Saturday, 21 October 2017

La Nonna: Delish Gourmet Pizza with Truffle

La Nonna
26 Lor Mambong,
Singapore 277685

 The Place 

It's located in Holland Village, which is only 10 mins walk from our place. This is the 1st time we checked out this place. Although we have tried their pizza deliveries several times. Despite the distance, we the couch potatoes couple couldn't get ourselves to walk to the restaurant (on hot day, we wouldn't even need to do deliveries. We would be cooked enough to eat each other. I wouldn't call that cannibalism. Potato is a vegetarian diet).

As night falls, vehicular traffic is blocked for pedestrian

Today, with a sudden surge of energy (like a bolt from the blue), we decided to hit La Nonna and eat pizza fresh off their wood-fried oven, the way pizza is intended to eat.

 The Food 

La Nonna, Holland Village, Singapore
Not until i received my ala bill that i realizsed that La Nonna is part of Spizza

La Nonna Pizza with Extra Salami :  8.5 / 10.

This is their signature pizza. It's gourmet pizza, meaning they're thin-crusted. If you want quantity over quality with extra thick crust, swimming in cheese and chunky toppings, you can stick with the well-known American fast-food brands. I won't name names. I don't have to. But if you want quality, and if you want to follow the Roman's way, you should sample their thin-crusted pizza (ok, this is Tuscan pizza, not Roman. As i'm not Italian, so potayto, potahto).

When i was 1st greeted with this pizza, it stared at me with its sunny-side up, 1 of my eyebrow was raised. Once i sunk my teeth into it, both of my eyebrows were raised with gleeful abandonment.

Since i enjoyed French cooking where truffle popped up here and there, so i've some acquaintance with this high-prized friend of the fungi world (I'm a big sucker of fungi realm in general). This black truffle works well with this pizza, giving it an extra kick.

If you like truffle, you'll find yourself like a kid in a candy store (actually video store. Kids don't get that excited about candies). They also serve a pasta dish with truffle as well.

Signature pizza, La Nonna, Holland Village, Singapore

Tiramisu :  7.5 / 10.

Reasonably moist and spongy. Could have been softer. Not too sweet, which is perfect. I like my teeth intact.

Tiramisu, La Nonna, Holland Village, Singapore

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Chinese Bitcoin Ban and Next BTC Price Target

As i said before (in my article published in Nov 2016 The Sudden Drop in Bitcoin Price) that while Bitcoin is a decentralized currency - meaning no country can manipulate it - but because Bitcoin exchanges are not decentralized, Bitcoin prices will be subject to shocks of regulatory controls of different countries.

Fortunately for the Bitcoin community that Bitcoin ecology and Bitcoin's geography has been diversified over time (as i explored in my article published in Bitcoin's Changing Landscape of Geography). Especially since the Japanese Legalization of Bitcoin, more and more countries are jumping onto the bandwagon, making Bitcoin less vulnerable to risks coming from any one country. It's true that Bitcoin price fell from $4100 to $2950 with the anticipation of the Chinese exchanges ban.

But considering the typical volatility of Bitcoin price, a 28% isn't all that unusual. If this same Chinese event was to occur before the Japanese government recognition of Bitcoin, a 50% or even 80% drop wouldn't be out of the question considering how dominated the Chinese were in the Bitcoin space before the Japanese official recognition.

Having said that, the Chinese exchange ban can stop the Chinese buying more Bitcoin, but it also stop them selling, thus limit the downside. Of course, Bitcoineers / Bitcoiners can still buy and sell Bitcoin online (or face to face) outside Bitcoin exchanges in China. Just not as efficiently and quickly.

I supposed that's the whole idea of the decentralization of Bitcoin. Payment could be sent bypassing any government control. Bitcoin isn't a perfectly decentralized currency. It's close enough. When somebody can come up with decentralized Bitcoin exchanges, then it would be closer to ideal of decentralization. By the way, there're other cryptos that have decentralized exchanges. But they don't have the same branding of Bitcoin, yet. Branding is always more important than the technical merit (e.g. in the videotape format war, VHS won over Betamax even though Betamax is a better format technically. But VHS won the marketing war).

Weekly Bitcoin price chart from Jun 2107 to Oct 2017
Weekly chart
(Click chart to enlarge)

Since Bitcoin prices has recovered from the previous Chinese government's negative regulatory control that i outlined in the Nov 2016 article, so this the prices would recover. And even better because Chinese Bitcoin share of the whole Bitcoin market cap is much slower.

Regardless, it rebounds quite quickly from the September low. After it breaks out of the August high of $4900, it rises rapidly to $5800 level. This rapid rise from a breakout is a very typical breakout behaviour (the breakout is clearly accompanied by a tall green candle). Another typical thing it does is that, after breakout, the price would check back to its breakout level, in this case, $4900 - $5000 (show in the price chart above where the 2 lines intersect, which suggests a good logical strong support level).

Of course, this is a typical, meaning probable scenario. It's not a must. Nothing is a must in market. In any case, i'm in cash at the moment, waiting for the price to get close to $5000 again to consider buying it back. Will see how it plays out when it gets close to $5000 level.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Trafalgar Spanish Tour Day 2: Toledo

Day 2 of Trafalgar's "Spanish Wonder" Sightseeing Details (in their own words)
This morning your Local Specialist takes you on a walking tour of Toledo. Watch craftsmen at work when you visit a traditional steel factory and gain a Cultural Insight into this historical craft. Visit the Church of Santo Tomé, home to one of El Greco's most famous paintings - The Burial of Count Orgaz. Visit the synagogue during your guided walk through the narrow streets.

While i prefer to sleep in, this view of the early morning sun does cast a very nice shadows and golden hues for the benefit of the sightseers. Besides, we have too much to see in a day in the city of Toledo.

Known to the Roman as Toletum, Toledo is only about an hour drive (73 km) from Madrid. They're both located quite literally the geographical centre of Spain.

Panorama, Toledo, Spain
Historical City of Toledo is surround 3 sides by Tagus River.
As this was morning and the sun was on the left, and so we're looking at the city from the south across river Tagus.
(Click image to enlarge. You must !)

All tour coaches probably stopped at this lookout for this commanding view of the historical centre of the "City of the 3 Cultures" (a thousand apologies for bringing up this cliché name. At least i use an Arabic numeral). Unfortunately all the tourists would see the same view and snap the same pic, but it's the best vantage point for soaking in this impressive skyline. In the early morning light, it looks almost dreamy.

Toledo, Spain
The 2 prominent structures in the Toledo skyline are the Toledo Cathedral and Alcázar of Toledo

Alcazar, Toledo, Spain
The Alcázar of Toledo

Alcazar, Toledo, Spain
Another, more interesting view of the Alcázar. Shot from our moving coach.

Tagus, Toledo, Spain
One of the many bends of the meandering river Tagus

The city chose a excellent geography for defense. The hill (or mountain) rises and nestles in the bend of the Tagus that would provide a far superior natural barrier than a typical artificial moat to form an island of security. If i were a military general (but i would rather be a pacifist impressionist painter), i would think twice in attacking the city. At least, not from here, i would attack it from the opposite side in the north (and plunder the artworks of El Greco for my study room, which i don't have. The moral of the story is: buy a big house before you do any looting and pillaging). That's why the city put all the important buildings at the relative safety of this (southern) end of the city, and putting all the money in building thick walls in the north.

Hot-air balloon, Toledo, Spain
Hot-air ballooning over Toledo

Except for the panoramic photo above, which i shot from the tourist coach-stop lookout, the rest (including the 2 photos below) are shot from our moving coach. I couldn't decide which 1 of the 2 below is better. So i include both.

St. Martin's Bridge, Toledo, Spain
St. Martin's Bridge over river Tagus

St. Martin's Bridge, Toledo, Spain
Puente de San Martín

Like ancient invading marauders, we tourists also marching into the walled city of Toledo from the north. But instead of entering using scaling ladder to climb the ramparts during escalade and bracing for the raining arrows and cauldrons of piping hot water. Hot soup anyone?), we used escalator, instead (now you know where the modern word "escalator" comes from if you aren't familiar with ancient military weapons). And instead of wearing metal armours, i wear a heavy DSLR camera. Instead of shooting arrows, i shoot photos (a camera is mightier than a sword and even mightier than a lethal leaky rusty fountain pen that aims at a jugular vein where Dracula drinks from).

Fortress wall, Toledo, Spain
These northern walls ain't as thick as i imagined. I may have an over-active imagination, or simply too thick.
Thicker than a wall, more imaginative than a self-driving car. Able to leap 3 flights of stairs in a single bound !

Fortress wall, Toledo, Spain

Fortress wall, Toledo, Spain
You can see a bit of the escalator at the bottom right corner of the photo

Aerial view, Toledo, Spain
A view of the city outside the wall from the escalator

Hanging Walkway, Toledo, Spain
Another view from the escalator: Pasarela Colgante de Polvorines (Polvorines Hanging Walkway) spans across the Tagus.
The university campus is on the right of the walkway

Narrow street, Toledo, Spain
Narrow lane in a typical medieval European city like Toledo

Narrow street, Toledo, Spain Narrow street, Toledo, Spain

Belfry, St Mary Cathedral, Toledo, Spain
The spire of the bell-tower of Toledo Cathedral (aka St Mary Cathedral).
I arranged the bird to fly towards the steeple as i took the picture. Good bird...

Facade, St Mary Cathedral, Toledo, Spain
One of the rarer example of an asymmetric design where there's only a singular belfry.

City Hall, Toledo, Spain
Toledo City Hall

Toledo, Spain
Mean while...somewhere in Toledo historical centre...

Marzipan, Toledo, Spain
Recharged my battery with a cappuccino and a local marzipan

Marzipan, Toledo, Spain
Display window of a marzipan shop (located at Mazapanes, Calle Santo Tome).
Are the dolly nuns made from marzipan? Probably not...

Chocolate, Toledo, Spain
This portal of St. Mary Cathedral, however, is made from chocolate.

The 3 cultures in question are of course Islam, Christianity and Judaism (in no particular order). It's being said that the Jews had settled in Toledo during the 4th and 5th centuries, meaning they were here before the Catholics. And yet, unfortunately for minority the world over, they would always be seen as outsider.

Plaque, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain
Plaque marks the start of the Jewish Quarter together with the 3 Jewish symbols:
Menorah (Jewish candelabrum), the Aleph alphabet, and the Star / Shield of David.

The many heritage buildings in Jewish Quarter in Toledo is one of the noted in Spain because it survives the eradication of Jewish cultures by 3rd Council of Toledo in the 6th century, and then later the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Street sign, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain
"Juderia" = "Jewish Quarter" or "Jewry".
"Simon" is a common Jewish surname, meaning "listen".
Perhaps, i suspect, this gives rise to the origin of the game of "Simon says" ??? I'm just guessing...

Apart from large obvious signs on the wall like the one shown above, keep your eyes out for the symbols in little tiles adorn the bottom of walls such as 2 photos i took below. Why do they put these things at the bottoms? Was it to benefit toddlers, k9s, humble or sad people to see? No idea.

Menorah Symbol, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain
Menorah symbol

Chai Symbol, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain
Jewish Chai symbolizes Life. Perhaps something akin to the Egyptian Ankh symbol.
Just as the Jewish Aleph (the 1st Jewish alphabet, which gives rise to the Greek letter 'alpha').
"Aleph-bet" in Hebrew means "Alphabet". Does the English word "alphabet" originates from Hebrew?

The more well known and must-see synagogue in the Jewish Quarter is Santa María la Blanca (literally Saint Mary the White). It was built in 1180 and is considered to be the oldest surviving synagogue in Europe. It has gone through many changes. It was originally built as a synagogue, but in Islamic architecture. The name "St. Mary" suggests a Catholic association. And today, it's a museum under the custodianship of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toledo. Like me, i imagine this building has quite a bit of cultural identity crisis.

Horseshoe arches, St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain

Horseshoe arches, St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain
The motif of horseshoe arches that are so characteristic of Moorish architecture

Horseshoe arches, St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain

Horseshoe arches, St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain

Capital, St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain
Exquisitely carved capital

St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain

Horseshoe arches, St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain

Five-foiled cinequefoiled arches, St. Mary the White, Jewish Quarter, Toledo, Spain
5-foiled or cinquefoiled arches that are placed at the top of the wall just below the ceiling

We finished the Toledo tour and exited Toledo's wall via the gate at St. Martin's Bridge.

St. Martin's Bridge, Toledo, Spain

Fortress wall, Toledo, Spain
12:02 PM already (according to the position of the sun)?   Hallelujah !

St. Martin's Bridge, Toledo, Spain
Final glimpse of St. Martin's Bridge.  Goodbye Toledo!   Sorry, i mean adiós !  Sorry, i mean lo siento !

The day wasn't over because there was one more stop that Trafalgar would take us: souvenir shop. In this case, a medieval steel / sword smith shop.

Toledo has a steel and sword making history that goes all the way to 500 B.C. It was during the Punic Wars with the Carthage that the Roman was rudely discovered and duly impressed by Toledo's sword-making skill (not to mention elephant-riding skill. Whoa!).

Whether you're ancient or modern Roman, centurion or tourist, you would want a piece of Toledo steel. But there're simply too many to swallow. The best i can manage is 1 or 2. But today, i had an indigestion, so i gave a miss or 2.

Sword and steel, Toledo, Spain
I'm afraid of swords, i've got a camera !

Knight's armour, Toledo, Spain
Charge ! my Mastercard...

Knight's armour, Toledo, Spain
Just a few questions i have about the armour...
Is it rust-proof ?  Is it hot in summer? Does it come with a life-time warranty ? 
Would it go well with a pink scarf?  Does it come in XL? Can a knight date ?
 Is it machine washable ?  Does my butt look big in this ?  Is it ok to smoke in this helmet ?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Penang Seafood Restaurant: Just What the Doctor Didn't Order

Penang Seafood Restaurant
76 Lor 25A Geylang,
Singapore 388258

 The Place 

After my surgery in Raffles Hospital, I thought I would ease my pain with a post-operative lunch somewhere around Bugis. Whether you get dumped by your loved ones, or in many cultures around the world, meals are served with funerals. Food can be a wound healer.

Ada decided to grab some grub at Penang Seafood Restaurant in Aljunied nearby (i let her decide because i'm in no medical condition to do so).

Station, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore
Aljunied MRT station is 55.17 m (or twice the spitting distance) from the restaurant

25A Lorong, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore
Lorong 25A (where the restaurant is located) as viewed from Aljunied MRT station platform

MRT station platform, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore
Here comes the train, here comes the train.... (sing it in the wedding tune)

Aljunied is part of Geylang, which is known to Singaporean tourist-resident like myself for its legalized red-light district (and illegal duty-free cigarette street trade. It's too bad i quit smoking. Damn shame. Too old to pick it up).

All the side streets that run off the main artery of Geylang Rd are numbered (much like Manhattan, NYC, except that they're lorongs (Malay for 'lanes'), not avenues). Penang Seafood Restaurant is just twice the spitting distance from the MRT station (The Guinness World Record for the longest cherry stone spitting distance is 28.1m. Brian "Young Gun" Krause of USA would have to spit twice before he could reach the restaurant from Aljunied MRT station. But spitting in Singapore is a finable offence. So use google map instead).

Unlike the many shophouses you see in the city centre where they have more flashy face-lifts for upscaled business premises, the shophouses in Geylang are far more modest and practical. Still, don't just gawk at the fronts. Keep your eyes peeled for the staircases in the back of the shophouses.

Spiral staircase, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore Shopfront, Penang Seafood Restaurant, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore Spiral staircase, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore

Another thing of note about Geylang is the concentration of eateries that serve a variety of local cuisine.

The thriving of these 2 symbiotic trades isn't surprising. Food is never strayed far away from night life. After one hunger is cured, the other gets more attention.

Because the gentleman businesses open 9 to 5. That is, the topsy-turvy night-is-day and day-is-night 9pm to 5am operating hours, and as a result, not all restaurants are opened for lunch. The choice for my post-operative lunch is therefore somewhat restricted.

Penang Seafood Restaurant is one that opens during the living daylight to serve the traditional crowd of families and hospital outpatient like yours truly.

Anyway, all these thoughts of death and anatomy and surgery really whet up (i prefer wet up) my appetite.

 The Food 

Receipt, Penang Seafood Restaurant, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore
The rice doesn't cost $6, it's what they put for Fermented Pork Belly that comes with rice. Its usually doesn't come with rice.
Its price is very competative.

La-la Hokkien Mee: 7.5 / 10.
While the dish is named after la-la  (Malay for "clams"), I found the prawns and squids upstaged its title ingredient of clams. The squids and prawns are springy and fresh while there're still a bit of sands in the clams.

La-la Hokkien Mee, Penang Seafood Restaurant, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore
Ooh la la

Fermented Pork Belly:  8 / 10.
I'm not into deep fried meat. So I had some reservation about ordering this. But it's bit more different from the usual suspects. So with my usual spirit of adventure (a foodie's prerequisite), I checked it out.

It didn't disappoint. While it's marinated in fermented tofu sauce (腐乳), it's not all that overpowering. If you aren't into those wonderfully pungent fares like French cheeses, stinky tofu, durian, etc, this is mild enough for the mild at tongue.

The skins are nicely crispy while its meat retains its moisture. If you like KFC fried chicken, you would want to give this a try, assuming you can handle the sauce.

Fermented Pork Belly, Penang Seafood Restaurant, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore

Prince Spicy Rice Noodle: 7.5 / 10.
With my surgery follow-up appointment, i ordered this dish. While it doesn't look like Prince Charming, it tastes better than its look.

The seafood, are as usually fresh and bouncy to the teeth, earning its keep for calling itself a seafood restaurant. The noodles are full of wok-chi (鍋氣), or alluring woody aroma that produced by the licking of the tongue of flames. And these noodles have been licked pretty thoroughly. Yep, the noodles are pretty smoking. The Malaysian chef in general, and Penang chef in particular, is pretty handy with their wok-chi. The black charred noodles are visible (photographic) evidence of these deft tongue works.

Prince Spicy Rice Noodle, Penang Seafood Restaurant, Aljunied, Geylang, Singapore
Burn baby! Burn!

Overall: 7.5 / 10.
Considering with the limited choices to choose from, this is not a bad place for lunch in Aljunied (looks more like a verb than a name. "Madam, you've just been aljunied").

Nope! It wasn't what the doctor ordered because he wasn't here. Besides, i wouldn't know what he would order. I hardly know him.