Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Hey all, not much to report today. Attempted some new culinary diversions, but met with limited success (note: apparently peanut butter and oil do not mix into a sauce. The more you know...), and celebrated National Milk Chocolate Day with a toasted coconut s'more. Mmm, mmm, mmm.
This evening Siegi, a few of his friends and Greg and I all went out to the Drive-In to watch Dark Knight and Hellboy 2. We drove up Siegi's pickup truck and set up a bunch of chairs and bean bags in the back and watched the movies with plenty of soda, chocolate and beer. Dark Knight, is of course still awesome, and even more awesome as I now got to look at all of the little plot points in greater detail. Hellboy 2 was also a surprisingly good movie, much better than the first one. They have a very interesting take on the fairy world- in some ways much more steampunk than usual, but in others more organic and weird. Still, that's about what you have to expect from the guy who directed Pan's Labyrinth. The artistic direction was spectacular right form the get go- scenes such as a story being acted out by wooden, porcelain and metal soldiers in life and death struggles (Jared, Kyle- remember that there's ALWAYS a bigger game...); a god of the forest's blood turning asphalt and skyscrapers into a wooded paradise; and the court of strange steampunk elves in the middle of a rusting factory that inexplicably has petals streaming from the ceiling were simply amazing and, I'll admit, a bit awe inspiring and quite beautiful in their own weird and fantastical way. The story was fairly good- pretty cute at times, with the right amounts of badassery to make it a blast to watch, but definitely go and see it for the visuals over the story.

In interesting news, apparently there are real world superheroes. They even have a registry. I just hope this doesn't end up like Watchmen, but for right now it's really freaking cool. Now if I can just get some kevlar...

Tomorrow I'm heading down to Philadelphia to look at grad schools and go to an OAR concert with my sister and her boyfriend, and then as soon as we get back I'm headed off to New Hampshire again with the whole family plus auxiliaries (Danielle and Greg). I might be able to post on Thursday quick, but don't count on it. Now I must to bed, so until next time...

"You're in love. Have a beer."
-Hellboy, from Hellboy 2

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Paging Mr. Shakespeare Abridged...

Hey all, it's been a busy weekend, so I think I'll take a page from Shakespeare Abridged and do it... backwards! It's gotta be faster that way, right? Right?

... Anyway, Liesel, Siegi, my Dad and I all just got back from the Sterling Renaissance Festival up in Sterling, NY. It's a pretty typical faire: you got your jousting, your delicious, delicious turkey legs, ridiculously expensive (but cool looking) garments and knicknacks for sale, and plenty of live entertainment. Among these that I saw were:
-A 30 minute rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream which surprisingly included all of the necessary plot points and brought the play to a close, all without making up dialogue except for the intro. (btw: Puck rocks)
-A sword swallower who not only swallowed swords (say THAT 5 times fast), but also 3 foot long balloons (which were then popped by the aforementioned swallowed swords) and cigarettes. This latter was particularly impressive (and a bit disturbing), as he managed to blow smoke rings after he had swallowed it and later got it back still smoking.
-A very enthusiastic German bagpipe and drums band that in addition to its repertoire of classic Deutsche Volksmusic played "We Will Rock You"; reeeaaally interesting to hear on bagpipes, let me tell you.
Still, I feel like the Ren Faires are beginning to lose their appeal. Sure it's fun, especially if you get to dress up in period clothing, but a lot of the time it felt like we were simply walking around looking for places to spend more money. Probably me just grumbling because I have no money, bu whatevs.

Oh, and it was Pirate weekend. Have I mentioned I don't like pirates? *hides behind sturdy door as tomatoes, knives, and cannonballs are launched*

Saturday was Liesel's graduation party. Fortunately most of our work had been done the previous day by Siegi and me so setup went very quickly. Seeing as it was a nice day we decided to jump into the pond and swim about with noodles and toss around a waterproof football before the party started up. It was a perfect day for it, though as usual the pond had a great variation in temperatures, often dropping what seemed like 10 degrees by moving 1 foot in 1 direction.

The party was slow getting started; most of Liesel's friends had work and couldn't come till later, but fortunately my good friend Greg showed up for a bit before returning to his sister's 21st b-day party. The Canuck (Greg) had recently been in Australia for Catholic World Youth Day, which stretches out a day into 3 weeks of residing down under. He had tons of pictures to show us, including many close up shots of common wildlife like ibises, kookaburras, wallabys, and red kangaroos.

At about 5 the heavens decided to open up and release rain and thunder on our party. Fortunately we decided to set most of our tables inside our barn, so the party could continue fairly unmolested by the storm. One of her friends' parents came, and our conversation with her gradually shifted to the topic of Elmira's economic status. For years the town's economy has been slowing down, although there have been a few measures to try and change that. Still, few new businesses besides the big shopping centers are coming to town, and our guest had a guess as to why. She had been talking to a lot of corrections officers around Elmira, and apparently there were two big deciding factors. First, the LaFrance Corporation packed up and left, and then Southport Maximum Security Correctional Facility came in...

Hey, I just got contacted by a data miner hooker on Skype! Yay ADD!

... Granted, the prison brought in a lot of new jobs, but it also brought the prisoners and their families. The consensus at the table seemed to be that this influx started to bring the economy down, but I'm personally reserving judgment till I get some more information. But in the meantime, what do you think? Should prisoners be released into the town the prison is in, or should they be shipped back to wherever they came from originially? (Elmira seems to offer the prisoners a choice, and a large number choose to remain here) I'm not really sure where my opinion lies, but I thought it might be a good question for discussion.

edit: Siegie and I decided to watch movies tonight and put in Beowulf as neither of us had seen it. 5 minutes in we looked at each other, said WTF, and looked for a different movie.

That's about it for now (besides my major pwnage of Greg and Pat at Magic yesterday...), so until next time...

When I speak I cross my fingers/
Will you know you've been deceived?/
I find I need to be the demon/
A demon cannot be hurt.../
-Demons, by Guster

Friday, July 25, 2008

Of Bats and Beer...

On Wednesday evening Liesel and I went up to Syracuse to pick up my brother Siegi at the airport. Siegi had been in Germany all of the past year and was finally coming home, so of course the usual God Bless America jokes were going all around- everything smelled, looked and tasted like Freedom! We stopped off at a Wegmans on the way home to get Siegi better reacquainted with Freedom via a six inch sub, a Dr. Pepper, salt and vinegar chips, and getting him to buy a six pack of Sam Adams as he was now 21. Yay Freedom.

On Thursday Siegi and I went to visit our Mom at her workplace. She works as a law assistant to a local judge (who happens to have the nickname "The Hanging Judge", though he doesn't like that name), and had wanted us to come in for a while. Apparently the morning's case had finished early so none of the assistants nor the judge had anything better to do than sit around and talk with us for two hours. There was the usual update about our future plans, Siegi recounting some of his travels in Europe, and then the conversation drifted to more interesting topics. Siegi gave a lecture on the Munich Olympics and how the German government had completely and utterly mishandled the terrorist attack, even going so far as releasing the two captured terrorists in exchange for the return of a Lufthansa jet that they had stolen. There was a huge discussion on accents, including what the exact definition was and what part of America had no accent. All in all it was a pretty entertaining time.

We then headed out to do some shopping with my sister and Danielle for my sister's freshman year at college. She had a 50 dollar Target card, but this quickly ran out under the avalanche of things that the girls deemed necessary for a successful first year of college. After this we headed to Sam's Club to check out computers (including a really cool Dell computer that has a touch screen that swivel 180 degrees!) We then went to B&N to use Liesel's gift cards. While there I tried to resist the urge to pick up Batman: The Long Halloween, but in the end could not. Let me tell you, it is an amazing piece of work. The writers for Dark Knight apparently had said that it was one of the main sources for the movie script, and I definitely see how. Many of the scenes in the book appear to be lifted directly from the movie, even though the script is very different. They even use the phrase "Ibelieve in Harvey Dent" throughout the book. It still focuses primarily on Harvey Dent and relies on gangsters backing supervillains as the main enemies, but a lot of things have changed, most notably Mr. Dent. In this version he is more zealous in his work, and a much darker character than the White Knight of the movie. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes Batman, the movie, film noir, or just good stories in general.

The final event of the evening was heading out to a local bar with my brother. We surprised a bunch of Siegi's friends with our appearance and quickly got ourselves added to their trivia team, as apparently there is a trivia contest every Thursday with a cash prize for the winners. The trivia for this round was split into sports, 90's entertainment, Christmas in July, and trigon. The latter was a list of 3 items, and you had to find the common element among them. Here are a couple of examples; post if you think you have the right answers:
Meat, moth, medicine (and no, it isn't alliteration)
Pantyhose, Silly Putty, chickens
Laverne and Shirly, Mork and Mindy, Joney loves Chochi (and no, I don't know how to spell those)
It was a lot of fun, and I got to have some interesting brews while I was there (Ithaca Nut Brown Ale: really good). I later got driven home and watched a lot of Batman: The Animated Series on aol-tv. The psychological depiction of the characters is almost always spot on or better than in the comics; of particular awesomenes I would suggest Heart of Ice (which actually won an Emmy) and Two-Face parts 1 and 2.

Well, that's about it for now; until next time...

"We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess."
- Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just a few things

Sorry about not getting a post up yesterday- I was busy with random jobs around the house all day and geekery by night. The latter consisted of playing Heroes of Might and Magic 5 with my dad, Project Erda, and getting Star Wars Episode 1: Racer to work on my old laptop.

For those not in the know, Racer is quite possibly the best racing game ever created. First of all, you get to drive podracers, which are obviously much cooler than Ferrarris or motorbikes. Second, even the environment is out to get you- on some maps there are acidic lakes, whirling bladed death traps, Tusken raiders shooting at you from their hideouts in the cliffs, and even hidden mines in some maps. Even when it's not actively trying to kill you, the maps are all so colorful and chock full of action that has nothing to do with the race, like cheering crowds or gigantic mining equipment that you have to dodge in order to complete the race. Third, you can upgrade your pod to be even more badass- increasing the top speed, traction (who knew that a hover vehicle had traction, right?), turning, etc. And finally, the reason that it is the best racing game of all time, is the boost button. This button allows you to supercharge your pod's engines for a short amount of time, dramatically increasing your speed but seriously hampering your turning abilities. Used well it can mean the difference between winning, losing, and spreading your pod and entrails all over the wall.

In other news, I was trolling CNN today and came across an article titled 'PUMAs Stalking Obama'. Wondering what capitalized wildcats were doing near a senator, I decided to peruse the article. It turns out that PUMA stands for Party Unity My Ass!, and is a group of pissed of Democrats who are trying to get Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, as they believe that "...there has been an internal coup, and they are putting forward a candidate that does not represent the will of the Democratic Party" and that Obama is not fit for office. They say that they will campaign all the way to the convention, and if they don't get their way they will vote for another candidate, with possibilities including John McCain.

Now, I'm not affiliated with either of the major parties, and I don't particularly like the Republicans right now, but this cracks me up in a very unfunny way. Is it just me, or do the Democrats look like they're going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory again? I mean, according to the article, there are 2.5 million of these PUMAs, and those are just the ones online. It just strikes me as funny that when everything is going the Democratic way, some subset of the party has to find some way of screwing it up.

In other depressing news, 55 percent of the nation has trouble believing that evolution is real. WTF America, when did we start becoming the backwards nation instead of the leader in the sciences and progress in general? Oyveh Maria...

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing."
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Well, let's get the day out of the way first, eh? Went down to the Honda dealer this morning to get my tires re-aligned as the last time I was there they didn't have the program in their computer for my car's make. They also told me it would be about 200 dollars the first time I went down, so I was pretty blue... until they told me to go without paying. Apparently Honda eliminates all charges if you have to wait two weeks because they don't have a part; who knew? Anyway, this cements in my mind that Honda is the nicest auto manufacturer out there right now, as all of the Honda places I've gone to have had great service and customer support. Yay corporate shilling!

We also had some really weird weather patterns here- fast moving storms that drop solid waves of rain for 5 minutes, complete with thunder and lightning, and then clear up into a sunny day, then repeat the process again three more times on the same day. It's getting kind of annoying, as we can't mow the lawn or go bike riding for fear that the ever present storm clouds will at any moment unleash their fury on our world. And finally, had really, really good sushi today- it even came in its own little wooden boat! Hint- eel is awesome, and soy sauce mixed with wasabi is also awesome.

So, reviews. First we will have our inaugural Brew Review! If you will recall me mentioning it earlier (Road Trippin' In the Northeast, Part One! -ed), I had some very interesting brews up in New Hampshire. The first of these was a brew from the Tuckerman Brewing Company, which is based in the very heart of the White Mountains and is named after the famous Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington. The beer I tried, their Pale Ale, was amazing. Unlike most pale ales, which tend to beat you over the head with their hops, the Tuckerman Pale Ale combined the aroma and tang of hops with a sweet, rich flavor that mellowed the hops enough to truly taste all parts of the beer together. This beer rekindled my love of Pale Ales and, if I may, rekindled my hope in humanity.
Rating: 2 double jointed thumbs up.

The other beer I had was the Sea Dog Bluepaw Blueberry Wheat, which is brewed in Maine. It is what I would classify as a "girly beer", as it has more of a fruity taste than a beer taste. To quote my mom, "It doesn't taste like it has any alcohol in it!" It does, however, taste pretty good, at least to me; the flavor I think of when I drink it is Post Blueberry Morning cereal, but in a good way. Still, not exactly my favorite, but definitely drinkable and a recommendation to all of those non-beer drinkers out there.
Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Next on our reviews hit list is our inaugural Book Review! Today we will be looking at a book that I received as a graduation present from my elementary school friend Brian Kardon, who now goes to MIT. The book is The Best Science Writing of 2007, and is an incredibly informative and enjoyable book. Every article located in it looks at the topic at hand from both a scientific and a humanistic angle. By this I mean they include the history and facts behind the research, but also deal with how the research has or will affect humanity and looks at the journey the people being influenced by the research have made. Some of the stories are quite funny; having the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin report on the Intelligent Design trial in Dover, Pennsylvania by acerbically painting the ID defense team as a "dysfunctional family" filled with liars and bimbos is a riot. Some of them are quite sad; the tale of an incredibly intelligent and faith filled man succumbing to Alzheimer's one bit at a time is heart wrenching not only because of his own awareness of his diminishing mental faculties but the post-death autopsy scenes that are spliced in showing a brain that has been ravaged by a disease with no cure. All of these stories are well written, and all are on extremely topical and relevant issues.
Rating: two double jointed thumbs up

And finally, not quite a review of Batman: Gotham Knight. For those not in the know, Batman: GK is to the Dark Knight what the Animatrix was to Matrix 2: a series of short anime written by American writers and directed by Japanese directors about the time period between Batman Begins and Dark Knight. All of them show a different part of the whole that is Batman. There is the public's reaction to Batman in the first clip, depicting him as an inhuman force that cannot be understood. Later we see Batman as a man who must deal not only with physical pain, but the painful knowledge that he failed his parents and must constantly guard the night to prevent himself from failing an entire city that is given over to sin. Plus, the fact that many of the voices are from Batman: The Animated Series is just freaking awesome. All in all, it's actually a pretty good look at Batman from a psychological perspective (though the first clip is pretty weird, but I like it because it references a B:TAS episode) and I would recommend checking it out, if only on SurfTheChannel.

Well, that's about it for now; until next time...

"It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races."
- Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Road Trippin' In the Northeast: Niagara

As mentioned last time, yesterday I traveled to Niagara Falls. With me were my friend Danielle and her friend, Ingrid (center and right, respectively). Danielle is kind of like a sister to me as she's my sister's best friend and I was her Senior Buddy when she was a freshman at Notre Dame HS. Ingrid, on the other hand, is a 25 year old Chemistry student from Norway who is one of Danielle's friends, and being a foreigner, was the main impetus for this trip.

The drive up to Niagara from Elmira is about 3 hours, plus a little bit more time. We spent the ride up talking about a lot of things, from the Dark Knight (still so awesometastic!) to the foibles of Scientology (all hail Xenu!) to the differences between the Norwegian and American higher educational institutions (Norway: college is 3 years long and a masters is 2 years. America: 4 and 3). So, before we knew it we were pulling into the Goat Island parking lot to take a look at the Horeshoe Falls from the American side. It was a really, really hot day out- I would estimate around 95 with a burning sun up above. Even standing close to the river didn't give us any relief, so we decided to trek down to the Maid of the Mist, pausing to take pictures and clamber down to the river whenever possible. When we were above the American and Horeshoe Falls we saw some really cool rainbows that formed out of the mist; in all of my times coming to Niagara, I'm not sure that I ever saw those, so I was pretty psyched.

Everyone and their mother knows about the Maid of the Mist- you go on a big boat loaded with people in blue plastic ponchos and drive out past the American Falls and get as close to the Horseshoe Falls as nautically possible and wait there for 5 minutes, then go back. Not exactly the most exciting thing, but Ingrid was almost jumping for joy, so I guess it was worth it. What was also worth it, and what I will probably do instead of taking the Maid from now on, is clambering up the wood and rock steps to the lower observation point. There you can get right next to the American Falls and get completely drenched by the mist and sprayed water. Even walking up to the observation point the air was so full of water that just by breathing you can easily get your 8 cups of water for the day.

So afterwards we were pretty much drenched, ponchos be damned, but the hot day decided to favor us a bit by almost instantly evaporating the water from our clothing. Cooled down and having our fill of crashing water, we headed over to the Canadian side to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. I had forgotten how expensive those places were, but dammit, sometimes a man needs a salad and a beer.

Not many times, but sometimes.

...Let's move on.

We meandered down the Canadian side of the falls as water began to fall from the sky as rain. I had the foresight to bring along my rain jacket, but the women folk did not. C'est dommage. The rain started to pick up, and we realized that we didn't really want to get any more soaked, so after walking all the way down the Canadian side we decided to reverse course and walk back to our car. We stopped by the duty free shop to pick up trinkets and left to exit the country. Luckily we each had two quarters, because apparently you need to pay 50 cents to leave Canada. At the American side we had the usual light banter with the customs officials: are you traveling together, how do you know each other, are any of you going to switch from being just friends to being family members... yeah, that last one was actually asked. Apparently Niagara Falls is a popular honeymoon destination for internationals... something about a place called Chino's. If anyone knows what that's all about, post it; I'm kind of curious now.

We walked back to our car in the rain, fired up Hallison (my gps for those not in the know) and headed out to go shopping at the Niagara Outlet Mall. Yeah, I didn't know it existed either until Danielle and Ingrid told me. Our trip there took us through some of the seedier parts of Niagara and included one illegal three point turn after we got stuck in the line for the Indian Casino and one possible hooker sighting. Yay!

The outlet mall was basically a collection of a bunch of clothing outlets that had banded together to attract customers and sales. We each went our seperate ways, and I actually found myself finding things that I wanted, like a sleek black belt and a nice black and grey dress shirt that I can't wait to try out. We had dinner there, as apparently the outlets grew a food court to accomodate their prey. There I made the mistake of eating at a chain called Wimpy's. It's an american food place that apparently prides itself in three things: being able to stack four hamburgers on top of one another; being able to put gravy on anything, even salads; and really, really aggravatingly poor grammar. On the menu, you could order fry's, or fry's with gravy, or sweet potato fry's (really bad, by the way). Not fries, but fry's. And on a statement saying that they would only use organically grown tomatoes (yes, they spelled it correctly, Thank God) they used their instead of there. Plus, the service was lousy and took for freaking ever. So, there is a new rule: never, ever trust a restaurant that makes repeated grammatical mistakes on their menu. Ever.

After reighning (is that the right one?) in Ingrid from shopping we headed home, accompanied by Hallison's sweet croonings. Once home I watched Dr. Horrible Act III again and promptly purchased the season. Good job, Mr. Whedon, good job. You've made me finally purchase something on iTunes. But seriously, that thing is AMAZING; I've already watched it one and a half times today. So, so good, can't wait for more. Neil Patrick Harris, you rock my world, and we finally got to see Bad Horse. He didn't do much, but you could tell from the way his black, soulless eyes gazed malevolently around the room that he was truly the Thoroughbred of Sin.

Today I haven't been doing much; went to church, fixed some things around the house, and worked on a few side projects that are finally coming together... I'll probably do a post about them in the near future when I have more to show. So, until next time...

"So I thank my girlfriend Penny
(yeah, we totally had sex...)
She showed me there's so many
Different muscles I can flex:
There's the deltoids of compassion,
There's the abs of being kind.
It's not enough to bash in heads-
You've got to bash in minds!"
-Cpt. Hammer, from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog

Friday, July 18, 2008

*clap, clap, clap, clap*

So, I just went to go see Dark Knight, and I think I can sum up my feelings about it in one word: hooolyfreakingshititwasAMAZING! Seriously, one of the best movies I have seen in a long, long time. Everything was done perfectly- the psychological portrayals of the characters, the twists that keep you guessing at every point, Heath Ledger's and Aaron Eckhart's amazing portrayals of their characters- oh man, so good. If you haven't seen it yet, do it. NOW.

Have you seen it yet?


In other news, I've been fooling around with some really cool addons that I found for Firefox 3.0. I mean, there are the obvious ones- a little icon on the bottom of screen that tells you if you have mail, a German dictionary, an improved GMail, a faster downloading program, the appointment reminding program Don't Forget the Milk (it sends e-mails or text messages when appointments are coming up), but there are some really... shall we say, unique ones. First is PageAddict, which monitors the amount of time that you spend looking at different websites while surfing the web. Then, you can tell it to create a graph showing exactly how much time you are spending where. Hopefully this program will stop me from wasting so much time trolling the same old sites to see if there are any new updates yet.

The second really cool addon is called Stumble. When you add it on to your webbrowser you select different areas that you are interested in, with the option to change them later if you so desire. Then, all you have to do is click on the Stumble icon on your dashboard and it will load a random page that has been tagged with one or more of your favorites. So far it has led me to a lot of really cool sites, including ones containing thousands of free books, tales of the supernatural in America, a place you can e-mail yourself at a future date, and a really cool demo that illustrates an easy to comprehend way of understanding how to move in 10 dimensions.

My favorite site that it's taken me to so far, however, has to be a photography site. On it the artist has taken many normal, every day objects and used them to mimic other every day objects. For instance, there is a Roman arch made of books, a burnt match whose flame is created out of the rings in wood, and a zippered shirt using shadow and a flashlight. Really cool, you should check it out.

Well that's all for now. Oh, if you haven't checked out the Watchmen trailer, I recommend that you do. It's a little weird, and I agree with Jared that it probably uses too many slow downs, but hopefully the movie will be awesome... and at least Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl and The Comedian look freaking awesome, especially the American god. And I'm going to Niagara Falls tomorrow with my pseudo sister Danielle. So, till next time...

I never said, "The superman exists, and he's American." What I said was,"God exists, and he's American." ~ Dr. Milton Glass, from Watchmen, about Dr. Manhattan

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A funny thing happens when I'm bored...

Hey all, nothing much to report today; just cleaning up the house and taking care of all of the little things that seem to be passing me by (like looking at grad schools, cashing checks, etc.), and of course can't wait for Dark Knight tomorrow. I've also been watching a lot of Big Bang Theory; hilarious show, highly recommend it, at least for those with more of a geek bent (what am I talking about- I know my audience...). Also watched Dr. Horrible act II... man, I wanna be a super-villain now... well, not that I haven't always wanted to be one...

But kind of speaking of that, I was reading Jared's blog today and he was talking about something that really struck a chord with me. I've always had a very active imagination, and to avoid boredom while doing nothing/menial tasks I've had it work on various projects throughout the years. A few of these projects have actually seen fruition, like new Magic deck ideas, a cool sketch to do or a ridiculous romantic gesture to perform. However, the majority of these little projects are centered around world building and never see the light of day. What I'll often do is create one character or concept and have the world shape around him/her/it through little flashbacks into the character/concepts development. This way the world gets populated with other characters that make sense in context with my main guy/thing, and I'll run and redo different plot segments centering around them as my mind wanders. I've never done anything with these worlds except for my occasional doomed forays into dungeon mastering, and those were the result of thinking about specific RPG game systems. I guess the reason I don't do anything with them is that I know that they can't be as cool as they are in my head, and that real plot development requires more than a few snapshots of a characters life; there need to be events that lead up to them. So, instead of exerting any real effort into my creations I just let them stay daydreams and replay scenes in my head.

That is, until now. Maybe. All I know is, for the first time I've actually started writing down some of the stuff I've been thinking about. I don't know if I'll actually do anything with them, but it might serve as an interesting diversion in the coming weeks or months... or it might just fade away like so many of these little head projects do. I'll keep you updated if anything pops up that I feel particularly proud about.

Well, that's about it. Until next time,

"Now, isn't imagination a precious thing? It peoples the earth with all manner of wonders, strange beasts and birds, angels, cherubim and seraphim. And it has to be exercised. No child should be permitted to grow up without exercise for imagination. It enriches life for him. It makes things wonderful and beautiful."
- speech in Elmira, April 1907 (reprinted in Mark Twain in Elmira by Jerome & Wisbey)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Of Batman and other things...

So, first off, go and look up Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog RIGHT NOW. It will only be up until the 20th and then will disappear forever, and you will miss the cutest tale of a super-villain just trying to make the world a better place through nefarious deeds. And his nemesis is played by the guy who played Malcolm Reynolds and is called Captain Hammer. And did I mention it's a musical?

So, on other fronts, I've been watching a lot of Batman recently to prep for Dark Knight (woo!). It had been a while since I saw the first two Batman movies (starring Michael Keaton), so it was really interesting to watch them again with a better understanding of the whole mythos. First of all, the movies now strike me as incredibly Tim Burton-esque (not surprising as he directed both of them). The sets are all kind of twisted, the characters pretty gimicky and deranged, but none of it in a really threatening kind of way. I mean, the Joker is definitely psychotic, but he plays up the clown-themed super-villain angle quite a bit. I mean, seriously, who uses a 10 foot long extendable boxing glove anymore? Conversely the Penguin traded in all of his gentlemanly ways to become a monster (and, coincidentally, his gang looks a lot like the Joker's).

Another strange thing about those early Batman movies is Batman's willingness to kill. Seriously, in the first movie Keaton kills almost every single villain he comes across and his entire motivation is violent revenge. Heck, he flies the damn batplane into a crowded square and launches missiles and heavy machine gun fire! And even though he is at least as psychotic as the Joker by the end of the movie, the Commissioner simply says "yay Batman! He's a good guy!" It just seemed to me that Batman would at least seem as dangerous to the population as the Joker; he just happens to choose victims that are villains. Also, if you're going to kill them anyway, why not use a gun?

But still, they were pretty entertaining movies and helped me to get more in the mood for Dark Knight (like I needed any help... heck, I'm printing out "I believe in Harvey Dent" posters for my car... [side note: in the first Batman movie, Harvey Dent was played by Billy Dee Williams, aka Lando Calrissian. Crazy world, huh?]).

I'll be altering a bit of my Heffenzopf baking post to include some information that I forgot the first time around, so be sure to check back there if you have the recipe and want to try to make some. Also, I found two really good sites for physics GRE help- http://www.physicsgre.com/ and http://grephysics.net/ans/

That's about it for now; I should have my photos from NH up within the hour.
edit: they are at http://picasaweb.google.com/herzlbem/NewHampshire

"A lot of guys ignore the laugh, and that's about standards. I mean, if you're going to get into the Evil League of Evil you have to have a memorable laugh... What, do you think Bad Horse didn't work on his whinnie? (pause) It's a terrible... death whinnie..."
-Dr. Horrible

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Road Trippin' In the Northeast, Part 2

Greetings, and welcome back! When we last left off, the Herzl-Betz Expeditionary Force was going to sleep. Unfortunately, during the night a rather large porcupine decided to resume its assault on our house. Now, assault may seem to be a strange word to use when referring to a woodland animal's actions against a house, but I use it here in its fullest sense. The picture to the right is an example of what the porcupines have done on their latest round of attacks. Apparently they somehow figured out that the door contained wood on the inside, so they chewed through the aluminum frame to get to the wood. Determined little suckers, eh? At least they are not chewing on the foundations of the house anymore- apparently they don't like cedar shingles.

As we prepared to head out my mom checked to see if her new key worked in the door, and at least to her cursory examination it seemed to work fine, so we headed out. Our first stop was at another piece of land of ours in nearby Jefferson, N.H. We met up with our forester, Dana Blaise, who walked us around the property and told us how he was going to conduct the tree harvest. Apparently our land has an unusually large population of oak for the northeast and Dana wants to try to increase that population even more to help sustain the local wildlife.

After that we headed into town to get keys made and visit the local maple store. Among the usual items they had something called maple cream soda. Surprisingly enough, it tasted almost like I was drinking carbonated maple sugar; kinda weird, but fortunately I like weird.

We then moved on to the point of our trip- hiking. We decided to tackle Mt. Cherry, which falls just under the 4,000 foot mark. The day was pretty hot and the trail was surprisingly steep for what was listed as a moderate hike. The only way my mom scaled the mountain was thanks to a walking stick that Rachel had bought for me, and even our dog needed to be carried in the backpack for part of the way down.

After the hike we were pretty tired and definitely ready to call it a day. Unfortunately when we got back to the house we found that all of the keys that we made didn't work. Apparently when my mom checked the keys she didn't realize that the key didn't actually lock or unlock the door; it simply turned around and around. Fortunately I had my pocket knife with me, which I used to unscrew a screen, make a few small incisions in the screen and sneak in through the kitchen window.

The next day was just more driving, which wasn't all that bad. Normally when I'm cooped up with my mom I get really annoyed with her, but this trip was different. We actually had conversations and a good time together. I don't know if it's just me mellowing at my old age of 22, but I guess its a change for the better.

And, as always:

Robin: "You can't get away from Batman that easy!"
Batman: "Easily."
Robin: "Easily."
Batman: "Good grammar is essential, Robin."
Robin: "Thank you."
Batman: "You're welcome."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Road Trippin' In the Northeast, Part 1

So, as intimated in my last post, my Mom, my dog and myself all went up to our place in New Hampshire for the weekend. Our trip didn't start off under the most auspicious circumstances, as one way or another we had managed to lose all of our keys to our house up there since the previous summer. We decided not to freak out about that, as our caretaker had spares and we could therefore get in as long as we called ahead of time.

I was supposed to drive the first segment of our 7-8 hour trip due to my theoretically getting a decent amount of sleep the night before while my mom did her usual freaking out about packing the car. Unfortunately I had spent some time watching Hellboy (good movie by the way) and the remainder of my night was spent alternately trying to get my awake body asleep and fighting off nose bleeds. So, come the next morning at 6, we were both fairly exhausted and groggy. Fortunately Dunkin Donuts coffee is one of God's miraculous gifts to the world, and we were soon off.

We drove across New York and had almost reached the Vermont border when we decided to stop in Hoosick, New York to get lunch. The place that we stopped at was called the Big Moose Deli and Gift Shop, and true to its name the place was completely and utterly moose themed. Outside there were huge chainsaw log and plaster sculptures of moose. Inside there were little meese swinging on tires, moose brand beer bread, moose alarm clocks, moose magically expanding boxers ("Just add water!"), and more moose themed candies than you could shake a stick at. We purchased a few moose-knacks as well as an amazing wrap filled with all manner of chipotle goodness... not exactly moose related, but still good.

We next crossed the Vermont border into Bennington. We didn't do this on the way up, but on the way back we stopped at the Vermont Confectionary, which is located just outside of Bennington on Route 9. This place is pretty amazing- I don't think that I've seen that much candy in one place except at the world's longest candy counter, and even that might not have been as much. The people who owned the confectionary were really friendly and surprised us by knowing not only about Carleton (where their best friends had apparently gone to school), but also about Haverford, Hamilton and Muhlenberg (the schools my siblings are going/went to). We had a nice long conversation about Minnesota and Wisconsin winters as well as the pros and cons of liberal arts schools for the sciences, and I had the best mocha milk shake I think I've ever had.

We continued to meander through Vermont on Route 9, which took us through plenty of back country. The views were quite gorgeous, but unfortunately the stress of driving a suburban through narrow, twisting and often steeply inclined roads with really slow drivers kind of took away some of the beauty. Fortunately this stopped when we got onto I-91 to drive halfway up Vermont. (Fun fact: there are only two rest stops on the entirely length of I-91 north, and they are within half an hour of one another! I-91 south only has one!)

We finally entered into New Hampshire and drove into Littleton, a cute little town in west-central NH. In this town they have the World's Longest candy counter as well as what is probably the best local book store that I have ever seen. We stopped at a local Lowes to see if they had any sheds that we could use to store our sickle bar mower in. This is a really big deal for us, as otherwise we have no way of cutting the tall grass around our NH property, and currently the 42 inch wide mower is behind a 37 inch wide door- not exactly the easiest prospect of getting in and out. Unfortunately the sales people weren't terribly timely or helpful, so we simply left more tired than before.

We drove on to our home base in Lancaster, NH and were greeted by our closest neighbor, Randy, and his dog Lady. Apparently the first time my mom and sister tried to get to our property after he moved in, his dog almost scared my sister to death. She's a bit lively to be sure, but she's also really sweet and had a great time playing with Orio. Randy talked with us for a while and eventually gave us a dozen eggs his chickens had laid, as apparently they lay more than he knows what to do with. Oh well, great for us...

So we finally got into our house and moved all of our stuff in. For dinner, we decided to stick with New England fare and had lobster dipped in butter pared with local brews, both of which were good and one of which restored my faith in hops (though I'll get to that later). Before heading off to bed, I broke out our scythe and started whacking away at some of the tall grass surrounding our house. Finally, tired and exhausted, we prepared for our hike for the next day and went to bed.

Well, that was day one. Seeing as this post is already huge enough, I think I'm going to leave off day two for another post, either later today or tomorrow. I'll put pics up on Facebook pretty soon.

Until then,

"The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother."
- Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain

p.s. Consolation prizes! Ms. Roberts: 5 xp. Lurie: forgiveness for not returning my key ring. Teagle: The right to name one of my Heroscape squads.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Excursions in Baking!

Hey all, thanks for the huge response to my e-mail! I guess prizes really are the way to convince people to do something... *jots things down in journal*

So, today was a wonderfully warm and clear day here in Elmira, with barely any clouds in the sky and not ridiculously hot for once. I got to bike down to our weekly farmers' market and pick up a steak salad in an edible bowl (yay America- even our place settings are edible!)

The other major thing that I did today was help my Oma (that's Deutsch for grandmother for all of you Deutschefremden out there) bake Heffenzopf! Heffenzopf (pronounced heff-ehn-tsupf) is one of my favorite dishes and can be most closely described as a Teutonic challah that's a bit more on the moist and sweet side. My Oma has been baking it since she was 5 back in the Vaterland, but it wasn't until recently that I learned to perform this magical art.

The first thing you do is get all of your ingredients together in a big bowl, and then add in the yeast. Then we move to this step:

That's my Oma mixing in more flour to make the dough drier and give it more consistency. You have to do this for a while, but remember that the dough is still pretty liquid, or else you'll do something like this:

Yeah, not one of my prouder moments. Anyway, you have to keep on adding flour until you can't stir anymore and the fun begins. Using flour to keep your hand from sticking to the dough, you reach in on the side, lift and mush into the center repeatedly with the heel of your hand, continually adding more flour.

After a while, when the bread starts feeling less sticky you perform the same motion, but only until the top is fairly even; then you just beat the crap out of it with your hand.

Finally, we leave it in the bowl with the top flat, cover it and let it rise. It is important to put a bit of olive oil around the edge of the dough; not much, but just enough to make sure that it doesn't stick to the bowl.

Next, we take the dough out and hammer it some more with the heel of the hand, just like before, until it is all smoothed out. Now we can cut the dough apart and knead that as well.

Next, we place the dough in pans and cover them with mished up eggs to keep them from burning in the oven, as well as giving them an eventually nice golden-brown color.

You can even put initials into the dough at this stage; for instance, here's an M!

Finally, we put them in the oven for about an hour, and we have awesome breads!

This bread is amazingly delicious, and the best part is you can just freeze it for months on end with little loss of flavor! So just make a huge batch all at once and you can be eating Heffenzopf all year round!

So, you may be wondering why I told you how to do everything but not how much of everything to use. First, my Oma doesn't actually know how much of anything she puts in there; she just knows that some amounts are right and others are wrong. Fortunately, I have the amounts necessary to make a nice big loaf... though I do need to find it first.

SO, as a prize to all of you who posted before midnight, I will e-mail out a copy of the recipe to each of you when I find it/ bother my Oma to tell me the recipe for the umpteenth time. Yay prizes!

That's about it for now; tomorrow I'm heading up to the Granite State to do some hiking with my mom and the dog. Until then, remember this:

"Do you wanna come with me? 'Cause if you do then I should warn you, you're gonna see all sorts of things. Ghosts from the past; Aliens from the future; the day the Earth died in a ball of flame; It won't be quiet, it won't be safe, and it won't be calm. But I'll tell you what it will be: the trip of a lifetime. "
-The Doctor

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Entering the Blogosphere in 3... 2... 1...

Hey all, and welcome to my blog, 13:72! I hope to start posting things here pretty soon, including a running manual on How To Beat the Physics GRE (I know, what fun!).

But yes, check back later and I'll have stuff posted from Elmira, NH, Minneapolis and beyond!