Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Beloit College Mindset List - Class of 2015 edition

Today was LBA's first day of school. It's a half day, full day tomorrow. Of course, don't get me started on the fact that school isn't supposed to start until the Wednesday after Labor Day - come on, New Yorkers, you know it's true. He did much better today than last year. He was very happy to see all of his friends again. SoBA is going to spend a few days with his cousin(s) as he doesn't go back until next week. Some day I hope to be able to take the time off I need and perhaps even take a vacation.

Last week, Beloit College came out with its annual list for the incoming college classes, for what they may or may not know / remember as they enter their college years. The list, always up for great discussion, offers a list of cultural touchstones that shapes the lives of these incoming freshmen. I wonder what LBA's list will look like.

The Mindset List for the Class of 2015

Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.

Their classmates could include Taylor Momsen, Angus Jones, Howard Stern's daughter Ashley, and the Dilley Sextuplets.
  1. There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
  2. Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents. (that's disturbing)
  3. States and Velcro parents have always been requiring that they wear their bike helmets.
  4. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
  5. There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships. (and it's still not enough)
  6. They “swipe” cards, not merchandise.
  7. As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
  8. Their school’s “blackboards” have always been getting smarter.
  9. “Don’t touch that dial!”…what dial?
  10. American tax forms have always been available in Spanish.
  11. More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
  12. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  13. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you're talking about LeBron James.
  14. All their lives, Whitney Houston has always been declaring “I Will Always Love You.”
  15. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
  16. Women have never been too old to have children.
  17. Japan has always been importing rice.
  18. Jim Carrey has always been bigger than a pet detective.
  19. We have never asked, and they have never had to tell.
  20. Life has always been like a box of chocolates.
  21. They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.
  22. John Wayne Bobbitt has always slept with one eye open. (really, just him?)
  23. The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia.
  24. “Yadda, yadda, yadda” has always come in handy to make long stories short.
  25. Video games have always had ratings.
  26. Chicken soup has always been soul food.
  27. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.
  28. Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief.
  29. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.
  30. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
  31. Women have always been kissing women on television. (not that there's anything wrong with that)
  32. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.
  33. Most have grown up with a faux Christmas Tree in the house at the holidays. (but shouldn't)
  34. They’ve always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with “been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt.”
  35. The bloody conflict between the government and a religious cult has always made Waco sound a little whacko.
  36. Unlike their older siblings, they spent bedtime on their backs until they learned to roll over.
  37. Music has always been available via free downloads.
  38. Grown-ups have always been arguing about health care policy.
  39. Moderate amounts of red wine and baby aspirin have always been thought good for the heart.
  40. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop. (oh, that's just sad)
  41. The United States has always been shedding fur.
  42. Electric cars have always been humming in relative silence on the road.
  43. No longer known for just gambling and quickie divorces, Nevada has always been one of the fastest growing states in the Union.
  44. They’re the first generation to grow up hearing about the dangerous overuse of antibiotics.
  45. They pressured their parents to take them to Taco Bell or Burger King to get free pogs.
  46. Russian courts have always had juries.
  47. No state has ever failed to observe Martin Luther King Day.
  48. While they’ve been playing outside, their parents have always worried about nasty new bugs borne by birds and mosquitoes.
  49. Public schools have always made space available for advertising.
  50. Some of them have been inspired to actually cook by watching the Food Channel.
  51. Fidel Castro’s daughter and granddaughter have always lived in the United States.
  52. Their parents have always been able to create a will and other legal documents online.
  53. Charter schools have always been an alternative.
  54. They’ve grown up with George Stephanopoulos as the Dick Clark of political analysts.
  55. New Kids have always been known as NKOTB.
  56. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael Who?
  57. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
  58. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.
  59. Kim Jong-il has always been bluffing, but the West has always had to take him seriously.
  60. Frasier, Sam, Woody and Rebecca have never Cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during primetime.
  61. Major League Baseball has never had fewer than three divisions and never lacked a wild card entry in the playoffs.
  62. Nurses have always been in short supply.
  63. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
  64. Altar girls have never been a big deal.
  65. When they were 3, their parents may have battled other parents in toy stores to buy them a Tickle Me Elmo while they lasted.
  66. It seems the United States has always been looking for an acceptable means of capital execution.
  67. Folks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have always been able to energize with Pepsi Cola.
  68. Andy Warhol is a museum in Pittsburgh.
  69. They’ve grown up hearing about suspiciously vanishing frogs.
  70. They’ve always had the privilege of talking with a chatterbot.
  71. Refugees and prisoners have always been housed by the U.S. government at Guantanamo.
  72. Women have always been Venusians; men, Martians.
  73. McDonalds coffee has always been just a little too hot to handle.
  74. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.
  75. The New York Times and the Boston Globe have never been rival newspapers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The King's Fried Chicken

I have become addicted to Guy Fieri's show on the Food Network, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Just the other evening I was watching him at a place that served approximately 20,000 pieces of Fried Chicken a week (or something like that). Then I saw this on kottke, where the Google Executive Chef scored the recipe to Elvis Presley's fried chicken.

But of course, we're not allowed to have a deep fat fryer at the launchpad. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't make this in a heartbeat. But then again, the heartbeat might be a lot slower after eating this.

The recipe has been "google-sized" and I have done my best to reduce the amounts to a more manageable size (I used a recipe converter to lower the amounts to one-tenth).

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Elvis Loved
  • 2 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/4 tsp basil
  • 2 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 2 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1.3 gal. buttermilk
  • 1/3 case organic free range chicken (roughly 3 chickens, divided into 1.5- to 2-lb. sections)
Mix these amounts of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then whisk in the buttermilk until it's thoroughly mixed.

Pour the batter over the chickens and marinate for up to five days - keep refrigerated, of course.

For frying
Now mix another 4x the above dry ingredients, and add:
  • 1/4 lb. cornstarch
  • .8 qt. all-purpose organic whole wheat flour
Dredge the marinated chicken pieces in the dry herbs/flour/cornstarch mixture mix.
Fry the dredged chicken in a large skillet with hot peanut oil @ 375 degrees. Once chicken has reached a golden brown color, finish cooking it in the oven.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Doomsday Clock

One of my first jobs was working in a public library. I shelved books, retrieved archived issues of magazines for patrons and sorted and read shelves for accuracy. It was a great job and I made a number of great friends during the time that I worked there. I was not interested in a job in food service, though a number of my friends did go that route.

I was a history geek (and a bit of a nerd) so working in the library was just right. I remember looking at old issues of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and becoming fixated on the Doomsday Clock, which was featured in each issue. In January 2010, the Doomsday Clock was moved one minute away from midnight - from five to six minutes to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock appeared in the Bulletin first in 1947 at seven minutes to midnight and was an indication of how close mankind was to its own obliteration, particularly to the dangers of nuclear war. It has been adjusted 18 times since its inception - midnight being the point at which the end of the world might occur.

The closest the clock came was two minutes to midnight, in 1953, when the United States pursued plans to develop a hydrogen bomb, in addition to the testing of a nuclear device by the Soviet Union. The furthest the clock ever sat was seventeen minutes to midnight, in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The clock has also been used to monitor climate change around the world as well as biosecurity issues.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of having my nephew and his friend visit with us. In addition to the scampi we served (as mentioned in last Monday's post), Mrs. BA made a sour cream coffee cake, which was extremely tasty. Here is another variation - but Mrs. BA's was the best.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake (with a Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl)
from "Baked: New Frontiers In Baking"
by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito


For the crumb topping:
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted [Let them cool before proceeding.]
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch cubes
For the chocolate cinnamon swirl:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the sour cream cake:
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. First make the crumb topping by putting the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, pulsing for 5 seconds to mix. Add the pecans and pulse until the pecans are finely chopped and thoroughly incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until combined it'll look like coarse sand. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

2. To make the chocolate cinnamon swirl, simply whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & butter a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into a medium bowl.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and ribbonlike. Scrape down the bowl and add the sugar. Beat until the mixture is smooth and starts to look fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.

5. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat just until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping down the bowl before each addition and beating only until each addition is just incorporated. Do not over mix.

6. Pour one third of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly.

7. Sprinkle half the chocolate cinnamon swirl mixture over the batter, covering the entire surface of the batter.

Spoon half of the remaining batter over the swirl mixture--do this in blobs, as Matt suggested--and spread it evenly. Top with the remaining swirl mixture, then the remaining batter, and spread the batter evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top of the batter.

8. Bake in the center of the oven, rotating the pan three times during baking, for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then serve.

The cake will keep for 3 days, tightly covered, at room temperature.

Friday, August 12, 2011

To Mrs. BA on the Occasion of Her Birthday

Today is the day that this Brave Astronaut stops and celebrates one of the greatest days in history. For today is Mrs. BA's birthday and I urge all of you, my faithful readers to celebrate along with her (we can all have a drink in her honor - she doesn't, so it's OK if we have hers).

Mrs. BA is a great daughter. Trust me on this, her mother would tell you the same. We all complain about our parents, but I am grateful to hers for producing such a great person. She is a great sister. As the oldest of three girls, she and her sisters are a great set and I am happy to know her sisters and their families.

She is an outstanding mother to two wonderful boys (LBA and SoBA), who love her very much. While there are certainly moments that lead to more gray hairs for both Mrs. BA and me, those two boys are spitting images of their mother and I love them as much as I do her. I went through a period that I didn't think I was going to have children or that I wasn't going to be a good father. It is because of her that I do have those two great boys and I am a mildly successful father. However good those boys are, it is because of her.

Finally, she is the best wife a man could ever ask for. I love her with all of my heart. I cannot begin to imagine a world without her in it, nor do I want to. I find it hard to remember a time when she wasn't a part of my life. She has helped me to be a better person, really helped me to know what love is, and what "quality of life" really can mean.

She can still get me to catch my breath when I see her, her laugh will always make me smile, her touch will never cease to energize me. I am forever grateful for her love and will work for the rest of my days to earn and deserve it.

Mrs. BA, I love you. Happy Birthday. Thank you for you. I'm a very lucky man.

Of course it is also Pizza and Movie Night Friday at the launchpad. Maybe Mrs. BA will get to pick the movie, but probably not this one (one of Mrs BA's favorites). Evidently because there are no original ideas in Hollywood, there are talks of rebooting this series. The original was released 28 years ago on July 29.

10 Things you didn't know about National Lampoon's Vacation (from BuzzFeed)
  1. The W in Clark W Griswold Stands For Wilhelm
  2. Originally, We Were Supposed To See Aunt Edna Wiggle Her Fingers While Tied To The Top Of The Car
  3. Originally The Film Ended With The Griswolds Taking Roy Wally (Eddie Bracken) Hostage
  4. All The Distant Shots Of Walley World Are Matte Paintings
  5. Harold Ramis Was Inspired To Shoot Wide Shots Of Clark Alone In The Desert By La Guerre Du Feu
  6. It Was The Only Vacation Movie To Receive An R Rating
  7. Harold Ramis Is Embarrassed By The Scene In East St. Louis - "No, I'm from the South side of Chicago, I'm here on Vacation!"
  8. The Script Originally Called For The Griswolds To Go To Disneyland - but evidently the Magic Kingdom objected, because they don't close.
  9. The Film Is Based On An Article By John Hughes - September 1979 issue of National Lampoon
  10. Harold Ramis Has An Uncredited Role As A Police Officer At Walley World - he does?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grilled Cheese

When my mother was pregnant with me, she and my father went on an extended holiday to France. My father and grandfather would sit down to dinner each evening for an enormous meal, which would send my mother's stomach into somersaults. She would excuse herself and ask for a grilled cheese sandwich to be sent up to her room.

It is for this reason, I feel, that I am not a big fan of grilled cheese sandwiches. However, now as a father of two small boys, I find myself making them. We often have a variation of grilled cheeses (Mexican grilled cheese - the quesadilla, the Italian grilled cheese - pizza, or the American grilled cheese).

Evidently April was / is grilled cheese month. Here's a number of recipes that one can make to enjoy the melted cheesy breaded goodness, of which I have picked my favorite to share for Recipe Monday.

Barbecue Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich
from Veronica's Cornucopia
  • 2 slices Texas toast
  • 2-3 T barbecue sauce
  • 2 oz sliced sharp or smoked cheddar cheese
  • 4-6 slices cooked bacon
  • 1 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Butter or margarine
Heat a skillet over medium. Spread the barbecue sauce over the bread slices, then over one slice arrange cheddar cheese slices, bacon over that, then sprinkle the Monterey Jack over the bacon. Top with remaining bread slice. Melt some butter or margarine in the skillet and place the sandwich on top of the puddle, scooting it around until the bread absorbs the butter. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until cheddar looks melted, then remove and melt more butter in the pan, flip the sandwich and cook additional 4 minutes and serve hot.

Makes one sandwich.

Veronica's Notes: Your sandwich will require several minutes less cooking time if you use regular bread. Also, the Monterey Jack isn't necessary but I like to glue the bacon, cheese and bread all together by putting cheese on both sides. Change it up as you desire!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pick a Letter, Any Letter, Just Not J

In my free time [OK, I'm back, I had to stop laughing for about ten minutes], I have this dream of publishing a book. I have about 200 pages of a novel done, it just needs some final tweaking and a few more gaps to fill. I also have at least two ideas for non-fiction books, one of which involves the naming convention surrounding the Washington street grid. When I first moved here, I found it fascinating as to how the streets were lettered, followed by a system of words (one syllable, two syllables, and finally three syllables). Then of course, there is the placement of the state streets.

One thing I questioned early on was the absence of a "J" street. "I" Street, yes - followed by "K" Street. So why did J get screwed? The answer I was given was that I and J were too alike for both to be used. Yeah, OK, whatever.

But it evidently turns out to be true. But this post from We Love DC looks at the omission of J Street (along with the absence of X, Y, and Z Streets), which was not based on Pierre L'Enfant's desire to insult John Jay, although that story is certainly much more fun.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Electronic Communication

There are days that I long for the days of actual letters. I am a big fan of the letters between John and Abigail Adams (they are used in part in 1776), where they signed their letters, "dearest friend" or some other affectionate closing. Those kind of things don't exist anymore. We are a society that communicates electronically (email, Facebook status updates, tweets, etc.). Part of my job responsibilities include providing reference service and it is very rare to receive an actual letter anymore - it's 95% email.

This article, which appeared in the Washington Post some time ago (yes, I saw it online - but I did read it in print as well - one of the last people to still read a newspaper, I know), concerned how to close emails. Gone are the days when one would sign, "Your obedient servant" or "Sincerely Yours," in email, which by definition is much more instantaneous, it almost begs for a "fluffier" closing.

I find myself often using "Best," which is my shorthand (and others) for Best Regards. In responding to my reference inquiries, I often use "Sincerely" as I am more or less cutting and pasting a letter into the email, so that "Sincerely" is appropriate. I will use "Love" when corresponding with Mrs. BA or a member of my family, but it still looks a little weird in email. More often than not, I both receive and send emails without a closing (sometimes there isn't even a name - that gets discerned from the header information).

What do you all think? Be sure to sign your name if you leave a comment :)

With my very best regards,
Brave Astronaut

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shrimp Scampi

We haven't made this yet, but at least we have all the ingredients. Maybe this week. If we aren't eating at the snack bar at the pool.

A couple of weeks ago, I dug out some shrimp from the freezer to make a batch of shrimp scampi, which I served over polenta. It was very tasty. Here's another scampi recipe, which looks just as good, from Simply Recipes.

Shrimp Scampi

If you are using frozen shrimp, defrost them quickly and safely by putting the shrimp in a large bowl of ice water.

  • 1 pound large (16-20 count) shrimp, shelled* and de-veined, tail-on for presentation if you want
  • Salt
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, slivered, or 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
* Whether you prepare the shrimp shell on or off is really up to you. Cooking the shrimp with the shells still on will impart more flavor, but they are much messier to eat. Shelling the shrimp before cooking them will make the shrimp a lot easier to eat and you can save the shells for shellfish stock if you want.

  1. Heat a sauté pan on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter melts, foams up and subsides, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for a minute, or until you see the edges of some of the garlic just beginning to brown.
  2. As soon as the garlic begins to brown, add the shrimp to the pan. Then add the white wine and stir to combine and coat the shrimp with the butter, oil, and wine. Spread the shrimp out in an even layer in the pan. Increase the heat to the highest setting and let the wine boil vigorously for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Turn the shrimp over, or toss them so the cooked sides are mostly facing up, and boil the wine for another minute. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and toss to combine. Add the lemon juice and black pepper.
Serve alone, with crusty bread, over pasta, or over rice (for gluten-free version).

Serves 4.