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December 24, 2014

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



December 23, 2014

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



December 22, 2014

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



December 19, 2014

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



December 18, 2014

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



December 17, 2014

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



December 16, 2014

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



December 15, 2014

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 painted some armor on their chests. They came out pretty well, considering.


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



December 14, 2014

Vegan Fudge Brownies


This is based on a recipe from Chloe's Vegan Desserts that i've made some changes to.


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
  • 1/2 cup + 2T butter (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/2 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. I just have a thing for white whole wheat.

Grease a 9"x13" pan in a few spots just to keep the parchment paper in place, 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. Don't overdo the greasing because it will cool in patches on your finished brownies and look gross.

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 35-40 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



Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Cookies

The problem i've always had with oatmeal cookie recipes is they all tell you to use whole, rolled oats as is, but this generally results in a barely held together granola cookie that's less than satisfactory. I also noticed that cookies i bought seemed to have fewer oats in them, yet retained that oatey flavor. So i decided to grind some of the oats and only leave 1/3 of them whole. These cookies hold together much better and have a much nicer texture, imo.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/4 cup white wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 T butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 T plus 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Yield: ~21 cookies

Using a food processor, grind 1 cup of the rolled oats into flour. Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl. Mix in the ground and whole oats.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the oil.

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the milk and vanilla extract. Pour half of the dry ingredients and all of the liquid into the bowl with the butter and sugar. Beat until just combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients. When the dry ingredients are completely mixed in, add the raisins and nuts, stirring just long enough to distribute them into the dough.

Grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350degF.

Using a medium-sized cookie scoop (~1 1/2 T), drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets approximately 2 inches apart. Flatten the cookies a bit as they will spread minimally.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


By min | December 14, 2014, 4:43 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (1) | Link



Vegan Gingersofts

It's cookie season.

So, here's what happened. I needed a gingersnap recipe. I found one. And then i proceeded to completely misread the amount of butter called for. Thus, gingersofts were born, a soft and deliciously buttery alternative to boring old gingersnaps.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter (we like Earth Balance)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 vegan egg (we like Ener-G)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • Yield: ~30 cookies

Cream the butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.

Sift the flour with baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well blended.

Use a cookie scoop to scoop onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350degF. Leave the cookies on the sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


By min | December 14, 2014, 4:20 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link



December 12, 2014

Presented without explanation

Bugbear on a surfboard:


By fnord12 | December 12, 2014, 7:34 AM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link



December 11, 2014

Dancin' Boba Fett

Found here: Five Star Wars Products Gone Horribly Wrong after being led there on my Water Bear search; here's their Water Bear post.


By fnord12 | December 11, 2014, 6:13 PM | Star Wars | Comments (0) | Link



Water Bears are pretty awesome

I propose devoting some serious budget dollars to figuring out how to grow them beyond their normal millimeter-long size. And also officially name them Water Bears instead of tardigrades.


By fnord12 | December 11, 2014, 6:10 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link



Can we stop please?

The latest in our bizarre and clumsy attempts to overthrow the Cuban government isn't quite as stupid as the fake Twitter program, but it was equally ineffective, put innocent people in danger, and:

Instead of sparking a democratic revolution, it compromised an authentic source of protest that had produced some of the hardest-hitting grassroots criticism since Fidel Castro took power in 1959...

This really dovetails with Min's post on the Minerva Initiative. They're studying how popular uprisings work not just to squash them but also foment them as desired. They know it has something to do with the Twitter and youth culture, but they don't quite have the formula down yet.

If we really want to make a difference and we have any faith in ourselves, we need to relax our trade embargo and let them import our awesome culture and let the Cuban citizens be inspired by how great we are. Meddling with their rap music is not going to convince them of that.


By fnord12 | December 11, 2014, 1:34 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (0) | Link



Variant covers are weird

I was over at friend Bob's place the other day and i was looking through his video game collection and started wondering if they still make video games NOT based on Legos versions of licensed characters. But there's no doubt that the Lego guys are popular and appealing, and Mike Sterling's latest post is another proof point of that. It also proves that a good cover can still be a way to get people to consider picking up a book they weren't otherwise interested in (or didn't know about), contra what you sometimes hear regarding the reasoning behind the switch to generic pin-up covers.

But mainly it just emphasizes the weird nature of variant covers. I sort of understand when comic companies just have artists draw alternate covers that are in some way related to the story or at least series in question. But when you have Lego variants or Deadpool Month variants or even the really cute Skottie Young Baby variants, it's just... weird. It's misleading to the average comic buyer, and i have to wonder what the collectors of these variants think of the 22 pages of extraneous story that is attached to the pin-up that they bought.

Now, let me just say that if variant covers are your thing, that's fine with me and thank you very much for subsidizing my hobby, because without you i think the comic industry as we know it would be out of business already. I just find the whole thing... odd.


By fnord12 | December 11, 2014, 10:07 AM | Comics & Video Games | Comments (0) | Link



This is What Happens When Banks Aren't Held Accountable

They feel it's perfectly ok to go back to doing the very thing that collapsed the economy in 2008 and want you to apologize for trying to make it harder for them to do it. And why not? Clearly, there are no consequences. Even children know if there aren't any consequences, they don't need to worry about changing their behavior.

Congress has agreed to use federal deposit insurance, which was designed to protect the savings accounts of consumers, to cover risky trading by the nation's biggest banks.

In a small provision in the budget bill, Congress agreed to allow banks to house their trading of swaps and derivatives alongside customer deposits, which are insured by the federal government against losses.

The budget move repeals a portion of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and, some say, lays the groundwork for future bailouts of banks who make irresponsibly risky trades.

Link


By min | December 11, 2014, 9:15 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link



December 10, 2014

Government Funding Universities to Research Ways to Contain/Neutralize Activists

Every day, the world gets a little more dystopian sci-fi. Not only is the Department of Defense using social scientists to figure out ways to control dissent, they've spread the research around so that each piece of research on its own appears innocuous. That sounds like a familiar movie plot.

Last year, the DoD's Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine 'Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?' which, however, conflates peaceful activists with "supporters of political violence" who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on "armed militancy" themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists.
...
From the outset, the Minerva programme was slated to provide over $75 million over five years for social and behavioural science research. This year alone it has been allocated a total budget of $17.8 million by US Congress.

An internal Minerva staff email communication referenced in a 2012 Masters dissertation reveals that the programme is geared toward producing quick results that are directly applicable to field operations. The dissertation was part of a Minerva-funded project on "counter-radical Muslim discourse" at Arizona State University.

...

According to Prof David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin's University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, "when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project."

Link


By min | December 10, 2014, 3:40 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Torture report

The Washington Post has an innovative way to break down the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's torturing. Kevin Drum breaks it down even further: "We Tortured Prisoners, It Didn't Work, and We Lied About It".


By fnord12 | December 10, 2014, 9:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Why we are tired today

Adrian Belew at Roxy & Dukes:


By fnord12 | December 10, 2014, 7:40 AM | Music | Comments (1) | Link



December 8, 2014

Event fatigue

Just recording some data and notes for posterity. In The Beat's October sales analysis, Jason Enright nicely lays out the sales number for recent Marvel mega-event first issues:

05/06 Civil War #1 - 260,706 (-43.6%)
04/08 Secret Invasion #1 - 250,213 (-41.2%)
01/10 Siege #1 - 108,484 ( 36.0%)
04/11 Fear Itself #1 - 128,595 ( 14.3%)
03/12 Av vs. X-Men #1 - 203,181 (-27.6%)
03/13 Age of Ultron #1 - 174,952 (-16.0%)
08/13 Infinity #1 - 205,819 (-28.6%)
05/14 Original Sin #1 - 147,045 ( -5.5%)
10/14 AXIS #1 - 138,966

Somewhat related, Tom Brevoort talks about the "Darwinism" behind the events and the question of event fatigue. I agree with Brevoort where he takes issue with the questioner in the sense that just because *i* don't like something doesn't mean it's not doing well. But i wonder how closely sales really reflect their customer's appetite for the next crossover (if that's the idea; in other words, if Age of Ultron getting good buzz meant that more people picked up Infinity whereas AvX NOT being well received meant less people were willing to try Age of Ultron), given the general collector mentality and especially now that books come out so quickly. For example, by issue #4 i knew that i didn't want to read any more Axis, but the way things worked out i've bought at least up to issue #6 ("at least" due to dependencies relating to how our comic dealer's pull list operates). A lot of people who don't like the series will nonetheless buy it all the way through, because that's what comic collectors do. But those people probably won't buy the next event (assuming everything else is equal; we're just talking about "event fatigue" here. I think the new Secret Wars series will definitely sell better than Axis based on the nature of the event.).

Despite that, another thing i'll want to look at at some point by digging through the Beat's Sales Chart archives is the drop-off rates for each crossover. That's probably a somewhat better indication of how well the series was received, whereas first issue sales are really an indication of how well the concept of the event was received and/or how well Marvel's marketing department hyped it.

Personally i skipped the past few events so i wasn't suffering from event fatigue. I also look at the creative teams behind the events (i.e., this was really a Remender Uncanny Avengers story, and Secret Wars is really a continuation of Hickman's Avengers).

It's also worth looking at the dates of the starting points of those events and noticing that they become more and more frequent, and what's also evident from the sales charts is how much more important they are to Marvel's overall numbers. When Axis doesn't sell as well as Infinity, it also means that the tie-in books aren't selling as well.

Again, no major revelations from me on this. Just capturing some notes for myself.


By fnord12 | December 8, 2014, 1:42 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



I always wanted them to make a Secret Wars movie...

...but a "Movie In Your Mind" is not what i had in, er, mind.

Image courtesy of (i.e., shamelessly stolen from) Mike Sterling's latest End of Civilization post.

Also, that must be the first time Wolverine has been edited out of an image.


By fnord12 | December 8, 2014, 1:23 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



December 5, 2014

Marvel Sales

October.

I'm a little behind on this. Missed it when it came out.


By fnord12 | December 5, 2014, 1:14 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



December 3, 2014

Exercise Alone Ain't Gonna Cut It

We like food over here in the SuperMegaMonkey household. So, conversations about exercise and weight and health take place with regular frequency. I have been known to say it's a damn good thing we're vegan what with the pounds of butter i can consume in a week.

One of the things we believe is people trying to lose weight with exercise alone are never going to manage it because food is super caloric (and delicious) and exercise burns hardly any of those calories. Now science is here to back us up.

More and more research in both the UK and the US is emerging to show that exercise has a negligible impact on weight loss. That tri-weekly commitment to aerobics class? Almost worthless, as far as fitting into your bikini is concerned. The Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical research establishment in the US, reports that, in general, studies "have demonstrated no or modest weight loss with exercise alone" and that "an exercise regimen... is unlikely to result in short-term weight loss beyond what is achieved with dietary change."
...
Most of us have a grasp of the rudiments of weight gain and loss: you put energy (calories) into your body through food, you expend them through movement, and any that don't get burned off are stored in your body as fat. Unfortunately, the maths isn't in our favour. "In theory, of course, it's possible that you can burn more calories than you eat," says Dr Susan Jebb, head of nutrition and health research at the Medical Research Council, and one of the government's go-to academics for advice on nutrition. "But you have to do an awful lot more exercise than most people realise. To burn off an extra 500 calories is typically an extra two hours of cycling. And that's about two doughnuts."

From a practical perspective, then, exercise is never going to be an effective way of slimming, unless you have the training schedule - and the willpower - of an Olympic athlete. "It's simple maths," says Professor Paul Gately, of the Carnegie Weight Management institution in Leeds. "If you want to lose a pound of body fat, then that requires you to run from Leeds to Nottingham, but if you want to do it through diet, you just have to skip a meal for seven days." Both Jebb and Gately are keen to stress that there is plenty of evidence that exercise can add value to a diet: "It certainly does maximise the amount you lose as fat rather than tissue," Jebb points out. But Gately sums it up: "Most people, offered the choice, are going to go for the diet, because it's easier to achieve."

I google mapped it. Nottingham is 67.4 miles from Leeds on foot. I don't like running across the street much less in increments of distance that can be measured in miles.

The article goes on to say that we often also compensate for extra physical activity either by consuming more calories than we burned through exercise or by being less active in the rest of our day. Motherfucker!

So, if you want to lose weight, you should exercise and count your calories, otherwise you'll unwittingly consume twice as much for dinner and end up with a calorie surplus greater than if you hadn't exercised at all. Our bodies are assholes like that.

Also, the article says a slice of Domino's pepperoni pizza (who the hell is eating Domino's? go get some real pizza, ferchrissakes!) is equivalent to 45 minutes of swimming.

a) who eats just 1 slice of pizza?
b) i don't think i could manage 1 minute of swimming, let alone 45

An apple is the same as 15 minutes of weight lifting. An apple! Gah!


By min | December 3, 2014, 2:32 PM | Science | Comments (3) | Link



December 2, 2014

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

It's been a while and these are a couple weeks old at least. But there are SPOILERS below and Min hasn't read these yet, so i'm putting everything below the fold.

Click to continue.

Elektra #8 - I completely forgot what this was about the moment after i read it and of course the cover is of no help at all. But it turns out this is the issue where for some reason Elektra decides to break into the secure facility where Bullseye is holding SHIELD, ostensibly to kill him for him having killed her 30+ years ago, and i don't think it's a coincidence that moments later, while Elektra is fighting SHIELD, the Hand show up to claim Bullseye. Not the brightest thing she's ever done. But Del Mundo is back on art and next issue Elektra teams up with Maria Hill to fight the Hand, so i guess that's something.

She-Hulk #10 - Well, my theories on the plot turned out to be pretty wrong and it turns out that this was all just a scheme by Dr. Faustus. Which is cool in its own way but it does leave me with some doubts. Like, if the idea is that Steve Rogers had to defend his name publicly, should he really have chosen one of his super-hero friends as the prosecutor? I also didn't love the idea that Steve Rogers faced super-Nazis prior to becoming Captain America, or the implication that the story that we're hearing about only at this late date was the inspiration for him deciding to sign up (yes, they back away from it later, but the conversation between Cap and the 'Don't worry, they have ways of getting around the 4-F problem' guy was pretty clear). I still enjoyed it, especially Pulido's unusual art style (although i did have some layout problems again).

Daredevil #10 - This has been an unusual twist on the usual Purple Man story and i liked it. But adding a little "meta" knowledge - the fact that Waid is going to be leaving this title - it's sad to see Daredevil seemingly getting put back to his "status quo" of dysfunctionally depressed. I know you're supposed to put your toys back in the box when you're done playing with them, but i wouldn't have minded leaving DD permanently more chipper (or pseudo-chipper). That said, Waid may have planned for this all along and we may have a grand finale coming.

Captain Marvel #9 - This continues to not be very engaging. I get the flipping of the traditional prince/forced marriage story, but the convenience of having Tic along seemed awfully contrived. Also, one sure way to get me to not read the dialogue is to make everyone speak in rhymes.

Axis #4-6 - Oh my god this series is horrible. I have no interest in a Bizarro-world, basically What If story, but it could at least be good. In practice, there's barely a story at all; it's more of a rough outline with launching points for various tie-ins that i'm not getting. And as for what story there is, well, Kluh, the "Hulk's Hulk", is the lamest idea with the lamest character design that i can remember seeing. The rest of it is only as bad as your typical banal "What if Dr. Doom were a good guy" stuff, but that's bad enough. And what happened to the art? How did we go from Adam Kubert to - ugh! - Lenil Yu and the Dodsons after just two issues? We gotta drop this. I know it's practically all out already and Wanyas has probably already picked up at least the next issue if not more, but i can't read any more of this. So much for my big plans. Horrible.


By fnord12 | December 2, 2014, 2:27 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link



Why are counterterror experts involved in monitoring protests?

Here's the article, including a tremendous "you kids get off my lawn" rant from an anonymous "source", but what strikes me is that they interview a counterterror expert (again anonymous) who has been monitoring the Darren Wilson protests. Here's some commentary from a website i found that notes that this is a common occurrence:

Some people might say that 'counterterrorism' analysts...should be monitoring the tweets and Facebook posts... if those activists intend to shut down highways.

We can agree to disagree about that, but please don't say these fusion centers are primarily dedicated to stopping terrorism when they are doing things like this. Stopping traffic for a few hours is civil disobedience, not terrorism. A supposed anti-terrorism center has no business monitoring public social media accounts looking for 'intelligence' about civic protest movements.

Meanwhile, Gawker and Emptywheel mock the NYPD for being stumped by "cutting edge of 2006 technology" like Twitter and disposable phones. They don't really comment on the counterterrorism angle which i think is the most alarming part, though, although i guess the fact that the protestors know that they need disposable phones to avoid getting hacked by the police is a piece of it.


By fnord12 | December 2, 2014, 12:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



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