Monday, December 13, 2010

Black Pepper Sauce goes well with anything.

Very few things make me nostalgic about anything concerning my childhood. But I have to say that black pepper sauce is of those things that elicit childhood memories.

One of the only childhood memories I have with my dad involves black pepper sauce. We didn't eat well growing up, neither parent had the inclination to bother, and we didn't have the $ to eat out with any regularity.

But, sometime between the age of 4-6, for whatever reason, my mother had one of her extended absences abroad. I don't precisely remember why my brother wasn't around, but somehow my dad and I ended up at a "steakhouse."

Keep in mind, this was in the mid-late 1980s, and Taiwan had barely just emerged from under martial law, we didn't really have THAT much culinary contact with the outside world, so "steaks" were really more like sad little cuts of beef from an old water buffalo or maybe an old cow. It definitely wasn't one of them fancy American or Australian imported steaks.

But it was cheap. For something like $2.50 USD, the "steak" came to your table sizzling on a hotplate, with black pepper sauce, with an egg (sunny side up), vegetables, and pasta. And not just any regular pasta (which we had plenty of in Taiwan), but WESTERN extruded pasta (i.e. macaroni). WOW!

I was a child, and didn't really know how to use this strange WESTERN knife and fork business (where's my chopstick?), so I spent about 90 minutes gnawing on this rather dry little "steak" that sat in a puddle of black pepper sauce. I distinctly remember how proud my dad was that I had finished this thing, even if it took 90 minutes (or maybe it was relief? I was a kid, who knows!).

Objectively speaking the steak was dry and old beef, but for me that was one of the more memorable meals.

With that old country tale being told, let me get to the actual cooking.

You can make your own black pepper sauce, but I didn't bother. I endorse Lee Kum Kee's black pepper sauce. It works, and you can find it at any respectable East Asian food mart.

I sliced an onion. Sauteed it in an oiled skillet at medium-high heat until they're brown, then added a pound of bite-sized chicken.

You can use lamb, beef, or whatever protein that builds your muscles. Saute until the surface of the protein is cooked, and add your vegetables. We opted for peas.

Add some chicken stock, some pepper sauce, and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.

You can eat it over rice, or chose to do the "Western" thing and eat it over some rotini.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

"AUTHENTIC" Iron Chef Panko.

I'm a big fan of frying things coated with panko. Panko (パン粉) is basically a type of Japanese unseasoned bread crumb. I prefer it over regular North American bread crumbs because it provides a more crispy texture, and doesn't coat as thick as the silica-texture bread crumbs.

Being a fan of buying non-perishable food items in bulk, I couldn't resist giving Costco's "IRON CHEF AUTHENTIC PANKO" a shot. Admittedly I was a little suspicious at the "authentic" panko, but after trying it on pork katsu, I'm happy to report it works.

I award this product five out of five truffles.

I've talked about the recipe before, but this time I've got pictures. I've also substituted flour with cornstarch. The cornstarch undercoat is more delicate than flour, and does a better job gluing the panko to the pork.

1. Flatten a piece of pork. You can use a heavy skillet, or if you have bear-paws in place of hands or pent up frustration, use your hands. I prefer to work with tools, so I used a hammer. For hygienic reasons, I placed the pork in a freezer bag.

The hammer is my friend. I use it to flatten cutlets of meat,
and strike down upon my enemies with great vengeance and uh... nvamind!

2. Dust the pork (now flattened) with corn starch.

3. Crack an egg. Mix it up. Dunk the flattened pork in the egg.

4. Dunk the pork in a plate full of panko. Coat it evenly but not excessively, shake off the loose panko. Loose panko in hot oil = nasty burnt bits in the panb.

5. Fry in a pan. 



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Japanese "Departure" Assistants are really professional.

I love foreign films. Foreign films often romanticize the "routine," which brings a fresh breathe of air to the unfamiliar/culturally different audience.

The Departures [2008] is one of these films. The film begins with the protagonist, Daigo (Masahiro Motoki), who plays an expensive cello for an orchestra in Tokyo. Life is great, it is his dream job.

Unfortunately, the orchestra doesn't make enough dough, and is dissolved (AWWWWW).

Daigo sells his expensive cello, and moves back to his hometown to live in his childhood home (left to him after the passing of his single-mother). Daigo doesn't remember what his dad looks like, because he is an ass, and left them when he was a child.

Oh I forgot to mention, he is married to a Japanese stereotypical housewife, Mika. She cooks, cleans, and basically provides martial consortium.

Anyway - he has a tough time finding a job, because the demand for cellists in Sakata is like demand for young unconnected foreign attorneys in Pittsburgh. So he responds to a job posting for "assisting departures," thinking it is some sort of travel agency job.

Nope. He is mortified to find that the gig is actually for preparing the deceased for their "departure." He doesn't embalm people, so he doesn't smell like formaldehyde (I can tell you from experience that it does smell pretty bad and stings like hell if you get it in your eye). Basically he cleans, dresses, and makeup the deceased in a ceremony that is witnessed by the decedent's family. The "departure" preparation is very much like a tea ceremony, involving slow, intentional, and delicate movements.

The "departure" assistants dress like American lawyers, only the assistants wear three-button suits, which IMO has a slimming effect for people who carry a little weight, but not suitable for fat people. That is probably why the two-button suit is more popular in North America, because people are fat. But I'm getting off topic, these people dress very well.

<cultural anthropology>
For those unfamiliar with Japanese culture, this might seem like an odd thing, but traditionally, Japanese people really dislike "unclean" things. These "unclean" things include butchering, tanning, etc... basically any job that deals with the dead.

In the old days, these jobs were reserved for people called Burakumin (部落民). Basically outcast people who would live in their own secluded ghettos. While the feudal cast system has been outlawed, you won't find too many people lining up to deal with the dead. Working in such an industry doesn't just mean you're working, but you're actually socially of a lower class.

Ok! Back to the film review!
</cultural anthropology>

Anyway, Daigo begins assisting working in the trade, but he doesn't tell his wife. Because she wouldn't understand, but likes the high-quality beef he's bringing home.

The film sort of shows Daigo slowly mastering the art of respectfully preparing the dead, and usually the decedent's relatives are extremely grateful (even if they initially are wary and annoyed at these "dirty" departure assistants).

Mika inevitably finds out about her husband's "dirty job," and leaves him when he refuses to quit the job. Daigo keeps on working, and eventually Mika comes back after learning she is pregnant (Daigo just assumes he the father, but he does seem like the gullible type).

The climax of the film basically involves Daigo being notified that his father (yes the deserting scumbag) has passed away. He initially refuses to go see his deceased father, but yields to peer pressure. With his usual role reversed, he becomes very upset when watching two amateurs "departure" assistants roughly mishandle his father's corpse. He takes over - prepares his father with precision and grace, and all is well. Awwwww. How cute.

Anyway, there are also several scenes of "normal life" - captured and romanticized for the audience. In one particular scene, Daigo visits this quaint Sentō (銭湯), a public bath, which is privately owned and operated by this elderly lady, who heats the spring bathwater with a wood fire.

The scene also gives insight to the proper Japanese bathing etiquette. A bather is supposed to wash themselves clean before entering the soaking bath. The bath is also not a swimming pool. If you have the opportunity to visit a public bath in Japan, please don't reinforce the gaijin stereotype by jumping into the bath, soaping up, and blowing bubbles. That's just not cool.

Daigo enjoying a friendly chat in a public bath.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Moroccan" Stew with couscous.

When you mix French colonial influence with the culinary and mercantile traditions of North African Arabic culture, you get great food. I've made this particular stew combination with both beef and chicken, either way it tastes great.

        • 1 lb of protein (ground beef, ground lamb, bite sized chicken, mystery meat)
        • 2 onions (chopped)
        • 4 crushed cloves of garlic
        • 2 cups of frozen vegetables
        • 2 cans of chickpeas (drained)
        • 1/2 tsp of salt
        • 1/2 tsp of ground pepper
        • 2 tsp of ground cumin
        • 2 tsp of ground turmeric
        • 2 tsp of paprika
        • 4 cups of broth/stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
        • 1/4 cup of raisins

Heat a large pot. Saute the garlic with the onions until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the frozen vegetables, and saute them until the mixture is warm. Add the chickpeas, salt and all the spices. Stir.

At this point in the cooking process, you'll want to add the protein if it is something like ground beef or dark chicken meat. If you're cooking with white chicken meat (i.e. chicken tender/breast), you'll want to hold off until about 25 minutes before serving.

Add the raisins and broth/stock, and bring the pot up to a boil and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

In the meantime, you can get started on the couscous.

        • 2/3 tsp of salt
        • 1/3 tsp of ground turmeric
        • 1 cup of broth/stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
        • 3 tsp of olive oil
        • 1 cup of couscous

In a separate pot, bring the broth/stock up to a gentle boil, add the oil, salt and ground turmeric, and turn off the heat. Then add the couscous and stir. If the couscous is a little wet after a few minutes of stirring, add some more couscous. Since the stew will be served over a bed of couscous, it is better to err on the side of having couscous that is a tad bit dry.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dealing with Range Anxiety.

Electrical vehicles rely on motors powered by battery packs for motion. Unlike conventional fuels, one cannot just pull into a fueling station and refill the tank in a matter of minutes. This introduces the issue of Range Anxiety, the concern by the vehicle operator that the battery packs do not have sufficient energy for the vehicle to reach his/her intended destination.

The Chevy Volt deals with this by using a gasoline engine, which basically turns the Volt into a hybrid-vehicle when it is out of battery power. Unfortunately, this solution is wasteful and inefficient. Not only is the Volt constantly lugging around an internal combustion engine, it is also carrying heavy transmission components, a fuel tank, and emissions control devices (think mufflers, tailpipes, catalytic converters). All this adds up to weight, which has to be lugged around and ironically decreases its all-battery range.

When the Volt is out of electrical power, it is estimated to average less mpg than the best conventional hybrids (~37mpg), and basically match the more efficient conventional vehicles (while requiring premium gasoline). The Volt will also generate more carbon emissions than the Toyota Prius, the Volkswagen Jetta/Golf TDI, and other partial-zero emission vehicles.

So what's the better solution?

Rendering by Artistically challenged Artist.
A detachable diesel generator trailer! One which could be detached when the driver is just commuting within the range of the electric vehicle, but that could be hitched for road trip and what not that require additional distance!

A diesel generator will be able to hum along at relatively constant power load, but basically it'll be selected based on the load necessary to keep the LEAF humming along. Engineers can go figure out things like maximum power, prime power rating, load combination, and obviously emission levels. I just do concepts and make poorly rendered drawings.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Polar Bears Are Awesome.

The Canon PowerShot SX20 took this video at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Not only do they have beautiful warm fur coats, allow the environmentally conscious to file lawsuits (under the Endangered Species Act) as an attempt to control green house emissions, but they also play fight in the most cute (but also scary) way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Surgery aka I'm a ragdoll.

I recently had to get some surgery to remove some benign tumors from my chest and abdominal wall. I had expected the procedure to take no more than one hour, some Lidocaine, and maybe dozen of stiches.

Instead, it turned into a five-hour affair involving general anesthesia, getting intubated, and going home to uh... find that the surgical staff had removed uh... body hair.

Anyway - now I have some prescription hydrocodone and my throat/trachea feels like as if someone shoved a plastic tube down to keep an open airway to my lungs (which is what happens when you get intubated).

But now I'm four tumors lighter.

Cut me open. Sew me back up. And I'm good as new.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guy Fawkes Night.

Today is the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes Night, which has been popularized in America amongst tea party members, nerds, and silly fan boys by V for Vendetta. Now I'll admit that it was not a bad film, but these nerds/silly fan boys love to quote the following passage from the film:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

What these nerds don't realize is that this poem has more verses.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence [or By God's mercy] he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Hulloa boys, Hulloa boys, let the bells ring.
Hulloa boys, hulloa boys, God save the King!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!

Yes. People on this side of the Atlantic are remembering the Gunpowder Plot all wrong. Guy Fawkes was not some anti-authoritarian hero. Mr. Fawkes was an anti-majoritarian, anti-Parliament, religious bigot who wanted to blow up a bunch of people to restore the Roman Pope's authority over England and Scotland.

He's the 1600s version of Timothy McVeigh. So yes, please, do celebrate his plot.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How do you get from Japan to China?

According to Google Maps... see #43!

LG Kompressor® Pet Care LuV200R.

We have two cats, and unfortunately, with great companionship comes annoying filamentous biomaterial. Our cats are American Shorthairs, which are believed to be the descendants of cats that brought over the pond on the Mayflower.

Unfortunately, the radical religious English Separatists on the Mayflower were more concerned with controlling rodents, and did not appreciate traits that create a hypoallergenic cats.

For several years now, we've have a fairly large living room rug. The cats really like lying on it. I have been vacuuming this particular rug with a budget vacuum cleaner. This particular vacuum cleaner does not perform that well, and I would basically spend anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, scrapping the rug with my hands while "vacuuming" with the machine.

I've always coveted a new vacuum cleaner.

I thought it was time for a change, and researched vacuum cleaners currently on the market over several weeks.

Pretty much all current bagless vacuums, utilizes cyclonic separation to remove particulates from the vacuum airstream. By using vortex separation, filters do not get immediately become clogged with dirt, and there is "no loss of suction."

Dyson vacuums are ubiquitously associated with that phrase, because they're amongst the first to successfully commercialize cyclonic separation vacuum cleaners. Unfortunately, that also means Dyson products may command a premium. One that I did not intend to pay.

I decided to get the LG Kompressor® Pet Care LuV200R. LG developed this particular vacuum cleaner to spearhead its entry into the North American vacuum cleaner market, and I think it is a winner.

I found the LuV200 on sale at 18% off at Bed Bath & Beyond, then used a coupon to knock another 20% off. I'm pretty happy about that.

The LuV200 has several features that won me over. The first unique feature is how LG implemented its cyclonic separation chamber. All the other bagless vacuums orientate the cyclonic chamber so that the vortex rotates horizontally like a tornado. LG decided to orientate the chamber so that the vortex rotates vertically and dumps the particulates down, and it seems to work really well. After vacuuming the entire apartment, the pre-motor filter (which is intended to protect the motor from any particulates that may get through the vortex), seems entirely clean. In my old ineffective vacuum, the pre-motor filter would become entirely clogged before I even vacuumed one rug.

The second feature that I found appeal was the KOMPRESSOR!

This is something so simple I don't know why no one else has implemented on other vacuums, but essentially it is a rotating wiper that continuously compacts the contents of the dustbin.

After vacuuming our rug, it was obvious that the LuV200 had successfully cleaned the rug. In addition, while my previous vacuum would require me to empty the dustbin up to ten times just to get the rug clean, the KOMPRESSOR mashed the hair and dirt. The picture to the right shows the compacted debris after I vacuumed the entire rug.

This video shows the compacted dirt & pet hair after several weeks of consistent use. The vacuum is so quiet! AWESOME!

The LuV200R also comes with an awesome flexible extending hose, which comes with the usual attachments, but also a nice rotating brush that allows one to vacuum upholstery and stairs clean of pet hair with relative ease!

Finally, LG is backing this product with a 5-year warranty. Mmmm considering that so many consumer vacuums are dead or dysfunctional after a couple years of regular use, I like the sound of that.

Oh... I almost forgot about the vacuum's awesome instruction manual! While this manual was not dispositive to my purchasing decision, this cute disclaimer certainly didn't hurt!

Kimchi & Tigger lets out a sigh of relief!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cornish Pasties.

The English are notorious for their bad food. This reputation is not entirely untrue, but the English do make good savory pies and pasties.

Cornwall is in South West England, and interestingly actually has a strong culinary tradition, particularly involving seafood. But since I'm in Pittsburgh, I will not be making any seafood.

Instead I'll make some pasties. I found a template for a generic Cornish Pasty, then modified it and resized it for my purposes.

Here is what I came up with.

Filling Ingredients:
        • 1.5 lb of ground beef
        • 3 small/medium potatoes (chopped into small cubes)
        • 2 cups (3 medium sized carrots) of carrots (chopped into small cubes)
        • 1 medium onions (chopped into small cubes)
        • 1/4 cup of melted butter
        • 2 tsp of salt
        • 1 tsp of pepper

Pastry Ingredients:
        • 6 cups of flour
        • 2 cups of shortening
        • 1/3 cup of cold water
        • 2 tsp of salt
        • Eggwash

1. This is a very English recipe. So mix all the filling ingredients together. Congratulations you're done with the filling!

2. Add the salt to the flour. Cut the shortening into manageable spoonful lumps and mix it with the flour. After the flour and shortening has fully combined, it should appear lumpy. At this point, just slowly add the cold water while you continue to mix. The pastry dough should stick together, but break apart quite easily.

3. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll the dough out into thin sheets.

4. Put the filling onto the sheet of dough, close, and make three incisions on the pastie. And brush the pastie with eggwash.

5. Preheat the oven to 375°, and bake the pasties for 60 minutes.

Hot out of the oven.


Additional Variation:
If you're lazy like me, and like pies, you can also put some filling in an oven-safe pot, then throw the pastie dough on top. Then bake it in the same manner described above.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Japanese style milk bread.

I like Japanese/East Asian adaptions of "western" bread.

I found this recipe written by this Germanic-Chinese lady called Angie. Angie, being non-American, wrote her recipe in the awesome & rational & superior in every way (unless you're American) metric system.

Because all the ingredients are measured by weight, the recipe is idiot proof and simple even for a non-baker like me.

Here are the results.


Divided, Risen, and Arranged.

Baked! Yum.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

There should be no fish or sushi restaurants in America.

This post may seem quite pedantic, but please bear with me while I demonstrate with my irrefutably poor logic that there should be no fish or sushi restaurants in America.

The Japanese people account for approximately 2% of the world's population, but they account for approximately 12% of fish consumption. Sushi, despite having originated from the Asian continent, has been developed and introduced to the West by Japanese immigrants. Therefore, eating fish and sushi, for all intent and purposes = being Japanese.

The Japanese people were ruled by a political entity called the "Great Imperial Japanese Nation" (大日本帝國) between 1868 and 1945. This political entity was extremely militaristic and sought to expand its territories. Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, this political entity annexed Korea and the Ryukyu Kingdom, waged war against Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, as well as Imperial and Republican China. By the 1930s, Japanese forces under this political entity had committed grave atrocities, and later attacked this wonderful country of ours with a surprise raid at Pearl Harbor, as well as US ruled Philippines, and British assets in Malayan Peninsula. The Imperial Japanese government directly contributed to the death of millions of people across East and South East Asia, as well as thousands of British Commonwealth and American lives.

By operation of the wonderful guilt by association fallacy, the fish/sushi restaurants (GOOD & YUMMY) ---> all things "Japanese" ---> Japanese Imperial government (BAD!!!!).

Ergo, it is simply insensitive and wrong to eat fish or consume sushi. We should protest the building of fish and sushi restaurants, whether 2 block or 1500 miles away from a site of an atrocity or battle, it is simply WRONG!!

Oh - and I have a personal say in this, I'm an ethnic Chinese whose grandfather was forced to join the Imperial Japanese Army, I'm living in America, and even if those things didn't matter, I'm offended because of my ultra-developed (abet uninformed) sensitivities. Every time I see someone eat raw fish, or fish in general, it reminds me of painful cultural collective memories of the unpleasant Imperial Japanese atrocities. We simply cannot let the Japanese militarists and Imperialists believe that they have won.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tea Egg.

Tea egg is one of those Chinese things that vary from region to region. It is really easy, and the taste is very subtle.

Basically boil some eggs. How do I boil eggs? Put them in a pot, fill it with water to cover, then heat over fire until water boils. Once the water boils, turn the heat off, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

To make tea egg, you'll want to cool the eggs down completely. I usually do it with running water. Then what you'll want to do is gently crack the entirety of the egg shell, without actually removing the egg shell. Why do this? You'll see later.

Then take a pot, fill it with enough water to cover the eggs. Add just enough soy sauce to make the water opaque. Then add maybe two teaspoons of five-spice powder. At this point, you can add a teabag or two (dark tea not green) in the pot. Alternatively, you can skip it, but the egg will just be soy sauced, and wouldn't be an "tea egg".

You can put the eggs w/ the cracked shells back in the pot, and turn the heat on. Let it boil for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat, and let it sit for several hours.

Let it cool, and serve!

The finished egg.

Peeled and ready to eat! It may not look very seasoned, but trust me, the taste is there. Check out the lines! The more cracks, the more lines!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ford making special F-150 with Harley-Davidson.

Ford & Harley-Davidson is pairing up together to pimp a F-150.

My question to the men who buy this... isn't it easier and cheaper to go see your doctor and have a conversation about the little blue pill?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

human factors review: Automotive Instruments

(as described by Wikipedia)
  • The science of understanding the properties of human capability (Human Factors Science).
  • The application of this understanding to the design, development and deployment of systems and services (Human Factors Engineering).
  • The art of ensuring successful application of Human Factors Engineering to a program (sometimes referred to as Human Factors Integration). It can also be called ergonomics.

Good human factors minimizes the amount work or the taxing of a person's resources when operating the specific machinery or system.

Good design should not increase the amount of effort the user has to expend for the sake of "style." Unfortunately, not enough graduates from art schools with "industrial design" degrees take this seriously.

Automotive Instruments

These gauges are from the Chevy Camaro. Why must the digits be rotated in a radial fashion around the perimeter of the circular gauge? How does that help anyone read their current speed?

These are even worse. From another Chevy Camaro design, why does the speedometer only display increments of 25mph? Even if the increments are 25mph, why are there no markings for consistent intervals? Such as 5mph increments?

In addition, the speedometer or the tachometer's radial rotation of the numbers is inconsistent. In the speedometer's case, the 25mph and 175mph markings are incorrectly rotated 180°. In the tachometer's case, 1 and 7 are incorrectly rotated 180°. In human factors design, it is better to be poorly designed but consistent, rather than poorly designed and inconsistent.

Taken from a 2010 Buick Lacrosse. In a vehicle that starts at $26k, this is a travesty of effective design. Both the speedometer and the tachometer have dominant markings placed between the numerical indicators, which create an unnecessary chance for ambiguity. GM should have also thought about which demographic their customers are - old people. In this case, if a Buick customer confuses 50mph for 40mph, I don't blame them, the instruments are unnecessarily confusing.

 These gauges are from a 2008 Chevy Cobalt SS. GM clearly knows how to properly design an instrument cluster. Their generic parts are straightforward and well designed. But it seems like in the past couple of years, when they try to design something "new" and "fresh" they let their clown car art school types take over and end up with crap like the aforementioned works of "art."

2010 Ford Mustang. Radial arrangement of information should be avoided. But if one must do so, I suppose the half circle has got to be the way to do it.

These are simple gauges from a 1995 Honda Civic. As you can see, the instrument cluster is centered around the speedometer. The gauges have nicely arranged numbering at 20mph intervals, with clearly marked 10mph increments, with smaller markings for 5mph intervals. There's no nonsense. In addition, in the inner circle, the gauges indicate the current speed in kilometers, because GASP! people sometimes visit Canada.

Taken from a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. A simple well designed modern set of instruments. No excess stylistic design that gets in the way of conveying information. Coolant temperature and closed/open status of doors are displayed in the center of the tachometer. The center of the speedometer contains a fuel gauge, as well as a current gear selection indicator.

For instruments that are intended to convey basic information, the simpler is always better. Instrumentation is not a place for designers to emphasize their individuality or creative talents.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why every self-respecting monarch needs a genealogy and a spy service.

I recently had the misfortune of being reminded of a terrible film. Why do I subject myself to partially re-watching bad films? Because every now and then, bad films, like parables, yield wisdom and advice for the unusual situations people end up in.

Curse of the Golden Flower [2006] is one of those bad films. This film is directed by Zhang Yimou, the man who was also responsible for House of Flying Daggers, one of the worst films I've ever watched. In Chinese, the film is titled 滿城盡帶黃金甲, which roughly translates to "Whole City in Gold Armor." Why was it retitled as the "Curse of the Golden Flower?" Who knows? In addition, despite being a period piece set in supposed ancient China, all the women are wearing corsets that accentuates their cleavages.

Anyway... the film is basically a big imperial family drama with a lot of extras and large sets. A thinner than usual Chow Yun-Fat is The Emperor. The Emperor has the nicest hair, he really should consider doing a commercial for Head and Shoulders.

Liu Ye plays the 1st Prince. Jay Chou plays the 2nd Prince, he is supposed to the strong son, who is a capable general. Unfortunately, Jay Chou is a musician, and not much of an actor - so he comes off as a unconvincing peasant from Taiwan who can't properly speak Mandarin Chinese.

Some no name kid plays the 3rd Prince, who no one really gives a damn about. Gong Li plays the Queen (step-mother the 1st Prince, biological mother to the others). Why do I mention this? you know where this is going don't you?

The Queen and the 1st Prince have a sexual affair. The Emperor knows this, so he is having the Queen's daily meds poisoned. The Queen, getting sicker, suspects something is up, and hires an Private Investigator (PI) to spy on the Emperor. She also spends her time sewing golden chrysanthemum flowers.

The PI is a woman, and happens to be the wife of the Imperial Doctor (the dude responsible for mixing the Queen's daily meds with poison). Awkward?

Anyway - during one of her spying missions, the PI gets caught. The PI is brought in front of the Emperor, where everyone expects the PI to be executed. To everyone's surprise, the Emperor asks everyone to leave.

It turns out that the PI was the Emperor's first wife. Um... the 1st Prince's mother. Oh wait - I accidentally omitted the fact that aside from sleeping with his stepmother, the 1st Prince was also sleeping with the Imperial Doctor's daughter.


The 1st Prince is not only fornicating with his father's wife, but also his half-sister. I think this dynasty is heading towards the likes of Egyptian Ptolemaic Dynasty and the House of Hapsburg. This is not a good arrangement. To cut the long story short, the Emperor has the Imperial Doctor, the Doctor's wife (the PI), and their daughter killed.

The 3rd Prince, that no one gives a damn about, kills the 1st Prince, and tries to force the Emperor to abdicate. That didn't work out too well, and he gets killed by blunt force trauma from the Emperor's gold loaded belt.

The sort of Queen stages a rebellion in the court yard. Thousands of men rush in, led by the 2nd Prince, wearing gold uniforms with chrysanthemum flowers. They're all slaughtered in the massive courtyard.

But in an EPIC fashion, the courtyard, littered with thousands of bodies, thousands of gallons gallons of blood, and who knows how many trampled pots and plants, are washed clean and disappeared in five minutes. Pretty amazing, I mean the cleanup is almost good enough to make this horrible film worth it.

So after the slaughter and cleanup, the Emperor forces the surviving 2nd Prince to dine with him and the Queen. While eating some tasty food, the Emperor offers the 2nd Prince a reprieve, but only if he is willing to feed the poison to the Queen. The 2nd Prince refuses the offer and offs himself.

The Emperor sort of pauses for a second, then resumes eating. Yum!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Salad Redux.

Same basic salad that I previously made, only this time with hard boiled egg.

And a gin & tonic.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I started the day with a cup of coffee.

Then I saved my calories for meat.

I seasoned the meat with salt and freshly ground pepper, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Then I took heated my heaviest pan, and seared each side for approximately six to seven minutes. Then it is in the oven at 350° F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for 10 minutes before eating.

Cherry Coke Zero, salad, waffle fries, and steak! Yum!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eating Regularly.

I have a "problem" with eating regularly. No I'm not anorexic! I just don't eat on a regular schedule. This "problem" is worse when I am living alone, because when I have no one to cook for, I don't particularly bother to cook or feel the need to eat at regular time points.

Because the "ball and chain" will be overseas visiting relatives for a couple weeks, I plan to mitigate my "problem" by making a conscious effort to document my food intake.

Today's dinner was salad. I made it with salad greens, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, and blue cheese. The dressing was a simple balsamic vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Freedom of Internet Access?

This is a map of the freedom of internet access around the world. No not really - this is just a graphical representation of where readers have hailed from since March of 2009.

Countries that are white have recorded no visits. I'm sad that the Dear Leader has not honored me with his virtual presence.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Joy of Cooking... Squirrel?


The Joy of Cooking also recommends catching the possum alive, and feeding it milk and cereals for ten days before dispatching it and serving.

Awesome! Can't wait to try it someday!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chinese traffic accidents.

Not particularly graphic - but funny enough that you'll laugh (then feel guilty for laughing).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Uh... Chevrolet? What?

According to the New York Times, some morons who work at General Motors decided that employees should refrain from using the word "Chevy" when communicating about their products.

Imagine if BMW insisted that its employees could only say Bayerische Motoren Werke!

Anyway - see the memo below:
"Chevrolet Team,

We wanted to write you a quick note requesting your support of our Chevrolet Brand. When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding. Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer. This is a big opportunity for us moving forward.

As you know, we are investing substantially to improve the consistency of our retail facilities through the EBE process. Aside from the facilities aspect of our branding, there are many other ways in which we can demonstrate this consistency. One way to achieve this is with the use of Chevrolet vs. Chevy. We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.

We have a proud heritage behind us and a fantastic future ahead of us... speaking to the success of this brand in one consistent manner will ensure Chevrolet becomes even more prominent and recognizable than it already is.

Thank you for your support of this effort!

Alan and Jim

P.S. We put a plastic “Chevy” can down the hall that will accept a quarter every time someone uses “Chevy” rather than Chevrolet! We’ll use the money for a team building activity."

Who are Alan and Jim? Alan is the Vice President for Chevy's Sales and Service, and Jim is Chevy's Vice President for Marketing.

Reading through the memo, it appears that Alan and Jim do not realize that "Coke" is not the proper brand name for Coca-Cola. It also appears that Alan and Jim believe that GM's marketing woes had something to do with brand ambiguity.

What is brand ambiguity? Generally it is a potential buyer's inability to discriminate between alternative brands.

Hm. So what was Don McLean singing about when he wrote "drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry" ?!

Are these two people complete imbeciles? Really? Chevy has a brand recognition problem? Who seriously thinks that Chevrolet, a French sounding name of Swiss origin, sounds better for a blue collar car company?

As a taxpayer, I'm not optimistic that the US federal government is going to get its money's worth from the GM IPO. Especially with these morons wasting time on these senseless efforts, instead of you know... drawing up <sarcasm> awesome marketing </sarcasm> efforts for the Chevrolet Volt.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pontiac: How to beat the problem of the Beetle and the Bug!

General Motor's employee motivational video from another era. NPR noted in their special on the NUMMI facility (when it was a GM-UAW "partnership"), union contract employees practically had to commit fraud to get fired. As a result, the employees drank on the job, had sex on the job, sabotaged vehicles to "get back" at management, and obviously aided the collapse of the American automotive industry.

Anyway - Pontiac tried to get their employees to show up at work, and uh do their jobs - by appealing to their nationalist sentiments. Obviously it did not work.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What is Kim Jong Il's 'pran'?

In late March, the Cheonan (천안), a South Korean corvette mysteriously broke in half and sank off in the Yellow Sea. The sinking claimed the lives of 46 sailors. North Korea promptly denied any role in the sinking.

This week investigators from Australia, South Korea, Sweden, United States, and the United Kingdom concluded that the corvette, which broke in half, was likely sunk by a torpedo of North Korean origin.

North Korea has already called the results of the investigation a fabrication, and threatened to resume full hostilities in the Korean peninsular if South Korea proceeds with any sanctions.

What is the Dear Intelligent Great Leader, General Secretary, Supreme Commander Kim Jong Il's pran?

Is Kim Jong Il a closet General Motors, Ford, Honda, Toyota fan? And he seeks to ruin Hyundai and Kia's corporate headquarters?

Is the Dear Leader upset that Samsung developed the world's biggest 82-inch TFT-LCD screen? Making his Sony 50-inch cathode ray tube projection television obsolete?

What is this portly midget up to?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Original Capacity: 74.88 Wh
Current Capacity: 6.76 Wh

As you can see, my Lenovo Thinkpad X61's 8-cell battery, after 727 cycles, now only has 9% of its original full charge capacity. I used to be able to get a decent seven, sometimes even eight hours of use out of the battery, now? I'll be lucky if it lasts 30 minutes.

The laptop has a relatively smart power manager software that seeks to delay the inevitable deterioration of lithium ion batteries by not charging it to actually 100% of 74.88 Wh and also avoiding unnecessary recharging for situations when you unplug and replug the laptop within a few minutes when relocating from one office to another.

But after only two years of intense law school use and abuse - this laptop will need a new battery for it to become mobile again.

Who still wants to buy a Nissan Leaf?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Bye NUMMI.

Tomorrow is April 1. Unfortunately it won't be a joke when the last Toyota Corolla will come off the production line at NUMMI. New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) is an automobile manufacturing facility in Fremont, California. NUMMI is perhaps most famous for being Toyota's first North American production facility, but it was originally a General Motors production plant. GM had to shut the plant down in the 1980s due to a variety of factors, including low productivity, poor quality, and generally FUBAR relations between GM and the UAW.

This American Life made a podcast on this, and it is fairly good.

In the mid-1980s, Toyota was looking to setup shop in the United States. The Japanese car manufacturer had realized that GM, with its heavy political base, was capable of influencing protectionist policies in the US Congress. However, Toyota had never dealt with American laborers, and had no experience with setting up shop in North America, so they entered into a joint venture with GM, reopening the factory and implementing Toyota's lean manufacturing.

The joint venture was an instant success. For nearly two decades, NUMMI built the the most reliable vehicles sold under a GM badge, such as the Geo/Chevrolet Prizm or Pontiac Vibe.

NUMMI was proof that there was nothing fundamentally wrong or uncompetitive about the American worker - it demonstrated that poor productivity and consistency was the result of a bad structure and lousy labor relations.

Unfortunately, with the demise and bankruptcy of GM, the joint venture ended. Toyota, which has excess production capacity in North America, decided to close the plant. Good Bye NUMMI.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bed Bath & Bey... wahhhhh?

I spent sometime browsing Bed Bath & Beyond today, looking at the usual things I admire like pots and pans, interesting kitchen gadgets, when suddenly...

What is this?!

OMG!! Training wheels for chopsticks?!

I wish I had a pair of these when I turned four and my parents took away my spoon as part of my Spartan upbringing. Master Pai Mei from Kill Bill Vol. 2 was modeled after my parents, and it was either learn how to eat with chopsticks or not eat at all. 

Editor Note: Fotos made possible by the iPhone 3GS.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Health Care Proposal for "Freedom Fighters" and die hard fiscal conservatives.

If you're physically in the United States, I'm sure you've heard all this ballyhoo about "Obamacare" aka Health Care Reform.

Listening to people threatening to physically assault members of Congress for having the audacity to increase competition amongst insurance companies, and make insurance more affordable for the uninsured/under-insured doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I prefer constructive criticism - so here's a legislative idea for Republicans to "fix" the Health Care Reform bill.

1. Adults that are of sound mind, may voluntarily opt out and enroll on a list called "Don't Care List," under which they will not receive any health care unless they're able to pay up front. Should the individual become incapacitated and unable to make payment upfront, an immediate family member, or a court appointed trustee may decide on their behalf (although payment will still be required upon admission).

2. The aforementioned individual will be able to opt out of all associated taxes and fees that fund the health care system

3. Non-profit hospitals and public hospitals are barred providing free care to such persons (after all, charity is honorable, but not if it sinks the entire health care system).

4. If the individual is diagnosed with a medical condition, and seeks coverage, they can be denied for having a pre-existing condition (since they basically cheat the concept of insurance by "opting in" when it benefits them).

5. The individual, if unable or unwilling to pay upfront for care, may try to secure health financing, or alternatively, get back into the system by paying the premiums they would otherwise had paid into the insurance pool from the date the individual opted to be on the "Don't Care List."

I don't see why die hard fiscal conservatives would be opposed to this proposal, and "freedom fighters" should also appreciate the freedom and responsibility/consequences that follow.

Meanwhile, I'll get into the business of financing lifesaving procedures for people who decide to enroll on this "Don't Care List."

Of course, the financing will be dictated by the market. If a person on the "Don't Care List" is 25 years away from retirement, has minimal savings and no source of retirement income beyond monthly checks for sustenance, economically speaking, the inherent risks of investing in their life is too great for the expected gains expected in the long-term.

I guess they'll just have to die then, but then again, it is merely adults expressing their political preferences and exercising their freedoms? right?

"Freedom Fighters" and die hard fiscal conservatives for the win.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why do we bother with Daylight Saving Time?

1,000,000 brownie points to the person who knows the answer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day from the Dear Leader!

A friend in art conservation found this approximately two years ago:

The Dear Leader Kim Jong-il wishes everybody a Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow + 6 days.

There is this neighborhood across the street that is situated on a hill. This neighborhood can only be really accessed by five streets, and many residents have been trapped in this neighborhood.

Unfortunately, the City didn't appear to have the foresight to um... get the neighborhood plowed until today, six days after the first night of great snow fall.

I happened to witness the first plow vehicle trying to make the first switchback road today. If you look closely, you'll notice that the vehicle's reverse lights were on... because it was stuck and couldn't get up the hill.

I feel sorry for the snow plow operators. Poor contingency planning = a harder job, longer hours, and more dissatisfied residents to deal with.

I visit the Mayor's Office's website, and found the Press Releases section.

In 2008, Ravenstahl said the following in a press release:
"The 2008-2009 winter season will begin a new era in the City of Pittsburgh's Snow and Ice Control program. We've designed a plan to enable us to deliver services better to make our streets safer. We have more and improved equipment, as well as a smarter approach to implementation. We are ready for the snow."
What did the Mayor and his appointee Rob Kaczorowski do to improve things?

Apparently he expanded the small-pieces fleet to 42 one-ton trucks and pickups, mounted with snow plows. These vehicles will be operated by crews with no commercial driver's license, and will be dedicated to cleaning secondary roads. This small fleet will then free up the existing 48 LARGE trucks will be dedicated to cleaning primary roads.

Mayor's Office:
"The previous plan called for first responders to concentrate entirely on clearing primary roads. Once the primary roads were cleared, only then was equipment sent to secondary routes."
The previous plan sure sounds vaguely familiar to something I heard earlier this week... what happened to the new plan?

Or is there some "new" unannounced plan? Maybe Ravenstahl's new plan was something like this (commentary in italics):
1. On the night of first snow fall, head to Seven Springs Ski Resort to have a birthday bash.

2. Say "No one could have anticipated this."

Ummm... the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning Friday. Most people on the East Coast were anticipating this.

3. When pressed about not being around to govern, say "I had access to a computer and phone. That's the same as what I have today at the [Emergency Operations Center]."

OK! That's an acceptable answer?

4. Get your own street and your brother's street cleared.

5. When pressed about that... say "I need to be out and about. For that reason my street has been cleared."

But I thought you had a computer and phone? What else do you need? I guess no one else needs to get to work, class, hospital, or buy groceries and get their prescription filled? Oh wait... unlike anybody else, your job actually depends on showing up and pretending to be at work doesn't it? Oh shucks, too bad about Friday night and Saturday, I'm sure the Seven Springs Ski Resort was a bad place to be snowed in.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow + 4 days.

I live on a relatively busy street that gets filled with cars during rush hour. This particular street also serves as one of the junctions that connects ambulances to the main UPMC hospital from Downtown and Bloomfield. Our dear boy mayor, Luke Ravenstahl claimed on Tuesday (4 days after the snow fell) that the city work crews have cleared most primary and worked on secondary roads - I guess most of Pittsburgh's streets must be tertiary.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nom Nom Nom - Lamb Stew.

We recently purchased a leg of lamb from Costco - it weighed about 4.5 pounds, but after I trimmed it, it really provided about 4 pounds of good meat, the trimmings were either small pieces of meat, tough sinew, or undesirable hunks of fat. I used our food processor and turned the small pieces of meat into ground lamb.

Anyway - so I wanted to cook something with lamb, and so here we go!

You'll need the following basic ingredients (not including the spices):
• 3~4 lbs of lamb (bite sized)
• 1 large onion
• 6 cloves of garlic
• 3 inch of ginger
• 28 oz of crushed tomatoes
• 6 oz can of tomato paste
• 1 cup of water

Take out your food processor, puree the onion, garlic, and ginger; we shall refer to this as puree mixture (please ignore the presence of the ground lamb, I added it to the stew to get rid of the trimmings).

Grab three bowls. In each bowl, put the following spices.

Bowl 1:
• 2 Bay leaves
• 1 cinnamon stick

Bowl 2:
• 2 tsp cumin seeds
• 2 tsp fennel seeds

Bowl 3:
• 1 tsp tumeric
• 2 tsp curry powder
• 1 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp salt

1. Apply medium heat to a large pot, add oil, and everything in Bowl 1 to the oil until the cinnamon stick uncurls.

2. Then add the puree mixture, and cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic no longer smells raw

3. Meanwhile, apply medium heat to a frying pan, add some oil, and then lightly fry the contents of Bowl 2, keep stirring until the cumin turns brown, then turn the heat off. Pour the oil into the puree mixture, and scrape the seeds into the pot.

4. Add the protein to the pot, pour the contents of Bowl 3 into the pot, and cook the meat until it turns darker.

5. Add the tomato puree and tomato paste. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let the pot cook for another 35 minutes or so. After I tasted the sauce, I decided to add frozen corn and peas.

6. Serve on rice, or eat it with roti.

Nom Nom Nom!