Random (but not really)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How I became a Woman of International Intrigue and Mystery

I woke up this morning to discover that the UCF has been outed. I expect the phone to start ringing off the hook any minute; perhaps I can get Valerie Plame to give me some advice on dealing with all the press now that my life of secrecy is over.

So what is this secret organization I have been involved in?

We are a government funded organization created to promote the anti-anti-LHC agenda. Or so say the insane psychopaths at the LHC “facts” website. Unfortunately, I only recently discovered that we’re government funded, and am going to have to talk to Nathan (our fearless leader) about back pay. (You hear that Nathan? Gimme my money or I’m coming after your toaster!)

You see, all that stuff about Sophie from Shinola, Not-Sophie, International Hijack Day, Charlotte Misner, and even Tasty Tuesday are just a front.

So how did the UCF start? It was a dark and stormy night…

I was sitting at Starbucks minding my own business when he sat down across from me. Despite the dark glasses and cheap suit, the mustache was a give away.

“You?!” I gasped in surprise, “What are you doing here? Isn’t this a little bit off the beaten path for you?” I closed my laptop before he could get a good look a the screen.

“Listen,” he said, “I don’t have much time, but I want you back in the game. No recriminations, no second guessing, the past is the past.”

“Right,” I said, leaning back in my chair, “I saw what you had done to Eric after the ‘toaster incident.’ I’m not foolish enough to fall for your bullshit again.”

“No, really. We’re on the up and up this time!” He lowered his voice and looked around guiltily. “The incident with Eric was a terrible accident–Jim was taken care of for taking matters into his own hands.”

I leaned forward, “and what price did you pay for your part in this? I know what happened to Jim. But I never heard anything about you paying your due.”

He lowered his glasses, and I was shocked by the dark circles under his bloodshot eyes. “I paid. Trust me. I paid.” He slid the glasses back up his nose. “And we’ve brought Eric back from the dead. It took some doing, as we had to regenerate his fingertips and all, but we did it. And Jim is back into fighting trim as well. The bionic parts we got him have made him twice the man he was before.”

I looked down at my laptop, and shifted it to be squared with the edge of the table. “And what do I get out of this? I told you when I left I didn’t want any part of your schemes.” I stared into his lenses. “And more importantly, who else do you have and how’d you get ’em? If you brought back Eric and upgraded Jim I can see the hold you’d have on them. But that’s only a small part of the team.”

He laughed, “Oh I’ve got ’em all. I’m still in negotiations with MWT and Anne, and I’ve got some people I think we can bring in later, but I’ve mostly got the group back together.”

“Even Janiece?” I asked incredulously.

“Janiece, Kim, Jeri, Vince, Tania, Shawn, Tania, John and Matt. We’ve even got an international division.”

“So Janiece is in. How’d you convince her?”

“That’s between me and Janiece,” he said, sitting up a little more straight. I could see I wasn’t going to get anything else out of him.

“Lemme think about it. Call Janiece myself and see what she has to say. Then I’ll get back to you. You still using the same drops?”

“Yeah. We’re on the cheap this time.”

“Shit,” I said slouching down in my chair, “you want me to do this for free? I’ve got expenses y’know.”

“We’ve got fringe bennies,” he said. “I can get you and Shawn some extra money from the tech budget. We’ve got a slew of new toys.”

“Really?” That piqued my interest. “How can you afford the new toys?”

“Beta testing for the military. We try ’em out, and if they work for us, they get moved into production.”

“Nice,” I said. “Anything good?”

“I’ll tell you if you’re in.”

“Hell,” I said, “for new toys, I’m in.”

Written by Michelle at 1:03 pm      Comments (11)  Permalink
Categories: UCF,Writing  

The Year in Reading

As of the writing of this post, I’ve read 129 books in 2008. Not my highest total, but not too bad, all things considered.

Here are some of the books I read this year that I really enjoyed. With one exception, I listed only the first book in a series, if I started and enjoyed a series this year. I have been reading a lot of supernatural fantasy, but I’ve read some other good stuff as well this year.

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Supernatural fantasy. The latest installment in the Mercy Thompson series.

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
Mystery set in Venice. The first in her Inspector Guido Brunetti series. I spent much of the year reading the rest of this series.

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson
Supernatural mystery. The first book in the Repairman Jack series. I’ve still got a couple books left in this series, but not many.

THUD by Terry Pratchett
Fantasy. Discworld. I really don’t need to say more, do I?

Tithe by Holly Black
Young adult urban fantasy.

Sandman: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman & Yoshitaka Amano
Fantasy, graphic novel. This was a reread, because sometimes you just need a Neil Gaiman fix.

White Knight by Jim Butcher
Supernatural mystery. Installment in the Harry Dresden series.

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews
Supernatural fantasy. Sequel to Magic Bites.

The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Fantasy anthology. Lots of folklore too.

Fables Vol 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham et al.
Fantasy, graphic novel. You really need to be reading this series.

Runaways: Dead End Kids by Joss Whedon et al.
Young adult graphic novel. Joss Whedon takes over Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways series and does well.

Hellboy Vol 1: Seeds of Destruction by Mike Mignola
Supernatural fantasy, graphic novel. The start of the Hellboy series.

Girl Genius Vol 7: Agatha Heterodyne and the The Voice of the Castle by Phil Foglio et al.
Young adult, steampunk, graphic novel. This is another series you need to be reading.

Precious Dragon by Liz Williams
Fantasy mystery. The third book in the Detective Inspector Chen series.

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Urban fantasy. Reread. Awesome.

Territory by Emma Bull
Historical fantasy. The story that leads up to the shoot-out at the OK Corral.

City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
Non-fiction. The reconstruction of La Fenice in Venice as only John Berendt could tell it.

The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
Mystery. This is the first book in the Inspector Montalbano series, but not the best; I really started to like the series around book three.

Why Mermaids Sing and Where Serpents Sleep by C.S. Harris
Historical mystery. Installments in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. I love these books.

Thirteen Orphans: Breaking the Wall by Jane Lindskold
Urban fantasy. Start of a new series.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You Need This

Erin posted an adorable picture of Lana.

Quick go look!

Cute cute cute!

Written by Michelle at 5:44 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden,Non-Sequiturs,West Virginia  

Tasty Tuesday: Christmas Cookies Redux

So as I mentioned last week, I was on a baking binge before Christmas. I love to bake, and Christmas is a good excuse for me to go hog wild.

For this weeks Tasty Tuesday, here are my two favorite cookies from this year, Cranberry Caramel Bars and Cranberry Oatmeal cookies.

Cranberry-Caramel Bars
1 heaping cup fresh cranberries
2 tbsp sugar
2 cups flour (240 grams)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups uncooked oats
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
1/2 cup brown sugar (114 grams)
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup chopped pecans
~10 ounces chopped dates
~12 ounces of caramel sauce
13 x 9″ pan

Preheat oven to 350.

Coarsely chop cranberries (I gave ’em a spin or two in the food processor). Mix with 2 tbsp sugar and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, oats, and sugars in a bowl. Stir in melted butter and mix until crumbly. Set aside 1 cup of this mixture (NOTE: I never remember to do this). Press the flour mixture into the bottom of a greased 13 x 9″ pan. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Remove dish from the oven. Sprinkle with dates, pecans, and cranberries. Drizzle caramel sauce over everything. If you remembered to set it aside, sprinkle with remaining flour mixture. (I think it looks nicer with the cranberries on top anyway.)

Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Eat.

Modified from Christmas Cookies. I received this book as a gift and do not recommend it, for I found the recipes to be poorly written, but after modification this recipe is a gem.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (114 grams)
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour (210 grams)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup pecan pieces, slightly toasted
1/2 cup coconut flakes, slightly toasted
4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugars until light. Add egg, corn syrup, and vanilla. Beat about a minute.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture in two stages. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Scoop out 2 tbsp balls of dough, and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

I baked about half the cookies, and froze the rest in 2 tbsp balls to bake later. I also made part of the recipe without pecans for my grandmother, and they turned out fine, although I of course prefer the pecans.

This recipe was modified from The Best of Fine Cooking: Cookies Vol 23, which had some excellent (and well-written) recipes. If you can still find it on the shelves, snag it. You won’t be sorry.


Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Food  

Monday, December 29, 2008

Read! Read! Read!

Just finished reading the C.S. Harris mystery Where Serpents Sleep.


I love really her Sebastian St. Cyr series and highly recommend it to anyone who likes Vistorian mysteries–or mysteries in general.

Written by Michelle at 4:27 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Uncategorized  

This Week’s Goal…

…is to read as many books as possible. I’ve got up two reviews from books I just finished, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I got a stack of new books for Christmas, so my problem right now is going to be deciding what I want to read next. I’m thinking C.S. Harris‘ latest Sebastian St. Cyr mystery.

Written by Michelle at 11:32 am      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Christmas Elephant

Here are some gifts left in previous years by the Christmas Elephant:




Written by Michelle at 10:17 am      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Here is tonight’s sunset, and the sunset Christmas day.



Written by Michelle at 11:02 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Photos  

WVU vs Carolina

Holy moley!

14 – 14 and the first quarter isn’t even over.

Neither of their touchdowns was pretty. We’ve got to play better than this!

Written by Michelle at 1:33 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Uncategorized  

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

Have a cat nap for Boxing Day!


Written by Michelle at 11:18 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Cats,Photos  
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