Friday, January 29, 2010

"In Case You Missed It...." 2009 Year in Review

If you've been listening to my radio show or the clips of it I've been posting here, there's really not much to add. Just enjoy. Happy New Year!

...It's not too late for one of these, is it?

(Note: There's a loud bit near the beginning, so you might want to keep your finger near the volume knob.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

If I Had Creamers, I Could Make Sugar Shooters

I'm back at school again, and I've got a few writing-heavy courses, so I likely won't be blogging as much as I once was, or at least, not as much as the last month. There are definitely some things lined up in the chute though, so be sure to keep an eye out for all of that.

In the meantime, I asked a friend (Katie Sekelsky, I'm pretty sure I've talked about her before... Oh yeah, here) about tea. It's a beverage that I've never really enjoyed before, particularly since most of my experiences have been with nasty iced tea. In conjunction with her webcomic Magpie Luck, she created a tea blend at Adagio Teas, and is, as far as I'm concerned, my go-to authority on teas. I wanted to know what she would recommend for someone who wanted to "get into" tea (in the way that one "gets into" drinking warm beverages). This is what she had to say:


I am assuming you have mainly only had instant iced tea (and not iced tea brewed by making hot tea w/ loose leaf and then chilling). And so you should expect a much different taste with hot tea.

You can go all out, as I have, with loose leaf tea and infusers. It is not really that expensive to get into, but I would definitely recommend starting out with bagged tea, since you aren't sure yet if you're going to like tea at all and you won't want stuck with a bunch of gadgets and bags/tins of tea.

In general, though, bagged tea is considered inferior to loose leaf. But I am not yet snobby enough about tea to not drink bagged tea sometimes myself or to not recommend it to others. I would recommend against Lipton hot teas, though, as they are probably the lowest end for bagged tea you will find at the store (though they are still totally drinkable).

Now, you might want to start out with an herbal tea. Which is not actually tea! It just infusing herbs/fruits into water (and therefore inherently decaf). But it will get you started on the whole "drinking a hot beverage with a lighter taste" thing. I would recommend either a mint or a fruit. But really, go for wherever your tastes lie. You can find a decent variety of bagged herbal teas at the grocery store (and actually, for herbals, Lipton should be just fine).

When you get into actual tea, there are a few varieties (and sub-varieties and so on). And I would recommend trying a variety, because they are quite different and you might hate one but like others, and it's not really a matter of weening yourself from one to another.

Here are the main types of tea:

Black tea: The most common type in the States. Odds are, if it does not specify another sort of tea, it is black. It is typically stronger, and the hardest to mess up (other types of tea can get bitter if brewed too long).

Green tea: A lighter, earthier type of tea. Much different from the types of iced tea you've likely had.

White tea: Also lighter. I've not had as many varieties of this tea, though, as I don't like it that much. Except when paired with mint.

Red tea: Actually an herbal tea made from the rooibos plant which grows in Africa! And also decaf. It has a very distinct taste that I like a lot, but is very hard to describe.

You can get all those varieties in different flavors as well, which you will probably want to do before trying an unflavored variety. There are fruity teas, spicy teas (see: chai), minty teas, flowery teas, etc. Again here, go with the sort of thing you like!

You can also add things to your tea, which you may want to do at first. Such as sugar (though if you dislike sugary iced tea, you may want to play it light here), honey (same goes), and milk (which I would only recommend for stronger chai blends).

So, in summary:

Try an herbal tea. Then try a flavored tea (probably black). Then try some non-black tea. Then try unflavored teas. If any of the above are too bland, add sugar or honey. If any of the above are too strong/spiced, add a little milk or cream.


So I went to Walmart and got some tea.

Is it something I would continue trying? I guess so, although I'm still not convinced I wholly like the taste of it or not yet. Maybe my tastes will grow over time, or I'll put those sugar packets to good use some other way. (Actually, adding one sugar packet did make a difference. It tasted a lot better.) In any case, it was a fun trial, and shows I really need practice with webcams. (Eventually, I'm going to have to stop doing these irrelevant conclusions.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spaß an einem Samstag Nachmittag


I don't watch much television, and when I do, it tends to be very odd selections. For example, right now I'm watching the Pennsylvania Farm Show Sheep to Shawl Competition. If you're not familiar with the most amazing sport on the face of the planet, teams of five have about two and a half hours to shear a sheep, spin the wool, and weave it into a shawl (over six feet long, minimum). I don't know why, but this is absolutely gripping television to me. Between the race to the judges' table and the following auction (one sold for $3400 last year), I just can't not watch it.

Honestly, I can't say I have any "favorite" television show, although I've admitted that the only television show I've ever cleared my schedule to watch was The Mole. It was probably one of the very few reality television shows that had a true play-along element (as compared to a phone-in element), and the entire setting of espionage in a foreign country sucked me right in. Sadly, ABC never really respected this show and always shoved it to late hours, then wondered why it never got higher ratings.

I have a tremendous aversion to German, by the way. (Really, this is leading somewhere.) I don't know where exactly my phobia of the German language began, but I'd like to think it has something to do with my former life as a Music Ed major. German is "an incredibly easy language to understand" to everyone except me, apparently. Memorizing German is almost impossible for me, which is a shame, because some German art songs are stunningly beautiful. I've noticed that lately though, I've been spouting random German phrases to people, like "nein, das ist verboten" or random German counting (for numbers less than ten). Perhaps this aversion is slowly wearing off.

This may or may not explain my recent fascination with a little show called Schlag den Raab (Beat Raab). In it, a contestant (selected by a live vote) faces off against German television personality Stefan Raab in a serles of challenges. The first challenge is worth one point, the second is worth two, and so forth to game 15, worth 15 points. The first to reach 61 points (out of 120 possible) wins. If the contestant wins, they receive a jackpot that starts at €500,000 and increases by €500,000 every time Raab wins.

The challenges widely vary in nature, from traditional sports (volleyball, handball, ping pong) to trivia or puzzle challenges (identifying the title of a book by its cover, buzzing in as soon as an item that doesn't fit a category shows up on a screen, naming a celebrity that's reading a passage by listening to their voice) to more extreme challenges (driving ATVs on an outdoor course, egg-and-spoon races on beams suspended off the ground) to more ridiculous stunts and things you'd challenge a drunk person to do in a bar (hammering nails into a board 2 feet above one's head, flicking a coin into a glass, combining five keyrings into one keyring)... Pretty much anything's up for grabs.


One trend of shows I've noticed in Germany (possibly in other countries, I'm not sure) is the popularity of periodic shows such as Schlag den Raab, which only air a few episodes per year, and take up the better portion of an entire night. Wetten, dass..? is another show that follows this trend, and is watched by well over half of German speaking folks across Europe. Schlag den Raab usually runs for at least four hours (think about it, there's a minimum of 11 games to play, plus commercials and musical guests) and starts airing at 8:15 on Saturday nights (in Germany, obviously), so it's an evening pretty well based around the television set.

The next episode airs this Saturday, January 16, and starts 2:15pm EST with a contestant playing for a €1,500,000 jackpot. I plan to watch the show as I finish packing to return to school. There's just one hitch... There's not really any legal method to watch it live in the US. There's a bit of hunting involved to find a website that's streaming the channel live. If I find something then, I'll be sure to post a link to it on Saturday, and I'll admit that I'll most likely be obtaining the link from Bother's Bar, so you'd be best off watching for a link there.

That said, keep watching this space for an update, and we'll see you Samstag.

Update: Show over, yanking this link. Yikes, that was a smidge embarrassing for the contestant. For those of you who missed it, Stefan won 63-15, after round 12. The contestant, Torsten, won only rounds 1, 5, and 9. A definite highlight worth noting: A game where some bread was loaded into a toaster, and the first to buzz in started a timer. If the toast popped before ten seconds, whoever buzzed gets a point. My definite favorite though was the backwards music game. Give it a shot, it's a lot of fun. For a bit of a play-by-play/commentary on everything, I will again link you to the Bother's Bar discussion.