now that we are in the digital age, things like cd, dvd, and even blu-ray seem quaint and antiquated when you sit them next to your shiny tablet. and because of the movement toward digital, contents like music and movies have begun their march to the cloud for years now. nowadays it is common for people to watch a movie on computers, tablets, and smart phones in lieu of tv and theaters. enter Apple and UltraViolet (UV), two major providers of cloud services. both of these services have been heavily discussed by all sorts of tech writers, so what I’m offering is from the perspective of a lay user: i give a first-hand account of my experience with both services. your mileage may vary.
with either Apple or UltraViolet, you’re able to buy digital contents and consume them across multiple smart devices. UltraViolet is the younger of the two, so Apple enjoys a healthy advantage just for being around way longer than UV. one distinction between Apple and UV is that UV offers movies only, while Apple offers multiple types of digital content. if you still buy dvd or blu-ray movies, you’ve probably seen stickers on the case telling you the movie contains a digital copy of the film, whether for Apple or UV. so besides buying movies directly online, you can also get them as a package from buying physical discs.
let’s say you’re going with Apple products. one of the biggest limitations, and perhaps the biggest gripe many people have about Apple, is that you must live within the Apple ecosystem. when you buy a movie from Apple, you’re locked into the Apple service––which means you have to use Apple products in order to use the Apple digital contents. i think this is why some tech users like to compare Apple to a cult; once you’re in, you’re in for good. another complaint is that Apple is notorious for not offering refunds, so make sure you buy only what you really want. you likely won’t get your money back if you just don’t like your movie.
and then there’s UV. the process seems similar: you get movies online or through redeemable codes found inside your dvd/blu-ray movies. that’s where the similarity ends, though. to me, UV seems to be much more ambitious than Apple––they want a cross-platform reach, meaning you can watch your movies across different devices running different operating systems. so if you own an iPhone and an Android tablet, UV wants you to be able to watch your movie on both devices. good idea, right? but then you run into the actual practice of the idea.
in order to set up everything for UV, you have to set up multiple accounts and download multiple apps for your smart device. for example, say you bought Inception on blu-ray (a Warner Brothers movie), and it comes with a UV code for the digital copy. in order to watch it on your iPad or iPhone, you have to set up a free account with UV first, roughly a 15-minute process. then you need to set up another free account with Warner Brothers (WB) so you’re authorized to download the movie from WB. finally, you have to set up an account with the app that plays the movie so you can link everything together. hopefully, everything works after all your efforts and you can finally start to watch your film. total time invested: 40 minutes to an hour.
if that sounds like a lot of work, it is. from what i can tell, UV does not own the rights to any digital content. they only provide the service to link and distribute your movies across platforms, but they don’t make any apps that will play movies on your device. unfortunately, YOU are responsible for tracking down everything necessary to watch your movie. if things don’t work, you have at least three entities to deal with, and they tend to push responsibilities around so issues don’t get resolved.
Apple, on the other hand, makes everything seamless. once you buy the movie or enter your redeem code, your movie starts to download instantaneously. you can buy the movie or enter your code on any of your Apple smart product as well as your Mac or desktop. once downloaded, there are no additional apps to install; everything is built-in so you can watch your movie right away. the process is as painless as breathing air. if you have technical issues, Apple tends to be very good at fixing them. true, you’re locked into the Apple ecosystem. but with solid products and painless user experience, why wouldn’t you?
i think UV has a good idea, and if the company improves its process, UV may be a viable alternative to Apple. for now, it’s a sucker’s bet.
this past sunday ESPN aired three hours of the 2012 international challenge of champions in its typical fashion: two semifinal matches and one finals. (thanks ESPN dudes!) the first semis featured shane van boening (y’all know who he is) and jung lin chang, the 2012 world 8-ball champion from taiwan. i’m not familiar with chang, but apparently he won some big 8-ball tournaments in asia, so he was no underdog in the match.
a quick recap; if you know the rules for this tournament skip this paragraph. in the challenge of champions, the competitors play two sets of 9-ball, and each set is a race-to-five format. the 9-ball on the break doesn’t count, and you have to call the 9-ball to win the game. you don’t have to call balls one through eight. alternate breaks. jump cues legal. if the players win one set each, they go to sudden death and play one game to decide the winner; players are required to lag for break in the one-game tiebreaker.
so the first set chang just destroyed svb, 5-0. (in all fairness, svb’s break wasn’t working, otherwise he would’ve won a few games.) in the second set, svb managed to get a lead. in the last game of the second set, svb got a chance and ran out. however, when he got to the 9-ball he didn’t call the shot (at least in my eyes). i guess the referee missed it too, as well as chang, because nobody made a peep. i thought i had missed something so i watched that 9-ball shot routine at least 15 times. i did not see svb make any indication, gesture, or motion to mark the pocket. unless i misunderstood the rules, svb fouled on that shot. anyway, you guys decide; apologies for the uber-crappy video.
now granted svb did stare at that pocket for a bit, but he made no sign to call the pocket. so what in the world was the referee doing? that’s the puzzling thing to me. and because i have a wandering mind, my next question was how that referee was trained. (i’ve seen the same ref in other televised tournaments, so he was no newbie.) sadly, i don’t believe that the US has a pool referee training & certification program, and when i see refs, i have this doubt in my head about how well or how accurate that person could make the call. when there is no preparation, no standardization, no training, and no certification process, we can’t guarantee the referee will perform to a competent level, or that any two referees will make consistent and similar decisions due to their training. (when looking at snooker referees, i’m always amazed at how similar and consistent their actions are to one another. that to me is the benefit of a training program.) maybe i’m making a big deal out of this, but if the ref had called the foul, svb would’ve lost the match and chang would be in the finals. that’s a pretty big call. but the ref didn’t call the foul, and svb ended up in the finals instead. yes, i realize the ref is human. i am just surprised at the mistake; it seemed an easy foul to call.
for the record, i do not favor svb or chang in this match. i wanted the ref make the right call in a tightly contested match, or maybe svb call a foul on himself. (quick, somebody wake me up.)
ah, the humble ramen. when people hear “ramen”, they likely think of this:
while the cup noodles is a form of ramen, the actual thing is a thousand miles away from this humble variation.
ramen is a dish originated in china; the word means hand-pulled noodles. but after years of mutation, the modern japanese ramen bears no resemblance to the original. so what is ramen? is it a beef noodle dish? chicken? pork? does it contain pork slices? bamboo shoots? tomato? corn? the answer is that it depends on who you ask. based on my meager understanding, here’s my take on what ramen is.
ramen, in its purest form, has no purest form. the modern ramen contains as much (or as little) ingredients as the chef would care to use. the basic link between different ramen styles, as far as i can tell, is that they contain soup and noodles. while the type of noodles used in the ramen seems very similar from shop to shop (a wheat flour noodle), the soups are as different as the chefs who make them. the toppings are even more varied than the soup. like i said, there is no set of rules that govern what a bowl of ramen should look or taste like; the chef decides what the ramen will be. having said that, there are some fairly common ingredients for the ramen.
noodles: the typical ramen noodles are made with wheat flour. i think most shops will get this from the local factory, though some may ask the noodle shop to make it to their specifications. there may also be shops that make their own noodles, but i haven’t been to a ramen shop that hardcore.
chashu: the pork slices you see on your ramen is the chashu. this is found on a majority of ramen, but not always.
bean sprouts: some shops love to use this while other shops avoid them. these are typically blanched then placed on top of the ramen.
menma: this is the dried bamboo shoots. these are typically boiled then served as a topping.
black fungus: you may know them as wood ear fungus. some shops like them while others don’t.
nori: seaweed. usually served as a small sheet on top of the ramen. depending on the style of ramen, you may see this in your bowl.
green onion (negi): normally a garnish, although some shops use this as a main ingredient and make what’s called negi ramen (green onion ramen). you typically get a huge load of green onions (a big handful or two) in the ramen if you order that.
hanjuku egg (hanjuku tamago): some ramen shops will serve this boiled egg with soft yolk. they are delicious.
hard-boiled egg: if the shop doesn’t want to bother, they’ll serve the hard-boiled egg instead. lazy bastards.
since pictures are always better, here’s a simple diagram. click on the pic for Konishiki version.
rest assured that your favorite shop will serve something completely different from this pic. in fact, if you watched the hokkaido episode of anthony bourdain’s no reservations, you’ll see the hokkaido variant with crab legs, scallops, corn, and BUTTER.
(fast forward to 1:21 to skip to the ramen scene. i apologize, but the skip code in the video link doesn’t work for some reason.)
as you can see, there are almost no rules for ramen. if a chef can make something tasty, it is a successful bowl of ramen, corn and all.
here in L.A., the most prevalent form of ramen seems to be the pork bomb variety––by that i mean the shop will violently boil the pork bones to extract every ounce of marrow, fat, and whatever porky essence to make the stock. as a result, the soup is typically very thick and rich, with a layer of oil floating on top of the soup. some may think that sounds disgusting, but that’s how you get that porky flavor. there are many other styles of soup, but in L.A. the pork bombs seem to rule the landscape for now. you will find ramen shops that specialize in chicken or shoyu (soy sauce) broth, but that takes some digging in the city of angels. to me, if a shop makes tasty ramen, i’ll try it. now who makes a hokkaido-style ramen around here . . .
besides ramen, i’ve also had a chance to try the filipino crispy pork, also known as lechon kawali.
i know nothing about filipino food so i’ll have to compare this to other dishes i’ve heard of. i think lechon kawali is similar to chitlings: pork belly pieces slowly deep-fried until crispy and delicious. the ones i ate came with a sweet sauce for dipping and was quite tasty. still, this is not a dish you wanna eat everyday; it’s extremely fatty and i presume not good for you at all. but once in a while, you can satisfy your grease quotient with this dish. it’s fattylicious.
on the pool accessory front, predator is entering the chalk fray and selling their new octagonal chalk.
the new predator chalk is supposed to be comparable to blue diamond, but we’ll see what happens. i’ve been using blue diamond and i’m quite happy with the results. if the predator chalk works like bd and cheaper, i’d definitely try it. for those that use a chalk holder, the octagonal shape may be a problem; time will tell.
in other news, the iphone launch is THE biggest tech story right now. not far behind is the new iOS 6 and the impact it’ll have on iphones. since i’m poor i’m not buying the new iphone right now; kind donations of $570 toward the new iphone will be greatly appreciated if you’re so inclined. with the new iOS 6, the biggest problem seems to be the new maps application. now that apple has broke away from google maps, there have been a number of complaints about inaccuracies of the new map. some users even reported that the new map gives wrong directions. due to this reason, some owners of previous generation iphones are reluctant to upgrade the OS. apple stated that as more users use the new map, the more accurate it will get. (read: early adopters will become guinea pigs.) i kept wondering if apple would ever team up with thomas guide to boost the usefulness of the new map; after all, thomas guide sits on a mountain of geographical data that would no doubt help apple’s cause. just a thought. on the plus side, the new maps app uses vector based graphics to render the streets, so we get a bump in speed while zooming in or out. (click here for an explanation of vector graphics, and here for a comparison between vector based graphics and pixel based graphics.)
i’m a latecomer to gordon ramsay’s kitchen nightmares. started in UK in 2004, ramsay’s kitchen nightmares became very popular and now has spin-offs in five countries, including the US. (the original UK series ended in 2007.) i’ve watched both the US and UK version, and i think the UK version is much better in terms of storytelling. it’s really neat to look at restaurants through the eyes of a chef, and through what perspective he finds strengths and weaknesses in a restaurant. currently the UK reruns are shown on BBC America; if you haven’t seen the show it’s a fun ride.
sorry about my aimless rambling, gentle readers; i’ll try to write in a more coherent manner next time. toodles.
[update sept. 24, 2012] thanks to longtime reader q&b, i realized that i forgot to include a video. below is a cooking video for yakibuta ramen (roasted pork ramen). you’ll notice that the ramen is not the pork bomb variety i described previously. rather, the broth is clear and (probably) a lot gentler than the pork bombs. the video is quite informative and (i think) very adorable.
btw, the end of the video included an announcement that the chef was injured and hospitalized. i think she was riding a bicycle and got into an accident; according to the internet, she has since recovered and is now back to cooking and shooting videos, so panic not.
i will also include another sample of ramen. this is the shio ramen (salt ramen); i believe the pork broth is seasoned with salt instead of soy sauce, hence the name. again, click on the pic to Konishikirize.
enjoy! ’til next time.