Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Experiments with chocolate are always good

So we're on this diet and it's working, but the dessert choices are fairly limited in the beginning. One of the choices in the second phase is Pistachio Bark, which is roasted pistachios in melted semi-sweet chocolate, and you break off sections. It's really good.

I bought some Mexican chocolate which is infused with cinnamon, and I've been trying to duplicate a Mexican mocha coffee drink from an Austin coffeehouse. I figured why not mix things up a bit and try the Mexican chocolate with the pistachios, right?

Eh, not so much.

We started out melting the chocolate in a double boiler and roasting the pistachios in a cast iron skillet.

The chocolate is pretty grainy, so it didn't melt into liquid, per se, like the baking chocolate bark does.

After pouring some soy milk in it looked a lot better and creamier.

All you do after that is pour the pistachios in the chocolate, mix and spread out on wax paper. It needs to harden in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but then you (and the bark) are set.

When we use regular baking chocolate, or even semi-sweet chocolate chips, it turns out really delicious, but the Mexican chocolate never totally set, so even after a day in the refrigerator it was malleable. It didn't taste like what we expected either...not bad, but not what we were used to eating. We finally abandoned the idea and have gone back to the baking chocolate.

One more Seaworld trip before the holidays

We met some of our friends at Seaworld a few weeks back to get the most out of our season passes before the year is up. Of course, we had to go to the roller coaster I like, the Steel Eel. I sat with one of our friends, and I had to get my nerve up to raise my hands - this was the first time we rode it and I was a little nervous.

Here are some closeups of some of the other riders. Notice the calm kid with his hands up in the air - no problem!

With four kids pitstops are inevitable. I happened to check out the floor-length urinals and in an adjoining one I saw a scorpion! We ran out, got the camera and I ran back in to, uh, take some pictures in the men's restroom. Nice.

It was still alive so we told some park workers about it.

Is it Halloween yet? Oh, snap!

I'm finally getting around to posting some stuff that I've needed to get up here.

For Halloween we had a neighborhood potluck party that went a lot better than we expected. Most of the people came in costume. I was in agony trying to pick a costume - I have a few aces up my sleeve but I need to work on them before I reveal them to the world.

I ended up going as a vegetarian vampire bat.

I got a beer helmet at Spencer's (thanks Chris) and spray-painted it black. My theme necessitated cans of V8 instead of beer. Lacey sewed bat wings to a black turtleneck and attached furry bat ears to the helmet (after having our five-year-old tell us about echolocation).

My family rounded out the costumes with the most beautiful pirate in the seven seas, a pirate in training and the smallest mobile skeleton ever seen.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ags win!

I can't believe it! My Aggies finally beat Texas, with Colt McCoy playing for all but 20 seconds! I stood for most of the game (except for the time playing checkers with my boys). It looked like the Aggies were trying to sabotage themselves with some stupid errors and fouls but we managed to pull it out!

Stat of the game... 244. The Aggies rushed for 244 yards against Texas, which came into the game No. 1 in the nation allowing 42 yards per game.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cilantro pancakes

I really love cilantro. I'd like to put it on everything. My wife doesn't like it so much.

One morning we were making pancakes and we had some cilantro left over from the night before.

The rest, as they say, is history.

We usually make pancakes from a Krusteaz mix for the sake of time, and this was no exception. We also don't use Teflon/non-stick pans, but instead use cast iron (below) or stainless steel.

They smelled great cooking, but what doesn't smell great once cilantro is in the mix, right?

They were great. We use an organic maple syrup, and the sweet syrup/pancake plus the cilantro make for a dominant entry in the New and Exciting Breakfast Foods category.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Model Fight update 009

I've started building the, uh, building. I haven't found a way to map images to planes in SketchUp the way I'm used to doing it in 3D Studio MAX, so I ended up scaling my wall component to match the image on the plane. I didn't want to do it that way, as my initial object was scaled accurately, but I ended up going the easy route.
There are six walls like this, so I should have quite a bit fleshed out fairly soon, and the rest of the geometry isn't that difficult.

Buying movies from Netflix?

We've been on and off with Netflix multiple times. We aren't the biggest TV watchers (some would say we aren't even the biggest movie watchers...), and we like to have movies for us (grownups) as well as some movies for them (kids). Ergo we're back on Netflix as we are generally disappointed with matching movies from cable.

Something that I haven't noticed in the previous Trey + Netflix hookups was that Netflix is selling previously viewed DVDs now. I don't have a problem buying previously viewed DVDs, as long as they are guaranteed defect-free/playable. Now, I wouldn't buy a Criterion DVD from Blockbuster's previously viewed trough, but I would from another movie-phile.

My favorite sub-genre of movies is Vampire movies. I even watched Stakeout hoping it would turn out favorably! I happened to browse the Netflix previously viewed area and found Underworld: Evolution, the sequel that I missed in the theaters and still haven't seen. At $5.99, it's quite a bargain (compared to $12.97 from DVD Price Search). There is only a single disc edition out so far, so even if I double-dip for an eventual Collector's edition, I'm only out $6.48 shipped.

It arrived three days after I ordered it in a slick plastic wrapper, and I could tell it was a standard keep case inside.

I was curious about the cover, as I've seen some DVDs with the Netflix logo inside the artwork, like it was a customized silkscreen for the Netflix DVD. I was worried that my DVD would have Netflix on the cover visible on the spine. How gauche! Amazingly, it is the retail cover, and it is in mint condition. I wasn't sure if these covers were sitting around in some warehouse in case someone decided to buy one, but there were no folds, marks or abrasions from the security sticker. This baby was pristine! But what about the DVD itself?

No insert, but I wasn't really expecting one. The silkscreened side of the DVD was pristine - no scratches or marks, no serial numbers or other Netflix-specific markings. The playable side had very minor scratching, but minor at worst. It definitely looks playable.

Overall I'm very satisfied with my purchase, especially for the price and free shipping. Netflix has probably less than 75 DVDs for sale, but I will definitely check them again before purchasing something. I'm not sure what constitutes a DVD being placed on the previously viewed for sale area though.

Model Fight update 008

Wow! Another blast from the past. I'm planning on slowly resurrecting the Model Fight, before we have to change to Model Fight 2007!

I'm going back to working on the building (Robot Factory) and giving the robots a brief rest. I managed to dodge security and take some photos of the building exterior for some reference shots. Here is one of the side wall with windows. There are 20 of these window "modules" across (each "module" contains the three large and three small windows) and three rows of them.

I had a measuring tape with me and measured everything that I could find, so my model is close to spec. Of course, I picked the day with the most wind and I borrowed a thin measuring tape, so the only thing I couldn't get was the height of the smaller window, which I estimated (with some sloppy Photoshop measurements) to be rougly a third of the large window height, which works for me.

Here is my SketchUp model. I'm just using rough colors for the base.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The STR8 dope on movie reviews

One of my good friends got talked into this whole blogging thing.

You want action? It's in there.
You want great movies you've never encountered? He's got it.
You want to know about some amazing packaging and collector's editions? Big time.

Check him out:

Monday, November 06, 2006

One more thing...

I added a Google Adsense box to see what all the fuss is about.

By the way, the Labels don't show as a drop down box, but I have a "Show/Hide all" link that can show all the Labels and clicking on them updates the contents of the box.

I've switched... the new Blogger beta program. Why? There are a good amount of reasons, but the biggest one for me is now I can label my posts. I'm not sure why Blogger didn't contain labels originally - maybe it was in place and acquired by Google before labels were The Next Big Thing in blogs? Who knows.

As I'm typing this entry, I see a spot for me to enter a Label. Hopefully it will remember all the labels that I make so I won't have to recreate the wheel each time, but I don't see it as a drop down box. Maybe after I make a few Labels will I get to select them? Hopefully.

Another big hope of mine is that I can go back and Label all my old posts. I've been wanting to show people all the posts about my Singapore trip, but without labels I have to point them to the archives and a certain date.

I'm not sure if My Sweet Blog will have many growing pains transitioning to the new beta, but I'll try to break as little as possible at a time.