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[No comments] Old Science Fiction Roundup: I've got a bunch of these books of classic SF and you all know the score. I read from them occasionally. It's a mix of still-cool stuff, retro goodness, retro awfulness, and stories that are just plain bad. I write up the stuff I liked, as a way of tracking stories and techniques I think are successful.

First up is The IF Reader of Science Fiction, edited by Frederick Pohl in 1966. Not a lot of memorable stuff here, unfortunately. There's a Retief story ("Trick or Treaty") but it's not one of the better ones. Jonathan Brand's "Long Day in Court" provides more of the civil-service fun of a Retief story, but also has an unhealthy dose of the 1960s sexism that's generally kept on the back burner in Retief. I guess the best thing in this anthology is Fred Saberhagen's "The Life Hater", which is short enough to coast to a pleasant stop on its setup and its twist.

Honorable mention to Fritz Leiber's "The 64-Square Madhouse", a pre-dramatization of the Kasparov-Deep Blue match. This story was probably really fun in the 1960s but not so much today. But check this out. When I hear "3D chess" I think of Tri-D chess, the game Spock plays on hors-d'oeuvre trays. I've never thought of anything else as being "3D chess". But, this story mentions another way to do "3D chess" that's obvious in retrospect: a game with a stack of eight standard chessboards and pieces able to move in three dimensions. This sort of "3D chess" variant has been around since the nineteenth century, so Leiber didn't invent it, but he did come up with a cool detail where astronauts and Air Force pilots play 3D chess to show off their ability to think in three dimensions.

Next up: Sinister Barrier, Eric Frank Russell's first novel (first serialized in 1939). I love Russell's later stuff, Wasp and Next of Kin, and this is... a first novel from twenty years earlier. Not great. But I did really like its dramatization of the difficulty in determining whether someone has been mind-controlled into opposing you, or whether they just disagree with you.

Russell shows up again in Groff Conklin's 1965 anthology Great Stories of Space Travel, with "Allamagoosa", a nice story of bureaucracy. Other highlights of this anthology include Ray Bradbury's "Kaleidoscope", and Isaac Asimov's "Blind Alley", another tale of bureaucracy. Really solid stories, but each is exactly what I would have expected from those three Great Men.

In non-predictable news, Damon Knight's "Cabin Boy" is truly a Great Story of Space Travel. I had no previous opinion of Damon Knight's fiction but this story's way ahead of its time. Knight gets you into the mind of the alien POV character by translating the alien part of the story into a different type of genre fiction, and switching between sci-fi cliches and the cliches of the other genre. These days such postmodern techniques are common, but by 1951 standards it's really damn innovative.

You can read "Cabin Boy" on the Internet Archive. Its original Galaxy blurb was: "If you believe you can write a blurb for this story, go ahead. In all science fiction, it is perhaps the weirdest encounter of alien races!" By coincidence, this was also my proposed back cover copy for Constellation Games. I hate writing blurbs, is what I'm saying.

May Film Roundup:

  • Lots of Kids, a Monkey, and a Castle (2017) a.k.a. "Muchos hijos, un mono y un castillo". And now, the story of a wealthy family who lost everything. This movie presents in a fun way a family situation that is in many ways awful, and it's mainly possible because Julita (the mom, the focus of the movie) is hilarious. She has a dry, cynical matter-of-factness that I associate with my own mother, and thus with the general concept of 'mom'.

    In a recent episode of the Retronauts podcast, someone described the line between "collecting" and "hoarding" as the point where your stuff starts interfering with your living space. This film shows that there's a pretty big loophole in that idea—if you're rich enough you can just keep buying more space.

    Anyway, it's rare to see a movie about a family going through problems where the family sticks together and everyone basically gets along, so this one's recommended from me.

  • Freebie and the Bean (1974): From the innocent days when you could put a racial slur in the title of your fun-time cop movie. There are a couple good jokes and some great car chases (including one that's right out of Batman '66) but not recommended overall. Perhaps it could be remade, pairing a veteran Chicago cop with Anish Kapoor's sculpture "Cloud Gate".

    Old game watch: there's a Commando Machine Gun game in the bowling alley.

  • Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976): This film was a critical flop when it was released, and it's not a great movie, but I had a really good time with it. I like a heist movie but I like it even more when it's got a snobs-vs.-slobs element, and Michael Caine is the ultimate heist snob.

    This is also a vaudeville film, another big plus for me, but as a 70s vaudeville film there is some brief, halfhearted Elliot Gould blackface. On the bad-meter it's not as bad as Holiday Inn, but it's not exactly a reckoning with the past either. The museum handout quoted Burt Young's memoirs as saying that when they were making this movie everyone was backslapping and really self-congratulatory about how funny they were, and it really does show.

    My aunt Anne once told me a story where the punchline was her saying in a fake Southern belle voice "We are at your disposal!" Well, in this movie Diane Keaton says basically the same line in the same voice, and it's making me question the veracity of Anne's story. But maybe it's a stereotypical Southern belle thing to say. Anne wouldn't tell a story that wasn't 100% true, right?

  • A Wrinkle in Time (2018): There are three series my mother read to me when I was really small: the Narnia books, the Hobbit/LotR cycle, and the first three books in what I now know is called the Time Quintet. (The other two weren't out yet during the reading-to-Leonard years, and in fact I just found out they existed.) My adult opinion of these series are: meh, awesome, and hadn't really thought about it. But when this movie was announced I did think about it and I realized how important l'Engle's work has been to me. These days there are entire sections of bookstores devoted to weird genre fiction for kids, but back in the day A Wrinkle in Time was a real oasis. Middle-Earth was real weird to my mom's generation, but by the 1980s, Tolkien wasn't just for hard-core hippies anymore. And Narnia has always had a stick up its ass.

    In comes l'Engle, mixing fantasy tropes like witches and unicorns with Christian concepts (not allegory, just the concepts) and topics in contemporary science. Just, every chapter there's another wild, original situation. Every book has a totally different concept based on the same themes. It really worked like a karate chop on the weary little world of Dick, Jane, and Spot.

    Sadly, my epic poem about peeing, A Tinkle in Rhyme, is still unapproved by the l'Engle estate, so my appreciation for these books can only be shown through Film Roundup reviews. I really looked forward to seeing this adaptation, even though an adult nostalgic for an experience they had as a kid rarely ends well. And I was disappointed in approximately the way I expected to be, but it's a good kids' movie, they did a good job making it relevant to kids' concerns today, and kids who are going to grow up to write science fiction will read the books anyway.

    The whole movie I was wondering how they were going to handle the revelation of IT, which of all the weird things in these books is the one that stands out in my mind. I still remember being five or whatever and my mom taking a deep breath and saying "It was a BRAIN!" What a terrifying reveal. But a disembodied brain is probably too gross for a PG movie while not being that scary on the screen. Even in the book, Meg realizes pretty quickly that although an oversized human brain is disgusting, if she had a scalpel she could just slice it up. So I think they did a good job setting the movie's climax inside a brain, a more abstract but also more terrifying space.

  • The Prestige (2006): Cheryl recommended this to me when my writing group met to discuss Mine, for reasons that will be obvious when you read Mine. It's pretty fun. I didn't know Christopher Nolan directed, and back then Christopher Nolan wasn't DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER NOLAN BWAAAAAAAHM, so if I hadn't had an inkling of what to look for I would have been pretty surprised by the switch from one type of genre fiction to another.

    This film has a lot of fridge logic that's mostly explainable by the fact that the two protagonists will go to almost any length to sabotage each other. A convenient way to avoid nitpicking questions, but one that means you can only tell stories about certain types of people.

    I remember around the time The Dark Knight came out Sumana mentioned Michael Caine and I had no idea who he was. We went through his entire IMDB page; I'd never seen a movie with Michael Caine in it. By this time I've seen several (two this month, even!) and it was nice to see him in a role where he's not always cool and in command of the situation.

This month the Television Spotlight focuses on... a frosty mug of beer? Oh, it's "Sunshine Sento-Sake", which I found about through this 2017 review and then kept in my queue until the perfect moment. That moment is now: I'm dieting and there's a vicarious satisfaction in watching someone enjoying food I myself wouldn't want to eat. I don't like beer and am not big on Japanese food, but watching Takayuki Utsumi ditch his meaningless job, slack off in a bathhouse and then rehydrate with a cold one at a nearby dive is really enjoyable. It's also really repetitive. I don't know if I'll finish the series. Fun stuff, though.

March/April Film Roundup: I skipped a month of roundups because I was head-down finishing Mine, but now the novel is done! Yay. Even so, I had to pad this roundup with a couple of movies I saw earlier, even last year, but forgot to review. Roll film!

  • Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (2017): This was a nice slow-paced thriller. For decades other countries have been adapting the themes of the American western, and this movie does it really well; you get the loneliness, the lawlessness, plus the human connection you get in the better westerns.
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015): Cute and fun. Not complaining about this per se, but one of the things I love about the Wallace and Gromit animations is the buddy relationship, and the relationship between Shaun and the farmer amped up the part of that relationship I dislike (Wallace being really helpless and Gromit having to do all the work).
  • Legally Blonde (2001): A fun movie with a satisfying wish-fulfillment twist you rarely see: the main character's incredibly smart but didn't know it because it's just kinda never come up. Less enjoyable: a crucial plot point relies on bisexual erasure. A mixed bag, I guess I'm saying. Clueless remains the champion of this mega-femme subgenre IMO.
  • The Death of Stalin (2017): For so long I've been waiting for this to come to the US, because Steve Buscemi as Khrushchev is my dream role. And it delivers—he's the Buscemiest! The Mr. Pink of the postwar Soviet era. I'm not a big fan of The Thick of It, but that's partly because the stakes are so low. Ramping it way up makes the cynicism more sit-throughable, I think. Recommended overall. In my review of Muppets Most Wanted when I said "I don't think massive human rights violations are totally off-limits for humor," this is more what I was thinking of.
  • The Court Jester (1955): Recommended by Cheryl, who said this and The Princess Bride were the movies she watched over and over again as a kid. We saw it with Sumana's mom during a visit and... a huge hit! Great songs, great physical comedy, good verbal sparring, decent actual sparring. Danny Kaye's split-personality bit puts The Nutty Professor to shame. My favorite film of 2018 so far, not that that's saying much.
  • The Inspector General (1949): We doubled down on Danny, but this film wasn't nearly as good as The Court Jester. "Good bones", as they say in real estate, but a lot of the humor probably originates from the sparkling pen of Nikolai Gogol. I'll just check Wikipedia... "The great originality of [The Government Inspector's] plan consisted in the absence of all love interest and of sympathetic characters." Huh, okay, I guess the movie did come up with its own jokes, and it has some good ones. But the musical numbers are not fun, and way too long. That really drags.

Direct Observation of the MST3K-IMDB Effect: The MST3K-IMDB effect, first hypothesized in 2011, is the effect on a movie's IMDB rating caused solely by its having appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. A bad movie isn't made any worse by being on MST3K, but MST3K shows movies in the context of a fiction where they're an instrument of torture. You can model an episode of MST3K as a negative advertisement, designed to make the viewer feel negatively about a movie they'd never heard of before. The MST3K-IMDB effect measures the 'success' of the negative ad.

Previously, the MST3K-IMDB effect could only be observed through its gravitational tug on one movie out of a director's oeuvre. But in 2017, Mystery Science Theater: The Return took movies that for years had sat in the dustbin of history and turned them into well-known "MST3K movies". Thanks to my trusty 2015 IMDB data dump, I'm in a position to compare the ratings of all these movies before and after they were on MST3K, providing the first direct images of the MST3K-IMDB effect.

First, here's my control group: a comparison of the 2015 and 2018 ratings for some random movies that weren't on MST3K:TR. As you can see, IMDB ratings for old movies are normally very stable, not changing by more than a couple percent over three years.

Title 2015 rating 2015 votes 2018 rating 2018 votes Percentage change in rating
Night of the Lepus 3.9 2782 4 3484 2%
Embryo 4.9 824 5 1052 2%
The Ninth Configuration 7.3 3486 7.2 4893 -2%
Gorgo 5.5 1846 5.6 2479 1%
O Fantasma (2000) 5.9 1859 5.7 2449 -4%
They’re A Weird Mob 6.6 550 6.6 686 0%

My methodology: the first two movies in that list are the sort of thing you see on MST3K. The Ninth Configuration is a more highbrow obscure film. Gorgo was on MST3K a long time ago, so presumably the MST3K-IMDB effect is already priced in. The last two are movies of MST3K-level obscurity chosen at random. I would love to do this for every single movie in the 2015 data dump and just take an average, but I can't because IMDB doesn't offer full data dumps anymore.

Update: I took another look and this analysis is in fact possible once I write some code to compare the old and new IMDB dump formats. For non-porno feature films, the mean rating change between 2015/01/31 and 2017/12/24 is 0.13 stars. The median is 0.10 stars. Percentage-wise, it's 3% and 1%. So on average, IMDB ratings go very slightly up over time—a phenomenon I also noticed with Board Game Geek ratings.

Now, the moment I've all been waiting for, the experimental group. This table compares the 2015 and 2018 ratings of the movies that appeared in the first season of MST3K:TR. I've also included the rating of the MST3K:TR episode itself, as well as the number of votes IMDB used to calculate each rating.

Here, the percentage change in rating is largely due to the MST3K-IMDB effect. This is the percentage of a movie's previous rating that it lost just by being mocked on MST3K.

Title 2015 rating 2015 votes 2018 rating 2018 votes Percentage change in rating MST3K:TR episode rating MST3K:TR episode votes
Reptilicus 4 1599 3.6 2962 -10% 7.8 498
Cry Wilderness 5.2 37 2 877 -62% 8.3 819
The Time Travelers 6 753 5.1 1682 -15% 7.4 256
Avalanche 4.2 594 3.7 1352 -12% 8 261
The Beast of Hollow Mountain 5 509 4.2 1182 -16% 7.4 230
Starcrash 4 2946 3.9 4699 -3% 7.7 235
The Land Time Forgot 5.7 3085 5.7 4558 0% 7.4 197
The Loves of Hercules 3.2 349 3 787 -7% 7.2 181
Yongary 4.3 592 3.9 1102 -10% 7.8 201
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2.6 502 2.6 1037 0% 7.8 187
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II 1.8 297 1.8 716 0% 7.4 168
Carnival Magic 3.8 120 2.4 463 -37% 7.2 167
The Christmas that Almost Wasn't 5.5 204 3.8 541 -31% 7.1 148
At the Earth's Core 5.2 2276 5.2 3410 0% 7.2 134

The MST3K-IMDB effect is real, but it's not a constant. In the control group we saw movie ratings vary up and down, seemingly at random. With MST3K:TR movies the trend is clearly down. But for five of the fourteen movies we see no effect, or an effect so small that it could have been due to chance.

I wasn't expecting this result! I don't see a pattern in the five movies that lack an MST3K-IMDB effect; they aren't the best-rated movies or the worst, they weren't in better- or worse-rated episodes of MST3K, they aren't from a different time period than the others. Sometimes MST3K just doesn't change peoples' opinion about a movie.

But sometimes it does. Take a look at Cry Wilderness, which lost over half of its IMDB rating due to being on by far the highest-rated episode of MST3K:TR. It went from a regular bad movie to being Manos-level. Part of this is just that its pre-MST3K rating of 5.2 was taken from a very small sample of just 37 votes—the kind of super-obscure film I usually omit in IMDB analyses. But two other movies—Carnival Magic and The Christmas that Almost Wasn't—also have very large rating shifts.

Here's the closest I can come to a unified theory of what happened to those three movies. I took the number of post-2015 votes for each MST3K:TR movie and divided the post-2015 change in IMDB rating by that number of votes. This gives a guess at an incremental per-person MST3K-IMDB effect. So, every time someone saw a movie on MST3K and then rated the movie, we can say its rating went down by an average number of stars.

For most of the movies this number is zero (people gave the movie the same rating as if it hadn't been on MST3K at all) or infinitesimal (a lot of people voted and the IMDB rating went down a little bit), on the order of -1.0*10-3 stars. But three stand out. For Cry Wilderness the per-person MST3K-IMDB effect is -3.8*10-3 stars. For Carnival Magic it's -4.1*10-3. And for The Christmas that Almost Wasn't it's an amazing (relatively speaking) -5.0*10-3 stars.

So in a sense the negative ad campaign against The Christmas that Almost Wasn't was the most successful one here. That was the episode that got people the most riled up against the movie they'd just watched. But that movie's IMDB rating didn't go down as much as Cry Wilderness's, because the Cry Wilderness episode got more people to actually go vote the movie down.

But beyond those three movies, the per-person MST3K-IMDB effect is a lot smaller. What's the difference? Are those three movies unusually MST3K-compatible? Are those episodes meaner? It probably has something to do with the content of the movie, since the two Wizards of the Lost Kingdom movies have identical MST3K-IMDB effects of zero. Beyond that, I don't know.

Obviously there is no real propaganda campaign; no one set out to lower these obscure movies' ratings by making fun of them on Netflix. But I think this is a natural experiment showing what can happen to ratings and metrics even when the stakes are very low and no one has malicious intent.

February Film Roundup:

  • Newton (2017): This the closest I've seen to an Indian version of a Billy Wilder movie, which (see Fig. 1) means it's my favorite Indian movie. It's made with a mix of cynicism about and sincere belief in democracy. It sets up two characters on a course to romance, but doesn't actually show the romance and there's no guarantee it happens. Shorter than two hours, falls into the same "low violence, high suspense" quadrant as Dog Day Afternoon... just great stuff all around.
  • The Heartbreak Kid (1972): I've now completed the quadfecta of Elaine May films. Sumana and I saw this one on a date; our relationship is at the point where we can have a date where we watch a movie about catastrophically bad relationships. You might not want to see this movie on a third date, or if you got married less than a year ago.

    The film is good, but not a classic like Ishtar or A New Leaf. However, one thing those movies didn't have was Eddie Albert stealing the show as Mr. Corcoran. A funny character and great delivery in every scene. For the final time, I'll use this review as a soapbox to say that Elaine May is a really good director who should not be in movie jail. On a positive note, Ishtar's IMDB rating has gone up from 3.9 to 4.2 in the past five years.

  • The Greatest Showman (2017): Saw with Susanna on a trip to California. I don't know about this one, I just don't know. The opening number is fabulous but then... yeah, I can't recommend it.

    I get that P. T. Barnum inhabits the shadow world of the American tall tale, alongside Paul Bunyan and Hunter S. Thompson, so you can do whatever you want with his story without caring about things like 'accuracy'. But why spend the first act of a movie humanizing a con man, when you could not do that and have an awesome con man musical like The Music Man?

    This movie just made me think about how great The Music Man is. How Harold Hill starts off with no redeeming qualities but is civilized by the decency of the people he interacts with. That's how you humanize a con man in a family-friendly musical. At any rate, I think you could write a screenplay that stuck closer to this classic biography of Barnum but left most of the musical numbers intact.

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Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: Tentative Taxonomy of Tech Talk Narratives: Several months ago, as I was talking with Michael Rehse (my actor programmer friend who initially advised me on the code review play), we talked about the intersection of theater and technical talks, and taxonomized tech presentations. He and I came up with some:

the MacGyver
I did this ridiculous thing and it worked!
the Stephen King
I underwent horrors!* (Perhaps in retrospect the better trope namer here is "hell house" because these talks often end "beware and avoid my fate!" in the same way as certain scare-you-into-acting-morally Halloween hell houses.)
the Amazing Grace
I once was lost but now am found! (On this theme in Julia Evans's early blogging.)
the Bob Ross
Here's how you do foo with bar! (Perhaps that's appropriate for hands-on workshops and This Old House is a better trope namer here for lecture-style presentations.)
the Mr. Rogers factory tour
Here's how foo turns into bar! A soothing exploration of a complicated machine, following input as it turns into output. Variant: Macaulay-style "The Way Things Work" exploded diagram.

I wonder what other large categories there are for this.

Separately from that "what kind of story is this" categorization, a tech talk can have varying amounts of Reading Rainbow/!!Con-style emphasis on the discovery of joy that I discussed in "Toward a !!Con Aesthetic".

* I would genuinely love to go to a talk where the speaker started: "I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, / Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres, / Thy knotted and combined locks to part, / And each particular hair to stand on end / Like quills upon the fretful porpentine." And then talked about, like, a database migration.

Filed under:


: On Online Advice: I'll be speaking on a panel, "Social Media in Theory and Praxis: What is at Stake Now?" at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, in New York, NY, on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 (next week). It's partly about how "[u]se of digital platforms and tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Google has altered cultural production, political processes, economic activity, and individual habits." And recently I've been thinking about advice, and how blogging and other social media affect this very fundamental interpersonal act.

I am a giant weirdo. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Advice is like a diet plan. Our gut biomes are so varied and poorly understood that very strange-sounding diets inevitably work for some fraction of the population, and commonplace diet advice inevitably snarls up some people's digestive tracts. Similarly, your career, your household, your everything exists in a unique ecosystem, and advice you find condescending or hurtful may work for someone else, or even you ten years ago or ten years from now.

Sometimes I don't explicitly-enough distinguish between things that work prescriptively for myself and things that make sense to prescribe for All Of Humanity, and between prescriptive truths and descriptive truths.

Sometimes things I write down, even publicly, are aspirational and prescriptive self-motivational slogans. Many years ago, reading Steve Pavlina's wacky blog, I learned the concept of "lies of success": statements that are descriptively false -- or at least nonprovable -- but prescriptively true, like, "if I work hard and try new approaches when I get stuck, I will learn this". No one can promise that "will", so, it's not 100% accurate descriptively. But you may as well choose your unprovable and nonfalsifiable beliefs to serve your growth.

In every social context, there are topics that are apt to cause discord if we so much as name them -- sometimes the very word stops some people from thinking, like "abortion" or "cybersecurity". And when I write publicly, especially online, I do not control what social context my words are read in. So, some of these topics we can talk about in terms of our own values if we are super careful to be subjective and descriptive rather than prescriptive, but sometimes I find it hard to frame the conversation productively.

It's salutary for me to remember the ways in which I am an unextrapolatable weirdo. I'm grateful to all y'all for reminding me, pushing back when I act like my gut biome is the world.


: My LWN Story Summarizing PyPI's Overhaul: Python Package Index logoThis coming Monday, April 16th, we plan to flip the switch on the new PyPI and redirect https://pypi.python.org web browser requests and pip install requests so the codebase serving them is Warehouse (which is in beta right now at https://pypi.org). I'm proud of our team's work and hope you find it useful.

I haven't blogged here in a while, but I've been writing a lot, mostly announcements and explanations listed on, or a few hyperlinks away from, the onwiki index to my PyPI work. When I can't give people choices (and, unless your organization sets up a private package index/repository, PyPI can feel like the only game in town), I want to give them a lot of lead time to test, file bug reports, and migrate, and I want to provide backstory.

So: today LWN publishes a new article by me, "A new package index for Python". In it, I discuss security, policy, UX and developer experience changes in the 15+ years since PyPI's founding, new features (and deprecated old features) in Warehouse, and future plans. Plus: screenshots!

This summary should help occasional Python programmers understand why a new PyPI codebase is necessary, what's new, what features are going away, and what to expect in the near future.

If you aren't already a subscriber, you can use this subscriber link for the next week to read the article despite the LWN paywall. Thanks to LWN for the venue and the subscriber links, and thanks to Jake Edge in particular for thorough editing. Thanks to my Warehouse team for fact-checking me.


: Request: Donate To the Tiptree Award Auction: The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award encourages the exploration & expansion of gender, and holds a fundraising auction at WisCon each year. I'm the auctioneer, which is a pretty fun form of community service, and serve on the Tiptree Motherboard. We're seeking donations of objects to be auctioned -- handcrafts, books, memorabilia, games, and art, especially with scifi/fantasy or feminist elements, are welcome.

I would personally love to get some donations this year of types I haven't yet seen:

  1. Games of all sorts -- board games, card games, indie games, video games (we could auction off a Steam code or a USB stick)
  2. Handmade blank books
  3. Art commissions, e.g., "I will draw a portrait of you"
  4. DVDs or CDs of feminist media, e.g., a The Middleman box set
  5. Your secret recipe for a dish you consider wowzers

Some items I'll auction live from the stage. Some, people will buy directly from a cashier, at the Gathering on Friday afternoon or from the Direct Sale table at the auction. Some, folks will bid on via a silent auction throughout the con. And a few, we'll auction online. I wrote last year about what an award does, and the reflections I've seen from winners of the Tiptree Awards and Fellowships tell me those honors are doing the job -- encouraging creators and fans to expand how we imagine gender -- and by donating to the auction, you're supporting that.

The auction will be Saturday night, May 26th, and will be about 90 minutes long. If you want to come and you're local to Madison, you can buy a day pass at the door (just to attend WisCon on Saturday) for about $25. And it's totally fine to come to the auction just to enjoy the show, and not to buy anything.

Please feel free to signal-boost this, and if you're donating please fill out the form by May 15th. Thank you.


: Recent Debugging And Confidence: I am proud of myself for some recent debugging I've done on and with codebases and tools that I hadn't worked on before.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting next to a friend who co-maintains a web app and hadn't looked at it for a while. The styling was screwy. I asked whether some CSS or JS he depended on had upgraded, like jQuery or something. He said no, his site hosted all its dependencies. I opened up the site and checked the Network tab in Firefox Developer Tools and saw that it pulled in Bootstrap from a CDN. Ah, one of the other maintainers had added that! And updates to Bootstrap had screwed up the page's styling.

That same day, as a freshly minted co-maintainer of twine (a utility to upload packages to PyPI), I investigated a problem with our CHANGELOG. Twine's changelog, as represented on Read The Docs (example) and when I built the docs locally, only displayed version number 1.4.0 (2014-12-12) and two associated GitHub issues. This was inaccurate since the source file changelog.rst had 70+ items and ran up to version 1.9.1 (2017-05-27). I figured out that this was happening because changelog.rst is meant to be formatted so the Sphinx extension releases (which I hadn't used before) can parse it, and the current file wasn't syntactically (or semantically) adhering to releases's conventions. (Since then, with advice and help from some folks, I've released Twine 1.10.0 and started a new maintainer checklist.)

And then, a couple days later, I fixed my friends' blog. Their front page had reverted to a ten-year-old index page. I had never touched Movable Type before and hadn't used their particular managed hosting web GUI before, but I poked around (and checked for backups before changing anything) and managed to figure it out: during a May 2008 outage, someone had hand-made an index.shtml page, which was now overriding the index.html page in the server config. I figured it out and found and fixed it.

My mom says that when I was a kid, I took apart alarm clocks and spare hose attachments and so on, and put them back together just fine. She once came upon me taking something apart, and when she drew breath to admonish me, I said, "Amma, if I don't take it apart, how do I know what is inside? Don't worry, amma, I'm just looking at it, I'll put it back together when I'm done," and I did. She told me that I took apart a mechanical alarm clock, carefully spreading all the parts out on some newspaper, and put it back together, and it didn't quite work properly, so I took it apart again and then put it back together, and it worked, and I jumped for joy and said "I fixed it!" (I still feel that way when I fix something.)

At some point along the way I feel like I lost that calm confidence in my abilities, that "things are made of stuff" and what one person made another can fix. But I have it again, now, at least for some bits of software, and some purely mechanical stuff (yesterday, helping friends move, deciding to break down a big empty cardboard box, responding to "but it's so big, it won't fit on the stack" with "we have knives"). It doesn't feel courageous at the time, just sensible, but then I look back and feel like a badass.

If I had to point to the single biggest cause of this regained confidence, I'd point to the Recurse Center, where I got way more comfortable with bravery and failure in programming.


: Not Teetotal, But Teemostly: Here's something I'm really embarrassed to write, but want to mark, and maybe it'll help someone.

I've cut way down on drinking alcohol and am very glad I have done so.

Quick context: when I was growing up, I thought alcohol was Wrong. My parents did not drink alcohol at all and I believed what they told me in DARE and promised I would never smoke, drink, or take any other drugs.

For most of my time in college I did not drink alcohol at all, and held booze-free parties. While in college I visited Russia, where I was over the legal drinking age, and cautiously tried booze, taking notes the first time to check how my perception and judgment were affected. In my twenties I tried it more and it became a normal part of my life into my thirties.

I never perceived myself to have a problem with alcohol. Maybe once every twelve to eighteen months I'd misjudge my capacity and get to the vomiting and hungover stages, and a few times I said something really embarrassing or got hurt while drunk, but overall I thought I was fine, especially after I made a personal rule to only have a single drink per night when at a work-related event. Every once in a while I would find that the frequency had gone up from once or twice a week to nearly a drink every evening, and would cut back to zero or near zero for a while.

Then, last year, I had two bad experiences just a few months from each other, where I misjudged and drank enough to upset my stomach. What's worse, the second of those times was just after a great hiking trip and made the bus trip back home super awful, and made me completely cancel my plans (with a friend I rarely see) for the next day. I decided I absolutely needed to switch to other stress relief/conviviality choices, and went teetotal.

A month later, one afternoon, I was coworking with some colleagues in a shared coworking space, and heard a group of men I didn't know making some mocking and disturbing misogynistic jokes. I asked them to stop (I think they did; at least I stopped hearing them) but decided to get a drink with my colleagues, after work, to deal with the leftover nerves. As I did so I realized it had been a month since my last drink. It was the ninth of October.

I decided to try keep going like that, and only drink alcohol on the ninth of the month. That's what I've done since then (I make exceptions to, e.g., have a few sips of champagne to toast at my friends' wedding, but nothing like an actual serving of alcohol).

It's going well. I do not get drunk on the ninth of the month; I have a drink with a meal with a friend, then maybe a second a few hours later with Leonard. All my friends and colleagues are cool with it (I have the kinds of colleagues who put together surveys of what nonalcoholic drinks conference attendees want). It doesn't bother me to see other people drinking in moderation. It feels weird enough to be an enjoyable meta-habit (playfulness being a good way for me to trick myself into doing something that might otherwise feel tedious). I'm able to exert my best judgment while socializing. I listened the other day to the "Say Why to Drugs" episode on "Dry January" and yeah, like a lot of drinkers who experiment with taking a month off from all alcohol, I also incidentally spend a bit less money and sleep a bit better. And US politics is still super awful, and sometimes I still feel overwhelmed at my TODO list, but I hear that little "a drink would be nice" voice and then I go drink some water or do something else.

A lot of people I admire and like don't drink at all, and a lot of people I admire and like drink in moderation way more frequently than I now do. I am just talking about my own experience (and am trying to be concise and bring myself to overcome my embarrassment enough to actually hit Publish).

Filed under:


: The Ambition Taboo As Dark Matter: PyCon just rejected my talk submission,* so I'll try to finish and post this draft that I've been tapping at for ages.

My current half-baked theory is that programmers who want any public recognition from our peers, recognition that meaningfully validates our personal mastery, basically have to do that through one of a few fora that therefore accrue less-spoken emotional freight. And two of those places are code review in open source projects** and proposal review in tech conference talk submissions, and the fact that we don't talk enough about the role of ambition when talking about these processes leads to unnecessary hurt feelings.

For context: We give talks for varied reasons. To teach, to make reusable documentation, to show off things we've made or things we know, to burnish our credentials and thus advance our careers, to serve our corporate brands' goals, to provide role models for underindexed folks from our demographics, to give a human face to a project and make it more approachable, it goes on.

A conference talk is a tool in a toolbox that has a lot of other tools in it. (The Recompiler, Linux Journal and LWN pay for articles, for instance.)

And conferences are more than lecture halls, of course -- they're networking opportunities, communities of practice, parties, vacations, sprints, and so on.

But when we talk about the particular pain or joy of having a talk accepted or rejected from a conference, there's an emotional valence here that isn't just about the usefulness of a talk or the community of a conference. We're talking about acceptance as a species of public professional recognition.

I've found it pretty useful to think about public professional recognition in the context of Dr. Anna Fels's book Necessary Dreams. She points out that the childhood or adolescent desire for fame is often a precursor to a more nuanced ambition, combining the urge to master some domain or skill with the desire for the recognition of one's peers or community. This influences how I think about awards, about job titles, and about encouraging technologists in the public interest, and about the job market's role in skill assessment.

So how can a programmer pursue public mastery validation? Here's what I see:***

  1. contributing to open source software (mastery validation: maintainers merging commits and thanking/crediting contributor for work)
  2. presenting at conferences (mastery validation: program committee accepting talk)
  3. posting comments to gamified platforms like Reddit, Hacker News, and Stack Overflow (mastery validation: upvotes and replies)
  4. publishing academic research (mastery validation: journal accepting paper, peers reviewing paper positively)
  5. writing books (mastery validation: publisher accepting & publishing book)
  6. starting and architecting technically challenging projects (mastery validation: skilled technologists cofounding with or working for you, or relying on or praising your work)

So, this stuff is fraught; let's not pretend it's not. And we get rejected sometimes by conferences and talk about it, try to take the perspective that we're collecting "no's", we remind others that even successful and frequent speakers get rejected a lot and you can choose not to give up. And we give each other tips on how to get better at proposing talks. And that's all useful. But there's also another level of advice I want to give, to repeat something I said last year:

I try not to say "don't get discouraged," because to me that sounds like telling someone not to cry or telling someone to calm down. It's a way of saying "stop feeling what you're feeling." Instead, I try to acknowledge that something is discouraging but also -- if the other person's ready to hear it -- that we can come back from that: your feelings are legitimate, and here are some ways to work with them.

Some advice I hear about bouncing back from a conference talk rejection involves formalizing, creating systems to use to get better at writing proposals (my own tips mostly fall into this category) -- after all, in programming, you can learn to make better and better things without directly interacting with or getting feedback from individuals. The code compiles, the unit tests pass. And that can be soothing, because you can get the feedback quickly and it's likely to be a flavor of fair. (But that computer rarely initiates the celebration, never empathizes with you about the specific hard thing you're doing or have just done, and rarely autocredentials you to do something else that has a real impact on others.)

To formalize and abstract something makes it in some ways safer; it's safer to say "I'm working to pass the [test]" or "I'm building a [hard thing] implementation" or "I'm submitting a talk to [conference]" than to say "I am working to gain the professional respect of my profession". But that is one motivation for people to submit talks to tech conferences and to feel good or bad about the talks they give.

So part of my advice to you is: go ahead and be honest with yourself about how you feel. Rejection can be hard, working to get an unaccountable gatekeeper's acceptance**** and failing to get public professional recognition in your chosen field is a cause of anxiety, and so on. Be honest about how discouraging that can feel, and why, and what you wanted that you didn't get.

And another part of my advice is that I will ask, like the annoying programmer I am: what problem are you trying to solve? Because there are probably a lot of ways there that don't involve this particular gatekeeper.

And the most annoyingly empowering part of my advice is: Humans created and run PyCon and TED and Foo Camp and all the other shiny prestigious things; you're a human and you could do so too. Especially if you acknowledge not just your own but others' ambition, and leverage it.



* Maybe we'll do it in an open space anyhow.

** Another blog post for another time!

*** I've left some things out here.

We have some awards, e.g., ACM Distinguished Member, that you might get if you work really hard for decades in certain fields. That feels too far away for the kind of thing I'm thinking about.

I've left out the possibility of being promoted at your job, because many technologists perceive engineering job promotions as not particularly correlating with the quality of one's work as a programmer, which means a promotion doesn't send a strong signal, understood by peers outside one's organization, of validation of programming mastery. Then again, if your organization is old enough or big enough, maybe the career ladder there does constitute a useful proxy for the mental models of the peers whose judgment you care about.

I've left out various certifications, diplomas and badges because I don't know of any that meaningfully signal validation of one's mastery as a programmer industry-wide. And there's a lot of stuff to parse out that I feel undecided about, e.g., I find it hard to distinguish the status symbol aspect of admission from the signal that the final credential sends. And: A lot of people in this industry find it impressive when someone has been admitted to certain postsecondary engineering programs, regardless of whether the person graduates. And: In my opinion, the Recurse Center is an experience that has an unfortunate and unintended reputation for gatekeeping on the basis of programming skill, such that a big subset of people who apply and are rejected experience this as an authoritative organization telling them that they are not good enough as programmers (and Google Summer of Code and Outreachy have a related problem).

Of course, go ahead, write your own blog post where you talk about how wrong I am about what I list or exclude, especially because I come from a particular corner of the tech industry and I'm sure there's stuff I don't perceive.

**** Some conferences' gatekeepers are more unaccountable than others'; regardless, the feeling from the rejectee's point of view is, I bet, mostly the same. And you can start your own conference or join the program committee of an existing conference to see what it's like from the other side of the desk and wield a bit of the power yourself.


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Leonard and Sumana's personal notebook
Peer into Leonard and Sumana's mind

20 Minute Croissant Dough | Edd Kimber | The Boy Who Bakes: Genious?

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=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%3D: Champions!

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=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: If it's in Botswana, we're gonna find it.

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John Chadwick's weblog

[Comments] (1) Being an example of the believers (Timothy): I taught SS Lesson 41 the other week, which covers a lot of stuff (they all do), but I chose to focus on what it means to be a believer. Literally every time I sat down to prepare for this lesson, I ended up on a Mormon blog to re-hash recent events. It became a real distraction. I finally began to discipline and focus myself about two days before it was time to give my lesson. I was literally a wreck; I had no direction for this discussion.

Then I had an idea. On the chalkboard that Sunday, I wrote four names on the board: Nephi, Laman, Moses, and Emma Smith. The names of four believers, two brothers from the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament prophet responsible for re-establishing Judaism and Israel after the Egyptian captivity, and the wife of the first modern day prophet of the LDS church.

Under each name we listed their attributes. Then we had to collectively agree on one word that best fit each person: Nephi was recognized for his valiance; Laman for his worldliness; Moses as a lawgiver; Emma for her longsuffering. We then discussed that under the umbrella of attributes assigned to the term "believer" is the individual brands that follow. So the question becomes, what will be our individual brand as a believer? Will it be attributable to the Word of Wisdom, will we choose to be known for keeping a set of laws, or will it be for our zeal, or love, our compassion, etc? None of these is right or wrong per se, though there may be an individual answer that is better for us. The takeaway: play to your strength as a believer, and use your brand to make the world a better place.

This exercise literally lasted the entire length of the class, about 30 minutes (we were cut short due to the overrun of the Primary Program that day). I walked away feeling much better about life, and am particularly looking forward to my lesson next Sunday on the Epistle of Peter. Should it be successful, perhaps I will post more.

The manual, I might add, contained none of this, which is what I love. The prophet sets the curriculum, but I get to wrestle with the Spirit on the who, what why, and how (when and where are also outside my jurisdiction). It's been a great blessing in my life to study the material and try and direct the material in a direction that can be beneficial to many, including myself. I'm grateful for this calling.

[Comments] (4) Why I stay: It's probably safe to assume no one reads this blog anymore, because I don't post very often. I normally find Instagram to be my safe place, because who doesn't love pictures of food, cats, cool scenery, and the like, without the vagueness, fighting, and incorrect doctrine that is Facebook?

But today something happened, and I feel like talking about it. Perhaps this is the perfect outlet; I get to say it, and no one will read it, and thus no one gets offended (again, a huge perk of not being on Facebook).

My Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has added to its handbook a new category of apostasy: same sex marriage. Now children living in SSM families cannot be baptized until they are 18, and until they disavow the sins of their parents. While the former makes me wonder, and the latter makes me curious (the who, what, when, where, why and how of the disavowal intrigues me), on the whole I've added one more reason to my list of why the Church just plain no longer works for me.

That being said, I stay. Don't get me wrong. I've often thought about leaving, if for no other reason than to make a point. The point being: you are wrong, and I therefore shun you. But really, that's a silly way to make a point. The Church continues without me, and I lose a part of me in the process.

So I stay. I stay because, despite this policy (the same policy exists for children from polygamous families by the way), despite the PR embarrassment we call Prop 8, despite the fact that we oust those that question things, despite the fact that Republicans=Mormonism, despite the fact that no one can give a good answer for why women cannot hold the Priesthood, despite the fact that I never knew until July that Joseph Smith married a 14 year old girl and translated the book of Mormon with a brown stone inside a hat, despite the lame attempts to explain the Priesthood ban as anything other than the flaws of good men, this is my home.

I currently have the calling of Gospel Doctrine teacher. Which means, during the 180 minute church block, I am effectively in charge for 40 minutes of that time, roughly 25%. I have spent the last year, during our study of the New Testament, to use this time to achieve the following: (1) Focus more on Christ and less on silly things that often takes up valuable church space, including missionary guilt, defending the family (whatever that means; no one wants to abolish families), and pornography for the 5,000th time; (2) Challenge the class to read the scriptures with fresh eyes, to see things they never saw before, even though they've read the stories since they were children; (3) Contribute to a class environment where their voice can be heard (ie, I'm a facilitator, not a lecturer); (4) Help us feel the Holy Ghost in class, and follow its promptings to be better people the next six days.

I personally believe I fail at this more than I succeed. But the fact is, I currently have the opportunity/responsibility to be the change I want to see in the church. And that is way more powerful than walking away and being forgotten within a week.

I also stay because I don't have all the answers. So while I currently am at odds on probably 20 or so doctrinal and/or procedural aspects of the church, I recognize that I could be wrong. And until I receive my own personal revelation on these matters (something I'm working on, but for personal reasons seems to take time for me), I just can't write it off. The truth is, despite these obstacles, the church has been good to me. I've learned inside this church the joy of giving, the humility of receiving, to wonder and awe at the notion of sin, forgiveness, and the atonement, and to find purpose in mortality. And while I know I could have learned these elsewhere, I learned them here.

So I'm sticking with my Church. Because I believe I have a part to play. I can show people by the way I live my life that the Church tent is big enough for all, that the Church is not threatened when people bring their questions or their baggage along for the ride, and that the Church can still be a safe place where compassion is the rule and not the exception. So I stay.

test: test

the 'Go-to': Everyone has a go-to phrase, something they say when they don't know what to say. For Mary Poppins, it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, for example.

For Dalton, it's 'you're funny!'

He seriously says it to adults when they say something to him and he's not quite sure how to respond. It normally gets a laugh in response, so perhaps HE is the funny one....

[Comments] (2) a funny thing happened on the way to the playground: Kids these days:

Maggie: I got invited to Ronan's birthday! Susie/John: Who's Ronan? Maggie: A boy from school. Susie/John: Are you friends with Ronan? Maggie: No, but he invited me, I think, because I'm a good example at school and he wants to say thank you. (Editor's note: Doubtful this is true, but glad my daughter has a pure heart).

John: I'm going for a walk. Maggie, want to ride your scooter? Maggie: No, I'll just walk with you dad. John: But it's going to be a long walk. Are you sure? Maggie: Yes. If I ride my scooter, I can't talk to you about things.

Dalton: Dad, I'm tired of being the cutest. I do NOT want to be the cutest anymore. (Editor's Note: Sienna is now the cutest and Dalton is the happiest).

Legoland is a pain because Sienna can't go on anything. Unlike Disneyland, the king of all amusement parks. The kids fight in line about who gets to take their turn with me. I may not have been cool at school, but I'm officially the favorite dad in this house!

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Rachel Richardson's weblog

I really need to check my job at the door: ...of the bookstore. The other day in Foyles I had to physically restrain myself from re-organizing some Beast Quests that were in the wrong order. Tonight in Waterstones I found myself recommending The Sky is Everywhere to someone looking for a gift for a 15 year old. What can I say? 3 years in a bookstore and old habits die hard.

Overheard in Stoke Newington:
1:"The only good thing about David Cameron"
2&3 in unison: "There's nothing good about David Cameron."
1"...is his taste in music."

Whigs and Tories: I went to a "mustache and wig" party as a Lib Dem supporter, but no one got it.

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My Seussical Life
My Seussical Life

Backward Thinking: When planning a Redbox return, I felt a fleeting anxiety that I had not hit "rewind" on my movie. That was a strange throw-back.

[Comments] (3) On that note. . .: I'm back to the blog and intend to update more steadily than in the last five years. Among other reasons, I stopped blogging because I was overwhelmed by how popular blogging had suddenly become. Does anyone else get overwhelmed by the thought of an internet audience beyond a handful of family members and close friends? I like to be a bit more off the radar, I guess. But I'm back.

Dear Mr. Fellowes:: Is this Masterpiece Theatre or soap opera disguised in period dress? Downton Abbey, how you frustrate me!

First Sweat of Spring: I did some impromptu weeding of the garden today. Actually, first I locked myself out of the house and then dug around in the dirt while I waited for the locksmith to arrive.

[Comments] (1) Ratings: "Do I make the best guacamole in the world, Mom?" Atticus asks.

"You definitely make fabulous guacamole." I assure.

"Well. . . I am for sure in the top three."

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Frances Whitney's weblog

Obituary: Here is the link to Mom's obituary, printed in the Bakersfield Californian on Tuesday. The death date is wrong, it was actually May 5, 2006

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Jill Whitney's weblog

Funny things: I heard today...

"There are nice ones and naughty ones like 'Hey lets make Icecream sundaes tonight' is nice, while 'Hey babe, I'll bring the nuts and chocolate syrup if you bring the cherry' is naughty."

"Can you believe I'm seventy and still wearing a g-string?"

"I'm going to choke on my ice!" "Don't worry, it should melt before you expire."

[Comments] (2) Museum of Ancient Life: Yesterday we went to the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving point. I don't care what your philosophy is on how or when or why dinosaurs etc, existed they are still cool to learn about. I hadn't been to the museum in years but it still was fascinating to walk around. Of course my favorite was t-Rex and the giant shark. I still remember years ago when all of my cousins were in town and we pretended to throw Lorna in the shark's mouth, I ducked from the caveman skeleton that was throwing a rock, and Frances posed with the archeologists because we were sure to be related!

[Comments] (14) Precepting: Newsflash... I get to precept this semester in the ER at Ogden Regional Hospital. I am so excited!!!

[Comments] (1) lazy: I have nothing much to report except that I am LAZY. I have always known this, but I realize that I really just pretty much do nothing most of the time. I guess it's becaus I have to be so efficent at work and school, that I can't do it at home. oh well.

Current Projects: -catching up on my scrapbook. Doing ok except I haven't started BB season and I just printed 200 new pics. Yes seriously at least 200. I have an addiction. -Finishing my recipe book. I am frusterated because I can't find my 34th ward RS cookbook and it has recipes I need. Otherwise it is looking awesome. -Cleaning my room. Not doing so well, let's be honest. -Laundry. Hate it, need to desperatly do it. and for the love it's FREE finally, why don't I just do it already!?! -petting the dogs and watching TV....very good at this.

Random thought: I went to the movies (finally saw Indiana Jones) and there was a poster that disturbed me... "No children under 6 allowed in rated-R movies after 6 p.m. Keep your child safe." ummm last time I checked children under 6 shouldn't go to rated-R movies period. Not to mention before 6 anyway...

New favorite quote: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." -Anatole France

[Comments] (1) My new job: I love my new job a lot. It is a lot of fun actually. I am working as a nurse at the new Intermountain Medical (aka the Death Star or Mother ship), on the 12th floor. This building is SO tall, and the view is spectacular. I can't wait until I am a registered nurse and get to play with the IV's here, but I can do everything else as an LPN. Yay for the real world...it rocks!!

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Michelle Walch's weblog

[Comments] (3) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently reading a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

[Comments] (1) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently ready a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

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Our Family Recipes
New experiments and old favorites

() Cookie Cookie Cookie!: I was going to go to the library after Maggie's nap, but she didn't take a nap, and also it is snowing and really blowy. So, instead I made Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Cookies! If you have been blessed with one of mom's family recipe boxes, this is in there.

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 T unsweetened cocoa
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
16-ounce package chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Beat together sugars and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until well-blended. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. Let stand on sheets 3 minutes. Remove cookies to racks to cool.

Susie the Chef says: 16 ounces of chocolate chips is a ridiculous waste of money and chocolate chips. I put 1/4-1/3 that much. I also didn't put nuts. Even though the batter was pretty dry, I felt like the cookies had a lot of butter in them so I might use a few tablespoons less next time. Next time: yes, they were very yummy!

() Yummy in my Tummy: I've been trying out a lot of new crockpot recipes in an attempt to make feeding my family easier, faster, and yummier. Yesterday I put two chicken breasts and half a jar of spaghetti sauce (Ragu was only $1 at Smith's and I had a coupon - I haven't bought spaghetti sauce in years!) and let it cook on both settings for who-knows-how-long. I served it with whole wheat pasta and parmesan cheese and it was yummy. Probably the easiest meal I've ever made!

I also made an eclair cake at John's request. I made chocolate sauce from scratch because I only use it for eclair cake and I am out of money in my grocery budget this month. It was easy and super yummy. I couldn't find mom's recipe, so I 1/3-ed one I found online:

1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
Boil for 2-5 minutes.

PS: I uploaded some cute pictures of the bug to our picture blog - click on "Pictures" to the right. And read all my latest articles while you're at it!

() Taco Stack: I was a good wife and made dinner tonight. This isn't the recipe I kept the page for, but it was yummy!

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 package taco seasoning
12 corn tortillas
shredded cheese

Brown ground beef with onion in skillet; drain fat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Place 1/4 c. meat in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Place two tortillas side by side on meat mixture. Top each tortilla with some meat mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat until each stack contains 6 tortillas layered with meat and cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cut each stack into quarters. I served it with sour cream and green onions.

Also, Tasha inspired me to make babyfood so I bought a butternut squash, baked it, and pureed it in the blender with a bit of water. It is delicious! Maggie liked it too. I'm not sure it was any cheaper though. I will have to try some other recipes.

() Apple-Cheddar Soup: I made this earlier today and it is so yummy. I think I put too many potatoes, because it was kind of chunky.

1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 T. butter
2 med. potatoes, diced
2 c. apple cider
1 t. fresh thyme
1/2 t. salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 med apple, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. milk
2 T. flour
4 oz (1 cup) shredded cheese
fresh apple slices

Cook onion in butter. Stir in potatoes, cider and seasonings. Boil. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Add apple. Simmer 5 minutes until potatoes are tender. combine milk and flour - stir into soup. Cook and stir until bubbly. Whisk in cheese until melted. Top serving dishes with apple slices and fresh ground pepper.

() Fondue for Two: Last night John and I celebrated our anniversary at The Melting Pot. Maggie got babysat by a couple in the ward with two little boys and had the best time.

We enjoyed our yummy fondue meal, but it was very expensive and now that we've done it I don't think we'll go back. We especially enjoyed the dessert fondue. The waiter told us how to make the cookie and/or graham cracker crumb covered marshmallows (just dip the marshmallows in water), so now we can just do that at home. We were thinking what a fun FHE activity that would be to do with young kids.

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