heron61: (Emphasis and strong feeling)
In the past several months, I've read two novels set in Nigeria, one by a Nigerian living in the UK (Tade Thompson), and the other by someone whose parents moved to the US from Nigeria and who has repeatedly visited Nigeria (Nnedi Okorafor). Thompson's novel Rosewater is SF set in a near future Nigeria and which I decided to buy after a review by James Nicoll as well as (correct) assurance on his LJ that it wasn't too grim (although it was very far from an optimistic novel).

I'd heard many positive things about Nnedi Okorafor's writing for a number of years, after she won the World Fantasy Award and much acclaim for her novel Who Fears Death, but I didn't read it, and never plan to, because by all reports it's impressively grim and bleak, and that's remarkably far from my preference. I avoided her work for that reason, until last year's Hugo Awards, when her novella Binti was nominated, and won. It was brilliant and pleasantly non-bleak, and I happily voted for it. I was unaware that she had written other novels that I was willing to read, but recently ran into mention of her novel Akata Witch, because it has a sequel coming out sometime relatively soon.

I loved Akata Witch, in large part because it's both a very standard YA novel of the sort where a teen learns she can perform magic and begins studying it with several other teens that she becomes friends with. It's well written, fun, hits all the tropes quite well, but it is also set in Nigeria, that style of magic is Nigerian, and these facts are deeply woven into the fabric of the novel.

It's also fascinating and nifty for me to have a (small) data set of novels set in Nigeria, written by people who know this nation to some degree as an insider, and to see how they differ. The two versions of Nigeria in the two novels are very different, in large part because the protagonist of Rosewater used to be a petty criminal and has first hand experience with that nation's criminal subculture and with lethal vigilante justice, and the protagonist of Akata Witch is a middle class urban teen who has no contact with any of this.

Discussing these novels also reminds me of a prior post I made about novels written about non-white protagonists by people who and aren't members of that race, but in this case, I'm thinking about novels by people who are and aren't (to at least some degree) people who are part of a particular nation's culture. Although the author is white, South African author Charlie Human's two novels & Apocalypse Now Now & it's sequel Kill Baxter provide a very vivid sense of life in Capetown and other parts of South Africa, but it's more difficult for me to judge, because I haven't read novels set there by anyone else.

Prior to reading any of these novels, the best SF&F novels I'd read set in Africa were both by white residents of the UK, Evolution's Shore (published as Chaga in the UK) & it's sequel Kirinya, by Ian McDonald, and the Poseidon's Children trilogy by Alastair Reynolds. I think all of these books are excellent and I loved reading them (and very much hope that someday Ian McDonald finishes what looked to be another book in his series, since I can definitely see room for one), but they are very much novels written by outsiders. McDonald's novel has a white woman from the UK and her daughter as his protagonists, and Reynolds' novels are all set several centuries in the future in an Africa that doesn't resemble anyplace in our world all that much.

As with my previous post, there's a depth and a sense of culture and connection that I find in the novels by Tade Thompson, Nnedi Okorafor, and Charlie Human that I don't find in those by Ian McDonald or Alastair Reynolds, and also a different perspective on race in those by Thompson and Okorafor.

It sometime feels a bit odd to me to look at the far greater diversity now available in media while awaiting the incoming US government, but I highly recommend both Rosewater & Akata Witch.
heron61: (Gadgets)
I got a Garmin viviosmart hp+ fitness tracker for Christmas, and last year, my partner [personal profile] teaotter got a Polar loop fitness tracker for Christmas. In addition to tracking steps, level of exercise, and for my own device, heartrate, both devices also track how you sleep. [personal profile] teaotter mentioned that her device divided sleep into restful and non-restful sleep and that she regularly got 6.5 hours of restful sleep a night. My device divides sleep into light and deep sleep and says that I regularly get 1.5-2 hours of deep sleep a night. This concerned me a bit, so I wore both devices for sleeping. My said I got 1.75 hours of deep sleep and 6.25 hours of light sleep, but [personal profile] teaotter's said I got a bit less than 2 hours of non-restful sleep and a bit more than 6 hours of restful sleep. I find that data quite reassuring from a health perspective, but rather less so from the perspective of finding such devices to be remotely accurate.
heron61: (Emphasis and strong feeling)
Thoughts on 2 Films - Passengers (2016) & The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959)
I was initially interested in seeing the new SF film Passengers, but from what I've read it is both highly formulaic and also reinforces misogynist and racist tropes, and thus I won't be seeing it.

However, reading about it reminded me of a film [personal profile] teaotter & I saw last year, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959). It was (at least as far as everything I've been able to find) the very first last man in the world film, and served as a precursor and model for many others, later films. However, unlike almost all the rest, this last man was black and was brilliantly played by Harry Belafonte. This film starts out with a degree of confidence in skilled acting uncommon in modern film making - Harry Belafonte's character alone, in a dark chamber in a coal mine, and Belafonte wonderfully carries this scene for more than 10 minutes.

Naturally, like many later films, the protagonist heads to NYC, and like all of them, he isn't actually the last person alive. Instead, we have what seemed to me (especially 4 years before the Supreme Court struck down US miscegenation laws in Loving vs. Virginia) some fairly daring and well-handled romantic tension and the suggestion of an eventual romance with a young white woman, with further tension introduced by the arrival of a white man. I first heard of this film in an article about a phrase that has thankfully vanished from film, and had one of its last uses in this one - "I'm free, white, and 21" (said thoughtlessly by the white woman to Belafonte's character, with predictably uncomfortable results).

As I said, I haven't seen Passengers, but from what I read, it more misogynistic and far more racially problematic than a film made almost 60 years ago. What also fascinated me was reading reviews and reactions to The World The Flesh & The Devil - modern discussions of this film (like this excellent and detailed review ) seemed much like my own reaction, impressed with the films ideas, bravery, and treatment of race. Then, I saw a New York Times review of the film from 1959, which was was very different indeed, and not at all how I suspected it might be, and included lines like:
The evidence is that a good idea, good direction and good performances—at least by Mr. Belafonte and Miss Stevens, to a lesser degree—have been sacrificed here to the Hollywood caution of treating the question of race with continuing evasion of more delicate issues and in polite, beaming generalities.
I suppose that review should remind us all that hopeful progressives who want more out of media have been around rather longer than I expected.

In any case, we live in an era when TV is (as a whole at least) notably better than it has been in any previous decade, concerns for money and an overall fossilization of the film industry have made most films by large studios considerably less daring, interesting, and worthwhile than many older ones.
heron61: (Default)
Today, [personal profile] teaotter and I went to see Arrival, which was very good indeed. My first thought about this film is in large theaters, it's now clearly a requirement to purchase tickets online, so as to avoid having to sit in the front row ever again.

My next thought is that it was a remarkably faithful and well done adaptation of Ted Chiang's Nebula Award winning novella "Story of Your Life". For me, it's right up there with the 1980 PBS adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven in terms of excellent adaptations, but in this case there was a fair amount added that worked quite well. I highly recommend it as a well-done thoughtful SF film, which is a rare thing indeed. My one quibble gets into mild spoiler territory a bit.

Continued here )
One less pleasant thing [personal profile] teaotter and I both thought about during the film was now alien contact would go with our upcoming government.
heron61: (America)
Like everyone else I know at all well, I'm worried about the future. As I see it, there are two ways that the next four years will go. Sadly, the optimistic option that we effectively have President Pence, either because The Dumpster (as with Shrub, I will not use his name) has early stage Alzheimer's (possible, but unknown), or simply is more interested in being a blustering figurehead than actually doing the hard work of governing (not unlikely). This is a deeply horrifying thought, but also not an unfamiliar one.

Shrub was a grinning sociopath, and Pence seems to be a grim fanatic, but both are politicians who play by typical (if horrid) GOP rules. As long as Justice Ginsburg remains in good health, the court doesn't get worse than it was under Shrub, and while losing Obamacare and Dodd-Frank (and thus the consumer protection bureau) seem both certain and terrible, they can also (eventually) be regained. The economy will get bad, but hopefully not 2008 levels of bad, and the new tax bill will make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer, but we survived Shrub, and given that our economy is fragile now and their policies will clearly make it worse, Republican control of Congress and the Presidency means that everything that happens gets blamed on them.

The other option is honestly terrifying, but at this point we don't know if it will happen. We'll likely have a strong indication in a few months. If he starts going after his enemies and appointing deeply scary people like Giuliani to his cabinet, then it's time to become very worried indeed. I'm not certain what to do if that happens – if things go badly, leaving the US is clearly the best option for pretty much everyone who can. At this point, I could see any Muslims who are able to do moving to another nation, since they'd clearly be the first target if things get truly bad, but wait and see seems (to me, at this point) more reasonable for everyone else.

As for what else to do, I think the first thing to do is be kind to yourself, your loved ones, and to everyone else you know who didn't vote for The Dumpster. We're all stressed and the last thing any of us need is accusations and infighting. I have no idea if we'd have done better or worse with Sanders instead of Clinton, and none of us will ever know that, so let it go. If you voted against The Dumpster, you're on the side of good in my book.

As for everyone else, I think it's very important to keep in mind that unlike Shrub in 2000, there was no false veneer of "compassionate conservatism" in this campaign or with this candidate. As I see it, there is also no "purple America" and no coming together as one nation, there are simply people who voted for The Dumpster and those who did not.

Anyone who voted for him either actively hates us and our many and diverse ways of life, is willing to support someone who ran on a campaign of hating us because they love the GOP or religious fanaticism more than a large portion of the population of this nation, or is sufficiently foolish that they didn't notice the hate and treated the election like they were voting for contestants on reality TV. I loathe the first two and have contempt for the third. However, personal attacks do little good and holding hatred in your heart never makes you a better or happier person.

I'll also never advocate violence against another person except in immediate defense of yourself or someone else, but what I do advocate is both not associating with people who hate us and most of all not giving them money. Let go of hatred, and simply avoid and ignore such people when you can safely and practically do so. I'm currently looking for an alternative to Paypal (and welcome recommendations) because Peter Thiel supported The Dumpster and I'll not be shopping at Home Depot, because the co-founder (Kenneth Langone) also did. However, I also advocate going beyond that. Please don't enrich anyone who voted for him.

If you know of a local store where the owner supported The Dumpster, find an alternative if you can. Also, I urge you not to pay for media created by people who support him or movements associated with him, like gamergate, or the sad and rabid puppies in SF fandom. Also, if most or all of your state government supported The Dumpster, and you live near a state where this isn't true, and your state has a sales tax, then going to that other state to make large purchases makes sense – shifting tax dollars from their governments to ours seems to me an excellent idea.

We need to stick together and support each other. When you can, spend your money at stores run by people who oppose him and purchase and do not pirate media created such people. Also, expect more on-line fundraising to help people with medical problems and similar issues, and help when you can. As I see it, we must take care of each other, but I also believe that The Dumpster's supporters should take care of one another and not ask for our help. I do not believe we should try to harm anyone, but I am also certain we are under no obligation to help anyone who supports people who want to destroy us and what we care about.

I think we also need to realize that we are in the majority (at least in the nation as a whole, if not locally) and that what we have now is two visions for the US that diverge sufficiently that we might as well be living in two nations. Our own vision is not unified or uniform (which is part of why I support it), but it does include respect for all genders, religions, and ethnicities, and theirs most certainly does not. I can't tell anyone what to do if they have family who supported The Dumpster, but if you have friends that did, I do not believe that they are truly your friends. In any case, if we support one another, both emotionally and also economically in who we donate money to, who we buy from, and when possible, who we hire and who we work for, then we will endure the next 4 years better, and when the hard economic times come (and it's sadly clear that they will), the Other Americans will earn less and thus will hopefully be less inclined to vote for The Dumpster again and we will all be in a better position to do as well as we can.
heron61: (Amerika)
At this point, I'm fairly hopeful that Clinton will win and expect her to be a slightly better President than Obama, but like many I'm also deeply terrified of the alternative. However, there's one aspect of the presidential election I find interesting and potentially important in the longer term. I've seen quite a bit about vote-trading by anti-Trump Republicans and Independents, even and a few Democrats, who are trading Clinton votes in swing states for Gary Johnson votes in blue states.

It's clear that Gary Johnson is a complete idiot, and I am also dead set against US-style right-wing libertarianism (although left-libertarianism and anarcho-communism interest me quite a bit). However, I'm also notably less opposed to right-wing libertarianism than I am to aggressive white nationalism. If the vote trading works out, then in addition to electing Clinton by a slightly wider margin, the Libertarian Party might barely get above the 5% threshold for getting Federal matching funds in the next presidential election. I don't expect this to have much impact on Clinton's re-election, or on Democrats in general, but it may for Republican candidates.

If Trump loses, there will be even more people in the GOP than there were in 2012 (quite correctly) saying that the only way to insure the long or even medium-term health of the GOP is to increase its appeal to non-white voters – a task that will be considerably more difficult in 2017 than it was in 2013. However, there will be almost as many saying that the answer is to select a white nationalist candidate who isn't a complete train-wreck of a human being, and there's no evidence that those people won't carry the day with the party. However, if the GOP continues along its current white nationalist path, pressure from both the Democrats and a better funded Libertarian Party that looks pretty darn welcoming to Republicans who aren't white nationalists will help make a white nationalist GOP a seriously non-viable option. I don't expect a better-funded Libertarian Party to replace the Republican Party, but it might force the GOP towards some much-needed change. We shall see.
heron61: (Emphasis and strong feeling)
When I wrote my previous post about current TV, I hadn't watched the new season of Supergirl yet. It started off vastly better than last season, with Tyler Hoechlin being the best Superman I've ever seen on movies or TV, and Calista Flockhart playing a more interesting and nuanced Cat Grant than last season. However, both leave after the second episode, and Snapper Carr has been annoying, but it's still good and I'm enjoying it. I'm very pleased to see both a supers show that is not grim and also one which is strongly (second wave) feminist.

Then, there's Doctor Strange, [personal profile] teaotter and I saw it today. It's a lot of fun, and I really like the fact that someone put some at least mildly careful thought on how magic works in the MCU, the magic system is interesting, is far more than simply a random collection of spells, and has nifty limitations and advantages. Benedict Cumberbatch remains fun and gorgeous, and my only criticism of him is that he's doing a bit too much Tony Stark, which makes sense at the beginning, but less so near the end. I'm hoping that tones down a bit, but it's not grating.

However (and this is not a small however), while Tilda Swinton was quite good, there were only two women with speaking parts in the entire film and only one with a major part, while there were two prominent people of color, having one of them (entirely unsurprisingly if you've ever read or read about Doctor Strange) be evil in the next film, makes this a very white and very male film. It was good, but dear gods I'm tired of this.

I hope Captain Marvel is at least as good and also breaks box-office records in 2018 and that this causes studio execs to take notice. The Wonder Woman trailer looks interesting, but given how utterly horrible and also vile all of the recent spate DC movies have been, I'm assuming it will be dreadful and likely offensive as well. I'd love to be wrong, but suspect I won't be.
heron61: (Dandy)
With Alice at AmberConNW this weekend, I decided to make food with beef & pork, neither of which they eat. So, I experimented with Bolognese sauce and succeeded quite well. Given that this is a kitbash of 4 recipes, I'm writing it down both to remember it and to share it. All too often, what's called Bolognese sauce is merely a tomato sauce with added meat, this is very little like that and is very good.

• Soak 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms in 1/3 cup boiling water for at least 5 minutes.
• Chop ½ cup each onion, carrot, and celery.
• Mince all of the above in food processor until finely chopped, but not mush.
• Heat 3 TBS olive oil in a skillet and cook all of the above for 5 minutes on medium heat.
• Add 3 oz chopped pancetta, 1 TBS minced garlic, 2 bay leaves, and ½ tsp fresh rosemary and cook another 5 minutes
• Add ¼ lb mild or sweet Italian sausage & ½ lb 10% fat hamburger and cook until slightly browned.
• Add all of the above into a pressure cooker or a covered pan.
• Add ½ cup white wine, ¼ cup heavy cream or cashew cream, ½ cup milk or boxed coconut milk, 2 TBS tomato paste, and the water from soaking the porcini mushrooms. Add water if necessary to obtain sufficient liquid to slow cook or pressure cook the sauce.
• Cook on medium-low heat for 1.5 hours or cook in pressure cooker on high for 40 minutes and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the pressure.
• Serve with 7 oz cooked pasta (I used spirals).

The result was excellent.
heron61: (Default)
My partners and I watched the most recent episode of Lucifer tonight, which was intense and (as is typical of the show) quite good. Just before the climax, there was an interlude with Lucifer brooding in a ruined church, which has James Vincent McMurrow's We Don't Eat as the soundtrack. This is the second show I have watched that used that song in an interlude, the first being The Vampire Diaries, back in Season 3, when it was still moderately well done fun fluff, before it simultaneously got increasingly bad and increasingly grim. Both scenes were about brothers and were well done, but were otherwise quite different. The Vampire Diaries episode was also where I discovered James Vincent McMurrow's music (that show was quite good for finding new music that I like). In any case, I am left to conclude that this song is generally a good fit for TV that I enjoy.

[personal profile] teaotter also showed Alice & I an interesting site that listed common stress reactions for the different Myers-Briggs types. I'm well aware that the Myers-Briggs categories are (at best) only slightly more scientific and reliable than astrology, but I do occasionally find features of use in them, and this was one of them. According to both tests and the descriptions, I'm very clearly an ENFP and it listed ENFP stress reactions as:
ENFPs tend to overextend themselves, and procrastinate, which is often a source of stress as it complicates their lives. When they become stressed, their naturally charming natures become more irritable and over-sensitive. When stressed, ENFPs feel alienated and engage in deceptions to obscure what is occurring within themselves. They will feel that they are losing control over their own independent identities and feel conflicted by intruding circumstances. During continued stress, they may fall into the grip of their inferior function, introverted sensing. When this happens, they become obsessive and depressed. They will become hyper-aware of minor bodily sensations or abnormalities and interpret them as a sign of a serious illness. They may have a hard time communicating clearly, and feel numb and frozen inside. Their thinking may become cloudy and convoluted. They will feel that there are no possibilities or ways out. They may feel overwhelmed, out of control, unable to sort out priorities, and thus become inflexible. Some become obsessive about record keeping, cleaning, or other household tasks.
(especially common ones for me bolded) it's remarkably spot on, and I decided to read all 16, and the only other one that also applied turned out to be ENTP, which is quite close to mine. Not earthshaking, but definitely useful and interesting.
heron61: (Default)
So, new TV has arrived and most of the existing shows we watch are back. Since I'm most interested in them, I'll concentrate on the SF&F & supers shows.

New Shows

Timeless: It's fun fluff, it's clear it won't ever be more than that, but I like the fact that time is changing in small to moderate ways. I hate "time patrol" type media where changing the past possible but the protagonists prevent all such changes. It's about the same level of quality as Dark Matter, but more light hearted.

Falling Water: This very much looks like the network rip-off of Sense8. The acting is excellent, but that's about it. It has the dual problems of looking very much like the sort of show where the creators are making up what's going on as they go along and facilitate this by throwing up lots of oddities and then only coming back to some of them (a technique that I'm told Lost used a lot). The result is sloppy, slapdash storytelling. Also, the ultra-rich white guy (Bill Boerg) who looks to be completely creepy and vile initially seems to be set up like he might be helpful and a source of correct information rather than being the villain he so clearly should be. The acting is good enough that if both problems turn out to be untrue, I'll watch it, but I expect both will be true.

Frequency: It's based on an OK 2000 film of the same name, but with the protagonist changed from female to male and more characters of color. It's also pretty good. I expected it to suck and it really didn't. I'm shocked that roughly 1/5 as many people watched it as watched Timeless (both shows are on the CW). I hope it isn't cancelled and very much look forward to watching more of it. Like the film, it's a show where the past changes and thus the present does to, which I'm definitely a sucker for, but it's also (so far) well done.

Returning Shows

Lucifer: It remains much fun and surprisingly well done.

The Flash: I watched the first new episode of The Flash, and am done with that show unless I hear remarkably different information about the rest of the season. I thought most of the 2nd season was good, with the exception of the dull and stereotypical crazed serial killer villain (Zoom). However, doing Flashpoint for season 3, (where Barry Allen goes and changes the timeline to save his mother from being murdered) sounded interesting, and I was only concerned that they might make the timeline changes too grim. Then, in the course of the first episode of the season, for reasons that made little sense, Barry does not merely decide to go back in time again to reverse the changes, but has to beg a villain to kill his mother (in the past). Then, the (mostly) restored timeline turns out to be notably crappier than his original one. This was a show I was watching because it was fun and lighter than Arrow. When a show simultaneously chickens out of an interesting premise, reverses the changes for nonsensical reasons, and also goes for being as absolutely grim as possible, I'm done.

Arrow also looks to be getting grimmer, but I'm used to that with Arrow, and while it's less good than before, it's not (yet) vastly so. I'm not hopeful, but will keep watching (for now).

Supergirl: I stopped watching halfway through the first season because it was both not very well done, and completely unimaginative and unwilling to make interesting choices. I'll likely watch the start of this season, but I'm very far from hopeful.

Legends of Tomorrow: It isn't back yet, but it was dreadful enough that if it's not either more fun or better, I'm not watching more. OTOH, unlike Supergirl, I quite like some of the characters, and it was less unimaginative than Supergirl, so maybe

The best show I'm not watching

Luke Cage. I watched the first episode and that's it. I thought Jessica Jones was brilliant, but difficult to watch. However, there's a bit more distance to watching a struggle against a single super-powered abuser than there is in a struggle against entrenched crime and injustice committed by ordinary, utterly vile, human beings. I didn't watch The Wire, because while clearly excellent (I watched one episode), it was too brutally violent for me. I was up for all of the first episode of Luke Cage, except for seeing someone beaten to death. I thought about this episode for a while, and decided both that if the first episode is a bit too violent for me, this guarantees the rest of the show will on average be worse, and also that I really don't have any interest in watching a show quite that violent and grim.
heron61: (Default)
While there are many puns about food, few are delicious. I love matzah ball soup, I even remember mildly liking the memorable version that my college made which a friend referred to as "baseball soup", due to the approximate consistency of the matzah balls. However, since [personal profile] amberite can't eat gluten, I haven't made this for a long time, and truth be told, I almost never made it, since my version was never as good as what I could get at even a moderately good deli.

Then I encountered this recipe for what the recipe calls Masa Ball Soup (Mexican Corn Dumplings in Chicken Soup). I made it tonight and it was delicious. I changed the recipe a bit, I made a 3/4 version (since there are 3 of us), only used 6 cups of chicken broth (since I greatly prefer soups with lots of solids and little broth), including 3 cups of homemade, exceedingly thick and rich chicken broth. To make it a complete meal, I added 12 oz of chicken breast that I pounded, marinated in equal parts chicken broth, white wine, and lime juice (3 TBS each) with the addition of 2 tsp of salt, 1 TBS of sugar, and 1/2 tsp of dried thyme. I used my sous vide stick to sous vide the chicken at 63 C for 1 hour, and after it had cooled a bit, I cut it into small pieces. I also cooked the veggies with 2 bay leaves, 1/8 tsp of ground celery seed and a small bunch of fresh thyme and used frozen prechopped butternut squash because cutting up a squash is a lot of work, and by adding it near the end, it was perfectly cooked and not mushy. I also omitted the serrano pepper, since [personal profile] amberite isn't all that into spicy food and I wasn't sure it was needed, and I also entirely forgot to add the cilantro. The result was exceedingly delicious. The soup was flavorful and excellent, and the dumplings were tender and utterly delicious.

As a side note, I only let the dumpling batter set for 20 minutes, since I was impatient, and I also only cooked them for 25 minutes, since they were clearly done by that point.

Here's a photo:

masa ball soup
heron61: (Default)
This time, my experimental baking was rather more successful, in part because I know what a good pizzelle should taste like, and these were somewhat better than that. The following is a recipe I pretty much created on the fly by looking at several classic pizzelle recipes (especially Mario Batali's recipe), and looking at a few fairly dodgy GF pizzelle recipes, none of which contained almond flour.

6 TBS GF flour +
2 TBS Almond flour
4 tsp coconut oil (melted) (or butter)
½ tsp baking powder
3 TBS sugar
1 large egg
1 TBS egg white
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract (cloves or ground fennel seed are more traditional)

Procedure
Beat coconut oil, sugar, egg, and egg white, and extracts or spices until foamy and well mixed. Mix flours and baking powder until well mixed, then add to the wet ingredients and mix well.

Heat pizzelle maker, and place 1 TBS of batter on each pizzelle mold (mine makes 2 pizzelles at once). Cook until done (use directions for your machine, or cook at least a minute, check, and remove when golden brown.

Makes 8 pizzelles, I made this to try it out, double the recipe for lots of pizzelles.

As is typical for using almond flour, while I (unlike [personal profile] amberite) have no problem eating gluten, these were somewhat better than normal pizzelles. If you aren't cooking for someone who need to avoid gluten, use replace the GF flour with all purpose flour, but keep the almond flour for flavor.

Next time, I'll try 1/3 almond flour rather than 1/4, since these held together perfectly well and should taste even better.

+ GF Flour Recommendations
King Arthur's GF multi-purpose flour works well, but the recipe in the America's Test Kitchen book The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook works even better, a full batch is:

• 24 ounces (4 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup) white rice flour
• 7 1/2 ounces (1 2/3 cups) brown rice flour
• 7 ounces (1 1/3 cups) potato starch (not potato flour)
• 3 ounces (3/4 cup) tapioca starch
• 3/4 ounce (3 tablespoons) nonfat milk powder (or soymilk powder)
heron61: (Default)
I've previously seen in several works of fiction by New Zealand authors mention of that nation's national dessert, the pavlova. Being curious, and also having found a brand of dairy-free (coconut-based) whipped topping that's actually pretty good, I made the attempt. I used this recipe, originally from America's Test Kitchen's so far excellent gluten free cookbook. For fruit, I used delicious local raspberries.

I was tempted by this recipe by Alton Brown. If/when I try this again, I'll likely attempt that one (but again with local berries, rather than the far less interesting to me passionfruit).

After the allotted time, I took the meringues out of the over, but they were gooey in the center, so I baked them 30 minutes more, and the result was crisp throughout and no longer gooey in any fashion. What I'm entirely uncertain about is whether or not this is desirable. Recipe descriptions use words like tender, which to me does not equal crisp and mildly crunchy, but they weren't over-baked or tough, so I'm rather uncertain.

Beyond that, they were delicious, but the experience was much like eating a cake with fruit, where someone removed all the flour and some of the fat, meaning that the ratio of sugar to everything that wasn't sugar was pretty darn intense. In part, this is clearly because the whipped topping I used was roughly twice as sweet as any whipped cream I'd make if I wasn't allergic to dairy, but it also seemed somewhat intrinsic to the dessert. Am I correct in this assumption? Attempting food I've never actually tried is always odd, since I lack anything to model my results on.
heron61: (Emphasis and strong feeling)
First off, to anyone unfamiliar, here's info about the words emic & etic. In any case, I've been reading a surprising amount of fantasy recently, a bit of urban fantasy, but mostly fantasy set in more magical versions of the 19th century or in fantasy worlds with technologies and societies ranging from the late Renaissance to the mid Victorian era – fantasy set in eras with somewhat higher technology and more and larger cities than before has become more common, in part I think because the rural entirely pre-industrial past is moving even further out of living memory that readers are looking for something a bit more familiar, a change I highly support.

There's another equally obvious change, a growing number of minor characters and also protagonists who are of a racial minority and who must deal with issues of prejudice and discrimination, often in late pre-modern setting where these sorts of problems were considerably worse than they are now. I'm seeing such novels written both by authors of color and also by white authors, and while generalizations are difficult, I have noticed one that I think may be true – white authors writing about non-white protagonists facing racial prejudice more often seem to have that character relatively isolated from any community of such people, either because they left voluntarily to go and seek their fortune, because they were raised outside that community, or because they were kicked out.

In contrast, most authors of color I've read who write similar novels (and my sample here is sadly smaller, because I mostly read novels written by white authors) have protagonists who move between a community mostly composed of members of their race or ethnicity and the outside world, where they face significant prejudice, and such character are (unsurprisingly) more likely to have close friends or family members within their community. Also, from what I've seen at least, authors of color are more likely to write novels featuring non-white protagonist in settings where the protagonist is a member of the dominant (or only major) racial or ethnic group.

I don't see either of these sorts of stories as being inherently better than the other (beyond the obvious fact that having more authors of color writing SF&F is clearly a good thing, because there aren't enough and they face considerably more problems getting published than white authors, but I do find the differences to be interesting.

This current shift also reminds me of a similar change I saw starting almost 45 years ago – an increase in the number of both female SF&F authors and a far greater rise in both female and male authors writing about both female protagonists and important female minor characters. Once again, I saw differences in how female and male authors wrote these characters. The most notable being that male authors seemed more likely to have the sexism the protagonists face be somewhat over the top or at least exceptionally overt and brutal, while female authors seemed (at least to me) more likely to depict characters facing constant low level disapproval and censure, but I also don't think the differences was quite as pronounced as between non-white and white authors writing about non-white characters facing prejudice. I also noticed a few authors (the most obvious Gordon R. Dickson in his 1977 novel Timestorm attempt to write several important female characters, and fail utterly (in that he instead wrote a series of rather over-the-top stereotypes). Thankfully, I've not run into anything quite that dire among the white authors I've read who have written about non-white protagonists.

In any case, if you are looking for some exceedingly well done works with non-white protagonists that were written by non-white authors, I recommend:

Novels:
Sunbolt and Memories of Ash both by Intisar Khanani (a third novel will be out next year), Serpentine, by Cindy Pon (sequel coming out in less than two weeks), and Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed (which I hope someday has a sequel, but is complete as is).

Short fiction (read online):
Hunting Monsters and Fighting Demons, both by S.L. Huang, who also writes the the awesome Russell's Attic series (modern day SF set in LA).

Also, for a good fantasy novel dealing with race by a white author, I recommend Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
heron61: (Default)
Several months ago, [personal profile] amberite visited LA and when they returned, talked about a restaurant serving poke, but where you can choose your protein (tuna, salmon or tofu being most common), one of several sauces, and several other toppings, over rice. In short, rather like deconstructed suhi. When [personal profile] amberite arrived back, we looked and there were no such restaurants in Portland, but now there is, it's 7 blocks from us, and it's name is a pun - it's also absolutely delicious.
heron61: (Default)
It was ludicrously hot today (thankfully, this was the last day of 3 days of heat), and cool food was definitely called for. Becca wanted lemongrass chicken with cold noodles like we get in various Vietnamese restaurants, and I managed to kitbash several recipes together and got something both delicious and also very much like what we get in restaurants. The following recipe serves 3, and all three of us loved it.

Meat
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
Trim fat, pound thin, and then cut into thin slices

Marinade
11/2 to 2 tablespoons granulated, light brown sugar, or honey
1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic
4-5 lime leaves (chopped) or zested peel of one lime (ideally a markut lime)
2 tablespoon chopped shallot or yellow onion
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped (4-6 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon dark (black) soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon oil

Place marinade in food processor and process until smooth, pre-grinding the lemongrass and lime leaves (if used) in a spice grinder also helps. Then, mix chicken with marinade and marinate for at least 2 hours (longer is better)

Veggies
Finely grate 1-2 peeled carrots (the fine grater on a box grater works wonderfully)
Thinly slice 6 oz of cabbage or nappa cabbage (you can instead use bean sprouts, but I fine them to be vile, so I don't). Then, Thinly slice 3-4 green onions

Stir fry (or grill) chicken over high heat with 2 TBS of oil until done. Then, briefly cook cabbage or nappa cabbage and green onions in the same pan

Boil sufficient thin rice noodles for 3 (6 oz dried thin rice stick or 12 oz fresh rice noodles). Then drain, run under cold water until cool, and drain again

Make Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

Mix
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
¼-1 tsp chili garlic sauce (depending on how hot you want your food)
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

Serve noodles, top with carrot & cabbage + green onion mixture, top that with the chicken, and pour sauce over to taste.
heron61: (About Me)
So, yet another birthday, and with luck many more to come. In a couple of hours, I'll go out to an excellent vegan coffeehouse with my two wonderful partners and I'll have cake, then it's off to the best (and oddly one of the least expensive) sushi restaurants in Portland (because, why not have desert first), followed by coming home and watching the latest episode of Steven Universe. Then, sometime today or tomorrow, I'll get my assignment for the new licensed SF RPG that I'm going to be helping to write. Life is quite, but good (if for the moment, also far too hot outside). Blessings to all.
heron61: (Emphasis and strong feeling)
[personal profile] teaotter's preparations for taking over her boss's business in January continue, and it's sometimes a bit odd to consider. I, and then [personal profile] teaotter, and I, and for the last 12 years, [personal profile] amberite too, have all been living at the barest bottom edges of the middle class, but with substantial benefits (such as our lovely house and a new car 2 years ago) from my parents, which allows us to live moderately well and without the fears of sudden disastrous expenses that many people I know have. However, we also have little room for additional expenditures beyond our normal, fairly frugal lifestyle. Our housing expenses are close to trivial, and so our single biggest expense is food, since I do the vast majority of the cooking and am quite picky about what I'll cook and eat and both [personal profile] amberite have (different) food allergies, which drives up food costs further.

However, while our situation will likely change only mildly next year, if (what will soon be) [personal profile] teaotter's business does well, in a year and a half or more likely two and a half, we may be doing not merely better economically, but much better, to the extent that occasional overseas travel and similar luxuries may be possible on our own, which is both wonderful and quite surprising.

Much of my self-definition has been as the mildly impoverished, somewhat dilettantish offspring of wealthy parents, and the practicalities of that are almost certain to change. One of the mot puzzling aspects of this is considering what all we might possibly spend considerably more money on, since there's only so much money one can spend on ebooks, and while I enjoy having excellent personal electronics, buying replacements for any of them more often than every 2 years seems to me wasteful to the extreme, and replacing larger items like cars remotely often seems to me deeply excessive.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
Last week, [personal profile] teaotter, [personal profile] amberite, and I went out to West Virginia to a memorial for [personal profile] helen99, someone I knew and very much liked in the otherkin community. I didn't know her well, but she was a kind, thoughtful, and generally awesome individual and I'm sad she's gone, but the memorial was very affecting and I was glad to have been there. As it true at all such occasions, this visit was also a time to reconnect with quite a number of wonderful people in that community who I haven't seen for 5 or so years and reminded me of how much I enjoy interacting with these people.

I also experienced another rarely indulged pleasure –observing truly excellent parenting. One of the unusual (and from my PoV quite comfortable) features of the otherkin community, or at least the sections I'm familiar with is that being childfree is exceedingly common, which is hardly surprising in a group of geeky, deeply eccentric, and often fairly gender non-conforming people. However, several of the people at the memorial (some of whom were part of the otherkin community, others not, but all quite geeky) had children. Most were excellent parents of the sort that I've seen before a number of times (but more rarely than I'd like).

Then there was Summer and Ashran, who were the sorts of amazing parents one might expect to read about in the rare YA novel where the protagonist has ludicrously wonderful parents (excellent examples being any of the YA novels by Madeleine L'Engle) – yes, they both (and especially Summer) seemed that good – kind, loving, endlessly patient, joyful, and deeply humane, and with 4 children, ranging in age from 5 months to 12 years. In addition to sometimes enjoying spending time around other people's children, I also very much enjoy (and am mildly in awe of) anyone who is a truly excellent parent. I react to it much as I would to seeing someone demonstrate any other impressive skill that I have neither the talent for nor any inclination to pursue. Watching Summer and Ashran with their children was especially impressive and wonderful.

On a related note, at one point, Summer mentioned that since most of the people she knew in the otherkin community didn't seem interested in having children, she was going to have to make up for that lack :) That comment got me thinking about the nature of the otherkin community. Like SF fandom and a number of other subcultures, the otherkin community is very much a subculture that people join as teens or adults rather than being born into. This is increasingly distinguishing it from the neopagan community, which as I have mentioned in the past, has, as a whole grown more mainstream as its expanded, and part of this process has involved making a place for individuals and families who are far more mainstream than most neopagans were 40 years ago.

By their nature, communities that survive far more recruiting people than by people being born into it have greater freedom to avoid mainstream norms, in part simply because (for both better and worse) raising children in a community automatically exposes the community to far more public scrutiny that it might otherwise attract. This suggests to me that while the otherkin community will definitely change over time, just as all subcultures do, the direction of that change need not be towards becoming more mainstream.

As a side-note, I and many other people I've known (including many like myself with parents who were not horrific, merely somewhat cold and brittle) have had to learn about love and trust in college and young adulthood, and it's sort of amazing to think of being 17 or 20 and already knowing these lessons.
heron61: (Heron - about me)
Saturday was wonderful, my wonderful friend [livejournal.com profile] pazi_ashfeather is visiting Portland, and called up to see if she and [livejournal.com profile] silverback2001 could come and visit. [livejournal.com profile] amberite was out of town, but [livejournal.com profile] teaotter were not busy, and we spend a wonderful afternoon and evening together. Our attempt at going to the best sushi place in Portland failed due to a 2 hour wait at 6:00 PM, but we found a lovely pan-Asian place literally around the corner, and then we came back to our place for more socializing. Eventually Pazi needed to leave, but Silver stayed and we talked occultism, our particular interests and knowledge base are very similar indeed, and Silver is someone I had not spent much time with before, something I definitely wish to remedy, especially now since I'm working slowly back into getting into more serious occult practice. We're also having Pazi & Silver over for dinner sometime in the next week or so, so I will also again have the chance to show off my cooking.

In any case, Saturday was one of those whirlwind, intensely social days that I have always loved, but one odd thing I noticed, and have noticed before is that I'm often emotionally somewhat tired afterwards. This never used to happen to me, until I got into a poly triad. Prior to that time, there was largely no such thing as too much socializing for me, to some degree I was always in need of at least a bit more social contact – a fairly inevitable fact of being an ENFP who typically becomes closest to introverts. However, now that I live with both [livejournal.com profile] teaotter & [livejournal.com profile] amberite, the need for external socialization is significantly less and I can sometimes find it somewhat tiring. What I also need to remember is that while intense socializing can now be tiring, it remains as joyful as ever, just tiring afterwards and somewhat less necessary, if no less fun.
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