Okay, this site is pretty much dead...

Please go to www.blog.deannaknippling.com. It's not perfect, but it's home now. I'm going to leave the content here for a little longer, but there will be no new updates.


Writing Contest

I entered Scalzi's SciFi Writing Contest over at AMC, Option 9:

9. Stung by the reviews of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that describe the flick as being utterly without any redeeming qualities, director Michael Bay declares that the next Transformers movie will have a story and script based on one of the plays of William Shakespeare. In no more than two paragraphs, write a synopsis of that movie, using any Shakespeare play you like. NOTE: No fair using Titus Andronicus.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S MACHINE (2013): Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox return in Michael Bay's latest installment in the Transformer series. Sam Witwicky (LeBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (Fox) have split up. Mikaela is about to get married to Max McNabber (Simon Pegg), while Sam is about to propose to Elaine D'Lessoin (Malin Akerman), who used to be his girlfriend - until Elaine accidentally betrayed Max, a scientist who had discovered how to use a fragment of the AllSpark to interface a human brain with a machine.

After Optimus Prime's (Peter Cullen) AI is accidentally exchanged with the mind of Agent Reggie Simmons (John Turturro),* Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and Starscream (Charlie Adler) are free to wreck havoc on the humans. However, a mysterious female robot, Nightbird (Sigourney Weaver) attacks Megatron, accusing him of betraying her - Nightbird is the result of a human-Decepticon experiment abandoned by Megatron. Starscream tricks Nightbird into blaming Optimus Prime while simultaneously attempting to transfer Megatron's AI into Agent Simmon's body, destroying Optimus Prime's mind. Nightbird traps Optimus Prime (with Agent Simmons' body). It's up to Sam, Max, Mikaela, and Elaine to resolve their differences, discover how to return Optimus Prime and Agent Simmons to their own bodies, and trick Megatron and Nightbird before Megatron can take over Optimus Prime's brain and destroy them all.**

*I.e., an ass.
**I almost want to see this now. And of course the resolution will include a fake-death scene. O Pyramis!

[Insert snickering to self.]

Continued issues with WordPress at the other site

...but I really like playing with their toys, so I will probably persevere.

Thanks, Dave and Doyce :)

On cursing.

Somebody gave me what has to be the first reason not to curse that I can respect:

"It takes no discipline to curse."

Just so.

Except, personally, I disagree.

I grew up so shy, so self-contained, and so afraid of breaking the rules that cussing is a sanity check for me. If I let one slip and proceed to panic, I know I Need to Calm Down.

I had to practice to be able to curse, out loud, in front of other people. (I still would rather walk around pantsless than try to spit in front of someone.)

I still think cursing at someone to make them feel bad is repulsive. I do it sometimes and am repulsed. I feel embarrassed about cursing in front of someone who finds it offensive or improper (or excessive). I also feel embarrassed when a ridiculous number of cuss words show up in my novel - on the level of using too many exclamation points or adverbs. I feel like cursing in the car is losing my cool when I need it most.

But, in general, it takes me more discipline to keep myself relaxed enough to curse and not grit my teeth afterwards than to keep my mouth shut in the first place.



My blog is moving - to www.blog.deannaknippling.com.


Recipe: Butternut Coconut Soup

I don't like squash. It's mushy. It's baby food. It's bland. And sometimes it's spaghetti squash, which for some reason I find absolutely disgusting even to look at.


But someone was talking about making butternut squash soup, and it sounded good, so I made some.
Lee: Are you planning to make anything for supper tonight?
De: Butternut coconut soup. But I don't think you'll like it...whatever you make, make some for Rachael, okay? I don't think she'll like it either. I may not like it either. But I need to experimente.
Lee: Okay.
They had peanut butter marshmallow grilled sandwiches, which I think might be the perfect accompaniment to the soup.

Being generally against the idea of squash and the eating thereof, I have no idea what to do with them. I look up a butternut squash soup recipe on the internet. Step 1: Roast at 350F for 1.5 hours. Hm. I don't hate squash enough to spend that much time torturing it. I decide to peel the squash and saute it.

With my good, sharp, trusty knife, I cut the squash in half lengthwise, which is like cutting a 2-by-4 with a wet noodle. Wow, that was tough, I think. Maybe peeling it will be easier.

After jamming my fingernails several times into the peel and getting painful Chinese-under-the-fingernail torture, I realize peeling the butternut squash is a bad plan.

I turn on the oven. I turn off the oven. I'm NOT roasting something for 1.5 hours just to get the damned peel off. I turn toward the microwave, which whimpers.

Which was not nearly as amusing as the sound of the butternut squash screaming after 3 minutes nuked on high. HAHAHA! I should have pricked the flesh with a fork, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. However, the squash is still not coming out of its peel, so I nuke it some more...about ten or eleven minutes total. I'm not sure how long; as soon as I could scrape each piece off its peel, I pulled it off the plate. Also, I kept opening the microwave door as Lee and Ray walk by, so they can hear the squash screaming too.

Meanwhile, I chopped half a red onion and a couple of tablespoons of ginger and sauteed them in a few Tbs of butter. I added a teaspoon of Rogan Josh seasoning, which I got from Penzey's last year. A year! It's a shame; I really don't know how to handle Indian spices, and all I'm using the RJ for is seasoning food that turns out to be too bland, while I'm at work.

Then, knife in hand...

Hassan Chop!

...I spy the McIntosh apple sitting on the counter.

Now, the McIntosh apples I find at the grocery store are nowhere near as good as the apples we used to have on the farm, at least as far as I can remember. The flesh is too mushy, not crisp enough (my perfect apples, in non-memoryland, are Pink Lady, so far). But the McIntoshes still smell right, the one true apple breed as far as I'm concerned. If I ever get around to making cider, I'll have to start with McIntosh.

Goodbye, apple.

Then I add one container of coconut milk. Coconut milk is one of those things that, if you're going to buy it, get a reasonably pricy brand. Cheapass coconut milk is AWFUL. I got the Sunflower house brand this time, and it was just fine.

Things are starting to come together in the soup pot. It smells good, anyway. But I can't resist screwing around, so I add a tablespoon of peanut butter.

I'm more used to the Thai flavor profile than the Indian, so I'm thinking in Thai, coconut + peanuts = good. And it's tasty. Not spectacular or anything, but tasty.

After I got the kitchen cleaned up and simmered the stuff for about 10 minutes, I pureed it all in the blender. [Insert blender sound effects here.]

I make Lee and Ray taste it:
Lee: It's okay...it tastes like squash.

Ray: It's missing the main thing.
Me: What's that?
Ray: Well, coconut.
Me: I put a whole can of coconut in it and I'm not going to do anymore.
Ray: [Walks away. Probably the safest option at that point.]
I thought it was too bland.

So I added another teaspoon of RJ. And a teaspoon of true cinnamon. And a teaspoon of thyme, because it sounded good. And a teaspoon of salt.

Hm...suddenly I can taste the peanut butter, in a good way. Not enough onion; red was probably a poor choice, and half an onion not nearly enough. And spicier = better. Not enough to make my nose run, though, so I'll probably add some more when I reheat the leftovers.

Conclusion: DEATH TO SQUASH!

I would eat butternut squash again, if in a spicy dish for sure, and I would consider using pumpkin instead of butternut squash here. I really don't eat pumpkin, either. Could be interesting...

Suggested recipe:

1 butternut squash, heated to mushiness via microwave (about 10 minutes) and peeled
2T butter (or more)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 T ginger, minced
1 McIntosh apple, or anything but a Red Delicious, diced (didn't bother peeling, no issues)
1 small can of coconut milk, and an equal amount of water (or 2x the amount; the soup was really thick)
2t Rogan Josh seasoning (cardamom, bay, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne according to one recipe)
1t cinnamon
1t thyme
1t salt (or to taste)

Saute the onion, ginger, Rogan Josh, and apple in butter. When the onion is translucent and soft, add the coconut milk and water and bring to a simmer. Add the squash as you remove it from its skin, chopping the squash roughly if necessary. Simmer about ten minutes, then puree. Add cinnamon, thyme, and salt to taste, and serve.





Because I said so, and it makes me happy.


On the importance of importance.

Sadly, I don't know that I have anything to say that can't be said in 14o characters or fewer. If you see a blog post after this, I must have figured out something to say...

I've been thinking over the last couple of days about things that are important. What is, what isn't, and why.

Is being right important? Is being nice important? Which is more important?

Is being "good" at something important? Is having "fun" important? What about being so obsessed about something that you get good at it, is that even healthy? Should I let Ray go off the deep end about various things, trusting that she'll be back eventually? Do I even have a choice? What's the difference between going nuts about something and not knowing what else to do with your time?

When I don't have time for the things I love, what do I give up? I can only give up so much downtime before my brain fries. Why does everything have to be so important? Why do I have to care about EVERYTHING? Why do I let myself get backed into doing something I don't love, don't want to do, but feel to guilty to abandon? On the one hand, you have to try new things, or you'll never find out whether you'll like something or not, but on the other hand, when do you burn your bridges on something you're trying out?

Why don't I make time for the things I want to do? Why am I so attached to commitments that aren't worth my time?

In the middle of all this, my position at work is on very shaky bedrock. I probably won't get fired tomorrow, but the next few months will be rough. Do I take a job I don't like? I'm not ready to go freelance, for financial reasons, but more than 50% of my brain is saying, "please fire me...please fire me..."

I'm not working much on computer stuff. Thinking about computers makes me panic, honestly, and I keep telling myself that I have to get the novel out before I can go back to computer stuff. But I obsess about it daily. I'm pretty sure being an IT tech is not the job for me. I mean, it's bedrock stuff, and I'd be ashamed not to know it, but I've been skimming through Lee's Make magazines, and the articles about fussing around with hardware just don't twirl my eggs.* (It's the programming stuff that I drool over.)

But I haven't been writing lately, either. I've been reading books, because I haven't had time to read books lately, and that's what made me feel the worst. Also, when I'm reading books, the back of my brain is usually secretly sorting something out. But I'm not accomplishing anything while I read books, so I feel bad about that...

I've spent years doing what I was supposed to do. Maybe not to the same extent that other people do, but I've been doing it, being jerked around by it. I'm frustrated with doing what I'm supposed to do, but I don't know that I could ever succeed at doing what I want to do (especially with as mixed up as I am now).

Good severance package...good severance package...no whammies...no whammies...

*I was going to type "pump my nads" but I realized that's not what it was...this seemed to be both parallel and accurate.


Recipe: Notes on Quiche

This turned out to be delicious, so I better write it down. I intend to try the croissant crust on a fruit pie - quite tasty, and very convenient.

1 can refrigerated croissant rolls
1 bunch of spinach (or 1 10-oz package of frozen spinach), rinsed and chopped
4 green onions, chopped
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 eggs
1/3 c cream
1/2 pkg (4 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
about 3/4 c finely grated cheese, pressed (that is, not completely fluffed up. about like brown sugar, if you know what I mean) - I used about 1/3 smoked cheddar and 2/3 parmesan
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the croissant dough, squishing to seal the seams. The dough will get pretty dark around the edges; you may want to cover with foil. Don't cover the middle of the quiche with foil, regardless, or you'll prevent tasty browning.

Saute the garlic, green onions, and spinach in olive oil for a few minutes over medium-high heat, until the spinach has turned dark green and has released some of its water. Remove from heat.

Beat the cream cheese in a blender, adding the eggs and cream, until all the cream cheese is blended in. Be sure to scrape the sides of the beating bowl.

Mix the spinach mixture, cheese, and salt and pepper into the egg mixture. Pour into the pie pan, set on a cookie sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is just set, plus about 2-3 minutes. Let the quiche cool for 10 minutes to finish setting. The center should be thick but just a bit moist.


Something new.

So I've started studying for A+.

Yesterday I had a moment of complete zzzt, which ended up with me begging for Lee to hold me and let me blubber. Going into computers--which is the plan--is something completely new.

I'm not worried about the test. Tests. Pfft.

I'm worried about being able to fix people's computers. Which makes it sound more noble than it is; I'm worried about failing more than I'm worried about people having expensive paperweights.

Lee told me not to worry; I'm very smart. I told myself not to worry; the worst thing I can do is make an ass of myself, and I survive that on a daily basis.

No, it's just fear of the unknown. I haven't done anything really new to myself for several years, which is part of the reason I'm ready to get out of pure tech editing. A risk: what if I have to change? --Self, you will have to change. You're doing this in order to change.

The logical brain, unable to anticipate what new logics it will have to use, panics. What if other people are better at computers than I am? --Self, you better hope so, because you're going to need help.