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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Humble minion's LiveJournal:

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    Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
    9:14 pm
    Mexican Salad
    Lazy bachelor cooking time!

    Ingredients
    1 avocado, peeled and stone removed (duh!), cut up small
    about 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/2 a white onion, finely chopped
    1 ear sweetcorn
    1 tin red kidney beans
    about a tbsp coriander leaves, chopped fine
    lemon juice
    extra virgin olive oil
    mild green jalapeno sauce

    Method
    Empty the tin of beans into a strainer, let drain, and then run cold water all over them til the slimy juice stuff is thoroughly washed off. Peel the corn, then slice the kernels off the cob. Fry the kernels in a dry pan over a medium heat for 5-10 mins, stirring regularly, until some of them start to show signs of browning. Mix beans and corn in a serving bowl with all the other vegies. Make a 1:1 mix of the lemon juice and olive oil, then add jalapeno sauce until the mixture is opaque. Dress the salad, serve.

    Serves: 1 as a meal, 3 as a side
    Difficulty: it's a SALAD ffs!
    Date-impressing quotient: not too shabby, serve it alongside some tacos or mole or something
    Cost: cheap as dirt in season, the avocado and cherry tomatoes can be a bit steep out of season though!
    Saturday, July 7th, 2012
    11:30 pm
    Bechdel testosterone
    I have officially decided that the next Avengers movie (or Iron Man, Captain America, or whatever spin-off-thingy) desperately needs more female characters. Give us Madame Hydra, or Mockingbird, or Miss Marvel, or the Enchantress, or more of Sif or Maria Hill, or all of the above. (Probably not the Wasp or Tigra, cos filmed in live-action they'd look too silly for words, and you can't do Wasp without Ant-Man and that guy annoys me.) But just give us SOMETHING, cos the whole drowning-in-Y-chromosomes thing is a bit ridiculous - and frankly, I'm sick of scrolling past pages and pages of slash trying to find some worthwhile fic to read!

    On a related matter, John Scalzi might be really cool and accessible and have a funky blog, but jeez the way he writes women in his long-form prose creeps me the hell out. Redshirts is bad enough, in which the only female character's only narrative purpose is to sleep with a guy (and steal his pants, in an admittedly very funny running joke), but Agent to the Stars is just fucking horrifying. And I'm normally completely, masculinely oblivious to this stuff (until it was pointed out to me, I didn't even NOTICE the stuff that makes gamerchick barf blood and angry weasels whenever R Scott Bakker is mentioned), but after finishing this book I had to go take a shower. Yeeg.
    Sunday, February 12th, 2012
    11:28 pm
    Lazy bachelor cooking time
    Marinated bbq pork

    Ingredients
    150ml ketchup (not tomato sauce)
    6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    1 orange
    1 tbsp smoked paprika
    1/2 tsp cumin seeds (or equivalent cumin powder)
    1 tsp fennel seeds
    3 gloves garlic, crushed
    salt
    about 1.2-1.5kg pork fillets, about 3 or 4 depending on how long they are

    Method
    Grind the fennel and cumin seeds to powder in a mortar & pestle. Juice the orange, then grate off the rind (not the white pith - leave as much of that behind as you can), and throw away the rest. Mix everything except the pork and salt together well.

    Lay the pork fillets down parallel to each other, nice and close together. If any are tramatically longer than the rest, trim off the skinny trailing end and use it to bulk out the skinny trailing end of the shorter ones. You want the finished product to have about 3 or 4 equal length rows. Using metal skewers, skewer the fillets together crossways, perpendicular to the length of the fillets. Press them together nice and close. Salt both sides generously, then place in a non-reactive dish (ie, ceramic, plastic or coated metal, not stainless steel!) and pour the marinade mixture over it, making sure both sides and the ends are well covered. Leave to marinate for 6-8 hrs.

    Place on a rack under a grill, or else on a bbq. Cook on medium, every 5 minutes turning and coating generously with the leftover marinade when the side exposed to the flame starts to dry out. When it's cooked, approx 20-30 mins, the marinade on both sides will be darkened and no longer liquidy. Remove from the heat and let stand for about 5 mins to let the juices settle before serving. Carve cross-ways, parallel to the skewers, for best effect. It looks a very dark and heavy but is actually quite sweet, fruity and light - serve on a hot day with some green salad, white rice, corn on the cob, and an assortment of bbq sauces. Grill some peaches if you want to go the extra mile. Leftovers go very nicely cold in a baguette the next day.

    Serves: Lots. probably 4? Depends on how many side dishes you whip up (you do need them, sorry - this one is too samey just by itself)
    Difficulty: Lots easier than it looks. the worry with pork is overcooking it so it dries out, but the marinade and the thickness of the fillets when compared to pork chops etc makes this a lot more forgiving than most pork dishes. Keep an eye on it though.
    Kitchen Mess Factor: Yeah, cleaning the grill can be a bugger. Not much else though
    Date-impressing quotient: Maybe not so much. Tastes good, but it's a pretty blokey presentation. Not really an intimate meal for 2 kinda dish. Goes great if you're catering for a group at a party or bbq though, gets you much more brownies points than just chucking on some sausages.
    Cost: Pretty reasonable, if you can get the pork without breaking the bank, but still not an everyday moneysaver kinda thing. Go to the butcher rather than the supermarket.
    Monday, January 30th, 2012
    1:40 am
    Yeah, so still plugging away, very very slowly, on the superhero novel.

    THe general shape is starting to become clear, though certain aspects of character, implementation and (especially) the ending are still veiling in the swirling mists of 'dunno' at this point in time. And then there's, y'know, the minor detail of actually sitting down and spitting out a quarter of a million words or so. Particularly difficult in summer, when the temperature in my study hits 37°C pretty regularly and the CPU on my computer overheats and shuts itself down if I have more than two applications open at once.

    Have been reading/watching superhero stuff as inspirational material. The novels ... vary, wildly, from the worthless to the pretty good. The comics are so self-referential and incestuous as to be almost completely incomprehensible to someone coming at them without 30 years of backstory knowledge (and people wonder why the comic book business is circling the drain!) Which leaves TV and film. Heroes lost me pretty early, No Ordinary Family only lasted a handful of episodes, and while I'm very much enjoying Misfits, so far it's another one of the costume-and-codename-free modernist deconstructions of superpowered people so not so much use to me. Kim Possible is always reliable though, and I'm pretty sure I've raved about that show before and you should all go and watch it, because it's awesome.

    Most recent film was Green Lantern, and wow, what a waste of a couple of valuable hours of time that I could have more usefully spent picking lint from my navel or sorting the contents of my lentil jar by size. Anyway, it made me think a bit about the Bechdel test. The movie failed the test, in case there was any doubt. It failed the test probably harder than any film I've ever seen before in my life, even the ones like Saving Private Ryan which didn't have any femae character at all. Green Lantern had exactly ONE female character, so was never going to have two female characters having a conversation about anything. It also was scripted so that the only female character didn't get to talk to anyone but the male lead, and even when she did, she only ever got to talk ABOUT the male lead. But she shouldn't feel lonely, because in this dreadful piece of rubbish that's all that ANYONE ever got to talk about. Bleh. Seriously, I defy anyone to watch that film and come back with anything even remotely resembling a motivation, conviction, personality, or character analysis for anyone other than Ryan Reynolds. Every action taken by everyone in the entire movie was driven entirely by the needs of the plot, which meant the needs of the main character. This film didn't have a cast, it had one guy, some CGI, and a bunch of backup singers.

    But from a writing perspective, where does this leave me Bechdel Test-wise? I can certainly write better than the Green Lantern scriptwriters (though so can most gibbons, so this is not a rousing endorsement), but I could very easily fall into some of the same traps. I'm writing with a male 1st-person point of view character. There's room for digression, and heavy use of flashbacks using 3rd-person pov with a different perspective character, but Bechdel-wise, it's a tough thing. I've also got the superhero gender imbalance thing to deal with. Men traditionally DO outnumber women in the classic superhero groups, and I've got solid plot and theme-related reasons for wanting to stick with that tradition, early on at least. Unfortunately, tokenism really bugs me when I read it or watch it myself, but I find myself locked into using (with a certain amount of lampshading) token female characters in deliberately cliched roles. Writing female characters in their traditional superhero roles as 'the girlfriend' and the like without provoking female readers to throw the book across the room before they get to the good stuff it going to be a tough gig. Fortunately, I'm the only bloke in my writing group, so at least I've got a test audience to bounce stuff off, who will no doubt slap me down if I mess it up too badly...

    And apropos of nothing in particular, I wish the butterflies would stop flocking into the house and dying all over the place. There are sad little pairs of patterned orange-black wings scattered all over the place, like kiss-marks from someone wearing some seriously gothic lipstick. I feel like I'm stuck in the 'sinister symbolism and foreshadowing' bit of the horror movie, before the monster shows up.
    Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
    11:13 am
    Nothing says 'I live alone' quite like falling down your own stairs, and lying at the bottom in a gasping and crumpled heap for an indeterminate length of time, wondering idly and dazed whether you'll be able to get up again at some point or whether your lizard-eaten corpse will be discovered in a week or so when the smell gets too bad...

    Current Mood: ow
    Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
    11:31 pm
    Just finished the third consecutive D&D session without any cancellations, which is probably a first for this year. Young child, new jobs, illness, other committments (I like football, but even I reckon Real Life Ninja S takes it to extraordinary lengths with all the club functions, fundraisers, committee meetings etc he's going to all the time) and not least me being a lump of depressed immobile goo for much of the first half of the year have taken their toll. But starting to get back into it.

    The cleric PC just kicked off La Noche Triste (with the mild complications of time travel, extra added demons, serial killers variously well-meaning, brutal, de-boned and possessed, and a sidetrip to the lovecraftian regions of spacetime in the company of a dwarf lich and a renegade githyanki on a red dragon) by trying to sneak off to the Aztec Emperor's harem. Good session!

    Not to say there haven't been some bad ones lately. I'm at my best as a GM (or at least rhe game I run turn out best) when I'm forcing the issue, when things are happening all over the place and the PCs have to react. I have a tendency to be too slow, to be too cautious, to be unwilling to resolve plotlines, relieve tension, or reveal secrets even when, with hindsight, things had crossed the line from 'tense' to 'static and boring' and it was time to progress the plot. Hey gamerchick - bear this in mind when I send you plot emails!

    Of course this hasn't been helped by the tendency of my players to, when given a sandbox situation, spend the whole time either trying to research every single plot element in the campaign or else trying to buy magic items, rather than actually DOING anything! But I've known this for a long time, I really should have adapted to it better by now. But while my mini-depressiony thing is vastly better than it used to be, it is still there, and it does tend to exaggerate my inclination towards stasis, lack of preparation, and unwillingness to move from my comfort zone. Something I have to bear in mind.

    This'll probably be the last campaign I run. Dunno how much longer it has to last, depends on how regularly the group can meet, depends on how by-the-book I run the rest of ther campaign and how freely I give the PCs sandbox time or leeway to ignore the (rather railroady) plot as written. Real Life Ninja S is running the next campaign, probably using Pathfinder, though how he's going to reconcile the extra prep time that comes with GMing with his football committments I have no idea. But I'd just kinda like to be able to play an RPG again, after years of solely running them. I'll be able to focus my creative energy (and control-freak tendencies) more on my writing, and just enjoy the hobby rather than stressing about the half-dozen 2-page highlevel D&D3e stat blocks I have to put together before next Wednesday. Will be good to get back to basics, after running the whole show for something like 6 years now.

    Next week, Cortez locks the cleric up with Montezuma, la Malinche chooses sides (for the sake of love...) but might well choose poorly, the elf gets in touch with his non-Euclidian side, the wizard discovers that pretending to be Quetzalcoatl reborn has its bad points as well as it good points, and the PCs launch a full-blown assault on the temple of Mictlanteceutli in an all-out effort to kill the one person who is actually on their side. Should be fun!
    Monday, August 29th, 2011
    10:28 pm
    Lazy bachelor cooking time
    Warm Spinach Soup

    Ingredients

    1 packet (250gm) frozen chopped spinach (I love this stuff)
    500ml chicken stock
    1 tsp minced chilli (the jarred stuff is fine, though it pains my inner chilli-geek to say that)
    a decent fistful, about qtr-half a cup, of arborio rice
    about 3 cloves minced garlic
    1 brown onion, chopped
    olive oil (maybe a tbsp or a bit less)
    salt, pepper

    Method
    Earlier in the day or the day before, take the spinach out of the freezer and put it in a bowl to thaw. It'll separate into a wad of squishy spinach in a pool of green water. Keep it all.

    Over a medium flame, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Throw in the onions, garlic and chilli, stir it all around continually until there's no crunchy and opaque bits of onion left but before it starts to brown. Add the rice, keep stirring for a few minutes until the rice grains are all coated with the red-orange oil from the bottom of the pan. Pour in the stock, and the spinachy water, put a lid on the saucepan, turn the heat up to high until the mixture starts to bubble fast. Then turn it down low and leave it to simmer for about 10-15 mins or so, until the rice is tender. Throw in the spinach and stir until it mixes evenly through. Season with salt and pepper. Put the lid back on and leave to cook for another 5 mins or so. Pour into a bowl. Sprinkling the finished product with a bit of cheese isn't 100% necessary but adds a lot - use something sharpish and hard like pecorino or parmesan if you have it, otherwise mozarella (or even the cheap lo-fat pre-grated pizza cheese works pretty well)

    Serves: 1 nice big bowl for in front of the TV. Multiplying up for additional diners is very easy though, no tricks needed.
    Difficulty: Very very easy. The hardest thing about this recipe is remembering to take the spinach out to thaw beforehand. Seriously, you have to TRY to stuff this one up (though I did manage once, forgetting to put the stock powder in and making it with plain water!)
    Kitchen mess factor: One pot, got to love that.
    Date-impressing quotient: probably negligible, tell you the truth.
    Cost: a packet of spinach plus an onion, call it $2.50 per serving? The rest of the ingredients are used in small amounts and you've probably got them sitting around anyway...
    Friday, July 1st, 2011
    9:16 pm
    Just found out I work with one of the members of Hunters and Collectors. How awesome is that?
    Saturday, June 25th, 2011
    8:26 pm
    starts with 'd', rhymes with 'millet font'
    This whole 'being a damn grownup' thing takes some getting used to. Less and less time, more and more things to do in the time I have. And that's without partner, kids or home ownership coming into the picture.

    I'm really having to make some calls about what is important to me, and what I am just going to have to let slide if I'm going to be able to devote enough time to those things.

    Trigger for this is seeing the trailer for the Space Marine Xbox 360 game, and since it hits all my nerd buttons, wondering whether consoles will be cheap enough at the end of financial year sales to pick one up so I can play it whe it comes out (and catch up on all the Halo sequels etc I've missed due to being a technological primitive)

    Then having second and third thoughts and wondering 'if I do this, what effect does it have on my other committments and ambitions'.

    I know myself pretty well. I've had 34 years to get to know me, after all. I'd be lying if I pretended to be anything other than distractable and at times a bit lazy.

    Non-negotiables:
    - Work.
    - Reading, though at least I can get a couple of hours a day done on the train to/from work.
    - Gym. I've been very ill for a week, and it's mostly because I haven't been keeping myself in shape. And the way I eat, I put on weight fast if I'm not active.
    - Family and friends. Duh.
    - Basic housework stuff, car maintenence etc, cos I'm far too prone to letting it slide.

    Will need negotiation:
    - Football. I've been enjoying a lot of the junior stuff I've been watching, but it's a big time sink on weekends.
    - Roleplaying. Reckon this will be the last campaign I run for a while. Not sure where the group will go after this (the likely next GM has even more extracurricular committments than me) but GMing is two nights a week - preparation, and playing. Plus it's been something like 6 or 7 years - I WANT to play rather than run for once!
    - Writing. Needs to be negotiated up, significantly. Writing group is helping on that front, but I still need to improve. This is something that's important to me, and I'll always regret not taking seriously if I don't start getting my shit together. Sticking to one project rather than my usual goldfish-attention-span flitting between shiny things is helping too. It's nice to have a project comfortably into 5-figure word counts. Make me feel like I'm getting somewhere.
    - Wildlife. Also needs to be adjusted up. As an on-call/emergency reponse type person rather than an active rehabber, I need to be pulling a bit more weight in that department, though I expect that'll take care of itself once bushfire/heatstroke season comes around. At very least I need to finish that website that's been sitting around half-done forever.

    Generally I spend between 10 and 11 hours per weekday either working or travelling to/from work. That doesn't leave a hell of a lot of daylight. If I'm going to gym before work then I'm basically required to set my alarm for 5:50am, gym at 6, home by 7:10, shower, shave, out the door by 8. One night a week dinner at dad's place, one night roleplaying. Doesn't leave a lot of weekday time to play with.

    Where does that leave time for video games? Really? I want a family at some point. I want a dog, though I can't have one where I'm currently living. I even want to get a bit more involved in politics, maybe join a local branch.

    I'm very inclined to spreading myself too thin and not finishing things I start. Something's got to give.
    Friday, June 24th, 2011
    6:14 pm
    Have obviously been listening to Prodigy, 'baby's got a temper' too much.

    Went to chemist. Asked for Rhinocort. Came out of my mouth as 'Rohypnol'

    Ack. Time to find a new chemist. Cabn't show my face at THAT one ever ever ever again...
    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
    5:16 pm
    A review of the literature...
    I was never into comics as a kid. Just never got into them, largely because they were too expensive for too little. Probably a good move on my part, since I was a kid in the late 80s and early 90s, and apparently that was the blood-splattered foil-covered exploitative nadir of the medium. But to be honest my hard-earned $9.02 per week of paper-round money went straight into plastic models, cheap ouzo and Warhammer so I'm hardly in a position to be holier than thou about teenage investment choices.

    I have, however, really enjoyed the best of the recent spate of superhero films (X-Men 2, Iron Man and the first two Spiderman films at the top of the list, haven't seen First Class yet), and my enjoyment is probably heightened by my NOT having a head full of established continuity. What I've really gotten to enjoy, though, is the recent spate of superhero novels. The melding of the fantastically out-there plots of your average comicbook story with the additional depth, plot complexity, and insight into character that the prose for can give is something I find oddly fascinating. Blending genre authenticity with actual real-life authenticity is one of the more fascinating writing and world-building challenges around, and it's one that (from my limited knowledge) the actual comic medium abandoned a long time ago in favour of an ever-more elaborate and inconsistent sci-fi shared world.

    (I should at some point write a post on what is My Favourite Shared World Ever, even though I've never seen a single use of it in any medium that lives up to the setting's potential)

    Been musing a bit on the medium. Historically of course it's usually films which go to (generally poor) tie in books, computer games, comics etc (my particular surrealist moment was seeing in the bookshop a novelisation of 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' - except that the Bram Stoker version obviously wasn't good enough so they grabbed Fred Saberhagen and told him to churn something out that matched Coppola's script). A bit more often now you get other media - books, comics, computer games - going to film, from which point they spin off into the usual polyethylene explosion of tatty marketing paraphenalia. But a very comic-specific genre going to books, with original characters that aren't a spin-off property - that's something new. I'm just trying to get a handle on what works and what doesn't.

    Read more...Collapse )

    Still to purchase/read/review: Ex-Heroes, Playing for Keeps, From the Notebooks of Dr Brain, Heroine Addiction, Masked, Nobody Gets the Girl, Paranormal, Brave Men Run. The genre's really getting a workout recently, it seems.

    So after all that twaddle - which superhero novel is the best? The one I'm currently about 20k words into writing, of course... :p
    Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
    12:22 pm
    Cognitive dissonance
    Spent a week and a bit fishing earlier this month. Dad's just retired and wanted some family time, so my sister and I went with him, up to the place on the NWW south coast we always used to go for family holidays when we were kids. Sister only stayed a few days - we learned a long time ago there's not much to do there unless you're interested in fishing - working that out probably didn't help family harmony all that much back when sister was in her teens, but anyway.

    The resorty-thing we stayed in hadn't changed at all - still the same fibro cabins, dodgy restaurant, overpriced general store that's only open for a couple of minutes on the hour, shelves full of ancient airport potboiler books in the games room. The lake, on the other hand, had changed a lot. The entrance to the sea had silted over during the droughts, and while last year's floods had opened it up again, the channels and the tides and the wheres and hows of the fish were very unfamiliar. All our old tricks didn't work - trolling silver wobblers in the upper lake didn't find any tailor, the flathead at the yellow peg weren't interested in our bass yabbies, and hours of pumping bait on the sandflats at the entrance only rustled up a handful of weedy-looking sandworms to tempt the whiting with.

    We started to work it out towards the end of the stay. Finding some bream at the entrance, getting flathead (in between the damn stingrays) with pilchards in the hole off the end of the jetty, salmon on the northern surf beach. You learn to adapt, when a waterway changes. But it was still nothing like it used to be.

    I talked to some of the older guys there, on and off. It seems like everyone was having similar issues. One bloke in particular stuck in my memory though.

    He was saying how it was nothing like it was in the old days, when you could pull twenty bream out from between the oyster leases in an hour or so, then motor up to the upper lake and fill an esky with thumping flathead, plus the odd mulloway, prawns on a full moon night, blue swimmer crabs or whatever else happened to show up. You could do this all day, every day, if you wanted. Fill the freezer with all the absolutely best, sweet, white-fleshed eating fish. But now everyone was balancing on the ocean rocks at the entrance, dodging the spray and pulling up grey-fleshed luderick because they seemed to be the only things around.

    It was just very surreal, listening to him talk about how he (and a couple of dozen other long-term regulars) would go up there and pull anywhere from 20-50 fish each per day out of the lake, every day for a couple of weeks, every year for 30 years, and then in the same breath bemoan how the fishing had gone downhill and the lake wasn't the same as it used to be. The possible connection between the former and the latter just didn't seem to occur to him.

    I reckon probably 10% of fishermen catch 90% of fish. Not only is there's a considerable learning curve, but it's an activity that rewards dedication and time investment - travel to remote spots, willingness to camp in the middle of nowhere with a shovel as your toilet facilities, time spent catching fresh bait, money spent on boats, depth sounders and GPS, the years of experience spent learning a waterway to find holes, reefs, drop-offs and other features. Some of the 10% are pure sportfishermen, practising catch and release, using light line, keeping only a small percentage of the catch when it's hooked too deeply or whatever. But the others, the slightly older guys usually, who grew up with fishing being a way to feed the family, who'll grimly go out and fill the boat with the same types of fish in the same way, day in, day out. Hell, I remember one bloke who once simply gave us something like four kilos of flathead tails because his freezer was already full. Why do you keep killing fish if you've already filled the freezer? How do you justify wasting half the (very tasty) meat on a flathead by tailing it rather than filletting it? It's not even like he had kids young enough to be worried about bones. We gut and gill our flathead and then bbq them whole, wasting nothing, not even the cheek meat.

    I just don't get the attitude. They don't fish for the same reason I do. I can spend a day fishing and enjoy myself even if I don't catch anything, just wallowing in the relaxation and time in the wild. If I am catching fish, I'll keep enough to cover my immediate needs. And I enjoy the challenge of fishing a new place, catching different types of fish in different ways, much more than I do just mechanically hunting meat like I was on a production line.

    I hate to be the one who cries 'badwrongfun!', but I'll make an exception now. One day I want to be able to take my kids fishing, and give them half a chance of catching something. If you like to fish, then fish in a way which means your grandchildren will be able to enjoy it just as much as you did.

    Edit: ooh, and I'd almost fogotten. Was a seven hour drive to get to the lake, and on the way dad played a lot of his old early 60s stuff. Any my god, talk about horrifying sexual politics! 'Working for the man' is bad enough, but 'Bobby's girl' really takes the cake. Times have seriously changed...
    Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
    9:56 pm
    Ok, THAT was awkward.

    Creative writing course. Reading out a piece to the group. My piece has a fairly sympathetic female character in it, with a rather less sympathetic male narrator. The final paragraph of the piece, concerning said character?

    "I fucked her in the hotel toilets that night, and then flew out on Monday morning and never said goodbye."

    Realise after having read this out that completely unconsciously I'd given the female character the same name as the instructor running the course.

    Ouch.

    (hey, does anyone else in the world still use the LJ 'mood' dropdown selectory thing?)

    Current Mood: embarrassed
    Sunday, January 30th, 2011
    12:37 am
    Stuff which you haven't paid any attention to but which you should have, part 1: Kim Possible
    To wax whiny for a moment, I've had a pretty rough year or so, for a number of reasons, and haven't dealt with it as well as I could have. You know, sitting around moping, neglecting work and exercise, failing to keep up with loved ones, friends and family, getting through more bottles of $3 cleanskin merlot than is strictly healthy, all the usual pathetic cliches.

    One of the myriad things I have found myself having difficulty with is finding the intellectual energy and drive to be able to absorb and appreciate new books, movies, TV etc. So I've been weirdly, compulsively consuming media which I already know - rereading books I've already read (I've probably now gotten through Alistair Horne's French/German trilogy of histories more often than anybody except Alistair Horne), devouring new episodes of familiar show like Iron Chef, or sequels to familiar movies like Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (and oh boy, wasn't THAT a big hairy waste of a couple of hours of my time?). New stuff has been hard to digest. So when I finally started to get my shit together relatively recently, I looked for something non-challenging, and for no reason I can recollect right now, I picked Kim Possible.

    Summary: Take Buffy, animate it, replace the vampire/demon thing with supervillains, and probably dial back the target audience's age to the early-mid teens.

    It's actually really, really frigging good, and had me laughing out loud more times than I can easily remember.

    The villains are brilliant (from the hilarious in Motor Ed and the Seniors - oh god the Seniors - to the genuinely rather deeply disturbing in Monkey Fist). The in-jokes are actually funny. The dialog is a killer. The romance angle, when it happens in the 3rd/4th seasons, is honestly sweet. It could use another main character or even two (Kim and Ron rock, but having a palette of two vs the four-pronged Buffy/Willow/Giles/Xander dynamic means plot options are pretty limited - there needed to be more Monique, to be honest, or perhaps Wade or Rufus needed to be less one-note), and sometimes it gets just too Disney-ish and preachy in an episode or two (you'll know the ones, when you see them!), and if you're looking for realistic Tom Clancy-ish special ops plotting, combat and infiltration techniques you're looking in the wrong place. But it's a kid show, by any real measure, so it's very hard to take offense when you're not the target audience.

    I've been getting a bit more into superheroes recently as a result of running an informal and non-serious Mutants and Masterminds game (the system is GREAT by the way, absolutly awesomely brilliant, once you house-rule to fix the stunlock problem) as a backup for when not all of the regualr D&D players can make it on a Wednesday night, and it's really hard to resist the temptation to pinch Kim's villain slate wholesale, it's just that good. Bordering on Dr Dinosaur good in some places.

    (I might actually post a few M&M character concepts here, to keep the content flowing, which is deeply self-indulgent, but hey, isn't LJ basically DESIGNED for self-indulgence after all?)

    Anyway, watch Kim Possible. Accept it for what it is, and you'll get a huge amount of enjoyment out of it. I did.

    Oh, and the fic is universally garbage, trust me on this.
    Friday, January 28th, 2011
    7:48 pm
    Cooking paella, drinking semillion blanc, and about to start watching Scott Pilgrim. Could I BE any more cliche? If I start wearing skinny jeans and a black t-shirt with an ironic band name on it, shoot me. Somewhere deep inside, I'll thank you for it.
    Thursday, January 20th, 2011
    11:49 pm
    Second bit of material written for the creative writing class. The assignment here was to write a piece that described a character, whether it was a simple character study or a description of an important moment in that character's life. As usual, I broke the assignment. I originally intended to focus this piece on the small man, but the narrator took on a life of his own and it became all about him. It's still unfinished - i was working towards a ghost story and it still might become that, but I keep changing my mind on whether the ghost is literal or metaphorical, and the former is giving me a lot of stuctural headaches...

    Read more...Collapse )
    Friday, January 14th, 2011
    12:39 am
    In today's Lesson That Should Have Been Blatantly Obvious But Which I Had To Learn The Hard Way As Usual, if you should ever consider doing a Google image search for Kim Possible, it is a very very VERY good idea to make sure safesearch is on first.

    Sick and wrong, people. Sick and wrong!

    I'm currently doing a CAE fiction writing short course, to help me get back in the writing vibe and hopefully help me get over the story structure hurdle which I always fall flat on my face at whenever I take a shot at Nanowrimo, the Vogels, and similar. It's a six week thing, two and a half hour classes once a week with a little bit of homework (thousand words or so) each week which gets discussed and workshopped in class.

    Might post it here, just for people's amusement. First assignment was to describe a the same situation twice, once in third person and once in first person. Well, I kinda succeeded, except that the concept ran away with me and left the whole 'same situation' bit of the assignment outline behind a bit...

    hesitant and poorly structured prose behind the cutCollapse )
    Thursday, January 13th, 2011
    3:07 am
    imperfect solutions, and other unpalatable realities
    I love Terry Pratchett, and probably like everyone else in the world who's ever read 'Jingo' I like to believe I'm substitious.

    Terry's definition:
    'Superstitious' means believing in stuff which everyone believes in but which isn't true.
    'Substitious' means believing in stuff which everybody knows is true, but nobody really believes in. Terry's examples are "it'll get better if you don't pick at it" and "some things just happen."

    The floods in Queensland are just horrendous at the moment. I've got some relations of sorts up there, but it's so far so good on that count. They're in nursing homes in an area which hasn't been subject to flooding yet, so I've got a reasonable level of confidence that they and their carers have had sufficient warning so they'll be able to get out if things get bad. But an area the size of France and Germany combined has flooded over the last three days, so you never quite know.

    What I am hearing a lot of is 'we need dams for flood mitigation' etc etc etc. The usual screaming about governmental incompetence, unpreparedness, 'someone should do something about it' etc etc. And sure, after the crisis has calmed down and the cleanup under way, we should have a good hard look at what we could have done better. But that's only because that's what you should ALWAYS do.

    The sad (and possibly substitious) fact is that no matter what individuals, governments or anyone else does, they can't make life a perfectly safe, risk-free activity. Bad things are going to happen, and often to people who don't deserve them. Miserable but true. Brisbane as far as I know did have a dam for flood mitigation. This time last year it was 5% full and water supplies were in jeopardy, yesterday it was 185% of recommended capacity and was undergoing continual controlled discharge of water so it didn't overflow or rupture. Australia is a place 'Of droughts and flooding rains', as McKellar described it. Always has been. A place of extremes. You can prepare for, and mitigate extremes, but people seem to want to completely organise them out of existence, which just isn't going to happen. The dam, over the course of the drough, prevented the entire population of Brisbane from running out of drinking water (just). Over the past couple of days, it's prevented the floods from being much, much worse than they were.

    We are relatively small creatures that live in a world that operates on a scale very much bigger than us. We cannot (and should not) ever hope to completely control every facet of the environment we live in. The price is too high, just as it was after the bushfires here in Victoria two years ago when the knee-jerk reaction was to basically require that no tree over knee level be left standing within 100m of a house. Mother nature can be a bitch sometimes. It's just one of those things.

    Other related rant for the day: the whole business with the US congresswoman getting shot in Arizona. I'm sure that a million people have written a zillion words on LJ (well, probably mostly on other blogging platforms given how dead this place seems to be these days) about it, but something that particularly grabbed my attention was the little rant by the comic book shop owner (don't laugh, really) entitled '1 down, 534 to go' which basically argued that all US politicians should be shot because they're oppressing the people, requiring them to pay tax, and all that sort of stuff.

    Jesus FUCK grow up will you, kid? Yeah, you're probably older than me, but you're still a kid. Know why? Because you never matured sufficiently to realise that you're never going to get all the people to believe the same thing all of the time, and therefore that compromise is necessary. Because you seem to somehow believe that the implementation of anarchy in the modern age would NOT inevitably result in a tyranny of the best-armed in very short order, and so most of us a are reasonably to accept representative democracy (with all its flaws) instead. Because you spout words like 'freedom' and 'liberty' and 'fighting oppression' and 'principle' and hold them up as bright and shining ideals, without realising that the hundreds of years of thought which underpin these concepts philosophically grew from revulsion about the treatment of actual real people, and that you're utterly losing sight of the reality of actual real people in chasing your wonderfully sparkling principled illusions.

    The same guy said that he never voted as a matter of principle. Riiiiight. Here, voting is compulsory, which I reckon is a wonderful idea, because it means that you can't dodge responsibility for participating in democracy. However little effort you put into it, even if you make your decision on election morning based on whichever party's pamphlet you read most recently, you DO have to make a decision and bear the consequences. I've heard people claim that they never vote out of principle because there's nobody that fully represents their views. Well, jeez, poor diddums, let me wipe those tears. Imagine being forced to actually make a decision between a number of less-than-ideal options! It's not like actual real governments have to do that every damn day, is it? Prioritise what's important. Make some judgement calls. Balance idealism against pragmatism. Or (gasp!) run for office or campaign for someone or try to change policy your damn self! Opting out of democracy and into firepower-based law because things aren't going 100% your way at the moment and therefore democracy isn't real democracy is childish on the 'i'm taking my bat and ball and going home' level. The world is an imperfect place. Deal.

    Mind you, the same guy said that he considered himself to be in a state of war with the US government (and if you understand how that is even remotely consistent with working in a comic shop and living in a modern, heavily-taxpayer-funded society then you're doing better than I am). But it really begs the question (and slacktivist recently asked it much better than I'll be able to) - if you really believe that, what the hell are you doing? What aren't you out there, recruiting a militia and shooting at soldiers and attacking infrastructure and otherwise acting in a way which would actually require commitment? If you really believe that the government is so unspeakable and that all congresspeople should be shot, why aren't you doing it? If you are remotely a man of principle or conviction, and if you genuinely believe what you say, your own morality would have long ago demanded that you act, wouldn't it? But instead you work in your comic shop, benefiting from the security derived from contract, business, zoning, and corporate law that the government wrote and enforces, before driving home on the roads the government paid for and which are made usably safe by government-imposed and -enforced road laws, before firing up your computer, connecting to the government-designed internet, and posting on your blog (the software for which wouldn't exist were it not for government IP licensing laws and non-profit organisation regulations) a screed in support of some wacko who shot a politician. Stupid bastard. Undergraduate anarchism and libertarianism is great when you're an undergraduate, but surely once you hit the real world you've got to temper your love of the pretty idea with just the tiniest bit of compassion for the real life breathing eating sleeping bleeding people the idea is meant to benefit?

    But instead, you'd rather break the world because a few bits of it are a slightly different colour to what you'd prefer, and it's just too damn bad anyone who gets hurt in the meantime.
    Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
    10:12 pm
    Lazy bachelor cooking time, again...
    I'll post something non-food-related next, I promise! I'm still trying to get back in the habit of writing anything - it's amazing how you lose the flow of writing and any sort of agility or fluidity with phrasing when you've basically done no written work at all for as long as I have...

    Tunisian turkey soup

    Ingredients

    2 tins chickpeas (rinsed and drained a couple of times to kill the weird smell they get when tinned)
    1 litre chicken stock
    2 tins diced tomatoes
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tbsp harissa (North African chilli paste, you should be able to get it at any deli which does Moroccan or middle eastern stuff. It comes in a WIDE variety of heat levels and spice combinations, so shop around til you find one you like)
    olive oil
    300ml water
    1 medium onion, chopped
    natural yoghurt
    approx 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves (if you're using that stuff that comes in the tube, you might want to use a little less because it's pretty concentrated)
    500gm cooked turkey, chopped quite fine (Christmas leftovers are perfect, but if you don't have any, just dice whatever cut of turkey you can find, stirfry til no longer pink in a little olive oil, then chop it finely after it cools. It's ok if there's still a bit of fat or skin on)
    2 cloves garlic, minced

    Method

    Heat some olive oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame. Chuck in the onion, fry until they soften. Shouldn't take long. Add the garlic, give it another minute. Add the cumin and harissa, give it another minute, stirring well so the spices don't stick. Throw in all the tomatoes, stock, chickpeas and water. Cover, increase the heat to high. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and let it just slowly simmer away for about half an hour. Go do the gardening or something, you lazy bludger, I'm sure there's weeds you need to get rid of.

    Take the pot off the heat, pour half of the soup into a mixing bowl (all the chickpeas and tomatoes will sink to the bottom, try to get half of them as well). Blend half until smooth, then pour it all back in the pot together with the unblended stuff. Return the pot to the heat, add the turkey, cook until the turkey is warmed through. When it is, stir the coriander in, give it about another minute, then dish up. Serve topped with a spoonful of natural yoghurt (if the yoghurt is set, stir it up to make it more liquidy first). If you're going for presentation as well as taste, sprinkle a few random coriander leaves on top.

    Serves: Lots. probably 4? Depending on how greedy you are. It freezes well though, so you can brew up a big vat and save it for reheating later (don't put the yoghurt in if you're going to freeze it obviously - just do that before serving!)
    Difficulty: Very very easy. Take it down a notch to merely very easy if you don't have leftover turkey sitting around and have to cook some specially. Probably the hardest thing about this recipe is finding a good harissa!
    Kitchen Mess Factor: One pot, one mixing bowl, blender. No stress at all.
    Date-impressing quotient: Probably pretty reasonable. It's a really tasty, warming, spicy sort of dish (it'd actually be a great winter meal, but leftover turkey is much easier to come by around this time of year when it's summer - northern hemisphere people might have more luck!) and with a nice drizzle of yoghurt and a sprinkle of fresh coriander it looks pretty special too.
    Cost: Everything is extremely cheap except the turkey! Post-christmas turkey sales are the way to go...
    Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
    11:56 pm
    Lazy bachelor cooking time
    Yeah. 'Bachelor' is appropriate for me once more...

    Nameless but extraordinarily healthy spinach thing

    Ingredients

    1 cup brown rice
    2 cups vegetable stock (if you make it from boiling water, let it cool for a while)
    half a packet of frozen chopped spinach
    half a can of chickpeas (rinse and drain it under cold water a couple of times to get rid of the horrible tinny smell that canned chickpeas seem to get)
    5 decent size mushrooms, sliced
    a bit under a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
    olive oil

    Method

    Put the rice and stock in a saucepan over a high heat, stirring occasionally. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down all the way to simmer, and put a tight-fitting lid on it.

    After about 20 minutes, put the spinach in a saucepan on a low heat. Move it around a bit with a fork until it thaws, breaking up the big lumps of frozen stuff. Put a bit of olive oil in a third saucepan over a medium-low heat, then add the cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds are darkening in colour and starting to release their aroma, add the mushrooms. Stir to saute the mushies, drizzling some more olive oil if the bottom of the saucepan looks dry. You want the mushrooms to darken and soften (particularly the woody, fibrous bits of the stem) without drying and shrivelling. Remove from heat once it gets to this point.

    Once the rice has been simmering for between 25 and 30 minutes, take it off the heat and leave to sit on one side, still covered for 5-10 minutes.

    When the spinach is thawed, add the chickpeas. Warm for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms (including any liquid, cumin seeds etc that might be at the bottom of the saucepan). Mix it all together. If there's still watery liquid at the bottom of the saucepan, pour it off as best you can, then turn the heat up for a few minutes, stirring continually to stop everthing starting to stick.

    Dish the rice. Pour the spinach/chickpea/mushroom mix on top. Eat.

    You can also use couscous instead of the rice. It's faster, but I think the nutty flavour of brown rice matches better. Your mileage may vary...

    Serves: One, assuming you're a guts like me and can scarf down a load of rice. The half-packets of spinach and chickpeas make it a bit more convenient to cook for two though.
    Difficulty: Pretty easy if you can multitask even a little bit (you need to keep track of three things at once), but it's important that the rice is turned down promptly once it starts to boil, and that the lid on the rice saucepan fits tightly or the rice won't soften.
    Kitchen Mess Factor: Three saucepans is a bit of a pain, but the spinach and rice ones should clean very easily if you leave them to soak. The mushroom one can be stubborn if you burnt the olive oil a little.
    Date-impressing quotient: Low. This is for feeling nutritionally virtuous, not cooking to impress! It's surprisingly subtle in flavour and warming in cold weather though, so don't write it off as just boringly worthy food - I'd eat this one even if it WAS unhealthy.
    Cost: Vegie stuff is always cheap! A couple of bucks, max.
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