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Month: February 2011

Oatmeal Praline Finale

If you look, the Internet will tell you that it’s OK to use Eggbeaters in ice cream recipes. As is so often the case, the Internet lies. I had been using Eggbeaters but I swapped to real eggs for David Lebovitz’ oatmeal raisin ice cream, without the raisins, which is more or less like this recipe. Add some oatmeal praline, put some cinnamon and brown sugar in the heavy cream, and drop the whole vanilla bean step and there you go. The custard was definitely trickier with real eggs; there was a bit of scramble in it but that’s why you strain it and all and all it was fine. And the resulting ice cream is awesome, or at least I assume it will be once it freezes up. Cause it’s pretty good right out of the ice cream maker. Putting real eggs in makes a huge difference. You can mock me now if you like.

Note for next time: even if the ice cream maker looks like it’s going to seize up around 15 minutes in, let it keep going — that’s what gets all the air in. It’ll be okay.

Oatmeal Praline

Oatmeal pralineThis is oatmeal praline, which is pretty easy to make if you pay close attention to the sugar. Came out way better than the roasted bananas. Tangentially, the problem there was that I tossed the bananas with the brown sugar in the pan, which left a lot of stray brown sugar in the pan, which was bad. I should have tossed the bananas and the sugar elsewhere. Water under the bridge. Anyhow, the oatmeal praline is going to wind up in some nice vanilla ice cream tomorrow, which will be made with real egg yolks, so we’ll see how that all works out.

About 2011

So what now?

Not as much LFR. I feel less cranky about the campaign than I did when Susan and I talked it over before Christmas, which is when we made the initial decision to cut back. On the other hand, I’d bet that part of my good cheer is that decision itself, so revisiting it doesn’t seem either wise or necessary. I’m glad to be stepping back in a good mood rather than a pissy one.

2010 was a very poor year for the campaign. I enjoyed it a lot personally, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the rate of new content dropped alarmingly. Even worse, there were almost no new mods for private play. Private play was a very important part of the success of the campaign, and cutting off legal private play hurt badly. As a nasty side effect, this encouraged people to blow off the restrictions on private play and start breaking the rules. With no real enforcement available (or perhaps even desirable), this meant all the rules started to seem less important.

This combined poorly with a serious communication issue. I appreciate everything the globals do; I also think they, as a whole, are not skilled community managers. Which hey – I’m not either. But it is absolutely awful when one of your global admins is bitching about how poorly the players treat him. Here, read the MMO take on it. All of that is relevant except the volunteer note, since some of our admins are pure volunteers – but let us not grow confused about what it means that WotC isn’t spending money on the campaign.

One of the other more cheery things in the last month is, however, improved communication, which is nice. While not all deadlines are getting met, they’re getting better about communicating the issues at hand. Probably not coincidentally, the campaign has control over new module distribution. My uneducated hypothesis is that the admins had, for most of 2010, very little control over the mechanical process of releasing content and that this generated a lot of frustration. If this is accurate, the new is helping a lot.

Organization has also been better. DDXP came off very well this year, although eyeballed attendance was down. Nonetheless, the BI was done before the show, people got modules in time to prepare, and the story was interesting and most forum reports were good. I was mentally prepared for a disappointing, semi-chaotic DDXP, and it wound up being quite the opposite.

This leaves me looking at 2011 and thinking that I can take my LFR when I feel like it and leave it alone otherwise. Our primary characters, Reed and Faral, hit level 19 at DDXP. We still don’t plan on playing the epic any time soon (more on this later), which means they have four or so adventures left before they leave paragon play behind. We’d like to make three of those the upcoming Waterdeep adventures, and one is probably the end of the Tyranny arc. That is pretty much OK. I have a level 16 character who could do P2 and P3 content, but Susan doesn’t, which means paragon play won’t be a big feature of our gaming time.

We do have plenty of heroic level play in us. Whether or not we do a lot of it in practice – well, we’ll have to see if we ever get down to the Monday night Columbia game.

I also intend to run semi-regularly, because I like it. I am still looking for the sweet spot between creating a challenge and overpowering players. 

Two Ice Cream Books

I got two books on making ice cream. I’m very pleased with one; I am not so pleased with the other.

Perfect Scoop is really good. David Lebovitz was a pastry chef at Chez Panisse and he cares a lot about good ice cream; his cookbook gives a nice solid grounding in ice cream theory and then rolls into a ton of recipes. There are also sections on granitas, toppings, and things to serve ice cream in. It’s a very foodie cookbook but it’s also very practical — there are not a lot of super-weird ingredients and he’s not snotty about using just the right thing.

His blog has a lot of recipes, not limited to ice cream, but you can get a feel for his techniques and style with this one. Which sounds great, but I do like white chocolate. You may note that his recipes tend towards using less sugar than the average, which is a plus for me. Not that I don’t like sweet ice cream; however, a guide to less sweet ice creams is good.

Finally, it’s a really pretty book. Lots of nice ice cream photography. Ice cream isn’t the most interesting subject in the world (look, another scoop of frozen dairy in a glass bowl!). On the other hand it gives me a good idea of desired textures.

So that’s the good. Bad: Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. The history of the company is kind of interesting but the recipes, OK. They mostly have eggs, and there is no cooking of the eggs. It’s an entire cookbook full of raw eggs. Grrr. This tells me there’s not much thought given to the recipes, and it also tells me they weren’t that concerned with really giving away how their commercial ice creams are made, because I’m also pretty sure we’d figured out salmonella by 1987. Don’t buy this one, it’s not worth it.

Roasted Banana Ice Cream

I got this recipe from the excellent The Perfect Scoop, about which more later, so I won’t reproduce the recipe verbatim. But you roast your bananas with brown sugar and butter and then you blend with milk and vanilla and more sugar and so on. No eggs involved.

There is an attractive picture of bananas prior to roasting to your right. The sugar didn’t caramelize as much as I think it’s supposed to; I have a pan with a bunch of almost burnt sugar in the bottom. I should have read up on how that works first, but the banana mix (which is currently churning into ice cream) doesn’t smell burnt or anything, so I don’t think I’ve ruined it. We have plans to put roasted salted peanuts on top of the ice cream when we eat it.

And post-churn, we have pretty good ice cream. It’s less sweet than the others I’ve done, which I suspected would be the case, since it just uses less sugar and the bananas alone won’t make up for that. This allows the caramel and the banana flavors to shine more. I dig it. It’s almost smoky with the brown sugar and all.

The chai ice cream turned out a little chalky in the end. I didn’t like the taste, and Susan didn’t so much like the texture. I think it’s a lesson in ingredients — I’d have been better off using a purer tea rather than tea bags. Also, next time I do a custard we’re going to use real eggs; I suspect the substitutes, which are mostly egg whites, are not thickening the ice cream the way yolks would.

Yet More Apple/Kindle

Apple’s released its new subscription/purchase rules. Interesting commentary here. He drills in on the one sentence in the press release which refers to anything other than subscriptions: “In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.” If Apple hadn’t rejected the Sony Reader app, I’d assume that “content” referred to subscriptions, but since Apple clearly does care in some unspecified way about non-subscription content I can’t feel confident there.

30% is a huge cut. If you’re getting something for it, such as payment processing, it’s not unreasonable. If you’re a small content provider and this frees you from having to worry about PCI compliance, processor gateways, and so on? Sure! But if you’re a big content provider or aggregator (hi, Amazon), you are not getting value for that money.

Paragon Planning

There are some experience point spoilers in what follows; pray be careful, if this might offend.

Reed and Faral would like to play the three upcoming Year 3 Waterdeep modules and SPEC 2-2 P3 before hitting epic. Reed is slightly ahead of Faral on experience; he has 137,495 experience and it takes 175,000 to hit level 21. This gives him 37,505 experience points to play with.

SPEC 2-2 P3 will chew up 11,200 of those, leaving him and Faral with 26,305 experience points to epic. High tier experience for P3 modules is 8,840. Three of those would be 26,520 experience, which would just push them over. But Faral’s a bit lower. Note made: try to play at least one of the Waterdeep modules or SPEC 2-2 on a lower tier, to open up room for another adventure in there somewhere. Sadly it can’t be a double-length one unless it’s the last one they play.

Bah, math fun is not. This is not why I play, and it’s bugging me that I have to care about all this crap just so Reed can get some play in the locale I really want to play in.

Best Movie Marathon

Hey, that’s cool. AMC is running a two-day/one-day marathon of the 10 Best Picture nominees. 15 cities get the one-day marathon, and everyone else gets the two-day marathon. Probably the two-day marathon is saner. Sixty bucks a ticket for ten movies plus a $20 food card, so it’s four dollars a movie, which is not bad at all.

More Apple/Kindle, Still Some ?

Apple said something somewhat confusing that nonetheless implies that the way in which they enforce the rules has changed. Gruber summarizes. If Apple means what they seem to mean, that’s alarming. Also difficult to enforce. If Amazon removes the store button from the Kindle app, but still sells Kindle books pushed to the iPad via their Web site, is the Kindle app still offering the customers the ability to purchase books outside the app? I can buy ePub books from various sources without involving Stanza, and then download ’em to Stanza. Does this violate anything?

This wouldn’t have happened when Jobs was around.

That’s a joke.