Table of Contents
Buying a Grill and Cooking at Home
I somehow managed to survive for 31 years without learning how to cook. Cooking always struck me as something complicated, arcane and unscientific. Taste is subjective, right? There were always plenty of cafes and restaurants around me, and nowadays, there is also a bunch of food delivery apps, so relying on that infra seemed like a division of labor thing: isn’t it better to allow specialists do their thing? I entertained the idea of home cooking a few times in the past, but I never really acted on it.
A few weeks ago, I stayed in a national park in central Thailand. It is a really nice place, and I was able to rent a nice tiny house nearby a river. This place don’t have access to restaurants and food delivery services, but it had a basic grill and a bunch of coals, so I was kind of forced to use it. Nothing fancy, just some meat from my cooler box. This little adventure has sparked my interest in cooking at home, and I started looking for a decent grill suitable for beginners. I also wanted my future grill to be compact enough to take it with me on my next trip.
I asked around and everyone agreed that I should buy a Weber grill. Weber seems to be the market leader, and it has a few cheap and compact charcoal grills. Some people prefer gas grills, but they are more expensive, and I don’t mind the hassle of using coal. Jumbo Joe seemed like an ideal model, except that it lacks embedded thermometer. Thermometers are super handy, and I really wanted to have one. Luckily for me, Asian variants of Jumbo Joe are slightly different from US ones, and they actually have built-in thermometers.
Once my new grill arrived, I couldn’t wait to test it. So far I tried:
Cooking those things turned out to be surprisingly easy and the taste wasn’t bad at all. I also tried to “reverse-engineer” my favorite dish from the local bar: fermented sausages. I found a pack of sausages which tasted exactly like the ones from that bar, for 25% of the price. It turns out, preparing food isn’t as hard as I thought it may be. It’s also much more scientific than I expected: it’s all about controlling heat and how it interacts with different foods in different environments.
Reading a manual was also insightful, and it’s really a kind of rabbit hole, I have many ideas which I want to test and experiment with.
Solar Panels in Thailand
During my last car trip across Thailand, I noticed a significant year-on-year increase in the amount of solar panels, which made me wonder if going solar is finally starting to be economically viable. Spoiler: it is, but there are some caveats. A 3 kW solar system without battery would cost you about $3,500, and it can cover about 35% of a total power consumption assuming you live in a small house with 3 air-cons, and you work from home so at least one or two of them are always on. For a bigger house, 5 kW system might be more appropriate, and it would cost you about $5,000.
Producing more energy than you consume is currently pointless because an energy company won’t buy it from you, so you need to store it somewhere. Batteries are very expensive, so I won’t even consider this route. My house consumes about 1,000 kW/h of electricity monthly, so a 3 kW solar system is expected to cut my bill by 350 kW/h. Assuming $0.12 per kW/h tariff, the monthly savings would amount to $42, so such a system would pay off in about 7 years. Your mileage may vary, but that seems to be the more or less realistic expectation. It would also be wise to add solar panel maintenance cost (cleaning), which is about $100+ a year.
So, the solar is great and promising, but it’s still pretty expensive. I don’t see a reason to switch to solar now, but I hope it will get cheaper in the future. The price of solar panels has decreased dramatically in the last few years, continuing a decades-long trend.
Second Moderna Shot
I expected a second Moderna shot to have fewer side effects, but it wasn’t the case at all. I felt like shit for a couple of days, but all the side effects vanished as suddenly as they appeared. Not sure if I want to get a third shot though. It seems pointless, at least for now, while we don’t have any vaccines effective against the dominant Omicron strain.
I had bought three mechanical keyboards recently and my favorite one so far is Keychron K8 with Gateron brown switches. The switches themselves took me some time to get used to, but I think they are pretty good. It doesn’t mean I won’t experiment with customizing it though, I really want to try different Cherry switches as well as custom key caps. The only thing I don’t like about this keyboard is the fact that it’s firmware is closed source, but it looks like Keychron will sell an open-source K8 pretty soon:
I don’t think I will buy it since I’m more or less happy with the current model, and I can probably try flashing some open source firmware on it anyway.
Book: My Disillusionment in Russia by Emma Goldman
Russia is a big puzzle for many foreigners. I’ve met a lot of people who did not like it, but there were also many folks who admired it. I can relate to both camps, but both love and hate towards Russia are often fueled by completely bogus assumptions. There are plenty of myths about Russia, and its autocratic rulers love to spread propaganda and misinformation. Emma Goldman fell victim of such a propaganda campaign to the extent that she decided to move to Russia, under impression that bolshevik party was attempting to build a marxist utopia. She is a smart women, and it didn’t take her too long to realize that Russia did not really change after the revolution, its new rulers turned out to be even more dishonest, cruel and vicious than their predecessors.
Overall, it’s an outstanding book. Here are a few quotes I find particularly interesting:
Two years of earnest study, investigation, and research convinced me that the great benefits brought to the Russian people by Bolshevism exist only on paper, painted in glowing colours to the masses of Europe and America by efficient Bolshevik propaganda
Another circumstance which perplexed me was that the markets were stacked with meat, fish, soap, potatoes, even shoes, every time that the rations were given out. How did these things get to the markets? Everyone spoke about it, but no one seemed to know
He preferred silence. Secondly, there was no medium of expression in Russia itself. To protest to the Government was useless. Its concern was to maintain itself in power. It could not stop at such “trifles” as human rights or human lives. Then he added: “We have always pointed out the effects of Marxism in action. Why be surprised now?”
It never occurred to them that the purpose of a revolution is merely to cause a transfer of possessions—to put the rich into the hovels and the poor into the palaces. It was not true that the workers have gotten into the palaces. They were only made to believe that that is the function of a revolution. In reality, the masses remained where they had been before. But now they were not alone there: they were in the company of the classes they meant to destroy
A small political party trying to control a population of 150,000,000 which bitterly hated the Communists, could not hope to maintain itself without such an institution as the Cheka. The latter was characteristic of the basic principles of Bolshevik conception: the country must be forced to be saved by the Communist Party
The new economic policy turned Moscow into a vast marketplace. Trade became the new religion. Shops and stores sprang up overnight, mysteriously stacked with delicacies Russia had not seen for years. Large quantities of butter, cheese, and meat were displayed for sale; pastry, rare fruit, and sweets of every variety were to be purchased
The means employed become, through individual habit and social practice, part and parcel of the final purpose; they influence it, modify it, and presently the aims and means become identical
Game: Wasteland 3
I finally had enough time to beat this game. As I noticed in a previous post, it’s pretty great. Well, at least it’s good enough to consume almost a hundred hours of my time, so be warned. It isn’t perfect though. The overall balance isn’t that good, and the game itself is pretty buggy. I really enjoyed the storyline though, and both official DLCs are great and full of funny twists.
Sadly, there aren’t many financial incentives to fix many annoying bugs in the traditional commercial game development model. It’s nice that some really great games get picked up and reverse-engineered by the open source community. The most successful example is probably OpenMW, a remake of Morrowind. It’s exceptionally stable, and the practice to fix bugs in commercial games on non-commercial basis isn’t unheard of. The original Vampire: The Masquerade was notoriously buggy, bit it still gets patches from the community, almost two decades after it was released.