Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Chinatown in London

I finally managed to spend some quality time in Chinatown before salsa classes. I had my duck rice for dinner at a restaurant next to Four Seasons. Four Seasons was always the recommended restaurant to go to for roasted duck on Google and other sites. But, I did not really fancy their roasted duck. Maybe the reviews written were outdated. There were plenty of restaurants selling roasted duck in Chinatown so I decided to try my luck with a different restaurant - the one located next to Four Seasons!

I highly recommend this restaurant which I unfortunately forgotten its name. The roasted duck was so good and the price was much more reasonable. My roasted duck cravings were satisfied that day.

After dinner, I popped into See Woo, the Asian supermarket and lol behold, there were durians for sale! It is durian season afterall back home in Malaysia. I already had my share of durians a few weeks back therefore I did not buy any this round.

The reason I was in See Woo was to buy fish balls. I miss eating something so simple as fish balls  so I just had to get some. Besides that, I also wanted to make dried shrimp sambal because I craved for spicy food too. Dried shrimp sambal was one of my favorite recipe thanks to my mum. Its such a simple dish to cook and it goes well with everything from bread to rice to vegetables or meat. Just yesterday I made pork loins salad with the sambal. The sambal gives the necessary 'kick' to make food taste fab.
Heres the salad:

Five minutes away from Chinatown was where my salsa classes were held - at a Salsa bar. The teacher taught a really interesting dance set that day. It was worth recording. Video at the end of post.

The weather has been a bit chaotic here. It has been cold and wet the past few days. But, the heat will be back tomorrow again. Truthfully, I am not really sure if I prefer the heat or cold.

I learnt a new word: toodle pip - means goodbye 

Rekorderlig cider

A new cider I tried which was absolutely to die for is Rokorderlig cider. It wasn't very sweet like other ciders and it had this crisp to it which was amazing. It was like drinking a fizzy juice or champagne. The flavour was wild berry and best of all, it is pink! So feminine and gorgeous just having it on the table :)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Tau Yew Bak

Waitrose was having discount on meat. Therefore, I bought a couple packs of minced pork, pork loins and chicken. I knew what I wanted to do with minced pork and chicken, but I was not too sure about what I could do with the pork loins.

On the day I decided to cook the pork loins, I googled and remembered That I always wanted to make tau yew bak. I did not have all the ingredients in my cupboard so the taste and colour was not similar to the authentic one. Nevertheless, by just mixing water, soy sauce, dark soy sauce and oyster sauce, it tasted delicious. Adding diced garlic, boiled eggs and mushrooms was also a good option. I also used linguini as noodles because I did not have any chinese noodles.

Simplicity at its best :)

Along the River Thames, London

I took a walk around the River Thames in the evening and it was a sight to behold. London's summer heat has left and the cold and rain has returned. In a day, it rains lightly for ten minutes, stops for 5 minutes, then continues to rain for awhile again. That was during the day. But when evening came, it was breezy and it was raining cats and dogs. I reached home just in time before the storm and on the way home, I saw rainbows.

An evening walk around the River Thames calls for a beautiful colored skye because the sun was setting. Nothing could be more beautiful than a sun set. Even our face complexion looks better during sunset. I took photos of course :)

Monday, 29 July 2013

Alan Turing and German Gays

Alan Turing was a national hero.  He is widely regarded as the father of computer science and was behind the breaking of the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park. His genius allowed critical knowledge of German military movements.  It is no exaggeration to say that he was behind one of Britain's most critical contributions to the Allied and Soviet victories over the Nazis.

Turing happened to be gay.  He was 40 and was in a relationship with a 19 year old when he was arrested in 1952 and charged with the same Victorian offence that Oscar Wilde and an estimated 75,000 other gay men were, before consenting sex between male adults (at the time over 21 years old) was finally allowed in England and Wales in 1967.  Turing was chemically castrated and died in unclear circumstances aged 41.

Alan Turing as a young man

 Problems with a Pardon

This post was prompted by David Allen Green's piece at New Statesman on Turing and the issues around his suggested pardon.  I found it both powerful and actually extremely moving.  I really recommend you give it a read.

As the piece points out, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official apology on behalf of our country for the way that Turing was treated, back in 2009.  Pressure has been increased recently, however, for a pardon.  There are problems with this.  A pardon stems from the ancient Royal Prerogative of Mercy.  It is in effect the Monarch using their power to forgive a person who has committed and been convicted of a crime.  The person has still technically breached the law and is guilty; only morally are they are considered innocent.  The law has been correctly applied (as opposed to a misapplication of justice, where it has not).  The conviction still stands on their criminal record.

As David Allen Green points out, such an act is legally and practically useless.  Turing is long since dead, it cannot affect his serving of any sentence, and this is therefore only of symbolic value.  Gordon Brown's apology was enough if all we wanted was a symbolic act.  The chief executive of Stonewall has described the exercise as "pointless".  Others would say the symbolism is in fact worse than useless, but wrong, given the State is reasserting that a crime was committed.

Turing's German Contemporaries

Now let's consider for a moment the fate of gay contemporaries of Turing in Nazi Germany.  Gay sex had been permitted in some German States (such as Bavaria) prior to German Unification in 1871.  Paragraph 175 of the unified German Criminal Code made it an offence throughout the country.  The Social Democrats attempted to repeal "this disgraceful paragraph" as early as the 1890s.  It looked likely to be abolished in the early 1930s and was actual put on a "reform package" before the Reichstag, but in 1933 the Nazis took power.

The Nazis extended the law to cover homosexual thoughts (i.e. orientation) rather than just acts.  After discharge from criminal prisons, many gay men were moved directly to the concentration (as opposed to death) camps.  Here they formed one of the lowest tiers in the prisoner hierarchy, marked out by pink triangles on their uniforms.  Up to 15,000 died of maltreatment, starvation, illness or simple murder.  Unlike Jews or Gypsies they were not subjected to factory type genocide, and the numbers involved were much smaller than the other groups (estimated at 6,000,000 and 1,000,000 respectively).

Nonetheless the individual suffering, based on sexual orientation, was horrendous.  Death rates ran at around 60%.  Those who did survive left to find scant pity or understanding for them.  They were considered sexual criminals rather than victims and some (released by the Allies) were sent back to ordinary prisons to fulfill their prison sentences.  German courts continued to prosecute gay men under paragraph 175 until 1969 (two years later than England/Wales legalised gay sex).  Around 140,000 men in total were convicted under paragraph 175 over the period 1871-1969.

Dachau Monument to Gay Victims of the Nazis

German Rehabilitation 

In 2002 Social Democrat, Green and Far Left members of the German Bundestag succeeded in extending a law called the NS-Aufhebungsgesetz to men convicted under paragraph 175.  This was in the face of votes to the contrary from the conservative CDU/CSU parties and the liberal FDP.   There was a mixed reaction from the LGBT community: whilst the measure was welcomed as far as it went, it did not affect those convicted between 1945 and 1969 under paragraph 175: the very same provision the Nazis had used against gay men.  Their convictions remain unaffected to this day.

The interesting thing here is that most articles on the 2002 law refer to a "pardon" of the victims. A quick look at the German statute reveals that this is legally incorrect. The Act extends to gay criminal offences another Statute of 1998 (apologies that the links are in German).  That Act abolishes the decisions of Nazi courts of "justice" between 1933 and 1945 which were based on political, military, race, religious or philosophical reasons.  This is not a pardon: it is saying the offence never happened and the conviction had no legal basis.  The slate is wiped clean and no criminal record remains.

Back to the Turing Pardon

So, we return to Alan Turing.  David Allen Green's suggestion is a mechanism based on the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, introduced under the Coalition.  Under this men who engaged in consensual gay sex which would no longer constitute an offence, can apply to have their criminal records removed.   The suggestion is that this could be applied to deceased victims of the law that convicted Turing. 

It goes much further than a pardon one, both legally and morally.  It acknowledges that the law was wrong before 1967 and grave wrongs were done.  In effect it would place Turing (and not just him, but all of the other 75,000 victims of this law) in the same position as German gay men convicted under the Nazis.  There is a beautiful and befitting symmetry in this.  The gay German victims of the Nazis who benefited from the law of 2002 would not have done so without Turing's work and Allied victory.  It is right, and it is just for our government to take this step now.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Trolls and the Twitter Boycott

As Twitter's popularity has grown, so has the number of people who use it as a platform to abuse, threaten and generally be vile to strangers.  Its great strength is also its great weakness: it is an incredibly democratic and easy way to access anyone else with an account, be they a national journalist, an Olympic diver, a politician, or a woman who has campaigned to get Jane Austen onto the £10 note.

Yesterday we saw the latter, Caroline Criado-Perez, drawing attention to the fact she had received "about 50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours" and said she had "stumbled into a nest of men who co-ordinate attacks on women".

Block And Ignore

It's all to easy to say "block and ignore".  I think people who do so genuinely mean well: it's a way of reaching out, saying that they empathise and trying to reassure you that you can easily make it go away.  The problem is that you can't just erase the memory of some hideous comment that's been made to you, and even if you've blocked one of them it's a bit like bashing down mole hills.  Another one will soon follow.  I still remember vile tweets sent to me from years back, and I certainly haven't ever been subjected to 50 abusive tweets an hour.  I can't imagine what that must feel like.

It's so often our instinct in life to say "there, there, it will be fine" when something bad happens, but often that just frustrates and angers further.  If I've just fallen over and broken my arm I want some proper sympathy and to voice my hurt and upset, not for someone to say "there, there" and point out the obvious, that in a few months it may (or may not) have healed up properly.

Feeding Trolls

We also then come onto the issue of whether or not to "feed the trolls".  The argument goes that if you don't engage they will go away and/or they're only sending the abuse to get a reaction.  Both aspects of this might be correct, but it's also true that some will send continued abuse regardless of reaction, and even if you don't respond they will still have the satisfaction of knowing the tweet appeared in your @ mentions until they are blocked.

Further, why shouldn't you engage if someone sends you abuse?  It may not be the most sensible strategy (who knows?), but if someone is unpleasant to me I don't just let it pass.  I respond.  In this case it's rather akin to victim blaming: we're specifically talking about a woman who has dared to have an opinion and who has successfully organised a campaign.  She (and others who attempt to show her solidarity) are threatened with sexual violence.  Why shouldn't they challenge the man, if it makes them feel in any way better?  To say that they then bring subsequent abuse upon themselves just strikes me as wrong and deeply un-empathetic.  We should unequivocally be telling the person who abuses that they are in the wrong, not the person who is receiving the abuse.  It's a little bizarre to even need to spell that out.

It's Twitter's Fault

It's very tempting to see the problem here as being the medium, rather than the people using it.  To some extent it's true: Twitter has given us the ability to communicate instantly and easily in a way not previously available.  But let's be clear: Twitter of itself does not encourage this type of abusive behaviour.  Hundreds of millions of people use it daily and manage not to send this kind of thing.

It is a human issue that some men feel threatened by women and think it amusing to launch off rape threats in response.  To ditch your Twitter account in response is like getting rid of your telephone because you've had someone heavy breathing down the line.  It's not the telephone's fault: it's the freak who's making the call.  Telephones also facilitate billions of happy, useful, mundane and funny communications too.  The problem here is societal, not digital.

Report Abuse Button

People are rightly upset and frustrated at what is happening with the repeated abuse that is going on.  Just because Twitter doesn't encourage the abuse, doesn't mean it can't do something to stop it.  There's an online petition to get a "report abuse" button added.  Like many others, I felt angry at what was going on yesterday, signed it and retweeted the link.  None of us wants to feel impotent and to just ignore something like this.  The existing "Report spam" button does not fit the problem and it ignores the fact that very real, upsetting, offensive abuse, not spam, is the problem.

My attitude was a bit like my attitude to speed cameras.  I don't tend to speed, so why should I be bothered by their presence?  It's only people who send out abuse who have anything to be concerned about.  It may genuinely help, in the way that I think speed cameras do have an effect on people breaking the law.  With a little reflection, I realised that there are big practical problems with this approach, however.

It requires a level of policing by Twitter that is unlikely to happen without a hefty subscription fee.  The following statistic demonstrates it clearly: the Guardian employs 12 full time moderators.  Twitter would have to employ 24,000 to police with the same level of activity.  They would have to be multi-lingual, or there would have to be different teams for different countries. 

Moreover, do we want 24,000 people monitoring our tweets?  The scope for abuse is immense.  If you don't like someone you report them for abuse in an attempt to get their account suspended.  As a matter of principle, why should someone be the judge and jury over what it is acceptable to say or not?  Rape threats clearly fall way over the unacceptable line.  Does telling someone to "fuck off", or using the C-word?  What would be the procedure for appeal if you disagree?

The beauty of Twitter, which is in fact a liberal dream fulfilled, is the ability for people to be able to communicate freely across most borders.  The concept that what is said should be policed by a non-judicial authority is one that needs to be thought out very carefully indeed.

Twitter and the Police

Given the statistics above, it is easy to see why, practically and above all commercially, Twitter prefers the "leave it to others to police" route.  It does have a "report abuse" mechanism, but I know from experience how slow and ineffective this method is.  When I received tweets saying "YOU GAY FAGGOT BUM BOY - PERHAPS WE SHOULD KILL YOU INSTEAD." and "YES- MURDER YOU." Twitter did absolutely nothing instant.  The report goes off to the US and they take about 2 weeks to action it - by which time the person had deleted his account.  Hooray, that made me feel better.

Therefore Twitter falls back on the line that people must comply with local laws.  Caroline Criado-Perez reported her abuse to the Police.  Much of it no doubt did constitute offences under English law.  The problem again is, however, limited resources.  The Police must assess what threats are credible.  They cannot investigate each and every vile tweet, with the best will in the world, nor could the courts process it.  Much abuse comes from anonymous accounts - to "unmask" the operators is a difficult operation that involves going to court in California, followed by investigations and prosecution here.

It's a bit of an understatement to say that I did not enjoy getting homophobic tweets threatening to murder me, but I would genuinely rather that my local force use its resources to combat other crime in my area than this non-credible threat on Twitter from someone who did not even know where I live. 

Annual Subscription

Many accounts that send abuse are set up mainly or solely for that purpose.  Let's take this bright spark for example (I've deliberately picked a typical troll account, but by no means one of the most offensive ones that are using sexual violence in their comments):

And then look at the number of followers, the number of tweets, and the fact he still has an egg as his avatar.  It takes minutes to set this up, using a (relatively) non-traceable email account such as Hotmail.  There's a very good likelihood "Bruce" has a regular account from which he tweets normal things; he's just using this account to vent his hatred of women that he probably realises it isn't acceptable to do from an account where he could be identified.  Chances are his girlfriend or mother might be a bit unimpressed, for a start.

A big issue with the "report abuse button" is that even if it operated properly and an account such as the above were instantly suspended, there would be absolutely nothing to stop "Bruce" from setting up another account a moment later. 

Caitlin Moran has suggested she would happy to pay £30 a year to have a "safe network" in place of the existing Twitter.   It would certainly be necessary to have a substantial subscription fee to employ the sizeable army of people working to police abusive tweets.  It would also be necessary to have a fee to stop people from setting up repeated abuse accounts.  The "report abuse" button idea is of itself of very limited use in stopping the problem.  It gives us the important comfort that Twitter is doing something and acknowledges this serious issue, but for as long as accounts are free to set up and operate, it will solve little.

I'm sure others would agree with Caitlin that £30 is a reasonable fee if it stops misogynistic and other abuse.  They would pay it.  I probably would too, if push came to shove: I pay a lot more for my mobile subscription a year, or for my home internet.

Plenty, however, would not.  We wealthy Westerners praise the role of social media in the organising of demonstrations, for example in the Middle East, yet many of these people would be shut out of using this democratic medium if there were a fee of this level.

One Off Registration Fee

My own suggestion is a little more modest.  If each new account had to pay a nominal one-off fee (say £3 or £5) on registration this would certainly help deal first of all with the multiple spam accounts that occasionally plague Twitter.  It might also help cut down on repeat abuse accounts such as "Bruce" above.  Some idiots will happily pay a fiver a time to abuse others, but the second they are blocked they cannot abuse that person again.  They will have to pay £5 each time for the privilege of dishing out their oh-so-hilarious rape jokes.

This being Twitter, when I expressed this idea, I was instantly told that £5 is a lot to people in Africa, or indeed to some in the UK, and was accused of taking part in a "middle class platform".  One of the people doing so was a lecturer whose latest photo in her stream was of a very expensive looking plasma screen.  How I've missed Twitter the last month I've been away.  Glorious.

Yes, I'm not actually a complete moron and realise that a one-off fee of £5 is a reasonable sum of money to some people.  It is, however, a darn side less than an annual fee of £30 that Caitlin suggests, and would I think achieve a similar aim, without the army of censors working with all the disadvantages that involves.  I also think that paying £5 (remember: new accounts only was the suggestion) is fair enough, given the very real wrong of women receiving 50 abuse tweets every hour.  Some people sadly won't be able to afford that, but for those who have access to the internet (by definition all Twitter users) most will.

Fighting Back

I'm also realistic enough to realise that a £5 registration fee suggested by little PME on his blog isn't going anywhere... but it's an idea.  The point is we are angry, we are frustrated, and we don't want this medium that we enjoy so much ruined by a group of Neanderthal dick-heads.

So, we come to the boycott idea.  It is that on 4 August people stop tweeting for a day to register their protest that Twitter isn't taking this issue seriously enough.  Will it help in practice?  I've no idea (and some considerable doubts), but the fact that it's already been reported on the BBC with quotes from Stella Creasy MP, suggest to me it's already being effective in at least highlighting the issue.

Some people will argue and say that it's giving in to the abusers, others will tell off those who fail to observe it.  I probably won't be tweeting that day to show that I support those who have received such abuse: it's the least I can do.  I don't expect it to suddenly change society and I'm not going to be chastising others with different views: do as you feel fit.  As long as you agree that enough is enough, and this type of discourse is grotesque and unacceptable, you're on my team.

Finally we come to the other aspect of fighting back.  It's registering our disgust, and showing our support for the people receiving the abuse.  This wonderful article in New Statesman by Caroline Criado-Perez highlights not just the trolls, but the amount of positive tweets she has received.  It takes a moment to send her, or Suzanne Moore, or Helen Lewis, or any of the other women who regularly receive this type of abuse on Twitter a tweet of support.  We can all do that.

I'm also aware that the guys sending the sexual abuse seem to get off on it when a woman responds.  I've found that if another man challenges them they seem to go a bit quiet and they enjoy it less.  Ask them how funny they'd find it if their mother, sister, wife or girlfriend were getting rape jokes every hour and see if they respond.  They need to know other men don't think this is okay.  Again, we can all do that.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Salsa away

If you have not tried salsa, you should!
Its the one time as a female you get to hold different guy's hands with no strings attached :p 

Truthfully, switching dance partners is not really nice because you have to touch other people's sweaty hands. But, the dance itself is beautiful especially when the men are good at leading. This is one time I will let the men lead ;)
Below is a video of what I did in salsa class.

On another note, there was this amazing hotel/apartments in Battersea which had their balconies all covered with glass.

Heathrow Airport is so near to Battersea area that I can hear the roaring of airplanes constantly throughout the day. Note the plane flying above the apartment in the picture below. Its so frequent that you will never miss it and the planes are really low so the sound is much louder.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Best salad for summer

The best meal I had for the summer is grilled salmon topped with herbs, vegetables and garlic bread. Its so easy to make that I had it 10 days in a row for dinner. Best of all, it takes max 20 minutes to prepare!

I tried various ways of presenting it and using the garlic bread as a whole or cutting it into cruton size. Gastronomic!

Sunday, 14 July 2013


Current chess score winnings - 4 wins out of 6 games. 

I was told I am oppressive when I play chess.

He says, "You are the most oppressive person I have ever played with in my life."

I laughed so hard.

I think I should let him win the next few rounds just to stroke his ego ;)

Saturday, 13 July 2013


This small magnetic chess set Which I carried around with me from Malaysia was finally used! The conversation on chess never really came up between my friends and I over the years in UK. Finally I met someone who loves playing chess as much as I do. Thanks to Chipsmore for the very portable chess set. I'm glad I had always carried it around with me :)

Friday, 12 July 2013

New haircut @ Toni & Guys Academy, New Oxford Street

Few months back I realised my hair was really long, which I liked, but there were too many obvious split ends. Hair cuts in UK aren't exactly cheap so I put off cutting my hair till now. Being in London, I suddenly recalled about my free hair cut in Toni and Guy Academy in Malaysia. So, I started googling 'free hair cuts' and there were a list of people looking for hair models to get free hair cuts and wash around London in Gumtree's website.

The haircut I did in Malaysia took four hours because it was a bob cut. This time, I was just looking forward to getting half of my hair chopped off just to be sure there will be no split ends.

I sent a couple of text to some students of Toni and Guy Academy who avertised on Gumtree. The first two were fully booked till late august! Luckily, one of the student introduced me to her friend who needed models.

It started off with the student explaining to her supervisor how she plans to cut my hair. It was something about angles and terms I have never heard of. I remember back in Malaysia, the supervisor drew on the mirror to show how to cut my hair.

After that, I had my free hair wash by the student. Then one hour of hair cut. My haircut gets assesed twice by the student's supervisor. Once when my hair was still wet and the second time when my hair has been blowed dry.

It was a pretty busy day for everyone at the academy. The haircut was alright :)

Monday, 8 July 2013

Britain's thriftiest guy

I am amazed at how his mum works as an ironing lady earning 5pounds per hour but is able to save up till 20000 pounds for each child.

Aberdeen beach

Aberdeen beach is more happening than Balmedie beach. Both are situated in Aberdeen, 20 minutes drive apart. But Aberdeen beach is nearer to the city, hotels and it has rows of restaurants nearby. It lacks the sand dunes that Balmedie beach has. Summer time at Aberdeen Beach was packed with people if its a good weather and there will be a long wueue at the ice cream stand.
The beaches are really clean and the sand is better than the ones down south of England.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Summer at the beach

I have been to Balmedie Beach in Aberdeen a couple of times. It is one of the cleanest beach I have been to.

Beach shoes!




Dog trying to bury the crab

Meeting other cute dogs
The only difference between the beach in Malaysia and Aberdeen is that, I have to bring a jacket because it gets cold.