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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why Am I Just Now Learning About Humble Bundle?

It is an immutable fact that I will inevitably be reminded of how out-of-touch I am, especially when it comes to the internet culture and discovering really cool websites. I blame my age.

Today's reminder came in the form of a tweet from IDW Publishing that showed up on my Twitter newsfeed.

Intrigued, I followed the link to HumbleBundle.com where I was immediately bombarded by the awesome!

Image Source:
Humble Bundle Facebook Page
As it turns out, many of my friends already use Humble Bundle to get game bundles on the cheap, and they made sure to point out how behind the times I am. Apparently, I've been living under a rock. In fact, Time recently listed Humble Bundle on their "50 Best Websites of 2014," calling it "a good place to go if you need some geeky entertainment on the cheap."

Formed in 2010 as Humble Indie Bundle and headquartered in San Francisco, Humble Bundle offers "digital creations" such as video games, eBooks, and digital graphic novels on a purchaser-determines-the-price model [1]. You can read more about them on their Wikipedia page, but I think their motto pretty much explains it all: "Pay what you want, DRM Free, Cross-platform, Helps charity."

It was the charity aspect of Humble's offerings that really got me to try them out, however. As it turns out, Humble Bundle often partners with publishers to release charity-driven bundles [2]. In this case, IDW Publishing is offering over 120 comic books (in collected format) of their popular Transformers comics for a minimum payment of $15. My only regret is that I'm learning about this deal the day before it ends. So I was not able to spread the word sooner and more often.

If you're interested in getting your hands on some Transformers Trade Paperbacks on the cheap while helping out charity at the same time, you better hurry. Apparently, this sale began two weeks ago and is scheduled to end tomorrow, Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. For this bundle, Hasbro Children's Fund will receive whatever portion of sales has been designated by purchasers to charity. If you missed it, fear not! There are other bundles currently available with more certainly on the way.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Titan Comics Gives Us Our Doctor Who Fix in Two New Comic Series [Review]

Well, we're officially less than a month away from a brand new season of Doctor Who and a brand new Doctor. Like many of you, binge-watching previous seasons has become a tradition for me, a way of welcoming the Doctor back into my life. But if you're looking for ways to add variety to your tradition, may I suggest picking up a copy of Titan Comics's two new comic books series, both of which hit the shelves yesterday, just in time to drive fans and comic collectors bonkers in the lead-up to Comic Con this weekend. Can you imagine the lines at San Diego of fanboys and fangirls, all vying to get their hands on the limited runs of convention exclusive covers? Already much of the retail copies of each title has sold out of their first printings—and not just copies of the incentive and chase variant covers, but of the regular runs as well. Personally, I like the regular Alice X. Zhang painted covers best.

You can check out some of the different covers available here
UK Diamond Exclusive Covers [Image Source: david-tennant.com]
There were plenty of speculations about the fate of the Doctor Who comics after the BBC did not renew IDW's license at the end of 2013. When it was announced that Titan Comics had been awarded the license, rumors began to circulate that this move was only one in a series of maneuvers "to bring the US and UK publishing rights under one roof," but those were quickly denied [1][2].

Regardless the motivation behind the change in publishers, both Titan titles are definitely bigger on the inside (See what I did there?).  I thought that the writers of both books captures the spirit of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors well, not just in how David Tennant and Math Smith portrayed their respective characters on the show, but also the atmosphere of their respective television runs. The artists of each book play significant roles in translating each Doctor to paper and in rendering these stories in ways that are very appropriate to their respective Doctors. When it comes to story, Titan does not disappoint. Both books are set during periods in which the Doctor travels alone and introduce new companions to share the Doctor's adventures. Although spin-off media like comics are rarely considered canon, if Titan keeps their continuity as tight and as in line with the TV show and other spin-off media as IDW did during their tenure, we can expect these books to fit nicely within the series as extra-episodical adventures just as the IDW titles have.

Specific review on each title, after the jump. [WARNING: Spoilers possible.]

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Avocado-Lime Cheeseburger [Recipe]

I’m bored with my usual birthday posts. More often than not, I end up making promises for this blog—and to myself—that I’ll most likely never keep. So, since it is a Thursday, I think today would be the perfect day for the next installment of my randomly recurring “Taste Bud Thursday” series instead. And since, for many of you, tomorrow marks the official start of the Memorial Day weekend and the start of grill season, I thought I’d share my recipe for avocado-lime burgers.

To be honest, I don’t remember exactly what inspired me to concoct this recipe. If I had to guess, I would say that I probably ordered something similar at a restaurant and figured I could make them at home. I’ve spent years experimenting on this recipe, years of pulling my hair out trying to keep my patties from falling apart. The avocado is excellent at keeping the patties juicy and plump. However, it’s best feature was also my worst enemy. I’ve tried adding bread crumbs and oatmeal, and I’ve tried using less avocado. My burgers fell apart all the same. Finally, after some research, I found a link that led me to an advice page for celebrity chef Rachel Ray’s website. In it she recommends refrigerating or freezing the patties for at least an hour before grilling. She goes on to point out that the patties should only be flipped once in cooking process. Excessive flipping contributes to breakage. Other websites recommend forgoing the bread crumbs and oatmeal all together. I gave Rachel Ray's suggestions a try and sure enough, it worked!

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter you will know that I actually I posted the above picture two weeks ago. I had teased this recipe and had hoped to post it that Thursday but—oh well! Here it is now. I hope you enjoy. Please, comment with your feedback below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And happy summer!


INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS

Makes 4 servings

Burger Patties

  • Half of a California (Hass) avocado, cubed
  • Juice from half a lime
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb Extra lean ground beef
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper 
  • 1/2 Tbsp onion powder 
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp French’s Worcestershire Sauce, Reduced Sodium 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 whole California (Hass) avocado, halved and sliced into strips
  • 4 slices Pepper jack cheese


Optional Ingredient
  • 4 roll Arnold Sandwich Thins, Pre-Sliced, 100% Whole Grain 
  • Uncooked red onion(s)
  • Mixed greens
  • Alfalfa sprouts (not pictured)
Steps
  1. In a large mixing bowl, lightly mash cubed avocado with lime juice and cilantro and mix well. (I personally like to leave this mixture on the chunky side.) 
  2. Add ground beef, onion and garlic powders, and worcestershire sauce. Mix well. 
  3. Divide into 4 quarter pound patties and lay out on paper lined tray. Patties will be VERY moist and fragile. 
  4. Refrigerate or freeze for at least an hour or until firm. 
  5. When ready to grill, lightly salt each side of the patties before putting on the grill.
  6. On a lightly sprayed grill, cook first side for 4–6 minutes, then flip. 
  7. Layer avocado and cheese on top of burgers and cook for an additional 4–6 minutes. 
  8. Serve with sweet potato fries and your favorite cold beer.
On a side note, I calculated the Weight Watcher’s points for this recipe. The patties are 8 PointsPlus each with avocado slices and a slice of pepper jack on top. I prefer to use Arnold Sandwich Thins (3 PointsPlus) for my bread. I serve this with some 3 PointsPlus sweet potato fries and wash it all down with about a hundred points in beer.




Thursday, May 1, 2014

UPDATED (2014) Weight Watchers 4 PointPlus Red Velvet Cupcakes [Recipe]


This past Valentine’s Day, I decided that I wanted to bake a red velvet cake for the Spousal Unit. As I set out on my mission, I remembered that the wife had just started back on Weight Watchers and was very conscious about what she ate. A brief search on das here Interwebs, and—BLAMO!—Weight Watchers red velvet cake recipes! I soon realized that all the search results were blog re-postings of a recipe originally posted to Food.com in 2005 by a user going by the name mariposa13.

I decided to give it a try. It was only 4 Points a serving, after all.

The cake turned out nice and was a hit with the wife. It was denser than regular cake but still pretty moist and flaky. The frosting, when the pudding and Cool Whip were blended together (more on this later), had a consistency and flavor similar to whipped frosting used by bakeries. Overall, the end results were unmistakably red velvet cake.

However, I wasn't satisfied. I had encountered several stumbling blocks as I prepared the recipe as originally written. These challenges got me thinking about ways to improve and update the recipe. When I learned that I could follow-up on my theories for my final project in the technical writing course I'm taking at Georgia State, I leapt at the opportunity to experiment.

So, dear friends and followers, I am proud to present to you the results of this culinary endeavor. We'll call this the first installment of "Taste Bud Thursdays," a new randomly-recurring series serving as my response to the over-saturation of Throwback Thursdays. I hope you enjoy the results, and—Please!—feel free to comment with your reviews and suggestions for improvement.


INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS
My notes on how and why I felt that the original recipe needed to be updated can be found after the jump.


Makes 16 servings at 4 PointsPlus each [1]

Cake:
  • 1 box (16.5 Oz) Duncan Hines Signature Red Velvet Cake Mix [2]
  • 12 oz diet Dr. Pepper soda [3]
Mix cake mix and diet soda. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners [4]. Pour mix into cupcake pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until toothpick poked into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Frosting:

  • 2 small boxes of Jell-o fat-free, sugar-free instant cheesecake pudding mix [5]
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 4 oz (half a container) fat-free Cool Whip, thawed 
Whisk pudding mix and milk together until smooth. Pudding will thicken as you mix. Once the pudding is thoroughly mixed, add Cool Whip and whisk well. Refrigerate until ready to serve [6].


Tips and Things I Learned While Play with My Food:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Advent of 3D Printing and Redefining Agriculture

Not taking better advantage of Earth Day last week to do a series of environment-friendly posts continues to make me feel like a slacker about myself, this blog, and the environment. To make myself feel better, I though I would:
  1. Figure out how to embed and/or link a pdf into blogger. (Coincidently, I also learned how to insert pages/other pdfs into and extract pages from a pdf on a Mac without paying a ton load for Adobe.)
  2. Revise my term paper I wrote in March 2013 on 3D Printing and Agriculture for my "People, Plant, and the Environment" botany course at the Dunwoody, Ga. Campus of Georgia Perimeter College.
  3. Create a post inviting the world to read my very simple and idealistic paper on how 3D printing technology could one day help solve some of our environmental and energy problems in the hope that it may inspire others to take my very basic idea and save the world. (All I ask is that you give me all the proper credit and citations—monetary donations would also be welcomed should my ideas help you make beaucoup bank.)
Those tasks accomplished, I present to you my paper. Interestingly enough, the only criteria other than formatting that Professor Sharon Lambert gave the class for this term paper was that a) it had to be about plants and b) well, I can't remember if there was actually a "b)".

Abstract:
Used mainly for drafting and design, 3D printing, a relatively new technology reminiscent of Star Trek, has recently expanded its practical applications beyond commercial fabrication and manufacturing into the realm of medicine and the sciences. The author briefly explores the impact this technology is having on agriculture and posits the possible role 3D printing could play in alternative fuel production.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dear Hollywood, A Captain Planet Movie, Maybe? Please.

I want to apologize. I allowed Earth Day to sneak up on me, yesterday. I had planned to do a whole week of fun and timely, environment-related posts ranging from an an analysis of problems we are facing today to profiles on people trying to save the planet to (fun?) things you can easily do year round to help the environment. I don't know why I keep making promises. I only disappoint you and myself.

Well, maybe next year.

So here's a fun little fan-made trailer for a fake live-action movie of one my (and maybe your's, as well) favorite environmentally-conscious cartoons from the 90s. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Image Source: Bangor Daily News
HAPPY EARTH DAY EVERYBODY!!!

…or maybe its Earth Week for you. Or perhaps, for you, it Earth Every Day! Whichever way you prefer to celebrate our beautiful blue planet, thank you. I hope you join me in taking the time to remember that we only have one planet we call home—at least until we master space travel. Unfortunately, we may not make it until then, nor is the a guarantee we would find a suitable new world or that we won't destroy that one, as well.


WOW! Depressing. Sorry. Anyways, moving on!

As I searched the internet for a fitting image for this post, I came across the one above and felt that I should share it. I particularly like this image because it adds a new layer to the quintessential "Three Rs"( Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) that we've lived with for so long.

Adding "Respect" to the mix reminds us that the "Three Rs" must be done with respect and forethought. Also, it reminds us, that everything else we do should respect the environment. Our laws and policies, for example, should bear the world in mind. As the Iroquois proverbs insist, our decisions should take into consideration the affects on the next seven generations (about 140 years). Unfortunately, in most case, governments and private decisions do not reflect this.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Heartbleed Bug and The Day the Internet Shat Its Pants


If you have yet to hear or read about the Heartbleed bug, you probably will soon. And no, it has nothing to do with your health. Well!—not medically, anyways.

[Photo Source: Codemonicon]
As the news of this recent web security bug makes the rounds on television, news sites, and social media, it will be tempting to shutout all the doomsayers and the techno-babble. Unfortunately, we don't have that luxury. It does not help that all the tech talk can be confusing, especially for the less than tech savvy Joe Schmos such as myself.

The doom and gloom brigade, however, can justly say that this has the potential to bring internet security to its knees as internet commerce and online banking, in addition to popular social media sites, are vulnerable to attacks. Worst still, the solution is not as simple as changing your password.


So, what happened anyways?

The discovery of a widespread security bug affecting sites running SSL encryption was announced on Monday, 07 April 2014.  Dubbed the Heartbleed bug, the vulnerability was discovered by software security firm Codenomicon and by Neel Metha at Google Security, and is "located in the implementation of the TLS/DTLS (transport layer security protocols) heartbeat extension [1]" of the popular open source OpenSSL cryptographic library.

According to LastPass.com, the bug "causes a vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic library, which is used by roughly two-thirds of all websites on the Internet." 


So, what does this mean?

We are all affected by this revelation. Some half a million popular, well trusted websites have been deemed vulnerable; and, as of 16:00 UTC 08 April 2014, includes Yahoo [2][3][4], BarclaysCardUs.com [2], and Nasa [5]. (Yes! Some of our favorite porn sites are affected, too.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Watershed for the Larger Universe — Captain America: The Winter Soldier [Review]

[Image Source: Mashable.com]
At first watch, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studio's latest installment in their larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, may seem like a filler movie that one needs to get through—you know, to get the full effect of the larger Universe. The fact that the movie drags in some places only reinforce that line of thought. It does not help matters that Marvel seems intent on throwing in every Easter egg [1][2][3] that did not make it into the previous eight films or the 16 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television episodes to date. Overall, the action sequences (and there's a whole lot of them) seem to take a back seat to slower moments of expositions and treatises. But, at first what appears to be weaknesses might actually be the foundations on which Marvel Studios can build a stronger mega-verse.

{WARNING: SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP!!!!}