Friday, March 28, 2014

Music Friday: "Spinners"

The Hold Steady has been making the rounds to the late-night talk shows to promote their new album, Teeth Dreams, that came out on Tuesday. 

The couple of times I've seen them on shows, they've played this song, which is classic fare from this straightforward rock band. 

Here's to weekends of "salted rims and frosted mugs."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

As I was surfing channels Sunday night, I discovered that Tiffani Thiessen now has a cooking show. Now, I'm an agnostic, but if there is any proof that there is some divine entity and that being likes me for some reason, a show that combines Tiffani Thiessen and cooking might be it. I'm willing to thank the gods or whomever for this show.

Speaking of the alleged Food Network, here's a thought. Why don't you have shows that are cooking shows rather than cooking competitions? I'd much rather see Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, and other chefs doing now old-fashioned cooking shows. In the meantime, I'll be watching the Cook's Illustrated cooking shows on PBS. 

While I'm skeptical of how rational humans really are, Paul Bloom's "The War on Reason" in The Atlantic gives me hope. As he says, "… such scattered and selected instances of irrationality [based on research studies] shouldn't cloud our view of the rational foundations of our everyday life." In the closing paragraph, he really brings it on home: "Yes, we are physical beings, and yes, we are continually swayed by factors beyond our control. But as Aristotle recognized long ago, what's so interesting about us is our capacity for reason, which reigns over all. If you miss this, you miss almost everything that matters."

I started reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, a graphic novel that I finally got around to checking out. I'm enjoying it so far. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Music Friday: "Grand Canyon"

I know. I know. It's not Friday. I forgot all about it yesterday because I have been at a conference in Indianapolis. 

On Friday I went to a party, a gathering of folks who have ties to certain graduate programs at the U of Tennessee and the U of Alabama. 

At the party, we, in part, celebrated the life of one professor who passed away a couple of weeks ago. 

So today I'm playing another song from Drive-By Truckers' English Oceans. The final track on the album was written for a member of the band's touring family who died. Patterson Hood writes about the time he and his friend visited in the Grand Canyon during the band's last tour.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Music Friday: "Sing a Simple Song"

Time to bring the funk. 

Man, I wish there were a lot of bands like Sly and the Family Stone around today. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: All Veggie Soup

Since it snowed today, and today being the 12th of March, I decided to make some soup. It's an all-veggie recipe. 

1 yellow onion cut in eighths
stems of "baby bella" mushrooms 
2 carrots, cut into one-inch pieces
4 whole garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Chopped up stems of broccoli from a couple of bunches of fresh broccoli
1/2 of a white onion, rough chop
decent bunch of green-leaf lettuce, rough chop
2 bay leaves
Healthy smudge of bouquet garni
4 carrots, peeled and cut into thin medallions
1/2 of a white onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed and chopped
1 bunch of broccoli florets 
package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the stock, I heated vegetable oil in a skillet on medium-high. I put the cut-up yellow onion, mushroom stems, and two carrots into the oil and browned it all for roughly eight minutes. Then I placed the garlic cloves in and cooked them for about four minutes. 

Transfer all of that to a stock pot and add in the broccoli stems, rough-chop onion, green-leaf lettuce, bay leaves, and bouquet garni. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for an hour and a half till it's about reduced by a third or a half. 

Strain the broth, transfer it back to the stock pot, and add in the carrots and finely chopped onion. Simmer for ten minutes. Add the kale and broccoli florets. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and simmer for five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Random Notes from a Crank

If you're a fan of the HBO series True Detective like I am, you'll appreciate this article about the final episode and the series: "Close to Perfection."

As some of you might know, I was once a professor at a two-year college. From my perspective, an article in Salon, "My Hard Lessons Teaching Community College," is a fairly accurate depiction of two-year college work though I think the two-year college where I worked had better metrics of "success" than the ones the author relates. Here are two salient quotations from the piece:
  • For many of them [students], why they fail is not a question of talent, or even basic skills. It’s a question so complicated as to be nearly unanswerable. Sometimes, they just don’t want or need what we can provide.
  • The other [premise] is much more profound and troubling: that with the right support (the financial aid, the grants, the scholarships, the tutoring, the early intervention, the developmental courses, the disability services, the right counseling, the list goes on and on) anyone can get a college degree. It’s patently false.

This article reminded me of a statistic I've read a couple of times: 12% of students who start at a two-year college graduate with a bachelor's degree after six years. That stat is shocking to most. However, it's not accurate and could be used unethically. Some people who begin at a two-year college have zero intention of getting a bachelor's degree (think of all of the truly vocational programs at two-year colleges), so that stat is skewed for a number of reasons. Also, some people go to a community college to see if college is something they want to try. Some discover it's not for them. No big deal.

Speaking of higher ed, with all kinds of discussion related to massive open online courses (MOOCs), here's some info from this month's Harper's Index: 
  • Percentage of students enrolled in massive open online courses who view no more than one lecture: 49
  • Percentage who complete the course: 4

Friday, March 7, 2014

Music Friday: "Pauline Hawkins"

I think the Drive-By Truckers might have their mojo back. 

The band's new album, English Oceans, came out this week. 

Below is track 4 on the album. Based on the first few days of listening to the CD, my favorite songs are "Grand Canyon," "Hearing Jimmy Loud," "The Part of Him," "Primer Coat," and "Shit Shots Count," but "Pauline Hawkins" is a good one too. I especially like the guitar feedback-piano solo that comes about three-quarters of the way through the song, which is then followed by some rambunctious goodness. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

The other day my six-year-old son told us that he had two girlfriends. The first one is Lillie, a girl a year younger than him. He went to pre-school with her. The second, apparently, is Taylor Swift. I explained to him that he's too young to have a girlfriend and that Lillie is prettier than Taylor Swift and probably much nicer. I continued by telling him that I think Taylor Swift always looks like she's squinting or something. Also, with how many breakup songs she writes, you have to wonder if the men in her life aren't the problem. Maybe the real problem is her? 

Thought Catalog, one of those sites that's frequently shared via social media, had an interesting compilation of advice. It's titled "21 People On What They Would Tell Their 19-Year-Old Selves." My personal favorites are the advice given by Anya, Parker, Donald, Jackson, and Katelyn. 

If I had to provide advice to my 19-year-old self, like anyone else, there are a number of statements I'd make that I'd rather not share on the InterWebs or in polite company. However, here's some advice for that fool that I'm willing to share:
  • Stay an extra year in undergrad because you should get a second major either in psychology, communication studies, sociology, anthropology, or history.
  • Read more. In particular, read about rhetoric, composition studies, organizational communication, professional writing, psychology, history, anthropology, and sociology. And comic books and graphic novels. 
  • Don't sell some of your comic books ~ the Daredevil when Elektra dies and the Amazing Spider-Man with the Spider-Mobile and the first appearance of the Punisher. You'll want to show them to your kids. 
  • If she's not into you, she's not into to you. Move on. 
  • Apply this principle liberally: Ars est celare artem.  
  • What you will learn being a member of a fraternity will translate more productively to your professional life than most of the classes you will take as an undergraduate. Get good grades and all that, but keep this fact in mind. 
  • Manage your money better, you idiot.

The other day I got a copy of Studs Terkel's Working. I'm enjoying it so far, but I wished I would have read it a long time ago. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Mushroom Infused Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

This is a variation of a recipe I learned about from Cook's Country from America's Test Kitchen, a PBS cooking program. The episode is "Comfort Food Classics" if you want to watch the program. 

16 saltines
3.5 oz. of shitake mushrooms
10 oz. of button mushrooms
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 and a half cups of beef broth
Worchestershire sauce
2 eggs
1 lb. of ground pork
1 lb. of ground sirloin
1/4 cup of rice flour
Smidge of thyme
Healthy smidge of fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

First, take the saltines and use a food processor to get them to crumbs. Set them aside in a large bowl.

Second, take the shitake mushrooms and 4-6 button mushrooms, place them in the food processor, and pulse until all crumbly. Set this aside in another bowl.

In a large cast iron skillet, sauté the onions until starting to brown and then add in the mushroom mush. Add some salt and pepper. Cook that for 3-5 minutes and then add in the garlic. Cook for a minute or two after adding the garlic. Transfer this to a bowl, so it can cool for a while. 

Add the mushroom-onion-garlic mush to the saltines and mix well with two beaten eggs, 1/4 cup of beef broth, and some dashes of Worchestershire sauce. Add in the ground pork and sirloin and mix well. 

Instead of using a loaf pan, use the skillet. Dump the meaty goop into the pan and shape it into a loaf. Place the skillet into a 375 degree oven for approximately an hour or until the internal temp of the meat is 170 degrees. 

Remove the meatloaf from the skillet and place on a cutting board. Place aluminum foil over the meat, so it stays warm. 

Scrape out the meat leakage that remains in the skillet and place the remaining button mushrooms (sliced) into the skillet. Add some salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook on medium for roughly five minutes and then add in the rice flour. Cook for a minute. Pour in the beef broth and a bit of Worchestershire. Heat until it boils and then reduce to low. In five minutes, the gravy should be ready.