Monthly Archives: September 2013

Book Review: Sing the Four Quarters

So we were hanging out at our local bookstore a couple weeks ago and the cover on this book jumped out at me as a little different and the back looked interesting so I decided to give it a chance.

Sing the Four Quarters

Here are the basics: Sing the Four Quarters is the first of a quartet of books by Tanya Huff, originally published in 1994.  The book is a fantasy novel which follows some of the more established tropes of the genre, with the main distinguishing factor being the magicians are musicians.  This being said, it is a well written book that moves at a good pace with decently flushed out and developed characters.  On the downside, the world building is not that robust and so aspects of the world (i.e. it is always winter and every country feels roughly like roughly the same place with different clothes) can get stuck in your craw if you notice them.

On the whole, the book is worth the read – especially as a airport read – but don’t expect anything deep.  The same cannot be said of the remaining books in the series which are plodding, uninteresting, and somewhat recursive. They go downhill fast.

7/10: Read me on a trip, skip the rest of the series

Kimchi

I’m off to do some rocket testing next week so in preparation I made some Kimchi.  I know that sounds non sequitur, but we test out in some abandoned desert area that if I didn’t bring in healthy, interesting food I wouldn’t get any.  And Kimchi is certainly interesting, if not for the faint of heart.  It goes well with any fatty meat and has weirdly made it into my thanksgiving table as the best accompaniment for roast Turkey.

Disclaimer: I am not Korean, so this recipe is by no means even vaguely authentic, but I think its quite tasty so here it goes.

Napa cabbage cut into slices

Napa cabbage cut into slices

1 head of Napa cabbage, cut into 1 inch strips discarding root end
1/2 cup of salt
6 green onions, chopped
2 Serrano peppers, slice fine
Other vegetables if desired, chopped up
2 tbls of minced garlic
1/4 cup of chili sauce
2 tbls fish sauce, I use homemade to be posted shortly

Draining the cabbage is not exciting

Draining the cabbage is not exciting

You put the cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt and mix.  Over the course of the next 6 hours the salt will draw the water out of the cabbage – you just need to drain occasionally.  Then you add the cabbage to all of the remaining ingredients in a sealable container. I usually use ball jars but this time i just used a random plastic container we had around.  Store at room temperature for about 2-7 days depending on how strong you want it. Then eat immediately or refrigerate.

Fresh Kimchi is green, do not be alarmed.

Fresh Kimchi is green, do not be alarmed.

Aged Kimchi is red, do not be alarmed

Aged Kimchi is red, do not be alarmed.

Like most other cured vegetables, it can be stored at room temperature for months (I have done this) but it acquires a very strong taste, which only a few people appreciate.

Moss Landing Kayaking (N 36°49′ W 121°47′)

My parents were visiting this weekend, so I got the impetuous to do something that I always wanted to do: kayak up the Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing by Monterey.  Rather than strap our kayaks to the roof of the Corolla for the 4 of us, we rented kayaks from Kayak Connection at Moss Landing and it worked out well. They were really nice.

The kayak itself was pretty easy: a 10 mile round trip with the tide helping us out both ways. If only I always planned that well.  The Slough is an estuary and a nature preserve and had a bunch of cool animals: sea lions, seals, pelicans, and egrets amongst others, and otters which I had never seen before in the wild.  If you go, and you should if you’re nearby, just don’t plan on kayaking past Kirby Park as it gets pretty swampy and marshy and very buggy around there.

Jasmine is in the King of Red Lions Kayak

Jasmine is in the King of Red Lions Kayak

Kent has some otters at his 3 o'clock

Kent has some otters at his 3 o’clock

Pelican Squadron ... ATTACK!!

Pelican Squadron … ATTACK!!

Mom and Dad making good time on the way back.  10 miles in 3 hours while sightseeing isn't bad at all

Mom and Dad making good time on the way back. 10 miles in 3 hours while sightseeing is quite good.

Hand Drawn map

I made a map! hopefully the maps will improve with practice. :)

Copper Shiv

I have always wanted to make knives, but for one reason or another I never got around to it.  One day we were clearing sticks out of the backyard and one of the sticks felt like the perfect knife handle so I stopped what I was doing and made a knife.  That being said, it was only a rough essay using material I had at hand, so copper 110 for the blade (maybe lead or silver would be a worse choice) and uncured avocado wood were fun to make a knife, but not one that could be used for any thing other than opening letters – and even then it has to be resharpened. :)

Cut the branch to desired length, I use a vise, wood clamps are also nice

Cut the branch to desired length. I used a vise, but wood clamps are also nice.

Split the wood blank with a chisel and hammer, or a ax

Split the wood blank with a chisel and hammer or an ax

Sketch out your blade design in the metal

Sketch out your blade design in the metal

Cut out the blade in metal with a hacksaw or other tool.

Cut out the blade in metal with a hacksaw or other tool.

Cut out the blade in metal with a hacksaw or other tool.

File down the blade, and carve out a groove in the handles for the blade.

Hammer down the blade edge, in a harder material file or grind in the bevel

Hammer down the blade edge. In a harder material, file or grind in the bevel.

Glue the blade into the handle with wood glue.  I used wrapped cord to provide preload, some clamps would work better

Glue the blade into the handle with wood glue. I used wrapped cord to provide preload, but some clamps would work better.

Then do a bunch of sanding to make everything look pretty and your done

Then do a bunch of sanding to make everything look pretty and you’re done

I also made a scabbard which is just a knife without the metal.

I also made a scabbard which is just a knife without the metal.

Then give a scary pirate face at the letters your about to open

Then give a scary pirate face at the letters you’re about to open

Book Reviews

Jasmine and I are rather keen readers of science fiction and fantasy and thought that other people might want to know our opinions about books.  And by keen about books I mean we have about a thousand books in our library, and most of them are SF/F.

1.5 Shelves of books

1.5 Shelves of books

To start things off we thought it would be best to do a list of the top 10 SF/F books ever.  Since there was a difference of opinions, here are the two lists

Lloyd (in order of printing):

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) Mary Shelley

War of the Worlds (1898) H.G. Wells

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937) J.R.R. Tolkien

The Screwtape Letters* (1942) C.S. Lewis

City (1952) Simak

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) Robert Heinlein

The Dispossed (1974) Ursula K. Le Guin

The Diamond Age; Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (1995) Neil Stephenson

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004) Susanna Clarke

The Androids Dream (2006) John Scalzi

*Technically a Satire, but as the main character is a Demon from Hell I’m counting it as fantasy.

Jasmine (also in order of printing):

War of the Worlds (1898) H. G. Wells

The Foundation series (1951) Isaac Asimov

The Lord of the Rings (1954) J. R. R. Tolkien

Starship Troopers (1959) Robert Heinlein

Dune (1965) Frank Herbert

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) Robert Heinlein

The Gods Themselves (1972) Isaac Asimov

The Snow Queen (1980) Joan D. Vinge

The Diamond Age; Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (1995) Neil Stephenson

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004) Susanna Clarke

Almost made it (books that were on both lists, but didn’t make it onto either):

The Man in the High Castle (1962) Philip K. Dick

Ender’s Game (1977) Orson Scott Card

Snow Crash (1992) Neil Stephenson

Stardust (1999) Neil Gaiman

Seattle and the San Juan Islands

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but Jasmine and I were up in Seattle and Orcas and Lopez Islands for the week.  It was a blast if you can deal with rain (3 of the 6 days we were there); the Puget Sound is a great green and mountainous place to be.

Seattle loves their totem poles

Seattle loves their totem poles

It's a troll, no the one on the left

It’s a troll! No, the one on the left.

Ballard Locks, cool boat elevator between the sound and lake washington

Ballard Locks, cool boat elevator between the sound and Lake Washington

Llink is aligning the stone for access to the next dungeon

Llink is aligning the stone for access to the next dungeon

Coolest bike rack in the shape of a squid

Coolest bike rack in the shape of a squid

Seattle also loves their fountains. How else will they get water if it goes more than 2 days without raining?

Seattle also loves their fountains. How else will they get water if it goes more than 2 days without raining?

We took the seaplane to Orcas Island, which was awesome.

We took the seaplane to Orcas Island, which was awesome.

My first wood carving since boy scouts

My first wood carving since boy scouts

Coolest part map ever.

Coolest park map ever.

The view from a random beach on Lopez island

The view from a random beach on Lopez Island

We had a great time. If you haven’t been to the pacific northwest, you owe it to yourself to go – at least between June and Early September.

Insalata Caprese

This week our farmers market was awash with tasty fruits and vegetables, including my third favorite fruit – concord grapes (Third after cherries and blackberries).  But what really drew my eye was the tomatoes because fresh vine ripe real (i.e not hothouse beefsteak from the grocery store) tomatoes are some of the best simple eating available.  We usually get Early Girl, but this time we ventured afield to get heirloom tomatoes and I decided to make a Caprese salad.

You’ll need the following:

The ingredients all laid out (except the vinegar which was sour about being left in the cupboard)

The ingredients all laid out (except the vinegar which was sour about being left in the cupboard)

8oz of Mozzarella, cubed or sliced thin (Use fresh Mozzarella, i.e. the stuff packed in liquid)

Sprig of Basil, cut or ripped to pieces

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 tbl Olive Oil

1 tbl Balsamic Vinegar

5 minutes of work later, its ready to eat

5 minutes of work later, it’s ready to eat.

Mix up, wait 10 minutes or so, and enjoy.  It is about the easiest and tastiest recipe I know, but you have to use good ingredients or it will bomb.