Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Archive for October 2012

Halloweekend, part 1

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In my last post I predicted an upswing to follow the woeful day I’d had, and how very right I turned out to be. Days packed full of successful experiments, with the adrenaline of finishing everything on time rolling seamlessly into evenings of radiance and revelry. It’s amazing how much your attitude changes situations (or at the very least perceptions).

First happening Friday was the previously mentioned deep frying party, intermittently attended (with partial overlaps) by myself, Sara and her bride+bridesmaids-to-be friends, and George + date. In the end George never had time to get his pierogis and fried ready, and the bachelorette party had to bail early to attend a bike party (more on that later).

Good luck trolls on the prowl

So instead we ended up cooking a miscellany of items at hand, including shrimp, scallops, squid, sweet potatoes, banana, pickles, girl scout cookies and ice cream.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning how to deep fry properly, having only made a single semi-successful attempt at samosas previously. I found that keeping the temperature stable within a pretty narrow range was both critical and challenging, since dumping in too many things at once dropped the temperature a good deal. I also found that it required a lot more attention than I’d have expected to cook things for just the right amount of time, watching their bubbling decrease to monitor when they would start absorbing the frying oil. I had added beer to the batter, which I think probably helped getting the bitelets nicely puffy (but who’s to say based on a single event).

Sure, it does kind of look like an alien spawning pool from that angle.

Anyway, a big success. With an experiment planned for 07:00 the next morning I had definitely not planned to join the trolls at the brewery that hosted the final stint of the bike party. But when the time came I found that I had a quite irresistible craving for a party, so off to join them we went. They had spent ~3 hours biking around Baltimore (with a few beer stops) alongside hundreds of revelers, many in costumes, and even as we neared the site there were noticeable good vibes in the air. The event was mostly in the courtyard of the brewery, though the building was open for gawking at the giant tanks and for endless refills of their draft creations. The DJs were pretty good, people looked swell and there was MoonBounce; in other words, anyone of sound mind was bound to have a blast. Whether I fall into that category or not, I danced, bounced and pratted my ass off, and didn’t regret going even when I had to get up Saturday morning.

And when I got back from the lab on Saturday, it was of course time to get ready for the great hallowed gathering in Fell’s Point, something I’d barely missed in both 2010 and 2011 and was rather looking forward to. But more on that in part 2.

Transformations in action

Written by Martin

2012/10/30 at 01:24

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Meh

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Berger cookies are a Baltimore thing, or so I’ve been told. That’s one argument for me to try them before leaving, and another argument is “Why not?”. So try them I did, and was sorely disappointed. It’s a crummy little wafer with a ton of chocolate fudge frosting all over it. OK sure, chocolate fudge frosting isn’t the worst thing in the world, but what the heck?  Though coming from the land of sild, leverpostej and akvavit I suppose I should hold my tongue.

Needs more fudge frosting

In other news, today was terrible. Problems with a paper, experiments cancelled because of a missing password and absolutely couldn’t get in the zone for making a presentation. Bleh. But somehow it wasn’t quite as bad as it should have been, because I for some reason felt that it was only a short period of crap which would naturally be followed by a terrific day or two. I do find that the pendulum often swings like that, but to straight up expect it? I’m wondering whether it’s a byproduct of my intermittent fasting, where I’m so used to hardships lasting only until the next day (which is what makes it so doable). And perhaps also the fact that I get a shot of hunger-induced euphoria every other day, coupled with a total lack of food-induced drowsiness. Or it could just be psychosomatic truth that I’ll soon get better. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

Written by Martin

2012/10/24 at 23:01

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鯉の絵 (Work in progress)

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Lots and lots of experiments to do, which is really much nicer than wanting to continue a story but being unable to work on it. But it does mean less (nigh zero) time for painting, and so my already unimpressive pace of progress has become downright glacial. I very much doubt that I’ll finish even my starter box of six, and my new target is to finish the two armored soldiers and leave the basic grunts for after I return. The large surface area of their armor as well as their greater significance on the battlefield mean that I spend more time making these guys look nice, and have more fun painting them to boot. I already showcased my Shàng Jí Invincible (who now has arms), heavy infantry from the main Chinese part of the army and in my scheme consequently painted as part of the Chinese zodiac. The lady shown below is a Domaru Butai, a proud samurai from the Japanese section of the army. I didn’t feel like Daoist iconography would be appropriate, and decided that the Japanese heavy infantry would instead have plain white armor which would then be used as a canvas for traditional paintings (metapaintings?).

For this girl I decided to do koi swimming around among lily pads. Still very much a work in progress, but you can see what I mean I think. The armor is getting there: white is nearly done and the grey and metallic bits just need a couple more layers of highlighting. It came out a lot grainier than I would have liked, which tends to be a problem with white. Oh well, practice practice, and fortunately this version has a less useful in-game profile than her male equivalent. You can see the outlines of where the fish and lily pads will be, and I’m crossing my fingers that they end up looking nice. After that there’s the gun and pistol, glowy red bits, Honda logo and various details to take care of… but I’ll finish before I leave dammit!

Written by Martin

2012/10/19 at 22:25

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Burning the midnight oil

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Hopefully this won’t happen.

I found that picture on Wikipedia and couldn’t resist sticking it in here (especially in light of my previous cooking incident). Anyway, the story is that George wants to deep fry some fries and pierogis, and to minimize waste of oil we’re making a deep frying party out of it. But what else to cook? I wanted to make an easy poll where y’all could put in your favorites, but sadly it will only let me put in predefined answers. Bleh. Anyway would love comments if anyone has suggestions!

Written by Martin

2012/10/17 at 08:45

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Cold Spring Harbor

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So apparently lobster juice will destroy your phone. Who knew?

Other than that though, the conference was fantastic.

Written by Martin

2012/10/15 at 20:44

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New toys

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With the end of my stay here slowly appearing, it’s starting to get time to put in orders for anything I want to get from over here. Since I’ve been accumulating possessions here I have a lot of stuff to bring back this time, and consequently my shopping will be very limited. Buuuut, a few select items should be ok, right?

Now with 70% less wire tangle and 100% more picking up calls in the lab without fumbling the phone out of my pocket. Also, 95% less background noise (or so they claim).

Item #1 is a noise-cancelling Bluetooth headset, the Phiaton PS 210 BTNC. A number of irritations to be banished by this one: constant entanglement of wires when I bike with my headset, and the consequent poor sound quality since I won’t risk pulling the cords of nice headphones. Also, the annoyance and potential safety issue of pulling my phone out of my pocket while in the lab (let alone while biking). As an added bonus, I’ll hopefully be rid of the subliminally frustrating AC buzz at work. As far as I can tell these ‘phones are as close to everything I need as I can get at present: the audio quality is top notch, and the noise cancelling noticeably reduces background. The microphone seems pretty good too. The only downsides are that the dongle doesn’t eliminate wires completely and has to be attached somewhere, plus the fact that I have to connect to my computer either as headphones only or as a headset with poor sound quality (for calling). Annoying, but as far as I can tell inevitable for at present.

Once again, in need of a shine or ten.

Item #2, a pair of Vernons from Allen Edmonds. What is there to say? I love the heck out of my Strands for being super versatile and looking great. The idea behind these was something slightly sleeker and more striking, without being contemporary. The lighter brown should go well with my new glen plaid suit, and with my branching out into lighter trousers in general. With all that said, I probably would have held off had they not been on sale… Have only worn them briefly as I’m considering going down half a size, but they fit wonderfully.

Rome demands more gaming time!

And finally, as promised, item #3 is my very own copy of Glory to Rome. Can’t wait to play it.

Written by Martin

2012/10/06 at 22:57

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Board game weekend, part 2

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Right then, time to press on with the board game report. If you haven’t yet read part 1, this will be nothing more than a bunch of reviews. Worth reading? Up to you entirely, but if you’re not into boardgames probably not. Anyway, on with it! Day 2 of the so-called convention introduced me to three new games, as well as a game of Arkham Horror. In chronological order:

Cosmic Encounter (pictured in the first image of this post) is a pretty lighthearted game of galactic domination. Each player starts with 20 UFOs spread over five planets, and attempts to establish bases on five other planets before anyone else does so. Your turn consists of flipping a Destiny Card that tells you whose planets you can attack, and then committing up to four ships to the offense. These are opposed by the defender’s ships at that planet, and you each get to play a card from your hand that adds to your combat strength. Where it gets interesting is that both involved parties can invite other players to help them, who then share in the spoils or toils. Towards the end of the game this makes for a topsy-turvy shuffle of alliances as you try ensure victories without letting anyone else win the game by establishing bases as an ally in your attack, and it’s a common occurrence to have multiple people winning the game together. Adding to replayability is the fact that you start each game by drawing one of the myriad races, each of which gets to bend or break one of the rules of the game. All in all it’s a fun game that might attract people who like the chaotic feel of Small World, or the diplomacy-driven battle system in Game of Thrones.

Kingdom Builder is a new game byDonald Vaccarino, who some might know as the man behind Dominion. Just like Dominion the mechanics of the game are exceedingly simple: The game board is made up of four square tiles divided into 100 hexagons each, drawn randomly from a pool of 20. Each turn you draw one of five terrain types and put three houses down in that terrain, connected to your existing houses if possible. Three scoring objectives are drawn randomly for each game, and might reward you for houses placed next to water or having houses on all four game tiles. There are a few special tiles that let you put down more houses in different ways once you connect to those tiles, but otherwise you simply take turns until someone runs out of houses to place. Very simple, but as evinced by our two-fold range of final scores it takes some serious strategic overview to excel. And because both the board, objectives and often the players differ between games I don’t think you’ll ever end up playing the same game twice. So if you liked Dominion for its infinite permutations of a simple theme, or enjoy strategic placement games like Settlers of Catan and Go you might also enjoy Kingdom Builder.

Last but definitely not least is King of Tokyo. It’s a quick game with simple rules, but has all the mayhem you’d expect when a bunch of giant monsters simultaneously decide to go stomping around Tokyo. It does a good job of capturing the feel of aspiring alpha ‘males’ duking it out, and because the rules are nicely streamlined you get neither the ‘how is this supposed to work’ nor the ‘I’m haplessly rolling dice while the game plays itself out’ that can plague Killer Bunnies and other beer-and-pretzel games. You start by picking a giant monster from a pool that includes Godzilla (I mean GigaZaur), King Kong, Cthulhu and others. Regardless of who you picked you start out with ten health, zero victory points and zero energy. You then roll six special dice (1,2,3,claw,heart,energy) up to three times (Yahtzee-style); each set of three numbers give you victory points appropriately, hearts restore lost health, claws cause damage and energy is used to buy special abilities from a randomly drawn pool. Everyone starts outside of Tokyo, and the first person to roll (and keep) a claw makes his entrance and scores a point immediately and two more for each turn begun while in Tokyo. As a bonus, while you strut around Tokyo all the claws you roll damage all the other monsters. The problem is that everyone else’s claws cause damage to you alone, so being king of the hill quickly becomes a painful position. The game ends when someone reaches 20 victory points or (more fittingly) wipes out all the other monsters. Definitely a fun game, and one that I’m thinking of purchasing to fill the empty beer-and-pretzel spot in my collection.

Written by Martin

2012/10/01 at 17:13

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