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C and I are both fond of Mexican food, though we have to modify the recipes, now that I've been advised not to eat cheese and both of us have been told to avoid tomatoes. But in recent years, I've been finding it hard to find good tortillas. I bought many different brands of corn tortillas in supermarkets, but over and over, they would lose their integrity in the process of being cooked; this was often worsened by their sticking to the pan and having bits tear off. Down in San Diego, there was a neighborhood liquor/convenience store a block from us that sold big packages of handmade tortillas of superior quality, but we haven't found such a thing up here.

However, on recent visits to Trader Joe's, I've tried the experiment of buying their store brand of corn tortillas, with good results. I do still need to slide a pancake turner under them and lift them up, and to slide them around the pan, to avoid sticking, but this actually works; the very worst loss of integrity is comparable to my best outcome with supermarket tortillas. And they also have a satisfying flavor. It doesn't hurt that the price works out to less than ten cents per tortilla. . . .

Anyway, for dinner tonight, after preparing soft taco shells, I cooked half a red onion and a couple of inches of Anaheim chili pepper, both finely sliced, in olive oil; added a pound of grass fed ground beef; seasoned with California chili, ancho chili, and cumin; and squeezed half a lime over it all at the end. Then I filled the shells with this and with finely sliced red leaf lettuce. We were both really happy with the flavor.

Now I just hope that Trader Joe's doesn't figure out I like their tortillas and discontinue them. But maybe that's only a conspiracy of supermarkets.

ahead of its time

As C and I have been watching the first season of the original Star Trek, I've been noticing how much ethnic variety there is on the show. Of course there are the continuing characters of Sulu and Uhura, whom everyone knows about. But we just saw "A Taste of Armageddon," where the yeoman who accompanies Kirk and Spock down to Eminiar is a young woman called Tamula who looks Japanese. She doesn't get a lot of dialogue, but she does get to ask questions, and at one point she's handed a weapon and told to guard a prisoner. (It's odd that the producers put l's into the names of characters played by Japanese actors, I have to say.) And this isn't the only such case; the court-martial episode had the court presided over by a black man and including a South Asian man. Then of course there was one of Kirk's main adversaries, Khan Noonien Singh, identified (linguistically plausibly!) as a Sikh (although the actor playing him certainly wasn't of Indian ancestry!).

The execution could have been better. But it seems clear that Roddenberry's vision of humanity venturing into space was one of people from all different ethnic backgrounds serving together—not just a token nonwhite character, but a steady series of other ethnicities in the background. It seems natural and inevitable now, but it's kind of impressive that he got a television network in 1966 to let him do it.


a rattling noise

Somewhere between last night and this morning, C and I awoke and heard the blinds of our bedroom window rattling. I thought it might be wind; C said it was probably earthquake. This morning I checked the noise and learned that there had been a Richter 3.9 earthquake in Hemet, a few miles down the road, with a 3.0 aftershock. This is the first one we've felt since we moved out of San Diego.


Riverside has been experiencing early summer heat over the past month or so. But the past three days have been substantially cooler, mostly in the sixties, with gray skies. There was even light rain yesterday while I was out running an errand. It's been a pleasant break in the usual heat. Unfortunately the weather information sources I use are predicting an upswing starting Thursday. . . .

The real Ragnarok

So as I mentioned in the preceding post, C and I saw The Infinity War while we were down in San Diego over the weekend—we had originally planned to see it this week, but when our hosts suggested it we said, Sure! We're going to go back in a week or so and see it again; there was a lot that we missed the first time through.

The rest is spoilers.Collapse )

If anyone wants to comment on this, they're welcome to do so; readers should assume that any comments may contain spoilers.

the weekend

Saturday was International Board Games Day, and friends of C's and mine decided to host a gathering of game players to observe it. C and I attended, thanks to their putting us up Friday and Saturday nights. We traveled down by Metrolink on Friday and returned today (Sunday). This was a pleasant trip; there are two attractive stretches along the way, one of substantial hills between Riverside and the coast, and one of beaches and gullies from San Juan Capistrano south to Oceanside.

Friday evening we went with our friends to see Avengers: The Infinity War, a more intense experience than I anticipated; I'll comment on that separately. Our friends also introduced us to a pleasantly light game called Sparkle Kitty.

Saturday we played games; both of us played The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, a Monopoly-style game based on H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, and then I played another horror-themed game, a cooperative one set in a haunted house whose title I forget, while C lay down for a while (she had a migraine). I was having remarkably good luck: I won both Sparkle Kitty and The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, and the group of us were able to destroy our evil twins in the haunted house game, with only one player being eliminated by character death. After that I talked with my old friend JHH, and part of the time with KS and a later part with our host TF, while C later got up and joined a different group of friends in another room. Much of the conversation was about biological science, which JHH majored in and both KS and I had studied; there are really interesting things going on in that field, especially as a result of genomic sequencing.

We were up till everyone left a bit after midnight, so we didn't do much the next day. TF and I got up earlier and stayed up more than the other two, and talked about philosophical zombies and related issues. He and I also talked about how magic worked in Tela, the world that's the setting of my GURPS campaign Tapestry, in which he plays a trollwife healer and mystic. At one point I told him that one of his questions had a definite answer, but it was one his character couldn't have any way of knowing, and he would have to come up with methods of investigating it.

JHH and I had an amusing discussion of the idea of an RPG campaign where every player was required to play a character who was contrary to their normal type; I suggested that I could ask him to play a character who was a serious creative artist with a complex emotional life and relationships, and he proposed that he would ask me to play a genuinely brutal character—not necessarily physically strong, but callous and willing to use harsh methods of dealing with other people to achieve his goals. Each of us thought the other had come up with an interesting challenge.

It was a real pleasure to see so many now remote friends.


Nearly all Star Trek fans are familiar with Dr. McCoy's line "I'm a doctor, not a —!" It's memorable enough to have been parodied—for example, an early issue of Cerebus the Aardvark had a military surgeon deliver a whole series, ending with "I'm a doctor, not a martyr!"

Yesterday C and I went to a small museum in downtown Riverside attached to UC Riverside, which has a small movie theater where we've seen a couple of things. This time we were seeing A Hard Day's Night, which neither of us had seen in many years. And midway through, Ringo was saddled with the task of looking after Paul's grandfather, and protested, "I'm a drummer, not a nursemaid!" Since that film came out in 1964, it was clearly ahead of the Star Trek scriptwriters. . . .

now some of it can be told

Over on his own lj, GURPS line editor dr_kromm has revealed that the book I just finished is a supplement to GURPS High-Tech. I'm not going to reveal what branch of technology it's about, but I will say that I've had a great time reading books on the history of technology for the past three months.


That's how I feel just at the moment, in an odd way. A couple of hours ago, I made the last changes to the first draft of my current book, spellchecked it, and then sent it off to Steve Jackson Games for review. And now I'm all at loose ends! I've been researching and writing and researching and writing for weeks and it seems strange to stop.

I do have some things I want to adjust in the final draft, but the most important of them requires me to do trigonometry for a couple of days. I can't propose a gamable abstraction till I figure out what I'm abstracting from.


Michael Grossberg, the chair of the Libertarian Futurist Society's Best Novel committee, just e-mailed to let me know that the authors of all but one of this year's finalists for Best Novel have gotten together to set up a podcast discussion on 14 April, at 1400 Eastern Daylight Time.. I expect that the details will appear on our blog in the near future.

I don't normally follow podcasts, but I'm putting this one on my schedule.

I find the sense of collegiality this implies really cool. No one in the LFS had to urge the authors to take part; they came to us having set it all up—so it seems they all feel they have things to talk about, and are interested in talking with each other. And apparently it would have been all of the various authors if Casey and Hunt didn't have schedule conflicts.

One of the things some people don't get about libertarians is that solitary rugged individualism isn't our ideal, however much we believe in "go your own way"; our real ideal is community growing out of voluntary cooperation, of laissez-nous faire! This is a really elegant demonstration of that principle, I think.

It's also technologically cool that this can be done, with such scattered participants: one in Colorado, one in New Hampshire, and one in Scotland that I know of. As I've said many times to C, thank God for the Internet!