At the Post Office

Today’s lesson has to do with going to the post office. Since I’ll be mailing my tax return, I’ll be looking for proof of mailing as well as proof of delivery. In America, I would be buying a certificate of mailing, and sending my packet with delivery confirmation. In Hong Kong, the terms are a little different.

Delivery confirmation is “advice of receipt”, 派遞通知書. In a previous lesson we learned 遞, and it makes another appearance here along with 派 (more info to follow).

In America, a proof of mailing is known as a “Certificate of Mailing”. Here, it is “Certificate of Posting of Registered Packet”, 投寄掛號郵件證明書. You must use registered mail, I’m not even sure you can get the certificate without it. In case you’re wondering, the certificate is form number Pos 511.

Here’s the breakdown:

派遞通知書 – Pài dì tōngzhī shū – 派遞 is delivery. If you asked me what the difference between 派遞 and 送遞 is, I’m not sure what I’d tell you. I know that 派 is to give out. Some things you would give out (for free) would be candy 派糖 and money 派錢. In Hong Kong, I’ve learned that 派糖 also refers to government handouts. Go figure. 通知書 is simply “notification document”. My first thought of 書 is always “book”, but it’s a character that can also be used for letters, documents, and certificates.

投寄掛號郵件證明書 – Tóu jì guàhào yóujiàn zhèngmíng shū – This one is a mouthful. 投寄 is the act of mailing. When I think of 投 I think of throw, so I guess “throw mail” is mailing. 掛號 is registered, literally “hang a number”. 郵件 is just a piece of mail, and 證明 is proof. We talked about 書 above. All together, we have “the act of mailing a registered piece of mail certificate of proof”. 🙂

空郵 – Kōng yóu – air mail.
掛號郵件 – Guàhào yóujiàn – registered mail.
快郵服務 – Kuài yóu fúwù – express delivery, literally “fast mail service”.

For reference, here’s the Hong Kong Post website. See you next time!

One Year in Hong Kong

I wanted to squeeze this in before the day was over. It has been exactly one year since we have arrived in Hong Kong.

At this time last year, we were sleeping soundly in our hotel after arriving earlier in the evening. I was sans underwear because someone had mistakenly taken my suitcase, the one with all my clothes in it. Luckily, later in the night, the bag was delivered to the hotel and I was able to sleep with some clothes on.

Can’t believe in my post from a year ago, I was stressing about money. A year has gone by and I have lived in Hong Kong without any real income (save for a few odd projects here and there), and the world has not ended. It really makes me wonder how much of how we live our lives is based on fear. Fear of dying, fear of being poor, fear of being unaccepted, fear of this or that. In that first post that I made a year ago, I talked about jumping into a swimming pool. Well, it looks like I did jump into a swimming pool, just not the one I was expecting.

Going from looking to a job, to forgetting about the whole thing, to living completely upside-down in terms of our sleeping schedules, to living a year in a society that places so much value on appearances and conformity, I find that fear is no longer scary. I’ve done all these things that I’m not supposed to do, and nothing terrible has happened. Now, I find it amusing when I see people freak out over some thing that’s really trivial in terms of the big picture, but perceived to be really important because of socially-accepted and artificially-created rules and norms. Of course, people have their cultures and upbringings, and I still know how to be considerate, so I keep it to myself.

I’ve come full circle. I’m looking for a job again. After all is said and done, I still have to consider the future. I know I mentioned somewhere that if I gamed the system, I could go far. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to do it my way. Life is too short to do it any other. One minute left. See you next year!

How about some pizza?

Last time I went through the process of making bread with our automatic bread maker, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that the bread maker can make dough, as well. We recently purchased an electric oven, so yesterday I tried my hand at making some pizza.

The pizza-dough recipe provided by Panasonic is very similar to the bread one:

High-gluten flour 280 g
Butter 15 g
Granulated sugar 1 tbsp (12 g)
Milk powder 1 tbsp (6 g)
Salt 1 tsp (5 g)
Water* 190 mL
Instant dry yeast 1 tsp (2.8 g)
*Use cold water at a temperature of about 5˚C when the room temperature is over 25˚C.

The only difference is a little more flour and half the sugar. Googling around, I think the addition of flour adds to the density of the dough so that you don’t end up with pizza toppings over a giant slice of toast (which might still be good, but then it won’t be pizza). The reduction in sugar is to reduce the action of the yeast, so that the dough doesn’t rise too quickly. This works in conjunction with the increased flour to slow down the yeast (more weight to push around). The manual even says that if you leave the dough in the bread maker after the cycle completes, fermentation will proceed further. It would seem that limited fermentation is what we’re looking for here. Of course, compared to soft bread, pizza crust is definitely more dense.

The preparation is exactly the same as the one used for making bread. Put everything in the bread pan, and then set the bread maker accordingly: set function to dough, and recipe to pizza. Wait 45 minutes, and you’ll have a nice ball of pizza dough, good enough for two 10-inch pizzas. I prepped my toppings in the meantime.

Pizza Toppings
Sorry, the oatmeal squares and apple were NOT toppings

It’s been a long time since I’ve handled dough and it was a lot messier than I remembered. The dough comes out pretty wet, so flouring the work surface is a must. I shaped the dough into a circle and then let it dangle from my hands, seeing it stretch. I wanted it to stretch more evenly so I tried tossing it around in the air like they do in pizzerias. That didn’t really work for me, so in the end I elected to use a rolling pin, making sure not to flatten the edges of the pizza. It occurred to me that I had a rectangular pan, so I made more of a rounded rectangle (an oval?) than I did a circle.

Finally, it was the fun part and I started with spooning some spaghetti sauce onto the dough. It would probably be more authentic with homemade pizza sauce, but that’s a completely different endeavor which is why I opted for jarred. I wasn’t sure whether to put the toppings on top of the cheese, or the cheese on top of the toppings. In the end, I did a little bit of both. I put the entire thing in the preheated 200˚C (392˚F) oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Pizza in the Oven
Inside the oven

Around the 13-minute mark I noticed that only a little bit of the cheese was bubbling and browned. I decided to max out the oven to 240˚C (464˚F) and that took care of the browning. The result:

First homemade pizza in HK – not bad!

Not bad at all for a homemade pizza, eh? The pizza tasted very fresh, maybe because I knew I had just purchased the mushrooms and the tomatoes from the market earlier in the day. The crust was nice and chewy, but not hard. The other thing that stood out was how hot it was. We sprinkled some extra green onions, some grated Parmesan, and a few drops of Tabasco, and it became a delicious, piping-hot, perfect-for-a-cold-winter-night meal.

We had enough left to make a second one, so JC handled that. I got a chance to photograph the raw pizza:

Raw Pizza
Raw pizza

Overall, our pizza night was a success. Good to know that we now have another option for dinner. A few more photos below.

Up Close
Enlarged to show texture

Rectangular Pizza


Pizza in the Oven

Random CPUs

Pentium 200 MMX (Top)
Intel Pentium 200MHz, with MMX technology

Today is the coldest day of the year in Hong Kong so far, and the coldest day it’s been since we’ve lived here (8°C/46°F, but feels much colder). To commemorate the occasion, I thought I’d post a gallery of CPUs to warm up a little. I had mentioned my Pentium 200 earlier today, so that’s the first photo that appears. I think I bought this in 1997 from, an early dot-com retailer. It was so cheap that I had to get it, but of course after I bought it I had to get a compatible motherboard as well (a motherboard which also needed a voltage regulator module, or VRM, in order to control the MMX CPU). I still have the Micronics motherboard hanging on the wall in my room (sorry, no photo).

Next up we have the bottom of the Pentium 200, some retail CPU boxes (an AMD Athlon 64 3200+ and an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600), and some random CPUs from my old work (clockwise from upper-left: AMD Athlon 64 3500+, Intel Xeon “Cranford” 2.8GHz, Intel Pentium 4 660, Intel Core 2 Duo E6320). The Athlon 64 3200+ has a special place in my history because not only was it my first 64-bit processor and major upgrade in a long time, but it was also the CPU that was waiting for me at home when I first brought my future wife over for a visit. Imagine going on a date with a nerd and he brings you home to show you his brand new CPU. My wife told me that she thought I was going to try something, but instead all I did was show her my CPU. Wow.

Next, we have the venerable AMD Am386DX-40, the second CPU I ever owned (the first was a true Intel 386DX-25):

AMD 386DX-40

It was only a 15 MHz difference, but it was definitely noticeable. It was the first time I ever performed my own motherboard replacement, and there was literally smoke when I accidentally mis-wired one of the LEDs.

Lastly, my current CPU (since the summer of 2011), an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T running at 3.2GHz:

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T… well, it’s under there somewhere

This CPU has served me well with its 6 cores from Oakland to Hong Kong. It works great for video encoding, gaming, and distributed computing. I’ll probably run this CPU until it dies. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this CPU museum post!

Some New Words

rectitude – morally correct behavior.

“Mr. So and So is a stand-up guy, a real model of rectitude.”

torpor – a state of mental or physical inactivity.

I guess if you google this word you’ll find that the word’s primary use is for describing animals adapting to adverse conditions. But it can be used for humans as well, to describe lethargy.

inimical – tending to obstruct or harm; hostile.

If you don’t get along with someone, you might expect some inimical behavior from them. Here’s a good one: the Hong Kong government frequently receives inimical responses to its policies from the Democratic Party.