Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Veggie Crescent Roll Pizza

Here comes another recipe from my parents' church's old cookbook.

We've been nawing on this stuff lately.

2 cans of crescent rolls
8 oz brick of cream cheese
2/3 cup of mayo
Smidge of dill weed
Seasoning of your desire
Vegetables of your desire

Spread out the crescent rolls on a sheet pan and bake as directed. Beat the cream cheese, mayo, dill weed, and seasoning of your desire. Spread that stuff as the "sauce" on top of the cooled crescent rolls. Place your veggies of choice on top, refrigerate, and serve cold.

In the recent versions made in our household, Mrs. Nasty has been using broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, and green onions. I'm thinking black olives and mushrooms would also be nice additions.

Have a good New Year's Eve, folks. Be careful out there.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Taco Soup

Here's a recipe that Mrs. Nasty has made a couple of times, so I'm posting it not only because you might like it but also because we might lose the recipe.

1 lb. ground turkey or lean ground beef
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 package of ranch dressing
1 package of taco seasoning
1 cup of water
2 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 15 oz. cans of pinto beans, drained
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can of creamed corn

Brown the meat and throw all of that stuff in a crock pot for a while.

Eat it later.

Music Friday: "Livin' in the Jungle"

I'm not going to a New Year's Eve party this year, but I figured I'd end the year with some upbeat, groovin' music.

Today's offering is "Livin' in the Jungle" by Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Class Issues

In the process of cleaning up/reorganizing some stuff around home, I came across an issue of Utne I had held back because I wanted to feature an article in it because the essay connects to some of my own "class issues."

In "Cutting Class" from an issue of Utne a year ago, Brad Zellar explores his working class guilt.

If you have to boil my "issues" down to a basic statement, it would this: rich people usually piss me off.

It's not that I grew up poor or anything. Sure, when my dad got laid off by National Tea when I was quite young, I remember there being stress within the house. He moved on to selling insurance for a while and then was lucky enough to acquire a small business loan that helped him start his business. For a major part of his life, my dad was a meat cutter and then carried over some of his meat cutting skills to when he ran his own small grocery store on what people considered the "wrong side" of the industrial town in which I grew up.

So I guess I understand the working class pretty well because I come from that stock (both parents were children during the Great Depression--one from rural northeastern Missouri, the other from an essentially single-parent home in northwestern Iowa), and I was raised in what could be called a "factory town" -- factories, mills, and meat packing plants. The stores I worked in were visited by folks who worked putting together tractors or slaughtering hogs.

And the thing is I was envious of the kids whose dads worked at the John Deere plants, or to use the phrase in my hometown, they worked at "Deere." It was always pretty clear what kids' parents worked at Deere because they were the ones who got braces. Those of us who didn't have great insurance plans, we were left with what was in our jaws unless our collections of teeth were especially horrific.

Like Zellar recounts in his essay, my parents would also take me on car rides to look at the big houses, which when I reflect on that practice now, it kind of sickens me -- the gawking at the big homes in the fancy part of town or the oversized houses on the edge of town where the darkness is, as Springsteen informs us.

I fooled around with some of the girls from the rich part of town though, sitting in their homes watching movies and doing other things, often admiring what they seemed to have so easily.

I waited on very good people who came into our grocery or liqour store with pig blood on them, their hands aching from their duties on the cutting floor, cashing their checks as they bought a bottle or to visit a local bar.

Where I worked was an interesting mix of black and white folks. The stores I worked at had trailor "parks" right across from them. Not that far away was the area where many working and middle class black families lived. There was rarely any open racial hostility during store hours, but sometimes you noticed tension among "mixed" clentile.

What Zellar's article also got me to thinking about is how as a country I wonder what all we really produce anymore. At one time, we Americans, well, we made stuff. Sure, we are no longer the manufacturing giant like we once were because of globalization -- for better and for worse. Now it's just that we hawk stuff while the 1% get even  richer. Or heck, I don't know, let's just say the 5-10% get richer while they have natural inroads for success and safety nets along with McMansions on the Hills.

Like Zellar, "[t]ime and time again I committed the terrible sin of envy, until it became wholly ingrained in my makeup and I eventually developed a chip on my shoulder that I felt no amount of accomplishment would ever manage to erase."

Which is why I have interal reactions like I did a number of years ago when I was talking to one of my colleagues. I asked him how his summer was, and he said it was great because he spent quite a bit of it in Paris. For someone like me who has only been to Ontario for a couple of fishing trips and family vacations were spent visiting family or going to exotic places like South Dakota, the idea of going to Europe doesn't seem probable. My reaction to a really nice man's statement that he spent time with his wife in Paris angered me, not because I don't like him or his wife (they're nice people by all accounts), but because of envy, of the fact that some people over the course of my life always seem to have it so easy -- my internal, jaded sense of justice.

And it's pride, which as we know comes before the fall. Even if I have accomplishments, I'm wary that I'm gonna get screwed eventually. Healthy...

One of the events that got me thinking back to Zellar's article is, of course, Christmas and the deluge of presents my children received. As he relates toward the close of the essay, "The dream of our parents' has become a reality of millions of us, but it also, inevitably, comes at someone else's expense and, to a lesser extent, at our own."

For me, I want my kids to be able to both know the sciences and philosophy and art and poetry, but I also want them to appreciate the majesty of Hank Williams, master the art of talking to and being open to diverse people (diversity based on class and ethnicity and creed), and most importantly know how to get things done.

I acknowledge that this post is a bit scatterbrained, but it might also reflect that, like Zellar, sometimes I feel that I'm "an interloper in all worlds."

So it goes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Music Friday: "Bright Lights"

Hear Ya recently highlighted the best EPs of 2011. In the thread of comments, one person remarked that an excellent EP was one by Gary Clark Jr., a musician I had never heard of.

Not that long ago, Mr. Clark played on Letterman.

After that performance, I quickly downloaded The Bright Lights EP. It's excellent, and I'm hoping for an LP sometime in 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Pie Crust

Since I just made this, why not post the recipe while I drink a glass of Guinness Black Lager and try to decide what beer it reminds me of.

But anyway, this pie crust is one I've used often. It comes from a cookbook created by my parents' church -- Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Waterloo, IA --  back when I was a kid.

Below are the ingredients and the process.

Stage 1:
3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/4 cups shortening or lard

Mix all of this with a pastry blender or fork until it's all crumbly.

Stage 2:
1 egg beaten and cold water to make 2/3 cup of liquid
1 teaspoon of vinegar

Put the wet ingredients in, mix it all together, form into 2-3 balls, chill them, and then roll out the dough.

I chilled it for thirty minutes in the fridge tonight, I started rolling one ball, and it just wasn't working.

So I put the two balls in the freezer for thirty minutes, then transferred them to the fridge for fifteen mintues, and then got to rolling.

But back to the black lager. It reminds me of Shiner Black Lager, but I think Shiner's version has a stronger flavor profile -- hoppier. Or you could just call it a Guinness Lite.

Understanding the Introverts

I've taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator a number of times. The result is that I'm an INTJ, with strong preferences for introversion and judging. In fact, my introversion factor is usually around 90% most of the time.

So I was happy to see that one of my friends on FB shared this older article from The Atlantic that addresses the oppression of introverts. Well, sort of. Part of it has a some self-congratulatory back-slapping ("a majority of the gifted population," etc.).

Writing from this introvert's point of view, I usually don't like "conversations about feelings..." and how the presidents who were introverts were Coolidge, Nixon, and Reagan. Awkwardness and bad company right there.

I agree with the statement by Sartre that the author provides though: "Hell is other people at breakfast." And I like the motto of introverts that he offers: "I'm okay, you're okay -- in small doses."

So here's  "Caring For Your Introvert" by Jonathan Rauch. It's a short read that could help you cope with an introvert or yourself.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Culling the December Index and Findings

I've had a subscription to Harper's Magazine for a couple of decades. I started reading it when I began college if I remember correctly.

Two continuing features in the magazine I always look forward to are "Harper's Index," which is at the start of the magazine, and the "Findings" page that closes each issue. Most people are familiar with the Index, but I'm pretty sure the "Findings" page isn't as old. It provides an interesting and often bizarre collection of published research that's been disseminated recently.

I thought I'd pass along a culling from both features in the December issue that I find particularly rich.

From Harper's Index:
  • Portion of income growth since the end of the recession that has gone to corporate profits: 9/10
  • Minimum number of pigs stolen in Minnesota this September: 744
  • Percentage by which the average contracted project costs the government more than the equivalent government-run project: 83
  • Date on which Governor Rick Scott said that Florida doesn't need "more anthropologists": 10/10/2011
  • Date on which Scott's daughter received her anthropology degree: 1/11/2008
  • Chance that an American between 18 and 24 has read a book in the past year that wasn't required for school or work: 1 in 2
  • Rank of non-denominational Christianity among the fastest-growing religions in America during the past two decades: 2
  • Rank of "none": 1
  • Percentage of the vote received by the Pirate Party in Berlin's September municipal elections: 8.9
  • Number of sex dolls distributed to SS soldiers by Heinrich Himmler, according to a book released this September: 50
From "Findings":
  • "Columbus may have caused the Little Ice Age." 
  • "Bolder bluegill sunfish are likelier to be caught in open water, whereas shy ones are caught near the rocks."
  • "Easily embarrassed humans, though not the morbidly ashamed, are seen as more trustworthy and are more often monogamous." 
  • "Canadian psychologists  concluded that 'moral disengagemnt' leads to workplace rumor-mongering and collegial sabotage."
  • "Psychopathic Canadian murderers, when describing their crimes, more frequently use conjunctions and employ the past tense than do their non-psychopathic counterparts." 
  • "The nose smells what it expects." 
  • "Extramarital affairs increase a man's risk of a broken penis."   

Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Notes from a Crank

Watching the flashback scenes of Jimmy and his mom when she visits Princeton in the next to last episode of Boardwalk Empire reminded me of my high school Psychology class. When our teacher was talking about Freud and the concept of the Oedipal Complex, one of the guys behind me in my row, a long-haired gentlemen who enjoyed smoking dope during lunch hour, made this trenchant remark: "Man, Freud must have had a hot mom."

At the request of my daughter, I made ratatouille on Tuesday. Apparently, the rat in the damn Pixar movie is a better cook than me because she and Mrs. Nasty didn't like it. A movie motivates my daughter to try a dish that is a smattering of healthy vegetables, but it doesn't work out.

Am I the only person who still appreciates the brilliance of the Spice Girls?

With me having to stay home on Monday and Tuesday since my daughter had some virus, my dog's routine was disrupted. Darby didn't get as much sleep as she's used to. The first day she looked at me a number of times with a look that said, "Why are you here, and can you be more quiet?"

ESPN blathers on and on about Tebow. Clue to NFL defensive coordinators: Check out the 2009 SEC Championship Game and what the Crimson Tide did to him. They kept Tebow in front of them, defenders usually never ran past him, and they kept him in the pocket for the most part. All that equaled success: Tebow wept.

I've had a number of nicknames over the years, but three I haven't had are these: Dr. Feelgood, Senor Robusto, or Professor Booty. Disappointment...

You can say what you want about Pillow Pets and the commercial that creates an earworm, but I fell asleep on the couch the other day with one. That dog version is comfortable.

Last night after we got home after her gymnastics practice, my eight-year old daughter informed me that "you can't sue a kid." Apparently, some of the young ladies in her squad are aspiring lawyers if that has been a point of conversation.

Music Friday: "Stomp and Holler" & "Grateful for Christmas"

On my Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2011 post, for whatever reason I didn't include KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) by Hayes Carll, which is a darn fine album. That's an oversight on my part and strange since Carll has been featured before on a Music Friday post.

Apologies to Mr. Carll. I should have included your album in the previous post.

So today I offer two songs from KMAG YOYO. "Stomp and Holler" is the first song on the album, and "Grateful for Christmas" is the next to last tune.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2011

It's that time of the year. 

Like I did for 2010, I'm providing my take on this year's best albums.

Although I have the top ten ranked, all are solid albums, and those rankings could easily move according to the shifting scale of my mood at the moment when I want to listen to some tunes. The second ten are simply placed in the "honorable mention" category.

If you enjoyed some albums that came out in 2011 that aren't included in this post, feel free to relate ones you think are worth mentioning.

So here goes the Top Ten/Twenty albums of 2011:

1. Amanda Shires, Carrying Lightning

For me, 2011 was the year I discovered Amanda Shires. 

Lawd, I've seen the light. 

What a talented musician, an artist who lists Octavio Paz, Marianne Moore, Theodore Roethke, and Sylvia Plath as her favorite writers on her FB page. 

From start to finish, this album is excellent. From a song about wanting nooky in "Shake the Walls" to contemplation of suicide in "When You Need a Train, It Never Comes," from lyrics of awakening and reflection in "Ghost Bird" to the straightforward nature of "Detroit or Buffalo," this opus features beautiful fiddle playing, solid guitar, and haunting lyrics. Favorite songs: "Ghost Bird," "Shake the Walls," "Sloe Gin," and "Swimmer, Dreams Don't Keep." 

2. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Here We Rest

No surprise here.

At first listen to the new album, I instantly liked a number of the songs ("Alabama Pines," "Go It Alone," "Codeine," "Stopping By," "Never Could Believe," and "Tour of Duty"), but the others took some time to grow on me. To be honest, when I first heard the cover of Candi Stanton's "Heart on a String," I thought, "Why is hell is Isbell trying to sound like John Mayer?" But I've come to like the song since it features a Muscle Shoals R&B vibe. Here We Rest is not as much of a rock-oriented album as the band's previous effort, which is fine and I like it, but I tend to enjoy Isbell's songs that have a bit more grit to 'em, whether it's his solo stuff or DBT tunes. Regardless, the guy is a storyteller. "Stopping By" delves into the psychological effects of not having a dad in one's life, and I think many folks would appreciate "We've Met." Favorite songs: "Alabama Pines," "Go It Alone," "Never Could Believe," and "Stopping By."

3. Glossary, Long Live All Of Us

It's hard to do better than Glossary's fine album, Feral Fire, but Long Live All Of Us approaches that greatness. The recent release from the guitar-oriented, no nonsense rock-n-roll band hailing from Murfreesboro, Tennessee is different from previous albums, but I like it a lot. In the mini-documentary that I linked a short while back about the album, the lead singer and guitarist of the band describes the album as one that is positive and does not ape the cynicism and negativity that surrounds us. That's true. Let me put it this way: if I'm in a grumpy mood, listening to this album makes me feel better. Favorite songs: "A Shoulder Left To Cry On," "Trouble Won't Always Last," "Everything Comes Back," and "When We Were Wicked."

4. The Bottle Rockets, Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening

These guys have been around a long time, yet I don't see 'em getting a ton of critical acclaim. They should. If there's ever a band that writes songs about the working (or not working so much anymore) class, this band is it. And they do it well. This album made me appreciate their studio stuff even more and got me wanting to see them live. The standards are there--"Gravity Falls," "Smokin' 100s Alone," "Rural Route," etc.--but the song that really got me is the one that closes the album, "Mom & Dad," which is obviously about the death of the mom and dad of the lead singer that he briefly discusses in the intro of "I Don't Want to Go Home." For those of us with parents getting later on in age, it's a tear-jerker. Favorite songs: "Mom & Dad," "Rural Route," and "1000 Dollar Car."

5. Dawes, Nothing Is Wrong

This is an outstanding follow-up to the band's first album, North Hills. Over a couple of weeks last year, this band just kind of clicked for me, and there for a while I was listening to North Hills all the time. On Nothing Is Wrong, the lyrics are stronger, the arrangements are more diverse, and what the critics call the "Laurel Canyon sound" permeates the work like the first album. This band reminds of a baseball pitcher when I get to thinking about it--a starting pitcher who has a really solid rookie season, and then he establishes himself as a number one or number two starter for a team quickly hereafter. Dawes is no Clayton Kershaw yet, but they could be. Favorite Songs: "A Little Bit of Everything," "Fire Away," "If I Wanted Someone," and "So Well."

6. American Gun, Therapy

A strong guitar-oriented sound, interesting lyrics, and no bullshit rock-n-roll, that's how I would describe these talented fellows. If you don't like American Gun, you're un-American. Not really, but I thought I'd write something stupid like that. All the songs are good, but ... Favorite Songs: "1500 Jessicas," "Lie to Me," "Procrastination," "Therapy," and "No More Friends."

7. Sarah Jarosz, Follow Me Down

If you ever want to motivate yourself to get it together, consider the case of Sarah Jarosz. She's a college student (New England Conservatory of Music) and an accomplished musician on the mandolin, fiddle, and guitar. She's a great singer too. And, oh yeah, this is her second album, and she's already played on Austin City Limits. You're lazy, aren't you? Get back to work, clown. Favorite songs: "Old Smitty," "Run Away," "Here Nor There," and cover of Dylan's "Ring Them Bells."

8. Middle Brother, Middle Brother

So let's get this straight. The band Middle Brother is a "supergroup" of lead singers of three bands--John McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit--that got together and produced their own record with the help of a number of outstanding musicians. Sounds like an elaborate marketing ploy hatched in a tavern, doesn't it? But it's a damn successful musical project inspired by booze if that's the case. From McCauley's lyrics about daydreaming while hungover in "Daydreaming" to Goldsmith's plaintive missive of "Thanks for Nothing," from the gritty, slow nature of "Theater" to the tag-team nature of the final song "Million Dollar Bill," it's a fun ride. Favorite songs: "Daydreaming," "Blue Eyes," "Wilderness," and "Me, Me, Me."

9. Centro-matic, Candidate Waltz

Will Johnson and the fellas got back at it again with another fine release this year. For me, their sound is addictive -- hypnotic at times. The lyrics venture often toward the willfully obtuse, but in that sense, they remind me of R.E.M., and that's high compliment coming from this guy. The album has one song, "All the Talkers," that is a satirical description of club-goers, which you shouldn't miss. Favorite songs: "All the Talkers," "Mercedes Blast," "If They Talk You Down," and "Against the Line."

10. Rod Picott, Welding Burns

I originally recognized Picott as "that guy who's always playing guitar" with Amanda Shires. In fact, they did a collaborative album a few years back that I need to investigate. I finally got nudged into buying Welding Burns because of emmylunatic's comment on the July 15th Music Friday post: "It's worth some effort to see Amanda live, many shows you get a great twofer as she's joined by Rod Picott who has a great album out now - Welding Burns."

Huzzah unto you, emmylunatic.

While I provided love to The Bottle Rockets about singing for the working person out there in America, this Rod Picott fella is doing the same. The persona of "Sheetrock Hanger" contemplates that if he doesn't go to heaven, he'll be hanging sheetrock in Hell. "Rust Belt Fields" provides a perspective on the effects of globalization. "410" is a rollicking tune about starting trouble. Heck, the whole album is solid, and Shires plays fiddle. Buy it. You can thank me later by buying me a beer. Favorite Songs: "Welding Burns," "Rust Belt Fields," "Your Father's Tattoo," and "Sheetrock Hanger."

Honorable Mentions: The Next Ten

R.E.M., Collapse Into Now

It had to happen sometime. That little band that did from Athens, Georgia called it quits this year, but not without offering a fine coda to their discography. Favorite songs: "All The Best," "UBerlin," "Walk It Back," and "That Someone Is You."

Blitzen Trapper, American Goldwing

Blitzen Trapper, one of the darlings of the alternative music press, put out a fine album this year. When I first got introduced to this band and started listening to them, I remarked to the person who recommended them that when I listen to their stuff, I feel like I need to be eating granola and burning incense (and I don't mind both, by the way). That comment brought a decent laugh.

But this album is different. I think it's the band's best because the guitars have a harder edge to them, and all of the songs seem to hang together effectively as an album. The record has coherence. American Goldwing has kept me much more interested than their other releases. Favorite songs: "Street Fighting Sun," "Taking It Easy Too Long," "American Goldwing," and "Might Find It Cheap."

Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues

Speaking of granola and incense, I offer the highly praised release by the Fleet Foxes. Lush harmonies and intricate arrangements take listeners for a reflective ride. The comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel will always be there, but I find them to have more of a "wall of sound" style. Favorite songs: "Helplessness Blues," "The Shrine/An Argument," and "Montezuma."

Ha Ha Tonka, Death of a Decade
I wonder how much of an uptick of album sales this quartet from West Plains, Missouri got from their appearance at the end of the Ozarks episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Of the band's three albums, this is my favorite. The mandolin is a prominent on the record, and like their previous effort, Novel Sounds from the Noveau South that ends with "Thoreau in the Woods," this album closes with a song I'm pretty sure is about Mark Twain: "The Humorist." Favorite songs: "The Humorist," "Westward Bound," "Lonely Fortunes," and "Hide It Well."

The Decemberists, The King Is Dead

I originally checked out The Decemberists because a fellow recommended The Hazards of Love to me since he knows I like concept albums. That album is okay, but The King Is Dead is right in my wheelhouse--more straightforward, not trying to do the rock opera thang. Favorite songs: "This Is Why We Fight," "Down By the Water," and "Don't Carry It All."

Ben Harper, Give Till It's Gone
So what happened to the Relentless7, the new backing players that were on his previous album after the Innocent Criminals got the boot? This question I have no answer for, and it really doesn't matter all that much to me. The previous album has a song, "Shimmer and Shine," that my kids certainly enjoy. When I play it in my car, my four-year old son likes playing air drums to it while my eight-year old daughter strums air guitar. There are songs of that quality on this effort from Harper like "Clearly Severely," "Spilling Faith," and "Dirty Little Lover."

Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplane

Another solid outing by Krauss and the boys. While the new Gillian Welch album garnered a great deal of noise this year (and it's a good album), it's hard to beat these folks. Favorite songs: "Dust Bowl Children," "Miles to Go," "My Opening Farewell," and "On the Outside Looking In."

Trombone Shorty, For True

This a solid sophomore release from a guy who I'm told is acting a bit on HBO's Treme. Since I haven't watched that series, I had no idea. Favorite songs: "The Craziest Thing," "For True," "Dumaine St.," and "Big 12."

A. A. Bondy, Believers

In Bondy's third album, he keeps up the atmospheric alt rock. If you go by how iTunes classifies this guy's music, one album is classified as "folk," another is classified as "blues," and this one is classified as "rock." And I don't see any major differences among them. Regardless, it's a good record. Favorite songs: "Rte. 28/Believers,""123 Dupay Street," "Surfer King," and "The Heart is Willing."

Chris Thile & Michael Daves, Sleep With One Eye Open

I didn't know anything of Michael Daves until I bought this album, but I know Chris Thile since I'm a fan of the Punch Brothers. As you can see by the cover, one guy plays mandolin. The other guy plays guitar. It's bluegrass. Favorite songs: "Loneliness and Desperation," "If I Should Wander Back Tonight," and "My Little Girl in Tennessee."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stay Positive: Much Praise for nickeliold

Thank the Gods for YouTube videos. One just saved me a bunch of frustration and an unnecessary visit to a mechanic.

I roll around in a '05 Ford Focus wagon.

!Much love to niceliold!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Music Friday: "Down By The Water"

Like I did last December and like how all manner of online music sites are doing around this time of the year, I'll provide my top twenty favorite albums of the year, probably sometime next week.

The King Is Dead made my top twenty list of albums in 2011 -- but not my top ten. Below is "Down By The Water" with special guest Gillian Welch.

The Decemberists have a literary bent to 'em, and I like The King Is Dead much more than their concept album, The Hazards of Love, which receives more than its fair share of critical acclaim. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random Notes from a Crank

With the reading and work I've done this fall, from time to time I've pondered this example of chiasmus: "the leisure of the theory class."

Which leads me to this statement: I taught Chuck Norris and gave him a C because that's what he earned.

For whatever reason, I've had a craving for radishes. Rest easy folks, I'm not pregnant. Considering their nutritional value, I should be doing fine on potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. The store-bought ones I got recently disappointed though because they were pithy. They didn't have the fiery nature of the homegrown ones my dad used to grow in his garden, so I plan to try those this next growing season along with pickling cucumbers. I'll be back to stinking up the house with my pickling this summer. I also wonder how pickled radishes might work out...

I don't get how many people in this area, when talking to their kids, describe a child's sister as a "sissy." People, you're calling your kids ... sissies. Think about it. Replace sissy with another possible derogatory term, such as "chump," and consider how it plays out. Grandma talking to her grandson at the park: "Ah, Aiden, don't you luuuuuuv your chump? Your chump is so good to you, isn't she?" Also, "sissy" is so baby talkish. Am I the only one who thinks this is strange and annoying?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Music Friday: "Longest Days"

I mentioned Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love, & Freedom album in my "Third Wave" post.

The tune below is the opening song of that album, and I've supplied the lyrics.

Welcome to ennui and reflection.

Longest Days
Seems like once upon a time ago
I was where I was supposed to be.
My vision was true, and my heart was too.
There was no end to what I could dream.
I walked like a hero into the setting sun.
Everyone called out my name.
Death to me was just a mystery.
I was too busy raising up Cain.

But nothing lasts forever.
Your best efforts don't always pay.
Sometimes you get sick
And don't get better.
That's when life is short
Even in its longest days.

So you pretend not to notice
That everything has changed,
The way that you look,
And the friends you once had.
So you keep on acting the same.
But deep down in your soul
You know you, you got no flame.
And who knows then which way to go.
Life is short even in its longest days.

All I got here
Is a rear view mirror,
Reflections of where I've been.
So you tell yourself I'll be back up on top some day,
But you know there's nothing waiting up there for you anyway.

Nothing lasts forever,
And your best efforts don't always pay.
Sometimes you get sick
And you don't get better.
That's when life is short
Even in its longest days.

Life is short
Even in its longest days.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Taco Meat Cheese Fries

Yes, you read that title correctly. I linked "culinary" and cheese fries.

Lately the Nasty family has been observing Sunday as "Taco Night." Routinely, we have taco meat left over. And when a man's out of tortillas, you gotta make do. Since I was making some frozen crinkle fries this evening, I created the concoction in the title.

First I'll provide the ingredients and recipe for the taco meat I've been making lately:

I bell pepper, diced
1/2 of a red onion or 2 large shallots, diced
1 lb. lean ground turkey
Healthy smidge of Penzey's Salsa seasoning, maybe a teaspoon
Healthy smidge of Penzey's Adobo seasoning, maybe a teaspoon
4-5 dollops of salsa
Ground black pepper to taste

Taco meat process:
Sweat down the pepper and onion/shallots and then add in the ground turkey. Break up as usual and add the salsa and adobo seasoning along with black pepper. Once the meat starts browning a bit, add the salsa and cook until ready.

Once you have that meat and once you've baked your store-bought frozen crinkle fries per the package's directions, plate the fries, scatter however much taco meat you want atop the fries, and then top with shredded cheese of your liking.

If it's not already available, you might find this dish coming to a stadium or ballpark near you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Social Conquest of Earth

In the November issue of The Atlantic, Howard W. French profiles one of the most influential biologists and ecologists on the planet, E. O. Wilson (a U of Alabama alumnus, by the way).

I've been a huge fan of his work for a long time since he writes about important and intricate concepts to laypeople in compelling ways. From Biophilia to The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, from On Human Nature to Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, from The Future of Life to Anthill (a novel that I had no idea about), he articulates scientific knowledge and theoretical concepts in articulate and interesting ways

Check out French's "E. O. Wilson's Theory of Everything" if you have a chance, especially because it previews his next book that will come out in April: The Social Conquest of Earth. It should stir some controversy.

Roll Tide, Professor Wilson.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bitter Bierce, Again

As I noted in the comments of "Bitter Bierce," I'm providing a second installment of my favorites from the rest of The Devil's Dictionary -- N to Z.

  • Nectar, n. A drink served at banquets of the Olympian deities. The secret of its preparation is lost, but the modern Kentuckians believe that they come pretty near to a knowledge of its chief ingredient.
  • Noise, n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.
  • Optimism, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof -- an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.
  • Overeat, v. To dine.
  • Patriot, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.
  • Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of anyone ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
  • Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
  • Rational, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.
  • Responsibility, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.
  • Rumor, n. A favorite weapon of the assassins of character.
  • Sauce, n. The infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment. A people with no sauces has one thousand vices; a people with one sauce has only nine hundred and ninety-nine. For every sauce invented and accepted a vice is renounced and forgiven.
  • Saw, n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative and colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into a wooden head. Following are examples of old saws fitted with new teeth. A man in known by the company that he organizes... Think twice before you speak to a friend in need... He laughs best who laughs least... Of two evils choose to be the least... Strike while you employer has a big contract...
  • Slang, n. The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis) with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.
  • Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
  • Turkey, n. A large bird whose flesh when eaten on certain religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of attesting piety and gratitude. Incidentally, it is pretty good eating.
  • Valor, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler's hope...
  • Vote, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and wreck of his country.
  • Weather, n. The climate of an hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned. The setting of official weather bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.
  • Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.
  • Zeus, n. The chief of Grecian gods, adored by the Romans as Jupiter and by some modern Americans as God, Gold, Mob and Dog. Some explorers have touched upon the shores of America, and one who professes to have have penetrated a considerable distance into the interior, have thought that these four names stand for as many distinct deities, but in his monumental work on Surviving Faiths, Frumpp insists that the natives are monotheists, each having no other god than himself, whom he worships under many sacred names.

Foreshadowing or Not?

I will have a poll about the Heisman race up sometime today.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Auburn

Even though Auburn scored 14 points yesterday, they weren't the result of the Tigers' offense. They scored a touchdown on a fumble by QB McCarron, and for the second week in a row Alabama gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. This one happened at the start of the second half, which cut the Crimson Tide's lead to ten points.

But Auburn never got into the game because they couldn't get their offense in gear. Alabama held the Tigers to 140 total yards on offense and nine first downs. It took a while for them to get their second first down in the game, in fact.

The Alabama D was stifling as usual. As Cecil Hurt, the respected sports writer for the Tuscaloosa News, tweeted this morning: "Alabama leads the NCAA in scoring defense (8.8), rushing D (74.9), passing D (116.3), pass efficiency D and total defense (191.2)."

In my previous Sunday Hangover, I complained about Alabama not using their tight ends enough. Well, the offensive coordinator showed me.

Brad Smelley had a career game with 6 grabs for 86 yards and a touchdown for 35 yards. Michael Williams and the other TEs were targeted too. And in the long pass play variety, another complaint of mine, Kenny Bell hauled in a beautiful flee-flicker for the Tide's first score of the game.

At least if you go by the commentary on ESPN, the Heisman race will probably come down to Andrew Luck versus Trent Richardson. Richardson had a career game with 202 yards rushing and short reception and run for a touchdown. The guy is a beast. I expect a close vote.

The mantra for this Iron Bowl, as has been reported, was "Never again" because of the debacle of last year's Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa. With the score at the half 24 to 7, I'm sure the coaching staff didn't have to motivate the Tide much since that score was eerily similar to last year's game. Despite the horrible kickoff and coverage at the start of the second half, the Tide dominated the third and fourth quarters.

So the Tide won a huge game against their bitter rival. And they're clearly one of the top teams in the nation.

The glaring weakness of Alabama though is special teams: kickoffs not far enough, poor lane discipline as of late, and shaky field goal kicking.

LSU clearly has an advantage over the Tide in that phase of the game.

Unless something screwy happens, the Crimson Tide should play in the BCS National Championship game.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Music Friday: "10,000 Chinese Walk Into a Bar"

The first time I remember hearing about Robert Earl Keen is a reference to one of his shows in a Todd Snider song, perhaps his "Beer Run" tune. But I can't recall exactly. That's the way it goes.

Recently, I've bought a couple of his albums, so I'm awfully late to the party since REK has all kinds of albums. He's been a musician for a long time -- well established, in fact.

We drove back to central Illinois from northern Iowa this afternoon, which is why I'm late with my Music Friday post. I listened to the the song below from The Rose Hotel album on the drive home today, and it got me thinking about one of my past jobs.

I worked at my father's liquor store and also delivered liquor to bars around town -- all manner of bars, from the dives to the working class taverns, from the old time lodges to the soulless franchise restaurants.

In many of the bars and taverns I delivered booze to that had some character, you were likely to find some regulars who were barstool philosophers.

Keen's song provides the philosopher's point of view.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Third Wave

In the face of an infuriating and depressing recent news report from the Associated Press, this morning it was helpful  to read "The Joy of Living Green" by Barry Boyce in the November issue of Shambhala Sun.

I can't link Boyce's article since it's not free on the InterWeb, but you could probably find it by using a search via an academic database.

But to the point, Boyce relates some good news: There's a "third wave" environmentalism often dubbed "transformational ecology" that creates change by altering systems or through new initiatives such as "urban farms, green-collar job programs, edible schoolyards, recycling flashmobs, naked night-time bike rides, cityscapes with natural features and birdsong, and more" (42) instead of scaring and shaming people about environmental issues.

Two decades ago Killingsworth and Palmer predicted the ineffective rhetoric of second wave environmentalists in Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America, so I'm glad there seems to be a loosely organized third wave happening.

Boyce details important cognitive biases, sustainability education, a program called Growing Home in the Chicago area that assists and empowers the homeless while producing quality food, the rise of bicycling and bicycle commuting in Minneapolis, the Happy Planet Index, and the push for creating more livable and sustainable communities in general.

That article staved off the darkness for a while, but then I listened to Life, Death, Love, & Freedom -- a depressing album but one of Mellencamp's best.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Georgia Southern

45 points is certainly what Alabama fans want to see out of the Tide offense, but the Crimson Tide defense giving up the most points of the season (21) is probably surprising if you didn't watch the game.

It was a tough opponent to prepare for. The Eagles of Georgia Southern use an offense that is rare: the triple option. They racked up all kinds of yards on the ground, but unless a team plays Georgia Tech on a regular basis, Georgia Southern's throwback offense has to be trying.

But here's how the 21 points were scored. The first touchdown was a result of a busted lane assignment from a true freshman defensive end. The second touchdown came from one of the Eagles' seven pass attempts in the game. It's the only pass the quarterback completed, one for 39 yards. The third touchdown was a result of a poor kick by Foster and lack of lane discipline by a couple of defenders, so the Eagles' final touchdown was a kickoff return all the way to the house.

Regarding the Tide, the offense looked better, but the uninspired play calling is getting on my nerves. What happened to throwing to Michael Williams? Do we have any other short passing plays other than the WR bubble screens or screens to the running backs? What happened to longer pass routes?

It sounds like a number of plays were banged up, however. Left tackle Barrett Jones didn't play again and was presumably resting up for the Iron Bowl on Saturday. Nose guard Jesse Williams didn't play initially because of sickness, but they threw him out there later in the game. Nose guard Josh Chapman was rested for the game because of bad knee. And the other nose guard Nick Gentry, a senior, was suspended for a violation of team rules on Senior Day. Senior wide receiver Darius Hanks didn't play either because of a leg injury. Eddie Lacy played some, but his turf toe injury seems to be holding him back.

So when the Tide takes the field on Saturday afternoon against Auburn, I hope Alabama is healthy, focused, and strong in all three phases of the game.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Music Friday: "Skyline" & "It Didn't Make a Sound"

To counter last week's offering to the heavy metal gods, today I'm providing a couple of tunes by the Court Yard Hounds, the two sisters who are part of the Dixie Chicks.

Their album is one of the CDs I have in my car right now. I'm trying to expose my daughter to female musicians other than Taylor Swift, Katie Perry, and all the other stuff out there.

Listening to the Court Yard Hounds gets me to wondering when the Dixie Chicks will put out a new album. Their last one was outstanding.

[That's right. I like the Dixie Chicks. You can go to Hell if that's a problem.]

Last year in Rhetoric Review, one of the academic journals I enjoy reading but sometimes have a hard time keeping up with, Emil B. Towner from Texas Tech has an article titled "A Apologia: The Transcendence of the Dixie Chicks." The abstract is the following:

In the mid 1980s, Union Carbide used the apologia strategy of transcendence with mixed results—repairing some relationship while harming others. Two decades later the Dixie Chicks's use of transcendence revealed a similar dichotomy. Using ideographic analysis, the author examines (1) why transcendence appeals to one audience while alienating another and (2) how social values are shaped in the process. Ultimately, the author argues that the Dixie Chicks's strategy of transcendence appealed to the ideograph and in doing so constructed a concretized—and polarizing—definition of what it means to be a patriotic American during times of war.    

Natalie Maines' "controversial" comment about Bush created a media frenzy that got the talking heads on the cable news, entertainment, and infotainment programs chattering on for a good while. Her comment and the media circus about it made the three ladies lose a lot of fans. But they also kept and gained many fans, and I was impressed by them sticking to the values and opinions they believe in.

As Towner relates in the conclusion of his article, "the Dixie Chicks's unapologetic rhetoric stands out as a prime example of the ways in which rhetors can choose to redefine societal values, as opposed to the widely held belief that successful apologia strategies must reaccept or at least identify with the societal values that they are accused of breaking" (307).  

Or to put it another way, as Maines related at the time, "My comments were made in frustration, and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your point of view."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bitter Bierce

As I've been doing for some time now, I'm reading three different books. It takes longer to finish books this way, but I like variety. The three I'm in the midst of reading -- an edited collection called Renewing Rhetoric's Relation to Composition: Essays in Honor of Theresa Jarnagin Enos, Allen Barra's The Last Coach: The Life of Paul "Bear" Bryant, and the Library of America's edition of The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs of Ambrose Bierce -- are all interesting but very different as you could probably imagine.

With the last book of the three listed, I started with The Devil's Dictionary instead of beginning with what the collection leads with -- Bierce's stories. 

I've read various definitions from what was called at the time it first came out as The Cynic's Word Book (before Bierce made his later publishers change it back to the title he wanted), but I'm going from A to Z in the complete work . 

As of right now, I've gotten up to N, and I'd thought I'd share some of my favorite definitions:
  • Abnormal, adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested....
  • Accountability, n. The mother of caution. 
  • Bacchus, n. A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
  • Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen. 
  • Compromise, n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.
  • Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.
  • Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver. 
  • Distance, n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep. 
  • Elysium, n. An imaginary delightful country which the ancients foolishly believe to be inhabited by the spirits of the good. This ridiculous and mischievous fable was swept off the face of the earth by the early Christians--may their souls be happy in Heaven!
  • Enough, pro. All there is in the world if you like it. 
  • Folly, n. That "gift and faculty divine" whose creative and controlling energy inspires Man's mind, guides his actions and adorns his life
  • Ghost, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear....
  • I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection.... The frank yet graceful use of "I" distinguishes a good writer from a bad; the latter carries it with the manner of a thief trying to cloak his loot. 
  • Influence, n. In politics, a visionary quo given in exchange for a substantial quid.
  • Justice, n. A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service. 
  • Laziness, n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.
  • Mammon, n. The god of the world's leading religion. The chief temple is in the holy city of New York.
  • Mugwump, n. In politics one afflicted with self-respect and addicted to the vice of independence. A term of contempt. 
I wished I would have started reading the complete version of The Devil's Dictionary decades ago. Bierce speaks to me. For grumpy bastards like me, selecting one's favorite definitions works like a personality test. 

And I'm looking forward to reading his stories based on his experiences during the Civil War since he was a veteran of numerous battles, such as Shiloh, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Kennesaw Mountain.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Mississippi State

Man, that first quarter was sluggish--an smorgasbord of three and outs.

Heck, Alabama was only up 7 to 0 at the half.

Thank goodness for the Alabama defense. They held the Bulldogs to 131 yards of total offense, 12 of them of the rushing variety.

Although the Crimson Tide offense did not find a groove until later in the game, they gained 386 yards of total offense, with Richardson having another 100+ yard rushing game.

But as sportscasters are prone to remind use, there are three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams.

Once again, Alabama lost the special teams category. It wasn't as bad as the game versus LSU, but there were two missed field goals and consistently weak kickoffs. The only score by the Bulldogs was set up by a 68-year kickoff return.

Just flippin' horrible in that phase of the game.

They need to get that fixed, and the offense needs get its mojo back.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Music Friday: "Paranoid"

Today is not only Veteran's Day, but it's also National Metal Day.

In the past, I've posted songs related to veterans, which you can mash below if you like.
Today, however, since it's National Metal Day, I'm going with a band often credited with being one of the first heavy metal bands: Black Sabbath

It's the band circa 1970.

As a musical genre, metal is pretty easy to make fun of and criticize--the mainly male angst, self-destructive themes, Tolkien-like or creepy lyrics by some, the bad-boy mystique of many of the bands, the wearing of Spandex, big hair, and you could probably add your own to this list. And do so in the comments section if you like.

However, as a teenager in the 80s, metal was a genre I listened to often. It wasn't the only type of music I listened to by any means, but I still like it.

From the goofiness and bawdy nature of Van Halen to the anger and aggressive riffs of Metallica, metal has influenced my musical tastes. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Hangover: LSU

What a bitter disappointment.

It's not like the Crimson Tide didn't have all kinds of opportunities to win the game.

One of the those three missed field goals goes through the uprights, and there's no overtime.

I'm of course biased, but it looked to me that Williams had possession of the football when he was on his back on the one-yard line, which is when Reid then ripped the ball away. I didn't see much bobbling of the football.

The folks who do the play-calling for the Alabama offense will have this game haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Besides the horrible busted coverage at the end of the first half, the Crimson Tide D played well.

Many missed opportunities.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Talkin' 'bout Higher Education...

People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

I've read a number of articles about the changing nature of higher education recently.

Utne has an article in its September/October issue that takes a Panglossian perspective on how the Web and how individualized learning is the proper pathway to "21st century education," as the cliche goes. "The Learning Class" by Anya Kamenetz has some interesting points, but I guess I'm old fashioned in a number of ways.

In the October issue of Harper's, Christopher R. Beha's "Leveling the Field: What I Learned from For-Profit Education" is an investigative report on the University of Phoenix. Beha posed as a new student,  and he discusses his "educational" experience and tracks the (lack of) progress of his student cohort. The article brings up a number of fine points about the methods of for-profit universities and how they do their business.

But the important turn in the article for me was when the author effectively questions the American belief that everyone needs to go to college, a trope the President has used in numerous speeches and via his goals for higher education--how America needs to be the country producing the largest amount of college graduates in the world and all that shizz.

Citing a report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he argues that the "'college for all mentality'" is one of the main problems in our discussions about education in our country. He states, "The authors of the report advocate directing resources to occupational certificates and other non-degree-based programs that prepare students for 'middle skill' jobs--electricians, police officers, construction managers, health-care workers--jobs that are difficult or impossible to outsource. These jobs require more than a high school diploma but something less than--or other than--a college degree. Such training has been a prime casualty of the Obama administration's degree obsession: the president's proposed 2012 budget will increase overall education spending but cut funding for vocational and technical schools by 20 percent" (57).

Beha agrees with the authors of the Harvard report that the U.S. should emulate the models of many European and Scandinavian nations "that have robust apprenticeship and non-degree programs," such as Germany but more so along the lines of Denmark and Finland (57). Beha opines, "These countries feel no need to pretend that everyone can be a college student, since they have already committed to taking care of both the winners and losers in society" (57).

In this post I don't intend to say that college education has little value. Heck, I went to a liberal arts college (a public one though, not a private) because I believe in the liberal arts experience and educating the whole person--not just educating people to be cogs in the machine. However, to believe in and reinforce the "college for all" mentality is foolhardy and just not practical.

To also monkeywrench with the "everyone needs to go to college" belief or just how higher education works in general, I offer "Changing Education Paradigms" from RSA below. Enjoy.

Music Friday: "A Shoulder Left to Cry On"

Just a month ago, one of my favorite bands on the planet released a new album. On October 4, Glossary rolled out Long Live All of Us.

The song below is the second tune on the album.

Here are the lyrics:

A Shoulder to Cry On

You can’t carry the worries of the world
And have a shoulder left to cry on.
So many days left to the hands of chance
With nothing to rely on.

So crawl with me out of the dark.
Let it be us the light shines on,
For nothing is promised or guaranteed.
But I’ll be the post that you can lean on.

I don’t want to live forever,
But I don’t want to die tonight.
Let’s walk through this world together.
Let it know we’re alive.

I’ve spent a lifetime living like a fool
When I should have known better.
I guess you’ll never know who you are
Until who you were is gone forever.

So walk with me out into the light.
Let it be us who learn to live on.
For nothing is promised or guaranteed,
But I’ll be the shoulder you can cry on.

Let me be your shoulder to cry on.

On the band's website they also posted a half-hour mini-documentary about the making of the album. If you're interested, check out the video on, which gives some advice if you don't have time to watch the full video.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Bye Week

Since the Nasty family traveled to the town of gridlock, graft, and duplicity (Springfield, IL) for my daughter's gymnastics meet on Sunday morning, I didn't get to watch much football on Saturday.

I did catch a few of the late games at the hotel room last night though.

Wisconsin has had two implosions in a row. Michigan State beat them on a improbable hail mary last week. Last night after Wisconsin took the lead and then provided a horrible kickoff, Ohio State's freshman qb beat them on a rollout right throw to the end zone. Where the hell was the safety on that play? And man, those new school Ohio State uniforms are ugly. Just awful.

USC got hosed on a call at the end of the game last night. They should have had a second on the clock to attempt to kick a field goal. Then again, the more I see Stanford, the more I'm impressed. Their TEs are lethal weapons.

I saw highlights of how the Commodores of Vanderbilt should have at least taken their game against the Razorbacks to overtime. Tough deal if you're a Vandy fan. This new Vanderbilt coach is doing a heck of job over there in Nashville. They're playing inspired ball, and having the brother of Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback helps too. If I were a betting man, I'd take the points and bet on Vandy next week when they play Florida.

Congrats to Joe Paterno on his historic win yesterday.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Music Friday: "Tour of Duty"

With the pullout from Iraq looking like a definite reality, today's song seems appropriate.

Mr. Isbell has a penchant for writing songs about or songs that reference veterans of the current wars if you've followed his solo career: "Dress Blues," "Sunstroke," "Soldiers Get Strange," and now the more upbeat "Tour of Duty."

I covet the hat he's wearing in this video.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crazy Ass Marathoners

I have some folks I know of who are really into running marathons as far as I can tell by the chatter on the InterWeb.

I've done some running over the years, but I've never gone as far running a marathon. I got up to working in the 5K range at one time, which is a good cardio workout, but I have an on-again/off-again relationship with running. Lately though it's mostly been off. The ways things have been going lately, I'm lucky to take my dog for a walk and be able to work out on the elliptical on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

A guy I met this summer is an ultra marathoner. The amount of time he had to put into that pursuit seemed comparable to a second job. Or an addiction.

But an article I read recently from Utne makes ultra-marathoning look easy. I kid you not.

In "It's a Mad, Mad Marathon" by Leslie Jamison, you get to read about a race inspired by a prison break, a course designed by a madman, an invitation-only affair that makes readers wonder "Why?"

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Tennessee

I had the good fortune of getting back in time to watch the game live since we left Madison, WI in the early afternoon and got back right around 6 p.m.

So I sat down in front of the tube and wanted to watch a strong Tide offense have its way with the Volunteer defense. That didn't happen in the first half, unfortunately. At the half, Tennessee and Alabama were tied 6-6. Surprisingly, the Volunteers were having some success running the ball versus Alabama, and the Dooley did a really nice play call on a fake punt-pass that created a first down since Kirkpatrick was playing soft coverage on the gunner.

The first drive of Alabama's was not pretty since McCarron threw a bad interception. The Tide's D held, but McCarron looked tentative during the whole first half of the game.

In the second half Alabama woke up and got itself together, scoring 31 unanswered points with McCarron looking a heck of lot sharper.

I saw today that the Nov. 5 game against LSU has been moved to be a night game. This game has all manner of hype around it: No. 1 (LSU) vs. No. 2 (Alabama) in a SEC conference tussle.

I have concerns, however.

Tennessee's running back, Poole, had some success running the ball against the Tide. He netted 67 yards with a 3.5 average, and Tennessee as a whole had 92 net yards rushing. We should expect LSU's starting running back to play on Nov. 5 even though he was suspended for the their beatdown of Auburn.

Alabama also didn't get as much pressure on the QB as they usually do, so whoever is manning the quarterback position for LSU could have some time to get the ball to their excellent receiver Rueben Randle and other options.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Music Friday: "Gimme Three Steps" & "Tuesday's Gone"

So I'm here in Madison, Wisconsin for a a conference, so you might think I'd feature some singer or band hailing from the beautiful land of cheese and beer.


Today I'm providing two tunes from Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The first song always reminds me of the infamous Golden Spike in Kirksville, MO, a little watering hole that Mrs. Nasty worked as a waitress for a short stint in college before I knew her. The house band at the Spike played this song every time I saw them play there. Lots of two-steppin' was witnessed by this observer.

I have Skynyrd songs in my head lately since I bought one of their greatest hits albums for $5 in the mp3 format.

Unfortunately, the album doesn't include "Tuesday's Gone," which is on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Ole Miss

Ole Miss scored once, and then they didn't score again.

Alabama scored 52 points--four touchdowns for Richardson, 2 touchdowns for Fowler, a touchdown pass from McCarron to Gibson, and Jeremy Shelley field goal.

But the Crimson Tide were only up 17-7 at the half, so the second half was a beatdown.

McCarron was an efficient QB yesterday and looked like a tall Greg McElroy with a stronger arm.

The defense looked solid most of the day, and it was good to see C.J. Mosley take the field again after sitting out two games with a dislocated elbow.

But boy, the kickoff coverage stunk many times yesterday. That needs to get cleaned up quickly.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Music Friday: "Daysleeper"

Currently the family car has R.E.M.'s Up in the CD player, and one of my favorite songs on that album is "Daysleeper." Hannah had to suffer through "Lotus" and "Sad Professor" on the way back from gymnastics last night.

While R.E.M.'s song isn't talking about the type of daysleepers I'm more familiar with--folks who work the second and third shifts in factories--the song usually reminds me of those people who see the day from a very different perspective than the majority.

In fact, thinking about second- and third-shifters also reminds me of an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that I'm including in the book I'm writing with a colleague. "Beer for Breakfast" by John M. McGuire describes the taverns in the St. Louis that cater to the late shift crowd.

The tavern I frequented back in college also was amenable to those clientele.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last Words

Tonight I was reading an article in Ode Magazine in which the author was using Buddhist principles to talk about how to cope with wild and mundane happenings in one's life. In other words, the author was looking at life through a Buddhist lens.

For the most part, the article wasn't anything I haven't read before and nowhere near as interesting as Brian Haycock's Dharma Road, but the author does provide presumably the final words of Buddha Shakyamuni's last sermon before he died. Those last words are the following:

"Transient are all conditioned things.
Strive on with diligence."

A bit later in the article, the writer cites a knowledgeable friend of her who says a better translation of the final sentence is this: 

"Move with confidence into the future."

Regardless of how one translates the last line, my crude paraphrase of the Buddha's words are this: 

Good and bad stuff happens.
Deal with it. 

I like the Buddha's words better though. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Serial Novel of Note

Today I found out about a serial novel just starting on the Web. It's titled Redwood. Mash the link and you'll be reading the first chapter.

It's a novel set in the future written from the first person point of view.

A new chapter will come out every Wednesday.

Random Notes from a Crank

I know morons use the stuff in Advil Cold & Sinus to make methamphetamine, but that medicine works. With the harvest happening here in central Illinois, I'm all congested and a bit sickly. Having to provide my driver's license to get the good stuff (Advil, people, not crystal meth) is no problem since it's going to make me feel better.

This pisses me off: "Drop Dead." We should expect many folks from Florida universities polishing their CVs and going on the job market again. And New College (one of the colleges noted in the article) is consistently ranked as one of the best college values in American education.

What's the deal (channeling Andy Rooney) with people not acknowledging you've sent them an email? I say this as an occasional offender of what I'm complaining about, so I also need to do better. But lack of acknowledgement happens to me all the time, whether it's colleagues or students. A simple "Thanks" will do.

For whatever reason, my son insists on making the past tense of the verb pee to be "peeped." For example, "I peeped in the toilet, Dad." He knows better, but he's just using the word because he knows it's not right. Good thing we didn't name him Tom.

For those painting the Wall Street protesters as clowns, I give you a piece in Business Insider that is heavy on visuals: "CHARTS: "Here's What the Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About..." by Henry Blodget. Those visuals cohere with the article I linked in my previous "Random Notes..." post.

The passing of Steve Jobs has created some interesting claims about what he did for the world. Since I'm not the most technologically savvy or knowledgeable about computers, I'll quote what one of my buddies, who works for a major computer company, put as his FB status for a short while: "Dear Internets, I like my iPhone and all but it's worth noting that Jobs did not invent the smartphone, or the computer, or digital music distribution. He did it better than anyone else had done up to the point they were introduced. He was a phenomenal marketing and design guy with a flair for the dramatic. Apple is Apple because of Job's marketing and design brilliance not because he invented anything. So, please stop with the Edison comparisons and just remember him for what he really really did, make great products and market the hell out of them." I don't know how right my buddy is, but I did notice that many of the articles written about Jobs quoted professors of marketing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Vanderbilt

As was expected, Coach Saban was pissed at halftime.

The sideline reporter for ESPNU questioned an angry man on Saturday. Mental errors, lack of intensity, limited success running the ball, many third and longs, these all contributed to the Saban's nasty attitude even though the Tide was up 14 to 0 at half.

Realistically, the Tide didn't look that great in the first half. The Commodores ventured into Alabama territory many times and had some explosive plays. Vanderbilt would have scored two field goals if the kicker would have done his job. However, both were long field goal tries, but Vandy did move the ball on the vaunted Alabama defense that a journalist from SI compared to some of the best historically. We'll see about that since the defenses of '66, '79, '92, and '09 were remarkably salty. Tough as hell.

Alabama got it together in the second half. Richardson had 111 yards of rushing by the end of the game, and Jalston Fowler, the Tide's third string running back, also brought the pain to the Commodores since Lacy sat out with turf toe. Fowler has to weigh somewhere around 250 lbs., and he's comparable to a middle linebacker with speed and moves.

The promising aspect of the offense is that McCarron had a good game with four touchdowns thrown to DeAndrew White (two), Smelley, and Hanks. White made two really nice grabs. The touchdown right at the close of the first half had White jumping high above defenders in the back of the end zone even though McCarron could have probably run in the ball for a touchdown, which was evident from reading Coach Saban's lips on the sidelines, "A.J.! Run the ball!" I think there were also curse words used. The second touchdown to White was a long touchdown pass, which makes me hopeful for more a vertical passing game.

Regardless, even though the win was a shutout (34-0), there is a lot the coaching staff can take away from the game for future contests--both good and bad.

That idea was clear in Saban's opening comments after the game: "It’s always good to win in the league. We obviously didn’t play our best football game, especially in the first half. We didn’t have the mental energy and intensity that we like to have, to play with the kind of consistency that we need to in order to improve as a team. I think it’s a challenge for everyone to say what do I want to accomplish, what is important to me, what kind of ownership am I willing to take for that, and am I going to be individually responsible to make sure I do my job well all the time. It doesn’t have anything to do with who you are playing. Vanderbilt has a great team. They are doing a good job with their team. They play hard and create a lot of problems for you on offense and do a lot of things to take advantage and play well with the guys they have. We played a lot better in the second half. AJ (McCarron) played pretty well, he didn’t turn the ball over which was really important. We made some adjustments and played a lot better in the second half. We certainly have a lot of things we need to improve on and we will continue to work on that. Everybody’s got to take the same ownership and responsibility to do that so we can get better as a team.”

Next Saturday the Crimson Tide travels to Oxford to battle the Rebels of Ole Miss in Vaught-Hemingway.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Music Friday: "Medicine" & "Tiny Light"

This Music Friday I'm featuring an artist, Grace Potter, who has to have one of the most powerful voices in music right now. She's got some pipes.

The two videos, which are tracks from her and the Nocturnals' recent album, further showcase her voice since they're acoustic versions of the songs.

Often when I listen to her stuff, I feel like she reminds me of someone, but I can't recall who exactly that musician might be. My first reaction is Bonnie Raitt, but that doesn't seem right.

People also have compared her to Grace Slick because they often play "White Rabbit" at shows, I'm told. Overall though, her music is an interesting mix of rock, blues, and soul.

And Hannah's a fan of the recent album. She's asked a few times, "Daddy can you play that Paris song?"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Do You Think Will Happen?

As reported again today in the Post-Dispatch/StlToday, Mizzou is shopping around.

Most reporters are informing the reading public that the SEC is the conference Mizzou will join.

However, there are other options out there though some aren't realistic:
  • The interim Big 12 Commish persuades Mizzou to stick with the conference.
  • The Big Ten expands again.
  • Mizzou becomes an independent.
Which of the four options (the first one is Mizzou joining the SEC) will happen?

If Mizzou departs, the Big 12 will have to add at least BYU and another school (TCU, SMU, Houston?) to stop the bleeding. Heck, the way it's going, they might want to look at Southern Miss, Missouri State, and Tulsa. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Florida

The game didn't start out like Alabama fans wanted, a 65-yard touchdown pass to Debose on the first offensive play of the game, but by the second quarter, it was obvious that the Gators were going to have a difficult time on offense. By the end of the game, Florida only gained 15 yards on the ground and 222 yards overall, and the only reason they had positive rushing yards was a thrirtysomething-yard scramble by Driskell, the second-string QB, later in the game.

Overall, the Tide totaled 225 yards on the ground, with Richardson having a career game of 29 carries for 181 yards. The final score was 38-10.

The Tide didn't pass much because they really didn't have to. Then again, both Mrs. Nasty and I were getting frustrated in the third quarter since the Tide had good field position but didn't capitalize on putting the Gators away early. They seemed to fall into routine of passing on first down and then running plays on second and third downs. McCarron made a few long throws in the game, but he didn't connect with his receivers, which was frustrating. The offense was pretty vanilla until later in the game when Richardson was put into the wildcat. I think the only reason that happened was to offer something different to practice against for upcoming defenses.

Next up are the Vanderbilt Commodores, and the game will be in Bryant-Denny.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Music Friday: "Daddy's Cup"

This is a song about passion and persistence. It's on what I consider the Drive-By Trucker's best album, The Dirty South.

I've never been all that attracted to car racing, but I know and I've met folks who follow NASCAR religiously. The head secretary at work here loves racing and goes to events on a regular basis, for example.

Well, I guess I did go to a dirt track once when I was a little kid. My oldest brother took his sons and me to it. I remember liking it as a kid because, well, it involved cars, a subject I was interested in. I read about cars. I drew cars. I dreamed about driving cars. My parents bought me Hot Wheels. I played with them. A lot.

But that went away. I've owned four cars in my lifetime: a '78 Buick Regal, a '88 Chevy AstroVan (the UAV), a '95 Ford Escort, and now a '05 Ford Focus wagon.

I'm a real hot rodder, ain't I?

My four-year old son takes after his father. He has a plethora of Hot Wheels, but he got really interested through the movie Cars, which as animated kids' films go, isn't a bad movie at all.

So because of Lightning McQueen, we've watched some NASCAR races here and there, and it is an interesting phenomenon even though I still think of it as a monumental waste of gas. Quinn's a fan of Jeff Gordon because he likes the look of his car, and he also likes whoever drives the M&M car. Race car + Candy = Win.

So the video above goes out to all "them other crazy fools with racing in their blood" referenced in the song and the people who watch them. The lyrics are after the jump.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Notes from a Crank

I was in a grumpy mood today, so I tried listening to music as I cooked. The new Blind Pilot didn't work--too upbeat and poppy. The new album by Dawes didn't work either. I finally hit the sweet spot by listening to Glossary's Feral Fire, a fine album. They should be coming out with a new one soon I think.

I finally got around to reading an interesting, depressing, detailed, and somewhat hopeful article by Don Peck in The Atlantic today. It's "Can the Middle Class Be Saved?" if you're interested.

When I was reading about SEC realignment talk the other day on TiderInsider, I realized I left out Ole Miss and Mississippi State from my proposed North-South divisions in the comments section of my post. Sorry about that Magnolia State or Black Bear State and whatever the hell people call you. Here's a revision of those if Mizzou joins since I now have the road atlas in front of me. North: Mizzou, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Ole Miss. South: A&M, LSU, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Florida. Or heck, why not divide the conference using I-65? West: A&M, Arkansas, Mizzou, LSU, Ole Miss, State, and Alabama. East: Vandy, Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.

I'm sad to report the current state of proofreading in America has dropped to an all-time low: weather and whether are getting confused now. @#$% you, Spellcheck systems.