Much Cookery

CameraZOOM-20140709105709126Taking a break from the tales of California I wanted to write about my job as cook during the day. Since both of my parents work during the week from about 7:30 to 5:00 we are required to prepare our own food. The summers before and the beginning of this summer’s meals included those which are quick, easy, and are usually awful for you. Some of these are instant ramen, frozen chicken nuggets and fries, and lots of salty chips and crunchy things. After the first eight or so weeks of eating these foods in varying orders and amounts with but a few decent meals thrown in I began to think, “Why should I make these cheap, quick foods everyday when I decent tasting meal would only take few CameraZOOM-20140711114607300minutes more to prepare and cook. So the next day I got out a pan and make myself, and Nicholas, some fried eggs and toast. The next day I did the same but changed some variable to make the eggs turn out better. I downed the heat and put more oil in the the pan before. In a couple days I made some eggs I would be happy to get in a restaurant so I made some bacon to go along. I felt really good while making these things. I really enjoyed to just try and make it as best as I could and it helped that when I made some for Nicholas, and later Alexander, the (acted like… :P ) they really appreciated it. But eggs and bacon everyday gets boring very quickly. I remembered one time I saw an article about ramen “hacks”. In CameraZOOM-20140708135154661essence a ramen “hack” is augmenting your ramen noodles to make it more substantial with vegetables, meats, and even egg. There were countless recipes to make your boring ramen noodles into a masterpiece. My eye was caught bye the ramen egg drop soup recipe and attempted to make this. It… didn’t turn out how I liked but it did lead me to make actual egg drop soup. That actually turned out excellently! I was just chicken broth, whipped egg (white and yellow), white pepper (and I also like a touch of black pepper), green onions, and cornstarch (as a thickener). The trick I didn’t understand when crafting the ramen egg drop is that you don’t leave the egg boiling for more than a couple seconds after putting it in or it will scramble and thats not how egg drop soup is. I made the egg drop soup a few times after that and I plan to make it much more in the future (college?) as it is very easy and VERY tasty. I also tried some other dishes, some which ICameraZOOM-20140708085024161 kind of just made up myself. A few examples of these are pan-fried gnocchi and tomato sauce. That was great and it was a perfect finger food snack. And next was ramen egg stir-fry. This was egg whipped into a pan of frying ramen noodles with garlic, shallots, and lime… Mmmm. I want to learn more and more meals and tricks to make my own so when the time comes when food stops magically appearing on the the table I can still eat well. :D

Onions : The Mysterious Vegetable

Today, I was chopping some onions when I started to wonder about onions (particularly about why they make you cry). But after looking up the answer I found that there is a lot more to learn about onions then I previously thought. Onions have a long history and lots of different uses than just food during those times. And the onion is also a very widely used vegetable today all over the world.

The onion’s Latin name is Allium cepa. The actual onion plant (also known as the bulb onion) is not known in the wild but after at least 7,000 years it has been selectively bred. 220px-Cortando_cebollaMost onion plants can grow to be 45 cm tall. The actual onion that you buy in the store is formed when the plant matures and the food reserves in the roots grow larger causing the bulb is grow in size. And to answer my original question when onions are chopped they release a compound that irritates your lachrymal glands in your eyes causing your eyes to water.

Bulb onions are supposedly thought to be a food source since the ancient Egyptian times. The workers that built the pyramids are thought to have eaten onions and radishes. And traces of onions were are found in other Bronze Age settlements. The ancient Egyptians ancient onioneven worshiped onions as a symbol of eternity and many pharaohs were buried with onions in their tombs. But onions were not only widely used in the ancient Egyptians times. In ancient Greece athletes ate huge amounts of onions and Roman gladiators rubbed them on their skin to strengthen their muscles. But this was not all in the Middle Ages, onions were of such high value that people would even pay rent with onions. Onions were also prescribed by doctors to help with headaches, snake bites, and even hair loss.

Skip forward in time to the colonization period. Settlers brought onions on boats to the New World only to find that the native people already used onions in many ways. And in the 16th century onion were used by doctors to help with infertility. Doctors even used onions of dogs, cattle and other animals to help with fertility but soon found out that they made a mistake and that onions are toxic to many animals like dogs.

Onions were used in many different ways in the past and even today they are used in a variety of ways that are not culinary. Because of their large, naturally-pigmented cells they onionare used in science for teaching how to observe cell structure with a microscope. Onions can also be used as insect repellent, polishing glass, preventing rust, and many other ways.

One of the worlds largest onion consumers is Libya with an average of 30kg of onions consumed per person annually. The worlds largest producer of onion is China with an average of 20 metric tons produced each year. And on a larger scale, it is estimated that 9 million acres of onions are grown on Earth each year and 170 countries grow onions.

After learning so much about onions it opens up my mind to a whole different way of looking at onions or any fruit or vegetable for that matter. It just shows that there is more about something you eat that you know.

Governor’s Honors Program II.

1551670_827685047264664_760009665976883182_nIn the way the academics of GHP was structured, there were two different “periods.” For four and a half hours starting at eight o’clock in the morning, we had majors. This was what we were nominated for, so I had the Latin major. The first week consisted only of majors, but on the second week and on we had minors. Minors were two and half hours long starting at noon.

Technically the minors were supposed to be academic, however I thought that perhaps it would be more fun to something less class-like for two hours a day. I’m glad that there was no audio production like I was hoping (well still a little sad) because I interviewed and was selected for the Fitness minor. It sounds kind of lame, like, “Why would you do Fitness at smart camp?” Considering the main point of GHP was to make connections with similar students with lots of potential, it really helped me make new friends. Plus we did some cool things like ropes course and archery.

“Wizards!”

The ropes course may have been a little on the lean side when it came to actual high elements, but it was still an enjoyable experience because of my Fitness family. It was a two day activity. The first day was a bunch of low to the ground “team-building” activities like a log tied to two poles, or a log on the ground. They were somewhat tedious but it was interesting challenge to complete some of them. In one challenge we had to balance 20 people on a log swing standing up.

The great part though was the high elements on the second day. We were all given the instructions and all that jazz, and then we put on harnesses and “lobster claws.” The way up to the course was a large rope net that you had to climb. I scaled this easily and got to the next part before Elizabeth and Sarah, the others in my group. Then we had to cross a bridge on which the planks were very far apart. After that, we climbed across a thin wire with only hanging ropes to help us across. When we finally got to the zip line, we were hooked up and then we waited. After yelling, “Zippin’!” I pushed off from the pole and slid down the rope at a pretty comendable speed.

“One! Two! Three!”

Stargate SG-1

Lately I have been watching a television series called Stargate SG-1. It is a science fiction show based off of the Stargate movie. It is a really intriguing show that has some sense of stargatehistory in it as it includes the Egyptian gods (or at least the representation of the Egyptian gods in the show as a evil race of parasitic aliens called the Goa’uld). The show also gives pretty thought provoking explanations for legends. For example, in the show the Norse gods were a race of aliens called the Asgard that had ships that could produce storms and  an object called Thor’s hammer which rid the Goa’uld of its host with a blue beam of light.

Now for some background information on the show. The whole show is based around an object called the Stargate. The Stargate is a space travel device that creates a wormhole between two Stargates and transfers objects through that wormhole. The Stargate was created by a race of people called the Alterans, who were the predecessors to the human race. The Alterans placed Stargates all around the Milky Way Galaxy and the Pegasus Galaxy as transportation devices.

Now that you know about the background of the show, I will tell you about the members of SG-01SG-1 (Oh, and by the way SG-1 stands for Stargate-1 which is their team number). The first member I will tell you about is Colonel Jack O’Neill. He is the leader of SG-1 and is played by Richard Dean Anderson. He was one of the first people to go through the Stargate and is just an overall funny character.

Then, there is Dr. Daniel Jackson. He is the archaeologist that first discovered how the Stargate works and he is played by Michael Shanks. He went through the Stargate with Jack for the first time after he found out it was a transportation device and discovered an address of another Stargate on a planet called Abydos, which is named after the city in Egypt called Abydos.

Another member of the team is Captain Samantha Cater. She is a astrophysicist who is played by Amanda Tapping. In the show, she studies the Stargate and is a very valuable part of the team.

Last but definitley not least is Teal’c. Teal’c, meaning strength, is played by Christopher Judge. He is a jaffa (a warrior for the Goa’uld who carrys an infant Goa’uld inside them) who was born on a planet under the rule of a Goa’uld system lord named Cronus. His father betrayed Cronus and was killed. Teal’c and his mother were banished to a planet chulakunder the rule of a different system lord named Apophis. Teal’c vowed to become the strongest jaffa and become the first prime of Apophis so he could get revenge on Cronus.

Teal’c never believed that the Goa’uld were gods and he wanted to free his people from the slavery that they were in. When Colonel O’Neill and his team visited Chulak (the planet Teal’c was banished to), and found Teal’c they convinced him to join them and then together they would free his people.

Of all the characters, Teal’c is my favorite. He has a very strange sense of humor that cracks me up every time. And overall Stargate is one of my favorite TV shows. It is a great show that never get old even after 10 seasons!

Doughnuts to Dolphins: Part 2

CameraZOOM-20140619121915732The first “planned-before-hand” activity I had on my trip in California was an “ocean voyage” to go see whales and dolphins who, I found out on the voyage, are actually whales as well. The day of the trip started with a long drive all the way down to Long Beach were the dock from we would be departing was located. The trip down was like all the others but once we finally arrived the harbor was really nice. There was a cool breeze and there weren’t too many people wandering around. The parking lot was also quite intriguing; there was green accented parking spaces just as thereCameraZOOM-20140619122217864 were blue for handicapped. These green parking areas had car-charging stations next to them which I found really neat since I had not seen one before. We went up to check in before the ship CameraZOOM-20140619122346026left but had to wait about an hour. There wasn’t much to do so we just bought a couple drinks from a vending machine and waited around until it was time to get on board and head off. Once the time finally came for us to board we showed our tickets and walked on. I went up to the top floor first thing and got a great seat near the back of the ship with a great view. The exiting of the harbor area was slow and steady as not to run in to anything or anyone but itCameraZOOM-20140619124200671 was still fun. We got a great view of the RMS Queen Mary which is a retired British ocean liner that was converted into a troopship during WWII. Anyways, when the boat got out to the open ocean it started picking up speed. The wind started running against the ship and it felt like we were flying. I really loved the boat ride itself but CameraZOOM-20140619142751137of course we were there to look for whales which sadly we didn’t get a sight of any. We did see dolphins and birds and sea lions which made up for the lack of whales. We were on theCameraZOOM-20140619152624074 water for around three hours. For about one of those hours we were surrounded by a pod of dolphins but I couldn’t get any really good pictures of them because they surfaced and submerged very quickly. Towards the end of the ship ride I went to the CameraZOOM-20140619152639216back of the boat and sat on a little bench-like seat. It was nice and calming in the back I stayed there for the rest of the ride. This was an excellent experience. Everything went really well, we saw tons of dolphins, the boat barely had anyone on it, and there were snacks! This day also had many other fun things like buying some cherry pie and fish and shrimp from H. Salt. Yet another great Californian experience.

Governor’s Honors Program I.

It’s going to be hard to start anywhere but the beginning of this very long story. Four weeks is a long time to be away from home without contact from my family. It’s wasn’t four weeks of hardship by any stretch, but rather four weeks of *cough* life-changing experiences that I am extremely glad to have been a part of. It sounded so cliché when they told us what the weeks on Magic Square would be like, but in a strange way, it was true. There was no magic, no fantastical happenings that instantly changed my psyche; there was however a few important keystone moments that changed the course of the development within me that occurred during the Governor’s Honors Program.

My family and I packed up and headed down to Valdosta, Georgia the day before I was supposed to arrive. Sleeping at a hotel down there and only taking a short 10 minute trip to Valdosta State University was a good idea. Unpacking and setting up was ridiculously packed and sort of confusing. I had two bags of clothes and a bucket of stuff for my room. The room that was assigned to me was on the fifth floor so it was quite a trek to get everything up to the room. My parents helped me get everything set up and then they departed.

It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. I like being by myself. I caught up with my future roommate and then I headed out. The Student Union was my first destination. Before they left my parents got me some Zaxby’s chicken fingers. I sat and ate them while I conversed with some new and old friends. (Some of my fellow students from high school were participating as well.) The campus was very nice; sort of Florida but not enough to really be Florida.

One of the first things I did was get lost. No matter what you look like or how much you know, if you have a map, people will follow you. My posse and I never found what we were looking for as it was at the wrong time of day. After chilling for a while we rambled along to the induction speech at the auditorium.

The sky darkened without my knowing and eventually I was time to head back to the hall for hall check. After a long meeting I was time for sleep, which was welcomed, for I was almost dead tired.

Fireworks go boom!

Last Friday was the 4th of July and that means fireworks, lots of fireworks. I got a video of the fireworks show at Roswell Park. You can watch it here, but it is fifteen minutes long and you probably had an awesome fireworks show of your own. And just a warning if you do watch it I recorded it with my phone propped up against my backpack (I biked to the park), so every so often you may see and hear me re-adjusting my phone. OK, now onto the real story.

My 4th of July was a very exciting and different than usual. My day really started off when I I I went to have lunch with my family at Chin Chin. Not remembering that lots of restaurants would be closed on July 4th, we were disappointed when we arrived at Chin Chin and a sign said “‘Closed.”  We were think of alternatives when the idea was presented of going buffetto Sydney’s Buffet (we have not been there for awhile). All in favor, we headed to Sydney’s Buffet when we were again surprised. Sydney’s Buffet had been replaced by a Vietnamese-style buffet called Hy Buffet. We decided to give it a try and we were not disappointed. They had lots of different types of sushi rolls and I even ended up trying and liking frog legs. But that was not the end of my day. We were planning to see the fireworks show at Roswell Park, but instead of going by car (because of traffic), we rode our bikes to the park. But this was no ordinary bike ride for me. I have never rode on the road or areas with no sidewalk before. This made me a lot

fireworkmore observant as I had to be while riding near cars. I thought the ride was a lot of fun, but when we arrived at the park I had a certain sense of relief. I jogged 15 minutes with my brother, so he could finish his workout before the firework show started. It was amazing and I hope to do this again next year. The firework show was cool but I had some questions so here is “part 2″ of the article. While watching the firework show I started to wonder about fireworks. I wondered how do they work, where were they invented, etc. Well, I did some research and if you do not already know about fireworks here’s your chance.

Fireworks were invented in 7th Century China. Fireworks serve the same purpose as they did when they were invented. They were used to celebrate important and social chinese fireworkevents. Now you may be thinking, I know they are used for celebrations but what are fireworks?

Well, fireworks are a type of what is called an explosive pyrotechnic. Other types of pyrotechnics would include things like parts of airbags and safety matches. Fireworks are design to create four different effects: sound, light, smoke, and extra effects like confetti fireworks. As you probably know, fireworks can be displayed in many different colors like red, blue, green, yellow, white, etc. But something you may not know is how fireworks are made into these colors. Well, it involves a complex combination of elements like calcium, sodium, etc. Creating a list would be hard because it would be long and I do not know what goes into each color, but hopefully you understand the basis of how they are formed into different colors.

Before I researched fireworks, I really had no idea how they worked just that they came in a big cylinder that you could buy at a supermarket. But now that I learned about them I get the satisfaction of knowing what went into those fireworks every 4th of July (or any time I see fireworks) and this will probably be the start of conversation sometime in the future.

 

Doughnuts to Dolphins: Part 1

In the day following my expedition to the exhibition of Roland Reagan I continued to be entertained with brilliant and exciting things. Take this for example, a red velvet cake doughnut. All the taste and delight of a red velvet cake with the glaze and convenience of a CameraZOOM-20140615165724645doughnut. Excellence. I also took a short but memorable trip to the house and high school of my mother (who’s parents I was staying with). It was very interesting to see the world she lived in for a couple years before university. We even drove by the Seven Eleven she, apparently, spent much time at with her sisters. Those little things are what made the trip very rewarding. But the fun did not stop there. When we returned home we began grilling some kebabs! On them we skewered shrimp, tomatoes, peppers, onions, chicken, and more. CameraZOOM-20140616180240729It was served with some microwaved jasmine rice that turned out surprisingly well. The shrimp and chicken were goldened and crisp and the onions were cooked enough for the sweetness to emerge that doesn’t happen enough with onions in other dishes. I rested well compared to the night before because I was starting to get used to the time change. The next day was just as great! We traveled long and far to Tokyo… Little Tokyo that is. It was a great little part of Los Angeles with ramen shops and gift stores. It even had a Japanese Cultural Center (which was closed… darn). We stopped at the visitor center to pick up a map and the lady bombarded us with four our five magazines and pamphlets about the city. We picked out a real nice sushi andCameraZOOM-20140617124441171 bento place as we walked down the street and into the “village market square”. I ordered a teriyaki chicken bento box with all the usuals inside and a California roll on the side (which sadly didn’t taste any better than the other California rolls I have had in the past despite being made in California). We ate and ate, as it seemed, forever. Until I gobbled down my meal and finished as much as I could from the left overs of my grandfather’s bento. We walked out of the restaurant pounds heavier it seemed. There were still many more places to visit in Little CameraZOOM-20140617131928242Tokyo. We went into one of the numerous gift shops around the center. There I purchased a mug with pictures and names of many of the most popular sushi served in, a pair of trusty chopsticks, and a Hi-Chew (how could I not). Close to that shop was an “authentic” (it looked so) Japanese supermarket with all the things one would need for a Japanese meal, Pocky and instant ramen. Closer to the other side of the square was a little place that sold tee-shirts with the covers of famous literature on it. This wasn’t very Japanese but I stillCameraZOOM-20140617131543063 though it was cool. That actually lead us to watch The Little Prince on NetFlix the day after. Finally we went to the Cultural Center (which we THEN learned was closed) to see the Zen garden they had built. It was odd that there was this vast garden with little rivers right smack in the middle of LA. But that’s not the best thing about the center, no. It was the Ukulele (oo-koo-le-le… not yoo-ka-lay-lee) Cafe. It was half Uke shop and half coffee shop. It was a match made in heaven. Someone was getting private lessons while sipping a coffee as I tried out some of the ones I liked. This was one of my favorite days on the trip.

P.S. Yes, I know I didn’t talk about the dolphins… I will next time. I just couldn’t give up on the alliterate and creative title above. :D

The Grand Strategy Awakening

A couple years ago I got a game called Europa Universalis 3. It is a grand strategy game where you take control of a country around the 1400′s. I will get more in depth about the game later.  It was my brother Connor’s favorite game (before Europa Universalis 4, which is what this article is about was released). I liked it, but I never really got into it because I thought it was too hard because I was too young to be able to grasp all the aspects of it. But just recently I got Europa Universalis 4 (after being convinced by Connor), and I am really into it.

So, like I explained briefly Europa (for short) is a grand strategy game based in the timespan from the very late 1300′s to the early 1800′s. In this game you can choose a starting date manually or choose one of the preset exciting points of time like the hundred SPAinyears war to start from. With your time all set, you can now choose any country from a map of what countries existed then and what they looked like as the country you will play as. When you click on a country it gives you a brief explanation of what the country is like then with a list of who they are allied with, who are their vassals or if they are a vassal, if they are at war or not, or if they are in a personal union. Now with your time set and your country selected you can start the game.

The game can be pretty confusing but I’ll explain what you can do with your country and some examples of interesting events that could happen. Personally, I like to choose a big and interesting country like France, England, or Castile to start as, so lets say I choose England. Historically, England had a strong navy, so I start with what is called an Idea offleet Navy Technology. Each well-known country starts with a technology. For example: France starts with Army Technology and Venice starts with Trade Technology. So back to England. I just started the game so I need to work out my early game decisions like choosing allies (if I do not have any), rivals, and advisors. You know the complicated stuff that I probably do not want to get to into depth because then you will probably lose interest, so I’ll get on to what you can really do in this game. With your country, you can control many aspects like production, diplomacy, trade, etc. The most interesting part of the game in my opinion is diplomacy. This includes all the decisions about what you will do with other countries.

So lets setup a little example about my diplomacy with France. I am England and we don’t have that good relations, so I probably will not be able to get an alliance or royal marriage and I can not go to war with them just yet because I have no good reason and I will lose relations with a lot of countries and England would lose stability which brings rebels and in the big scheme of things it would probably go very bad. Now I am probably getting kinda confusing here but that is exactly what I wanted. I want to show how I have to use my brain to make all of these decisions in this game and that is what I love so much about it. And to even add another bonus I can play this game with Connor, so we can work together to help each other out. For example I have a game setup with Connor right now where I am France and he is Venice. I can help him in wars since he does not have that great of an army, but he can help me out when I have financial troubles in a war because he is a trade based country.

So just to wrap things up, I now see why this is Connor’s favorite game and it is now mine too.