because it means we can have more lunch. Today’s destination was gwangjang market’s meokjagolmok (food alley). Plenty of choices — pancakes, mixed rice bibimbap, traditional blood sausage, tteobokki, noodles, soups, even one stall that had just one big tureen bubbling with a meat soup. We didn’t see the sign at first, then we spotted it “healthy dog soup.”
Like many people who headed for this meokjagolmok, it was for the pancakes made with ground soy bean, flour and fried with a little onion. Really good, would have loved another one except we were saving our appetite for other food. We walked around some more and decided on a stall that offered traditional meat dishes. Most of the stalls were small, with benches in front seating at most half a dozen people. Some stallholders were very enthusiastic whilst others were too busy chatting on their mobiles. This one had a nice friendly lady. We had blood sausage (they call it sundae), a plate of spicy mixed pig’s skin and chicken feet, and a stew that was definitely offal (we think stomach or lung). All were nice, although admittedly not to everyone’s taste.
When we came out of the market it was raining somewhat, but we decided to walk to our next stop because we were full from lunch, and it looked complicated by subway. Only 1.6km (1 mile) but 2-3 changes involved. Iniitially it was nice but the rain started getting very very heavy, we had to take refuge in a coffee shop, and then the lobby of a hyundai car showroom.
Despite the rain, it was worth the effort to go to the mural village at ihwa-dong. The village was located on the hillside and many houses, walls and signs were painted by local artists. Cute bunny rabbits, flowers, children, one wall was painted black with the title before i die but most were of happy themes.
Part of the fun was traipsing around the village’s narrow alleys and stairs trying to spot the murals. With the rain we probably walked through half the village, and we had to remember to look left, right, up, down and even behind us. This flower painting was on the steps and if we hadn’t looked behind us when we walked down we would have missed it.
The rain eased a little after we finished, so we walked to dongdaemun. Early dinner of soy sauce crab and beef tartare. The so-called market there was several buildings full of shops for clothes, accessories, shoes. We bought a sweatshirt each, some bags and accessories for gift. By then it was 8.30pm but we had one final stop at lotte mart near seoul station. Reminded us of a chaotic superstore. We bought a case of noodles and some ready meals of ginseng chicken and soup. Tempted by the fruit. Too many shopping bags, we took a taxi back to the hotel.
Task #48 of 101.1001 is to eat an insect and task #17 of 30in30 is to try a new food. I’ve never knowingly tried insects before, so we bought a small cup of beondegi or silkworm pupae at namdaemun market. This is a typical Korean street food, the pupae were boiled and eaten with toothpicks. One small cup was KRW2,000 or two dollars so it was worth trying.
When I initially set this challenge, I envisioned trying the cricket chocolate from Wittamer, but the box went mouldy on me. I have been reading a lot of articles about the benefits of eating bugs — they are sustainable, nutritious and 80% of the world’s cultures already eat insects. As global population grows exponentially, there is a lot of thinking that the future human population will turn to insects for protein source. I guess people in 200, 500, 1000 year’s time will look back on our diet with the same shock as us looking at the diets of people hundreds of years ago.
I wasn’t really prepared to try bugs that look scary. I don’t think I’ll let anything with legs come near me, so spiders, grasshoppers and ants were out. I was okay about trying mealworms so when I read about beondegi in the course of my seoul research, I thought it may be alright to try.
First, it’s served hot, in a seasoned sauce. People complain about the smell, but it was no worse than other meat-based street food. You eat the whole thing, just pick it up with a toothpick and pop one in your mouth. The outside had the texture of boiled peanuts, a little crunchy, a little soggy. The inside was a little gamey, like mild liver. I won’t say I’m in any hurry to try it again, but if offered I won’t refuse it.
A tale of two markets today. Lunch was at Noryangjin fish market. A huge place, with hundreds of stalls on the ground floor selling fresh fish, crab, prawn and all manners of shellfish. On the first floor were small restaurants that would cook the fish customers bought at the stalls.
After watching the action and a short debate, we decided on a plate of assorted sashimi, spoon worm that looked and tasted like pig’s intestines, fresh steamed fish and one of the food items on all adventurous food challenge lists: sannajki or live still moving octopus.
Yes, the tentacles were still moving and the suckers made it difficult to remove from the plate. People who tried it always said the tentacles stuck to the inside of their mouths but I didn’t get that. It was pretty much like a gimmicky octopus sashimi. The head was awful though, I chewed and chewed and chewed and didn’t get anywhere, had to spit it out. Not the taste but the fact that it was unchewable. Everything else was great, especially the steamed fish.
Market #2 was the famous namdaemun market. Namdaemun means south gate and the gate formed one corner of the ancient seoul fortress. The gate burned down in 2008 after an arson attack, it was meticulously restored and I couldn’t tell the difference between the old and new one.
The market itself was your standard street market with stalls selling clothes, snacks, household items, accessories and souvenirs. There was a street with food and another area with a few snack carts. We bought some dried cuttlefish, sweet potato and chocolate from a nice lady who let us try everything and gave us some sweets as freebies. We were quite tired by then so we found a coffee place to rest for a while before heading back to our hotel.
Dinner was at a barbeque place a few doors down from the hotel. Belly pork and beef ribs, the meal total came to KRW25,000 (USD25). We walked around the Ewha University shopping streets after dinner and bought a few small accessories. It started raining so we made our way back to the hotel.
We didn’t set the alarm, woke up at 9.30am. By the time we got ready it was around 10.30am. First stop was myeong-dong to exchange money, our friend recommended a place called embassy forex that had no commission and good rates, and we found that this was the only place with a queue and the rate was good.
A few stops on the subway brought us to the samcheon-dong area, the guidebook that mm borrowed from her friend recommended a great restaurant for soy sauce crab or ganjang gejang — blue swimmer crabs marinated in a special soy sauce, served raw. The sauce marinates the flesh and gives it a fantastic flavour and texture, the swimmers were full of roe. I’d never heard of this dish, apparently it’s part of a traditional royal palace meal and I can see why. Not cheap, KRW93,000 (USD93) for two of us, but well worth it. The crabs were super fresh and the banchans really nice.
The area around the crab restaurant was full of small souvenir and craft shops. Socks for KRW700 (70cents), clothing and accessories. I like these lego keychains.
Apart from shops the area was also near to the historical bukchon hanok village. Traditional houses still occupied. Very neat and pretty and well kept.
We stopped for coffee at a café called the hanok, mm had americano coffee and I had a red bean ice. I was quite thirsty by then so the shaved ice was perfect.
South of bukchon area was insadong, a touristy pedestrian street with traditional craft shops and galleries. It was quite busy when we got there around 5.30pm, we browsed around souvenir shops and craft shops, bought some small souvenirs and a couple of painted cups. We wanted to go to the same small family restaurant we went to in 2006. We found the alley no problem, and the women there still couldn’t speak english. We weren’t able to ascertain whether they were open, so they cleverly brought us to a nearby shop. Funnily the other person told us that they were too expensive, which was right. In 2006 it was KRW20k per person and now it was KRW40k (USD40). Considering our crab was double that, we could afford it, but we decided to explore other places.
We found another food alley off insadong. Several restaurants including ones that looked touristy and the one we ended up at, which was run by 3 family members. A traditional set was KRW13k per person, including banchans, porridge (delicious), soup, spicy pork, pancake. I had a soju and we totally enjoyed our dinner. Walked around the night stalls a little, then made our way back to our hotel. Another nice day.
Task #83 of 101.1001 and task #19 of 30in30 is to do a new activity with mm. We are in seoul for holiday and as soon as we got off the plane and deposited our luggage at the hotel, we headed to a jjimjibang spa to rest and pamper ourselves. We got the deluxe package at KRW100,000 (USD100). We ended up staying from 10am to 5pm so it was worth it.
The spa says it’s the largest in Korea. At a sprawling 7 floors I can believe it. There are sauna, steam areas, baths, massage rooms, sleeping rooms, relaxation hall, restaurants, a rooftop garden, internet café even a cinema.
First we got keys to our locker. The key was a regular locker key as well as a smartchip that recorded any purchases or treatments. We had a quick shower at the large bath area. Korean baths are like Japanese baths, sexes are segregated and you don’t wear anything inside except a small towel to strategically cover certain areas.
First stop of our treatment was the herbal steam bath. We were seated on wooden stools with an opening in the middle. The herbs and water were heated and the steam rose up through the opening. We were covered in a sort of plastic tent to keep the steam in. Quite surreal, the herbs smelled really nice though.
After the shower and steam we changed into standard issue pajamas—t-shirt and shorts. Everyone inside the facility was dressed in these pajamas. The massage part was 90mins of a mix of acupressure and thai style. The young technician got almost every troublesome spot in my shoulders, lower back, arms and definitely hit the ITB around my left knee.
At the end of the massage it was around 1pm so time for lunch. The spa had a cafeteria and 2 restaurants. We went to the self-service korean restaurant and had tofu soup and beef rib soup. Came with banchans and I had a tasteless beer.
We found massage chairs in the main hall and fell asleep for around 1.5hrs. One of the features of traditional korean spas is the sight of people asleep at sleeping rooms and areas. Admission is 24hrs so some people stay the night.
Then it was time to check out the heat rooms. The traditional pine scented one was so hot inside we could barely walk, our soles were burning up. Lasted 10 seconds inside there, max. The himalayan salt room was a pleasant 52°C, blankets were provided so we lay down and rested on pink salt crystals. The charcoal heated rooms were good too, we went into the high temperature one, around the same as the salt room. In between rooms, we sat in the ice room to cool down, and then on the floor.
Last stop was the baths area. There was a steam room and half a dozen baths at different temperatures. We like the outdoor ones for the fresh air, the ones with jetstream massage and the cold 24°C cooling pool.
Great day, and the perfect cure for a night spent on a red-eye flight.
Early start, flight at 1am arrived 5.30am. Didn’t get much sleep on the plane, slow moving immigration meant we were out at arrivals after 7am. After a little walking around, we finally found the right stop for the airport bus to take us to our hotel. Trip was over 1hr, so we managed to nap a bit.
Way too early to check into hotel, so we left our luggage and headed to the subway. Got a t-money (like octopus) and our brains weren’t working, we initially only filled up for KRW1,000 (USD1.00). Hahaha. Caught the mistake easily. The destination was dragon hill spa, a traditional korean spa occupying 7 floors of a building. There were spas, steam rooms, dry heat rooms, saunas, massages, restaurants, resting area and even arcade games and a rooftop garden. We went for the massage package at KRW100,000 (USD100) including 30mins of herbal steam bath, 90mins of acupressure massage. The steam bath was interesting, and the massage was excellent. Lunch was typical korean food of tofu soup and beef rib soup. We got to the spa around 10am and we left at 5pm. Lots and lots to do in term of rest, pampering and relaxation.
We took the subway at rush hour back to our hotel area at Ewha Women’s University. The night street vendors were just starting and we grabbed a bowl of extremely spicy tteokbokki (aka topoki) and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.
Hunting around the street market area looking for dinner led us to a homely upstairs place serving tofu hotpot with spicy squid. Wow, food in korea is hot! The tofu was wonderfully silken. Of course, walking back to the hotel we saw many other restaurants, but we were happy with our choice. Popped into a supermarket to get water and green tea for the next few days.
The hotel is new, it’s more like a serviced apartment with a small kitchenette, a full sized fridge, a washing machine, a closet and even a shoe cupboard. Happy with our choice and happy to be settled in early.
Task #18 of 30in30 is a family activity.
Originally I was gonna go trampolining with sis and my niece over the weekend, but tiredness and too much homework scuppered that plan. Sis and I could have gone one morning by ourselves but we wanted to wait for my niece.
Anyway sis had a cocktail event tonight with IC MBA alumni. She asked if I was interested (I’m an IC MBA alumni too) but I had zero interest in these social events. Instead I volunteered to babysit my niece so sis can go. Not really babysitting, a 12 year old at home requires minimum supervision. I was responsible for making dinner so I teenager favourite food — steak, mashed potato and cherry tomato. Sis opened a bottle of red wine for me too, I had a glass.
Since yesterday was no snack day, today is let’s have a snack day. Snack also is one of the entries in the random instagram challenge I came across. I only later realise the post is 1 year old, but the entries still work.
The snack in question is very simple cheese & caramel flavoured popcorn. A small bowl, I guess it’s not heavy on the calories.
A combination of task #96 of 101.1001 and task #13 of 30in30: drink more water, drink mostly water.
We all know that water is good for us and we should drink lots of it every day. I don’t know if it’s circumstances or age or becoming healthier, I don’t mind drinking water as much as before. I’ve always drunk a lot of liquids, when I was working it was soda water and coke zero all day. In the US I bought these gallon containers of arizona green tea. Then of course there were the beer and wine and whisky. And the vital cup of tea in the morning.
Don’t have access to gallon containers of tea anymore, and I’ve cut down the coke zero to one can a day. Alcohol consumption is down too.
I’m making up the quota with water. Here we boil our water then let it cool to room temperature. Tastes bland. I kinda miss the mineral taste of London hard water. I keep my room temperature in a glass bottle I bought at John Lewis. I also keep bottles of water in the fridge. I find cold water tastes much better than room temperature or warm water and I can drink more of it. It’s surprising how quickly I finish a bottle of 500ml ice water.
Task #13 of 101.1001 is to read Mythology for Dummies. This is one of the incomplete tasks carried over from the 2007 list.
I didn’t have an arts education. Although I read steadily as a kid, it was fiction or those big general knowledge books. I knew about various myths but never paid much attention to them, and certainly never remembered much or was able to associate mythology references in books I read.
There are a lot of books on mythology. A lot of general, beginner, summary type of books. The dummies series seem to tackle subjects in a casual manner. The tone of the writing was definitely on the silly side, with chapter titles like “Snow, Ice, and Not Very Nice: Norse Deities.” Almost 1/3 of the book was devoted to Greeks and Romans. Extremely superficial coverage of European, Middle Eastern, Eastern and American mythology. Some of the sections were more description of religions than mythology.
It was an easy read, and I like that the authors didn’t try to make mythology sound mystical or serious. May be too light-hearted in places. What did I learn? Mythology around the world and along history was remarkably similar. Some version of a god or gods creating the universe, some gods bigger and older than others. Lots of murder, jealousy, incest and illogical behaviour. They married each other (sometimes at the same time), bred like rabbits, had a tendency to fight or kill each other off for no good reason, then are consumed with remorse.
I was interested in the Greeks but lost interest in the Romans. Had a hard time keeping track of the names and relationships. Nordic mythology was interesting, as was the legend of King Arthur and his Knights at the Round table. Too brief on the rest. I guess a book I’ll keep around for reference if and when I need it.