Apocalypse wow!

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: Countdown to DARKNESS UNDONE!
Mood: 5… 4… 3…

Last week, I had a couple get-togethers, both of which ended up in apocalyptic predictions where I had to bite my tongue lest I end the friendships long before the end of the world.  Look, I appreciate a good apocalypse as much as the next paranormal romance reader, but I demand some common sense with my doomsdays.

Lately (and I blame you, Mayans) I’ve been running into more… I think I’ll call it porncalypse. Or maybe apocaporn. No, wait… Aporncalypse. Yes, that will do.

Not-Webster’s Made-Up Dictionary:
a•porn•ca•lypse   /əˈpôrnkəˌlips/ n. Gleeful wanking to end-of-the-world scenarios characterized by manufactured breathlessness and a complete lack of attention to anything resembling reality. Not to mention a really, uh, spectacular end.

There are so many ways we could actually be fated for extinction, it seems unnecessary to court conspiracy theories. (Although I love any theory where I say “Where’s your proof?” and the other person says “There’s no proof because of the CONSPIRACY!”) So I’m going to offer these reasonable replacements for my tin-hat friends.

1. Geomagnetic reversal is for wimps. Get those tectonic plates moving with a supervolcanos!

After one friend managed to conflate the natural and proven (and geologically slooooow) drift of the Earth’s magnetic field with an overnight relocation of the north and south poles — caused by a mysterious approaching planet, resulting in the planet being torn in two — and after I stopped beating my head against the table where my cream puff resided — I suggested that she lose sleep over supervolcanoes instead. Hulu is showing the Nature channel’s Naked Science program Supervolcano now, for free. Supervolcano shows the same CG’d multi-stage explosion over and over and over again. Lingering on graphics of megadestruction is the heart (or maybe another centrally located organ) of aporncalypse.

2. UFO droppings on Oregon beaches.

I was sort of excited about this one because it was relatively close to home. (In the same way that the above-mentioned supervolcano will be close to home when Yellowstone explodes into my Portland backyard.) “Mysterious” metal boxes — seamless and immovable — were showing up on Oregon beaches this winter. Which, like every Christmas present ever, totally got my imagination churning. Except… They have apparently already disappeared. Damn you, mysterious boxes! We needed more time to work up a foamy froth of conspiracy. Fine then, we will just have to settle for new discoveries about the (maybe) faster-than-light neutrinos and the Boson Higgs “God particle.”

3. Zombies!… Okay, this one the doomsayers can keep.

Last year, scientists found multiple species of a Brazilian fungus that invades ant brains and turns the insects into walking zombies. Presumably the shambling kind — not the super speedy kind, because, really, how fast can an ant go? — but still.

Yeah, there’s no way to not freak out about this. I check back on the story every so often to see how it’s progressing. I’m thinking this will be a lot like the killer bees, slowly drifting northward with rising global temperatures. (And yes, I realize that the killer bees don’t really seem to be so killer as they were expected to be/bee, BUT THAT’S BEECAUSE THE TRUTH IS BEEING COVERED UP!)

What I noticed recently is how closely zombie ants resemble another conspiracy theory favorite:

Yes… Who would’ve thought the jackalope was the first harbinger of aporncalypse.

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite conspiracy theory or doomsday scenario? Leave a comment any time this week at Silk & Shadows (comments have been disabled on this post) and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Jessica Andersen’s DEMON KEEPERS, a novel of the Final Prophecy.

Get Your Geek On!

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: New project
Mood: Goal-oriented

I love science tidbits. Even when I can’t understand something, that’s fine with me because it’s a great jumping off point into what-ifs. Stories often start with a “What if…?” And if I can’t understand the complexities, the mental workout must burn off at least a half bucket of cookie dough.

Image from PBS The Elegant Universe

One of my perpetual favorite brain games in science is string theory. String theory suggests that all matter in the universe is ultimately composed of 1-dimensional strings that, based on differences in their vibrations, become different particles.

The thing I like best about string theory is that it could be a solution to the “theory of everything,” linking all physical phenomena with one explanation.

Which I have to think would include an explanation for this one plot problem I’m having…

My favorite book on the topic is Brian Greene’s THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Part one of the PBS television series with a lot of helpful, pretty, moving pictures is showing here. I watched it again after Greene’s new series THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS started playing on PBS this month. After reading those books and watching the shows, I ALMOST understand theoretical physics.

Still having trouble with that plot problem though.

Other recent science stuff that has captured my imagination:

Image from NASADid you know we were almost pulverized by an asteroid recently?

Well, not really almost pulverized. The blast would only have been equivalent to several thousand megatons of dynamite. And those smarty-pants scientists knew it was going to miss us anyway, but still, it got my head whirling. Earlier this month, on November 8, Asteroid 2005 YU55 passed closer to Earth than the moon. I knew it was coming but I forgot about it, which one should never do with a NEO (Near Earth Object) the size of an aircraft carrier. The next time a known object this large will approach Earth is 2028.

I guess it’s a good thing that these things pass us without comment, but I did think about mutant space motes spinning off the asteroid and dusting the Earth with… What? Alien spores? Superpowers? The possibilities spring off in all directions, even if the asteroid itself must follow a predestined path.

Artist concept from NASA

Also in space news, the new Mars rover launched on Saturday!

I adored the previous two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, who in 2004 landed on Mars, tasked with 90-sol (day) missions that turned into years of experiments and exploration. Didn’t hurt that they looked sort of like Disney’s Wall-E. I actually got choked up when NASA lost touch with one rover due to sand on the solar panels…only to regain communications when fortuitous winds blew the panels clean. Though Spirit fell completely silent in 2010, Opportunity is still trundling around the Red Planet.

The new rover launched safety and it will take her eight months to get to Mars. Curiosity (follow her on Twitter! @MarsCuriosity) is the larger, stronger, faster, smarter cousin of the earlier rovers. Nuclear powered instead of solar, with more tools aboard including a rock-vaporizing laser, her goal is to prospect for organic molecules which could provide more information about whether Mars could have supported life. Bon voyage, Curiosity!

And last and almost least...

Image from CERN Collective Commons wikiOnly least because neutrinos are very small particles. In September this year, smarty-pants scientists shocked other smarty-pants scientists by announcing that they might have shot particles through the Earth at faster-than-light speeds. (Specifically 60 nanoseconds faster than light. And just to be clear, a nanosecond is one billionth of a second. So not a LOT faster than light.) Since that shoots substantially bigger holes in one of the fundamental understandings of science (that nothing travels faster than light) some scientists believed the findings must have errors. Earlier this month, more tests seem to repeat the findings. How cool is that? We should have our own spaceships by yesterday!

The best part of this story is the word superluminal, which means faster than light. But I also like the idea that something as set in stone as Einstein’s theory of special relativity can change. Okay, maybe it won’tchange, maybe there are errors in the findings, but how fun to think about what it could mean if it did.

Were you a good science student? Or did you get the flu on the day you were supposed to dissect the frog? If you have any favorite science moments, do share!

Happy 4th of July!

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: My tan
Mood: Summery!

Summer doesn’t officially arrived in the Portland area until the first week of July, but it’s here now! I’m typing this outside, sitting in the shade, actually, because it’s finally warm 🙂 The raspberry bushes are kickin’ out the berries so of course I had to use them in a holiday dessert.

Happy Fourth of July! (For those in the U.S.) Happy Summer! (For those in the Northern Hemisphere.) Happy Monday! (For pretty much everybody, I think.)

july-cupcakes

Red, White & Blue Cupcakes

Start with a box cake mix. I’m sure there are times when baking from scratch is called for. Mixing up festive cupcakes for people who will be drinking beer all day is not one of those times. I’ve enthused before about the Cake Mix Doctor‘s cookbooks. I recommend the chocolate cake mix cookbook and choosing one of the recipes with pudding in the mix as well as sour cream/yogurt for extra scrumptiousness.

The fun of cake mix doctoring is the doctoring part anyway. For these, I injected the cupcakes with a raspberry/strawberry coulis and then made a barrier wall of buttercream frosting around the top of the cupcakes and backfilled the interior with the coulis.

Berry Coulis

  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 1 cup of strawberries (or whatever berries you have)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 Tablespoons)

Mix all ingredients the day before to let the flavors blend if you have time, then blender/food processor it all together into berry soup. Sample repeatedly over vanilla ice cream, because you’re the cook, and cooks deserve to sample. (Some people take out the seeds, but the beer drinkers won’t notice such niceties so I don’t bother.)

While the cupcakes are still warm from the oven, make a hole in the centers with a chopstick or similar implement. I used a cookie gun/cake decorator to aim the coulis into the hole, but you can just spoon it in too, as long as you have decent aim.

Let the cupcakes cool. Sample a few just to make sure there’s enough coulis in the middle.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 stick of butter (room temp)
  • 1 8-oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 2-4 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar (the recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups of sugar with more for spreadability, but I think you lose some of the cream cheese flavor to the sweetness if you use all the sugar. So I just add enough sugar to make enough to cover the cupcakes. Plus, the less sugar/slightly thicker frosting works well in the cookie gun/cake decorator.)

Make a monk’s tonsure/barrier wall in a circle around the cupcakes’ tops. Usually I am a “more frosting is better” gal, but this ratio works out nicely with the strong mouth feel of the buttercream. Plus, the barrier wall gives you room to spread more of the pretty red berry coulis.

To thicken the coulis for the top of the cupcake, mix corn starch with just enough water to make a thin paste. Gently warm the leftover coulis and add the starch/water mixture until the coulis thickens enough to stay on top of the cupcake.

Spoon the thickened coulis behind the barrier wall, top with a berry (I might have used a blueberry instead of a raspberry, but I don’t share my blueberries with anybody), add a light dusting of blue decorator sugar, and eat.

Happy Cupcakes!

What possessed you?

Research time!

I hate research. It’s one reason I write paranormals; I feel that gives me more excuses to make sh-t up. (Speaking of excuses and sh-t, are you following #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement on Twitter? As a fiction writer, I am wholeheartedly in favor of lying…in your fiction. Facts are a different matter.)

Speaking of people who are going to hell, here’s my research question:

What would make you open your soul to a demon?

Sure, there are accidents, but what would make you do it on purpose? What forces would drive you to make such a choice? Just curious; I won’t be sending any unbound demons your way.

Summer yummin’

(Crossposted from Silk And Shadows)

Currently working on: Freaking out
Mood: Freaking out (Hey, it’s good to be consistent)

So I’m writing this Sunday night (due to the fact that I like to wait until the last minute; it’s not procrastination when I call it “time-lock inspiration”) and earlier today I tweeted: “2 parties last night and still home by midnight. We’re not getting older, we’re partying more efficiently.”

My oh-so-supportive twit friends laughed heartily.

And it’s true.  Oh, not just that I’m getting older.  That seems inevitable, more or less.  Worse, I’M GROWING UP!

How sad!  I actually ORDERED A SALAD for myself when I was at the last writers conference.  At home, XY always forces me to eat a salad because “it’s good for me.”  So I usually reserve vacation for an excuse not to eat salad.  But this time, I voluntarily ordered a salad.  And ate it.  And kinda liked it.

If that isn’t a symptom of growing up…

So appropriately enough this week our topic is BBQ cooking.  I went through my Cake Mix Doctors Cookbook, my box mix brownie recipes, my 8 lb. bucket o’ cookie dough options… and decided to share XY’s salad recipe.

Am I hanging my head in shame or because I suddenly fell into an age-induced nap?  Oh well, it’s a tasty salad and always gets rave reviews at BBQs.

Jessa’s XY’s “It’s Good For You” Salad

rscb-water-heater-8-20-2010

(This will feed about six people if mixed all at once. XY preps this amount but keeps the ingredients separate and mixes just enough each night for fresh salad. Yes, I know this isn’t a picture of a salad, but it’s a picture of XY and Christmas lights and the moon, which — if you squint — bears a not insignificant resemblance to the salad, honestly.)

Lettuce prep: Get a small/medium head of romaine, or equal that amount of romaine, red leaf, spinach, some arugula, or other fun greenery.

Clean the lettuce thusly (this technique will preserve the greens for a week or more if you keep it all for yourself):

1. Fill the sink with cold water and a cup of salt.  (Weird, I know.) Swish all the leaves through the water.  Pick out wilted and excessively bruised leaves.  (This is usually my job; I am not allowed to play with the knives.)

2. Empty the sink. Refill with fresh cold water.  Continue to pick out the bad leaves.

3. Empty the sink. Refill with fresh cold water and ice cubes.  Let the lettuce chill for about five minutes.

4. Drain the leaves and put them in a salad spinner.  This is crucial. Patting dry could bruise the leaves and hasten spoilage.  Plus, the salad spinner is one of the coolest technologies to come out of the space program, so use it and think of Mars.

Go through the garden. Or your local farmers market. Or the organic section at your local grocery.  Pick the good stuff, pretty stuff, or fun stuff.  But definitely get:

Scallions, one bunch
One cucumber
One carrot
Half-head of red cabbage

Also fun:
One tomato
Red pepper
Chick peas (garbanzo beans) — I don’t even like beans and these are good
Pine nuts
Edible flowers especially nasturtium — and they look nice in the garden

Extra extras:
Cheese
Olives

Chopping time:
Thin slice the lettuce and about quarter of the half cabbage into small strips, like confetti.  For lazy home salads, you can chop it however you want; but for public consumption, the confetti cut looks pretty

Finely chop the scallions. Peel and grate the carrot. Partly peel the cucumber (some of the dark green skin adds color), scoop out the seeds, slice and quarter.

Halve and slice the tomato. Dice the red pepper. Drain and pat dry the chick peas. Roast the pine nuts. (Good heavens, there are a lot of verbs in this salad.  I swear, it’s worth the work for a party, or will feed you all week.)  Shred the flowers.

Pre-party storage:
Refrigerate the lettuce separately.  The other ingredients can be grouped into sealed containers for convenience to take to the party or store in your fridge for assembly at each night’s dinner.

Dressing:
This is a “it’s good for me” salad as well as a tastes good salad, so XY does an oil and vinegar dressing.  The ratio is as follows:

1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil
XY estimates 1 second of oil poured (from a spout, not from the open bottle) for each person.  So a 6-person salad gets 6 seconds of oil (extra virgin olive oil) and 2 splashes of vinegar (red wine, balsamic, etc.).

1 pinch of salt per 2 seconds of oil
So a 6-person salad gets 3 pinches of salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste
XY is adamant the pepper must be fresh ground.  And he says don’t be shy with the pepper.

Assembly:
When the burgers are almost ready to come off the BBQ, put the lettuce in a big bowl.  Toss in the scallions and handfuls of the cabbage, carrot and cucumber until it looks pretty.  Throw in the chick peas and red pepper for visual appeal. Pour the dressing, salt and pepper, and toss well — very well to incorporate the oil and vinegar and dissolve the salt.

Decorate:
All the extras — the sliced tomato, pine nuts, cheese, olives, flower petals, etc. — can be sprinkled on top.

Yes, this is the salad that made me like salads.  Huh.  Now that I think about it, go eat cookie dough.

Do you have a favorite salad ingredient, a must-have dressing, or is lettuce merely for rabbits in your book?