Salmon: Super delicious & super-easy even for cooking n00bs! (#2 in “Cooking for the Lazy” series)

food and nutrition

Tonight I ate some of the most delicious salmon EVER… and, just as gratifying, I made it!

Total prep & cook time: under 10 minutes (seriously).  Total cost: Under $10.

Here are before and after pics:

Salmon, cooked, next to brown rice and red curry paste
Salmon, pre-cooked, with rice & spices

Ingredients:

  • Salmon (duh!)
  • Brown rice
  • Real butter (everything’s better with butter!)
  • Spices (I used garlic salt, pepper, and red curry paste)

Things I used to cook this stuff:

  • Skillet (with lid)
  • Spatula (for spreading the butter)
  • Tongs (though unsuccessfully; see later note)
  • Measuring cup (to measure rice and water)
  • Bowl (to microwave the rice in)
  • Paper towels for blotting salmon & cleaning up splatter :\

Preparation steps:

  1. Cook rice. I used a microwavable quick-cook brown rice.  1 cup rice, 1 cup water = 2 servings. Throw the bowl in the microwave for 7 minutes, and it’s done by the time your salmon is ready!
  2. Blot salmon with paper towels.  Apparently, less-wet pre-cooked salmon = tastier cooked salmon.
  3. Pre-heat skillet on medium heat for a few minutes.
  4. Throw in a bunch of butter.  Spread it around with the spatula.
  5. Carefully place salmon in the skillet, skin side down.  Yes, cook with the skin, even if you’re one of those weirdos who will later avoid eating it.  It’s important for cooking the salmon nicely.
  6. Optionally add ground pepper, garlic salt, salt, whatever you feel like.
  7. Turn heat to medium-high.  Cover.  Cook for about 4 minutes (though I guess it depends on the size of your salmon piece).
  8. CAREFULLY flip salmon over.  This is the part, unfortunately, that I did not succeed with.  I got hot blackened salmon-skin+butter splatter all over the place. Bummer :(.  Let me know if you figure out a way to do this.  I tried tong’ing the salmon, but that didn’t seem to work very well.  Maybe I needed bigger tongs.
  9. Cook this side of the salmon for just 1-2 minutes.  Honest!  Unless you like tough yucky salmon. Personally, I prefer pink’ish, melt-in-your-mouth salmon.

And melt-in-your-mouth amazing salmon is exactly what I ended up with!  Wow wow wow.

I scooped some rice on the side of my plate, mixed in some red curry paste (a little goes a long way), and I was in heaven, eating the entire two servings worth of salmon and about half the rice in one sitting.

Again, this took less than 10 minutes total to prepare.  And with the fresh salmon costing about $8/pound (and my piece weighing about three-quarters of a pound), plus negligible spice/condiment costs… it cost easily less than a third of what it would have in a restaurant.  Plus… this tasted better than almost every restaurant salmon dish I’ve had, since for some inexplicable reason restaurants seem apt to overcook their fish :\ (maybe due to cover-their-posterior health concerns?)

Anyway, you owe it to yourself to try my recipe.  If you don’t have real butter, use oil.  If you don’t have red curry paste, use mustard or soy sauce or whatever.  But definitely do try cooking it the way I’ve described, and I am confident you’ll be as happy as I am right now ūüôā

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So THIS is a *tiny* glimpse into being a minority…

people and relationships, society

She walked into the class and noticed right away that no other students looked like her.

All men. ¬†Many seemed to¬†already be acquainted, or in a few cases, fast friends. ¬†Clearly they’d been through similar classes before.

And halfway through the class, her fears were realized; everyone was more experienced than she was.  More skilled.  More at ease.  More confident.

She stumbled again. ¬†What was she doing here? ¬†She didn’t belong, and of course everyone knew it.

What were they thinking?  Were they amused at how out-of-her-element she was?  Annoyed that she was taking up space that could have been filled with someone more competent, someone that belonged here?

Were they staring at her?    No, wait, they were pretty much ignoring her.  For a moment, she was unsure whether she wanted to blend in or be just wholly invisible.

And yet she came back to the class again the following week.

“Hi,” she stammered¬†to a couple of the guys. ¬†Hmm, had she just interrupted¬†their conversation? ¬†Did they even hear her? ¬†No response.

Others were immersed in¬†their phones. Let’s see,¬†greet the new girl or read more Facebook posts? ¬†Clearly no contest.


 

She thought about not going back. ¬†All those guys probably¬†would probably be happier¬†anyway if a lone girl wasn’t invading their space. ¬†They’d feel more free to be themselves, to make guy jokes, to share guy gossip. ¬†And she just wasn’t¬†doing very well in the class anyway; she wasn’t cut out for this. ¬†Yes, it was interesting, yes, the subject matter was fun, yes, she had¬†just as much right to be there as anyone else. ¬†But why persist where she wasn’t wanted?


 

Plot twist!  This was actually about a guy in a class that was otherwise 100% female-attended.  The class? A weekly ujam dance fitness workout.  The guy?  Me.

Even crazier?  I was actually thinking and experiencing everything described above.

Absolutely ridiculous, right? ¬†I’m a white, middle-class guy who was taking a totally optional, pretty inconsequential group exercise class. ¬†My livelihood wasn’t at stake. ¬†This wasn’t about¬†a college education or a job or anything else¬†critical like that. ¬†Not to mention that this was just a once-a-week thing.

And as I thought about how embarrassingly ludicrous my feelings were,¬†a lightbulb went on in my head: ¬†Holy crap, these feelings… these worries… this discomfort… this was just an extremely tiny taste of¬†what a lot of my¬†black / Hispanic / female friends have faced regularly in their lives. ¬†First day¬†on the job as a software engineer. ¬†At tryouts¬†for a symphony orchestra position. ¬†Attendee at a tech conference. ¬†Faced with a¬†sea of white faces–often predominantly male–wondering how others are judging them. ¬†Oh, that¬†Hispanic guy must be on the cleaning crew. ¬†That woman is obviously¬†booth babe, not a mechanical engineer.

Every fricking week, maybe even every damn day they’re faced with crap like this. ¬†And don’t even get me started about online harassment :\.


 

On one hand, I laughed when I thought about how silly my “aw, poor Adam, feeling insecure in a gym class!” feelings were. ¬†But then when I realized that this was just a very, very, very watered-down taste of what my friends regularly dealt with, it was no longer funny. ¬†Just sad.

Thankfully, I truly believe that–at least in the U.S.–the ‘younger generation’ is¬†far more open-minded¬†and embracing of diversity¬†than the generations that came before it. ¬†Interracial couples, close friends of different races, not just tolerance but full-on acceptance of gay marriage, and so on.

But we shouldn’t have to wait for all of us old(er) farts to die off. ¬†We should find a way to¬†make more people feel welcome in every aspect of life, not only in hugely meaningful ways, but in small, mundane ways as well. ¬†I’ve often winced when I’ve heard the phrase “check your privilege,” frankly, but perhaps¬†we could all question our assumptions, force ourselves out of our¬†comfort zones (in what we read, think, and do), and do our best to recognize how our preconceptions and fears can be hurting other people. ¬†More positively, we could make more of a daily effort to be genuinely welcoming to individuals who don’t look like us.

And yes, in the meantime, I’ve been continuing to go to ujam. ¬†I still sometimes wonder whether people are secretly laughing at my body roll attempts (or my more literal body rolls), but now I smile when I consider¬†how such trivial discomforts have sparked me to think a bit bigger… and to finally write another blog post here :).

P.S. — Seeing the¬†latest Disney movie, Zootopia,¬†almost certainly played a role in spurring me to write this. What an amazing¬†film in all respects, in no small part due to its sly, funny, and deeply thoughtful take on race relations, diversity, and related issues. ¬†GO SEE IT!

P.P.S. — My friend Rachel sent me a link to this cartoon which I think speaks volumes:

racial-hurdles

 

Anyone know where this is from? I’d love to link & give full credit (and yes, I Googled!)

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Waffanas (#1 in Adam’s “Cooking for the Lazy” series)

food and nutrition, Uncategorized

tl;dr: ¬†Want to save¬†time and scrolling? Pour waffle mix. Throw sliced bananas on it. Wait ’til cooked. Eat. YUM!


 

Today I made waffanas, my brilliant name for banana-stuffed waffles.  They were super delicious and very easy to make, even for cooking-incompetent and kitchen-lazy people (like me and, perhaps, you).

NOTE: ¬†I’m linking¬†to Amazon products below* for your informational convenience, but¬†if you’re gonna buy any of this stuff, I strongly encourage you to shop around. Much of it may be quite a bit cheaper at your local grocery store, or on Jet or Google Shopping Express.

PREP TIME:  About 4-6 minutes of actual work, plus another 5-7 minutes of waiting for the waffle iron to heat up and cook your waffanas :).

The basics for making waffanas!

The basics for making waffanas! Note that, while multiple bananas are pictured here, I only used one big banana for the four waffanas and that ratio seemed about right ūüôā

Almost but not quite perfect

Almost but not quite perfect! Next time I’ll add a bit more mix so the bananas are better coated… avoiding some, uh, over-crispiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THINGS YOU’LL NEED:

  • Waffle iron:¬† I love my¬†Cuisinart WAF-300 Belgian Waffle Maker with Pancake Plates,¬†in large part because it has removable (dishwasher-safe) plates. ¬†But I’m betting nearly any waffle maker would do. ¬†Or, for that matter, you could make pancakanas on any griddle or frying pan! ūüôā
  • Waffle/pancake mix:¬† Who has time to make this stuff from scratch? ¬†I am smitten with the Kodiak-brand mixes because they’re high in protein, have very natural ingredients, contain little sugar, and — unlike most mixes which require oil and eggs and such —¬†you only have to add¬†water to the Kodiak mixes! ¬†But again, you can surely use any mix you like or have handy. ¬†The Kodiak mixes should cost you around $5-6 a box, each of which allegedly contain¬†18 (!) servings but which is probably around¬†12 servings for us hungry Americans :). ¬†Still, that’s like 50 cents a serving at most.
  • Oil to ensure non-stick’ness:¬† I use these spray bottles and they work great,¬†but I’m betting you could find cheaper ones that work just as well. ¬†Or heck, just put a bit of oil on a paper towel and rub it over your waffle iron or griddle.
  • Bananas:¬† Duh! ¬†Any ripeness (or lack thereof) is totally a matter of your own preference here.
  • Other optional goodies: ¬†Chocolate chips. ¬†Chocolate sauce. ¬†Chocolate spread (sensing a trend here?). ¬†Berries (frozen or fresh). ¬†Syrup. ¬†Me? ¬†I went with some drizzled honey ūüôā


HOW TO COOK WAFFANAS

  • Pre-heat: ¬†Turn on the waffle iron or griddle. ¬†Optionally rub or spray some oil on it first to make cleaning easier.
  • Slice the bananas: ¬†Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Mix the mix: ¬†I love this measuring cup ’cause you can see the numbers from the top. ¬†But heck, you don’t even really have to measure this very exactly, so probably any cup’ll do. ¬†A whisk is helpful, but probably not necessary.
  • Pour stuff: ¬†When your waffle iron or griddle is hot enough, pour in the mix! ¬†And then just sort of throw the sliced bananas on top, pretending to space them evenly throughout the waffle iron or whatever, but hey, no need¬†to get all¬†precise with this. ¬†They’ll get all smunched into the mix anyway in a moment.
  • Close the top tightly: ¬†Assuming you’re waffling and not pancaking, you’ll want to close the lid pretty tight so that the bananas indeed get appropriately smunched into the waffle mix.


TIME TO EAT!
You can optionally drizzle honey or chocolate or syrup over the waffanas or throw whatever toppings you like on top. ¬†But remember that¬†you’ve already got some sweetness from the bananas (especially if they were¬†on the ripe side), so don’t go overboard. ¬†Unless you’re intending to make¬†dessert waffanas, in which case, hey, knock yourself out, sweetie!


TRY WAFFANING AND LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES!
This is my first¬†in a¬†series of absolutely indeterminate frequency and length, called “Cooking for the Lazy.” ¬†If you really like it (and let me know) AND if I end up making other tasty things with my new’ish waffle maker and smoothie maker / blender thingy, then I’ll consider posting more episodes. ¬†For now, though, I’m off to eat some of¬†the waffanas I made earlier. ¬†Let’s see¬†how they are in the toaster or microwave!

EDITED TO ADD:  I can now confirm that they are still amazingly delicious when toasted :-).

IDEAS FOR NEXT TIME:  I think I will try adding shredded coconut.  Or peanut butter.  Or hazelnut-chocolate paste!

*And now for a disclaimer and more pretty images: ¬†My Amazon links are affiliate ones, so that maybe I’ll get 30 cents here and there and treat myself to more¬†food. ¬†Oh, who am I kidding? ¬†I’m gonna buy booze for the smoothies. ¬†Don’t judge. ¬†Or judge, I don’t care :-).

2 comments

Relishing those juicy leaked memos? Bad idea.

society

"leak" by Wan Mohd

“leak” by Wan Mohd

Imagine you tell someone a secret, only to be betrayed.  Putting emotion aside for a moment, what happens next?

Most likely, you’ll subsequently either communicate uselessly bland info, blatantly misleading info, or no info at all to them in the future. ¬†At a personal level, that’s a bummer for both people. ¬†At a corporate level, the damage ripples throughout society.

*  *  *

The leaking of corporate memos might seem either innocuous, societally useful, or both.  In reality, it is typically neither.

  1. It irreparably damages trust and valuable communications within institutions

    Recently, an apparently frank internal report written at the New York Times was leaked. ¬†On principle, I refuse to read or link to it, but from the summaries I saw, it¬†apparently focused on the newspaper’s¬†struggles with¬†digital distribution and declining¬†readership numbers. ¬†Undoubtedly in the future, that organization will¬†blandify future memos and/or starkly curtail their internal distribution… bad for NY Times employees, but also unfortunate¬†for those of us that are readers of that newspaper who depend upon its¬†employment of¬†skilled¬†and motivated reporters.

  2. It hurts stockholders and is unhelpful to society at large

    Sure, it’s often fun — sometimes schaudenfreudically so — to learn of company’s struggles and to get¬†insider info on its strategies, tactics, and so on. ¬†One might even argue that this gives actionable information to stockholders of public companies, but IMHO any such advantage is offset by the likely loss of employee morale and productivity and/or damages to compromised competitive intelligence. ¬†Of course, there should be moral exceptions for the leaking of information that is associated with real and immediate threats to safety and security, but beyond that… do we really benefit as a society knowing about¬†changes in a corporate policy, partner realignments, and so on?

In a way, the leaking of corporate memos is a bit like the illicit drug world.  It takes someone to initiate (create the drug for resale, leak the memo), people to distribute (drug runners, bloggers, journalists), and an audience to eagerly consume and share that which provides short-term enjoyment but likely long-term harm.

Given this, my advice is likely to be both unsurprising and yet controversial.  Quit enabling this damaging behavior.  Stop reading these leaked memos, and stop frequenting sites that regularly encourage and feature such leaks.

With that said, I’m not optimistic. ¬†In a firm of, say, 20,000 employees… it takes just one person to be a jerk (and violate their contract). ¬†And we humans are notorious rubberneckers. ¬†But hey, I can dream, right?

5 comments

In-flight entertainment on planes: Airlines should just give up…

technology, traveling

…on the seatback screens.

A few years ago, I would have never thought I’d say that. ¬†Traveling sometimes 100,000 miles a year (and nearly all in Economy class), I repeatedly cursed United in particular for having seemingly no planes with seatback screens… forcing me to be “entertained” by¬†a movie whose¬†lack of visibility was only trumped by¬†its lack of quality & recency.

Delta — a few years late, I’d say — is now trying to appeal to people like¬†earlier-me with this ad I just spotted in this month’s Wired magazine:

Delta ad campaign 2014, scanned image credit Nostalgia Airways

A few years ago, however, I didn’t have a tablet computer, and now I do (two!). ¬†I love my Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, and find them to be¬†outstanding entertainment companions, especially on a plane. ¬†And given the ubiquity of tablets¬†and the consistent and astounding crapitudinous quality of airline entertainment system UIs, I’m thinking that airlines should instead just ensure that every seat has a power outlet and give up on the small and oft poor-quality seatback screens.

But Adam, not everyone has a tablet!
True. ¬†But I’m wiling to bet the intersection of frequent (and high revenue) travelers and tablet ownership is pretty darn high, and¬†certain to get much higher in the next few years.

Have you ever tried balancing a tablet on a wobbly seatback tray?  Especially during mealtimes?
I have, and why can’t you enjoy your meal over a little peace and quiet, eh? :p ¬†Joking aside, this is why I think airlines should simply build tablet holders into seatbacks. ¬†But if they make it iProprietary, I’m gonna throw a fit :(.

I shouldn’t have to remember to preload music and movies onto my tablet!
You probably forget your car keys each morning, too, don’t you? ¬†No? ¬†Okay, but do you really want to be reliant on the dubious (and often laughably censored) entertainment content from the airlines? ¬†That aside, how about a smart hybrid system like Southwest¬†Airlines is offering, where you can optionally connect to the plane’s intranet-wifi (intrawifi?)¬†with your computer or tablet and pay to watch a movie from their selection.

*  *  *

What do you think?  Do you own a tablet?  Are you grateful when you see your plane has seatback screens?

 

P.S. — Given the decreasing width of the already narrow seats on planes and the increasing girth (especially of us Americans), I’d argue that — contrary to Delta’s assertion — we actually¬†are typically sharing a seat ūüôĀ

2 comments

Fitness wearables: Enough raw numbers; give us smart advice!

happy body, technology

I’ve been following fitness trackers and wearables with keen interest for years. ¬†So far, I’ve tried out several different devices from Fitbit, the Withings Pulse, and the Basis B1 watch. ¬†They’ve all been intriguing… but¬†so very, very¬†disappointing.

Withings Pulse

From my experience, all the current fitness wearables fail to help us identify correlations that could efficiently and dramatically improve our lives.

Sure,¬†a bit of quantification plus¬†fun gamification¬†encourages many to walk more steps or perhaps get more sleep. ¬†But wouldn’t it be helpful¬†to know how doing action [x] strongly correlates with¬†improvements in [y]? ¬†

For instance,¬†current wearables can measure things like temperature, heart rate, and sleep quality. ¬†That means that they¬†should be able to measure correlations between¬†exercise, sleep, and stress levels, for starters. ¬†And from these correlations, they could provide useful and actionable advice such as “You tend to sleep much more soundly when your room temperature is between 69 and 72 degrees. ¬†Your room temperature, however, averages 75 degrees; lowering it may result in better sleep.

Basis Carbon Steel edition

Particularly after providing us with more actionable advice like this, consumers would¬†probably be willing to help wearables¬†collect additional useful data. ¬†Imagine if we could say “Okay Watch: ¬†I just drank¬†a small coffee” or push a button or two to indicate that we just ate finished eating a heavy¬†dinner. ¬†From this, our wearable could add¬†caffeine or food consumption to the data¬†corpus, enabling it to¬†offer personalized recommendations like, “We notice that you experience¬†an average of 27% more sleep interruptions on days when you consume caffeine after 1pm. ¬†Quit doing that! ūüôā

Not only could our wearables suggest useful correlations, they could provide inspiration through the highlighting of trends.

For instance, on the Withings dashboard, I can see a jumbled¬†plotting of heart rate measurements… taken at different times and in different circumstances. ¬†Thus meaning, well, pretty much¬†nothing. ¬†But¬†my wearables do¬†know when I’ve finished exercising and so could offer me¬†encouraging info like: “Since you¬†began actively exercising again about 7 weeks ago, your heart rate recovery has improved dramatically… from 130 minutes to resting rate down to 78 minutes. ¬†Recovery rate is a strong indicator of heart health [learn more], so keep up the intense aerobic exercising!

Additionally, based on aggregate user data, wearables could provide useful¬†encouragement based on others’ experiences.

For instance,¬†“Other [wearable] users¬†who¬†added two additional intense 30-minute aerobic sessions per week saw an average of 27% sounder sleep within 3 months.” Of course, the userbase would have to be sufficiently large, and obviously¬†privacy would have to be baked into the core of¬†such a program.

Fitbit One

Wearables need to evolve from mindless and repetitive cheerleaders and observers to smart coaches.

Because right now, alas, undoubtedly too many of us are suffering from¬†“move it!” and “congratulations…”¬†fatigue. ¬†For instance,¬†I’m interrupted by the same Basis ‘achievements’ notices on my phone day after day. ¬†I’m sure I could take a few minutes to alter the notifications,¬†rejigger the “challenges,” and so on, but why should I have to? ¬†If I’ve achieved¬†the “Wear it” goal every day for the last 42 days, why on earth would I want to see this alert for a 43rd time? ¬†Okay, Pulse, so I hit 10,000 steps today? ¬†I know that. ¬†I was walking on a treadmill for a couple hours! ¬†Tell me something I don’t know, please! ūüôā

Heck, if you’re going to send alerts to my phone, why not prompt me for useful info? ¬†For instance, obviously with opt-in, “Hi Adam, how do you feel? ¬†[Energetic] [Slightly fatigued] [Dog tired]” and then, after a month, note something like “On those days you took a 15 minute nap around 2pm, you were 70% less likely to report fatigue later on those days.” ¬†Or help me determine what my optimal sleep amount is (“Looks like 7 hours of sleep a night is your ‘sweet spot.’ ¬†Your reported fatigue increases steeply when you sleep less than that, but remains pretty unchanged when you sleep *more* than 7 hours.“)

Sure, I could keep a ‘personal log’ spreadsheet (and — I’m such a geek — I actually do!), but computers are much better at finding correlations than we humans are, especially¬†when they have scientists¬†adding in sanity checks to possible ‘correlations’ :).

So in summary, our wearables should…

  • surface useful¬†correlations
  • provide actionable advice,
  • highlight encouraging trends
  • all while leveraging¬†the experience¬†of crowds and the wisdom of scientists.

With the amazing improvements in what we can measure in a compact device and the¬†outstanding increases¬†in phone processing power and¬†user interfaces,¬†I’m confident all of this is¬†absolutely achievable.

0 comments

Broken Age – brief review and (discrete/discreet) hints

arts and entertainment

Despite my general geekitude, I’m not much of a video game player. ¬†I’ve never owned a gaming console, and the last game I can recall gushing over is World of Goo, which came out in 2008 (!).

But Broken Age has utterly charmed me.  Here, watch one of the trailers:

The game is drawn in a bright and whimsical manner and features an orchestral soundtrack which complements the visuals and themes outstandingly; I never felt pulled out of the moment nor annoyed by the music.  And yet the score (which I purchased as part of the game package) stands up well on its own.

I spent about 6 hours playing through what’s currently available in the game*, which means either I’m particularly dense, sorely out of adventure-gaming practice (ah, the bygone days of Sierra Games!), or just apt to adopt a more leisurely playing pace than most folks (who seemed to finish the chapter in about 3-4 hours).

One of the greatest strengths of this game, IMHO, is that — while there is indeed peril (like maidens being eaten by a monster!) — you are never faced with do-or-die related stress in the course of gameplay.

Fall through the clouds?  A bird will save you from a splattery demise.
Forget to pick up a critical tool?  No worries, you can go back and get it later, and in nearly all cases, with little hassle.

You cannot die. ¬†You cannot make decisions that result in you having to painfully backtrack. ¬†Instead, you can safely amuse yourself by doing things repeatedly ‘wrong’ (e.g., placing or combining objects with deliberate silliness), rewarded by the oft-cheeky responses and free of any risk to the ultimate progression of the game.

An angry tree confronts Vella

An angry tree confronts Vella

But this insulation, I believe, is also the game’s greatest weakness.¬† By protecting gamers from the consequences of their choices (or actually, not giving us any real story-changing choices at all),¬†Broken Age dampens the emotional heft of the experience, the sense of achievement upon the chapter completion, and, really, any deep urge to replay the game.

And although the voice acting is excellent overall, the characters seem somewhat weakly developed. ¬†Not only are they mostly unaffected by the (really, inescapable) actions of the gamer, they don’t seem to grow or even emotionally modulate much at all. ¬† One could argue that the characters’ cries of sorrow and excitement were exhibited years ago outside of our gaze… but that’s little consolation to those who were expecting a bit more nail-biting, angst, and joy throughout the scenes.

Some have also decried the apparently too-easy nature of the puzzles, nearly all of which involve transferring an object onto or to a person or thing. ¬†But personally, I liked the puzzle difficulty level.¬†Although I embarrassingly had to look up hints a few times, I found that nearly every puzzle was reasonably logical… and sometimes rather chuckle-worthy to boot. ¬†With that said, those who are ardent adventure gamers (or just way smarter than I am) should probably think of¬†Broken Age as a beautifully prepared interactive story with small, entertaining speedbumps ;).

So am I glad I purchased this game? Would I recommend it to others?  Absolutely, and yes.

Assuming I spend a total of 12’ish delighted hours once the second and last chapter is released, that amounts to a cost of about $2 an hour — quite a bargain, if you ask me. ¬†Also, I have faith that the¬†Broken Age¬†characters will start to get fleshed out more. ¬†And perhaps there’ll even be multiple endings that depend upon the gamer’s choices!

But even if characterizations and player agency aren’t deepened, I am confident that I’ll have enjoyed nearly every minute with the story, music, and overall experience. ¬†True, I wish the characters had been written in a way to help us care about them a bit more. ¬†And as suggested above, I’d have appreciated a more ‘choose your own adventure’ style branching to up the excitement. ¬†But with all that said,¬†Broken Age offers hours of un-frustrating delight and¬†a story with intriguing potential, IMHO making it well worth your time and money.

And now for some helpful tips and hints! ¬†To unveil spoilers, just mouse over the text between the brackets ūüôā (anything unobscured is totally¬†not a spoiler!!!)

  • After you load the game but before you start playing,¬†be sure to set the “Letterbox” setting to Vertical!
    Otherwise, you’ll end up with blurry and chopped off imagery, as wisely noted by Benjamin here. ¬†Don’t ask me why DoubleFine decided on such a lousy default! ūüôĀ
  • Which character’s story should be played first? ¬†Is it important to switch between the stories at certain points?
    Doesn’t matter too much, though I’d recommend playing as Shay to start… both because his puzzles are easier than Vella’s, and also because the subsequent storyline packs a bit more “ohhhhhh!” when you do it in that order. ¬†There are no spots in which moving the story forward requires character switching, though, and the grand reveal at the end of chapter 1 is great regardless of what order you play the characters in.
  • Is anything time-sensitive? (e.g., is there ever a point at which decisions must be made in a particular number of seconds?)
    Not from what I could tell. ¬†Ah, thanks to a thoughtful comment by Enrico on Google+, I was reminded that there’s at least one puzzle that is time sensitive. ¬†Thankfully, though, if you mess up, it’s very easy and fairly un-time-consuming to re-try ūüôā (and this is as good as any place to remind y’all that hitting the spacebar will typically jump you through spoken dialog)
  • Any other misc wisdom?
    Sure! ¬†Talk to every character a lot. ¬†You’ll not only want to exhaust every conversation option when you first meet them, in many cases you’ll want to chat with them later to get additional hints (or even just some more laughs :). ¬†Oh, and grab anything and everything. ¬†I don’t think there was a single grabbable object I didn’t use, and somehow you’ll never run out of space to put everything on your person :).

In Shay’s world…

  1. Propulsion?!
    • Hint 1a: [You’ll find sweet success by revisiting a room you likely were in rather early in the game.]
    • Hint 1b: [I scream, you scream, we all scream for this cream.]
    • Answer: ¬†[Go to the ice cream avalanche room; on top of the mound, there’s a can of spray cream. ¬†Use that when in outer space to propel yourself forward.]

In Vella’s world…

  1. The fuss about gus
    • Hint 1a: [Try approaching this from… a different angle.]
    • Hint 1b: [I’d give you another hint, but you might really fall for it.]
    • Answer: [Tackle Gus from above by falling onto him via the cloud hole above.]
  2. Jerk bird!
    • Hint 2a: [He’s always going to be a jerk. ¬†Don’t worry about him, concentrate on the ladder!]
    • Hint 2b: [You’ll get to the bottom of this by thinking of combos.]
    • Answer: [Put the big cloud shoes on the ladder.]
  3. Hit him, Alex!
    • Hint 3a: [Yeah, and he’s got a big mouth!]
    • Hint 3b: [(help him) Open wide!]
    • Answer: [Keep his mouth open with the ladder, then shoot the laser into his mouth. ¬†Ow!]

Let me know in the comments if you need some additional careful hints, but do be careful not to inadvertently add spoilers yourself! ūüėģ

*Note that only the first of two chapters is available for sale at present; the purchase price of the game today (as of Feb 23, 2014) includes both the current chapter and the one promised for later this year.

P.S. — Hey you. ¬†Yeah, you awesome person who read all the way to the bottom of this post. ¬†I just noticed that I have a Steam 25% off coupon for¬†Broken Age¬†(I discover this two days¬†after buying the game!). ¬†If you’d like it, just email me at my first name at the domain lasnik.net :). ¬†I’ll cross off this postscript once it’s claimed.

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Moto X ‚Äď Trusted Bluetooth Device tested products list

android, technology

The Moto X phone has an ingenious feature which allows you to require a pin or pattern lock, and yet have the phone persistently maintain an unlocked status when it’s in proximity of a bluetooth device that you’ve marked as trusted [see more details on¬†this official Moto X help page]. ¬†I believe the¬†Droid Maxx,¬†Droid Ultra, and Moto G¬†also have this feature.

Unfortunately, Motorola only offers an NFC unlock widget — the¬†Skip¬†— and that’s less convenient, because you have to physically touch your phone each time to it to unlock.

Therefore, many of us have been seeking convenient and reliable bluetooth device options that’d work with the Moto X. ¬†To this end, I’ve done lots of digging and asking around, and below I’m maintaining a list from my discovery :). ¬†But first, I want to give major props to¬†this thread from the great AndroidCentral forum¬†and the helpful users who’ve posted in it, especially “Distorted Loop” who already started a list in¬†this post. Click to see the list!

9 comments

Why I’ll no longer read your no-comment blog

blogging

Earlier this evening, I followed a link from Techmeme and encountered an editorial that was, well, IMHO just flat out wrong.  Inaccurate, illogical, the whole nine yards.

As I was reading it, I considered adding a comment to provide corrections and contrasting opinions, but then reconsidered, since it’s just not worth my effort to crime-fight every time someone is wrong on the Internet. ¬†Furthermore, as I realized just moments later, I couldn’t have sounded off on the piece even if I wanted to… since this author had decided not to accept comments for posting.

First, let me acknowledge up front this is absolutely within this blogger’s rights. ¬†And surely there are a number of understandable reasons they might have made such a choice:

  • It can get tiring cleaning up comment spam.
  • Commenters can be annoying, poorly behaved, and sometimes downright abusive, and dealing with these jerks is even less fun than dealing with spammers.
  • Welcoming input from users (even the “good” ones) essentially results in the creation of an (oft-time-consuming) obligation to engage with the community of commenters, or risk being branded aloof, detached, etc.
However, there’s a much less, well, neutral reason to have commenting disabled: ¬†you can spout misleading nonsense and not get called out on it on your blog.
I no longer care¬†whether a blogger’s reasons for excluding comments on their blog are innocent or out of an intent to deceive. ¬†I’ve decided I’m no longer going to read no-comment blogs for the following reasons:


1) I enjoy supporting bloggers who respect and yearn to learn from their readers.
A great example is Fred Wilson, whose blog entries routinely get huge masses of comments… the vast majority of which range from interesting to hugely insightful. ¬†And that’s no accident; he leads by example, consistently posting respectful and thoughtful entries.
 
2) On many blogs, I find that the comments make me smarter (and also introduce me to smart people worth following).
Sure, the comment sections of some blogs are cesspools, and I’m pushing myself to avoid such blogs as well. ¬†But even when a blog has a mix of quality and not-so-quality comments, I’ll quite commonly find gems of interesting (or at least smartly entertaining) comments and commenters.
 
3) I’ve found the writing in popular comment-free blogs more likely to infuriate me than that in the comment-containing blogs*.
Let me reiterate both the personal nature of this observation and non-black-and-whiteness of the above statement. ¬†I’m not saying that all blogs without comments are “bad,” nor am I saying that all blogs with comments are “good.” ¬†Rather, I have just more often found myself annoyed and frustrated when reading no-comment blogs than I have with blogs supporting public commenting. ¬†And life is too short to spend time doing unnecessary things that infuriate.
*  *  *
What are your thoughts on this?  Have you developed a similar preference for blogs-with-comments, or are you just as (or even more) happy reading blogs uncluttered by the blatherings of the masses?
6 comments

Reflections on the New Year

wackiness

I had just gotten back from a party.  Quite a fun one at that, with warm friends, delicious chips and true cake, even balconies.

But still, something wasn’t right. ¬†The New Year had come, but contrary to my hopes, I still lacked certainty, focus, clarity.

Luckily, however, I was prepared.  I know not everything can be bought, but in the supermarket the day before, I had come across an intriguing item.

Clarifying shampoo!

Applied to the head, I reasoned, this was bound to help… and at least unlikely to dull anything.

I lathered, rinsed, even repeated.  But seemingly to no avail.

Then it hit me.  Maybe I had to sleep on it!

Alas, nothing was clarified, though I concede some additional fogginess might have resulted from the non-soapy ingestions the night before.

But of course… how could I forget?! ¬†Clarifying my life and goals wouldn’t happen overnight. ¬†From countless sources, I had learned that this sort of thing takes thyme!

[find thyme]

But alas, I couldn’t find thyme. ¬†It seemed I had so little thyme in my life, and certainly never enough thyme to share.

So for this year, I resolve to try a clean, new recipe for life. ¬†I’ve come to grips that clarity doesn’t come in a bottle, and thyme must be cultivated, not just found.

My resolution, however, will remain at 1920×1200.

2 comments