I've been meaning to finish Persona 1 since I just had the Playstation 1 disk and was dating Violet seriously. I don't mean that I've been meaning to start Persona. I mean that I've been meaning to finish my playthrough. I've started twice. It's not that great a game. I  have it. I'm slogging through it now. I'm getting fairly close. I suppose I've clocked about 30-40 hours off and on over the last year or two. I guess there's probably about 30 to go. It doesn't take up time in a normal, meaningful way; I play it when I'm sipping coffee and scrolling down tumblr or when I'm checking RPG.net to see if they have anything to say about WoD or Exalted (and that's about it, these days). I play it when I'm sitting on the toilet. Or I did. With the end approaching, I designate time, as if for a chore. It's on a list.

Persona's an interesting game that spawned an increasingly successful franchise almost despite itself. The characterization presented in the first game is weak, the graphics are uninspired (it's a fairly early Playstation title, so that's no surprise), and the plot is perfunctory - mostly a setup for random monster battles and dungeons that appear to be designed at random. The combats were initially weirdly balanced to the point that they appeared buggy. It was re-made as a PSP title with cleaned up graphics, fairly impressive video scenes, and cleaned up mechanics. It's a legacy title; it's what you buy to fill out your collection with the re-made Persona : IS and EP, which are significantly more worthwhile from a player's perspective. I'm slogging through the game to have beaten the entire collection (hopefully, at some point) and almost out of what I would consider respect for the series. But why respect, of all things?

Persona offered something that other games didn't offer and at a level of complexity that its future titles would not bother to model. It was one of the few games where it wasn't just possible to communicate with your enemies (simple as their AIs inevitably were), and not just expected, but mandatory. Talking to enemies convincingly renders their spell card unto you. When you have their spell card, you can either mash it up with another monster's spell card in order to create better personas (basically a spirit grafted to a character which renders bonuses, some weaknesses, higher stats, and a bevy of powers you can swap in and out) or, as long as you carry it and don't fuse it, they act as a get out of jail free card during fights. The monster you have a card for shows up, you talk to it and show it your card, and it recognizes your contract with it, then leaves - effectively allowing you to skip the fight.

Summoning new persona for new powers is complicated, involving a large chart full of signs for good matches, poor matches, normal and strange matches. There are a list of mythical beats and characters a mile long, each associated with one of the Major Arcana of the tarot. The personas have levels and improve with use, and at a max level you can trade them in for difficult to find items.

You can buy guns, bullets, melee weapons, and a whole set of armor (greaves, boots, helmets, and body pieces, and they're all expensive), spell items, healing items. You can gamble in a casino where you play the games your character sits at. People at diners will help you remember your objectives in the story. Your last two characters are recruited manually from a list of secret characters. There's an entire side quest that takes over from the main quest that you can undertake without ever touching the normal quest, with a totally different plot and character.

Basically, there's very little plot - it's the video game equivalent of a complicated RPG dungeon grind. People misunderstand what Persona is about - game one is hardly about the plot at all. It's literally a mashup of a ton of complicated, intermeshing mechanics where the goal of the game is actually to grind at a furious pace, building the biggest, most badass team you can while taking these brand-new, never seen before mechanics for a trial run. Once I realized the purpose - that the game is basically a huge Excel spreadsheet with graphics for people with a special brand of obsessive-compulsive focus, it made perfect sense to me. It's fun, just not the kind of fun you find in gaming much, anymore. It's practically a dead format that would have made much more sense on a PC during the early days of computer gaming.

It's close to both Persona 2 titles in how it plays where Persona 2 games are much more sophisticated in terms of plot and smoother mechanically (though they remain huge, intense grinds) and almost totally divorced from Personas 3 and 4. I find it to be a very interesting phenomenon.

Now. We're going to need to get to the grocery store, today and hopefully we'll manage to even see Pacific Rim. (I've heard good things from most people, I've heard reports that it was bad from friends of friends, but I'm ignoring that.) The upcoming days menu looks like steamed asparagus with poached egg and grated espresso-rind cheese served with either herbed roasted potatoes or buttered sweet corn, garlic hummus with rough-chopped parsley and roasted onions and pita chips, chicken and wild rice soup with parsley or kale, salad with tomato and half a turkey sandwich, and rajma masala served over jasmine rice.

I'm excited to let you know how the movie was. I also totally have to make it to the library. My books are a day over due.
Additionally, I'm killing time doing yard work until Katie gets home. Our mower is broken, so I'm literally weed whacking my overgrown backyard into submission foot by bloody foot. Wish me luck.
If you're in your pajamas at 11:30 in the morning and your unemployed, you feel lazy. If you're in your pajamas at 11:30 in the morning and you start work at the beginning of January, you feel like you're on vacation. Vacation on a budget, since I'm broke until my first paycheck.

Actually, things are looking a little up financially which is good because we've been stressed for quite a while. Katie's come back from New York bringing me gifts because Katie is awesome, and I've got stuff from Muji and Momofuku's food magazine and it's great. A surprising amount of stuff I adore comes right out of NYC - including Katie, now that I think about it. 

Let me tell you how excited I am to go grocery shopping. 

I really am, because living off of cans in the pantry is the pits. There's little less fun then looking in the cupboard and wondering if canned goods suddenly become tasty if you mix enough of them together. We inexplicably have a million of them. I've tasted how we'd live if the apocalypse hit and let me tell you that it's sustaining but awfully dull after the first few days. I'm looking in recipe books and thinking, "Hey, now that we're sure we won't starve to death, what can we eat that won't make me regret taking this soul-killing job." The future looks like bacon, everyone. Just so you know. 

Ok, whatever. Anyway, because I haven't provided anything fun to read for a little while, I'll gift you with a recipe. No, it's not one of mine; I'm not that malicious. Momofuku is the series of restaurants run by David Chang, whose book I'm in love with and whose joint Katie frequented on the trip to New York.* Chang, along with staff and other chefs and food writers, release a quarterly magazine of considerable heft named "Lucky Peach", which is Momofuku in English, pretty much. I'd be perfectly happy to extol the virtues of the magazine, but in it is a recipe for surprisingly straight forward corn cookies - the sleeper hit at their dessert bar. 

Here are the ingredients : 
225 g (2 sticks) room-temp butter. Better butter is better, but you can get away with whatever as long as it's not salted.
300 g (1 1/2 cups) sugar 
1 egg
225 g (1 1/3 cups) all purpose flour
65 g (2/3 cup) freeze dried corn powder
45 g (1/4 cup) corn flour
3 g (3/4 t) baking powder
1.5 g (1/4 t) baking soda
6 g (1 1/2 t) kosher salt

mixer w/ paddle attachment
flat pan
2 1/4 oz ice cream scoop or whatever
probably a spatula I guess, right?
oven. what are you thinking baking without an oven. You crazy.

Ok, freeze dried corn powder. I guess you can get freeze dried corn online or whole foods or whatever. Maybe your grocer carries it,   but it seems a little unlikely, maybe? Anyway, I guess you need it. It's better if it's not organic, I'm told, but nobody knows why. Anyway, you gotta grind it and if you don't have a spice grinder or a food processor (I don't) you can use a blender which is just a food processor in the shape of a super heavy margarita pourer, anyhow. 

The least of your problems is probably not being able to find corn flour, but in the off chance you're caught off gaurd and don't have any, sub 40 g (1/4 cup) flour and 8 g (4 t) freeze-dried corn powder.

Anyway.

Combine butter and sugar in mixer fitted with paddle attachment on med-high for 2-3 minutes. It should be fluffy and pale yellow. 
Scrape down sides with spatula.
At a lower speed, add your egg. Go for 8 minutes. 
Speed to low, add the dry ingredients. Shouldn't mix any longer then 60 seconds. Just until stuff comes together. 

Use an ice cream scoop to portion dough onto parchment on your sheet pan about 3 inches apart. Every other instruction is metric, except this, so deal. Wrap your shit tightly in plastic wrap and totes refrigerate for an hour at the least. They need to be cold. You have a serious concentration of butter in these cookies. Seriously, do not bake this at room temperature. This instruction is in caps, so I guess they mean business. Don't disappoint at this late hour by botching your cookies.  

No more then one week. That is ridiculous. What are you thinking. These cookies are taking up room where beer** could be.

Ok, it's been some time. Pre-heat your oven to 350 before you remove your cookies. Then put your cookies in the oven for 18 minutes. If they're not browned just slightly on the periphery, give 'em another minute. 

Actually that's it. I mean, you need to take them out, but otherwise, you're golden. Nom your foods.
They keep for about 5 days in the air. Like, in a container. If you put them in the freezer, they're good for a month. You've ostensibly baked these for someone else, but eat them all in one depraved fit and then bake some more for your ungrateful family members. 

Speaking of depraved, it's time for BONUS RECIPE eXTREMEME EDITION

Whatever. There's so much fucking butter in these cookies that you can fry them like grilled cheese. In fact, perhaps you should give it a shot. They taste like butter, sugar, and corn so when nobody's looking and you're kind of drunk on schnapps, heat up your cast iron skillet or whatever you have. You're gonna make a sandwich. 

A cookie sandwich.

Ingredients : 
2 corn cookies. Ok, you have to have some of these left over from the above recipe. Take them out of the family pile. They won't know if you don't tell them. 

2 slices of sharp cheddar cheese. Don't wuss out; the cookies are sweet, so you need sharpness.

some ham slices. Better ham is better, but ham is ham so whatever's left from Christmas dinner that you squirreled out in your messenger bag when your family wasn't looking is fine.***

Put ham, cheese on cookies. Cookies? Flat side down - they cook better that way. They should look all dark brown and seared on the bottom before flipping. You can scarf them sooner, but they arn't as good. Wait until the cheese is all oozy and you know you're gonna have to scrape it off the skillet. And then eat it when nobody is looking.

Who are you kidding. This is so undignified, you are not going to make it when anyone is around. Just don't burn your fingers.

nom nom

*Momofuku Noodle Bar, incidently.
** Or white wine. I'm not going to get on your case. 
*** I'm assuming you don't have ham of your own. It occurs to me that they sell ham. Like, at the store. This is acceptable, but food acquired surreptitiously always tastes the best. Ask anyone who steals food from the kitchen before mom's done cooking.
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In general, I've been doing a whole lot more playing games then running or designing them lately, so I've got less stuff to really put out there about gaming. Everything else has been really domestic, and I guess you'd probably be interested in me talking about cooking or whatever, but it hadn't occurred to me for the most part, and work has continued to be pretty hectic. Add in what has become an increasing weird personal life again, and I guess it's just been difficult for me to know what to say to you.

Re : Cooking. I know I can't really follow up Luxirare, you know? It's easy for me to be pleased with the cucumber, tomato, and cilantro pico de gallo knock-off served with a plastic measuring spoon out of tupperware but it's certainly not impressive. Tastes good, though.

Exalted has been weekly, which we love. I know I've complained about my lack of game running stamina, but Frank really doesn't seem to have that kind of problem. I've gone back and forth with talking about the mechanical aspects. You have to get a really stunning success on the prayer and the calligraphy to get good odds on a Resplendent Destiny and even though I'm probably the character with the strongest odds at the table, I  haven't been able to muster any really strong destinies yet. I've mostly gotten bad luck and ended up with one or two successes which is at least good enough for a month or so in game time in a pinch. We haven't really gotten into a serious fight yet, either, which Frank is trying to steer us away from - though there was a pretty close call last game.

It's also feeling like we're really getting our feet under us for the Skype Burning Wheel sessions. I've been wanting to talk about those and I haven't been sure what to say, but now I feel like I'm getting into something that would warrant a post, soon.

In other news, my hand still hurts and it kind of bothers me a lot of the time. I fell on it, and there's really no good solution but to take it easy, try not to make it worse, and keep weight off it.
I took off early from work yesterday to go to the DMV and take care of some driver's license issues, those being that I still have a Washington state license and until I remedy this, I can't file taxes or get new plate tags. I had been a citizen of the state of Illinois most of my life, but the process for getting a new ID is extremely tedious. I ask you, what would it benefit someone to fraudulently have a legitimate Washington license replaced with a legitimate Illinois license?

Despite my failure during the first half of the day, I was determined to make some headway in other endeavors. I'd picked up some recipes a little while ago, and decided to try to make the squash soup I'd been thinking of, so it was off to the grocery store for ingredients. Three squash, two large onions, one bulb of garlic, and two liters of chicken stock later, I was ready to give this a shot. And here's a hint - peeling butternut squash sucks. Actually, the whole thing sucked except for the taste of the baked squash. I'd never had it before, and it was terrific, but I somehow made a dog's dinner of the soup itself and now I've wasted all that delicious squash on a pretty wretched meal.

And there's so much of it. ;_;

It took until 6:30 to make it, and I needed to go over to work on costumes again with the group (since there's 9 of 'em), so I ended up getting a Whopper at about 8, then working on gauntlets and watching movies at The J-Man's until about 10. I've got some homework, cutting out foam rubber to be exposed to treatment in the next phase of work on Thursday. So far this, at least, is going according to plan.

I'll try to work out a good squash soup.
In the meantime, this is probably what I'll be eating tonight, and I know for sure it's good.

1 half tofu block.
just a bit of sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds
sriracha (Rooster sauce)
soy sauce
scallion (green onion)
mushrooms
rice

I learned from my past mistakes with delicious but not perfect fried tofu. I'm told that squashing the water out of it will make it fry better, so I guess that's step one! Wrap in napkins or paper towels before squishing, I guess.
Then, um, heat the sesame oil until hot and add tofu, then flavor with rooster sauce, diced onion, and soy to taste. Flip when kind of crisp. After flipping, I add mushrooms and serve it over rice when done, but mushrooms are not required. I just happen to love them. Cabbage or bok choy are also really good ideas.

When on the rice, flavor with sesame seeds. If you don't have toasted seeds, add to tofu with the soy.

If you like, you can simplify it down to sesame oil, tofu, soy and seeds over rice. The heart of a simple meal.
.

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