The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Category: Musings

Wontonception

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Everyone knows what goes into a bowl of wonton mee (云吞面). You typically have egg noodles, baby yu choy or equivalent greens, char siew (roast pork) and wontons, of course.  It’s a fairly simple dish with no frills. However, what if you wanted to frill it up and make it unnecessarily complicated for a potluck party in which you would fish for compliments?

Then you flip the script and create mee wonton.

You see, I go to this potluck party fairly often where people have come to expect that I bring something interesting each time (I brought kueh pie tee previously). But I can’t keep bringing new dishes all the time! Even new animals and drugs are discovered at a faster pace than new dishes are invented. I wracked my head for concepts and deconstructed a dish I practically ate all the time as a kid.

The concept I had in my head was: take the mee, take the vegetables, take the char siew and put them all into the wonton. If you had a wonton stuffed with wonton mee ingredients and put the wontons in a bowl of wonton mee, you can achieve wontonception! I had no idea how to achieve that since I wouldn’t consider myself an expert wonton maker. However, I was determined and set out to try.

My first attempt involved brushing two egg wonton wrappers with oil and putting it into a muffin tin, putting the ingredients in and baking it. It didn’t work. It resulted in a thin-crackling skin that was not very palatable. You see, I was trying to avoid deep frying anything, since deep frying always resulted in grease lingering the air for days. My kitchen did not have a vent and I had to manually vent anything out of the window with a box fan.

Plus, using two wrappers on top of each other wasn’t enough to contain enough ingredients to make for a satisfying bite. I had to figure out a way to expand the working surface area of the wonton, and came up with the idea of overlaying wonton wrappers and then gently rolling them to compress them into one oversized wrapper.

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On it, I had mee pok noodles, baby yu choy, char siew I made from scratch and fried shallots. I used mee pok (flat egg noodles) rather than mee kia (thin egg noodles) because mee pok is the superior noodle and gives a more substantial bite than mee kia anyway. I tossed the noodles with fish sauce, a little soy sauce, and some of the char siew sauce I used to make my char siew. I stirred some sesame oil into the vegetables. The oversized wrapper has roughly six points, like an odd hexagon, and I folded it top-down, lower left and right corners, and then the upper left and right corners before sealing it with some water.

I tried baking the wonton again in a muffin tin. I was really trying to avoid deep frying anything. When the wonton came back out with a disappointing skin, I was like, “Ok fine. I will deep fry you bastards.” And so I did. The smell of grease permeated the air and mocked my failure at avoiding deep frying. But the wontons came out fine. Deep frying solves everything.

I cut into a deep-fried wonton and the contents tumbled out, a mess of char siew, vegetables and mee pok. My job was done. I had created a chimera that I will parade around the dinner party and bards will sing praises of my endeavours. I brought along some sambal belacan chilli I had made to go along with the wontons.

Most people didn’t stop to listen to my big exposition before eating the wontons at the party.

You ain’t so good, Google Neural Net

Google recently launched an interactive web game to train its neural network to recognise objects. The game, Quick Draw, calls on human users to draw a prompted object within a short period of time and the machine tries to guess what it is based on what it has learned so far from all of the inputs of previous players. Quite ingenious, to crowdsource training a machine learning (ML) program since many people are always looking for an excuse not to do work.

I wanted to test its learning limits. I more or less had a sense of how previous inputs for the prompts would look like, since humans tend to draw objects similarly when under time pressure. I wondered if I drew all of the objects from a different perspective, would the program still recognise it as the object — a task which humans are very capable of?

The answer is: not really.

I experimented with drawing in a sequence that would not be obvious what the object is immediately, but the end product would be discernibly apparent. I experimented with odd and skewed perspectives. Google Neural Net failed most of the time.

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I think my mountains were really good! I started with a skewed line to not trigger immediate “mountain” responses from Neural Net and then quickly added half lines but by the time I was done, any human would have seen that these are really good mountains.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-30-52-pm

I thought it was cute that my mouth were interpreted as a bear, an owl and a smiley face. What?? I started with the top line forming the nose, lips, mouth, chin and neck, followed by the back of the head. I filled in details and drew an arrow pointing to the mouth. In Neural Net’s fairness, its creators probably never accounted for it to learn the concept of pointing — a task that I don’t think is too difficult given how far we’ve come along in ML. It seems Neural Net has really only been learning to identify objects by scanning them as a whole.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-5-23-15-pm

I drew a jagged tooth key, instead of a wedge-end key because I thought it’d be too obvious. By the time I finished the key, Neural Net still hadn’t recognized it. I had some time left and literally drew in the words “KEY” hoping it’d help Neural Net along but noooope. It thought it to be a crocodile. Cute croc though.

Looking at what examples Neural Net uses as its learned base to pass judgment, one sees that humans tend to draw things either profile or head-on, and hence how Neural Net learns to identify objects.

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Come on. My butterfly was clearly the best butterfly all of Neural Net’s learned examples.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-5-22-35-pm screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-5-22-45-pm

How are some of your examples even mushrooms!? They look more like penises! I declare my mushroom to be mushroomier than your learned examples!

Google Neural Net, it seems you have a long way to go.

 

Bonus pic from a friend:

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COME ON. In what universe are these trombones?? I’m starting to think people have never seen what a trombone looks like.

Balance Your Chicken

Sometimes, you just gotta lighten up and take a break and create pointless, stupid stuff. I had been on the train, on my phone, extracting bridges from songs for future use on short video clips like these when suddenly the caption “Fried chicken can be part of a balanced diet too!” popped into my head. And as a fan of Cibo Matto, the idea of for this video clip came to fruition.

And I realise I’m no stranger to creating stupid things to make sense of life.

I probably made this back in 2008 or 2009. There were a bunch of other clips from that same filming session that I am not releasing because they’re very cringeworthy.

ささやかだけれど、役にたつこと (A Small, Good Thing)

I’ve always been fond of Shibuya-kei, and have even written about it on this site. While I can’t fully grasp all local references, I’ve been listening to this Shibuya-kei song by Kaji Hideki (ヒデキカジ). It’s been helping me close the chapter and impelling me along.

君が旅に出た それも突然
You went on a journey, it was sudden
こうして僕が旅から戻ってきたのに
Because of that, I came back from my journey.

ドアの向こうには もう誰もいない
On the other side of the door, there was no one
恋してたのは僕だけじゃなかったはず
I’m not supposed to be the only one in love.

ささやかで役に立つ インスタントでできた
A small, good thing, INSTANT things can be
夢もコーヒーもすぐにさめなければ
Be they dreams, be they coffee, even if they turn cold
いいなと僕は思う
I think they’re still great.

そしてまた僕は次の旅に出る
And so I begin my next journey
例えば この空から雨が降るように
Like, for example, rain that falls from this sky.

ささやかで役に立つ レイモンドは語る
A small, good thing, RAYMOND says
青い空に白いシャツが合わないって事だってあるのさ
A white shirt that does not match the blue skies.

キミドリの庭を上 犬たちが飛び回る
Above the yellow-green garden, dogs are circling overhead
こんなによく晴れた日々君からの手紙が届く
A letter from you arrives in these sunny days.

きっとまたどこがで会おう
Let’s definitely meet somewhere again.

Nobody ever tells you this but the worst thing about administering CPR, especially to a loved one, is that your thoughts are chopped into bite-sized urgency with each compression.

“Come. On. Wake. Up. Wake. Up. Already. Please.”

*checks breath and heartbeat*

“Why. Aren’t. You. Waking. Up. Choke. Or. Something.”

*checks breath and heartbeat*

“Am. I. Not. Pressing. Hard. Enough. Or. What.”

*checks breath and heartbeat*

“Why. Won’t. You. Show. Sign. Of. Life.”

And then, when you stop the CPR, when you had been in a mode where your thoughts were forcibly disjointed, they all come crashing back in one long incoherent jointed sentence hitting you like a brick wall from all that contained pressure like how bedrock fissures when all that regolith is removed.

[2 weeks]

愛しのキッズ

On the first day after Josh died, I had a lot of trouble doing the dishes. Japanese Shibuya-kei and blues singer Mayumi Kojima (小島麻由美) was playing in the background and her song “Itoshi no Kids” came on, I had to take a time out — it was too much. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the lyrics were hurting.

さよなら、愛しい人 もう一度だけ笑って
Goodbye, beloved one. (If only) you could laugh again
その横顔 ずっと 焼き付ける 瞳のフィルム
That profile will always be burned into the film of my eyes

あなたとのドライブ 黙っている二人は
Driving with you, silently, with just the two of us
ゆるやかに響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

いつか、あなたのことも 赤の他人のように
Someday, you will also be like a stranger
痛みも涙もなく 想う日くるのかしら
Perhaps one day I will be able to think about you without pain or tears

さよなら、優しい人 向こう岸に行きましょう
Goodbye, kind one. Let us go to the shore on the other side
ゆるやかに 響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

いつか、あなたのことも 赤の他人のように
Someday, you will also be like a stranger
痛みも涙もなく 想う日くるのかしら
Perhaps one day I will be able to think about you without pain or tears

さよなら、かわいい人 もう一度だけ笑って
Goodbye, adorable one. (If only) you could laugh again
ゆるやかに響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

Sanctuaries

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Yesterday, I was feeling very affected by the attack on LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, but I wasn’t quite sure why. I did not directly know any of the victims, was not there, nor was I Latino — the majority of the victims — and my only connection to the incident was that I was a QPOC. But it wasn’t that connection that stirred something inside me. It was the idea that our sanctuary has been so easily trashed that struck me.

In 2009, I was bound for New York for college, and it would have been my first foray into the United States. In preparation for the journey, I researched as much as I could about the city, and learned that it was a haven for the LGBT community and the Stonewall Inn was where the LGBT rights movement first started. At the time, I had never experienced or dabbled in anything of that nature — I was too concerned with school and extracurriculars to be even bothered. Never been inside a gay club, never kissed, never held a hand.

But I learned about the concept that there are spaces where one could go and be amongst like people. Places where for while, one could let one’s hair down and not worry — nay not think — about disapproving stares, much less the fear of rebuke and reproach. Sanctuaries.

One of the very first few things when I had landed in New York and had generally unpacked was to pump up my unicycle (my preferred mode of transportation) and go for a ride in the city. I was curious about this Greenwich Village and Chelsea, spoken of in Wikipedia (Hell’s Kitchen had yet to be linked into the Gay Village Wikipedia article at the time, or I wasn’t looking very closely) and unicycled down the legendary Christopher Street I had heard so much of.

I wasn’t too disappointed. Back then in 2009, the West Village was on its way to being gentrified but still clung on to the vestiges of its gay subculture. I still saw, in broad daylight, men in leather suits and heels and caps, LGBT people openly holding hands and kissing, bears, daddies, twinks, dykes and all shades of the rainbow and I smiled.

“This isn’t too bad. I think this place could work,” I thought.

I hit the end of Christopher St, past the leather and daddy bars, past McNulty’s (love that tea/coffee merchant) but did not go to the piers, as I didn’t know about it then. I then made a U-turn and then back up 8th Avenue, all the way into Chelsea.

There, I saw a different gay people of a different ilk. Men with buzzcuts in their 30s and 40s bulked up with muscles exploding out of their inexplicably tight tank tops (I dubbed them the Chelsea gym bunnies), skinny gay men yakking all the time and the smattering of sex shops selling underwear, poppers and porn. I didn’t dare go into any of them then, but yet I still felt safe standing in the streets even as I was among some of the people physically quite unlike me — in skin colour, size, and much more. Yet I felt like I belonged.

I was merely standing in the streets of these gay-bourhoods and already I felt for the first time I was surrounded by a community of people like me, a refreshing change from the dour looks back home. I wasn’t even in a gay club (that’s another story) but even though I was in a strange land, I felt safe, despite having been traipsing New York City roads and traffic on one wheel on one of my first few days here.

“Welcome to sanctuary” the city seemed to be saying to me.

And over the years, I have made many friends, created many communities, have been accepted by many communities, and created my own family here in New York.

The Pulse club was one such sanctuary for many gay men and women to enjoy a night out without the fear of “faggot” being yelled their way. A place where LGBT people who were not yet ready or able to openly hold hands in public without being attacked to hold each other. A space where the only judging going on were eyes sizing you up whether to say “hi” and bring you home for the night, and not whether you were abominable sin.

But that night, all around the country, LGBT people were reminded that they were still from being safe to walk upright. That despite being surrounded by “allies” and the recent developments in gay rights, all it takes is one mentally ill person, one hateful person, any straight person welcomed into a gay space but ultimately striking fear into the gay people around him because he was told to quiet down, to make us question how safe are we, even in our sanctuaries.

And that was why I was perturbed.