Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dumbo: Lost in the Woods - #1: A Table to Free Another Table

For a very long time, the demand and the supply had been there, but there was no worker to work on it.

The demand: our kitchen (well, the kitchen of the house we are renting in Pantai Acheh) could use an extra table, to house some of the electrical appliances (oven, electric kettle, etc.) and also the clutter of things that was occupying more than half the space atop the dining table. My wife had always wanted the dining table to be relatively free of stuffs, so it can be used for all sorts of things during non-meal time, such as tutoring her pupils (for free; she doesn't give tuition, in line with the education department's current policy), doing her homework, etc.

The supply: a couple of ex-pat former colleagues of my wife had left for us some polished timbers (Andy was into woodcraft) that they couldn't bring home with them to their country, and I had reckoned that these should be just enough to make a medium-sized table (the legs will be a bit short; but with casters added, it should be just about the right height).

The worker: I, procrastinator.


One fine day, with no work at hand, I decided to give it a go. Finally.

(Actually, a couple of week before that, I had been raring to go at it, but at that time I found - to my horror - that my miter-saw - a manual one - had broken. Argh!!!)

First of all, I prepared the legs:

The table requires four legs (just in case you have never counted the legs of your tables, or throughout your life, all your tables had been the avant-garde types with weird-shape funny-number legs). Without the miter saw, it was quite a challenge cutting them square (right-angled, I mean). At least, they can stand on their own, so it wasn't so bad:

Then, the short horizontal "thingy" (I'm not a real carpenter, I don't know what they are called):

And the long horizontal "thingy" (you will understand what these "thingies" are for later):

The short "thingies" are for holding the legs together. This is for one side of the table:

Notice from the above photo that I was using a third leg to help ensure the squareness of the assembly.

Then for the other side of the table (I used the first frame to help square out the second):

I don't pound nails. I find that erratic and somewhat "irrecoverable" (it's far more easy to remove a screw if you made a mistake). I drill, and I screw. No pun intended. :-)

The next picture is not part of the assembly process. I was just putting the legs on the table top (upside down) to get a picture of how it will end up:

Now, the long horizontal "thingies":

And then put on the table top:

I did not have enough polished timber to make another two "long horizontal thingies", so I used unpolished ones I bought at a local hardware store. These are for providing additional support to the table top, which, althogh quite thick and strong, is nonetheless just plywood:

Add a caster (don't ever call it a wheel; it is not a wheel) to each leg:

And voilà! Almost done:

The last thing was to cut the corners (so it will not poke a child's eye or the vital part of a grown man with the right height) and to give it a rough polish (we decided not to paint it; maybe we will coat it with shellac later):

It looks real snug in that corner. Plus, there's a wall socket nearby for the intended electrical appliances:

There is an upgrade coming up - we want to make an additional rack out of those two horizontal "beams":

But that is for another day. Right now, we are just happy (my wife especially) that we finally have an additional table for free up the dining table. :-)


I suspect that one of my friends (you know who you are) is going to think of this saying when he first sees the title to this post: "A war to end all wars".

Don't say you didn't. ;-p

For me, I know of a death that ended all deaths... I shall forever love that man.

Dumbo @ Art - Chinese Seal #2: The Economy of Seal Carving

On the surface, seal carving may appear to be a moderately expensive hobby, with each stone costing upwards of RM 5 a piece (used to; must be much more expensive now, with the price of everything going up), and we are not even talking about the more expensive types of stone, such as tianhuang (田黄).

But the truth is, it is not an expensive hobby at all. After all, you can actually USE the end product. And it will further contribute to your other works of art (seals are typically used on Chinese brush paintings. That is, if you paint).

What's more, compared to watercolor (my other hobby, so to speak), if you spoil a piece of good watercolor board (upward of RM12 a piece some months ago), that's it: bye bye to the money spent; but if you are not happy with a seal, well, just sand away your mistake and start all over again. There is practically no way you can waste a piece of stone.


I have thus far made only one seal with my name. And to be honest, I wasn't happy with it. I had used a huge knife for the first time, and the crude outcome bore proof to how clumsily I handled the knife.

But I did not rework it immediately. I decided to just let it be until I feel in the mood to correct my mistake (haven't we all procrastinated on correcting some of our mistakes?).


One fine afternoon, I was finally in the mood. I had completed all my works at hand, and I was looking for something to spend the afternoon on. So, I decided to give that seal a new look.

It was originally done in yangwen (阳文, or zhuwen, 朱文), i.e., the characters are red (on the seal, the non-character parts are recessed); now, I decided it should be yinwen (阴文, or baiwen, 白文), i.e., the characters are white (on the seal, the characters are recessed).

Besides, I was still feeling a bit lazy. Yinwen (carving away the characters) is easier to do compared to yangwen (carving away the background).

And so, with not more than one hour of labor (I think), my seal - the only one that bears my name; but first name only, no family name - is given a brand new look, which I like much better (and may finally actually use):

You may notice here that the seal has some side inscriptions. But I'm not going to tell you what it says. Suffice to say that it bears witness to a phase in my life when I was a bit depressed-ish. It started as something in the line of 少年不知愁滋味,为赋新词强说愁。("[I was] young and not acquainted to sorrow, but for the sake of writing a poem, [I] pretended to be melancholic". These are two famous verses from a poem by 辛弃疾), but it became worse later, complicated by a love lost, and if God had not gracefully called to me to turn me away from the path of self-destruction, I would most certainly not be here reworking this seal. All praises to the God and Father of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a leisurely afternoon. :-)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #10: A Satisfying "Tub" of Yong Tau Foo

Last month, in a post, I lamented my mistake of eating at a bull* place. I had commented that I should have eaten a satisfying bowl of Yong Tau Foo (酿豆腐) at Golden Lake Hawkers Center (金湖饮食中心) in Relau instead.


Since then, I had eaten the Yong Tau Foo there twice, and on both occasions, I was made a very happy glutton indeed. :-)

What I like about this particular stall of Yong Tau Foo is the variety of "piggy stuffs" it provides: pig stomach (猪肚), pork belly (五花肉) and intestines (big and small). And I like the choice of available vegetables, too. I usually end up with more of the "piggy stuffs" and vegetables than what can be really considered "yong tau foo" (tofu, chilies, lady fingers, bitter gourds etc. stuffed with fish balls or minced meat).

And the soup base is nice. Not MSG-ish at all. I can usually drink up all the soup.

And for a huge "tub" of it enough to feed four persons (but, of course, I am capable of eating for 3), I was usually charged less then RM 15. The last time I was there, I spent only RM 11, for no less than what you see here.

My Cubicle

I only teach there part-time now, but the college is nonetheless gracious enough to reserve a cubicle for myself.

My cubicle used to be on the "dark-side of the moon" - not visible when you first enter the faculty office. But some time ago, there had been a re-arrangement of the cubicles, and now my place is in full-view as soon as you come into the office.

As a self-parody that I have "hopped over" the partition from the "dark-side" to the "bright-side", and also as some sort of self-motivation, I drew the following cartoon ("Overcome!") on the whiteboard of the cubicle:

The twist-dancing elephant is a later add-on. And some "nasty" colleague added the word "proot!" to indicate flatulence. :-) Oh, and the elephant is about to land on a poor mouse.

A Follow-Up to "The Tragedy of the Number 48"

In April, I experienced a somewhat "traumatic" event, chronicled in my blog post entitled "The Tragedy of the Number '48'".

Some days ago, the "tragic" event had seen some further development.


I had lunch with two friends in BJ Complex, and after lunch, I decided to go and see what has happened to the 50-inch tan-colored jeans I had liked (but couldn't wear, because it was two inches too big for me) during the last visit to Kamdar.

To my delight, I found out that it was being offered at a 50% discount! That meant buying this wonderful pair of jeans for just RM 29.90 (I say this as a challenge to a friend who always buys expensive clothes)!!!!

And what's more, it seemed to FIT this time!!!

So I bought it. ^^V


But remember, this is supposed to be a tragedy. So, even in happy ending, you should expect a little element of tragedy in it.

The thing is, I just finished lunch when I tried it on to see if it fits. Furthermore, denims stretch.

After wearing it for a couple of days, I found that it had somehow become looser and I can wiggle out of it again. So, I have to be extra careful wearing it, lest it slips off in public. =.=

Dumbo in the Kitchen - #2: What Every Bachelor Should Learn to Cook


A good, nourishing, satisfying pot of soup.


The other day, I bought two whole chicken legs and half a dozen chicken wings (I don't like chicken breast), a pack of fresh Shitake mushrooms, a "giant" white radish ("lobak", if you wonder), some green leafy vegetables, a pack of rice vermicelli ("beehoon"-lah) and some red chilies (for garnishing and for dipping with soy sauce), and set about preparing a simple but wholesome pot of chicken soup.

There is nothing much to do. Wash the washable ingredients (chicken, mushrooms, radish, chilies, vegetables), cut/chop what needs to be cut/chop (radish into medium cubes; mushrooms into slices; chilies into shreds; vegetables according to the size of your mouth - no kidding, but you should cut the vegetables later if it is not meal-time yet), boil up a pot of soup (about 6 medium bowls of water, or, whatever amount is needed to cover all the ingredients), then put in chicken, radish and mushroom (together, or with 10 minutes of interval between each, according to the listed sequence). Simmer till all the ingredients are nice and tender, and the flavors have been released into the soup. I usually use a thermal cooker (what the heck is it?) or a slow cooker to do the job.

The soup could be prepared well before meal time, if you use a thermal cooker; the wonderful little thingummy will keep the soup piping hot for hours. Slow cooker does the trick, too, but it is not as energy-conserving as the former solution.

When it's time for that romantic candle-light dinner, just soak the beehoon till it's a bit soft (not soggy!) then poach it in boiling water till you get the desired consistency (or what we chefs call "al dente"). Slight poach the green leafy vegetables, too.

Add the soup to the beehoon, add in the vege, sprinkle with a bit of shredded red chilies, and there you have it - a good bowl of beehoon soup to impress your lady friend (unless you have a different preference, that is):


If you are a bachelor (or if your wife doesn't enjoy cooking, as in my case), you should really learn how to make soups.

Take this soup for example: I prepared a huge pot of it in the morning; my wife and I had beehoon soup for lunch, then noodle soup for dinner (add a couple of poached eggs for variation), and all the while the soup remained hot in the thermal pot.

At night, before going to bed, I brought the left-over soup to boil, and put it back into the thermal pot. The next morning, 5 scoops of Quaker's instant oat in a small bowl, add the soup (you have to re-boil it, to properly "cook" the oat), and voila! A bowl of nourishing chicken-mushroom-oatmeal for breakfast:


Go get a thermal pot, dude.