Today’s museum post is of my first-ever CD burner, bought in the summer of 1997. That summer, I started my first summer job at a credit card company in downtown San Francisco doing temp work. Once I had earned enough money, I used it to buy the burner and the required SCSI card.
The web was still in its infancy back then so the main way computer shops (and there were a lot more of them, especially mom and pop ones) advertised was through free magazines. In the Bay Area, the main two were MicroTimes and Computer Currents. I found a place that sold the burner and card, and called them from the lunch room at work to confirm the price (~$500) and make the order.
It was my first time using a SCSI device and I was a bit nervous about setting up the correct termination and whether the terminators would be included. In the end, everything worked and I burned my first CD.
It was also my first time using a CD caddy. I kept the same caddy for the life of the burner. You can see the crack in the pictures.
For a little while after, before CD burners became mainstream, I became the main source of custom CDs for my family and friends. I’d charge them $5 for the CD-R and the labor involved in ripping and compiling the CD. Good times.
I’ve mentioned before about keeping my hardware in hopes of someday rebuilding those systems of yesteryear, but sadly, it never happened and I eventually threw out the burner. Of course, I took these photos beforehand.
As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post. 🙂
This fifth day of our cross-country road trip was a Sunday. I started it off with a swim in the hotel pool, the first of many swims I would take during the journey home. I remember a father and son throwing a football around in the pool. After I did my laps, I spent some time in the whirlpool before heading back downstairs to clean up and get ready to check out.
Since we were in Chicago, the last major metropolitan city with a sizable Chinese community that we would be in for a while, we decided to take advantage and enjoy an HK-style breakfast. A quick Google search revealed a place with decent reviews called Sweet Station in Chicago Chinatown. We finished packing, checked out, and made the quick drive down there, passing through downtown Chicago on the way.
We saw what looked like marathoners shuffling into a subway station, and later learned that they were runners in the Hot Chocolate 15/5k. Speaking of subway stations, there was a portion of the drive where we were parallel to the elevated tracks of Chicago’s famous “L” where I caught a glimpse of one of the trains. I thought about the movie the Fugitive at that moment, the part where the marshals were trying to figure out where Harrison Ford was calling from. Overall, downtown Chicago looked very much like how I had imagined it after seeing it in movies and TV shows.
We parked just outside Chinatown Square and noticed that the parking machines were the same as the ones used in Oakland, and then went inside. It was not unlike many other Chinatown malls that we’ve been to, though I would say it reminded me of Vancouver the most. There were two levels, and the restaurant was deep inside and to the left, on the first level. We ordered a couple of main breakfast courses (Chinese tamale for me, congee for JC), and added a couple of dimsum items for good measure (beef tripe and rice rolls). It was good to have milk tea after not having it for a while. Afterwards, we walked around the square for a bit before stopping by Walgreens (no more Duane Reade!) to get some supplies before getting back on the road.
When I pass through a new city or town, I always try to imagine what it’s like living there. I use references from the Bay Area that are familiar to me and compare them with the things I see. In this case, I thought of the relationship between all the cities in the Bay Area. To the uninitiated, the entire Bay Area could be “San Francisco” when in reality the city is only a tiny portion of it. Driving out, I wondered whether I was still in Chicago-proper or some other town near Chicago, like Daly City or Oakland is to SF. If I were a resident of Chicago, I’m sure I would know the difference immediately.
Once again there were a lot of tolls. In the end we paid 4 tolls to the Illinois Tollway, even though we left the state pretty quickly before entering Wisconsin. I had not expected to pass through Wisconsin but of course when I did I just thought of some of the things that non-Wisconsin people think are attributed to that state: cheese, milk, and other dairy products, and the Green Bay Packers. In Wisconsin, we stopped at three different rest areas: the Belvidere Oasis, Rest Area 11 near Portage, and Rest Area 16 near Sparta.
Just before 17:00, we crossed the state line into Minnesota, driving on a bridge passing over the Mississippi River. Finally, after learning about it in school and hearing of its role in American history, there it was, the mighty Mississippi. We tried to imagine what it must have been like for the early settlers moving westward, discovering new lands and this new river for the first time. Even if we weren’t the first ones to be here, it was our first times here and the sense of discovery we felt was no less real.
Of course, unlike the early pioneers, we had access to plenty of information about where we were and where we were going. Right after entering the state, there’s a rest area (Dresbach Traveler Information Center and Rest Area) that you can go to to learn more about the state, the river, and the histories of both. We got a chance to just stand next to the river and observe for a few moments while the sun finished its descent into the horizon. It was quiet and peaceful, and difficult to fathom that we were seeing only a small part of a river that goes almost from Canada all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
We got back in the car and continued on our way. By that time it was night so there wasn’t much to see except for one thing: the sky. Between cities, the sky is completely dark from the lack of light pollution, and one can actually see that the night sky is actually completely filled with cosmic objects, from horizon to horizon. Being used to viewing it from the city, it is difficult to believe that the sky is actually completely filled with stars, just like how it is in those telescope photos you can buy at planetariums. It’s just that normally, civilization obscures the view. It kind of makes you wonder what other spectacular works of nature civilization has obscured or will obscure in the future.
We arrived at the hotel and settled in before heating up the leftover Chicago pizza for a nice reprise of the previous night’s dinner. Driving at night can be and was pretty tiring so I retired early in preparation for the next day’s drive to Mitchell, South Dakota.
A couple more interesting sights from this day:
We saw a few of these double-deckers with round-bus-captain liveries and thought it must be cool to travel in them.
The night before starting a new job, I wanted to do my old job one last time. To close this stay-at-home-husband chapter of my life, I made three dishes:
Steamed Pork Cake With Shiitake, Chinese Preserved Vegetable, and Wood Ear
Carrot and Marrow Soup
Choy Sum with Oyster Sauce
This was my first time making the pork cake with a real wok and an actual large plate. We’ve been cleaning out our Granny’s house (you might have noticed the posts with newspaper ads from 1938) and I nabbed her big wok. It takes a lot less time to steam because you can spread the meat out more. The result is juicy, tender, and (slightly over because I used a bit too much soy sauce) flavorful meat.
We had some leftover veggies in the fridge so I made one of JC’s old standbys, carrot and marrow soup. I don’t remember if I mentioned how she made it for the first time. Growing up, I never had this combination (and actually, it’s not something you really see in restaurants), and I thought it was a bit odd when I first saw it. But then, I do enjoy both carrot soup and marrow soup by themselves, so the combo makes sense. Leave it to JC to be creative and break tradition.
Choy sum was also left over so I used the steaming water from the wok to boil it. You can’t really parboil it because it will taste raw (choy sum isn’t a vegetable I would eat without cooking). Anyhow, the oyster sauce was also JC’s creativity. For me, oyster sauce usually goes with Chinese broccoli, and unlike the soup, I’m not sure it’s such a great combo. 😉
Well, that’s it for this chapter, now on to the next. Hopefully I’ll still get chances to cook on weekends. Enjoy!
I finally started a full-time job this week. After a little over two years and one month, I am once again spending the majority of my days at work.
After being the master* of how I spend my time for so long, admittedly it’s a bit difficult getting back into the thick of things. In the just over three-and-a-half days since I’ve started, I’ve been reminded that there are only so many hours in a day. The big two four. Whether you are rich, or poor, regardless of your location, we all have 24 hours in a day, and how we appropriate those hours is so supremely important.
I make it a rule to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Anything less, and I am unable to do anything well. I get cranky, irritable, and everything feels foggy. So, there’s no compromising there. For work, I am required to be at the office for 9.5 hours, with 1.5 of it spent at lunch. Again, non-negotiable. 8 plus 9.5 is 17.5, which leaves 6.5. Subtract a couple more hours for the commute, and that leaves 4.5. Taking into account other necessities like taking time to fall asleep, eating, cleaning up, going to the bathroom, and personal hygiene, that leaves maybe 2 hours for the whim. The seemingly endless amount of time that I mentioned I had before is no longer available to me.
With such little time available, I’ve already learned that I must use it to do the things that are important. For example, I’m writing this during my long lunch. I don’t need 1.5 hours to eat, but I have it, so I might as well use it. There are other things I have to do, like keep track of my finances, spend time with JC, and exercise. I try to squeeze those in whenever I can, but sometimes, even if one has the time, one does not have the energy.
The temporal cost and the energy cost of having a job are pretty much what I predicted and expected. But, it’s only my first week. In the coming weeks, I’ll get a little more used to it and get a discount on my energy cost, allowing me to do more of the important things. I’ll probably get greedy and want to squeeze in more tasks, but I will do well to remember that there are only so many hours in a day.
____________ *you could argue that I still am the master, having chosen to work rather than run out of money
Here’s another ad from that old newspaper that was found at my Granny’s house. This one is an ad for Odorono, an early deodorant. Smithsonian.com has a nice history of the product on its site. Just like the Brylcreem, Odorono is still sold today (though probably in a different form).
Another busy week with time to cook only once. Still, it was a pretty good meal and I was happy with it:
Stir-Fried Chicken Breast with Chili Pepper and Shallots
Parboiled Lettuce with Oyster Sauce
Tomato Fishcake Soup
The previous week I made lemon-caper chicken again and had a small piece of chicken breast left over. I thought I’d do something simple but still slightly different, so I went with the chili and shallots. The key was marinating the chicken breast with Worcestershire sauce in addition to some soy sauce and a tiny bit of sugar. Came out really good, with a possible knock being that I could’ve cooked the chicken a little bit less.
When I was making this lettuce I was thinking about how in Western cuisines, lettuce is usually eaten raw. A quick Google search debunks that myth, but at the same time I can’t remember ever going into a restaurant and eating cooked lettuce. Anyhow, this particular dish is popular with locals. Sometimes, the lettuce is cooked with shrimp paste and/or garlic. The other night, I had one that was cooked in broth with some dried scallops, ginger, and wolfberries (杞子).
Finally, I had a packet of fish broth left over and a couple of tomatoes, so I went and bought some cilantro and fishcake to make this tasty soup. I cooked the tomatoes in the broth until they broke up, then added the fishcake and brought back to a boil before putting in the chopped cilantro. Delish!
A few pages from the October 18, 1938 edition of the South China Morning Post were found in my granny’s flat. This was one of the ads on the pages. I’ve never heard of Brylcreem but apparently it is still around, and of course, Watsons is still around as well. It’s interesting to note the 5-digit telephone number. In my lifetime, I’ve used the 7-digit number and today’s 8-digit one.
I saw another photo from November 29, 2011, this time in my screensaver, not my desktop slideshow. Opening up the folder and seeing the photos, I realized that I was trying to do a panorama back then. Two and a half years later, I finally put the photos into Photoshop and created it.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to name a few things that I miss from SF/America: having a (my) car, convenient and easy online shopping, a dishwasher, and clean air.
This is one of the more popular Corydoras varieties. In my experience, cories are most at home in tanks with a sand substrate. Searching for food, they will suck in the sand from their mouths and expunge it from their gills. Every now and then, they’ll rocket up to the water surface for a gulp of air. A fascinating fish to be sure.
The past couple of nights have been the same. Still waking up very early in the morning. Last night I think I dreamed about my cousin, and after I woke up I remembered that earlier in the week (or recent past) I dreamt of his sister. I wonder what they (or my subconscious) are trying to tell me?
Things are slowly changing now. The days where I have seemingly limitless time are occurring less. The past two days I have been working on an XP to 7 migration in a small office. As small offices tend to do, they ordered all Windows 7 Home Premium machines.
It’s a challenge getting these things to network with each other when I’m used to the Professional versions. One of the first things I learned in my computing life was to always disable the Guest account, but that doesn’t always apply when sharing on the home versions. Yesterday, I had an issue where previously the machines were talking to each other, then inexplicably one of them would only talk to certain ones. When it couldn’t connect, it would tell me that the username and password were invalid, even though I was not using account-based or password-protected sharing. Finally, it occurred to me to type in “Guest” as the username, and all was well.
It was annoying trying to find answers in Google. In the past I’ve had good results with search terms that I think people would use for a certain problem, but now Google corrects the terms and tries to tell you what it thinks you were searching for (in the end I didn’t get the answer). I guess now even if you do put in the right term, the result won’t be too helpful anyway because so many sites cheat with their so-called SEO shit. One of the worst is a Microsoft Q&A site. So many questions are marked as “answered” when the answer is just some canned-response from a Microsoft “MVP VGA CEO ABCDEFG” telling you to “press F1 for help” or “call tech support”. SMH.