April 25th, 2002


Sunday Dinner, April 21

Last Sunday, I was preparing Sunday dinner alone, since Lori was still in DC. I decided to make the Rosti Potatoes with Green Peppers and Onions as a side. That involved Swiss cheese, so I needed to find a non-meat entree. Unfortunately, none of the vegetarian dishes I found appealed to me. So I started thinking about fish dishes, and again couldn't find anything that appealed. Finally I settled on a double recipe of the Crab and Corn Cobbler.

I angsted a bit about whether the imitation crab would be kosher. I thought I knew that kosher traditions didn't allow chicken with milk because it would remind the consumer of meat with milk; I worried that a similar logic might prevent imitation crab. Fortunately, Monica reassured me at dinner that imitation crab is allowed.

I had planned a berry cobbler for dessert, but while I was at the store, I saw that strawberries were on sale. That inspired me to make the Strawberry Lemon Curd Tart. Fortunately, I managed to pick up almost everything I needed from memory; I didn't have to make another trip to the store.

I made the lemon curd before dinner. Lemon curd always involves a bit of playing chicken--the more it is cooked, the thicker it will be (and I prefer lemon curd to be thick and smooth), but if it overcooks, the egg yolks will scramble. So there's a constant tension of "is it thickened now? What about now? Now?" I'm pleased to say that I judged it well; the lemon curd was lusciously thick and smooth.

While making the lemon curd, I realized that lemon curd is nearly a direct consequence of principles I've learned from Shirley O. Corriher's Cookwise: the lemon juice is basically water. You want the fat of the butter to add creaminess and to keep the flavor in the mouth longer. So, since you're combining water and fat, you use the egg yolks as emulsifiers to keep them from separating. Voila--everything about lemon curd is explained except the sugar.

The Crab and Corn Cobbler depends on a basic white sauce. I succeeded pretty well at this; the sauce was nicely thick. However, I put the cobbler into a deep pan, where a wide one might have been better; it was pretty goopy when served.

I managed to get everything ready almost as guests started to arrive. I was proud.

After dinner, then, I made the tart pastry (in the heart-shaped tart pan). Eli cut up the strawberries. Once I filled the pastry with lemon curd, Monica arranged the strawberries beautifully on the tart.

There was one thing I had neglected to provide for, though: red currant jelly for the glaze. But I managed to find some apricot jam in the fridge, and I knew that apricot jam could be sieved for a glaze. I didn't want to bother with forcing it through a sieve with a spoon, since that's been a big pain when I've tried it before. So I got out the food mill we were given as a wedding gift. With the finest disc, it did a good job of yielding a clear glaze without much work. (It might be too coarse for straining raspberry seeds, though--perhaps we'll improvise something with a layer of cheesecloth.)

I guess I've food-geeked through this whole post. Sorry about that.

Thoughts on thoughts

One of the concepts I got from Ted Chiang was the term of thoughts being "phonologically coded". This is the way I experience my own thoughts--I experience my thoughts as a voice in my head narrating my existence.

But giving this experience a name emphasizes that it's not universal.

How do y'all experience your thoughts?

There have been times when I've lost that voice in my head of continuous narration. Those are fuzzy times for me--it's hard to really remember those times, so much so that I more easily remember the moments afterward when I said, "Wow, I lost my internal voice for a moment there."

GURPS Apr-5-2002

It's been almost three weeks since the last session of Kevin's GURPS game, and I still haven't gotten around to posting a journal entry about it.

In the previous session, we had just finished a fight with some extremely nimble jackal-people. We had two healthy fighters and three wounded PCs. And there were six creatures pursuing us from behind.

In this session, we gathered ourselves for the fight. Our two unharmed warriors took the lead. We gave Merith a dose of a salve that would let him ignore a wound for 12 hours, which brought him back to full strength. Klantic cast a ritual to ward off evil spirits.

The opponents approached. They turned out to be stocky, slow-moving warriors carved out of wood, with embedded bronze swords. One of them had bronze inlays.

They advanced upon us, stated something in an ancient language (which was translated by one of our group as a demand to surrender) and stood to wait. With one character who has the Stubborn and Impulsive disadvantages, it was pretty obvious that we weren't going to surrender right away, and sure enough, she leapt to the attack.

I'm not going to go through all the fighting. Some salient bits:

- Merith hit once or twice, but wasn't able to do enough damage to hurt them at all. He should have just stayed on the defensive. Then he failed to defend against one of their blows, and took enough damage in a single blow to send him unconscious.

- Two of the wooden fighters slipped past the front-line combatants and went after Klantic, our badly wounded druid. Meat gave up his defenses for a turn to take out one of those attackers from behind. Unfortunately, that left his guard open for him to be hit for a devastating 10 points of damage. This would be enough damage to bring down a normal man, but Meat is robust.

- Carynth was doing well against two or three of the wooden golems. For a while she rolled very low on damage, so much so that she asked me to start rolling for her. Oddly, I rolled four eights in a row for her, a 5 and a 3 each time. However, she eventually rolled a critical miss, and ended up dropping her sword--as she knelt to pick it up, one of the golems dealt her a nasty blow that reduced her to two points of damage.

- Klantic just fought defensively and retreated every time the golem fighting him had a chance to hit. Many times, though, the golem attacked randomly, not swinging at him at all. I suspect his 'repelling evil spirits' charm may have caused that.

We ended up winning the fight, but we're really low on hit points right now. If we had the other two members of the party with us, things would be much easier, but as it is, we're fairly challenged. (They might be badly challenged too, mind you.)

It's possible that I should have attempted attacks at the golem's weapons--it probably would have worked fairly well, and might have reduced the amount of damage they could dish out. Oh well--striking for damage works well, too.

So after the fight, Merith was unconscious, and in several hours, his previous wound will come back, sending him into death check territory. Meanwhile, our first aid and healing efforts were interrupted by spying birds, so we had to move on to a place the survivor knew--a no-mana zone in an old prison. Here we had a chance to heal and lick our wounds.

But even with the best healing Klantic can provide, Merith will be risking death when the previous wound returns. But the Survivor knows of a place of healing, but which carries danger with it... so we're going to carry Merith there.

From a storytelling point of view, I quite like this. Merith has been with the group for a long long time--it's dramatically cool to try to save him. I'm looking forward to Friday's session, even though Meat is unlikely to have a big role. (Or maybe it's that I hope we don't--Meat gets a big role only in combat, and we can't handle much combat right now.)


Meat could probably beat Carynth in an combat without weapons or armor, but I do feel a bit envious of her magic items. She has magic armor that makes it very hard for her to be hit, and a magic sword that gives her some significant advantages over Meat in combat. Unfortunately, magic armor is very hard to come by in the size XXXXXXXL that Meat wears. Maybe he'll get lucky enough to find a magic shield.

This also raises some questions about the direction in which I want to develop Meat. He could shift his emphasis a bit from his big club to a shortsword. This would be more combat-effective for Meat, and he'd be more likely to find a magic sword. (It's implausible that I'd find a magic club.)

But... a shortsword doesn't thrill my imagination the same way. An 18" shortsword would look like a toothpick in the hands of a 7-foot-8 barbarian. (I exaggerate, but still, there is something valid there.) I am not sure how I'd like to handle this.