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|Saturday, February 22nd, 2014|
As I'm sure everyone knows from experience by now, today is the day on which the Norse predicted that Ragnarok would happen.
Today, the golden cock which crows to wake the chosen dead in Valhalla was answered by his darker brother on the lintel of the halls of Hel. (This satisfied many, as the golden cockcrow has long been available as a phone ringtone, but nobody knew what the other cock would sound like: now you can get the set!) The host of forgotten dead crowded onto the boat made of dead men's toenails, as many as would fit, and set sail to meet their commander, Loki, and to join the war against the gods. Fenris, father of wolves, and Jormungandr, greatest of serpents, broke their bonds and entered the fray; Heimdall, watchful son of nine mothers, blew his horn when he heard the army in the distance, and the Aesir rushed to the fated battle.
The Norse were never an especially populous culture, but I am still told it was a spectacular show from most of Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland, with chunks visible from Britain (albeit obscured by heavy cloud cover) and from portions of Finland. The Baltic ran with warrior's blood, the cleanup of which is now causing concern among several environmental groups and the environmental ministries of the countries in question.
In the end, of course, all that vast host slew one another, Odin and Loki dying in one another's arms, Fenris and Thor destroying each other with fang and hammer, no living thing moving on the battlefield except the inevitably gathering ravens in the bleak stillness. The sun was eaten by the wolf in his death throes, meaning an uptick in electricity bills for the Baltic and North Sea regions for the foreseeable future, as there has been no timeline given for the birth of the new sun and the rise of high Gimlè.
Survivors include the two sons of Thor, Magni and Modi, already devoted to rescue and repair efforts; an ordinary couple whose home turned out to be the epicenter of the battle, called Lif and Lifthrasir; and the Vanir gods Njord and Skadi, who were occupied at the time taking selfies with various athletes at the Sochi Olympics. Dark rumors of the survival of the dragon Nidhogg, who gnawed the tree of Yggdrasil until it collapsed, also persist all over Buzzfeed.
I went to a coffeeshop and tried to work on my novel, since I knew I'd be too far away to see anything really spectacular. I hope this is our last fated and prophesied apocalypse for a couple of years, but one never knows.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, February 21st, 2014|
|lemon tahini biscuits
This is a riff on Bettina's Emergency Biscuits
, made vegan so that I could feed my inlaws, and packed with flavor so that I could cheat my way to a better texture With Science.
Lemon Tahini Biscuits
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cut the dry ingredients together with a fork.
Tahini comes in several textures. It also sometimes separates. Stir the tahini thoroughly before measuring it. If it comes out stiffer than peanut butter after stirring, slightly reduce the amount of shortening. If it is so runny that you can pour it, slightly increase the amount of shortening.
Smash tahini and shortening thoroughly into mixture with a fork. Aim to eliminate large lumps, but go for a pebbly texture rather than a compressed dough yet.
Pour in the lemon juice and beat together. Add water slowly, a trickle at a time, stirring, until the dough sticks to itself and cleans the bottom of the bowl.
Let the dough sit while you grease a baking sheet with more shortening or with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. This should give the dough time to fluff from the combination of the soda in the baking powder and the lemon juice.
Break into 8-12 biscuits, without handling dough very much, and place on baking sheet. Bake 6 minutes. Raise the heat to 425 F, rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees, and bake 6 minutes. They should be firm to the touch and the surface roughnesses should be brown.
Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired. You may desire, because you intentionally scanted the salt earlier so as not to inhibit the rise.
These are fluffy, fairly light, complexly nutty and with slight bitter overtones from the tahini, but with a perceptible lemon tang. Almost a pseudo-sourdough, except that the flavors are identifiable as what they are.
This recipe halves well, and will not keep at all either in the fridge or on the counter, so only make as much as you need.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, February 14th, 2014|
|a link and a schedule
My review of Hari Kunzru's The Memory Palace
is up at Strange Horizons
. Short version of the review: Well, that was meta.
And my Boskone schedule, assuming that weather permits:
Friday, February 14thReading
, by Lila Garrott, 19:00-19:25, Griffin
Novel excerpt, not the one I've read before. A review if there's time. Great Ghost Stories
, 21:00-21:50, Harbor I
Out on the fringe, the living and the dead intersect in some fascinating fashion, bringing out the drama, tension, and atmosphere that have become hallmarks of a well-told tale of the supernatural. A shining example: Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House
. However, not all ghost stories are created equal. Join us for an unsettling discussion of what makes a good ghost story great -- and why some don't scare us for a second, while others haunt us still.
Paul G. Tremblay (M), F. Brett Cox, Lila Garrott, Theodora Goss, Jack M. HaringaThe Haunting of Hill House
is not a ghost story, and this looks like a fun panel.
Saturday, February 15th
There are two program items whose lineup consists entirely of members of Sassafrass; I'm not directly listed on either of these, but they are likely to be relevant to fans of the group. I may or may not be at either or both; I am more likely to be at the later one. They are:Let's Talk Crowdfunding
(Special Interest Group), 13:00-13:50, Galleria-Discussion Group
Ever want to write a novel, make a comic book, or develop a game, but the resources needed are beyond your pocketbook? Why not collect funds on such sites as IndieGoGo, GiveForward, Kickstarter, RocketHub, Fundly, GoFundMe, or Fundageek? It's a great concept with enormous potential; let's discuss the pros and cons, successes and failures of crowdfunding.
Ada Palmer, Tili SokolovSinging in Harmony
(Workshop), 18:00-18:50, Douglass
There's joy in singing along with other people. Sometimes singing along with the melody is all you need, but there's something magic about harmony. Learn how it's done.
Kara Hurvitz, Ruth Wejksnora-Garrott, Alexandria Wilkie
and then the entire group, including me, will be kicking off the Boskone Filk Fest, Set 1
, 20:00-21:00, Harbor II + III
with a concert.
Sunday, February 16thConcert
, Sassafrass/Crowell, 13:00-13:50, Douglass
And then our other
concert is this half-hour set the next day.
If I see you at the con, say hi.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Saturday, February 1st, 2014|
|a late and brief Arisia report
Short version: good, but exhausting.
Longer version: I am never ever ever being on that many panel items ever again because by the end of the con I was basically sleepwalking, and I really did not get to see all that much in the way of programming that I wasn't on, though I did get sufficient dealer's room and artshow time. Nine panels in four days is at least three panels too many. The problem was, I couldn't figure out what to drop, and I was worried that if I asked to be dropped from things without specifying what I'd get taken off something I really, really wanted. Next time I will have to triage harder.
Great Logistical Discovery: My favorite Malaysian restaurant, Penang, turns out to deliver to the con hotel via Foodler. Getting food in the Arisia area can be difficult if you are tightly scheduled, because the places that are walking distance all wind up mobbed, and the food options in the hotel itself are both crowded and terrible. This year there were food trucks which came and parked outside, which is an improvement, but they sold out of stock fairly quickly. The con suite and green room also wound up pretty stripped. All of that I expected. But being able to order food from a place I actively like and having it turn up in a reasonable amount of time-- yay internets! And many thanks to ckd
for suggesting we order delivery. This is going to be my default for dinners for Arisia and Boskone from now on, basically.
Panels I Enjoyed Being On Most: Both the Welcome to Night Vale and Homestuck panels were so. much. fun. Rooms full of happy people who like the thing the panel was on, and are aware of its flaws and the issues in its fandoms but just love talking about it. Cosplayers, both rooms were filled with excellent cosplayers-- the WTNV panel had multiple hooded figures (one of whom pointed out that it is the easiest cosplay she has ever done) and a tiny LED Glow Cloud which changed colors. One of the other panelists was dressed as an Eternal Scout, with correct badges. I think I was the only person in an original-flavor WTNV shirt, but I saw instances of just about every shirt they make. It was also just a very good conversation which did not devolve into a quote-off, until the very end when that was a fun thing to do with five minutes. kate_nepveu
had a better writeup; I was not taking notes because I can't do that and be on the panel at the same time.
One thing I love about Homestuck cosplayers is the ingenuity. There were an alternate-outfits godtier John and Vriska based on the idea that humans get (feathery) wings when they go godtier that were just magnificent. There was Cronus Ampora badly and disturbingly dressed as a human. He'd cut off his horns and there were just stumps and ew
and I was impressed. And there was an entire cosplay group of trolls who'd dressed as things from other canons, so we had Karkat dressed as Harry Potter, and Terezi as Uhura (she looked great in the minidress), and Sollux as a Jedi with a double-bladed lightsaber, half-red half-blue. They had an Eridan with them, who just looked like, you know, Eridan, and I said to him 'So what are you supposed to be?' and he held up his hands, which were even more covered in blingy dimestore jewelry than usual, and said 'Lord of the Rings'. I have been laughing about that on and off ever since. The panel itself talked about the infinite canvas, and the difficulties of archiving the comic for future generations, and how much we want any idea at all of what the licensing deal Andrew Hussie and Namco worked out looks like because of the implications for creator control in webcomics and the comics industry generally. At one point the entire room, in unison, was asked to imitate Terezi's voice to see if we'd all come up with about the same sound for her and everybody had. Lovely experience, would do again.
Literary Discovery of the Con: Max Gladstone was the person I'd never met and hadn't heard of in my reading slot, and I am officially impressed and will be reading his books as soon as my fiction-reading brain is up to fiction I haven't already read fifty times. It is rare for me to hear something at a reading and wish to go purchase it immediately, and his stuff was that.
Worst Bits: I spent the entire weekend getting up at what, to my body, is approximately three in the morning. By Monday it had become physically painful. This is one of those things that I simply have to cope with given my specific sleep disorder, but probably I should just not try to do anything involving brain on Monday of a con.
Also, at one point, I introduced myself, as the moderator of the panel we were about to be on, to a panelist I had not met yet, and extended my hand for a shake. Instead he bowed over it and kissed it. I can see from here, maybe, if I squint, a universe in which this is polite-ish behavior, but I do not think it is this universe, and I do not think it is how one greets the moderator. It read as 'I am going to Be Chivalrous At People and not listen to a damn word you or anybody else has to say', which proved to be the case as the panel progressed. It's also right on that edge where, on the one hand, as I said, I can see from here a universe in which it might be vaguely polite, and said panelist was of a generation where I could see it being a thing people did in some formal situations, so I didn't actively yell at him. Just glowered. But on the other hand it was condescending and showed ignorance of boundaries and was somebody putting his mouth on part of my body without asking me, so I have been actively annoyed about it. I decided not to talk to him about it or report it to anyone official because it was balanced so precisely on that edge, which is why I am not using his name, but I am mentioning it because persons who still might consider hand-kissing polite should really be aware that you should ask first
, and that the reaction to this incident in my social circle was 'aargh creepy did you have any Purell?'
All in all, though, a completely reasonable con with a lot of fun social time, good discussion, and interesting programming. I'll put my Boskone schedule up pretty soon.
ETA: okay, based on very sensible things a couple of people have said to me, I have emailed the con's incident report email and described the incident. It was not sexual harassment in the sense of being sexually pressuring; it was sexism, a demonstration that I could be treated differently because of my gender presentation, and an attempt to exercise some amount of social power over me based on gender and age. Which counts as harassment, and which I had rather he not do again. So I've reported it. I am not, however, giving his name here at this time. That may or may not be a thing I choose to do later. Please respect that.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Thursday, January 23rd, 2014|
|commonplace book, or things I have run across
Rainer Werner Fassbinder turns out to be the best writer on film I have run across in literally years, probably the best since I tracked down Louise Brooks' essays. In a discussion of his film version of Jean Genet's Querelle
, he handily summarizes the issues I have with ninety-nine percent of film adaptations of novels:
Contrary to popular opinion, the making of an authentic film from a piece of literature is in no sense simply a matter of accomplishing the most "congenial" possible translation from one medium, literature, into the other, film. Cinematic transformation of a literary work should never assume that its purpose is simply the maximal realization of the images that literature evokes in the mind of its readers.
Such an assumption would, in any case, be preposterous, since any given reader reads any given book with his own sense of reality, and therefore any book evokes as many different fantasies and images as it has readers.
There is no such thing as the ultimate objective reality for any work of literature. Consequently, the intention of a film that tries to come to grips with literature cannot be the realization of the author's world of images in some fixed and final consensus of separate and contrary fantasies. Any attempt to turn a film into a substitute for literature must inevitably result in a compound fantasy based on the lowest common denominator and will therefore, by definition, be a mediocre and lifeless product.
A film that comes to grips with literature and language has to make of this confrontation something absolutely intelligible, clear, and transparent. Not for a single moment may it turn its own fantasy into a composite one. Always, at every stage, it must make it clear that this is but one possible way of dealing with a work of art in another medium.
-- The Anarchy of the Imagination: Interviews, Essays, Notes
, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, tr. Krishna Winston, p. 168
All too often, it feels to me as though film directors are trying to replace what I already had in my head from the book, or to assure me that their version is what most people have in their heads from the book. I prefer work which shows me things I had not seen in the book, without invalidating what I already had. This is why my favorite literary adaptation on screen is Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
, because its metafictional meditation on how impossible it is to film Tristram Shandy
handily encompasses what the filmmakers got out of the book while remaining a note on the personal experiences of those filmmakers and no-one else. I had not put all this together until Fassbinder said it, but yes, yes, very much that.
Another thing I've been reading is Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper, or What to Eat and How to Prepare It
, a cookbook from 1897. Ordinarily, when I look at a recipe (usually in a more modern sort of cookbook), I can extrapolate some idea of what the finished product is likely to taste like due to my knowledge of ingredients in general and of what foods similar to the one being made have tasted like when I have had them.
But when I hit the chapter called 'Catsups and Spiced Fruits' my imagination failed me comprehensively. I simply cannot imagine the results of the recipe below, and I think that anything resembling it may have fallen out of U.S. foodways entirely. If anyone has had this, what in the world is it like?
Southern Catsup.-- Take half a gallon of green cucumbers; after being peeled and chopped, sprinkle with salt, and let stand 6 hours; pour the water from them, and cover with hot vinegar. Prepare half a gallon of cabbage the same way. Chop 1 dozen small white onions, cover with boiling water, and let stand half an hour. Chop 1 quart of green tomatoes, 1 pint of tender green beans, 1 dozen green peppers, and 1 dozen small, young ears of corn; scald and drain. Mix 2 tablespoonfuls of grated horse-radish, 1 teacupful of ground mustard, 2 cupfuls of white mustard seed, 3 tablespoonfuls of turmeric, 1 each of ground mace, cinnamon, cayenne and celery seed, 2 tablespoonfuls of olive oil, and 1 pound of sugar. Put in a jar with the prepared vegetables, and pour over boiling vinegar to cover.
That recipe is also a tad much work for me to attempt it just to see how it turns out, though I am rather tempted by its relative:
Cucumber Catsup.-- Grate large, green cucumbers on a horse-radish grater; drain, salt and pepper to taste. Put through a sieve to remove the seeds. Add a quantity of grated horse-radish, and sufficient vinegar to make the consistency of tomato catsup. Bottle, and keep in a cool place.
See, that we ought to be able to buy in the supermarket, honestly, and I may well put some up, because it sounds as though I would use it for everything. The final catsup I am intrigued by, though, I am intrigued by in a sort of nightmare way, where I don't want to make it, and I don't want to taste it, and yet if I am ever in the same place with it I know I shall have to try some:
Celery Catsup.-- Bruise 1 ounce of celery seed, 1 teaspoonful white pepper, 1 teaspoonful salt, one-half dozen oysters in a mortar. Rub through a sieve, add 1 quart of best white vinegar and bottle for use.
WHAT DO YOU EVEN PUT THAT ON. AND WHY. Especially since the book contains a much more reasonable recipe for oyster sauce, later, which involves both cooking the oysters and not trying to mash them through a sieve.
Cookbook available at archive.org. I will let you all know if I wind up making cucumber catsup.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Sunday, January 5th, 2014|
|I believe the map's wrong
It should not at all surprise me that the thing which creeps me out the most on the entire internet is the Twitter feed
of the peculiar writer Robert Aickman, who died in 1981, not that that has ever had anything to do with anyone's Twitter presence. Whoever runs the thing is a mad genius, as it's not just quotations from Aickman; I have caught at least one bit by someone else entirely but from a story Aickman anthologized.
It's like the Welcome to Night Vale Twitter, only... subtle.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Friday, January 3rd, 2014|
|my Arisia schedule
Friday, 7:00 PM, 1 hr. 15, Literature, Faneuil-- Secret Cities Full Of Secretive Secrets
Almost every urban fantasy is predicated on one major fact: there are secret fantastical societies operating in cities without the average populace ever noticing. Is this conceit actually possible? What keeps these magical creatures from actually overtly impacting their environments other than arbitrary authorial rules?
Daniel José Older (mod), me, Margaret Ronald, Craig Shaw Gardner, Vikki CiaffoneCities panel from an angle I haven't seen before!
Saturday, 1:00 PM, 1 hr. 15, Media, Paine-- Welcome to Night Vale: And Now, The Weather
"Welcome to Night Vale" has become the most popular podcast on iTunes over the last year. A creepy take on small-town life in the Southwest, replete with conspiracy theories, bizarre humor, and a dog park in which neither dogs nor humans are allowed, it's both entertaining and scary, and has generated a huge fan community. Come if you're interested in learning about what makes the show so popular, to discuss favorite moments, or to speculate on where the story is headed.
Gillian Daniels (mod), me, Melissa, Adrianne Brennan, Kate NepveuThe first time I've gotten to be on a panel with kate_nepveu. Also, nice to know what T-shirt to wear Saturday.
Saturday, 7:00 PM, 1 hr. 15, Comics, Adams-- Homestuck
Recently compared to such divisive and monolithic works as *Ulysses*, *Homestuck* is a digital, partially interactive webcomic about four friends, told in the style of a text based adventure game. Numerous theories, head-canons, and shipping quadrants found within. Sound interesting? Come along and find out more about this truly unique web phenomenon.
AlxJrvs (mod), J.S. Hailer, Juliet, meConflicting... shirt... necessities... I guess one can put a hoodie over a T-shirt. Anyway, by the con I am going to have the correct hoodie. I have kept Homestuck almost entirely off this blog, because otherwise THERE WOULD BE NOTHING ELSE HERE. One reason I don't have a tumblr at this time is that THERE WOULD BE NOTHING ELSE ON THERE. Because HOMESTUCK.
Saturday, 10:00 PM, 1 hr. 15, Literature, Faneuil-- That's It! I Am Throwing This Book!
We’ve all been there. You’re reading a book, and that thing happens. Maybe it’s a small thing like poor research or plot holes. Maybe it’s a huge thing like a gratuitous tragedy done for nothing more than shock value. This panel will discuss some moments where they felt like throwing a book across a room.
Kate Nepveu (mod), James Nicoll, Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Carl, meSo much to talk about! I mean, you get more height with paperbacks, but the thunk noise is way more satisfying with hardcovers, and do trade paperbacks split the difference successfully or do they have entirely different aerodynamic considerations?
Sunday, 1:00 PM, 1 hr. 15, Writing, Hale-- Reading: Garrott, Gladstone, Grant, & Odasso
Authors Lila Garrott, Max Gladstone, April Grant, and Adrienne J. Odasso will read selections from their works.I have not yet met Max Gladstone, but I look forward to sharing reading time with the other two, who are both awesome. Seventy-five minutes divided by four is ~18 minutes of which one wants to save some time for questions etc., so I will be reading from my reviews, as I cannot get a novel excerpt into that amount of time.
Sunday, 2:30 PM, 1 hr. 15, Writing, Bulfinch-- The Roots of Horror: Writing What Scares Us
How does one write something which truly scares or disturbs the reader? What do you draw upon to create a visceral reaction both in yourself and your audience? There are the usual fears of death, loss of a loved one, disease etc.; what else is there? How does what scares us define us?
Hildy Silverman (mod), me, Spinster, KT Pinto, Trisha J. WooldridgeTheory! I has it! Don't know how much of it people will want, but this is a field in which I actively keep up with current theory.
Monday, 11:30 AM, 1 hr. 15, Literature, Burroughs-- Stick With It! Complex, Rewarding Literature
Most of the time, the SF we read is easy enough to get through; however, at times, we've picked up or been recommended a work of SF only to find it more than we bargained for. Not a tedious read, but rather an epic journey, fraught with trials and tribulations yet eminently Worth It. What favorite works of the panelists' are difficult to get through, but ultimately worth the read? How does one make the reading of one of these diamonds more feasible without losing any of the effect?
Me (mod), Greer Gilman, Max Gladstone, Dennis McCunney, Sonya TaaffeShould be fun. Lineup and subject combine to make something I can haul myself out of bed for on a Monday morning.
Monday, 1:00 PM, 1 hr. 15, Literature, Adams-- Get Off My Lawn: Backlash Against Progress In SFF
Over the past few years, we've seen many a kerfuffle in genre that amounts to "you kids get off of my lawn". There are some who seem wedded to the SF/F they grew up with to the point of excluding anything or anyone new and progressive - which seems antithetical to the whole concept of science fiction! We'll discuss progress in genre and the backlash against it.
Daniel José Older (mod), James Nicoll, Feste, me, Suzanne Reynolds-AlpertSO glad this panel is happening.
Monday, 2:30 PM, 1 hr. 15, Literature, Burroughs-- From Earthsea to Ekumen
Arguably Ursula K. Le Guin's two greatest achievements are the fantasy world of Earthsea and the SF universe of the Ekumen of Known Worlds. Earthsea is a world of natural magic in which the self-knowledge of the adept is the key to effectiveness. The Ekumen is a members-only interstellar organization encompassing numerous cultures. Do we see the same vision in these worlds? Are they different sides of the same coin? And how have these two worlds influenced the fiction of the last four decades?
Me (mod), Mark Richards, Greer Gilman, Victoria Janssen, Sonya Taaffe... that title ought to be the other way round. The panel should be fun.
As you may have noticed, there are nine items on this schedule. Which means that if you see me doing anything extremely energy-burning on, say, Saturday, or skipping a meal, or otherwise being profligate with myself, you absolutely have my permission to tell me to sit down/go to bed/eat/drink, because I missed a day of Arisia last year due to illness and WE ARE NOT DOING THAT AGAIN especially when Monday is Modding Things Day. I'm going to try to take it easy, but you know how cons get.
Who am I going to see at Arisia? We could, you know, dinner...You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Wednesday, December 25th, 2013|
|what I had been trying to do with the agar agar
Nine took a picture of the dessert in question.
It came out very well, I think, considering. It has soymilk and coconut milk and sugar, and bits of it are flavored with lemon extract and bits with almond. Next time, ditching the lemon, keeping the almond.
The cats have I think now forgiven me for the jellied water dish but spent much of last night pointedly and loudly drinking out of the Christmas tree holder. Which they aren't allowed to do, except last night, because that was only fair.
I would explain more about how I jellied the cats' water dish, but the way I have been putting it to people is that my life was briefly taken over by somebody who is much better at slapstick comedy than I am. Which honestly means that there were a few very exciting minutes in there and I do not, in fact, know with total clarity what went on.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Tuesday, December 24th, 2013|
|Friday, December 20th, 2013|
|! ? ! !?! ?!?
Gay marriage just made legal in... Utah.
The state attorney general says it will be a few days before he thinks about whether to grant a stay on the issuing of licenses, and licenses are in fact being issued at this time.
Gay people in Oregon could now, theoretically, go to Utah for a legal destination wedding.
I have been unable to locate any eight-year-olds to ask whether it is Opposite Day, especially since, to quote Metafilter, 'Gay marriage now legal in all four states in which Mitt Romney owns homes'.
DELIGHTED WHAT.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Monday, December 2nd, 2013|
|being ill, or how I find books
Where has the last month gone? Well, to being sick. I had the flu, as near as we can figure it, before flu season really started and thus before I had even had time to consider this year's flu shot, and then it developed into bronchitis, and almost certainly walking pneumonia, and from there it has been a long while of being sick and tired and of getting better in the two-steps-forward-one-back mode.
And, which has been most annoying, I have been doing hardly any reading.
Well, by that I mean hardly any reading of the kind I mentally categorize as reading, by which I mean the kind that requires some emotional or intellectual effort or engagement. I do not mean picking up Howl's Moving Castle
, opening it to a random page, and reading from there until the end and then back to the beginning and through to wherever I picked it up. That is what I do when I am trying to figure out what I would like to read, if you see the distinction. I occasionally have to explain that to people who see me wandering around complaining that I cannot figure out what I would like to read next, because they become confused when they see that I am carrying a book which appears to be open. If I can quote more than sixty percent of a book by volume accurately, the activity of rereading it no longer takes up the same niche in my brain as reading. This is the problem with much of my comfort reading, in that it has become comfort reading at least partly because I know the book very well and so know that it will be in no way upsetting or tiring, but therefore it does not satisfy the part of my brain which would like to read something and does not have the energy.
The pile of books I have not read tends to be real reading, in that I expect I will have to put some work into those, and that they have the chance of being too much when I am ill. That is why when I wind up asking for book recommendations-- which I am not, at the moment, by the way-- I tend to ask about comfort reading. I think I have asked the internet specifically for comfort reading suggestions five or six times more frequently than I have asked for recommendations of any other sort.
Thinking about why that is led me to think about how I find books to read in the first place, and to wonder whether it is unusual, and to realize that I genuinely do not know.
When I was somewhere in that nebulous seven to ten-year-old range, I forget exactly when, I finished reading the children's section at the library we went to once a week, and moved over to the science fiction section. Two problems with this move became evident very quickly: firstly, unlike the children's section, the adult areas were liable to be full of adults, many of whom, although they did not know me in any way, felt both competent and obligated to comment on my reading choices. Some of them expressed disapproval about my being in the section in the first place, and others would assume I had gotten lost and solicitously show me back to the children's section without listening to anything I had to say on the subject. These people were far more easily put off if I had a specific book for which I was looking, so that I could calmly and purposefully walk over to it, take it, and leave the section, without any appearance of being lost or of doing something I should not be doing.
And secondly, the adult SF&F section, unlike the children's area, was full of books which were not only bad, but painfully
bad. The area started with Adams, Douglas, which was great, and then went through Adams, Richard, which was fine, and then went to Anthony, Piers, of whom there were so many that I continued on in the alphabet as I worked my way through him, except that next there was Auel, Jean, and I could not, oh god, I could not. And that was about the same time that, even though I had not yet noticed how generally terrible Piers Anthony is, I hit specific Anthony which I have never forgiven, namely his Tarot
trilogy, which has still, lo these many years later, formed my benchmark for gratuitously specific, explicit, depressing, slimy-feeling sex scenes which don't serve any purpose for the plots or characters or anything and which to a prepubescent reader were confusing to boot. (The Black Mass scene in the beginning of the third Tarot
book is my personal nomination for worst sex scene ever written. The rest of the book does not improve much.)
I tried General Fiction, which for some reason was a less hostile browsing environment for children (I have no idea why), but that had an even higher chance of being painfully bad, plus things grabbed at random tended to turn out to be depressing novels about the Holocaust or strident novels about environmentalism or deadly dull novels about adultery in upper-class Connecticut.
Obviously I needed some kind of guidebook. I had no one to talk books with in person; none of my friends read. My parents did and do read, but telling them what I was reading meant exposing myself to their judgment about whether the books were suitable for me, a judgment which might have clashed with my own. My teachers all felt that I read too much and were always telling me to put the book down and go outside
for a while, why don't you. Clearly therefore I needed a guidebook. My father had a copy of Clute's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
, and I had also noticed that some authors who were in the children's section had catalog listings in the adult section-- and not only that, but listings in other sections entirely, such as nonfiction, which mean that some of them must surely have written books about other books. It turned out that Le Guin had. At about this time also I ran into Lovecraft's essay 'Supernatural Horror in Literature', which gets shoved randomly into anthologies of Lovecraft because it is clearly of interest to people who like his fiction.
Thus how I have located books I want to read from that day to this: I started reading criticism, and then I'd go out and read every book mentioned in the criticism. It didn't matter whether it was mentioned favorably, because it became obvious early on that critics and I differed in our opinions greatly-- bring it up as an example and I was there. This was in the days before you could get books from very far away via computerized interlibrary loan, and so I had a list of books I couldn't find, with title and author, and every time I was in a new library I'd look them all up again, which is why I spent most of the time I ought to have been seeing whether I wanted to be a prospective student at Oberlin College curled up in a terrible seventies chair reading Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year
, having ducked everyone who was trying to show me around.
No one has ever played Library Police about children in the critical theory section, mostly because no one is ever in the critical theory section. This meant I could browse. I became acquainted with some authors in an extremely roundabout fashion-- my eighth-grade teacher started sputtering when she saw me reading Nabokov's collected literary lectures, only to, for reasons I did not understand at the time, calm down when I informed her that I had never read any other Nabokov and had no particular plans to at that time. I also became what I now think of as oddly well-read, in that as it turns out there is an entire chunk of books which turn up a great deal in academic discourse but which are not widely read otherwise. For many years I had not read Jane Eyre
, but I had read Villette
. Theorists of the fantastic tend to be heavily into the Gothic, as was in his own way Lovecraft, and so I spent a while as an early teenager reading things like Vathek
and the non-Frankenstein works of Mary Shelley, and the thing is I assumed at the time that this was how people read. I had no notion both that a great many of the things that are popular don't get written up much by critics, and that many critics are engaged in a game of more-obscure-than-thou and do not expect their audience to have read oh let us say more than half of the things they cite.
Once I actually started meeting other people who read, and talking about books, I fell into a delighted network of recommendations and counter-recommendations, things everyone assumed everyone had read that I had not and vice versa. This is one reason I am very dependent on friend networks for comfort reading: critics don't write about that, or if they do they don't describe it as such and they abstract the comforting qualities under several layers of jargon. It became apparent to me that many people do not seem to have a book-recommendation network of critical theorists and reviewers. I have not finished tracking down everything ever mentioned by the critics I read when I was younger. I still keep a booklist, and when a book I am reading mentions another book I have not read I write it down, and the final phase of reading nonfiction is going through the bibliography and notes for the principle sources, for my list. I used to believe this was fairly typical, but I keep meeting people who don't work this way, and now I have no idea how common this is, or how on earth people who have neither recreational criticism nor friend networks find anything to read.
Anecdata on these points would be appreciated. It's like looking song lyrics up without Google: I know that it is possible, and in fact can vaguely recall that at one or two points in my life I engaged successfully in the activity myself, but I have no idea how it works and my brain will not at this point produce a really plausible model.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Thursday, October 31st, 2013|
|out of brain error
I have what the doctor said is either bronchitis or pneumonia or both, and since I've had bronchitis before and it didn't feel like this, well. Just finished a course of antibiotics which appear to have done precisely zip, so I get to go back to the doctor. And the whole thing evolved out of a cold I literally caught the last weekend of September; it has not been the best month.
I am so out of brain I don't even know how to describe how out of brain I am, and I have been completely unable to focus on new books, watch emotionally involving new television, etc. I've hit a point in Fez where I'm going to need to be able to do some platforming which I'm not great at in order to progress, and while I'm going to download the Sam and Max games, it's not like I haven't played them before. I am also vastly, immeasurably, incredibly bored and twitchy at how housebound I've been, but whenever I go out and do anything I get noticeably and immediately worse.
Also, being sick reminds me of how when we lived in Texas I was sick for months and months and months and it was terrible and did horrible things to my mood, so there's remembering that and worrying about how long this is going to last.
I could really use some recommendations for entertainment. To give you an idea of the sort of thing that works right now, I have Cookie Clicker open in a tab and it was perfect for a while but then it got to the point where most of what I have to do is wait around. I just finished watching season four of The Great British Bakeoff, and I've reread all the Moomin books and a large chunk of Georgette Heyer.
So I'm looking for: really, really, really
fluffy books; television which is involving but not stressing (the problem with most reality shows is that the contestants are bitchy to each other-- I tried Masterchef Junior and it was too competitive); online stuff; games which do not involve explicit physical/emotional violence or excessive physical dexterity, either for a moderately old Mac or downloadable on the Xbox Live Arcade; movies in which nothing bad happens. I do not have an ebook reader. I am too tired to knit. I am willing to throw some cash at things if it will result in something which is really occupying for a fair length of time, but I'm hoping to be well or at least better before the amount of time passes which anything that is difficult to get hold of would need to turn up in the mail-- like, next-day shipping from Amazon, reasonable; something which would need to come from, say, Britain, not so much.
Thoughts?You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Sunday, October 27th, 2013|
|of interest to persons interested in Steven Brust only
So after years of effort, I have finally gotten my wife to start reading the Dragaera books, and I gave them to her in a somewhat unorthodox order, as I wanted to see whether it would work: so far she's gone Dragon
, and is now starting The Phoenix Guards
Results to date: she likes the books a lot, and appreciates Teckla
a lot more than most people of my acquaintance, as events contained within it turn out to have been adequately foreshadowed, and its principal relationship is way, way more fleshed out than if one goes in publication order. (Which was one of my goals.) She said the tonal switch from Dragon
to books written a lot earlier was a little jarring, but doesn't seem to have had trouble assimilating the chronologically-later bits of Dragon
as flash-forward worldbuilding details. (Which was my major question-- whether that would work, or would end in Confusion Forever.)
The thing I'm not as invested in, and would therefore like to crowdsource, is that I feel The Phoenix Guards
is necessary before Phoenix
, but should I suggest
a) The Phoenix Guards
, Five Hundred Years After
, all three parts of The Viscount of Adrilanka
b) The Phoenix Guards
, Five Hundred Years After
, The Paths of the Dead
, The Lord of Castle Black
, Sethra Lavode
c) just read all the Khaavren books now and then go to Phoenix
d) same as b) except put Sethra Lavode
I can see advantages and disadvantages to all of these. Thoughts?
ETA: No spoilers in comments, please! Or ROT13 or something. She reads this journal.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013|
|Thursday, October 17th, 2013|
Earlier tonight I got to take Janelle Monae's hand when she crowd-surfed. That is all.the thing where we were locked out of my car after the concert and the keys were possibly not even in it and we had to wait an hour for a locksmith and then the keys were thank all that is holy in the back seat, I do not even care about that at this time, this is a concert during which I lost an earring I wrote a haiku for at Wiscon straight out of my ear and it was the best live show I have ever been to of any kind ever it was worth the earring I do not even care. If she is coming to your city this tour, go, go, go, she is better in person than either her recordings or her actual music videos, oh my god, go. Wow. Just... wow.
You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Saturday, October 12th, 2013|
|a little late for national coming out day
Right, I think this is the first time I'll be saying this entirely publicly.
I'm genderqueer and trans*. In an ideal world, which this is not, I would be biologically male but would dress and present basically the way I do now. The correct pronoun for me is 'they', because I have had trouble with every single pronoun I have tried but 'they' is the least troublesome. Although not by much. 'She' is the one I cope least well with at this time. All others are fair game.
I've spent a lot of time struggling with this because 'if I were really presenting as myself I would both be a dude and a bit more femme than I am now' is, well, not a common narrative. I don't talk about the whole thing much, because it's complex and painful and a thing I generally prefer to keep to offline diary-rambling, close friends, and significant others. But I do feel that coming out is important and that having a coming out day is important. I live in a world where I cannot recall the last time my same-sex marriage was a big social deal, and a lot of that is due to where I live, but the fact is that I can mention my wife to busdrivers, checkout counter people, my primary care physician, the DMV, whenever it's appropriate to mention a spouse... I haven't even gotten a look of confusion since moving back from Texas. That is a major cultural change from how it was when I was an adolescent, and one of the things sparking it was a lot of people coming out. Because of that hard work, since getting to college I have never even had to be in.
We're not there with gender identity yet. I would like the world to change that way. So. I'm going to try to be more out.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Saturday, September 7th, 2013|
|I Guess This Is A Salad Recipe
Made up this evening for me and Ruth and tilivenn
. If this isn't a salad, I don't know what to call it. Vegetarian, not vegan, probably could be made vegan relatively easily. Stealth protein.
2 red bell peppers
1 lb. fresh green beans
1 lb. tofu
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic
~3 tablespoons paprika
~teaspoon black pepper
~tablespoon salt + some other salt
Put a quantity of water sufficient to cover the beans on to boil in a medium pot. Don't salt it yet.
Wash and trim the beans. Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes.
The water should now be boiling. Blanch the beans for about 45 seconds, take them out with a slotted spoon, and drain them in a colander.
Salt the water as you would for pasta. Don't worry about it having gone green/yellow from the beans. Put the tofu cubes in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the water over them and let sit off the heat at least ten minutes.
Wash the peppers and cut into bite-sized pieces. Combine beans and peppers in a large bowl.
Peel and smash the garlic. Divide the butter into a few pieces. Put garlic, paprika, butter, black pepper, and salt into a food processor and process to form a smooth paste.
Drain the tofu through a colander and put on a plate lined with paper towels or clean dishcloths. Let it sit ten minutes if you have the patience and at least five if you don't, so it won't be watery. Add the tofu to the food processor and blend until smooth.
Scrape contents of food processor into a medium skillet, and set it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bite of raw garlic has mellowed and the paprika has toasted. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, or other seasonings if necessary-- the quantity of tofu involved means that it wants more spicing than you'd initially think.
Then scrape the sauce over the peppers and beans and stir roughly to blend. Serve immediately.
What I enjoyed about this was the combination of unctuous, warm sauce and fresh crispy vegetables, as well as it being surprisingly filling due to the stealth protein. I am pretty sure this would work with many other vegetables and many combinations of herbs and spices in the tofu. Pick what you like. It also came together reasonably fast.
Nominations for things other than 'that saladish thing' to call it cheerfully accepted.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Saturday, August 24th, 2013|
|I missed this when it first came out
but my review of Nina Allan's Spin
is up at Strange Horizons
Short version: interesting novella with really great worldbuilding centered around modern and future tech in a society directly descended from the ancient Greeks, only slightly marred by an abrupt and not-terribly-sensical ending.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Wednesday, August 14th, 2013|
|looking at my life, looking at my choices
I just remembered why I never reorganize the books.
It's not just that it's hard physical labor which is always more work and more complications than I remember being involved, and it's not just that it causes newly unshelved books to spill onto every single surface, and it's not just that organizing suddenly causes me to lose the ability to read the alphabet correctly
so that I think everything is going perfectly well until I notice I put Brust after
Bujold. That is all par for the course, and I have worked in libraries before, and that is just how these things go.
It is that my years of picking up books at garage sales and used stores and my heavy dependence on libraries as a child and to this day means that every single time I organize the books, I cannot believe what I actually turn out to own. Or not own. It is really vaguely traumatic.
I mean, we've been starting towards having kids for a while now, and if we had a kid right now I would feel that kid had the perfect right to be kind of pissy about things, because not only do I own three entire novels by Piers Anthony (relics of a misspent youth), but we own the first two books of Lloyd Alexander's Westmark
trilogy (but not the third) and the last two of the Prydain Chronicles (but not the beginning). That is just... I mean. That is not a position you put a person dependent on your bookcases in, is what I am saying.
So every time I organize the books I wind up making a list, with a heading entitled something like 'THIS IS STUPID', and then when I do have some money kicking around I go out and buy, say, the collected sonnets of H.P. Lovecraft, which is not a life decision I regret as some of them are very good and some are hilariously terrible, but.
When I look at my bookshelves in depth I end up feeling that I am both rather scatterbrained and terrible at filing, and also that we need about a third more books, by number, than we already have for things to even begin to make any sense, and where would we put them? And yet it would still be parting with the teenage moment of revelation about just how terrible Piers Anthony is, if I were to get rid of those three damn Piers Anthonys, which is at least six inches of shelf space right there.
Possibly I should just never organize anything. I am sure that would be the most efficient way to go about it.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.
|Monday, August 12th, 2013|
Adapted from an Annie's Eats adaptation of a Cook's Illustrated recipe. The original has zucchini and yellow squash (you know, the kind exactly like zucchini except yellow), but I only eat zucchini if they are incredibly young and tiny and I have never yet had an experience that indicates that yellow squash is food. So I added more eggplant and went in a different squash direction.
12 lasagna noodles
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
scant teaspoon salt
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (this is about two cups)
1 cup ricotta
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
~2 1/2 lbs. eggplant, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
~1 lb. butternut squash
~3 tablespoons olive oil
12 oz. baby spinach
12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Boil the lasagna noodles in lightly salted water for about two minutes less than the package tells you, and drain. Spread out a sheet of tinfoil or wax paper and arrange the noodles on it in a single flat layer to prevent sticking.
Mix everything listed under 'tomato sauce' together in a large bowl and set aside. Mix everything listed under 'ricotta sauce' together in a different large bowl and set aside. If you do this before the rest of your prep, the flavors will have time to mingle.
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
Toss the cubes of eggplant with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Line a plate with paper towels and put a single layer of eggplant cubes on it. Microwave for ten minutes on high, stirring once in the middle. (If your microwave is the size of mine, you may have to do several batches.) The eggplant should appear dry and be a little shriveled. Make sure to dump the accumulated juices out of the original eggplant bowl and wipe it down before putting the parcooked eggplant back in it.
At my grocery, they sell halves of butternut squash-- peeled with a lathe, chopped in half, seeded, and shrinkwrapped. One of those is about right. Otherwise, you need to cut off about a pound of a squash with a cleaver and then seed it with a sharp knife. If you're butchering your own squash, don't bother peeling it at this stage. If it came pre-peeled, chop it into 1/2-inch cubes. If not, don't. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and grease it thoroughly with a neutral oil. Either scatter the squash cubes on it, or put the half on peel-side-up. Bake about twenty minutes, stirring/moving things around every so often-- how much is up to you. Since the foil is metal, the squash will heat more on the side touching it, and has the potential to caramelize, which is fine as long as it is not allowed to burn. Stirring will allow you to control the amount of caramelization. Remove squash from oven when it is about the consistency of a cucumber and can be pierced by a fork with some effort. Peel and cube it if that hasn't already happened.
Stir the eggplant and the squash together.
For years I thought I hated thyme, because it always did the thing rosemary does, where you're going along perfectly happily eating and then it stabs you in the gums. Then I spent a while working in a restaurant. The way I now manage thyme is to take one of the large woody sprigs, break off the few leaves at the very top, and then run pinched fingers from top to bottom, removing all smaller sprigs and incidental leaves. Discard larger sprig. Do the same for the smaller sprigs. The thing is, the smaller sprigs will break off in such a way that the potentially gum-stabbing bits of stem at the end stay with their leaves, which is why I then pile the leaves any-which-way on a cutting board, set the blade of a chef's knife edge-down on top of the pile, and rock the blade back and forth across the pile from tip to base without using much pressure. If you have a good knife, this will basically powder the leaves or at least chop them very finely, and it will not
chop the bits of stem you don't want, which you can then pick out. Anyway this recipe wants about a tablespoon of finely chopped thyme. (No, this does not work for rosemary. Rosemary is evil that way and simply has to be chopped into powder. Yes, a lot of restaurants have somebody low on the totem pole down in the basement chopping fresh rosemary into powder and hating the universe. Yes, I have been that person. No, I don't cook with rosemary, why do you ask?)
Put a medium skillet on the stove and heat ~3 tablespoons of olive oil on it over medium-high heat until shimmering. Err on the less is more side, here, because you don't want the eggplant to stick, but you've just gone to some effort to get the liquid out of it, and you don't want your vegetable mixture to go greasy. The eggplant will not
drink as much oil as eggplant usually does. Fry the eggplant and squash together for five to seven minutes, until the eggplant is a little more compacted and the squash is showing signs of browning if it wasn't already. Throw in the garlic and thyme and cook another thirty seconds, just until you can smell them. Take off heat and put back in the bowl. Add the pepper. (You will not need any more salt.)
Put about a teaspoon of oil in the skillet, and fry the spinach for about thirty seconds, just until it wilts. Put it in a colander or on a plate with paper towels and let it drain for about five minutes; at the end of that time squeeze it out lightly and mix it into the other vegetables.
Lightly grease a 9" by 13" baking dish, bottom and sides.
The layering order:
one cup tomato sauce, evened out with a spatula (just assume you even all the layers out with a spatula)
four lasagna noodles
half the vegetables
half the ricotta sauce
one third of the mozzarella, sprinkled evenly
four lasagna noodles
one cup tomato sauce
the other half of the vegetables
the other half of the ricotta
one third mozzarella
four lasagna noodles
the rest of the tomato sauce
the rest of the mozzarella
Cover with lightly greased foil and bake for thirty-five minutes, until bubbling. Take the foil off and bake it another ten (if it's close enough to the broiler, the cheese will brown, if not, not).
Serves a lot of hungry people. Leftovers should keep well.You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comments over there.