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Marketers on spirituality

This has to be one of the most obnoxiously cynical sentences I've read in a while:

As consumers continue their search for greater meaning, purpose and balance in life, connecting with and facilitating their spiritual journeys will continue to offer attractive opportunities for marketers.

Yankelovich Think Tank, Topic "A": Spirituality, 2006

Sunday Soup: Kitchen Scavenging

Happy New Year World!

I have spent most of the festive period travelling up and down the country, which has not been the most restful of Christmases. New Year's Day was spent slipping and sliding (and falling) our way up and down the Malverns but the sunset was worth it.

New Year's Day sunset in Malverns

I have started to make an effort to set achievable goals so I have just the one New Year's resolution: finally upload all of my travel pictures and get the rest of my flickr photostream up to date. It's a symbol of how badly I procrastinate that it has come down to this but going for something so simple, this might be the one year I actually keep a resolution. Cambodia is all uploaded (although lacking titles and tags) and I'm halfway through Vietnam now.

Right now I'm home and gearing up for going back to work tomorrow, which begins with the return of Soup Sunday.

Since November, when it started getting cold, I've been making soup on Sundays, which we have for lunch and I take the leftovers with me to work for the next two or three days. (I make a lot of leftovers.) It's incredibly easy and I'm trying to vary it enough that we don't get sick of it. I'm going to start recording combinations for future reference of what's good and what's less so (burning anything is definitely to be avoided - the leek and potato soup tasted fine but it did come out a very off-putting brown colour).

For anyone interested, the basic recipe is usually the same: slow cook the ingredients in a large pan with butter until soft. Blend with half a pint of milk and between one and two pints of vegetable stock (depending on how much actual food content is in there), salt and pepper to taste and voilà!

Because I only got home yesterday, this Sunday's soup was whatever I had lying around that was still edible after the holiday period (which was a surprising amount):

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 yam
  • 5 small to medium carrots (stolen from John)
  • 2 small red onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic

For such a makeshift soup, it turned out well.

The Sunday SessionCollapse )

We were gamed out by this point and ended up watching BBC Three's Young Butcher of the Year. Against my will, I enjoyed it (damn you, iPlayer and your way of making me watch things I never intend to!) It was oddly compelling and now I know that sausage skins come from intestines; sweetbreads refer to a lamb's testicles or thyroid glands; and that sausages burst when they have a high bread content - which is why they're nicknamed 'bangers'.

I do have some gripes. The set was weird (what was that backlit wind tunnel thing about?) I resent the current documentary fashion to have so many quick cuts all over the place, it gives me a headache. And I dislike the elimination aspect. We don't need the dramatic music and that annoying time delay intended to build suspense before announcing the person who's going out. I would rather they went for a points-based set of tasks instead, if only to get to see what other 'out of the box' thinking went into window displays.

All that said, I actually cheered on the announcement of the winner - and then immediately sat back stunned that I had just celebrated a display of butchery. I am a little in awe of the BBC for doing this to me.


(Oh my goodness, I'm back!)

My flatmates, Jon and John*, both work for Sony Playstation. They had a work sale last week and between them brought home 30, mostly terrible-looking, games. Of course, this meant we had to have a mammoth games testing session (although, not all at once) and I'm here to give you the results.

For those counting, there aren't 30 games here. They brought home two copies of Kingdom Hearts (because it's meant to be good and they both wanted their own copies) and two copies of Dragon Sisters. Also, Jon brought home four PSP games, which I'm not going to write about (although apparently The Fast and the Furious is neither fast nor furious - two minutes of load time for every minute of gameplay). Also, Jon picked up Final Fantasy X, which is a genuinely good and popular RPG and doesn't require covering. Go read a proper games reviewer if you're interested in that.

Approximately half an hour was spent on each game; less if it was actually painful to play, more if it turned out to be genuinely compelling. With that all said, here we go:

The Saturday SessionCollapse )

Stay tuned for the Sunday Session.

* Who I collectively (and imaginatively) refer to as The Jons.
** An annoyance of the Japanese games is instead of X being the 'Okay' type button and Circle having the 'Back' type function, they're reversed. Years of pre-conditioning caused a lot of gaming stress with these.


Our stay in Georgetown, Penang did not begin well. After having trouble booking anywhere to stay because of the Chinese New Year fast approaching, Helen and I managed to reserve a twin room with en-suite and were looking forward to a little luxury after our recent ultra basic living conditions. We spent most of the six hour journey fantasising about the idea of getting to unpack and having a bathroom to ourselves. However, when we arrived 75 Traveller's Lodge about 10.30pm, we discovered they didn't have our booking and all their private rooms were full. It being too late and being too tired to go look for anywhere else, we took a bed in their dorm. At 9 ringgits each, it was at least cheap but seeing that every other bunk had a mosquito nets set up over it should have been sufficient warning about what was to come but neither of us could face rooting through our backpacks for our own nets.

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There is not a great deal to say about Ipoh, especially as I arrived there quite late. I was last there 19 years ago and I don't really have much of an impression of the town itself. I can now tell you that it's got a pretty good bus station where they sell some very enjoyable sweetcorn in a polystyrene cup that's absolutely dripping in butter and salt. It was nice to have a room to myself for one night though and in the morning, I sat and read in the Bougainvillea Park, which was pretty. I saw some caves on the bus journey in and if I hadn't arrived so late, I could have gone out to see them - maybe they would have been less commercial than the Batu Caves.

I was meant to meet Helen outside the HSBC, which according to Lonely Planet is on Jalen Dato Maharajah Lela, near the clock tower. It isn't. There is an OCBC on that road and HSBC is one over. Our secondary plan had been to have lunch at the recommended FMS Bar and Restaurant a couple of streets from our proposed meeting point. It had closed down. I then spent two hours roaming a four street block looking for Helen, who it turned out was doing the same. How we kept missing each other I have no idea. Every 15 minutes, I would hear the clock chime but not be able to locate it, until eventually I tracked it down to the top of a small hill. There was Helen, who had a terrible hangover and was about to give up and return to the bus station.

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Days 32 to 35 - Kuala Lumpur

I am massively behind, I know, as I am typing this in Laos after having been through both Malaysia and Thailand. But here goes with an attempt to catch up.

Sentral Kuala Lumpur (the train station) is lot more swish than Singapore's although is probably the only thing that is. It was a little bit disconcerting though to turn up and not be met with any form of border control or customs. I just walked on through to get on the MRT. Apart from my leaving card from Singapore, I spent my whole time in Malaysia without any proof that I had arrived. The MRT itself is a bit confusing too. Each line is operated by a different company, so each time I wanted to change, I would have to get off, go through the barriers, cross over to another station and then buy another ticket.

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After saying good bye to Leila (who complained that the Maori woman in our dorm had spent the night snoring and grinding her teeth, which I thankfully slept through), I went out to the National Museum of Singapore. It's split into two parts - a History Gallery and four Living Galleries.

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I joined the breakfast queue for toast on Monday morning, slightly sleepy and glad to see there were still tiny bananas left. While I waited, thinking that the toaster seemed to be taking a long while for the girl in front of me, the queue built up. Then an Irish girl behind piped up helpfully, "have you turned the toaster on?"

The girl in front immediately looked embarrassed and sure enough, she hadn't depressed the lever and did so hurriedly. Not long later, fresh toast popped up. Or at least one slice did, the other one stuck. Reaching for a knife, she started to push it into the toaster before I suggested she might want to turn it off at the plug first. Mandy, as she turned out to be called, is also from England (London) and after having travelled for six weeks has so far lost one camera, broken another, lost a bag, shorted her converter plugs with her hairdryer and I lost track of what else. I am not alone! And I haven't broken anything yet!

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So far, Sydney airport is losing badly in the airport shopping league. I tried to find sunscreen - absolutely none to be seen. Of all the places! My flight included an hour's stop in Adelaide and I actually talked to the girl whose seat was next to me on the plane - sort of anyway. I helped her with her enormous carry on luggage and we made small talk in Adelaide after being kicked off the plane. It eventually dissipated into awkwardness as we ran out of things to say. Relations were probably made even more awkward after I accidentally elbowed her in the head when trying to get past to go to the toilet - I have no idea how! I mostly stayed awake (shocking) and can now add Ghost Town (better than I expected) and half of Tropic Thunder (meh) to my "films seen on planes" list - if I was to have such a list anyway.

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