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Posts Tagged ‘help me o internets’

Mains and sides

It’s the return of the Tin Chef!

As some of you know, I’ve finally started actually cooking, after thirty-some-odd-years of basically never doing it. I now have a nice array of recipes I like and can do, and enough confidence now that I’ll happily browse a magazine or cookbook and go “oooh, that sounds tasty, maybe I should try it,” as long as the recipe isn’t too daunting.

But almost everything I make is a single-dish meal, or if it isn’t, then we just throw some spinach on the plate as a salad. I’m still not much good at making a main dish and a side dish to go with it. Partly because that type of multitasking is still a little difficult for me — making sure things are ready around the same time, but don’t demand my attention at the same instant such that something winds up burning — but also just because . . . I have a hard time judging what things will go well together.

I know that to some extent the answers to this are a) it doesn’t matter that much and b) I can experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. But I’ve got a whole list of side dishes I’d like to try someday, and every time I look at them and go “I dunno, would that pair well with this main item?” I wind up going back to the single-dish things I’m comfortable with. So I put it to you, the cooks of my readership: how can I get better at this? I have two different “meat with balsamic + fruit sauce” main dishes I like — one chicken with balsamic vinegar and pomegranate juice, one pork chop with balsamic vinegar and dried cherries — and the fruitiness keeps making me second-guess whether a given side dish would make a good complement. And there are a lot of main dishes I haven’t even really taken a crack at yet. If I had some guiding principles for figuring out what combinations are good, I might experiment more.

Point and Click Adventure Games

I’ve always liked the “point and click adventure” style of video game. You know, the kind of thing Sierra was known for, back in the heyday of this genre: games where you wandered around talking to people and clicking on everything that was clickable to add it to your inventory, and then when you got to a challenge sticking your inventory items on it (or on each other, to make a new inventory item) until you figured out how to solve the problem. Many of these games were low-stakes, in that you could only die at a few specific points, and their overall focus was on story.

Does anybody have recmmendations for more games of that type? Either classics that are available on Steam or GOG, or newer games made in that mold. I’m a huge fan of the Gabriel Knight series, and I’ve also played various King’s Quest and Monkey Island games; I recently finished the more recent Blackwell series, and have also played Gray Matter, by the creator of the GK games. I like ’em because they don’t take too long to play and they don’t make me worry my character is going to die, and it would be nice to have some more to entertain myself with in my spare time. Fantasy genre preferred, but feel free to recommend whatever.

Calling all poetical/artistical types

I have a favor to ask!

For Sekrit Projekt R&R, Alyc and I have some divinatory cards we need to name. The catch is that we want their names to more on the metaphorical side, rather than directly literal, and neither of us is exceptionally good at thinking in those terms. Example: one of the cards represents travel and journeys. The obvious thing would be some kind of name involving roads or paths or whatever. But our placeholder name for it was “Horizon,” and now it’s “Dawn and Dusk,” because the city where the story takes place sits in the middle of a major trade network that extends east and west. That’s one we’re very pleased with . . . but we need a bunch more.

If you would be willing to help brainstorm card names, drop me a line. We’re especially interested in suggestions from people with a poetical bent, or people with a visual bent who might think in terms of what the image on the card would be, and then come up with a name to describe that image. I’ll send you a rundown of what the cards are that need naming, and also a little information about the setting to riff off in terms of knowing what details might be appropriate. There are thirty-four that need names; you’re welcome to suggest more than one for any given card, and you don’t need to suggest things for all of them if you don’t have ideas that seem fitting.

We’d like all suggestions to be in by the end of the month.

So if that’s something you can help out with, let me know. We’d be very grateful for the assistance!

A question for the linguists

It feels to me like every time I read about the evolution of a language over time, the general pattern is one of it becoming grammatically simpler. They go from having lots of cases to fewer or none at all, shed moods or aspects or dual forms, even (on the phonological rather than grammatical end) give up on more difficult to pronounce sounds in favor of easier ones.

Which leaves me wondering: when and how do the complicated features develop in the first place? Are there particular conditions (e.g. isolation) under which a language is likely to make itself into a more elaborate system?

Or is this just sample bias, and the pattern I think I’ve been seeing isn’t really a pattern at all?

A question for the poets: line breaks

I’m very hit or miss when it comes to liking poetry, and I most frequently miss with free verse, because part of what draws me to poetry is the rhythmic effect of meter. But I’ve taken to copying out poems I like in a small notebook, and a couple of the recent ones have been free verse — and in writing them down (which forces me to pay finer-grained attention to the arrangement of the words), I found myself reflecting on one of the things I find most puzzling about the style:

How do the poets decide where to break their lines?

In a poem with meter, the answer to that question is set for you, and the challenge is to figure out how much of your idea you’re going to put into a given line and how you’ll make it fit. But with that element gone, you can end your line anywhere you choose. Sometimes I can see why the choice was made in a certain way; for example, two lines might be structured so that they echo one another, and the positioning of the break draws your attention to the similarity. But other times, it seems to be completely arbitrary.

And yet I’m sure there’s an aesthetic principle, or more than one, guiding the decision. So my question for the poets among you is: what are those principles? If you were critiquing a poem, what would make you say “it would be better if you moved this word down to the next line/joined these two lines together/broke this one apart”? What are you looking at, or for, when you give someone feedback like that, or choose the placement of the breaks in your own work?

I feel like, if I understood this, I might enjoy free verse more. Because things that register on me as arbitrary are rarely impressive, so seeing through to the underlying reason might increase my appreciation.

This week in “Random Cooking Questions” . . .

I have a tasty recipe for linguine with a sauce of bacon, shallots, and sun-dried tomatoes in cream — but my sister dislikes creamy things. She suggested doing it as a butter sauce instead, and I’m debating the best way to approach that.

Current recipe: cook chunks of bacon for six minutes in olive oil over medium heat, add chopped shallots for 1 minute, add cream and bring to boil, turn off heat and add sun-dried tomatos and parmesan.

Butter variant: should I just cook the bacon in butter and otherwise proceed as before? Or brown the butter for a while before adding the bacon? Or something else? Does this subsitution even work? (It’ll obviously create a different texture overall, but that’s the goal: my sister isn’t lactose-intolerant, just anti-creamy texture.) I could just experiment, but in the interests of winding up with an edible meal at the end, I thought I’d see what the commentariat advises.

“Can one use a dragon to light a candle on Shabbat” and other important questions from Lady Trent’s world

My husband, to me: “You probably want to see this.” <sets his laptop down in front of me>

Me: <reads the best tumblr conversation I’ve seen possibly ever in my life>

Seriously — β€œCan I use my pet dragon to light candles on Shabbat?” is an actual debate religious leaders would have to have in Isabella’s world. Because they have dragons, and a sizable percentage of Anthiope is Segulist (i.e. Jewish), so that scenario is a thing that could actually happen. Probably has. And now I’m regretting that I’m not conversant enough with Judaism to write a short story that is entirely about Segulist magisters arguing over something like using a pet dragon to light a candle on I don’t think I ever came up with a replacement term for Shabbat (it would run from sunset on Eromer to sunset on Cromer, i.e. Friday-Saturday, but there ought to be another word for it). I had enough trouble writing “The Gospel of Nachash”; this would be harder, especially since I don’t think I can ethically yoink the things people said in that Tumblr thread for my own commercial purposes, and figuring out how to turn it all into a workable story would require me to go beyond what’s there into the wilds of stuff I don’t even know enough about to ask the right questions.

<wanders away from half-finished blog post for a while, thinking>

<comes back>

Okay, screw it. We’re doing this thing.

And I do mean “we,” because I am actively soliciting ideas from people who know Judaism better than I do, that you’re willing to let me use to write a Lady Trent story about religious debates concerning the proper role of dragons in pious Segulist life. I have no idea what form this is going to take; right now in my head it reads like a “Dear Abby” column, with some magister who is here for all your dragon-related religious queries, but it would be hard to give that enough shape to pass for a short story rather than just a novelty piece. Really, I can’t plan the story itself until I know what material it’s going to be built around, because that will probably suggest to me a context for why and how and of whom the questions are being asked.

So toss me some suggestions, people. Other than using a dragon to light a candle on Shabbat (probably a sparkling or a Puian fire-lizard; I don’t recommend desert drakes for the purpose), what other questions might come up? I know enough about kosher laws to be pretty sure dragon meat does not qualify, assuming you would even want to eat it, which you probably would not. After that, I don’t know what would be interesting to consider. Any thoughts?

I need a cool two-syllable word

Okay, here’s a random one for y’all.

I’m trying to name something for a story. It needs to be named with an English word, and for reasons of rhythm, that word has to be two syllables, with the accent on the first syllable. The thing in question is mystical, but don’t feel obliged to go for obviously mystical-sounding words; in fact, it’s probably better if I stay away from that (so no “shadow” or “dragon” or what have you). But it should be something that sounds cool — no “sofa” or “laundry” here. πŸ˜›

Bonus points if it has the same form as both a noun and a verb, but that’s icing on the cake.


calling all Latinists

I seem to remember, back in high school, translating a poem by Horace where the first word (?) of the poem was a verb . . . but the subject of that verb was buried down in the second stanza. I don’t recall anything about its subject matter; it only stuck with me because it was the most egregious example I had personally encountered of how Latin can make an utter jigsaw of its word order.

But that poem doesn’t appear to be in our little booklet of Catullus and Horace, which means it was one of the ones the teacher gave us in a handout. And although I thought I still had those handouts, I can’t find them. So I turn to you, o Latinists of the internet: does this ring a bell? Can anybody point me at the poem in question?