We have some silicon molds for chocolates, which we use to make the occasional sweet. You know, melting chocolate, making ganache, pouring it in, etc.
But one thing I never learned was to temper chocolate. Just like steel, chocolate forms crystals as it cools down. And if you cool it down slowly from the right temperature (a process called “tempering”), then it will form harder, bigger crystals than when you just heat it up and let it cool down again — also just like steel. These harder crystals is what give a chocolate bonbon it’s “crunch”.
So upto now, all of our chocolate work was kind of mushy and sticky.

Just like with every skill, you can learn it from YouTube videos, so that’s where we turned. There are many videos about tempering chocolate, and some offer contradictory advice. So we decided to stick with the advice from this video and just try it out. And lo and behold, it’s so much easier with this method than I had thought! (This is a recurring theme: something that seems intimidating at first turns out to be pretty easy once you dive into it and try it out.)
So we were able to make really nice chocolate bonbons, with that delicious crunch! I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

Video editing

As I wrote earlier, I’ve taken some videos during our trip to Japan. Most could be uploaded ‘as-is’ (and so I did). But from the Jidai Matsuri I have quite a few clips — not everything was interesting, especially not the waiting. So I needed a way to cut out unwanted parts and stitch these video together.

My regular desktop is quite anemic: since it’s always on and I don’t need much processing power for my day-to-day usage, I use Calcifer, a small Atom-powered nettop. Works like a charm, but things like full HD streams are too much for the little guy to process. So this Friday, I brought home my work laptop (which is a high-powered, modern machine) and downloaded the Artist-X live DVD. It booted fine, and I started up Cinelerra to start editing my videos.

Unfortunately, even the laptop had trouble decoding the video (probably an issue where the hardware rendering of the GPU couldn’t be activated through the driver), and Cinelerra can’t produce video with the correct resolution. I tried KDEnlive for a bit, but wasn’t enthused either.

And then I found out that YouTube has a video editor. You can combine multiple clips into one project, cut out unwanted parts, add some effects, etc. Surely not a full editing suite, but I don’t need one anyway. And YouTube videos play smooth (though not HD) on Calcifer! So I uploaded all my clips as private videos, and then combined them into one project, which is now being processed. Afterwards, I’ll just delete the constituent clips.

Very easy to use, intuitive interface, works in the browser, and works good on Calcifer. And I want my videos to turn up on YouTube anyway, so next time I’ll go straight for their editor.

One guy in Japan had randomly decided to fit a video camera in his car — probably just for the laughs. And then the earthquake hit (you can see a pedestrian struggling to keep on his feet), and a few minutes later the tsunami came in. The camera caught it all on tape, and when the car-wreck was recovered, the camera was smashed but the memory was still readable. (The owner had decided to abandon ship before the car got banged up, luckily.)

You can see the video here.

It’s very impressive. It’s the middle of a city at a busy intersection, and suddenly the water just keeps on coming.

I used to burn patterns in a piece of wood with a magnifying glass in summer. Small fry compared to this video. Apparently 2m2 of sunshine has enough power to melt any material on Earth, if it’s focussed enough. Quite impressive.