Weekend Musings: Addictions

I have been busy. Real busy like you do not believe it. Life had been pretty much consumed by “China” ever since I was landed right smack in the middle of the new project. As much as I want to be positive and say that work will tone down to normal levels soon, the truth is it will stay at this heightened level for some time. I had kept insane working hours, at times starting at 4AM in the morning. With teams working on Beijing, London, Hong Kong, Atlanta and with me alone directing the project right at the edge of timezone, I do feel like I am working around the clock on some days.

And the travelling is not helping too. I am down to working two weeks a month in London and Beijing until the end of this year. Just yesterday, I got an email asking me to consider being based in Beijing until the end of the year! But work had been exciting. All these came about when I managed to pull off a particularly difficult delivery two weeks ago and my just reward was emails floating around that I could bring some other distressed areas of the program back on track … “he needs to be there, get him there” was what people are saying.

So I really do need to juggle my priorities. Chowtimes is one of them that gets relegated to the lower rungs. Although writing by itself does not take much time and Suanne helps greatly doing up the pictures, I need the creative juices flowing to wring. You know how I write my posts? I compose posts in my mind throughout the day, like while driving or walking. By the time I sits down at the computer, I already know what I want to say and can hack away at a post in a short time. But these days, my mind is dominated by work matters alone.

So what does it mean? As much as I hate to say it but with work and travelling, it is nearly impossible for me to keep up the level of writing I want.  I don’t want to stop writing. No sir. So, the best I could do is to change how I write and what I write about. Chowtimes is about food and travel. Chowtimes is about sharing the life of Ben and Suanne. That will not change. What will change will perhaps be that the posts will be lighter.

Let’s see how things will evolve. I am on forced vacation next week (boss says to take the week off because I still have 20 days of vacations banked) and so will attempt to write next week.

Today, I want to speak of my latest addictions.


For the past couple of months, we had not been exploring new restaurants. Since we had so many posts yet not written and that I can’t even find time to write, there is no point going to new places.

Instead, we went to our favourite places and much nearby home. That pleases Nanzaro and Arkensen a lot. One of the restaurants we had gone back to several times is the Szechuan Delicious restaurant. We like that place because it is inexpensive and there are much more to discover on their menu.

One of the dishes we are utterly addicted to is the dish above. Remember the popular Sichuan appetizer dish called “saliva chicken”? Well, we like this version of the same dish using “beef tripe”. We love the crunchiness of the tripe and the same spiciness of the chili sauce. This is awesome.

I have not come across this version in other restaurants and just wonder if it is commonly found in other Sichuan restaurants. If you like “saliva chicken”, you will probably like this too. BTW, the name “saliva chicken” is my preferred translation over “mouth-watering chicken”. 🙂


My other addition is this one above. I have to blame grayelf for introducing this to me.

She introduced this in a recent dinner I had with Sherman, Karl and Angie. If you like … (more…)

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Weekend Musings: My Name Is Ben And I Am a Stats Junkie …

Hi. My name is Ben and I am a stats junkie.

[Here is the part where all of you are supposed to say collectively … Hey, Ben …]

It’s true. I can’t peel my eyes off the stats on chowtimes. I guess that is one of those things that keeps us going with the blog. We use a variety of tools to keep track of the traffic. Our primary ones are sitemeterFeedjitStatCounter and Google Analytics.

I like Feedjit because it is realtime and the sound it makes each time someone hits a page … ding-ding-ding-dong-dong-ding-ding … sweet music. LOL! Every time when furious dings emitted from the computer, we are alerted that something is up (most likely visits from our dear friend, Google bot).

Suanne loves statscounter but I hate it. She likes that because she likes to see what keywords that Google brings traffic to the site. I think I know why. You see Google brings more new readers to chowtimes via recipe posts than restaurant ones.


The Flagcounter is a pretty one but it is quite useless for us. This is located way at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar.

I think we had maxed the number of flags already because for the past six months there had not been any addition of countries. I think there are either 100 flags or 104 flags (so hard to count those tiny flags).

It goes with saying that most traffic is from Canada. Although a lot of the content in chowtimes are Canadian, the traffic from the US is pretty high too. So it is good to know that the reach of chowtimes does extend beyond the 49th parallel.

The UK and Australia took 3rd and 4th spot while Malaysia and Singapore was not far behind.

Of particular interest to us is China (2,924). There used to be … (more…)

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Weekend Musings: Avatars, Blogroll and Polls

Hi everyone!

There is nothing particularly entertaining for this week’s musings. Let’s just say that this week’s musing will be educational instead.

Get Your Own Avatar

I had just turned on the feature on chowtimes to show your avatar against the comments you make. Have you ever wondered how this is done? It is pretty cool and simple.


It seems like most of you does not have your own avatar yet. You might want to consider getting your own avatar. If you don’t have an avatar, the system will generate a graphic pattern to represent you. Not too pretty.

An avatar is an image that follows you from blog to blog appearing beside your name when you comment on avatar enabled websites.

You can assign a proper picture to your own avatar if you want. It is associated with your email address. Here, check this out … (more…)

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Weekend Musings: Chowtimes Picture In Williams-Sonoma Cookbook

Yeah, I know.

I know it feels kind of weird writing a Weekend Musings post when we just have mere hours left of the weekend. But then it is better late than never. Anyway, I got three more things to get off my chest.

The Williams-Sonoma Breakfast Comfort Cookbook


Guess what got delivered to us last week.

We were puzzled why anyone would ever want to send us a cookbook at all. It was a beautiful newly published Williams-Sonoma cookbook called Break Comfort.


It took us a while before we realized that a publisher contacted us a few months ago asking if they could use one of chowtimes’ photos for their publication. We get a few requests like that every now and then and so never thought of it. We don’t care so much for people using our photos just as long as they do the right thing to ask and let us know what it is for. If anyone tries to hotlink our photos without telling us, we will ask the site to take it down. But if they ask up front we are cool with it.

Flipping to page 87, there it was. It was the photo of … (more…)

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Weekend Musings: Vancouver Food Blogs Rock The World and List of Most Active Food Blog in Vancouver

We all know for sure that Vancouver has a very lively and active food blog scene.

A little while back I put up a blogroll of all the Vancouver Food Blogs on chowtimes (link here). To tell the truth I was completely and pleasantly surprised that we have so many food blogs dedicated to writing about restaurants and dining outs in our city.

Do you know how many sites there are on the chowtimes’ blogroll?


Isn’t that awesome?

Urbanspoon-Worldwide-LeaderboardJust last week, Fairchild TV aired a documentary on chowtimes. In the introduction, it highlighted a point I made about how active the food blogging site is. In the absence of a better stat, I pointed to Fairchild the Urbanspoon Leaderboard above.

As you can see, Vancouver dominates 6 of the top 7 positions on the leaderboard for the number of posts published. The top Vancouver food blogs lead all the other blogs by a far margin. [Note: Victoria in the list refers to Victoria, Australia … not BC]

So that brings to our mind. Does Vancouver have the biggest community of food bloggers? I know Urbanspoon does not represent a lot of countries, particularly Asia where food blogging is not small.

You know what I would love to do? I would love to …


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Weekend Musings: The Comments on Chowtimes.com

Wow. This is so cool.

I was playing around with Tagxedo this weekend. It is such a fantastic tool which turns words into a stunning tag cloud. I used to use Wordle but Tagxedo is hundreds of times better. Go play around with that.

Then I thought … what if I get Tagxedo to take the contents of chowtimes and render them into a visual depiction. I wanted to throw in the blog posts but with over 2000 posts and millions of word, understandbly Tagxedo choked.

I turned my attention to the comments on chowtimes. I thought it would be fun to see who is saying what from the ten thousands foot view.

I first pulled out the list of all the commentors from the database and generated the cloud above. That is the list of the top 200 or so commentors on chowtimes. The size of the names is relative to the number of comments posted by the commentor.

Interesting, huh? You can ignore Ben and Suanne because we do respond to many comments.

LotusRapper is by far the king of the hill, follow by CrispyLechon. ChubbyPanda is right up there too although he does not comment as much anymore. This is because he was very active during chowtimes’ early days.

Roll over the names and see if you can find yours. LOL!

Wait. There are more.

I then took ALL the comments and pass it through Tagxedo and see what people were commenting on chowtimes. This is what I found … (more…)

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Weekend Musings: To Think That KFCs Double Down Is Bad For You

Hey all, good morning!

Have you tried the KFCs Double Down Yet?

Arkensen and Nanzaro was waiting for that day when it was going to be available in Canada for the first time. I think it was just the last Monday. While I promised them I will bring them to try it but I was just simply too busy at work that I did not do that. Monday past … Tuesday past … and then when I got home on Wednesday, equally as tired, they gave up on me and went on their own to try it.


My boys are fast food junkies. They like these kind of food and can have fast food everyday if we allow them to. So I thought that they will come back and tell me that they love it.

Instead, Arkensen said it was horrible. He said that it was way too salty. It was so salty that he could not even taste the cheese and bacon. That pretty much sums up every feedback I had heard from people I know.

I just cannot understand why this was made so salty. There has got to be an explanation for it because KFC knows about this. Strange.

No, I have not tried it. Would I try it? Oh yeah, I will. I just like to find out for my own self how salty is salty. 🙂

So I did some digging and found an excellent … (more…)

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