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I Can Has New Toy

I bought myself a PS4, because it's been a while between drinks, so to speak. I also got myself four games to go with it - the Kingdom Hearts "oh, all right, catch up!" remix pack (KH 1.5 and 2.5 remix double pack - basically "the entire story so far on one platform rather than three"); Dissidia NT (beating up various Final Fantasy protagonists and villains for fun and... well, fun, really); Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age (the high-definition update, with the new character building system which isn't as flexible as the original one); and Final Fantasy XV (which bills itself as a final fantasy for fans and newcomers alike).

I spent all of yesterday playing Final Fantasy XV, and I have learned two important things. Firstly, the Final Fantasy team at Square Enix are going all out to try and convey the ultimate in realism through their graphical work. Secondly, this means I really can't be in the room while the characters are going from place to place in their sports car.

The first is pretty easy to expand on: the realism of their architecture and design work in this game is stunning (and gives me a lot of hope for what I'm eventually going to see in the FF7 remake[1]). The buildings, unlike most RPG designs, are pretty much like what you'd expect from this world - a lot of them are pretty much copied directly from this world. The landscapes are largely believable geography and geology, with only occasional forays into what I call "Nibel Geology" (have a look at the Nibel mountains in Final Fantasy VII for what I'm meaning there: mountain shapes which appear to have been designed by the Rule of Cool rather than ordinary old rules of geology and weathering). Which means you don't have lines of mountains intersecting at right angles and so on. Steve, who is something of a graphics connoisseur, assures me their work on the landscapes is brilliant. I'm willing to take his word for it, because I can't really see to much of them, to be honest.

The reason for that is the second thing: I can't be in the room while the characters are driving from place to place, because the level of realism is so great that it really plays havoc with my over-sensitive proprioception, and I get motion sickness (or rather, lack-of-motion sickness) from watching the characters drive from one place to the next. The mismatch between the motion I'm seeing on the screen, and the lack of motion I'm experiencing sitting on the couch is enough to make me extremely queasy if I watch them driving from place to place for too long. So I'll tend to start the driving on auto, and then head out of the room while they go to their next destination, and come back when they've arrived, in an effort to keep my stomach where it belongs. Even then, I've been needing to chomp regularly on some crystallised ginger in an effort to keep the queases at bay.

Oh, and one more thing I've learned: I need to actually reduce the size of the visual field on the screen, because the edges of the game "screen" are sliding off the edges of my physical television set. So, something to deal with when I switch the PS4 on again tomorrow.

But overall it's been fun, and I certainly don't think I'm going to have wasted the money I spent.

[1] Which is, in fact, the reason why I bought this particular console in the first place. Now I just have to wait for it to finish being vapour-ware.

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Current Mood: glurky, but happy glurky, but happy
Meg Reviews Recipes: Boiled Apricot Nectar Cake

Source: Australian Women's Weekly "Quick Mix Cakes and Deliciously Easy Muffins" Cookbook, p81; ISBN: 1-86396-001-5; (c) ACP Publishing Pty Ltd 1999.

Okay, a quick plug for this particular cookbook as one of my absolute favourites at the moment. It dates back to the era of Women's Weekly Cookbooks where they were aiming at people who wanted to feed a family with minimal effort while holding down a full time job. The recipes are really aimed at the sort of person who doesn't own twenty-seven different types of baking pans and a full decorating kit, and who isn't aiming to win prizes at the local show, but rather to have something they can serve up to the family or to guests without too much effort. There's a few cakes in there which look a bit fancy, but most of the recipes are fairly straightforward and simple to do.

This is a fairly simple melt-and-mix cake recipe - you put your fruit, sugars and liquid ingredient into a saucepan on the stove and bring to the boil, simmer for five minutes, turn off the heat, stir in the butter and leave it to cool to room temperature before adding the eggs and the flour, stirring until combined, and pouring the mixture into the tin. Really, the most tedious part of this one is chopping up 250g of dried apricots (I found this the most annoying part because I was using a fairly heavy knife for it, and the blasted thing is a bit on the blunt side, so it needed a bit of force. A lighter and sharper knife would have been more effective) before you start. For me the trickiest part of the entire process was actually locating the "punch a hole in the can" can-opener we have so I could open the tin of apricot nectar (we're going to be having Apricot Chicken in the next few days, I can tell).

The recipe needed a bit more time in our oven than was recommended in the recipe book (about 25 minutes; this is a common problem with this oven, I'm finding - a more reliable oven which couldn't be used as a space heater for the whole house might actually cook things a bit sooner). Also, I should have started this recipe sooner in the day (I started it around 2pm) as it takes a couple of hours for the boiled up fruit component to cool down to room temperature, or at least to a temperature which won't immediately turn the eggs into scrambled eggs. I also had one of my standard problems with cake mixtures, namely, when I'm pouring them into the tin, they don't tend to co-operate nicely with the baking paper, and fall inside it - instead, I'll inevitably have some of the paper slump forward, catch some of the mixture along the way and wind up needing to be fished out of the completed cake. (Of such minor annoyances is a lifetime of home cookery made). But it is made and cooked, and I'll see how it turns out when it's finished cooling in the tin (the temperature is supposed to get down to 3C here tonight, so at least there's plenty of cool for it to be soaking up!).

Next day: Well, it came out of the paper and the tin okay, although slightly deformed from the lining paper having gotten tangled up with the cake. The cake itself winds up dense, fairly moist, and the main flavours I can taste in it are apricot and butter. The butter flavour comes through loud and clear in this one, and I'm not sure whether it's just because the pat of butter I'm working through at present is a rather cheaper-than-usual brand, or just because there's so much of it in the cake. Overall, a pretty straightforward recipe, easy enough to make, but I'm not sure I'm overly sold on the flavour. I might try it again with better quality butter, and see how things go.

It does last well - I think it took about a week for us to work through that one.

Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 2 out of 5 (chopping up the dried apricots)
Overall: 3 out of 5 - the main flavour I'm tasting in it is butter and apricot.
Considerations: It's a cake, so naturally it has gluten in it (plain and self-raising flour), along with enough sugar to stun a small mammal and heaps of butter, plus eggs. Don't eat a whole one in one sitting, and don't try to serve it to any vegans you know. Also, if you have an allergy to apricots, don't bother with this one.

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Current Mood: tired tired
Five Things Make a Post 15 JUL 2018

Post below the fold )

How's things for everyone else?

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Current Mood: chilly chilly
Meg Reviews Recipes: Leggos Tuna Bake with Sundried Tomato & Caramelised Onion

Comes in a 500g jar, and I bought this at Coles when it was on special for about $2.50 - $3 per jar (yes, this is a Thing of mine; this is part of how I manage to make a budget of $30 per person per week for food stretch as well as it does).

I decided to try this as a result of basically realising at about quarter to three on a Sunday afternoon that I hadn't even thought about what we were having for dinner that night, and being sick of either leftovers or instant meals as options. So, okay, pasta bake. Now, pasta bakes are about the easiest type of meal out there to assemble - you cook up the pasta, you combine it with the sauce and the protein (tinned tuna, in this case), top with cheese, and bake in the oven until done. If you're baking it right after you've assembled it, it takes about 20 minutes at 200C to melt the cheese and heat things through. If you're like me and you assemble these things hours before you actually need them, and store them in the fridge until it's time to start cooking dinner, then the trick is to heat the whole thing at around 200C for about an hour, as this allows everything in the middle of your casserole dish to heat through as well as all the stuff around the sides.

I fancied this up a little by chopping up a leek and adding that to the tuna, sauce and pasta mix. I do this partially because I feel we need some kind of vegetable content with or in these things, and partially because it stretches things a bit further and makes everything taste a bit better. The leek will pretty much cook in the hour I'm heating things in the oven, so that's a bit of a mercy. The other minor experiment in this case is I'm trying pasta bowties to see how they work in these sorts of dishes (usually I'm using small shells, small spirals, or macaroni).

Because Himself got all organised and managed to stop off at a supermarket on the way home from picking up another computer component (he's involved in trying to get two rather finicky monitors to work properly), we're having garlic bread with this as well. What that means in terms of juggling executive function for these sorts of things (one of my bugbears) is that I have to remember to put the garlic bread into the oven to heat about ten minutes before everything's supposed to be cooked. Which I think I can manage.

And in the end... it turned out pretty good. Main note was, of course, tomato, and there was a bit of onion in there, mostly from the leek, I think. It certainly balances out the rather coarse texture of cheap tuna quite well. I'll probably buy some more the next time it's on special.

Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 1 out of 5 - the hardest bits about preparing this as directed are going to be opening the jar and the tin of tuna, and possibly the weight of putting the fully laden baking dish into the oven. Can be prepared well ahead of time and put in the fridge for later re-heating and melting of cheese (as per the post), so it's great if you need to time-shift cooking. If it's the only thing you're cooking, you can pretty much set a timer and forget about it, so you don't need to remember dozens of finicky steps along the way.
Overall: 3 out of 5.
Considerations: This one looks to be reasonably vegan-safe, provided you used mushrooms, quorn, or tofu/soy protein instead of tuna for your protein, and skipped the cheese (the only ingredients I can see on the whole thing which aren't obviously plants, plant-based or plant-derived are xanthan gum and yeast extract). If you're allergic to tomatoes, avoid this one. If you're allergic to tuna, dairy or gluten, make substitutions as required.

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Current Mood: chilly chilly
Meg Reviews Recipes: Spicy Fruit Loaf

Source: Australian Womens Weekly "Quick Mix Cakes and Deliciously Easy Muffins" Cookbook, p109; ISBN: 1-86396-001-5; (c) ACP Publishing Pty Ltd 1999.

This is a bit of a favourite of mine, although it's a right whatsit to make. The recipe is a "rub in" recipe, where you start by rubbing the butter into the flour, and this one has 125g of butter to be rubbed into 2 cups of flour (plus an extra 2 teaspoons of dry ingredients comprised of bicarb and spices). Let's just say if you have arthritis in your hands, this is probably not a recipe you want to try without one of those special little doovers (looks like a handle with a bunch of wire loops hanging off it - a bit of googling tells me they're called "pastry blenders"[1]) for cutting butter into flour. Failing that, you may want to stop every so often and let your hands stretch out a bit, because they will cramp up unless you make scones and/or pastry on the regular.

Once you've finished giving yourself RSI and improving your grip strength sight out of mind, you add the sugar, the dried fruit (standard mixed dried fruit works fine) and then the liquid ingredients (1 egg and a cup of milk) before pouring the whole lot into a loaf tin and baking it for about 1 1/4 hours. Unlike most of the fruit cakes in this cookbook, you're not cooling this one in the pan - it gets cooled on a rack after the first ten minutes. '

Serve it with butter; this keeps for well over a week without really getting stale or going off. It's very dense, and very dark, particularly if you use dark brown sugar (lighter brown sugar gives a lighter coloured loaf).

Difficulty: 1 out of 5 (it isn't a hard recipe to understand or follow)
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 5 out of 5 (rubbing in the butter takes time, and I inevitably wind up with my hands cramping); it's a very stiff mixture to mix, so if you don't have much arm and hand strength, you're probably better off getting someone else to make this for you.
Overall: 5 out of 5 (this is a favourite I keep making over and over again, despite the crampy hands).
Considerations: Cake. This contains gluten, sugar, butter, milk and eggs. Don't eat a whole one at one sitting (it's a very dense cake; I doubt anyone could do it without making themselves sick anyway) and don't try to serve it to vegans.

[1] Link goes to Amazon because that's the one which came up fastest and most reliably.

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Current Mood: calm calm
Meg Reviews Recipies: MasterFoods Slow Cook Mild Chicken Curry Sauce

This sauce comes in a 490g jar, and I bought it at the local Coles, probably when it was on special for about $2.50 - $3.

I made this up as a slow-cooked casserole with some cheap beef sausages (if you've ever had to eat cheap Coles beef sausages, you'll understand why they really need some other flavour added to them), a chopped onion, a couple of carrots sliced up, and four chopped up potatoes. Pre-cook the sausages before you start, then chop them into about 1.5cm chunks before putting them into the casserole with the other ingredients. The trick with making a slow-cooked casserole in the oven is this: put everything together in a casserole, cook in the oven for about 1 hour at 200C, pull out and stir, then put back into the oven for the rest of the afternoon at the lowest temperature you can get your oven to run at without extinguishing itself (if you can get your oven down to 100C, that's the best, otherwise, anything under about 150C is good). Let it cook slowly for about 4 hours, and you'll get a very nice casserole. This trick works well with any casserole you'd normally put in the slow cooker[1].

The sauce itself is very thick for a pour-from-the-jar sauce - usually I can pour these sorts of sauces straight from the jar, but this one definitely required the assistance of a spoon to get it out. I also did my standard trick of "swill out the bottle with a small amount of water"[2] in order to get the last of the sauce out. Now, it was probably lucky I did that, because the eventual casserole came out very, very dry (thanks to the potato soaking the liquid up).

As a curry sauce, this is incredibly mild. This is "you could serve it to curry virgins" mild. The main notes in the sauce which identify it as "curry" at all are cumin and turmeric - cumin is the main thing you can smell, turmeric is the main thing you can see (a quick look at the breakdown of ingredients on the label of the jar says "Coriander 1%, Cumin 1%, Turmeric 1%). They mention Chilli on the label, although I strongly suspect the nearest an actual chilli came to this particular sauce was someone very cautiously opened the warehouse door and waved a single chilli in the vague direction of the production line, before closing the door again very quickly. It's very much a "sweet curry" mixture rather than a spicy one - to the point where I joked with Steve that I should have chopped up an apple and added that to the mix, along with a handful of sultanas. (I should note the Look I got for that one was worth it)

Overall, it made a nice meal for two people, served up with rice, and with enough leftovers for another two meals afterwards. There wasn't much sauce (as mentioned, the potato got most of it) so it was a pretty dry curry. I think the next time I make it up, I'll probably put a bit more water in the mix, and a bit less spud (and I may just try the "sweet curry" variation, as a way of playing around with things).

Difficulty: 1 out of 5 (put all the ingredients into the casserole dish, and off you go)
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 1 out of 5 (wasn't expecting the sauce to be as thick as it turned out to be.
Overall: 2 out of 5 (not spectacular, not terrible).
Considerations: Lists Skim milk and milk in ingredient list, and warns it's manufactured on equipment that processes peanuts. Not suitable for vegans.

[1] I wasn't using the slow cooker in this case because it's winter here, and our oven is also the effective space heater for the kitchen area.
[2] For creamy sauces, milk will work instead. You're using about a quarter to a half a cup of liquid in any case; shake the bottle until the whole mixture becomes a single consistency, then add to the dish you're cooking.

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Current Mood: blah blah
On Cooking and Learning

I've been cooking pretty much since I could see over the stove. My mother started teaching me how to bake when my age was still in single digits - making Queen Cakes and Cornflour Cakes from the recipes in her "Golden Wattle" cookbook, and learning how to measure in ounces and pounds on the fly (an ounce was roughly a tablespoon; an ounce of sugar occupied less space than an ounce of flour). By the time I was about ten, I was cooking meals for my family, at first on the weekends (and sometimes there were some rather spectacular mishaps there) and then during the week. By the time I was in high school, cooking dinner for the family was one of my expected chores.

One thing I've learned about cooking is you never really stop learning how to cook.

I enjoy cooking. It's fun, taking all these raw ingredients, combining them, mixing things together, adding heat and motion and bits of this and that, and creating something delicious at the other end. Even the occasional flops are fun, because the interesting bit then is sitting down and figuring out what went wrong. Cooking, as the saying goes, is science for hungry people. It's an art, and it's a craft at the same time.

So, in the interests of sharing with the class, a few tips I've discovered along the way.

1) The first time you prepare a recipe, it's a fifty-fifty chance you'll get a horrendous mess, even if you do your best and read all the instructions.

2) The photos in cookbooks are carefully staged. Real food is messy, and more or less brown.

3) To cream butter and sugar for cakes successfully, it helps to have the butter at room temperature. Chop it small, and if all else fails, run some hot water into the sink and sit the bowl in that until the butter softens enough to be malleable.

4) Getting a recipe to the point where everything is effortless is something which requires practice. It isn't going to happen the first time you cook something, or even the second. Instead, you're going to need to cook it at least four or five times, and learn from the mistakes you make along the way each time.

5) TV cooks start with everything carefully measured, everything carefully laid out, and with at least two off-siders preparing things around the edges as well as doing the washing up afterwards. Then they do everything multiple times, with multiple takes, in order to produce one photogenic version of the dish in question.

Restaurant chefs have a huge supply of off-siders doing preparation, and being delegated the more basic steps in the preparation and also monitoring the clean-up. Plus, of course, they produce a very limited menu, which is often focussed on being entirely too photogenic for its own good.

Home cooks, by contrast, get one try to produce something edible, and the vast majority of household kitchens aren't designed to have more than one person at a time in there. Plus it's very much "rinse as you go" as far as the washing up side of things goes. Learn to live with the fact you're not going to get TV or Restaurant results on a regular basis, and figure out a couple of dishes which don't require much effort to look fancy. Pasta bakes and lasagnes do pretty well in this department, as far as I'm concerned, because a decent layer of melted grated cheese and/or white sauce covers a multitude of sins. My mother's go-to "fancy" dish was salmon mornay baked up with cornflake crumbs on top, decorated with tomato slices and cheese, and served with pasta.

6) There are some dishes which quite literally cannot be prepared without getting the stove messy. Fried rice is one of these for me.

7) Meat stews default to brown. Tomato dishes default to red. Curries tend to go either brown or yellow, depending on the degree of turmeric in the mix.

8) The more you read recipe books, and the longer you spend cooking, the more adept you get at being able to tell what can be dropped from the recipe, what can be substituted for something cheaper or more readily available, and which bits of the recipe are the essential bits.

9) Every experienced cook will have at least one or two recipes in their repertoire which are basically about using up bits and pieces of left over this and that, and where consequently the "recipe" consists mainly of two or three things which are essential, and a long list of things which can be added and subtracted as available.

10) Soups and casseroles are very forgiving and basically consist of variations around a single core formula. (Soups start with a stock, then you add vegetables and/or meat, and cook until done. Puree if it's supposed to be a smooth soup, otherwise pass the ladle. Casseroles start by browning the meat, adding the slow-to-cook vegetables and appropriate seasoning, adding a liquid component, and then cooking slowly until everything has cooked through). Once you know the core formula, and a few basic flavour combinations, you can start coming up with a lot of variations on a theme.

11) The best accessory for any kitchen is someone who will eat what you produce, preferably with every evidence of enjoyment.

12) You don't need all the fancy gizmos and gadgets most of the time. You can get away with a couple of saucepans, a decent frying pan, a couple of good knives and some serving spoons. If you're going to be using a gizmo or gadget more than once or twice a year, it's possibly an investment, but if not, take time out to go through your gadget drawer every so often, and weed out the ones which aren't paying their way. (To be honest, the only one I've found even vaguely irreplaceable is a citrus zester - and even there, the small side of the grater will do as a substitute, even if it is more fiddly to clean).

13) This one isn't necessarily confined to the kitchen, but the kitchen is where I learned it, so I'll put it here: if you wind up throwing it out without using it, you threw your money into the bin. (This is testament to years of learning the sad truth of "economising" by buying bulk quantities of things I use very rarely, if at all).

Anyone got anything else to add to the list?

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Current Mood: chipper chipper
Little Luxuries

This is a list of things which are currently a bit of a luxury for me; things I'd like to be able to afford, but currently can't.

  • When I'm grocery shopping, and I have the choice between buying the store brand, or the named brand, I'd like to be able to buy the named brand.

  • I'd like to be able to buy pre-grated cheese without having to argue with my conscience about it.

  • I'd like to be able to go grocery shopping without needing to take a calculator along.

  • When the weather turns cold this winter (as it's already starting to do) I'd like to be able to turn on the heater the first time, rather than reaching for another jumper, jacket, scarf, gloves, blanket, thicker socks.

  • I'd like to be able to wear two layers rather than three.

  • I'd like to be able to afford clothes which weren't skimpy as all blazes (at present, my main shopping site is Best & Less, and while they're good for cheap clothes, their winter-weight stuff is only really winter-weight in Darwin)

  • I'd like to be able to afford shoes that didn't leak, and kept my feet warm.

  • I'd like to be able to afford to own/run a clothes dryer, rather than using a drying rack inside the house, and hoping I can dodge around it for long enough for things to dry out.

  • I'd like to be able to pay for some of the online news services I use.

  • I'd like to be able to take time off from the housework.

  • Attn: The minister for Social Security and the minister for Human Services: I'd like to be in a financial position where an extra $10 per fortnight wouldn't make a discernible difference to my state of mind and standard of living.


PS: This is more a meditation on the nature of luxury, and the ways it can be defined when money is tight. It isn't actually a request for help, although I would like to thank those people who did offer assistance of a financial kind. I am more grateful for it than I can say, even though I'm also not likely to take you up on it.

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Current Mood: broke broke
Final Fantasy VII Fiction Recommendations: Sephiroth Habilitation Fics

Okay, in celebration of finally having enough spare time to be able to do some serious reading again (and having opened another box of books and re-stocked my "farewell re-read" shelves... should get to work on those, really) I present some recommendations for fiction favourites of mine in the Final Fantasy VII fandom. These fics are ones about what I call "Sephiroth Habilitated" - the ones where Sephiroth is "fixed" so he's not completely insane, obsessive, and psychotic, much less the nihilistic demi-god-wannabe we've all come to know and love. I call them "habilitation" fics, rather than "rehabilitation", because quite frankly given the upbringing we're led to suspect for canon Sephiroth (being raised in the laboratories of the Shinra Science Department by Professor Hojo, before being thrown out into the battlefields of Wutai before his voice had finished breaking), it's very much "this is the first chance he's had for any actual normality in his life".

Some of the defining characteristics of this sub-genre, for me, are the rather calm and gentle tone of them - they're about recovery, after all; and the various defining characteristics of the "real" Sephiroth everyone picks up from underneath the role of General, and the influence of Jenova. Most of them tend to be Sephiroth/Cloud slash, so if you see either Sephiroth or Cloud with another partner, you may want to avoid them

So, without any further ado:

the fight goes on series by jukeboxhound

Sephiroth winds up floating in the pool in the church, and Cloud is, once again, the one who's called on to deal with him. If you've read jukeboxhound's stuff before, and know her tone and tendency toward mixing both light and dark material, that carries through in this story, although it's certainly a lot lighter in tone than, for example, "Eir's Tomorrow". The series itself is a work in progress, but the various parts can be read as stand-alone pieces. There are three parts so far. Some explicit content, but of the "tasteful erotica" variety rather than the "plumbing manual" variety (insert tab A into slot B),

Tomowowowo & Boomchick's September 2015 30-Day-NSFW-Challenge

Now, this one is straight-up, largely plumbing-manual explicit content all the way through, complete with pictures which are explicit as well. You have been warned. It is, however, a well-crafted thirty-one piece story about the gradual building of a relationship between Cloud and Sephiroth after the discovery of Sephiroth's body floating (once again) in the pool in the church.

The mighty have fallen by Xenobia

Surprise, surprise, Seph isn't found in a pond in the church this time around. Mostly because I suspect this one was written around the same time Advent Children came out, with only the trailers to go on. In this case, he's been found in a forgotten/previously unknown lab of Hojo's, and again, Cloud is the one who is called on to deal with him. In this case, Sephiroth's release from an induced coma requires Cloud to take on the role of his "keeper" by means of an implanted chip in his (Cloud's) brain which can induce certain phenomena in Sephiroth. And, of course, the predictable relationship occurs, complete with explicit content. I like this one for the slightly different take on Cloud that results from the author not using Advent Children canon to inform his personality.

On Broken Wings by raisedbymoogles

Another which was started back before Advent Children came out, and hence in this one, Sephiroth returns to life after the events of the original game in the Northern Crater. It's been edited since the original writing, so there's bits and pieces of Advent Children canon in there. It's still a work in progress, but I love this one because it shows us a very broken, and very damaged Sephiroth, who really does need a lot of help and a lot of support to be able to make his way back from the person Hojo made him to be. It also gives us a Cloud who isn't exactly 100% himself, and who is still affected by the events mentioned in the original game. There's also two adorable kids, a highly protective and highly personable chocobo (feathered kind, not nickname for Cloud) and of course various mentions of the weird and wonderful wildlife of Gaia in all its diversity.

Infinite Possibilities series, by Kalloway

Another which ignores Advent Children and this time Sephiroth wakes up alone and naked on a beach in Mideel. Now, there's a lot of ways things could have gone after that line, but this fic takes a slightly different one. This is probably the most sedate of the fics I'm recommending, but it's worth it for the journey. While the author does warn for a Sephiroth/Cloud relationship, it's the least detailed of the lot - by the time the story ends, they've maybe got to the point of exchanging a single kiss - it's up the other end of the spectrum from the Boomowowowo challenge, that's for sure. No explicit content, unless you think a bloke waking up naked on a beach counts as explicit content.

Under the Wing of a Nibel Dragon series, by Gotham's_Only_Wolf

This series is very unusual when it comes to Sephiroth Habilitation stories, because it actually starts before the original game canon gets going. It starts as a spin-off of another writer's fic (there's a link to it in the first story, do have a read), and carries on from there, but basically things take an abrupt turn for the better in an eleven-year-old Sephiroth's life after he acquires in rapid succession, a younger brother (adoptive), an adoptive parent who is far better at actual parenting than Hojo, and a home which isn't in the Shinra Science Department. So far it's covering the years from when Sephiroth is eleven through about thirteen or fourteen, so there aren't any sexual relationships happening with Sephiroth involved in them (there may be some coming up later, but there isn't any explicit content in the story so far). Again, it's an ongoing series - there are actually two sub-stories currently in progress, so be warned, things may appear to drop out inconsistently, but it appears to be under active creation at present. But it's notable because the central force in Sephiroth's rehabilitation is not an overloaded, post-Jenova Cloud Strife.

So there you go - six of the best of the genre I've found so far. If you're a fan of this particular little sub-genre, and have any other fics I might have missed, leave a link in the comments.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
Well, I'm back again...

*Sits up, cracks back*

I have finished all my assessment pieces for university, I don't have any exams (advice to potential students: it's very hard to examine Cultural Studies in a way which can prove you've taken the concepts on board; enjoy the lack of exams, but be prepared for lots of essay work) and I currently have a corner of my brain turning back somersaults in at the door and screaming "I'm FreEEEEEEEE!!!" at me. Semester officially ends on 22 June, which is the earliest possible date I'm going to be stripping all the work off my university laptop, Elfadunk.

Elfadunk desperately needs the latest Windows updates from about April last year (that being when I started getting the messages about "can you find 8GB of spare space on this machine so we can download things pleasethankyou"). Elfadunk has a 32GB hard drive, which is currently just about full to capacity with the combination of Windows 10 (most of the hard drive), the MS Office Suite (free download on the university account), EndNote (ditto), Avast antivirus and its various component pieces, Chrome browser, and all the other various accoutrements of university study, the least part of which is my actual data that I've put there and the various PDFs of readings and articles I've downloaded to work from. So all of those have to get stripped off; then I get to start carefully playing computational Jenga with Windows 10 in order to clear 6 - 8 GB of space in which to download and install the latest updates. Once that's done I get to find whether any of the other stuff will fit back on there again, or whether I'm going to be putting all my data and software onto a prosthetic thumb drive over the next few semesters. (In which case it's another visit to Officeworks in the offing to buy another 32GB thumb drive for all of that - I have one already, but it's acting as the storage vault for all my music so I can listen to music while taking notes on various things at uni).

So there's that needs doing, as well as all the housework I've been neglecting for the last three months (we have an inspection due in either June or July, I'm not quite sure which). Plus I've been documenting the various gaps in my knowledge I'm discovering as I read through various articles, textbooks and so on, so I can use my Copious Free Time to fill those. I now have Copious Free Time, so I'm going to try and keep up the whole business of at least two hours a day of actual study time by using that time to fill in various gaps. This includes reading up on the words of various cultural theorists, because I'm a masochist, and I feel the need to know these things myself rather than reading someone else's interpretation of what they said.

Fun little anecdote from writing the last essay for Cultural Studies: I was analysing two texts - "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, and "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy. In the course of three essays about "The God of Small Things", I saw the novel described as a Gothic horror story, a treatise on the existing problems in post-colonial theorising, and a Marxist-influenced caution against the horrors of commodity fetishism in a capitalist system. The idea of "the death of the author" is alive and well, and working in a variety of literary and cultural studies journals, where it's being used as an excuse for making any book ride your particular theoretical hobby-horse. (The whole thing made me laugh, because what I wound up thinking was "I wonder how Arundhati Roy feels about this?").

Also, does anyone know whether there's been any analysis of "The Handmaid's Tale" from the perspective of kink theory? I'd be interested in reading it if there were.

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Current Mood: relieved relieved
State of the Meg Update

Well, this is going to be this week's post, because I'm up to my ears in assignments for uni (two 1500 word essays due in about two weeks, and while one of them I've pretty much finished the research and reading for, the other I've not even started) as well as all the standard stuff like turning up for classes and so on.

So, nothing essay-ish from me this week, and probably nothing next week either. Depends on whether I have the spare brain to write with. I did have a plotbunny bite on Friday, but I had to put it to one side, so we'll see whether it turns out to have more than a vague idea for something later.

At present my plans mainly consist of "get through this semester; spend time over the break reading up on cultural studies theories and theorists; catch up on the housework at some stage; pray for rain".

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/118554.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: busy busy
On Mass Shootings

Australia recently had its worst mass shooting since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Seven people (all the one family) were killed in a murder-suicide.

There's a chart in this article on the ABC (scroll down, it's about halfway down the page) which details "Australia's Worst Mass Shootings". It's an interesting piece of reading, in amongst the tragic details of the implosion of a family.

For one thing, with the very obvious exception of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, most of them have a death count in the single digits. A "mass shooting" is a shooting event where there are five or more victims. Most of the events recorded in the chart have a death count of six people. There's a couple of fives, a couple of sevens, one nine, but most of them are around six people. Also, since the Port Arthur Massacre, there have been two mass shootings in Australia. Two in twenty-two years. Given in some countries, you'd see more than two mass shootings in twenty-two days, I figure that's a pretty good record. Also, of the two mass shooting events since Port Arthur, one had five victims, the other had seven. Both were family tragedies - murder-suicides in which the murdered were members of the same family as the shooter; both occurred in rural areas rather than urban (it's easier to get a license for a gun here in Australia if you're living on a rural property).

I'm not going to go into what this all means. I'm just going to leave it there. If you want to figure out potential meanings in the comments, feel free.

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/118492.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
The Problem with Incels

Content warnings: discussions of violent thoughts, violent tendencies, and sexual slavery (incels, in other words).

Post under fold )

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/118099.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: cranky cranky
New Work on AO3

Remember how I said I was writing a fanfic for a university assignment? Well, it's up on AO3 now.

Remediation

Comes complete with fandom disclaimer and copious author's notes. Let me know what you think!

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/117769.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
There's Supposed to be a Post Here

Here's what's happened. I've promised myself I'd post something to this journal at least once a week, and try and make it something interesting and worthwhile. Problem is, at the moment, I'm going through something of a depressive patch, which means whenever I pull out one of the not-quite-done pieces I have stored on my hard drive, and try to get it into a shape where I'd be satisfied with posting it, I wind up with the brain-weasels attacking from all sides.

I won't bore you with the details of what the brain-weasels are saying. Suffice it to say they're invasive, vicious, and nasty, and they're not helping me have any confidence in any of my writing at this point. Or indeed, in anything I can do. It happens, depression sucks, I'll live through it.

But it does mean I'm not able to come up with a post at this present.

So, in the interests of fulfilling my promise to myself, let's just say this is this week's post, and have done with it. As per Douglas Adams, normal service will resume just as soon as I've figured out what counts as "normal" in the first place.

PS: If there's anyone in the Perth, WA area who happens to know the name of a psychologist who bulk bills and who has a space for new patients, I'd be overjoyed to receive the information.

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/117688.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: crappy crappy
A Government Motto I'd Like To See

I have a dream. I have a dream that someday, some political party will be elected to government on the platform of "It is not our job to ensure your business model remains forever profitable".

Essay under fold )

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/117407.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Beta-Reading Follow-up and Apology

Hi. About a week or so back, I made a request for beta readers, and a number of people responded. I'd like to thank those people, but due to various factors (brain-weasels, oncoming deadline, brain-weasels, etc) I've decided not to go ahead with the process of beta-reading. Thank you all for your generosity in offering your time and services, and I do apologise for not letting you know prior to this.

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/117107.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: pensive pensive
Why I Think Mind Uploading Is Not Likely To Happen Any Time Soon

Put simply? I don't think mind uploading, or the immanentizing of the eschaton or the storage of brains in computers or anything similar is likely to happen any time soon (or indeed within either my lifetime, or the lifetime of anyone alive at this period) because I'm mentally ill.

Stay with me, there is actually a connection between the two of these, and it isn't just "me being crazy not to believe in the chosen Rapture of the Nerds".

Essay below the fold )

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/116816.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: tired tired
State of the Meg, 08 APR 2018

Warnings: frank discussion of depression, psychological land-mines, and coping strategy fail.

It's been an... interesting few months.

Essay behind cut )

So, that's where I am at present. How's everyone else?

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/116722.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: depressed depressed
Chasing a couple of Beta-Readers

Hi all,

This one is a bit of a weird request, I suspect. I'm looking for at least two beta-readers for a fic I've written for a piece of university assessment (I'm studying a Literary & Cultural Studies/Creative Writing double major... this is the second assignment so far where I've been allowed to submit fanfic as assessable content. I love my degree). I need one beta-reader who is part of the relevant fandom (Final Fantasy VII - original game and Crisis Core, with references to the remake trailer), and at least one other beta-reader who isn't part of the Final Fantasy VII fandom.

This is what I'd be needing from each reader:

Non-fandom - Does the story make even the slightest bit of sense to you? Would you be interested in finding out more? Does it stand alone as a piece of fiction, or do you think you'd need to know the canon in order to make sense of it?

Fandom - Can you clearly recognise the incident(s) I'm referring to, and what happened in them? Can you clearly place the fic in the various canon timelines, and does it make sense in context?

Both - general grammar and spelling niggles (context: I write Commonwealth English, being based in Australia), overall plotting and polishing, what worked for you and why, what didn't work for you and why, overall impressions, etc.

The fic itself is 1500 words long, and I can supply it to potential readers in .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf, .rtf, .txt and probably any other format Libre Office or Microsoft Word can understand.

There's a definite deadline on this request - the assessment itself is due by 11 MAY, so I'd like to have any comments and critique back by 01 MAY in order to be able to incorporate any necessary changes. If you're interested, please drop a comment with a means of getting into direct contact with you (so we can sort out appropriate format issues and so on), or drop me a private message via my DW account.

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/116344.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
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