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Since my previous (poorly) cooking experience was a disaster with Kim Bap, I've enlisted culinary consultant Andrew Strauss to guide me in my next kitchen escapade.

Ken: "I want to cook spaghetti. Better."

Andrew: *nods approvingly to his plucky apprentice*

Here's the recipe we consulted.


Shopping time along with adding Andrew's produce selections.


I've cooked far less complicated spaghetti hundreds of times.


First part is prepping the produce. Onion time!


Continue cutting!


We're just one ingredient into the recipe, and fail begins!


I can't see! At all. This is when I begin to wonder out loud if early humans dismissed onions as inedible.

Let's smash some garlic!


Smashing garlic is fun and smells good. I wonder aloud how vampires can tolerate onions but not garlic. Celery, you're next!


Celery gets a vertical 3-part splay.


Then a normal slicing.


Those are some nicely cut celeries. Is “celeries” a word?


Ingredients should be cut uniform so they cook uniformly. I learned that from Top Chef, I think.


Carrots get asimilar treatment to the celery.


Next is bacon.


I don't think we're supposed to use the same cutting board, but it's all we got.


Crisp the bacon.


Wrap up the leftover bacon, but don’t fail with a grocery bag like I did. Andrew instructs me to use normal airtight plastic wrap.


Stir.


Andrew shows off with by one-hand-toss-mixing the concoction.


Beef time.


While the beef cooks, we prep the rest of the vegetables and the herbs.


Begin prepping the other ingredients.


Beef is done! But lathered in animal fatty.


Drain the fat away.


Add the whole tomatoes.


Add the onions and bacon.


Strip the herbs Oregano and Basil of their hard steams. You want the leaves.


Add the herbs.


Finally, the carrots and celery.


This has to cook for an hour. A whole hour! It's all soupy and needs to congeal or something. But I'm hungry now! Where's my instant gratification?

Fast forward 50 minutes…


Noodle time!


Plate as appropriate.


Serve to hungry friends.


Result: Fed and happy friends.




 

As part of controlling my caloric intake, I eat sushi (almost the same kind and amount) most everyday. I've received multiple critiques that the sushi place (which shall remain nameless) is subpar – and then heard alternatives. One such is the Rice n Roll I ate at today:

 


I think it's called Kim Bap (which is phonetically spelled like 7 different ways on the internet) or "korean sushi" and it's certainly different, often with a yellow radish, but the same basic sushi structure.

That would normally be the end of the story, but today I went a step further. One of my favorite directors Robert Rodriguez included a quick-and-dirty filmed DVD extra of himself cooking a pork butt and repeated throughout: "Learn to cook because you eat everyday."

Well, Mr. Rodriguez, here goes nothing!

(Warning: What you are about to see is laden with FAIL.)


Here's a link to the recipe I used:

http://www.nibbledish.com/people/Larph/recipes/korean-kim-bap

First is acquiring ingredients:


Not so hard. Shopping is a nice change (from not shopping):


I think I've rolled sushi exactly once before (remember, Shaun MacFarland?). Clean up some space, unload:


Let's get started! Nuke the rice (I just learned today this product exists):


That'll take 10 minutes. Take two eggs:


Break them:


And make an omelette:


FAIL – not buttering the pan with anything.


I did manage to turn pry up and turn the 'omelette' over.


Omelette done. Ding!

Oops, that took me so long that the rice is already done.


Next comes (what I didn't realize would be) a whole lotta cutting.


Carrot, you're first.


Die!


And your children, too!


OK. Next is my cucumber.


It was rotten on one end.


I worked 3 summers in a Wal*Mart produce department – I've professionally thrown away hundreds of rotten cucumbers. Skills, why do you deny me?


Victory! Next is the crab meat which basically pulls apart.


Almost ideal. Now it's time for scallions.


Ummm…yeah. I put a thousand of these up for sale…don't know how to prep one. I guess…


…and then…


Oops…sorry little scallion on the ground! You're no good anymore.


The recipe says to cut up the omelette, too.


That's weird. Well, here goes.


I guess it works! Laying it all out, it's a pretty smorgasbord!


Next comes seaweed. Yeah, sounds most unappetizing.


(Warning: FAIL imminent.)


Step 1 – Add rice.


Yeah, without exploding the bag open when tearing it. Luckily, I can just eat the mess.


Now add some ingredients.


Um…yeah. Not right. Let's use the incisors to fix that.


Better. Now roll…


…and…cut it?


FAIL. Can we salvage something here…

Nope. I have created FAIL Roll. I charge $5.00 each.


In the end, I only salvaged a little bit of food.

But I learned something. And knowing's half the battle.

The other half is winning!

Burlesque

I just saw Burlesque, the musical feature-length film starring Christina Aguilera and Cher:

First, the bad. This movie isn't going to change your life, empower humanity, or even beg a second viewing. It's "Coyote Ugly" with the pizzazz of "Chicago". Unfortunately, "Coyote Ugly" was a vile chick flick marketed like a guy movie – nowheresville girl boldly challenges the world with only her musical skill, an impossibly handsome gentleman aides her, some stardom+relationship drama, then happy ending. Pretty and poppy, but nothing substantial occupies your mind afterward.

The veil of cinema broke for me when Cher declares "You didn't tell me you could sing like THAT!" It's similar to "Fight Club" when Brad Pitt declares "We were raised by television to believe that we'd be millionaires and movie gods…" ChristinaAguilera = singer just like BradPitt = millionaire movie god. Anyone with ears and eyes knows that.

Second, the medium. Sexy ladies, foot-tappin' song numbers, and vigorous dancing offset the weird characters, strange pacing, and far too much makeup on the two leads. Aguilera acts somewhere between cute and excited the whole movie. Cher manages cute, excited, frustrated, dejected, and relieved through her clown mask, proving she's still got some acting chops.

Third, the good. Cher has the best song in the movie similar to how "Mr. Cellophane" is the best song in Chicago. The best sequence is the final song's call-and-answer exchange between Aguilera and the horn section – the person that made the trailer agrees. Trumpets are awesome even if they get zero screen time.

Finally, there's one unquestionably great thing in this movie – Aguilera's raw singing talent. Her "mutant lungs" can sing anyone into the ground. My favorite songwriter Linda Perry is also credited on the soundtrack. Christina Aguilera + Linda Perry is a formula for excellence in my book. However, given 30-year-old Aguilera is just now getting into musical movies, I can't help but feel hurt that the human race won't fully capture and utilize her immeasurable singing talent.

For comparison, take singer Celine Dion. She designed herself a 5-night Las Vegas show for 4 years – a performance schedule that would kill most people! Why? She loves to sing. Celine Dion has wielded her substantial singing talent deftly.

I have a burning hatred for incompetence and if you're terrible at your job or responsibility, I'll tell you flat to your face to improve or get out. The only thing I despise more is squandered excellence. Aguilera is a powerful instrument in need of equally powerful vocal material and the world's biggest megaphone. I don't think (or want) "Burlesque" to be Aguilera's artistic climax. She stands to learn a lot from her co-star Cher's accomplishments…before it's too late.

To reflect on that, here's the winning formula Christina Aguilera + Linda Perry in the music video for "Hurt" which happens to be Aguilera's directing debut: That music video is much better than the movie I just saw.

My DVDs

I've acquired a not-too-small collection of DVDs over the past few years. "How" you may ask? By legitimately purchasing them, of course.

My DVD Collection as of 2010-11-25 in Excel .xls format (along with brief commentary for the best and worst):

NorrYtt's DVD Collection

 

Rating Movie
? Christmas with the Kranks
? The Next Karate Kid
5 300
5 Airplane!
5 American History X
5 Austin Powers: Goldmember
5 Chappelle's Show Season One
5 Dreamgirls
5 Gladiator
5 Iron Man
5 Juno
5 Knocked Up
5 Pitch Black
5 Planet Earth
5 Shaun of the Dead
5 South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
5 Stardust
5 Stranger than Fiction
5 Sunshine
5 Superbad
5 Team America: World Police
5 The Blue Planet: Seas of Life
5 The Iron Giant
5 The Jerk
5 The Matrix
5 The Princess Bride
5 The Secret of NIMH
5 The Shawshank Redemption
5 Three Amigos!
5 Trading Places
5 Undercover Brother
5 War of the Worlds
4 Constantine
4 Date Movie
4 Death Sentence
4 Desperado
4 Galaxy Quest
4 Grosse Point Blank
4 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
4 Little Miss Sunshine
4 Live Free or Die Hard
4 Mr. Deeds
4 Music and Lyrics
4 Ratatouille
4 Rudy
4 Silent Hill
4 Sleepers
4 Spanglish
4 Stand and Deliver
4 The Golden Compass
4 The Lake House
4 The Legend of Zorro
4 The Nutty Professor
4 The Simpsons Movie
4 Vantage Point
3 3:10 to Yuma
3 Anna and the King
3 Apollo 13
3 Be Kind Rewind
3 Bewitched
3 Big Daddy
3 Blades of Glory
3 Bulletproof Monk
3 City of Angels
3 Cold Mountain
3 Con Air
3 Cool Hand Luke
3 Dan in Real Life
3 Dead Poets Society
3 Donnie Brasco
3 Fever Pitch
3 Finding Neverland
3 First Knight
3 Full Metal Jacket
3 I Am Legend
3 I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
3 i, Robot
3 In the Line of Fire
3 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
3 Inglorious Basterds
3 Inside Man
3 John Q
3 Journey to the Center of the Earth
3 Lean on Me
3 Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
3 Lord of War
3 Love Actually
3 Meet the Robinsons
3 My Super Ex-Girlfriend
3 Ocean's Thirteen
3 Once Upon a Time in Mexico
3 Planet of the Apes
3 Premonition
3 School of Rock
3 Shooter
3 Sommersby
2 Spiderman 3
3 Street Kings
3 Superhero Movie
3 Sweet November
3 Syriana
3 Tears of the Sun
3 The Age of Innocence
3 The Assassination of Jesse Jame by the Coward Robert Ford
3 The Bourne Identity
3 The Bourne Supremacy
3 The Butterfly Effect
3 The Devil's Own
3 The Good Shepherd
3 The Great Debaters
3 The Illusionist
3 The Italian Job
3 The Kingdom
3 The Longest Yard
3 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
3 The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
3 The Pacifier
3 The Pianist
3 The Pink Panther
3 The Quick and the Dead
3 Traffic
3 Transformers
3 Trucker
3 Wild Hogs
3 You Don't Mess With the Zohan
2 3000 Miles to Graceland
2 Beowulf
2 Bowfinger
2 Couples Retreat
2 Courage Under Fire
2 Definitely, Maybe
2 Edward Scissorhands
2 End Game
2 Ghost Rider
2 Hitman
2 Mail Order Bride
3 Man on Fire
2 Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
2 National Treasure
2 Old School
2 Reign of Fire
2 Resident Evil: Extinction
2 Semi-Pro
2 Shoot 'Em Up
2 Snatch
2 So I Married An Axe Murderer
2 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
2 The Affair of the Necklace
2 The Polar Express
2 The Transporter
2 Untraceable
1 Art School Confidential
1 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
1 Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
1 The Benchwarmers
1 The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
1 Young Frankenstein

I've stopped purchasing DVDs.

While I believe moving-pictures-with-sound will continue as the dominant art form of mankind, and movies the pinnacle expression of that art form, physical digital media kind of just…takes up space. I have Wall*E on my iPhone just a few clicks away, purchased from iTunes. I believe in a decade or less, movies will do the same shtick as mp3s did for CDs.

I visited my parents, brother, and sister-in-law as a surprise in Huntsville, AL. Also by surprise, we filmed a simple video demonstrating kickboxing:

With online social media exploding, personal video production has quickly become mainstream and commonplace. Within my lifetime, it might become how most interpersonal communication is absorbed. As a testament to that hypothesis, my iPhone made and uploaded this video within 3min and 8 clicks:

Life Choice – A decision you've made in the past to a repeating question you'll encounter throughout your life. For example, a vegetarian (by virtue of calling oneself a vegetarian) has made a life choice to avoid eating meat. The vegetarian will never ponder, "Should I have chicken or beef?" Restaurant menus shrink by +50%. Mealtime is now simpler for life. Though it's arguable for better or for worse, there's a definite simplicity benefit.

Humans can only comfortably handle so many options. Most humans pause at a fork in the road. Most humans freeze at a 10-way stop. When the options grow too numerous, we experience what game designers call "option paralysis." We think so long and hard about so many possible options that it's taxing, discomforting, and causes anxiety when we ponder in retrospect.

There's a huge racket for selling life choices. Huge.

Political Parties

Political parties are big businesses that, in part, sell life choices. By choosing "Democrat" or "Republican", your political party is quick to narrow your "valid" choices at each election. Granted, the candidates are performing a service as representatives of the people. After all, I elect and pay the President to make informed, smart, timely decisions so I and the rest of the USA are not burdened with making uninformed, stupid, untimely decisions. But choosing say Libertarian and voting precisely what the party shouts at you, life is simpler.

Religion

Religion is another mass seller of life choices. Religion features answers to life's big questions ("Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?") that are appealing and comforting. Adopting a religion includes its ideals, rituals, customs, and bunch of choices that are already made for you. Religion often features routine, and routine makes life simpler.

My Life Choices

My life choices are:

  1. Live in a free country.
  2. Never do drugs.
  3. Never drink alcohol.
  4. Never smoke.
  5. Never commit adultery.
  6. Be financially independent.
  7. Stay fit and healthy.
  8. Uphold my integrity.

Looking at it now, I remember being burned on occasion for "missing out on all the fun" just to maintain an imaginary list that is hard to explain in a moment. I've thought them all through and it's burned into my skull a long time ago that the alternatives have too much downside.

And just because I didn't list "Don't murder, rape, and pillage" doesn't mean I'd happily do those things. My parents raised a good boy. Give them credit.

I recently sunk $10 and a 10-hour overnighter into a game I stumbled across.

What do you get when you combine:

  • Hyrule Field from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  • Rogue-like dungeon crawl randomness
  • Legos
  • Diablo II's Horadric Cube
  • Art-style of Settlers of Cataan

You get the fiercely-addictive Minecraft. In alpha development for $10 from www.minecraft.net, Minecraft showcases a subtractive design that removes all unnecessary game elements (including almost all text!). In that spirit, I'll let davidr64yt walk you through his initial discoveries in Minecraft:

Episode 001:

Episode 002:

And the big reveal:

Single-Player Content

As you've seen, the single player content lacks many things you'd expect in a modern game:

  • Story to show context
  • Names to properly label things
  • Stats of various items/attacks/abilities
  • Quests to guide the player towards goals
  • Instructions of any kind

While the lack of a tutorial and basic instructions is a detriment (presumably fixed soon through the grayed-out Tutorial menu option), removing so much baggage basically boils the game down to:

  • Survive

The threat of death (which drops your items then respawns you at your beginning point – it's more like "the threat of inconvenience") taps into your primal urges. Survival means finding, gathering, and storing a surplus of:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Weapons

Luckily, all humans come preprogrammed desiring to do such things, and Minecraft has analogs and tech trees for all three. Due to the Lego-like nature of building materials, you'll find yourself compelling to build elaborately designed structures either for practical purposes or for your own admiration. As a kid, I played with Legos and Construx for thousands of hours.

Multiplayer Content

I haven't delved into this, but this YouTube video suggests that Minecraft multiplayer servers are like cooperative ant farms that strive to build extraordinary things:

After all, building things is how humans came to dominate the planet.

I read a rumor that Notch (Minecraft designer/programmer) had his PayPal account frozen when it inexplicably skyrocketed plus $600,000. Not inexplicable – play some Minecraft and you'll see why!

Going on a year now, I've been actively improving my physical fitness. Since some have noticed, I'll assume some would like to know how. No great secret, just diet and exercise that works for me.

Diet

  1. No drinking. Ever.
  2. No smoking. Ever.
  3. No caffeine. Ever.
  4. Don't eat too much. Once sate, toss the rest in the garbage. Your meal should just that size.
  5. Eat enough. Not eating enough causes either binging or sleep deprivation, both screwing up otherwise model behavior.

Exercise

  1. Exercise in the morning. Sucks initially, but it's an amazing habit. I jump rope each morning and just before bed.
  2. A game. Initially, it was morning treadmill run for 1.0 miles, starting from 5.0mph up to 6.0mph, +0.1mph each 0.1 mile.
  3. Doing the above, I could measure my fitness. What we measure we improve. That eventually became 2 miles at +0.2mph per 0.1 mile.
  4. Music. For the above run, a stirring song on my iPhone. Pretty soon the song triggered "wake up" mode for my biological clock.
  5. Kickboxing. I attend Leading Edge Kickboxing classes around 5 times each week. I'm level 3. Coincidentally, it involves music.
  6. Fun. This is the most important thing. As a gamer, I crave games and fun, and my exercise must qualify as fun. Without fun, it will fail. I don't reap enough benefits from fitness the rest of the day for my daily workout to be unfun. You might be able to add fun by:
    1. Lazy activity becomes physical activity. If you greatly enjoy say watching NFL on TV, forbid yourself from watching NFL unless you're on a stationary bike or something. Jumping rope, resistant bands, there's tons of options.
    2. Socialize. You can workout with a friend(s). Lots of exercises allow socializing at the same time. You will hold each other accountable to show up and perform. You can benchpress and talk about chicks simultaneously!

Motivation

If you notice your male gamer friend is suddenly and consistently at the gym or running, don't worry – they didn't turn jock. There's only one reason – girls. Often, one particular girl. It's never fitness, self-confidence, bullies, blah blah…the one motivation that can pierce the mind of the male gamer is female.

Happy 10/10/10 Day!

Social networking (Facebook et al) is mankind's newest and most powerful technology. It represents human interaction moving at the speed, depth, and globalism of the internet.

It's compelling

Humans need other humans. Socializing quickly and effectively helps satisfy this need. Stalking your current/previous love interests aside.

It's easy

At one point in my lifetime, it was "novel" or "brainy" to send electronic messages and type words rather than take pen to paper or talk on the phone. Now…are you serious?

It's profitable

Now the ethical questions come to the forefront. Facebook has at its disposal the largest organized searchable personal database in human history. The question is…how to ethically profit off that without alienating its userbase?

Take these ads that I noticed on my screen:

Facebook Advertisements

That is a collection of the fiercest targeted advertising I have ever seen.

  1. With my penchant for non-competitive sports, a drilling by SEALs is an extreme for me but not an impossibility.
  2. With a master's in computer science with emphasis in artificial intelligence, I'm in less than 1% of the humans that could conceivably switch into such a career.
  3. Yay Magic cards!

The magnitude of such focused ads is unprecedented. Normally, ads can only deliver a message as universal and simple as "It tastes like butter!" or "Use this product and chicks will desire you!" because the ad has to blanket a large audience with short attention spans through a highly-trafficked channel.

Internet ad engineered to shock rather than compel click-throughs

However, only I see my Facebook page, and only I need to be sold by an ad. All three of these ads had me at least thinking about them long after I closed my browser. What such ads be like in 20 years? I imagine my brother on webvideo beckoning me with a tear in his eye to buy him a surprise subscription to Mac Server dev tools as a birthday present. Except my "brother" was an on-the-fly animated character using video and voice samples Facebook compiled from conversations and the script was computed based on logic deductions of the intersection of "things my brother mentioned he likes", "things he doesn't have," and "things I could afford."

Scary.

I watched "Scott Pilgrim vs The World" with a group of gamer friends. For a brief overview, check out this analyzed trailer:

This is easily my favorite film of 2010 (sorry, I'm not an "Inception" fanboy) and I doubt it can be topped this year. Even the first 30 seconds is riff with teh aw3s0me – a pixelated Universal logo with 4-bit music, then live footage begins with the opening melody when you power up The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Superb direction! Based on a graphic novel I've never read (I own zero comic books, probably read 10 in my life, it's not a medium I connect with), I found the video game referenced executed better than any film to date. Even Mortal Kombat and other such movies pale in comparison.

Critics

The critics will tell you bad things about Scott Pilgrim. I think they don't get it. They grew up watching too many films and didn't play enough video games. There is a ton of "quirk" in Scott Pilgrim, but that's what video games are made of – Mario jumps on turtles, travels through pipes, collects coins, eats mushrooms to grow bigger, and can shoot fireballs. While all that makes for the most famous video game character ever, it's extremely nonsensical. Video games have a bigger agenda than making sense – making the player feel teh aw3s0me!

So when you play an instrument, Rock Band-esque visual effects accompany you as you shred. Defeating bad guys drops rewarding coins like in River City Ransom. Super ultimate uppercutting a bully makes the screen rainbow flash like in Street Fighter.

Unfortunately, Scott Pilgrim didn't to well at the box office. I was nice to be treated to a product PERFECTLY targeted at me, though the ticket sales confirm there aren't many of us.