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Spotlight – Temporal Enhancer cuff/enzyme

Spotlight on Temporal Enhancer cuff/enzyme

The Temporal Enhancer cuff was a weird idea.

Background

I wanted a kind of strange means of controlling time travel.

Spotlight – Temporal Enhancer cuff and enzyme
Temporal Enhancer Cuff

However, the means would be the antithesis of canon.  Therefore, I decided, the best and clearest way to accomplish this feat would be by making almost a biological means of traveling in time. Yes, it is that bizarre.

For a time traveler such as Helen Walker, it is a three-step process. First, she puts on the cuff.  Then a separate controller selects the time and place. Then the subject swallows the enzyme, Trichronium. In this case, the subject is Helen. And then the process of traveling in time begins. The physical transference process is somewhat similar to the canon act of beaming from one place to another. Helen even reports that the enzyme tastes a little bit like cantaloupe.

As for the invention and the process, I am somewhat mixed in my assessment of it. I think it is a decent idea but not necessarily with the greatest of executions. For one thing, the name of the enzyme is far too close to the name I had already created for a nerve toxin, Tricoulamine.

With rather different purposes for both of these chemical compounds, the all too similar names could potentially prove confusing. In addition, the use of numerical prefixes for nearly all originally-created chemical compounds (e. g. bicoulamine and quatromenaline) made for a far too predictable naming convention.

Upshot

As I note above, I believe that the idea was a decent one. It was most assuredly a unique one. However, the execution left far too much to be desired. What could have been a great invention turned out to just be okay. And that is not a good thing!

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Spotlight on Azezans in Star Trek Fan Fiction

Background

Azezans were an early invention. In fact, this wholly original species was one of the first ones I ever made.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Adventures of Porthos | Azezans
The Adventures of Porthos

For The Adventures of Porthos, I was still at a stage in my Star Trek fanfiction writing where I was mainly just looking at one-off characterizations and species of the week. The Azezans were a part of that.

Characteristics of Azezans

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...
Yellow badge Star of David called “Judenstern”. Part of the exhibition in the Jewish Museum Westphalia, Dorsten, Germany. The wording is the German word for Jew (Jude), written in mock-Hebrew script. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peaceful to a fault, the Azezans allow another species, the Olathans, to run roughshod over them, to disastrous consequences and results. This vegan species is so peaceful that they don’t fight back when a far more powerful species comes in and takes over. The Olathans enslave them and have the Azezans self-select the Olathans’ next victims, in a sickening reminder of the Nazi Judenrat.

For physical characteristics, the only thing I gave them was purple skin. The skin, if sliced or bitten, is in lightening shades of purple. Other than that, I had no descriptions for them.

Enterprise’s Involvement

Normally, there would be no involvement whatsoever. Under the Prime Directive, it’s likely no one would visit such a system. This is because I never said whether they were Warp-capable. Instead, the Olathans secretly offer the Azezans as slave laborers. This is because of overpopulation on Azezi Prime.

Jonathan Archer watches the exchange between First Governor Siont (an Azezan) and Settlement Engineer Dar (who is secretly an Olathan), and determines from their body language that they don’t enjoy working together. As they are questioned about the work arrangement, Siont doesn’t appear to believe any of the platitudes he’s sprouting about cheerful, healthy workers. Whereas Dar is more than happy to talk profits.

Phlox enters with Porthos, in order to provide a quick break. Siont pets the animal, who seemingly without cause bites Dar in the ankle. The ruse discovered, Dar takes  what is very much like a cyanide capsule, also a reference to the Nazis.

Siont explains that to return with a dead Dar means that he and his entourage will be suspect. Archer, suspecting that there are more hidden Olathans, probably working as informants and Fifth Columnists, ends the matter with assuring that he will have humans sent as advisors with a number of hound dogs. The dogs, presumed to be primed to behave just like Porthos just has, should quickly rout the Olathans. It’s an imperfect and slow solution, but at least it’s a relatively peaceful one that the Azezans can condone.

Upshot

I have never written a sequel to this story, and it’s high time I did.


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Spotlight – Amity

Spotlight – Amity

Amity serves as not only a place but also an ironic commentary.

Background

In the Enterprise E2 episode, there is little on how the crew survived in the Delphic Expanse for over a century. This is particularly with limited or no contact with other species.

Spotlight – Amity

I decided that there would be two planets. Hence this would be to grow the most diverse set of foodstuffs possible. Paradise would be the warmer of the two. I always intended Amity to be the more temperate planet taken over during Reflections Down a Corridor/The Three of Us time period.

Carmen Calavicci, in the deep future, confirms that in the prime timeline the planet will actually be known as Archer’s Planet.

Characteristics

Amity has four continents:

• Aquilasicca – northern drier continent. In Latin the name, literally, means north, dry)
• Meridia – southern wetter continent (literally, southern)
• Imperia – eastern wetter continent (literally, empire)
• Tritica – western drier continent (literally, wheat)

Wildlife

Backbones do not seem to have ever evolved on Amity. Instead, the two predominant species are mollusks.

Malostrea are little clam-like creatures, and are the more intelligent species, exhibiting hunting behaviors within a pack-like structure. The name is Latin for bad oysterProcul, their prey, are large squid-like beasts. The name is Latin for faraway.

Events

During Entanglements, Amity is the site of Josh Rosen and Karin Bernstein‘s wedding. Here, Xindi sloth are invited guests.  After the committing of crimes during The Three of Us, the second part of the punishment for the worst offenders, Daniel Chang and Tristan Curtis, is a brief banishment there. However, it is anything but brief when they escape. Finally, in Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Chef Slocum meets his end due to an incident on Amity.

Upshot

So often, we see alien planets as being all too conveniently perfect for every purpose. They’re clean, and the climate is wonderful. Plus there are no major predators. However, Amity isn’t like that. For all returns to this world, I’ll call it by its more or less canon name, Archer’s World.


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Spotlight on Original Nonsentient Species – Perrazin

Spotlight on an Original Nonsentient Species – Perrazin

Perrazin were almost an afterthought originally.

Background

As I wrote the In Between Days series, it became necessary to create nonsentient food animals for the Calafans. Furthermore, I had already established that both Doug and Melissa enjoy hunting, partly for sport, but mainly for food. In Together, I briefly mention perrazin and described them as big, blond buffalo. By the time of Temper, I wanted to start that book with a hunting scene, so it was time to show perrazin.

Origins

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Highland cattle | Perrazin
Perrazin (these animals are actually Highland cattle)

When I first came up with the idea, this absolutely was what I was thinking of. These animals are actually Highland Cattle.

Imagine them with tusks and you’ve got perrazin (puh-RAH-zen).

Omnivorous and nasty, perrazin will graze and will eat olowa much of the time. But if the opportunity presents itself, they will also eat linfep. Prickly and unpredictable, they will charge at anything they find strange. And, as Doug says while hunting them with a phase bow, they find a lot of things to be strange.

They graze and hunt in packs, almost like a cross between cattle and wolves. During the hunt, it’s also revealed that they’re rather lazy hunters, preferring that a meal simply fall into their metaphoric laps. When presented with the opportunity, they can also be cannibals, a fact that shocks Melissa.

They also, according to Lili, taste like a cross between beef and pork. She jokes to Naurr, in Dear Naurr, Dear Lili, that she’s practically eating one all by herself during her pregnancy with Joss.

Upshot

Every culture and every society needs animals. Often, in canon, animals were overlooked when planets were explored. It seemed as if most places were animal-free! And that’s just not reality here, and I seriously doubt it would be the case on any planet where we find life.

I feel that there will always be diversity, and there will be animals that maybe don’t look like this, but they might fill similar niches. Viva perrazin!

Spotlight – Witannen in Star Trek Fan Fiction

Witannen

Background

Witannen were a fun creation. Back when I was writing a non-Star Trek time travel series, I had an idea for an alien who would be helping the group.

She would be a member of the first species ever to make contact with humans, and her name would be Otra (she didn’t get a last name until later), and she would be the girlfriend of the leader of the group, the rather non-charismatic Levi Cavendish. She was supposed to be a bit out of proportion to humans, in that she’d have longer legs than we normally do. Otra would also be a light lavender color.

Things have changed

About the only thing she really had which transferred over to what became the Witannen (Wit-ah-nin) is that her hair would be replaced with green vines that would move independently of her. She would be unable to control the vines, and they would be in some sort of a symbiotic relationship with her. The species did not have a name, but their first contact had been preceded by an odd form of prepping the Earth for their arrival – they had sent broadcasts for a good year beforehand, including a popular soap opera. Hence when the aliens arrived in that older series, they were more or less known to humans, and were famous.

Then the species was added to my Star Trek fan fiction, and it got even more interesting.

What Happened to the Witannen

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Otra | Witannen
Otra, a half-Wittanen. Drawing by SL Walker.

When I began writing Together, I wanted a villain who would be more of a business person than an actual evil being. Ferengi had already been seen in canon Enterprise, so I felt that would be a bit much, to have a second encounter with the Ferengi, without that name being known in the Starfleet database.

Hence they were out. I remembered my strange alien, so I performed some modifications on her.

First, the character in Together would not be Otra at all, who I reserved for a time travel series, Times of the HG Wells. But I really liked the idea of having the character be female, so I created Quellata (Kell-uh-tuh) instead. Quellata would be full-blooded, whereas Otra would be half-human, and so she would get a surname.

Differentiation

To differentiate between the full and half, I decided that full-blooded Witannen would have little vestigial wings. It isn’t until Multiverse II that it becomes clear that Otra just has long lines on her back, where her wings would have been.

The wings would be vestigial, far too small to propel anyone. Hence Quellata would be grounded, and the wings would be more decorative than anything else. This also made it possible for her to wear more or less recognizable clothing.

The proportions were also corrected for human sizes, so that a human actor could conceivably ‘play’ a Witannen. I also dropped the idea of a light lavender complexion, preferring to make them a little less alien in exchange for making them an easier species to picture an actor or actress playing.

Characteristics

A bit brittle, with a superiority complex, Witannen are from the Delta Quadrant. They have good reason to feel good about themselves, as they’ve had Warp Drive for centuries. This makes it easier to look down at Johnny-come-lately species like humans. Quellata refers to her human captives as slime molds, but then again, she’s nasty to everyone.

Their language divides into formal and conversational, both written and oral. Witannen writing is unknown, but their speech is a click language, much like Khoisan and Xhosa on Earth. Their species name does not have a plural, e. g. one Witannen, two Witannen. I’m not sure if I’ll give them any plurals.

Like humans and Vulcans, they are monogamous. And like Vulcans, their pregnancies last longer than ours do.

Business

A lot of them have heads for business. Apart from Quellata, Otra’s own mother, Chefra, also works in the commercial realm, as a dealer in star ship parts. Otra herself is more of a philosopher and missions specialist. An opera singer, a male named Paj Terris, is briefly mentioned in the HG Wells stories.  The only other Witannen I have written so far is Adeel, a female athlete in the upcoming Barnstorming series.

The other main characteristic of Witannen is their symbiotic chavecoi (chah-vuh-COY), which evolved from being vines to being more like flowers. They can change color with mood, a fact that makes them rather inconvenient. A Witannen would make a lousy spy. The chavecoi also drink some water on occasion. Hence a character like Otra will sip tea while her chavecoi will dip into a nearby glass of water. The chavecoi are alarmed by caffeine if they accidentally taste tea or coffee, and they can become drunk if they intake alcohol. Their purpose is survival; in the event of a drought, they can photosynthesize in order to keep their host alive. Further, according to Multiverse II, they can be adversely affected by radiation, but they can be cured (as can their host) by stem cell growth accelerator.

Upshot

I loved creating them, but the best-realized character is Otra, by far. How well-realized will the others ever become? I don’t know, or maybe another character will be created, perhaps another male.

The species will return, particularly as I continue to explore the Otra-Levi dynamic, but I’m not so sure about going beyond that, as of the writing of this blog post.

Spotlight on a Meme – Pumpkin Pie #49

Background

Pumpkin pie was originally almost random. The creation of the #49 pie meme was a fit of amused inspiration by kes7 and me.

Radiation Bands

Way back in Temper, I established that each universe vibrates on a particular radiation band. We would be 21 centimeters, and the Mirror would be 20. This is rather close to canon. In the TNG episodes Parallels and Galaxy’s Child, it is noted that various universes have differing characteristics, and it is possible to match a person or entity to a universe, using a quantum signature (in Parallels) and all of the matter in the universe vibrates on a 21 centimeter radiation band (Galaxy’s Child), I put the two together, deciding that the radiation band would be the identifier. This is known as the Hydrogen Line.

Pumpkin Pie?

Why pumpkin pie? Well, why not? Levi Cavendish notes that pie slices are smaller than sehlats, and make for a better demonstration. And he likes pie.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Pumpkin Pie #49
Pumpkin Pie #49

Beyond 20 and 21 cm

In Multiverse II, with characters from all sorts of fan universes and alternate and expanded universes, it made sense to expand the radiation bands. Further, as established in Temper, the 22 cm radiation band is where the dinosaurs did not die out on Earth. There would be a myriad of other universes, and they would not be confined to perfectly rounded-off centimeters, of course. The band is genetic, and can be passed down.

But there would be more.

The Experiment

As Levi attempts to fix the problem and find a way out of the current mess, he begins experimenting with finding a way into the other universes.

Pie, Pie, Me oh My, I love Pie!
Pie, Pie, Me oh My, I love Pie! (Photo credit: AlyssssylA)

After all, since the current universe is one being taken over by Chilo, his reasoning is that they might be able to exit through another universe.

Being a devotee of pumpkin pie, he hits upon the idea of throwing a replicator into catering mode and seeing how many different kinds of pumpkin pie he can create. Being the wacky guy that he is, he tastes most of his creations, except for #81, which is obviously dangerous (it pokes holes in space-time; his theory is that the Big Bang did not go off correctly there).

When Maren O’Connor is called over to fix the replicators, and that they can’t stop replicating pumpkin pie, Levi shows her a ton of specimens from various universes. #49 is described as being particularly good. It even ended up on Pike’s Enterprise.

Upshot

It ended up turning into a bit of a meme, and I confess I contributed to that. But we’ve had fun with it, and now I suppose I need to learn how to make pumpkin pie, for real.

Recipe for Pie Crust

The New York Times came to my rescue with a great recipe for pie crust.

All-Butter Pie Crust (With Variations)

Published: November 15, 2006

Time: 15 minutes plus one hour’s chilling

The Basics of Perfect Pie Crust

1¼cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably a high-fat, European-style butter like Plugra, chilled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 to 5 tablespoons ice water.

  1. In a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms chickpea-size pieces (3 to 5 one-second pulses). Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until mixture is just moist enough to hold together.
  2. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out and baking.

Yield: One 9-inch single pie crust. Recipe can be doubled for a double crust; divide dough into two balls and form two disks before chilling.

Variations

You can experiment with textures and flavors by substituting 3 to 4 tablespoons shortening, lard, beef suet, duck fat or an unsweetened nut butter, such as hazelnut butter, almond butter or mixed nut butter, for 3 to 4 tablespoons regular butter. All should be well chilled before using.

Cheddar Crust: This crispy crust pairs nicely with apple pie or savory pie fillings. Pulse together 1¼ cups flour with ¾ teaspoon salt. Add ¾ cup grated sharp cheddar; pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add 8 tablespoons chilled, cubed butter and proceed according to the directions for All-Butter Pie Crust.

Prebaked Crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie crust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp edges. Prick crust all over with a fork. If you have time, freeze crust for 15 to 30 minutes; otherwise skip this step. Cover pie with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights (you can use pennies, rice or dried beans for this). Bake for 15 minutes; remove foil and weights and bake until pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes more. Cool on rack until needed.

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Filling

Here’s a likely candidate.

Directions for Making Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

Yield: It depends on the size of the pumpkin and the size of the pie plate. If you use a 6″ pie pumpkin and a full deep dish 9″ pie plate, then it should fill that pie to the brim and maybe have enough extra for either a small (4 inch) shallow pumpkin pie (or a crustless pumpkin pie – see step  11). 
Some people manage to make 2 full pies, especially if they use shallow pie plates and/or 8 inch pie plates.

Ingredients and Equipment

Equipment

  • A sharp, large serrated knife
  • an ice cream scoop
  • a large microwaveable bowl or large pot
  • 1 large (10 inch) deep-dish pie plate and pie crust – or two small pie plates (9 inch) and crusts (Metric:  a 10 inch pie plate is a pie plate with a diameter of 25 cm, and a depth of almost 5 cm)

Ingredients

  • a pie pumpkin (see step 1; you can use different types of pumpkin or even a butternut squash)
  • 1 cup sugar (see step 9 for alternatives, such as Stevia, honey or Splenda) (metric: 200 grams)
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon (metric: 3.8 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves (metric: 2 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice (metric: 2 grams. Other names for allspice are: Piment de la Jamaïque, Maustepippuri, Kryddpeppar, Piment, Korzennik lekarski, Ienibahar, Pimentovník pravý)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (metric: 1.25 grams)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon mace (which you’ll find in the very old pumpkin pie recipes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional) (metric: 20 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, I don’t use any)
  • 4 large eggs – to reduce fat and cholesterol, you may use egg whites (like Egg Beaters) instead, and vegans may want to use  Ener-G (see this page for more information about egg substitutes)
  • 3 cups sieved, cooked pumpkin (metric: 0.7 litre)
  • 1.5 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (I use the nonfat version) for best results. (metric: each can is about .35 liter, or about a half liter total))

Note for the UK and Europe: Nestle Carnation has two sizes of cans in England: 170g and 410g – the large 410g can is 14 fl. oz. and the small 170g can is 5 fl. oz. (the same as the small can in the US). Use  one of each (19 fl. oz. total) in your pie.

Other notes:

  • If you can’t get canned evaporated milk, make your own from nonfat dried milk. Make it twice as concentrated as the directions on the box call for
  • If you can’t get nonfat dried milk, just use milk.
  • If you are lactose-intolerant, use lactose-free milk or soy milk.
  • One visitor tried fresh whipping cream (unwhipped) and reported  the pie “turned out wonderful!”
  • Another suggests using coconut milk, if you are allergic to dairy.

Note: if you do not have cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger, you can substitute 3 teaspoons of “pumpkin pie spice”.  It’s not exactly the same, but it will do.

Note: If you can’t get evaporated milk, you can substitute nonfat dried milk – make it twice as concentrated as the directions on the box say to reconstitute it. It won’t be the same as evaporated milk, but it ought to come close.

Recipe and Directions

Yield: One 9-inch deep dish pie or two 8-inch shallow pies

Step 1 – Get your pie pumpkin

“Pie pumpkins” are smaller, sweeter, less grainy textured pumpkins than the usual jack-o-lantern types.  Grocery stores usually carry them in late September through December in the U.S. In some parts of the country, they are also called sugar pumpkins or even “cheese pumpkins”.  Note: the Libby’s can of cooked pumpkin is just there for reference – it is the small can, so that gives you an idea of the size of a typical pie pumpkin.

pumpkin
pumpkin

IF you must use canned pumpkin, try organic.

They’re only about 6 to 8 inches in diameter (about 20 to 24 inches in circumference).  TIP: If you’re in a pinch and can’t find a pie pumpkin, butternut squash taste almost the same! And many farmers will tell you that “Neck Squash”, Jarradale Blue Hubbard, Cinderella and Long Island Cheese winter squashes are all considered to make a better tasting pumpkin pie.  Commercial canned pumpkin is from a variety of butternut, not true pumpkins! If you insist on using a regular Jack O’ Lantern type pumpkin, you may need to add about 25% more sugar and run the cooked pumpkin through a blender or food processor to help smooth it out.

Selecting squash

Just like selecting any squash, look for one that is firm, no bruises or soft spots, and a good orange color. One 6″ pie pumpkin usually makes one 10 inch deep dish pie and a bit extra; or two 9 inch shallow pies! If you have extra goop, you can always pour it into greased baking pans and make a crustless mini pie with the excess (and the cooked pies do freeze well!)

If you live in the Far East (Thailand, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, etc.) and cannot get a pumpkin or a butternut squash, I’m told that Japanese pumpkins make a great substitute. Just cube the meat into small cubes and steam them for 35 minutes. The rest of the preparation is the same and I’m told the taste is great.

Step 2 – Prepare the pumpkin for cooking

Wash the exterior of the pumpkin in cool or warm water, no soap.

cooked squash
cooked squash

Cut the pumpkin in half.  A serrated knife and a sawing motion works best – a smooth knife is more likely to slip and hurt you! A visitor suggests using a hand saw.

Step 3 – Scoop out the seeds…

And scrape the insides.  You want to get out that stringy, dangly stuff that coats the inside surface.  I find a heavy ice cream scoop works great for this.

Note: save the seeds.

The seeds can be used either to plant pumpkins next year, or roasted to eat this year! Place them in a bowl of water and rub them between your hands.  then pick out the orange buts (throw that away) and drain off the water. Spread them out on a clean towel or paper towel to dry and they’re ready to save for next year’s planting or roast.  Click here for roasting instructions!

Step 4 – Cooking the pumpkin

There are several ways to cook the pumpkin;  just choose use your preferred method.  Most people have microwaves and a stove, so I’ll describe both of those methods here. But others make good arguments in favor of using a pressure cooker or baking in the oven. At the end of this document, I’ve included alternative instructions to replace step 4, if you’d rather use a different method.

Method 1 – Bake in the oven

You can also bake the prepared pumpkin in the oven, just like a butternut squash.  This method takes the longest. Basically, you cut and scoop out the pumpkin as for the other methods, place it cut side down into a covered oven container. Cover the ovenproof container (with a lid), and pop it in an 350 F (165 C) oven. It normally takes about 45 minutes to 90 minutes (it can vary a lot); test it periodically by sticking it with a fork to see if it is soft.

pumpkin baked in the oven, scooping
pumpkin baked in the oven, scooping
pumpkin baked in the oven
pumpkin baked in the oven

Method 2 – Steam on the stovetop

You can also cook it on the stovetop; it takes about the same length of time in a steamer (20 to 30 minutes).  I use a double pot steamer, but you could use an ordinary large pot with a steamer basket inside it:

pumpkin_steamingpumpkin_cooking_in_the_steamersteamer to cook pumpkins

Method 3 – Put it in a microwaveable bowl

pumpkin in a microwavable bowl
pumpkin in a microwavable bowl

Remove the stem, and put the pumpkin into a microwaveable dish.

pumpkin in a microwave
pumpkin in a microwave

You may need to cut the pumpkin further to make it fit.  The fewer the number of pieces, the easier it will to scoop out the cooked pumpkin afterwards.

Put a couple of inches of water in the bowl, cover it, and put in the microwave.  Cook it on high until it is soft.  That may take 20 minutes or more, so like anything else, try 15 minutes, see how much it is softened, then do 5 minute increments until it is soft

Cook the pumpkin until it is soft

Whichever method you use, cook the pumpkin until it is soft and will separate from the skin.

Step 5 – Scoop out the cooked pumpkin

Whether you cook the pumpkin on the stove, microwave, or even the oven, once it is cooked until it is soft, it is easy to scoop out the guts with a broad, smooth spoon, (such as a tablespoon).  Use the spoon to gently lift and scoop the cooked pumpkin out of the skin.  It should separate easily an in fairly large chucks, if the pumpkin is cooked enough.

Many times the skin or rind will simply lift off with your fingers.

pumpkin cooked, pickling off the skin
pumpkin cooked, pickling off the skin

Note: there are many varieties of pumpkin and some make better pies that other (due to sugar content, flavor, texture and water content.  Drier, sweeter, fine-grained pies; the small (8″ across) ones called “pie pumpkins” are best.

Watery pumpkin?

If your pumpkin puree has standing, free water, you may want to let it sit for 30 minutes and then pour off any free water.  That will help prevent you pie from being too watery. Beyond, that, I have not found that the water makes a difference. The recipe accounts for the liquid.

Tips

Tip on using the liquid: Comments from a visitor on November 26, 2009: “Any suggestions or use for the pumpkin juice left over after draining the cooked pumpkin? I keep thinking there must be some good use – maybe soup or in cookies or something?”

Yes! !  You can use it as a replacement for water, and in some cases, milk, in recipes, like soups, cookies, breads, muffins and even pancakes and waffles, where it adds a very nice flavor.

Tip from a visitor: “I make my own pumkin pies from scratch all the time. To eliminate watery pumpkin I strain my pureed pumpkin through a cloth overnight. If I use frozen pumpkin I do the same again as it thaws out. It works great and my pies cook beautifully.”

Another visitor reported success using coffee filters in a sieve to drain out excess water.

Again, don’t go to great lengths to remove water; the recipe accounts for the fact that fresh pumpkin is more watery than canned.

Step 6 – Puree the pumpkin

To get a nice, smooth consistency, I use a hand blender.  By blending it, you give the pie a smooth, satiny texture; rather than the rough graininess that is typical of cooked squashes.

A regular blender works, too. Or a food processor or even just a hand mixer with time and patience.

With the hand blender, it just takes 2 or 3 minutes!

Another visitor says using a food mill, like a Foley Food Mill, with a fine screen, accomplishes the blending/pureeing very well, too!

Step 7 – Done with the pumpkin!

The pumpkin is now cooked and ready for the pie recipe.  Get the frozen daiquiris out from step 6 and take a break! 🙂

Note: You may freeze the puree or pie filling to use it later! Just use a freezer bag or other container to exclude as much air as possible.  It should last a year or more in a deep freezer On the other hand, you may NOT “can” it:  See this page for the safety reasons why you shouldn’t can it.)

Step 8 – Make the pie crust

Yes, I know there are ready-made pie crusts in the frozen section at the store, but they really are bland and doughy.  A flaky crust is easy to make! Again, note that unless you use large, deep dish pie plates, you may have enough for 2 pies.

It is also time to start preheating the oven.  Turn it on and set it to 425 F (210 C, for those in Europe)

Step 9 – Mix the pie contents

All the hard work is behind you! Here’s where it gets really easy. If you start with a fresh 8″ pie pumpkin, you will get about 3 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin. The right amount of ingredients for this is as follows:

  • 1 cup sugar  (metric: 300 grams). Instead of sugar, you could use
    honey (use 1.25 cups),
    natural sugar (1 cup),
    agave (1 cup),
    brown sugar (1 cup),
    Stevia (1/3 cup) or
    Splenda (1.25 cups).
    If you are using artificial sweeteners (Splenda or Stevia) you’ll find that they taste pretty good, but you’ll get better results when you do a 50-50 mix with sugar or honey. And diabetics, you can use Stevia or Splenda alone, in place of sugar and get pretty decent results.
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • one half teaspoon ground ginger
  • one half teaspoon salt (optional, I don’t use any)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups pumpkin sieved, cooked pumpkin
  • 1.5 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (I use the nonfat version) (note for those in France: evaporated milk in France is called lait concentré; lait evaporé is powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional) (metric: 20 grams)

Mix well using a hand blender or mixer.

Notes

Note: You may substitute 4 teaspoons of “pumpkin pie spice” instead of the cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger.  But I think you get better results with the separate spices.

Note: The vast majority of people tell me this is the best pumpkin pie they’ve ever had. It’s light and fluffy – however… if you want a heavy, more dense pie, use 3 eggs instead of 4 and 1 can of evaporated milk instead of 1.5)

Step 10 – Pour into the pie crust

Some people like to bake the pie crust in the oven for 3 minutes before filling it.  I don’t and the pies turn out great!
I like a deep, full pie, so I fill it right up to about one quarter to one half inch from the very top.

Don’t be surprised if the mixture is very runny!  It may start as a soupy liquid, but it will firm up nicely in the oven!

Note: the pie crust is brown because I used whole wheat flour! Tastes the same, but is healthier.

TIP: If you put the empty pie crust on your oven rack, with the rack slid partially out, you can fill it there and avoid making a mess while carrying the pie to the oven!

Extra filling

TIP: What do you do if you end up with more filling than will fit in your pie crust(s)?  Easy!  Of course, you can make another, smaller pie crust and fill a small pie pan… or just grease any baking dish, of a size that the extra filling will fill to a depth of about 2 inches (see the photo at right), and pour the extra filling in.. then bake it.  It will be a crustless pumpkin pie that kids especially love! You can also use it in making pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread!

TIP: You may want to cover the exposed edges of the crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Some people make their own crust cover by cutting the rim off of a disposable aluminum pie pan.

Step 11 – Bake the pie

Bake at 425 F (210 C ) for the first 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 F  ( 175 C ) and bake another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Here is the finished pie, right out of the oven:

I use a blunt table knife to test the pie.  The one at left has already been stuck in the pie, and you see it comes out pretty clean, when the pie is done.

Step 12 – Cool the pie

… And enjoy! Warm or chilled, with whipped cream , ice cream or nothing at all – it’s great!

You can even freeze the pie after cooking it.  I just lay a piece of plastic wrap (cling film) tight on the pie, after it cools down, then pop it in the freezer.

Later, take the frozen pie out of the freezer, put it in the fridge for about 24 hours, and then either heat it in the oven (350 F for about 15 minutes; just to warm it up) or the microwave for a few minutes.


Alternative Cooking methods for step 4

If you don’t have a microwave, or prefer another method, try these:

Stovetop steaming

Place your steaming basket or grid in the bottom of a large pot.  Put enough water so it won’t boil dry in 20 minutes, and yet is not so high that the pumpkin is touching the water level. You may need to add more water during the cooking. Add the pumpkin prepared in step 3, and get the steamer going. The cooking time is only between 8 and 12 minutes, depending on the range (gas or electric), and the pumpkin literally falls off the skin.

Pressure cooker

Place your grid in the bottom of the pressure cooker.  If your pressure cooker came with directions, follow those for pumpkin and/or winter squash, like butternut squash.  If, like most people, you’ve long since lost the directions, try this: Add enough  water to just touch the bottom of the grid or shelf that you will place the pumpkin on. Add the pumpkin prepared in step 3, put the lid with the gasket, the weight and anything else your cooker requires in place, and turn the heat on  high. Once it starts hissing, turn it to medium or medium high.   The cooking time should only be about 10 minutes,  and the pumpkin should literally fall out of its skin.

Crockpot

Clean and slice the pumpkin and set the temperature to either high or low (depending on how soon you are able to get back to the kitchen). The crockpot is forgiving enough that the pumpkin can be left in it for a time even after it is tender, at least on the low setting. Turn off the crockpot and let the pumpkin sit in it awhile. A lot of liquid will be released as the pumpkin cools. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh, place in a wire strainer, and mash with a spoon to release additional liquid. Leave the pumpkin in the strainer and place in the refrigerator for several hours to drain off any remaining liquid.


Will it turn out wonderful, like #49? I don’t know.
Stay tuned.

Spotlight – Stem Cell Growth Accelerator

Spotlight – Stem Cell Growth Accelerator

Background

As I began to write the HG Wells Star Trek fanfiction stories and conceive of them, I kept butting up against one unfortunate problem – how do you handle medical care?

After all, throughout the ages, medical care has, mainly, been abhorrent. Was I to show people undergoing bloodletting, being given leeches for treatments, or dunked in wells in order to drive out the evil spirits? Hell, even surgery was denounced as butchery by Leonard McCoy in TOS. What’s a time traveler to do?

Enter stem cell growth accelerator.

The Thought Experiment

Spotlight – Stem Cell Growth Accelerator

My initial inspiration came from, of all things, how I understand HIV to spread through the body. My understanding is that the retrovirus enters into a cell that becomes a host and essentially converts that cell into an HIV factory. The body does not recognize this as a problem for a long time, as the HIV is sitting within what, to the body, seems to be a normal, healthy cell.

And so I thought – what if, instead of making a horrible virus, a host cell was, instead, making some sort of cure cells. And what if it could make them at a phenomenal rate?

If a chemical like that could be introduced into a person, and it could self-replicate, and it would be healing rather than harming, the possibilities were very nearly endless.

In order to prevent things from becoming too good to be true, I further decided that, while the healing process would be fast, all pain would remain. Hence, a year’s worth of pain could be easily crammed into an hour.

Ow.

Upshot

Stem cell growth accelerator has turned out to be one of the easiest inventions for me to explain. Exposition is generally a snap, as I often have a character break an arm or suffer a cut or a gunshot and, voila! They are suddenly healed, but they cringe and nearly pass out while the healing process is occurring. I will definitely use this idea more, and may even at some point write something showing how it was developed.

Spotlight on Alien Hybrids

Background

Alien hybrids are 100% Star Trek canon. Spock is one, Worf’s lover, K’Ehleyr, is one, their son Alexander is one, etc.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Alexander | Alien Hybrids
Alexander, an alien hybrid (his parents are both human-Klingon)

For hybrids, I imagine that life is not easy. Even Worf, who is not a hybrid, but was raised by human adoptive parents, could not fail to get into what we would call trouble. Which is what most Klingon families would simply refer to as defending honor.

Fitting In

I write most hybrids as having some adjustment issues. Adolescence, in particular, has got to be difficult. But adults, particularly talented ones, are going to be a bit better situated.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Spock | Alien Hybrids
Spock

Consider Spock, the best-known hybrid of them all.

His backstory is loaded with teasing and other evidence of not being accepted. The vaunted tolerant Vulcans aren’t so tolerant when their race is mixed with another’s. This attitude is reflected by a lot of the Vulcans in the earlier seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise.  T’Pol, Soval, and others often look down their noses at humans. And in the fourth season, we humans do it right back to them, as John Paxton has a human-Vulcan hybrid created, Elizabeth Tucker, and the intention is to repulse everyone. But the opposite occurs, and Elizabeth’s death is haunting to not only her parents, Tripp and T’Pol, but also to others who will eventually form the Federation.

Overcompensation

Like we can see happen in the real world, people who don’t easily fit in can often overcompensate, and try to be better than everyone. Is that what happens with the canon character, K’Ehleyr? Possibly. But she’s also immensely talented.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | K'Ehleyr
K’Ehleyr | Alien Hybrids

It’s not overcompensation if you really are that good.

But I can’t help feeling that, sometimes, the writers may have overdone it with her. She can sometimes feel a little bit like the John Prentice character in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and can be a little too good to be true.

Add in a tragic ending and then there’s no way to tarnish her halo, eh?

My Own Hybrid Characters

They run the gamut. And the deeper future should, I feel, have a lot more alien hybrids, and in all manner of different combinations. IDIC means embracing a lot that we, today, would find more than a little peculiar. Here are some stand-out examples.

Interphases

The earliest timeline appearances of alien hybrids fit rather snugly with the canon ENT episode, E2. Since it’s canon that Archer married an Ikaaran, the idea is that there would be other alien brides. For my own sanity, I went with Ikaarans as being the brides in both iterations, although women of different species could very well have been brought aboard.

Aaron Gregory Archer

In the second kick-back in time, he’s the son of Jonathan and Esilia, and weds Lili and José‘s daughter, Maria Elena Torres.

Henry Archer

In the first kick-back in time, he’s the son of Jonathan and Ebrona, and weds Lili and Jay‘s daughter, Madeline Suzette Reed-Hayes.

John Phlox

In the first kick-back in time, he is the first hybrid child born, the eldest of Dr. Phlox and Amanda Cole.

Charles Tucker IV

In the first kick-back in time, he is one of the twin children of T’Pol and Tripp, and becomes the captain after Jonathan dies.

Lorian Cyrus Tucker

During the second kick-back in time, this canon character (his middle name is my own invention) becomes captain upon the death of Jonathan Archer. He is the only child of Tripp and T’Pol.

T’Les Elizabeth Tucker

During the first kick-back in time, she is the other twin child of Tripp and T’Pol.

Times of the HG Wells

Otra D’Angelo

This human-Witannen cross can see temporal alternatives.

Richard Daniels

It is canon for Daniels to say that he is human, more or less. According to the scan that his sister, Eleanor, demonstrates during Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plain, the siblings’ heritage breaks down as follows – 18% Calafan, 4% mirror Calafan, 13% descendant of Neil Digiorno-Madden, 41% descendant of Joss Beckett, 11% human, 5% other mirror human, 8% Vulcan. 

Kevin O’Connor

Kevin is half-human and half-Gorn, and weighs almost a quarter of a metric ton, but he’s the sweetest person you’d ever want to know.

Polly Porter

Polly is partly-Betazoid, but is mostly human and is missing most of the qualities of Betazoids.

Boris Yarin, MD

Boris is a dangerous combination of human, Xindi sloth and Klingon.

Alien Hybrids in Other Stories

D’Storlin

D’Storlin, a human-Xindi Reptilian hybrid has a lot of trouble and takes his frustrations out violently.

Rayna Montgomery

Rayna, a human-Klingon hybrid, gets kicked out of her regular school because she can’t get along with her classmates. Yet her school is full of alien hybrids.

Upshot

Hybrid characters should be a large part of most Star Trek fan fiction, unless the time period is ENT or earlier. And even the ENT era can readily accommodate them. After all, not every hybrid is partially human.

These characters can break and bend the molds of characterizations and species types. What about Vulcans with emotions, or Klingons without honor? Hybrids, it is likely, can change the paradigm in all sorts of ways.

Spotlight on an Original Planet – Paradise

Spotlight on an Original Planet – Paradise

Background

In the E2 Star Trek fanfiction stories, it becomes obvious very quickly that the Enterprise needs a planet.

Ceti Alpha V
Ceti Alpha V

Because, in Reflections Down a Corridor, they have gone back in time, to 2037, the Delphic Expanse is not like it was. They learn from a Xyrillian, Tre’ex, that there are a few unclaimed planets. One of them, known in the prime timeline alternate (the ENT episode, Twilight) as Ceti Alpha V, they claim and hold a contest to name it. The top vote-getter is José Torres‘s choice, Paradise.

In Star Trek canon, the planet is barely habitable, but that’s the prime timeline and an alternate. I like to think that, a good century before, things may have been better.

The planet is also known, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as being the exile location for Khan Noonien Singh and his followers, during the prime timeline.

Paradise in the Delphic Expanse

Spotlight on an Original Planet – Paradise
Paradise

There is no reason why the NX-01 can’t have a beautiful planet. It does work out a lot of plot points, including how to get the crew and their descendants to survive for the ensuing century, and also how to get them to live, and live well, without being detected by either the people on Earth or the aliens of the Delphic Expanse and elsewhere.

The planet has to be habitable in case the ship becomes overcrowded. It has to be arable. And it must be the kind of place where a lot of different kinds of foods can be grown. But I didn’t want things to be too easy or perfect. Hence the Enterprise needs to claim a second planet, Amity. But Paradise works out well just the same.

Highlights of Living and Working on Paradise

Of course, crops are grown there. Malcolm gets his pineapples, and Shelby grows oranges, too, which Will wants. An elaborate tree-planting ceremony is conducted on August 29th of 2037, where holes are dug in the ground and an orange tree and a coconut palm are planted amidst slips of real paper on which the crew have written their anonymous wishes.

During Entanglements, T’Pol suggests that more permanent settlements might be desired on Paradise, as the male to female ratio remains uneven and it might alleviate some of the sniping.

The Three of Us opens with a baseball game on Paradise, and then, eventually, it becomes the location of the first phase of criminal punishments. In Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Paradise cannot be visited too often, as that would interfere with the NX-01 from the first kick back in time. But there is one secret mission there, all the same.

By the end of Everybody Knows This is NowhereParadise survives, but the evidence of civilization is lost. This protects the prime timeline rather neatly.

Return to Paradise

Spotlight on an Original Planet – Paradise

Because of the connection with the Augments, and the eventual damage done to the planet, there can be no return unless a lot of terraforming work is done. In the Times of the HG Wells, Admiral Carmen Calavicci and Rick Daniels do talk about Ceti Alpha V, so it’s not completely gone. Perhaps, by then, things are repaired and restored.

Spotlight on an Original Non-Sentient Species – Procul/Prako

Spotlight on an Original Non-Sentient Species – Procul/Prako

Background

When I wrote the E2 Star Trek fanfiction stories, I decided that the Amity planet would have plenty of wildlife, but that none of it would have developed a backbone. Enter the procul (pronounced PRO-kull; the word is Latin for distant).

Characteristics

Huge, lumbering, and dumber than a box of rocks, procul (also called prako, which is pronounced prah-KO) are essentially giant ambulatory amphibious squid.

Spotlight on an Original Non-Sentient Species – Procul/Prako
Mega Squid (Procul/Prako)

When I dreamt them up, I was thinking about the Animal Planet speculative futurism show, The Future is Wild, and the mega squid.

The image is pretty close to what I’m shooting for, but procul are graced with a total of fourteen legs, and their eye spots (much like are found in flatworms – planaria – here on Earth) are on the underside of the animal. This makes them blind on land but surprisingly graceful underwater as they swim in a manner that we would perceive as being backwards.

Appearances

First seen in the E2 first timeline in Entanglements, no one really knows what to make of them. It isn’t even known whether they are sentient, and communication is even attempted. When it’s determined that they are no smarter than maybe an herbivorous fish, one is shot by Jay Hayes and brought back to the ship for study. Once the study is complete, he brings some pieces to the galley, and Lili cooks them, although she tries it raw first. When she shoves a piece of uncooked procul into Jay’s unsuspecting mouth, he has a rather visceral reaction to what is, essentially, a come-on.

In the prime timeline, prako are offered at a large open-air Calafan market in Local Flavor. Lili inquires about their cost but determines that they are too expensive for her current limited budget. The reader learns that the carcasses have been brought in by Eska hunters. In The Three of Us, it is revealed that Amity is called Archer’s Planet in the prime timeline.

Natural Enemies

Procul only have one known predator (other than sentient hunters) – malostrea, which the Eska call hard devils.

Behaviors

Nothing is known about their behavior in water. However, on land, they herd together, much like cattle. In Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, they are herded by dogs.

Since they are all hermaphrodites, the natural leader is the largest animal, as opposed to, perhaps, a male which would have been analogous to a bull or a stallion. The leader, at times, rears up on its back legs and rubs two forelimbs together. This produces a high-pitched sound, not unlike that of a penny whistle.

They also have chromatophores, and are observed changing colors, from rust to celadon to milky white. They have open circulatory systems, much like is found in mollusks here on Earth.

Upshot

Chameleon-like in coloration, circulation like in a clam, legs like an elephant, call like a cheap wind instrument and dumber than a box of rocks, procul are a bit of a mess, but I like them.