Archive for August, 2012


Briefly noted

One of the designers on Project Runway is named Gunnar Deathrage (more or less). World of Warcraft character, or Nordic heavy metal band vocalist?

Everyone must watch La ragazza con la pistola at once! (It’s on Netflix streaming video, if that helps.) A wild innocent 60’s comedy, with a side of strange surreal Sicily. I don’t know if it was run of the mill bad pop film in its time and is weird and strange only because I don’t know the genre, or if it’s deeply offensive or misogynistic in ways I’m too dense to see, but I loved it.

(Netflix showed it to me for some reason when I searched on “lara” to see if they had any of them Tomb Raider movies. Serendipity! Oh, and they call it “The woman with the pistol” or something I think…)

It’s disheartening to listen to NPR talking to Undecided Voters about the Presidential Election. I mean, these are presumably NPR listeners and all, but still they’re idiots. “I voted for Obama four years ago, and I think he’s tried to do the right thing, but he hasn’t been very effective, and maybe it’s time for a change of leadership.”

Come on, people. Use just one more brain cell, and finish the thought. “So I’m thinking of voting for people who will go back to the policies that destroyed the economy last time”. Great idea?

There’s an obvious political cartoon that I would draw if I had any drawing skills. I don’t know why the Democrats don’t have a whole raft of these. (Maybe they do.)

Panel one: burning building (a factory, say, no resemblance to the World Trade Center), two cartoony people upset in the foreground, vaguely red-colored (not Native American red, cartoony devil red) figure with a flamethrower capering off rightward.

“Oh no, someone with a flamethrower has set fire to the building!”

Panel two: half-extinguished building, blue-tinted firefighter vaguely resembling Obama spraying with hose, same people in foreground.

“The firefighters are taking too long to put the fire out. Maybe we should get the guy with the flamethrower back.”

Panel three: second person looks incredulously at speaker from previous panel.


Panel four: maybe the red guy stomping on the firehouse while the firefighter struggles gamely on.

“Or not.”

Cut to word panels: “Romney/Ryan: those policies caused the recession. Does anyone think they’ll fix it now?”

This screenplay generously donated to the public domain… :)


Fish and Kasha and Hardcore Heroes

So the little daughter, now out of college and a Certified Adult in her own right, has been cooking things. Cooking, from the look of the pictures she’s been posting to The Instra-Gram and other young-person places, delicious gourmet sorts of things.

Which is really cool. :)

This weekend she is home visiting, it being the weekend after her birthday and a convenient weekend for visiting, and she asked me to show her how to make Fish and Kasha, which was one of the things that I used to cook for the family back when I was myself young and energetic enough to cook on weekends. (Age is of course a feeble excuse; maybe I will start doing it again!)

I couldn’t find a written-down recipe on any of the many recipe cards in the various recipe-card collections in the kitchen, but I thought I pretty much remembered how, and M helped remembering the ingredients, and so the little daughter and I went out to the local vast cavernous A and P, and we bought fish and kasha and chicken broth and bread crumbs and broccoli and cauliflower and cheese and stuff, and came home and cooked it all, and it was all very yummy and nostalgic and successful.

(They didn’t have any really familiar-looking fish varieties, but the little daughter looked up “swai” on her “cellular phone” and found that it’s basically a kind of catfish, which is what it looked like, so we got that, even though it was “re-fresh” (that is, frozen and thawed) rather than actually fresh.)

Then while we were eating and talking about when we had first, and last, had Fish and Kasha, I remembered where the recipe of course was, and found it in the old weblog, in the entry for 7 November, 1999. A while back! And reading the recipe, it turns out we followed it pretty much exactly, down to getting Wolff’s kasha at A and P, and it being Sunday. (Although we didn’t do the extra skillet-involving steps with the kasha, and it still came out perfect.)

Here it is again, just for fun (note somewhat twee Rocky Horror reference at the beginning there):

Sunday Dinner: Fish and Kasha

This is a great dinner, because it doesn’t have many ingredients. I don’t like a meal with too many ingredients (did somebody yell “slut”?).

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut two catfish fillets (about a pound) into bite-size chunks. Take two bowls, pour some milk into one, and some bread crumbs into the other. Dip each chunk of fish into the milk, and then into the crumbs, and then put it onto a baking dish (mine is clear glass or pyrex or something; I don’t know if that matters). Cook 25-30 minutes, until tender. Do not overcook.

While the fish bakes, take about one cup whole-kernel kasha (a.k.a. buckwheat groats). We used to get this in five-pound sacks from Walnut Acres, but they don’t seem to have it anymore. Now we buy two-cup boxes of Wolff’s in the “funny furrin foods” section of the A&P. You can just boil it in chicken broth for about 15 minutes, but for a fluffier result: in a small saucepan, melt two Tbs butter in two cups (one can) chicken broth, with a dash salt and a dash pepper. At the same time, heat the kasha in a frying pan or heavy skillet over high heat, until hot and toasty. Pour the boiling stuff carefully into the kasha, lower heat to simmer, and cook covered about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has vanished and it all seems sort of done.

Steam some broccoli. That is, cut off the parts of the stem you don’t want to eat, and arrange for the top parts that you do want to eat to be exposed to steam (preferably in a steamer rather than just sitting in boiling water), until it feels right when poked with a fork. “Right” is entirely up to you.

While all that’s going on, melt another two Tbs butter in another saucepan (yeah, you’re going to have some dishes to wash, later). Dump in enough flour to mostly soak up the butter. Gradually add milk, a little at a time, stopping between each addition to stir until smooth. When you’ve got a good amount (use more milk for more but thinner sauce, less for less but thicker; it will thicken up somewhat when you add the cheese in any case), grate in some cheese (we like sharp Cheddar for this, but anything gratable that you like will work). Stir until the cheese is all melted.

Pour the cheese sauce over everything else, and eat.

The only hard part about this is getting everything to be done at about the same time. That, and cleaning up afterwards. But it’s all very yummy! The little daughter eats everything but the broccoli. The little boy used to eat the kasha back when he was a baby, but won’t anymore.

Tonight, all four of us ate pretty much everything. :)

On entirely other fronts, I’ve been playing Diablo III more, which surprises me somewhat given my not very enthusiastic first impressions. Turns out there’s something soothing (or something) about wreaking havoc through the same landscape and the same story multiple times, with varying character stats and types and varying nastinesses of monsters.

Most recently I’ve been playing in Hardcore mode, which means that if the character you are working on dies, it stays dead, and you need to start another one (or go back to leveling your comparatively unexciting non-Hardcore characters).

My first one, Ulf The Doomed, made it to level 30 before I got careless and he ended up surrounded by monsters, which isn’t usually a problem, except that multiple ones were taking turns freezing him so he could neither fight not heal himself, which definitely was a problem.

The second one, and my first what do they call them Wizard or Magic User or whatever, was Mary Death (a brilliant name, I thought), and she made it only to level 14 before dying due to my not having swapped the latest level of potions into her action bar, and left-clicking rather than right-clicking on the potions in inventory once I realized that, arg.

And that was all good fun, but I think I might be tired of Diablo III for awhile now, we’ll see. And I haven’t been in WoW or Glitch or anything that I used to play alot and have now temporarily forgotten about entirely, for some time.

On the other hand I’m still in Second Life for at least an hour or two, at least five or six days a week, even when real life is moderately stuffed with things (as it’s tended to be). Which says something. :)


And people call me a packrat!

So I’m cleaning out my office here in preparation for moving to a different office (a bit closer to home yay!), as vaguely alluded to the other day, and in this ancient dusty briefcase with amusing random stickers all over the top, that I’d forgotten was pushed behind a file cabinet a decade or two ago, along with like the number 17 bus schedule from September 1991 and a bunch of ATM receipts from the 90’s, I find a book review from, posted on 30 January 1995 and probably printed out not long after, for Anatole Broyard’s “Kafka was the Rage: a Greenwich Village Memoir”.

And reading it over it sounds quite interesting, so I click a few buttons on the computer here and a copy should arrive at home in a few days. (I could have had it arrive instantly on the iPad over here, but it would have cost more than twice as much, and it seems like the kind of book one wants an atomic copy of anyway.)

So who says it doesn’t pay to keep random bits of paper around for ten or twenty years just in case? And, plus, also, by waiting this long I had a much easier time getting a copy, and paid probably less than half as much.

Although maybe not in constant dollars…


Where are the self-replicating space probes?

So lots of more synchronicity today!

Curiosity (such a good name) has of course managed to get past the blockade and land on The Red Planet.

Now it’s just a little VW Beetle full of scientific instruments, but on the same general subject friend Bill points us to “The Fermi Paradox, Self-Replicating Probes, and the Interstellar Transportation Bandwidth“, an interesting paper all about why there aren’t numerous self-replicating space probes from other civilizations nosing around the solar system (if in fact there aren’t).

And then the thing tying it all together: maybe an hour after Bill mentioned that, as I was going through some really really ancient piles of printouts (remember “printouts”?) in preparation for moving offices, I came across a 22-year-old piece of paper (which may have been sitting in this same pile in my office for all that time) about the then-10-year-old 1980 NASA workshop “Advanced Automation for Space Missions” (which is, amazingly enough, on wikisource), which focuses on Chapter 5: “Replicating systems concepts: self-replicating lunar factory and demonstration“.

So we’ve had this idea for about 32 years. When will we launch the first artificial replicator into space ourselves? And/or when will we first detect one launched by someone else? And how will we know it’s artificial? (Heck, maybe we are some civilization’s self-replicating space probe…)

Other random thoughts (good material for a book of short stories here): maybe it’s relatively inevitable that moments after you have the technology to launch a self-replicating space probe, you also lose interest because you’ve found something more interesting to do than explore the universe. Or maybe you figure out how to explore the universe without physical proxies at all, just sort of beaming your perception about instantaneously (or even at lightspeed for that matter). Or maybe the Watchers intercept your probe, and send you the Welcome letter…

(P.S. book of short stories, did I say?)