31 March 2015

when the thunder and lightning come

I'm sick, boohoo.

27 March 2015

dodge & burn

I survived midterms season! No more midterms for a year!
I'm fairly confident that these are amongst the happiest of words that can come out of a UofT student's mouth.

Here's 2 random photos in celebration.

 A bokeh to celebrate that I finally figured out how manual focusing works on my camera.

A really post-processed image to show that yes, some office buildings do in fact use air conditioning in winter. Hurray for more affirmation that building science is the right field for me.

I'm happy to spend some quality time playing in photoshop, which I haven't done so in such a long time. After so many years, I've developed a routine photo touch-up process that I don't deviate much from. It's refreshing to devote an hour or so and just play around. My goal was to achieve high contrast in the smoke, which was really over-exposed in the original image. It took a lot of adjustment layers and masking to get it right haha, though the same effect could probably be achieved with a lot less layers if I use the burn and dodge tool more effectively.

tl;dr - midterms done, free time exists again.

22 March 2015

building your legacy

Another successful WISE conference comes to a close :)
Much thanks to our team, and then coffee. Comi-Con downstairs was pretty alright too.

Here's another song from Noel Gallagher's new album:

I really like the energy of album, which is perfect for crunch time, aka now.

19 March 2015

Well that's alright... I suppose

This song does a surprisingly good job of keeping me happy as I study for geotech. Isn't it so cute that it's acoustic because his electric guitar got taken?

17 March 2015

sanitary pipe system

Engineering student achievement unlocked: working frantically in the computer lab way past midnight.

The municipal design project very much reminds me of English essays. The sense of loss at where to start, the slow and painful process of putting together a first draft, and then redoing everything. Actually this sounds like concrete design assignments too heh. But the municipal design projects comes with the bonus of endless spreadsheets to format and countless maintenance holes to label four different elevations on each of them.

14 March 2015


If only I discovered this at the beginning of winter, could totally live on this.

Soup is the natural extension after discovering the greatness of beans. As always, remember to soak them for about a day beforehand and cook until it's easily smashed. Flavouring is some classic mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery) and miso. I'd recommend saving a portion of the mirepoix to add in near the end so it doesn't cook to a mush. Add in some kale and it's a complete meal. This also keeps very well as you can freeze the soup. In fact it probably taste better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days.

12 March 2015

drainage basin

Greener oolong because the weather is getting warmer.

Alishan Jin Xuan from Tea Ave.

Sweet and floral, perhaps jasmine? Don't taste the creamy-ness though. Overall I still prefer my oolongs roasted, which adds another depth of flavour.

11 March 2015


I'd like to think that my palate has become a bit more refined since I've started drinking tea.

Unfortunately this assumption was shattered today when I tried Tea Ave's medium roasted Tie Guan Yin. It tasted exactly like Eco Cha's lightly roasted Dong Ding, from the smell of the leaves to the switching between floral and sweet, fruity taste. They're not even the same cultivar and their locations are far apart (Dong Ding is from Lugu, which is central Taiwan, whereas Muzha is Northern Taiwan). Shall definitely do a side by side comparison next time, which I should also perform for my DHP and other rock oolongs.

Here's an informative article on the various types of TGY. I learned that unlike other oolongs, a lower leaf to water ratio will produce more balanced results between taste and smell since TGY is so aromati.

In other news, I discovered that the Shou pu er that I own is fantastic for grandpa style brewing. It never got bitter, which was surprising!

09 March 2015


Spring is a turbulent time.
The first couple of minutes that I was outside, the sunshine and relative warmth made me think that summer was just around the corner.
Then the wind blew and I was reminded that nope, winter's still here.

07 March 2015


I haven't social media announced it, but I'll be heading to Atlanta to do my PEY for a year. So here's a Toronto bucket list for the remaining 2 month:
  • Head to AGO for free Wed nights, because there's really no excuse when I live so close.
  • Visit the Gardener Ceramics Museum, 
  • Lunch @ Me Va Me, because Queen St is also close and I ought to go stroll there more often.
  • Drink more of my tea stash, preferably by inviting people over.
Fairly reasonable and achievable? 

06 March 2015

Small Gods

But of course, what the eagle does not realize is that it is participating in a very crude form of natural selection.
One day a tortoise will learn how to fly.

A friend recommended this author, Terry Prachett, because his writing is similar to Vonnegut's, whom we both love. I whole heatedly agree. Though Prachett makes things more obvious, whereas Vonnegut is very subtle. Take the ending of this book, it's a very clear cut "the good guy wins and all is well".

So this makes four authors that I follow: Prachett, Vonnegut, Murakami, and Dan Brown (which sadly is the only one out of the four that I've read the complete works of).

PSA: this book, or at least the version I got, has no individual chapters. Don't be like me and decide to go sleep after reading a chapter. That ended with finishing half the book and realizing it was 2am on a day that I had to wake up at 8 for. But that does goes to show how good of a story it is.

A few of my favourite quotations:
There are fewer metaphors around than people think.
(this isn't very clever out of context unfortunately).

Time is a drug. Too many of it kills you.

"And a lever of infinite length and, um, an immovable place to stand, said Legibus, drying himself off.
"What you see is what I got, sir. Pots and general household items, but a bit short on axiomatic mechanisms.

"But is this all true?" said Brutha.
Didactylos shrugged. "Could be. Cloud be. We are here and it is now. The way I see it, after that, everything tends towards guesswork.'

That was the trouble with last nights. They were always followed by this mornings.

Men should die for lies. But the truth is too precious to die for.

05 March 2015


Been meaning to eat at Taste of Yunnan for almost half a year, just because it's only place I've seen that sells 过桥米线 (lit. crossing bridge rice noodles). It's a regional specialty dish of Yun Nan, but also very popular back in Cheng Du.

 Mom's order of 小锅米线 (lit. small pot rice noodles), which was good but I like One Hour's favouring better (more sour). Also got an appetizer of sweet potato 馍馍, which doesn't quite have an English translation. It's like the texture of a starchy 饼, which is like a thick slightly leavened bread.

Asian pastries need their own comprehensive dictionary.

This was also my mom's order, a steamed chicken side dish. It comes in an adorable clay vessel, but is kind of bland.

Finally, star of the meal:

It's a mini hotpot experience, the broth comes piping hot and you add in all the other stuff around it (minus the tea, which is pu-er. goes to show the authenticity of the restaurant), starting with the egg and ending with the noodles.The flavours and textures are quite good, but sadly can't compare to what I had back in China. But for those who haven't, you won't be disappointed by this. I'd be happy to eat this anytime.

01 March 2015


So I discovered the greatness of beans today.

It started with this article on Serious Eats, and a book on cooking called Ratios.

The most difficult part is really just remembering to soak your beans beforehand. I used some large white beans (forgot the actual name haha), soaked for 24 hours in the fridge, and it cooked to such a creamy consistency in maybe 40 minutes? I was simmering it on low, so you can probably get faster results. Texture: check

For taste, I cook the beans in their soaking water with a bay leaf, some peppercorns, garlic, some salt and vegetable broth bouillon. This is a pretty safe combination for cooking most things, it results in something savory, but lets the taste of the ingredient (here beans) to be the most prominent.

By now I'd already eat the beans by themselves. Not bad for something with less than a minute of active prep. But my motivation for these beans are to use them as pasta sauce...with some leftover squash.

This is where reading Ratios came in. That book really liberates the cooking process by focusing on the essence of what makes a dish. For example, a sausage is a sausage is a sausage as long as it has the approximate meat to fat ratio. Everything else is extra, and can be left to the cook's discretion. Another example, which I personally found most enlightening, is the difference between a pound cake and a sponge cake. They can be made with the same ratio of the same ingredients, the only difference is the technique. For a pound cake, you first cream sugar and butter then add flour and eggs. Conversely, for a sponge cake, you first whip the sugar and the egg, then add the flour and butter.

So with that in mind, I actually ended up with a creamy squash and bean soup, and added some pasta in there haha. The thought process went something like:
  • The squash was boiled, so I have squash + squash stock
  • The beans were boiled, so I have beans + beans stock
  • Well there was too much liquid relative to the vegetables, so I guess I have soup now.
  • Squash soup is usually creamed, so let's add some evapourated milk (I swear this taste better than just cream). This works with creamy textured beans anyways.
  • Blend everything a bit to thicken the texture.
  • Yum.
I'm rather proud.


I'm also proud that I brewed my oolong tea well today. And that I finally optimized my pouring motion because I discovered I can hook my pinkie onto the lid of my kettle to remove the lid, then grab my gaiwan's lid with the remaining fingers of the same hand, and then use my other hand to pour the water. One fluid motion, instead of removing a lid, setting it down, repeat with the other lid, then pour.