Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Stay Positive: Skills, Attributes, or Attitudes That Do Not Require Much Talent

I rarely talk (if ever) about my work on this blog, but I've had a frustrating semester with one class. I know they can do the work and can improve, but it sure doesn't seem like they want to invest the time and effort to actually get better. And it's frustrating the hell out of me. 

In honor of that frustration, below I offer you items that don't require much talent at all. This is cribbed, in part, from a meme that's been galavanting about social media. But these are things I've thought about for years as an educator. 

Skills, Attributes, or Attitudes That Do Not Require Much Talent:
  • Effort
  • Paying Attention
  • Being Coachable
  • Work Ethic
  • A Growth Mindset
  • Being Prepared
  • Following Directions
  • Active Listening
  • Being on Time
  • Positive Body Language
  • Caring about the Quality of Your Work
  • Giving a Damn

So I'm trying to stay positive about things that work and get good results. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

[Belated] Music Friday: "ManUnkind"

I had planned on doing a post on Friday, but obviously it slipped my mind for the whole weekend. 

So I'll simply share one of the songs from the new Metallica album, which I'm really enjoying. 

[Belated] Sunday Hangover: Auburn

If you hadn't watched the game and based your impression of the Iron Bowl on the sports highlight shows, you probably would have thought Alabama had control the whole game. 

That's partly true. The defense didn't give up a touchdown, but Hurts had two dumb interceptions that gave Auburn great field position. However, they only came away with field goals. 

Alabama went into halftime with only a four point lead. After halftime the Crimson Tide went to a more run-heavy offense, and success followed. 

Next up is the SEC Championship game versus Florida. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Crock Pot Chicken Chili

I made this chili this past weekend. It's a slight variation of a recipe you can find online via, but I'm posting it here just for ease of use (for me).

1 1/2 lbs. of boneless chicken cut into cubes
1 onion, chopped
vegetable oil for sautéing 
2 cans of great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans of chopped green chilies
2 32oz. chicken broth
1-2 tsp of kosher salt
1-2 tsp of oregano
1-2 tsp of garlic powder
1 tsp dried shallots
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of heavy cream

Saute the onion and chicken in the oil for a good bit (15-20 minutes). Dump that mixture into the crock pot and then add beans, chilies, broth, and seasonings. Cook on high for one hour. Then move it to low for 2-3 hours. Fifteen minutes prior to when you want to eat it, add the sour cream and heavy cream. Stir thoroughly. 

When I do this recipe again, I might add some other herbs or some kind of herb blend to the mix. I'd also consider adding a third can of chilies and using fresh shallots. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Music Friday: "Everything's Ruined"

There's not enough bourbon in the world to numb my senses enough to distract me from the direction this country is going in. 

So I offer Faith No More's song from Angel Dust with partial lyrics.

Soon our boy became a million.
People loved him so
and helped him to grow.
Everyone knew the thing that was best.
Of course, he must invest.
A penny won't do,
but he made us proud.
He made us rich,
but how were we to know
he's counterfeit.
Now everything's ruined. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Hangover: Mississippi State

The word before the game is that Alabama wanted to work on the passing game more. 

And they did just that in a 51 to 3 blowout of the Bulldogs. 

Stewart had a huge day, and the play calling focused on getting O.J. Howard heavily involved. 

Hurts had one very long run, but it seemed like the coaching staff wanted limit his runs to work on the passing game. 

Scarbrough didn't play in the game to rest his tweaked knee ligaments, but with the game turning into a blowout, we got to see four running backs in the game. One of my favorite plays of the season was a swing pass to Jacobs, and then the freshman running back juked the heck out of some defenders. 

With Auburn's loss at Georgia, the Tide has won the SEC West. 

Tennessee-Chattanooga is up next and then the Iron Bowl. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Music Friday: "Crazy Train"

Since the American people elected Donald Trump as our president, I feel this song is appropriate for this week. And for the next four years. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

[Belated] Sunday Hangover: LSU

That was a game of defensive brilliance by the Crimson Tide. And LSU was no slouch either. 

The Tide's D stifled what was a strong offense and earned the honor of the whole defense being named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week. Ryan Anderson was named the SEC defensive player of the week, and J.K. Scott was named the SEC special teams player of the week. 

The Alabama defense held LSU to a total of six first downs, 33 net yards rushing, and 125 yards of total offense. 

Besides the one long pass to Stewart, the Tide's passing game wasn't prolific at all, and LSU, to their credit, played the run pretty well for a good portion of the game. Unfortunately, the fine pass to Stewart didn't result in a score. The Crimson Tide went for it on fourth and goal, but the play got all kinds of discombobulated. 

Eventually the Tide's offense got into gear in the second half on the shoulders of Jalen Hurts. Also, Scarbrough had a solid game with sledge-hammer runs reminiscent of Derrick Henry.

Next up is Mississippi State, a squad that shocked many by beating Texas A&M on Saturday. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Scouting the 2017 Chicago Cubs

I know. I know. They just won the whole thing a few days ago. But I can't help myself. 

As a devoted Cubs fan, I'm scouting what the team will possibly look like next season. 

Willson Contreras
Miguel Montero
Kyle Schwarber-?

Analysis: Ross is retiring, so Montero, a veteran and someone who has put up good numbers over the years, will split time with Contreras. The big question is which guy will catch Lester. I doubt Schwarber will play much at catcher, if at all, after coming back from a major knee injury

Anthony Rizzo-1B
Javier Baez-2B, also plays SS, 3B, and 1B
Addison Russell-SS, can also play 2B
Kris Bryant-3B, can also play all OF positions
Ben Zobrist-2B, SS, and 3B, also plays LF and RF
Tommy La Stella-2B and 3B

Analysis: Going from the right side to the left, the best defensive lineup is Rizzo, Baez, Russell, and Bryant. It'll be interesting if they resign Kawasaki, a role player. La Stella provides solid depth here. It's a strong defensive and offensive infield. 

Albert Almora Jr.-CF, LF, or RF
Ben Zobrist-LF or RF
Jason Heyward-RF or CF
Jorge Soler-RF or LF
Kyle Schwarber, LF
Matt Szczur

Analysis: There are real questions here with Fowler likely to sign elsewhere. Coghlan is a free agent. The Cubs traded for him mid-season, so they obviously like his makeup. But he's bench material amongst this group. To me, Szczur played well enough to earn regular pinch-hitting and defensive substitution duties. 

Do the Cubs make the decision to have Almora play centerfield or move Heyward there, so Zobrist can play RF and Schwarber can play LF? Unfortunately, the odd man out seems to be Soler, a guy I see as a really promising hitter. He has tremendous power but needs to stay healthy. Regardless, there's depth here even without Fowler resigning, but the big question is, "Who plays centerfield?" 

But if you think about the lineup without Fowler, the other important question is "Who bats leadoff?" Almora had a .308 OBP this season, but those numbers came in limited playing time. Heyward's OBP was not good. So if the Cubs invest leadoff duties in Almora and he falters, the options aren't good. They could put Schwarber as their leadoff hitter, which is an unconventional move but Maddonesque. I like Schwarber in the 2 hole though because you have Bryant batting third and Rizzo batting fourth. Finding who will be the leadoff hitter is crucial for next season. 

The elephant in the room is Heyward's hitting. They have to work on his quirky swing this off-season. As commentators talked about during the playoffs (and I think it was Smoltz), he has a consistent habit of squeezing the bat before he starts his swing, which makes him late on fastballs. For a guy that physically talented, he should be hitting for a much better average and much more power. I know I got tired of him flying or grounding out with runners on base this season. 

Starting Pitchers
Jon Lester
Jake Arrieta
Kyle Hendricks
John Lackey
Jason Hammel

Analysis: This is a solid rotation. If anyone falters, I could see Montgomery working as a starting pitcher. That's what he was doing for Seattle when the Cubs traded for him. 

Carl Edwards Jr. 
Justin Grimm
Mike Montgomery
Hector Rondon
Pedro Strop
Rob Zastryzny

Analysis: Big questions here. Chapman and Travis Wood are free agents. I'd like to see the Cubs resign both. The former is going to be expensive. The other two true closers out there on the market are Jansen and Melancon. Both are filthy. If the Cubs don't land Chapman, I could see them going after either of those dudes. Or they could go back to Rondon as closer. He did well when he was the closer this season, so that's a possibility. 

Edwards has emerged as a strong reliever, and it's clear Maddon has confidence in Montgomery. Grimm had his ups and down this season, and when Strop is on, he's a solid reliever. One guy who did well for them was Zastryzny, a lefty. I expect he'll be on the opening day roster next season. 

So we'll see whether the Cubs land one of the big-time closers and whether they resign Wood.   

Music Friday: "Wolves"

Since I've been listening to The Spirit Moves by Langhorne Slim & The Law this morning, I thought I'd share this gem of a song. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Random Notes from a Crank

At the Friendly Atheist, there's a short article about how a group of humanists, agnostics, and atheists at the U of Wisconsin do an annual "Graveyard of the Gods." Check out "In Madison, 'Graveyard of the Gods' Asks Students when Their Theology Will Become Mythology." 

Also religiously related is The Atlantic's interesting article on Pastafarians: "The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster." I like the critique of organized religion they're doing, but in some cases, it's actually becoming like a religion. 

Over at the Daily Stoic, Stephen Hanselman gives out some good advice about Election Day: "A Stoic Remedy for Election 2016: Choices, Character, and the Common Good." 

My beloved Cubs won the World Series last night. My years of torment are finally over. 

And some people are likely to be gettin' it on: "Brace Yourself for a Chicago Cubs Baby Boom Next August."