Monday, September 1, 2014

Bourbon Subterfuge

As I wrote about a while back, I've become a bit of bourbon dork/connoisseur, so I'm reading up on the history of the spirit and the current boom of America's spirit. 

Some bourbons and ryes out there craft interesting narratives for their products. Some of them are relatively true, but many of the stories behind the brands should be considered very creative non-fiction, and others stories are outright bullshit inventive marketing lies like the nonsense surrounding Templeton Rye

If you're interested in learning about some of those lies, check out Eric Felton's "Your 'Craft' Rye Whiskey Is Probably From a Factory Distillery in Indiana." 

In the article, you discover the shenanigans of Diageo and smaller producers. One of hyperlinks in the article via Sku's Recent Eats provides a comprehensive list of who is really producing what. 

It's good to see both Cedar Ridge in Swisher and Mississippi River Distilling Co. in Leclaire, Iowa are making their own stuff. I doubt the juice they make is as solid and consistent as many of the products from Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace, and Four Roses, but it's good to see smaller companies out there hustling to make bourbon on their own. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Hangover: West Virginia


As the Crimson Tide has done for almost every first game of the season during the Saban era, Alabama took on a "power conference" team at a neutral site. This season it was the Mountaineers of West Virginia. 

And as usual, Alabama's opponent gave the Tide its best shot. 

As is the trend these days, West Virginia employs a hurry-up-no-huddle (hunh) offense. I hate abhor dislike hunh offenses. 

One of the commentators noted during the game that Saban thought about using some of the concepts of the hunh offense with his new offensive coordinator, but he decided on hiring Lane Kiffin, who runs a pro-style offense that Saban runs. Thank the football gods for that. 

The buzz around the Tide regarding this game related to three questions:

  1. How will Blake Sims do at quarterback, and will Jacob Coker player?
  2. What will the offense look like under Kiffin?
  3. How will the defense do?

So I'll take on these questions one by one. 

Blake Sims did quite well as QB during this game. According to the Alabama media relations office, he had the most completions and attempts in a debut game for an Alabama quarterback. He went 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards for 72.7% completion percentage. He had two poor throws on the run during the game and had one interception. 

A few times in the first half he looked a little shaken, and the team had to take some unnecessary time outs. But he also made some key throws on third down to keep the chains moving. One characteristic I really like about him as a QB is that he's quick, shifty, and highly mobile, so if receivers are covered or the pocket breaks down, his ability to run is an added dimension to the offense. 

Coker played but it was way at the end when the game was at hand. He just handed the ball off.

The offense looked much the same. I was surprised that Kenyan Drake wasn't used much because during spring scrimmages he was often the leading receiver. I was anticipating him being used like USC used Reggie Bush under Kiffin back then. 

As I complain about almost every season, where were the throws to the tight end? Alabama has some talented tight ends, so why not use them? 

Overall though, stats don't lie with this game. The Crimson Tide rolled up these numbers on offense: 
  • 30 first downs (13 rushing, 14 passing, 3 on penalties)
  • 49 rushing attempts, 288 net rushing yards, 5.9 average per rush
  • 250 net yards passing, 10.4 average per completion
  • 538 total yards on offense
  • 4 for 4 on field goals from 47, 41, 27, and 45 yards

Strong performances besides Sims were both Yeldon (132 yards) and Henry (113 yards) with two 100-hundred-yard rushing games. 

Amari Cooper was Sims's security blanket, so he had a career game: 12 catches for 130 yards. 

So why are Tide fans complaining you might ask? 

Defense.

Alabama had two new starters at the middle linebacker spots--Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland--because Trey DePriest was out with some minor infraction, and DePriest was supposed to be the commander of the defense this year. For the most part they did fine, but fine isn't good enough. Foster, in particular, got exposed when he had to cover in zone defense. 

The receiver that gave Tide fans anger and frustration was West Virginia's no. 11, Kevin White, who had 9 catches for 143 yards. Many of those catches were against no. 3, Bradley Sylve, who was with him usually stride for stride but sometimes lost in how his body should be positioned to defend the ball. 

Then again, sometimes a quarterback makes a great throw and the receiver makes an outstanding catch. See below. 



In a bright spot at cornerback, Cyrus Jones had a good game, but I suspect Sylve's starting cornerback spot is in jeopardy unless he performs much better. Eddie Jackson (when healthy) and two true freshmen, Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, will probably vie for that spot. 

A new starter on defense, J.K. Scott, had a good game with one solid punt and a outstanding punt for 62 yards. 

Sophomore Jonathan Allen had two tackles for loss and one sack, and there was some production from the Jack LB position with Xzavier Dickson with two tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Early on in the game, West Virginia had some success running the ball, but that issue got rectified, and the Mountaineers only had 28 net yards rushing for the game. Giving up 365 net yards of passing though does not sit well with Tide fans though. 

Not at all. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Music Friday: "In the Crease" & "Doctone"

In honor of my daughter wanting to be in band and also choosing the saxophone, I offer one of my favorite jazz musicians who is a sax player. 

He's one the artists that really got me into jazz. He's my gateway jazz artist along with his brother Wynton. The second video also features Joshua Redman. 




Friday, August 22, 2014

Stay Positive: Flip Phones

Last week I went to my daughter's 5th grade orientation session. 

During the teacher's presentation, I noticed the dude next to me had a huge smart phone. It was a monster. Some of the smart phones nowadays are getting so big people might as well get one the size of an iPad and put it up to their faces when they talk on them, that is if anyone ever used a phone like the technological gods intended it: for calling people. 

As you might have guessed, I'm a proud owner of a flip phone, and I don't have any plans to change that fact. 

I do have some changes that should be implemented, however: 

  • Quit assuming I text. I don't. 
  • Look at me when I'm talking to you instead of staring at your goddamned phone.
  • Instead of playing on your phones, go exercise or watch nature or have a conversation or take a nap or daydream every once in a while.
  • Don't tell me that I need to get a smart phone. I don't need to do anything.
I get that they are fun devices. I really do. I have an iPad, so I understand the allure of apps and whatnot. I watched a TED talk through its app this afternoon, in fact. 

I just worry about hyperconnectivity. 

I just went on a tangent. My original intent of this post was to make fun of the increasing size of smart phones and put in some good words for flip phones, which are much smaller and don't take up a lot of room in your pocket. 

With so many people with smart phones nowadays, the joke/image below might not even make sense. 


And that's sad because the SNL "Jeffrey's Store" sketch is a funny one. 

Check it out by mashing ----->HERE

Music Friday: "Am I Wrong" & "Old Me Better"

The other day I picked the new album from Keb' Mo'. 

So today I'm offering one the best songs on his first album and a song from the new one, Bluesamericana.




Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reminded of the Zow-Watts Debate

Unless you don't know much about recent Crimson Tide football history, the title of this post might make you think I'm about to discuss politics.

I'm not. This post is about college football. 

Alabama starts the season in a neutral-site opener against West Virginia on the 30th, and Coach Saban has not settled on a starting quarterback. In fact, the team might not have a definitive starter for the first few games, possibly figuring out the starter by the Florida game in Tuscaloosa. 

The QB battle is between senior Blake Sims and recently-transferred-from-FSU Jacob Coker. 

When I was at school at the Capstone, a debate among fans raged about who the starting quarterback should be. The candidates were these two guys.


Andrew Zow




Tyler Watts



As you can see, one guy is African American, and the other guy is white. 

As you would imagine, in the Deep South, I'm sure there were Lazy-Boy pundits who opined about who should start, sometimes using strange reasoning for support. 

The darkly humorous part of the Zow-Watts debate was that their skill sets went against the racist racially normalized predispositions people have when they talk about QBs. Zow was the slower, pocket passer with a heck of an arm. In contrast, Watts didn't have as great of an arm and was more of dual-threat QB.  

As the seasons played out, Zow was a QB, who when he got hot, was phenomenal. When he wasn't on, he was incoherent. Very streaky. From what I recall, Watts was a steadier QB but rarely reached spectacular levels. Eventually Zow was relegated to the bench after Mike Dubose met his deserved demise and Watts took over to direct Franchione's gimmicky partial-option offense.  

Let's check out their stats though. Let's get data-driven. Watts did not play in 1998, and Zow didn't play in 2002. 

Zow 1998: 11 games, 143 completions, 256 attempts, 55.9 completion%, 1969 yards, 7.7 yards ave., 11 TDs, 7 Ints, 129.2 QB rating

1999
Zow: 11 games, 148 completions, 264 attempts, 56.1 completion%, 1799 yards, 6.8 yards ave., 12 TDs, 9 Ints, 129.5 QB rating
Watts: 9 games, 47 completions, 83 attempts, 56.6 completion%, 498 yards, 6.0 yards ave., 2 TDs, 5 Ints, 102.9 QB rating

2000
Zow: 10 games, 120 completions, 249 attempts, 48.2 completion%, 1561 yards, 6.3 yards ave., 6 TDs, 14 Ints, 97.6 QB rating
Watts: 6 games, 31 completions, 51 attempts, 55.4 completion%, 303 yards, 5.4 yards ave., 1 TD, 1 Int, 103.1 QB Rating

2001
Zow: 6 games, 48 completions, 83 attempts, 57.8 completion%, 654 yards, 7.9 yards ave., 6 TDs, 2 Ints, 143.1 QB Rating
Watts: 9 games, 94 completions, 172 attempts, 54.7 completion%, 1325 yards, 7.7 yards ave., 10 TDs, 3 Ints, 135.1 QB Rating

Watts 2002: 11 games, 112 completions, 181 attempts, 61.9 completion%, 1414 yards, 7.8 yards ave., 7 TDs, 4 Ints, 135.8 QB Rating

Because of the offense used during the Franchione regime, Watts had a ton of rushing yards gained: 564 yards in 2000 with 5 TDs and 356 yards in 2001 with 3 TDs.  

If you remember, 1999 was the year the Tide saved Dubose's job by winning an overtime thriller in "The Swamp" and then beat the Florida Gators again in the SEC Championship. 

2000 was easily one of the worst seasons of Alabama football history. If I remember right, the Tide won 3 games, and I have the privilege of seeing one of them when Alabama beat a mediocre South Carolina squad coached by blubbering Lou Holtz. 

Looking at all of this, both guys have pretty evenly matched careers with Watts possibly having a better career because the offense that was implemented in 2001 was more suited to his brand of athleticism. Yet when Zow did play, which might have been mop-up duty (I can't remember exactly), he did well, showing the highest QB rating of any of those years. 

Looking toward this season, we have another QB battle in Tuscaloosa. In contrast to the Zow-Watts (in)decision, we have these candidates.


Blake Sims




Jacob Coker




From the sound of it from fall camp so far, neither candidate has won the job. I expect Coach Saban to play both early on. 

Sims has turned himself into more of a passer by improving his throwing motion after working with a QB guru who has helped some players who are now in the NFL. Coker is prototypical pro-style quarterback with supposedly an NFL-quality arm. 

If I were a betting man, I don't know who I'd put my money on. But I'm pretty confident Saban will not rotate quarterbacks all season. Someone needs to lock down the job by the Florida game. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

This recent strip about happiness from Existential Comics is worth a read. In the bald guy's last counter-example, he's wrong. Happiness can be a both/and deal. The young man who enjoyed "reckless hedonism" was happy then, and the same man but now older with "a life of responsibility" is also happy. He's just a different man with different goals, desires, and aspirations. Happiness is contextual and relative to what that person is like and time. 

Or maybe I was once a fan of "reckless hedonism." 

The other day I was told a person got a divorce. It reminded me of one of my fraternity brothers who liked hearing when someone had gotten a divorce because in his mind, that data point (another person getting a divorce) increased his chances that he wasn't going to get a divorce. 

That's one way to look at it. 

I'm a fan of an interesting map. For your viewing pleasure, check out the Tax Foundation's "The Real Value of $100 in Each State." It's not all that surprising, but for a cheapskate, miserly, frugal person like me, if I ever aim to move, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana are on my radar. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Best Hitters of the 90s

As I was watching the Giants-Cubs game tonight, the announcers talked about how during the current homestand at Wrigley, the Cubs are celebrating the 90s and will be wearing the ugly blue alternate 1994 jerseys that reminded people more of the baseball uniforms of the Cuban National Team rather than the Chicago Cubs. 

One of the announcers, Len or Jim I can't remember, mentioned that Mark Grace was the hits leader of the 90s. 



So I did some investigating and found a Sporcle quiz on the top twenty hitters of that decade. Don't read on just yet if you want to take the quiz.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stay Positive: Viking Finds

I'm very interested in the Vikings, so I'm a big fan of Brian Wood's Northlanders and I have read up on the Vikings. 

Today my oldest brother posted an article on FB about how a Viking ship, a knarr, was found near the Mississippi. 

I was excited. 

Then I did some checking. If a Viking ship was really found in the interior of the US, it would certainly be BIG news and be covered by numerous reputable media outlets. And the Memphis, TN papers didn't have anything on it. 

The article looks bogus, which is disappointing. 

But the positive aspect of this fantasy is that now I'm thinking about buying another book about Viking history. I've already read A History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones, so I'm trying to decide among these books: The Vikings: A History by Robert Ferguson, The Vikings by Else Rosenthal, and The Viking World by James Graham-Campbell. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

Today I made some American Onion Soup. It's the same basic recipe of French Onion, but instead of using cognac, I used some Buffalo Trace bourbon and California wine. I used onions from my garden. American made, people. 



And yes, you're right. that crookneck squash on the right looks slightly phallic. 

I noticed recently that my beard is getting more and more gray hairs. I don't know why I'm getting grey hair there and not so many gray hairs atop my dome. Or maybe my body is deciding that I'm going to lose my hair instead of producing gray hairs. Disturbing. 

This is what middle-aged dudes contemplate I guess. Soup, gray hair, hair loss, a vegetable that looks like a schlong...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Music Friday: "Them Bones" & "Man in the Box"

I've been reliving the wonderful decade of the 90s lately by listening to its music. One album I keep going to is Dirt by Alice in Chains

The first track of that album is below. 



And because I watch a lot of baseball, I'm sharing another of the band's more popular songs. I mentioned baseball because I was watching one game where the commentators were discussing "walk-up songs," and one of the announcers said he'd have the song below as his walk-up song. 

I would imagine the ballpark would need to edit out the curse words though. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Music Friday: "Are You Behind the Shining Star?"

A new album that I liked at the first listen and I'm liking even more with subsequent listens is Wild Animals by Trampled by Turtles. 

Below is a video of the band's appearance on Letterman last night. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

Having spent three subsequent days at Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and Sea World this past week, I have some observations and reflections to share:
  • I'm done with water parks for a very long while. 
  • If you want to see some really horrible tattoos, a water park is the place to go. 
  • To hear British accents outside of Great Britain, the place to visit is Discovery Cove.
  • For overhearing Spanish, go to Sea World.
After observing people at water parks this summer, I wonder if Chinese or Japanese people get tattoos of aspirational or positively vague terms in English on their bodies, words like "love," "strength," "soldier," "peace," "fire," "harmony," "family," "angel," and "beauty." 

HBO's Hard Knocks started this past week. They're following the Atlanta Falcons, a team that has a couple of former Crimson Tide stars on it: WR Julio Jones and OT Mike Johnson, 

Watching that show sometimes gives me some colorful terms that I might be able to repurpose. When they followed the Jets, I remember Rex Ryan haranguing his players about how they need to play like the "New York @#$%ing Jets" and not like the other NFL "slop dick organizations." 

Just in case the Nasty family needs it, this product is available for football Saturdays.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Music Friday: "Forgotten Man" & "Fault Lines"

On Tuesday, Tom Petty put out a new album, Hypnotic Eye

It's a strong offering.

Here's a Music Friday for all of the forgotten men with our fault lines. 




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

As simple pleasures go, one of the best is lying on a couch and reading a good book with the windows open. 

I could think of some other pleasures, but I'll refrain from "going blue" in this post. I sort of went there but then didn't. Or did I? Or did you? 

The book I'm reading now is Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. It's a solid biography. Franklin is one of the most interesting founding fathers. The part I'm reading now makes me dislike John Adams even more than I already did. Franklin said it well when he described Adams this way: "He means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses." 

Sometimes I have cravings for butter beans and lima beans. I ate some butter beans on Monday. I need to make some dishes that use them to spread the gospel of these humble and healthy beans. They're full of fiber that lowers cholesterol. They're a good source of protein, and they don't have a lot of fat. 

Right now I am also on a beets kick. There are good reasons for eating those roots

Oh, and also artichokes, which are also good for you

It'll be interesting if any other Cubs get dealt at the trade deadline. They just moved Barney to the Dodgers for a player-to-be-named-later, but we'll see if Russell, Wright, Ruggiano, and Bonifacio are traded.