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star trek next generation is bad at social distancing

Last night I watched a rerun of Star Trek The Next Generation and couldn’t help but notice how bad the entire crew was at social distancing.

And I guess that’s how this works, right?

Our brains adapt and now movies and television, and maybe comics that were made before the coronavirus just looks, wrong, somehow. Star Trek The Next Generation, through no fault of its own, is ignoring this (new) social norm and now feels, wrong.

They will have been made before the time of coronavirus, and we will know just by looking at it.

It’s weird to think about. It’s weird to think about future art. Especially future sci-fi. How futur-y stuff can’t ignore social distancing, or pandemics, or how we all may have to hide behind masks.

baking cookies for the first time because i have time part 2

Hi, I’m Tone. I draw. I read. I write. I have no idea what I’m doing. Welcome.

This post is about me having no idea how to make homemade Not -Golden – Oreo cookies. It’s part 2 of a two-parter. Here’s part 1.

Onward!

The cookies I made didn’t taste like Golden Oreos at all. But they were buttery and kind of…biscuit like. Delicious, especially with a cup of coffee, not cloyingly sweet, as long as you keep the fondant thin, which I didn’t do, more on that later. But, as it turns out, how they tasted was the least amazing thing about them.

Just look at these lopsided cookies, overloaded with fondant.

You should make them.

but/and*

You should make them better.

Here’s how to do it, in 7 – ish easy steps:

  1. Wait for the weekend. Don’t bake cookies after the work day when you’re hungry and your four year old is hungry, that is, unless you want to eat too much cookie dough and fondant and not eat your dinner like you should.
  2. Roll your dough out thinner than I did. Turns out that rolling chilled cookie dough out is much harder work than I imagined. I guess this is why bakers have large forearms? At least in my mind?)
  3. Roll out your dough evenly. And Clearly I did not, as illustrated in the photo above. Some of my cookies were thins, some were thick, and some of my cookies unlike any you could buy in a store, were both thick and thin.
  4. Use a smaller cookie cutter than I did. My cookies came out big. They’re not huge, but they’re too big for a sandwich cookie. Too much cookie in every bite. However, the flip side of a bigger cookie is: one sandwich cookie is all you need. You eat this cookie, and you’re like, ‘Ok, I’m good on cookies.’

What Did I Get Right?

The part that I did get right in this cookie making process: was getting a 4 year old to help roll the dough and cut the cookies.

He was so thrilled to cut circles and to eat raw cookie dough, and to make dough balls, it was amazing. If you can find one, adding toddlers to your baking process is a must.

Note to everyone stuck at home who are excellent bakers: Right now would probably be the perfect time to start a daily instagram story show focused on baking with toddlers. It would kill. I am not the man for the job. Someone else please run with this.

Working With the Fondant

I had no idea what to expect when opening the box of fondant. I’d never even heard of it before tackling this recipe. It’s a block of stiff, but maleable icing. The recipe called for 6 oz. The entire block of fondant was 24 oz, so I hacked off about a quarter of it.

  1. You should hack off less fondant, because you probably won’t need 6 oz. Here’s why: the fondant is sweet, and if it’s thick, it can be overpoweringly sweet to your cookie sandwich. Which leads to the next step for making Not-Golden-Oreos more successfully than me:
  2. You’re going to roll your fondant thin.
  3. You’re also going to select a cookie cutter smaller than the cookie cutter you used to cut the cookies. This is mostly aesthetics, just to give the fondant a little breathing space on the cookie. There’s something a little sloppy about all that visible fondant in the sandwich.

From there, I just dabbed a little water and powdered sugar to ‘glue’ the fondant circle to the bottom of the cookies. They adhered beautifully.

The Best Part

The unexpected part, really. For about an hour all that mattered was making cookies. All that mattered was getting powdered sugar on our hands, and cutting cookie dough, and sneaking tastes of cookie dough, and working with the fondant. And laughing our heads off. A lot of laughing our heads off. (Especially about my powdered sugar hanprint pants.) It felt great.

If you can, take a baking break. Especially if you’ve never baked before. You don’t know how much you need it until you do it.

I can’t wait to try making these again. But do a better job of it.

TL;DR

  1. Roll your cookie dough thin, and evenly.
  2. Roll your fondant even thinner.
  3. Use a smaller diameter cookie cutter for your fondant.
  4. Add a toddler to your baking process.
  5. Make something. Just a little whatever. Whatever you make won’t be as ugly as the cookies we made, but if whatever you make does turn out ugly, that’s ok. Making unintentionally ugly whatevers is the first step towards making beautiful whatevers.

baking cookies for the first time because i have time, part 1

From the Screentone Covid-19 Distraction File I bring you File #03172020 My First Cookie Dough

I’ve got a cookie problem.

I love Golden Oreos.

Love em.

But 2 cookies is 150 calories, and that’s too many calories, when I’m trying to drop a few pounds. (I’ll write about my weight-loss process in a future feature called MuscleTone, get it? Get it? See, it’s MuscleTone instead of Screentone…yeah, you get it…It’s just never very good…Now, I get it.)

The other drawback with Golden Oreos, besides them being addictively delicious with a very high calorie count, (I mean c’mon, who can eat just two of these?) is the list of chemicals in them.

So, I’ve decided to try and make my own version, even though the only thing I’ve ever baked in my life is a couple of loaves of bread, and they’re unlikely to be less caloric, they’ll at least be less…chemically.

Fortunately, I’m not the first person to have this idea. A quick google search later and I found this recipe. So last Sunday I dove in, and made my dough.

Making the Cookie Dough: In Which Our Hero, Who Has Never Done Anything Heroic, Learns A Lot

While beating the butter with my mom’s old mixer, I had no idea, I repeat, no idea, what I was doing. I made mistakes at every turn. First, I didn’t quite let the butter get to room temperature, so it clogged up the beaters and I had to scrape them off with a butter off. (I’m sure there were better ways than a butter knife) Not only that, but I also had no idea how creamy the butter should be. It wasn’t until after I’d stored my dough in the fridge to firm it up and tidied up the kitchen that I would discover exactly how creamy my butter should have been.

It was only when I gave Little Guy a beater to lick clean, just as my mom had done for me when I was a boy, and when I licked my own beater, that I realized my mistake. The cookie batter on this beater was thick and hard, too difficult to lick off with my tongue. I had to scrape the batter off with my finger. But my mom’s cookies, when I would lick off the leftover cooky batter, the batter was silky smooth, sliding easily off the metal tines of the beater on to my tongue, the tiny grains of sugar so crunchy and sweet. (My god, I miss my mom.)

My butter wasn’t creamy enough. It was too thick.

We’ll see how that informed the cookies themselves, when I post part 2.

Epilogue

Epilogue: This may come as no surprise, to you, but I was in no way prepared for the revelation, (even after studying the recipe first), that hit me while Little Guy and I made our cookie dough. It was only after I creamed the butter, added two types of sugars to the bowl, an egg and some flour, that I realized that cookies…wait, for it, because here’s the crazy part: cookies are really just butter, sugar, and flour. I know! Crazy, right?

update: read part 2

my first moc, part 2

If you’re like a lot of people, you’re stuck at home, and maybe feeling a little anxious about the world around us.

Many, (most?) of us haven’t been in a situation like this before and we’re all just trying to get through it best we can.

So if you’ve got some free time, dig out the legos, and spend a few minutes with the kids, or alone as an adult, (there are a lot of adult lego builders out there) building something. Then try and recreating your lego build in Studio. It’s a lot of fun and easier than you might think.

This is the second part of my story about creating my first MOC (My Own Creation.) You can read part 1 here.

Adding Color to Bricks in Studio

Now that I had my model built, it was time to add some color.

It’s as simple as selecting a piece then choosing a color from the sidebar palette. Studio warns you if the color you’ve selected isn’t available for that brick. (If you don’t want to keep getting those warnings, you can toggle the controls so that the colors available are only in those provided by Lego.)

Generating Instructions in Studio

The process for making the instructions is a little more complicated.

When you first look at your instructions, there is only the one step.

I had to backtrack step by step and brick by brick to create all of the steps for my little spaceship, (which I’m now dubbing the ‘Escher’ an interstellar passenger ship with twin rotors that spin up wormholes to travel through interstellar space, and landing and retro thrusters for planetary visits. Not only is this ship capable of creating its own wormholes to cut down on interstellar travel time, it can also land on a planet with an atmosphere. Take that Enterprise.)

Once I parsed out the steps, Studio makes it easy to select different layouts for each page. I experimented with a few different layouts, ultimately settling on a six panel first page, a 4 panel page two, a three panel page 3 and a two panel final page. It’s also possible to select and move the individual elements of the instructions to make sure that they’re all visible to the reader.

To meet the requirements to upload to rebrickable, I’ve got to create a pdf of my instructions. More on that in part 3.

If you have any questions about working in Studio, feel free to drop them by in the comments. I’m by no means a Studio expert, but maybe we can puzzle through it together.

building my first moc part 1

Little Guy is in to Lego, so now I’m in to Lego.

And I’m probably more in to Lego than he is.

All of this began with me watching his sets that he had gotten for Christmas or for birthdays, and we had so carefully built together, slowly disintegrate back into the box of all the Legos. I wondered if there were a website where you can enter in all of the sets you have and find out what else you can build with your Legos.

Thankfully there was, because it is a fantastic idea and I am not the man to build such a thing.

Rebrickable is a near magical site, where you can do exactly that, enter the sets you own, and where hundreds (maybe thousands) of Lego builders worldwide upload their designs, or MOCs (short for My Own Creations) and you can see all of the marvelous designs that you can build with the Legos you have. They even provide instructions.

It is like making new toys from the toys you already have.

And these MOCs are brilliant. Go look at them. Now. I will wait…

Did you go visit them? Aren’t they marvelous?

So inspired by these MOCs, I wanted to create a MOC, too.

Of course, you’re creating a MOC every time you freebuild with your pile of Legos, but I wanted to take it to the next step.

I found Studio 2 (and it is free) by bricklink, which allows you to build Legos digitally, and creates step by step instructions for your build.

This weekend, while freebuilding with little guy, I built a little mini spaceship, shown in the photo above.

It seemed like a good candidate to recreate in Studio for my first build because it was only about 15 or so pieces. Perfect.

I dove in to Studio, (which does have a helpful tutorial) and built this little guy from the ground up.

This is my little spaceship (with twin interstellar rotors, of course) before I’ve added brick colors.

What took just a few minutes in real life took me a couple of hours to build in Studio, mostly because of my lack of familiarity with how it worked. (Don’t be daunted. Studio is remarkably intuitive, and you are much smarter than I am. My saving grace is a willingness to be bad at things.)

More on the instructions and brick color selection in part 2 of my first Moc, coming just as soon as I have a bit of time to write it.

paper airplane

paper-airplane

It’s 630 am and I just folded a paper airplane for little guy.

He brought a page torn from a small activity book, set the it down on the desk and asked me to make him an airplane. There was a scribble of green and orange crayon, and a torn corner on the page that I thought could be trouble in-flight, not to mention the fact that I could not remember how to fold a paper airplane.

So I stalled, and bought myself some time by making the first fold.

The first fold is easy: lengthwise, dividing the paper in two.

I opened the fold, laid the paper out on the table, and bent in the top right corner, bringing it to a triangle. Then folded in the opposite corner with the torn edge, which turned out to be no trouble, tucked in safely in the middle crease. I had worried over nothing.

I turned the folded paper on its side. It was not an airplane yet, but a primitive shape, a long rectangle with a missing corner, a wedge. I had hoped that once I made those first folds, my hands would take over and I would know what to do next. That did not happen.

I had no idea where to make my next fold. Shouldn’t this be like riding a bike? Shouldn’t folding an airplane be a skill ingrained from a childhood spent making hundreds of my own airplanes? Shouldn’t I know how to do this?

I folded the top of the plane in half towards the bottom edge. It was a timid fold forming a crude wing impossible of sustaining any lift.

“How did you know how to fold that,” little guy asked, in something that sounded like awe.

I flipped the plane over and made the same fold on the other side, doubling down on the crude wings.

Not knowing what else to do, and faced with an expectant 4 year old, who assumes his dad is an expert in everything, because he is the dad, I folded the wings in half again.

It was done.

I held the plane in between my fingers and examined my (crude, clumsy) handiwork. The airplane was long and skinny. Narrow. An arrow of a plane. A dart? I remembered, or thought I remembered, probably from a paper airplane book I had read as a kid. The folds in the nose didn’t line up. One wing was wider than the other. Would it fly?

Little guy looked at me, smiling. Where I was all doubt, he was none.

I pinched the base of the airplane between thumb and first two fingers. I gave the plane a light toss, just a little wrist flick, fingers released and spread wide, and the plane was out of my hands, now, with more speed than I intended, but I had done all I could do.

The plane lifted just a little at first, and I thought it might glide gently out the studio door, but instead it quickly dipped from the excess speed nosedived into the guitar leaning against the studio wall. The plane din’t travel far, just a few feet –

“Whoa,” said Little Guy. The airplane had flown farther than he ever expected.

Epilogue: Later that morning in the living room. Little guy threw the airplane over the railing of the living room down to the entryway. I was surprised by how well it flew. He ran down the stairs and picked it up.

He carried the plane up the stairs and said, “Dad, I think it’s out of batteries.”

digging ‘journey to the microcosmos’

Digging the new YouTube show Journey to the Microcosmos.

It’s incredible. A… celebration of observation.

Every choice the creators have made, from onscreen font selection, to Andrew Huang’s unobtrusive ambient music, to Hank Green’s subdued; though still enthusiastic; narration, allows the viewer to focus on James Weiss’ cinematography of the microcosmos.

And it’s Weiss’s cinematography, and the organisms it photographs, that are the real stars of the production.

My hurried notes and scratchy ink marks don’t do the series near the justice it deserves. Instead, you should go watch, and subscribe, so they can continue to make more.

birdsong

birdsong

I walked on the grey sidewalk back to the parking lot of the physical rehab facility where they were trying to get my mom’s body back in shape, even as the cancer continued to consume her, to consume everything, when I heard it: a bird song so clear and melodic that I stopped to find the bird that made it.

I looked up at the top of a leaveless tree. It was a little bird, smaller than a robin, larger than a sparrow, its body mottled with tan and white feathers.

I stepped off the sidewalk in to the pale grass to take a closer look at the little bird. It had a swatch of red on the crown of its head, and a wisp of red feathers on its throat.

I do not know birds, or birdsongs, or much of anything, really, but when this little bird sang it was with a song much larger than the bird itself. From the beak of the tiny bird, it’s song expanded out beyond the branches of the tree where buds waited to blossom in to leaves. The bird’s melody was so large that it lifted me up with it, and carried me to the top of the tree and out to the sky. It carried me farther and higher than I could ever go by myself, and for a brief moment there was no room in the world for anything else, just bird and song and sky and me.

Then the little bird flew off, away from me, a flutter of wings bobbing along currents of air, taking its song with it, and leaving me standing in dull grass once more.

I stepped back on to the grey sidewalk and walked back to my car alone.

Tomorrow it would snow.

 

 

and if you’re here more for the comics than the prose (and who could blame you, really) you can always read the comics here)