Cooking With Testosterone: Bison Burgers

Sorry, don’t have a real post for you today.  So we’re going to have this fake post.  We’re getting into the time machine for this one, bringing back something I wrote in… 2012?  Bloody hell, I feel old.  Anyways, here’s some totally cheap content.  I hope you enjoy!

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“Aether, you magnificent figure,” I hear you ask. “Why exactly should I care that you ate a hamburger?” Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. But this is no hamburger! These are bison burgers! These are at least three times as manly as your average hamburger!

“So what?” I hear you ask again. You’re really loud. I can hear you from all the way over here. “It’s still a burger. Absolutely simple to cook.” Well shut your mouth. I’m crippled. It’s the best I can do.

I don’t normally cook meat, because all the vegetarians I live with hate it when I make the house smell delicious and remind them that I’m higher up the food chain than they are. But I do like to break out the bison, once in a while. It can be used in pretty much all the same things beef is normally part of, and it’s leaner and less fattening. It retains its juices better if you cook it right, too, so you can end up with an even juicier patty if you’re awesome like I am.

Started with a cast iron pan. Cooking bison has to be done at a lower temperature for a longer period of time than beef, which is really difficult to manage properly on my screwy stove, but I’m an expert, so I can handle it. I used my traditional burger recipe, mixing in egg to make it juicier and oats to help it stick together better, but it’s juicy enough the egg might be overkill. Then, just cook it like you would a regular hamburger.

As with everything else in life, it’s a lot better with some nice buns. The cheap ones aren’t really going to cut it. The meat’s stronger and gamier then regular hamburger meat, so you’d want to match it with some more prominent flavors. Use a sharp chedder, strong onions, dark lettuce, and top it off with a nice dark ale. Of course, you’ll have to be equally strong to match the bison flavors. Obviously, I had no problem, but you might want to do some serious soul searching before attempting this dish on your own.

I cooked it almost perfectly, if I do say so myself. The only problem was that I went with the cheap store brand onion rings. A bison burger of this caliber deserves the top shelve onion rings. As a result, I’m only able to award myself 49 out of 5 points. I know, I know, I’m ashamed, but I’ve still got one more meal to redeem myself. Stay tuned!

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Cooking with Testosterone: Steak and Sprouts

My family cajoled me into writing a dumb thing about cooking again.  I thought there’s a slim possibility someone other than them would enjoy it, so what the hell, let’s share it here.

So what we’re looking at today is steak and sprouts, a meal that became a classic the instant it emerged from my head. You might remember brussel sprouts as those vegetables you haven’t seen ever since you got your own home because your parents always made you eat them because they were ‘good for you’ even though they both looked and tasted like green cow poop. As it turns out, it’s not only possible to make them taste good, it’s easy, you just have to get over that parental idea that only bad things are good for you.

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If you’re lucky enough to have one of those moms who loves you, then you might have no idea what brussel sprouts look like. You can see them in the picture here. I used frozen brussel sprouts for this dish. Fresh brussel sprouts would almost certainly be better, but that’s a risky proposition, as the chances of you eating them before they go bad is almost nil on account of the fact that they’re brussel sprouts. Our first step is to cut them into chunks. Then we bake them. We do this first, because brussel sprouts take a long while to cook. That means that not only did your mom make torture you with her lame, disgusting sprouts, she put a lot of work into her torment too.

After that, it’s time to prep the steak. We’ll rub Worcestershire sauce, salt, and fresh black pepper into both sides. Keep in mind that Worcestershire sauce uses sardines as an ingredient, so if you’re making this steak for your vegetarian friends, maybe find a substitute sauce. Then we’ll let that sit for a while.

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In order to get our sprouts tasting good, we need to add something that counteracts both their bitterness and their healthiness. So we fight the brussel sprouts with another superfood, and mix pomegranate juice with maple syrup. We’re going to boil this concoction down until it’s thicker than the maple syrup in consistency.

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As our brussel sprouts are starting to get crispy, we’re going to break out the manliest of cookware, the cast-iron pan. Requiring regular care and upkeep, with a passionate fandom behind it, and heavy and sturdy enough that you can use it to fight of the horde when they show up at the door, this pan fits every uber-male stereotype I care to think of at the moment. We’re going to drop some oil in it, get it good and hot, and sear one side of our steak. Once that’s done, we flip the steak over, and immediately pop it in the oven, pan and all, for a good bake.

Sprouts are done once they’ve crisped up and are starting to brown in the core. The syrup’s done when it’s a syrup. I’m sure you know what to do then.

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And that’s how it all comes out. So how good is it? Well, I’d tell you, but I wouldn’t want to make you all jealous that I got to eat this and you didn’t.

The Tabletop Critique-Magic the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers

Despite my best intentions, Christmas happened again this year. Sorry about that. A man can only do his best, and although my best is considerable, it takes some time to efficiently bring Christmas to a close. Until then, I suppose we all have no choice but to suffer through it.

In the meantime, that means presents, from people. To me. They try their best. This year, me and mine seem to have gotten a lot of tabletop games. It’s been rather a year for that. A lesser man may simply play them, and leave it there, but I’m much more than that. Instead, I shall use this opportunity to enlighten the world! And you’re welcome.

Right. So with all my traditional self-absorbed pompousness out of the way, I got a lot of new tabletop games this holiday season. I’m going to review them. Sound good? Good.

The first game on the Tabletop Critique chopping block is this little number here.

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Magic: The Gathering holds a special place in my heart. I was super big into it as a cub. Well, as super big into it as you can get without actually owning any cards. See, I had those types of parents who thought that anything their children enjoyed was a tool of the devil, so, I had to rely on borrowing stuff from friends. Still, there was a time in my life where my thoughts were constantly on Magic. Beyond just the game itself, the stories, the world-building, and the lore had a really strong impact on me, kickstarting my imagination at a formative stage in my life in a way that little else did. It may be a little odd, but Magic was where I first started playing with storytelling, using the cards as setpieces to craft my own tales to tell myself, which built into one of those good old lifelong passions.

Eventually, I did start picking up the card game itself, then lapsed out of it, and now generally only play on special occasions. I still do have a lot of fond memories for the flavor and the world, however.

Which I suppose is where Arena of the Planeswalkers comes in. It’s a competitive miniature-based tabletop game. I know absolutely nothing about Heroclix, so I feel completely comfortable assuming this game is exactly the same but with a different flavor and a major twist to the mechanics somewhere. Each player controls one planeswalker figure and a collection of critters associated with them, then uses this squad to attempt to conquer all the other players who are doing the same.

In keeping with the source material, you’ve got five colors to work with, each with their own planeswalker, creatures, and spells. Each comes with their own strategic focuses, strengths, and weaknesses, giving you the tools you need to craft your tactics in taking the other teams down. Combat takes place on a game board that can be set up a couple of different ways, with a few obstacles and terrain features to present risks and opportunities. Each creature and planeswalker has different stats and traits, each spell card affects the battle in different ways, you get the picture.

Arena of the Planeswalkers isn’t very flavorful, but mechanically, it does carry the Magic the Gathering feel about as well as you could expect when turning the card game into a board game. The mechanics of it are quite simplified, but the functions carry over into the new format quite well. Summoning creatures plays much the same role as in the card games, and well placed spells will twist the flow of the game in exactly the same way as they can in the card game. In terms of mechanical feel, the game has built it’s similarities with the CCG with unequivocal success. Continue reading

Musings on the Nature of Power

Gonna have something rare on Lost to the Aether today.  I’m going to get real with you.  Going to talk about life stuff.  You know, reality?  That place where you keep all your video games and booze?

About half a year ago, I moved, in response to a new job.  You might remember that time.  That was when I stopped posting here but for once every few weeks and you spent like three months completely depressed for reasons not entirely unrelated.  Anyways, I’ve spewed up a few words about my old job, my past as a small business genius-for-loan, but not anything about my new position.  But I’m in the mood to muse, so let’s deal with that right now.

So, without getting into too much detail, I’m a case manager working within the welfare system to help people become more self-sustaining.  It has a lot of the hallmarks of the typical government job; having to pull out incredible amounts of work with very few resources, the constant uncertainty if funding or laws or just the people making decisions are going to shift somehow and end my job, and dealing with a clientele who varies drastically in capability, mood, and willingness to work with me, but who all need my help nonetheless.  It is both a very stressful and very fulfilling position.  And it gives me something that super villains and assholes spend all their lives trying to get.  Power.

In short, I work with people going through some of the worst parts of their lives, being driven down far enough that they need government help to keep going.  In order to get that help, they need to work with me in order to improve their lives, doing the activities that I, in my discretion, set for them.  If they don’t work with me on that, or if they don’t do what I’ve set out for them, their month is pretty well ruined because they don’t get their support.

It gives me a great deal of control over their lives.  I force people to get better, and although most everyone may agree with the end goals, not many enjoy that it’s imposed on them.  And all this was handed to me.  Me.  When I was still completely green to this type of work.

That used to terrify me.  I was not entirely expecting this degree of control when I was starting up the job.  Which might be one of the things that makes me a good choice for the position, as far as my supervisors were concerned.  Too many people appreciate the power.  Look for the power.  Hell, just take a look at the presidential race right now.  Or all those people going through the job search insisting on some sort of high level position without first building their experience up in the industry’s operations.  Or, well, so many people who go into specific types of government work.  That specific sort of social capital, that’s something that draws a whole lot of people.  But it’s so easily misused, especially when it’s the power itself that attracts someone rather than the purpose for which the power is granted.  The type of people who like that power over others too often become analogous with a good old comic book/video game villain.

And even when it is used properly, it can still be a fearsome thing.  The Spider-man adage is very true, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.  In my case, if I’m not on point, it’s really my clients who pay for it.  If I don’t properly assess their situation, they may have a much harder time than they should as I didn’t properly match their activities to what they need and what they can do.  If I fall behind on the administrative side of things, my clients don’t get the resources that they need.  And even if I’m doing everything right, oftentimes, if I’m not pushing the rest of the team handling other aspects of their case, they’re still negatively impacted.  It puts a lot of pressure on the use of that power.

Even so, I’ve learned that the power does need to be used.  It needs to be used carefully, selectively, but there is a reason for it being there, and it does have to used for that purpose.  I try to be pretty flexible with my clients, but I’ve definitely found that with too much flexibility, getting too light on their requirements, and they tend not to graduate from the program.  It’s easier on them, for sure, but when that power is not exercised, they don’t see results.  They don’t get the overall life improvements the other clients get.  They may not like me setting the more involved activities, but if I don’t do that, I’m really failing to help them.

Of course, it’d be a little too easy for one to fall into the supervillain use of power.  In my case, if I just started using this power to do what’s easiest or most optimal for me, I’d still be well within the intentions of the program, but I really wouldn’t be serving my clients well.  But no.  What I’ve found power, at least the power I wield, really needs is just a focus on the overall goal.  The power is not for my purpose, it’s not to make my working day easier, it’s really to be used for the benefit of the people I have this power over, to make sure that they’re able to build these improvements into their own lives.  How that looks can change drastically depending on the person, but it’s really that goal, that focus on aligning the means with the desired end, that really keeps that power useful, towards my client’s overall best interests.  That the goal is held above all else is really what keeps that power working.

Power for its own sake always ends horribly.  History has taught us that again and again, and fiction’s been doing a good job of picking up the slack in the meantime.  That’s why you want to be very, very wary of anyone who wants that power.  But that same power wielded towards the higher goal is what can really make those great positive changes in our world.  So long as that goal is absolute.

The Responsibility for Spoilers

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I’ve been playing/reading my way through the re-release of Higurashi: When They Cry, one of the big names in the visual novel field, for the first time.  Now, here’s something that’s a total experience.  It’s deep, layered, and twisty enough that even just the very act of knowing what genre it actually is changes the experience you have with the story.  If you know anything about the novel other than “It’s good and you should try it,” you’re experience is already impure.  The story is that complicated.

So, I got to the end of what’s currently available in English on the re-release.  The first two entries in the Higurashi series.  And they took me through a trip.  Such a trip, that I was wanting to go online and explore them further.  Figure out what other people have going on.  And that led me to a problem.

See, the re-release, the one with the actual good translation, better art (and don’t you even), and overall improved presentation is being doled out bit by oh-too-small bit as the translation is finished, while the overall series has been out in other releases and mediums for a decade now.  And I was far from the first person to feel the need to go online and talk about things.

So, I was spoiled.  I was actively trying to avoid spoilers, and I was spoiled nonetheless.  I know big reveals that already change the way I looked at what’s been going on in the story, and are going to keep me from arriving at the conclusions the authors are hoping to lead me to before throwing the table down the stairs.  I know some space where things are more than what they appear, and how.  And I knew of some surprise characters well before they actually arrived.

I was angry, at first.  Most places have spoiler policies for just this sort of thing, and for very good reason, and yet I so easily wandered into spoilers, completely by accident.  I was looking to settle and enhance my experience, yet I ended up ruining parts of it.  And if this were not the kind of story it was, that’d be totally valid.

In most instances, it’s just the basic level of respect to mark your spoilers, to help people avoid them and make sure they get the experience they want.  Here, though, well, this has been out for a long while, and accessible in a variety of formats.  And although that’s not an excuse on its own, as people are picking up new works all the times, I didn’t start looking until after I already knew what kind of story this was, how complex, twisty, and easily spoiled, and that I only had part of the same picture as everyone else.  And it wasn’t like these were being posted on Twitter, Facebook, or another uncontrolled forum like that.  I was actively going out and looking for material.  It is one thing to be throwing unmarked spoilers out there when they’re completely unavoidable, but Higurashi is the type of work that it’s really impossible to have any sort of meaningful discussion about without spoilers.  Really, that was all on me.  It was my responsibility to avoid the spoilers.  Marking and hiding spoilers is a lofty goal, and one should always be respectful enough to do that when possible, but when it’s not, the discussion can’t make way for it.

People need to be able to talk about the works they go through, to help themselves elevate and better appreciate them, getting something more out of it than just their first watch.  Conversations need to happen.  And when it’s impossible to talk about something without bringing up spoilers, well, it still needs to happen.  As long as those who come first are doing what they can to protect the experiences of those who find a story later, the due diligence really falls to the spoilees to ensure their experience.  The conversation needs to happen regardless, and it can’t wait for everyone to reach the same level.

A Note for the Slow

Once upon a time, I wrote something I’m rather proud of.  Nobody Cares About Your Stupid Copyright Disclaimers.  It was funny, and charming, and informative, and it made the world a better place.  I just read it right now, and it brought a big smile to my face.  Man I rule.

So, anyways, point is, I wrote something great.  A humorous post calling out dumb people on the internet who think that claiming they didn’t mean to infringe copyright somehow exonerates them from infringing copyright while also explaining some of the basics about how copyright works.  It is a thing of beauty.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.  It will make your life better.

People find that post.  Problem is, people don’t read that post.  See, for some people, this presses their hot button.  So they read the title, assume the content I wrote from that, then head right to the comment section as if I’m going to bother reading what they have to say when they clearly didn’t give me the same respect.

Todd just left a comment.  Todd’s one of those people.  I could respond to that, but I’d rather just call it out and mock it.  I’m assuming Todd just didn’t read the post.  I’m being generous in doing so.  Because the alternative is that Todd was just too dumb to comprehend what he was reading.  But just imagine what was going through Todd’s head there.  Aside from empty space.  Dude just read a title, than had some thought in his mind he absolutely thought the world needed to know.  Never mind that he had no comprehension of the actual content of that post.  Never mind that the post itself was in support of the very concepts he seems to think it’s arguing against.  Dude was so bloody full  of himself he thought he knew what it was all about without even reading it, because todd has all the attention span of a retarded goldfish.

So, I know time doesn’t come free.  I know it takes time to read something.  But please, if you’re going to take the time to leave a content, at least read the post first.  Otherwise you end up looking really dumb.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Years ago.  I made the decision to beat all my games, or come as close as I was able to.  This turned out to be a pretty big undertaking.  Like I said, it’s been years, I’ve been going by console generation, and I’m still working through my collection from two generations ago.  Since then, I have played hundreds of games.  Beaten hundreds of games.  And as much as I have impeccable taste, there are still some bad ones that slipped through.  Sure, there were a few I wasn’t actually able to beat.  There were a handful I couldn’t bear to go all the way through.  There were a couple I called completed just because I technically saw everything the game had to offer, and couldn’t bear to truly complete it.

Even so, in the time I’ve been taking on this quest, I have beaten nearly every game I’ve owned.  Even the horrible, miserable, foul games that made me question my faith in a kind and loving God forevermore, I endured, and I conquered.  I have defeated Fur Fighters.  Overcome Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero.  Thoroughly plumbed the depths of Wrestlemania X8.  I have seen some of the darkest parts of the world of video games.

Why, then, is it Baldur’s Gate, one of the most highly regarded games out there, that I just can’t bear to force myself through any longer?

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There are a lot of people who like this game, for very good reason.  Even people who, like myself, never played it in its proper era.  People who love the story, get really into the world, even people who enjoy all the prep-work the game’s combat is based on, all things I’d normally enjoy myself.

But in trying to figure out why people liked the game when I just could not, reading over what people were saying about it felt like I had somehow ended up with a completely different game than anyone else.  The world that people loved, in what time I played I just saw standard fantasy forests and villages, with no more details than you could see anywhere else.  The plot?  They had some interesting things with the iron crisis, but I cleared that up and I never got the story past the base that some jerk killed my dad and wanted to kill me.  Both of those could have become something good, but I’ll never know, because neither of them managed to go anywhere in the first ten hours I spent playing the game.  Neither did the gameplay.  I was a mage.  I had one spell slot.  I could cast one spell a day, then I was completely useless.  First level D&D 3.5E was always really weak on the first level, and that stretches out so long here.

I’d love to jump into the middle of this.  I’d love to see the game everyone else enjoys so much.  This is one of the favorite games of a great swath of people, and there has to be good reason for that.  It has to turn into something great later on.

But as much as I enjoy a good slow-paced story, 10 hours without giving me anything is a little too much.  I don’t know if I’ve ever played a game that’s so slow about everything.  I spent ten hours with this great, wondrous, award winning game, and did not come across a single hook.  This game is amazing.  I was bored out of my skull.  Everyone loves it.  I could not go on.  I have finished so much worse, and I will likely never beat this game, or play its sequel.

It goes to show, the critical success, the popularity, it’s no guarantee that you’ll find the experience enjoyable.  People like different things.  And that’s a beautiful thing.  And sometimes, it’s okay not to like something.  Even when the whole world disagrees with you.