Category Archives: Stars

May 2, 2015

Peaky Blinders, Season 1

The gist, courtesy of IMDB:

A gangster family epic set in 1919 Birmingham, England and centered on a gang who sew razor blades in the peaks of their caps, and their fierce boss Tommy Shelby, who means to move up in the world.

If there’s one thing this series does exceptionally well, it’s building a believable atmosphere. Perfomances from the main cast are great, too.

★★★★☆

April 12, 2015

Layer Cake

It’s been over a decade since it first saw release, but I only got around to watching Layer Cake a couple of days ago. A gripping British crime drama with one of the best performances I’ve seen Daniel Craig give. Highly recommended.

★★★★★

January 14, 2015

Thoughts on the Zojirushi CV-CSQ30 water boiler

A few days ago, I received my Zojirushi CV-CSQ30 water boiler in the mail. I ordered it from Yum Asia, a great online shop for Japanese cooking appliances [1] .

So what does this device do? Well, it…boils water. If you want to be reductionist, you could call it an expensive water kettle.

The reality is slightly different. Zojirushi boilers are much more than basic kettles. They are designed to heat water and maintain the temperature just below boiling for an indefinite amount of time. They are designed to be on 24/7, providing hot water instantly for cooking, coffee, tea, noodles, and anything else you could think of.

After having used my unit for a few days, I figured I’d write down some of my thoughts. First off, let’s start with the packaging.

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The box won’t win any design awards, but there are a few things worth noting. First off, the elephant logo is simply adorable. Secondly, notice the flaps on top of the packaging? Lift them and the top of the box opens without creasing the cardboard. I may be the only person in the world with this particular pet peeve, but I hate it when cardboard packaging is designed so that you have to a) rip the cardboard or b) cause a crease in order to open it. This is how it should be done.

The box contains what you would expect: a power supply (British plug for this model), a manual (in English), a thank you note from Yum Asia, and the unit itself.

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The boiler looks quintessentially Japanese. At first sight, it seems complicated to use, with lots of colourful buttons and LEDs. But here’s the thing: it’s ridiculously easy to use. High-end Japanese electronics are usually very thoughtfully designed in terms of usability, and this system scores full marks on that front. Having dedicated buttons for different functions is something that western design is fervently trying to get rid of, and to be honest, I don’t understand why. Buttons are a good thing. Buttons are easy to understand, simple to use and, most importantly, they just work. No touchscreen nonsense here.

Boiling water works just as you would expect it to: open the lid, add water, and press reboil. Actually, if you have unplugged the unit or are using using it for the first time, you don’t even have to press reboil. Just add water, plug it in, and the system will start boiling water straight away. Once the water has started to boil, the system will notify you by playing a melody (again, quintessentially Japanese stuff). You can change the sound to a simple beep, but seriously, why on earth would you want to?

After bringing it to the boil, the system will keep the water hot according to the setting you’ve chosen. This particular model has two preset temperatures, 98 and 90 degrees Celsius. The former will obviously use a bit more electricity, so I tend to use the 90 degree setting. When you add more water—which is as simple as lifting the lid and pouring it in—the boiler will detect any drops in temperature and reboil/reheat automatically.

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In addition to the two preset temperatures, the CV-CSQ30 has a thermal insulation setting. If selected, the water will be kept warm solely using insulation, meaning it won’t use electricity to do the job. This feature is actually quite astonishing; according to the manual, after six hours, the water temperature will still be around 72 degrees. Zojirushi is renowned for its vacuum flasks, so I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am that his thing has excellent heat retention capabilities.

Dispensing water is straightforward. To avoid accidentally dispensing hot water, there is a safety lock which must be turned off first (by pressing the unlock button). The dispense button works as you would want it to: hold it down to dispense and let it go when you are done. The safety lock turns back on automatically after a while.

The flow of water from the spout is nice and steady, which is great if you are filling a relatively small container, like a coffee mug. The spout on this model is also high up enough to fit, for example, a mug + Aeropress underneath it. The system has a drip lock built in; I’ve never had it leak water.

Last, but not least, I’d like to mention the timer feature. You can set the boiler to sleep for six to ten hours, during which the system won’t use electricity to keep water warm. After the timer expires, the water is automatically reboiled. It’s a great touch that saves energy. I usually turn on the timer before going to bed, and when I wake up, I still have hot water on demand.

Now for the drawbacks. Actually, I only have one. Being able to dispense water without having the boiler plugged in would be useful in certain situations. Zojirushi sells models that do this (using a couple of AA batteries), but they are more expensive and have features I don’t really find necessary (like more temperature settings). I also don’t know if they sell these models with European voltages. All in all, this is a minor quibble that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the system that much.

I would definitely recommend a Zojirushi boiler to anyone who finds the concept of instant hot water appealing. Make no mistake: this boiler is expensive. But it is also extremely close to perfect, both in terms of usability and in terms of its primary function. If you drink pour over coffee, tea, eat lots of noodles or do lots of cooking, just go and buy one. If you don’t mind using a traditional kettle, I’d suggest giving it a try before buying. Personally, I don’t like waiting. Instant gratification is where it’s at.

Also, Japanese electronics are fucking cool.

★★★★★

  1. Seriously, Yum Asia is great. They answered my mails quickly and thoroughly, and it’s nice not to have to pay customs fees and deal with different voltages. []
January 2, 2015

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

A beautiful and very replayable puzzle game that has the overall polish Nintendo titles are known for. A great game to play on the gamepad whilst watching telly.

★★★★☆

October 15, 2014

Driveclub

Sure, it lacks features you expect to see in a modern racing game. But Driveclub excels where it counts: when you are racing. The physics feel spot-on for arcade/simulation hybrid. Driving in at breakneck speeds at night—especially when in cockpit view—is both terrifying and exhilarating, and I can’t think of any other game that does it better.

★★★★☆

July 27, 2014

Valiant Hearts

An average puzzle game, but the story and graphics makes this something worth experiencing.

★★★☆☆