Thursday, December 11, 2014

Viking Conquest

Game publisher Taleworlds Entertainment, of Mount & Blade fame, has just released new downloadable content for that game, called Viking Conquest.  This follows earlier DLC expansions like With Fire and Steel and Warband itself to fill out the Mount & Blade franchise.  Viking Conquest is based on the Brytenwalda mod from the developer of the same name.
Viking Conquest is set in northern Europe during the 9th Century.  The largest new dimension for this expansion is ships and sea combat.  Players can fight on and between Scandinavia, Denmark, and the British Isles.  The game also includes a new personality aspect during character creation which unlocks different conversation options during game play.  In Mount & Blade Warband the continent of Calradia was divided between six factions, each with its own unique culture.  Mount & Blade Viking Conquest uses archeological information to flesh out twenty-one kingdoms across six cultures based on the real peoples of Middle Ages Europe.
Like Warband, Viking Conquest is available on Linux and other platforms, showing off Taleworlds' strategy for platform-agnostic gaming.  We can definitely expect upcoming Mount & Blade sequel Bannerlord to be released on all available platforms.
While Viking Conquest is expected to be the last new content released before the sequel, building up a well developed mod into official content could signal an interesting direction for Taleworlds.  Perhaps additional mods like Crusades era Anno Domini or, with licensing to J. R. R. Tolkien's estate, Last Days of the Third Age could find their way into official expansions.
Mount & Blade Viking Conquest is out now wherever you buy games and with a 10% launch discount until 18 December.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Science Blogger

I recently came across a request for information from Paige Brown Jarreau, a Ph.D candidate at Louisiana State University, doing research on science blogging.
I'm not an established journalist by any means but I do write about scientific topics fairly often, both here and on Google+.  I think I spend too much time reading about science to stop and write anything about it.  I also have many other interests than science to write about.
Anyway, like typical behavioral research this survey includes an informed consent release for participants.  I like that and thought it was a nice touch.  I've completed many surveys, like customer focus group types of things at the mall, and many of them don't actually include those statements and releases.
The survey opens with questions about the survey participant's science blog to get a reading on what type of science the author writes about and what sort of audience they have.  Speaking of audience, I'd like to thank you both for reading my blog.  Yeah, I like to have my jokes fall flat on their faces in my writing.  It's that kind of blog.
And then the survey continues, as they do, with questions about blogging with a psuedonym, blogging for pay, editorial constraints, sources for topics, and engaging with controversial topics. As much as has been written about these topics, there's far too little real data actually addressing them.  All in all a good survey and I'm eager to see the results.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sun Tea

I like using old-fashioned tricks in the kitchen and occasionally coming up with a few of my own.  One of the old ones I rediscovered from my childhood is sun tea.  It's tea brewed using the heat of the sun so it's perfect here in Arizona.  The recipe is super simple, too.


For equipment, I use a translucent one gallon pitcher, but an opaque pitcher should still work if it's dark enough to absorb sunlight.  The only other piece of equipment is a patch of ground that stays sunny all day.  Moving the pitcher around to keep it in the sun through the day is also an option.  A spoon can help stir in sugar.


I use eight teabags and one cup of sugar for a one gallon pitcher.  Select an inexpensive generic black tea due to needing so many.  While I prefer eight teabags per gallon, the strength of the tea can easily be adjusted.  I also add one cup of sugar after the tea has brewed but that can also be adjusted for taste.
Oh yeah, making sun tea also needs a gallon of water.  Tap, filtered, or bottled is all fine.  Obviously, if your tap water is undrinkable you'll need a gallon of bottled water.


Fill the pitcher with water and hang the teabags in the water.  Place the filled pitcher in direct sunlight.  If needed, move the pitcher throughout the day to keep it in the sun.  
In strong sunlight like summer in Arizona, the tea can brew in an hour.  In weaker sunlight, the tea may need to brew all day.  
After the tea has brewed, stir in sugar and put the tea away in a refrigerator.  Take it out and enjoy at regular intervals.  

Please drink responsibly.

Monday, November 10, 2014

(Mis) Adventures in Backyard Farming

I may not have a green thumb but I'm not the garden's grim reaper, either.  Last spring, I planted corn, beans, and squash together using "three sisters gardening."  It's the classic set-up of companion planting, using each plant's strengths to make a better yield.  The corn provides support for the pole beans which fix nutrients in the soil for the gourds which in turn provide ground cover.
All the seed packages said to plant right after the last chance of frost.  I'm in Arizona.  We almost never get frost here.  The problem for that time of year is that there's no water.  Because I'm in Arizona, I waited until the monsoon started in an attempt to reduce the irrigation needs.
It basically didn't work.

Waiting, I thought, left too little time for the crops to mature.  The corn never developed and there were no gourds.  As it turns out the pole beans did come in so I'll have fresh beans through the holidays and seed for next year.
Most of them are already dried, too.  Saves me that step.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Halloween 2014

Well, all the Halloween parties are over and it's time for my annual costuming article.  This year I went simple and formal, pairing a hooded cape and mask with my tuxedo.  Because of course I already had a tuxedo.  Like you do, you know.
The photo is blurry, not because it's a bad camera, but because it's a drunk photographer.

However, this year was a standout for great costumes.  Like this group of Disney villains.
Yes, Elsa.  We know which side she's on.
There's also this great Game of Thrones group.
George's next book is titled A Night of Booze and Vomit.
Books and movies with a large supporting cast make great group costumes.  Hunger Games is still a popular franchise with the next movie due out soon.
Again, it's not the camera, it's the photographer. 
But dressing as the main character can work if you do a good job of it like this maverick.
Nailed it.
There's also these folks.  I can't place where I know their costumes from.  Some old science fiction movie or something, I think.
Come to the Dark Side.  No reason.  Just, you know, if you want to hang out.
One last picture that wasn't too blurry to use.  I think Marvel needs to call him up.
Yes, that's Doctor Strange and Cleo.  Consider that movie advertised. 
Well, that's it for this holiday.  Next year's costume will either require a morphsuit or gundam armor; haven't decided yet.  Stay tuned to find out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blow Off

I said I'd be back with new homebrewing definitions and this situation brings on some very colorful vocabulary.
Let me set the scene.  You've just poured a batch of must into a carboy to ferment and gone off to do something else, like write articles on Blogger.  When you return to your brewery some time later, you discover that the fermenting process has knocked the airlock off the top of the carboy and spilled a peach concoction all over the kitchen floor.  Yeah, that just happened to me.
Sometimes yeast gets very active and the wort or must can expand in the early hours of fermentation.  It's a desired effect in its own way but it works better for rising bread than brewing beer, wine, or mead.  It signals that fermentation is happening and the yeast are awake and getting down to work.
There are a few methods for dealing with blow off.  To start with, leave some head space in the carboy.  Don't fill it too full with wort or must.  That will leave the brew some room to expand into before reaching the airlock.  Experience will tell you where the fill line is for a particular recipe in your equipment.  Additionally, most carboys come with both an airlock and blow off tubing.  To use the tubing, sanitize it with the rest of your brewery gear and install one end in the stopper in place of the airlock and sink the other end under water.  A reserve of sanitizing solution can be held back for this purpose or plain tap water can be used.  You just need to ensure that the hose acts like the airlock and only allows CO2 out, keeping out air and foreign bacteria.
Within a few days, the yeast will settle down and won't be forcing any more material out through the hose.  You can replace the hose with the airlock assembly at this point.  Good luck!

Please drink responsibly. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Peach Puree

I made up a new batch of mead.  My first batch, which was a short mead meant to be consumed right after brewing, was a melomel style, honey with any fruit, in this case oranges.  It just misses qualifying as a pyment, which is honey with white or red grapes; I used California raisins with the oranges.   Second batch used almost the same recipe as the first, just in larger quantity.  Actually, it ended up being almost a bochet, which uses caramelized honey.  You see, I had let the honey crystallize and had to turn it back into liquid in a double boiler; that almost didn't go well.  Also, I swapped out the raisins in favor of blackberries, pushing the recipe towards a bochetomel.
This new batch is a complete departure from the citrus-fed bread yeast of the past.  I am using real champagne yeast, for one thing.  That is definitely going to change the flavor of the end product.  It's still a melomel mead, using peaches as the fruit.
Oh, this one has been an adventure.  It takes a while to ship twelve pounds of honey anyway, but when your order also includes a new recipe kit by famous actor and internet personality Wil Wheaton, well, things get delayed.  Parallel to that, I had ordered 25 pounds of peaches from a food coop and when the honey and yeast didn't arrive alongside the peaches, I had to scramble to slice and freeze the fruit.  Eventually, all the ingredients were present but then thawing the peaches made a mess due to cheap plastic bags.
Here's where the title comes from.  In the middle of laying up the must, I decided to run the thawed peach slices through the blender to make them easier to pour into the carboy.  For next time, I think I'm going to puree the fruit first before freezing.  I could also can the slices to preserve them that way, in case I don't get all the ingredients together at the same time again.
Anyway, this peach melomel will be a short mead and I'll write a follow-up on my impressions when it's done fermenting in a few months.  There's a few other varieties I want to try out in the future.  Being so close to Hatch, N.M., a capsicumel is a definite must try.  I'd also like to try fermenting a braggot, a morat, and maybe even an intentional bochet.  I have a few rose bushes in the yard so a rhodomel is also an option.  Keep brewing.  Salud!

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