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Month: May 2016

Brick Bytes – Invasion of Turtle Lair Lego Build

 

tiny pic

 

OMG! Shredder is invading the turtle lair. Better protect Splinter. Leo races from the sewers, slides down and meets Donny in the computer room.  Luckily, Mikey isn’t with them, he would want to eat that pizza on the floor. OOPs, got distracted. Donny and Leo race to protect Splinter from Shredder and his foot soldiers!

Direct from the Movie and Legos. You get to put together the TMNT Turtle Lair with the Leader Leo and gadget maker Donny. Includes Leonardo, Donatello,  Shredder, Splinter and 2 foot soldiers. Moving parts, secret passages and even traps! What could get better than this?

 Lego Set  

 Movie

Thank you to:
Richard the Camera Man

Mr E, my tiny dancer.

Music: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music

Sweet Tips – World’s Best Banana Bread

This is an instructional video on how to make the best Banana Bread. Simple, easy and delicious!

This uses the following Video’s instructions

List of Items used in Video

 

Banana Bread YouTube

Banana Bread:

Ingredients in Order of Usage:

  1. 1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
  2. 1 tsp baking soda
  3. ½ tsp very fine table salt or ground up sea salt
  4. Liquefied Banana Mixture
  5. 8 Tbls of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly.
  6. 2 Large eggs
  7. ¾ cups brown sugar, packed
  8. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  9. Optional: ½ cup walnuts or pecans.

 

Directions:

  1. Pre-Heat Oven to 350 degrees. Make sure to move the rack to the center.
  2. Prepare 1 9inch bread pan with non-stick cooking/baking spray.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the Banana Mixture, butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. Once this mixture is smooth, begin to slowly pour this mixture into the dry components. Do not over beat.  You should still see some streaks of flour.  This is fine, since the last step is to mix in the nuts if you choose to.
  5. Mix the nuts into the batter (optional).
  6. Now, place this batter into your prepared bread pan.
  7. You can bake as is, or decorate the top of the bread. If you choose to just bake as is, place the pan on a cookie sheet and place into a preheated oven of 350 degrees F. Bake for between 55 and 70 minutes.
  8. After 55 minutes begin to check the bread with an inserted toothpick every 5-10 minutes. You are looking to poke the center of the bread with a toothpick and have the toothpick come out of the break cleanly. Now, some people like to have a moister bread.  So, you can bring it out once the toothpick comes out mostly clean (but no liquid goop).  The bread will cook some while cooling.
  9. And then you are finished.

 

Optional: Decorating the top of the batter.

There are two ways you could do this.  With a brown sugar crumble top or sliced bananas.

In this recipe I will discuss the sliced banana method, since it looks pretty!

Ingredients you will need:

  1. 1 large banana slightly aged.
  2. Optional: ¼ cup Crushed walnuts or pecans.
  3. 2 tsps. of granulated or caster sugar

Directions.

  1. Slice up the banana. These should be angled cuts (see video).  They should be approximately ¼ an inch thick.
  2. Line the edges of the batter with the bananas (see video).
  3. Optionally, grind up the chosen nuts in a food processer or a spice grinder. Then place this across the top between the two lined banana rows.
  4. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of batter. Try to evenly distribute it.

 

 

Lets Play – Warhammer Vermintide – Hard Mode – The Horn of Magnus

Here, Jason, Lydon, and Richard play through hard mode of Warhammer Vermintide – The Horn of Magnus.

In future episodes, they’ll be going through each episode.

We were still learning how to setup the technology, but we thought the novelty of having multiplayer and switching between perspectives was interesting.

This game is available via Steam here

5 Cooking Tips to Save or Boost Your Meals

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few years, if you have anything else, please comment below!

If its bland, add Salt

You’ve added herbs, you’ve used excellent quality ingredients with a tasty and healthy oil.  Then you take a bite….and it doesn’t taste like anything.  Don’t be sad (yet), sometimes you need to wake up the taste buds by adding some salt.  I know salt has been vilified for the past few decades, but trust me, adding a bit of salt if you’re generally healthy is not going to hurt.  Try it before you do something more drastic (like ordering out).

Rock salt from Pakistan byu Hubertle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2015-03-07_Pakistanisches,_sogenanntes_Himalaya-Salz_0399.jpg

Fat doesn’t evaporate, don’t just hope your sauce or meat will thicken…

If you saute something like chicken or ground beef, and you have a puddle of liquid sitting in your pan.  DO NOT just keep cooking hoping it will thicken into some sort of glaze.  It won’t.  You need to either pour out some of the fat or add something to make it thicken and stick like some sort of starch.  Yes, you might end up pouring out some seasoning (if you added it already), which means chances are, you’ll need to reseason it.  Next time cook first, add seasoning towards the end, but either way, it isn’t unfixable unless you overcook it….

 

Don’t be afraid to use heat

Sometimes, you’ll need to use high heat to keep food juicy.  For example, you want to make a steak stir fry like you might have at Benny Hanna.  If you cook at too low of a temperature, you end up with gray meat all the way through.

Typically what you really want, is brown on the outside, pink on the inside.  That is the ticket to juicy delicious meat (along with salt)!  In order to have that brown on the outside and pink on the inside, you need the meat on the outside to hit around 300 degrees (150 C) before the inside cooks, so you need the pan to be hot, then take the steak out QUICK.  Same thing with chicken.  Go to a chinese restaurant and watch the chef cook, they’ll cook at extreme temperatures often, and things come out delicious.  The key for that style is to chop the ingredients small enough that the insides cook enough even from a short time in the heat while the outsides caramelize.

Kelly B from Mandarin Restaurant https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flaming_wok_by_KellyB_in_Bountiful,_Utah.jpg

Don’t overcook your food

Look, I get it, some people just like their food more well done.  I could try to brow beat you into liking medium well, I could give you links to reports related to cancer and well done meat, but honestly, I don’t care. If you like well-done meat, that is fine, but don’t overcook it!   I know what you’re thinking, didn’t I just say that you shouldn’t be afraid to use heat?  High heat allows you to cook the outside before the inside gets overcooked, regardless if that seems contrary to each other.

Not overcooking your food means you should always stop cooking early, because you can always cook it more, but you can’t cook it less.  Heck, if you like your food well done, there are a variety of techniques like low and slow Texas style beef ribs that come out AMAZING.  If someone complains that you under-cooked their food, just toss it back in a pan at high temperature.  If someone complains that you overcooked their food….guess its time to order in.

If grill marks are so good, cover your food in them

Look, grill marks are delicious.  Crispy bits on your meat.  Stop trying to make them!  We get it, you leave the meat on the grill long enough, you have delicious lines.   You know whats better? An entire giant grill mark.  Move your meat on the grill to try and get the entire bottom to be caramelized.

Roger Mommaerts tuna steaks https://www.flickr.com/photos/rmommaerts/2950317729
Grill marks

Wikipedia

Grill Marks Only

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delmonico_steak#/media/File:Delmonico_steak.jpg by WmJR

Seared Steak, effectively grill marks all over!

 

 

The Ingredients – How to Setup Ghostbusters the Board game

Open up your game and be ready to pause as Richard walks through setting up Ghostbusters the Board Game by Cryptozoic step by step.    Or, put the video on while you wait to receive your game to help be ready with an understanding of what the pieces like and where to position them after you DO receive the game.

This time, Richard only manages to make 3 mistakes and manages to catch two of them halfway through!  Don’t worry, the editor (Anna) catches all of them and has added notes where they happen.  If you see any others, please post a comment!

Whatever you do, try not to get slimed!

Gaming as Adults

Running a regular gaming grou p is hard.  We’re all adults, we’re all working, most of us are going to college.

Yes kids, anyone who tells you that if you quit, you’ll never go back isn’t necessarily right.  On the other hand, you don’t want to be in your late 30s going to college, do it on your parents dime!

But in addition to the various time sucks we have as adults, it also seems like there is a difference in mood that makes it harder.

#1) Adults often compromise less.  I feel like its because as adults, we don’t have a lot of people who can truly control us.  We vote with our feet, so adult gaming groups tend to have people fluctuate a lot. Basically anything irritates you, you might just quit.

#2) We have competing obligations.  Other people often aren’t as understanding why every Friday is blocked off.

#3) We’re all grumpy.

Yes, work puts a lot of stress on us.  Bills get higher.  I used to complain about having to use spreadsheets to manage our character’s treasure.  Now I complain about having to use spreadsheets to manage my expenses. Relationships get harder, and life in general just gets harder.

With so much stress, anything might push someone over the edge and suddenly. “I’m out!”

Having said that, the surviving members of our group, the ones that have stuck around, often for nearly 10 years, have committed to Shadowrun.

When I say committed, I mostly mean a few of us are going to push it through Hell or High Water.  I don’t actually know what that means, but it sounds like we’re serious!

Shadowrun is stressfully complicated.  They even made two-sided handouts to manage the various subsystems in the game.  Also, I think the handouts are to hide how complicated the fact that there is a good 20 pages of material required to run each of these systems.

Shadowrun has us playing characters similar to movies like BladeRunner or great books like Tears of Rain.  Those characters ARE NOT happy.

Our first game, our characters were super excited with all of the wealth we earned!  Then we paid most of it for ammunition and rent.  Just like real life.

That’s serious you guys.  Its not quite some Torchbearer difficulty, but one of our biggest worries right now is to earn enough money fast enough to pay next months rent. Just like real life.

Now We’re talking about having 2 GMs to run the game, with only 4 of us as players.  While I’d like to drop out of school and get a degree in Shadowrun, my wife, with her 3 degrees, isn’t having any of it. L  So thus the two GMs.

So its more complicated, requires more commitment, is higher difficulty with things more than just dying from overwhelming odds.  Why play “THIS” game?

I’ve wanted to play Shadowrun since I was in Jr High.  I got the 2nd edition book and I was EXCITED.  Here was technology that wasn’t real, but it “felt” like it could be real.  Can you imagine being able to carry around a computer a bit smaller than a suitcase?  Imagine being able to go to some business and plug into it to browse their network!  Imagine cars that could drive themselves!

Ok, for the most part we’re more advanced than that old Shadowrun book.  But at the time, WOW, it was the future! If there was a future with an apocalypse that prompted all kinds of people to mutate into things like elves, dwarves, and orks.  And the native americans get to use their powerful shaman powers to kick the white man off their land into smaller areas similar to reservations.  My 1/16th self gets super excited just thinking about it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anyone to play, and even my young genius self thought it was more difficult than trig.  We ended up paying Rifts instead.

If you don’t know about this game, Rifts is this crazy world where each game author was basically allowed to one-up the previous author in power level so that basically as long as you build your character using the newest books, your character would be more powerful than the previous people’s characters.  Its kinda like magic the gathering, but in RPG form.

My shadowrun 2e book followed me around for years, but I never got to play it.   and here we are, 25 years later. Playing the 5th edition of it.  FINALLY. Catalyst Games makes it now, not FASA, and its glorious.

I feel like all of my experience in IT has trained me to understand how Shadowrun works.  In otherwords, everything is wireless and its all about hacking.  Sure some of the other players do stuff, but mostly its all about the hacker.  Which I’m playing of course.

However, we’ve missed more than half of our scheduled games.  And I worry that its not going to happen.  My night elf with mood hair might never achieve his dream of being known as the most 1337 hacker in the world.

I dread the thought of going to another roleplaying game and giving up on Shadowrun, because honestly, my group has dropped the last half dozen games within a few sessions of starting a new game.  It either means something is wrong with the group, or something is wrong with the games we’ve been playing.  The only game to really survive the test of time was this game called Red Tide.  We played murdering hobos with hearts of polished brass.  We played that game over a year, sandbox style.  Its part of why I have so much hope for Shadowrun, its mostly a sandbox-style game, whatever we want to do, we can do.

But there are lots of cracks in our foundation as a gaming group, and we’re wobbling between having great games where we’re all super excited about the next session, and cancelling sessions because we’re worried about making the next session “good”, whatever “good” means.

I’ll probably do a review or something and talk about how glorious hacking is (I guess the other stuff too), but for now, that’s today’s update.

How has your group fared as you’ve gotten older. Did it survive?  If it didn’t survive, do you miss it?  Was there a game that you really wanted to play but never got to?

 

 

 

Sweet Tips – Essence of Banana

In this episode of Sweet Tips, you will discover how to make Banana Essence and Banana Puree. The Essence is used for flavoring in puddings, pies, breads and sometimes just on its own. The puree is used in cakes and breads typically.thumbnail

Banana Flavoring Recipe:

Ingredients in Order of Usage:

  1. 6 Large Blackened Bananas

Directions for Banana Essence:

  1. If you had the bananas frozen (like I do), then defrost them a bit. Then unpeel and place all bananas in a microwave safe bowl.  Place plastic wrap of your choice on top of the bowl.  Cut a few slits in the plastic prior to placing in microwave.
  2. Now, microwave on high power for approximately 5 minutes. Now, each microwave is different, so what you are looking for are very soft bananas and a lot of juice at the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Once this occurs, remove the bananas from the bowl and place in a fine mesh strainer. Place the strainer over a bowl that is of proper size for the strainer. Allow the bananas to drip out as much fluid as possible. Once they stop dripping, I like to squish the bananas a bit more in cheese cloth to get more delicious fluid out (this is optional).
  4. Once you have about ½ to ¾ cups of banana liquid, you should place the fluid into a saucepan. Cook the liquid over medium-high until the liquid is reduced to ¼ cups (if using ½ cups raw banana fluid or ½ cups if using ¾ cups raw fluid). This should take 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning; however, do not cover.
  5. Remove the condensed banana liquid from the stove, place in a bowl.

Directions for Banana Puree

  1. Place the bananas into the same bowl as the liquid banana essence and mash the two up to re-introduce the bananas to the liquid.  This can be done with a potato masher or fork.
  2. You should do this until the mixer is smooth.

Comments:

The darker the banana is; the more fructose (fruit sugar) it has. This means it is sweeter, and will release more liquid.

A list of items that were used in the making of this video:
Banana Essence and Bread List

Brick Bytes – The Delorian

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This episode of Brick Bytes will showcase how to put together the Delorian Lego Set from Back to the Future. This is a fun set due to the fact that you get to play with the Doc, Marty and have a flying car! Lets go back to the future!!!

Pros:

  1. Fairly easy to put together
  2. Open and close the car doors!
  3. Can place MiniFigs into vehicle
  4. Can move tires up to make car look like it is hovering.
  5. Marty has a skateboard and its purple!

Cons:

  1. When you move the doors, the door section breaks off. It is not attached well.
  2. No Einstein!
  3. Would have loved to see different outfits for the Doc and Marty to go along with the different car styles.

Where to buy:
The Delorian Lego Set
The Lego Dimensions Marty
The Lego Dimensions Doc
Back to the Future I Movie
Back to the Future II Movie
Back to the Future III Movie

 

A special thanks to the producer: Richard Mathis
Music: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music

Thank you again and hope you enjoy this video, there are more to come!

My comic book childhood

My father was huge into comics.  He lied about his age and became a waiter at the age of 16.  If you aren’t familiar with how tips work in tourist towns, waiters usually make good money in a city like Las Vegas, and my dad was no exception.

He workeLas_Vegas_-_Mintd at the Steakhouse at the top of the Mint.  His regular customers included all kinds of celebrities, wealthy (or lucky) gamblers, and casino bigshots (aka criminals at the time) who would go to the fancy steakhouse at the top of the Mint to eat great steak, look out upon the Las Vegas valley from the awesome view, and of course, incidentally, give my father lucrative amounts of tips.  You can still eat that that restaurant, but now its Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse and is at Binion’s Horseshoe.

With the constant flow of cash, my dad lived a pretty decent lifestyle.  He bought things like cars, a cool van (with a bed and a fridge in it!  I had no clue why his van had a bed in it when I was a kid), and of course, comics.  Tons of comics.  He would buy every #1 of every comic (because they’ll be worth something someday! They mostly weren’t…), and every issue of the 15-20 comics that he followed at any given time.

He had one of those big waterbed setups, and the shelves behind it would always have the latest issues.  If I missed some of the new ones, they’d  be moved to the box in his closet.  From his closet, once that box was full, the box would go to the garage and then he’d get a new box for his closet.

It was a cycle of comic life that I assumed everyone had.   I knew my friends didn’t have a warehouse of comics out in the garage to pick through, but didn’t really think about it much (especially due to moving so often that I never really knew many other kids).  I never had any restrictions on what I could read either.  Whether because this is Vegas, because of my advanced maturity level, or because my dad was the kind of guy who owned a van with a bed in it, I could read it all, no restrictions.

Yovampirella_24u might be thinking I was reading violent comics like Wolverine or Punisher as a kid.  Heck no, well yes, but no I’m talking about dark/creepy/scary comics like Tales From the Crypt, Creepy, Eerie, and all of the other non-superhero comics that were pretty popular in the 1960s.  As I got older, I would get more interested in the big book comics like Vampirella, Conan, or Heavy Metal.  When I was approaching puberty, those boxes were my equivalent of what the internet for kids is now… 😉

I read through all of these comics, comics from the 1960s onward, unwittingly experiencing the full timeline of comics.  My “comic maturity” advanced the way the comic industry did, but in the span of my childhood instead of decades.  I went through a serious/dark phase leading me to read stephen king at 6ish.  Later I would go through a silly phase, reading Archie comics, Richie Rich, then serious story, and finally the cynical 90s as I approached being a teenager.  Sure I would go through the older comics (and Vampirella) whenever I was in the mood to visit old delights, but I experienced generations worth of comic influence in the span of my childhood.

Between comic books and cartoons like He-man with strong moral lessons, I have strong beliefs in “how people should be”.  I also understand that there are corrupt people out there, I just don’t understand why you’d choose to be part of the losing side.  I refuse to believe that the “villains” win in real life, mostly because of many comic lessons.  Also, those old horror stories always punished the wicked, often with very poetic, very gruesome justice, so no way, I’ll live the life of the challenging (but winning in the end) hero.

With all of the comic experience with all heroes (Superman, Batman, X-men, Casper, Ironman, Justice League, whatever), it makes me a little sad when people talk to me so excited about “their” history of comics and it turns out to be the early 2000s.  I want to talk to people about the old comics.  Commiserating questions like “Do you miss comics like Tales From the Crypt?”.  “Weren’t the old Conan comic magazines the best?”  I don’t want to hear about how Venom came from a moon meteorite or whatever.  He came from Secret Wars 1 people!  Spiderman wished for a new costume out of an alien machine!

But now, nowadays the best I can do is read new(ish) comics and talk about them.  Because the reality is, my dad was pretty cool and different in a way that I haven’t met anyone else having a similar childhood.  I rarely got to talk to him about comics.  I was probably too young to geek out with, and by the time we could hang out, comics were different and he wasn’t as interested (he would read them if I left them out, however).  To be honest, I took about a 15-year sabbatical from comics, so I get it.  The closest to geeking out together would be us in the same room when I was a kid, reading comics together.  I can remember hours with the only sound being the flipping of pages.  So freaking cool!

We’ll be posting my first comic review up soon enough, Lydon and I sit and talk for about an hour or so about the He-man Volume 1 book.  It was pretty awesome.  Makes me wish I had made more of an effort when I was younger.

I wanted to find a picture of my dad in his waiter outfit.  But here is a pic of me and him.  Yes, thats Panthro.  He was the best because he fixed things (with Tyra), invented things, plus nunchucks.  Ninja weapons were awesome even before TMNT.

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Skeeball

Today I was reading a story by Wil Wheaton called “Fireworks” in his book “Just a Geek”, and this memory came to mind.  I think about it often, so I thought I’d share.    Not a very good start, starting in the middle, but more will come later and after, as things bubble and froth in the recesses of my mind.

My 9th birthday party I was going to have at Pistol Petes Pizza.  This was super exciting because I had gone to other kid’s birthdays at Chuckie Cheeses and it was amazing, with animatronics and everything.  Pistol Petes wasn’t quite the same, but I didn’t know or care about that, and thus was excited regardless.

I passed out invitations to everyone in my class.  Now we moved constantly, a few times a year, so I didn’t know these kids any more than I knew any other kids.  Despite not knowing anyone, I figured it didn’t matter because I didn’t know any of the kids whose parties I went to, so I thought that’s how it worked.  In hindsight, I now realize I was probably the stranger invited to people’s birthdays because my parents knew their parents.  Me inviting the other kids didn’t work, because their parents didn’t know my parents, and my invite went to the kids and not their parents; but I really thought I was going to have an epic party where I got to be the benefactor to all of these kids having a great time and thinking “its so awesome that Ricky invited me!”  I was known as Ricky back then.

But when it came time to meet at the house before heading to Pistol Petes, only one kid I invited showed up.  A few other toddlers were there, because I had a little sister and her affiliated 2 year olds, but just one kid from my class.  He was black, and part of me now thinks that maybe the reason he showed up was because as one of the only black kids in the school, he probably could have used some friends too.   Maybe he didn’t get invited to other parties. Now I imagine there was a possibility where we could have bonded and been best friends for the next several years like out of a show like Veronica Mars or something.  In reality, I’d be moving again fairly soon, so even if we had bonded, it wouldn’t have lasted…

So we went to my “party”.  Me and one other kid my age, a bunch of toddlers, my mom and her friends.  I get the feeling there was supposed to be more kids at the reserved pizza party, but as it was, we got to share all of the tokens, pizza, and cake.  It felt like there was unlimited everything, but I barely remember details, as I was in a fog of trying not to be sad.  I always felt like I had to put a brave face on for the adults, I’m not sure why.

I became fixated on the prize booth that day.  The idea of this booth with all kinds of cool things I could earn for myself became the only thing I thought of.  I was obsessed, in the way that I do, excluding everything else.  I didn’t care about anything or anyone, except how I could earn tickets. I earned a lot of tickets, and I kept bringing them to my mom like a cat returning a dead bird.

Success!  Tickets!  Here, meow!  Ok, I didn’t meow, but as she stuffed those tickets into her purse to hold, I was definitely as satisfied as a cat licking its paws standing over a dead animal.

Part of me was on the verge of breaking from the moment it was clear no other kids were going to show up, but as I’ve done all my life, I just tried to stay focused on the “doing”.  I became pretty good at Skeeball that day, I was already doing the math of how many tokens I had and how many tickets I could earn.  There was a radio I was definitely considering.  Of course I now know that was pretty much impossible, but at the time I was sure of it!

As I ran out of tokens, I went back to my mom to get my tickets, count them out, and get my prize from the prize booth.  My mom didn’t have any tickets.    I didn’t really understand.  Where were the tickets?

She haphazardly commented that she had gotten some prizes for the little kids.

A great sorrow welled up inside me and I immediately began weeping.  I know its ridiculous.  Even now as I write this, I feel this hurt deep inside me.  At the time, I just “felt”, now I know it was the culmination of emotion I had been trying to hold inside the entire day.  This utter feeling of aloneness surrounded by entities that I didn’t feel understood me.  This feeling of how things are supposed to be based partially off of what I had seen on TV, what I had read, and what I had just plain imagined.

Ironically, I had started this, thinking of how awesome it would be to be the benefactor providing an awesome experience to the other kids at school, but the event that pushed me over the edge was my mom making the toddlers a little happier with junk prizes from the booth.  I was physically wracked with pain, and yes I was upset about the tickets, but only because the tickets were the goal that I had used to justify to myself why I shouldn’t be so sad about not having any friends.  I don’t remember how that day ended.  I’m sure I got a lot of presents, because my family has always been good about being generous with the kids.   I mostly blocked it out of my head, being both embarrassed for how I acted and embarrassed for what the lack of attendees said about me.

Looking back now, I wish there was some lesson I could say I learned.  I wish I could say it didn’t hurt anymore because I understand that my mom gave me the best birthday she could, exactly how I had asked.  It hurts today the same way it did then, partially because I’m remembering the pain that little me was experiencing, and that can never be undone.  It also hurts today because in many ways, I’m still that little kid wanting to give the best party for the other kids, but always worried that I’ll have to eat the pizza all by myself.