Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Book Review in 300 Words or Less - The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Did I read that right? I hear you say...WTF!?! I hear you say...well if you're not sure what the gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is then here's a quick history from the source of all knowledge on the interwebs; Wikipedia.

I bought this book as one of those side purchases off UK Book Depository. You know when you are trying to navigate through the web of pop-up ads to the checkout so you can just pay for the damn thing you wanted to buy. Well this time round I got sold by a pop-up ad. I think I needed a few extra bucks to get free shipping or something and this looked like an amusing, cheap read.

So there it sat on the bookshelf for a good year or two until I was rummaging through my books some time in February trying to find something new to read. I pulled this book out and thought 'Haha, why not'.

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - Bobby Henderson

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a collection of various transcripts from Bobby Henderson and like minded Pastafarians. It includes the original open letter Henderson penned to the Kansas Education Board when they allowed Intelligent Design into their school curriculum as well as a number of other letters, mostly from scientists, who propose further beliefs or convictions of the church such as mathematical proof that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) exists. There are other chapters highlighting the falseness of other religions through arguments from ignorance and there is also a guide on how to spread the word of the FSM through correct use of propaganda.

Throughout the book you will find interesting 'facts' proposed by the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Facts like how global warming is inextricably linked to the decline in the global pirate population, or how gravity is a force created by the FSM holding us to the earth with his noodly appendages. There are also plenty of images (poorly photoshopped of course) which clearly show the FSM's influence upon mankind throughout the short history of the world. Oh yes that's another thing; the world is only a few thousand years old, all that carbon dating crap is just the FSM manipulating our scientific data with his noodly appendage.

In short this book makes for a very amusing read, as long as you can take religion with a bit of tongue in cheek. There were points where I found it becoming a bit crass, and other points where it just became downright confusing such as trying to prove the existence of a deity with math. But maybe that was the joke, what ever way it was intended the book is well worth a read.
Just a quick mention of Natcon to close off the post. I unfortunately haven't been able to get many pictures of models before I head off for Dunedin as I've been working long hours, meaning it's always night time when I'm at home. However I will make sure I get some photos while down there and post up a review this Monday. Until then just remember; we may share 99% of our genes with primates, but we share 99.9% of our genes with pirates...ponder that one over the long weekend...

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Bountiful Burgers

I had hoped to get this posted a little earlier in the week, but as always work seems to be getting in the way of my hobbies. It confounds me sometimes how I manage to live with these first world problems but I'm a battler and I managed to fight through it and get this post up by Sunday.

Anyway today I thought I'd give a little burger review on a few ground rounds I've tried over the past month.

The first is the Cheese Burger Rodeo from a cool little American themed diner in Mt Victoria named Five Boroughs. Sam and I had a pretty busy week and we wanted to get out of the house and try somewhere new for lunch. Sam had heard some good things about Five Boroughs so we thought we'd give it a shot.

This place is hipster central which threw me a little, but it also had enough quasi-diner charm both in the d├ęcor and the menu to keep me interested. I ordered the Rodeo Cheeseburger while Sam ordered the Chicken Burger which you can see in the background.

My burger was great if a little difficult to handle as they tended to stack them quite tall and skinny. All fresh ingredients make a big difference in a good meal and they were what made this burger. Beef, cheese and pickles aside though the best parts were the onion rings. If you've ever had home made onion rings fresh out of the fryer you will know the feeling of biting into a thick, juicy, battered piece of onion which then bursts out steaming hot onion juice and fat to scold the roof of your mouth. Nothing quite says diner food like piping hot, greasy onion rings (apart from maybe curly fries). This was an absolutely awesome burger and we'll definitely be going back. Just as a side note though I think I'll be getting Sam's burger next time. The buttermilk chicken in her burger was incredibly smooth and creamy, and the chipotle ketchup gave it just a little bit of spice and smokiness. I only got one bite but it's definitely a winner.

From Mt Victoria to the State of Victoria, the next two burgers are from Melbourne. I was over there for work a couple of weeks ago and I managed to get a bit of time to walk around town and sniff out two burger joints. The first I found down an alleyway near the Victoria markets; Mr Burger. I had ended up at the markets around lunch time and as soon as I saw a sign advertising burgers I knew that was where I needed to be.

Mr Burger is some kind of franchise around Melbourne that runs eateries and food trucks. This one was quite cool, it was an old shipping container set up down a back alley and laid out with simple tables, chairs, leaners and stools. The menu was really simple too which I loved, it reminded me of In-n-Out Burger in California and their 3-Burger menu. Mr Burger double that menu with 6 burgers on offer but it's still pretty straight forward; beef burger, bacon burger, spicy burger, chicken burger, double burger and vege burger...that's it. I went with the one titled 'Mr Burger' because I figured that would surely be their best burger if they have named the whole franchise after it...

Well if that was their best burger I'd hate to try their worst. On the good side the bun was beautifully soft and I thought the tinfoil spill bag was a really cool idea, it's the rest of it that let it down. The meat tasted like some re-processed McDonalds patty and the lettuce was dripping in oil. It wasn't so terrible that I couldn't finish it but it certainly left me feeling short-changed in what is supposed to be the foody capital of Australia. Surely Melbourne had something better to offer than this?.. thank god then for Rocket Burger...

Rocket Burger is one of the many takeaway food bars on Elizabeth St across from the Train Station. They are the self-proclaimed 'Best burgers and fries in the known world'. After such a disappointment at lunchtime I needed some kind of redemption so I thought this slogan needed to be put to the test.

The menu was once again pretty simple with only 6 burgers listed and once again I chose the burger the store was named after; the Rocket Burger. As the saying goes; "The definition of insanity is doing something exactly the same and expecting a different result", but I decided that I would not let a previous bad experience lean my choices toward the defensive. I was going to find burger redemption or I was going to make myself inconsolably miserable in the process.

Just because this was going to be my dinner I picked up some fries with aioli as well which by-the-by were really good. When I opened the box and first laid eyes on my burger I wondered if the fries would be the only thing I was eating that night. The burger certainly wasn't much to look at, but then again I wondered how things could be worse than my lunch time I picked the burger up out of it's box and took a bite...

This burger was awesome! As previously stated fresh ingredients make all the difference, but on top of that the patty was perfectly cooked, the bun was fresh and soft and just the right amount of mustard and ketchup meant there was flavour without it being overpowering. Ok it's a pretty basic burger of meat, mustard, mayo, cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions and ketchup so it's not going to win any awards for originality. But sometimes when you get a burger (especially after your previous experience was so average) you just want a simple burger that's done really well, and Rocket definitely do burgers well. It could even be debated that they live up to their slogan of "Best the known world" though I'd have to try a few more before I admit to that.

The last entry in this post is a cheeseburger from Pre-fab in Wellington. Sam and I wanted to take the dog out for a walk somewhere last weekend so we'd organised to meet up with my step-sister in town and go somewhere outside for lunch. In the end my step-sister unfortunately had to cancel but we still wanted to get the dog out of the house for a few hours. So after organising a few errands in town we figured we would stop in at Pre-fab as we were going to be close by and I had yet to dine there.

I was really hanging out for some pancakes or waffles but the topping on the waffles looked pretty disappointing, so in the end I decided to go with the cheeseburger. The title on the menu said simply; Cheeseburger, bacon, avocado and fries. Doesn't seem that exciting at first glance. But this is what turned up...

Ok my apologies for the photo. I got half way through demolishing this burger before I decided I was going to get a photo for a blog post. The reason for that is very simple; never in my life have I had a burger where the patty is so prefectly cooked. I've had a number of burgers where the cafe or restaurant has tried to cook the patty somewhere around rare or medium rare but they always end up leaving it cold and undercooked in the middle. Pre-fab got it bang on, it was warm and juicy all the way through and tasted absolutely incredible. All the other ingredients of this burger were good but it was the patty that made it fantastic.

Alright that's enough for one post I think, it's turned out much longer than I expected. I've still got a quick review of the latest book I've read to post up so I'll get that done by Wednesday. In the meantime just remember that a bad burger is not a reason to stop looking for that best burger. We all have our favourites so trying something new can sometimes be seen as an unnecessary risk when we know the tried and true will deliver something we're happy with. The downside is of course that there is likely something better out there than the tried and true, but if we don't take the risk in looking for it we'll never, ever find it. I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere relating to life and contentment rather than just burgers, but my brain hurts from too much writing to ponder on it any further. Until next time...

Eat more burgers!!!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Capital Shield 2016

It's that time of year again where fanatical sports geeks from all around the country converge on Wellington for a weekend of beer and Blood Bowl. Gamers came from Auckland to Christchurch and everywhere in between to catch up, drink excessively, talk smack and somewhere in between play some games of Blood Bowl. While I'm having to cut back a bit on my travelling to gaming events this year being in Wellington meant this was one I could actually attend without an exorbitant cost.

The venue this year was The Grand on Courtney Place. We had a sweet upstairs function area with it's own bar and a balcony overlooking the main street. It was a whole lot roomier and breezier than last year's venue as well which was a welcome change as the upstairs area at JJ Murphys tends to get quite warm when it's filled up with sweaty geeks.

I had been travelling all week for work leading into the weekend and was absolutely buggered so I took my Halflings with the intention of not really taking things very seriously and just focusing on having a laugh. The build allowed me a 1,100,000 gp team with 51 Star Player Points spread amongst the players. The rules stated your first skill must be a normal skill but your second could be a double, so this is what I took:

Meadow Hills Half-Pints

Zara the Slayer
2 Treemen with Grab and Block (16SPP each)
3 Halflings with Side Step (6SPP each)
9 Halflings
2 Re-Rolls
1 Fan Factor
Halfling Master Chef

I had yet to achieve a tournament win with my Flings so I was hoping to get a bit more luck than I had with them in Melbourne when I last used them. This is how my games went:

Game Uno - Toffer: Nurgle

My first game was against someone I hadn't seen or played in a long, long time. Chris (otherwise known as Toffer) had managed to escape the clutches of his loving family to spend a weekend in Wellington playing Blood Bowl. Chris is an all round good guy who I was looking forward to sharing a few pints with but to get a game with him really made my day.

The game started a bit shakey, neither of us were familiar with the Nurgle rules as I've never played them and Chris hadn't managed to get much practice with them before the tournament (no one really plays Blood Bowl in Marlborough where Chris is from) so we kept forgetting about the Disturbing Presence and Foul Appearance. The Tentacles however we were very much aware of and they were a royal pain in the butt for the poor little Halflings who just couldn't escape Chris' tentacly grasp. We managed to draw even on score about half way through the second half and Chris had 4 or 5 turns left to take the game. Unfortunately for Chris' boys this is where he got Nuffled. A Thrown Rock on the kick-off result took out Chris' Sure Hands Pestigor playing Full Back and then a couple of turns of unlucky dice for the Nurgle and lucky dice for the Halflings meant the Flings were 2-1 up and the Nurgle had no time left to score.

Final Score: 2-1 (2-5) cas

Game Dos - Dawid: Dark Elf

Game two was against Dawid's Dark Elves who schooled me in Game 6 of last year's Greenstone Cup. With high confidence coming off a lucky win I was hoping this time would be different.

Unfortunately it wasn't as Dawid out positioned and outplayed the poor Flings, but I wasn't too disappointed with how the wee guys went. I was close to scoring a couple of times but suffered a double 1 on a go for it the first time and then a double Skull to blitz away the second time with Zara who then promptly failed her Loner roll. So while I walked away with the loss I was still feeling pretty confident about finding another win if I could just get a little more luck with the dice.

Final Score: 0-2 (1-2) cas

Game Tres - Phil: High Elves

Game three was against a familiar face. I always enjoy playing Phil, he always brings a great attitude to his games. This game started out well with a point on the board thanks to Zara and only two casualties by the end of the half with one of the Elves also in the Dead and Injured bin. Unfortunately I was unaware that I was about to be Nuffled. At the start of the second half I lost 6 Halflings to casualty or knockout within two turns. Phil got the equaliser on the second turn of the second half and then got a Blitz! on the following kick off where he proceeded to put 4 more Halflings in the Dead and Injured bin over the next two turns. In the end there just wasn't much I could do to hold him back with so few players on the pitch and he ran in another two touchdowns.

Final Score: 1-3 (1-9) cas

Game Cuatro - Liam: Humans

Oops, I forgot to get a game photo of me playing Liam so above is his team set up for the beauty pageant. Liam, like Dawid, is a fellow Wellingtonian (well I still count myself as a Cantabrian but I live in Wellington now) so I've managed to get the odd game in against him and he's always a good challenge to play. With both of us taking lower tier teams I was looking forward to how this was going to play out.

This game was pretty much one way dice for both halves. Liam's dice were on fire for the first half as be squashed and kicked my Flings off the pitch before running in a touchdown. In the second half my dice were hot while Liam's were struggling (I think he rolled 4 Boneheads in a row on his Ogre at one stage) so what was left of my little midgets ploughed downfield to put Zara over the line in the last turn for a hard won draw.

Final Score: 1-1 (1-7) cas

Game Cinco - Nick: Underworld

Games against Nick are always a good challenge. If he were playing a high tier team I wouldn't rate my chances much of winning but seeing as he was also playing a lower tier team I thought this game could be really close...and it kind of was.

As was expected Nick used his Claw Troll to try and take down my Treemen early, and as was expected I tried to take down his Troll early with a Halfling gang-foul. I got some lucky dice and by turn 2 the Troll was out of the game and things were looking grim for Nick.

I tried to stop Nick from scoring by marking and fouling all his catchers but I just couldn't keep them down and a string of good rolls put the ball in the hands of one of his Goblins before running it in. Not unfair given the luck I had in injuring his Troll. Not a problem though as I was receiving second half and managed to run Zara upfield into a scoring position. I was pretty happy with how my cage was looking as Nick would need uphill blocks to take Zara down no matter which way he tried. That was unfortunately my downfall as Nick blocked and blitzed Zara into the crowd with two uphill blocks (using a re-roll in the process). Zara got injured and the ball came free for Nick to run in a second touchdown. It was all over from there with not much I could really do other than dream about what might have been.

Final Score: 0-2 (3-5) cas

Game Seis - Sassmo: Vampires

I should probably point out that from the start this game might have gone seriously the other way. Sassmo had a chainsaw in his team who in the first turn injured one of my Treemen. I noticed a turn later that Sass had 12 players on the pitch and suggested we restart as I would like a chance to get my Treeman back. Sass being the gentlemanly sportsperson he is agreed and second time round my Treeman only got stunned while Zara immediately sent the Chainsaw off the pitch into the knockout bin. After that it was a bit of a grinding game where I tried to take out all of Sassmo's Thralls while he suffered his Vampires rolling 1's at exactly the wrong moment. Zara managed to run in a touchdown and a loose ball was luckily picked up by a thrown Halfling to get 2 points on the board. While that was happening the pile of Thralls was slowly growing in both the Knocked Out and Dead and Injured dugouts. It was a fun game because Sass is such a good sportsman but it left me wishing he had a bit more luck with the dice.

Final Score: 2-0 (5-3) cas

I really enjoyed Capital Shield this year. I took the Halflings with the intention of not being too serious about the whole thing, and while I was starting to believe that dreams could be possible after my first round win, I was soon brought back down to Earth in rounds 2 and 3. After that I really relaxed for the second day and just took what the dice threw at me. Zara being pushed into the crowd in my game against Nick was a hard pill to swallow but Nick was really good about it and bought me a beer afterwards which helped me remember my 'Don't be too serious' mantra and get back into the fun of things. Overall I really enjoyed myself and I'm looking forward to my next Blood Bowl event in August at the Australasian Team Champs. The Mainland Midgets are returning for a second shot at becoming Team Champions so keep an eye out for them come August.

In other news I'm not quite where I hoped to be with my Kitsune Escort ships for Natcon 2016 but I'm not far off. I've only got the window frames to paint and then last touch-ups and I'm all finished. I had hoped to get some photos this weekend but as always with me life has been so busy that I haven't had much of a chance. I'm happy with where I am though, just over a week to go till Natcon so I'm confident I'll get them finished in time. I don't think I'll have my bunker completed which is the last of my Dystopian models to paint, but all-in-all I'm happy with how many of the unpainted models I managed to get through over the last 4 months.

That's all for another post. I've got a few burgers to review and a book I've recently finished reading (not a Horus Heresy novel) which I need to post up so check back towards the end of the week and I'll have something new for you to read.