Obstinately untitled cooking blog

I’m quite sure I’ve cooked in the weeks since the last update. It was undoubtedly just fuel food though. Things have been busy, between pre-GenCon madness in work and the boys’ immensely successful naming ceremony.

Today, I tried Gordon Ramsay’s Chilli Con Carne. I’ve never been wild about chilli – it always seems like spicy burnt tomatoes on slightly grainy beans to me. This recipe seemed a little more energetic though, with its chocolate and half a bottle of red wine.

Cooking it was straightforward, although I forgot to add the chocolate, and was asked to add a courgette and sweetcorn to bulk up the fibre content. The result was… well, deli really liked it. I found it tasted like spicy burnt tomatoes on slightly grainy beans. Still, the meat turned out nicely, we’ve plenty of left-overs, and it was at least edible.
Maybe, and I’m going out on a limb here, maybe I just don’t like chilli.

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Untitled Cooking Blog

Well, deli pointed out that the previous title was easily misread as cockblocking, and what has been seen can’t be unseen.

This week, we all melted because the sky is on fire. Irish architecture, culture and people evolved under the constant pressure of rain. We’re set up for dealing with large amounts of precipitation, for staying indoors out of the wet, and for staring moodily out at grey rainswept vistas. We go a bit mad when it’s sunny, and it’s been very sunny this week.

With that in mind, I googled for “summer chicken”, and ended up making a Chicken Waldorf Salad. Any mention of Waldorf salad brings back memories of Fawlty Towers (“Celery! Apples! Walnuts! Grapes!”), but I managed to overcome my giggling enough to put it together.

It worked rather well. The red apples I got were awful, but Granny Smith saved the day. My ratios were off (a cup is an absurd measure of volume), but not by that much. Poaching nice big chicken breasts from the English Market resulted in beautiful moist chunks of chicken that went really well with the dressing and the grapes. Served with fresh-baked bread on the side and pepper to taste. It would have been nice and light if we hadn’t gorged ourselves on multiple servings.

So, next target: poach all the things!

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Cookblogging

Editorial Note: Yes, it’s been nearly two years since I updated. I’ve been busy. Twins, for example, can be quite time-consuming. Move on.

Next month, deli goes back to work, and I’ll transition into my new role as stay-at-home dad. I’ll keep writing, but my primary focus, at least initially, is going to be taking care of the boys. Part of that means learning to cook properly. I’m not a complete neophyte – I can make toast – but I need to practise.

So, experiment #1. We had some nice frozen salmon in the fridge, so I went for grilled salmon in a soy/brown sugar marinade, with rice and boiled carrots as the veg. We didn’t have the lemon pepper that the recipe called for, and I added a microscopic amount of garlic and ginger to the marinade, but it still turned out edible.

The fish was, I suspect, slightly overdone, mainly because I mistimed the carrots. Juggling cooking times is something I must work on.

The rice was infinitely improved by adding Magic Japanese Rice Flavouring (furikake), which is the best thing ever. 

 

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Artistic Challenge Entry: A Harnessed Death

Friends of mine run a monthly Artistic Challenge Throwdown on facebook. While it’s primarily visual artist and craft, I sometimes get a short story in for it. This month’s submission is below the cut.

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I think it’s been around a month since we stared at an ultrasound screen and didn’t see a heartbeat. I’m not sure. Time’s been pretty irrelevantly lately, with days blurring into each other, and sleep coming like a black wave because you don’t want to feel any more.

He was less than eight weeks old, but we’re doing this through IVF (keep the laptop off your testicles, guys, I mean it), so we’d been fighting and hoping for a year, and we had a few weeks of joy before it was snuffed out. deli blogged about it weeks ago, but this is the first time I’ve felt the impetus to do so.

The world feels colder now. There are more things with sharp edges. More sights that make me wince. Other people’s happiness is ringed with knives, especially if it’s connected to kids. I want to scream at them, demand that they acknowledge how lucky they are, how absurdly random their good fortune is, demand that they explain why. There are no words.

I won’t say that I’d made any changes in my life because of the pregnancy, but I’d gotten myself into a mental space where I was ready to make those changes. No-one’s ever ready to be a father, I think – not that I have the slightest clue what “father” means – but I was willing to jump in and do my best. I wanted it.

We’ll try again. We’ve got four more frozen embryos. If they don’t work, then we’re still young enough that another round of IVF would still have moderately good chances, as these things go. It still could happen naturally. And if it doesn’t, we’ll adjust to that too.

Even if it does happen again, we won’t forget what we had, for a brief few weeks in March this year.

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Democratic Due Diligence

There’s a general election on Friday. It’s going to be an earth-shaking, transformative election, unprecedented in the history of the Irish state. This time, we’re going to vote for the other lot, not the usual lot. In fact, the usual lot are pretty screwed, because they broke the country. That’s not broke as in out of money (they did that to us too), but broke as in ‘does not work any more, is kaput, reinstall constitution from CD.’ In effect, the election determines who gets to rubber-stamp the economic policies dictated to us by Europe. There was this whole bank guarantee thing that went like this.

BANKERS: Round of wholly uncontroversial golf? Not that we’re having sneaky meetings behind anyone’s backs or anything.

GOVERNMENT: Sure! Shall we take your jet, or will I follow you in the government jet? Because we’re rich and nothing can ever go wrong again.

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20/10 Hindsight

A year ago, more or less, I got an out-of-the-blue phone call from Mongoose, informing me that my contract was being terminated. I was Mongoose’s longest-serving staff writer by far, having started way back in May of 2003. That equates to roughly five million words, by the way, the vast majority of which were delivered on deadline.

The termination came with a month’s notice and a thank-you, nothing more. Such is the lot of the freelancer.

2010 was a chaotic year. I’m still dealing with the aftermath of my mother’s death. I got married. I ran a marathon. I tried to have a kid, found out I’m very close to infertile, started on a course of IVF. Meanwhile, of course, the world decides to go into meltdown, and I watched as the government pushes the country to the brink of bankruptcy and oblivion. 2010 was almost entirely interesting times.

So, what have I learned? The emphasis here, of course, is on the ‘I’; these lessons are painfully obvious to everyone, but they’re what I need to internalise and take from the past year.

Quality, not Quantity: I was successful at Mongoose primarily because I was able to produce lots of moderate-quality material on command on almost any topic. While that’s useful, I need to aim higher. I must break myself of the mindset that the first draft has to be the final draft. When you’re producing a book a month from scratch, there’s no time for planning, editing, rewriting or anything other than getting words out as quickly as possible, but other companies don’t work like that. Not everyone is Mongoose.

Constraint is Focus: I need to relearn the skill of juggling overlapping projects instead of working on them in series, and to do it all without the pressure of monthly deadlines. I’ve taken to using pomodoro for time management, with good results on days when I can get a good run-up at work. Other days, I’m so squeezed for time that I’m forced to focus. I need to make sure that every day is one or the other, and stop wasting time on the internet.

Fail Better: Remember those five million words? I own none of them. They’re all work for hire, and most of them are written for licensed games so they’re doubly not-mine. For someone who’s allegedly prolific, I’ve written only a tiny amount for myself, and an even smaller amount for public consumption. I’m afraid of failure and obscurity, so I don’t even try. To hell with that. Write, fail, write better.

The World is Strange: It was a year when ‘low orbit ion cannons’ were in newspaper headlines, when the roleplaying industry slouched and mutated, when people talked about twitter being an essential service even as the water pipes froze and burst. The older I get, the stranger the world seems, and that is terrifying and inspiring. The lesson to draw from it is that there may be people interested in my stranger ideas, and to break out of my comfort zone. Stop retreading what worked in 2005… or, more accurately, 1982.

Learn Until It Becomes Habit: I have said and blogged these things before. Every year is next year in Jerusalem, the year I finally write that novel, write that game, change the world. So be it – if I have to repeat these assertions and plans until they are become real, then I will. What I tell you three times is true, and what I tell myself a dozen times will eventually become true.

Love is Enough: And I stood on a beach in Kerry in impossible sunshine and I married her, and that is enough. Everything else builds on that.

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Gaelcon 2010

It could be argued that going to Gaelcon in my current mental state was unwise – it’s hard to relax at a con when your embryos are being defrosted and transferred the next day. I also learned that I actively need to GM at least one game early in a con. Apparently, if I can’t get my godhead on early, I’m too nervous to be social. Instead of GMing, I made the mistake of larping for the whole of the first day. Eamon’s Yes, Grand Duke was fun, and amusingly paralleled a lot of the design of PARANOIA: High Programmers, but then I went straight into a six-hour JumpTech game.

Nick’s JumpTech series is more than two years old now. It’s an ongoing sci-fi epic. It’s primarily intrigue and trade, but there’ve been costumed aliens, nerf gun shootouts, space battles, props and all sorts of other ambitious elements. The six-hour Gaelcon game included a life pod prob that turned out to contain an NPC, a change of set half-way through, an awful lot of heavily armed nerf warriors, and free alien food. In the first half, I continued my ongoing efforts to bring the various factions together, encourage peace and stability, and supported the establishment of an interstellar police force.

In the second half, the fascist Sol Unity showed up. Suddenly, all the factions I’d been trying to unite found a common goal – going to war with Sol. As the ranking human diplomat, I had to choose between joining this alliance (and dragging the human colony into war) or opening up our own negotiations with the Sol Unity. I picked the dark side. It was an immensely frustrating decision, and not one I was in the right headspace to enjoy. Six hours of larping meant I was far too invested in the character and his failure.

I took the next morning off, then played a moderately entertaining Vampire session and a lot of boardgames, which was just what I needed. (Prosperity for Dominion is the craziest set ever).

Monday morning, I was unexpectedly dragooned into running Necessary Evils for Savage Worlds, as the GMs they’d lined up couldn’t make it to the con because of the Dublin city marathon. The game was ok; the characters were relatively rules-heavy, but one of the players knew the system and we bumbled through to an acceptable finale. The afternoon slot was a test drive for my own Rakehell setting, using a simple take on FATE as the engine. It went unexpectedly well; more on that once I get the scenario rewritten and up for download.

The d4 hotel continues to be an excellent venue. My only critiques of the con organisation are minor ones, and the event ran very smoothly. The con’s improved markedly over the last year or two – and having finally gotten to GM and throw off my funk, roll on next year.

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An RPG in the Lonesome October

From the Twitterz:
Edel Ryder-Hanrahanemopod Been reading a chapter of this every day:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Night_in_the_Lonesome_October Thoroughly enjoying it.
Myles Corcoran MylesC @emopod That’s a marvelous book. I prod my wife every October to run a RPG based on it after she admitted the urge to some years ago.
Edel Ryder-Hanrahanemopod@MylesC Ooh, month long rpg?
Myles CorcoranMylesC @emopod It would be lovely to play out each day in October a day at a time. Can’t see ever getting it together logistically though.
That’s a design challenge. One aspect of gaming that rpgs often handle poorly is the issue of attendance – what happens when a player misses a game? I’ll handle that in another blog post, but it’s obvious that getting together every night would be infeasible for the vas majority of groups. We could have done it back in college, when everyone was living in gamer-houses and playing four or five nights a week was not considered at all excessive, but we were young then, and foolish, and highly caffeinated.
Getting together once a week, though, is doable. A putative rpg version of A Night In The Lonesome October would have to be a mix of play-by-email and tabletop. Each player sends one email to the GM per night, describing their actions for the day. Then, once a week, the players meet up and play through a night as a group. The nebulous rules of the Game played in the book could support this – assume that extended meetings between players are forbidden except on certain nights.
During character creation, each player would secretly choose to be an Opener or a Closer. You’d also pick your companion animal (or play the companion animal, and pick your mysterious master) and your other talents. During play, the challenge would be to assemble the list of ingredients you need for your ritual while investigating the actions of the other players. Each player would have their own list of things they needed, but some items would appear on multiple lists.
The final session would be on the last night of October. The ultimate decision of Opening or Closing would depend on how far each player got in their ritual, and which side they stood on at the end.
System? Right now, I’d be tempted to try the new Smallville rules on it. It’s set up for player-vs-player conflict, and the complex relationship maps it produces do look just like ley lines…

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Beatdown, Part 2 – Skin, Setting and Future Development

Continuing on from the last post about my abortive Game Chef entry, the one major thematic element I didn’t manage to handle properly was Skin. When a character loses a scene, he may suffer an Injury – a negative trait that breaks the character’s Skin.

If your Skin’s broken, the Desert gets inside you. The scenes in the final two acts of the game should be based around the character’s injuries. If you lose your girlfriend in Act II, and that’s marked down as an Injury, then she’s bound to come back as a ghost or hallucination in Act IV. If you get bitten by a rattlesnake in one scene, then in the Desert you run out of anti-venom.

Setting: As the parameters of the game are defined in the opening scenes, the setting has to remain nebulous. The Desert’s assumed to be somewhere in the American southwest, but not quite in our reality. Lots of low-key surrealism; a Moorcock heist movie.

(If I go with Ye Traditional Atomic Wasteland for the Desert, then the meaning of Skin may change. In this variant, character start with some form of protection against the hazards of the desert, but can lose this protection over the course of play.)

Future Development: The first thing that needs to be done is number-crunching and playtesting. The game lives and dies by the Edge economy, so the cost of winning has to be correctly balanced. The players should have to think seriously about whether or not they want to win the scene, but they should win enough that the game doesn’t become a completely oppressive beatdown.

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