Living


No we are not the stones. We are rolling them, not unlike Sisyphus.

One of the smaller rocks is building the Imaginarium City Central Train Table after the twins tear the pieces apart and throw them all over the floor. Barring the small probability that some pieces end up in some nooks and crannies, I can put it back within 3 minutes by now. This would not count as a stone if there were more than one way to construct it, like the Thomas track set that I used to greatly enjoy putting together with Valentina. At least the twins don’t gnaw at the tracks and trains as they used to.

A much bigger stone is laundry. With one, sometimes two or even three sets of clothes per kid per day, J almost has to do it everyday, with multiple loads on weekends. And it’s the folding that takes the most time and effort. At least the twins are both boys so there’s no need to separate theirs.

The largest boulder for me is doing the dishes. I usually procrastinate at least 20 minutes for the most dreaded moment of my day: opening up the dishwasher to remove the clean dishes, only to fill it up again. I’m no longer surprised that even though our dinner may contain only two dishes, the dishwasher is almost always filled to the brink with kids’ stuff occupying most of the top rack. At least the clean dishes no longer have white dust after we install a water softener.

These SiO2, along with the many others, share the same strait that makes the struggle dire: they greatly reduce entropy, and thus require a lot of external energy input. Blame it on the law of nature.

Nevertheless, the struggle itself…is enough to fill our heart. You must imagine us happy.

How do you keep your rocks rollin’?

(Dumping ancient drafts.)

想写这篇东西是在看完《八十年代访谈录》以后。我一直有些羡慕那一代人,当然不是为他们受的苦,而是上山下乡得到的人生经验。不过仔细想想,我其实是在给自己的平庸无为找借口。我实在是彻底对不起我成长的环境。我有极为难得的家庭条件,可以再方便不过地在父母指导下学习几乎所有文化艺术领域的知识,但我完全没有利用这个机会,现在追悔莫及。我妈做学问很刻苦,时不常有意无意地给我讲她看的哲学、历史、音乐、文化各方面的书籍,我听的时候倒也感兴趣,可是自己不去继续看和思考,除了人名以外什么都忘了。因为我从小在音乐学院长大,加上学钢琴到10岁,免不了有一些古典音乐的基础知识,但从来没有系统地学习过,居然要等到清华才上了几节和声课。我爸非常忙,从来没有主动教我有关电影的东西,但如果我去问他肯定会很乐于回答。现在想起来真是觉得荒谬:我从来没和我妈一起认真听过一首曲子,也从来没和我爸一起仔细看过一部影片,听他们讲解、讨论自然就更不用说了。倒是最近打电话有时听他们说说最近看过、听过的作品,可是没法和当面比。所以我至今也没有听全过9贝,没看过伯格曼;即使听了、看了,也是会毫无头绪。

We ordered 30 boxes of laminate floor in a Home Depot store, and we’re supposed to pick it up ourselves. When we got home I saw their website sells it for exactly the same price with free shipping (usually things that heavy are priced a lot more than in-store). I called customer service and after a while someone from the store called me back and said they will deliver it for free as if I ordered online. Just like that.

We also ordered a 60″ double vanity from Costco.com. The package weights 280lbs. Today in a new Costco catalog the price will drop for $200 starting March 1st. I called customer service and they will credit my card once the sale starts. Just like that.

If there’s anything that makes me happier than spending money, it’s customer service like these.

Almost every piece from Stevey “unsigned long long” Yegge’s blog strikes me down further into the purgatory of hopeless never-going-to-make-it programmer.

But this almost saved my soul.

Later Coding Horror chimed the same bell. I got 91 wpm with 3 mistakes from the typing test site he mentioned, slightly faster than his 84.

Typing is one of the very few things I can actually say that I’m above average.

It could be in late primary school when I started to “learn” English with my parents following “Follow Me”, that I took up typing using an old barely functional typewriter. The mechanics part was probably much easier than the content, since 26 identical keys in 3 rows is a pretty far cry from 88 keys in a staggered row, and there’s no dynamics or pedals to meddle with. Typewriter keys do travel a longer distance than piano keys, and the old typewriter keys were very heavy, so I sometimes used typing as a less boring finger warm-up exercise.

In junior high we started to have computer class (on Apple IIe, topic for another blog piece), and one of the first softwares we used is typing instruction. Computer keyboard was so much softer and shallower compared to typewriter, thus much easier and faster to type.

Typing was instrumental, literally and figuratively, to two main themes of my mid teen: pop songs and “love” letters (yet another topic). I typed the lyrics of hundreds of songs first on paper, then on the home PC. It helped me to learn the songs and some of the cultural background, to learn idiomatic and poetical English, and to type faster, of course.

One funny day in senior high, I walked into a typing class more or less by accident. The teacher watched me type for a while and asked “are you sure you’re in the right class?” She pulled me into her office, measured my speed, and started me immediately on a crash course for typing competition, which traded my speed for accuracy.

To this date I thank that teacher, whose name I can’t remember. And my employers should, too.

This must be one of the most delicious books ever. As usual I was reading it on my evening commute, and boy did it make me hungry. The book isn’t particularly well written, but those things would look just as delicious in a People’s Daily editorial.

There are a few obvious omissions of famous gourmet materials, as the author mentions, e.g. olive oil and foie gras. His criteria for inclusion is more about exclusiveness: there’s only one place in the world that can possibly produce it.

This post is simply a note. The story of each one can easily fill a book.

Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Modena

  • Material: Trebbiano, lambrusco grape
  • Environment: Wood barrels in attic
  • Production time: >= 12 years. > 25: Extra Vecchio
  • Production volume: 20,000 100ml bottles
  • Brand: Acetaia Malpighi, Acetaia del Cristol
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Roast vegetable, Parmesan cheese, strawberry
  • Comparable: Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia
Balsamic

(brochure)

Huître Bélon de Bretagne

  • Material: Ostrea Edulis
  • Environment: Brittany seashore, then Bélon river head
  • Production time: 18 months in the sea, 2 months in river
  • Production volume: 1000 tons
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Chablis white wine
oyster
(image)

Poulet de Bresse

  • Material: 2kg (sans feathers and intestines)
  • Environment: Grassland, 5000m2/500 chicken, fed with corn and milk
  • Production time: 5 weeks in house, 9 weeks on grass, 2 weeks in epinette
  • Production volume: 1 million
  • Brand: Chapon de Bresse (osten) > 3kg; Poularde de Bresse (fat hen)
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: roast
chicken

Fleur de sel de Guérande

  • Material: sea water
  • Environment: 1000 acre, 7820 oeillet
  • Production time: 2 large tides/month; 5 days to oeillet
  • Production volume: 10,000 tons of salt; 200-400 tons of fleur
  • Brand: Le Guérandais
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: as condiment
  • Comparable: Ile de Noirmoutier, Ile de Ré, Ria Formosa, Camargue
salt

Jamón Ibérico de Jabugo

  • Material: Iberia pig (pata negra, “black-foot”) 150-180kg, leg 10kg
  • Environment: Dehesa (acorn wood), 1 hectare/pig
  • Production time: 18 months live, Salt 1day/kg, Dry 3 months/kg, Cellar 6-18 months
  • Brand: Grade: Bellota > recebo > cebo/campo/pienso. Region: Huelva, Guijuelo, Extremadura, Pedroches
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Fino/manzanilla sherry, La Rioja red wine
  • Comparable: Prosciutto de Parma, Prosciutto de San Daniele, Jamón Serrano de Trevélez
JamonIberico

(
image)

Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Material: 16l milk makes 1kg
  • Environment:
  • Production time: 1-1.5 years: fresco, 1.4-2: vecchio (best), 2-3: stravecchio
  • Production volume: 300,000 cubes
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion:
  • Comparable: Grana Padano, Lodiagiano, Trentino
parmesan

Roquefort

  • Material: Lacaune sheep, 5kg milk makes 1kg, Penicillium roqueforti
  • Environment: Causse, Fleurine
  • Production time: 4-9 months
  • Production volume:
  • Brand: Société des Caves, Papillon (black is best), Cabriel Coulet
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Sauternes, Pecan, grape
  • Comparable: Bleu d’Auvergne, Blue des Causses, Gorgonzola, Cabrales
Roquefort

Tartufo bianco di Alba;
Truffe noire du Perigord

  • Material: truffle
  • Environment: Loose gravel ground, acorn wood
  • Production time: 1 year
  • Production volume: white 2000kg, black 30,000 kg
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Demi-deuil, Risotto
  • Comparable: Champignon Terfez, Tuber aestivum
white truffle

black truffle

The Dilbert blog is sometimes bizarre, sometimes lewd, and always funny and smart. Until now.

I want to find a place to cry my heart out.

For a cat.

A few years ago, Robert Scoble wrote about his mother’s passing away in a series of extremely painfully beautiful pieces. I can’t find one central post (there’s probably none due to Scoble’s personal and free-flowing style), so here’s the moment of truth.

阮一峰 wrote about the passing of someone’s wife, whom he only knew via email. Here’s the beautiful James Joyce ending of The Dead that he quoted. BTW I don’t like his habit of interleaving English and Chinese translation as it breaks the flow of both.

(S)now was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Till death do us apart, I promise to live and love.

I met He Wei in a cafe next to his office (Professional Light Design magazine). Afterwards I stayed there for a while to wait for dinner, enjoying cappuccino and art books (what a life). There’s a book on how to run a cafe by a Japanese on a coffee table, which seems to belong to the cafe owner. Here’s my notes from the espresso chapters.

There are 3 types of beans (coffee species): arabica, robusta*, and liberica. Wikipedia lists another: esliaca. The latter two is very rare.

Espresso roast is less bitter than latte roast.

Ristretto: 15~20ml/cup. Espresso: 20~30. Lungo: 40~50. The more volume, the more caffeine vs. coffee oil, thus more bitter.

Tamper:

  1. One clockwise circle with 20kg force.
  2. Use the other end to hit the rim to clear the residue.
  3. One clockwise circle, then a counter clockwise circle, 10kg.

The tampered coffee surface should be about 3mm lower than rim.

Milk: 250ml per cup. The target temperature is 65℃, total heat time 15s.

  1. Heat 2s with wand down to container bottom.
  2. 2s with wand close to surface to get air. End temp about 30℃
  3. Churn: twist the container back and force.
  4. Bump the container on table top to break large air bubbles.

From Wikipedia: about 1/3 of world coffee production is robusta. Vietnam only produces it and is world’s largest exporter (and 2nd to Brazil in terms of all coffee export). Robusta is easier than arabica to produce, thus(?) considered inferior. It has twice the caffeine.

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