net zombie!

Friday Five & GenX

What toys were popular when you were a kid?
This was the height of the 80’s, the time of cartoons on TV pushing toys. They were expensive though, so not many kids had ’em. A friend of mine had quite a bit of Star Wars action figures. Lego was popular as well, and when Lego Technic was released, it was a bit of a sensation.

What musicians were popular when you were a teenager?
When I was 12, everyone was into Doe Maar. It was a huge thing when they split up. Later on, Michael Jackson and Madonna ruled the roost, along with basically any act produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman — including the now infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley!

What unique personality traits do you think you have in common with others born around the same time as you?
If a trait is shared with others, it’s not exactly unique anymore, is it? And to be honest, I don’t really know — GenX is mostly forgotten and invisible in the grand scheme of things because the older ones are indistinguishable from Boomers and the younger ones are indistinguishable from Millenials.

Do you think stereotypes about your generation are accurate?
The stereotype is that GenX have had to fend for themselves all their lives. The idea is that GenX was the last generation of ‘free range kids’, but the fact is that we were just sent off so our parents could do their own thing.

A few weeks ago, someone shared this photo of a mother using a trash can to constrain her baby while she is crocheting in the partk, as a symbol of why GenX’ers are the way they are.
It made me recall something from my own youth. My parents bought their house in ’70, when it had just been built. A house in the suburbs of Eindhoven, headquarters of Philips, and everyone worked there. It was a huge draw, and so houses were being built in Eindhoven and the towns around it. And as usual when new houses are being built, young families buy ’em, and so you get this concentration of parents and kids with roughly the same ages. Maarten was the same age as my sister (who is two years older than me), the oldest of two sons. And he was an asshole — he had a thing for my sister and she was the only one who could rein him in. If he came to our house to ask if she wanted to play with him, she asked my mom to keep me inside so he wouldn’t hurt me.
There was a reason why Maarten was such a pain. His mother was from a larger city, and she hated living in a village. She wanted to be among people, and it was not in her nature to just sit at home to wait until her husband came home. So she regularly went to the Eindhoven city centre — alone, without her kids. She shut those inside their rooms, and she’d take out the door handles so they couldn’t leave their rooms until she came back. Everyone knew this was happening, but it was just one of those things that people shrugged about and never did anything about. Small wonder Maarten was not socialised.
My mom told me the story of how Maarten’s mom shut herself in by accident. She had already taken out the door handle but then had gone inside the room — and the door had closed, so she couldn’t get out. She called for help through the window (neighbours had keys of each others houses, of course), and my mom snickered a bit that they had left her there for a fair bit before they freed her, to make her feel what that was like. But of course nobody really did anything about it, and nothing changed.
Then, after a few years, they moved away, and I don’t know what has become of Maarten. I hope he has found a way to deal with the way his parents treated him.

GenX’ers are, as parents, very different from their own parents. I think that proves that most GenX’ers didn’t really have a happy childhood.

What do you admire about other generations?
I love how Millennials do not accept the status quo and keep looking for ways to make things better. It is clear that things must and can change, and that the values we inherited from older generations just don’t cut it anymore.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
azumanga

Small update

Wow, I haven’t posted in over a month here. And yet I still don’t feel like I have much to say. Let’s see…
– The government response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an absolute shitshow. We’re getting furiously rawdogged by the delta variant over here — a predictable result of restrictions being lifted two weeks ago. For now, I continue to social distance and wear my mask.
– The whole thing about getting a vaccination really hits differently when you read the entry on your employer’s intranet about how we bought the four last oxygen compressors in the Netherlands and sent those to our office in India for use by our colleagues and their family members struck by COVID… And then a photo from a former Indian colleague who died of COVID was shared on Teams. My relief at getting the shots is overshadowed by my anger at the global response to the pandemic. We’re not out of the woods by a long shot.
– Speaking of employers, I work there now over one year. It’s customary here to get a contract for one year when you start somewhere, and now I have a permanent contract. Good to have that in the pocket!
– With the pandemic (supposedly) abating in the Netherlands and elsewhere where vaccination programs are ramped up, some employers are forcing their workers to once again do all of their work at the office. I am convinced that this is a bad move for any organization that values productivity, and together with a few people I’m drafting up a ‘hybrid manifesto’ on how teams should be able to choose their own settings for specific work.
– A few weeks back, I released International Waters, an RPG scenario for the cyberpunk RPG The Sprawl. It’s ‘based on a true story’, but with a bit more cyber. I ran it two times for different groups and it was great fun. I had quite a few sales too — I think even more than my D&D scenarios. There’s a niche there, that I might want to explore further…
– Speaking of which: I got my first royalty cheque for my RPG sales! At first I thought it was a spam message (“We deposited X amount in your Paypal Account…”) but it was really there! That made me feel like a real author — now only $150 to go to recoup the costs of commissioning the illustrations in my first scenario…
– My next project, which is in full swing, is a full RPG! I’m not that good in designing mechanics, so I’m using the LUMEN system that is open for use. My project is inspired by Dauntless, a free-to-play giant monster hunting game that I play a lot with two friends. I released a draft (I needed something to submit for a game jam that was running out!) but there is still quite a bit of work to do. In the meantime, you can check out the draft of “Fearless!” here.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
  • Current Mood
    okay okay
curry ga dekita!

Mock Chicken

The Judge Dredd comics are an interesting artefact of the 1980s: it’s what British comic writers thought how the US urban landscape would develop into a full-on distopia. I own the old, first-edition RPG books. The rules are uninspiring (as most rule-sets were in the late 80’s were) but there is a treasure trove of info on the world of Judge Dredd. And one of the things that exist in this distopia, where even coffee is forbidden, is “mock chicken”.

I know, what a horrible concept, right? What kind of messed-up future has ‘mock chicken’ instead of real chicken?

So when this video about vegan fried ‘chicken’ turned up on my YouTube feed, I was interested and we tried it out. We did use normal buttermilk instead of a vegan alternative, simply because klik drinks the stuff so we had a box of it in the fridge and so it was more convenient. We also used panko flakes instead of cornflakes (also based on the fact that we had that in our pantry) and substituted some of the herbs and spices in the batter.

And it worked out pretty well! We made a big batch, enough for three times.

We ate it with Japanese curry.

It’s a bit of work (especially the freeze-thaw cycle two times takes some time!) but the texture is really good. It needed a few more spices, but nothing that a dollop of tonkatsu sauce did not fix.

We since re-heated one batch in our airfryer, but the coating got a bit tough, so that needs a bit of experimentation to get right.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
curry ga dekita!

Friday Five: Food

Food is an important subject of this blog, so I couldn’t pass up a food-themed Friday Five.

1) What is your favourite food?
Okonomiyaki, no contest.

2) What is your favourite food preparation method?
To execute? Frying. Eggs, burgers, stir-fry, it’s all fried. And it’s relatively easy and non-intensive, which is why I use it a lot.

3) What is your favourite cuisine or style of cooking?
I don’t think I have one? I mean, there are things in Japanese cuisine that I really like, but also a lot of things I don’t. And that’s how it is with pretty much every cuisine. I do like strong tastes — western food can be kinda bland (there’s this ‘joke’ about how Europe colonized the whole world for the spices — and then not using them.)
I like a bit of a pepper kick, but if it gets too hot, then all I taste is the heat, not the food.

4) Do you have any dietary restrictions and if so what are they?
I can eat pretty much everything without ill effects. But I do have some strong preferences: I dislike sea-food (I can eat smoked salmon or tuna, but prefer not to), and I don’t want to eat organ meat (liver, tripe, etc).

5) If you could introduce the whole world to one ingredient to improve their culinary experience, what would that be and why?
I… don’t know? There’s not a single ingredient that goes with everything — it’s mostly combinations that work. Like in European dishes, it’s onion, carrot and celery; in Japanese dishes it’s dashi, mirin and sake; etc. Knowing those combinations allow you to get the basics done, allowing you to work from that.
For instance, bolognese sauce and beef bourgignon both use the European base, and then add different things to make two distinct dishes — but deep down, you taste that base of onion, carrot and celery in both.

Also, wouldn’t you know it? I made mayonaise one time and it worked, and I bragged that it was so easy and I’d never buy mayonaise again? And ever since then, no matter what I do, I can’t reproduce that result, and none of my tries ‘catches’ and it remains some weird egg/oil/mustard concoction!? I tried every trick in the book, faithfully reproduced the recipe — and it just doesn’t work. I am miffed.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
eten

Baking

I have been making chocolates with flexible silicone molds, because those are easy to get the chocolate out of once it’s been set. I did try an experiment with filled chocolates: applying the chocolate with a brush to the edge of the mold, let that set, then pour in the filling (I used caramel sauce) and then fill it off with more chocolate. However, the edges were too thin and we did not get the chocolates out of the mold in one piece!

Still delicious though, but sticky and messy!

Another attempt was to fill the molds with (white) chocolate, then scrape a hollow with a spoon when it had set for a bit, fill that with the sauce and then fill that up again with (bitter) chocolate. It just wasn’t what I was looking for.

Still delicious, but didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor!

There is another style of chocolate molds: the stiff polycarbonate ones. I did some research (on YouTube, where else?) and the videos make it seem really easy to make filled chocolates with these molds: just pour in your chocolate, then pour it all out, put in the filling in the hollow shells, fill them off and then gently tap them out of the mold when they’ve completely set. So I got a set of molds in, and…
…it was a total disaster. It was really, really disappointing, and it took me some time to get over that. But we did try again and managed to produce a batch of really nice chocolates. I don’t have photos of the results, completely forgot…

So I ordered another set of molds, with some of the birthday money I got from my parents in advance!

Most of our YouTube viewing is centered around people making lots of really intricate cakes, so when a new, less complicated recipe for macarons turned up on our homepage, I was intrigued. So I tried it out, and apart from some experimenting with the needed cooking time in our oven, it works really well! In the video, the cook suggests using a ganache as filling — I’ve seen that suggested before, but I had been using the buttercream recipe I learned at the macaron workshop so far. But the drawback of that one is that it gets quite soft at room temperature, so if you press down too hard on the macaron, you’ll make a mess!
So I made some coffee ganache (with white chocolate and instant coffee mixed in the cream), and it works really well too — it’s nicely firm, so you can serve them at room temperature.

We made smallish shells, they were pretty cute! Klik took some to her mother, and she was pleased with them too.

But of course, we now had yolks left because the macarons only use the egg whites.

So I made mayonaise for the first time ever. I knew it was easy, but I had just never bothered to search for a recipe. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever buy mayonaise again.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
Readman

Troubles restarting

As ‘the troubles’ seem to be restarting (which anyone could have foreseen), I am thinking about my visit to Northern Ireland in 2015. I didn’t write (much) about it, but it did leave a deep impression on me.
In 2015, the company I worked for was acquired by an American software company, and I was asked to become the product manager for our product. The first order of business was to design (and build) an integration with another product from the portfolio, which was built by another acquired company, located in Derry, Northern Ireland. We went there with a few people to discuss how it would work — I think this was in my second week as product manager, and I didn’t know at all what I was supposed to be doing…

The week was fine and the people were nice. But several things impressed on me how close to the surface, and how deep, the dividing lines were. In normal conversation, it was glossed over, but here and there were hints of some severe collective trauma.
One afternoon I was in the pantry of the office to get a glass of water. It was already quite late, and most people had gone home, but we were still discussing things with the local architectural team. Two ladies, who took care of the cleaning of the office, were at work at the pantry. They didn’t know my face (obviously) so I introduced myself to them (and shook their hand, that was a thing we still did back then) and we chatted a bit about what I was here for. It took maybe half a minute for them to bring up the subject of the Troubles themselves, and that they felt much better and safer these days — nobody wanted to go back to that. Why, there were even trash bins installed along the river, because there was no more fear of bombs being put in them!
Imagine the trauma being so deep that you bring it up in casual conversation, seventeen years after it ended.

One evening we were taken along a walk in Derry. There is a city wall running around the inner part of it, and it was explained to us that one side was protestant, the other side was catholic — still was. We ended up in a pub and, while it wasn’t that prominent, it was decorated with plaques mirroring those political murals on blind walls that were so prevalent during the Troubles. It was no secret that this was a Catholic pub, and that the proprietors certainly remembered what had happened before the Good Friday agreement.

One afternoon, we were loaded in a few cars for a drive around the countryside, and we were taken to an old fort on the Irish side of the border as a touristy thing to do. I was in the car with an older colleague, who pointed out that we had crossed over into Ireland, but that the only trace of the border was that the speed limits were now in km/h instead of m/h. He told us that, as a schoolboy, he lived in Ireland but went to school in Derry, and that this was the border crossing he used to get to school and back. He had to walk along barbed wire, and every morning and every afternoon, heavily armed soldiers looked through his book bag to make sure he wasn’t transporting any bombs in there. He told about it in a light-hearted manner, but imagine for a moment that happening to you as a fifteen year old boy.

A month later was the return visit from a team from Derry to Nijmegen, to finish up the details. Their visit would be one week before the ‘Vierdaagse’, the International Four Days Marches — the biggest party of the year. So I joked that they should arrange to stay for another week to enjoy the festivities. Immediately the mood changed and it seemed that the temperature dropped several degrees. I can still see the very concerned face of one of my colleagues when she asked in a low, serious voice: “But what are they marching for?”
It honestly took me half a minute to parse what she meant and where that question came from. I had to spend some time explaining the background. I don’t think they were convinced, especially when I mentioned that a lot of military from all over the world participated too.

When Brexit was announced, I had to think about these things a lot, but I never brought it up with them. I just hope it doesn’t escalate into full-scale civil war again — which it very well could do. The lines are still there, people still remember who is on ‘their’ side and who not.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
flowers

Favourite Movie Friday Five

1) Pick one of your favorite movies: what is the title?
Laputa: Castle in the Sky

2) When and where and with whom did you first see it?
Probably at home, on DVD. But the most memorable viewing was in Rome, at the Cinema dei Piccoli in the Villa Borghese park. We got tickets in advance for the 22:00 showing, and the confused person selling us the tickets told us the movie would be dubbed in Italian — but of course we’ve seen it so many times that that didn’t really matter. The previous showing ran a little late when we arrived, and since the cinema is essentially a wooden shack, we could hear the end of the movie before going in.

3) What about the movie makes it one of your favorites?
It is a grand adventure that starts out in a mining town but then ends up in this mythical place, with lots of steampunk in between. Miyazaki’s love for airships is very apparent here. And the movie is also a technical masterpiece: the approach for the raid on the fortress where Sheeta is held with the pirate ornithopters is so exciting visually!

4) If you’ve watched this movie since the pandemic quarantine started, how did it make you feel?
I have not.

5) If this movie was remade, who would you cast for the five main characters and why?
A live-action remake would… not be good. It would probably amount to some human players standing in CGI decors, and that would give the movie a static look which doesn’t fit with such a dynamic story! And animating it again might make it look prettier, but would take away the ‘soul’ of the original.
But a remake with puppetry could be really fun! You can add in some CGI effects if you want to, but the decors would have to be physical. And while you can see that it’s puppets doing the action, the whole thing has a pleasing… physicality… to it that you can’t produce otherwise. The Jim Henson studio would be an obvious choice (their Dark Crystal prequel was fantastic), but the studio that does the wuxia puppetry series Thunderbolt Fantasy is also very much capable of showing lots of action.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
flowers

Animal Crossiversary

One year ago, when the COVID-19 restrictions had just started, Animal Crossing:New Horizons was released. I had pre-ordered and pre-downloaded it for our Switch, and it was the evening of March 20th when I stepped into that sea airplane to go on the ‘uninhabited island package’. Lots of people have written about how people visited each others’ islands and how overnight a whole community had sprung up around the game, so I don’t have to talk about that. Since then, lots of people have stopped playing — but not us. We even celebrated the new year in the game, with a friend visiting to see the count-down on our village square.

Every day, we do the rounds on our island. The days of hardcore fishing or bug-hunting are behind us, but it’s just nice and relaxing to fire up the game and walk around for a bit. Yesterday was our 365th day on the island.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.