Thursday, December 29, 2011

If you don't know about Henry's Kitchen...

then I guess you don't know about it.  Now you can.

Smithfield ham epic: Part I

I went on my monthly grocery store trip today which, since I don't own a car and public transportation is nigh on useless in Nac, ends up being a Tolkien-esque walk home (only with a lot less singing and more profanity). This time though I decided to only buy what I could carry without too much fussin and cussin.* 

As many of you may know I love going to the grocery store during a weekday afternoon between one and four. The crowds are relatively minimal and I can take my time browsing and shooting the shit with old people and soccer moms. During this trip, while shuffling around the store selecting random salty things (anchovies, pesto, capers, kalamata olives, feta) and large amounts of greens, I came across Smithfield hams on after Christmas sale. Not just sale, hella wicked sale - $15 for a 16lb Smithfield ham. Carrying it home kind of sucked, since I had to Igor it over my shoulder whilst carrying everything else. I'm surprised I didn't get stopped by the cops for carrying a bloody burlap sack.

If you're not familiar with Smithfield hams then you should seek one out. They are the Cadillac of Virginia hams and usually go for a good chunk of change ($79.00 on their site). I've only eaten Smithfield once or twice and never on my own dime so you can see why I was excited to find one on sale. Below is the recipe from their site. Now I have to figure out how I can cook this bugger.

Suggestions for Cooking an Old-Fashioned Favorite: Official recipe from

To prepare ham:
Wash ham thoroughly in warm water. Use a stiff brush to remove surface mold if present. This mold is in no way injurious. Aged hams, like ages cheeses, mold in the process. To reduce saltiness, soak ham in cold water for 12-24 hours prior to cooking. Changing the water during soaking will aid in drawing salt from the ham. (If a milder salt flavor is desired, soak ham for 36 hours). Cook your ham using the Water or Oven cooking instructions listed below.
Water Cooking (preferred method):
Place ham skin side down in vessel and cover with cool water.
Bring water to 190 F (simmering, not boiling).
Cook approximately 25 minutes per pound or until 163 F internal temperature.
Add water as needed to keep ham covered
When done, take ham from vessel. While the ham is still warm, remove skin and fat as desired.
If a sweet coating is desired, sprinkle the fat side with brown sugar and bread crumbs and bake in oven at 400 F until brown (approximately 15 minutes)

Oven Cooking:
Wrap ham in heavy-duty aluminum foil joining edges carefully and forming a vessel with the bottom layer. Add four cups of water within the foil and place in oven with a tray or shallow pan underneath for support.
Cook by the following method:
Preheat oven to 300 F.
Bake ham for approximately three hours or 20 minutes per pound.
Using a meat thermometer, check for 163 F internal temperature in the thickest part of ham.
Remove ham and let cool to room temperature for one hour.
Remove skin and fat as desired.
If a sweet coating is desired, sprinkle the fat side with brown sugar and bread crumbs and bake in oven at 400 F until brown (approximately 15 minutes).

Suggestions for Carving:Use a very sharp knife and cut VERY THIN slices. With ham on platter, fat side up, begin slicing about two inches from hock or small end. Make first cut straight through to the bone. Slant the knife for each succeeding cut. Decrease slant as slices become larger.
CAUTION: Please be careful while slicing ham to avoid personal injury.

*A good trick is to have those cloth bags in tow and learn to guesstimate/Tetris the groceries into the bags with minimal effort.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

SWTOR intro cinematic and idle thoughts on the game and the 'verse

Truth be told I wasn't excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic until recently.  I had idly followed the swell of hype - for and against - the game.  I was excited when I learned that BioWare, creators of Knights of the Old Republic (an excellent game that is not quite as pretty or fun to play as it was several years ago), was in charge of this beast.  I never played Star Wars Galaxies though I have a friend who became one of the better known tailors in the game.  I also never had much experience with MMOs until the last few years.  The cherry on top of my indifference sundae is my ever fading love of the franchise.  Call it a case of pop culture over-saturation/fatigue but I now regard the entire enterprise with a jaundiced eye.  I'm a fan of the outsider art, the well done fan videos, scores, Robot Chicken specials, and hot chicks in Imperial uniforms but the rest of it I admit, I rudely roll my eyes and kind of sigh like an asshole.  Jedi is not a religion, in fact Jedi are kind of sanctimonious dickweeds who weren't blaster proof.

And yet, there's still a part of me that jumps up and down and claps his hands and giggles when I hear a light saber duel or the screech of a TIE fighter.  I still get goosebumps when I hear the first notes of the theme.  There's a big chunk of my brain still cluttered with quotes and trivia.  Hell, I even thought Episode III was pretty awesome (it's my #2 favorite of the films).  It was this part of me that wants to play SWTOR and this desire was greatly increased when I saw the opening cinematic in its entirety.  Now to be honest the real selling point will be whether there is space combat.  Wandering around WoW questing (gathering junk and body parts for lazy ass NPCs) isn't exactly a selling point for me but space combat will be - PvE and PvP.  The character classes and races sound pretty Star Wars standard fare except for the Imperial Agent class and Cyborg "race".  According to some of the info I've been reading the Agent sounds like the character I play in almost every game and can be specialized as a sniper with engineering skills (there are probably some forum posts and reviews calling the Agent "huntard").  Plus I'm an Imperial at heart.

I'll probably be picking this up in January once I get my computer woes resolved.  When I do, expect the usual slew of reviews.

SWTOR minimal tech specs

Well folks, once I can get my PC up and running again, looks like I'll be getting into some Star Wars action.

I am interested in purchasing Star Wars: The Old Republic but do not know if my PC can support it. What are the minimum system requirements needed to run the Game?
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better
Intel Core 2 Duo Processor 2.0GHz or better

Operating System:
Windows XP or later

Windows XP: 1.5GB RAM
Windows Vista and Windows 7: 2GB RAM

Note: PCs using a built-in graphical chipset are recommended to have 2GB of RAM.

Video Card:

Star Wars: The Old Republic requires a video card that has a minimum of 256MB of on-board RAM as well as support for Shader 3.0 or better. Examples include:

ATI X1800 or better
nVidia 7800 or better
Intel 4100 Integrated Graphics or better

DVD-ROM drive - 8x speed or better (required for installation from physical editions only)

Internet connection required to play.

The Wild Hunt (2009) dir Alexandre Franchi

The Wild Hunt is one of those movies I watch that I don't think I particularly like but I continue to watch because I'm interested in what happens. The premise is a guy goes to a LARP to "rescue" his girlfriend (who seems like she's a few rolls short of a bakery). Protagonist Erik isn't into the LARP scene but his brother is very into his Viking character. This movie ends up devolving into some kind of indie horror movie that makes LARPers seem like a total bunch of assholes.  Conceptually the movie is interesting but there could have been more done with it and there could have been one or two likable characters besides Erik and referee Tamara (played the appealing Claudia Jurt - frankly I ended up only paying attention when she was on screen).  Unfortunately, unlike Darkon, I couldn't empathize with any of the other characters and frankly I thought of this picture quite a few times:

And I know LARPers, they are pretty cool reasonable human beings, but The Wild Hunt only seemed to play up the mouth-breather, cheeto-duster, rules-monkey stereotype that ruins every game.  Oh well.

On the upside the movie was well done for an indie Canadian "horror" flick, well shot, good sound design, solid cinematography, and interesting concept.  With a tighter script and fewer stock nerd characters this might have made a pretty interesting movie.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

La Herencia Valdemar (2010) dir Jose Luis Aleman

This is one of those movies that I've been dying to see but it hasn't been imported to the States yet. Chances are it won't until it's remade as some piece of shit by Wes Craven.

Quad Movie Review!

Since my PC is out of commission I've been watching a lot of Netflix on ye olde XBOX so expect a lot of movie reviews this holiday season.

The Objective (2008) dir Daniel Myrick.  A modern military supernatural thriller set in Afghanistan.  Basically a CIA spook is sent to investigate an energy source and has some Special Forces bad asses as back up.  I can't say too much about the story without spoilers.  It's a solid watch but vaguely unsatisfying at the end.  The best elements of the movie are the actors, story concept, and setting.  Worth a gander.

We Are the Night (2010) dir Dennis Gansel.  Vampire chicks in Berlin, badly dubbed, not particularly memorable but then again most vampire movies aren't.  Frankly it's a predictable, well-shot, slickly produced German vampire movie (with no T&A which was surprising what with it being a lesbian love story).  I figure a 6/10.  4/10 with the absolutely shite dub. 

Yellow Brick Road (2010) dir Jesse Holland & Andy Mitton.  Meeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhh, one of the new brand of "art house" IFC-esque horror movies that have been floating around in the last couple of years.  I'm being to lose patience with this sub-side genre of art-thriller-horror.  These films attempt to emulate the new wave of European horror (which has been fading in quality) and sadly stumble or drop the ball.  Yellow Brick Road starts strong, keeps a brisk pace and ratcheting tension, and then just goes flop.  There are several elements in the film that seem added in simply because of the creepy factor.  I certainly don't need exposition or my hand held during a movie but YBR has points in the movie that are just, what the fuck was that for.  This is one of those movies that is worth watching because it is well acted, has some genuine creepy moments, the mystery (at the beginning) is engaging, there's some awesome ultra-violence, and the movie isn't your average American horror movie (although it reeks of Blair Witch).  That being said, the movie faceplants in the end, the sound quality is pretty uneven, and the story and scares end up wandering around aimlessly like old people in a supermarket.

I Sell the Dead (2008) dir Glenn McQuaid.  A period piece in the vein of Burke & Hare (2010) and would make a good double feature.  For all intents and purposes it's a grave robber versus the living dead and supernatural movie with British-esque humor.  Could have been better, could have been worse.  It's more culty comedy than horror so if that's your thing you should enjoy it. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Well that's just great.

I'm not sure what I did to anger Zardoz this time but my PC went derp last night.  In more coherent terms, the power comes but nothing shows up on the monitor.  The strange thing is everything was working fine until the last month or so when the machine would just switch off and then on (with no image) for no apparent reason even when doing simple word-processing tasks. 

I'm gonna try to fix this myself and have found the following possibilities:
  1. CPU is overheating
  2. PSU is crapping out
  3. Motherboard is crapping out
  4. id10t error
  5. The interior of the case is bad dirty dirty bad.  I wish I had read that before I cleaned my case a couple of weeks ago with my vacuum cleaner.  #facepalm
  6. Video card is kaput
Any way I slice it this is one of the suckier sucks that ever sucked a suck.  Since my PC is to me what a car is to other people this is kind of a major clusterfuck.  Any useful/helpful advice/ideas is welcome.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Well, so much for Skyrim

Yup, I finished the main story arc of Skyrim last night along with a vast number of side and misc quests.  Kind of anti-climatic frankly, though the end of the story arc was pretty awesome (no spoilers).  Then everything just kind of wraps up and now I'm left kind of scratching my head.  Was I supposed to go through the entire story arc first and then do all the side quests?  The story is complete and I still have free roam of the world (which is awesome, I hate when you complete a RPG and then it's game over) but I don't know if there's anything really to do.  I have one acheivement left to get, guess I could do that. 

Final thoughts:
  • A friend brought up a valid point when I said I broke the 200 hour gameplay mark, "Yeah but out of that time how many hours were games play and how many were load screens?"  Le sigh.  I realize it's a belaboured point folks.  I know but frankly those screens are one of the main reasons I won't be playing the game over again with a different character.
  • Replayability of Skyrim - for me at least is slim to none.  There seems to be minimal difference between races (from what I've read) and I've already become the Grand Poobah of every guild and group in Skyrim and the end of the main story just goes, "Right, there you are.  Carry on then.  Go on, explore this wide wonderful world."
  • Skyrim was a great exploratory experience with a solid story arc, some excellent voice acting, a gripping score, some excellent side arcs (I could play an entire Dark Brotherhood game), allies who were actually useful.  These were balanced out by:
  • Bugs that crashed quests as to make them unfulfillable (I don't really bag on a game for bugs as long as it doesn't crash the game or otherwise make the game unplayable, floating cows are funny), frequent lengthy load screens (fuck you I don't have a good PC for gaming), crappy melee combat (by combat I mean flailing about), game breaker stealth/enchanting/smithing systems (my current kit of light dragon armor is just over 700 what with perks, each item dual enchanted - a daedric bow that dishes out just shy of 200dps sans enchantments or arrows), and a shrug inducing There Will Be Done "I'm finished." ending.
  • Cooking was a total waste of code.  Seriously, a complete and utter waste of resources.
  • Horses are bat-shit awesome crazy on their own in combat.  At first I kind of poo-poo'd people who were saying they wished they could have fought on horseback but y'know that would have been awesome and could have opened up a kick ass combat style (lances, spears, short bows) and could have created some exciting combat sequences - hunting dragon on horseback a la Shadow of the Colossus.  Would that have been awesome?  Fuck yeah it would've. 
So is Skyrim an end all be all fantasy RPG?  No, and neither was Oblivion.  However it is important to note that Skyrim fills a need for a part of the market who doesn't play "Call of Bromance XIII".  My plan is to trade it in for full credit, pick up something to play during the break, and in two years I'll pick Skyrim used with all the DLC for less than $20.  In the meantime I might see if I can find a copy of Morrowind, maybe go back to playing NesTalgia.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The next to last Skyrim post

Last night I cleaned out my misc quest queue except for a quest to fight a dragon in case someone comes over and wants to see me fight a dragon and a few glitched quests that are either repeats or quests I can't complete.  The main queue has two glitched quests which there are PC fixes for but not console fixes.  Ultimately, in regards to gameplay, these glitches aren't important and only give shite rewards.  By the by, fuck the Stones of Barenziah sub-quest.  For all the leg work and searching (sans guides or cheats) the reward is worth fuck all by the time you turn the quest in.

I'm getting very close to the end of the story arc.  It's gotten to the point where I'm saving just to have a return point where I can finish out the rest of the sides and misc before finishing the game.  Honestly though I'm still not disappointed with the story line nor the curve balls it's thrown me and want to see how it all plays out.  I know there are a couple of sites I haven't explored.

I've been wishing there was a way to reset skills, perks, and leveling and I think I might have found a way, maybe.  Skill levels decrease when you are imprisoned but perks do not so I figure wreak havoc, get imprisoned, and then bump those skills up again.  Alternatively you can do what I've been doing - spam skills.  In the Mage's College once you complete a certain story arc you can basically stand in one place and repeat cast high level spells.  That or you can equip the armor you've been ignoring and wander outside Whiterun and stand there as beasties try to nom you.  It's a cheap gimmick but considering not being able to reset useless skills and perks at a late point in the game I think it's okay.  Yeah, that would take away from the role-playing aspect of the game but really how many of you "role-play" a single player game?

During my drive to up other skills I have to admit that magic in Skyrim is pretty awesome.  I seriously doubt I will replay the game as a mage (or replay the game at all truth be told) but I'm kind of digging the magic.  Illusion is my favorite class by far.  Being able to set foes upon themselves with Frenzy has been an added joy, though it makes combat pretty easy.  Plus the Illusion tree allows you to cast all spells silently which makes stealth healing a viable option (sans potions).  I also noticed that casting a spell like Magelight will not only draw enemies but will knock down fire pots.

The last post will be my final thoughts and my ending character build.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Studying for Physical Anthro final...

by watching documentaries and a gem from 1953.  Werner Herzog's documentary about Chauvet Cave, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) was particularly good, though a bit slow at time with some heavy handed scoring. Herzog wrote, directed, and produced this film exploring and documenting the paleolithic cave art found near Vallon-Pont D'Arc in Southern France.  The cave had been sealed for thousands of years due to the cliff collapsing over the entrance until some explorers happened upon the site in 1994.   Due to the preservation of the cave, the art itself is almost unsettling in both its quality and freshness, as well as the discovery that the art is not from a single point in time but was layered by humans over thousands of years.  I'm not one of these folks who believes that paleo and neo-lithic man were some kind of half-wits, and just because they didn't trade pieces of paper for goods and services and think digital watches were a pretty neat idea doesn't make them artless and thoughtless savages.  Caves of Forgotten Dreams is not something to throw on when you're craving explosions and techno but it's certainly worth watching.  I would recommend it when you're having a sick day and are bundled up kind of high on cough syrup.

Then I stumbled across Neanderthal Man (1953).  It's a B-monster flick but it's actually a pretty good B-monster flick, though there are some awesome, genuinely hilariously bad moments even for the genre.  You have to watch it, just for the first fifteen minutes and you will wet yourself with disbelief.  On the upside, it deals with the works of an anthropologist, who believes that paleolithic man was as intelligent and capable as "modern" man and that modern man's brain still contains millenia of memories yet his fellow academics scoff at him.  Particularly humorous was the display of progression of brain size from chimp to modern man because it features Piltdown man.  Athro humor FTW.  So the scientist concocts a formula to unlock those paleolithic memories.  Science goes awry!  Neanderthal Man is one of those B-Movies that may be kind of crappy but the sci-fi weirdo ideas it has are pretty cool.  The rant the anthropologist goes on when his colleagues poo-poo him is actually brilliant (it begins at the 10:05 point in the clip).  Heartily recommended.  Oh and it has both Beverly Garland and Tandra Quinn!

Friday, December 09, 2011

A double helping of Foxy Friday: Veronica Lake

Still from Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels a brilliant film that holds as much relevance today as it did  in 1941.

She was 4'11" of va-va-voom.

Foxy Fridays: Cate Blanchett with a shaved head


I love his expression because sometimes that the only way you can deal with how fucked up life is.  Also known as "Don't make eye contact with crazy person on the bus" face. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Yet another post about Skyrim...

if you want me to post about something else give me some money so I can indulge in some other form of distraction.

I've been meaning to put down a few thoughts I've been having on the skill/perk system and how I think it's working in the modern RPG.

I hit level sixty and have my primary skills at 100 (bow, sneak, lockpicking, pickpocket, speech, alchemy, enchanting, smithing) and a number of other skills 50 or below (one handed weapons, light armor, and restoration are all in the mid-60s).  Truth be told I was kind of sad that I hit those ceilings but then I realized that while I had maxed the skills I hadn't really invested in that many perks and had a lot of space for expansion.  Last night I was poking around and said, "Huh" and was looking at skills and what not.  I have a lot of expansion space that will garner me more SP and perks but could possibly change the way I've been approaching the game.  That is maybe it might be time to start huckin some destruction magic around.  Illusion has some pretty fun spells (Fury causes NPCs to attack one another - a trick I used on a target I was supposed to assassinate.  Cast Fury on target.  Target goes apeshit, gets killed by village guards.  The Aristocrats!) as do the Alteration and Conjuration schools.  Then while I was running around looking at stuff (casting Fury on bunnies, foxes, and goats for funzies) I figured out I could power level some spell skills by casting them on myself.  So I'm basically spamming "Magelight"* and then whatever other spell I feel like.  It's a cheap trick, like standing still in heavy armor and letting a wolf attack you while you go AFK.

I appreciate that I have the ability to keep levelling and picking up skills and perks by trying out different styles of gameplay.  Normally I'd be locked in to the set up and probably get bored with the game after getting all the side missions and the like finished.  Additionally using skills I normally don't has ramped up some of the challenge of combat.  Casting wussy fireballs at a Draugur Deathlord = oh fuck, heal...reload from last save.  I've been really impressed at some of the kill animations for one handed combat and eventually I'll start wingin around this Daedric two-handed whompin stick that feeds on dreams or something.  I dunno, I picked it up on a side quest and it's been mothballed in a chest in Riften for weeks.
I'm curious to know how you guys have been tackling the skill/perk tree.  Are you powering through an entire skill set or kind of cherry picking? 

* Magelight is one of my favorite spells in this game (I dunno if it's in other games.  Normally I don't use magic except for a coupleof heal spells).  Basically it's an an orb of light that sticks to whatever you aim it at.  It's handy as hell in some of the deep darks but I've also discovered two fun tricks.  1) Cast Magelight on your lackey then command Smitty to run into an darkened area.  I do this most often in the large open spaces (tombs, caverns, etc).  Thanks Smitty! (Smitty is an old name I designated to the NPC lackey games give you.  "Get the fuck out of the way Smitty!" is a common phrase. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Recipes from an Englishman that sound awesome:

Was browsing an online friend's food site and saw this awesome recipe for smoked pheasant tacos.  He also has a recipe for smoked rabbit tacos.  What the fucksicle?  Who let the Englishman have good food?  Joking aside he's got a good site and some excellent recipes and ideas (Yorkshire pud with pulled pork) and he seems to be as much a Pork-a-holic as I am (and some of you are).  Definitely worth checking out.  There are some Turkish recipes that I'm planning on trying once I can get the ingredients in.

Skyrim: almost to level 60. Now what

As we all know Skyrim has dominated the conversations and posts on my end for the past couple of weeks here.  I've blown past the jumping up and down and weeing on myself stage many many many hours ago.  I passed the 150 hours mark last week (yeah I know, my school work is seriously suffering as well but at least it's not COD) and have some thoughts about the good and the bad of Skyrim:
  • The 360 version of the game has Bethesda's trademark goddamn load screens every time you enter or exit a building, dungeon, etc.  Yes I know everyone and their Aunt Telulah gripes about these load screens but serious WTF.  I realize there is probably some kind of technical jibber-jabber I don't know about game design but these load screens are as archaic as lag.  I've heard that load times are next to nil on the PC but I don't have the juice to run Skyrim on my Plymouth Horizon computer.  According to some of the forums load screens only take a few seconds, whatever "forums" are worth.
  • Glitches are to be expected and really don't bother me too much.  The random floating item or guards stuck in a door amuse me more than anything else.  However this leads me to the next point - a game crashing glitch:
  •  The Ebony Armor of Boethiah glitch.  Maybe it's just my copy of the game since I can't find any info on this on teh googles but I wanna warn you folks SAVE BEFORE EQUIPPING THIS ARMOR.  I don't know why and I've tried different techniques but everytime I equip this gear to complete a quest Boethiah starts her blah blah blah and when she finishes my game goes derp.  I've tried different files and different locations all with the same result. 

The good and the ugly
  • Even after 150 hours I keep discovering places, even if it's not location of importance.  I found a slew of places at random the other day.
  • Some of the storylines have been particularly awesome.  For some reason I've been particularly keen on the daedric quests and while normally I play a fairly "good" character in this run through I've been a real fucker.  I crushed a woman on her wedding day with a pushed gargoyle.  I stabbed a horse in the face.  I hired a guy and lured him to his death.  Great fun is kiting a dragon into a village and letting the villagers know that they are not Dragonborn.  I use torture victims to level my mage skills. 
I have a post pending about the skill and perk system and my feelings on it.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Saturday Morning News und Schtuffz

Random news you folks might be interested in:

  • GamePro magazine is shutting down after over twenty years in the business. (Source:
  • A Pakistani woman in Karachi chopped up and cooked her husband but didn't eat him.  Waste not want not says I. 
  • The insanely awesome "researchers at MIT" (which always reminds me of the Govt official at the end of "Raiders" - "We have top men working on this.") have taught a computer to play Civ by giving it the manual?  Nani?  I'm a little confused and plenty intrigued.
  • Thomas Edision was a prick.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Quote of the day:

"Nothing matters very much, and very few things matter at all."
- Sir Arthur James Balfour 1848-1930

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