Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Stephanie Noble.
For my English class during my semester abroad in London, we had to memorize two poems to recite to the class. The first I learned was “Home Thoughts from Abroad,” by Robert Browning. The second was “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” by William Wordsworth. Today my son found my pocket version of Wordsworth’s poems in my purse. It is just the right size for his toddler hands, so he has been carrying it around with him all day. Seeing it triggered the verses of the poem to play in my mind:
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
Even though six inches of snow fell this weekend, Spring is just around the corner. I know because I saw the daffodils in the grocery store floral department. Even though they won’t push through the ground in our area for another month, knowing that the cheerful yellow trumpets will be arriving soon is enough to get me through the rest of March. Knowing that soon, the windows can be opened to let the winter mustiness out and be replaced with a feeling of rebirth.
Apparently, I am not the only one who appreciates yellow this time of year. Benjamin Moore has chosen Lemon Sorbet as its color of 2013. While the pastel yellow isn’t as strong as the daffodils hue, it is a subtle warming shade.
If pastel yellow doesn’t inspire you, here are a couple bedroom designs that showcase a bolder shade of yellow.
Bold primary yellow from HGTV: http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/must-see-spring-color-trends/pictures/index.html
Blue and Yellow combination from Better Homes and Gardens: http://www.bhg.com/rooms/bedroom/color-scheme/yellow-bedrooms/#page=9
As the snow comes down as I type this while sitting on the couch, Wordsworth’s final stanza is brought to life:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mode,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
One of the benefits of reading a science fiction novel, especially one which twenty-five years old, is that it is bound to come as a smallish paperback which means it is easy to hold in one hand while I read on my side in my bed. I have had several books eagerly awaiting my attention on my bedside table, but the others are all large hardcover books with huge pages; it’s simply too much of a pain to need both hands and to be propped up to read in bed!
This is probably the main reason I picked up Ender’s Game. A friend had once inexplicably given me Ender’s Shadow which is apparently the FIFTH book in the series, despite the fact I had never read the previous four. I brought it with me to Beijing on a trip, again, most probably because it was a smallish paperback and therefore quite portable. To be honest, I don’t remember anything about that book other than its length and its size.
I have heard lots about Ender’s Game; tons of people absolutely adore it. I’m not sure I would go that far. It was a good story and seeing these child soldiers in training, learning how to battle in zero gravity is interesting. And watching the mind of the genius boy Andrew “Ender” Wiggin as he figures out situations is fun to watch unfold. But there’s just so much cruelty, so much that is just cold calculation on Ender’s part…it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. Until finally, towards the end, the kids stop being total jerks. Hooray! All told, it is a good and captivating story and Card is an engaging author. But I’m not rushing out to get the second in the series.
Post by Josh Zinn.
Recently, whilst on assignment in Kuala Lumpur where we were researching the increasing rise of Malaysian youth huffing dried yak blood, my colleague Dena and I, after a long day out in the field, stumbled upon an American television show that was playing in our hotel’s tapas lounge. Tired and slowly coming down from the psychedelic effects of the aforementioned yak fluid (part of being a renowned scientist/movie reviewer is sampling the wares you are assigned to write about), we were in no mood to be subjected to a Southeast Asian version of “The Bachelor” or a program about how the Petronas Towers may be construed as a metaphor for Jessica and Ashlee Simpson. Naturally, our guard was up.
As we relaxed over a beer and a variety of dips and delights, the television screen roared to life with images of people madly running to and fro, clutching werewolf heads and bloody brains in their hands. No, this wasn’t some long lost documentary on the underbelly of Burning Man; this was “Face Off,” the movie makeup competition airing on the SyFy network.
Like most other competition shows on television these days (“Top Chef”, “Project Runway”, etc.) “Face Off” begins with the premise that people like to win things. Not only that, but people like to win things whilst being filmed in confessionals where they are dressed incredibly hip and are armed with a variety of derogatory quips. The show is like high school, but with an advocacy on accentuating, rather than hiding, facial blemishes.
“Face Off” pits these contestants against one another in a series of challenges meant to highlight the positive effects a steady diet of Mt. Dew and Sun Chips can have upon the mind’s creativity. If it weren’t for prepackaged snack food, we soon surmise, who knows whether half these folks would have the ability to shape a zombie groin to the correct level of desiccation needed for its special moment in front of a movie camera. It’s a matter of understanding the natural progression of things and seeing how something flavored “Harvest Cheddar” can enable you to sculpt a really killer witch’s nose.
As Dena and I watched a marathon of episodes (fortunately, tapas is a 24-hour phenomenon in Malaysia), we couldn’t help but wonder if, much like the contestants on “Face Off,” our own talents were being put to a test by a panel of judges whose authority stems from their ability to sit behind a logo-emblazoned desk. After so many reports filed on topics ranging from plants in Kuwait that react negatively to the music of John Mayer to a kind of Norwegian chewing gum that has been linked to demonic possession, we can’t help but feel that there’s got be something more than just receiving a pat on the back from the head of our department. In short, that yak inhalation better win each of us a Prius.
Because of the exposure it gives to the flipside of movie magic as well as the entertainment it provided two Americans coming down from an O+ yak high, I heartily recommend “Face Off.” While it’s true that—unlike, say, “Top Chef”—it doesn’t give suburban viewers the inspiration to host awkward dinner parties where they mistakenly think they can cook, the show nevertheless offers each and every one of us a reason to believe hope can still exist even when the chip bags are empty, the soda cans run dry, and even our sweatpants don’t fit anymore.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
What sound do you hear when you think about falling asleep? Is it the sound of your ceiling fan whirring above, or a noisy heater in another room? Maybe it’s car horns, or other noises from the streets below. Whatever comes to mind, chances are it isn’t complete silence. While you may think that complete silence is the best thing to hear when you’re lying in bed right before drift-off, there are a number of studies that show certain sounds help us sleep better; that silence isn’t necessarily golden when you’re asleep.
Even while your asleep, your brain processes sound to varying degrees depending on your own sensitivity and the type of noise perceived. Some people may be able to sleep through a fire alarm, while others will awaken at the sound of a floorboard creaking on the other side of the house. The type of sound can also aid or disrupt sleep depending on whether it is an alarming sound, like a fire alarm, or a relaxing sound, like waves crashing onto the beach.
Since everyone is different, it’s important to find out what type of sounds relax your mind while sleeping and which ones do not. Below, are several different types of noise that people generally find relaxing. You’ll have to experiment a bit to figure out which one works for you, but it can pay off handsomely once you know.
White Noise is created by combining all the available sound frequencies together into one, similar to how white light is the product of all the other colors in the visible spectrum. Since white noise contains all frequencies, it is often used to mask other sounds. A ceiling fan is a good example of white noise that is commonly used as a sleep aid to drown out unwanted noises. There are also white noise generators that can create the “perfect” white noise, and are generally available for listening online.
Nature Sounds are another popular type of noise to fall asleep to. Whether you prefer the sound of rainfall, waves crashing against the shoreline, birds or wind chimes sounding, or crickets chirping in the night, many people find that listening to the sound of nature helps them sleep better. Additionally, you may find that certain sounds are better for blocking out different types of unwanted noise. For example, rainfall is better at blocking out household noises like appliances.
Music has long been a favorite type of noise to fall asleep to, though it may not actually help you sleep as much as it makes you happy to listen to your favorite band. If you’re goal of listening to music before bed is to actually sleep better, then you should consider very down-tempo, “chill” tracks, like the kind of music you would expect to hear at a massage salon.
Silence some people can’t stand the sound of anything when they are falling asleep, and if you’re this type of person then you have a bit of work cut out for you. Sound proof windows, well-insulated walls, and tuned-up in a very remote location are about all that’s going to
When using sound for better it’s important to experiment and figure out which sounds works best for you. If you’re looking for sleep-inducing sounds, try listening to playlists available through Internet radio stations like Pandora, Spotify, or LastFM for inspiration. And, as noted earlier, you may even find that certain sounds help you sleep better for different occasions, like if the neighbors are being loud one night, or you suddenly can’t stop focusing on the sound of the refrigerator.
Post by Alison Hein.
Shimmery, jewel-toned costumes; exotic bird-like glittering faces; fantastical winged creatures dancing on air – I was snapping photos like crazy at the Grand Mardi Gras parade in Marigot, St. Martin. Not caught on film were the pulsing, thumping rhythm of the crew bands; the beating of traditional wooden drums; the keening of lustered conch shell trumpets; or the tantalizing, honey-sweet to spicy-savory scents of festival food.
After the parade, Kevin and I roamed the temporary alleys formed by vendor carts and tents. We purchased a handful of Mardi Gras Beignets from a grey-haired local woman. She fried them up fresh for us – perfect delicate spheres, lightly dusted in sweet, white sugar. The outside of each beignet was delicate and warm, the inside subtly sweet with a hint of fragrant spice.
Home from our trip, I was determined to replicate our beignet experience. The recipe I found on the St. Martin Tourist Office website seemed a good place to start (see below for address). Try as I might, my beignets turned out looking more like doughy squids and dolphins than the flawless festival rondures in St. Martin. Still, they were light and sweet, lavishly spiced and citrusy – a festive Mardi Gras breakfast in bed.
Oil for frying (4 to 6 cups)
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon rum (optional)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Deep-fry or candy thermometer
Pour oil at least 2 inches deep into a small, heavy pan. Heat over medium heat to approximately 350°. Add water, sugar, butter, and salt to a second heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the butter has melted. Remove from heat, and whisk in flour until batter is well-mixed and smooth. Place pan back over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until dough begins to thicken and pull away from sides of pan, about one to two minutes. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Add the grated lemon rind, vanilla, rum, cinnamon and nutmeg into the flour mixture. Stir until batter is thick and smooth, resembling a thick pancake batter.
Using 2 spoons, carefully drop a scant tablespoon of batter into the hot oil for each beignet. Cook about six beignets at a time, allowing oil to retain its temperature. Turn the beignets several times while frying, until they have reached a deep golden brown color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove beignets from pan and drain on paper towels. Toss with powdered sugar (I use a small paper bag) while still warm. Serve immediately.
Makes about 2 dozen beignets.
NOTE: Monitor oil with candy thermometer to maintain stable temperature.
Adapted from the St. Martin Tourist Office website recipe for Mardi Gras Fritters (http://www.stmartinisland.org/st-martin-focus-of-the-month/93-specials/369-stmartin-culinaryspecialties.html).