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Sunday, February 16th, 2014
10:02 pm - Dinner as she is spoke
Chocolate FondueMore notes to myself for future dinner making. Because tonight, I ruled.

Steaks: Ribeye, I prefer bone-in, but so long as we're cooking for three, boneless is easier to portion. Quite high heat skillet, oven preheat to 450. Meat at room temperature, with garlic salt and ground pepper. Olive oil in the pan, about a teaspoon. Yes it'll smoke, but if it's quick enough, you won't set anything off, say 60-90 seconds a side. Butter pats and into the oven for 6-8 minutes. It'll be more cooked toward the edges and nicely medium in the center, but the edges are for Melinda, and we will teach her the glories of medium rare in time.

Lobster tail: way more forgiving than you think. Put the water on, once it starts getting warm to the touch you can add the tails. They're done once they're red and start curling. It takes a couple minutes, but not much longer than that, to cut through the shells. Only need to melt about one tablespoon of butter per tail to harvest ghee.

Fondue: I'm a San Franciscan, so chocolate fondue means Ghiradelli. Godiva liqueur worked well, call it a G&G Chocolate Fondue.
allrecipes.com/recipe/ghirardelli-ultimate-chocolate-fondue/ is the right one. Listen to the comments, you only need 3/4 cup cream. Pound cake and strawberries are required, banana is very good too but may be substitutable. Pick up some Kahlua, and you don't need anything else in your dessert cocktails.

Finally, my two ideas for cosplay. I look like this:Wybie and a gazebo complete with an arrow sticking out of it. Apparently Katsucon has a specific gazebo of import to the cosplay community.

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Sunday, November 24th, 2013
9:49 pm - The Famine Games
I'm going to lose most of these memories if I don't relate them soon, so I will write the recap that I always want to read from the Games. Please spread far and wide my experiences, so that you too will know how wonderful an opportunity these long games present. Other people have cooed over the manipulatives, the themeing, the absolutely slick and complete and fun nature of the puzzles, and those are all true. Here's a puzzle-free description of a first-time Game team, and what you can do to be the best of what we were, as opposed to the worst, next time.

Our minivan carried five people very well. Back row seat folded down to give us constant access to a cooler, and most of our gear fit in the back. However, we did need to make a lot of shuffling for finding the right clothes (formal, running, cold weather, etc.), so I think we needed a bit more intelligence in how they were stacked for each person. I didn't want a six person team, because I didn't want to deal with full-size-van navigation and parking. I expected a fairly urban hunt, with a lot of monument visiting, and I didn't want to worry about parking in awkward spaces. I was basically right! Plus, with a nasty rash of van thefts at the final stop, having garage parking may have saved us a lot of heartache.

We were skipped twice. Once, we had just spent almost an hour on a puzzle that was having some technical difficulties, and required the ever dangerous cooperation between groups to solve effectively. It used a data extraction mechanism that several of our group couldn't help with, so we were slow to get the data we needed. We were able to confirm what we did have. But it was an energy sapper. We didn't realize at the time that everyone except the first group was skipped over the same puzzle.

It's good for morale to have a hot meal. Unusually for me, the 2 was the only rule I followed of the canonical 3-2-1 (3 hours sleep, 2 hot meals and 1 bath or shower in every sliding 24-hour window). The frustrating thing was not -knowing- how far we were from the automated skipping. I doubt they were updated during the event (game makers, prove me wrong!). Having that schedule in hand at the beginning could be interesting, to allow us to plan for meal breaks or earlier hinting to keep -ourselves- up to speed to see the puzzles we wanted. Finding we skipped  one location with two puzzles was a shock, let alone that we skipped a cool temporarily-location-specific puzzle that 2/3 of the group was skipped over. Maybe that's an argument against multi-puzzle locations in general?

This game had my favorite kinds of thematic puzzles, the ones I like best to write and to solve. You begin with a theme (like Lumber district) or a location (the Air Force memorial), then work backwards to build a puzzle around it. It truly felt like a masterclass in elegance, editing and general unity of experience. The puzzles worked on the same level of expectations in terms of the number of steps, the tightness of the cluing and the kinds of manipulates required. I built a team that had a lot of construction experience, and I can only remember one time where that bit us. We expected something that didn't happen, and so talked ourselves into a couple wrong answers that broke the extraction.

I knew that acting was a part of putting on Games, but the level of improv and characterization was amazing. Snow, Hamish, Coin, Ellie and Caesar were all in full effect, and all brilliant at portraying the shifting moods and accelerating urgency in the plot. Text is all right, but video and in-person interaction is required to really drive home the 'this is not a Game' feeling that makes this experience more than a collection of puzzles. And of course, the builds that a budget allows, cornucopia and coal and xbox in particular.

I won't get to do this every year, for scheduling and budgeting reasons. But I am really hoping to be able to take what I've seen here and participate in, and yes eventually help to organize, more of these in the future. Like I said to Todd afterward: not only did he make running one of these look possible, he made it look fun.

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Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
10:35 pm - W5D1
MixologistTwo miles of travel, with .5 walking, 1.2 jogging, and about .3 running. It still feels a long way from the 5k in October I'm planning on, but I can look back to week 1 and see that it's been a sea change. My cardio and leg strength are obviously doing better. My grandfather gave me grief for taking up a knee-ruining hobby like running, but I do see it more as a tool and goal to get my ability to move and exercise to the point where I can enjoy all the games that are more fun when I have stamina. My body isn't really showing the change though. I feel like I'm staying the same weight but not replacing fat with muscle. I'm going back on calorie counting to help with that. A little under 2k on non-exercise days, a little over 2k when I run.

Speaking of food, a brief piece of advice I wanted to capture. Someone asked me about how they should learn liquor after a late introduction to alcohol.
I'd do some Chowhound searches for a good hotel bar, walk in during a slow time (weekend afternoon maybe), put $20-40 on the counter and say something like 'I don't want to get drunk, but i want to learn what good liquor tastes like. Can you help me?' I say hotel bar because you want someone willing to serve you the basics. If you go to a high-end bar these days, you'll meet a 'mixologist' with a handlebar moustache wanting to serve you their self-infused spirits aged in casks. Which are delicious, but it's kind of like going to a modern art museum before you learn about the history of art that they're responding to.

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Monday, July 1st, 2013
8:10 pm - W3D1
3 minutes of jogging, about the equivalent of a 400 yard loop. 1200 yards total of jogging over the 30 minutes, plus over 1000 yards of walking...I'm halfway to my 5k. No yappy little dogs chasing me, no Ultimate players wandering the track, no afternoon rainshowers can stop me from finishing this thing. Well, afternoon rainshowers chased me indoors early at least once, there's plenty of trees and dangerous lightning around here during sudden summer storms. But the key point remains, I am succeeding at this so far. I am happy with what I've done. With a few slipping days because of ilnesses or weather, I'm no longer on track to celebrate W5D3 in Austin, but that just means I get the joy of using the exact measurements of the hotel treadmill during the hardest-to-remember week:
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)

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Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
9:00 pm - W1D1
C25K LogoAfter building up during an unofficial Week 0, I've done one full set of eight 60s run/90s walk intervals, to qualify as Week 1 Day 1 of the nine-week Couch to 5K program. There's a lot of activities coming up that I want to be in running shape for, from the family reunion and the promised Cycle Pub to the unknown challenges of The Famine Game. This journal may look like Pfireburn for a while, as I use this to chart and encourage my progress.

I didn't feel very taxed, but it was clearly exercise. By the end of my last interval, my right foot was significantly tingling, and it was almost numb by the time I walked through the door at about 28:30. The sorest part of my body was right above my ankles, but they didn't hurt. I'm planning on completing the rest of Week 1 on Friday and Sunday. I'm on track to be doing Week 6 during ConTex, who's with me?

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Monday, April 22nd, 2013
8:10 pm - Longform Book Club
StudentsI don't read many books these days, but I do take the time to read longform.org, a curated compendium of long form journalism. Often I see these stories up for discussion at my usual web haunts, like Metafilter. But I want to run a little experiment, to see how much discussion I can generate myself these days on this journal. I see friends leaving and acquaintances drifting away, so let's see who's left. Your assignment is to read Them and Them, a story of the Hasidic and Immigrant communities in northern New Jersey and the public school system that divides them. If you do, then follow the typical discussion board rules: make a post and reply to a post. I can see a lot in this piece, and I wonder what you see.

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Sunday, April 21st, 2013
9:37 pm
Not called in today, but called at home twice to help the person who was called in. I'm seriously thinking about taking an offer to make a diagonal-up move, going from a member of my current team to the lead of a related team. Big jump in responsibility and stress, no change in pay immediately, but fun new problems to work on, more emphasis on working with people, generally the right step in my career if I want to take on more responsibility. I'm not decided completely, but it's looking good that I want to do this. Surprisingly, it may lead to -better- work-life balance, since it's less likely to keep me late and call me in. I may have to call -others- in, but not necessarily go myself.

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Saturday, April 20th, 2013
11:59 pm
I had to work 3 extra hours yesterday, and 5 extra hours today. That's a day since my last day should have ended. And tomorrow, it's back to the average weekend family day. Should help my wife and I fly towards health after the twin stresses of sending me to work and keeping her alone on Melinda duty. I did get to play Shards of Equestria afterward, even if I missed the draft. And I loved it, it's a fun if off-center expansion. And I saw people caring about the achievements I made! Even if half the game day said Pinkie Pie was best pony.

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Monday, April 15th, 2013
9:07 pm - Veracruz
Fish Vera CruzFirst, no matter what cause or creed was intended to be furthered by tonight's act, I believe there is one true act of protest I can unequivocally encourage everyone to pursue. Couch to 5k is a way to get started running, from a standing (sitting, literally) start. Running may not be the single healthiest activity, but it's a fair sight better than many of the alternatives. If not running, go out and do something in public with many of your friends. Reclaim, relive, and reinvigorate American freedom.

That being said, let me put some things here, both for me to remember what I'm actually cooking when I look at a recipe again, and for reference of what recipes I combined to find it!

Fish Veracruz

  • 1 lb fresh fish (needed to be at least 1.5, but the catfish worked beautifully)
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeño, diced (could easily have been two)
  • 1 lime (ditto)
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro (maybe too much, maybe just needs mincing instead of chopping)
  • 24 green olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 shallot (needed to be a couple, or an onion and a shallot)
  • olive oil, salt, pepper...all the good stuff.
First, sizzle shallot. Then add tomatoes, bring to boil, bring to simmer, and add each other ingredient as it simmers. Could do it all before the boil, but meh, this feels quicker, more important to start reducing it already. After the pot of sauce is happily piping off all the extra water, start a medium-high skillet with oil. Will probably need two, or two runs on a single pan, for more than a pound of fish fillets. 4 on each side, 2/4/2 seemed to work fine. That was enough to get a nice golden sheen on it, cook it through, but still have all the moisture of fresh fish. Rice, fish, sauce is a full meal. It's a salty, spicy dish, so any fruity wine will go well. D'abruzzo, of course, is recommended. This was the bastard stepchild of Fish Veracruz Style (Fresh marjoram and rosemary may be great for fragrance, but might be too much trouble) and Fish Vera Cruz (blending hot stuff is intimidating!). But as these two extremes show, this is basically a pot-of-good-stuff dish, treat it that way and I won't go wrong.

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Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
9:44 pm

I have no idea if MtG and MLP fandoms cross over my friends list, but I'm attending a Shards of Equestria draft day later this month. I've been working on a prerelease-style achievement card. The goal is to encourage interesting plays and interesting conversation among the attendees, some of whom will not have played Magic in a while but will be brought out for their love of Ponies, or vice versa. Plus, the arguments over who is best pony deserve a definitive answer. I will report back.

This entry was originally posted at http://pfirework.dreamwidth.org/2858.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
9:40 pm

I have no idea if MtG and MLP fandoms cross over my friends list, but I'm attending a Shards of Equestria draft day later this month. I've been working on a prerelease-style achievement card. The goal is to encourage interesting plays and interesting conversation among the attendees, some of whom will not have played Magic in a while but will be brought out for their love of Ponies, or vice versa. Plus, the arguments over who is best pony deserve a definitive answer. I will report back.

(Note: I'm probably posting this to pfirework later, but dreamwidth.org is very non responsive today, and that sucks. Is this a new normal?

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Sunday, January 6th, 2013
6:13 pm - Rutney Pork
2 1.2 lb Pork tenderloins, cleaned
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 jar (~8 oz) Major Grey chutney
1/4 cup dark rum
2 tsp high-temp oil

Mix spices, rub on loins
Heat skillet on high, add oil, then brown each side of lions, about 4 mins
9x13 roasting pan/glass casserole, until 145°, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat unwashed pan to medium, add rum, scrape, add chutney and drippings from pork.

Serve with things (like cornbread stuffing and brussel sprouts)

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Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
6:07 pm
Clavis CrypticaOh dear, I run a puzzle-themed blog that's about to get all the sweet sweet Clavis Cryptica traffic. I better post something!

I'm Alex Pearson, and I write and solve a few puzzles. Currently, I'm working on a program puzzle for a hundred-ish-person luncheon at work. I've written quite a few puzzles I'm proud of in the last year and a half, between the MIT Mystery Hunt and the National Puzzler's League convention (does anyone want me to finish that set of write-ups?). My puzzle output is about to precipitously decline, as I focus on the 'puzzles' my professors assign me in my last semester (ever!) of the Applied & Computational Math at JHU. This semester is Matrix Theory, Probabilistic Models and Data Mining. In short, this is my Big Data semester. Good news is, I'll be at the computer plenty. Just remind me to update more often.

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Sunday, June 10th, 2012
8:30 am - Ready Player Two
Ready Player One coverReady Player One is a decent book wrapped in so much nostalgia that it's hard to see through. I read it in a few hours during a trip to New York, and I'm glad I did. It calls out a lot of references, but it's careful to explain each one as it's mentioned. This must have been a hellish book to edit, as the author and the publisher negotiated on how much to share and how much to leave as shibboleths for the target audience. However, I'm not here to talk about any of the video game, move or music of the 1980s, most of which was actually a few years before my time. I'm here to say that the author wasn't leading up to the ending he wrote, and I can do better. Sadly, to discuss the ending I have to mention it, so beware spoilers withinCollapse )

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Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
5:22 pm - Why is this man smiling?
Alex PearsonMe, to a retiring pillar of my work community: "I hope to look as happy as you do when it's my turn in another 25 years."
Co-worker: "...I don't think I can picture you not looking happy."

I put myself through a lot of stressful hell to get through my Number Theory class last semester. I cried, I yelled, I railed against my own lack of care (I wound up with a B+, because I worked hard and put a process in place.) I certainly wasn't looking happy then. In the last year, I did a lot of mourning of the opportunities I have chosen not to pursue because I decided to father Melinda. I was crying and whining and not terribly happy then.

But, I think he was on to something. In a few years at work, I've gone from 'People don't know how to approach you, you have no tail' to 'People are coming to you all the time for advice and help, and you're great at interacting with our customers.' Somehow, I managed to solve at least some of the social puzzle without trying too hard. I have a job that is technically rewarding and socially invigorating. I have a daughter who is rather attractive and developing normally. I have a wife who is so incredibly loving and supporting, and who I get to support in very real ways. And I have friends of just about any level of intimacy when I want them. Why shouldn't this man be smiling?

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Sunday, May 20th, 2012
9:12 am
This feels like my first weekend in months. Academics are pernicious about taking every available moment for their own betterment. I'm amazed at the difference having no deadlines makes in my mood and behavior. It almost feels greedy to be able to work on what I want to work on. Sometimes that means a submission for the National Puzzlers' League convention (or as I'll always think of it after one cake wreck, the National Puzzerler's League). Other times it's working on the piano parts for Once More, With Feeling before the BtVS Top Episodes countdown on Logo last night (Yeah ok, Willow and Tara and Andrew and Kennedy...I'll allow it). And if I'm very very good, it results in a reasonable journal update.

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012
6:49 am - Content Creating
Pencil PushingNow that the Midterms of My Discontent are over, it's time to start the Glorious Summer of Content Creation. I have lots of ideas, and will prioritize them about thusly:
  • Journal Entries nearly every day, intended for an audience. Because there's a difference between getting words on a page, and getting interesting words on a page. I need to practice both, so I might as well practice the latter. I'm going to post creative endeavors, mostly puzzle- and game-related, to [personal profile] pfirework and general personal life content to [personal profile] pfire, both of which are cross-posted to my LJ.
  • Mobile Game. Script Frenzy 2012 is upon us, which means it's my yearly chance to get 50% off of Scrivener, which I keep meaning to buy. My prior attempt at a script, Tithes and Offerings, needs a bigger revamp than I can give it now, it may just be a product of an earlier mentality and age. So instead, I want to create a script for a mobile game. I'll be a little oblique about the content until I'm sure I have a decent head-start, because this is a genre that I'm surprised hasn't been more readily carried over to the mobile OSes.
  • Million Nothing Mind Game. If I were going to be attending the NPL convention this year, I'd be bringing a fan version of Million Dollar Mind Game. I like the dynamics, though they're hard to copy when only a million Nothings are on the line. More to the point, I like the ability to have a riddle-based game show, and the challenge of writing new riddles for the Internet-connected age. I'm building a database of questions as they strike me, so by Philadelphia at the latest, I should have a fun experience.
  • CONnect 4. An Official Con Program version of Only Connect. I have a mechanic and intended page layout, but I need questions. This is lowest priority, as I'd like to get a better name for myself as an after-hours game runner before I push for a coveted position entertaining a couple hundred of my closest friends. "Brutal but great" is a fine start, but I'm hoping to shift to 'great and great'.
  • Piano Autodidacticism. I have a beautiful machine, and I intend to use it. Back to Hanon, and back to investing in piano books for artists that I want to copy. No links there, because I dont' want to get ahead of myself in promising more than I can accomplish (he says, looking back over the pile of work).

Of course, homework and finals studying are the limiting factor on getting any of this done over the next few weeks, along with the mundanity of babyproofing.

This entry was originally posted at http://pfirework.dreamwidth.org/2568.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Sunday, March 11th, 2012
10:17 pm - Wresting control
A Queueing SystemToday, I largely studied for midterms in Queueing Theory and Number Theory. So obviously, I'm going for an Applied (& Computational) Math degree. This is the first real exam session I've had where I've also had significant responsibilities to care for someone else. It's easy to see how deeply the priorities shift compared to my cramming around undergraduate tests, or even other grad classes recently. A few times this week, I've said 'Family comes first. Academics a close second.' That is, so long as I do well enough in my classes to not impact my family financially, I can give focus to my daughter and wife first. Coming from last semester, where studying definitely came before my other relationships, it's almost freeing. I think it's a mark of the maturity I'm continuing to see in myself. I love who I've become as a father. I know Laura does too. And I suspect that Melinda will rue me for it. Before she respects it.

Image courtesy Nature, vol 207

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Saturday, September 24th, 2011
9:01 pm
A few things that make me smile:

1) October 18th, Pratt Street Ale House. Baltimore Barcraft.

2) I would be very proud if Melinda finds something like this alluring for Halloween.

3) A lot of good food around the house, courtesy of self-appointed...mimi ? meme? Whatever, it's intended to be pronounced aloud anyways. Coming home to a full freezer is a blessing.

3a)  I do have more liner notes to finish, and more puzzles to craft. But they're understandably delayed the next month or two.

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Friday, August 19th, 2011
5:11 pm - R2Q2: Pictures Round
 Round 2: PicPicture 2Picture 3
Answer: Pic, an excellent source of vitamin D
Why I Wrote It:
I was thinking of alphabetic sequences, and vitamins came to mind. I know I 
cheated with Vitamin B, but many of the B-complex vitamins can be found in lean 
meats. Once I saw the examples, I knew that The Four Food Groups was a strong 
red-herring, but since those are unordered, I was ok with that. Also, I made 
sure that there was at least one counter-example in the first image (that's 
a canteloupe, not a squash, in the first picture). I was considering making another puzzle the visual for this round (a hint), but this one really did have
the best chance at working visually.
How It Played:
Really rather well, considering only two teams got the intended answer. Another four or so got the connection, but went with Vitamin D Milk as a source. This led to a few chains of 'Dairy' 'prompt' 'Milk' 'prompt'. If I hadn't heard the vitamins come out as a reason, I'd simply rule Dairy wrong, since it's not a good source of Vitamin D unless it's been fortified. Many people thought I was talking about the new food plate that was in the news.
What I Learned:
After the round, I kept coming up with more good picture rounds, they almost seem easier to me than word rounds to construct. I think it's because it's easier to pull the lateral thinking that I find fun when the first step is trivia ID, and then playing with the names or qualities of what's identified. Sneak Peak for the next convention I attend, whether it's Orecon or HexaTexaCon (six years since the last texas con, right?): Only Con-nect: Just Images?

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