31 January 2015


Had the fortune of enjoying dinners with great company.

Donatello: fantastic bread and super delicious rose sauce for the pasta (though that's because I like my sauce on the sour side)
 Calamari dressed with olive oil and lemon, and roasted red peppers.

 Tiramisu, which I found quite sweet (but not the awful, supermarket-sweet).

Momofuku Daisho: good but not outstanding, they added a pre-dessert course this year though!
 Amuse with crab meat and shrimp in chili oil?

 Warm squash salad, ehh? Probably should've went with the buns.

 Pork shank, a mis-order on my part. Should've chosen with the fish instead.

 Pineapple sorbet with dehydrated pineapple (my mom makes these!). This was delicious.
iPhones still suck in low lighting though.

Date pudding. This was really delicious, definitely the highlight of the night. It's a very generous portion too.

29 January 2015

Small is Beautiful

This book definitely makes my list of "What are potentially life-changing books".
(to which I will also add Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

In short, this makes a fantastic textbook for Vanderburg's course. In fact I like it better than his own books since the language is more straightforward here. Though there's no doubt that Vanderburg has read this, since his course and this book shares the theme of appropriate or intermediate technologies as the path forward, instead of the unlimited growth that is deeply embedded in our culture.

btw, may I suggest the 25th anniversary edition if you do decide to read this. The additional commentary is relevant and brings the text more up to date.

To begin:
There are inherent thresholds in the scale of human activity that, when surpassed, produce second- and third-order effects that subtract if not destroy the quality of all life.
This pretty much summarizes the theme of the book. But do keep reading.
He later elaborates on how society has forgotten that growth or progress is a vector and not a scalar [my analogy, quite proud of it]. That is, there is bad growth. The related Vanderburg point would be that progress is a central myth in our society, and a property of the central myth is that we don't question its goodness, rather we are conditioned to believe that it is good and is the solution to everything.

On man and nature:
Modern man does not experience himself as a part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. (4 - The Problem of Production)
which explains why the Market only values man-made things and does not price natural capital depletion.
He also talked about the contradiction in Man's role as a producer and consumer. As a producer, Man is good when he maximizes profit, whereas Man as a consumer can and should care about things like social welfare and environmental degradation. The problem arises as they are the same person.

He also talks at length about work. The main idea were
  • work must be humanizing, aka workers should not mimic machines
  • ownership should be distributed amongst the workers
  • organizations have the obligation to their community and local environment. 

On the lack of moral considerations in modern economies:
...dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to do any good (11-Peace and Performance)

Why ask for virtues, which man may never acquire, when scientific rationality and technical competence are all that is needed? (12 - "")

[Keynes says that] for at at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. (12 - "")
The market is the institutionalization of individualism and non-responsibility. (29 - The Role of Economics)
Money is considered to be all-powerful; if it could not actually buy non-material values, such as justice, harmony, beauty or even health, it could circumvent the need for them or compensate for their loss. (248 - Epilogue)

On existing:
Every increase of needs tends to increase ones dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear (20- Peace and Performance)

All traditional philosophy is an attempt to create an orderly system of ideas by which to live and to interpret the world. "Philosophy as the Greeks conceived it," writes professor Kuhn, "is one single effort of the human mind to interpret the system of signs and so to relate man to the world as a comprehensive order within which a place is assigned to him" (64 - The Greatest Resource - Education)

[Byron's poem]
Sorrow is knowledge; they who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth,
The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life.
(70 - "")

An educated man:
He will not be in doubt about his basic convictions, about his view on the meaning and purpose of his life. He may not be able to explain these matters in words, but the conduct of his life will show a certain sureness of touch which stems from his inner clarity. (73 - "")

On burden of proof:
Burden of proof on those who take the "ecological viewpoint": unless they can produce evidence of marked injury to man, the change will proceed. Common sense, on the contrary, would suggest that the burden of proof should lie on the man who wants to introduce change; he has to demonstrate that there cannot be any damages. (109 - Nuclear Energy) 

On international development, which I am taking to heart:
[New development thinking will not say] "What is the best for the rich must be best for the poor". It will care for people - from a severely practical point of view. Why care for people? Because people are the primary and ultimate source of any wealth whatsoever. If they are left out, if they are pushed around by self-styled experts and high-handed planners, then nothing can ever yield real fruit, (140 - Development)

Their first need is to start work of some kind that brings some reward, however small; it is only when they experience that their time and labour is of value that they can become interested in making it more valuable. (145 - Social and Economic Problems Calling for the Development of Intermediate Technology)
Reading those chapters has seriously made me consider development as a focus for my career. Will be interesting to see if that comes true.

26 January 2015

water cube

I officially have a favourite building in terms of facade design: Beijing's national aquatics center, or the water cube as everyone knows it. It's absolutely wonderful for the following reasons:
  • Instead of glass, it uses ETFE (ethyl tetrafluoroethylene) which is lighter by magnitudes and has better thermal properties.
  • The bubble shapes are actually very regular, but appears random.
  • The steel structural members were generated via algorithm, allowing major changes to be implemented within a week. 
  • The double layered facade and large thermal mass of pool water & surrounding concrete passively heats/cools most of the interior space. For areas that need active cooling, cold air is supplied directly to spectator seats taking advantage of stratification. 
  • Shape is culturally significant and is in dialog with the Bird's Nest (typing the second part of the sentence really reminds of the Roman Forum).
All the above information was gleaned from these sources: 1, 2, 3 (this one has the models & drawings).

Now I really hope I get asked what my favourite building is during my interview.

25 January 2015


A quick analysis of my pintrest board, cause /r/FFA motivates you to do these kind of things.
  • Shoes shall be pointed toe (if only varas came in pointed or even almond toe, sigh) ex. 1
  • Skirts are my article of choice to be dramatic. ex. 1, 2
  • Sleek silhouettes are sleek. ex. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • I really like wool coats, especially in tweed. This constraints me to living in cold climates.
  • Caramel, emerald, navy. Maybe some blush and lilac for spring/summer.
  • Floppy hats, in straw for the summer and in felt for the rest of the seasons. ex 1
  • Increased variety in textures as the temperature drops. ex. 1, 2
  • Things I wish I can pull off: longer skirt lengths, non-fitted jackets and dresses, turtlenecks

More important reading material: Gates Foundation's Annual Letter. I honestly credit his blog and Small is Beautiful (I'm almost done reading! Will def post about this) for making me seriously consider development as a priority in my career.

24 January 2015


A couple of dishes that I've cooked over the past week(s).

回锅肉 again. It's probably the most common pork dish that I cook, for the singular reason that you cut the meat after its been cooked. This eliminates having to wash a separate set of knife and chopping board.
The meat falls apart quite easily when I thinly slice, which results in nice charred bits that I very much like.

Loosely Taiwanese stir-fried cabbage. This dish isn't an entire success since it's having a bit of an identity crisis. I started off following a Taiwanese recipe, but substituted too many ingredients, such as my extremely spicy pickled pepper. The pepper over powered the shiitake mushrooms :(

In efforts of using up more of my pickles, I made sour fish with a meat to seasoning ratio more in line with 辣子鸡. For those unfamiliar, the proper format of that dish is that you must dig through the pile of peppers to find any chicken pieces.
(also finally used up that pack of frozen fish fillets from waaay back.)

Poached pear with spices (cardamon, cloves, cinnamon. Almost a chai). This was an attempt to rescue some not so great tasteless pears, which didn't work. I do like this particular flavour combination, so will redo with proper pears.

Red cabbage with gochujang (Korean pepper paste), a new staple, and cabbage with sausage.
Both are simple, both are delicious.

22 January 2015


Almost through another busy week, this semester is insane with the amount of weekly assignments.

Phoenix Dan Cong from last weekend:

This is a also from Tao Tea Leaf, but is of a higher grade than last time's.

It does not taste like roasted almonds as per the vender's descriptions. At most I got some faint taste of almond milk, but that is totally different than roasted almonds. However, I do prefer this more than the previous. Perhaps that's just a psychological effect of paying more.

This tea is predominately fruity, with the wet leaves smelling peachy and the liqueur also tasting sweet and fruity. In fact it greatly reminds me of a Taiwanese oolong from the sample pack I got at Tea From Taiwan. Unfortunately I don't remember which haha.

I wonder if twisted oolong leaves are more prone to breaking? Most of the leaves in this were also broken. They also widely vary in size.

From only these two samples, can't say that I love phoenix dan cong. But then again, it could equally be my incompetence at brewing and not the tea's fault. Theoretically I should enjoy them as they are the same cultivar as my beloved wuyi yancha and the mountain ranges are relatively close together. Will explore more of this type after some more yancha & Japanese greens.

19 January 2015


Was surprised that I didn't know about this tiny sushi shop less than a block away from the intersection that I've now lived at for a year and a half. This would be the equivalent of Solo Sushi Bekkan in terms of size (perhaps even smaller). Finally paid a rather spontaneous visit today.

Lunch special sashimi don ($13).

It was good but ND Sushi's is still the best. Though this is cheaper and possibly a bigger portion. ND Sushi has more textural contrast, a better hot sauce and you can actually distinguish the different pieces of fish. Here, the sashimi is chopped up and doesn't stand up well against the other ingredients. I do like the inclusion of the sweet egg omelet, though I would prefer it on the side as a dessert (which is its role in sushi joints).

Dave had a sushi bento set which included this one reeeeally delicious nigiri, possibly torched saba (mackerel) or yellow tail.

This restaurant does tick off a pet peeve of mine which is not offering complimentary tea (the western equivalent would be not offering complimentary bread). In fact they didn't even provide water! I'm sure they would have offered at least water if we asked, but to require asking for water is not good service.

18 January 2015

skincare routine: winter

Much has changed from the last time I made a big skincare routine change, here's what's working so far:

Missing: KOSE speedy white cleansing oil and Hada Labo gokujyun foaming cleanser.

These products are wonderful at keeping my skin hydrated and lightening scaring (since I've yet to figure out how to stop acne from occurring completely).
  1. Oil cleanse: the KOSE cleansing oil is alright, doesn't seem to be as effective as Holika Holika's soda BB oil nor Shu's pink bottle one. I do prefer it more than HH's as it's a thinner texture and smells like nothing, but Shu's is still my grail oil. But KOSE is also much, much cheaper so I'm set on trying their other variations (especially the deep version).
  2. Foam cleanse: finally got a low pH cleanser! It's also self foaming which is much more convenient than using a foaming net (though it was fun making a giant pile of foam using Shiseido's perfect whip). Hopefully this will be the end of my cleanser search, will report back after using it more.
  3. Actives (vit C + AHA): The combination of OST C20 vitamin C serum, and  Mizon's 8% AHA serum lightens PIH (acne scars) in roughly a week! That's super impressive to me. However, they do require proper usage as they are pH dependant products. This includes:
    •  using a low pH cleanser (or toner, or waiting a long time for your skin to naturally adjust)
    • using them in a order with enough wait time in between: Vit C --> (BHA, which I plan on adding later) --> AHA. proper explanation via Snow (it was actually my question that she quotes in her post ah ha).
    I'm very happy with the Mizon serum, however can't say the same about OST, which dries sticky and uses a finicky formula. They're both very strong formulations, so I can only use them every other day.
  4.  Moisturizing toner: Hada Labo shirojyun lotion, it's perfect (aka cheap and effective). I do like the inclusion of whitening ingredients, which is why I use it over the gokujyun line.
  5. Serum: Benton snail essence also plays a part in lightening PIH, but the actives contribute a greater amount. I do like how quickly it absorbs into the skin.
  6. Cream: Hada Labo shirojyun milk for day, and Benton snail steam cream by night. Again, Hada Labo is perfect but Benton's steam cream deserves most of the credit for keeping my skin hydrated throughout the winter. It's texture is very thick in the jar, but absorbs quickly and doesn't feel greasy at all. It helps to warm it up between your fingers before applying.

  7. SUNSCREEN: always. Haven't found the perfect one yet though.
This is a pretty solid baseline routine, but am planning to add a BHA (likely Cosrx) and also Missha's first treatment essence (mm niacinamides). Maybe a tea tree serum? Also planning to switch the steam cream to Mizon's snail gel for the summer.

16 January 2015


I decided to go to New York again over the reading week. This should be fun :D

Itinerary is currently filled with Uniqlo, tea, museums, and my ambition to eat lunch under $10s (so I can buy more tea). So in that spirit, let's see if I can see a no-buy until my trip. It definitely helps knowing that the pair of shoes I was considering to replace my brogues were roughly the same price as my flight.

15 January 2015

light roast

Some dong ding from Eco-Cha to close a very tiring week (one more day!)

A close up of the gorgeous leaves, which I clumsily broke while handling:

12 January 2015


Another semester, another set of marks.
(I've noticed that my posts tagged under school has dramatically decreased)
  • Steel & Timber Design: 97 (yay!)
  • Transport I: 93
  • Treatment Process: 97 (studying for this took so much effort, so much.)
  • Building Science: 96 (yay!)
  • Geotech I: 91 (aww...guess the final wasn't as easy as I thought)
  • Survey Camp: 87 (PHEW)
  • Engineering Economics: 96 (thankfully I got remarked on Green Growth)
Not a bad start to the hardest year. Too bad I applied to most of the companies I want to work for with my old and lower average :(

11 January 2015


Another day, another cup of tea.

Plus a matcha dark chocolate piece (thanks to Dave to brought it back from Vancouver, and thanks Gilly who originally introduced the shop to us).

And another chapter finished in Xillia. Muzet is creepy and Alvin is still my favourite.

09 January 2015


 Gyugyuya curry, I quite like it. Slightly more expensive than the shop under Aura.

 Creme brulee, having a torch would really make getting a sugar crust easier. (I didn't make this)

Nearing the end of my moonlight pu-er after almost a year. Tempted to get another cake this year at the Tea Festival (excited!)

08 January 2015


Oolong haul from Tao Tea Leaf, a local tea shop. Hurray for their boxing week 50% off.
A couple of wuyi yancha to start seriously seasoning my pot, but after sampling some oolong from other places (phoenix dan congs, baozong, and a DHP). Still waiting for Eco-Cha's winter teas to come in before hauling some taiwanese oolongs for the (still very far away) warmer season. Though I have already had their indiegogo campaign dongding, but waiting to take nicer pictures before posting here. Instead see my first reddit review!

First up is the classic Phoenix Dan Cong.
I followed the suggested brewing parameters (excepting upping the dry leaves to 5g) with boiling water, rinse, 30s, 10s then adding 5s. Started to add significantly more time each subsequent infusion past the 6th.

The leaves were also rather broken up, which is not a sign of great quality. There is also a fair amount of stems in the tea, not sure if this is normal.

Taste started off rather woody and transitioned to ever slightly floral in the later infusions. Never tasted any of the nuttiness or almond that the website stated. Also had a very dry aftertaste.  Overall not really impressed with the tea, but this might have been because my pot wasn't suitable for this particular tea. Hopefully the higher grade version will taste better.

05 January 2015

04 January 2015

Mr. Savage

Finally read Brave New World over the break, unfortunately I didn't find it that impressive. Compared to Nineteen Eighty-Four, it wasn't...as cruel? Rather, John's suicide was foreshadowed the entire latter half of the book, whereas there was hope for the two main characters even while they were being reeducated in Nineteen Eighty-Four. In fact I don't find the two books similar at all aside from the dystopian setting. They are more like 2 sides of the same coin, as I read somewhere that in Nineteen Eighty-Four people are controlled by fear, whereas in Brave New World people are controlled by pleasure (which is more fearsome imo).

Also finished reading Galapagos, another one of Vonnegut's books. Coincidentally, this is similar to Brave New World. The improved human race in both books renounced their "big brains" and associated arts in favour of infantile behaviour. Both books also use a lot of quotations to highlight irony.

03 January 2015


Disappointed that I'm unable to marathon game anymore :(
Still not done chapter 2 of Xillia, but really enjoyed the few snippets of Alvin's background so far. Of course I then went to read the spoilers for his story. He's definitely my favourite character, quite close to Balthier level of awesome.

image via.

01 January 2015

2015 resolutions

Let the theme of 2015 be maintenance, aka taking care of myself and everything I already have.

The biggest is exercise. I've never liked it (including sports) so hence never did much of it.
Baby steps:
  1. For the months of January and February: 2 hour of DDR per week. This looks laughably easy written out, but we'll see ahahahaa. 
Also to get up and stretch during long periods of sitting down. This is much easier accomplished by not having a thermos as to force myself to get up and boil water every time I run out of tea. Might as well do some stretches as the water boils.
My method is to link everything I hate doing to something I enjoy and is already a habit

Next up is to clean the kitchen area everyday, which mean wiping the counters, floor, and table after dinner everyday. This also looks laughably easy but never underestimate laziness or rationalization.
Will couple this with showering right afterwards so a) I have enough buffer time between the various pH dependent products that I apply, b) I'm more awake to do work afterwards, and c) will hopefully sleep earlier.

Keep in touch with friends more (especially ones that I don't see). I can't think of any effective strategies for this, use snapchat more? Will try to meet up with at least one friend that I don't regularly see a month. Also talk to parents more, call at least once a week.

Smaller goals:
  • Work through Washoku and be able to cook some Japanese dishes.
  • Draw & photograph more.
  • Read throughout the year instead of just binging during the holidays. Will try to leave half an hour to read every night before sleeping.
  • Make my wok non-stick! It's getting there *u*
  • 100% xillia, this shouldn't be very hard.
  • Explore more of Toronto.