Saturday, May 22, 2010

Review: Rattlesnake Crossing

Rattlesnake Crossing is the sixth book in JA Jance's Joanna Brady Series. The mysteries that Sheriff Brady has to deal with this time around are the murder of an arms dealer (and his missing inventory), a sniper shooting farm equipment and cows, and a murderer who scalps his victims.

The mystery in this novel is both unique and compelling. I love the way that Jance builds suspense by putting us in the point of view of Joanna Brady and only giving the reader the information available to the Sheriff. It makes the revelation of the perpetrators that much more interesting.

In this book, the far more compelling plot lines are the personal lives of the characters. In particular, Pastor Marianne's storyline is particularly heart-wrenching. I also love the interactions between Butch and Joanna.
Rattlesnake Crossing was yet another fantastic addition to the series. When I was done, I felt the need to hurry and locate the next book!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pork and Apple Curry

This recipe combines several of my favorite things: Slow cookers, pork roast and fruit in curry! Like all slow cooker meals, it is quick and easy to get started and it tastes fantastic!

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pork and Apple Curry
Adapted from Taste of Home Light & Tasty February/March 2004

2 pounds boneless pork loin roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium tart apple, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon Hot Curry Paste
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
Hot cooked rice

In a 3-qt. slow cooker, combine the first 10 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until meat is tender. Increase heat to high. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into slow cooker. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring once. Serve over rice if desired.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Skeleton Canyon by J.A. Jance

Skeleton Canyon is J.A. Jance's fifth book in her Joanna Brady series. This time the book is centered around the disappearance of a pretty and popular teenager. Her father is an influential man and threatens to make life difficult for Joanna as Sheriff. Her boyfriend is a Hispanic young man who she never told her parents about, fearing their disapproval and bigotry. The girl's body is found by two hikers and the investigation kicks into high gear.

At the same time, the Sheriff's department is investigating a smuggling operation with the help of everyone's favorite DEA Agent, Adam York. Slowly but surely the threads of the two cases begin to intertwine.

Skeleton Canyon is another fabulous addition to the Joanna Brady Series. The mystery is engrossing and helps to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the recurring characters. I find that to be one of the strengths of JA Jance has as a writer; her ability to make the characters engaging and to show their growth and development. I love the interpersonal relationships between the characters especially Joanna and her friend and pastor, Marianne. Finishing this book only made me more eager to read the next one!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Save Your Privacy from Facebook

If you've been paying any attention at all to Facebook's Privacy changes, you may have noticed that Facebook has been shifting things so that more and more of your information is publicly available by default. It used to be that Facebook privacy settings were simple and comprehensive.

Here's a graphic from the New York Times depicting the current myriad of privacy options that must be set individually:

"The new opt-out settings certainly are complex. Facebook users who hope to make their personal information private should be prepared to spend a lot of time pressing a lot of buttons. To opt out of full disclosure of most information, it is necessary to click through more than 50 privacy buttons, which then require choosing among a total of more than 170 options."
Nick Bilton from Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking
Since Facebook's privacy settings can be tricky, here's a tutorial to help you save your privacy from Facebook:

Step one:
Step one is optional but if you play Facebook games and add people for those games, it is highly recommended. On the Home page, click "Friends" on the Left hand side bar. Along the top of the page is a button, "+ Create a List". This will allow you to set-up of lists of friends. If you play Facebook games then you should create at least one list with all the people that you don't know and wouldn't want to see certain types of personal information.

Step Two:
Go to the Facebook header: Account>Privacy Settings. It should give you the screen pictured below. This is the home base for your Privacy Setting needs.
Step Three:
Go to "Personal Information and Posts". The default setting for everything is that your information is visible to "Everyone". Since this is your personal information, I would recommend that you set everything to "Friends only" or "Friends of Friends".
Step Three A:
On the "Personal Information and Posts" page click the "Photo Settings" buttons. You should definitely set your photos to "Friends Only". If you add friends for games I would use the "Customize" option and hide the photos from the list(s) containing those friends.
Step Four:
Go back to the "Privacy Settings" page and click "Contact Information" which should give you the page shown below. This is another page that you should set to "Friends Only" at the very least. For maximum security, you can choose not to provide any of this information to Facebook or use "Customize" to set the information to "Only Me".
Step Five:
Return to "Privacy Settings" and go to "Friend, Tags and Connections". This settings on this page are less critical so set the restrictions here depending on your level of comfort. There are a few settings that I would recommend that you are more careful with: Hometown, Education and Work, Friends, and Family.
Step Six:
Go back to "Privacy Settings" and go to "Search". Set the "Facebook Search Results" to whatever setting you are comfortable with. If you have your other settings tight enough there should be very little to see on the Facebook search. The "Public Search Results" option makes your basic profile information available to search engines like Google. Uncheck the box if you don't want your Facebook profile to come up in searches.
Step Seven:
Return to "Privacy Settings" and go to "Applications and Websites". I'll go through most of these separately but there is one setting to change on this page: "Activity on Applications and Games Dashboard" which can be set according to your own preferences on who gets to see what applications you use.

Step Seven A:
Click "What you Share" and read what it has to say. As a summary: it says that every application that you add gets access to any information visible to everyone and other basic information. I would recommend going through the list of applications that you've added and remove the ones that you don't use.
Step Seven B:
Return to "Applications and Website" and click on "What your friends can Share about You". This sets what the applications that your friends have added can see about you. I would recommend unchecking everything on the page.
Step Seven C:
Return to "Applications and Websites" and click on "Instant Personalization Pilot Program". The instant personalization automatically connects your Facebook profile to some sites when you visit them and shares your information. I recommend unchecking the box and going one step further and blocking the Facebook applications associated with those sites.
Step Eight:
This step isn't so much a privacy step as it is a security feature. Go to "Account Settings" under the drop down menu in the header. Under the section "Account Security" click change. The account security allows you to set the option to monitor when your account is accessed from a computer or mobile device that you haven't used before. Naturally, Facebook has this lovely security feature set on an opt-in basis.
Once you reach this point, your account should be both more private and a bit more secure. You can check your privacy settings by going to "Privacy Settings" and clicking "Preview Profile". This will allow you to see how your profile looks to other people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Zealous Love: Human Trafficking

I started reading Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice by Mike and Danae Yankoski this weekend. I was a bit surprised by the set-up of the book. Having read and absolutely love Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski, I was expecting something similar which goes to show I should have read the summary more closely. Zealous Love is a look at several key social justice issues and what's being done about them with essays/reports from multiple organizations. Due to the nature of the book, I'm going to read about one issue every week and post a reflection or response.

Issue #1 : Human Trafficking

I remember when I first learned that slavery still existed in the world. Given my upbringing in a middle class neighborhood in the United States and the narrowly focused school curriculum (a rant for another time), it really wasn't too surprising that I assumed that the abolition of Slavery in the United States meant that there weren't anymore slaves. When I was sixteen, I attended an international youth conference. One of the speakers (the only one I remember, really) was a man who had been a slave. At that point my world was shaken and I was absolutely heartsick. Underneath that sickness though was a simmering anger that my education had been so ethnocentric that I was completely unaware of such a major human rights issue.

Over the years, I've learned of more of the ways that human beings are stripping away each others basic rights and there were many causes that captured my attention and my heart. One of the first social justice initiatives to snag me was Invisible Children. The movement took the initial form of a documentary depicting the use of children in Uganda as Soldiers and the struggles of children trying to stay safe in an unfriendly environment. Invisible Children still creates documentaries to showcase the difficult time in East Africa but they also have volunteers on the ground rebuilding schools and providing scholarships. From there, I developed an interest in the Sex Slavery found in many major cities in the world. I never did connect with an organization but it is an issue that is close to my heart. Most of the essays in Zealous Love deal with the Sex Trafficking industry rather than any other Human Trafficking issues.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Steampunk Cakes and More

Here's a few Steampunk tidbits that I've come across during the past week:

First up is the results of a Steampunk Cake Contest hosted by
This is the first place winner of the contest designed and made by Artisan Cake Company. There were some awesome cakes in the winner's circle including a Steampunk Venus de Milo cake!

Next up are some lovely Steampunk Short fiction pieces written in response to T.S. Bazelli's Author Aerobics: Plot Challenge at Ink Stained.

The Challenge:

In 1000 words or less, write a piece of fiction that includes all the elements of the 3 act structure, including at least one crisis in the rising action. To make things more interesting use the word "zeppelin" somewhere in the story.

There is only one rule: set a time limit.

There were two lovely responses:
The Metal Girl by T.S. Bazelli

You should also check out the fantastic blog post by Steampunk Scholar on Defining Steampunk as an Aesthetic. Here's a small snippet to hopeful pique your interest:

Steampunk is an aesthetic: it is a look, or a style. It is not a genre, because within the literature, there is no recurrent narrative element that one can point to which appears in all, or even most of the books.

Finally, if you haven't checked it out yet, the Great Steampunk Debate is currently running and has some great insights into Steampunk. There's lots of information and perspectives from all over.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich

In the tenth installment of the Stephanie Plum novels, Stephanie and Lula happen to be at the wrong place at the right time and spot a serial robber in action. Stephanie even gets a good enough look to identify him. Unfortunately, the robber is part of a gang and they aren't happy with her! This novel also includes some small time bonds feature a reunion with transvestite, Sally and a woman who held up a Frito-Lay truck.

It was an enjoyable read though not one of the better books of the series. I loved the return of Sally the transvestite, and I think that the highlight of the book was definitely when Sally saved the day in a School Bus with an Uzi.

The emotional turmoil of Stephanie bouncing between Morelli and Ranger which started off the be fun and interesting but is now beginning to get tedious and annoying. It's getting a bit painful to watch a character make worse and worse choices in her personal life in each book.

It wasn't my favorite book in the series, however the sample chapter of the next book has made it impossible for me to give up on the series.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recipe: Dalmatian Cupcakes

I made these this week and my friends declared them the best cupcakes ever. I think it mostly says that my friends are Chocolate addicts...

Recipe: Dalmatian Cupcakes
(Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cupcakes, Cakes and More April/May 2010)

- 2 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1 egg
- 1-1/2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 box devil's food cake mix
- 1-1/3 cups water
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 bag (11.5 oz) white chocolate chips
- 1 container vanilla frosting

Preheat oven to 350 (325 for nonstick or dark pans). Prepare muffin cups with paper baking cups (silicon baking cups also work well).

In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and 1 egg until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the semisweet chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, water, oil and 3 eggs on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for two minutes. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Divide batter into the baking cups: 1/4 cup of batter in each baking cup. Top with a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese mixture.

Bake 17-27 minutes or until tops spring back when touched lightly. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove cupcakes from pan gently and cool completely.

Frost with frosting. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: To the Nines

The ninth book in Janet Evanovich's mystery series centered around Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum. This time Stephanie isn't chasing one of Jersey's many criminal elements, but instead she is locating a man who turned up missing a week before his visa bond is called into question.

Stephanie chases leads to his (and his fiancé's dog's) location all around Trenton and then finally Las Vegas. All the while she is fending off a mysterious stalker and bouncing between Joe Morelli and Ranger. Also, instead of destroying a whole slew of cars, this time around, Stephanie is taking down bodyguards left and right.

This is one of the better books in the series. I found the structure to be unique and the concept behind the murders to be fresh and engaging. The family situations for both the Morellis and the Plums are still fun and funny. I also loved the multiple diets featured in Lula's quest to look like a supermodel!

Like all of the Stephanie Plum novels, this one starts with a description of Joe Morelli and their first sexual encounters. It was a neat look into their early interaction the first few times, but after nine books, I'm tired of the story! I'm also less than appreciative of the way she portrayed the nerdy character but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.

I had a lot of fun reading To The Nines and definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the previous books.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Book Habits Meme

I spotted this on Floor to Ceiling Books and the original post is on The World in the Satin Bag.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:

I sometimes snack and when I do my favorite snack is probably Starburst Jelly beans.

What is your favorite drink while reading?

I love to drink hot chocolate while I read but usually just drink water.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

I never mark in books that I read for fun. When I was still a student I sometimes wrote in books.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

I go back and forth between dog-ears and laying the book flat open. It depends on whether the book is staying home or coming with me. I occasionally try to use bookmarks but I either lose them or they fall out of my book and make me cranky.

Fiction, nonfiction, or both?

Definitely Fiction! I occasionally read some non-fiction but my primary reading interests are fiction.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

I prefer to read to the end of a chapter or at least a POV change. This gets me in trouble because I often get so involved in the book that I miss the start of a chapter and just have to keep reading.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

I throw books occasionally but mostly I stick to snarking at the book/author in my head.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

I usually try to figure it out based on sentence context, though if it bothers me a lot that I'm not sure I may look it up but that's pretty rare.

What are you currently reading?

Outlaw Mountain by JA Jance - one of her Joanna Brady mysteries. I've been speeding through mysteries now that I've finished the giant David Weber book!

What is the last book you bought?

Skeleton Canyon by JA Jance and To the Nines by Janet Evanovich.

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

I mostly read one book at a time but if the one book is a large hardcover book, I often have a paperback that travels around with me in my purse.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

I really like to read before bed, all snuggled up in my blankets.

Do you prefer series books or standalones?

Both have their charms. I often read series books because my favorite authors do tend to be prolific and write in series but I enjoy standalones just as much.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

In general, I recommend David Weber often but lately I've also been pushing Gail Carriger and her books (Soulless and Changeless).

How do you organize your books?(by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)

The books that I've owned longer are sorted by Author's Last name. New and unread books are often in piles or random locations around the house.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: A Mighty Fortress by David Weber

A Mighty Fortress is the fourth book in David Weber's Safehold series. The premise for the series in definitely intriguing: after a devastating space battle with an alien race, the last vestiges of human civilization form a colony and their leaders alter memories to create devotion to a religion that glorifies those leaders, demonizes their political enemies, and holds the colony at a low technological level. Nine hundred years later, an android body containing the mind of one of the original crew "wakes up" and starts a chain of events leading to innovation and change, and a religious reform movement that leads to a split in the church and the beginnings of Holy War.

This book is lighter on physical action than its predecessors but makes up for it with a high volume of political intrigue. Once again Weber has created a multitude of sub plots each with their own various political subtleties. At first some of the side plots seem unconnected to the main action but eventually everything falls into place.

One of the things that make David Weber's books so stunning is their epic battle scenes and even though he's switched from space battles to wet navy battles the battle scenes are still exquisitely detailed and realistic. The descriptions of the production process and the science behind the naval technology can get to be too much but the actual implementation of the technology makes it worth the heavy descriptions.

One of the things that is beginning to bother me about this series is the naming of the characters. The character names are often spelled in the most complicated rendition of the phonetic spelling possible. At first it was an interesting novelty but as time passed it just became distracting because every time a new character was introduced I had to pause to figure out what the standard equivalent of the name was. It definitely lead to interruptions in the flow of reading, especially since there are so very many characters involved.

Overall, I really did enjoy A Mighty Fortress. I love the political intrigue that features so strongly and the explorations of how religion molds the way people think and how the church acts as a political machine. I do feel that with the large number of character and political plots, some of the deeper character relationships get lost in the shuffle and that is unfortunate because it makes it harder to connect with the characters in this book. This book is a solid addition to the series (though not as good as the other three books) and leaves us set-up for a more action heavy fifth book.

Monday, May 10, 2010

St John's Parade with the Rose City Steampunks

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining the Rose City Steampunks at the St John's Parade. We met before the parade started for tea and brunch as well as putting the final touches on the cart/airship.

This was my first outing with the Rose City Steampunks and I was welcomed quite nicely into the group. It was fun to meet everyone and there was some fabulous people watching to be done as everyone gathered before the start of the parade. Some of the nearby groups included a circus act, the Pirates of Portlandia, a group with crazy and unique bikes, a group of Belly Dancers (including a couple of small dogs in belly dancing outfits), and a local Boy Scout Troop.

The parade route was about a mile long which felt a bit longer in the 70 degree weather and full sun. It beat the alternative of cold and rainy but full sun isn't real fun in full Steampunk gear. I marched with a sign that said "You Can Have My Tea Cozy When You Pry it From My Cold Dead Hands". All of the signs in our group were related to tea: "Free Teabet", "Our Tea Party has Cookies", and other fun sayings.

Here's a lovely picture of the full group at the end of the parade route:

The Next Rose City Steampunk event is their monthly meet-up on the second Thursday of the month (May 13th) at the Twin Paradox Cafe in Sellwood.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Global Shim Sham and More...

This video is one of my personal favorites! It is videos taken around the world and spliced together to present the "Global Shim Sham" in tribute to Frankie Manning.

Here's a clip featuring one of my favorite instructors, Brenda Russell (Collins). I recently had the opportunity to take a series of classes from her and wasn't disappointed at all. This video features some great Balboa and Lindy hop.

Upcoming Dance Events:
Saturday May 22nd: Pajama Jam at Tango Berretin hosted by Syncopated Rhythms
Wednesday-Thursday May 26-27th: Harlem Hotshots Workshops Followed by Social Dancing at Scottish Rite and Paradise Studios hosted by Stumptown Dance
Friday-Monday May 28th-31st: Camp Jitterbug in Seattle

Friday, May 7, 2010

Recipe: Mexican Lasagna

This year my Cinco de Mayo "celebration" (aka excuse to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas) featured Margaritas and Mexican Lasagna followed by Contra Dancing. I had never been Contra Dancing before. It's a partnered folk dance related to English country dancing. Part of what now has me enchanted with Contra Dancing is the music which is good old fashioned folk music. I'm definitely going to have to go again! Now as for the recipe.

Recipe: Mexican Lasagna
(Adapted from the South Beach Diet Cookbook)

  • 2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 jar (4 oz) chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 cups salsa
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas (6" in diameter), halved
  • 1 bag (8oz) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350F and coat a 9" by 13" glass pan with cooking spray.

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the ground beef to a medium bowl. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel and coat with cooking spray. Place over medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add to the ground beef in the bowl.

In another medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, sour cream, peppers, cumin and salt.

Spread 1 cup of the salsa across the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange half of the tortillas evenly over the salsa. Spread half of the cheese over the tortillas. Top with half of the ground beef mixture. Cover with 1 cup of salsa and 1/2 cup of the Monterey Jack cheese. Repeat the layering sequence with the remaining tortillas, cheese, and ground beef. Sprinkle with the remaining salsa and Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through. Loosely cover with foil if the cheese browns too quickly.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reading Updates and Writing Tidbits

I'm still plugging along reading A Mighty Fortress by David Weber. I'm three-quarters of the way through and finding this book to be an excellent addition to the series and a fantastic reminder of everything I love about David Weber's writing. I'll miss the book when I'm done reading it but I'm also looking forward to doing some lighter reading.

Here's some tidbits from a couple of my new favorite authors:

In this post, Gail Carriger discusses the characters Lord Akeldama and Madam Lefoux from Soulless and Changeless and the influences that inspired her to include such delightful queer characters and why she feels that they work in her Alt-History Victorian setting.

Here's a link to a lovely Interview with Blake Charlton that covers his struggles with dyslexia, his inspirations for Spellwright, and a little bit about his next book Spellbound.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Intro to Steampunk Fashion

Since last week I focused mostly on the technological and functional aspects of Steampunk, this week's dose of Steampunk is on the Style and Fashion of the movement. One of the best articles I've that describes the history and influences of Steampunk fashion is by Krista Nielson of InThisWeek. Here's a teaser from her article:

"Imagine a culture inspired by Victorian era romance where antique gadgets influence daily life, science and technology is blurred, and time travel is a reality. Welcome to the rising subculture of steampunk."
I love the individual nature of Steampunk that results from the large trend of Do-It-Yourself attire. Everyone has their own take and that's part of what makes Steampunk awesome. It can be leather and machine parts or bustles and parasols. Your influences can be more modern punk attire or the traditional Victorian apparel. Here are links to a pair of galleries with a wide variety of fashions for Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bonus: An Opportunity for Portland Steampunks!
St. John's Parade
Saturday, May 8, 2010
2010 theme- "Through a Child's eyes"
St. Johns Neighborhood of North Portland, Oregon
Group: Rose City Steampunks and Friends

Come find us between 8:30-11:00. We will have a tea party before the parade. (hopefully on grassy sidewalk strip). The Air-ship the Sea Siren has a small ice chest. Bring a teacup/mug and some finger food to share please. A chair or blanket that you can return to your car before the parade would be nice.

Check out the Facebook Event Page for more details:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Clayzapoppin' and More!

Not precisely a Lindy hop video but it's close- a claymation version of Hellzapoppin', the routine made famous by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. It's cute and I found it entertaining.

Here's a clip by the Harlem Hot Shots featuring some wicked Charleston and some super fast lindy hop! These guys are totally awesome and three of them are coming to Portland to teach a workshop in a couple of weeks!

Here's a clip of Stefan and Bethany, a Professional pair that recently (in the last year) returned to Portland. Their style is so unique and fun to watch!

Upcoming Events:
Friday May 7 Free Friday Swing at the Vancouver Ballroom
Saturday May 22nd: Pajama Jam at the Tango Berretin hosted by Syncopated Rhythms
Wednesday-Thursday May 26-27th: Harlem Hotshots Workshops Followed by Social Dancing at Scottish Rite and Paradise Studios hosted by Stumptown Dance