Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tournament Report: San Diego 3 Weapon Open

This past Sunday I went up to Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego and fenced in the local three weapon open. Well, it was a really small tournament, and thus short, which is good, as I pulled dead last. If I'm gonna do horribly, I'd at least like to do so in a timely fashion.

With eight people total participating, we had a full pool of all the competitors, and I went two and five. I don't feel great about how I fenced a couple of those, there were a couple where I was simply caught flat footed repeatedly, and others where I didn't adapt quickly enough. I felt okay about how I was moving, it's my tactics that are getting me in trouble. Anyway, another two weeks 'til the next tournament, I've got some stuff to work on.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What's Making Me Happy This Week, Pt. 2

A few weeks ago I was ruminating over how to connect my Xbox to the internet, as it didn't have a wireless adapter and the modem was in my room. I mentioned the idea of running an ethernet cable through the house to my roommate, and he proposed using the cable splitter that was right in front of the TV and the Xbox to set the modem and router up there. And lo, it was done. Why is this important, you may ask? Because, once again, I have Netflix streaming through my Xbox to my TV, and it is glorious.

I'm using this newfound access to catch up with a show I heard about a year and change ago that was supposed to be rather excellent, and I can now confirm that is true. 'Terriers' is based in San Diego and follows two down on their luck, unlicensed private investigators through their various misadventures. It's smartly written, well acted, and in the first two episodes it hasn't made a misstep, which I feel is rare. There aren't a lot of shows that don't have terrible pilots, but they came out swinging, which is just as well because there's only half a season of it. I'm usually leery of getting into TV series, as I'm a completionist and want to watch every episode of something (which is terrible for my time management). An unintimidating thirteen episodes is just about right to hook me, and hopefully it'll leave me wanting more.

The second thing making me happy this week is rediscovering a game called Braid. It's essentially Super Mario, in that you play a small fellow who stomps on goomba-creatures and defeats bosses in order to find and rescue a princess, who is perpetually in another castle. However, it is so much more than that. In addition to your usual running and jumping, in Braid you can reverse the flow of time. In each stage of the game, this works differently, and results in some very fun, occasionally frustrating puzzles. The story is great, the music is amazing, the art is astonishingly beautiful, and it's challenging. You can't ask for much more than that. And it's cheap! You can grab it for $10 off the Mac App Store or on Steam.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Brewing Mead

For a while now, I've been fascinated with the idea of brewing up a mead, which is essentially fermented honey water. I looked up some instructions, and what struck me was how simple it was. In short:

Take 10-18 pounds of honey (depending on how dry or sweet you want your mead to be), and then mix in about 4 gallons of water. I grabbed 10 pounds from Mikolich Honey at the Little Italy Farmer's Market the day before.

Bring the entire concoction to about 190º farenheit and leave it there for at least twenty minutes to pasteurize it. While that's happening, skim off the foam that forms on top, as this is full of nasty junk you don't want in your mead.

Cool your must (the word for unfermented mead. Cue the 'more you know' rainbow!) down to 70-75º so that you can pitch the yeast. Then move the must to the sanitiized carboy. If you look carefully, you might see a wild, bearded 'Groth' assisting with this part of the operation.

Pitch the yeast! Then store in an appropriately cool spot (70º for this particular yeast) for a month before racking to a secondary fermenter. Some folks have suggested racking to a tertiary fermenter after another two months, and then aging it for a year. We'll see if we follow that particular plan, as it seems to be rather a long time to wait for a tasty beverage.

Special thanks to Groth and Ashok for being the brew crew for this one!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Comic Con 2012

Okay, so my annual Comic-Con post is tragically late. I beg your forgiveness! Oh wait, no one reads this. Crisis averted.

Anyhoo, this was a weird year at Con for me. I didn't get a four day pass, I actually didn't get any passes in the first couple of sales. I got very lucky in that I have a great friend (Rey Guerrero, who is a mensch, a champ, and a lifesaver) who happened to be in possession of a guest pass that he was happy to give to me. Which, as I've said, makes him a mensch of the highest order.

So I went out to preview night with my good buddy Peter, and walking into the convention hall felt a lot like coming home. The dull roar of the convention floor, the sights of all the cosplayers and exhibits, it's a different combination every time, but it's still familiar. This was my sixth con, and each time I find more and more to discover. For the second time at Comic-Con, on Preview Night, I ran headlong into Mr. TJ Tallie, which mostly served to remind me that for an event with about a hundred thousand people in attendance, you can still just run into people you know.

On Thursday I went down to catch W00tstock 4.0 with my friends Dave and Katherine, which as ever was about the funniest five hours of my con. Featuring the usual cast of ne'er do-wells, it featured a couple new faces that I hadn't seen before, and who were ludicrously entertaining. One of these new faces was Joseph Scrimshaw, who made me laugh so hard my abs hurt the next day.

On Friday I milled about downtown for a while, checking out a lot of what I call 'con-adjacent' events. A particularly fun one was the exhibition of all the Batmobiles over by the Hilton. These ran the gamut from Adam West's jalopy to Christian Bale's tumbler, and it was pretty awesome.

Later that day, I wandered up the street and right into the middle of a zombie walk. A mile long parade of zombies, striding down 5th avenue. It literally did not end, I kept trying to go against the tide of made-up, blood smeared people. Some of them were very well done, some of them were, well, less so. It was still an impressively sized spectacle. And I was also struck by how in-character some people were. A little too convincing, sometimes.

I then proceeded to the Nerdist Podcast Live for the second year running, and got to watch my favorite podcast crew riff, drink, and be incredibly profane. As much as I love the usual cast of Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray and Matt Mira, their guest, John Barrowman, really stole the show. Mostly by telling the dirtiest stories, drinking like a fish, and molesting the cast and several members of the audience. So, in essence, a great show, which you can hear the podcast of, if you're so inclined.

On Saturday, I headed downtown to soak in more con-adjacent stuff, one of which was the superhero art exhibit at Michael J. Wolf Fine Art Gallery. Every year they have some manner of superhero art up, but they had some pretty excellent art up this year, including this Batman portrait.

Later on I wound up linking up with my roommates Lucky and Debra to check out 'The Walking Dead: The Escape' event at Petco Park. Essentially an obstacle race through the park, but with ZOMBIES! It was a lot of fun to watch, the zombies were really committed to being scary, grotesque and didn't lumber too much, but picked some strategic 'choke points' and managed to tag almost everyone who went through.

Following that, I actually headed back to my house and then walked over to the Ruby Room, a local bar/venue to catch a nerdcore hip hop show featuring MC Frontalot. It was pretty excellent, for a couple of reasons. One, I've been a fan of his for about 5 years now and have never seen him live. Then, during an opening act I'm leaning against a pool table, having a beer, and glance back at the guy who just leaned against it a few feet away and it's MC FRONTALOT. DUDE. I mean, I didn't say anything to him or anything, 'cause I don't want to fanboy, but that was awesome. The music was awesome, it was great to see him perform live after listening to his albums so many times. The second reason it was exceedingly awesome was the interstitial performances between musicians being Star Wars themed burlesque dancers. Sexy Boba Fett, Sexy Stormtrooper, and of course, Sexy Slave Leia. So, you know, that was pretty excellent.

Sunday I went back to Comic-Con proper, the exhibit floor. I actually saw no panels this time around, I literally just walked around and tried to soak in as much of the cosplay and booth fun as possible. One of my favorite booth displays was Geek Chic's, as it featured fine, handcrafted wooden furniture & faux weapons, with an eye towards gaming tables and paraphernalia, which I would totally get if I had several thousand extra dollars lying around. The cosplay was also excellent, as you can see below. The lady Dr. Who cosplayers are really becoming a staple at Comic-Con!

All in all, it was a great con. It was my Nerd Christmas, and now I just have to wait and try to stay on the good list until next July.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tournament Report: Orange Coast 3 Weapon Open

I just got back from the tournament, after getting knocked out in the round of 32. Despite that, I'm actually feeling pretty good about it. I fenced well in pools, going 4-2, a pretty decent improvement over last time. Then in direct elimination, I pulled a guy I'd fenced in pools in the round of 64, and beat him pretty handily. Then I pulled my coach in the round of 32. Tedd and I had a pretty decent bout, 15-9, and he went on to take second. So while I found myself out earlier than I planned, I feel like I fenced well, better than I did at the last tournament. So, out of 54 fencers, I took 21st overall, which isn't a bad day at all. And then I got to go home and have a 'funky monkey' from a local coffee shop to ease the heat. Good day!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What's Making Me Happy This Week, Pt. 1

One of my favorite podcasts is NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. It's a panel show in which four folks who work in various departments at NPR covering arts and entertainment discuss current events and other various and sundry topics relating to pop culture. It's very NPR, as everyone is generally polite and friendly, and the discussion is substantive and relatable. It's also a lot of fun to listen to the panelists bounce off one another, as this is a group of funny, likable people who know what they're talking about. One of their regular segments is 'what's making us happy' in which they discuss exactly that: which piece of art or life event is keeping them happy that week. And I thought that was a really cool idea, so I'll be doing it on my own here. I thought about doing it on a podcast, but then I realized how seriously self-indulgent that would be, so I put it on my blog. HUGE difference.

So, thing the first! This particularly charming music video from Ben Folds Five, 'Do It Anyway'. Featuring the Fraggles! I admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the Fraggles growing up for whatever reason, but I found this whole enterprise to be pretty delightful overall.

The other thing that made me fist pump and clap when I saw it was this campaign ad for a supreme court seat in Michigan. Featuring most of the cast of the West Wing IN CHARACTER, it's probably the best campaign ad ever produced ever.

As much as I do like 'The Newsroom', I do miss 'The West Wing' a lot, and this was a great little reminder of how awesome that was. Speaking of 'The Newsroom', I think Jon Stewart must have been watching it, because he and the Daily Show staff kind of went to town on the Romney campaign, as they are wont to do. However, this particular bit was significantly more pointed and well put together. When Stewart finished, I did start clapping, alone in my house. Which maybe isn't something I should admit to the world. Hmmm.

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In terms of actual things I read/watched all the way through, I finished Joe Haldeman's 'The Forever War' this week, which was a thoroughly enjoyable, if slightly depressing read. Following the life of a guy born in 1977 through the 34th century, thanks to time dilation, it really highlights how you can never really go home again. Finally, I watched the latest episode of Dr. Who, 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship', which despite the very silly premise, was a whole lot of fun. You get to see the doctor in both extremes, from his manic wonder to his more cold, slightly vengeful side. Also, they ride a triceratops and there are two robots who seem to be channeling Douglas Adams. It's brilliant.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A fun day skiing

About 6 months ago (March 24th, to be exact) I went skiing with my roommate, Debra, up at Big Bear resort in Big Bear, California. I had a good day overall, except for the part where I fell and separated my shoulder. Technically, what I did was fray my supraspinatous tendon, which is kind of a bear to deal with. (Get it? Bear? Skiing at Big Bear? I'll show myself out.)

So I just finished several months of physical therapy, building up the muscles around the shoulder to take over the functionality that I lost (which was essentially the ability to raise my arm up or put a shirt on without saying 'ow ow ow ow ow ow'), and I'm just about all healed up now, which is delightful. However, that's not the really good news. The really good news is that while I was traipsing about the mountain and falling on my face, I happened to be wearing a helmet mounted camera, specifically a Go-Pro, which captured every delightful second of my impact. The 'crunch' sound is both my shoulder and dignity taking a beating, just so you know. Please enjoy the added irony of hearing me tell a beginner skier who just fell on his face that he should try the other side of the mountain just seconds before I slam into the snow.