Archive for October, 2009

Trick 'r' Treat

October 30, 2009 - 7:42 pm Comments Off on Trick 'r' Treat

Halloween means horror movie season, on the cable channels, in the rental stores, and pulled from our shelves. Horror remains a perennial money-maker of a genre; if you want to make something on a budget and get some sort of release, you’ve basically got two choices: arty indie film that no one outside of Film Studies will ever watch, or a B horror flick. And, as we’ve stated before, we are definitely fans of the latter genre; while most of it is dreck, it’s often fun dreck, and the nature of it means a cast and crew with more talent than money can make something great if they have the skill to, without the pressures of a major studio release. The last one we had the pleasure to come across was Behind The Mask.

We are pleased to report we’ve come across another such direct-to-DVD gem in Trick ‘r’ Treat. We’d seen previews for it on other of our DVDs of the same general B movie family, but it took two years to come out and missed theaters. Apparently the studio was jerking them around. The studio’s loss; this was better than most if not all the theatrical horror offerings this year, and I can see it as having been a smash at the box office if had been released at this time of year.

This movie takes the classic and now-neglected scary-movie format of the anthology piece and breathes a little fresh air into it. Creepshow was the last great example, and Trick ‘r’ Treat does it one better by weaving its four stories together. This would have been a recipe for complete and utter disaster in less skilled hands, but Michael Dougherty (and possibly Bryan Singer, who was the producer, but I don’t know the extent of his involvement) pulls it off about as well as I can imagine it being done. There’s a bit of chronological confusion at points, but by the end of the movie the viewer that has been paying a little bit of attention can figure out the order of events; it’s not a keep-you-guessing gimmick as it is in some movies, but it doesn’t spell everything out in alphabet letters either. Overall, the movie’s motto is “show, don’t tell”; it embraces the concept that having a creepy-looking monster crawl out from under the stairs and start some mayhem is more attention-getting and scarier than having a big long explanation for the revenge-seeking spirit of a drowned little boy (or whatever), followed by the appearance of the now-diminished baddie to come do some things that are now more predictable for having gotten the backstory. There’s only a real storyline for one of the vignettes, and even then the viewer is left to paint in the most tantalizing details for him or herself.

What I really loved about it, though, was another thing that has a classic, eighties feel; the movie is scary, but it’s not about wrenching the viewer around and making him jump out of his seat or fight the urge to turn away from the screen, it’s about being a fast, exciting ride. Far too many horror movies of late have been about gore-porn and coming up with the most viscerally revolting and disturbing images they can get past the puke test; this one has some gore, but it’s not the point. Next to any of the Saw franchise it might as well be rated PG, but it’s far more watchable, because the sensation that’s aimed for isn’t so much “Oh god, what’s coming next” as “What next, what next!” It’s about being scary and fun, not scary and disturbing, and that’s refreshing as all hell. There are some twists and subversions, but they’re not about turning the entire thing upside down as it would be with one of Shyalaman’s (increasingly desperate and increasingly ludicrous) movies; it remains very much true to the genre the whole way, just not necessarily as the viewer initially expects.

The other thing I really like about it is the characters. We don’t get to know any of them very well, and that’s okay; we’re not meant to, and besides there wouldn’t be time. What they are is another thing that’s increasingly rare in horror movies: likeable, up to and including when we really shouldn’t be sympathizing with them. All too often horror movies give us people we’re meant to hate so much it’s gratifying when they get killed off, either because they’re loathsome or because they’re annoying. These people come off much more as just people, and not particularly saintly or awful ones (except in the cases where they really are awful). They react believably, and there’s not an idiot ball to be seen. There are, however, lots of shout-outs- which for once are done with more of a subtly raised eyebrow than a leering “SEE WHAT I DID THAR?!”

Oh, and also it did what I thought was impossible- live up to the creepy image on its poster. Two thumbs up, we’ll be buying this one and, I think, making it a seasonal tradition. Watch with beer and a bucket of cheap candy.

And We're Spent

October 29, 2009 - 9:28 pm Comments Off on And We're Spent

New Vicious Circle up. It’s wandering. It’s profane. Jarsquatter came up again and the people who weren’t expected to be, are newly truamatized.

Yeah. It’s one of those.

Can't Win 'em All

October 28, 2009 - 5:23 pm Comments Off on Can't Win 'em All

I do love me some scotch. The overwhelming oak flavor in Ardbeg, the slight hint of salt in Oban, the liquid smoke they pour in by the gallon in Laphroaig…it’s pretty much all good stuff, and broadly speaking, I’m a fan.

Except for Finlaggan. Finlaggan is an Islay single malt, which makes this all the odder, as normally Islay is my favorite region for scotch. I’d tell you what the bible says about it, but (perhaps tellingly) Mr. Jackson did not include this particular distillery. Google’s results are spotty. Seeing as I’ll most likely never visit Scotland, I’m less concerned with information about the where, how, why, and history of a distillery (beyond the factors that affect flavor, obviously), so we’ll let that slide and get down to the meat and peat of the matter.

My particular bottle does not list an age (something that should’ve warned me away before reaching for my wallet). As I recall, my selection process at the store was “I don’t think I’ve tried this one yet, and it’s not too badly priced. What the hell.” The color is a nice medium caramel shade, somewhat darker than Oban but lighter than Jack Daniels. The initial flavors are a pleasant peatiness, which morphs into caramel notes. The problem arises with the finish. As the caramel note spreads over your palate, it evolves into what I’d have to say are overtones of sulpher. It doesn’t go so far as to bring rotten eggs to mind, thankfully, but it does linger up in the sinuses. The combination of that and the lingering sweetness of the caramel flavors brings nothing to mind so much as walking through a swamp and getting a big face full of that sickish-sweet smelling decay. The initial flavors are delicious, and I’d rate them highly were they the only ones, but when you half consider a chaser of some form to get the aftertaste out, that isn’t exactly what I’d consider a ringing endorsement of a drink intended to be sipped and savored.

I’ll probably finish the bottle someday. Most likely it’ll sit among its liquid betters waiting moments when we have scotch drinking guests for the purpose of “Here, taste this and tell me I’m not nuts.” Mayhaps I’ll have a dram or two should I somehow run out of everything better. What I won’t be doing, however, is replacing it when it finally does empty out.

Gonna Hurt Tomorrow

October 28, 2009 - 12:31 am Comments Off on Gonna Hurt Tomorrow

….but so worth it.

If y’all will excuse me, I’m gonna go find who in the neighborhood plays Alliance and go piss on their mailbox.

The Unholy Brew

October 26, 2009 - 8:28 pm Comments Off on The Unholy Brew

I have made prior efforts to comment on environmental issues and politics intelligently, or at least in a fashion that tries to be reasonable and make some kind of productive point.

This will not be one of those posts. This one was born of frustration and fed on a very large dose of the blackest metal in my collection. This is a rant. If you want informative and productive, read the linked posts. For wandering, non-cohesive, and angry, read this.

There are days when I really wish I were the kind of person that Dennis Leary wrote an anthem for in “Asshole” and truly just didn’t give a shit about the environment, because at least then I’d have a side, and I could just get down and roll in the sheer massive unadulterated schadenfreude there is to be enjoyed in ripping apart the cult of rosary-stroking and heretic-bashing that has become synonymous with the modern “green consciousness”.

And heaven knows, there is meat to be had there, a vast banquet of it. Take your pick; whether it’s “Save The Earth” concerts that blow the entire energy and carbon-emission production of the poor African nations it was fashionable to have a party to “save” twenty years ago completely out of the water, Al Gore flying in his private jet from his mansion housing a family of four to accept a Nobel peace prize for alerting people to the CO-2 emission crisis that will, if he’s right, make the last two hundred years seem like a golden age of world peace, or mind-blowingly wealthy songstresses telling us to tighten our belts one more planet-kissing notch by only using one square of toilet paper, these people don’t need me to make them look ludicrous or hypocritical. They have beclowned themselves far more effectively than me or Dennis Leary ever could on our meanest, most rage-and-chemical-fueled day.

But the problem is that I’m not on the other team, either. I can’t look at the world as it is and think environmental problems are just a hilarious dog-and-pony show, the newest religion to come down the pike ever since singing for Jesus became so painfully uncool. We’re gutting our oceans, and with every new fish that becomes fashionable as the old standbys become too expensive or too rare collapses in sequence- we have moved from reaping each trophic layer from the top on down, to the point where the predators we used to gorge on and are now finally thinking to protect may not have anything to feed on as we haul the base of the whole thing up bait ball by bait ball. We fret about the energy-balance and carbon-emission implications of meat, while the agricultural runoff from the massive base of grain we’ll supposedly replace the calories with washes into our gulfs and deadens yet more entire zones of previously rich ocean life. Economic prosperity is swell and it’s fucking great that more and more people can afford a home, but every new zone of human habitation is another zone that breaks up the big corridors of wilderness that lets America retain the amazingly robust variety and population of wildlife that it has. With every person that moves out to that nice lovely emptiness, another few follow, until the cougars and wolves that roam the purple mountains’ majesty have to be shot because they’re eating the kindergarteners in the new school district it only made sense to create. It pisses me off even more that I’d really like to be one of those people that got there first, and would probably want to leave again as soon as I were followed.

But I’m sure as fuck not on the other team, either. Can’t stop to worry about soil salinization, because the end of the fucking world is coming and it’s all going to end in a giant lethal cloud of a crucial portion of the carbon cycle that none of us can help emitting because we’ve got an aerobic fucking metabolism just like almost everything living on the entire planet! And the same carbon we combust every time we take a deep breath is what’s emitted every other time we combust carbon to get energy, even when producing food or cleaning water! So let’s rub our rosaries and come up with a plan to reduce our carbon footprint, because it gets bigger and bigger the more we live and the more we do with our lives. Produce high levels of technology? Tons of carbon. Have children? Good god, you’re introducing MORE of the damn aerobic organisms, and big mammals at that? Have a dog? Christ, you might as well have an SUV. The author of the first article I linked there allows as to how the residents of Burkina Faso can mayhap be forgiven for reproducing so goddamn much, because their carbon footprint is tiny anyway- because Burkina Faso is a land of grinding poverty, short lifespans, minimal literacy, and rampant infectious disease. GOOD FOR THEM, THEY’RE NOT PRODUCING HARDLY ANYTHING BUT PEOPLE WHO EAT FOR A LITTLE WHILE, THEN DIE! HOW CARBON-NEUTRAL!

What’s almost never mentioned in any of the awareness-raising and rosary-stroking of “reducing your footprint” is that it won’t work. The only way to be “carbon-neutral” as a planet is for most of our population to die and for the rest to live as minimally- which is to say, desperately- as the Burkinans, and people will not fucking volunteer for that. The issue is that in order to really make an impact on the planet according to the broadly accepted warming scenarios, it doesn’t make sweet fuckall worth of difference how many squares of toilet paper we hoggish Westerners use, because by the most wildly optimistic calculations we’d have to cut back to the point where costs of carbon abatement would amount to half the fucking global economy. That doesn’t fit into a slogan, and there wee problem there is nobody is going to do it. It’s not because they’re greedy capitalist pigs, it’s because they CAN’T; if you think people are upset about the current recession, try telling them they’ve got to accept a lifestyle sustainable by standards of five hundred years ago, because otherwise the planet is going to get warmer.

Every single scenario I have ever seen put forth by the catastrophists for how we’re actually going to do something involves instituting a heavily statist global authority that decides what everyone’s “fair share” in carbon use is and controls the entire world’s carbon emissions. It’s a technocrat’s wet dream- everyone who has ever longed for a system in which the right people have total control and could just make the whole steaming chaotic mess of humanity behave in a rational fashion for everyone’s good would like roughly the same thing. The problem isn’t even that it’s not going to work for the same reasons just about every technocratic solution doesn’t work, but because the entire world isn’t going to band together to put the power in the hands of the Right People who’ve just been waiting for their chance. Faced with increasing economic consequences, people are going to be fucking angry, and even if their governments were suicidal enough to tell them “Everything will be fine, you just have to accept a less than third-world lifestyle and let the smart Westerners with the calculators, who also happen to be your historical imperial masters, tell you what to do from there”, they’re not going to accept it. They’re going to do what every nation with a pissed off population does- either break down for find another target to beat the shit out of in order to satisfy the perceived problem is, which is going to be what it almost always is- those other fuckers are taking more than their fair share. Whether you call it a French revolution, a Third Reich, a Rwandan genocide, a great leap forward, or a reduction in the carbon footprint, a whole lot of people will stop breathing. And the rest of the environment that we’re supposedly trying to save in the first place is going to look like battlefields always do- torn to shit and of benefit to nothing living but the carrion birds.

The problem is that the real problems not only have no good solutions that aren’t complete fantasy, we can’t even tell what the real problem is, what it’s shaped like, and how much of a problem it is. Climate science is still incredibly young as sciences go, and in terms of ambition and scale, it makes a unified physical theory of the universe look like something somebody’s going to work out over their ham sandwich at lunch. It’s about how EVERYTHING, physical and biological and chemical, affects EVERYTHING ELSE on earth. It’s a global ecology combined with global physics, and if we’re going to take some metaphors to mix to hell, it’s like trying to calculate the effect on the weather of a billion butterflies all flapping at cross-purposes. We can tell CO2 does certain things, but we also know it has a diminishing-returns effect*, so we know that none of our models adequately explain either historical or ongoing data. We had to start looking into positive feedback effects to explain why the world had gotten so much warmer than would be explained by carbon alone, then we had to postulate other effects in order to explain why it apparently has stopped getting warmer for the last ten years or so, and meanwhile the ice caps and the levels of dissolved carbon in the ocean and solar radiation are doing all sorts of fucking crazy things, and it all amounts to the kind of complex and developing science that invariably gets reported in the news as though the God Oracle Science had spoken and informed us that it had seen its shadow and we’re going to have six more weeks of winter this year.

What people are fighting over isn’t science, it’s politics; what exactly climate change is and what really drives it the most and what it’s going to look like is science, but what we’re going to fucking do about it is all politics, and that’s what we’re really fighting over. If you look at the actual scientific contents of any given year of an IPCC report and then the policy recommendations, the two documents might as well be from two separate universes, because what the panel wants politically and what it found scientifically (which usually turns out to be a lot more of “here’s what we know so far, here’s the new stuff we learned, outlook hazy”, as science usually is) are two completely different things. Meanwhile, the skeptics are going to pounce on absolutely everything any scientist who has ever mentioned climate in passing has said that disagrees with that political agenda as though it were the groundswell of a new dissident revolution- while the scientists quoted ask them to please stop quoting them now. It looks an awful lot like how “intelligent design” proponents go after all signs of dissension between evolutionary theorists, which confuses and annoys the theorists because they’re certainly in a position to know that they all fight like cats in a sack over the details of evolutionary theory all the time anyway. It’s not a coincidence that very often they’re the same people anyway- if those who fret about the end of the world have their God Oracle Science (that has very little to do with lowercase science as it is actually practiced), then inevitably the same mythical figure is a treacherous, deceitful demon for someone else.

People point out, from either side, that the other has more to do with politics and ideology than reality, and they’re both right, and it doesn’t actually have any effect on the argument. Politics are how things actually get done on a societal scale in reality, and any human that isn’t mentally handicapped is political, including the scientists and the journalists, no matter how much their professional ideals are to be objective. Pointing out that they’re not ENTIRELY objective isn’t an argument-ender, it’s reporting that the sky continues to be blue; the idea that science or journalism ever had some sort of golden age where politics weren’t heavily involved is every bit as mythical as the One Fair World- or, for that matter, the world where the free market fixes everything and we don’t have to worry about any of it because enlightened self-interest will obviously arrive at organic economic solutions that let us keep our wildernesses and our cheerful consumerism entirely intact, or the world where ancient humans had their ancient wisdom that let them live entirely sustainably and without impact until Demon Civilization came along. (Eden is SUCH an appealing idea even some atheists love to embrace it, apparently.)

The real problems are complex and mysterious and its potential solutions equally so, so people do what they always do when confronted with “way beyond me”- they grab a totem and wrench the whole thing down to something that fits in it, so they can have some continuing idea of what to do. The alternative is just to throw up your hands and remain the passive victim of fate, and the killer is, what ethical or sensible human would possibly want to do that?

But in the meantime, I’d kind of appreciate it if we didn’t dismantle our high-tech, wasteful means of continuing to investigate the big, real problems (i.e., highly developed societies) in the name of slaying the shadows they cast.

*If you want a less profane and more informative explanation, check the second of my posts linked from the top described as “me trying to be productive rather than ranty”.

Life Lessons

October 23, 2009 - 5:54 pm Comments Off on Life Lessons

Sorry for the light content; between overall block and being wrapped up in various projects that consume time but don’t produce much in the way of commentable material, the blog hasn’t been as priority as it should. I HAD something to rant about- namely how completely ludicrous the administration’s crusade against Fox News has gotten- but the news item I was planning to hang it all on is now in question, so that the whole thing remains stupid but the outright insane part may not be true.

So, with that idea having therefore been blown apart, here’s a random assortment of things I have learned over the course of watching MTV’s Scarred. For those that have not yet discovered this little gem of distilled schadenfreude, Scarred* is one of those video clip exploitation shows, in this case of skateboarders, BMX bikers, rollerbladers, and other practitioners of applied physics getting horribly fucked up on camera. While these kinds of shows are a dime a dozen, there’s just something about this one- and it’s the part where the victims apparently sent the tape of themselves getting horribly mutilated and screaming for their mothers voluntarily, and usually go on to say cheerfully that taking an entire handrail up the ass hasn’t daunted them in the pursuit of doing physically improbable things on other people’s property. Their sheer immunity to aversive conditioning is somewhere in that uncanny valley between heartwarming and horrifying.

In any case, after a few episodes there are enough similarities between accidents that they all start to blur together unless the self-victimizer managed some sort of uniquely nauseating wound or managed to shriek in a new and record-setting high pitch. Either way, I feel I’ve learned a few things from these similarities, despite remaining firmly ground-bound at all times when using wheeled transportation.

1. If you are about to do something that relies upon precision timing and control in order to pull off without having gravity make you its bitch, “just going for it” is a bad idea.

2. Likewise just going for it after you roll up on it a few times to appreciate the physical improbability of your task more fully.

3. Friends with video cameras in such situations are the single most useless lumps of carbon in existence when gravity wins out. You may well have to dial 911 with your own shattered limbs because they’ll still be standing around going “DUDE! SICK!”

4. It is also a bad idea to, immediately upon finishing months of physical therapy subsequent to surgery that involved multiple staples, pins, and plates, try the exact same stunt again just to see if the laws of motion have changed during your time off.

5. Operating wheeled transportation on objects and surfaces owned by someone else that are not designed for such use and whose maintenance records you don’t know is also a bad idea. Unwanted encounters with The Man are FAR from the worst thing you should be worrying about; having the rail you were grinding enter your scrotum after the welds fail is.

6. Helmets are useless when your primary point of impact is your face.

7. Hauling the video camera out with the purpose of making a demo tape is also an extremely bad idea when you are not at a skate park doing stunts that you’ve practiced dozens of times while wearing full safety equipment, but rather at some random rail or set of stairs with nothing but a bad haircut between you and the aforementioned gravity.

8. No matter how many layers of reinforced filth is in said haircut, it will not function as a helmet.

9. Setting your video to metal music will not make it awesome. It will just be apt when something brutal happens to you.

10. There is an inverse relationship between the degree and number of horrific orthopedic injuries sustained and the likelihood that the injured will have a paying job.

*Link to show includes links to full episodes. Enjoy.

Third Movie?

October 21, 2009 - 4:22 pm Comments Off on Third Movie?

That’s what the new Ghostbusters video game is being touted as in some reviews. Is it good? Oh hell yes. Is it good enough to be considered a third movie? Not really.

The basic premise is that the company is still kicking around in 1991, two years after the second movie, and you’re the new hire. I’m not going to say too much about the plot so as to avoid spoilers, but the upshot is another big upswing in supernatural activity. There be many ghosts what need a-bustin’.

In the good column, we have the graphics, the voices, attention to detail, and the story. The plot doesn’t really stand up to movie-length, but as presented in the interactive format it does very well, and it’s a lot of fun. If this had been an in-theater affair, the run time would probably be right around an hour, but adding in the play time and interaction and exploration and achievement chasing pads this out to a healthy 10-14ish hours of play time before you mess with any of the online content (which I haven’t tried at all, I admit). The characters are all lovingly rendered without falling into the Uncanny Valley, and of course one of the big marketing points is that they got the original cast to do the voice work, up to and including Viggo the Carpathain, the giant painting of whom now lives in the firehouse and will dispense verbal abuse if you talk to it. Conspicuously missing is Rick Moranis, but Annie Potts carries the secretary & support staff role just fine without him. All of the environments are just one continuous shout-out to the folks like LabRat and I that basically have the films memorized. The firehouse has a bit of blend from the movies and “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon series, and knick-knacks and souvenirs are strewn generously about. Be sure to check all your messages on the answering machine, especially after the island level. Tobin’s Spirit Guide is now built into your PKE meter, and updates as you go through the game, and fills in backstory (and combat tips) on the various slimers, vapors, and phantasms you run into. The proton pack has gotten some nifty upgrades too, and you’re Egon’s guinea pig for new tech. Busting ghosts accumulates cash, cash buys upgrades, you know the drill.

In the downside category, sitting squarely in the lime light, is the combat system. There’s an achievement on the Xbox 360 for beating the game on hard mode titled “Are you a god?” Personally, I’m not convinced godhood would be sufficient. Even on normal/moderate, “hard as hell” is being kind. Any time there’s more than one ghost in the fight, you’re going to have a hell of a time trapping any of them, because while you wrangle one into the box, the other will come bump into you, possibly knock you on your ass, and set the ghost you were working on back flitting about the room raping your co-workers’ faces. The Slam Trap upgrade, where if you basically just whack the ghost into the trap directly on target and with enough force, you can trap the spook without the long drawn out sucked-in-by-the-light process, helps some, but isn’t a sure thing. Also, despite everybody knowing that crossing the streams is Bad, Ray, Winston, Egon, and Peter, combined with the already jittery and dancing nature of a positron beam, seem to do nothing but cross the streams, unless you’re off on your own. Occasionally you can get some work done with just one partner, but in a group you’re going to be hearing warnings and the tell-tale whine of power build up non-stop. Further, you and the rest of the guys are ridiculously fragile on normal or hard mode. One good whack and you’re on your ass, two and you’re down for the count until someone comes over to help you up (unless they’re all down too, in which case you’ll be joining the spirit world yourself shortly). Doubly annoying, when you’re knocked down the camera doesn’t offer any perspective adjustment, and trying to swing it around to see what the hell is going on means that as soon as you’re back on your feet, it swings up to look where your adjustment would’ve had you looking if you never fell. Gosh, that sky sure is awesome, anybody seen where that book golem that was eating my face went? Oh, there it is. It’s in my ass, leaving a trail of paper cuts and there we go, time to try the fight again we all died. I wound up abandoning my first attempt after spending over an hour trying to down one boss with no luck. Oh, that’s another glaring hole: There’s only one save file. No multiple careers for you! It’s not like there’s a friggin’ hundred gig hard drive attached that could store multiple profiles or anything, oh no.

Also a bit of a let down are the upgrades to the proton pack. Yeah, they’re up in the pro category too, and they are nifty in concept. The problem is that, aside from the slime gun, they’re not terribly useful, and the slime gun only gets a pass because it’s how you neutralize environmental toxins, solve puzzles, and close a few ghost-spewing portals. Some ghouls are more susceptible to one beam type than another in theory, but in practice it’s faster to just slam boson darts (rockets, basically) and regular proton streams into them until they can be captured or neutronized.

While the game overall is gorgeous, it does suffer a bit from Doom 3 syndrome, and a fair number of environs are just flat too dark to deal with reasonably. Yeah, it’s a ghost game and all, and the flashlight does help some (and unlike Doom 3, you can even have it on and fire your weapon at the same time) but the excessive darkness didn’t add anything other than a bit of “Where the hell am I,” and not in the good tension-building sort of way. There are a few spots where the lip synching was a bit spotty as well. In terms of characters, whoever did the writing for Peter wasn’t much of a fan. Yes, Peter is a wise-ass, but the non-stop stream of snarky comments and one liners was dialed from the movie levels of “I’m an ass, it’s ok” to “I’m one dimensional.” Oh, and he still chases the girl. Two dimensional. Everyone else was in fine form, and well in character, but I’m having trouble thinking of a single scene where Dr. Venkman wasn’t basically serving as a one-liner machine.

The final main drawback is that the game is basically a run-and-gun with great cutscenes and actual reasons to go from one “Shoot this guy, shoot that guy, shoot that big guy” area to the next. If they’d added in some old school Sierra Adventure elements (combine this weird shit, this fight is was easier if you found the secret book of how to whup ass, etc) it would’ve brought a good bit of depth to the party if done well. Instead all we get is the standard collection game, gathering scans of ghosts for the Spirit Guide, and finding rare artifacts hidden in out of the way places. Fun enough, but nothing ground breaking, even though the descriptions on the artifacts were uniformly cool (Haunted Pin-Up Calendar, I’m looking at you).

All in all, I’m probably being a little hard on the game, but that’s because I just love the movies that much, and it’s hard to measure up when jumping into an entirely new medium that only bears passing resemblance to the original format. Overall this game really is a lot of fun (once you set the difficulty to ‘easy’ at least), and the story is cool, if short. It’s great to have the guys back in action, and there’s just no understating how much fun it is to run around with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on your back kicking ass and wreaking havoc. As much as I just ragged on it, I’m absolutely going to play it again, and I look forward to trying the online content at some point as well. For $35 or so, it’s well worth the price if you’re a fan of the franchise at all. If you’re not, it’s a reasonably competent run-and-gun with a cool story attached, but really, we’re here for the boys in grey, and overall on that front, the game delivers. Ghostbusters: The Video Game is Nerd Approved.

My Tinker Toy Explained

October 20, 2009 - 4:53 pm Comments Off on My Tinker Toy Explained

As I am broadly lazy and strapped for content, let’s check the ol’ mailbag, eh?

Holy crap, that’s a lot more than expected. Maybe I should look in on that account a little more often. Anyway, reader Geoffrey writes*:

I was hoping I could ask you what components you selected for your AR and why. Quite frankly, there are so many options out there that attempting to make an informed choice as to what would work for me continues to be perplexing. Especially so when trying to sift through the marketing copy to find useful details. Therefore, I was thinking that perhaps compiling a foundation of sorts of what others have put together along with their rationale might provide me enough insight to prevent myself from just buying items largely at random hoping they will come together into a useful rifle.

Well, as it turns out going at random can work out pretty well. At least it did here. There was some method to my madness, but not as much as you might expect. I imagine the most efficient way to do this will be to just go in the order I got stuff. Since I am on the internet, everything from here on is of course unimpeachable, totally accurate and up to date, and has zero possibility of any error or bias whatsoever. Also, I may or may not be receiving compensation for this post. Have a big ‘ol slurp of that, FTC!

The first part I got was a Rock River stripped lower. The reason I picked that part is because Rock River has a decent reputation for quality (if being a bit snug the first few times the upper mates to the lower), and the price wasn’t too over inflated. The lack of over-inflation on the price was the main impetus, since I found it at a gun show. Every other stripped receiver I’d seen in person previously had been sitting around $200, which was more than a little frustrating since the same parts online were sitting around $115-$130 at the time. I could’ve just bit the bullet and gone through the hassle of having a local FFL do the paperwork dance with one of the online sites, but that would’ve been a pain in the ass, and I’m fundamentally lazy.

Next up was the parts kit for the lower. My goal was never to build one of those 800 yard laser-beam tack driver ARs, so I skipped all the expensive two-stage and adjustable triggers and went with just your basic run of the mill standard parts kit again from Rock River. Again, the price was attractive, and I figured if nothing else they’d be most likely to have all the fiddley little pins and springs the exact right size. I also figured (after some borderline obsessive-compulsive reading) that if I wanted to later, it’d be reasonably straight forward to just upgrade the trigger to something fancier. Putting receiver and parts together was enlightening. I did add an ambidextrous safety, but that’s because I shoot southpaw.

Magazines came next. The aforementioned borderline obsessive-compulsive reading taught me that a fucked up magazine is the quickest and most common way to keep an AR from running properly. In those same online wanderings, the consensus was overwhelmingly in favor of Magpul Pmags as the magazine to beat. Given that ARs are basically legos for adults, getting more than three people to agree on something concerning them is a minor miracle. Throw in some positive remarks from people who actually know what they’re doing, and this part was a no brainer.

My stock was the next part to find its way into the build. I chose that based on the highly scientific method of winning a bet. PDB from the Gunblogger Conspiracy had a picture request of me during the NRA convention earlier this year. I got the picture, and so I got the stock. I’m not even sure what brand it is, but it fits and it’s a 6-position dealie. If I’d been paying for a stock, I probably would’ve gone with a regular A2 fixed stock, ’cause I like the aesthetics of that type better and the length is fine for me**.

Seeing as this has been my first AR, and I lack some of the specialized tools necessary for work on upper assemblies, I opted to just pay the little bit extra and let someone else deal with properly aligning everything, staking gas keys, and all the other various detail-oriented tasks that look remarkably easy to fuck up. As it turns out, just being a pro is no assurance of an un-fucked upper either, but more on this in a minute. Picking what I wanted was reasonably straight forward. I don’t like the aesthetics on the various super-stubby rifles. I like my long guns long, and the non-conformist in me just bucks at getting the same 16″ setup everyone else has, so I wanted a full-length 20″ barrel. I am not a high speed operator needing to preserve my night vision and confuse the enemy with my ninja-like maneuvering, so the plain-jane A2 birdcage flash hider was the lowest cost option for that slot. I hemmed and hawed for quite a while debating between an A2 upper receiver with a fixed carry handle (again, love the look) or going for an A3 or A4 with some rails and such. Eventually techno lust won out, and I rationalized that I could add a detachable carry handle later if I wasn’t happy with everything, so A3 with flip up sights was the order of the day. Barrel twist was another sticking point. Volumes and volumes and volumes have been sent forth to the internet debating and explaining and doing math on the various twist rates, with 1:9 having shaken out as the current most-common. 1:9 probably would’ve been just fine for me too since this is about 99% a plinking gun, but my non-conformist and overkill side chimed in together and convinced me to insist on a 1:7 twist, to better handle the heavier bullets found in defensive ammo. I’m not planning on popping prairie dogs with this, so over-spinning ultralight bullets won’t be an issue either. Is this the absolute best decision and configuration possible? Well, this is the internet, so yes, yes it is. And if you disagree then you’re some sort of godless heathen and you probably came here from the Brady Campaign website anyway. Sick freak.

Anyway, digging around trying to fit this exact bill took some effort. As mentioned before I finally settled on CMMG Inc. I picked them because first and foremost, they had the configuration I wanted, at a price that wasn’t outrageous. They came in a couple hundred dollars lower than a similar Rock River or Stag, and either of the latter two would have had a few compromises on my list. They had some other good options available (full-auto bolt carrier, in case I ever win the lottery and can afford a RDIAS? At no extra charge? Yes please!), and amazingly enough, I hadn’t run across much of anybody actively bitching about them online. Look for Stag and you’ll find one camp saying they’re the best thing since 1911s, but within two posts you’ll see someone explaining how anybody that buys from Stag should be beaten with a sack of doorknobs. The same applied to Olympic, Rock River, DPMS, and Model 1. About the only other company I didn’t see a vigorous doorknob-beating faction deriding was LMT, and while the monolithic upper they’ve got with the quick change barrel is cool as all get out, it’s also expensive as all get out, and do I really need more calibers to keep in stock?***

The downside to having picked CMMG is that the aforementioned snafu with the missing front sight wasn’t the only problem. The first time I hauled it out to the range, the action didn’t cycle. The rifle would go bang, but the bolt just sat there stubbornly until you extracted the empty and picked up a fresh round by running the charging handle****. After a bit of home-level inspection and troubleshooting, the upper had to go back to them for service. In their defense, this service was very fast, and came back in less than a week from dropping it off at the shipping hut, and that includes having Columbus day thrown in the mix. On the down side, I had to foot the bill for shipping it there myself. This was something of a decrease from the previous “make it more than right” attitude overall, but not a huge and damning one. The note included when it returned home stated “Barrel on customers upper sent w/ no gas port. Drilled gas port, tested.” Seeing as this is a gas operated rifle, that seems kind of a non-trivial oversight. Definitely a bit more severe than forgetting to cinch on a front sight. The important thing though is that they did in fact make things right, and very quickly in both cases. My best hunch is that this was simply a case of someone having a bad day, one of those “It was either Monday morning or Friday afternoon” things.

Since this is the modern age and relying only on iron sights is no longer necessary, I wanted a bit of techno-fun on this thing. Aimpoint, EOTech, and Trijicon are the most popular offerings in terms of battery operated sights that will fail at some crucial point and require you to either just guess where you’re aiming, or switch back to your iron sights that you suddenly wish you’d bothered to sight in. The leading candidate from Trijicon cost just about as much as the entire rifle did, so while cool, it got knocked out of the running. The Aimpoints and EOTechs were similarly priced to each other, and well below the Trijicons, but the Aimpoints all seemed to take extra mounting hardware, while the EOTech would sit happily on a picatinny rail out of the box. The model I picked also had multiple aiming points built in to account for bullet drop, which for no significant change in cost seemed a good function to have available. I gotta say, I really love that thing too. Just put the floating red ring and appropriate dot over whatever you want a bullet in and squeeze. Saying it’s fast is like saying the Roadrunner gets away from Wile. E most of the time.

The last component is probably the most important of them all. It’s probably more important than the gas port, in fact, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the note was just included for laughs. With the current trend to AR rifles covered with rails and accessories, what you add can make the rifle itself the accessory to whatever you added, it’s important to properly populate your rails. 40 megawatt pulse lasers, lights bright enough to signal other galaxies, laser GPS target designators, gyroscopic bipods made from a secret mixture of the ashes of Eugene Stoner and cold-riveted pure selenium, iPod mounts, USB ports, and more all spell out that what’s on the rifle is more important. Here’s the secret to my success:

That’s right. I put fuzzy 20-sided dice on my rail. Roll for save against AWESOME, suckers!*****

Hiccups aside, now that the upper is fixed, I gotta say it’s running great after the limited testing I’ve had a chance to do. With the current level of Crap I Gotta Do running high, about all I’ve been able to do was simply make sure it actually cycles now, but in the process of that it took a couple magazines to make sure. I mean, why wouldn’t it? Anyway, using the 10″ steel plate our range has out at 100 yards, I was getting satisfying impact WHUMP noises from the target nearly as fast as I could pull the trigger, and the few fliers I screwed up on were still within a couple inches of the plate. Not even the slightest hiccup came from the rifle during this overblown go/no-go test. I am a happy shooter.

Hopefully that covers about everything. As I’ve made clear, this is the internet and so my way is the only possible correct way. If you want to deviate from my awesome choices of win and cool, then that’s your own personal failing, but this works for me and I’m happy with it. If I missed any parts that anyone wants to know my motivation for, just say the word in comments and I’ll correct the space-time anomaly that caused you to not see information I obviously included in the first place.

*Ok, wrote over a month ago, but in my defense there is a warning that we don’t check that email very often. Better late than never!
**The adjustable length on this one does make it easier for LabRat to shoot though, so that’s a win too.
***Yes. Yes I do. Just not today.
****Almost forgot, I picked a PRI Gas Buster charging handle because I’d like to suppress this thing at some point, and the consensus is that shooting an AR southpaw with a can means a lot of gas in the shooters face. This handle is supposed to help quite a bit, but lacking a can at this point it’s hard to tell how effective it is.
*****You’re damn right I shot it like that. And it was COOL. Even with the extra sway they brought to the party. It was lucky sway. I rolled a natural 40 on that baby.

Cooking Noob: Beer-Braised Beef With Dumplings

October 19, 2009 - 8:41 pm Comments Off on Cooking Noob: Beer-Braised Beef With Dumplings

So of course, since Vertel sent it to me all the way from Oz, I had to do something from the One-Pot book the next available opportunity. After paging through the book and figuring out what was actually possible to make, what looked good, and what seemed like an appropriate challenge for my skill level, I selected “Beef In Beer With Herb Dumplings”. Complete meal in a single pot just as promised, and a nice beef stew as fall finally starts to get good and cool for us sounded like just the thing.

So here’s the recipe as printed, from “All In One”, by… no author given. Apparently some sort of committee, called “Love Food”.


1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
8 carrots, sliced
4 tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper
1.25 kg/2 lb/12 oz stewing steak, cut into cubes
425ml/15 fl oz stout
2 tsp muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

For the herb dumplings:
115 g/4 oz self-rising flour
pinch of salt
55 g/2 oz shredded suet
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
about 4 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 160 C/325 F/Gas Mark 3. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole. Add the onions and the carrots and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onions soften. Meanwhile, place the flour in a polythene bag and season with salt and pepper. Add the stewing steak to the bag, tie the top, and shake well to coat. Do this in batches, if necessary.

Remove the vegetables from the casserole with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the stewing steak to the casserole, in batches, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned all over. Return all the meat and the onions and carrots to the casserole and sprinkle in any remaining seasoned flour. Pour in the stout and add the sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the preheated oven to bake for 1 3/4 hours.

To make the herb dumplings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the suet and parsley and add enough of the water to make a soft dough. Shape into small balls between the palms of your hands. Add to the casserole and return to the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Okay, every dinner starts in the grocery store, so we’ll start with ingredients. Two tablespoons of sunflower oil… which we do not have and I have never seen in the store. Googling up the properties of various cooking oils, it looks like the closest match that’s available in the grocery store is probably sesame oil. Okay, check.

2 tsp muscovado sugar

…That’s another new one on me. Running Google some more, it appears it’s some sort of unrefined molasses-like sugar. We’ll grab the brown sugar and call that close enough.

55 g/2 oz shredded suet

The only place I’ve ever seen suet in the store was in the aisle with the birdseed, and I’m fairly certain the stuff isn’t considered food-grade for humans, however intriguing the prospect of using the stuff with the premixed fruit and nuts is. Searching some more, apparently it’s some sort of treated beef tallow from just above the kidneys, and my odds of seeing it in a rural American grocery store are slim and none. Given the properties it’s listed as being used for, I’m thinking Crisco will be our go-to substitute.

Okay, ingredients covered, let’s move on to the cooking!

Preheat the oven to 160 C/325 F/Gas Mark 3. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole. Add the onions and the carrots and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onions soften.

1. As amusing as spectators may find the sight of you frantically tearing apart the kitchen while some cranky and burnable ingredient undergoes its cooking time on the stove, this time it would be a good idea to make sure we have absolutely everything we’ll ever need in the course of making this recipe, out, visible, and ready to hand. The onion and carrots are easy, as is the stew beef, regular flour, salt, and pepper. Given that the household herbs and spices are organized on a basis of the fifteen most frequently used in a nice little spice rack and the rest stuffed into random pantries and cabinets around the kitchen, almost all of which are well above your head and require a stepstool to entirely see, it’s time for another incredibly fun game of SEASONING SCAVENGER HUNT!

2. Thyme first. We don’t have any fresh and it will have to be dried. Start by searching the lefthand cabinet above the food processor where you dimly recall stuffing it last. Try the cabinet over the spice rack. Try the accidental spice rack, which has a nicely marked and completely empty bottle labelled “thyme”. Try the other cabinet that requires half-climbing into the counter to search, just in case. This will fail to make thyme materialize where there was none, but it will at least make you feel like you tried.

3. Back to Google*. According to Yahoo Answers, marjoram and tarragon make workable substitutes for thyme in beef dishes. Now go look for the tarragon. You won’t find it, but that bottle of bouquet garni you stumble across will probably be even better, especially given as the ingredients given don’t include a huge variety of flavors.

4. Now for your oil. Ransack the cabinets and make the belated discovery that while you have plenty of peanut oil, you don’t have a drop of sesame to be found. Looks like vegetable oil will have to do, as the olive and coconut aren’t really heat-stable enough, and the peanut will probably bring flavors we don’t want**.

5. Gut the cabinets searching for the self-rising flour. Whine to your increasingly unamused spouse, who will just tell you that it’s “in the pantry”. Spot the mostly cashed-out bag hiding behind and under a few other things as you gloomily contemplate the prospect of the Bisquick boxes that haven’t been touched in at least two years and probably longer.

6. Snag your Santoku and a cutting board and start merrily chopping up the carrots. Give the trimmed-off ends to your Kitchen Bitch, who has developed the mysterious power to instantly vanish from whatever location in the house or yard she’s in and re-materialize curled up politely at the feet of anyone wielding a chef’s knife.

7. Well well, Mr. Onion, we meet again. Gingerly trim the ends and peel, then start slicing. Fortunately, the farmer responsible for the biological weapon that routed you last time has apparently been caught, as this one can be cut with minimal ill effects to the cook. Midway through slicing, remember that you have a food processor, which has a slicing disc- which would be absolutely perfect for the slicing requirements (must be thin enough to release maximum flavor over a long braise, but thick enough to be catchable with a slotted spoon) without depending on your questionable knife skills.

8. Unearth the food processor from the wall of cocoa mix and cocoa mix ingredients your spouse has been going through in response to some sort of autumn nesting instinct. Extract the old blade and go after the slicing disc. As this is a new food processor, you’re going to have to learn how to insert a disc-based attachment, which is a larger challenge than it would seem because the disc has absolutely no apparent holes, clips, or other devices to attach to any part of the food processor’s interior. Wrestle with it for awhile just in case it will somehow morph itself to the interior- you never know with these new gadgets.

9. Resort to reading the manual. After combing through the entire thing three times, it appears the one and only instruction related to the slicing disc, after extensive and overwrought warnings about not cutting yourself with it, is “insert disc”. Helpful. Make a mental note to send a thank-you gift to the manufacturer, possibly some sliced dead squirrel.

10. Once again, enlist spouse. After the obligatory attempts to see if the physical nature of the disc will somehow alter when put inside the food processor bowl, a search of the cabinet the slicing disc was found in turns up another component, shaped vaguely like a giraffe neck, whose apparent purpose is to attach to the motor spindle inside the bowl and bring the surface of the disc up to just below the feed tube. Naturally, how it attaches to said disc is as arcane and counterintuitive as possible. Between both your efforts, the food processor will have once again proved far more a time-sucking implement than a time-saving one.

11. Reassemble the food processor with disc in place. Insert onion pieces into feed tube. Push “on” and watch as nothing happens. Push “on” several more times just in case, as the machine remains completely inert. Consider submitting this to F My Life. Optional: discover that Kitchen Bitch was merely being polite taking the carrot pieces and has spit them out and scattered them around the floor, preferably with your bare feet.

12. Re-summon the spouse, who points out that, in order to protect you from you, the food processor will not activate unless all pieces are completely locked down, and your lid is .0006 millimeters away from “locked”. Now it works. Fortunately for the future of the food processor as anything but a reactive target, it works quite well for the original purpose you had in mind and the onion gets nicely thinly sliced in a heartbeat- so long as you don’t count all the leadup.

13. Slice the stew beef into smaller pieces. Ah, sweet uncomplicated beef, I love you so.

14. Pour the tablespoon of oil in the dutch oven and turn the burner to “low”. Insert sliced onions and carrots. Stir for five minutes. Note that nothing really has happened, least of all softening of onions; the cookbook and the Viking corporation evidently differ on what qualifies as “low”. Turn to medium low and repeat.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a polythene bag and season with salt and pepper.

15. …A what? After some contemplation, a freezer-sized Ziplock probably qualifies as a polythene bag of the correct dimensions. Put in the flour and half a teaspoon of the premixed pepper and salt you and spouse have taken to keeping around for this kind of step in cooking.

Add the stewing steak to the bag, tie the top, and shake well to coat. Do this in batches, if necessary.

16. Zip the top and shake. Make a note to write the Prime Minister of Britain with news of amazing technological breakthroughs in the former colonies.

Remove the vegetables from the casserole with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the stewing steak to the casserole, in batches, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned all over.

17. Fish out as much of the vegetables as you can get, since you don’t really want any of the onions burning while you brown the meat. Put in about half the bag of floured beef pieces, then lunge for the oil as they promptly stick to the bottom of the dutch oven and begin forming the sort of crust you can easily see requiring steel wool to remove later. Either this is a case where the cooking oil is an ingredient that really shouldn’t have been halved when halving the rest of the recipe, or the book is just plain stingy about needed fats.

18. Toss around until browned. If you want you can spend the first part of cooking keeping each piece carefully separate and turning each when one side is browned, but it turns out it’s a lot less of a pain in the ass just to keep stirring and tossing them until they’re all more-or-less evenly browned. Extract this batch and put it with the vegetables.

19. Add remaining beef. Lunge for the oil again. As this is now more oil needed than was in the original recipe for twice as much meat and vegetable, we can probably come to the conclusion that the book’s unnamed author doesn’t like to add any more fat than absolutely necessary- or even as much as is absolutely necessary.

Return all the meat and the onions and carrots to the casserole and sprinkle in any remaining seasoned flour. Pour in the stout and add the sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the preheated oven to bake for 1 3/4 hours.

20. Put everything back in the pot, sprinkle, and stir. Go on an impromptu hunt for the bottle opener, which as usual anywhere but hanging from its designated hook, and pour in the stout***. The original calls for 15 ounces and the bottle holds twelve; pour about three-quarters and save the rest for the cook. Scrape a share of brown sugar off the brick you found in the cabinet and stir. Add a bay leaf, kick it up to a boil- which happens nearly immediately- then cover and try to toss it in the oven.

21. Here’s a step you should have taken when you went to pre-heat it: finding out if the oven racks are in the right position to accomodate a dutch oven. They aren’t, so now it’s time to juggle a hot dutch oven, oven racks heated to 325, and two oven thermometers. Optional: reflect on how maybe real oven mitts instead of using damp dishtowels all the time might be handy.

22. Stuff the dutch oven in there and slam the door shut gratefully, because now it’s time to walk away for nearly two hours. Use the time to take a shower, noodle around in Warcraft, and wash the food processor for round 2.

To make the herb dumplings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the suet and parsley and add enough of the water to make a soft dough.

23. Put the regular blade back in the food processor and dump in the flour, salt, and shortening. This would be a great time to have an actually timely brainstorm- wouldn’t dumplings going in a stew that involved beer, beef, and onions, be even better with some cheese? They certainly would, you mad genius, you. Add some shredded cheddar, then chop up some of the parsley (naturally, you only need one stalk of the giant bouquet) and add that as well.

24. Pulse the food processor a few times, periodically scraping the too-warm and sticky shortening off the sides of the bowl. Once everything’s more or less evenly mix, transfer the pre-dough to a bowl and add the water. Eyeballing the dough and figuring that it’s probably going to be sticky, flour up your hands and start rolling balls.

25. Now is the time to discover you really didn’t mix it well enough when you added the water, as well as probably using a bit too much- the last few balls are unbelievably sticky and leave more of themselves on your fingers than they contribute to the dumplings. Get as much dough into usable form as you can, then put the bowl of rolled pre-dumplings into the fridge to let that shortening cool off more, since it’s not yet quite time to add them.

26. Occupy yourself another fifteen minutes. Preferably with something that won’t require you to wash your hands again.

27. Extract the dutch oven and your bowl of dumplings, then open the lid. Turns out that stout reduced almost all the way; now it’s time to have a panic moment. Aren’t dumplings supposed to be cooked in liquid? Make an effort at burying the dumplings in the beef and onions. Panic a bit more as the stickiest ones start to fall apart. Stop screwing with it before you do even more damage and put it back in the oven for another half an hour.

28. Remove the dutch oven and open again. While the dumplings that had started to fall apart have created a sort of bread layer in their areas, the ones that didn’t turned out just fine. As is traditional, take the portion of food with the mutant dumplings for yourself and serve the rest to your spouse. Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped parsley and nom.

This turned out really nicely, dumpling uncertainties and all. (I probably should have just dropped them on the surface and let the baking take care of itself.) The cheese was as good an idea as I thought it might be, and the reduced stout made for a really nice slightly sweet and very savory sauce. The onions had hit that state where they’re half sauce and half vegetable, and the whole mess disappeared down both our throats rapidly. This halving of a recipe that was supposed to serve six wound up being just a hair short of feeding two hungry adults to complete satisfaction; I think if you added a chopped turnip it would not only bring some extra flavors that work well in a winter braise, but fill out the bulk to just-right. I also wound up wanting more dumplings than I got, and would probably use the original serves-six-supermodels recommended amount of dough.

*Once upon a time I saw a show about some ridiculously rich Silicon Valley guy’s “wired house”, which included a refrigerator with full internet access, complete with monitor, built into the door. At the time I thought it was a hilarious example of excess and gadget-lust gone mad, but at this point the idea of having access to a search engine ready to hand in the kitchen sounds really, really appealing.

**As it turns out this is wrong and peanut oil is popular for frying because it IS flavor-neutral and highly heat-stable.

***Breckenridge’s dark oatmeal stout, if you’re curious. I like mine a bit sweeter and not as dry or malty as Guinness, and this fits the bill nicely for me.

You Might Be A Geek If…

October 16, 2009 - 12:46 pm Comments Off on You Might Be A Geek If…

You receive a gift of a cookbook from a friend in a far-off country, and your first reaction isn’t “How thoughtful”, or “One-pot meals? That will save me time and cleanup”, but: “It’s UK-published! I wonder how many cultural differences there’ll be in here! Awesome!”

So far only Stingray’s only been able to shut off my endless stream of rhetorical questions to the room at large by calling tech support.

This should make for a good Cooking Noob opportunity, but I think I’m probably going to have to pick one that doesn’t contain the casual assumption that I can readily lay my hands on a neck of lamb, or that everybody can get Thai “chillis” but good old New World chiles do not exist in this reality.

Also, a recipe for “chilli con carne” that calls for, as its only concession to heat, a small amount of sweet chili sauce is just wrong.