Thursday, January 31, 2008

Leisure time

If you'll take a look at the green bar to your right, you'll notice I've updated my reading list. I hadn't changed the list since before I graduated, so I figured I should clear out some of the school books, which I'm not really reading anymore. For posterity, the list right now says:

What I'm reading right now (or trying to)
What I recently finished reading
Note that just because I say I'm currently reading something doesn't always mean that I'm reading it particularly actively. Collapse, for instance, has been in my bathroom for probably about two years.

Nice to be out of school, that's what I say. Also I'm playing a crapload of World o' Warcraft. My priest Kazimus is now doing regular guild raids at level 70, and I'm starting to move my warrior up the ladder. Yay free time!

Monday, January 28, 2008

What's for dinner?

My wife is a really good cook, and she often writes these long posts where she describes what she made or plans to make for dinner.

I don't cook very often, and I describe myself as a "one hit wonder" in the kitchen. Well, I have a few things I know how to make well; the main breakfast staple is quesadillas, especially when Hatch green chiles are available, and I usually put a fried egg on mine. Ben just likes plain quesadillas with nothing but cheese.

That's not my specialty, though. The one dinner dish I know how to make really well is lasagna. I made one for Ginny last night when she came home from her camping trip. So for a change, I'm writing the dinner post. Ginny took a picture of it, but she didn't send me the image yet so I don't have a visual for you. I should also mention that my best friend's dad used to call me "Garfield," so he would probably find it funny that that's my main dish.

My mom taught me how to make lasagna when I was in college, and over the years Ginny has been suggesting ingredients to add to the mix. At base, I have always used these items which have not changed, except for tweaks to the amount:
  • One package of lasagna noodles
  • One and a half cans of Hunt's spaghetti sauce
  • One container of ricotta cheese
  • Three cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • About a teaspoon of parmesan
  • One egg
  • Salt and pepper
Then there are variable ingredients for the inside; last night I used:
  • A pound of ground beef
  • Some mushrooms
  • A quarter of a red onion
  • A few leaves of fresh spinach
  • Some unfrozen artichoke hearts
So anyway, you chop up all the vegetables together in a big (i.e., deep) frying pan and sauté them in either olive oil or grape seed oil. There should be approximately equal amounts of each vegetable, so use the quarter of an onion to compare with the other things. Set the vegetables aside, start the pot boiling for the noodles, and crumble up and brown the meat in the big pan. Pour in the spaghetti sauce and mix it in with the beef, then add the sautéd vegetables and mix them in too.

While the noodles are cooking (about 12-14 minutes) put half the mozzarella in with the other two cheeses and an egg. Add some salt and pepper, mix them up.

Smear the bottom of the pan with a little of the sauce and stuff. Put in a layer of noodles. Then put on a bunch of sauce and stuff, and smush on some of the cheese mixture. Add more noodles. I use four layers of noodles and three layers of sauce stuff and cheese stuff. I use all the cheese on the inside, but I leave a little sauce to pour on top at the end.

On the last layer, put on the extra sauce and then cover it with the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes with foil, then take off the foil and do 15 more minutes. Throw in some garlic bread during the last ten minutes.

So that's my own happy homemaker post. I don't do this very often because it takes me about an hour to get the thing ready (I'm a slow vegetable chopper) and another half hour to clean up the mess. Besides that, I also got a bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and a prepackaged Caesar salad, and I used some cherry crumb cobbler that was in the freezer.

Ginny was happy. My doctor hates me. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sweeney Todd

It's kind of hard to categorize this movie. There aren't very many musical horror/comedies; the only other one I can think of is Little Shop of Horrors. LSOH is more comedy than horror, while Sweeney Todd definitely leans much more in the horror direction. Plus, most things that Tim Burton does cannot be categorized with anything else.

I didn't know the source material going in; never saw or read the play, and never heard any of the music except when a friend sang a few lines from "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd." That was years ago and it wasn't even in the movie.

Anyway, I think I liked it. It was at least effective horror, in the sense that it creeped out and disgusted me, so I can't say I really ENJOYED watching it, but I appreciated the art direction. It also had very effective comedy moments, especially every scene that featured Sacha Baron Cohen. People who like seeing Alan Rickman as a villain will probably like his role here, although since he plays a contemptible pedophile, people who think Alan Rickman is sexy will probably not like the role.

Johnny Depp did an excellent job, and completely personified the "Magnificent Bastard" entry in TV tropes. One thing I've always liked about Johnny Depp is the way he plunges into a role. Whatever weird stuff you throw at him, he always plays it to the hilt. This movie is no different. Probably my favorite number was when Helena Bonham Carter sings her glurgy fantasy about how she hopes that they will live by the sea someday, and even in her fantasies Johnny Depp sports this completely deadpan expression, with a slight sneer that indicates that this is a guy who does not intend to enjoy himself ever again in his life.

I like Tim Burton's style, and the grim and hideous vision of London that he cooks up is very impressive. I can definitely tell that a lot of it is CGI, but the non-computerized sets fit in very well with the sweeping pans that are made over a city that doesn't really exist except in Burton's twisted animation.

And the blood... all I can say is that it reminded me strongly of the black knight in Monty Python. After a certain amount, it goes beyond yucky and just becomes silly. I think that's not a criticism, because Burton probably meant it that way.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ten things I've done that you probably haven't

One of those blog meme thingies; I got wind of it thanks to Martin.

  1. Completed a master's degree program while also working full time
  2. Visited a live studio taping of Sesame Street
  3. Skied on a Double Black Diamond hill
  4. Drew a salary for teaching a class in which all but one student was older than me
  5. Starred as comic relief in an amateur (but professionally directed) performance of The Mikado
  6. Argued for atheism while in kindergarten
  7. Attempted to sabotage an Amway meeting
  8. Actually engaged in conversation with Jehovah's Witnesses for the better part of an hour
  9. Launched an internet audio show before podcasts were hip
  10. Conceived a child right around 9/11/01

Monday, January 14, 2008

I am now a fan of the Sarah Connor Chronicles

And it's only taken one episode.

I mean, they already had me with "It's a TV series based on Terminator"... so already I know this is going to involve time travel, gunplay, explosions, and evil robots. Now to that, add Summer Glau, who played River Tam on Firefly. Hey, we all know that they could just make a movie called "River Tam Beats Up Everyone" and it would be great. But beating up everyone while nude? I'm so sticking with the entire season. :)

Also, this show seems to have taken the very wise approach of wiping out the completely lousy Terminator 3 from the chronology, so, bonus.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Fictional atheist strawmen, part 2

I wanted to highlight this post by PZ Myers, mainly because it so neatly dovetails with what I was saying a month ago about The Reaping. I also did a TV episode about fictional atheist strawmen, which you can watch here.

In talking about the movie I Am Legend, PZ highlights a similar major problem with movie atheists, which is that the only time they are portrayed in a positive light is when they are a kind of "failed biblical Job", put through all kinds of awful tribulations until they finally crack and declare that there is no God. Even though this turns them into a sort of sympathetic figure, the fiction in the rest of the story always proves them wrong. As I said regarding a similar character in The Reaping, very few people really come to atheism that way.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Daily Show returns, for real

In other political news you may have missed, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will air their first new episodes this Monday night. However, since the strike still hasn't ended, they're doing it with no writers. This isn't optimal, of course, but I've seen Jon Stewart do interviews. I still think that an ad libbed Daily Show is better than none at all.

Also, Stewart will be a guest character on The Simpsons this Sunday.

Congratulations to Obama and Huckabee

So, in case you haven't heard yet:

Obama 38%, Edwards 30%, Clinton 29%, Richardson 2%, Biden 1%, Dodd 1%.
Huckabee 34%, Romney 25%, Thompson 13% McCain 13%, Paul 10%, Giuliani 3%

I'm cheerful about last night's outcome. Before leaving work yesterday, I was chatting with a coworker who leans somewhat more liberal than most Texans, but she likes Ron Paul and hates Clinton. I told her that since Ron Paul didn't have a prayer (and I was right) I hoped Hillary wouldn't be the nominee so that would guarantee that she'd vote Democratic for president.

My favorite candidate, Edwards, didn't win, but he came in second and Clinton came in third. I think Obama is a solid candidate who might pull it off in November, and I know many people who love him. I disagree with a few of his positions, but on the whole I think he can win and I believe the mood of the country is with him.

On the other side, I'm delighted that Mike Huckabee won. Not because I want him as president, but because out of all the candidates, I think he has just about the least chance of being elected.

This isn't a case of sunny optimism, of the same variety some of us applied when we thought "George Bush will never be (re)elected, he's too dumb." Nope -- this is a very divisive nomination. The religious Republicans like Huckabee, but they're the only ones. Many other Republicans HATE him. He's not part of the "old boys' club" like Giuliani or Thompson; and he's got some distressingly quasi-liberal views on law enforcement, social programs, and immigration.

Now, the religious right may have a strong influence on Republican politics, but I don't believe for a minute that they can win an election by themselves without support from the huge political cash machine.

I can picture three things happening in the event of Huckabee continuing to win states:
  1. Republicans eventually grit their teeth and fall in line, with the full force of the Republican noise machine finally backing him. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh will, as Rush said before, continue carry the water for people he doesn't really believe deserve it.
  2. Float a third party candidate they can support. I don't know who the hell it would be at this point (Gingrich?) but either way I think that would be AWESOME and guarantee an Obama victory.
  3. Largely not vote. Sure, the fundamentalists will turn out in droves, which will give Huckabee pretty big final numbers. But not enough, that's my guess.
Giuliani sat this one out, and time will tell whether that was a good move. He's skipping Iowa and New Hampshire, and going straight to Florida. It's possible he'll win Florida, but I think his pathetic 3% showing in Iowa is really going to hurt him. Maybe coming in third with double digits would have left him still viable, but it's hard not to see him as completely hopeless now. Which is great, considering how much everybody hates Giuliani and all.

I think McCain has the best shot at winning the general election, but Huckabee just creamed him 2-1.