Saturday, December 27, 2014

With Fire and Sword

I love going to antique stores.  I always find something fascinating.  On a trip earlier this year to Bisbee, AZ, I found a bit of memorabilia that may be interesting to fans of the video game Mount & Blade.
Download the orchestra DLC now.
Yes, it's the cover to the sheet music for the orchestral piece inspired by the same novel that inspired Taleworld's downloadable content of the same name.  Say that three times fast.
Anyway, it needs a frame so I'll be putting my carpentry skills to use on that soon and then it might even appear on my YouTube channel if I start doing video game play-throughs with face-cam.  Look for it in the background amongst the Minecraft merch.  

As always, trademarks are property of their respective owners and used here without endorsement or commercial consideration.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Stew

Here's another article in my cooking series.  This one covers a stew I like to make and like even more to eat.
Stew's on

Ingredients

For the stew in the photo above I used chicken stock, potatoes, carrots, peas, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, bacon, and Country Gravy mix.  The amounts needed depend on your inventory and number of guests.  I used about two cups of stock, one cup of peas, one pound of bacon, one good sized onion, several hefty carrots and potatoes, and one head of garlic.  
There are numerous places in this recipe to make substitutions or additions.  For example, any broth or stock you have on hand is the right kind to use here.  Swap out the meat stock with vegetable stock and leave out the bacon for a vegetarian stew.  Also, I used gravy mix from the grocery store but flour or corn starch will also thicken up the stew.  

Directions

Prepare your ingredients.  Cube the potatoes, slice the carrot and onion, mince the garlic. 
Put the potatoes on to boil in the chicken stock.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Mash the potatoes when they are soft.  
Brown the bacon in a skillet and set it aside.  Saute the onions and garlic in the skillet.  
Add peas and carrots to the potatoes in the stock.  Return to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until done.
Add onion, garlic, bacon, and stir in gravy mix.  Stew will thicken.  Serve with bread.

This warm hearty stew straight from the root cellar has everything a working Viking needs to raid on through the winter.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Stock Up

I don't buy cuts of chicken from the grocery store anymore.  I prefer whole birds because they are much more versatile.  A whole chicken can provide several more meals after the meat is consumed.  This applies to any bird; chicken, turkey, duck, or goose all work for this.  Don't settle for just the meat off the bones.
After dressing the bird, put the carcass in a stock pot, cover it with water, and put it on to a low boil.  Boil until everything falls apart then strain out the bones and other solids and reduce the stock.
Moments later, the camera fell in.

Reduction is a cooking term which just means to keep boiling off the water to concentrate a liquid and reduce its volume.  Since this recipe started with enough water to cover the bird in a stock pot we can get a reduction down to easily half the original volume.  For a fryer size chicken in a one gallon stock pot, I usually end up with about a quart of stock at the end.
Now this stock can be used as the base for any soup or stew recipe which calls for it.  If your three sisters harvest came up better than mine then corn, beans, and squash is a great vegetable combination to use for this.

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.


Trademarks are property of their respective owners and used here without endorsement or commercial consideration.

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.

Utensils

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.

Ingredients

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.

Process

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.