This Week in Geekdom

Hey everyone. Hope you're all having great weekends thus far. With the Summer Sale in its final hours and my surprisingly persistent side project finally complete the GIR and I can buckle down and begin the sprint towards Gen Con 2014. Bonus: there are at least 2 more weeks of World Cup to provide welcome diversion during the many hours that will be spent sewing. That's all well and good, but there are still many weeks between now and then, so let's get down to This Week in Geekdom.

Comics

It's no secret that life for a comics publisher that isn't Marvel or DC is often precarious at best. SLG Publishing, the label that brought us titles like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Skeleton Key is actively exemplifying just how tough the market is on indies. On Thursday, SLG launched a GoFundMe campaign in a last-ditch effort to keep its doors open. You can visit the page here if you'd like to help keep SLG alive.

Games

It's taken nearly 30 years, but the world record time for fastest completion of Super Mario Bros. fell this week. Watch the epic speed run here.

Speaking of long-standing, much beloved properties, I give you the trailer for Monty Python: Ministry of Silly Walks.

Books

We don't have a publication date for Winds of Winter, but Martin was content to tease us with give us this handful of details about the much-anticipated volume. 

TV

This is as official a confirmation as we're likely to get that Lady Stoneheart will not appear on Game of Thrones.
Whovians only have to wait a few more weeks

The 8th season of Dr. Who will premiere on August 23rd.

Movies

Though we're just over a month out from the premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy, rumors continue to swirl about the role that Nathon Fillion will be playing.

Star Wars Episode VII added another female cast member this week in the form of Carrie Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd.

Director Roberto Orci confirms that the next Star Trek movie will be set in 'deep space' as part of a 5-year mission undertaken by the crew of the Enterprise. The as-yet-unnamed film is set for release in 2016.

Guillermo del Toro has confirmed that there will be a Pacific Rim 2. We're slated to get more giant robot/kaiju battles in April of 2017.

Giant Robots! Kaiju! Squee!!!
Science/Technology

While we have to wait a few years for the movie, Nestle aims to give us a bit of Star Trek technology in the form of a food replicator. Code-named 'Iron Man', the replicator is just one of several technologies Nestle hopes to use to combat malnutrition worldwide. 

We may have given the speed of light too much credit. Evidence is mounting that light may travel slower than what we'd supposed.

We may not yet be able to produce x-ray specs, but we do have x-ray guns.

Humans have long pondered the question, "Are we alone in the universe?" This is, perhaps, the most comprehensive response that's been compiled to date.

Though we may not yet have met any galaxial neighbors, SpaceX and its ilk are keen to forward humanity's quest to reach for the stars. Back in April, Elon Musk's spacefaring company launched its Falcon 9 rocket but difficulties encountered during the capsule's ocean splashdown prevented SpaceX from recovering valuable video footage of the process. This is how hundreds of volunteers worked together to restore these critical images.

NASA's rover Curiosity has been on the surface of Mars for 1 Martian year

Remember that time that Google accidentally made Skynet?

The more we learn about the Higgs boson, the more questions seem to arise. The latest quandary derived from this elusive particle: should the Higgs boson have caused our universe to collapse?

General Awesomeness

These gifs are both mesmerizing and beautifully illustrative of various mathematical principles.

George Lucas has selected Chicago to be the site of a Star Wars museum. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is slated to open its doors in 2018.

In honor of the World Cup, here's this fun factoid: you are more likely to be bitten by Uruguay's Luis Suarez than you are by a shark.

Also, those present in Brazil for the World Cup (in addition to those denizens of Brazil) can enjoy the tournament with less risk of contracting dengue fever thanks to genetically modified mosquitoes.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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Cosplay: The Mighty Cosplay Lieutenant

The goal was to have some process posts for you guys starting this week but the fun little side project I mentioned two entries ago met with a pretty significant setback, so it’s going to be a little longer before I can go back to devoting all my attention to the three costumes slated for Gen Con. In the meantime though, I wanted to address something that’s come up a few times on the blog, but has never actually been formally discussed and that is the Cosplay Lieutenant. Since we’re rapidly approaching the height of convention season (if we haven’t gotten there already) it seemed like as good a time as any go over this important role.

Even if they're not Colbert, Cosplay Lieutenants are in this league of awesome
Wait, the Cosplay what? Are these people I've encountered before?

Probably; if you’ve ever found yourself at a convention. To the outside observer, the Cosplay Lieutenant is typically invisible, one face amongst the crescents of con-goers that form around a given cosplayer and distinguishable primarily because they are not usually trying to take a picture. While the stereotype of the Lieutenant is frequently that of the beleaguered significant other gamely toting one or more bags, the functionality extends well beyond that. Well ok, some toting will likely factor in during one convention or another, since costumes that can accommodate pockets are rare, but it’s not the only or even the most valuable facet of the Lieutenant’s duties.

Yeah, ok. Cosplay Lieutenants aren’t just beasts of burden, but, really, what’s the point in having one?

If you’re planning on cosplaying only a few times in your convention-attending ‘career’, then there really isn’t much of a point. Since crafting a costume is often a long and laborious process with results that are designed explicitly for public display, you'll likely want to take precautions to both improve upon that construction and maximize the potential for the best possible convention experience if this is going to be your regular pastime. Your Cosplay Lieutenant can easily help you accomplish these goals. Given this, your Lieutenant usually isn’t someone you’ve appointed to the task, but rather is a person who has been a reliable source of support both inside and outside the dealer hall. Ideally, someone in this role will be in regular contact with you throughout the construction process and certainly an individual who will attend conventions with you. Aside from being...you know...present, a good Cosplay Lieutenant will be someone who is:

Honest

More often than not, there's a fair amount of preparation that goes into pulling off a cosplay. You've got the brainstorming phase/building your cosplay lineup, active construction, stress testing, last minute logistics, and actually donning the finished costume. Everyone has their own approach to this, but most of those steps are fairly universal in the cosplay world.  Since the process frequently spans months or sometimes even years, it can be easy to lose sight of your overarching goal and get bogged down in minutiae or just get plain old frustrated. As I've mentioned before, having an at least a semi-objective opinion can help you stay on track by offering periodic feedback and/or providing reminders. Just a simple, “Hey, you’ve been working on that piece for a long time. Maybe take a break, then see how much more work it needs.” Or a, “Just a heads up, we’re five weeks out from doors opening,” can go a very long way. Of course, the commentary can be much more detailed than that depending on the nature of your relationship with your Lieutenant. That last bit is critical, since your Lieutenant needs to be someone whose opinion your trust and can be counted on to voice their thoughts. Conversely, you, the cosplayer, need to cultivate a track record of respecting and/or utilizing the advice of your Lieutenant so they feel as though their efforts aren’t just words being lost to the wind.

Organized

Can you tackle all the logistics that go into a cosplay yourself? Of course. Is it often easier and less onerous when you have some help in doing so? Definitely. Even if you have the most Type A of personalities, it almost always helps to have another set of eyes review your inventories and/or another pair of ears to take in your manifest of what’s been packed. This is especially true if you have to travel a significant distance in order to get to a convention. It’s deceptively easy to focus exclusively on ensuring that all the components of your costume are secure and accounted for at the expense of non-cosplay convention paraphernalia and the Lieutenant can provide a quick, easy check against this phenomenon.

Patient

Yes, we did talk about how Lieutenants aren’t living Bags of Holding just a few paragraphs ago, but even if this person is merely toting your badge, the vast majority of their active duties during a convention orbit around you, the costume-wearer, both physically and metaphorically. A lieutenant typically spends most of the cosplaying day at your side or they at least make themselves readily available to you. This is especially true if you’ve entered a costume contest, as you’ll likely want to refresh any makeup or secure any components of your outfit between rounds of competition. Meandering around the dealer hall at a snail’s pace, stopping every few meters to pose for pictures, and/or waiting your turn at a cosplay contest can be mind-numbing for your uncostumed partner. As such, it helps if your Lieutenant is someone who is adept at amusing themselves or at least is not easily bored.

Observant

When you’ve donned the costume it pretty much consumes the majority of your attention span, particularly if your outfit includes large, fragile, unwieldy, or otherwise uncomfy components. Between managing the costume and (hopefully) enjoying the cosplaying experience it can be easy to lose track of time or your bearings if you’re in an unfamiliar convention hall. It’s incredibly helpful to have your Lieutenant periodically monitor the time you’ve spent in costume and make suggestions based on your condition and that duration that s/he deems appropriate. Frequently these take the form of, “Wow, it’s already 1pm, are you getting hungry for lunch?” or “It’s been 5 hours since we got to the hall. Do you need to sit for a spell?”

The second, also critically important, facet of this particular quality is that a good Lieutenant is capable of making tactical observations of both you and the con-goers around you. Do your fellow attendees seem to be generally affable? Are the people asking for your picture doing so in a polite way? Are your fellow nerds being considerate of your space/costume? The answers to these bring us to the last quality of a good Lieutenant…

Occasionally Assertive

A Lieutenant does not have to be an armored paladin riding at your side with weapon drawn (though that would be a fun costume). As we’ve talked about before, those convention trolls who would seek to do or say stupid things to you almost always follow schoolyard bully tactics. Namely, they are more likely to pick on what seems to be an easy target. Aside from having a solid, well-constructed costume, the other single most effective way to dissuade convention trolls is to not be alone. It’s not even a matter of you being capable of defending yourself; it’s very simply the principle of strength in numbers in action.

Even if you encounter no trolls, we nerds are not always the most graceful in social situations and it often helps to have your Lieutenant underscore basic considerations should the need arise. Just a quick, “Give him a minute while he finishes eating,” or, “Sorry, no more pictures. We have an event to get to,” can make for smoother navigation of the hallways and a better overall cosplay experience.


Of course, you definitely don’t have to have a Cosplay Lieutenant at any point in your cosplaying tenure. The Lieutenant falls under the “nice to have if you can finagle it” category, but obviously it’s perfectly feasible (and, for some people, preferable) to cosplay alone. Conversely, the Lieutenant role doesn’t necessarily have to fall to one person. If you’re attending a convention or plan to cosplay with a group of people, then a Cosplay Cadre may spring up organically. This sort of by-committee activity effectively spreads out the work and prevents any resentment that might arise from an individual non-cosplayer giving up large chunks of their convention time.

If you do decide to include a Lieutenant in your costume-wearing plans, be sure to respect any feedback they may give and make your gratitude for their efforts crystal clear. Your Lieutenant deserves copious thanks for the time and assistance they provide, so give them copious thanks whenever you get the chance.

On that note, sending out a huge THANK YOU to all you Cosplay Lieutenants out there. You all rock serious socks!



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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone. Sorry for the gap between posts. Work and, well, life got a bit crazy last week and effectively derailed your regularly scheduled reading. Also, World Cup. My bracket is completely annihilated at this point, but the action is still capable of making off with an entire day. Fortunately, this past week was chock-full of geeky goodness so we can leap back into the swing of things with This Week in Geekdom!

TV

I gushed about this on the social media sites on Friday, but I'm still psyched that the third season of the Legend of Korra will be premiering next week! Check out the official trailer!


Games

Why video games should be played in person with friends rather than online with strangers.

It's been more than 30 years after Super Mario Bros. made its global debut and players are still finding glitches.

Are you a League of Legends player planning to attend college in the next few years? Robert Morris University in Illinois is offering a scholarship to those it is recruiting for its new varsity eSports program. That's right, you can attend college based on your gaming prowess.

Despite the name, you don't actually need to be a geometry whiz to love the very addicting (and free) Euclid: the Game

Movies

On Tuesday it was officially announced that Jason Mamoa (of Khal Drogo fame) will be playing Aquaman in the still-without-a-title Batman vs Superman movie. 

Science/Technology

Hodor, hodor hodorhodordhodor. (The real-life neuroscience behind Hodor's speech pattern).

Speaking of neuroscience, this movie may be only 15 seconds long, but it has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of neural networks. Behold the first video of a functioning brain.

Humans have grappled with attempts to explain the concept of free will for milennia, but the latest edition of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience presents findings that may finally provide us with an answer.  

Our favorite CEO/part-time Bond villain Elon Musk gave an interview to CNBC this week in which he detailed his plans to make interplanetary travel a reality and bring fully electric cars to the mass market within the next three years. The summary of this interview can be found here.

What happens when a bioengineering lab and a textile mill collaborate? You get Monster Silk, the world's first fabric woven from synthetically produced spider silk. (link is not for the arachnophobic)

The new edition of the New England Journal of Medicine details one father's efforts to create a 'bionic' pancreas for his son and his work may transform treatment methods for individuals living with Type 1 diabetes.

Why wait around to observe a naturally occurring supernova when you can just create one in your lab? The latest edition of Nature Physics describes the work of a team of researchers based in Oxford University who have been able to create tabletop-sized supernovae

Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court handed down this watershed decision that will undoubtedly change the landscape of software patents for years to come.

Just how smart are fish? This study, presented in the June edition of Animal Cognition, contains the surprising answer.

General Awesomeness/Geeky Shopping

In 1961, a 13-year-old fanboy wrote a gushing letter of appreciation an adoration to his favorite comics publisher, Marvel. That fanboy was George R.R. Martin.

Check out this perfect kitchen addition for the Star Wars loving foodie in your life.

Ever wanted to travel outside of Earth's atmosphere? If you have $10 USD, then Urgency Network would like to give you a chance to make that wish a reality.

Paleontologists rejoice! After a closure spanning more than two decades, the La Brea Tar Pits will be re-opened to the public.

What do your favorite RPG characters do with their time when you're not playing them? The new webseries "Cubicles & Careers" depicts the days in the lives of these classic fantasy mainstays.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past



Somehow we’re under two months out from Gen Con 2014. Gah. There’ll be a handful of cosplay posts coming in the very near future, but a bizarre summer cold-type thing and a fun, but time consuming, side project have gobbled up the lion’s share of the past few weeks. The costumes are still on schedule, but some tweaking of the timeline may be in order. In the meantime, there’s a veritable cavalcade of movies and the burgeoning prospect of the Steam Summer Sale just around the corner. <List of Excellent Distractions explodes.>

One such indulgence was a viewing of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Given the mixed track record of the other films in the franchise and the backlash that First Class was subjected to, I was skeptical as to the prospects for Days of Future Past

One of the greatest casts imaginable
Those doubts were largely unfounded. 

Aside from a handful of moments at which a quizzical eyebrow could be raised, Days of Future Past was highly entertaining, expertly acted, and beautifully rendered. In all honesty, it’s one of the better films to come out of the superhero/comic book genre as a whole and lays a solid foundation for any future X-Men movies.

The introduction paints a profoundly bleak picture. The sunless, desolate Earth is policed by the Sentinels, towering robotic constructs that hunt down mutants, human sympathizers, and humans that would one day have produced mutant offspring. The few surviving mutants live in a perpetual game of cat and mouse, managing to escape the unrelenting Sentinels only because Kitty Pryde can manipulate the time continuum enough to arrange for warning to be sent to their days-younger selves.

Yes, Kitty Pryde has the ability to project a person's consciousness back in time. This rather surprising development is never explained and did not appear in the original comic, but serves as the lynchpin mechanism for the entire plot of the movie. It's not a bad thing by any means, just not something that had ever previously been part of Kitty's mutant toolbox, so to speak. Since it's clear from the get-go that this is the new-ish continuity than began with X-Men: First Class, it's easier to accept this alteration as being intrinsic to Kitty and minimizes the deus ex machina potential in the device so the reveal is more eyebrow-raising than eyeroll worthy.

The other "huh" moment in the film was the appearance of the Sentinels themselves. They bore more resemblance to the Destroyer from the first Thor movie than to any of their comic forebears or the glimpses we'd gotten in other X-Men movies (even Last Stand). While this obviously a largely cosmetic quibble, it was a conspicuously strange choice given how much thought clearly went into the vast majority of the rest of the film. Odd appearance aside, the Sentinels functioned just as you'd expect them to, wreaking havoc and providing a very real threat to the superpowered mutants.

This is as close as we get to the Sentinels of the comics
 We learn soon after our introduction to this desolate future that the entirety of what's being experienced was set in motion by the actions of Mystique back in 1973. Played with steely determination by Jennifer Lawrence, Mystique spends the years between the events of First Class and Days of Future Past enacting bloody vengeance on those who have harmed mutants, using her powers with brutal efficiency. The primary target of her ire is Bolivar Trask (adroitly rendered by Peter Dinklage), inventor of the Sentinels. In the first timeline we're presented with, Mystique guns Trask down at the Paris Peace Accord, but is captured in the ensuing scuffle, allowing for Trask's successors to obtain critical data from her DNA. In a last-ditch effort to prevent this from unfolding as it did, Professor Xavier, Magneto, and Storm persuade Kitty Pryde to send Wolverine's consciousness to inhabit his own body back in 1973 in the hopes that he can intercede.

Intercession comes with its own set of challenges, largely embodied by the personalities of the younger versions of Xavier and Magneto. Xavier, still reeling from Mystique's abandonment of him, is a cantankerous drunken hermit who actively suppresses his abilities via a serum developed by Beast, the only mutant who appears to have remained loyal to the School for Gifted Youngsters. Meanwhile, Magneto is in a more literal prison, having been blamed for the Kennedy assassination (just one of a handful of fun tongue-in-cheek bits of history play).

It's tricky for a film to maintain focus and perspective when time travel is what's driving the narrative, but Days of Future Past makes it look easy. This can be credited largely to the all-star cast. The entire rosters of both First Class and all the preceding X-Men films reprise their roles, even down to a handful of very brief wordless cameos.  It's profoundly clear that everyone's committed to their role, be it big or small, and you are invested in the characters from the get-go. The pacing is very brisk, sometimes a bit too much so when certain fairly significant revelations are accepted and acted upon with very little resistance. Still, it's a small price to pay for an overall engaging experience, as the movie didn't seem to lag once in its 132 minute run time.

Add to this a handful of sequences that are simply brilliant. Though the character of Quicksilver only appears in a small portion of the film, he makes a very lasting impression via one extremely entertaining scene. The climax will likely make your jaw drop as we get to see the full complement of Magneto's powers. Despite what the events of the movie accomplish in terms of furthering this new continuity for the X-Men as a franchise, there is still plenty to be explored in future films. It's reassuring to see that other franchises can successfully build continuous movie universes.

In all, some very satisfying cinematic fodder and a must-see for X-Men fans.

Overall Grade: A-
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This Week in Geekdom

Here's hoping that today's post makes a lick of sense, as my brain is adrift on a puffy cloud of antihistamines and cough suppressants. Apparently my immune system has finally run out of steam after what was probably a very difficult winter, but more time spent indoors just translates into more links for This Week in Geekdom. So, without further ado, let's get down the highlights of the past seven days.

Books

$20,000 USD can buy you a lot of things. It can buy you a nice new car, potentially serve as a down payment on a house, or, if you were quick to click earlier this week, could've bought you a role in Winds of Winter. George R.R. Martin is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to benefit the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and the Food Depot of Santa Fe and all the rewards associated with the campaign stem from George himself. While the 2 customized roles in Winds of Winter have already been purchased, there are still dozens of interesting rewards still up for grabs and all donors are entered in a lottery to win a helicopter ride with Mr. Martin. Check out the fundraising page for more details.

When George wasn't drumming up support for his favorite charitable organizations, he was combating the rampant rumors that he planned to extend his A Song of Ice and Fire series to span eight books instead of the previously established seven. While Mr. Martin's response to said rumors wasn't exactly clear, he did confirm that his work The World of Ice and Fire: the Untold History of Westeros is still on schedule to be published in October.

Movies

In a surprising last minute move, the Wachowski siblings' sci-fi epic Jupiter Rising had its release date moved from July 18th to February 6th of next year. While Warner Bros claims that the delay spawned from a need for additional special effects, industry professionals fear that heavy re-shoots were required.   

How does a character who utters a mere four lines of dialogue over the course of two films end up with his own movie? Behold, the 'cult' of Boba Fett

Comics

Hermetic Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson returned to the world of newspaper comic strip publication this but, if you didn't look closely, you might have missed it.

Who is faster: the Flash or Quicksliver? Here comes the science.

Games

On Friday, Tetris turned 30 years old. In celebration of this milestone birthday, here are 30 facts about this beloved Soviet spacial awareness game.

After nearly 10 years in the global marketplace, the Sony PlayStation Portable (a.k.a. the PSP) is being sent to that Great Basement in the Sky

If you are an Xbox One owner who has noticed that your machine seems to experience a dip in performance when you plug in your Kinect your suspicions are justified. On Thursday, Microsoft confirmed that its Xbox One consoles can lose up to 10% of their GPU performance when paired with a Kinect, despite initial claims that combining the two would have no adverse effects.

Science/Technology

Back in March, the astrophysics community cheered en masse at what appeared to be the discovery that confirmed the theory of cosmic inflation and opened the possibility for a multiverse. Now, the latest edition of Nature provides information that indicates this release of this information to perhaps have been premature.

While one set of celestial waves seems to retreat back into the realm of theory, another inches towards confirmation
An artist's impression of the 'Godzilla of Earths'

On Monday, scientists in attendance at the American Astronomical Society meeting discussed the 'Godzilla of Earths'. This mega-planet, officially known as Kepler-10c is interesting not just for its enormous size, but also because, according to our current body of planetary knowledge, it shouldn't exist.

Conversely, a concept that was theorized to exist for over 40 years was finally confirmed with physical proof. The latest edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters details the findings of a research team out of the University of Colorado Boulder, who identified this embodiment of Thorne-Żytkow theory or 'a star within a star.' 

Just when we thought we'd recovered from the Heartbleed bug, this decade-old bug goes and screws up internet information exchange all over again.

She may only be 19 years old, but Brittany Wenger is already revolutionizing the way we identify cancer. Read here for the details on her attempts to digitize diagnostics.

The latest edition of the journal Cell includes these findings by a team of Harvard researchers that allowed them to cause mature liver cells of mice to revert to a state similar to that of stem cells. 

If you've ever wondered why you love certain foods, but loathe others, the reason may be hard-coded into your DNA. A team of geneticists from the University of Trieste published these findings linking affinities to certain foods with 17 distinct genomic markers.

Add to the list of things to include in your will: the passwords to all social media that you use.

The algorithm that is the driving force behind Wikipedia reveals the most influential individuals in human history.


General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery


Have you ever wanted to build your own solar-powered rover? Well, here you go.

If you've ever wanted to be a polar bear, this video shot from the bear's point of view tries to bring you the closest possible experience.

The Mountain That Rides is indeed aptly named. Watch here as actor Hafthor Bjornsson proves that he was appropriately cast.

In honor of the 30th birthday of the Transformers, Hasbro will be releasing this limited edition playset starring your favorite transformers in the universe's greatest band, the Knights of Unicron.

Do you love Legos? Do you love movies? Well, this is a list that may very well be relevant to your interests. 

Last year, West Coast Customs built this exact replica of the Bravado Banshee from the Grand Theft Auto series, which was given away as a prize in a competition run by GameStop. This week, the car went up for auction on eBay. The auction is now closed and there's no word if the original owner got her $170,000 USD asking price.

I leave you guys with this video from Thailand Comic Con that features a troupe of cosplayers reenacting a battle scene from Pacific Rim. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!


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NomNoms: Grilled Sweet Potato & Scallion Salad

It may not be calendrical summer just yet, but it’s finally starting to at least feel seasonably appropriate around here. The extended daylight hours and relative warmth can draw even the most computer-bound of us outside, even if just for a little while. The combination of costume construction and the litany of new game releases seeks to combat the tractor beam that is a temperate, breezy summer afternoon, but one thing will always trump the appeal of the indoors: cooking when the ambient temperature is high. Though I love both cooking and baking, the notion of turning on the stove when the daily highs creep above 80 degrees (26.67 degrees Celsius) elicits an almost gut-level repugnance. This is where a grill comes in handy. Oh grills, you are such a lovely invention.

It’s been a little while since we’ve had a new entry to the Kitchen Codex and this recipe seemed like as appropriate an offering as any. This take on potato salad features both attention-grabbing colors and a unique melding of flavors. There’s your classic salty and sweet blend, but also an interesting acid/base pairing along with a crispy/soft texture contrast. Best of all, this recipe involves very little active cooking time and it proves to be a nice complement to just about any barbeque entrée (or can be an entrée in itself!).



Difficulty: Easy (moderate if your potatoes are uncooperative)
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Gadgetry: None
Feeds: 4-8 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 10-15 minutes of preparation, an optional latency period of a couple hours, and an additional 30 minutes of active cooking

Required Equipment: A large bowl, a smaller mixing bowl, a whisk or thinly tined fork, a sharp knife, a cutting board, aluminum foil, a spatula or tongs, a grill or grill pan
Optional Equipment: A grill or marinade brush, a microwave or toaster oven, a plate

Ingredients

3-4 large sweet potatoes
4-8 whole scallions
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey*
¼ cup roughly chopped parsley leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste

*you can substitute 1.5 teaspoons of agave syrup or 1 teaspoon of brown sugar

Step 1: Thoroughly clean your sweet potatoes, taking care to remove all the dirt since the skins stay on throughout this recipe. Rinse your scallions and parsley if you’re using a fresh bunch.

Step 1.5 (Optional, but highly recommended): Once the potatoes are clean, pierce each of them once or twice with a fork or knife. If you’re using a microwave, arrange the potatoes on your plate and cook on HIGH heat for 4-5 minutes. If you’re using a toaster oven, place the potatoes in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees (190.56 Celsius) or the POTATO setting if there is one. The potatoes should emerge from this step with some give to them, but not entirely soft or cooked throughout. Leave the potatoes to cool to room temperature.

Step 2: Cut the potatoes into slices about ½” inch (1.27cm) thick. Pour your oil into the mixing bowl you’ll be using for the dressing. Pre-heat your grill to a medium-high heat.


These are actually a little overdone. Ideally, your potatoes won't separate from their skins like this.
Step 3: While the grill is coming up to temperature, either dip the potato slices in your oil or brush them with the oil using your marinade brush. You only want a light coating on each side so, if you’re dipping the slices, be sure to let any excess oil drip off.

Step 4: Once the grill is at the desired heat, cover your cooking surface with aluminum foil, then place your potato slices on the foil. Grill the potatoes for 3-5 minutes each side. The orange color of the potatoes will deepen, the slices will soften, and you should get distinct grill markings when each side is done. After you have turned all the potatoes over once, lay the scallions on the grill or foil. Cook the scallions for about 1.5-2 minutes a side.



Step 5: Remove the potatoes and scallions from the grill and put them in your large serving bowl; give the scallions a rough chop to divide them into bite-sized pieces. If you're using fresh parsley, chop it up now. In your mixing bowl, add both of the vinegars, the honey, the parsley, and your salt & pepper to the oil. Whisk these ingredients together, then pour them over the potato/scallion heap. Toss the heap until all components are evenly coated with the dressing. Ta da! You have some fancy, colorful potato salad!

FAQs

I don’t like sweet potatoes. Can I use white potatoes instead?

Nothing’s stopping you from using white potatoes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A big part of what makes this recipe work is the sharp contrast of sweetness and acidic tartness, so removing half of that formula will have a correspondingly huge impact on your final product. Yams, however, make for an excellent substitute, as do satsumaimo if you can get your hands on some of them.

Can I use red wine vinegar instead of the apple cider/balsamic vinegar?

Yes. Just about any vinegar other than plain white vinegar will work in this recipe. So long as your dressing base has an acid that gives off a hint of sweetness you should be good to go. Feel free to experiment with red wine, sherry, or even champagne vinegars.

The potatoes are taking much longer to cook than they did in your instructions. What happened?

Sweet potatoes are extremely fibrous and dense, so it can take a while to get heat to distribute evenly though them. If you didn’t do Step 1.5 and pre-cook the potatoes and/or the slices are more than ½” inch (1.27cm) thick, you may need to add a bit more cook time per side. Just watch the potatoes carefully and remove them from the grill when they are fork tender.

The potatoes are sticking to the grill! There are orange bits everywhere!

I’d be lying if I said this never happened to me. Since sweet potatoes are, well, sweet they tend to present the same cooking hazards that sugary foods do. That is to say, they can stick to every possible surface and lose all structural integrity if left to their own devices. This is why Step 3 and the high heat of your grill are so important, as they work together to prevent this exact scenario. It’s also why using aluminum foil on the grill itself is a good idea (this also prevents potato slices from falling to a fiery death between the grill slats). If you find yourself in the midst of a mushy orange mess, try to remove the potatoes from the grill as best you can and apply a bit more oil if at all possible. Unless they fall into your heat source though, the potatoes should still taste pretty good!


Best of luck with your culinary experimentations!
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This Week in Geekdom

How is it June already? Seriously, where has this year gone? We'll be getting back to Lorenz transformation territory if this pace keeps up. No complaints here though, as this phenomenon brings Gen Con 2014 <that> much closer. Can't wait. In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom!

Comics

Gaiman v MacFarlane was one of the single most followed comic book legal battles to date. This week, the transcripts of this epic courtroom struggle were released to the public.

The top 10 DC/Marvel villainesses of all time. Do you agree? 

Games

Nintendo has had a rough go of things lately and this week was no exception. Ubisoft announced that it had no plans to create games for Nintendo's maligned Wii U console for next month's E3 convention, essentially confirming that third party game developers as a whole would not be embracing the Wii U.

The Ubisoft announcement detracted a fair bit of attention away from the fact that on Friday Nintendo released what is, by all reports, an excellent game in Mario Kart 8. While the game is getting favorable reviews, the guys over at Digital Spy put together this psuedo-nostalgic look back at the top 10 Mario Kart tracks you loved to hate.  

Valve also had a setback this week, albeit not at the same disastrous level as that suffered by Nintendo, when it announced that its highly anticipated Steam Machine PC gaming controller would not be hitting the marketplace this year as originally forecast. The updated release schedule is disconcertingly amorphous, with Valve providing only the year 2015 as guidance.

Are you eagerly awaiting the next installment of Call of Duty? Sledgehammer Games has these tidbits on hand to help tide you over until November 4.

The stereotype of the stoner-gamer has persisted for decades, but few have attempted to parse out the reality from the fiction until, well, this 'study'.


Science/Technology

The single biggest story of the week came out of the latest edition of the journal Science, in which Dutch scientists provided the details of their experiments which indicate that they may have achieved quantum teleportation.

Speaking of quantum goodness, this week brought us a new theory of reality that melds classical and quantum principles into a single paradigm.

It has been 40 years since Soviet researcher Vitaly Efimov attempted to use quantum equations to explain the behavior of atomic particles, but his work has finally been proven to be true.

Our favorite real-life Tony Stark, Elon Musk, keenly captured headlines on Thursday with this press release detailing the new Dragon V2 reusable space capsule. If you missed out on the live announcement, you can view the full video here

The US military, not to be outdone in the realm of near-future Stark Industries-esque technology, announced that it will be testing its 'Iron Man' suit as early as this summer. 

Apple, in the unfamiliar position of playing catch up, appears to be building this entry into the burgeoning smart watch market. If all goes according to estimates, the watch will be available for purchase in the third quarter of this year.

We have smart phones and smart watches, but smart bikes? A 20-year-old Canadian entrepreneur has set his sights on bringing two-wheeled transit into the information age

Bringing us closer to universal, real-time translation is...Skype? Microsoft debuted this future feature on Wednesday and the potential applications are pretty astounding. 

How many stars are there in the universe? Astronomer David Kornreich offers this response. (spoiler alert: many zeros ahead)

Sunsets, gorgeous cyclical atmospheric display or valuable source of data? Well, when the celestial body experiencing said sunset is Titan, the answer might be both.

NASA has become increasingly adept at re-establishing contact with decades-old orbital devices. The latest entry on their list of recovered hardware is the ISEE-3, which came back into the proverbial fold on Thursday.

The concept of a black hole has featured in both science fiction and viable research for decades, but these galaxial maws may only be half the story. Meet its sibling, the white hole.

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

Droids who can speak binary sold separately
Moisture farming is now no longer just a feature of the Tatooinian economy but, thanks to this invention, is a pragmatic way for denizens of remote locales to draw clean drinking water from the air.

Is that gentleman riding a suitcase? For one devoted farmer from China's Hunan province, the answer is yes. The motorized scooter/suitcase hybrid is the result of 10 years of trial and error by the farmer.


As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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