Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

As everyone in Christmas town crowds around the beautiful Christmas tree, the big guy himself takes the opportunity to make his Christmas Eve visit. This year Santa has upgraded to a rocket sled! He should be able to get in and out without anyone catching him... just as it should be :)


We hope you've had as much fun with our adventures as as have! Christmas town and Long Live Geeks wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Christmas Tree

It looks like our wish was granted! The woodcutter has brought a Christmas tree to Christmas town. Just in time too! Only one more day of Legos then Christmas will be here :) Everyone in town is wasting no time in enjoying the new tree :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas is Coming!

Our friend who was checking out the Santa-readiness of Christmas town's chimneys yesterday appears to have some new tools, a chainsaw and a stand to hold wood. Hmm, I can think of a better use for that chainsaw than just making big pieces of wood smaller. Maybe he could help get us a Christmas tree?!? :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Up on the Rooftop

After the race Bob decided to trade in his skates for the quad. I guess his legs were getting tired :) Jasper's back in the sled, and Todd and Charlie are enjoying a rest after the big race. The newest resident of Christmas town seems to be up on the roof. What could he be doing? Why checking the safety of the chimneys for Santa of course :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Race is On!

Santa truly came early. A reindeer dropped off a second car, a flag, and some traffic cones. Todd and Charlie set everything up for the race of the season. Around the cones and first one back wins!

Todd gets his red car out in front first! Go Todd go!

As they near the cones, Charlie gains ground!

Todd's cornering skills get him around the cones first. It's going to be a race to the flag!

Go cars go!

And the winner is...

Charlie! He's had a lot of practice with his car, and today all of it paid off. Way to go Charlie!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vroom Vroom!

A new citizen wanders into Christmas town today. Charlie thought we'd have some fun playing with his remote controlled car. Watch it go!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Fountain?

Today's a rather funny day in our Lego town. It seems that someone built a fountain while we weren't looking. Unfortunately it's a little cold for fountains at this time of year. It froze immediately! Oh well. It'll be nice to look at in the summer :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

On day 17 the sweeper finds this nice cart to help him with his work, complete with a snow shovel just in case more of that white stuff finds its way to Christmas town. So far we have a few more sprinkles, but no big snowstorm. We never know what the weather has in store for us though. We wouldn't want too much snow or we might lose the snowman in it! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweep!

It's the last chance to do a little tidying up before Christmas, and a sweeper has come to help. Or maybe he is looking for a curling game and got lost :) Hey, the snowman has a broom of his own. Maybe he can help too? :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just in Time

All that winter fun was wearing the citizens of Christmas town out! Lucky for them a nice bench appeared today. It's just the place for Todd to sit while he enjoys his mug of hot chocolate. Jasper thought he'd take a moment to catch up with his old friend. There is no rest for the snowman however! The policeman is off duty for a while, and it's his turn to go sledding!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Business is Sweet

The chef had an amazing response to his first hot chocolate sales endeavor. Enough in fact to open his own hot chocolate stand! The citizens of Christmas town can warm up with a mug of hot chocolate any time they please. It looks like Todd's back for seconds already!

14 days of Legos down, 10 to go. That means 11 days until Christmas. I can't wait :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chocolate Time!

I can not imagine anything better after a day of winter fun than a mug of hot chocolate. Apparently neither can the citizens of Christmas town! Today the chef rolls into town to pass out hot chocolate to one and all. Even Bob has to get in on this delicious treat! Just make sure not to get too much of the hot chocolaty goodness near the snowman. We want him around for many days to come :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Early Delivery

Todd and the policeman are working out their differences. It seems the policeman is able to grant Todd a temporary holiday riding license. What luck! :) During all the commotion it appears someone made an early delivery to Christmas town. What could be in the package? I guess we have to wait 13 more days to find out. You know a package like that needs a Christmas tree. I hope one of those arrives soon!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Snowman's Work is Never Done

The snowman is back on sled duty because Todd couldn't way to try out this new set of wheels! On day 11, a quad comes to Christmas town, and Todd is the first lucky one to get to try it out. It looks like the policeman wants to check Todd's driver's license. Oh no! :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On the 10th day of Legos...

An old friend of Todd's heard about the holiday fun in Christmas town and couldn't wait to join in. Jasper jumped on the sled and was off! Todd and Jasper look like they could spend all day sledding up and down main street in Christmas town :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Race to the Finish

When we left our friends yesterday Bob and the snowman had lined up for a race. It's skates against snowball sliding in this winter event.

The light turns green, and they're off! The snowman slides his way into an early lead.

Bob turns on the juice and races ahead. Can he keep this up to win?!

It's a photo finish!!!

The snowman pulled ahead at the last minute to win the winter race. Way to go, snowman!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ready. Set. Go!

Bob decided to test his skills against the best, or at least the coldest, member of Christmas town and challenged the snowman to a race. It's skating verses sliding in this winter escapade.
The Lego PD brought out a traffic barrier to help keep everyone safe, and Todd is waiting at the finish line. I wonder who will get there first?! :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Friend in Need

Todd's ice skating days may have been short lived, but his friendship with the snowman will last a lifetime. Or at least until the temperature gets above freezing! :)

Hearing of the accident, a member of the Lego PD showed up to help. Currently he's holding back the traffic while the snowman pushes Todd back to the skate rental booth. I think Todd has had enough of those skates for one season.

7 days down, 17 more to go. I can't wait to find out what happens next :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Decorating for the Holidays

Christmas town is rolling out their holiday decorations with the addition of the holly-decked lamp post. Just in time too. Night is coming earlier and earlier these days. No need to go inside at sunset with the new lamp.

I wonder if Todd wishes he had not given skating a try? :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Time for a Skating Party!

A skate rental stand has opened up in Christmas town. For all of the sportspeoples out there, they can join in on the skating fun. It looks like Todd is anxious to try out a pair. I wonder if they come in snowman size? :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Zoom!

I almost missed our newest Christmas town resident. Bob the ice skater flew by just as I was ready to snap a picture. He's busy making figure eights in the Legos as we speak. Maybe we'll see him later, but I have a feeling this guy doesn't stay in one place for very long!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dashing through the Legos

Day 3 in the Lego wonderland brings us a sled! It looks like Todd and the snowman have wasted no time in trying out their new toy. Who's Todd, you ask? The fellow that joined us on day 1. He finally told me his name :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Let it Snow...Man!

I'm not sure there's enough snow on the ground yet to account for this guy:

He must have parachuted in. He probably heard about the great Christmas fun in our Lego village and wanted to join in :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Counting Down to Christmas

I've been a lackadaisical blogger lately. Okay, a non-existent blogger. That's what happens when work decides to eat up my life. I am however starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I want to celebrate by counting down to my favorite holiday of the year - Christmas!!! :)

This year I got a totally cool advent calendar, one full of Legos! Here it is.


And here's the Lego city I built to host it in:


I've had the calendar sitting in my house for a couple of weeks. Today I finally got to open it! :)


So what's behind door number 1? This guy! And he brought a few snowflakes with him :)


I can't wait for tomorrow and door number 2!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How I Spent My Summer: G1 Edition

Sorry for the long delay in posting! I think I spent half my summer running in circles, and the other half running backwards. Gotta unwind somehow! :)

While I was traveling here, there, and everywhere, I had the opportunity to put my G1 through its paces. It kept me company while I was waiting for flights in airports, riding in the car, hanging around at my family's house, and otherwise away from my computer. Using my G1 as my primary Internet source for several days at a time was a new experience for me, one which I'm happy to report worked out very well. I didn't experience 'net withdrawal even once ;)

K-9 mail is my friend :) I previously mentioned that I was using it for email with limited success. Since then a couple of updates have been released and I've had no problems at all. Every so often the top left LED on the G1 blinks to let me know I have mail. I can get to K-9 easily from the notification bar, and my new email is there waiting for me. While I wouldn't want to type a 6-page love letter on the G1's keyboard, K-9 adequately handles outgoing mail as well. I would not hesitate to leave my self in K-9's capable hands again should the need to go AFK arise.

I continue to be impressed by the Android web browser. Even after a half hour or more of use it never once gave me out of memory warnings. And given the screen real estate it has to work with, it renders most pages beautifully. I used the browser to find the new location of my favorite New Orleans bakery. (Gambinos!) And to look up times for the Medieval Times dinner and joust in Atlanta.

Of course I couldn't stay away from video games the entire time I was running in circles, and the one I played the most was Parallel Kingdom. The Kingdom's recently gotten some new residents. The traveling monks sell journals in which one's achievements are recorded. The monks will then trade full journals for new skills. Spiders have infested many areas. Killing them is tough, but the silk is worth it. And adventurers will find tougher monsters to do battle with. The thing that really made PK shine during my travels though was all the new areas I visited. I play regularly around my house, but things around here don't seem to change that much. Being in new cities gave me the chance to explore new terrain! Take out new enemies! And see sights far beyond what is available in my usual stomping ground.

I did also get one new app this summer, the G1 version of Documents To Go. So far this is the only app I've actually paid for. I haven't done too much with it yet, but before my new bowling season starts (next week!), I'll be setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of my average. I was a little dismayed that the Android OS did not come with any way to open Word or Excel documents when I bought it, or even give me access to my Google Docs, beyond just being able to see them. That was the only thing I missed when I switched from Windows Mobile. So I'd been keeping an eye on the Android Market, and when Documents To Go showed up, I snapped it up. The lite version is free, but only allows opening and viewing files. I opted for the standard version. It's $30 price tag is a little steep, but I've used earlier versions of Documents To Go on other price tags, and found it to be a great program. I'll report back in a few months about how this version fairs :)

So that's how I spent my summer vacation! How about you? Anyone discover any great Android apps? New video games? Visit somewhere special? Or just spend a nice day by the pool? :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Luggage Dance

It seems like airlines have done everything in their power to make travel more and more tedious. It wasn't too long ago that travelers got to check two bags for free, pillows and blankets were readily available on flights, and to get a exit row seat, all you had to do was ask. Those were some of the things taken away or modified with fees. Many airlines went on to drop free meals. Having eaten airplane food, I think we can agree that not much was lost there! Then things got worse. Fuel costs went up. The number of people traveling went down. So of course the answer is to make travel even more costly and more difficult for the consumer. I believe the pinnacle of this is the cost to check even a single bag everyone has to pay on most major airlines now. Not only is this an extra expense to deal with, it's causing a rather annoying scenario that I call the luggage dance.

Geek husband and I recently took a trip to his home city of New Orleans. Our luggage dance started before we even left for the airport. We were trying to figure out if we could both pack for a four day trip, in one suitcase. The airlines we were traveling on charges $15 per checked bag, each way. If we checked only one bag, we'd save $30. We had already decided that just using carry-ons would be too hectic. Both of us travel with our laptop computers. Trying to keep track of two computer bags and two small pieces of luggage in four different airports (1 connection each way) sounded like far too much of a hassle.

As we packed, it became apparent that everything would fit, but it might get a little tight. So then the question was: what if we buy a bunch of stuff while we're on vacation? The suitcase we used expanded with the flip of a zipper, but I knew from past experience that if I open up the expansion and pack it tight, it can weigh more than 50lbs. An overweight bag costs more than checking a second bag, so we'd be better off taking two if that happened. After much discussion we decided to go with one bag and to buy something cheap to throw clothes into if we needed a second one on the way back. We ended up only doing a little bit of shopping, so our one suitcase worked for the return trip just fine. However we spent far more time on packing than we ever would have prior to the $15 bag fee.

The luggage dance continued as we boarded the plane. More people than ever are using carry on bags, rather than paying the checked bag fees. I can't blame them. I would do the same in some cases. This means however that overhead compartment space is at a premium. Above our seats other passengers spent a good 15 minutes attempting to rearrange the luggage in the overhead compartment to fit someone's bag. In the process they took another passenger's bag out of the compartment (unbeknownst to the owner of the bag), and never put it back. Several minutes after they finished, another passenger held up a bag and asked who owned it, as it had randomly left by his seat. Neither that person nor the owner of the bag knew what had happened. And we must not forget the bag that almost got dropped on my husband's head in the middle of all of the commotion. I was quite displeased about that one.

Maybe I'm strange, but I find the luggage dance to be very annoying. The airlines have set up a scenario where passengers are going to try to jump through hoops to avoid paying baggage fees: packing fewer suitcases, trying to survive with just a carry-on, and finding a place for that carry-on once a person is on the plane. The flight attendants seem to understand the situation, yet attempt to stay away from it. Not one attendant came over to help the people who rearranged one compartment for 15 minutes. The hassle and the extra cost have people more frustrated with traveling than ever.

If I were an airlines, I would seriously consider revising that policy right about now. I have to wonder if a very modest price increase (say $5 per ticket) would compensate for the missed income. The good will towards travelers may be the real benefit though. I know that if I were looking for a plane ticket these days I'd choose a $15 more expensive flight over one with the same $15 baggage fee. I can't be the only person out there that feels that way, a smart airlines would take that into consideration right about now :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

On Star Trek

1. I really enjoyed it!
2. Many of my favorite 1-liners persisted in the new vision.
3. I'm glad J. J. Abrams did not try to duplicate Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. No one could do Roddenberry's Star Trek as well as Roddenberry.
4. It was a great movie in it's own right.
5. Go see it!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Steer Your Financial Future with Rudder!

A few weeks ago I was reading articles on Lifehacker and I ran across a reference to the personal finance tool, Rudder. Given that Rudder is free (for basic service), I decided to give it a shot.

The backbone of Rudder is the Dashboard page. This page contains a number of widgets, small components which provide information about various elements of personal finance. The Dashboard provides an instant glance at my financial state. The Account Balances widget lists the current balances on my accounts. The Recent Activity widget is one of my favorites, listing recent transactions. These are updated nightly, however I have found that the updates are not perfect. The Bills widget requires a little setup. It will list reoccurring bills, but I had to enter them the first time. The hallmark widget of Rudder is one entitled What's Left. This widget projects how much money will remain after all of the bills are paid. Two more widgets are available, but not added to your dashboard by default. These are the Savings, and the Spend Meter.

Rudder also includes transaction lists and trends pages. Trends are not that helpful unless you pay for an upgraded account. Rudder's basic services are free. This means however that Rudder will only store 200 transactions (between all accounts). That's not enough to do meaningful trend analysis for most people. Upgraded accounts will hold more transactions. I opted for a one year, unlimited transactions account, which set me back $15.

What Rudder does really well is give me a succinct, up to the minute look at my current financial position. Every night Rudder sends me an email with a snapshot of my dashboard. It's easy to read, and at a glance I can see where things stand. I used to check my checking account balance every couple of days, and with Rudder's emails I don't need to do that anymore. If someone should say, use my debit card to buy train tickets in Europe, it'll show up in my daily emails, and I can call the bank immediately.

The only catch... sometimes it doesn't work. Rudder had trouble communicating with my bank for about a week. Rudder needed me to repeatedly input my user name and password (which is buried on the settings page), yet it could not update my account. Eventually the problem seemed to repair itself. I waited until it worked for a couple of weeks following that event before paying for the unlimited account.

The other disadvantage to Rudder is that it does not talk to company in which I have my investment account. This is important to my daily finances because I use the money market account with that company for short term savings. So Rudder doesn't know that I've got a little money stashed away for summer vacation.

If you are currently using some other tool for personal finance management, and you're happy with it, then stick with it. If you want to give something new a try, sign up for a Rudder account and see what you think.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Murder! Or is it?

I recently discovered that many of my friends do not know of one of my favorite movies of all time, Murder by Death. So I write this post to introduce them, and all of my loyal readers, to one of the funniest movies of all time.

Murder by Death is a spoof of a handful of classic mystery characters. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is replaced by Jessica Marbles. Instead of Sam Spade, Peter Falk does a hilarious rendition of Sam Diamond. And my personal favorite, the Thin Man, makes an appearance, or rather his alter ego, Dick Charleston does. Milo Perrier (Hercule Poirot) and Sidney Wang (Charlie Chan) round out the detective offerings. Pitted against them is Truman Capote as Lionel Twain and his blind butler Jamesir Bensonmum, played by Alec Guinness.

The plot is simple, the five detectives are invited to Mr. Twain's house for dinner and a murder. What they don't know is that Mr. Twain is determined to get the best of the detectives. His mechanical contraptions and sometimes plain outrageous schemes keep them guessing. The detectives further complicate the situation with their own idiosyncrasies.

One of my favorite things about this movie is how many quotes it has, which persist far beyond the movie itself. Geek husband just has to say "Shh shh, cow talk again." and I get the giggles. If I every meet someone named Jamesir in real life, I probably will not be able to contain myself! Imagine introducing yourself as Jamesir, to someone who you're addressing as sir, and you'll get the picture. I could list a dozen more, but I don't want to spoil it for you :)

Join us at 22 Twain's house, for dinner... and a murder!

Fast Food Follies: Baked Potato Soup

I took this to lunch one day last week and my friends were amazed that I made potato soup so easily. The secret: bake the potatoes first. Whenever we have baked potatoes with dinner, I bake a couple of extra and mash them, or turn them into soup.

Here's what you need:
1 potato per bowl of soup
Milk and/or chicken broth
Onions if you have em
Toppings: Bacon, cheese, grilled chicken, green onion, anything that's good on a potato

Here's how you make it:
Bake the potatoes.
If you're using onions, chop them up so that they are bite sized (or smaller) and sautee in the soup pan with a little butter, until golden.
When the potatoes are done carefully (they'll be hot) scrape out the insides into the soup pan. Add enough milk and/or chicken broth to make soup. I often use all milk. You can vary the consistency to your liking - thick or thin is fine.
Warm up in the pan until everything is hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Top each bowl with your favorite potato toppings. I love bacon and cheese!

PS: Yes I use baked potatoes to make mashed potatoes :) Why? It's easy! No peeling necessary! And to me they are just as tasty.

Friday, April 24, 2009

RIP Geociites

In the early days of the World Wide Web, there was no Facebook, there was no MySpace, and Twitter wasn't even a thought in anyone's imagination. There was however, GeoCities. Web pages for anyone with a little time and a little HTML knowledge.

Yahoo is retiring GeoCities, and will soon be closing the service all together. In this sad time for Internet pioneers everywhere, let us remember fondly the forefather of social networking. The king is dead. Long live the king.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cost of Spam

Every morning I wake up, check my email, and delete 100 or so spam messages. It takes me maybe 3 minutes to sort through all of my email and delete the spam. My spam catcher takes care of the bulk of my spam, and I do the rest. I have pretty much accepted spam as a normal part of using email. Until recently when I read a statistic that I find alarming: spam wastes $3 billion a year in electricity. That's enough electricity to power 2.4 million American homes.

I am stunned by this huge energy waste. I am also conflicted. I believe in network neutrality. All traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. In other words, my World of Warcraft game gets the same priority as my husband's streaming hockey playoffs from online as the guy next door downloading a large file. That also means that, from a network standpoint, spammers have the same right to the bandwidth as I do. If we make regulations to limit spam, I think it would be easy for them to be used to discriminate against other types of traffic as well.

So what's the answer? I don't know. McAfee is promoting aggressive spam filters. I certainly notice a difference with my spam filter running, but I'm not sure they're smart enough yet to be an end-all solution. If you're curious about how McAfee got their spam-electricity cost numbers, check out the summary report. It's an interesting read.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fast Food Follies: Red Curry Chicken

I love Thai curries. They're delicious, and easy to make, great on the spot, excellent as left overs.

Red curry chicken is one of my favorites. I started with this recipe and modified it a little to suit my taste.

Here's what you need:
1 lb boneless chicken breasts or thighs
1-2 handfuls of vegetables. Onion, carrots, and zucchini are my favorites, but any mixed veggies will do.
1 13oz can of coconut milk
1-3 tablespoons of red curry paste. Less for a milder curry, more for a spicier curry.
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar (Palm sugar is traditional, but white sugar works just as well.)
2 tablespoons lime juice
4-5 kaffir lime leaves. Optional, but great if you have em.

Here's how to cook it:
Cut the chicken and veggies into bite sized pieces.
If using kaffir lime leaves, shred them finely. A kitchen scissors works great for this.
In a pan, heat up a little oil and add the curry paste. Stir the curry paste around until it gets fragrant.
Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, kaffir lime leaves. Stir until mixed.
Add the chicken and vegetables. (If you're using any vegetables which cook very quickly you may want to hold those back and add them after the rest has cooked for a few minutes.)
Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is done.
Stir in the lime juice.

Serve over jasmine rice if you have it, or any sort of rice if you don't.
Enjoy :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Geek Surfing, Volume 1

Need a little geek reading? Check out some of these articles!

I was a little disappointed to hear that Marble Saga Kororinpa does not make full use of the Balance Board. After reading this review however, I am curious to see what the game has to offer.

All the practice with the wiimote should make it easy for me to mow my lawn when these are readily available.

My friend Geoff would totally dig this show, Star Wars: Musical Journey. It was successful in its debut enough to come to the US, so maybe he'll get the chance to see it :)

In tech news, if you're waiting for a Dell smartphone, don't hold your breath. Apple fans can take heart in the fact that Steve Jobs still has his fingers in the apple pie.

My husband the sports geek would find these baseball cards amusing. I've spent so much time in card shops that I think they're pretty cool myself.

Worried about Conficker? The best way to test for it is to view the Conficker Eye Chart. For a good explanation of how it works, try this article.

Yelp, a site which features user ratings of restaurants and other venues is bowing to pressure and allowing the businesses to post their own comments. I don't have a problem with this in principal, but I have a hard time believing it will work out much better than any celebrity vs. the press.

I'm fully convinced that produce is best obtained from a farmer's market or grocery store. If you're the home gardener type, Lifehacker suggests this potato growing method.

And last but not least, the ultimate in geek clothing: a suit which makes you stronger. Personally, I think I'll wait it comes in pink :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Social Networking & U

I read this article yesterday which discussed the pros and cons of social networking online. It seems Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of the social networking opportunities are sending people into overload. People are finding out a little too much about each other, a little too often. Some even experience a paradoxical effect whereas they fear being away from their social networks, yet crave the break. I counter with the idea that social networking is a wonderful tool when used wisely.

The number one tip I have for social network is: Use social networks in a way that works for you. In the rest of this article I'll outline some ways to do that.

Don't try to be everywhere at once. Sure you could have a My Space page, a Facebook page, a Live Journal, a Twitter feed, be on half a dozen different IM services, and don't forget email and cell phones. In reality, who could keep up with all that?!? Choose the services that make the most sense for you, and go with those. If you find yourself not using something regularly, consider withdrawing from that network.

Don't be afraid to tell people how you would like to be networked. Fans of a particular social network will tell you that you need to be a part of their network. I feel a little differently. A network that works the best for me, may not be the one that works best for someone else. That doesn't make the network good or bad, it means that it doesn't fit my needs well.

When you need a break, take a break. The world is not going to end if I don't check my email for 48 hours, or my Facebook page every day. When I'm going to be incommunicado, I let people know that nothing's wrong, I'm just having a networking-free weekend, vacation, or whatever. All the messages will be there for me when I get back.

Separate work and personal networks where appropriate, and set boundaries for each group. I actually maintain three groups of personal networking venues, with different guidelines for each one.

The first are things I use specifically for work purposes. That's mainly my work email. I keep work and personal networks separate for two reasons. One is that anything I send from my work email address is part of my professional identity. I may be a goofball, but I don't want everyone to know that all the time! :) The second is that when I am on break from work, I often put up an automated email response and ignore my work email. I love my job, but I do need distance from it at times as well.

The second group is my personal networks. This includes a personal email address, my cell phone number, and Google Talk. My friends know how to reach me on these networks. I'm fairly careful of who gets into my personal networks. Lots of friends have my email and cell phone numbers, but they're all my friends - people I want to talk to, and people I trust to understand if I can't talk when they call or respond instantly to their emails.

My third group is what I call my public identity. These include people I know from work, my friends, plus lots of you who I only know through comments on Long Live Geeks. The important differential about my public identities is that I only post things that anyone is welcome to know. If you want to friend me on Facebook, go for it. Here's the link. I post random status updates, the funnier the better. Facebook is spreading through work, and I have no problem with that either. Work is part of the public. I check Facebook once or twice a day, but if I were going on vacation or otherwise needed a break I'd simply put a status update which says I'm away and ignore it. The second part of my public identity is this blog, and the associated Twitter feed. I mostly post links to geeky articles on Twitter, and anyone is welcome at LLG and to follow me on Twitter.

Long live geeks with social networks :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Update on the G1

The short version: I still love my G1! Best phone and mobile Internet device I've ever had!

The longer version:

I do occasionally use my G1 as a phone, and it's been one of the better phones I've had. The speaker is quite clear. Other people seem to have no trouble hearing me. I get a good signal everywhere I go regularly. Occasionally I forget the red button hangs up calls and cut people off, but that's totally my bad :)

As a texter, it out classes my last phone with an alpha-numeric keypad. The buttons are small, but they are well spaced and I rarely miss anymore. When I got the phone I suspected that the "dead space" between the keys would make a big difference, and indeed it has. My last phone had keys which were flush together, and I hit wrong ones all the time.

As a mobile mail device, it works great with gmail and not so great with other email providers. I have pop and imap servers with my main email account (which is not gmail). I tried the built in mail client and found that it was slow to update. I then downloaded the K-9 email client from the Android market, and found that it is a little better. When it's open, it responds well to my instructions and downloads email swiftly. It does not however let me know when I have mail. It might do so for a few hours after using the client, but not indefinitely.

As a mobile web browser, I couldn't be happier! The web client is totally awesome. I haven't seen a page it can't render well. I've never gotten an out of memory warning (which was a common occurrence on my last smartphone). I've looked up products on Amazon, accessed my work's website, checked basket ball scores, and of course referenced Wikipedia, all from my G1 :)

As for the app market, I've found a lot of great apps, but I'm still waiting on others. I would like to be able to access either Google Docs, or word files, on my phone. I have a couple of note taking programs which work fine, but they do not save files in universal formats. I use Open Office at home, word at work, and Google Docs in both places. I would like to be able to save files in a format which will go with me wherever I need it.

As a gaming device, I've found ample games to fill my spare moments with, and some that keep me coming back for more. Two of those I've reviewed already, Coloroid and Parallel Kingdom. More reviews will be forth coming, and hopefully more great games as well :)

The only think I would really like to have right this moment: 3G data speeds in my area. When T-Mobile announced their webConnect wireless USB modem last month, they also said they would be doubling their 3G markets by the end of 2009. At this moment, I'm not holding my breath. I live about 35 miles away from Pittsburgh, and I wouldn't be surprised if we're not on the 2009 list. I knew 3G was going to take a while when I got the phone though. So I'm not complaining... too much ;)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fast Food Follies: Garlic Bread Sticks

Last weekend I mixed up another batch of the olive oil dough I used when making pocket sandwiches. On Monday I decided I really wanted garlic bread sticks, and the dough was the prefect starting point.

Here's what you need
Bread dough, about two hand fulls for a large pan of breadsticks
2-3 tablespoons of butter
1-2 tablespoons of garlic powder (You could also use fresh garlic, finely chopped.)

Here's how to make them:
In a small bowl mix up the butter and garlic. If the butter has been in the fridge, it helps to microwave it for a few seconds first to make it softer.
Place the dough on a greased or floured surface and flatten it into a rectangle. Aim for 1/4 of an inch thick. It doesn't need to be perfect.
Spread the butter and garlic mixture on the flattened dough.
Cut the dough into 1 inch strips. Twist each strip a couple of times and place it on the baking pan.
Let the sticks rise for about half an hour. During the last 10 minutes of the rise, preheat the oven to 450.
Bake the breadsticks for 20 minutes, or until they are golden on top.
Enjoy!

They were delicious, and kept well for a couple of days.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Android Games: Parallel Kingdom

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Coloroid, a game I've been playing on my G1. At the time I asked for suggestions for additional games, and two people said Parallel Kingdom. I downloaded it, gave it a shot, and now I'm officially hooked :)

Parallel Kingdom reminds me a lot of the 2D RPGs I loved when I was a kid. (Dragon Warrior was my favorite!) This time though, the map is a real world map, courtesy of Google Maps, rather than a tiled graphic. On this map you will find yourself, a variety of NPCs, trees, caves, and other players. By double clicking on a spot on the map, you can move to a new location. By single clicking, you can interact with creatures and objects on the map. (I recommend not attacking any large packs of animals until you've got your bearings ;) )

The space in which one can move is limited. It's a circle a mile or so in diameter. (No I haven't actually measured, but I should do that!) In order to go outside the circle, you have a few options:
1. Change your real world physical location. This is probably the best option early in the game.
2. Make friends with someone who can invite you to their location.
3. Plant flags, which you can then move to as long as you can see them. You can see flags that are up to a mile or so away. You can also move to caves that you control.
Other than moving, each area responds every 24 hours. So those trees you chopped down will do a Terminator and be back.

This real world mapping brings into play all sorts of cool possibilities. I was 40 miles away from home this weekend when I discovered my first cave. I got some stone from it while I was there, but I doubt I'll be back any time soon. When I get enough resources to build some flags, I look forward to placing them near my home or work, the two places I visit the most often. And I am totally going to build a little house on the location that corresponds with my real life dwelling.

Parallel Kingdom's online guide is a must read for details on the items and monsters in the game. The Parallel Kingdom forums also have a lot of good tips.

If you decide to check it out, send me a message and say hi. My Parallel Kingdom alter ego is named Koress.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bond, James Bond

Quantum of Solace was released yesterday, and geek husband was nice enough to bring a copy home for me. I've loved the Bond movies every since I was a little geek, and this one did not disappoint. In particular though, I spent most of this movie thinking: I want that phone!

Bond had, quite possibly, the coolest cell phone ever. It of course had the requisite feature of allowing Bond to place phone calls. More than that though, it acted as an instant communications portal between Bond and MI6. Mid-call, MI6 uploaded data on nefarious characters to Bond's phone. A few scenes later, Bond took pictures of people in a crowded auditorium, which came out so sharp that MI6 was able to use them for facial recognition.

The screen and interface of Bond's phone could file the wishlist of any handheld-o-phile. Details popped off the screen with sharpness that rivals the best HDTVs. It had no noticeable lag when moving from one display to another. The interface was touch sensitive, of course, and with a flick of a finger Bond easily maneuvered through the data which had been transmitted to his phone.

Many times in movies I've looked at a piece of tech and said: That's impossible. This phone experienced speed and clarity that we certainly do not yet have at our disposal. Yet... I can see the "grandfather" of many of these features in my G1. The touch screen interface, the ability to get the Internet anywhere I have service. Bond's phone of the future (without the direct line to MI6!) is coming! We move closer to it every day. Pretty soon we will all be able to feel like Bond, James Bond. (Insert Bond theme music here :) )

Monday, March 23, 2009

Geeks Guide to Tender Baked Goods

Have you ever read a recipe for pancakes which said "Stir ingredients until mixed. Some lumps are okay."? A few lumps in the pancake batter usually dissolve during cooking. On the other hand, if you stir the batter enough to get it completely smooth, you're likely to end up with tough pancakes. Why? Gluten!

As we learned when making bread, gluten is the protein in flour which makes it sticky. When we make bread, we want the gluten to develop so the dough will be stretchy, and the bread will be chewy. For other baked goods, such as cookies, muffins, and biscuits, developing the gluten will make them tough. I don't know about you, but I like my cookies crispy, my muffins tender, and my biscuits flaky. Tough did not appear anywhere in that list. (Neither did cakes! Cake recipes usually call for cake flour, which has less gluten than regular flour. So a cake batter can be beaten until it's the right consistency, without worrying about tough cakes.)

Two methods are commonly used to mix ingredients without developing the gluten, one is commonly used in cookie recipes, the other in biscuit recipes. Muffins and quick breads can go either way.

Cookie Method
Start by creaming the sugar and butter (or shortening). Then add the eggs, vanilla, and all other wet ingredients. Mix until everything is smooth. Next add the dry ingredients, flour and a leavening agent. Mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the cookie batter. Lastly, stir in any chocolate chips, nuts, or other additions.

The key here is mixing everything except the flour very well, then mixing in the flour just enough. Once the flour is mixed in, stop! No need to keep mixing just for the heck of it.

Biscuit Method
This is the mixing technique used for biscuits and pie crusts. I find it a little harder to do than the cookie method, but if you have a food processor, you can cheat :)

Start with butter (or shortening) and flour. Use cold butter, even frozen if your arm can take it. Cut the butter into a few chunks, then use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour. If you don't have a pastry blender, two knives will do the trick. Hold one in each hand and cross them, scissor fashion. Keep cutting through the butter and flour until you have a crumbly mixture. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is! Food processors do a great job of cutting the butter into the flour though. If you have one, this is the perfect place to use it. Use the blade attachment, not the dough attachment. The goal is still to the cut the butter into the flour.

After the flour and butter are mixed, stir in any remaining dry ingredients. Then add the liquid ingredients all at once, and stir in until just mixed.

If your goal is flaky biscuits, pastries, or pie crusts, go for the biscuit method. If you are baking muffins or quick breads, you can choose either. Cookies work best with the cookie method.

If you've tried the above methods and your baked goods are still tough rather than tender, there's one final secret: use less gluten. You can either buy special pastry flours, or, substitute cake flour for some of the regular flour. Start with subbing 1/6 to 1/4 of the regular flour for cake flour, and see what happens. I do this from time to time in particularly troublesome recipes, and it works great :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Some Thoughts on Bailouts

If I owned a small business, it would be my responsibility to keep it financially stable. I would have to manage my expenses and debts, so that I could meet all of my financial obligations. If I made a loan to someone who couldn't pay it back, I could go through the legal process, but in the end I may never recover the money. The unifying concept here is responsibility. A business owner is responsible for the health of the business. No one is standing buy to hand over cash in the case of a financial difficulty... until now for some of the largest businesses in the country.

So many bailouts have been announced in the past 6 months that I wouldn't be surprised who's getting federal money next. First it was the $700 billion bailout for an assortment of US banks. Then the plan to save the failing auto industry. The most recent uproar is over the millions of dollars paid in bonuses to AIG executives, after they received billions in federal funds as well. Some of the largest companies in the United States have all of a sudden become exempt from the responsibility that any business owner should face - that of maintaining their financial viability.

I've really questioned if we should bailout any of these companies or not. My gut instinct is that if a company is not profitable, that's their problem, not ours (after all, it's our tax money paying for these bailouts). They should have to deal with it like any organization, fix the problems or give up the company. Apparently the issue is not as simple as it seems. We have a responsibility to the people of our country, if not to the companies. I think this article did a good job of explaining those responsibilities.

The short version is, if a huge company like AIG fails, it's likely to take down a number of smaller companies with it. Or, if one or more of the auto giants were to collapse, that affects dealerships, car parts manufacturers, and everyone else involved in the auto business. Many believe that the cost of failure would be much higher than the cost of the bailouts... so we're taking the less expensive option.

The question I come back to time and again is: Is the system broken? If so, I'm not sure throwing any amount of money at it will fix the problem. It may delay the fall, but not prevent it. Part of me wonders if we wouldn't be better off going ahead and putting out money into managing the fallout rather than trying to prevent it. But I'm not sure that would be any better. I don't know much about our unemployment system, but it doesn't seem (to a casual observer) to be that effective in helping people get retrained and find new jobs. That system, in its own way, may be broken as well.

So what good could come out of this? There comes a point in most people's lives in which we face a crossroads. Times in which we have to choose to stay on our existing paths, or choose new ones. If anything, we are giving these companies the chance to come to their own crossroads. They now have the responsibility to honestly look at their own situations, and choose the best paths going forward. May they choose wisely.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fast Food Follies: Thai Peanut Chicken with Noodles

Life's keeping me very busy these days. Here's a quick Thai chicken recipe I threw together for dinner one night this week.

Here's what you need:
6 ounces of rice noodles (more or less is okay)
1 lb boneless chicken breast fillets or tenders (get the tenders for quicker prep)
1 14oz can of coconut milk
1 packet A Taste of Thai peanut sauce mix (Great taste, and no MSG!)
1 lime

Here's how you cook it:
Cook the noodles. While the noodles are cooking, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.
When the noodles are done, drain them and transfer to a temporary holding location.
In the pan you cooked the noodles in, stir fry the chicken with a little oil.
When the chicken is done, add the coconut milk and sauce mix. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 3-4 minutes. The sauce will thicken slightly.
Once the sauce is done, stir the noodles into the sauce.
For an authentic Thai flair, serve with lime wedges.
Enjoy!

PS: If you're new to the kitchen and concerned about food safety, here's a chicken tip: Cut open a piece of the cooked chicken. If it's pink in the middle, it's not done yet. Cooked chicken is white the whole way through. You can also check doneness with an instant read thermometer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Andriod Games: Coloroid

If you have a G1, you've probably discovered the app market by now. If not, stop what you're doing and go check it out! While you're there, don't pass up the games section. Some of them are quite nifty, and everything I've played so far has been free.

My favorite Android game to date is Coloroid. Coloroid starts with a grid of multi-colored blocks. The game is played from the top left. Click one of the 6 colors, and the top left block will change to that color. If you've chosen wisely, that is if you've chosen a color which was adjacent to the top left block, that block will join with the newly colored block. As you keep changing the group of blocks, it grows and continues to merge with any touching blocks of the same color. The goal is to turn the whole screen into a single color.

Coloroid has 32 levels. The lowest level has a board which is 4x4. At each level increase, the size of the board grows by one. The highest level tops out with a 35x35 board. Each lever also has a par, a max number of moves in which to win. I zipped through the early levels pretty quickly, but once I got to board which were 20x20 or more, I was quite challenged. I'm still working my way up to 35x35.

I've played a handful of other Android games, a couple of which I liked enough to review in the future. If you have a favorite Android game, please share it with us in the comments :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

LLG is Twittering

I have a few followers of my Twitter feed so far. Check it out here. If you want to know what your resident geek is reading, Twitter is the best way to find out. I update the feed regularly with links to geek friendly articles, which are most often tech related. Along with 100 characters or so of witty commentary.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fun with Pocket Sandwiches

As I've been experimenting with the bread recipes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I've been thinking of all of the cool things that can be done with bread dough in the house. Fresh bread is the obvious one. Dough for pizza, flat bread, and seasoned rolls are all delicious options. And the thing I've been experimenting with this week: do-it-yourself pocket sandwiches :)

Monday I mixed up a batch of olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in Five. I chose the olive oil dough for two reasons: the olive oil flavor compliments the sandwiches very well (and I believe will taste great as pizza dough), second, bread with some oil in it keeps much better than bread without any oil. Oil acts as a preservative. When bread dough is mixed with a little bit of oil, the bread stays fresher longer, and freezes much better. Than means I can make a bunch of pocket sandwiches, freeze most of them, and they should keep very well for a month or so.

When choosing fillings for my sandwiches I went with traditional meat and cheese. I did ham and cheese; ham, salami, and cheese; and ground beef, onions, and cheese. The last one was going to be meatballs, but the beef was frozen when I started cooking, so I just cooked it loose. When working with meat, food safety becomes far more critical than working with bread alone. All fillings need to be ready to eat. Deli meats are fine as-is. Beef, chicken, and any other meat you want to use needs to be cooked before making sandwiches.

Making Pocket Sandwiches
To make the olive oil dough, start with the master recipe, reduce the amount of water by 1/4 of a cup, and add 1/4 of a cup of olive oil. Also add 1 tablespoon of sugar. The rest of the recipe is the same. Mix the dough, let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours, then refrigerate overnight (or upto 12 days). You can use the dough after the 2 hour rise, but, it will be harder to work with. I found that one night in the fridge remarkably improved the dough texture.

To make each sandwich:
1. Grab a handful of dough from the big batch, and cut it off with a knife or kitchen scissors.

2. Place the dough on a floured or greased surface. Either of those will keep the dough from sticking. Flour is traditional, but I actually have more luck with oil most of the time. A little oil on my hands helps the dough not stick to my hands.
3. Spread the dough out to a square which is about 6 by 8 inches. It doesn't need to be perfect. If the dough starts "fighting back", give it a few seconds to relax. When doing the big batch, I worked with two pieces of dough at a time, alternating between them. The picture here shows a spread out piece of dough.

4. Add fillings. The sandwich is going to be flipped over, so whatever you want on the top should be the first filling you put in the dough. I did cheese first, then meat. Here's a picture of a salami, ham, and cheese (left), and a ham and cheese (right), sandwiches ready to be closed. The cheese is under the meat, so it's not visible in the picture.

5. Fold up the sandwich. Start with the ends and fold them over the fillings. Then bring in the edges. Do your best to seal it up.
6. Lift the sandwich, flip it over, and place it in the baking pan.
7. Let rise for 15 minutes. The short rise is once again for food safety. They don't really need a longer rise though, due to the thinness of the dough. Here's the tray of sandwiches ready to go into the oven.

8. Bake at 450 for 22-25 minutes. Here's the same sandwiches after they've come out of the oven. The cheese melted out of the top of one, which is what I wanted to happen, and out of the bottom of the others. I need to work on sealing them better, and providing bigger vents on top, next time! :)


Repeat steps 1-6 for each sandwich, then give them a 15 minute rise once they're all done. Once I'd made a couple, I got pretty quick with spreading the dough and filling the sandwiches. I started the second batch of sandwiches while the first set were rising. They were done in about 20 minutes, and had their 15 minute rise while the first batch was baking.

Results
Here's one of my homemade pocket sandwiches (on the right) next to a Hot Pocket (on the left).

The Hot Pocket was ham and cheese. My sandwich was ground beef, onions, and cheese. I put more filling in mine than was in the Hot Pocket. Mine was delicious :) I can't vouch for the Hot Pocket, geek husband ate it. Husband tasted my sandwich also and suggested it was a little dry. Next time I'll serve it to him with some tomato sauce on the side. The homemade ham and cheese sandwiches are also quite tasty.

Cost Comparison
The Hot Pockets were 2 for $2.50, or $1.25 each. I made 10 homemade sandwiches. I spent about $9 on ingredients, making those sandwiches $0.90 each. Note that my sandwich cost takes into account that I will use all of the left over ingredients in other recipes. I had about 1/3 of the dough, 1/3 of the cheese, and a little bit of meat left over.

Truthfully the savings alone probably would not be enough for me to take the time to make my own sandwiches. The benefit I like far more is that I have control over everything I cook. I know what's in my ingredients. I know what's in the food. I can add more or less filling. I can make sandwiches which have more meat in them for my husband. If I already have dough in the house, it's also a great way to get a quick hot meal.

Filling Ideas
I would love to try these with cooked chicken, bacon and cheese. I'm also curious how they'd do with cheese sauce (homemade or Cheese Whiz) instead of sliced cheese. If I were making pizzas, it would be a great idea to wrap up some extra pepperoni and cheese. Homemade or frozen (and then cooked) meatballs would be fabulous, and far easier to work with than the loose meat. Sliced steak, cooked onions and peppers, and cheese would make a pocket cheese steak sandwich. The possibilities are endless! :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fun with Browser Games

Browser games are certainly nothing new. I used to wile away hours on Yahoo!Games many years ago. A couple of months ago I discovered a new type of browser games, ones where the game play takes place over several days, weeks, and months, with only a few clicks from me each day. The goal of these games is building and conquest. That is, to build a town, defend it with an army, and perhaps venture out to pillage other lands. I've tried a couple of these games, and the one I like the best so far is Ikariam.

Ikariam
Upon starting Ikariam a new player receives a town on an island. The island will be shared with several other towns, and have two resources available, one being building material (which looks suspiciously like wood), and the other will be one of the four luxury resources (marble, wine, sulphur, or crystal). The town starts off very small, with just a town hall and a handful of resources to get started. Build a few buildings and assign some workers to the island resources to get started.

As the game develops players can choose to work together or play a more aggressive game. Players ally together for fun and profit. Alliances are then ranked on each server. I haven't seen an endgame yet, so I don't know if one alliance is ever declared a winner, or if alliances fight for the top indefinitely. Points may be gained by building up various parts of a town, from buildings to armies. A friendly alliance will trade resources among players, and provide protection when a player is attacked. An aggressive alliance may band together to wage war against another alliance. Players may also choose independently to pillage other towns, stealing their resources.

Ikariam really thrives on player cooperation. Players may trade cultural treaties, in which cultural goods are exchanged from one player to another. Culture makes townspeople happy. Players also join together to develop the resources locations on each island by donating building materials to the resource. When enough building materials are donated, the resource will upgrade automatically and supply more goods in the future. While I enjoy the occasional pillage as much as the next geek, I think the cooperative nature of this game is a particular plus. In another browser game I played, I was attacked so often my town never had a chance to grow. In Ikariam that has not been the case. Occasionally I've had to set up a defense, but not so often to be a problem.

Play or Not?
Playing Ikariam is free! You can buy upgrades that make the game go a little faster, but I've refrained from doing that. I'll make it on my own or not at all. Compared to other online games, this one is not at all time intensive. I can manage my towns in one visit per day. Given the low investment on my part, and the fun cooperative nature, I can't help but enjoy this one. My towns are thriving. My alliance is banding together to help everyone grow. And I can't wait to see how the game develops over time. If you think this would be your type of fun, check it out. Either way it turns out, there's nothing to lose :)

Tips for Newbies
Your town will be placed randomly. By far the easiest island to start on is one with marble. You can also get by pretty easily if you have wine or crystal, as those sell well. Sulphur is mainly used to build troops, so unless your world is at war, will probably not be the most valuable resource.

As soon as your first town is stable, build the palace to level 2, and strike out with a second town. Having two towns is a big tactical advantage. If someone comes to pillage, you will often have enough time to move your stored resources from one town to the other.

If someone's coming to pillage and you have no hope of defending your town, the best defense is to spend all of your resources before they get there. Pillaging does not take gold or destroy buildings. The player will attack your troops and take any resources which are not protected in your warehouse. If you don't have any extra resources, they come away empty handed. A smart pillager won't pillage an empty town for very long!

Lastly, check out the Ikariam forums. They have a lot of tips and great discussions :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Geeks on Spring Break

I teach at a nifty little place named Seton Hill University. I'm one of the resident geeks there too, only they call me a professor instead of a geek. Next week SHU is on spring break, and I've got all sorts of geeky plans to fill up my time :)

About a month ago I started playing World of Warcraft. I'm certainly not new to the MMORPG genre. I shepherded my Everquest character from creation to level 68. I've also done my time in EQ2, and dabbled in a handful of other MMORPGs. I am however new to WoW. My little shammy is currently level 33, and I want to put a good 10 levels on her over the next week. That won't catch me up to my level 80 friends, but it'll give me a boost :)

After I started watching SGA, I knew that it would not be long before I wanted to see Stargate SG-1. Earlier this week I checked out prices on Amazon, and ordered the first season. I did not get quite as good of a good deal on it as I did with the SGA seasons at Best Buy, but the price wasn't bad either. I did see the Stargate movie many years ago, and I can't wait to find out how the television hit got started.

Lastly, I have a couple of ideas for really cool LLG blog posts. The thing holding me back is that these are going to take some time to gather the material for. Over break I'll have some time and I can do just that. So, you can look forward to a couple of extra special posts in the future :) If you would like some good reading in the mean time, back when I was first blogging, I wrote this awesome post on geeky grocery shopping. Check it out! :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Great Bread Flop

After my mini bread experiments, I let the bread dough sit in the refrigerator for about a week without touching it. Hard to imagine bread dough sitting around like that, but the cold I was dealing with really killed my appetite. I went back to it yesterday to discover... mold! The top had gotten all hard and moldy. Needless to say, I threw away all of the remaining dough. I am going to thoroughly wash my dough storage container and start a fresh batch in the next week or so.

I did learn one thing from my second bread experiment. The bread machine knead didn't change things significantly. The bread machine had trouble with such a wet dough, it did not appear to be doing much kneading.

I also noticed something else more fully this time which I think is the real key to dough consistency. One night in the refrigerator does wonders for the consistency of the dough. The day the dough is mixed, it is just too sticky to work with. After it sits in the fridge overnight, it shapes much easier, forming a nicely rounded loaf. I think it is that resting time which really "makes" the dough.

I was really disappointed when I saw the unusable dough. I had a fantastic idea for a quick meal that night, that didn't happen! I was going to roll up slices of ham and cheese into a piece of dough, and bake as usual. I predict that that would make an awesome hot sandwich, far better than a Hot Pocket, and probably a lot cheaper!

Next week I'm on spring break. I plan on trying both the hot sandwich idea and making homemade pizzas. I'll take pictures and report back! :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Was Walking through wikiHow One Day...

I love wikis. Sharing information in such a free fashion makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I crawl through Wikipedia on a regular basis, jumping from link to link, never sure where the links will take me. On other days I venture into the depths of wikiHow, learning tidbits here and there.

On one particular day my adventure in wikiHow began with a link to this page on how to build an igloo. There's not enough hot chocolate in the world to make spending that much time in the snow sound anything other than extremely cold! I do wonder though how the top stays in. The instructions state that the top brick should be larger than the top hole, but then trimmed down to fit. I think you'd have to be careful not to trim it too much. It might fall in! (Disclaimer: all I know about building igloos I learned from that wikiHow page :) )

From there I clicked on a link to the page "How to Entertain Yourself With Fluffy Snow and a Trampoline". The idea is to make a big pile out of snow, then run and jump into it with the help of a mini trampoline. What they don't mention is how to get someone else to shovel the snow into the big pile! ;)

Moving on to "How to Make Your Own Laser Light Show", I learned about the wonders of vibrating lasers. I actually think this page is a little disappointing. The idea is to suspend a mirror over a speaker, by gluing it to a piece of latex and rubber-banding the latex to the speaker. Then the laser is pointed at the mirror, and the mirror reflects the laser onto the wall. The vibrations of the speaker cause the mirror to move, and the reflection to dance. Cute, but I was really hoping for something a little more impressive than that. The authors of this wiki aught to put a video up of the dancing laser, so we get a better idea of how this works.

The "Related wikiHows" section of the laser page also let me down. I was hoping for "How to Use a Laser to Toast a Marshmallow", and instead I got all sorts of links about animation and craft shows. Not to be deterred, I decided to search for laser and marshmallow and see what happens. No luck. Apparently sufficient instructions do not exist for toasting marshmallows with lasers. (Yet! Wouldn't that be an awesome Long Live Geeks post. I wonder how powerful of a laser that would take?!? :) )

So it appears my wiki visit has ended this time with just three pages, a rather short visit for me. Sometimes my meanderings cover 10 or more. If you have a favorite wiki share it with us. It could be a wonderful jumping off point for another journey.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bread Dough Experiments Continue

I'm afraid your resident geek has a cold. So, I have not taken the time to do what I really want to do with the bread dough I've got in the house for the Great Bread Experiment, Part 2, which is to make homemade pizza. I have however tried a couple of other things.

One morning last week I threw a flat piece of dough in a heated frying pan, which had been lightly buttered. The dough puffed up nicely, and I got a pretty decent piece of griddle bread. I will say though that I miss the crust that forms on a properly baked piece of bread. It was great in a pinch, but I wouldn't plan to eat my bread that way.

I have wanted to try this sourdough waffle recipe, but I haven't actually taken the time to make the sponge. I got to wondering if I could use the bread dough as a sponge. So, I mixed a handful of dough with enough milk to make it into a batter consistency. I then added about a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. I did not plan on letting the batter sit, so I thought it might need the extra leavening of the baking powder. I cooked them up as pancakes, and they turned out pretty good! The consistency was great. A little chewier than the average pancake, but I enjoyed that part. The flavor wasn't perfect. I think I'll try it next time with an egg, and less milk.

The really cool thing about having dough in the house is that I can do all sorts of spontaneous things with it :) At some point in the future, I'm going to give one of the richer doughs from Artisan Bread in Five a try. Those doughs have egg in them, so they don't keep as long (5 days instead of 2 weeks). It looks like they would make fantastic sweet treats and cinnamon rolls though!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ten Favorite Shows to Watch on DVD

I love watching television shows which have been released on DVD. I find that the format suits me so much better. No commercials. I can watch one episode or 10. I can stop anytime, and come back. Sure my Tivo lets me do a lot of that, but DVDs are still my prefered format. Some of these I've blogged about before. Some of these I will probably blog about in the future. In no particular order, here are 10 of my favorite shows to watch on DVD :)

Dilbert - One of the funniest cartoon sitcoms on TV. Or not on TV anymore, as it only lasted two seasons. Still though, there are 30 episodes on the DVD collection, all of which I think are great. If you love the comic strip, give the show a try :)

Columbo - Peter Falk was amazing as the detective with the "rumpled raincoat and rumpled face", as one of his nemeses put it. His unassuming stature leads the criminals to believe they are getting away with murder, literally. Yet appearances can be deceiving, and Columbo puts the pieces together every time. The appearance of the show is dated, but the logic behind it stands the test of time.

Stargate Atlantis - This was the show that sparked my adventures at Best Buy. Characters and story lines are interesting and fun. They do a great job with story arcs, carrying them over multiple shows. I particularly get a kick out of the Earth technology which makes its way to Atlantis. It places the show in the current time frame, rather than many years into the future. That closeness makes it more exciting for me. I have not seen many of the SG-1 episodes, and I am looking forward to watching those as well.

Family Guy - The comedy pleases the kid in me, and the references to Star Wars and other pop culture icons pleases the geek in me. Highly culturally insensitive humor. It's funny if you let it be funny. It'll offend anyone who is easily offended.

Star Trek - This is the first sci-fi series I ever watched. I've seen many of the episodes so many times I have the lines memorized. The is one of my favorite shows to watch when I'm feeling nostalgic.

Futurama - I wasn't positive I was going to like this show when I picked up the first season, but it didn't take long to grow on me. From museums full of heads to aliens that poop rocket fuel, if it's funny and ridiculous, it's probably in Futurama. The show only lasted four seasons, but luckily everything I loved about the show has survived in the new movie format.

Mission: Impossible - I am still addicted to this show! I tore through the first five seasons, and I anxiously await the last two on DVD!

The Muppet Show - My memories of The Muppet Show revolve around the crazy muppets and a lot of singing. Seeing it again, I'm able to appreciate the show in a whole new way. The culture references which fled right over me at 5 are hitting the target now. And of course there's still the crazy muppets :)

The Prisoner - Patrick McGoohan was once a secret agent, but is now a prisoner in the Village. As he tries to escape he encounters a variety of bizarre situations. I watched half of this series when a network was running a marathon on TV. It wasn't until three or four years later that I got to see it in its entirety. I'm glad I did, the end is worth waiting for.

Jeeves & Wooster - Dramatizations of many of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories. If you've only seen Hugh Laurie as House, you won't recognize him as Bertie. He does a great job seeing Bertie through all sorts of escapades. And watching these always makes me wish I had a Jeeves of my own :)