Author: Pao

Yet Another Rabbit Hole

I’ve recently caved in and bought my first mechanical keyboard, a Royal Kludge RK 100. A lot of my friends are into mechanical keyboards and I’ve always been curious about it since I saw some of them modding their keyboards and changing keycaps. So I bought a black RK100 and then bought a set of XDA-profile keycaps on Shopee as replacement. I liked the color because a lot of the keys are off-white with brown characters. I liked it better than the plain black keys the keyboard came with. Also, I like these kinds of little projects. If there’s anything that can be changed or updated in something, you can be sure I’ll figure out how to do that.

After a lot of delays, my shimmer keycaps were finally delivered today. Because it’s my first time to change keycaps, I had already watched videos on how to do it and laid out the keys so they’ll be easier to transfer. There’s always that one point in a project when you look at all the little parts around you and say welp, what did I just do? I remember the last time that happened was when I took apart my Delonghi espresso machine to upgrade the steam wand from the factory wand to a Rancilio Silvia. After I’ve taken the thing apart, I stopped to look around the kitchen table and panicked just a teeny bit because there were parts all over. I have a system to keep track of all the parts, of course, but the sight of everything just dissembled and in pieces made me a little nervous. Of course my espresso machine survived the tinkering and is still doing well until today.

Mechanical keyboards are fascinating. I accidentally pulled out a few switches in the process of removing keys and of course I immediately thought I will be changing switches soon. I’m currently using RK’s factory brown switches, which are pretty good, but of course I want to check out other switches too, in the future. Taking the keys out one by one, sweeping and cleaning the board, then putting the new keycaps in is pretty fun and therapeutic. You just focus on doing one thing, and you let your hand go through the motions. It’s calming.

After a few minutes of gentle pulling and pushing, I was done. I plugged the keyboard back in, powered up my computer and checked if everything was still working and all keys were doing what they were supposed to do. Everything was working fine.

My new keycaps are called Shimmering Keycaps. The profile is XDA, which is pretty different from the original profile of the original keycaps that came with the keyboard. Everything is flat and all the same size, and they’re low-profile. I have to admit that at first I wasn’t too crazy about the profile because it felt harder to find my fingers on the board when touch-typing. I really liked how they looked, though. I liked the short and chunky profile, and of course I liked the colors I picked. They keys reminded me of little Boggle blocks, they’re so cute. After a few minutes of typing, I adjusted to the size and uniformity of the profile and am back to my usual typing speed. I feel comfortable with it now. I’m really happy I preordered my second custom keycaps in the XDA profile too. I got the Izu Babi caps from Zoot It Up and almost changed it to Cherry after trying out these keycaps, but I thought I’d give it a few days to see if I will adjust. I decided not to change my order anymore and keep the XDA profile.

There’s so much to learn in a new hobby, and I think I enjoy that part of the process most. I like to learn things slow, discover them at my own pace. I’m lucky to have my nephew and a few friends who patiently answer my questions about mechanical keyboards, because I do like to ask a lot of questions, but for the most part I also like to discover things on my own. There’s so much to learn about mechanical keyboards and a whole new lingo to adapt to, but it’s all quite fun.

Next project–change the switches! I’m trying to find out what I like first before I buy anything, though. The XDA keycaps reduced the noise of my keyboard, but I think I like it thockier. I’ve read up on a few modifications to achieve that. Sigh. Humans and our rabbit holes.

Rough Weekend

We had quite a rough start of the weekend yesterday. We were just enjoying a quiet Saturday, having early lunch at home and watching Netflix. My husband’s new toy cabinet just got delivered and we were planning which toys will go where. Then I went in our room and found our cat, Blair, licking blood off her chest. Since her cancer diagnosis, we were taking care that her tumors will not develop lesions, but here we were. Despite our best efforts, it’s happened. My husband rushed her to the vet where her wounds were cleaned and dressed. She was prescribed antobiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. I wrapped her up in a bandage so that she will not take her gauze off, but switched to a shirt later to make her less uncomfortable.

This is an ordeal for all of us. Seeing her uncomfortable, knowing that cancer is slowly wreaking havoc on her little body, it’s killing me and my husband. Someday I know we will get to that point where we may need to ask the vet to put her to sleep. I can’t imagine having to face that terrible decision someday, but I don’t want her to suffer. For now she’s moving and eating like normal, except that she has a large bump on her chest. That large tumor stretched out her skin, so the vet thinks that the skin ruptured when she licked it. If it becomes apparent that she is in pain, the humane thing to do is to euthanize her. The very thought of it is terrifying for me.

I remember the last time that a pet’s death caused me immense pain. She was a little Japanese Spitz, we named her Alanis. When she died, I honestly felt that I could not love a pet again. Pets live much shorter lives than we do, and their death is something that we should be emotionally prepared for. They light up our lives for a short time before they leave. When Alanis died, I questioned wanting to open my heart again to a little creature who I will grieve for when they pass away. But then along came Blair. We got her when we were just newlyweds, and showered her with so much love and attention. I realized then that even if they’re in our lives for a short period, the love and joy that they add to our lives are worth it. Would I wish that I didn’t have all that Blair brought into my life in order to spare myself the pain of grief in the future? If I could have a choice of having her with us and facing this grief and pain in the future, or not knowing her and not having to go through any of this, I still would choose her. I choose the moments when I bury my face in her neck, when I would smell her and kiss her soft cheeks. I choose the times when I would wake up and find her sleeping beside me, purring softly. I choose all those nights when she and my husband are snoring on our bed while I work. I choose to see her spaced out, watching birds beside the window. I choose the good moments even if they come with bad ones.

Cats with cancer don’t have the best prognosis, but as long as she’s with us, we’ll do our best to fill her life with love. From start to end, we’ll be her humans. That’s the best thing we could do for such a wonderful, loving, trusting creature.

My First Mechanical Keyboard

Yesterday, my first mechanical keyboard was delivered. I’ve been thinking about this for a while but since I was using a laptop, I didn’t really think I needed it. Last Sunday I finally upgraded to a better-spec’d desktop and I just couldn’t work too well using the regular Logitech plug and play keyboard that felt flimsy and plasticky. A lot of my friends are into these mechanical keyboards and even if I didn’t really understand the lingo, it sounded like a lot of fun. So I hit up my friend and my nephew and asked them several questions to help me decide on the kind of mechanical keyboard that I want, and I ended up with the Royal Kludge RK 100 with brown switches. I will not pretend to know enough about this to get into the details, but I will say…wow. I understand now what my friends are all raving about.

I really love the weight of the whole thing. The keyboard doesn’t move around while I type, and it doesn’t feel flimsy at all. It feels heavy and substantive. I like the feel of the keys when I tap on them. I like the feedback on my fingertips, the thockity-thock sound it makes, the crisp movements of the keys. Much like how fountain pens make writing a lot more pleasurable, this mechanical keyboard makes typing a lot more fun and comfortable.

My vertigo has a hair trigger; I’m very sensitive to light, so I don’t turn on blinking light effects, but I did like the shadow light setting where it lights up the keys as I tap on them. It’s pretty cool. I know all keys are programmable, but I haven’t really explored that yet. I’m just enjoying the sound and the feel of using it. Also, I ordered some pretty XDA keycaps, so hopefully those arrive soon. I’m pretty happy with my purchase, though I don’t see myself going deeper into the rabbit hole because I already like the brown switch that I got and I like the replacement keycaps I ordered, but who knows? I probably said the same thing about fountain pens and look what happened with that, lol.

First Date of the Year – Teppanya Evia

Yesterday’s journal entry was about our first date in 2022. My husband and I usually open the year by going on our first date, which is usually just a quiet meal and some time to read and write in a cafe before heading home. After a good Christmas celebration with our family, we were really looking forward to a quiet first date. It was our first time at Teppanya and it truly did not disappoint. The service and food were excellent. It was our first time to watch a chef perform over a teppanyaki grill and it was a lot of fun.

By the time we went home in the afternoon, though, it was pretty clear that we are in the early stages of a COVID19 surge. I’ve been monitoring and recording the new cases, deaths and positivity rates in my journal and the increase in new cases is so quick. It’s nothing like the Delta-driven surge of last year. Time to buckle up and go  back to sheltering in place at our respective homes. I hope this surge will be over soon, and that fewer people will need hospitalization.

Bamba Bistro

Today’s food journal entry is about a meal at Bamba Bistro, one of our favorite, cozy little hole in the wall at BF Homes. This pandemic has  been really rough on businesses, and I’m really happy that this favorite spot of ours is still open. My husband and I had lunch with friends last Sunday, it really looked like more people are beginning to venture out and meet up with family and friends. This is the first time we ate out with people who aren’t from our own household. Bamba has an al fresco dining area, and we enjoyed the cool weather under the trees. I missed eating out with friends, and really missed Bamba’s food. They always  have an adventurous take on food and I love how creative they are with their flavors.

I had their salisbury steak dish named “Not your momma’s salisbury”. It’s cheese-stuffed beef patties with porcini mushroom sauce over rice, served in a cast iron skillet. It’s a beautiful, creamy dish that’s part of their holiday menu. I like that the patties are done just right, with a beautiful sear on the outside and still moist and juicy inside.  The porcini sauce is so, so gloriously delicious. None of that overpowering faux-truffle flavor that stays in the mouth long after you’ve had your meal. The pancit negra is also part of their holiday menu and it’s a really good example of how they’re very creative and adventurous about layering their flavors. I think the pancit may be pancit bato, but I’m not sure about it. It’s thin pancit with squid ink. There’s perfectly cooked shrimps with crispy kangkong and chicken skin for texture and flavor. Don’t skip the vinegar, it brightens the dish up with that pop of acid. Their crispy lapu-lapu is a mainstay. The fish is cooked just right, crispy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. The chorizo rice is a nice complement to it.

Being able to share a good meal with good friends after two years of isolation feels incredible. I missed this so much.

The downward trend of covid19 infections, the aggressive and consistent vaccination drive of LGUs, and high vaccination rates of our respective cities played a part in giving us confidence to meet up with friends. Of course, we still mask up and avoid crowded places. Here’s hoping that there won’t be another surge, and that we’re finally seeing the light at the end of this long tunnel.

Asin Tibuok

Yesterday’s art journal entry is about asin tibuok. I first saw this on the feeds of my friends and of course the appearance was the first thing that attracted my curiosity. It looked like a dinosaur egg, it’s so cool. I looked for an online reseller and ordered one. After a week, it’s here and it looks pretty awesome.

This dinosaur egg-shaped curiosity is a chunk of unbroken sea salt inside a specially-made clay pot. Asin tibuok is a heritage salt from Alburquerque, Bohol. I found this very interesting article about it on Grid Magazine (The Price of Salt). This type of saltmaking technique has been around for centuries, even before the Spanish colonization. I remember the process being described briefly in Pigafetta’s journals, but it was also mentioned in the writings of the Spanish missionary, Father Francisco Ignacio Alcima. The article features one of the last saltmaking families in Bohol and the last asindero of their line, Nestor Manongas. I like how the writer described that salt making  used to be part of their everyday lives, is even a rite of passage for little boys. They still use the time-honored methods that they learned from their elders and which has been passed down from generation to generation. I hope that the tradition can be preserved by the next generation. It would really be quite a loss if we lose the knowledge of how to make this heritage salt.

The little pot is filled to overflowing with asin tibuok. It’s small but heavy. It tastes salty with a bit of umami, it’s a bit savory and smoky. I feel bad that when you look at groceries these days, himalayan pink salt made it to the mainstream, so to speak. We should do the same for our own heritage salts. So many asinderos have abandoned their craft because the production process of asin tibuok and other heritage salts are labor intensive and it takes a long time. Soaking the coconut husks alone takes about 3 months. Add to that the difficulties of getting permits and licenses and that it’s hard to compete with cheaper, more readily available imports. There’s a market for artisanal salt, though. I am thankful for people like those behind Ritual.ph for making these available to people like me, who have never even heard of this wonderful heritage salt until now. As I was holding this beautiful pot of salt in my hands, I feel humbled knowing that it’s the product of months of labor of Mang Nestor, and it’s the product of ancestral wisdom and know-how passed on to families for many generations.

Asin tibuok was added to the Ark of Taste by Slow Food back in 2016. This is an online catalog of endangered heritage foods worldwide.

Ink Swabs: Vinta Christmas Collection: Karol 1990 and Parol 1908

Our friends at Vinta Inks sent me bottles of their new Christmas collection. This collection has two colors in it: Karol 1990 (Carol Red) and Parol 1908 (Jewel Green). I’m happy that they came out with a Christmas collection, we could all use more sheeny, shimmery goodness. The sheen on these inks can be quite pronounced in certain lights, especially if you use a wet nib or glass pen. The parol in the photo below looks like it’s drawn with gold foil.

In indirect light, the inks can appear a bit dark but the red and green still show through. The red shading on the Parol ink in particular can make it look darker sometimes, depending on the pen and paper you use.

Continue reading “Ink Swabs: Vinta Christmas Collection: Karol 1990 and Parol 1908”

Pinoy Vinegar

Today’s art journal entry is about locally-made vinegar. I got curious about this when I read “Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic” by Felice Sta. Maria which describes locals offering alcoholic drinks and vinegar and “Tikim” by Doreen Fernandez which mentions locally-made vinegars in several of her essays. Vinegar in the Philippines are primarily made from coconut (sukang tuba, pinakurat), nipa palm (sukang Paombong), and sugar cane (sukang Iloko). Vinegar is made by fermenting juices from sources like coconut et al so that they become alcoholic (producing ethanol), then exposed to oxygen and the acetobacter bacteria and fermenting it further to produce acetic acid. Water is added to acetic acid to produce vinegar. Other spices may also be added. In the case of sukang Iloco, molasses is added to sweeten it. It’s a shame that vinegar-making has become a dying industry in the Philippines. Many vendors just opt to skip the fermentation process and use synthetic acetic acid. Not only does synthetic acetic acid-based vinegar taste different, they’re also unhealthy in the long run because it’s made of petroleum by-products.

We were recently able to try several flavors of naturally-fermented vinegar called Basimatsi (suka with bawang, sibuyas, kamatis, sili). I particularly enjoyed their version of hot sauce, which is Labuyo Cerveza. It has local siling labuyo fermented in vinegar. I like that it doesn’t feel like physical punishment when you use it on food or in dipping sauce. While store-bought hot sauce is so spicy that it’s just painful, Labuyo Cerveza has a pleasant level of spiciness that dissipates into heat that highlights the flavor of vinegar and peppers. It reminds me of other homemade hot sauces that I’ve tried  before where the sauce is not so painfully spicy so that you can detect the nuances in taste of the peppers and other spices used.

Naturally-fermented vinegar doesn’t taste so caustic. It accentuates other flavors instead of overpowering it with caustic sourness. It’s hard to find authentic, naturally-fermented vinegar these days, especially those that are specific to certain provinces. It’s worth the effort trying to find them, though.

Quince!

I finished reading Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic–Culinary Encounters During the First Circumnavigation, 1519-1522 by Felice Prudente Sta. Maria a few days ago. It had a lot of interesting details in it about the first circumnavigation and Pigafetta’s account of their adventures/misadvantures, even the food. According to Sta. Maria, at the time all seafarers know that as glamorous as an adventure at sea sounds, the reality is decidedly unglamorous and dangerous. Magellan’s voyage was not just fraught with danger from elements and enemies, they faced starvation as well. The provisions of mostly biscocho or hard and dry sea biscuits as well as wine and salted meat really weren’t enough to last them until they got back to Spain. Most of the seafarers suffered from scurvy, where their gums rotted and their teeth fell out, among other symptoms. People that time were aware of the condition but not what caused it. The only people who escaped from this condition were those well off enough to take their own provisions with them, including their favorite quince jam which are packed with vitamin c.

I looked for some on Shopee because I wanted to taste it. There aren’t any growing in the Philippines, I don’t think I’ve seen them in markets either. The jam I ordered on Shopee had bits of shredded quince that had the same texture as pears; a bit crunchy and grainy, like fruity sand. The taste is somewhat like a cross between pears and green apples, but strangely foreign on my tongue. Like it’s almost familiar, but it’s not. I can’t say I enjoyed it a lot, but at least now I know what it tastes like.

Ink Swab: Dominant Industry Manschurian Violet

When Everything Calligraphy sent over a few samples of Dominant Industry inks for me to try, this color caught my attention right away. It’s a soothing, mellow pastel color and I mentally noted that I’d like a bottle of this for my collection. I don’t think I have a lot of violet or purple inks in my collection aside from Diamine Bilberry. It’s one of those colors that I like sometimes, but  not enough to buy. Then I would flip through my journal pages and see entries written in pretty purple ink and I wonder to myself “why didn’t I get a bottle of this color?” Well, I got a bottle of this color because it looks really pretty and soothing to the eyes. It’s a little hard to photograph because under some kinds of light, it looks more blue than violet. I thought at first that it looked similar to Periwinkle Blue but this ink is really more pastel violet than blue. While wet, it looks like standard violet, but it lightens as it dries. It’s actually pretty fun to watch the ink dry because the color changes noticeably as you watch. It becomes milky violet and the shading shows up really well after it’s dried.

Compared with the first few Dominant Industry inks that I tried, this ink doesn’t flow too wet. I would put the flow level at moderate. Of course your mileage may vary, depending on the paper and pen that you use. I used a Cross Century II with a medium nib and Tomoe River Paper for this writing sample. Also, it dries a bit longer at almost 25 seconds. The color is a bit too light when you add water so you won’t get any dramatic effect on it if you want to use it for painting. It’s saturated enough so that it’s not difficult to read, and the shading is really expressive. It’s really a fun-looking ink and I’m happy to add it to my collection. Here’s a few more photos of the writing sample: