Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Fallout 76: A Guide to a Bloodied Build

Posted in howto, video game by commorancy on March 3, 2021

It seems a lot of people don’t really understand how to manage a Bloodied character build in Fallout 76. It’s not terribly hard once you understand the details. Let’s explore.

Bloodied Weapons

There are many different types of legendary weapons and armor in Fallout 76, but none really more rare than Bloodied weapons. In fact, there are a number of relatively rare spawning legendary items in the game including Unyielding Armor and Bloodied weapons. Just visit Purveyor Murmrgh at the Rusty Pick and roll your chances to find out. You’ll find that it’s quite rare to roll a Bloodied weapon or get a piece of Unyielding armor. The most common armor received from the Purveyor are Assassin’s, Bolstering and Zealot’s, with the most common ranged weapons being the Zealot’s Gatling Laser and Zealot’s Laser Pistol.

What exactly is a Bloodied weapon? This legendary weapon effect increases damage of the weapon as the player’s health decreases. To get the most out of this legendary weapon effect, you must keep your as health low as possible. Unfortunately, Fallout 76’s developers didn’t offer the player a way to manage the character’s health directly. Instead, the player must find substances in the world to keep the player’s health low.

Combat?

One might initially think that combat is the way to do this, but no. Well, it is one way, but it’s not the most optimal way. There are easier ways to do this, but it will take just a little effort to find the necessary items to manage a low-health character situation.

Toxic Goo

There are few items within Fallout 76 that confer a substantial amount of health reduction on the player. One of these mechanisms is radiation. As radiation increases, health points (HP) decrease. By keeping radiation of the character high, the HP always remains low no matter what foods or medicines are consumed. In fact, this game mechanic is really the only mechanic that functionally works to keep your character’s health at a specified level.

One foodstuff item that can impart a boatload of radiation onto the player rapidly is Toxic Goo. This consumable is found primarily at one location in Fallout 76. That location is WestTek Research Center in the Savage Divide. This consumable adds 125 radiation points per vial consumed (more if you suffer from Radworms). It also does it even with the Lead Belly card in place, which means you can leave the Lead Belly card on while still consuming and taking 125 rads per vial. It takes about 3-5 vials (depending on your HP bar length), to get HP under 60. Don’t take too much or else your character will die.

To obtain Toxic Goo, head to WestTek Research Center, which houses a lot of super mutants. You’ll want to enter through the back door of the building. Going in through the front is pointless unless you really like mowing down lots of super mutants to get to the large cylindrical vats of goo in the back. If you enter through the rear of the building, the vats are right there. On the outside of the rear of the building, there are about 5 super mutants, a turret and a dog. Once inside, you only have to clear out one or two dogs and about 5 super mutants to get to the vats. If you have the Sneak card, you might even be able to get away with only one or two kills and then sneak your way up to the vat and grab a bunch of goo and fast travel out of there.

You’re also going to need the perk card Traveling Pharmacy or the backpack equivalent perk to reduce the weight of aid items. This will reduce Toxic Goo weight so you can carry a bunch with you. I usually stock up and carry about 150 of them at a time. When I get down to about 20, I head over and fill up again.

Under 60 HP?

Keeping your character’s health under 60 is the magic number for a Bloodied build. Over 60 and you don’t reap the rewards of a Bloodied weapon or Unyielding armor. Though, you can still reduce your health more and gain a few more damage points. This number exists for several reasons. A Bloodied build is a bit more complicated than simply drinking Toxic Goo and grabbing a Bloodied Gatling Gun. While that will work, you’ll want to also outfit your character with some damage and radiation resistance to avoid mucking with this build. This number is also optimal for keeping most creatures from one-shotting you instantly. Though, recently, Bethesda has given a major buff to too many enemies in the game and too many enemies can one-shot your player, regardless of either’s level, depending on their attack method.

Armoring up for Bloodied Build

Note, there is no Bloodied legendary effect on armor. This effect only exists for weapons. There are several armor effects which work well with a Bloodied build, including Unyielding and Bolstering armor. Sentinel armor formerly existed in Fallout 76, but was removed and replaced with a crappy equivalent.

Sentinel armor formerly afforded 100% protection while standing still (effectively god mode armor), but this legendary armor effect was removed from the game. Sentinel armor was a fan favorite for a Bloodied build for the first 12 months of the game’s existence until Bethesda did away with Sentinel as a primary effect. Bethesda’s developers replaced and updated a tertiary Sentinel effect equivalent, which is literally worthless (75% chance to reduce damage by 15% while standing still). Not only does it reduce damage resistance down to a max of 15%, it will only offer that protection 75% of the time… which with Fallout 76’s developer math will actually occur less than 10% of the time. Worse, you won’t even know if the effect is working or not. There’s no notification to the player if the legendary armor’s effect has actually worked. Worthless.

Unyielding and Bolstering are the armor legendary effects of choice for a Bloodied build. These effects operate 100% of the time as you would expect of any legendary effect. How can you call something a legendary effect when it only works no more than 75% of the time? Why even add something that crappy to the game? Simply just get rid of it from the game entirely. I digress.

Unyielding works not only by having damage resistance (limited to the armor piece worn), but by increasing all SPECIAL stats (except Endurance) by up to +3 for each piece of armor worn. This means that you can gain up to +15 to every SPECIAL stat if you wear a full set of Unyielding (two arms, two legs and chest piece). Why is this important? Because you’ll get a permanent +15 buff to strength, perception, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck so long as you maintain low health. You can raise up Endurance in other ways, but not with Unyielding armor. If you happen to find 5 pieces of Unyielding Marine armor, you can really get your damage resistance up there.

Bolstering armor, on the other hand, doesn’t buff any SPECIAL stats, but it does increase damage resistance the lower your health. By keeping your health low, whatever armor type you are wearing will see a buff to damage resistance and hopefully keep your character alive even up against large foes. In this case, you won’t necessarily need to wear Marine armor to get a higher amount of damage resistance. Though, wearing Bolstering Marine armor wouldn’t hurt.

Personally, I prefer Unyielding armor because of the +15 extra charisma points means I don’t need to worry about putting on the Hard Bargain card to get the best buy and sell prices at vendors. Unfortunately, any extra points cannot be used to place more perk cards on the stack. Only applying a Legendary SPECIAL card and ranking this card up will afford extra points for card use, but that means you’ll need your character to be at least level 200 to have enough spare slots and enough perk coins to spend. You can mix and match Bolstering and Unyielding in whatever proportions work best for your character.

Damage Resistance

Because a Bloodied build requires keeping health low, that means your character is constantly vulnerable to certain types of attacks, like Suicider Super Mutants whose mini nuke can easily kill your character in one hit. Additionally, being hit by the Scorchbeast Queen or Wendigo Colossus or even just a plain old Wendigo can probably take your character out with one hit. For this reason, Bloodied builds will want to combine with Sneak and other sneaky features to remain hidden while attacking. Not only does this keep you at distance from your enemies, it affords you 2x or more bonus damage from attacking while hidden.

Brahmin Milk

One trick to maintain to a Bloodied build at just the right amount of health is Brahmin Milk. Before this consumable came along, there was no way to tweak your health in small amounts easily. This consumable is the only foodstuff in the game that not only increases health, it simultaneously removes a small amount of radiation. This means you can nudge your health up by a tiny amount while reducing rads. I believe each Brahmin Milk adds about 8 HP and removes an equivalent amount of radiation. Best of all, drinking Brahmin Milk has no chance of removing mutations from your character. This means you can combine Toxic Goo and Brahmin Milk even with characters below 30 and run a Bloodied build.

Unlike Radaway which affords a chance to remove a mutation without having a maxed Starched Genes card in place, drinking Brahmin Milk doesn’t do this. Though, without a maxed Starched Genes card, you can still gain more mutations. Here’s where wearing Unyielding armor becomes a major benefit.

Milking a Brahmin is entirely dependent on your character’s luck. With the +15 buff to luck while wearing Unyielding armor, you are guaranteed to get at least one milk every time. Typically, you’ll get 3 or more. Wearing Unyielding armor, I have occasionally received 5 milks from all 9 of the Brahmin in Flatwood… that’s 45 milks! With the additional 3 Brahmins now at the Wayward, that adds a possibility of 15 more milks for a possible total of 60. Typically, I pick up no less than 30 milks, and with Unyielding + Low Health, there’s zero chance of seeing that kicking behavior from the Brahmin, meaning you failed to milk it.

To carry this much milk around, you’ll need to have the Good with Salt perk card. This card reduces food spoilage by 90%. This means you can carry around a lot of Brahmin milk for a long time, though Toxic Goo doesn’t expire.

Perk Cards

As mentioned above, there are a number of perk cards you’ll want to consider while keeping rads high and health low.

Low Health + Unyielding:

  1. (I) Nerd Rage — While below 20% Health, gain 40 Damage Resist, 20% damage and 15% AP regen (3 star)
  2. (A) Dead Man Sprinting — Sprint 20% faster at increased AP cost when your health is below 50% (3 star)
  3. (L) Serendipity — While below 35% health, gain a 45% chance to avoid damage (3 star)
  4. (E) Lifegiver — Gain a total of +45 to your maximum Health. (4 star)
  5. (L) Last Laugh — You drop a live grenade from your inventory when you die. (1 star)
  6. (A) Evasive — Each AGI point adds +3 Damage and Energy Resist (Max 45). [No Power Armor] (3 star)

High Radiation:

  1. (E) Radicool — The greater your rads, the greater your strength! (+5 Max) (1 star)
  2. (E) Ghoulish — Radiation now regenerates even more of your lost Health! (3 star) (only somewhat effective)

More Damage:

  1. (A) Adrenaline
  2. (I) Nerd Rage
  3. (P) Rifle, (A) Pistol, (S) Melee, (S) Heavy Gun and/or (S) Shotgun damage multiplier cards
  4. (L) Better Criticals
  5. (L) Bloody Mess
  6. (I) Demolition Expert
  7. (C) Tenderizer

Damage Evasion:

  1. (E) Rad Resistant — +40 Radiation Resistance (4 star)
  2. (E) Nocturnal Fortitude — Gain +40 to Max Health between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m (2 star)
  3. (E) Ironclad — Gain 50 Damage and Energy Resistance while not wearing Power Armor (5 star)
  4. (E) Fireproof — Take 45% less damage from explosions and flame attacks (3 star)

Sneaky + Bloodied + Unyielding:

  1. (A) Sneak — You are 75% harder to detect while sneaking.
  2. (A) Covert Operative or (A) Ninja — Ranged or Melee sneak attacks do 2.5x normal damage (3 star)
  3. With Unyielding, take advantage of ALL luck cards to gain better chances to repair armor, weapons, better VATS chances and better critical damage. Too many Luck cards to list here, but take advantage when wearing Unyielding.

Cards and Armor to avoid:

  1. (A) Born Survivor — Falling below 40% health will automatically use a Stimpak, once every 20s. (wastes Stimpaks)
  2. (E) Sun Kissed — Slowly / Quickly regen radiation damage between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (ensure teammates DO NOT share this one).
  3. (Legendary Perk Card) What Rads? — X Rad Resist, restore X Rads per second. (like Sunkissed, avoid)
  4. (Legendary Armor) Life Saving armor — This armor, like its sister card Born Survivor above, wastes Stimpaks.

Other Legendary Effects

Another legendary weapon effect that’s extremely useful in low health situations is Vampire’s. This legendary effect gains a brief amount of health regeneration per bullet. This effect is particularly pronounced with high fire rate weapons.

Weapons such as the Minigun, Gatling Laser, Gatling Gun and most other automatic weapons work exceedingly well with Vampire’s. It also works reasonably well with fast melee weapons, such as small knives and a Vampire’s Mr. Handy Buzz Blade. The best weapons, however, for the Vampire’s effect are shotguns. Because shotguns spew out up to 30 pieces of shot at a time, each piece of shot offers a regeneration effect, with up to 30 pieces acting like consuming a Stimpak. With a high fire rate shotgun, you can maintain your health even while being struck by gun fire or by melee attacks even from larger creatures like the Mirelurk Queen’s acid spray. Some consider these high fire rate Vampire’s weapons god mode weapons. However, you have to be cautious because while it does keep your health high, you can still be staggered which can then open you up to attacks.

Nuke Zones and High Radiation Areas

If you’re in a Nuke Zone, you’ll need to wear Starched Genes at max level and wear some form of high radiation resist armor (Chinese, HazMat, Power Armor or Diving Suit). If you don’t rely on Speed Demon (see bugs below), you can wear Power Armor. However, you’ll want to drink a radaway to keep your rads at a lower level, but also leave your health low. Don’t drink food or take stimpaks, though. Eating or drinking any HP increasing foods, will halt your bloodied build. If you lose any health, drink water only. This will increase health by only a little and allow you to maintain a Bloodied build. Also, remove any cards like Dromedary, Good Doggy and Slow Metabolizer that yield more HP for food eaten while in a radiation zone.

Putting It All Together

Toxic Goo increases radiation by +125 for each vial consumed. Each Brahmin milk decreases radiation and increases health by about 8. These two together allow you to maintain your character’s health just below 60. You can keep it lower than this if you prefer, but this combination of foodstuffs is the only way I’ve found to achieve and maintain consistently high rads and low health at a specific level.

Weapons that boost your abilities at this low health include Vampire’s and, of course, Bloodied. Armor like Unyielding and Bolstering enhance the Bloodied build to allow this build to be maintained without constantly dying, particularly in combination with the above listed perk cards and properly configured legendary armor.

Finally, a low health Bloodied build works best with a sneaky sniper build which doubles the damage level of the weapon and maintains a distance from the enemy.

Bugs

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning various bugs in Fallout 76 when maintaining a Bloodied build.

  1. When your character falls in battle and respawns, your character’s health resets to a default value of between 70 and 80 HP. This is frustrating if you’re trying to keep your health at or below 60. The game forces this reset upon respawn… which leads to the next bug…
  2. Toxic Goo fails to work for approximately 1 to 3 minutes after respawning or logging into a server. This means that if you were in a heated battle and you want to get back to it quickly, you can’t lower your health until Toxic Goo begins working. This can be particularly problematic if your character has become overencumbered as a result of respawning with higher HP when combined with losing strength buffs from wearing Unyielding armor.
  3. Some world servers load your character in with HP and Rads different (and higher) from how you last logged out. This is similar to bug #1 above. You may need to wait for Toxic Goo to work to apply the +125 rads to lower your health and begin playing.
  4. While not exactly related to this build, it can affect your Bloodied build. Many players rely on the Speed Demon mutation to increase reload speed and to run faster. Wearing Power Armor breaks this mutation. If you enter any Power Armor set, Speed Demon stops working while in it and for a time after exiting. The game will eventually correct itself after a couple of fast travels. The takeaway is, don’t use Power Armor if you rely on Speed Demon for faster weapon reloads. Instead, opt for the Cave Diving suit, Chinese Armor or a HazMat suit to avoid radiation damage in nuke zones and avoid broken mutations… and rely on being a sneaky sniper to remain far away from enemies and still do maximum damage.

One workaround for a broken health situation when combined with the Toxic Goo failure is to drink Brahmin Milk first. This can force a change to HP and rads and sometimes allows the Toxic Goo to begin working faster. Sometimes this workaround doesn’t work. Dirty water may also work. Carrying around dirty water isn’t as optimal for this purpose as Toxic Goo, but it may avoid the Toxic Goo failure-to-work after respawn bug, but it also means carrying and drinking a crap ton of Dirty Water to match the 125 rads you get from drinking one Toxic Goo.

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What is Critical Thinking?

Posted in howto, rationale, reasoning by commorancy on February 6, 2021
The Thinker by Rodin

Critical Thinking, when taught in a classroom setting, teaches something that approximates critical thinking, but isn’t actually critical thinking. In fact, what is taught is more deductive or logical reasoning than critical thinking. Let’s explore.

This article is 6647 words. At an average reading speed of 200 words per minute, this article will take slightly more than 33 minutes to read it. Grab your favorite beverage and let’s get started.

Critical Thinking Tests

Here’s a test example:

“Some men are definitely intelligent, others are definitely not intelligent, but of intermediate men, we should say, ‘intelligent’? Yes, I think, so or no, I shouldn’t be inclined to call him intelligent.”

Which of the following reflects the intention of the writer well?

A. To call men intelligent who are not strikingly so must be to use the concept with undue imprecision
B. Every empirical concept has a degree of vagueness
C. Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim
D. There is no need to be as indecisive as the writer of the above

While there is an answer to this question, I’m not going to go into what it is just now for a number of reasons which will become apparent shortly. Instead, let’s analyze this type of question for its appropriateness for critical thinking skills.

First, let me start by saying that the grammar on this question is absolutely atrocious. Without proper grammar, you can’t make heads or tails of what the question is actually asking. The grammar forces you to trip over the question which then forces you to become distracted by the grammar. This fact alone leads to confusion and interpretation problems. Once we’re off track for the interpretation, we can’t easily arrive at a correct answer. Is this a test writer trick? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Second, this question has multiple choice answers. I vehemently dislike multiple choice answers for a number of reasons. The first reason to dislike multiple choice answers is that they offer a limited selection of choices. You can’t be free to think through the question critically… which is the whole point in this exercise. Instead, you must keep your thoughts constrained to only 1 of 4 answers. On the plus side, the question author didn’t include the absolutely horrid trick answers, “All of the above”, “None of the above”, “Answers 3 and 4” or any similar type answer tricks.

The second half of the second reason to dislike multiple choice answers is that you must decipher what the question author is asking you to do and then keep your thoughts constrained to only those 4 answers… even though your own critical thoughts may lead you to additional answer conclusions not included. This means, you have to put yourself into the shoes of the question author to try and determine how the question author expects you to answer this question. In fact, this makes answering this question less about performing actual critical thinking and more about trying to get into the head of the question author to determine the test author’s motives. That’s not a critical thinking exercise at all. No.

That’s test taking 101. Meaning, it actually becomes more important to understand the test author’s tricks than it is to actually utilize critical thinking skills to answer the question. This is an important distinction to understand about test taking. This is why multiple choice test taking is less about what you know and more about how best to decipher the test author’s motives for the inclusion of the question… and more importantly, how they are expecting you to respond (correctly or incorrectly) to their biased notions. In other words, test authors leave you just enough threads of logic to lead you in multiple directions. Only one thread, if you follow it, leads to the correct answer. Other thought threads, if you are tricked by the question author’s lead, will lead you down the the wrong answer path.

This means you may be betrayed by your very own thought processes. You may postulate the wrong answer simply because the question author led you down the wrong path based on reaching the wrong conclusion. Again, this is test taking 101. You have to become a savvy test taker to understand that the test author is intentionally leading you down the wrong answer path. You have to be smart enough to understand this aspect of test taking to rethink your conclusion to lead you to the correct answer. Again, this has nothing whatever to do with critical thinking skills and everything to do with avoiding test author traps.

Third, this snippet of text is too small to draw any real conclusions. It’s like taking two sentences from the Star Wars novel and then expecting you to understand the author’s intention behind the story. You can’t do this with only two sentences. This question text lacks the bigger context of why it exists in a larger text. If the “author” behind this question included this small statement in a romance novel, for example, and was then talking about a specific character with this statement, you could much more easily draw conclusions to the correct answer because you have wider context surrounding its reason to exist. However, pulling a small snippet out of a larger story, then expecting a test taker to rationalize conclusions without the necessary larger context means jumping to conclusions mostly by guessing. Guessing isn’t the way to critical thinking. Guesswork is best left for situations where the outcome is more or less meaningless. Guesswork shouldn’t be part of or required as a strategy when taking any standardized multiple choice test of any kind. For test taking, you either know the answer or you don’t.

Free Form vs Multiple Choice

Free form answers range in difficulty, but at the same time, require more actual critical thinking. You have to be able to articulate into words the answer to the question. These word answers can then be read by the teacher to understand the student’s thought rationale. That’s the point in critical thinking. For some, writing a free form answer can be easier. For others, it can be more difficult. One thing is certain. Writing a free form answer means you’re not constrained to a limited set of answers… which takes trick answers by wily question authors off of the table. It also takes misinterpretation issues off the table. However, it won’t solve poor grammar problems, such as in the question above.

There, I Fixed It

The question above should have been correctly worded as follows:

“Some men are definitely intelligent, others are definitely not intelligent. Of intermediate men, we should say, ‘intelligent’? ‘Yes, I think so’ or ‘No, I shouldn’t be inclined to call him intelligent.'”

Which of the following reflects the intention of the writer well?

A. To call men intelligent who are not strikingly so must be to use the concept with undue imprecision
B. Every empirical concept has a degree of vagueness
C. Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim
D. There is no need to be as indecisive as the writer of the above

In fact, the text of this question, now that this question been grammatically corrected, is technically an alternative form of the classic “glass half-full” vs “glass half-empty” argument. Let’s examine.

Of intermediate men (meaning, men who fall halfway between intelligent and not intelligent), do we call them intelligent or not? Again, this situation illustrates another version of the “glass is half-full” versus “glass is half-empty” argument. Thus, such situations can be both rationalized and stated either way.. and correctly I might add. It’s particularly true when extenuating circumstances are present (i.e., how thirsty you are, for example).

Recognizing that this is a case of “glass half-full vs glass half-empty” should be the critical thinking challenge. Once you recognize this fact, the answer should become obvious. Yet, it doesn’t. There’s no answer here that immediately rewards the critical thinker for recognizing this fact. Instead, we are still left with 4 bland answers… answers that don’t adequately or obviously sum up the question author’s reason for writing this question.

However, according to this test author, the answer is A… “To call men intelligent who are not strikingly so must be to use the concept with undue imprecision”. There is nothing in the snippet that describes a man as “strikingly so”. This “strikingly so” concept was added in the answer and was not part of the question. In fact, the correct answer should be C… “Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim.” Why?

Why Indeed

The answer A works only from a utility perspective, but the answer breaks down under scrutiny. The “strikingly so” text, which was only present in the answer and not in the question, was added as a qualifier for the intermediate man. This qualifier didn’t exist in the original text and was incorrectly introduced as a new concept in the answer. This violates answer protocol.

A man who is of intermediate intelligence can’t really be called unintelligent unless someone who is much more intelligent stands next to him. Intelligence is a matter of degree. This means that so long as the intermediate man is the most intelligent man in the room, then the glass is half full… or more specifically, the man is intelligent. However, if the intermediate man isn’t the most intelligent man in the room, then the glass is half-empty… or more specifically, the man is considered unintelligent. It’s all a matter of context.

The label is then applied based on the context (or whim) of the situation… which means answer C, “Calling someone intelligent or not depends upon one’s whim”. Even though neither C nor A correctly or adequately describe this situation, C is the most correct of all of the included weak answers, because C doesn’t introduce new information.

Let’s also keep in mind that the definition of “undue” means “excessive”. Calling an intermediate man intelligent isn’t, in any way, excessive. Anyone who is not unintelligent must be, by their very nature, some amount of intelligent. We all understand that intelligence is a matter of degree. It is not an absolute. Calling someone intelligent doesn’t immediately conjure up images of Einstein and Mensa when using that word to describe someone. Instead, calling someone intelligent means to recognize that they are not stupid. For this reason, this question is better served (as a critical thinking exercise) by recognizing that it is, in fact, a form of “glass half-full” vs “glass half-empty” and then treating the test taker accordingly with an appropriate answer. That is the reason for this answer’s existence… an exercise that the test writer him/herself wasn’t intelligent enough to realize.

Critical Thinking

The above proves that this form of test taking isn’t sufficient to demonstrate if a student really understands critical thinking. This form of test only tests if the student can take tests, not that they understand the concept of critical reasoning.

Critical thinking and reasoning is designed to compare ideas, learn the most you can about it, apply logic and determine if what someone is saying is true, partly true, partly false or entirely false. Again, there are degrees to falsities and truth. Understanding and being able to critically find these half-truths or half-falsities (seem familiar?) is the art of critical thinking. It is a concept that the question author above failed to understand. It is a concept, however, that is the reason critical thinking skills are very important.

To ferret out truth from fiction using logic and reasoning is, by its very nature, a skill that everyone needs to master. Sure, you may know when your kids are lying, but can you tell when your co-worker is lying? Your boss? Your doctor?

You can’t just blindly go around thinking that all of these people are telling you the absolute truth any more than thinking they are outright lying. You need to be able to determine degrees to their truth and their deceptions. This is where critical thinking comes into play. Critical thinking isn’t just about reading text, either. It’s also about reading body language, reading into a person’s words and watching how people interact with one another. To become a critical thinker, you must also be able to read human body cues and nuances. Critical thinking skills are rarely ever just about one thing. It’s a combination of cues, text, conversation and rhetoric that combines to create a whole. Once the whole is created, it can be dissected and analyzed by your brain. The point is, to work through not only the logic or irrationality of the situation, but also to combine all aspects to see the bigger picture. Only then can you really think critically about what you know.

Case in point, the above question. If I had attempted to guess what the question author wanted, I would have gotten the wrong answer… because my analysis was not what the question author was seeking. Instead, my thought processes led me down the wrong path because I saw something in the question that turned out to be ignored by the question author. Instead, the question author took the wrong path by introducing information in the answer which shouldn’t have been there. I would have ignored the A answer because of the introduction of information that wasn’t in the original question. In fact, the introduction of that new information was actually the author’s trick to lead you away from the correct answer… to have you select an answer that didn’t introduce new information.

That’s not the critical thinking that the author intended. Instead, you were forced to use critical thinking to deduce which answer is the best based entirely on what you guess the author expected. In fact, there is even less information to go on about the test author than there is in the question. However, taking a test as a whole, you might be able to, through critical thinking, ascertain patterns in the questions and answers. It is these patterns that might lead you back to the above question to later realize the obviousness of the answer.

Unfortunately, you would have to have answered many questions on the test to realize the test author’s scam behaviors. Once you can recognize the test author’s scams on the test as a whole, you can then go back and rework previous answers to fall in line with that new information gleaned from the full test. This is why there’s an art form in taking tests… and while it might utilize critical thinking, it is more dependent on second guessing the test author correctly. I digress.

Critical Information

Critically viewing the world is important. You don’t have to tell everyone your conclusions. You simply need to be able to reach reasoned conclusions based on all information you can obtain. Conclusions aren’t always correct, but critical thinking isn’t an exact science. Because data is always changing and being updated and more information can be found, conclusions may change based on new data. This is the reason to always remain open to new data with a willingness to update conclusions based on that new data.

Jumping to conclusions is easy. It’s just that people tend to jump to conclusions way before having enough critical information. In fact, many people jump to conclusions with only the barest of information. Snap conclusion jumping is the whole reason why TV sitcom programs like Three’s Company (and many other situation comedies) can even exist. With access to the Internet, everyone now has a treasure trove of information right at their fingertips. Don’t just search one thing and call it a day. Spend some quality time searching and digging and reviewing. Look at all sites… even if the site is primarily made up of kook conspiracy theorists. There are always grains of truth tucked everywhere. It’s the commonalities between the various sites that are likely to lead you to those grains of truth.

If you can call and ask questions of people, you can even gain more insight. Nothing is off limits when seeking information. The worst that someone can say to you is, “No” and then you’re no worse off than you were before. As long as you understand this aspect, you can dig for information and sometimes get the information you need. Most times you don’t even need to call and talk to someone. An email will typically suffice. Some people can even be more forthcoming in email because it doesn’t require speaking aloud, which can be overheard by bosses and other staff. Typing, on the other hand, isn’t a problem… which documents yet another critical thinking exercise.

Getting the information to aid in finding an answer is half the fun. The other half is analyzing the data in your brain for even more ideas. Not everyone has the aptitude or desire for this. I get that. But, critical thinking is still very much a useful life skill.

Testing vs Real Life

Understand that the test question above is the kind of question you might expect to see on an aptitude test, like the GMAT. To pass that test, you will need to study similar kinds of questions like the above. You’ll then need to understand how to read and interpret these questions for the appropriate answer. However, know that that kind of “critical thinking” isn’t the same as you would use in everyday life… and herein lies the rub.

Teaching critical thinking skills in a class room will gear the student towards passing an aptitude test. Unfortunately, such tests don’t adequately prepare the student for using genuine real world critical thinking skills to solve actual problems, get to the bottom of a lie or in any other way support any other real life dilemma. We must rely on a completely different set of thinking skills than those taught in a class room. For this reason, relying on academia alone to impart the necessary information tends to come up short in real world applications. It is for this reason that I write this article.

Academia

Don’t get me wrong. Academia is great for learning new information. The teachers are excellent at getting students up to speed on various topics that they may know nothing about. Unfortunately, as great as they are at doing this, you also must recognize the limitations of academia. The biggest limitation is that university and college classes aren’t great at teaching information that’s real world applicable… or more specifically, how you can apply that knowledge to real world, real life situations. Instead, the student is left to his / her own devices for how to tie course materials to every day life.

Some course materials lend themselves to real world application much more readily than others. For example, accounting classes. It’s fairly obvious that the information learned in an accounting class can be used at an accounting firm. Classes like Sociology, Psychology, Art History, History and even Geology glasses don’t always offer up real world applicable information. They’re “great to know” classes, but can’t often be used in real life. Even mathematics classes don’t always have real world applicable uses, unless you’re a video game programmer. Even then, there’s limited use cases for that information. Knowing Calculus, for example, may not be helpful in programming a video game unless you’re designing a new and better physics engine.

In most cases, however, a game developer will grab an existing game engine off of the shelf which doesn’t require a need to know that level of calculus…. because you’re using an existing pre-programmed engine, not designing a brand new one. You will need to know how to use the engine to its fullest, but that won’t require that level of mathematical understanding.

Academia does have its uses. Specifically, it helps you to get a degree. Having a degree is exceedingly helpful in obtaining a job in certain fields. Unfortunately, much of the required academic information learned at a university is lost in time… which means that the money wasn’t well spent. Certainly, you got the degree out of the deal, which is the primary reason to spend the money. However, not retaining the learned information is a loss to not only in what was learned, but to a lesser degree in the money spent in that attempt to learn. That doesn’t mean all will be lost after earning a degree.

Academia isn’t totally a waste for learned information, however. Some of the information learned can be useful in real everyday life… if you can manage to retain it. If you use some of that information on a regular basis as part of a job, then you will at least retain that information. However, keep in mind that learning information during the pursuit of your degree can become outdated years later. Even such topics as history, physics and mathematics can change as new assumptions are made, as new information is uncovered and as new technological achievements arrive. In other words, some information learned in 1995 might be outdated by 2005, just 10 years later. Indeed, computer systems will be far outdated. Learning to use, for example, the WordStar word processor was entirely outdated by the release of Windows 98 and packages like Microsoft Word. As another example, learning to use Windows 95 had become entirely outdated by 2020 with Windows 10 being the most current edition.

Even the introduction of the iPhone and the iPad have changed academia from 1995. For this reason, many professions require refresher courses every year to keep each professional informed of the latest changes in the industry. Unfortunately, too many industries don’t require such refresher courses.

Learning Everyday

The point to all of this is that critical thinking is left to the individual to both address on their own, but continue to learn, grow and expand their own knowledge and contemplation skills. Critical thinking isn’t something that you put down or use occasionally. You must use this skill every time you interact with anyone. That includes watching the news, reading a book, talking to your friends and, indeed, even interacting with your boss.

What you’ll soon learn is that everyone has an agenda. It may be as small and innocuous as attempting to sway your point of view, but it might be as big as attempting to manipulate you into doing something for them. Critical thinking is an important life skill. This can’t be emphasized enough.

You must be both willing and able to see through to a person’s real agenda. Not everyone wants something from you… at least, not something that’s tangible. Television news programs want your attention and they want to sway you to a specific point of view… a point of view that is dictated by only the information presented.

A real world example

COVID-19 comes to mind. Vaccines do have benefit when designed correctly. However, the agenda now is to push the vaccines at all costs. News programs have been pressing this point almost relentlessly… to the point of ignoring the pandemic itself. We now get 5 minute snippets of the death numbers and we get 30 or 60 minute long segments with “medical professionals” espousing how well the vaccines work… yet, how scarce they are.

We know that. We knew that when the vaccine rollout began. It’s as if the news shows each want to insult our intelligence by assuming we didn’t know that the vaccines would be scarce for months on end. Yet, instead of covering the pandemic and showing us the carnage, the news producers instead choose show us a whole lot of nothing about how poorly and slowly the vaccine rollout is going. In fact, news programs have chosen to politicize this whole issue by blaming it on the politicians. I won’t go down into the politicization quagmire that literally has no end. Instead, let’s move on.

These news shows have chosen a one-sided approach to pandemic reporting. Instead of reporting on the actual pandemic, they are reporting on the vaccine rollout and pretending that the vaccine rollout is considered reporting news on the pandemic. Hint: it isn’t. The vaccine is but one small subset of the entire pandemic. The pandemic is about how the virus is spreading, not how well the vaccine rollout is going.

Let’s understand more. The vaccine brings hope. The pandemic brings despair. As a producer, which would you rather report on? Here’s where biased reporting comes into play. The pandemic is not just about the vaccine, it’s about how, when and why people are contracting the virus. It’s about contact tracing. It’s about timely testing. It’s about hospitals under siege. It’s about the resulting deaths. It’s about running out of medical equipment. It’s about all of these things and more…. and yes, it is also about the vaccine rollout.

When a news program chooses to ignore all else to bring the vaccine rollout front and center, that’s disingenuous reporting and it’s the very definition of biased reporting. One might even consider this kind of repetitive reporting as a kind of reporting designed to convince the viewer the vaccine is a “good thing”. This aspect requires critical thinking skills to both realize and understand. If you don’t use critical thinking skills here, you can’t know to visit other news sites to get information about the pandemic itself sans the vaccine rhetoric. Critical thinking allows you to bring all aspects into perspective.

In the last example, trying to convince someone of something by repeating it often is a recent, but definitely not new, trend. As a critical thinker, you must recognize this false strategy to understand just how misleading this trend is. Donald Trump utilized this “repeat often” strategy in an attempt to convince people that the election was rigged. Here we have news programs using this same exact strategy to sway people to the news producer’s agenda about, “pandemic bad, vaccine good”.

Let me just stop here to point out a prior Randocity article about the vaccine. Again, this is another critical thinking article. I’m not attempting to convince you of my point. Instead, I’m offering up various sides and I leave it for you to decide your own point of view. I also don’t use repetitive reporting techniques to barrage you with the same point over and over and over as a technique of persuasion. I could most certainly use this technique, but then this blog would be no better than Donald Trump or various major news networks.

With this article, I want you to rise above these petty persuasion techniques and see these things for what they are… by using critical thinking and reasoning. However, as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I can lead you, but you must choose to understand. I’m not here to convince you. You must make the leap to understand for yourself.

One Last Exercise — COVID-19

Let’s critically discuss the vaccine rollout. The vaccine rollout team has chosen a very specific rollout methodology. A methodology that I have begun to question. There’s no argument that choosing to inoculate those most at risk first seems like the best strategy, but is it? Clearly, those at high risk stand to lose their lives if they become infected. However, how do those at risk become infected? The answer is most likely, by those who are much younger and healthier who bring it to them.

Reasoning this out, it seems that rolling the vaccines out to those at highest risk of carrying the virus around would make the most logical sense, regardless of age. Yes, it’s been stated the vaccines won’t necessarily prevent carrying the virus asymptomatically. Let’s examine who I propose here: children in school. Because children are dependent on adults for their well being and because children must return to school and daycare centers which congregate children into close social groups and because children are not yet capable of understanding the ramifications and risks of carrying around COVID-19, children carriers are the most likely reason those at risk could become infected.

Children congregate socially to play and learn. Because of that, they then pass COVID-19 around and bring it home to their parents. If it’s a multi-generational household with grandparents at home, then those most at risk can easily become infected. The parents can then become unknowingly infected and, for a short asymptomatic time period, carry and spread COVID-19 to work, retail businesses when shopping and others they encounter… even to social events like the year end holiday season.

Many people have presumed this next false logic about children and COVID-19: “Because children are less prone to the affects of COVID-19, this means they are less likely to spread it.” This is patently false. There is no causation between these two separate concepts. Children and adults are both human. Human to human transmission is just as likely from a child as from an adult. In fact, because children are less likely to wash hands often and less likely to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough, transmission of COVID-19 from a child is extremely high. While the child may never get severe symptoms, that may not be true of those to whom the child has transmitted the virus. However, a child doesn’t have the life experience to understand why handwashing is important… why covering their nose and mouth to sneeze or cough is important… why it’s important to take regular baths and to wash clothing. That leaves adults at greater risk from their own child, particularly if they’ve been at school around other children.

I’ve even seen doctors on news programs implying that children can’t as easily transmit the virus to adults as justification of getting the children back into school. I get this want. I truly do. Parents can’t have their children at home 100% of the time. They need their child back in school. After all, school is really treated primarily as a form of free daycare… with the added benefit that the child might learn something. However, the misguided logic of children being unable to spread COVID-19 is patently false and will bite us all in the ass.

Children can pass COVID-19 to an adult just as easily as an adult can pass COVID-19 to a child. There is no transmissibility decrease from child to adult or adult to child for any virus, including colds, flu and, yes, COVID-19. You are just as likely to catch a virus from a child as from an adult or from anyone of any age. Anyone claiming otherwise is flat out lying to you. Human transmissibility of a virus doesn’t change simply because of the age of the human. Believing that lie could get you and your family dead.

For this reason, using this lie to justify school reopening is ripe for a resurgence of the virus… not to mention, the unnecessary loss of teaching staff life that, at this time, can’t be easily replaced. If school districts want to believe this patently false lie and reopen the schools simply to get the kids back at their desks, then don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Vaccination

If schools wish to reopen, children and teachers must be vaccinated for COVID-19. Why? Not because the vaccine won’t stop children from being carriers, but because it will reduce the amount of time they can carry COVID-19 when they get it. In fact, a child taking the vaccine may actually reduce and limit the child’s ability to transmit the virus to others. If their immune system fights off the virus quickly (in a day or two), a child’s ability to transmit is limited to a day or two at most. Because the vaccine kickstarts the immune system into action fairly quickly, a child should be able recover far, far faster from even an asymptomatic infection than an adult. Vaccination can then drastically reduce transmission from child to child in a school setting. It also drastically reduces the chances a child may transmit it to a teacher (particularly if the teachers are also inoculated) or to their parents.

For this reason, the currently flawed strategy of inoculating the eldest groups first and working downward means leaving school age children as the very last group to receive the vaccine. Again, flawed logic. Yet, parents want schools reopened now. If schools want to reopen, then everyone working in schools, including the children, must be vaccinated. There is no other choice. This means modifying the present rollout strategy to send vaccines into schools by having schools be the next group in line to receive the vaccine. Attempting to open schools without a vaccine strategy will lead to the unnecessary deaths of teachers and staff operating the schools… at which point the schools will be forced to close, not because of the virus threat, but because there’s simply no longer enough staff to operate the school system. Then, the choice to reopen schools will have been firmly shut down until such time as staff can be replaced.

Of course, no new teachers will want to hire onto school districts whose leadership so callously let their own teachers and staff die by becoming infected with COVID-19 via the children, particularly when this situation could have been entirely avoided by choosing a safer distance learning approach. In other words, the schools and school districts will have a logistical public relations nightmare on their hands should such a situation unfold. Not to mention, many, many lawsuits from teacher and school children families alike. Opening schools to 100% capacity without any mitigation strategies, such as the vaccine, is ripe for many, many more COVID-19 deaths, not just in schools. Think about the holiday season surge, but then realize it won’t end until schools end up forced closed because of loss of a critical amount of staff. It’s ultimately a no-win scenario. Believing the lie that schools are “safe environments” without offering a vaccine strategy is likely to end up with the same outcome as the year end holiday season COVID-19 death surge. Here you should use critical thinking to think through this assertion.

Reducing the Spread?

The bigger question… Is anything that we’re doing, including the vaccine rollout, actually making a dent in COVID-19’s spread? As of now, probably not. The vaccine rollout might eventually begin to take an effect, but that probably won’t happen for at least a year or longer. Even if the vaccine reduces the symptoms of COVID-19 to a manageable and survivable level, that still means that COVID-19 still has the potential to be fatal in some risk groups where the vaccine doesn’t work properly or can’t be administered. The vaccine may reduce the mortality rate in an eventual way, but we don’t yet as know how far the mortality rate may be reduced.

On the other side, we are also running against the variant clock. I really dislike the term variant and, instead, prefer the term strain. I don’t know why the news programs are using the term variant instead of strain, but here we are. The primary defined difference between a variant and a strain is its functional difference. For example, scientists believe that if a mutated virus is capable of getting past a vaccine, then it is considered a new strain. If a virus has mutated, but functionally hasn’t changed and vaccines are still equally effective, then it is a new variant. However, I’d argue that if the virus hasn’t functionally changed, it isn’t even a variant … regardless of whether its genome has mutated? In other words, variants aren’t important until they are able to get around a vaccine, in which case it’s no longer a variant, but a new strain.

The clock, however, is still ticking. That means that eventually a new strain (not variant) of COVID-19 will emerge that (almost) completely evades the current vaccines. That means vaccine manufacturers will need to rework the vaccine to include the new strain(s) or provide a booster shot that boosts the antibodies to now include the new strain(s). Though, I’d logically argue that a booster shot that intends to combat a new strain is not a booster and is instead a new vaccine unto itself. Additionally, when a new strain emerges, it likely won’t be a single strain. It will be multiple strains. Once this happens, tracking them all down to modify the vaccines can be a challenge. In other words, the vaccine efficacy is entirely dependent on how long the current strains remain unchallenged. As soon as new strains emerge, this whole situation starts all over again.

That’s an example critical thinking, not the test that began this article. The test example above doesn’t actually detect your ability to reason. It tests your ability to take tests. It’s one of the fundamental problems with academia. Until universities wake up to this fundamental disparity, they remain status quo by offering an alternative universe from reality. Universities need to wake up to the realities of the world and learn to teach real world experience. Right now, the best universities offer is book knowledge which, unfortunately, may only offer less than 20% usability in the real world. For this reason, it’s why corporations shy away from hiring recent graduates for critical business roles… which makes recent graduate employment all the more difficult. Graduates may wonder why. Well, now you have your answer. Only real world business experience offers businesses the safety net they need to know the individual understands how to operate in a corporate culture and do the assigned job to the satisfaction of the corporation leadership team.

A Final Word to College Graduates

A recent college graduate has little to no corporate experience and, thus, has no way to know how to time manage themselves or their job efforts. Time management is never taught in college. The recent grad will eventually learn this, but many businesses want new hires to hit the ground running on day one. Managers don’t want to spend hours and hours training a recent college graduate only to find them walk away from the job a year later for significantly higher pay. For training reasons, hiring managers typically hire recent graduates for significantly less pay than someone seasoned. Training is costly both in time and money, which is a significant part of the reason for the lower pay. To invest that time and money into a recent college graduate only to have them walk puts managers on edge… and makes them gun-shy to try it again. That doesn’t mean a raise won’t be forthcoming to get you up to market levels. Don’t assume you’re stuck at the pay rate where you are. However, many graduates are too impatient to wait.

I realize college graduates want higher pay on their first job, but that isn’t usual. Worse, using a new employer simply to put the company name on your resume for a year is callous and manipulative. It may also hurt your future job prospects. If as a new graduate, you commit to a job, stick with it for at least a couple years. Don’t use the company as a stepping stone for resume experience and discard them like an empty bottle. Sticking with the job increases your marketability for new jobs and increases your chances for much better pay opportunities. Walking away too soon will be frowned upon by hiring managers. Hiring managers will notice your itinerant nature is a problem… particularly if you’ve left the job in a year or less after graduation. They may even insinuate there’s a problem afoot with hiring you. Be careful with your first job as it sets the tone for all future jobs.

Again, this is critical thinking and reasoning skills at work. You must think through all aspects of the hiring processes to understand how and why what you do and how you treat your employer can help or hurt your future career. Learn to use all of your critical thinking skills to think through every situation. Critical thinking is a skill that’s difficult to master, but it is a life skill that will greatly aid you in many different ways throughout your life.

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Perfect Sushi Rice from the Microwave

Posted in cooking, howto, kitchen, tips by commorancy on December 9, 2019

sushi-rolls-2.jpgCan Sushi rice be cooked in the microwave? Yes, it certainly can. But, you do need the correct cooking tool. Let’s explore.

Electric Rice Cookers?

There are plenty of rice cookers on the market, including those very expensive electric cookers you can get in Japanese or Chinese markets. Do you need one of these very expensive cookers to cook rice? No, you do not… particularly if you already own a microwave.

The difficulty with electric rice cookers and (in general) cooking rice using heat sources is that it bakes much of the rice (and that starchy glue) onto the container surface, wasting at least some of the rice. Sometimes, even a portion may become overcooked or burned while much of the rice is just fine. However, when you cook rice in the microwave using an appropriate rice cooker, you will get 100% of the cooked rice out of the pot. Some Sushi rices can be very expensive, so throwing away a portion in the trash due to the cooking method is wasteful and expensive.

Additionally, cleaning up heated rice cookers is quite tedious. Because of the baked on starches which act like glue, it can be almost impossible to clean up this glued-on starchy mess. Soaking is the usual method. How do you avoid the messy cleanup? Use a microwave cooker.

Microwave Rice Cooker

When using the microwave to cook anything, you’ll need to use the correct cookware. You can’t just slap rice and water into a random bowl and hope for the best. You’ll end up with a gluey mess all over the interior of your microwave (yuck) and the rice won’t actually cook properly.

Sistema Rice CookerYou definitely need to choose and use the correct cookware. For cooking rice in the microwave, I suggest this Sistema Rice Cooker a-arrow. This rice cooker cooks about 2-3 cups of rice at a time. You may only be able to cook up to 4 servings in this microwave cooker. If you need to cook a larger amount of rice than this, you may need to choose a different cooker. This is where the electric cooker sizes can be a benefit.

You’ll also want to read the instructions for this rice cooker with regards to top lid orientation. This rice cooker has two lids: an interior lid and an exterior lid. This design helps prevent some boil over. It’s not a perfect design, but it does work decently if you align the two lids in the appropriate fashion. Read the instructions for proper lid alignment.

To put this in perspective, 1 cup of uncooked Sushi rice yields enough cooked rice to produce 3 large sized California rolls or at least double this number of smaller rolls. If you’re planning on making Nigiri or hand rolls, you’ll need to wait until the rice has sufficiently cooled to be handled.

You don’t want to overload the cooker with too much rice or you’ll end up with a microwave mess. Speaking of …

Microwaves

How well this Sistema Rice Cooker works depends heavily on your microwave’s wattage. You’ll want a microwave of about 1000 watts. This is optimal wattage to cook rice without risk of a huge microwave mess (or worse). Wattage of 1200-1500 risks burning, melting, overcooking, boil-overs and huge starchy and sticky messes. Let’s understand why.

A 1000 watt microwave boils the rice just the right amount on max power. This means that while there might be a little dripping that comes from the cooker, it’s easily cleaned up. A 1200-1500 watt microwave will much more vigorously boil the water causing boil-overs. A high wattage can also cause the water to boil dry in the container risking a fire hazard or even melting the plastic of the cooker. You don’t want this.

Stick to a wattage that works properly for rice. You can use a 1200-1500 watt microwave as long as you set the power level to 7 or 8. It will take longer to cook, but it prevents boil-overs or the possibility for drying the rice out.

If you have the choice of a 1000 watt microwave, you’ll be happier with the final results. I’ve personally tested 1000 watt microwaves and 1500 watt microwaves. I prefer the 1000 watt microwave for cooking rice in the Sistema.

Rinsing Rice

When cooking sushi rice, you always need to rinse the rice of starches. This is an important step for this microwave cooker. Don’t skip it. You’ll need a good strainer to hold the rice while you successively performing a soaking rinse of the rice multiple times. The water won’t ever become perfectly clear while rinsing, but it will become much more clear than the first time. You want to ensure you get a good amount of the starch off the rice to avoid starch overload in the cooker. There will always be a certain amount of starch build up, but rinsing will reduce this problem.

Timing for White Sushi Rice

To cook Sushi rice properly in the microwave, you need to understand a little about rices. All rice cooks at about the same rate, but timing may have to be adjusted a little due to variances in dryness and the rice type.

Sushi rice cooks properly when using the following rice to water ratio:

  • 1 cup rice to a tad more than 1¾ cups water.
  • One cup of uncooked rice yields enough cooked rice to make 3 California-sized rolls.

In fact, most white rice follows this same ratio in the Sistema Rice Cooker. However, brown rice will take longer to cook and will need a full 2 cups of water. For this article, I will focus on white sushi rice. If you intend to cook brown sushi rice, you will need to use a full 2 cups of water and it will need a longer cook time. You will need to experiment on timing for brown rices. I’m not a fan of brown rice, so I don’t have a definitive cooking formula for it.

Cooking time for white Sushi Rice is 13 minutes and 30 seconds. Not all Microwaves are identical even with the same wattage. So, you may need to adjust this timing a little. It may take less time or it make take longer depending on the results at the end. If you find that your rice overboils, your microwave may provide higher wattage than 1000, even if it states it is 1000 watts. You may need to lower the power setting on your microwave if you find that it boils over.

Once the microwave cooking cycle has completed, the cooking is not yet complete. Remove the Sistema Rice Cooker from the microwave and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. This will allow the rice to soak up any remaining water. Resist the urge to open the cooker to take a quick look. Allow the rice to remain in the cooker unopened for the full 5 minutes. You may need to tip the cooker just a little over your sink to allow any collected water on the top to run off into the sink. You can even wipe it down with a towel if it’s a bit too messy.

If you are using older rice, it may be drier than fresh rice. This means a longer resting cycle after cooking. For extremely old rice, you may need to allow the rice to rest for at least 15 minutes undisturbed. It will cool down, yes, but it will give time for the water to soak in fully to the core. If you don’t like how the rice feels at the end of 15 minutes, try cooking the rice longer by 1-2 minutes. However, you may need to add a bit more water for this extra cooking time.

High Wattage Microwaves

Updated October 24th, 2020 for high wattage microwaves. I’ve recently visited my brother and his microwave is likely 1500 watts or higher. Suffice it to say, it’s an extremely high wattage microwave.

I was able to work out a method to use a high wattage microwave, but it requires a little bit of hands-on activity.

To use a high wattage microwave, perform all of the basic steps as below. When you place the cooker in the microwave, place it onto a plate. A dinner-sized Corelle plate works very well because these plates don’t get too hot to handle. The plate also needs an indentation to catch any water overflow while cooking, keeping the microwave clean. The total cooking time remains the same: 13 minutes, 30 seconds.

  1. Start by placing the Sistema Rice Cooker onto the center of a plate in the center of your high watt microwave.
  2. Cook the rice on max power for 5-7 minutes or until the water begins spewing out of the top holes.
  3. Once the water begins spewing out, stop the microwave, remove the plate and cooker, open up the rice cooker and dump any water collected onto the plate back into the cooker and close it back up. Careful as the water will be hot.
  4. Place the plate and cooker back into the microwave.
  5. Start the microwave again. However, change the power level to 4 or 5 for the remaining cooking time. Lower power levels on microwaves pulse the microwaves on and off. If you choose the correct power level, the pulsing should prevent further spillovers. The boiling will start, then stop soon enough to let the water settle before spilling over. Then start again and continue this cycle until the end.
  6. After the cooking is complete, let the rice rest for at least 5 minutes up to 15 minutes to soak up any remaining water.

Rice Brand

While there are many short grain sushi rices available for sale, this author prefers Nishiki brand sushi ricea-arrow. This rice always cooks well, tastes great and makes awesome Nigiri and rolls. You can choose whichever brand you prefer, but it’s worth trying Nishiki brand as I’ve never made bad sushi using this rice.

Consistency

If Sushi Rice is cooked properly at the end of the cooking cycle, the rice should not have liquid water visible in the container. The rice on top will show empty holes and spaces between some of the grains. When you use a rice paddle to move the rice around, it will have a sticky appearance and clump a bit, but it should not have any loose water in the container. It should appear exactly like any other Sushi rice from any other cooker. If the rice still has liquid around it, you’ve added too much water. If the rice is too dry, you didn’t add enough water.

The rice should be moist, but also a tiny bit sticky. Once you add rice vinegar seasoning for sushi, it will add some liquid back to the rice and increase the stickiness. The rice should have a good bite, but still be fully cooked through. You can taste test it after the 5 minutes resting period. If there is any crunch in the rice, it’s not cooked enough. A crunchy center may indicate old rice. You may need to extend your cooking time in 30 second increments to allow for full hydration of older rice. If you can’t get rid of the crunchy center, you may need to toss that rice and buy fresh rice.

Now that you have your perfectly cooked sushi rice, you’re ready to create your favorite Nigiri, sushi rolls or even your favorite Donburi. Just don’t forget to season your rice with Seasoned Rice Vinegara-arrow before making your sushi.

Cleanup

Cleaning this plastic rice cooker is a breeze so long as you do it quickly. Some warm water, dish soap and a sponge is all you need to wash it off. I highly recommend using unscented dish soapa-arrow when washing plastic to avoid tainting plastics with unnecessary perfumes. Perfumed dish soaps can leech into plastic and impart bad flavors to foods when cooked using plastic cookware. I also strongly recommend cooking ONLY rice in this rice cooker. To preserve this cooker and avoid tainting your rice, refrain from cooking foods or other savory flavored and spiced foods in this cooker, buy and use a different microwave container. Spicy and highly flavored foods, like curries, can impart unwanted flavors into your rice. Avoid this by using this cooker for rice only.

I also highly recommend washing this cooker immediately after removing the rice from the tub while the cooker is still sticky. Don’t wait until it dries on. If you wait, you’ll have to soak it to get it off. If you wash it immediately after cooking, it’s much faster and easier cleanup.

Happy Cooking!

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Getting the most out of Black Friday

Posted in black friday, howto, shopping, smart by commorancy on November 29, 2019

black-friday-tagBlack Friday is a quagmire of sales prices across many stores both online and brick and mortar. It can be difficult, if not impossible to navigate your way to the best deal on any specific item. Let’s explore how to find your best deals during Black Friday.

Focus on Specific Products

While you can run to Target or Walmart or Kohl’s looking for random deals, and sometimes this can be great fun just to “see what’s out there”, if you’re looking for the best deal on a specific item, make a list of items you want. Let’s start with the elephant in the room, Electronics.

Electronics Deals

Clearly, electronics or technology items are the biggest sellers in any store during Black Friday. These include the immense flatscreen TVs, earbuds, cell phones, game consoles and even video games themselves. In fact, so many of these deals are really about splitting hairs… and here is where your best deals come.

So, what is it that’s important to you? Do you want instant savings today, this very moment or can you be satisfied with savings on a future order? Here’s where the nuances come into play.

Black Friday deals are no longer about the door buster 50% off deals. Now, many stores throw in store gift cards and additional store coupons to sweeten the deal. Ultimately, it’s not simply just getting a great percentage off, it’s about getting the most savings you can get… so take advantage. Let’s start with Target as an example.

Target’s Deals and Reward Cards

Target is a company that is out to offer savings in many different and subtle ways. If you have a Red Card (credit or debit) store loyalty card with Target, Target will automatically give you 5% off of your total purchase 365 days a year. That’s an amazing savings every single day. Better, this savings stacks with all sales deals which offers you even more savings. This is particularly useful during Black Friday. So, whip out that Red Card and take advantage. Granted, if you’re using a Cash Back or Rewards card, here’s where these savings can get murky.

Unfortunately, you can’t double dip between the Target Red Card and using a Cash Back credit card, so you’ll have to take your pick: 5% discount using Target’s Red Card or ~%1 Cash Back using your credit card. For me, it’s a no brainer, 5% is a better deal. If you really want that cash, go for it. And then there are reward credit cards…

Reward credit cards offer rewards instead of cash back. Here’s where things get a bit more murky. If you’re using a Delta credit card to get miles and you fly a lot, those miles might make a huge difference. This is where you need to decide what’s important to YOU. In the case of flying frequently, miles may be way more important to you than a 5% instant discount using the Red Card. So, choose your rewards carefully when shopping. Of course, when you’re shopping at many stores, you can pick and choose which payment method to use, so you can spread the rewards across many cards if that’s your best option. You will want to examine all rewards systems you have and what’s most important to you during your Black Friday shopping.

When visiting a store that doesn’t offer a discount or reward program (such as Walmart), you’ll want to use any reward cards you have in your wallet. For example, Walmart, while they do offer a wallet pay system, does not offer any rewards for using their wallet. Walmart assumes that their in-store savings should be enough and so they do not offer a loyalty program. Walmart, however, assumes wrong as their prices are typically no better than other discounters who do offer discount systems and loyalty programs, such as Target.

Read Coupon Terms Carefully

Some stores offer in-store savings, coupons and instant rebates. But, read those terms carefully. Many items are not included in the savings even though it appears they should be discounted. Retailers have obligations to their suppliers, such as Apple, Samsung, Haggar and Hanes. Always read the terms of discount coupons carefully as it might not apply to that thing you’re looking to buy.

For example, many discount coupons given almost never apply towards gift cards. They may not even apply towards Apple, LG or Samsung products. You might find that the only things you can buy in the store with added discount coupons is the in-store brand. Be cautious when a store offers you a 20% off coupon good on your next order. It may not be as great a deal as you think… unless you’re willing to make concessions.

Even instant savings coupons found by scanning an item’s barcode in the store can have important limitations. For example, Target’s Circle program (formerly Cartwheel) typically limits the discount to 4 of the item. However, you’ll want to read the Circle small print terms. In those terms it will tell you exactly how many items you can buy discounted… sometimes it may even be just one. You can buy more discounted, but you’ll have to separate the items out across several separate orders at the check-out lane. It might be easier to do multiple orders at self-checkout than when using a staffed register… particularly if you have 3, 4 or more different orders. Target doesn’t limit how many times you can apply a Circle coupon on separate orders… but they do limit how many discounts it will apply on a single order. Don’t bother trying to argue this issue with the Customer Service desk. They’ll look at you like you’re crazy. If you want to buy a large number of items discounted via Circle, be prepared to separate them out into multiple orders at the checkout lane.

Membership Discounts / Loyalty Programs

Target is a store that not only offers sales and instant in-store discounts, it also has a discount program / loyalty program called Target Circle (formerly known as Cartwheel). Circle offers additional savings on in-store items, though items chosen for discounts are almost always Target’s House Brands, such as Up & Up and Market Pantry. It’s rare that Target Circle discounts apply to major brands, but it can happen occasionally. However, they will occasionally apply to soft goods major brands, such as Hanes or Jockey, but more often than not it will apply Target’s house brand, Merona.

If you’re happy using Target’s house brand items, you can rack up fairly substantial savings towards these items. Savings such as 5% Red Card + 20% Circle + 20% Promotional savings coupons. That’s a whopping 45% savings off of whatever price is listed. If it’s also on sale, then that’s likely an additional up to 50% savings. You won’t get the item for free, obviously, but you can reduce the price by up to 80% just by stacking. This stacking almost never applies to major name brands. The best you can do here is typically 5% Red Card + any in-store applicable discounts (perhaps up to 15% off). Don’t expect to run over to Electronics to get that 80% discount, but sometimes it can happen.

I picked up a Vizio 55″ 4K TV for $768 at a time when the full price was around $1200 in-store. That was a mid-summer price, too. It was not during the holidays. This stacked Red Card savings, an in-store electronics coupon and a sale price. All three stacked to give me a whopping $432 instant discount or a 36% discount. Today, a similar TV might sell for $500-600 which is still not far off the discounted price I paid several years ago. With Target, you don’t necessarily have to get your best deals during Black Friday, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Free Gift Cards and their Benefits

Another promotional system is offering free gift cards of a certain amount for specific purchases. Here’s where you can get a great deal, if you’re cautious and you are willing to invest in the cost of whatever items are needed to get that card.

For example, Target offers a Black Friday deal that will give you a $400 gift card for the purchase and activation of a modern Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ smart phone. If you’re in the market to buy this specific item, then you can certainly take advantage of this deal. However, be cautious. There are a lot of terms and expenses in buying a smart phone and in being under contract with a carrier. Those terms have fees attached. Fees that you may need to pay for up to 2 years. Even though Target may be willing to hand you a $400 gift card to spend at Target, you may end up spending $5000 over the term of that 2 years. $400 isn’t that great of a deal considering you can only use it at Target and not towards paying down that expensive phone you just purchased.

However, a $400 gift card could be useful towards accessories such as a case, extra charging cables, better earbuds and so on. This is where value to you becomes important. If you’re willing to live with the terms of a new phone contract, then that $400 could come in extra handy during your next shopping trip at Target. And yes, you can use that gift card towards anything in Target (yes, even Apple products).

Gift cards are ways for stores to allow for discounts without restrictions. Looking for deals that offer you gift cards is better than looking for percent off coupons… so long as you’re okay shopping at that specific store. However, I have found that by and large, there are very few deals in Target that offer gift cards for purchase. When they do exist, it’s usually tied to a large purchase, such as a tablet, smart phone, expensive large screens or bulk sized household cleaning supplies (mega size toilet paper rolls, bulk paper towels, monstrous jugs of detergent, etc). Usually, you’ll need to spend at least $30-45 to get a $10 Gift Card.

The downside, however, of buying these items is that if you need to return an item for refund. The store will deduct a portion of the gift card amount from your refund. In fact, some stores may require you to return the gift card in full along with any items in the bundle before they will allow a refund. You’ll need to talk to the customer service desk for details. While the free gift cards are great for purchases you intend to keep, returns can become a problem. Be cautious with these if you have a tendency to frequently return items.

Importance of the Above on Black Friday

Why is all of the above important during Black Friday? It’s important because these are the nuances of the savings you’ll run into. When you go download a cost savings app, these apps are likely not taking into account these above nuances, such as in-store loyalty programs, membership discount programs and so on.

Apps that compare prices between stores are likely comparing discounts without any added loyalty programs. This means that the price comparisons won’t show you any additional discounts which may apply to you.

This means you could be lulled into thinking that Walmart has the best deal on that TV when Target is actually offering you a 5% Red Card discount, a 10% Circle discount and a $40 Gift Card (assuming you buy something else with it). These are the kinds of added savings that you can get by shopping at Target.

If you don’t or can’t shop at Target regularly, then these added discounts may not apply to you or may not be convenient. However, if Target is a store you frequent regularly, then this deal is likely much better than Walmart’s deal.

Price for Price, however, Walmart’s deal may look better on paper. Now, let’s talk about Black Friday products.

Electronics Brands

To pull off Black Friday, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s and even Amazon, swing deals months in advance for specific products to sell on Black Friday. These deals were likely swung early in the year to give the manufacturer plenty of time to manufacture the quantities needed for as many stores as these chains have.

What does that mean for the product itself? It means that these products can be exclusive to Black Friday only. How is that a bad thing? Well, many of these TV brands are lesser known or off-brands (i.e., Westinghouse) trying to their name back into the good graces of the public. This means they’re willing to swing deals with Target and Walmart for Black Friday. They’re willing to sell a 65″ LCD TV for $350 (plus discounts and promotions). It also means these specific product models are likely only made and sold during Black Friday. They are not sold throughout the year. You should ask the store if a Black Friday electronic deal is specific to Black Friday. You don’t want to get saddled with a lemon.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is bad, but it could mean that because it’s not a normally stocked brand / model throughout the year, the quality of the product is unknown. Thus, buying these Black Friday deals could lead you into a product purchase that might break 1, 2 or 3 months down the road. When buying Black Friday electronics, be sure to ask lots of questions and if you purchase, buy an extended return policy / service plan to go with it (when applicable). You just don’t know what kind of quality you are buying when you buy an “exclusive” Black Friday deal. Always be cautious.

This also brings up another point that is related…

Apple, Last Gen Models and Black Friday

Apple is a brand that heavily relies on last gen sales to continue its business forward. However, this situation muddies the water when it comes to Black Friday. Because Apple’s products (and packaging) mostly look alike, it’s difficult to tell an old product apart from its current generation brethren. Be cautious when buying Apple products on Black Friday for this very reason.

The current generation may be the sixth generation, but Target or Walmart are actually ‘clearancing’ out the third generation under the guise of Black Friday. Here’s where the deal is too good to be true.

This situation isn’t exactly deceptive or fraudulent by the retailer, but it definitely skirts that thin grey line towards shady. While an ad might say “Third Generation”, it might not. Even then, the ad DOESN’T tell you which model is the current model. You have no idea if “Third Generation” is the latest unless you keep up on Apple products. The use of this ad nomenclature is shady at best. They tell you its a third gen model, but what they don’t tell you is how many models old it is. If it’s a third gen model and the current is the sixth gen, then that product was manufactured at least 4-5 years ago. It also means that Apple will likely stop supporting it in about 1 or 2 years. You don’t want to buy into a product that has about 1 year left before it becomes obsolete.

Don’t kid yourself, once a product becomes obsolete in the Apple universe, it turns to crap. Apps stop working, apps stop being updated, memory problems begin and the overall device degrades into a potentially useless mess. Don’t buy products that are about to be obsolete, particularly not Apple products.

No matter how great that deal appears to be, no matter how pristine that Apple box appears, no matter what other discounts the retailer throws at you, don’t buy 4-5 year old (or older) Apple, Samsung or any other computer product. Anything that’s about 1 year from being obsolete is worth, at most about $50-100 no matter what it is. If Target or Walmart is selling it on Black Friday for $350, it’s a rip-off! Do your homework and find out 1) what generation is current and 2) what generation is being sold and 3) when that generation was made. Don’t buy old generations of computer products. Just don’t do it. The manufacturer won’t continue to support those products forever.

Smart TVs

If you rely on your Smart TV’s apps to feed you with content, be careful of these also. App developers have already begun dumping apps on lesser brand smart TVs. For example, Netflix and Amazon has stopped producing its app on some brands of smart TVs, particularly older TVs. If you want to watch content on your smart TV, don’t rely on the TV’s built-in apps. Instead, pick an HDMI smart device to plug in. Treat your Smart TV as dumb by ignoring the built-in apps and simply plug in content devices to your TV. Some popular devices are Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku and Amazon’s Fire Stick. You can easily replace these low cost devices and get updated apps via these dongles simply by upgrading to the latest.

The Smart TV, on the other hand, is a fad that seems to be fading. Name brand TVs such as Samsung and Sony may be in the App game for the long haul, but lesser brands like Vizio apparently are not. Even then, there is no guarantee that any developer will continue to develop for bigger TV brands like Sony, LG or Samsung. Instead, relay on small plug-in HDMI devices to give you access to your favorite “channels”. You can even find these devices on Black Friday deals for super cheap prices.

Movies and Music Content

The one place where you can get some of your BEST savings deals is on disc based movies and video games. Here’s where $59 priced games can be as low as $20. Here’s also where some of the latest Blu-Ray and UltraHD 4K movies can be had for as low as $6-15. Picking up UltraHD 4K movies for $15? That’s a great deal you’re not going to find at any other time of the year. These deals are great no matter where you find them… whether at Target, Walmart or on Amazon. This kind of content is a winner no matter when or where. I always recommend shopping through movie and music content because Black Friday is a time that offers the steepest discounts of any other time of the year. This is the best time to pick up some of the top blockbuster films for low, low prices. For example, Spiderman, Shazam and Aquaman UltraHD Blu-rays are all priced at $15 at Target in 2019. Normally, these cost around $29-35 per disc. Still, that’s costly for a film at $15 when you can rent them for $2 at RedBox or see them on Netflix at some point, but UltraHD Blu-ray 4K discs at $15 are practically a steal of a deal. Take advantage if you have the disposable income.

Gift Cards and iTunes

Don’t just focus on physical items when you’re shopping. Some retailers will discount gift cards, like iTunes cards, XBox Live or PS4 PlayStation Plus subscriptions. You can then get a decent discount when purchasing one or more cards. For example, Target usually puts iTunes gift cards on a discount every year on Black Friday. For the last two years, they have offered a buy-one-get-one-30%-off deal. This means that $100 in iTunes credit (two $50 cards) will cost you $85. If you’re subscribing to Apple Music at $99 a year, for example, this means you’re only paying $85 for that $100 in credit which you can apply to your Apple Music subscription. Yet more savings simply to use a well established music service. You’ll never get a discount like this from Apple directly. But, when buying iTunes gift cards, that $100 credit spends like all $100 credit… and can be used towards your subscriptions. In fact, Apple has no idea that you bought the cards for $85 versus $100.

Black Friday Savings

Ultimately, to get your best deals, you need to look at ALL of the offers a store is giving. You’ll need a sale paper for that. Don’t just look at the price at its face value. You may find stores are willing to give you much steeper discounts by using loyalty programs, gift cards and coupons for later use. Stores can sometimes even couple items together as a bundle and get deeper savings for both items than you can get by buying them separately.

For this reason, you can’t simply take Black Friday comparison apps at face value. You need to visit the store to find all of the deals they are offering you. This is why it is a bit more complicated than simply visiting an app store and downloading a Black Friday comparison app. Many of these comparison apps don’t consider loyalty program discounts as part of the Black Friday deal. If you’re an active Red Card holder and use Target Circle, you can get even steeper discounts on top of the Black Friday deals. Don’t forget about these extra discounts if you are a member in loyalty programs.

To get your best deals, you’re going to need to get your hands onto a copy of the sale paper from each store, then comparison shop between the sale papers. Even then, some stores offer in-store only deals that you can only find once you are in the store… which means you’ll need to spend time physically heading over to the store to 1) find out what special deals they offer and 2) whether the item is in stock.

On the other hand, be careful of buying older generation computer products which, at face value, may seem to be a great Black Friday deal. Unfortunately, that great deal may turn sour within a year because the manufacturer as stopped supporting the device. It also seems that discount retailers rarely put the latest generation of computer devices on Black Friday deals. If you want any kind of a discount on the latest greatest device, you’ll need to visit a manufacturer’s store, like the Apple store. And yes, the Apple store itself does offer Black Friday deals. They’re not always the best deals, but for Apple they’re some of the best deals available on new Apple products that you can find from Apple throughout the year.

Finally, focus on specific items that you really need. Don’t just go and browse. If you want to find the best deals on those things you need, you’ll need to stay focused on finding the deals on those items. If you spend your time browsing stores and randomly looking, you’ll never get to other stores to see if they have a better deal. I also don’t recommend calling the stores to ask for pricing. More often than not, Black Friday is way too busy for them to talk on the phone. You’re more likely to sit on hold only to hang up. Just head over to the store for yourself. Additionally, many stores do allow you to download digital versions of their Black Friday sale papers. Just be sure to download the one for your specific store so you can see what that store is offering.

Happy Black Friday Shopping!

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How to screenshot on a Mac

Posted in Apple, Household Tips, howto, tips by commorancy on November 26, 2019

office-macEver wondered how to create screenshots on a mac? Creating a screenshot on a Mac should be a simple process, and it is once you know the hotkeys. Let’s explore.

Hot Keys

I could run off into a diatribe about how Apple has screwed with its OSes to make them less intuitive than they once were, but I’ll skip this rant and jump right into what you’re looking for and make this one short.

There are several built-in screenshot options on a Mac running MacOS X. You’ll want to choose an option that makes the most sense for your current needs.

Option 1 — Snapshot to the clipboard (does NOT create an image file)

Whole Screen: ⌘ (command) + ⌃ (control) + ⇧ (shift) + 3  or simply ⌘⌃⇧3
Drag Select: ⌘ (command) + ⌃ (control) + ⇧ (shift) + 4 or simply ⌘⌃⇧4

Option 2 — Snapshot file saved to your Desktop (does NOT land in clipboard)

Whole Screen: ⌘ (command) + ⇧ (shift) + 3 or simply ⌘⇧3
Drag Select: ⌘ (command) + ⇧ (shift) + 4 or simply ⌘⇧4

Simple (sorta)… and now we’re done. That wasn’t so hard now was it?

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Where are the Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Bobbleheads in Fallout 4?

Posted in howto, tips, video game, video gaming by commorancy on November 20, 2019

If you own the Nuka-Cola Collector Creation Club item, you may or may not know that 5 new Bobbleheads were introduced into the game by this add-on. Let’s explore where they are.

Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Bobbleheads

In the vanilla Fallout 4, there are 20 Bobbleheads. These offer various perks when you pick them up, such as Luck or Small Guns. However, if you have visited the Creation Club store and purchased the Nuka-Cola Collector add-on, 5 new Bobbleheads were introduced into Fallout 4. They don’t have names specifically or special qualities, other than being named the very creative “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #1”. There are 5 of them spread throughout the world.

As I had been looking for where these Bobbleheads are, there is no good resource on the Internet for this. Even Google is of no help. I finally did manage to find the Bobbleheads, though. I thought I’d write this article to describe exactly where each Bobblehead is located within Fallout 4. Thankfully, these Bobbleheads respawn. If you pick them up, you can go back to each location later and get another set.

So what good are they if they don’t offer any perks? They are simply introduced into the world as an Easter egg for the owners of this Creation Club item (and for decoration purposes). They can be used to decorate your settlement. I believe you can also create a version of them via the Workshop menu. But, these created ones are static and can’t be picked up or dropped. The ones you locate in the world can be used for decoration in the Bobblehead displays just as any other bobblehead. So, there’s that.

Let’s jump right into this one, shall we?

Locations

  1. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #1” is located at DB Technical High School. As you enter the main building doors, head down to the basement. This one is located on table across from a long ramp leading to the back. You will have to clear the Raiders and the boss before you can get to the table where it sits.
  2. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #2” is located at Fallon’s Department Store on the top floor in an office on a desk. You’ll have to walk up two different disconnected sets of escalators to get to the top floor. Watch out for the Super Mutants.
  3. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #3” is located in Prost Bar. To get to Prost Bar, you’ll need to travel to Swan’s Pond and cross the park straight back and to the left. Across the street there is a staircase leading down to a cellar with a blue door. This is Prost Bar. Note, if you have any Prost Bar cleanup mods enabled, you will need to disable them to ensure that the Bobblehead is there. As you walk into the door, walk straight by the bar and and look for the manager’s office on the left. The Bobblehead will be sitting on top of a filing cabinet.
  4. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #4” is located at Greenetech Genetics. Enter the main door, then find the stairs upward. This building is kind of confusing inside, so work your way up until you find the elevator. Take this elevator to the top of this tall building. At the top, you’ll need to work your way up again until you find a small table sitting on a balcony overlook. This bobblehead will be sitting next to a broken terminal.
  5. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #5” is located at Vault-Tec Regional Headquarters. In this building, it’s about two floors up. Find the stairs that lead you up to a pool table breaking through the floor. Go around the right side of this pool table to the back wall, then turn right into an office. It will be sitting next to a Mr. Davidson’s Terminal.

That’s all 5 bobbleheads. These Bobbleheads all wear a red Nuka-Cola shirt and have either a Nuka-Cola, a Nuka Cherry or a Nuka-Cola Quantum bottle as part of the Bobblehead.

These bobbleheads are for decoration purposes only. They offer no function or perks. Though, I will say they are fun addition and look pretty cool.

Happy Hunting!

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Where can I find Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins in Fallout 76?

Posted in howto, tips, video game by commorancy on November 8, 2019

12-7-2018_5-54-58_AM-ma4zjmynThis is a question with few answers on the Internet. Let’s me answer it here.

Fallout 76 and Bugs

There’s much to be said for bugs and glitches in Fallout 76. In fact, there are many bugs and glitches in this game. This recipe is no exception. In fact, this recipe has been broken since the game launched over a year ago.

With that said, let’s talk about where it is.

Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins

This recipe sorta does and doesn’t exist in the game. In fact, it doesn’t exist. What I mean is that it does have a placeholder where it is supposed to exist.

This recipe is supposed to spawn at Spruce Knob Campgrounds. If you have played through “The Order of the Tadpole” quest line, then you have probably attempted the Swimmer’s badge. If you have, then you know the lake at Spruce Knob Campgrounds.

Fallout 76_20210217163215

The recipe paper is located on a picnic table right next to a blue cooler near Spruce Knob lake. The picnic table is just to the right of the shore of Spruce Knob Lake. In fact, there is a map marker specifically for Spruce Knob Lake that likely lands you very close to this very table.

The difficulty is that this Recipe is bugged. When Bethesda released this recipe into the game, this piece of paper has no interaction. This means you cannot pick it up. You can see the paper on the table, but you can’t do anything with it. This paper is Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins recipe, but it cannot be had.

Bug Fixes

Bethesda has been regularly fixing bugs, but not some of these long standing, lesser important bugs. What that means is that it is anyone’s guess if Bethesda will ever fix this bug. So yes, the recipe does exist, but it cannot be had in the game. It’s anyone’s guess exactly what this recipe offers in terms of perks.

All of the other Delbert’s recipes are available in the game. All of these recipes look like a piece of 3 hole school paper. They do not have the same appearance as standard recipes. In fact, let me tell you where each of Delbert’s Recipes is:

  • Delbert’s Sunshine Oil, Mountain Hocks and Appalachili are were all in Flatwoods. Some have moved.
    • Delbert’s Sunshine Oil recipe is located in Delbert’s trailer on the nightstand next to the bed. It can now be found inside of a house in Welch on the kitchen counter. It’s one of two houses adjoining with planks across the second floor and with mostly intact interiors.
    • Delbert’s Mountain Hocks recipe is located next to a skeleton in the Red Rocket just outside of Flatwoods. This recipe is now located at Beckwith Farm (Savage Divide) on top of a stone of a burned out campfire.
    • Delbert’s Appalachili recipe is located next to the armor bench just across from the Flatwoods Tavern.
    • Updated Note as of 2/2021: As of a recent update (perhaps Steel Dawn), Bethesda has removed two of the recipes from Flatwoods. Delbert’s Sunshine Oil recipe can no longer be found next to the bed in Delbert’s trailer. Delbert’s Mountain Hocks recipe no longer spawns next to the skeleton in the Flatwoods Red Rocket. Of the three, only Delbert’s Appalachili recipe still spawns in its original location in Flatwoods.
  • Delbert’s Corn Pone recipe is located in a small kitchen stand at Tyler County Fairgrounds. This kitchen spawns a Scorched inside.
  • Delbert’s Mud Cookie recipe is located in the kitchen of the blue house at Aaronholt Homestead.
  • Delbert’s Delicious Deerskins recipe is located behind a Level 2 locked door to a candy shop at Wavy Willard’s.
  • Delbert’s Tato Salad Surprise recipe is located on the kitchen counter at Silva Homestead
  • Delbert’s Sweet Labrador Tea recipe is located inside of Raleigh Clay’s Bunker in the mire. It is on the dining room table in the kitchen. You will need to begin the quest at Abbie’s Bunker to get the password to gain access to Raleigh Clay’s bunker.
  • Delbert’s Pothole Potpie recipe is located in the center of Treehouse Village in the Mire. It is on a shelving unit across from Lorne’s terminal. This recipe has moved. Since the introduction of NPCs into this location, the NPC’s have “cleaned up” the area and moved stuff around. The recipe now sits immediately to the right of Lorne’s terminal which has moved onto a small desk in a smaller area in the Treehouse. Because this area is now free of enemies, you can wander freely through the treehouse until you find it. It’s not far from where it originally was.
  • Delbert’s Bunless Cramburger recipe is located at The General’s Steakhouse in the Cranberry Bog. It is located downstairs in the basement kitchen at the end of the counter to the right just as you come down the stairs. This is NOT the same recipe as “Cramburger”.
  • Delbert’s Granny’s Sweet Tea recipe is located at Mac’s Farm on a small table to the right of the front door entrance. Watch out for the Mirelurk Queen here.
  • Delbert’s Company Tea recipe is located at Superior Sunset Farm in a half-open basement of this farmhouse in the Cranberry Bog. It is pinned to a cork bulletin board.
  • Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins recipe is located at Spruce Knob Campgrounds (Savage Divide) near Spruce Knob Lake on a picnic table next to a blue cooler. This recipe is bugged and cannot currently be retrieved from the table. You can see it, but you can’t take it.

Here are pictures of each of these recipes in Fallout 76:

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Additionally, Delbert’s Company Tea requires using a serving of Delbert’s Sweet Labrador Tea to make. This means you’ll need to have both recipes to make Delbert’s Company Tea. To make Sweet Labrador Tea, you’ll need honeycomb… a very hard ingredient to find in the game. As for where to find honeycomb, I’ll have to leave you to locate that in Fallout 76 for yourself.

Also note that you can pick up any of these recipes more than once, at least for now. The recipes can also only be picked up once per day. This means you must wait for the recipe to respawn the next day. Note, Bethesda can always change this or any game mechanic.

Good Luck!

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Can you make potato chips in the microwave?

Posted in baking, Health, howto, smart, snacking by commorancy on September 17, 2019

Why yes. Yes, you can. In fact, it’s pretty fast to make homemade potato chips. But, the speed does depend on your microwave. Let’s explore.

Slicer

The critical piece of the potato chip puzzle is slicing them the correct thickness. To do this, you need to get a potato chip mandoline. This is the critical first step to making potato chips. They can’t be too thick, but they also can’t be too thin. There’s a perfect thickness to make proper potato chips.

The slicer I recommend is the Akebono Potato Slicer set. Though, you may be able to get the potato chips the proper thickness with this Ronco mandoline or this Mastrad mandoline. The reviews show that these do work.

Baker

All of these sets offer a round plastic baker which holds the chips vertical. I’m not a fan of baking them this way. I prefer my chips flat. If you use the vertical version, the chips will fold and flop over, sometimes on themselves. This can make for odd shaped chips. If you like that about the vertical baker, then by all means go for it. As I said, I prefer my chips flat.

To get absolutely flat chips, you’ll want to microwave them flat on a plate. I use glass plates because the chips stick less and seem to bake faster. There’s also no chance of burning a glass plate, unlike paper which can smoulder and catch fire in the microwave.

It’s up to you to choose which baking method you prefer.

Preparation

  • Scrub the potato thoroughly with a vegetable brush under running water.
  • Peel potato if you prefer. I prefer them unpeeled.
  • Slice the potato on the mandoline and place the slices into water to soak.
  • When finished slicing, rinse all of the slices on both sides until the water runs clear (i.e., no starch remains).
  • Dry the chips on both sides and lay them on a flat surface.
  • Jump to baking instructions immediately below.

Cooking Times

This is the critical part. If you have a 1200-1500 watt microwave, your baking time will be about 5 minutes. You’ll need to add more time if your microwave has less wattage. For example, a 600 watt microwave might take up to 20 minutes. To bake, follow these instructions:

  1. On a glass plate, lay the chips out flat so that they are not touching one another.
  2. Place into the microwave and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Halfway through the cooking cycle (and while the chips are still just a bit damp), lift them from the plate so they are loose. The plate may be hot, so use an oven mitt.
  4. Continue microwaving the chips until they are slightly brown in places.
  5. Remove the chips and let them stand for about 5 minutes to finish crisping.
  6. Enjoy.

I don’t put salt on my chips and I prefer them unsalted. However, if you like salt, salt them before you begin baking them. You only need to salt one side.

A single potato might yield 5 or 6 small batches. This can be a bit time consuming to cook using the plate microwave method. This means running about 5-6 separate batches through your microwave. At 5 minutes per batch, that’s about 25-30 minutes of baking time to make a single potato’s worth of chips. If you want to do several potatoes, it could take several hours. The flat method may not be optimal for large batches. For large batches, you might want to consider the ring baker which holds more chips.

You might also consider baking them in the oven as you can use multiple cookie sheets to lay them all out flat. Baking them in the oven will likely take 20-30 minutes at 350ºF (or until they are slightly brown).

For making small batches, the microwave is the fastest method and produces chips in as little as 5 minutes.

Doneness

The chips are done when they are both lightly browned uniformly and when they’re fully crispy. If they’re chewy or wet in the center, you’ll need to add more baking time. The chip should be completely dry and crispy when done. The chips will also shrink by about half. If you like monstrous sized chips, you’ll need to buy even bigger potatoes. Average sized potatoes produce smaller sized chips. Be cognizant of this when picking your potatoes at the store. I also suggest russet potatoes because they’re the easiest to slice, wash and bake… and they produce tasty potato chips.

Storage

Store any uneaten (wait.. there are some actually left over?) in a zipper bag and keep in a cool dry place. Moisture may seep back into the chips and make them less crispy. You can crisp them up again by placing them onto a plate and baking them in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.

Kettle Chips?

If you’re looking for crispier potato chips, like Kettle type chips, then you’ll need them to be sliced a bit thicker. For this, you’ll need to find a mandoline that provides you with this thickness. However, I’m not certain that the microwave will actually produce kettle style crunchy chips. You might need a fryer for this.

If you’re interested in Kettle style chips, then you’ll have to try it and report back in the comments below for how that went and what you did to make it work.

Healthy Chips

Since these are not fried in any oils, they do not have any of the negative oil benefits of fried foods. However, these are still starchy potatoes and still possess all of the glycemic responses as any other potato products. You’ll want to keep this in mind if you are diabetic or need to restrict your carbohydrate intake.

Happy Snacking!

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Crafting Medicines in Fallout 76

Posted in howto, tips, video gaming by commorancy on March 27, 2019

CraftingStationIf you’re interested in crafting medicines within Fallout 76, this guide should hopefully help get the most out of your crafting. Let’s explore.

Crafting Perks

If you’re interested in crafting anything in Fallout 76, it’s worthwhile to consider all of the perks you’re going to need to get the most out of your ingredients. For crafting medicines and chems, you’ll want to invest in the following perks:

  • Green Thumb — Doubles what you pick from plants. (Perception)
  • Super Duper — A chance to double what you craft. (Luck)
  • Chemist — Doubles all items crafted on a chemistry table. (Intelligence)
  • Aquaboy/Aquagirl — Lets you walk in water without taking radiation damage (Endurance)
  • Butcher’s Bounty — When crafting items that require meat, you’ll also want to invest in this card to get more meat from your kills. (Perception)
  • Good With Salt — While this one is not strictly that necessary, it’s a great option for carting around ingredients for longer periods without spoiling. (Luck)
  • Sunkissed — Removes radiation damage from 6AM to 6PM in-game time. (Endurance)

Green Thumb, Aquaboy/Aquagirl and Chemist are 1 star cards. However, Super Duper and Butcher’s Bounty are 3 star cards and increases your chances with each star.  Super Duper offers a chance to double your creations with all crafting station types with the exception of the Brewing Station (at the moment) and when bulking items. You’ll want to max out Super Duper to get the most out of your crafting.

Good With Salt is also a 3 star card and it is well worth ranking this card up to the max if you intend to carry around foods and drinks that spoil. This card is great for keeping ingredients from spoiling before you get back to a chemistry station to craft.

Crafting Medicines

The two most important items in the game to keeping your character alive and healthy are Radaway and Stimpaks. The Recipe for Stimpaks can be found at the Enclave bunker MODUS medical wing seller. You’ll need to join and get access to the Enclave bunker to obtain this recipe. Unfortunately, the recipe for Radaway isn’t quite so easy to obtain. You’ll need to play various events and you may eventually be awarded this recipe at concluding the event. The Radaway recipe will most probably require a wee bit of grinding.

Another recipe that you find early on in the game is Healing Salve. This recipe is about half of the strength of a Stimpak and is a great option if you can’t get the Stimpak recipe. This is also easy to craft from readily available ingredients.

Because Bethesda’s Fallout 76 is a dynamic changing online game experience, patches and server updates can change the amounts and types of ingredients required for recipes. This means the recipes listed below are correct at the time of this article. However, Bethesda could change the requirements at any time. Always check at the crafting table to be sure you are collecting the correct ingredients for any specific recipe.

Recipes

For Stimpaks, you’ll need the following:

  • 2 Antiseptic
  • 1 Bloodpack
  • 1 Steel

To make a Bloodpack, you’ll need:

  • 1 Antiseptic
  • 2 Tick Blood (use Butcher’s Bounty)

For Radaway, you’ll need:

  • 2 Antiseptic
  • 3 Glowing Fungus (use Green Thumb)
  • 1 Plastic
  • 1 Purified Water

For Healing Salve (Forest), you’ll need:

  • 1 Bloodleaf (Green Thumb)
  • 1 Boiled Water
  • 1 Soot Flower (Green Thumb)

For Disease Cure (Forest), you’ll need:

  • 1 Bloodleaf
  • 1 Boiled Water
  • 1 Firecap (Green Thumb)
  • 1 Snaptail Reed (Green Thumb)

To make Sugar, you’ll need

  • 2 Snaptail Reed
  • 1 Wood

While Sugar isn’t used in healing recipes, it’s great for foods, particularly Sweet Rolls and Lemonade. You’ll probably have some Snaptail Reed left over after crafting, which is why the Sugar recipe is listed.

Locations for Ingredients

To make all of these ingredients using forest recipes, you can find what you need starting at slightly north on the hill of Gauley Mine down to the red railroad bridge, then walking the creek all the way down the just past Vault-Tec Agricultural center in Flatwood. Near Gauley Mine, you’ll find Firecaps on logs. At the bridge across the creek across from the Overseer’s camp, the Firecaps stop and this begins the area with Bloodleaf, Snaptail Reed and Glowing Fungus. Between Gauley Mine and the Bridge, you’ll find Firecaps (not far from the water) and Snaptail Reed.

The forested regions will also contain Starlight Creeper, Firecracker Berry, Soot Flower and Wood.

There are other recipes you can find for other regions like Toxic Valley, The Mire, The Cranberry Bog and so on. However, because of the relative closeness to the Vault 76 fast travel point, it’s easiest to focus on the Forest recipes as these are the ones you are likely to come across first… and they also have the easiest locations to reach and easiest ingredients to obtain.

Sources for Antiseptic

In some of these recipes, you may need antiseptic. This can be had easily by killing ticks and picking up their Blood Sacs. Unfortunately, you can only use Butcher’s Bounty on ticks for Tick Blood, not their Blood Sacs. If they don’t drop a sac, you’ll need to locate and kill a different tick.

Two good spots for killing about 6-8 ticks is Moonshiner’s Shack just below Vault 76 and Gilman Lumber Mill immediately south of Moonshiner’s Shack. These are great for harvesting when you’ll need to produce Stimpaks. You can sometimes find ticks in the wooded area of Camden Park near the Railroad.

Abraxo Cleaner is also another source of Antiseptic. You can usually find boxes of this sitting around kitchens and other facilities. Toothpaste and Turpentine are other sources.

Why Perk Cards?

With Green Thumb, Chemist and Super Duper, you can effectively double what you get at each step. Green Thumb doubles what you pick. Chemist Doubles what you make. Super Duper doubles that. You can easily end up with half to double more than what you expect. It’s well worth using these cards if you need larger quantities of Stimpaks or Radaway. With these cards, you can make hundreds easily… instead of relying on finding 1, 2 or 3 in a container.

Tips Before Crafting

    • Always remember to place your perk cards on before crafting.
    • You don’t need these cards to be on all of the time, only when crafting.
    • Don’t waste card slots with these cards if you are not crafting.
    • Remember your Green Thumb card when picking flora. This will always double what you pick.

Remember your Aquaboy/girl card when wading through water looking for ingredients. Collect considering multiple recipes at a time. For example, when collecting for Disease Cure, you only need to pick Soot Flower to make Healing Salve after you’ve run out of Firecaps for Disease Cures. Don’t take off Good With Salt (if you need the card space) until just right before you begin to craft. After you’re done crafting, immediately put Good With Salt back on. You can make teas, sugar and other foodstuffs from the remaining unused ingredients.

It’s easy to forget your perk card setup when crafting… so, always check before picking flowers or flora or before crafting. It would be great if we had some kind of quick view reminder of our perk cards through a hot key, but no such luck in this game. You’ll just have to stop whatever it is you’re doing and go look and rearrange before you pick or craft.

Happy Crafting!

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Apple Music on Amazon Echo via Alexa

Posted in Amazon, Apple, howto, music by commorancy on December 17, 2018

AppleMusicThis one’s a quickie. Let’s explore.

Apple Music and Amazon

Apple has recently begun expanding its reach of Apple Music onto non-Apple devices. First was Android. Now, Apple Music has come to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant on the Echo, Dot and other Alexa enabled devices. Of course, you’ll also need to subscribe to Apple Music to take advantage. Personally, I find Amazon’s digital music selection a bit lacking when compared to Apple’s catalog… part of the reason I chose to buy into Apple Music instead of Amazon Music Unlimited.

That’s not to say Apple Music is in any way perfect. There are plenty of artists who don’t publish digitally on Apple’s or Amazon’s platforms. For these artists, Apple offers a solution. Amazon doesn’t.

Unlike Amazon, who recently shut down the ability to upload songs into its platform, Apple Music allows iCloud upload for sharing music not found on iTunes between all of Apple’s devices. This means that even if you can’t find the song on Apple Music, you can buy a CD, rip it and then upload it to the iCloud platform for sharing and download on all of your devices. You can even buy it digitally, if you can find it, import it into iTunes and upload it for all of your devices.

I actually liked this feature on Amazon before they shut it down this summer. This is other half of the reason I have chosen Apple Music over Amazon Music Unlimited. I have a number of artists in my personal catalog that do not exist on Amazon or Apple’s platforms. I still want to be able to listen to these songs on all of my devices and have them in my Apple playlists. Apple’s iCloud sharing works perfect for this purpose. Amazon no longer has a solution for its Amazon Music Unlimited platform.

If you have music outside of Amazon Music Unlimited platform, you’ll have to figure out some other way to listen to it. You won’t be able to listen to it via Amazon Music Unlimited or by asking Alexa to play it… though, you can play it on your Echo by using your Echo as a Bluetooth speaker.

Installing Apple Music on Alexa

AppleMusic

  1. It’s really simple to enable this. Launch a browser to alexa.amazon.com (intentionally not linkified, select it, right click and then “Open in a new tab”) and login. You can also perform this setup from the Alexa app on your phone or tablet.
  2. Once logged in, click Music, Movies and Books from the left panel. It doesn’t matter which device is currently selected as this skill applies to all devices, but make sure the device can play music.
  3. Scroll down under Music and look for Apple Music and click it.
  4. If you’re in a browser, a new tab will open and take you to an Apple login & password screen.
  5. Log in with your Apple ID. Once logged in with your Apple ID, you’ll need to allow linking between Amazon Alexa and Apple Music.
  6. Done. Time to play some music!

Asking Alexa to play Music

To play music, simply ask Alexa like, “Alexa, play the playlist Fallout 76 Modern Radio on Apple Music” or “Alexa, play the song Pistol Packin’ Mama by Bing Crosby on Apple Music.”

If you leave off the “on Apple Music” statement, Alexa assumes you want to play the song via Amazon’s digital music platform such as Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited. Don’t forget to say this.

Alexa will respond by telling you that the song or playlist is playing via Apple Music. Keep in mind that this is a new skill for Alexa from Apple. This means that Apple may not yet have all of the bugs worked out. Expect some problems, particularly if you’re trying to use multiple Dots or Echos to produce stereo. Apple will get all of this worked out, but it may not work perfectly for a while.


Third party Alexa enabled devices, such as Sonos, may not yet support the Apple Music skill. If your device isn’t yet supported, contact your device manufacturer and ask when the skill will be supported. Amazon’s own devices should all work fine.

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