Category Archives: the mindlab

Elgins and Western Stubbies

Upon moving to WA, I felt like I’d entered into some sort of butter-Twilight Zone. Butter sticks here are thicker and shorter, no matter the brand. They come in a slimmer box and are packed end to end. This past Sunday, during my weekly RPG1 session, the guys finally cracked the great butter mystery.

Depending on your region in the USA, butter will come either in Elgin or Western Stubby size. What really threw me was that Land O’ Lakes, a Minnesotan based company whose butter I’d only ever had in Elgin size, comes in Western Stubby size in WA. I think I’ll always prefer the Elgin, but if someone can find me a Western Stubby butter tray, I’m game.

Tillamook salted & unsalted Western Stubbies
Western Stubbies

  1. We just picked up again a 5e D&D game that we’d been playing revolving around the Underdark. While my heart is still with 2e, and AD&D for its arcaneness, 5e is definitely the best recent edition of D&D I’ve played in a while. The one complaint that’s come up is that to find anything in the book can be an egg hunt. Prior, we’d been playing The Sprawl: Mission-based cyberpunk, powered by the Apocalypse by Hamish Cameron and Lillian Cohen-Moore. I can’t recommend this game enough. Of the many games I’ve played over the years, it had really interesting mechanics with regards to the roleplaying itself. 

Media as Translators

Translation, “How dare I get off Facebook.”

But there is this difference, that previous technologies were partial and fragmentary, and the electric is total and inclusive. And external consensus or conscience is now as necessary as private consciousness (McLuhan 86).
McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Edited by Terrence Gordon, Gingko Press, 2015.
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan

Film of ’17 & Happy ’18

This is not a top # list of movies for ’17, but my favorite recent film that I saw on the big screen (it’s flaws aside) was Colossal (which actually came out in ’16). The best viewing experience I had was seeing Vagabond on 35mm during the Olympia Film Festival. The best movie I took a photograph of while watching was Eyes Wide Shut. I hate dissolves as transitions, but I’m rethinking them now (the picture I took is below). The worst movie I saw was Valerian. Though, it was entertaining in an awful way. That translates to the possibility of me still buying it on Blu-ray and using it as a TV screensaver. You can read my reviews of Colossal and Valerian right here on Protozoic. Happy ’18.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and a Dissolve
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and a Dissolve

Hazy Skies

Because of the forest fires on OR and WA, the light outside at 1:03 PM on 9.5.17 has an unnerving golden tone to it. It’s not apparent from the photo, but seeing it with my eyes, it feels far more ominous and alien than the eclipse.

Hazy Skies
Hazy Skies

Beef Stew with a Bite

The key to Beef Stew with a Bite is good bone beef broth. You can use the cheap stuff, but either making it yourself or coughing up some money to your local artisan broth maker results in a rich and most excellent stew. Pepper wise, you can use whatever you want, but I prefer 1 habanero1. This stew does bite, but it won’t offend most people. Additionally, if you aren’t feeding 6 people and are planning on freezing meals, the heat and flavors mellow over time; time is a secret ingredient. Let your stew mellow, man. If you want to dial it up, add 2 habaneros for Beef Stew that Punches You in the Mouth.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3lbs. of beef chuck
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 rashers of bacon
  • 1 tablespoons of oil if needed
  • .25 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 large onion or 2 small chopped onions
  • 3 to 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 habanero diced (I leave the seeds in)
  • 1.5 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 to 3 cups beef bone broth
  • 1 to 2 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • .5 teaspoon of dried thyme (about 1.5 teaspoons if fresh)
  • 1.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 4 large carrots cut into diagonal pieces
  • Rice or potatoes (to serve stew over)

Instructions

  1. Dice the bacon into .5 inch pieces, and on a medium heat, fry it in a large soup pot or dutch oven until crisp. If the bacon is particularly lean, use a tablespoon or so of oil. Though it is less healthy than olive oil, I prefer vegetable oil for stew. Once the bacon is crisp, remove it and set it aside.

  2. Cut the beef chuck into 1 inch cubes. To taste, add the salt and pepper to the cubes and massage in. In small batches brown the beef, remove, and set aside. When browning the beef, try not to let the individual pieces touch each other. This step takes a bit of time, but it is worth doing right.

  3. Add the garlic, balsamic vinegar, habanero, and onion to the leftover beef juices and bacon grease in the pot. While stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, cook the mix until the onions start to turn clear or for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute or 2 while stirring.

  4. Add the beef and sprinkle it with flour, stirring it until all the flour is absorbed.

  5. Add enough beef bone broth and water until the meat is covered. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and sugar.

  6. Cook for 2 to 3 hours on a low heat.

  7. Add carrots and cook for another hour.

  8. If you like your stew a bit more thick, make a slurry with corn starch or flour and add it to the stew.

  9. Serve over rice or potatoes.

And don’t forget, “Let it mellow, man.”


  1. While I like jalapeños and serranos, they result in a stew that is a shade greener in flavor.