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. 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.


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.


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.


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)


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?


Longform Book Club

StudentsI don't read many books these days, but I do take the time to read, 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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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.

(no subject)

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.


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.

(no subject)

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.

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