Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Snack Challenge

Battle of the Depression-Eating Heavyweights!  Fight!

It's a whole bag of Kroger Potato Skins (with cheddar and bacon) vs. an entire box of OreIda Bagel Bites!  We're sure to have a battle on our hands, folks!  Which of these foods yields the most self destructive power?!

Round 1: Pure Energy
Bagel Bites:  4.5 servings @ 210 calories per serving = 945 calories
Potato Skins: 4 servings @ 240 calories = 960 calories
The judges are calling this a tie!  The contest could go either way!

Round 2: Sheer Mass
Bagel Bites: 88g/serving = 396g total
Potato Skins: 99g/serving = 396g total
Another tie!  Have you ever seen such a match-up?!

Round 3: Fat City
Bagel Bites: 7g fat/serving = 31.5g fat total
Potato Skins: 16g fat/serving = 64g fat total
Advantage, Potato Skins!

Round 4: Take That, Pancreas!
Bagel Bites: 28g carbs/serving = 126g carbs total
Potato Skins: 17g carbs/serving = 68g carbs total
This round goes to the pizza equivalent!
We're all tied up again!

And now, the lightning round...

Round 6:  Fiber Is For Bran
Bagel Bites: 1g fiber/serving = 4.5g total
Potato Skins: 4g fiber/serving = 16g total
Potato skins have more fiber!  Bagel Bites are the winner!!!

Tune in next week when we pit an entire bag of Doritos Spicy Nacho against a box of 'Nilla Wafers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reality Imitates Comedy

I need you to read something.  Seriously.

First, read THIS. It's from 2003.

Now, read THIS.  It's from today.

Is it April Fools Day or something?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

40k Fingernails

"Daddy?  Will you paint my nails?" my 9-year old daughter asked.  My daughters have only asked this particular service of me a handful of times.  "Sure, sweetie.  How would you like me to paint them?"  After a few ideas suggested and rejected, she asked if I could paint Space Marine symbols.  Have my ears gone insane?!  Of course!  An opportunity to nerd out and have daddy-daughter time?  Oh, yeah!

Behold the results.  I picked the Space Marine chapters for their basic colors, and she picked Hawk Lords because "she likes birds."  I suggested painting her other hand as enemies and she loved the idea.  She picked most of the enemies from the 40k rulebook.  I wasn't really sure what to do for a 'nid fingernail, so I went with a warrior face.  I did a basecoat of white enamel, followed by the design in acrylic, followed by a clear enamel sealant.  All in all it took about 1.5 hours.  She is absolutely ecstatic with the results.  I am ecstatic that she is ecstatic.  There is a lot of ecstatic here right now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chili Cook-Off Strategy

I like chili.  For more than 15 years I have toyed with different recipe variations for chili, from the basic to the more "open" shall we say.  All that remains the same is that my recipe always uses beans, beef, and tomatoes; I don't cook white chili or chicken chili or what have you.  Way back in the early days someone asked me if my recipe had a name.  I chose "Chili for Forty Humans," an oblique reference to the first Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.  The recipe has evolved but the name has not.


My chili is a weekend chili.  The kind that stays on the stove for three days as the liquid reduces down and the taste homogenizes between the ingredients.  Only this past year have I had the opportunity to participate in chili cook-offs.  I have not won.  I have not even come close.  Today was a good example.  It got me thinking, what makes a good cook-off chili?  These are the things I will be thinking about next year at my employer's cook-off.

  1. Thickness - since each person could not possibly take an entire bowl of every entry, you chili should be thick enough to have a small ladle full contain most of the key ingredients and hardly any liquid.  My chili was way too soupy today, but after it simmers for another six hours it might be okay.
  2. Punch - the chili should have an immediate taste/heat effect upon eating.  People are trying lots of chili, and if yours is mild or subtle it will come off as tasteless.  Again, that's where mine was inferior.  After tasting some of the other entries I could barely even taste mine, and I know what my chili tastes like.
  3. Quantity - this one is mostly smoke and mirrors.  The photo above is a good example of an obvious incongruity in popularity.   If you had to pick which two of the above three chilis would finish first and third, which one would you not pick.  I filled that crock pot up practically to the top, and even though it got consumed a fair bit it still looked like someone had seen a fly floating in it and word got around.  Granted, it wasn't exactly terrific but if it can't be popular it could at least look popular.  By the way, congrats to Josh (left) and Brian (right) for their winning chilis.
There you have it.  I'm not, by nature, a sore loser but I am a curious loser always looking for ways to improve.  There, if someone ever needs to write something about me they can truthfully say "self described curious loser."  That's just great.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thoughts on Ultramarines: The Movie

Expectations are a complicated thing.

Last night my wife and I watched Ultramarines: the Movie (let's call it U:tM.) I specifically asked my wife to watch it to get her input as a scifi fan but not a 40k enthusiast. Her knowledge about Space Marines specifically is limited to the fact that they wear power armor and that mortally wounded ones can be entombed within a Dreadnought. I asked her to point out anything about the movie that was perplexing in a "I feel like I should know what that means, but I don't" sort of way. As for me, I do not possess an encyclopedic knowledge of Space Marines. My knowledge is limited to the codices and rule books, as I have not read any of the Space Marine related novels.

As a movie, Ultramarines is definitely more than just fan service. Dan Abnett's screenplay tries first and foremost to be a story about Space Marines rather than just a series of "I know what that is!" clips. This is what differentiates this endeavor from video-game intros and cut scenes. The Dawn of War intros (inevitably the standard by which any 40k footage will be judged) are beautiful and dynamic, but they are not really storytelling exercises as much as a series of short atmosphere shots or combat demonstrations. They are also very heavy on exposition, something a movie cannot afford to be if it wants to keep the audience's attention. I would also venture a guess and say that the entire budget of U:tM was less than the intro movie for a major video game. The scenes tend to be dark and the animation is mostly non-intrusive, with some awkwardly stiff times. When From The Warp's Ron Saikowski solicited questions from members to ask Codex about the movie the animation of marines was foremost in my mind. Here is my section of the Q/A:
18. I would like to know the challenges of animating power armor, especially in terms of trying to model a realistic human anatomy in there somewhere. Did anything need a "redesign" to make it able to be animated?
It was a challenge to animate the power armour, and we went to great lengths to really think about and explore how a Space Marine wearing it would move. One of the ways we thought about it was to look at someone wearing ice-hockey pads – it gave some approximation of the walk cycle. But, of course, it is power armour so not heavy. Games Workshop’s advice was that the Ultramarines are twice as agile and as fit as any Olympic champion, so the movement is still fluid despite the bulk of the armour.

Codex certainly took the Olympic champion advice to heart, as the marines were quite agile. I am admittedly not accustomed to seeing marines move in that manner, and the armor always seemed like it would have more obvious weight than it did.  It wasn't what I was expecting but I got used to it quickly.  There were some moments where the subjects on-screen just moved too fast to comfortably watch, but that was a function of cinematography rather than character animation.

Story-wise, it wasn't bad.  There's only so much you can do in 75 minutes, and I give Dan Abnett kudos for keeping the story small, which allowed there to be real characters rather than just a series of anonymous combatants.  My wife and I laughed about Allison's blog comment about it seeming very... manly.  It did.  "Are we talking Conan many or Brokeback manly?" my wife asked jokingly.  Let's go with Conan manly.  Only once in the movie did Stef have to ask me what was going on (the extraction of gene-seed, which brought the manly question back up.)  Other than that, it was enough straightforward scifi stereotype fare that she didn't have any trouble keeping up.  She did think the apothecary armor was too Star Wars Stormtrooper-like.  To my surprise, she actually rather liked it.  Not in the "I need to go buy an army now" kind of way, but more in "I just watched a fun SyFy Original Movie" vein.  (SyFy is a cable/satellite channel focusing on science fiction, and known for their crazy original movies, mostly about monsters.)  My overall opinion... it was good, not great.  The plot and execution would have probably made a better graphic novel.  In fact, I hope they do one in the same style as the short graphic novel that came with the collector's edition set.

If Codex makes another 40k movie I will buy.  I suppose that's praise enough.

--side note:  Distribution for the copy of the movie I got came from Datapak in Howell, MI.  Anything contributing to Michigan's terribly economy is good news to me.  Did any other U.S. recipients get theirs with a Howell, MI return address?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ultramarines Movie Unboxing

It has arrived! 

My children are less than thrilled.
On the other hand, my parents took me to see Alien when I was 10.  Am I overprotective?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ultramarines Shipped!

They said they would get order shipped this week, and it looks like they made their goal (for me at least.)

Hi Mike Howell,
This email is to confirm that your order has been shipped.
Your order has been despatched via Priority Mail.
If you have any questions about your order please contact us at
Thank you again for your business.

The curious part to me was that my order number is around 4800, but my shipping ID is only around 4200.  Does that imply that there were as many as 600 people who ordered more than one?  I guess I hadn't considered ordering more than one, and the shipping price was low enough that I didn't even consider pooling an order.  Hmmm.

Other news.... nobody showed up for hobbying last night.  I haven't picked up a brush in a solid week.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

40K Legos

Don't even pretend you don't realize how awesome this is.