Saturday, June 30, 2012

You Say I'm A Game Nerd Like It Is A Bad Thing.

So I've been expanding my collection of rpg's both electronic and tabletop lately. Of course the issue with videogames is they only give you so many options, the issue with tabletop rpg's is getting a group together and having everyone agree on a game. I'm lucky in the regard that I have a good group of friends to game with on the weekends and we have a few games that we will consistently play but I'm pretty much the one who keeps bringing new stuff to the table.

It's fun and frustrating because while I always have to poke and prod a bit, eventually everyone gets in to it and lately we have been exploring the grim-dark world of Warhammer 40K as statted out by Fantasy Flight Games, this company has a lot of cool stuff and I can't wait for their Star Wars rpg system. Sure they have the typical issue all rpg companies have of an ever expanding catalog of stuff, some of which is awesome, some of which is ok, and some just makes you scratch your head and makes you wonder what they were thinking.

That said I will say they have less head scratching stuff than you would expect considering the source material, gothic horror in space isn't exactly the most normal material, and most of their rules make enough sense that the ones that are confusing you can gloss over and ignore during a game to keep things moving, and then make a house rule on later. It's why I'm so excited for their Star Wars stuff, that and how beautifully rendered the books are. Big, tough, hard covered books with sturdy binding and loving illustrated pages, even if I wasn't a game nerd they would set off my inner bibliophile.

Bring the bibliophile, the game nerd, and the Star Wars fan boy together and Fantasy Flight Games will have to work hard not to get my money, and if they get my money I will admit they will get a fair bit of it, I'm not going to buy just the core book in all likelihood and you do pay for the quality with this company even if they don't put the screws to you quite as hard as Games Workshop, the producers of the 40K miniatures game and novels that the rpg is based on.

All in all, I can honestly say damn it is good to be a nerd these days.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Is There No State Language For The United States?

I know I'm fighting a losing battle on this one, but has anyone reading this considered how odd it is that the U.S.A has no official language? English has been the language du jour of the United States for over two hundred years and there is a certain sense of tradition behind it. It is the language in which our elected officials debate matters of policy and the primary language in which such matters are reported.

So why is it somehow racist, in the face of all that, to say that English should become the official language of the United States, and that speaking it should be a requirement for gaining citizenship? I served with a few guys from the Dominican Republic when I was in the Army and I know the people that come here through legal means are by and large good and hard working people but why are millions of dollars spent on things
like this? If you are serving in the armed forces I would think it is a pretty safe bet you plan to make a go of making the United States the new home of you and your family, right? At the very least you would think being able to understand orders from your NCO, who is some salt of the earth guy from a farm in Arkansas or a slum in Detroit and who is trying to keep your sorry butt alive is a good thing.

Then there is the issue that, ignoring practical concerns and matters of tradition, language helps shape how we understand the world around us, and is the foundation of culture. Without a national language there is one more way for our culture, the uniquely aspirational, egalitarian and welcoming spirit of Americanism, to be eroded. You don't have to take my word for it, look at the European union for a fine example. Constant infighting and condemnations keeping them from any measure of unified action economically or militarily, so soon after it's founding several nations are already seeking to separate themselves from that body. Or the Soviet Union of two decades ago, where the rot of corruption allowed regional directors to play politics based on regional concerns, with Ukrainians looking after Ukrainians, Moscovites for Moscovites, and so on and so forth.

I'm not going to belabor the point beyond this, language is a tool, it can unite or divide, but adopting one language as our own only strengthens America.

So Now He's Self Hating?

Csanad Szegedi, a member of the European parliament and regional leader of the antisemitic Hungarian Jobbik party recently admitted to jewish ancestry in an interview, walking back his rhetoric on race he claimed “Knowing who is a pure-race Hungarian is not what counts. The important thing is the way one behaves as a Hungarian,” in a fairly typical and intellectually dishonest attempt to rationalize his party's stance with his new ethnic background. Funny how a certain type of person always has to do that sort of thing, isn't it, folks? The interview is in the daily Barikad.

Art!

So I'm a huge fan of alternative art, and I don't mean that in the chic, Andy Warhol is a genius and piss-christ was a masterpiece way, but I love it when someone hones a talent to the point were it has an impact all it's own, even if it is just shock, curiosity or, in the case of Timothy Anderson a bit of nostalgia and humor. He has a great portfolio and I'm amazed at the high art or pulp novel cover art treatment he has given to so many of my favorite movies, in point of fact I'm trying to work the star wars trilogy set in to my budget for next month.

Computer Issues

So the audiojack for my laptop no longer works, but I still have sound through the built in speakers. I've ordered a kit off the internet but honestly I hate working on laptops because of how tight everything tends to be packed, so if it looks like it is going to be more of a chore than I want I'll put it off till I'm ready to get a new laptop. I have a usb-to-audiojack stick I can plug in as an easy workaround and I did check to make sure it wasn't my headphones, plugging in the three sets I own as well as the external speakers from my old desktop.

Comic Relief After Courts Comically Bad Decision

I admit I'm still in a bit of shock after the horrible decision the SCOTUS made that the healthcare reform bill popularly known as Obamacare, specifically it's individual mandate, is constitutional so long as they call the penalty (which the president and congressional democrats assured us is not a tax) a tax. It pretty clearly expanded the definition of a tax as something that can be applied punitively to a non-action and is a shocking expansion of government power.

That said I needed some chuckles this morning so I stopped over at Hope n' Change Cartoons for a laugh and was not disappointed, Stilton is up to form although the bottom  comic for wednesday left a bad taste in my mouth, all the rest of them had me chuckling, perhaps a bit weary, but as his post says, resolved. Go take a look and have a laugh.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Contempt For A.G. Holder Founded, as House Finds Holder In Contempt.

The House of Representatives voted earlier today and found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress by a whopping 255-67, that's a better margin than the Healthcare Reform bill passed by(220 votes in favor), it's even more votes than Obama's stimulus plan got in the House (244), making Eric Holder a more unifying figure than either of President Obama's two pieces of hallmark legislation!

The Individual Mandate Is A Tax?

So the SCOTUS has upheld the healthcare reform bill's individual mandate, much to my surprise. The big surprise though is who the liberal judges got to vote alongside of them. Most pundits thought moderate Judge Kennedy would be the swing vote but it was Bush appointee Judge John Roberts who stood with the liberals and said the individual mandate was a tax (the only judge to make such an assertation in their written opinions) and therefor legal under the interstate commerce clause.

"If an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes," Roberts wrote. He adds that this means "the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning an income." Really, Johnny-Boy? So the government can now tax inaction? Great to know the government can reach in to my pocket for things I didn't do, now

What about a tax on people who don't take the proper steps to secure their home by buying a handgun and having all household members instructed in it's use? Suddenly doesn't seem like such a great precedent to set, if you are anti-gun, does it? Interstate commerce has been abused far too often over the last fifty years and we need to either repeal any laws passed under it or suspend them until the SCOTUS passes an encyclopedic, all encompassing clarification of it's use that is internally consistent, or it's going to remain the tool du jour for government cretins that love the power of government creeping in on all our lives.

Open Says Me

So ya, now we all have a new use for any old magazines we have lying around, I mean besides actually recyclying them. Pretty fun and it makes you look a little extra handy at a party, just don't trash one of your host's vintage Playboys.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Police Aren't Soldiers

That representation of how police have been misusing SWAT and other paramilitary-style police forces, courtesy of the Cato Institute is why I have less and less trust for police. At one point in my life I wanted to be a cop actually, but I know myself and know I would have wanted to be one of the guys first through the door in a hostile situation and seeing how those units are misused actually makes me think we need to curtail their prevalence in modern policing. Police aren't soldiers and aren't trained for the sort of aggressive room clearing action soldiers are except in the largest departments like Chicago, L.A., and New York, and that lack of training causes them to make often unforgivable mistakes in the line of duty.

Hall of Famer Banned From Entering the U.K.

Tim Larkin, 2011 Black Belt Magazine Hall of Famer and Self Defense Instructor of the year was stopped from boarding a plane in Las Vegas headed for jolly old England due, as stated in a U.K. Home Office Secretary, was that he was deemed a security risk for his plans to teach his brand of reality based self defense at an annual even he was to be the keynote speaker at. He hadn't planned on doing anything illegal and in fact in other sources has confirmed that he has a 12 year history of doing these seminars and providing instruction but a recent ban is coming in to effect because of what his students might do.

It's a crock of crap though, anyone familiar with the man and his work knows he has always stated that even someone who is highly trained should first attempt to deescalate a situation or escape before violence is actively engaged. As of this post I'm joining Black Belt Magazine in beseeching  the U.K. in reconsidering this ludicrous ban. The man teaches valuable skills in self defense in a responsible manner and they should be making that more accessible, not less so.

A Great Man Once Said

Smile, Listen, Agree...


...and then do whatever the fuck you wanted to do anyway.
-Robert Downey Jr.

Because hey, if it works for Tony Stark that is more than good enough for me!

Brilliant!

Most of my friends will tell you I have a little bit of mad scientist in me, I have a half dozen little workbench projects going at any time, repair and upgrade my laptop myself, and am constantly picking up tools and gadgets at yard sales, thrift stores, or on sale. I didn't get that way over night, really it is the result of a lifetime loving tinkering, an obsession with scifi tech as it becomes real (seriously, look at your smartphone, thing has more processing power than all the computer banks of the Enterprise in the original Trek), there is however a series of books that I love to look at for ideas and to brush up on certain subjects.

What is that series? Why, the Evil Genius series,  of course. Written by a variety of authors who are each experts in their field and aimed primarily at a younger audience they are still great fun to read. I have several of their books on pdf or in print, though the hardcopy I am saving for when I have a kid some day who wants to start tinkering in their old man's seeeeecret laboratory. I'm not going to claim to have all, or even most of them, the series has more than thirty books and over a thousand separate projects at this point that are great for the DIY'er who is looking to pick up some new tricks or wants a little help passing them on to the next generation of mastermind on a budget.

More From the Budget Gourmand


A flaky, buttery tart shell is the perfect vessel for just about any filling you can think of. In this savory version, roasted bell peppers and a creamy ricotta-feta mixture make for an easy, Mediterranean-inspired side dish that also travels well.
Special equipment: You will need a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom to make this dish.
What to buy: For a slacker solution, you can buy a 12 ounce jar of roasted red peppers. Just be sure to drain them well and blot dry with paper towels before using.
Game plan: You can make the roasted peppers and line the tart pan with the dough up to 1 day in advance. Store both in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
This recipe was featured as part of our Summer Ingredients recipe slideshow.
TIME/SERVINGS
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins, plus 3 hrs chilling, baking, and cooling time
Makes: 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
For the peppers:
2 medium red bell peppers
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed

For the filling:
1 1/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 5 and 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups crumbled feta cheese (about 5aand 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons packed, coarse chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in quarters lengthwise
INSTRUCTIONS
For the peppers:
  1. Heat the broiler to high and arrange a rack in the top third of the oven. Place the peppers directly on the rack. Roast, turning occasionally, until the peppers blacken and blister on all sides, about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a medium heatproof bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit until cool enough to handle and the skins easily peel away, about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove and discard the skins, seeds, and membranes of the peppers. Slice into 1/2-inch-thick strips (you should have about 1 cup), transfer to a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
For the dough:
  1. Place flour and salt in a food processor with a blade attachment and pulse several times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8 to 10 (1-second) pulses.
  2. Remove the lid from the processor and drizzle the flour mixture with ice water. Replace the lid and pulse until the dough starts to form small clumps, about 15 to 20 (1-second) pulses. (To test the dough, squeeze a small handful together: If it is crumbly and not holding together, add more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, and pulse to combine.)
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a disk. Roll it out to about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom and gently pat it into the bottom edges and around the sides of the pan. Trim any excess dough hanging over the sides. Cover the tart shell with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
  4. When the tart shell is ready, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  5. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and discard the plastic wrap. Line the tart with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil large enough to overhang the edge by 1 inch, then fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set and light brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper and continue baking until the crust is dry to the touch, about 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
For the filling:
  1. Place the ricotta, 1 cup of the feta cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper in the cleaned bowl for the food processor with a blade attachment. Process until the mixture is smooth and combined, about 1 minute.
  2. When the tart shell is ready, transfer it and the baking sheet to a wire rack and, while the shell is still warm, add the ricotta mixture and spread it into an even layer. Decoratively arrange the roasted pepper slices across the top of the filling. Evenly sprinkle with the olives and the remaining 1/4 cup feta cheese.
  3. Return the tart (on the baking sheet) to the oven and bake until the feta on top turns golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove the tart from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature before serving, about 45 minutes.
This recipe is, originally one from CHOW and is by Lisa Lavery, and appears here with little alteration.  I tried it earlier today since I had most of the ingredients leftover from making a couple of Italian dishes this weekend, the taste and texture was incredible, though I did use slightly less than the full quarter cup of kalamata olives and a dash more feta cheese. I know any reader is going to ask how this is budget cooking but really none of the ingredients are all that expensive, the whole thing comes in at less cost than a couple of medium pizzas if you are buying them for only this recipe and for my opinion is well worth it.

Come to the dark side

We have Guinness.

Russia Worries Me

Sounds a bit xenophobic but it's true. You see, I'm a history buff, it's not what my degree is in but I plan to go back to school to become a history teacher and I've made something of a study of Russia over the last several years. Ethnically, culturally and geographically Russia encompasses a lot of disparate parts, in the north the coldest temperatures have been registered at -94 degrees F, whereas in the south there are desert regions and a portion of it's border on the black sea is considered tropical. Ethnically Russia's population includes magyars, romany, slavs, multiple phenotypically different "Russians" and more due to multiple wars of conquest by the state and launched against it. Several nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes have called the area encompassed by Russia home as well.

Then you get to it's history, with hundreds of years of tsarist rule, the crown seemed to pass alternately from the hands of progressive modernists to totalitarian dictators to absentee emperors who left running the state in the hands of a nobility and state church that was often repressive in the extreme, desiring simply to maintain their positions of power. The history of Russia is  one of coups and violent revolutions as well as the inevitable heavy handed backlash. Because of that the modern Russian state has always had a "secret police" force starting with Lenin's Vecheka in 1917, which became the GPU or "State Political Directorate" under the NKVD or "People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs."

For the first 37 years of it's existence these organizations held a direct relationship and methods of control until the Vecheka, now MVD or "Ministry of Internal Affairs" became the KGB which was eventually broken down in to the SVR, FSB, FSO and GRU. The troubling thing is throughout this now nearly one hundred year history a  direct line of succession in the supposedly different branches has been maintained, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin held at least the rank of colonel in the KGB and FSB and many people would say is the real center of power in russian politics since he has been president or prime minister without interruption since 1999, while also sitting as the head of several state councils, giving him a diversity of powers.

Now, that all sounds a bit like conspiracy theorist rambling, I'll admit, but in the face of a media that wants to ignore Russia sharing arms with Syria and Pakistan I think the point isn't worrying about some grand scheme but remembering that Russia is a country that simply does not care what occurs beyond it's borders except to insure it's supremacy, and is run by an oligarchy that operates from an intelligence service with a very disturbing record.

History, Bitches!

Did you know that St. James's Gate, home of Guinness, was used as a brewery as early as 1670? It was owned by Giles Mee, who later became Dublin's Lord Mayor.  it was originally leased to Arthur Guinness in 1759 for £45 per year for 9,000 years and has been in constant operation ever since and became the largest brewery in Ireland in 1838, and the largest in the world in 1914. The Guinness brewery pioneered many quality control methods, hiring statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899 , who achieved lasting fame under the pseudonym "Student" for techniques developed for Guinness, particularly Student t-distribution and the even more commonly knownas the Student t-test.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hipster Nonconformists

I'm a bit of a freak, I admit it, hell I revel in it at times. I have tattoos, know words in obscure sci-fi languages, have gotten drunk with pro-wrestlers and had my heart stopped more than once due to one bit of crazyness or another. I'm also not trying to be trendy. I don't fit in to the crowd and sometimes that has been great and sometimes it has been relentlessly sucky.

That said I hate the sort of hipper than thou nonconformist who gloms on to any counter culture touch stone of the moment and act like they are some tragic pariah because of it. It's a form of faddishness just like all the yuppie brat's getting abercrombie or all the bro's wearing axe body spray. I'm not going to tell anyone not to do what makes them but stop acting like it's a brave act of individualism to say you don't own a tv or want children. No one cares and your hipster peacocking display is just as obnoxious as the dude's from the football team who used to pick on you puffing up their chests and flexing. anything you are "rebelling" against.

My point? Be yourself, try out new things, but don't toss it in everyone's face if you choose to go off the cultural reservation.

Middle Fingers and F-Bombs at the White House

Last week something... interesting... happened. at the 2012 LGBT pride reception (no the fact that there is an annual LGBT pride reception is not the surprise) two of the activists, Matthew “Marty” Hart, a director of the leftist organization, Solutions for Progress, and an activist photographer, Zoe Strauss, posed for a photo in front of a portrait of President Ronald Reagan with both their middle fingers extended. They then posted the photo on Facebook with the caption “Fuck Reagan”.

That isn't what I find interesting either. What I find interesting is the lack of coverage this received. Assuming they had issues with Reagan it is a puzzler, sure Ronnie wasn't exactly a friend to the LGBT community, but he was hardly an outspoken enemy of theirs and even said that as a good christian it wasn't his place to judge or condemn them, but God's place to do so. Considering the popularity Reagan continues to hold, even after his death, and how middle of the road he was on the topic the fact that such... coarseness isn't remarkable is itself remarkable.

These aren't the silly and somewhat vapid street level protestors, these are people highly placed enough  to be invited to a white house reception by the president himself. Show some class people. I have friends in the LGBT community, some of them quite active in politics. My first tattooist was my roommate and a very outspoken lesbian who now lives with her life partner. This stuff matters to me and I'm saying it because it needs to be said, drop the angry teenager act people. It won't win you any converts and makes you look, frankly, to be stupid. You need to win your case by arguing it well, not by making petulant little gestures out of some misplaced sense of anger, people.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Obama Registry

Ok, small government cooks were right, Obama is going to try to get us all on a registry. Of course the narcissist in chief put his own strange twist on the idea. It is an event registry where you can go to make your friends and family aware of this or that big day and hit them up for campaign donations on behalf of the president. Really though this is perfect, it shows exactly what the president thinks, your big day isn't yours, it is his because he is the first black president, and he is going to turn the tide on global warming and renew the rainforest and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, and equality for all.... if we just give him four more years.