29 February 2016

Dance Dance Dance

alternatively: "shoveling snow", or "we're all in this made-up world together "


I should know better than to finish reading Murakami on a Sunday night. Needless to say it was a miserable 1 - 2 hours trying to fall asleep. Seriously considering keeping a bottle of sleeping pills on standby "orz

The fruitful conclusions of that restless time is as follows:
  • 3 rules of life in addition to the 3 rules of engineering:
    i. inertia
    ii. timing is everything
    iii. don't take it personally
  • Reading is a shortcut to wisdom (unsure about word choice)
  • Travel is to recalibrate
  • Stepping into a fictional world (typically via books or manga in my case) is easy in but hard out. Physically traveling somewhere is the opposite.

Not sure if this story is based-on the short story in The Elephant Vanishes that also features dancing and a Sheep Man. Those are the only two commonalities, but neither are actually that common so it's hard to believe there's no connection. However the plot bares no relation. *shurg*

If I had to find a similar story to this, it would probably be Kafka on the Shore in generally feeling, but with elements of 1Q84 thrown in. Then there are parts when he talks about advanced capitalist society that remind me a lot of Vonnegut:
Waste is the fuel of contradictions, and contradictions activates the economy, and an active economy creates more waste. 
Though this particular quotation also brings to mind Ergo Proxy (sigh Daedalus), specifically the scene in the mall with all the billboards saying to consume more and waste more.

On a more positive note:
Not that these efforts received any special recognition. They never got me an appreciative word. I went the extra step because, for me, it was the simplest way. Self-discipline. Giving my disused fingers and head a practical - and if at all possible, harmless - dose of overwork. 
Perhaps this is a fine way to live life.

Though more realistically:
The skin of my soul was no longer tender. I tried not to feel anything at all. My resignation was a silent rain falling over a vast sea.
The second sentence is so damn beautiful. Beaten only by "the ephemeral splendor of another afternoon that would never return" via Love in the Time of Cholera. Kafka also has a beautiful imagery of "time weighs down on you like an old, ambiguous dream."


I haven't thought of this too deeply yet, but loss is likely the overarching theme to all of Murakami's works. Looking back through my posts, I pretty much have at least one quotation on this subject for every of his books that I've read, and the one for this book is below:
He said he had the feeling things were disappearing on him. I don't know what kind of things he meant. But whatever they are, sometime they're going to go. We shift around, so things can't help but go when that happens. They disappear when it's time for them to disappear. And they don't disappear until it's time for them to disappear.

28 February 2016


Now that the yancha journey has ended, it's time to begin on the pu er in anticipation of going to Yunnan. Though I doubt I'll feel very confident when buying tea locally though.

To kick off, Planet Jingmai:

A whooping 8g of tea tightly packed into an adorable orb. It makes for a pretty high leaf to water ratio since my gaiwan is about 110ml?

Takes it sometime, but it's positively filling my gaiwan to the brim.

This is probably the first young sheng pu er that I've had, and it taste typical of what I've read this category of tea tastes like. Some sweetness, this one lightly of dark honey and caramel, obvious astringency, and a...herbaceous (?) taste that I think is characteristic. My tasting vocabulary have barely improved since the beginning ugh. But I know that Dong Dings have a characteristic taste, and I'm fairly certain that this tea has the characteristic taste of young shengs.

Speaking of Dong Ding (man am I ever inconsistent with how I type the ping yin), I don't find myself very interested in even medium roasted oolongs anymore. It's high fire, or else I'm drinking red or black teas haha. Maybe it's just the winter...but Atlanta winters are quite mild. Not much of a loss here, three types of tea is still way too much to ever finish exploring, and black tea should really be three (probably more) categories of its own.


It's much easier taking tea photos with the 35mm, with aperture priority and auto-focus I can most likely get a good shot before the tea over steeps. Although the auto focus isn't as good as when I nail the manual focus (oh so slowly most of the time, once on the first try by pure luck), it's pretty indistinguishable once the photos are downsized to 800px. Speaking of which, I ought to tweak the layout so I can fit in 960px photos and eliminate the need to have two different sets for blog & facebook.
But the main advantage of the 35mm is no more distorted teacups!

Also managed to reduce my post down to crop / curves adjustment / resize / high pass. It's beautiful not having to do so much corrections, although I still do enjoy playing around with photos of other subjects. I seriously don't think I can use any other camera system because it'll never approach how nice Fuji colors look, even though reading this review of the Leica Q did tug at my heart. On the other hand, I am FOMO-ing on Acros, maybe I'll upgrade when X-Pro 3 comes out?

27 February 2016


More playing around with the new lens around the house:

The MVP of winter meals for one: stone soup (in the sense of that a bit of everything gets thrown in). Usually the ingredients are something like garlic, various peppercorn, thyme, onions, carrots, ham, chicken stock, beans, potatoes, lentils, greens (cabbage this time), added in in the listed order. To serve with more cracked pepper and lots of grated parmesan. Too bad I'm running low on olive oil, a swig of that is good too.

This time I learned that a 6 quart dutch oven fits less than I think, but also that 16 oz deli containers fit more than I think.


I think BTT's Asian Beauty oolong may be my new breakfast tea instead of the English Breakfast I've been having since the good ol' ripe pu er has run out. The problem with the English Breakfast is that there's still too much caffeine leftover in my evening brews, have not been sleeping well because of it. This oolong seems to lose its potency pretty fast, which really is a flaw but hey perfect for one strong breakfast brew and many weak evening ones. Bonus that it doesn't get bitter grandpa style.


Finally stepped into Whole Foods today, frankly the produce prices are not too far off Publix's. The selection is also really good, though Sprouts is still the best. But Sprouts is a major pain to get to, so WF will probably be tied for default grocery store with Publix now.

One gem that I found is this smoked cheddar, which is delicious af. This is definitely my weekend treat *u* Also witnessed their annual breaking of a whole parmigiano reggiano wheel & got a chunk for half off. I've somehow finally come around to loving cheese.


Lastly a non food photo:

(this was a small exercise in post, fiddling with curves, color balances, and unsharp masks)

Used up my Innisfree cushion, and can finally start using my Mamonde x Marymond cusion! No lie that I bought this one purely because of how pretty the case in, and by bought I meant hunt it down on Taobao because I only found out about it on /r/AB months after its release. Good thing that Mamonde is a AP brand, so I get to use other refills in the case if the product itself does not work out.

Speaking of pretty cushion cases, I have some arbitrary buying rules for make-up. One is that I'll only buy cushions in limited edition cases (recently bought a Christmas edition cushion from Laneige, again from Taobao since western vendors don't generally pick up LE items). Another rule is only buying high end lipsticks, which is my sole remaining make-up weakness. The crazy price tag helps tremendously in stopping purchases, and since it takes forever to actually use up a lipstick, has been super effective in keeping my stash reasonable.

26 February 2016

beautiful crazy design

THERM is definitely the most frustrating piece of software I've ever used, nothing even comes close. That being said, it was still an enjoyable week at work. Suppose that this is the right field for me.

When the software freezes your computer multiple times an hour, the song below helps to keep myself calm and positive. Again there's no official audio yet, but the lyrics are pretty alright.


We sat on a roof, named every star
shared every bruise and showed every scar
hope has its proof put your hand in mine
Life has a beautiful crazy design
and time seemed to say
Forget the world and its weight
And here I just want to stay
Amazing day amazing day

We sat on a roof, named every star
you showed me a place where you can be what you are
And the view, the whole Milky Way
In your eyes, I drifted away
And in your arms I just want to sway
Amazing day amazing day
Amazing day amazing day
and I asked
Can the Birds in poetry chime?
can there be breaks in the chaos sometimes?
oh thanks God, must have heard when I prayed
cause now I always want to feel this way
Amazing day, amazing day
Amazing day, amazing day
Yeah, today

24 February 2016

nifty fifty

Today is the day that I start reaping the rewards of an interchangable lens camera! After much deliberation on whether to buy this when I get to Japan, and being disappointed that this lens wasn't included in Fuji's current rebate, I used the excuse of my upcoming Charleston trip to finally buy the XF 35mm f2.0 WR (53mm equivalent on APS-C)

Having autofocus back is nice.
My camera body looks damn handsome with it on.
It makes fried rice looks delicious.

Food sidenote: leftover tex-mex catering makes fine fried rice ingredients.

Okay fine, the white balance is pretty off.

Can't wait to take tea photos with this, which being honest, is what my camera is mostly used for outside of trips haha. Was thinking of taking it along when I walk down the beltline to PCM if I need to exchange my Madewell loafers, but that walk would benefit more from its wide-angle cousin.

22 February 2016


Last sample from John, which is an aged taiwanese oolong. What varietal I have no idea, but the leaves are almost pitch black, which leads me to believe that it was repeatedly roasted over its aging process. I also forget how old this is...either 8, 10, 18, or 20 years.

(gosh the distortion annoys me to no end, more motivation to just buy the 35mm lens)

Man what a difference age has! I completely understand why people are enamored by aged tea. The transformation is nothing short of amazing, every brew has consistently tasted of jujubes and osmanthus. This is a rare time that I can confidently pinpoint the exact taste, well this time because I've drank a lot of jujubes and osmanthus "tea" and it is identical to this tea. For hot and long steeps, I managed to tease out a hinnnnt of herbaceous taste but otherwise it's purely jujubes and osmanthus.

Can't say that I like a tea with this taste profile, but very much appreciate it for the educational experience. "Lots to learn"

21 February 2016

ponce city market

So I finally got myself ~1 mile down to PCM, which is akin to NYC's Chelsea Market and YYZ's St. Lawrence market (it'd be nice if we can start referring to most cities by their airport code).

The original plan is to tease myself of my upcoming trips by eating at Minero (for CHS) and 钟水饺 at Jia (for going back home to 成都). But the first food shop I saw was Hops and the thought of no more fried chicken sandwiches after April is too much to bear.

Nashville style (explained as cayenne pepper plus other spices) fried chicken. Bonus points for having a selection of hot sauces.

Then there are a bunch of specialty food shops, including this candy shop:

Generally I'm not a big candy fan, but caramels are definitely my weakness.

Finally, today's star...well not quite. This is not 钟水饺, the dumplings that haunt my dreams, but nonetheless these wontons are pretty good. It's served in a umami heavy broth (seaweed + dried shrimp) which is a strong backup to the wontons.

Plans for the next visit is to walk down the beltline from Piedmont Park so I can gorge on burgers and milkshakes. Then buy more of that wonderful Annie B's caramel.

Bonus structural pic, would've been so cool to work on this project.

20 February 2016


I understand why so many people treat B&H as the shrine of photography, and I very much regret not spending more time in their store the last time I was in NYC. Next year I will surely geek out *u*

I really appreciate how they record and upload the guest speaker events at their store, this particular class on printing was mind blowing. Before I was vaguely aware of the complications in designing for print and how badly colors can turn out, but was not ready for the depth of the subject. This video also made me aware that I know nothing about post-processing in Photoshop and even less about having an actual workflow. Lots to learn.


I'm also seeing a lot of similarities in pursuing photography and tea as a hobby.

Beginners in photog focus on the camera, beginners in tea focus on the tea leaves. But both camera bodies and tea leaves are so volatile, with new versions of bodies being constantly released and tea leaves being an agricultural product will never be consistent. So after some time the obsession usually moves to lenses for camera, and pots for tea. Both areas are an incredibly deep rabbit hole to dive into (somehow I made it back out the pot rabbit hole...for now).

However, the actual most important factor are none of the aforementioned, but is light for photog, and water for tea. Naturally good light and water are both hard to consistently obtain, so vast amount of effort and money gets thrown into artificially recreating these. While I'm not familiar with lighting as I've yet to read through The Strobist, but any serious tea shop should have a water filtration system. I read a lot about people buying tea in China after thinking it taste great in the shop, but finding the taste dull or otherwise worse in their own homes, and if they were not the victim of a bait-and-switch tactic, its definitely because the tea shop has superior water. Thankfully my palette isn't at a point where I can distinguish the nuances caused by difference in water, because I would not want to be buying vast quantities of bottled mineral water.

Another analogy, which I've just come up with and so may be inaccurate, is that printing is akin to pouring. They're both the method in which the audience interacts with the medium. Though pouring is a lot more forgiving than printing. This analogy is stretching it haha.


 Last note, I am sad that the XF 35mm f2 is not part of Fuji's 2016 rebate program :( Am thinking of picking it up before going to Charleston.

19 February 2016

yes I want to feel

^a very close second choice is "or see each sunrise as a gift". Both lines' corresponding melody sounds amazing too. 

I'm liking Coldplay's album a lot more than I expected, even though I was not particularly disappointed with Ghost Story. But A Head Full of Dreams is so consistently good, and so consistent in its message.

Today's song also does not yet have official audio on youtube, but the lyrics are amazing & features a Michelangelo reference. "Fun" narrowly beats it with Icarus, but I think these two songs pair nicely in style.

fixing up a car to drive in it again
searching for the water hoping for the rain
up and up, up and up
down upon the canvas, working meal to meal
waiting for a chance to pick your orange field
up and up, up and up
see a pearl form, a diamond in the rough
see a bird soaring high above the flood
it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood
underneath the storm an umbrella is saying
sitting with the poison takes away the pain
up and up, up and up it’s saying

we’re going to get it get it together right now
going to get it get it together somehow
going to get it get it together and flower
oh oh oh oh oh oh
we’re going to get it get it together I know
going to get it get it together and flow
going to get it get it together and go
up and up and up

lying in the gutter, aiming for the moon
trying to empty out the ocean with a spoon
up and up, up and up
how come people suffer how come people part?
how come people struggle how come people break your heart?
break your heart
yes I want to grow yes I want to feel
yes I want to know show me how to heal it up
heal it up
see the forest there in every seed
angels in the marble waiting to be freed
just need love just need love
when the going is rough saying


and you can say what is, or fight for it
close your mind or take a risk
you can say it’s mine and clench your fist
or see each sunrise as a gift


fixing up a car to drive in it again
when you’re in pain
when you think you’ve had enough
don’t ever give up
don’t ever give up


The lines "lying in the gutter, aiming for the moon" reminds me very much of ToG's season 2 opening where Wangnan says "the only difference between me and those at the top is that they haven't given up".  Though we're 189 (?!) chapters into season two and there's been exactly one hint in the very beginning chapters about his real identity. Then Rachel and Kuhn's bet just teases us farther along about Baam's past. I seriously would not be surprised if ToG turns into an epic of One Piece length sigh. But at least Yuri is in the recent chapters, she is still as awesome as ever. 


The song overall is reminiscent of  稻香. I had to dig surprisingly deep in my archives to find my post on it. It's a mystery how I've managed to keep my blog for 8 years, but I sure am glad that I kept it up. Reading old posts are sometimes hilarious, often cringe-inducing haha, but always helps when I'm having trouble falling asleep.

Side note: I just noticed that 稻香 has "童年的纸飞机 现在终於飞回我手里", which can be a reply to 蒲公英的约定's "将愿望折纸飞机寄成信 因为我们等不到那流星". Coincidence?!

17 February 2016

just a fool

Today's song is courtesy of Jeff.

every important situation:
how am I suppose to describe how I feel 
what can I do and what can I say

16 February 2016

and it's done

Quite possibly my favourite song from the album, so damn catchy & that Icarus reference hnnng.
Since there's no official audio on youtube, have the lyrics instead

I know it’s over before she says / I know the falls that the water face
I know it’s over an ocean awaits / for a storm
The sun on snow, rivers in rain / Crystal ball can foresee a change
And I know it’s over, a parting of ways / And it’s done

But didn’t we have fun? / Don’t say it was all a waste
Didn’t we have fun
From the top of the world / The top of the waves
We said forever, forever always
We could have been lost / We would have been saved
Now we’re stopping the world / stopping its spin
but come on don’t give up don’t say we give in
Don’t say it’s over / Don’t say we’re done
Ah didn’t we have fun?

I know it’s over before she says / ‘Know someone else has taken your place’
‘I know it’s over’ / Icarus says to the sun
The Sword sinks in / Lightning strikes
And two force, two forces collide
And fight til it’s over / Fight til it’s done

But didn’t we have fun? / Don’t say it was all a waste
Didn’t we have fun?
From the top of the world / The top of the waves
We said forever, forever always
We could have been lost,  / We would have been saved
Now we’re stopping the world / Stopping in its tracks but
Nothing’s too broken to find a way back
So before it’s over / Before you run
Ah ah Didn’t we have fun?

Cause you and me we were always meant to / Always meant to be
We were always meant to always meant to
You and me we were always meant to / Always meant to be

oh oh didn’t we have fun?
But then / Maybe we could again

15 February 2016

Chen's - part 2

Last of the yancha samples from John, probably my favourite out of the bunch:

I've been trying to capture the steam rising from teacups for the past couple of weekends.

The challenge of shooting close up with an ulta-wide angle lens is removing all the distracting background objects, made all the more difficult by having a small table top. Also wishing I had a X-Pro2 with the ACROS emulation for these shots, if only I had waiting ~4 month upgrading my camera. I did consider the X-Pro1 too.

14 February 2016

South of the Border, West of the Sun

alternative title: probably & for a while

The connections I feel with this book is only second to H&C, that is all you need to know.

I have lots more to say though. Like how this book packs a punch from the first to the last chapter. In first chapter:
We held hands just once. She  as leading me somehow and grabbed my hand as if to say, This way - hurry up. Our hands were clasped together ten seconds at most, but to me it felt more like thirty minutes. When she let go of my hand, I was suddenly lost. It was all very natural, the way she took my hand, but I knew she'd been dying to do so.
The feel of her hand has never left me. It was different from any other hand I'd ever held, different from any touch I've ever known. It was merely the small, warm hand of a twelve-year-old girl, yet those five fingers and that palm were like a display case crammed full of everything I wanted to know - and everything I had to know. By taking my hand, she showed me what these things were. That within the real world, a place like this existed. In the space of those ten seconds I became a tiny bird, fluttering into the air, the wind rushing by. From high in the sky I could see a scene far away. It was so far off I couldn't make it out clearly, yet something was there, and I knew that someday I would travel to that place. This revelation made me catch my breath and made my chest tremble.

And that was probably (probably is the only word I can think of to use here; I don't consider it my job to investigate the expanse of memory called the past and judge what is correct and what isn't) a mistake.

With ears perked up and eyes closed, I imagined the existence of a certain place, this place I imagined was still incomplete. It was misty, indistinct, it's outlines vague. Yet I was sure that something absolutely vital lay waiting for me there. And I knew this: that Shimamoto was gazing at the very same scene.
We were, the two of us, still fragmentary beings, just beginning to sense the presence of an unexpected, to-be-acquired reality that would fill us and make us whole. We stood before a door we'd never seen before. The two of us alone, beneath a faintly flickering light, our hands tightly clasped together for a fleeting ten seconds of time. 
The second chapter ends with:
She's not Shimamoto, I told myself. She can't give me what Shimamoto gave. But here she is, all mine, trying her best to give me all she can. How could I ever hurt her?
But I didn't understand then, that I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.
 Then these:
What we needed were not words and promises, but the steady accumulation of small realities.

If I stayed here, something inside me would be lost forever - something I couldn't afford to lose. It was like a vague dream, a burning, unfulfilled desire. The kind of dream people have only when they're seventeen.
Izumi could never understand my dream. She had her own dreams, a vision of a far different place, a world unlike my own.
 Chapter 14 comes along with shaaaarp words:
"For a while is a phase whose length can't be measured. At least by the person who's waiting," I said.
"But there must be times when that word's necessary. Situations when that's the only possible word you can use," she said.
"And probably is a word whose weight is incalculable."

"Is that what you see in my eyes? That you know nothing about me?"
"Nothing's written in your eyes," I replied. "It's written in my eyes. I just see the reflection in yours."
I would have never noticed the...irony (I don't think I'll ever feel confident that I'm using this term correctly) of the second quotation from chapter 1 if I was not jotting these down. Now it makes me wonder how little of every book I've actually understood...or even noticed. But it's really painful for me to re-read, or re-play (exhibit: Xillia: too much Alvin feels to play through Milla's story), anything. So I guess I'll just read slower in the future.

Another...symbol? imagery? that's repeated is that of rain:
Look at the rain long enough, with no thoughts in your head, and you gradually feel your body falling loose, shaking free of the world of reality.

All my words lost their strength and, like raindrops glued to the window, slowly parted company with reality. On rainy nights I could barely breathe. The rain twisted time and reality.  
Expanding on reality:
But once I acknowledged that the envelope had disappeared, it's existence and non existence traded places in my consciousness. A strange feeling, like vertigo, took hold of me. A conviction that the envelope had never actually existed swelled up inside me, violently chipping away at my mind, crushing and greedily devouring the certainty I'd had that the envelope was real.
Because memory and sensations are so uncertain, so biased, we always rely on a certain reality - call it an alternate reality - to prove the reality of events. To what extent facts we recognize as such really are as they seem, and to what extent these are facts merely because we label them as such, is an impossible distinction to draw. Therefore, in order to pin down reality as reality, we need another reality to relativize the first. Yet that other reality requires a third reality to serve as its grounding. An endless chain is crated within our consciousness, and it is the very maintenance of this chain that produces the sensation that we are actually here, that we ourselves exist.
This perfectly captures both my appreciation and frustration with how adaptable humans are:
Sometime I couldn't stand how we were just going through the motions, acting out our assigned roles. Something crucial to us was lost, yet still we could carry on as before. I felt awful.


I was very close to buying a silver fish brooch as reference to the one worn by Shimamoto, since I'll probably never find a bird brooch similar enough to the one that Morita gave Hagu. 

Despite Shimamoto being the prevalent subject of the quotations, my favourite character in the book is actually Yukiko and I have hella respect for her strength and gracefulness.

13 February 2016

replaced by everyday

Contrary to my plan, I did not listen to Everglow all night (but switch to that when I started to finish reading Murakami). The unexpected factor was this:

google's algorithms are good.

My first impression was that this would be very suitable for the night swimming scene in BECK

12 February 2016

changing of winds

My definition of a good friday night: South of the Boarder, West of the Sun + Everglow.
Spoiler: hands down my favourite Murakami book.

But today's focus is on Everglow, I was *this* close to pre-ordering the album when I heard this song.

11 February 2016

put your wings on me

While I was dreaming of dumplings last weekend, the rest of Atlanta was watching the Super Bowl.

All I cared about this year's Super Bowl is Coldplay's half time performance, t'was great (...though they could've chosen better songs). I suspect other viewers of the game were more excited about Beyonce and Bruno Mars, which I agree that they played off each other well.

So here's a song from Coldplay featuring Beyonce.

10 February 2016


I am happy with my current system to feed myself, which shall be documented in this post.

The system can be broken down into two modules:
  1. recipe gathering
  2. ingredient gathering

Let's start with recipe gathering.
I spend a faaaair bit of time (much more than I care to admit) browsing food blogs and sites and have a low threshold of becoming interested in a recipe. This led to hundreds of recipes in my Instapaper account...that I never touched.

So now I have 3 levels of filters in place:
  1. Anything that seems interesting gets saved to Instapaper, with desserts saved in a separate folder because they are my weakness even in recipe form. 
  2. Whenever I feel like (can vary from monthly to annually), I'll sort through the Instapaper folder and import anything that I am likely to make into Evernote, again splitting off desserts into its own notebook. My criteria for practical is roughly: ingredients that are not a pain to obtain, doesn't require specialty equipment, will taste good as leftovers. Bonus criteria for desserts: doesn't result in orphane egg yolks or whites, a huge pet peeve of mine. Recipes that don't make the cut are deleted, or I'll just let it sit in Instapaper if it's a high effort recipe for when I feel keen. In Evernote, I'll tag the recipe with its ingredients for easy search. 
  3. Either weekly or monthly, I'll go through Evernote and write down any recipes that especially interest me in Notes app. Notes is seriously my favourite part of the Apple ecosystem because I need to do absolutely nothing for it to sync on my phone and computer. Now it even supports checklists for easy grocery shopping (though to be fair, this feature should've been there looong ago). 

This conveniently transitions into ingredient gathering.
This is a much simpler process, I'll go through the weekly flyer of every grocery store that I can go to, and note down any good deals on ingredients that I use frequently and/or need for that week's interesting recipes. Then I go grocery shopping while listening to my cooking podcasts (y).


Although I described the recipe gathering process first, and so it seems that the system is sequential, what I end up cooking is much more driven by what's on sale because $$$. I still can't get over how cheap I got walnuts at Sprouts last weekend, which means I'm going to be happily eating granola for breakfast for the forseeable future. If there's a non-standard ingredient that I buy (eg. sour cream), I'll also note down other recipes to make in the near future to use up the remaining ingredient.

I'm also thankful for my mom for training me to not mind eating the same thing for an entire week. Or even small variations of the same thing for weeks, like when she made fried rice for one week, and fried noodles the next. This makes meal prep super easy for me since I can make a double batch, freeze half, and just heat up individual portions everyday. Honestly I don't have the energy to do much more than that on most days after I get home from work. Though I'm going back to my frosh habit of showering right after I get home to beat that slump.

09 February 2016

Belated happy Chinese New Year!

Was finally able to acquire tofu for a reasonable price from Sprout's grand opening sale. So I made some 麻婆豆腐 to celebrate.
The seasoning of this dish pretty much captures the signature of 川菜. Garlic and ginger as always, then 豆瓣酱 (fermented broad bean paste), and 熟油辣椒 (chili oil). The last two are essential condiments.

Finally, top off with copious amounts of 花椒.

08 February 2016


Now I'm extra unhappy that the Atlanta library system doesn't have A Wild Sheep Chase because it's the third in the Rat trilogy after these two novellas. These two are actually Murakami's first writings when he decided to close down his jazz cafe and become a full time writer. All this I learned from the great introduction of this book.

Fittingly, this book is packed full of music titles, though I still like After Dark's playlist the best. Below is the song I like the most from this book:

I forgot to separate the quotations from each novella, so here's all of them together:
Writing is, in effect, the act of verifying the distance between us and the things surrounding us.

All things pass. None of us can manage to hold onto anything. In that way, we live our lives. 
^The style of Hear the Wind Sing, especially lines like this, reminds me somewhat of Vonnegut's style, but the context of this statement is that they are the only two author that I've read extensively from.
But then we get to Murakami's beautiful descriptions:
In the warm breeze, the light wavered. The air flowed at a leisurely pace, like a flock of birds flying from tree to tree. It skimmed the wooded slopes along the railroad line, crossed the tracks, and passed through the grove without so much as ruffling a leaf. A cuckoo's sharp cry cut through the gentle light like an arrow and disappeared over the distant ridge. The undulating hills resembled a giant sleeping cat, curled up in a warm pool of time. 
^which reminds me this particular line from Love in the Time of Cholera: "It was a mediation on life, live, old age, death; ideas that had often fluttered around her head like nocturnal birds but dissolved into a trickle of feathers when she tried to catch hold of them." I'm not sure how I can definitively associate quotations that I read 3 years ago but forget all my academic learnings.
A coincidence that the next quotation is about forgetting:
But everything had passed with the flow of time. At an almost unbelievable pace. What had once been a violent, panting flood of emotion had suddenly withdrawn, leaving behind a heap of what felt like meaningless old dreams.
I think the first one is from Rat, and the second one is from the narrator. They're a couple pages apart:
Each of us had all the troubles we could carry. They rained down on us from the sky, and we raced around in a frenzy to pick them up and stuff then in our pockets. Why we did that stumps me, even now. Maybe we thought they were something else.

Each of us had, to a greater or lesser degree, resolved to love according to his or her own system. If another person's way of thinking was too different from mine, it made me mad; too close, and I got sad. That's all there was to it. 
From here on the quotations are definitely from Pinball:
On any given day, something can come along and steal our hearts. It may be any old thing [...]. Lingering for two or three days, that something soon disappears, returning to the darkness. There are wells, deep wells, dug in our hearts. Birds fly over them.

I left a couple of chapters of Pinball to read for when I come back from Charlotte. The combination of being exhausted, Coldplay music playing, and the following lines created such unbearable feelings of...melancholy. No melancholy isn't the right word, but looking up synmonyms were a fruitless endeavor since the definitions are all relative to other forms of sadness. Maybe this is a fitting situation to use "lacrimae rerum". Somewhere around the quotation where Iyer talks about this term, he mentions how the Japanese have a variety of very precise words to describe each form of sadness.
"There can be no meaning in what will someday be lost. Passing glory is not true glory at all."
"Who said that?"
"Can't recall. But I agree with the idea."
"Is there anything in this world that can't be lost?"
"I believe there is. You should too."
"I'll do my best."
"Maybe I see the world through rose-coloured glasses. But in not as big a fool as I seem."
"I know that."
"I'm not bragging - I just think being an optimistic fool beats the alternative."
Like none of it really happened.
Oh, it happened all right. But now it's gone.
Does it make you sad?
No, I said, shaking my head. There was something that came out of nothing, and now it's gone back to where it came from, that's all.
We fell silent again. What we shared was no more than a fragment of time long dead. Yet memories remained, warm memories that remained with me like lights from the past. And I would carry those lights in the brief interval before death grabbed me and tossed me back into the crucible of nothingness. 
Narrator in conversation with the office girl, then with Spaceship. And of course this reminds me of Takemodo's plot in H&C, which is the thing that started my whole obsession with this theme.

07 February 2016

Sue's - Part 3

Last of Sue's teas, a lovely 水仙 this time.

Also finished drinking the very last bits of pu-er yesterday. I've officially finished a whole cake! Commemorating this by using the wrapper as a book jacket for Inferno, which I have no read a single word since picking it up in a thrift shop back in the summer "orz This, GED and Anna Karenina are the three books that I can't seem to get it despite owning forever.

Anyways, tea.
This one also started off very floral, but light mineral notes starts to become apparent when the tea cools a bit.
It hurts to pour away the rinse from yancha.

I've gone back to using my bigger yixing pot to use up an entire pack of tea in one session since I was so tired yesterday from two very long days in Charlotte. The exhaustion is real when I can't even make the effort to gong-fu tea. Still very much in a daze today, with a intermittent headache coming in and out like tides.
Definitely not a good day to start on my tax filings.

03 February 2016


I should start doing weekly food recaps as budgetbyte does them, though a spreadsheet would be more conducive to trend spotting. I suppose this counts as a start?

Well continuing with a better photos of the vinegar roasted vegetable bowl, which I definitely will make again...but with the smoke alarm unplugged next time. Hoping to make my way to Sprouts this weekend to see if they have a good selection of produce. I'd really like two heads of cabbage.

 This week's main is gochujang fried rice:

Fried rice is a good exercise in vegetable chopping, though I'm undecided on whether I want to splurge on an Aritsugu usuba. If I do, it would eventually be redundant-ish because what I really want is a kickass cleaver. But logic is rarely effective at stopping lust, and Aritsugu is definitely on top of the Japanese knives lust list.
...or I can not get it this time so I have more reason to carve out a year of time and money to go live in Kyoto.

02 February 2016


Bad things that happened today:
  • Body aches from tripping & falling yesterday, ugh.
  • Wrestling with THERM, a most infuriating program. This will continue tomorrow, because I can't figure out why my boundary conditons aren't right, or it could be my material settings...or even my geometry? But I'd like to think I got all the geometry quirks figured out. 
To counter, good things that happened today:
  • Food at the office from hosting an external event, munched on too many wheat thins. There are worse things to snack on pshh. 
  • The most perfect warm breeze. 
  • My hair looking nice for once in a blue moon.
  • Bonus: seeing my favourite architect tomorrow
Tis an exercise I should do more often.


Precast yard where I spent all of yesterday jumping up and down (vibration testing). Untangling the accelerometer cords reminded me much of managing strain gauges, ha.

01 February 2016

Sue's Part - 2

Rou Gui this weekend, t'was especially tasty slowly brewed and then let to cool.

In other news, I'm running out of ways I can take photos of my tea session. The hardest part of using wide angle for tea is the trade-off between how far to take the photo from, and how to crop the extra space out in post. The distortion is not wanted.