Monthly Archives: November 2008

A present from BMW

BMW present

Well, wouldn’t you know. BMW sent me a present for buying a car from them! It contained three things:

  • A small book titled “Uniquely BMW”
  • A brochure about BMW services (they must continue up-selling it seems)
  • Four TED DVDs and a BWM DVD

I guess they consider their clientele to be highly educated with a passion for learning.

Disc Golf 11/29/2008

Fixed parking lot

We finally got a chance to play at Old Settler’s Park today. What with all of the closings going on for kids running. It seems that the dam construction is finally finished. They cleaned up the space that they had reserved for construction equipment and repaved the parking lot.

repaved field

They repaved the field as well with artificial blue plastic netting. That looks natural…

Missing basket

One of the extra holes was missing its basket. I wonder what happened to it? Which is a shame. On both of my throws to it, my disc landed right next to it!

One glove Jon'

It was a little on the cool side this morning. And it didn’t help that it was windy out. But what do you expect at Old Settler’s? A calm day? No! Apparently it was cold enough to wear a glove…

One of the simplest recipes that I know

Salmon Rice start

One of the simplest recipes that I know is for Salmon Rice. This was inspired by one of the dishes in IBM Japan’s cafeteria. To make it, I measure out a rice-maker cup of rice into the bowl and wash it out. Although, to be honest, you can skip that step if you want. I then fill up the bowl with water to the line marked “1”. I put in some salt (so that hopefully it will dissolve and soak into the grains) and some unfiltered nigori saki. I then put a piece of salmon on top of it and press the start button. The beauty of this method is that I do not have to defrost the fish. It is fully cooked by the time my Zojirushi fuzzy logic induction rice cooker is done.

Salmon Rice done

Just add cracked black pepper when it is done and eat.

Salmon Rice mixed

I am not a purist. I mix the rice up good…


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Bgg.con 2008

Another year of BGG.con. This time, instead of writing long and detailed posts, I tried micro-blogging the gaming via

The game highlights were:

The games that I didn’t like were:

I also found three restaurants that I liked: Ali Baba (Mediterranean), Babe’s Chicken Dinner House (in Carrollton), and the Czech Stop. I didn’t like Campisi’s Egyptian restaurant or Big Fish.

Full twitter posts after the cut…

Continue reading

Caramel apples

Caramel Apple

I was inspired by this recipe. It is representative of fall for me (although I never eat them). This morning was the first cool morning for Austin (with a low of 36 degrees Fahrenheit). Perhaps that put me into the mood? Anyways… So I went to the store and bought the necessary ingredients (forgetting, of course, the Popsicle sticks): honey, heavy cream, salt, and apples. I spied some Grāpples and thought that they smelled good. Just like grapes! Stupid me though, did not fully read the label or ingredient list. Afterward, I notice that the second and third ingredients are “natural grape flavor” and “artificial grape flavor.” WTF?! I mistakenly assumed that it was an apple/grape hybrid. Sigh.

Also, does H.E.B. carry unwaxed apples? I scrubbed them down with a sponge and hoped that I removed all of the wax. But it didn’t feel that way. Sigh redux.

I normally make caramel by first melting dry sugar until it browns and then by adding the cream to it. Which is a rather extreme and time-consuming method. That sugar locks up solid from the temperature shock. But it eventually melts back into a liquid. This recipe starts with the cream and honey added together, boiling the water out of the mixture, and stopping when it reaches hard-ball stage.

I don’t know which method is easier. The liquid mixture has a lot of proteins in it. So it can boil over if you don’t watch it. In fact, it boil over as you watch it. Just to spite you. And it takes a while to fully cook. At least thirty minutes. Of stirring.

This picture was challenging. I am still not satisfied with it. I took twelve different frames and I messed with the light meter before I got all of the settings correct. There are so many variables to account for! I ended up with an ISO of 50, a shutter speed of 1/80 second, and an aperture of 5.6. I wanted to reduce the depth of field down to f/2.8 or even f/1.4, but my setup was pumping out too much light! If only the camera had an ISO value of 12.5.

Also, my off-axis flash highlight was too harsh. I needed to use a softbox. But I didn’t want to go through the effort to make that happen.

All those pictures took 24 minutes. Which is a lifetime in food photography. A pipping hot apple turns into a cold, and sagging apple with condensation on it…

Disc Golf 11/15/2008

Jon's long birdie

Since OSP was closed again thanks to a track and field meet (how can a rather large park be entirely closed?!), we decided to abort to the Rivery. And Chapel decided to abort because of the wind and cold. But it turned out to be not as cold as I dressed for.

Jon made an extremely long putt for a birdie! After his initial throw hit an early tree.

Hole 1

I birdied that hole as well, but my putt was much closer.

Hole 11
Hole 15

I also made two other birdies! On holes 11 and 15. Which I think is a record for me.

Lime in a Corona

Afterward, we ate at Dos Salsas. And we had to settle for Coronas (with limes forceably stuffed in them) instead of Mojitos.

D&D Shadowfall Keep (part 5)


After a long hiatus, the group finally got back together and finished the first module. Sadly, Jeff did not show up. And, also sadly, he was our cleric. Coincidentally, Ed did show up to see how D&D compared to Descent. He played meat-puppet (a Paladin that our DM made when the unhelpful NPC gnome was ditched).

It was a little tough without a cleric. We all had used our second winds. And a couple of us were close to death. But we survived! And kicked some ass.

Our D.M. was rather generous at the end. He had bought a new book of magical items and he gave us four of them. He also let us reroll when the dice rolled badly during the treasure generation.

I did not do so well on the luck side. I kept falling down in blood. Repeatedly. Fortunately, I could still long range attack with my magic. And I rolled a couple of 1s. One of the 1s gave me a -1 (?) penalty for four days! Ouch! Another caused my Eldritch Blast to instead hit Jon at a natural-20 strength! Ouch!

Game Day 11/13/2008

Game #1a
Game #1b

Steel Driver

First up is a new Essen and Wallace game called Steel Driver. This is an interesting game that is full of trade offs. You bid for control of laying railroad routes. But there are twists to this. The first is that you get paid off in the end for your shares in the different companies that you have owed. However, losing control of them is not a bad thing as long as they pay out well at the end (ala Imperial). Second, while you make money by connecting expensive routes, in the end, you score more money by collecting complete sets. You want your railroads to connect to each of six colors. You shouldn’t really get distracted by connecting the first trans-continental railroad route either. Third, there is a trade off to how much you bid to control and operate a railroad versus how many railroads you can get control in. Unless the few railroads that you did control also did very well in the scoring. Fourth, railroads which build quicker operate sooner during the next round. This can be beneficial in avoiding being cut off. But you score more for building more tracks rather than fewer tracks.


With four people, we ended the night with Tichu. On the second to the last hand, Jon got a little nervous of calling a risky Tichu when we were 50 points from the win. I’ve been there before…

11/13/2008 The scorecard for a game of Tichu

GT or T bet made or lost

This team scored more points than the other or one twoed

GT/T Team #1 GT/T GT/T Team #2 GT/T
MarkH & Jon Nick & MikeCh
  T- -105  
  405     -105  
  525   T+
  525     475 T+
  920 T+   480  
T+   565  

Monument Cafe has moved!

To its new location just up the street to the north. The new restaurant is twice as big. Although they do not have the big blackboards listing veggies, meals, and desserts. Which loses part of the charm, in my opinion.