carbonel: (Default)
Lydy was kind enough to bring back some medium oatmeal from England. I've tried Andy Leighton's parkin recipe with other forms, and none was ideal. (The steel-cut oats were a particularly interesting failure; they never softened, so I ended up with something crunchy and more candy-like.) Unfortunately, if there's a place to get medium oats locally, I haven't found it.

Anyway, I had a kilogram of medium oats, so I made parkin according to Andy's recipe. It's unlike most in that it doesn't call for flour, only oatmeal. I don't know what Andy would say about the results, but I was very happy with it, and gave some to Lydy, who also approved.

But the recipe (as originally posted at my request in rec.art.sf.fandom, IIRC) has a note at the end: "This version keeps very well, and is very nice after a couple of weeks wrapped in greaseproof paper (don't keep it in a tin or plastic container it dries out)."

Why should greaseproof paper (which I assume is equivalent to waxed paper) be more desirable than an airtight container? Is the high sugar content supposed to cause it to suck out moisture from the air?

This batch is just over a week old, and I haven't seen a noticeable change after storing it in a tin. If I make another batch, I'm tempted to experiment by leaving some open to the air, some wrapped in waxed paper, and some in the tin as usual. Assuming it lasts that long, of course. This recipe makes parkin with the approximate density of very tasty neutronium (so I cut it into small pieces), but it's very moreish.

I'll add the recipe below, just in case anyone is curious. I don't own a 7x10 pan (I think I converted all the units from the original when I put it in my recipe file), so I use a 9x9 one -- and that overflowed a bit. I might try a 9x13 one next time, and cook it for a shorter time.

(By the way -- back to that common language thing -- I was always curious why black treacle was an optional ingredient if it was treacle parkin. Then I saw an episode of Great British Bake Off where the technical challenge was treacle tart, and it called for golden syrup. Apparently golden syrup is considered light treacle in the UK, and molasses is black treacle.)

Andy Leighton's Treacle Parkin

16 oz Golden Syrup
8 oz Butter
24 oz Medium Oatmeal
8 oz Brown Sugar
2 tsp Ginger (if you like lots of ginger add another tsp)

Warm the Golden Syrup and butter until just melted and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Grease a medium tin (about 7" by 10"), and throw the lot in a low oven (gas mark 2, 300F) for 2 hours. It is done when it springs back when touched, although don't be worried if it is a bit underdone and gooey in the middle.

Note: the above recipe is more or less how I (Andy Leighton) make Parkin, although sometimes I use less sugar and a bit more oatmeal -- I just throw approximate measures in and go from appearance. You can use half golden syrup and half black treacle if you want a more treacley taste. This version keeps very well, and is very nice after a couple of weeks wrapped in greasproof paper (don't keep it in a tin or plastic container it dries out).
carbonel: (cat with mouse)
Or possibly the flu. Normal people don't run a fever when they have a cold, but this is the thing where my brain turns to fuzz and my temp goes up to 102 or so. (Only 101 fondly Fahrenheit right now, but the evening is young.) I haven't been able to contemplate food all day, though I'm trying (not very successfully) to remain hydrated.

In the absence of someone to make chicken soup for me, I think I'm going to call the local Chinese restaurant that delivers and order some wonton soup.

I guess Lydy wasn't noncontagious on Friday after all.
carbonel: (Default)
The guy from Standard Heating came and installed the replacement fan, and the house is gradually cooling down from 86 degrees F (currently at 84F). That was $500, plus the earlier visit for $99.

The yard work guy (John) has made significant inroads in the my front yard, which is actually the least of the problems, but it already looks so much better. He also suggested some extra work for an additional $300, which comes as no surprise whatsoever, but which I think will be worth it. He did what he calls a California cut on my (IIRC) arbor vitae, which looks much cleaner, but sort of weird, but I approved him doing it for the rest of the shrubbery. He's going to do my gutters as well, which definitely need it. My next-door neighbor had a chat with John, and is (according to John) entirely approving of what's going on.

This is going to be an expensive week (including Ron the Sewer Rat for $160 last week), but at least I'm seeing results.
carbonel: (Default)
The guy from Standard Heating came to look at my air conditioner today. As I'd suspected, the HomeSmart guy was wrong: it wasn't the condenser. I based this guess on the fact that the system was making noise, but the house was cool. No condenser, no coolth.

Turns out it's the fan that needs replacing, and it needed to be ordered. It might arrive Monday. If not, Wednesday, since Tuesday is a holiday.

In the meantime, the guy turned off the offending fan, so I have no AC. I usually keep the house at 75F in the summer. It's a pleasant but warm day, and the thermostat says the temperature in the house is now up to 78 degrees fondly Fahrenheit. It's only supposed to get to 80F tomorrow, so it shouldn't be too bad.
carbonel: (cat with mouse)
On Thursday, the man from Ron the Sewer Rat came and cleaned out my sewer. This is done annually, prophylactically, because I have had two incidents of sewage backing up from tree roots.

Today, Friday, the man from Excel's HomeSense came to look at my air conditioner and try to figure out why it makes much louder noises than it ought once or twice a day. He told me that the condenser wasn't working, and this was outwith his purview. He couldn't explain why, if it wasn't working, the house was nevertheless staying cool.

Tomorrow, someone from Standard Heating and Air Conditioning is coming to make a more definitive (and doubtless expensive) diagnosis on the air conditioner.

On Sunday, someone from the lawn service recommended to me by 1crowdedhour will charge me $150 to look at the place and make recommendations. If I spend $2,000, that $150 will be returned to me as a credit. Unfortunately, I need more than just lawn mowing; the yard is trying very hard to return to nature. I hope it will take a significant amount of time to add up to that sum, but I'm not entirely sanguine about it.

I wouldn't be surprised if, come Monday, it'll be the gasman that I need to cometh.
carbonel: (cubs)
I know this is a strange request, but it would make me very happy to find an answer.

Is there any simple way to find out, for a Cubs game that has already taken place, if the Cubs won or lost the game without also seeing/hearing the final score?

I tried Siri, but it was overly helpful, giving me more information than I wanted.
carbonel: (tivo)
A very mixed bag via Netflix streaming and DVD.

The bad:

The OA
Someone on LJ/DW recommended this, which is why I watched the first season via Netflix. Oh, this is bad. So bad. Bad in the same way that Lost was bad, in that it feels as if the scriptwriters are just making it up as they go. It starts with a woman in a nightgown standing on the edge of a bridge with a substantial drop. She jumps, and is apparently totally unharmed. There are a series of flashbacks, and the final episode gets to the point where she was abandoned -- and there's no indication of how she got from lonely road to well-traveled bridge without any interim. Maybe there's supposed to be more plot in-between, but that wasn't the feeling I got. It's supposed to be about near-death experiences, but it's all just made-up woo.

Inception
Okay, this isn't actually bad. It was a blockbuster, and hugely successful. But it wasn't my cup of tea. I kept watching it from a meta point of view: "here's a fight scene" and "oh, here's another fight scene, and next we'll have a chase scene" and "oh, cool special effect." And there was a whole lot of the Eight Deadly Words.

The good (mostly):

Anne with an "E"
Another series I watched on Netflix. I mostly enjoyed this, though I side-eye a bit at the way it's plotted to ramp up the angst levels. In this story (spoilers!) Anne is sent back to the orphanage for stealing Marilla's brooch, instead of being threatened with not being able to attend a church picnic. And the final couple of episodes deal with the prospect of financial ruin as the result of a ship sinking (without insurance) and some bad choices. And I'm pretty sure a lot of the idioms used were not extant in the period the series is set. But Anne is pitch-perfect, and Matthew is much less of a cipher than he was in the books, and I'm looking forward to the next season.

Grace and Frankie
Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, and Martin Sheen. I don't usually watch shows for the actors, but in this case I'll make an exception. The initial premise is that there are two couples in their early 70s whose wives don't really get along. They have dinner together, and the men announce that they've been having an affair for 25 years, and are now divorcing the wives to marry each other. Much hilarity does not ensue. The two women end up living together, despite their exceedingly different everything, and manage to make a go of the (platonic) relationship. Very quirky, but doesn't trip my "sitcom, ick" button.

Also, a bunch of a nature documentaries narrated by David Attenborough. When I need soothing, there's nothing like bugs or polar bears or frogs.
carbonel: (Default)
I have three DVD movies from Netflix:

Inception
The Adjustment Bureau
Rashomon

The first two I added to the queue at the same time, but the third is just the next 4-star movie on the list. (I stopped posting about it, but I'm still watching them.)
carbonel: (xkcd song)
I recently heard "Amie" by Pure Prairie League on Pandora. It reminded me of another song I've been trying to remember. I have a few useless disconnected facts, but perhaps they'll jog someone else's memory.

* The song has a rather fast and bouncy tempo

* I remember the song being sung in conjunction with another song, as a 2-song medley

* The song might be by either Buffalo Springfield or Dusty Springfield

* The song might have the name "Amy" in it somewhere

* The song dates from the 1980s or earlier -- probably considerably earlier

Anyone?
carbonel: (Default)
I'm doing a major catch-up on LJ, mostly of the RSS feeds I'm subscribed to, in preparation for adding all of those on DW. In the process, I'm also going to be unfriending anyone that I'm already subscribed/friended/whatever to on DW.

So if you receive a "you have been unfriended" notice from LJ, please don't take it personally. I'm posting this because I've been on the receiving end of some LJ unfriend notices, and it always gives me a bit of a pang, even when I know what's going on.
carbonel: (Default)
All my posts and comments are imported, says DW.

I just set up DW to copy posts from here over to LJ, so this is a test of sorts. Comments on LJ are allowed for now.

I still need to go through my LJ friends list and see if there's anyone who's on that list who's active on DW that I haven't subscribed/given access to.

I need to transfer all the feeds I use on LJ to DW.

(I see that all my tags imported, but there doesn't seem to be any way to bring up the tags list to select from them. Does DW think I have them all memorized? I don't, so autocomplete is insufficient.)
carbonel: (cubs)
ETA: With some help from [livejournal.com profile] redbird, I'm all set up. Go Cubs!

So here's the situation.

T-Mobile is offering a free MLB.tv subscription TODAY ONLY.

In order to take advantage of this, one needs to install a free app called T-Mobile Tuesdays. I did so on an old iPhone 4 that maxes out at iOS 7. When I installed the app a couple of weeks ago, it worked okay. When I tried to run the app today, it didn't work -- it's been "upgraded" and now requires iOS 8, and crashes when I try to run it. So frustrating.

Is there anyone around who a) is a T-Mobile customer, and b) has a device that will support iOS 8, c) doesn't want a free MLB.tv subscription, and d) would be willing to go through the T-Mobile rigmarole on my behalf? I'd give that person my login credentials, but it might still use up that device's ability to get another one.

I would be exceedingly appreciative. The subscription is worth about $120, so it's worth some hassle to me to make it work. [livejournal.com profile] laurel is trying something at the other end, but it's dependent on her finding a missing device.

In the meantime, of course, for any T-Mobile users who are baseball fans, this is a great deal and you should sign up for yourselves.
carbonel: (Farthing photo)
OBDisclaimer: I have met David several times over the years; I'd say we're friendly acquaintances. I've enjoyed many of his short stories; he has a nicely readable writing style, and I hope he keeps writing. It's just this book that didn't work for me.

I just finished reading Arabella of Mars, and I mentioned my issues with it to a few people. At least two of them said, "Oh, yeah, I remember [livejournal.com profile] mrissa had problems with that one." Which she did, here. I was going to make some comments there, but decided to make my own post instead.

Issues, I got them. (Spoilers abound.)

First of all, I don't remember why I put this book on hold at the library. Maybe it was the push that the Tor blog gave it? I'd assumed it was from one of James Nicoll's reviews, but no -- when I went to reread his review, I discovered he'd never reviewed it.

[livejournal.com profile] mrissa did a fine job of covering the sexism fail, so I'll mostly leave that one alone.

And the entire steampunk setting, with atmosphere between the planets and asteroids with trees growing on them gets an eyeroll but a pass, because that's the one total implausibility that that the entire book is built around.

Leaving all that aside, there's the villain. And what a very convenient villain he is, too. He carefully explains to Arabella just how awful his life is because of his position as second son (Arabella's uncle) and his choice of bad investments. So when Arabella accidentally lets it drop that it might be affordable for him to hock the family silver and run off to Mars to kill her brother (her father, the previous heir, being conveniently dead), he does so -- and when he gets caught in the process of running away, he monologues to justify his necessity.

The next time we see him, he has heroically saved the life of said brother (the villain's nephew), at a time when it would have been entirely plausible to let him die. Not kill him, mind you, just let him die. But he saves him. It might be because he needed the brother the guide both of them to safety, but the impression I got in the book was that he saved him because he wanted the brother to think well of him.

Eventually the villain dies in the process of trying to make Arabella the scapegoat for the villain's own evil deeds. He waffles between actively evil, wishy-washy, and wanting to be a good guy. This could be the interesting depiction of a complex character, but it reads like the description of someone who acts however he needs to for the plot to do what the author wants.

Then there's the ending. Arabella is required to marry immediately, so that (best I can tell) she can produce a son so that the son plus the brother (who is currently in fragile health) can break the entail so that Arabella and her mother and sisters won't be left penniless. Er, what? I read the last few pages a couple of times, and it still made no sense to me. The obvious option in most Regency books would be for Arabella to make a brilliant marriage to a wealthy suitor support her family. Here, the need for a marriage seems to be externally imposed to provide an incentive for Arabella to propose to someone who might otherwise be deemed unsuitable because he's foreign and the wrong skin color (which was also the excuse for a mutiny earlier in the book).

In short, this book doesn't (as I'd hoped) play with the standard tropes of SF and Regency romance to produce something new. Instead, it depends on some of the worst of default assumptions about race and gender to produce a flabby book with an interesting but unbelievable setting.
carbonel: (tivo)
Blindspot just got dropped from my DVR to-watch list.

I am finally, painfully, learning that I personally dislike the entire genre of shows with long-term conspiracy-based plots where anyone (and probably everyone) is a bad guy, or at least having a secondary set of motivations. That’s true (for me) even of shows that other people think are great and that get good reviews. In the past couple of years, I’ve watched at least a season of, and ultimately dropped, Quantico, How to Get Away with Murder, The Blacklist, and now Blindspot. And Timeless and Frequency are both on the bubble for now.

I feel a little guilty about giving up on “good” shows, but it’s not as if I need them to pass a test for school. If it’s not amusing me sufficiently, what’s the point?

On the other hand, I like long-arc shows, as long as they have a defined ending point. I’m sorry that Murder in the First was canceled after three seasons, and I’m looking forward to the new season of American Crime, even though that one is quite dark (two seasons so far, both with seriously depressing resolutions and ruined lives).
carbonel: (Farthing photo)
For many years, I have chosen my bathroom book -- yes, there's always a bathroom book -- by selecting the next unread (or at least unremembered) book from my shelves of softcover fiction paperbacks, which are stored alphabetically by author. The rule I've chosen is that if I can't or don't want to finish the book, it goes on the "take to used bookstore for credit" pile unless there's a very good reason.

After all these years, I'm only up to the middle of the C's. Last week, the next book in line was James Clavell's Gai-Jin. I'd just finished King Rat, which I enjoyed. (I loved Shogun, but was mostly meh about Noble House and Whirlwind. Gai-Jin was three times the length of King Rat (over 1,200 pages), and did not start out encouragingly. I decided to look it up in Wikipedia, and only continue if a) the main male character did not end up dead (as happened in several other of his books) or b) I had any reason to think there would be a Bechdel pass. The Wikipedia entry made it clear it failed on both counts. This one I kept only for possible reference, because it fits with the other Asian saga books, but I choose not to read it.

The next book on the shelf was Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies. I'm pretty sure I bought this book because it was published under the Firebird imprint. Unfortunately, the print was teeny-tiny, probably to minimize page count, because it was already pretty thick. This book got only one chapter read by me, then I went looking for reviews. Sure enough, all the reviews (which were highly polarized into "loved it" and "hated it") said it was like Watership Down, only with deer. I've already read Watership Down, and prefer bunnies to deer, so it went on the to-go pile. If someone makes a really good case for why I should continue reading, it'll have to be as an e-book.

Current bathroom book is Mark Clifton's When They Come from Space. I read it many years ago, but didn't remember much about it other than it being essentially a farce. I really wish I could find something else of Clifton's that I liked as well as "Star, Bright."

Just to show I'm not a complete book-grouch this week, I just finished On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis, which I read based on James Nicoll's review, and quite enjoyed.

Currently in the middle of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I find it sufficiently un-gripping that I keep abandoning it for other books, but also keep going back to it a chapter or two at a time. I'm not sure what it is I find off-putting, but I think there may be some sort of pacing issue. It should be just my catnip. It's a first novel, so I'll probably give the next one a try when I finish this one.

I also downloaded and am reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky (son of [livejournal.com profile] marsgov). I had started reading chapters as they were uploaded, but stopped when I stopped getting new chapter alerts from FF.net.

The current kitchen book is Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough -- a comfort re-re-re-read.
carbonel: (Farthing photo)
I just posted a first draft of my Yuletide story. The deadline is Sunday morning, at 9 am Central time.

I was this close to defaulting before the default deadline. I was at assignments page, about to click the default button, and I decided to see if I could get something. After about 10 minutes, I had 300 words, and I decided if I could do 300 words, I could do 1,000 (the minimum for Yuletide). And then I procrastinated some more.

When I finally got started, there were a couple of days of dripping blood onto the keyboard, but I finally have 2,700 not-too-awful words. I'll do a second draft after I receive comments from my beta reader, but it's a complete story, so it fulfills the basic requirement.

Why oh why can't I go through this process a month earlier? This isn't a tradition, it's a habit. A bad one. Maybe next year I'll just take the year off.
carbonel: (Beth spinning)
Is anyone here on Ravelry? I'm having all sorts of weird problems.

It's ungodly slow, and displaying improperly. And I can't reply to messages.

I've had problems like this before when the browser (or computer) ran out of memory, but in this case, a) I shut down and rebooted, and b) I'm having the exactly same problem on my iPad, which is an entirely different operating system.

I checked the Rav status Twitter feed, and it doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong. So it might just be me, but I can't see how it would happen on both a desktop computer and a tablet if it's just me.

Help?

ETA: I checked with Pat WINOLJ, and she's having similar problems, so it's not just me. If there's anyone who isn't having problems and would be willing to make a quick post on my behalf, please let me know. I have to reply to a thread in the next six or seven hours or I'll lose a swap I'd like to have. But at the moment I can't post, and I can't even access profiles to see if any of the mods' addresses are on their profile.

ETA2: Seems to be fixed now. I wonder what the problem was.
carbonel: (kittens)
This is an edited and expanded version of a reply to [livejournal.com profile] jenett's query about cats and names and such.

All my cat names have come from books. And all my cats but one were friend's-cat-had-kittens cats; that other one was from the Human Society.

Emily (named for Emily Dickinson, because she was celibate and a bit strange) was quite happy as a solitary cat. She was grey and white, and rather sedate as cats go, which gave me an entirely unreasonable idea of how cats should behave. She boarded out for a year-and-a-half with a friend who had multiple cats when I moved into a house where I couldn't have her (in retrospect, a mistake). When I finally got her back, she spent the first night sitting on my chest and purring. Coals of fire, indeed. She developed a mammary tumor around age 10, and I chose to euthanize her rather than try any treatment.

Pyewacket (name from the movie Bell, Book, and Candle, by way of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin) I got as a kitten, and she had very firm notions. She almost died because she wouldn't eat dry kitten food, and it took a vet visit to figure out that wet food was fine. Early on, she developed a habit of using my bed instead of a litterbox. In desperation, I acquired Gandalf, in the theory that either the problem was that she was lonely or she would go back to where I acquired her and become a barn cat. Luckily, having another kitten in the house fixed the problem pretty much immediately. She lived to 17. The last year was hard; she had thyroid problems, but I don't think that wasn't everything. She slowly stopped eating, and eventually just wore down. She died at home without any intervention from me.

Gandalf was my one shelter kitten, and my first male cat. I'd always wanted a gray cat to name Gandalf, and he was nature's perfect cat in many ways -- plush and soft and friendly. He had a fetish for shoes, and hated having his surroundings rearranged. He was very sneaky about not using the litter box sometimes -- when I redid my living room, I discovered he'd sprayed the walls enough that a lot of sheetrock had to be replaced, but at the time, there was only a faint scent. He lived to 18, dying a day or so after a stroke, on my bed with me. His favorite spot was the upper left corner of my bed, and it took me a long time to get out of the habit of reaching to pet that spot.

There was also Sophocles, the temporary boarder (in September 2003). He was a cat I rescued from an auto accident and took to the U of M animal hospital with a broken leg. He was short-haired, orange, and adolescent. (The full story is here.) The U of M hospital wanted more of a name than "stray," and [livejournal.com profile] pddb had a long-haired orange cat named Aristophanes. This cat was short-haired, so I picked a (to my mind) more accessible Greek author. Once they let me take him home, he stayed in my back room to convalesce; but I already had Gandalf and Pyewacket at that point, and was very dubious about a third cat. Luckily, [livejournal.com profile] elisem was willing to take on an orange cat, and he became Aragorn deMorgan Xylophone Sophocles Cat. I believe he is still around and quite venerable, though I haven't seen him for some years.

Morwen (black female, named after the witch in Pat Wrede's Enchanted Forest series) and Random (Siamese seal-point in appearance, but a total mutt in genetics, named after the character in the Amber books) were littermates. Before Morwen was definitively sexed, I thought she was male, and was going to be named Dominic, after a character in Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. Unfortunately, despite being littermates, once they reached adulthood, they very much did not get along. There was constant fighting, and lots of peeing and pooping in inappropriate locations, most notably my bed. I was at my wit's end, and considering drastic (and possibly terminal) solutions; but thankfully, a slightly less drastic solution opened up. Now Random lives with [livejournal.com profile] txanne in Boston, and Morwen is much, much happier and social as a single cat. I only realized after Random was gone that part of the problem had been that Random was stealing a fair amount of Morwen's food, and she was underweight. Though she looks like a stereotypical Basement Cat, she clearly has Ceiling Cat tendencies, going for the highest spot in the room, even if no normal cat would be able to get up there. (Random got as far as the mantelpiece once, and decided the next leap, to the ceiling beams, was a really bad idea. He may be a goof, but he showed good sense there.) Both cats are now about 8 years old, but you can see them as kittens, along with their two littermates, in the icon for this post.
carbonel: (fairy catmother)
Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] dlandon -- hope it's a good one!
carbonel: (cat with mouse)
Ben Aaronovitch's latest Rivers of London book, The Hanging Tree, just came out -- in England. The eBook is available for sale at amazon.co.uk.

But for people with US IP addresses, it's not available until January at amazon.com.

Bah.

Want it now.

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