Updates MWF

Three Types of Stapled Notebooks

I've been thinking about what sized of stapled notebooks I should make, and after further thought, I've decided to focus on three main sizes.

  1. A5 style notebooks (5"[127mm] by 8.25"[210mm]).
  2. Narrow Notebooks (4.33″[110 mm] x 8.25″[210 mm]).
  3. Pocket Notebooks (3.5"[89mm] x 5.5"[140mm]).

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Coffee Shop Critique List - Pt.1

an overview

I started working on my coffee shop criteria list, and like usual, I underestimated how much work goes into this simple project. Therefore, I've decided to upload my work in small chunks rather than showing a finished version at once

I searched online for what is a good coffee shop, and after discussing it with my brother MJ, a coffee shop visiting addict, I think I've covered the broad strokes of a good coffee shop. Here is a step-by-step flowchart of this project from beginning to the end (or at least till Version 1).

graph TD subgraph Development Stage A[Basic Criteria List] --> B[Detailed Descriptions] B --> C[Scaled Rubric] C --> D[Non-Formatted Sheet] end subgraph Testing Phase D --> F[Test Run 1] F -->|Add Missing Criteria|G[Test Run 2] G -->|Balance Criteria and Rubric Values|H[Test Run 2] H -->|User Feedback|I[Test Run 3] end subgraph Version 1 I -->|Last Minute Adjustments and Aesthetic Changes| J[Version 1 Completed] J --> K[Official Dynamic Sheet] J --> X[Official Formatted Sheet] K --> Z[Begin Judging Coffee Shops] X --> Z end

Upcoming Posts

As the project continues along, I will post periodic updates. Note that this is the developement phase so some of the values and wordings will change as the project continues.

  • Basic Critique List of Coffee Shop
  • Detailed Description
    • Atmosphere
    • Coffee Quality
    • Convenience
    • Personal
    • Bonuses & Docks
  • Rubrics
  • Unformatted Rubric Sheet
  • Formatted Rubric Sheet
  • Dynamic Rubric Sheet

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Grand Opening!

Boat
Toot toot! USS oftenzhan.com passing through!

I am proud to announce... the official opening of oftenzhan.com. It's built, polished, and ready to be shipped out to sea. You have no idea how excited I am for this. I've spent weeks planning, writing, and tuning this blog so that I could feel comfortable sharing it with others.

It's not perfect. That's OK. This blog is a reflection of me, and I'm not perfect.

Don't let perfection get in the way of good enough.

Now that I am done with setting up the foundation for this blog, what does that mean for me now? Well, now it means that I can focus on what I truly wanted to do in the first place: Write.

Starting next week, I will be writing on a consistent writing schedule of project updates, short stories, journal entries, and other relevant posts.

Before I end this post, I would like to thank everyone who helped me build this site from ground up. Special thanks to my two older brothers who provided me with feedback in the early stages of planning. Also, thanks to my dog for his endless encouragement and support.

Well, put on your sailor suit, crack open another bottle of Champagne, and jump on in! This moment marks the maiden voyage of oftenzhan.com, and let me tell you, it's going to be a wild ride.

Are you ready?

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project fitness

Intro to Fitness

building a life-long habit of health

Intentional fitness is something that is foreign to me. Growing up, I was never really shown the importance of proper dieting, flexibility, and strength training beyond 'eating your vegetables' and 'taking a stroll around the neighborhood'. Even now, whenever I go to the gym, I get a contemptuous look as if he is thinking, "Why are you lifting heavy things for no purpose? If you want to bend your knees and pick up stuff, you can clean the backyard." However, there are reasons for going to the gym and an important one at that. For me, going to the gym provides a designated place that encourages

  1. Exercise - Maintain full range of motion and current health (cardio and musculature)
  2. Training - Improving one's current physical and psychological well-being.

I find it important to differentiate the difference between exercise and training because they both play different roles. Mark Rippetoe says on his blog:

The ill-informed think that variety is the objective and that boredom is the enemy, that the pump, sweat, fatigue, and soreness are the hallmarks and the objective of an effective workout, not realizing that these things are just the side-effects of what happened today, and are not the indicators of progress. Marke Rippetoe

At this point in my life as a young'ish man, I am building a momentum—a lifestyle—that will play a significant role in my comfort and productivity in the future. It's scary to see my parents and their generation suffering with heart problems, nutritional problems, and diabetes. And no, I don't think that all of these symptoms are a natural result of age. Most of them (if not all of them) are entirely preventable if I only make a few minor changes in my life.

I can spend hours and quote books and speakers about health and fitness but as of right now, in the beginning of my process of building a healthy lifestyle, I will focus on the following:

  1. Diet
    • Balanced Diet
    • Volume Control
  2. Cardio
    • Daily Running
    • Marathons
  3. Strength
    • Primary Lifts
    • Secondary Lifts
    • Muscle Imbalances

I'll work out for a month while generating some crucial data about my current well-being. Afterwards, we can discuss where I can improve from there.

Task List for Future Posts

Make a list of the following

  • Exercise Plan
  • Strength Training Plan
  • Dieting Plan
  • Empirical Data of starting point: Weight, BMI, BPM, PRs

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project cooking

Intro to Cooking

a haphazard attempt to make food

On my commute back from church, I visited an estate sale in San Bruno. The house was in an upper-middle class neighborhood. Shelves were packed with odd knick knacks including two black and white TVs, several iron-on Boy Scout Patches, and a wide array of cooking ware. In the downstairs garage, all of the hand tools and power tools were put up for sale.

One side of the kitchen wall was completely covered with shelves and shelves of cookbooks. There were hundreds of cookbooks ranging all the way back to the 40s. While perusing the cookbooks, a nice older lady in her 60s asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. I told her that I gave always wanted to improve my cooking skills and was looking for beginner books. She enthusiastically showed me some of her favorite cookbooks.

"Everytime I travel, I buy a cookbook as a souvenir. See this book?" It was a Greek cookbook. "I purchased this when I visited Thessaloniki!"

I felt a little guilty buying books that she spent years, decades, collecting.

I picked up one of the books that stood out from the rest. It was tattered. A navy-blue hardcover book with pages were falling off. It was obvious that the book was worn from constant use. The front cover as spattered with oil, the front cover was holding on by a thread, and the once embossed golden lettering were now illegible. Opening it, I saw handwritten newspaper clippings and notes. The lady looked surprised when I took it out of the bookshelf. "Oh, I'm sorry. That cookbook is not for sale. That was the cookbook my mother used when she got married."

In the end, I bought some of the newer looking cookbooks. Ones with pictures and simple recipes. I paid the person attending the cash box, her son.

I left with three cookbooks and a pair of vintage headphones.

I never met her husband. Often Zhan - Journal Date 4/22/18


I've never been good at cooking. It just feels weird. I've met so many people who tell me, "Food tastes so much better when you cook it yourself." And yet, I've felt the exact opposite. The food just tastes... weird. I have seven reasons why:

  1. I suck at cooking.
  2. I nibble on all the ingredients as I cook the food so by the time I'm done cooking, I'm already full.
  3. I think too much about how to improve the recipe, dish, and cooking technique.
  4. I'm overwhelmed by the smell, flavor, and taste of the food while cooking that it loses it's impact when eating.
  5. My cooking sucks.
  6. I usually cook using leftover ingredients which may impact the overall flavor.
  7. My culinary skills are so absent to what is expected of a young male adult in his late 20s that it has created an vacuum in space left by its lack of existence.
  8. I find Gogurt™ to be an essential ingredient in all cooking, no matter the dish. NO MATTER THE DISH!

My relatives have tried to teach me, but only as an afterthought. They would say, "Ten, come over here and watch me cook." Their directions were never consistent: They never used a cookbook; They never followed a recipe; They never use the same ingredients for the SAME DISH... (I talk more about this particular fustration in my About Me page.)

It was not until later on in life that I began to appreciate the importance of cooking. Not just financial and practical reasons, either. Food is at the center of my Filipino heritage. The dining room table was always in the same room as the kitchen, and every major family event—every important conversation—I've ever had was in the kitchen. Without a doubt, the kitchen was the central hub of the house. Apart from my bedroom, I've probably spent more time in the kitchen than in any other room in my house, and I don't even cook.

A couple of years past, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to learn how to cook someday, but I've decided to not push this future goal to the side and tackle the issue now. Here are several reasons why:

  • I have more free time.
  • I want to have more control over what ingredients are in my food.
  • It's economically cheaper to cook my own food.
  • I want to get into food photography.

However, I've found that learning how to cook is an uphill battle. There are so many types of cultural foods, techniques, cooking styles, and recipes. Where do I start?

Setting My Boundaries

Since I am starting off from basically scratch, I began by limiting to specific requirements:

  • Straightforward, simple, and fast cooking.
  • Essential Dishes (Dishes I would cook often and eat everyday.)
  • Healthy Yet Flavorful
  • Cheap

As my limiting requirements began to increase, my strategy began to emerge naturally on its own. After much deliberation, I've finally developed a rough strategy on how to become a better cook.

Often's Plan to Be the Iron Home Chef:

I will take notes before, during, and after cooking. Before cooking, I will have a detailed description of my procedure and ingredients. While cooking, I will write anecdotal notes, musings, areas of improvement, and areas of future study. Afterwards, I will reflect on the overall final product. I will also take pictures throughout the entire process.

Step 1: Soups

Not stews, but rather soups with uniform texture- purees, salsa, and dipping sauces. My reason is rather simple: There are so many factors that can go into a good meal. Aesthetics, flavor, texture, heat source, ingredients... Therefore, I've decided to view cooking as an experiment with control, dependent, and independent variables. Beginning my journey with uniform-textured soups helps by making texture, techniques, and cooking styles the control variable.

Step 2: Salad

This helps bring fiber into my daily eating. I am sad to say that I do not eat much green on a consistent basis. No wonder, I am fat.

Also, I don't judge a good meal until after it passes through my system. A good meal is not just about good flavor. How do I feel an hour after? How was my pooping experience?

And to be honest, the best pooping experiences I've had were from salad-centric days.

Step 3: Chicken Marinade and Rubs

Chicken is cheap and versatile. You can easily find it fresh or frozen. Also, I can kill two birds with one stone if I learn how to marinate while thawing.

Step 4: Grilled Steak

There's not much prep time and seems very easy and quick. The essential ingredients are always salt, pepper, and oil/butter. Once I master the cooking technique, I can begin to implement different types of herbs and spices.

Step 5: Baking (cookies, pastries, and cakes)

I don't want to be single forever.

Agenda and Future Posts

Of course, I am still nowhere close to executing my plan. I still have to generate a list of recipes, develop my Gantt Chart, and create a notebook to write my cooking notes. Luckily, I have those three cookbooks I got from the estate sale to help generate some recipes.

  • Seriously Simple: Easy Recipes for Creative Cooks by Diane Rossen Worthington
  • Everyday Epicurean: Simple, Stylish Recipes for the Home Chef by Catherine Bell
  • Sunset's Easy Basics for Good Cooking by the editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine

If you have any advice on how I can become a better cook, let me know.

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