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Monday, August 31, 2015

Worldcon 2015: Spokane WA

The 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, held in Spokane, WA, has come and gone.  My friend and I made the Great Road Trip from (Duluth) Minneapolis to Spokane and back, enjoying such sites as the plains of North Dakota, driving through Theodore Roosevelt National Park, along the Yellowstone and Clark Fork Rivers, and the mountains of western Montana and Idaho.  Granted, this was all viewed from the seat of our rental car, but it was things we would have missed if we had flown.

The convention itself was one of the most enjoyable con's I have been too:  situated right along the Spokane River, we had maybe a half mile walk to the convention center from our hotel.  The convention center itself was an eclectic group of buildings, which worried me at first about getting from one end to the other, but it was easy enough to figure out the rooms and the convention center staff were incredibly helpful in pointing me in the right direction.

We arrived late Tuesday Evening, and took some time Wednesday morning to run up to the large cat sanctuary: Cat Tales Zoo    We buzzed back to our hotel where I went off to a yoga class and later to the convention!  Here's a list of what I attended:

Opening Ceremonies
Accounts and History of the Spokane Tribe
Legends and Lore of the Inland Northwest

Thursday morning my friend and I went to the most amazing yarn store!  Paradise Fibers  Yarn! Yarn and more yarn!  Weaving! Spinning!  A whole wall covered in different kinds of needles!  The staff was incredibly friendly, helping to point out local yarns and chatting while winding my yarn into cakes.  It was truly a unique experience for me.  We were told during our visit that Paradise Fibers has a very robust online sales presence - something I will probably take advantage of down the line!

And then it was back to the convention for these panels: 
Guided Tour of the Art Show
Stories of the Spokane Tribe
The Past, Present, and Future of Military SF
What's new in Astronomy (left early)
The Changing Face of Hard SF

Sometime mid afternoon on Thursday I had an hour of downtime went and took a gondola ride over the Spokane Falls then walked around their river walk. I captured some interesting waterfall pictures, sculptures, and a watched an active carousel.

View of Spokane River below the falls from the gondola

Spokane Falls and Washington Powerworks Building

A garbage eating goat!  You push a button, then put something like a piece of paper by his mouth and whoosh!  It's gone!

Artwork on the Riverwalk. 

Which was a good thing because by Friday afternoon the air quality was so bad from the forest fires the City of Spokane was issuing hazardous air quality alerts.   I head from a local that this was the worst it had been since Mt. St. Helen's blew up in 1980.

Smoke haze from the fires in Washington.

Urban Fantasy as Modern Fairy Tale
Hidden Diversity in Classic SF
Classic SF You Should Read
Infamous Bad Book Covers
Adapting the Human Body for Low Gravity
What's New from Ace/Roc

Dawn of the Asteroid Belt: Exploring Ceres and Vesta
Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake
Fantasy and Supernatural Noir
Geology of Spokane

New Space Opera
Near Event Horizon's and Black Holes

The air cleared up again on Saturday so I got out for another river walk.

Spokane River below the falls.
Spokane Falls

Artwork on the Riverwalk

Sunday and Monday we were on the road again, putting on some miles in order to get the rental car back on time.  

I thought the programming was outstanding this year.  More often than not there were several things I wanted to go to in any given block of time.  And the variety was really good - I could bounce from a session on the history of the Spokane Indians, to astronomy, to a panel on an aspect of literature, to what's new from a publisher...and I'm only touching on those items that were interesting to me.  There were a plethora of steampunk panels, science panels, writing panels, gaming, costuming and more.

There was heap loads of drama surrounding the 2015 Hugo Nominations and Awards, but really, "they" can take the drama and stuff it.  If you're curious, google 2015 Hugos and Sad Puppies.  But really, it's not worth your time.

Next year will find us traveling to Kansas City for Worldcon 2016: MidAmerica Con!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Edge of Evil by J.A. Jance (Ali Reynolds #1)

My friend Tess read this and having similar tastes, passed along the recommendation.  This is also my first time reading J.A. Jance, so a new-to me author.  Read as an audio book. 

Let's start with our heroine, Alison Reynolds. The story begins with her getting canned from her TV anchor position because at 40, she's now over the hill, despite the fact that she is younger than her male counterparts.  Nothing new there in TV land.  Alison's husband just happens to be the Network Bigwig, and wants her to brush the incident under the carpet and move on but she's lawyer-ing up to fight it.  In the same night Ali learns her best friend - whom she hasn't seen in over two years, has gone missing.

Over the next week, her friend goes from missing to dead by suicide, she finds out her Husband has two mistresses on the side - one of them Ali's Personal Assistant.  Lawyers contacted, beloved college-age son at her side, she heads off to Arizona for her friend's funeral.  Where, we find out her parents want to sell the family cafe and her father breaks multiple bones in a snowboarding accident.  We are introduced to the future love interest, where of course they despise each other at first sight.

In all this we have the Perfect Son, who upon finding out his mother was canned, sets up a blog for her which immediately generates a huge audience, he drives her from California to Arizona, stays at the hospital with her Father, and he always tells the truth.  

Plotwise, I kept finding inconsistencies; for example,
  • Ali has dinner with her Mother, Edie, and her mother declares at 8pm that it's time for her to go home and get to bed.  A short while later Ali gets a call from her son that he's at the hospital with her Father.  Off to the hospital she goes, and Father is in surgery when she gets there.  After a while, Ali and son go out to get dinner (at 10p-11 at night?) from a KFC.  Ali drops son back off at the hospital, and decides to head over to her dead friend's house with a bucket of chicken for all the mourners who'll be with her friend's Husband.  It's now 11p+ at night, the house is dark, except for a porch light. There are no mourners, no extra cars in the driveway.  So she decides to go knock on the door and confront him, even though she hasn't seen him in over two years. Right....
  • The police were treating Reni's death as a suicide because they found a typed note.  In a car I could have sworn blew up as it plunged over a cliff in a snowstorm. 
  • Ali, a former journalist, starts blogging.  I found her posts waayyy to personal for someone who has worked in media. It's only after posting for over a week that she decides that she needs to protect the innocent and to use fake names and or alias's - now that everyone knows who-who is.  And then to discover that Oh!  There are scary people on the internet!  Hel-lo!  Ali was a journalist!  
 And there were others.

But, IF you can put aside the inconsistencies prevalent throughout the story, it's a mindless enough read, especially for a commute or road trip.  If you are expecting something more solidly written, perhaps pass.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Recipe Review from 8/17/2015

I'm off on adventures this next week, so I'm posting this recipe a bit early.   New recipes have been a  slow this summer as I've been relying more on just simple grilling food like my current favorite: grilled kielbasa with pineapple, red pepper and onions.  We're also grilling a lot of fish, some ribs and pork chops, corn on the cob and leftovers in between.  Lunches have been sandwiches because they are quick and easy. 

I'll get back to new recipes after all my Fall adventures are over and the weather starts to cool down where I don't have to worry about heating up the house.  

In the meantime, enjoy!

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad (RecipeGirl Blog via Pinterest)  gluten free, vegetarian
Another super simple salad with minimal prep.   I think I had this pulled together in well under half an hour.  I did skip the green onions, and I subbed lime juice for the lemon, but only adding 1/2 tbsp.  I'm out of lemon juice.  In the middle of summer. Go figure...

This is going to be my supper for Mon and Tues while I'm on the road in the aforementioned adventures.  I'll pick up some small french rolls from Whole Foods Market as I roll through the Cities to round out my meal. 

photo from
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2/3 cup chopped bell pepper (mix red/yellow/orange)
3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
3 green onions, sliced
12 kalamata olives, sliced in half
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large bowl, toss together the salad ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle juices on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chicken Update 8/13/2015

Here are a couple of pics of our new Chicken Cruiser (also known as mobile chicken coop) the Husband build over the weekend.  It's a pretty slick contraption, standing about 4' tall, it's 8' long, and roughly 4' wide.  It's designed to nestle into our garden beds, which are about 4' wide and 16' long.  The nest box is under the tarp in back and is accessible via a small hatch the Husband built.  It's mobile if there are two people to move it. 

The idea with this kind of coop is you use the chickens to "cultivate" the garden beds.  We have dried grass clippings and weeds on top of the soil, which attracts a plethora of worms and bugs.  The chickens dig through this, mixing it with the soil,their poop, and any compost we might have added.  Any weeds or weed seeds are consumed during this process as well.  It's a win-win situation - bed is weeded, cultivated and fertilized; chickens do natural chicken things, eat, poop and lay eggs. 

And, may I introduce our newest Ladies?  Here are the Priya's (Geek points if you recognize the name.  Hint - it's the same theme I have with the other hens.)   We picked these up on Monday night.  They are about 5 or 6 months old?  Something like that.  The hen in the middle we suspect is an "Easter Egger" breed.  The other two...not so sure what they are. 

Hen box on the left with fake egg, the perch is above the hens.

Which brings me around to the Big Announcement!  Here are the Most. Egg-spensive. Eggs. EVER!   

Yes!  The Priya's are laying eggs and these were the first two!  One or two of the Hens has the nesting box figured out.  One Priya is just laying them on the ground - right under the perch where they also poop. Bleh. 

So if these gals at 5+ months are laying eggs, our original hens are probably not far behind!  Husband is working on a nesting box for the big coop today. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Garden and Chicken Update from 8/3/2015

I was out of town at an anatomy workshop the previous week so there is no meal or meal plan to post about. 


In chicken news, 13 roosters went away last week for processing.   That left the Husband with 9 girls and one rooster we've dubbed "Red".  Red is an Ameracauna and promises to be a very pretty bird (and a mostly quiet boy).  He's got a red body, iridescent green tail feathers, a black patch on his chest, and various coloring in between.  He's a bit hard to photograph right now, so pictures will come later.

This also means the Husband does not have quite the number of hens he wanted to carry through the winter, nor the number that would naturally keep his coop warm.  In very quick fashion, he built a "chicken cruiser" for the garden (think mobile chicken coop), and we procured some birds for sale off of Craigslist.  The other option was to buy another 15 chicks and go through the whole brooding/butchering process again in November.

Which means we're putting those birds to work!  Now they can start earning their feed.

Which brings us round to pictures of my Summer garden.  No veggies this year due to remodeling the house, building a coop and raising chickens, but the flowers did really well.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Echo Park by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #12)

Echo Park (Harry Bosch, #12)Echo Park by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  When he receives word that somebody has confessed to the 1995 homicide of Marie Gesto, Detective Harry Bosch is surprised and relieved. For more than a decade, details of this savage murder had eaten away at the sensitive investigator. His emotions heighten, though, when he hears the murderer speak and learns that police missed a clue that could have led them to Gesto's killer and thus prevented nine subsequent murders. The realization leaves Bosch reeling with uncertainty about his colleagues and his own commitments. A very well done hard-boiled police procedural.

Read as an audiobook.

I was disappointed in this book in so far as Harry was once again acting like an ass, as if the world should revolve around him and his opinions.  I don't know if a more belligerent, demanding, rude, and bossy detective could be found.  I'm sure one exists, but I haven't come across him (or her) yet, though Wallander might come close.

It seems as if in this installment, it's Harry's way or the highway.  And from what I could ascertain, there was absolutely no reason he had to be such a rude git.  Not everybody needs to march to Harry's tune and as the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

An example - per LAPD rules, Harry is put on "Home-Stay" pending an investigation by the OIS (officer involved shooting) department at the burial site of a 13 year old open-unsolved case after the killer escapes, which involved the deaths of two policemen.  Harry goes back out to the site to have a look around, which is against regulations, and his car is noticed in the nearby parking lot.   When his supervisor calls to ask why he's at the crime scene instead of anywhere else, instead of just saying, "I wanted to pay my respects to the closure of a 13 year old case I've been working on",  he comes up with a lame-o excuse about a coin and gets defensive about his actions. 

Later, he recruits Rachel Walling, FBI to help him in his investigation - using files he took from the office against regulations, a murder book that he copied against regulations, a surveillance he should not have been on, and a home invasion with out back-up despite Rachel warning him to call.  And he wonders why everyone is pissed at him.

So, crabby pants detective in this one was a big detraction for me.

The murder mystery wasn't really - we know who the antagonist is, we know his actions, we know there is political intrigue.  This was a "watch Harry put the pieces together" book.  The ending(s) should come as no surprise.

Recommended with slight reservations if you've read the previous books. 

View all my reviews

Monday, August 3, 2015

Recipe Review from 7/27/2014

Another warm week that had us using the grill and eating out on the porch.   Gardening is mostly caught up on - all the beds are weeded, grass clippings are getting tossed on top, and the Husband planted one cover crop of clover and a couple rows of carrots, radishes, kale and Swiss chard.  Seems a bit late, but kale and Swiss chard are great fall plants and they should grow quickly in this heat.

All the flower beds are tidied but one - I'll get to the peony bed when I've got a cooler weekend since that one is on the south side of the barn and gets quite toasty in the sun.

In the mean time, enjoy this weeks recipes! 

The Meal Plan:
Sun - Grilled Kielbasa, Pineapple, and Red pepper
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/Legion mgts)
Tues - leftover from Sun
Wed - Salmon Cakes (Fine Cooking)
Thurs - BBQ Chicken Salad (Pinterest)
Fri -  leftovers
Sat- leftovers/Brats at Folks place

Lunches - sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, luna bars, crackers

[Salmon] and Corn Cakes (Fine Cooking, Issue 136, June 2015)  
Living where I do fresh lump crabmeat is not a viable option.  However, trout and salmon are in abundance so I subbed cooked salmon for this.  I grilled the salmon right before making these so I had an extra step and time added to the process.

End result?  Delicious!  Easy, tasty, perfect for a hot summer evening meal.  The sauce is a must in my opinion - don't skip or skimp.  Leftovers were just as good when lightly reheated.  Recommended!
photo from
  • 1 lb. lump crabmeat, picked over  (I  used cooked salmon)
  • 1-1/3 cups panko
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels, preferably fresh
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce  (I used a broccoli slaw mix)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Magazine Tip:Try smoked trout or cooked salmon in place of the crab for a tasty fish and corn cake.
1. Combine the crab, panko, corn, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Gently stir in the eggs. With damp hands, tightly shape the mixture into eight 3/4-inch-thick cakes and place them on a small cutting board or flat plate. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toss the lettuce and cilantro together and arrange on four plates. Finely grate the zest and squeeze the juice from the lime into a small bowl. Stir in the sour cream, and thin with a little water to make a pourable sauce. Season to taste with salt.

3. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 crab cakes and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Repeat with the remaining oil and crab cakes. Divide the crab cakes among the plates and serve with the sour cream.

BBQ Chicken Salad  (Damn Delicious Blog via Pinterest)  gluten free **watch the BBQ sauce and dressing
Another super easy salad made easier by either using leftover grilled chicken or by purchasing a rotisserie chicken and saving about 2 cups of meat.  I used baby spinach instead of romaine.  I also made my own dressing - substituting a buttermilk dressing for the ranch. Was just as delicious and had less chemical crap and minimal to no soybean oil in it.   This would also be good sans the chicken and served alongside something grilled.  Perfect for hot weather when you don't want to heat up the kitchen.  Recommended! 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless thin-sliced chicken breasts
    photo from
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce (I used baby spinach)
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 3/4 cup canned corn kernels, drained (I used frozen and lightly sauteed)
  • 3/4 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed (I used the whole can)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup Ranch dressing**
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce**
  • 1/4 cup tortilla strips
1) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat
2) Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, to taste. Add to skillet and cook, flipping once, until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Let cool before dicing into bite-size pieces. 
3) To assemble the salad, place romaine lettuce in a large bowl; top with chicken, tomato, corn, beans, onion and cheeses. Pour Ranch dressing and BBQ sauce on top of the salad and gently toss to combine.
4) Serve immediately, topped with tortilla strips.

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