The Big Lie, Solved

Amateur astronomy has always suffered with one central delusion. It’s always been the case that in order to maintain a healthy enthusiasm for the hobby, you have to be able to lie to yourself under rather difficult circumstances. Let me set the scene. It’s a cold fall night and you are lucky enough to live, or at least visit, somewhere that is relatively free of the worldwide dome of light pollution. Read On →

Arsenal Cider House

I finally visited the Arsenal Cider House, and I’m thrilled that such a quirky new local winemaker is in Pittsburgh. Two thumbs up. I recommend their dryer wines and ciders, but everything is very drinky. I had my phone, so I threw together a quick interview: Saluté!

How to Buy a TV 2

The replacement TV came today. I now feel that I must quickly update a few articles that appeared a few years ago on our humble web site. In [this one I surveyed various TV technologies]( devil/). In this one I gave pithy advice how to to pick a TV. Things are different now. Now all you need to do is (1) pick a size and (2) buy (generally) the cheapest LCD TV that is of that size from a brand you like. Read On →

All Too Soon, Back in the Breach

My HDTV is dead. Actually, it’s more half-dead. Most of the time when you turn it on, it flashes its picture for about a second, and then gives up. Instead of 50 inches of HD splendor, you get a feeble blinking red light. Once in a while it turns on for good, and it works fine for as long as you need it to. Since the TV is out of warrantee it will cost about 25% as much as a new TV just for the guy to show up and start to see what’s wrong with it. Read On →

Mid-Life Crisis

I had an epiphany this weekend that my mid-life crisis is going to be pretty boring. I realized this while I was browsing classified ads for telescopes over at Astromart. What’s that? Why would I be thinking about a mid-life crisis while looking at telescopes? Why was I looking at telescopes at all? Well, that’s a long story. Before I became a computer dork in high school, one of my first dorky loves was astronomy. Read On →

The Haunting of Alan Wake

I just finished paying the horror-action game Alan Wake. Before I complain about the game, let that sink in for a minute: I finished the game. I hardly ever finish games. Games that irritate me usually go on the shelf and never come off. But I finished Alan Wake. So despite what follows, keep in mind that the game was good enough for me to play to completion. Which doesn’t happen that often, lately. Read On →

New drink: Spirited Away

Here’s an original recipe for a great drink. I call it the “Spirited Away.” My goal was to make something akin to a White Russian, but based on a green tea flavor instead of coffee. It’s better than I could have hoped for. First, mix a teaspoon of matcha tea powder with a couple of tablespoons of warm water. Be sure to use the most expensive matcha you can find, so as to really scandalize people who respect and honor tea. Read On →

Field of Glory - Now on Mac OS X

File under “Good news”: Slitherine’s awesome light wargame of ancients combat, Field of Glory, is now available on Mac OS X! I reviewed the game and [its first expansion, Rise of Rome]( rise-of-rome/) earlier this year. This is a nearly perfect port, so all of the kudos and criticisms you’ll find in those earlier reviews still apply. But there are a few updates since my earlier reviews that are worth mentioning. Read On →

Bike Shopping

I bought a bike last month. It’s the first one I’ve bought in a long time. I bought my current blue road bike about 17 years ago when I moved back to Pittsburgh. What happened that day was that I accidentally bought the perfect bike. Having ridden it for so long, I have come to realize that without even trying, I managed to get a bike that fits perfectly, handles just the way I want, and in general is just “right. Read On →

Cilantro Syrup (and Associated Margarita)

I made syrup out of my cilantro because I hate Patron Citronge. This takes a little explaining, I guess. I don’t really hate Patron Citronge. It seems fine for what it is. But the first, second, and third requirements I have for my orange liqueurs is that they make a good margarita. And, to my taste, Patron Citronge doesn’t do it. I wandered away from my faithful Cointreau just out of an urge to experiment, and, as sometimes happens, it didn’t pan out. Read On →

I Do Fusion 2: The Soup

I’ve always thought that the Chinese and Jewish cultures have some sort of subconscious bond. I’m not sure why I thought this, since truthfully I didn’t grow up around a lot of Jewish people. But there you go. Anyway, this soup is, I think, the natural expression of this bond and it’s something that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time ever since Pete gave me the idea. So, I give you: Hot and Sour Matzoh Ball Soup. Read On →

Stream The World Cup

Recently I wrote about streaming movies on demand. I’m interested in this not because I care overmuch whether content is “streamed” or “downloaded.” Rather, what I desire is “deliver the content I want, when I want it, where I want it, with a minimum of effort.” Today I had another encounter with The Future™ that I think is worth mentioning. It happened when I was driving into the city during the early World Cup game today. Read On →

Dear Western Digital

What I want to buy from you is a hard drive. I want to buy hard drive from you because you are good at building drives. I do not want to buy software from you because you suck at building software. Here are some things not to do. 1. Do not waste 500MB on a hidden partition with shitty software on it that I will never run. 2. Do not make this 500MB hidden partition undeleteable. Read On →

Eggnog 2.0

The farm CSA box arrived today, and amongst its bounty was a package of fresh farm eggs. I considered what I might do with really fresh eggs, and decided the best of all possible things I could do was: put booze in them. So I made eggnog. To my shock, although I’ve written about eggnog before, I’ve never written one of my eggnog recipes down. So that, as bbum says, “Google can index my head,” here’s my eggnog recipe. Read On →

We are Dusty Again

Please bear with us. We hit the “upgrade” button on Wordpress. As you know, the upgrade button on Wordpress actually means “break the entire god-damned weblog until we can hand edit all the completely hateful PHP and CSS so that the site almost looks like it did before, but not quite”. If you have been paying attention you’ve noticed that the site has been looking incrementally more ragged over time. This happens every time we hit the upgrade button. Read On →

Il Credo dell'Assassino

Although the other Pete already [reviewed the game 6 months ago]( creed/), I’m just now getting around to playing Assassin’s Creed 2. As usual, he’s already said everything I would plan on saying, and been more eloquent about it. But, I get paid by the word here, so I’m going to opine a little here on some of the things that AC2 gets right, compared to the first game. The Personal Is Political My first observation is that the plot of AC2 is worlds ahead of that in the first game. Read On →

Auto is a Four Letter Word

A recent article in [The Online Photographer](http://theonlinephotographer.typ got me thinking about the role of automation in those machines that take pictures for us. It got me thinking about this even though the piece was supposed to be about what lenses you should own and carry because sometimes Mike rambles. Anyway, here is what I thought: certain people hate automatic cameras because they can be harder to control. But we should ignore those people. Read On →

Stream The World

10 years after canceling my account for the first time, I have resubscribed to Netflix. I canceled my account, all those years ago, not because of any flaw in Netflix’s service, or because it wasn’t worth the money, but because Netflix was making me crazy. I had to watch the movies. I had to watch all the movies, and I had to watch them immediately. Friends would come over: “Hey, want to go out and see Bob? Read On →

The Wire

People have been telling me to watch The Wire for years. I have resisted because in general I am suspicious of what television enthusiasts tell me. I finally relented because I never heard or read a single negative review of the show. I still had lingering doubts that I would be able to deal with the somewhat grim subject matter, but it only took a few minutes for these doubts to evaporate. Read On →

Steam Power

In case you hadn’t heard, today was a magical day for all of the Mac users of the world who also like to play video games. This is because Valve released an implementation of the Steam platform that runs under MacOS X. Now, I know that I have [been hard on Steam in the past]( play-the-same-game/). But things change, and my bitter feelings for Steam were a product of its initial implementation. Read On →

It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way That You Do It

I’ve been listening to a lot of books on CD recently. This is not my preferred way of reading books. But it is a good way to burn up a commute, while also being entertained and sometimes educated. And since my favorite place in the world, the Carnegie Library, has a great collection of books on CD, I don’t even have to bankrupt myself doing it. In listening to so many books on CD, I’ve discovered a very interesting phenomenon. Read On →

Vancouver BC: Cooler Than Seattle

I promised my friend and co-worker from Vancouver that I’d lead with that statement so I did it even though I love Seattle dearly. Don’t be mad. The truth is that Vancouver is cooler than most of your favorite cities. There are several reasons why, and some of them don’t even have to do with food. Vancouver is a pretty town. This is because it has that whole city plus water plus mountains combination going on: Read On →

Why I'm Done With Barnes & Noble

Today I window-shopped a little for a new copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s [The Hobbi t]( nkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0618968636)![](http://www I don’t yet know which edition I’m going to buy, but I know I’m not going to buy it at Barnes & Noble. Let me explain why. First, I should observe that the net flow of books is still primarily out of my house. My goal in life right now is to simplify, simplify, simplify, and I simply don’t need all of these big heavy paper things sitting in my space proclaiming my hipness. Read On →

Signs Point to Quit

It must be the slow season for video games, because even though I have games to play, I have found excuses not to play them. But, I promised a month ago (!) that I would write something down about Final Fantasy 13. Now that a month has passed it is virtually certain that no one on the planet really gives a crap about what I think of Final Fantasy 13. Therefore, it’s the perfect time to meditate on the game. Read On →

Lose The Disk

Long time readers of this site will remember (or not) that I’ve been slowly working my way through my CD collection and adding it all to iTunes. Over about the last three years, I’ve gone from having 140 albums filed to the current figure of around 375. The total number of disks is somewhat higher, because a lot of my collection is large boxed sets that I hardly listen to. Because I’m stupid. Read On →

Making the Food Taste Like The Food

When I was a younger cook there was a period of time when I was trying to figure out how to make chili taste like chili. I gathered the spices and herbs that the recipes told me to gather and combined them as described. But the result always tasted like meat and cooked tomatoes. It did not have that flavor of infused seasoning that you want in chili. Later on I found a recipe that told me to combine everything in a slightly different way, and my chili tasted like chili again. Read On →

Slow Food vs. Naked Lunch

I sort of dislike the way the Slow Food movement has developed in America. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against eating healthy, real food. I’m not against preferring local food sources over the industrial. I’m not against trying to appreciate sensuality instead of worshipping convenience and speed. To the contrary, these are principles I honor and, when I can, live by. But I’ve gone to a few of these Slow Food events now, and although the food is almost always delicious, the politics leave a slightly bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Read On →


You need to do backups. Back when computers were primitive and useless, backups were not as much of a problem because no one was storing anything in the machines. But these days, computers have grown up and it’s possible that your entire life is stored in your laptop. So you should back it up. I came up with the following backup scheme primarily to archive my digital pictures. But I think it’s useful for most general use too. Read On →

When Jerez Met Shaoxing

Crossposted at Wine Bastards This week’s discovery: sometimes, if you can’t get an exotic ingredient, it’s because it isn’t any good. Having been on something of an asian cooking kick recently, I noticed that I kept seeing recipes that called for Shaoxing rice wine, which is more or less impossible to find here in Pennsylvania. The longer I went without any, the better is sounded. Finally, the grass growing intensely green, and sucked in by the marketing promises of “drinking quality” rice wine, I asked my friend Steve to pick some up in Portland and ship it to me. Read On →

Field of Glory: Rise of Rome

As you can tell from my recent review of Field of Glory, there’s not much about Roman-themed wargames that I don’t enjoy. Now, with Slitherine’s first expansion pack for the game, Rise of Rome, there’s even more to love. Lest you think this will be nothing more than a paean, let me say that it took me a while to really get into the spirit of Rise of Rome. Slitherine’s games are great, but they really need to look in to the issues they have with branding and UI design. Read On →

Slightly Delayed

I was gonna write something about Final Fantasy XIII. Probably something about how I enjoyed the first ten hours more than any single area of Dragon Age, even though that’s unfair and really comparing apples to pomegranates. Actually though, I’ve got another chapter of Final Fantasy XIII to go play instead. So I guess I’ll piss off the Dragon Age people later. It’s not like that will be hard anyway. I’m outta here. Read On →

Miller Time

The middle of March means that March Madness is upon us. Therefore I’m going to talk to you about a film that is about the NBA. This might seem strange to you. But it makes sense to me. With the exception of a few years following Duke after I was at the school when they repeated in 1992, I’ve never been much for NCAA Basketball. As a singular event full of spectacle and drama, there isn’t much that can beat the NCAA tournament. Read On →

Caesarion Salad

A while ago I was holding forth, as I often do, cursing some local restaurant that made a crappy “caesar salad” that had no anchovies. Caesar salads, I opined, are meant to have anchovies, and any place that didn’t have them in their salad sucked. A friend of mine politely informed me that I was wrong, and that the traditional Caesar in fact had no anchovies. I laughed in his face, and then snuck away to look it up, and discovered that he was right and I was wrong. Read On →

Nerdicious Furiosi

Pity the poor PC gamer. There he sits at his computer desk waiting for those AAA titles to come to his “platform of choice” a few months after they ship on the crippled consoles. Then, when the object of his desire is finally made available, the publisher encumbers it with what is an undeniably stupid system for “protecting” the digital content therein. I speak, of course, of the recent firestorm that Ubisoft has caused with their new DRM scheme on Assassin’s Creed 2 and other titles. Read On →

Dinner in Half an Hour: Lamb Stew

This one is easy. Basically we’re going to do this recipe for pork stew except with lamb shoulder instead of pork, a bit of extra potatoes and parsnips, and just a plain set of herbs instead of chili peppers. That’s all you really need to know, but here’s the rest anyway. Here is what you need. For stage 1: 1. 2-3lb of lamb shoulder roast. The one I bought was tied up, which is convenient. Read On →

An Emulation Rumination

In my lifetime I have spent my time using three software platforms that actually mattered in the outside world. The first was Berkeley Unix on a Vax in college (yeah yeah, you might not think this matters, but without BSD there is no Linux and more importantly, no Mach and no modern MacOS). The second was Windows. The third was, and continues to be MacOS X. I’ve also used Linux but in user land it’s similar enough to other Unix to not really matter to me as its own platform. Read On →

Four Mini-Reviews

While peterb wallows in his extended winter-induced [MMO haze]( deux/), I’ve been stuck on the console. I have the following four thoughts on my recent experiences. PS3 Slim I caved and bought a slim PS3 a few months earlier than I wanted to. But it’s OK because I had a gift card for it. This new incarnation of the Playstation yet again shows why Sony completely destroys Microsoft as a pure hardware company. Read On →

Seasonal Affective MMO Playing, Part Deux

As I mentioned in [my last post]( affective-mmo-playing-part-1/), I have also tried out the now aged and decrepit MMO Lord of The Rings Online (simply “LOTRO”, for short). LOTRO is probably the most popular MMO today after World of Warcraft, which is to say that it probably has only three orders of magnitude fewer players, rather than five. One would think that this would make Turbine, like Avis, try harder, but that doesn’t really seem to be happening. Read On →

Dinner in Half an Hour: Mushroom Soup

Today a soup that I discovered accidentally. It’s influenced by a lot of Chinese and Japanese style soups that I have consumed over the years, but I can’t claim that it actually has any real authentic connection to those cuisines. I threw this together one night in a miracle after a late day at work. So here we go. First, make chicken broth. Or buy it. I don’t care. It will be better if you make it, and it’s easy: Read On →


Fear not, gentle readers. Although the curséd groundhog has predicted six more weeks of winter, and although the frightful weather seems to bear him out, I can promise you that Spring is just around the corner. How do I know this? Because this was the week that I decided to switch back to playing Xbox 360 games on the couch instead of Windows games on the desktop PC. I don’t know why I have this particular biorhythm, but for the past three years, like clockwork, every winter I switch to playing PC games, and then in nicer weather I switch back to playing console games. Read On →

Side Dish in 20 Minutes

Today, a good all purpose side dish that’s stupidly easy. This is my lame version of roasted brussels sprouts, in which I have tried and failed to duplicate what they do at Legume. Mine are good, but not quite that good. I’ll even do a vegetarian version in addition to the one with bacon. First, buy some fresh brussels sprouts. We’ve been getting the ones still attached to a large branch that they have at Whole Foods. Read On →

Mac Gaming: Tales of Monkey Island Released!

Those of you who are regular readers know that I despise (and, in fact, frequently [make fun of]( release-game-soon-we-reprint-their-press-release-here/)) gaming web sites that update a thousand times a day by, more or less, just republishing game company press releases. But today something happened that I think warrants doing essentially that. Telltale Games, a company that I have such an irrational love for that I hope someday it wants to be my boyfriend, has finally succumbs to my nagging and released their fabulous game Tales of Monkey Island for Mac OS X. Read On →

Let it Snow

I feel I have to come clean about this. The recent incredible snowfall in Pittsburgh is my fault. I present the following facts in evidence. Fact: The last storm like this to hit Pittsburgh happened in 1994. Fact: That year I had rented a condo that had inside parking. I was very happy to have inside parking during that storm. Fact: Since then I’ve lived in house that lacked inside parking. Read On →

Why Football is Better Than Your Favorite Sport

Of course by “football” I mean American football and by “sport” I mostly mean “American Sport”. I certainly do not mean “rest of the world” football, which Americans call soccer. If your favorite sport is soccer than we can just agree now that you will hate me and I will feel sorry for you. With the Super Bowl once again upon us I have been ruminating about why football in general, and the NFL in particular, is clearly the best sport in the country. Read On →

So You Want to Sell Me a Bag

Long time readers of the site will be familiar with my problem with bags. At times I have an almost pathological need to shop for them. So it was a mixed blessing when I was told by the powers that be that I would be “allowed” to look for a new computer bag. I had become, for no reason, unhappy with my backpack. A year and a half ago, the pack was perfect, but no longer. Read On →

Other People's Talents

I hate people who are more talented than me. Well, hate probably isn’t the right word. The way I should put this is that in my life I am constantly confronted by people who are more talented than me and this brings out the darker side of my personality. For example, if you watched Apple’s launch event for the iPad, you will notice that about 42 minutes in, they bring up a guy named Steve Sprang to demo an application called Brushes. Read On →

Seasonal Affective MMO Playing, Part 1

It was around this time last winter that I made my brief foray into World of Warcraft, buying a two-month card and playing it deeply, 5 years after everyone else had gotten around to it. At the end of that two month period, I had too much work to do, so I never bothered to renew. This January, I had the same urge to play something “big” again. I can pinpoint the thought process that led me there: I was enjoying Torchlight, which made me try Titan Quest and then Borderlands, and that last game was sufficiently MMO-like to reawaken the hunger. Read On →

iPhone Corner: Bee Spelled

I’m sort of coming to the conclusion that the iPhone is where some of the most interesting games are being developed. “Interesting” has a few meanings in this context. First off, the various hardware features of the platform (multitouch, the directional sensor, and so on) have led to certain game interactions that you just don’t see on other platforms. Second, the ubiquitous networking makes multiplayer games, especially turn-based strategy games like Uniwar a pleasure to play, instead of a chore. Read On →

Things That Won't Make Your Pictures Better

My year in photography ended like it usually does, at my parents' house where I took pictures of the Christmas festivities and all of the excessive preparation of food. This year I sent the gallery to my parents, and then got a curious email from my dad essentially asking me why my camera takes better pictures. I did not have an answer. As is usual for me though, I do a lot of insight from the negative. Read On →

Field of Glory

This winter, as I believe I’ve alluded to in other articles, I’ve begun to ease back into boardgaming as a hobby. This is difficult, as you might imagine, since the other Pete is my only friend, and he doesn’t play boardgames. But I can at least think about playing them, and I actually managed to press-gang some of my relatives into playing Combat Commander and Conflict of Heroes at Christmas. Read On →