Tuesday, July 15
I love puzzles, so a couple of weeks ago I signed up to play Planetarium. It's a free online story in twelve chapters, each of which contains three minor puzzles. You are only able to access one new chapter each week. After the twelve weeks, you are supposed to combine your thirty-six minor puzzle solutions and use them to solve a master puzzle. The minor puzzles themselves come in three types: traditional word riddles, number or math puzzles, and logical either-or puzzles. A wide range of puzzle-solving skills is definitely required.
The story itself is very strange (at least so far) and quite wordy. But it is pretty cool how the puzzles in one chapter will interconnect with story elements and puzzles from other chapters. This non-linearity means you may be provided with puzzle clues long before you have need of them, so you have to do quite a bit of detective work to progress.
The only complaint I have is that Planetarium doesn't remind you when the next chapter is unlocked, so you have to check back periodically on your own.
Monday, July 14
In a shocking role-reversal, Heidi made the latest batch of cocktails, and I am going to blog about it. I was on my way out to pick up some food from Taco Milagro (highly recommended), and she shook up some Daiquiris and had them ready upon my return. Despite its somewhat more Caribbean roots, I think a Daiquiri compliments good Mexican food every bit as well as the ubiquitous Margarita. Here's the per-serving recipe:
2 oz rum
3/4 oz simple syrup (see here)
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
Shake all ingredients with ice, taking your time to allow a reasonable level of dilution, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.
This simplest of Daiquiris is known to us as a "Daiquiri Natural", with an affected Spanish pronunciation for a bit of atmosphere. Note that the proportions are pretty close to the classic base/sweet/sour combination mentioned earlier. Rum is a fairly sweet base liquor, so the particular brand you use may have a big effect on the drink's overall sweetness. Until you are comfortable, err on the side of using less syrup. It's much easier to sweeten the drink later than it is to make it drier.
Most recipes will specify that light rum is to be used, presumably so that the pale green color isn't compromised. That's fine I guess, but we have had such excellent-tasting results with the medium-dark Flor de Caña Gold Label that I think it's worth the tradeoff. This rum is so smooth and tasty I often drink a shot or two neat as a post-prandial. The Black Label is even better (and significantly more expensive). For our Jewish friends, Spec's lists Flor de Caña as their only kosher rum, so it's probably a safe bet that it's the only widely available kosher rum.
Sunday, July 13
Stu has suggested that, in additon to providing you with delicious drink recipes, we should also provide brief reviews of the books we finish reading. I thought that was a capital suggestion!
I have just finished reading The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002, edited by Dave Eggers. The book contains essays, fiction pieces, and news articles published during 2001 and is geared toward readers under 25. Although I fall outside of the 25-and-under age range I thought overall it was a very good collection. As with most collections there are outstanding items and those that, in the opinon of the reader, leave something to be desired.
The best piece in the book was "Higher Education " by Gary Smith, first published in Sports Illustrated. It is the story of a black basketball coach in the tiny all-white Amish/Menonite community of Berlin, Ohio and the profound and positive affect this outsider has on the community.
The funniest story was "Journal of a New COBRA Recruit" by Keith Pille from McSweenys.net. It is very, very funny for those of us who would get home from school and watch G.I. Joe cartoons during the mid-1980s. I appreciate the fact that someone out there still thinks about crappy cartoons and cares enough to write a short story about it. Mad props to Mr. Pille and McSweenys for writing and publishing this fine piece!
I really didn't like either Zoe Trope's "Selections from Please Don't Kill the Freshman" from Future Tense Press or "Hubcap Diamondstar Halo" by Camden Joy from Little Engines. Both seemed to me like items that should have been published in my high school literary magazine and I wasn't a big fan of my high school literary magazine. In the case of Ms. Trope's piece I guess the fact that she is in high school may explain it. Still, I wouldn't have included it in this collection.
Overall, very good! I especially enjoyed the journalism pieces from publications I don't normally read. I would recommend this book.