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Beemer

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Fortnightly catch-up post [Jul. 23rd, 2017|09:47 pm]
Beemer
Committee Meetings
At the Inclusivity Board meeting Wednesday before last, I volunteered for the committee that is sorting out how we communicate with city council and other entities. This resulted in a committee meeting at one member's house last Wednesday, and another one this coming week, and in me spending a chunk of this weekend writing up what we decided, and I would have said "foolishly volunteered" because it's not like I'm swimming in spare time lately, but I felt like this is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to contribute to the Board, and that getting it right matters, so here we are. (The solution: organizing our communications around the scale of the issue, and identifying whether it's a board-level, individual-level, or committee-level issue. And then impedance-matching the incoming message. Everything else follows naturally.)

Thursday Food Trucks and Gaming
The HOA has arranged for food trucks to come hang out in the parking lot near the (other) swimming pool on alternate Thursdays evenings, so Thursday of last week Jerry and I wandered over there and got teriyaki on a stick for dinner. Kinda pricey, but very tasty. Afterwards we went to Floyd's for game night and played a couple boardgames. Can't remember what the first one was called, but it was sorta like a sword-and-sorcery-themed 7 Wonders with buying cards and choosing actions instead of drafting. I liked it, but I won, and that usually helps give a favorable impression... For the second one we finally got to play Kanagawa, the Japanese mural painting game. Also fun.

Triple-R Brunch
Sunday we went to a housewarming brunch at Ray & Ron & Rich's new place, which they've been in for a while now but which I hadn't yet seen. Got a house tour. Socialized with bears, including Joe B., who I normally only see through work. (We only talked shop a little.) I was good about not eating baked goods.

Spirit Island
Having worked a long day from home on Friday and spent Saturday doing lots of wedding prep (q.v.), after the brunch on Sunday I was out of cope for actually doing anything productive, so Jerry and I played a two-player game of Spirit Island, which finally came in the mail. (I kickstarted it ages ago, and it was much-delayed in getting here.) It's a cooperative anti-colonization game, and there is a lot of game there. It solves the alpha-player/quarterbacking problem with simultaneous play and giving each player enough to manage that there's no hope of keeping track of all of it. We weren't even playing the full game and I thought it was meaty and satisfying. I enjoyed it enough that on Monday night I went over to the Nevilles' and played it with them, too. It's got a stupid amount of replay value, and I'm looking forward to exploring it.

Work
The last couple weeks have been spent fighting fires, mostly in the form of provisioning data for other people's projects so that I'm not the bottleneck. Satisfying in the sense of providing good service (sometimes getting that lovely "OMG you are amazing" feedback, when it turns out I can do in 10 minutes what would take them a day or two to do), but a little unsatisfying because I haven't even touched my main project in ages. At least I had the sense to completely punt writing a 3-page short paper for a workshop in September rather than making myself crazy trying to get it done in a day and a half.

Wedding Prep
Preparation and planning progress proceeds apace. We're in good shape, but man are there a lot of things to do. We ordered rings today! My mom had the excellent suggestion of going to the jewelry counter at Wal-Mart to find out what our ring sizes are without pressure from commissioned salespeople. (Jerry went ahead and got an inexpensive silver ring to wear while practicing.) I got some new nice dress pants without cargo pockets. (Also new socks.) We went up to NCAR last weekend and figured out how various things would fit into the actual space. We have roughed out the ceremony itself and some of our vows. We got a portable bluetooth speaker that puts out a LOT of sound, and this week the little in-line amplifier that will hopefully let us plug a mic directly into it arrived, but of course, we have to get yet another plug adapter before we can test whether it actually works... (But if not, we'll just talk loud.) We've been spending lots of time on the choreographed thing, which is coming along nicely. Oh, and of course nagging reminding stragglers to RSVP. So many things done, and yet so many still left to do! I don't know how people who haven't already been together for at least a decade manage to get married.
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Baby Driver [Jul. 23rd, 2017|09:20 pm]
Beemer
Jerry and I saw Baby Driver this afternoon. It's good! And definitely one to see in the theater; not only are the visuals scoped for a big screen, the soundtrack matters a lot, so you want to see it in a venue with a good sound system.

Spoilers behind the cutCollapse )
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So Very Savory [Jul. 19th, 2017|10:15 pm]
Beemer
So I was gonna write up a rant about the Savery Savory Mushrooms water tower on Federal Blvd:



I was gonna rant about how the name is all wrong because "saver-y" is a lousy pun, and anyway it should be ordered "savory savery", and it's such a missed opportunity when they could have done "so very savory" instead, which has much better rhythm, and I was looking for a picture of it and I found the city's webpage about it and suddenly discovered that it's named for the guy who built the farm.

Mr. Charles William Savery.

Dammit! It's not lousy marketing at all, it's just a guy's name!

Which makes it a perfectly reasonable name.

Which totally torpedoes my rant. Harrumph.
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Gaming, the 4th, and two more slaw recipes [Jul. 11th, 2017|09:21 pm]
Beemer
Let's see: I ran Star Wars on Saturday and the Jeff rolled ridiculously well on his observation check and noticed the stealthed Jedi in the room, so that plotline is going to advance a lot faster than I expected it to. Hooray for rolling with it!

Then on Sunday there was Unmunchkin at Neal's, and I got to play 5e DnD with a 9-year-old DM. Which was a lot of fun! And gave me a greater appreciation for boxed text. Also, my wild mage sorcerer got a wild surge the very first time he cast a spell in combat: confusion, 10' radius, centered on self. So that made me happy. :D

Last weekend I went up to Trevor's on Saturday afternoon and played board games. One was an interesting deckbuilder (Mystic Vale, I think?) with transparent cards that you slide into card sleeves to upgrade cards. It was neat, but I think it may have some unbalanced momentum issues with the accelerator cards. Then we played a round of Guillotine, which I hadn't played in ages.

On the 4th, there was a pool party at Bob & Pyro's in the afternoon, and then we did the usual fireworks-watching in Broomfield. I made Indian coleslaw for the pool party and promised the recipe to someone (Jason, I think), so here it is!

That recipe left me with extra mint in the fridge, so tonight I tried out a recipe for Thai spring rolls that was loitering my TRYME folder, rolling them up in lettuce leaves instead of rice paper. They were tasty, but the recipe was fussy, so I turned it into another coleslaw recipe.

Other than that, it's been all about wedding prep, which proceeds apace. Oh, and at lunch today the visiting grad student and I figured out how to science the thing she came here to figure out, and it turned out to be considerably easier than we originally expected. So that was pretty cool. Hooray for collaboration!



Indian Slaw (Bund Gobhi Nu Shaak)

Ingredients

1 bag coleslaw mix
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1/4 cup dry unsweetened coconut shreds (see tips)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
Juice from 1 medium-size lime
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

Preparation

Food-process peanuts to coarse bread crumb consistency. (Pulse to avoid turning them into peanut butter.)
Add peanuts, coconut, cilantro, salt, and lime juice to slaw mix.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
Add mustard seeds, cover, and cook until seeds have stopped popping, 20 seconds or so.
Remove from the heat and add turmeric to the oil, swirling to mix.
Pour oil over the cabbage; grab some cabbage mix and wipe the pan clean.
Mix well and serve.



Thai Spring Roll Slaw

Ingredients

1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp molasses (heaping)
1 tsp Thai green curry paste
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice of 1 medium lime)
2 Tbsp fish sauce

1/2+ cup mayonnaise

2 packages coleslaw mix
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 handful mint, chopped

OPTIONAL:
1/3 pound rare deli roast beef, thinly sliced and cut into short 1/2-inch strips
-OR-
1 can of shrimp

Preparation

Mix the first six ingredients, then whisk mixture into mayonnaise.
Taste and add more mayo if needed for flavor or consistency
Toss the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.*
Add the sauce and mix until well-coated.

* The last two steps may need to be done in two batches.


NOTE: The original recipe uses roast beef as a substitute for shrimp, but I think shrimp would be lovely, especially if you don't have to fuss with wrapping spring rolls. I haven't tried it; 1 can is a total guess as to amount.
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DnD 5e [Jul. 6th, 2017|10:19 pm]
Beemer
So the other night Jerry and I went off and had dinner at the kebab place in Broomfield, then popped into the games store next door and picked up a copy of the 5th edition D&D Players Handbook with a gift card that's been languishing in my pocket since Christmas.

I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I have read through the main bits and my general impression is quite good. They've flattened out the power curve quite a bit and fixed a bunch of things that were clunky in previous editions, and all the fixes are things that make you say "well OF COURSE that's the right way to handle that." There are at least two significantly different ways to go with every character class, and they include a number of character types that were always popular but hard to build.

I'm particularly impressed with Backgrounds. Backgrounds are a standard part of character creation; they give your character a couple skills, some gear, and a benefit. You also pick a couple personality traits, a weakness, a thing you care about, and a goal or ideal, all related to the background, and here's where it gets clever: if you roleplay those characteristics, you are rewarded with inspiration, which you can use to get a mechanical advantage. (And while you can make up your own, all of the suggested characteristics are definite and concrete things that are easy to latch onto.) And they did a good job picking the nature of the characteristics; I sketched out four different character ideas, and with each of them, after I figured out the background and thought about what kind of person would have those characteristics, I felt like I had a really clear picture of the character's psychology and how they would behave. So it's a very well-designed mini-system for encouraging roleplaying.

I'm looking forward to playing at some point!

(I was working on a longer post, but then my browser ate it. Grumble! But this was part of it, and hey, for once I'm sharing an opinion about things instead of just recounting What I Did Last Week...)
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Where the time goes [Jun. 29th, 2017|07:29 am]
Beemer
My group at work is having a check-in meeting this morning, and I feel like I have gotten nothing done since our last check-in because I have made very little progress on my main project (the R package I'm working on). But then I went through my email and tallied up all the things I did instead, and realized, oh, right, it's because there were literally a dozen other things that came up, and each of those took a day or two to deal with. Plus I went to Italy. And there you go, that's five weeks. It's all the context switching that really kills me.

Wedding preparations proceed apace. It's kind of alarming how much there is to do and how quickly time is passing, but we have lists and we're making progress on them, and everything seems to be on track. And really, pretty much every detail could fall apart at the last minute and it would still be fine. We'll be there and our friends and family will be there and that's the bit that counts.

Let's see, last weekend we had ice dyeing and Craig's housewarming and Floyd BBQ, and the weekend before that we had games at Jeff & Alice's (Sentinels, Seven Wonders, that Cthulhu investigation game) and Wonder Woman, and that's mostly all we've been up to.

Oh, and Douglas passed on to us a portable A/C unit -- one of the stand-up rolly ones that vents out the window -- which we picked up last weekend from Bob & Jeff's old place. It is AMAZING. I can cool the entire living room area, and about twenty minutes after turning it on, one of us says to the other "Are you cold? I feel kinda cold," and we turn it back off.
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Slaw Recipes [Jun. 25th, 2017|10:25 pm]
Beemer
More than one person asked for the recipes for the two kinds of coleslaw I brought to the Floyds' birthday barbecue this evening, so I figured I'd just post them.



Apple-Bacon Coleslaw

Ingredients

* 3 Tbsp olive oil
* 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
* 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
* 1 Tbsp lemon juice
* 1/2 tsp hot sauce
* 1/4 tsp salt

* 1 (16-ounce) package shredded coleslaw mix
* 2 large apples, cored and diced
* 4+ cooked bacon slices, crumbled / chopped
* freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to coat. Chill for at least half an hour.

NOTES: Use a good eating apples, like Galas or Fuji. Don't use Granny Smiths. Precooked bacon works fine if you don't feel like dealing with frying it up. You can go heavy on the dressing.



Vietnamese Slaw

Slaw

1 package coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage + carrots)
1 small white onion or 3-4 green onions, sliced thin
1-2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1-2 carrots, julienned (macho) or sliced (lazy)
1 handful cilantro, chopped / shredded
1 handful mint, chopped / shredded (de-stemmed, also)

Mix everything up in a great big bowl.


Chicken (optional)

Add a pound or so of sliced / shredded cooked chicken to make it a main dish.


Dressing

3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp crushed / chopped garlic
a few shakes dried crushed red pepper

Whisk everything together in a small bowl. Pour over slaw and mix well just before serving.
Tip: For a potluck, double the dressing; put the ingredients in a small mason jar and shake it up to mix before serving.


Topping (optional)

2 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Fry the garlic in the oil until pale golden, then stir in the chopped peanuts and brown sugar.
Alternately: just crunch up some honey-roasted peanuts and fried onions to make an easy approximate topping.



Bonus recipe: here's the recipe for carb-free parmesan spinach balls, which I brought to Craig's housewarming yesterday and to games night at Jeff and Alice's last weekend. The original recipe calls for Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs; to make it low-carb, I substituted chopped nuts, which also solves the problem of the originals being too dry.

No-Carb Cheesy Spinballs

Ingredients

* One 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
* 1 cup walnuts or pistachios
* 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 2 Tbsp melted butter

* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 1/2 tsp garlic powder
* 1/2 tsp onion powder
* 1/2 tsp dried oregano
* 1/2 tsp dried basil

Preparation

Chop nuts in food processor to breadcrumb size.
(If not pre-grated, use the grater disk on the food processor to grate parm.)
Mix dry ingredients (nuts, parmesan, and spices) well in a large-ish bowl.
Preheat oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with Pam.
Squeeze the spinach to drain, then add to bowl.
Using bare hands, mix until homogeneous.
Add eggs and butter and mix again.
Form into 24 ~1-inch balls and place on baking sheet.
Bake 22 minutes, until well-browned.

The base recipe doesn't make all that many; you may want to double it for a party.
Uncooked spinballs reportedly can be frozen and baked on short notice.
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Wonder Woman [Jun. 18th, 2017|08:42 pm]
Beemer
Jerry and I saw Wonder Woman this afternoon, and both thought it was excellent.

I liked pretty much everything about it. It's not perfect (there are nits that could be picked), but I liked the choices they made about the characters to include in the story, and what they did with various elements of WW's character design, and the storyline was interesting and novel (during the credits I turned to Monkey and said "wait, that was an origin story and I didn't even notice it!), and they did a good job of avoiding the tired and obvious, and I liked the arc of the whole thing. And it didn't drag; despite being almost two and a half hours long, I never wondered how much longer it was going to be.

And I now have a theory about what's wrong with the other DC superhero movies. Diana is allowed to have feelings. Plural. At different times she's happy, and sad, and angry, and confused, and outraged, and delighted, and so on. She feels different things, and those feelings are important to the progression of the story. And that's interesting and engaging.

Whereas the other superheroes tend to be very one-note. The further along you get in the Batman franchise, the more the Dark Knight only exhibits a single emotion: grim, brooding, vengefulness. Oh, sure, maybe it modulates a half-step into vengeful anger or melancholy brooding, but Batman never gets to be happy or grossed-out or embarrassed or affectionate, just some combination of angry + sad. And after not very long, that gets to be really boring.

Superman is only allowed to be alienated and repressed. He may have other emotions, but their only purpose is to strengthen his alienation and repression. Boring. Batman vs Superman? All repressed-anger-sadness all the time. BOOORRRINNNG.

(The problem with Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern movie was not a lack of emotions other than smug cockiness, but the fact that the movie's emotional arc was incoherent because it was fixated on Hero's Journey Dammit even though it makes no sense for that character. So it was Confusing instead. Which turns out to also be boring.)

So here's to hoping that the Justice League movie manages to figure it out. At the very least, it's got six different characters in it; even if they're all one-note, maybe they'll be different notes...
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Ice dyeing and settling back in [Jun. 7th, 2017|08:58 pm]
Beemer
How is it Wednesday already? How is it after 9 pm? Heck, how are we already a week into June? I feel like I just got up about two hours ago and that it should be, like, a Tuesday morning in late May.

Not much of note last week; work was mostly catching up from being away plus assorted meetings. We had Douglas over for dinner on Thursday evening. Assorted wedding prep stuff getting kicked into higher gear.

The weekend was busy. Saturday we spent the day at Gene & Brandon's doing ice dyeing, with mixed but promising results. Not everything came out well, but the good stuff is really good. It's a neat technique: you cover the fabric you're dying with ice, and then sprinkle dye powder on top of it and let it melt.

For best results, you want to soak the fabric in soda ash (sodium carbonate) solution first and let it dry completely. (Hanging things up to dry took up a chunk of Friday evening.) After you've got your ice and dye in place, you let it sit for 24 hours, so we had to head back down there Sunday morning to pick things up. And then there's the aftercare: rinse each piece in a bucket of steaming hot water for 30 seconds, then wring it out under cold running water until the water runs clear. Do that twice. Dry it in the dryer on medium. Then wash it in the washer (warm water) with a cup and a half of white vinegar. Then dry it again.

That and more wedding stuff took up most of Sunday. We managed to fit in dim sum at Empress with Verdun, though. So yay for that!

The kitties have been super-lovey since we got back. They're not quite clingy, but all three of them are like, oh, you're in this room now? Well, it just so happens I was planning to hang out in here myself, so that's convenient. I'll just be over here if there's any cat stuff that needs doing. Y'know, just FYI.
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Back to Milan [Jun. 1st, 2017|07:26 am]
Beemer
After our afternoon wandering around the old city center, Aaron picked us up at the train station again and we did a little shopping on the way home. Monkey did a bit of clothes shopping while I wandered around the supermarket with Aaron. Sadly, you can't bring cured meats back through customs, so I just got a big wedge of aged Parmesan and several chocolate bars. (One is 99% cacao! I'm interested to see whether it's actually edible, or whether its only use is as an ingredient.) Oh, and some bags of haribo gummies to share with friends.

I always find it interesting to see how everyday things like grocery stores are different in foreign places. I would say that overall, Italy has better produce than we get in the States. (Although apparently you have to inspect root vegetables carefully, as they often go moldy very quickly.) Two "that's foreign!" things: you're supposed to use disposable gloves instead of picking through the vegetables with your bare hands, and you have to weigh what you're buying there in the produce section, print out a sticker with the weight, PLU, and price on it, and stick it to your fruit and veg.

Aaron's truck-driver father-in-law dropped in for a visit that evening, so in addition to an excellent salad and an assortment of meats and cheeses for dinner, we had mici, a kind of caseless sausage, that he brought from Romania and cooked for us. Yum!

So that was Friday; on Saturday we packed up and took the train back to Milan. Our hotel that night was at Malpensa airport, which is way far outside the city limits, so found a place a couple blocks from Milano Centrale to rent a couple storage lockers to put all our stuff in for the afternoon and set off exploring.

We had lunch at a nearby Turkish place, then walked through a busy street market where people were buying mostly clothes for next to nothing. Then we spent a while wandering off-course looking for the nearest Metro station. From there we were able to get to the old city center. We saw the Duomo, which is an amazing, huge, Gothic cathedral. It was very impressive, but we decided that we were content just to look at it from the outside, and not to spend a lot of money and stand in line for hours to go inside. We passed from the plaza through a beautiful 19th-century indoor/outdoor mall, which was exceedingly swank and filled with high-end couture shops, to a less-crowded plaza where we were able to sit down and ponder what to do next.

We decided that we wanted to get away from the very tourist-heavy areas, so we hopped back on the Metro and went to see San'Ambrogio, which is a very old church. The oldest chunk of it was built in the year 386! It's been reconstructed many times since then, of course, and now there are lots of pieces of very old stonework built into the walls around the courtyard. We didn't actually go into the chapel because there was a wedding going on. We wandered about in that neighborhood for a bit, passing by the Museum of Science and Technology, which has built versions of some of da Vinci's sketched inventions. It seemed like another neat place to visit, but we were pretty worn out by that point.

We took the Metro back to Milano Centrale and stopped to get some gelato at a little stand outside the station, which proved to be the best gelato of the whole trip. Jerry had dark chocolate and orange, I think; I had grapefruit. Amazing. (Most flavors of gelato are too sweet for me to want an entire serving, but the citrus flavors are tart enough that I enjoy them. So generally I ended up having a sample of some other flavor and then a scoop of limone.)

We collected our luggage and made our leisurely way back to the station, and after figuring out that you can buy TreNord tickets from the Trenitalia ticket machines, we waited for the Airport Express... on the wrong platform. When we figured that out, we had to RUN to get from Platform 9 to Platform 1. We did manage to get there just barely in time. The train doors closed like ten seconds after we boarded. Whew! But we got ourselves to the airport, found the hotel, checked in, and had time to get dinner at one of the restaurants in the airport food court before turning in for the night, ready to head home.
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