Category: Things I like

Vampires Don’t Suck Again

Okay, pun intended, let’s get that out of the way real quick. After you are done groaning, check out the trailer though. I have been anti-vampire ever since a certain series of books and some subsequent WB shows debuted. Of course, there was one notable exception. Now there is another! Check out the trailer below! It comes out right around my birthday too, so maybe I can get my wife to splurge for IMAX!

 

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Making Soft Pretzels at Home

CompletedPretzels Making those soft, buttery mall pretzels is really easy to do at home. It is a fun recipe for the kids to help make, and a great snack for them too! These can be great for movie night, or game day.

 

 

 

 

 

Making the dough

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 1 package (or 2¼ teaspoons) of yeast in 1½ cups of of warm water and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir in 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of bread flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Continue slowly adding 2 more cups of flour until the dough comes together. Kneed until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in a bowl sprayed with nonstick spray, and then spray the top surface of the dough to prevent it from drying out. Cover and let rise for one hour.

 

CutInSections

Prepare your Factory/Cut the dough

Preheat an oven to 450º (230º C).

In a small baking dish, combine 2 cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. This helps to give the outside that brownish, crunchy texture. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Note in the picture to the right, I have a little assembly line set up.

After the dough has risen, roll into a log, and cut into 12 pieces.

 

RolledOutRoll out the dough

Roll each section out into a three foot long rope. The pretzels will swell quite a bit when baking, so don’t worry too much about making them too thin.

 

PretzelShapeRoll each rope into that familiar pretzel shape. Push down on the ends a little to get them to adhere to the pretzel body. Dip into the baking soda water, and place on the parchment lined baking sheets.

 

 

 

Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. While cooking, melt the butter and prepare your surface for  adding the topping(s).

BakingSheet

 

 

Top and Serve

Once they are done, brush with melted butter, and top with coarse (Kosher works) salt, or other desired toppings. We love cinnamon and sugar as a topping as well!

FromTheOven

 

 

 

 

It makes one dozen pretzels.

CompletedPretzels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe

1 package (or 2¼ teaspoons) of yeast

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1½ cups of warm water

3 cups of all-purpose flour

1 cup of bread flour

2 cups of warm water

2 tablespoons of baking soda

2 tablespoons of melted butter

2 tablespoons of kosher (or other course) salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Drive as a Tool for Writing

Writing on the go, to me, is just called writing. I am always on the go. I have an active life, and I am busy with many things. Therefore, an important part of any tool for me is portability. I have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop that I use for writing. I prefer my desktop over everything else, but I have the others because life has other demands for me. One big thing I looked for in my writing tool is the portability, and the ability to work across multiple platforms.

Google works well on my windows desktop and laptop, and also works via apps on my smartphone and tablet. One drawback to the android app is that spell-check does not work. This can be an advantage sometimes, when I need to keep writing and suppress my need to constantly edit as I am writing. As it is, I switch to the desktop or laptop for final edits, and access to the spell-checker.

Another great tool inside the online version of the Google word processor program is the ability to research topics. I can highlight a word, and then go to the tools menu and select research. This will open up a side pane with relevant links. This is nice when I am doing some quick research for a story I am writing. It can be distracting, as I do have a tendency to love research.  The word processor offers all of the basic formatting features I need, and allows for the exporting of documents in commonly used formats, so that I can port it over to Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Word as needed.

The spreadsheet also comes in very handy. I use it to keep a “plot workbook” as I call it, with my notes for each chapter, POV, and character and place notes. This helps me to keep ideas, and to re-orient quickly when I resume working on a particular story.

In the future, I hope to band together with some other authors and publish an anthology.  Google Drive allows me to collaborate easily with others. I believe it is even now possible to track who made what specific changes to a document.

It took me a while to settle on my writing tool. I do not like to post public criticisms, so I will not mention specific software, but I did try many. I tried dedicated writing apps, designed specifically for writing stories. I tried various combinations of software in conjunction with cloud storage, I even tried some popular note-writing apps to see if they would work out for me. Google docs is what I ended up coming back to.

I remember reading a review of an app, and it really resonated with me when the author of the article stated that power users often like more simple app interfaces, whereas newbies usually like “flashier” apps. I am not sure about the power user versus newbie distinction, but I know that I do appreciate a simple interface. Google Docs does provide that simple interface that I appreciate.

One more great thing about using the Google Docs on Google Drive, is that Google Docs do not count toward the space limit. In other words, you can have an unlimited amount of Google formatted documents on Google Drive.

Why I Believe in Self-publishing: Part II

Thanks for the positive responses to the first installment. It certainly is motivating in keeping me going!

2. Creative Direction

E.L. James. Love her. Hate her. The fact is, there are many people that have purchased and read the 50 Shades books, and they have been wildly popular. I myself have not read them, and based on what I have heard, they are not my cup of tea. One thing these books have really seem to have contributed to is that openly reading sex stories, and talking about sex openly, have become more normal. A really big thing has been that it has become more normal for women to have a sexual identity and a sexuality. As a therapist, I think this is all great.

My point with this is that this book has opened up something of a social movement. I think that society has already been moving toward a more positive view of sexuality and feminine sexuality, so this is not the only factor, but I think it is still hard to deny that these novels have had an impact. If you are not aware, they are fan fiction, based off the Twilight novels (which I have also not read, but they are in my wife’s teacup.)

These novels are fan fiction, and are riddled with raunchy sex that no one has ever openly admitted to enjoying, outside of the red light district in any major city. By every traditional metric, they really had no reason to be successful, and yet they were wildly successful. There is even a movie adaptation coming soon.

As I stated in the previous post on this topic, I do think there are great reasons that traditional publishing has worked for many years. However, I also think there are reasons that self-published novels are rising in popularity. The 50 Shades books would have never been published by a traditional publisher. As I understand the history of this story, it started on websites dedicated to fan fiction, and was later picked up by a small, nontraditional print-on-demand press. From there, E.L. James went on to be named one of Time’s one-hundred most influential people of the year in 2012.

Whether the books are on my “must read” list or not, I have to recognize their reach and impact. I have heard the writing is very poor, yet these books started a movement often referred to as “mommy porn,” that helped many women get more in touch with their sexuality. By all traditional rules and reasoning, this should never have happened. Whether you love E.L. James and  her writing or not, you have to respect the impact. This new direction was only possible through a nontraditional means, forging new ground, with new rules.

So that was my point with all this. I truly believe that writing is an artistic expression. Yet no other art form has so many “rules” that people have to follow. Try to find the equivalent to “show don’t tell” in the world of painting. Realistically, I do not think you will find it, because no other medium of art is bound with so many rules regarding how to express yourself in an acceptable manner. I want to reiterate that I am not a black-and-white, all or nothing type of thinker. I do very much strongly believe that authors should have their books professionally edited, regardless of how they choose to publish them. Therefore, I am not a completely “throw the rule book out the window” type of person. At the same time, I do not know of any other art form that is so rule bound as the writing industry, and artists at times should test the limits and functionality of those rules. E.L. James tested those time honored rules with the 50 shades books, and not only proved some of them to be outdated, but also had an artistic impact on society. 

Traditional publishing uses the antediluvian rules that are the very foundation of publishing since before the Gutenberg press, and those rules have a reason and a purpose, because they have been proven to work. I myself would use a traditional publisher in a heartbeat if the chance presented itself, and I believed that the contract would be beneficial for both parties. However, I really believe that the ability to self-publish has become more than a vanity, it has allowed for creative expression by artists that would have normally not have been allowed to publish, and one may argue the impact has been negative, but one cannot argue that those artists have had an impact. In the end, I think society generally benefits from less fettered, creative expression from modern artists, whether it comes from paint or pen. 

More on this topic in a later post, stay tuned! Please also comment below, and let me know what you think!

Papa Bear

Bear

What Would Papa Bear Do?

I haven’t posted in a while, life has been so busy! I recently ordered and received Adobe Creative Suite, so I have been playing with that a bit. I drew the above image and put it on the fridge to remind my kids to always do the right thing, haha. My wife calls me “papa bear” to the kids sometimes.

So this was from Illustrator. I also got Photoshop, and most importantly for my self-published novel, Adobe InDesign, yay!  It is exciting and motivating.

Coming in 2013: A New Earth

Kids Looking into the Sky

A new life sustaining Earth-like planet is set to be discovered this year. It is no secret that I am a big fan of science fiction, but I am also a fan of science, and the possibilities through space exploration are just amazing.

As a society, we have benefited greatly from the science of space exploration. There are some very concrete things that space exploration science has brought us. NASA promises to bring us even more science this year. I think that in addition to feeding cordless drills, space exportation also fuels our imagination. Who hasn’t imagined what it would be like to fly into space in zero gravity, or land on the moon or even mars?

The Milky Way is only one of billions of galaxies. The Milky Way itself is 100,000 light years in diameter. A new estimate say there are probably at least 17 billion earth sized planets in the Milk Way. Scientists believe they are set to discover Earth’s twin in 2013.

According to Geoff Marcy at the University of California, Berkeley, “The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013.” Wow, can you imagine? Another planet we might be able to send humans to in the future. Maybe after our planet dies. What forms of life will be there already? For me it just sparks the creativity and curiosity in me.

A little closer to home, Space.com has a list of 13 must-see space events this year, starting with Jupiter event on January 21st that should be highly visible.