August 09, 2008

Farmers' Market Pasta

This isn't as tasty as Jennie's Community Pasta (made from our CSA ingredients), but is certainly inspired by it. I cruised by the farmers' market here in Los Alamos and bought some squash and fresh pasta, and made this guy:


This contains

  • Lemon Fennel Pasta (v tasty!)

  • Yellow Squash

  • Cippolini onions

  • Lots of garlic

  • Johnsonville italian sausage

  • Pearl-sized Fresh Mozzarella

  • Feta cheese

  • Buitoni Marinara sauce

  • Also some great sourdough bread

Were I making this in real kitchen with actual kitchen supplies and greater access to ingredients, things would be a little better. I had to compromise and get the Johnsonville sausage, since it was either that (it had corn syrup in it) or get the house brand (which had high fructose corn syrup in it). Similarly, if I were back home I would make a real tomato sauce, though I trust the refrigerated sauce a lot more than the bottled stuff you just buy off a shelf. I'd probably throw some creminis in there too, since my obsession with them was rising before I ventured off on this cooking exile. In later cookings I chopped the squash into much bigger chunks and cooked it longer, and it made a HUGE difference (I was kind of picking around it the first time).

All in all this is very tasty, though this (first) one didn't turn out as well as my subsequent makings of this. I found out the other day that, much like lasagna, this tastes even better the next day. I think the key thing is the noodles - fresh pasta keeps much better as leftovers than the dry stuff for some reason.

August 03, 2008

Cubs roundup

A few things:

1. With yesterday's win, the Cubs have now equaled the win total of the 2006 team. Furthermore, we passed the 2006 team's walk total back on July 23. Let us never speak of that team again

2. Great article in the New York Times today about Mark Cuban, and his potential to win the Cubs bidding. I'm a little less of a Cuban partisan than I used to be - I think he would be FANTASTIC for the franchise and would actually invest in it, unlike the cheapskate Tribune Company. I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in how the Cubs could be marketed nationally (see Boston, New York) and I would be shocked if Cuban didn't recognize this. His track record in Dallas is good with players too - he turned Dallas into a place that players wanted to play by, well, pampering his players.

That said, if Cuban becomes the owner I think we will see a much bigger focus on renovating Wrigley Field, which could easily be a problem. He clearly will want to fix the stuff that has needed to be fixed for years - terrible bathrooms (urinal troughs in this day and age?!), crummy concessions, the tiny clubhouses, and the lack of modern sports facilities. Luckily, even Cubes would be unlikely to move the Cubs away from Wrigley, but given his casual fan focus in Dallas we might see some changes that many Cubs fans would not be happy with - namely, a Jumbotron. Hopefully, Cuban will recognize that Wrigley does not need a Jumbotron or similar gimmicks to sell out Wrigley and keep fan interest in the team...but if the Cubs start losing (and losing attendance) we might start seeing the slow slide to video fandom.

3. Great article in the Hardball Times yesterday about the Cubbies. It breaks down how the Cubs have done so well this year - the main reason being the the Cubs are incredibly balanced. You can't write off the team as an all-pitch no-hit team (like the Angels) - the Cubs are well above average on offense, defense, starting pitching and relief pitching. Like the article suggests, I'm hoping the Cubs have a big August, in which they play mostly home games against non-contenders, and rest up their players down the stretch in September so we're fresh for the playoffs

August 02, 2008

Neon Genesis Evangelion, take 3

While here at Los Alamos, I've been playing through assorted old console games on my laptop (yay emulators!) Recently, I've been working my way through Xenogears, which has held up to be as good as I remembered...and now I'm itching to plow through Xenosaga again, which is pretty up and down. Anyway, this review is not about video games, but about an anime series. All the giant robots, psychological stuff, and veiled (and not so veiled) religious references put me in the mood to watch some Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I have carried from computer to computer since I downloaded it way back in my undergraduate days.

I originally watched the series back in high school, and enjoyed them. I love stories with all sorts of conspiracies, wheels-within-wheels situations, and all the mythological/religous/existential references always serve to make things seem even more epic. One of the reasons I think I enjoyed it so much was that I (mostly) identified with the main character. I don't have the daddy/abandonment issues that Shinji has, but I definitely vibed with his general antisocial-ness and low-level fear of human contact. Watching it ten years later though, Shinji came off as way too emo for me...and since Shinji is the protagonist for the show, the (several) existential Shinji episodes weren't really doing it for me.

As far as other characters go, I'm still not sure how I feel about Asuka. The first time I watched it I HATED her - thought she was just real bitchy and mean in general. Watching them through again (mainly in Japanese w/ subtitles rather than dubbed), I realized that a lot of that stemmed from Asuka's english voice actress, whose voice was very nasal and had a strong undertone of contempt in pretty much every word. Don't get me wrong - Asuka is very bombastic and opinionated, and has a very aggressive personality...but I think the Japanese voice actress did a much better job with her general tone. Asuka can still be pretty selfish and mean-spirited (her most common saying is "What, are you stupid?", after all), but I felt much more sympathetic to her this time around. Also her last battle in End of Evangelion was one of the best action sequences in the entire series, only topped by the feral and terrifying battle between Zeruel and Unit 1.

The battles in the series were pretty amazing - I love the way that the Evas are rendered and, well, just MOVE in general. They manage to capture an almost feral, animal aura around them (clearly, this was intentional) which I think works really well in the giant robot fighting setting. The robots themselves aren't running around with shit tons of guns/missiles/etc (see, Transformers) - they mainly fight hand to hand and though they do use guns you feel much more like they are tools for their task rather than an integral part of the Evas. Whenever we see 'conventional' attacks by the military it always cracks me up, because you just see giant walls of missiles bullets etc raining on the enemy with no effect, which would feel more surprising if it weren't for the super-inaccurate world of robot cartoons that I've seen.

For some reason, the mystery in the show seemed a lot less epic than I remembered...I feel like I missed one of the background episodes somehow - especially in regards to all the stuff that happened in the past, Rei's history, and the ramp up to the Eva project (though I did watch the episode that covered this!). I finally did watch the full version of End of Evangelion and I gave the first half a big thumbs up...but found the ending no more satisfying than the anticlimactic ending to the TV show. I'm probably not going to watch it again anytime soon...though I'll probably feel the itch again the next time I roll through Xenogears (now that I've finished that, I'm all in the mood for Xenosaga again...)

Series of Unfortunate Events

I'm finally getting around to writing book reviews for all the stuff that I've read over the past few months. Farthest back in my queue is A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket (note: SPOLIER ALERT for anyone who thinks they might read these)

Quick overview: The series consists of 13 books that chronicle the lives of the Baudelaire orphans, whose parents have just died in a mysterious fire. They have a large inheritance that is being held for them until they come of age, and the book chronciles their (mis)adventures as they try to elude the villainous Count Olaf, who is trying to seize their money.

The books are written really well - my main reaction reading this is that I would have LOVED it when I was a kid. They're written for people who love reading - lots of obvious (and not so obvious) literary references, black humor, complicated and made-up words, and a wheels-within-wheels type mystery. The books start out with a standard formula: the kids move to a new foster home with a distant relative, Count Olaf shows up in disguise and hatches some scheme, the kids foil it, and they are forced to move on somewhere else. It gets grating after awhile, but luckily these books are quick reads, and the series switches gears after the 6th book, when they start learning more about the events that their parents were mixed up in, and after the 7th book, when the Baudelaires are on the run after being framed for murder.

In the end, it very much is not a children's book. The line between good and evil blurs slowly over the couse of the book, as we get some insight into the pasts of many of the villains and the good guys aren't revealed to be all that good at times. At several points towards the end the main characters wonder whether they've become villains themselves. The children are exposed to the adult world, which has very few sympathetic characters, even among those who were helpful to the children (not to mention the fact that the most sympathetic characters tend to end up dead).

In the end, they are eventually freed from Count Olaf's interference, and have seen a lot of their preconceptions about the world and their parents torn down. They've seen the world, and it's just pretty nasty and petty in general and are questioning their own actions. Whether I view the ending as good or bad depends on how I'm feeling...if I'm in a good mood and feeling optimistic, then I think that they will be able to use the lessons they've learned from their mistakes (and the many mistakes etc of the people they encountered) to raise and educate Beatrice and be positive forces for change in the deeply flawed world around them. If I'm feeling grouchy, then I feel that the Baudelaires are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the previous generation. Most of the mystery surrounding Count Olaf, VFD, and the events of the past are left unsolved, which left me feeling deeply unsatisfied and almost cheated in a way. But, maybe the fact that the children seem to be letting go of all of this baggage from the past is a sign that history will not repeat itself, and the optimist in me is the winner.