Saturday, January 31, 2009

Different venue

I'm going with a change of pace with my next couple cooking posts as I tried some things from Bon Appetit magazine. I don't think I had ever even looked at it before but the library began carrying it this month and the recipe I am posting today looked right tasty. It also involved sweet taters, which I love, and which Robb Wolf from Crossfit has been touting as a great post-workout food for replenishing glycogen levels. My workout and eating levels are all over the map right now but I'm trying to get back into a routine and drop some weight (yes, yes, I know. Second verse, same as the first. I'm not about to give up trying, though. I have no desire to balloon into the 300s or be inactive ever again).

This is an interesting recipe in that it has some Asian flavors to go with the sweet taters.

As an aside, a friend commented on how unappetizing my leek gratin recipe photos looked. I have to agree. There are three reasons for this, maybe more. One, I don't have a fancy camera. Two, I'm not a photographer and do not pretend to be one. Three, I don't care how my food looks. I'm going to masticate and swallow it in the not too distant future. I'm not selling it. Presentation of my cooking is not high on the priority list. What matters to me is that it tastes good. Good nutrition is often up there as well.

That being said, this is a pretty dish. The purple of the red cabbage with the orange of the sweet taters and the brown of the hoisin sauce is sort of pretty to me. Not sure if it will come through on the picture. It tastes good. I've already fixed it a few times.

2 T sesame oil
1 lb sweet taters in strips
1 medium red onion sliced
1/2 lb chicken in strips
1 T fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 c sliced red cabbage
3 T hoisin
3/4 c cilantro

I forgot the onion and cilantro when I made this the most recent time. Oops. That's what I get for trying to memorize a magazine article. It's a real easy recipe. The chopping is the most time consuming part. Heat the sesame oil and stir fry the sweet taters in it. When they start to get tender, add the chicken, onion, ginger and garlic. Once the chicken cooks add the cabbage and hoisin. At the end add the cilantro. Serve.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mixing it up a bit

Alright, enough with the Stadium Club cards. I was out at KMart and looking at their cards. Apparently the KMart in my area gets cards once a year because they're still carrying the same stock since I first started shopping there this summer. Not a whole lot appealing. I wanted to get something and spotted some Donruss Americana. I had been meaning to buy a John Cusack card from this set for a friend of mine but never got around to finding it and didn't really want to go the eBay route. So I figured wha the heck? Let's buy a pack and see what happens.

First card, Ricardo Montalban!!!!! Sadly, he passed away recently. Known for his roles as Mr. Rourke on Fantasy Island, the villain in The Naked Gun and most importantly...altogether now....KHAAAAANNNNN!!!!!.

Haywood Nelson - Also known as Dwayne from What's Happening.

Bai Ling - No idea who she is. Her card says she was one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people in 1998 which is a lot like my saying I was thin in high school.

Natalie Wood Game Used Dress - Sweet. I mean Natalie Wood. That's cool. If I'm going to get a memorabilia card, I could do a lot worse. #112 of just 400 cards. Also pretty cool.

Quentin Tarantino - Another nice card.

Emily Procter - according to the card, actress from CSI: Miami.

Neat pack. Sort of fun getting cards of non-sports folks.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Less of more

I've taken a couple days off as of late from writing here. More than it would appear, actually. The last few posts that are shown were actually written days in advance and are appearing (appeared) on a scheduled basis. There's a lot going on right now and I'm trying to reel myself in.

After years of doing this, I've really become much better at identifying when I'm doing it. The why has always been easy. I just like doing new things. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out by not trying something. It creates goofy situations like when I had to decide between band and karate. Not many people can say that they had to stop playing the saxophone because it was getting in the way of their karate.

I make light of it but compared to when I was younger, that decision was easy. It took a long time for me to realize that sometimes it is OK to quit things or at least set them aside. Also, that it is perfectly fine to achieve levels other than total mastery, especially when you're trying to juggle multiple things.

Mostly it depends on what you're trying to get out of it. Going back to the band/karate conundrum, I was only playing in the community band at the time. I wasn't being challenged by the music, I rarely rehearsed, I didn't aspire for much more than having a creative outlet. Rehearsals occurred at the same time as my favorite sparring night in karate. Sparring was my favorite part of karate. It, too, was a creative outlet. There, though, I had a number of things I wanted to achieve. I wanted my own style of fighting. I tend to synthesize things. I'll take something from an idea and blend it with a part of some other concept and something from somewhere else and make it my own. So there was that. I also wanted to get better. At the time I was a mid-level student and I wanted to be competitive against everybody, even the top black belts. You can't do that without working at it.

On the other hand, I could have deluded myself as to my importance in the band. Besides my naturally awesome playing I was on the board of directors and was the webmaster. How would they ever get along without me? Same way they did before I got there. Thinking yourself indispensable is a sure sign of taking yourself too seriously. Even if you are, right at this moment, the best whatever in the whole universe, give it some time. You won't be soon enough. Age, obstacles, a bad day, death. Something will take it away from you.

I guess that's why I always aspired to be more of a Renaissance Man than to be elite at something. If I'm having a bad day in karate, I can always play my sax. Or if I don't feel up to rowing, I can write. Made a horrible recipe? No problem, I'll play the horses for a while. I'll probably never win the National Handicapping Championship, deadlift 600 pounds or have a major symphony play my compositions. Then again, maybe I will. As long as I enjoy doing whatever it is I'm doing at the time, I'll feel successful and everything else is just gravy.

And with that, I completely avoided the whole basis of this post which is my having too many interests at the same time. Or did I avoid it? Nah. I'm just putting some things off for a month or two. Whew. Had myself worried there for a second.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A couple more books

Wasn't too enthralled with the books I finished this past week. Going to See the Elephant started off really strong. Rodes Fishburne looked like the kind of fiction writer I really like; someone who combines good writing with good storytelling. The book started off reminding me of a novel I'd enjoyed years ago, Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain by Jeffrey Moore. So much so that I put in a request for Moore's second book yesterday.

The similarities were a quirky main character driven by what Fishburne calls "synchronistic coincidences". He falls in love with a dark, intelligent quirky woman. The early part of the book is sort of funny with a touch of darkness. All traits shared with Moore's book. Fishburne's protagonist, Slater Brown, is an aspiring writer in his mid-twenties who goes to San Francisco to become the greatest writer ever. He lands a position with a weekly newspaper and is fired after his first article. In despair he turns to a fortune teller who gives him a transistor radio. Brown discovers that conditions in San Francisco have caused telephone lines to intermingle with trolley car lines and that the radio he has received is uniquely able to pick up those signals when he's riding the cars. By listening to people's phone conversations he becomes a city-renowned reporter, breaking news scoops by, in effect, tapping phone lines.

From here the book gets ridiculous. Brown's girlfriend is a top-level chess player with an over-protective father. There is also a mad scientist, Milo Magnet, arguably the most intelligent man in the world, who tries to create weather in an effort to combat boredom. Add the mayor, who thinks Brown is out to get him and who gorges himself on food to comfort himself even though it never seems like anything Brown reports is enough to prevent him from being re-elected for a thirteenth term, and you have a cast of characters that despite being put together, never fit. Magnet, especially, has no place in the book. Yet there are chapters devoted to him. Just a really odd book that disappointed me given how well it began.

The other book was equally disappointing. Stradivari's Genius is a really long paper for school. You've been there. Don't deny it. You have a paper due on some subject and you find a ton of material in a couple of sources that is the basis for the majority of your paper. But you don't feel comfortable handing it in and saying, "Well I read two books and that's it". So you look for some other "sources". Maybe take a quote from the one book that is cited and cite it yourself to flesh out that bibliography. You know what I'm talking about.

That's what Faber did with this book. Not counting the individual issues of The Strad, which are also contained in the bibliography, Faber cites an amazing 130 works for his 230 page book. Conveniently, he opts not to use footnotes or endnotes so you never know where the info comes from or how much is from which source. I can put forth a pretty good guess. I would venture that much of the actual reference material he uses is from Ernest Doring's How Many Strads? Our Heritage from the Master. Faber calls it "indispensable" in the bibliography and given how Faber tries to explain his book, I can see why.

Faber says in the beginning of the book that the reader will follow the history of five of Stradivari's violins and one cello. Doring's book is brief histories on all of Stradivari's instruments. See the connection? Unfortunately, Faber needs to flesh out his report in order to make it seem different from Doring's book. So he goes off and writes chapters about people who have owned those instruments. Add a chapter, add a couple more references. Never mind that it has nothing to do with Stradivari or his "genius".

The title itself bothers me because the life of Stradivari is so far back in history and so undocumented, that anytime Faber writes about him, the sentence contains one or more of the words "perhaps, possibly, probably". There is so much speculation involved, Faber's book could possibly be passed off as fiction. Well, if he didn't have 130 references to indicate otherwise.

OK, I'm being a little strong here. Faber certainly doesn't lie. He's just taking what other people have already written elsewhere and putting it in a different, convoluted form with no direction. And just like you thought you were pulling a fast one over on your teacher but really weren't, Faber also fails to pull it off.

Monday, January 26, 2009

No baseball history for today

A number of baseball projects are keeping me from posting about baseball. The irony.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Egregious error

In my best music of 2008 post, I somehow left out Bloc Party. My only possible excuse is that Bloc Party has been a group I've listened to pretty much continuously since their first album so that 2008 wasn't much different from 2007 or 2006 or 2005.

This is a lame excuse since my personal anthem, "The Prayer", inspired my previous blog. It's also a really poor excuse in that I listened to two new albums. In 2007 Bloc Party released A Weekend in the City, their second album, off of which The Prayer came. Then, in a surprising, out of nowhere move, they released their third album less than a year and a half later, Intimacy. After repeated listening to tracks on their website, I bought that album on its release.

Bloc Party is sort of unusual among the groups I like in that they are very electronic and processed and rarely do acoustic, even expressing a total dislike for the format. You'll notice in my post of my groups I enjoyed in 2008 that I picked several songs done acoustically. There's probably a level of snobbery in this. I want to enjoy musicians, people who are talented at creating music, and not some group of fashion models whose lack of ability is masked by the electronic doodads used to create recordings.

That's not always the case, though. Just because someone doesn't do something doesn't mean they can't. There's so much I like about Bloc Party's music, anyway, that even if they couldn't carry a tune without the aid of electrical assistance, I'd still like them.

Nonetheless, I am going to post a non-electronic version of one of their earlier songs, "Modern Love". The folks from La Blogotheque did this and I really like it. They ambush Bloc Party's lead singer, Kele Okereke, after an evening of drinking and get him to sing a song out in the street. Just looking at him you can see his discomfort. As he continues to sing, though, you also can see how he just gets into the song and is enjoying himself and probably even isn't aware of the crowd any longer.

While I'm talking about La Blogotheque, let me also include my favorite song that they "did", Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible". Arcade Fire, packed in an elevator doing a song, the percussion being done by banging on the inside of the lift and ripping pages from a magazine, and a freaking bass clarinet. Who uses a bass clarinet?!?

Returning to the main point of the post, here's one more, more exemplary song of Bloc Party's, "Talons":

Driving beat, Kele's awesome voice, nice layering of music - not too much, not too little. Far from being my favorite song of theirs but a good one all the same.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Weapon of Choice

I'm finding that my methodology of doing this blog is a little more difficult than I thought it would be. The generalist approach is leaving a bit to be desired in topics. For example, all my baseball card posts have been about Stadium Club cards since I'm not really a collector and that's all I have lurking around right now. Likewise, the vast majority of my cookbooks are Deborah Madison's so I'm not generating a lot of variety there. Hmmmmmm.....what to do, what to do?

I have some ideas but for today I am not posting a Deborah Madison recipe I sort of did. I went to do a recipe for tofu, zucchini, corn and basil simmered in coconut milk, made everything and just had to add the coconut milk then discovered I had none. Complete craziness. I could have sworn I had. Based on a suggestion from Gaga, I added shredded coconut and the final dish tasted good but not like it would have had it been steeped in coconut milk. Which may be a good thing. What I ended up making was right tasty. In addition to the ingredients mentioned, it also had cilantro and jalapeno for some kick. I should just put up the recipe. Well, again, if you want it, buy a Deborah Madison cookbook (I think I took this one from Local Flavors AGAIN).

There's my problem. I'm not thinking enough about you, the readers. Right now I think I'm OK with that. I'm not trying to generate traffic. I'm trying to write. I'm trying to share things I like. If I really like Deborah Madison and her recipes, so be it. I'm not going to go out and buy Grant Achatz's cookbook just to make something for x number of readers. This isn't a cookbook review site.

I do tend to get all Melvillian when I write. I like to float away from a subject to talk about whaling and while I'm talking about whaling I might get into the history of some building and then come back to whaling and then return to my main point. My main point for today is the most important item in my kitchen:

When I bought my house, the very first thing I bought for it was this, a Kyocera ceramic knife. I LOVE IT! I was scared to death about owning one because I had a long history of cutting my fingers with other knives. Using this one realized it wasn't inherent clumsiness on my part, it was the lack of a sharp blade. My fingers would get cut from the knife sliding from whatever I was cutting and went into my hand instead. I have had no incidences of self-mutilation with this blade.

In addition to being a cool, jet black color, it is extremely light, well balanced and has a really nice grip. It goes through most vegetables with incredible ease, cuts meats well, and if I went to cut an aluminum can, I could probably do that. The only thing that has been problematic for it is cheese. Just your typical blocks of cheddar or colby or what have you. If I let the cheese soften a little, it has no problem but if I remove the cheese from the frig and go to cut it, the cheese for some reason gives resistance. Not a huge amount but enough so that it is a glaring departure from any other substance the knife has encountered.

I really recommend it. The Kyocera's are pricey (which is why I own one and I don't have a paring knife or any other knives to go with it) but man, whenever I'm somewhere else and I have to do or assist with some cooking, I miss it. Those horrible butcher block knives....ugh, they just make me shudder now.

To wrap up the post, I can't talk about my weapon of choice without including one of my favorite videos: Christopher Walken doing his thing in Fatboy Slim's song "Weapon of Choice" (no embedding for this one).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Battles of the Series 2's

Like I said last post, I don't have a lot of inventory and financial woes preclude me from running out and snapping up some NASCAR packs, as much as I REALLY want to. Honest. I'm bummed that I wasn't able to complete my Press Pass set last year because they had to release their other seven sets or what have you that I wasn't collecting (and which weren't as good as their "basic" set) and supplant the set I'm collecting on the store shelves.

Anyway, since I'm determined to keep opening up Stadium Club cards from the early nineties, I have to find some way to make it entertaining. I'm going to open my first packs from Series 2 and go to head to head via Bill James' Win Shares. The pack that wins the most head to heads will get the three "best" players scanned. I'm going with career Win Shares totals. 1992 had three extra cards. They get byes but can be considered for scanning.

Here we go (1991 listed first):
494 Gerald Young v. 438 Chito Martinez - Young takes it 56-13. In 1988, my friend KB and I stockpiled rookie cards that we thought would increase exponentially in value. One of mine was Gerald Young. Note that in 2009 I have financial woes. Coincidence? I think not.

370 Rich Garces v. 463 Dwight Evans - Dewey, who should be in the Hall of Fame instead of Jim Rice takes this in a landslide 347-32 (I don't have totals for Garces' 2002 season but I don't think we have to worry.

468 Jerald Clark v. 441 Mike Munoz - 33-25. Zzzzzz.

310 Andre Dawson v. 404 Matt Merullo - People are griping about Dawson not going into the Hall and he falls short of Dewey in the Win Shares department. Dawson takes the monstrous victory 340-4 over Merullo.

536 Greg Cadaret v. 467 Alex Fernandez - The White Sox former #1 pick wins 110-43.

328 Eric King v. 381 Jeff Carter - I really liked Eric King. Of course, if you're a pitcher I probably like you. And if you pitched for the White Sox and did pretty well I probably like you some more. 12-4 in 1990 does the trick. He throws a shutout against Jeff Carter 50-0. Carter's five games in the majors got him a baseball card but not a Win Share.

593 Turner Ward v. 421 Jerome Walton - Saw this matchup and said "Wow! This one's too close to call". I was right. Ward wins 41-40.

320 Mark Portugal v. 587 Randy Milligan - Portugal takes it 100-79. 1991 needs one more victory to claim scanning rights.

509 Robin Yount v. 399 Ellis Burks - Burks gets a crummy matchup and loses 423-260. I had no idea Burks was that good of a ballplayer. Yount, of course, is a Hall of Famer. 1991 claims victory. Yount, Dawson and Portugal are the current pictured players.

433 Danny Jackson v. 382 Heathcliff Slocumb - Jackson supplants Portugal to get his picture on the site as he beats Heathcliff (I am saddened by this) 107-56.

571 Tommy Gregg v. 366 Charlie Leibrandt - Leibrandt pitching for the wrong team takes this one 138-13.

391 Glenn Davis v. 591 Frank Thomas - The Big Hurt has 405 and counting to Davis' 132. Davis gets over the top, though, to get his mug on today's post.

The three who did not play for 1992: 519 Moises Alou (284 and counting), 434 Rick Reed (at least 73. What a baffling career. I think he needs a post at some point) and 468 Greg Myers (47).

Here are the winners for today:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stop taking myself so damn seriously

I have been forgetting Rule 6. I've been so busy looking for answers and furrowing my brow when everything is so much more easier when I don't worry so much about it.

Ignoring problems won't solve them. Removing the worrying blinders helps a lot, though.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Movie weekend

Wild-card Wednesday calls for something different. For today that means movies! I don't feel like I watch a lot of movies yet somehow I end up seeing a bunch. This weekend was filled with high hopes for myself. The boowahs were going to spend the long weekend in Delaware with my ex and I thought that I would have the opportunity to take advantage of quiet solitude to work on a book I've been asked to edit. Feeling the need to break up the work and give my eyes a break, I signed out some movies.

The best laid plans....I never received the materials I was to work on, my water pipes froze and I spent a good portion of the weekend thawing them and I was just a mess for the remainder of the time for various reasons. I did end up watching two movies.

The one I didn't enjoy much was The Cherry Orchard. I love Anton Chekov's play. It's one of my favorites and I've seen live performances of it more than any other play. The film rendition didn't cut it. I felt like the actors overacted. Scenes seemed drawn out to fill up time. There just wasn't much to like about it. All the actors were British. I don't know how or why that would make a difference or if it did. But I can say it was the first time I've seen a British performance of it (it is based on the director's translation of Chekov's play, too, which may also have contributed to my dislike).

The soundtrack in theory should be awesome. In a nod to it's Russian origins, the soundtrack was of Vladimir Ashkenazy playing Tchaikovsky. There was no rhyme or reason as to when the music played. It may have even been constant. The music added nothing to the movie except for those scenes where people were standing around in contemplation, adding minutes to the movie. It's a shame that the music could not have been used in a more planned manner. It certainly needed something and a thought out soundtrack would have been an easy start.

The other movie I watched was also foreign. It was a Japanese animated film entitled Howl's Moving Castle. A friend had recommended it to me years ago and I finally got around to watching it. Fantastic. Excellent graphics. Excellent story. Nice character development. There were just some quirky plot twists in the end that made no sense to me that made this film less than perfect. I really, really liked it and recommend it highly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Simon Rich

One night last week at work it was very, very, VERY slow and quiet. I started browsing for something to read and found a humorous looking book on the new book shelf called Free-range Chickens by Simon Rich. Rich is a recent graduate of Harvard (2007) and was president of The Harvard Lampoon. Although he is in his early twenties, he looks like he's about 11.

I sat down and started reading the book. About five minutes later, I was done it.

This is Rich's second book and it is a collection of thoughts (to call them essays is too generous) of which many are really funny. I found myself laughing, chuckling, grinning and really enjoying this book. It's only about 110 pages long, the margins are wide, and the amount of text on each page is minimal. I cannot in good conscience recommend shelling out $20 to obtain this book. A portion of it is on Google Books so you can check it out. I do recommend borrowing it and reading it. It is really entertaining. Rich writes about a lot of things related to childhood and has quirky outlooks on things like religion, dating, the tooth fairy and other things. Good stuff.

This book was so quick and I liked it so much, I went ahead and requested Rich's first book, Ant Farm. Received it and read it in ten minutes (I exaggerate but not by much). This one isn't as good. The "essays" are longer but many are repetitive. Free-range chickens just seems sharper, cleaner. It felt like every thing he put in there was funny and extraneous words, thoughts, sentences, concepts were edited out. Ant Farm kept the excess stuff and so it seems like the laughs are more sporadic.

Rich's books are like a good standup routine on television. Brief, funny, with some really good lines that will stay with you for a while.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Missouri baseball

I'm a firm believer in that where you're from impacts your life. As such, I've created a couple of websites over the years devotes to players from a particular area: Delaware Baseball and Hawaii Baseball.

I'm also the current chair of the Society for American Baseball Research's (SABR) Minor League Committee. In this capacity I received an e-mail last week from the Sport Information Director for Washington State University, Craig Lawson. He has compiled the statistics for all 229 Washington State alumni who have gone on to play professional ball. 31 of those have reached the major leagues. Given that 35 players born in Hawaii and 48 born in Delaware have played in the major leagues, to have that many from a single school, one that (at least to me) isn't a baseball powerhouse, is mighty impressive.

That led me to want to write about major leaguers who have attended Missouri schools for today's post (and next weeks' baseball post, I think). Why Missouri? Because a good number of my friends who are into baseball live in Missouri and have either attended, work for, or at least know of these schools. And also, why not? It's my blog :)

Using Baseball Reference, I looked at the 87 players denoted as having attended Missouri schools and picked an All-Star team of 25 players from it. I'll look at the pitchers today. By the way, the college data used by Baseball Reference comes from SABR. If you're into baseball research or history, you really should be part of SABR.

First up, the rotation:

Sonny Siebert - University of Missouri. Well you can tell right away we're not dealing with Texas A&M when the ace of the rotation is "just" a two-time All-Star. Siebert pitched a season for Missouri and then signed with the Cleveland Indians. He would post double digits in victories for the Indians four times and the Red Sox four times in a 12 year major league career. His second season in the majors was his best. Siebert went 16-8 with 191 strikeouts in 188.2 innings. His 2.43 ERA was third in the league and he led the league in strikeouts to walk percentage as he issued just 46 free passes.

The number two man in our rotation is there primarily based on his rookie season. Lou Fette reached the majors with the Boston Braves in 1937. The 30-year old pitcher went 20-10 with a 2.88 ERA and finished 5th in the National League in MVP voting. His teammate and fellow elder rookie (he was 33) Jim Turner outscored him by one point in the balloting by posting a 20-11 record and a 2.38 ERA. Despite having two twenty game winners on the staff, the Braves finished in the bottom half of the standings, going 39-52 with other pitchers getting the decision. The side-arming Fette, who attended Missouri Valley College, was an all-star in 1939 then injured his arm and was never able to find his form again. Despite pitching only a fraction of a season in 1939, he led the league with six shutouts.

A pair of Truman State University pitchers take the next two spots in the rotation; Al Nipper and Bruce Berenyi. Berenyi was the first of the two to reach the majors. The Cincinnati Reds drafted him in the first round of the 1976 draft following a college season where he tied a Division II record by striking out 21 batters in a game. After leading the American Association in strikeouts in 1979 and 1980 the Reds brought him to the big leagues in 1980. He started just six games but returned in 1981 to post a successful season, finishing 4th in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Berenyi posted some decent seasons as a starter despite struggling with control. The Reds sent him to the Mets for a trio of minor leaguers in 1984. Berenyi injured his rotator cuff and was only able to manage 53 more innings after the 1984 season.

Nipper did not have the dazzling performances Berenyi did as a collegiate and minor league player but he also had a successful rookie season. Nipper was 11-6 with a 3.89 ERA for the Red Sox in 1984 and finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year voting. A series of injuries plagued Nipper and he never really matched his rookie campaign. He was traded to the Cubs before the 1988 season but was released after a lackluster, injury-filled season. Nipper worked on developing a knuckleball and returned to the majors in 1990 with the Indians. He could only hang on for nine games and then he was released. he spent much of the 1990's as a pitching coach.

The last spot in the rotation goes to an active pitcher, Shawn Marcum. The Missouri State pitcher has been developing into a top pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays. The 26 year old has shown a lot of potential and could very well move up the ranks of Missouri-educated pitchers.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Belated cooking post

My water lines were frozen yesterday and so I had more pressing concerns than posting a recipe - thawing them without breaking them and being able to take a shower again.

It didn't help that I wasn't very creative this past week with my meals. The one new thing I tried I didn't much care for. It was a Deborah Madison recipe (gasp) for a soup made from poblano chilies. I like spicy food but this was too much for me. It was good, just not something I felt like eating a bowl (and definitely not two) of.

I just fixed myself a tasty lunch, though, and thought I would share that. Nice and easy and tasty. I took some chicken breast and cooked it up. Mixed it with nonfat mayo and sour cream, curry powder, celery, dried apricots and almonds. Nice mix of textures and flavors. I ate it right after the chicken had been cooked so I had some nice temperature contrasts as well between the hot chicken and the cool dairies.

Chicken salad has become a favorite of mine over the past couple of years. I like seeing what I and others can do with it. I'm a bit of a grocery store chicken salad connoisseur. In Lancaster County my favorite is the Market Basket chunky chicken salad. They also have a non-chunky which is more like a chicken paste. Don't care for that too much. Don't like Giant's salad bar chicken salad. Dark meat. Too much egg (really, any egg is too much with chicken salad. I like hardboiled egg in tuna salad, not chicken). Weis' chicken salad is pretty good. Dutch Way, like pretty much all of their prepared foods, is right tasty. I don't know what it is but I often find myself in a grocery store and just having a craving for chicken salad. I could certainly have worse cravings.

No grocery store chicken salad compares to what I just made, though. Try it out sometime. Go ahead. You'll like it. I guarantee it or I will refund every penny you spent subscribing to my blog.

String music

I'm reading a book about Antonio Stradivari right now which I will review this week or next. For the last several years, ending a few months ago, I would spend about a week each month thinking that I would take up a stringed instrument. Other activities would impose and I'd forget about the thought until the next month. Why this cycle?

About three years ago I picked up a copy of Strings magazine. I like to do that from time to time. Just go to a bookstore or newsstand and grab something I wouldn't normally read. It is a magazine designed for string players of which I was barely one once (I started to learn the string bass for several weeks in high school). Nonetheless, I really liked it and the issue I had purchased had a crazy offer where you could get a year's subscription for $10. I maxed it out at three years. So every month I'd get this magazine, read it, think about taking up a stringed instrument, and see it get set aside again.

Part of my problem was deciding which stringed instrument interested me most. I still can't decide if I will take up violin, viola or cello. I still believe I will begin studying some day.

In the meantime I read and listen and bemoan the status of classical music in this country. In the Strad book, I just completed a chapter on Paganini. I would have loved to see him perform live. His compositions don't do him justice. They are very technical but tend to have a lot of similarities. Musically, they're not all that nice, just challenging for the soloist. Here's a clip of one I think is quite exemplary:

Yehudi Menuhin is an amazing technician and it is a bit of a wonder to me that I can view a 75 year old performance of his online. Watch how his hand is all over the place and the quick bowing he has to do. Also listen to how sparse the orchestra's involvement is. They're there for decoration really.

Paganini performed pieces on just a single string or a pair of strings. Supposedly he suffered from a medical condition that gave him extraordinary flexibility in his joints, almost a double-jointedness. Again, it would have been nice to be able to see him perform and witness his skill.

Classical recordings and performances seem so limited nowadays. It's always the same old Brahms, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. My favorite composers, Jean Sibelius and Anton Bruckner? Good luck finding performances of their music. Same with recordings. You can find a good number of recordings of Paganini's 24th caprice. Heck, even cellists and guitarists play it. The other ones, not so much.

I have a recording of a fellow doing a Paganini piece whose technical skill I admire. Gil Shaham released an album back in 2000 where all the tunes has something to do with the Devil. The violin and the devil have been partners for quite some time and Shaham pulls together a number of these works, most of which are technical in nature for the album. Paganini's 13th caprice (known as the Devil's Chuckle) is on here as is Tartini's Devil's Trill (Tartini is another one whose compositions seem to have fallen by the wayside).

Anyway, this post is incredibly aimless so I'm going to put a halt to it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

1991 Stadium Club

Since this isn't a baseball card blog, per se, I don't quite have the inventory or the desire to acquire inventory that other bloggers who do write about cards regularly do (and why does Blogger mark bloggers as a word spelled incorrectly?). But I couldn't bear to do another pack of 1992 Stadium Club cards for y'all so I'm going with 1991.

As I've been looking at the Stadium Club cards, I've been trying to decide whose career the set most resembles and I think it's Dwight Gooden. No, that's not a good comparison. I'm at a loss. I don't know. I think the first two years of Stadium Club were the best and that the others never quite compared.

Here's the pack today. 1991, Series One.

138 - Eric Show. Show led the league in chillin' and jammin' that season.
196 - Mark Carreon
257 - Gregg Jefferies. Jefferies was such a highly touted prospect that I look at this photo (his second full year) and see him saying "I don't need to tag you. I'm Gregg Jefferies. You're out by the sheer force of my greatness."
142 - Dennis Boyd. It's almost a crime to call him Dennis. It's either Oil Can or The Can. He's still playing, running around with a barnstorming team. Oil Can is still awesome.
200 - Nolan Ryan. This photo is also the cover for his book, Miracle Man.
209 - Mike Scott. One of my faves.
19 - Mike Scioscia. Just signed a ten year contract to manage the Anaheim Angels of Anaheim.
295 - Matt Williams. Got a HOF vote from a guy who didn't vote for Rickey Henderson. Completely unfathomable.
56 - Kevin Brown. Texas-based pitchers abound. Him, Ryan, Scott. Give me a rotation with those guys and I don't need fielders.
208 - Jose Gonzalez. Which is a good thing since I have Jose Gonzalez.
162 - Jerome Walton. Always liked him. Have an autograph of his.
220 - Barry Bonds. This picture of Bonds deep in thought has so much potential for harassing Barry. I'm taking the high road.

Nice pack.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I got it in my head that I can be a competitive indoor rower. This seems to be something of a misnomer to me and that may be part of the appeal.

One of the reasons I have enjoyed indoor rowing is because it is so quantifiable. For those of you who aren't familiar with indoor rowers (or ergometers as they are also known), I'll include a picture. This isn't your old-fashioned hydraulic thing which probably does more harm than good. This is a total body workout using a flywheel for resistance so essentially the faster you row, the more energy you have to generate.

Concept2 (the company who makes my rower) has a computer on each rower that may have been able to operate a space shuttle at one time. It measures all sorts of things. Time, distance, calorie output, wattage generated, strokes per minute, etc. It generates splits and cumulative totals. It tracks weeks of workouts for you. It even has some goofy little games built in. You know everything there is to know about your workout, even while it's going on. When you add my warped keen analytical mind to this, it turns into a bunch of fun calculating different things. Even more fun when I'm fatigued. "I need to row a 1:55 over the next 3000 meters to, wait, I'm down to 2750 now so I need a 1:5...oh, man, I'm just going to keep rowing".

Concept2 also provides online logbooks for their customers which enables them to track their times and compare them to those of others. All this, of course, is broken down by age categories and weight. In rowing there are lightweights and heavyweights. The cutoff for being a lightweight man is 165 pounds, or roughly the weight of my left arm. In theory, weight equates to size and muscle and more muscle should generate more power. So little scrawny guys need to be able to have their own class to which I say you already do, it's called professional bicycling. It would be easy for me to digress into cycling here since until rowing, it was the only sport that I felt I had some natural ability in and I spent years being frustrated at busting my butt to, as Phil Liggett used to put it talking about George Hincapie (a monster-sized bicyclist at 6'3", one hundred seventy pounds) "haul my big carcass" up a hill while the 140 pound whippets floated by effortlessly, but I won't do it other than this already too long, too fractured sentence.

If weight was everything to rowing, though, we wouldn't need Wiis for couch-potato "athletes". At some point extra poundage starts to be a negative because you have to have the cardiovascular system needed to power all that muscle. I am so far past that point, I need binoculars to find it again.

I've been rowing for a few years with long breaks due to my shoulder injury and then shoulder surgery and smaller breaks due to being fat and lazy. Despite the fits of starting and stopping, however, I've really improved. I've improved to the point where my times are approaching those of the faster rowers in my age/weight class.

I don't feel like I'm a competitive person which is why I'm a little taken aback at my sudden desire to want to compete. Part of my desire is to see what an indoor rowing race is like and here's the misnomer part I mentioned early on. Everyone has their own rower so my guess is that technically, if you were watching a race, the winner would be the first one to stop rowing (the individual rower timers are the official deciders of victory, though). I find it humorous to think of a race with no finish line. Just seems wacky.

There is also an appeal to see what top rowers look like when they compete. I have a feeling that from a strokes per minute standpoint, I'm really slow. Much like when I biked, I prefer to "push a big gear", so to speak, and rely on generating a lot of power on each stroke rather than trying to stroke really fast (or spin, in bicycling parlance). I have never had the heart and lungs to maintain that.

My plan is to compete at a satellite event for the World Championships. Nothing like starting off with a challenge. I have about three weeks to prepare and I'm going to do it by strictly following the Crossfit Endurance workout of the day and semi-trying to eat right and maybe drop a few of these extra pounds.

It's been half a lifetime since I raced anybody for anything so this will be a strange experience but one that I think should be fun. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Finished up a couple of books this week. One that was really, really good and one that was interesting but not my cup of tea.

The one I really liked is The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Roseamund Zander. Benjamin is a conductor of a number of symphony orchestras and his wife is a therapist. I came across this book on a Buddhist website and it sounded good. I've heard Zander speak and I've always thought he was a good conductor so it seemed like it had a high probability of being good.

The book is a number of practices designed to open yourself up to possibilities. Too often we feel limited in our lives. We don't have time or money or experience or friends or whatever it is that holds us back. The Zanders point out some things that may be holding you back and give you some ideas as to how to overcome those obstacles.

My favorite chapters were the following: It's All Invented - how we operate is based on a framework that our mind creates. Any limitations that we see are created from our minds. If we change our framework (thinking outside of the box, so to speak), we can find a different viewpoint that will let us avoid or overcome the obstacle we thought was keeping us back.

Giving an A - We're brought up in an environment where we're compared to people on a regular basis. Competitive sports, class rank, the bell curve, percentiles. Someone is always trying to fit us somewhere and telling us how good we are compared to everyone else. That's nonsense. Give everyone an A. Applaud the efforts and stop worrying about the results.

Rule Number 6 - Don't take yourself so damn seriously. What are rules 1 through 5? There are no rules 1 through 5.

I really recommend this book to anyone with even an iota of unhappiness about their lives. It's refreshing and inspiring. Here's a great speech that Zander did that incorporates some of the book:

The other book I finished this week was James Ellery's White Jazz. I picked it up because I read an interview with Toby Barlow where he said that he was inspired by the style of this book and another book which I will be reading in the future. As I've said many times in many places, Barlow's Sharp Teeth was my favorite book of 2008. I thought it would be fun to see where his inspiration came from.

Ellery has written many novels. L.A. Confidential was made into a pretty good movie which I actually saw (I'm always surprised that I see movies because I never feel like I watch a lot of them). White Jazz is the same genre. Hardboiled late-fifties cop. Law enforcement shadier than the criminal element. B-list movie star who captures the cop's eye, heart and loins.

The writing style is intense. Brief, curt descriptions. Dialogue with attributions. Cop:Feature this. The broad is dirty. Mickey: Feature she's got an in with Flynn. It just moves constantly and is very tense and high pressure. One of the things I liked about Barlow's book was the pacing. He would slow it down when he thought it was appropriate. Ellery just hammers you until the last page. No stopping EVER. Fifties dialogue and cop dialogue makes it difficult sometimes to understand. The ending is not happy. Plot twists just appear out of nowhere and keep you guessing. Plot twists are really out there. Complete lack of decent folk. The protagonist is far from being a good guy which maybe makes the lack of a happy ending a bit more tolerable. If you like the genre, good book. If not, can't recommend it even for the unusual stlye.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Congratulations Rickey (and the other guy)

I'm not sure that there's any voting that is a farce on some level. I'm also not sure if that has always been the case or if it's just recently. The baseball Hall of Fame voting has been a mess for a considerable amount of time and the induction of Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame today did nothing to remedy that.

More of an uproar than Rice getting in is Rickey Henderson not being elected unanimously. Frankly, I don't see the big deal. He's in. He should be. The fact that a few guys did not vote for him just further illustrates how flawed the process is. No one remembers how many votes anyone gets.

I read something today that said something along the lines of "As far as I'm concerned, my Hall of Fame is in my head". That's true.

I mean, for me, one of the coolest things about Rickey Henderson being elected to the Hall of Fame is that he's the first player to have played in the Atlantic League to be headed to Cooperstown. That's awesome.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A matter of taste

Paul Shirley wrote an article on his five favorite albums released in 2008. Who is Paul Shirley? He's a professional basketball player (barely. He is usually the last man on an NBA team and has played a bit in Europe. I'm not knocking him. I think it's great he manages to keep playing. I'm just explaining that he's not exactly an elite level player).

Why does ESPN let him write an article? More importantly, why do they have an article writing about music? I don't know. seems to have less and less about sports every day. Certainly less to read. If I want to watch video, I'm in good shape. But reading about sports....unheard of.

Of course, I read it because it was about music. Shirley noted that these albums about which he was writing were his favorites of 2008 and would likely not stand the test of time. That made me think about my own musical tastes and I realized that for the majority of the time, if I'm going to buy an album, I have to feel really good about it being something I'm going to be listening to next year, in three years, in five years, even ten years. It's very rare that I pick up something because I really like it right now.

Take a look at the ten groups I cited that I enjoyed this past year. One of the nice things about music nowadays is you are able to listen to a lot of music without having to necessarily purchase it. I'm not advocating piracy. I'm saying that there are more options than radio and album. Seven of the ten I listed I bought (or in the case of Stellastarr* received as a gift) their music. The exceptions are We Are Scientists, Sea Wolf and Rodrigo y Gabriela. Those three I'm not convinced I'll enjoy a year from now. Stellastarr*, Michael Tolcher, Tegan and Sara and DeVotchKa I've listened to for awhile. I know I like them. Of Montreal, Amp Fiddler and Airborne Toxic Event are different sounds and as such, have some staying potential.

It's just hard for me to want to cycle through artists each year. I like being moved by my music. Musically and/or lyrically. I like it to stand out and be special. Usually I like to hear multiple songs I like by an artist before I purchase their work. Buying singles is much more conducive now but I just can't bring myself to do that because I like to believe I'll be listening to the song years from now. If I only like one song by an artist, it's probably not going to be the case.

To wrap up, Shirley's top 5 were The Kills, Kings of Leon, TV on the Radio, Santogold and Lykke Li. I listened to all of them this past year and didn't really like any of them. Which is one of the great things about art. People like different things. Hopefully some of you will like some of the things I read or write about or listen to or cook. Maybe you won't.

That reminds of something else. I mentioned last week that I liked reading Joe Posnanski. He wrote today about two baseball players that he views as opposite ends of the interesting spectrum. To him, a guy like Willie Bloomquist is a pleasure to watch. Can play any position. Does the little things well. Seems to enjoy the game. The guy he put at the other end of the spectrum? My current favorite player, Adam Dunn. Walks, strikes out, and homers. Can't play the field. Lots of people say he doesn't enjoy baseball.

I love Dunn. He plays the game his way and he does it in a manner that is probably different from any other player who has ever played the game (and please don't even mention Rob Deer in the same breath. I knew Rob Deer and Adam Dunn, sir, is no Rob Deer). Dunn is a great athlete but people don't see that because he's so huge. He has incredible patience. He knows what he does best and he does it and heck if no one likes it. I do.

Again, I hope you enjoy and if you don't, well, there's tons of other options out there for you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

False Impressions

I made a sweet tater flan last week using a recipe from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. I turned to that cookbook again this week for something that to me exemplifies Deborah's style. I made a leek, scallion and fennel gratin.

I have made a number of recipes of hers where I look at the ingredient list and go "Really? You're going to combine those things and have it taste good?". I'll then make it and without fail, it's good.

That was the case with this recipe. I really questioned the mix of the three main ingredients. All three are really strong root-type vegetables. I was also suspicious because I'm not a big fan of gratins. Most of my gratin experience is tater gratins, oftentimes those horrible packaged gratins from Betty Crocker. Really I had no business even trying this but as I said, it's just those type of recipes that Madison always pulls off. Oh, I also had never cooked with fennel before that I could recall.

3 leeks, white parts only.
2 fennel bulbs (I used one large)
salt and pepper
1.5 T butter
1 bunch scallions
1/4 c fennel greens
1 t lemon zest (I omitted this)
2 eggs
1.5 c milk
.5 c Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a gratin dish (observers will note that my gratin dish is the same as my flan dish. I try to minimize the amount of materials I have. I'll write about that some other time). Chop everything. Simmer the fennel in boiling water. Melt the butter and saute the veggies. Add the greens, salt and pepper. Pour into the gratin pan. Beat the eggs, milk and cheese together (I forgot the cheese and just sprinkled it on the top). Pour over the veggies. Bake for 40 minutes.

I really enjoyed this. The cooking of the veggies mellowed out the flavors and they blended very nicely. Instead of three strong flavors, it was one nice, earthy taste. The eggs and milk also helped mellow it a bit. I could see adding some meat to it. Ground turkey or some pork maybe. It made me think of cabbage in that regard. You know how cabbage has sort of a strong flavor when it's cooked that goes well with those meats. I'd fix it again.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pretty card pictures

I've been sort of surprised about the number of baseball card stories in the news recently. I'm not going to link to them. If you're interested, you can find them. One involved a fellow who is trying to get every card of his 1983 Fleer set autographed by the player pictured on the card. This is a difficult task since a number of those players are deceased. Not quite sure why that made the news.

Another story involved this little old lady from Pasadena somewhere in California who discovered a card of the original professional baseball team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. She was looking to get ten bucks for it on eBay and when people started asking lots of questions about it, she figured it was probably worth more. You can add four zeroes to get the correct value.

Then in the hobby news there was some uproar about a company "accidentally" releasing cards of a player who is only licensed to another company. It's a bit of a joke how many "mistakes" these card companies make. Oops, we accidentally produced and packaged some unknown number of these cards but we stopped making them so they are very rare. Go out and buy the product now so you can get these rare, soon to be valuable cards.

Me, I'm opening another pack of 1992 Stadium Club Series 1 cards for you. Fifteen in a pack, produced with Kodak Imaging Technology. Here we go:

146 - Scott Bradley
100 - Barry Larkin - Beaut. Larkin should be a Hall of Famer but I worry that he will get overlooked because of the era of great shortstops that came during the conclusion of his career.
127 - Calvin Jones - Can't say I heard of this guy. Spent two seasons with the Seattle Mariners. Was their first round pick in the 1984 draft. Wow.
5 - Milt Cuyler
239 - Willie McGee - Nice. Who doesn't love Willie McGee? He's on the Giants with this card which doesn't seem right. He's a St. Louis Cardinal and always will be.

56 - Dave Valle - Seriously? Valle and Bradley? Like I need both Seattle Mariners catchers in the same pack. Plus I have Calvin Jones. Three Mariners in the first six cards.
107 - DAVE RIGHETTI!!!!!! - My all-time favorite player. I'll write more about him at a future date.

83 - Jamie Quirk - I can now say that this is a Quirky pack.
217 - Mark Wohlers
7 - Dante Bichette - Another nice one. There's a good chance that Jim Rice will be selected to the Hall of Fame this year. From a statistical standpoint, Dante Bichette should probably go in too if Rice makes it. Both have no business being considered but I might try and promote Bichette down the line for giggles.

Check out Dante Bichette in a natural setting.

28 - Jeff Russell
65 - Frank Castillo
219 - Dave Smith - passed away in December.
1 - Cal Ripken - Hall of Famer and they misspelled his name on the back of the card (Ripkin).
278 - Joel Skinner

Weird pack. Only infielders were shortstops. Some favorite players including Rags. A Hall of Famer in Ripken and a guy I never heard of (which is really, really rare).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Advanced potty training

Oh, the irony. For the last several years I have gleefully watched as friends and relatives have had children and dealt with the nightmares of early childrearing; no sleeping at night, formula, breastfeeding, buying jars of pulverized fruits and vegetables and maybe (heaven forbid) those jarred meat sticks, diapers, remembering to bring a diaper bag every where you go, and so on and so forth. Don't get me wrong. Kids are cute as babies and toddlers (I didn't even think they were too bad during the "terrible twos"). That's just a lot of work I'm glad was completed years ago that isn't a concern for me anymore.

Learning how to go to the bathroom on one's own is a big transition from toddlerhood to big boy (or girl) hood. It's sort of a shame everyone is different as to when they accomplish being potty trained because we could make a deal out of it like we do when a child is old enough to drive or drink or vote. When you think about it, it's pretty necessary to be able to go to the bathroom before you do any of those other things. I can only imagine what the presidential election would have been like if we had to take Joe the Plumber's capacity to relieve himself into account.

At this point in my post, I need to stop being so light and frivolous. What I'm about to write about was completely unknown to me and I'm a little upset that parents who have come before me made no mention of it. I'm not going to let current or future parents flail away in ignorance like I have. You are being informed and warned.

It turns out that once your child is potty-trained, you're not really done yet. Apparently, there's a second level of potty-training that comes when you're about fourteen. I don't know if this is graduate level potty-training or whether it's like a certification course or what. I just know that my oldest son needed it before he went out in the real world.

The first portion of this advanced potty training class involves the handling and use of a plunger. I went upstairs last night to get my sons ready for bed and found the teenager in the bathroom, plunger in hand, griping about his inability to get the toilet unclogged after clogging it earlier in the evening. The fact that the toilet is clogged is not surprising or a first for him. Everything about my son is big and there's no reason to think that bowel movements are excepted from this. The surprise was that he didn't leave it for me to handle (or even mention it to me). As always, communication is important.

I go into the bathroom in my bare feet and as I approach the toilet, my feet become wet. My concern is not great because he had showered not too far in the past but I asked nonetheless - did the toilet overflow? Thankfully, the answer was no.

He hands me the plunger and it, too, is soaking wet. This concerns me a bit.
"You didn't stick the handle in the toilet, did you?"
Pause and then a tentative "No".
I fix him with my Jedi stare and will the truth out of him. "Honest?"
"YES. I stuck the handle in the toilet. How else am I going to know if it all went down?".

I'm not even going to try and understand how he made that connection (and I then reconfirmed that the water I was standing in was shower water). To me, if the toilet flushes and the water and waste products are sucked into the bottom of the toilet, it all went down. I don't need to be Bill Nye, Science Guy and conduct further experimentation and measurement. I explained that it wasn't a good idea to stick something which your hand (or even more importantly, your father's unknowing hand) is going to be grasping into a pool of feces and urine.

That lesson concluded, he went to bed. I sterilized my hand and returned downstairs. Later on, I made my way to bed. Turned off all the lights, went upstairs, headed to the bathroom, turned on the bathroom light and completely freaked out.

It's a good thing that my own potty skills are in the right hand tail of the potty usage bell curve. If I were in the 70th percentile, say, of toilet skill, I might have lost control of my bowels. Because there, in the pitch black, is my oldest son standing and going to the bathroom. Not exactly what you expect to see when you turn on the lights to go the bathroom yourself.

After patiently explaining that it was a wise idea (especially since I'm the one who cleans the bathroom) to turn on the lights so that the urination target can be identified, aimed at, and hit with precision I sent him on his way. In the aftermath, I thought that perhaps I had been too harsh. I mean, he could have become a member of the undead at some point and I just missed it. This would conceivably have enabled him to see well enough in the pitch black to use the toilet. I doubted that this was the case because history is not rife with tales of vampires and zombies needing to relieve themselves.

I kept my eye on him this morning, just in case. Cereal for breakfast. No brains. So zombie is out. Saw his reflection. Did not combust in the sunlight when he went to school. Nix on the vampire. Kid just hasn't been trained well enough.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wildcard Wednesday

Thought that since I'm sort of wrapping up 2008 and doing some different things with 2009, I'd take this opportunity to publicly do some spring cleaning of my RSS Reader. I use Google Reader to handle the stuff I like(d) to read regularly. I want to pare down my readings (to maybe a dozen sites) and put stuff more pertinent to what I'm doing and feeling and liking. Here's what's in there now and what I'm doing with it:

101 Cookbooks - a nice vegetarian cooking site. The author has a great knack for making nice dishes out of leftovers. I made her celery soup in a previous post. This one stays (#1).

Marc Andreessen's blog - entrepreneur who founded Netscape. He stopped adding content in May of last year. This one goes.

Brew Crew Ball - You might be surprised to find that there is only one baseball site in my reader and it's one about the Milwaukee Brewers, a team of which I'm not particularly a fan. I started reading this site because Jeff Sackmann wrote it (a very smart and interesting fellow) but he has left and some other guys maintain it now and do a fantastic job. Good news, good reporting, good analysis, minors and majors. This is how a team site should be done. It stays (#2).

Defective Yeti - Used to love reading Matt Baldwin. He's about my age and I think if we grew up together we would have hung out. Sadly, though, he's moved away from his blog and spends more time on Twitter. So fare thee well. I'll probably check the site from time to time but no need to keep it in the reader.

Marmaduke Explained - I loved, loved, loved this site. Joe Mathlete (what a cool last name) would take Marmaduke cartoons and write new captions for them. He sort of lost his zest for it and has only done two cartoons in the last six months of the year. I'll check back in the future but for now, it's leaving the reader (but if you haven't read it, go check it out).

Joe Posnanski - sportswriter for the Kansas City Star. Insightful, entertaining and someone who can and will write about anything for any length of time. Seriously, I would be shocked if he ever has had writer's block. Definitely stays (#3).

Jason Kottke - hard to say goodbye to someone with whom you've been connected to for a long time and someone who is a bit of an internet legend. Our tastes have been diverging and I had been thinking of dumping him. When I saw his list of favorite links from his site from 2008 and saw how few of them I had clicked through, I knew it was time.

Leighton Davis - this is a tough one. I have an internet crush on Leighton. Discovered her when she wrote a humor piece that McSweeney's used. Started reading her blog. Loved it. It may be the only personal blog I've been able to stay attached to reading. Leighton doesn't post all that often and I got tired of checking her site far more frequently than she posted which is why I put her in my reader. She's in law school now and posts even less than she did before. She writes so well and I like her so I'm keeping her (#4).

Positivity Blog - from time to time there's good stuff on here but every post is like a magazine article - Seven ways to do this. Nine things you need to know about that. The five best ways to do some other thing. That drives me nuts. Gone.

Questionable Content - From reading this and now abandoning it and having done so with Goats, I have decided that it is a very difficult thing to write comics. Both QC and Goats entertained me for a long time and then just went out there with the story lines. I'm just not interested anymore. So now I have no webcomics.

Seth Godin - another business blog I read. Godin manages to write something every day. It's light, it's snappy, it's usually not anything too profound. He knows how to market. He knows how to sell. He knows about business. He stays (#5).

Signal vs. Noise - the blog of the company 37Signals. I think they're great guys who have great products but their blog seems to have gone too much towards their product and customers. I use a free version of one of their products and so don't care too much about new features and stuff. I'm also not a programmer and don't care about that stuff. They used to do a lot more about business and design and I miss that. This is a tough call. It's also frustrating the way they have their RSS feed set up. You have to click through on a lot of them which defeats the purpose of the feed. I don't know. Tentatively keeping (#6).

Teamwork Online - professional sports job board. Great if you're looking for an internship or want to live in a major metropolitan area. I'm neither. Removed.

Keith Law - If Leighton Davis is my internet crush, Keith Law is my internet man-crush. Law is a writer for and a former member of the Toronto Blue Jays front office. His personal blog is devoted to cooking and reading, two things I enjoy doing immensely, and our tastes are often concurrent. He also has a facility for learning foreign languages and shares tips about that. Sometimes even writes about baseball. Definitely stays (#7).

The Happiness Project - If I had a propensity for drinking, I'd chalk up the inclusion of this one to my having overindulged. Since I don't drink, I'll just say I made a mistake which I am now correcting.

Well Fed - The internet sometimes makes you forget that there are people behind each and everyone of these sites. Grant (I forget his last name) doesn't let that happen. He writes about what he cooks (and is the inspiration behind my cooking posts). When he's busy with work or buying a house or remodeling it, his posts lag but he writes about it. He doesn't vanish from the scene. I like that. He stays (#8).

That's it. I'm left with eight. I'm adding two right now, though.

Cardboard Junkie - best baseball card site on the net and I read it everyday anyway. Needs to be added.

Between Love and Like - Going to give this one a shot. She did some awesome interviews with The Airborne Toxic Event and I need some music reading.

That gives me ten. I may also add Keith Law and Rob Neyer's blogs since they became free from The Insider hold late in 2008. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C

Mmmmmm....cookies. Cookies with fortunes. That great Chinese tradition that goes all the way back to Japan. Yes, according to The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer Lee, the fortune cookie is a Japanese creation. That's not all. There's really not much of anything that we call Chinese food here in America that can trace its origins to China.

Take out boxes? Don't even exist over there. They were originally used here in the states for hauling seafood. General Tso's chicken? Unheard of across the Pacific. Chop Suey? Ditto. About the only thing that does come from China that is involved in Chinese food are Chinese people.

Lee's exceptionally well-researched book looks at virtually every aspect of Chinese food in an effort to understand what about Chinese cuisine Americans find so appealing. Lee, an American-born Chinese, has always had a fascination with the food of her culture but was entranced by a freak occurrence with the Powerball lottery. In 2005, an amazing 110 people selected all five white numbers in the Powerball lottery. Probabilistically speaking, your typical Powerball drawing will see 2-4 people get all five. Needless to say, the lottery people were panicked and confused. As the winners came in from all over the country, it was discovered that all the winners had something in common; all played numbers from a fortune cookie.

This news story captured Lee's attention and set her on her hunt to find the appeal of Chinese food. Along the way she tackles virtually aspect of Chinese food. Especially interesting is her look at immigration and the network of Chinese restaurant staffing in the U.S. I say especially interesting but really I don't think there was a chapter I did not find interesting.

All in all I really enjoyed the book. Lee's style rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. Her need to describe everyone she meets with a one-line description about their face, for instance, or her occasional jumping around with time for no apparent reason were bothersome to me. However, she is a reporter by trade and she reports her stories well with great research. And unlike other "books of objects (such as, oh, Mark Kurlansky's Salt), the tone is very light and breezy and makes for an enjoyable read.

Most of the things I read in 2008 were mediocre. It wasn't until the final two weeks of the year when I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants and F. Scott Fitzgeralds Tender is the Night that I could match the number of good books I had read in the first fifty weeks (Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth, Tom McCarthy's Remainder and Ann Patchett's Run. With Lee's book and Benjamin Zander's Art of Possibility (to be reviewed next week), 2009 is shaping up as a good reading year.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Scotty Ingerton

My first baseball history post on this site is about a player who played one year in the major leagues and of whom I knew virtually nothing 24 hours ago. I wanted to challenge myself to see how much information I could track down on a player who interests me in a limited amount of time.

Why does Scotty Ingerton interest me, especially if he only played one season in the majors? Two reasons. First, I have been playing a tabletop baseball simulation game, Strat-O-Matic Baseball (SOM), recently using the players from the 1911 season. Ingerton was a member of the Boston Rustlers (who were renamed the Braves in 1912, a name they carry to this day although the franchise is now in Atlanta), the worst team in the National League in 1911 with a record of 44-107. On this bleak team, Ingerton has been outperforming his real-life self, leading the team in runs batted in and doing a fantastic job of fielding.

That, in and of itself, wouldn't really make me want to delve into the life of Mr. Ingerton. The second source of inspiration is that Ingerton led the Tri-State League in home runs in 1910 playing for the Altoona Rams. The Tri-State League is a primary research interest of mine and Altoona is my hometown.

What can I tell you about Scotty Ingerton? He was born on April 19, 1886 in Peninsula, Ohio. Peninsula is a small village with about 600 people that is smack dab in the middle of Cuyahoga National Park. Back when the town originated in 1827, it was a large seaport town on the Ohio Canal. The town was located on a peninsula where the Cuyahoga River forms a relatively tight horseshoe. As river shipping dwindled, so did Peninsula. It was a veritable ghost town by the 1950's until locals worked to revive the town. It is now a frequently visited tourist area with 22 buildings on the National Historic Register and one of Ohio's few skiing areas.

Scotty was born William John Ingerton, the second of three children to William and Mary Ingerton. Both his parents were first-generation Americans, their parents having immigrated to the United States from Ireland. Scotty's father worked as an engineer. He died early in the 20th century. Scotty's younger sister Irene would live with their widowed mother until she married in the 1920's.

Scotty and his older brother Neil (Cornelius) began playing baseball in their youths and played for the Peninsula high school team. Scotty was a big kid and was also remarkably quick for his size. His build and athleticism led him to pursue baseball as a career. After high school, he played for a semi-pro team in Akron. From there he went north to play for the Ashtabula Trolley team in 1905. Ashtabula was a port town that also had a strong presence with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Ingerton's performance with the trolley team garnered the attention of the Cleveland major league club.

Called the Naps after team leader and star second baseman Napoleon Lajoie, the Cleveland team had grave concerns about the future of the squad. Lajoie, the American League's top hitter from 1901 through 1904, had been spiked during a game and had contracted blood poisoning which caused the future Hall of Famer to miss the majority of the 1905 season. Fearing that he would not be ready in time for the '06 season, the Naps signed Ingerton as an emergency precaution.

When the spring of 1906 came around, Lajoie seemed ready to play and Ingerton was deemed in need of some more seasoning before joining the major leagues. Given that his experience to this point was on the amateur and semi-professional level, this was not surprising. Cleveland released Ingerton to the nearby Zanesville, Ohio team. The team relocated to Marion, Ohio in the middle of the season and Ingerton's performance was solid but unspectacular. Playing shortstop and second base, Ingerton hit .256 with 13 stolen bases.

During the winter, Cleveland sold Ingerton to Albany of the New York State League for five hundred dollars but per the rules of the day maintained control of his rights. Ingerton struggled throughout the 1907 season, playing multiple positions in the infield and only batting .231. The Albany Senators, however, won the New York State League title with a 79-50 record.

In 1907, the Marion team developed a hard-hitting first baseman named Jake Daubert. Daubert would eventually star for Brooklyn in the National League in the 1910's. Cleveland was interested in Daubert and purchased him, agreeing to also send Ingerton back to Marion. Ingerton refused to report and before the season started, Ingerton was sold back to Albany for $600.

Ingerton continued to struggle at the plate for Albany in 1908, hitting just .222. He did lead the league in sacrifice hits with 39, hit 15 triples and also stole 17 bases. Defensively, his play was limited to the corner positions, first and third base, where he performed well.

Before the 1909 season, Ingerton held out briefly but finally reported to Albany. Once again he did not hit well, managing just a .217 average. As the everyday third baseman for the Senators, though, he began to establish himself as one of the better defenders of the position.

Ingerton's size (at this time he was about 6'1" and 180 pounds) and skill in the field made him appealing to other teams. Henry Ramsey, manager of the Altoona team of the Tri-State League, was one of those who held Ingerton in high regard. He procured Ingerton for his Rams and the 1910 season. The Rams had seen their roster greatly depleted after the 1909 season and Ramsey scoured the country for fresh talent to restock his team.

Ramsey's scouting work paid off. Altoona jumped out to a quick lead in the standings and took the pennant with a 72-38 record, nine games better than second place Lancaster. In Altoona, Ingerton realized his potential. His average jumped a hundred points to .320, fourth in the league, and he led the circuit with ten home runs. He also led the league's third basemen in fielding percentage. In a game against York, he had five base hits in five at bats.

With his breakout season, the major leagues came calling. The Boston Red Sox sent several scouts to examine Ingerton's play but found his fielding lacking. The Chicago Cubs liked what they saw, though, and bought Ingerton from Altoona for $1500. Ingerton was not the only player to be bought from Altoona. Bob Coulson, who led the league in runs, and Elmer Steele, the winningest pitcher in the league, would end up in the major leagues with Brooklyn for the 1911 season.

Despite the high price tag on Ingerton, the Cubs did not hold onto him for long. The Boston Rustlers of the National League, so named after new owner William Russell, a New York lawyer, wanted Ingerton. In 1910, Boston lost 100 games and finished last in the National League - the second consecutive season in which they had accomplished both feats. Russell was determined to rebuild the team and dealt infielder Bill Shean to the Cubs for Ingerton and pitcher Jeff Pfeffer.

The new Boston team did not fare any better than previous versions. The team floundered to a 44-107 record and again was in the basement of the National League. In May they lost fourteen games in a row and later posted a sixteen game losing streak. Ingerton, who roomed with fellow Ohioan and future Hall of Famer Cy Young, was used everywhere in the field except for pitcher and catcher. Once again Ingerton struggled at the plate, batting just .250 with five home runs and finishing eighth in the league in strikeouts.

Ingerton's single season in the major leagues was notable for three things. Scotty started the season well, blasting his first two home runs in a game against the Giants on May 6th. Only ten National Leaguers would hit two home runs in a game during the 1911 campaign. Ingerton continued his home run heroics two days later, again against the Giants. Ingerton launched a shot off Bugs Raymond into the centerfield bleachers at South End Grounds, the first player ever to send a home run into that section. Ingerton only managed a pair of home runs the rest of the season.

The final achievement of Ingerton's as a Rustler was his starting a triple play on the final day of the season. Playing at short and with men on first and second, Ingerton snagged a low line drive, tossed to second to double off the runner and then the third out was made when the relay to first beat the runner back.

A month after the season ended, owner William Russell died of a heart attack. The team was sold again. Ingerton refused to report for spring training, holding out for a better contract and expressing his desire to be used strictly as a first baseman. The new owners looked at Ingerton's play over the season and the team's performance in 1911 and figured there wasn't any reason to haggle with Ingerton so they sold him to Indianapolis of the American Association.

Ingerton once again started at third base but was moved to centerfield when injuries began to take their toll on the Indianapolis team. In May, several players, including Ingerton, were stricken with ptomaine poisoning after eating bad fish in Columbus, Ohio. Ingerton recovered and hit well, posting a .301 batting average. His team's prospects were the same as the Rustlers in 1911. Indianapolis finished last in the American Association with a 56-111 record.

The 1913 season saw Ingerton hit an identical .301 from the previous year. It was not a good season for him, however. Scotty began the year with Indianapolis and broke his leg early on. Indianapolis released him but Louisville picked him up and he finished out the season with them, playing just 23 games in all.

The broken leg sapped Scotty of his speed. Louisville used him primarily in rightfield during the 1914 season and would pinch-run for him late in games. He hit .254 but the triples that had been part of his arsenal would end up as just two-baggers. The next two seasons were spent jumping from team to team until Ingerton finally gave up and moved back to Ohio.

For a while he lived in Akron and worked as a deputy sheriff. When his sister finally married in the 1920's, he moved back to Peninsula and lived with his mother. Scotty opened a restaurant and bar there and took part in the Peninsula Python hunt of 1944. The Peninsula Python was said to have been a large snake that had escaped from a carnival. While there were many sightings of it and supposed tracks from it slithering in the dirt, the snake was never caught. It became an integral part of Peninsula's history and they still celebrate the hunt every year in Peninsula.

Ingerton died on June 15, 1956 in Cleveland and was buried at St. Vincent Cemetery in Akron, Ohio.

This is likely the Peninsula high school team but may have been a local team. The book Images of America: Cuyahoga Valley calls it the latter. Scotty is sitting in the middle. His brother Neil is standing second from the right.

The Tri-State League champion Altoona team of 1910. Ingerton is #4. Photo from the 1911 Spalding Baseball Guide.

The Sporting Life
Boston Braves Historical Association Newsletter
Who's Who in Baseball
The Boston Braves by Harold Kaese
Going for the Fences by Bob McConnell
The Minor League Encyclopedia by
Spalding's Official Baseball Guide
Society for American Baseball Research online databases
Baseball Magazine
The New York Times
Peninsula Library and Historical Society
Images of America: Cuyahoga Valley


Since 2008 just ended, I thought I'd wrap it up by posting some of the musical artists whom I enjoyed listening to a lot in 2008. Since I've moved to Lancaster County, I feel my musical tastes have been....I don't want to say broadened because where they have expanded is relatively narrowed. I guess I have become exposed to more music. This has largely been due to XPN. Just a great radio station. Most other years would find me listening to a mix of genres. There'd be some classical and jazz on this list. This past year, though, I seemed to listen to a lot of "alternative rock". In some cases, I might have been late to the scene - the album I enjoyed may have been released in 2007 (or earlier for all I know) but I listened to and enjoyed these artists a lot.

The songs and groups I'm posting are in no particular order and are not necessarily my favorites by the artist. I chose them for how they exemplify the group, how the performance sounds in the clip and accessibility of media of the song (i.e., is there a decent YouTube rendition).

Sea Wolf - Winter Windows

We Are Scientists - Nobody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt

Amp Fiddler - Faith

Stellastarr* - Sweet Troubled Soul

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Tamacun

Michael Tolcher - Speed Feels Better

Tegan and Sara - Nineteen

Of Montreal - Gronlandic Edit

and, of course,
Airborne Toxic Event - Gasoline

DeVotchKa - Head Honcho

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I've broken out the camera more times in the past few days than I have probably my entire adult life put together. Not sure how long this will continue. I'm just not much of a photograph guy and taking still-lives of things I've cooked is a little bizarre.

I'm putting up two things. The first was a dish I had been hankering for and decided to fix again. It's a celery soup from the website 101 Cookbooks. As a matter of fact, here's the recipe link. No sense recreating it here. It is also noteworthy when you compare pictures.

Here's my before picture (I like these before and after things) with all the ingredients.

Here's the after:

Mine differs in that my celery had no leaves with which to make the pesto and I used basmati instead of wild rice. Oh, and I used chicken stock. I love my version. It's tasty and has a great celery flavor. Unlike most celery soups, this keeps all the veggies intact - no efforts at turning it into some unidentifiable cream soup. I also think it is more filling this way.

The second thing I made yesterday was a sweet potato flan with sesame cookies. I forget what the exact recipe is called but it came out of Deborah Madison's Local Flavors cookbook. I love Deborah Madison. I was vegetarian for a number of years and relied on her cookbooks and the Local Flavors one was a new one issued this past year.

I give you four pictures. First, when the milk exploded on the stove (yes, I have an electric stove. I hate it). It didn't look like it was boiling and then it erupted. The second photo is the finished product. The third is my assistant helping with the cookies. The final one is a serving with the nicest cookie. The cookies are cool in that they make neat little C-shapes.

The flan is really not much more than a glorified sweet potato casserole. It was really tasty but I'm not enamored with it enough to put it up here. Besides, if you eat vegetables, you should get Deborah's cookbooks. And if you don't eat vegetables, you should eat vegetables and then get her cookbooks.