This blog will host my ramblings about life. To be a bit more specific, I'll probably focus on these subjects: music, sports, food, the everyday beauty of life, and the comedy/tragedy/absurdity of our existence. That about covers it.
While Andre Smith will go in the first round of the NFL draft, Alabama is recruiting a ton of offensive linemen, two of whom could play left tackle next season--D. J. Fluker and two-year college transfer James Carpenter. And if the mammoth offensive tackle Bobby Massie commits on signing day, the Tide will have three new guys to compete with offensive tackles already at the Capstone.
For an entertaining look at one of Alabama's prized recruits, click HERE. Funny stuff.
For an interesting legit article on this guy from SI, click HERE.
The eminent American writer, John Updike, passed away today.
Click HERE for the AP story about Updike, and the "Books" section of the NY Times provides a a bit more detailed look at Updike's contribution to American letters, which can be accessed HERE.
Although I haven't read any of his work in a long while, I did my Master's thesis on his four Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom novels. The main character is an American Everyman of sorts, a guy concerned with money, sex, sports, and getting ahead. Those four novels are also mirrors of America.
Coach Mark Gottfried, the head basketball coach at Alabama, resigned today. After taking over a program pretty much in ruins in 1998 when I started school at the Capstone, Gottfried coached the Tide to a number of NCAA appearances and once got them to the "Great Eight," a feat Wimp Sanderson never achieved.
Although I think Gottfried has always seemed like a good guy, his teams did underachieve quite often, especially the past few years. Alabama played a style of offense that was outdated and stale--that damn high-post offense of John Wooden's teams at UCLA.
I wouldn't say I'm particularly sad about this resignation. Although for the past seven years I've lived in an area where Alabama basketball games are rarely televised, I watched some Alabama games from time to time. But watching that methodical, awful offense drove me crazy.
I do remember one of the best moments I've had as a fan though. In '02 my wife and I were at the game where the Tide clinched the SEC regular season title by a last second lay-in by Antoine Pettaway. That was a heck of a game and a hell of an ending.
Click HERE to read a short blurb about how a distributor in Illinois is shipping complimentary Schlitz to soldiers celebrating the Super Bowl in Iraq.
I happened upon this wonderful factoid on Draft magazine's website. Until today I had never heard of that magazine. But as I went toward the checkout at my local grocery store, a magazine with a large glass of beer and the headline of "Best Beer of 2009" caught my attention.
If you're a connoisseur of microbrews, craft beers, and smaller breweries, this is the magazine for you. There's an article about Portland, Oregon, the city nicknamed "Beervana." And they also have an article that provides a list of the "best beer bars in America."
In the Midwest category of "beer bars," establishments in the cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Kansas City are well represented. In fact, the KC area's representatives are Barley's Brewhaus, Blanc Burgers & Bottles, The Dish Famous Stuffed Pizza, The Foundry at McCoy's, Grinders, and Harry's Country Club. In contrast, the St. Louis area is only represented by Blueberry Hill and Growler's.
In the online platform of this magazine is another interesting article about what beer an author suggests for the Obama administration. Click HERE for "Real Beer Returns to the White House."
Tomorrow I brew an "old ale" of my own recipe, so my mind is on beer.
As you can imagine, I enjoyed Obama's inaugural speech.
But I found the media's reaction to the speech a bit odd. The talking heads instantly started comparing the speech to past ones, and to many of their tiny little minds it didn't compare to Lincoln's second inaugural or Jefferson's first (my favorite).
People seem to be disappointed that his speech wasn't as good as Lincoln or Jefferson's. That's a tough challenge. Good luck with that.
In a world of sound bytes, many weren't happy that there wasn't one snippet that could be beaten into our heads such as "The only thing to fear is fear itself," "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," or "Does this suit make me look fat?" (Taft).
Regardless, although I'm no political "scientist," I can't remember an inaugural address that invokes the crossing of the Delaware. Interesting metaphor for where are country is right now.
And I really enjoyed that President Obama took on either-or thinking. Part of the speech was a stinging indictment of the past eight years and how we need to move the country in a much better direction.
Although President Bush has been a lame duck for quite a while, I offer this link from Harper's. In the January issue, the magazine did a special Harper's Index devoted to the past eight horrible years.
I also wanted to provide a link to Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz's informative essay entitled "The $10 Trillion Hangover: Paying the Price for Eight Years of Bush," but Harper's will only give online access to current subscribers like me. That article by the former assistant secretary for administration, management, and budget within the Department of Commerce and a Nobel Prize winner in economics is sobering.
I will provide some passages of note though:
"The worst legacy of the past eight years is that despite colossal government spending, most Americans are worse off than they were in 2001. This is because money was squandered in Iraq and given as a tax windfall to America's richest individuals and corporations, rather than spent on such projects as education, infrastructure, and energy independence, which would have made all of us better in the long term."
"The Obama Administration, facing the most serious economic crisis in at least a generation, will need to mount an expansionary fiscal policy. The problem is how much the country's debt mountain will crimp our ability to pay for the type of change we just voted for--better health care, public investment in alternative forms of energy, and a renewal of our aging roads and bridges--and that we need in order to rescue the economy."
"Whether we struggle to break our addiction to deficit spending in order to pay off our debts, or wind up inflating them away, the economic mistakes of the George W. Bush White House will cast a long shadow over the next generation of Americans."
That history will not vindicate the Bush administration.
Click HERE for what I think is an interesting article about how knowledge about government and our responsibilities as citizens need to be fully integrated into school curricula across the nation.
The author, Eric Lane, puts forward an ambitious proposal for fully integrating civic literacy into our schools.
Lane ends the article in this way: "America, unlike most of the world's nations, is not a country defined by blood or belief. Rather, it is an idea, or a set of ideas, about freedom and opportunity. It is this set of ideas that binds us together as Americans. That's why these ideas have to be taught. Our understanding and appreciation of them is how we grade our civic literacy. We are now failing, and heading toward what the philosopher Michael Sandel has called a 'storyless condition,' in which 'there is no continuity between present and past, and therefore no responsibility, and therefore no possibility for acting together to govern ourselves.' We need civic education to reverse this course."
If you're interested, click HERE for a recent article by EMagazine about the surge in wind energy production and projects in the past few years.
Thankfully, as the author points out, "more and more equipment [wind turbines] is being manufactured in the U.S. Where 70% of wind power equipment used to come from Europe just a few years ago, it 's down to about 50% today."
Denmark and Germany have been the leaders in building wind turbines for years, and it's a positive development that US companies are getting into the market, especially since shipping the parts for those big things is costly.
What needs to also happen is some type of support and/or equal playing field for smaller-scale wind farms that help rural communities, as is discussed in this related article (HERE).
The B(C)S Championship game just happened yesterday, and Tony Barnhart already has a pre-season top 25 out. Click HERE to read his top 25.
I think Ole Miss is the front runner in the SEC West. Alabama has too many crucial positions to shore up (left tackle, center, quarterback, and safety where Rashad Johnson pretty much ran the defense) to take another shot at the National Championship. But I hope to be proven wrong.
And now today it's clear that starting running back, Glen Coffee, is going pro.
After traveling quite a bit during my first ('02) and second ('07) academic job searches compounded the other airline travel I've done over the years, I've come to a stunning hypothesis.
Here it is: Air travel makes people drink tomato juice.
I've been on a lot of planes over the years, and I'm usually surprised by how many people ask for tomato juice when the flight attendant does the rounds. This phenomenon has to contrast the overall yearly sales in supermarkets, doesn't it? I mean, are that many people drinking straight tomato juice on regular basis?
Is it the power of suggestion and/or imitation? Some bozo at the front of the plane asks for tomato juice, other people see that supple red liquid being poured, and they want some.
Or is it because when many people travel on vacations they see tomato juice as something different from their normal routines? They're flying damn it, so let the Beefsteak juice pour, baby.
Here's another observation I made over holiday break: Disney is a good place to go if you're a connoisseur of bad tattoos.
I pretty much winged it today when I made some soup.
A while back I bought a "value pack" of chicken thighs, so I made some stock by simmering six chicken thighs in 8 cups of water. According to the instructions I had for making chicken stock, I threw in some stalks of celery, four carrots cut up into large chunks, one whole yellow onion chopped roughly, a bit of salt, and some cracked black pepper.
After two hours of simmering, I set aside the chicken thighs and strained the stock. I put the stock in a large crock pot and added some store-bought chicken stock that I had left over.
I picked apart the six chicken thighs, chopped up all the good meat, and gave the less than desirable meat to Darby, my dog. The good meat went into the crock pot, and I got to work on putting the ingredients below into the pot:
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 can of dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can of great northern beans, drained
5 carrots, chopped into medallions
kosher salt to taste
cracked black pepper, approximately two tablespoons
herbs de Provence, approximately two tablespoons
smoked paprika, approximately one tablespoon
After cooking the soup in the crock pot on high for two hours, I turned it down to low and simmered it on low for four hours.
Overall, it turned out pretty well. The thigh meat became stringy, but that's no big deal to me. When I make it again, I plan to add another can of kidney beans, maybe some frozen peas, and more carrots.
As I read in The Economist a little while ago, there's a growing desire for hot foods and hot peppers. Click HERE for "Global Warming: Why the World Has Taken to Chilies" if you're interested in reading about a different effect of globalization. The Dorset naga pepper, which is also profiled in article, makes habaneros look like two-bit chumps of chilies.
This article got me thinking about hot sauce. I'm not a major "heat geek" as the author describes folks who like hot foods, but I do like some hot sauce adding a bit of "wang" to cuisine from time to time.
I don't like the extremely hot sauces though. I'm partial to the Mexican staple, Cholula. And I also like ole Louisiana Hot Sauce too. When I was at a store a good while back, I picked up a hot sauce I had never seen before. It's called Pepperdoux's, and its makers pitch it as "French Louisiana Pepper Sauce." It uses "aged Tabasco peppers," but it's not as hot as Tabasco--more mild but flavorful.
Click HERE if you want to read a knowledgeable take on the Burris appointment by the Governor-for-Now of Illinois. Clarence Page cuts through the crap.
Roland Burris has stated publicly that "The appointment is legal. That is all there is. I don't know what all the confusion is about."
I wonder if he was wearing a jester suit when he said that. Sure, I guess it is legal since Blago is still Governor for now, but that certainly isn't "all there is."
The sad part of all of this is that Rush and his colleagues are trying to prey upon white guilt. While I certainly would like to see a more diverse representation in the Senate (not just race, but also maybe non-millionaires), making Obama's old Senate seat a "black seat" is tokenism. For Bobby Rush to label the Senate's reticence to Burris becoming a Senator as "plantation politics" is just silly.
Although I still haven't drank the Kool-aid on the prowess of the Big 12, I do want to see both Texas and Oklahoma win the last two bowl games.
I hope that the Longhorns destroy Ohio State tonight. Then, I'd like to see OU beat Florida in order to wipe the smug looks off Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer's faces. I'm not a fan of Tebow. All his jumping around during the game and his holier-than-thouness grates on my nerves. If there is any media bias out there, it's certainly slanted for Tebow. The slack-jawed, jock-sniffing hacks (sports writers) love that guy. And I distinctly remember when Alabama destroyed Florida in Bryant-Denny a few years back that Meyer actually teared-up in his post-game press conference because of the loss. Pathetic.
Ultimately, if both Texas and OU win their games, a serious case can be made that Texas deserves to ranked no. 1 in the AP poll. That would at least make up for them not playing Florida on Wednesday. Hell, even if Florida defeats OU and Texas defeats Ohio State, why not Texas number one in the AP Poll?
Well, that game was a bitter end to a pretty sweet season for Alabama.
That first quarter, in particular, was painful. The defense looked like it was in a daze--not getting lined up in time, whiffing on pass break ups, lots of missed tackles.
Many people have speculated how the absence of the Outland Trophy winner, Andre Smith, at left tackle was a major factor in how the o-line didn't perform like it has all season. Smith not playing was surely a small factor, but the huge blow to the Tide was when Mike Johnson went down with an injury. He was playing LT in place of Smith, so they switched the first string right tackle, Drew Davis, to play left tackle, and a true freshman, John Michael Boswell, played right tackle. So for most of the game, Alabama played with its third string LT, its second string LG, and its second string RT.
That's not usually a recipe for success.
In a somewhat related development, Smith will probably go into the draft, and most draft experts project him as the number two guy off the board. So are the Rams in need of a cornerstone left tackle like Andre Smith? Is Pace still with the team?
One of my favorite days of the year is when I get Oxford American's Southern Music issue and CD in the mail.
That day came late in 2008.
This year is the 10th anniversary edition of the Southern Music CD, and this year they're offering two CDs with the issue.
Click HERE for "Hold On, Hold On" by Neko Case, one of the 56 selections from the two CDs. Her voice is haunting on this track. And it's a song that grows on you until you need to hear it more and more often.
Other gems on the two CDs are these songs: "I Hate to See You Go" by Little Walter, Ella Fitzgerald covering "Sunshine of Your Love," "Down South Blues" by Dock Boggs, "Street People" by Bobby Charles, Gary Stewart covering "Can't You See," "Righteously" by Lucinda Williams, the Delta Rhythm Boys singing "St. Louis Blues," among many others.
If you're interested in good writing, especially about the South, check out Oxford American. Heck, the Southern Music issue and CD are worth the subscription.