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Hawt Apps

January 11, 2008

In the past week, while preparing for more freelancing and ways to maximize my productivity (and feeling of contact with the outside world), I’ve started using a host (a host, I say!) of new programs and applications for everything from blogging to blog-reading, to writing and outlining. Some of these are temporary (that is, demo) solutions or experiments. Others are, fingers crossed, more long-term.

Here’s what I’m using and why you should be trying them, too:

Firebug for Firefox gives you a startlingly informative look at the HTML and CSS of any site you visit. I see this as an educational tool, more than anything, so whether you’re experienced with the internet language or are just a curious noob, do get this free thing.

Scribefire for Firefox lets me write blogs in a little window that overlaps my various tabs and stuff. It’s awkward insofar as it does not feel like WordPress’s interface (which I use for serious blogging), but is good for little notes and quick updates. Also, for this one.

NetNewsWire is now free! (Thanks to Adam Emo for the notice.) This is the only feed-reader I’ve ever really liked, but I didn’t want to shell out for it. No worries, now. In general, I actually don’t like feed-readers that much, ’cause I like to go and see site designs and get the whole local experience, but this is great for letting me know when to go and take a look at various sites. If you’re using some other feed-reader, do give this a shot now that it’s free. Free! It’s free. By the way.

I’m experimenting with Scrivener again, and liking it better than I did before. My gut reaction is still that I’d rather use real note cards and stuff, but also that I am not using this software to the best of its ability. I’m just on a free trial of it right now, but if it helps me with the comic script I want to work on, or the short fiction I’m writing currently, then it may be worth the $40 at some point down the line. As I’ve said before about this software, though, do give the free trial a shot.

Celtx, meanwhile, is totally free and quite nice for scripting of various sorts. You can keep your Final Draft and its hideous expense — this free software more than makes up for any absent features by being, you know, free. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I dig free programs. Like, a lot.

Music: Soul Coughing, “$300”

Powered by ScribeFire.

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New Design, New Location

October 19, 2007

Another new page design for the blog on the new site is now up. I expect to be moved to this blog full-time in a day or so. Prepare to update your bookmarks and RSS readers, both of you.

The new look is, uh, really brown. I don’t expect this one to last too long, but at least I’ve gotten this layered-letters look out of my system for a while. Opinions? You know I love them. Give them here.

See the new site here: http://thegist.wordstudio.net

Notice, please, that it’s wordstudio.

Music: Andrew Bird, “A Woman’s Life and Love”

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CHUD: NUMB3RS

October 18, 2007

My first DVD review for CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) has gone live. This time out, I take a look at the third-season DVD set of NUMB3RS. Do check that out, if you care about such things. At least two more reviews in this vein are coming soon.

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One Possible Look

October 17, 2007

Having recently changed hosts for wordstudio.net, other things are on the move in its wake. For one thing, I’ll now be hosting The Gist on my own site, with my own (precious, precious) MySQL databases. This means I won’t be hindered by the restrictions of the (still magnificent) free hosting at WordPress.com. This also means it’s time to redesign all the sites of the Wordstudio family. re:Paper just got a new look. I spent most of this afternoon cutting and lifting the face of this blog, too. Only, not here.

Check out the rough sketch of the new blog over at the future home of the new blog:

thegist.wordstudio.net.

(Note: That’s wordstudio, not wordpress.) Don’t update your bookmarks yet, though, because I’m not settled on that look yet (I’m not sure, but I think I may actually hate it) and might go through a dozen more changes before I settle on something.

Opinions are mandatory. What do you think of the new look?

Music: She Wants Revenge, “First, Love”

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The Red Damn Baron

October 16, 2007

You know me. Any one biplane is usually enough to get me in front of a movie. With Lena Headey and a hundred biplanes (plus triplanes, plus zeppelins), the forthcoming German film, The Red Baron, is now engaged to be married to my money. (It’d have to be pretty bad to keep me from buying the DVD. I own Flyboys.)

Oh, and that logo? Indecipherable, perhaps — my wife thought it said “The Hed Barm” — but I love it anyway. If you’re still on the fence (traitor), look at this glorious effects reel from the film and listen to yourself say “wow.”

Music: Clem Snide, “Evil Vs. Good”

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The Nuts

October 14, 2007

Alas, not a poker post. Instead, I’ve been tinkering the last few days with spiced and roasted nuts, both sweet and savory. (I’m at home, I figure I should be in the kitchen at least part of the day.)

They’re super-easy to make, very forgiving in their recipes, and then, after all the spicing and the cooking, you get to eat them. Good stuff. That said, for all that they’re easy, I burned the hell out of the first batch. Burned them black and brown, straight through. The batches since then, though, have each been good in their own ways.

If you want to try something similar, here’s what you do:

Sweet Cashews

Sweet Cashews

4 cups unsalted cashews
4 tablespoons butter
a little shy of 6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed/powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground orange peel
some nutmeg
some salt

Mix all those spices, except the salt, in a little bowl and set them aside. Don’t lose them.

Get a saucepan, something with a lot of surface area, and put it over medium heat. (Don’t use a wok — I tried that, and not enough nuts were hot enough at the same time.) Better to use too little heat than too much. Cashews toast fast.

Put those cashews into the saucepan. They’re start to smell good almost immediately. You could pop a few out of the pan and into your mouth, but they’re, you know, in a saucepan over medium heat, so be careful. Stir them around for four or five or more minutes, and toss some salt in there with them. Even better: grind sea salt on them. Sea salt’s great. If some of the cashews are getting a little (or a lot) browned on the sides, I think that’s a good sign, because that is genuine toasting, and those cashews are going to taste great.

But it’s time for butter. Put the butter in the pan and stir it all around. A good measure for time I found: Put in that half stick as a stick and keep it all moving until there’s no more stick, just buttery cashews.

Next, sprinkle on that mix of spices. Do it in a few batches, maybe thirds, so you can get the cashews into the brown-sugar glaze that’s forming. Stir like crazy. I didn’t stir enough and I ended up with a bunch of brown-sugar goop all over, which sounds like it would taste great, and maybe is, if you like to just in front of the TV and eat brown sugar. (Looking at you, wife.)

Oh! You know what? If you got a good lid for that saucepan, put it on and toss those cashews like you were stir-frying shrimp or something. That ought to work.

When they’re done, pour them onto a cookie sheet with or without aluminum foil. (How will you know when they’re done? My experience has been that they’re done about 60 seconds before I stop stirring them.) Spread them out into a single layer. Eat a few. Remember: they’re hot. Also, at this point, they’re probably gooey. Scrape out any excess brown sugar goop. Maybe give some of that to the dog, if she’s good.

Let them cool about an hour. (Good luck not touching them for an hour.) You should end up with tasty, sweet cashews with a soft glaze and uneven coating of spiced brown sugar. These isn’t the kind of recipe that yields a lethal, teeth-splitting candy shell. If, through the delicate alchemy of the process, you end up with something unexpected, don’t look at me. I pretty much just cross my fingers and put in cinnamon when I don’t know what to do.

Savory Cashews

Savory Cashews

about 2 cups unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons butter
roughly 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed/powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon or so jerk seasoning
too much garlic
several pinch-fulls of herbes de Provence (which you know I love)
a whole bunch of sea salt

The first time I tried these, I dressed them all up and then roasted them on the grill. Smelled great. Were ruined. I also made my classic mistake of putting a little bit of every damn spice I like or like the name of, which created a taste with no particular flavor. It was okay, but it wasn’t exactly compelling eating. My mouth was all, “Uh, okay, but I don’t know what this is.”

This time I just mimicked the sweet recipe but tossed in a bunch of savory junk. I’d read a recipe for rosemary roasted cashews that also used brown sugar, so I figured what the hell. Everybody likes brown sugar, right? Or, rather, my wife likes brown sugar, right? I put some in, and thought of it as insurance. Plus it helps the spices stick, and keeps stuff from getting too hot. (I love it when you eat something, and it’s sweet, and then it’s spicy, so you go back for more to get the sweet back, and get caught in that delicious cycle.)

The jerk seasoning I used was McCormick’s, which is mostly sugar, red pepper, thyme, allspice, salt and onion. All the sugar in there, combined with all the brown sugar I put with it, ended up with these savory things still being pretty sweet. Also, I only used about two-thirds of the spices and brown sugar I listed. It seemed like too much brown sugar. So, to counterbalance the spices that didn’t get added because they were mixed in with the brown sugar I didn’t add, I put in a bunch more garlic and jerk seasoning.

Anyway, the routine here is the same as above: medium heat, toast, butter, spices, stir, stir, stir, spread out, cool. If it doesn’t come out looking like the picture, or tasting any good, I don’t know what to tell you. I pretty much just cross my fingers and put in lots of garlic when I don’t know what to do.

Music: PJ Harvey, “The Devil”

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re:Paper Anew

October 13, 2007

Whew. After a rush to get it done in time for the fall festivals, I’ve finished the redesign of Sara’s website for re:Paper. (That, you’ll recall, is her hackbooking and photography operation.) The new site has its very own URL (www.re-paper.net), a newly modified WordPress theme, Etsy widgets, and everything. For the little time I had to spend on it, I think it turned out all right. (Though I still have a lingering commenting problem to sort out.)

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