Archive for May, 2008

Wii: Boom Blox

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

I picked up Boom Blox for the Wii today.

Even in playing it for only a bit, it is truly an awesome game. The physics are just flat out fantastic.

Basically, you throw a baseball like thing at towers of blocks into which various colored glass blocks are integrated. To pass a level, you have to knock all the glass blocks to the ground within a certain number of throws. Fewer throws than the goal yields more bonus points, etc…

Throws are accomplished by flicking the controller. The controls are quite intuitive without any frustration.

Simple premise. Brilliantly executed.

The graphics are solid, but the interaction between the bits of the tower are just patently brilliant. You can move the camera about and it is quite amazing to watch this balanced tower teeter back and forth with some of the blocks moving just a bit differently than others.

In any case, I have barely scratched the surface of the game and it is a lot of fun. I’m just cranking through single player. There is also two player competitive and cooperative modes along with the ability to create and share new levels!

Great game.

Desktop Flame Daffodil

Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Daffodil

Full size. Desktop works well.

Bay Area Vegetarians

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

The Bay Area Vegetarians linked to my Maker Faire 2008 post in their summary of their presence at the Maker Faire.

Specifically:

And then there were those who looked from a distance at our model of battery caged hens, read our sign about WHY VEGAN, but didn’t approach. As one blogger frankly posted in a reference to Bay Area Vegetarians “various ‘activist’ vendors pushing everything from a vegan lifestyle (been avoiding that booth)”.

What I said in my original post was:

Gone are the generic arts-and-crafts vendors from the years before, replaced with various “activist” vendors pushing everything from a vegan lifestyle (been avoiding that booth) to awesome chocolates to composting toilets to amazing beer.

Their site seems to be having some stability issues. My response, in case it is lost (in all of its unedited wordpress submission form glory):

That particular quote is just ever so slightly out of context; beyond the “avoid” part, it was meant as a compliment to the organizers of the Faire in that they opened up what had been a cheesy vendor area to a group of people that were passionate to selling their causes in such a venue.

But let me take a moment to explain the “avoiding that booth” part.

You might not be surprised to find that the image of the chickens in cages offended me, but you might find it interesting why.

I find industrialized meat production to be an extreme offense to nature and to the health of the human race. It is unnatural. It is poisoning our land and us.

Of that, I think we all agree. You might be surprised to learn that I also shun the “organic” products of the likes of Whole Foods, many of which are flown in from far away places (thus consuming mass quantities of fossil fuels) or have been made with such oddities as “organic high fructose corn syrup”. No thanks, if I’m gonna be “green” like all the hipsters, I know that asparagus in August is unnatural.

My avoidance of the booth was more because my initial impression was that your stance is fundamentalist. That Bay Area Vegans were there to sway opinion and gain supporters through sensationalist headlines and viscerally unpleasant imagery.

I have little patience for fundamentalism, regardless of form, and I had no energy or interest in confronting fundamentalism in the otherwise open forum of ideas that is the Maker Faire.

With that said, I am the first to admit that I have no experience with this organization and am looking forward to learning more. In particular, I would like to understand how an entirely animal free method of food production is compatible with the various species of commonly eaten domesticated vegetables that have been selected to best survive in conjunction with domesticated animals as their source of fertilizer.

Thousands of years of symbiotic, human perpetuated, evolution is awfully hard to overcome. The industrialized meat and vegetable complexes made a hell of a success at such denial in the last 50 years. I would like to see us not make a similar set of mistakes in the next 50.

The pendulum swings wide and the answer to sustainable perpetuation of species typically lies somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of anything else, the Bay Area Vegetarians have quite a collection of what look to be very yummy recipes.

Truffle Salt

Monday, May 5th, 2008

The Maker Faire is always full of surprises.

The fine folks at Far West Fungi had a wonderful display of growing mushrooms, were selling mushroom mini farms, and were sharing a lot of mushroom lore. I’ll definitely be ordering some fresh mushroom products from them in the near future!

On my third pass by their booth in the process of taking a new set of friends on a whirlwind tour of the fair, I noticed they were also selling Truffle Salt.

Coincidentally, my first experience with Truffle Salt was at a dinner party not but a few weeks ago. The menu was a simple combination of fresh broccoli, potatoes-au-gratin, and slow roasted chicken. On the table was a small salt dish containing truffle salt. The food was awesome on its on, but the truffle salt put it right over the top.

So, of course, I grabbed a little pot of truffle salt from Far West! The stuff is awesome! Casina Rossa Truffle and Salt contains 5% dried, powdered, truffles suspended in your basic high quality italian sea salt.

Truffles have an intense flavor to start with; an almost smoky and extremely rich kind of woody flavor.

I made popcorn (on the stove, of course) and used a pinch of truffle salt. What normally would have resulted in about a half of bowl of left over popcorn was entirely devoured.

Awesome stuff. Amazon has Casina Rossa Truffle and Salt at a slightly cheaper price, but the shipping is really high. Amazon also has a Black truffle salt 10%. More truffle for the money, but it might be overwhelming, too!

Update: I found FungusAmongUs Truffle Salt (6% Truffles) sold through Amazon itself and, thus, eligible for Amazon Prime based delivery. I know nothing about this particular truffle salt, but have ordered some to give it a taste test.

Update 2: FungusAmongUs Truffle Salt received! Delicious stuff. Quite significantly more pungent and flavorful than the Casina Rossa product. At half the cost (taking into account shipping), I’ll stick to the FungusAmongUs until something better is found.

Every kitchen should have some!

Maker Faire 2008

Sunday, May 4th, 2008
SphereBot Watching Me Watching It

Maker Faire 2008 Day One is over and done with. The show feels like it is about twice the size of last year. The scale of awesomeness is definitely 2x.

There have been a number of changes beyond the scale.

The various displays/booths have been re-organized and the organization makes sense.

The event took over the back parking lot of the fairgrounds and, as such, there is lots of room for various fire arts, very large statue stuff, and various outdoor events.

Gone are the generic arts-and-crafts vendors from the years before, replaced with various “activist” vendors pushing everything from a vegan lifestyle (been avoiding that booth) to awesome chocolates to composting toilets to amazing beer.

The food is awesome this year. While the various carny style food-vendors-that-you-see-at-every-character-lacking-street-fair are still there, you’ll find awesome little bay area food vendors in between. What really good tacos? No problem; beef, whole roasted pork, or braised lamb cheeks — all delicious. Home made yucatan peninsula style tamales, too. Oh, and fresh grilled organic asparagus with a delicious dressing is just around the corner.

Many vendors — TechShop, O’Reilly, EMSL, etc.. — seem to have made the transition from “hey, look, cool stuff” to “hey, look, cool stuff and here is where you can pay some $$ to participate”. Seriously — the show is starting to take on an air of professional marketeering. Only it is still all good– there are many more opportunities to make cool stuff for free than ever before.

Roger and Friend (Nattie?) Playing Tag w/Spherebot

The whole show is about interaction. And interact, you do!

Oddly, there are many more decent pinball players this year than last. I’m looking forward to comparing this years audits with the first year’s.

Of course, there is still the grand assortment of kids being exposed to well maintained pinball machines for the first time. Their first reaction is generally “ooh, what is this?!?!?”. Then it becomes all concentration. And, finally, it is the parents reminding them that there is lots of other cool stuff to see!

Awesome stuff. I took a handful of photos in between chatting with many folks about pinball machine restoration.

I’m utterly beat. Have no words. Here are a couple of more pictures. Off to bed to charge up for tomorrow!

Pinball Chaos Machine Green Mode

This is a perpetual pinball chaos machine. Balls bounce around and trigger lights depending on which color pop bumper is hit.

Dancing with R2D2 (Step to the Left)

This little girl met R2D2 and decided to have a dance.

The creator of the amazing artoo detoo robot — Chris — commented with a link to a video of the same dance event.

Thank you!

Early Spring Bugs in Missouri

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
Red Velvet Mite (Trombidiidae)

In the forest, the various bugs common to the leafy undercover were waking up, too.

This is a red velvet mite (Trombidiidae).

They play a critical, if slightly surprising, role in the health of the forest. Namely, the larval stage is parasitic and effectively controls populations of locust, grasshoppers and other plant destroying insects.

As adults, the red velvet mite is a ferocious predator that will take out mites and insects many times it size. In particular, the mite seems to favor insects that eat bacteria and fungus.

Thus, the mites help ensure that fungus and bacteria remain abundant within the forest and, by doing so, help ensure that the decomposition process remain high.

While the red velvet mite is related to chiggers and ticks, they do not bite humans and are quite the sociable little bugs.

Blue Metallic Bug Detail

I have no clue what this bug is other than “beautiful”.

It has gigantic jaws for its size, clearly designed for biting and ripping.

The bug really is that brilliant color of metallic blue. Even more amazing, the bug flew a few feet and landed on a tree. When the sun strikes it at a different angle, it turns a gorgeous metallic green.

Unfortunately, it moved too quickly for me to snap a photo, but I’ll definitely be keeping a lookout for these on our next visit.

More bugs on the click-through….

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