Some of my favorite things

Sourdough & Cheese

Fresh baked sourdough bread and some good, stinky cheese.  Is there anything better than that to start off a morning?  My sourdough starter is about a month old and it’s already got a nice tangy taste.  It has pretty good leavening power too.  I just wish I was better at making good looking bread as well as good tasting bread.  The cheese is some blue goat cheese and some soft cheese from the Cheese Store in Silver Lake. I don’t know too much about cheeses other than what I like and don’t like, so I told the lady behind the counter to pick me a soft, un-mild, stinky cheese, and another cheese that’s kinda like Humboldt Fog. I’m happy with her choices even though I don’t remember what she picked out.

Jamaica tea & new iPhone coverSince the weather has been getting warmer (finally!) I started making a pitcher of a refreshing summer drink just to have around in the fridge.  The first pitcher I made was hibiscus (aka jamaica), ginger, and a little bit of sugar.  This second pitcher I made was hibiscus, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and some pineapple mint.  It still tastes strongly of hibiscus, but with a refreshing aftertaste thanks to the pineapple mint.

The corner of my last iPhone case was cracked because of the 100 or so times I’ve dropped it. I’m glad it was the case that’s cracked and not the iPhone.  I wasn’t planning on getting a new case, but I saw this one today and I couldn’t say no.  It looks exactly like the back of my iPhone, except it’s pink! How can I say no to that?  It doesn’t have as much coverage in the front as I’d like, but maybe that’ll teach me to be more careful with my phone.

Tap Defense — an iPhone game

Price: Free (ad-supported)
Version: 1.3.2
Site: TapJoy

Tower Defense games are a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun. If you’re the type who enjoys setting elaborate sentry gun traps in Team Fortress Classic, Tap Defense, TapJoy’s foray into the genre is worth looking at. Tap Defense doesn’t offer flashy graphics or cute designs. What it does offer is level after level of enemies, lots of upgradeable towers and even a couple of handy skills.

Tap Defense has two modes: Classic and Challenges. Classic offers increasingly difficult stages while Challenges mode offers stages with limits imposed on them such as a limit on tower type or lives. Each mode has 3 difficulty levels.

In Classic mode, each stage begins with a hint on how to complete it. For those who want a challenge, simply tap past the hint screen. The action is paused at the beginning of the stage, which gives you ample time to set up a couple of towers with your starting gold. Pressing the ‘PLAY’ button will start the onslaught of enemies. It’s possible to pause anytime during the game to build more towers as more gold is accumulated.

The towers range from basic damage dealers like arrows and bombs to support towers like water and ice which damage enemies as well as slow them down. To correspond to the different towers, there are also different enemies which not only have differing amounts of health and speed, but also weaknesses.

As you progress through the stages, you earn halos, which can be used to buy more types of towers, put research into existing towers, or to buy skills such as the ability to earn more gold. The halos are limited, so it takes some planning to figure out the best way to spend them.

One thing that I love about Tap Defense, which has nothing to do with the game-play, is that it’s free with a catch: in order to save so you can quit the app and come back to the same stage later, you have to click a banner ad at the end of each stage. It’s unobtrusive while I’m playing the game, and only takes a few seconds when I do need to save. I didn’t have to pay anything, yet I can feel good about putting money in the developers’ pockets.

As a tower defense game, Tap Defense isn’t overly complex. Stages are short enough that the game is a decent pick-up-and-play game and there’s almost no slow-down unless you’re in a very enemy and tower heavy map. The first couple of stages go by quickly and easily, but the later stages can be brutal — especially at higher difficulties. The interface is easy to navigate with the touch screen and so intuitive I didn’t even need to think about it the first time I played.

When I’m waiting around for the bus, this is the game I’m usually playing.

Stanza — what took me so long?

After a mild case of Kindle envy and rationalizing — I don’t really need another gadget, especially not a Kindle, and I actually like having physical books — I compromised and downloaded an iPhone app called Stanza. It’s basically an e-book reader.

My first misgiving was that it would be too hard to read a book on the iPhone. The text would either be too small to read comfortably, or so big that I’d have to turn the page every two seconds. Or the backlight would hurt my eyes. None of this was true. I finished reading Benjamin Button in a dark room waiting for a show to start and had no problems.

Stanza comes with customizable options such as text color, type face, type size, etc. One option that I wish they had included was a dimmer switch for screen brightness. It’s a pain to go to the iPhone settings menu to adjust screen brightness everytime I want to read something in a different light.

One of the best things about Stanza is the huge library of free books to download. Sure, the latest New York Times bestseller isn’t going to be free, but there are tons of older books released to the public domain that I’ve been meaning to read.

I read my first romance novel on it. Although I guess that’s not something I should be declaring publicly. At least it’s less embarassing then purchasing one from the rack near the supermarket checkout line.

Stanza isn’t going to replace my bookshelf just yet, but it’s a handy app to have for when I forget to bring my book, or if I just want something quick to read while I’m waiting for something. And the price is right: FREE!