Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stay Positive: Saturn's Rings

When I was in elementary school and we studied the solar system, my favorite planet was always Saturn. I almost got seduced by Jupiter [pinky to the mouth Dr. Evil-style if you know your Greek/Roman mythology], but it's always been Saturn. 

Saturn forever, baby. 

Going by my daughter's "Space Unit Study Guide" that I found here on the kitchen table, Saturn is described in this way: "second largest gas planet; large rings of ice; has at least 52 moons." 

Not only are they large rings of ice, but they also kick ass. 

As related on a recent ENN article, "Meteors Crashing into the Rings of Saturn," the rings are the planet's protection, its bodyguard of sorts. 

Or as the first sentence, an intentional fragment, of the article relates, it's "Rocks crashing into rocks." 

That would be an awesome sight to behold: meteors getting snuffed out by Saturn's rings, rock-on-rock violence. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Plight of the Connected

As many of my readers might know or might have noticed, I work in higher education. I'm around 18-2osome-year-olds every day. Well, not every day now since this week is finals, but you get the drift: I have contact with the "next generation" of America on a cyclical basis. 

And I'm tired of seeing them so fucking connected. 

Last week I was walking down the hall in the academic building I work in. It was right before the 8:00 a.m. class, and I walked right by a classroom with college students waiting for their instructor to open up it for class.

There were probably at least a dozen students waiting there. Every single one of them was looking at their damn smart phones -- texting, surfing, checking out statuses, whatever. 

It's not that I hate smart phones. I don't. Mrs. Nasty has an iPhone, and she uses it all the time to help us out -- looking up stuff, getting directions, etc. 

However, the plight of the connected is that they're constantly tied to and looking at their phones at the expense of other endeavors. 

Take the example I used above -- and it's a real-life one, not a hypothetical. It's close to 8 a.m. in the morning, and they're looking at their phones. Even at that time of the morning, I have better suggestions for college students' time as they wait in the hallway: daydreaming, "resting their eyes," chatting with a classmate, reviewing notes, flirting with someone, rereading material because there might be a quiz, checking out someone's ass, et al.

But no, they're tied to their phones, like the devices are electronic newborns/kids that always have to be checked on, cradled, and helicoptered. 

Meanwhile back in the other tactile world, less face-to-face conversation is happening. 

I, like some others, agree with the solution Sherry Turkle relates at the end of "The Flight from Conversation": "look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation."

Her argument and what she relates in her book reminds me of Robert Putnam's points in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

Yes, technology can help community-building initiatives and spur civic engagement. I think that's hard to deny, and I know people could trot out copious examples of how online systems and smart phones have aided and abetted good (and bad) things happening for a community and for individuals. 

However, I am troubled by people being so tied to their phones that they don't notice what's around them, whether it's people, birds, trees, their own reflections, and other aspects of the "environment."

Look up and notice what's happening around you. 

Or just think about something -- reflect and ponder -- instead of being hyper-connected to your phones. Practice mindfulness. 

Wake up from your technological blinders. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Mustard Greens

I was in my local supermarket the other day, and I thought about how I like collard greens and turnip greens. But then I thought about how I don't make mustard greens much because I only had them once because they had a funky taste to them for some reason. 

I thought I'd do mustard greens myself. 

So I did. Here's the recipe.

1 bunch of mustard greens from your local supermarket or farmer's market, cut into medium-size pieces, large stems removed
half of a slab of bacon, cut into smaller pieces
Smidge of red pepper flakes
Smidge of Penzey's Cajun seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups of water

I fried up the bacon in a Dutch oven till they were little golden brown nuggets of porcine goodness and then transferred/drained them on a plate with a paper towel. After getting rid of the excess bacon grease, I dropped a good bit of the mustard greens into the Dutch oven on medium-low heat to let it mop up the crustiness on the bottom of the pan. 

After the greens had cooked a bit ~ maybe five minutes ~ I put in the rest of the greens and added four cups of water into the pot. Then I added the drained bacon nuggets, red pepper flakes, cajun seasoning, salt, and cracked black pepper. Partially cover on low heat for about an hour and a half, and you have tasty mustard greens with smoky, spicy potlikker. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Music Friday: "Everywhere I Go," "No One to Call," "Only a Clown," & "I Was Cruel"

An album I bought recently that has sucked me into its beautiful vortex is Caitlin Rose's The Stand-In

I've featured Ms. Rose before. That was her debut album if I remember correctly, but this recent one hits me in all the right places. 

There's something about the timbre of her voice. 

Whether you want to call her work country, alt-country, alternative, or rock with a twang, The Stand-In is something indeed. 

Today I feature four songs from her fine album. Enjoy

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Hangover: A-Day Game

The A-Day Game was televised on ESPN2 Saturday. 

If you were looking for good play from safeties, you had to be happy with the spectacle yesterday. Six interceptions from Clinton-Dix, Sunseri, Collins, and Perry. From my amateur perspective, cornerback Belue had a good game, and linebacker Mosley was in the middle of the action most of the time. 

But strong play from the defense, namely the DBs, means the play of the quarterbacks was suspect, which it was. Returning starter and field general of two straight national championships, A. J. McCarron had a so-so day. I wish the network wouldn't have cut off the broadcast early ~ for some reason they thought the showing of drag racing was more important ~ because viewers missed the last part of the fourth quarter when starters were still playing. 

On the offensive side of the ball though, sophomore running back T. J. Yeldon was the star of the day, amassing 129 all-purpose yards and scoring the game-winning touchdown that I missed because of flippin' drag racing. 

One of battles to watch has been who will be the second-string quarterback. Based on practice reports, returning second-team QB Blake Sims has had a good spring. However, he didn't have a good A-Day. Alec Morris had a decent day, and even Coach Saban made this luke-warm comment: "Alec probably played as well as any of [the back-up quarterbacks]." 

As for the running backs behind Yeldon, with uber-talented Derrick Henry sidelined with a broken fibula, the men who got featured yesterday were Kenyan Drake and Dee Hart. And I don't remember seeing Jalston "The Beast" Fowler play. He's recovering from a knee injury from last season. Both Drake and Hart were okay Saturday.

The receiving corps looked outstanding. Cooper didn't have a lot of balls thrown his way, but both DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell, two guys coming back from injuries, had solid games. True freshman Raheem Falkins was impressive. The tall, rangy fellow from New Orleans looked good. 

I'm excited about the potential of another true freshman, O. J. Howard. He's a tall, pass-catching tight end, who could create all kinds of match-up problems when defensive backs are having to worry about Cooper, Jones, Bell, White, Norwood, Black, Falkins, et al. He played in an offense in high school that never had him play with his hand down, so he's going to have to learn how to block, but he has serious potential.   

The biggest questions for this team is replacing three starters on the offensive line. From what I saw, it looked like Arie Kouandjio started on the first o-line at left guard right beside his brother Cyrus, who plays left tackle. At least I saw them playing together from time to time, but that position still sounds like it's competitive. The other two positions to get worked out are Center and Right Tackle. I'm pretty sure Ryan Kelly will start at Center, but we'll see who nails down the right tackle job.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Music Friday: "Harp and Drums"

One of my favorite musicians/bands of the past decade is Mofro, which now goes by JJ Grey & Mofro. 

Grey's new album, This River, came out Tuesday. 

Below is an extended version of "Harp and Drums" from the album. And by extended, I mean over a twenty-minute jam with introductions of the band and all that. Be sure to check out the fourteen-year old guitar phenom who plays later in the video. 

Have a funky and soulful weekend, folks. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Different Map of the US

Via a NPR FB post, I learned about different maps of our great country. 

In "A 'Whom Do You Hang With' Map of America," the author provides one map that uses the circulation of currency to show population mobility. The article is a fascinating read because the maps show us the parochialism of our movements. 

Here are my observations on the blue-border bill-circulatin' map:

  • The eastern dark blue border of the Missouri region, which includes southwestern Illinois, puts where I live right on the edge of psychologically siding with St. Louis or Chicago. This also can be seen by what baseball teams people root for. Where I live in East Central Illinois, Cardinals fans generally outnumber Cubs and White Sox fans (among the "locals"). 
  • Indiana is all kinds of cut up by borders.
  • I found it interesting that there is such a strong blue border down the middle of Wisconsin. Don't know what to think about that. 
  • There's a strong dividing line between Oklahoma and Texas. I've heard of this divide. 
  • In some respects, the blue borders among the original thirteen colonies indicate the traditional demarcations of the New England states, the Mid-Atlantic states, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. 

The second map shows viewers what cell phone data has to say about who we hang with. Interestingly enough, the call data confirms much of what the dollar data lays out for us: that Oklahoma vs. Texas thing, the Missouri region, and the colonial parochial hangover. The cell phone data provides finer detail about the Deep South, however. Mississippi and Louisiana get aligned, and so do Alabama and Georgia. That makes sense to me. I've always considered Alabama more like Georgia than Mississippi. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Music Friday: "From a Window Seat"

A CD I've been playing a lot since I got it this week has been Stories Don't End by Dawes.

This band has been featured on this blog a number of times before now.

Today I'm providing their video (yes, people still make music videos) for "From a Window Seat" below.

I'm a fan of the band. I have their two previous albums, which I like quite a bit. Of the band's three albums, I think my favorite is Nothing Is Wrong.

The new album seems to have more ballads than previous releases, but Stories Don't End is a solid offering.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Sesame Cole Slaw

I made a vinegar and oil cole slaw a couple of weeks ago. It turned out pretty good. Somewhere along the line, Mrs. Nasty provided this comment, "Why don't you use that Asian sesame dressing instead next time?"

Mrs. Nasty got what she wanted.

The next time I made cole slaw I used the store-bought "Asian toasted sesame" dressing. If I were to really turn it up a notch, I would also use some sesame oil and sesame seeds, but I didn't have any of that stuff on hand. Long ago I gave up on trying to make my own Chinese food. I figured I'd leave it to the experts, Chinese-Americans. 

Anyway, here a simple cole slaw.

Half of a head of cabbage, cut into fine shards
Half of a green bell pepper, chopped finely
2 green onions, chopped finely
2 carrots, shredded
2 healthy drizzlings of soy sauce
Smidge of Sriracha
Enough sesame dressing to cover the slaw but not make it all gloppy
cracked black pepper to taste

Mix everything in a large bowl, transfer to a container, and refrigerate. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Music Friday: "Evil Things," "Holland," & "I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)"

One of the new albums this week was Indigo Meadow by Black Angels. It's a good one. All trippy, psychedelic, groovy music and stuff...

The first video features the album cover, but the other two are fan-made videos. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

Sunday morning I checked out FB to find a number of people informing that "He is risen." My internal dialogue was this: "Why yes, I have." 

On Saturday the Nasty family did the annual rite of spring by going to our local Rural King and checking out the ducks, chicks, and bunnies. 

Today was Opening Day, one of my favorite days of the year. And the Cubs won. True to form, Marmol almost screwed up the game, but Russel and Fujikawa bailed him out. On a day when a guy named Jeff Samardzija got the win and a guy named Kyuji Fujikawa got the save, I would have enjoyed Harry Caray butchering those names during the broadcast. 

Cubs win!