Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mister Rogers was a smart guy.

"Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now."

― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Image Source: 1

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What I'm Reading: A Short History of Nearly Everything

Normally I'd wait to finish a book before passing it along, but I haven't been finding a lot of time to read lately and this book is too good for you to have to wait around for me to finish.

I remember hearing about A Short History Of Nearly Everything (ASHNE) when it first came out, but since my reading habits lean towards science fiction and fantasy I never got around to reading it. But after bailing of War & Peace, I thought I should replace it with something made a of a bit more substance, and so, voila!

ASHNE, written by Bill Bryson, is exactly what it's name suggests--a history of nearly everything, from a scientific standpoint, starting from before the Big Bang up to today, or so I assume as I'm only about a fourth of the way through the book.

He's explained the birth and growth of the various sciences like physics, geology, astronomy, and chemistry, throwing about names left and right and delving into their stories and discoveries in a way that makes me wish he had written my college text books. Had they been this engaging perhaps I might have done slightly better in my classes.

While I'm not yet done with the book, what I've read so far has been excellent so if you're in-between books at the moment, I highly suggest you stop by your local library and grab a copy. I'm averaging about a chapter a day when I have time, so you could easily mosey through this in about a month.

Images: 1

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What I'm Listening To: The Wailin' Jennys

The birthday party was a success and it was a fairly relaxing affair for me as I decided to forgo making Bahn Mi for nine and a half pounds of pulled pork. Much less work for me and it was all eaten by the time the night was over. The downside is I have no recipe to share with you today so instead I thought I'd share some music.

My one foray into the world of bluegrass/country is Nickel Creek, a trio that I discovered years ago through an episode of A Prairie Home Companion. I decided to listen to them at work on Spotify the other day and my coworker asked who they were. I mentioned they were bluegrass and she instantly suggested I check out The Wailin' Jennys.

The Wailin' Jennys are a female trio from Canada who have been playing together since 2002 and have released four albums during that time. And they've apparently also been on A Prairie Home Companion, so perhaps I need to go back and start listening to old episodes for more music recommendations.

Anyways, I really like their work. It tends to be soft, delicate harmonies over simple acoustics and it really is lovely music.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What I'm Cooking: LOTS.

It's been a busy week in the kitchen, but when you've got the urge you've got to splurge*!

I totally just thought up that turn of phrase. I don't want to brag, but I think I might be this generation's oratorical Michelangelo.


My first meal of the week included an old favorite, Ratatouille, a new citrus-y couscous dish, and a take on the classic Saltimbocca, with chicken instead of veal. Everything was delicious and I highly recommend you try all three.

Super Simple Chicken Saltimbocca:

Boneless chicken breast
Fontina, shredded
Sage, minced or whole

1. Take a chicken breast and cut it in half horizontally.
2. Sprinkle on some fontina and sage (if minced).
3. Cover with one or more pieces of prosciutto.
4. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the chicken breast and then hammer flat.
5. Remove plastic wrap and place chicken breast prosciutto-side down in a lightly oil skillet over med to med-hi heat.
6. Cook on each side for about three minutes.

And voila! A beautiful, delicious, and easy dish is yours. The flavors work wonderfully together and the fontina and prosciutto circumvent the need to use any extra salt. And if you want to be fancy, you can use a toothpick to attach a whole sage leaf on top of the prosciutto and cook it that way.

Sunday night I had a few friends over and finally put my roommates new crockpot to work by trying out this Serious Eats recipe for Slow Cooked Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork. It was really good, but it made a ton of food and I've been slowly grazing through the remains over the last couple of days.

And while that was enough to make a meal in and of itself, I decided to pair it with some baked beans and cole slaw. Sadly the cole slaw wasn't impressive enough to share here.

Finally, this Saturday is our annual tri-birthday party for myself and two friends, and I'll be going back to one of my old standby recipes, Bahn Mi, for the main dish and I'll probably add in a double serving of the couscous for good measure.

I discovered the Bahn Mi years ago through the Cooking Light magazine and it was one of my favorite dishes for a long time, but sadly my stomach no longer agrees with it so I only rarely make it for potlucks any more. I'll put up the recipe next week once I have photos to go with it.

*does not pertain to murder or other illegal and/or illicit acts.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In the meantime...

I did a ton of cooking this week and I'll make a shortlist of all the recipes later today, but in the meantime here's a little corgi gif to get your day off to a great start.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What I'm Playing: Atomic Zombie Smasher (#41)

Atomic Zombie Smasher is a real-time strategy (RTS) game wherein you are attempting to survive the zombie apocalypse by reaching a certain point threshold before the zombies do. Each turn in the game covers a month which brings with it more zombie outbreaks, new resources, and a randomized parameter to keep things spicy.

The game starts with a single outbreak, depicted by a pink diamond with a number in it over one of various territories on your map. The map below shows a game that's been in progress for a while, evident my the massive amount of zombie outbreaks.

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Grey areas are either contested or haven't been infected yet, black areas are territories that you've already evacuated but didn't cleanse of the zombie scourge, pink areas are overrun by the zombies, and the tan areas are safe zones in which you have completely eradicated the zombies.

The numbers in the pink diamonds, which range from 1 to 4, reflect the severity of the zombie infestation and the difficulty in attempting to evacuate and/or cleanse a specific territory. Once a territory caps out at 4, any further outbreaks there will instead increase the severity in nearby infected territories. You let too many territories cap out and you will quickly fall under an avalanche of ever increasing infestations.

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Once you have selected a territory to deal with in for that particular month the games zooms in to a top down view of the actual town in question, as seen above. As long as the territory is not a level 4 outbreak, there will be civilians in need of rescuing, represented by the little yellow squares. The pink squares are the zombie hordes hoping to eat the yellow squares.

At a minimum, every evacuation attempt will provide you with a helicopter to airlift people off the map. But this isn't a particularly quick process, so as you clear territories and gain points for doing so, the game unlocks more resources for you to use. These can includes such things as artillery, infantry (whose line of sight is depicted by the green cross in the image above), blockades, snipers, and a variety of explosives. And as you use these resources they gain experience, which further expand upon their abilities as the game progresses.

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To successfully complete a level you need to rescue a set minimum amount of survivors. To secure the area from further infestation you have to wipe every zombie off the map in the time allotted. If you haven't done so by the time the sun sets, the town is enveloped in zombies and the only thing you can do is to try and rescue any remaining survivors.

Of course, not all your resources will be available each month so you need to choose wisely which territories you wish deal with in a given month. And as mentioned earlier, the game also throws in a bit of a curve ball by changing the parameters each month. These can includes things such as a slower helicopter, faster ZED (the game's name for the zombies), and a shorter daytime.

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At the end of each mission you get points for how well you did and then it zooms back to the larger map. Here you gain 20 points for every territory you have successfully liberated (tan colored) so far, and the ZED gain points for each territory they still infest, equal to 10 times the threat level (e.g., a level 1 would score 10 points and a level 4 would score 40 points).

The default settings have you each racing to 6000 points, and let me tell, it is NOT easy. I've lost far more games than I've won, but I still keep coming back for more. The individual levels only take a couple of minutes and you can redo them as many times as you like until you get it right, so it's a good game for when you only have 10 minutes to kill.

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The game also comes with a light but amusingly weird storyline depicted via static cut scenes in between months. And there's much more depth to the aspects I've already discussed. If RTS's are your thing, I think this is a nice "lite" version for when you're not in the mood or don't have the time to commit an hour or more.

It's currently selling for $9.99 on Steam, but if you wait for one of their sales I'm sure you'll find it for less.

Final Judgement: BUY IT.

Image Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Friday, February 21, 2014

War & Peace

To start my New Year Resolution to Read 10 Classic Pieces of Literature I figured I'd go big and work my way down, which meant War and Peace was at the top of the list.

I'm about fifty pages into a thirteen hundred page book and I'm beginning to think I've made a horrible mistake. :P

That's not to suggest that the book is bad, but it's not very interesting either, and the sheer quantity of names being thrown my way aren't helping either.

But then a little bird told me there was a musical version and had me listen to the opening number. It was HILARIOUS. And because I am a decent and generous person I am sharing it with you, my friend.

I'm currently going through the soundtrack on Spotify, and while I'm not very far in, this is still my favorite number. It's a shame it only covers a very small portion of the novel, otherwise I'd consider flying out to New York and watching the production as an alternate to reading the book. :D