Thursday, December 27, 2007

Confessions of a Junkie

The craving is, at times, insatiable, but not to the point of nosebleed. When I go too long without my fix, I get anxious. The anxiousness turns to yearning, then to obsessive thoughts.

Ramen or yakisoba with shichimi togarashi. Spam or vienna sausages fried with sriracha. Spaghetti with crushed chili pepper. Most soups with ground cayenne pepper or Tabasco depending on the type of soup. Tacos with Cholula. Pho with peppers and beef dipped in sriracha. Then there's kim chee jjigae. Spicy soup with spicy vegetables served bubbling hot.

I'm a spicy food junkie.

At Asia Cuisine, kim chee jjigae is a spicy soup served with nappa cabbage kim chee, green onions, daikon, bamboo shoots, tofu, chicken, pork, and something that I'm afraid of finding out - it appears as a thin small whitish-pink curl. I don't think it's octopus, wrong texture.

The following recipe is from a Honolulu Star Bulletin article that I ran into while doing a Google search:

Spicy Kim Chee Stew
Kim Chee Jjigae
from Sorabol restaurant

1 12-ounce jar kim chee
3 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoon corn oil
4 ounces beef or pork, sliced thin
1/2 cup firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon dashi
Salt, to taste

In a large pot, bring water, kim chee and oil to a boil. Add beef or pork, continuing to boil 3 more minutes.

Add tofu and dashi, boiling for another 3 minutes. Check for taste, correcting by adding more water or salt, if desired. Boil for another minute and serve hot. Serves 4.

Approximate nutrition analysis per serving: 150 calories, 10 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 740 milligrams sodium


This sounds simple enough. I need to try this recipe out!


Oddly enough, I don't care for wasabi.


- Cassaendra

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Deckard and the Predalien

My Blade Runner briefcase arrived yesterday! Yay! Back in July, I wrote about how excited I was that this was coming out.

The briefcase was bigger and sturdier than I expected. According to my case, only 103,000 were produced. What was displayed in those early pictures is exactly what I received. It amazes me how nice lenticular pictures are these days, compared to the goofy way they were many years go. The origami unicorn is a cheap plastic silver unicorn. It's still nice though.

The cleaned up final cut was gorgeous. I haven't watched the specials yet. We were watching it last night, and I was bundled up nice and toasty in my blanket. That was a mistake. In the winter, toasty me = unconscious me.

Today, we went to see Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (AvP-R). I really enjoyed it. Bug hated the first one, but liked this second one.

The movie was deliciously dark. It takes off from the previous AvP movie, where the Predator ship takes an impregnated Predator away.

Predalien is born.

I enjoyed seeing all the Predator's toys in use. It was also interesting to see Wolf take off from his place and playing a cleaner. Initially, I was disappointed that it took place on Earth. I like being immersed in another time and place.

It was an entertaining film overall. I certainly look forward to getting this on DVD so I can watch it again and all the specials (hopefully). Another hope is that more of these movies will be made!



I am not sure how long this link will last, but this is my very own Predalien. It's not very imaginative, I know, but hey, I love the Predator's style and toys!

- Cassaendra

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hope

Bug's mother is having surgery today. It's pretty serious and the docs don't fully know what is going on, so the operation today is to take out the bad parts and explore if there is anything more that is not right. :(

I woke up yesterday morning to thoughts of my mother. My subconscious made a connection that I did not make consciously.

My mother collapsed this time of year, years ago. Exploratory surgery was performed and it was discovered that cancer had ravaged almost all of her organs - no hope.

She gave up.

Less than one month later, I was at her bedside at home watching her slowly take her last gasps of breath before she slipped into an eternal dream. She was in her 40s.

---<@

When Bug spoke with his mother last night, I listened in. She sounded great, considering she's been poked and flushed out! I am very confident she will be okay!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Office parties.

There were two that were held outside of work; one was held at one of the ballrooms in the InterContinental Hotel and the other at a country club, Signature of Solon. I'm too lazy to go out shopping for new formal evening gowns to be around people with whom I feel I spend way too much time. One was even on a raid night! ZOMGZ! Yeah, I didn't give it a second thought and did not attend.

One of the parties I was invited to and attended was a supervisor's luncheon. The food was catered from Nate's Deli. The director has recommended several times that if I wanted to eat real Lebanese food, go to Nate's Deli.

I have wanted to try the place for some time, but an odd drawback is that it's too close to home. For some reason, we rarely eat at places really close to home. It's awkward to go to a restaurant and park before the car has even had a chance to warm up. The place has limited metered street parking, along a street full of restaurants, and is open on weekdays until 6 p.m. It's about a 7 minute drive, and is adjacent to the West Side Market.

The "basic catering for 20-25 people" was ordered for the 8 of us. It included hummus, baba ganooj, tabulee, fattoush, shish tawook, shawarma and falafel. I love Lebanese food, but this stuff was loaded with garlic, parsley, and raw onions. *SCREAM IN HORROR*

Wait, what? Almost all Lebanese food has one or all of these ingredients. How can I love Lebanese food?

The hummus was soooo thick, it was like rich peanut butter...of course, not as smooth. It had a gritty texture as one would expect, but smoother than I have had in the past. It was a little salty for my palate, but very tasty.

The baba was good. This was the first time I've actually tasted the eggplant in this dip. Compared to the hummus, believe it or not, this was blander. I preferred this over the hummus because it was a little tarter.

I typically avoid the tabulee because I dislike fresh parsley, the main ingredient (chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions, wheat germ, mixed with oil and lemon juice). Certain versions of tabulee I like, and certain ones I hate. It's a crapshoot and I didn't want to make a scene so I scooped a tiny amount at first. I think the lemon juice cut down the offensive parsley and onion flavor so it was more moderate, pleasant, and refreshing. I went for seconds.

The fattoush, which was a mix of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, sumoc oil, and vinegar, was great. What? Me eating something with raw onions and vinegar? I wouldn't have enjoyed this as much if it didn't have the pita chips. In fact, I probably wouldn't have gone for heaping returns if it weren't for the pita chips. The roasted flavor mellowed out the raw onions, which must have been mild to begin with. It was cut finely. I mean, ME...eating raw onions?!?!? No wai!

Yeah, so I went back for 4 servings of this.

The shish tawook, shawarma and falafel were rolled pita sandwiches. Shawarma consisted of sliced beef cooked in onions, parsley, and tomatoes. There was a cooked-in herb I couldn't identify that made this more interesting than this sounds. It gave it a mauve flavor. It was meaty and had no fresh vegetables, so the fattoush and tabulee were a nice balance. Shish tawook had grilled chicken. Falafel had uhh well, falafel.

This was a great meal, partly because it was so exclusive. It was a small group amongst people with whom I work closely; no "excuse me's," "sorry, coming through" bumping of bodies. We sat down at the table - director, managers, supervisors, and wee little me.

Some time in mid-November, I was asked to participate in a Secret Santa gift circle at work and a pot luck. The Secret Santa was okay. The pot luck part sucked. I was asked to bring some kind of warm vegetable dish and was urged to make "stir fry teriyaki" because I was Japanese. I explained that if I'm going to bring a Japanese dish, it's going to be authentic. It wasn't going to be a stir fry. WTF.

Fast forward to Thursday. Bug has a pinched nerve in his back from a week ago when he almost slipped on ice while brushing the snow off my car and take me to work.

The dish idea I came up while sitting on the toilet one day at work was untested. *snicker*
3 lb asparagus
2 lb orange peppers
1/2 lb red pepper
2 lb grape tomatoes
3 lb yellow squash
1/4 lb fresh basil
1/4 lb baby spinach
2 lb mushrooms
2 lb eggplant

I was going for a bright, colorful dish. I figured no one else would have anything quite as colorful -- and I was right. Some of the dishes looked like it fell off a truck or was run over.

For me, food has to first be visually appealing. Secondly, has to smell pleasant. Thirdly, the essence of all the ingredients has to either mesh well together or stand alone well together. Otherwise, it's just edible substance.

Bug asked how I wanted the concoction cooked. I gave him the above list of ingredients and explained that I wanted a liberal amount of minced garlic, olive oil, medium course ground black pepper, and a touch of very course ground salt. I also wanted to put shaved Jarlsberg cheese on top while at the party.

He looked at me oddly - garlic? salt?! cheese?!! He felt my forehead to see if I was okay. Then he pointed at me accusingly and shouted, "Pod people!!"

Yeah, yeah.

Bug and I went across town to Miles Farmers Market, instead of the West Side Market, since I got a tip that they had very skinny asparagus. West Side Market did not have skinny asparagus when we were there a week prior. We headed to the cheese, and Bug surmised after looking at the prices that the people at work probably wouldn't know the difference between good cheese and regular cheese. We picked up Sargento shredded mozzerella and provolone.

Bug cooked everything up and took ~2 hours. We made enough for the 25 people I was informed would show up. Of course, that was a gross overestimate and it was only for 15 core people.

I kind of wished we knew how to cook eggplant. It was spongy undercooked. I wanted all the veggies mostly cooked, since I knew I would have to heat it up for several minutes in the microwave oven. I ended up picking out 1/3 of the eggplant because the color wasn't what I expected. The flavor, however, was wonderfully distinct. I nuked my bowl of eggplant with some cheese, and stole some of the vegetables. It felt good in my tummy.

It's Friday, the day of the pot luck, 11:30, and I'm wondering when the lunch is. I walk by and people are setting up. I thought "WTF, thanks for telling me." When I returned from nuking my 2 containers, the organizer tells me to put my vegetables on the ground near the bread.

WTF?!

Someone overheard this and moved some dishes to the side and placed my dish up front. I put the 2nd container away, since I saw all the other platters that were there. People brought enough for one of my containers. More for us!

I ate my fill. *burp*

The dish was a success. Numerous people came up to me for the recipe. I told them Bug made it. I gave him the list of ingredients and spices, he went to town with it.

I went to the back after a couple hours to grab more cream puffs. :D People were packing stuff up. Someone packed up 5 large containers of food for themselves. I noticed my container filled with deli meat. So I said, "Wow, I guess this is for me. It's in my container."

Organizer: Oh, it's for X.
Me: Well, it's MY container.
Organizer: We didn't know whose container it was.

WTF?

Me: Well, let her know she has to return the container to me by Monday.

A few minutes later, I am at the desk with 3 other people, and she receives 4 containers of food.

X: All this for me?
Me: Yeah, you're lucky. I got NOTHING. Oh, and make sure you return the container to me by Monday.
X: I like this, I think I am going to keep this.

o.O (yeah it's petty, but WTF)

X: I'm just kidding.
Me: You better be.

Organizer: There's more food in the back.
Me: No, I don't want any of that. Everyone took the good stuff.


Bug suggested that the next time it happens, to have someone give a deposit for the cost of the container; in this case, $5. I told him there wouldn't be a next time, at least with her as the organizer.

- Cassaendra

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust?

Bug wasn't feeling too well Friday night -- yes yes, his name is Sicklybug after all -- so he wanted something spicy to eat to clear his sinuses. We've had nothing but great food and service at Asia Cuisine turned Seoul Restaurant (in the past year). The prices there are okay if you go over the weekend and get the bundled dinner for two - cheaper than on the weekdays, oddly.

As I peered through the glass door, I noticed there was no cute Korean boy at the front. I thought, ok, maybe it's finals time so the older folks are taking care of the front.

We walked in and I noticed no big picture of Jesus. No gospel choir music. In fact, no music. Hmm.

And FOLKS...not only was there more than 1 employee in the dining area, there were 4 people. Wha...?

There were a couple of shimmering bright red heart balloons at the entrance. I figured it was for the large party of 10 sitting near the window laughing gaily and chatting in Korean.

We were seated at a table set for 12, and the menus are placed before us. The menu was a report cover that still had the thin paper and adhesive residue of a recently peeled-off price tag. I really have no recollection what the old menu looked like, but I knew this wasn't it, so I looked at the back of the menu - no bundled dinner.

That clinched it. New owners. *sigh* I looked at Bug, and he drew the same conclusion.

I flipped back to the front, and re-read "Asian Cuisine." I overheard a man, who seemed like the owner, talking on the phone about a credit card issue. He mentions the restaurant is dba "Seoul Garden." The receipt that I received at the end said something different. Oh well.

We ordered 4 pieces of mandu to start. I ordered a plate of bulgogi and Bug wanted to try kal bi.

10 minutes later, our waitress brought over a pancake. I was surprised and thought, "NOooOoOoO! We ordered mandu!" Not that I hate the pancake, but I hate onions, and those pancakes come PACKED with onions. It's practically the binding ingredient that holds the pancake together.

She probably saw the startled look on my face and immediately said, "It's free. We'd like you to try it!" She explained that it had squid, shrimp, onions (I noticed!). It came with soy sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. Not to be unappreciative, I swallowed the onions whole. It wasn't bad. It reminded me of okonomiyaki. Bug didn't like it the last time we had that dish, and he still doesn't care for it. It's too bland for him.

Our plate of mandu came along with our 10 -- yes 10!! -- banchan (side dishes). I was overwhelmed by the clutter of all the dishes that we began to amass! We had slivers of something gelatinous (softer than konnyaku), anchovies, fried tofu skin in sesame oil (always my favorite), bean sprouts, mushrooms (or bamboo shoots - it tasted like menma), more pancakes, and kim chi daikon, cucumber (awesome!), and cabbage (H-O-T !). I don't remember what was in the 10th side dish. :(

The mandu tasted differently from any other time I've had it. There was a flavor that was reminiscent of something Italian. I can't place my finger (or tongue) on it. It was similar in essence to basil, but I didn't see any so I know it wasn't that. It was good. We used the same sauce that came with the pancake. The previous cook made the best sauce with crushed peppers.

A few minutes later, Bug's kalbi platter came. I only saw 3 bones in the massive pile of deliciously scented grilled meat. RAWR. My platter of bulgogi came. It was a lot more feminine with the julienne carrots and onions (cry).

After I picked out all the onions and donated them to Bug, with a few beef stragglers, I was left with less than half my dish. LOL I wouldn't order it any other way, however.

The bulgogi was quite tasty and had a sweet tinge. The beef was very tender. I want me some grilled meat! Next time, I think I'll order the kalbi; except I really want to check out their hot pot dishes. I loved that kim chi hot pot I had last time.

The service was awesome because we felt like we were a guest at their house. It was casual but not uncomfortably casual...kind of like going to your grandmother or aunt's house and eating dinner there.

Bug was STUFFED and asked for a box. The owner was concerned that the food did not taste good. Poor guy. We explained that everything was perfect.

Oh there is no tableside cooking at Asian Cuisine. Never has been in any of the incarnations we've seen. The other two Korean restaurants we've been to have it available. We still prefer Asian Cuisine because of the excellent service and the yummy food.

As we were leaving the proprietress said hello and mentioned that they had just opened up earlier in the week. They all appeared very enthusiastic with, I'm sure, high hopes for success, and a little tired. We wished them good luck and would be back again. The balloons made sense. They all waved goodbye as we stepped through the front door.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

C is for Cookie

We found out last night that our cat loves to eat ribbon tails. I suppose it's not a far stretch since he also loves to eat hair, dental floss, cobwebs...

It was such a beautiful ribbon, but I had to throw it out because it got so slimy.




Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's are awesome. It's an Oreo-type cookie with crushed candy canes folded into the cream filling. It has just the right amount of peppermint to give you the cool "ooh" at the end, and not too much that it becomes overpowering.

WTG Trader Joe's!

- Cassaendra

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pho-n Times...

By a wide margin, pho is our most frequently eaten dish. We've been thinking about making pho for some time and recently got ourselves motivated enough to try making it ourselves.

Pen in hand, Bug busily scribbled a list of ingredients, comparing between two Vietnamese cookbooks that we have. We looked at each other and boggled at the parsnips. Being motivated, but not 3-hour soup base motivated, we substituted beef broth for the ox tails, flank steak, and beef bones with marrow. Since I hate onions, he listed just enough for the soup base and garnish for 1 serving.

Since we had a late start, we headed to Lemongrass for a quick late afternoon meal/dinner. Cool! The OPEN sign was lit. To be safe, we paid for 2 hours on the parking meter, even though we're usually in and out in 45 minutes; waddled across the gusty and snowy parking lot; and as Bug pulled the door open - resistance. It was locked.

They are closed between ~2:30 - 5:00 p.m. ARGH!!!

On the drive over, I was salivating over my favorite dish there -- the Thai Mango Curry (extra spicy) -- large chunks of warm mango, tender chicken, and aromatic Thai basil, smothered in a rich, slightly sweet but not overpowering coconut curry, with galangal and kaffir lime leaves. It has so many layers of flavor, I won't do it justice describing the subtlety of each bite! The jasmine rice is a heavenly complement to this work of perfection.

Bug usually orders the spicy beef basil dish, which has a dark, beefy flavor, served with onions, red and green peppers, Thai basil, and kaffir leaves. Its flavor is a lot more straightforward than my dish. I love the flavor of beef!! The infusion of Thai basil into the tender slices beef just makes a good thing...uhh, gooder!

We trucked over to Corky & Lenny's, one of our favorite delis, since it was on the way to Trader Joe's, the only place in town that I trust to have fresh(er) wafered beef.

Corky & Lenny's pickles and green tomatoes are the bestest...very fresh and not sour! I have yet to eat a pickle better than theirs, and its complimentary! I ordered the New Yorker, an epic corned beef sandwich, stacked so high with extremely lean corned beef you could feed 2 large families. :) The sandwich comes spread with cole slaw and Thousand Island dressing on toasted rye bread, along with a tiny cup of potato salad. Their potato salad is great - no onions, yay! It has a slightly tart flavor, but isn't a mustard potato salad. I'm not certain, but it appears to have pimentos.

Bug had the reuben, epic in similar proportion to mine, except spread with sauerkraut, instead of cole slaw, and melted swiss cheese. Good schtuff! We were offered another dish of pickles and green tomatoes, and emphatically accepted! YUM!

We then rushed over to Trader Joe's, grabbed the meat, and sped over to Good Harvest before they closed to get the pho seasoning packet, which consisted of a few dried star anise, cinnamon sticks, some green pods, and cloves. We looked for a list of ingredients to find out what the green pods were and found, "Ingredients: Spices."

Oh well.

Bug couldn't find cilantro or coriander cheaply at the regular grocery store, just the organic kind that has 3 sprigs for $4. So that was skipped.

While pouring the beef broth in the pot, we find out that we didn't get a cheesecloth to put the spices in. All the spices were thrown in to the broth, including the mysterious green pods. Onions, parsnips, and ginger were chopped and thrown in. At this point, the broth smells kind of like pho, but not quite there. Maybe it just needs a few hours to simmer.

Two hours later, Bug pours the soup into another pot through a strainer. The steam rolls up and my nose wrinkles. It smells like medicine. Totally unlike what I'd expected. He offers me a spoonful. It's edible, but it tastes a lot like medicine. :(

A little shoyu and nuoc mam were added, which made it taste like shoyu medicine. It was also the last of our shoyu.

Defeat.

Bug poured the pot of soup down the drain.

I picked up the can of broth and noticed all the added ingredients, and let out a sigh. Next time, we're going to follow the recipe directions exactly. I know the recipe I have works because I've had its soup before with wonderful results.

The fresh rice noodles, Thai basil, jalapenos, wafered beef, and lime didn't go to waste. We bought a $0.49 box of pho cubes and used that. It was ok. We might use it to augment the soup the next time around. The rest of the beef was used to make butter yaki, which came out too gamey, so I added a Thai holy basil mixture and coconut milk to tone it down. Guess the beef was going bad. The outcome was edible.

Despite the defeat, this was still a fun experiment and a great learning experience.

I saw a sole green pod stuck in the strainer and squished it open. It was cardamom.

- Cassaendra

Friday, November 30, 2007

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

It's that time of year again!

Our annual celebration to commemorate our pact to join for life is coming up. So, I've decided to take a 4-day weekend! Well, this is as good as any reason to be able to leisurely spend a few days away from work, which I do enjoy but feel that I spend too much time dwelling -- on my butt staring at a screen all day -- upon.

Shopping.
Trader Joe for some edamame, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and gifts for family and friends. Their edamame is the most inexpensive I've found in the area. 2 pounds for under $2. I can't fathom E V E R ordering edamame at a restaurant, where they typically run $3-4 for ~10 pods.

Yes, PODS!

Nourishment.
Yay, we went to Shinano for some home-cooked Japanese food. This is the only Japanese restaurant in the region that is capable of making any Japanese dish I request. The restaurant is owned and operated by Japanese people (owner is a sansei). 99% of the time, I don't order off the menu. Not sure if they hate me for that. :P

After not having korokke for nearly 20 years, I had this sudden urge to eat some several months ago. Nothing on their menu has regular potatoes either, but they were able to whip some up for me.


The day before, I was at a session where Dr. Michael Roizen was speaking. He has a book out titled, "YOU: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty."

Dr. Roizen is charismatic and humorous, so the session was very enjoyable. He spoke about living life well, where death does not have to be a downward spiral but more of a swan dive. He spoke on how having 'bad genes' doesn't mean doom, and stressed taking initiative to fix the broken parts so the body can be nudged to work toward its optimal potential. He went over fairly simple 'nudges' for various common problems. One such fix is adding turmeric (eating curry) to your diet due to its beneficial effects against Alzheimer's disease.

I'm definitely going to look through the book the next time I hit a bookstore. If the book is anything like his presentation, I will purchase the book not only for myself, but for others!

- Cassaendra

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day I Got More Than Cookie


Oooh, my stuffed belly. I had trouble sleeping through the night because I was so full!

Bug cooked Thanksgiving (week) feast from Monday into Thursday afternoon...well, not all hours of the day and night. Ample time was spent sleeping and raiding on WoW, since we had all our groceries by the weekend.

The spread:
- stuffing
- white rice
- dirty rice
- cranberry sauce
- the best mashed potatoes I've ever eaten
- mustard greens...mmm smokey, but a little too salty
- turkey with gravy
- green bean casserole
- red velvet cake...almost all gone by Wednesday! Oops!
- sweet potato pie to the rescue

We had the fixin's and every intention, but no room left, to make:
- German potato salad
- goulash with spaetzle
- yams with marshmallows

It'll be our dinner this weekend along with the feast leftovers!

Despite all the food we have left over, I rushed out of the house this morning because I wanted to leave early for work due to the snow and didn't have time to eat breakfast at home or pack a lunch. I arrived 20 minutes early. Traffic was light, but people were driving achingly slow for the conditions as it had stopped snowing.

It was early enough to get myself a small bowl of watermelon and a refreshing bottle of Kristall lingonberry soda for breakfast. I find it satisfying sipping on lingonberry soda, looking out the window watching the fluffy snow twirl and dance by. For lunch, I had a roast beef sandwich from Subway and a bowl of vegetable soup.

Ugh, my aching tummy! I'm stuffed all over again!

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ode to Joy

The title "Ode to Joy" came to mind while I was savoring my dark chocolate peppermint mocha frappucino from Starbucks. It dawned on me that I've never read the lyrics to that song. I've played it before, and in my mind I can hear the loud din of a choir singing the chorus...without any discernable words.

I ran "ode to joy" on Google and came up with a Wikipedia (*groan*) entry. Yes, I take any information on that public forum with a grain of salt. They listed the original German "lyrics" and the English translation adjacent to it.

The poem by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller is titled, "An die Freude" ("To Joy").

Not being a practitioner of any religion, I still found certain images to be rather interesting.

Joy, thou source of light immortal,
Daughter of Elysium!
Touched with fire, to the portal,
Of thy radiant shrine, we come.
Your sweet magic, frees all others,
Held in custom's rigid rings,
All men on earth become brothers,
In the haven of your wings.

Chorus
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the entire world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father reside.

Whoever has the great fortune,
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever wins the love of a lovely woman,
Add his jubilation to ours!
Yes, anyone also who has a soul
To call his own on this earth!
And anyone who never could, should run away
Weeping from this brotherhood!

Chorus
Those who occupy the great circle,
Pay homage to sympathy!
It leads to the stars
Where the unknown is enthroned

Joy, all creatures drink
At the bosoms of nature,
All good, all evil
Follow your trail of roses.
Kisses she gives us, and wine,
A friend, proven in death.
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.


Chorus
Do you fall before him, you millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy,
Above the stars he must live.

Joy is called the strong spring
In the perpetuity of nature.
Joy, joy drives the wheels
In the earth’s great clock.
Flowers, she calls from the buds,
Suns, out of the firmament,
Spheres, she rolls through space
That the seer cannot know

Chorus
Happy, as his suns fly
Through the heavens’ magnificent plan
Run, brothers, your race
Joyful, as a hero to victory.

As truth’s fiery reflection
Smiles at the explorer,
To virtue’s steep hill
She guides the silent sufferers’ path.
On faith’s sunlit summit
One sees her banners in the wind,
Through the cracks of burst coffins
They are seen in the chorus of angels.

Chorus
Endure courageously, you millions!
Endure for the better world!
Over the starry canopy
A good God will reward you!

Gods one cannot repay
Beautiful it is, to be like them.
Grief and poverty, acquaint yourselves
With the joyful ones rejoice.
Anger and revenge be forgotten,
Our deadly enemy be forgiven,
No tears shall he shed
No remorse shall gnaw at him

Chorus
Our debt registers be abolished
Reconcile the entire world!
Brothers, over the starry canopy
God judges, as we judged.

Joy bubbles in the cup,
In the grape’s golden blood
Cannibals drink gentleness
The fearful, courage --
Brothers, fly from your perches,
When the full cup is passed,
Let the foam spray to the heavens
This glass to the good spirit

Chorus
He whom the spirals of stars praise,
He whom the seraphim’s hymn glorifies,
This glass to the good spirit
Above the starry canopy!

Courage firm in great suffering,
Help there, where innocence weeps,
Eternally sworn oaths,
Truth towards friend and foe,
Mens’ pride before kings’ thrones --
Brothers, even if it costs property and blood, --
The crowns to those who earn them,
Defeat to the lying brood!

Chorus
Close the holy circle tighter,
Swear by this golden vine:
Remain true to the vows,
Swear by the judge above the stars!

Escape the tyrants’ chains,
Generosity also to the villain,
Hope upon the deathbeds,
Mercy from the high court!
The dead, too, shall live!
Brothers, drink and chime in,
All sinners shall be forgiven,
And hell shall be no more.

Chorus
A serene departing hour!
Sweet sleep in the shroud!
Brothers—a mild sentence
From the final judge!



I also didn't realize how long the lyrics were!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Putt Putt


Like a little schoolboy, as soon as the WoW servers came online last week Tuesday after patch 2.3, Bug ran to the vendor, bought his hula doll, and put his engineering mastery to use to make the newly available turbo-charged flying machine.

Yes, the hula doll is on the dashboard as you can see...




It sputters (?hydrocarbons) and gasps on liftoff, and may look rickety with an occasional mid-air idle, but it's an extremely fast flying machine.


Bug & I


Friday evening, we went out to eat at Seoul Restaurant. There was a different young guy working behind the counter. Still an extremely polite, cute, and very young 1st gen Korean.

As I was glossing over the menu, my eyes kept wandering over to the bulgogi, but I was determined to get something new. In the past, we've ordered the dinner for two - mandu (appetizer), bulgogi (main dish), and ice cream/fruit (dessert) for $25.

Bulgogi is my favorite Korean dish. Thinly sliced beef marinated in a slightly sweetened soy sauce with sesame, grilled, and oh-so-tender. With English choir gospel playing in the background, it inspired me to order the kim chee soup; the name has slipped my mind. In the description, it said, kim chee, meat, and noodles. I figured, "Meh, how could this possibly go wrong?" so I ordered it. Bug ordered bulgogi. We also ordered a huge platter of mandu.

There were two other parties in the restaurant, both spoke only Korean. This always makes me happy...or more like reassurance that it's not craptastic Korean food.

Waiting for our food, I'd forgotten about the large picture of Jesus hanging from the wall. Interspersed along the walls are newspaper reprints about the restaurant and taped white copy paper with marker-scribbled Korean script, presumably advertising dishes.

While we were waiting for our food, Bug and I were talking about "the game." He was quite excited about getting a belt earlier in the day.

Our big platter of mandu arrived. This time, the dumplings were fried 'til it formed a dark brown crust. Oooh, perfection! The sauce here is great. It's a thick soy sauce base, with crushed chili peppers and sesame. After eating 4 meaty dumplings, my mouth was tingling a little. I had two more dumplings left and was saving it until the rice arrived.

A few minutes later, our 8 side dishes and two steel bowls of rice arrived. The side dishes consisted of kim chee'ed sliced cucumbers, cabbage, and daikon triangles in separate dishes; julienne carrots and daikon in a very light and sweetened vinegar (almost Vietnamese style); bean sprouts in sesame and chili oil; fried tofu, red and green bell peppers in sesame oil; choi sum in soy sauce and chili peppers; and dried sardines with chili peppers. After a nibble of each of the dishes, my mouth was tingling constantly. My favorites this time around were the fried tofu in oil and the choi sum. The fried tofu was soft and tasty, with a mellow sesame flavor, while the fresh choi sum had a slight crunch and crisp dark green flavor.

Bug's bulgogi arrived. And then I heard what sounded like a bubbling cauldron approaching. The young guy was carefully carrying a little earthen pot. My god, as I peered over the edge as he set the soup down before me, I saw angrily boiling red. I waited a couple of minutes, and it was still gurgling!

I mixed the bubbling soup to investigate what I had ordered. I came across a piece of mochi! I put the molten piece of mochi in my mouth. My eyes instantly watered as my mouth began to drip from my face.

It was a little hot...

The soup consisted of kim chee, mochi, tofu, chili peppers, pieces of meat, more kim chee, onions, and bamboo shoot slivers. I took my first sip. The soup was HOT! Like...peppery hot!

The side dishes would be of no solace - despite the majority being cold - just more kindling to stoke the flames! GAH! The daikon and carrot slivers caught me eye, so I greedily ate those to smolder the flames. It worked! I took another sip of my soup with a piece of cabbage and the flames erupted again.

Midway through the meal, I began to cough up phlegm from the deep recesses of my lungs, it was great!

Halfway home, with the still-hot soup in a container on my lap, my mouth was still burning. I thought, "Wow! I can't wait to return and try another hot pot concoction!"

- Cassaendra

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Light of the Dharma

At work, we celebrated Diwali, a corruption of Deepawali, which is the "light of the dharma," or literally, "array of clay lamps." The celebration is also known as the Festival of Lights. This is an Indian celebration of the victory of good over evil. It was to have been celebrated on November 9th, but it was hectic here and moved to this week. The actual day is determined by the Hindu calendar, as opposed to a predetermined calendar date in the year, which falls some time in October or November.

The celebration was very bright and festive. The scent of candles, cardamom and cumin filled the halls. There was a large spread of food that many of our Indian co-workers made! The hallway was abuzz with excitement. Definitely a joyous time. Several varieties of samosa and spicy "trail mixes," for a lack of a better way for ignorant-me to describe it, were served, as well as lassi, pakoda with cilantro chutney, various finger cookies, rasmalai, and semia. All dishes were made from scratch!

Lassi was excellent. It is a lightly sweetened yogurt drink infused with cardamom. It tasted liked Yakult. I enjoyed nibbling on the remnants of cardamom that collected at the bottom of my cup.

Pakoda was my favorite. It is a spicy deep fried cluster of peas mixed with flour, other vegetables, and cumin. It was a little buttery in flavor, and went well with the spicier cilantro chutney. I can't stand cilantro, but this was wonderful!

The trail mix consisted of tiny pieces of vermicelli, nuts, and other grains that were probably roasted. They were crunchy with a faint buttery cumin flavor and a spicy zip. Once it's been munched, you miss the flavor, and have to go back for more. It's dangerously addictive and I'm glad the food is not in my hallway anymore, since I moved offices.

Each year, I look forward to the dessert made with ricotta cheese, rasmalai. Oh how I love the milky dessert with clumps of ricotta. As one would imagine, it's sweet and creamy. The ground pistachios beautifully contrast the color of the white dessert and gives it a slightly nutty flavor. It always amazes me that cheese can be used as a dessert so deliciously!

I brought spaghetti napolitan for lunch. What a waste, since I'm so full!! Maybe after I poop, I'll be hungry enough to eat again! I'm sure all the creamy desserts will send me to the pot very soon! Go go lactose intolerance!

- Cassaendra

Friday, November 9, 2007

28 Days Later

What can happen in 4 weeks?



(image from http://www.polarbreezemals.com/)


(image from http://www.alclairalpacas.com/)


Or you can be sick. CoughSniffleSneezeHack. 4 weeks and counting. Although, today I feel much better, despite the drippy nose. I think it's because I gave it to everyone else at work and it's Friday! Muhahahaha!

Oh, and I'm not pregnant. When I initially linked the pics, the train of thought didn't dawn on me until I hit "Publish" tee hee.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Atrocity Exhibition


Tonight may be the first time I'll be raiding in Karazhan with my guild on Maelstrom! I've been level 70 for about a week now and my gear is quite horrible. I shouldn't be making excuses, but here goes. I have worked through 70 levels as a feral druid (cat - MEOW) with the goal of becoming a healing druid end-game. My *cough* über-est gear is feral, where the quest leftovers that didn't have anything to contribute to my leveling (feral) are where I obtained my healing gear.

I need to clarify that my feral gear is REALLY bad. Needless to say (but I will anyway), my healing gear is quite atrocious.

Despite having been to Kara on my old server, I've always felt fairly confident about healing and my gear since Vetiver 1.0 has always been resto. With Vet 2.0, I still don't know where my heal buttons are, since I've only been resto for about a week, and in that week, I was forced to respec twice to tank just to get a group going. Once, I meant to heal someone quickly and ended up giving them mana regeneration (innervate). Be very afraid...

Also, when I raided regularly, it was under a different user interface. *mourn* Flexbar

My old UI, Flexbar, was 100% customized for ME by ME. I plotted where every single button went, when I wanted it to appear, how large, and so on. The current one (CTMod) is better than the default UI, but pretty close to it. I've tried Trinity as my UI, but it stopped working too. Still not as flexible as Flexbar.

I realize this post has nothing to do with the Ballard book, but that was the first thing that came to mind for a title (thanks to Joy Division). My titles are typically nonsensical anyway...

- Cassaendra

Monday, October 1, 2007

It's Showtime!

WoW update -- Bug hit 70 yesterday. I'm still lagging behind at 55.

With all the new tv shows that sprouted last week, I didn't have time to be toiling on a computer. So I spent my time watching new shows and new seasons of old shows.

I forgot the time and missed a few shows like "CSI" (Las Vegas), "NCIS," and "Shark."

The show that I was impressed with was "Life" (Wednesdays, NBC). The main character is a cop, Charlie Crews, who was placed in a maximum security prison for 12 years for a crime he did not commit. Of course, being a cop in jail meant he was brutalized - this was shown briefly. As part of his settlement, aside from an undisclosed amount which is probably in the 10s of millions, he returns to the police force as a detective.

He is partnered with a woman who is riding the line (in more ways than one). She is being pressured from above to find any way to get Crews ousted from the force.

When people ask him about his time spent in prison, whether he harbors any resentment, he takes the zen approach. At the end of the pilot, they show a glimpse of him trying to piece together who could be responsible for setting him up to take the fall.

"Journeyman" and "Bionic Woman" were two other new shows. They are both okay, but I didn't immediately feel that I needed to religiously follow up. They both have potential to be nifty shows.

"Journeyman" is about a guy who has sudden episodes that send him traveling briefly back into time. He draws the conclusion that he needs to help the person he comes into contact with...yep, it sounds like "Quantum Leap."

He also sees his old flame (who died a few years back) in his travels. What makes this pretty intriguing is that in his trips back, he bumps into her outside of their apartment moving in "present" time.

"Heroes" is something I caught on the last or second to last episode of its first season. I never had the time to catch it because I was always too busy on WoW. It's kind of like X-Men of all shapes and sizes, including the intertwining corporate and political agendas. Our heroes have been pushed underground to hide from the Corporation, from what I can piece together. George Takei played Hiro's father until his character died.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cuckoo, How He Can Sing

Namaste.

WoW update on the new server, Maelstrom: Bug is 61 and I'm a lowbie 48.

For some reason, I started thinking about the song I used to sing when I was a kid. All I can very vaguely remember is:

Cuckoo, cuckoo - how he can sing
We like to hear him
And to be near him
Cuckoo, cuckoo...

It's probably wrong...maybe I'm just cuckoo!?

While I took a couple of days off work recently, the first thing I thought to do on my day off was to visit India's Cafe in Parma, an unassuming restaurant that we've passed many times. They serve a buffet that, like most places, is only served on weekdays at lunch. I figured what better way to taste a variety of food without much commitment, except for paying $5.95.

I really didn't know what to expect. The door was propped open and a man warmly greeted us as we entered into a scent of curries, basmati, and carraway. It is a very simple, small, and clean place with 5-6 tables covered with vinyl tablecloth. I looked over to the plainly visible kitchen. It was clean and more spacious than the dining area. A woman was kneading bread and another man in a turban busily cooking over a stove.

To the far end of the dining area (15 feet away) was the buffet table with warmers. At first, I was disappointed at seeing only 4 warmers and another table with a pot of soup.

We were offered nan. I ordered a mango shake, while Bug had a can of Mountain Dew. We walked over to the stack of deep-welled styrofoam plates and filled it with a deep-fried chickpea and vegetable ball; spinach and potatoes; lots of rice; papadum; and chicken masala. I also grabbed some soup.

My favorite was the chicken masala, at least what was left of it. Maybe it was because we came in at 1:00 p.m., but between Bug and I, we fought over 2 morsels of chicken that were left in the pan of masala...so the sauce was excellent over their tasty basmati rice. The rice had a subtle flavor that I couldn't clearly identify. It was a little smoky and had an essence of carraway. There was a big black rock in the pan. It was labeled as pilau, which made me chuckle ("filthy" in Hawaiian).

The soup was well-seasoned and probably chicken stock. It was okay, as far as my novice-to-Indian-food taste buds go.

The nan was fresh and piping hot, excellent with the cucumber yogurt raita and spicy pickled vegetables. I scarfed it down quickly. Those vegetables always make me want to blink, shake my head, and yell, "WOW!" While the food is not ornate, it is well seasoned and tasty, which is what counts (at least 90% of the time)! We were offered more nan half way through our stack. Definitely not like the stingy servings from Cafe Tandoor.

The rice pudding was tasty. I'm a sucker for desserts with warm coconut milk!

While the buffet choices were sparse, I did find a dish I thoroughly enjoyed with service that was wonderful. I left satisfied - palatte, tummy, and curiosity - and will return. The residual burn on my greedy little fingers from the hot nan was still felt two days later.

On my next trip, I'm ordering the chicken masala (unless they have lamb!), check out the rogan josh, and top it off with the rice pudding. Yum!

- Cassaendra

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, we did it.

We went back to WoW and joined our fearless guild leader, Westleey, on a different server in the WoW chapter of Crimson Eternity. Ysall, our wonderful recruitment officer, has opened up Crimson Eternity on Lord of the Rings MMORPG.

It's been two weeks. Bug and I are presently levels 34(rogue) and 33(druid), respectively.

We had a lengthy discussion about returning to WoW and concluded that this would keep us out of trouble and end up saving us money. There isn't the temptation of walking outside or driving around with gasoline at $2.99/gallon.

One of my weaknesses is trying new restaurants; although, half the time we end up going to our usual restaurants since we can anticipate good service and food. Being out and about only intensifies the desire of checking places out where we happen to be hungry.

We've recently checked out Cici's, a pizza and salad buffet. Not being a pizza fan, I usually make up a plate of salad, drink a cup of soup, and eat a cup of spaghetti. I may try a couple of slices of pizza that intrigue me. Their cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven are quite good. Mmmm!

The selection isn't as good as California Pizza Kitchen's pasta, pizza, and dessert, but I won't be walking out of CPK sated for $4.49, especially when I'm in the mood for something quick, substantial, and inexpensive.

Their Buffalo chicken pizza was surprisingly spicy. Their macaroni cheese pizza made me chuckle. I had to try it. Yep, it tastes like mac cheese on pizza dough.

I may be weird in feeling this way, but each time I've gone to Cici's, it reminds me of going to a ramen-ya in Japan. Every time a customer walks in, my mind hears, "Irasshaimase!" as they bellow, "Welcome to Cici's!"

When we leave, I almost feel awkward not brushing the noren aside as they shout behind us, "Thank you!"

- Cassaendra

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sweet Dreams, Kumori and Tanuki


Kumori

Our cloudy stray baby found under a box of charcoal at Bug's workplace is now comfortably sleeping for eternity. After Tanuki died nearly a month previous, he was never the same.

Tanuki

Our sprite that leaped everywhere, climbed a 6' shelf, broke her leg from sliding down the sofa, and raced across the floor with her cast suffered so much pain in the end.

I'm glad their suffering is over.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...

Every time I think of the movie, "The Sound of Music," I think of the stage performance by the von Trapp family at the end of the film as they are making their escape.

The EQ guild that I was once an active member, shut its doors on August 19th.

This event has closed the book on my EQ life. I had toyed with the thought of returning, but realistically, I would not. The game just takes too much effort. The *game* is not as real-life friendly as World of Warcraft, where one can log in for a few minutes and complete an objective alone or with the help of one other person. Yes, it's easy to get lost and play for hours, but that is a matter of choice.

People starting MMOs with WoW will probably never know to the same degree what it feels like to have 50+ people move as one, as a successful high-end raiding guild in EQ; especially in a guild where RL came first, so we weren't playing with the same people every encounter. I would imagine someone in the military saying the same thing about gamers! :)

(image from "The Sound of Music" taken from yahoo.com)

Some have remained in the guild to carry on the flame that once roared, while some have left for other games together, others have left to move into other raiding guilds in hopes of continuing that excitement or to returned to their old haunts.

I mentioned to someone earlier today, I doubt Verant had any idea the degree that a game they created would change the lives of so many people, where lasting relationships formed beyond the pixels.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Run for the Border

Bug used to make enchiladas the traditional way, by dipping a tortilla in scalding enchilada sauce, followed by rolling meat, refried beans, and cheese into a cylinder, like sushi (ha!), and then placing them one-by-one in a rectangular casserole dish to be baked.

One day, he made the enchiladas like lasagne, in horizontal layers. It was four times faster and he didn't have burnt fingers from the heat and spices. The difference in flavor was negligible and was, in fact, easier for me to eat.

We're on a tight budget these days, and this goes a long way. We looked in our cupboards and fridge to see what ingredients we already had. We had all but a few ingredients. Yay! This is also a great exercise in teamwork and leave-alone while gaming dish. :)

Without further ado, our dinner this evening - Enchilada Casserole à la SicklyBug

Preparation: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
3 lb ground beef
2 packets taco seasoning
32 oz refried beans
1/2 cup salsa
12 oz enchilada sauce
10 large flour tortillas (~9" diameter)
12 oz cheese, finely shredded monterey jack, cheddar, asadero, queso blanco mix
oil

Makes 10-12 servings

1. Cook the ground beef in a large pot. No oil is used to cook the meat.

2. Once the ground beef is thoroughly cooked, drain grease for a few minutes in a colander, and then return beef to the pot and add taco seasoning.

3. Add the refried beans and salsa to the beef. Cook until well incorporated.

4. Set oven to 200F.

5. Coat 13" x 9" casserole dish with oil.

6. Coat two whole tortillas with enchilada sauce on both sides and place in casserole dish so the tortillas reaches the left and right edge of the dish lengthwise. The tortilla diameter should suffice to cover the dish width.

7. Tear one tortilla into quarters to form a wedge, then coat the tortilla wedges on both sides with enchilada sauce. Place each sharp edge in each corner of the casserole dish. There should be a contingous tortilla layer.

8. Evenly spread a half-inch layer of the meat-bean mixture.

9. Sprinkle a thin coating of cheese.

10. Repeat steps 7-9. There should be just enough meat-bean filling.

11. Repeat step 7. Tear one tortilla in half. Coat the tortillas on both sides with the enchilada sauce. Slide the straight edge of each half into the two lengthwise edges of the casserole dish so the straight edges are wedged into the sides as far down as possible.

12. Add enough enchilada sauce to evenly distribute a light coat over the top layer of tortillas. Cover with foil and poke holes in the foil, then place dish in oven.

13. After 45 minutes, take the casserole out of the oven and cover evenly with cheese. Place the dish back in the oven, foil off, for 15 minutes to melt the cheese.


Cost:
3 lb ground chuck -- $2.12/lb = $6.36
2 packets taco seasoning -- $1.00/packet = $2.00
32 oz refried beans -- in cupboard ($0.49 x 2 cans = $0.98)
1/2 cup salsa, hot -- in fridge ($1.99)
12 oz enchilada sauce -- in cupboard (anywhere between $0.79 for a regular can - ~$3.00 for Trader Joe's bottle)
10 large flour tortillas -- $1.50
12 oz cheese, finely shredded -- in fridge ($1.99/8 oz = $3.98)
oil -- in cupboard ($2.00)

Total cost was $10.00, which will be good for 5-6 meals. If all ingredients had to be purchased, this dish would have cost $20-22.

Bug is a mega carnivore, so he was happy with the dish as is. I needed something cool and crisp to accompany this dish with it being so dense and warm. I added one shredded leaf of head lettuce and 2 grape tomatoes. No dressing was needed. To further spike the enchilada, as well as give it a tang, I added a teaspoon of Cholula hot sauce.

As I am writing this, I'm enjoying a bowl of cool almond agar for dessert. A refreshing cap to this meal.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Say "Kim Cheez!"


Our adventure began one afternoon when Bug suddenly proposed that we venture to a nearby post to retrieve some provisions for his next experiment: kim chee. Walking out of our camp, we immediately encountered the oppressive blockade of heat and humidity. Gazing into the sky, I was distracted by the dark clouds quickly gathering above us, until a broad white flash and boom jolted me into the present.

Partway through our trek in torrential rain, we had to backtrack since one of the roads had transformed into Lake Erie. Backing up, we passed others who were merrily traveling along at a quick pace unaware of the danger ahead.

By the time I passed through the front door at Good Harvest, past the altar with its soft scent of burning incense, I had forgotten why we were there so I meandered through the aisles, shaking bottles with contents that were unidentifiable from the descriptions on the label, poked at the fresh fish and shellfish, and eventually found myself at the altar of all that is right with the universe - the noodle aisle.

Myojo Chukazanmai - Peking style

Myojo Chukazanmai shoyu, miso, hiyashi, oriental, and rayu are staples in our household because it is by far the best instant ramen available in the US, so we greedily picked up 3-4 of each flavor. We poked around at other ramen packets from Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and of course Japan, picking up some to experiment -- hot and sour beef, roast beef, spicy garlic, Tokyo shoyu ramen, mi goreng, sukiyaki flavor (ponder), and Nissin tonkotsu ramen (glamorously packaged like Myojo's Chukazanmai line), as well as some old favorites like Sapporo Ichiban yaki soba and Mama tom yum mi tom.

With a jab to the ribs, Bug reminded me of the purpose of our mission. I scurried back to get some bok choy, grabbed some sea salt, and scoured the long aisle of powdered mixes. To my left, 4-5 shelves along the length of the aisle of powdered mixes from all parts of Asia and Hawaii neatly laid out flat, not vertically. There were packets of Indonesian, Thai, and Japanese fried rice mixes, Hawaiian and Chinese packets from Noh, Filipino adobo and kari-kari, miso soup, and other batches of granules. On the other side, a variety of mixes from pouches of powdered mixes, packets of condensed seasoning in oil, to ready-made bags of meat and mushroom soup hanging on hooks from the ground to 6' high.

Is this cheating?


The trip home was uneventful, as if the storm was just an adventurous figment of a blogger's imagination. The sun was shining through the breaks in the wispy white clouds. The only remnants of the rain was the soaked roadway and an occasional branch in the road.

Bug washed, cut, and salted the bok choy in our stew pot. With the pot filled with water, he left a plate on top so the cabbage remained submerged. At around midnight, he washed and drained the cabbage, then added the mix with water, and placed the concoction into an old jar of pickles to sit on our counter for over a day.

We had mushrooms, bean sprouts, green onions, and zucchini so he decided to kim chee them all. Of course, Bug fermented them in my two favorite Tupperware containers.

I was shocked to see how little 5 lbs of cabbage net. It gave us only 1/2 a jar of kim chee. Because it wasn't as spicy as he had hoped, Bug added about a teaspoon of our extra-spicy variety of sriracha to the kim chee, which gave it a wonderful flare...flair.

The mushrooms turned out squishy, as did the bean sprouts. The zucchini was excellent and I hope that we make it again, maybe as white kim chee. I don't eat raw onions, so I have no idea how the green onions turned out but it has since been tossed out along with the mushrooms and bean sprout soup. I should have thrown the Tupperware out as well, because the smell has bonded with the container molecules now. Pew.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dororo


Trailer to Dororo, 2006



Dororo is a movie, game, and anime based on the manga by Tezuka Osamu. The movie is entertaining, with humor, action, and drama woven together fairly well. Two-thirds through the movie, the pace slows down a little, but picks up 3/4 through. The pay-off is worthwhile, and marches us toward Dororo 2.

The movie begins with a warlord, Kagemitsu Daigo, who appears to be on the verge of defeat in a campaign during the Sengoku period and runs into a temple for cover. Against the monk's advice that he not enter one of the buildings, the warlord enters and shuts himself in.

Kagemitsu mutters his frustration in his attempts to quickly conquer the country and asks for help. One of the 48 demon statues in the room speaks of being able to assist him gain power. In exchange, he must give the demons his unborn son. Kagemitsu quickly agrees.


Opening cinematic for Dororo on PS2, 2004
Also known as Blood Will Tell in the US and Europe


Shortly thereafter, the warlord's baby is born; a husk...a piece of flesh with no face, limbs, heart,...48 parts of his body missing. The father tries to slay the infant, but the mother cannot bear to see the infant slain. She finally agrees to let go of the child by setting it afloat down a river in a basket.

A physician, Jukai, sees the abomination and brings it back to his home. As this is a time of war, the physician has been treating many of the wounded, making prosthetics for some. We find that he also practices necromancy. With the bodies of dead children from the war, Jukai forms the missing parts for the infant that he names Hyakkimaru.


Trailer for Dororo on PS2


A bard appears one day, and the physician and bard exchange stories. The bard leaves a blade of vengeance with Jukai for the boy.

We see the infant as a child, still physically without sight, hearing, or speech, but able to function "normally." Jukai teaches him how to appear normal and to fight. Each limb has a hidden weapon of some kind.


Segment from Dororo the anime, 1969


Hyakkimaru is now a young man. Wars are still ongoing. Jukai relays his wish before his last breath, to have their home and his work destroyed, as he is afraid his discoveries of immortality falling into the wrong hands.

A young boy is running away, trying to elude someone he pickpocketed, when he runs into a tavern where Hyakkimaru is in the midst of slaying one of the demons. He is stunned having witnessed Hyakkimaru slay a demon with a blade imbedded in his left arm, and then writhe on the floor as one of his molded body parts disintegrates and a new fleshy real body part is regenerated.


Credits for Dororo the anime


The thief sees the bard and Hyakkimaru talking. When Hyakkimaru leaves, the thief asks the bard what had transpired. Intrigued by the story and his burning desire to kill Kagemitsu, the warlord who killed his parents, he wishes to obtain the imbedded blade, and sets out to journey with Hyakkimaru, who later names her Dororo.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, August 4, 2007

What's for Dinner?


I'm thinking Arby's.

Bug and I were driving around this afternoon, when we noticed several signs planted into the grass wavering in the breeze along the sidewalk advertising 99 cent roast beef sandwiches at Arby's. We followed the signs like Hänsel and Gretel, and found ourselves at the doorstep of an Arby's half a mile away.

We uhh confirmed that their regular roast beef sandwiches were indeed 99 cents (normally $2.69 each) and their large curly fries were $1.99. No gingerbread or candy, but lots of apple and cherry turnovers!

Mmm.

- Cassaendra

Friday, August 3, 2007

Land of the Almost Dead


The 12th Annual Taste of Cleveland will be taking place between August 31st - September 3rd.

Musicians playing:
Friday, August 31 - INXS with opener Will Hoge
Saturday, September 1 - Michael Stanley and The Resonators
Sunday, September 2 - Donny Osmond
Monday, September 3 - Macy Gray / Brand New Heavies

WOWEE!!

Guess I'll be going during the day so I won't be interrupted by loud crappy music. It's amazing how they always seem to get bands who are "well known." Yeah, well known 10+ years ago. It's almost like admitting your career is over...or what Bug likes to classify under actors who begin to star in kids movies.

Well, I shouldn't say that about Michael Stanley, I don't know the guy. As for the others, I could do without the aggravation of talking over their music. I loved Shabooh Shoobah when I was in high school, but I'm not digging it without Michael Hutchence. We refused to see David Bowie because Macy Gray was the opening act.

I wish I could review the list of restaurant participating. If it's not going to be any place new to us, it's a waste of time and money to pay to get in ($7) to pay double for half-servings.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Human than Human

Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Ultimate Edition
(Image taken from Binary Bonsai)


I can't wait!


My favorite movie of all time, Blade Runner, is coming out with a 25th anniversary ultimate edition. I have adored this movie since I was in high school. It continues to be my favorite movie of all time.

When the movie was available for sale on Beta (videotape) to the general public, as opposed to only available to retail video rental stores, my mother bought it for me. Of course, back in the 1980s, a movie videotape made available for sale to the general public could go for anywhere between $50 - $150. Blade Runner went for somewhere between $50 - 75. Dune, my other favorite movie later in high school, went for ~$55. Videotapes only available through video rental stores were priced around $200 - $350+ each!

According to Binary Bonsai, the 25th anniversary DVD set will include:

- DVD 1: The Final Cut (2007)

- DVD 2: Complete film versions
... 1982 US Theatrical version
... 1982 International Theatrical version
... 1992 Director's Cut

- DVD 3: Documentary

- DVD 4: Enhanced Content Bonus

- DVD 5: Work Print version and Enhanced Content


Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Ultimate Edition
(Image taken from
Product Reviews Net)


This edition will be packaged in a blade runner's briefcase and will also include a model spinner, origami unicorn, pictures, and other goodies. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray versions will be available. I'll probably get the Blu-Ray version - my very first commitment to the HD wars. Oof!

HD quality aside, I am just giddy that we'll finally have the original version on DVD available! For me, the voiceovers that Harrison Ford and other members of the crew apparently despised, enhanced the noir feel of our futuristic dank world. I felt the voiceover gave the movie a retrograde (in a good way!) spin and didn't dumb down the movie. The Director's Cut was enjoyable with the addition of the unicorn scene and the omission of the "happy" ending.

Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles, in the year 2019. Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is a retired blade runner, a bounty hunter of stray replicants. Replicants are built by the Tyrell Corporation to such a high degree of sophistication that they've become "more human than human" (Tyrell motto), built specifically for occupations too dangerous or undesireable for humans. Due to their sophistication, their lives were capped to 4 years since they were found to develop human traits like emotions and desire.

Deckard grudgingly returns to hunt down 4, although 5 are actually mentioned, replicants who have escaped from a space colony with Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer) as their fearless leader. They have returned to Earth in search of their "maker" to find out how they can be fixed to live longer.

Cyberpunk Review has a lengthy write-up on the movie with numerous screen captures that are splendid to this day.

The touching soliloquy by Roy Batty sitting in the rain before he expires, with the injured Deckard listening, is my favorite quote from the movie...

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams...glitter in the dark near Tanhauser Gate. All those...moments will be lost...in time, like tears...in rain. Time...to die.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Let's Do the Time Warp


The Taste of Tremont was LAST SUNDAY!

I was bloghopping last weekend on Sunday and landed on Craving Cleveland (also under Linking Logs), where I read about the Taste of Cleveland. I looked over to Bug and said, "Oooh! The Taste of Tremont is today!"

After reading further, I glanced up and saw that the entry was dated "Monday, July 24th," and continued reading. Something about the date bothered me - the fact that it said Monday didn't really register. I re-read the date and saw that it was an entry from 2006. How disappointing.

I've been curious about some of the restauarnts like Lago (Italian), Sokolowski's University Inn (Polish), Grumpy's Cafe (?), and Fahrenheit (fusion), but I've been too lazy, stingy, and/or not in the mood when I've been peckish and thought about those places.

Not very many things hold my attention for very long, so all was forgotten when I jumped to another site a minute later - yes, it was another blog that reviewed restaurants.

I didn't think twice about the Taste until a co-worker had asked me on Friday whether or not I had gone on Sunday. My eyes widened as I recalled reading about it last Sunday and replied sheepishly, "No...I missed it."

Pewpie.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Urbantage

(Still from the video "Wamono" by Hifana)

While rummaging through some email folders, I found a YouTube link (below) that Bug sent me a year ago showing the art crew, Rinpa Eshidan, painting a wall over a span of a week. It is a sequence of time lapse shots with three songs playing in the background. It's pretty nifty!


("1 Week of Artworks," Rinpa Eshidan)

The first song is "Music is Mine" by Nujabes (Jun Seba). The song was reminiscent of Ryuichi Sakamoto's music from the mid-1990s. It must be the piano, synthesizer, beat...I guess almost everything! Nujabes has collaborated with others and created the soundtrack to one of my favorite anime series, Samurai Champloo.

The second song caught my fancy, "Wamono," by Hifana ("southern wind" in Okinawan). Off of their 2nd cd, "Channel H," which was released in 2005, the song mixes hip hop, and Japanese and Okinawan folk music. I don't care much for most hip hop, but the layer of Okinawan music made it pretty catchy.

+cruz from London-based, Love, worked on the majority of the animation on "Channel H," under the W+K Tokyo Lab record label. The video link for "Wamono" (below) from YouTube is low quality. A more watchable version (34 MB) can be downloaded directly from Love.


("Wamono" by Hifana)

From watching a few clips of live performances of Hifana, the two men seem pretty active on stage, even though they are percussionists/mixers. Reading an interview, it mentions that they do not pre-program their music when performing live!

(Still from the video "Wamono" by Hifana)

- Cassaendra

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

(Day Watch. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2007.)


Bug surprised me and took me to see Day Watch Friday night! I've been anxiously awaiting this movie after seeing Night Watch over a year ago.

Day Watch is the 2nd installment of a trilogy based on the immensely popular horror-fantasy Russian series written by Sergei Lukyanenko. The movies are based on Lukyanenko's books; however, Day Watch is a movie-sequel to Night Watch, not a translation of the novel-sequel, "Day Watch."

I was introduced to the trilogy when Night Watch had a limited release run over a year ago and was quite impressed, so I decided to check out the books. "Night Watch" was released here, translated in English, a few months after the movie's release. I was able to purchase "Day Watch" in April 2007. Day Watch had already played in theaters in Russia when Night Watch ran here in the US. NY and LA premiered Day Watch on June 1st. Friday night (July 6th) was the premier in Cleveland.

As for a quick and dirty gist of the books and movies, there is a sect of different people who have lived amongst us for centuries known as "Others." They have powers of various levels, be it vampiric, shapeshifting, telekinetic, etc. and are able to travel in different planes that are parallel to ours depending on their level.

During medieval times, a truce was struck between Gessar and Zabulon after much bloodshed, during the last war...which brings us to present day, where the Day Watch are the Dark Others, based in a posh office building, who monitor the Light Others for any transgressions that would be considered breaking the truce. The Night Watch are the Light Others, based in an electrical plant and play powerhouse employees, and monitor the Dark Others. The Inquisition is the neutral body that governs the judicial and executive process of any crime, especially crimes against humans.

Gessar and Zabulon are the leaders of the Night Watch and Day Watch, respectively. The movies and books lead you through the inner workings of the two Watches, the chess moves and back alley deals on each side.

The thread that mingles throughout is the relationship between the main character, Anton; his love interest, Sveta, a future Great Other; and his son (movies only), Yegor, as they are manipulated as pawns by both sides.

The books and the movies diverge quite a bit, but both are very exciting and colorfully written, if you are into horror-fantasy. Of course, I prefer the books much more, but the movies present themselves so playfully down to the stylistic subtitles that it makes me tingle, much like enjoying a guilty pleasure. Consider me an addict. I can't wait until my next dose of Twilight or Dusk Watch - in print and film!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sig Sig Sputnik


In addition to consuming gobs of time in game -- Hey, it a great way to save a lot of money! We never went out! -- I often spent oodles of time making sigs for my characters in EQ (Cassaendra) and WoW (Vetiver and Lycaena) to display on my guild forum posts.

The sig above is one of my first sigs, created in October 2003. It doesn't seem like I devoted THAT much time to its creation, but each pixel was placed by hand with a single mouse-click, which took me 8-9 straight hours to complete. The base dolls (above and below) were created by Angychan.

Caught meditating, November 2003

This doll probably took 10 hours to complete. Yes, I [still] can't shade.

Contemplating in Tranquility, near the entrance of the Plane of Fire, May 2004


Taeranel Tours, August 2004


Guild Hall, March 2005

This took longer to create than I expected. I finally settled with this screenshot in our guild hall, having cast Protection of Seasons (+72 resistance to fire and cold to the entire group) at least 30 times, taking no less than 75 screenshots, for a passable screen capture of the spell effect being cast.

I also changed my sigs by seasons.

Icicle Glass, August 2004

I was *trying* to cool off in the summertime with an image of a pool. Of course, I used this in the winter also. :)

Greenleaf, August 2004

I used this for a briefly in the summer, but used it in the spring as well since it seemed more appropriate.

Fall Leaves, October 2004


Blue Fir, December 2004


Flake, January 2005


Still Blossoms, May 2005


Sunflower, June 2005



World of Warcraft
WoW was a fun game! I'll probably be back once the finances stablize! :P Vetiver and Lycaena's sigs.

Vetiver plant in the background, February 2006


Bullwinkle, February 2006

The joke with Bullwinkle and the bomb was that my Tier 2 helm, when worn, was a helm with moose antlers attached. I've also "helped" wipe out our raid once in Molten Core and once in Black Wing Lair. I was "the bomb" and didn't move out quickly enough - both times being the first time I stepped foot in those instances. Oopsie! :)

Cow Penguin, March 2007

After I retired from high-end raiding due to severe burn-out, I joined Bulletproof Penguins. Along with Blue Forge Fire, a Cleveland area led guild, I grew to appreciate once more the fun in raiding. The image of the cow-penguin was taken from a static image displayed at a Japanese website, Penguins Mill, and then a GIF was created of the spinning cow -> penguin x 10 rotations with matching background. If you're curious to see the rotation, you may either click the screen refresh button or click on the image. :)

Redscript, July 2006



- Cassaendra

Memories, light the corners of my mind...

...pixelated color memories of the games we played.



Szelaedan(Sicklybug) & Cassaendra, Team Taeranel, the early years
EverQuest, summer 2000


From text-based MUDs -- GodWars, loosely based on White Wolf's vampire, werewolf, demon, mage clans -- and Realms of Despair, and other CircleMUDs to MMORPGs, EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, and World of Warcraft, we've clocked in hours, to some a lifetime, playing games online.

The past couple of weeks, I've grown nostalgic...trying to piece together what it is that I miss and what it was that drove me away.


EverQuest
Bug, as Szelaedan, was a half-elf ranger and I was a wood-elf druid. Bug started playing EQ in early spring 2000 and I started some time that summer.

The required teamwork, intricacy, and precision of having 72 people, later 56?, coordinated to do EXACTLY what they are supposed to, when they need to, standing in place and moving together precisely, where one person's misstep could wipe hours of work, leading to a sometimes agonizing recovery for another attempt (or several0 was exciting! Having a clean reputation and skill were key to getting in to a guild or group. Likewise, one became blacklisted server-wide from being guilded or grouped for a bad reputation.

The best team of druids to walk the face of Erollisi Marr!
...at least the funnest! Plane of Air, 2003

I would get an adrenalin rush when a highly contested mob or zone was up and we raced other guilds to not only get there first, but to successfully mobilize and take it down.

Our guild, Crimson Eternity, had people on during all hours of the day, since we had players between Japan, Afghanistan, Germany, UK, US/Hawaii, Australia, and NZ. You could even talk to someone one-on-one or in a group channel across different servers! :) Fun stuff!

Me transformed into a high elf! RAWR!

Being an officer in one of the top guilds on the server that raided 3-6 days per week, occasionally until 3-4 a.m. on a worknight, and then battling staffing issues for ~3 months on what seemed like a sinking ship (due to the launch of EverQuest II and World of Warcraft that had, in one way or another, stolen 2/3 of our player base and officer corps) was exhausting. Due to a merger, the guild stabilized. Bug and I retired after 5 years of playing the game.


Star Wars Galaxies
Bug and I began playing this game at launch, June 2003, on Lowca. I played SWG part-time while I was not on EQ, where Szel played this game exclusively until the combat upgrade in early 2005 that destroyed the game, coming back to raid in EQ for a few months in between.

Szel was an over-achieving Bothan (imagine Joe Camel) master bounty hunter. I was an under-achieving Zabrak combat medic who loved to shop shop shop! and spend all of Szel's money. He also played Yslossk, a Trandoshan master Teras Kasi artist, who later ascended to Jedi, and Talfa, a Zabrak master physician. Cassaendra later became a merchant. In the game, you could remove all your professions and restart as anything else.

At home, August 2003

The game was very cool for me because of the amount of detail one could control creating the character, race, height, breadth, weight, flesh tone, eyes (shape, depth, slant, size, color), lips (shape, fullness, angle, color), nose/chin/forehead (width, height), hair (style, color, ornament), etc. The color palette was often a smooth gradient, not a sparse offering of colored boxes. I don't think it was possible, unless the base character was chosen, to accidentally have an identical character across all of its servers.

One could shop from numerous racks of clothes, from combat to casual to formal, in any imaginable color. Jewelry, paintings, pets, different types of homes, anything and everything could be bought. It was lucrative to be an architect, chef, mixologist (really!), tailor, or creature handler. There was even room for a 'middle man' to do well for himself by harvesting unique resources around the planets.

Szel's krayt dragon raid, April 2004

A bounty hunter is able to hunt Jedi. A comfortable life could be made being a weaponsmith, armorer, or a specialist in short, medium, or long-ranged weapons, pikes, and so forth...well, not so much a pikeman. Dancers and musicians were really cool! So were image artists, who could change every physical feature, with the exception of your race and sex.


Corellia, before we moved to our town in Tatooine, fall 2004

Bug seems to always do extremely well financially, regardless of which game we play. He studies the market, invests his time and/or money in odd things, and then sells high when the general populous learns of its existence, supply is low, and the demand is high; almost always making 10-100x profit! We packed up our homes on Corellia and moved to Tatooine, where his house was a town hall and his favorite acquisitions were prominently displayed. He also had several homes on different planets and vending machines to sell treasures and resources.

Jump to Lightspeed was Bug's favorite expansion. Space combat missions and being able to travel on your own ship! Wow!! He had ace pilots for each faction - Szel(privateer), Talfa(imperial), and Yslossk(rebel).

Sightseeing at the Lake Retreat, Naboo, fall 2004

When Bug met Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Jabba the Hut I was excited! It was easy to become immersed as you flew or rode to places you recognized from the movies, like going to the Lake Retreat where Anakin and Padme stayed, Mos Eisley, Mos Espa, Jabba's Palace, ...! The sights and sounds were so familiar, down to the MSE (mouse) droid that you saw randomly or could purchase and augment as a "pet." Even the music was familiar.

The poop hit the fan when the combat upgrade came about in March 2005. What had been promised since launch was not given. The game was, in fact, further reduced and simplified and there was no balance. Items that were worth millions were now rubbish, and vice versa. It was quite frustrating and the final straw, so we canceled all of our accounts with Sony Online Entertainment - EQ, EQII, SWG.

World of Warcraft
Bug began playing WoW in spring 2005. I began playing a few weeks to a month afterwards. Having stepped down as an officer in EQ and after the guild had stablized, it was time for me to check out life as the other woman.

Azshara, one of my favorite scenic areas

We started as Alliance characters on Burning Blade, a pvp server (Cassaendra, night elf druid; Bug created a dwarven hunter). I got fed up with the gank-fest, so we moved to Bloodhoof, where we started Alliance characters again (Cassaendra, night elf druid & Bug created a dwarven hunter).

We were asked to move to the Horde side by our old guildmates in EQ. We joined up with them in a guild called Ghost Force. At the time, they were the #2 guild on the server, Horde-side. It meant very little to me at the time, being level 0...the birth of Vetiver, a tauren druid who would be versed in the restorative arts and master herbalism and alchemy, and Vandren (Bug), a hard-nosed undead shadow priest with a hanging jawbone, who would melt your face if you looked at him wrong.

Setting up to raid Onyxia, November 2005
Prior to learning about custom user interfaces(UI) :)

Tired of the societal 'unfairness' imposed upon priests, especially raiding priests, to only be able to acquire healing gear versus damage gear, Bug created MadCapsule, an intimidating orc (enhancement) shaman...but yet another class that could cast a heal.

FlexBar was our favorite UI. The game was never really the same after the UI became unusable toward the end of 2006, near the onset of the game's first expansion. It devastated Bug as a shaman, thus the birth of SicklyBug, the undead pirate rogue!

As a druid, I could shapeshift into a cat (rogue), bear (warrior), caster (heal/damage spells), tree (heal only), and bird (flight-form).

Vetiver...in travel form, using a very clean FlexBar UI!


...in cat form


...in caster form with MadCapsule, while we were in Boonedock Saints, spring 2006


Blizzard must have learned from EQ's mistakes. Most people hated being forced to search for groups for hours to complete anything on EQ. In WoW, one could reach the maximum level not having grouped with anyone at all. Of course, it was frequently evident when you group with someone like that - they display very little to no common sense or courtesy, and at times, any feeling of consequence for one's actions. EQ bred discipline.

Lycaena, my undead shadow priest, and Sicklybug - YAR!


Lycaena on horseback in Winterspring, January 2007


Mitzi, my blood elf mage-baby, January 2007


I miss the challenge and camaraderie! We've had a lot of fun spending anywhere between 5 - 20 hours a day with people (not pixels) working together as a tight-knit team. A handful of those people we cherish and consider them, in real life, our friends. We would never have played any of these games for as long as we have were it not for our friends. One of these days, I hope we'll be able to meet them all vis-à-vis!

- Cassaendra

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