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10:19 AM on 05.01.2010

Doctor, Please: the Not so Strange Case of my Xbox (Shortblog)

No, it is not the RRoD, it is the Two Rings problem, Overheating.

The weirdest thing is when it happens: Only when I play Red Faction Guerrilla (it over heats in fewer than five minutes, guaranteed) and Darksiders (the time varies from ten minutes to two hours). The problem started after a five to six hour play session after I first got Darksiders.

Before my recent move, I tried making sure it had plenty of air, dusting it out, using new silicone on the CPU, the InterCooler external fans, sacrificing to the Volcano Gods (it was an overheating problem after all).

So, good doctors of Destructioid, any tips?   read

2:36 PM on 03.22.2010

Grub for Gamers - Vulgrim's Chicken Shack, Two for One

I picked up Darksiders recently and really wanted to present a dish today that would ring with that kind of hellish, blood soaked, demon infested type of postapocalyptica. The following is something tasty, that visually captures that kind of vibe: Cranberry Glazed Chicken.


This is a modded version of a recipie I picked up in a cookbook.

Cranberry Glazed Chicken

- About 2 to 2 ½ lbs of chicken. I like to use thighs but any chicken will do.
- 16 oz can of Cranberry sauce
- 1 bottle of French Salad Dressing
- 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce. You can also use a packet of onion soup for this.


Preheat the oven to 350

Arrange the pieces of chicken in rectangular baking dishes. You will probably need two.

Take everything but the chicken, pour them in a bowl together and mix it together thoroughly.

Pour the resulting mix into the baking dishes with the chicken in them.

Bake the chicken for one hour.

To make it tastier, you can spoon the glaze back over the chicken once or twice during the cooking process.

This is a great tasting dish, but one can not always find cranberry sauce for it year round. I solved his problem using the flavor improvisation principles described at the end of this blog, if you are interested.

Cranberry Sauce is sweet and sour. In finding a replacement for it I wanted to not only preserve that general flavor, but I wanted to replace it with something fruity.

Plum Sauce, used in Chinese cooking, seemed an almost perfect substitute. It is sweet and sour, with a little spice, and preserves the fruit theme of the dish. I picked mine up at the local Oriental grocer, but you can find it at Walmart or other supermarkets sometimes.

Quick Food History Fact: Before they had easy access to spices and chilies, people often would use fruit, like chutney for example, and vegetable, pickles of various sorts, based condiments to flavor food. This has been better preserved in East Asian, especially Japanese, cooking.

Given, that plum sauce will probably not go well with French or Russian dressing, what should we substitute? Looking at the flavor improv section below, those dressings basically contain fats (oil), some tart flavorings (usually vinegar, tomatoes), and some savory flavorings.

The old “Oriental” sesame dressing you can find at stores seemed a good replacement. It contains fats (usually peanut and sesame oil), tart flavorings (rice vinegar) savory flavorings (Soy Sauce).

The New Recipe

- About two lbs of chicken
- 16 oz bottle of Plum Sauce
- Bottle of Oriental Sesame Salad Dressing
- Two Tablespoons of Soy Sauce.

The procedure is the same as above.

Featured Skill: Flavor Improvisation 101

While a full treatment of improvisation in cooking is beyond the scope of this blog entry (for a good cook/book that talks about it try “The Improvisational Cook” by Sally Schneider), once one knows the basic types of ingredients that go into making a dish it is easier to find suitable substitutes. The basic types, with explanations when needed, are:

Fats: Oils, Butters, and Animal Fats.
Aromatics: Base flavorings that often (but not always) have a strong “aromatic” or smelling component. Examples include garlic, onions, scallions, ginger, and chilies
Acid/Tart Flavorings: Basically sour stuff, like vinegar, wine, yogurt, lemon juice, etc.
Salty/Savory Flavorings: Mostly things that round out a dish, cheese, avocado, anchovies, soy sauce, SE Asian fish sauce. etc.
Sweet Flavorings
Textural Elements: Things that add a physical feel to a dish, like nuts (think Cashew Chicken for an example), coconut, toasted sesame seeds, etc.
Dried Herbs
Fresh Herbs

These are general categories and not strict dividing lines between ingredients.

Once one decodes how the flavoring of a dish works, it is easy to substitute other flavors into a dish to make it new.

The other half of flavor improv is knowing what flavors go together. That is a larger topic that I can hopefully cover some other time.   read

11:13 AM on 02.27.2010

Grub for Gamers: Ammo Bandito Edition

Bioshock usually does not usually make me hungry, but buying ammo one night from an El Ammo Bandito machine triggered a craving for enchiladas that lasted all week, an itch I scratched yesterday. The recipe is pretty simple.

Featured Tip/Skill: Using Corn Tortillas

I am a big fan of corn tortillas. You can use them to make more authentic tacos, with eggs for breakfast, as a snack with some butter and honey on them, or in recipies like this. To really bring out the flavor of corn tortillas, and to make them flexible enough to bend without breaking, you have to heat them up before using them. I usually do this in a pan on low heat.


- About 2 lbs of meat
- 1 ½ lbs of cheese, cheddar, monetary jack, colby jack or some combination thereof.
- Chopped onions according to taste, I usually use 2 medium onions
- About 10 corn tortillas
- Enchilada sauce

For the meat I have used chicken pulled from a rotisserie chicken bought at Costco and left over pork from my Kalua Pork recipie. You can also use canned chicken, cooked ground beef, or leftover meat from a beef roast.


If you want Cheese Enchiladas, just leave out the meat and use 3-3 ½ lbs of cheese.

This if for you Xzyliac. If you want to go vegetarian, you can get 2 lbs of veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes (reds or golds, cut into relatively thin slices), etc., cut them appropriately, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle some salt on them. Set the oven to broil. Place the veggies on a broiling pan and cook for about 5 min. Once the come out and cool for a bit, cut up any larger pieces and sub for the meat.


Set the oven to 350. Get out a baking pan.

Mix the meat, cheese and onions together in a bowl.

For the next step you need a warm tortilla to wrap the mixture in, so you have some choices you can:

A. (the easiest, quickest way) Microwave the tortillas. My results from this have been mixed. Sometimes the inner tortillas are not warm enough. Some tortillas end up sticky too.

B. (the tastier, somewhat slower way) Heat up a frying pan on low heat. Place the corn tortillas in the pan to just warm it up.

C. (the tastiest, yet slowest and messiest way for this recipie), heat up a small amount of the enchilada sauce in a small frying pan, enough to cover the bottom of the pan and then some. Wait until the sauce is bubbling slowly (do not boil!) and put in a tortilla using tongs. Make sure the tortilla is covered with the sauce then wait about 30 sec. to 1 min (or you could do one side then the other), then pull the tortilla out.

Once a tortilla is warmed, put a good amount of filling in, roll it up, then continue heating, filling, and rolling until your pan is full.

Pour the sauce on top of the rolled tortillas and bake for 15 to 20 min. You can top with cheese or any leftover filling before you bake it.

In the photo below I used chicken and green enchilada sauce (my kids like that better), topping it with some leftover filling because I was out of cheese. It was not as beautiful as I would have liked, but it was definitely grubben'.


7:55 PM on 02.22.2010

Some Fun Facts About NateT (My Late Introduction)

Game related:

First Videogame Love: The very first Starwars arcade game, the one with wireframe graphics.

I was just a kid but I loved this game. My heart still skips a beat when I think of it.

Favorite Multiplayer game of all time AvP 2

Honestly, I have not really been able to stick to a multiplayer game as long as I did this one. Game play was awesome and the community was great.

Favorite Single Player game: Bioshock

I can understand criticisms from the dedicated FPS’ers, but it was a thinking man’s (or woman’s) game, and I love exercising that muscle the most.

For some reason my kids love the Little Sisters and Big Daddies. Once by daughter looked up at me and asked “Why are you killing Mr. Bubbles Daddy?”


I was a dedicated WoW PvPer from release, but the arenas slowly killed my enthusiasm for the game. Perhaps I was weird but I loved the battlegrounds because of the game play and the strategic elements in it.

Non-game related

Married w/ Children

Work as a freelance Market/Strategy analyst. Looking for more stable work.

Love to Cook

Lived in China (Beijing and Nanjing) as well as Taiwan for three years. Speak Chinese.

Someone once offered me bull penis soup (I am not kidding, I saw the unit in the pot) when I was in Taiwan. Although I had a rule that I would try anything once, I hit my limit then.


2:59 PM on 02.19.2010

Quick Tip: Saving Face

Were you the kid that made the ugliest pieces in art class? I was. Crafting true visual beauty has always escaped me. Including in the custom face makers in games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2.

Having used the default male Sheperd for my first Mass Effect 2 run, I wanted to customized female Sheperd for my second. But creating a decent looking face eluded me. I went through 4 or five different faces, trying them out in game and each one was just butt ugly. I did not want beautiful or “hawt,” just something that had not crawled out of the bottom of the genetic bucket.

So this is for the art impared, like me.

Quick tip: If you want it make a decent looking character with a face maker it helps to have a model.

I was (and still am) watching Sword Stained with Royal Blood, a great Wuxia TV series from China I was able to get off Netflix. I picked the female lead Huang Shengyi:

and another favorite Chinese actress Lui Yifei.

I then printed out a few pictures of them, and used them to model my female Sheperd. Although my final face did not look explicitly like these two ladies (I needed help on noses, cheeks, and jaws, plus I wanted a more Eurasian Sheperd), but my end results were a lot better.   read

11:19 AM on 02.17.2010

Grub for Gamers - Kalua Pork, it's yummy easy

Who does not like some tasty, easy to make grub while playing their favorite game? This column talks about food, perhaps provide some insight on quick and easy food, and talk about the intersection of food and gaming generally.

My overarching goal is to write about skills, tools, and knowledge that will make your food life that much better. Each blog will center on a skill, ingredient, on knowledge to do this.

Sometimes, like in this blog, I will talk about a recipe. If I do, I promise I will always make it, hopefully a few times, before I talk about it. Sometimes I will talk about quick food anyone can get from restaurants, ingredients, or anything else to help you have a good food life.

Lets move on to the subject:

Kalua Pork

Featured Tool: Slow Cooker

A slow cooker (or crock pot, same thing) is your friend. Basically you just throw stuff in it, wait a while, and it comes out good almost always. I included an alternative way to cook the Pork if you don't have a slow cooker.

The recipe:

- 5 lbs of pork, pork shoulder or pork butt works the best (and are usually pretty cheap)
- 2 Tbs (Tbs=table spoons, tbs=tea spoons) of Sea Salt or Kosher Salt, these salts are better but any salt will do.
- 2 Tbs Liquid Smoke, You can buy this at Walmart.

Cut slits in the meat.
Put it in the slow cooker or baking dish.
Rub the salt on it. The more even you can get the salt over the pork the better.
Pour the Liquid Smoke on it.

If you have a Slow Cooker: cook it on high for 6-8 hours. Make sure to cover it.

If you are using a baking dish (I will probably highlight this technique sometime in the future.):

The dish has to be "tight" around the meat. It does not have to squeeze it, but It can't have too much room around the meat.
Heat the oven to 250 degrees.
Place foil on top of the meat sticking over the sides of the dish.
Put the top of the dish on and put it in the oven.
Cook it for 4 hours.

Now you have a few hours to play and something to look forward to while you play some more.

When you take it out, shred the pork by just pulling it apart.

What do you do with it?

Usually people eat it with rice (I love my rice cooker) and perhaps some stir fried or steamed cabbage.

You can also eat it on a hamburger bun, or like a sandwich between two slices of regular bread.


12:59 PM on 02.10.2010

Some initial thoughts on Bioshock 2

I got to play Bioshock 2 a bit yesterday.

On the gameplay:

- Jims review seems spot on so far. The single player is a solid 8.5 to 9 so far. It is really fun. I have not played the multiplayer yet but am looking forward to it.

- Being a big daddy is not overpowering. Yes, you are more resilient than Jack was, but the Splicer AI is smarter (e.g. they know to take cover, they tend not to have a hair-trigger attack mechanism if they are alone, etc.) and even groups of 3 spicers are dangerous.

- I love the drill, no I really mean it, I love the drill.

- Having both the weapon and the plasmid out at the same time makes telekinesis allot better.

- Big Sister fights are tough, but not over the top hard, kind of like Big Daddy fights in the original Bioshock.

- The levels so far seem well designed. I am in Pauper's Drop and really like the feel and the design it has.

On the story, atmosphere, etc.

- There is no grand "Welcome to Rapture" moment like there was in the first game, that was a bit disappointing. The view and sets are still well done and are great to take a sec and look at. Sometimes you will even catch a mob looking out the window.

- I like Sinclair as a guide. He is easy going, a snake, but he does not represent himself as anything else more than that. I grew up in the South (Texas) in a town that had allot of old money, so I have met people IRL like him, so perhaps that is why he resonates with me.

- Dr. Lamb seems more of an Ice Queen (ironically) compared to Ryan's fire. Philosophically she is an evolutionary biologist with some critical theory and postmodernism thrown in. A fittingly ironic successor to Ryan in ways that go beyond the obvious.

- I am just in Pauper's Drop, the second large area, so take this for what it is worth, but the story seems pretty good and well developed so far. If you compare it to Neptune's Bounty (the second area in the first Bioshock) you know more about the cast of characters, but perhaps less of the overarching story.   read

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