Monday, September 28, 2009

The Big Seven in Sin City

On my recent Vegas vacation, I was fond of stating that my wife and I were going to commit all of the Seven Deadly Sins while we were in Sin City. Today, I decided to compile the evidence of said sins in Motivatonal Poster form. Next time you're in Vegas, let these posters be your guide - You can do it!!

Musica Obsura #1

Today begins a new series of entries in the Grimoire. Musica Obscura will be a look at artists/albums that you may never have heard of, or that you've likely forgotten over time. This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while now and I expect to be able to do quite a few of these, as my musical taste tends toward the strange and unusual.

Given that this blog is called "The Geek's Grimoire," the premiere Musica Obscura needs to be appropriately geeky.

So, with that in mind and without further ado, I present to you...Musica Obscura #1, William Shatner!

Right now, you're probably thinking that I've lost my mind. You may be right, but just hear me out.

I'll start with Bill's first album, The Transformed Man. This album earned Mr. Shatner a lot of ridicule, not least for his trademark delivery. True, the lyrics are spoken in a rather over-the-top manner and yes, the backup music does sound like it was lifted straight out of an episode of Star Trek. Go ahead, have a laugh at it, this much, at least, is pretty funny.

Once you're done laughing, take another look at the album as a whole. Look beyond the funny bits, and you'll see an interesting concept emerge...

Notice how the songs are paired. Each pair starts with a "classical" piece, followed by a more contemporary piece (song), inviting a comparison between modern lyrical poetry and its predecessors. In essence, he was saying, "Look at this! Song lyrics can be great poetry, too!"

His second album, Has Been, is much easier to justify. As he described in his autobiography, Bill's idea with this one was to make an album that's "actually good." In this, he succeeded.

The songs on Has Been range from the heartfelt "That's Me Trying," a tale of attempting to reconcile things with his estranged family, to the energetic "I Can't Get Behind That," in which Bill gets in the vocal booth with Henry Rollins and they go back and forth on a very entertaining rant. There's not a song on this album that I don't like.

I'll admit, The Transformed Man is the kind of album that I normally have to be in the right mood to properly enjoy, but Has Been is enjoyable any time. Check it out - it just might surprise you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Upgraded My Booze

A while back, I was surfing the interwebs when I stumbled upon a recipe for pecan infused bourbon. I like pecans. I love bourbon. Hell, I was weaned on bourbon (Anbesol hadn't been invented yet). Needless to say, I immediately bookmarked the page for later use.

On a recent shopping trip, I picked up 2 bags of pecans (the only ingredient in this recipe that I don't normally have on hand). With all of the necessary ingredients in the house, I was ready to begin.

I started by soaking the pecans in cold water. For me, this step served a double purpose, as the most reasonably priced pecans available at the store were glazed. Not only did the soaking "open up" the pecans for roasting, it rinsed the glaze clean off.

Once the pecans had soaked, I sprinkled my seasoning mix on them and put them in the oven to roast. A word of advice: If you decide to try to make this yourself, make more than 2 cups of pecans. The aroma of roasting pecans will fill your humble abode, and you will want to eat some. Allow some room for indulgence.

Once the pecans had cooled it was into the jar with them, along with one full bottle of Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (I just call him Jim. we're old friends).

Then came the hardest part. I had to wait for a week. Seven days. One hundred sixty eight hours. With the jar just staring at me...

Today, the wait ended. It was finally time to strain out the pecans and enjoy the fruits of my labors (and patience).

The bourbon had become cloudy with nutty goodness. I was excited.

After straining the bourbon back into its bottle, I was left with a bunch of bourbon-ized pecans. I decided to toss them in the oven for a while, to get them dry and crunchy. 20 minutes at 300 - once again, a wonderful aroma filled my domicile.

The pecans turned out fairly well, although the bourbon flavor is fairly subtle. Maybe 15 minutes next time.

The bourbon itself was wonderful. I poured a glass, and also poured a glass of unaltered Jim for comparison.

You can really see the cloudiness when you compare it to the regular stuff. It's not a pretty drink; maybe it needs a bit of a mixer. I'll have to experiment with that later. Now, however, I need to get a-tastin'!

First, I had s sip of regular Jim, to sort of set the foundation. It was wonderfully delicious, as always.

Then, I took a sip of the pecan bourbon.

Wow. That's good.

The pecans really did a number on ol' Jim. Don't get me wrong, it's still definitely bourbon, but the pecans have made it smoother, sweeter, and (of course) nuttier. This is a great dessert drink.

I wonder how it would taste in coffee...

Monday, September 14, 2009

White After Labor Day?

Today at work, I saw a survey being taken on a whiteboard. It was a simple yes or know question - Is it "OK" to wear white after labor day?

Anybody who knows me knows that this question has absolutely no bearing on me, because (a) I own very little in the way of white clothing, and (b) fashion be damned. The question, however, did start my gears turning...where did this seemingly preposterous rule come from? What possible reason could there be not to wear white after labor day?

I started thinking about it, and I arrives at a very interesting (and rather geeky) hypothesis: The "no white after labor day" rule was originally created as an assassin deterrent.

Labor day comes at the beginning of September. Winter will soon be coming, with all that snow (very soon if you live farther north). What color would be best to conceal oneself in the snow? White, of course. Clearly, white is the color of choice for any wintertime assassin.

Assassins, however, are notoriously fashionable people. If you're going to "inhume" a person, it's terribly rude to do a poor job of it, and that applies to one's attire as much as to one's methods. A sloppily dressed assassin just won't do - it reflects poorly on the assassin, his guild, and the profession in general.

Thus, a particularly savvy individual, fearing a cold-weather assassination, declared the wearing of white after labor day to be uncouth. Unfortunately, this individual was doubtless inhumed anyway - There's always night, and black is always in.

Another question just came to mind - when is it OK to start wearing white again?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Is Dartball, Anyway?

For the past few years, I've been playing in a men's dartball league on Thursday nights between September and March. Often, when I menton this to somebody, I'm met with a blank/confused stare, followed by, "Huh? Dartball? Whuzzat?"

The simplest explanation is that dartball is a dart game that's played using baseball rules. However, as anybody who's ever owned a dartboard knows, this will conjure an image of people playing a dart game that looks a lot like what you'll see happening in any pub. That may be fun, but it's not dartball.

That's not to say that dartball doesn't have anything to do with darts. You are throwing darts at a dartboard, and you do need to stand a specific distance from the board when you're throwing. However, that's where the similarities end.

Let's start with the board. In a standard game of darts, the board is a circle of about 18 inches diameter. The dartball board is much bigger. It's a diamond, measuring approximately 4 feet along each side.

The red areas are your targets - singles, doubles, triples, home runs. The large white squares are strikes, the green areas are outs, and the orange border is foul. There's a bit more to it, but you get the idea.

With a board that big, it should be obvious that you're throwing your darts from a little more than 7 feet away. We throw from 25 feet. Underhand. You read that correctly, we throw underhand.

It's not as hard as it sounds, though - these aren't the same darts that you've thrown at the local pub. We use Number 2 Tournament Darts, which are larger and heavier, so they provide more inertia.

Now you've got the general idea - throwing a large dart, underhand, at a huge dartboard 25 feet away, trying to hit a target that's, at most, 5 inches square (the single). It's a bit tough at first, but as with anything, practice makes perfect (my brother's batting average is usually around .500).

Each Thursday, we play 3 full games against whichever team is our opponent for the evening. Coffee and baked goods (supplied by the home team) are enjoyed, and we have a good ol' time.

Whew... Now, when somebody asks what the heck dartball is, all I have to do is point them here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Verily, I have aged.

Today is my 33rd birthday. However, as is tradition in my house, the celebratory fun started a couple days ago.

The birthday goodness started on Thursday, when I came home to find a package from Amazon, addressed to me. I hadn't placed an order with Amazon recently, so this could only mean one thing: Some clever person had gone birthday shopping using my Wish List! Sure enough, when I opened the box, I found several DVD's that I've been wanting.

My birthday was starting a day earlier than I had anticipated. Awesome!

Friday, I took a bus after work to go meet my wife near where she works. We went out for a tasty Cali-Mex dinner and a trip to a local Drive-In theater. Dinner was delicious, and mine was free (if you sign up for their mailing list, you get free birthday dinners). I decided that the free dinner was sufficient justification for me to order a Tequila flight.

The three shots that you see here are all from the Don Julio distillery (there were two others to choose from). From left to right, they are the añejo, the reposado, and the blanco. For those who don't know their tequila, blanco is the youngest, and añejo is the oldest. All were tasty, but the añejo was certainly the standout. It went well with my carnitas burrito.

After dinner, it was off to the drive-in, where we hoped to take in a triple feature.

Film #1 was Halloween 2. I quite liked it - Rob Zombie continues to explore who Michael Meyers is, and why he is a killer. My only real complaint (the hyperactive ADD camerawork in the action sequences) isn't specific to this film - it's more of an "across the board" complaint.

Film #2 was Inglorious Basterds. Loved it. Simply marvelous. I really don't have any complaints about this one.

Film #3 was to be Brüno. However, the hour was late, we were tired, and we'd already seen Brüno. So, we went home instead.

Yesterday was the "big" party. We got together with friends and family at a local sushi restaurant, where I (along with my wife, mother and sister-in-law) proceeded to devour a rather large sushi boat. It was freaking delicious!

After dinner, we retired to my house to play a game. One of the games that The Wife got me. Of course, before the game could be played, I needed to open my other gifts. There was some really good stuff.

From my brother-in-law: Stealth action in Gotham City.

From my parents, brother, and sister-in-law: I'll be busy in the kitchen.

From one pair of friends: A pepper plant...if I didn't know better, I'd suspect that they were in cahoots with my family.

From another pair of friends and their three year old daughter: After all these years, I still can't make the paddleball work.

Last (certainly not least), from yet another pair of friends: I've been looking for this for years. It's an amusing story - perhaps I'll tell it here later.

Once the presents were opened, we opened up the cupcakes we'd gotten earlier that day. Best. Cupcakes. Ever. They cost $25 per dozen, and they're worth every penny.

Cupcakes in hand, we played some Star Trek Scene It. My dad and I totally geeked out, and everybody else seemed to enjoy it as well (even the non-Trekkies). Of course, we relented after a bit, and watched Wall-E (love that movie).

So, here I sit. It's my 33rd birthday, and I've partied well. The rest of today will be spent playing video games, watching movies, and generally having a nice laid-back day with my lovely wife. My kinda day.

Tomorrow, we visit Mom and Dad for steaks and Discworld.

Life - I'm doin' it right.