Sunday, 29 January 2012

Finally Volunteering Again

For those who don't remember, I've been trying to get back into volunteering since my other option got disbanded to do bureaucratic reasons. As luck would have it our local Humane Society was having another set of orientation and mentoring sessions so the entire Wei family (as well as our cousins and their Mother, the Liu's) decided to sign up.

A little backstory on this before we start. This isn't our first time we've volunteered with the Humane Society. Several years ago we started, did the old orientation session, did our time and so on.

Back then, things weren't as good. Back then, our city's Humane Society was still using the building that was established over half a century ago.

Ok, it wasn't this bad but it wasn't too far off.

It was cramped, crumbling, smelly and not the greatest environment for people let alone animals. The cats were pretty much confined to metal crates almost all the time, stacked on top of each other. There was only one room for the cats to run around in and only 1 cat was allowed at a time.

The dogs weren't much better. Stuck into kennels maybe 1 by 2 meters at most they at least were let out more frequently because they could be walked. You can't really walk a cat. At least, not as well. But the area outside was kind of grungy, there was a highway nearby and I think an oil refinery too? Some kind of industrial complex.

This street is actually way too clean but it's the best example I could find.

Finally, the Humane Society got around to building a brand new facility just for them. The cats now live together in large rooms filled with toys, cat trees and hiding places. The dogs haven't benefited much in terms of living quarters, well, the ground isn't concrete anymore at least but where the facility really shines is the grounds.

A massive fenced field is available for them to run around in as well as a large designated walking path. Gone are the crumbling buildings and streets, they've been replaced by grass, trees and a pond.

Except we live in Canada so in the winter it's replaced by ice and snow.

Unfortunately due to scheduling problems neither the Wei or Liu family were able help out for a number of years but we're finally back. Things have changed though. For example, after the basic orientation you still need to take the individual dog and cat orientations. And after volunteering for a set amount of hours you can be promoted, and for example have access to more of the dogs or spend time with the kittens.

This is a picture I took of one of the calmer dogs. He was pretty nice and I hope he gets adopted soon. Actually, around the time this picture was taken the facility was having fewer than normal animals. We had to leave early simply because all the dogs had been walked already. Also, we still haven't taken the cat orientation yet.

Say hello!

I know Mom wants a dog but unless Dad likes one we'll probably won't be getting any more pets in the future. But we'll see.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Baking Curry Brownies

I've had moderate success with cooking but not so much with baking. Baking is what my sister does and the whole family loves her banana bread and white chocolate chip cookies. Whenever I bake everyone kind of half-heartedly eats it so I feel less bad about myself.

But, I've been trying to practice my culinary skills and now, I need it's time to try and bake something. Microwave brownies don't count, it's time to try actual brownies. Mich posted a recipe for brownies on her blog the other day and what made these brownies unique was that she added curry powder to it. She insists that they're amazing so let's find out.

Assuming I don't screw up.

Ok, even I'm not this derpy.

And actually, I kind of did mess up. To start with, I somehow misread sugar as "flour" on step one and bam, things aren't looking too good.

Hoping that my brownies aren't completely ruined I try and compensate by mixing in the remaining ingredients one after another (as opposed to in the proper order and in their separate respective bowls) and I think it looked ok?

And I had yet another surprise when I opened the can of coconut milk and instead of liquid, I was greeted with this dense, white solid at the top. Confused, I just spooned this white substance into my batter and kept going.

So far so good/bad?

Later I would find out that there WAS liquid, the actual coconut milk was underneath this, this, I don't know, what would you call it? Coconut butter? Fat? I hoped for the best and dumped the batter into the oven.

In the meantime, I tried to make the icing. It didn't look like icing. I'm not going to even show you guys a picture, it was pretty gross and sad. It somehow managed to be watery with clumps of coconut "butter" floating around. If you're really curious, take a bottle of hair conditioner and squirt some of that into a bowl of water, give it a stir and that's what my "icing" looked like.

Needless to say, I threw it out. Especially when it transformed and became this watery, grey sludge.


But wait! Don't lose hope for me yet! We still have the main attraction to reveal. While I was messing around with the "icing" I had the brownie batter baking in the oven. 40 minutes later, I open it up, dump the contents on a plate and....


Hey! It doesn't look too bad. I think. I don't really bake that often and this is my first time baking proper brownies. So I have no idea if it's supposed to look that way. I also opted to use mint chocolate chips instead of normal ones. Because I love mint chocolate.

Taste-wise I think it also turned out decently. The center is nice and moist and no hint of curry. I'm sorry Mich but I don't eat brownies that much so I can't tell if there was a difference caused by the curry. Or maybe any benefit of the curry was negated due to my horrible mixing skills.

So there we go, I didn't fail too hard. Yay for me. Any suggestions as to what to bake/cook next? I'm open to almost anything.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Happy Chinese New Years!

I was going to do another post about internet censorship today but let's have a more positive post. I'll save the activism for later. For those of you who are still keen, our next big targets are ACTA and CPIP. If our internet should be censored one day there are alternatives that people are working on. The most promising one I've seen so far is something called a meshnet

More as this develops.

But yes, for those unaware, today is the first day of the Lunar Calender. I know a bunch of people, including my Father, who took the day off. I wasn't as lucky and still had classes. :(

Also it's the year of the Dragon.

So I expect to be able to spend more time with family within the next few weeks. Lots of dinners and what not. We also got some relatives flying in from the other side of the country as well so that's always nice.

But I'm certain most of you are familiar with the red pockets that are handed out at Chinese New Years. Basically, all the kids (doesn't matter that I'm over 20, I still count as a "kid") get these little red envelopes with money from parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. etc..


So I'm cutting this post short due to it being a holiday. I'll see you guys on Thursday.

Friday, 20 January 2012

We Just Slowed Them Down

Well done to everyone who spread awareness through the Blogosphere about SOPA/PIPA. I personally think that the protest on the 18th went exceptionally well. The media knows we're not going to take this nonsense and so many people are now educated about this.

But it appears our efforts may have been in vain, or rather, we just delayed the inevitable.

Love, Censorship.

For those you unaware, MegaUpload was taken down by the US yesterday. Many suspect it's a response to the SOPA/PIPA protests the day earlier. MegaUpload is one of the largest (if not the largest) file sharing sites available. Many legitimate accounts and individuals use it on an daily basis where large file transfers are not viable by other methods. Associated sites such as MegaVideo, one of the largest streaming sites, was also taken down.

What's more disturbing is that it was taken down without notice or warning, and 4 workers were arrested, from NEW ZEALAND. And what's worse is that MegaUpload is based in HONG KONG.They claim the shut down and arrests are appropriate because MegaUpload was potentially infringing on copyrights.


So many people are now asking, then what was the point of the SOPA/PIPA protests if the government is able to shut down sites anyways? How SOPA worked was that it would allow large corporations to point their finger at a site and go "Potential copyright infringement" and the site would shut down immediately.

BUT without it they need to go through the courts first. Turns out MegaUpload case has actually been secretly going on for about a year now before they were able to bring the site down and make the arrests. I personally feel that by having the shut down so conveniently scheduled after the protest it's the government's way of saying "We're not done yet".

Also, everyone from Asia is a Martian.

So what can we do now? Big Brother from 1984 is flexing his arms so to speak. The hackivist group known as Anonymous has gone on a Distributed Denial of Service attack (or DDoS for short) and temporarily brought down many of the sites associated with MegaUpload's removal. But that's the keyword, the damage is temporary. What they're doing is like running into someone's room, tearing down a poster, and running away. You can always put the poster back up later.

Unfortunately, no one else has any better ideas. No one expected a response from the government so soon and not such a drastic response either. The government has heard our protest, and they replied "So what? We do what we want.".

This is a problem that affects all of us. I'm currently looking into what an ordinary individual can do and so far I don't have much. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated because I'd rather not sit and watch this play out.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Cooking for the Wei Family

There are reason why I've been making an effort to try new recipes and becoming better at cooking. And one of those main reasons is to one day cook a proper and complete meal for my family.

But, cooking for my family is not easy. I would know, I've tried unsuccessfully in the past but I'm not giving up. I'd like to say it's not because I'm a terrible cook but more because it's hard to accommodate for everyone. I have no idea how my Mother does it each night.

Sorcery and magic probably.

My Father is probably the biggest problem for me. First, he's a vegetarian, fish counts as a meat, egg doesn't. With these restrictions it generally means that I need to cook an entire separate vegetarian dish just for him. And I need to make sure I make enough to actually feed him.

Also, he hates onions and garlic, anything even related to them he also hates. So no leeks and sometimes even chives. This further reduces the number of vegetarian recipes I can use or variations of other recipes. Often if I'm modifying a recipe to cook for him I'm removing quite a lot and whatever I've made tastes really bland at the end.

I'll be honest, I think his favorite food is whatever Mom cooks for him. Which is sweet but a pain for me.

I hope you don't mind me "cooking" you this forever Dad.

My Mother and sister aren't much better. Mom prefers Chinese food (surprise surprise) and both of them hate fatty, deep fried, greasy or anything that would qualify as "rich" food. At least my sister likes soup BUT only if it's chunky. She hates blended soups.

And then we have my brother. He hates soup, he hates pasta, and he hates my cooking. He likes meat and prefers to cook his own food.

Myself? I'm not too picky as long as it's not vegetarian, Chinese and I'm not allergic to it.

Why do I even bother?

So we got quite the predicament here. What with all these restriction and my limited abilities. I'll keep trying though, I'll eventually work something out.

Feel free to suggest recipes or other things for me to try. I'm getting tired of looking through cookbooks.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Italian Wedding Soup and Updates

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who offered help and suggestions with improving my blog and/or getting my own domain. I will be trying to get in touch with a few of you sometime in the near future, don't take offense if I don't send you an email. It's not that I don't like you or anything but I can only ask so many people for help!

Now let's get to cooking.

I love soup. It's way up there on my list of favorite things to eat. Coincidentally, soup is the only thing that I can ever cook with any consistency.

So when Lizzy made an entire blog post about soup and soup recipes I was determined to try and make one. One soup stuck out in particular, the Italian Wedding Soup recipe. Why? Because she decided to add this message at the top:

"First up...simple and impossible to mess up:"

First things though, I decided to omit celery from the recipe because we didn't have any at home (and I hate celery) and I used macaroni for pasta because I'm a poor University student.

And while we're on the topic of first things, first problem I encountered was that a lot of my meatballs decided to fall apart and split in half. :(

Crumbling monstrosities...

Maybe I wasn't gentle enough with them. Perhaps I added too many sauteed onions to the mixture or maybe I should have just thrown them into the soup instead of trying to cook them for a bit first. No matter, the point is, I had misshapen and fragmented meatballs in my soup.

And here we have a final product:

Looks a lot nicer than the stuff in the pot. But looks are deceiving.

The biggest issue I had when making this soup was that it was way too salty. This could be due to the brand of chicken broth I used. Or maybe it's because I decided to use regular ground beef for the meatballs.

And then pour the meat drippings and fat from the pan into the soup.

. . . .


But other than that I think the soup turned out fairly decently. So I guess you win Lizzy. Only took me an hour to make and I'm excited to try cooking or baking something else again in the future. Though not the lobster bisque because WHY ARE LOBSTER TAILS SO EXPENSIVE?!

Oh and for those that are wondering, I'm still working on that hollow book. Slow and steady.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Time for an Upgrade?

Before I start today's post I just want to mention that there are a few blogs out there that provide the following message when I try to access them:

No Profile Available, blah blah blah.

I'm not sure what the reason for this is. Do I blame Blogger for derping up or did someone change some privacy settings on their blog? Maybe I'm the derp in this situation because I'm doing something wrong. Either way, if you notice the lack of comments from me lately it's due to one of the above reasons.

Onto today's post.

So I've had this blog for almost half a year. I have a fairly decent following and I make enough from advertisements that I'm able to cash out cheques. And thus the next logical step would be to get my own domain.

And therein lies the problem.

Pretty much.

It just seems to me this is what all the successful and popular blogs are doing. Supposedly it boosts traffic so that's always nice. I mean who doesn't want more people coming to their blog?

But of course you kind of want your blog to look a bit more dressed up before you show more people.

Thus, I need to make my blog look nicer. Seriously, I've maintained the background of this thing from some default Blogger design since the beginning. Same with my header. I need something unique and interesting to look at.

Or sparkly.

So any ideas, suggestions, or guides would be great. Keep in mind the level of difficulty that these things. I am in no way a Photoshop wizard (my preferred method of manipulating images is MSPaint) but I am willing to learn.

See you on Saturday.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Year, New Term

I head back to class tomorrow. Really not looking forward to it. I didn't get to spend that much time with my girlfriend Theresa due to conflicting work shifts and other scheduling issues. My backlog of computer games is still massive and I don't like the idea of being unable to sleep in anymore.

This dog has no idea how lucky he is.

And how did I fare last term? Kind of odd actually. I found my Abnormal Psychology course to be interesting, the exams were picky but easy. My Developmental Psychology course I found was stupid and I messed up a lot of the earlier assignments due to careless errors.

So imagine my surprise when I did quite well in Developmental and completely screwed up Abnormal.

I don't even know what to say.

So this term I'm taking a course in Memory, another Developmental Psychology course, and more research. I'm really struggling with research as nothing I'm doing is working at the moment. The next stage of our experiment has been delayed for way too long but nothing I do seems to be working.

In the meantime I still need to send an appeal for that internship. Why is this internship so important to me? Several reasons. I want to get into grad school but thanks to a disastrous third year I'm not going anywhere fast.

There are two options for me: First would be to graduate and then do a 5th year to hopefully compensate for the third. This, isn't so great. I'm kind of tired of classes, losing money to tuition and studying for exams.

The second would be the internship. Work for a year, get money, experience, etc.. More importantly, there have been people in the past with much worse GPAs than me who got into grad school after they completed their respective internships. Coincidence? I think not.

Or it might be time for me to take off my tin foil hat.

Wish me luck, I don't think many people have read my first post and why I started this blog. But I think I know what I want to do now.

And getting this internship will make it that much easier for me.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Hollow Book: Part 1

One of my New Years resolutions asked that I try something new each month. So let's start with a DIY sort of project that I've been wanting to do for a long time: Make a hollow book.

I found these set of instructions online a long time ago but never had the time, effort, and motivation to actually get around to doing it. So I'm going to show you my progress (and potential failure) of my attempt to make one.

Here's the guide if any of you want to try it yourself.

So the textbook I'm using is an outdated, discarded volume of a Psychology textbook that I found lying around in the department. I made sure that it was a hardcover and that it was fairly thick (several hundred pages) because what's the point of a hollow book if you can't store anything in it?

So here's a picture of said textbook. My new phone is on top to give a sense of how big the book is:

And because I have tons of Psychology textbooks no one will look twice at this one.

After applying the first layer of glue I'm already noticing a few things that I'd do differently if I were to make a second hollow book.

Firstly, the pages are starting to warp and some aren't really sticking. At the moment I'm using a roughly 50/50 glue and water mixture. For anyone else doing this I'd recommend using 70/30 glue and water. This will probably help the pages maintain their integrity and stay together.

I also took a bit longer before applying pressure. I'd also recommend that you add the weight as soon as possible. Really compress the book as soon as you can before the glue starts to set.

Compressing the pages down with some of my other heavy Psychology textbooks.

I'll begin cutting as soon as the pages dry and make another post on this when I've made significant progress. If you guys find any other interesting projects like this give it a mention and I'll consider doing it in the future.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year, New Phone

I remember when I got my first phone 3 years ago. It was an LG Rumor, first generation. Even by the time I was getting it was bordering obsolete. But I didn't care, I was satisfied I'd finally be able to call and text people on a whim, due to the age of the phone I wouldn't have to pay any extra with a plan AND it had a physical keypad that slided out. Very important because I can't stand the touchscreen ones.

Fast forward a year and a half later and I'm wishing my plan would end already.

Even the keypad couldn't save it from its failings.

The problems were small but they continued to add up over time. First the battery had issues, the phone couldn't make up its mind on how charged it was. It would jump from full or 3 bars, to 1 bar, no bars, 2 bars, back to 3 and so on and so forth. The thing was that it loved pretending it had no energy even if I CHARGED IT THE NIGHT BEFORE. And it beeped every 5 seconds that it thought its battery was going to die.

And then the phone would suddenly shut down if you poked it every so slightly. Sometimes I would put the phone in my pocket, pull it out, and it would be dead. This resulted in a lot of missed calls and text messages. Other times I would slide the keypad out to type a text and the phone would go NOPE and shut down.

And of course the time the stupid phone almost cost me an interview.

Yes that is a phone going through a wall. Yes I wish that was my phone.

But fast forward to 2012. My plan has ended and that has allowed me to get something (hopefully) much better. I am the proud owner of a Samsung 551. It's an Android with touch screen capabilities AND a slide out keypad. Because I love being able to actually feel the keys when I press them.

I know it looks similar to the Rumor but I assure you it's not.

It's almost the same as the Samsung Gio except that the 551 has the keypad. So far I'm liking it. Still getting used to all the new functions and settings but I'm liking it so far. I haven't got any apps for it yet but I plan to soon.

Oh and before I forget. I have chosen my 4th resolution based on comments on my New Year's post. I'm actually combining D4's and Heddin's suggestions. So I'll be either reading a new book and/or finishing a game from my massive backlog of computer games per month.

And I eat too slowly so Mark's suggestion of eating flaming endangered animals becomes eating ash.

I'll see you guys Thursday.