Tasks #35, 36, 37 in 101 in 1001 are to visit 3 new world heritage sites.
The cruise actually took me to 5 (new ones, vatican and rome have already been checked off the list), so I’ll group by country. More detailed description in daily cruise trip reports.
#35 greece: a) archeological site of olympia, visited 23-feb-2014. This was where the ancient olympic games were held and some of the temples as well as the stadium ruins remain; b) acropolis athens, visited 01-mar-2014. One of the most important historical sites in world history, with the parthenon and the erechtheion both still standing
#35 israel: a) old city of jerusalem and its walls, visited 26-feb-2014. The prayers at the wailing wall, the ancient via dolorosa (road of sorrows) that traced Jesus’ path up to his crucifixion, the church of the holy sepulchre which marked the crucifix and tomb. Very crowded, but still very significant and powerful;
b) baha’i holy places in haifa and western galilee, the baha’i hanging gardens at haifa visited 27-feb-2014, although only from the outside as we didn’t go inside to the shrines
#37 palestine: birthplace of Jesus church of the nativity and the pilgrimage route bethlehem, visited 26-feb-2014. Going into bethlehem involved crossing the border into palestine-held west bank. We were able to squeeze into the church before it closed for service and there was a scrum down to the grotto. It did not take away the emotions that came with touching the spot where Jesus was born.
I just got back from the cruise, the pics still need to be sorted and the trip written up. Already planning the next trip. Met with mm for korean lunch, then to travel agent to get information. Retreated to happy hour place to work out what we wanted. Too much information! Too many choices! We’ve narrowed it down to either Tokyo and surrounding or Hokkaido. Both we hadn’t visited for a long time. In any event we will end up in the land of fresh seafood, beautiful scenery and relaxing hot springs.
5.12km 39.05min 7.33min/km (12.15min/mi
I downloaded the run, zombies app because I hadn’t been running and needed some serious motivation. The idea of the app is to run through missions (30 or 60mins) that roughly follow a post-apocalyptic story — run to pick up items, escape zombies and help a survival township. It tracks progress via GPS, there’s a radio operator to guide the runner and it plays music in between tasks from a specified playlist.
I tried it on the cruise, and it was really great. The 30mins went by extremely quickly, both when I ran on deck and at the treadmill. I had to manually enter the distance of course. The run today (mission 1.4) was the first with GPS, and I had to escape zombies by increasing my speed. The first couple of times I didn’t realise I had to run faster, but I got it when they came after me the third time. Overall speed of 7.33 is still a minute from the 6.30-6.40 baseline I’m used to when I’m marathon training but a lot better than the 8.00 I’ve been clocking (hence the demotivation).
I spent most of the flights in and out to the cruise watching the entire season 3 of the Walking Dead, and it’s telling how the app is so similar to the walking dead storyline. Gives the story even more of a context and now I can’t wait for the next run/mission. The app is also integrated with the web which gives a nice breakdown of the whole run. Lots of stats and pretty charts. I was also able to run nikeplus in the background so it’s tracked in both places.
Hung out with sis and niece in the afternoon while little one had her drum lesson. Had dinner at this place called king ludwig restaurant that serves, surprise surprise, german food. More people and better quality food than we expected. Shared a ginormous wiener schnitzel and cheesy spaetzle, followed by baked cheesecake. I didn’t have much of an appetite after all the food on the cruise, and I’m jetlagged. Still cold enough for mulled wine, which was what we had with our meal. Good to be back with family and a place we’d go back especially since it’s within walking distance from sis’ place.
Will be away for 2 weeks, going on another cruise with parents and family friends. Greece, Israel, Italy, a few at sea days.
No idea why I agreed to go on a cruise again, there was so much I didn’t enjoy about being on a cruise: at close proximity with people I absolutely detest, the horrible scrum at the cafeteria, the rip-off excursions, and the fake formality of the MDR. Parents and family friends have very different style of travelling to me, and it’s more frustration than relaxation. I just feel like my time and money could be better spent on other holidays.
Sigh. Look on the bright side. I’m sure that the sights will be great. There is a potential to see Olympia, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Acropolis. I’ll get lots of pictures.
Task #24 in 101 in 1001 is to try a challenge at photochallenge.org. They take photography very seriously and post weekly challenges aimed at stretching participants’ photography skills. The submissions are great, and even though I joined their flickr and facebook groups, I’ve felt too imtimidated by the quality of work there to attempt myself. They also encourage submissions of work taken during that week, and sometimes I don’t have time or am in the right place to participate.
The challenge in week 7 is still life: camera. And because we are preparing for our trip next week, we have cameras on our mind. I asked my dad if his old camera is still easily reachable, and it is! Just hiding at the back of his wardrobe.
The camera is a Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35S and it’s older than me. Fully manual, and still in its now very stiff leather casing. The protective UV lens is fogged up and useless now, but is easily replaced. It’s taken all our childhood photos, and I remember my dad lugging it around with us. It’s less heavy than I remember, probably because to a young child, it would have felt quite heavy. I still have a few rolls of 35mm film in my freezer, so I may play around with the camera one of these days.
Not much still life composition or special lighting or background to speak of. Just natural light from the window onto the desk in my room, which thankfully is a neutral grey colour. Ideally I’d use my big camera, but it’s at my place so I’m stuck with the s110.
The one I ended up submitting is the one with camera and paraphrenalia scattered around, supposedly tastefully. I also took a couple from traditional angles.
I uploaded to their flickr group, not confident enough to upload to their fb group yet, I think people on flickr are more welcoming and tolerant than on fb. May be it’s just perception. Hopefully I get some good comments.
Hard to believe that so many people believe the sun revolves around the earth. While I had to stop for 10 seconds to remember the correct order of the planets (Jupiter comes before Saturn, I always get confused; I’m good with the rest), it’s a little shocking to learn that there is a gap in education or belief system in some pockets of the population. Wow.
I also learned a new word: orrery, which means a mechanical model of the solar system. The epitome of steam punk art, if you asked me. I spotted this post via flipboard, of a beautiful orrery designed and handcrafted by ken condal.
If only we can show this to the people who think the sun goes around the earth, hopefully we can reduce the ignorance.
Close your eyes, sit still, breathe slowly. What do you hear?
Unfortunately for me, it’s not just the clock ticking or the faint turn of the fan on the computer, it’s a constant, inescapable cachophony of traffic and people noises. I can’t hear myself think, I can’t relax, it’s very disruptive and annoying. If I had to lose a sense (and no disrespect to those who have) I have always said I’d rather be hard of hearing.
Where to find quiet places? Truly quiet, tranquil places free of human or human-made sounds. Surprisingly, it’s not Antarctica because of all the tourist and research activities. Not the North Pole or Canada or Siberia due to commercial aircraft routes. In order for an area to qualify as a quiet place, it has to be at least 1,200 square miles, large
enough to create a sound buffer around a central point of absolute quiet
According to bbc future, only about 12 of these places exist in the US and there are more in South America and Scandanavia.
Seems that to experience true quiet, these places have to be built. Called anechoic chambers, they are both sound proof and sound wave-absorbing. The quietest place on earth is a room at Orfield Laboratories, Minneapolis, which can apparently drive people mad. With no sounds, the only sounds a person hears are heartbeat, breathing and the rushing noise made inside the ear. May be we could all do with a sound absorbing room in our lives.
We had buffet shabu shabu lunch and were very full afterwards. Walked around the mall, then took mm’s car out for a drive. More walking around, no particular theme or aim. Too full for dinner, just had a coffee and dessert.
Been doing this quite often lately. She doesn’t need a car, sometimes she doesn’t use it for weeks. But it has been nice, giving us something to do and places to go.
The licence plate starts with RY, so she named it Ryan. I don’t get the need to name inanimate objects like cars or computers, then I remember that she used to have names for our cars in London. Have to ask if she can remember the names, because I can’t. I guess when we go for a drive, it’s like there are 3 of us rather than just two.
Didn’t make any plans with mm. How I spent the day? Errands. Got train ticket for trip next week, picked up stuff I ordered with expiring airmiles. Went to market. Made salmon fish cakes from some cheap salmon filets I had in the freezer. Grilled the fish then spent forever getting the bones out, including small fiddly pin bones. Will never buy fish so poorly prepped again.
Mixed the salmon flakes with mashed potatoes, dipped in flour, egg and panko then pan-fried for about 5mins each side. Didn’t have time to rest them in the fridge prior to frying so they had to be carefully handled otherwise they would fall apart. Drizzled over some sriracha and a dollop of mayo. Not bad, primary taste was potatoes. At least it was a way to use up salmon I would have probably given up and thrown away.
This week, flickr turns ten. Thanks, Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake. To celebrate, they asked people to add their ten best shots to the flckr10 group.
I joined a year after its launch, in 2005, because we went to New Zealand and came back with so many pictures I needed a place to store and display them. I now have 18,754 images on my account and quite honestly it’ll be hard to narrow down to just 10. My favourites set currently has 125 pics. I’ve done a best of set every year since 2007.
This is my interesting set which is automatically created by dopiaza’s plugin which takes 100 pictures based on interestingness, tags, number of likes and some other random criteria.
So anyway, this is the first image I uploaded. Taken in December 2005 at the portobello motel at Dunedin, the first stop on our NZ trip. A bit gloomy, but pretty views and we had a nice room with kitchen.
My most popular pic, with 4,959 views, is of a marimo (moss) ball taken at lake akan hokkaido.
My most popular food porn / recipe pic is this one of eggs baked in potato skin. So easy to make, I think I’ll make again soon.
Task #9 in 101 in 1001 challenge is to use my library card. This is carried over from the 2007 challenge, mainly because I was working and travelling and moving countries during those 1001 days that I never got round to using libraries.
Going with parents and family friends on a cruise next week. Cruise #3 for us. Itinerary is Greece (Olympia, Crete, Athens), Israel (Haifa with shore excursions to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Dead Sea possible), Italy (Rome). Time to do some research.
Mostly, I research online and summarise my findings in evernote. Additional research for cruises is always necessary because some ports are not next to town. The cruise company obviously hardsells their excursions, but personally I hate the cattle herding feel of guided tours. Interesting to read cruise forums, most people are not DIYers, I would say they err very much on the safe and timid side. I guess it’s the sort of people who go on cruises a lot.
That said, I’m travelling with 4 seniors, so that needs to be factored in.
Guidebooks are useful, and have lots more information than a webpage. Afterall, they’ve done the research already. The problem is that guidebooks become outdated and there’s a limit to how many you can buy and carry.
Sometime during my stay in London, when I was making lots of small trips, I started getting guidebooks from the library. I’d get a few before a trip and may be bring one with me during the trip. It has worked absolute wonders, and I’m so glad libraries stock such a great selection of travel books.
These are from the small local library. Also came with maps, which is super helpful. I find it’s easy to borrow English books here, even in a small library like this one. It’s the minority language afterall. I have to go to a bigger library to find an Israel guidebook though. Off to start reading…
Visitors to the website today 11-feb-2014 may get a black overlay banner that asks them to join a virtual movement to fight back against mass surveillance. Reddit and tumblr and upworthy and many other sites are also part of today’s movement. In the US the purpose is to ask people to ask their legislators to support the USA Freedom Act; in other parts of the world it’s to raise awareness and to ask them to sign a petition in support of the principles against mass surveillance.
I know i’ve said before that I don’t like overlays but THIS IS IMPORTANT. There is such a massive amount of stalking and surveillance by governments that is becoming creepy and intrusive. I’ve also said that I accept that my online activity is being tracked, but I’m angry at the denial and the seemingly ineffectiveness of said surveillance.
Will this protest work? It’ll probably make only the tiniest of dents, as the guardian (always good for an NSA surveillance story) points out,
the relentlessness of the surveillance forces and their enablers in the technology industry, and the fecklessness of the politicians who are supposed to honor their oaths of office, make it hard to be optimistic
For me, the recent Edward Snowden and NSA revelations have made me realise much more about what is going on behind our backs. Is it all in the name of “it’s for your protection and your own good” as governments claim? I think it started there, but has become more of a desire to control and exert power over people rather than to protect them. Governments, corporations and individuals all need to abide by a set of moral code, and although morals have grey areas, respect for human right is so basic that it cannot be disputed.
And privacy is a human right so it’s up to all of us to respect and be aware of it.
Prompted by this bell’s whisky ad spotted at gizmodo, I’ve been coming across great drinks ads lately.
I don’t drink bell’s but this ad, for the south africa tv market, really tugs at the heart’s strings. Now this is what a whisky is for, to celebrate something wonderful. A couple more ads after the cut.
Task #53 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 5 of 10 new recipe.
I was making honey soy chicken wings (strictly speaking, also a new recipe — marinade chicken wings in soy sauce, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard, olive oil and roast at 180°C for 30mins) and was looking in the fridge for vegetables. Found a small cabbage, perfect. Normally I’d be boring and just boil it, but anyone who has ever suffered school lunches will have dire recollections of overboiled cabbage and brussels sprouts. Speaking of brussels sprouts, my favourite method is to roast them at high heat with olive oil and lots of salt so the edges of the leaves are almost charred. I was sure this method also works for cabbage.
Yep. Recipe from thekitchn, who recommended roasting cabbage wedges with bacon. They were positively gushing about the end result,
the high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped into the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside
Wash cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have wilted. Cut the whole cabbage in to quarters, remove some of the core and cut in half again, ending up with 8 wedges. Roughly cut up 4 bacon rashers and sprinkle on cabbage wedges. Drizzle olive oil and season with pepper and mixed herbs (no salt). Roast at 180°C for about 30mins until slightly charred.
I now know the reason behind the gushing. It was crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside, none of the boiled cabbage smell or flavour. The bacon was a perfect accompaniment — the bacon I found in the fridge wasn’t crispy American bacon or meaty British back bacon but something in between that is ham-like and didn’t render a lot of fat — still worked okay with the dish.
I don’t think I’ll ever make boiled cabbage again, roasting was so simple and so delicious. Served it with the equally successful chicken wings and some cheese grits I found in the cupboard. See, I don’t always eat strange food.
Plans to go cycling were scuppered when it started raining. So we ended up just walking around, window and market shopping.
And eating strange normal food. For tea/early dinner we went to a place that served snake. They only had a few items on the menu, most of which were snake related. We had a set that included snake soup, the spiny meat is snake but the stock is actually chicken soup. Snake broth (no meat) and glutinous rice. I could have had a small glass of snake wine, but decided against it.
Too full for dinner, we took the scenic route bus back to town and had drinks at the langham. Surprisingly for a saturday they had 2-for-1 happy hour. We ordered red wine and a combo of sparkling wine and 4 oysters. Nice wine, nice oysters.
Completely unplanned, we had food that makes other people squeamish. *shrug*