Is it August yet?

Feb. 13th, 2016 12:58 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: Made by laurashapiro (nothing wrong with your vid)
I registered for Vividcon!

Also apparently I was the first registrant, which tickles me.

\o/!



ETA: Aw, HELL. I just saw the news about [livejournal.com profile] vagabondage. I can't imagine VVC without Zen. Fuck cancer.

Now I really want to be there right now and hug all of you. May her memory be a blessing for all who knew her; may we all be comforted, along with all who mourn.

grump grump grump grump

Feb. 12th, 2016 12:53 pm[personal profile] dichroic
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

1. My arm hurts. It’s for a good cause – I went to the doctor for an annual physical yesterday, asked her about what innoculations are needed for our trip ti the Galapagos this summer, and she offered to give me the tetanus shot right there and then (I don’t technically need one, since I got one in 2007 and they’re good for ten years, but it’s been nine already and I’m not sure where my records are anyway). So it’s to allow me to do something I’m looking forward to. But it huuuurts. Also, my bra strap keeps sliding off my shoulder and crossing over the sore spot, which is not helping! (It’s not one with straps that can be hooked together or crossed.)

2. We won’t be able to make our usual biweekly trip to the lake next weekend because I have a work trip and I have to fly in on Saturday,

3. Said work trip is a mixed bag. I’m going to where I used to live in AZ. This is the perfect time of year to go there, I’ll get to see some old friends, and I’ll get to see one of our offices I haven’t been to before. Also, I’ll probably enjoy the work. So far all to the good – but on the down side I will lose a weekend to this trip and probably won’t get compensatory time off. The biggest issue is that grandboss, who is running this project, is being weird, restrictive, and weirdly restrictive about it. It’s something smack in my area of expertise but all suggestions are being smacked down hard. Not only that, she keeps saying stuff that’s just wrong – not only the work stuff, which is at least a matter of opinion, but also basic facts. She tried telling me that AZ is on Central timezone part of the year which is factually incorrect – but she wouldn’t brook even a polite demurral despite knowing I lived there for TEN FUCKING YEARS, so I had to let it drop in self defense. (AZ does not do Daylight Savings Time. They stay on Mountain Standard Time all year, so effectively they’re with the rest of us on Pacific Daylight Time in summer and with the rest of the Mountain timezone in winter. They never ever match summer time.) This is not auguring well for my time on the project.

On the plus side, I have a massage scheduled for today (and will tell them to avoid that arm!), can sleep late in my own bed this weekend, and will get to go blend wines tomorrow, an event we enjoyed a lot last year.

And also my smartphone was indeed smart just now and went straight to voicemail for someone I didn’t particularly want to speak to. Just because you can find my resume on line from last time I was looking for a job (a few years ago) does not mean I want to be an insurance agent! Especially when that has nothing to with any of my experience or stated goals. Smart girl, Siri.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Because apparently I was thinking very fuzzily. Yesterday I wrote, among a list of things that have annoyed me:

The US Electoral College system. Did you know that Clinton won New Hampshire? According to the CNN article I linked there, it’s true – in the only way that really matters. She got more delegates than he did, even though he won about 50% more of the popular vote. But it depends how you count – other articles say he had 13 delegates and she has 9. The discrepancy appears to be because she’s got a bunch of “superdelegates”, who can support whoever they want. (ETA: Here’s a clear explanation.) This is an evil system, for a few reasons. First, if you tell people they have a representative democracy and get their vote counted proportionally when in actuality there are a bunch of unelected party officials (and former officials) steering from the backseat, that is what we technically call a “lie”. Second, I actually kind of understand how those superdelegates hark back to the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, only it doesn’t work. Jefferson wrote about this very clearly. The original point of the Electoral College (in a time without computerized counting of ballots) was that citizens would each elect the wisest local person they knew, and then those wise men in each state (of course they were men) would gather together and choose their candidate for President. He (Jefferson) opined that this two stage system tended to choose better than a direct election would. Maybe he was right, but you can’t tell that from our current ridiculous system of pledged and unpledged candidates. The problem here is, citizens don’t get to choose those unpledged delegates. They are a shadow electorate, forged in the bowels of party machines.

Except the superdelegates aren’t part of the Electoral College, because they’re part of the primary elections, not the general. And the primaries are basically the internal workings of the two major US political parties – how each one chooses the candidate they’ll put forth for the general election. We’ve institutionalized the two parties to where we think of them as official governmental groups, but they are really not – as far as I know, they are still private organizations who can organize themselves as they see fit.

So:
1. I still don’t like the Electoral College, because while I think it was needed logistically once upon a time and had a laudable goal, I do not think either of those things are still true, and it takes us a step away from true representive democracy.

2. I do not like the superdelegate system (though I don’t blame candidates for using it, because they have to work within the system they have) because I think that a system where some people’s votes count more than others is unfair.

But they are two separate things – and since superdelegates are essentially a private matter within each party, I don’t think electoral reform can clean out those stables.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

gramarye1971: a sinister shot of Senate House, University of London (Ministry of Truth - Senate House)
I don't write about books as often as I used to, but I thought I ought to give a quick overview of the current mystery-espionage-noir series that's caught my attention: James Church's Inspector O series.

North Korean noir is about as close as I can get to a general summary of the books, though the plot structures usually run more along the lines of a police procedural. The series protagonist, Inspector O, works for the Ministry of People's Security in Pyongyang, the unloved policing force of the capital. For the most part, he's responsible for looking into cases that fall on the fine line between police work and state security, which in North Korea has a lot of overlap. An unidentified foreigner found dead in the city's elite Koryo Hotel, a daylight bank robbery (quite possibly the first in Pyongyang's history) that looks like it might be an inside job...these are the types of cases that land on O's desk. They are also the types of cases that the higher-ups almost never want to see solved, so O frequently ends up working not only against the criminals but also against the entire bureaucratic machine -- a daunting prospect, in a country like North Korea.

Staple stuff of noir: the immediate crime, the overarching conspiracy or coverup behind it, the cop or detective who fully understands what he's up against but nonetheless tries to get to the bottom of it out of sheer stubbornness or some other internal motivation. But Church has crafted an interesting protagonist who works well within his unusual setting. O is the grandson of a revered anti-Japanese resistance fighter and the son of parents who were killed during the Korean War, a lineage that makes it possible for him to flout certain written and unwritten rules of North Korean society. He almost never wears his badge with Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on it -- a transgression that would have severe repercussions for an ordinary citizen -- and his grandfather's pragmatism has given him very little interest in ideologies of any kind. At the same time, he's quick to take offense when any foreigner denigrates his country, and more than one foreign intelligence operative finds out that O is not a person to be trifled with. He's able to embody the contradictions of the genre rather well. And the secondary characters (including the women, who aren't just femmes fatale or other noir-ish stereotypes) also are good about driving the plot, whether you're hoping for them to get out alive or eagerly waiting for their comeuppance.

Church occasionally publishes short 'conversations' with Inspector O on the 38 North website. These little snippets were enough to draw me into getting the first two books from the library. Both The Corpse in the Koryo and Hidden Moon can be pretty brutal at times -- the first one ends in a veritable bloodbath, and the second one sees O caught up in an interrogation scene that's rather intense. But if you're interested in a mystery or police procedural series that's a little out of the ordinary, and have more than a passing interest in North Korea, the Inspector O books are worth investigating.
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

(I mean, other than almost everything Cruz and Trump say and the fact that people still want to vote for them.)

  • The person who inveighed against Bernie Sanders “because he’s not a real Democrat”, meaning, he isn’t staunchly loyal to the party. As far as I’m concerned that’s an asset; I want a candidate whose loyalty to the party is far outweighed by their loyalty to the country. Then it’s up to the party to decide if that person’s values are close enough to their own to throw their weight behind the candidate. (My opinion on party politics are fairly similar to John Adams, which is to say I think in general they’re a bad thing.)
  • Anyone on either side but especially on the liberal side who has lied about Hilary Clinton. The woman has been in public life for just about my entire life; her record is out there, and it’s not a simple one. If you want to dislike her on the basis of it, fine and good, but try to understand that record first, and don’t just make shit up. (I thought this article illustrated the point very well, but it’s by no means exhaustive – and doesn’t even address the emails issue, which still troubles me a bit.)
  • The US Electoral College system. Did you know that Clinton won New Hampshire? According to the CNN article I linked there, it’s true – in the only way that really matters. She got more delegates than he did, even though he won about 50% more of the popular vote. But it depends how you count – other articles say he had 13 delegates and she has 9. The discrepancy appears to be because she’s got a bunch of “superdelegates”, who can support whoever they want. (ETA: Here’s a clear explanation.) This is an evil system, for a few reasons. First, if you tell people they have a representative democracy and get their vote counted proportionally when in actuality there are a bunch of unelected party officials (and former officials) steering from the backseat, that is what we technically call a “lie”. Second, I actually kind of understand how those superdelegates hark back to the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, only it doesn’t work. Jefferson wrote about this very clearly. The original point of the Electoral College (in a time without computerized counting of ballots) was that citizens would each elect the wisest local person they knew, and then those wise men in each state (of course they were men) would gather together and choose their candidate for President. He (Jefferson) opined that this two stage system tended to choose better than a direct election would. Maybe he was right, but you can’t tell that from our current ridiculous system of pledged and unpledged candidates. The problem here is, citizens don’t get to choose those unpledged delegates. They are a shadow electorate, forged in the bowels of party machines.
  • Anyone who believes the next President will make a huge and immediate difference in our country. The US President has an enormous amount of influence on domestic matters, but only a limited emount of direct power. (They do have more power in international matters.) Aside from Executive Orders, making anything happen requires getting the buy-in of Congress. This actually hurt Obama, when people who expected immediate and sweeping changes that failed to materialize became discouraged and disillusioned with him. It would hurt Sanders or Trump similarly (though I think it would have less effect on someone like Clinton, who people expect to work within the system). Obama’s actually gotten quite a lot done, but it took time and a lot of arguing.
  • Speaking of whom, I’m going to miss Obama. We haven’t had a President I’d describe as a genuinely good man since Jimmy Carter, or one with as much dignity since I don’t know when. I hope he can become as successful an ex-President as Carter has been, whether that’s in the Supreme Court or in another arena.

(Apologies to anyone who read an earlier version of this – it was a formatting mess.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

+ / -

Feb. 8th, 2016 09:21 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: glass of wine (wine)
+ I have the Hamilton soundtrack on my phone!

- for some reason it's only the first 17 tracks

+ this means I am getting to know those first 17 tracks really well

+ especially since I spent almost an hour in the car today

- which is usually a minus, but having good music really helps (and also, I am learning more about the American revolution, so go me?)

+ and yeah, okay, I totally see why y'all have been waxing rhapsodic about this musical

+ and I have a glass of red wine in hand (a cheap but decent Spanish garnatxa negra)

+ and I am being introduced to the music of Protomartyr right now, and I like their sound

How are y'all?
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

In the history of humanity, only 12 people have walked on the Moon. Only 7 of those are still alive, and the youngest of them is now 80. If we don’t get a move on, it’s likely that within the he next 20 years or so, there will be no one alive who has set foot on any astronomical body other than Earth.

If you still need more to depress you, all 12 of those were straight (as far as I know) white Christian men, even though none of those characteristics has any relevance to anyone’s ability to be a good astronaut. I’d have been out on two counts, myself. You can make a pretty good case that astronauts are our best and brightest (if you ever doubt it, don’t look at the minimum requirements, look at the bios of those who are actually selected). If we’ve made no other progress in the last 50 years, at least we don’t use those unimportant characteristics in determining who is the best among us any more.

(RIP Edgar Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 14.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

alee_grrl: Rupert Giles looking up from reading a book.  Text: bookish (giles)
The past few months have gone relatively well. My main focus at the moment is diligently studying for the upcoming Vermont Bar exam, a two day exam that will take place at the end of this month. For the past few weeks I've managed to study between four and seven hours (with five being the general average) for six days a week. I take Sundays off to veg a bit. Unlike the last time I went through this process I am feeling far less overwhelmed and my anxiety is largely manageable.

It helps that I am working at my own pace and was able to start the process earlier than I did the last go round. It also helps that I am far more aware of what works well for me and what doesn't, and able to adjust my study plans accordingly. Plus I'm generally in a better place of health than I was several years ago when I was preparing for the Virginia exam. So all very good things.

It has meant that I have not been able to be all that social online or off as I tend to have very little in the way of spoons or brain power at the end of the day. But I have been trying to keep up with all my lovely friends here, even if I'm not able to comment as much as I'd like.

I am very much looking forward to being done with this process. I have a stack of books that I'm eager to dive into (including "Karen Memory" by Elizabeth Bear, "Under the Mink" by Lisa E. Davis, "Three Parts Dead" by Max Gladstone, and "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik). I'd also like to finally get around to finishing "The Martian," which I have enjoyed so far. But for a few weeks more I will continue to imprint as much law on my memory as possible (I rather feel like legal theories are ready to start dribbling out my ears at this point), and do lots of practice questions in prep for the exam. Much love to all.

Gratitudes

Feb. 4th, 2016 08:55 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: glass of wine (wine)
1. The fact that y'all don't mind when RL gets in my way and I don't post for far too long.

2. [personal profile] sheafrotherdon's lovely wee Star Wars ficlets, which I just belatedly discovered on the AO3, especially this one.

3. Advil. Because my neck and shoulders were hurting a ton, and now they are not.

4. The mostly brainless pleasure of spending an evening tinkering with wordpress templates.

5. The silence after the kid is asleep.
okrablossom: linguini, tomatoes, basil, onions (pic#8749663)
This [past] week[end] was Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Leonora Goat Cheese, Star Pasta, and Crushed Gingersnaps from Melt, which we ended up calling "starfield chicken" because that's way easier to say. I wanted to try one less orthodox mac-and-cheese recipe before saying, well, Melt pretty much is a fancy-for-no-reason-but-cheese cookbook. Ha.


stuffed chicken


Cooking Difficulty: Medium.

Cooking Time: About an hour to put together and bake. [The recipe does not give a cooking time, simply a temperature, so your mileage may vary.]

tl;dt: I wanted to like this [and have been thinking of ways to modify it] but the flavor of the cheese mixture is blanded out by the chicken.

Would I make this again?: Not this version.

Recipe and pictures... )

So, after like 9 recipes from the cookbook, I pretty much conclude: Melt is a fancy-for-no-reason-but-cheese cookbook.

trip planning

Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:25 pm[personal profile] dichroic
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I realized something last night: our 25th anniversary is in 2018. That makes now an excellent time to plan for it. Clearly we need to plan something exciting to do. THe obvious choices are a big party (followed by hurt feelings toward whichever of my family don’t manage to show up if we don’t hold it in their city rather than ours – not because they don’t like us, but because they don’t travel) or a trip somewhere. The hard part about planning a trip is that we’ve been to all the places I most wanted to visit. There are still plenty of wonderful places in the world we haven’t been to, of course; it’s just that nothing really jumps out of the list, so it will be harder to choose.

Iceland? India? China? (I really want to visit Iceland, especially if we can go enough toward the winter season to have a chance to see Northern Lights. Ted really wants to visit India, but I have some reservations, having heard a bunch of stories from seasoned travelers.) Israel? (That feels like one I really ought to go to, but I’m never fond of “oughts” in things I do for fun.) Or we could see some of the less famous parts of Europe that are supposed to be spectacular, like Croatia or Macedonia.

Note 1: Did I mention that we’re going to the Galapagos this summer? We are going with Ted’s parents, to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Note 2: Thinking about this kind of stuff always makes me miss my uncle. Trip planning was his greatest delight. (Well, maybe second greatest – after eating.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

of assorted fruit products

Feb. 1st, 2016 01:09 pm[personal profile] dichroic
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

While writing about the pot roast I forgot to mention my other adventures for the weekend: On Saturday I made apple/pear fruit leather, and we visited a couple of local wineries.

The fruit leather was basically the Best Thing Ever: easy to make, uses up a lot of those apples and pears we keep getting from the CSA, and very tasty. First I made applesauce (well, apple & pear sauce), which is ridiculously simple by itself: peel and cut up 4-5 pieces of fruit, boil with with some water, sugar and cinnamon for half an hour or so, and mash it up. To make the leather, spread it out on a silicone baking mat and bake at 170F for six hours or so. I basically screwed everything up; I cooked the sauce for an hour and a half, after managing *not* to turn off the stove before starting a workout, so there was no extra liquid left and the fruit had a few blackened bits. This made it harder to spread out in a thin layer; it remains to be seen if being less liquidy made for better fruit leather texture. Then the oven decided it doesn’t like staying on for a long time at low temperature – it had the same problem Sunday while trying to cook the pot roast at 225F for 3 hours. Seems like the gas doesn’t always relight when it tries to – fortunately the gas does NOT keep flowing when this happens – and then the oven doesn’t realize it needs to be warmer so it doesn’t try again. But neither of those issues spoiled the taste any. We went out to the wineries, the oven was barely warm when we came back, so I turned it back on and gave it another hour.

The wineries were interesting too.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

comparative pot roasts

Feb. 1st, 2016 12:16 pm[personal profile] dichroic
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Ted did something this weekend that he rarely does: requested a specific dinner (pot roast) because he wanted something that would go well with some of the Abacela wines we wanted to taste head to head. You can see the wine discussion over at Avontuur but I wanted to talk some more about the pot roast here.

The All-American pot roast recipe from The Food Lab (TFL) is astonishingly good, but it’s also kind f a pain in the ass to cook. Before I tried that, though, I thought I had my pot roast dialed in with the one from The Pioneer Woman (TPW), which is very good and is considerably less trouble. So today I tried to heterodyne the two; I browned the meat before the vegetables (TFL), and got the carrots well browned (TFL), which allowed me to add in a slurry of tomato paste, soy sauce and grated garlic (TFL, but they also call for marmite and anchovies) and some flour (TFL). On the other hand I used only a cup or two of wine rather than a whole bottle (TPW) plus chicken stock rather than beef (TFL), did not add gelatin to my stock (as TFL calls for), and most of all, ate it when it was done instead of keeping it for a day or more as TFL prescribes. I tried cooking it in the oven (TFL) but gave up and put it on top of the stove (TPW) when my oven didn’t seem to be maintaining temperature.

TFL calls for the addition of carrots, chopped onions and potatoes; TPW for carrots and halved onions with mashed potatoes on the side. I added carrots, chopped onions, parsnips and turnips.

Verdict: I am not convinced that the addition of the tomato/garlic slurry made much difference; mostly it came out tasting like a TPW pot roast – good, but not stellar. We have enough left over to have for another dinner; after it’s been int he fridge for a day or two I’ll discard the fats that rise to the top, which I think will improve it, but I’m not sure if it will make that much difference flavorwise. I think it’s useful to have both recipes handy: one simpler and good, the other more work intensive and great.

The parsnips and turnips were definitely a good addition, though: more subtle flavors and textural differences added to the pot roast base.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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