February 20, 2020

Almost there

By Chater Garden, Central Hong Kong
What a week! What a month! What a year (so far)!

February 19, 2020

I have some thoughts on the Starbucks at Pacific Place

There are three Starbucks on the ground floor of the Pacific Place mall in Hong Kong, all pretty close to each other—two of them are about twenty steps apart. I go to PP a lot, pretty much every day, since it's a transit hub that's not far from my neighborhood. Oh, and I love malls. Whenever I go to a Starbucks, I'll order one of three things: a venti coffee of the day with skim milk; a venti cold brew, black; or a venti nitro cold brew, black. In Hong Kong, nitro is usually only available at Starbucks Reserve shops (exception in PP!). Conveniently, roughly half of the Starbucks I've been to in Hong Kong are Starbucks Reserve shops. They're... everywhere. Here are my field notes on the three Starbucks on the ground floor of Pacific Place. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses.

The eastern-most Starbucks at Pacific Place, near Shake Shack
Eastern-most Starbucks Reserve, next to Shake Shack

  • This is the Starbucks that you can't get to from inside the mall, you have to go outside, through the door by Theory, which makes this location inconvenient in inclement weather
  • It is, however, the only Starbucks Reserve in PP
  • This is the most reliable nitro outlet in PP, the staff here care very much about the art of the pour
  • The suggested food pairings here are... interesting
Starbucks food-coffee pairings suggestions, why
  • There are lots of window-facing seats, which makes this Starbucks a great place to go with a book or a laptop
  • This Starbucks doesn't serve normal filter coffee-of-the-day coffee, but they do have pourovers
View from the Eastern-most Starbucks at Pacific Place
  • For a long time, this was my favorite Starbucks in my neighborhood but...
  • Beware morning coffee people, between 7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. there is a guy who hangs out at this location who is an amateur wind instrument player. I can't tell if he has a flute or a wooden recorder. I don't know what it is, but he plays it while drinking his coffee nearly every morning between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.. I had to stop going to this Starbucks altogether because... who DOES that to other people? And no one stops him. 
  • OK rant over
Middle Starbucks, across from Adidas by the escalators to the Great Food Hall
  • This is the newest Starbucks location on the ground floor at Pacific Place
  • It has the best selection of utilitarian reusable mugs; this is where I bought my Stanley x Starbucks mug that I love
  • Even though it's not a Starbucks Reserve, they serve nitro. However, my experience has been that the nitro at the Eastern-most Starbucks (see above) is more consistent and tastes better. Sometimes the nitro at this location tastes a little bit off, a little plastic-y
  • Of all the Starbucks in PP, this location has the most complete range of drinks on offer (even though it's the smallest)
  • The seating area at this Starbucks is a bit crowded, but it's cozy; I wouldn't say it's a place you want to linger, since there's a lot of foot traffic and the turnover is quite frequent, with people going up and down to the supermarket; not my favorite reading spot Starbucks
  • This is my favorite grab-and-go Starbucks at PP
Western-most Starbucks, across from Bizou and next to IT
  • This is my new favorite Starbucks at PP
  • There is a staffer here who sees me coming from 50 feet away, makes my drink, and hands it to me as I approach the counter; this makes me so happy
  • The coffee of the day here is always on point and never burned
  • They steam my skim milk before adding it to my coffee without me ever asking
  • This Starbucks as the biggest seating area of all the Starbucks at PP; the tables and chairs are spaced out (there are even some sofas); and a lot of people read newspapers here in the mornings, so it's quiet
  • The tables here are made of upcycled coffee grinds
  • Because this Starbucks is in the Western atrium of PP, the light is much better here than the Middle Starbucks
That is all. Those are my thoughts.

February 17, 2020

Come here go away

Central-ish, Hong Kong
It was super-warm two days ago in Hong Kong and today it's freezing, OK not really, but definitely in the 40s. Here are some other things I've noticed: In my 40s I'm way less tolerant of black coffee, now I always ask for my coffee with skim milk; I love Apple News+ and Apple Music; I subscribe to a lot of streaming entertainment things and I really want to subscribe to Disney Plus but it's not available in Hong Kong (yet); I thought I would never find a water bottle I like, but now I have four I love; My dream job is to be a full time blogger and YouTuber, because then I feel like I could fully come into my true introvert-extrovert self. Like: I'm an introvert but let me tell you something.

February 16, 2020

Things that aren't digitized

Radio Soulwax Presents: As Heard On Radio Soulwax pt. 2 from Radio Soulwax on Vimeo.

I wanted to listen to this album at the gym the other day, but I couldn't find it on Apple Music or iTunes. I also miss my DVDs, they're in New York. Although. To be honest I'm not sure I even have anything to play a DVD on anymore.

I was doing an inversion the other day when I thought about how years from now I'll think of that time I lived in Hong Kong—the year of the protests, the year of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus, the year I lost a bunch of weight (maybe I'll have gained it all back, who knows). I'll probably Google some people I remember to see what they're up to, but I won't get in touch because it's usually better to leave the past in the past. I'll feel nostalgia, the same way I feel about the year I lived in Cairo, and I'll think about all the things that could have been different.

February 15, 2020

Walking around Hong Kong

I spend my entire weekends getting my steps in. Here's a video with mostly footage from today, but some footage from other days. I missed making YouTube videos so much! It's my favorite social media platform. Going to try harder to make more.

February 14, 2020

The dreaded plateau

It's raining and it's Friday. Wan Chai, Hong Kong - February 14, 2020
Losing weight is confusing—for, like, a million reasons, but the thing that's really weirding me out lately is not having any sense of what I look like, at all. I know what the number on the scale says, I know what people I see tell me, I know what the size label on my new clothes say, and I know what my trainer tells me (he's the only person who tells me the truth, I think—or, at least, I like to tell myself that I'm paying him to tell me the truth about how I look like shit first thing in the mornings). All these things are confusing and different—the number on the scale is a number I haven't seen in years, people I know tell me I've lost tons of weight, for the first time in recent memory I can wear smalls and mediums, and my trainer says I still have some more ways to go before I reach an optimal muscle-fat ratio for maintenance.

The truth, though, is that I feel like, to me, I look exactly the same as I've always looked. Objectively, I know I'm smaller than I was seven months ago, but I still think I look exactly the same.

I guess it doesn't help that I've plateaued. I've been the same weight since November, which is frustrating, because I'm still doing all the things. My trainer suggested to me that my calorie deficit has probably changed as I've lost weight, and I probably need to cut a few calories here and there and do a bit more cardio and/or walking to kickstart the weight loss again, so that's what I'm embarking on this weekend. Let's see how this goes. How did this become a weight loss blog.

February 13, 2020

It rained today

Wearing my new Alphalete leggings and Nike Next% sneakers
I moved to Hong Kong last April and it rained every single day for nearly four months. Then it stopped and I moved from West Kowloon to Wan Chai and it hasn't rained, hardly at all, since October. This morning, the sky opened up and it's been pouring on and off. I wonder if the rainy season has started early. It's funny how I'm in my mid-40s but I still have absolutely no idea what shoes I should be wearing in the rain.

February 12, 2020

I love leggings

A million years ago, OK maybe five years ago, I bought the URL swtpnts.com (1) because I love sweatpants and wanted to start a website about sweatpants and (2) I thought I could review sweatpants on the site and earn passive income through affiliate revenue. Cut to five years later and my failed entrepreneurial dreams, and what do I find myself doing for at least two hours every day? Watching leggings review videos on YouTube while I eat dinner after work. Then I fall asleep around 9 or 10 p.m., and wake up in the morning and order new leggings online (usually new drops happen overnight, HK time) before heading to the gym.

Result: I own 20+ pairs of leggings (I just counted 16 pairs in my workout clothing drawer, and I'm sure there are at least five more pairs in my hamper, and a whole bunch that are too big / casual / loosey goosey to be workout leggings, but that I keep for weekend runs to the coffee shop or Marks & Spencer.

Here are my current favorite leggings
Presented in no particular order, I love them all.

  1. Lululemon Align Asia Fit: I like the 7/8 length. These are ultra-soft, ultra light fabric, totally opaque. Great for yoga but I mostly wear them for either regular workouts or just for mincing around on the weekends.
  2. Lululemon Fast and Free Asia Fit: Sportier and shinier, but still an ultra-light fabric that makes you feel like you're not wearing anything. Best for the gym; the dots around the ankles make them a little too sporty for casualwear.
  3. Gymshark Training Leggings: A total steal at $35, these are plain black, ultra-soft, ankle-length opaque leggings that I would live in if were socially acceptable to go to the office in leggings on a regular basis.
  4. Gymshark Camo Leggings: Thick, nubby, stretchy, cozy, these are my current favorite colder-weather (who am I kidding, it gets down to a low of, like, 58 degrees in Hong Kong) leggings. I wear them to the gym for weight lifting and also cardio. They're just weird enough that they go with all my super-colorful sneakers.
  5. Alphalete Surface Path Camo Leggings: I just got these in the mail today (along with five other pairs of Alphalete leggings I ordered, they were on sale OK) and I can already tell I'm going to love them and wear them all the time. They're a semi-brushed, semi-sleek fabric that's ultra-soft, totally opaque, and they have just enough compression so that your legs don't feel like they're in leg prison, but you also don't feel like you're flopping around too much at the gym.

February 11, 2020

Treadmill playlist

Cotton Tree Drive, Admiralty - February 11, 2020
Most days, I listen to a podcast episode on the treadmill—usually something Tim Ferriss or something Joe Rogan, depending on who they have as guests (my favorites are Seth Godin and Peter Attia)—but over the past couple of weeks, as I've started to run, I've been switching from a podcast over to music an hour-ish into my workout. The first few times, I stuck with old reliables: Kanye West Essentials on Apple Music, maybe a little bit of Ariana Grande, then a Calvin Harris playlist. But this morning, I was poking around on Apple Music and I found THIS, and I'm obsessed now:

Were the 90s just the best? Or was it because there wasn't really any internet yet and definitely no social media so we didn't know about as much of the bad stuff that was going on? I'm not sure. I do know that after the gym, I got on the MTR to go to work and listened to some Janet Jackson and got super-emo thinking about the 90s.

February 09, 2020

How I spend my Sunday (with apologies to the New York Times)

Tilapia, spinach, and potato for lunch - The Peak, Hong Kong
During the week, I spend early mornings at the gym—either at hour-long sessions with my trainer or power-walking up an incline on a treadmill—before full days at the Tatler offices in Wong Chuk Hang, dinner at home, and a very early bedtime (I'm notorious for not responding to work emails or WhatsApps after 9 p.m. because I'm fast asleep). On weekends, however, I like to keep my days as loose and unplanned as possible. Most Fridays I'll write down some unofficial personal goals for Saturday and Sunday—the past two weeks I've resolved to (1) write something (2) film something and (3) think about the future—and usually I feel OK on Sunday nights if I've accomplished one out of three.

EARLY TO RISE Most weekdays I wake up around 5:30 a.m.. On weekends I don't set an alarm, unless I have a training session, which I did this weekend. In order to make it there on foot by 7 a.m. I needed to leave the house at 6:20 a.m., which means I set an alarm for 5:30 a.m., then lollygagged around in bed for 15 minutes looking at social media before jumping in the shower at 5:45 a.m.. I weigh myself every morning and this morning I am very bloated.

IT'S PUSHING TIME I pushed 110 kg. on the prowler and pulled 150 kg. on the sled drive this morning, so I reward myself with a venti coffee with skim milk at Starbucks before walking over to my other gym to do some light steady state cardio (power walking). My trainer says I need to take an average of 15,000 steps daily, so on weekends I try to get in at least 20,000 each day to counterbalance those weekdays I'm chained to my desk. It feels luxurious to me to have the time to go gym-coffee-gym-coffee back-to-back on weekends. I always read at Starbucks. I'm currently reading Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation, which I didn't read when it came out in 1994.

THE BIG DECISION I've really been trying not to eat out during the week, unless it's for work, but on weekends I like to take myself out for a random fun lunch. While I walk home from Starbucks, take a shower, and get ready to face the day, I think about what I want. I decide I want a little trip, a good view, and a mid-range chain restaurant piece of fish.

UPHILL I eat lunch at The Peak at... Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, you know, that Forrest Gump themed chain restaurant. It has one of the best views in all of Hong Kong. When I was a reporter at the New York Post from 2003 to 2010, I used to make my friends go to the Times Square Bubba Gump Shrimp Company location with me all time—it was the only place I felt sure that no one we knew would be, so no one could overhear what we were talking about. Once, my friend Sharon took me there for my birthday and the staff made me stand on a chair while they danced around me singing "Happy Birthday." I'll never forget that. I love American chain restaurants. And now I want to watch Forrest Gump again.

THE INTERNET I head home on The Peak Tram, which is a fun little retro ride downhill, backwards. It stops outside The Murray, and I walk home from the station, which takes about 20 minutes at a leisurely pace. I'll spend the rest of the evening blogging (hi!) and watching YouTube videos or maybe a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I really try not to think about Mondays until they roll around—compartmentalizing is really the only way I'll be able to get any sleep tonight.

ASSESSMENT Every weekend for the past two weeks I've meant to make a YouTube video. I love YouTube as a social video platform and I wish I'd make more YouTube videos, but most of the time I feel like my life is... too boring? to film. I didn't succeed this weekend, but I did capture a bunch of b-roll, so maybe better luck next week. Tonight, I'll take Alani Nu's Sleep supplement, which is a tiny dose (1 mg.) of melatonin, along with potassium and magnesium, before bed. Tomorrow morning's gym session will be extra-early!