Video Game Tuesday: Minecraft

I bet I know a game you’ve never heard of: Minecraft.

Yeah, right.

“How could you be posting about Minecraft, it’s been around for ten years! Don’t you have something better to post about?!”

I mean, newer? Yes. Better? Maybe. Something else? No.

Let’s be honest here, I’ve been playing Minecraft since it was in early alpha release. My buddy (and streamer) ScoutSierra got me into it in early 2010. It was a totally different game back then — I mean, totally. Not better or worse, it’s just evolved a lot since then. I’ve always enjoyed the game. I like builders, but I like the adventuring aspect of the game as well. It really captures that sandbox feeling like no other game does, and maybe that’s just because the game itself kind of defined sandboxes.

The coolest thing about Minecraft to me, at this point, is that it’s the one game my entire family plays together. My oldest child started playing Minecraft in 2012, I guess. I distinctly remember him playing on my iPad while rolling around in his stroller at PlayOnCon in Birmingham, Alabama. That would be my first real memory of him playing. Of course since then — and up to now — he’s become more proficient at the game than I could ever be. Honestly, I never thought I would be that dad whose child surpasses him. Even going so far as to learn commands, and extensive redstone contraptions that would blow your mind. And maybe it just blows my mind, I don’t know. But he retains all the information, and now, on the Realm we all play on together, when I need a gamerule changed to be more efficient or less efficient, I just ask him.

Going backward, again, though. I remember playing long hours into the night with my wife, and ScoutSierra, back when it was barely more that just a few blocks and giant dirt houses. I feel like I sound like my grandmother, God rest her, “Our first house had dirt floors.” You gain a lot of life wisdom when your floors are dirt, and I guess I have Old Man Syndrome when it comes to Minecraft. “Get off my grass blocks, you kids!”

I hope that my youngest picks up a controller, or a mouse and keyboard preferably, and plays Minecraft, too. His older brother will probably be too old to focus on playing with him, but we’ll see. I don’t plan on making them play with each other, unless they just want to.

Going back to a more Minecraft… The game itself is actually celebrating its ten-year anniversary, so if you started playing at the beginning, you’ve been playing for ten years. The game has evolved so much since the beginning. Look for yourself (courtesy of minecraft.net. And please forgive my shoddy editing, my good program wouldn’t load this morning.):

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If you’ve never tried Minecraft, it’s a great game to play on its own, with great throwbacks to the gaming days of old, and features that make it a modern competitive game. It’s really enjoyable for kids of all ages, from 4 years old to 104 years old. Go buy it for yourself, or your kids.

But, I find it unbelievable that you may have never tried it.

 

Featured image courtesy of Minecraft.net. Thanks for 10 awesome years!

 

Movie Monday: I Am Mother

Yesterday was Father’s Day, what a weird juxtaposition.

Anyway, that’s right, I gave Netflix’s newest movie a shot: I Am Mother. I was apprehensive going into the movie, because I’m not the biggest fan of Hilary Swank, and I’m not really sure why. Maybe her acting. But, either way, it’s not a big enough issue to keep me from enjoying the movie. Here’s the trailer, up front, and we’ll do some discussing afterward.

I’ll avoid spoilers, like last time, except I will be including a spoiler-y section at the end.

So, the movie centers around a shelter of some sorts, created by humans in the event of a disaster scenario that leaves the planet uninhabitable and dangerous. It follows Mother, a sentient/semi-sentient droid (robot) that is in place to raise humans, though we only see her raising one: Daughter. That’s right, basic names, with no real identities, in a safe place, with no definable future or past.

Anyway, not very far into the story we’re introduced to Hilary Swank’s character, who — as seen in the trailer — obviously introduces some tension into the story. And boy, does it. What it gives us is a decision of the devil we know and the devil we don’t. Lesser of two evils. That sort of thing. It’s a really interesting dynamic, and it was a really engaging watch… actually, I found myself discussing the plot with my wife for a couple of hours after the movie, and even thinking about it again and again as the day went on.

I’ll not divulge too much of the movie, as to sway your opinion one way or the other, obviously, because even the viewers are left with a choice of determining what is right and what is wrong.

Spoilers below this point…  Highlight the text to expose the spoilers.

Early on we’re introduced to a very loving Mother, who shows us that she cares for Daughter, in the way that she sings to her… er… she plays a singing voice to her. She educates her, plays with her, does art with her, and of course, makes sure she’s fed and well-nourished. She even pinpoints early on, how important it is to have good test scores and making sure that she reaches the threshold. She’s also spent years telling Daughter that there is a contagion on the outside that keeps Daughter safely inside.Then we’re introduced to the tension-maker, Hilary Swank, whose character is injured on the outside. She was shot. At one point, Mother tells Daughter that the bullet that injured their new guest was of human make. This, of course, is a lie. Daughter discovers this to be true, and begins determining a way to escape — after finding out that Mother had “aborted” the other test subjects like herself, WHEN THEY DIDN’T PASS THEIR TEST SCORES! LIKE, WHAT! Daughter even finds a remaining human jaw bone in the incinerator. Like, dude. At the very same time, though, Mother did know best.

Daughter and their guest escapes, at the behest of the guest, who told them they would be returning to the mines to meet the other humans. After travelling for what was described as “not more than a day”, it becomes evident that their guest was lying too, and the entire rest of humanity seems to be dead. Daughter determines herself to go back to save her brother, who was finishing growing in a false womb, and to put down Mother. She’s greeted at the door by a bunch of droids, who threaten to kill her. She tells them she wants to speak to Mother, and they stand down. Then, it’s revealed that Mother is really the single sentient entity that runs all of the other droids. Her one AI consciousness is responsible for every other droid on the planet. She also helps Daughter come to a conclusion as to what to do with her life, going so far as to relinquish her life to entrust that daughter can raise the return of humanity — or so we’re led to believe.

The final scene of the movie is a droid entering the shipping container home of Hilary Swank’s character, and Mother closing the door. She eludes to the fact that her survival was intentional, and only to be used as a conduit for the droids to help Daughter succeed. Then, cut to credits.

Food Friday: Binging with Babish and Chef Edition

This is sort of a follow up to my Monday post, where I talked about the movie Chef.

I got turned onto the movie and all she had to offer from Binging with Babish, a YouTube sensation who got his real big kick off from doing an episode detailing Pasta Aglio e Olio. It’s a six-part recipe that leaves you with some delicious offerings. For the majority of this post, I’m going to steal from Babish, and all credit goes to him for the actual recipes, except for maybe some of the details coming from the movie Chef, itself. 

Speaking of which, we get to see the Pasta Aglio e Olio is a sexy scene where Jon Favreau cooks for Scarlett Johansson. Now, that sounds like a dream come true to most dudes out there, and it should be. The scene just captures the moment, and the food perfectly; so much so, you can almost smell the garlic as it cooks up in the olive oil. Stealing almost directly — actually directly — from Babish, the ingredients for this one are as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head garlic, separated and peeled
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound dry linguine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Makes 2 servings

  1. Heavily salt a large pot of water, and bring to a boil. Cook pasta until slightly underdone while completing the steps below.
  2. Slice the garlic cloves thinly, and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until barely shimmering. Add sliced garlic, stirring constantly, until softened and turning golden on the edges. Add the red pepper flakes and lower the heat to medium-low.
  3. Add the pasta, drained, with about 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water. Squeeze lemon juice over top, and mix into the pasta with the fresh parsley. If sauce is too watery, continue to cook for 1-3 minutes, until pasta has absorbed more liquid. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Anyway, give the video below a watch, and enjoy! We’ll talk about the next one after this. This recipe, by the way, as simple as it is, is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. Period, end of sentence.

The next major thing we see in the movie that’s worth recreating, at least for funsies, is the chocolate lava cake. Now, we see some of this on the new show The Chef Show on YouTube, which is literally Jon Favreau and Chef Roy Choi, visiting celebrities and chefs around the states, and cooking and eating food. It’s great. Ironically, the episode which features the Chocolate Lave Cake, also features Andrew Rea (Binging with Babish.) I really like the guy, his recipes, and his channel, if you can’t tell. Anywho. In the movie, Jon Favreau’s character, Carl Casper, loses his mind on a food critic, who talks about how the core of Molten Chocolate Lava Cake is supposed to be undercooked — the secret, which you’ll see in this video, is actually freezing a ball of chocolate ganache, and dolloping it inside the cake mix, to melt as it cooks. I’ll be trying this one myself.

I’m going to steal from BingingwithBabish.com for this one too:

Ingredients:

  • 14 ounces dark chocolate
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 12 Tbsp butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
  • 6 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • Raw Sugar
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cocoa powder

Method:

  1. We’re going to start by melting chocolate in a double boiler. Boil some water in a pot and place a large glass bowl on top to melt the chocolate in. Place 4 ounces of dark chocolate in the glass bowl and use a rubber spatula to mix. Be sure to keep the water at a simmer, and melt until nice and smooth. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup of heavy cream and stir.
  2. Once mixture is fully combined and smooth, place in freezer for 1 hour or until frozen.
  3. Using the double boiler again, melt 10 ounces of dark chocolate and 1 ½ sticks of butter (12 Tbsp), mixing until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl combine 6 large eggs and ½ a cup of light brown sugar. Beat the eggs together until they are light and frothy, and then add 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 2 Tbsp of Grand Marnier.
  5. Once that’s combined, SLOWLY add the chocolate mixture to egg and brown sugar mixture, and whisk to combine.
  6. Now add 6 Tbsp of all purpose flour and stir to combine.
  7. Butter some ramekins and coat the inside with raw sugar. This will help get the cakes out of the ramekins.
  8. Fill each ramekin a little under halfway with your cake mixture.
  9. Remove the chocolate ganache from the freezer and place 1-2 Tbsp into the center of the cake mixture. Fill ramekins the rest of the cake batter.
  10. Preheat your oven to 425° F and bake for 11 minutes.
  11. While that’s baking quarter some strawberries and set aside.
  12. Remove cake ramekins from oven and place on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of each cake to help release them from their ramekin.
  13. Place a plate on top of the ramekin, flip over so the ramekin is on top, and slowly lift up to make sure the cake is in tact.
  14. Plate with some whipped cream, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, strawberries and blueberries.
  15. Serve and enjoy!

And, here’s the video. Enjoy this one, too!

Last but not least is the recipe for Cubanos, which are kind of the titular recipe for the movie. They’re the centerpiece for Carl Casper’s food truck, El Jefe. I’ve yet to try this one because of how involved the recipe is, and the fact that I don’t really have much of a place to store that much pork for twelve hours while it marinates, but it is easily one of the most mouthwatering pieces in the whole movie. Furthermore, it’s really the main piece that Casper uses to teach his son how to start cooking, and passes on that love of food and making it. And, of course, you guessed it, Babish tackles the recipe and kills it. It’s on my list, for sure, when I can set aside a day of my life to commit to it. Get ready for this crazy long ingredient list, and recipe, again… straight from BingingwithBabish.com:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bone-in pork shoulder
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup spiced rum
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • Whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
  • 2 stems oregano, roughly chopped
  • 2 stems rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 2 stems thyme, roughly chopped
  • 2 stems sage, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 oranges, juiced and zested
  • 6 limes, juiced and zested
  • 2 stems oregano, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • Whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp toasted and freshly ground cumin
  • 1 loaf of pan Cubano
  • 4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces thick deli ham
  • 12 slices swiss cheese
  • Dill pickles, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp mustard

Method:

Makes 1 large roast, 4 sandwiches

  1. Remove excess fat from pork roast, and score fat cap on the top. Combine orange juice, water, rice wine vinegar, rum, salt, brown sugar, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and bay leaves in a large bowl – whisk to combine.  Place the pork shoulder in a large stainless steel bowl, and pour marinade over top, making sure it’s completely submerged.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
  2. To make mojo marinade: combine olive oil, orange juice & zest, lime juice & peels, oregano, cilantro, mint, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin, whisking to combine.
  3. Remove pork shoulder from brine and discard brine.  Place pork shoulder back into stainless steel bowl, and cover with mojo marinade.  Massage marinade into the pork for one minute before covering and refrigerating for 2 hours.
  4. Remove pork from the marinade, brushing off any large pieces of herbs.  Place on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, brush with marinade, and roast at 350°F for 2 1/2 hours, until pork registers 165°F at its thickest point.  Tent the roast with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Butter the inside of the pan Cubano, cut into 4 pieces, and toast butter-side-down in a hot plancha.  Slice pork about 1/4-inch thick.  In a lightly oiled nonstick pan, sear pork and ham.  Fill sandwiches with pork, ham, cheese, and pickles – smear with mustard, smear top exterior of the pan Cubano with butter, and press in the plancha for 2-3 minutes, until bread is deeply browned and cheese is melted.  Cut diagonally and serve.

 

 

Now, I’m sure you’re saying “You’re fanboying pretty hard for one movie and a YouTube channel.” And, I’d say “You’re exactly right.” But, seriously, here it is: the movie is a die-hard rendition of what it’s like to love what you do in the food industry. I spent a little bit of time in the business, considered culinary school, and now I just love to cook — whether it’s for friends, family, or just myself. I love it. The movie, and Andrew Rea (Binging with Babish) really captures that life, love, and devotion that I have for food. Really, and truly. Give it all a go.

 

Thanks to Andrew Rea and his production team for the awesome videos and the inspiration, I plan to borrow from you again. Thanks to Jon Favreau for an awesome movie that can inspire not just me, but obviously the YouTuber I borrowed these recipes from.

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday: DragonCon 2010

The first time I attended DragonCon, I was but a wee thing.

2010 was the first time I really got to experience the Con for what it is. That year, almost last minute, me and a really good friend of mine decided that we were going to go to Dragon*Con. (Back when it still had the asterisk in the name.) Dragon*Con was, and is, the kind of experience where if you don’t grab a nearby hotel within the first few months, you aren’t going to get a room close by. We learn that right away. Our hotel was at the Hilton Atlanta Airport. Granted, it was awesome, we wouldn’t know what we were missing until many years later. But, deciding that we didn’t want to go alone, we invited two guys we worked with, and a good friend of his. Little did I know that this would be the first time meeting some of the best friends I would ever have — this is even true later, as well.

We drove out, got our hotel, and grabbed a Marta (Atlanta’s subway, essentially) out to the downtown area. There, we waited in line for two hours for a badge! It wasn’t as streamlined back then, but the experience was incredible. We played Marco Polo with a bunch of strangers in a line that went on forever.

These days, remembering everything that happened that one particular year kind of runs it all together. I remember one of the guys slept on the floor. With there being five of us in a room, I’m not sure where everyone slept, but the mornings after weren’t very kind to us.

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The nights at Dragon*Con are a different beast, altogether, and I had never attended what was colloquially called “Dragon After Dark.” It was the first year, and probably the best (maybe second best) year I attended the Last Party on Alderaan. It looked like this:

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I don’t think any of us had anything to drink that year; it was pure, unadulterated, nerd fun, and I’ll remember it forever. This was also the first year I wore a Mandalorian costume — but it was so bad. I’ll finish this article with a photo of all of us, including me in my armor. Ironically, it was also my first real entanglement with the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club, which became an important staple in my life for many years to come.

Unfortunately, not all of the friendships at that con held out. Later on down the line, two of my friends would later just sort of… fall away. One, I’ve yet to determined why he disappeared, and the other, we keep trying to reconcile. I’d love to have them both back, and things be like it was then.

Good times.

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Featured image courtesy of Spartanphoenix, here on WordPress.

Writing Prompt Wednesday

I got this one in before midnight… barely!

This prompt came from a reader who requested it. Hope you enjoy!

Request: A human child is whisked away in the night, and left in its stead is a fairy child.

 

The Fey were known for their tricks, and everyone had heard of a changeling being left in their stead; a fairy child that looks just like your child, but cries, and fights, and causes terrible luck. Parents of the changeling were supposed to starve it, and leave it out in the forest over night to get your own child back. Fortunately for this changeling, a Fairy child taking the name of Ophelia, like the child it replaced, its new mother may have just been the most loving woman in the world, a woman named Lyanna.

The first night was the most difficult. Tears flowed like nothing Lyanna had ever seen from any child. Her husband couldn’t bear it, and he cursed and swore, and threatened to strip the child from her arms and take her out into the forest and leave her. “The little monster couldn’t be mine!” He shouted, before resigning himself to their bedroom, and burying his head under a pillow. Lyanna, however, would have none of it. As any mother would, she brought little Ophelia to her breast, and nursed her through the screams, and the tears, and the fighting. Even though she was nourished, she still fought.

Nights became weeks, and it was all day long. The doctor said she could have had the colic, but the milk never came back up. It never soured. It never failed. Lyanna knew the doctor was wrong.

When weeks became months, the lack of sleep had gotten to Lyanna’s husband. With less sleep, his work performance failed, and he lost his job. After losing his job, the food became more and more scarce, and he finally threw Lyanna and Ophelia into the garden, screaming “Take the beast and live elsewhere, or not at all!” Even being thrown from her own house, Lyanna protected little Ophelia, and the two rolled together in the grass. Together, they ventured away.

First, they went to Lyanna’s mother’s home, but she was turned away. Even she believed that little Ophelia was a curse. Then they went to the church, and there, they were turned away. Then they went to the home, but they were told to leave there, too.

Never once did Lyanna consider giving Ophelia away, and the tougher times got, the more resolute Lyanna became. Finally, Lyanna moved into a hutch, deep in the forest. She took what she learned as a young woman, and put it to use. She tied the little crying Ophelia to her chest, and she picked wild mushrooms and herbs. She killed rabbits and squirrels in traps, and she fished. She barely stowed enough away to make it through the winter.

When the snows of winter melted, and the first shoots of spring came, little Ophelia didn’t cry much anymore. She took her first steps on the wooden slat floor of the old hutch cottage, but upon her first steps outside… a whole new world was opened to Lyanna, and her perseverance. Her trials and her tribulations were rewarded, because at the first little magical steps of Ophelia, flowers, red-capped mushrooms, and little blooms blossomed and opened along the way. Little Ophelia giggled, and she waited for Lyanna not five feet out the door.

When Lyanna took her hand, the two ran through the forest, leaping and jumping, laughing and shouting gleefully. With each bound, Ophelia’s bare feet caused a blossoming of life in the forest. Beautiful flowers and mushrooms sprang to life! Grass grew where it normally did not! And when she finally stopped, she stood before a large opening at the base of a very old, ancient Oak, whose massive limbs stretched yards and yards from the trunk. Ophelia lead Lyanna, her mother, inside.

Passing into the realm of the Fey is said to be impossible, unless you are with a Fey, yourself. Ophelia, the little Fairy girl, had led Lyanna into the land of Tir Na Nog. A young girl who couldn’t speak, now spoke a language entirely foreign to Lyanna, but unforeign to those around her. Great armored men approached, with wings of a dragonfly, spread out cross-ways behind them, glistening like rainbows in the light. They fussed and they shouted, vicious biting tones, until Ophelia said but one word: “Màthair!” 

A woman appeared wearing long, flowing robes and with a beautiful face. Truly, she was without flaw. Had it not been known, as it had been told, that she was thousands of years in age. She took Ophelia by the hand, and spoke a language that Lyanna did not recognize, but when she turned to leave, Lyanna leapt after them. “Not my baby!” She shouted. The woman turned to her and stared at her for a moment, then spoke to Lyanna as if she were speaking to a friend. “We do not leave without you, mother of Ophelia.”

And so, it came to be that Lyanna was the first human to pass into Tir Na Nog to live. As Ophelia aged to become an adult, Lyanna never aged again. Her compassion for her child was a passing grace to a world usually inaccessible to a simple human.