Blueberry sauce makes steaks taste incredible

Check out that beauty. That flat iron steak is topped with a blueberry sauce I found at Forays into Foodiedom; click that link and give ’em some love. Oh man, was that stuff good. The tartness of the blueberries mixed perfectly with the steaks. Instead of becoming a meat candy like the cherry rub, the strong flavor of the meat was enhanced by the blueberry’s subtle sweetness. That sauce brings out the best in the fruit’s sweetness without getting candy-like — all the ingredients back off for the blueberry and bring it out.

Blueberries are one of my lifelong favorite foods. When I was a kid, I always wanted a blueberry pie instead of a birthday cake. My grandmother, Bammy, always made a red, white and blue pie for holidays. You can imagine how vindicated I felt when, as an adult, I found out that blueberries are the Superman of foods.

Back to the steaks, I made some tweaks to the recipe:

  • I used red cooking wine instead of just red wine. The taste of wine is wasted on me, so I figured I was OK with the rough stuff. I also didn’t wanna open the only bottle of red wine we have in the house.
  • I used rosemary leaves instead of the finer stuff. Next time, I’ll try crushing it up.
  • Instead of cooking sirloins in the same frying pan, I grilled flat irons (seasoned with only salt and peppercorns) and dolloped sauce on top. There was plenty to spread around.

The blueberry abundance in this area is apparent in the produce section. The berries are huge and fresh, and actually pretty cheap (I found an 18-ounce carton at Food 4 Less for less than $3. Yes, the same Food 4 Less I dogged for having expensive flat irons. Win some, lose some.)

In other words, there’s plenty available for standard blueberry stuff, such as muffins and pies. There are also plenty for trying new things such as slathering steaks with ’em. Nom.

My next mission: Combining blueberries and bacon. It has to have been done before; if not, I’ll be a pioneer. I’ll do that for y’all. I consider it a public service.

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Best of both worlds: Liquid Blue deck a perfect mix of design, quality

One of the most vivid, colorful decks of playing cards ever printed started as simple black-line drawings.

“We knew that if the art held up in just black, then it was great design,” said Paul Roidoulis, CEO and art director of Liquid Blue. “If it needed a color, then that color was probably a crutch. We wanted to make sure that when the color was applied, it would give the illustration even more.”

The company in 1992 produced the Liquid Blue deck, one of the most enigmatic, beautiful decks of cards I’ve ever found. The deck features superb card stock, clever design and bold colors — a combination not often found in playing cards before 2006.

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Ghost deck led to discovering sleight of hand

My playing card collection has plenty of significant, cherished decks because of personal reasons — from the office seat in the new Geek Central, I can easily spy the deck that got me interested in collecting, the deck that got me through a bad year, the deck I used in my first paid magic gig, etc. There’s no better way to start a series of posts about my decks than with the Ghost, for a number of reasons.

The Ghost deck, designed by Ellusionist, is unique for its lack of color. The pips, court cards, aces and everything is black, except for the indices of the red cards. The cards were printed on UV-500 cardstock, which handled so beautifully and really set Ellusionist head and shoulders above the competition, before the U.S. Playing Card Company went all bonkers with its cardstock options. Those were the days.

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Pending Instragram sale a reminder about what users are

An interesting maxim has circulated across the Internet over the last couple of years:

“If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.”

However, radio and TV broadcasters have known that maxim for years — only in this form:

“TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.”

Even though “ain’t” isn’t a negative contraction, it’s clearly a negative, which means that I have spent more years obsessing about the bad grammar in that sentence. My economics teachers wish I would have concentrated more on the overriding philosophy behind it. Namely, that everything has a price and nothing is free.

Which puts Facebook’s impending purchase of Instagram in an impressive, my-econ-teacher-was-actually-right-about-something light.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement Monday that the social networking site would buy Instagram for $1 billion. Not for any profit possibilities, according to Bruce Upbin of Forbes, but for competitive positioning. He wrote that while the move doesn’t appear to have immediate benefits for Facebook, but it brings serious potential harm to Yahoo and its photo-sharing site, Flickr.

“Zuckerberg is playing chess, making a defining move in how it stands in the photo space,” he wrote. “It’s like what Google did with YouTube.

Instagram is a free program and sharing site — iOS and Droid users can download the app and do everything with it at no extra cost. It’s not available on BlackBerry, but that’s OK by me. I paid top dollar for a camera and phone that take good, high-resolution pictures, and I don’t want Instagram messing that up.

Go back to that chess game: Facebook pays a trenta to acquire a service that brings in no revenue. The only reason to do that is to enhance Facebook’s user experience and offer users the integration of a popular service. Will the acquisition bring in new users? Maybe some, but not many, because Instagram users are already all over Facebook. (how else do you think I see all these crappy, hipster, Polaroid wanna-be shots?)

In other words, it’s an experience enhancement to get people using Facebook more. More shares and links means more ad views and possible clicks.

If you’re not paying, you’re the product. Remember that when configuiring privacy services on all those free apps.

Optical illusion font will bend your baselines

This new font called Frustro inspires several questions:

  • How did I miss this for almost two weeks?
  • How did this font not get made sooner?
  • Are there lowercase letters?
  • How awesome are those special characters? (This question is rhetorical. Seriously, even the parentheses are awesome.)
  • To creator Martzi Hegeds: Can you hurry up and release that for OpenType already?
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Disney + Dali + Opeth = Holy crap that’s cool

Usually, any combination of three separate things I like doesn’t end up so well. But this combo of Disney, Dali and Opeth is pretty sweet:

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Coverage of punishments over bounties shows problem with sports media

In rehashing the draconian, overdone, heavy-handed and absolutely excessive penalties against the New Orleans Saints, so many have said what I feel better than I could have:

  • Dave Zirin, of The Nation, had to make up the word “shock-raged” to describe his emotion, and pointed out Goodell’s need to appear strong about player safety in the face of a tidal wave of law suits coming the NFL’s way.
  • Lamar White, of CenLamar.com, pointed out that the damning evidence used to justify a yearlong suspension of Sean Payton was this: “PS Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers [sic].” He points out that if there were worse, Goodell would have listed it in his long-winded documentation.
  • Mike Wise, of the Washington Post, exposed the hypocrisy of such a severe statement by noting that the Saints are getting singled out for something that likely goes on in EVERY team.

What really gets to me is the dramatic, over-the-top condemnation from sports media organizations. High-and-mighty columnists are gladly spreading Goodell’s hypocritical message of player safety, effervescently championing the commish for acting in the name of player safety. Columnists are coming close to scolding Saints fans for thinking that this punishment did not fit the crime, accusing us of being homers with our morals out of whack.

As much as I want to list examples, the list is too long, even for a blog. Instead, I’d simply like to make an observation:

The NFL has billion-dollar contracts with Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN.

Of course the Saints are going to be a scapegoat. Those TV networks are propaganda arms of the NFL. Throw in how the NFL has its own network, and would love to make broadcasting on it exclusive, and that means you won’t find many columnists calling out Goodell for the hypocrite that he is. That’s why Fox will let Mike Pereira bubble effervescently about Goodell’s commitment to safety, why Ray Ratto can suggest that Goodell acted in favor of players and why Ashley Fox says that players will never ever issue bounties ever again.

Judging from the comments I read on each moronic, pro-Goodell column, football fans know the truth. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. This is all about Goodell’s motives, not what’s truly fair and respectful for the game of football. I’d argue that Scott Fujita, one of the players who could be targeted for issuing bounties, has done more to protect players than Goodell.

Only Mark Kreidler, of ESPN, came close to calling Goodell out. In a “special commentary.”

National sports media is not news media, yet it acts like it is entitled to information the way an education reporter should get the agenda for a school board meeting. But all the TV reporters, columnists and others working for the major sports networks are indentured servants. They are hired by bosses and corporations who are absolutely petrified of not scoring big future contracts and have no problem throwing any illusion of jouranlistic integrity in sports out the window.

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Bounty of bullet points about Saints’ scandal

I’m still not really getting the whole impact about the New Orleans Saints’ scandal dealing with bounties. There’s been an investigation into it that says former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams set up a pot where players threw in money, then got rewards for certain in-game accomplishments, such as recovering a fumble or sacking the quarterback.

Where the Saints are in trouble: There were also rewards for knocking players out of the game, allegedly. The NFL said that violates the bounty rules.
A few thoughts about the scandal:

  • As a Saints fan, I’m more upset about the Saints placing its franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees. Getting a long-term deal signed with him should have been a no-brainer, and that would have let the Saints use the tag on guard Carl Nicks — a big reason Brees broke Marino’s passing record last year.
  • Rewards for knocking players out of the game were like $1,000 or $1,500. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma allegedly offered $10,000 to take Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the game during the 2009 NFC Championship. These guys make hundreds of thousands a week, and $10,000 is supposed to motivate them? And if they got flagged for a bad hit, they’d likely pay a penalty equalling twice that? C’mon.
  • This bounty thing is not exactly cheating. The players can still get called for penalties. Remember in that NFC Championship that there was a high-low hit by Bobby McCray and Remi Ayodele on Favre that, if it had been called, would have reversed an interception and kept a drive alive. It might have altered the Saints’ Super Bowl destiny. And, again, a penalty on that play would have resulted in a five-digit fine, easily. You’re telling me that hit was fueled by a $1,000 bounty? While this may be morally worse, it’s not the level of cheating that Bill Belichick and the Patriots got busted for.
  • I don’t exactly believe the NFL is concerned about player safety. If so, they’d say something to every other team in the NFL about how they’d be watching. They would also drop the idea of an 18-game season. Or have rules against ALL helmet-to-helmet collisions, not just for “defenseless receivers” or quarterbacks.
    The NFL isn’t mad at the Saints for player-safety reasons. The NFL is mad because the Saints circumvented the salary cap. Allegedly.
  • I am a Saints fan, which means I am a Saints apologist. I likely do not have my head in the right place on this issue. But I tend to agree with the Cajun Cannon.
  • The most important thing about these bounties is what parents tell their football-playing children about this. I wrote the Globe’s editorial last week about what parents can do, and I recommend parents get hypervigilant about monitoring what their kids are asked to do by coaches.
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‘Robot Unicorn Attack’ meets designer’s criteria for addictive game — not that I’d know

There’s this game I rediscovered lately, mainly since it has been re-released for the iPad and is a lot less chunky. It’s an incredible game that both my stepkid and I love. However, the name of the game and certain points of gameplay are kind of embarrassing and will get certain people to poke fun at me, so I’m not gonna talk about it.

"I don't always design video games. But when I do, I make sure they are addictive. Stay twitchy, my friends."

See, I like hardcore, ultraviolent games with explosions, armies, weapons, tactics and gory gore. That’s how I roll.

Instead, I found an interesting report on Wired.com about the five things every video game needs to be truly addictive. In “Designing the Five-Second Game,” designer RJ Mical (at right) spoke at a Game Developers Conference and broke down what makes a game great:

  • Simple interface: The less complicated, the better. Take, for instance, Robot Unicorn Attack, available on adultswim.com and for the iPad. There’s a jump button and a dash button. The robot unicorn stays fixed on the left side of the screen, so all you have to worry about is making jumps and smashing stars.
  • Simple strategy: You should be able to learn the rules and the goal of the game in 5 minutes, Mical said. Again, Robot Unicorn Attack provides a great demonstration of this: Make jumps, smash stars. The genius is figuring out HOW to make jumps and smash stars, with hair trigger timing.
  • Short levels: Besides being convenient for players if the levels are short, knowing that the game’s levels are broken up into easily absorbable chunks of gameplay might convince players to game more, Mical said. Even though Robot Unicorn Attack has only one “level,” it gets progressively faster and faster. When you reach high speeds, the score gets bigger, more and more happy dolphins dance and jump at the bottom of the screen and the action gets intense.
  • Models the physical world, at least somewhat: Though Robot Unicorn Attack is in 2-D, the physics of jumping make sense (except for being able to double-jump from mid-air, but that’s cool, not lame).
  • Great sound effects: Robot Unicorn Attack has some great sound FX, from subtle twinkles and harps on the double jump to loud explosions when charging through metal stars. The sound actually becomes an important part of the game. And throughout the game, Erasure’s “Always” is playing.

Wait, you don’t think that great game I rediscovered is Robot Unicorn Attack, do you? P’shaw! That’s not how I roll. I’m totally playing Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal. It has skulls, pentagrams, Blind Guardian singing about medieval warriors and a robot unicorn with a mane made of FiRE, not a dumb rainbow. METAL. Yeah.

Still, the rainbows are kinda cool…

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