Hearty Meal 4-23-14

Pumpkin Chayote Pork Soup
Stewed Pork Belly with Carrots, Shiitakes, and 梅菜

Previously I had mentioned that the chayotes did not require peeling. I was mistaken. I must have been so excited that the pumpkin didn’t need peeling that I forgot I had already peeled the chayote. Well, I didn’t peel the chayote today and it definitely took away from the soup. So, remember for the future: pumpkin ok as is, chayote must peel.

The other thing is that the squash I bought this time were too large. The chayote was 3 times heavier (didn’t realize that when I bought it) and the pumpkin was almost twice as big. Going by the first soup, the sweet spot seems to be about half a catty for the pumpkin and a third of a catty for the chayote.


Browning Pork Belly Chunks

Mmmm… pork belly… *drool*

Wanted to use lotus roots with the pork belly but couldn’t find any, so tried using 梅菜 instead. I also put in some leftover eggplant. Came out good enough (hard to go wrong with pork belly), though I could have used a smaller carrot. If I’m doing 梅菜 in the future, probably don’t need carrot anyway. It’s either that or carrot and lotus root. Maybe could use a bit less of the Chinese sugar that comes in bars as well. Lastly, no shiitake stems. I kept disappointing myself biting into them thinking they were the stalks of the 梅菜.

YACP (Yet Another Car Pic)

2009 TSX on Eibach Springs, with Stock Wheels

Staying out of the sun – July 26, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if I should go through my old car pics and post them all on here at once. Then again, that wouldn’t be as fun as how it is now, when every so often a photo pops up on my desktop slideshow, and I am reminded of what a cool car I had. This photo was taken on the day that we went to China Camp, back in ’11. In preparation of returning the car the stock wheels were back on but I hadn’t had time to remove the Eibach springs yet. I still think it looks cool and don’t understand why they don’t come from the factory with the shorter, thicker springs.

29 Gallon (Tall) Planted Aquarium

I was looking at some photos of my old 29-gallon tank on my phone and thought, “Hey, these are pretty good, why didn’t I put them on joyojc?” Well, here they are.

This particular setup existed from 2007 to 2008, in our first apartment. Initially, the tank housed goldfish, including a couple that I had kept for over 5 years, but they all died inexplicably. The only cause we could think of was the off-gassing of the newly painted walls. Anyhow, once the goldfish died I thought I’d try a planted tank.

Here’s what the tank looked like in the beginning:

29 Gallon (Tall) Planted Tank

Early iteration of tank – July 25, 2007

Plants included Java fern (Microsorum pteropus), anubias (Anubias barteri and Anubias barteri var. nana), Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana), and crypts (Cryptocoryne wendtii). These are all low-light plants that do well under the regular fluorescent light fixtures that come with most tanks.

Fish included a few varieties of cories (Corydoras reticulatus, Corydoras trilineatus, Corydoras aeneus, Corydoras arcuatus), a few red eye tetras (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae), and some otos (Otocinclus vittatus). The substrate I chose, a mix of gravel and flourite (I think it was flourite red), was probably not the best for the cories. Their barbels were always damaged and worn down, probably due to their foraging around in the flourite. In later tanks I made sure I used fine sand as the only or top layer of substrate.

The Corydoras reticulatus was the only type of cory without barbel damage. Below is a photo of one resting on an Anubias barteri var. nana. JC and I collected those white pebbles on a rafting trip on the day that we became a couple (awww!).

29 Gallon (Tall) Planted Tank

Corydoras reticulatus at rest

Of all the tanks I kept, this one was probably the most fascinating to me. I loved looking at the tank from different perspectives, seeing if any fish had swum into the many nooks and crannies that I had created for them. The tank was itself in a little nook inside our place, nestled next to a couple of bookshelves and a small couch on which I relaxed while viewing the tank. Unlike in later years when I had lost some interest in the hobby, when I had this tank I was still constantly learning and tinkering. For example, I had always had live plants in my tanks, but they were more of an afterthought. With this one I learned to fill up the space with plants more, making them the focal point. It made a big difference in how the aquascape looked and increased the number of nooks and crannies to explore. For me, the photo below sums it up nicely:

29 Gallon (Tall) Planted Tank

An isometric perspective

When I finally splurged on a compact fluorescent fixture, I moved some of the low-light plants to the 50-gallon tank at work and again changed the layout of the 29. I added a few more species of plants and fish. Alas, the light was too strong and soon the tank experienced an algae problem. Dealing with the algae became a pain and eventually I decided to focus on the tank at work and tear this one down, moving everything to the 50. Here’s what the 29 looked like with the compact fluorescent lighting, a little while before it was drained:

29 Gallon (Tall) Planted Tank

Final iteration of tank – April 9, 2008

So, that’s it for my 29 gallon planted tank. Astute readers will notice that the 29 came back in a different form about a year later, but to me that was a totally different tank. I hope you enjoyed this little nostalgic aquarium trip. Enjoy the rest of the photos below!

 
 

Mr. Firemouth II

Hiding and Flaring

Hiding and flaring on June 17, 2011

In the first Mr. Firemouth post I mentioned that Mr. Firemouth had his own tank and hid all the time. I kept this tank at work and each morning when I came in he would swim (run) into his cave and flare his gills at me. It was pretty hilarious. That was kind of a cool tank, and I think I’ll post a gallery of it some time in the future. For now, here’s Mr. Firemouth hiding and flaring in his cave.

Menu Week of 4-14-14

Monday

Water convolvulus stir-fried in garlic and shrimp paste
Chicken wings steamed with fresh shiitake mushrooms (garlic and soy sauce)
Steamed salted duck egg

Biggest lesson today was to not over-stuff the rice cooker. I tried to squeeze in the salted duck egg plus the chicken wings (which were larger, plumper Chilean ones) which resulted in the duck egg exploding, the rice compacted, and the chicken wings undercooked. Fuzzy logic is not the end-all-be-all of cooking!


Tuesday

Baked chicken wings with spicy Montreal seasoning
Pumpkin Chayote Pork Soup

After Monday’s debacle I had to do right by my chicken wing fix. Went back to basics and baked those plump wings sprinkled with spicy McCormick Montreal seasoning. Yum.

The soup was a new creation. I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin, but JC advocated it so I experimented with it. Made it traditional Chinese style, cooked in water with a piece of pork. The pumpkin peel is hard when raw, but it softened up a lot after being in the soup. Same goes for the chayote. Saves some time with prep.


Friday

Lotus Root and Carrot Soup

Almost perfect soup

Lotus root and carrot soup with dried lotus seeds

I really like this soup but I didn’t try adding lotus seeds until now. It seems that the seeds go well with the roots. I remembered to add a Chinese sweet date (蜜棗) this time. The pork bones I used had boar taint (yuck), taking away from the soup a bit.

My Trusty Old Server

Old Sempron Server

Just saw this in my slideshow, my trusty old server. I remember buying the AMD Sempron CPU and ECS motherboard from Fry’s on my birthday in 2004. I underclocked the CPU, maxed out the case with hard drives, and stuffed in a bunch of fans before putting the server in a closet. For the next 8 years, this box served media files, housed backups of documents, and ran SETI@home. The PSU was replaced once, and later when I had spare SATA terabyte drives I added an SATA card and replaced the old PATA drives. Other than that and Windows updates, I never had to shut down or reboot (see systeminfo output below). When I moved back home in 2012, I consolidated parts and finally took it out of commission. If I hadn’t, it would probably still be running today.


Host Name: XXXXXX
OS Name: Microsoft Windows XP Professional
OS Version: 5.1.2600 Service Pack 2 Build 2600
OS Manufacturer: Microsoft Corporation
OS Configuration: Standalone Workstation
OS Build Type: Uniprocessor Free
Registered Owner: Jonathan Young
Registered Organization: Jon's Company
Product ID: XXXXX-XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXX
Original Install Date: XX/XX/2004, 7:06:07 PM
System Up Time: 65 Days, 2 Hours, 37 Minutes, 50 Seconds
System Manufacturer: VIA Technologies, Inc.
System Model: VT8367-8235
System type: X86-based PC
Processor(s): 1 Processor(s) Installed.
[01]: x86 Family 6 Model 8 Stepping 1 AuthenticAMD ~1196 Mhz
BIOS Version: VIA694 - 42302e31
Windows Directory: C:\WINDOWS
System Directory: C:\WINDOWS\system32
Boot Device: \Device\HarddiskVolume1
System Locale: en-us;English (United States)
Input Locale: N/A
Time Zone: (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada); Tijuana
Total Physical Memory: 255 MB
Available Physical Memory: 71 MB
Virtual Memory: Max Size: 2,048 MB
Virtual Memory: Available: 2,008 MB
Virtual Memory: In Use: 40 MB
Page File Location(s): E:\pagefile.sys
Domain: XXXX
Logon Server: \\XXXXXX
Hotfix(s): 33 Hotfix(s) Installed.
NetWork Card(s): 2 NIC(s) Installed.
[01]: VIA Rhine II Fast Ethernet Adapter
Connection Name: VIA Internet Connection
DHCP Enabled: No
IP address(es)
0.0.0.0
[02]: 3Com EtherLink XL 10/100 PCI TX NIC (3C905B-TX)
Connection Name: 3Com Filesharing Connection
DHCP Enabled: No
IP address(es)
0.0.0.0

New York, Days 5 to 8 – Superstorm Sandy

October 28, 2012 – Sunday

With the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy all over the news, we thought it would be best if we stayed in and around the neighborhood on this Sunday. We started off with laundry in our apartment building, just in case the power went out and we’d be stuck with dirty clothes. An interesting thing about laundry in New York apartments is the laundry cash card. Instead of coins, you use a credit card to buy a smart card that you insert into the machine. I suppose it’s better than inserting a bunch of quarters.

Hercules Laundry Cash Card

A Hercules laundry cash card – with quarters pictured on it!

Inside the laundry room was a TV tuned to the local news channel showing the destruction that Sandy had left behind in the Caribbean. We learned that the subways would be closing in the evening (good thing we decided to stay put). You could tell that the authorities speaking on TV weren’t kidding around. We definitely got to know Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Christie during this period of time.

Like local New Yorkers, we had to make sure that we had plenty of food and water. Since we weren’t aware of any grocery stores in the area (not like we were going to cook, anyway), we went across the street to Cucina and Co. again, where we stocked up on salads, soup, pasta, and sandwiches. I again got the cheesecake and coffee that I had liked so much. It was sort of a guilty pleasure to stock up on food from that place because it wasn’t exactly cheap. I also liked building my own salad, picking only my favorite components. It was here that I encountered the mussel lady.

Later, realizing that if the storm was really serious we had only perishable food that would last only a couple of days, I went back down to get water, bread, and peanut butter. The water shelves at Duane Reade were almost empty, the checkout line was long, and they were out of peanut butter. Luckily, Walgreens still had peanut butter. I used the opportunity to also snag the last six-pack of beer, saltine crackers, and some cookies, just to be safe.

With our supplies secured, it became a matter of waiting out the storm. The authorities had urged everyone to stay inside, so that’s what we did. We used the time to catch up on some TV shows that we had missed while traveling. I played a 23 year-old video game. I finally took a look at (and washed) the flask I bought from the Glenfiddich Distillery. Throughout the night the wind howled, and the storm wasn’t even here yet…


October 29, 2012 – Monday

After spending so much time in our apartment, the next morning we went outside to see if anything was open. I walked out onto the street and immediately felt the strength of the wind. It felt good to be hit with the cool air after being cooped up inside. Debris was on the street from the wind and to my surprise, quite a few people were out and about. I guess in my area, things weren’t as bad as what the news was reporting. Tim Hortons was open, and it was one of only a few places that was, with commensurately long lines (for another Tim Hortons coffee, I didn’t mind waiting). KFC was also open, so we used the opportunity to stock up on more food.

KFC at 34th & Broadway - October 29, 2012

Everyone wants KFC; told you it would come in handy

For the rest of the afternoon, it was KFC, beer, and TV. The stock market was closed for the day. Google cancelled an event that was supposed to announce a new Nexus device. A crane at the top of a skyscraper construction site collapsed. Our lights flickered sporadically. And that was all before Sandy made landfall.

We were super lucky to be at the very edge of where the power was still on. With the internet still working, we were able to keep up-to-date on what was going on. This live-blog on the New York Times website was invaluable for finding out what was going on (note that it’s quite huge now and will slow down or freeze your browser). We also kept updated by streaming WNBC. It was unbelievable to see what was happening at some of the places we had been to just a few days earlier: Battery Park 10 feet underwater, the Statue of Liberty going dark, and Penn Station getting sandbagged. We heard sirens almost continuously throughout the night.


October 30, 2012 – Tuesday

Originally this was the day that we had scheduled to leave our apartment and either find another place to stay or move on to our next stop. A bit travel-weary and concerned about budget, we had also considered flying back to San Francisco. Of course, with the arrival of the storm and the closure of the airports, that was no longer an option. We could try to wait out the recovery effort until the re-opening of the airports, but how long would that take?

Earlier in the year, when I was winding down my last days at work, my coworkers and I were having a conversation about what I would be doing after work ended. One of my answers was that I had always wanted to take a cross-country road trip. Back then I still had my TSX, and I thought it would be awesome to tour the country in it. Once I sold it, however, the idea faded from my mind. With our options to leave town now limited, it occurred to me that we could now do the road trip, albeit in a different form.

On this day, we searched for car rental places that still had cars. A couple of days earlier I’d already booked a car from a place in New Jersey (it was certainly not the nearest, but it was the cheapest), but with the PATH not running, there was no way to get there and I had to cancel. Looking online, it appeared that several places still had cars, but to be safe we wanted to confirm in person. Not knowing what the traffic situation would be, we also wanted to see how far of a walk it’d be, since we’d be carrying all of our stuff with us.

The place nearest to us was in the Garment District. When we got there, the clerk told us that they had nothing left, that even if we had booked and confirmed online, it didn’t matter. Well, at least we got to see the giant button and needle.

Needle and Button, NYC Garment District

The Garment District

I don’t remember what happened afterwards, but we didn’t go to another car rental because we had walked so much already. I know we booked a car from the second-nearest place, and I know we didn’t go there to confirm. I must have called them instead. I also checked with the landlord to see if we could stay another night (we could). A few places in Koreatown were opening back up so we had dinner there, and then finished off the night with one more Iced Capp from Tim Hortons. That was our last night in NYC.


October 31, 2012 – Wednesday

We finished the last of our perishable food, cleaned up the apartment, gathered our belongings and said goodbye to the place that had been home for the past 8 nights. I texted the landlord to let him know we were out. From Herald Square, we walked along East 34th Street all the way down to Lexington Avenue, then up to East 50th. It’s a pretty long walk by itself; with two pieces of check-in luggage, a couple of carry-ons, a backpack, and a bag of water, bread, cookies, and crackers, the difficulty level increased quite a bit. We tried putting the food bag on top of the rolling luggage, but it kept falling off. This was fine when we were on 34th, but once we were on Lexington and got closer to our destination, it became more and more crowded. I’m sure some people didn’t appreciate us suddenly stopping to adjust a bag that was sliding off.

This was the day that limited bus service resumed, and I noticed a packed bus pass by as we walked. JC had actually suggested taking a cab or a bus, but I knew that traffic would be a nightmare and I wanted to get out of the situation as soon as possible. Traveling on foot would be the quickest and most reliable, at least until we picked up the car.

East 50th Street, NYC - October 31, 2012

Waiting for the car; still lots of emergency-services activity

Finally, we made it to the car rental place and I checked in with the clerk. Naturally, their car selection was rather limited, with only a Toyota Camry or a Ford Escape as the options. Not wanting to drive an SUV, I reluctantly picked the Camry (my first TSX was hit by a Camry, and I’ve been traumatized ever since). As she was about to process the rental, the lady looked up and said that an Infiniti G37 had just come in, and asked if I wanted it. I couldn’t believe my good fortune and said HELL YES! I just had to wait for them to clean it up. It didn’t take very long and soon we were on our way. We left Manhattan via FDR Drive and then the George Washington Bridge. Just like that, our trip to New York City was over. As we drove out, the landlord replied to my earlier message:

“Hope you enjoyed your time in NY. It was historic.”

I certainly did, and it certainly was.

Next: Road Trip, Day 1 – NYC to Cortland

Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Aged 10 Years

Today’s museum post is of a bottle of Talisker that I bought back in November. Talisker is similar to Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig in that it is distilled, aged, and bottled by the sea, but unlike the other three (which are practically down the road from each other on Islay), Talisker is made further up north on the Isle of Skye. It is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye.

It is difficult to believe that it has been several months since I’ve enjoyed and finished this bottle. Due to budget constraints, I’ve cut back significantly on indulging, and at times I’ve even thought that maybe I’m done with Scotch just like I’m done with aquariums (Scotch is hard liquor, after all).

When I think back to the peatiness, seaweediness, and sweetness of this dram, I think that I must be mistaken. Enjoy this museum post.

Menu Week of 4-7-14

Monday

Steamed pork cake with shiitake
Fried eggs over-well with soy sauce
Cabbage, tomato, corn, potato soup

With the pork cake, I forgot to put dried wood ear in it to keep the meat from packing too much. Of course, the secret is to buy a whole piece of meat and pulverize it yourself with a knife so that the meat is unevenly and not overly grounded. I did remember to save some bits of fat to mix with the ground pork so that it wouldn’t dry out. Added a tiny bit too much soy sauce in the marinade (soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, sesame oil), but still very tasty overall and great with steamed rice.

Soup would be good with real chicken broth, but who has time to make that now? Not a big fan of the make-ahead-and-freeze method, plus it wouldn’t fit in our HK freezer anyway.

Lastly, those eggs are an HK staple. Been a while since I’ve made it and boy was it satisfying.


Tuesday

Steamed bok choy with soy sauce and sesame oil
Steamed chicken wings with garlic and soy sauce

Got kind of lazy today, didn’t want to go grocery shopping, so used up whatever we had. Having a hard time coming up with what to make next.


Wednesday

Oxtail and brisket stew
Red wine, carrots, onions, corn on the cob, tomatoes, garlic, butter

Coated the meat with flour and browned in cooking oil, set into rice cooker. Browned onions in leftover oil, then added butter and leftover flour (didn’t want to waste it) to get a roux effect going, added wine, water, and beef broth mix. Added salt/pepper and Worcestershire, then poured the whole thing into the rice cooker along with the rest of the ingredients. Set rice cooker to slow cook for 4 hours. Came out great, though probably a bit unhealthy.


Friday

Boiled chicken breast with dipping sauce
Watercress and carrot soup

It was suggested that the chicken breast could have been hand-pulled instead of simply cut with a knife. The suggestion is well received and taken under advisement. Also, the breasts were placed in boiling water that was brought back to a boil, then steeped with the heat off. I could have probably steeped it for a little less time. It’s always tough trying to balance tenderness and doneness with chicken.


Saturday

Fish soup with cilantro, tofu, and preserved duck eggs

Forgot to add ginger.


Sunday

Pan-fried Shrimp with Soy Seasoning

Pan-fried butterflied shrimp with soy sauce seasoning
Parboiled carrots and fresh shiitake mushrooms
Water convolvulus stir-fried in garlic and shrimp paste
Japanese cold noodles with dipping sauce
Cucumber salad