Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stir-fry from Scratch

Tonight I made a stir-fry. I use pretty much the same recipe every time; it's based on directions from Vickey, so I can't really claim originality, but it works well. Onward...

The main distinction of this stir-fry is that the meat is not cooked in the wok itself. Rather, I always boil it first with slices of ginger, soy sauce, and, usually, some powdered garlic. Fresh garlic would work too, but the ginger is more important - I use fresh ginger roots. Previously, I've cooked sliced pork, stir-fry pre-sliced beef, and stew beef. The latter I won't use again, since it was both too tough and too fatty. Tonight I used chicken thighs - it worked marvellously. After a solid half hour of boiling, the chicken is soft, tender, and, crucially, fully cooked. Boiling it with sliced ginger and soy sauce gives it a subtle flavour.

After the chicken has been thoroughly boiled, I stir-fried it for a few minutes with cooking oil, some more garlic powder, soy, and shredded ginger. Next I removed the chicken from the wok, and started stir-frying the vegetables. In this case, I used cucumber, green pepper, Shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, and diced green onion. I added more shredded ginger, soy, oil, and water, in roughly that order, and let them cook, stirring regularly. I then readded the chicken. After about 15 minutes (and once the rice had finished cooking), it was done, with enough leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Winter Has Come

As evidenced by the picture below. It's cold. But not too windy, and, frankly, there really isn't that much snow. It hasn't even merited the use of my boots. The great concrete edifice visible behind the trees is the Math and Computer Science Building, colloquially referred to as "MC".

Actually, every single building at UW is referred to be its acronym: SLC, DC, RCH, ALL, CIF, and it goes on. You also often hear terms like "2B" or "3A" thrown around. Eventually I figured out that these refer to the class year and respective term (A for fall, B for winter, C for spring... I think - maybe it's just sequential without reference to the specific term.) I still haven't quite gotten used to the jargon.

In fact, I haven't gotten used to the city in general. It's maddeningly spread out and, lacking a car or (currently) a bike, I haven't been able to explore farther than Sobey's or the Valumart (Loblaws substitute) in what passes for a downtown here. (They call it "uptown Waterloo" so as not to give the impression that it's a particularly lively or interesting place.)

Fortunately, Toronto is but a short train/bus ride away...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Potter's Field

Apparently J.K. Rowling is lacking in money, and so is helping Time Warner quash a Harry Potter "lexicon" by a third-party author:
J.K. Rowling is suing the publisher of the Harry Potter Lexicon, which began life as a popular Potter blog, and wants a court to rule that she has the sole right to profit from the "descriptions, character details, and plot points" of the Potter tales. Now, a federal judge has issued an injunction against RDR Books to prevent them from completing the typesetting, selling the books, or even marketing it on
Sounds pretty money-grubbing and petty for a woman who has amassed a billion dollar fortune by writing a single book series of questionable literary value. Of course, it's not that simple:
"There is a big difference between the innumerable Harry Potter fan sites' latitude to discuss the Harry Potter Works in the context of free, ephemeral web sites and unilaterally repackaging those sites for sale in an effort to cash and monetarily on Ms. Rowling's creative works in contravention of her wishes and rights," says the federal complaint, filed late last month in New York. Rowling, it turns out, has long wanted to produce her own companion book to the popular children's series and donate the money to charity. She believes that the Lexicon would eliminate much of the demand for her product (because past titles with "J.K. Rowling" on the cover have sold so poorly).
No doubt it would eliminate much of the demand for her product. Who fucking cares. If she wishes to donate money to charity, she could surely part with some of her existing and undeniably vast fortune. It's not as if she's not making money from officially licensed merchandise, movie residuals, and God-knows-what-else.
The complaint repeatedly stresses that Rowling has not "authorized" such a work, though whether such authorization is even necessary will certainly be one of the key points in the case. The Lexicon is stuffed with plot summaries, maps, and the sort of minutely detailed timelines you'd expect from such an endeavor. It's a huge treasure trove of information of Harry Potter characters and the world they inhabit.
In other words, Rowling wants to deny the publisher of the aforementioned blog the right to profit from his own work in putting together plot summaries, maps, timelines, etc. A pertinent further quote:
I think she should be thankful that her amusing hackery is even getting the same recognition as LOTR or Narnia.
Thank you Judy. I like reading the Potter series. They're entertaining, despite Rowling's often hackneyed plotting (does every book need to end with one character explaining the big mystery in one dialogue or flashback scene? She even does this in Deathly Hallows.) and the increasingly annoying behaviour of one Mr. Harry Potter.

But as literary works they certainly fall short, and they are far from the best fantasy around, even among youth-oriented fantasy (I haven't read Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series for well over a decade, but the images and characters have amazing staying power. Wonderful books - just avoid the recent movie adaptation.)

So what's next for Rowling? Suing authors who want to use the Philosopher's Stone as a MacGuffin in their stories? Ludicrous.


As I may have mentioned, I am taking Chinese (Mandarin) classes. In the spirit of Judy's Korean posts, I will attempt to review what I have learned here. With any luck, I'll be able to figure out the pinyin (the formal romanization) rendering in HTML, but we'll see. For now, it suffices to know that there are four emphasized tones in Chinese, a high even tone (1), a rising tone (2), a "reverse" tone which drops and then goes back up even higher (3), and a falling tone (4). There is also a "neutral" tone which takes no emphasis. It takes some time to get used to these tones, but fortunately I'm past having to recite the pinyin table repeatedly (think reciting syllables repeatedly at each tone - boring). So, here's a quick lesson of how to say hello to someone:

Ni(3) hao(3).

This simply means "hello" or "hi". It literally means, "you are well", but the appropriate way to respond would be simply to repeat the phrase. On the other hand, if you say,

Ni(3) hao(3) ma?

Literally, "how are you?". When someone says this, you should actually respond. If you're doing well, you'd say, "I'm well", or

Wo(3) hao(3).

Or you've doing very well, you'd say,

Wo(3) hen(3) hao(3).

At this point, you should ask how the other person is doing,

Ni(3) ne?

In this case, "ne" is simply a question particle which means that you're asking the same question to the other person. If the first person isn't feeling so well, he might say,

Wo(3) bu(4) hao(3).

"Bu(4)" is simply the negation adverb and functions much the same way as "not" in English. And I think that's about it for now.