Brandied Pecans

This recipe is one of my holiday favorites that everyone else seems to love as well. The original is from the “black sheep” side of Jenny Wible’s family (so says the recipe!) although I’ve modified it a bit over the years. Because of how popular they are, I always double the recipe below when I make it.

Brandied Pecans

  • 3c pecan halves
  • 2T butter, melted
  • 1/3c water
  • 3/4c brown sugar
  • 1T brandy

Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Spread pecans on baking sheet, dot with butter, and roast at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Turn off the oven and crack the door to keep the pecans warm. Be careful not to burn the pecans!

In a 4qt saucepan combine sugar and water on high heat. Stir with a long wooden spoon (trust me on the wooden bit) until it boils. Continue to boil to soft ball stage (about 234 degrees F). Take off heat and beat until creamy. Add alcohol and nuts and mix well until the pecans are thoroughly coated.

Spread in prepared baking pan to cool. Break apart with a fork and eat.

Tip: Keeping the pecans warm makes the sugar mixture apply evenly without forming crystals (which are perfectly edible, but not as pretty). If you’re really quick you can roast the pecans and do the sugar mixture in parallel, but I would suggest waiting until your second attempt before doing so.

Moving from LiveJournal to WordPress

Yesterday I moved my blog from LiveJournal, where I’ve had it for the past 10 years, over to Thankfully the WordPress import did an amazing job and was able to bring over all the posts (with tags) as well as comments. A few hours customizing the blog template, and presto, we have conversion.

The primary impetuous for this change was the desire to sunset Kreizler, the antiquated Linux server that runs While it use to do much more, for the past few years it’s been running a custom script that would download the most recent dozen blog posts, reformat them, and display them. And you don’t need a full physical Linux system to do that.

WordPress gives me the ability to present this blog as my home page in a way that LJ doesn’t. WordPress also provides more modern, and mobile-friendly, templates as well as a richer interface and more established community.

So, hello WP community! :)

A contrast in how science and technology drives plot

In the past few months I’ve read two absolutely amazing science fiction books that I highly recommend: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie1 and The Martian by Andy Weir. Looking back on them, one of the fascinating things to me is how they use science and technology (hereafter S&T)2 to drive the plot.

Aside: this is a spoiler-free post, although it does talk about some overarching themes.

The plot of both books involve a study of the human condition. In The Martian it’s about human perseverance and ingenuity. In the Ancillary series, it’s about what it means to be human and what values that encompasses.

In The Martian, the force of the plot revolves around interacting closely with the limits of S&T. You see the main character solving problems on how to stay alive with the technology available to him vs the laws of the universe as we know them. The author went to great lengths to make the book as realistic as possible, something that makes it very engaging and relatable. If the S&T in the book had been distinctly different than what you and I know it would have been much less real, and thus much less engaging. I would even argue that while clearly hard science fiction, it is so realistic it feels like it could have been a documentary of events in the near future.

In contrast, the Ancillary series has a completely difference tact to S&T as we know it. It unveils a universe with laws that seem very much like our own, but yet has technology that skirts the edges of what seems possible (ie: ancillaries, shields, gate space). The plot requires this almost-magic technology to exist, but doesn’t dwell on it. Instead, the author presents the technology with sensible limitations, and then uses it to drive the human-centric plot. It would have been impossible to tell this story without violating the S&T as we know it.

Thus you have two books who use S&T completely differently to drive their plots — one which adheres strictly to S&T as we know it, and another which intentionally stretches it outside of our norm — all to focus on the human condition. If you enjoy science fiction, I would encourage you to add both to your reading list.

1 Actually, I read all three books in the series: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and the newly-released Ancillary Mercy — all of which are great.

2 Daniel and I had a somewhat heated discussion in which we debated what actually counts as science and technology. Being an actual scientist he argued that science is a process of study, not a thing in and of itself, whereas technology is a tool. Me being the engineer argued that science is synonymous with fundamental laws of nature and technology is our interaction with them. We agreed that we really needed a new noun for discussing what we really wanted to focus on in these books, which was the interaction with the fundamental laws of physics without calling it either science or technology. We decided on “octopus cucumbers” during that discussion. I’ve decided to use S&T instead so you’ll think I’m less crazy than I actually am.