Posts from the ‘Personal’ Category
Previously, I produced a photo-essay of a few commemoration activities on ANZAC Day (25 April) in Sydney, Australia.
As parade marches proceeded through Sydney’s Central Business District later that morning, I departed from the crowds, and I wandered over to Martin Place. An elderly man with a green suit jacket, green tie, and a green beret was describing the Commando Memorial to a number of visitors from Asia.
Had I not strayed from the spectators lining the parade route, I wouldn’t have had the great fortune of meeting Ken Curran: Australian Army Commando and Military Unarmed Combat (MUC) Instructor.
For about thirty minutes, we sat on a bench and talked. I asked him about his service in the Australian forces, and I told him about how in Canada the focus is on Remembrance Day (11 November). He remarked that for late-April, the mid-autumn weather was bright, sunny, and warm, unlike some of the colder wetter ANZAC Days in past years. But it was mostly hot and humid in places where he had served in the war.
Kenneth Roy Curran was born on the 9th of September 1925 in Waverley, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. He joined the army at age 18 in 1943; by 19, he was eligible to serve overseas, and transferred from Infantry to Commandos. By the end of World War 2, he would serve in Moratai (Indonesia); Labuan, British Borneo (Malaysia); and Rabaul (Papua New Guinea). He returned to civilian life and among a number of jobs, he worked in the NSW police force and the NSW railway. He reenlisted into the Citizens’ Military Forces (precursor to the Reserves) in 1955, and stayed until his retirement from the military in 1975.
In two decades with the 1 Commando Company, he directed annual MUC training for his unit and other military personnel. Over time, he also began to train police including members of the NSW Tactical Response Group, as well as members of the NSW Corrective Services, Australian Protective Services, and Sheriff’s Department.
In official recognition of his expertise and services related to MUC training activities within the military, and for service to the public community, Curran was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM).
After retiring from the military, he continued to conduct self-defence and training courses for security companies. Even at the age of 85, he still carried out training for security officers and taught personal self-defence techniques to the general public. Now (of posting) at 87, he admitted he’d slowed down some, but we agreed there was still a lot of life to live and there were many lessons left to teach. Ultimately, he was happy, if not relieved, that most Australian children today did not have to experience first-hand the deprivations and ravages of war.
More details of Ken Curran’s biography are found here.
Martin Place can be reached by CityRail at Martin Place, St. James, or Wynyard stations. At Martin Place, the Cenotaph is located at the west end (George Street), and the Commando Memorial is found at the east end (Macquarie Street).
I made the photos above on ANZAC Day, 25 April 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
April 8 is my sister’s birthday, and I wanted to mark the occasion with eight memories of my month (June 2012) with her and her husband in Hong Kong.
Why not the number four for April? Among Chinese, there is general consensus of an “unlucky” use for “four”, as the word “four” (四) sounds very much like the word for “death” (死). That’s the case in Cantonese at the very least.
On the other hand, the word “eight” (八) rhymes with “success” (發), a word which is used prominently in a New Year’s greeting to express “congratulations and be prosperous” (恭喜發財).
The following are a few photographic examples of memories representing my time in Hong Kong, and of things likely to be seen only in Hong Kong.
Happy birthday! 生日快樂,啊妹!
Except the final photo from my sister, I made the other photos above in Hong Kong between 6 and 21 June 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
I’ve had versions of this dish before, hundreds of times, either at home or at a restaurant. When I decided to make this dish, I didn’t start with any recipe: it was all about ingredients, memory, and experience.
When I posted a picture of the final product (which was delicious), I was urged to describe my makeshift recipe. The most common question (re. demand) was: “how’d you make that?”
I describe below what I made the other night from scratch …
The following serves two to three people, and I generally like having this dish over white rice, but your choice of long grain, basmati, jasmine, or brown rice will do.
- 500 grams, boneless skinless chicken, either breast or thigh. Breast is leaner, and I’m a breast man, so uh, yeah.
- Oyster-flavoured sauce. My favourite brand is “Lee Kum Kee”.
- Black-bean garlic sauce. Again, I generally go with the “Lee Kum Kee” brand.
- Pure sesame oil.
- Soya sauce : light or regular is fine.
- Snow peas, 200 grams.
- Mushrooms : I really like the “meatier” oyster mushrooms, though buttons will do in a pinch.
- Regular onion : one-half of a large, or one medium will do.
- Fresh ginger root.
- 2 cloves of garlic.
- 2 to 2.5 cups (400 to 500 grams), rice.
For the rice, you’ll need a medium-sized pot. Place the cups of rice and water into an uncovered pot. On full heat, bring the water to a boil, and boil away the remaining water. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to half, and cook for about 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, use a fork to run through the rice, which should be fluffy (neither too wet/soggy or dry/crunchy). Turn the heat to minimum (or off), cover the rice again, and let sit.
For the main dish, you will need a wok, skillet, or medium-sized frying pan.
Dice the garlic and ginger, and put them together into a small bowl or container.
Chop the vegetables, and put each vegetable into their separate bowl or plate: the onion into quarter-arcs about an inch (2 cm) in size, and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.
To prepare the snow peas, what I like to do first is “string” them: I tear off by hand the tips of each of the snow peas, and quickly peel back, similar to a banana. This process removes the tough chewy tips as well as the stringy fibrous sides of the vegetable. Once the tips are removed, cut the snow peas in half along the short dimension.
Finally, into each vegetable, I’ll put a teaspoon’s amount of diced garlic and ginger.
Prepare the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place them into a bowl. Into the bowl, place two teaspoons (or a tablespoon) amount of diced garlic and ginger, one teaspoon of sesame oil, one-half to one teaspoon of soya sauce, and two heaping tablespoons of black bean garlic sauce. Mix thoroughly the chicken, garlic, ginger, seasme oil, and sauces. The marinade can take as little as the time required to cook the vegetables below.
In a fry-pan or wok, place a half- to full-teaspoon of cooking oil, which can be canola, sunflower, or vegetable oil. I do not recommend using olive oil, as the olive oil imparts a completely different (and unintended) flavour to this dish, which if you don’t already know by now is not Mediterranean!
On high heat, stir-fry each vegetable separately : my order is onions, mushrooms, snow peas.
The onions should be cooked until the appearance goes from opaque to a glossy translucent. The mushrooms are cooked until some of the water comes out of the mushrooms, keeping the mixture moist. If there’s a lot of “juice” coming out of the mushrooms, collect a couple of teaspoons into a separate bowl; you’re going to make a sauce with that below. With snow peas you have to be careful not to overcook them: my rule of thumb is between 30 and 60 seconds with frequent tossing. When cooked, the colour of the snow peas appears emerald-green. Cooked snow-peas appear to glow and be a little bit translucent; a quick bite into one of them will tell you if they’re cooked and yet retain a crunch.
After frying, you can put all of the cooked vegetables into a single bowl.
With a teaspoon of vegetable oil, stir fry the marinated chicken on high heat. Stir frequently, and check on the chicken by taking a piece out and cutting with knife and fork. Is the inside a consistent white and opaque? If the inside portion is still pink and translucent, more cooking time is required.
If there was “juice” from the mushrooms when you were cooking them above, you will have set aside a couple of teaspoons into a bowl. Even if you didn’t extract any mushroom juice, you can still make a sauce in a bowl, consisting of : two tablespoons of corn starch (or white flour), enough water to dissolve the corn starch, a tablespoon of oyster-flavoured sauce, and one to two teaspoons of black bean garlic sauce. Mix thoroughly, and set the bowl aside.
Once you’re satisfied the chicken is fully cooked, put all of the vegetables back in, and stir. Slowly stir in the sauce mixture. Turn the heat down to about half.
As the water heats and evaporates, the sauce thickens. Wait a couple of minutes, turn the heat down to minimum, and you’re now ready to eat. Serve this dish over a bed of rice, in either a bowl or a plate.
As we’d say in Cantonese: “食飯!” (lit., eat rice) or “慢慢食” (lit., eat slowly), equivalents to “bon appétit” or “buon appetito!”.
This post is a follow-up to an earlier post about the HL special chow fun.
I made the photo above with a 4th-gen iPod Touch on 26 January 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
At Australian airports, passengers on domestic flights are allowed to pass through security from “landside” to “airside” without a boarding pass in hand. Having become accustomed to travel in North American and European airports, Australia’s policy is both refreshing and startling.
And it saved my butt.
It’s 31 August 2012, and I check out at 10am from my apartment in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD). With my Qantas flight to Sydney at 9pm, I’m looking forward to getting some work done in the airline’s lounge at the airport. I’ve maintained Platinum status with American Airlines, which is equivalent to Sapphire on oneworld. My present frequent-flyer status qualifies me to use their Qantas Club lounge in the domestic terminal.
I’m not in any rush, and I arrive just after 11am at Melbourne airport’s Terminal 1, thanks to Skybus‘ shuttle pickup from the CBD to Southern Cross train-station and their coach service from the train-station to the airport.
I’m unable to check-in to my flight at one of the many computerized check-in booths. A couple of customer service agents provide some help, and they tell me that my flight (scheduled to leave in 10 hours time) is not yet open to check my luggage. I’m not really surprised by this.
I want to use the lounge which can only be accessed airside (post-security), and I can’t walk on through airside, because I’ve a number of items which must go into checked luggage. Am I going to lug around my 20-kg (44-lb) piece of luggage for the next 10 hours? That would be a big fat NO.
So now I have two issues:
- Where can I store my luggage if I’m going airside to access the Qantas lounge?
- Will I be able to go through security without a boarding pass?
I ask around about storage, and I walk over to the arrivals level of the international terminal (T2) next door, where my luggage is put away into storage for up to 8 hours at a cost of $12 AUD. I can live with that.
I return to the T1 domestic terminal, and head on up to the security-screening area on the departures level. Within minutes, I’m airside. It’s important to note here that I still have NOT checked into my flight, and I don’t have a boarding pass, but I’m sitting in the Qantas Club lounge, where I start typing up this present article.
430pm rolls around, and I reverse the process.
I step back out landside (pre-security), fetch my luggage from storage, check-in successfully for my 9pm flight, retrieve my boarding pass, and my luggage is off on its merry way to the plane. I go back through airside, and return to the Qantas Club lounge.
My bag was stored from about 1130am to 430pm, which put the storage “rate” at $12 AUD by 5 hours, or $2.40 AUD/hour.
The seat in the Qantas Club lounge I vacated about an hour ago (to check-in to my flight) remains empty, as if it’s “waiting” for me. But this time, I’m going to have ham, cheese, salad, and soup for a light dinner, courtesy of the lounge.
Time comes around to board, it’s a short walk to the gate, and it’s an easy 1-hour-25-minute flight to Sydney, where CityRail awaits for the return trip to the place where I’m staying.
This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
I’m pleased to present the following 12 photos from 2012, representing some special memories from this past year’s around-the-world (RTW) travel.
1. Bosque de Chapultepec, Ciudad de México, México
With my second visit to México City, I finally made my way to Chapultepec, which in native Nahuatl means “at the grasshopper hill”. I also visited the enormous Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology), describing in depth and detail the people and history of México. The museum is a must-see for those who love history and wish to understand something more about this fine North American nation. The museum and park are additional reasons why I love the “Day-Effay” (D.F.).
Bosque de Chapultepec, México City, Distrito Federale, México – 8 March 2012.
2. Baltimore, MD, USA
As a long-time fan of baseball, I was thrilled to visit the baseball park in Camden Yards in Baltimore. It’s worth noting that all new baseball stadia have been built with Camden Yards as the standard against which new stadia appear and perform. The old warehouses as the backdrop to centre-right are just as impressive in person as they appear on television.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards : Baltimore, MD, USA – 1 May 2012.
3. Nassau, The Bahamas
I always thought people who came back from the Caribbean were exaggerating their descriptions. But with this photo at Junkanoo Beach in Nassau, I began “to sip on the rum,” too, as it were: the skies really are that blue, the water really does look turquoise, and the fine sand really is snow white. I still find it amazing that I went from Camden Yards in Baltimore to the beach in Nassau within 48 hours.
Junkanoo Beach, Nassau, The Bahamas – 3 May 2012.
4. Mekong Delta, Vietnam
About an hour’s drive southwest from Ho Chi Minh City is access to the Mekong River Delta. That isn’t waste-material; on the contrary, the brown milky waters are due to fertile soil, mud, and silt suspended in the water and flowing out and into the South China Sea. The delta region is a beautiful part of the country, with tiny villages tucked in sheltered coves on islands and along the shoreline, and the presence of shipping traffic as a reminder of the necessity to day-to-day activity and function for people who live and work here.
Near Mỹ Tho, Mekong River Delta, Vietnam – 26 June 2012.
I arrived in Singapore to visit a number of the Food Centres and eat as much as possible. As you can see, the view from the water in afternoon light isn’t so bad, even if this particular part of the skyline is dominated by the Marina Bay Sands resort complex. Then again, the top of that hotel looks like some space-age landing platform; it might as well be for the cool swanky bar that’s on top.
Across the Kallang river to Marina Bay Sands, Singapore – 3 July 2012.
6. Wellington, New Zealand
There’s something about getting up in the dark before dawn, and heading out on the first buses of the day, just to arrive on a hill to watch the sunrise. And so it was, with daybreak under clear skies at Mount Victoria in Wellington: crisp, beautiful, and worth the effort of waking up and getting out of a warm bed on a winter’s morning.
Mount Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand – 12 July 2012.
7. KiwiRail Coastal Pacific train, New Zealand
I love trains; it might be a slower mode of transport, but what’s sure is having the scenery of both mountains and water, as well as the familiar sounds of the “clickety-clack” accompany the traveler on their journey. Even better is the access to the covered open-air observation car …
Coastal Pacific train, from Picton south to Christchurch – 14 July 2012.
8. Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
People aren’t exaggerating when they say how beautiful Milford Sound and the Fiordland really are. Throughout my three weeks on New Zealand’s South Island in July, I had great luck with excellent weather in the winter low-season. Under sun and decent temperatures, I had little reason to complain, but to be thankful that my time on the South Island is something I’ll never forget.
The Lion & Harrison Cove, Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand – 25 Jul 2012.
9. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
“OH HAI!” Naturally, there are kangaroos on Kangaroo Island, but you have to admit that this young New Zealand fur seal hanging out along the south-central coast of Australia is both “sweet as” and “cute as”. It’s just the norm with a protected breeding area for New Zealand fur seals.
Admiral Arches, Cape du Couedic, Flinders Chase National Park : Kangaroo Island, South Australia – 25 August 2012.
10. Fremantle, Western Australia
This photograph is a realization of a wish to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean. Easily reachable by bus or train from Perth, Fremantle is an interesting place to visit with a UNESCO World Heritage Site in town, museums describing the country’s history as well as the naval history, and great places to eat and drink after sun-down.
Indian Ocean from Fremantle, WA, Australia – 17 September 2012.
11. Cape Town, South Africa
Finally seeing Table Mountain and the “tablecloth” effect were a big thrill, as well as the fact that I had just set foot on the African continent for the first time. Four to five days in Cape Town weren’t enough; the time I spent here taught me the lesson that I must come back.
Table Mountain from V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa – 15 October 2012.
12. Edinburgh, Scotland
Many would rightly assume that early-November weather in this part of the world would be grey and wet. I’m fortunate that I had a decent afternoon when I set out to walk below the crags to take in this beautiful view of the city, from the Castle on the left (west) to Calton Hill on the right (east).
City view from Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Park : Edinburgh, Scotland – 8 November 2012.
I made all of the photos shown above; this post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com