Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Continuing workouts

Oh, I forgot to mention that I've started week three of the pushup program, and am working in the right column. it's tough, but that's the idea, right?

I've also started doing some different crunches. I do 25 normal, then 25 right-elbow-to-left-knee, then 25 left-elbow-to-right-knee, then 25 leg lowering things. Those are great for lower abs, which normal crunches don't seem to work well for me. I'm going to keep doing those for a bit until that set of 100 gets too easy and then move them all up to 35 reps or something. I don't entirely know, but I'll keep everyone posted.

Also, my wife says she has already noticed my arms getting bigger. I don't notice that sort of thing, but if she can tell, that's a victory. Apparently I respond well to exercise, even something as simple as several pushups every other day for a few weeks. I'll take it.

Busy busy!

Wow, this weekend was crazy busy, and this week isn't looking much better. Friday was vaguely calm, at least. We ran out to get some glass-etching materials from Hobby Lobby after work, then came home and worked on that a bit. it's really cool and surprisingly easy to use. The toughest part is cutting the glass into the proper shape and size and all that. Once you have that done, you just put down some kind of adhesive layer (I used masking tape, but contact paper would be better) then cut out your design with an exacto knife. Peel the pattern pieces off and slather the etching cream on there. Wait five minutes, rinse it off, remove the rest of the tape/paper, then rinse again. Your design should be etched into the glass on a very permanent basis. Sweet! I made a few minor little pieces with simple patterns on them. The masking tape doesn't cut as cleanly as the contact paper, so the edges aren't as sharp as I'd like, but the principle is there. I think this will be a very cool way to make some unique little projects.

Saturday we had our supers game, but we had to help our friends Dave and Jax move a bit before that. We weren't abel to do much, but I did help them get their giant couch and fridge up the narrow staircase to their third floor apartment. Whee. Still, when you know a lot of folks and you have a fair bit of burl, you get used to helping people move. I'm glad I could help, as those two giant items were their main concerns, I think. After doing that, we went back to the house, I grabbed a quick shower just in time to go play our supers game. It's such a good time. I know some of you aren't into roleplaying, but it's honestly just a great way to spend time with friends doing something unique and interesting. My character has been sort of a background dude, story-wise, up to this point. I was cool with it, and was certainly having a good time, but something just happened to him that makes me think there is more going on than I had planned on. In any case, it's all interesting stuff, and I'm excited to learn about what's going on.

Sunday was also very fun. My parents picked us up and drove us north to meet my sisters so all the women folk could do a shopping day for Jenna's long-past birthday. It was just a scheduling thing that made it take so long, but it was super cute that they wanted to take her out, regardless. My dad and I ran around to every sporting goods store in a 10-mile radius and were absolutely amazed to find empty shelves in every firearms department. Most places said they hadn't had new ammo in weeks and as soon as it came in, people bought all of it. People are scared, and it seems like they're hoarding what they can while they can. There haven't been too many overt moves yet to outlaw particular guns, but there have been some subtle nudges in the direction at least. It's enough to worry a lot of folks. We'll have to see how it all pans out, but it's worth thinking about to anyone with a preparatory bent.

Last night I had to work super late so I got hom with just enough time ot eat dinner, watch Heroes and go to bed. Working 11 hours in a day is un-fun, I will say. Hopefully I don't have too many of those. Tonight is supposed to be trivia, and I'm definitely excited about that. We always have a great time when we go, and it's a good chance to see Steve and Ami when they can make it. it's also a good way to get to hang with Adj even more than we do with our gaming on the weekends. He and I make a darned good trivia team, if I do say so myself.

I also got tasked with something interesting this weekend: to find a set of speakers for my sister and bro-in-law that are better and less expensive than Bose. I don't think it'll be that tough. If you have any knowledge in the home audio arena, or have any friends who do, I'd appreciate suggestions, recommendations, etc. Right now, I'm leaning toward this setup: KEF KHT3005SE. They have been reviewed as unadulterated awesome on every site I've found mention of them. They cost about half what the system we saw from Bose did, and the people who own them and Bose say that they are vastly superior in sound quality. not too bad for just a few days of looking, eh? I also like these, but haven't found as much about them: Orb Audio. The only thing I don't like about them is that they seem to be one speaker attempting to do all things, similar to the Bose setup. They're better designed for sure, but I think you need something different from your center speaker than you do from your rear speakers, based solely on what you want that speaker to accomplish. KEF has designed a center speaker specifically to help keep the dialogue clear and even, while the rest are built for music, sound effects, etc. I think that shows forethought, and I'd love to hear the difference between these various systems before I make a full recommendation.

For anyone who wants the skinny on Bose, here's some incredibly technical info: Intellexual on Bose.

Also, here's a picture of our cat in our Kitchen sink, just because it's super cute.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Snow day!

Well, half of one anyway. I write to you now, the only person in my office after we got to head out early yesterday due to inclement weather. We were expecting over a foot and got maybe 6-8 inches, but it was enough to get us all home early. Yesterday was awesome. Jenna and I cuddled under a blanket on the couch and watched Burn Notice and played video games and drank hot chocolate all day. I made steak again, and the 3:30 for each side seems to be pretty darned perfect. Really, few days are that awesome.

Also, I wanted everyone to know that I'm keeping up with my good habits. Both Jenna and I are flossing every night before bed and have been doing so for a few weeks now. I know for some people this isn't a big deal, but I've never been good about doing it consistently. Jenna has actually been better about it in the past than I have, and her tiny adorable teeth are better for it, we're told. I'm also trying to do my whitening trays with some regularity, as I did pay an absurd amount of money for all that jazz and it seems a waste not to use it.

My morning regimen (my other good habit) has been going well, too. I switched from squats to crunches this week, as I did something unfortunate to my knee this weekend. I've still been doing my pushups, though, and the crunches are no doubt a good thing to be doing as well. I did a total of 45 pushups this morning to finish off week two. I'm thinking I'll take my test on Sunday morning to see how many I can do now. Since it was 20+ last time, I'm sure I'll end up in the second column for weeks three and four as well. It looks a little daunting, but I'll just make it happen and be far better off for it. At the end fo the next two week period, I will have more than doubled my total morning pushups. Not too shabby, eh?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Unexpected

So...I won my first dance-off last night. I really wasn't planning on that when we went out. Let me start earlier.

We made enchiladas last night for dinner. Very easy, very tasty. You remember my slow-cooked vaguely Mexican pork/chicken recipe? If not, this one's even easier. I put two thawed chicken breasts into my one-quart slow cooker. I poured a can of green enchilada sauce in there. I turned it on. Several hours later (8 if you had it on low, 4 if you had it on high) I took two forks and shredded the chicken, getting it nice and mixed up with the sauce. I grabbed a pyrex dish (smaller than the 3-quart I used for the chicken pot pie, maybe 2 quarts?) and some corn tortillas. I put the corn tortillas in the microwave in their plastic bag for about a minute. This helps steam then and soften them up. Honestly, it doesn't matter. They're going to get mangled in the dish anyway, so who gives a crap? Just put some chicken into each tortilla, roll them up a little and place the in the dish. Get them pretty snug in there, then pour another can of enchilada sauce (we used green, but red would work too) over the whole thing. Now sprinkle on about a buttload of shredded cheese. I used some cheddar and monterey jack and it was very good. If you don't shred your cheese yourself, you're really missing out. I was always a guy who bought shredded cheese from the store and said it was just as good, but this is not the case. Freshly shredded cheese melts better, tastes better, looks better, does everything better. The only exception is mozzarella, in my mind. I like the shredded stuff because fresh mozzarella has a gross taste to me. Anyway, now you have your whole enchilada tray made up, toss it in the oven on 350 for like 15 minutes. Your chicken is cooked and still hot, so you're really just melting the cheese. After the cheese melts, pull the pyrex out and let it rest for another 10-15 minutes. It'll be freakin' hot. Sever and serve. Sour cream would be great on this, as would some black olives or any other vaguely mexican vegetable thingy you like. Really, this is a baseline. You can add to it as you see fit.

After dinner, Adj came to the house to catch a ride to trivia. Ami and Steve just introduced us to the new trivia place for Tuesday nights run by Geeks Who Drink (http://www.geekswhodrink.com/blog/index.php?blog=70). They couldn't make it last night, but the three of us went out anyway to see what we could see. We actually did extremely well. We called ourselves The Gentlemen Beekeepers, after having read this blog yesterday: http://jameskennedy.com/2009/03/06/america-emulate-this-man/ . This week was easier than most, and was actually pretty well suited to our relatively limited knowledge. We got all of the "ER, Grey's Anatomy or MASH?" questions, all of the visual round questions, almost all of the "Piano Man" stuff, almost all of the "Legal Speak" round and a good chunk of all other rounds, too. The music round was actually pretty good, too. We got 11 of 16 possible points, which isn't too shabby. Normally I know absolutely none of the songs they're playing. This time it was butt rock and I knew about half outright and knew parts of at least one or two more. Adj also knew a goodly amount so between the two of us we managed more than half the answers. The last round was rough, especially since none of knew any of the levels of Girl Scout other than Brownie. Shows how well I paid attention when my sister was in it, I suppose. Anyway, when it all ended, we were in a tie for second place, just four points behind first.

This is when we learned that there is a dance-off to decide ties. I was unaware. Jenna, despite having said she wanted to dance just moments before, declined. Adj also didn't seem too keen on it. I figured it would be a pretty short dance, so i figured I could Charleston for a couple seconds and call it good. I did this for the first 15 seconds. The girl I was dancing against wasn't terrible, but she wasn't awesome, either. She also didn't really do much different the second round than the first, so when I did some more Charleston and finished off with a pretty lame cartwheel, apparently that was enough to win the crowd. Really, I was just hoping it would end quickly. I've lost far too many bar-based costume contests to girls in Wal-Mart costumes to count on beating any female at anything in a bar ever again. To my surprise, I got the overwhelming support of everyone in the bar except for the team my opponent represented. Sweet! not too shabby for my first dance-off. I'm now at one for one, and I'm happy to let my record stand thusly for a good long while.
Here's some eye candy for all you ladies out there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


For your watching enjoyment, here are a bunch of really awesome videos that show you how to make cool stuff. I'm totally going to get in on this.

Foam Factory

Vacuum Former


Spud Gun


As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, my wife and I eat a lot of steak. We were on hiatus for a good long while, but have recently rejoined the steaky world of steak-eaters. I keep changing my cooking method, the dimensions of the steak, the quantity of steak, etc. I think I found something that works well for us, though. The new grill pan thingy (http://www.amazon.com/Emerilware-Cast-Iron-Reversible-Grill-Griddle/dp/B000JZYOHQ/ref=pd_bbs_sr_3?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1237907090&sr=8-3 - Which we got for $15 from Ross. Woot!) works very well and gives the grill marks on the meat (which is always nice) but there's a lot less actual contact with the cast iron that way than in just a flat skillet. I had to increase the cook time on a good-sized steak to 3:30 each side, and let it rest for 12 minutes instead of 10. It came out cooked all the way through, but still nice and pink instead of nasty purple raw-meat. So that's a good thing, I think. Hopefully we can stick with this method now that we know about it.

Tonight, barring any unforeseen activities (trivia?) I think I'll work on my new begboard. I figuredo ut how to make my router bit move within the housing, so I should be able to rout a 1/4" groove into the flat side of a 1x2 to make a frame for the pegboard. The board itself is only 2'x4' but it should be enough for me to get some basic tools up there and keep my work space significantly more organized. It's also a good way for me to get more comfortable with my router. I did a couple of test runs and it was a little shaky. I think I may need to bring the router table down to the floor so I can put decent pressure on the board to hold it steady. I may even post pictures when I'm done. The whole thing cost less than $10 for the materials plus a few bucks for a variety pack of hooks, so it's a good investment i think. Anything to help me keep myself organized, really.

Also, I heard about this a while ago, but found an instructional video this time. I'm doing this. http://www.metacafe.com/watch/756433/laser_flashlight_hack/

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dinner and a Roleplaying Game

We had another good, full weekend, which seems to be forming a pattern of busy but fun weekends I'm entirely okay with. We had a pretty quiet Friday evening mostly composed of shopping, I think. Honestly, I can't really remember. Saturday I finished Fable II in the morning, which was fun. I have to say the ending is pretty anti-climactic. Definitely not the best. I worked a little on a few projects in the middle of the day, then Devon and Rose called to see if we wanted to come over for dinner. We went over there about 6 and stayed until like 10:30 or so, eating steak, playing games, and generally having a great time. They're a really good family. Devon and I are absolutely brutal with each other verbally, but it's all in fun. Their son is a really cool kid, too. He's showing signs of true geekiness, and that's something I like to foster in young folks. Devon and Rose aren't geeky at all, so I think they like having me and Jenna around to show him that you can be a geeky grownup and still dress yourself and talk to people and all.

Sunday was really fun. We cleaned up the house in the morning, then everyone got to our place around 1:30 or so for the Rifts game. The group is really fun. Everyone's cool and nice and everything. No more super creepy freaks. The game is getting cooler, too. We're learning more about how we need to be working as a team, how to use our skills and abilities in innovative ways to fight the sorts of enemies we find, etc. We're also meshing together better as a team, learning to rely on one another and all that. We're playing in an environment of scarcity, which is different for me as a player. I'm not used to keeping track of my food and water, but it adds another interesting element to the game. It really drives home the desolation of the area our characters are exploring.

Dinner on Sunday was a great big success, it seems. I made a big-size chicken pot pie thingy we've tried before, but not with the same topper. Everyone really enjoyed the food, which always makes me happy. I simplified the recipe a bit, and tried some advice from Kristie, and it turned out better than it has in the past. Here's what I did:

Take half a stick of butter and a quarter of an onion, diced. Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot and put the onion in there. You're looking for a sweat, not a sautee, here. You want the onion to soften up a little and get translucent, not brown. It'll take a few minutes. Keep moving everything around so it doesn't burn or anything. When you've got the onion done, sprinkle in 5 tbsp of regular all purpose flour. Whisk this into the butter. This is called a roux, and it's going to thicken up really quickly, so you want to have some chicken broth to stir in there as well. About one and a half cans works. Something like three cups. Add it very slowly. As you add it, whisk it in until it's thoroughly combined with the roux. Keep adding it slowly and mixing it in until all the broth is in there. Now you'll want to let it simmer for a while. I had to let mine go for about 30 minutes ot get it to the consistency I liked. While this is happening, you can prep a few other things. Cook a couple of chicken breasts in your preferred method. Essentially they just need to be cooked through, so whatever you like is fine. I like cutting up my chicken before cooking and this meant that my chicken was done in almost no time. Once you have it cooked, you can add it to your gravy. Also add a bag of frozen mixed veggies. I thawed mine first, but you don't need to. It's a good idea to get the whole filling miz warmed up at least a little, though. Now, you need to preheat your oven to 375, open up a tube of crescent rolls, pull out a 3-quart Pyrex dish and get ready to finish this beast off. Pour the gravy/chicken/veggie mix into the pyrex. When you've got the crescent rolls unrolled, break them apart on the perforations and lay them on top of the filling. You want some gaps between, but not too much. Just enough to let some steam out. I ended up with two extra cresent roll pieces when I was done and you can toss these or throw them onto a baking sheet in the oven when you cook the whole thing. Pop the dish into the oven and let it be for about 12-15 minutes. Your indicator is the rolls on top. the filling is cooked already, so the oven just finishes the rolls, brings everything to the same temperature and helps tighten it all up a bit. When the rolls are golden brown on top, pull the dish out and let it sit for a few minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Club and Whatnot

Last night, Jenna and I went to our first meeting of a sci-fi/fantasy book club my cousin is in. It was really cool, and I think we're going to join up and read the books and all. Should be awesome, not least because it gives us another excuse to hang with my cousin and his wife. We're reading Red Planet by Robert Heinlein next. I haven't read it before, but I've really enjoyed all the other Heinlein I've read, so I think it'll be good. If anyone is interested in the book club, drop me a comment here and I'll get you the info.

I haven't been cooking too much, unfortunately, due to late nights at work. I'm going to make some enchiladas tonight, so I'll write about that sometime soon (assuming they turn out well, of course). I'm also going to make a big mashed potato-topped chicken pot pie thing on Sunday, which should be tasty. I may end up doing a puff pastry top on it if I can get it all to work out. The only issue we've had in the past is that the gravy takes forever to thicken up and if we don't give it long enough, the pastry gets too soggy to get puffy and crispy. I think if we let it simmer for a darned long time so it thickens up a bunch, it'll be fine. We'll have to see. I may also put some arrowroot in there, as I'm told that thickens very well.

This week my dad and I started another NRA Marksmanship Qualification course. We already completed the handgun course (http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/marksmanship/Handgun.asp) through the Distinguished Expert rating, and are now working on shotgun (http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/marksmanship/shotgun.asp). It's really fun already and I think it's only going to get better. We shot two rounds (25 birds from the auto-trap machine) and both scored 19 and 21. Auto-trap is really cool. When shooting clay pigeons, there are a bunch of different ways to get them in the air. Hand throwers are basically flexible plastic handles with hooks on the end that allow you to fling the bird a good way, but they're not very consistent. Personally, I am terrible with them. Manual throwing is using a thrower on a pedestal. There's a spring and a swinging arm involved, and it's very consistent. You're limited as to the variation you can get out of it, though. With few exceptions, the birds all go the same distance, direction and elevation. Auto-trap is essentially a hand trap machine operated by an electrical impulse through a wired remote. It's also oscillating, so the birds come out at different angles every time. You say "Pull" and you don't know which direction it's going to go. That adds a huge level of skill and fun to the sport. Tracking the pigeon as it moves is the toughest part of shooting, and having it go at extreme angles or straight out from you means you have to swing horizontally sometimes, and other times you have to hold steady. It sounds easier than it is. In any case, we had a really great time and are very much looking forward to continuing to progress through the ranks.

I got Friday of week one of pushups done this morning, even though I woke up extremely late. Writing about it on here and having people working on the same stuff will help keep me motivated, I think. I'm going to do my free squats tomorrow, and then move onto week two of pushups on Monday. Sweet!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Body Weight Exercise

One of the nice things about being a large guy is that body weight exercises involve a comparatively large amount of weight. Pushups, pullups, free squats, tricep dips, etc are all pretty good exercises for anybody, but for someone like me, they're even better. This is how I make myself feel better about being out of shape. See how I did that? In any case, I got back on the pushup program I've mentioned here and elsewhere before (http://www.100pushups.info/) and started on the right column of week one. My test actually suggested I should start on week two, but I want to get myself used to doing the exercise regularly again. My issue with working out (the same issue it seems I've always had) is consistency. I can go work really hard 3 days in a row, but then I'll drop off and slack for a week. Or I can go for one week but then slack for two. I don't get myself into the habit and maintain the commitment like I need to be doing in order to get the results I want. That's one of the things I'm liking about the bodyweight exercises. Anything I can do in my kitchen while I'm unloading dishes or in my bathroom right before I jump in the shower is pretty easy to get done even when I don't feel like it.

So here's my plan: Monday, Wednesday and Friday are pushup days. I'll be doing my pushups according to the plan on that website, and continuing to progress accordingly. I don't have any doubt I can get to 50 pushups in a row in a few weeks. I got nearly that many when I did the program before, and it didn't take me as long as I thought it would. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are free squat days.

If you don't know free squats, you should try them. You only use your body weight, but you do a whole lot of them all in a row without stopping. It's a lot harder than it sounds. A major thing to remember with these is that perfect form is your friend. Give this a try. Find a wall in your house. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes an inch or two from the wall. Now squat. Bumping your head, feeling unbalanced, putting holes in your home? The reason for this is that most folks squat forward, with their knees moving forward out over their toes. I'm told this is bad for the knees, and should be avoided. using the wall keeps you from doing this. You bend at the knees, but it's a 90 degree bend and the knees stay firmly over top of the feet instead of extending forward past the toes. Once you get the feel for this, you can stop using the wall and you'll keep good form without it. A good first goal for free squats is 50 in a row without stopping. If you can do that, shoot for 75, then 100. Once you can get 100 consistently without too much difficulty, you can advance to pistols, something I can't do and won't even try to pretend I can. It's essentially a one-legged squat. It's hard.

In any case, I can do 50 free squats now, and will continue doing 50 for the rest of this week, then move to 55 or 60 per day for the three days I'll be doing them next week. In a little while, I'll be doing 100 in a row and I should be noticing some differences in my body, I'm thinking. When I've worked out regularly in the past, I have had a tendency to put on muscle pretty easily, so I'm hoping that still holds true. I know I'm not going to get uber-bulky by doing just bodyweight exercises, but I'd be happy with most any gains I can get.

I do want to continue to work on my aerobics as well, and to that end I think the wife and I are going to play racquetball a few times a week. That's something I can do for an hour or more and have a good time doing, as opposed to anything in a stationary bike or treadmill where I get very bored after just a short time. It's still indoors, too, which is very nice. Also, I love that it's something Jenna and I can do together. I'm rather fond of her, as you're no doubt aware.

So that's the update there. I'll be posting my progress and whatnot as I make it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Okay, here's the lowdown: We watched Dollhouse up to the current episode last night, and watched the premiere of Kings. Both are freakin' sweet. I wasn't a huge fan of Dollhouse after the second episode, but there's a twist in the third that got me right back into it. Kings is amazing. Visually stunning, with some really great characters and actors. The world is neat, too, and makes me want to learn more about it.

Not much aside from that. Planning on staying in tonight as well, to avoid anyone driving around like a freakish loser.

We've got steaks and a new cast iron grill thingy, so that may be what we do for dinner. I hope so. It sounds really good after a long day at work. Yesterday I went home after only 8 hours and it felt like a mini-vacation. That's not really cool in my book, so I'm going to have to work on getting out of here on time as a rule rather than as the exception. I get to head out a bit early tomorrow to see my dad, so I'm excited about that. Thursday, we're heading to a sci-fi book club my cousin told us about, to see if we'll be interested in joining. I think it would be very cool to see John and Michelle more often if nothing else, and having someone else give me books to read would be nice, since I tend to get bogged down when left to my own devices. I'm actually down to only four concurrent reads at this point, only one of which is fiction, so I think I may be willing to start a new one or two soon. Any suggestions?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Big geeky weekend

Hey there everyone. I'm sure you're all very excited to get another recap of my weekend activities. No? Well too bad!

Friday Jenna and I met our friends Derek and jenny for sushi and a movie. It was a really good time, and very cool to get to hang out with them again. The sushi place we went was crazy busy, which I took as a good sign. Now, to be clear, I'm not big on sushi. I don't get grossed out by it at all, it just isn't really my thing. We wanted to go with them because it sounded like they really love sushi and I also wanted to give it another chance with some people who know enough about it to be able to give me some pointers and whatnot. It was really fun and we tried a ton of different things. The place we went (Samurai Sushi on Arapahoe Rd.) has an All-You-Can-Eat thing for $20 which was also very nice. You can get as much food as you want, but anything you don't finish is charged at full price. Kinda lame, but I totally understand why they have to do that. The AYCE format is great for trying a ton of different types of sushi, since you can just order one piece of a given type and try it, then order more of it if you like it. I tried just about everything Derek and Jenny ordered, with very few exceptions. I tried squid and didn't like the texture, so I didn't eat the octopus since I figured it was very similar. However, I did have a few big winners. I still like the California roll, but now i think I know why. The seaweed wrap around most rolls is too much for me. I understand they need something to hold everything otgether, but the stuff is all tough and chewy and it really throws off the texture of the rest of the sushi for me. California rolls have the seaweed on the inside of the rice, so there's a lot less of it. They also have cream cheese, which I really like. I also very much enjoyed the freshwater eel they had. it came with some sauce already on it, and it was just extremely good. It was a roll, but it had a little bit of seaweed wrapped around it like a present (rice on bottom, eel on top, seaweed vertically around both) to keep the rice and eel together, but the seaweed wasn't enough to throw off the texture. It was really really good.

The rest of the sushi wasn't bad, and I liked most of it, but I think I determined why I'm not as into sushi as a lot of people are. I like sushi, but I don't love it. I don't appreciate the subtle differencies in taste between the tuna sashimi and the albacore sashimi. I also really can't tell the difference between the half dozen or more different types of fish we had once I dipped the piece into the soy sauce (which it seems like most people do on every bite, so I'm not just a freak for doing it). I tasted soy sauce and it was good, but not great. I think another issue is that sushi costs a lot. We paid $20 for our dinner and I got way more food for that amount of money than I ever have at any other sushi place ever. Without the AYCE factor, our meal could've easily cost twice as much, maybe more. So if I do eat sushi again, which I'd imagine I will, knowing that I do enjoy some of it and having friends who also really enjoy it, it will only be AYCE at this place, most likely. I just can't help but think about the fact that I can get a pretty nice steak, drink and dessert for $20 at many other restaurants. I'm something of a cheapskate, though I can set that aside and enjoy a good meal now and again. I'm just also a man with a simple, ignorant, miserably American palate, and a vaguely charred slab of meat is about the pinnacle of my eating enjoyment.

After sushi, we went to see Watchmen again at the Landmark. That was awesome. I love that theatre so hard. The popcorn and drinks flow freely, they're very tasty and the seats are very comfy indeed. We also found out that the first show of the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is only $9 instead of $12, which is freakin' sweet. We also enjoy the $5 AMC morning movies (anything before noon, Fri-Sun) but if you want popcorn and a drink, you're easily getting up to $12 or $13. And the AMC theatre is a lot farther away from us, to boot.

The movie was still good the second time, though I was bored for some of it. It's very visually interesting, but that isn't nearly as meaningful the second time. I did notice some things that I hadn't noticed the first run through, and still very much enjoyed the movie overall. I still don't think Ozymandias was cast well, but I am becoming more and more a fan of the Comedian and Rorschach. I didn't like the Comedian as much in the book as I do in the movie. The actor really brought the character to life and gave him incredible depth, even though he's far from being someone you admire.

Saturday was our Supers game, and that was extremely fun. I always enjoy that game, and I look forward to it for the full two weeks between sessions. Adj can attest that every Monday after we play I spend a fair amount of time pestering him about things I want to do with my character and seeing what he thinks will work and all that. I'm sure it's annoying, but it's all based in the fact that I really enjoy the game, so he can't complain too much.

Sunday I woke up early, played some Fable (I've actually been playing that instead of Fallout for the past few days) until Jenna woke up, then she started playing and I went down to do some work in the garage. I got a fair amount done, with organizing things better, putting stuff into bins, throwing away old stuff we don't need, making a big pile for Goodwill, etc. I also figured out how to change the height of the cutting bit on my router, which is freaking awesome. That was a huge problem I was having with it before, and now I can do a lot more with it. I'm still not sure exactly how to do quite everything that I need to, but I think I can get it working well enough for the project I want to work on next. I've got so many tools and no real way to organize them. I'm thinking pegboard. In order to make a cool pegboard with enough air space behind the board so hooks can hooks through without hitting the wall I have to build a frame around the pegboard. Rather than doubling up 1x2 boards all around the edge and sandwiching the peg board between them (which is a big waste of wood, to my mind) I'm going to rout a groove into the wide side of a 1x2 and just slide that onto the pegboard. The should give me exactly what I need without wasting any wood, without wasting space on the pegboard, and with giving me a chance to use my router. Sweet!

I also got a book on cabinetry from the used book store in CA, so I've been itching to try a few of those projects. The main thing I really want to learn is dovetails. I think those are awesome, and they just really make a piece look so cool. Apparently they actually aren't all that tough, either. We'll see.

Sunday we also went to several stores and got some great stuff. We got another box of the world's greatest food storage (http://www.rubbermaid.com/rubbermaid/premier/index.jhtml) from Costco for an excellent price. We also found a cast iron griddle/grill thing at Ross for a great price, so I'm going to start using that in the oven. I'm thinking of trying burgers on the cast iron instead of just the steak. If the principles all hold true, it should work just fine. I also found a really nice glass dish with big deep sides that will work perfectly for lasagna for just Jenna and me. That was always a major issue, so it's really cool that we don't have to do a giant freaking batch every time. I'll have to rework some of my amounts, I'm sure, but I'll figure it out.

overall, a fun, productive and entirely satisfying weekend. Huzzah!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Geek Personality Archetypes

*Disclaimer* This is a piece I've been working on for a while, and I don't think it's exactly right just yet. Suggestions for changes or expansions are appreciated.

I am a geek. I have been a geek all my life. I have gone to comic book conventions, played tabletop roleplaying games, worked at the Renaissance Festival, been involved with historical recreation groups, played in LARP games, and more. Nearly every person I know, and certainly all of the people I see regularly, are also geeks. Having spent the majority of my life associating with these fascinating creatures, I have realized several things. First off, a good geek is hard to find. Many people who share your interests don't share other things, like your ability to match your clothing, or your personal hygiene habits. Secondly, many geeks aren't very good at socializing with other humans. Having met hundreds, potentially thousands of geeks in my life, certain patterns have become apparent. I call these the Geek Personality Archetypes. Knowing what to look for will help you to avoid being stuck in a 4-hour conversation with someone you'd rather not talk to at all. It can also help you to find people who don't exhibit any of these traits and would probably make a good long-term friend.

Now before all my geek friends get up in arms about this, keep in mind that I tend not to associate with the geeks who exhibit these personalities, and that if you are my friend you are a happy exception to the following descriptions. I will freely admit that I have been almost every one of these types at some point in my life, and have managed to work past these problems over the years. If you know someone who fits one or more of these categories, there is certainly hope for them, but they have to recognize the problem and be willing to change. Also, please realize that I am not saying that the people who exhibit these traits are bad people. They are probably very good people. Geeks are, with rare exceptions, kind, sensitive, and loving. All of the best people I've known in my life are geeks. I am only saying that you may not wish to spend the next party sitting next to one of the geeks who fits into one of the following categories.

You will notice that I mention that these behaviors are almost always motivated by a desire for attention. Insecurity is the single most common motivating factor when it comes to archetypal behavior. Most geeks grow up awkward and unpopular (as I did), and so they aren't used to dealing with "normies" on a regular basis. They may also have some kind of speech impediment, physical deformity, or ailment that keeps them from talking or playing with other kids from a very young age. These are formative years and many of the behaviors you'll see later in this piece are tied directly to a lesson not learned as a child. Many geeks have non-geeky parents who can't relate terribly well to their child, so they even feel isolated from their family. Really, geeks tend to get along almost exclusively with other geeks, and that's a major issue. Because it's a circle of introverted, insecure, socially-awkward people all seeing only other people like them as examples, they really don't have the opportunity to learn normal social behavior. In some ways, this is a tremendous blessing, and I think it's one of the reasons I spend so much time with other geeks. Normal people can be cruel, petty, hurtful, stupid, ignorant, insensitive, and generally just nasty, especially to those who are different. Some geeks pick up these habits (I wasn't as nice a person in high school as I would like to have been, looking back) but they are relatively few and far between. Most geeks are honest, forthright and kind. They don't have to spend their time vying for the cheerleaders' attention, so they can spend their time building solid, lifelong friendships instead. Another factor is that geeks tend to be intelligent, and intelligent people spend a lot of time in their own heads. They are happier curled up with a book, painting miniatures or playing computer games than they are mingling with drunken louts at a frat party. Spending time in your own head is a great way to develop your creativity and your imagination, but it's not a great way to learn the art of small talk, or how to flirt with a pretty girl (or boy).

One of the saddest facts of human behavior is that people who behave a particular way in order to get a certain response almost always get the exact opposite response, which simply drives them even more toward the problem behavior. For example, someone who is trying to impress you by telling you everything there is to know about clams wants you to think he's intelligent and interesting, but he will almost always come off as boring and lame. Most people will ignore or mock him, which just makes him try harder next time. Unfortunately, even giving him the response he really needs won't do much good for either of you, as it will likely just cause the guy to latch onto you as the only person who has ever appreciated him. Short of him recognizing the problem behavior and changing it, he has little hope of making serious progress with average people. Quite frankly, it also isn't your job to save these people from themselves. As much as I can understand why they act like this, it doesn't make me want to spend my time around them. If you're a geek and you've moved past these behaviors or avoided them entirely, good for you. That's the end of your responsibility. This guide is to help you deal with these people should you meet them in passing, and is not any kind of attempt to teach you how to "fix" them. I'll leave that to someone with proper licenses and certification.

Now, onto the archetypes.

The first archetype is the sarcasm-proof geek. They are extremely serious, and have an encyclopedic knowledge about something or other. If you make a joke, they are a) unlikely to realize that it is a joke and b) probably going to correct any number of mistaken assumptions your joke exhibits. They think that explaining how much more they know about the topic than you do will make you like them. They are wrong. I have met a great number of these geeks, and they are often combined with one of the other archetypes to form an entirely intolerable person. These geeks are, like most of the geek archetypes, trying to get attention and approval from their peers. They want you to say "Wow, I had no idea. Thank you for showing me the light. I will never make a joke about that topic again, because it is deadly serious and more important than life itself." Actually, you should try saying that to one of them. I'm curious about how they'll respond.

Suggested Interaction: Limited. They are missing the humor portion of their brain, and are uninteresting to talk to on any but the most technical levels. You can have fun with them by pushing their buttons. If you make an inappropriate joke and they get offended and tell you that they in fact have to deal with the object of the joke (a dead baby, for example) on a regular basis and that there's nothing funny about it, you can always just push forward. Ask for details and specific examples. Force them to talk about it and then make ever more inappropriate jokes until they leave or finally figure out that they need to lighten up. This could take days.

The second archetype is the chronic-illness geek. This geek will spend hours telling you about the various diseases, injuries and psychological problems they are suffering from. They will explain to you all of their symptoms, and the different doctors they had to go to in order to find out that nobody can figure out what's wrong with them. They are experts on all medications used to treat their diseases and are all too happy to suggest ointments, pills and holistic remedies that obviously haven't cured them. These geeks are desperate for attention (as are most of us geeks) and have decided that the pity you get for being unhealthy will serve. A scary thing indeed is when these geeks are also type six geeks and two of them try to "one-up" each other about how horrible their ailments are.

Suggested Interaction: Limited. You have to be a pretty slick talker to get them off the topic, and they will try to pull you back to it again and again. Another option (if you aren't averse to making a bit of a scene) is to say "Wow, your life must really suck. If I were that miserable all the time I would kill myself." Then sit back and watch them try to backpedal and assure you that really their life isn't that bad and they are happy and content, in direct contradiction of the previous 4 hours of complaining they've just done.

The third archetype is the used-to-be-cool geek. These are the 400-pounders who were prom queens and football stars. They're geeks, and they know they're not currently attractive, but they are very likely to tell you all about how much they used to be able to run and lift and jump and whatnot, until they developed this chronic injury/illness (see archetype 2). They are relatively harmless. If they are a combination of Types 2 and 3 or Types 3 and 4, they can be exceptionally annoying, but pure Type 3s are generally not too bad. Again, they are seeking attention and approval. Geeks often need affirmation from their friends or acquaintances, and many of their behaviors are geared toward this end.

Suggested Interaction: As long as you don't mind sitting through a short period of reminiscing on their part, and can avoid giving them opportunities to expand upon their stories, they can be perfectly cool people otherwise. If you don't mind a long walk down memory lane, they can actually be great conversationalists. They've probably told these stories a lot and are likely very good at it.

The fourth archetype is the badass geek. They probably have a black belt in some martial art or another, carry 16 knives strapped to their bodies, wear tactical clothing at least some of the time, and will most likely threaten people around them regularly. Many geeks will carry weapons but do not throw their weight around, and therefore they do not fall into this category. Type 4s are also very unlikely to be capable of hurting anything other than your hope for humanity. Many of them are very heavy, and/or have chronic illnesses and injuries that would make them a pitiful fighter in any real situation. This type is often combined with Type 2 and/or Type 3. They are trying to impress you, and to get your approval.

Suggested Interaction: Be nice, and ignore their threats as best you can. If they are excessive or overly annoying, you can always call their bluff. This assumes that you are at least willing and/or capable of defending yourself. I don't advise it in most situations, as it will probably make you look like a jerk, and could potentially get you in trouble with the law. A better solution is to call them on their bluff, but in a subtle way. If the person claims that they are going to "kick someone's ass" for some really lame reason, you can ask "Do you really think that's worth fighting over?" or "Wow, that's a little excessive, isn't it?" Sometimes, this can help them to see that they aren't impressing anyone, or at the very least it can shut them up. They aren't necessarily bad people, they just don't realize that they are making themselves look and sound like jerks.

The fifth archetype is the ugly slut type. These can be men or women, but they are more often female. They can be Type 3s who haven't realized that they're no longer young and attractive, or maybe they've never been attractive and they just found that many geeks don't care that much. In any case, they are the geeks who wear clothes they have no right to wear, will flirt with anything that gets too close, and talk about sexual things in inappropriate situations. Female Type 5s will often claim (or demonstrate) they are bisexual in an attempt to get attention from male geeks. Some will even go into sexual professions (dominatrices, specifically) and then talk about their experiences incessantly. These geeks, like most others, are trying to get attention and affection from their peers. Far too many geeks give it to them and perpetuate the cycle. These geeks are difficult to deal with because they can be very popular and have a lot of friends who are otherwise very cool people. Simply telling them they are disgusting can cause tension between you and their friends.

Suggested Interaction: Difficult. Even gently telling a Type 5 that you aren't interested is no guarantee that they will leave you alone. Being more forceful can easily hurt their feelings and they will undoubtedly tell their friends how much of a jerk you are. Saying something like "I'm married" or "I'm in a relationship" generally won't work either, as they often have it in their heads that this is simply an excuse. Your best bet is to avoid them as much as possible. Talk with them only when you must, and leave their company as quickly as you can. If you come up with a better strategy, please let me know.

The sixth archetype is the One-Up geek. They are always just a little bit smarter, better and faster than everyone around them, sometimes in obvious contradiction of reality. If you say you graduated high school with a 4.0, they graduated with a 4.25. If you had five girlfriends in high school, they had seven or eight. If you studied martial arts for three years, they studied for ten. You get the picture. As per usual, this is how they hope to gain attention. They think that by being better or more experienced at something, people will like them more. This is rarely the case. It's normally so obvious what they're doing that everyone just ignores them completely, which forces them to try even harder.

Suggested Interaction: Generally their claims will be things you can't disprove easily. There's not much you can do aside from ignoring them without digging yourself in deeper. Potentially, you can force them to dig so deep into a story that you can catch them in a contradiction or something, but you may just end up spending an hour listening to them blather on about how awesome they are. The main thing to remember is that they're lying to your face, and that isn't cool. They may be nice people in many other ways, but they're also willing to pull stories out of their butt to impress you, which doesn't generally belie much character. I have yet to meet one of these people who will ever admit to exaggerating except under the most ridiculous situations (claiming something when proof that it is false is easily at hand) and even then, they tend to crawfish a little and claim it's just a difference in degree or scope, not a full-on fabrication. In all, these people are best avoided or ignored.

The seventh archetype is the "All About Me" geek. There is no conversation that cannot spontaneously become about them. You're talking about Chinese tree squirrels? Well one time this geek went to a baseball game and caught a foul ball. No bearing on the current conversation? He doesn't give a damn. It has been nearly 30 seconds since someone paid attention to him and that is frankly unacceptable. Sometimes these geeks will try to steer the conversation toward a topic that relates to them, or they may make an attempt at a bridge between the two. Sometimes they really do have something meaningful to add, but it is almost always about how cool they are. These geeks are very common, and relatively harmless. They may attempt to hijack a conversation now and again but only the truly lost ones will really ruin your chance for a good time with a group of friends.

Suggested Interaction: As long as this type isn't combined with any other archetypes, their interjections may actually be kind of interesting, or may take the conversation in a new and acceptable direction. Because geeks are insecure, they want attention. What better way to get attention than to force everyone in the room to listen to you talk about yourself, right? This type has the potential to be innocuous or devastating depending on combinations of archetypes and the severity of their devotion to the cause. If they really do take this type to the maximum possible extent, it will be nearly impossible to accomplish anything around them. Believe me, there are people out there who will do this with a smile on their face. For these, there is very little to be done. Really letting them go by asking questions and acting interested can simply lead to them rambling for a very long time. Ignoring them completely will probably just make them louder. Acknowledging their contributions without egging them on is your best bet, and you may have to take it upon yourself to force the conversation back onto its original topic every so often.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Geeks who Drink...Shirley Temples

We went to trivia last night with our friends Ami and Steve and a friend of theirs, Clarence. It was a new bar and a new quizmaster, so we didn't really know what to expect. Honestly, it was pretty awesome. The bar is nice and new, with good food and a nice atmosphere. Travis, the quizmaster, is a cool guy, too. He speaks clearly, and doesn't seem to be high or dunk all the time like the other quizmaster we know. We also talked to him after the game and he's just an interesting guy. He was a marine infantryman and now he's studying to become a DO (like an MD but with some chiropractic-like stuff as well). So yeah, just a neat dude. Clarence was also cool. I wasn't sure of him at first because I couldn't tell when he was kidding or not, but I think I got a decent handle on his sense of humor by the end of the night and I would be totally cool with hanging out with him again. He's a karaoke jockey, which also sounds like it could be a neat thing to do sometime. Not for me to sing, because nobody benefits when Jared sings, but maybe to go with some friends and watch them singing.

In any case, there were several pretty great points from the night which I wanted to share with you all, since you obviously weren't there. Clarence is into musical theatre. He knows all the shows, all the songs, all the characters, etc. The guy is into it. Now, I'm not one to judge (okay, I totally am), and he wasn't setting off my gay-dar, so I just figured the dude liked musicals. Whatever, right? But he kept mentioning multiple times that he isn't gay and that he really likes girls. Since this is the first night I met him, I didn't want to commence ripping on him immediately until I was sure how he'd take it and all. After a while of him singing showtunes and continually insisting that he isn't gay, I figured it was cool to rib him a little about it. So the next time he said "No, I really like girls," I said "But just as friends, right?" He seemed really surprised, but he totally rolled with it. That's when I knew I could get along with the guy. Later, after the game, when we were just hanging out talking (Ami and Steve had already left) and getting to know each other better, he talked about being a KJ and started asking us whether we knew any of these clubs that he worked at. I told him no, we didn't know them because we are real geeks and we don't go out in public unless there's trivia to be had. He again seemed really surprised. Apparently we don't seem like real geeks, I guess. Anyway, he said something to the effect of "Wow, I'm really surprised. You're both very attractive, so I wouldn't think you'd be geeks." That pretty much made my night. Geek-o-flage successful.

if anyone wants to come to this weeknight trivia thing with us again, i think we might make it a regular thing. let me know and I'll give you the details.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On Chess

I am a great big geek, as most of you know, and as such I have a certain fascination with chess. I didn't play it when I was young, and I'm not sure whether it was because I didn't have anyone to play it with me, or whether I wasn't nearly as interested in sitting down for long periods as i am now. I really don't know, but suffice it to say, I came to chess later on in life. I'm playing every day now, pretty much. I'm reading books, talking with people, watching documentaries on major players when I can, etc. I wouldn't say I've jumped in with both feet yet, as I haven't joined a local club, looked into private tutoring or really even played much with anyone but a few friends who are similarly interested in the game. I also haven't gotten to play "over the board" as much as I'd like, since the friends I have who also enjoy chess are almost all situated a goodly ways from me.

In any case, one of the things that I've noticed about chess is that playing online is way tougher than playing on a real board. When looking at a real chess set and a real opponent, you see things you don't really notice or have no access to when playing on a computer. It's tough to explain, but there's a certain element of playing the opponent in real life that doesn't exist on the internet. It's almost like poker in a way. You can watch their eyes, see where they're looking, notice if they're unsure of a particular move, or if they're surprised by one of your own moves. Psyching out an opponent is as effective in chess as in any other game or sport, maybe more so, since mistakes are so easily made and so difficult to recover from.

Another major thing about chess is that a huge number of people seem to think that memorizing the games of grandmasters and playing the moves they played when presented with the same position constitutes playing a good game of chess. I entirely disagree. You're playing chess like a computer when you do that. You're not actually thinking about the position, your pieces, your opponent, or even your goals with the move. It's simply regurgitating what you've seen before. people who do this can probably play better than I do and a lot of them can certainly beat me, but I don't think that's the point. When I play chess, it's me playing. it's my brain looking at the pieces and deciding what should go where. When someone plays a game based solely on what they read in a book (and there are so many books and databases out there, most every position has been recorded at some point) it takes the player out of the equation to a large extent. The other player might as well be playing against the book, or better yet, not playing at all, since he's likely just repeating moves out of the book, too. This reliance on games that have come before seems to take the game out of chess. I don't mean to say that understanding the games of great players is a useless exercise, but the focus needs to be on understanding why things were done, not just what was done.

In any case, it's something I'm really enjoying and if anyone wants to play a game, please let me know. I'd be happy to help you bump your rating any time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Aftermath

This was one of the busiest weekends we've had in a while. Friday night was Watchmen with a bunch of friends, Saturday was a party for another friend and Sunday was our new Rifts game. Let's cover them each individually, shall we?

Friday was a resounding success. We got to the new theatre with enough time to get a good feel for it and everything. It's pretty awesome. The seats are very nice, the popcorn and soda flow freely, and there's a full bar for people who don't want to remember the movie too well. Overall, though, the increased ticket price (we paid $12 for regular seats, VIP seats are $15 and buying online is an extra $1 per ticket) was well worth it, when you factor in the free drink and popcorn. The popcorn is actually pretty good and their buttery topping is actually melted butter. Sweet! The seats are comfy, with the armrests that can be raised or lowered, depending on your relationship with the person next to you. The VIP seats are larger, set up with two people without an armrest between them separated by a larger arm rest with a little space to put things like popcorn and whatnot. They're also assigned, and situated in a very good area of the theatre (the first few rows of the main part of the theatre, so leaning back gives you a perfect angle on the screen). Assigned seats is brilliant, as it means you can get to a very popular movie about a minute before it starts and still have a great seat. VIPs also have access to their own bathroom, which doesn't require you to leave the screen area or show a ticket to reenter. Also, the VIP ticket comes with a lanyard and a VIP badge, which is pretty cool on its own. So we're thinking that if we go back to this place, the VIP package may well be worth it.

Aside from the theatre itself, the movie was also good. It kept very close to the main plot line of the book up until the end, and even the changes they made were still in keeping with the story. I was very pleased and really enjoyed seeing all of the stuff I recognized from the comic. They had to cut out about three minor plot lines, it looks like, and they really had to reduce the depth and density of a lot of the relationships and backgrounds, which is necessary but unfortunate in a movie that still nearly ran three hours. Still, having read the book, you have all the info in your head already, so it's easy to add it into the context of the movie and not feel like you're missing too much. For someone who hasn't read the book, it may be a little slow, confusing, frustrating, or just plain bizarre. I don't know. I hope people enjoy it, but I really think reading the book first will give you a better experience. Be aware that there is full-on male nudity and some really realistic, brutal violence in here. There are bad people who are arguably heroes, or at the very least a heck of a lot more moral grayness than you get in most superhero movies. It's a comic book written very much for an adult audience, and the movie is very much the same way.

So, that was Friday night and it was very fun. Saturday i woke up early, played Fallout 3 for a good while, then napped on the couch in the afternoon. not my finest hour, but not a terrible way to spend a weekend either. We went down to my friend brad's house to celebrate his engagement and sort of hang out with some of the other people involved in the wedding, and ended up having a really good time. When people suggested beer pong, I was initially concerned, until I came up with the idea of "Pressure Pong," as I like to call it. You play with Gatorade or water or whatever. The rules are the same except that instead of getting drunk, you just get to the point where you really have to pee and you aren't allowed to go to the bathroom until you've won three games. Very fun and a good alternative for those of us who don't drink. We also came up with the idea of "Winter Pong" where you use mugs of hot cocoa and giant marshmallows instead of beer and ping pong balls. It wouldn't get you drunk, but it's sort of cute anyway. In any case, we had a great time playing that and hanging with Brad and Steve and Britt, whom I don't get to see nearly enough now that they've all moved away to various places. We got home pretty darned late and went to bed almost immediately.

Sunday dawned bright and way too early. The time change caught both Jenna and I off guard so we rushed around and tried to get the house cleaned up before folks showed up for gaming. We managed, and the house always looks so much better after a quick cleaning. People came over and we got to play this new game which we're still figuring out a bit. it's a complicated system and a world none of us are entirely familiar with, so it's a learning process. The characters are fun and the group is really awesome (especially with a recent change) so it's a very good time had by all. I also got to make lasagna with the no boil noodles for the first time and it turned out pretty well. I think I'll do fewer layers next time, as this version turned out to be a bit noodle-heavy for my taste. The noodles themselves were certainly very tasty, and they had a good texture everywhere they had been exposed to sauce or cheese or whatever. The parts that went into the oven dry came out pretty crispy, but I think that'll be fixed when I re-adjust the layers. Still, everyone seemed to enjoy it, which is always good for the ol' self esteem.

So anyway, that was the weekend. very fun, fairly successful on all counts and it ended with a clean house, a little leftover lasagna in the fridge and a bunch of time spent with a lot of different friends. Can't complain about that at all.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Confluence of Homies

So tonight's Watchmen viewing is also apparently serving as an "everyone I know" get-together. I'm extremely pleased with the turnout, or at least the confirmations I've gotten from folks. A lot of friends I haven't seen in a very long time are all coming up down or over to see this movie and grab some dinner. Sweet!

I'm excited about the movie tonight. I'm also excited about the theatre. having enjoyed the movie tavern's new take on the movie-going experience, I'm hoping this place is similarly awesome. We'll have to see. Free popcorn and soda sounds great, as I'm a movie consumer. Not in that I eat film, but in that I enjoy snacking while watching. Gives me something to do with the rest of my body while my eyes and ears are busy. I do really like the Movie Tavern model of bringing me food while I'm watching my movie, as I very rarely want to leave to get the free refills most theatres off on large popcorn and drinks. We'll have to see if the upscale style of this Landmark place will outweigh the awesomeness and overwhelmingly satisfactory service we received at the Movie tavern. Time will tell.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dinner and a show

Last night I went to the range with my dad, which is always fun. We go every few weeks, and I really enjoy the chance to spend time with him doing something we both love. We're also getting pretty good with our chosen implements.

Afterward, I went home and cooked a very simple, tasty dinner. If you haven't had this meal before, you need to try it. It's one of the easier things you can make that is also good and can be quite versatile. Get a kielbasa from the store. I like the Polska Kielbasa from Hickory Farms, I think. Whatever it is, it's a sausage in a plastic wrapper. I'm sure they're all pretty much the same. get one of those. get some potatoes. I think 2-3 pounds is plenty. Get an onion. You have all this? Good. Now cut the kielbasa into medallions (about 1/4" thick, maybe a little less) all the way around (it'll be curved in the middle so some of these will end up being a little wedge-like) and toss them into your skillet. i use an electric skillet for this, because it's nice and big, nonstick, easy to set and maintain a temperature, and it has a nice, tight-fitting lid. You can do this on the stove if you're careful with your temperature and you have a great big non-stick skillet with a lid. Now take your potatoes and scrub them under running water. i don't peel potatoes, so I have to scrub them. I'm okay with this. Once they're scrubbed, you get to cut them up. Make one cut lengthwise, then put the potato cut side down and slice this into 1/4" slices all the way down. Toss your potato slices into the skillet. Repeat until all potatoes are gone. Take an onion and get half to a quarter of it (depending on how much you like onions) and make one cut from the stem end (perpendicular to the layers) and then slice it into 1/4" slices. See where i'm going with this? Toss all those into the skillet. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, stir everything around the get it all mixed up and all the pieces separated and then turn your skillet/stove to 250. You want a long, slow cook with this. Blasting with too much heat right at the beginning won't warm up the sausage enough to get the juices flowing to keep the potatoes from burning. So set it here and let it go for a bit. You'll have to wait 5-10 minutes to start hearing the sizzle and smelling the delicious cooking smell. Once this happens, stir everything up a bit. it's not stir-fry so you don't have to keep things moving constantly, but it's a situation where you want everything in that skillet to get a nice golden color on it. The total cook time is probably like 30 minutes or so, but it really depends on a lot of factors so just keep your eyes on it. Keep moving your potatoes around as they'll want to stick together. When they start getting less white and more translucent and start getting brown around the edges, you'll know you're done. Serve with ketchup and salt and pepper to taste.

The reason these are versatile is sort of theoretical. I was thinking about them and realized that this mix, if cut up slightly smaller, would go extremely well with scrambled eggs in a breakfast burrito. I haven't tried it yet, but it just sounds like it would be really good.

After this cooking process, Jenna and I sat down and watched some episodes of Chuck to get ourselves caught up again, and then watched the new episode of LOST. That show went a bit far afield for my tastes but it seems like they've turned a very important corner now. They are apparently answering more questions than they ask from this point on, which is a big relief to all of us curious folks out in the world who have been watching it for the past few years and saying "What?!" So that's fun. The show is far superior when watched in rapid succession on DVD, but their policy of repeating the prior episode with handy little info at the bottom of the screen is actually pretty nice. Helps remind me about things I've forgotten and makes connections I hadn't seen and such. Anyhow, good show. I suggest it, but if you aren't into waiting potentially years for an answer to a question, just wait for the whole thing to end and get it all on DVD.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Semi-success with multi-steak cooking

Last night Jenna and I had our friend Adj over for dinner to thank him for looking after our cats while we visited Jenna's family. The fact that he's also just a fun dude to hang out with obviously had no effect on our decision to do so. In any case, we went to Costco and got some shiny new steaks to cook up and I figured we should attempt a multi-steak cooking process to keep it from lasting for too long. So I busted out my little cast iron griddle to use in addition to the big skillet. heated them in the oven set to broil for like 12 minutes, then slapped the steaks on (one in each pan) and let them go for 3 minutes each on each side. herein lies the difficulty. Cooking two steaks at once seems like it may take a bit more time, since the same amount of heat is now being given two places to go instead of just one. Also, the steaks we got were unnaturally thick this time. One of them was closer to an inch and a half thick than it was to our standard inch-thick ribeyes. That should also have given me the signal that maybe it needed some extra time, but I would not be deterred. Having decided that 3 minutes is the magic length of time for steaks, I neglected to modify it, even though I had changed two of the variables.

Alas, the extra-thick steak came out pretty underdone and the steak we cooked at the same time, though of a normal size, came out slightly underdone as well. So now we know that extra-thick steaks need to be cooked for a longer time (I'm guessing 3:15) and steaks cooked together need to be cooked for a slightly longer time (I'm guessing 3:15 if they are both normal thickness, an extra :15 if they're extra thick). Still, the dinner was a resounding success, as the mashed potatoes I made the day before were still tasty (once we got them warm, which only happened after I burned myself on the container) and the broccoli was also good.

I have noticed this tendency in myself and my cooking and I need to keep an eye on it in the future. once I find something that works, I invariably change some aspect of it without modifying the rest, and am usually displeased with the results. Still, I'm also not a big fan of coming up with one way to cook something and then never ever varying that method again, so I suppose I just need to get a better handle on how to modify temperatures or cook times based on what other aspect of the recipe I'm changing.

Anyhow, after food we played the Name Game for a good long while, which was very entertaining. We learned several new names which I promptly forgot, but which may spark some kind of recognition if we pull them again down the road. Really, it was a fantastic evening, and one I'd like to repeat on a somewhat regular basis, if possible. Thanks to both Jenna and Adj for their attendance and for their company.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Who watches the Watchmen? Us!

We've confirmed. We're going to go see Watchmen on Friday, 3/6/09 at 8:15 PM at the new Landmark theatre in Greenwood Village. Tickets are $12 each, but include popcorn and soda, so it isn't really that bad. You can also opt for $15 VIP tickets if you want someone to take your order at your seat and bring you food before the show. I think VIP tickets also get you priority seating and stuff. No idea, really, as I haven't been here before.

So if you're interested, let me know and I'll give you the details.


Okay, I think I figured out the magic number for the steak in the oven. Three minutes per side with a 10-minute rest under foil seems to get me to glorious pink pretty consistently. I think I over-used the kosher salt last night, so I'll go a bit lighter on that the next time. Still, the three seasonings I've been using have produced a consistently tasty crust on the steaks so I think I'll stick with them. It's really good to have the numbers figured out now. Having a set pattern makes it easier to get consistent results.

I'm starting to wonder about using my second cast iron skillet on this project now. I think I'll attempt it tonight. Since I have two, it could be possible to cook two steaks at once, thereby getting steak into my mouth about 16 minutes sooner. This is a worthy goal. My second skillet is actually just a griddle, so I'm not sure if it'll make a big huge mess in the oven due to the low sides and the spattery grease that comes off a cooking steak. We'll have to see about it. I don't have a self-cleaning oven in our current apartment, so spattery grease can be a big pain in my butt.

I did some mashed potatoes again last night, too. Those are always tasty. Here's a quick recipe: Take 5 pounds of potatoes. I use russets. Clean them off with some water and a scrubby brush, then cut them up into 1-inch chunks or smaller. Drop them into a great big pot (I think I have a 12-quart one) and cover them with water. A little more water than it takes to cover them is a good idea, as some will boil off. I give it about an inch above the level of the potatoes. Put this on the stove to boil. Once it starts boiling, drop a pretty hefty bit of kosher salt into the water and set your timer for 20 minutes. You can reduce the heat to just enough to keep it boiling, and that'll help stop it from boiling over. I also skim off as much of the starchy gross bubble crap as I can with a slotted spoon. Once the timer goes off, dump the potatoes into a strainer and get them as dry as you can. Put them back in the cooking pot with half a stick of butter and 8 oz of half and half. Mash it all up like crazy, then add some more salt and pepper. They are now ready to serve.

The timing on these mashed potatoes meshes well with cooking the steaks, as the 20 minute boiling time for the potatoes is enough time to get the steaks in the oven, and the 10-minute rest for the steaks is plenty of time to mash the taters. These two recipes go together like...peas and carrots? Red beans and rice? I have no idea. They just work well.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Spotty transmissions

Okay, I think I've gone into this a bit, but here's the full scoop. We had a couple of layoffs at my company, and one of them was doing daily cash application. For those of you who haven't worked in accounting, specifically project-based accounting, cash application is your way of keeping track of which invoices have been paid by your clients. Every check that comes in isn't just applied to the client's total, it has to be applied to the specific invoice so that you can keep track of who is and isn't being paid. This is kind of a pain, but it makes it much nicer when you realize you've been short paid and you need to know why. However, with a company like ours, each person we place at a client site is a project and each week of their labor is an invoice. We've got several hundred folks out there working for several dozen clients at any given time. We get checks every day and they all have to be broken down into the employee who worked and when they worked so they can be applied to the appropriate invoice in our system. For clients who actually receive a copy of our invoice through e-mail or on paper, they can list the invoice numbers on the check and everything's nice and easy. For a majority of our clients, however, we are auto-paid. This means our employees fill out their timecard in the client's timekeeping system and we are sent a check based on that entry. Since the client never sees our invoice, the best we can hope for is a name and a date. This then has to be matched to the invoice we created internally for that person for that week. Fun, eh?

Now that you know what fills my day since the shift of responsibilities, keep in mind that I'm still responsible for doing all of the things I was doing before. So I still have weekly and biweekly reports to run, commissions to track and calculate, custom reports to create in one of our various systems, IT issues to fix for my coworkers, maintenance on the programs I've written over the years, and any special accounting projects my bosses need me to do. Since work is where I do all my computering, this is why I haven't been as good about updating recently.

However, I'm taking the time now to keep everyone updated on what goes on in this wonderful world that is my life. had a great time at the party for j-Long's going away on Friday, so that's cool. Adj and I have developed some sort of bizarre charades-dependent telepathy, it seems. We actually got "Homer Simpson" and "The Hundred Years War." That's right, folks. I was pretty proud. I was also more than a little impressed with our friend Jenny's ability to guess acurately stuff that we were acting out rather miserably. I pulled "Albert Einstein" and was left trying to show big fluffy hair and smoking a pipe (an activity I'm not even certain Einstein was into) but she got it anyhow. Many props to her.

Saturday was our supers game which is always a blast. We got to roleplay some wonderful super-hero pun-filled banter, so that's pretty awesome. Always a fun time had by all. Jenna and I also played some racquetball in the morning, which was very fun. Only our second time going, but she's showing good progress. It's a game where experience makes a big difference. You can be in great shape and tucker yourself out chasing the ball all over but an old guy who's played forever can end the game not even breathing hard because he moves efficiently. So we'll keep going and practicing so she gets more court time and I think we'll have some really good games before too long.

Sunday was a good day too, but pretty calm. We went grocery shopping, I played some Fallout, we played racquetball for about an hour and a half again. jenna's really getting good! Her serves are much more consistent now and she's figuring out how to move around the court. A few more sessions and I think she'll be feeling very comfortable with moving around and knowing how to move to meet the ball.

Unfortunately, the weekend was rather tainted with worry and sadness about Jenna's little brother, who was in the hospital after a fairly nasty car crash. He was hurt pretty badly, but seems to have stabilized now and is recovering. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with you, Anthony.