Where are the posts?

Posting continues on main page.

in being healthy |

Am I still going to Paris marathon next April? France has extended its state of emergency for 3 months, and Belgium is on lockdown. Germany, Holland, the UK, Spain and all European cities are on high alert.

If I’m still going, training starts next week. 18 weeks isn’t a long time for the state of alert to die down. Then again, if we give in to our fears, then the terrorists have won. I’m going to go on the basis that I will be there, unless the organisers and/or the French government say otherwise. Last year’s race went ahead 2 months after Charlie Hebdo, so I think they will try to keep business as usual as much as possible.

Flights are still expensive, they’re mainly booking for Christmas now so I’ll look later. There are plenty of options on where to fly into. Aside from Paris itself, London, Barcelona, Geneva, Brussels, Amstersdam are all reachable by train. The problem is, it’s the week after Easter so I have to be careful of blackout periods.


What’s more pressing is finding somewhere to stay for the weekend, starting from expo to at least the day after the race. I started looking in the area close to the start and end of the course. The race starts on Champs, just down from Arc de Triomphe (blue circle centre right of map) and ends on Avenue Foch, near Port Dauphine (red checkered circle left of map). All the red blobs are hotels that are fully booked, and of the blue ones left many are expensive.

The good thing about making hotel reservations is I can hold it till nearer the time and keep searching. I made 2 reservations, on the basis that mum will be travelling with me. One is within walking distance of both start and end (white label)—perfect location but €240 per night, yikes. I’m only holding onto this one in case there is nothing else. The other is €150 per night, one stop NW of the map on line 1. I’ll keep looking, and at first glance on airbnb there may be something more affordable.

in money business , photography is life |

The donate-a-photo app has been around for about 2.5 years now; I only just spotted it recently on instagram. The idea is to share a photo a day, and Johnson & Johnson will donate USD1 for every photo.

Each cause will receive a minimum donation and will appear in the app until its donation period ends or its goal is reached.

Sounds simple and innocent enough. Win-win all round. Right? Everything I read online about it has been generally positive. Except my first reaction was skepticism. Originally the app used the tagline selfless selfies and encouraged people to upload their selfies. That was a massive red flag. Invasion of privacy, facial recognition, profiling. It’s yet another data gathering exercise to market their products.

My second reaction was, what will happen to these photos? This is a good way of gathering thousands of photos that they don’t have to pay royalties for. Rule #1 of sharing a pic with a big brand is be careful. They mislead, engage in bait-and-switch tactics and generally don’t give credit or compensation. Over the years, I’ve had requests on flickr to add to a website or use in a magazine (the biggest was Travel and Leisure). I’ve found that the ones that promise “credit and exposure” without paying are the worst, they don’t even send you back the link to the story (no, T+L never sent anything back). I’ve stopped responding.

The donate-a-photo app does say that the photos shared will be added to a gallery to promote the app,

but they will never be used to sell any products or for any other commercial.


What’s the harm, I thought. I’ll upload some innocuous pics and if it gets money to the right causes, it’s all good. So far I’ve added a couple of pics of trees and one of smiley pastries. I also signed up for the UK version as opposed to the US version. It’s smaller in scale, in terms of causes included—only 2 so far this week. Unlike the US charity navigator I can’t find any good UK based charity vetting services. I may switch to US so I know more about the causes offered.


As of today, J&J claims that they have received 801k photos, which suggests they have donated $801k. Over 2.5 years it’s roughly $320k per year. Even rounded up to $500k, this is probably just a fraction of their philanthropy budget. According to this infographic, they gave $131 million in 2011, representing 1.1% of their pre-tax profits.

Creating an app like donate-a-photo is a smart idea. Lots of good publicity, and using the sharing economy concept to run the campaign. They already have a department that liaises with causes, just agree on an amount to donate and timeframe. Once the amount is reached or timeslot completed, move the next cause up the queue. Run a report every once in a while, send the money, update the app and website, claim the tax benefits. The general public do all the work of populating the galleries and spreading the word to their friends. And it makes everyone feel good.

in photography is life |


Photofriday challenge this week is yellow.

title: tram from castro to the ferry terminal, san francisco
description: each tram is distinctive and meticulously archived; #1811 is a Peter Witts design repainted into the original 1928 Milan livery of yellow and white with black trim
date: october 2006

Click here for full-sized and other details
©invisiblecompany 2015, all rights reserved

in random words |


Task #17 of 101.1001 is to outline book / story ideas.

Since nano is done this year, it’s worth using some of the momentum for writing and related. I have ideas dating back a long time, yet I never get round to starting, let alone finishing them. It’s not good. As time goes by, I get more ideas and the backlog gets bigger. Definitely not good. Anyway, it’s all in Evernote:

lamplight universe

  • lamplight
  • lamplight follow-up with Kian and Anna in Albania and the Balkans
  • shep (nano 2009)
  • the house on the lake (nano 2013) — indy and pete building indy’s dream house with a green roof

melody universe

  • party planner (nano 2014) — melody is trying to organise a retirement party for her dad and meets restaurant manager samantha
  • melody on church (tight, nano 2005) — sam’s dream of starting her own restaurant becomes embroiled with melody’s strange obsession and sam’s own family weirdness
  • in pieces (nano 2006) — sam’s descent into insanity while melody decides she wants to be a nun, needs a happy ending

healing series

  • short story prequel, robot sheepdog project, how they met
  • short story ghost
  • the actual novel where MC1 goes to oxford to gain closure with joey’s parents and meets MC2 in bath

london stories

  • drive (nano 2011) — minicab driver and missing child
  • tips (nano 2012) — heir hunters at harrow road

work travel

  • work travel go (nano 2015) — tech startup CEO goes undercover at travel destination, meets volunteer
  • how the hosts met — 1990s story of how dee and sm met, why sm needed wheelchair 25yrs later

master will universe (obviously need to change names)

  • days of innocence lost (earth as a short story prequel) — may be expand to novella length?
  • days of innocence returned — 150 years from now, w has been a good vampire, reinventing herself every few decades, enrolling in universities to try to find a cure for cancer. and then t comes back
  • there was a third planned but I can’t remember what it’s about


  • summer into winter — inspired by david harsent’s book
  • bigtown — post apocalypse universe, hacker vs tyrannical dictator
  • magic — need to find the outline
  • 12 races in chicago (nano 2010)
  • spotter — what if the world’s most tragic person invented a time machine to go back to history to eliminate disease, disasters and wars? the world’s population has grown to the point where it is impossible to sustain, and going to the future reveals everyone dies of famine; spotters are sent out to mark people out for elimination or retention, what if a spotter spots the wrong person
  • unmasked — short story, starts in a blind restaurant

in challenges , random words |


Task #15 of 101.1001 is to complete nano 2015. Got to 50k on day 15, but to truly complete means having it validated on the nanosite and getting the winner’s badge. Validation started today, and I validated at 52,219. Scrivener gives me 52,282 and google docs 52,199—there’s always a discreprency when using different tools.

There’s an achievement badge for updating wordcount 30 days in a row, so I’ve been writing a few hundred words a day to keep it going. I’ll try to remember to continue until the 30th. I think badges reset every year so I’m not entirely sure why I’m so keen to get the badge. I suspect it’s OCD, that I can’t bear to have one greyed out badge amongst the entire set.

in photography is life |


Finally uploaded trip pics:

  • chicago — mainly marathon
  • albany — firefighters memorial
  • ptown — town, harbour, beach, cemeteries, lighthouse, whale-watching
  • scranton — cemetary, former orphanage
  • state college — penn state


May be it’s because of the beautiful weather, I’m liking how most of these turned out. I do see a difference between using the big camera vs the small camera. Not bad for an entry-level 10 year old DSLR. I’m not happy with the small camera; at the back of my mind I’m still missing my s90 and not liking the newer s110. I hardly used it on the trip.


May be also due to the good weather, minimum adjustments needed for the outdoor pics. Some cropping, some levels. There’s a speck of dust or a scratch inside one of the mirrors so a little cover up needed. The indoor pics, especially at the Sage Inn, had to be re-levelled, because the interior was so dark.


A friend at Ptown brought along her brand new, fabulous, envy-worthy lens. She kindly let me borrow it for a second and I quickly snapped this one of the whale-watching signboard from far away. Nice. Thanks, Dutch!

We were also talking a little about over-processing of pics. I see a lot of, especially landscape and nature photography, that are rich and complex but then I realise how much the pics have been processed and I’m less impressed. I admit, processing in Lightroom is also a skill, it just seems less photography than digital manipulation.

Interesting that Reuters just issued a worldwide ban on RAW photos from their freelance photographers, to

increase both ethics and speed

I can only applaud the decision. RAW images are flexible and can be processed much more than jpgs. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Seeing this comparison:

image from manners photo

who wouldn’t want to use RAW? The question then is, which is real and which is manufactured. I’m all for relatively small adjustments to exposure, level, colour—I do it all the time. But professionals who earn money taking action news photos as they happen should present the most realistic picture (pun not intended) of what is happening, hence Reuters’ emphasis on ethics.

Also fitting that in the middle of teasing me the other day, mm reminded me that I actually got paid for a photo I took when we visited whitstable. That one was literally a quick snap with none of the post-processing Lightroom stuff (well, cos I don’t shoot in RAW). Each to their own, I suppose.

in arts and media |

Need some escape from real life. Luckily the hunt is on. No, it’s not some walking dead program from the zombies’ pov. It’s a on bbc and a nature program focused on predators hunting their prey. Exec producer Alastair Fothergill:

the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey


It’s not just lions and polar bears, the big predators. There was a sequence of the sparrowhawk hunting small birds and another on army ants, the most successful predator in the forests. Brilliant as only the bbc, and David Attenborough’s narration, can be.

I haven’t been able to catch all of the series so far. Knowing BBC Earth, it’ll repeat. If only iPlayer works outside the UK. Seriously, I’d pay a subscription, like I do to my cable company, to get iplayer.

in in the news , sports active |

image from the independent

If I were still in London, I would have thought about going too. And I’ve never gone to a football match.

On Tuesday night, France came to Wembley to play a football match with England, four days after the terrorist attack in Paris, during which their own game with Germany was under attack at la Stade de France. While most people will agree that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, this time

football itself has been rather thrust forward into the vanguard of the response to the horror in Paris.

Kudos to the FA their french counterpart and the government, for the determination that the game will go ahead,
defiance, normality, business as usual: this was the message.

It was always going to be an emotional night. It was well known beforehand that the Duke of Cambridge, Cameron and the team captains would lay wreaths on the pitch; that there would be a minute’s silence; that the words of La Marseillaise would be shown on the big screen so England fans can sing with their counterparts.

I looked for videos of that. I did not expect to be so moved. Wonderful display of Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Yes, the words were mangled, the band wasn’t perfect. It was perfect:
it suited the often funny fraternity between France and England: our closest neighbour, but a sibling kind of relationship that leaves each afraid to say to the other how much we care, until something truly awful happens.

In the meantime, politicians, most especially Republican governors in America are portraying Muslims and Middle Eastern refugees as all terrorists and falling over each other to slam the door on Syrian refugees. Wow, that’s inhuman and cruel.

Oh, the final score was 2-0 to England. It didn’t matter. Marchons, marchons.

in eating and drinking |


Happy hour with mm after school. Before meeting her, I went to another bar that was advertising happy hour between 5-7, start at local $1 at 5pm, doubling every 20mins. The first glass was small in terms of proportion, I went through 2 within the first 20mins; then either it’s their practice or the bartender got in a better mood, subsequent $2 glasses were decent proportions. Since local $1 is around 10p, not complaining.

Wasn’t doing too well when I met mm though, drank the wine too quickly. Didn’t feel too great, went home to bed early.

in challenges , random words |


6297 words | 50345 total

Done. I’m surprised and happy about finishing on day 15. I barely managed the goal 2k during the first week (blue vs red on chart). Once I got some peace and quiet and am mostly over jetlag it got better (blue line growing exponentially). Did a big push today, and the characters helped. Resolved a big conflict and made a lot of progress in the relationship. These are good characters, I quite like them. There is a good crew of side characters too. Originally I didn’t think this story is publishable, now I think there are possibilities.

If novels were 50k in length, I can type in THE END. But they are not, so I’m giving the characters another adventure. A change in location, trying to find a little conflict, developing the relationship further, happy ending. I say this every year, that I’ll try to contine writing until the story is finished vs stopping at 50k, but I never do. Let’s see.

The traditional statistical part of the yay, 50k post:

  • 50,345 words in 15 days = average 3,356 per day
  • highest wordcount day = day 15 at 6,297 words
  • lowest wordcount day = day 03 at 1,305 words — I was surprised I got any words in, that was the day of my flight
  • dares used = 1 — Mr Ian Woon only, didn’t even look at the dares thread
  • total nano years = 11
  • lifetime nano words = 568,301
  • finishing on day 15 is the average finish day
  • quickest finish = 10 days (2004)
  • slowest finish = 23 days (2011)

Validation is from the 20th this year. Oh, remember the book I was reading? I got distracted by #paris news cycle, I finished nano before I finished the book. Wrist pain update: painful from the first day, relieved by wearing brace all day and using the smaller foam roller on hand, wrist and arm.

in all about people , in the news |

I woke up this morning to the news of the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. It’s been a dreadful few weeks, with the sudden loss of a friend to cancer, a death in the family and now this. I was about to start looking for flights and hotels too.

As with many news events nowadays, social media played a big part in both dissemination of information and for people to express their feelings. What I observed on my fb, twitter and instagram feeds was quite interesting:

  • fb — fb friends’ demographics are fairly homogeneous in terms of background, education and values. It’s a close and tight community. Plus, I’m careful about whose friend request I accept, which perpetuate the sameness. The reaction to #fusillade was overwhelmingly outrage, sadness and sympathy
  • twitter — I follow all sorts on twitter: runners, professional athletes, whisky & wine lovers, travellers, nano participants, artists, writers, photographers, chefs, GBBO partipants, journalists, tech people, gamergate people, celebrities. Some I follow to see what sort of mischief they get up to. Some are people whose views I may not necessary agree with. I don’t check twitter all the time, but if there is an important event, it’s the first place I go to. Most of the updates for #fusillade was via twitter and the reaction was varied, from sadness and sympathy to more controversial views
  • instagram — instagram was quiet, people continued posting as normal albeit slightly subdued, a couple of the parispaix image

image via the guardian

I spent most of the morning following the livefeeds on the guardian and NYT (they disabled the paywall for this event) as well as #paris and my own feed on twitter.

For some reason, one person’s twitter posts stood out. Suffice it to say they are an author and possibly self publish, I’m not sure. I’ve noticed the tweets by this person for a long time, because it’s all the same: “buy my book” multiple times every day. RTs are when they are @mentioned by others, also writing and publishing and book buying related.

So when the news in Paris broke, and everyone was waiting with bated breath as the police operation went underway, what did this person do? A “buy my book” post. Seriously. In the middle of the largest attack on a western city since 9/11. Where was the common sense? Where was the perspective? Where was the empathy towards the dead, the injured, le gendarmarie?

I don’t know this individual personally.1 I could have, and arguably should have, sent them a friendly DM. But I didn’t because I thought a DM from a stranger will likely be taken the wrong way and have the opposite effect.

I’m not saying don’t post. Life goes on. My feed gradually filled up with non-Paris posts, although I noticed they were more low key. If I had gone running, I would have done my normal running post too. My issue with this author was the constant barrage of promotional posts did not stop2 when it was clearly inappropriate. The excuse that they weren’t aware of what was happening doesn’t fly because they were RTing Paris stuff too.


It was the last straw. So I vented on fb. I added that I’m sad and pissed off. I figured, in a while, I’ll calm down and I’ll delete it. No one will be any wiser.

The post blew up. Mainly agreeing. Like I said, homogeneous group. The post isn’t public, only people I have personal interactions saw it. The comments were somewhat valid, so I thought I’ll leave it up. There were hints that certain commenters saw the same tweets.

One person called me out on it. She disapproved of the way we seemed to have gone all lynch mob on the author. That it was disappointing that no one thought to educate instead of hanging someone out to dry. That we should be more forgiving about mistakes. Since it is someone I really respect, it was time for self-reflection. Was it wrong to say something so harsh? Should I have said nothing? Should I have contacted the author to understand where they were coming from?

I looked at the author’s twitter feed again. Another promotional post had gone up in the meantime. This is the gist of what I added to the OP:

  • it’s common sense to know what to not do in times of tragedy
  • how many times have people written about written about the perils of constantly bombarding readers with “buy my book” posts? Everytime, the answer is don’t do it
  • if you’re on social media, be ready that someone will disagree with you
  • we should stop catering to the lowest common denominator in society

I mean what I say, about lowest common denominators in society. Because a handful drunken louts damaged a property, now no one can go inside [a park, a building etc]. Because one person freaks out at witchcraft and sorcery, Harry Potter books are banned. Because someone has no common sense, we should use kid gloves to oh-so-gently nudge them in the right direction. How many people will step up when a customer insults an autistic employee when most businesses would act the opposite way?

Was I a meanie, posting on fb? Possibly. Did the author deserve it? Possibly, since they seem to have taken a what-not-to-do guide and did exactly those things (yet another promotional post came up later). They probably deserved a more reconciliatory tone. Would I do it again? I sure hope that the circumstances leading to needing to rant never occur, ever.

1 This person posts a lot. Yet I have no clue about their personality. Do they like where they live? Favourite food? Do they have pets? Post something other than writing or RTs that make me interested in you AS A PERSON. For all I know, this is a bot.

2 A thought occurred to me that they are scheduled. I don’t have the energy to check timestamps. Even if they were scheduled, turn it off.

in challenges , random words |


3633 words | 44048 total

Woke up to the sad news of the tragic terrorist attack in Paris. So awful. Spent the morning glued to the livefeed from the guardian and NYT (they took down the paywall) as well as twitter. Hence no writing got done.

The target was to get to minimum 2000, so am happy that I found more. It’s a day off for the MCs, They started the day with declarations of love (yay!) and then spent the day touring a chocolate factory (yay!) and more kissing. Going okay.

in challenges , random words |


5096 words | 40415 total

For most of the day I had the flat to myself. Distracted with reading and cooking. Just managed to squeak past 5k.

The thing about the middle third of a novel is, there never seems to be enough material to go around. I can’t just have one conflict, one suspicious act, then it all gets resolved straightaway. Have to drag it out, have more discussions, more layers.

Today is also love your ML day. I have friend who was ML for a while, when nano was still small. Don’t know if she’s even involved anymore. #weloveML

in challenges , random words |


5116 words | 35319 total

Some years I’m done by day 12, it’s my highest ranking finish day—4 times in total. Anyway another 5k day is worth feeling good about. I finished the book I was reading and immediately moved to the sequel. It may become a race, finish the book first or finish nano.

And finally at 35k we make a move to act 2. A little intrigue, some suspicious behaviour and look! first kiss. The story and characters are surprising me in how well they are coming together. I shouldn’t jinx anything though.

The next nano event is backup day, which falls on the middle sunday, I think. I hope I’m sufficiently backed up. I’m writing in scrivener, which gets copied every day to google docs and a word doc. The scriv file, the word docs and the xls tracker are saved on the mbp, dropbox and my flashdrive. Basically everything is on the mbp, somewhere in the cloud and on my flashdrive.

in challenges , random words |


5025 words | 30203 total

A 5k day to get to 30k, it’s all good. Which is a relief because I started reading a book last night and: a) it’s a good book; b) I shouldn’t be reading during nano. It acts as a good reward system though—get to x and read a chapter.

For a nano that wasn’t well planned, the pieces are coming together quite nicely. I don’t just write, I do research and look stuff up as I go along. So far, I’ve have information not just on work travel but mapped out the past trips of MC2, who’s been doing this for 9 months. Other research include flight departure & arrival times, art exhibtions at airports, a brewpub beer menu, shower facilities at a beach, the nearest mcdonald’s to an airport, alaskan tribes, ATV riding on sand dunes, sunset times, rice & water proportions to make congee for a layman. I quite like this doing research as I’m writing, in fact I haven’t taken out my handwritten planning sheet yet.

Mr Ian Woon has made his annual appearance. This year, he is an outfitter ATV expert who takes guests from the ranch on four wheeler trips on the sand dunes of southern oregon.

Of course at 30k, my left wrist has been hurting for a few days. Hurting a lot today, I have the brace on almost the entire time.

in all about people |

Three weeks ago, on the last leg of our trip back to Chicago from a week in Ptown, in a car park near Penn State University, my friend Carleen took her phone and showed me a fb post from our friend Sandra. Sandra just posted that she had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. It was devastating news, yet she wrote it in a positive and uplifting manner. There seemed to be hope.

Two weeks ago, again in a car park (this time after we visited an Italian deli), Carleen took out her phone and showed me a second fb post from Sandra. The cancer was even more aggressive than anyone could imagine, and hospice care was the best they could do. The reality sank in. Over the weekend, Carleen drove to Kansas to visit Sandra. She told me she felt bad for leaving me alone. To me, visiting Sandra took precedence over everything else, it was a no brainer.

One week ago, I flew home. Back to being 13, 14 timezones away. I still thought about Sandra. On tv was a program about the Vatican and I prayed to Papa Francis for a miracle.

Sandra passed away Saturday night their time. I was at my niece’s birthday lunch.

I’m not a great displayer of emotions. I only get touchy-feely-huggy at the conference. I don’t cry at three-tissue movies, I didn’t cry at my grandparents’ funerals; it’s not deliberate and it doesn’t mean I have no feelings. Carleen wrote a touching post about Sandra. And when she described her dream:

There was Sandra! Smiling and looking lovely. I swear she was taller. And she glowed.

She said to all of us, “It’s okay. I’m good.”

There, I cried a little. I need that message to keep me going. I commented on the post that I’m going to hold onto the “It’s okay. I”m good.” I’d like to believe—no, I do believe—that it was Sandra telling us she’s okay and pain free now.

There was a massive outpouring of grief and tribute on fb. People deal with their sorrow their own way. In this day and age of oversharing and social media, feelings and reactions that was kept within are often let out.

Me, I didn’t want to post anything, didn’t want to write pointless platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” because in this case, I can’t see the reason. Losing someone so young, so full of life, so well loved, it’s an ambush on one’s faith. But Carleen also told us to share our memories of Sandra. Be sure to share them, she said.


Sandra’s first con was Dallas 2013. I honestly can’t remember if I met her in person. I left that conference extremely tired. My lasting memories of Dallas 2013 were whisky adventures with Adrian, no time to rest and constantly taking the lift up and down. The only pic I have of Sandra is at the author autograph session. Here she is on the extreme left talking to Andi.

I started reading Letters Never Sent and regretted never having the chance to chat with her. I finished the book, and immediately went back to the beginning to re-read it. I’m not a very retentive reader, I wanted to read the book again carefully, to absorb passages that I missed. Then when I finished, I went back to the beginning again. It’s that good.

I didn’t take many pictures in Portland 2014, but I did get hugs from Sandra. I joined in the well deserved applause when she won two awards.


Ran into her at registration for NOLA 2015 and, yay, not only a hug but pictorial evidence. I attended one of the sessions she was presenting, a 2-part masterclass, intending to stay for the first part then go to another session. Guess what, I stayed for both sessions, it was that good.

I can’t say we were close friends, but you can’t tell by how she treated me. Always a big smile, always giving me full attention, even if 17 people were waiting to pull her in all directions. She was quick-witted, extremely smart and a keen observer of her surroundings. Who else can make gloves left at the side of the road, or pie charts, or food left in a stranger’s car seem engrossing and interesting in an academic way?

The world is poorer at her departure. Three years of knowing Sandra, it’s more enriching than some friends I’ve known for 30 years. That’s her legacy. She touched everyone she met and I’ll never forget her.

p.s. Sandra’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations are made to the gcls scholarship fund in her name.

in challenges , random words |


3958 words | 25178 total

Halfway on day 10. Reasonable progress. I’ll be fine if I finish on the 20th; I hope I can finish earlier.

Chapter 4 is done. MC2 completed her long journey to the destination and MC1 was the volunteer who picked her up from the airport. The sign spelled her name was wrong so they had a humourous introduction. There’s already some mild flirting.

in challenges , random words |


3685 words | 21220 total

I think this is the first full day I’ve stayed in, without going out. I suppose I have to start running again some time. Ah well.

Received some very sad news in the morning, that our friend had passed away. Lots of tributes and heartfelt posts on fb. She would have wanted us to carry on living our lives in full as before.

Took it easy with the writing, didn’t stress myself out too much. Around 1k in the morning, more in the afternoon and another 1k after dinner. Finished chapter 3, MC1 arrived at the destination and met a bunch of side characters. I took time out to create the side characters in scrivener. In chapter 4 it’s MC2’s turn to travel. A longer flight, with 2 layovers. They will meet at the end of the chapter.

in eating and drinking , family first |

jamies11cauli jamies13pasta

For gis’ birthday this year she picked lunch at jamie’s italian at the weekend. She even sent the email to all of us with the details.

I’ve only been to jamie’s italian in the UK, so was wondering if the menu ported over well. First of, the restaurant was huge, must have cost a pretty penny in rent. We started with cauliflower fritters and arancini to share. Everyone ordered pasta for mains. Mine was supposed to be the daily special of mussel spaghetti (I think it’s spaghetti, we had problems understanding the waitress’ english). Definitely in the can do better category. The entire dish was bland, as if no salt or pepper had been added. The shells of the mussels were broken and the greatest sin of all, the pasta was overcooked. An italian restaurant that doesn’t know how to serve al dente pasta, argh. Everyone’s pasta was overcooked too, and we had to ask for olive oil to loosen the pasta.

jamies16cheesecake jamies17gelato

The dessert redeemed them a little. Gis had pavlova, parents had cheesecake and I had gelato: vanilla, chocolate and sea salt caramel. Gave most of the chocolate to parents and they really liked it.

Originally I was going to look for a camera with gis but she was tired and wanted to go home. Mum and I did some food shopping then went home too.

in challenges , random words |


2500 words | 17535 total

Went out to Jamie’s Italian for my niece’s birthday lunch, had a mussel pasta that was actually quite bland, the gelato dessert made up for it. Too full for dinner, just had a plum.

Got to an even 2500 words for the day and it’s a good point to stop. Not very often do you get even wordcount like this.

MC1 had breakfast at the airport, then boarded a flight heading west. There was a layover, which added words. It’s an actual flight, I got the details on departure, arrival times, layover times and even layover terminal map. She arrived, got a rental car and found a place to have a late lunch. Everyone is proceeding to the destination slowly.

in challenges , random words |


2022 words | 15035 total

It’s #doubleupday, and we’re encouraged to:

  • double your wordcount or daily goal
  • donate $25 to get $50-level goodies
  • enter into the Grand Prize and hourly prize draws

I didn’t double my daily goal or anything ambitious. Tired today, so utilised an old trick to add wordcount, wrote 1000 words explaining sharing economy. Seeing that MC1 is the CEO of one such startup, it’s not too far off track. In the editing process, information dump (or writersplaining, a sibling to mansplaining) like this will be deleted or dramatically cut.

Anyway, day 7 and I’m at 15k, which looks more impressive when it’s converted to a pie chart. It’s a good achievement considering I spent almost one complete day travelling and the next 4 days jetlagged. But if I’m only at 30k next weekend, I’ll be disappointed.

Just started chapter 3 after 2 lengthy introductory chapters. MC1 is in the process of flying to the destination, hence the discussion about uber vs taxi and airbnb vs hotel. She’s not even at the airport. There will be some more padding about flying tomorrow, hahaha. MC2 isn’t on the same continent, so she needs to find her way there. Not before saying tearful goodbyes with her friends.

in challenges , random words |


1735 words | 13013 total

Tired. Napped in the afternoon, went out with mm to happy hour then quick dinner. The very low expectation goal was 1000 words, glad I got more than 1667 to keep on track.

in challenges , random words |


2253 words | 11278 total

It’s Bonfire Night. Celebrated with a whisky, small one because I’m sleepy. Woke up at 5am, went out to the post office to pick up a registered letter and stopped off at the supermarket to get food. No fridge, so limited in selection. Bought carrots and kale to make carrot soup. The kale came in a big bunch so used the stalk in the soup too which was an improvement in flavour.

Continued with chapter 2, it’s dragging a bit now, but good for nano. Averaging 2256 words after 5 days, extrapolating finish on the 23rd.

in going places , mind babble , random words |


1945 words | 9025 total

Day of the flight. Car’s cousin Mike kindly took me to the airport and I was checked in and through security in no time. Bought a Balvenie triple cask 16 that we first tasted in Heathrow, then bought 4 pork buns at wow bao for lunch. Beer at the bar next to the gate was expensive, $11.

The flight was full, and I got upgraded to premium economy. Here’s the dilemma, which is the better seat: an aisle seat in economy or a middle seat in premium economy? I would have preferred an aisle seat but the lady sitting next to me was nice and slept most of the way. The additional seat width and leg room were good in helping to make 15hrs pass faster.

Disappointed that there wasn’t much to watch, no big action film, no Bake-off and too many old tv programs (Prime Suspect s1, Entourage s1, ugh). Watched Spy (funny, good) and The Hundred-Foot Journey, which was a real gem. An Indian family’s car broke down in the middle of the French countryside and they decided to settle down roots, opening a restaurant directly opposite a Michelin-star establishment. War ensued, but of course it was a happy ending in the end. Helen Mirren was brilliant in this predictable feel good movie, perfect for watching on the plane.

PE had better food. Filet steak and creamy shrimp on rice. I had half a glass of wine, but mainly stuck to coke zero and sparkling water.

Door to door was 20hrs, and I lost most of Wednesday. Got home around 9.30pm, showered and unpacked quickly.

My nano time is based in Chicago so when I woke up at 5am there was enough time to write and assign it to day 4. I wanted to get around 1000 words in, and am pleased that I got almost 2000.

in challenges , random words |


1305 words | 7080 total

My flight is at 2pm so there was time in the morning to get some writing done. It would have been nice to get to the 1667 minimum but I’m pleased at the progress. Chapter 2 introduces MC2, sitting at a bar with a view of a nice bay sunset. I’m not being very creative this year, I’m using locations I’m sure I’ve used before, but these are locations I’m familiar with. If/when this one ever gets moved to the possibly publishable list, then I’ll rewrite.

in random words |


3029 words | 5775 words total

My last full day in Chicago, I’m still home alone. Another brilliant blue sky day that was too good to stay in all day. I continued with the story, getting 1000 words in before heading out. Walked 2 miles to a really nice supermarket, with so many great fruit & veg, meat and other goods I so desperately want to buy. But I can’t. I limited myself to a thin sliced porterhouse, which was on discount. One artichoke and some biscuits for Mum and Gis. The steak, together with leftover kale and two green tomatoes I bought at the Mexican supermarket yesterday, was for lunch.

Packed up both suitcases and tidied up a little. Watched a bit of tv then wrote some more. Made dinner of cornish game hen and artichoke. Watched more tv, writing some more during comercial breaks. Finished chapter 1 after the program finished, MC1 is introduced. The chapter dragged on a bit, isn’t as punchy as a first chapter as I’d like. Quite pleased that I reached 5k on day 2.

in random words |


It was funny to see last night on #nanowrimo people in Australia and Asia already starting. For the next few days I’ll be at the end of the nanoday, before doing back to being at the start. I’ll miss a day or two when I’m on the plane which is okay.

There was also the #moranstrong 5k to run this morning. It was supposed to be yesterday but a) it was raining heavily and b) I had a bad cough. Wrote about 1000 words before setting out.

oldshopsign2015 bbshadow201501

Had lunch then went outside for a walk since it was such a nice day, and such contrast to yesterday. It was about 1 mile to Blue Island “high street” which was mostly closed except for a few eating places, a bakery, two liquor stores, a Mexican supermarket and a few bars. Not a very prospering town centre. The strange thing was that I encountered barely any pedestrians during the walk and back. May be 10. A few people waiting for the bus, a couple of cyclists, two men smoking outside a bar. I guess people simply don’t walk here. Americans are so dependent on their cars.

Came back before 4pm. The clocks changed last night so sunset was earlier. Wrote some more. I’m most proud of the 520k lifetime average. Aiming at 2500 per day.

in eating and drinking |


I’m home alone in Chicago, which is okay. Read a bit, watched tv. Walked out to the nearest supermarket, an Aldi’s, to get food. Everything is in such large portions, chicken drumsticks come in a pack of 8 and fish (frozen) in a big family pack. Saw individual cornish game hens in the freezer section, so that was what I got for dinner. 180ºC for about 45mins.


As it was an Aldi’s, there was a limited choice for veg. Still better than at home. I bought a huge bag of kale for $1.99, then saw spaghetti squash, wow haven’t had that since…I was living in the US. Cut the squash in half and roasted with the hen. Used a fork to remove the strands and cooked with the kale. Added some goat’s cheese, because I had it. Enough veg for 3-4 meals. Overall an extremely nice homemade meal.


Something else I missed, honeycrisp apples. All we get are red delicious and fuji apples. I can’t stand red delicious anymore and fuji are boring. I wish we can have imported honeycrisp.

in random words |


It’s almost nano time again. Year 11. I see many more people signing up, because nano has gone mainstream. I also see many people saying this is the month they will add 50k words to their 30k manuscript. Sigh. Another problem with going maintream. Traditionally, and for purists like me, nano means starting a novel from scratch and getting to 50k words. But no, the faq has been changed:

Traditionally, NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. It may be an arbitrary distinction, but we’ve seen that novelists do better (and have more fun) when they’re free from the constraints of existing manuscripts. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate!

That said, we welcome all writers at any stage. Outlines, character sketches, and other planning steps are encouraged. Just be sure to only count words written during the month.


Anyway, I’ll continue to do it the traditional way. This year, I struggled to come up with a theme. And took a long time before I was able to come up with some semblance of a plot. But I finally was able to scribble a pageful of stuff. I may have to resort to more dares than usual.

The setting is based on a review I read on workaway, a sort of airbnb for working holidays. The website matches hosts who need help, for instance at a farm, with volunteers who offer around 5hrs of work a day in exchange for room and board. The comments on the review was that the location was great but the host was disorganised and volunteers were not treated with respect. Got me thinking along the lines of undercover boss meets secret diner. Let’s see at the end of the month if it works.

in all about people |


Saw this at a car dealership on our travels. It’s quite true. We can learn knowledge and force ourselves to work hard, but attitude is probably the most important attribute.

in going places |


via boredpanda, a cool place to consider next time we visit tokyo is the book and bed hotel, which will open in November. It’s a hostel which is based on a theme of a bookstore because:

dozing off obliviously during your treasured pasttime is the finest “moment of sleep”, don’t you agree?


They will have 1,700 English and Japanese books and comics available, to be expanded to 3,000. The books are not for sale, just reading.

The accommodation is basic, more like capsules built inside bookshelves and shared bathrooms. Free wifi. At ¥4500 (USD37, £25) it’s aimed at the backpacker end of the market. Ikebukuro location is another positive. Then again, we prefer a little more comfort and private bathrooms. Probably not as suitable for us. Still very cool.

in arts and media |

Found out too late (although, we were travelling) that there was a one-night showing of the last night of the proms in some US cinemas on 14 October. The actual last night was on 12 September so it was a recording. Hope the event was well attended, there’s lots of magic at the proms.

in all about people |


The news from #moranstrong is devastating. Our dear friend has been given 3 months. There are no words, and the focus is to continue to send positive thoughts to Sandra and her family.

I find direction from Padre Pio; San Giovanni Rotondo is one of the places mm and I want to travel for pilgrimage. I want to have faith and take heart in his words, to pray and hope and not worry. Worry is useless. The prayer for his intercession:

Dear God, You generously blessed Your servant,
St. Pio of Pietrelcina,
with the gifts of the Spirit.
You marked his body with the five wounds
of Christ Crucified, as a powerful witness
to the saving Passion and Death of Your Son.
Endowed with the gift of discernment,
St. Pio labored endlessly in the confessional
for the salvation of souls.
With reverence and intense devotion
in the celebration of Mass,
he invited countless men and women
to a greater union with Jesus Christ
in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Through the intercession of St. Pio of Pietrelcina,
I confidently beseech You to grant me
the grace of [state petition].

Glory be to the Father… (three times). Amen.

November 2015

sun mon tue wed thu fri sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30          

not so invisible

  • facebook profile
  • twitter
  • tumblr
  • medium
  • instagram profile
  • flickr photostream

101 tasks in 1001 days

Monthly archives