Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Drinking Costco Matcha while Cranking out Elves

After being sticker shocked by a price increase in the local grocery store matcha, I finally sprung for the giant bag of matcha from Costco. It's an epic good deal at $18 for 12 ounces and I'm here to say it's pretty good. I can unequivocally state it's better than any I've drunk in any boba joint or tea house.  I quaff it by the gallon these days in matcha lattes but when I do drink it straight, this budget matcha from Sencha Naturals has a pleasing sweet lingering finish. 

Twin Elves from the East

After being disappointed by the unelflike elves in the worst Tolkien adaptation that has ever existed, I spent all week trying to generate sketches of convincing elves with my magical AI image generator.   I am not a long hair purist. It's entirely possible that after a Balrog yanked down Glorfindel by his long tresses that warrior elves might choose to keep it short.  You don't want orcs yanking your ponytail in battle. Those elves from that unworthy production had more behavioral issues and acted like short sighted mortal humans. 

I was curious what AI training data considered a canonical elf and it's predictably a long haired pointy-eared pointy-faced pretty boy of European descent.   I prefer my fantasy races to look different from the human race like the drows of D&D or the dunmer of Morrowind. It makes more sense to me that fantasy races would look nothing like existing human ethnicities. But fantasy content is created by and for humans.  For kicks I tried making elves of various human ethnicities to see what makes an elf visually an elf.  Elves don't have to be ethereally beautiful, ugly elves work too. Actually anybody that's played an Elder Scrolls games knows this.  Bearded elves and fat elves are a harder sell and bearded fat elves, well they simply cross over into dwarf territory.

Samurai elves are a thing in fantasy games...

My husband charitably said these portraits were convincing, these were not just characters that appeared to be cosplaying.    In the portrait above, I've taken out the ears of the left twin mainly because they were hideously large donkey ears. It actually feels like he should have elf ears.  Regardless of race, it's a fiddly affair trying to get AI to put in elf ears which are often garishly proportioned, no doubt skewed by enthusiastic fan art.  I've only had moderate success with the Asian face types. The other races, I've generated hundreds of variations but could not get them to look quite convincing. I can't decide if long dreads do not look right on an elf or I am lacking the magic prompts to make it look right.

You can enjoy more of my work from my newly minted Deviant Art page:


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Drinking up that 20 year old budget beeng...

Recently, I've been brewing up small chunks of a random 2005 6 FTM for kicks. The only reason I brew such dregs of my collection is because somehow it's the only easily accessible beeng in a tightly packed closet. For probably about ~$3 for the entire beeng, it's decent enough and I'll save my analysis for the end.

I was going to take a classic photo of puerh in a gaiwan but I thought why not let those new fangled AI image generators show you something more interesting.  I've been laboring all morning to get my beefy GPU to cough up images of a balrog having tea with Sauron at the foot of Mount Doom. 

What AI thinks when "Sauron drinking Chinese tea with a Balrog"

The AI doesn't quite get it and the best I could do is summon vague copies of Sauron with some tea paraphernalia.  Critics might say my prompts are not refined enough or my sampling inputs need adjustment but it's not quite time yet for AI to conjure up the subtleties of true tea enjoyment in a dark fantasy setting. Nonetheless these images are infinitely superior to what I myself could draw from scratch.

AI rendition of Sauron's tea party

I give up forcing the dark lord to enjoy tea and now contemplate this brew, the '05 6FTM Yinji Yibang of the green wrapper.   I was foolish enough not to gird my stomach with a proper pork lunch and sheng even aged two decades on still gives me that familiar stomach ache. Let's be real, it tastes more like an 8 year old, if that.  I may simply wait another few decades.

While home aging in Berkeley overall has yielded expectedly subpar results(nothing new to report here), hoarding early has at least saved me a lot of money in this dreadful age of inflation. I was in line at the grocery store where the grandma in front of me paid $10 for 4 organic onions.  I guess inflation is the true evil of not only this world but of other realms. Inflation must have been pretty crazy at the end of the Hobbit with Smaug's hoard of gold flooding Middle Earth. 

AI does not quite get "Sauron enjoying tea"

Some answers in case you are curious:
  • Yes the Rings of Power is an atrocity that can never be forgiven. Everybody knows the real romance is between Sauron and Celebrimbor.
  • I am using Stable Diffusion open source 1.4 version with Trinart model
  • No I will not buy a RTX 4090, just on principal.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Mystery of 2008 Rose House Tea

 My mother received two canisters of loose black tea for Christmas last year which she dutifully handed over to me. To my very surprise, the expiration date was 2011, the tea being from May of 2008.

What's the chance that this kind of inadvertent black tea aging experiment would land on my very lap. The fact that someone hoarded(?) and re-gifted this tea 14 years later boggles my mind. The gift came from a kindly professor in his eighties who had recently moved.  Despite my burning curiosity, my mother declined to get more information about how long this tea had been in his possession or if it was part of a long chain of regifting. It could be that if you have that many decades under your belt, a single decade feels like a year.

The tea is not spit out disgusting but fairly drinkable. I've had much much worse at museum shops and on airplanes. The underlying blended black tea is still bright. Unfortunately, it's the rancid botanicals(orange blossom, rose petals) that ruin the flavor. Otherwise, I could have happily drunk this decade expired tea without trouble.

What to do? Order another boatload of Assam from teabox.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Winter Tea Reflections

Of all the sensual experiences available, I don't know why I have fixated on tea as my vehicle for pleasure and stimulation. In middle age, some choose a young mistress but me, I yearn for certain kind of leaves in a teapot.  I'm not looking for a perfect cup of tea as much as where the brew will take me. 

Just as certain music can induce complex moods, certain cups of tea have brought indescribable reverie of complex emotions. I haven't written about it much because, well I resist writing such intimate tea thoughts for any random stranger to chance upon.  But what is a tea blog but the very place for sharing tea thoughts.  So here goes. Sometimes the mood is joy, sometimes it's sadness, but mostly it's many emotions fused in inseparable ways. These feelings are very different from the usual wellspring of emotions that bubble, much more existential but not angsty. It's purer, less clouded by my individual self.  

But unlike music that will naturally pull from you as a passive listener, finding this altered tea state requires a bit more active engagement.  I have to be attuned to it to be carried in and I have to make a conscious effort not to think which will carry me out.  I imagine wine and scotch are much less finicky to bring about this type state with the aid of alcohol or certain drugs but some how I desire this specifically from tea. 

I don't know what brew of brain chemicals is exactly triggering these episodes and why I think tea is the conduit.   I've thought perhaps because I drink tea often and it's incidental that I wrongly attribute tea drinking to be the vehicle. But definitely puerh brings about this state than most.  And I need the tea as the doorway for now.

Winter is upon us at least in the northern hemisphere. Dear reader, I hope you are bundled up and warming yourself up with a hot cup of tea.  From my favorite games, I've made a quiet playlist for you that is suitable for carrying you to sleep. Enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Shu oatmilk latte + other abominables

A few years ago when I used to prance around downtown Oakland for noodles and bobas, a new boba joint was offering puerh macchiatos. At the time, I was curious (and somewhat disgusted)  but not enough to forgo my usual matcha latte.  And now that cafe is long defunct and I no longer frequent boba joints. 

A few months ago, I had been quaffing some pretty good shu ('09 YS Lao Cha Tou Sheng Yun) and it was not flagging anytime soon.  There's only so much straight up shu a girl can take.  At the 5th brew, I decided to switch it up with some oatmilk remembering my missed opportunity.  It wasn't so bad and soon this combo grew on me that I finally finished last of my brick that I opened in 2017.

Whence came mold?
I went to fetch a new brick only to find white mold spots on the outside wrapping. The brick underneath appeared to be unharmed. It's been a really humid week with the pineapple express drenching the Bay Area with buckets of water.  Inside the teacloset it's 41% RH right now. The shu is stored outside in the overflow area which is at 50%RH.  I guess it's good that there's humidity enough but one doesn't want a mold outbreak either.  I'll have to do a complete inspection which I haven't done in several years.

This lao cha tou and my other shus in general has not aged well, the exception being the lighter shu with a sheng blend. The earlier lively tastes from a few years ago are no longer present.  There is some controversy over whether shu can age and I would say paying a lot for aged shu is probably not the best idea.  

So what to do with a cabinet full of badly aging shu? It's definitely drinkable and at worst I'll have it as latte. The oatmilk really rounds out any off fishy flavors. There are purists who think milky additives are an abomination on proper tea. While I wouldn't defile high quality leaf this way, I'm going to take any route that makes my  shu more fun to drink.