Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stay Positive: University Research

One of the downfalls of following environmental issues is that much of the news is so damn depressing. I taught a course for many years called "Values, Culture, and the Environment," an interdisciplinary class that is essentially a course in Environmental Rhetoric since we explored and wrote about how people perceive, talk about, and argue about "nature" and environmental issues.

Since a great deal of "nature writing" in the textbooks I had to choose from is elegaic, I provided a variety of sources for students to read, many of which provided business- and hard science-minded perspectives. We didn't just look at belletristic essays. We hit science-laden articles and a variety of articles that look at diverse quality of living concerns and geopolitical concerns. To stave off the negativity of some texts we read, such as Howard Kuntsler's fine but somewhat dated diatribe The Geography of Nowhere, I made an effort to inject the course with more positive-minded readings.

In that vein and because I miss teaching that course, I offer an article from Sierra about the really interesting research happening at various universities. The author discusses creating petrol from from cow manure, microscopic refineries, climate scrubbers, wicked strong batteries, optical-circuit technology, and electric vehicles.

Click HERE if you're interested in reading "The Latest from the Labs" by Edward Humes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Angel Hair con Garden Fare

Although I'm not a vegetarian and probably never will be, I eat vegetarian fare pretty often because I forget to thaw out meat and lately my freezer is a little bare. So the other day I slopped together a pasta dished based on what I had in the garden and around the house.

1 bell pepper, chopped into ribbons
half white onion, chopped into strips and separated
1 Cayenne pepper, diced
2 shallots, chopped coarsely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
1 medium size zucchini, chopped into slim half-moons
A large helping of leftover angel hair pasta
Olive oil
Smidge of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Good helping of Parmesan cheese
Lime wedge

Heat the oil in a pan on medium/medium-high heat, drop in the onions and peppers, and sweat them down for about five minutes. Drop in the Cayenne and zucchini and cook for roughly another five minutes. Then put the garlic and shallots in the pan for a minute or two but make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Then drop in the spaghetti and put in the salt, pepper, and thyme. Toss the pasta around to mix it up thoroughly for a minute or two, plate, top with Parmesan cheese, and squeeze a little wedge of lime on top. A lemon wedge would work better, but I only had a lime around.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Arkansas

What a game.

I have a feeling this season's defense is going to make me a nervous wreck.

Because of the solid play calling from the offensive staff of Arkansas and the ability of Ryan Mallett, the Hogs carved up the Tide secondary in the first half of yesterday's game. Arkansas has a NFL first-rounder at QB and an excellent receiving corps, but a constant with their offense was that they couldn't establish a ground game. Sure, they had some decent runs now and then, but there was no consistency.

In the first half, the Tide secondary looked very green--multiple busted assignments and lack of a pass rush.

But like good coaches do, the Crimson Tide made halftime adjustments and played smart football in the second half. Fans got a glimpse of what was to come at the very end of the first half as time expired when Richardson busted off a long run as Alabama was trying to run out the clock and get to the locker room. If he would have had some downfield blocking by WRs on that play, he might have been able score.

Nonetheless, the Tide D only gave up a field goal to the Razorbacks in the second half while the offense rode the backs of Ingram and Richardson to victory. The secondary turned it around with two crucial interceptions by Lester and Kirkpatrick in the fourth quarter. Both of those DBs and others had been abused by Mallett earlier in the game, so making those picks must have felt redemptive, and you can read about those turnovers and McElroy's uncharacteristic interceptions by clicking HERE.

Alabama found a way to win. They gutted it out in the second half, which showcased a veteran-led offense and the defense finally getting its stuff together. But the first half of the game messed with my fragile psyche.

But still, can we get a strong pass rush ... please?

I don't know what to think about the Tide's chances versus Florida in Bryant-Denny on Saturday night. In my eyes, both Florida's offense and defense are better than Arkansas'. I know the atmosphere will be crazy though. It was loud when I went to games when the stadium seated somewhere around 83K. Now it holds over 100K. The crowd could make a difference in the game, but if the Tide defense plays another half like they did in Fayetteville, it's going to be a Florida victory.

No sunshine pumping here, people.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Music Friday: "Makes No Sense at All"

Speaking of Husker Du, here's a video from the band, one of their more popular songs, "Makes No Sense at All." Click HERE to relive the pleasure of the 80s.

And if you want to watch the band scare an audience on a local, low budget, weekday talk show from the Twin Cities called "Good Company," you might get some giggles by clicking HERE.

"You know, ordinarily when we have music on our show, it's kind of middle of the road. That is ending now. You're about to hear a band that is a, what would would you call it, just a breakout, wild, full tilt sound. And they're called Husker Du."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Left of the Dial

Although I'm not a regular viewer of VH1 Classic, on occasion I like to check out what the channel is offering because of nostalgia. A while back they were running some documentary titled "The Ages of Rock" where they recounted the "seven ages" of rock-n-roll apparently. I didn't catch all seven, but I got a chance to view a bit of the Punk age and taped the Heavy Metal and Alternative ages.

The program that recounted Alternative Rock is titled "Left of the Dial," which is a reference to a song by one of my favorite bands of all time, The Replacements. That squad of musical hooligans, in my mind, are one of the scions of true alternative rock from the 80s and early 90s, so it was quite disappointing that the band wasn't even featured in the documentary that uses its song title to talk about the genre.

As you might imagine, the program delved deeply in the rise and fall of Nirvana and the success story of R.E.M., which was fine, but the focus on those two bands along with all the bleeding-heart stuff on Cobain burdened the documentary from reaching its full potential. Sure, VH1 gave The Pixies proper coverage, mentioned Sonic Youth, and provided strong detail about Black Flag, but there was no mention of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Primus, 10,000 Maniacs, and many other bands that were quite influential at the time. Pearl Jam, in particular, got screwed with only a back-handed reference about how they had the misfortune of coming out with a great album after Nirvana's Nevermind made its impact on music scene.

And what about Husker Du, for God's sake?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


At the request of a number of people who have told me they were traumatized by seeing Quinn's broken radius, I offer the fixed version of his bone. You've seen the before picture; now here's the after.

He got his hard cast yesterday. It's blue.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Duke

That was an offensive onslaught: 62 points, the Tide didn't have a third down play in the first half, Ingram gained over 150 yards on nine carries, besides one mistake McElroy had an outstanding game, Julio had over a hundred yards in catches. And so on.

Duke isn't that bad of a team on the offensive side of the ball, but their defense really stinks. I mean it's bad.

And my "I don't know about this defense" theme marches on. The Crimson Tide gave up a touchdown and two field goals; the Duke offense still had too many easy plays, especially in the second quarter. There was a lack of significant pass rush, which concerns me since the next two games pit Alabama the pass-oriented attacks of Arkansas and Florida. We'll see what this defense is made of.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How We Spent Our Thursday

I had plans for Thursday afternoon, but Quinn breaking the radius bone in his left forearm made me drop all that stuff. He fell at the daycare's playground, and when he broke his fall by putting out his arms, the left forearm apparently got the brunt of his weight, which bowed it out considerably as you can see.

The medical staff in the ER called it a "green stick" break, meaning that because little kids' bones are so rubbery, the bone will break on one side, but the other side will simply bend. The term comes from when you have a green tree limb and bend it, and it breaks on one side, but most of the limb bends without breaking.

Both Mrs. Nasty and I have never broken a bone [knock on wood], so this was all new stuff for us. Thankfully, Quinn didn't require surgery, but the "reducing" of his arm was strange on a couple of levels.

One of the sedatives he was given for pain is related to LSD, so when that drug went into his system, he went into this eery, stupified stare.

Then once he was fully out, the orothopedic surgeon simply took his little forearm and forcefully pushed on it to bend it back into shape. The "after" x-ray is impressive. It's straight as heck.

The poor little guy is in a soft cast right now, but he'll get a hard cast on Tuesday.

The Inner Thoughts of Birds

The online comic Medium Large is one of my favorites -- so much so that it's featured on Planned Ob's Blog Roll.

The strip is often a purveyor of delicious dark humor and sometimes sketchy stuff. Yesterday's strip is probably one of my recent favorites, so if you get a chance, click HERE to enjoy the birds' perspectives on our behavior.

Music Friday: "We Can't Make It Here"

I'm in a grouchy mood this morning, and one of the musicians who best channels my inner grouch is James McMurtry.

Click HERE for the dark and insightful "We Can't Make It Here."

And if you're interested in reading an article in Garden & Gun about Mr. McMurtry, click HERE.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Spinach Fettuccine

Since I planted a row Savoy spinach this afternoon along with a row of Swiss Chard, I got hungering for wilted greens. I had about half a bunch of fresh spinach in the salad spinner, so I got to work.

Olive oil for cooking
1 medium bell pepper, chopped finely
1 Serrano del Sol, chopped finely
2 shallots, sliced into ribbons
5 cloves of garlic, chopped roughly
half bunch of fresh spinach
Cooked fettuccine to ever how much you want
Salt and pepper to taste

I got out my cast iron dutch oven, covered the bottom with olive oil, set the burner to medium, and dropped in the bell pepper and Serrano. After softening those for about five minutes, I dumped in the shallots and garlic and cooked those for about two minutes longer. Put in the spinach to wilt for a couple of minutes and then toss in the fettuccine to coat the pasta with the aromatic and spinachy treasure. Move to the plate and cover with Parmesan.

This ingredient list worked well, but when I do this again, I'll be using about double the amount of spinach.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gentlemen, get used to it.

Above is a picture of my daughter destroying a kid in a race at this past weekend's Kidsfest in Mattoon. The poor kid to the right is looking up at Hannah, and he knows it's "game over."

Get used to it, fellas. She'll be kicking your butts athletically and intellectually for a long, long time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Hangover: Penn State

In a game that pitted traditional college football powers, the Tide rolled.

Trent "The Beast" Richardson had an outstanding game when Alabama decided to play smashmouth football against the Penn State D. He amassed over 100 yards in the game and showed why he and Ingram are the best running back tandem in the country.

The first two TDs were pass plays to two players who haven't had touchdowns this season--Preston Dial and Kevin Norwood. McElroy did well, and the Tide used a lot of empty set formations, and the OLine blocked well.

I'm still not overly impressed by the defense. Although they got some excellent takeaways in the game and limited the Nittany Lions to a meager three points, Penn State did have some solid drives, and some people in the secondary had a number of poor plays. In particular, Kirkpatrick got beat on a few quick slant routes. I've been spoiled by watching outstanding Tide defenses over the past few years, however.

It'll be interesting to see how the offense gets even more diverse (or the same) if Ingram returns for when Alabama travels to Durham to take on Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium, named after the former Alabama and Duke Head Coach whose Alabama teams won national championships in 1925, 1926, and 1930.

Oh, Marcell Dareus (pictured above) will be back on the field next Saturday. That will be very good to see.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Music Friday: "Slight Figure of Speech"

This is a song from an album I've been listening to a lot lately, I and Love and You by the Avett Brothers.

And the video for this tune is one of the more entertaining videos I've seen in years. Click HERE to enjoy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Neither a Hobby Nor an Interest

Self-disclosure can be funny.

In one of the writing classes I taught last week, we had a short discussion about how using texting language is inappropriate for when you email certain people. We were working with an example of texting language creeping into an email that we have in the basic writing textbook I've written/I'm revising with one of my former colleagues from St. Louis.

To use an example about audience awareness for my students, I told them that I don't text. In fact, I don't think I've texted anyone. Ever. I've gotten a couple of messages and read them, but I'm not using a phone to write. I dislike phones regardless of whether they're land line or cellular, so the specter of using a phone to write smacks of torture.

It was not hard to predict how the students would react when I dropped that little nugget of info on them. One young lady audibly gasped, a few students giggled, some smiled because it was strange to them, and a few others' mouths dropped open in amazement.

On the very first day of class when I asked these students to write down their hobbies and interests along with their names, hometowns, and academic interests on 3x5 notecards, two of them wrote down "texting" as a hobby/interest.

How the @#$% can texting be a hobby or an interest?

Or as Amanda, the wife of one of my friends said this Saturday, "How can that be an interest? It's an addiction."

My anti-texting behavior probably isn't a surprise to some people who know me as an wannabe Luddite. I still like and depend on many of the old technologies such as road atlases, maps, CDs, and (gasp) letters.

Now I have gotten with the 21st century by finally getting an iPod to complement my iTunes, but I can rationalize that move to simple economics. It's cheaper to download music than to buy CDs. That move is just being fiscally responsible I tell myself.

But with texting, I don't see myself going there.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Hangover: San Jose State

It's been a few years since the Crimson Tide has had a season opener where they were heavily favored. Last year they played Virginia Tech, and the year before it was another ACC foe, Clemson, with both games in the Georgia Dome. But yesterday the Spartans of San Jose went into the newly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium (now seating over 100K) and got trounced.

Here are my so-called thoughts on last night's game.

Both QBs had very good days, and McCarron saw significant time manning the offense. For whatever reason, the coaching staff pulled McElroy in the second quarter and then he got reinserted early in the third for a couple of series.

The big question mark on offense to me is who is going to take over as the third running back role on the team. Eddie Lacy, the leading rusher on Saturday, seems to the guy for Roy Upchurch's role the last couple of seasons, but after a Robert Lester interception in the second quarter, the offense quickly marched toward the goal line only to have Lacy fumble the ball after a defender's helmet jarred the ball loose.

I suspect he'll hear about from Coach Saban for a while. And during the halftime before-going-to-the-locker room interview, Saban was quite grouchy about that mistake and big plays given up on defense.

So Demetrius Goode got some good playing time in the game, but eventually Lacy got released from the dog house and put in a stellar rushing performance. And from these amateur's eyes, he did very well in pass protection.

It's hard to say how good the defense is at this point in the season. They didn't play against a powerhouse offense by any means. Hightower doesn't seem as lively in the play-calling role like McClain was, but then again Hightower didn't play a ton. After a while, they rotated in other linebackers to build depth, namely Nico Johnson (starter from last year) and true freshman C. J. Mosely, who really impressed with his instincts of dropping back into coverage but disappointed because of his stone hands. He had three passes broken up from the linebacker position.

Then again, the defense was playing pretty vanilla in the game. I recall maybe two or three blitzes, but the front four didn't seem to get a ton of pressure on the QB, which is not a good sign.

So I see three important questions marks for the upcoming Penn State game. Will Ingram be healthy enough to play? Will the NCAA reduce the suspension of Dareus to only one game, so he can play? But most importantly, how good is this defense?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Music Friday: "I Wish I Was the Moon"

Click HERE to watch the lovely Neko Case perform "I Wish I Was the Moon" from her album Blacklisted.

Critics have called her a modern day Patsy Cline, but I think she's much more (and better) than that.

She's Neko Case.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's Go Time

Well, the college football season starts today with the South Caroline Gamecocks playing the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and then USC playing Hawaii.

The season is finally here.

The majority of sports talk programs have recently focused on predictions, which is fun but also kind of a silly media ritual. The herd of sport writers and coaches voted Alabama pre-season no. 1, which to me makes little sense as I'm sure I've stated before. When a team returns only two starters on defense, I find that fact to be a major red flag. I just don't see the Tide winning the national championship again with all the questions on defense and the tough schedule. Saban is one heck of a coach, but he can't turn water into wine. In fact, I think of him more as an angry Buddha-like character: his extreme emphasis on "the process" and one's "mindset" for success and improving each day.

The big news this week is that Mark Ingram will be out for a while (2-4 weeks) because he had minor surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. So that opens the door up for Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy (a darling of the internet message boards), Demetrius Goode, and Corey Grant to show what they have at running back. Richardson is one hell of a player as we saw last season during his freshman campaign, but the other guys, to sound Rumsfeldian here, are "known unknowns." If the Tide beats Penn State and Arkansas without Ingram while building depth behind Richardson, that would be outstanding. To reformulate an old saying, "If the loss of Ingram won't kill ya, Lord, it'll make you strong."

But really it's serious guesswork this season as to who will win it all. You could put the name of the top twenty-five pre-season teams on a dart board and somewhat accurately pick the eventual top ten by throwing darts blindfolded.

But here are teams I think could win it or I'd like to see win it all if the Crimson Tide doesn't get it done this season:
  • Iowa of course.
  • I think it would be great to see Nebraska beat Texas twice and then win the national championship the year it departs from the Texas Ten to go to the Big Ten(12).
  • Virginia Tech came close one year when it had Vick at QB, and I've always liked their program and Frank Beamer
  • If Arkansas can significantly improve their D, they'll be very dangerous. But it's hard for a team to come from outside the pre-season top 10 and win it all traditionally. So maybe these writers and coaches do know something.