Friday, December 23, 2011

Recipe: My Mom's Christmas Cookies

3 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp cloves
1 1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar (sifted and packed)
1 egg

Mix and sift flour (does anyone still sift flour?) baking powder, & spices. Cream butter, add sugar gradually & cream until fluffy, add egg and mix. Add sifted dry ingredients gradually and mix. Chill in refrigerator.

Roll out about 1/8 inch thick and cut with assorted cookie cutters. Bake on ungreased baking sheets in preheated 350 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for about 12 minutes. Store in covered container.

Next, make the frosting:
1/2 stick of butter or margarine
1 pkg. powdered sugar (2 or 3 cups)
1 tsp vanilla
milk to mix to right consistency
food coloring if desired

Frost the cooled cookies with the frosting and decorate with sprinkles of various kinds. Get the family together to help with the cookie decorating, and the person who does the best Star Trek uniform for the gingerbread man wins a prize.

These cookies are a family tradition in my family--- perhaps because they taste like traditional German Spekulatius cookies. But the recipe comes from the Milwaukee Gas Light Co. cookbook of 1958. (My mom's baking some right now--- so must end this post and snag a freshly baked cookie....)

Barack Obama may have Asperger's Syndrome

Background sounds from the movie 'Freaks'*: the sideshow performers chanting 'One of us! One of us! One of us!

Today I was thinking about the remarks Obama recently made about his accomplishments in office, and it occurred to me that if Obama, like me, had Asperger's Syndrome, that might put the story in a more sympathetic light.

So I googled 'Obama' and 'Aspergers' and came up with this, (among many other hits):

Does President Obama have Asperger's Syndrome

Obama is not the only US president who might have had Aspergers. Thomas Jefferson is also suspected of being an Aspie. ***One of us! One of us! One of us!***

Obama, of course, has never been officially diagnosed. If he suspects he might have Aspergers he's probably going out of his way not to be diagnosed, and I defend his right to do so. Aspergers is very stigmatizing. One person I told then presumed I was mentally retarded to the point of not being able to sign my own name. (Actually, my IQ is high enough to join the 'genius' organization Mensa--- which is not unheard of among folks with Asperger's syndrome.)

While I still renounce President Obama and all his evil works and ways, this possibility has reminded me that we must not allow our dislike of someone's policies or ideology translate into attacking or mocking that person's personal quirks, which may be caused by something that person cannot help. Besides, why make fun of Obama's social ineptness when we can make fun of his policies?

*Freaks: a 1932 movie featuring real sideshow performers--- pinheads, conjoined twins, little people--- which was rather notorious in its day. I mention it because I rather identify with the sideshow performers in the movie--- though I don't condone what they did to Cleopatra, that was harsh...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Opium Cactus: paper dragons (with audio)

blue & yellow folded paper dragons
sail away in an indigo Tintenfaß
dragons dangerous yet delicate
for they cannot breathe fire
and live

(c) Nissa Annakindt

Poem #4. The word 'Tintenfaß'--- German for inkwell--- is particularly fine, adding that needed note of strangeness. From
Where the Opium Cactus Grows

Shared in Poetry Pantry #86

Origami instructions for making your own paper dragon:
Origami Dragon Folding Instructions

And here is an image of the origami dragon from that web site:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Are you really cut out to be a writer? Some common symptoms

Ever encountered a would-be writer that was plainly not cut out to be a writer? There are the ones who've seen a report on TV about the advances paid to a top best-selling author and decide writing is easy money since you do it sitting down, and so they sit down at the keyboard and bang out something for those fools with nothing better to do with their time but read books.

There are also those who don't have the unrealistic money motive, but who think being an author would raise their status, or make them cool, or whatever. Some of these even read books, if only Harlequin romances. But what they write tends to sound like a rehash of their latest fight with their boyfriend or boss. Or else it's something that sounds like pre-teen fan fiction all about getting Harry Potter or Captain Kirk to notice a character who is suspiciously like the author.

Sometimes I think Nanowrimo brings these hopeless non-writers out of the woodwork. The premise of Nano is that anyone can write a novel. The truth is that while most people can bat out enough words or attempted words to meet the word count goal, the result may not be recognizable as a novel. And even if it turns out to be recognizably novel-ish, it may not be anything that another human being would ever care to read.

This brings out some real fears in those of us who dream of being real writers--- even those who've met with some success. It's not that these attempted writers are clogging up the publishers' slush piles or flooding the self-publishing market. It's the fear 'What if I'm one of them? What if I am in denial about the quality of my writing? What if everyone who's said something nice about my work just pities me?'

How can you tell if you are a writer-with-potential rather than a hopeless non-writer? Here are a list of symptoms that can help distinguish the real-writer from the writing-attempting non-writer:

Symptom 1: Lifelong history of making up stories One of my childhood memories involves watching a favorite television program in the afternoon--- Star Trek, Dark Shadows, Batman, Hogan's Heroes--- and then going out of the house, taking a walk, and making up stories based on the television show I'd just watched. I made up stories in my head all the time. Sometimes my real-life environment showed up in the stories, sometimes it didn't. Sometimes I did mash-ups--- a number of Star Trek characters were thrown back into time to visit Stalag 13, the prisoner-of-war camp in Hogan's Heroes. This mental fiction didn't always follow the rules for story-telling--- I'd jump around from interesting bit to interesting bit, go backwards in the story, or replay the best bits endlessly. And it was heavy on non-original characters from television or books. But it was a seed for the more original stories I make up as an adult. (My current head-story involves fighting zombies in Mexico.)

Symptom 2: Compulsive reading If you have nothing else handy to read in the morning, do you read breakfast cereal boxes? Bookcase assembly instructions from an already assembled bookcase? A 2006 goat artificial insemination catalog? The fact is, people with the potential to be writers read, all the time. They read more than one category of book, and when nothing better is available they read whatever is to hand. If you have a history of compulsive reading dating back to childhood, if you read a great deal to this day, that's a sign of writing potential.

Sympton 3: Language awareness You don't have to have had top marks in English grammar class to be a writer. But writers do have or develop language awareness--- an interest in words, their meanings and spelling, their use in comprehensible English sentences.... When you were in grade school, did you ever read the dictionary for fun? Did you ever learn to spell interesting words that weren't going to be on any test? And today, what happens when you encounter an unfamiliar word in your reading? Are you able to cope, or do you put the book down. Not all writers are the kind of people who win spelling bees and know how to diagram sentences with confidence. But the writer's tool kit is full of words and grammar and spelling patterns. If you don't know the tools, aren't interested in them, and aren't willing to learn about them, you won't be able to function as a writer.

Symptom 4: Detachment If you were popular in high school and part of the social whirl, you probably didn't observe things very well. You were too much a part of things to be objective about them. Someone who wasn't so popular, who was often an observer rather than a participant, could probably tell you a lot of things about that part of your life that you were too busy to notice. Observation is an essential skill for a writer, and accurate observation requires you to be a bit detached from the subject. This doesn't mean you have to be a lifelong social outcast (though it helps). You just have to be able to not always be at the center of things, the focus of everyone's attention.

So--- how many symptoms do YOU have? Are there any symptoms that ought to have made the list but didn't?

Friday, December 2, 2011

How I Joined Tencent Weibo, China's Facebook/Twitter

Step 1: Went to the Tencent Weibo home page, English version.

Step 2: Discovered that I needed a QQ account to log in to Tencent Weibo.

Step 3: Went to QQ homepage. There, discovered I needed to go to their English version. I clicked on the 'sign up' button on the right and followed directions.

Step 4: Went back to Tencent Weibo and logged in. Tried to create an account. Found that it seemed to want me to give a real name in Chinese characters.

Step 5: Searched for site to put my name in Chinese. Found lots. Most did not include a cut-and-paste version of the Chinese name. Found one that did. It did not have the name 'Nissa' but did have 'Nessa'. My Chinese name is: 内萨

Step 6: I put 内萨 as my real name. An account was created. If you start a Tencent Weibo account of your own, you can be my friend (or 'follower').
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