Archive for Lifescape

Open box Origami

How to make a simple origami paper box


I’ve been constantly on the move lately, I did not have a proper desk and tabletop-furnishings to work with. Pretty much everything I use will be trashed when I leave for my next destination. As such, I did not want to buy anything if I could help it.

My work desk had been a mess with pens, rulers, pliers, beads, strings, needles, and miscellaneous art project materials scattered everywhere. Add the bits of rubbish from discarded cloth scraps, trimmed wires and ropes, and eraser dusts … I was running out of flat surfaces to work with.

So, I needed boxes. Small ones for beads and spools. Medium ones for pens and rulers. Big ones for pliers and cloths and paracords. Boxes that would fit on my desk and are free!

So, I thought I might as well re-use (aka up-cycle) the magazines and brochures (spam) from my snail mails. The ones from my alma mater and banks have nice glossy thick paper that makes pretty sturdy boxes. They also come in convenient sizes, such as A3 (by removing the staples from magazines), A4, and square (at least spam can be useful).

Next, I tried looking for a simple origami pattern to make boxes. There are many. Unfortunately, most produced boxes that were too small, about 1/8 the size of the paper. The one pattern that did not do so, had an uneven bottom. So, I fiddled around with A4 and squared-A4 papers to come up with my own design.

In the process:

  • I made myself many little wastepaper baskets and stationery containers.
  • No more hunting for little plastic bags for sunflower seed shells.
  • I learn how to draw simple origami crease patterns.
  • I finally found a good use for my phone camera.
  • I finally get around to learn how to use a video editing software.
  • I learn how to make instruction video (crappy but understandable, I hope).


Now, on with the origami box.

This design uses square paper. There are two possible ways to fold it using the same creases.

Design 1:

Corners are folded outside the box.


Crease pattern for design 1:


Video instruction for design 1:

Origami tutorial: Square open box (Part 1)

Design 2:

Corners are folded inside the box.


Crease pattern for design 2:


Video instruction for design 2:

Origami tutorial: Square open box (Part 2)


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I am old and I like it

I’ve gone from being the young fresh grad, up and coming, to the experienced, mentor. I’m not guru or sage. I’ll probably be the first to tell you there are a lot of things I don’t know and there are a lot of things I need to learn.

When I mix with colleagues who are on the ground, very likely, they are about 10 years younger than me. I am in a somewhat unique situation. I get to mix with the ‘younger’ generation without them realising I’m actually not one of their generation. I look and dress younger than my more mature contemporary peers. Yeah, I get flack for being childish and refusing to grow up and acting my age. So what? Read the rest of this entry »

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Extended tools – Muffin cups

I bought my first set of muffin cups when I was still a student back in 1995. It used it once to cook blueberry muffins in a toaster oven. I was the best muffin I ever had.

Muffin cups

Muffin cups

Then, the cups went into storage and stayed there till 2011. Just taking up space and adding to clutter. That’s how much use I made of my muffin cups. Well, this year, I vowed to make the most of my kitchen tools. Use them lovingly and as insanely often as I can. So when I move, I can trash them with a clear conscience that they had served their purpose in life and deserved their space in the landfill. Read the rest of this entry »

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There is Japanese Shinto Priest living in our Birdhouse

Every year, coming home for CNY is like an adventure tour. My dad likes to try out new plants and there’s always something fruiting, flowering and twittering in our garden and the tree/grass/weed lined road shoulder.

This year, I arrived home at 8pm to find my parents had packed takoyaki and sushi to snack on while driving to and from the airport to fetch me. Not one pack, but two each! I love Japanese food. My family, not so much. Malaysians love their local cuisines, being tasty and amalgam of several cultures and being in the centre of spices and old world spice-trade. So, they’ve been spoilt with amazing hawker food, thai, chinese, malay, indian, indonesian, western …. Japanese is both expensive and rather bland to Malaysian tastebuds.

So, I was surprised that my parents, willingly buy and consume these. Not any ordinary takoyaki with octopus, oh no. It’s unagi and abalone (real stuff, not surimi) takoyaki. Because Malaysians still want to have their own stamp on imported recipe. It’s not ham and cheese, it’s chicken and cheese coz we have to think of our muslim and hindu friends. And they love wasabi too! I know wasabi is mild and no big deal to them, since they plant and consume bird’s-eye chilli (aka cili padi, cabai burung, little bomb) which is the spiciest chilli you can find around here.

While I was contemplating the joy of dragging my parents for sashimi and tempura, mom dropped another bomb. There is a Japanese Shinto Priest living in our Birdhouse!

Now, if you’re wondering if it’s a figurine shinto priest with the hat and paper duster, bought to ornament a birdhouse hanging up on a convenient tree, I don’t blame you. This being Malaysia, there are certain definitions to be made, esp when words have acquired new meanings in the past 2 years.

It is as literal as my mom puts it. It’s a real live human of Japanese origin, living in a 3-story building specifically built to house swiftlets by the hundreds and by the thousands.

Swiftlet farming is a big thing in Malaysia now. They build the house to resemble a dark dank cave, then helpfully send invites out in bird language to call the passing avian to come live there. Lodging is free. Food is self-catered. Security from predators is guaranteed. Convenient perches suitable for short bird feet are plentiful. The birds build their nest and raise their young in there. And the little chicks grow up to meet other chicks and build their own nests right next to their Mama and Papa. That’s the idea anyway. The humans goes in once a while to remove a nest that is no longer needed (aka when the nestling has flown the nest). After all, we wouldn’t want the birds to get lazy and use hand-me-downs for the next baby. Then the nests are made into soup, dessert, cosmetics and even tim sum. So, if you think Malaysians would be ick’ed out from eating weird stuff, you’d be wrong. Sea cucumber, mantis-prawn, stingray, frog, snail, raw fish, fish maw, chicken feet, animal blood, ear, eyes, internal organs are delicacies. So, they wouldn’t think twice about eating congealed bird saliva, or what is commonly known as ‘bird’s nest’.

The Shinto Priest is actually a Psychic Researcher and a zomg! honest to goodness genuine priest who went around chanting and purify places and agricultural farms to promote health and well-being. He had the paper swish thing that reminded me of a feather duster. And an elongated pentagon shaped wooden stick. And a stone to receive ‘bad energy’ and dispel it. And a framed calligraphy that might serve as altar foci, framed like you would a picture of Christ or Buddha. We’re not quite sure what it is, I should have dad translate the kanji for me to see if I can divine it’s role in the ritual.

The research part is to see how effective the purification is, ie the Psychic research.

It was with some relish that my family tell tales of our strange ‘house’ guest. Like my brother and his friends and my dad being roped in to chant every morning and evening in Japanese. And picking up a few Japanese words. And feeling quite amused and trying not to laugh. Or my dad being assistant priest, following him around with a glass of water and a bowl of salt to purify the infertile land surrounding the birdhouse where dad hoped to turn into a profitable small farm.

Indeed, it amused and puzzled my parents why he did not want to stay at our house or at a hotel. Even though our 2-storey house has 2 empty bedrooms (with the rest of the kids not home for CNY yet). The birdhouse and my dad’s fledging farm becomes his research subject, so he’d rather stay close (or in it rather) along with the mosquitos and 2 rambunctious farm dogs. It was in the middle of no where. Well, not exactly completely isolated, since there are several kampung houses, a herd of goats, several clutches of chicken, a herd of cows and a construction of light industrial park just outside the gate. But it’s not exactly convenient to hail a cab, buy dinner or get to a shop.

My family, not speaking a word of Japanese and don’t even watch Anime, trying to communicate with our house guest is … as my dad puts it … like chicken and duck talk. Good thing he has an impressive portable pocket translation book for 6 languages, which impresses my travel-savvy parental units. And mostly got around complex concept by writting Kanji or chinese characters, which both my parents can read. So, you think inter-cultural language barrier usually ends up with just sign language to fill the gap? No, it uses written words too. Well, you could say it is unique to speakers of Chinese-languages/Taiwanese/Japanese/Korean since the writting system was derived from ancient China.

Oh! The thing is … whenever Chinese and Japanese meet, they want to compare character pronunciation. So, I did write my name in Chinese characters to see how he would translate that. So, for the record, my Nihon name is Ou Kei-Ou.

For the record, I should thank my obsession with PoT that I know where and what is Kanagawa. If he’s from Rikkai Dai, I’d thought I just got off in the wrong dimension at the airport. And the fact that my research into Shinto beliefs and practices helped to explain some of the idea our guest was trying to convey. And I can translate Tsubame to swallow, which is what the swiftlets are commonly called. Yes, so Fuji, thanks for Tsubame Gaeshi, a term I’d never thought I would ever use or hear in real life. And also to Ootori for ‘tori’ = bird.

Anyway, that’s just the first day and there are a lot more wonders that I have not mentioned or this will be a very long and convoluted digressing post. I just thought the title is too good to pass up for an article.

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Leftover Evolutions

So, I don’t have a lot of space to keep cooking ingredients and perishables. That’s why I ended up buy a lot of bottled, canned and dried goods food. And not being able to buy in small quantity means finding creative ways to deal with the inevitable leftovers. This week as quite an interesting one.

I started with … 10 eggs due to cravings for tamagoyaki (which I used 2 eggs to cook). Leftover 8 eggs were hard-boiled and stored in fridge. 2 eaten with soya sauce. 6 got mashed into egg mayonnaise sandwiches.

I bought 1 loaf of bread, 1 pack tomatoes, 2 romaine lettuce and 1 canned tuna. After 3 days, finished eggs and bread, left over lettuce, tomatoes and tuna.

Right … What next? Ah, need to finish cream cheese before it turns icky. Right … salad then. Bought 1 pack macaroni (400g) and 1 lime. So, here’s macaroni salad. I thought it turned out quite photogenic. Couldn’t resist taking pictures.

200g macaroni – boiled and drained
1/2 can tuna chunks in olive oil (drain oil, reserve a spoonful for dressing)
1 tomato – diced
1 tablespoon cream cheese
lime juice (1/5 wedge of lime)
— mix all above —
3 romaine leaves – use as wrap cum garnish
— spoon mixture above into romaine —
black sesame seed (sprinkle on top)
ground peanut (sprinkle on top)


Macaroni Salad


After that, I finished the tuna and lettuce. Leftover macaroni and tomatoes. I was craving soup and weekend was coming, so I decided to break out and do something bold! Bought 1kg potatoes, 1kg yellow onions, 1 carrot, 1 pack shitake mushrooms, 1 can sausages (can’t find chicken stock and I still don’t buy raw meat). Was sick of macaroni, so I focused on finishing tomatoes ala vegetable soup for lazy people with bare minimum kitchenware.

Recipe: Colourful vegetable soup
1 potato –  diced small
1 onion – julienne
1 tomato – diced
1/2 carrot – slice or dice small (adds sweetness)
6 cocktail hotdogs – quartered
4 shitake mushrooms – de-stemmed, sliced thickly
— throw everything in pot —
— add water till covered everything and not spill when boiling —
— boil for 20 minutes to 1 hour,
shorter for crunchy and clear soup,
longer for softer and thicker soup when potato breaks down —
salt – to taste
pepper – to taste


Veggie soup


Finished tomatoes, carrot and hotdogs. Leftover potato, onion, shitake. Oh… and macaroni. Too lazy to go out. What else can I do with these? No more meat, need something else to flavour soup, since I’m still in soup mode. Found 1 bottle spaghetti sauce. So how about a minestrone-like soup? Lightly tomato flavoured.

Recipe: Tomato potato soup (ala just winging it)
100g macaroni – boiled and drained
1 potato – diced
1 large onion – julienne or dice
6 shitake mushroom – de-stemmed, slice thickly
— throw everything in pot —
water – till covered everything and not spill when boiling
1/2 bottle pasta sauce (tomato and herbs)
3 shakes italian herbs
— boil for 30 minutes —
salt – to taste
— Works okay, but a bit unbalanced. Needs more zing! Scrounge around for more leftovers. —
1 pack chilli flakes from domino pizza 4 months back

Voila! Good soup. Quite pretty too.


Tomato wing soup


Finished macaroni and mushrooms. Leftover onion and potato and lime and half bottle of spaghetti sauce. Sigh … I knew 1 kg was too much. What to do? Supermarkets are not friendly to marital-challenged women. Guess I’ll be googling for something potato and onion tomorrow. Anybody have any idea what to do with potato, onion, lime, spaghetti sauce and possibly, toaster oven?

So, here is the chronicle of my leftover quests. I blame the tamagoyaki.



Leftover Evolutions Part 2: Mutation

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Warabi mochi – realism in fiction

I confess, I have a very bad habit. I can obsess about a single trivial detail to the point that it stalls my writting. Take my current dormant LOTR fanfic. It’s stuck for years because I can’t find an original Rohirric sounding name for Eomer’s grandfather!

What does this have to do with warabi mochi? Well, it’s the beginning of how I ended making warabi mochi (at least the semi-authentic one).

It started with the story called The Adventures of Young Tezuka Kunimitsu, a Prince of Tennis fanfiction. Despite my earlier determination to stick to short stories and short time-line stories, I’ve become over ambitious. I’ve decided to write Tezuka’s childhood. Okay, so he’s still a kid. I’m looking at his pre-adolescent stage. What and how he became the 14-year-old Tezuka we are familiar with. So, I’ve limited myself to his life between ages 5 and 11. There are several reasons I did this. Read the rest of this entry »

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Smartphone – major rant

Much Hate for Iphone.

I blame Iphone for the epidemic of devices called touch smartphones. My gripes?

1. Too much hype on social networking. Time and money wasters. Too much hype on the latest ‘fashion’ for the masses and not enough quality and practical usability.

2. This irritates me even more by having iphone and android search results spamming my serious pda+phone searches. Smartphones are dumb.

3. No more standalone. Everything needs a data plan to work. The guiltiest of all being Google’s Android what depends on everything Google. No! It’s my PDA. I want it to work offline, especially on a 16 hour flight with not WIFI and no data plan. If it doesn’t, it’s auto trashed!

4. Capacitive touch screen. Hate hate hate! This is what I consider 10 steps backward. Why? First, it leaves finger prints and skin oils and dirt all over my lovely screen. And Second, NOT every little thing is better with pinch and slide and bleh. Some things are better with precision of a stylus. Like typing and painting and scribble writting. Now, we are forced to devolved from precise writting with state of the art fine tool to neanderthal finger painting using ultra state of the art technology. How is that better? Want to sign your name? Umm … right. Please use finger. It’s so high tech, you just finger your beautiful signature like a 3-year-old. Oh yeah, Iphone and Android is not for smart adults. They’re for 3-year-old kids who can’t read or write yet and only knows how to do cave paintings. Thirdly, special stylus. In normal touch screen, you can use anything for stylus. Finger, back of the pen, paperclip, ice-cream stick. Anything! Now, it doesn’t work. You need special capacitive stylus. If you lose it, you pay $$$ for a new one or be crippled. How is that better?

5. Serious lack of simple, fuss free, standalone, ebook reader. No, I don’t care for your proprietary PDF, LIT, ePub, mobi, whatever. I want an ebook reader that can display normal text files. Txt, rtf, html are must haves. Not a single freaking one supports these three formats! uBookLite came closest to perfect in what I need. And it doesn’t run on Iphone or Android or Linux.

6. More ebook reader griefs. I also blame this on too much control from the corporates. Imagine my horror that ebook readers are locked to what you can download from their parent websites! Who the hell says you can control what I read? If not that, then all the ebooks files needs to be uploaded to their parent website and download to the mobile device from the parent website. Right, first I give you, then I download back? It wastes time, there’s no privacy and why the hell do I need to pay twice the fee for upload and downloads when I can copy it into my memory card and the books are automagically in my mobile device? What a stupid idea! Another one forces you to convert whatever format you have into their own format. Even proudly declares their conversion software as a ‘feature’. **facepalm** Even I would be too ashamed to publicise this bug and its clumsy band-aid workaround fix. No way in hell I’m going to convert anything I read into YOUR format. My files, MINE!

7. Some ebook readers even insist that they catalogue your files for you! All have to be imported into their folders sitting in the internal memory. I call this the “Windows My Porn” syndrome. My files, my filing system. This is a stupid idea. a) I don’t need hundreds of files to clog up my system and do a slow %#$%$% load of list of files. b) I have all the ebook files in external card. On long journeys, say 2 weeks to 2 months, I can load up all my ebooks into 1 or 2 cards. Finished the books on one card, swap to the next one. Simple, fuss free, complete control. Boy do those corps peeps hate that. Batteries dead and you’re about to be brain dead from boredom? Borrow mom’s phone and chuck your card in. Your device crashed and do a hard reset when Juliet is about to plunge to her death? No worries. Everything is still safe in your card. Reboot and read on. Don’t use a cannon to kill a fly. You will break everything and not touch an antennae on the bugger. Why are we paying more for even less?

90% of the time I’m on the move, I’m using uBook. And since it only supports Windows Mobile and Palm, guess who’s the winner?

I can’t believe I’m say this, but it looks like I’m going to get a phone with Windows Mobile. No Iphone and no Android. Not till they seriously clean up their dumb hippy act.

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