Peach Cobbler

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I set out to make peach cobbler for father’s day.  I wanted to make it gluten-free for my girlfriend and her wheat allergy.    I did some research online and found this recipe from King Arthur Flour.  However being on a strict budget, I picked up some Aldi brand baking mix and not finding peaches that were very good in the produce section I substituted in Aldi’s frozen peaches.

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I was really struck by how insanely easy cobbler is compared with pie.   There’s
none of the hassle of making sure the top and bottom crust end up just how you like them.  None of the touchiness of worrying about  the humidity as crust stick to things.   Just mix, pour and bake.    And yet it’s really delicious.

I’d definitely make this 2014-06-15 11.03.36again.  It was easy, fairly inexpensive and delicious.   I didn’t even really notice that it was gluten-free and didn’t get to eat it warm out of the oven, or have ice cream to top it with and it was still first rate.


I might opt for some crumble topping in the future but this was an auspicious beginning in cobblers.  Plus


First Impressions of The Witcher 2

The Witcher 2 thus far is a deeply uneven game in it’s first chapter.   I just finished it and it gives you a handful of choices.  A handful of really cool moments.  And a lot of really frustrating unexplained mechanics and quests which expect the player to dig a lot more than the norm in  modern gaming conventions.  

Just one example of this, there’s a pair of quests in the first town where the player is expected to do some research on monsters in order to get started.  They don’t give you any directions about this just that you need to learn about the monsters.    

To find the books you’ve got to sort of randomly go into every house in town till you find the librarian, and get the books from that guy.   The combat system is a bit opaque too.  This gives the player a lot of freedom in terms of how to proceed but it also gives you a lot of chances to try and fail at things.  How much of this you can put up with is going to be a case of ‘your mileage may vary.’


Geralt of Rivia


I feel like this would be a better game had their been a bit more scaffolding in the beginning.  A bit more of a primer on how the various systems work–especially combat, crafting and character development.   There is a tutorial but it really has a lot of mysteries.  

If you’re the kind of person who likes those things, then you’ll probably enjoy puzzling out the Witcher 2.  So far it’s led me to feel a bit frustrated at times with it in Chapter 1.   I am going to keep going–but it’s not yet a game I’m absolutely committed to finishing.   

What I’d like to see Disney do with Lucasfilm


So, that happened.  Disney, owner of among other nerd things Pixar and Marvel, bought Lucasfilm for 4.05 billion dollars.   A lot of money by any standard, but I have to believe between all the possibilities for merchandising and theme park attractions and media that this acquisition will pay for itself fairly quickly.  I’d imagine Mr. Lucas to a degree just wanted out.

The really interesting thing to watch in this announcement is the announcement of several post-Jedi films.   This has  until now been considered the realm of the non-cannonical expanded universe material.  I wonder how they’re going to handle that.  Is it sort of tabula rasa and they’re going to just start fresh with Star Wars, the emperor is dead now what?   Is it going to honor the fiction? And what of the stars, will they recast people?  Start sufficiently later that they can just cycle through a new story with old dudes?

There’s no real answers to this.  I mean every  Star Wars nerd I know is going please make the Thrawn trilogy, please make the Thrawn trilogy.  At least that aren’t casting doom and gloom across the whole franchise.   You’ve got to wonder if anyone even cares about old-man Star Wars fans.  I mean they’ll farm nostalgia where they can but when I went to Star Wars weekend at Disney World stuff from the animated show and films were really the centerpiece.  If you’re under 10 today that’s probably the way you’ve experienced Star Wars.    Maybe even the only way you’ve experienced Star Wars.

Microsoft Surface Hands on Impressions

So I spent 30 minutes or so sitting in a Microsoft store and got to play with the Surface.

First I guess I’ll start with the good things.   It’s really well constructed.  I mean I don’t know that I’d say make a skateboard out of it.  It feels really solid.  The kick stand concept is great and it seems really strong.  All the reviews say the battery life is really good.   The software is pretty snappy, switching between apps is relatively painless.   The type keyboard is very impressive.  The touch keyboard, well I imagine I’d get used to it but if I bought one I’d REALLY want the type keyboard.

The thing that really shocked me about the Surface is how darn big it is.   It’s a 10 inch tablet so I expected it to be about the same size as an iPad and it’s much much bigger.   Using it tablet style just seems unwieldily.   Like I can’t imagine say sitting on a bus and using a Surface to read something.   It would just be awkwardly large.  It’s really designed to sit on a desk with the keyboard out.

I want through many of the core apps, and looked around in the store.  It’s kind of barren in there.  Evernote, Netflix, a handful of big important apps, but after that it’s a barren wasteland.   No Facebook or Twitter really stings me as I imagine these things would be great for social networking mavens and yeah I’m sure there are other ways to go about getting them on there.

I have no idea how i’d go about getting all my Mac data on to a Surface.  I assume someone will come up with  an app for that eventually but for right now I’d have to manually transfer it over file by file.   I would not look forward to that–Android without the established ecosystem of apps for weirdos like me who like owning multiple platforms.

The real damning thing about the Surface came down to the price.   It’s 499, but really 599 as a keyboard is a necessity; and frankly you want the touch keyboard so it’s really $638; that’s a lot of money.   Yes it is comparable to an iPad with keyboard–but there’s an established app ecosystem there.  Like I can say for certain that I can get a great set of apps there.

And the final nail in the coffin as far as my interest goes was walking up and standing by an Acer laptop with pretty reasonable specs–Ivy Bridge and all that bussiness  with a 15 inch touchscreen for 699–only $60 dollars more than the surface with type cover.   And it’ll run all the software I already have.  Only 60 dollars more and it does a ton more stuff.

I don’t understand who the Surface is meant to appeal to.  It doesn’t make me love the iPad or Nexus 7 any less.  It’s not as good of a consumption device as those.  It seems like it’s poised to compete against a Macbook Air and other Ultrabooks.  If this were a 399 with keyboard device then sign me up this would be my next computer.  But at 499+139 bucks for the real keyboard it’s just outrageous.

Hear me on The TechPort Podcast

So, I was on the Inaugural issue of The TechPort podcast.   We talked about Tuesday’s Apple event, Microsoft surface and some other odds and ends.   Give it a listen.  


The other Mini


Most of the buzz today, is about the new iPad Mini.  At $329 it frankly doesn’t excite me too much.  However Apple updated another Mini and it really excites me.   At $599 the mac Mini with Ivy Bridge is a very interesting piece of kit.   Unless reviews give me some reason that I don’t want one then I’m probably going to buy one by Christmas.

The first point I’ll make was something my Podcasting partner Brent said.  “The apple tax almost doesn’t apply.”  599 for an Ivy Bridge computer is a pretty good price in my estimation.  I’m sure if you searched around you could find a PC at a competitive price.  Which brings me to the next reason I’m interested in the Mac Mini.

It’s an amazingly portable computer for a desktop.  You might wonder who cares about portability in a desktop but I move fairly frequently.  I’ve moved at least once a year, sometimes more for every year in the last four years.  Anything to move isn’t so bad.

Also I’m just not all that comfortable having my computer’s long term health tied to the monitor’s long term health.  I like keeping these separate.  So that’s a plus.

So then it just comes down to a Windows machine or a Mac and frankly, I just prefer working in a Mac.  Games notwithstanding it’s a better work environment for me.

Newsweek kills Print


So, Newsweek, one of the venerable magazines in news, is killing it’s print edition.  At the end of the year, it’s going online-only.  It makes me sad.  

What strikes me as unfortunate about a lot of these people making Kindle and iPad magazines is it’s principally a cash grab.   Not moving to where the ad money is, but juicing their subscribers for stuff that used to be provided for free.  

Newspapers, and magazines cost money to cover the overhead of printing it out and shipping it.  That stuff costs money.    Now they get all that money taken from them.  Now they still get ad revenue, albeit less because it’s online.  

Then they want a huge premium for every issue depite having drastically less overhead to deal with.  All the while there’s an amazing bonanza of free news content on the ‘net.   

Flipboard’s amazing interface for reading blogs is teriffic.  You can just flip through stories like a magazine and they’re not asking for ridiculous rates like the magazines.   

Tweetbot for Mac


So I used the Alpha and Beta of Tweetbot for Mac.   It’s a great program.   It’s much better than the official Twitter app or the web app.  In my estimation it was easily the best Desktop Twitter client around.  I also use Tweetbot on iPhone.  I was excited for it to go final.   And then, I found out the price.  Twenty dollars is just more than I’m willing to spend on a desktop Twitter client.  Especially one that won’t work on many of the desktop machines I use.  

I’m what you would call a fairly casual Twitter user.  I use Twitter, I like Twitter.  I think it’s more useful than Facebook for sharing fun stuff with friends and colleagues.   I love it as a way to surface cool stuff that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.   However, I hardly know anyone else who uses Twitter to post things.  Almost all my friends are on Facebook and active posters, pretty much none of them are active Twitter users, and the ones that  are are just promoting their work, or duplicating their Facebook statuses.    So in that regard 20 dollars is a lot to ask.  

Secondly, as good as Tweetbot is, the fact that they are charging per platform while a reasonable decision doesn’t work very well for me.   I’m a Mac and Windows user.  Sometimes i’m on one sometimes I”m on the other and for a client that only works on my computer half of the time that’s a huge ask.   

Thirdly, I sympathize with their position.  Twitter is being totally unreasonable by limiting the number of keys a developer can have so they have to maximize their profit out of each one.   I can’t understand their decision.

Like i said the Mac version of Tweetbot is a pretty good piece of software.  However, it’s only for serious Tweeters, people who really need it for their job.   Not for people who like following people and reading updates.    For 3-5 bucks on iOS it’s a great value.  For 20 bucks, just too much for me.   



5 things I miss about Korea





So I’ve been home for several months now.   I’ve had time to really think about what it is that I miss from Korea and not what is just reverse culture shock.  These were the 5 most striking points.    I actually miss many other things but these things pop up in my head all the time.  Soon  I’ll talk about some of the stuff I really was glad to come home to.   



#5 Ubiquitious MiniMarts

It’s amazing how often I find myself yearning for  these.   It may just be the adjustment to suburban living but I really miss having Family Mart, 7-11, Buy the Way, and so on all over the place.   I mean if you lived or Seoul or Busan you couldn’t go ten minutes in any given direction without hitting one or more of these minimarts.   They sold just about anything you’d need for a quick bite to eat, or drink or an umbrella without making a big trip up to E-Mart or what have you.   


 #4 Living Without a Car

This kind of ties in with the previous one, I loved having everything right there at my finger tips without having to worry about how I was going to get there.  Everything I truly needed was within walking distance.   One or two neighborhoods over,  take the bus.   Across town, or out to the ‘burbs  take the subway.  All the way across Korea–KTX will get you there.  You could even get standing room tickets on the KTX the same day in a lot of cases.


#3 Kindy Students 

I don’t know if many hagwon teachers realize how special some of their kids are.   What I wouldn’t give to have my Poly kindergarten kids with the kind of freedom that American teachers enjoy in lesson planning and instruction.Of course American teachers have problems and of course Korean hagwon kids  have problems.  Having students who are struggling because they’re only reading one year ahead of their actual grade level, is a good problem to have.   It’s far less frustrating than dealing with a fourth grader who reads like a first grader. 


#2 Korean Food

Anyone who has read this blog before knows I’m a gigantic fan of Korean food.  So it should come as no great surprise that I miss it greatly.   It’s not even that I can’t make it at home.  I’ve bought boxes of Shin Ramen and great big glass jars of kimchi but I miss the ubiquity of it.  I miss under 5 dollar kimbap shops.  I miss afterwork soju and samgyupsal.  I really miss all of it.   Frankly sandwich shops are a poor trade for a Kimbap Chunguk.  Even though I can cook it, I just can’t duplicate the taste of kimchi jiggae on a cold day. 


#1 The Foreigner Community

Most of all I miss the Foreigner community.  Almost any foreigner you meet in Korea has a similar well of experiences.  They’ve all experienced the same WTF moments, the same great moments.  There’s just a very homogenous thing about being an outside in the hermit kingdom that’s really quite cool.  I could strike up a conversation about  the same familiar things with almost anyone I met.  Compared to the states where I’ve got to carefully look for an in, something I have in common with this person.    I also deeply miss many of the people I met over there. Sure sometimes you go to an event like Mud Festival that could just be described as foreigners behaving badly and it’s a bit embarrassing.  THen there are those other times where you strike up a conversation with a stranger and even though your lives back home were totally different you have a really consistent common set of experiences in Korea.  

Subway and Bus fares on the rise

The Korea Times is reporting a bit of bad news.

The subway and bus fares in Seoul are on the rise.  Sometime in early 2012, they’re going to raise the fares 200 won, making an average transaction 1100 won with T-money.

The fares will go into effect gradually.  100 won  will go into effect in November, then later another 100 will kick in.

Still, compared with cities of similar size, it’s pretty reasonably priced.