Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

As I was driving the kids to daycare this morning, my eight-year old daughter asked me if she could go to the college in the town we live. After explaining to her that there are lots of colleges to choose from and you have to think about what your major and interests are and you have to think about what size and type of college you want to go to and how I think it's a good idea to go away to college to become more independent and then you need to go on college visits to see which colleges are right for you, my daughter made a snap judgment and decided she's going on three college visits: to the local college, to the University of Alabama, and to Ole Miss (where Mrs. Nasty got her Master's). My five-year son, on the other hand, related he doesn't need campus visits. He said, "I'm going to Alabama." The brainwashing starts early in the Nasty household, folks. Roll Tide.

After the discussion about scouting prospective colleges, we then discussed what kind of majors there are. My daughter is interested in Dance as a possible major, and she also says she likes science. I told her that Alabama had B.A. in Dance and that I had taught a Dance major when I taught there during my Ph.D. work. My daughter then was a bit puzzled because she said, "Wow, she couldn't have been that good." I caught her meaning and informed her that I didn't teach her how to dance. Rather, I taught her in one of my classes but that she was only a Dance major. Then she said, "Oh, I was confused. I see. But if you would have taught her dance, she wouldn't have learned much because you're not a good dancer."

We have the Encore channels via DirectTV. I've noticed late at night that there's usually a James Bond film on. I caught part of an old one last night, and I got to thinking: If someone ever makes a movie of my life, I want an underwater fight scene in it. I've neither fought anyone underwater nor had an opportunity to do so, but I want one of those fight scenes in the movie of my life.

Today is one of my favorite sports days. It was the date of the MLB trading deadline. As I was working on a document this afternoon, I had the pleasure of watching the MLB Network inform viewers of the trades going down. As expected, the Cubs were sellers with Soto going to the Rangers along with Johnson and Maholm going to the Braves yesterday. Today it came down to the wire with Dempster, and he got sent to the Rangers right at the deadline. As related to my rotowhorishness, Greinke went to the Angels, I grabbed Victorino because he's headed to the Dodgers and I need steals as two of my heavy hitters (Ortiz and Bautista) are on the DL, and I picked up Holland because he appears to the be the likely closer for the Royals.

Today is also the 13th wedding anniversary of the Nastys. Good times were had that day and have been had since.

Monday, July 30, 2012

George Carlin on Baseball and Football

I don't why this floated into my consciousness today, but I was remembering back to a meeting months ago (January if I remember right). The three of us who were there early did some typical small talk, and the topic of sports came up, One person derided the value of football for American culture, and I mentioned the famous routine by George Carlin about the differences between baseball and football.

The other two people had neither seen nor heard of Carlin's routine. I was surprised by that, but then again, George Carlin is one my favorite comedians.

So today, if you're so inclined, enjoy Carlin's explication of the two sports and what they might say about America.

Common Sense Gun Laws

To bounce off my previous post that linked Roger Ebert's column after the shooting in Colorado ("The Body Count"), one of Clarence Page's recent op-ed columns discusses the options we might have to  revise gun laws. If you're interested, here's "My Quest for Commonsense Gun Laws."

Below is the video of al-Qaida spokesperson/recruiter Adam Gadahn that Page mentions at the end of his article.

For a less scary set of points about gun laws and gun control, one that comes from an unlikely source, is  "The 4 Most Meaningless Arguments Against Gun Control" on Cracked.

To take Cracked's lead, we might be able to boil it all down to a concise and snarky maxim that is a tweet from the comedian Rob Delaney: "Guns don't kill people. People who say 'Guns don't kill people' kill people. With guns."

Friday, July 27, 2012

"A Shot in the Dark" by Roger Ebert

In "A Shot in the Dark," I like the way Ebert points out his opponents' beliefs and how they don't cohere with their stance against universal health care, Romneycare, Obamacare, and the Affordable Care Act.

As he says, "Many of the opponents of Universal Health Care identify themselves as Christians, yet when you get to the bottom of their arguments, you'll find them based not on Christianity but on Ayn Rand capitalism. Financial self-interest and the rights of corporations are more important to them than loving their neighbors." 

A recent study also indicates that the expansion of Medicaid in states is probably saving lives. However, Kevin Drum, a blogger for Mother Jones, has a good take on the study with graphs and a link to the original study.

And here's another of Ebert's blog posts titled "The Body Count."

Music Friday: "Cochise" & "Show Me How to Live"

I was a little late to the Audioslave listening party since I started really enjoying their tunes after they broke up. But it was a good amalgam: Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine sans Zach de la Rocha.

So here are the first two songs from the band's self-titled and first album. Rock on, people.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"The Reckoning" by Bill McKibben

I thought I'd share Bill McKibben's article about climate change in the latest issue of Rolling Stone

He works the reader through three important numbers that connect directly the present state and the future viability of our planet and then talks about the economic impact/impasse of it all. 

I give kudos to Germany for its efforts, which is detailed in one paragraph, but most of the article coheres with my own anger and frustration with the actors in this global reckoning. 

The title of the print version of the article is "The Reckoning," but online it's "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math." 

Also, here's 350's website if you're interested.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

A new business opened this summer in the small college town where we live. It's called Fruit Chill, and the establishment's fare is frozen yogurt. It's a partially self-serve deal. There's a whole process. You go into the store, grab a cup, and then yank on the dispenser of what flavor you want. Last time we went there, the flavors were pomegranate tart (nonfat), blueberry tart (nonfat), French vanilla, cookies-n-cream, strawberry, and double chocolate. My favorite has been the nonfat mango, but that got replaced by the sweet-salty pretzel flavored yogurt that Mrs. Nasty likes. Nevertheless, the next part of the process is where employees take your cup of yogurt, and you select what toppings you want on the yogurt such as M&Ms, various nuts, gummi bears (my kids' favorite), honey granola (my favorite), chocolate sprinkles, multicolor sprinkles, and so on and so forth. The topping of sprinkles got me pondering. I'm wondering if there are any food chemists who have tried making a different kind of sprinkle. What I'm calling for is a sprinkle made from vegetables. The food manufacturing giants have made strides creating juices that are a mix of both vegetable and fruit juices to sneak vegetables into kids and adults' diets that they sorely need, especially considering the sobering news about the health of Americans if you've watched Weight of the Nation or read reports on the subject. I want the food chemists to make a mainly vegetable-based sprinkle, which would be injected with some type of natural sugar (honey would be good) and other compounds to make the sprinkle stay together. Think of it, as a parent, you'd get to feel good about kids getting sprinkles. Hell, you'd be putting sprinkles on all kinds of dishes. Kids and adults would have another means they'd get part of their recommended daily intake of vegetables. In fact, if you want to turn it up a notch and make this sprinkle notion more alluring for kids, why not make the sprinkles in the form of little snakes for dramatic purposes: "Hey, Tommy, how 'bout some sprinkle snakes on your mashed potatoes?" Tommy would be eating up that stuff with sprinkle snakes all over it. So if you see these veggie-based sprinkles, or even better sprinkle snakes, coming out soon, you can thank yours truly. And I'd like a kickback for coming up with the idea. Take note food chemists out there, you thievin' mofos.

Stories like this one scare the hell out of parents. Unfortunately, these disappearances don't seem rare anymore. And this hits close to home because both my brother and sister live in Evansdale (right next to Waterloo), and my brother's house is right on Meyers Lake.

Last week, someone good-naturedly called me a "big cheese" at my place of work. I laughed about it, but that comment also got me thinking: If I were a cheese, what would I be? I'm going with sharp cheddar or smoked gouda.

As I noted in late May, I went on a binge of watching episodes of The Game of Thrones. Shortly thereafter, I figured I'd give reading the books -- A Song of Ice and Fire series -- a whirl. As I said before, I haven't read a book that would could be labeled as fantasy fiction since junior high school, back in the early 80s. But this book series has sucked me into its world. Currently I'm over halfway through the third book, Storm of Swords, and will be reading the fourth and fifth books. The books have a plot-twisting quality to them. In addition, the author of the series, George R. R. Martin, made a masterful choice by using third person omniscient and having each chapter told from a certain character's point of view. He's taken a technique from Faulkner (think of As I Lay Dying) and other authors and made it more palatable by working in third-person. There are so many excellent characters, and unlike other fantasy fiction I remember reading, there's a great deal of moral ambiguity in these tomes. Even though there are supernatural and fantastical elements to the story, the books read more like historical fiction and political intrigue, which works really well for me. I've become addicted to reading the novels.

And if you've read the books or watched the series on HBO, you might be pleased and/or surprised to learn that two characters' names -- Arya and Theon -- have become popular baby names. Arya is one of my favorite characters in the books so far, but I'd never associate my kid with Theon Grayjoy. I guess it's better than naming your daughter Cersei or your son Joffrey -- but not much. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Music Friday: "Hoping Machine"

With the shootings in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Aurora, Colorado this past week, it's easy for me to get angry, morbid, and even more misanthropic than I already am.

I just don't get it. 

Today "Hoping Machine" from New Multitudes is speaking to me. A video and the song's lyrics are below.

If you''re not familiar with the album, it's a collaborative album by Jay Farrar, Anders Parker, Will Johnson, and Yim Yames. They're playing Woody Guthrie songs.

Hoping Machine
Lyrics by Guthrie, Music by Farrar

Don’t let anything knock your props out from under you.
Always keep your mind clear, let your plans come out of mistakes.
These are the plans, and nothing can tear down
Made out of things that have already been torn down.

Whatever you do, wherever you go,
Don’t lose your grip on life, and that means
Don’t let any earthy calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine.

Music is the language of the mind that travels,
Carries the key to the laws of time and space.
Lonesome train whistling down the silent wail of wind,
Life is the sound, creation has been a song.

Whatever you do, wherever you go
Don’t lose your grip on life, and that means
Don’t let any earthy calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine

Out of order...

Quick to manufacture their schemes and ideas
Faster than any turn a tide can wash you out.
Word is the music, and the people are the song.
Tomorrow's chances feel like a singing god.

Whatever you do, wherever you go
Don’t lose your grip on life, and that means
Don’t let any earthy calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine.

Out of order...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

I tried a new beer recently. It's Shiner's Ruby Redbird. Normally, I despise any beer that has fruit in it, especially when people use limes as an adjunct in Mexican beer, especially Corona, one of the worst beers in the world. Well, there's also the beauty and horror that is Rhinelander lager, but that's another story. But I was surprised by the product out of Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. They put ruby red grapefruit and ginger into the wort. And it works. The sourness and bitterness of the grapefruit juice works much like hops and isn't overpowering. I didn't taste any ginger at all though. It's certainly a "lawnmower beer," a summer brew that isn't heavy and seems to refresh you. I recommend the beer after doing some work outside on a hot day if you want to try something different. But you have to like grapefruit juice to like the beer. Fair warning.

On Saturday, we got a brief respite of drizzling rain here in East Central Illinois. It was just a tease to make us try to forget how screwed farmers are because of the drought. I haven't mowed my lawn in almost two months.

The Green Party selected its presidential nominee. Dr. Jill Stein will run, and the campaign qualifies for federal matching funds. As the media coordinator of the Green Party argues, "The United States desperately needs another party." In the AP story about her nomination, Stein is quoted as saying, "We need real public servants who listen to the people -- not to corporate lobbyists that funnel campaign checks into the big war chests. That's what brought me to the Green Party, the only national party that is not bought and paid for by corporate money." If she had a chance in Hades of winning, and I don't even know if she'll even be on the ballot here in Illinois, I'd vote for her.

If you're a fan of rhetoric, dark humor, and acerbic wit, read Jourdon Anderson's letter to his former master enslaver, Colonel P. H. Anderson of Tennessee.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Music Friday: "Never Stop," "The Radio Tower Has a Beating Heart," & "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

For a lot of folks, they know The Bad Plus as a jazz trio that takes rock or pop songs and makes them their own. That's unfortunate, in my opinion.

I prefer their original compositions. The band's last album, Never Stop, featured all originals, and it's an excellent album. I think it's their best. 

So today I'm featuring two songs from Never Stop along with a reinterpretation of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from These Are The Vistas.  

Have a good weekend. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

Within a span of thirty minutes this Tuesday, my five-year old son was crying and telling me that "I'm always mean" to him and I "don't like" him and I don't "trust him," and then he was stating this: "I'm sexy, and I know it." Stupid hormones and commercials, respectively.

I know I've said variations of this before, but I don't think I've ever posted it on the blog. Regardless, to me it seems like people think they can make themselves look intelligent by being sarcastic. All being sarcastic shows is that you're being sarcastic, not necessarily intelligent. Sarcasm does not equal intelligence. Sarcasm = Sarcasm.

One of the presents my son got for his birthday in June is an adjustable basketball hoop. Because he's only five, we keep it at the lowest setting, which is 8 feet. I have to say, I'm a damn fine basketball player on a basket at only eight feet. I can even dunk. Shooting around on this hoop got me thinking. There needs to be a league for the shorter folks in the world. I hereby propose a co-ed basketball league that only permits players who are 5'10" and below, and they get to play on a 8 foot rim. If you're 6', Hell no! If you're 5'11," that's too bad. I could have a future in that league.

The article "How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God" is an interesting article from Scientific American, and I'm sure people will question the research methodologies used, but what about agnostics? They only worked with religious people and atheists. Harumph!

Just when you think the self-replicating code of Starbuck's has eased, there's this: one's going into a funeral home. Thinking about this analytically though, wouldn't a bar turn a better profit?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All Star Break Musings

The All Star game is today. I doubt I'll watch it, but I'll check out the highlights.

With the two wild cards available in both leagues this season, there are lots of teams in it, but here are my so-called thoughts on each division:
  • AL East: Damn Yankees. Damn the Yankees. Stupid Yankees. Always competitive Yankees. It looks like NY will win this division, but it'll be interesting if the Fighting Showalters of Baltimore can sustain their success and claim a wild card. Boston is underachieving. Again. Great work, Bobby V. I like the Jays a lot, but they've been decimated by folks going on the DL.
  • AL Central: I listen to Chicago sports talk radio from time to time, and White Sox fans are getting overconfident about their team, perhaps cocky. I think Detroit gets it together, makes a trade or two (perhaps acquiring Cub Matt Garza), and finishes on top. Beware hubris, Pale Hose fans.
  • AL West: I like that the As are competitive with other teams' castoffs. However, the team connected to George W. Bush wins this division once again. I think the Angels take the second wild card spot. 
  • NL East: I like that the Nationals are on top here, but I wonder how the innings limit on Strasburg will affect the team. Losing him sometime during the season is a big blow. I'm also enjoying the success of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, not just because he's on my fantasy baseball team, but because I've always liked knuckleballers and his personal story is one to reckon with. However, I think the Braves win this division with the Nats getting a wild card.
  • Comedy Central: This is probably the best year for anyone to win this division, and guess what, the Cubs are moving into full rebuilding mode. Oh well. I'm ecstatic that the Pirates are atop the standings at the break, but I'm doubtful of their staying power. The Reds will overcome them, but I hope the Bucs can gain the second wild card. 
  • NL West: The three teams at the top mystify me. The Dodgers are ahead with both Kemp and Ethier on the mend. They have good pitching, but that offense is pathetic without both Kemp and Ethier. Speaking of pathetic offenses, there's the Giants. And what the heck has happened to Tim Lincecum? All the while the Dbacks wallow in mediocrity, and they're shopping Justin Upton. I'm going to have to go with LA here. 

I was dead wrong on some matters, such as Marlon Byrd being a "stand-up guy" and Wood taking over closing duties, but here's what I'm thinking now. I don't think they'll be able to deal Soriano, but Dempster and Garza will be gone. I'm unsure about Marmol. I also wonder if they'll deal DeJesus, and I assume they will probably trade Jeff Baker like they should have when they had decent offers for him last season. 

What's heartening at the AAA level is that 3B Josh Vitters is doing well. Sure, he plays in the power-happy PCL, but right now he has a .302 average/.356 OBP, 13 home runs, and 48 RBI. On a disturbing note, Chris Volstad has a 4.44 ERA. 

So here's a revision of my prediction from March:

Starting Lineup:
1. David DeJesus or Brett Jackson? (CF)
2. Starlin Castro (SS)
3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
4. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
5. Brian LaHair (RF)
6. Josh Vitters (3B)
7. Geovany Soto and Steve Clevenger (C)
8. Darwin Barney (2B)

Starting Rotation:
1. Jeff Samardzija
2. Travis Wood
3. Paul Maholm
4. Chris Volstad
5. Randy Wells

Closer: probably Carlos Marmol
Set-Up Man: Shawn Camp
Set-Up Man: James Russell

Stay Positive: Big Boy Restaurants

As I related earlier, we traveled to Cincinnati for a short vacation a couple of weeks ago.

Much to my nostalgic enjoyment, there was a thriving Big Boy Restaurant close to where we stayed.

I hadn't been to a Big Boy since I was a kid. Mrs. Nasty has a little experience with these restaurants, I think. She works in Danville, IL part of the year, and there's one there, but she had heard negative appraisals of that one or maybe even ate in it and wasn't impressed.

But when I was a tyke, whenever my parents and I would go out to eat, I would pester them to go to the Big Boy located in Cedar Falls, IA, which if I remember right was next to College Square Mall.

On the night we dined at the Big Boy, it was good, no frills, "American" food. I think a couple of folks in our dining party might have been dreading dining there, but I enjoyed the restaurant. I supped on a Swiss burger on a rye bun, onion rings, a vanilla shake, and a coconut cream pie.

Another positive of the restaurant was that it was cheap. For four adults and two kids dining there, it cost a little over fifty dollars. That's for a party of six.

Big Boy, even though your eyes creep out some people, I still believe in you.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Music Friday: "Gasoline" & "Birmingham"

I learned about the musical duo of Carrie Ann Hearst and Michael Trent from a post about Shovels and Rope on the fine music blog HearYa.

Shovels and Rope is one of those female-male collaborations that seem to be multiplying nowadays. Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, The Civil Wars, and now Shovels and Rope (Hearst and Trent).

It's hard to top the fine work of Welch and Rawlings, but Shovels and Rope might give them some scrappy competition. The duo's second album, O' Be Joyful, comes out at the end of the month.

Below you'll find "Gasoline" from their first album, and "Birmingham" is from their upcoming release.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Presidential Choices

No, I'm not going to talk about the either-or option we have in the United States. No, I'm not going to write about Romneycare. Or the "governmental takeover "of this and that. Or how media consolidation negatively affects the quality of our news and doesn't help our "informed citizenry," to use a phrase from Jefferson.

Or whatever and ever amen.

On Fourth of July Eve (hang up a bouquet of bottle rockets like mistletoe, folks), instead let's talk about food. Let's talk about the Presidents' favorite foods.

On The Awl, Sarah Marshall did some research and listed the favorite dishes/foodstuffs of US Presidents in her article "All the President's Menus." Check it out.

After looking over the list, here are my cursory observations:
  • Obviously, I need to get my hands on some Madeira wine. Never had it. Washington and Jefferson approve this message.  
  • Oysters are on many of the lists. At one time they were thought to be an aphrodisiac. Hmmmm...
  • Turtle soup was a big favorite at one time. I can't say I blame them. I like that stuff a lot but have only had it two or three times from what I recall. That stands to reason since you can't go into your local megamart and say, "Hey, how's your turtle today?" 
  • I'm intrigued about Madison's "chicken and okra soup." 
  • I'd like to try some squirrel stew/soup. 
  • It's clear why Taft was our first obese President.
  • It's also clear that Clinton didn't grow up in a well-to-do-household and why he had heart surgery.
  • The lack of vegetables and fruit on this list is alarming. 

This list got me thinking about if I were President [NASTY in 2012!] and I had my druthers what people would make for my meals -- quite a food fantasy. 

Here's what I've come up with for my Nasty Presidential culinary dream team: gumbo; jambalaya; fried chicken livers; spinach, wilted or in salads; various types of lettuce for salads, especially for Cobb salads; cornbread; fried okra; collard, turnip, and mustard greens; kale; pot roast; broccoli; pulled pork; pork chops; roasted chicken; roast duck; lamb; northern pike, walleye, crappie, and freshwater perch; blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, and strawberries; apricots and peaches; all kinds of apples; green beans; sweet corn; bratwurst, knockwurst, weiswurst, and Braunschweiger from K&W Sausage company; head cheese and hot souse; cucumber soup; raw oysters, specifically ones from New Orleans/Gulf and the Chesapeake Bay; crawfish; all manner of Thai food, notably the noodle dishes and the soups with coconut milk; and various American beers and wines.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

After watching dance routines Thursday, spending Friday and Saturday at the water park, and then driving back this afternoon, about the only intelligible statement I can make is this: "Hodor."

In addition, we did visit the Cincinnati Zoo on Wednesday. There I had a revelation. The old saying about someone being "hung like a horse" needs to be revised. From my observation, the saying should be "he's hung like a rhino."

One item I didn't get checked off my to-do list on our vacation is visiting Jungle Jim's, which has been called a "theme park of food." Whenever we return to the Cincinnati area, we will have to frequent that establishment.