Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hacks and Character Arcs and other Arguments

Warning, some spoilers ahead. Also, there are vehemently held opinions of an unrepentant fangirl that may be very different from your own. Do not read if thin skinned. I do not read hate mail or hostile tweets.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when I am sleepless, I have lively internet discussions (some may call them arguments) with people who share my interests. For example, I have been slapping around anyone with the notion that the next JJ Abrams abomination titled Star Trek won't stupidly suck as much as the first one. My evidence? They want to try to do Wrath of Khan. The problem with that? Well, to have a wrath of Khan, there has to an initial encounter with Khan. Then, there has to be a perceived betrayal of Khan and a couple decades for the bitterness and hatred to grow. I suppose Khan could go back in time to exact his vengeance on the young and unsuspecting Kirk. Wait, wasn't that the first re-boot film? And if he were going to go back in time, wouldn't he just go back far enough that he was never overthrown? If that hack is going to keep sucking the life from the original series, do The Doomsday Machine , for pity's sake. Arguments like that rage on in the wee small hours of the morning. And as much as I enjoy maligning the current Trek time line, that isn't the argument that interests me most.

It's an old argument amongst fans of any television series no matter the genre. Should the main characters change over the course of the series or should they remain the same? If they remain the same, the adventures of these characters can continue indefinitely. I was going to say that my show references are really old as I'm ancient, but Jon pointed out that they are running on Imdb.com, hulu.com or have aired recently on Syfy. One show is running in LA six nights a week on KDOC, home of obscure shows. Then, I remembered that I have a friend younger than my nephew that speaks fluent Dark Shadows. At any rate, the current series television that I'm attracted to has characters that change over time. I understand the preference for the other type. I really do. There is something comforting in knowing Starsky and Hutch would always have each other's backs and that fascinating unrequited tension. I often wish that Blair Sandburg never finished that dissertation in the Sentinel and that they acted on that unrequited tension. But they were only on three seasons. I love me some original Hawaii 5-O, but twelve seasons of the same McGarrett and Danno gets really tiresome. I think Blair's hair would have been really annoying by around season seven (don't send me hate mail, I won't read it). And I can't see a 40 something year old Starsky sliding over many car hoods. However, even in episodic television that has mostly stand alone episodes, I like the characters to have an arc. It makes sense that the highly dramatic events the characters endure week after week would have some impact on their personalities and their outlooks on life. Naturally, I loved the re-boot of Battlestar Galactica for that. However, there are shows like The Closer where the cast has definite arcs. Eureka is delightful in part because it has a steady arc for its characters aside from obvious things like changes to the time line. But, I watch the CSIs, you say. Well, all three shows have character arcs. They are all dopey, but they have them. CSI: Miami's team has evolved into a death squad. More on that show later. Really, there may be a zombie this year!

Whether the characters should or shouldn't have an arc is not actually the argument I'm having online in the middle of the night. The intense debate is about whether shows that have arcs should be allowed to end. I believe that when the arc is based on whether a relationship will survive or not, at some point, the couple has earned their happiness or at least peace of some sort. I found that unfairness maddening about soap operas. That's why I drifted away from them. No one could have a happily ever after or at least be left in peace. The torment was never ending. Fans of this short run (two seasons) anime series I enjoyed (the title is irrelevant. To see it takes a lot of effort online. And it's too odd for most of my readers. Write me privately, if you really need to know.) desperately wanted a third season or more. I vehemently disagreed. The series was essentially a light hearted romance about a miss matched pair whose families, friends and co-workers disapprove. Somehow, through great effort, they find a happily ever after. They go through a lot of self doubt and some angst and really have to fight for a relationship that shouldn't work but somehow does. In order to do another season, the writer would have to try to tear them apart as a couple. The stakes would have to be higher and the drama darker. Aside from the fact that the author never gets that dark in any of her series, it just wouldn't be fair to make this wonderful couple suffer further. And it's not that I don't appreciate intense drama or even very dark drama. I can really get behind darkness in a series where it's appropriate. In this case, it wasn't. If you love them, let them go! They will live on in your mind, and in some cases, fanfiction.

These arguments do influence how I write my couples driven fiction. A way to get around this problem of the arc that is built around the development of the relationship is to solve the relationship and make the developing stories center around characters or situations around the couple. While the couples do evolve and grow over time, the relationship remains solid – it even grows more so. Whether it's set in the far flung future or in a fantasy past, my issue isn't whether the couple will get together and stay together. I solve their issues as a couple fairly quickly. It's their world that's trying to kill them – literally, in some cases. Niku and Sarianna figure out their relationship quickly in The Gift of Surrender. It's the breaking of the family that's the jeopardy. In the sequel, they are solid as a couple but must face death at the hands of evil while saving the life and soul of Niku's estranged brother. Rik and Vincent are solved as a couple in A Soldier's Choice very early in the book. By the end of A Soldier's Fate they aren't still working through relationship problems, they are trying to survive being enveloped by a death ray. In the current book, they are battling their own kind on several fronts, but never do they battle each other. With Ensnared, the couple takes longer than my norm to solidify the relationship. They have to get their societies to accept an extreme bending of the rules for them to remain together. Beyond those obstacles, there are still forces beyond that that want to kill them. No matter the threats or turmoil around them, my couples always have a refuge of happiness and peace with each other.

Interventions, Food, Friends and Writing Updates

For some reason, this blog is turning into an epic affair. I think I'm going to split it into two parts. Some of it is going to be cross posted to a pop culture blog that I write for. That part got a bit carried away. Seems that I'm harboring a lot of seething resentment about entertainment trends I find subpar. And there are some things that avid fans want that I really think are bad ideas. Yeah, I think I'll split them.

Food and Friends

I had a few interventions of sorts this week. I was on quite a downswing because of my physical state or the lack of progress in the improvement of my physical state. Mon amis, Sylvette put some things into perspective for me via her own experiences. She also concurred with my contention that one need not climb a mountain to celebrate being cancer free. I admire those that do, mind. I'm also impressed by dragon boat racers. But I've never been that kind of physical. That isn't changing. And Craig's idea of mountain climbing usually ends with him fleeing from a mountain lion or a vulture. Oh, I didn't mention that Craig was trying to cheer me up by offering to help me train to climb a mountain. I told him that my ambitions were aimed toward strolling down Paris boulevards with occasional stops at cafes for a little nibble and some coffee and some people watching. Sylvette told me of how wonderfully peaceful it was to enjoy a freshly baked croissant early in the morning when Paris is barely stirring. That and her advice cheered me up considerably. Oh, and Craig is still a very entertaining librarian. As soon as his schedule stabilizes, I plan to visit his branch. The third intervention was from Ray who scolded me as much as he uplifted me during the trip to and from the hospital this week. He has a highly entertaining way of scolding that only a Brooklyn native has – on top of that, he's an actor. Very amusing even when it's at my expense.

The food front was interesting. After much thought and consideration, I have decided to leave cooking fresh artichokes to the professionals. It's just too much work, and I'm too paranoid about getting a thistle down my throat. I don't need the pressure! The cooking I did this week reminded me of people who introduced me to the food. Making gyoza (potstickers) always reminds me of Ohio peep, Bruce Kline. He introduced me to them when we lived in North Jersey and worked in New York City. My knowledge of Chinese food was very limited back then. I fell in love with the crispy dumpling with the meaty filling. Fond memories. Sauteing mushrooms always reminds me of my favorite foodie hedonist, Nick, in Atlantic City. He was the first to show me how to make them and he had the best technique – same with properly cooking a steak on the stove or grill. But I was just making mushroom soup. Sizzling mushrooms always make me think of Nick and those really crazy cookouts. I finally found a wonderfully huge and really cheap pork shoulder that made delicious pulled pork. That always makes me think of my Dad though he now uses my method of roasting the pork slowly in the oven.. He used to do his in a DIY 55 gallon drum turned smoker. That's a bit elaborate for him nowadays. Mine is done in a very low oven over a whole lot of time. Fond, fond memories and some really good food help with my blue mood this past week.

Activities Updates

Thank you all who ask about how my work outs and other interests are going. I am still shaking my bunda with eh Bollywood workout. I can only manage that one or twice a week. I just received my yoga DVD and will start that tomorrow. It's designed for people with joint pain and mobility issues, so it's what I need. I'm still walking about ten miles a week, but I may shift that from around the neighborhood to the nearby mall as the heat and blazing sunlight isn't a good mix with my meds. I think the reason I was frustrated this week is that I am working very hard on building my strength but the improvement is very slow. Ah, well. As for the Japanese, that's coming along as well. I have books on the basics and put some time into a few times a week. I'm also watching my anime without the subtitles and trying hard to hear the words. I'm not ready to attack anyone at Mitsuwa market yet though. But I am enjoying the process.

Writing Updates

The first draft of Ensnared will be finished sometime this week. I'll leave it alone for a week or two, make some additions and revisions then send it on to my proofreaders. I have another erotica project that will occupy my focus along with finishing the latest Soldier's book. And I have a script to finish. I have a detailed schedule of when I work on each project. The pages are getting done as planned for the most part. My schedule will slow down only when I'm having unusually difficult physical issues.

Meanwhile, Jon is finishing up the work on the Soldier's Choice based, live action short, Blood Oath. That will premier in October along with a publishing frenzy and updates to the websites with excerpts, artwork and more!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Craig and Moules, Ampersands and Updates

Craig became a librarian this week. While that is justifiably terrifying, it's better than the plans he was hatching for world domination. Not that I thought any of those plans had a chance of succeeding further than his getting arrested on some weird harassment charge. Craig has weird harassment plans honed to a very fine art. It just that because I would point out the potential problems in placing art installations made of rotting meat in front of the homes of his enemies – so many enemies – he had decided that I was his nemesis in his plans for world domination. I don't have the energy to be Craig's nemesis. He has far too wiley an imagination. I was very glad that the long layoff ended. The timing was interesting as he returned to dealing with books the same week Borders met its final demise. His first day was reminiscent of any given day at good old store #93 in that there were many arguments amongst angry, drunk homeless men. He amazed the staff by not really getting bothered by all the commotion. I understood his ennui. They had on pants and weren't carrying gasoline. That was counted as a mild disturbance at our store. It made Craig feel right at home.

Speaking of art installations, Jon and I noticed a solar powered ampersand in a vacant lot near one of our supermarkets. As I suspected, it was something that was really annoying. Jon has an art degree, so he understood it and was really annoyed. I just knew it would be something I'd consider silly. The stated explanation was HERE. All in all, I think I'd prefer the rotting meat. At least I understand Craig's motives, diabolical as they are.

Moules no Frites

Usually my kitchen therapy is a carefully planned exercise in trying something new that I've often wanted to attempt. I think a long time about the dish and the process. I thought about croissant baking for every bit of a year. Sometimes though, I find myself making something that is a little bit intricate to work through something very emotional – like blind rage. Let's just say that while doing one's utility paying online can be very convenient, when things go wrong, it is spectacular. And calling customer service is beyond frustrating when the business is vested in keeping things as automated as possible. Thus, all the while I'm navigating through the complicated phone system, it keeps telling me that I would find better and faster service on the web page that has royally screwed up everything in the first place. I finally have punched in my information and reach the correct level of the system when I'm told that customer service is down and to either call back later or go back to the accursed web page. Unfortunately for this utility, they have offices in nearby Santa Monica. It takes a lot to blast me out of the house when I haven't planned on leaving, but adrenaline is an amazing thing. I maintained my ire via a very annoying and ridiculously expensive commute.

Once the errand was completed with no bloodshed or other mayhem, I found I was in downtown Santa Monica on a beautiful summer day. Happiness! So, I first went to Penzey's Spice Shop. I had no plans for visiting that very dangerous place, but I soon realized that my pantry was lacking in some things I needed for upcoming recipes. They weren't very exotic spices either. For instance, I had no celery seeds or dried mustard powder. These items weren't expensive, and now I can make some new dishes. And make some other dishes correctly. It took a great deal of will power to not buy something from every aisle. I had to save some bucks for the even more dangerous establishment I would visit next – Santa Monica Seafood! Boy, did that take a lot of focus and determination. I was only there to buy mussels which are very inexpensive. But the mussels were next to the big, beautiful sea scallops and the bigger and even more beautiful crab legs. They were not anywhere near inexpensive.

When we were in Cannes, there was a restaurant in the middle of the route to our hotel whose specialty is Moules et Frites – Mussels and Fries. The place always smelled of a delicious garlic and wine sauce. I had had wonderful mussels cooked by a grad school chum years – decades ago – and hadn't had them since. That restaurant made my mouth water every time we passed by. It was also always packed. We were usually in a hurry to get to screenings going down to the Festival and too tired to stop for anything on the way back to the hotel. Somehow, in the ten days in Cannes, we just never got there. I was determined to try to duplicate that scent and the taste my friend, Philomena created. The recipe was really simple. Everything was in the prep and the careful execution. It took only a half hour of prep and most of that was waiting for the mussels to soak in salt water. They took less than ten minutes to cook. I had them with some hunks of baguettes smeared with St. Andres cheese and a cold beer. I forgot the entire ordeal with the website and the phone call and the commute. I forgot to take photos. I was transported in time and space. I found bliss. That reminds me, I have to start thinking about baking baguettes.


The books are coming along well. I have my calendar to silently keep me on track with page output. I've sent specs for new artwork for the revised versions of A Soldier's Choice and A Soldier's Fate and for Ensnared. I've got my marketing campaign for the books planned out. I've been making decent progress on a script that has been years in the making. It's a huge departure from what we normally write, thus the very long development. The writing is going well. The productions are in various states of flux. I've had an exciting development with The Secret Cancer. You can check that out HERE. Octodemon is still working through development issues with FX and currently scheduling. And my web series are all basically waiting for me to be recovered enough from treatment side effects to take on the daily rigors of running a shoot. Since Jon is working, it's fallen more on me to actually run things which I really can't yet. My unscheduled trip to Santa Monica was followed by two days of not doing much of anything save write. It is extremely frustrating, but it isn't uncommon for my cancer treatment. I have to be patient.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bunda Shaking, Creative Baking, and Deadline Mayhem

After watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Cuba episode (I highly recommend it, if you haven't seen it), there was a special called Dance the World with Jaycee Gossett, a New Jersey ballroom dancer out to learn the dances of the world. She was in Brazil to learn the real way of dancing the Samba. See the explanation of the dance's origin HERE. Key to the dance is shaking the bunda which is Brazilian for booty or groove thing. I think. I'm still not completely sure what a groove thing is, but I am guessing it's the same as the booty. The show was a lot of fun. Hopefully, the Travel Channel will bring it back. At any rate, I was reminded of something that Kirstie Alley said recently about getting into great physical shape. I believe she said when in doubt shake your butt. I remembered that I have my Bollywood Dance Workout. This was good as I've been looking to vary my physical activity. I want to swim, but I just haven't gotten to it yet. I've been taking dance classes off and on since I was in grade school, so this was a natural way for me to work out. I managed to do a thirty minute workout at half time. The steps were fun and most likely funny looking to anyone passing by my living room window. I really felt it the next day, but I'm going to keep at it. I'm also going to order a yoga for beginners DVD. It's clear that I need a lot more stretching and flexibility.


I found a really neat recipe for honey white bread last week. Then Jon suggests that I make raisin bread with the same recipe. I'm not much for adlibs with my baking, Theoretically, it's just a matter of rolling the dough into a rectangle, spread cinnamon sugar and pre-plumped raisins over it. Then, roll the dough into a tight tube, let it rise in a loaf pan and bake. So, I gave it a try. Let's just say that baking raisin bread smells insanely good. The bread turned out very nicely – though I should have rolled the final dough just a bit tighter. But this section is called extrapolation for a reason. I next took that raisin bread and made French toast! Yowza!! The other extrapolation I tried this week was via a recipe by a finalist on Food Network Star. He is from Brooklyn originally and now lives in Las Vegas. He came up with a wrap sandwich called the Philly-rito. It's a Philly cheesesteak burrito. I told the chef that I found the whole notion was an abomination. However, it also looked pretty tasty. I love a good burrito after all. So, I gave it a try. It had onions and smashed avocado and roasted red peppers along with melted cheese. There was a sauce on the side made with sour cream, garlic and finely chopped cilantro. I have to admit that it was very, very tasty abomination.

Organized Mayhem

I have a lot of writing projects on my plate. Most are mine or the production company's. They are all creative. And they now have hard deadlines. One thing writers get asked over and over – and I still do – is how do you get that muse to work on demand? The very simple answer is practice. The muse doesn't have to be in gear to structure a plot or figure out character arcs. I have found that the inspiration comes far more easily when the structures are in place. Sometimes, I'll give the broadest strokes to a scene or even a chapter to just keep moving the story or the script along. This method makes Jon a little crazy when we're doing a script. He likes to solve everything before he types FADE IN. I believe in getting the storyline basically in place then adding detail or modify during the first re-write. In my novels, I fill in new details before I give it to the proofreaders. Strangely, I often leave the fine details of the love scenes for the second pass. Contrary to popular opinion, I'm not thinking of wildly imaginative sensual acrobatics all the time. I do not. Furthermore, I find it difficult to write those scenes straight away because I don't really know my characters when I'm early in the process. Love scenes are an expression of character for me. I have to know them well at each stage of their arcs to effectively write great love scenes. I do confess that, like authors throughout time, I always seem to be working with my back against deadlines – no matter how much lead time I have. I'm not sure why that is. I suspect it is an expression of creative flakiness. Thus, I often look like Usagi-sensei to my right here when I finish a manuscript. He is my favorite author character in anime. As you can see, he captures the nuttiness of an author quite well. Thus, my readers here will hear me bemoaning my progress or lack thereof frequently in weeks to come.


Film updates are scarce. Everyone attached to my projects is book with other things. I suspect I will have to chase them down soon for updates. I have a major update for the Cancer documentary that I will announce tomorrow on that blog. I will also cross post here.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Pros of Cons, Civility and Updates

I had planned to do a super-sized blog last week. However, my body had other plans. It isn't rush to the doctor serious. It's part of what may be the new normal for me post cancer. I had a lot of my insides altered during the two major surgeries. Sometimes, things don't agree with me. I spent a lot of time in the heat and sun. Long story short, I had to go into a convalescing mode. Not a lot got done last week, and it was frustrating. I'm not exactly sure what caused the problem, so I'm not sure how to avoid it happening again. At any rate, Friday brought some improvement. Over the last couple of days, I've picked up more of the usual routine. It seems that I'm back on track. I certainly hope so. I have plans! Among them, is getting more exercise. On a good week, I'm walking at least three miles every other day. I may actually try to swim later today. That's pretty good. In fact, it's more exercise than I used to get before I fell ill. However, I must not counteract the potentially disastrous effects of being home all the time and baking. I found a really doable recipe for Brioche last week. The same diabolical woman, Ina Garten, was making honey white bread this week. And that danged Martha Stewart is making sticky buns on Monday. It's all an evil plan to make me – and Jon, Breadman Cunningham – enormous!

On Civility – A Social Network Dilemma

I see a lot of amusing things on the news feeds that I follow on the social networks. And I have enjoyed passing along the insightful and the silly to the people that follow me. Increasingly, however, I've had huge qualms about sharing links on my pages. The problem is some of the language that peppers these posts. Goodness know, I'm not a prude. For those of you out there who want to expound endlessly on how I'm so not a prude – shut your yaps! And goodness know, I am capable of swearing like a sailor and a longshoreman combined. And for those tempted to testify about that – don't make me murderlize you! At any rate, I find the really coarse language in these otherwise witty and amusing post off putting. For example, there was one called 40 Books You Shouldn't Bother Reading. The article was very funny, and I found I agreed with a number of the authors contentions especially about any thing written by Jack Kerouac or Joyce's Ulysses. It had some dandy thoughts on books like The Rules and the Twilight series as well. It was the kind of article that would have sparked a donneybrook on my page. Fun for everyone! After a lot of thought, I decided against sharing the post. It was unnecessarily profane. Mind, the first thing that pops into my head when I think about Ulysses is a two sentence long string of obscenities. In the past – even the recent past – I have posted links with a warning about salty language. Now, I think it's not right for me to post, because I don't want to be seen as supporting or contributing to the coarsening of public discourse. I'm really puzzled as to why this is considered acceptable in something that is not a personal blog but a feature article. I'll grant that I went to journalism school in the dark ages, but I really don't see the point in dropping F-bombs or using G-D as an adjective in an article. Swearing belongs at football games, especially for Eagles fans and on movie sets, especial for a producer.

The Fangirl-Producer versus Scifi Conventions

I have a long history with Scifi conventions. I attended the second or third Star Trek Convention ever held in the early 70s when I was barely a teenager. The Hubs has been going to Philcon forever, it seems. However, it wasn't until moving to Los Angeles that we really started attending major conventions with any frequency. That wasn't by any design on our part. I had begun the insane writing experiment, The Secret Logs of Mistress Janeway. Because of those stories and later, the webpage, we started getting invitations to speak on panels at conventions. We became even more popular on convention panels after I appeared in the documentary, Trekkies. I was in fangirl heaven for a while. If a convention paid for me to attend, I had money to buy lots of stuff from the vendors. I bought t-shirts and buttons from my favorite shows, and I wore them, gleefully identifying myself as a fangirl. The only things I didn't do was Cosplay though I really wanted to and Filking which I never want to do.

Convention appearances were more complicated for us since we moved to LA. At conventions where actors appeared, it was problematic. Since Jon and I were writing scifi scripts to produce, we were hoping for a professional relationship with some of these actors. Now, I'm not saying that actors are snobs. They meet a great many people during their careers. It makes sense that they would put people they meet into categories as quickly as they can. If I was introduced as a fangirl, I may have had a lovely moment that made me feel like I was the only one they were thinking about. Then, they would have forgotten the meeting or worse, they would remember meeting me in my one of a kind caricature t-shirt of their TV or film character. They would then justifiably refuse to take me seriously about a part I may offering. Thus, I demurred at the notion of meeting them while they were signing things or before their panels. The one exception to that was the bar Toronto Trek. It was at the nexus of corridors and a patron could see everyone passing by. That was where I would hang out and wait for Jon or our friends. I usually was dressed normally while in that bar. Since Canadian fans tended to be far less intense than US fans, actors felt comfortable hanging out there. And it was easier to actually talk for a time in that setting. I actually cast one of them that I met there, Jason Carter, in Demon Under Glass years later.

Things got really weird with actors at Conventions after we made our first pilot presentation, The Privateers. By then, Jon and I were dressing like we were going to a pitch meeting when we attended panels. We didn't know who we might run into – especially conventions with a heavy media presence. We had to dress and conduct ourselves like a business meeting might happen. A few times, they actually did. Not that we were in suits and ties. It was LA business casual – no fun buttons or stickers on our bags. At any rate, one of our Privateers/Demon Under Glass alumni outed us in an autograph room full of actors as film producers. Twenty heads snapped around to where we were standing. That made things really awkward as we weren't hiring at that point in time. Finding a balance is a challenge. At our last visit to Dragon*Con, one of my favorite conventions, Jon and I did a talk about how to attend the Cannes Film Market and Festival on the cheap and get a lot done. We even dressed the way we did most days in Cannes. That same day we had a panel on the viability of fan made productions as an economic model. I was also the lone fangirl on a panel about Trek versus the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. That was a great fun.

We found a balance of sorts with regards to conventions. Though we no longer just go for fun. I regret that sometimes. When we go, we're usually networking at the very least. The next couple of conventions on our horizon are about marketing the upcoming books and web series. It's lots of fun roaming amidst the really cool stuff on the vendor tables or endlessly debating about our favorite shows for the debate's own sake. We just can't justify the time unless it's also work related. One consolation though. I still wear things that identify me as a fangirl. It's just a lot harder to spot. Those vendors do have some amazing stuff.


Between the holiday and my little set back last week, there is no news on the film front. The books are coming along well. I'm sending one to my readers in the next week or so. I have a new author of romantica (romance meets erotica) that I'm very excited about. Sybpress is going to be putting out a lot of titles, including the next Demon Under Glass anthology this fall. Film production meetings are up for next week.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Asterisks, Croissants and Ninjas

For all of my life, answering the question 'how are you' was simple. I would just say fine. The Linkonly variant might be complaining about a cold or allergies. Most of the time, when someone asks that question, they aren't looking for a long answer. A catastrophic illness changes that question. Simply saying 'I'm fine' in response causes a lot of assumptions that aren't true. Yet even with coping with an illness like cancer, the people asking aren't looking for a half hour explanation with all the awful details. So, for those who ask me how I'm doing, 'I'm fine' does not mean that I am completely free of medical problems. For now 'I'm fine' has an asterisk with the further explanation of 'relative of chemo side effects and my usual neuroses. This has come up recently, and I thought I needed to clarify. When I am free of them – and things are improving at a steady pace – I will say, 'I'm great!'

Deb versus Croissants

Puff pastry was a big challenge because of the time commitment required. Croissants are made from a yeast dough, and the prep spans 24 hours. But I found them easier to make. I think that the reason is that croissant dough doesn't require babysitting for hours. Most of the time involved in the prep before rolling out the dough to be cut is letting it proof in the fridge. That's not difficult at all since I'm not really doing anything. And when it came time to cut the dough into the properly shaped triangles, I had the right tool for the job. At some point where my only outlet was shopping on Amazon and Ebay, I ordered a croissant rolling pin. But, Deb, you say. These are simple triangle shapes. Can't you use a ruler and a pizza cutter? That sort of logic works on people who aren't geometry challenged. I am philosophically opposed to reincarnation because I don't want to relive high school geometry. There was just no telling what oddly shaped baked goods I would produce left to my own devices or multiple devices. And there is a perfectly good, affordable device available. Why no use it? It certainly saved me from hours of crying over floury dough and pizza cutters. And the result was just marvelous in every way. They looked great. They smelled amazing – especially while they were baking. And the taste was just not to be believed – especially right after baking. All in all, a very satisfying experience. I even want to do it again.

Language Barrier or I am Not a Ninja

I have been alternating on honing my French skills and learning Japanese. I'm getting more questions about how that's going, so I'll focus on that. I do a lot of very odd searches on Youtube. Those searches result in Youtube suggesting sites I might be interested in. Among them, was a site for teaching Japanese through anime. That made sense as I look at a lot of anime and I had noticed words and phrases that turned up a lot in the subtitled stuff I watched. It is an amusing set of lectures that went over conversation basics in the most casual language. That's a problem with Japanese as in many situations that a tourist would encounter, formality in speech is the norm. I was also learning how to conjugate a lot of swear verbs. Very amusing, but somewhat problematic as well. And then, there are the common words in this teacher's vocabulary. He was primarily using the anime series Naruto. I don't think I've ever uttered the phrase 'There is a village over that hill.' And even on my weirdest days I have never been known to shout 'I am a Ninja' at anyone. Still, I have found these lecture useful in some fashion. I just have to convince Jon that I don't plan to dash over to Mitsuwa Market spewing obscenities and claiming to be a ninja. I am also well aware that I'm not in the least bit ready for a trip to Tokyo. He really needs to relax. I have found some other online sites that offer the more formal conversational Japanese as well as slang. I am beginning to understand more. And I can even say some things – besides swear words. By the way, I seemed to have confused some of my readers. I didn't start trying Japanese recipes because of anime. I started noticing that the food in anime was largely accurate because I'd begun watching Your Japanese Kitchen. Though I confess that it was an anime scene that caused me to make the wiener octopi. They are supposed to be used in Bento box lunches. But I ate them on a hot dog roll. Jon didn't want to have anything to do with them in his lunch. He's no fun sometimes.

End Part One

I am really drained from a day out in the heat and unusual humidity yesterday. So, the updates, the party details and some more geeky musings tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Blog delay -- Party in the Yard!

The blog will be delayed until Tuesday. I'm getting ready for a patriotic feast/cancer free celebration among other things tomorrow. It will be a double-sized blog! I might even explain this photo!