Friday, June 29, 2012

Mr. Bragg

Last night Gwyn, Marissa and I went to a amazing show put on by Billy Bragg. If you don't know who Mr. Bragg is, you should. He started playing music in England in the 70s and has been been a major influence in a number of arenas, both musically, politically and socially. I was first made aware of him from listening to Dropkick and Street Dogs, they both have covers of his music (Which Side are You On? and There is Power in a Union respectively). You can see his influence in just about all of the bands that I love. So when Marissa mentioned that he was coming, I was certainly interested, and I am now really glad that I went.

For those of you used to Dropkick and Flogging Molly, just imagine those bands pushed in to one singer. Throw out all of the extra instruments, leave behind a guitar and a mic. Then focus on the message and meaning of the music. That is about right...

Mr. Bragg started the show, as he put it opening for himself, with a number of pieces by and stories about Woody Guthrie. If you are feeling even more musically out of the loop, Guthrie was the composer of 'This Land is Our Land.' Guthrie was a cornerstone of American folk, and did a lot of composing and collecting of songs, but was not able to record before he died in 1967. In comes Billy Bragg and Wilco (the later being an American alternative band). Nora Guthrie (Woody's daughter) approached Bragg to compose her fathers songs in this modern time. Long story short, the first part was a wonderful look back in to American musical history.


The acoustic guitar was swapped out for an electric one, and Mr. Bragg went in to his own repertoire for the second set. His music varies from personal reflection to strong political statements (like The is Power in a Union). In between songs he would drift in and out of stories and political rallying. Which, as the court upheld the Health Care Act, there was a lot of material for him to talk about.

He summed his political stance to the necessity for compassion and love, both personally and collectively. To be very specific, the liberal interpretation of the previous comment. To which he joked, don't get your red flags out yet... Mr. Bragg, if you were an American National, I would vote for you.

Walking out of the theater, it was interesting to have experienced both a great musician, as well as a great voice of reason.

Oh... and before that we hit up Deli-icious.  Mmmm... it is becoming my favorite sandwich shop.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Abe Lincoln could have done it.

Yesterday, Gwyn and I went and saw 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.' And it was exactly what I thought it would be: Awesome.

When I first saw a trailer for the film, I thought that Hollywood was stretching a little... that they were running out of good ideas. I could just envision a franchise of historical figures vs. mythical creatures remixes. I was less then excited.

Then Gwyn mentioned that it was based on a book, written by the same guy as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Interesting.... but still, I was not sold on the idea.

I don't remember what movie it was for, but while watching the trailers, I saw, for another time, the trailer, and looked a little closer. Hmmm... my interest was piqued. Then a few weeks later when I, yet again, saw a trailer, I was actually excited to see the movie.

So we found ourselves at the Burlington theater right after church for a matinee showing. And we left, both stoked. I think it can be summed up by Gwyn: "What was there not to like?"

Personally I really enjoyed the cinematography, they presented a beautiful story that never did look modern, but still looked very clean, almost classic. The visuals were stunning, and the action was exciting. I thought the story could have used an extra 15 minutes of exposition, and possibly some more historical tie-ins, but very entertaining, and even though you knew the outcome  (the North wins the civil war) there were still plenty of surprising plot twist. And the action. So. freaking. sweet. I could watch that all day long. The fight screens were so fun to watch.

I know I don't normally go in to such detail about a movie I just watched, but I feel as though the media is bashing this movie as bad... it was far from that. If you go with the expectation that you are going to see an alternate history involving a vampire ruled south, and the resulting carnage Abe sets forth (both personally and militantly) you are in for a treat. If you are expecting a satire or a comedy film (what I think film critics were) you are going to be let down... there is little humor, and it is presented seriously (making it even more believable).

In short: Mom, you would not like it, too much vampire blood. Dad, you would really enjoy it. Both for the alternate history, and the sweet, sweet action.

All in all, I am starting my beard right now... it should be done in time for Halloween.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Man, it's a Hot one...

like seven inches from the midday sun.

10 points to whoever can name where that comes from!

Seriously though.. it is hot. Since Wednesday, it has been 95+ in the afternoon with crazy high humidity (well high for me, some crazy people think it is nice outside). Gross.

Anyway, last night Gwyn and I got to go over to Kita's house for a little Barbecue before heading to a wonderful show. The food was great, the company was wonderful, and the over all evening was super relaxing.

The particular band we were going to see was Darlingside, you may remember I mentioned them a little bit ago. I like them even more now. They put on a great show and sound great. They play so well together. Gwyn mentioned that their recorded music does not do them justice. There is just so much energy. Personal favorite: the classical cello/violin break down, and then the resulting blow your face of, soaring entry. I love it.

It was a great night!

Today we are just taking it easy as it is slowly reaching back up in to the 'Seriously? You have to be joking' heat region.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Cake Shortcake

Last week was Marissa's birthday, and she requested a cake with strawberries involved. I didn't really want to make sweet rolls and do shortcake, as that seems too easy. Also it is hard to serve that at work. It is also hard to make in to a big letter M! So I did some looking around and found this recipe that based this cake on. Thanks Ree.

Strawberry Shortcake Cake Shortcake

prep time: 2 hours
cook time: 2 hours
serves: 15-20 depending on if Marissa is eating half of it or not.

These are for one single cake. See notes below.
1 1/2 cup Flour
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter (soft)
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 Eggs
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla


Whole Shebang:
2 Cakes

1+ pound of Strawberries (as fresh as you can get, this means frozen is ok...)
A few handfuls of sugar

1 cup Unsalted Butter (soft)
1 1/2 pound Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 pound Cream Cheese (soft)

So I made two of these cakes in a 9 x 13 inch pyrex dish, giving me two 3/4 inch thick cake. You can use this recipe in a smaller pan, and then slice the cake in half if you would rather. But to be clear, the above ingredient list is for one single cake. I made two cakes, in two different runs, but if you have a large enough blender, you could just double the recipe.

Preheat to: 350 degrees

To start out making a cake, cream the butter and the sugar until well mixed, creamed you might say. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Once thoroughly mixed add sour cream and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients. Slowly add dry mix in to wet mix. Blend until well incorporated.

Grease the heck out of your cake pan. I used a pyrex dish, but you could use traditional cake pans, or other interments. If you are worried about sticking, you can throw down some parchment paper. Pour the batter in to the pan. Evenly spread out the batter, this is not as liquid-y as most cake batters, and it needs to be evened out.

Throw it in the oven for 40-50 minutes. This cake is going to brown and get crispy on the outside. It is ok if it is brown. Don't go for black, but a healthy brown color is great. Remove the cake from the oven let cool for a little bit, and remove to rack to continue cooling.

While your cake is baking you can prepare your strawberries and filling. Wash the berries, remove the stems, cut in to quarter pieces. Put the berries in to a large bowl. Add a handful of sugar, toss the berries around for a bit. Let this sit. As it sits the cut berries will let out some juice, this will then mix with the sugar making a nice syrup. After a little mash up the berries with a fork or potato masher. You need to break the berry down a but, not puree it. Add another handful of sugar. Let this sit for some more time. When I say sit, I mean 20-50 minutes, you want them to let off as much water as you can.

In a mixer cream together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Once well mixed add some powdered sugar, not all of it though. Mix well. If the frosting is to liquidy, add some more sugar. If the frosting is too thick add some milk. Whenever you add anything make sure to mix everything really well. It is easy to go too far in one direction. Once you get the right consistency, put the frosting in the fridge.

By this point everything should be done, and cool. Transfer one cake to your serving tray. Poke a bunch of holes in the cake with a fork, this will aid in getting the strawberry juice soaked in to the cake. If you are cutting a cake in half, just make sure to have the raw cake side up. Spoon out half of the strawberries, with syrup on to the cake. Spread out evenly. Apply a decent layer of frosting. Just enough to cover the berries.
Part way through construction.

Add the second cake, and repeat with poking the top with a fork, adding strawberries, and a layer of frosting. This time be careful as this will be the final covering. Continue to frost around the edges. You are looking to cover, and encase the berries in the frosting, but it is ok to have some poking out.

You are now ready to enjoy!

I was going to cut this one in to an M, but it was about 10:30PM when I got the top layer done. With frosting running low and patience thin, I just finished the side frosting and called it good. This meant that there was plenty of extra cake.

It was really well received. Marissa loved it, all of my coworkers said it was the best thing I have made yet. Dang... I can't use box cake mixes anymore....
I forgot to take a picture before other people got to it.

Super Blogging Time (ISB-Anvil)

I have got a lot to cover! The past few weeks have been great! Gwyn and I took some relaxing weekend trips, I made some awesome cookies, and an awesome cake. My plants are huge! And I am writing this all on my new computer.

So for my birthday last year, I pooled my money and purchased a 2TB Western Digital hard drive. It was great... until it started dropping sectors. This was right as I was finishing up school, right as Skanda was tearing through Big Bang Theory. This is relevant because the bad sectors started right smack dab in the middle of season 3. I checked and found that the drive was covered under the warranty, and that I could get a replacement. But as I was leaving shortly to head back home, I decided that I would wait until I was settled in Boston.

So fast forward to the weekend after I got my furniture, I sent in a RMA for a new drive. It arrived a little later. I was able to recover most of the information off of it (most of it is redundantly backed up else where). And I was on my way. Until two weeks ago when this new drive started eating files. It got really bad, where every file I tried to access had a bad sector. Being frustrated with 100% failure rate, I decided that I just needed a new computer. My computer lasted me a good 4 years (which is a long time for me), and it is still kicking... just minus a storage drive. What is most amusing to me is that the main system drive is a 120GB Segate drive Gramps got me for my 16th birthday. It is still kicking, and has been the system drive on all of my computers since then. They don't make 'em like they used to...

So last week I excitedly got home from work to find this:
Yes, Diablo III is a necessary component.
The only problem was that I had to make a cake that day too... so the computer did wait a day before completion. But Wednesday of last week ISB-Anvil was constructed!

Intel i5-2500K CPU (3.60 GHZ Quad core)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX560 Ti
120GB OCZ Agility SSD
2TB Segate HHD
Blueray Burner
750W Power Supply
Fancy fully loaded Motherboard (Yeah for 6Gb/s SATA and USB3.0!)
Big Red Case

So what this all means: Encased in a near-silent (quieter than my laptop) case is a great machine that can go from shut off to playing Diablo III at full specs in 25 seconds. And there is some time in there for me to log in. I aimed for a system that was reasonable, but still packing a punch. I am super happy with everything so far, installation was really easy, cleanest build I have had. This is either parts are getting easier to integrate, or I am just getting better.

By my count this is my 8th computer build, and it was very much a success.

Anyway... this means that I have a lot of data that I have been working on recovering from my old PC, and I have stuff to set up. All getting in the way of blogging.

So on to that!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Distractions.... Distractions...

So you may be wondering why there have not been very many posts.... that is due to the following:

- This past weekend Gwyn and I visited the historic Salem MA, we got to see lots of cool stuff, Pirates, Witches and gigantic pancakes.
- While there we picked up a new game 'Munchkins.' We of course had to go for the Munchkin Booty edition, aka PIRATES! It is a great game! You should all play it! We have been spending a lot of time playing it :)
-Magic. Not the tricks... nay Illusions! But the card game. as some of you know Gwyn was randomly interested last year, and now we are getting further entrenched. It is great.
- Dexter. Gwyn has been getting caught up. We are just about to finish up season 4.
-Work: its going great, but it is taking up some time.

Some time soon you may get to see some pictures... and you may even get some more cookies!