Monday, 28 October 2013

Monday Munchies: Chicken L'Aurian

My wife makes some very wonderful meals for me, and I figured I should share some of them with my friends and family, or other random people that might happen upon this space.

On a random reddit thread, a question was posed about "What is your favourite meal?". For me, it was a tie between my wife's lasagna and her special stuffed chicken recipe.

When I first met my wife, and she invited me over to her place for dinner for the first time, she made me a wonderful dish she called "Chicken Manicotti." It was baked chicken, which was stuffed with cheese, and covered with a cheesy sauce, served with pasta.

A way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so it's no wonder I fell in love with her so quickly. :)

This dish has everything a man could want: It's warm, meaty, savoury, cheesy, and filling! You hit all of the major food groups, and it's not too difficult to make. 

The problem? This dish isn't actually a Manicotti, which is basically tube pasta stuffed with cheese and other edible matter.

So, when my wife made the dish last night, she christened it with a new, proper name: Chicken L'Aurian.

My wife graciously documented her preparation and recipe for the world to see.

Step 1: The Ingredients!

  • 2-4 Chicken Breast Halves (depending on number of people being served. 1 half per person is more than enough for even big appetites).
  • 1 Jar of Pasta Sauce (or you can make your own)
  • 1 tbsp of garlic
  • 125 g of cottage or ricotta cheese per breast half. Other soft cheeses also work well. For this one we tried some goat cheese.
  • 1 tbsp of chopped oregano
  • 1 tbsp of chopped sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 125 g of grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese per breast half.
  • Misc chopped vegetables to taste, for the sauce - for this one I added 1 zucchini and a handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Diced onions, carrots, and broccoli also work well.
** This is the 'basic' version. If you want the deluxe dish, buy some bacon, or turkey-bacon, and wrap it around the chicken. 

Step 2: Preparation!

  1. Turn oven to 350 degrees and find a baking dish (must be approx 9"x16" or bigger)
  2. Sauce: Make or heat up pasta sauce over the stove. Add garlic and any of the optional vegetables. Bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, use a tenderizer to pound the chicken breasts to approx 1/2 cm thick. Cover with the cottage/ricotta cheese, add some oregano and sun-dried tomatoes. 
  4. Pour half of the sauce into the baking dish.
  5. Next, roll up the chicken pieces like a jelly roll. Set into the baking dish seam-side down (gravity should hold it closed). Pour remainder of the sauce over the chicken, ensuring it is coated. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.  (If using bacon, wrap it around the rolls)
  6. Bake for 45 minutes. Boil pasta at appropriate time to serve on the side.
Step 3: Put it in the oven!

This is what the dish will look like before it is cooked.

Step 4: Take it out of the oven! savoury!

Step 5: Dish it out!

The sauce is already cooked in the dish, so you can spread it all over the pasta. It's piping hot, too.

Step 6: Get husband to deal with the aftermath!

I guess this is one way to burn off a few calories! *sad trombone*

If you are looking for a chicken dish that is a bit fancy, but not too elaborate, give Chicken L'Aurian a try. It's a great meal on a cold night.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Jowls, Howls, and Scowls

Today's random ramblings...

(Jerry Seinfeld voice): What is the deal with right-wing/conservative politicians and big jowls?

Does greed, corruption, and selfishness cause swelling of the goiter, or do big jowls cause those traits? It seems to be fairly consistent.

(I apologize, in advance, for the disturbing images)

I have been enjoying Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a lot more the past three weeks, after the warm up laps were completed.

The writing has become much stronger, they've actually used *some* less-than-perfect-specimen actors, and some of the characters are being well developed. I especially enjoyed the eye-camera episode, and the whole chain-of-control it suggests. It's a solid show that we've been looking forward to watching every Tuesday night.

I just wonder when/if we'll see the return of Graviton, the newly created villain.

If you want one reason why North Americans haven't warmed up to soccer, how about crap like this?

"Arturo Vidal had an evening to forget in Madrid last night, his biggest contribution to the game arguably one of the worst dives of all time.
Juventus' poor European campaign continued with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid, but it was their Chilean midfielder who stole the headlines with a ludicrous penalty appeal in the second half. Vidal who was attempting to square a pass across the area as he approached the byline, completely missed the ball and got his boot stuck in the pitch.
However instead of simply looking foolish as the ball trickled out of play, the 26-year-old made matters far worse by launching himself into the air and appealing for a penalty as he flopped to the turf.
Unfortunately for Vidal there wasn't a Madrid defender within two feet of him so all he succeeded in earning was the scorn of the footballing world for such a blatant and poorly executed dive."

It's bad enough that soccer refs often fall for dives, but why don't they hand out more red and yellow cards for 'simulation'? This kind of crap won't stop if there is no disincentive to do so. Penalties are so valuable in soccer than players will flop quite easily in order to draw them.

Thankfully, most of the MLS doesn't resort to this...North American soccer is a far cry from the Italian league, that's for sure.

For the Magic: the Gathering geeks who read this, here is a link that shows just the 51 new cards coming out in the Commander decks, and which deck(s) they'll be in. If you want a specific card, and plan to buy a deck, now you have more info.

It looks like the True-Name Nemesis I was drooling over is already pre-selling for about $30-40. Yikes. Good thing the deck I plan to get will have one in it.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Am I a Glymphomaniac?

I'm one of those crazy people that absolutely *loves* sleeping. Yes, napping is one of my hobbies, and I'd sleep 12 hours a day, if I could.

Sadly, I just don't get to nap as much as I should, especially on the weekends. Without my weekend naps, I found myself a bit more tired than I used to be, especially during the middle of the work day.

Where am I going with this?

Scientists have long been baffled as to WHY, exactly, we need to sleep. Yes, sleeping helps our muscles relax and recover, but that is generally just a function of the human body over time. Human bodies don't simply overheat with us, like a car engine.

Well, a landmark study seems to help pinpoint one major reason why we do need to sleep, after all.

The US team believe the "waste removal system" is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep. Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean.

They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.

It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that "housework" may be one of the primary reasons for sleep.

"The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states - awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up," said researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard.
If this is true, it would explain why people can die from sleep deprivation, or why a lack of sleep can cause your body to do funny things, or simply just not function at optimal levels.

So, the next time my wife complains about my napping, I can just found her to this and state that I need to take my Glymphatic System for a long trip to the bathroom. I get grumpy when my brain is still dirty!

Friday, 18 October 2013

I COMMAND You to Read this MTG Post!

The new Commander (formerly EDH) product comes out on November 1st, which gives me another chance to blow some more of my hard-earned money on cardboard crack.

While the wife and I don't really play Commander, many of the cards are still good and useful for our format. I do have 5 EDH decks, just in case...they also make good free-for-all 60-card casual decks.

In the five pre-constructed decks being released, there are 51 new cards for us to drool over. Here are my favourites.

There is already a multiplayer variant where you can attack only to one side. This card is basically forcing that format, which makes for some cool politics. I can't see myself playing it, but I like that it exists.

Another card that lets me 'borrow' my wife's great creatures. Marriage is about sharing, right? :)

Wow, protection from a PLAYER? That is strong. This might even see Legacy constructed play, basically being a 3-power nigh-unkillable creature.

In our environment, it'll still be quite powerful, and I'd love to stick this in my little Merfolk deck.

The cycle of curses allows for some unfair ganging-up-on-one-player shenanigans. "EVERYBODY, ATTACK JES!"

Still, these two are the most powerful, by far. Getting a zombie just for attacking? Getting your creatures bigger just for attacking? Yes, I'd love my Birds of Paradise to get a +1/+1 counter. Why the hell not?

This is an old card, but I love the new art? Barfing coins? What did he eat for dinner?

Tempting Offer, indeed! Yes, I'll reanimate my guy, for sure, but do you want to do the same, while allowing me ANOTHER? The art is also bad-ass, too.

A fixed Doubling Season that doesn't allow Planeswalkers to ultimate right away is a *good* thing, Martha Stewart says.

The set also has 10 new commanders (2 for each deck), all of which are quite powerful, in their own way.

I know the guy with the Kobold deck might be tempted to splash in green to play this dragon. He brings his own Scoobie Snacks, and those snacks also get pumped up by the old kobold lord.

Blink on a stick. How can that *not* be powerful? My wife is going to abuse this like bath salts!


I've managed to pre-order the Grixis deck, and my wife has the Jund deck. Looking at the decklists, the Esper deck is, by far, the most powerful and goody-laden. The Jund deck actually looks like crap, compared to the others...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Wednesday Wonderings

I haven't blogged much as I haven't really had any inspiration. Unlike my hockey blogging days, I'm never going to force myself to write just to get some content out. It's not like I'm getting paid :)

So, in order to keep some creative writing juices flowing, I might as well muse about some random things.

I saw this picture floating on my Facebook feed. It's nothing new or spectacular...

What amuses me is that the poor 90% of Americans get the crappy Southern US states, while the rich people get the beautiful northwest states. Talk about insult to injury!

Over to Marketing... When you bought a car, or considered buying a car, did you look to see how many Industry awards the car won?

Car makers seem to think the following is true...

For all we know, Chevrolet paid this J.D. Power and Associates for the awards. Nobody really knows much about this group, or even cares. I'm sure the car makers wet themselves over the awards, but car buyers care about tangible things, like reliability, fuel economy, and handling.

 For all I know, I'm just ignorant about what they do and they actually serve a useful purpose. That said, I'd still suggest that when car makers flash these awards around, most people don't really care.

Here is Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Keith Acton telling Canucks coach John Tortorella what everybody else wants to say to him. An amusing .gif that brings me a smile. 

If Magic: The Gathering started offering shirts with this logo on it, I'd buy one in an instant!

From Johnny Fontaine, aka Mr. Misspelling, we finish off with a goofy story about Tard, aka "Grumpy Cat" getting a lifetime achievement award for the very act of being a cat.


Yup, Mr. Grumpy is just thrilled to have won a bunch of free food and a trophy to knock over.

Kudos to the owners of the cat for taking their odd-looking feeling and making tons of money off of it. Why the hell not?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Canadians are Depressed, Overweight Internet Addicts!

Yes, this sensationalist blog post title is a riff on The Washington Post's "Americans are fat, stressed, and unhealthy" headline, but it has a hint of truth to it.

As the WaPo article points out, "We (Americans) are fat. We are stressed. We are on the verge of a coronary."

This might seem like an obvious attention-grabbing piece of journalism, but there are a couple of reasons I care.

1. Canadians face the same issues as our neighbours to the south, we lead similar lives, have similar culture, and are affected by many of the same lifestyle choices. We also both have the KFC Double Down :)

2. The real meat of the matter is the World Economic Forum's "Human Capital Index", a big study that ranks 122 countries on their "capabilities of their people put their productive use in society."

This all sounds pretty cold, but the study does highlight some very key measure of a country's well being and lifestyles, especially around education, health, and employment. If you score high in all three, the people of your country are going to be happier.


The Human Capital Index is a pretty exhaustive study, but it does have special sections for each country, as well as some easy-to-read rankings. I'm a bit of a stats nerd, so I love seeing numbers arranged in nice tables and charts!

As you might expect, Northern Europe dominates the top 10:

The only real outlier in the top 10 is Singapore, that tiny little tiger tucked over in Asia.

What most interested me was how the US and Canada stacked up to the rest of the world, and to each other. As you can see, the US scored pretty poorly in Health and Wellness, while Canada is quite well-educated.

I put together a little table of some key (and cherry-picked) metrics that I wanted to point out.

1. Canada has the highest primary enrollment rate in the world, but still a pretty big gender gap.
The US, on the other hand, is the reverse of this. More and more women are going to university, and the US is the leader in terms of that sort of equality. I'm surprised Canada is so low.

Will this lead to more women in executive positions? It's sloooooowly trending that way. 

2. Canadians have a great life expectancy, but suffer almost as high levels of depression, stress, and obesity as our cousins to the south.

While we have a good standard of living, our society constantly preaches that our lives are never good enough: We must buy more, look better, be better than everybody else. When people judge their own lives in comparison to others, how can they ever expect to be happy?

Our countries are great as the quality of health care, but many people live with many mental and physical health problems. Given how food corporations own our governments, its no surprise that obesity will continue to be a major epidemic.

3. One reason for stress: Lack of vacation time! Most of the top countries mandate many weeks of vacation, and the US mandates ZERO. Canadian companies aren't exactly generous, either, so workers are over-worked and don't get time to de-stress.

4. As expected, the US access to health care is not too great. Obamacare should help a bit, but many Americans can't access quality health care without a significant financial cost. Sure, the quality of care in the US is top-notch, but it'll cost you an arm and/or a leg.

5. Employment - The US and Canada have some of the world's best and brightest people, and also the most productive.

The problem is that automation, temporary foreign workers, and outsourcing have meant many qualified people can't find work. In the long run, this will hurt our economies as fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the products on the shelves. Companies would rather save pennies outsourcing jobs to less-qualified people, than hire locally.

6. Mobile (Cell Phone) Usage - I'm not surprised Canada ranks so low, given our ROBELUS monopoly and disgusting high cell phone rates. What surprises me is that the USA isn't all that much better. I guess a large rural population is contributing to a smaller cell phone usage?

7. Internet addicts - Not surprisingly, us North Americans are on the Internet a LOT, and have easy access to look at cute animal pictures.

8. Social Mobility - Unlike England, or many developing nations, North Americans aren't as class conscious. This is the one aspect of North America that appeals to many immigrants. Even if economic mobility is a big lie, at least you can talk to a rich person without being spat on!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Nike's Hockey Jersey Design Fails

I've never been overly fond of Nike's presence in the hockey marketplace, given the fact that the company's specialties are marketing, basketball, and using slave labour to sell shoes at a 100000% markup.

That said, I've never really felt compelled to speak up until seeing the recent jersey designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

K.I.S.S. - Keep it simple, stupid!

That's the motto most any designer should follow, especially when it comes to sports uniforms.

The best uniforms in sports? The Yankees, Canadiens, Dodgers, Red Wings... all very simple, elegant designs that use striking colours and a clean look to stand out. They stand the test of time for a reason.

Now, let's look at the awful dreck that Nike has seen fit to produce for these upcoming Olympics.


It's a very American thing to wear American-flag suits, pants, shirts, etc... Given the garish design of the American flag, it's a real eyesore to see something like this.

So, Nike decided that the Czechs should basically wear the frickin flag as their hockey sweaters.

The design on the left isn't as bad, even if it does remind me of the Montreal Canadiens.
The one on the right? Yes, they basically took a flag and sewed a crest and logo on it.

I can also imagine the numbering on the back of that second jersey will look awkward.


The one on the left looks just fine, but what the hell is with the pile of garbage on the right? Are we going for a cycling team look?

Did Nike not learn from the disasters that were the LA "Burger King" jerseys? Remember the Anaheim cartoon jerseys? Yeah, this is pretty much in that realm of barfiness.


The least offensive of the four goes to the USA, although you can tell that Dustin Brown is not too thrilled about them.

Yes, the top part of those shirts has FAKE laces. FAKE LACES!! On top of that, you have a bunch of stars.

Does Nike hire teenage girls to design these things? Why not add some sparkles and glitter?

If you simply removed the extra Ed Hardy crap on top, you'd have a uniform that is actually quite good. 


These were finally made official, and they might be the absolute worst uniforms Team Canada has ever had to wear.

1. As random commenters have pointed out, these look like the T-Shirts you'd get for free in a 24-pack of Molson Canadian.

You know those really bad replica jerseys you can buy on Ebay for five bucks? I'd take those things over what Nike has come up with.

2. Why does Team Canada need a THIRD jersey for a tournament where they are playing 8-12 games? No other country seems to need a third jersey. I realize this is about money, but shouldn't the IOC or IIHF step in and say "Two is the maximum!"

3. The THIRD version has a weird red armband on the right side (hidden in the one above), and many people have noticed that it looks like an old Nazi armband. Whose clever idea was it to sneak that on there?


Whoever picked Nike to design these abominations needs to never use their services again. If I were a player on one of these teams, you can bet I'd speak out and say "I'm proud to be on Team X, but not proud to wear these uniforms."

Friday, 4 October 2013

Nightmare Fuel - Coupon Suzy

A nightly routine for my wife and I is to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!
while eating dinner. It's a good way to have a little fun and exercise the mind.

We're used to seeing commercials aimed at senior citizens, and plenty of American drug ads (complete with 1,000 side effects worse than what you are trying to have cured).

One commercial, however, continues to haunt me to this day: COUPON SUZY!

Coupon Suzy

Upon your first glance at Ms. Suzy, you get an instant chill down your spine as you look into those dark, crazy eyes. You just know that any relationship with this woman is going to end poorly.

Every time this commercial popped up, I had to turn away and cover my eyes. I could not let the image of this woman ruin my night, or cause me to lose sleep. 

Just watch this commercial, and tell me if you don't think this lady just seems a little ... off.

No woman should ever be that excited about coupons. Her smile just isn't right, yet it's not the typical fake smile you see in commercials. I wonder if she is on some serious drugs, and is on a work-release program from the psyche ward.

Note to marketers: If you want us to use your products, don't make us terrified to use your products. Look at the Burger King 'creepy king' ads, as a good example. 

If you are brave enough to use, I can imagine it'll go something like this.

Suzy: Jes, I noticed you haven't used my website in two weeks. Is something wrong?

Jes: No, no, I've just been really busy with work and such.

Suzy: What's wrong? Don't you want to save money?

Jes: Of course, but I'm just swamped with work

Suzy: Don't you like my website, Jes? Can't you make time for me?

Jes: OK, OK. Look, I'm logged in and printing a coupon for tomato sauce. Happy now?

Suzy: Aww, thank you! :) I enjoy saving you money! Will you be back tomorrow?

Jes: Yeeeaaaah...I'll be back later...

Suzy: Yay! ^.^ I can't wait to see you again!


One week later...

Suzy: Jes, I see you haven't logged in since last week.

Jes: Well, I've had other things going on...


Jes: Mmm.... *meekly* yeeesss...



Jes: Well, it's not you, it's me!

Suzy: *sob*

Jes: It's just that I have different online coupon needs. :( We're just not quite compatible.


Jes: Look, I gotta get going-


*hangs up*

Jes: Phew! I hope that is the end of that!


Three days later, the Burnaby RCMP find me dead in my apartment, covered in ripped up coupons. On the wall, the following words are spelled out in blood:


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Wednesday Wonderings : 10/02/13


The wife and I are enjoying this show, even if it has that made-for-a-mass-audience hokeyness and predictability to it. As the show isn't on AMC or HBO, I guess we can't expect the high quality of writing and character development we've been spoiled with. "Aww, how cute! They are building a team!"

Again, I do have to rant about the Impossibly Beautiful People Trope this show has going.

OF COURSE!!!! The commandant of the Chilean forces has to be a super-hot model (pictured). It would really hurt ratings if she was average looking!

How many female military commanders could also double as models? Exactly! It's hard to buy into a character when the casting makes absolutely no sense. You wouldn't cast John Goodman as an underwear model, would you?

It wouldn't have hurt the story one bit to have her as a realistic portrayal. It's not like Agent Coulson wouldn't have slept with an ordinary-looking woman, right?

On top of that, Agent Melinda May gets in a very intense fight in the cockpit of the plane. The result? Nary a scratch, makeup blemish, or even a bead of sweat! Unless she's an android, there should be at least a hair or two out of place to indicate actual physical exertion!


I don't tend to have many dreams, especially ones that I remember. Strange, then, that last night's dream was extremely vivid and easy to recall.


It all started when I entered an online contest to win a trip to some tropical country. This contest was available only to residents of a certain block of Yew Street (Kitsilano, Vancouver), for some odd reason.

I don't live on Yew Street, of course, but I still entered and pretended to live there. The reason I could do so is that the company I work for (not my real life company) rented out some units on that street, and one of the places was vacant.

So, I put in my entry, pretended to live in Kits, and ended up winning. Yay!! ... ??

I didn't expect to win, and I didn't want to claim my prize. Given that I knew I was lying, and would be busted, I decided to not call in about it. Meanwhile, a couple of other residents on the block won some much lesser prizes.

Somewhere else in my dream, the people running the contest were searching for me, trying to figure out how to contact the winner, and later the person who didn't actually live at the vacant house. I was scared poopless that I would be found out, and made a couple of sneaky trips around the block to see what was going on.

As I used a different surname on the contest form, and my number is unlisted, they had no way of actually reaching me. At this point of writing, I also find it weird that the contest people didn't see the house was likely owned by some company, and just call up that company.

In any event, I was overcome with guilt, but was also afraid of being jailed for misrepresentation. Somebody else missed out on a trip that I wasn't entitled to.

Towards the end of the dream, I went into the contest operators' office and came clean about what I did. I claimed that I didn't expect to win, was unsure if the rule about availability was legally possible (it was), and that I didn't have any malicious or mischievous intent.

As I woke up, I believe the person I was speaking to said they would let it slide, and just DQ the entry.


A couple of funny photos for today.

The first comes from "Seebelowforcomment" on Reddit, where he found this fine 'school' on the corner of Nelson and Cambie, downtown Vancouver.

I guess you really need to know where to put your ehs, eh?

The second comes from Deadspin, who captured NHL commissar Gary Bettman 'enjoying' the season opener between the Blackhawks and Capitals by having a long nap. It's so nice to have a commish that loves the sport.