Super Mega Monkey Ultra Extreme III Alright!!!!

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
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    Plain High Drifter

    This is from an ad for Marvel's Crazy magazine (found in Apr 74's Monsters Unleashed #5). I didn't realize they were doing pot jokes.


    By fnord12 | January 23, 2015, 11:06 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




    Hording away old age

    Someone told me that if i wasn't so old, i would have finished these Bones miniatures already. So at great expense to my career, family, and health, i've been pressing on. Here's the latest batch.

    This group included an easy to paint but cool looking Stone Golem, and a Skeleton Knight where i decided to paint the head as metallic instead of bone. Maybe i'll introduce a villain into my campaign called the Silver Skull.

    My last batch had a pirate in it, so i fished out the pirate figure that came with the Bones set, even though she's a Sexy Pirate that i had to denudify a bit. I wanted to paint that wizard figure in a Modred the Mystic color scheme but not enough of his interior clothes are showing, so i'll see if i can do that with a different figure. I think the Ali Baba and the thief both came out pretty cool.

    Some generic creatures on the right, all repeats of figures i've painted in previous batches, but the point is to have a horde of them. For several of these figures i tried something new with the wash technique. Technically to make a wash you should just water down a color that is darker than your base coat and then brush that over the mini, and the darker paint will find its way to the crevices. But i can never get it to work right. But i do have two pre-made washes, a Black Wash and a "Flesh" Wash. And i think there is something in them than just watered down black and "flesh" paint. So for this set of minis, i tried mixing the black wash into my colored wash, and it worked better. On the the armored figure above, i painted him a light grey and then mixed some dark blue with the black wash, and it worked pretty well. I did the same thing in green for "Modred" and in blue for the sorceress in the top picture. Of course you can't see any of it in these pictures even though i did break them down into smaller groups instead of taking one giant group picture.


    By fnord12 | January 22, 2015, 1:18 PM | D&D | Comments (4) | Link




    What i learned about Marvel's Frankenstein

    As part of my comics timeline project, i am going through Essential The Monster of Frankenstein. The first 11 issues of the series take place before Marvel Comics #1, so i'm not including them in my project, but there are a few tidbits i wanted to share here. For brevity, and because i know it bothers people and i am a jerk, i will be referring to the Monster as Frankenstein.

    Long post, so the majority is below the fold.


    By fnord12 | January 22, 2015, 10:11 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




    FBI Successfully Foils Their Own Manufactured Terror Plot

    Your morning Glenn Greenwald:

    The affidavit filed by an FBI investigative agent alleges Cornell had "posted comments and information supportive of [ISIS] through Twitter accounts." The FBI learned about Cornell from an unnamed informant who, as the FBI put it, "began cooperating with the FBI in order to obtain favorable treatment with respect to his criminal exposure on an unrelated case." Acting under the FBI's direction, the informant arranged two in-person meetings with Cornell where they allegedly discussed an attack on the Capitol, and the FBI says it arrested Cornell to prevent him from carrying out the attack.

    Family members say Cornell converted to Islam just six months ago and claimed he began attending a small local mosque. Yet The Cincinnati Enquirer could not find a single person at that mosque who had ever seen him before, and noted that a young, white, recent convert would have been quite conspicuous at a mosque largely populated by "immigrants from West Africa," many of whom "speak little or no English."

    ...

    The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.

    First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the "radical" political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.

    They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a "terror plot": either because they're being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.

    Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of "entrapment" that it could almost never be successfully invoked. As AP noted last night, "defense arguments have repeatedly failed with judges, and the stings have led to many convictions."


    By min | January 22, 2015, 9:16 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Braille Printer Made of Legos

    He's 13, and he's already better than all of us combined. Link

    Shubham built a Braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project last year after he asked his parents a simple question: How do blind people read? "Google it," they told him.

    Shubham then did some online research and was shocked to learn that Braille printers, also called embossers, cost at least $2,000 -- too expensive for most blind readers, especially in developing countries.

    ...

    After the "Braigo" -- a name that combines Braille and Lego -- won numerous awards and enthusiastic support from the blind community, Banerjee started Braigo Labs last summer with an initial $35,000 investment from his dad.
    ...

    Intel executives were so impressed with Shubham's printer that in November they invested an undisclosed sum in his startup. Intel officials believe he's the youngest entrepreneur to receive venture capital, money invested in exchange for a financial stake in the company.

    I love how his mom was at first not supportive of his idea. She was prolly annoyed with him for taking up space on her dining table with his Legos.


    By min | January 22, 2015, 8:37 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link




    Why is this idiot my Senator?

    Menendez: Obama Admin's Iran Talking Points Are 'Straight Out Of Tehran'.

    He's bucked Obama on this and on Cuba. How can he be from the same state that elected Cory Booker? Can he at least not be the Dem's Ranking Member on the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations?


    By fnord12 | January 21, 2015, 6:43 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Marvel Sales - oops nevermind

    I went to read this and found out that the Beat just republished an older article.


    By fnord12 | January 21, 2015, 12:55 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




    Personally i like rap music *and* disco

    One of my interests is music sample archeology, and i've closed the loop on a good one. I found it at Sample Watch, and their article has been up since 2011 so i don't know why this took me so long. I also never knew that anyone attributed the "Create rap music cause i never dug disco" line to Chuck D. It's pretty clearly not him. But i may have had an advantage since i had heard the rest of the vocals, not just that line sampled in the Dr. Octagon song. I knew it from this Deejay Punk Roc song, which basically samples an entire verse from what i now know is Urban Sound Surgeon by 4-Ever Fresh.

    I like the sped up vocals in the Deejay Punk Roc version a lot, to the point where the original is going to take some getting used to, but i've always loved the "Holy Calamity, scream insanity, all you'll ever be is another big fan of me" line, and now i know where it came from.


    By fnord12 | January 21, 2015, 10:15 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link




    Clean break

    I've heard so many rumors about the Marvel universe ending that i am now having trouble believing it when Marvel literally tells me it's the case, but it sure sounds like it's happening. At the moment this feels like good news to me. For a while now i've felt like the Marvel universe was already broken, but since it was still staggering along i've felt obligated to keep up with it. One of my biggest fears (in, you know, the context of comic books) was that the Marvel universe would sort of unofficially end but i'd still not be sure if it really had. But with the changes that seem to be coming with the new Secret Wars, it seems like a clean jumping off point.

    The event does seem to be designed in a "have your cake and eat it too" way, since there's a story reason why the Marvel universe is rebooting, unlike the most recent DC reboot (on the other hand, from the little i see this does sound a lot like DC's Crisis). But for me, at least, this signals a clean break and i won't be continuing further even if you can make an argument that it's kinda sorta the same universe. I may still pick up trades in the same way i read trades of, say, Saga or Walking Dead, but only based on the strength of the creators and buzz as opposed to it being a part of the Marvel universe i've been following since i started reading comics.

    Part of me now wants to read Secret Wars just to see how it ends in realtime, but from the article i linked to it seems like there's already going to be an unwieldy deluge of tie-in books, so i think i'll just let the dust settle and pick up the pieces afterwards. And hey, now i have an official end goal for my timeline project!


    By fnord12 | January 21, 2015, 9:55 AM | Comics | Comments (8) | Link




    Cheap and fast internet access is not a technical problem

    Matthew Yglesias has some sad facts that are particularly relevant to the SuperMegaHousehold as we watch our internet-only Comcast bill start creeping up again.


    By fnord12 | January 15, 2015, 10:02 AM | Liberal Outrage & My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link




    Horde Attack

    As Penny Arcade says, some of us have overkicked and are buried in mounds of plastic, but i tried to paint my way out of it a bit this past month.

    Min always complains that the pictures of my miniatures are too small to show any detail. That's partially due to me not wanting to show off (i.e. trying to hide) my paint jobs, and partially because the minis are pretty small and hard to get good pictures of. But especially since this batch was a large one, i broke them down into smaller groups of pictures, which will hopefully show off / not hide the detail. They're still kind of blurry.

    We start with some basic wizards and warriors. I liked the flaming sword guy and went with an unusual color for his armor. The pirate figure is not a Bones; he's an extra piece from a Kickstarter that a friend gave me.

    These elves are not Bones either. They are metal miniatures. I originally bought them wanting to add some female Drow elves to my collection, thinking i could paint some regular female elves as Drow, but as i started getting ready to paint them and looked at them more closely, i noticed that one was actually a dude, and then another was actually a dude, and really their woodland themed armor didn't really work as Drow after all, so i painted them as regular elves.

    Some goblin type creatures. Since i already have a lot of standard green colored goblins, i went with blue skin for these.

    This guy is pretty funny: the over-encumbered adventurer. Half my party should really look like this guy. I tried to capture him from multiple angles to show off the various stuff he is carrying. His face kind of reminded me of Terry Gilliam's squire from Monty Python & the Holy Grail, so i let the eyes remain a bit bug-eyed when they came out that way.

    Mimics are one of the meaner creatures that a DM can foist on their players: a creature that disguises itself as a treasure chest until an unwitting character sticks its head in to see what's inside. And of course demon sorceresses can be pretty mean, too. So i balanced things out by including a bartender.

    I actually wanted the giant in my last batch to be a Fire Giant, but her armor and interesting mask convinced me she was really more of a woodland giant, so this one gets to be the Fire Giant. I have no idea what the other thing in this picture is. Min said it was maybe an egg in a nest, so i kind of painted it that way, but i think it'll just be some sort of dungeon creeper horror.

    These aren't Bones. A while back i bought a cheapo set of plastic minis because it included a really classic looking D&D Troll (seen here) at a time when TSR/Wizards/Whatever isn't making that kind of troll anymore. These are the other minis from that set. After looking at them for a while, i realized the larger creatures are Apes as in from The Planet Of, so i tried to go with that look. Love their shields. The shorter guys will be used as generic orcs or similar.

    Two wolf-like creatures. The one on the left is not a Bones. It's an official D&D miniature of a krenshar, a pretty weird thing. The one on the right is a Bones and "normal" Dire Wolf.

    Finally, a big group shot of everything i painted during my semi-break from my comic timeline project, and this one can be clicked to full-size:


    By fnord12 | January 14, 2015, 3:10 PM | D&D | Comments (2) | Link




    Scarlet Witch's hair color

    She's wearing green on the cover of her first appearance, and yet she's called the *Scarlet* Witch. Therefore her hair must be red. Q.E.D.

    It looks like Shar is going to have a more reasoned discussion of the matter.


    By fnord12 | January 14, 2015, 2:07 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link




    But then why leave home at all?

    Having just come off a two week staycation that was pretty awesome at least until the flu bug bit, i can kind of get behind the conclusion of this Why Americans Are Terrible at Vacation article:

    But the Americans passed through almost exclusively by way of large tour buses, usually for just a few hours before venturing somewhere else on the coast. They walked through the one-road town in sensible walking shoes; strapped large, imposing cameras around their necks; missioned up the ancient steps to see the cathedral; and then paid small boat operators to ferry them to the Orthodox church to take a picture there, too. I can only imagine when they found time to actually be on holiday after they were done documenting it...

    ...when visiting Paris, for example... skip the Eiffel Tower (most Parisians haven't been since they were five years old) and instead... [try] mirroring locally relevant activities like having sex, drinking wine before noon, reading a weighty philosophy book, and taking a nap.

    I definitely find the tour style vacation to be exhausting, and love the idea of just going somewhere to relax. But i can actually relax just fine at home, and home is where i keep all my stuff, so i can take the occasional break from relaxing to paint some miniatures or work on my comics timeline. And if i'm just going to hang out somewhere, i'm not really going to see anything, so what's the point?

    Any way you look at it, though, i think it's time to go back on vacation.


    By fnord12 | January 14, 2015, 1:39 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link




    Boring Auntie had better start spicing up her stories

    From the September 2014 Scientific American, in an interview article fretting about our growing inability to turn off the technology around us:

    This disrupts the family, too. When Boring Auntie starts to talk at the family dinner table, her little niece pulls out her phone and goes on Facebook. All of a sudden her world is populated with snowball fights and ballerinas. And dinner is destroyed. Dinner used to be the utopian ideal of the American family having a canonical three-generation gathering. Facebook is what's utopian now.

    And...

    There's no authentic exchange. You're saying empathy is not important to the feeling of being understood. And yet I interviewed a woman who said to me that she's okay with a robot boyfriend. She wants one of those sophisticated Japanese robots. I looked at her and said, "You know that it doesn't understand you." She said, "Look, I just want civility in the house. I just want something that will make me feel not alone."

    People are also good with a robot that could stand in as a companion for an older person. But I take a moral position here because older people deserve to tell the story of their life to someone who understands what a life is. They've lost spouses; they've lost children. We're suggesting they tell the story of their life to something that has no idea was a life is or what a loss is.

    I never had these utopian family dinners and i never had Facebook, so a lot of what this article is saying sounds crazy to me. But i do know that one day me and Min are going to be old, and we don't have any kids, so we're going to need that robot companion. We were thinking it could be dog shaped.


    By fnord12 | January 13, 2015, 2:28 PM | My stupid life & Science | Comments (2) | Link




    Recap 63

    Chunneling Deeper into the Underdark


    By min | January 13, 2015, 10:58 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link




    Marvel Sales

    November.


    By fnord12 | January 12, 2015, 10:24 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




    OK, I see nothing special

    I'm sorry i didn't have any comic reviews today. You can blame Matthew Yglesias, who linked to a website the runs browser based DOS emulators, so i spent my review time playing Questprobe Spider-Man. I had this game as a kid but could never beat it. So i tried it again on my own today but didn't get any further than i did as a kid. In fact i probably did worse thanks to some problems with the emulator (like the delete button not working) which made things more frustrating than usual. So i figured it was time to use a walkthrough, and i finally realized how insane some of the solutions are, like shooting your web at a spinning fan like 5 times in a row with no feedback before you can shoot the web at the button that turns it off, or not being able to specify which chemicals you want to mix together so you have to keep dropping items from your inventory). With the walkthrough i thought i would finally beat the game, but i screwed up at the end anyway and got killed by an exploding Natter Energy Egg just like i always used to. But at that point i was close enough, so i'm declaring closure on this particular unresolved childhood matter. And after this experience, i have no desire to try the other Questprobe games that i never had as a kid.

    If you don't want to try the game, here's a fun walkthrough. It doesn't quite convey the frustrating experience of the game's poor syntax capabilities, but it demonstrates how insane the puzzles were.


    By fnord12 | January 6, 2015, 1:59 PM | Comics & Video Games | Comments (6) | Link




    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    She-Hulk #11 - I was originally excited to see a fight with Titania on the cover until i saw the hair pulling. As for the interior... well, i've come to really like Pulido's quirky art on this title, but for the fight scenes in this issue... well, that definitely doesn't seem to be the right use of Pulido. And that Volcana! What happened to her? Is she supposed to look like that now or is that just Pulido's "take" on the character? I do complain that there aren't enough straight up fights with super-villains anymore, but in the future i guess i'd better be careful about what i ask for. I still enjoyed this and am looking forward to the development of the Blue File plot.

    Daredevil #11 - Hee, hee! The Stunt-Master! Actually, as is often the case, Waid takes a really goofy concept and gets a good story out of it. Enjoyed this quite a bit, and am sad that Waid is leaving the book.


    By fnord12 | January 5, 2015, 6:21 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link




    Hello Kitty Cupcakes and Play-Doh Abominations


    By fnord12 | January 4, 2015, 4:47 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link




    A Very Monkey Christmas

    We'll be going into hibernation mode for the next two weeks or so. There may be some blogging but not much, and not much on the comics site either. Happy etc.! We leave you with three Christmas songs that i've put my spin on.


    Acknowledgement: for the first two songs, i started with some MIDI files found here.


    By fnord12 | December 24, 2014, 7:32 PM | Music | Comments (1) | Link




    C'thome for the C'tholidays

    Look who's done being painted just in time to bring maddening dreams of ancient horrors to all the boys and girls:

    I was originally kind of intimidated to paint C'thulu, in part because he's so big, which requires a somehwat different set of painting skills, and in part because he's such a visible and "important" figure that i wanted my paint job to be better than my usual rush jobs. But then i realized that the figure is cool because he's a giant C'thulu, not because of how i paint him. I could have painted him solid green and it would have been fine. So with that i relaxed a little and got to it (once my bigger paint brushes arrived).

    Here he is from another angle (and without the Santa hat).

    And, for scale, here is our Elder God with some other figures. Specifically, the black dragon that used to be my biggest miniature, the other (tiny by comparison!) C'thulu that came with the Reaper Bones set, and a regular sized mini(specifically the one used by the player who pushed me to paint C'thulu; i guess he's got a death wish or something).

    Finally, the battle that needs to happen: C'thulu vs. Godzilla!


    By fnord12 | December 24, 2014, 12:02 PM | D&D & Godzilla | Comments (2) | Link




    Something more fun

    Japan's KFC Christmas tradition is interesting. Be sure to click through to the 1984 KFC Rap!

    Vaguely related, my biggest regret about our visit to Ireland is not getting a photo of the knock-off restaurant Krecipe Fried Chicken. Krecipe Fried Chicken?! What!?

    Of course it's all meaningless to us until someone comes out with a vegan fried chicken chain. Vrecipe Fried Chicken? Krecipe Fried Tofu?

    Update: Min found a picture of Krecipe Fried Chicken on Flickr.

    Further Update: Kevin Drum is sick of the Japan KFC story. Sorry!


    By fnord12 | December 23, 2014, 2:56 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (2) | Link




    I think you have it backwards

    I don't normally comment on the likes of Bill O'Reilly but we seem to be getting into weird territory with the tragic murder of the two New York police officers this past weekend. Based on that, O'Reilly is calling for Mayor de Blasio to resign, saying, "He cannot run this city. He's lost control of the police department and their respect." It doesn't work that way, dude. The police work for de Blasio, not the other way around. They don't get to veto the people of New York's election of him. The actions of the police in response to de Blasio - the statements from the police union spokespeople, the cops that turned their backs on the mayor when he gave his speech (condemning the killings) - seem to amount to insurrection.

    Charlie Pierce has a lot to say about this, including, "This is an incredibly perilous time for democracy at the most basic levels."



    By fnord12 | December 23, 2014, 8:09 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Wow

    Even if nothing comes of it, it's a pretty big deal for the New York Times editorial board to come out advocating for an investigation leading to prosecution of torturers, including Dick Cheney.


    By fnord12 | December 22, 2014, 2:25 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    Elektra #9 - Man, i was all ready to check out on this series; just kinda ride it out for the final few issues without really caring. But i really liked this. First of all: dragon! Second, it's nice to see Jennifer Kale again. She actually seems to be getting a lot of play in more recent books. But a footnote (if applicable?) for her face scarring would really have been appreciated. But the main appeal was Del Mundo's art. He got pretty experiment-y this issue. Loved the heart-shaped scene, and even after that the fight scenes with the Hand were pretty innovative. Very cool.

    Ms. Marvel #10 - In many ways this was like a 1970s "relevant" comic, except of course with a Cockatiel-clone Thomas Edison as the bad guy.


    By fnord12 | December 22, 2014, 2:06 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




    So sad, so true

    Every holiday season something reminds me of this (starting at 1:08 if it doesn't start there automatically).

    Maybe there'd be less heartbreak if we all were raised in state-run nurseries like some dystopian sci fi story.


    By fnord12 | December 22, 2014, 1:29 PM | Movies & My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link




    I think someone misheard

    The news is that Obama is trying to normalize relations with Cuba, not that we're going to make them an unofficial colony again:

    When the Castro regime assumed power in Cuba in 1959, it quickly nationalized the assets of almost every foreign corporation within its borders as the country transitioned to communism. For half a century now, American companies have laid claim to billions of dollars in lost assets on the Caribbean island 90 miles from U.S. shores. Under American law, the claims have been steadily accruing interest, but the companies have never seen a penny.

    ...

    "You can safely assume a large flare went up yesterday," Robert Muse, a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in Cuban issues, including corporate claims, told TPM last week the day after Obama's White House announcement. "They're right now sending memos down the line: 'What about our claim?'"

    Go find Fulgencio Batista; he's got your claims.


    By fnord12 | December 22, 2014, 9:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Your Friday morning torture digest

    Both are from Jane Mayer at the New Yorker. Here's the first:

    [An unnamed high level CIA operative and the same woman who failed to pass on the pre-9/11 info on the hijackers to the FBI] personally partook in the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, at a black site in Poland. According to the Senate report, she sent a bubbly cable back to C.I.A. headquarters in 2003, anticipating the pain they planned to inflict on K.S.M. in an attempt to get him to confirm a report from another detainee, about a plot to use African-American Muslims training in Afghanistan for future terrorist attacks. "i love the Black American Muslim at AQ camps in Afghanuistan (sic). ... Mukie (K.S.M.) is going to be hatin' life on this one," she wrote, according to the report. But, as NBC notes, she misconstrued the intelligence gathered from the other detainee. Somehow, the C.I.A. mistakenly believed that African-American Muslim terrorists were already in the United States. The intelligence officials evidently pressed K.S.M. so hard to confirm this, under such physical duress, that he eventually did, even though it was false--leading U.S. officials on a wild-goose chase for black Muslim Al Qaeda operatives in Montana.

    From the NBC article that Mayer is summarizing:

    After being repeatedly "walled" -- slammed into a wall -- and then waterboarded, Mohammed told his interrogators that he had, in fact, sought to recruit American Muslims living in Montana to launch the attacks. But he recanted several months later, saying he was "under 'enhanced' measures" at the time and had simply told his captors what they wanted to hear, the report said.

    Torture works! It makes people tell us whatever we want!

    Here's the second from Mayer, showing the probability that little will come of the revelations in the torture report:

    The 1975 Church Committee report, which was conducted following revelations of, among other things, covert operations to assassinate foreign leaders, was, until now, the best-known public airing of C.I.A. practices... its findings were broadly accepted across the political spectrum. ...By contrast, the new report, even before it was released, came under attack from Republicans, including Dick Cheney, who, although he hadn't read it, called it "full of crap." Senator Mitch McConnell, the incoming majority leader, castigated it as "ideologically motivated and distorted." John Cornyn, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, argued that C.I.A. officers should not be criticized but, rather, "thanked."

    There was a way to address the matter that might have avoided much of the partisan trivialization. In a White House meeting in early 2009, Greg Craig, President Obama's White House Counsel, recommended the formation of an independent commission. Nearly every adviser in the room endorsed the idea, including such national-security hawks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and the President's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director at the time, also supported it. Obama, however, said that he didn't want to seem to be taking punitive measures against his predecessor, apparently because he still hoped to reach bipartisan agreement on issues such as closing Guantanamo.

    I don't know that an independent commission would have made any difference to Republican flaks, but it's amazing how you can take pretty much any issue and write "Obama would have done something stronger but he held back hoping for bipartisan agreement".


    By fnord12 | December 19, 2014, 9:11 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link




    Raising the overtime threshhold

    Apparently President Obama can raise the overtime threshold to adjust for inflation and basically either give millions of workers a raise or at least relieve them from working overtime and force companies to hire more workers to make up the difference. Either way it would probably be the most economically revolutionary thing that happened in this country since the New Deal even though it's really just keeping up with inflation. I imagine it could be phased in over several years so companies aren't suddenly hit with new expenses all at once (although they obviously haven't minded getting free overtime from workers for decades).

    Will he do it? Probably not, but he definitely seems to be looking for Executive branch-only things to do now that he's (finally) accepted that Congress is totally gridlocked. And this would be a good issue to ask potential Democratic presidential primary challengers about, if there were any.


    By fnord12 | December 18, 2014, 1:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies


    Ingredients

    • 4 T butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup canola oil
    • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
    • 1 T cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup white flour*
    • 1/2 cup cup white wheat flour*
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • Yield: 2 dozen cookies

    *You can just use 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. In non-vegan cookies, the eggs give them a golden brown hue. Without the egg, I feel like the cookies come out looking a little pale, so that's why i like to add a little white wheat.

    In a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars, beating for a couple of minutes. Pour in the oil and continue beating for another few minutes.

    Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk. Mix this and the vanilla extract into the oil and sugar.

    In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Pour 2/3rds of this into the liquid mix. Stir on low until the dry ingredients are entirely incorporated. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. Once that's mixed in, add the chocolate chips.

    At this point, the cookie dough may be a little wet. Chill it in the fridge for about an hour so that it's scoopable. Preheat the oven to 350degF.

    Using a medium-sized cookie scoop (~1 1/2 T), drop the cookies onto baking sheets leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until the edges are brown. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.


    By min | December 17, 2014, 6:59 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (3) | Link




    Mark Gruenwald interview

    Found at The Beat. Interesting both for what Gruenwald has to say (about both the New Universe and his Captain America run) and just to see the man talk. He's got a very reserved, almost shy, demeanor that i didn't expect.

    There are some other interesting things in that Beat post as well (it's an odds & sods post). I recommend clicking through to the Johanna Draper Carlson post which shows how a really cute looking Wonder Woman comic has been buried due to some generically awful covers, and also to the "Marvel and the Dangers of Synergy" article on CBR talking about how Marvel's changes due to the movies is hurting their shared universe concept.


    By fnord12 | December 17, 2014, 10:53 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




    Normalizing relations with Cuba

    Long overdue, but good news.


    By fnord12 | December 17, 2014, 10:13 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (4) | Link




    Vegan Jam Thumbprints

    With nuts.


    Without nuts. They look a little naked to me, but they were still delicious.


    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 2 vegan egg yolks (we like Ener-G egg replacer)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup jam (preserves are ok, but watch out for chunks of fruit)
    • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, optional
    • Yield: ~30 cookies

    Beat the butter in a mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and cream until fluffy. This may take several minutes and several pauses to scrape the sides and beater. Add the oil, mixing until well combined.

    Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Add 1 cup of the flour. Once that is mixed in, add the remaining 1/2 cup. Mix until the dough forms. Cover and chill for a couple of hours.

    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375degF. Use a small cookie scoop (2 tsp capacity - or if, like me, you haven't got one, you use an actual teaspoon to measure out the correct amount of dough and hope they come out uniform) to spoon out the dough. Roll the dough into balls and place them on the cookie sheet 1 inch apart.

    If you would like to use walnuts, once you've got a tray or two full of dough balls, pour ~1/4 cup non-dairy milk into a small bowl. Put the walnuts in another bowl. Dunk the dough balls into the milk and then coat with the nuts.

    Now it's time to make the jam well. I know these cookies are called "thumbprints" and that implies you should be using your thumb to make the indentation. I don't like this method, though, because it makes wide, shallow indentations that disappear completely during the baking.

    Instead, I take a half teaspoon measuring spoon, the kind that's a nice, round, half-bowl shape, and squash it into the dough balls. Be careful not to go all the way to the bottom. The jam wells still disappear a bit during the baking process, but at least you can see where they're supposed to be. Because the measuring spoon makes a smaller diameter well, the spreading isn't as bad. Also, they're uniform and i admit that is something i am a fan of.

    Bake for 7-9 minutes. They should be taken out before the edges start to brown. While the cookies are still hot, take the half teaspoon and re-press those jam wells. After a few minutes, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

    Heat the jam in a small saucepan or microwave in a glass bowl/measuring cup (we're partial to seedless raspberry and apricot jams in the Supermega-household). You want the jam warm enough so that it's almost liquid, but not boiling hot. Carefully fill each jam well and allow to set. The jam will thicken as it cools and become harder to spoon neatly into the cookies. If that happens, just warm it up again.


    By min | December 16, 2014, 7:40 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link




    How about we don't live in a police state?

    Head of the Cleveland Police Patrolman Union:

    Eventually, Follmer dismissed Melber's questions about excessive force and wrapped up the debate with an message to Americans.

    "How about this: Listen to police officers' commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop," he said. "I think that eliminates a lot of problems."

    "I think the nation needs to realize that when we tell you to do something, do it," he added.

    This guy gets a paycheck to talk to the public and he sounds like the worst parody of a fascist.


    By fnord12 | December 16, 2014, 6:36 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Vegan Sugar Cookies


    Vegan Sugar Cookies

    This is a recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar with my own method of making and handling the dough.


    Ingredients

    • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 T cornstarch
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • Yield: 2-3 dozen, depending on the size of your cookie cutter(s)

    Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening until smooth. Add the butter and beat until both are well combined. Add the sugar and cream until fluffy. Don't shortchange this step. Creaming your butter and sugar properly can take 5 minutes even with a stand mixer.

    Mix in half of the dry ingredients and all of the milk and vanilla extract until just combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until it forms into a nice soft dough.

    Split the dough into thirds (or if you have really large cutters, you might want to only split the dough in half), flattening each into a disk, wrapping them separately in plastic wrap, and sticking them in the fridge for at least 3 hours so that they're thoroughly chilled. Line 2 (or 3 or 4 if you have room in your fridge for them) baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Why did you need to split the dough? The thing with sugar cookie dough is you want to minimize the number of times you re-roll it. You also want it to stay chilled. So, working with a piece of dough that's fairly large means you're going to end up re-rolling the scraps several times. Your dough's going to keep getting warmer and softer, and you're going to have to keep using more and more flour to prevent sticking, which means more flour kneaded into your cookie dough.

    By dividing the dough into thirds, you can keep 2 disks chilling in the fridge while you work the 1. Using equal portions of flour and powdered sugar, dust your pastry board. Gently roll the dough out until it's 1/4" thick. Try to only roll the pin forward, away from you. Avoid rolling it back and forth. Rotate the dough frequently to prevent/check for sticking and to ensure your dough will have a uniform thickness.

    If you're using several cookie cutters, try to lay them out strategically before you make the cuts in order to minimize the amount of scrap dough left. If you're only using one or two cutters, just have at it and hope for the best.

    Using a spatula, unless you like thumbprints in your sugar cookies, transfer the dough onto your prepared cookie sheets leaving 2 inches between cookies. Overcrowding your cookie tray results in one super cookie instead of several individual cookies. Which is what you might be going for. I'm not judging. Once your tray is full, stick it in the fridge.

    Hopefully, you've done a fantastic job and only have a small amount of scrap dough left. Take out your second disk of dough and stick your scrap dough onto it. Now you've got a new piece of chilled dough to work with and your leftover dough will be incorporated into it.

    If you ended up with quite a bit of scrap dough, you have 2 options.


    1) If the dough is still chilled and seems stiff enough to work with, you can smoosh it into a ball and re-roll it to cut out more cookies.


    2) If not, form it into a mini disk, wrap it up, and stick it back into the fridge until it's chilled enough to work with.

    Keep rolling and cutting until you either run out of dough or run out of baking sheets. Now leave them sitting in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will help ensure the cookies maintain their shape while baking. If you pop them in the oven without chilling them first, they'll taste just as good but your mittens will have swollen wrists and your stars and snowflakes will look even wonkier than they already do (no judging!). It's a risk some are willing to take to get to the eating portion of this exercise a little sooner.

    Preheat the oven to 350degF. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. You want to take them out before the edges start to brown. Leave them on the tray for a few minutes to firm up before transferring to a wire rack to cool.



    After the cookies are cooled, make the icing.


    Vegan Royal Icing


    Ingredients

    • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
    • 3 tsp water
    • 3/4 tsp light corn syrup
    • liquid food coloring, optional

    Make sure your cookies are completely cooled before you make this icing because it starts to get stiff after a few minutes and that makes it difficult to work with.

    Whisk the sugar, water, and corn syrup together until it's smooth. Add the food coloring. Pour it into a plastic squeeze bottle like they use at sub shops for the vinegar. Outline your borders first. Fill in the middle a little at a time, using a pastry brush to spread the icing around and smooth it out. If you want to do multiple colors, you'll need more squeeze bottles and pastry brushes. Make sure to do the color boundaries first to prevent any bleeding.


    By min | December 16, 2014, 11:35 AM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link




    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    Thanos vs. Hulk #1 - This is about my speed. I guess i am relegated to being one of those comic collectors that only buys books by former greats from the 70s and 80s. The art is actually sometimes kind of wonky - the opening splash with the grinning Tony Stark and Maria Hill made me cringe - but storywise it's what i would expect from Jim Starlin. I do like that Starlin is playing in the current status quo (e.g. Kid Annihilus, acknowledging Pip the Troll's time with X-Factor) while also using "his" cast of characters (Pip and even Heater Delight). I liked the bit with Hulk and Banner talking together in their subconsciousness too. And, you know, it's called Thanos vs. Hulk so we've definitely got something to look forward to.

    New Warriors #12 - I enjoyed this series. As a wrap-up, it did the needful, but it would have been nice to have some more focus on the newer characters, who i fear will go back into obscurity when the next iteration of New Warriors comes along. It's also clear we're not getting the whole story. There's obviously something up with Zuras, and we never did get to see what was up with Maelstrom's Minions. Also, since i know Min won't read the goodbye essay at the end, i'll note that Yost says that cats have nine lives, so Mr. Whiskers may not really be dead.

    Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17 - Oh thank god. When i was under the mistaken impression (has it really been almost two months?) that the previous issue was the last, i was definitely confused, but this issue spells everything out for me and ends with a few interesting twists. It also seems to suggest that the entire series may have been a fabrication by Boomerang, or at least he put his own self-serving spin on it, which opens up a lot of leeway regarding continuity concerns.

    Just an observation that this week's books are comprised of one 4-issue mini-series and two final issues. Mark Waid is leaving Daredevil and She-Hulk and Elektra are cancelled. I think when the dust settles the only ongoing that we'll be reading is Ms. Marvel.


    By fnord12 | December 16, 2014, 10:19 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




    The answer to my question is probably "Both".

    This may be some obscure procedural thing. But a bunch of blogs are happily recounting the fact that, in trying to throw a monkey wrench into the "CRomnibus" spending bill that passed over the weekend, Ted Cruz inadvertently made it possible for the Senate to confirm a number of Obama appointments that otherwise wouldn't have been approved in the 2015 senate.

    As i understand it, Cruz introduced a motion that delayed the CRomnibus vote, Senator Reid decided that since they were stuck there they might as well vote on the appointees. And it's presented on the blogs as LOL CRUZ! But what i don't understand is why Reid wouldn't have kept the Senators there to do that anyway? Again, it may be some obscure procedural thing, but it seems like the Senators would have preferred to duck out early for the holidays than vote on the appointees, but since they didn't have a choice they might as well do some work.

    I guess ultimately my question is: Are the Senators lazy, or is the Senate just a morass of arcane bureaucratic rules designed to make sure nothing ever gets done?

    Finally, since i keep having to type "CRomnibus", here's Conan.

    By CRomnibus!

    By fnord12 | December 15, 2014, 2:51 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Monsters

    Dick Cheney:

    Host Chuck Todd asked Cheney to respond to the Senate Intelligence Committee report's account that one detainee was "chained to the wall of a cell, doused with water, froze to death in CIA custody."

    "And it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity," Todd said.

    "Right," Cheney responded. "But the problem I have was with all of the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield."

    "I'm more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent," he continued.

    Todd pressed Cheney, asking if he was okay with the fact that about 25 percent of the detainees interrogated were actually innocent.

    "I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States," Cheney responded.

    Antonin Scalia:

    We have laws against torture. The Constitution itself says nothing about torture. The Constitution speaks of punishment. If you condemn someone who has committed a crime to torture, that would be unconstitutional. [fnord's emphasis]

    That is the most weasel-lawyer reasoning i have ever seen. To use it in defense of torture is disgusting, and it also shows the hypocrisy of Scalia's supposed originalist philosophy, as if early Americans were ok with British soldiers torturing them as long as it wasn't because they were being punished for something.

    Our final monsters for this post are the authors of the CIA's response in the Wall Street Journal to the release of the Senate's torture report, including George Tenant and Michael Haydeen. Senator Wyden has rebutted their rebuttal with annotated detail, showing that their WSJ response was basically a bunch of lies.

    I can't believe we're even "debating" torture, and it's disheartening that there can be no consequence of this "debate" (i.e., there's no way anyone will be prosecuted). But at the same time it's remarkable how easy it is to be against torture. In addition to it being morally wrong, which should be enough, it's been proven that the torture we engaged in was completely ineffective, and harmful to the country in other ways. So there's not even an idealism vs. pragmatism argument to be made.

    And if the torturers had any dignity or courage of their convictions, they wouldn't have been hiding and lying about it and taking a scattershot defense of "it isn't torture but if it was torture we needed to do it to save American lives plus we were scared don't you remember 9/11?". They would have done what they felt had to do and then come to the American people and said look, we did what we had to do even though it was illegal and now we're willing to go to jail for it. I could have at least respected that.


    By fnord12 | December 15, 2014, 2:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




    Horde on Location


    Click to Horde-size

    Thanks to Min for the new backdrop (developed for something else).

    In this horde - all Reaper Bones - we have two female Driders, one male Drider (i painted the first a while back), a beholder, a wood giantess, a baby Cthulu (the big one is coming as soon as i get some bigger brushes!), another fire elemental thingy that i missed when doing the last set, a coffin, and a mass of kobolds.

    The female driders posed a challenge because Reaper thought it would be a good idea to have them be bare chested. I guess no one at Reaper runs a campaign with mostly female players or i guess even knows any women. So i had to do some de-nudification on them. I sanded off their nipples (ouch!) and then free-hand paint some armor on their chests. They came out pretty well, considering.


    By fnord12 | December 15, 2014, 12:15 PM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link




    Vegan Fudge Brownies


    This is based on a recipe from Chloe's Vegan Desserts. The tidbits of advice and cautions are from me.


    Ingredients

    • 1 cup white flour*
    • 1/2 cup white wheat flour*
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 3/4 cup butter (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
    • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract

    Yield: 24 2-inch square brownies


    *1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour is just fine instead of using 2 types of flour.

    Grease and line a 9"x13" pan, making sure there's enough parchment paper to hang over the edge of the pan. You're going to need that to lift the brownies out later.

    You'll need a stand mixer for this one. Or very strong arms and a sturdy wooden spoon. Trust me.

    In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Using a stand mixer, stir in the sugar.

    In a double boiler or microwave, melt the butter and chocolate chips together, whisking occasionally. Add this to the dry ingredients, mixing on low until combined. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and beat for a minute or so. It will probably look like grainy fudge. If you're adding nuts or the like, now's the time to throw them in and give them a short spin in the mixer.

    Preheat the oven to 350degF.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it around with a rubber spatula until it's as evenly distributed as you can get. Bake for 40 minutes.

    Now, here's the part where every fudge brownie recipe basically lies to you. Either they say the brownie will be "a little wet in the center" or go so far as to claim you can test for doneness by sticking a toothpick in the brownies and seeing if it comes out clean. DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE HORRIBLE LYING LIARS.

    After 40 minutes in the oven, what you will actually have is a seething, boiling, liquid mess. It will not look anything like a brownie. That's ok. Take it out of the oven anyway. Set it down carefully someplace flat, like the top of the stove. Then walk away. Don't touch it. I promise when it cools down, all that chocolate will solidify. If you try to bake them long enough so that only the center is a little jiggly, you'll just end up with burned brownies and sadness.

    Once the brownies are completely cooled (COMPLETELY! unless you want to eat your brownies with a spoon), use the parchment paper to lift the brownies out of the pan. Set them down on a large cutting board. Now, you can cut off the crispy edges if you'd like, but why would you do that? That's wasted brownie! That's a crazy thing to do. So, instead, just cut the brownies into a size that you think is appropriate. Nom nom nom.


    By min | December 14, 2014, 5:29 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (2) | Link



    No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.