Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Au Mal Pan

I made an executive decision while I was out and about yesterday to remedy the Crappy Bread Cookbook situation. It has now been replaced with one that was on sale at Barnes and Noble, and this one uses a variety of measurements for each ingredient and decent descriptions. I also don't get the feeling that this was translated from some other language in to English and that something huge was lost in that transition!
Although I think it's a bit audacious of them to call themselves "The Best-Ever Book of Bread", they do have a LOT of recipes in there and the directions are quite different than the ones in my current book. I hold out hope that some day I might produce a lovely loaf of bread.
Also... it tells you how to make them in the oven AND in a bread machine, so that rocks.
Why all the big deal? you might say.... it's just bread! Just bread is something that I think some folks should be slapped for. There are people who subsist on the bread they manage to bake every day. There are no sushi bars or cocktail hours there, just a wood burning oven and whatever ingredients they have on hand to make their meal. Bread is seriously sacred stuff, and we forget that in an age where we can wander by an entire aisle of bread products that are of varying degrees of flavor and quality.
There is also the memories of my childhood when I had warm, homemade biscuits that my Mom pulled out of the oven. Anything that came out of the oven baked, honestly, and I wish to possess that magic. I want to hand my kid a totally awesome, warm biscuit so that they can get excited about putting honey and butter on it just like I used to.
And the other, final, darker reason... I must sometimes face up to the fact that I learn how to do things from scratch just in case the Zombie Apocalypse happens. With the loss of electricity and massive infrastructure to create all these goods that we rely on (and when you think about it, it is SCARY crap, how much we rely on others for our food and well being) the person who can do the basics and do them well is the one that's going to come out on top. So I learn to bake bread for my children, and to defeat the zombies before they've even arrived. And that is the truth.

It's public now...

...my Droid makes posts to Facebook each time I complete a workout, so people now know if I skipped one – especially those that I’m supposed to be exercising along with!

To that end, I am using public humiliation to get me back in the saddle, and starting today I completed Week 1, Day 1 (AGAIN) of C25K. It felt great, and having the pedometer on my iPod to monitor calories burned as well as steps taken in addition to the C25K app on my Droid made me realize what I was accomplishing. I actually kept walking an addition 5 minutes or so afterward so I could have a nice round 3,050 steps and 182 calories burned… and that was with accidentally resetting the pedometer during the warm up. Chances are good it was closer to 4,000 steps before everything was said and done!
I feel really good about this. I think having the company this time around truly will make all the difference, as well!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Abominable Cookbook List - To Be Tamed!

I intend to cook at least 2 recipes out of each of the following, listed in no particular order:

Cooking Moroccan by Tess Mallos
The New Enchanted Brocoli Forest by Molly Katzen
A Passion for Desserts by Luchetti
Ayurevedic Healing Cuisine by Johari
The Encyclopediua of Sauces for your Pasta by Bellissino (technically I have already accomplished this, as it’s my favorite Italian cookbookc)
The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop
Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant by The Moosewood Collective
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Bittman
Kawaii Bento Boxes (no author)
Vegan Lunch box
Vegan Lunch Box Around the World by Jenniver McCann
Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Tea Cookbook by Tonia George
Pasta & Co. By Request
and Pasta & Co. Encore by the Pasta and Co. shop, Seattle, WA
Legal Sea Foods Cookbook
Asian Dumplings
True Thai by Victor Sodsook
Alice’s Tea Cup by Haley and Lauren Fox
Recipes for Creative Living (no author)
French Food at Home by Laura Calder
Moosewoo Restaurant Cooks at Home by The Moosewood Collective
The Complete Home Bartender’s Guide by Calabrese
The Best of New Orleans by Brook Dojny
The Best of Mexico by Evie Righter
The Art of American Indian Cooking by Yeffe Kimball and Jean Anderson
Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook (totally awesome split pea soup recipe in here!)
In a Persian Kitchen by Msideh Mazda
The Manga Cookbook (no author)
Japanese Vegetarian Cooking by Richfield (technically I have cooked 3 things out of here already, but I want to return to it. The shiitake mushrooms in sake are DELICIOUS)
Let’s Cook Japanese Food by Amy Kaneko (Another I’ve made korokke and several other dishes from, but deserves constant revisits)
Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Tokiko Suzuki
Three Bowl Cookbook by David Scott and Tom Pappas
Sushi For Parties by Ken Kawasumi (some of the most beautiful and decorative sushi rolls in here!)
The Essential Kitchen Sushi by Ryuchi Yoshii
Sushi by Lulu Grimes
Sushi and Sashimi by Yasuko Fukuoka
-I would like to point out that all of these Sushi books were gifts from people who knew I loved sushi… eh, it’s work a try even though I’m no sushi chef!
World of the East Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen! by Kevin and Nancy Mills (a gift from my Mom, and holding the greatest Yorkshire Pudding recipe I have ever consumed)
The Just Bento Cookbook by Makiko Itoh
Savor the Seasons with Herbs (no author)
Classic Breads (honestly it’s not a very good book, all the recipes come out horrible despite following the directions to a T and accounting for things like water temp, room temp and chlorination that can kill off yeast. I think it might be time to give this book a toss)
Macaroni and Cheese: 52 Recipes from Simple to Sublime by Joan Schwartz (MOST EPIC MAC n CHEEZ RECIPES EVAR! No, really… I would happily return to this book)
Indian Vegetarian Cooking At Your House by Sunetra Humband and Amy Schafer Boger
The Book of Afternoon Tea by Lesley Mackley
Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell
The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two by Anna Thomas (obvious joke? We just don’t have book one, sorry…)
Perfect Wok and Stir Fry (no author)
Tagine by Ghillie Basan (yummy kefta tagine recipe in here!)
Soup Makes the Meal by Ken Haedrich
The Food of Morocco (no author)
Classic Vegetarian Cooking From the Middle East and North Africa by Habeeb Salloum
Vegetarian (no author)
The Silver Spoon (greatest and most authentic Italian cookbook ever collected!)
Martha Steward’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook
Cakes & Cake Decorating
A World of Dumplings by Brian Yarvin (I have already amde 3 recipes out of this and it’s my newest cookbook. I ADORE it, and will definitely return to it! I need no more reason than the Dutch baked apple dumplings in there!
The Official Kaelin Family Cookbook

it’s probably fairly obvious that I really love Asian food (especially Japanese!) and that I’m fond of Vegetarian cooking. This is because most of the recipes I already have in my head or that are readily available online are non-vegetarian and American based cuisine. So this is representative of my search to find really good recipes outside the cultural norm. Which is not to say I don’t love pizza, but when we can get together for a vegetarian mushroom feast that leaves us feeling like we had a good steak, I am ALL for it.

As of right now if I had to recommend any 3 of these books, I would probably say the 52 recipe Mac n Cheese cookbook, A World of Dumplings and The Encyclopedia of Sauces for Your Pasta would get my votes. It contains a variety of vegetarian and omnivorian choices, has a solid hold on comfort food, and for the most part they provide very easy and delicious recipes for dinner. I, for one, cannot get enough of the Macaroni and Cheese cookbook, myself. If you don’t own it, BUY IT!! Seriously, you won’t regret it. Unless you hate mac n’ cheese. Then the terrorists are winning.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Game - week one wrap-up

I'll be honest, when I started playing The Game, I thought that eventually (and by eventually I meant Tuesday afternoon) it would become tedious and dragging and the points system would still be fun, but something hard to keep up with. I thought for sure that in my usual lackadaisical fashion, I would realize that my own human nature would supersede the need to accrue points and reward myself, and this thing would NOT be working.
But this is one of those moments when I am gloriousy, beautifully, and humblingly wrong, and I LOVE IT.
Let me tell you that sitting right here as it stands that I have 123 points for the week and it is Friday morning. So there will be MORE points by this evening, that's just what I've managed to pull off this week. If a level is gained at 200 points, chances are I'll level up by next Wednesday. That. Is. Freaking. Awesome.
I discovered there was a definite interplay between my ability to skim through things and feel I was accomplishing something, and the hard reality of points for what i was doing. In short, if I had a good morning and had earned anywhere from 15-20 points (heck, even 10) I felt more free to launch in to things and learn later on. Also of help was finally getting my Java environment up and running. Things exploded after that as I realized I could compile and execute things programmed within Eclipse and test my code. I'm already working on my second project, which will be about 4 times as long as the first and a tinge more complex, but I'm no less excited about it.
The fact that I got points for all of these things and that there was the dual reward of completing something I was struggling with and getting that adrenalin surge AND getting a trackable bonus that would add up later, and this thing has just become addicting.
I've also noticed that if I'm starting the day out with a project that I know I will finish that'll earn me points, I almost forget to do things in order and rush straight to the project. It gets done, I am thrilled, and The Game rolls on.

I promised a points breakdown, so let me share that so people understand what the heck I'm talking about. It goes thusly, bifurcated along the two thrusts of this game of applying for jobs and honing our programming skills:

+5 for every job found and applied to
+5 for follow up phone calls on jobs (or on headhunters who find your resume and call with a job)
+10 for an interview
+15 for follow up interest or a second interview

+5 for learning a new programming technique
+8 for rendering a working smaller program
+15 for rendering a working larger program (50 lines of code or more)
+25 for a program that runs perfectly when submitted for "field testing" -aka I hand it off to Bob for him to try and break

+100 for reaching The Game's objective of gaining employment

There are a few other things that points can be earned for as well.

+5 for personally created side quests achieved
+15 for side quests given by others successfully finished

So for instance when I finally finish my Dad's web page, I'll get +15 for getting it to work, and anther +15 for completing the side quest. If I learn how to do anything new with Javascript and HTML in that time, I'll get another +5, and if I can send it to him and he likes it and doesn't ask for any changes, or it doesn't have problems when he tries to interact with it, that will be +25. The total for that single act (and ABSOLUTELY reflective of the time spent on it) is 60 pts, and since I will have probably been working on it all day, getting to quit at 3 will be an awesome luxury. The truth of the matter is, though, that most likely these points will be spread out over 2 or 3 days as I await feedback and have to make adjustments, just like in the real world. So a points glut like that isn't really so likely.
When I sat down to create The Game, it was with the idea that the average day should earn you 20-25 points. I wanted the player to be able to level every 2 weeks, keeping interest in attaining a new goal pretty high. It also meant that it would take 40 weeks to reach the game's cap of level 20, and that is a LOT of time to refine skills and techniques. If you're not hired by then, there is something fundamentally wrong with the resume or your interview demeanor; in that amount of time, though, I do believe anybody could locate the issue and pull it apart.
The other benefit of these points is that you can see how you're doing, and if there are specific days that you're doing better than others. I actually created a spreadsheet and linked a graph to it to track my points earned based on the date. Considering the amount of meta-data to be mined from this about my personal habits and reaction to reinforcing stimuli and rewards, it seemed like a really good idea (I also included a section for comments about what I did during the day to refresh my memory in case things got stale, as well as to allow me to see why I might suddenly have points drop offs on Friday but surges on Wednesday.)
Yesterday was my highest day for points so far, at 40. That was because I found 4 jobs to apply to, picked apart several listings to see what skills I didn't have that kept me from applying to them, had the interview, and had a headhunter call me about my resume. Between all of that and getting ready/driving to the interview, I didn't have much time to do anything else, but it truly reflected the amount of work that went in to that day as a whole. I didn't even have a chance to work any further on my new coding project or read about new possible tricks to work with it.
So far it seems like everything is balanced, and as of now even the writing of this blog has earned me 5 points because it's a review of the Game so far to see if revisions are needed anywhere. I can see that it's happening pretty much exactly the way I wanted it to, there's not a gross over-gathering of points at any time as being busy with job hunting offsets being busy wiht programming something nicely and the reward feels equal for both.
If I haven't said it yet -or enough- I'm really proud of this creation and that I managed to make something that tricked my brain in to finding the job search fun. After all, that's why we even bothered to create this thing in the first place. :)

PS to add - I know this is working because there has been a definite spike in headhunter/contract activity as of Monday, and what the hell... the THIRD day of the game and I'm scheduling an interview? So yes, it's effective. Sadly, I had to halt any further energy on that one, as they were only willing to give me part time. Still... nice to see everything in action, and so quickly!

Slowly but surely.... but REALLY slowly...

Recently finished reading –
Low Red Moon by Caitlin R. Kiernan
The Unwritten: Inside Man by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Yeah, I went and bought another book despite swearing I needed to read everything else…heh.)

Also adding to the Abominable Paper Booklist – Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, but only because I saw her speak at PAX East this year, and the husband and I both decided we really wanted to see what she had to say.

I really should make a separate entry just for the manga sitting around here, too… but that’s for another day…

(another in my long list of things I am currently doing over on 43Things.com, which is quite the useful website.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mother Nature Doesn't Read Your Calendar

Yes, it is spring. It was, in fact, the first official day of spring 4 days ago. But I really do love when Mother Nature goes "OH YOU THINK SO, HUH?" and does her own thing.
For instance, last night we went to bed with a rather sizable rain storm. There was even a lovely show of lightning and the rumbling of thunder. But this morning when I awoke, there was a drift of white across the back porch and the golf course beyond.
Of course, only yours truly would think it was a good idea to run outside to take photos of everything in her bare feet.
They are still pretty damned cold.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Find a Job: the Game

Upon our recent return from PAX East (aka "Bitch PAX", and no, Jerry does not ever get to live that down...) my beloved spousal unit and I came to the realization that he would be returning to his job and I would be returning to the monotonous grind and large chunks of unscheduled time that had been our existence pre-PAX. Frankly, it got me a bit depressed.
I'd fully intended by now to have a house with a garden plot to go get dirty in on weekends, from which I could harvest glorious bright red tomatoes and hot peppers and basil and so on and so forth. There'd be windchimes hanging from the eaves, and many different kinds of bird feeders to bring in the local wildlife. The dog would be running around happily in the backyard with his new puppy companion, since we now had the room, and Bob could grill me up something spectacular on the back porch since where we live now has banned the use of outdoor grills thanks to some idiot with too much lighter fluid setting his rental deck on fire.
But this was contingent upon me finding employment, and it has been well over a year at this point. I can see now why the state mental health services are becoming overloaded, because it is a depressing thing to not be able to generate income to help feed, clothe and house the ones you love. I sometimes wonder how staggering the numbers are on unemployment-related suicides. It just eats at you, the most horrible combination of doubt, frustration and "what if" that can be assembled against a man.
I am not fond of Despair. He wore his lanky welcome out with me long ago, and I was bound and determined that this time his narrow, snarky frame would not darken my doorstep. But how?
Well, we took inspiration from the lovely Jane McGonigal and talked about turning the job search in to a game. Everything, after all, is much more fun as a game, is it not? But how exactly does one go about turning the search for jobs and the honing of skills in to something to be played for fun?
Friday morning I arose from bed, triumphantly I guess, and marched downstairs with my hipster moleskine and smeary gel ink pen to start the process. First things first, it needed A NAME. And because I am a big fan of ironically bland things, I decided to K.I.S.S., and thus "Find a Job: The Game" (alternately refered to as Employment: The Game in some conversations) was born.
It's a simple thing really... anybody with so much unstructured time needs to set up a framework and reward themselves for what they get done within it. A setup of the game world, as it were. In this case I designated 8am-4pm the playable bounds of the game, with an hour off for lunch. Why an entire hour? Because it's my damned game and I said so...
There is a point system based on two things - finding and applying to jobs, and honing and perfecting my programming capabilities. In truth, yes, I could be hired to a tech support help desk again but I think they hear in my voice how much I don't want to do it and it kills me in the interviews. Therefore we MUST focus on developing our skills as a MAD LEET PROGRAMMER so that when the interview comes, we're feeling confident.
Oh look, accidentally slipped in to the royal "we". Heh. Oops.
The points can go toward rewards used during the day, such as the purchase of extra power-ups (you get one every day anyway to help "recharge your life meter", for 15 minutes) OR if you earn enough, to knock off up to a full hour early or add more time to the lunch hour. That way if I get a LOT done in the morning but really want to run out and get to the Indian grocery store -which is my current conundrum, finding time for that- I can do that. But it takes 30-50 pts to do that, and to earn that in 4 hours would take a LOT of hard work.
I'll put the points system in another post, as this one would become just enormously huge otherwise, but long story short, you earn points, you accrue an overall total, and after a certain amount -arbitrarily the amount of 200 pts. was chosen- you get to "level up". Leveling up gets you a reward of some kind, so there is always impetus to earn and keep these points.
There are also demerits to it, such as if I accidentally sleep in ( - 5pts), take too long on my lunch ( - 5pts) or screw around, and each of these things takes away from the overall total. This way there's pressure but still FUN reasons to stay on task every day, because screwing around now will hurt you later. IT's an immediate, mathematical way to make visible how the effort put in now will help later on.
Of course, if you gain employment then you've obtained the Big, Bad Goal and you get 100 pts, which means you'll probably level at that point AND you get to take the day off AND you get to reward yourself with something.
Given that Bob had tried to impress upon me how important it would be to treat getting a job and improving my skills like a job while looking for a job, I think this finally fleshes everything out and makes it apparent in a format that even a 3 year old could understand, why it's important and how it will help out. Plus it really does not hurt that when I finally get to Level 1, I am totally going down and treating myself to the biggest gelato that Rita's creates. Our house is currently on a snacks n' sweets moratorium as we both try to lose weight, and you can bet your sweet bippy I'll be gunning for that.
There are times when we (not the royal we, I mean Bob and I) come up with some truly awesome ideas that'll help subtly shift our mindset to Get Sh*t Done. I definitely think this will be one of those times. I'm also hoping that this experiment proves madly successful and that it'll encourage us to do more "gamifying" of things in the future. I, personally, am really proud of this creation and can't wait to see the results.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bostonia- part the second

Holy after market accessories, Batman, but did yours truly have a hell of a finish to her trip...
And by that, I would love to say something like we ended up tracking down Mike and Jerry and got drunk at some place in South Boston, stumbling home at 3am and nurtured a gloriously blooming hangover the next day wherein we cursed the sun and ate greasy foods to try and tame the raging beast within our skulls......
Nope. Not in my reality. In my reality Mysterious Shit Happens (tm) and it's kind of funny, kind of not, and in the end life returns to normal. We do not party with rockstars in this house, mostly because it's too loud and someone always ends up breaking the good china.
Saturday started wonderfully, with a bit of a late sleep-in after a frustrating night of trying to get home --the shuttle buses that said they were going to our hotel didn't, so we literally got on the bus, then drove around in a circle and came right back to the convention center. This during rush hour, so we spent an hour in a very crowded location trying to figure out what the frigg was going on. We were later told that we should've read the flyers that were invisible/nonexistant and ignored the giant printed red and white signs that said THIS SHUTTLE GOES TO X HOTEL. Uh-huh. ANYWAY...
Between that and being unfairly snarked by some red headed chick who was way too pleased with herself and for some reason felt she had the right to be so nasty to people who were, you know, BUYING STUFF for the convention, and I had a mental breakdown. I held it together to walk to the T. I held it together on the T. I got off the T and managed to whiffle-sob most of the way down Boyleston... and then we hit the hotel and I cried. Yours truly doesn't do the whole "large groups of people" thing too often, so stress and claustrophobia hit hard during these things. I'm not proud, I'm a social wuss, I will happily admit it.
BUT!! But... you see, that was Friday, and now we talk of Saturday! And Saturday we got to sleep in and take a lovely walk on a GORGEOUS morning down to the T and head over to what Bob informed me was the "financial district". This meant not a lot of traffic.
We were headed for the notorous Chocolate Brunch at the Langham Hotel! Oh myyy yes, and I am also not too proud to admit that I learned about this from the Travel Channel, and that ever since I saw the show I had been talking to Bob about going. Bob, bless his lovely and endearing heart, is not a fan of chocolate. He doesn't hate it, but there seems to be no excitement in it for him. So for him to humor me meant a lot.
Somewhere on the way that morning I sprained my ankle (when it rains it pours) so we hobble up Franklin past a gorgeous park to what looks like an old mansion from the early 1920's. It's squat, only perhaps 5 stories and utterly dwarfed by the buildings around it. But it looked classy, and i could already tell, walking in the door in my swanky Target-clearance T-shirt and sneakers that I did not make enough to stay in this place. Ever. So I'm walking like a gimp, I'm under-dressed, and feeling rather self conscious. But we press on because, hey, we had reservations and they didn't say a damn thing about the dress code on their website.
The people upstairs were warm and accomodating and didn't even blink when we showed up as we were, refering us to an "Early Room", where we waited... it was spectacular. I was so blown away I snuck photos of the ceiling with its elaborate plaster work, and the wall-wide painting of Abraham Lincoln behind my husband. There was art-deco brasswork everywhere, including four very large torchiere-style lamps that somehow managed to do crap towards illuminating the space. We were near the windows to look out at the park and enjoy the sunlight coming in.
Finally they called us and seated us with astonishing speed. We had a lovely window seat once more that looked out on the park. And then? Oh dear people, the nicest waiters I've ever met brought me the most wonderful cup of coffee I've had in a long time and explained the "5 tastes" tables... sweet, savory, bitter... I forget the other two, but if you check out the Cafe Fleuri website, it'll hint at what sort of wonders one could acquire.
I didn't get a picture of everything before people were swarming the tables, so alas, I can't really convey the scope of the thing. Think of 5 dining room tables set up next to each other, each with 3 tiers to place items on, and at least 2 items per tier. THEN think of a surrounding swath of tables where people will hand roll truffles or bake crepes or whip up your own personal cloud of cotton candy while you wait... it was probably the most decadent thing I have ever walked in to, and yours truly has had kaiseki in Kyoto. There was a strangeness to it, in that a DJ was playing house techno and getting down with it. After discussing it, we decided this was most likely to portray the entire thing as hip and trendy instead of "you go do this with your grandmother on Saturday" as brunch tends to bring to mind.
Eventually coming to realize we could only handle so much sugar and there was a complete and utter lack of any protein to be had, we made a beeline for the door where yours truly re-sprained her ankle and the waiters called after us to stay (I'm not kidding, they called out to ask why we were leaving...).
It being a glorious and sunny day we walked the last 4 blocks or so from the hotel to the convention center. This was our Major Panel Day, where we had 3 we wanted to get to. The first was Geek Parenting, and while I have not yet given birth to crotch fruit, knowing that those resources are out there for parents who are also science/math/video game/theater geeks was kind of awesome.They talked about games that were just excellent to play at about any age, and we got to listen to the writers of the Geek Dad and Geek Mom websites talk about their personal experiences raising kids. Being somewhat nervous about the whole thing and not sure when to actually let a child start to play video games it was just nice to do some fact-finding like that. They even covered what to do if your kid is NOT a geek and you are, which was actually more helpful.
After that we bolted upstairs and caught a taping of Feedback Life! for G4TV. I love G4TV, it has Xplay and Attack of the Show on it, these being the shattered remnants of Tech TV from years past. They're starting to recoup the brand, I feel, and doing some good stuff with it. BUT... the best part is that they talk about VIDEO GAMES A LOT. So getting to sit in on a panel with those who rate and review the games I love, it was pretty neat. We were even much closer this year. Lots of fun, lots of laughing, and lots of talk about Bioshock Infinite (which makes sense because there was a giant plaster model of one of the constructs in the lobby).
Then finding ourselves without a whole lot to do, we acquired food (questionably warmed $5 hot dogs) and wandered the floor.
What I was hoping to find was a set of Lorekeeper's guides from the Call of Cthulhu RP game, but they never materialized. What was there was all the newest shiniest stuff you could find for D&D, and the Arkham Horror board games plus expansions. LOTS of dice, and a ridiculous number of miniatures ready to be painted or just played. I realized as I looked at all of the books and campaigns guides and gewgaws waiting to help people imagine the world that I was only a tenderfoot in this world and had never gotten in to it to the breadth and depth that some did. There was a small pang of envy for the folks that had been able to play, that were capable and had friends (all of my friends had been smugly superior upon my attempting to join or I had a parent who decided (WRONGLY) D&D was satanic barnstorming my DM sessions, so there was never really an opportunity to grow in this field). At that moment I shared the sometimes sigh that Bob gets, wishing for friends in close proximity that loved these things as we did so we could get together and run a campaign, or have an excuse to break out our Arkham Horror board game once in a while.
On to happier climes, we visited the Indie Game row where many awesome and cute little games were displayed. "Swarm" in particular was amusing to me, as was "Snapshot", a game where you take pictures of the environment to move it around... so you can then move your guy around. It was an interesting take on the platformer.
By the way, it was crowded.

Something like 69,500 attendees was the official count, not counting enforcers and staff. What was awesome was that the convention center was SO big, there were times when you would be somewhere and there would be silence and only perhaps a handful of people wandering buy.
We found our way after visiting the floor to a quiet area where we sat and played games... my beloved husband dove in to his latest Professor Layton game and I decided to take the time to tear a chunk out of Caitlin R. Kiernan's Low Red Moon, as I loved the story and had been too busy to really read lately. Three hours and a Pepsi later and we were in line for our final panel of the day, Minecraft: The Wisdom of Punching trees (or something like that.)
Bob and I both adore Minecraft. It is a wonderful game, in "heavy beta" as many are saying, and lets you screw around doing just about anything. The entire panel talked about why it was such a phenomenon and what it tapped in to in terms of previous games as well as psychology. It was a touch dry, but the guy had lots of clips from YouTube to back up his points and most of us had seen the clips, so there was lots of hootin' and hollerin'. Yours truly video'ed about 9 minutes of the talk. It'll be uploaded and linked(pimped) later.
Now, prior to the talk we were once again being good and kind citizens by purchasing cookies from the Cookie Brigade, since they were giving donations to Child's Play. They were small and simple sugar cookies with designs drawn on the front that were supposed to resemble things from video games. We were never able to guess what a lot of them were, but ANYWAY...
Let me instruct you in this thoroughly people, because here is where all luck deserted me... if you buy a baked good and put it in your mouth, taste it, then utter the words "This tastes funny"... STOP EATING IT. No, seriously. Just put it down and go back to whatever you were doing. Which, in this case, was watching some lucky bastard who brought his laptop doing tours of what he's built in Minecraft and wishing we'd loaded Minecraft up on our tiny little netbook.
Five minutes later I felt strangely drunk and buzzed and wondered what was up.
Fifteen minutes later I felt slightly nauseas.
Thirty minutes later I was pretty sure I had to throw up.
And when the talk was finally up, I headed to the restroom to experience the first of what might tactfully be called "intestinal upset".
Feeling horrible and fighting rising gorge, I decided to amuse myself by holding off until we got to the Charles River, where at least I could feed the fish. Don't ask, I'm weird that way, I saw how fish showed up after seasick people lost it over a boat and ever since I think of it as "feeding the fish" ANYWAY... we get to the river and suddenly I'm okay. Great, I think I've got this! Let's head home! We're going down to the subway! We're on the T! We've switched to the other T! We're on Boyleston! We're on Berkley! Look, the hotel is one block away, I'm going to make.... BLAAAAAAAAARTGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH....
I prayed for rain so that people would not have to smell what I left in that poor, innocent planter. That hedge and those heather plants did NOT deserve that and I feel really bad, but that stuff wanted an exit worse than anything.
I then spent the entire evening ridding my body of everything inside me that could safely be gotten rid of and possibly a few things that couldn't, and then I was passed out with a massive fever and the sweats for the duration of Sunday.
It wasn't fun, and I felt bad that we didn't get to go to the last day of PAX East. I had intended to head over to the line for the Nintendo 3DSs and actually see what it was all about since they were hyping it so much. I'd also wanted to perhaps try to get a shot at Child of Eden, the Rez successor that everyone seems very interested in (Rez is one of my all time favorite games). Ah well... perhaps another time, perhaps in a Best Buy somewhere close to home.
We toddled on to the train Monday morning and both of us slept most of the way home but for dueling on FourSquare to see who could check in somewhere first. Bob kept winning because he is a sneaky and cheating bastard and would pull the screen up to check in 10 minutes before we got to station stops, but I'm not bitter.
And we are home. And I am recovering. And he is recovering. And it was wonderful, even in spite of massive amounts of personal ejecta. I wish I had shots of video games to show you, or video of people playing, or other awesome things... but alas, I was too sucked in actually ~experiencing~ the whole thing to take a step back and document. So instead, I close this post with a photo of the one thing that dominated the exhibition hall... the giant Pikachu balloon over the Nintendo booth. It was big enough that it got its own FourSquare location, "Under Pikachu's Belly".

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I've always enjoyed traveling around the former city that housed my beloved until he moved down to Pennsylvania. There's something neat about going some place that is definitely America, but is definitely not like where you were in terms of slang, accent, dress, expectations... a cheap way to get to a foreign land.
We had already done all the touristy bits before, including Salem, and on another trip he'd showed me the width and breadth of his world as lived in downtown Boston through college and afterward while handling adulthood and jobs.
This trip is different, in that we are basically mopping up the last bits of what we did not see before on this trip in addition to attending PAX East, and it feels downright weird not to have a list of places to hoof it to and endure the friendly crush of the T to get where we're going.
That is not to say we have not had fun! We toured the Cathedral at Copley and took a turn through the amazing Boston Library (pictures to follow, it's unbelievable inside). We had shabu-shabu in Chinatown and spent a few hours listening to really funny people talk about our mutual love of video games.
This has been a unique trip, in that I feel at home in the city for the first time without the rush of exhilaration for completing some menial task like not getting separated from my husband in the subway. At this point my brain has apparently learned that people moving possesses some factor of fluid dynamics and I now know how to swim in it and get back to him should we find ourselves split by the crowd.
Of particular joy was listening to the keynote speaker at PAX East, Jane McGonagal, who has basically figured out that being able to play games and video games does amazing things for people psychologically and physiologically. We bought her book while there, called Reality is Broken and fully expect to enjoy it. The keynote was all about how videogames are actually not a form of escapism, but make us better able to turn around and tackle issues in the real world than people who do not play video games. She was hilarious, she had scientific studies to show her points instead of simply saying "oh hey, we rock" (MUCH APPRECIATED, I am quite tired of telling people I am a gamer and having them look at me as if they'd thoroughly overestimated my IQ) and we all learned about other non-video games to try and play like "Barkball", which involves a game of kickball, several decoy balls, and one dog for every two human players. There's got to be a video of it up on YouTube, and I will be looking for it later.
It had never occurred to me that one could turn around and make a game out of anything, but it seems to me that she is able to do this with just about anything and make it more fun. It was such a shock to see people who did this, when I used to do these things as a kid -oh, the horrid throes of adulthood that steal such things from us- and found a way to apply it today. It was awesome, and my life is enriched for having heard her words. I fully intend to talk my husband in to a game of Barkball with our rescuehound when we get home. We have a soccer ball somewhere...
The Q&A with Jerry and Mike was, as usually, hilarious to the point of bursting. Through all the self-deprecation and dirty jokes you can see that they're still kind of caught off guard by the community that's built up around them, and they have a real appreciation for it. Hold it sacred, almost, as it is constructed of a few hundred thousand individuals... we're like a little ant colony armed with Nintendo DSs that all agreed to band together and have fun and share our love of a common thing. You don't see that too often, without the devisiveness and the "they're not a REAL fan of... X..." It is a lovely change.
Today, if I get bathed fast enough in time to get ot the T and ride down there, is a trip to the Chocolate Buffet that is quite notorious. There shall be oodles of photos of it. There are already oodles of photos, but it would take too long to dredge them up and I have 45 minutes to get ready. I seriously want to have breakfast where a chocolate fountain is involved, so hopefully you'll pardon me while I truncate this post and swear to add more later.... with photos.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Soho Photo Gallery - NYC

It was spectacular. Not in the bright lights and red carpet kind of way, but in the way that a lot of people who love their camera and love the images that come out of it can be.
It was a narrow building, with wooden floors painted gray and squeaking like walking across the backs of an army of rats with each step, slightly cantilevered and very aged. Not dirty, but sagging a bit, like a man with years on him might do once he finally gets to take a seat.
I didn't know about the policies of taking photos in the gallery itself, so instead I just took pictures of their super-awesome bathroom. Wall to wall photos of family portraits and wedding photos, all in different frames and different sizes. Not an inch of wall was spared and it was one of the happiest places I'd sat in in a while. Behold:
And while New York City is known for its drive to be innovative, hip, new.... it really felt to me that this place was put together not with people who were trying to corner the art scene and be popular, but by people who seriously, seriously loved images and the moments frozen inside them.
I got to shake hands with Sandra Carrion, who was as nice as could be and seemed happy that I'd made the drive to come see the exhibit. "Sign the poster in the front hallway before you leave," she requested, before disappearing in to the office to talk with a gentleman named Larry, who'd been nothing but warm and hospitable from the second he heard us creaking on their floor. Larry, in fact, tipped her off to my presence and she came swooping out of the office to meet me immediately upon learning of my existence.
The walls were a very pale grey, perfect to offset the images inside. And oh, the images! I've listed the link previously if anybody wishes to take a virtual tour and see all the gorgeous low-fi images on these walls.
Initially I'd been struck nearly dead in fear that the way I'd chosen to frame my photo would show off my status as a mere passionate hobbyist... but upon entering I realized that I'd set it up pretty well on-par with everyone else. Perhaps the worst I saw was someone who had printed the photo quite large, then dropped it, unmatted, in to a shadowbox. It leaned against the top of it and slopped to the back, and even knowing it was a few moments just to get it in a frame so it could be displayed, it didn't detract from the impact of the image. All of that was just icing to the cake, and it wasn't necessary.
What was most wonderful for me was discovering that at the same time as the Krappy Kamera exhibit, there were two others running -one of photographs taken by members of the Soho Photo Gallery via cell phones, digital cameras with Lensbabies (oh how I want one!) and regular cameras one would expect to find in a lomography exhibit. I loved every second of seeing what people could do with something that didn't produce a crystal-clear image with hard edges.
The other exhibit I almost swooned at... for it was about 20 images from Michelle Bates, She Who Got Me In To This Whole Mess In the First Place. Her book "Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity" was the thing that set my imagination on fire with the possibilities of what could be done with a little plastic box. I thumbed through the pages of that book and looked at the beautiful, hazy silvered imaged that promised to find the magic out there and properly put it on film in the way my beloved Nikon never could. We walked along as I talked about the book and pointed out images I remembered from it, talking about what she'd done with exposure, bulb settings, etc., to get that effect in the image. It was, I imagine, much the way some people feel when they walk in to Graceland. I was in the presence of somebody who loved plastic cameras as much as I did, and the images winked playfully at this secret as I walked by them.
I kick myself now for not checking things, as she was actually giving a talk the next day, long after I would be gone from the city and even from the state next door. To hear her talk about her explorations with it would've been something just amazingly awesome. Ah well, another time.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Arthur.... and Clancy. The Project.

With the success of Arthur, I decided to introduce a cousin of his to the mix so he has someone to have shenanigans with since I am often not available (I'm just there to photograph the aftermath). Thus Clancy O'Hare -yes, groan, groan LOUD!- entered the spotlight yesterday. Clancy is bright damned yellow, because I figured there needed to be a definite difference in the two... and they didn't have any blue beanies left, just pink and yellow. :(
(Although to be fair, I attached the color yellow IMMEDIATELY to Clancy's name when I thought of it so... hey, who knows why our brains do these things, right?)
Folks showed immediate interest, which really helped bolster my hopes for how this project might go down -for, lo, it hath now become a project. Yes indeedy, I have this going both as a study on human reaction/interaction and as a storytelling project. What's the best part is that I never intended for this to become something I focused on, but I do find myself trying to compose something fun every day for people to read about our intrepid little rabbits. Like it's my job, almost!
I will not divulge the fullness of my plan yet, as some of the folks who it might involve read here (sorry to be so vague and MWA HA HA HA!! about it, guys) and I want a chance to let this develop and see if I can truly accomplish with it what I want to. Clancy, after all, has a much bigger purpose than he could envision when he stepped off the train to say hi to Arthur.
In fact, I am pondering the state of the project and I think perhaps in the future in order to stave off the destruction of the suspension of disbelief for these two guys, this may be the last post I make about it here. I feel like it's important to maintain this mini universe for the time being. Although there might be funny pictures of rabbit shenanigans posted, as I have lots of plans for that!
I do have to say... I knew everything was working when I got in to a conversation about Clancy's arrival and mentioned getting them a bottle of Scotch. The response was "Oh man, you better watch them, that'll mess them up!"
It was at that point, when someone made an empathic jump from their own experience and applied it to a potential condition of these two little guys -who, let us keep this in mind, are INANIMATE OBJECTS- I knew that something really awesome was happening. People are just infinitely cool and have not yet ceased to amaze me. It's a source of wonder to watch people get on board with an idea and follow it ot fruition, adding their own energy and excitement along the way.

Actual Conversation #96 - where the limits of our French speaking is made clear.

*setting is at a local steak house for date night (recurring every Thursday), which has recently taken to skewing away from southwestern/Tex-Mex influence and has driven the bus straight in to Francais territory*

Me: Ooo... Steak au Poivre! With creme anglais and potatos au gratin... what's a Poivre?
Bob (who took more French than I did by at least a year): That's the potatos.
Me: I thought they were Pommes de terre?
Bob: Oh. Yeah, maybe. I don't know. But I can tell you that whatever's happening, that steak is WITH poivre.
Me: *unable to speak for laughing, then clapping* Bravo! Indeed it is!
*a few moments later*
Me: Poivre is pear. Why didn't I remember that?
Bob: Huh. I dunno, I didn't either.
Me: With pears? That sounds weird now.

(Closing note, au poivre actually means "steak with pepper". Pear in French is actually "La Poire". You learn something new every day! You also learn what you don't know, and twice as fast. ;D )

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Toes Up!

It was time to learn to do socks toe-up. Now that I have, I am NEVER going back to top down! Unless, well, it's some fancy dancy lace thing that I don't have the mental calculating power to flip upside down and work backwards. Which is a definite possibility given my reason strike-outs with lace.
It's also really fun to not have to worry about the woven-in toe unraveling if it rubs on something too much! Huzzah!

Either way... I decided to try my first pair of toe-up socks with sock yarn I have been DYING to use for a long time, My Zitron Trekking. Handpaint? I think? Tobago colorway. It looks pretty damn awesome, even without the artsy filter on my cell phone cam:

I am not ashamed to admit that it is a WEBS catalog the project is sitting on top of, either. I likes my yarn and I likes it discounted!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


A long time ago I wanted to be a storyteller more than anything else in the world. My craft, however, was rough and in need of honing; realizing this, I put the dream aside and moved on to more "realistic" things, like trying to get a degree in the biological sciences.
We can all see how well that went.
From time to time I've dabbled in narrative interaction, but with people only paying mild attention to it. In the end I started doing these things just for personal amusement, and that seemed all well and good.
But then, out of nowhere, I decided to bring home a Peeps beanie in the shape of a rabbit. I named him Arthur and started doing Facebook updates on him from time to time -mostly as it occurred to me I hadn't done any in while. I decided I was going to be ridiculous and not care what anybody thought. What resulted was a hard-drinking, hard-living, eye patch-bearing creature with a strangely poetic view on life who didn't care if you caught him drunkenly singing face down on a Monday morning. (true story)
Two weeks later and people comment more on the Arthur updates than anything else I do. They ask questions about him, want to know more... I'm surprised and really happy about it! To have created a fictional character that people connect to over perhaps 8 total Facebook updates involving him makes me think maybe I'm Doing It Right.
As long as the fun lasts, I'm going to keep randomly putting things up about him in the hopes he continues to amuse and intrigue folks.