Blog: April 2019

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Origins game con

As we did last year, Dani dug through the vast list of games that are being offered for playing and extracted a much shorter list of games that sounded interesting to him and that he thought I'd like. I then sorted that list into four piles: really want to play, want to play, would play, and would rather not. He will put this together with his own preferences, work the jigsaw magic of the schedule, and come up with something that works.

Fairly often, games we want to play aren't available in timeslots that work, or sell out before we can register (more a problem with GenCon, I understand). So you need to go in with more options than you'll need, so there's wiggle room. That all makes sense.

After I gave him my list, I noticed that I had 27 hours of "really want", 47 hours of "want", and 67 hours (what's with the 7s?) of "would play". The convention is (effectively) four days long. I do insist on sleeping.

So, yeah. I'll be interested in seeing what subset actually works. :-)

(This was out of a list of about 60 games. We mostly aim for shorter games -- for me it's damage-mitigation, in case something turns out to suck -- but our list did include both Advanced Civilization and History of the World.)

Spring CSA, week 3

  • 4 parsnips (from three bases :-) )
  • 6 Fuji apples
  • 4 large-to-huge blue potatoes (nominal 2 pounds)
  • 2 green meat radishes, one huge
  • bunch Swiss chard (half pound)
  • head lettuce
  • bag salanova (mixed salad greens)
  • bunch red pac choi

(The small share omitted the apples and potatoes, got watermelon radish instead of green meat radish, and got kale instead of chard.)

That's a lot of greens. I know pac choi and chard are both good for sauteing; I have a vague memory that chard works well in a greens-based soup too. Salads are obvious (and I've been making salad for lunch more often lately). Last night I roasted the last of last week's blue potatoes, sliced thin and sprinkled with fresh rosemary and sea salt, and then finished them under the broiler to get nice crunchy crisp bits. That definitely worked, so I'll be doing that again. (I also roasted some parsnips last night.) I might try shredding and pan-frying parsnips (hash-browns style); it seems like that would be nice. Some will also go into a vegetable soup soon (maybe with some greens?).

Halacha tangent: I knew last week that this week's share would not include anything that's problematic during Pesach (when there are restrictions on even owning certain foods), but I found myself wondering how it would have worked otherwise. It depends on when you legally become the owner of the food. In advance, when I paid for the share? When I physically acquire the share each week? So I asked on Mi Yodeya; let's see if I get good answers. (There are some useful leads in a couple comments, and a lot of comments from somebody who didn't like the way I asked the question.)

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Always mount a scratch seder

Another family in my congregation invited me for the first seder tomorrow night. It was to be their family, another family, one other individual, and me. This morning they sent email: the host is sick and contagious, and can anybody else host? I offered. The other family wrote back and said they had made alternate plans when they heard about the health situation (I gather that there was prior discussion with hopes that it would pass). The host clarified that they are all presumed contagious and so would be staying home. That left me and the other singleton.

So I sent her email and said hey, I'm game if you are. (Offers of food had been free-flowing, so I wasn't going to have to cook everything at the last minute.) Meanwhile, I checked back with my synagogue to see if anybody needed a place to go at the last minute and also checked with some people whose plans I knew to have been uncertain, but everybody was settled. While waiting for her reply I wondered what I would do if she bailed, and found myself wondering whether I could fulfill my obligation through a second-night seder that starts before sundown (as the one I'm going to will) or what it would be like to read the haggadah alone or whether it was too late to ask the Chabad rabbi for help.

But she was up for it, so fine, we both figured -- we can have a small seder, get to know each other better, and have a grand time. It'll be good.

A few hours later I got a call from another family from the minyan -- they'd heard through the grapevine that I needed a place and would be happy to have me. I said there was another person who would be stranded if I accepted and could she come too? Yes yes, of course. So I accepted for both of us, sent email to tell her what happened and make sure it was ok, and she's happy to accept.

So I went from "sure, I can pull a seder out of thin air; we have food, we have wine, we have haggadot, and we are mighty!" to everything working out. The food I would have taken to the original seder will be welcome at the new one, and plans for the second night are unaffected. Whee!

Spring CSA, week 2

This week's email described last week's share as a "teaser". Yeah, I see what they meant:

  • 10 parsnips (nominal 2 pounds)
  • 7 Fuji apples (nominal 2 pounds)
  • 2 large blue potatoes
  • 4 medium-large white potatoes
  • 2 watermelon radishes (one large, one small)
  • bunch arugula
  • head of unspecified lettuce (does not match picture in the manifest, which was of the type we got last week; I don't know what this is but it's pretty)
  • bunch of "gourmet lettuce mix"

We're getting the standard box. The small box omits the head of lettuce, the white potatoes, and half the parsnips. It occurs to me that tracking these differences will help us decide what size to get next year.

Going into Pesach, I'm happy to have plenty of root veggies to roast, stuff for salads, greens to saute, and applesauce. (Do carrots grow in the spring? I think of them as parsnip-siblings and they go so well together.)

The farm stand (optional side orders) had fresh rosemary this week, and for less than it costs at the grocery store. Rosemary is very nice with blue potatoes and a little sea salt.

(Sea salt? When did I start getting particular about salt? But yes, sea salt does something there that ordinary table salt doesn't. I guess it's the coarser grind, because really, doesn't all salt come from the sea? Or, if some is manufactured in a lab, how would you be able to tell?)

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Notre Dame

In light of today's sad news from Paris, here are a few not-very-good pictures I took in 2014.

Sad, not distraught (maybe I would be were I French or Catholic) -- nobody died, neither any of the hundreds of firefighters nor spectators getting too close. The rest is stuff, and while it's sad to lose priceless centuries-old stuff, it's still stuff.

And the Catholic church has oodles of money and loot; they can rebuild. Not like most other communities (including Christian ones) that suffer terrible losses and can't.

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Unsolved mystery

This morning I drove past a construction (orange) sign that said "be prepared to stop". The person in front of me at the time was driving somewhat erratically. There was no construction nearby (or anywhere on my route to work).

What I want to know is: how did they know?

Spring CSA, week 1

The spring farm share is weekly for eight weeks, starting today.

  • 4 parsnips
  • 4 white potatoes
  • 5 fingerling sweet potatoes
  • head hydroponic lettuce
  • bunch red pak choi
  • 25oz jar diced tomatoes (more like a puree)
  • dozen free-range eggs

We had most of the pak choi in a stir-fry tonight. I'm glad to have parsnips again, which I like roasted along with other root veggies. There was a jar of the tomato puree in one of the winter shares and it made a good base for soup, so I'll probably do that again. The hydroponic lettuce has been nice in salads. Normally I don't notice lettuce being especially good; it's just there. This is good.

I've been having a delightful email conversation with somebody at the CSA, initially because they asked for feedback on the winter share. I mentioned that this was my first CSA experience and I'd been blogging it, and shared the tag link (hi, CSA folks!).

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Magic 2.0 seems to have jumped the shark

A couple years ago somebody recommended Scott Meyer's Off to Be the Wizard, the first book in the "Magic 2.0" series. The premise is geek-fantasy: the point-of-view character, Martin, is a hacker who discovers a file (out there somewhere) that, when you edit it, changes reality. In other words, it's the file that defines the world and everything in it. After experimenting a bit (always meant to drop 20 pounds, that kind of thing), he decides to improve his quality of life by altering his bank balance. That's fine because he's creating money, not actually stealing it from anybody, right? No, not such a bright move, and soon he finds himself making a temporal change to escape the feds. His plan is to flee to medieval England and pretend to be a wizard. He's not the first person to think of that, or the last -- the other wizards put him through trials to decide if he can join the guild or if they'll revoke his access and send him back to his time to deal with the feds. It's a fun read.

I also enjoyed the sequel, Spell or High Water, in which we find out more about where female wizards (sorceresses) go, medieval England not being so great for them. We see more interactions among the main characters, and of course some problems they need to solve together. Another fun read.

The third book, An Unwelcome Quest, was less fun, in large part because of the setting. This is the first book where we don't see much of the world the wizards are in; an enemy wizard has caught the gang in a trap and most of the book is spent trying to escape it. Because my reaction to this one was solidly mediocre, and also because the next one existed only as an audiobook for a long time, I didn't go further. Recently I noticed that two more books were available on Kindle.

The fourth, Fight and Flight, starts with the wizards making a stupid mistake with consequences, which they spend the rest of the book cleaning up. The humor (including some actual laughing out loud) of the first book was back, and the resolution of the problem seemed to start down a good character-development path. On the basis of that, I read the fifth.

Out of Spite, Out of Mind was a major disappointment. Many of the characters' actions are just stupid, and in a not-fun way. That growth suggested at the end of the previous book is nowhere in evidence. The plot also revolves around some time-travel paradoxes that have been there since book 2 and always been a little annoying, but now they've taken over. In book 2 we met Brit the Younger and Brit the Elder, who are really the same person at different points in their personal timeline because bad things happen when you time-travel and meet yourself. They don't agree that they're the same person, by the way, and arguments about predestination break out. In this book that all ramps up, and we meet Brit the Much Elder and Angry Brit and Brit the One Hour Older and I think there's one more running around in there... and y'know what? I never liked Brit all that much to begin with. And in the process of messing with the Brits, the author messes with some characters I like and then ends with a very obvious setup for a sequel at the expense of resolving a major thread. I kind of feel like the author broke the contract with the reader here, especially since the earlier books all at least resolved even while leaving openings.

I see the sixth book is coming soon. I won't be reading it.

(By the way, I've read two other books, not in this series, by this author that were fun. Perhaps he does better with one-offs?)