06-21-2018

Blogging: I read an article that confirms a suspicion I’ve had for a while — The Value of Remembering Ordinary Moments recommends that we record ordinary events (in addition to extraordinary ones), because revisiting these memories can be very enjoyable. I guess that’s the premise of apps like 1 Second Everyday.

And I guess that’s also the premise of this blog! I’m not sure if it shows, but this blog contains some of my fondest memories, and I don’t think many people would consider them “extraordinary.” But I guess they are, in their own blog-worthy way. I wonder if recording and revisiting bad memories is a good idea…

Chinese: In a show I’m watching, someone said “天儿真好,” but the caption was “天气真好.” I find this pretty interesting — usually when the captions don’t match what’s said, the mismatch is due to the speaker using an English term (and the caption is the Chinese translation). But in this case, the mismatch is due to the speaker’s accent rather than a foreign term. The same guy said “今儿,” but this was captioned as “今儿” rather than “今天.”

Leisure: I watched Silver Linings Playbook, a romantic comedy-drama film (according to Wikipedia), after a friend recommended it to me. Romantic and dramatic? I suppose, but I didn’t really find it comedic.

I also discovered that I enjoy reading reviews of local restaurants. It seems like everyone online has more refined taste buds than I do, and their experiences sound richer and more sensational than mine. I especially like reading the 3-4 star reviews, because they usually seem the most fair and reasonable. But it is amusing to read the lavish stories behind the 1 and 5 star reviews.

Music: Mia Wray – Send Me Your Love (Goldwave Edit). I discovered this song through this funny video about a Chinese dude teaching English to a Canadian dude.

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06-14-2018

Board games: Some friends and I started a campaign of Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. Well, we only played the prologue, but I think that still counts. We lost very badly.

Chinese: I realized there’s 必须, and then there’s 必需. They share a character and are both pronounced “bì xū,” but their meanings subtly differ. Both roughly mean “need,” but the former (必须) refers to things that are required due to rules/orders/demands (e.g., “you need to complete these forms”), while the latter (必需) is for requirements (e.g., “many plants need water to grow”).

Cooking: A friend and I made dumplings, and although we wound up feeling full, I accidentally left the filling (pork and chive) out for too long, and it lost a lot of moisture. This made it harder to assemble dumplings, which tasted a little dry. I still can’t make good wrappers, but the task is definitely less daunting than it once was.

We also made a (chicken, potato, carrot, onion) curry, a baked (ginger butter) shrimp, and a (Chinese) cucumber salad, all of which were decent. I had forgotten how quick and easy it is to make Chinese salads (e.g., cucumber, wood ear, tofu skin, celery), so I’ll definitely make them more frequently in the future.

Food: Here’s an interesting article: “Why Airplane Food Is So Bad.” Air pressure affects our taste buds, the dryness of the cabin weakens our sense of smell (and dries out the food), and even the white noise could suppress tastes. So airlines cover many dishes in a sauce. Also, tomatoes contain umami, which might withstand the white noise effect. This might explain why many passengers (including me) drink tomato juice on planes.

I wasn’t around in the early days of commercial flight, when (apparently) the food tasted better than it does now. But I do remember enjoying airline food as a child — maybe I liked the unusual experience, and not the food itself. The best airline dish that I remember having is congee with furikake.

05-07-2018

Basketball: The Cavaliers are huge underdogs in this year’s Finals against the Warriors (and are currently down 0-3), but they almost won Game 1 (away!) at the end of regulation. What can you do.

Board games: Some friends and I started a campaign of Charterstone, a competitive legacy game. The setup took some time, but the game itself was quite smooth, and future games should be even smoother. The turns are (mostly) quick and easy, but I find it strange that any player can use any other player’s land for free — this somewhat disincentivizes developing one’s land. Maybe this rule will change in future games.

Leisure: A friend kindly introduced me to one of his hobbies: indoor bouldering. As expected, my finger pads hurt and my forearms quickly tired out. But it was a good first experience, and I enjoyed getting a taste of something my friend seems to relish.

Music: Bolbbalgan4 – Fight Day (싸운날), Galaxy (우주를 줄게)Travel (여행). George Ezra – Shotgun. Khalid – Therapy, WinterYoung Dumb & Broke. In “Fight Day,” (and Twice’s “Heart Shaker”), the second verse is shorter than the first, and in “Therapy,” the second verse has the same melody as the chorus. I’m intrigued because these songs diverge, but only slightly, from the popular ABABCB song structure.

05-31-2018

Board games: I played two games for the first time, both solo: Ghost Stories and At the Gates of Loyang. The former’s as hard as they say it is — I lost very early (twice), then cheated my way to see the boss, and the boss was so difficult that I immediately stopped playing. I didn’t fare much better at the latter, but I later realized that I had messed up some rules.

English: The phrase “vying for” is pretty commonly used, but the present tense “vie” looks so strange — maybe because “c’est la vie” is a popular Gallicism. I thought the present tense would be “vye,” like “dye,” but then I realized that the present participle of “dye” is “dyeing.” Apparently, “vye” is an obsolete form of “vie.”

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “prepone” is widely used in India, and rarely used elsewhere. It’s essentially the opposite of postpone: it means “to move to an earlier time.” In my experience, most events are more likely to get postponed (or canceled) than preponed. But I do think this word is elegant, and I’ll probably start using it in informal settings.

05-24-2018

Cooking: I attempted the noodle-making part of biang biang noodles, and I was mildly successful. One of the main issues I had was ripping the dough, around my fingers, as I stretched each clump. I cheated a bit by stretching each noodle individually just before cooking it. The outer edges were too thick and tasted like the dumpling skins from earlier this month. The inner edges were nice.

My go-to sauces are (crunchy) peanut butter, and chili/shacha/soy/vinegar. I’d like to branch out a bit — I’m interested in hoisin, oyster, satay, and the various fermented bean pastes.

Food/Leisure: I found this amusing: 小高姐 and Matty Matheson each shot a recipe video for beef ribs, and the two videos were posted just a day apart from each other. There’s a pronounced contrast in their presentations, personalities, and recipes.

Music: There are some songs that I associate closely with certain memories. Some of these associations arose naturally, while others I explicitly formed at the time in an attempt to capture the moment. Most of these memories are bittersweet or nostalgic, though some are unpleasant.

For me, some memory-associated songs include Apologize (Timbaland remix) by OneRepublic, Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People, Shots by Imagine Dragons, TT by Twice, Paris by The Chainsmokers, Gone by JR JR, and Wait by Maroon 5. Of course, there are also a ton of band/orchestra pieces and soundtracks of games/movies/shows, but these sorts of connections arise somewhat inorganically.

05-17-2018

Chinese: There’s a noodle dish called biang biang noodles. The “biang” character is extremely complicated (seriously, check it out), and it’s not in my keyboard dictionary. There are even mnemonics on how to write the character — the linked Wikipedia article has a little poem.

Many recipe videos on YouTube refer to the dish as 油泼扯面, which translates to “oil poured (on) pulled noodles.” In English, I guess this would be “you po che noodles,” but that’s not nearly as fun (or easy) to say as “biang biang noodles.”

Food: I recently bought a 36-oz jar of peanut butter. It has a formidable layer of oil on top, and I have trouble stirring it thoroughly. The seal gets in the way, but I don’t like peeling it off. I could stir once and refrigerate, but then it gets too solid. Maybe the trick is to eat the whole jar in one sitting.

Leisure: I discovered Dollar Street through this post on Gates Notes. The website allows users to explore homes at various income levels around the world. In the accompanying video, Bill Gates shares some findings about beds and toothbrushes — I wonder what his look like.

There’s also been a Yanny/Laurel debate — I hear “Laurel,” and this slider allows me to hear “Yanny.” This reminds me of the dress (white and gold) and the spinning dancer (clockwise, but I can see the other direction too).

05-10-2018

Cooking: A friend and I made dumplings from scratch, loosely following this recipe, but without the shrimp. Neither of us had done this before outside of our respective (parents’) homes, so it was a fun learning experience. The skin was somewhat thick and doughy, but we thought it tasted pretty good, and we both wound up pretty full. I think it was my first time eating Shacha sauce in a dumpling, and I liked it.

Food: I had grass jelly (仙草) straight from a can for the first time. I had always thought it would be overly sweet, so I never bought any (and neither did my parents). But it’s actually quite mild and refreshing.

Also, I highly recommend watching the Munch Madness series on Good Mythical Morning. In it, Rhett and Link provide comedic commentary on popular snacks while deciding which ones they prefer. The series has Meaty & Cheesy, Salty, Chips, and Sweet. The Final Four thumbnail contains spoilers, so beware of that when browsing the related videos.

Leisure: I learned a bunch of rules of beer pong this week, most of which (including “heating up / on fire,” “island,” and “balls back”) are listed here. Having never played before, I found this to also be a fun learning experience.

Philosophy: Why do we do what we do? I think I’ve always implicitly left my answer at “ultimately, to make ourselves happy.” But Utilitarianism Party suggests there’s a lot more to it: Dostoyevsky claims our freedom is the highest virtue, and to exert it, we would revolt even against a perfectly utilitarian world. The Snakes and Ladders comic also illustrates this idea well.

05-03-2018

Education: Scott Aaronson recently posted an interesting review of Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education. One passage that particularly struck me was the following:

Caplan’s theory is instead that employers don’t value only intelligence.  Instead, they care about the conjunction of intelligence with two other traits: conscientiousness and conformity.  They want smart workers who will also show up on time, reliably turn in the work they’re supposed to, and jump through whatever hoops authorities put in front of them.  The main purpose of school, over and above certifying intelligence, is to serve as a hugely costly and time-consuming—and therefore reliable—signal that the graduates are indeed conscientious conformists.

We could overhaul the system, as Caplan suggests, but Aaronson worries about what would actually happen if we tried.

English: This stuff is probably elementary, but I recently realized that it often confuses me.

Word / phrase Meaning / notes Example(s)
anyday/everytime not a word n/a
any time “at any time” is an adverbial phrase, “any time” is adjective + noun You can quit at any time. I don’t have any time to study.
anytime* adverb like “whenever”, without a doubt Text me anytime. I can eat 5 sandwiches anytime.
every day/time adverbial phrase He sleeps in class every dayEvery time he sneezes, his glasses fall off.
everyday common, ordinary Please wear everyday attire. Aspirin is an everyday drug.
some day an unspecified 24-hour span of time in the future She will graduate some day next month. Some days are better than others.
someday at an undetermined time in the future Someday, I will be rich and famous.
some time a period of time (usually long), like “a long time” It will take some time to finish my homework.
some times noun phrase Let’s find some times that work for all of us.
sometime at some point (like “someday”), or adjective meaning “former” or “occasional” (rare) We should meet sometime. The sometime teacher smiled at the child.
sometimes occasionally He sometimes skips dinner.

*To be safe, you can always write “any time” as two words. We should never use “at anytime” (at any time, hah). “Anytime” (or maybe “any time”?) also means “you’re welcome.”