Friday, March 27, 2015

Music Friday: "Thin Blue Flame"

When I was in my office Thursday, I was struck (once again) with how "Thin Blue Flame" is an outstanding tune. 

So I'm sharing it today. 

Here's some snippets of the lyrics:

Heaven's just a thin blue line.
If God's up there, he's in a cold dark room.
The heavenly host are just the cold dark moons.
He bent down and made the world in seven days,
And ever since he's been a'walking away,
Mixing with nitrogen in lonely holes
Where neither seraphim or raindrops go.
I see an old man wandering the halls alone.
Only a full house gonna make a home.

If what's loosed on earth will be loosed up on high,
It's a Hell of a Heaven we must go to when we die
Where even Laurel begs Hardy for vengeance please.
The fat man is crying on his hands and his knees.
Back in the peacetime he caught roses on the stage.
Now he twists indecision takes bourbon for rage.
Lead pellets peppering aluminum.
Halcyon, laudanum and Opium
Sings kiss thee hardy this poisoned cup.
His winding sheet is busy winding up.
In darkness he looks for the light that has died,
But you need faith for the same reasons that it's so hard to find.
And this whole thing is headed for a terrible wreck.
And like good tragedy that's what we expect.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fantasy Red Herrings

Below is the the fifth annual installment of my Fantasy Red Herrings post. Like I did in '14, '13'12 and '11, I'm providing my usual intro before the good stuff...

Since I know some readers of this blog are my comrades who will draft players in our fantasy baseball league this Saturday, I thought I'd post about players that GMs might want to target for the upcoming season.

But my fellow GMs might think this document is simply a list of red herrings.

Maybe players on it are.

Maybe players on it aren't.

Regardless, here are players to target or low risk/high reward players for 2014. 

First Base: Kenys Vargas, Minnesota Twins
First base has always been a loaded position. Lots of good options out there. At first I wanted to feature Joey Votto since he and Jay Bruce totally screwed me over last year, but I'm going with a youngster. He yanked out 26 total home runs last year (9 in the majors), he hits for average, and his numbers in the minors show that he'll walk more often. Sure, he hits in a capacious ball park, but he might be someone to target late in the draft. 

Second Base: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates
Can this guy get any fantasy love? Walker had a great campaign last season with 23 homers and 76 RBI in what is one heck of weak position. He'll hit in the middle of the Pirates order and should provide a sound OBP (.360ish) for those of us in OBP leagues. 

Shortstop: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers
When I went to the Pirates-Orioles spring training game, two dudes behind us sung the praises of J.J. Hardy ~ how he's a clutch hitter and a great fielder and all that. I'm not going to be influenced by those two guys because frankly one of them was drunk and creepy. Flippin' east coast people. 

So let's talk about Jean Segura. In 2013 he had a crazy-good first half and then went to crap. In 2014 he had 5 home runs and 20 stolen bases. With his speed, he should be hitting for a better average and be able to get all thievious [made-up word] on the base paths. 

Third Base: Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins
Miguel Sano this. Miguel Sano that. If you were the Plouffester, wouldn't all the talk about Miguel Sano get annoying? Regardless of that stupid rhetorical question, [in Mongo voice] "Plouffe, he got power. He hit ball long way. Make Molitor happy. Drink beer in clubhouse." 

He also looks like he's a very happy man.

Even with poor luck (BABIP of .299 with a 21.4% line-drive rate) last year, he hit 24 home runs. He's someone to speculate on in your draft or monitor once the season gets going.

Outfield: Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays
There are a number of cheap-steals guys who can be had late in the draft. But I'm only picking one. Pompey could steal 30-50 bags even when hitting ninth. And he could provide double-digit homer potential. 

Catcher: Evan Gattis, Houston Astros
I usually punt catcher to later in the draft. There are a couple of intriguing options out there, but I'll focus on Gattis, who obviously has power and will likely reach 30 home runs this season because he'll play every day. 

Starting Pitcher: Matt Garza, Milwaukee Brewers
Garza's best days are probably behind him, but he is what he is. He'll provide a sub 1.30 WHIP and a high 3 ERA with double-digit wins. His declining strikeout rate over the past few years is a concern, but you'll be drafting this dude later in the draft when high-K pitchers are likely off the board. 

Reliever: Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays
Cecil was just named closer. I'm concerned about his amount of walks, but with K/9 rates somewhere between 10 and 12 and ground-ball rates 50ish%, those are good metrics to be looking at. Also, he looks all nerdy-fierce with those glasses. 

Stay Positive: Oysters

When we were in Florida, we ate at one of our favorite seafood restaurants, Captain Curt's in Siesta Key. 

As I usually do, I ordered a half dozen raw oysters. The oyster is one of my favorite foodstuffs. I enjoy its silky texture and briny goodness. 

One of the times I was in Baltimore for a conference, I ate at a restaurant that offered a plate of a dozen oysters from three different places: somewhere in Canada, somewhere off the coast of New York, and the native Chesapeake Bay oyster. Of the three, the Chesapeake was my favorite. 

I liked all of them, and I've also had oysters from New Orleans and Florida too, but Chesapeake Bay oysters are my favorite with the meaty, monstrous ones from New Orleans coming in a close second. 

Fortunately, the Chesapeake Bay oyster operations are doing much better than they have. Madeleine Thomas's article in Grist, "Half-Shell Hero," sheds some light on oysters in that area of the U.S.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

We got home late Saturday night from Florida. When I went to pick up the dog from the kennel on Sunday morning, I received the happy surprise that all of the sweet gum balls on my front yard were gone. Before we left for spring break, I mentioned to my neighbor that when I get home, I will be taking care of the scads of sweet gum balls covering my front yard. While we were away, he cleansed by lawn of them. I guess shoveling their driveway all winter has some pay-it-forward dividends. 

Jason Isbell will have a new album out this year. This interview on provides some insight about the forthcoming album and his songwriting methods. 

I'm about to finish reading Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World by Naomi S. Baron. If you're an educator or you're just plain interested in literacy, you need to check it out. 

In my previous Random Notes post, I linked an article about the upcoming presidential race. In a whole different direction, Alternet offers "The Six Most Evil Presidents in U.S. History." George W. Bush shouldn't be in the runner-up category. To me, he's gotta be somewhere in the top six. 

And here's "Seven Demented Right-Wing Moments..." on FoxNews. 

On a cheerier note, the U.K. created an enormous marine sanctuary in the Pacific

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

As much as I'm not enthused about a Hillary Clinton presidential run, the Washington Post "This is the Best News Hillary Clinton Has Had in Weeks" article sheds some light on some early polling numbers. If you're like me and you tend to vote with the mindset of "the lesser of two evils," Clinton's numbers look good right now. 

On Thursday we went to a spring training game: Pirates vs. Orioles. We had good seats down the third-base line. Baltimore played a number of their starters, and the Pirates only really played a couple ~ Gregory Polanco and Jody Mercer. The Os stole four bags with the Orioles launching three long balls and a Pirate hit one out. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Music Friday: "Let Go"

I discovered that I missed the newest release from Nora Jane Struthers. I got her album Carnival back a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. It was a batch of old timey Americana music from a singer-songwriter with an excellent voice. 

So here's a belated post about learning to "let go." This track is quite different than the offerings on Carnival, which were mainly all acoustic from what I recall. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Music Friday: "Mainstream Kid"

A new album I discovered this week was Brandi Carlile's The Firewatcher's Daughter

Compared to Bear Creek, this offering has more of a rock and blues influence. I like it. Below is a tune from the new album. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stay Positive: The Bookmobile

I belong to a group on FB called "You Might Be From Waterloo/Cedar Falls If You Remember." Today someone had a post about remembering the library's Bookmobile. 

That photo is an older one, but I fondly remember the Bookmobile. One day a week it would park at a strip mall a block from my house, and my mom or dad would take me to it. 

I thought it was so great -- a bus full of books that traveled around the city delivering knowledge. From my perspective now, I really admire how my mom got me hooked on reading at an early age and supported me. Not enough kids have parents who do that kind of work. 

And I'm trying to pass on my mom's practices to my kids. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

I spent the weekend on the couch. I got a vasectomy on Friday. That's right. My beautiful sperms can swim really well, but now they can't jump off the diving board anymore. 

So the past few days I've been getting intimate with a frozen bag of corn and a frozen bag of peas and carrots. I hope they don't get jealous. There could be fisticuffs in the freezer.

Coincidentally enough, an article "Block That Sperm!" from the March issue of The Atlantic relates only 13 percent of men have had a vasectomy. That seems awfully low. 

Tiffani Thiessen's cooking show is back with new episodes. That's something I discovered this weekend. 

Although I don't follow the happenings of the NFL too closely, I can get behind Stephen Jackson's faux "Save the Running Back" campaign. #STRB. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Meat Skillet Pie

This recipe is a theft variation of a meat pie recipe I learned how to make after watching an episode of Symon's Suppers on the Cooking Channel. 

1 lb of ground meat (beef, chicken, or turkey)
1 whole cauliflower
5-6 potatoes
1 onion, julienned
2 stalks of celery with celery leaves, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
Smidge of Penzey's Northwoods seasoning
Smidge of ground cumin
Smidge of cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded sharp cheddar
Grated Parmesan
Half a stick of butter
Enough milk to make mashed cauliflower/potatoes

In a large cast-iron skillet, cook the ground meat until done over medium-high heat, add seasoning toward the end. Drain the meat on a plate with a paper towel. 

In a large pot, bring to a boil the peeled and halved potatoes and a quartered cauliflower. Set your oven to bake at 450 degrees. 

Next, reduce the skillet to medium. Add in the onion and celery. Cook for approximately ten minutes. Add in the tomato paste until the paste in well incorporated into the aromatics. Add in the garlic for a few few minutes Then put the meat back in and mix thoroughly. Cut heat. 

Drain the potatoes and cauliflower once fork tender. Transfer to a stand mixture with the butter and whip until it's like mashed potatoes. 

Spread the mashed potatoes/cauliflower evenly over the meat mixture. Top with cheese and place into the oven. Take it out when the top has a nice crust. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Music Friday: "Everything Is a Song" & "Ol' Glory"

In an attempt to stay positive before I have some minor surgery this afternoon, I offer you a couple of tracks from Ol' Glory, the new album from J.J. Grey and Mofro.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Stay Positive: Urinals

Maybe it's just me, but when I went into the men's restroom at the Greenville, SC airport, these urinals reminded me of something other than urinals. I'd wager money that these urinals were designed by a man. Then again, it stands to reason that urinals would be designed by men. 

I wonder though... 

Did Georgia O'Keefe have a daughter or son who designs or designed urinals?

If we ever get our dream house, one of my desires is to have a urinal in the bathroom I use. It that comes to pass, I want one of these urinals. 

Mrs. Nasty might not me to have one, but if I had a urinal, then there would be no disputes about the toilet seat. 

Win. Win.