Sitting at Cracker Barrel with Fuzzy yesterday morning, each of us reading, I watched him eat bacon, and thought, “the bacon I made with the microwave bacon cooker was better than this.”

A few months ago, I received a totally enclosed microwave bacon cooker, and even though we don’t eat bacon all that often, I was incredibly happy to have it. You see, this unit, which looks like a cross between a sifter and a water filter pitcher, is the only such contraption that IS totally enclosed.

It’s also really easy to use. You drape the bacon over the internal blades, close and fasten the lid, and stick it in the microwave on “high” for about thirty second per slice (a little more or less depending on the desired end-result and the thickness of your bacon), then unlock, and pull the blades out, leaving all the nasty grease in the well at the bottom. You can then pour off the grease (into a safe container, never down the sink), and make more, or just use hot soapy water to clean the cooker again for next time.

I don’t often wax rhapsodic about appliances, but this microwave bacon cooker really is as wonderful as it sounds.

In fact, as I was reading this morning, and came across characters talking about bacon for breakfast, I thought, “Oh, I want to have some, too.”

And I did.

Lost in a Good Book

I often find that if I’m really into a book, I come away from my reading time feeling disoriented if the weather or the mood doesn’t fit with whatever I just read.

Right now, for example, I’m halfway through Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Scion, the fourth in the Kushiel series, and there’s been some mention of an attendant who recently came from one of the houses in the Night Court, and while, for this person, the experience was something akin to attending one of our massage therapy schools, those familiar with these books will understand that such a place is more like a very elite brothel, though all arts are taught, not just sexual ones.

I mention this because when I put the book down, I was half expecting to see candlelight and fabric hangings instead of my very modern surroundings.

I’ll be reviewing this book over at All Things Girl, along with it’s immediate sequel, sometime in the next couple of months.

For now, though, I really want to fill the tub with water and bubbles, light candles, and read the other half.

Music Review: Dreamland, Brent Spiner & Maude Maggart

Brent Spiner, Maude Maggart
Get it from Amazon >>

I’ve always been a fan of audio dramas, and have fond memories of rainy winter Sunday evenings, when my mother would make soup or stew, and she, Ira, and I would sit around the kitchen table and listen raptly to the radio plays that were broadcast on the local NPR affiliate. Or maybe it was the Pacifica affiliate. Either way it was a nice break from worrying about heating bills, the merits of tanked vs. tankless water heaters, and any number of other modern subjects.

Knowing this, there is every chance that, had I known to look for it, I’d have fallen in love with Brent Spiner’s newest brainchild, Dreamland, a CD that is more than just music, but really an audio musical with a healthy dash of noir-style characters and settings, and some great American standards, performed by Spiner and his co-star for this production, Maude Maggart.

I’ll confess that, even though I’m not generally given to collecting autographs from actors, no matter how much I enjoy their work, I paid the extra $10 over the $19,99 base price of the Dreamland cd to have Mr. Spiner not only sign it, but also to add the phrase “To MissMeliss” in strong silver writing on the front, because I am that big a geek.

But I digress.

Dreamland is the story of one man’s dream. I’ve often said that I dream not just in technicolor, but in full surround sound with a studio orchestra and backup singers. Apparently, so does the protagonist of this story, because when we meet him he’s preparing for bed in a hotel room, and is asking for a 9:30 AM wakeup call.

For the rest of the 50-ish minute CD, we, and he, are living within the dream, and, as can happen in small-d dreamland, scenes transition abruptly, time is either stretched or compressed as needed, and songs are used to punctuate feelings, but also to further the storyline. At one point, our hero offers the heroine a lift, but instead of car, he has a train. Such is the stuff of dreams.

Spiner’s vocals seem richer and healthier than his previous disc, Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back, which included similar types of songs. I especially liked “The Moonbeam Song,” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” but everything was quite pleasing. Of course, he also wrote the script, so it makes sense that he would pick songs he sings well.

Ms. Maggart (who is also Fiona Apple’s sister), has a lovely voice, and it’s so refreshing to hear a female lead who isn’t an over-shrill soprano (though as a mezzo myself, I may be biased). Her “I Remember You” is sheer magic.

Many of the other characters in Dreamland were voiced by Mark Hamill (yes, that one), but you’d never be able to pick out his voice if you didn’t know ahead of time that he was part of the project.

In an age of wall-vibrating dance beats, it’s nice to spend a quiet hour listening to something like Dreamland, and enjoying music from a time when songs were so much more singable than they are now. The only thing missing from the audio experience, for me, was a rainy day.

Dreamland may be purchased at Brent Spiner’s website, The Real Brent Spiner, and he takes paypal.


While I’m on the subject of shopping for bookish things, instead of reading books, I should add that we’ve pretty much shelved the plan to make the library into a library, and are now shopping for bookshelves that will work in other rooms, which has become an important issue, since I hired a cleaning lady who starts on April 3rd, and she can’t vacuum my bedroom if the pile of books that stretches the entire length of the window is still there.

We considered using the free pass to one of those directbuy clubs to look at their stuff, but most of the bookshelves at formal furniture stores are a bit beyond what we can spend when you consider the amount of shelving we need.

I’ve decided that we should all be independently wealthy.
Who’s with me?

Sometimes, I Write Stuff, Too

Entry cross-posted from my main blog, MissMeliss: Escribition.

…or at least links to them

As I posted, I’ve become more active in my favorite e-zine All Things Girl, and they’ve given me the title of Sr. Editor. The mid-issue update will go live on April 1st (no, really) but in the meantime I’ve got some stuff in the March/April edition already:

Sun Hats and Fresh Tomatoes is a brief nostalgia trip to my grandfather’s garden.

and I also reviewed the book

Midori by Moonlight, by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga.

As well, today Pink Nighties, a new erotic e-zine is having it’s launch, and I have two pieces in that, as well as a “senior editor” credit:

Chai is the first part of a short story that will be serialized there over the next several issues, and there’s also a
Product Review (bear in mind it’s a sex-positive, erotic fiction zine when considering that piece).


Games People Read About

Hearing a couple of golfers mention Cobra golf gear in Starbucks the other day, made me think about the way sports are depicted in fiction. You don’t see a lot of novels where there’s a dead body draped over the front of a Zamboni, or where love affairs take place in the SkyBox of a major arena, but sports and games are often used in fiction. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Harriet the Spy: Notebook Tag. The game in which you run around trying to knock people’s books out of their arms, until you are the last person left.
  2. The Dick Francis mysteries: Almost everything he ever wrote involved horse racing in some fashion, either because the protagonist was a jockey or trainer, or because a murder took place in the turf world. I used to read these like candy.
  3. The Harry Potter books: Who can resist the lure of Quidditch – I mean the notion of any sport played on airborne brooms is pretty cool.
  4. Sara Paretsky’s work: Hockey is prevalent in at least one of the adventures of V.I. Warshawski, and Paretsky always weaves in mention of the Chicago Cubs.

Your turn: If you’re reading this, tell me about some of your favorite uses of games and sports in fiction.

Technology and Magic

Arthur C. Clarke, aged 90, died this morning at his home in Sri Lanka, and while I can’t say I was a total fan of all his work, how can you not mourn the passing of the man who said that “Any technology that is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic” ?

The New York Times has a piece about him here, but it might require a login to read.

So many icons of the geek world have died in the last six months – Gary Gygax among others. I’ve never really been a D&D fan, but I recognize his contribution to a hobby my husband loves (a bit unhealthily at times.). Honestly, all this death is enough to drive one past addiction and right into drug rehabilitation.

As for me, I’m thinking tonight might be a good time to curl up by the fire with some vintage science fiction, as a sort of private memorial.

Party On?

Last night, in the week hours, I received a note from Borders informing me that a local Waldenbooks was closing and that everything within (except magazines, electronics, and gift cards) would be discounted 40% on Saturday the 22nd.

Rather than choosing to be sad over a bookstore closing (it’s doing so because a big B&N is taking it’s place), I’m beginning to look at announcements like this one as somewhat akin to party invitations. The difference is that instead of going to a party to engage in stimulating conversation, dance, mingle, and maybe hook up with a person, I’ll go to dance around other shoppers, see what titles stimulate my imagination, mingle with other bibliophiles, and maybe hook myself up with something great to read. Or something I’ve always wanted. Like the OED, which is incredibly expensive and worth considering when discounted.

Except, of course, as often happens with parties, we have a previous engagement on a different end of town. (Actually in a different town altogether.

I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have to RSVP.

STTNG: Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang

by: Jeffry Lang
published by: Pocket Books
published: February 2002

* * * * *

I originally read Immortal Coil in eBook format on my laptop, sometime last year (I think), but somehow that format just doesn’t do it for me, so when I saw a copy of the actual paperback at Half Price Books, I had to grab it. After all, it’s an EmotionChip!Data story, and there aren’t many of those outside of fanfic.

While I’m not old enough to have watched the ORIGINAL Star Trek in first run, the re-runs were the only show that was allowed to routinely break the “no television before 5 PM” rule in my house, and since my mother was anti-television, I used to watch them on our old black-and-white after school when I was nine and ten. As I write this, I am suddenly remembering an add for a convention in 1979 or 80, in Denver. I was too young, at the time, to know what a con was, or I’m sure I’d have pestered my mother to take me.

I mention this because while, on the surface, this is a TNG story, Immortal Coil is also a sort of quasi-sequel to the TOS episodes “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Requiem for Methuselah,” and while familiarity with them is not totally required in order to enjoy this story, it definitely helps. A lot.

This novel is all about android rights and the definition of sentience, and, more specifically, the distinction between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness. It opens with Data returning to the Enterprise with the body of his deceased “mother,” Julianna Tainer, whom we know to be an android. He is dealing with overwhelming emotions, and Picard’s suggestion that turning off the chip would be a bad idea, when a call is received from Admiral Haftel – there’s been an issue at Galor IV, and the ship, and specifically Data, are needed.

What follows is part murder mystery (who tried to kill Maddox, who caused the disappearance of another, legendary and somewhat hermit-ish, cyberneticist?) and part romance (new Enterprise security officer Rhea McAdams has the hots for our Mr. Data, it seems) with a good bit of space epic thrown in.

At times cheesy, at other times sweet, it’s a satisfying romp through the Trekiverse, which wraps up several loose ends in Data’s life.

The first time I read this, I went into it with some skepticism, because a Data romance is a very tricky thing – fanfic authors I respect have argued that he cannot have a plausible relationship. I disagree, but as much as I enjoyed this book for entertainment value, I find that the relationship between Rhea and Data was contrived, and the way Data was written didn’t…fee right.

Goes well with a glass of milk and thin mint cookies.