Monday, October 29, 2007

Science Fiction -- dead or alive?

Interesting dissection of SF magazine sales ongoing at Warren Ellis' blog.

There has been a lot of follow up and discussion. Go see. Very grim from my way of seeing it, but maybe not the way you'll all see it.

Follow ups:

Monster punch

1. Get latex gloves WITHOUT POWDER. Rinse them well. Fill them with liquid that will contrast color with your punch, twist-tie them or rubber-band them closed, and freeze them solid. Peel the hand-shaped cubes out of the gloves.
2. Make a ton of punch, any kind. Make sure it's really cold.
3. Add "hands" to large punchbowl full of punch. Mmm, grossss.


This is an easy recipe, almost a not-recipe. But it's so satisfyingly weird looking and comfort-foody (and not in the least bit good for you).

Cook a lot of celentani (the corkscrewy macaroni things) and elbow macaroni (not too small, the elbows). Stir in as much ricotta as you wish... I tend to use half of the smallish tub (a pint?) for a half box of celentani plus a half bag of elbows... sorry I'm not more precise. Resist the temptation to add anything that adds color. It won't help the look. You may add a little garlic if you like, provided that it's minced fine; OR a very little nutmeg does fine. Not both. You can add a little plain yogurt to add "slip" to the texture if you like, but NOT too much if you want it to set up and look all brainy.

Put this mixture into a cellophane-or-foil-lined bowl about the size of a cranium. Let it rest a moment in the bowl to firm while you heat some marinara sauce.

Take a bigger, flatter serving bowl, nest it over the full cranium bowl so that they are concave-to-concave, and turn out the pasta carefully into the bowl, hoping it retains its shape. Indent down the middle to make "hemispheres" with a suitably long skinny object. THEN remove the foil or plastic.

Spoon the marinara into the bowl so it surrounds the "brains"... but don't go crazy with it. It can spoil the wonderful illusion.

I want to hear your variations on this theme... mine's easy and yummy (believe it or not, it is tasty when very simple).

Dead Ladyfingers

These don't taste like ladyfingers. They're tasty shortbread with a toasted almond and whatever flavor "goo" you choose to use. Yum.

You will be amazed. You know you want to make some. Do eet. DOOOO EEEEET!!! You will be rewarded.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar (I think I went a little light on it… I want to say I only put in ¾ cup but I am not sure)
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream all the above together until well blended, then mix in:

2 2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (I used too much—I think this should be right)
½ teaspoon salt

It will be granular and pretty dry until the butter grabs all the flour.

Put this mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or more, or in the freezer until it is good and cold. The more time you have, the better—it’s easier to work with when it is cold, plus the flour will soak up more of the moisture if it waits a bit.

Preheat oven to 325.

Take one quarter of the dough at a time from the fridge. Break off a heaping teaspoonful and roll it into a “finger” shape. Either make a cylinder and squeeze it to make a “knuckle”, or roll it between relaxed, slightly open fingers to let it form twisted finger shapes. It’s pretty easy. Indent one end for a “stump.” Make them slim and creepy… they will soften and plump while they bake.

Place cookies on a very lightly greased cookie sheet (or you can line it with parchment paper… I lined mine with foil and very lightly oiled the foil). Press a blanched almond on the not-stump end for a “fingernail” and indent it in several places at the “knuckles” with a skewer or non-serrated butter knife.

Bake until golden on the bottom – my recipe says 25 minutes but it lies like a rug.

Let cool 3 minutes, then raise up each almond, squeeze red decorating gel (or I suppose you could use green… or jam!) in the indented “nail bed,” and put the almond back. Goo will squish out around the nail. It looks wonderful. Smear the indentation on the stump end with your gel, too.

I’m thinking pumpkin seed “nails” and green goo would be a whole ‘nother level of gross looking… you could always do a half and half batch.

Enjoy! (This makes two heavily laden cookie sheets full… I think almost 40 cookies.)

Happy birthday, Mrs. President...

Yeah, it's my birthday. I'm old plus eight.

My man knows what I like. And I like nerdcore. Seriously, there's something so liberating and wonderful about wearing my embarrassing closet addictions (Star Wars, video games, comic books, the Muppets, the whole I-don't-wanna-grow-up-I'm-a-Toys-R-Us-Kid forever lifestyle of my generation... not to mention rap music) right on my sleeve. And it's a relief when I am among younger people who have inexplicably learned the pop culture of my own generation, word for word. Good for you, kids. Good for you.

We went to an MC Chris show tonight at SLO Brew or whatever the hell it calls itself. Even though Pat wrote about it on his blog, I also feel the compulsion to pimp for the MC. Love him. Seriously, really, love him.

He told us a dirty story. He sang his voice into hoarseness. (Yes, he really sounds like that in real life). He bounced and danced and entertained us thoroughly. He encouraged us to sing along, and let us carry the choruses (and the one-liners). He teased us. He made fun of Nickelback. He sang bits of "Free Bird" and "Du Hast." He was amazing.

Great show. Wonderfully great show. The audience never let up on the energy, waving the rap hand, the peace sign, the glow sticks, the bird, whatever he asked us for... and singing along with every word. I thought I was an addict and a fan, but I discovered something about going to concerts for cult phenomena.... the fans are cultish. We cheered and chanted him back onto the stage after his triumphant exit after "Fett's Vette" and he came back, astonished. He blinked at us. "So... what do you want to hear?"

Based on concerts I have seen: if you get the chance to see Ween or MC Chris, go do it. I've seen a lot of wonderful concerts, but when you go to a show, go to be entertained. Take your sense of humor. Take your sense of adventure. Leave your superego at home, and just go play. It's so worth it.

Well done, MC Chris.

Well done, honey. What a great present.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I want to wring some philosophical truth out of this

It seems to me that I could say something totally profound-sounding but unoriginal about the magical way we imagine treats/people/events to be (or are told they will be) and how they really turn out to be, but...

Nicely prepared food really does look delicious (see VegWeb if you want to see gorgeous, enticing food pictures prepared and taken by amateurs... delightful!)

My partner really is adorable. Get your own, but I'm very satisfied with mine.

The moments you psych yourself up for (any occasion you address before the fact as "the perfect [ ]) may not turn out to be the full Disneyfied concept you can build up, but... well, life is pretty magical. A moment in swirling, light snow under a streetlight is a moment surrounded by crystal clear, intense color and dancing light and glitter; wet goldfinches look spectacular clinging even to my grubby, flaccid, half-full thistle sock after a rain; sunsets and sunrises and kittens and clouds and springtime! What's not to love?

I'm reading Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour or whatever it's called. He's essentially dishing on the experience of having to, boo-hoo, work for the Food Network, while receiving a paycheck for doing so. I think they sponsored the book. Oh, woe is me, I'm a sell out, witness the evil of the company and how I bow and kowtow to them! Le sigh... he's a magnificently gifted writer and I assume a great cook, but I hate this particular gripe. I've never learned the value of a dollar, oh agony! Sheesh.

One thing I do adore about the book is the passionate love with which he describes people's everyday foods around the world. And it sort of occurred to me that we rarely rhapsodize about our own quotidian meals... because Doritos and packaged string cheese and whatever else we REALLY eat every day really aren't much in the way of cuisine. Where's the romance?

This article was just serendipitous to that turn of thought:
Ad vs. reality (fast food in ads and real life photos)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Like something from Reader's Digest

What cats know about war.

I'll post something intelligent soon. Work is draining my ability to think under my own power... Three short rate fees on top of minimum earned premiums (if you cancel a policy early, and it is in the contract that they can charge a percentage (up to 100%) of the annual premium no matter what, well, you have to pay) and three and a half workers' compensation audit disputes make for some massive emotional exhaustion. Maybe I sympathize too much. But it's still brutal and difficult sometimes, and this is the stinky end of the insurance stick. So once I get home, I turn into a quivering custard of a person, without drive, ambition, or braaaaaaaiiiiiinnns.

But hey, I made General Tsao's Tofu tonight and I have to say, this was an achievement. Not only did I cook something from scratch, but it was delicious. Go me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: the environment

This is the blunt instrument approach to the topic...

Ten relatively painless things you can do for the environment:

10) Renew, recycle, re-use. Any time you re-use something instead of replacing it, you are doing a world of good. "He who dies with the most toys, wins" is selfish: his descendants lose.

9) Children are the single biggest drain you can produce on the environment. If you're planning your family, plan small and you will make a gentler footprint.

8) Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescents. Your power bills will drop, and they last forever, so it's a win-win situation. And if you balked at the price tag when they first came out, reconsider... they've dropped.

7) If you're female, choose a reusable menstrual cup or washable cloth pads instead of the corporate drain on your household economy that is the commercial feminine hygiene industry. (Your tender naughty bits will be much happier without the chafing paper and plastic, anyway.) Cloth diapers, too. If you wouldn't wear it on your butt all day, why would you do that to a tiny baby?

6) Use re-usable bags rather than "paper or plastic."

5) Choose organic fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans when available and not crazy expensive. They're available and in many cases (but not all) they are measurably more healthy for the consumer.

4) Cut down on emissions by carpooling, traveling less, and biking or walking more.

3) Use less toxic household and toiletry items. Choose ecologically sensitive, biodegradable, or organic options where available.

2) Vote with your wallet and your tummy. Try to get away from fast food. For bonus points, go vegetarian, or better yet, resist factory farming. Not only will you be reading ingredient lists on labels, and probably making choices that include less revolting chemical, petroleum-based, and animal ingredients, but you will be avoiding a major source of pollution. Advanced "carbon dieters" will become locavores, eating only products coming from local sources (I think we used to call it macrobiotics.)

1) Get politically active. Write letters, call your representatives, sign petitions. It takes only an hour or two a week to have a conscience you can feel proud of. Vote for candidates who understand that the future is worth planning for. Press for more sustainable industrial options (fully electric cars, more sustainable fuels, no lead shot, whatever ignites your personal passions).

(I am not anywhere close to perfect... just putting it out there.)

Brother Dave demanded it:

Unless you are actively threatening to buy me dirt if I don't put this up, please disregard this. I really don't need a lot of material goods and I am not begging. :)
My Wish List

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Behind every man...

I was struck by a weird wave of sympathy for a stranger last night.

We were watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares -- the U.S. version -- as we are huge fans of his. (There's something totally engaging and endearing about somebody who cares as much about food, food safety, and decent management as he does: "you could have killed somebody, you donkey!" he screams, turning red in the face. Seriously, if you like Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, watch Ramsay and delight in him.) On this show, he reforms a train wreck of a restaurant, or at least gives it an extraordinary try. He is bracingly acerbic, blunt, and seemingly heartless. (This is because he gives a damn, but it's tough love.)

The owner was a quiet, shy, doormat sort of gent with a sleazeball floor manager and a slightly domineering wife. It's the wife I most sympathized with. Not because I resemble her in character, but because I understand how she got where she was. (Also, she reminds me of the innumerable wives who run their contractor husbands' businesses, doing their books, scheduling their labor, filling in when needed, etc., whom I insure.)

She was involved in the management of the restaurant, helping out, putting sweat, blood, and tears into it alongside her silent workhorse of a husband. She wanted desperately to close the restaurant, cut away the albatross from hubby's neck, and move on. It wasn't successful. She had had it. As a result, she appeared slightly shrewish; in the coda updating us on the restaurant's progress, Ramsay felt it necessary to mention that their marriage was strong and getting better all the time.

Hmm... it never seemed a bit weak to me.

She wanted people to stop taking advantage of her husband. She wanted him to be free of this crushing weight of financial responsibility (surely ruining their credit and finances) and emotional investment. She wanted to get on with their lives. She was done with the whole restaurateur experience and encouraging him... maybe badgering him... to join her in being through with it all.

When I dropped out of school, I felt just like that... it is very hard for me not to nudge Pat toward the path I took. I feel free, lighter, and able to pursue real, tangible goals-- goals like having children, saving for retirement (maybe), getting clear of debt, having fun on weekends and REALLY RELAXING.

There was a happier than expected ending. The sleazeball reformed a little. The hubby asserted himself just a wee little bit. The restaurant tuned up and rallied, and everyone started pulling together. The wife re-invested herself in the experience.

It could also have been a happy ending if they had cut off that malignant bit of dead weight and just walked on. Life's a journey.

I've gone through that "I'm done, this is killing me" thing several times in the past few years. I don't follow politics as once I did, and I am ashamed to say that I only rarely muster out for causes. I no longer engage in entrenched debates online with people of widely differing moral and political orientation. I quit grad school and was shocked to find that I Regret Nothing.

I am reminded of the time when I was 16 and my friend's panty elastic let go all at once while we were shopping at a box-store (you know the ones, they usually end in -mart). She was wearing an A-line skirt and they pooled around her ankles, buttered-side-up. She stepped out of them, gave them a dainty kick under the shelves, and kept walking with a regal expression and her head held high.

Don't forget that other possibilities are out there, and that the choice is yours. Yes, you may turn around out of that tailspin and make it work, and everything will be happily ever after (til next time). Or you can just step out of those tired old things and keep walking, and the world will open new possibilities to you.