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linda mcallister
23 July 2010 @ 06:05 pm
I was on jury duty this week, sort of. I was really looking forward to it, and had a stack of paperbacks to take along to fill all the downtime.  Even the thought of going to downtown San Jose was perversely exciting.

So what happened?  Did I get to hold someone's fate in my hands?  Did I get to try to convince my fellow good citizens and true of how right my opinion was?  No.  As usual, all I got to do was check the court web site twice a day to find out they didn't want me. 

They probably would have thown me off for excessive sneezing anyway. 
Current Mood: chipperchipper
linda mcallister
18 July 2010 @ 05:18 pm

I've read two of this year's Hugo novel nominees, and I have to say I'm underwhelmed.


The first was Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. I would have liked this a lot more if the author had a less florid style, rather than one that screamed “look at me, I'm writing!”. Much of the book is written in the present tense, which may have been meant to give it an exotic feel, but pulls me out of the story. I sort of buy the premise that we're past peak oil and that evil GMOs have run rampant over the world destroying crops, but it seemed to me that much of the technology seemed to be more plot-driven rather than coherent (lessee, we can do all this nifty gene manipulation and even build artificial people: we have all the tech we need for that but somehow have forgotten about long-distance communications, like radios?) On the plus side, it did feature my favorite family, the Solanaceae.


Next was Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. This is the sort of book I really should like: alternate history, set in a place I'm familiar with, zombies, neato machines, pirates – what's not to like? A lot.


Rant about BoneshakerCollapse )


Current Mood: irritatedirritated
linda mcallister
18 July 2010 @ 04:48 pm
Last week I made ginger ale: grated ginger, sugar, water, yeast. It came out not too sweet, definitely fizzy (and didn't explode!), and a little yeasty. Next I'm going to try tamarindo.
linda mcallister
01 July 2010 @ 03:59 pm
We got four avocados off the tree this year, by which I mean four we could actually use. I lost count of how many the squirrels got, but this is the first year in a long time that they've saved any for us. Or didn't manage to get all of them. OTOH, we were here for the week all the sour cherries ripened, and picked a lot (there are still plenty we couldn't reach left for the jays). Other than the tree crops, nothing has been doing well this year. I've about given up on the tomatoes, the peppers rarely produce anyway, and I seem to be the one person on the planet who can't grow zucchini. Maybe I'll start some leaf crops for the fall: that will guarantee we get hot weather this month.
linda mcallister
27 June 2010 @ 05:50 pm
I made strawberry preserves on Thursday. It's been quite a while since I made preserves, since I don't eat them all that often, and the way I learned how to make them involved boiling paraffin, which 1) isn't as easy to find as it used to be and 2) is a tad on the hazardous side. But we were over by the coast the previous day and picked up a flat of berries, so something had to be done. This time I decided to can them: if I can put up a batch of chicken stock every three months how hard would it be to put up something that doesn't require a pressure cooker?

The first step was finding a recipe. My 1930s cookbook had one calling for "half a bottle" of pectin (OK, how big is a bottle?). An internet search came up with a number of recipes that had little in common except requiring strawberries and sugar. So, when in doubt go with the easiest option - strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Wash strawberries, add sugar and lemon, boil until it gels. Simple. So why doesn't the thermometer not read over 200F? And why does it keep going down? It wasn't designed for sugar but the degrees should be the same, right? (I have some theories why it was reading low, one of them being that it's just not accurate.) Finally resorted to the old-fashioned visual method of dropping hot liquid into ice water and watching what happened. Poured into jars: the four pints the recipe promised were more like 2.5. Process. Clean up red sticky mess from everywhere.

It looks like preserves. It tastes like strawberries. The process wasn't as bad as I remembered - I'm thinking of doing blood-orange marmalade next - after I get a decent candy thermometer.
linda mcallister
25 June 2010 @ 06:17 pm
Or do they just not know that chickens don't normally have much to do with coups? Of that if the author is describing a scene set in Europe in the 5th century it's highly unlikely that characters are going to be wearing raccoon skin anythings? The offender: The Child Thief, by Brom, complete with so-so illustrations by the author. (It was a freebie - I didn't buy it on purpose!).
linda mcallister
03 June 2010 @ 07:30 pm
Me neither. I've read a few that weren't bad, but none that I'd call really good. I think it's all due to what I call Bloated Middle Syndrome, and it primarily affects fiction. And I blame programs like Word. It's getting hard to find a book that's less than 250 pages. I suspect that a lot of writers have good ideas and decent enough plots to fill what used to be a standard-sized novel, but their editors tell them they need to be big to sell big. So they resort to padding. And repetition. And repetitive padding. I picked up Kushiel's Dart recently (a giveaway at some convention and I've been toying with reading it since a lot of Wiscon attendees seem to like it, but it clocks in at 900+ pages. It's physically hard to hold, which is another problem.

I'm getting more selective in what I buy to read these days, since we're practicing the Law of Equivalent Exchange these days - if a book comes into the house, one must go out. The problem is all the freebies from years of World Fantasy: I do a first pass to cull the ones I know I'll never read: Celtic fantasies, authors I've disliked in the past, first volumes of trilogies (or second or third or fourth volumes), fantasies studded with proper nouns with umlauts and apostrophes, fantasies with the ocean on the left...come to think of it, the book I read on the trip to Wiscon had a lot of these features (and was heavily padded as well, which just goes to show something).

That's why I read a lot of non-fiction today, although entirely too much of that suffers from the "It's really all about me" syndrome, in which the author concludes that his or her own experiences are so much more interesting than the subject. I wanted to like "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" more than I did; I want to know more about why this particular strain of cells is so aggressive. But it seemed that every time the narrative started picking up steam the author had to digress into a description of her own experiences in getting the story.

So what's good out there, and how do I find it?
linda mcallister
15 November 2009 @ 12:04 pm

At least in her opinion: pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/44616363@N04/sets/72157622672368105/detail/

On Tuesday, Jirel, our year-old calico, went out and having absolutely no concept of danger or common sense headed up the neighbor's redwood, the tallest tree on the block. She got about 25' up and couldn't figure out how to get down. Of course she picked a spot out of reach, and it was almost dark Remebering the adage that one rarely sees cat skeletons in trees we decided to let her find her own way down – just jump, you dumb feline.

linda mcallister
14 October 2009 @ 06:34 pm
I finished The Grapes of Wrath last night, appropriately gloomy reading for a rainstorm.  It has everything -  evil capitalists, evil capitalist tools, desertion, sex, starvation, dead babies - all told in Okie dialect that's sometimes a chore to wade through.  Rich had to read it in high school in Alabama: either someone was being deliberately subversive or they didn't have a clue as to what the book was about.
linda mcallister
13 October 2009 @ 04:19 pm
We were cruel to Jirel today: we let her go outside in the rain.  She's managed to escape a few times before but we wanted her to calm down a bit (ok, a lot) before letting her out.  She was bound and determined to see the big world Ivan gets to play in and at first the rain wasn't going to stop her.  This lasted for about 30 seconds, or until she made it past the edge of the eaves.  Then she tried to hide under the back steps and howl for us to come rescue her, until she got tired and came back in.  Ivan has decided he's not getting off the bed until spring.

It's been raining all day.  My school walk was canceled since taking a pack of 3rd graders into a heavily-wooded area is Not A Good Idea during a windstorm.  It hasn't been as windy here as expected, yet, but we've gotten well over an inch, judging by my extremely unscientific and not exactly accurate bucket; the city's claiming over 4 inches up in the hills.   If it lightens up for awhile I'll walk down to the creek at the end of the street to see how much water's in it: it was bone dry on Sunday.  It's too early in the season for it to overflow, but after the Great Flood of '98 I like to keep an eye on it.  At least we still have power.