Saturday, May 29, 2010


Note: the following post contains thoughts regarding the series finale of Lost. You may not want to read it, whether because you didn't watch Lost, haven't seen the finale yet, or whatever. I'll try to avoid spoiling.

I didn't get into Lost immediately. It was just finishing up its first season when I first visited the LA (in fact, I distinctly remember predicting one notable event based on information given onscreen), and I never really had the opportunity to catch up until I moved here. By then, season 4 was on, and I had to scramble to catch up, which I did not long before the start of season 5. By then, the huge plot had grabbed me, and I was looking forward eagerly to see how they finished up season 6, the final season.

As it turns out, neither the LA nor I were impressed. Season 6 had some very good points, but the last "half-hour" of the final episode... pretty much killed it. Frankly... it was glurge. They could, and should, have cut it, run two hours, and left the question that it answered open.

In other news, Kublacon is this weekend, and I was going to be there. As it turned out... not so much. My crash space fell through, and after driving home last night, I was scared to find that I had no memory of the drive. I didn't crash, so clearly I was doing OK, and I've checked my car for tickets and found none, but I do NOT want that to happen again - so it's off for this year. For next year, I'll find a cheap place to stay, rather than counting on a friend's couch.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Lately, I've been reorganising bookshelves. The game room looks rather better than it did before. Today, the decluttering spread to the garage; I'd made arrangements to sell one of the old steel wheels my Volvo was no longer using to a chap on the mailing list. He came by this afternoon, picked up his wheel (for use as a full-size spare; I've actually put one of them into the back of my car for that use, not without a little extra fun getting the floor of the boot to lay flat on the distinctly wider wheel) and decided, since he's using the car to teach his daughter to drive, having some extra hubcaps might not be a bad idea either.

That's saved me some craigslist advertising and the associated annoyance, and netted me some useful cash.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The sweet and spicy smell of success

Yesterday (by my time, at least; time zones make it more complex internationally) my older sister posted a recipe for Ginger Fairings. Today, I procured the necessary ingredients, and made baking happen. Reproduced is her recipe, with my annotations.

8 oz plain flour (yes, by weight. You Americans only use volume because way back when, accurate scales were hard to come by)
4 oz margarine (really margarine. 99.9% of the time, butter is better for baking. This is the exception)
4 oz granulated sugar
4 oz golden syrup (2 tablespoons or thereabouts) (Americans and expats in America can substitute with a roughly 2:1 mix of light corn syrup and mild molasses - it's not right, but it's close enough as long as you don't mind them being crunchy instead of chewy. And you really should weigh this - two tablespoons was nowhere near enough, I had to add more as the mixer went. When weighing, I suggest using a small bowl that you've greased. Cooking spray works well for this.)
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice (doesn't seem to be sold by Safeway; I used a quarter-teaspoon each of nutmeg and cloves, and a half-teaspoon of allspice, and I'm happy with that)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6/395 degrees F

EITHER sift together dry ingredients, rub in margarine, add syrup and mix together to form a smooth pliable paste

OR (what I do) bung everything into food processor and whizz until it forms a ball

By hand, roll into a long sausage. Cut off small sections and shape into balls (makes 32). Place on greased baking tray, leaving plenty of room for spreading. Bake on top shelf until golden (about 7 minutes), then on a lower shelf to drop and spread for 4 - 5 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, slap the baking sheet down onto a heat-resistant surface (the top of your stove is generally ideal, being solid and heatproof) to get rid of the domed appearance. If you ever had an Apple III, this will likely be familiar to you. Cool on a wire rack (best left on baking sheet for a few minutes if possible - they're very fragile at first). Do attempt not to burn your mouth eating them - this is the tricky part, as they smell absolutely gorgeous.

And this is what they look like:

Yes, I know the recipe says that it makes 32, and there are only 31 there. You don't think I'd post this without making sure they were right, now do you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Definitely not.

So... how does one end up at the urgent care facility having one's thumb glued together, from installing path lighting? Allow me to 'splain...

So, the path lights we bought a dozen of came, as such things do, in pieces. First, you turn them on (or rather to "auto"), then you place in the inner diffuser, then the outer light cover (this to defocus the blue-white LED that is the rather pretty light source), and then you do the stake. This consists of a plastic ground stake, and a length of rather crappy quality pipe. The ends of the pipe are rather rough and sharp. You place the spike on the end of the pipe, and you push this into the ground.

Or rather, you attempt to. We're on a heavy clay, and so on several attempts, the spike merely telescoped into the pipe. Naturally, I had to fix this; I did so using the handle of the two-part lug wrench (wheelbrace, for the British audience) which came with my car (newly furnished with a locking filler cap, thanks to the flap's untimely departure; I keep at least $70 worth of petrol in there, I'd like a little security if the cap's sitting out fully exposed), pushing the substantial length of metal into the pipe and forcing the spike back out.

Until one, where I was a little too vigorous, and succeeded in slamming the end of my thumb into the mouth of the pipe.

We initially attempted a fix with a knuckle band-aid; I bled right through depressingly fast, and so it was off to urgent care we went, to wait a long while (I had a book, the LA her puzzles; we coped), where I was the demonstration model as the medical assistant was shown the use of Dermabond. Dermabond, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is simply very pure, hypoallergenic cyanoacrylate. Superglue.

And so my thumb is glued together, and should heal with little scarring, although if it does scar, it won't be alone. I do wonder, though, if it scars, do I have to notify the INS? And will their scanner error out like it did on several of my other fingerprints?

Not the best of weeks.

So far, at any rate. The LA has had trouble remembering to keep herself supplied with soda at the office, and as for me... well, I've been forgetting to get stuff when grocery shopping, and yesterday was a really un-fun day.

It started with a cold shower. The water heater's pilot light had gone out. I relit it, and got on with the day... making an emergency soda run to the LA's office, where I arrived just while she was out of the office, of course. Then I had to fill up my car... and the hinge of the flap covering the actual petrol cap broke, causing the flap to fly about four feet forward as it detached itself by means of the spring which keeps it closed. The resulting lack of flap is ugly and unaerodynamic (insofar as my brick is at all aerodynamic) and so I've ordered a replacement hinge (which should, per the Post Office's FAQ, arrive on Monday) and wil be enjoying the process of installing that when it gets here. By mid-afternoon yesterday, I was triggery and unhappy, and finished up having to call short the knitting evening I regularly go to on Wednesdays, forcing the LA to drive me home (and normally, I drive; yesterday, I was in no fit state to).

And this morning... the water heater was out again. Burst, in fact, and pouring water into the crawlspace. The owner of this house is notoriously difficult to contact, and today has been no exception; fortunately, the property management company is willing to take what heat there may be and has said "This needs to be fixed now. Do it." The plumbers are, as I type, finding a suitable replacement water heater for the 1994-vintage one we had been using.

I'm at a loss as to why the intake pipe was lagged while the output one wasn't. Ah well.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A nation of shoppers.

I'm rather lucky where I live; ignoring the abusive employer, I have three different supermarkets (US English: grocery stores) within a reasonable distance of my home. I shop at all three; one is good for basics, but doesn't do produce well, one does produce exceptionally well but can be tricky to find basics in, and one has more esoteric stuff (such things as cheese with flavour, beer with flavour, steel-cut oats for my breakfasts, and so on) that the other two don't carry.

Unfortunately, until today, all three of them lacked something I wish was more common: peeled shrimp/prawns. Shell-on, sure. Tail-on, sure, but you know what? Like everyone else on the planet, I don't eat the tail. It has no place in my food.

Fortunately, today I found such shrimp. They'll be a regular item as long as I can get 'em.

Now, if only I had any idea how to cook swordfish...