Monthly Archives: June 2018

New Game Console

So, my son Vincent decided that he was tired of playing the XBox One, XBox 360, the PS2 and the Nintendo 64 and the DreamCast,  … and he had a Christmas gift card he hadn’t used yet. He decided on a new game console, suitable for 2018 gaming.

That’s what he came home with.

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Writer Emptor

Every one of us has the dream of becoming popular enough with our readers that we will be able to set aside our day job and simply work at writing – be the next Larry Correia or Andrew Weir. That we will be able to pay attention to only the work of crafting our story, and someone else would handle the nitty gritty details of financial remuneration and accounting, the contracts and such – the ‘icky’ business side of writing.

I’ll be honest and say that the mindset – especially when it comes to financial matters – gives me the heebie-jeebies. Granted, I’m not the best person when it comes to finances; but I do know the basics and how to prioritise them; so I can understand why the mindset has appeal.

But that mindset is where predators can swoop in. And have. Dear God, they have.

I’ll spare the gruesome details here because you can read about them written by people far more able than I to write about these abuses. Mario Puzo can’t write about it any more, but the guy who wrote Fight Club was a victim, and he did.

Mad Genius Club has a post about it. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been writing about this kind of thing for years, and finally she has the smoking gun. And the effects. Which is being hushed up – the reaction to this is frankly, stunning… but unsurprising. It’s a bit akin to people who were at a terrorist attack, except that they’ve been victimised for years. You don’t want to admit when you’ve been a victim in circumstances like these, and the predators and abusers don’t want their cover blown. And in fairness, there are likely to be honest literary agents out there who see this as a big threat to their jobs when they’ve done nothing wrong. There are new writers who w

Everyone has a very good reason to be scared, and not want to see the reality.

Me, I just feel sad for the people who are victims of this. I mean, nobody can tell me that Mario Puzo’s estate for his books, the licensing of the movies, etc, isn’t in the multimillions. It also makes me angry that it seems that the other clients of Donadio & Olson seem to be unaware of this happening.

 

Some writers represented by the agency told The Post they had not been contacted about the theft, and did not know if it affected their royalties.

“This is the first I heard of it,” said McKay Jenkins, a nonfiction author.

Bert Fields, a lawyer representing the Puzo estate, said he learned of the arrest from The Post.

The alleged theft was first discovered last fall when an unidentified author who was expecting to receive a $200,000 advance from his publisher asked Webb why he had not received the payment.

According to the complaint, Webb put the author off for months.

“The author did not receive the payment because Webb had converted the funds to Webb’s own use,” says the complaint.

“The agency’s singular focus at this time is ensuring that all of its impacted clients are made whole to the greatest extent possible, and the agency is cooperating in every possible way with the government’s efforts,” said Matthew Adams, a lawyer for Donadio & Olson.

Calls and an e-mail to Webb’s attorneys were not returned.

 

That’s insane. It’s unthinkable. It’s the kind of ‘don’t tell the passengers we’re sinking’ cover-your-ass. Why weren’t the clients told – they have every right to be. But as Kristine has pointed out, there are no oversights for literary agents, and no enforcement. So it’s no surprise.

Good luck to the authors and creators who have been hurt by this crime. I wish you the best, and hope you get the earnings you were due.

 

 

 

Chocolate Crinkles

A tray of chocolate crinkles

Mmmm… cookie-brownie nom nom nom

My son made a batch of these for his girlfriend’s birthday; they were a great hit! (They’re still young, so he got a kiss on the cheek.) ^_^

The most tedious part of the recipe is rolling the cookie dough in one’s palm to make a ball. If you have a small ice cream scoop though, some of that mess is mitigated.

I prefer using butter to vegetable oil because it gives that richer, more decadent flavour; you can substitute with melted margarine or coconut oil if you prefer, but bear in mind that the latter will affect the taste.

Print Recipe
Chocolate Crinkles
A cross between a cookie and a brownie, these are super easy to make and cheap! Give 'em a twist with a touch of cinnamon, or dried fruit bits; or sprinkles! If adding chocolate chips however, be sparing as the cookie might end up crumbling instead.
Servings
cookies, or so
Ingredients
Servings
cookies, or so
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Sift together all dry ingredients except the coffee powder and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together all wet ingredients, plus the coffee and salt. Make sure they are thoroughly combined.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry. With either a paddle attachment or a silicone spoon, stir together until a dough is formed, and all the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge for four hours to overnight.
  5. Prepare a bowl filled with the icing sugar. Using a small spoon, or rolling out the dough into logs, make 1 inch balls of dough (or 2 inch balls.)
  6. Roll the dough balls in icing sugar and place on a lined baking tray, about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade / 350 degrees F, for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake, or you lose the chewy texture of the cookies! (For 2 inch balls, about 15 minutes.)
  8. Cool for about 10 minutes on tray before removing. Cookies should be a somewhat cakey texture, chewy, but not falling apart. Excellent slightly warm, or with tea or coffee.
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Mocha Chiffon Cake Filipino Style

Double layered mocha chiffon cake with mocha meringue buttercream

Mocha Chiffon Cake Filipino Style, aka ‘Goldilocks Style’

Mocha Chiffon Cake – Filipino Style aka “Goldilocks Style”

This is my own version of the Filipino style Mocha Chiffon Cake that I did a roll cake of the last time.  I use more coffee in the mix,  as I found that the flavour was a little too mild otherwise.

The little coffee bean chocolates came from the Phiippines, and are basically ground coffee granules, in very dark, very coffee-infused chocolate. They are yum.

I like my cakes moist and buttery, so you may want to experiment and reduce the butter on the recipe of the cake. Have fun and enjoy!

Print Recipe
Filipino-Style Mocha Chiffon Cake
A moist, yet fluffy chiffon cake filled with surprisingly light coffee flavor, covered in smooth meringue buttercream frosting.
Course dessert
Passive Time 4 hours to overnight
Servings
8 inch 2 layer cake or 1 roll cake
Ingredients
For the chiffon cake:
For the meringue buttercream
Course dessert
Passive Time 4 hours to overnight
Servings
8 inch 2 layer cake or 1 roll cake
Ingredients
For the chiffon cake:
For the meringue buttercream
Instructions
Make the cake:
  1. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together until pale yellow and creamy
  2. Dissolve coffee & cocoa powder in a tablespoon of hot water, stirring. Pour into egg mixture with melted butter, and beat until well combined.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and fold in with wooden spoon or with the stand mixer's paddle attachment.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the 6 egg whites & cream of tartar on high until they form stiff peaks. Fold into mocha batter, until just incorporated.
  5. Divide into 2 prepared 8-inch cake pans. Place each pan onto a baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade, for 20-25 minutes or until a bamboo skewer inserted into the middle comes out with just a few crumbs attached.
  7. Cool on a wire rack, for 10 minutes, before removing completely from the baking pans to cool on wire rack.
  8. Cool completely (even overnight) before frosting.
Make the frosting:
  1. Set your mixing bowl in a pan of simmering water (for ease of use, use your stand mixer's bowl) and whisk egg whites and sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, until fluffy, marshmallow-like and hot. You may need a separate hand-held electric hand mixer for this.
  2. Remove bowl from heat, scrape the handheld's whisks free of marshmallow meringue, and then using your stand mixer, beat the meringue for another 5 minutes with the whisk attachment.
  3. Add half the butter and beat until smooth. (You may opt to use the paddle attachment for this, or stay with the whisk attachment) Add the rest of the butter, beat until smooth again. Scrape sides, stir buttercream mixture quickly, then go back to beating for 6 to 10 minutes.
  4. Dissolve cocoa, coffee and vanilla extract in a very small amount of hot water, stirring vigorously.
  5. Add to buttercream and beat on high for a further 2-3 minutes, scraping as needed.
  6. Use to put a layer of buttercream between the cakes, and to frost and decorate the cake.
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Why Humans Have Different Skin Colors

I  mentioned that I went back to the Philippines recently, and brought back lots of stuff. One of the things I also brought home was a container of whitening lotion – to use on my elbows, which tend to darken because I lean on them a lot while typing or drawing, and since I do a lot of that, they darken (as well as dry out) on a regular basis. I’ll cheerfully admit to my vanity that I have even skin tone – a lovely golden toast color, that I have no desire to whiten, the way a lot of Filipinos, and well, Asians want to. I don’t agree with the latter explanations of the post; white skin in Asian culture is tied to wealth and nobility, and existed as a paragon of beauty (for both men and women) – note the reference to pre-Qin China.

Personally, skin colour is one of those things I’ve never paid attention to in my dealings with people. I treat everyone the same – entirely dependent on how the person I am interacting with behaves. (Apparently, that’s ‘racist and discriminatory’ to some folks who haven’t picked up a dictionary within the last 50 years, the claim of which makes no sense, since it’s the other person’s behaviour toward me that I’m judging them by, e.g. their own actions and words.) I’m big on treating people as people, which is far less stressful and aging than constantly being on the lookout for something small and petty to be offended by. There are bigger things to get upset about, but that’s a discussion for some other time.

Me, I like my golden toast skin hue (It’s a permanent, perfect sun-kissed tan that I never have to work on!); although since I live in Australia, it makes it a bit hard to find make up at times. Fortunately, I am not the only Asian in Australia, and there are Asian grocery stores and such that I can source the occasional specific-to-my-ethnic-mix cosmetic needs, which are not, fortunately for me, that great a need. (Just need a thin layer of foundation so that the make up has that to cling to, in order to last longer. (More of the blush than anything else, really.) I should’ve picked up a pack of that face powder while I was back in the Philippines, but I forgot, having other priorities at the time. No biggie; and I’m not going to scream ‘BUT THAT IS UNFAIR’ (if I do, I’m joking; much in the same way I make fun about my being short, and there being no lovely thigh-high boots for someone as short as me that also has curves in my calves and thighs.) Also, seriously, there’s the Internet, and if I really was looking for that and willing to pay for it, I am pretty sure I could find that face powder.

Still, the reality is, folks have skin hues, as part of their physical descriptor; and frankly, that’s a better alternative to transparent skin. Can you imagine what that would be like? Seeing one’s muscles, bared? No thanks. Besides, this completely ignores the benefits of skin hues and melanin. Long and short of it is though, physical description is part of of how we tell each other apart – it’s how humans are able to identify a friend or a member of your family, because unlike other animals, we don’t identify each other by scent. We do it with our eyeballs and the use of our disproportionately huge brains. There are numerous theories why different groups have different skin colours (my main one is ‘evolutionary development in response to environmental exposure to the sun and it’s strength in varying regions of the world’) as well as legends, myths and folk tales that served as an explanation for our ancient fore-bearers. They served well enough that these folks got on with the business of living instead of sitting there, paralysed by ‘why?’ and starving to death.

A friend of mine recently told Rhys one of the more humorous Filipino folk tales as to why human beings all have different skin colours. It goes somewhat like this:

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Cyborg Prosthetics Has Ongoing Development

As much as I like Ghost In The Shell, in truth, the very idea of merging organic musculature and nerves with machinery has been something I’ve been having problems conceiving. Fortunately for the rest of the world, Japan is not limited by my knowledge of biochemistry and mechanical engineering. A robotic finger uses it’s lab-grown muscles to lift an object – which might not seem like such a huge advancement to people expecting, but most people don’t really think about how complicated joint control, muscle movements and neural signals are – until they lose the ability to use their hands.  While primitive in appearance, the advancement in artificial muscular response to electrical stimuli is still a large step forward in not just partially organic prosthetics, but also potentially in purely organic repair of muscle function – at least in my view.

While full limb biohybrid mechanical prosthesises are still far off, this new development opens up the possibility of (relatively) small advancements that can be practically applied. As I’ve noted above… fingers are very complex, and you don’t miss them until you don’t have them any more.