Sunday, August 25, 2013

What-What?! Week of August 25th

This week has been kind of a rollercoaster – been quite busy, indeed.  We visited my parent’s place and played some Battletech, and my ‘mech was exploded a lot.  My sister took my eldest to the Ringling Brothers Circus in San Jose, which she thoroughly enjoyed; her favorite part was the tigers.  I’m happy that my sister got to take her; I have many fond memories of doing activities with my aunt growing up, and it would really please me if my kids have close relationships to their aunts and uncles.

I was planning on reviewing the new Gamers movie that I talked about last week, but unfortunately my internet is frequently subpar.  The husband and I watched the first ten minutes before the internet died, and that was that.  The downloadable version is available now for contributors (us), and I’ll be downloading that today or this evening.  Next week, look for a full review!

Literature:  Jake and the Neverland… Fanfic?
While looking up source images for my Jake and the Neverland Pirates illustrations last week, I found Jake and the Neverland fanfic.  What is fanfic?  It’s short for fan fiction, where fans write fictional pieces based on characters and settings that they are fans of.  Sometimes, this goes big; for example, 50 Shades of Grey started out life as Twilight fan fiction.  The vast majority of fanfic is, in my opinion, not well written, with a tendency towards fan service and other such ridiculousness.  50 Shades, despite being a best seller and all, is no better than the lot; from the excerpts I’ve read, the language is unnecessarily ambiguous and repetitive.  Some of the relationships are concerning.  In any case, I was momentarily horrified and surprised when I found the above image and accompanying story of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

Movie Review:  Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers (available on Netflix)

My kids love Lego, and when they saw this recommended on Netflix, they begged and pleaded.  Having had seen many awful children’s shows and films, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  It has a bit of everything in it, especially if you grew up in the 80s or early 90s: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond, some Lord of the Rings-fantasy, and one scene that’s straight out of DuckTales the Movie: Tale of the Lost Lamp.  This film is very clichĂ©, but at the same time, it’s still entertaining.  Clutch Powers is a nice break from saccharine sweet princesses and talking animals, but I can’t say that I’d watch it if I didn’t have kids.


Speaking of Indiana Jones... I accidently stumbled on this through an e-mail that Amazon had sent with a selection of adventuring and exploring books – this led me to a book by the same author, published as an expanded, and by some accounts, bloated version of this essay.  The essay itself covers Percy Fawcett’s obsession with a city that he simply called “Z” – evidence of a lost civilization deep in the Amazon basin.  Fawcett was last seen in 1925, when he left on an expedition to find the city with his son and a friend.   The author follows Fawcett’s steps through the rainforest, talking with native people, locals, and an archeologist along the way.  It’s 21 pages, so kind of a long read, but I highly recommend it.  There is also a film in the works, which is slated to star Brad Pitt; let's hope it comes out a bit better than World War Z, hm?

‘til next week!
(images via fanpop.com, videostore-cdn.eu.playstation.com, flickr.com)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What-What?! Week of August 18th

Was published again by Yahoo! Voices – EZ Squeezees Reusable Baby Food Pouch Review and Recipe – and I’m a little irritated by the editors choice of how the photographs are displayed.  If they’d posted it to Yahoo! Shine, then the photos would be quite a bit larger and easier to see.  At any rate, it was published.

Cooking: Strawberry Jam
This week, I made a batch of basic strawberry jam, following the directions on the Sure-Jell box.  I grew up on homemade jam, and am now pretty picky about what jams I eat.  I specifically avoid commercially made jams that use corn syrup, because it just doesn’t taste right.

This batch came out fantastically, and part of that was due to the ingredients.  A recipe of jam consists of fruit, sugar and pectin (what makes the jam thicken); because jam has so few ingredients, it is important that each one is high quality.  The strawberries that I used for this jam are of the Chandler variety, grown primarily here in California; they are specifically bred for flavor, rather than sweetness or stability during shipping, as many commercial varieties have been.  The sweetness of the berries doesn’t matter so much in jam, because jam has plenty of sugar, but the intense berry flavor makes for a great jam.
So far, we’ve eaten over half a pint jar!  Glad we have three more.

Jake and the Neverland Pirates Fan Art
Let me preface this by saying that I am no artist.  Sometimes, though, this happens:

That image came about because my two older children consistently call Izzy and Cubby from Jake and the Neverland Pirates “Dizzy” and “Chubby”.  I thought it would be fun to illustrate the characters that way.  I'm pretty pleased with it, considering that I couldn't find my nice Staedler or Sharpie pens, and had to use the world's worst pen.  Check out the full-size version here (I suggest using it as a coloring page -- my kids loved coloring this in!).


Okay, so this is pretty geeky.  My husband and I are gamers, and I don’t mean that in the mainstream “we play video games” sort of way (though we do that, too) – no, we play pen and paper role playing games, table top war gaming, and have played collectable card games.

This brings me to Zombie Orpheus’ newest film, The Gamers:  Hands of Fate.  A sequel to The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, my husband and I actually contributed to the Kickstarter fund for it (we’re getting miniatures! Yeah!).  Dorkness Rising was the story of how players’ relationships change over the course of a role playing game adventure, and this new film is a continuation of that, with more of an emphasis on collectable card games.  Dorkness Rising was an absolutely brilliant piece of work, and is much quoted by my immediate gamer friends and family.  While I haven’t seen Hands of Fate yet (due to work schedules), I am totally watching it tomorrow.  The film does have adult language in it, so be mindful of that if you have children or are otherwise particular.
Through August 31st, you can watch the film in full here (click "Stream for free").  Enjoy. :D

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What-What?! Week of August 11th

This week, I actually started writing several posts, but they all turned into topics that were more suitable for stand-alone articles than for blogging.  Incidentally, I forgot to mention that I had two articles published last week, this time by Yahoo! Voices:  In Defense of New Grads, and Three Reasons Why the Job Market is Better than You Think – And One Reason it Isn’t.  I have another article that is currently going through the editing process, but should be published within the week, and another article that I’m still developing (featuring Jeremy Clarkson, of all people).

In other news, Netflix is no longer offering Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (UK); I watch that show for both cooking and business inspiration, which it really has in buckets.  I am terribly disappointed, and now I have to go find something else to watch.

United StatesIceland
As part of the promotions for Planes, Disney developed these brilliant travel posters – however, I believe that the one labeled Japan is actually for China.  Otherwise, these are very visually striking posters.  Click the link above for the other five.

In searching for this recipe, I read it described as looking “like dog food”, and another that described it as a lazy man’s shepherd’s pie (which is pretty close, actually).

Overall, this was a winner.  This recipe would be great for large families or groups, as it makes a full 9 x 13 pan of food, and it is quite filling.  One could not mistake it for a healthy meal, however, so a side salad is a must.  The combination of the creamy meat with the crispy potatoes and cheese was delicious, though using two cans of “cream of” soup was too much fake-creaminess, so I would cut it down to one (or even none, and use a basic bĂ©chamel sauce instead).  My husband suggested added some chopped mushrooms next time, which I think we’ll definitely try.

This is kind of a funny article; when I started this blog, I never did so with the intention of improving my chances of getting a job.  However, I’ve had several interviews where the interviewer commented about it; generally, the reaction has been quite good.  One of the things that this article brings up at the beginning is blogging missteps, like inconsistent timing, walls of text, and inside jokes – I think that a lot of people get grandiose ideas about blogging, but when it comes to actually doing it, it just doesn’t happen.  Blogging is a lot of work, requiring planning, research, writing, and editing.  When I started this blog in January, I decided to post once a week, because I knew, even when I was in the middle of finishing my senior project, it would be manageable.
(Note: That the “5” in the title of that post should actually be written “Five”.  I have a whole handout from one of my classes devoted to the rules of when you should write out the word for a number or the number itself; I don’t believe that many people are formally taught this, though.)
Until next week!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What-What?! Week of August 4th

This week, I was pretty busy; I made some delicious chocolate chip scones, using my blueberry scones recipe, subbing chocolate chips for the blueberries, and milk for the yogurt.  Also did some shopping for eBay fodder, and Target’s July toy clearance for Christmas and birthdays for my kids.

This is a great article about Publix’s success – the company has achieved a net margin of 5.6 percent, higher than any of its public competitors.  Publix has done it through an emphasis on first on service, then quality, but not price.  Wal-Mart’s business strategy is low cost, which they, of course, translate into lower prices.  The two companies have recently been engaged in somewhat of a price war; Wal-Mart claiming that Publix is more expensive, and that customers get more value shopping at Wal-Mart.  Publix has been countering with some special promotions, but ultimately, the company is stating that the level of service and quality offers significant value to customers.  I know that I’ve shopped certain stores, despite higher prices, because I wanted to shop somewhere that was easier to navigate, had better produce, friendlier cashiers, and so on.

Beyond that competition, what’s especially interesting about Publix is that it is the largest employee-owned company in America; because of this, it treats its employees very well.   One of the most impressive statistics in the article is that over 21 percent of Publix’s employees have worked there for over ten years.  This is a company that I would feel good to support, for sure.

The Sad Story of Peter Pan
Cover art
There are certain films that I don’t watch: Labyrinth, Spirited Away, and Peter Pan, among others.  Sometimes I forget why these films bother me, so I wind up watching them anyway; this past week, I watched Disney’s animated Peter Pan with the children.  While the film itself doesn’t bother me (well, except for certain racially-charged scenes, but I do forgive it for its time period), the story of Peter Pan does.  Peter Pan’s origin story, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, is truly sad; upon hearing that his mother wants him to grow up to be a judge like his father, he runs away as an infant.  He goes to live in the Kensington Gardens, where he is befriended by animals, fairies, and other lost children.  After a while, he decides to visit his parents.  Once there, he finds his mother, sleeping in the nursery, crying for him in her sleep.  Seeing that his mother misses him terribly, he decides to go back to the gardens to tell his friends farewell; he spends quite some time doing this.  However, upon going back to his house, he finds his mother with a new baby.  Assuming that he has been gone too long and forgotten by his parents, he leaves permanently.  In the book, Peter is also described as burying and making headstones for children who get lost in the night.  Perhaps I’m just a soft-hearted mommy, but the story just kills me.  (Incidentally, you can read the book for free through the Project Gutenberg).

The Jake and the Neverland Pirates Band
Now, something happier!  After last week, I went looking for more videos of the pirate band from Jake and the Neverland pirates.  I was able to find this video of the band doing a concert in Disneyland, which also features one of my recent favorite songs from the show, “Hoist Up the Jolly Roger”.  The way the band interacts with the kids in the audience is fantastic!  I would really love to take my children to see them in person. :)