This blog will host my ramblings about life. To be a bit more specific, I'll probably focus on these subjects: music, sports, food, the everyday beauty of life, and the comedy/tragedy/absurdity of our existence. That about covers it.
This morning has been a day of listening to Led Zeppelin, in particular the album Physical Graffiti. One of my favorite tunes on that album is below. "Let me wander in your garden/ And the seeds of love I'll sow./ You knoooooooow."
This week an album came out by a band called the Hard Working Americans. It's a supergroup of sorts. Most noted of the band is lead singer Todd Snider. I've also been listening to the Snider's Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables this week. One of my favorite songs on that album is track 1, "In the Beginning." So here it is.
The coal-industry related chemical spill in West Virginia has received a lot of coverage. For other bad news related to coal, the article "Something Inside of Us" by Holly Haworth in the Oxford American details how Albert Turner Jr, son of the civil rights leader Albert Turner, cut a deal to ship tons of coal ash to the Black Belt of Alabama. He claims the money has helped the community, but by going by others' accounts, it hasn't done anything other than build a hotel. It's a tale of environmental injustice. Albert Turner Sr. words are used at the end of the piece: "The system is where the problem is, and we have not found enough black elected officials who are about changing the system. They want to sit in the same seat that [white power] sat in. That's all they want to do--take the seat that he had, but nothing about changing the whole structure so that the poor or oppressed people will be able to be more a part of this society."
In the comments section of my Top Twentysomething Albums of 2013, bimdude left this message: "I dare say you may like a newish artist here in Melbourne Australia who is a very strong songwriter. Her name is Courtney Barnett. I like her stuff but am only guessing she may tweak your eardrums also." I took bimdude's recommendation and got her Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. She does tweak my eardrums. Check her out.
It's been ten years since I've grown a beard. Back then I had a few grey hairs here and there. Now I have all kinds of grey in my facial hair. While I'm not going to go out and purchase some Just For Men gel, I will provide one of the company's poorly done commercials.
That list led me to checking out slang from the 80s since that's when I was a teenager. LikeTotally80s.com has a decent list. I used the term "psych" a lot back in 6th and 7th grade. Culture Brats offers its Top 26 80s Slang. I always liked the terms "stoked" and "bogus." One of the most extensive lists I found is the "Glossary of Eighties Terms" by In the 80s. Below is a list of my favorites. Ones that I used back then have one asterisk (*), and terms that I still might use from time to time have two asterisks (**).
One term I didn't see on the 80s lists is "doggin'," a verb meaning that you are giving someone a hard time. For example: "Why are you always doggin' on Luke?" or "I'm just doggin' on you, man." That term was widely used in my junior high school.
This is a two-part recipe because I first made a vegetable-chicken stock as the base for the soup. It's similar to another soup I made last month. Here are the ingredients for the veggie-chicken stock:
4 carrots, chopped in large chunks
2 leftover chicken legs and a bit of assorted meat from a leftover roasted chicken
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
3/4 of a medium yellow onion, quartered
1/4 a green pepper, chopped in large chunks
2 whole bags of frozen broccoli cuts
1 clove of garlic
2 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
I put all of that in a stock pot and covered it with water. The water came up to about two-thirds of the way up the stock pot. I simmered that for approximately two and a half hours, and it reduced by at least a half. I cooled it for ten minutes and then strained the goods.
Here is the next set of ingredients:
1 32oz. container of reduced sodium chicken stock
5 carrots, halved and then cut into thin half-moons
3 cups of navy beans, soaked over night and drained
1/4 of yellow onion, diced
4 shallots, chopped
1 bunch of kale, cut roughly
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut into florets
3/4 lb. of smoked sausage
Healthy smidge of Boquet Garni
Good smidge of Penzey's Italian seasoning
Some garlic powder
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
I put the navy beans, carrots, onion, and shallots in first and simmered them for an hour. After the hour, then I put in the kale and seasoning and continued to simmer. I took three-quarters of a pound of smoked turkey sausage, sliced it thinly, and then browned it in a cast iron skillet. Once browned, I transferred the sausage to a plate covered in a paper towel. After all that's done, dump in the sausage and fresh broccoli and simmer it all for about 30 minutes.
Here's the full interview with Jason Isbell from his Austin City Limits performance if you're interested. I had hoped his episode would be solo or with his wife Amanda Shires. However, it's with Neko Case, which is a good pairing also.
If you're a fan of bourbon, "The New Science of Old Whiskey" by Wane Curtis is worth a read. There's interesting info about the craft and chemistry of whiskey making. Here's some gleanings from November's Harper's Index:
Percentage of public-school teachers who spent their own money on school supplies during the past academic year: 99.5
Average amount they spent: $485
Estimated factor by which the amount of "Stuf" in a DoubleStuf Oreo exceeds the amount in a regular Oreo: 1.86
Percentage by which the average NFL fan's saturated-fat consumption goes up the day after a loss by the local team: 16
That last factoid reminds me of a tee-shirt The Onion had years ago. It was a simple white shirt that said "Local Sports Team." I'd like one of those shirts, but they don't have it anymore.
The Nasty family supported our local sports team (high school basketball) on Friday night. The Trojans of Charleston got their ass kicked by the Mattoon Green Wave.
Back when I was in Iowa, I went out to dinner with my sister, her husband, and their son. For whatever reason, we got into a conversation about how people sometimes name their kids with presidential last names.
There are a number of presidential names that work quite well. For example, I know someone who has two girls who are named Madison and McKinley, which are great names.
Per our conversation that night and conversations I've had with my family after that night, I'm predicting what I think will be some of the more popular presidential names for kids in the future, names that have little shot, and names that have no shot.
But first I'm providing a rundown of presidential names that are in use right now:
Reagan (Thankfully, this name seems to have declined in popularity.)
There's not much to comment on here. However, Carter might have increased in popularity because of the character on ER, but that show's been over for a long time. Jackson is a popular name where I live. And I don't see Grant used as much as it used to be.
Probable Names on the Rise
I'll explain these one-by-one.
It's an easy to say, one-syllable name. Hayes wasn't a distinguished president, but that hasn't stopped people from using Carter, Grant, Tyler, and Pierce.
Like people using Jackson and then calling the kid Jack, this name has potential because the kid's shortened name could be Jeff. In addition, TJ is one of the most beloved presidents of all time. As a three-syllable name, it doesn't take that long to say it.
Like Madison, Monroe has a strong sound to it, almost stately.
He was a pretty bad president, but Harding is a distinguished-sounding name. The only problem I see with this one that no one with the last name of Johnson will call their son Harding because kids could shorter the first name to "Hard."
Yet another week president, but it's rich sounding, and I could see a couple sitting in a McManson in some suburb considering this name for their son.
I'm surprised Lincoln has never caught on that much. He's easily one of the top-five presidents of all time, and it's an easy-to-pronounce, two-syllable word.
Like Buchanan, this one has McMansion potential. In addition, over the supper I referenced at the start of this post, my nephew related he knew someone in college named Taft, a guy from a tony suburb of Chicago. The only detriment I see is that the dude was the fattest president ever. Then again, he was the only president to also become Supreme Court Justice, so that's kind of cool.
Names with Little Shot
These names have some similarities to the ones above, but for various reasons I don't think they have potential
Ford ~ It's strong sounding but old fashioned.
Washington ~ It takes too long to say.
Cleveland ~ Fans of Seth McFarlane might like this, but I don't see people naming their kid after a rust-belt city.
Roosevelt ~ Same deal as Washington
Arthur ~ It's very old fashioned.
Johnson ~ Can you imagine the penis jokes?
Names with No Shot
I'll explain these one-by-one.
The high probability of annoyance will deter parents from this one. Just imagine the number of times someone would have to correct people on his name during his life: "It's Adams, not Adam."
A two-word name? I don't think so.
It sounds too much like "Pork."
The name sounds affluent, but since it's a compound word of basic terms, there's too much potential for crude remarks.
The shortened version of "Cool" is humorous, but it's a weak-sounding name.
This reminds me of a joke: If you name your kid Trixie or Jeeves, you might be pushing them toward certain professions.
A kid named after "Tricky Dick"? I doubt it.
Don't get me started.
It's a bit phonetically unwieldy.
Non-Sequitir: What this whole post leads me to is a concern that Christie will be our next president.
In my neck of the woods here in east-central Illinois, a status symbol or sign of mid-life crisis appears to be buying a Jeep. To drive back from Mattoon to Charleston with take-out from Thai Noodle is a mild form of torture. I read some good news in the paper today. There's a healthy population of river otters in Illinois now. If you've had to endure nitwits citing the cold weather happening on their little speck of the planet as proof that climate change is not real, "Scientists: Americans are Becoming 'Weather Wimps.'" might provide some solace through science and statistical analysis. So when you hear or read someone complain about the cold weather, which, you know, happens in this crazy season called winter, you can simply say nothing and think of that person as a wimp.
Well, at the start of this year, Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana. The media outlets have covered this story, but what the whole deal got me thinking about is one of the business ideas one of friends had when we were in college. I remember loyal reader TGD coming up with the idea that in college towns you could create a service industry that caters to the inebriated. Instead of drunks getting a cab or driving drunk, a business could take late-night orders for fast food and distribute that food to the hammered at a healthy profit. The shitfaced are well known for throwing their money around after they've frequented a keg party, imbibed too heavily in tequila, had three too many jello shots, or pounded down a twelve pack of Milwaukee's Best Light. Or at least that's what I've been told... This idea could easily be adapted for the pot smokers of Colorado (and elsewhere). You could create a business entirely devoted to curbing drunk/high driving while making a healthy profit. I know, I know. Based on empirical studies, those who enjoy ganga are notorious for ordering pizza when they get the munchies, but high people would surely be fine with a 20 to 30 percent markup on late-night food runs, and this service would keep our streets and drive-thru lines safer, less stupid, and less stinky. The new law in Colorado also gets me wondering what kind of sales growth pizza franchises will enjoy in 2014 because it's assumed more people will be partaking of cannabis. I want to see some statistical analysis about business growth related to this new law. Lots of people have talked about how this law might spur Colorado's economy, but I doubt they've talked much about economic growth in the way I'm thinking. And for a news program's trenchant analysis of the reactions to the Colorado law, I present to you Tuesday's episode of The Daily Show. Watch and enjoy. In the Nov-Dec issue of Utne, there's a trio of articles I thought I'd share. Staff writers inform us about how the Blest Machine can convert plastic to oil in "Turning Plastic into Oil." In a celebratory and satirical essay, G. Robert Ogilvy provides an ode to calorie-laden, old fashioned breakfasts in "Cupcake Shops Don't Serve Breakfast," which is titled "Breakfast: A Manifesto" in the print magazine. As the author says, "As civilization crumbles around us, we must console ourselves by knowing that there remains at least one thing untouched by the ravages of anarchy and decadence, one unchanging constant, one bedrock [a hearty breakfast] which still has rules." In "The Democratic Education of Unschoolers," Astra Taylor reflects on her own experience with being pulled out of public schools to be "unschooled." She offers some biting commentary about the drudgery and hoop-jumping of organized (public and private) educational systems: "What I really wanted--what I still want, even now, as an adult--is that intellectual community I was looking for in high school and college but never quite found. I would have loved to commune with other young people and find out what a school of freedom could be like. But for some reason, such a possibility was unthinkable, a wild fantasy--instead, the only option available was to submit to irrational authority six and a half hours a day, five days a week, in a series of cinder-block holding cells. If nothing else, we should pause to wonder why there's so rarely any middle ground."
Via Amazon I had been recommended to buy Matt Fraction's run on Hawkeye, but researching the series led me to read positive reviews about Fraction and Ed Brubaker's work on The Immortal Iron Fist. So I bought that instead.
Rather than take the whole Heroes for Hire gambit, the authors went historical with the legacy of the Iron Fist. It's an excellent comic book, one that mixes history, intrigue, mysticism, deceit, and lots of action. One of the most interesting parts of the volume is you get to learn about some past Iron Fists.
And one of the major plot lines involves Orson Randall, an Iron Fist who escaped his destiny.
It's a stunning work ~ compelling, sad realism. When I worked in St. Louis, I taught a number of students who had fled that region of the world as a result of the Bosnian War, and I wanted to learn more about that horrible war. I read about the conflict as it happened, but the stories Sacco tells are graphic, heartbreaking, and thought provoking.
We can hope that a war like happened there won't happen again, but in a world full of hatred based on religion and ethnicity while organizations and governments dither around, I'm not confident we'll learn from our mistakes.
To counter the intellectual jock sniffing I've done this season on Sunday Hangovers and my last post, I'm providing a couple of articles from The Atlantic that take a justly cranky and reasonable view about our sports-obsessed culture.
First up is "The Case Against High-School Sports" by Amanda Ripley, which points out the outrageous costs and mental energy we put toward high school athletics in American culture. As a lot of people know, football costs a tremendous amount of money, and the author details a school district in Texas that eliminated all of their sports programs and the academic benefits they reaped from such a move. She also questions the reasoning behind the claim that sports motivate students to do well in school. It might help a small percentage, but what about the majority of students?
Of course, I read this article the day after I went to a local high school basketball game. At least basketball is one of the cheaper sports.
Next is "How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers" by Greg Easterbrook. Like churches, the NFL enjoys tax-exempt status. (The tax-free status of churches could be the source of a rant for another day). As the author puts it, "That's right--extremely profitable and one of the most subsidized organizations in American history, the NFL also enjoys tax-exempt status. On paper it is the Nonprofit Football League."
In a more positive note for those of us who still believe in physical books and magazines, Scientific American (SA) has an article by Ferris Jabr called the "Why the Brain Prefers Paper." The writer culled a good bit of research, but here are some juicy snippets from the article because SA is smart enough to not give away their articles for free unless you go to your public library (or use a database) to read it:
"Despite all the increasingly user-friendly and popular technology, most studies published since the early 1990s confirm the earlier conclusions: paper still has advantages over screens as a reading medium. Together laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicate that digital devices prevent people from efficiently navigating long texts, which may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. Whether they realize it or not, people often approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper. And e-readers fail to re-create certain tactile experiences of reading on paper, the absence of which some find unsettling."
For educators, this conclusion merits attention: "When reading on screens, individuals seems less inclined to engage in what psychologists call metacognitive learning regulation--setting goals, rereading difficult sections and checking how much one has understood along the way."
To get in a more positive frame of mind about Alabama football, I'm relishing the fact that the Tide will haul in yet another strong recruiting class and there's a lot of talent in Tuscaloosa.
So I'm projecting a very early roster of the 2014 Crimson Tide. With some of the positions on this two-deep roster (three deep at the wide receiver and running back), I've provided my reasoning behind these choices. For each phase of the game ~ offense, defense, and special teams ~ I have provided commentary. Without further ado, here are my so-called thoughts. Offense I suspect the Tide offense in 2014 will rely more heavily on the run like they have in the past. With a serious question mark at the QB position, competition for that position will garner most of the media attention. However, creating a cohesive and kick-ass offensive line will be the most important goal. While this past season the o-line worked well at times, they were inconsistent. Left tackle, left guard, and right guard will have new starters there. That's a concern. There are plenty of skill-position players to use at running back and wide receiver, but sound blocking and solid qb play are key. I hope for a big year from Derrick Henry.
Quarterback: Blake Sims or Player-to-be-Named This is the huge hole the team has to fill. Blake Sims has been the back-up quarterback for two years, so he obviously has an advantage knowing the system well. After Sims, who is a senior, you have a gaggle of QBs who had chances to take away the back-up qb job away from Sims but never did: Alec Morris, Luke Del Rio, and Cooper Bateman. The Tide landed the highly recruited David Cornwell from Oklahoma, but he's coming off knee surgery. InterWeb rumors indicate that Jacob Coker, the back-up QB at Florida State, may transfer to somewhere, possibly Alabama. Coker is a very good QB and if he lands in T-Town, the A-Day game will be even more interesting. Running Back: Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake Drake was the number-two back for most of the season, but he has gotten in the doghouse over the past couple of years. Henry showed he is the best back on the roster in the Sugar Bowl, so that's why I have him number one. Fullback/H-Back: Jalston Fowler, Brian Vogler Left Tackle: Grant Hill or Cameron Robinson (tf) With Cyrus K off to ply his trade in the NFL, this opens up an opportunity for arguably the number-one recruit in the nation, Cameron Robinson. Grant Hill has a lot of potential too, but I wonder if his future is at right tackle. Left Guard: Chad Lindsey, Isaac Luatua With Arie K having graduated, Lindsey might take over here. He started at center some last season because of injuries to Kelly, but he can also play guard. Center: Ryan Kelly, Chad Lindsey Right Guard: Leon Brown, Alphonse Taylor In the Sugar Bowl, Brown manned this spot because of Steen being out after surgery. It's possible that a true freshman might crack the two-deep, but I doubt it. Right Tackle: Austin Shepherd, Grant Hill Tight End: O.J. Howard, Brian Vogler In 2014 O.J. Howard needs the ball thrown to him more often. Wide Receiver: Amari Cooper, Raheem Falkins, Robert Foster Even with the departure of Norwood and Bell, the Tide has a strong stable of wide receivers. Though he's not on the three-deep here, a true freshman to watch is Cameron Sims. Wide Receiver: Christion Jones, DeAndrew White, Chris Black I hope Chris Black, supposedly one of the fastest players on the team, shines in 2014.
Defense With the horrible losses at the end of the season, I believe the Tide D will bounce back. The front seven looks strong, but a major emphasis will be in the secondary. In 2013 the defense had one shut-down corner who was banged up most of the season and a bevy of guys trying to become the second corner. With Belue gone, the CB position is wide open for both corner spots. All of the CBs have promise but also have disappointed. The defense will welcome back Sunseri at safety, and a number of younger guys will have a chance to become starters at corner: Eddie Jackson, Jonathan Cook, Maurice Smith, Jabriel Washington, Anthony Averett, and true freshman Tony Brown.
Nose Tackle: Brandon Ivory, Darren Lake These are the main guys from last year with Korren Kirven playing some, but juco recruit Darran Reed or true freshman Josh Frazier could make an impact here. There's a lot of good internal competition here. Defensive End: A'Shawn Robinson, Dalvin Tomlinson or D.J. Pettway Robinson was one of the best defensive linemen for the Tide this season, and he was only a freshman. DE is a position where the Tide needs an upgrade though, so a healthy Tomlinson and the return of Pettway could provide a much-needed stronger rush on passing downs. Defensive End: Jonathan Allen, Da'Shawn Hand (tf) The emergence of Robinson has been widely talked about, but Allen played well and quite a bit as a true freshman. Hand could push for playing time here. Sam Linebacker: Dillon Lee or Reuben Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton (tf) or Christian Miller (tf) or Ronnie Clark (tf) Mike Linebacker: Trey DePriest, Reuben Foster DePriest has quietly played well over the years. As the cliche goes, he hits like a ton of bricks, but it remains to be seen if he'll take over as commander of the defense like McClain, Hightower, and Mosley were. To take that role, he needs to be on the field for every play, which requires that he gets better at pass defense. Also, I guess Foster could play at a different LB spot. Will Linebacker: Reggie Ragland, Shaun Dion Hamilton (tf) or Christian Miller (tf) or Ronnie Clark (tf) The gaping hole is that Mosley is gone. Jack Linebacker: Denzel Duvall, Xzavier Dickson or Tim Williams For whatever reason, Dickson was suspended for the Sugar Bowl, so we'll see what happens with him. However, the Tide hasn't had an impact guy at this position since Hightower and McClain were playing together. Cornerback: Eddie Jackson, Bradley Sylve Cornerback: Cyrus Jones, Maurice Smith or Tony Brown (tf) Nickelback: Jarrick Williams, Geno Smith Safety: Landon Collins, Geno Smith or Jarrick Williams Safety: Vinnie Sunseri, Laurence "Hootie" Jones (tf)
Special Teams Jones is a special player in the return game. There will be new starters at both kicker and punter. Placekicker/Kick-offs: J.K. Scott or Adam Griffith Punter: J.K. Scott Punt Returner: Christion Jones, Player-to-be-named Kick-off Returner: Christion Jones, Player-to-be-named
Congrats to the Oklahoma Sooners for playing the game with fire, pluck, grit, and solid preparation. In the first half, the Alabama defense did not play with those characteristics. The Oklahoma quarterback, who is known as a running quarterback, had a career game. The passes he completed were impressive. And the Oklahoma defense put all kinds of pressure the offensive line and McCarron. As for positives about the Tide, I don't have a lot. When a football team has three turnovers and those three turnovers get converted to 21 points by its opponent, I guess I can commend the way the defense played, mostly, in the second half. They gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. But then they gave up a bunch a big plays later in the second half. The major surprise of the bowl game was that Derrick Henry was the number two running back, but it was not surprising he played exceptionally well. From my amateurish eye, I would argue he's the number one running back on the team, which begs the question why he wasn't used more this whole season. He's a difference maker. Since Coach Saban has said that it seems like next season will be a time to start again for Alabama football, sometime in the near future I'm going to feature what I think the Tide roster will possibly look like when they line up against West Virginia in the first game of the season in the Georgia Dome. As usual, the roster is going to be affected by juniors going into the draft, but by how Cyrus K played last night, he might think it's better to work on his game for another year and earn a graduate degree. Clinton-Dix is certainly gone because he's the number one safety in the NFL draft, but we'll see about other guys. Here's how Saban clarified that comment about starting over in the Sugar Bowl press conference: "When you start a program, you focus on the fundamental things that you feel are really important in the program, whether it's everybody buying into the principles and values of the team so that you can be a good team and everybody having a positive attitude about trying to accomplish the goals that you've established for the team, everybody being responsible for their own self-determination that they'll go do the things they need to do so they can do their job well, and the willingness to invest your time and have the discipline to do things at a high level on a consistent basis. If those are the fundamental things we want to accomplish, sometimes you do inventory and you say we've gotten away from that a little bit and maybe we need to get back to it. So maybe people need to be more accountable to it. Maybe they need to be more aware of it, whether it's coaches, players, myself, whoever is involved. So that's kind of what I meant by what I said when we got to that when I made that statement is we need to get back to the fundamental things that have made us a successful program through the years, and everybody has got to trust and believe in those things so that they really know and believe that's what's going to help us be successful." Those comments are intentionally vague like a lot of coachspeak, but it sounds like some people aren't buying into the program's widely documented "process" approach. It could be possible that some folks on the team will get processed.