2010: Week 38 Blots

BLOT: (25 Sep 2010 - 08:34:45 PM)

An American eating blutwurst (aka blood sausage) for the first time...

Blood Sausage, (aka blutwurst, aka black pudding, if you are British, or blutwurst if you are German, and aka a bunch of other things depending on the variation and language) is the kind of food that some people rave about, and you hear referenced, but in America it is pretty much cibus non gratus. If you look at the link for black pudding up there, you'll see some pictures. And, if you are one of my American friends, those pictures will possibly (maybe even probably) fill you with a sense of dread and loathing. But having heard a handful of chefs and gourmands act as though it is the best thing since foie gras, I just had to know. My initial reaction to it as a food stuff was the same as most of you reading this—"Yeouchaghghg"—but I figured it wouldn't kill me and in the off-chance I liked it, I had a food that no one would touch at parties.

A quick review. What is blood sausage (black pudding, blutwurst, etc, etc)? It is a sausage made up of blood and other things, cooked in a casing, and then eaten as-is or fried or dried. Some cultures use only blood and pork fat (French boudin noir is one of those, I think). Some use grains (a lot of the British variations). I had a blutwurst variation which included pork and pork fat and, strangely, cow blood instead of pig blood. It came in a pound package, which might be a bit much for an initial go, but was only about six dollars. I got this from The European Market in Huntsville. It is south-ish Parkway, down near where the Redstone Credit Union is. There is a dancewear shop right next to it. I unfortunately can't remember anything more specific than that, but, hey, the European Market has a website (!) and so you can check it out through there. I also picked up a hard square sausage (giggle if you must) and they have some landjäger that I have to try next time I go. All sorts of different things like tuna in olive oil in a glass jar and a giant Nutella jar.

This isn't a review of The European Market, though, so let's get to the course. I decided, even though it should be safe to eat straight out of the package, to fry it in a slight bit of butter. I cut off about 2oz, sliced those into half-oz bits, and then fried them about three minutes to a side. The texture isn't the absolute best for frying, and you have to be careful, but its not too bad as long as you don't let it stick. Let me give you a slight heads up. I'm about to post a picture of it. Not a horrifying picture. Depending on your taste, maybe a yummy looking picture. But...a picture, neverthless. It will be ok. Click, if you want, for a larger version.

Right off, I will tell you what will stop many of my friends from being able to enjoy it: the texture. It does not have a good hard sausage texture, nor a more traditional Southern sausage texture. It has a soft, mushy sort of meat texture. Something like firm Vienna Sausage. A very soft corned beef. It is firm enough that you can cut it and eat it, but it dissolves almost immediately under force or while chewing (at least, well, the blood portion...the pork fat and meat bits are chewier).

Flavor is not bad. I had an expectation for something like liver, maybe with a hint of copper and salt. It was much more like a nice, rich, seasoned meat. In the same ballpark as a good quality canned ham without the insta-artery-hardening. The blood itself is not what you would expect, showing up as more of a sense of flavorful fullness, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. You know the difference in flavor between a medium, or rare, steak and a well-done one? That's pretty much the taste. Now mix in pork and seasonings. It doesn't really taste delicate, meaning it doesn't have the taste that a food snob might brag about, but I can see the appeal. I was more put off by the pork fat than the blood. Plus, I think it would be better with a side of potatoes, or maybe a rice dish. A good plain starch and some spicy mustard would fill in the flavor gap.

There did come a time, though, where our brains started going, "Wait, I'm eating what again?" Sarah got that a lot sooner, and stronger, than I did. She eventually reached the point where she didn't want to see it or talk about it. The richness coupled with the mental issues creeping in finally made me tap out. A single serving was plenty. If you are adventurous, you can click here to see what it looked like about 90% of the way eaten. I warn you, though, that picture will drive home that it really is a blood byproduct and not just a sausage being marketed to goths in a little too deep.

Will I eat blutwurst again? Yes. Will I make it a regular thing? No. I am a fairly big sausage fan, and did enjoy it, but so much of the flavoring could have been accomplished entirely without the blood (the richness probably could not have been, though). I want to try the British style, and maybe the French style, before I get more of the German, I think. This might not be possible, but it is a goal. Healthwise, the sodium and fat will be a little high (to really high, depending on the variation) but it has a large amount of iron and protein. Might make an excellent pregnancy or post-sickness food, all things considered.

Oh, and be careful with the burping while eating it. I learned that from first hand experience. I am not saying that it is a bad thing, or at least not the worst thing in the world, I'm just saying you might want to think ahead.

TAGS: Food

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 38
BY MONTH: September 2010

BLOT: (25 Sep 2010 - 03:12:39 AM)

Clueless, Minecraft, and The Semester So Far

Sarah needed a relaxing movie, so I suggested Clueless. I used to watch it kind of often down in Evergreen. I'd be lying if I said Alicia Silverstone wasn't part of that, but I think it was mostly because the more-Beverly Hills than Beverly Hills setting was so "alien" to my day to day life. Practically sci-fi to me. Oh, and it has Paul Rudd before he was Paul Rudd (you know what I mean). What's not to love? Anyhow, I used to watch it lots and then went a decade or so without seeing it again. It was kind of neat seeing a few of the things I missed, or at least did not quite "get" in the way they were intended. For instance, the way the title is reflected by nearly every character misunderstanding a certain situations, something I definitely noticed, but I don't think I noticed how intentional it all was. I still enjoy it. Don't know if I could ever watch it as much I used to, but hey, times have changed.

My other big time-waster has been Minecraft, which I suppose a growing number of have heard about. Picture a little LEGO* man running around in a world that has night and day, and during the day he is kind of free to punch blocks out of place and pick them up and dump them somewhere else. At night, though, the zombies and the creepers and spiders come out and so he has to also build defenses. And some of the LEGO blocks are actually ores that can be smelted into metals, or pieces that can be crafted into tools, and you play on what is probably the largest game world in gaming history (as far as I know, the game world will grow horizontally for as long as you want to keep walking, it just takes up more and more space/memory, though I have dug as far down as I can and as built as far up as a I can, apparently). Everyone has their own sense of utility from the game. Some play it out as a survival scenario. I was much like that, and still am, though my defenses are well enough now that I can go for days in-game without seeing a baddy. Some play it as a resource management sim, and dig deep and far to get all the metals they can. Most, I think, play it like LEGOs from the inside. Things like "brick" and "clay" are just bywords for "reddish block" and "whitish block" in their construction of giant "pixalated" art. I have an idea for a large scale project. Two, actually. I'll post as I do them.

And this brings us to the last order of catch-up, my school semester. It is *waggles hands back in forth with an ambiguous shrug*. I have had a handful of assignments. I think they have went well, overall, but the only one I have graded was a low grade. Lowest I have had since undergrad. The class has been given the option to make up some points, based on a lot of misconceptions and confusions, and I have already submitted the re-do, but I would like to see some more positive grades, frankly. Something upbeat. Ah well. Next week I have to continue a lit review, and do a learners' assessment for a project. And, prepare a presentation on Africa, including a stand-up poster-board sort of thing. Too bad I work on Sunday, which was when I planned to do it. And I think that is most of it. The two weeks after that will be rough, because another couple of big assignments drop, and this will have me with a half-dozen notable assignments over a four week period with no real break time, followed by the one of the biggest assignments of the semester (no, I'd say the biggest) and then it will be blissfully empty. There will be a couple of sizable wrap-ups, but nothing like the late-middle section.

Alright, time for bed. I have the day off tomorrow, kind of, but school work will need to be done.

* The LEGO comparison is possibly a little overused, but in many, many ways, it sums it up.

TAGS: Me in 2010

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 38
BY MONTH: September 2010

BLOT: (24 Sep 2010 - 10:47:01 AM)

Getting an alternate you laid a lot, or...Timey-Wimey solved by fate?

In a conversation that started with the fourth paragraph (HOW'S THAT FOR A TEMPORAL PARADOX???), it sure ended up where any conversation between two American males will end if it goes on long enough: sex. We were talking about the parallel universe theory of time travel, where its not so much popping back in time as entering into a universe where the popping back in time was assumed. It makes about as much sense as you being your own grand-pa, but there are those who swear it fixes the whole thing. I personally think "Um, it's a story, have fun" works fine enough for me—if you are an English major, you can call it allegory of desire or some such—but let's be honest, the parallel theory mostly works because we hear the word infinite and we assume that this means "EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE", even impossible things. Just think, if this is the solution, then there is a universe where you had sex with the clone of your great-grandmother. A clone made by alien technology you gave birth to. Freak-ee. Frankly, a simple "extra-dimenionality" (that time as we know isn't time as think about it, but something like a producer's cut that talks about) kind of works. John Connor sent his dad back to die because the chronology of that event coincided with the chronology of the seemingly earlier event, but only because you see it through mortal eyes. And you said it was bad plot point.

Before I get to another interpretation of that, let me go ahead and get to the sex part. The fact that parallel universe theory portrays reality splitting at decision points has some interesting outcomes. And, by the way, PU theory is often mind-ist because many suggest that decisions are conscious as opposed to, you know, one electron going down this path or that path one micron to the left. The sort of decision out of which some, what, 99.99999999...% of reality is based on on a slow day. That's right, most of the infinte are horribly boring copies of this one in which some distant, unseen planet's beach's 12432520656th piece of sand fell into the sea prior to its 12432520657th piece.

Sex. Must focus on sex. Alright. What happens, then, if you create a scenario where the universe is forced to split into a decision about whether or not you have sex? Let's picture this. You walk up to a woman at a bar, pull out a coin*, and offer her the following odds: if the coin comes up heads, she's yours, and if it comes up tails then she gets $50. Now, sure, you're calling her a half-century whore in one interpretation of that but you are also a brave parallel explorer. Because, saying you do this once a week for a year, there is one of you (probably not you-you, just another of you) that will get laid every time. He, or she, will be the happiest, most STDed version of you around. There is, of course, another you (much more likely you-you, if truth be told) that will have lost $2600 and has developed a weird giggle every time they get around a quarter. The point of this is not to get laid (it is), but it is get some perfectly lucked version of an alternate you laid. An infinite number of alternative yous, even (for every PU where every rain storm on every planet for all time had drops that fell and splattered in a slightly different order, there is another pair of lucky and luckless yous, and that's just talking about rainstorms). You are bending the rules. Using them. For science. And sex.

Now, the not-sex portion (see you later, readers, I know you tried). What this started was a question about the temporal paradox. The "if you kill some dude in the past and his death causes the future that makes you want to twelve monkey, etc" paradox. Can an event E1 both create and be created by an event E2? Science Fiction movies and TV shows would love for that answer to be "YES!" (probably due to some weird interpretation of the word "irony"). However, in the real world...well, let's assume not. BUT...I was talking to this friend how in a properly fated universe, this might not be an issue. Time is mostly an illusion in one those. The fact of some predecessor event (Ep) predicates and necessitates all of its successor events (Ess). Since all reality would then come out of an initial event, E0, then E1-4 are in motion, looked at causally if not chronologically, from that E0. Therefore, in Terminator, it was necessary for Reese to have sex with his hero's mom. That's his story and he is sticking to it.

And just think, there is an alternate version of Terminator out there where an infant Ben Affleck played the title world. Crazy, crazy world.

* For various reasons, I posited a d20 in the original scenario with 1 and 20 being the only numbers that mean anything. Somehow, I assumed that a woman would be more likely to put out on a 1 if she had 2-19 as a buffer. I am a guy, by the way, did you notice that?

TAGS: Matters Chronological

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 38
BY MONTH: September 2010

BLOT: (24 Sep 2010 - 12:40:38 AM)

EDA 2: Vampire Science, by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman (Eighth Doctor Novel)

I am not the biggest fan of Terrance Dicks' The Eight Doctors—a novel that is about four-parts fan service, three-parts political quagmire, and only one-part character—but I am a huge fan of the Eighth Doctor (mainly through the Big Finish line of audioplays, mind you), so I pretty much had to continue the EDAs (Eighth Doctor Adventures)*. Another thing that I am...skeptical..of is the Doctor Who universe's ability to suffer prolonged exposure to more classical myths, like vampires. It most definitely can spin an old campfire tale into something new and fresh, and has done many times; but its strength tends to lie in its new creations. Vampires are public domain, so to speak. Well known. Well attributed. Every version has its own little perks, ups and downs. Can the Whoniverse take a fourth outing with them (following State of Decay, the Terrance Dicks penned serial that started the connection, its direct novel sequel (also by Dicks), Blood Harvest, and a slightly down the road novel called Goth Opera). In each version, vampires toned down just a bit, became a little more common place, in every since of the word. I'll get to the end-result in just a moment.

Joining the Doctor is Sam Jones, the Dicks created (I think this might be the last time I say his name) new companion from the previous book; a General Kramer from UNIT who was introduced in the Jonathan Blum fan-film Time Rift, and Carolyn. Interestingly, Carolyn is pretty much a Grace Halloway stand-in. Rather than the end of The Movie, where Grace stays behind, Caroyln stays behind after watching the Doctor fight off a vampire. Outside of that difference, there is little else. The book even takes place in San Francisco, though it would require a bit of Timey-Wimey since it actually happens a couple of years before the setting of The Movie. The other two companions work well enough. Sam Jones is still a bit in development, but the young near-rebel (a little bit like Ace tempered with a bit of, hmm, maybe Jamie) makes do as an impressionable companion wanting to impress and emulate the Doctor (and, of course, dealing with a crush on him...notice that Sam Jones was an alias taken on by Martha Jones in Torchwood, who could kind of be thought of a mash-up of Sam and Carolyn). Kramer is, well, a fan-creation. A brusque, large black woman, her main role is to act as substitute for the Brigadier with just a little bit of a different edge. For instance, she sees the Doctor's personal failings and comments on them, while the Brigadier was more interested in the practical uses of the Doctor.

Ok, the rough story. Doctor is summoned by Carolyn because her boyfriend is missing. Vampires are involved. The Doctor and Sam investigate and find a small clan operating in San Fransisco. As they get more and more tangled up in this, they find the head vampire, who appears to be a middle aged medical scientists. She is on the brink of a no-more-humans-required blood solution, but her younger brood is caught up in the thrill of the hunt and the internal pressures are threatening to unbalance the clan. In order to prove that he does not want to merely wipe them out, the Doctor enters into a blood pact (linking him to the head vampire) and tries to help her to overcome her trouble-makers. Tensions build up, mistakes are made, and hey, that's Doctor Who.

There are two big themes in this, outside of the vampire elements. One works, one doesn't. The one that doesn't work is the "huggy Doctor" theme. The Eighth Doctor is full of hugs. In this novel, he is trying to make the Eleventh Doctor seems unloving by comparison. In one awkward to read, to picture, and to act out scene, he is cooking breakfast and hugging Sam. Trite. Unnecessary. And it comes across as someone not quite sure what to make of the scene between the Eighth Doctor and Grace Holloway from The Movie. By the end of the book, it is addressed openly and toned down, but I don't like it. Especially since this takes place three years into the Doctor's regeneration. That weird "early days" syndrome he gets would have warn off completely.

The theme that does work, and is contrasted to The Eighth Doctors is the question of trusting the Time Lord. For all of his "down with the people" ways, Theta Sigma is still quite a bit Gallifrey. Since the Hartnell era, and maybe more so in Troughton, one strong character trait of the Doctor is that he doesn't share the whole picture. Nearly ever. He almost always holds something back. This is stated most bluntly in "The Big Bang" with River Song's "Rule number one: The Doctor lies." And he does. He'll act outnumbered, at the end of his rope, and then suddenly flip off all the defenses in the enemy space ship and, you know, turn one of them into a scarecrow or something. This element was explored back in the UNIT story arcs, and rumbles of it were brought out briefly during the Romana/Adric years, but this novel addresses it widely, in a number of ways (emotional trust, practical trust) and it ends up with the same basic answer that the entire series and all of its spin-offs have put forth: they may not want to, but nearly everyone who meets him ends up going along with his plans...and even when they get hurt by it he tends to make it mostly alright.

As for the vampires, they barely had enough steam to make it to the end of the novel. There is are two key build ups towards the end, one at a club and one at a theater, and the tension nearly holds to the first one and has bottomed out by the second. The story still flows enough to get by without requiring an obvious hook, but once you have established that the Doctor can more than handle them (he and the other Time Lords are something of a dark legend to the vampire kind), and the previous novel had a turned-companion and the prior two stories had bigger vampires and more; what can you do? Just drive the point home by having them beaten again? The attempt at empathy, including the direct contradiction to the tenets of Rassillon, were a nice touch, and about the last card left playable unless something else happens (faux-vampire tales like "Venice" not counting).

Which leaves just the final scores for the novel. It felt like it should have ended about fifty pages before it did, so that's a minus one, and it had little new to say for either vampires or San Fransisco, so that's another deduction. However, the roguish Doctor negates one of those minuses and both the mystery of his three missing years and the development of Sam Jones negates the other. The hugging counteracts the pace and character of the novel, both of which fit very much in the "new-Who" style. I'll let it come down to personal tilt, and say this one is better than The Eight Doctors but is flawed by the fandom-ness of it coupled with a need to be tightened (Russel T. Davies, who is excellent at getting the point of scenes, could have made this into an interesting two-parter). The final score will have to be a straddled Fair-Good (+0.5) with bonus marks for Weird Harold and minus marks for Carolyn's sycophant boyfriend.

TAGS: Doctor Who

PS: No, by the way, I don't remember there being a reason for the president's seal to be on the cover...unless that's a tongue-in-cheek nod towards Rassilon's seal and the novel being set in the US.

* For right now, I'm skipping Dying Days but will come back to it.

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 38
BY MONTH: September 2010

BLOT: (22 Sep 2010 - 03:09:19 PM)

Books LLC: a brief search into who they are now that they show up in all of my Amazon.com searches...

Over the past few weeks as I make random searches on Amazon.com just because that's the sort of thing I do, I have been seeing some rather oddly named books, all "written" by a generic "Books LLC". Not the first one I found, but a recent one (for instance) was Fictional Martians: Marvin the Martian, Martian, Amy Wong, Martian Manhunter, Michael Garibaldi, White Martian, Martian, Ice Warrior. It is 144 pages. Costs about $20. Hmm. Oh, and right beside it was Screenplays by Brian Hayles: The Curse of Peladon, the Ice Warriors, the Celestial Toymaker, the Seeds of Death which was another $20 for 60 pages. Now, as a Doctor Who fan, the idea of getting four screen plays for $20 sounded awesome. Even though the page count made no sense. And why wouldn't screenplays by a writer be credited to the writer? [Doug's Note: The product page has been appended to include "Study Guide" in the title now] It bubbled over, my curiosity, when I found another one while looking up some more information on DVD availability of the infamous 1992 BBC Halloween special Ghostwatch (LGT, appropriately as you will see, Wikipedia). This one was called 1992 in British Television: Absolutely Fabulous, as Time Goes By, in Bed With Medinner, Heartbeat, Ghostwatch, the Big Breakfast, Gamesmaster. Again, a $20 price point. A page count of 216 pages. The same boring cover. The same sort of horrible title. I finally went "What the hell is going on!?" and looked them up.

Turns out that Books LLC is a company that prints out Wikipedia entries in paperback form and then sells them. Not exclusively, they also have a series of public domain works (similar to, and possibly the same company as, General Books LLC) and do some pdf bookselling, too. The strange titles are a byproduct of using the Wiki Category names as the lead in. That last one I linked to has several entries for shows under the 1992 in British television category page. Yes, there are more than seven entries on that page, though a search for "1992 in British television" only brought up the one book.

By the way, this isn't just Amazon. I did searches on several bookseller websites, and nearly all of them had several Books LLC editions in stock.

I have to say that their FAQ makes some interesting reading. One asks how to find the online version of the book and they tell them to go to "http://en.wikipedia.org/Category:" and type in the bit before the colon. If you have corrections or suggestions on the content, you can go to the "URL provided" (i.e. the Wiki entry) and then "click edit". In other words, several of the FAQ items are staging Wikipedia as the online version of them, as opposed to the vice versa. When they do answer the question about why would you buy a book of Wikipedia entries, their answers are "Use Wiki if you want, but our Wiki books are bought mainly by libraries and people who prefer to read a paperback than a computer screen" [emphasis is direct quote]. The libraries portion raised a flag for me. In my library degree, I hear endless invectives, vituperations, and harangues hurled at and against Wikipedia. I'll leave the "people who don't like to read off the computer screen" category alone. I know you book fetishists. With the smell and the touch and the gentle caresses. You probably would pay $20 just to have that paper in your hand, with your smugness about how awesome print is. Freaks!

By the way, also according to their FAQ, these are graphic-less. Figures and illustrations did not come through the process. They explain why (combination of copyright questions and resolution).

Is there a danger, here? Eh. Librarian-sense is only tingling about 2 clicks out of 5. As tight as librarians and schools are for money, I can't see them picking up a $20 book on a whim, especially without a direct author listed unless they saw positive reviews in something like Books-in-Print or School Library Journal. If they buy it, I imagine they know what they are getting into especially since these are paper-backs that would have to be sent off to be re-bound after purchase. If they are in a quick scramble to find books on something obscure, one might find its way into their stacks, but I really doubt there is anything like sleight-of-book going on.

On the student side, people using online booksellers to try and find books, there might be a little bit more of a problem, but that's a life lesson. If you are doing a search for Rwanda, for instance, and you find a book called Murder in Rwanda: People Convicted of Murder by Rwanda, People Murdered in Rwanda, Rwandan Genocide, Dian Fossey, you might think it sounds really awesome. Maybe not. One of Books LLC's issues is that their titles are so convoluted that they act as something of a flag towards their content. Good thing, too, since nothing else in the description suggests where it comes from, until you look up their website. Not that the student will actually buy the book. Students will do everything they can to never actually pay for anything, up-to and including trying to get the library to order the book so they can check it out (often fueled by a misconception that this can be done before their paper is due next Wednesday). Plus, it's good for teachers to actually check references, the slackers.

At any rate, I'm not really judging or attacking Books LLC. In some ways they may serve a strange purpose of providing back-ups of rapidly changing Wiki entries. I plan to never buy one, though. They are not doing anything illegal, nor are they (on their website) misrepresenting anything about their business model. I just wanted to let you know what I found out, when I decided I had to find out what they were. There you go.

TAGS: Books

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 38
BY MONTH: September 2010

BLOT: (20 Sep 2010 - 11:21:38 AM)

Why I no longer feel worthy to read Terry Pratchett's books...

I mean, not that I will actually stop reading Terry Pratchett's books, but I read this morning that he crafted a sword using meteorites! Good lord, that's the sort of awesome that will make the whole day go down better.

With help from his friend Jake Keen—an expert on ancient metal-making techniques—the author dug up 81kg of ore and smelted it in the grounds of his house, using a makeshift kiln built from clay and hay and fuelled with damp sheep manure...Pratchett...also said he had thrown in "several pieces of meteorites—thunderbolt iron, you see—highly magical, you've got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in it or not". After days of hammering the metal into bars, he took it to a blacksmith, whom he helped to shape it into a blade, which was finished with silverwork.

TAGS: Terry Pratchett

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 38
BY MONTH: September 2010

Written by Doug Bolden

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."