Friday, January 21, 2022

Offal Chili

 I'm posting this for myself as much as for anyone else--I cobbled it together from a couple different recipes and it turned out pretty well so...

1) Take a beef heart, put it on a trivet in the Instant Pot with 1 cup water, cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. When it's done, take it out, slice it, and then run it through the food processor.

2) Dice up a couple onions plus any other veggies you want--peppers would probably be nice but I didn't put any in, just onions. Clean out Instant Pot, add some oil and saute the onions. 

3) Take a pound or so of raw liver and run it through the food processor. Add liver and 2 # of ground beef to the instant pot. Add a bunch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring every so often, until it's more or less cooked. 

4) Add about a half cup of brewed coffee, 25 oz diced tomatoes, 1 c. beef or chicken broth, 4 T. chili powder, 1 1/2 T cumin, 1 tsp dried coriander, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1-2 T. maple syrup, and 2 T. apple cider vinegar. 

5) Cook on high pressure for... an hour I think I did? 

See? I'm already forgetting and it's only been 24 hours. That's why I need to write this stuff down. 

I got lucky with this, I offered it to my 12-year-old without telling her that it had liver and heart in it, because it would have grossed her out. She thought it was really good. I probably couldn't have gotten away with this with my wife, who's super-sensitive to tastes, but as far as hiding offal in chili, this is about as good as it gets. 

Side note, the dogs really liked the discarded water from cooking the heart. I added it to dry food and they gobbled it up with relish. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Ancestors

 My wife and I did 23 & Me DNA tests, and I ended up connecting with a 2nd cousin, which got me talking about genealogy. In the process of that, I was googling and came across a branch of the family that I wasn’t aware of, a line of ancestry back through my great-great grandmother that’s been traced back way into the 1600s in Germany, which was kind of cool. I’ve known for years about the ancestors that carry my surname back into the the 1500s or 1600s. And there were a few other lines of the family tree that have been traced back a decent way. It was neat to see this other line going back into the early colonial days. 

But it got me thinking. Getting back to these ancestors who came to North America in the early 1700s-ish is about 10 generations. That’s relatively recent, and it’s history that we’ve been over and over as students, which also makes it seem like not that long ago. 

But doing the math, it occurred to me that I have something like 1000 ancestors alive 10 generations back. There were 1024 people alive at the same time whose genes would ultimately combined into me. Even though I only have a few of their names and basic information about them, their genes live on in me and have some influence on me. The way they patented their children shaped then into the people who would parent their children down through the generations to finally result in my parents raising me. Their temperaments, their ideas, have likewise come down in sims indirect, fragmentary, recombined way, just as their genes have. It’s kind of amazing to contemplate and impossible to totally wrap your mind around. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

TIL: Chinese words

Okay, I didn't learn the actual Chinese words and I'm way too lazy to look them up.  

I was talking to my daughters on the way home from school today, and they're all studying at least some Chinese. And my oldest was telling me the different words for siblings based on where they are in birth order. Just an interesting little linguistic / cultural note. It seems to imply a more rigid, hierarchical view of family life, doesn't it?

But they also have better words for the numbers 11, 12, and 13. Like, in English, we have these words that don't make any sense, while they basically say "ten-one, ten-two, ten-three," like we would for 20s, 30s, etc. We kind of do that with the rest of the teens, but even there it's backward from the way the rest of the numbers go. 

I know the metric system is a bridge too far for most of us, but how about a little tweak to our number naming system? 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Intense Concert Moment

I went to a really intimate concert Friday night, to hear a singer/songwriter I've been following for 15+ years. It was supposed to be me and my wife, but... broken ankle. I'd put out a call on Facebook for someone to go with me, and finally a friend who lives 2 hours away stepped up, even though he'd never heard of the performer. 

Being super fans, we'd bought special VIP tickets that got us in for a meet-and-greet plus mini-concert and Q&A. One of the songs that was requested during the VIP session was an older song, and during the Q&A he commented that the song he'd just played was one of the few of his earlier songs that he still performs, because he's in such a different place than he was 20+ years ago. Songs with lyrics like "you bring the cup and I'll bring the moonshine" just don't resonate for a mid-40s singer with 4 kids. He commented that early in his career, he wanted to be a rock star, to be in front of a big crowd, "HELLO CLEVELAND!!" And now what he wants is for his music to be something that someone in his audience needed to hear, music for the soul. It reminded me sharply of John Keats, the 19th-century poet who left training for a medical career to devote himself to poetry, a decision which he viewed as going from trying to heal the body to writing to heal the soul. 

So the concert was not a bunch of hits, not a bunch of feel-good music, it was mostly sad songs, about family dysfunction and struggle, but underlaid by threads of compassion and redemption and hope. And there were lighter moments too, mostly in the banter between songs. But the songs were pretty serious. And the audience was small, by design. There's basically one more row outside the frame, plus several more of the high-top tables with 2-4 seats around them:

Anyway, that's all preamble to probably the most intense minute or so I've ever experienced at a concert. 

He's up there singing this song about a dysfunctional family and he just stops and looks at these four guys sitting in the back corner "You guys are f***ing killing me here." And he spends the next 60-90 seconds calling them out for sitting there talking through the show and laughing while he's up there singing serious songs. It was dead silent as he just went off and finally he's like "I don't even know how to recover from this." But he picked up the song more or less where he left off and finished it.

And after the song, a security guy came over to the four guys, presumably to escort them out, and the singer is like "No, you don't need to do that" and he's basically apologizing for calling them out and tells his tour manager to send a round of beers over to them. I tell you what, it felt a lot like where I was in this post on road rage. First, he was absolutely right. These guys were talking through the whole show, and in a small venue with an audience who was mostly hanging on every note and word, they really stood out in a bad way. They weren't ruining the experience for me, but I was aware of them. And he responds with this righteous anger, but there's also something embarrassing about flipping out like that, even when you're basically right. Maybe that's even worse, because you want to apologize but you also know that you weren't wrong, that on some level it's the other party that should be apologizing, but there you are feeling like a dick and not at all comfortable with it. 

And at the same time, those dudes needed to be called out. First, for the sake of the rest of the audience who was on the same page with the singer. And in a sense these guys needed to be called out for their own sake, to be told that they were behaving badly, behaving disrespectfully. Considering that they didn't stick around through the next song to get those beers, I'm guessing they didn't learn that lesson, but then again 4 guys can definitely stick together as a group but still have entirely different feelings about what they've just done / experienced. And while being on the receiving end of an angry outburst like this may trigger defensiveness, saying nothing just allows obliviousness to continue. 

I don't know. There's no good answer. I've been a performer, and for instance as a high school teacher, your audience is not always the attentive or appreciative, and their behavior can sometimes be pretty lousy. And I know I've felt caught in that dilemma, do you pause to acknowledge and try to correct it or just do your best to go on with the show and ignore it? I think he was right to call them out, but I also understand if he himself was ultimately ambivalent about it. Either way, it was an intensely real moment, that's for sure. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Random questions

 Stolen from Fauxlore:

1. Have you ever been caught outdoors away from shelter during a thunderstorm? 
Sure, several times. It's kind of exciting.
2. Did you ever build furniture forts as a child? 
Definitely. I loved grabbing all of the couch and chair cushions plus some sheets and quilts and building the best fort I could. 
3. Do you use any medicines daily? 
Nope, and I'll keep avoiding it as long as I can.
4. When was the last time you used a disposable camera? 
Technically every camera is disposable. Recently found one in our house that my wife took on a trip 15-ish years ago. 
5. When was the last time you flew on a plane? 
Late October we took a weekend trip to Orlando.
6. How many first cousins do you have? 
Um... 10 on my mom's side and... 8 (?) on my dad's? I've seen all of them on my mom's side at least every few years my whole life, but have only been very close with one branch of cousins on my dad's side.
7. What’s the longest period of time you’ve gone without sleep? 
I've pulled a few all-nighters so probably 30-40 hours? 
8. Did the house you grew up in have a big yard? 
Just about a full acre, but we didn't have close neighbors, and out in the country there was an element of mi woods e su woods, so there was plenty of space to ramble.
9. What has been the most difficult class you’ve ever taken? 
Probably an English class I took as an undergrad that was billed as a graduate-level seminar. Harder than any of the classes I had in (music) grad school.
10. What’s something that’s much more difficult than a lot of people realize? 
Uh, lots of things probably. Nothing's coming right to mind and I'm doing this list so I don't have to think too hard. Coming up with blog topics, I guess?
11. What are some things a house would need to have for you to purchase it? 
Walls, roof, multiple rooms... seriously, the quality of the kitchen is a big thing. Doesn't have to be state-of-the-art or whatever, but it needs enough space and everything. Now with three kids, three bathrooms feels like the bare minimum, plus enough rooms for each to have her own room.
12. Would you ever go out in public wearing pajamas? 
At least out to the sidewalk to walk the dog, sure. 
13. Have you ever had a lemonade stand? 
I tried it once as a kid, but living in the middle of nowhere, where people zipped past at 55 or faster, it didn't go so well. My kids have done lemonade stands several times though and made out pretty well.
14. Do you think you look older or younger than your real age? 
Beats me. Probably a little younger, just based on how beaten-down some of my former classmates look on Facebook. Pretty sure I don't look that old.
15. Where have you lived throughout your life? 
Grew up in north-central Ohio, 4 years of college in central Ohio, 2 years of grad school in northeastern Ohio, then 5 years outside of Pittsburgh, 2 years in Rhode Island, another year in western PA, 9 years in north-central Indiana, and now the past several years in Cleveland. Spent a couple summers living in Connecticut.
16. Do you want any piercings? 
Nope.
17. What’s your mouse pad look like? 
It looks remarkably like the surface of my desk.
18. Have you ever been to a psychic/tarot reader? 
Nope.
19. How do you identify spiritually (do you follow a religion, what do you think about soul/spirit, etc.)? 
Haven't been in a while, but I'm probably still on the rolls of the Unitarians. I'm a Humanist. And I might also call myself a secular Christian or a cultural Christian.
20. Do you prefer your nails long or short? 
Short.
21. What are your favorite smells? 
Baking bread, baking cookies, baking cakes... okay, pretty much anything baking.
22. Do you still use a radio or just use your phone/computer for music? 
Phone almost exclusively.
23. What kind of socks do you prefer to wear? 
Athletic socks.
24. Do you have any family heirlooms? 
I have plenty of junk that used to belong to someone else in the family, yes.
25. Are there any musicians you didn't like at first but grew on you? 
26. Is there anything you used to love but now dislike? 
I've mostly gone the other direction. With food, I was really picky but now I'm pretty adventurous. Oh, but I'm probably more of a food snob. Like, I used to like Taco Bell. Now, not so much. And that's true of most fast food. 
27. Your favorite place to be aside from your home? 
Any library or bookstore.
28. What is your favorite kind of tea?
 
Green
29. Any old home remedies you use when you're sick? 
Mom's treatment for a sore throat was always warm Jell-o. I haven't been able to sell my wife or kids on it, but it's fantastic. 
30. What level of brightness do you usually keep your phone at? 
The lowest possible that still lets me see it. Save battery all the time. And at night, a brighter screen (such as my wife's when she's next to me in bed) drives me nuts.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Music

 I was cleaning the attic a bit recently, going through some boxes, mostly things we moved and never unpacked, and I found a pile of CDs, mostly either recordings of live shows or “mixes.” I put that in words just because many of the discs I attached that label to, my wife disagreed with the designation. 

For me, a mix was essentially any CD (or, of course, tape) that was a collection of songs that someone other than the artist/studio put together. So, for instance, a “Queen Mix” might be a bunch of favorite Queen songs. 

For my wife, a mix shouldn’t have more than one or, in rare cases, two songs by a single artist. More the classic mix tape.

Now, of course, these physical CDs are just sort of useless. I listen almost exclusively on my phone, through headphones. I can still remember when having four-foot tall speakers with a subwoofer and maybe a couple surround sound speakers was the highest audio achievement. Along with a record player, dual tape deck, 6-CD changer, and radio, plus the TV. When I got exactly that, I was over the moon. Now you couldn’t pay me to take them off your hands. Who has the space for all that? 

It’s amazing the sound quality you can get from small speakers if you want to play music out loud, and of course headphones / earbuds have gotten better and better. I know there are purists who decry the loss of quality in digital music, but even as into music as I am… it’s fine. Absolutely fine. The convenience far outweighs the relatively small loss of quality, and the sound of headphones, especially the noise-cancelling ones, has gotten better and better.

But it's definitely different. There was something magical about putting on a favorite song or album on the big system and just letting the sound wash over you, not to mention sharing that experience with a friend, simultaneously experiencing it yourself and waiting for their reaction. It's just not quite the same to watch someone listening on headphones, much less listening through the phone's speaker.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Road Rage

 I remember when I liked driving, but either because I've gotten older or because I live in a metro area, those days are long gone. Easily the best part of the past ~2 years has been driving less. Every time I do go out in the car I find myself getting so frustrated and angry with people. The two things that piss me off the most:

1) The "Cleveland Red": It's literally unsafe to start driving through an intersection around here as soon as your light turns green, because someone is probably driving through their red light. My wife's hypothesis is that if they've seen a green light, then they feel like they're entitled to go through, like that was their green light and by god they're not stopping now. 

2) People pulling into the intersection when traffic is stopped, blocking the intersection. Because what happens (sometimes) is that their light turns red and someone else's light turns green, but they can't go anywhere. Even if they're not trying to turn onto the road where traffic is backed up, they can't even cross that road because some asshole was either too stupid or short-sighted or self-centered that they can't think ahead or give a shit about anyone else. (See, I get pretty heated just thinking about this stuff). 

***

Then there was yesterday evening.

I had to pick up prescriptions for my wife after her surgery, and before I even made the left turn into the CVS lot, I could tell it was a mess. There was a taxi van just sitting right in the entrance with its flashers on, and then there was a car trying to turn in, which meant cars were going around that car into the turn lane where I was sitting. Car behind me honks like I should be doing something. Finally that car gets in and then I turn in, and the lot is packed, but then there's a guy pulling out. So I put on my turn signal... and this SUV zips around me, blocks my way, and backs into the spot that I was clearly signalling I was going into. 

I flipped out. I was so angry. I was yelling and I flipped the driver the bird as I drove past to look for another spot. But I car hear the woman in the car yell "I'm sorry! You can have the spot!" 

But I'd already driven past and the lot was so cramped that I couldn't turn around, and more to the point I was furious and I'm like "F you, just take it." And then there's a car that's parked badly and taking up two spots and that fed my fury, but I did manage to grab literally the last parking spot in the whole lot. 

And I suddenly felt terrible. Just terrible. 

This woman kind of desperately apologizing in the face of my fury made me feel ashamed of my oversized reaction. I mean yes, I was right and she was wrong. And maybe if she'd responded with her own anger, honking and cursing me out, I would have felt perversely better about the whole thing, I don't know. But her offer to give up the spot reminded me that we all do dumb and selfish and crappy things, perhaps especially from the seat of our car. Maybe her mind was elsewhere and she was oblivious to my turn signal. Maybe she wasn't taught that same etiquette that I embrace. Maybe she had a sick child or partner or friend that she was in a hurry to get something for. 

On the other hand, I don't know, maybe she needed my expression of rage to realize that she'd done something wrong, to learn to do better in the future. But I do know that I don't particularly like who I am when I'm angry like that. I know that I would like to move through life with a bit more grace and compassion for my fellow travelers. 

Fortunately, if there's one thing I've learned living here, it's that there will be no shortage of people needing it when I'm out on the roads. Plenty of opportunities to practice.