Sunday, April 06, 2014

Manhattan clam chowder

I felt like making some Manhattan clam chowder for lunch, but I didn't want a lot of leftovers, so I cut the recipe back to make two servings.

I made an incredibly fortuitous mistake.  I wasn't paying attention at the store (big surprise) and grabbed a can of diced tomatoes with habaneros instead of plain.

It was awesomely spicy.

So, for posterity, here's my recipe for Manhattan clam chowder

Manhattan clam chowder
   - 2 fairly big servings. (You could reasonably call this 3 servings, 4 would be
          pushing it)

2 strips thick sliced bacon
1/4 c onion, chopped
1/4 c red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c carrots, chopped
1/4 c celery chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1 T Italian seasoning (just oregano would probably be fine)
1/4 c dry white wine (I use Chardonnay)
1/2 c clam juice
1 T fish sauce (you might need to visit an Asian market for this)
1 bay leaf
1 small potato, cubed (about 1/2 c)
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes with habaneros (do not drain)
1 can (6.5 oz) chopped clams in clam juice (do not drain)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley, chopped

Fry bacon in heavy skillet until crisp.  Remove, drain, and crumble.
Add onions, bell pepper, carrots, and celery to bacon fat.  Reduce heat to low,
     cover, and cook until tender (about five minutes)
Turn heat to medium, add garlic and Italian seasoning.  Sauté about 2 minutes
Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced about half
Transfer to a 2 qt saucepan, add clam juice, fish sauce, bay leaf, potatoes, and
     tomatoes.
Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30 min.
Add clams and bacon, continue to simmer for about 10 more minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with parsley and serve.

I ended up eating both servings.
Later,

Friday, July 19, 2013

Today's rant:

Okay. Listen to this:

That's "Hail to the Geek" by Deaf Pedestrians. Funny song. Here's the problem: There is one verse that applies to me. And they get it way wrong.

I play Dungeons and Dragons
I got a 13th level halfling fighter-thief
Got seven hit die on the backstab
Sometimes you know it's good to be a geek.
"Fighter-thief" and "backstab" indicate that he's playing 1st or 2nd edition AD&D. But backstab was a damage multiplier. A 13th level thief would have a backstab multiplier of x5. When Wizards of the Coast acquired D&D and released 3rd edition, "Thief" became "Rogue", "backstab" became "sneak attack", and the damage multiplier became extra dice.

But it get's worse.

1st and 2nd edition were kind of vague on multiclassing, but even so, the classes were treated separately and most DM's just made players split xp between classes, which, given the different xp requirements (thieves gained levels much faster than any other class), normally resulted in a staggered advancement. "13th level fighter-thief" is pretty much meaningless. In 3rd edition all classes used the same xp table for level progression, and the concepts of character level and class level were specified. So "13th level fighter/rogue" would indicate a character level of thirteen, but says nothing about the level of each class. The character would be listed as (for example) a "3/10 fighter/rogue" instead. However, given the "Got seven hit die on the backstab" line, the character would need 13 rogue levels to have a sneak attack of +7d6, and would have no fighter levels.

Which brings me to my last point:

"Die" is singular. "Dice" is plural. No D&D geek would say "seven hit die", and many might become violent upon hearing it. "Seven hit dice" is correct.

As Jac said once: "You're going to have to try a lot harder than that if you want to be a geek at this table."

Later,

Saturday, August 25, 2012

RPG Test (from Dragon Magazine, December 1987)

I used to subscribe to Dragon, back in the mid-80s. I do remember this test.


Take this exam and join the adventuring horde! 

Dragon Magazine DECEMBER 1987
by Lawrence R. Raimonda Times are hard, and adventures promising wealth and fame are few and far between. How can you make sure that you are right for the adventurer's life? How? It's easy! Here at the Greyhawk Institute for Adventurous Neophyte Training, we have come up with the sure-fire solution: the Superior Personality Under Development course. That's right! Personality is the key to conquest! It's the real reason one fighter is chosen over the other when adventuring groups are formed. Are you too sophisticated for hack-n-slash? Do friends call you "stupid" as a compliment? Do rabid orcish marauders think of you as being too aggressive? No problem! At the Greyhawk Institute for Adventurous Neophyte Training, we'll put you through an intense program of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Also, at no extra cost, you will receive our Superior Personality Under Development study guide. Just take a few minutes and fill out the following application. You can't afford to pass this opportunity by! 1. You've just arrived in a new town. You immediately: a. sigh in relief. b. find the nearest tavern. c. strip down to your underwear. d. do all of the above, to start with.
2. Wizards are: a. snappy dressers. b. valuable allies. c. awful darn cute. d. awful darn cute on the end of a spear.
3. What's the best way to test for trapdoors? a. With eyes shut. b. Make the half-ogre go first. c. Jump up and down a lot. d. Burn the place to the ground.
4. It's late at night, the moon is full, and you notice that your partner is turning hairy. What do you do? a. Compliment him on his coiffure. b. Whip out the scissors and wolves-bane. c. Check your pack for doggie chow. d. Join him.
5. A portable hole: a. a day keeps the ogre away. b. comes in handy in the king's treasury. c. What? d. holds a lot of beer
6. Given the choice, you'd rather have: a. Lint-free chain mail. b. 1,000,000 gold pieces. c. A chocolate-chip cookie. d. A sword and a major land war.
7. Describe a hill giant. a. A large, smelly Muppet. b. Big, hairy, ugly, and strong. c. Your last blind date. d. All of the above.
8. You are in a cave when your torch goes out. You: a. scream. b. cannot see. c. hit your head. d. throw the torch away and continue on ahead.
9. Your deity tells you to walk on hot coals. You promptly: a. practice shouting"Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" b. get a new deity. c. invite your friends to a cook-out. d. attack him.
10. You find out that the ship you are on is manned by vicious, savage buccaneers. You: a. double-check the travel brochure. b. swim for shore. c. taunt them. d. join them.
11. What makes your mouth water? a. Vichyssoise. b. A leg of mutton and a jug of mead. c. A burger and fries. d. A dead brontosaurus.
12. What is a bard? a. A sophisticated, wandering musician. b. My DM doesn't allow them. c. A piece of lumber. d. The hair on your face.
13. What scares you the most? a. Gross, icky, crawly things. b. A tribe of bloodthirsty primitives on your doorstep. c. An umber hulk in leotards. d. Mom.
14. Which would you take as your share of the loot? a. Gems and jewelry. b. A treasure map. c. A wooden nickel. d. The loot.
15. Someone in your party is a thief. It's probably: a. that mysterious, cloaked stranger. b. the dwarf with his hand in your pocket. c. your horse. d. all of the above. [e. You -- added for accuracy in my case]
16. You are trapped by a cave-in. You immediately: a. scream again. b. try to dig your way out. c. choose the best position to be found in. d. kill the fool who knocked over the support beam.
17. Your favorite choice for a pet would be: a. a gerbil. b. a war dog. c. a dung beetle. d. a mammoth.
18. How can you detect for evil alignment among your henchmen? a. Look for bad penmanship. b. Cast a spell. c. Flip a coin. d. Use torture.
19. What is the first thing you should say when you spot a bugbear? a. "So, how does my leg taste?" b. "Don't come any closer! I've got a sword! " c. "Nice ears" d. "Yo! Ugly! Let's party!"
20. If there's anything you hate, it's: a. mismatched armor. b. being drawn and quartered. c. the letter"c." d. not got long to live.
21. Witches: a. make great gingerbread. b. aren't allowed in my DM's campaign either. c. Where? d. don't wear underwear.
22. There's nothing more exciting than: a. the full moon at midnight. b. the thrill of victory. c. answering this question. d. hand-to-hand combat with a thousand cannibals.
23. What heals all wounds? a. Thyme. b. Time. c. Tyme. d. A week in a harem.
24. Select a title for yourself. a. Gerard the Thoughtful. b. Lars the Mighty. c. Fred. d. The Terror of Morovia.
25. Keep an eye on your fellow traveler. He might be: a. a barbarian. b. a thief. c. a Democrat. d. Demogorgon.
26. A princess is trapped in a dragon's cave. You should: a. ask someone to help her out. b. rescue the princess. c. rescue the dragon. d. rob them both.
27. What's the most important thing about making camp? a. Keep the marshmallows in a clean, dry place. b. Keep the fire low and post guards. c. Have appropriate party games. d. Have the others do all the work.
28. The best kind of partner is one with: a. a warm personality. b. a good sword-arm. c. a game of checkers. d. a keg of ale.
29. If you had to choose one of four doors before you, which would it be? a. The door out. b. The treasure-room door. c. That one. d. The booby-trapped door.
30. In matters of life and death, you should: a. choose life. b. avoid death. c. dress warmly. d. Loot and kill and pillage and burn.
31. You find the thief who stole your horse, money bag, and provisions. You then: a. count from 1 to 10 before speaking. b. demand your belongings back, or else. c. give him the rest of your things. d. turn him into lasagne.
32. Before you'd ever abandon your friends, you'd rather: a. kiss a goat. b. slap a sunburned frost giant on the back. c. get permission first. d. get all of their money first.
33. "Halt!" means: a. "Surrender! " b. "Stop! " c. "Hello! " d. "Attack!"
34. If asked what your price is for a dirty adventuring job, what do you say? a. "Lunch at the Bulette Cafe." b. "The going rate." c. "I'll pay anything!" d. "How much have you got? Your family, then how much have they got? Mmm. Got any sisters?"
35. You find yourself alone and unarmed in a cave with 100 hungry carnivorous apes. What is your next move? a. Hide. b. Hide. c. Hide. d. Fight.
36. You must never forget: a. to clean up afterward. b. your spells. c. the . . . the, uh . . . uh . . . d. to check for treasure.
37. The best way to handle a poisonous spider is: a. from afar. b. with a glove. c. by blackmail. d. with a hammer of thunderbolts.
38. An ogre invites you to dinner. You should: a. check his references. b. decline. c. accept. d. show up wearing your best ogreslayer
39. You find a dwarf chained in a cell. He says that he'll lead you to lots of treasure if you release him. You should: a. think about it. b. insist that he reveal the whereabouts of the treasure first. c. attack. d. release him.
40. There is a disguised dragon in the room. It must be: a. the terrier in love with your leg. b. the cow breathing fire. c. disguised. d. ready to die.
41. Your castle has been overrun by hobgoblins. You've been fighting and running from them all day, and have finally managed to hide from them. Then, your henchman knocks over a vase. You then: a. soil your pants. b. grit your teeth and ready your weapon. c. fix the vase. d. throw the henchman out into the hall.
42. You are trapped in a 10' x 10' room, and the walls are closing in. What do you do? a. Yell for help. b. Use a dagger to jam a wall. c. Leave. d. Wait for the hangover to pass.
43. What's the best way to catch a golem? a. Set out a saucer of milk. b. Dig a humongously deep pit. c. Is that a disease? d. Wrestle him down and hog-tie him.
44. What's a good sign that you've had too much to drink? a. The room is spinning. b. A wench is leaving the room with your money and your clothes, and you are smiling. c. You're out of milk. d. Your boots are covered with your dinner.
45. What's a druid good for? a. Flower arrangments. b. Nature spells. c. Beats me. d. Calling forest creatures for target practice.
46. If you were told that a treasure lay in a hole in the wall, would you stick your hand inside? a. No. b. Maybe. c. Inside what? d. Yes.
47. How strong are you? a. Not very. b. Above average. c. Not very; just had a bath. d. Damn strong.
48. Do you think there should be rights for orcs? a. Yes. b. No. c. Maybe. d. Sure: rights, lefts, right crosses, left jabs, right uppercuts....
49. Describe a daring deed. a. Inviting a goblin to a tupperware party. b. Facing a tribal chieftain in single combat. c. Housebreaking a hell hound. d. Leaping off a burning battlement into a crocodile-infested moat in front of an army of orcish archers.
50. What is the best thing you can say about skeletons? a. They make great tap dancers. b. They don't have many hit points. c. They don't eat much. d. Some of my best friends are skeletons.
"In just seven days, I can make a man out of you, unless of course you're a woman, which might make this all rather problematic." -- Rogar of Mooria, GIANT faculty member, Evaluation If you answered 30 or more questions with the same letter, then it is likely that you fall into a particular category of adventuring types. These are listed below: Type A: You're perhaps a little too civilized for most adventuring groups, but not beyond hope. You are certainly in need of personality development before being considered ready for any serious undertaking. Practice going without bathing for short periods of time, grimacing in a mirror, and not fainting at the sight of blood. Type B: You're probably referred to as dependable," "practical," "an OK guy," etc. There is not much wrong with you, and you should do well in the adventuring life. We recommend that you take our accelerated S.P.U.D. program. Type C: My, my. We are having a rough day, aren't we? This exam was probably tiring, but take a few minutes to rest and relax. When you're feeling better, take out all of your money and mail it to us, right away. That's right: every copper piece. Good, good. We're proud of you. Type D: Well, it appears that you have probably done more than your share of adventuring, and there's not much more we can add to your training. In fact, if you have some free time, we'd like you to join our teaching staff. Sure, others may call you a bloodthirsty maniac, but hey, who cares? We'll give you a portable hole full of beer and a major land war. Where can you beat that? You're darn right. Remember: Time is limited! Join the ranks of the G.I.A.N.T. graduates, and stand tall! Get out your crystal ball and call today for your first class! Sorcerers are standing by.
Later,

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Prometheus

Okay, in this review of Prometheus:

MovieBob expresses some minor disappointments, but declares the movie to be pretty good overall. Since none of his issues with the movie mean anything at all to me, I decided to catch a matinee this afternoon.

Have you ever seen a movie that was almost good? That you would have liked, except for a few seemingly minor details that just killed your enthusiasm? Prometheus was like that for me. So I'm going to vent here. Don't be surprised if I ramble.

Let me start with this: MovieBob discusses the extent to which this is a preqel to Alien. Whatever. This is totally a prequel to Alien. It's almost a damn remake. And like the Star Wars prequels, there are continuity issues by the end of the movie, which are kind of irritating.

 Supposedly smart people doing stupid things. (These people were selected for a deep space mission requiring two years in cryosleep, one way.  Presumably, they've been vetted for expertise, as well as the ability to cope with extremely stressful situations.) Like, not taking any kind of weapon when going to investigate an alien planet (this is kind of the "I'll be safe, I have a flashlight" trope that most horror movies use to make the characters helpless). Or this: It is noted early on that Vickers (Charlize Theron) stays in luxurious quarters that are actually a lifepod, completely separable from the rest of the ship. Towards the end, when things are going to hell, she needs to abandon ship, so she runs to the standard, coffin-sized escape pods; where she has to hurriedly don an environment suit before climbing into the pod. Her quarters/lifepod are shown to detach from the ship about ten seconds before her escape pod launches. So why didn't she just run to her quarters and buckle into a seat? After all, that sort of thing is explicitly given as the reason she set it up that way in the first place.  And why in the hell-of-being-cut-to-pieces is the medical pod in her quarters(!) programmed exclusively for male patients? (Seriously, why would any medical pod be?)

This next one is actually a big issue for me.  There is a scene where a small lifeform is left alone for a time (a few hours in this case).  When we next see it, it is huge.  However, it is clear that there was no source of food for it during that time.  So where did all that mass come from?  I sort of have the same issue with comic-book characters like the Hulk, except that in the comic-book genre it is easier to accept, because willing acceptance of super powers is necessary.  Hulk's sudden mass increase is no more unbelievable than Cyclops' laser-eyes or any other character's power.  And, for all its (oh, so many) flaws, the first Hulk movie tried to address the issue.  At one point the military was able to track the Hulk by looking for sudden temperature drops as he absorbed the ambient energy around him.  (I said "tried").  It's just part of the genre. But Prometheus (like Alien, Species, and every other sci-fi/horror movie that uses this) is supposed to have at least a nodding acquaintance with physics.

Finally, though I can't say it was intentional, my first thought on seeing the titular ship was "It looks suspiciously like Serenity on steroids."

So yeah.  Almost good, but overall not worth it.  I kind of want my two hours back.

Later,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Brownies

So I decided I wanted to make brownies. But I wanted to try something different. Here's what I did:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a double boiler*, I combined a can of Mtn Dew: Code Red, 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, one stick of butter and half a teaspoon of vanilla. I whisked it occasionally, but mostly just let it go while I prepared the rest.

In a mixing bowl, I combined one and a third cup flour, a quarter teaspoon salt, a quarter teaspoon baking soda, and 1 cup of sugar (I would have cut this in half or even left it out, if I'd been thinking. The Code Red has plenty of sugar already).

I separated out two egg yolks.

Now I poured the Code Red mixture into the dry ingredients, and beat with an electric mixer (scraping the sides with a spatula), then added the egg yolks while still beating. I also added a quarter cup of walnut pieces and some maraschino cherries I chopped.

I poured the batter into a greased brownie pan, and baked for 25 minutes.

As you can see, It came out more cake-like than brownie-like.



Still, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce, it was really good


It even wasn't over-sweet like I'd feared it would be. I'm calling this a success.

Later,

* My double boiler is a 1 qt saucepan and a 2 qt saucepan. Figure it out.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Today's episode of "Things that irritate me."

Okay, here's another thing that irritates me (is this a sign of getting old?):

Arrogant, iconoclastic jackasses who think their personal taste in music (or books, movies, whatever) is objectively correct and anyone who disagrees is simply wrong. These jerks seem to be positively eager to express their disdain and contempt. Bonus irritation if they also feel the need to expound at length on exactly why you are wrong.

Later,

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Mouse Trap

So I wrote this little applet. If you move the mouse into the gray panel, then press and hold the left button, you will not be able to move the mouse out of the panel until you release the button. It also leaves a trail, and tracks the location of the mouse cursor while it is being dragged around in the panel.

This uses Java's Robot class, which can take control of the keyboard and mouse. This is a big security risk, so, even though I promise that this applet does nothing malicious (or anything more than I've described for that matter), unless you know and/or trust me, do not give the applet permission to run.



If you don't give it permission, it will still track the mouse when dragged around in the panel, but it won't trap it there.

Later,