It’s That Time Again!

I had to carve three this year and had almost zero time for it so none of them are up to my normal standards.

2009_pumpkins

Love this time of the year.  You can cosplay without even your most uptight friends thinking it’s odd. I really hate that the trick-or-treating house to house is pretty much a thing of the past. It was a blast as a kid and even better as an  adult–some of my favorite memories involve kids dropping their bags of candy on my doorstep and fleeing in terror.  Oh c’mon, they always got them back with interest and it made their holiday a bit more memorable, too.

Amazon Needs a Special Filter Button

Amazon needs a special filter button that, when toggled, permanently stops it from displaying any book where a hairless male chest takes up a big chunk of the cover.  It doesn’t seem to matter what the book claims it is.  They are always trying to escape their own genre and contaminate another, be it Celtic fantasy, military sci-fi, mystery, occult, paranormal, crime, anti-terrorism, spies, or whatever.  Every one of them more properly belongs to a single genre that I would not read if I was trapped in the men’s room at the airport for weeks with nothing else to read.  Since I normally read a book every day or two — about every three or four when I am writing — that’s saying a lot.

Some people like that genre a lot, and that’s fine.  For me it would probably be an experience on par with what claustrophobic people worry about — that, once they give in and start smashing their fists against the walls, a self-destructive madness will take hold and they will never be able to recover.

One Way Street

Hmm.  I can’t help but notice that when Amazon lists other books that were bought by people that bought my book, and I go and look at other books that were bought by people that bought those books, my book never seems to show up.  In the immortal words of Jubal Early, “Does that seem right to you?”

Is Space-Opera Really Fantasy?

Are we being buried in space-opera?  Space-opera has long been considered science fiction but is it really? In case you haven’t noticed, there is a ton of so-called military sf out there and more being published every day.  Some of it is pretty good, such as the Vorkosigan series by Bujold or even the Honor Harrington series by David Weber.  Much of it, however, if it is readable at all, it is of the read it once category.  We know nowadays that, regardless of whether warp drive is invented, it’s become abundantly clear we don’t live in a universe where star kingdoms and space pirates will ever be a thing and where vast fleets of ships-of-the-line blasting away at each other with 18 inch lasers and hyperspace missiles just are not going to happen.  Like Star Wars and Star Trek, these are not speculative futures, these are fantasies–just with spaceships instead of sailing ships, and light sabers in place of swords.  This just raises another question: How much “real” science fiction is being published?  Real science fiction is hard these days.  Real science fiction has to take every area of human endeavor and figure out what the effects of advancement are going to be, or it must explain why there has not been enough progress to be believable.  Consider Star Trek, we watch them travel between stars in days, beam themselves about, even move planets.  Yet they don’t seem to have any form of life extension worthy of the name.  At the very least, all red shirts should be robots with their brains backed up before they beam down.

Classic Texmex Chili

Chili (initially modified from a restaurant’s recipe)

Notes:

This tastes better at home.  The key is being more much generous with the beef and beans to keep it from being soupy like it is at that well-known restaurant.  Be prepared to add more of either if it starts looking too liquid-like.  I usually make this using half ground turkey and half ground beef.

I skip the celery and salt in their recipe and use V8 instead.  I leave out the green pepper because not everyone likes it.  I sometimes skip the sugar, depending on how the tomato sauce is tasting because sometimes it seems sweet right out of the can  Some people like big chunks of tomato.  Beware of too much spicy heat as some people can’t handle it.  The hard core can add Tabasco later.

Ingredients:

3 lbs. fresh ground beef (or equivalent quantity of mixed beef and turkey)
1 (12 oz.) can  V8
1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomato
1 (29 oz.) can tomato puree
2 (15 oz.) can red beans, drained
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 C. chili powder (if you like real flavor, add more)
2 tsp. cumin (ditto on adding more)
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. each: black pepper, oregano, sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

All of these quantities are just guidelines.  Feel free to change it up; I always do.

Preparation:

In a frying pan, brown the ground beef; drain, put into a 6-quart pot.

Then cook the onions in the same pan.

Put the browned onions and remaining ingredients into a 6-quart pot with the beef. Mix it all up gently.  Don’t ever stir too hard or the beans may get crushed. Cover the pot; let it simmer gently for 1 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes (or less often if using a crockpot).  It’s already edible, this is just to blend the flavors and warm it up.  Don’t let it boil or bubble or it will get soupy and the texture will suffer.

I used to soak dried beans over night but it was a hassle (especially with the danger of over- or, worse, under-soaking them) and I couldn’t detect any flavor advantage.

Go easy on additional salt, especially if using canned beans and eating with salted crackers.

Serve with saltine crackers or oyster crackers.  For the deluxe version, have shredded sharp cheddar to sprinkle over each bowl.  Some people like to also sprinkle with raw chopped onions (ugh).

It’s also better the day after it is made as this gives the flavors more time to marry.  Refrigerates for a long time, is eminently reheatable, and can be frozen for an eternity.