26 July 2022

Meatless (mostly)

 (reposted from my frotz.prose.sh blog)

I have reduced the amount of meat in my diet significantly, to try to help address some health issues I've been experiencing as I approach my middle fifties. I would say I went from 13/14 meals per week containing meat as a primary course to perhaps 4/14 containing meat at all, and maybe 1 or 2 per week where it was featured as a main course.

I say meatless, because I have not gone vegetarian. I still eat animal products like yogurt and cheese regularly. The (mostly) comes from an occasional breakfast or dinner with my partner, where I may indulge in something more than an egg or two (the bulk of my remaining meat consumption).

On the one hand, I hate being constrained. I hated when I had to give up drinking so much caffeinated sugar water, I hated when I had to cut back on the amount of coffee I drink, etc. But I get used to it -- after a month or two, I still remember the "great" days when I ate or drank what I wanted all the time, damn the consequences, but I don't feel like I really miss the experience so much. I just don't like not (really) having a choice.

It's been the same with the (mostly) meatless diet. It's not what I expected. I pictured endless dishes from a variety of cuisines that were known for featuring in vegetarian diets, but that is not what I've been doing. I have mainly been 'exploring' - trying to turn the vegetables and fruits I'm familiar with into dishes that I can eat regularly and in sufficient quantities to satisfy as main courses.

Thankfully, I only have to do this for myself which makes the process easier. However, my partner has been interested in trying some of the things I've prepared, and they have liked some of them (some of them, not so much :/ ).

I don't normally cook by recipe, so it's hard for me to provide anything that might be useful to someone, but I can give a general idea of some of the things I've made that both of us have enjoyed.

The caveat is that we both spent our formative years in southern California in the US, and Hispanic cuisine there was an important part of our diets, so I've focused a lot on replicating some of those foods, at least in spirit. None of these were invented by me - it's either something I ate when I lived in California, or inspired by something I ate from that time.


This one is essentially a fruit and dairy dish. It's simple and flexible, and may or may not sound appetizing. The idea is to take a mixed bowl of fruit (where I grew up this was a mix of local fruit grown in California and tropical fruit from Mexico), chopped/cut/pared into bite-sized pieces, and mix it with equal parts yogurt or sour cream and either sweetened or unsweetened condensed milk. I usually use thick yogurt (Greek style, as it's known in the US), mix it with an equal amount of unsweetened condensed milk, and then sweeten to taste with whatever I have on hand for the task. Mix the dairy together, sweeten it to your taste (I like mine a little sweet and a little sour), and pour it over the majority of the fruit. Top this with some more fruit, arranged for a pleasant presentation, or sprinkle muesli or granola or toasted grains or nuts or whatever on the top to add a little crunch. With the temperatures here hitting the mid- to high 30s for over a week straight, we had this for our evening meal more than a few times as it was cool and not particularly 'heavy'.

Tostada pizza

These are stupid simple. Per pizza, fry two small corn tortillas until they are the texture you like (crispy, chewy, whatever you prefer). Take one, cover it with refried beans, mashed beans, mashed & fried chickpeas, lentils, or other legume of your choice (spiced and cooked to your preference). I top the legumes with enchilada sauce (guidelines below this one), and shred some cheese.

Then I put another tortilla on top, another layer of beans, another smear of sauce, a little more cheese. Once I put together a few of these, I bake them for a few minutes in an oven or appliance until the cheese melts and crunch away.


My sauce usually starts with some olive oil, to which I add a minced aromatic like garlic or onion. I let that cook for a bit, then add some finely ground chili powder of some sort and a little flour and make a roux (stir it around for about a minute until the flour starts to brown and absorbs most of the oil). Then I will add some diced or pureed tomatoes or tomatillos, any other seasonings (salt, cumin, whatever you'd like), and let that cook for 10+ minutes. I usually go with a ratio of equal quantities of oil and chili powder, and add just enough flour to get the roux going. You may want to add a bit of water to your tomatoes if you'd like a thinner sauce (I like it thick, but thin is good, too!).


Another stupid simple dish. I take several small corn tortillas, and cut them into eighths. I fry them until they have an appropriate texture, and then drain them. Tonight I fried up about 400g of diced mushrooms and aromatics, mashed up and fried (since I had the skillet out) some white beans (called navy or pea beans here in the US) and seasoned with chili powder, and then topped the tortilla chips I made in the first step with the bean mixture, the mushroom mixture, and then added some cheese and melted it all for a few minutes. Like the tostada pizza, use whatever legume you prefer. I've also used chickpeas, lentils, roman beans, pinto beans, cannellini, and black-eyed peas.

14 July 2022


(reposted from my frotz.prose.sh blog) 

I grew up in a sort of in-between time and social class. I was a teen in the early 1980s, and while my family did reasonably well financially my parents didn't feel like the expenditure for a "real" computer ($1,600+ USD for an IBM PC or compatible around 1983 or so in 1983 US dollars) was worthwhile. I certainly didn't earn enough money to purchase something like that for myself with the sorts of jobs I could get, but I could afford an Atari and then buy various add-ons as time went on.

Since no one in my family graduated from a college or university (until my youngest sister), I had no idea what the Internet was, but I definitely was into BBSes and CompuServe in 1984 after I got my first modem (and then had to get my own phone line to avoid tying up the house line when people could reasonably expect to use the phone). I even wrote a couple of BBSes with a high-school friend of mine who also had an Atari, and we ran our own for a while until we got interested in something else.

It is probably nostalgia creeping up on me, but I miss the ease with which one could start programming back then. The machines all came with a rudimentary BASIC interpreter, and one could pay for Pascal or other "serious" programming languages when one bumped against the limitations of BASIC. I think we wrote our BBS software in Pascal or a strange little language called Action! that was Atari-specific. Our first BBSes were strictly interpreted BASIC, of course, and 300-1200 bps and a single user at a time (I couldn't afford more than one phone line) meant that aside from bugs even the BASIC BBSes ran reasonably well.

The programs were less functional, to be sure, but also it was much simpler. We didn't need SDKs or APIs, or dynamically linked anything. When I got into linux around 1993 or 1994 I was really surprised at how much faster a statically compiled system booted on my junk 486sx computer I had. Even now I occasionally try to compile software statically, but it seems mainly a fool's errand that leads to tears unless it's something like ffmpeg (which I do still statically compile).

I don't know why I was thinking about BBSes or my old Atari, but I sort of miss the old single-host BBS. I was never super big into FidoNET or the other gateways - I liked the little self-contained islands where one got to know the other users, and the little cultures that developed on those isolated systems.

That got me to thinking about setting up a BBS that could accept ssh, and there are some packages still around and apparently in use so maybe I will. I ran a Mastodon server for a while but in the end many users just used my low-pop Mastodon instance to get their feeds from octogon.social or the main Mastodon instance so I eventually took it down so the cobwebs wouldn't choke out the local channel.

As usual there's no real point to this post - just my reminiscences and (maybe?) nostalgic cravings.

11 July 2022


 (this is a repost of content from my blog at frotz.prose.sh)

I am dissatisfied with a lot of things, but I'm only going to talk about one thing today and that's my dissatisfaction with some aspects of my shared world hexcrawl game.

I wanted to run a fun, interesting exploration game that also rewarded players who wanted to send their characters out into the wilderness rather than into one of the two big dungeons that are close by.

I don't feel like I am really doing as well as I could - since XP in the rules system we're using Halbards and Helmets is based on the amount of gold spent in the game and there aren't piles of gold just lying around regular characters in my game lag behind those who spend time in Stonehell or Barrowmaze.

I am also trying to find the right balance of in-game world events happening, along with local points of interest, so characters have a choice of different activities to pursue.

Originally I planned on using the wilderness random encounters right out of the B/X blue book, but the frequency of the checks seemed like it would result in a lot of dead first-level characters.

Then I thought I would use the Halberds & Helmets rules but as-is it is really designed for travel between dungeons or adventures, and I planned on running a game that was more about exploration in and of itself.

I have included the 'Ravaged Ruins' section of the Judge's Guild Ready Reference Sheets into my encounter check process, and the one location that popped up was interesting, but those results still don't occur very often. On a d6, 1=random encounter, 2=ravaged ruins, and.... and that's it.

I think I am going to add a third entry to the daily encounter check - 3=lairs. These will be the lairs of the types of creatures who are found on the random encounter table. I hope this will add more "points of interest" to each of the hexes, and provide characters with another way of funding their advancement aside from the two dungeons.

I will see how it goes, I suppose.

08 July 2022


(this is a re-post of my content on frotz.prose.sh) 

Even though I don't participate in organized play like D&D 5E's Adventurer's League or Pathfinder's Pathfinder Society, I did participate in both for quite some time. I took a hiatus from participating with RPGs as I was a bit burned out from running weekly sessions, then COVID started, and so the hiatus continued. Recently I started playing with some great folks in Europe where we do short 2-hour sessions and limited duration campaigns using lightweight rules. It's been a lot of fun, and I haven't yet felt the telltale indicators of burnout.

My partner and I were discussing some new bit of needless complexity in the MMO EVE Online yesterday, and it started me off thinking about complexity that enhances, versus complexity that obfuscates or is just "complexity for complexity's sake".

The games I'm playing and running at the moment have an ethos of simplicity. Because the sessions are short, we try to pack as much into a session as possible and so complex rules don't seem like a good fit. I run a hexcrawl in a shared world with two other referees, and I'm using Alex Schröder's Halbards & Helmets, a sort of B/X-lite, to do so. It's worked pretty well; we've had to explore some additions to the rules to address funding certain enterprises, but mostly I run right out of the rules.

All of this sort of has coalesced into my mind as I still listen to the occasional "actual play" Pathfinder podcast, where the "complexity for complexity's sake" is definitely evident in the way the referee and the players handle their games. I do like complexity in games - GURPS, Shadowrun 3E, and d20 3rd edition (less so the revised(3.5) edition or Pathfinder) are some of my favorite systems. However I always felt a tension (not a bad thing necessarily) between providing enough complexity to keep players interested but not so complex they tune out. It was a fun line to walk - I felt like I did a reasonable job of "drilling down" when circumstances warranted really getting into the nitty-gritty but I kept things moving without turning everything between combat encounters into a hand-wave-y exposition from me.

Listening to these podcasts makes me think not everyone views complexity as a dial to be adjusted, rather than a switch set to "on" or "off". I like it as a dial, but not everyone does, I guess. Some like as little as possible all the time, and some like the opposite. Sort of like some people like only homegrown vs prepackaged campaign settings and modules, or really letting the imagination fly vs. treating a tabletop game like it's an analog version of a console or computer game with limited input and options.

I don't know where I'm really going with this, other than I don't find complexity for the sake of being complex fun.