Categories
Giving

Giving in 2020

Early in 2019, I realized that:

So in 2020, I decided to continue donating and making sure that it goes to the most impactful charities. GiveWell has done a lot of research on the most effective charities, so the majority of my donations went to their Maximum Impact Fund which gets distributed to charities that can change people’s lives. The rest went to GiveDirectly which is on the list of GiveWell’s top charities.

I mentioned in “Giving in 2019” that I was expecting to give around $3k or $4k in 2020, so I’m glad that I was able to go way beyond that goal!

YearOrganizationAmount
2019GiveWell$1,398.50
GiveWell (Match)$1,000.00
2020GiveWell$13,420.39
GiveDirectly$920.18
GiveDirectly (COVID-19)$600.00
GiveWell (Match)$1,000
2021GiveWell$300
Total$18,639.07
Categories
Travel

Salt Springs State Park

We went out to go camping near Salt Springs State Park a few weeks back. Being stuck at home since February have made us hungry for the outdoors. We tried to compensate by going to different parks in the city, but that didn’t really satisfy our need to be in nature.

We felt a sense of calm the moment we stepped into our campsite. We stayed there for a couple of days, and I’m glad that we didn’t have any access to electricity either. We were content with what we had.

I wish this was something that I could do more often. But now that COVID-19 is spiking again in Pennsylvania, I fear that it might take some time before another opportunity like this will come up.

Categories
Gaming

Cloud Gaming

I’ve been fascinated with cloud gaming in the last few months. The idea of playing high-end games on any hardware (old computers, Chromebooks, ARM processors, phones, etc.) and on any operating system really drew me in.

The eye candy also won me over. My laptop isn’t built to handle graphically demanding games, so a lot of the time I play my games in medium settings. With cloud gaming, the games look glorious since they run on powerful servers.

I’m surprised at how well it all works. It’s like magic to me. With Stadia and Geforce Now, all you really need is a web browser because all it needs to do is send video. I’m impressed that I don’t really notice the latency issues either. I was able to play shooters like Doom Eternal and Control pretty smoothly.

We’ll see if cloud gaming ends up being the future, but right now I’m having fun with it.

Categories
Gaming

Staying connected through games

I’ve been playing more games than ever since I moved to Windows, and I’ve been half-joking that gaming is my social life right now. I used to think of gaming is a massive waste of time and an expensive one at that, but the pandemic has completely changed my opinion. Co-op games have kept my sanity intact now that I rarely see friends in person.

The game that opened the floodgates for me was Animal Crossing because it let me visit my friends virtually. It really showed me that Zoom isn’t the only way to get together these days.

I’ve collected quite a handful of co-op games since then. My favorites so far are:

  • Deep Rock Galactic
  • Overcooked
  • Moving Out
  • Unrailed!
  • Portal 2
  • Among Us
Categories
Food

Kombucha

I love the taste of kombucha. Since I already do some fermentation at home, I figured that I could try fermenting my own ‘booch at home, too. So last month, a friend gave me a jar of kombucha with a gelatinous, leathery-like film floating at the top. It was pretty gross-looking, but this was the SCOBY or the “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” and it was essential for making my own kombucha.

There are plenty of kombucha-making tutorials online, but my friend recommended that I watch the You Brew Kombucha channel on YouTube. Andrea and I learned that it’s actually pretty straightforward to make kombucha, and it’s also really cheap! It’s just tea and sugar (and time). There are basically two parts to kombucha making:

First Fermentation

We put sweet black tea (we use Assam tea at home) along with the SCOBY in a large jar, and we just basically let it sit there for 7-10 days. We should be okay as long as we have a piece of cloth over it (to prevent contamination) and that it’s away from direct sunlight. We also try and taste the tea from time to time to see if it’s good enough for our liking.

Second Fermentation

We technically have kombucha after the first fermentation, but the second fermentation adds additional flavor and carbonation. This is fun for us because we get to mix in different fruit juices and try out different flavors.

We first puree the fruit and put them in bottles. We then pour the kombucha into those bottles and shut them tight. The sugar will turn into carbon dioxide as it ferments for a few days (4 seems to be the sweet spot for us), making the kombucha fizzy.

My personal favorite so far is honey with lemon juice. It makes a really refreshing kombucha.

Categories
DIY

It’s surprisingly easy to repair a Roomba

These days, I expect electronics companies to be unhelpful when it comes to repairing. When I replaced the batteries on my iPhone 7, I had to buy unofficial parts, buy prying tools, read community-made tutorials, and pray that I don’t break my device while I force it open.

I was surprised when I learned that iRobot (the company that makes Roomba vacuums) doesn’t just sell spare parts, they also have tutorials on how you can replace them yourself. Wirecutter reports that they even sell parts for the original Roomba from 2002!

While I can’t exactly compare robot vacuums with phones, repairable and longer-lasting smartphones are possible. I wish more electronics companies made repairs easy.

For now, we can continue cleaning all the fur from this pupper.

Categories
Food

Bagels and Bibingka

Last week I got to make bagels with my coworkers over Zoom. We were supposed to get together in person for our annual meetup, but we opted to do everything online instead because of the pandemic. That bagel-making class was honestly one of the highlights of my week! I feel like it’s such a treat to see people in their own kitchens.

I rarely bake, so bagels were a bit of a mystery to me. I heard that bagels are boiled and then baked, so I assumed that it would be difficult to make them at home. It turns out to be pretty straightforward, and you can check out the whole recipe here. The hardest part for me was probably kneading the dough for ten straight minutes.

I think learning how a particular dish comes together is what I find enjoyable in cooking. And that I get to eat it if it all goes well! Even though bagels can be found in just about any grocery store, I feel I have a better appreciation of it now that I know how to make it.

Last week, I also got to make Bibingka for the first time. It’s a rice cake that’s usually sold as street food during Christmas in the Philippines. Andrea thought that since we had just made salted duck eggs, we should use it to make Bibingka, too. You can find the recipe that we followed here.

Bibingka and salted duck eggs were things that my family never made back in the Philippines because there was really no need for it—you could easily get them from a street vendor or at the store. But now that I don’t have easy access to Filipino food, I feel like it’s become a bit of a necessity for me. I’m feeling proud of myself for learning the dishes that I ate growing up, and that I’m seeing them in a new light now that I’m making them as an adult.

Categories
Food

Salted Duck Egg

I grew up eating a lot of itlog na maalat or salted duck egg when I was growing up in the Philippines. My family usually makes a simple salad out of it that you either eat with rice or on the side of the main dish. It really only has two ingredients:

  • Hard-boiled salted duck egg
  • Tomatoes

You can also add onions, fish sauce, or black pepper if you want to add some variation to the taste and texture. Salted duck eggs are usually sold in Asian markets, but because of COVID, it’s not easy to go to one. Fortunately we got a delivery of fresh duck eggs from Imperfect Foods, and we thought that it might be fun to try and make our own salted duck eggs at home. It turns out to be easy, but it takes a long time to make: 3 weeks. Here’s the recipe that we followed: Salted duck egg recipe (video version)

Duck eggs in brine.

Update

It’s a success! It tastes exactly how I remember it to be. I’m not sure if it’s worth doing, but I’m glad that I know know how salted eggs are made.

Categories
Food

Repulgue

Yesterday, I learned how to repulgue or crimp an empanada to get that beautiful braided edge. I had trouble doing this the first time when I was following Bon Appetit’s video on making empanadas, but I finally got it when I followed the technique in this other video. The difference is that the second repulgue used a flat surface to help with the crimping.

Categories
Updates

What I’m doing these days

I think I’m starting to feel more at ease about my lack of productivity outside of work. At the beginning of March, I wanted to take full advantage of my time at home, busying myself with personal projects and hobbies. I thought I could go through the unread books on my shelf, write software, make candles, and work on different fermentation projects. Unfortunately, the reality is that I end up feeling spent on most days.

It was frustrating at first, but I’m grateful that at least I have work when 30 million people in the US don’t. So these days, I’ve focused more on maintaining a routine instead of striving to do more.

Routine

Setting up a routine was difficult at first because I’ve gotten used to matching my activities with the right environment. If I wanted to exercise, I’d be at the gym. If I wanted to work, I’d be at the library or my coworking space. If I wanted to relax, I’d be at the park.

So the challenge in the first few weeks was to build new habits in the same environment. There was this excellent and surprisingly practical article from retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly that I found useful. He talks about how crucial schedules are for helping people adjust to a different environment.

6am to 9am: Booting up and doing chores

Having some time for myself in the morning to shower, drink coffee, journalbudget, and meditate has been an essential part of my routine in the last two months. I feel that it’s almost non-negotiable. It gives me some space to slowly ramp up my day instead of immediately jumping into work. This is also the time when I write on this blog/newsletter.

9am to 5pm: Work time

I find that running a website blocker and putting on some background noise helps me switch from lounge mode to work mode. I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to adjust the way I work since I’ve been working remotely for 7 years now. Still, I do miss the option of being in a coworking space/library/coffee shop.

5pm to 6pm: Exercising

Since I no longer sprint to catch the bus, climb up the stairs, or carry heavy loads of groceries, I’ve been prioritizing exercise at home. I got a pull-up bar and some resistance bands in March, and I’m actually surprised by the exercises that you can do with minimal equipment. I also got creative with some empty milk jugs by filling them with water and cramming them in my backpack to make a weighted vest.

6pm to 10pm: Spending time with people

I used to fill this time with personal projects, but now I’ve opted to dedicate this block of time for people. I’ve recently been spending this time with Andrea (making dinner, watching TV, or playing games) and calling my friends/family. I rarely called people on the phone before all this, but I find that hearing people’s voices is almost necessary for me these days.