July 31, 2009

Code and Thaksin

Today's lunch was Maggi Mee - a famous instant noodle brand in Singapore - with sausage, mixed vegetables and egg. I didn't go to school partly because it is my turn to clean the apartment and partly to do coding without disturbances. My cough was almost gone, for those who worried.

After lunch, I overhauled one of my blogs - http://photo.lawshay.com - and fix some layout in http://www.lawshay.com. I also got a hit counter for each blog. That way, I can know what's happening with my blog.

Today, according to Channel News Asia (CNA), is the birthday of some queen in Thailand. Therefore, protestors (Thaksin's guys in red) marched in the city to ask Queen's pardon for their leader - Thaksin. Today's news was all about that plus that lady's verdict delayed in my country.

July 30, 2009

My Friend's Dad - R.I.P

My stupid roommate told me he'd have dinner at home last night. I cooked rice for two but his definition of home is not the like mine. The result, my breakfast and lunch was fried rice of the rice that remain overnight. I have fried vegetables remained, too. I stir an egg into the pan - the one with heated oil - and, after a while, mix with the vegetables. Then, rice. Bingo ! Chinese fried rice. (My land lady was so amazed to see me cooking that way. I don't know why)

During lunch time, I rang one of my friends - whose father, I believe, was hospitalized - to encourage him. I was shocked when he said his father had died like a month ago. Upon hearing my voice, he wept. My heart was shaken. I tried my best to say soothing words, but I am not so good at that subject. He is one of my best friend. He is an honest man. He is a very simple man. He taught me calculas back in my second year (i.e. sophomore for those who aren't familiar with my university's system) I really feel pity for him. May his dad's soul Rest In Peace.

Talking about I was bad at soothing mournful friend, I remembered the time when our geography teacher broke the news to the class that our class monitor's (TT's) father had passed away on one 25th of December back in my high school days, I even laughed out - despite my hard effort to control it. My reasoning, on 25th of December, many celebrate the BIRTH of Jesus and his father DIED. I found the fun in the contrasting idea. By the way, that teacher, too, had passed away. R.I.P my beloved teacher.

My cousin's G-talk message was that she feel ashamed of being Asian for the first time. When I asked how, she replied the Vietnameses, Chineses and Indians in her class cheated during the exam. "The Caucasians wore wide eyes ! " she said. I had to told her that since she's been honest, there is no need to be ashamed of. However, I am glad she has that kind of attitude - the spirit.

After my lunch, I attended a seminar - about overcoming the quality curse in data management. That was a good one. I noticed some area that need works. Now, back to the code, bye !

July 29, 2009

Mr. Nice Doctor

My cough got worse today. I cough so hard. I decided to go to clinic. Lunch was at the canteen near school's clinic. I got my lunch from multiple-award-winning Muslin outlet. One mistake that new students make with that canteen is that they tend to believe Muslin outlet = no pork = no good. It is certainly wrong as the Chinese one at that canteen is the worst of all. Yesterday, I met a newly registered student and he's complaining the food is suck. I asked where did he get and, I don't need his answer - from the Chinese one. I told him that that Muslin outlet is more than cool. I had peas with chicken along with some vegetables.

When I get to the clinic, it was crowded with new students coming to get medical examination - which is required both for school admission and student pass application. In fact, it is just TB X-Rays and HIV test. I also got my new student pass (my old one has expired) earlier this month. When taking the medical check-up, I also took Hepatitis B screening since I hate drawing my blood out multiple times. It has been a couple of years that I had my vaccination so I may need to take it again. I forgot to take the test results to the clinic to ask my doctor. What a mess !

My doctor is so nice. He noticed me for my height. The best part is he gave me some cough syrup containing Promethazine. You know, it Rocks. He asked me to come back next tuesday - free of charge. I must make sure I bring the Hepatitis B screen to him for interpretation.

July 28, 2009

Fried Food or Boiled Food

One of my Onee Chans, M, told me to avoid fried food for my cough. My land lady suggested against boiled food. What shall I eat then ? :P Getting to canteen, I found that there is no more Yong Tau Fu. I didn't want seafood soup either and ended up with western food again, from the usual pasta shop. My lunch was pasta, chicken chop and beans. That's all. I rushed back to my lab holding the last take-away cup from the fruit stall. (Why do they close their stalls so early everyday ?) That was papaya + water melon juice = funny taste.

July 27, 2009

Meal with Remnants

Pork rib in soy sause, pork rib soup with sausages and vegetables. Today's lunch was a remnant of fired garlic noodle two days ago. It's easy to cook based on remnants. The idea is derived from the Burmese monesteries. The kitchen helpers used to combined all food remnants (from the cooking pots, not from the monk's bowl) into a large pot and continued heating them up. The taste was so good that nowadays, some resturants delibrately serve that kind of dish - yet they never get the taste found in monesteries's kitchen.

Back to my cooking, I put some carrots, vegetables, sausage and more boiling water along with some salt into the pork rib soup that I made and kept in the fridge two days ago. After a short while, it's ready to serve.

At the top of the pciture, you can see the fried fish of my land lady. Half-way through my lunch, she poured sweet-n-sour sause into the plate making sweet-n-sour fish. She asked me why I am taking the picture, I joked that I am writing a book about what I have for my lunch for a year like a diary to become a bestseller and she can share the fame, too. She offered my some fish but I had to refused due to my cough :(.

July 26, 2009

Kung Fu Chef

Today's Sunday. That's mean there ain't nothing to eat at school. There ain't nothing at home either and I was so lazy to do shopping. I headed for KFC - just before heading to my lab. I had Fish Zinger meal - containing a burger and a mesh potato.

Before I left home for lunch, I watched Sammo Hung's Kung Fu Chef. (That's why my lunch was fast food :P) The veteran Hong Kong action star is quite old now. I realized his golden days have been passed as I saw winkles in his face and his slower movements (though only a bit) compared to those in his youthful days.

That's why they say public relation and popularity are important in entertainment industry. While Jacky Chan and Jet Li are doing a lot of green screens and are featured of movies with a large budget for CGI effects, the beloved fat guy is performing stunts scenes in most traditional way.  The movie featured almost no green screen effects nor post-production touches excepted for very cheap and cartoon-like 3D effects (which are rare and short) and a few un-realistic jumps (or flys ?). 

The story is simple, common Kung Fu story arc with the cooking parts, neatly blended in. The characters are cool though not exceptional. Fight scenes are performed well. However, as a high-concept movie, its story-telling pace is something. I feel like the story-telling style is a little ruggish. I feel it a little bit hard to swallow the plot (I don't buy the story arc completely). But it's still better than Korea's Dragon Wars and AVP2.

6 out of 10!

Thinking about the movie, I feel worried as more and more movies featured innovative, cost-saving  traditional production methods less and less in preference of cool CGI effects. I like Robert Rodriguez pausing the performers to move his single camera in Once upon a Time in Mexico trilogy to simulate multiple angle shots. I also like how Steven Speilberg reduced hard-to-shoot-things to mere shadows in Indiana Jone's movies and how he reduce ET on flying bicycle scene to a thing with moon back-drop (making it both cheap-to-produce and artistically beautiful). My favorite is James Cameron's opening up of Arnold's head using twin sisters. In that shot, the audience sees, in a continuous shot, image of Arnold (actually actual actor himself) speaking in the mirror and the camera moves closer to the supposed real one's (actually, a model double's) head which has a large hole. (See that scene here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3uFUu_NBnQ). 

In contrast, Peter Jackson wasted a fortune for a King Kong remake, which is totally unnecessary because the original is already a masterpiece. Michael Bay is also wasting money, with the help of Speilberg, on Transformers series, making the chicks hotter than ever and making the robots fight like Kung Fu master. What a waste !

July 25, 2009

Fried Garlic Noodle and Pork Rib Soup

Today, I am staying at home. I was planning to have lunch at the food court below my apartment. But at lunch time (14:00), when I thought about the food available there (they are quite gross and expensive compared to school's canteen), I decided to make my own lunch instead. This is partly because of the fried garlic noodle I had as my breakfast.
I decided to extend the fried garlic noodle idea into a full blown one (the morning one was a semi-vegetarian one with no meat except some sausages that I boiled) together with some soup and ribs. Fried garlic noodle is quite famous in Burma (aka Myanmar) and one of the most successful meal inherited and adapted to Burma.
To make fried garlic noodle (for 3-6 adults), you may need:
  • Flat noodle - 3 - 6 bowls (depending on the head count :P)
  • Pork spare rib or chicken breast - 250g (I prefer pork though)
  • Garlic - a clove or two (may be three depending on its size)
  • Cooking oil - a cup (don't forget to use sunflower oil for your health)
  • Spring onion - just a shoot or two 
  • Dark soy sause - 1 tablespoon
  • Light soy sause - 2 tablespoon
  • Rice vinegar - 1 tablespoon
  • Salt - a couple of tablespoons

Peal the garlic, rinse and chop them to get small pieces (like above). Then put them in a bowl (do not use a plastic one). Marinade the pork rib with vinegar, dark and light soy sause and a tablespoonful of salt (like below). Put the oil in a large pan and heat it up.

When the oil gets hot (and you see some vapor rising from the pan), pour the oil into the garlic in a bowl. This is the most important part in making of this noodle. If you try to fry the chopped garlic in a pan, it is very easy to overcook them getting black garlic noodle :P. You can use this method to get fried chili powder (a famous ingredient in Shan recipes). The garlic will become golden brown like this:

Put the large pan on the fire (yes, don't clean it). Pick the pork ribs and slice off the meat apart from the bone (yet, you don't need to be very neat in this part). Put the meat together with the sause used to marinade them into the hot pan. Stir for a while before you pour a cup of water into the pan. Let it boil but stir it now and then. Meanwhile, you may need a larger pot to boil the bones. Put some salt (a tablespoon or two) and a couple cups of water into that large pot together with the bones and let it boil, too.
Every 5-10 minutes, the level (of the sause) in the pan will fall and you may need to put more water into it. But don't overdo it. That's the sause that will bring taste to the noodle. Continue adjusting the sause level - while stiring frequently - for 30 minutes and it's almost ready. Opps, don't forget the soup. Stir it too.
At this point, one may complain about sticking to the stove and stir for half an hour. I solve this problem by using microwave oven. When the sause level in the pan falls to just half a cup or so, I transfer the sause and meat into a microwave-safe container and cook them using microwave for three minutes (setting the microwave to HIGH).  Then I put enough (that means a large) amount of water to the soup and start  drafting this post :P. Here's what I got out of my microwave. Be careful, don't flip the cover in a haste. It's damn hot.
Mince pork meat (for me, I finished the  draft first as it is so hot) to get something like this:

Then, the noodle is almost ready. Chop the spring onion. Put the fried garlic (only the garlic, be careful not to take so much oil), the sause from the meat and some salt (half a tablespoon) into the noodle bowl. Stir well and put the chopped spring onion on top. Get the soup into another bowl (not the bowl with noodle) and put some chopped spring onion, too. Now ready to serve:
You may notice there ain't no green thing in the above figure. I didn't have any spring onion at home and I was so lazy to go and buy. Enjoying the noodle, I had to make a call to my Onee Chan (elder sister) E as she asked me to do so via G-talk. After a chit-chat, I continued with my lunch only to remember that today's my parents' wedding anniversary. I tried to call them but the lines are busy so I just sent an email to them (plus a request to a friend in Rangoon - aka Yangon - to SMS them my wish.)
Try to make this noodle youselve. It's way too easy, not time-consuming, delicious and economical. That's explain how the Chinese guys, who set up noodle outlets, get rich so fast. Rumors say they are doing illegal things. In my opinion, they don't need to as the margin of the noodle business is already quite wide (they just boil - not cook - the various you-know-what parts of the pig, use the help of MSG to sweeten the noodle etc, put only a small amount of meat in a serving and charging something equivalent to other putting-so-much-meat resturants like Biryani.) Not just a good business, but a very very good business.

July 24, 2009

Lady Finger Memories

Today, I am still coughing but managed to get to school by noon. My breakfast was a small pack of instant noodle and I was hungry by the time I got school. I had my lunch at the Deck (Arts canteen). I had no appetite for meat/fish so I had all vegetable meal (though I consumed some curry paste from chicken curry and fish paste that come with lady finger). You can call my lunch today as semi-vegetarian. I had lady finger with fish paste, fried cauli flower and fried cabbage.

Lady fingers here are almost always cooked together with pickled fish paste. Fish paste tend to make the dish salty. How come those fast food outlets know in advance each customer's like and tolerance to salt (due to hypertension etc). Back in Burma (aka Myanamr), lady fingers are cooked first and served with fish paste in a seperate dish. That's a better way I think.

Talking about lady fingers and fish paste, the first time I consumed them together was just before I left for Singapore (at the age of 22). Before that, I used to eat lady fingers without fish paste - just as my mom always cook. One of my closest friends, LMT, who's also like a little brother to me, made me a parting party (for I am leaving). There was only three people, me, him and one of his close frined - who had been here. Drinking beer, I tried lady finger and fish paste together. 

LMT, now, has got married. His wife's name is much sound like my name with the last syllable the same. I lost contact with him for a year. I must try to contact him not only because he's like my brother but also because his mom is one of the teachers I loved most. His mom taught my 6th Standard (7th year in basic education for those who are not familiar with Burma's education system) class English. She was an exceptionally kind teacher. (She, once, bought me some ice-bar :P)

Leaving the canteen, I met prof Terence Sim. He was the one who introduced me with Bayesian network. He's a little bit confused when I smiled to him - seem not recognize me well or was very hungry. Walking back to my lab, I met the whole graduate office walking up (yes, it's an uphill) to canteen. I waved hand :P.

Back in my lab, my computer is still running the experiment. I need to figure out some optimized (internal)  parameters that that code need to run for my dataset. It's wield and boring.

July 23, 2009

Supplier's Market

Western as usual from the same old pasta shop (whose owner is quite friendly with me). Today, I was a bit late so that there ain't no pasta anymore. Therefore, I had fish cutlet (fried fish) and mesh potato. Canteens during school holiday are really suppliers' market. Either you have what they have or you starve, no third option. I hate it.

Mesh patato was so tender, today. May be I was very hungry. You can say I was lucky that I get meshed potato, not French fries. Yesterday, I watched Rachael Ray's show (a cooking show I guess), which featured someone who wrote a book named "Eat This, Not That". The guy (the author of the book) explained that, although potato is carbohydrate, it is better meshed than fried for your health. One should rather eat meshed potato than eat fried potato. They (Rachael Ray and the guy) warned not to have more than one fried food in your plate. 

Back to my lab, my heart was pounding since my SoC's standard issue was running an experiment using someone else's code (I modified it though). I am quite relieved to see it's still working (no error). At least, till now.

July 22, 2009

Star Hub Goes NUTS

Today's lunch was also late (cough syrup = get up late :P). In fact, it was really late (at 16:00). I take the same food as my breakfast and it was western partly to kill the pack of bread, which is going to expire. I had sausages, egg, vegetables (for the sake of tomorrow's morning) and many slices of bread.
It was not supposed to be that late to have lunch. However, one of my Onee Chans (elder sisters), M, rang and told me that her cousin couldn't get a mobile phone from Star Hub's Vivo City branch just because she didn't have any proof of billing address associated with her name. I was sending a complaint (via their web system) for this matter. They are really, in Creative's CEO Sim Wong Huu's words, NUTS (No-U-Turn-Syndrome).
I also had a similar experience when I changed my billing address for my home broadband line. When I was moving home, I visited Star Hub's Vivo City branch and asked them. They simply refused to do so because I didn't bring any documents that relate my name with my new address.
Old student passes beared school's address (in my case, that of NUS registrar's office) but didn't have any photo while new ones bear no address whatsoever (they have photos though). Bank statements only come at the end of the month. Unfortunately, my land lady and I (also my roommate) was so friendly that we didn't sign the contract months after moving in :P.
One awkward and amazing thing is that, when I rang Star Hub's hot line 1633, they promptly changed the address - no question asked - for me. This shows inconsistency in Star Hub. For a large well-known brand like Star Hub, it is a shame and shouldn't occur, I think.
Let's get back to the poor foriegn student, who couldn't get a hand-phone. Their policy is un-earthly (unrealistic). Just arrived from a economic-sanctioned country like Burma (aka Myanmar), she surely doesn't have any bank account. (Even for students from other countries, they won't have a local account immediately. Banks need student pass to open account and student pass can only be obtained after school registration etc.) Even if she has (say she opened one after arriving Singapore), she'll get her bank statement only at the end of the month. Being just arrived may mean staying in a hotel or a temporary hostel or at a friend's place - ruling out the possibility of holding a rental agreement. In short, their policy is almost the same as "No mobile contract with foreign students whatsoever" or "I dont' want any business with foriegn students."
In fact, the purpose of affirming the billing address is that the customer won't run away (or cheat the service provider). However, that is already breached by accepting bank's statements. A cunning customer would just produce the bank statement of his/her old home to apply a new mobile line then fly out of Singapore. In this way, he/she can enjoy a free (or cheap) hand-set plus hours of free oversea calls.
Consider my case (This is other way round). If that girl never changes my address, I may not receive the bills. Not receiving the bills often leads to forgetting to pay (here, we can pay the bill using old bills or by visiting the branch personally). Late payments means extra transactions (cutting the line, late fees, filing at the court etc). If I run away, like in the above example of cunning customer, the service provider can never collect my bill. In the end, both the customer and the service provider lost. It's a lost-lost situation.
They really should reconsider their procedures (taking account of the fact that new student passes issued have photos). Banking industry also have this kind of problem - even when I need to deposit money to my own account. What a NUTS !

July 21, 2009

Booting up

Today's lunch was late (so was my breakfast) at 14:30. It includes radish and pork rib (plus some unknown leaves) soup, beef, potato and carrot curry and some vegetable. This morning I experience hardship going to toilet :P so I carefully select my cuisine (saying no to normal western food).

I've got an idea about writing a post everyday about my thoughts and ideas in diverse areas - in English. Therefore, I decided to start a new blog consisting of aimless thoughts I used to wonder. I realized I need a regular time to write and, after choosing after lunch hours (sleepy unproductive hours), I name my new blog - "Law Shay - Lunch".

During my meal, the guy from Pasta shop said "Hi". I usually used to have meals at his stalls as he can speak English quite well. I am going to take Chinese lessons coming semester. No. I mean "I must." Currently, I need to avoid "All Chinese, No English" canteen outlets.

Guess Count

Since August 1st, 2009, Law Shay had enjoyed his lunch together with friends.