Archive for July, 2007


11:19 pm, Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

I know I said I was going to have a frozen burrito last night, but Brett convinced me to cook something instead. So I baked this nice pork tenderloin with a peppercorn crust and drizzled a pomegranate reduction over it. Unfortunately, the meat was too hot at the time and the reduction kinda soaked in (which hurt presentation a little). But it was delish. The sweet/tartness of the pomegranate really went well with the peppery crust. I also threw some cottage cheese on the plates and did up a couple monster baked potatoes with everything on ‘em.

Pork tenderloin with pomegranate reduction    Two-cheese pork/bacon quesadilla

The tortilla stuff on the right is the quesadilla I made for lunch today using the uneaten, slightly dried out “butt ends” of the tenderloin (finely chopped). Other ingredients: Sour cream, mozarella, extra sharp cheddar, bacon, and a teensy bit of cumin. It doesn’t look like much, but it was pretty keen.

This past Sunday Ebert & Roeper had my favorite guest critic on: Michael Phillips. The guy’s a little too mellow (seems half-stoned most of the time) and can’t look directly into the camera, but I love his cynicism and wit. He’s a great foil to Roeper, who’s been getting more and more complaisant since Ebert left (but especially in the past six months, IMHO). Isn’t it strange how Roeper’s sort of morphing into Ebert in the latter’s absence? I think there are two reasons for this: One, it’s a natural reaction to the guest critics (who are more likely to find fault with films as they adjust to the temporary boost in fame). Roeper’s greater mercy is necessary for the show to maintain a certain balance and make the reviews as a whole appear objective to some degree. Two, it may be a kind of homage to Roger — a way for Richard to keep him in the show vicariously during his illness.

(Tangent: How sick does a guy have to be that he can’t sit in a chair and talk about movies for 22 minutes a week? I wonder if the radiation therapy made him lose his hair and he’s too embarrassed to be seen bald. Or maybe the thyroid tumor made his voice overly raspy or something. In any case, I’d like to see him back on the show; raspy voice, bad skin, and baldness be damned.)

Actually, now that I think about it, I have to amend my previous statement — Michael Phillips is my favorite professional guest critic. Kevin Smith is my favorite guest critic overall. But, realistically, Phillips is hundreds of times more likely to agree to replace Ebert. He even lives in Chicago, fer cryin’ out loud.


10:52 pm, Monday, July 30th, 2007

Some Hanwool-related news: His parents sold their house and motel and will probably be moving down to L.A. next month. Really sucks since it means it’ll be harder for him to visit Washington now.

I finally beat complex4 in BCS. I must have run a hundred simulations before it occurred to me to just tackle one lane at a time; once I adopted that strategy it got much simpler. Eventually I figured out something that worked for a single lane. The problem was that it cost $52K and the budget was only $80K. Solution? Lots of cables. From that point, I needed a dozen rebuilds or so to figure out a cable arrangement that distributed the load evenly, didn’t flex too much, and could survive the 4 m/s wind. I think this is the tallest bridge I’ve built so far. Definitely the tallest non-suspension one, anyway.

Bridge Construction Set: Complex4 solution ($77.5K)

I’d been getting these tiny blisters on one side of my right pinky for several months. They weren’t really painful or anything (except when they popped and scabbed over — I know: ew), but they were irritating because they degraded my tactile sensation. I had just assumed they were a symptom of the Lyme disease. But then I noticed I was getting the same sorts of blisters on the lower left part of my palm and the underside of my wrist. Still, I wasn’t sure what I could do about it. Then they started appearing on the side of my thumb. I thought about the weird pattern for a few days and it finally hit me: Those are the parts of my hand that touch the mousepad when I use the computer. So about a week ago, I changed pads and guess what? No new blisters. The ones on my palm are healing really slowly, but they’re completely gone from my thumb and there’re only like three or four left on my pinky.

So now I’m back to using the schweet Star Trek: First Contact pad I got at MosCon in 1998 (jealous?). On the left: The diseased Radio Shack pad what gave me temporary hand-herpes.

Crappy allergenic mousepad    My supercool ST:FC mousepad

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m going to go microwave a burrito. Brett just came back from the store with some éclairs… might have to snag one of those.


11:36 pm, Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Welp, Ung’s out. 118 straight days of blogging — not too shabby for his first go at the IMBC. I hope he keeps writing now that he’s no longer “obligated.” So many of the other participants have abandoned their blogs since they dropped out and his is pretty consistently interesting when it’s not about sports or poker (though there’re exceptions to that — I enjoyed reading his thoughts on the Michael Vick turpitude). Anyway, thanks for playing, Peter!

I finally got past hard6 in Bridge Construction Set. Here’s my solution:

Bridge Construction Set: Hard6 Solution

The colorful bit at the bottom shows the maximum stress levels for each segment over the course of the test (the bright green parts are unstressed; reddish shades indicate compression, bluish shades, decompression). It took me forever to work this one out, but it was cake compared to my current conundrum: complex4. It’s three lanes wide, only has 4 anchor points on each bank (all in a row), a budget of $80,000, and needs to span a 240 meter gap. Man! This game really needs a couple features: The ability to move points (as in SketchUp) and some kind of tool for drawing arcs.

I saw Happiness today. I can’t believe I’d never heard of this movie before — it has so many well-known actors in it: Jon Lovitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Camryn Manheim, Molly Shannon, etc. I think one of the major causes of its obscurity is that it was never submitted for an MPAA rating (supposedly the filmmakers were afraid it’d get an NC-17 because of its subject matter). I love the style of this movie; very Wes Anderson-sans-the-blithe-quirkiness. I find myself thinking about the message and characters a lot. The ending is weirdly optimistic in an extremely “WTF” kind of way. BTW, if you ever plan to watch Happiness (and I recommend it, provided you have an open mind or 4chan/goatse-level tolerance for taboo topics) do not watch the trailer. It’s not representative of the film (makes it appear very light-hearted, like The Baxter or something) and contains a lot of spoilers (esp. vis-à-vis the Camryn Manheim character’s subplot).


11:58 pm, Saturday, July 28th, 2007

I found an awesome review-blog for physics-oriented games: Fun-Motion. I spent a few hours today just going through their archives watching videos and trying out different games. Toribash, a turn-based fighting game in which you control every move your character makes, occupied quite a bit of my time but I still suck at it. It took me a long time just to figure out how to punch and kick. I still haven’t figured out how to regain my balance after moving only one limb; at best I can brace with my hands and avoid getting disqualified for floor contact when I fall.

But the main reason this post is so late is because I decided to buy Chronic Logic’s Bridge Construction Set. I zoomed through the easy and medium levels (save one thorny spot involving heavy steel) and am presently working on hard level #6. (It’d be so simple if I had access to any materials besides iron.) This game is super addictive; maybe moreso than Armadillo Run. (I’m still stuck on level 46 of AR, BTW. I made a little progress, but I can’t figure out a platform solution for the right side.)

BCS reminds me of Sid Meier’s Railroads! somewhat. I think it’d be really cool if someone combined the two — a train management sim where you had to design the tunnels, bridges, overpasses, and so on. Maybe make it about monorails or something so as to avoid the tedious train upgrade process and set it apart from all the locomotive-intensive environments. Ooh, and put it on Mars — the noctis labyrinthus has great terrain for this sort of thing.

Brett and I came up with what seems to be a pretty easy way to clean the kitchen — we each wash, dry, and put away five dishes and three utensils per day while keeping our dinnerware usage to a minimum. Between us, that’s 16 pieces of stuff cleared off the counter every day. At that rate we should have all this stuff done by next Wednesday.

Fun fact of the day: Cory Doctrow calls VapoRub “minty chest-sauce.”


11:23 pm, Friday, July 27th, 2007

Brett and I split a 16-piece basket from Wingers for (a late) lunch. I think their takeout is actually cheaper than the stuff you order in the restaurant. Too bad it doesn’t come with celery sticks.

I saw The Simpsons Movie today. I was expecting something very mediocre, but it was actually good. I don’t have much to say about it except that I was surprised that they did some “edgy” stuff we’ve never seen in the series (Shin Chan-style frontal nudity, one-finger salutes). It hardly seems risqué compared to what’s been shown on Family Guy, South Park, et al.; I guess it just had extra shock-value because it was the Simpsons. It made me remember a time when the show was actually considered irreverent — back before it was forced into relative gentrification by competitors more willing to trade modesty for ratings.

It wasn’t quite Clerks II-funny, but I found myself grinning hard for minutes at a time in places. The audience was extremely enthusiastic. It really seemed like everyone there had grown up watching the show like I did.

I started playing Armadillo Run again. It’d been a good six months since I’d last played it. I was stuck on level 36 for an eternity and just kind of gave up. But after a lot of experimentation, I finally came up with a solution: It turns out high-tension rubber is the key. The tricky things about this scenario are that, one, it’s a void level (so you don’t get any clues at all) and, two, sooo many strategies almost work on it (fabric pulleys, carefully timed/balanced gravity-driven “boots” to kick the ball along a surface, etc.).

Armadillo Run: Level 36 solution

Once I got past that level the next eight went by very smoothly (except level 43 — its miniscule budget is hard to work around). Now I’m on another void level.

Incidentally, I learned about a kinda similar game via wikipedia: Bridge Construction Set. It looks really fun. Why aren’t there more physics/sandbox games like these? Anyway, I DL’d the demo but haven’t tried it out yet.

My Charles Stross book finally showed up. Criminey, Amazon sure took their sweet time with that shipment. Oh how I envy Ung and Krunk with their awesome Amazon Prime memberships.

Okay, I’m gonna take an antacid (Wingers gave me wicked heartburn) and watch an ep. of P&T:BS before I go to sleep.


9:57 pm, Thursday, July 26th, 2007

It’s the 26th, so I’m in the Tri-Cities today (and tomorrow till 8:00 AM) for payroll stuff. I did some awesome Excel-fu with OR functions nested into IF statements to avoid a salary pay rate change. I can’t go into details, but it’s pretty cool. The way I have stuff set up now, the entire payroll process can be done by running two reports and entering like forty values. It’s a big improvement.

Looker (my 14 year-old corgi) has been showing some weakness in her back legs, so I brought her home with me so my dad and sister could take a look at her. Apparently she has some severe degenerative joint disease (arthritis) in her right hip. (You can see it in her X-ray below — it’s the gnarled-ness of the ball and socket joint on the left.) She also has some minor spondylosis (some kind of back thing), but it’s not a big problem. I’m supposed to double her Rimadyl dosage and start giving her Tramadol for the pain in addition to her usual glucosamine tablet.

Looker's hip X-ray

Despite all these problems she still acts like a happy puppy when I talk at her or walk around with her in the backyard. She runs circles around you if you act excited and dances in a funny way when she knows food’s coming. She doesn’t act anything like the old dogs my parents have had (they were weimaraners though). Based on this alone I’m sure she’ll make it to 16 at least.

My parents got a new boat. IIRC, it’s 19 feet long and has an open bow. I haven’t seen it without its cover on, but when I come back next week we’re gonna take it out on the river. You know the Kennewick/Richland side of the Columbia has a few restaurants with docks? You can just pull up, tie the boat off, and have dinner.

Okay, my laptop’s battery is dwindling. I’m gonna go read my Berkeley Breathed collection and go to sleep.