elb's hovel of thoughts

Monday, March 28, 2005


An observation:

Both the huge quakes to hit Muslim majority Indonesia did so on two very 'peculiar' dates - the days after two of the biggest days on the Christian calendar - after Christmas, 26 December 2004, followed by the day after Resurrection (Easter, if you prefer) Sunday, 28th March 2005.

Religious conspirationists would be having a whale of a time.

p.s. An earthquake is nothing more than the rumbles of ecstasy of our planet having an orgasm.

Interview with earthquake 'survivor'

The following is an interview with a survivor, a young sexy lady who resides somewhere in the Klang Valley

P: What were you doing before the tremors struck?
L: I was sitting down painting my artwork.

P: What happened?
L: Suddenly I felt my my whole body shaking.... my chair and myself were shaking.. later on, my table and the cup of water on it and the floor as well. *winces*

P: What was your first thought?
L: I thought to myself,"What the fuck.. dont tell me there is going to be another tsunami or earthquake in Selangor or Kuala Lumpur"

P: What did you do immediately?
L: Nothing. I was frozen. I just sat until it was all over.

P: How about other people?
L: I heard people screaming and car alarms went off!

P: People screaming? Do you stay in a house or a high rise?
L: In a little dainty house

P: Was it powerful enough that anything fell?
L: Nope, but I felt that it was quite powerful....

P: Did anything manage to move?
L: My cup of water did... a few centimetres

Thank you to the sweet young thing for participating :D


Got reports from friends in Penang and Kedah and even further south in Kuala Lumpur that they felt tremors just a few minutes ago. Be careful! Earthquakes of these power are almost certain to produce a tsunami, it is just a matter of how powerful it is

Update: Contrary to people's claims, the earthquake is not as powerful as the last one. It is a 8.7 (Updated! as of now) compared with the 9.X of the Boxing Day earthquake. You are just feeling it stronger because its further south east of that quake.


Magnitude 8.2 - NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA2005 March 28 16:09:37 UTCPreliminary Earthquake ReportU.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information CenterWorld Data Center for Seismology, Denver
A great earthquake occurred at 16:09:37 (UTC) on Monday, March 28, 2005. The magnitude 8.2 event has been located in NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

Monday, March 28, 2005 at 16:09:37 (UTC)= Coordinated Universal Time Monday, March 28, 2005 at 11:09:37 PM = local time at epicenter
2.093°N, 97.016°E
30 km (18.6 miles) set by location program
203 km (126 miles) WNW (282°) from Sibolga, Sumatra, Indonesia246 km (153 miles) SW (228°) from Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia422 km (262 miles) SSE (154°) from Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia533 km (331 miles) WSW (258°) from KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia
Location Uncertainty
horizontal +/- 6.1 km (3.8 miles); depth fixed by location program
Nst= 65, Nph= 65, Dmin=535.9 km, Rmss=0.85 sec, Gp= 61°,M-type=moment magnitude (Mw), Version=6
U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information CenterWorld Data Center for Seismology, Denver
Event ID

Hammer mill

One of the important bits of processing cereals is milling; whereby the grain is either crushed into flour (dry milling) or into a mushy pulp (wet milling) before being processed further. An example of a laboratory scale hammer mill is shown below.

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Picture taken with permission of Dr Wang, Satake Centre for Grain Process Engineering, University of Manchester's Institute of Science and Technology, UK

What happens is that the machine is closed and locked (you do NOT want your fingers to get caught with the rotating hammers; the mere sound of it spinning tells you to stay a foot away). The grain is then fed through the funnel at the top left centre of the picture; it enters the mill through the hole in the middle of the high velocity hammers. Then it gets smashed into smithereens; almost instantaneously the flour falls out into the sack below (filters, seen at bottom left, can be outfitted to ensure that only flour of a particular size falls through).

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Crystal mosque?

The Malaysian government announced plans to spend RM200 million - on an Islamic Civilisation Theme Park in Terengganu. The intent is fine, but the price tag seems excessive. Wonder why? Amongst the white elephants to be built include 'a floating crystal glass mosque on Sungai Terengganu'.

What a bloody waste of money! RM200 million for a park in Terengganu? Please! Does the mosque need to be of crystal?? Does it need to float??? I would feel so angry if I were a poor barely surviving man staying just a few kilometres away; seeing a bloody Swarovski mosque (just exaggerating with the Swarovski bit!) whereas I had to survive on cheap rice with watered down curry.

The money would serve the residents of the East Coast so much better if it is invested in their future, not some bloody stupid megawhiteelephant of a project. This is one of the most useless projects I've heard of.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Read prices properly!

While at Selfridges, I was looking around the food halls for something to get - and I saw a slab of foie gras (sorry for the lack of accents, my keyboard doesn't do them). It caught my eye - 18.99GBP per kg! For the split second where one makes the choice to go ahead with the purchase or not, the words 'per kg' were embedded in my mind.

I gave to the person serving me the order to give me 100g of the goose liver, which he did and promptly gave it to me sealed. I took it and walked off. Seconds later however, I had the urge to check to check the price, so I gingerly lifted the sealed plastic box and bent my neck and tilted my head. 18.99 pounds! Goodness gracious me, there had to be a mistake, surely!

There it was printed alongside on the price tag, 18.99GBP per 100 grams. Arghhhh! (note: such a price is indeed acceptable for foie gras, at least in London. Michelin star restaurants excluded for very obvious reasons.) For some reason, I had fooled myself into believing that somehow I had spotted a real bargain (read: 18.99 per kg, not 100 grams). So I decided I had to be rid of it, especially since I already had purchased some (albeit in a much smaller quantity) at Harrods just an hour ago.

I considered walking down one of the several dry-goods aisles and dropping off the package somewhere inconspicuously. Which I did at first, but a minute later I felt very guilty (the enormous price tag probably had a lot to do with it, but of course there was the feeling of wanting to do something right); I then retracked my steps and picked it up, and returned it to the counter, informing the lady there (the earlier fella was busy) that I just couldn't buy it and that I was sorry.

Admit it people, most of you have done it before! (the dropping off of goods at various other points of the supermarket; i.e. packets of meat mysteriously appearing admist bottles of ketchup, bread amongst the female toiletries, etc). But how many of us actually bother returning the unwanted goods, either because that aisle was too far, or simply because we could not bring our egos low enough?

p.s. Foie gras is French for 'fatty liver', in reference to geese liver (I think duck/pork/chicken liver is not allowed to used to the term foie gras), an expensive delicacy with an acquired taste. I'll blog about my first experience with foie gras some other time.

Krispy Kreme II

How could most people not go to Harrods and not resist the urge for a Krispy Kreme?

The sole reason why some people visit Harrods, as admitted by a friend of mine recently - "'I parked my car at Harrods and went in just to specially get my box of Krispy Kreme'

For me, an excuse to feed my starving tummy after a long 7 hours of browsing through the British Museum of Science & Technology.

So there I was, going through the food halls, and I saw that neon logo on the wall was lit - they're making fresh hot doughnuts! And the conveyor belt - yes, conveyor belt, they make that many - was churning doughnuts that were floating in the oil (that gives you an idea as to how healthy doughnuts really are).

We were given a free doughnut to try out, and I bought a couple more.

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A picture of the fresh yummy doughnut (compared with the cooled down versions here).

Malaysian food!!

I have been stuffing myself a bit the past few days with some yummy Malaysian food. Actually, more like food in general; I think I spent over 60GBP on food since Tuesday. Criky.

First up was nasi goreng, taken away from Penang Village at Manchester's Chinatown. Plenty of authentic Malaysian food here! Run by a Hokkien uncle who hails from Penang. It came with two beef satay (omg omg omg :D) sticks, which weren't mentioned in the menu, so that was a very nice touch. Tasted very very good eventhough it was microwaved cause it was cold by the time I got back to my friend's place. Better than the mamak stalls! 7GBP, if I remember correctly.

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The other two meals were purchased from C&R, one of a couple of Malaysian restaurants in London's Chinatown. Very very busy and popular place, had to wait to find a table. I missed char kway teow much, so I decided to get a serving. Yummy stuff, but came without cockles. Nevertheless yummy! Nasi lemak was taken away and I ate it on the train on my way back, but I was a bit disappointed (maybe because it was cold, plus the CKT was still partially digested) with it. Oh well.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

What's in the pocket of a lab coat?

Random stuff that from my experience can be found in the pockets of lab coats, in random order:

Pens (cheap and expensive)
Pencils (wooden and mechanical)
Floppy disks (I almost lost a few day's worth of research because I forgot about mine argh!)
Rulers (metal and wooden and plastic)
Sample bottles
Plastic pipettes and Gilson pipette tips
Paper (all kinds, from filter to scrap to notepad to graph)

But the worst of all has to be used tissues. Its absolutely disgusting when you stick your hands into the pockets and feel the tell tale feel of dry tissue crumpled into a ball. Goodness knows what bodily fluids, or even poisonous chemicals have come into contact with the tissue, Yuck yuck.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

July 20th 2005

A special day that would be! :D

Nothing too fancy however; it would just be my convocation. 16 years of education to be finally sealed with a wax stamp in a fancy piece of cardboard. It might be just the beginning though; I have plans to obtain another three within the next decade or so ;) A double Masters looks very likely, with the addition of an MBA in a few years; or goodness me, I might reverse my decision about not wanting to pursue a PhD :O

I have a nagging feeling that I would be overqualified.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Gastronomic soft spots

I have a weakness for seafood. Like salmon. However not just salmon in general - the soft spot is for cold smoked salmon and raw salmon. And not to mention salmon roe! Not to forget eel. Whether grilled Japanese style or a warm piece of smoked eel placed in a soft roll.

Or how about mantis prawns, ghost fish (soon hock yu, just in case you were wondering!), and mud crabs and soft shell crabs (fattening though the way they are cooked) and scallops and sea cucumber (when cooked properly) abalone and sharks fin (please don't shoot me :P) and jellyfish.

I have a weakness for snails. Especially when baked with tons of garlic and cheese.

I have a weakness for beef carpaccio. If you don't know what it is, it is paper thin slices of raw beef, usually with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Yum!

I have a weakness for pork with crackling. The Asian equivalent is called 'siew yoke'. Or how about pork cooked in black sauce? Or even better, bak kut teh (cuts of pork meat and offal cooked in a herbal 'tea') ?

I have a weakness for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The best ever doughnuts you could get!

I have a weakness for good delicious curry. The kind that you can soak some rice with, served on a banana leaf. The kind you eat with your hands and enter heaven for a brief moment. Or a good thick beef rendang to go with bryani rice.

I have other more common weaknesses with most people - junk food, french fries, burgers etc. Just to comfort those of you who think I have a weird (and probably expensive) taste in food ;) But of course, being able to afford them is another story altogether. Dammit I'm hungry.

What kind of food do you have a weakness for? Put it up and let us know! :)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Research = No life

This sucks.

Spending my time, from 10am up till 6.30pm, and even up to 8.30pm in the labs every single damn day, running all kinds of experiments from slurry preparation to pattern formation to viscosity measurements to particle sizing. Hardly any time to do any sort of analysis of the results I had obtained

And to think that I would be spending those kind of hours in the lab should I wish to pursue a PhD. Madness. A MSc would be more than sufficient, in my view now.

Unlike a friend of mine, she spends her time from 8.00am till 8.30am most days (it goes up to 11pm as well) in the department, researching the filtration of tea (don't laugh, the instant/ prepackaged tea industry is worth billions). She does this to try to reduce the length of her PhD to three years (her grant is for that length of time). Its fine I suppose, if you're interested in it (its surprising how time flies when you're doing stuff you enjoy). But she has no real interest in chemical engineering, preferring instead the more livelier (literally!) field of biochemical engineering.

But is the 'no life' as a result worth it? I don't exactly think so.

Fractal sample

Just thought that I would share a result of the current research I am currently conducting at my university as part of my degree course:

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This happens to be one of the better results I have managed to obtain; I might explain in a bit more detail, but for now I must get respite.

It is somewhat related to an earlier posting. Gotta love the pattern, I say ;)
Till next time.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


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Awesome stuff! Go and watch it if you haven't, over 20 hours of non stop action and tension per season (3 complete seasons are available, the 4th season is currently screening half way through in the states). Gonna try and wait for the DVD to be released before I touch the fourth season!