6 Jan: Ruts and getting out

I needed a TB test for volunteering, so I picked a random CVS Minute Clinic.  I got there 15 minutes before the system stopped taking patients, but since the last patient was quick and I only needed a TB test, he slipped me in.

Turns out the CVS I picked is in the same shopping center as Native Foods, so that was dinner solved.  I got the Chicken Run Ranch (I think the secret to making soy delicious is texture, like a crispy breading on the “chicken,” but the tangy ranch helps too) with a free side of steamed kale.

Also turns out there was a Sprouts, and I needed to get vegetables for the bunny.  Now I could just hit up the Sprouts I usually go to since both drives are the same, and my local store might even be faster since I (finally) figured out where everything is.  But I decided to see what this location had to offer.  And what I found was the spicy yellow lentil hummus I’ve been searching for for months at my local place.

tl;dr it’s good to break habits and see what you’ve been missing.


20-23 Sept: Bunnyfest

There wasn’t a whole lot to write about during the week.  I kinda wish that Scotland had voted for independence because that would have really pissed off China.  Instead, China is telling Hong Kong that they can’t choose their own candidates for elections, which undermines the whole idea of elections, doesn’t it?  Oh, Scotland mods are very popular in Civ 5 right now.

I tried the Lemongrass Tofu at Loving Hut.  I don’t know what spices they use, but it’s not just lemongrass.  I think there’s some garlic and not a little heat.  Anyway, it’s really good.

I joined Nextdoor, but it isn’t that interesting.  Most of the posts are for people selling stuff or looking for services or recommendations.  Maybe I should talk about Loving Hut.

I’ve been in this mood all week where I want to play an RPG, but none of the couple dozen RPGs I’ve collected through Humble Bundles.  Instead, Rebuild came out with another beta build, and I played that more than was healthy, mainly mucking about with finding a good mix of classes and figuring out how to best use builders (whether to replace useless buildings or keep expanding; balancing keeping a defensible base or fencing in rival factions).

I also started an American Civil War scenario in Civ 5.  The twist they add is that new infantry units are green and fight with 20% penalty.  After their first combat, they gain a random modifier, some good, some bad.  Good divisions get upgraded to corps while bad divisions get disbanded to free up manpower.  (The other twist is that resources limit how many units each side can field.  Manpower limits infantry units.  Infantry corps use 3 times the manpower as divisions for not quite 3 times the combat strength, but it’s the only way to get density.)  I sent a large expedition to take the Shenandoah Valley and had Leesburg threatened by the counter-offensive, but reinforcements saved the city.  The only problem it I might not have left enough time to seize Richmond (the scenario is a short 50 turns).

I volunteered at SDHRS on Saturday and at Bunnyfest on Sunday.  So many cute rabbits.

SDHRS got Meze Greek fusion to bring their stand, and I got a fiery feta with pita chips.  The best way to describe it is Greek nacho cheese: it’s spicy and flavorful and easy to dip, just with feta instead of… whatever nachos use.

We also sat next to the kettle corn stand, and that gave me a hankering.  So I made kettle corn for the office Monday.

2 – 14 Sept: Mostly about food

Last week, I did make this casserole.  Yes, a casserole using a rue and cheese in the binder instead a can of condensed soup.  The casserole was pretty good, but then it would be considering all the cheese in it.  It was easy to overcook the broccoli.

After I made that lovely schedule with all the regular housecleaning chores, I promptly ignored it last weekend.  no baking soda to make a drain volcano, and both Sprouts and Trader Joe’s sell them in sizes fine for cooking, but not for cleaning.  I’ll buy in bulk in my next Amazon order.

Well, I did do this weekend’s task: clean Bunbury’s room.  A lot of shedding and “territory marking” has accumulated, and it was good to clean it out.  I also spent this morning volunteering at SDHRS, cleaning hay and poop out of rabbit pens.  (The trick is to first sweep up the easy to reach poop so you can safely walk around without accidentally treading on it.)  It was a poopy Sunday.

Meanwhile, my ramekins arrived!  There were extra yolks, so let’s make some creme brulee!  With soy milk instead of cream.  They were good, and the fat is not missed.  Neither Sprouts nor Trader Joe’s has gelatin so, to make panna cotta, guess what else is going is in the next Amazon order?

This weekend I hit up Kiki’s Place (good fish tacos, with more fish than batter, and they have this one awesome red creamy hot sauce) and Tandoori Hut for the lunch buffet (goat curry and tandoori chicken were great, chicken tikka and mango mousse was good, it’s weird that they don’t have chai).  Meanwhile, Loving Hut now considers me a regular; they accidentally forgot to charge for a Peaceful Pink this last time, and the guy told me to just add it onto my next bill.  (Aside: Pretty sure I could make a Peaceful Pin.  In fact, any non-dairy smoothie is basically soy milk, juice, and fruit.  Remove the fruit, and you have a drink that doesn’t need a blender.)

Okay, stuff unrelated to food.  I finally made a budget, and it turns out that even without my end-of-the-year bonus and higher housing costs, I’m still in the black.  Yay.  I didn’t realized I spent that much on games though.  Now to get my investments in order…

But this week there was another Humble Android Bundle, and I have to support Android game developers (by buying their games at heavy discount… whoops).  My favorite of the lot is Color Zen (nice aesthetics, puzzles that require some thinking) even though the it is similar to KAMI.  Other notables are The Room II (nice exploratory puzzles, as usual, though I’m having trouble getting it to save my progress), Tiny Bang Story (this is my first hidden object game, at least it’s hand drawn), and Kingdom Rush Frontiers (one of the few tower defense series I will give the time of day).

This got me playing some other Android games that I’ve let languish on my phone.  I got Bullseye Boxing because of a Pocket Tactics article.  It reminds me of Devil’s Attorney, and I ended up playing that instead.  I finally beat Devil’s Attorney on hard by maxing out my Materialism stat asap and writing a Python script to use dynamic programming to find strategies that optimized the expected number of actions to finish off a target.

Speaking of writing programs to do my thinking for me, I bought Calculords, which is by far the nerdiest game I have installed right now.  However, while finding expressions in order to play cards isn’t hard, finding a partition that uses all the numbers is non-trivial, and I wrote a program to help me with that.  Except it runs incredibly slow with 7 or more cards, so I may have to rewrite it.

I also finally played Ascension.  Like Star Realms, it also has semi-permanent cards that stay in play until removed, blurring the line between deck-builders and tableau games.  This gives me ideas for my Narbonic card game, which I at first envisioned as a tableau game, but a deck-builder is an interesting mechanic for how a player develops their engine.  Combine them for the best of both worlds.  Lab equipment or personnel can be semi-permanents.  They may get damaged/injured during a fight and get sent to the discard deck until they’re repaired.

Speaking of deck-builders, I’ve been thinking about my Quidditch game.  The thing about sports games, compared to other games, is that there’s little sense of progression: generally, both sides play about as well at the end of the game as they do at the beginning.  If anything, many games model attrition as the game goes on (literally, in Blood Bowl; many racing games track wear as the race continues).  So what if, in Quidditch, each player could modify their deck to react to what their opponent was doing.  Oh, right, that’s a deck builder game.  Though I don’t know if I want a straight up deck builder where players, say, play 2 chasers for enough agility points to buy a better chaser card as accumulating slightly more powerful cards doesn’t have a strong visceral feel to it.  I still want players to move the quaffle around the pitch and counter each other’s moves.

Finally, I finished Sorcery, Part 1.  First I had to write down the the spellbook to make it easier to look up spells (honestly, do they expect you to flip page by page through the book to find spells?).   I’m so used to adventure games beating me up and teaching me lessons before I could advance that I was surprised how easy it was to finish.  I did rewind twice: once when I lost all my equipment in a village, and another time to the black lotus.  But the rewind feature allowed me to pick up my game again in seconds.  Nice feature.

I also played the demo for Pixel Defenders.  It’s like Triple Town, where you place pieces into a map and combine 3 things to make an upgraded thing.  Except instead of annoying bears getting in the way of matches, we husband actions used to slow down and defeat monsters.  It is tempting to buy the full game…

An idea I’ve been kicking around for a possible mobile game is an old idea I’ve had since middle school based off the game Hunt the Wumpus.  Except instead of wandering more-or-less blindly, you’re mapping out a 3-dimensional cavern and can deploy sensors (active and passive) and traps.  Meanwhile, an opposing team is doing the same.  But to do that, I’ll have to figure out how to procedurally generate cavern artwork.

I haven’t been keeping up with DDP Yoga.  For a few days after that first session, my back was really tense and aching.  I think all that “activating your muscles” just made them knot up.

30 Aug – 1 Sept: Three day weekend

While it is nominally Labor Day weekend, I did do some work, mainly because students find Labor Day weekend the perfect time to catch up on assignments and, when they get stuck, to ask questions.  Lots of questions about sticks & stones in counting and file i/o in Python.

On Saturday, I made dark chocolate coconut macaroons because I was in a chocolate mood.  I’ve been popping one of these every few hours.  I reduced the sugar a smidge but maybe put too much coconut as it’s not really brownie levels of chocolate like I was hoping.

The rest of the weekend was lots of small things related to moving in: turn in keys to my old place; play mortgage and HOA dues; place another Amazon order, including a shower caddy and stuff to go in it; sort through stuff on the bedroom floor so the roomba can vacuum; create a home maintenance calendar… that I’ll start next week.

I tried DDP Yoga for the first time.  It’s a mix of yoga and dynamic tension.  I did work up a sweat, and my heart rate is higher than normal yoga.  We’ll see how it works long term.

23-26 Aug: Retrograde

Nothing of great interest happened today (I baked some chicken), so let’s go back to this weekend.

23-24 August: This weekend was the first time I felt like I was home.  All the boxes had been put away, so my roomba could get to work.  Clean living room, clean kitchen.  I used my dishwasher and washer and dryer for the first time.  Everything so clean, and I didn’t lift a finger.

I used the daylight to explore restaurants in University Heights and Hillcrest.  I started clearing out my recipe backlog by making blueberry crumb cake. (Anything with streusel get a plus in my book. I used extra blueberries, and it was delicious. Maybe cut back the sugar a smidge. People at work raved about it.)  I played Civ V, sorted through my papers, found Arendse’s letter (she’s during Danish subtitles for TED talks on YouTube!), and wrote her back.

26 August: My condo has internet! I feel like a whole person again. I can finally do internet things… like email Erica not during work hours (she got the lecturer position!). Someone at work got a new puppy, so I gave her my baby/pet door, the one with gaps too wide to keep bunnies out. Luyi gave me a going away present: snacks for Bunbury and me.

Oh, one idea did come to me today.  What if my Narbonic card game was a deck builder? But not with all cards available, like in Dominion, but in a rotating marketplace.  And with more permanent / semi-permanent cards, like Star Realms, so there’s still some tableau mechanic going on.

27 Aug: A new beginning

I’ve finally moved into my new place.  Let’s dust this blog off.

Today, I was greeted at work by donuts.  Nice!  As compensation for an all-hands-on-deck Python grading session.  Meh.  So I got to learn tkinter in order to grade homework.  We also got a free lunch out of it.  Who says there isn’t a free lunch?  Oh, right… the grading.

Look, freakin’ Russian paratroopers were captured inside Ukraine.  Can this farce end already?!

I let Bunbury into the living room again today to explore a bit.  It was cute to watch him hop around, exploring and rubbing his chin on everything.  But he was also hungry and wanted to test everything to see if it was food, so back he went with his salad.

We lost another war in Clash of Clans.  But now I have permission to kick out some inactive people, so I expunged 5 people who I’m not sure even play anymore.

I made this recipe for dinner.  I paired it with leftover Lucky Lemongrass from Loving Hut (soy protein fried until it’s crispy, and I have no idea what spice mix they used, but I need to find out) and quinoa cooked in chicken broth.  It was so so good.

The Top Gear guys appeared on Phineas and Ferb.  Ha!

Where’s the beef?

I’ve been making a tour of southside eateries in pursuit of a greater variety of cheap food.  Here’s the run down:


  • Gordo Taqueria: The cheapest burrito southside, I believe.  I particularly like the carne verde.  Add your own sour cream.
  • La Burrita: Slightly pricier, but it does come with chips and salsa bar (with limes!).  Super burrito will add sour cream and guac, but I can add my own sour cream.
  • Chipotle: Now that they’ve discontinued the student drink, they are slightly more expensive than the alternatives.  They are also the whiter burrito.


  • Cafe Intermezzo: Absolutely huge salads.  We’re talking like 2 meals worth of salads.  Make sure to get the croutons to the side or they will go soggy.
  • Cafe Durant: …
  • Mediterranean Cafe: …

East Asian

  • Le Petit Cheval: If you come before 3pm and buy from the lunch counter, it is pretty cheap: $6.75 for 3 entrees.  Add your own rice, and you got 2-3 meals.  Relative to  Chinese Express, much less greasy.
  • China Express: 3 entrees plus rice/chow mein for $6.50.  Again, add your own rice, and it’s 2-3 meals.
  • Steve’s BBQ: Buy a BBQ, use the meat for 2 meals.  Pricier than the above though.
  • Thai Basil: The UCBS hangout spot.  Good food, okay price.
  • Viet Nam Village Restaurant: As a friend said, it’s the cheapest place in the asian ghetto, but there’s a reason why.
  • Bear’s Ramen House: Kimchi fried rice with spam for $7.50.  Since I’m not a big fan of kimchi or spam, this probably wasn’t a good idea.
  • Cho Vegi House: A Thai/fusion/vegetarian restaurant.  Most dishes cost $8.  Thai iced tea cost $2.50.  Didn’t really like the vegetarian pad thai.  Might try one of their fusion specials, if I can afford it.
  • Saigon Eats: …


  • House of Curries: After a bad experience with vindaloo, I’m sticking to tikka masala.  Pricey (tikka masala plus naan will $10+), but a good treat now and then.
  • Indian Flavors Express: …


  • Maoz Vegetarian: $5.40 gets you a pita with 4 falafel and all the veggie toppings you want.  Toppings are more European than Mediterranean, and a larger selection than Fa-La-La.  Falafel isn’t as good and pita isn’t as fluffy as Fa-La-La, but it is considerably cheaper.
  • Fa-La-La: Falafel pita for $6.50.  Crispy falafel, nice soft pita.  Also has an open veggie bar.  Is it worth the extra dollar over Maoz?  Depends on your mood.
  • D’Yar: Chicken schwarma plate for $7.60.  That does get you a lot of food.  Felt it was a bit overseasoned and the chicken dry, though.
  • Sunrise Deli: May be because of summer hours, but they never seem open when I go by.


  • Pepe’s Pizza: $7-9 gets you an all-you-can-eat buffet of pizza, salad, pasta, drinks, and ice cream.  Go during rush hour, when the pizza turnover rate is highest, because the pies aren’t at their best when they’re not fresh.
  • Blondie’s Pizza: $3.75 for one large, oily slice. Better than Pepe’s, but not worth the cost.  They rotate their daily specials (with a fixed calendar, not because they have lots of a fresh ingredient to go through).
  • Fat Slice: …


  • Cheese ‘N Stuff: $4 sandwiches.  Leave off the mustard.
  • I.B.’s Hoagies: $6.50 for a 9″ sandwich.  If you want a nice philly-style grilled sandwich oozing with melted cheese.
  • Subway:  $5 foot long is one of the cheapest meals around. Started having a monthly featured foot long.


  • Crepes A-Go-Go: King Lias (nutella, almonds, coconut bananas, whipped cream) for $6.  Just learn to make your own.
  • Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiano: In misc only because it’s the only Italian southside.  Frankly, I can make pasta at home.  Therefore, I get calzones, which are a wait, but they are big.
  • San Francisco Soup Company: $6.50 for 16 oz. of New England clam chowder plus sourdough.  Good soup, but I recommend going around the corner to Walgreen’s and buying a can for about half the price.
  • Smart Alec’s: A healthy burger and fries shop?  I guess so.  A combo meal is quite filling, if starting to push the wallet.
  • Top Dog: The best thing is to buy a 5 lb. bag of your favorite dog and split it with some people.  Otherwise, a bit pricey, and eating 5 lb. by yourself is a bit much