Saturday, 27 November 2021

Belgian Tart

For our next trick, mum and I decided to tackle one that looked a little safer than the omelette that we attempted last week. It wasn't exactly clear what a Belgian Tart was supposed to be, but given the ingredients it had to be some kind of biscuity thing, right?

I was expecting that we'd be looking at some kind of shortbread, but never having made shortbread, even once we'd made the dough I had no idea if that was on the right track. There was nothing for it but hope that we'd got the mix right, divide the dough in half and slather it in jam. When a recipe calls for 'apricot or raspberry jam' it's going to take something really incredible to make me chose raspberry, and since we had a new jar of extremely promising looking apricot provided by a friend who'd purchased it from Balaclava High School the previous weekend there really wasn't any competition.


So far the recipes have been pretty good at giving us exact amounts, but here we had to take a bit of a guess at what Mrs. W. Broderick of Riverton considered a 'thick layer' of jam, and to skip ahead a little, I can report that our diners were in two minds as to whether or not we'd used enough here, with one commenting that they hadn't even realised that there was any jam at all until right near the end. It's definitely true that the dish was mostly about the pastry, but for my money this amount of jammy goodness was just about right. And it left plenty of jam in the jar to enjoy later, too.


The tart looked extremely satisfying coming out of the oven, though it was a little difficult to lever out of the tin, definitely a case of the cook getting a piece that looked a little more mangled than everybody else's. I really have to remember to utilise baking paper one of these weeks. The pastry smelt divine and turned out more like a crumbly pie crust than a biscuit, and fell apart in the mouth very nicely. It definitely benefited from being served hot from the oven (not least because hot slivered almonds are just *mwah*), and I suspect the whole thing might have been a little dry and bland if it had been left to cool. It was probably a little on the dry side anyway, but it wasn't anything that a little dob of cream couldn't counter.


All in all, a big winner, with four ticks of approval from the four diners, who all got a decent-sized slab of dessert and who would all happily eat it again some time soon. Definitely an example of something that I wouldn't define as a 'pudding', but October 31st gets a big 'yes please' from us. I've decided not to try and rank the puddings or anything so crass as all that, but this one is definitely right up there.

It seems like it might be fun to keep track of all the big-ticket items that we're using a lot of over the course of the progress through the calendar. I'm not going to bother with conversions unless they're easy, though, because I am terrible at them at the best of times. So, over the course of three puddings:

  • Eggs: 9 (8 separated)
  • Sugar: 2 cup, 2 tbsp
  • Butter: 3 3/4 oz, 2 tbsp

Friday, 26 November 2021

XCOM 2 Succession Game (Part 19) : Operation Bone Father

It's been quite a while since we last strapped on the flight goggles here at Leaflocker HQ, but after I was reminded that the world was in mortal peril and only I could save it from an alien occupation, I sprung into action. What follows is an AAR of my most recent turn in the our Blogger Succession Game of XCOM 2, you can find my previous entries in the series here and here, and the explanation of the whole concept and a handy summary over at Naithin's blog here.

If you prefer your XCOM content in video recording form instead of AAR, you can find the footage for my turn just here:

On jumping into the game it was immediately obvious that I'm a little rusty at this whole planet-defending thing, but after a little bit of manic clicking around the Avenger I was able to successfully upgrade our GREMLIN drone capabilities and set to work on a little bit of interior design work. I refrained from building the Shadow Chamber that is our current major objective in favour of excavating a more favourable location for it, and instead began construction on a Workshop to increase the effectiveness of our engineering corps.

On returning to the Geoscape I was alerted to a little gang warfare, and was able to sweet-talk my way into successfully redirecting the gangs hostility toward their local alien occupiers, which in turn opened up an opportunity for me to complete a little Guerrilla Op of my own while ADVENT was distracted dealing with the mobsters. A slightly understrength team weakened by a number of recent casualties dropped into the Eastern U.S. for Operation Bone Father, designed to interfere with ADVENT's research into advanced armour technology.

After dropping onto the roof of a building across an elevated highway from the location of the Macguffin we'd been deployed to protect, the mission went south almost immediately when our troops were detected by a pod of unusually vigilant aliens, causing weapons to go hot a little earlier than initially planned. We stumbled onto a second, larger pod at the beginning of our second movement turn, but the ADVENT units thankfully hunkered down under flammable cover a little too close together, allowing the team to make good use of the multitude of grenades that we'd brought along for the mission. 

My lack of recent experience of command reared its ugly head, resulting in a couple of unfortunate mis-clicks and ill-advised tactical decisions that thankfully didn't end up biting me all that badly. Some very avoidable but thankfully non-terminal damage was dealt to Ranger Corporal Svetlana Sidarova, first when she was shot at by a Muton at long range, secondly when a poor order of operations saw her step into an ADVENT Trooper's Overwatch, and finally when I foolishly sent her into melee combat against the aforementioned Muton, who was not impressed and showed it with the brutality that we've come to expect from the mainline stormtroopers of the alien forces.

The team's advanced weaponry and elite training won out, though, allowing them to finish off the pod and advance towards the objective, but not before the aliens attempted to flank us by sending in a dropship of reinforcements behind our lines. Thankfully the timing worked out well enough to allow Magi, Volcano (the mission MVP) and Bookahnerk to prepare to face them, while Geoff Mason (who I personally think of as Unwiseowl Jr), Black Widow and the newly-revived Svetlana moved to secure the objective and pincer the final ADVENT pod.


When the dust settled, it was another success for team XCOM, who made short work of the aliens and arrived home to the Avenger in time for tea. Svetlana will be in the recovery ward for a month due to her extensive injuries and suspected brain damage (trying to punch a Muton will do that), but the rest of the team escaped scot-free, and there were promotions for Major Magi (Steady Hands), Captain Bookahs (Threat Assessment) and the newly-christened Sergeant Geoff 'Rocket' Mason (Suppression).

With that, I pass the torch onto our glorious leader, Naithin, who I fondly hope has more of an idea of what we're trying to do at the moment than I do. The save file can be found here.

Monday, 1 November 2021

Puffy Jam Omelet

For the second leg in our journey through the CWA Calendar of Puddings, we selected October 27th's Puffy Jam Omelet.

Looking back at it now, there were a few warning signs.

First there was the name: 'Puffy Jam Omelet' should have given us a moment's pause. Puffy is not generally a word associated with all things delicious. Jam, while an excellent foodstuff, isn't usually considered these days to be a good option for the primary flavour for things other than jam. And omelettes (however they're spelled) aren't the sort of food that I generally associate with dessert. We made an unspoken pact not to share the name of the pudding with our diners, in the hope of not poisoning them to the whole idea before we'd even started.

Then there was the instruction to fold stiffly beaten egg whites into the some sugary, vanillarised egg yolks. Folding is a delicate process that one has to get just right, or you'll end up with a mixture that is either stodgy or not all that mixed at all. I am infamously inept at judging this sort of thing, so naturally I was left in charge of the mixture. In my attempt to avoid the former I erred a little too far towards under-folding, more of a crumple, really, resulting in an omelette that was a little inconsistent. Next time I have to fold something I'll know better. It still looked pretty good in the pan, though.

After slathering it in a good serving of jam and folding it over on itself, we had a dish that looked pretty darn appetising, if I say so myself. Good enough to bait our diners into eating it, anyway. Unfortunately, after tasting it their reactions weren't all that positive, ranging from between "nope" to "well, it's a little like a pancake", and I have to say that I agree. While the texture and consistency were pleasant enough, the lingering egg-ness was a little distracting, and I found myself wishing for a little maple syrup to have with what was for all intents and purposes a milk-less pancake, not really the wow factor that you're aiming for when you've spent so much effort beating all those egg whites. It also just wasn't very much food once split four ways, which would have been a pity if anyone had particularly enjoyed the experience. I'd say this one is really only a recipe for two servings.

We're not totally convinced that we gave the dessert omelette concept a completely fair go given the imperfect folding, so we'll give it another go before we assign this one to the kitchen waste bin of history, though we've promised to do it some night when there's just the two of us so that we don't run the risk of putting anyone else through an ordeal. 

Heck, when there's 366 recipes in the book, they can't all be winners. Hopefully we'll have better luck next week.

Friday, 22 October 2021

The Calendar of Puddings

Well, it's been a little while between drinks here at the Leaflocker. Since the last post I've back in Australia for longer than three weeks for the first time in six years, and I'm also back to living in my parent's house for the first time in a decade. Despite our fears, I'm finding the whole thing rather pleasant, thanks in no small part to the fact that being back near my mother's house means being back near my mother's cooking on a regular basis.

I've always remembered my Mum's cooking as fabulous, and spending time in the kitchen with her over the last month or so has been a major highlight of returning home. She recently acquired this gem in a thrift store, the fabled South Australian Country Women's Association Calendar of Puddings (Brown's Well Community Library's loss is our gain). Every time I think about how absurd it is that anyone would need a pudding for every night of year, how many eggs would be consumed, how many pounds of butter, I get the giggles, so I was more than a little surprised when I met my mother's eye and we together resolved in all seriousness to give it a go.

Of course, we're not making sweets every night. That would be silly. No-one needs that much sugar in their system (it's not caffeine), and setting ourselves up to do something each and every day is just setting ourselves up for disappointment, but I reckon we can work something out.

The rules we've set ourselves are very complicated:

1) Pick one pudding from the options each week
2) Make and eat the pudding

With three weeks or so until the birth of my firstborn and her second grandchild, it's likely a terrible time to be starting a new, extremely long-term series on the old blog, but in a classic case of the bear in the woods, I've decided that there's no point making a regular pudding if we don't record our thoughts, so it's time to blow the dust of the Leaflocker once again.

My mother took the idea and ran with it last week before I'd even convinced myself that she was serious, preparing October 20th's Baked Lemon Delicious (Swiss), which is an old family favourite recipe, and a great place to start a project that promises to be a little experimental. Having done this one a number of times over the last few years, I was amused to find that apart from forming a satisfying looking top crust, her version also failed to solidify, something that has dogged my attempts at the recipe in the past. But it's a favourite recipe for a reason, largely because as the name promises, it makes for a delicious dessert even when it turns out to be more of a custard than a pudding. Served with a generous side of icecream, it tasted like sweet, sweet lemony sunshine.

Wait, wait wait... the end of the recipe says 'serve hot or cold'. That can't possibly be right. I can't imagine what this would be like cold and it certainly never survives long enough to get cold before it's consumed. It feels almost criminal to do something like that to a dessert which brings such joy by being dangerously hot, but 79 Country Women can't be wrong, can they? Note to self: Next time you make this, make two, so that you can throw one in the fridge, just to check.

I guess the Leaflocker is a cooking blog now?

Monday, 23 August 2021

22nd August 2021 NYT Crossword

 I completely failed to do both the Saturday and the Sunday crossword puzzles on their designated days this week, but thankfully due to the joys of living in the future, I was able to preserve my crossword solving streak on the NYT app, something that I have become suprisingly attached to. All things must end, and this number going up is surely something that will come to an end soon, but for the moment I'm enjoying keeping it going, even with puzzles like this one, which took an age for me to complete.



Friday, 20 August 2021

The Confidence of Hades

This week has been a bit of a write-off, blogwise, which is a bit of a pity because as far as the traditional Blaugust focuses of the week goes, 'Developer Appreciation Week' is the one that I actually feel like I have a little something to say about, for once.


It won't come as a surprise that along with pretty much everyone else in the world and the judging panels of something like fifty Game of the Year awards, I'm a big fan of Supergiant Games' Hades. It's a game that I finally got around to playing just a couple of months ago and that has been in very heavy rotation here at Leaflocker HQ ever since, in a period when I really haven't had the time to spend on videogames, a clear marker both of just how good it is, and also my persistent lack of an adequate dose of self-control. Hades does a great job of making me feel both clever and powerful as your progress through the underworld, which is no mean feat when we're talking about me (not the finest gamer in the land), so I add my voice of recommendation to the choir. Play it.

Apart from the the main attraction of the gameplay loop itself, there's a number of aspects of the design of the game that I wanted to touch on today that I think really speak to the confidence of Supergiant as a developer.


First, there's the seamless inclusion of the little things that are just expected in game with modern sensibilities. The whole game is set around the rivers of the underworld, so of course you can pause in your relentless killing spree to stop and do some fishing (complete with terribly fishy puns). Heck, the game wants you to, it will even pause the relentless timer to allow you to do so. And in a world where it's important for those launch-day metrics to be able to satisfy @canyoupetthedog, not only can you pat the terrifying hellbeast Cerberus, despite him being set-up as the penultimate boss of the game you give him treats instead of fighting him, because who could possibly want to fight such a good doggo? And of course, there's the romance subplots, Supergiant were happy enough with the core game that they had the time and the inclination to add a little of something for everyone, that just oozes confidence in what you're making.


Then there's the confidence of saying "yes, you're going to have to play this dozens of times to see all the story". That's pretty much a requirement of the roguelike genre, but the ability to ask the player to see the game through to the end over and over, seeing the same content again and again, and rely on the small changes of the systems between play-throughs to keep it interesting, and to double down by throwing in little jokes about it as you make them start again, that's true confidence. And players have definitely reponded. A quick look at the Steam Achievement stats as they sit now show that almost 50% of players finished the game once, 24% finish the story, and 7% reach the epilogue. Given that seeing the epilogue took me over 70 runs, those are excellent retention rates. Compare that to something with a similar campaign length, something like FTL, where only 17% of players ever defeat the boss on easy difficulty, and you'll see just how impressive those numbers are.


And finally, in my favourite example of showing confidence in your gameplay, there's the excellent way that Supergiant didn't tie the achievements in the game to the end of the things to do in the game. Now I love achievements and I love ticking them off, but I greatly enjoy that there's still a whole heap more for me to explore and discover in the game well after I ticked off "100%" according to Steam. The hardest Steam Achievement, the one for finishing the game with the Pact of Punishment set to level 16, is explicitly the second of three in-game bragging prizes. You can tick off all the achievements without perfecting your bonds with every character, without completing every fated path, without unlocking all the cosmetics, and without engaging at all with the Resource Director, the part of the game that the game itself explicitly tells the player is just there for nutters. Supergiant is happy to give you that coveted Platinum trophy, secure in the knowledge that you'll be back to find what you've missed in the game so far, just because the game feels so darn good. And they're right, almost 40 plays after I ticked off my last achievements, I'm still diving back into the depths of hells, for just one...more...room.

That's confidence.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Blaugust 2021 Half Time Show

It's the 17th of August, and that means that we've passed the half-way point of the annual blogging festival that is Blaugust, so it's time to have a quick review of how it's all going so far.

When I hit the little orange Publish button over of the right hard side of my screen here, I'll have posted twelve times over the first seventeen days of August. That does seem a long way behind aim of one post a day required to win the coveted Rainbow Diamond award. I long ago stopped worrying too much about failing to reach that dizzying height, but as remote as it seems right now, it's not completely out of the realms of possibility until we reach the blog-event horizon of requiring two posts a day, so by that metric, I've still got plenty of time to claw it back.

There's two major factors that reduce the likelihood of reaching that elusive target. One is the fact that we've just returned to the country, so between long-overdue admin and catching up with friends and family that we haven't seen for the last few years there are quite a few demands on our time other than sitting down at the keyboard.

The second is a lack of planned posts. In a usual Blaugust, I'd have a day-by-day plan of regular features giving my a structure for the month, but this time around I've been flying by the seat of my pants, and apart from the ongoing In My Humble Opinion series, the occasional crossword recording, and a couple of drafts that I started earlier in the month and will likely abandon, the future is all looking very unknown. Thus, I have a little request, if there's something you'd like to see me tackle on the blog, put in a request in the comments (or your preferring Owl-contacting method) and we'll see what we can do.

Even if we don't make it to 31 posts, we're on track for a pretty good Blaugust festival post-wise when we compare this year to previous ones:

Blaugust 2014: 34 posts
Blaugust 2015: 31 posts
Blaugust 2016: 31 posts
Blaugust 2011: 27 posts
Blaugust 2019: 18 posts
Blapril 2020: 18 posts
Blaugust 2018: 15 posts
Blaugust 2021: 12 posts*
Blaugust 2017: 9 posts
Blaugust 2012: 8 posts
Blaugust 2013: 3 posts

Even if I can just keep up with the current two-posts-every-three-day schedule, then we're still on track for the fifth-most active Blaugust since festivities began and the best since 2016, and I absolutely refuse to look further into the stats to find out how many of those years that fell by the wayside started strong before burning out early in the month. 

Talk to you tomorrow!