Sunday, August 30, 2015

Visa Verse

In days longge past did kingedoms bolde defende themselves withe walles
Encyrcling theyer borders bryght with moats and rammpartes talle
Ye moderne wyrllde moore slyly slows unwelcomme immigrationne
Withe monstruss visa fees and complecks visa applicationnes

Friday, August 28, 2015

Origins of Explain

The word 'explain' comes from the Latin verb 'explanare,' meaning 'to make plain or level.' 'Explanare' is a compound word; 'ex' means 'out' and 'planus' means 'level' or 'flat.' It seems like 'planus' is the origin of 'plain' and 'plane' but not 'airplane.'

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Antibacterial Soap Poem

I see a soap dispenser with a label that affirms
That its soap "Kills ninety-nine point nine percent of germs"
This is very well and good, but would this advert thrive
If it said "Leaves the fittest tenth percent of germs alive"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Knee-jerk Banana Response

Do you want bananas on your cereal?

If someone asked me that, there's a good chance I would say "no thanks" right away. It's not that I don't like bananas-- I like banana ice cream, my favorite dessert is made with bananas, and eating raw bananas isn't messy. I even like the taste of bananas on cereal.

I say "no thanks," then, as a habit developed over many breakfasts in highschool. I must have decided that breakfasts should be low-effort; no time for chopping bananas. Once I started turning down offers of bananas, there was no going back. My parents, however, kept kindly offering fruit for cereal probably until the day I left for college.

Saying "no" as a default response isn't restricted to cereal toppings. I've missed a lot of opportunities by saying no to things before properly thinking about it. Thankfully, new chances do appear, and by acknowledging my biases I can try and change them. If I had breakfast with my parents today, they would probably ask if I wanted fruit on my cereal. 

And I would say "no thanks," because really, who has the time to spend 30 seconds chopping up a banana?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Screenshot of the Day: The Witcher 2

A conversation with the troll under the bridge.

The Witcher 2 is a fantasy role-playing game in which the player controls a 'witcher,' a sort of superhuman monster hunter. I started playing The Witcher 2 almost immediately after finishing The Witcher, and it's the same game at heart; the player travels from region to region, fighting monsters, solving problems, and usually creating new, bigger problems. Many factions compete for the witcher's loyalty, leading the player to think carefully about what they're trying to accomplish and why.

This next paragraph is really boring: the combat system in Witcher 2 is probably the biggest change from the first game. Dodge rolls have been added, which I see as a disappointment. In the first game, directional dodges were acrobatic and required double-tapping a key. In my opinion, single-tap rolls are too easy to overuse in every battle-- they don't look right and lessen the need for creativity. I could, howeer, just be playing the game wrong.

All in all, The Witcher 2 is a solid RPG, more accessible than The Witcher and with a story that makes slightly more sense (so far).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bus Driving Opportunity

How much difference can one decision make? Do you buy tickets to a famous artist's last performance? Do you go to that one party? Sometimes, an opportunity comes up and you know you won't get a chance do something like that again.

The other day, I was the only passenger on a bus and was surprised when the driver pulled over and explained he needed to go to the restroom. He left the bus running on the side of the road and I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a city bus joyride.

I didn't take act on this opportunity, but as with many things, I wonder what would have happened if I had tried to drive off. There may have been some security measure in place to prevent such bus thefts; buses apparently cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There are decisions to make every day that will change who I am and what my place is in the world. There's a lot more to be said about that, but for now, I'm happy to not be a rogue bus driver.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Windows 10

Windows 10 has come to town
To turn my UI upside down
The new start menu's pretty nice
Well worth the non-existant price

Thursday, August 20, 2015

500 Posts

It's a milestone! Here are some statistics:

I've made 500 posts here since November 20, 2013, which by my calculation works out to one post every 1.276 days. The most common categories I've written in are Poems (51 posts), Games (35 posts), and Food (34 posts).

What's the next goal? 1000 posts, I guess; I'll hope to give an update about two years from now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Planet Earth

"These rocky slopes look too barren to hold any life, but the stony incline beetle makes its home here" 
*camera zooms in on beetle*

The above scene is bread and butter for Planet Earth, a great TV show about nature. After watching a few episodes, I would be surprised if things went any other way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Settings to Match the Medium

The premise of long-running TV show Dr. Who is that 'The Doctor,' a powerful alien, travels through time and space with a human companion. This setting is great for TV because time/space travel means that each episode can have a different setting to keep things fresh. The human companion provides a reference point for the audience; if the Doctor was working alone, he wouldn't be constantly explaining things to a 21st century human audience (this may also be the reason why the main character in The Last Samurai is an American).

The setting of The Witcher is good for a role-playing video game. The player controls a superhuman monster hunter, which allows for:
1. Regular travel and combat
2. A conventional quest structure
3. The player character being good at everything
4. The player character being treated as an outsider by non-player characters

Point #4 might be most important: in almost every RPG, the player doesn't 'belong' to the world they're acting in. The player is most often an outside force, swooping in, solving problems, and making things happen. Some of the most exciting moments in RPGs are reacting to the plot-influencing choices of non-player characters.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ways of Eating

I had rice and beans for lunch today and sushi for supper-- two very different eating experiences. The plate of rice and beans was my own preparation, as simple as possible. It was warm and savory and had uniform taste and texture. I shoveled through with the largest spoon I have.

Sushi (which I haven't had before) was complex and vibrant. Each piece had its own array of flavors and I had two sauces to dip things in. Some parts were crunchy and some parts were chewy.

What was the real difference between the two meals?  I would borrow an old expression and say one is eating for the stomach and the other for the mouth. The rice and beans tasted good, but my main reason for eating them was that I wanted to take nutrients and introduce them to my digestive system. Sushi filled me up, but I was more interested in the party my taste buds were having.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Screenshot of the Day: The Witcher

They call him "White Wolf" because his hair is white, right?

The Witcher is a fantasy role-playing game in which players control a 'witcher,' a sort of superhuman monster hunter. Interestingly, a big part of witchering is research and preparation for battle. My witcher was tasked with clearing ghouls out of  a crypt. I asked a few villagers what they knew about ghouls and then bought a book about undead creatures for more detailed information. After that, I was able to collect specific plants and use them to make a magical oil that would do extra damage to ghouls. I made another potion that would allow me to see inside the dark crypt. Actually fighting the ghouls only took a few minutes.

The Witcher is based on a series of books, the Witcher Saga, written by a Polish author. The game was developed by a Polish company and is probably the most famous RPG to come out of Eastern Europe. I'm enjoying the methodical witchering so far and am looking forward to seeing where the story goes. The Witcher has two sequels, and according to popular opinion, each one is better than the last.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Science Facts: Paper and Termites

Is paper edible? Technically, yes. Most paper, however, is made from plant pulp, which is made of cellulose, which the human body cannot digest. Termites, on the other hand, can digest cellulose-- they do eat wood, after all.

I always thought termites were closely related to ants, but they're only is the same class (Insecta). Termites are most closely related to cockroaches.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Slow or No

Some of the most powerful forces on Earth work on a long time scale-- the moving of tectonic plates, the erosion caused by wind and waves, and more. Even a steady drip of water can do a lot if it lasts long enough.

Here's a question I've heard passed around: is it better to have slow internet or no internet? You can get a lot done with slow internet, but constant buffering and disconnects gradually chip away at your patience, especially if you've experienced fast internet in the past. There's a certain indecision involved: after a few minutes, you think, "is loading this page really worth it?" Compared to that, the finality of no internet might be relieving.

One of my least favorite things to feel is buyer's remorse, and that's why I never look back after ordering at a restaurant. Once the food has arrived, only unhappiness can result if I wonder if I should have ordered X instead of Y. I can admit there might be better food on the menu, but I won't spend any time wondering what it is. This system is working out pretty well at the moment; the last restaurant meal I remember regretting was a hot dog a bit over a year ago.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Triple Rice Pudding

I have a lot of rice on hand, so I decided to make some rice pudding. Unfortunately, I don't have any milk or sugar. Fortunately, I really do have a lot of rice.

2 C cooked rice
3 C rice milk
1/3 C rice sugar

To make rice milk, blend 1 cup of cooked rice with 4 cups of water. Shake before each use.

To make rice sugar, add a bit of water and amylase to mashed up cooked rice. The amylase will break down complex carbohydrates in rice to form sugars. No need to visit a chemist; the water and amylase needed for this step are both present in human saliva.

Combine the rice, milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer for about twenty minutes until thick. Stir regularly.

I went back for second helpings on this one; it may be best, however, not to dwell on the rice sugar step while actually eating the pudding.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

High Jump

I'm relatively tall, but  I've never been able to jump very high. I can't touch the bottom of a basketball net.

High jumping was one of my least favorite units in P.E. class-- you have to perform all at once, and there's no room for mild failure. You succeed all the way or you don't.

Today, I had a high jumping experience for the first time in a while. I was in the park looking for oak galls and saw some on a branch just out of reach. A running leap off a slight incline was involved, but I got the galls in the end. Maybe I'll try for a basketball net next time I see one.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Cooking Beans

I've been cooking a lot of dried beans recently and was impressed with how long they take to become edible. Why do beans need to soak before cooking?

The soaking apparently shortens cooking times, removes toxins in some cases, and preserves nutrients and texture. I suppose it's worth it.

What about rinsing, though? One source said that beans should be rinsed because they're dirty-- any sort of rinsing or washing during processing and packaging might make the beans sprout. The beans passed my personal test of looking clean and smelling clean. Could there be bacteria? Probably, but by now I assume there's bacteria on everything that hasn't come out of an autoclave in the past five minutes. I was eating yogurt while thinking about this, so I decided to think about something else.

I found a small rock mixed in with my pinto beans, which made me think of home. Just like bacteria and yogurt, it's an experience all about context: a crunch fine with hard-shell tacos, but when your rice and beans crunch it's a whole other deal.

One article mentioned pesticides on un-rinsed beans, and I ended up deciding that rinsing beans would be easier than learning about pesticides.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bottle Bank

I have a plastic bottle
With a slot cut in the lid
And any coins I gather
Quick into it then are slid

It's getting pretty heavy
But it's mostly filled with pennies
It could buy me something fancy
Like a waffle plate at Denny's

And when the day arrives
And a financial need does hap
I hope I have a backup, 'cause
I can't unscrew the cap

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Health Decisions

One interesting thing about living alone is that there's nobody around to point out unhealthy decisions. I realized recently, for example, that nobody was going to make me stop eating Spam and Lucky Charms. Personal health is a new sort of responsibility.

I had a bit of mild neck pain the other day-- maybe I have bad posture or my backpack is too heavy. I had bad posture and a heavy backpack in highschool, too, but back then I used to watch a lot of tennis so everything worked out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Buses Waiting

Imagine you need to catch a bus and you're about thirty seconds away from the bus stop. You see the bus waiting there, but you can't tell if it's going to leave in five seconds or five minutes. Do you sprint towards the bus and potentially waste a bunch of energy and dignity, or do you take the thirty second walk and risk getting left behind?

This often happens to me, and the nature of Atlanta's public transportation system raises the stakes: most of the time, the bus I need only arrives once every half hour or longer. My solution is to walk quickly and try and catch the driver's eye in a side mirror or something.

On the other side of things, sitting in a bus that's waiting at a bus stop is very relaxing. Once I'm safely on a bus, I don't have to worry; my only responsibility is to sit quietly and wait. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Headache Treatment

Would you rather have a headache or an upset stomach? Different types of unpleasantness, to be sure-- I usually say I would rather have an upset stomach because in that case sitting still can make me feel better.

When I do have a headache, medication is usually a last resort. If painkillers had an instant effect, things would be different, but my headache reasoning is that myself half an hour in the future will have gotten over the headache or will have mentally accepted it and used it as an opportunity to build character.

Two headache treatments I do use are drinking water and eating food in case I've forgotten to do one or the other for too long. If that doesn't work, I sleep until the headache goes away.

I do in fact have a headache while writing this, and the funny thing is that if I had an upset stomach I would probably say I would rather have a headache. I'll have to remember to write something down when I next get queasy-- the grass is greener on the other side of the illness fence.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Recipe: Spam Hashbrowns

Ingredients (pictured above)
2 medium potatoes
1/4 can Spam
2 T vegetable oil
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 C peas (side dish)

1. Grate potatoes and spam into large bowl. Mix in salt and pepper.
2. Pour oil into frying pan and dump in grated mixture.
3. Divide grated mixture into two equal portions. Cook portions on medium heat for 5 minutes on one side and flip to cook on the other side for another 5 minutes.
4. Serve with ketchup or other sauce.

Grated potatoes and spam

Hashbrowns after flipping

Finished meal