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Archive for August, 2007

Sweet corn ice-cream

Last weekend I made two new flavor of ice-cream: sweet corn and black sesame. They smell so good when they were cooking…. and they turned out much better than expected.
seaeme ice cream seaeme ice cream

I am probably going make one more batch of the corn before the last of the late summer corn is over.

  • 2 ears of fresh local corn
  • 1 3/4 cup of whole milk
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup of sugar

Separate the kernels from the corns cob and break the cob in half. Cook the cob and the kernels in the milk and cream with medium heat until boil. Turn heat to lowest setting and simmer until kernels are soft. Fish out the cob and leave the milk alone until cold. Filter out the kernel and press the remaining juice with a cheese cloth. Reheat the milk mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until creamy. Slowly add the hot milk to temper the yolk. Add the custard back into the pot and cook with lowest heat. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon. When custard thickens, remove to a container and refrigerated over night. Filter again with cheese cloth and put in your ice-cream machine.

1 comment August 20th, 2007

Creative Zone

My date was making a comparison between engineers and the creative type that I found very amusing.  She said engineers are like designers, they always try go for perfection.  If you give them 10 years to improve the system, they will take the whole 10 years; until there is nothing left to improve on.  It is true in a certain way.  If you ask me to build a system without time constraint, I’ll probably design something that run itself, self recover and not page me for stupid shit like disk full or database unavailable.
But in the business world, most people don’t behave like engineers or designers.  For one, on one in the business world understand something called the creative zone.  It describe a period when you finish loading the entire problem into your head, and starting concentrating in one single problem, filtering out and ignoring all distraction in your surrounding.  That when you get the most productivity out of it.

If you ask me, I don’t believe in multi tasking.  At least not well.  If you have to context switch (switching task) every 10 minutes, you never get a chance to even load the problem into your head.  And if you get interrupted all the time, you instinctively avoid getting into the zone, because  being cut off while you are in it is extremely painful.

Add comment August 17th, 2007

blood on the street

When there is blood on the street, buy property. It kinda more easier said then done. Perhaps if you look at it from its intrinsic value, it might have make it easier. I am talking about the recent credit market and the flight for quality drying up anything that’s not issued by the government, depressing the equity market at the same time. Yes, it is true that the sub prime fallout makes obtaining capital more expensive. For those who need to do that in a short period of time, it will depress its earning.

But if you look at corporate earnings for Fortune 500 for the last couple of years, many have enough earning reserved that they don’t have to tap the capital market anytime soon. Companies like GE is not going to run out of money to meet it commercial paper and bond obligations. However, company stocks are being penalized disproportionally to the increased risk.

Since no one wants a stinky fruit, it is obviously true that financial companies are going to earn less in fees from leveraged M&A activities and the debt packaging, but that doesn’t mean that company a diverse company like Bear are 2 credit grade less likely to meet its bond obligation. The fact that Bear has to offer 245 basis point spread for its recent issues is a case in point that there is blood on the street.

But if you are sitting on the most senior tranche or the top 2 investment grade obligations, the intrinsic value of the cash flow hasn’t change since the sub prime crisis start. Does it mean American corporations are 2 times more likely to default? Maybe a little, but not to the extend that it has gone down now.

Unfortunately the credit market doesn’t lean itself towards people with little money like me.  Even with corporate bond ETFs like the LQD@102.66, the move is at most 10% that unless I buy it on leverage or go for the near 5% yield, it’s not as sexy as China play like BHP or LFC.

Add comment August 12th, 2007

the reward on accomplishment

I managed to get a block of time at work to code, and finished a significant module today. There is nothing more satisfying than a sense of accomplishment; whether it is good code, a deal, a great dinner, an home improvement project, a good night out with friends, a successful date…

Maybe there is no one to pad your back, but the accomplishment is still a reward in itself.

Add comment August 9th, 2007

Chai Gelato

Following up on my brave world of ice-cream posting, I have made some break through today. My first attempt was chestnut ice-cream, with canned chestnut puree and chest nut in water bits. With “il laboratorio del gelato” as my benchmark, needless to say, I failed. It tasted pretty darn good, but the texture was a little to hard and too loose. The puree also contributed to a powdery texture.

So today I tried making chai gelato.

  • one cup of 2% milk
  • one cup of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • two table spoon of loose chai
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 5 egg yolks at room temperature

First mixed the cup of milk and cup of cream, add the loose chai tea and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. You will loose 1/4 cup of liquid in the process. While watching it simmer, remove the yolk sac in a large bowl with your hand and whisk in the sugar. Temper the eggs by mix in the hot cream slowly. Return the mixture to pan.

Here’s where my happy accident happened. While cooking the custard and stirring with a wooden spoon, my friend called. The custard has now thicken to a “Bird’s English custard” consistency. So I quickly remove from fire and put it in an ice bath while adding 1/4 cup of cold heavy cream. Then I strain the mixture with a Chinese soup bag (also know as cheese cloth but at 1/6 the price). The mixture needs to be chilled overnight.

Put it in the ice-cream machine, chill in a metal bowl for 3 hours. I tried it just now. It’s not Sant Ambroeus good, but man, its texture is on par with il laboratorio, might even be better. Not as sweet as their normal offerings, but the Chai taste comes much more intense. I claim this experiment a success!

The only problem is now I have 5 egg whites. Do I hear green tea macaroon :)

Add comment August 7th, 2007

Insider trading

I was reading an article from August’s “Market” magazine about insider trading. It talks about how insider would try to buy the short term option of a stock days before the buyout news is announced, caused the open calls to surge. And how SEC uses this information to track down the suspect.

Suppose I don’t have insider information, and suppose I accept that market does not have perfect information and someone knows something I don’t. And further suppose that insider trading exist. One could easily find out when the trading volume on a particular option spikes out of proportion with its underlying stock and piggy back on the information someone has. The information that it uses is all public (historical open calls volume and trading volume of stocks) and the code would be exactly the same as that you would use to detect if a retail site updated an item with the wrong price (say a flat screen for $160 instead of 1600) due to the cyclical nature of volume during the day and reporting(holiday) cycle.
But how do you filter out the noise from “stupid money”? The one that’s caused by those stupid stock spams. I wonder if you can deliberately got on to the list of those stock spams. Then you can apply a negative list to the execution. I only need to examine the the short terms near the money options for companies with market cap less then a certain amount (i.e. G.E is not going to be a take over target because of the capital required). The list HAS to be shorter than the cardinality of a retail catalog!

sucks that the credit market dries up recently. The takeover, hence insider trading are going to be less likely. Better spend time to ponder something else.

Add comment August 4th, 2007


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