Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What's Cookin' Wednesday: Bruschetta!


So there's a place near me that has a huge selection of wines and beers and I was there Saturday picking up some wine. I thought to myself, hmm... what would go great with a nice red wine? Answer: Bruschetta! So I picked up the ingredients and got to work making it on Sunday. I often make bruschetta when I'm having a party and it usually goes over pretty well. It's pretty simple and makes a great snack even without the party though.

Ingredients:

1/2 of a French baguette
2 large tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 large bunch of basil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt & freshly group black pepper (to taste)


So first preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Then cut up the baguette into 1/2 thick slices and set aside.

Chop up the tomato, and onion and put in a non-reactive bowl (since we'll be using vinegar, an acid.) All I had was metal bowls so I had to make due with a pound cake bowl. Chop up the basil and add it to the bowl as well, but put some of it aside for later. Add the balsamic vinegar and some salt, stir it so everything gets coated in vinegar and let it chill out for a bit.

Meanwhile, back to the baguette slices. Lightly brush the olive oil on one side and lay out on a baking sheet. (I don't have one of those little brush things so I had to make due with a paper towel. It was kind of a pain.)

Put them in the oven for about 5 minutes.

When they come out spoon the mixture in the bowl onto the bread. Make sure you are just scooping solids though. If you are scooping the liquid from the bottom as well then the bruschetta will come out soggy. (I failed at remembering that this time, and some of them got soggy, but still yummy.)

Put them back in the oven for about 4 minutes and then when they come out sprinkle the basil you set aside from before on top. Not cooking all of the basil makes it look brighter and taste a bit fresher I think.

A few twists of ground pepper and you are ready to go!

I enjoyed the bruschetta with an Iron Stone Cabernet Franc, which is lighter than the other red I had, a Shiraz. I didn't want the wine to overpower the bruschetta, so that's why I chose the Cabernet Franc.

Aside from some soggy pieces as I mentioned before, it was pretty delicious.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Newsday Tuesday: Virtual Seals Have Rights Too!


"Animal rights stunt-group PETA is protesting Canada's culling of adorable baby seals this year by hosting a battle royale in World of Warcraft.

This Saturday, PETA is calling on activist gamers to combat a team of Horde "seal killers" set on bashing soft, furry heads on WoW's Whisperwind server. The demonstration takes place in the high-level zone of The Howling Fjord on the glaciers where baby seals frolic unassumingly."
(Full Story)

So this strikes me as pretty ridiculous even for PETA. The whole premise of the game is to go around and kill stuff. The programmers put the seals in the game for that specific purpose. Aren't there some real life animals they could be protecting?

There was also a totally different story I found that I thought was worth sharing. Apparently due to a loop hole, the paper industry is being paid to pollute more.

"Thanks to an obscure tax provision, the United States government stands to pay out as much as $8 billion this year to the ten largest paper companies. And get this: even though the money comes from a transportation bill whose manifest intent was to reduce dependence on fossil fuel, paper mills are adding diesel fuel to a process that requires none in order to qualify for the tax credit. In other words, we are paying the industry--handsomely--to use more fossil fuel. 'Which is,' as a Goldman Sachs report archly noted, the 'opposite of what lawmakers likely had in mind when the tax credit was established.' "
(Full Story)

Now, I realize that lawmakers aren't perfect, and that it's hard to think of all the clever ways that one might abuse the spirit of a tax credit like this, but shouldn't these loopholes get closed pretty rapidly? It doesn't seem like that is happening anytime soon.

Well, that's it for now. Hopefully these were interesting. :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Love India Pale Ales


So as far as beers go I'm a big fan of India Pale Ales (IPA). They are high on the hops which I think gives it a really good flavor. I am currently enjoying a Lagunitas IPA. I was out at a local market that has a huge wine and beer selection and I picked it up there. While I was at the market I also picked up ingredients for bruschetta! I made that today, but I'll save the full details for What's Cookin' Wednesday, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Exalted RPG: Judgment


So in my most recent Exalted RPG session we switched to a different Storyteller and also allowed a lot of game world time to pass. Yesterday's post details part of what my character did over the break, and introduces a new character (the mouseman Lunar Exalted, Li).

So a long time ago our characters encountered a powerful Solar Exalted named Bringer who was possessed by an evil, spirit-eating sword named Judgment that is bent on breaking into heaven and laying waste to all the "slothful" gods. (As my character Leggit works for Heaven, he knows that this means essentially all of them, heh.) Bringer claims to have an army assembled in an underwater city and that he is nearly ready to assault Heaven. We wrote Bringer off as a nutjob, though admittedly he did kill a bunch of the giant shark spirits we were trying to befriend. Leggit filed a report in Heaven about him anyway, and Light, the Solar Exalted in our group, arranged a meeting with him for a year later in hopes that he'd learn a way to free Bringer from the sword in the meantime.

Well, a year went by and Bringer didn't show. He did however show up on our hidden island and nearly killed one of our friends. Needless to say, now it's personal. Leggit goes up to Heaven to follow up on his initial report and finds out that Bringer, Judgment, and a giant underwater city disappeared from the loom of fate sometime ago. Bringer's story about an army in an underwater city suddenly seems a lot more credible.

So our group goes out to a black jade trading island near where the underwater city is supposed to be and we investigate. It seems there has been a sudden increase in black jade demand. (Black jade can be used to make magical armor, just what you'd want if you were equipping an army to assault Heaven.) Leggit uses a Charm, Serendipitous Voyage, to ensure that a vessel arriving on the island sometime in the next day will be fated to head to the underwater city. We stopped there, so hopefully next session we'll get to the city and lay the smackdown on Bringer and his army!

Online Dinner Reservations

So a friend just sent this link: www.opentable.com

You can use it to make restaurant reservations online! I kind of hate calling places so this is excellent for me. I went ahead and tried it out and it seems to have worked fine. We'll see when I show up. :)

I can't believe that I used to think it was scary that you could do stuff like this from a computer. Now I think it's awesome!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Exalted RPG: Collaborative Creative Writing

So one of the players in my Exalted RPG, and I wrote a story for what our characters were up to between sessions. We did most of the writing together in Google Docs. Google Docs allows multiple people to view and edit a document at the same time. So we were able to start from an outline, each work on different sections, watch the changes being made by each other in real time and adapt and shift our own parts of the story accordingly. It was an interesting and fun experience in collaborative creative writing.

Here's the story we ended up coming up with (I've added [bracketed explanations] for some of the terms and places from the Exalted world setting):

Going by the information discovered from Marlina's trips to The Neck [The Neck = medium cluster of islands in the middle of the West], Li is investigating the rumor that Wavecrest ships [Wavecrest = large island nation to the south of The Neck] have been capturing slaves from The Neck to give as tribute to the Realm [Realm = continent in center of Creation controlled by Dragonblooded Exalts]. As a former slave himself, Li feels obligated to stop this. Unfortunately, he is a little too late and the islanders have already been rounded up and placed on the slave ship.

Knowing that he alone can't take down a fleet of armed men, Li transforms into a small gray mouse and boards the ship. From listening in on conversations and from reading the captain's log, an entire fleet of slave ships is preparing to leave Wavecrest in two months. Li knows that this would be the perfect opportunity to end the slaving operation and to harm Wavecrest, the only real Realm bastion in the West.

***

In the guise of a sea gull, Li flies back off the ship and back to Suryadvipa [Suryadvipa = small newly created, and populated island on the Western edge of the Wyld; also, our base of operations]. He brings this information to the circle. Light and Dorean are too busy working on plans for an artifact, but Marcus and Leggit are both interested. Marcus, being a defender of humanity, would love to get the chance to bring justice to Realm slavers. Leggit is interested in the operation for more political reasons. By disrupting the slave trade, he hopes to bring tension between the Realm and Wavecrest. Perhaps enough tension that the Wyld Hunt teams [Wyld Hunt = Dragonblooded Exalted teams that kill other types of Exalts like us] will retreat from the West for a bit.

The group plans to ambush the slaver fleet. Leggit will lead the ships while Li and Marcus will free the prisoners and slay the captains.

***

On the night of their voyage the Wavecrest slaver fleet sets out for the Realm. Unbeknownst to them, waiting in their path is the Suryadvipa fleet. Under cover of night, Leggit walks out onto the water (using the hearthstone borrowed from Light) leading a group of water elementals to create a dense fog bank between the slaver fleet and the Suryadvipa forces. Li, Marcus and Leggit's familiar Ati set out through the night fog in a small boat heading for the slaver ships. Marcus goes from ship to ship, drops off Li, then finds and assassinates the crew's leadership.

As a tiny mouseman with streaking silver across his body, Li sneaks down into the slave holds of the ship. As he picks the locks of the manacles he says, "I am Asdon, God of Mice. The gods do not want you to become slaves of the Realm, so I have come to rescue you. Ships are on their way and they will take you back to an island paradise if you choose. When you hear a horn blow three times, you must storm the decks and take out the crew. Be strong and brave, for the gods are with you this night. Now I most go and free your friends." After that, Li moves up and on deck to find Marcus. Marcus picks up Li and jumps to the next ship to continue freeing the slaves. Ati follows Li iand Marcus immaterially and when the last of the ships have been reached Ati uses Hurry Home to return to Leggit's side. Leggit organizes the fleet into battle positions and at the blow of his horn a coordinated ambush on the slaver fleet begins.

Caught surprised in the night fog, without leadership, and with the slaves revolting, the slaver fleet quickly surrenders. Those who are willing to start a new life in Suryadvipa are welcomed. The freed slaves who do not come are returned to their homes, the slavers who do not are killed, and the slaver ships are added to Suryadvipa's fleet with some modifications.

***

Wavecrest finds their main tie to the Neck (the slave trade) abruptly severed and must scramble to come up with the realm tribute which was to be the large shipment of slaves. Wavecrest's ability to investigate the incident or retaliate is delayed due to their dealings with the Realm.

In the meantime Dorean and Li spread anti-slaving propoganda to those barbarians in the Neck who actively traded slaves to Wavecrest. Thus providing a further barrier for Wavecrest in re-establishing their interests in the Neck.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What's Cookin' Wednesday: Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie


So for What's Cookin' Wednesday I decided to switch it up from the entree dishes I'd been showing and do a smoothie! This one was a Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie.

The ingredients:

8 ice cubes
1/2 cup vanilla low fat yogurt
1 cup skim milk
1 cup semi-thawed frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon chocolate-hazelnut spread
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon wheat germ

Just put everything in a blender, blend for about a minute until it's smooth and you're all set. (I added an extra little sprinkle of slivered almonds in the glass as a garnish, but it's not really necessary.)

It ends up making enough for 2 large glasses each having 291 calories. (You could omit the chocolate-hazelnut spread and have it be 241 calories a glass.) It makes for a great breakfast or snack and is pretty healthy. The almonds and wheat germ give it a bit of thickness and texture that I enjoy, but if you don't like little bits of almond you may want to blend it a little longer to make sure they are broken down finely. It hadn't added the chocolate-hazelnut spread when I had made this before but I decided to switch it up a bit. I couldn't really distinguish the two chocolate flavors at the end, so in the future I'd probably omit the spread. (I LOVE it with other things though, especially on bagels or in a crepe with bananas... mmm... I need to make crepes again soon).

Anyway, once you get the general proportions down, smoothies are great fun to experiment with. I've tried different fruit combinations, peanut butter, various nuts, ricotta cheese, even leftover coffee. (There was coffee in the pot from the morning once and I used it for frozen mocha inspired smoothie.)

I highly recommend you all give smoothies a try if you haven't already. Be sure to let me know if you come up with any big hits!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Too-deep-for-a-Monday: Raging Force


So it's getting late and I was trying to decide whether I was going to skip Too-deep-for-a-Monday and just post something about the news for Newsday-Tuesday but as I was looking through my poems it occurred to me that a had one that is vaguely relevant to two current news stories. The flooding in the Midwest and the G20 protests in London. It's not exactly the same, but close enough. I figure it's fitting for a Monday post so close to Tuesday.



The prompt for this poem was 'extended metaphor'. I tried to weave the metaphor through the whole thing, and I think it worked out well. Hope you like it.

Raging Force

The demonstrators march peacefully through the streets
Like the steady flow of a quiet river.
A sudden storm arises in the skies;
The crowd’s anger surges
Then breaks open like the floodgates.
The quiet river runs rampant.

Waves of punches flow through the crowd.
The waters smack violently against the sandbags;
The policemen each armed with nightsticks and barrier shields
Strain to keep the swelling rioters back.
The sandbags become saturated;
A weak point collapses under heavy force.
A torrent of rioters rush though the police line.
Someone throws a rock through a shop window;
The looting begins.

Boarded up houses offer little resistance
To the barrage of water permeating through every crevice.
No sofa, no bed, or television is safe.
Teargas canisters shoot into the mob;
The rioters’ resolve begins to weaken.
Finally the floodwaters crest.
Left with no other options the police open fire;
The mad river begins to recede.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Settlers of Catan, and Web Comics I Like


Yesterday a friend sent me this article from Wired Magazine about a board game of German origin called Settlers of Catan. Each player is a tribe that collect resources and build roads and cities on an island called Catan. From the article I discovered that you can play the game online for free at playCatan.com. (You do have to download the game client software though.) So I thought I'd give it a try, and it was really fun. It involves some strategy but the rules aren't too complicated. Also, unlike some board games that take FOREVER, this one can be played in just about an hour.

I had actually heard of the game before. There was a reference to it in a comic I read called Questionable Content. I looked up Settlers of Catan then, just briefly, but I hadn't discovered I could play it online until now. I'm really glad I heard about the game again.

And on the subject of comics, I found a new comic today through my Google Reader suggestions. (I love you Google!) It's called Anti-Heros, and is a humorous comic about a troupe of villains in an RPG game. It's based off a comic that I've been reading for quite a while called The Order of the Stick.

I'm a big fan of web comics, so if any of you out there know some good ones you should recommend them to me. I am always looking for fun comics to read when I should be doing more important things.

Friday, March 27, 2009

RPG Friday: Exalted Game Update and RPG Links

So today is RPG Friday and I have a couple of things to share. First, I discovered from reading RPG Blog II an RPG forum which I've joined and has been kind of fun. It's called The RPG Haven.

Second, I had another game day of my Exalted table-top RPG. The person running the game (the 'storyteller' or 'ST' in Exalted terminology) is unfortunately going to stop so we'll be switching to a different ST. I hope the game survives the transition as it has been a lot of fun.

Last time we had just saved a newly Exalted Solar from dual threats of a rival barbarian island and a Wyld Hunt team. This time we managed to convince the Wyld Hunt team to join us. (We made them an offer they couldn't refuse... namely sinking their ship if they didn't cooperate.) And all of us together went into the volcano to fight the Raksha (a chaos entity) inside and cleanse the volcano of the chaos-taint. My character very nearly died (should have actually, but the ST was nice) though he did manage to hit the Raksha with an Arrow of Reason before he went down, which allowed the rest of the group to actually damage the Raksha. (yay!) Unluckily for us, cleansing the chaos from the volcano triggered a violent eruption and we just barely were able to evacuate the island in time.

So all in all, it was a fun session.

On a regular life note, I've been dealing with having my door repaired for the last two days and have been busy trying to get research finished so I have missed some posts. I didn't cook anything this week so no "What's Cookin Wednesday" anyway. :( I'll probably make pesto and chicken again tonight, like I did for St. Patrick's Day since it was so yummy, maybe I'll get a better picture this time.

Well, my equipment has probably finished sterilizing in the autoclave so I should probably go check on it, so that's all for now. Take care!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Random Movie Inspired RPG Idea

So I saw the movie "Body of Lies" not too long ago, it's about a CIA operative in the Middle East. One of the big things they kept showing is this control room with a satellite feed where they could zoom in to someone's chin hair and track them wherever they went as long as they were outside.

This got me thinking, what if there was something like that in a magic campaign setting. Perhaps a scrying command center that could peer out of any reflective surface.

I can just imagine it:
"We've set up a perimeter sire, 30 scrying surfaces active." "Target is on the move, I need more surfaces activated to the southwest. Come on people, we're going to lose him! We need about 20 more scrying bowls in here, stat! So help me gods, I'll have you all doing hard labor down in the mana mines if you screw this up! And this coffee is fricking COLD!!!"

Newsday-Tuesday: Internet killed the newspaper star


The chain that owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune is in bankruptcy. Other papers, large and small, are teetering on the brink.

On Monday, the Ann Arbor (Michigan) News announced that it will publish its last edition in July. Taking its place will be a Web site called AnnArbor.com.


So on this Newsday-Tuesday I thought I'd look at what is happening to newspapers across the country. It seems that the internet and the recession are becoming a one-two punch for the newspaper industry and local papers are dropping like flies. Now, personally I never really read the newspaper, but I do read news on the internet. I don't know if online journalism can attract the same amount of revenue and thus the same amount of talent.

This concerns me because I think journalism plays an important function in a democratic society. Without it corruption can take root and spread without anyone taking note. (Not that this doesn't happen with a healthy media, but it at least reduces it somewhat.) I hope something will be able to fill this void, but I fear that nothing will and an important check on corporate and government behavior will be lost.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Too-deep-for-a-Monday: Altruism - Why?


So I decided for today's Too-deep-for-a-Monday I would discuss a philosophical issue I've been pondering lately. (I'm rapidly running out of my stock of poems and I figured this would be a good alternative.) The issue is the phenomenon of Altruism.

Altruism is behavior that benefits others over oneself. I have been contemplating for a while, why does such behavior happen? It seems like people should want to look out for their own interests if they can, and thus altruistic behavior is backwards.

Here's my thoughts thus far, feel free to comment and add your own if you'd like.

My first thought is maybe it is just a moral imperative. Altruistic behavior is what we "should" do, so we do.

But for this to be true, who's keeping score? For those with religious beliefs that's an easy answer, but what about those without religious beliefs? Surely they can still have a moral code. What motivates them? (I guess in retrospect this proposed solution just shifts the problem from the question of why altruism to why morals. But I had a thought on morals anyway.)

Perhaps morals are a defense mechanism.

The logic might be like this, "the world is crazy and unpredictable, but if I follow this moral code then there's a semblance of order and predictability and that makes me feel better" or perhaps, "I can't directly control the behavior of others, but by having a public moral code, with disincentives to breaking it, maybe I'll gain some protection even if it limits my behavior." Friedrich Nietzsche had an idea kind of similar to this.

Perhaps morals have nothing to do with it, maybe Altruism is simply done out of the expectation of future rewards. For the religious there is the concept of reward in the afterlife for good deeds now, but the rewards don't have to be that far out to still motivate. Social image can be a future reward that works in this life. Perhaps Altruism benefits an individual by building a good reputation with others, maybe even by building a good reputation to oneself (we like to think we are good people, right?)


It occurs to me though that animals can be altruistic too, so at least part of the motivation has to be pretty fundamental.

Perhaps along the lines of the future rewards thing, it's just simple reciprocity - I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.

Another possibility is that it is simply hard wired behavior in our brain (i.e. it just makes us feel good) - how would this have come to be? There's an easy answer from creationist/intelligent design perspective (it's just the way the Creator/Designer wanted it), but what about from an evolutionary perspective? For altruism to be hard wired, it would have to have been a successful trait. Altruism would seem to make an individual less fit (by using resources for the benefit of another, rather than oneself), but perhaps groups of altruistic individuals fare better than groups of selfish individuals.

So yeah, those are my thoughts on Altruism thus far. And that's it for this Too-deep-for-a-Monday. As I said before, feel free to comment if you have any thoughts. Maybe we can get a good discussion going about this. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Of visits, games and that which is flat.

So I'm done with winter quarter. Yay! I haven't gotten back all my grades yet, but I think my GPA should stay around the same. This coming week I have to get as much research done as I can so I have "conclusive data" with which I can write my thesis. My parents came up and visited today. We went out and had a nice brunch and then went to the park. I had homeworks to grade but they went surprisingly fast.

I went bowling yesterday, which was fun, though I'm not as good as I used to be when I was on a league (169 average then, bowled around a 120 last night). Also, I played "Go" for the first time yesterday. It didn't go very well though (pun intended). My attacks were too slow for my opponent and I forfeited the game after several major captures on his part. It seems like an interesting game though. Easy to learn the basics but tough to master the strategy.

The other day I picked up a book called Flatland from the bookstore and I've been reading that some today. It's about a 2D world, where shapes have a society. All of the women are lines and the men are shapes of varying sidedness. The higher number of sides the more respected. The book seems very harsh towards women which I found to be strange since I was expecting basically a playful mathematical sort of story.

Well, that's about all for my weekend update for today. See ya!

Friday, March 20, 2009

RPG Friday - A new Exalt


So my Exalted role-playing game day got moved to Tuesday this week (not sure why) but it was a fun session. Our group got a hot tip from the fate planners in Heaven that a new Solar Exaltation was going happen soon on a particular island and our group was sent to investigate. Turns out the island is inhabited by crazy barbarians who worship the volcano on their island and sacrifice captured enemies to it. They are also cannibals and got highly offended when one of our group members refused to dine at their feast (my character).

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about apparently the hot tip we got from Heaven got spread around a bit and a Wyld Hunt team was also alerted to the coming Exaltation and was dispatched to the island. (The Wyld Hunt are Dragon-blooded Exalts who hunt down Solar exalts and kill them. Most Dragon-blooded think that Solars are demons and threaten the stability of creation.) The Wyld Hunt team began circling the island in their ship, presumably waiting for the exaltation to occur. We debated having our Solar flare his anima to trick the Wyld Hunt team into thinking that the exaltation was happening and then ambush them but ultimately decided that the essence expenditure of the battle that would inevitably ensue could tangle fate to the point that the exaltation prediction might end up not coming to pass.

In the end a rival island came and attacked, led by powerful fire elementals (from the volcanoes on the nearby islands). The chieftain’s wife Exalted protecting the village’s children from the elementals, and the Wyld Hunt team sprang into action. Their sorceress casted a tracking spell that summoned a wind hound to hunt down the new Exalt, and our sorcerer responded by bringing a meteor down from the sky into their ship… twice… ha! They had a water aspected Dragon-Blooded on board that put out the fires and shored up the damage and when we stopped the game they were in a panicked retreat. We have yet to decide if we are going to pursue or just let them go and hope that we can convince the newly Exalted Solar to come with us before the Wyld Hunt team comes back with reinforcements.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What's Cookin' Wednesday - It's not Irish but it's Green!


So I decided to make a green themed meal for St. Patrick's Day, and unfortunately it had mixed results. I started it with a spinach and artichoke dip (not shown), but I accidentally got a bunch of the liquid from the jar of artichokes into it, which gave it a really briny off taste. I'm going to have to give it another try soon though. I got some aged Asiago cheese to go in it which was really yummy and I'd like to get it to work nicely. The rest of the food was awesome, though the picture doesn't do it justice. I will have to remember to be careful how close I take pictures with that camera. On the left is thin-sliced chicken breast with a poultry rub. On the right is spinach and egg angel hair pasta with a basil pesto. Full disclosure, these elements were just store-bought, but I did have a final exam on Tuesday and today, so I didn't have a ton of time.


Today I went out for food and the place was still serving green beer so I figured what the heck, why not? I think it was just Miller Lite underneath the green though, which I'm not really a huge fan of, but oh well.

A while ago a friend showed me a recipe for Beer Cupcakes, which I tried and were delicious! I was tempted to try to come up with a recipe for Green Beer Cupcakes, but again, I didn't have tons of time. I'm still milling it over though and I may try it this weekend. It would be easy to just do the same recipe and add green food coloring, but for one, green beer is typically not made from a dark beer like Guiness (which the recipe calls for) so it's kind of a cop out, and two, it's a chocolate cupcake, and green food coloring might just make it a really gross color. I guess I could just do the icing green, though. Anyway, if anyone has suggestions on what might work for a green beer cupcake let me know and perhaps I'll give it a try.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Newsday-Tuesday - Crazy Japanese Technology


So I found two stories about technology stuff from Japan. I'm not sure which is weirder. The first one is about a female robot fashion model. I would like to point out that this is usually the first step towards giant robots destroying Tokyo in your typical anime movie. Careful Japan!

The second is this bizarre Karaoke mic that is supposed to be for singing discretely. The rationale is that walls are thin in a lot of apartments in Japan and thus people have been hesitant to have crazy karaoke sing-a-long parties... until now. What pray tell is the motive to sing karaoke if you can't actually hear it? You might as well just lip sync and save yourself the money.

Anyway, I thought those were interesting/funny. Hopefully you agree. :) Everyone be on the look out for robotic doppelgangers with trendy threads and people singing really bad karaoke really quietly.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Too-deep-for-a-Monday -- Dreams


So my next and last idea for a theme day is "Too-deep-for-a-Monday Mondays". Where I share some of my poetry or discuss philosophical questions or whatnot. I figure maybe it'll give me and maybe others something to ponder, and perhaps even bring a little bit of a Zen-peacefulness type mood to start off the week. Lol, I think my aspirations for this idea might be too deep already. ;)

So anyway, I finally finished the reports I've been working on, and I have been staying up way late each night and into the morning doing them so I really need some sleep. In light of this, I thought I'd share a poem I wrote called "Dreams." The prompt for this poem was "Seven ways of seeing (blank)," which might help to explain the structure a bit. Anyway, here it is. I'm off to get a few hours of sleep before I have to head into the lab.

Dreams

A boat flowing down
A river of garbled thoughts.
Waves of random neurons fire,
Splashing pictures in a sleeping brain.

The shattered fragments of a day’s events
Haphazardly collected and refashioned -
A moonlit mosaic.

A warped mirror, reflecting life
Not quite as it is.

Beautiful attendants all around,
I relax, lounging on my throne.
A pleasant breeze is wafted over me
From the servant’s palm leaf,
Then the alarm clock buzzes.
Too brief a respite from incessant reality.

A cacophony of memories and images
Each striking a cord
In a whimsical night song.

A cauldron, stirred by a mysterious shaman,
Brimming with cryptic messages and portents.
Strange symbols bubble over into the mind.

Magical illusions shimmer,
Glitter flying through the night air.
Then, like dust settled,
All is swept away.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weekend Update - Fun with Fluid Dynamics

So in the scheme of my blog themes, I've decided that at least one weekend day will be "Weekend Update" where I give a look at what has been keeping me busy.

The last few days I've been trying to get projects finished for my classes and have thus missed a few days of posts. (I had planned to post about my role-playing game, but that got canceled anyway due to my workload, so I'm not sure what I would have posted anyway.)

I still don't really have time to blog, I have one more report to do and it's a day late already. But I wanted a break and I thought I'd share some neat looking images from my computational fluid dynamics report. I had to model two jets of water coming in from the sides of the tank seen here, and coming out the top.

The velocity contours the program makes, like the one below are pretty cool looking.

This one shows that my flow is coming out the wrong end for one my simulations... epic fluid dynamics fail!

This is a picture of the static pressure profile, I thought it kind of looked like wings or something.

These last two show the velocity looking like what it's actually supposed to. Yay!


So yeah, I'm not sure if these are actually interesting or if I've just been staring at this stuff for WAY too long. You decide. :)

Well, back to work on the other report. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's Cookin' Wednesday - Shrimp and Red Pepper in Vodka Sauce


So continuing with my next theme day... Wednesdays shall be "What's Cookin' Wednesdays" where I talk about something exciting I've cooked, or food and drink that I just find yummy or interesting. I figure it'll also motivate me to cook something fun at least once a week, which is always a good thing.

So today I made Shrimp and Red Pepper in Vodka Sauce.

10 oz jumbo shrimp (frozen)
1 medium sized red bell pepper
1 jar vodka sauce
12 stalks of asparagus
1 good handful of thin spaghetti (I'm not really sure how much that is, I always sorta just guess... enough for two or three servings)

I cooked the pasta as normal but took it out a bit before it needed to and put it in a pan with the vodka sauce and the red pepper to cook a little more. Cooked the shrimp in boiling water as per the instructions on the bag, then added them to the pasta and stirred. Steamed the asparagus for about 8 minutes over low boiling water.

Not too complicated really, but it turned out decent. I had the idea that rings of the pepper would look neat and be fun, but it turned out that they were hard to cut up while eating. If I did it again I'd probably chop them up more. Some fresh grated Parmesan cheese would have really put it over the top, I wish I would have thought of that at the store.

I paired it with a Chateau Ste. Michelle dry Riesling that I've been wanting to try. I tend to go for reds but I like a good white wine every once in a while. Rieslings are my favorite as far as whites go.

Anyway, it was fun, and now I have leftovers for lunch at school tomorrow. (Yay!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

News-day Tuesday - Embryonic Stem Cell Debate


So I'm going to try to take Breeze's advice and have "theme days" to organize what I post about. I've decided that Tuesdays will be "News-day Tuesday" where I give my take on issue(s) currently in the news. So here goes:

"President Barack Obama will reverse the U.S. government’s ban on funding stem-cell research today and pledge to 'use sound, scientific practice and evidence, instead of dogma' to guide federal policy, an adviser said. ..."

I'm sure this story is old news to most of you by now, but I feel I'm in a unique position to comment on it since I actually DO research on embryonic stem cells. (From mice in my case though, not humans.)

First, some points of clarification.

Stem cells are an area of interest becaue they can turn into different cell types and thus might be used to treat degenerative diseases or restore damaged tissue.

There are different kinds of stem cells. Some are adult stem cells, the kind we all have in our bodies. These can be used to turn into a large variety of cell types, but normally not all cell types.

Embryonic stem cells (ES cells), are those from an embryo (as the name suggests) and those can turn into ANY cell type.

Also, it is my understanding that there are already government approved ES cell lines but that they are not as good as others being used in private research.

Another important point is that researchers have successfully transformed adult stem cells to give them similar morphing power to ES cells. They call these iPS cells (induced Pluripotent Stem cells). Unfortunately they still haven't worked out all the kinks in these cells, and the genes they use to transform the cells are also involved in tumor/cancer formation.


Ok, now on to the current story:

My gut reaction is to be in favor of Obama reversing the ban. This is in line with my "I want science to cure death so I can live forever" philosophy, as it potentialy removes a road block to life extending research. But, as many have pointed out already, there exists the ethical question of "does using ES cells sacrifice innocent human life?" Since I work with mouse ES cells every day, it's easier for me to justify in my head that ES cells are "just cells." Though in the case of human ES cells there's still a nagging uncertainty in the back of my head. On one hand, yes, given the right conditions an embryo can develop into a fully functioning human being, that's where we all came from, but on the other hand, the embryos people want to use are destined to be disposed of anyway, so perhaps using that potential life for good is better than letting the life die in vain. So even if I consider the ES cells human life and not "just cells" I still am uncertain.


From a different perspective, the use of ES cells versus iPS cells both have technical advantages and disadvantes.

For ES cells, you are probably going to be dealing with cells from one person being used in another person's body (this can work, like in organ transplants and whatnot) but the body recognizes cells with a different genetic make up as foreign and the immune system tends to attack them. This is overcome with transplants by trying to find close matches and also by using immunosuppressants while the organs are being integrated. The immune response may limit the utility of ES cell usage to the point that it's not really feasible. Who knows?

For iPS cells, you have the advantage of being able to harvest them from the same person who will be recieving them, thus immune response is not an issue. However, there's still the threat of possibly giving the person cancer based on the current form of iPS cell technology. Also, iPS cells may not behave quite the same way as ES cells, so their response in the body might not be as good.


In the end I think that even if ES cells do not end up being used for therapy, the basic research with them will give us a better understanding of how stem cells work and is likely to result in research results faster. As I said, there is a nagging concern in the back of my head, but it hasn't been enough to totally change my mind.

If I am ever in a position where I'll be working with actual human ES cells, I'd probably have to do some soul searching to decide if I really truly think that this is ok.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What's in a name?

So Breeze made a comment asking me about my screen name and I figured other people might wonder about it so I thought I'd post a brief explanation. Here goes.

Nano- is for "nanotechnology," a hot topic in chemical engineering and especially in biomolecular (my area of focus in chemical engineering). -bri is for "Brian," my first name. Put the two together and you get "nanobri". I came up with the name when I was taking a nanotech class and was registering for some random site. I decided I like it though and have been phasing it in as my standard screen name.

Anyway, now you know. :)

Where to go from here...

So I only have one week left of classes and then finals week. I am really looking forward to this quarter being over. Though next quarter is going to be worse. I have to write my master's thesis then. I really hope I get my research done. If I have to stay another quarter then that's going to create all sorts of craziness.

I was grading stuff this past thursday which is my usual Exalted role-playing game day, so I missed a session. :( I'm working on a write-up of what my character did and perhaps I'll post that here when I'm done.

I'm kind of unsure of the direction I want to go with this blog. That's part of the reason I haven't posted in a while (the other part being that it's crunch time at school). I could go the RPG route and talk more generally about random ideas that I think would be fun in a game or just neat concepts in general. I could post more of the poetry I've done, and perhaps new stuff if I write anymore. There's random life updates. Philosophical musings. More about my research or other science-y things I find interesting. More about cooking (which means I'd need to cook a little more, I've kind of slacked off this past week.) *shrug* I dunno. If anyone has thoughts on what they would/would not like to see more of, I'm all ears.

Well, I'm off to take a data point (growth kinetics experiment, yay!) and then head to class.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Exalted RPG Character Info

So I wrote up a description of my character's familiar for the Exalted role-playing game I'm playing. I decided I'd post that description here for those of you who find role-playing game stuff interesting. My character's name is Leggit, this post really isn't about him though, more-so the familiar. By the way, I used the picture below as an inspiration for the humanoid form. (Image Source)


Leggit's familiar is a spirit-bird named Ati. The familiar-master bond has a strong resonance between Leggit and Ati and this allows a psychic link allowing Leggit to share Ati's senses at will at a distance up to several miles. Ati has several other abilities owing to his spirit nature. He can travel instantly from anywhere to Leggit's side, materialize and dematerialize at will, and shift between his bird and humanoid form at will. However, the instant travel as well as the materialization drain a large portion of his essence temporarily. (Essence being the term for magical energy in Exalted.)

Bird Form:
Ati in his bird form appears as a raiton - a type of omnivorous scavenger bird found often at battlefields. He has a three foot wing span, a toothy beak, black feathers and black eyes. Rations will eat most anything, from carrion to fruit, eggs and small animals, but since becoming a familiar Ati has been elevated from his previous embodiment to that of a lesser spirit and no longer requires food for sustenance. He is capable of eating if he so chooses and occasionally still steals eggs for amusement.

Humanoid Form:
Ati in his humanoid form is thin, short (about 4 feet tall) and wears a crisp white Nehru vest. Black feathers cover most of his body with the exception of a pointed crimson patch at the peak of his head, an elongated creamy white beak and goldenrod talon-like feet.

His arms are more winglike than human arms with feathered skin connecting at his side just under the rib cage out to what would be his wrist. These wing-arms do not afford him full flight capability but he can use them to get a boost when jumping and can also glide effectively from a moving start. His wing-arms do not have true hands, but rather, widely splayed finger-like feathers with a small opposed claw. He can maintain a weak grip on small objects with these "hands" and can has enough control to manipulate a writing implement with just passable legibility. His talon feet are capable of a stronger grip and more dexterous. He is capable of carrying a load with one talon and walking with the other and does so with a sort of hop-glide aided by bursts from his wing-arms.

In conversation or when focusing on something his head cocks about with an unnerving suddenness, a very bird-like habit, even while his small blood red eyes remain fixed on a target. His manner of speech is a quick and curt staccato with a slight clacking accent. The overall effect on his demeanor is that he seems somewhat peevish and expectant, anxiously awaiting a response or command.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sag Bashers: Exposing the misguided war on saggy pants



"... In December, the Jasper County Council in South Carolina passed an ordinance making it illegal to wear your britches three inches below your hips and expose your underwear—or worse—to innocent bystanders. In January, South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford introduced a bill that would make saggy pants a crime throughout the entire state. ..."

Full article here: http://www.reason.com/news/show/132019.html

So a friend of mine showed me this article and I thought I'd pass it on. Apparently wearing saggy pants is illegal in some places... wtf?!? I'm not a fan of the fashion personally, and I think it'd be really hard to walk around like that, but illegal??? Come on...

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Fairytale Unfinished

I have a midterm on Wednesday so I've been busy studying for that tonight. Blech. At least one person out there liked the poem of yesterday so perhaps I'll post another today. That way I can be quick and get back to studying.

A Fairytale Unfinished

“Once upon a time,” begins the man,
A man in girth quite like a balloon,
Raspingly reciting an age old tale.
In his chair he rocks as he talks
The chair whining under his weight.

The children sit, listening
To a tale they’ve heard before.
The small room packed nearly full
Quite like a clogged artery.

The storyteller pauses,
Pulling out a handkerchief.
He blots at the beads of
Sweat on his forehead.
“The princess was trapped
Atop a high tower,”
The man moves on.

Hacking now, the man halts his story
And having freed his phlegmy throat,
Continues.
“And then the brave knight
fought the fierce dragon
who guarded the princess.”

In a heartbeat the story
Flows to its close,
But today’s tale would end
Quite unlike the children have heard,
Too na├»ve to see what’s coming.

“And they all lived hap…
Hap…”
Fumbling the final phrase.
His head turns a dark red
As he wheezes his last.
The children, paralyzed with terror,
Watch
As the man drops with a
Thud,
Breaking the silence.

A fairytale unfinished.


So there you have it. This is one of the darker ones I was warning about. I think it's kind of funny, but maybe I'm just odd. I wrote it for a class and was complimented on my use of alliteration and foreshadowing. Ha!

Bah, ok, now back to studying "the phenomena of fluid motions." I assure you all it's highly exciting material.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Portrait of a Daydreaming Student


His ears, a sieve.
The teacher’s voice
Just trickles through.
His eyes still open,
In an empty stare,
Looking somewhere
Past the blackboard,
But his mind isn’t there.
Instead,
It’s gone away to yesterday.
Phone in shaking hand,
Heart beating like a drum.
Finally,
Mustering the courage,
Dialing the digits,
Waiting…
Anticipating her voice…
“Hello,
Mr. Bailey, we’re waiting.”
The ruler hits the blackboard,
Crack!
Back to the present,
Startled, blinking.
“Question 3, on the board,
We don’t have all day!”
A laugh rolls through the class.
Red rushes to his cheeks.

So I wanted to post something, but nothing really exciting happened today, so I decided I'd post a poem I had written a long time ago. I don't really write poems anymore. It used to be an outlet for me. Many of them were dark. This one isn't really.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Shandygaff and Jambalaya


Well, the week is over. Today was a long day and I was glad to come home, have a nice Shandygaff and some jambalaya. I had a bunch of stuff with my research to do. There was a mishap with our newly modified mouse embryonic stem cells. The coating on the plate wasn't right so they weren't growing. The other girls that work with those cells with me were busy and I had stuff to do in the lab with my own project anyway so I did all of it. I have a growth kinetics experiment that I could have started today had I prepped for it yesterday, but I didn't, and now I've missed the window so I'll probably have to wait until like Tuesday or Wednesday. I have an exam next work and two projects to work on as well. Always busy.

Exalted Role-Playing Game


So I have been playing a pen-and-paper role-playing game called Exalted with a group of friends for a few months. The game is about a world with highly powerful supernatural people called Exalts. The world has the technology of roughly the middle ages. There are different types of Exalts that correspond to the different celestial bodies. The sun, the moon, and the stars. My character plays a Sidereal Exalted (an exalted of the stars). These Exalted are responsible for guiding Fate and Destiny in the world and work from "heaven". This world is flat and at the edges of this world is the Wyld, which is a chaotic wasteland of a different element for each direction (air, wood, fire, water). Entities of pure chaos live beyond the borders and can shape the world around them to their whim. So anyway, the overarching story for our game is that we are fighting these entities (called Raksha, or Fair Folk) to claim more land for the world from the chaos. In our session tonight we were trying to get people from a small island to come live in a city we've establishes near the water edge of the Wyld. (When people from "Creation," as the non-Wyld part of the world is called, live near the Wyld it can stabilize the chaos and bring new land to the world.) So we were able to get the inhabitants of the island to come with us, and also the giant shark spirits that protected the island to come with us too. We lost some of the shark spirits in the process though. The next course of action for our group will be to try to get more Exalts to come to our island so that we can get more powerful.

So yeah, that's the role-playing game I play. I'm sure to most people that don't know much or anything about role-playing games, that made absolutely no sense. I may want role-playing games to be a major topic of this blog though, so I figured I should start somewhere talking about the one I play. If there's anyone out there reading this that plays Exalted I'd love to hear about your experiences. Also, sometime down the line I think it might be fun to have a play-by-post role-playing game.

Well, that's all for now. I may post updates on the game's progress as time goes by. We usually play weekly so it'll probably be about that often. In the mean time I'll hopefully post about other things as well. I got a little busy this week though, so I haven't been posting as much.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stack


Well, I was able to do something fun tonight - I went to an Oscars viewing party. It was alright, though I hadn't really seen many of the movies. The crowd is kind of new for me so I didn't really mingle too much, but it was good to get out of the house. I was able to get my homework done before I left, but I still have this stack of homeworks to grade and I haven't even gotten started on that. It looks like it'll be a late night.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lazy Saturday


Today was kind of a lazy Saturday. I worked on homework some and I want to be able to do something fun tomorrow so I have more work to do still. Minutes ago I learned that I now have stuff to grade as well, ugh.

Aside from homework the one other productive thing I did today was pick up a prescription. When I went out it was raining and I saw a man carrying his umbrella at his side, unopened. Seemed odd he didn't use it.

Less productively but more fun, I had milk and cookies today. The cookies were the premade just-throw-in-the-oven ones, but they were alright.

Ok, I should get back to my homework. Send me productive vibes. ;)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beef & Chicken Chili


So I had some leftover chicken from yesterday and I brought it to school to eat but I wanted something with it. I decided I was going to go to Wendy's and get chili and mix the chicken in, but that never happened. The idea still sounded good though so I made some chili of my own and it turned out pretty yummy.

It was 1 lb ground beef, 2 chicken breasts, 1 medium onion, 1 serrano pepper, 2 tsp minced garlic, 2 16oz cans of black beans, 2.5 cups of salsa, 2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 2 cups of water, a 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup of bloody mary mix.

I browned up the beef with the onion and the pepper, drained it, added the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. I served it over broken up tortilla chips, sprinkled on a little bit of shredded cheese and added a dollop of sour cream.

It was tasty but I would have liked it to be a little more spicy. I think if I do it again I'd use a different kind of pepper, and/or add some hot chili oil or hot sauce.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

critical mass

So the amount of procrastination I have done lately has gotten me to the point that I have about 20 things that I really should do today and about 6 that I absolutely HAVE to do. Luckily some of the things are easy, but others suck, like writing 3 papers and doing 2 homework problem sets. :( I really wish I wouldn't put stuff off until it gets this bad.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

work done, work needed... work later?

So my midterm today went well I think. I'm not sure if I did the reaction equilibrium assumption right, but I doubt anyone likely to read this would even know what that means. The class is reaction kinetics.

I did some research today after my midterm. (I do research on genetically modified tissue cell culture.) I had to rinse sterilizing reagent off of a micro-bioreactor plate and had to seed mouse embryonic stem cells into a larger flask so we can grow more of them. (These particular cells have been modified to glow when they are sick. We still have to make sure they are working properly though.)

I worry that I won't have enough research done to graduate on time. I have found it hard to be motivated and have good time management with my projects when it's just me working on it. The project with the stem cells is with a group of people though, so that has been a little better.

I hope to spend this evening catching up some on my homework and also to organize the data from a previous experiment so I can show it to my advisor. Part of me wants to just go home and sleep though. I was up late studying. I have about an hour until I have my next class. I'm going to go play some web games for a while I think.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hello world.

I've kind of wanted to start writing a blog for a while but I never felt like I had a catchy enough idea or exciting things to write about. I've decided that I'm just going to start one anyway and maybe as I post more it will kind of evolve into something good. You have to start somewhere, right?

So I guess I'll begin with a little about me. I'm a master's student studying chemical engineering at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. My interests include games of various sorts (role playing, computer, console, cards, web, etc.), web comics, programming, philosophy, cooking, wine, beer, and probably other things but that's a good start for now. When I graduate I hope to get a job in the biotechnology field. Ideally I would like to work towards something that improves quality of life for people. (Secretly I want to advance the study of repairing and protecting the body so that I might live forever. Who says I can't dream, right?)

I am currently procrastinating on studying for a midterm I have tomorrow. (It's amazing the projects you will decide to start when you have something more important that you should be doing.) I suppose I'll get back to it now. Perhaps I'll take a break later and write some more.