Monthly Archives: April 2016

Meringues

I’ve been doing a lot of running around on errands so I haven’t posted recently. My blood sugar dropped a lot so I found myself craving sweet things.

So I decided to take the plunge and made meringues for the first time.

Sounds silly I know, but I’ve had this thing about being afraid of screwing up the egg whites. I had a box of egg whites in my fridge that I bought and felt, if I never take the risk, I’ll never do it!

So I made this batch of brain food and boy, am I glad I did! (here’s a BBC Food’s recipe for meringue, it’s slightly different.)

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Leche Flan

One of the easiest Filipino desserts for me to make here in Australia is Leche Flan. The kids love this recipe, but as you can see in the image, the caramel isn’t very dark. That’s because of my family’s preference, so you may need to experiment with the caramel to get it as dark as you like.

I hope you enjoy making this! This is a busy mom version; traditional Leche Flan  uses carefully separated egg yolks, careful hand beating with a whisk, and strains the mixture through cheesecloth several times, resulting in a silky creamy flan. I’m rather lazy and want my delicious treat with minimal effort; my answer to this is to tap the bubbles out and use either a blender or mixer.

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In Other Words…

So, I recently ran across this latest bit of mind-melting stupid:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417855/student-op-ed-yes-means-yes-not-enough-because-sometimes-yes-means-no-katherine-timpf

See if you can make your way through thing without either wanting to slap the original author for making things horrible for other women, or for driving men away from the rest of us for being so batshit crazy, they’ll give up on the whole thing, (And then the entitled bitches will accuse men who say no of reverse raping them. Yes, I know the linked things are satire articles/tweets, but I’ve had the misfortune of having heard it as an actual argument in meatspace, specifically: ‘a woman is supposed to have the right to choose the man who she wants to father her children and have sex with,  and if he says no he is denying her that choice that she made, it’s forcing his will over her, thus, he is reverse raping her.’ Apparently, men having a choice/saying no/refusing to date/marry/etc is RAPE NOW, oh my Gods I hate you stupid tumblrfeminazis, you make my sex look retarded.)

Anyway, moving on to the original thing that had me praying ‘please Gods, may they not pass on their idiocy, or if they do there needs be an extinction event’ (I exaggerate. Slightly. Not by much though.)

In the piece, Bosiljevac explains that she and her friends even came up with a phrase to describe someone having sex with you who you didn’t want to have sex with even though you told him that you did, which they apparently consider a form of rape: “We coined the term ‘raped by rape culture’ to describe what it was like to say yes, coerced by the culture that had raised us and the systems of power that worked on us, and to still want ‘no,’” she writes in the April 30 article, titled “Why Yes Can Mean No.”
Bosiljevac writes that she’s been dealing with the oppression of this culture her whole life — beginning with having to endure relatives kissing her cheeks “even as I winced and turned away” — and that it continues to influence her sexual decision-making abilities, almost to the point where she doesn’t seem to think she really has any ability to make those decisions at all.

She describes one incident in particular in which she had hooked up with a guy who had asked her outright if she was okay with what was happening and she had told him “yes” — explaining that even though she had said “yes,” she had really meant “no,” and it wasn’t really entirely her fault that she couldn’t just say what she wanted: “Sometimes, for me, there was obligation from already having gone back to someone’s room, not wanting to ruin a good friendship, loneliness, worry that no one else would ever be interested, a fear that if I did say no, they might not stop, the influence of alcohol, and an understanding that hookups are ‘supposed’ to be fun,” she writes.

First off, you mental emotional self-amputee, you clearly misinterpret gestures of affection as being all ‘sexual.’ That reveals a lot more about you than anything else, because fucking ew let’s not go down the rabbit hole of your demented fantasies. Thank goodness you’ve decided to come out as a prickly landmine with more triggers than a hedgehog has spines; men – she’s absolutely NOT WORTH THE DRAMA OR THE RISK OF A RAPE ACCUSATION, make note of her name and appearance and warn your mates off!
Also, she’s clearly mentally incompetent, since she’s pretty much declared that she has absolutely no ability to make up her own mind, make decisions for her own sake, and has utterly no agency, thus she cannot possibly be a rational adult, because those know how to think for themselves, and make a decision and fucking take responsibility for themselves. She’s horny? It’s your fault, you patriarchal alpha male.
In other words, modern day feminists are completely incapable of controlling their own minds or body. Instead of arguing now for the freedom to exercise their abilities, rights and stand equal to men in law and society, they’re… asking to be treated like blow up dolls? Or something? I mean, they’d be a starfish, lying there anyway, because they’re too busy psychoanalyzing their every thought and running the mental hamster wheel.
How the hell do they manage to not starve themselves to death, or tie their shoes, or realise something like “crossing in front of that moving car, away from the pedestrian crossing, on the highway, while the little nongendered figure thing is standing and red might get me killed?”
If anyone ever figures that out, let me know. I have the mental image of a bunch of them acting like whales that are suicidally beaching themselves as a group, because one of them decided to DEFY THE LIMITATIONS OF THEIR SPECIES and … oh wait most of these people fit the moniker landwhales. Never mind.
Hang on. If they’re landwhales, wouldn’t that mean that the opposite of beaching themselves would be drowning?

When Rights Don’t Trump Individual Safety.

This post was originally meant to be a comment over at Nicki’s The Liberty Zone. It’s a response to how a state over in the US has ruled that bathrooms must be male or female only. The discussion is about rights and government over-reach, and for the most part I agree with Nicki’s post, that a business should be allowed to decide whether or not they will accommodate transgender people being allowed to go into the restroom as the gender they identify as. But as Nicki said, this is not a simple question at all, and from my own limited observations, it is slowly escalating outside of the seemingly innocuous question of bathroom access.
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Old knowledge and Unfamiliar Settings

One of the things I find myself frequently doing is researching for something I want to include in a book. Sometimes I’ll find myself planning it out before the book itself is written, or, because I’ve had a stray thought while writing out a scene, and realising I don’t know how the process goes well enough to include a description of the character engaging in it – no, I don’t mean the character in question suddenly dropping in a ‘how to’ of tanning – unless it’s part of the story. The characters which populate my imagination are busy sorts – they like to keep their hands busy or use up the daylight well. Inevitably, because most of the stories I have are set in a fantasy, a number of the ‘way things are done’ rely heavily on traditional techniques.

Most of what I research does not end up in the book itself. It’s usually kept as -mostly handwritten- author’s notes or little scribbles in my concept notebook. This is part of my personal worldbuilding process, because it allows me to be able to visualise how the setting works – and what I can and cannot do with it. I’ve ended up with a library of DIY, off-grid, self sufficiency stuff because of that, and cookbooks that go along a similar vein; and I hat-tipped that kind of How To book with my bookish dragon, Sparrowind. This kind of book existed in real life as well, usually in the form of a housewife’s cookbook and household-management instructional – most of the book would be recipes, and maybe the last quarter would include things like how to make up household cleaners, furniture polish, and how to run your household efficiently. I’ve a couple of these, dating back to the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, inherited from my maternal great-grandmother. One of the books has a very basic first aid instructional section, which dealt with things ranging from splinters, to well, treating someone who had been hanged from a nearby tree and isn’t dead yet, while the other has instructions on how to dress a deer.

Why yes, I find it fascinating at how much a woman was expected to know back then, in order to be considered competent, compared to the ‘modern age’, where all too frequently, we have women who are unable to cook themselves a basic meal. I’m grateful my parents didn’t raise us like hothouse flowers and made a point to raise my brothers and I to know how to cook, clean, do the laundry – by hand!-, priortise and budget, shop for groceries, and organise ourselves. I’ve had a number of people praise me for how helpful my children are around the house, because even if it’s a chore as simple as helping me unpack and sort the groceries, they can do it. I then get a story about how that’s so rare amongst children now.

I relate this not to toot my own horn or disparage the modern woman (okay, too much), but to illustrate how differently things were done between my own childhood and my children’s and their peers. My siblings and I were taught how to do laundry by hand; my children were taught how to properly load the washing machine. The difference in what we needed to know lies entirely because in the differences of the settings we grew up in.

Those differences mean a LOT, which we often take for granted. For example, let’s take the availability of water.

When I was in Germany, we had a washing machine and a dryer, but when we returned to the Philippines, the area we ended up living in – and the era – was when we’d only get enough water pressure to the apartment during certain periods of the day – something unimaginable to someone who, until that point, only had to turn a tap and there was clean water. Now we had to make sure there was clean water stored up for cooking, drinking, washing dishes, and bathing in. Oh, and water needed to be boiled before you could drink from it, so when you factored in the cost of buying tanks of LPG gas, water was more expensive than soft drinks and soda; and the boiled water had a rather metallic aftertaste, so we would mix up 2 liter pitchers of Tang or Kool-Aid to mask it.

I left out laundry from that list because that needed to be scheduled – a laundry session typically took about four hours, so we couldn’t wait for the times when the water would be available in the house. The dirtiest clothes were soaked in water mixed with some detergent, while the not-so-dirty clothes were kept in a hamper. During weekends during school-times, and twice a week during school breaks, we’d take all that laundry out, with basins and bars of soap and hauled them to the sidewalk outside our small gated compound. By the wall outside our apartment there was a large spigot, installed by someone, that the neighborhood would use to fetch water from.

Well, we’d use the water once we’d let it run long enough so that it wasn’t rusty colored. We were lucky because further down the street, the spigot there had water that stayed slightly reddish – so sometimes the housewives and menfolk living there would carry their laundry over to our spigot to wash.

Using buckets and large hand-held ladles, we’d pour water into the basins and wash and scrub our clothes until they were clean – denim often scrubbed on a washboard and a plastic net sponge that helped scrub off the sweat, dirt and smell, as we crouched beside the basins, or sat on low wooden stools. My father’s white shirts had to be soaked in soap that had bluing incorporated in it. You had to change the water whenever it got too brown, which meant that you hauled out all the clothes you were cleaning, pile it next to you and pour the water out of a basin that was often more than a meter across, because while you were scrubbing one article of clothing, you’d be soaking some of the ones you were working on next. Then you’d fill the basin from buckets of water filled at that spigot, rinse off the dirt, and get back to cleaning. Each of us worked with our own washing basin, while the dirty clothes inhabited another, and the washed clothes were piled into another large basin. It took typically 2-3 washes (with soapy water and soap) and a rinse to get all the clothes clean, and you had to try wring out as much water as you could so it wouldn’t take ridiculous amounts of time to dry. Then it would be trudge back inside, with wet laundry, to hang them up to dry.

Sound like painful backache-inducing work? It was, and I think that was one of the main reasons why I didn’t need to do a lot of exercise as a teenager. But it was also rather social work, because we’d chat – with a neighbor who timed their laundry sessions with ours, or took advantage of the fact that the water was clean then, as we scrubbed washed and worked.

In my mother’s home village, there were neighbourhoods with communal deep wells with a hand pump – the larger ones took two people to pump. If you lived closer to the river though, you went to the river with your laundry, and then swam to wash your sweat away. I used to see people – usually wives, mothers, sisters and boys who weren’t big enough to work in the fields – wash their laundry there, chatting and laughing and gossiping. It wasn’t uncommon for as many as four households to load up their washing into wooden carts and push them to the river, or hook up a cart to a water buffalo and take the trip to the river and wash clothes, animal and other hard to clean things there, have a picnic lunch at the river then go back home after a quick wash in the river to bring the clothes back to dry.

My grandmother’s house had its own deep well, which they didn’t have to share, which had enough water pressure to allow there to be a sink in the kitchen, and an outdoor bathroom and a flushing toilet – one where you didn’t have to fill a pail of water to flush the toilet with. There was a bathroom at the house too, but it was a later addition. The water from the deep well was also clean, so you didn’t need to boil the water before you drank it. Compared to a lot of other places, it was downright luxurious because of the water. (The kitchen, by the way, was a wood-fire kitchen and the kitchen fire was fed by corn cobs from the family corn field.)

If that sounded hard and awful and primitive, I don’t have any concept of how hard it was when soap wasn’t very common, or when you had to make your own soap. I can’t imagine too well what it’s like for people in a pre-industrial society to do that, especially if they had changing seasons. It’s things like that that shape how local cultures work, how they do things, how they plan things, how their social habits form.

That’s why I read about them. I can’t live those eras, or see them firsthand, but if the people of the societies they’re based notionally off of are going to interact with my characters, they’ll have their own methods and schedules, some of which are inflexible enough that my characters may need to work around them.  I won’t have a historian-accurate setting – often times I won’t need it to be accurate down to the way that they made nails – but I do need enough of it in my head at the least, to be able to plonk my characters into that setting and sometimes use those everyday limits of society as roadblocks to my characters.

Some stories turn those everyday things as massive challenges for the characters. A great example of this is found in the light novel series Grimgar of Fantasy And Ash. The story focuses on a bunch of modern-day young people who find themselves in a fantasy world, with no memories other than their names, they are given no choice except to be recruited as members of the Frontier Army’s Reserve Force – which are essentially freelance, or mercenary monster exterminators, who go hunting monsters, and bring back bounty items stolen from the corpses to trade. Hinting that this is somewhat like a Sword Art Online trapped in a video game plot, the newbies are given 10 silver pieces at the start and have to buy their own equipment, guild membership and food. Unlike Sword Art Online, this story follows the difficulties of a group that has problems killing the equivalent version of the level 1-3 monsters in a video game, without even having the benefit of information beyond ‘you need to do this or die.’ It’s so bad that they are forced to avoid excess use of the clothes that they wear under their armour, and something as simple to us as salt is expensive and is used sparingly. Even dying is expensive, as you have to cremate the body to prevent it from rising as a zombie.

Great stories can be found everywhere, if you know how to look.

I mean, if you got this far, you read several paragraphs of me describing how we used to do laundry.

grin

 

 

WordPress gets HTTPS

A good number of my fellows use WordPress so I figured this would be of interest to them.

HTTPS Everywhere: Encryption for All WordPress.com Sites

 

Better site security is a good thing, especially if it helps you protect your private information. I know some nutjobs would say ‘oh, if you’re scared about the government, then you have something to hide!’ crap, but really, waving the government around like a huge red flag trying to get the bull to charge ignores the other guy sneaking up behind it – namely: computer crime still exists, and it is a good idea to secure your site against those legitimate concerns. I’m not a security expert, just some person who wants to make her living writing, but HTTPS is a GOOD THING – especially if you’re using your WordPress to manage your online business or professional blog. WordPress getting you that bit of extra security built in for your site, if you use WordPress hosting, is a seriously awesome thing, because if you’re the average blogger (like myself) you’re not likely to know much about the latest in online security or protection or even more than basic HTML tags (the ones that give you italics, bold, images and links are about the extent of my HTML knowledge.)

 

I repeat my statement about not being an online security expert, so please just use the links and my opinion as a starting point for further research from a mostly consumer’s POV, and as someone thinking about wanting to sell a product online (In my case, books/art). If you think I’m an uneducated idiot, spare us both wasting the time and browse away.

Anyone still here, feel free to go on.

So, why is HTTPS a good thing? Instead of trying to explain it and mangle the explanation, I’ll quote and link some of the people who DO know what they’re talking about.

From the EFF:

When does HTTPS Everywhere protect me? When does it not protect me?

Dragoncon’s New Award

Because I’m not online as much as I used to, I guess I’m a little late to the party celebrating the establishment of the Dragon Awards, just very recently announced.

Welcome to the first annual Dragon Awards! As a part of our 30th Anniversary as the nation’s largest fan-run convention, we are introducing a new way to recognize excellence in all things Science Fiction and Fantasy. These awards will be by the fans, for the fans, and are your chance to reward those who have made real contributions to SF, books, games, comics, and shows. Not only can you nominate and vote, the Dragon Awards lets you share your support with others!

Read the rest at the site.

I think this is a good thing, quite honestly. As I don’t live in the US, I have only heard of DragonCon from friends, or read about it, over the years. It’s a pretty freaking huge con, with lots and lots of people going, and it always sounded like lots of fun to me.

I think it’s a wonderful thing that there is an award for Science Fiction and Fantasy at DragonCon, as it seems to be a natural outgrowth of the popularity of the convention.  I especially like how they didn’t attach a monetary value just for the privilege of nominating and voting for the year’s favorite works by fan vote. Anyone can participate, and I think in the long run that actually is more representative of the enjoyment of the fanbase.

I’m also rather happy that video games have a representation here, because there are lots of games now with very immersive storylines, well crafted multidimensional characters and absolutely engaging characters – and some of these games don’t have to have shiny graphics, although it helps a lot with some players with building the atmosphere itself. I’d like to think that for a really good game, you need to have more than just shiny graphics, but at least this way the stories that make part of the game would be recognised.

I’m rather hoping that English-translated manga and light novels will have some representation here, because I think it takes talent to be able to translate a foreign language work into English and still get the story across – after all, ‘Lost In Translation’ happens a lot and manages to butcher many a fine work that would otherwise be completely unappreciated.

I think that the categories could be further refined and expanded to include things such as shorter works but hey, it’s the first year. There are bound to be some rough edges, but I expect those to be smoothened out as the years go.

So, if you have a sci-fi or fantasy work in any of the listed categories that came out new in the last year and part of this year (you’ll have to look at the range of dates on the site) that you feel you enjoyed enough for an award recognition, do nominate or vote for it! Let’s join in an award for the works most enjoyed by the fans at this wonderfully popular convention!