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.