Monday, 4 March 2013

"The Cut" and the fruit trees of Kampong Chai Chee


Recently I chanced upon Koh Hong Teng's THE CUT on the SingaporeMemory project, a beautifully illustrated comic about kampong living in Chai Chee. When I got to the end of the comic, I suddenly realized that it was, rather coincidentally, about the area I was living in. I recently moved to Kembangan, and have been taking afternoon walks around the neighbourhood (see the Lengkong Empat blog for more). One of my goals on my walks has been to locate the overhead bridge over the PIE (Pan Island Expressway) so that I can walk to the other side of Bedok and maybe even walk to Bedok Reservoir.

The other day, while in search of the bridge, I walked to a dead end from which I could see a big portion of the expressway behind the trees that lay behind, but there was no human access or bridge at that particular end. And after reading THE CUT, I feel compelled that the jungly dead end point I walked to was probably very close to the area described by the narrator -- the part of the PIE next to Bedok North, on the side of where the alleged site of the former Chai Chee Hill ought to be.

For me, walking to that fenced-up dead end felt a bit like Koh's childhood self peering through the fences, except instead of seeing the exotic remnants of the soon-to-be-rendered-obsolete pig farming industry, behind the fence there is just a big steel highway that I can't cross, in place of it.

I wonder if any of the many fruit trees illustrated in THE CUT have survived the massive changes to the area.

Read Koh Hong Teng's THE CUT on the Singapore Memory Project

View Kampong Chai Chee in a larger map

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Bell Pepper Soup Spaghetto

[Post migrated from]

We are taking our food to the next level. We are starting our experiments with agar and alginates (spherification). We received various strange white powders in the post and combined it with a syringe and tubing kit brought from Singapore. The first thing we made was Bell Pepper Soup Agar Spaghetto.


We roughly cut 3 bell peppers, a few cloves of garlic, some onions, and a liberal sprinkle of paprika, and fried them until they caramelised. We fried it hard. Then we added water and one vegetable stock cube and put it into a pot. We continued to simmer this for half an hour.


Then we blended it. Here is the sous chef assisting with the blending process. We blended it in batches because we were blending boiling hot ingredients. A cloth held on top of the lid helped prevent accidents. At this point we already had an awesome soup. We ate a bowl of it and agreed that it was already awesome. We could have called it a day at that point; we could simply eaten all the soup, but we had much bigger ambitions for our soup.


Next, we mixed 300g of soup with 6.4g of plain white Agar Agar powder. This was based on a random unattributable calculation I had found on the internet stating that 150g of liquid should be mixed with 3.2g of Agar to jellify the liquid. Actually I can't recall where I read it or why I thought it was accurate. Anyway. It sounded like a plan. We loaded up the syringe and tubing with agar soup, doused the tube in a wok of cold water for 2 minutes, and then tried extruding it.

But hold on. Let me explain something here before we go further. When we started cooking, I had envisioned making a beautiful, smooth red pepper soup and a bright red spaghetto. But when I opened the fridge I realised that the sous chef had purchased Assorted Peppers instead of Red Peppers, so half the bell peppers we had were green. No big problem, so we made a slightly brown coloured soup instead then. Yeah, the brown, it would be a completely acceptable colour for a soup, why would anyone say otherwise?

Photo by georgepooney

Okay, but maybe it did remind us of something else in the end. Especially when our first attempts were slightly watery and admittedly extruded with a bit too much flatulence. We did not have a cheesecloth with which to strain the soup of its larger fibrous material, and this material was probably was interfering with its ability to gel uniformly. So I adjusted the amount of agar to 10g and reheated the soup before attempting the extrusion process. For your information, Agar turns solid at around 35°C and returns to a liquid form at 85°C.

Photo by georgepooney

This time the extruded Spaghetto looked acceptable. After we wiped the tears away from crying-laughing at our initial flatulent extrusions, and after we coiled our one single painstakingly-made Spaghetto into a shapely form, we settled down to eat our soup, now in jelly spaghetto format. We would be lying if we said it went down smoothly, because jellied soup does take some getting used, but the point of this entire endeavour was, of course, to make challenging food and that would run contrary to the ordinary notions of how food ought to be prepared and served, and this we had accomplished.

Apple's Beginner Guides to iOS Development

My First iOS App

Yesterday I went to a Introduction to iOS/Objective-C class. I was one of maybe two or three girls in a room full of male developers, male college students, and a few slightly confused male startup founders. Oh and an amazing older taxi driver uncle sitting next to me who managed to follow most of what the guy was saying, probably better than me. Mostly. Well, some of it. Or actually I'm not sure how much of it, actually he was tiling the background of his app with a picture of a shiny sports car. It was awesome! But hang on, what were we supposed to be doing again?

I myself could scarcely follow what on earth the instructor was saying, despite actually having a go at documenting the steps taught to us during the class. I guess the problem was that, having taught Actionscript before, as I sat through the class, I found myself thinking of all the ways I felt he was telling his students about small, irrelevant things that would raise many more questions rather than allowing the students to follow through the delivered lesson with a broader and more meaningful understanding. I don't think I like programming lectures - I didn't learn Actionscript by listening to a lecture, I learnt it by having a desire to build very specific projects and to acquire the practical skills to build them on my own, and then trying and failing and trying until it got built. I would never say that I'm particularly strong at programming, but on the other hand, being a great, experienced programmer also does not necessarily translate to being able to teach or explain programming to other people...

I often wonder, why aren't there more approachable and accessible programming classes in schools? How do we get people here to spend a bit more effort and time thinking about what constitutes good programming pedagogy? I think learning programming is a practical and essential skill. Its like how if one has to eat meat, then one needs to face up to the fact that an animal has to be killed in order for you to eat it, and maybe the next logical step is to actually get involved with seeing how animals are slaughtered for meat. Similarly, if one has to use mobile devices or computers or the Internet on a daily basis, then one should at least have some idea of how all these things are put together!

So I went home and had a far better time following these excellent online guides from Apple's Developer site on my own (I highly recommend them and they're free):

Start Developing iOS Apps Today: A road map
Creating your first iOS app (Introduction to Xcode and iOS design pattern fundamentals)
Creating your second iOS app (How to use Storyboards)
Creating your third iOS app (iCloud document storage APIs)

Nerd Burlesque

I recently discovered a bizarre subgenre known as Nerd Burlesque. Basically, take a bunch of stereotypically "nerdy" interests such as scifi and superhero books, comics and shows, and multiply it with Burlesque. NERDY BURLESQUE seems the perfect vehicle for a nerdy interest, in concept, if one takes the original "caricaturing" meaning of the word. Nerdy boys and nerdy girls can both have lots of fun with the idea. I'd imagine it to be a bit like the American answer to Cosplaying. You want Star Wars Burlesque? Dr Who Burlesque? Alien Burlesque? Zelda Burlesque? Giant D20 dice Burlesque?? THE INTERNET HAS IT ALL.

Look, its Dalek Burlesque.

But this was the last straw in a night of desultory internet surfing, this Dalek Burlesque video in particular, which is more or less an almost idealised sexy tattooed girl doing a striptease whilst being initially dressed as a supervillian mutant robot. There's one thing I never understood about "Burlesque" today - it does seem that a lot of burlesque today can be reduced to one main thing: a striptease act. One of the interviewees in this "report" of Nerd Burlesques even says so. Nerds doing stripteases? But... in particular, a kind of striptease performed by a (most probably) middle-class, (probably) well-educated woman? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems a little bit like how "pole dancing" classes is taught to middle-class office women because they're supposed to be "empowering" or a "celebration of the female form" or some "personal exploration or expression", or something along those lines (I don't strip or pole dance, so if you do, you tell me). But I mean, if you're a working-class pole dancer/stripper, and if your work is in an actual strip club, the stripping and poledancing would be cast as a separate thing altogether. I don't know. What do other people think? I'd honestly be more excited by the Nerd Burlesques that are a clearer matter of performing/reforming or satirizing gendered stereotypes/identities such as this next one:

Nerd Burlesque

Also this whole thing about "Nerd Culture". Isn't a lot of it still about pop culture consumption? I suppose that by most people's standards I have pretty "geeky" interests but in my adult life I have had no interest in prolongedly following any series, movies sequels, or books. I just find that it is more fun to make my own odd-shaped stuff rather than to spend all day consuming pre-made stuff in fixed formats. After all, there still seems to be an endless number of things that I would like to make...