Thursday, March 30, 2023

Adventures in breadmaking

My most beloved other half recently got me a bread machine.* I used to have one, but gave it away to an aunt because I barely used it, and because I developed an allergy to wheat.  

Gluten free bread is...expensive. And most of it really isn't good enough to justify the price charged for a Walmart brand loaf of standard white sandwich bread...on sale.  Gluten free flour is expensive, but not that much more than regular flour, really.  Not enough to justify the difference in bread cost.  

I went looking for bread machines for making gluten free bread.  Because I really don't have the energy budget to just do it by hand, not really.  

I found them.  Several, at several different price points.  I put the one I thought would do in my Amazon wish list.  

It's...a bread maker.  Fairly easy to use.  Has recipes in the back for a few different basic types of bread.  Including gluten free bread.  So, I gathered up my courage and got a new jar of breadmaker yeast, and gave it a try.  

It was easy enough: measure the ingredients, and put the liquid ones in the bottom.  Mix the dry (except the yeast, and dump them on top of the liquid. Then add the yeast on top. Set the cycle, and set it going. 

It smelled...almost right.  The recipe lacked eggs, and wheat flour smells different from other types of flour. The baking cycle finished while I was getting the kids. I fished the bucket out and dumped the loaf out onto the cooling rack. 

It smelled okay, but it didn't look quite right. Granted, gluten free bread lacks what browns on normal bread, so I was expecting the very pale look of the loaf, but it was...squat. I sliced into it, and found out why. It...failed to rise.  I made the 1.5 lb loaf, and it didn't rise.  My yeast was new.  I followed instructions.  I went looking for answers about what happened online.  

As it turns out, what happened was the breadmaker.  It was programmed to do two knead cycles.  Which is one knead cycle more than gluten free bread needs.  

Normal bread, for example, has gluten in it, which provides a protein structure for the yeast to inflate.  You have to punch it down part of the way through the knead cycle, or you end up with everything overflowing.  

Gluten free flour...yeah, it'll rise, but not as well as wheat flour, and it WON'T rise again if it's knocked down.  It's wimpy like that.

Still, in spite of making a loaf with the consistency of a small rock, the bread machine's recipe was fairly good on flavor. I will be trying the recipe again, but on the quick bread setting, rather than the gluten free setting.  We'll see how that turns out.   

*Bread machine is Amazon's house brand, and was a birthday gift. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Dear Amazon:

As a long time customer and book buyer, I'm incredibly grateful for your existence. I became even more grateful when you opened the world of publishing to people who don't want to sell their souls for the chance to see their name in print on their very own book. I love the Kindle Unlimited subscription, and generally don't mind your marketing, because you've recommended some very cool new stuff for me to read, based on what I've read in the past.*


I have noted recently that your recommendations have

I haven't read very many traditionally published books in years. And almost all of your recommendations are trad pub. They're...tired. Trite. Boring as fuck. And preachier than they are boring.  Some of them are okay, but never more than that. 

I haven't ever read women's lit, romance, romance-themed urban fantasy, book club fiction, or the whining naval-gazing of any women's memoirs. None of that is entertaining, and the women's memoirs make me want to fling the book, scream, and slap the shit out of the writer. 

And let me share a few key words in your book descriptions that make me run the fuck away from ever looking at any particular book:

  • "Critically acclaimed"
  • "groundbreaking"
  • "Best Seller" 
  • "New York Times best seller"
  • "award winning"
  • "Hugo Award winning"

If your ad blurb mentions any of the above, I nope the fuck out. If your ad blurb is nothing but reviews, awards, "everyone's reading this book," I nope the fuck out. 

Wanna know what I want to see in the ad blurb? I want to see what the book is about. I want a basic, one sentence plot summary. I do not give a flying fuck that other people are reading this book. In fact, the popularity might make me nope the fuck out, too, because the standard, average person is, at best, a vapid twatwaffle that needs a crowd of twatwaffles around them, all exclaiming how cool the latest thing they're reading is...and most of them won't enjoy it, or possibly even understand it. 

Want to know what I do read? What you can improve your bottom line by pushing? 

That's easy. You're doing it already. You're already tracking my husband's and my reading habits.

I'd ask why you're pushing dreck that I wouldn't read on a fucking bribe, but I already know. I've heard about the internal memos chirping happily about pushing trad pub (in spite of what it's going to do to the bottom line), and the latest "sensitive" or "nuanced fiction." 

I know why, too. 

Marxist-trained business majors are not who you want running a company. They don't understand that making money is more important to a company than "moral business choices." If, in fact, they understand what "moral business choices" actually are.  

And given what I've heard about warehouse working conditions and worker safety? I strongly doubt they actually do.  

There's a good reason I haven't even considered using your advertising services. I don't think I'd get a good return for my money, and with the way you've screwed the pooch on choosing trad pub dreck over much better stories published independent through your services, where you get a cut of any sales I make, I don't think you'd get good value, either.  

I probably won't stop shopping for books on Amazon.  But I'm certainly going to just be deleting the "Recommended for you" emails as soon as they hit my inbox from now on.  

Or maybe I'll open those so I can see who you're pushing hardest so I don't trip over more crap in my escapist reading. 

*Tracking spending for advertising purposes is creepy and intrusive as fuck, but USELESS if you're not paying attention and using it for making recommendations.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Last weekend, both my mother and my mother in law sort of jumped the gun on my birthday.  Mom & Sis got me Guns 'N' Roses Appetite for Destruction, and my mother-in-law gave me a framed print (which I LOVE), and a Walmart gift card. 

I had asked for Appetite.  I used to have copies--one on cassette tape (which got eaten by a past tape player, so I no longer have...even if I had a tape player to listen to it with), and one on (burned) CD. Which wouldn't play any longer.* I really hadn't expected to get the album.  Quite honestly, I expected them to balk, hard, at it.  It's...something.  And it's not something I'll play around the kids (with the exception of about three or four of the songs). 

Sunday evening, I dragged my other half with me to Walmart, because I knew precisely what I wanted to do with part of that card: a quiet USB keyboard.  I can't stand rattly keyboards when I'm writing fast.  HATE them.  It's like sitting next to somebody chewing loudly with their mouth hanging open.  

I got this one: Onn Wireless Silent Keyboard.  It's not quite silent, mind you, but it's very, very close.  Yeah, it's almost certainly made in China, is probably a cheap POS, and will likely quit working within the year; however, at the price point, it's replaceable.  

The good points: it's a full-sized keyboard, and all of the keys are standard size/placement, and there's a raised ridge at the bottom of the F and the J keys.  I touch type, so those are really important.  Especially the standard size: I had a laptop that had a half-sized shift key, with...something else between the question mark and the shift key.  I routinely missed the shift with my right pinkie, and had to go back and fix whatever got FUBARed instead of capitalized.  

It's quiet.  It's probably the quietest keyboard I've ever used.   

It's lightweight.  And it uses standard, AAA batteries, so easy to replace.  And it's got an on/off switch on the bottom, to not waste your battery life when you're not using it.  

It was seriously inexpensive.  I'm not kidding: I went looking for a silent keyboard, and the next price point is $20 higher than this one. 

The bad points: It's a standard, straight keyboard. There's no bend to it for even slightly improved ergonomics. There's no flip-down legs to adjust it, if I were to set it on a desk and try to use it (not really an issue for me--even at a desk, I tend to type in my lap).  It's Made In China, so it will probably crap out within the year. 

Really, though, the good points heavily outweigh the bad points, and the bad ones aren't...really an issue for me.   

Yesterday, I dropped the kids off at school, came home, got the rest of my coffee, and turned on my speaker. Queued up Appetite for Destruction on repeat.  Set up to write. 

And got around 4K words added to Certified Public Assassin in the seven hours they were gone.  

The book really likes G&R.  That album in specific.  And the keyboard is comfortable to work with, and doesn't drive me nuts.  

*Did you know that burned CDs will quit working after a while?  I didn't.  In any case, I've got the CD loaded on my laptop, so that point is moot. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023