Cherry Pie Recipe

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:45 pm
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[personal profile] thewayne
After discussing and comparing runny cherry pies with my non-runny cherry pie production with [personal profile] stardreamer and [personal profile] murakozi and promising to post the recipe, here's the recipe.

I'm considering using chocolate balsamic vinegar the next time I make one to see what it does to the flavor profile. In discussion on my original post from two weeks ago (hard to believe it's been only two weeks!), I did some research and looked up a lot of cherry pie recipes online. The one thing that ALL of them had in common was that if they included corn starch, and not all of them did, they added it directly to the wet mix! The can of corn starch that I have, Clabber Girl brand, says specifically on the label to mix it with liquid before adding it to whatever it is that you want to thicken. I've added a note to my shopping list on my phone to look at other corn starch brands and see if they also say to mix it with a liquid before adding it to whatever is to be thickened.

So my thought is that if you just add it to whatever is to be thickened that it is overwhelmed by the volume of liquid and can't swell. If you pre-mix it with liquid, in this case an equal amount of lemon juice (and I'm so glad I bought a squeezer thingy!), then you're already starting with a very thick liquid to add to the cherry filling and it thickened beautifully.

I used a pre-made frozen pie crust, and it was wonderful. Currently I don't have cabinet surface area to roll out a pie dough or the guts to try to make one. One of these days....

Cherry Pie
Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond
Total Time: 2 hr 30 min
Prep: 25 min

Inactive: 1 hr 5 min
Cook: 1 hr
Yield: 8 servings
Level: Easy

Ingredients
Filling:
6 cups frozen tart cherries

⅔ cup sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (chocolate?)

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ cup lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Sweet Pie Crust:

1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) salted butter, cold and cut into pieces
¾ cup vegetable shortening, cold and cut into pieces

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough

2 large eggs

5 tablespoons cold water

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
For the filling: Combine the cherries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until the juices release and are hot and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Stir together the cornstarch and lemon juice in a small bowl until combined and add to the cherry mixture. Continue to cook until glossy and thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the sweet pie crust:
In a large bowl using a pastry cutter, gradually work the butter and shortening into the flour until it resembles coarse meal, for 3 or 4 minutes. In a small bowl, beat one of the eggs with a fork and pour it into the flour mixture. Add the cold water, sugar, white vinegar and salt. Stir gently to combine.

Form the dough into 2 evenly sized balls and place each ball into a gallon resealable plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (to about 1/2 inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you will be using them immediately, it's still a good idea to put them in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

When you are ready to make the crust, remove the dough from the freezer and let thaw for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

On a floured surface, roll out one piece of dough starting at the center and working your way out. (Sprinkle some flour over top of the dough if it's a bit too moist.) If the dough is sticking to the countertop, use a metal spatula and carefully scrape it up and flip it over, then continue rolling until it's about 1/2 inch larger in diameter than your pie pan.

With a spatula, lift the dough into the pie pan. Gently press the dough against the edges of the pan. Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge. Fill with the cooled cherry mixture.

Roll out the second dough the same size and place it over the pie. Trim off the edges and crimp the top and bottom crusts together to seal them. Cut a few vent holes in the top. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl for the egg wash. Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar

Put the pie onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is browned, about 50 minutes. If the crust is getting too brown before the pie is finished, cover with foil and continue baking.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.


Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond
© 2016 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.


Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/cherry-pie.html

Chocolate Mousse Pie Recipe

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:04 am
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[personal profile] thewayne
I mentioned that I was going to post it, and I've been procrastinating. So here it is. I think it is VERY good, my wife absolutely loves it. ETA: I should have tagged [personal profile] stardreamer as she was interested in it. Thus it is done.

Chocolate Mousse Pie Recipe
Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: less than an hour, plus 3+ hrs chilling time | Makes: 1 (9-inch) pie, or 8 to 10 servings
¾ cup (5 oz) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped. I use Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chips, no need to chop.
¼ cup cold heavy cream for melting the chocolate
¾ cup cold heavy cream for whipping (a single pint makes 2 pies)
2 or 3 large egg whites (no traces of yolk), at room temperature, depending on how dense a chocolate you want (2 eggs = more dense chocolate, 3 eggs = slightly less dense chocolate, 1 egg = not recommended)
1 Oreo chocolate cookie pie crust

OPTIONAL: ½ TEASPOON chili powder, I recommend Spice Islands brand, should be available at Albertsons.
OPTIONAL: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, use a good one that isn't just vanilla “flavored”.

1. Fill a medium sauce pan with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Place the chocolate (and chili powder, optional) in a large heat proof bowl, add the ¼ cup of the cream and vanilla. Nest the bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until smooth and combined with the cream. Remove the bowl from the saucepan, wipe any moisture from the bottom of it, and set aside to cool slightly.

3. While the chocolate is cooling, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (make sure the bowl and whisk have no trace of oil or fat on them, or the whites won’t whip properly). Mix on high until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute; transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. It's OK if this is over-mixed. Personally I put the whites on a paper plate to reduce cleanup.

4. Clean and dry the whisk attachment and mixer bowl, chill the bowl with cold water if you just rinsed it with hot. Place the remaining ¾ cup of cream in the bowl and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. It's NOT OK to over-mix this or you get something like butter! Keep an eye on it.

5. The chocolate should be cool, or just slightly warm by this time. Using a spatula, fold half of the whipped cream in to the melted chocolate, then gently stir in the rest (try not to deflate the whipped cream). Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate-cream mixture just until there are no longer large blobs of whipped cream or egg white (do not over-mix). Pour the mousse into the cooled pie crust and smooth it into an even layer, you can do this by moving the pie tin in a large circle and it will settle itself. Refrigerate uncovered until set, at least 2-3 hours, overnight is better. Then cover it with the lid that came with the pie crust (if you bought an Oreo or Keebler crust.)

NOTES FROM WAYNE: The chili powder and vanilla are my additions. If you want more chili powder, go ahead, but be very careful. Add it in quarter, or even eighth teaspoon increments, we find the current half teaspoon to be a nice kick and just shy of too much.

If you look at this recipe online, they have you making your own pie crust. If you want to make the effort, go for it, I'm sure it'll be great. I'd rather not spend the time, and I can make this pie in half an hour from pulling the ingredients out of the fridge to putting the pie in to set by using an Oreo crust. Keebler also makes a chocolate crust, but the Oreo crust tastes better in my opinion.

The online recipe also has the suggestion of making and adding whipped cream when you serve it. Personally, I wouldn't bother because this recipe is VERY calorie-dense. It's a very nice dessert, Russet and I usually share a piece to reduce the calories and I cut it in to eight pieces to make them a little smaller.

(from CHOW http://www.chow.com/recipes/30500-chocolate-mousse-pie/ By Amy Wisniewski

I hate photography failures

Jul. 26th, 2017 09:49 am
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[personal profile] thewayne
So I'm at the observatory last night, it's the third night of my wife's four night shift, and for once, the weather looks really good: we've had a storm cell parked on top of the mountain for a couple of weeks. I set up my camera on the floor in front of the telescope, check all the settings, all looks well. Empty memory card, I'd topped-off the battery before I left home, camera settings were where I wanted them. My wife told me that the observer was watching just a single target, so I wouldn't get much in the way of star streaks, but that was OK - it was more of an experiment to see what it would look like. I started the external timer firing once a second, she turned off the lights, opened the dome, and we went downstairs to the control room for a few hours.

I knew the camera battery was good for about 4.5 hours in colder conditions, and I started it shooting at about 20:00, just before sundown, so I kind of expected it to still be firing when I went back up about three hours later. No visible red LED on the camera. Maybe it was between exposures. Get down to the floor of the telescope: nope, it was dead. So take it off the tripod, sling it over my shoulder, grab my tripod and head back downstairs.

I figured the battery was dead and I had a card full of images to look at. I did stop to look out the telescope slit: absolutely gorgeous night, couldn't have asked for a nicer sky. So down in the control room, just for kicks and giggles, I try to turn the camera on. And it turns on. And shows a battery just under completely full.

Hit the button to playback images. It took 240 images before stopping. A whopping five minutes of exposures. Didn't even get past sundown, which would have been nice to have the sky transition. Complete waste of time.

I don't know what happened. Camera battery was fine. Remote timer battery was fine: I replaced it with a new battery after I got it (I bought a used unit). 32 gig memory card was empty and freshly formatted when I started the night. The camera was set to turn itself off after two minutes, but the timer was tripping it once a second, so the auto power-off should never have triggered.

*sigh*

We did have a good time, chatting with people in the control room. Another astronomer from the other telescope had just returned from eight days in Japan, visiting her aunt and cousins. Had wonderful stories, especially about toilets, TV, and scarily-expensive coffee. Talking to their computer guy about a switch that had confused itself about its IP address and he couldn't find it on the network. I suggested trying to find its MAC address, but that didn't work. We talked about the summer shutdown when they do heavy maintenance on the telescopes: the 2.5 meter mirror is about to get crated up and trucked to Tucson for its annual re-aluminaization, and it's possible the 3.5 will get redone this year even though it was done only two years ago.

And, of course, playing with the poodles, talking about Gay of Thrones (Funny or Die recap of the HBO series) and Orphan Black.

Jerk

Jul. 24th, 2017 06:28 pm
moira_j_moore1: (Default)
[personal profile] moira_j_moore1
I'm working with a company that is going through liquidation. The guy who represents the liquidators has been there for about five days and has managed to alienate everyone. During my first conversation with him, he bragged about flying up from Las Vegas on the red-eye and going to work on less than three hours of sleep. (He had no interest in anything about me.) He gives orders he has no right to make, demands for work that is not only outside of the job descriptions of the employees, but would be counterproductive, given everyone is running flat out to do their actual jobs. I wonder how well he handles being told no. And he disapproves of people taking their days off. He appears to think people should be working every day, including days for which they wouldn't be paid. Joy.

Ark Encounter Update

Jul. 21st, 2017 05:09 pm
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[personal profile] moira_j_moore1
To review, the Ark Encounter is a building that is shaped like a boat on one side, said to be built to the specifications in the Bible, though that's impossible due to the half a building bit. It is in Kentucky, and the company that built it, Answers in Genesis, owned by Ken Ham, got a ton of tax breaks, and a bunch of land for $1, from the nearby county. The county is really strapped for cash and made the mistake of believing Ham when he promised that the ark would revitalize the community, increasing tourism and bringing tens of thousands of jobs.

That hasn't happened. The attendance at the ark is hard to determine, largely because Ham keeps moving the goal posts and doesn't provide any evidence of his claims. For example, he says that close to 10,000 people a day visit the ark. While I've read reviews that say the ark is crowded, there's no photographic evidence. The photos and videos that are online show a place that's kind of dead. Also, 10,000 people a day for a year would be 3,650,000 people. But then, sometimes he says it's more like 8,000, and then sometimes he points out that attendance was slower during the winter months, which is natural, except during the winter months he kept talking about the amazing attendance. So he's all over the place.

The ark says it employs 900 people, which I have a hard time believing, but even if that's true, it falls far, far short of promises, and anyone who isn't a young earth creationist need not apply. Whatever the attendance at the ark, those who visit are not stopping by the local businesses.

Going back to the attendance, Ham initially claimed 2 million would visit the first year. Then he said from 1.4 m to 2 m, which is one hell of a lot of wiggle room. When the first anniversary came into view, and it looked like it would be only about 1 m, he started saying that the 1.4 - 2m estimate was for a normal year, without defining what normal means or why this past year isn't normal.

Within two weeks he went from claiming that attendance was higher than expected and was bringing business to the nearby community to blaming atheists and secular news for dissuading businesses from investing in the area to blaming the nearby town for not building the infrastructure needed to make the ark, and then the county, successful.

The next bit is vicious. The county created a tax to help pay for safety services. The tax on the ark would be 50 cents per $28/$40 ticket. Ham has gone to court to stop this taxation, claiming that the ark is a ministry. Except the ark is a for profit enterprise. So then, the for-profit part of the company sold the property to a not-for profit part of the company, just to avoid this tax. For $10.

How much of a scumbag is this guy? The county was incredibly generous to him, he knows they're barely hanging on, but he pulls an unethical stunt like this to avoid a tax that would provide services his ark would benefit from. Unless he's ok with the fire department watching his boat burn down because he hadn't paid for their protection.

But joy of joys, the state has declared that by selling the property to himself - really - he breached one of the agreements, and the result could be that the company would lose a tax incentive of $18 m. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving scum bag.

Side note, Ham really hates it that the rainbow is associated with the inclusion of the LGBTQA community and love and peace and all that. He's going to have the ark lit up with a rainbow every night to take back the rainbow from, you know, everyone who's a decent human being, to celebrate genocide.
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
Anyone who doesn't expect Trump facilities to NOT get hit more in coming years raise your hand. Bueller? Anyone? It's been documented that Trump's facilities have lousy IT practices and terrible WiFi security, but hotels are particularly problematic. American hotels seem to be stuck with using card swiping technology rather than ECV chip readers, which greatly increase security through strong encryption. Until they upgrade, we'll be seeing hotel breeches regularly.

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/07/trump-hotels-hit-by-3rd-card-breach-in-2-years/
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
It only took a week and over $750.

I don't think my dishwasher has ever been so fully loaded.

As previously posted, I discovered the water heater was leaking last week Thursday and shut it down. Unfortunately I had to go to Las Cruces for a meeting and couldn't do anything else. Friday I got a recommendation from our gas utility for a local plumber. Left a message on his voicemail requesting his services and went down to Alamogordo and bought an appropriately-sized water heater, both in gallon capacity (30, kinda small) and physical dimensions. I would've liked a larger one, but I was kind of constrained in size by its cabinet. Called the plumber and left another message informing him that I had acquired the water heater.

Saturday: no call. Sunday we went to the observatory to shower in the dorms, the dogs were taken on a bicycle adventure and much fun was had. Sunday night I did some digging for another plumber. Found one with one very good Yelp review. Looking at their web site, they had a letter posted thanking them for their services. While I didn't find any other references regarding them online, I found LOTS of negative reviews for pretty much every other plumber in the area. So Monday morning I gave them a call. I should have called them Saturday: they're working seven days a week because of demand and couldn't get to us until today.

Well, the guy finished about two hours ago. The water heater heats 36 gallons an hour, so I gave it an hour and took a shower: sheer bliss. After getting out, got the dishwasher started. Still have lots of dishes that need my attention, but it's a beginning.

Now to get on Yelp and other review sites and leave a very glowing review for them, and a very negative review for the plumber who has still not yet returned my call.
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
Available on Archive.org. The first issue, dated February 1951, contains the Ray Bradbury story The Firemen, which he would later publish as the book Fahrenheit 451. These are available to read online or as free downloads in epub, Mobi and other formats. They're not formatted well, but they're perfectly readable. From the web site: "Galaxy Science Fiction was an American digest-size science fiction magazine, published from 1950 to 1980."

https://archive.org/details/galaxymagazine

50 questions about books

Jul. 19th, 2017 09:13 am
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
Thanks (and thanks a lot!) to [personal profile] stardreamer ;-)

1. You currently own more than 20 books:
When I was in primary school.

2. You currently own more than 50 books:
Before I graduated high school.

3. You currently own more than 100 books:
What a ridiculous question. There have been years that I've bought more than 100 books, though not recently

4. You amassed so many books you switched to an e-reader:
I didn't switch to an e-reader because of having so many books, but because of being a computer guy and wanting to investigate new tech. Started with a Palm Pilot, went to an iPad, went through a couple of Nooks along the way. Never messed with a Kindle because of a dislike of Amazon's control over the Whispernet.

5. You read so much you have a ton of books AND an e-reader:
Definitely. And now buying a vast majority in ebook format vs dead tree editions. But that's mainly because we're likely to be leaving the country in a few years and I DO NOT want to be shipping a proverbial, if not literal, ton of books if I can get rid of them. I have so many books that I loved when I was young, and treasure having read them, but have absolutely no interest in reading again.

There's a saying/story/whatever, it could actually be a Zen koan, about a person with a huge and impressive library. Someone asks the person if they've read all of those books. The reply is "Of course!" Or the reply is "Of course not!" Though my collection falls in to both camps, I think I want to be in the latter.

6. You have a book-organization system no one else understands:
Not really.

7. You're currently reading more than one book:
I frequently have multiple books in process, though sometimes books get started and never finished. I think the record holder is Don Quixote, I really should download a Gutenberg copy and add it to my phone.

8. You read every single day:
Most certainly.

9. You're reading a book right now, as you’re taking this book nerd quiz:
Simultaneously? Not hardly.

10. Your essentials for leaving the house:
This is not a simple question. If I'm doing errands locally that do not involve a sit-down meal, it's just me and my cell phone and perhaps a camera or two. If it involves going to the observatory or down the mountain to Alamogordo or further but not a long-distance trip, then add in more camera equipment, my iPad (always loaded with books), and maybe a book and my traveling game collection. A long-distance trip requires further analysis before packing is determined.

11. You've pulled an all-nighter reading a book:
I suppose, but very rarely and when I was much younger.

12. You did not regret it for a second and would do it again:
I probably did not regret it but also probably would not do it again at my age.

13. You've figured out how to incorporate books into your workout:
Like Star Dreamer said, workout?

14. You've declined invitations to social activities in order to stay home and read:
No. It is very rare that I would decline an invitation to a social activity.

15. You view vacation time as "catch up on reading" time:
No. I will always take books with me while traveling, but vacation is to have fun and photograph. When we went to Germany/Czechoslovakia in '15 I had LOTS of ebooks on both my iPad and my Chrome laptop, plus many more loaded in my Dropbox account as I knew I'd have lots of airplane time. But aside from hotel room time, I didn't spend a lot of time reading -- too much to see!

16. You've sat in a bathtub full of tepid water with prune-y skin because you were engrossed in a book:
Nope. If I'm in a tub, I'm soaking because of either sore muscles or sick lungs. I prefer showers. How my wife is willing to risk reading fanfic on a laptop in the tub is beyond me.

17. You've missed your stop on the bus or the train because you were engrossed in a book:
No.

18. You've almost tripped over a pothole, sat on a bench with wet paint, walked into a telephone pole, or narrowly avoided other calamities because you were engrossed in a book:
No, and people who don't pay attention to what they're doing and commit such acts should be publicly ridiculed.

19. You've laughed out loud in public while reading a book:
Certainly.

20. You've cried in public while reading a book (it’s okay, we won’t tell):
I don't think so, but possibly.

21. You're the one everyone goes to for book recommendations:
I have given recommendations before. The mother of a friend was a grade school teacher, and a student asked for some science fiction recommendations. Friend came to me. I made up a list, funneled it back, and later received a thank you note from the student!

22. You take your role in recommending books very seriously and worry about what books your friends would enjoy:
If asked, yes, I would take it seriously.

23. Once you recommend a book to a friend, you keep bugging them about it:
I wouldn't bug them, but I would ask them.

24. If your friend doesn't like the book you recommended, you're heartbroken:
I wouldn't be heartbroken, but I would be curious and would like to know so as to make a better recommendation. To each their own.

25. And you judge them.
Not hardly.

26. In fact, whenever you and a friend disagree about a book you secretly wonder what is wrong with them:
Not hardly.

27. You've vowed to convert a non-reader into a reader:
One year for my brother's birthday, I bought him a $25 book store gift card. He was heavily in to air brush and showed some talent. I thought he could get some magazines or a book on technique and learn some things. He doesn't read. He can read, he chooses not to. It went unused for ages, my mom finally gave it back to me and I got myself something. There's a line attributed to Mark Twain: The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

28. And you've succeeded:
N/A.

29. You've attended book readings, launches, and signings: Yes.
Yep. Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Leslie Nielson, Sir Terry Pratchett, to name a few.

30. You own several signed books:
Yep. Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Leslie Nielson, Sir Terry Pratchett, to name a few.

31. You would recognize your favorite authors on the street:
Some of them. Some I would hope not to as they are deceased.

32. In fact, you have:
Nope.

33. If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, you'd choose your favorite writer:
Probably not.

34. You own a first-edition book:
Many.

35. You know what that is and why it matters to bibliophiles:
Yes.

36. You tweet, post, blog, or talk about books every day:
No. I talk about them often with my wife, but I wouldn't say daily.

37. You have a "favorite" literary prize:
No. I respect several, but I wouldn't call any a favorite.

38. And you read the winners of that prize every year:
Not really.

39. You've recorded every book you've ever read and what you thought of it:
I've started getting more consistent at doing that.

40. You have a designated reading nook in your home:
No. I wish I did, but I do not.

41. You have a literary-themed T-shirt, bag, tattoo, or item of home décor:
I have a few t-shirts. My favorite item is two USB flash drives that look like library card catalog drawers from the Unshelved Kickstarter drive.

42. You gave your pet a literary name:
Heh. Yeah, I'd say Dante is a literary name.

43. You make literary references and puns nobody else understands:
Oh, most certainly. And my wife has become a bit of a punner.

44. You're a stickler for spelling and grammar, even when you're just texting:
I do my best. My grammar is not perfect, but I do my best with spelling. Having a browser underline spelling errors certainly helps.

45. You've given books as gifts for every occasion:
For many occasions, yes. Every? No.

46. Whenever someone asks what your favorite book is, your brain goes into overdrive and you can't choose just one.
No. Too many different categories that have great books. Plus, tastes change. I loved Douglas Adams 30 years ago, now I view him as a one-trick pony who could have been so much more.

47. You love the smell of books:
Well, sorta. But not enough to prevent me from dumping most of my physical collection to clear space.

48. You've binge-read an entire series or an author's whole oeuvre in just a few days:
Definitely. But only for smaller series, say less than a dozen books. If I can't easily carry the entire series without a box, forget it. I've binged the Vorkosigan series, and very recently Elizabeth Moon's Vatta series in preparation for her (now released) new book.

49. You've actually felt your heart rate go up while reading an incredible book:
Certainly.

50. When you turn the last page of a good book, you feel as if you've finally come up for air and returned from a great adventure:
There have been books that I've read that were that good.
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
You should take a look at your profile here. I was doing a little bit of editing on mine, and I noticed that my Interests did not come over! My LJ account is still active, so it was easy to copy, it annoyed me a bit nonetheless.

Books Read 2017 - April - June

Jul. 18th, 2017 12:22 pm
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
6/29 Too Like The Lightning, Ada Palmer (hf)
6/18 Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (hf)
6/15 The Obelisk Gate, NK Jemisin (hf, abandoned)
6/14 All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (hf)
6/12 A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers (hf)
6/9 Guardian, Joe Haldeman

5/24 Through Five Administrations (ProjG), William Crook
5/20 In The Merde For Love (P), Clarke
5/16 Swords and Deviltry, Fritz Lieber
5/9 Master & Commander, Patrick O'Brian

4/28 Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale
4/26 Alien Plot, Piers Anthony
4/26 Infinite Dreams, Joe Haldeman
4/22 To The Vanishing Point, Alan Dean Foster
4/17 Victory Conditions, Moon
4/16 Command Decision, Moon
4/13 Engaging the Enemy, Moon
4/11 Marque and Reprisal, Moon
4/8 Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon
4/6 A Year in the Merde, Stephen Clarke (p)
4/5 There Is No Darkness, Joe and Jack Haldeman

I've started doing some coding: (P) means physical copy, all others are ebooks. (ProjG) is from Project Gutenberg, and (HF) is Hugo Finalist. I only coded the novels even though I also read all of the novellas, novelettes, short stories, and Campbell nominees.

Like Movies, going from oldest to newest reads.

There Is No Darkness. Love me some Haldeman, and getting both brothers together is all the better. A novel set in a far space-flung future of a school traveling around, educating its student inhabitants. Quite a story, quite a commentary on culture.

A Year in the Merde is yet another Stephen Clarke comic French travelogue romance stories. They're lots of fun, lightweight reading. It's the first in the series about Paul West, a Brit marketing specialist who goes to Paris to consult in establishing a French chain of English tea rooms. It's a fish out of water series that's fun and weird, has a bit of a Pink Panther feel to it.

Elizabeth Moon's Vatta series: Trading in Danger, Marque and Reprisal, Engaging the Enemy, Command Decision, and Victory Conditions. Elizabeth Moon does an excellent job of writing space war. First off, she's an ex-Marine. She knows military training, procedure, and protocol. The books revolve around the Vatta family and their space shipping empire. Their daughter, Ky, is soon to graduate the space navy academy when a scandal gives her the choice: resign her commission and leave silently, or face a full courts martial an be stripped of her commission and thrown in the brig. She resigns. As she is a rated captain, her father gives her an old beater transport with a fairly simple task: take it on its final trade run then take it to the breakers and sell it for scrap. Buy tickets for the entire crew to come home. Of course, nothing can possibly be that simple. VERY bad things happen, enough to fill five books. I re-read them as Ms. Moon has released the sixth book of the series and I wanted to refamiliarize myself with the story, even though she insists that isn't strictly required. I'm very glad that I did as I had forgotten so much, and it is really an excellent series for the genre. Lots of character growth, lots of interesting space battles. She handles Newtonian motion in zero-G without getting bogged down in details like David Weber does in the Harrington books: some people like that, I tend to gloss over it. Anyway, definitely and enthusiastically recommended. The new book is Cold Welcome, it's book 1 of the Vatta's Peace series. She's on LJ at http://e-moon60.livejournal.com/ and her web site is at http://www.elizabethmoon.com/. She has a second space series known as the Serrano Legacy and an interesting magic/fantasy series known as Paksworld. Since I'm now finished with Hugo reading, I really should get ahold of Cold Welcome, though the new Charles Stross Laundry book should be arriving today....

To The Vanishing Point by Alan Dean Foster is one of his that I'd never heard of. An LA family has rented an RV and is driving to Las Vegas for vacation when they pick up a woman by the side of the road in the middle of the dessert. And their life changes forever! [cue ominous music] I've been a big Foster fan for a very long time, though I won't claim to have read everything he's written, nor do I try to, but this one is weird. The woman has one job in the world: to keep reality from unraveling. And now the family, through the act of picking her up, is part of that effort and has to see it through to the end. If they fail, reality falls in to chaos, perhaps forever. To be honest, this was not my cup of tea. It had interesting elements, but I just didn't care much for it.

Infinite Dreams, another Joe Haldeman. In this case, it is a collection of short stories. Lots of good stuff, too many to talk about specifics.

Alien Plot by Piers Anthony is another collection of short stories. I started reading Anthony ages ago: Xanth was a young series, I read the Bio of a Space Tyrant series, the Incarnations of Immortality series, the Blue Adept series, and I doubt I'll read anything else by him. I stopped reading him probably when he finished Incarnations of Immortality, I'd long-since stopped reading Xanth by then. And after reading Alien Plot: yeah, I think I'm done with him. My tastes have changed and there are a number of authors whom I really enjoyed when I was young that I just don't care for anymore.

Catch Me If You Can is Frank Abagnale's autobiography. He is an amazing person who evaded the FBI for years and has a Tom Hanks/Leo DiCaprio movie made about him of the same title detailing his exploits. He was an amazing hustler, an expert at acting like an airline pilot to cage free rides around the world, cashing bogus checks to fund his lifestyle. He figured out how to exploit weaknesses in the banking system, including how to make his own checks with magnetic ink to maximize the time it took to detect the forgery. Everything finally crashed down on him in France, where he spent several months in a horrible prison. He was released to be transferred to a Swedish prison for a year where he found out that he was about to be bounced from country to country where he'd committed fraud, unless a Swedish judge revoked his passport, in which case he'd be immediately flown to the USA to stand trial, and they wouldn't extradite him from there. When the plane came in for a landing at La Guardia, he exploited his knowledge of aircraft to go to the bathroom, remove the toilet from the floor, and escape. The service hatch frequently popped open on landing, triggering an idiot light in the cockpit, and it happened often enough that it was ignored. It wasn't looked in to until the plane had taxied to the terminal, at which point Frank had run across the airport and was long gone. I'd read this before and it is an amazing read. He never committed any violent crimes, just fraud. Highly recommended, and it'll probably put a smile on your face. Frank is now consulting to show businesses how to protect themselves against fraud and social engineering as he pretty much created that industry.

Master and Commander is the first book in the sea-faring series by Patrick O'Brian, which I had never touched until now. I quite enjoyed it, and now have a greater than zero understanding of nautical terms. Very good stuff, but I won't be pursuing the series very diligently. My wife has some of the Hornblower books, I might check in to those, and we'll see what my free/cheap ebook newsletters pop up.

Swords and Deviltry is the first Fafhred and the Grey Mouser book by Fritz Lieber. Classic sword and sorcery stuff, I devoured all of them when I was a teen and in my 20s. While it was fun to re-read this book, I have now re-read it and have no desire to re-read any more of them.

In The Merde For Love is the continuing adventures of Paul West in France by Stephen Clarke. Paul is now working on establishing his own tea shop in Paris, and trying to find love. Fun stuff, an interesting perspective of France and Paris.

Through Five Administrations by William Crook is a very unusual book. Crook was a Washington, DC policeman who was part of the protection detail for President Abraham Lincoln, he was not on duty the night that Lincoln was assassinated. This book is a memoir of his work in the White House of his work with Lincoln and the four subsequent administrations and their families. Quite an interesting perspective on the politics of the day, also an interesting alternative take on how English usage has changed over the last 150 years. And it's free online and for ebook readers through Project Gutenberg.

Guardian, another Joe Haldeman, is more fantasy than science fiction except that it deals in alternative universe theories of time/dimension travel. It starts right around the time of the Civil War and revolves around a woman and her son and their life that ultimately leads them to the Alaska Gold Rush. There's no hard, gadget-based, sci fi in this, so I lean towards classing it as fantasy with sci fi concepts. Very interesting stuff with some exploration of Alaskan myths. Haldeman lived there as a kid with his family for several years.

Now we get in to Hugo stuff!

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers is the second volume following A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet, which I read in late December. I really like Becky Chambers' writing, I find her description of the general environment to be kind of evocative of Firefly and Douglas Adams. This book is loosely a continuation of the first, but only loosely. At the end of the previous book, a mature AI dies and is reset and can't really continue where she's at as it distresses everyone around her. So she's put in to a body that does a remarkable job of simulating a human and goes off to live with a junker/tech who can help her adapt. Every other chapter is back-story of the tech, which is an interesting story device. The whole book is huge amounts of character growth, which I really liked. It's all about the AI re-learning who she is/was and learning to be a better person and the junker reclaiming part of her past. Very fun stuff, and I'm quite looking forward to the next book. The first book was self-published and could have benefited from some editing rigor. This book shows much more polish. I really look forward to seeing what Ms. Chambers comes up with in the future, she's on my Will Buy list.

All The Birds In The Sky by Jane Anders is a mix of science fiction and fantasy. A young girl learns that, in certain circumstances, she can talk to birds and apparently she's a witch. A young boy, who's more or less a tech genius, learns that the girl can provide him an alibi with his parents to make it look like he's being active outdoors. Years past and lots of things happen, including the ecological collapse of the planet. It's a bit of a downer, but very well crafted and quite interesting: I really enjoyed reading this book and it well-deserved the Hugo nod.

The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemison is book 2 in a series and I was not impressed. And I hate to say it, but I abandoned this book. I didn't want to, but she did was I've learned is an increasingly common literary trope: second person writing. You do this, you do that, you look there, you say this. That really put me off. But that wasn't all, it was just the story itself that did it. The story was too dependent on the first book to understand the environment and what was going on. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Regarding second person, when I got to the short stories I was reading one that was published in Uncanny called If You Stay Here You Shall Surely Drown, and it is also written in second person. I didn't mind that. It was more the story than the perspective of the narration that put me off. Besides, a story will be in last place, and if I like other books more, it won't take much to be knocked to the bottom.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee was, excuse the profanity, absolutely fucking amazing. Space war plus Chinese dynastic stuff plus Chinese mysticism. Wow. It wasn't strictly speaking magic, but nigh unto. The empire and its armies/fleets strategies and tactics are based on calendrical cycles and geometry. Sort of the ultimate expression of horoscopes and feng shui. Geometry will determine battle formations, and breaking an enemy's formation can determine victory. Lee does not get bogged down in the numbers, which I appreciate. The core of the story is an officer sent on a special expedition to suppress some calendrical heretics which threaten the stability of the empire. To overcome them, they must resurrect the greatest traitor the empire has ever scene, who is also the greatest general. His consciousness has been preserved even though his body was destroyed. And since she suggested it, she gets to host him. And the heretical rebellion turns out to be much more than it seems. This is the first book of a series or trilogy, I'm not sure which. And it is really, REALLY good. This was a page turner for me, I look forward to reading more of them.

Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer was another WOW book. Palmer is also up for a Campbell award for Best New Author, and I think she stands a solid shot at it. Solid future earth science fiction, but also very different. It's also very hard to describe. It has a feel of Cory Doctorow, in that countries are no more, people can now identify themselves in multiple ways as member of multiple groups. This determines voting blocks and elections for leadership. It's kind of complicated. For example, one group controls all air car routing, another controls everything concerning space travel and anything outside of earth's atmosphere. Another with law enforcement between major clans. There is no longer such a thing as capital punishment. If someone commits murder, or even multiple murders, they're stripped of all affiliations and sentenced to manual labor as a Servitor for anyone who will have them. The people who have them working for them give them food for their labor: if they don't work, they don't eat. It's more complicated than that, but like I said, it's hard to describe and it takes a long time for it to be fully explained in the book. The plot of the book is a theft takes place. Each of the major clans publishes a list of their projection of what the vote results will be in the next leadership election. Very important stuff. The theft is from one of the most respected papers. There's no blackmail, no murder, just stealing a piece of paper. But it sends ripples throughout the world of the ruling elite. And as the book progresses, it turns more and more sordid. Very much looking forward to future books in the series.

Simply put, Too Like The Lightning and Ninefox Gambit are the two best books that I've read this year, and the year's just half over. Absolutely amazing. It makes me kick myself repeatedly that I haven't bought supporting memberships for Worldcon in the past, but I'll definitely get them in the future! Just too much good stuff, and too many authors to look forward to!
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News Thump is a very British parody site, not unlike The Onion. They do some very good work. I read them frequently, they do an excellent job of ripping Trump.

http://newsthump.com/2017/07/17/george-a-romero-probably-dead/


I'm reminded of a story of Vincent Price and Peter Lorre attending the funeral of Bella Lugosi, allegedly true: Peter turned to Vincent and whispered "Should we drive a stake through his heart, just to make sure?"
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Jodie Whitaker will be the next Doctor Who, appearing in the Christmas Special, which should be quite interesting. Already fans are screaming, either in joy or anguish. Myself, I'm in the joy category, I think it's quite awesome. She's a great actor and I think it's high time. The lead vocalist for Blink-182 had a fabulous tweet: "Oh great a female Doctor Who. What next? Female real doctors? Female pilots? Female scientists? Female sisters and mothers? Female WOMEN?!"

Long may she reign! Or at least I'd like to see more than three years.

The BBC has a nice fan reaction piece that includes a short intro video, she looks great!


In sadder news, the passing on Saturday of Martin Landau, he was 89. Landau's first big movie was Hitchcock's North By Northwest, but I'll always remember him for Space: 1999 and Mission: Impossible. He was also the first choice for Mister Spock, but he turned it down and Gene had to go with his second choice, some guy named Nimoy. He kept himself pretty busy in his later years, pretty good for a guy pushing 90. He will also be remembered as the father of at least a two-generation acting dynasty as his daughter Juliet Landau, well-known for her work as Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is a VERY active actor herself.


On Sunday night, we lost the father of zombies, George Romero, to lung cancer. He was 77. I created a sort of zombie game called Zombie Cafe, wherein you operate a deli selling brains to zombies. There's a blog called the Zombie Rights Campaign which used to frequent horror conventions, handing out flyers and holding demonstrations, demanding an end to head shots and such: they labeled my game as Zombie Friendly as I did not advocate violence against zombies. He also gave a copy of my game to George, but I never heard anything from him. That would have been nice.


It's interesting to think of the two men, iconic actor and iconic film maker. They both left major marks in the industry and both will be remembered for a very long time.

Movies Seen, April-June, 2016

Jul. 15th, 2017 02:15 pm
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6/3 PotC Dead Men Tell No Tales
6/1 Wonder Woman

5/30 PotC (v)
5/10 Colossal
5/? Guardians of the Galaxy 2 x2
5/6 Guardians of the Galaxy (v)
5/1 The Zookeeper's Wife

4/30 Sleight
4/28 Their Finest
4/23 Paris, Je T'Aime (v)
4/22 Moana (v)
4/21 Pixels (v)
4/20 Tangled (v)
4/15 Ghost in the Shell
4/9 A United Kingdom (Fountain)
4/7 Going in Style
4/2 Mighty Morphing Power Rangers

So starting with the earliest....

Mighty Morphing Power Rangers was a lot of fun for what was, more or less, YA entertainment. It was pretty much as silly as the TV series as I recall, but they did a good job updating it for more modern times. I look forward to seeing what they do with future releases.

Going In Style: also lots of fun. A heist movie starring: old people! And they get caught! And they still pull it off! Very clever.

A United Kingdom probably didn't see wide release, we saw it in an art house theater. It's a true story about the creation of Botswana. The king, Seretse, is a student in London and falls in love with a white British girl, Ruth. Initially he reveals himself to just be a student, but things get complicated. He's destined to be the king and marry a local girl to solidify political alliances for the good of the country, etc., which is a British protectorate. Eventually Seretse and Ruth marry, against Ruth's parent's wishes, and move back to Africa. Seretse ends up exiled for five years and has to move back to London. Meanwhile, Churchill is running for Prime Minister again and promises that he'll rescind the exile if his party is elected. They are, and he doesn't: in fact, the exile is made permanent. It was a heck of a movie, definitely recommended. And it is a feel-good movie, all works out in the end: Ruth and Seretse are buried side-by-side on a hill overlooking the village where they lived most of their lives in Botswana.

Ghost in the Shell would have been an excellent movie if they hadn't cast ScarJo in the lead. Very good story, excellent visuals, but she brought absolutely nothing to the movie IMO. As much as her stunt sequences were wire work, any competently-trained actress, PREFERABLY ASIAN, could have done the job. And their oh-so-clever alteration of the story to justify casting a white woman in the role of The Major did nothing to justify casting a white woman in the role of The Major. It was a sa attempt to retcon her that did not work.

Tangled. I decided to start logging and talking about videos that I/we watch that I hadn't previously seen, and this is one. It is original Disney material based on a classic story, but honestly, it didn't do too much for me. Enjoyable, but not particularly memorable.

Pixels. More video. I saw this in the theater and enjoyed it. My wife had not seen it, and we were looking for something mindless. And trust me, this is pretty mindless. Still, it is fun, and as Adam Sandler movies go, it's better than most. But that's not saying it's a good movie, just that it's mindless fun.

Moana. Even more video. We saw it in the theater and quite liked it, I kinda wish we'd seen it at least once again on the big screen. I find it interesting that even on our dinky little 36" or whatever LCD in 720p (since our receiver blew up, that's the only resolution we get, and that's fine by me) that I appreciate subtleties in effects that I don't notice in the theater. Things like water reflections, or fire effects, knowing that these are fiendishly difficult for animators to get right. we also worked through the bonus features which were quite interesting.

Paris, Je T'Aime was the last of this block of videos. This took me by surprise because I didn't know what it was. It's actually a collection of VERY loosely-connected short films, typically about 5 minutes long. They're made by some VERY big names, and have some VERY big name stars in them. The vampire sequence was quite good, as was the blind guy sequence. Most of them were very good. It just took me some time to realize that it really was a short story collection. Still, recommended.

Their Finest is one of the best movies that I've seen this year. Seriously. It's about a group of people in World War II London who make propaganda films for the British government. I don't know exactly when it's set, but it's shortly after the rescue at Dunkirk, which is interesting because there's a Dunkirk movie about to come out. Anyway, they hear a story about two very young women who take their dad's fishing boat without permission and sail out on their own to sail across the channel and rescue soldiers, but the boat breaks down on the return and they have to get a tow. There's a lot more to the story than that, obviously, but it's just a tremendously entertaining story. I'd say it's light drama with a great cast, featuring the likes of Bill Nighey, who was prominently featured in Love Actually. He plays an older actor who is just constantly chewing up the scenery. This is definitely on my Must Purchase list.

Sleight was actually a mistake. I did not intend to see it, I had gone to the theater to see Zookeeper's Wife. I bought a ticket for Zookeeper's Wife. But I'd put away my reading glasses, so I asked the ticket clerk which theater, she said #1. So I go to #1. It was a full-service theater, so I order munchies and a drink, settle in, and the previews don't really seem appropriate for what I was going to see. And it was starting REALLY late. And then I realized it was the wrong film. I look at my watch and what I'd wanted to see had started a good 40 minutes earlier, so I was kinda screwed. So I watched something that I was kind of prejudiced against. It turned out more interesting than I thought. Technically, it's science fiction, but it's gang-related. Our hero is a sleight of hand street magician, really good at what he does. He can do coin tricks and levitation like you would not believe. He graduated high school and had a scholarship to university, but after he turned 18, his mother died unexpectedly, so he's taking care of his kid sister. So he does magic tricks during the day, picks up his sister at school, fixes her dinner, puts her to bed, then he goes out at night working for a crime boss and sells drugs. At first he's just driving around town, making deliveries and collecting cash. But then he gets in deeper and things go bad, jeopardizing the lives of himself and his sister. And this is where his magic tricks and the science fiction comes in, and I can say no more about it. Again, it's not bad, just not what I was interested in and not something that I would have sought out.

The Zookeeper's Wife. World War II movie based on a true story, set in the Warsaw Zoo, starting shortly before the German invasion of Poland. When Poland falls, the zoo comes under the purview of a former friend, the head of the Berlin Zoo, who is in close with the Reich who has their larger animals slaughtered as they can't afford to feed them when so many soldiers and civilians have to be fed. Then he starts an animal eugenics program to bring back a super race of animals to please Hitler. Meanwhile, the zookeeper is smuggling Jews out of the Warsaw Ghetto back in to the tunnels under the zoo, supplying them with fake paperwork, and out of the country. The wife is serving as a distraction to the Berlin zookeeper, much to her unhappiness. A very interesting and ugly story.

Guardians of the Galaxy. Whenever one of the Marvel superhero movies comes out, we try to watch the previous one as a refresher, so we popped this in the player and had a lot of fun. Like Moana, we dug in to the bonus material, which apparently we hadn't previously taken the time to do. It was nice seeing it again as there are a lot of good bits in this. But if you want to have a lot of fun, look up the YouTube channel How It Should Have Ended and see their treatment of this movie....

Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Lots of good stuff, it's definitely a character growth movie. Everybody gets some introspection time. LOTS of background story on the Ravagers, Peter Quill meets his god daddy, sisters get bonding moments and get to shoot lots of stuff. But honestly, I think I liked the first movie more. I'll watch them back to back when it comes out on DVD and we'll see if my opinion changes.

Colossal was a huge amount of fun, pun intended. A giant monster starts attacking Seoul, South Korea, for no obvious reason. It appears, attacks, then disappears. The summary in IMDB say: "Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City, and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon." It's a strange little movie that is quite interesting. Excellent trailers are available all over the place.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Since a new Pirates movie was coming out, we re-watched the first one on DVD. And fundamentally, it's a fun movie. It has that amazing sword fight in the cave where people turn in to and back from skeletons while they move in and out of moonlight. It's impressive. But the subsequent movies? Meh.

Wonder Woman has to be one of the most talked about movies of the summer, not the least bit because of all of the little men-boys getting their feelings hurt over stupid things like Alamo Draft House having women-only showings. When some men complained, ADH had a second showing. Overall, I thought WW was a very good movie. It had some weak points, but all movies do. I think it could have stood another pass through the shooting script by an outsider to say "Wait a minute - what is this scene supposed to do?" It's entirely possible that scenes had to be cut for time which caused things to appear broken, and they'll look better when a director's cut is released. Some of the misdirection was a little too obvious, but that's OK. All in all, a lot of fun and I hope to see it again in the theater. Another one on my Will Buy list. I'm looking forward to seeing Ms. Godot in the future ensemble movies, I need to make time to see the Bats vs Supes movie if I ever buy a copy.

Pirates: Dead Men Tell No Tales. So as I said, I haven't been impressed by the Pirates movies that came after the first, they've been pretty much a waste of time for me, and I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to see the new one. But I did actually enjoy it, much to my surprise. Which is not to say that it was an excellent story, it had plenty of weaknesses that could have been improved by tighter editing and inserting some explanations. But all in all, much better than the sequels that have come before.


All in all, a heavy quarter for seeing movies: 17 movies seen, including videos, 11 first-run.
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Yesterday we had a water leak in the master bath. It appeared to be centered around the toilet, so I assumed the wax seal had failed. I thought it was a logical assumption. So I called our handyman, he was able to come out today. Turned off the water to the tank, flushed it to drain it, and we used the guest bath until he came out.

He comes out today, replaces the wax seal.

After he leaves, I'm cleaning up standing water with paper towels. And the quantity doesn't seem to be reducing in proportion to the amount that my paper towels are removing. Then I notice it is refilling from underneath the baseboard.

The water heater is on the other side of the wall.

Go outside with my screw gun, remove the door/wall of the water heater compartment, and sure enough: it's flooded. The water heater has failed. Turn off gas supply, drain heater. New heater at Lowe's: $500.

Unfortunately my handyman is no longer licensed to work with gas. Still waiting for a callback from the plumber that I called.

*sigh*

It's quite possible that the toilet was not leaking, but at least it got me off my butt and on to my knees to clean up the floor of the bathroom. Good thing that I had plenty of spare room on my credit cards!
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