Thursday, December 1, 2016

chinese home cooking - 中國家菜

Only very recently that the Western press talks about Japanese washoku 和菜 . Washoku 和菜 means Japanese home cooking in a not so good translation. The two Kanji 漢字 words - 和 means in harmony and 菜 means a dish. A similar term in Chinese is 家菜 (pronounced as gar-choy in Cantonese) though the Chinese one has a connotation of being simple and prepared with unassuming ingredients, except for special occasions. The alternate term for  is chang-chai 常菜, meaning daily routine home dishes.

The definition of  gar-choy 家菜 can be quite problematic as China is so vast. The ingredients or the lack off can vary significantly from cities to rural village, and from rich to poor. A few characteristics that are typically common are cook with the ingredients available locally to make the most out of them. Contrary to the misrepresentation of Chinese cuisines in the West deep fry and greasy dishes are not the norm. Almost always there are plenty of vegetable dishes and often a soup accompanies a typical family meal.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

matsutake 松菇 galore

Years ago when I first encounter matsutakes 松菇 I had little idea what they are. Their strange appearance and the high price intrigued me and I brought a pack home to try. Later on I would realize matsutake 松菇 is one of the Pacific Northwest forest bounties. Matsutake 松菇 means pine mushroom in Chinese and Japanese. I would eventually found my prefer ways to prepare them.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

home made char siu - 叉燒

I bought a whole piece of pork butt to make braised pork (charsiu) for ramen. However I didn't want to have that much of ramen charsiu. I decided to only use one half. What to do with the other half? I initially thought I would make tasso with it. Then seeing the jar of Chinese fermented red bean curd that has been sitting on the kitchen counter for months, the decision was easy. I would just make Chinese charsiu with it. Sound strange? What is the difference between the charsiu that is used as topping for a bowl of ramen and the Chinese charsiu?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

clay pot rice aplenty - 很多煲仔飯

The air is getting damp and cold. It is near the season for clay pot rice. Clay pot rice is one of the most versatile dish once you master the fundamentals of the preparation. It is very fast to prepare and involves only one cooking vessel. I have written about clay pot rice in many posts over the years. In recent weeks I have made many meals of clay pot rice, each time with some variations of the ingredients.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

security camera system - part 5

It was just a needed maintenance work on the security because one of the wireless sensors have been eating the lithium battery very fast. I think it is because of the installation that exposed it to extreme heat and cold that deteriorated the integrated circuit. Soon it would turn into an update project for my home security system.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

jazzing up a frozen pizza - part 1

In the past I would not consider buying frozen pizza. I either make my own dough or buy fresh dough from a store when making pizza. A while back I gave Trader Joe's frozen pizza a try and they are really quite good if you are not too critical of the crust. Frozen pizza can never have good crust compare to freshly made.

braised pork belly - for ramen

I have been making ramen a very long time. Each time I prepare a batch of ingredients I learn something new. Cooking is like everything in life, is a continuous discovery. Hence, I can never keep any recipe as few of my preparation of the same dish are the same process.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

security camera system - part 4

Smile, you are on camera. One of my reasons for wanting a good security camera system is to guard against door to door unsolicited cold calls. These two guys going house to house in my neighborhood wanting to buy houses at depressed price to flip for a handsome profit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

a small batch of smoked salmon

I would never thought that I would waste time and effort to smoke this small amount of salmon. It was totally unplanned. I did not buy any salmon this year as the prices have been the highest I have seen in recent years. I came across some fresh Coho with $5 off each pack. I picked the smallest pack because it has the biggest discount. I was just going to make a few pan fry meals.

ramen in portland - part 6 中華料理拉麺

Soup noodles are my most frequently prepare meals. They are very versatile and are a meal in one serving vessel. It takes as little as 15 minutes to prepare if I have the basic ingredients already made in a big batch.

pc updates - part 2

The graphics interface card arrived. I set out to cap the entire 4k display upgrade to be under $500. I selected this ATI Radeon R7 370 graphics card with 4GB of RAM made by Sapphire. There are many manufacturers also make and market basically the identical design. It can support multiple monitors and support 4k display resolution via the Displayport or HDMI ports up to 60Hz.

Monday, September 19, 2016

security camera system - part 3

I ran out of the RJ45 plugs to complete my version 1.0 of the security camera system installation. I have planned an incremental installation to do it right. I want to do this on installments so I would have time to uncover areas for improvement, especially the locations of the cameras. Also I would have time to think through the cable routing for the few challenging locations of the cameras.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

ramen in portland - part 5 中華料理拉麺

It has been a ramen week as I made a big stock pot of pig bone stock and a modest amount of slow braised pork butt. BTW, if you think pork butt is literally what what they call it, you would be rather disappointed. It is not the butt of the pig. Often it is really pork shoulder.

Friday, September 16, 2016

pc updates - part 1

I have been disciplined. My desktop Windows PC that I assembled myself is now about 5 years old. The two LCD monitors are 8 to 10 years old. They are both Dell 1920x1200 LCD. I would be happy to continue using them have it not because of their fluorescent backlight. One of them is quite tired. They also run quite hot which is an indication of the high power consumption compared to the current offering that has LED backlight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ramen in portland - part 4 中華料理拉麺

A friend met up with me to go try the new ramen place that is in Uwajimaya. We have high hope that it serves half-decent bowls of ramen. I have to admit I am very hard to please and I have yet to be impressed by any that I tried in this country. The decor and presentation of the restaurant looks right, and so is the menu. Usually if the place try to be everything of Japanese it is a sign to avoid. You want to see they serve nothing else but ramen and Gyoza, and drinks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

security camera system - part 2

I have been evaluating this NVR security camera system for 10 days now. While I jumped from the initial cash outlay of $250 to $1000 I have no disillusions that this is nothing like the systems used in commercial applications. Then there is law enforcement equipment that a camera alone cost a few thousand dollars. I think I have a well informed level of expectation of what to expect. I am very glad that I opted to spend a bit more. The network based NVR is the way to go for the ease of camera installation if you want to maintain unobtrusive professional installation.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

new hummingbird feeders

Hummingbird feeders are some of the worst ripoffs of consumer goods. Most are very poorly design and made. The prices for one of this cheap plastic thing that cost may be $0.30 sold for 50 folds. I never want to pay over $5 each. The secret is to way for autumn when the stores are making room for Christmas merchandise.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

chiuchow black pepper pig stomach soup - part 2

Looking back it has been a while since I ate pig stomach. While shopping in my regular Asian grocery stores I was disappointed at the lack of selections of live seafood. This year the Pacific Northwest crab and other shellfishes harvest must be abnormally low. I came across the nice looking pig stomachs. They were 2 in a pack so I bought a pack.

Friday, August 26, 2016

security camera system - part 1

I have been wanting a security camera system a long time. Over the years I have monitor the progress of the improvements on those of consumer budget but have defer the purchase as I felt they are not good enough. I recently picked up this Night Owl 8-channel DVR with 4 HD analog cameras for only $250. I have a lot of reservation, especially the challenges of running the BNC/power cables between the DVR and the cameras. Upon inspecting the cable interconnect I decided to return it without evening opening up the rest of the system. I started researching on the newer generation of network video recorders (NVR).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

windows computer went kaputt - again

It was only in 2014 my Windows desktop computer went kaputt. I managed to diagnosed to the system power supply, or as I thought but the root cause was not entirely clear even though I managed to repaired it. I swapped out the power supply with another PC that has an identical unit. Strangely the donor PC works just fine with the "bad" power supply. That left me wonder if the power supply as after all not the cause of the failure. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, my same Windows computer died all a sudden while resuming from sleep.

Monday, August 22, 2016

happiness is another small engine - part 2

It has been nearly a year since I decided to buy a 4-stroke leave blower against the common wisdom. Upon first receiving it I was very pleased with its performance, and especially how quiet it is. Even at full throttle I find it no need to wear any hearing protection. The other benefits are the cleaner exhaust and without having to deal with gasoline and oil mixture. I was also very impressed on how little fuel it consumes - until a few months into the ownership.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

bed cover for isolde

I managed to maintained the upholstery in Isolde in pristine condition after 27 years. The secret is a layer of sacrificial material over the factory fabric. In recent years the fabric on the bed cover deteriorated and I have been challenged as what to do. The cover is a old fashion sleeping bag that has been modified in circa 26 years ago. Today these old fashion sleeping bags are few and far in between. I entertained replacing the worn fabric while keeping the insulation core of the sleeping bag. The problem is the retail cost of the fabric would cost more than the sleeping bag.

Friday, August 19, 2016

arduino based multi-function display for Vanagon - part 4

As in any design development, there are challenges with the parts that one specified. I happened upon the DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor because of its dual function. It would turn out it was fun while the curiosity lasted. I have 3 of this and found that they are worthless junk. The temperature reading often jumps around 2 degrees, and at time 8 in consecutive samples. Also all three are extremely inaccurate. I had play with the Maxim DS18B20 quite early on and found them to be very accurate for solid state active sensor. One reason reason that I didn't choose it was my attracted to the DHT11's humidity capability. The bigger reason is the library for the DS18B20 is very memory intensive, and I had ran out of program memory as well as SRAM.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

japanese rolled omelette

Recently I have been into making Japanese rolled omelette. Actually more like my interpretation of this omelette technique. I am inspired by how Japanese would take foreign dishes and turn them into their own versions of Western dishes but suit their taste.

duck confit galore

I found a source of duck legs in one of the Asian supermarket. They have been frozen once. Ideally I would prefer them never but that is the state of American food supply unless you are in the restaurant business. They don't always have them so when they do, I would snap up a good quantify. I am getting quiet expert in mass production of duck confit now. Duck confit may seem exotic thing to prepare, but in truth it is quite easy. The most difficult part is when you first starting out and wonder where you can find duck fat. I rendered them myself with one whole duck that I bought, and added some cow fat that I render from cow bone marrow. The mallow fat adds another dimension to the richness.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

arduino based multi-function display for Vanagon - part 3

When I first embark on this project, I only have a vague idea of the list of features I want. It was just a preliminary list of requirements. Oil pressure and temperature, interior and exterior temperature, and most import a data logger.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

arduino based multi-function display for Vanagon - part 2

I added a clock and calendar screen. It took a bit of work to sort out the navigation logic since this is a new feature that I didn't plan for. With each feature that I add, it had been a hand-to-hand combat to conserve precious memory, both the flash and the static RAM. The latter is most critical as there is only 2k bytes. My goal is to have a least uncommitted 512 bytes left. The power management features that I implemented is working very well now and appears to have few bugs. The joystick UI is very smooth without mis-registration. I also managed to add time stamps to the file creation and modified.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

arduino based multi-function display for Vanagon - part 1

This is the continuation of a series of post staring with my purchase of an Arduino Uno microcontroller board. Started as a project in search of a mission soon it took on an evolution. It evolved into a project that fulfills some needs that I have long wanted to address and more.

a multi-function display for isolde - part 9

The keyword for this post is power management. Dealing with power management is complex work in hardware or software design. The algorithm of this Vanagon multi-function display has now becomes quite complex. There is a round robin multitasking in which the tasks has their independent cadence and conditional logic. Additionally there is timer interrupt driven polling of the joystick. Now I am adding power management features to manage the ability of soft-on and soft-off based upon the Vanagon's ignition, as well as the ability to use the data logger function independent of the Vanagon's ignition key position. I started to add the power management function when the flash memory is already at 95% capacity. The RAM is already at 70% capacity. Cutting it tight is an understatement.

Friday, June 10, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 8

A lot of Arduino toys keep arriving in the Asia to USA transit pipeline. Because of the 20 to 25 shipping time I have been trained to put stuffs that I anticipate I can use way ahead of time. I also tend to buy 2 if I anticipate the item would be good because I need to keep one copy of the system for continue code development and maintenance. I however buy 1 if the item is unknown or expensive. Most of these stuff cost between $1.50 to $6 so it is not like I am going poor house doing shopping spree.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 7

The rude awakening that my code exceeded the 2k bytes of RAM in the Atmel ATmega328 uC's quickly put the brake on the progress. I have spent some time in the weekend investigating what are the big RAM consumers and to find way to work around them. Else I have to readjust the list of features that I set.

Friday, June 3, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 6

More toys arrived from China. Among them are an 20x4 LCD display with I2C interface with green LED backlight, an accelerometer breakout board, Arduino Uno protoboards, and the most exciting one - a data logger shield that has an RTC and a SD card connector as well as some prototype area.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 5

This is a continuation of a previous post a multi-function display for isolde - part 4. I have been searching for ways to mount the OLED display and the joystick onto Isolde's accessory track. My plan is to hide away the Arduino Uno and the miscellaneous electronics in an enclosure.

Friday, May 27, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 4

The reason I purchased these engine oil pressure and temperature gauge was to get the corresponding sensors. The gauges were so cheap ordered directly from China so I thought the purchase would be a good hedge against my homemade multi-function display project should I decided against it. I would have the option to install these two low cost, yet relatively unobtrusive gauges.

Monday, May 23, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 3

This is the following on post to "a multi-function display for isolde - part 2". I am making some small progress on the programming, and more parts arrived. Among them is the 128x64 pixel OLED display that I was looking forward to play with.

isolde engine coolant warning

Recently I took Isolde out during an early hot day. The ambient temperature was about 88F which is unseasonably hot for May. In my return trip home, the red LED in the coolant gauge began to blink. I thought to myself this is not good. I was crossing a long bridge at the time and I had yet to gather my faculty as what the LED indicator is for. I initially thought it is the engine oil warning light.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

in good shape - brunnhilde part 22

I have been taking a lot of time pondering the best way to carry the Honda generator in Brunnhilde. There are only two viable options. Carry it inside or outside in the steel enclosure that I recently purchased. This is the follow-on post to the previous one in this series.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 2

This is the following on post to "a multi-function display for isolde - part 1". I have been giving some thoughts to how to package the bits and pieces of this multi-function display system. It is quite easy to design the electronics and develop the software. What often overlook aspect in project like this is how to package the electronics and dealing with the interconnects. Fabricating good looking enclosures are always the biggest challenge for hobbyists and I am no different.

Monday, May 16, 2016

a multi-function display for isolde - part 1

The idea of a multi-function display for Isolde came to me quite accidentally. It started from when I decided to play with the Arduino microcontroller board. In anticipating its arrival via long shipping time from China I tried to prepare for what simple programs to write. I found this LCD display that I have at home since circa 1994 without any expectation it is of any good  or I can find datasheet for it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

invested in a microcontroller board - part 3

The more I play with the 4x20 dot matrix LCD display the more I like it. It is a nice size that offer good legibility and can display quite a lot of crucial information. It would serve well as a multi-function display that can be configured for many different purposes, including data logging. It would make a nice instrument without causing distraction for nighttime driving. It has great viewing angles and the font size is just perfect.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

invested in a microcontroller board - part 2

This is the following post to a previous post of a blog post series on my venture into tinkering with Arduino microcontroller boards. I have been doing a lot of reading about the Atmel's ATmega microcontroller architecture and programming. I also have been doing sporadic research of all the Arduino compatible sensor shields and breakout boards out there, and I have been itching to start playing with them. Yesterday the $3.99 Arduino Uno compatible board arrived from China.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

texas barbecue brisket - part 2

I learnt by mistakes of most things all my life, and making brisket is no exception. Fortunately for me I am an introvert. When confronted with a challenge I turn to myself to seek answers, as well as to read between the lines from those I respect and trust. This is my 3rd or 4th attempts in making smoked brisket. Do not trust the hypes on the internet, especially from those self-professed pit masters. They would lead you to believe it take decades of experience to make a edible brisket. With a lot of things there are more disinformation and "the dead leading the dead phenomena abound. When I first set out to make the authentic Texas barbecue brisket I thought it is some mystical thing that you can only learnt from the famed masters. Not until I turned inward and to read from those I trust and respect. Think out of the box is the password of this game.

Friday, May 6, 2016

compressor bit the dust - part 2

The problem with finding a replacement for this failed pressure switch is its unique design in which it has small plastic air nipple which it bolts up directly to the small air port of the gauge manifold. As this switch is long ceased to be in production substituting any other pressure switch, I must find a mean to plug up this port. This port sees the tank pressure which can be as high as about 125 PSI.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

compressor bit the dust - part 1

Nothing is permanent. All things die sooner or later. I bought this Campbell Hausfeld compressor from a local store long ago, during the early emergence of oilless compressors. I wanted a tried and true piston type, and chose this with cast iron pump that was made in USA. It have served me well all these decades. It also has a US made motor as well.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

invested in a microcontroller board - part 1

I am tired of sitting on the fence of which microcontroller to buy. I have been wanting a Raspberry Pi but upon some research I decided to start with a Arduino Uno as it is a better choice with hardware controls. I made a big $3.99 investment at less than 1/2 the cost on Amazon. It is a bare bone Uno but I should have everything else I need at home to get started.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

ventilation fan for brunnhilde - completed version

When I set out to build a ventilation fan for Brunnhilde in 2012, I envisioned it would eventually become automated. It took nearly 3 1/2 years for the pieces to all come together, while the manual version served well.

Monday, April 25, 2016

in good shape, isolde - part 17

This post resumes from a previous post of the temperature controlled ventilation fan for Isolde. As always a simple project in conception turns out to be much more involving. After proving out the the concept, it is time to perform the full installation. There is inevitable feature creep as I think though the complete system. I want it to be as easy and intuitive to use as possible, while complete it in an unobtrusive appearance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

in good shape, isolde - part 16

It must be true that the more you have, the more maintenance there is. A few weeks ago, my neighbor came by when I was working on something in Isolde. I showed them the recently updated audio system that I have been so happy with. I put in a CD by Angelique Kidjo that I really like for them to audition. They were impressed, and asked to borrow the CD.

vw dieselgate - a closure?

I have been wondering how this is going to end. US regulators clearly want to stick it to the German company to set an example. I am sure if this is one of the US big three, they would have handled the matter with kid's gloves. Don't get me wrong, I am no fan of VW on this blatant deception, and I don't believe for a moment, that the high level management is ignorant as the company claimed.