30 September 2014


First attempt at 回锅肉 (twice cooked meat):

Forgot the most important step of stir-frying the meat to evapourate the moisture before adding veggies, thus did not get a nice char on the meat. T'was still good tasting though.

28 September 2014


Note to self: midday sun does not make for flattering lighting.
Another photography related note: my room gets a brief period of beautiful afternoon light, how does one go about capturing that on camera?

Had a short conversation with my YNCN mentor about not cooking from recipes. Personally, it's out of laziness, it's too much work referring back to a recipe everytime (which is why I rarely bake the same thing twice, even though I loved it the first time). Instead, I want to focus more on ingredients and techniques, which are more versatile. I'll attempt to write future food posts with a focus on those two.

Today's feature is how to construct a sandwich.

This is a successful example of a sandwich. Successful for the following reasons:
  • Bread with substance: aka not homogeneously textured bread from a plastic bag. This bread is via budgetbytes and was a tad overbaked due to my carelessness. Despite that, it still has a fluffy interior and chewy crust.
  • Complementary primary and secondary ingredients: this is a roasted beets sandwich complemented with slightly pickled cucumbers. I'd describe roasted beets as soft, sweet and warming, where fridge pickled cucumbers are the opposite: crunchy (cause homegrown :D), sour and cooling. One bad thing about beets is that it literally stains everything and anything, one must exercise the utmost caution when eating this.
  • Brighter notes of flavour: which is the basil and heavily pickled radish (which is intensely spicy thanks to the pickling jar being filled with chili). A change I would make in future iterations is to arrange the radish and basil in a grid, because the radish easily overpowers the basil, which actually goes quite well with the beets. Previous iteration had mint as the herb, which wasn't as good.

26 September 2014


I would like to introduce you all to the dish that will get me (and you) through the winter months: roast meat.
(it's actually a braise not a roast)

It's sauce-y enough to compliment a variety of carbs (rice, noodles, pasta, bread, etc) and has enough layers of flavour that you wont get tired of eating it for an entire week (or months?). It's also inexpensive, the main ingredients are potatoes and the cheapest cut of meat.

The flavours come from a variety of ingredients, which is perhaps the only annoyance to those other than me who wish to replicate it (and you don't, change the flavour up as you wish). But for a Sichuan flavour, use the following:
  • smashed ginger and ginger added first to the hot fat (veg oil, or I try to throw in the fatty bits of meat to render)
  • dried spices: sichuan peppercone, bay leaf, star anise, dried chili, cinnamon
  • the essential flavour: 郫县豆瓣 (chili-bean paste)
  • others: citrus fruit peel, chili oil, salt and soy sauce
  • optional, non-traditional add-ins: green onion and cilantro (added in at the end, usually to roasted beef but works well with pork too)
The process goes:
  • cooking the flavouring in oil
  • adding in the meat (I usually brown them a little beforehand, but not necessary)
  • add in water and braise for an hour or so until meat is tender
  • add in potatoes (or radish, usually not together but I did this time and its fine) and some more water to braise
  • cook for at least another hour, until meat easily falls apart when poked. My usual cook time is 3-4 hours
  • eat slowly as the leftovers are even better
In other news, field to fork event at school:

All prepared by residents, just 100x better than their regular meals.

24 September 2014


Despite the fact that I should be working on my Green Growth assignment (delightful to research, painful to write), here's a brief flash of clarity that I experienced:

Most of the "things" I like are means to an end and not the end itself. It's time to shift my focus?

Exhibit A: my recent obsession, tea. Well I enjoy the liquor itself, what I really want to get out of drinking tea is time to slow down and feel at peace, the ritual of preparing tea, and exploring the culture  behind the beverage (such as traditional methods of processing).

Exhibit B: building engineering. Buildings are the medium in which I want to create a more sustainable world.

22 September 2014


Drinking tea with more proper equipment now. Thank you parents for the gaiwan :D

This is a Dao Hong Pao from TheChineseTeashop, bought along with my yixing teapot.

16 September 2014


Gerstein library is beautiful, why can't engineering buildings be that nice? Gonna make a conscience effort to trek there for my long breaks. Will also make an effort to go to Hart House on Tuesdays for free tea.

The theme is to get out of the engineering zone.

PS. Medsci is kind of pretty with good lighting.

15 September 2014


I like the roast level of my teas to be inversely proportional to the outdoors temperature. Craving some oolongs now that we've settled into fall (though there's still so much green tea to drink through).

Tie Guan Yin leaves showing the hint of red around the edges from tossing of the tea leaves during processing.

12 September 2014

Everlane Cardcase

After slimming down my wallet and replacing it with a binder clip, I decided to finally buy a cardcase. Initially I was thinking of buying this one on Etsy, but decided against it because the Chromexcel will likely be too thick for what I'd like in a wallet (a bag or boots is a different story).

So in the end I went with the trusty Everlane.

(hey guys I learned how to correctly set white balance!)

The leather is good enough in my novice judgement, but importantly it doesn't add too much thickness to the cardcase. I do like the contrast in surface texture (pebbled vs. smooth), and the slant detail. It's also roomier than it looks, fitting 4.5 (one half size) cards plus folded bills. It's also not overly tight, making it easy to slide things in-and-out, but things won't fall out either.

Overall a nice, solid cardcase. Would recommend to anyone looking for a wallet with minimal footprint without being spartan.

10 September 2014


Boots and coats are two categories of clothing (and sweaters and scarves, but I've got more restraint now) that I particularly care for and is willing to allocate significant budget for. Good thing the Canadian winter partially justifies these.
(Any suggestions for quality sweaters? Preferably fisherman style)

I've given up on my boots search. It's down to either Wolverine 1ks in brown or some chelsea boot in black (Grenson Grace?). The choice would depend on what PEY I get, thus decision put off for another time.

Instead efforts are directed towards a coat search, which is more fruitless, sigh. The perfect vision: forest green duffel coat with a hood with >80% wool. Out of the 4 requirements, I'm lucky to even meet 2"orz

EDIT: I LIED. THIS IS PERFECT. Time to go try it on :D

This is the most perfect one I've found so far:
images via.
Unfortunately, its from a Korean site, and the product that it's actually selling is the bag. GG.
Though I love the styling of this look, specifically the colours, proportions and pattern.

So the other candidates are:
 (note how none of them are forest green. I literally could not find forest green coats. welp)

The Topshop isn't all that bad, but worried about the wool's quality and don't like the high contrast between the toggle and the coat. It is unique as the toggles are off-centered. If I end up settling (not expected, since I'm not in actual, dire need of a coat), this will be the one to get. The Babaton one should have nicer material, with a higher price tag to match. Also don't like how it looks on the model, but do like the more streamlined design.

PS. I think I found my dream leather jacket. Can we appreciate that fit? And for once someone decided to minimize the hardware!

PPS. yeah I get why people love death by elocution now. The coat tag mmmmm.

09 September 2014


The way to build habit is to put the necessary equipment at the space-time location where/when you want the habit to occur.
^that's not the clearest sentence, let me illustrate with an example.

Habit to build: take more and better photos
Set-up: leave camera out, on manual mode, right beside the kitchen so there's no obstacle against taking food photos.

Here's the preliminary results.

Moonlight white tea

Longjing (dragonwell) tea

Kale salad, which is so much better after a couple stirs in the wok (aka warm).

08 September 2014


Third decade of life, bring it on.

07 September 2014

The Wind Rises

I think I'd be okay if this was Miyazaki's last film, there's enough in here to think about for a long long time.

image via dA. (this one is also beautiful)

This film says so much that an extra hour would benefit the pacing. Especially at the beginning when there were a lot of time skip, and to build up Jiro and Nahoko's relationship more.

Despite the pace, it is still so so so so so beautiful, exactly what you'd expect from Ghibli. Though this is the first time that I've noticed the quality of the animation (perhaps I was just not paying attention for previous films), especially for the smoke and small details. One day I will have this on blu-ray to truly appreciate the image quality.

Since the main character, Jiro, is an engineer, all you engineering people (and everyone else) definitely needs to watch this. Miyazaki frames the Zero plane as the result of Jiro's pursuit to design something beautiful rather than a machine intended for destruction. This disparity in PoV should remind us of the engineer's duty to society. Here's a better worded version of what I'm trying to say:
Miyazaki’s films are often preoccupied with absence, the value of things left behind and how the ghosts of beautiful things are traced onto our memories like the shadows of a nuclear fallout, and “The Wind Rises” looks back as only a culminating work can. His stories aren’t about the things we’ve lost so much as they’re about the act of remembering them, and though “The Wind Rises” doesn’t forgive us for our transgressions, it directs us back to the beautiful ideas from which they first sprang.
via this review, which is a great analysis.

But even if you don't care about all of this, the film should invoke a sense of pride as an engineer seeing the plane come into fruition. Bonus for depicting slide rules and hand drafting, makes me glad we have calculators and CAD now. Would not want to be designing planes by hand...

I leave you with the main theme:

PS: "le vent se lève, il faut tenter de vivre" is a good quotation to live by.

06 September 2014


Watching how it's made videos really makes you appreciate the end product. Check out the process of making a yixing teapot (found via /r/tea, awesome place):

I went to examine my own pot after watching these videos, and am so impressed by how smooth the transition from spout to body is.
(Finally learned how to use manual mode via fiddling with Angela's camera at camp)

05 September 2014


This is a good start to Steel & Timber Design:
Structural engineering is the art of
molding material we do not entirely understand
into shapes we cannot precisely analyze
so as to withstand forces we cannot really assess
in such a way that the public does not really suspect.

Building science is also looking to be good, hopefully there's at least 2 courses that I really enjoy this semester.

03 September 2014


aka keep calm and survey on.but camp is also a convenient acronym for civil and mineral practical, which is a good description of what you do there: sunrise to sunset of fieldwork, then finishing up assignments until 10/11.

It does teach you a lot of things, technical skills which we won't use (cause engineers hire actual surveyors) and soft skills which we will use. Things like team work, problem definition, time management etc.
Example: I actually understand sig figs now. Beforehand, when it's just theoretical problems, sig figs feel like an arbitrary thing that you do because you've been instructed to. Now, after having to squint through the eye piece of an automatic leveler to measured 5 pages worth of elevation readings, I get that the numbers I write down are estimates of the "actual" value and that it's simply impossible to know to the millimeter. Thus it's wrong to write "293.458", whereas it should just be "293.5". As Collins say, separate the signal from the noise.

But the most rewarding aspect of camp is the bonding between classmates that happen when we all have to go through these two tiring weeks. United against a common enemy haha.

Anyways, here's some photos since I don't trust myself to think coherently. Funny I've slept less now that I'm back due to frosh shenanigans.

Gull Lake is beautiful, especially in the mornings.

 Stream where we measured velocity and area to determine flow rate.

 I battled many mosquitoes to get good picture of clovers.

Making artificial rain and a rainbow in the process.

To end this post, a quote from the highway curve lecture:
You should run as far as you can see, when you get there, you'll see farther.

02 September 2014


I have survived camp and subsequent f!rosh. So super tired though.

Finished reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, t'was a difficult read. Here's a particular passage that I like, from the afterword actually:
This book has a lot to say about Ancient Greek perspective and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. The saw the future as something that came upon upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away from their eyes.
When you think about it, that's a more accurate metaphor than our present one.Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

The book is about Quality, and the often lack-of it in modern life. I see similarities to what Vanderburg says. It's a good read.