First a disclaimer: this is aimed at the newbie to audio “hi fi” systems. Audiophiles stay away; skip this article.
Let me tell this story as my personal experience, while dipping my toes into the pond of High Fidelity to experience the sensation of near-actual live studio/concert hall musical performances.
First, I found a mentor; an audiophile as crazy a perfectionist as you would expect. Someone who won’t blink an eye to put down mega dollars for that little incremental improvement towards perfection. This was to draw my inspiration from and to establish my own realistic (that’s tough!) benchmark against. When he had got me sufficiently excited, it was time to go shopping.
I set myself a budget of RM20,000 ( it was USD 5,800 then) for a reasonably good entry-level system. I settled for the NAIM 5i integrated amp, Marantz K.I. Pearl Lite CD player and a pair of floor-standing Polk Audio RTiA7. For the interconnects, I use the Kimber Kable PBJ and for the speaker cables the QED Bi-Wire. Just to be sure, I plonked some dollars down for the Chord power cables. My mentor gave me a pair of UPS to stabilise/clean up the incoming juice to my amp and player. On top of that he gave me some gadgets and additional tips to improve the sound quality; but that’s for a later different story.
I hooked that all up and fired them up and… yes! For a guy used to listening to music on a portable cassete/CD player, it sounded so sweet to my ears. It seemed like every instrument came alive. Then it happened. One day the sound just does not seem “right”. It felt lifeless and flat. Even a friend commented that his Bose integrated system sounds better than my so called Hi-Fi separates system. I invited my mentor to take a look. He suggested I relocate the system and to arrange them elsewhere in the living room and helped me pick a new spot. And he was right! The music came alive again! But not for long….
I enjoyed my system for a few months and then like before, it suddenly didn’t seem as sweet as it should be. It’s like, I suddenly realise the sounds were too bright and thin and there’s just not enough oomph in the low frequencies. Should I change my speakers? Should I change my amplifier? I don’t think it’s my Marantz K.I. Pearl-Lite; that should be good enough. After researching the Internet, I came to the conclusion that a sub-woofer would probably help fill the sound voids. But hey! Isn’t a sub-woofer really just meant for the home theatre? Researching some more turned up some literature that advocated adding a (right-type) sub-woofer to the system. But since the amplifier, unlike an AV Receiver, does not have a LFE sub-woofer output, it means the correct sub-woofer has to be able take high level input, straight from the amplifier’s outputs to speakers.
It took me a while to find a right-type hi-fi sub-woofer, but I found the REL range of subs a possibilty. Off I went to the local distributor’s showroom in Sunway Pyramid and auditioned a REL T5 hooked to a NAIM 5i. And it certainly made an audible difference. Next, I asked for a home demo; if it works just as well in my home on my system, then I will buy it. And what do you know? It works well! For me the acid test will be to see if the system now passes muster with my mentor the next time he visits.
So why did I go to all this trouble? Where are the Bass and Treble controls? Shoot! Just crank up the Bass and turn down the Treble! Can’t you?
Well, the answer to that is still the same reason why the Bass and Treble (and generally the equalisers) all went out of fashion in the 80’s in Hi Fi amplifiers. Apparently the move was started by NAIM and soon all other brands came around to the same notion as well.
And what’s that notion? Well, all equalisers, bass and treble controls are actually filters and they remove portions of the sounds that went into the media (CD, records, etc). And to the purists, that’s subtractive and not true Hi Fi. The controls actually distort the sounds. OK, so what’s the difference with the sub-woofer? The (Hi Fi) sub-woofer takes the actual signal from the amplifier and further amplifies the sounds (from the very low sub-bass 30 Hz to about 120 Hz). The result is that it adds to the overall sounds, very much like suddenly a bass guitarist fires up his instrument, or he turns up his bass guitar (or bass drum) volume. The original sounds from the floor standing speakers do not diminish in any way. When tuned properly, the sub-woofer should feel like an integral part of the overall Hi Fi System.
That’s all dandy, if….and that’s a very big IF, the sound engineers have done their jobs well and IF the CDs are all made very well. Who has not listened to a badly produced CD or track? No, not even the addition of a sub-woofer can make up for the CD that’s badly produced in the first place. Perhaps we should start a rating system for the sound engineers and music producers, like we rate movie directors and producers.
“Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.”
Ah, chillies (plural of chilli), the epitome of all things spicy.
I love to grow chillies for many reasons. See if you can relate to any of the reasons cited below:
Easy. There are few plants that germinate so easily. Just sprinkle the seeds (each chilli….be it one of the numerous chilli peppers or one of the capsicums…they all have abundant seeds in each pod) on some good soil mixture, water them generously and before you know it, the seeds have germinated; much more than you need.
Variety. There so so many different types of chilli peppers and capsicums that it has become a pastime of mine to keep a lookout for any new chilli pepper that I may not have yet, to add to my collection. From very tiny ones to large ones. From the cute Mexican Jalapeno to decorative round ones. And the Traffic Lights capsicums, Red, Yellow, Green. I want to grow them all!
Now comes the crunch!
Chilli plants are VERY susceptible to attacks by white powdery aphids and mealy bugs on the underside of the leaves. The problem may be hard to detect because the foliage may look very healthy and strong from the top while the infestation is growing and spreading at the undersides of the leaves. Early signs of trouble include some dropped leaves and twisted or deformed leaves.
And here is my punch line: Why I love to grow chillies in POTS.
You can easily lift up and turn the plant upside down to check for the aphids and mealy bugs attack. Just remember to wet the top soil first, so that nothing falls out when you turn the plant (turn the pot) upside down.
You can easily take remedial action by spraying the underside of the affected leaves to get rid of the aphids and mealy bugs. Dilute dishwasher soapy suds make a common safe spray, but I personally use enzyme which I make myself. Learn to make “garbage enzyme” here. You need to
experiment with the dilution factor yourself as your enzyme may differ in concentration from my enzyme. The bonus is that the enzyme spray and drips from the sprayed leaves also act as fertilizer for the plants.
I notice that some of my chilli plants tend to flower when they are very young. So you can get the chilli fruits very early even when the plants are very young and small when grown in pots.
And that’s why I love to grow chillies in pots!
“Chilli”, “Chillies” : British spelling
“Chili”, “Chilis” : US spelling
HBO’s new TV series, “The Brink” shows why you should be very afraid; that World War III is just a sneeze away. Considering that the people who run the affairs of the world are very human after all; they are not infallible, they are not unique, they are very ordinary humans with human weaknesses that can wreck havoc with our world and our lives.
Each episode is only 30 minutes and that is enough as you really need to surface for a breath of air; any longer than that and you many be brain dead.
I was either not paying attention to the run-up advertisements or there was no fanfare, and the series just crept up on me, with the first episode on HBO on 21-June-2015. I was just surfing the Astro channels looking for something interesting to record and saw this new series with its first episode later that night. I recorded it and viewed it later and boy! I was blown away.
The series is a dark comedy featuring a geopolitical crisis somewhere in the world and how the main characters react to it or caused it. The first season will focus on Pakistan. The main characters (at least in Episode 1) are a womanising, alcoholic Secretary of State, Walter Larson (Tim Robbins), a low-level Foreign Services officer based in the US Embassy in Pakistan, Alex Talbot (Jack Black) and Navy fighter pilot Zeke Tilson (Pablo Schreiber) who pops pills. Episode 1 ended with POTUS (President of the United States) ordering a pre-emptive strike on a Pakistani nuclear site and a Navy jet streaking in to bomb the site. May God save us all!
Episode 2 has just aired. Catch the two episodes before it gets too far into the season.
If I were to ask you whether these two birds are related, what would you say?
One of them looks like a Black Crow or Asian Glossy Starling (red eyes) while the other looks like a Spotted-necked Dove or Zebra Dove. So how can they possibly be related in whatsoever way? But what if I were to tell you that these two birds are one and the same; they represent the two faces of the Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus)? Read on…..
One bright sunny morning, there was a commotion among the branches of the Flame of the Forest tree across the street from my house. I quickly scanned the location of the noise with my camera and saw a black crow-like bird astride another brown-speckled bird like as though they were fighting. The black one had a noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia) in its beak, so it would appear that it had taken the fruit by force from the brown one. But as I continued snapping away, not daring to lift my eye from the camera sight, it became clear what the black bird was doing to the brown bird.
It seemed to be a ritual of sorts where the black one was offering a fruit (noni fruit) to the brown one. I later discovered the black one was a male Asian Koel, while the brown one was a female Asian Koel !
The female Koel was initially resisting the male’s overture but eventually succumbed to the male’s very persistent (and aggressive) offering. She finally accepted the fruit and the male looked on contentedly. What a show!
This morning I suddenly became aware of a new bird song floating in from somewhere in my neighbour’s Neem Tree. I quickly grabbed my camera but try as I may, I just could not sight the bird. Then just as I was about to put away my camera, the song wafted in overhead; this time from my disused TV antenna. And lo, it was indeed a new visitor to my garden. I managed to shoot a few shots before it flew off just as quickly as it had appeared. That was enough for me to google and discovered it was a Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) as can be seen from its distinguishing red patch near its cheek.
I know of many people who are mistaken thinking that Buddhism is a ritualistic religion steeped in idolatry. And that unfortunately has caused them to miss the deep philosophy in Buddhism. Buddha did not claim to be a god and neither did he set out to create a religion. But the philosophy in Buddhism transcends religions such that I consider all my good friends of other faiths or religions as “Buddhists”, as much as I consider myself a Philosophical Buddhist.
Bro Teoh Kian Koon conducts regular Dhamma (teachings of Buddha) classes with meditation. From his regular classes, he has compiled the Heart Sutra (aphorisms) to share the essence of the Philosophy of Buddhism. Download a free copy here.
About Bro Teoh Kian Koon
Bro. Teoh Kian Koon graduated from University of Malaya in Civil Engineering in 1979. He has been a spiritual practitioner cum ‘Meditator’ since 1971. Since his retirement in 2001 from his engineering career, he has been sharing his understanding and experiences with all who are keen in the search for true happiness, peace and liberation from birth and death and all mental suffering to become a more virtuous, noble and wiser human being. He gives talks and hold meditation and Dhamma classes at various meditation centres.
If there is a territorial dispute between an “angry” bird and a “cute” bird, who do you think will win?
I was taking some photos of a family of Pink-necked Green Pigeons feeding on a palm tree in my garden when a drama unfolded. A rather mean-looking Myna quietly crept up and startled the Green Pigeons who understandably flew away terrified. But then the head of the family decided that he was not going to let the Myna get away with it. And very much like a bullying incident, the bully had no stomach for a fight when the victim decided to fight back.
Watch the dispute between a Myna (“angry”) and a Pink-necked Green Pigeon (“cute”) and see the unexpected outcome… Cute overcomes Angry.
On a bright sunny morning, this nippy orange-coloured butterfly Tawny Coster (Acraea violae), flitted among the leaves of a Yellow Turnera or Holy Rose (Turnera ulmifolia) plant. It appeared to be searching for suitable spots to lay its eggs. The Tawny Coster’s dance is captured in the following stills.
The tiny Common Tailorbird is more commonly heard than seen. This is because it is a very loud singer for such a tiny bird but it is very difficult to make it out in the foliage overhead. Very often, by the time you finally sight it, you cannot even get the camera focused to shoot it.
So I consider myself extremely fortunate on this Sunday morning to notice it perched on the overhead cable in clear sight, noisily singing its heart out, calling to its mate.
In case you are curious…. it is a 2-note song, sung with gusto repeatedly: “Chu-it! Chu-it! Chu-it!”
I have been very keen in herbal remedies ever since 1998 when my mother-in-law was saved by a herb after doctors had given up hope on her when they deemed her renal failure was no longer treatable.
When she recovered after we put her on a course of urena lobata (“Sar Boh Chau”) herbal tea, and she went on to live a healthy life for 22 more years, I started a website, Free2Cure, to put on record her case study (https://www.free2cure.com/chronic-renal-failure/)and to solicit first-person testimonials of any other successful natural remedy to help anyone in need.
But I am also acutely aware that my brief description of the herbal tea preparation, typically the common advice of “boil 3 cups until 1 cup” is too vague and does not instill confidence for anyone who needs to understand the “how’s and why’s” of the herbal tea preparation.
As such, I scoured the Internet and researched this topic and what follows, I believe, is the definitive guide to making herbal tea. It should provide answers to the “what, when, why and how” of herbal tea preparation. If there’s any gap, error or falsehood in this guide, please post your comment here, and together we’ll continually improve and add to our collective knowledge.
First off, “herbal tea” in its common usage, is a misnomer, since “tea” is actually a beverage prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.
“Herbal tea” (or more accurately “tisane”) as referred to and described in this article, does not involve the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, but is any beverage made from the infusion (hot tisane) or decoction (boiled tisane) of herbs, spices, or other plant material and usually does not contain caffeine. But, we will call it “Herbal Tea” here as it is commonly referred to.
A herbal tea is often consumed for its physical or medicinal effects, especially for its stimulant, relaxant or sedative properties.
Herbal teas generally have lower antioxidant values than true teas but there are exceptions (eg. Misai Kucing) with antioxidant properties comparable to black teas.
Since the liquid medium is water, herbal tea is only useful to extract water soluble active chemicals from the target herb and to release the volatile essential oils (if present).
To extract non-water-soluble active chemicals, other methods like tincture may be used.
Maceration, tincture, elixir, tonic, syrup, etc. to extract the beneficial constituents of a target herb will be discussed in a separate article. Top
Infusion is made by bringing freshly drawn water to a light boil and then adding the hot water to the herb in an appropriate container. The container must be covered to retain the volatile essential oils, and the herb is steeped in the hot water for the desired duration.
As such, infusion is used to extract minerals, vitamins and volatile essential oils from the soft parts of the plant such as leaves or flowers (fresh or dried) or citrus peelings or fruits.
Pre-heat the pot and cup by swirling hot water and pouring off. The warmed tea pot will prevent the water from cooling too quickly so that the full flavour of the tea is not lost. Another good reason to do that is avoid cracking your glass tea pot through a sudden drastic change in temperature which may happen if you just dump the full volume of boiling hot water into the pot. After you have pre-heated the pot, add the appropriate amount of herb followed by the lightly boiled water.
Some herbalists recommend not to stir but to just let the herb(s) steep within the confines of the pot or cup. Probably, this is to prevent the loss of the volatile essential oils if you lift the cover to stir.
While tea is normally steeped for only 1-3 minutes to avoid excessive bitter tannins, herbal tea is steeped for at least 5 minutes and usually 10-20 minutes. Some herbalists recommend the use of higher dosage to make a stronger herbal tea rather then a longer steeping time. Top
While “infusion” generally refers to “hot tea”, you could also use cold water instead of hot water especially for the more delicate herbs that may be adversely affected by heat.
Cold infusion gives a different flavour to the herbal tea as the chemical balance will be different from that imparted by hot infusion. As before, use freshly drawn water (filtered or mineral water) and add the cold water to the herb(s) in the glass/porcelain tea pot and keep covered. Allow it to steep for up to 24 hours. Dosage is similar to that for hot infusions.
But be very careful; the dried or fresh herb must be clean as there is no heat to kill any bacteria that may be present in the herb. In case of doubt about its cleanliness, do a quick rinse of the herb with boiling water, before using for the cold infusion.
Use a pestle and mortar to crush whole herbs to “open” them up before the cold infusion.
Drink the finished tea as is or chilled or sweetened; whatever your taste. Some may prefer to gently warm up the tea to drinking temperature.
Use a bottle or jar instead of a tea pot to make larger quantities. Top
Sun Infusion (Yang)
Sun infusion supposedly harnesses the sun’s masculine yang energy to stimulate the water and herb(s). Use a big jar and fill it with clean freshly drawn water to keep the herb(s) submerged. Keep the jar open or cover with some fabric like muslin cloth to keep dirt out. Put the jar in a sunny spot to infuse for at least 4 hours. The tea is ready when it is fragrant and the liquid is full of color. Strain and drink throughout the day. Top
Moon Infusion (Yin)
Moon infusion supposedly harnesses the moon’s feminine yin energy which is more subtle, cool and passive than the sun’s energy.
Apparently, moon infusions under the different phases of the moon will impart different effect on the infused herbal tea although generally it seems like a good idea to do it under a full moon.
Again, keep the jar open or covered with a fabric like muslin cloth to keep dirt out. Moon infusions are generally kept overnight in the moonlight.
The beauty of making lunar infusions is the ability of these to capture the energy of the moon phases and their relative teachings into the tea. A full moon tea will bring more bright, illuminating, and culminating energy to a blend, while a waning moon infusion will invoke a remembrance of rest, calm, and letting go. Herbalists pay close attention to the moon and we use the moon for harvesting. We harvest some flowers and plant tops under the light of the full moon, when the energy of the plant is lifted like the tides into the highest part of the plant. And we harvest roots and tubers under the darkness of the new moon when the energy is calm, the tides are low, and the plants have their intelligent life-force nestled deep into the earth below.
The guiding principle is that herbal tea is meant for its therapeutic value rather than its flavour, unlike the case of drinking tea.
Therefore, the material of the container must not contaminate the herbs. As such inert material is preferred over clay or cast iron, two of the popular types of tea pots for making tea (not herbal tisane).
The recommended material for the pot for herbal tisane is glass or porcelain. Metallic containers like aluminium and copper may react adversely with some herbs. If you have to use metallic pots, I believe stainless steel is inert and will not react with the herb. Other sources recommend enamel pots but I would not use use them as the enamel can chip off and expose the metal (cast iron or mild steel) which can rust. Traditional Chinese tea is usually infused in clay or ceramic pots. For our herbal tea, stick to glass, porcelain or stainless steel. Glass has the added bonus of a delightful visual sense to add to the enjoyment of the herbal tea. The downside of glass is that glass is a poor heat insulator and tends to cool down quite fast compared to clay (or porcelain).
The longer you infuse the herbs, the stronger and more effective the active constituents will be. But the flavour may alter with different steeping times, so experiment to suit your taste with a minimum steeping time of 10 minutes.
And remember, the pot must have a cover or lid.
Choose the size of the container appropriate for the quantity of herbal tea. Do not use a large pot for a small quantity of herbal tea. Top
What is the recommended dosage?
Generally, the recommended dosage is about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of dried herb or 2 tablespoons of fresh herb per 8 oz (240 ml) of water (1 cup). But this is only a guideline as different herbs have different potency.
Add 2 tablespoons of fresh, or 1 tablespoon of dried herb (or crushed seed) to the pot for each cup of water, plus an extra 2 tablespoons of fresh or 1 tablespoon of dried “for the pot.” (For iced tea, increase to 3 tablespoons of fresh and 2 tablespoons of dried herb to allow for watering down by melting ice).
Therefore, if making 2 cups of hot tea, you would use 6 tablespoons of fresh herb or 3 tablespoons of dried herb in a pot.
Alternatively, a very general guideline is to take a cupped handful of fresh herb for a quart (0.88 litre) of water.
From the foregoing, you will notice that if you are using fresh herbs for your tisane, use twice the amount you would use if the herb were dry. This is because the water content in fresh herbs dilutes their flavor. As one herbalist wrote, “Let your hands, eyes, nose and heart guide you”.
Note: 1 g dried herb approx = 1.5 tsp dried herb
The average dosage is usually 3 to 4 cups in a day. Top
A decoction is used to extract primarily the mineral salts and bitter principles of plants from hard materials such as roots, bark, seeds and wood. These hard materials generally require boiling for at least 10 minutes and then are allowed to steep longer, sometimes for a number of hours. The word “decoct” means to extract the essence from (something) by heating or boiling it. The tea is boiled down and concentrated so that water may need to be added before drinking, in some cases. But a general guideline is to use 3 bowls of water and boiled/simmered until 1 bowl.
Put 1-3 tablespoons of cut herb, seed, root, bark, etc into a pot of 16-32 oz of water and allow to sit in non-boiled water for at least 5-10 minutes. Set on stove and bring to a slow boil then turn down to a simmer for 10-30 minutes. Strain and drink. Will keep about 72 hours if kept refrigerated. Most decoctions can also be brewed via single cup through a regular infusion process as noted above but without the strength.
The decoction method is used for hard, woody substances (such as roots, bark, and stems) that have constituents that are water-soluble and non-volatile. (Red clover is an exception, because red clover flower decoction will extract more minerals that the infusion.)
Decoctions extract mainly mineral salts and bitter principles. Decoctions are intended for immediate use.
Store for a maximum of 72 hours in the refrigerator.
Amounts can vary, depending upon your taste and the potency of the herbs, however 1 to 2 teaspoons of herb mixture to each cup of water is a good starting point. Roots and barks are more concentrated than the lighter leaves and flowers used in infusions, so less is needed. Top
Heating method for the decoction
There seems to be conflicting views as to how to boil the herb(s). The following methods are extracted from different sources.
Start with cold water over a low heat and slowly bring herb mixture to a simmering boil. Keep the pot covered and simmer for ten to 20 minutes. Take off heat and leave covered while your decoction cools to drinking temperature.
Use this method when the material you want to extract is a bitter, or mineral salt. The whole herb, roots or seeds, or the bark of a woody plant are soaked in cold water for several hours, then brought to a boil and simmered for 30 minutes.
Add 3 cups of water to the herbs and bring the mixture to a boil using relatively high heat. Reduce to medium heat and continue to boil (for approximately 20 minutes) until 1 cup of strong, dark liquid remains.
Strain the liquid into a large glass or ceramic container. This is the first dose (the strongest) of your herbal medicine.
Add 2 cups of water to the previously cooked herbs. Continue to simmer under medium to low heat for approximately 20 minutes, until 1 cup of liquid remains.
Strain the liquid and pour it into the same container holding the previous dose.
Repeat the last two steps one more time to make a third dose of medicine, which you again combine with the previous two doses.
When finished you should have approximately 3 cups of herbal medicine, and can now discard the cooked herbs. You will generally take 1 cup of your decoction three times a day, but this depends on your individual condition. Decoctions should be drunk slightly warm (like tea). Some herbs may taste a bit bitter, and if so you can usually sweeten them with a small amount of honey. Your decoction should keep for about 2-3 days if sealed and refrigerated.
I personally adopt Method 3 most of the time.
Why you boil a decoction three times
It is important to boil the herbs three times for 20-minutes each time, rather than all at once for one hour. Many of the herbs in your formula will contain some volatile aromatic oils as active ingredients. These oils will be retained in a short 20-minute boiling, but will probably evaporate after an hour at high temperature. Other components of your herbal formula (such as the active ingredients in hard roots or nuts) might take an hour to be fully extracted, however.
Thus the best method of preparing the decoction is to boil the herbs for 20 minutes three times in a row, combining and mixing all three doses. This ensures that all the various active herbal ingredients are present in the final medicine. Top
A mortar and pestle can be used to crush the herb(s) to aid in the infusion or decoction of the herbal tea, especially anything tough or hard, like nuts or barks.
For the freshest tasting cup of tea, you should always use mineral water or freshly drawn water direct from the tap that has been running for a while. Standing water loses oxygen, and the resulting tea tastes flat. If your tap water is chlorinated, a compromise can be reached by drawing fresh water and letting it stand uncovered for a couple of hours to allow the chlorine taste to leave the water; although, using mineral water is a quick and easy solution. Boiling the water for long periods also removes oxygen from the water, so always use fresh water (do not re-boil it), and use the water quickly after it comes to a boil.
Traditionally, in Asia, water is always brought to gentle boil before one prepares tea. Boiling water eliminates many harmful germs and bacteria. Though water quality has improved vastly, boiling in the water in this fashion can help to bring out tea’s flavor. The water should be heated until a steady stream of air bubbles gently rise to the surface. At this point, the water is sufficiently heated and also has a preferable oxygen content. In contrast, using water that has been held at a fierce, rolling boil can leave tea tasting dull and flat.
Try this the next time you use your juicer to make fruit juice. Make sure the container for the pulp is clean before you start juicing. After juicing, the collected pulp can be put into a tea bag/filter and used for fruit tisane infusion. Now you can have your juice and fruit tea, no waste!
I used my juicer to make some fruit juice as usual, but this time instead of throwing away the pulp, I used the pulp to make a fruit tea (infusion).
3 large green apples
1-litre fruit juice, and pulp sufficient for 3-litres of fruit tea.
The above ingredients produced almost a litre of fruit juice while the pulp was sufficient for 3 litres of fruit tea. I packed my teapot’s strainer full of pulp to make a fresh infusion of fruit tea. The balance of the pulp was kept in the fridge and used over two days to make two more pots of fruit tea.