Friday, 20 March 2015

Tips and Tricks about Espresso Coffee and Tea


  • Make sure, the group handle is always attached to the group head of the coffee machine. This is to make sure the handle remains hot and it does not produce cold espresso. When an espresso extraction occurs through a cold handle, the taste of the espresso is negatively affected.
  • Before making an espresso shot, always purge the group head. It is to clean out any coffee grinds left behind from the last shot. It is to also get rid of 100°C so 90°C water can come in. If you make an espresso shot with 100°C water, the taste of the espresso shot will be negatively affected.
  • Always clean the group handle after every shot of coffee. It is to get rid of the old coffee grinds and if not cleaned, the old grinds will cause a negative burnt taste for the new espresso shot. If the old grinds remain for a long period, it will cause a rancid taste for the new espresso shot if it is not cleaned properly.
  • After making a shot of espresso, it is recommended to swirl the cup before pouring the milk in. It is to spread the Crema around the cup to provide a better taste for the cup of milk coffee.
  • Only put the right amount of coffee beans in the grinder during operation. If the coffee beans are unused for a long period, the oxygen exposure will cause the beans to become rancid. If the old beans are mixed with new fresh beans, it will negatively affect the coffee shot's taste along with the grinder's production of grinds.
  • It is important to change the grinder's scale frequently. The amount of beans affects the blade's operation due to the weight sitting on top of the blade. Room temperature and condition of the beans also play a factor in the grinder blade's operation.
  • While some are confused about the difference in foam for flat white and latte, the flat white has minimal/extremely thin amount of foam which is why it is called a FLAT White. The latte has slightly more foam so it is scaled in between flat white and cappuccino although it is closer to the flat white.
  • When steaming the milk for foam, make sure there is enough milk at or near the bottom of the spout. If there is too little milk, foam cannot be made due to lack of room for air development along with the milk heating up very quickly. If there is too much milk (i.e above the bottom of the spout), there is not enough room for air development for foam along with the risk of milk overflowing and spilling over the jug. 
  • When pouring milk for coffee, pour slowly for more milk when making latte or flat white. Pour the milk fast when making a cappuccino. Another method can be lifting the jug higher to introduce gravity to have less foam when making latte or flat white.

  • When making iced tea using tea leaves, mix the tea leaves in cold water and leave over night. Otherwise brew it in hot water and add ice for rapid cooling.
  • When wanting decaf tea, brew the tea leaves first and pour out the water and pour fresh hot water into the pot. For tea bags, hang the bag and pour hot water over it.
  • Black tea is bitter due to the tannins. Adding milk gets rid of the bitterness while lemon does the same thing. Milk however is more effective than lemon.
  • While Westerners think Chai as a sweet spicy milky latte, it actually means tea in South Asia.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Plato's ideas and philosophy

Born in Athens in 429BC and died in 347BC, just before the birth of Alexander the Great. Came from a very wealthy and aristocratic family with many involved in Athenian politics while Plato himself was never involved with politics. During his early days, he learnt a lot about Socrates about the ways of thinking and questions relating to topic.

After Socrates' death, Plato wrote everything he learnt about Socrates. He had his own ideas and philosophy with one of his works was called "The Republic". It describes what Plato thought would be a better form of government than the current government of Athens. He believed that the best people chosen to run government is more efficient than democracy.

He learnt a lot about the natural world and how it works. He thought that everything has a sort of ideal form. One of the ways Plato tried to explain one of his ideas was the famous metaphor of the cave. There are prisoners chained to the wall facing into the cave and cannot see anything outside the cave. They can however see the shadows of what is going on outside the cave. The prisoners will think if the shadows are real or not. If one prisoner escaped and saw what real people, trees, grass and plants looked like and told other prisoners in the cave, would they believe him or not?

The point is that like those stuck in the cave, humans think they understand the real world but because they are trapped in their bodies, they can only see the shadows of the wall. One of Plato's goals was to help people understand the world better by finding ways to predict and understand the real world even without being able to see it.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Which side are you taking?

Nowadays in the media, sides had been taken when it came to big news/topics. Normally the division is between Western and Eastern media. Among the mainstream of thinking, Western media had always been seen as praising the West and demonizing the East.

Looking at the recent tensions in the Middle East along with the war in Iraq, BBC and CNN were always praising the Coalition forces while Al Jazeera was exposing the other side showing the atrocities which Western Media hardly talked about.

Another good example is China which has intense censorship with the government deciding what is it's media could and could not say to it's people. Whenever crisis batted the Communist Nation, Chinese state media often said very little or nothing at all in order to cover up any government wrongdoing. Examples of wrongdoing is the police brutality, torture and mistreatment of suspects in custody. The majority of the crisis happened around Tibet and Xinjiang province. Outside China, Hong Kong and Western media often had reporters going undercover and spreading the news to the rest of the world. Another good example was the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre which Chinese media had not said word about while Hong Kong and Western media kept on reporting on every anniversary since the deadly massacre. Western media were quick to report on Hong Kong's umbrella revolution while Chinese state media said very little.

RT (Russia Today) is another dominant non Western media like Al Jazeera which reports from the Russian perspective and is heavily biased towards the West. It often posted articles showing the bad side of the West like corruption, police brutality, unpopularity and flaws. During the Euromaidan protests which Ukraine was split on whether to join Russia or the European Union, the split between the media came when Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee Ukraine. Western media quickly sided with the change in Ukraine's government while RT was still siding with Yanukovych. When the Ukrainian Civil War broke out, Western Media sided with the Kiev government while RT backed Russia and the Pro Russian separatists. Tensions escalated when MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine. Western media blamed the incident on the Pro Russian separatists and Putin's Russia while RT was blamed the Kiev Government.

It't isn't just the media alone that has been taking sides. Race issue had been problem to this day with the shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, US. There had been bitter disputes with one side supporting Michael Brown who was unarmed and had his hands up. The other side supported Officer Darren Wilson who was repeatedly attacked after responding to Brown's robbery and had opened fire to kill Brown to protect himself.

When studying events and stories, it is recommended to look at multiple news outlets and compare to see what has been said, seen or happened. Instead of looking at a single news outlet, you are able to get a wide knowledge and understanding of the event/story and know who is telling the truth or who is covering up.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Picture speak a thousand words #2

Standing at the 50th floor of the Auckland Sky Tower (182 metres) and being able to have a great view of Auckland is marvellous. The Maori name of Auckland is Tāmaki Makaurau

Seeing that there are many skyscrapers, lets scan through from left to right. The first one on the left is the white coloured PwC Tower standing taller in front of the AMP tower. The West Plaza Tower stands behind the AMP Tower and in front of the ANZ Centre. To the right is the Stamford Plaza Hotel and in front is the Quay West Apartments. Tower Insurance building and Zurich Tower sits on the right side of Quay West. Shifting a bit to the right, Mercure Hotel can be seen along with the Octagon shaped BNZ tower, Deloitte tower and the SAP tower which is all located on Queen Street. City Life Hotel is also located on the bottom right side of the picture located at Victoria Street East. Going upwards, the AIG building is located on the right side of the Vero Building which is the tallest building in New Zealand. Beyond the Vero Centre is the Lumley Centre along with ANZAC Avenue which University Students travel through to get to University. 

The best time to be at the Sky Tower is during a nice summer day where the sun sets past 7pm due to daylight savings. Auckland's weather does have mood swings like Melbourne with four seasons happening in a day. During bad weather with heavy winds, the tower sways like a rocking ship. Auckland is New Zealand's equivalent to Sydney as they also have their own tower and North Shore along with being the largest city. 

The picture taken is the best view to have as you can see Rangitoto, the harbour and the CBD's tall buildings. On the left, there is the ANZ Centre which stands at 143 metres and it was the tallest building during 1993 when it was built. You can see the ANZ Centre's exterior looking different as it renovated the outside area along with 22 floors refurbished. There had been reports of a new skyscraper being built behind the ANZ Centre being 65 stories tall. Eventually the Sky Tower rose at the height of 328 metres along with the Vero Building on the right which stands at 177 metres. It is currently New Zealand's tallest building and the structure on top is meant to be a halo when looking from the harbour. From the Sky Tower, it looks like a toilet seat. You'll probably think why the Vero building looks so short even though it is 5 metres shorter than the Sky Tower's 50th floor and that is because the Sky Tower is built on high ground. Built on 30 metres above sea level, the 50th floor is located at 212 metres high in the air. While people complained about the Sky Tower's Observation Deck being built so low, it's fair to say that the high ground provided extra height. 

Over the horizon, you can see Rangitoto Island which has been a dormant volcano which erupted 600 years ago. To the right, you could see Waiheke Island which is the home to New Zealand's upper class. You notice that Rangitoto looks taller as it is 260 metres tall which is the average height of many skyscrapers around the world. Ahead of Rangitoto is Auckland's North Shore (abit like Sydney's North Shore) and you could see the Devonport. The centuries long community has an extinct volcano (Mount Victoria) and has an old military base at the eastern end called North Head. North Head was built before World War One due to the fear of Russian invasion and it was used during World War Two to defend against a possible Japanese invasion. North Head has a network of tunnels with artillery and anti-aircraft guns to protect Auckland. Today North Head is a tourist site with dark tunnels to roam around. West of North Head is Devonport Naval Base which is the main base of the New Zealand Navy.

Auckland CBD is always active during weekdays and Saturday but is quiet during Sunday. The harbour has alot of boat movements along with container ships unloading cars and containers. In the photo, you could see a large cruise ship docked at the harbour. The harbour can dock as much as three cruise ships at any day. The cruise ships can vary from large ones carrying over 2000 passengers to small luxurious ones carrying as little as 80 passengers. During summer holiday season, big cruise ships come to stop over at Auckland during the morning and depart at/after sunset to another destination. The majority of cruise ship passengers are Australian or American providing Auckland businesses a major boost during the summer holidays. Looking from the Sky Tower, it is amazing to see how other buildings look short as they look tall from ground level. There is a mixture of towers ranging from office, hotel to residential. As Auckland's population surpasses 1.5 million with many living in the city, city planners want to go upwards with tall apartments. Auckland was once the capital of New Zealand before it shifted to Wellington and is the biggest city since the early days of European settlement. Among the skyscrapers, street life thrives heavily with many people heading to the city for work and pleasure. Queen Street is the most busiest where most businesses are located along with Britomart, Victoria Street and Albert Street. Britomart is a thriving area full of restaurants, bars and nightclubs along with the talk of a Waterfront Stadium for the 2011 Rugby World Cup but was later scraped in favour for Eden Park to host the World Cup final. The harbour had hosted the 2000 and 2003 America's Cup event with record crowds drawn and national pride heading up as Sir Peter Blake lead Team New Zealand to victory in 2000. Although narrowly losing the 2013 America's Cup, it would have been nice for the event to return to Auckland. 

The rope that is seen in the picture is the Sky Tower's Skyjump. It is a controlled jump from 53rd floor at 192 metres going down at 85kmh for around 11 seconds at the cost of NZD$225.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Picture speak a thousand words #1

This is Sunnynook Bus Station located on the North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand. It is part of the Northern Busway along the Northern Motorway which is designed to allow a free flow of buses. It does come in handy during morning and afternoon peak hours as traffic is devastatingly brutal during those times. You could sit in a bus and watch as the bus zooms past all the cars stuck in traffic. There are five stations in total = Albany, Constellation, Sunnynook, Smales Farm and Akoranga. Heading southbound after Akoranga, the bus merges with the motorway traffic heading to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. If the motorway had extreme traffic, the bus would be stranded until it got to the Northern Busway. Heading northbound, the busway ends at Constellation and buses merge with local traffic heading to Albany.  Many bus services benefited from the Northern Busway like the Northern Express and the North Star service to Hibiscus Coast. In the past, the Northern Express traveled directly from city straight to Albany and so did North Star buses which traveled directly to Hibiscus Coast. In the past, these buses were stuck in traffic during the nightmare peak hours.  

Sunnynook, located next to Forrest Hill and Totara Vale is a bustling community with Countdown Supermarket, Primary School, bakery and food stores linking up with Link Drive that has many stores including Hoyts cinema. With many places to eat, the community has everything at it's doorstep. The main road is Sunnynook Road. The long road links up Target Road and East Coast Bays Road. It is a very busy road especially during peak hours when traffic is intensely heavy. In the New Zealand Parliament, Sunnynook is part of the Seat of North Shore which is a safe National Party seat. The weather in Auckland has always been a mood swinging with four seasons happening in a day or even unexpected weather changes happening. Although it does not snow, there had been rare occasions of hail. In this photo, the weather is sunny with a clear blue sky during the Spring October. 

At Sunnynook Bus Station, Platform 2 heads southbound to Auckland City while Platform 1 heads northbound to Albany, Torbay, etc. Many bus services operate at the station while the most dominant service is the Northern Express which runs from Albany to Britomart and vice versa. During peak hour, it runs every five minutes while non peak times, it runs every ten minutes. The 881 service also runs every ten minutes from Torbay to Newmarket during peak hour. It is mostly used by students going to Auckland University/AUT. The 881 service had a bad history which prompt students to complain online about it's delays and incompetence. It does not have staff services but it does have speaker system that tells when the next bus is coming if you push a service button. It also has emergency boxes which you can press and speak during emergency. The emergency boxes are located on both platforms and the paths leading to the platforms. It has CCTV cameras, shelters and adequate lighting to keep the commuters safe. Although quiet during the day and night, it is crowded during peak hours as commuters rush to get on over crowded buses during the freezing cold mornings. Platform 2 has access from Sunnynook Road, Kapiti Place and a walkpath under the bridge leading to the other side of Sunnynook Road. The platform also has public toilets. Platform 1 has only access to Sunnynook Road bridge with stairway and a long path for disabled commuters. Both sides have timetables and a live timetable screen feed providing service updates. Airport shuttles, contractors and emergency services use the busway. In 2012, major road works occurred with the installation of power lines underground to strengthen the electricity for the far north of New Zealand. When opened in 2006/2007, then Prime Minister Helen Clark opened the busway and the general public had the opportunity to walk the road. Signs were placed saying the prohibition of alcohol, busking, loose animals, smoking and riding bicycles. Like other bus stations, there are parking spaces which allow commuters to park their cars for 260 minutes and are monitored by City Council's parking inspectors. Telecom/Spark had offered free wifi for commuters to use while waiting for the bus. Along Platform 1 and the bridge, there are signposts showing advertisements from Auckland Transport. In the photo, the advertisements were taken down as the colour have faded and are yet to be replaced. The station's design was very advance featuring a side lane for buses to stop while a second lane is used for buses to drive right past without any delay. Going from one platform to another requires having to go on Sunnynook Road Bridge but during quiet times, few commuters cross directly on the busway. Doing this would require a big walk due to the fence in the middle and this is not recommended during busy peak hours. 

From a long distance, you can see Auckland City's skyline. The Auckland Skytower can be seen along with the Vero Building, ANZ Centre and Metropolis. The Skytower at 328 metres can be seen from a long distance and is the tallest man made structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The ANZ Centre at 143 metres was the tallest building during the 1990s before the Auckland Skytower was constructed in 1997. The Metropolis at 155 metres was built in 1999 and was the tallest residential building in Auckland. The Vero Building was built in 2000 and it is the tallest building in New Zealand standing at 175 metres. Auckland may have taller buildings with the NDG centre being proposed next to the Skytower standing at 209 metres. Previously, a 232 metre tower was proposed on the same site but was cancelled due to the Global Financial Crisis. The proposal of the skyscraper at the site of NDG centre saw concerns about the building being so tall, it would block the Skytower's view. It is possible to see Sunnynook from the Skytower but all you could see is a giant land mass of North Shore. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

View from the Auckland Sky Tower

Built in 1997, it is the tallest man made structure in the Southern Hemisphere standing at 328 metres. It has observation levels, restaurants and is also used as a communications such as broadcasting and radio. It has 150 metres of concrete shaft with reinforced foundations. Levels 44 to 46 contains refuge that can fit up to over 800 people in an event of a fire/emergency.

At 182 metres, is Sky Lounge Cafe and Bar on Level 50. A place to have coffee, cocktails and cafe food while enjoying the view.

Main Observation Level is at Level 51 at 186 metres. It is a public viewing deck which includes glass floors.

At Level 52, there is Orbit Revolving Restaurant at 190 metres. It is New Zealand's only revolving restaurant that provides great view while having a la carte lunch/dinner.

Level 53 was the outdoor viewing deck when the Sky Tower first opened. It was later changed to Observatory Seafood Buffet Restaurant which went on until 2013. It was renovated and changed to The Sugar Club led by Kiwi celebrity chef Peter Gordon. Unlike Orbit, The Sugar Club is a fine dining restaurant offering degustation dishes. At the height of 192 metres, it is also the floor used for SkyJump and SkyWalk. SkyJump is a controlled fall from 192 metres to the ground at rapid speed. Skywalk is a walk around the outer rim of the tower wearing a harness.

At 220 metres is the Skydeck located on Level 60. It gives a great 360 view of Auckland with frameless windows.

The Sky Tower also includes a 108 metre antenna which is used for broadcasting and communications. It is only the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere because of the long antenna as Sydney Tower's observation deck is at 250 to 270 metres. The highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere is the Eureka Skydeck at 285 metres. As the Sky Tower's observation decks are low, it stands no chance is Australian cities (except Adelaide and Darwin) as they all have skyscrapers as tall as 250 to 300 metres.

Able to withstand intense earthquakes and high winds, it also has coloured lights to showcase celebration at night. During Lantern Festivals and New Years, thousands gather for the tower to unleash fireworks.