Steve’s Update – 08/19/2014

Been a bit busy with a lot of projects, so here’s what’s up!

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Leftover Vegetable Kofta

I love good Kofta, those delicious spiced spheres from Indian cooking.  There are many different versions, of course, and I’ve tasted some wonderful personalized recipes (one local restaurant uses rasins).  I never tried making any until now

I came up with this after realizing that making vegetable broth meant that I wasted vegetables, so I began exploring recipes.  I realized that vegetarian kofta, which are basically balls of vegetables and flour, would be perfect to make use of these leftovers.  Plus I’ll look for any excuse to use chickpea flour, which is just amazing stuff.

These came out pretty good.  This is the second time I’ve tried this, and though they’re a bit chewy, there’s definitely something here.

One note is that I’d pick out most herbs if you use a bunch of them. Some are powerful, some taste bad if there’s too much, some may trigger allergies en masse, some are so loaded with specific vitamins that they may not be good for people taking supplements, and so on.  Parsley and peppercorns (which I both use in my vegetable broth) are stuff you want to watch out for.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of pureed, boiled vegetables (you may be able to use cooked vegetables and roasted vegetables with a little broth or water). Be sure to pick out most herbs if you used any.  This is 2 cups after being pureed, by the way.  The more different vegetables the better, and you could probably use leftovers pretty easy.
  • 3 cups of chickpea flour.
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander.
  • 1 tbsp garlic (two if you used no garlic in the recipe)
  • 1 tbsp curry powder or garam masala
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder.
  • Olive oil (or good nostick pans)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Use a towel/cloth to lightly coat small muffin tins with oil. You’ll want enough to make 18-24.
  2. Puree vegetables in a blender/food processor. The mixture should be reasonably thick
  3. Pour the vegetable puree into a bowl. Slowly stir in the chickpea flour bit by bit, sprinkling it on the mixture (about ¼ a cup at a time), stirring, and repeating. This is needed as chickpea flour can lump up easily – with the last ¼ cup, stir in the baking powder.
  4. After stirring in the chickpea flour there may be lumps. I use a large spoon to mash the mixture against the side, stir it in, and repeat.
  5. Place about 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture in each muffin hollow. You should get around 18-24.
  6. Place in oven and cook for 8 minutes.
  7. Remove the tins and use chopsticks to flip each kofta over. Place back in oven for another 5 minutes.

 

I want to tweak the spices a bit, probably add one more tablespoon of baking powder, and a bit more chickpea flour to make sure the dough is less sticky – turning these over was tough.  Probably much like bread dough you can just add a bit here and there until it’s more powdery than sticky.

I want to try these with my various sauces . . .

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Farewell Robin Williams

Here’s a way to summarize Robin Williams.  Try and write a summary of his life, and career, and impact.  Where do you start?

You can’t.

The man defied easy classification or simple summaries.  He was so omnipresent it’s hard to imagine him gone.

That is a summary of his greatness.  That it is so hard to start describing.

Robin, thank you for everything.  Thank you for so many things.

 

Steve’s Update 8/11/2014

Hope everyone is doing well!  Here’s what I’ve been up to!

  • Updating the Writing Prompt Generator.  It’s now working pretty good, and I think I’ll probably take a break after awhile and declare it “done but willing to improve.”
  • More experiments on Seventh Sanctum’s Tumblr, so stay tuned . . .
  • Finished my latest article series at Muse Hack, Boost The Signal.  It’s a series on how we can spend time boosting the signal of good stuff.  Complaining, I think, may be built into the culture so it’s not effective.
  • Working on the Geek Catalog, my attempt to curate a list of ways geeks can get involved in good causes.
  • Cooking, and yes, I completely fell off of posting recipes.
  • Way With Worlds – I’m now on heroes and villains.

So as you can see, very busy.  What about you?

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Alien August at Sci Fi Ideas!

(This came from an acquaintance who runs a website for sf writers, SciFiIdeas – and its about creating new aliens, I figure it’s right up the alley of folks here! – Steve)

Like sci-fi? Like aliens? Like creative ideas? This is an open invitation for writers, artists, and all creative types to take part in the Alien August special event at scifiideas.com.

For those of you who don’t already know about SciFi Ideas and what we do, we’re a blog specializing in providing ideas and inspiration to science fiction writers. We want people to create great science fiction, and we believe that sharing ideas is the best way to promote creativity in the genre.

Throughout the month of August, we’ll be focusing on one specific aspect of science fiction: Aliens!

We’ll be posting lots of new “alien profiles” detailing unique alien cultures, sharing artwork by various concept artists, discussing the many alien species that already populate the world of science fiction, and hopefully bringing you some original short stories too. Even our weekly “story starting point” feature will be taking on a distinct alien flavour, encouraging you all to write short stories about aliens.

Most importantly, we’ll be encouraging our readers share some of their own alien ideas. And there’s even a prize for the most creative, original, and interesting idea!

The event will take place on the SciFi Ideas website (scifiideas.com) throughout August.

Full details of the alien profile writing competition can be found here. http://www.scifiideas.com/news/alien-august-competition-2014/

There are also lots more details about the event on the SciFi Ideas website. http://www.scifiideas.com/news/alien-august-back/

Also, we’re always looking for fresh content, so if you’d like to write a guest article for us during Alien August, perhaps as a way of promoting your own blog, book, or creative project, please feel free to get in touch! http://www.scifiideas.com/contact/

Even if you don’t plan to share any of your own alien ideas, it’s still worthwhile checking out the SciFi Ideas website during the event and exploring all the new content we’ll be posting. Who knows, you might just be inspired. See you there!

Mark Ball
Mark Ball is a professional writer, semi-professional geek, and amateur podcaster. He is the founder and editor in chief of scifiideas.com.

Hercules: Less Than The Sum Of Some Good Parts

I just saw Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules film.  It’s actually an interesting, if flawed movie, and I wanted to give my analysis, which is rather spoiler-filled.  Frankly, if you’re planning to see it, you don’t want to read further, as I will spoil some of the fun in what is a fun, if flawed, movie.

The major themes of the film are twofold:

  • First that the legend of Hercules is actually due to good PR as much as a man of strength.
  • The role of faith, belief, and image – good and bad.

So the core theme is mostly non-magical.  Hercules is a smart soldier turned mercenary, with a band of talented friends, an excellent sense of tactics, a few clever weapons and gadgets, and a publicity-savvy nephew, Iolaus.  He’s a smart man, a loyal man, and even as a mercenary a decent person for what he does, but also he and his team know the legend is one of the biggest weapons in their arsenal and they’re glad to wield it.

Though they could be fleshed out far more, Hercules team of friends and soldiers is one of the high points of the movie – an archer, a drugged-out mystic, a clever assassin, a troubled soldier who saw too much as a child, and bullshit artist Iolaus.  Combined with a very grounded Dwayne Johnson, they’re both a near-standard fantasy adventure party, a sniping family, and oddly understated.  There’s an almost toned-down-Britcom level to their repartee that’s quite enjoyable.

And, yes, I said toned-down.  This film, despite some crazy action scenes and dreams, is a lot more restrained than I expected.  Which admittedly is a matter of opinion, but still.  I appreciate the movie was far less insane than it could be, it added something by not adding too much.

So Hercules and team get a chance to make their last big score so they can retire by helping a kingdom under assault by an infamous wizard-bandit.  Not actually believing said bandit is magical, they rally a group of farmers and refugees into a semi-functional, then functional army.  Of course this involves a lot of action and death, but rather appealingly the army does not come together magically – it takes time and their first battle is only barely successful.  Fortuantely, the legend of Hercules inspires them, between Hercules’ savvy, Iolaus’ total BS, and his friends different skills victory is soon at hand.

Then we discover things aren’t quite as they seem.

Up to the point of “oh wait” this is a pretty good action film with comedy and fun characters.  Not great, but really quite good, with deconstructions and poking of tropes, plenty of nice moments, and solid if not perfect acting (the cast does vary in skills).  Johnson’s appealingly toned-down and human Hercules makes a great cornerstone to everything, and I really enjoy how he looks more like something out of a painting or a sculpture – he even has his Nemian Lion helmet.

However, when the plot kicks into the second act, it kind of falls apart.  None of the plot ideas are bad, in fact there’s some nice additions, but things move too quick or too slow, elements don’t hold together, things that should have been foreshadowed weren’t, and lots of opportunities are missed.  The film at first pokes all sorts of tropes, then slides into them too much.

The end result is the first part of the movie is better than the sum of its parts – and in the second half it is less.

What’s odd is a little editing, shortening some scenes and others, adding a few minutes of foreshadowing, could have really changed the second act effectively.  It’s the kind of thing a few reshoots and a little script doctoring could have solved.  It would also have brought out some of the actual interesting things not explored – that sometimes a greedy man is more trustworthy to another greedy man, use of some nice narrative elements, and when belief is useful and when it is dangerous.

So I really enjoyed the first half, and I liked the parts of the second half – in a way I enjoyed the film more for what it could have been than what it was.

What is was trying to be and partially was was a modern Sword and Sandal film that did a more realistic twist on the legend while poking some action tropes and exploring some human issues – all while having great actions scenes and plenty of humor.  Instead it meandered after awhile, missing opportunities.

Perhaps on the cutting room floor is a better film.

I wish I enjoyed the film more, because it sets out so many appealing elements that I like that I wanted to.  But I feel vaguely disappointed as well as entertained – there’s more to be had here.

 

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Failcess – Vegan Pizza

So this is probably one of my weirder experiments. I tried to make a totally vegan cheese pizza. It also happened to be gluten free or potentially gluten free if you want to go for the whole pop hypochondria thing.  If this sounds weird, you don’t know me.

So, this potential mad creation of mine was . . . failure and success.  Let’s take a look.

Cheese

The cheese is purely from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook. It’s simple and it was “cheeseque” – good enough to use as cheese in something that needs a taste kind of like cheese.  It wasn’t cheese but, well, close enough for this.

  • One white onion, diced
  • One red pepper, seeded, diced
  • One tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast.

Just puree all of these in a blender- it’s surprisingly easy. I puree the red pepper and onion in batches, and it’s surprisingly “liquidy.” I then blend in the peanut butter and then the yeast.

Sauce

I used a can of tomato sauce. Because I was being lazy.

Crust

  • 3 cups besan (chickpea) flour (by the way, this awesome high-protein flour is great for nutrtion, cooking, chips, pudding, and more)
  • 6 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp baking powder.
  • 1 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients together, then slowly stir in the water. Finally coat your hands with chickpea flour and knead it a bit. Then place it in a nonstick pizza pan.

To cook this, I tried

  1. Cook the crust for 8 minutes.
  2. Remove, add tomato sauce as needed (about a cup)
  3. drizzle cheese sauce (about 3/4 of it)
  4. Cook for 12 minutes.

And how did it come out?

Imagine an extremely lame homemade pizza. Dough wasn’t quite done, the tomato sauce soaked in, the sauce didn’t cook in well, everything was drippy. It tasted “eh” but didn’t quite blend so was ultimately unsatisfying.

Except . . . it was recognizable as a pizza. Just a really bad one.  It was a failure as a pizza, but a success in that I made a completely vegan low-fat pizza that still had quite a protein kick due to the chickpea flour and nutritional yeast.  It was just a bad pizza.

Failure as a pizza, but at least it was a pizza.

So I think there are ways to improve this:

  1. The crust probably needs a bit of a sweetener and/or salt.  Not a bad idea as the only sodium source was the sauce – and next time i’ll use homemade.
  2. I’d also flip the crust over before adding toppings so they don’t soak in so much and the other side gets to cook.
  3. Go easy on the tomato sauce.  Also crushed tomatoes may work as well.
  4. I wonder if I could thicken the cheese sauce a bit, perhaps chilling it, cooking it and then adding some arrowroot.
  5. Overall it needs to be baked longer – probably 8-10 minutes, flip it over and add toppings, and then 15 or so.

So a failure on one level, a success on another.

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Odd Books Have An Ally

I recall so many odd books in my time. I’d see these odd things on the shelf and pick them up or wonder. Or maybe read them and forget them. I especially loved science fiction and fantasy.

Thomas Anderson in part is reliving my childhood and then some by reviewing odd, forgotten, or strange genre fiction at Shlock Value.  It’s really worth reading his reviews as he finds amazing things.

What’s odd is how many of these books seem almost quaintly odd or imaginative.  I can’t see many of them getting published today, and we’re poorer for it.

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

 

Steve’s Update 7/28/2014

Well busy, busy, busy with writing.  I have more Way With Worlds coming (I’m now writing it in big related blocks), a series on getting people’s attention on good stuff called Boost The Signal at Muse Hack.

I’ve also done more work on the Writing Prompt Generator.  Which, by my guess, won’t be complete until end of August at least.  Seriously considering taking a break to do a simpler fun generator – but this one is enticing as I keep finding more ideas.

Finally, be sure to check out my new project at MuseHack, the Geek Catalog.  I’m taking time every week to find geek citizen resources – charities, citizen science, archives, and more – we geeks can get involved in.  I keep finding amazing things I never knew about – and I’m sharing them.

Oh, and on the Curry front, trying a few tweaks of my Japanese Curry – one to make my recipe a bit healthier, and one to make it faster.  The results have been informative to say the least, so more to follow . . .

That’s it for me, what about you?

 

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

 

Thoughts on Scarlett Johansson

(And yes, I have to update this more beyond cooking and updates)

Some friends and I at Crossroads Alpha were discussing Scarlett Johansson, who seems both very visible and clearly not trying to coast on her role as Black Widow.  We also discussed how in Hollywood, actresses have to make their own way in a system that often works against them.  Now Ms. Johansson seems to be a very smart person, a great actress, and pretty savvy - she’s had a hell of a career if one checks it out, so I figure she has a plan.

It struck me that she often does unusual roles as of late, has always touched on SF, and doesn’t mind doing crazy weird stuff at all.  It struck me that, in short, I think what she’s doing is building a “home” in some genres which also gives her the luxury of branching out and experimenting – and her association with SF as well as experimental films is perfect for this.  She could go do a few crazy SF movies and an art film and no one would bat an eye – and it gives her a broad base to work out a continuing career.

In many ways, I see her becoming a bit like Sigourney Weaver, beloved in genre spheres giving her a solid base for anything else – and someone that people respect.  I get the impression Ms. Johansson likes to mix it more, but I see some kind of underpinning similarities.

But I think it’s clear she’s working on a serious, long-term career.  That’s as respectable in the crazy world of films as any great role one may have, because it is a weird business to be in.  Makes me think that in the decades to come, she’s going to bring a lot of great work to the screen.

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.