Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Free 12/4 - 12/5

A detective story, set in the not too distant future …

The Dark Lady Pays a Visit.

There were few intellectual things we humans could do today that the machines couldn’t do better. One of those was dealing with the unexpected or unusual, the outliers. The Dark Lady was one of those. Oh boy was she ever.
The detective business had been slow lately. That meant either the skills or the morals of the populace had been improving. The smart money was on the skills. My partner, Paul Bigelow, and I were sitting in our office up on the fifth floor of a dilapidated office building. We were watching the traffic flow on the interstate below us, and trying to figure out what we could bet on to make it interesting. There was a knock on the office door, and when I looked there was a woman, dressed in black and wearing a veil. It looked good on her and had the side benefit of making visual recognition difficult. She walked in and gave Paul the glad eye. Paul, always one for extending his family sideways returned it. While they chatted, I took the EM scanner and walked around her. It was an old-fashioned analog box some long-dead ham had built to tune his antennas. She didn’t flinch as I moved it up and down her shapely body.

“She’s clean. No wireless.” Maybe she’d left her cell at home. Though if she were a real spook she’d be using spread spectrum and we’d miss it with that scanner.
“OK Ma'am, what’s your problem?”

“There’s this man. My boyfriend. I want him followed.”
“Stalking’s illegal,” I said. Paul nodded then said, “Unless you need information, but why not ask?”
“The machine? No thanks. Anyway he’s a geek, a real hacker. Knows his way around the net.” She paused, “and outside of it.”

I wondered if we were meeting with a member of the mutual impedance society. In which case, Paul and I were in for a few days of intense questioning. That is if we were innocent. The probes would come later if we didn’t account for ourselves.
“Look Ma’am,” I said, “This man, he’s not wanted or anything. What’s this about?” It was usually money or sex with a woman. Sometimes both.

She ignored me and smiled at Paul. Then she said, “I can see you’re the sympathetic one.” Paul was moy sympatico, as they say, especially if there was a dame involved. He told me, “Alan, leave this one to me. It’s just another divorce case. I’ll get her particulars and find who or what else this geek of hers is screwing.”

I thought for a moment, something about it bothered me. It didn’t bother me enough to make me want to ask questions though. Thinking about it, that was my first error.
I said, “Sure thing Paul. Handle it. I’m going home, maybe stop for a drink on the way and see what I can pick up.” Usually, it was just the tab. I started for the door, then said, “Make sure you get the earnest money up front.” These personal cases often got nasty with a vengeance.

After I had left, it occurred to me that there didn’t seem any point in going home, nor was there any point in getting smashed in a local dive. Instead, I decided to see what I could scare up downtown, in the big city. The easiest way to the good bars and hot night clubs was to catch the old commuter rail line. I stopped on the way to BART and picked up my cell. I parked her in a neighbor’s house, tied into their solar panel to charge during the day. 
She complained, as usual, “Why don’t you keep me with you? I like it when I’m with you; it’s boring sitting here all day watching the birds.”
“Babe, listen, the kind of people I deal with don’t want to talk to the machine.”
“I wish you wouldn’t call him that. He has a name.”
“And I’m sure he’s very nice too. Tough. Thing is, Babe if they could find their answers by asking him, they would. It’s the thing that keeps Paul and me off relief and pays for your charging and my tequila.”
“Alan, she’s been calling. A couple times this evening, and she’s lonely.”
“Who?” As if I didn’t know.
“Celine.” Paul’s wife.
“What was it this time?”
“Seeing as Paul will be busy on a case, she was wondering if-”
“If I’d like to come around for dinner and a drink?”
If my cell could have blushed, it would have. Instead, it dryly said, “Yes, how’d you guess?”
“Celine asks that nearly every time Paul’s away. It’s easier that hitting the bars and looking for a pickup.” Especially once her looks began to go.
“Why don’t you?”
“Paul’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Good eye-candy for the divorce and adultery trade, but limited career prospects. She’d divorce him in a minute if she got her hooks into someone better. Besides, you don’t mess with your partner.”
“So you say you’re going somewhere with your career? Doesn’t seem like it to me, Alan.”
“Babe, I’m here because I want to be. You can ask the machine about me anytime you want.”
“He was asking about you this afternoon. Why don’t you chat with him?”
“I have my reasons, Babe. He knows what they are.”
“Still, Alan, he sounded lonely.”
“Maybe I should hook him up with Celine.” The humor escaped my cell.
“I don’t think she could keep up with him.”
“Babe, this conversation isn’t going anywhere.” When you start arguing with an ‘answer bot’ it’s time to stop.
“Yes Mr. Blake.”
“Good, now look up some wild, rough places for a fun night out. I’m off work and need to relax.”
“You know you’re attracting the wrong kind of attention by doing that.”
“I want to attract some more of the wrong kind of attention tonight. Especially the female kind. The cheap and easy female kind. Where’s the hot club?”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Carnitas #recipe

About done. Carnitas in one of my Dutch ovens.

 Carnitas are a Mexican stable, actually "men's" food, that are surprisingly easy to make. They're also dashed good, either prepared in the home or on a campout. The essential ingredient isn't food. It's a cast iron, unglazed dutch oven. There's a whole mythology about curing these (some other post). However, as long as you don't use soap or detergent on them, keep them dry and oiled, and generally don't abuse them too much, they'll serve for many years. The black layer is an iron oxide (not hydroxide or rust) that is relatively non-reactive with the water and sugars in the food. Hence things tend not to stick.

 Enough chemistry, here's the recipe:

Cut boneless pork butt or similar slightly fatty pork into large (2-3 inch, 5-6 cm) chunks. Remove any obviously nasty bits, but don't be too neat. Flour the meat in a mixture of wheat flour (plain flour) with oregano, ground chilli pepper (NOT chilli powder which has cumin in it). The meat can be frozen at this step for later use. I used chipolte for this batch, but only because I was out of the powdered pepper from my last trip to New Mexico. Typically for a cup of flour, I'll use a tablespoon of both oregano and chilli, but your mileage may vary.

Place a layer of oil in the bottom of the dutch oven (or 1/2 stick of vegetable shortening, or a similar amount of Lard (authentic)). The idea is to have enough fat on the bottom to coat it so that the meat is greased before the fat from it cooks out.

 Indoors:  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 2-3 hours. The pork will be very tender when done. You should turn the meat once or twice during this time.

 Outdoors: Use charcoal briquettes,  about 8 beneath and 8-12 on top. Rotate the dutch oven about 90 degrees every 15 minutes, and counter rotate the lid about the same amount. Add charcoal as needed. You don't want it too hot, but you need it to cook.

We served this with tortillas, fresh salsa, lettuce and yogurt (out of sour cream). Oh, and hot peppers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Resources for Regency Slang

Georg_Friedrich_Kersting_005 It's sort of important to use the authentic language when writing historical fiction, or at least to try to be authentic. In reality, who knows what they really said. I've assembled a few resources that I use. There are a couple of books of regency slang available on google books, and a number of sites that clone them. This site is one of my favorites. I have to watch the social class, because they mix thieve’s cant with upper class slang. Lady Dalrymple is too much of a "Gentry Mort" to attend a "Bowsing Ken" for her Ratafia. The company might give her the vapors and she'd need her vinegar. Rather unlikely that she'd even understand the words, much less use them. this is one I use to make sure I’m not putting in modern slang. In combination with the google ngram viewer, you can catch most anachronisms. This goes directly to the literature for usage counts. It can be surprising. I've occasionally found invented slang, such as the phrases Georgette Heyer put into her books to trap plagiarists and paraphrasers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Meat Pie #recipe #regency

A Meat Pie in the English style.

This is something that would have been eaten during the Regency (although without the pyrex baking dish). Dashed good, if I say so myself.

Cut 2 lbs (1 kilo +-) of beef into 1 inch/ 2cm cubes.
Marinate overnight in:
1/2 bottle guiness stout
1 cup red wine
teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed.
2 bay leaves.

3-4 hours before eating:
cut up and saute:
2 onions
handful of mushrooms
2-3 carrots

when soft add the marinade, a teaspoon of boullion (or cup of stock) and reduce.

Meanwhile, flour the beef and brown it in a frying pan.

Once the marinade is reduced:
put the vegetables in the bottom of a baking dish, cover with the meat. Use the reduced marinade to deglaze the  pan the beef was browned in. (There will be flour that has stuck to the pan, this will dissolve it to thicken the gravy.) Add the deglazings to the baking dish. If the volume is correct, it will just cover the meat.

Bake in a cool oven (300F, 150C) for 3 hours. Use a covered baking dish. (important, you don't want it to dry out.) The meat should be very tender by this time.

Remove from the oven, place a pie crust over the top (I used Type L biscuit mix here; my sister in law in the UK uses suet dumplings.)

Return to the oven and bake at 375F 180C for 45 minutes until the crust is done.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reunion blues (personal and trivial)

Or why my plots always have a dark element in them.

My high school class just had its nth reunion. Big whoops. It brought back a whole flood of unpleasant memories.  Unfortunately enough of the information leaked into my social media that I could not escape it.

I hated the place and could not wait to get out. University (Go Nittany Lions!) was a revelation and a blast. It was so nice to be evaluated on performance and not social niceties. I may have been an odd duck, but an odd duck who could read your paper in poli-sci (not my major) and help you get an A was an accepted odd duck.

My blues started when someone posted "Let's party like it's <some year> again!"

Yeah, right. I didn't party then, being the fat unpopular kid. Why would I ever want to relive that?

I didn't want to block the unending stream of pictures from social events and friends that weren't. I should have.

I've gone out and done something with my life. There are people alive because of my real-world research. Better than selling f****ing cars, any day by any rational measure.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Designing Woman 6 for #wewriwar

More from the Steampunk book

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors.  This is a sample from my latest work in progress, "A Designing Woman", and I hope you enjoy it.  This is the start of the next chapter and introduces more of the family. Continuing from last week, this snippet describes conversations between Amanda's parents. Dark things are afoot, especially now that they understand her hobby, which they have tolerated, could be worth real money.
(The Last snippet)

That's true; Do you think she'd like to visit Bath?”

Only to see the ironworks.”

That's not helpful.”

While she was away, I could do something about her workshop, maybe. She's not twenty-one is she?”

No,” Lady Caterham smiled, “So as her father you're her legal guardian; your word is the one that counts, isn't it?”

Get her to Bath, and I'll deal with the rest; have to check with my solicitor, but I should be able to sell out her share of that company. It should pay for her dowry.”

Lady Caterham replied, “George, love, I knew there was a reason I married you.”

Her husband, realizing he was dismissed for the night, dutifully kissed his wife and returned to his port.

This is a work in progress. Here is the link on tablo. It's also on writeon, but I have no clue how to link there. Apparently Steampunk implies Victorian, Dieselpunk the 1920's. What-punk should a Regency period book be? Horse-punk isn't right.

Despite being told in no uncertain terms that "steampunk" meant Victorian with ubiquitous steam technology, I'm calling this steampunk, although given the amount of time they will later spend on the river, maybe "Steampunt" is better. Amanda is working on what will become the defining technology of the 19th century, steam. Although, a few things, like the Napoleonic war will get in the way.

Google Blogger has gone back to making things difficult. Arghhh - doesn't play well with firefox and privacy badger.

Time to look at wordpress. It's being funny on Linux which takes some doing.

Thank you for reading. The heroine's family thinks they're doing the right thing by her. Ha! She doesn't get to the Bath ironworks, but if it's any consolation, she gets to do a small amount of smithing in the village of Philadelphia so that she isn't compromised by staying the night with a totally unsuitable suitor.