Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Tank, I need a milestone, FAST!"

So someone at work pointed out to me that today is the Tenth Anniversary of The Matrix. I cannot believe that it has really been that long!

When this movie hit theaters, I was:

  • Contemplating colleges. Ended up with community college, followed by Harvard on the Mon. For those of you not familiar with Southwestern Pennsylvania, the "Mon" is the Monongahela River.
  • Eighteen Years old. between getting out of High School and finally going to study things that I was interested in, this is the time when I, like most people, feel the most free. When you are driving up the the crossroads of Interstate-Life and State Route Destiny. I, ended up taking
  • Watching people get real nervous about that whole Y2K thing. I guess everyone needs something to worry about, Mutally Assured Destruction through the 1980s, Y2K in the 1990s, and now Global Warming Climate Change in the aughts. For a Matrix tie-in, there's some truth in Agent Smith's monologue to Morpheus when he said that "human beings define their reality through suffering and misery." We all need something to fear, something to fight/rebel against, etc.
  • Raising money for my senior trip. Best single week of my whole life! Remind me to tell you all sometime about planting frogs in the girls' motel room. Good Times...
  • Working in a movie theater while this was playing. I dismissed this as some cookie cutter sci-fi B-Movie, when an usher recommended that I sit in for a few minutes. So I did, and I became intrigued. And that is how I saw the Matrix about 3 times in bits and pieces before I ever watched it end to end.

Another fun memory of the movie: When I was working as an usher at said theater, we waited until all the people exited the auditorium which is just about when the end credits soundtrack changed from Rage Against the Machine to Marilyn Manson. This is when we engaged in our three man mosh-pits. We'd run into each other and jump around like idiots as if we were at some thrash-metal concert. All done with a great sense of Irony, though. These were more like mock-pits.

So, cheers to ten years of choosing the Red Pill! I'll be watching my DVD of the Matrix Tomorrow.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Grubbin' With Fuzzy - Lasagna

Here's one of those things I've always wanted to try. The often celebrated Italian cusine that no one with functional taste buds can refuse.

Whenever I decided to cook something new, I usually troll the Internet for recipes, take a sampling of them, and just see the general process of constructing it. here's the common tasks:

Brown Sausage/Ground Beef, then cover in tomato sauce, add herbs, and simmer. You have acquired: Meat Sauce!
Ricotta Cheese: Get some.
Boils some of them fancy noodles with the crinkly edges until they are al-dente
Layers are: Meat Sauce, Pasta, Ricotta, Pasta, Mozzarella Cheese, Meat Sauce, Pasta, Ricotta.
Cover in Foil, bake for a long time, remove the foil halfway through for proper browning.

Sounds easy, and I had about a quart of Frozen Marinara sauce left over from about two months ago, so the one ingredient that would be the most time consuming is in the bag.

The Ricotta that I had purchased in advance for this project became frozen after several days in the wrong spot in the fridge, but it defrosted pretty well. I guess when the food already has a grainy texture to begin with, deicing the stuff isn't a big deal. (PRO TIP: Cream Cheese does not defrost well; it gets the afore mentioned grainy texture, that doesn't work well on bagels.)

I mixed in half a block of frozen spinach (thawed, of course) to the Meat Sauce and The Ricotta, the latter also getting an egg beat into it.

Everything went pretty smoothly and surprsingly fast. This is when I discovered that lasagna noodles take a LONG time to cook, even to al-dente, which is like medium rare for pasta. This added on a lot of time to the proccess, especially becuase I didn't start this until late, becuase I didn't want cooked noodles sitting around in water for that long. Next time, I'll trust the cold water bath more for keeping the noodles soft, yet not too soft, and start them first.

Oven heated at 375 degrees, with an Itinerary of 25 minutes covered in foil, 25 minutes uncovered. Compents were layered as I mentioned above. But I could never figure out what to do on the top level. Pasta on top? Dries out. Meat Sauce? I don't ever recall having lasagna that's pure red on top, and there must be reason for that. Ricotta? again, it might burn and dry out.

Becuase I ended up making two pans (Leftovers: I has them!) I tried two things:
  1. Noodles on top, with a generous covering of mozzerella cheese.
  2. Ricotta on top, nevermind the bullocks!
The stuff with the pasta/motz on top didn't turn out too dry, but it was still a little bit too firm from what I could tell. It was, thankfully, quite edible. Good, even. To my surprise, ricotta is a more resilient cheese than I gave it credit for; it can withstand the rigors of an oven, with only slight browning. So the correct answer to my dilema is "Ricotta on top". Remember that.

So, this project was a success, and now, I'll be eating it for lunch and sometimes dinner well into next week, I'd imagine. Until next time, Bon Apitite, and happy OM NOM NOM NOM to you all!

Barroom Banter - The Exciting Conclusion!

At the end of last month, I challenged a friend who claimed to be able to create a general profile of a person based on nothing more than their ten favorite bands. This morning, I finally got the results back from the submissions in the comment section. I didn't use anyone's names when I handed him the list. How'd he do? You tell me:

Laedelas Greenleaf:
Probably oldest of the 3 {I assume he's referring to the three people who respsond to this}
Quite Reflective Type
Financially Stable
Sarah, the Wyoming Princess:
Close to 30 Years Old {Due to your recent posts, I'd bet this hits pretty close to home, eh?}
Fun loving, friendly type
likely single or has usually been so
possible female {I'd say pretty close, but he gets a penalty for using the qualifier "Possible", hedging his bets regardless of gender}
Brian (no link due to only having mySpace/Facebook web presence, and my disdain for all of them):
Youngest of the 3
Probably a bit obnoxious in comparison to the other 2 guys or gals [in this post]
Into more technical type stuff
For reference, the age ranking of the participants from Oldest to Youngest is Sarah, Laedelas Greenleaf, and Brian. All opinions posted here are not mine, printed verbatim (with some spelling corrections) and are for entertainment purposes only.

My personal take on this is that while he didn't give up enough detail, he's reasonably accurate for most of these, based on the little glimpse of personal data you could glean from Music Tastes. If anyone else wants to give it a try, you may post in the comments. I think next time I'll give him some more guidelines. Like no weasel words, such as "possibly". Participants, give me you're thoughts in the comments regarding the results.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

There Goes My [Literary] Hero

After my sister and brother-in-law (Tom) married, rather than faced with the task of building a household, they were faced with the task of combining them. They've both lived on their own for several years and have accumulated a lot of stuff that would be redundant were they to merge. dishes, small appliances, media, etc. How many toasters, coffee pots, place settings, and copies of The Matrix do you need?

So they put their things in a pile, and divested the surplus. Some of it went into storage, some of it was donated (I think) and some of it was given to friends and family. "Family" in this context is mostly represented by me. In addition to some glassware, dishes, and kitchen tools, I also inherited a box of Books and DVDs that they both had copies of. One of these books was Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.

You can click the links if you want (spoilers in the link to the book), but for the purposes of this post, all you really need to know is that Mr. Stephenson writes [science] fiction that appeals to tech geeks, mathematicians, and the like.

Cryptonomicon is two stories. The first story is of World War II cryptography and counter intelligence efforts, as told by a Navel Lt. stationed in the Philippines, and a Mathematician Savant who can perform epic numerical stunts on the chalkboard, but is fairly inept in most other ways.

The second story is the tale of the descendants of the WWII plot line, two generations removed, who are attempting to build a data haven (think "electronic library in a physical location untouched by local and international law"). Hijinks ensue.

About a hundred or so pages in, one of the characters in the modern plot line is having dinner with Charlene, his girlfriend, Charlene's liberal arts friends, and some puffed-up white-tower academic. The academic, who has a very high opinion of himself, begins to argue that the Information Super Highway* is a socially destructive concept aimed at keeping down poor people, make the rich richer, yadda yadda yadda.

Our Grad Student of Science protagonist steps in to defend the I.S.H. and is promptly met with the standard relativity cop out so cherished by Academia to shut down all argument. "And who is to say what is bad/wrong/unwise?" And so our hero, Randy, tells them:

"Who decides what's bad? I do."

"Excuse me?"

"It's like this," he said. "I've read your book. I've seen you on TV. I've heard you tonight. I personally typed up a list of your credentials when I was preparing press materials for this conference. So I know that you're not qualified to have an opinion about technical issues."

[sarcastically] "Oh, I didn't realized one had to have qualifications."

"I think it's clear," Randy said. "that if you are ignorant of a particular subject that your opinion is completely worthless. [...] the Information Super Highway is a bad metaphor for the Internet, because I say it is. There might be a thousand people on the planet who are as conversant with the Internet as I am. I know most of these people. None of them takes that metaphor seriously. Q.E.D."
He then goes on to take offense at being labeled a 'technocrat,' turning these peoples own weapons on them ("I'm offended/oppressed, and therefore worthy of sympathy") and makes the formal call of "Bullshit!" on their arguments.

Prior to this, he compared mixing with his Charlene's Liberal Art friends to being a Dwarf in the Lord of the Rings. Stout and taciturn, he's hung up his war axe for a while for a sojourn into the Shire, where he finds himself surrounded by squabbling hobbits (Charlene's crowd).

For all these things mentioned above, I welcome Neal Stephenson into my top 5 favorite authors of all time. Someone should tell him that, as I'm sure he'd be overwhelmed by such an honor ;-)

*This book was published in 1999, and the excerpt above took place a few years prior to the modern time line, so the expression "Information Super Highway" is not an indication of an author out of touch with modern Internet nomenclature, but rather, is aged appropriately.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Return of the Weekend Wedding

Another wedding of a college buddy on March 21st. Here's the breakdown:

Fly into Pittsburgh International from SLC via O'Hare. Between Chicago and Pittsburgh, my foot begins to get sore. It looks like my gout has waited until I was well out of reach of my meds to start acting up. After I touch down, I find a voicemail on my phone. Looks like yet ANOTHER buddy is getting married... in May. And I'm invited. This is right after I forbid anyone else to get married until after October, so I politely decline the invite.

The next day, I wake up, and my foot is worse, so I spend the day limping around between the Groom's parents' house, the church, and the hotel where the reception is. Pretty nice service, a brief little sermon about tolerating and accepting all of the stupid little things that your spouse may do, even when he/she is in the wrong.

They threw one of the best receptions I've seen at a wedding. on top of the the usual dinner/dancing, Ryan and Jill hired the DJ to do Karaoke as well, as both Jill and Ryan are Karaoke enthusists. When Ryand and Jill had the first dance as husband and wife, Ryan sang as they danced. Then both of them performed Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meatloaf.

Let my point out, that Paradise is the most difficult song to perfom by one of the most difficult artists to sing. And they both nailed it. That is no small feat.

What follows here, is the tale of the worst travel day of my life.

Sunday morning, my foot was not getting any better, and so began the most wretched travel day of my life. The one highlight of my day was having lunch with the parents at Cracker Barrel for my Dad's birthday. At the airport I decided to check my little duffel bag, and just pay United's outlandish fee for the first checked bag. Then I had people wheel me around place to place.

Airports are BIG, especially Denver, which is crowded and has a few design flaws. Like the hallway pinches narrow where the departure/arrival screens are, so people stop in a crowded corridor to see where their next flight is, adding to the congestion. It doesn't help any that United doesn't believe in printing the Gate number on the boarding pass, so checking these screens is manditory.

Also, the Arport is built so it can move around, say, 100,000 people, but the restrooms are built with only 50,000 people in line. As a Male, it is my god given right to not have to wait in line to pee, and curse anyone who would deny that right!

By the time I'm on the plane to SLC, I just want to get home as fast as possible, and I'm not looking forward to the two hour drive that will follow this flight. Oh, and the woman in seat 4C who was kind enough to share her Advil? Lady, you're alright by me!

I got off the plane, to find no one at the counters of the United Gates, so I asked the woman at the Delta Counter if she would summon some Cripple-Mobility assistance for me. She said she would, but as soon as I sat down, she had to help another couple switch filghts, ask for passengers on an overbooked flight to accept tickets/comps to give up their seats, and I think she forgot. After she mysteriously disspaears for about five minutes, I decided that SLC isn't has large as Denver, so I'd just limp over to baggage claim myself.

Emboldened by the Advil from Ms. 4C, I hobble over, grab my bag, and take the shuttle to the parking lot. Then I drive home in a growning snowstorm, and have my first experience going over the Sisters in icey condidtions. (The Sisters are what the locals call the two big hills between Evanston and the Valley, known for causing a lot of accidents in winter weather).

Hobbling inside, I grab the pills that I was wishing for all weekend, pop one, wash it down with a a few ounces of Cherry Juice, and crash into bed, thankful that it's over.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Ever have one of those days when you need to punch something stupid, and everywhere you look there's Opportunity Targets?

No, I didn't do anything rash, it was just more of the usual piling up, on the day before what is probably going to be a stressful weekend.

It doesn't help that Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh have no direct flights going back and forth. My apologies in advance for all of those people that I'll be within 15 miles of, and not be able to visit. My paltry vacation time is spread thin this year due to two weddings, my jaunt down south, and some badly needed Me Time. Seriously, nobody else I know is allowed to get married until after October. I forbid it!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gonna run all night, Gonna run all day...

That promise I made about having the results from the Barroom Banter post will most likely be broken, as the person in question has had a slight medical emergency, and I wasn't able to get that list to him until today.

So in the meantime, here's My Top 10 in no particular order:

Squirrel Nut Zippers
Franz Ferdinand
Reel Big Fish
Green Day
Spin Doctors
Five Iron Frenzy
"Weird" Al Yankovic
Gin Blossoms

And as an added bonus, here's my cadindate for best song EVAR:


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Off the Wagon

I've mentioned here before that I'm a recovered Video Game Junkie. I could park in front of the Tube with a controller in hand to the point where I would start growing moss. I've spent Summers with friends playing Mario Kart and Super Bomberman almost every day.

A year ago, I finally picked up my first video game console that was made in the 21st Centrury. I've also picked up a PlayStation 2 to match it, because Sony decided not to make the 40GB console backwards compatable with PS2 games. I was surprised how little I played these things after I purchased them. an hour or two here, part of a Saturday Afternoon there, but I didn't log more than one or two hours in any one day that I played. I still have about four games that I purchased that Still haven't seen the inside of my PS3. I thought I had left that part of me behind.

Then, late one night there's a knock on the Door. I open it. There's a familiar looking monkey standing there, and he's holding something.

"Whadya have there, little friend?" I ask him. He hands it to me. It's a Playstation 2 game called Persona 4.

I look over the cover. One of those new Japanese RPGs that features a menu based combat system, and also features a kind of high school social networking mechanic, a popular recent addition to these kinds of games from Japan.

While I was distracted, the Monkey which gave me the game pounced. He put me in a full nelson, and triumphantly climbed onto my back, chattering all the way. That was when I remembered where I saw this back-dwelling monkey. I sent him packing after I replaced Video Games with Magic: The Gathering as my timesink of choice. And now he has returned.

Anyway, this monkey used a game to get his foot back in the door, so I decided to play it, in the hopes that I could finish it, and then concentrate on ditching him like I had done 8 years ago. Ah... JRPGs... Almost 40 hours of game play, and I still feel like I'm only about halfway through, if that far.

Here's the plot (if not so deep in Gameplay, JRPGs Overcompensate this shortcoming with Plot, if your lucky it might remotely makes sense). You're a 2nd year high school student in Japan who's parents take a contract job overseas. You are sent to live with your uncle, who is a Detective in Inaba, a little rural town in Japan. Hmm... The protagonist moves away from the Big City, to live in nowhere-ville. Already, I can relate to him!

The day you arrive, there's a local news personality is murdered, shortly after the Affair she's been having with a local polititian has been uncovered. A few days later, a local school student is murdered, and her body is found the same way as the first; draped over a rooftop TV Antenna. You and a few of your new schoolmates find another world after going through the TV Poltergeist style, and find a connection to that world and the recent murders. The rest of the game is spent social networking with your school mates, which give you combat powers when fighting monsters in the TV World.

As odd as this sounds, it's still more logical than some Anime and JRPGs I've seen.

Anyway, the monotonoius menu combat is broken up nicely by the social networking sim, where you make friends and strengthen those bonds by spending time with them after school, or sharing lunch with them. Also, you'll be asked to converse in some delicate situations so you'll need to boost attributes like courage, understanding, dilligence, expression and knowledge to be better able to deal with them.

It's kinda like somebody accidentally spilled Final Fantasy on The Sims, then tried to mop it up with pages torn from Manga.

I've spent the better part of the past two Saturdays playing it. When I was a kid, I'd get kicked off the TV if I would have spent even one third of that time playing games. Now, I can get all day marathons in. Such are the advantages of being a single adult.

I'll probably go back to my orginal schedule of maybe 6-8 hours of game time the per week after I finish this, but for right now, me and the Monkey are catching up on old times.