Read on the go with Pocket

Reading is the the quintessential habit for self-improvement. It’s an activity conducted alone and with total freedom in the choice of materials and knowledge to absorb. If you’re not reading frequently, you should start doing so – the merits are boundless.

Whether you’re an avid reader or just beginning to pick up the routine, there’s bound to be times where the right articles arrive at the wrong time – for example, when your mum calls you for dinner just as you click on that motivational article on Facebook. Or when there’s plenty of time but no articles to read – think of the last time you lost 3G connection on the train.

Instead of opening your mobile game to play, try Pocket.

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Available on a variety of devices

What is it?

Keep articles in your Pocket (literally, ha ha) and read them later.

How is this different from bookmarks?

The most important features the Pocket excels in, for me, are:

Reading Mode

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Pocket strips out the unnecessary junk in an article, providing you with a distraction-free mode to read. This allows you to focus on the article itself. This mode doesn’t work 100% (it rarely removes parts of the article), but you can always switch to the full web view, and there’s an option to report the error. Neat.

Offline Mode

When an article is synced to your devices with Pocket, it’ll be available offline on the device. This has proved immensely useful when I’m on flights.

Tagging

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I really like my data organized, but doesn’t like to spend too much effort arranging everything in order. Pocket’s tagging system is perfect for me to do some light ordering.

Recommendations

Pocket recommends articles in a weekly email digest, so I never run out of things to read.

But wait! There’s Instapaper!

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Same same but different

Lifehacker has done a great comparison of the two popular platforms. Personally, I prefer Pocket for its better image support in reading mode, tags, and for just looking more colorful in general. Instapaper’s greatest strength in my opinion is its note-taking and highlighting features in articles, but I like to re-read articles in their entirety, so it’s not that big an issue to me.

To a certain extent, Evernote is also a suitable replacement – but I feel Pocket and Evernote serve different needs and I haven’t used Evernote before. Heck, someone even recommends using both for maximal organization.


Ultimately, if you don’t read often, it’s not the app you use, but the cultivation of the habit that counts. And if you read regularly but haven’t found a solution to keep track of articles for later use, I hope this helps!

P/S: Lifehacker is one of the websites I strongly recommend to subscribe to.

Featured photo credit: Pocket

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Cafe Hopping @ Surry Hills

Sydney is a pretty city with delicious western food and pastries everywhere 🙂 And on a rare morning where my parents decided to rest in our Airbnb apartment, my brother, his girlfriend Eunice and I decided to travel to Surry Hills to check out some of the locally popular cafes there. Special thanks to Le Ting for the cafe suggestions!

As the cafes we wanted to visit were pretty spread out across the Surry Hills area, we took a shuttle bus to the south area and began our foodie journey with..

Bourke Street Bakery

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Busy busy!

Famed for its savoury sausage rolls. and we were not disappointed. The beef sausage roll is heavenly – the succulent meat wrapped in the crispy pastry form a delicious combination, and my brother and I devoured the roll in a minute, wishing for more except we had to control ourselves to make room for other food.

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Left: Beef sausage roll. Right: Croissant

Eunice ordered an unexpectedly huge croissant that tasted crispy and sweetly buttered.

http://bourkestreetbakery.com.au/ – Map


Four Ate Five

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Your usual roadside cafe in Sydney

Loved the name of the cafe – a clever use of the unit number.

Again, I shared The Mexican with my brother. It actually tasted kind of Indian, and reminds me of dahl (link) – the dish was appetizing enough that we almost finished the whole plate, and realized that we actually overate 😅 I was expecting a more Western-tasting plate though.

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The sweet-toothed Eunice ordered a Fruit & Nut Scone which was crispy and fruity – “when you bite it, you can feel the juice of the berries, instead of just the flour” as quote from her. Haha!

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Fruity scone!

My brother and Eunice also had tea – but I didn’t taste them. Oops. I do remember the Turkish Rose & Apple having a pleasant smell and a special taste, though. 🙂

http://fouratefive.com/ – Map


Bills

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Credits: broadsheet.com.au

It’s a corner lot and at first we were a bit skeptical of the higher pricing. Then we ordered the ricotta hotcakes and WOW that was the best hotcakes we’ve ever tasted in our lives. The dough was crispy yet soft at the same time, providing a unique texture that’s just right – and the ricotta cheese wrapped within the pastry served up the rich and creamy flavour that further blew our minds. Definitely recommended!

 

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SO GOOD

Do take note that each order contains three hotcakes, and we felt that it’s best shared instead of consumed alone.

http://www.bills.com.au/ – Map


Brooklyn Hide

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Credits: http://www.brooklynhide.com.au

By now we were completely stuffed, what lousy cafe hoppers we are (blame the Four Ate Five dish!). I insisted on trying a bagel from here though due to my greediness, hehe. Ordered the “Everything” bagel, which contained a mixture of poppy seeds, sourdough rye, blueberry, cinnamon and raisins, which blended into a rich, complex taste that’s further enhanced by the aromaticity of the freshly baked bagel.

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My fatty face with the bagel

We thought that the Apple-Cinnamon cream disrupted the overall package though, and recommend to order just the donut itself (or with other fillings / creams).

http://www.brooklynhide.com.au/ – Map


Overall, I think the cafe hopping experience was enhanced by the comfortable weather here, at around 17 degrees – you’ll never find that in Singapore! If you have some hours to spare and likes food (who doesn’t?), do consider giving Surry Hills a go. 😄

Lighting Post: Google Phone Prompt for 2FA (Two Factor Authentication)

What is this?

You can now tap a single button on your phone to complete the 2-step verification, instead of having to type the 6-digit security code every time.

What is 2-step verification?

It’s a more secure method of signing in to your Google account (by using a secondary device you own, after you enter your password), greatly reducing the chances of a hack as the hacker now needs access to your phone to log in. In the case of your Google account, it’s your mobile phone.

But it’s so troublesome..

2-step is absolutely necessary for your privacy protection. Better late than never.

Okay, I’m scared, and I’m in. How do I do that?

You’ve come to the right place! Just follow the simple pictorial guide below.

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Step 1: Go to https://myaccount.google.com on a computer
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Step 2: Click ‘Signing in to Google’
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Step 3: Click ‘2-step Verification’
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Step 4: Click ‘Google prompt’

Follow the instructions on your computer and phone, and you are done! 🙂 Just make sure you have enough juice on your mobile.

Source: http://googleappsupdates.blogspot.sg/2016/06/new-settings-for-2-step-verification.html

The Great Ocean Road Adventures, Australia – pt 2

tl;dr version:

The Twelve Apostles seemed to have become rusted in their craft (ha ha), shadowed by the more magnificent views of Loch Ard Gorge and the Bay of Islands.

Please read pt 1 if you haven’t! The Great Ocean Road did not fail to amaze my family with its scenic views, and after our rest at Apollo Bay we were ready to move on for the big shots.

Disclaimer: Our trip heavily references the suggested itinerary from this link (in Chinese).

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Day 2 Route: Apollo Bay – Otway Lighthouse – Johanna Beach – Gorge Chocolates – Twelve Apostles – Loch Ard Gorge – Port Campbell – London Bridge – Bay of Islands – Warrnambool

It was rather coincidental that the Day 2 drive on the GOR was vastly different from Day 1 – the path from Apollo Bay onward covered more forest and farmland areas, leading to us observing a lot more flora and fauna and less of the sea. More plants meaning better air! 🙂

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The view on the road is as breathtaking as the attractions themselves!
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一望无际的草原 (The endless prairie)

Our first stop was the Otway Lighthouse, one of the more famous attractions on the GOR. We drove through the narrow road in the forest and encountered lots of really fat cows on the roads 😂 no really, they look like they are pregnant!

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Lesser cows but something like this, we didn’t take a picture as we were too busy trying to avoid crashing into them! Credits: www.rdomelbourne.com

The lighthouse area is ticketed and costs roughly $20 to enter. The area’s actually more like a historical site, with preserved tools and hardware used when the lighthouse functioned in the 19th century, an aboriginal heritage area, and of course the lighthouse itself. You need to climb a steep set of stairs to reach the viewing area above; and that’s when the ticket price is redeemed by the stunning view atop.

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After spending about an hour at the Otway Lighthouse, we next travelled to Johanna Beach. The Johanna Beach is, in my opinion, the best sight we have seen on the GOR. A combination of its relative desertedness and the strong waves made it the perfect chill out spot, without any tourist distractions.

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The astounding waves splashing onto the sand.
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I didn’t dare to go down to the beach itself as the pathway was rather steep and I didn’t bring proper beach footwear.

Do take note that if you plan to drive in, the Blue Johanna Road is a gravel road that’s not so comfortable to drive on – you might want to consider going in and out both on Red Johanna Road.

Before the main attractions, we stopped by Gorge Chocolates, which was a slight detour from the GOR.

Now to the main dish. Twelve Apostles – we were pretty unlucky as it was raining quite heavily, and the number of tourists really ruined the whole experience. I felt that the view of the eroded rocks wasn’t as pleasing when compared to the other natural formations on the GOR. But again, it might be because of the rain and strong winds.

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Expectations (the best shot we could get)
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Reality (a swarm of tourists)

Loch Ard Gorge, on the other hand, was a nature-made wonder. I don’t even know how to explain what this place is, it’s just.. spectacular.

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This area also has a lot of tourists, but not as much as the Twelve Apostles to suffocate us from claustrophobia. Haha!

We stopped by Port Campbell for petrol top-up, noting that the price here is lower than that in the city previously. Just like in Geelong, we drove past the edges of the city close to the sea, and managed to get a treat of a flock of seagulls that lined up the moment my mum attempted to feed them. (I do not support feeding wild animals, but my mum enjoyed it a lot.)

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Port Campbell is actually a recommended place to stay as the (arguably unnecessary) drive to Warrnambool after all the attractions is a long hour.

Next up: London Bridge. By now the sun was already starting to set, and it’s been a really long day.

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No, not that one. Credits: vizts.com

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One thing that really enhances the viewing experience of the places of interest is that there are multiple viewing spots for a particular attraction – which made the secret photographer-wannabe me attempt to catch the shot from all possible angles 😁

Our last destination for the day, as we again tried to beat the sun in the race, was the Bay of Islands. Unluckily it was pouring again, and thus my brother and I were the only ones to brave the rain to take a look.

And we deem the Bay of Islands the most underrated attraction on the Great Ocean Road.

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Seriously, it’s much better than the Twelve Apostles. /rant

By the time we reached our motel at Warrnambool, the sky was already completely dark. We stayed at Blue Whale Motor Inn & Apartments, which offers a homely two-bedroom unit 😄

Now we were in a huge vegetable debt. (Why are all the food here so lacking in greens?) Thus we decided to cook our own dinner using ingredients from the local supermarket, which turned out pretty tasty!

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Why are the roast chickens here so nice??

We also bought burgers from Kermond’s Hamburgers, which had thick and juicy beef patties – definitely recommend the Calabrese & Chili Burger for those passing by.


And that concludes our two day trip on the Great Ocean Road! (We then spent three long hours driving back to Melbourne 😂)

All in all it was a fantastic experience for my family as all of us love nature. We were also really lucky to have followed the guide mentioned above, to check out the less touristy areas that turned out to steal the show during our tour. I hope this helps anyone who wish to plan a trip to the GOR, and strongly recommend a self-drive. Cheers! 😄

The Great Ocean Road Adventures, Australia – pt 1

tl;dr version:

If you have a driver, rent a car and drive, for the flexibility and the additional hidden but awesome destinations.

Hello from Australia! I’m lucky to be travelling abroad in Australia with my lovely family, and we are on the way back to Melbourne city after spending two amazing days roadtripping on the Great Ocean Road. Prior to the trip, I did my research on scenic spots along the GOR, but our expectations and the actual experience turned out to be pretty different – and hence I would like to document my adventures in the hopes that it will help anyone who’s planning a trip here too.

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Day 1 Route: Geelong – Bells Beach – Aireys Inlet – Lorne (Erskine) – Apollo Bay. Rough route (excluding the Torquay beach area which I can’t remember where..)

Our route was heavily inspired from this post (in Chinese) – thanks to my mum who was doing her own research as well. (And thank god we did not follow suggestions from relatives to go on a day tour.)


We started the drive after an hour-long drive from Melbourne airport to Geelong, with car rental provided by East Coast Car Rentals (booked through Skyscanner, it’s a great site, the service of our rental company is another story though). The Toyota Camry Altis we rented had a boot that was large enough for our five carry-on luggages and a lot more. Time check: 12pm (delay at the airport customs + brunch)

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Dad with his Camry 😁

From Geelong, the real fun begins. Driving near the coastal areas of the city, we were treated to our first beach sighting near the Torquay area. It was at this point that I realized how cold it was – don’t believe the temperatures reported because the sea breeze really makes everything colder.

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Acting like a thinker..
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Wefie with a breathtaking view behind us

After some quality reflection time (ha ha), we continued down the Great Ocean Road proper to our first stop, the Bells Beach.

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Waves keep splashin’

The beach is famous for its strong waves which attracted lots of surfers. There were a few of them braving the cold and surfing on the beach, much to our horror, as we were all already wrapped like Subway sandwiches 😅 Too bad we didn’t go down to the beach as the weather wasn’t really suitable for beach play.

Continuing our journey, we made a quick stop at Aireys Inlet to checkout Eagle Rock, which is.. a rock. A pretty rock. Haha! There’s also the Split Point Lighthouse, which we thought was the Great Otway Lighthouse at the start! It was closed by the time we reached, though.

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A marvel to behold, the Eagle Rock.
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The Yicamera proved useful during the trip

Our next destination was the Erskine Falls, which we didn’t manage to visit in the end due to the heavy downpour that started as we drove into the woods, and ended as we drove out. 😑

It was then a race with the sun to reach Apollo Bay before the sun sets, as driving on the GOR without the sun can be pretty dangerous due to the lack of lights. I should also mention that the drive along the GOR is a beauty in itself – for the drive from Geelong to Apollo Bay, you will be driving near the ocean more than half the time, to enjoy the scenic view. A lot of photo-worthy spots as well (though we didn’t stop mostly due to the lack of time).

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Views like these make me go ☺️
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The rain actually worked to our advantage due to the many rainbows we sighted

Luckily, we managed to reach Apollo Bay and our accommodation for the night, Coastal Motel, before the sky went completely dark. Took an hour from the small town of Lorne!

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Cozy little motel with kitchen and amazingly comfortable bed! No breakfast provided, though.
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More rainbows!! 😍

For dinner, we settled for a nearby seafood restaurant, La Bimba. (Daytime in winters are so short T.T)

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The place was decorated very nicely, it’s a nice place to hang out!
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General consensus: Fresh & delicious oysters, but the rest of the dishes are so-so.

And that’s it for the day! Note that we haven’t even visited the tourist attractions (12 Apostles, etc.) and it’s already been an eventful day with so much to explore on the Great Ocean Road. One thing I should mention, though, is that if you started the day late, Lorne is also a good place to stay.

Stay tuned for the pt 2 post for updates!

P/S: Please excuse the poor quality of my ASUS Zenfone 2 photos. I guess when it comes to convenient photo-taking with a phone, only iPhones and the Samsung high-end Android phones will make the cut – the Eagle Rock picture was taken by my brother’s Note 5, unedited!

RIP Christina Grimmie

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Credits: fanlala.com

I’m not a big fan of Christina Grimmie, but her death saddened me quite a bit, as her music did have an impact on my university life in the past half a decade.

I need not mention her amazing cover of Nelly’s Just A Dream with Sam Tsui – this is probably the song that you had known her from. Back in the junior years in NUS, my friends and I would hum to her altered tune of the song’s verse, even while knowing how ridiculous we sound 😂I really loved the bridge of the song too, where Christina and Sam harmonized to perfection.

I really enjoyed the acoustic version of Find Me that she sang, in collaboration with two of my favourite dancers, Keone and Mari, for a musical project by DS2DIO. I’ve always thought that the lyrics of the song were meant for a more bare-bones and raw arrangement (but that might be because I heard the acoustic version first, haha), in contrast to the electronic feel of the version in the album. Do check the video out above.

It was also during a more emotionally challenging year that I got to dance together with my friends on the song, choreographed by two of my good friends, Wilfred and Felicia. Good times, huh.

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When I still did contemporary. Credits: Ong Jian Liang

May you continue your musical journey in the afterlife, Christina, and thank you for inspiring me and my friends.