August 25, 2009

Blizzcon 2009

Posted in Food, Games, Video/Computer Games at 2:21 pm by Transmuter

I’ve been a slacker recently about updating my blog, I know. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to.

I have until the beginning of September to play WoW. Once again, in order to save some money, Chiemi and I have canceled our WoW accounts. On the bright side, I’ve managed to level Kinz, my rogue, to level 80! Yay! It’s about time the guild master reaches the level cap. I went through a real lull in my interest in playing a rogue from about level 73-76, but once I got past that block I started enjoying him again. He’s doing some pretty decent damage now (considering the crappy gear he has currently), and he feels like he serves a purpose again.

Ever since patch 3.2 came out I’ve been running heroic dungeons a lot with my paladin. Getting emblems of conquest is great for non-raiders like me, and the new Trial of the Crusader has a lot of great loot – of which I’ve acquired all of the tanking gear except the dang shoulders. I’ve been stuck with my Tempered Saronite Shoulders for forever! I’ve run Gundrak a ton, but never got the tanking shoulders there, and I’ve run ToC a bunch and no shoulders there either! What’s the deal Blizz? 😉

In other news, the upcoming MMO The Old Republic is looking awesome! It’s like Knights of the Old Republic, but multiplayer and much refined. I totally want to be a Jedi, but I’ve been really impressed on how Bioware is making the other classes just as cool as Jedi and Sith. For example, the smuggler is a ranged class that uses a cover system. Moreover, the smuggler is supposed to have a bunch of awesome one-liners, gets to flirt with/romance a bunch of NPCs, and is generally the rocking Han Solo type. Pretty neat! The game is also completely voiced! Crazy! I’m totally going to try this game when it comes out. I felt sure I’d end up switching to this game once I was done with WoW in a couple years, but then I went to…

BLIZZCON! Woo! It was just as awesome as when I went two years ago, only bigger and with more people! This time my sister Jennie bought 5 tickets, one of which she sold on eBay, so we each had a ticket with one to spare. My brother went for the first day, but somehow got bored and left early. Go figure. The biggest news for me was the expected announcement of the next WoW expansion – Cataclysm. The theme for this expansion is that this super-dragon named Deathwing escapes his prison in the elemental plane of earth and bursts out into Azeroth, causing worldwide catastrophe. As a result of this, Blizzard will be revamping all the zones in the original WoW, improving and streamlining the leveling experience, changing the terrain of many zones, and almost doing a reboot of the franchise. If you’re interested, check out the World of Warcraft website, or a news site like wow.com.

Other interesting things we saw at Blizzcon were the vendors. There was a vendor called WarcraftPrints.com, where you can have custom posters, postcards, etc. featuring your character printed! It looked really cool, and I can’t wait until the website goes live in a couple of weeks. Another vendor, FigurePrints, has a similar idea except they make a 3D figurine out of your character. I’d never seen them in person before, and I have to say I was blown away. They look fantastic! The only issue I have is that the colors look a bit whitewashed. They could stand to be more vibrant. It’s still amazing!

nVidia had a booth where they were showing off their 3D technology. When paired with a compatible monitor and a recent nVidia graphics card, their 3D glasses create a pretty impressive experience. I was able to log on to my character and play around for a while. Flying on my netherdrake was really neat, and large mobs actually become rather imposing. The glasses themselves are a far cry from the 3D goggles of yesteryear. It’s still nothing you’d want to wear out of the house, but they’re basically just the size of bulky glasses, and quite light. If I had the cash to spare, I’d seriously consider getting these.

We all got to play the demo of Cataclysm while we were at Blizzcon. It was pretty cool. We got 20 minutes to play the starting zone of either the goblins or the worgen. I played the goblins this time. I really liked the look of the zone – very Gilligan’s Island in my opinion. Chiemi and I also got to play the Diablo III demo while we were waiting for my sister to get her face painted. It plays really nicely. I played the newly announced monk class, and Chiemi played a wizard. She said she liked it, but there was too much gore. I agree; if there’s a reduced/no gore setting in the final game, it’ll probably be a game we buy.

After the Diablo III demo, we met up with my sister again, shortly after which we were approached by a man from WoW Stories who asked us if we had an interesting story relating to WoW. After hearing our vague assertions to the positive he directed us to his booth. On the way there we were given winning tickets by an Intel booth guy because we were wearing the Intel buttons that we had been given the day before. We were excited to actually win something! We continued to the WoW stories booth, where we were recorded on video talking about how Chiemi and I got into WoW as the only game Chiemi was interested in that we could play together as a couple. After that we went to the Intel booth to claim our prizes. My sister and I both got a little Intel-branded bag and Chiemi got a cool little folding chair! (Our girls loved the chair when we brought it home.) Blizzcon was a blast, and I hope to be able to go back a third time!

Oh, one more thing. For lunch on Friday Chiemi and I decided to walk around the convention center neighborhood in search of a place to eat. After walking way too far we got to Mimi’s. We like Mimi’s, so we went there to eat. After much agonizing about what to get I ordered meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I almost felt bad about choosing such a boring dish at a nice restaurant, but I was really craving meatloaf for some reason. Well, I’m glad I chose the meatloaf because it turned out to be one of the best meals of my entire life. From the appetizer bread to the juicy meatloaf and slightly chunky mashed potatoes, the whole meal was phenomenal! I felt like I was in heaven every time I took a bite of that meatloaf, and I’m not one to get enthusiastic about food. To top it off, the service there was fantastic! The glasses were replaced right before we drained them, the waitress seemed almost psychic in her ability to offer exactly what we were wanting before we were even able to ask for them, and everyone was very friendly without being overbearing or annoying. It was great!

I’ve had a good month.

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May 1, 2009

Cheese – DaVinci

Posted in Food at 1:15 pm by Transmuter

My experience with DaVinci cheese was interesting. It’s basically Dutch Gouda infused with herbs and spices. The name is certainly attractive, and it looks pretty cool.

So I have to say, this cheese smells heavenly! I almost melted when I first unwrapped it and cut a slice. Seriously, it smells really good. I was majorly disappointed when I found that the taste of the cheese is very mild, even bland (at least compared to the smell). I like the texture – firm and smooth, with nice little crispy bits where the herbs are.

If this cheese tasted like it smells, it’d taste something like Roasted Garlic Triscuit, but maybe with the garlic not as strong. As it is, it’s not even as flavorful as the Garden Herb Triscuit. Still, I did enjoy this cheese. I read that it makes a good omelet, but I didn’t have a chance to try making one.

Rating: 7/10.

April 16, 2009

Cheese – Mini Babybel

Posted in Food at 1:57 pm by Transmuter

Ok, I haven’t had a chance to get some real cheese eatin’ going on this week, so I’ll review the famous processed cheese known as “Mini Babybel”. I’m not entirely sure what a processed cheese is, except that it’s made of a combination of cheeses and cheese materials (like milk!). I always liked these as a kid, since 1) They’re kid-sized and 2) Unwrapping the wax is fun!

So I have ambivalent feelings about this cheese. Sometimes I eat it and I’m like “Wow, that was really tasty!” and other times I think “This cheese is kinda gross.” Why is that? I have no idea. Sometimes the first bite is icky but the last bite is good! So crazy. They make a convenient snack though!

Rating: 4/10 – 7/10 (Depending on my mood?)

Bonus tip: Apparently there are several varities of this mini cheese, such as cheddar, gouda, and “light”.

As another cheese note, yesterday I made a sandwich out of the last of my Dubliner cheese. Unfortunately I couldn’t slice it as thin as I had the first week since it was the end piece, so it was about twice as thick as I was used to. When I ate the sandwich it was totally gross! The cheese had crystallized or something, and the flavor was totally different from what I remembered. It did taste a lot like Swiss cheese, but even more disgusting! What’s the deal, man? Did the cheese go bad? It was probably three weeks old, stored in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator.

Revised rating: 1/10. Seriously, I couldn’t eat more than half of the sandwich!

On an unrelated note, I just finished reading every single Dinosaur Comic. I think it’s affected my writing style. Funny comic, though! Very cerebral, and lots of linguistics-related comics too!

April 7, 2009

Cheese – Dubliner

Posted in Food at 4:18 pm by Transmuter

After the extreme creaminess of Havarti I wanted something a little firmer for my second cheese. Since my sister-in-law is serving a mission in Ireland I decided on Dubliner, which is Irish but not actually from Dublin. Anyway, Dubliner is an aged, firm cheese. While making my sandwich the first day I tasted a chunk of it – it was gross! “Crap,” I thought, “I have a week’s worth of this stuff!” However, I had heard that many cheeses should be served at room temperature for best flavor. Fortunately for my taste buds the sandwich was far tastier at lunchtime than it was when refrigerated. So if you ever buy any Dubliner, let it warm up before eating!

I really liked Dubliner. It has a similar texture to aged cheddar, but perhaps a bit grainier or more astringent. (I hope I am using the right terminology for this.) The flavor was not extremely sharp, but still somewhat strong; it seemed kind of nutty. I would definitely eat this cheese again.

Cheese rating: 9/10

As an interesting note, I assumed this cheese would be fairly exotic and uncommon since it was not one of the really well-known varieties and imported from Ireland. However, the other day I was shopping at Costco and lo and behold, there were a bunch of big bricks of Dubliner! That was certainly unexpected!

Cheese – Havarti

Posted in Food at 3:59 pm by Transmuter

Ok, for my first week of cheese experimentation I bought a hunk of Havarti. Havarti is a semi-soft cheese originating in Denmark. I made sandwiches of ciabatta bread, deli-sliced turkey, and sliced tomatoes. I had 4 sandwiches’ worth of ingredients, so I had one a day at lunch from Tuesday to Friday. I didn’t really care for it the first day, but by the second day the flavor had grown on me somewhat. By Friday I could appreciate the flavor of the cheese, but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite.

The cheese was soft and very creamy, with a mild flavor. At this point I’d probably say that I don’t particularly care for creamy cheeses, but I’ll try a few other soft varities in the future to make sure it wasn’t just Havarti I was unimpressed with. Keep in mind I love extremely sharp cheddar, so Havarti was like the opposite of that. Still, I didn’t dislike it either.

My rating: 5/10

April 3, 2009

Cheese

Posted in Food at 8:44 pm by Transmuter

I’m going to start reviewing cheese. For the title of this main post I tried to think of something fairly grandiose, like “All About Cheese” or “The Great Cheese Review”, but I don’t really know that much about cheese and I’m no high-class food critic. Hence we have the simple, if rather dull, title above.

Anyway, this might seem like it’s coming from out of left field, so let me explain. I have been a little more interested in cheese for the past few weeks for two reasons. Firstly, I saw an episode of “Good Eats” where Alton Brown talked quite a bit about cheese. Secondly, I read the Wikipedia article on cheese and several related articles. I read about how to make cheese, visited a few websites selling cheese and a few more sites selling cheesemaking equipment. I didn’t really intend to make cheese, but I was on something of a cheese studying kick so I learned a fair bit about it.

A week or two ago Chiemi and I discovered a grocery store called Harmons. It’s slightly fancier than your regular Albertsons – it reminds me a bit of Trader Joe’s, but not as exotic. I was impressed to see that they had a whole island displaying cheeses, with a “cheese monger” staffing it and giving advice to customers. I decided to try a week of making sandwiches for lunch at work, but this time using good ingredients. I bought some ciabatta bread, some fresh sliced turkey from the deli, and I decided on trying some Havarti cheese. If the experiment worked out, I planned to buy different types of cheese the following weeks until I had experienced many kinds of cheese.

Since I’m doing this cheese testing thing, I might as well write down what I think of each cheese, if only so I can remember which cheeses I liked. I’ll write a separate review for each type and link to them from here. As far as my cheese background goes, I like Gouda-type cheese and Pepper Jack. I don’t care for Brie or Swiss, but I absolutely love sharp cheddar, especially Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp. Mozzarella is ok, but kind of bland. Anyway, to the reviews!

The Cheese Reviews:

Week 1 – Havarti
Week 2 – Dubliner
Week 3 – Mini Babybel
Week 4 – DaVinci
Week 5 – Red Hot Dutch