March 24, 2008
March 21, 2008
March 19, 2008
Here's a salad that I've been enjoying lately for lunches. Tastes like Springtime!
Citrus Carrot Salad
1lb shredded carrots (you can buy pre-shredded at the store)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
Dump the carrots into a medium sized bowl.
In a small bowl, squeeze the oranges and lemon to get the juice. Add the brown sugar and mix well.
Pour the juice over the carrots and toss well to coat.
Add the raisins and sunflower seeds and toss again.
This is even better if you let the flavors meld overnight.
The best part about this salad is that it's completely adaptable to whatever you happen to have on hand or like. Not a raisin fan? How about some dried cranberries. Have limes but no oranges? Increase the sugar by a bit to compensate for the extra sour. Zest that citrus for an extra kick! Add some diced chicken and/or some chopped avocado. Zing in a dash or two of hot sauce with the juice, or some soy sauce.
Play with your food. Have fun.
March 15, 2008
March 14, 2008
March 12, 2008
Since the beginning of the school year, over 600 students have left the Prince William County school system. Oops, that's not quite correct. Over 600 students have left the "English for Speakers of Other Languages" classes in the Prince William County school system. I haven't heard specific numbers, but apparently a significant percentage of them have dropped since March 3rd, which happens to coincide with the start of our tough new anti-illegal immigration laws.
Doomsayers have been pointing out that the county spent big bucks to train all law enforcement personnel in immigration procedures. Looks to me that we're going to make that up fairly quickly via the schools. Smaller class sizes, fewer teachers needed, less new construction, etc.
I'd be really curious to see figures about the local hospital emergency rooms.
March 08, 2008
Lust for a Vampire
Theres something about a Hammer film. Something beyond the gratuitous nudity and the bright crimson blood and the lush symphonic musical score. They have a distinctive look and understated yet luscious style which contrasts nicely with the characters, which tend to be just the slightest bit over the top. Lust for a Vampire is a sequel to The Vampire Lovers, which was loosely based on the 1872 story Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. The title was obviously picked to titillate and obscures the fact that amongst the blood and fangs is a story about the power of love. It takes place in a generic European region where the villagers speak English, dress in a vaguely Bavarian manner and often mention Vienna as the closest prominent city.
Every forty years, the vampire inhabitants of Karsteins Castle reincarnate and feast their way through the local villager population. The year is 1830, which means that its about that time again. We meet Richard Lestrange, who has just arrived to the area. He happens to be one of the premier supernatural authors of his day, and hes there to be inspired and to write about local legends. He doesnt actually believe any of the superstitious nonsense that the townspeople are warning him about, and he barely tries to hide his amusement at their assertions. Not that they care what he thinks. Theyve warned him, and how he takes the warning is up to him.
Lestrange is of the privileged class. Hes also a horndog on perpetual prowl and there isnt a woman safe when hes around. Lucky for him theres a womans finishing school right nearby, brimming with lovely, impressionable young students. He quickly uses his name and reputation to gain access to the school, and with a cheeky bit of subterfuge manages to become the new English Literature professor.
Up in the castle, a ritual is underway. The boss evil dude who looks like Dante from Clerks, in about another ten years pours a chalice of virgins blood over a desiccated skeleton in a coffin. He intones a chant and beseeches Lucifer to Turn now this fresh, warm blood into a body of thine making, this innocent spirit into evil.
Wouldnt it figure? Pure evil comes to life as a blond woman.
Girls, both villager and from the school, begin disappearing. Lestrange believes that the vampire stories may be true (hes seen first-hand evidence), but oddly enough he doesnt actually do much of anything about it. Hes reluctant to voice his suspicions, and his first instinct when the subject arises is to scoff. Hes an educated man, and doesnt want to seem to be too like the local yokels.
The film has several intertwined storylines and it isnt until about halfway through that you finally learn how all of the mysterious characters fit in. Thats not to say that all the subplots make sense or are all that tightly woven together. There are several places in the movie where a logical or potential horrific progression is bypassed in favor of a romantic interlude or extra gratuitous boobage. Although I hate to complain about young, beautiful, busty naked ladies, sometimes the brief cut to schoolgirls kissing each other just doesnt make up for derailing the main story. This film could have been made without a single bare breast and I believe it might have improved things.
The vampires are mostly traditional, in that they are repelled by the cross and must be staked through the heart. They also have the ability to mesmerize a person with their eyes, which was always my favorite vampire power. On the other hand, daylight doesnt affect them. What keeps this group from becoming overly powerful is the fact that they dont add a bunch of newbie vampires to their group. As far as theyre concerned, there are two groups: existing vampires and food.
The vast majority of the movie takes place at the finishing school. The castle figures heavily at the beginning and then is almost entirely forgotten until the end, when were treated to a good ol torch bearing mob, led by a Cardinal in red robes.
The real standout actor of the cast is Ralph Bates, who plays an obsessive teacher at the school. His character is eccentric and memorable, and he does a fine job of playing the quirky role without falling into the trap of being weird just for the sake of weirdness. Bates was being groomed to replace Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in Hammer movie roles, but he came along during Hammers steep decline and never achieved the greatness that his predecessors did, although the potential is definitely there.
Like many Hammer movies, Lust for a Vampire is a beautiful movie. The countryside is stunning and the sets are atmospheric. Not really minimalist, instead the various sets contain enough to effectively place the scene. Whereas a bedroom might be fully furnished right down to the pictures on the walls, the tavern is suggested by a few tables and a bar that seems to float into the scene out of nowhere. In both cases, it is sufficient.
The widescreen print itself is clear and bright, which is nice, but what kills this movie is the amateurish editing. During one sequence, we are treated to a sudden close-up of fake-looking bloodshot eyes that are supposed to be the head vampire. Whats jarring is that the eyes rather obviously dont belong to him! Its these kinds of shots that are seemingly edited in at random, for whatever reason, and it just breaks the flow of the story. During one romantic scene, a sickening-sweet love ballad blossoms on the soundtrack. Where did that come from? Its glaringly out of place and does nothing but detract from the movie as a whole.
Something that amused me: the menu screen shows a Christian Cross to indicate the various choices, and when you select something the cross inverts. Nice touch, and it ties in with a minor point in the story.
As for extras on the disk, theres a theatrical trailer and several radio spots (with a nude montage of the beautiful Yutte Stensgaard in the background). Also included is a poster and stills gallery, which includes some haunting artwork. The publicity stills tended to play up the sexual aspects and lesbianism in the story. Brief bios of director Sangster, actor Ralph Bates (who was, incidentally, also Louis Pasteurs grandson), and Yutte Stendsgaard, whos career lasted only nine films in less than five years. Finally, theres a commentary track with director Sangster, actress Suzanna Leigh and a Hammer Films historian. It was ok; not the best, not the worst Ive heard.
Lust for a Vampire is the middle piece of Hammers Carmilla trilogy (The Vampire Lovers and Evil Twins round out the set), and according to many its the weakest of the three. Its not as bad as its reputation suggests. Its not as good as it could have been.
March 07, 2008
Get it on!
March 05, 2008
She Who Must Not Be Named vs. He Who Must Not Be Middle-Named.
Really Proud to be Downright Mean
Now all I need is corporate sponsorship.
*Assuming I ever get around to creating one.
March 03, 2008
Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.
If you're like me, you're often jotting down URL's or notes about this and that that you come across online. What Evernote does is automate that process, allowing you to select text, snippets of spreadsheets, email, entire screen prints, and much more to an electronic notepad. Plus, you can do it instantly because Evernote puts a button on your browser bar, making it as simple as select and click.
The real power comes in the application itself, because you can easily sort and organize in all kinds of useful ways. The search function is awesome too.
I'm not going to give an in-depth review or run down all of the features, and this isn't a sales pitch, but I do recommend checking out their website and watching the demo (flash). Evernote has been well worth the money (inexpensive and great value), and if you could use its capabilities then I think you'd like it.
March 02, 2008
First up, how to build a Spider House.
People have houses. Dogs have houses. Birds have houses. Even butterflies and bats have houses. Let's learn how to build a spider house.
Why in the world would you build a spider house? Firstly, spiders are fascinating creatures and it's neat to be able to go outside and watch one doing its spider-thing in a frame that you built. Secondly, spiders eat a lot of pesky insects, including some that might be eating the plants in your vegetable or flower garden.
Thin wood such as grapestake. What you're looking for is wood about the size of what yardsticks are made out of, something about one to two inches wide and one-quarter inch or less thick. Grapestakes are cheap, come in bundles and are about six feet long. Perfect.
Wood glue. Waterproof or exterior is better, but even hot-melt glue will work.
String or twine. You'll only need this if you want to hang your spider house instead of sticking it into the ground.
Before you begin, cut out four pieces of wood about 12 inches long. Next, cut out two pieces about 3 inches long. A hand saw works fine for this. Save the rest of the grapestake, you'll use it later.
1. Put two of the 12 inch pieces next to each other as shown below. Put a good spot of glue on each end, where the gray circles are on the diagram.
2. Take the other two 12 inch pieces and lay them across the glue spots as shown above, to make a square. Clamp the corners or place something heavy on them (make sure to clean up any glue that oozes out!) and let the glue dry.
3. Those two short pieces that you cut will be attached to the square frame so they make a little nook for the spider. This gives the spider protection from the rain and a place to hide when it feels threatened.
4. Time for more spots of glue. The spot shown is where you'll put the glue on each side (front and back) of the frame.
5. Glue the two short pieces to the frame as shown. The front one is sideways and the rear one is on the other side of the frame and runs in the same direction. This creates the little hidey-hole. Clamp or weight down and let dry.
Next, decide how you want to display your spider house. You can glue the remaining length of grapestake to the bottom corner and stick it in the ground in your garden, or you can tie some string or twine through one corner and hang it. Either way, there should be some protection from the wind and elements or spiders will find it unsuitable and look elsewhere to live. Like inside your house.
This makes a fairly large frame, and all of the measurements are flexible. Make smaller ones if you'd like, even popsicle sticks can be used (although you'd likely have smaller spiders take up residence there). If you build something bigger than about three feet square, I don't want to know what decides to live there.
After you place your spider houses, wait a couple of days and you'll see webs being built inside the frames.
Historically, spring is a time of heavy fighting in this region [of Afghanistan] as the terrorists and insurgents emerge from their caves after the harsh winter temperatures and snows. Let's show these Soldiers how much support they have from home to help them through the spring and the remainder of this long and dangerous deployment.
Our paratroopers are in the fight of their lives and they need to hear that America loves them.
Please send an email of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can mail cards to:
P O Box 100
Cordova, TN 38088
It only takes a minute to say thank you.
March 01, 2008
Today I took Butterscotch back to the rescue. She was a sweet bunny, very loving and gentle, and being realistic I think the problem was Ozzie. But sometimes that's how it works out.
I came back with a little doe named Midnight, and we'll try again for a few weeks. If this doesn't work out, we'll see about other options (there are several). Cross your fingers, because even with all the rabbit's feet in the house, we need all the luck we can get.
The rabbit rescue we work with is Bunny Lu. Give 'em a visit and hit their donation jar if you feel so inclined.
I finished up my last bit of official work for the reports team yesterday, and am already waist deep in analysis tasks. It's exciting because there's so much to learn, and I always loved that kind of environment. It's also going to be more stressful because at any time I'll typically have multiple projects that I'm working on, so juggling without fumbling is something I'm going to have to get better at, pronto. Hell, as the new guy I already have three, two of which may be short time frame (unsure at the moment), plus a couple of other things to get done "when I have spare time". Plus the numerous tasks I kept when I moved to the new team ("do a good job, and you keep the job forever").
So life is good. Busy, but good.
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