Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Posts Tagged ‘Good times

Halloweekend, part 2

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Delays delays, where were we now? Oh right, Halloween, supposedly the one day a year when girls can wear pretty much nothing in public and not catch any flak for it. Plus, for once we actually had the entire collection of roommates gathered for the night out (first time since I moved in, to be honest). Sara and I stumbled upon a treasure trove of Renn Faire outfits that a previous inhabitant had left in the basement, so it was exceedingly simple to turn her into a gypsy. With the previous owner being of the female persuasion pickings were a bit slimmer for me, but I did find a couple of cloaks to replace the bedsheet-cape I’d planned on making. Greg went with the ever reliable $5 toga, while Trevor turned some old clothes into a Ponyboy outfit. George, lover of all things glowy, went all out with a purchased Tron outfit that he pimped out with superbright 12V LED strips.

Pony boy, the gypsy, Toga dude, Tron and… what are you supposed to be?

So what exactly was I doing? Essentially what I’d planned to do in New Orleans two years earlier, though at that time it fell through. Though costumes of specific characters can certainly be cool, I rather enjoy the challenge of throwing something less obvious together from a bunch of random items. The idea had been to do some kind of hoodoo-ish skull facepaint and then some skirts and tingle-tangle for a shamanistic look of sorts. Back then I couldn’t get what I needed at Walmart and ended up as a kickass ‘The Grand Prize’ instead; but thanks to the cache in the basement and some necklaces I’d gotten in Hong Kong, this time Walmart only needed to sell me a 97 cent tube of facepaint.

It thus appeared that I was all set for the shaman, but at the cusp I was overtaken by an ensconced urge to instead replicate the tiger pattern of Gully Foyle in one of my favorite books. In retrospect there was no way to avoid this, but it was one of those things that you never notice until it’s already happening. In any case Sara did an absolutely bang up job of replicating the picture on the cover of the book, and I was pleased indeed.

Oh right, Gully Foyle of course.

Unfortunately (though expectedly) it would appear that this excellent book is on few curricula in American schools, as not a single person recognized the reference even when I told them. Of course I fed inquirers some malarkey or other (I am the ‘who’ in the cry ‘who’s there?’), in protest of the urge to dress up as something recognizable. So Mr. Tron stole the limelight, but I was feeling pretty darn good in my orange hair and dashing cape. And thus I frolicked around, talking and joking with anyone who happened to be near me, asking any- and everyone whether they were supposed to be that guy that Johnny Depp played in that pirate movie, and overall had a splendid night. And if there’s a lesson to this post, it is that good times happen when everyone is in a good mood, pretenses are crushed by fantastic outfits and the quipping flows freely. Halloween makes this a lot more likely, and I love it for that.


Written by Martin

2012/11/02 at 15:50

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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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Board gaming weekend, part 1

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A friend from work had invited me along to a “board gaming convention” at someone’s house in the Garden State, which unsurprisingly ended up being a terrific way to spend half a weekend.

It wasn’t really a convention, at least to my mind. More of a bunch of gamers bringing a bunch of games to the house of Ed and his wife Stephanie, who most graciously provided a wealth of food, drinks and snacks. Not to mention four cute dogs and the coolest house I’ve seen in a good while (he even had a secret office behind a swinging bookcase!). All in all an extraordinary host. And though I was surprised that most of the participants were from my parents’ generation, they were a thoroughly enjoyable group of people. Add in exposure to a bunch of sweet new games and there’s no way I wouldn’t have a great time.

New games eh? New to me anyway, and why don’t I tell you briefly about each of them in case they’re new to you too (people disinterested in board games can stop reading now):

Glory to Rome is a card game that kind of strikes me as a mix of Race For The Galaxy and Puerto Rico. It revolves around cards drawn from a common deck, which can be used in multiple ways: during your turn you either Think to draw cards from the deck, or Lead by playing one of the cards from your hand and assuming the role on the card (e.g. a Labourer which nets you resources, or a Craftsman that spends these to build buildings). The similarity to Puerto Rico comes from the fact that your opponents get a chance to Follow your lead by playing an equivalent card and thus taking the same action. Because each card represents both a role, a building and a resource which come into play depending on how and when the card is played, it’s a bit of a mouthful at first to wrap your head around the interactions in your hand and formulate a strategy from these. But once used to this you should be rewarded with some serious replayability. This negates my main objection to Puerto Rico, that there often seems to be a clear choice of action, while also giving you a little longer to form a strategy than in Race. I only got a single game of Glory to Rome in, but liked it enough that I’ve ordered copy for myself.

Well, it’s getting late and I have an extended date with the Seahorse Extracellular Flux Analyzer tomorrow, so stay tuned for board gaming weekend part 2, wherein I’ll review Cosmic Encounter, Kingdom Builder and King of Tokyo.

Written by Martin

2012/09/30 at 22:20

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Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

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AKA pictures from our recent barbeque:

Laying out the goodies. 20 pounds of baby back ribs, mm-mmmm.

The Lyle (of Greg & Lyle fame)

Yeah, George is lighting things on fire again. Good way to end a night, no?

Written by Martin

2012/09/28 at 13:51

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Planned spontaneity

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In case anyone was wondering, yes, in this case fewer posts actually does mean fewer adventures. A bit of a pity, but I’m nearing the end of the Ph.D. and thus entering into ‘get shit done’ territory.

That said, I did make a trip down to DC this Saturday, originally for a festival, a concert and just some good times.  The festival was on H street, apparently a pretty sprightly part of the otherwise muted and morose capital. Lots of bars, lots of restaurants, lots of life. Sadly we were a bit retarded in leaving Baltimore (partly my fault for going to aikido and work in the morning) and by the time we got to DC it was supposed to be pretty much over. So we instead proceeded straight to the good times, popping open a couple of bottles of cheap champagne on the lawn in front of the White House and throwing down to Snoop Dogg.

I’m surprised they let you do this

We moved the good times across town to H street (that festival hadn’t been over at five, by the way) and into Biergarten Haus which, despite the clumsy name, turned out to be a pretty authentic experience: big communal tables in the yard out back, lots of Munich beers (Maß-sized) and of course my beloved schweinshaxe:

All will be consumed for great justice

Concert was right next door, featuring a neat new band Sara introduced me to, plus some unnamed warmup act that turned out to be pretty nice. Small venue, pretty good sound and nice performances for both of them: definitely not bad, but in the end I was confirmed in my cognizance that concerts really don’t do much for me. To digress slightly, I think I enjoy music mostly to accentuate other experiences and get restless when I try to focus on it exclusively (just as I do for movies). Anyway, nice band and a solid though unsurprising performance; the scene was set for more good times, or so it seemed until one of my friends eloped with the lead singer of the band (solid move, though) and the other one eloped with the passkey for the hostel. I know it’s doable to boldly stepping into the night with the expectation of crashing somewhere random, but in this case I took the cowardly/reasonable way out and went back to the hostel. Which probably made for a much more enjoyable Sunday at work.

Written by Martin

2012/09/18 at 18:35

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I like paintball. Perhaps because I still harbor a childlike fascination with warfare in its many guises, and at least in my imagination paintball is the closest thing to modern ground warfare that I’m likely to experience. So even though it meant getting up early and putting up with a particularly lethargic referee, spending five hours with high-velocity paint projectiles buzzing around my ears was a pleasant start to yesterday.

Left: teriyaki chicken, apples, walnuts and basil
Right: spinach, asiago, capicola and basil

And after running around the woods for hours, a pizza party was assuredly a pleasant continuation to the day. Between the roommates, myself and my friend Davide, we generated (and masticated) six pizzas, along with negronis and other libations. Two experimental choices snuck their way into the lineup, and while leaving room for improvement were reasonably successful: the first was an Asian-inspired pizza (of sorts) that was limited to ingredients that were common in such cuisines. So the tomato sauce and cheese were out, replaced by teriyaki chicken (and sauce), baby bok choy, squash and peanuts. Though not quite comme il faut, I used yoghurt as some sort of neutral base for those flavors; beancurd would have been more appropriate. It ended up a tad salty, and certainly not something to revolutionize pizza-making, but quite tasty nonetheless.

Dessert? Now that’s what I call pizza!

The other experiment was a dessert pizza, with chunks of papaya and melon on a base of sweetened condensed milk. Different from the chocolate-and-marshmallows dessert pizza I’d previously tried, but not at all bad. None of the flavors were overpowering, though it was missing some sort of contrasting flavor. In my personal opinion it was also a little low on sauce, so I created the (kind of) improved version shown above.

I suppose consistency demands that I scour the P section of the dictionary for some apt descriptor of the flow cytometry I did in between these two pleasantries, but there’s no reason to be pedantic.

Written by Martin

2012/08/12 at 17:52

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This Sunday I was making éclairs to bring for “tea time” at work, an in appropriately named affair that typically features chips, fruit and several types of cakes/cookies (and a pot of tea or two). Being me I opted to bake rather than buy, going for quality over quantity in terms of cake selection. I cooked up and glazed the ~40 puff pastries without any trouble, as since George had recently purchased one of these I figured that filling them would be a breeze. The intelligent reader will of course have predicted that this hypothesis turned out to be false, and all because I decided to add some puréed blueberries to the cream for extra tastiness.

Alas, in my trial run particulate matter ended up clogging the pressurized dispenser and rendering it impotent at best. There was the occasional undersized squirt of blueberry whipped cream, but both consistency and production rate were entirely unsatisfactory. I needed the canister the next day so I had to get the pressurized pint of blueberry whipped cream out somehow. The only feasible option was to carefully unscrew the top of the canister, hopefully letting out the pressure gradually before opening it completely. That’s sort of what happened: Decompression

…but the exact opening rate still needs some fine-tuning. In short, blueberry goo went  everwhere: on cupboards, walls, couches, floor, ceiling, me… except that, I kid you not, not a single drop went on the éclairs standing right next to the canister. Although it came off most surfaces without problems I will have to paint the ceiling in the near future.

The éclairs were delicious, however.

Bleuet/canelle éclair, voila!

Written by Martin

2012/07/31 at 20:02

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