Mexican Salad

Lazy bachelor cooking time!

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

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!

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.

Lazy bachelor cooking time

Marinated bbq pork

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
about 1.2-1.5kg pork fillets, about 3 or 4 depending on how long they are

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.

(no subject)

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.

(no subject)

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...
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    sore ow

(no subject)

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!

Lazy bachelor cooking time

Warm Spinach Soup


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

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...

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.

- 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.

(no subject)

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...