Date Archives September 2011

It tastes like burning!

Not long ago, my friend Rob hosted a BBQ in honor of everyone’s favorite made-up holiday, Titmas. In an attempt to be a good guest, I asked if I could help with anything, and he handed me a bag of jalepenos and asked me to cut them in half, de-seed them, and fill them with cheese to go on the grill. My friend Emily took care of the cutting, and Jason was in charge of filling them with cheese, so I got down to business with the de-seeding, and we all had them done in no time. While performing this task, I made an offhand remark that jalepenos were really not much hotter than green peppers, and this, for the loyal and careful reader, is what’s known as foreshadowing. Or comeuppance, for those with a strong sense of justice.

We ate and then sat around and chatted. After a while, I began to notice a burning sensation in my fingers and around my mouth. I excused myself, ran my hands under some water in the kitchen, and rejoined the group. The burning sensation grew. By the time we left for our second engagement of the day, my hands felt like they were composed of rods of flame, and my upper lip was prickled with droplets of burning sweat. We stopped along the way to purchase some milk, which I lamely dribbled over my fingers in the parking lot, fully aware of how ridiculous I looked, so I stopped and brought the rest of the milk over to Tristan’s.

Tristan and Jason ended up discussing some new game while I was perched over the kitchen sink, cupping milk into one hand and dipping my lips into it, attempting to join the conversation by burbling my responses through the milk. Even after the milk was gone, my hands continued to burn, throbbing through True Blood and beyond. Jason did some online research and suggested I coat my hands in rubbing alcohol and then wash them with the hottest water I could stand. The rubbing alcohol brought temporary relief, but the hot water brought the pain back with a vengeance. I ran rubbing alcohol over them again, and the pain subsided for about thirty minutes, and then began creeping in again. I tried aloe, which helped for about five minutes. I somehow managed to get to sleep, and when I woke up in the morning, I didn’t feel any pain.

…Until I rubbed my eye, which immediately began tearing and burning. During the day, I would forget that my hands were still instruments of pain, and I’d again accidentally touch an eye or put a finger in my mouth and the pain and burning would begin anew. On our way to Zumba class, I told Jason that it didn’t matter how many times I’d washed my hands, they were still coated in burning oils, and he refused to believe me. Eventually, we stopped at a red light and I crammed one of my hands into his mouth. He recoiled (not from the inherent grossness of having a hand jammed into his mouth) but from the burning sensation. “You weren’t kidding!” No. No, I was not. If only more arguments ended this way: “You don’t want me touching your radio dial? Fine, suck on this!” …I suppose it doesn’t work for most situations.

The important thing is that I learned a valuable lesson about being helpful. Namely, that I shouldn’t do it.

Born, and then born again, and then sold on Ebay.

After the most recent Harry Potter movie was released, a number of “reborn” Harry Potter characters went up for auction on Ebay. If you’ve never heard of the reborn phenomenon, they’re very lifelike dolls that are collected and cared for by their owners as if they were real infants, oftentimes having a separate nursery in the house for it, changing its diaper regularly, and taking it on trips to the grocery store or out for walks in a stroller. Occasionally women will have them made to resemble what their own children looked like as infants. Separate breathing and heating apparatuses can also be added for the most lifelike doll imaginable, and will only serve to make the encounter extra awkward when you compliment a woman passing with a stroller on her child’s cuteness, only to realize it’s made of latex.

So on to this Harry Potter Reborn thing. I understand, Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon AND a cash cow, so it makes sense that people are trying to cash in on it while they still have the opportunity, and nevermind pesky things like licensing and ownership of the characters. But is there really a lot of crossover between the two fanbases? Apparently there was at least one, and thus these nightmares were auctioned on ebay:

The Voldemort one is wrong; he didn’t get freaky features until after he started in with dark magic, so there’s no reason for him to have snake eyes as an infant, unless the creator was trying to depict his “birth into evil”, in which case wouldn’t this have been more accurate?

But rather than nitpick these works to death, I’ve decided to jump in myself on one of these moneymaking ventures and unveil my plans for new line of reborn Twilight dolls.

Here’s my first, reborn Edward.

Limited edition! Get yours today!

The Stinky Tee Saga

One of the few Christmas gift ideas Jason had for me last year was matching t-shirts for us; a commitment step I was not yet willing to take. In relationship hierarchy, matching shirts comes after moving in together but before marriage, and, a scant two months into our relationship, we weren’t there yet. Sure, put your hands wherever, but stay out of my closet!

But, wanting to make him happy, I compromised. Instead of matching shirts, I bought us coordinating glow-in-the-dark Tron shirts–the light for him, and the dark for myself. The day of our pre-Christmas gift exchange, I wore it to work, carefully styling my hair with a fancy new product. I ended up having to do some work in the warehouse, building up a light sweat, dampening my clothes and hair. It was then that I began to catch subtle whiffs of a foul stench. I did an armpit check–that wasn’t it. I did a surreptitious crotch check–no swamp ass. Where was the smell coming from!? Oh god, it must be my hair. Something about that new product interacted with my hair chemistry and now my head smells like rotten eggs!

I spent the rest of the day downwind from coworkers and rushed home early to wash my hair before Jason’s arrival. But as we sat there, watching Sharktopus, I smelled it again, a combination of rotten eggs and the devil’s buttcrack. I began sniffing at my hair, and all I got was shampoo. Lowering my nose, I sniffed at the shirt, and reeled away from the vomitous odor. It was the shirt all along! What could possibly make a brand new shirt reek so badly?

The next day, I scrounged my apartment for quarters and washed the shirt five times. After drying, it smelled fine, so I felt confident enough to wear it to the post Christmas party I had with Aisling and Chris, but while dancing, it got damp, and the stink started anew, now working its way into the fabrics of my OTHER shirts.

What in the stinky hell IS this shirt? I emailed Threadless, telling them I couldn’t wear a shirt that made me smell like a crotchety dude’s mailbox after he gave out pennies on Halloween, mentioning that a friend had experienced a similar odor with HIS dark Tron hoodie, and asking for an exchange for a non-stinky tee.

Threadless wrote me back, saying that there is an odor associated with their glow inks, but they’ve found it dissipates after a few washes.

Funnily enough, it seems like that’s worth a mention on their site. They talk about potential print imperfections, why not inform a customer there’s a potential they’ll become a social pariah after an afternoon spent exuding pure stink?

But, I persevered. I washed and washed and washed and washed the shirt, finally believing the power of detergent had won out over the stench of sulphurous ooze. I wore it on our beach house vacation this summer without issue…until I realized I’d forgotten to pack a towel and dried myself with the shirt. The damp shirt went back into my bag, and when I unzipped the bag later that day, a finely woven thread of stinky eggs emerged to greet my nose.

Fuck you, Threadless. Fuck you and your smelly shirts.

El Taco Diablo: The Gunstringer Review

This weekend, Jason brought home a copy of The Gunstringer, borrowed from a co-worker. I had not really heard anything about it (let’s face it, I’m out of the loop game-wise as I find game websites annoying, and conventions like PAX are essentially one of the deepest pits of Hell, as far as I’m concerned. Stinky AND crowded? Wait in line for anything and everything? Near-riots for t-shirts and anything else being given away for free? Dudes cutting in front of me in line to play a game because my vagina makes me invisible? Oh boy, when does the fun start!? Can you believe I PAID to get in here?!!?) except for a marketing email from Microsoft, which immediately rendered me suspicious. Microsoft does a poor job marketing games to their consumers, especially with the wealth of information they have. Yes, I have a Kinect, and you can see I’ve spent a lot of time playing Dance Central–that does NOT mean I’m the target market for Kinect Sports. You can see my game library, Microsoft. I don’t own any sports games, so odds are I’m not a fan of the genre, even if I enjoy dancing around like an asshole in the game room. The marketing email for The Gunstringer told me the game has:

*Multiplayer in-room co-op action *A full suite of collectibles, unlockables, rewards, and more *The first game to support seated Kinect gameplay *Offers a free add-on pack, the Wavy Tube Man Chronicles *Includes a code for the full downloadable version of Fruit Ninja Kinect

That’s it. Essentially this marketing email told me that there was nothing to tell me about this game. In fact, one of the only selling points they found for it was that it includes a DIFFERENT game. When people whose entire job revolves around making consumers want a product can’t find a single thing to say, it conveys an extremely negative impression. So my overall hopes for the game weren’t high.

Then we played it. I was immediately charmed: by the premise, by the narration, by the art direction. You play as a marionette (who is unaware that he is a marionette), out for revenge against his former posse who wronged him–and each act of his revenge is part of a play viewed by an audience, who cheers your successes and boos your failures. As such, each level is constructed to look like a set full of props–trees are made of corrugated cardboard, paper towel tubes, and lincoln logs, cattle are beercans with horns, and your trusty steed is a pushpin with a felt head and yarn hair.

The story was well-written and very funny; Jason and I cracked up laughing a number of times while playing. The end of the story was executed very cleverly, and left us howling with laughter. The narration, like recognizing prop materials, served to increase the feeling that you’re performing in a play, unlike the narration in Bastion, which I found annoying.

The game itself is rather short, no matter how sweet–we played through in a couple of play sessions. Although it’s marketed as a multiplayer game, the second player only serves to aid the first player, and there are several levels where the second player is left standing idle while the first player gets all of the action.

The control scheme generally feels natural. I felt the Kinect recognized our movements better while standing than while seated, however, and those who have arranged their living rooms to have enough playspace for dancing and sports games may find that the Kinect cannot see them at all when they’re back on the couch. Navigating menus was a bit wonky, especially in the bonus store section–you need to hover your hand over an item to read the description, but hovering also initiates purchase, so it’s hard to see what something is before you buy it. Granted, players will usually end up buying most everything eventually regardless, but since players are offered their choice, it would be better if the game more easily facilitated making discerning choices.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing The Gunstringer–its humor and style has led me to seek out other titles by Twisted Pixel, and I’ll more than likely acquire a copy for myself in order to do another playthrough on hardcore mode. Gunstringer is proof that fun games CAN be made for Kinect, and in my opinion, MS did this game a huge disservice by trying to sell it as the same old crap. This game made me like a PUPPET, and that is damn remarkable.

I actually did it – I climbed the unclimbable mountain! Bow down before me everyone, for I am your king!

While my dad was in town, we hiked up Mount Rainier. This time, I actually brought supplies (more water, a lunch, a jacket, rain gear) and was the worse off for it, because now I had to lug a pack up with me when I’m far more accustomed to merely lugging myself around. I eventually had to hand my bag over to Jason due to shooting pain in my “unergonomic shoulder”–the desk I worked at for the last five and a half years was too high for me, which forced my arm up into an awkward position in order to use my mouse, which did a number on my shoulder over time. Now, when I carry something heavy, or have my arm raised for anything more than a few minutes, the shoulder lets me know I’ve gone too far by responding with deep stabs of pain. More often than not, Jason will end up carrying my bags, which means I really should try to coordinate with both outfits instead of just one.

By far, one of my favorite genetic traits I inherited from my mother is my inefficient cooling system. Essentially, while performing any sort of physical activity, my face turns as red as a ripe tomato, regardless of how my body feels, prompting those around me, friends and strangers, to ask if I am currently embroiled in the process of dying. This red face sticks around for hours. In school, I would dread the days we’d run in gym class, knowing that I’d be displaying evidence of the activity for the remainder of the day. No one wants to ask Beet Red Bobblehead Betty to the prom, and that’s a fact.

We hiked up to the snowline and decided we didn’t want to go any further, since none of us particularly relished the idea of a potential fall into dirty, icy snow, and/or possibly sliding to our gruesome deaths. I’ll pack a sandwich, but crampons are overkill for a casual hike. Since we stopped early and had energy to spare on the way down, we cast hate rays at the families of people who were diverging from the trail, stomping the fragile meadows. Why try to keep anything nice for anyone else, right?

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“An army of dogs! No bully will ever touch me again.”

Some friends are getting a new puppy soon, and we were invited (read: I weaseled my way into) to come play with the little fluffballs. If there’s anything better than a pile of snoozy puppies, I’ve yet to see evidence of it.

I’ve repeatedly threatened to Napoleon that we are going to take him to a dealer and see if we can trade up to a better model. When we came home, smelling of puppies, I think he started to believe me.

“Helen, please. Don’t drop the J-bomb.”

This weekend we attended the 4th annual Pumpkin Hurl and Medieval Faire (or, as it was abbreviated on their schedule, Hurl Faire, which brings to mind an entirely different sort of gathering) which marks the start of the Snohomish Festival of Pumpkins. The event organizers, recognizing that while trebuchets flinging pumpkins is an awesome premise, there’s also a lot of downtime between tosses, and thus it became a medieval catchall, with “knights” on horseback hacking veggies on posts, “viking” battle classes, and, of course, shops with food and sundries. The best part about visiting a medieval faire, ANY medieval faire, is that none of them are authentic. Everyone gets to be lords and ladies for the day instead of struggling with class warfare! Knights battle each other instead of slaughtering peasants for funsies! Wood fired pizza, roasted corn, and turkey legs instead of pottage and stale bread! A distinct lack of plague, leprosy, and typhoid fever! About the only thing that’s the same is dental hygiene, given that since I’m without insurance, I’m just about as likely to have my tooth pulled by a barber.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen…

After the horseback demonstrations ended, we were allowed to go meet and greet with the horses and their riders. Being able to look and not touch at the Puyallup Fair was torture, so I was quick to take them up on the offer. When the horses whuffled their soft breath into my hands, I instantly became the horse-obsessed, brace-faced twelve year old I used to be, starry-eyed, and slurping through my headgear. If I’d had a bigger car, I would have probably tried to steal one of them, namely the dark grey Warlander. Before I could work on the logistics of cramming a horse into my backseat, Jason hustled me away to viking battle class. In class, we learned the difference between Hollywood theatrical fights and real swordfights, the basics of protecting yourself, getting your opponent off-balance, and proper striking technique, with large wooden shields and swords. We were then paired off to fight one another, ultimately having a sparring match with everyone in the group. The instructor said “Ok, people, it’s like you’re fighting in oil. Slow movements, slow strikes, we aren’t looking to actually injure anyone here…except the girls, who are really going at it!” It’s true, when I was paired with the other girl, we battled like it was going out of style. However, most of the time someone came at me with a sword, I found it prudent to turtle up behind my shield. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to see my enemy, but I also wasn’t going to take a sword to the head. After our mock battles, we were taught about how to form a shield wall, and after we charged at one another, class was dismissed.

Then, it was time to watch pumpkins being launched downfield.

By far, my favorite part of the third video was the man standing next to us, describing the scene for someone on his cell phone. “It’s going…it’s going…it’s going…it’s going…I can hardly even see it! Oh man, it’s a tiny dot! Oh jeez!” Ever since, Jason and I have been commenting on anything even slightly remarkable with “oh gosh!” “oh jeez!” “oh gosh!” “oh jeez!”

Next year, I’m showing up with a horse trailer.

“I keep telling you, ghost sex is nothing! It’s worse than nothing!” “Then why were you moaning last time?”

To celebrate my friend Aisling’s birthday, we went on the Market Ghost Tour. The Pike Place Market has supposedly been voted the most haunted place in the Pacific Northwest, which seems somewhat convenient given that it’s a tourist destination, but I suppose that’s the way these things go. Almira could have Satan popping out of the ground on Main Street every fifteen minutes, and the people around here would hem and haw and conclude that if it isn’t within a fifteen minute drive of home, it isn’t worth seeing.

This was a ghost tour, unlike the Museum of the Mysteries’ ghost hunt, so there was no yelling at ghosts or recording EVP or running down dark hallways in an attempt to catch paranormal activity on a thermal camera. Instead, it focused on telling ghost stories located in the general area. And even then, it was a lot more general history than spooky stories involving encounters with the dead.

For instance, we were told about Dr. Linda Hazzard, a doctor who treated her patients by starving them to death. It was intimated that she practiced in or near the Pike Place Market, when a cursory internet search indicates that she did all of her practicing stateside in Olalla, Washington. Also, the story involved zero ghosts. In another story, we were told about a “fat lady barber” who used to steal from traveling sailors, but whose “fat caught up to her, she had a heart attack, and broke through the floor on account of being so fat.” Except we were told immediately afterward that wasn’t the case, they’d combined two stories into one–the “fat lady barber” was murdered by one of the sailors she’d stolen from, and another person had fallen and broken through the floor. We were told these stories were combined in order to have a better morality tale, so people will “eat their veg” and not steal. It’s really good of them to have done that; I don’t know if I could have made it a full seventy-five minutes without some form of fat-shaming. And really, who is going to believe that a fat lady died from her stab wounds? Please, like a knife could have even penetrated through all that fat. She was clearly double-teamed, but ultimately taken out by obesity: the silent killer. Once again, it’s good this story had a moral, because that made up for the lack of ghosts. There were stories about posing for pictures with dead relatives–no ghosts. A story about a raunchy old lady who used to hang out at the Pike Place Market–no ghosts. A tree blossomed after someone was buried at its roots–no ghosts. Hey, look at that tile on the market floor bought by the Heaven’s Gate Cult!–no ghosts.

Even when the stories did involve ghosts, they were nigh-universally lackluster. “There was ghost activity in the theater, but it stopped.” “There was a ghost haunting this building, but someone put cake on his grave and he stopped.” Even when the story should have had a little more punch, the guide rushed to the finish line and didn’t give any time for anything to register, hustling us to the next story area. “And the little boy had no eyes–and we’re walking, we’re walking!”

It’s not that I had a BAD time, I just expected a bit more. Maybe more ghost stories and fewer made up morality tales. After all, once someone has admitted to telling you a lie, how can you believe any of the other preposterous things they put forward as the truth? Ultimately, I think I could have had a ghostlier experience if I’d taken the $17 for my ticket and spent it on whiskey.

“I’ve got the extra wine glasses but I’m still short a tandoori oven, an elephant, and four castrati.”

Last night, we attended a cooking class at Shamiana, one of our favorite restaurants. Their Major Grey Chicken Curry is a standout dish, and when we found out this class would teach us how to make it, we leaped on the opportunity. Over the course of two hours, we learned how to make vegetable cutlets, cucumber-peanut salad, the aforementioned major grey, beef vindaloo, pulao, raita, and mango yoghurt mousse. It wasn’t just a teaching class–as we were taught the steps, staff brought out all the courses for us to have a meal. By the time we finished the mango mousse, we were stuffed full. Everything on the menu was delicious, but I was surprised how taken I was with the cucumber peanut salad–it’s just cucumbers, peanuts, lime juice, green chilis, and a little sugar and salt, but the heat of the chilis contrasted wonderfully with the coolness of the cucumber.

I’m not going to type up all the recipes, but since the Major Grey is the dish that got me hooked, that’s the one I’ll share here:

Major Grey Chicken Curry

3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly

1/2 lb onions diced (about 1 medium size onion)

1/4 cup curry powder, mild

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

pinch salt

2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup Major Grey Mango Chutney (mild), pureed

Green onions, chopped (green tops only)

Fry onion in oil until translucent (not brown. Whisk in curry powder. Cook 2 minutes. Whisk in chutney and cream. Add salt to taste. Saute sliced chicken breast in a small amount of oil with a bit of salt and pepper until cooked fully. Add the sauce and simmer for about ten minutes, watch the heat so the cream doesn’t separate. Garnish with green onions and serve. If you’d like your dish spicier, add chili powder, minced serrano peppers, or crushed red chili.

Pretty simple, no? I was surprised, too. I’m going to give it and the pulao a shot for tomorrow night’s dinner–here’s hoping I don’t screw it up! After dinner, we were allowed to go back into the kitchen to look at their tandoori oven and observe the process of making naan. Shamiana’s oven is a ceramic tandoori oven, as when they used clay, it would break about once a year, and then would require two weeks of seasoning before they could make naan, which impacted their business. This ceramic oven has been going strong for nine years!

Of course, we’re not going to get our very own home tandoori oven, so when we make at-home curries, garlic naan from Trader Joe’s will have to suffice. Or, I’ll have to give this recipe a try. Either way, I’m excited to expand my cooking repertoire!

“Ugh, I’m going to throw this crap away before I vomit.”

It’s fair time in Washington, which means it’s time to dress down, slather ourselves in sunscreen, and broaden our palates by eating things we normally enjoy, now battered and deep fried. In honor of this occasion, Jason and I rewrote the lyrics to Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, which served to pump us up and thoroughly annoy Tristan over the course of the forty minute drive to the fair:

It’s fair day, fair day, gotta get down on fair day Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend Fair day, fair day Gettin’ down on fair day Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend Corndogs and corndogs (yeah!) Funnel cakes and funnel cakes (yeah!) Fried fried fried fried Lookin’ forward to the weekend

Our game plan was fairly straightforward: Walk around the fair once to determine the foods we were going to attempt to cram down our throats, then eating round one commenced. After eating, we’d go to a barn to check out some animals, after which came food round two, then came checking out arts and crafts and the “miracle” As Seen On TV crapfest of booths, and then the third round of eating, the danger round, in which you consume the things you feel are most likely to kill you or cause you to violently eject the contents of your stomach over a square block. Round one was the scone round. I’m not typically a scone fan, finding them dry and bland. Fair scones, stuffed with raspberry jam and butter, are another story.

Then we looked at some mini-horses and some normal size horses and some really big horses, and then some chicks for good measure. If we collected one of each of the animals I squealed over and asked if we could take home, our backyard would now be quite a menagerie.

I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world, which does not leave a lot of room for pledging my computer to more spell-checking.

Round two was the krusty pup and funnel cake round. Jason’s funnel cake sense had been tingling all week, so when he received a burnt, overly dense funnel cake, it was a sad disappointment. He took a few bites and was ready to throw it away, Tristan took a bite and also declared it a piece of funnel crap, and I elected to pass in order to attempt to save room for the third round.

We made our way to the Hobby Hall, and couldn’t believe our eyes. Lurking inside were some of the ugliest and most horrifying pieces of artwork ever created. Ever.

“Hi, I’m Captain Nightmare!”

“Hi, I’m Bug-Eyed Sparkle Torture Jesus!”

“Hi, I’m a Lego model replica of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but you can call me by my nickname: Tasteful.”

“Hi, I’m a Lego model replica of the crucifixion of Jesus, complete with magic marker blood, made by an 8 year old.” Seriously, what 8 year old thinks “CRUCIFIXION!!!!!!” when it’s time to play with Lego bricks?

We were all too eager to leave the Hobby Hall to get to Round Three: The Danger Round, which took place at the Totally Fried booth, where anything you’ve ever considered eating has been coated in batter and deep fried. Tristan ordered deep fried butter and deep fried kool aid. I noted that they had deep fried Rocky Mountain Oysters, and since it was potentially the most vile thing on the menu and therefore a dare, I stepped up to order and consume some bull testicles for the entertainment of my friends and blog readers. However, they had not yet received their bull ball shipment and I was turned away empty-mouthed.

Deep fried butter on the left, deep fried kool aid on the right.

From others’ accounts of deep fried butter, it’s supposed to taste like REALLY buttery dough–that is, the butter inside should have all melted and absorbed into the coating. This was not the case. Tristan picked up one, and at least a quarter stick if not more of nearly solid butter dropped out from the batter. He gamely took a bite of the other, and butter squirtled (it was too solid to have merely “squirted”) out from the sides of the dough and his mouth. It was pronounced disgusting and we moved on.

It’s hard to imagine, but deep fried kool aid was even more disgusting. We all came to the table with different ideas as to what deep fried kool aid might entail–a puff of dry sugary powder in the middle, that the dough itself was infused with the kool aid flavoring, so the reality of it came as a surprise. We each took a bite, and we each made a horrible face. Deep fried kool aid can best be described as a ball of fried dough surrounding raw pancake batter flavored with cough syrup. It coated our tongues with the taste of evil. While Jason and I tried to flush our mouths with lemonade, Tristan ran off to throw it all away before getting another krusty pup to cleanse his palate.

Cause it’s fair day, fair day, Throwing up on fair day Everybody’s looking forward to some salad.