Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Note to all Auburn fans

Coming this week, I will start posting more and more thoughts on the upcoming season. Kickoff is only a month away. Stay tuned.

I Got Married Why?

My wife and kids are still in Los Angeles visiting her parents and I am looking forward to their return in a few days. With them out of the house, one would think some information might flow me to directly. However, I have just received a call from my wife, letting me know that my mother is coming next week and she will be taking all the grandkids to the aquarium in Atlanta. How did my wife find out? My sister, who lives only a few miles from here, called her in L.A. to let her know.

Sometimes I think that one of the reasons I got married was to finally be included in these family conversations.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Feels Like Southern California

I have just returned from a family vacation to the Los Angeles area to visit my in-laws. Nothing says southern California like sitting in a Mexican restaurant and watching one's Japanese father-in-law croon the original lyrics to the early 60s hit "Sukiyaki", accompanied by a mariachi band.

More on the vacation later.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Grilled Pizza

As some of my co-workers know that I like to cook, I occasionally get asked on Monday mornings if I made anything special over the weekend. Though I am not always successful at finding time to try new dishes on weekends, I will let people know what new dish I tried if I did. One Monday morning, in response to that question, I commented that I had made grilled pizza. Their reaction was, "You made what?" I was surprised by this. The dish is simple to make, but my co-workers were staring at me as if I was describing some foreign delicacy with a hard-to-pronounce name. I promised a few of them that I would make extra one night and bring in leftovers for lunch to prove that such a dish is possible.

I bring this up as I made grilled pizza for dinner tonight and, yes, I did make extra to take to the office. As I made it tonight, though,I found myself reflecting on what has happened to me over the last 12 months. A year ago today, I was let go from my job. I wasn't happy there, but it was a new job; I had only been in it a few months and was trying to give it a year. They apparently weren't happy either.

It took me a month to find a new job, but I did and I am thankful to God for it. I have been with my new employer almost 11 months now and feel that my current situation is much better than what I used to have. Finding something with better pay and benefits than a job you just had is always good. It's especially nice, though,to work with people that you would enjoy sharing grilled pizza with.

If someone wants the grilled pizza recipe, please leave me a note and let me know.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blueberry pie recipe revisited

I have received an e-mail from a reader talking about trying the blueberry pie recipe I suggested (see previous post below about me doing what my wife asks) and the pie filling not jelling (though still being delicious). For anyone having this problem, you can make it jell by allowing the pie to cool. I have also added extra cornstarch and cooked it longer than the recipe calls for. (It needs to be covered in aluminum foil, if you do this.) The reader will be testing some other thickening agents and hopefully getting back to me. If other readers have a suggestion let me know. The next time I cook it, I am going to try a water bath.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Doings of Friends

I just learned that a friend of mine in the Army will be transferred to Iraq towards the end of the year. An Auburn grad like myself, he follows the Tigers religiously. On a firing range in the middle of nowhere, he once jury-rigged some radio equipment to pick up an Auburn-Georgia football game. He says he will be following my blog for Auburn news. I plan to make it worth it.

No spoiler alert needed

I spoke with my younger sister earlier today. She was trying to confirm what time I would be coming for dinner. After setting a time, she asked what was a surprising question, "Does Harry Potter live or die?"

I told her I did not have a clue. She was in disbelief, wondering why I had not turned to the end and found out the answer everyone wants to know. I told her I could wait until I had finished. Knowing that I am a fast reader, she wondered what was taking me so long. "Well...the book is nearly 800 pages," I said. "It's taking a little while". "Well, you've had it a day," she commented.

Yes, I had had the book for a day. My boys and I had gone to a Harry Potter party on Friday night, acquiring the book about 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning. I had slept little, rising before 5:00 a.m. because I had several commitments yesterday. I fell into bed exhausted, and then rose this morning to attend church, followed by mowing the lawn. I had 200+ pages left and would get to it as soon as I could.

"OK" she said, "Dinner's at 6:00. You can tell me what happens to Harry when you get here".

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Giving My Wife Want She Wants

A week or so ago, my wife brought home some fresh blueberries and told me that she wanted me to make her a blueberry pie with even the crust being from scratch. This isn't the first time she has done something like this. Every so often, she will just tell me she is in the mood for whatever and ask me to make it. When this happens, my first reaction is usually the same: I inquire if she is having a "craving". The answer is always no. The item was just on sale.

However, I have never made a blueberry pie before. For that matter, I've never made a pie period. Given that I love to cook and have started making a lot of desserts in the past few months, realizing that I had never made a pie before sounded odd. So, being a guy, I did the only thing I could do...research it to death. I checked our collection of cookbooks, but found nothing. (Paula Deen has a fantastic dessert book, but even it did not have one.) Then I went online and downloaded about 15 different variations and studying what would be required. Knowing that my wife is particularly fond of recipes where all the ingredients are already in the house, I decided on one that looked simple and gave it a go.

The result was probably one of the best pies I have ever tasted. The recipe is easy, so I know it's not the chef. Still, my wife liked it so much that she bought two more packages of blueberries, suggesting that I make another one for the house and one for the office.

So, for those of you who like blueberry pie, click on the title of this post and you will be re-directed to the recipe. You will not regret it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The No TV Week

A former co-worker of mine and her family engage in a certain annual ritual that leaves me somewhat aghast. It's called No TV week. For one week, they watch no TV, no DVDs or video games, and do not turn on the computer. The thought of this alone drives me nuts. I wonder if I could do it and I know the answer is no.

However, sometimes circumstances dictate that we learn to deal without these things anyway. Yesterday afternoon, while I was at work, my wife called me and said that she had an emergency. When I asked what the problem, she commented the cable was out. By itself, this isn't a big deal. The cable has gone out before and it is usually a system-wide issue. "Not this time!" she said. It only affects our TVs and the cable company says it will be a week before someone can get out here.

A week? Are they nuts, I wondered. I could have a new cable service installed in a week. This was insane! So, I did what any self-respecting, loving husband would do. I called the cable company to see what the heck the problem was.

It turns out the problem is there is no one there who can give you a good answer. I got three different people who gave me three different answers, all of them different from the answer given to my wife. One promised I would get a call back within an hour to set up a time to get someone there sooner. One said I would get a call back wihtin 24-48 hours. One actually claimed that I would get a call back as soon as a technician was available. I am not sure which answer made me laugh the hardest.

Finally, I got someone who gave me the right answer. The person said that things get booked up when there are system outages and that the best thing to do was call when the office opened at 7:00 a.m. Sure enough, my wife called at 7:00 a.m. and all of the blocked times through the next week had disappeared, offering us more than one option on the following day.

So, tomorrow (hopefully), the TV will be back on and we can go back to the way things were. I have to admit, however, losing the TV for a couple of days proved to be a blessing in one respect. Given the way my Atlanta Braves just played in their three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, I was almost better off not being able to watch at all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Things Kids Pick Up From TV

This morning, while my wife and younger son were playing pretend games at home, my five-year old announced that he wanted to play TV. He had my wife sit in front of the TV in our den and then he began to mimic what he knows my wife would enjoy. Pretending to take things from the fridge and the pantry, my five-year old then put on a cooking demonstration. The next time he does it, we will have our camera ready. He may be ready to be "The Next Food Network Star".

Sunday, July 15, 2007

C.S. Lewis Revisited

C.S. Lewis's book The Screwtape Letters is a work of fiction that consists of a series of letters written by one of Hell's experienced tempters, Screwtape, to his nephew and newest project, Wormwood. In each letter, Screwtape gives Wormwood advice on how to lead his assignment astray and cause that person to sin so as to keep the person out of Heaven.

In one of the letters, Screwtape criticizes Wormwood heavily as Wormwood allowed his assignment to read a book for enjoyment. Apparently, reading for the sheer please of it is a way for people to relax and re-connect with God. I agree. While I like to learn when I read, I do enjoy reading books where I can just lose myself in them.

I sometimes wonder if writing is not the same thing. Not everyone enjoys writing. For some, though, writing provides a way to relax, to get out feelings, and just re-connect with the things that keep us grounded.

And keeping grounded is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.

Barry Bonds and the Coffee Stain

I once read that some great discoveries, like penicillin and making paper from wood, were discovered by accident.

Under less important discoveries, I just discovered that the bottom rim of my favorite coffee cup seems to leak. The discovery was made as I noticed the coffee ring stain on the off-white carpet in our den. It was confirmed when I cleaned off the bottom rim of the cup (as well as cleaned up the spot on the carpet) and noticed that a similar ring was now on the counter where I had placed my cup after cleaning it. (As my wife is still asleep, my writing this incident in the blog will give me the chance to discover if my wife actually reads it.) As this particular cup is the one that celebrates the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Ruth's record of 714 home runs, I figure it means that Barry Bonds will go on a tear this week and get the last five homers he needs to break Aaron's record of 755 homers.

I remember when Aaron broke the record. I was sitting in the den with my Dad, watching the Braves play the Dodgers on Monday Night Baseball. Al Downing was pitching for the Dodgers. Aaron hit #715 and I was a happy kid. I don't even remember if the Braves won; granted, I was just a kid and wasn't allowed to stay up late and watch the end of the game anyway.

When Bonds inevitably breaks the record, the accomplishment will be tainted with steroids. It's never been proven that Bonds took steroids and people should be innocent until proven guilty, but Bonds will have to deal with this. If there is any fault though, it is not with Bonds. It's with Major League Baseball. They could have addressed drug use in the sport well over a decade ago, but chose to ignore it instead.

Baseball's only option is to come clean now, something which they claim to be doing with the Mitchell investigation and the new punishments they instituted last year. However, MLB will never able to fully clean away what happened. When I first noticed the coffee stain on the carpet, it was a complete circle. Now, after several cleanings, only a small spot remains. I will continue to apply spot remover, trying desperately to get rid of the last little bit. However, like the steroids blot on MLB, the last little spot will, I fear, remain there for some time to come.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Countdown Continues

Today, we officially got one week closer to two anticipated events. We have seven weeks left until the start of the Auburn football season and we have one week left until Book 7 of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out. I promised the boys to take them to a Harry Potter party at a bookstore close by. We will go on Friday night, hang out until midnight, and pick up one of the first copies that the store sells. In anticipation of the book debut, my immediate family became one of the many that took in the opening week of the fifth movie in the series. My boys loved it.

Also, as I mentioned, there are seven weeks left until Auburn's football season begins. The opener is against Kansas State. I don't know if Auburn has ever played K-State before. There have been a couple of match-ups against Kansas, but the when of those escapes me at the moment.

Following K-State, Auburn has a home game against South Florida. If any team could surprise us and bite us on the a--, it's South Florida. They play good teams tough and can be as annoying as Fresno State is every so often.

The Auburn coaches finished up their vacations and came back to work this week. According to articles I have read, the plan for the first four games is already in place.

At this time of year, I spend a lot of time going on to sports websites, looking to see where Auburn is ranked. The team is expected to be in the Top 20 by most accounts. After the polls come out, I will do an estimate and see where we are.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sometimes a picture is worth more than 1000 words

A friend of mine from Oregon e-mailed this picture. I had to upload it. To Auburn fans everywhere...War Eagle!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My older son's aggressive savings plan

My older son lost his tooth today. With fourteen dollars already in pocket and another five expected from the winged lady, my son is already eyeing what he can buy with his funds. However, as his current wants exceed $20, he is focused on extracting another loose tooth as soon as he can.

I really do miss the old days when I only got a quarter.

Auburn football news

Tuberville had an appendectomy and apparently is okay.

The locations for the home-and-home with West Virginia have been set. Auburn will travel to Morgantown in 2008 and host West Virginia in 2009. This represents a shift beneficial to Auburn as the home schedule in 2009 is the SEC-lite version, similar to what the Tigers will face this year.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Crossing The Border Of Toyland

Growing up, one of my least favorite Christmas carols was Toyland. It was such a sad song that I could not understand what it had to do with a Merry Christmas. Not until I was an adult did I understand that the song was a metaphor for growing up, saying that one can never be a kid again.

Today, I had to re-visit that song. After church, my family and I went to the IKEA in downtown Atlanta. For those of you that have never heard of the place, IKEA is Swedish furniture/housewares retailer that specializes in ready-to-assemble items. IKEA stores are huge and it is like a maze getting in and out of one. The place in Atlanta has two cafeterias and a play area for kids in addition to the shopping.

The idea of going to the place was planned out: my wife shopping, me reading in one of the cafes, and the boys in the play area. However, I was surprised to find out that my older son exceeded the height limit for the play area. I explained it to him. He's getting older, taller, and just growing up. The play area did let him, but my son understood it would be his last time. I was proud of him. He's still a kid, but today he took his first step out of Toyland.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tale of Two Countdowns

My ten-year old looked at me earlier this evening and said "13 days to go". "For what", I asked. "For the Harry Potter party!" he said. Yes, with the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series scheduled to debut two Saturdays from today, I had promised to take both my sons to one of those Harry Potter parties at bookstores on the Friday night before the book comes out. The party will last until midnight at which time those who have pre-ordered a copy of the final volume can pick up a copy.

I am also in some sort of countdown. When I woke up this morning, I thought to myself...eight weeks from today. Eight weeks from today another Auburn football season will begin. Like my kids and the next Harry Potter book, I can't wait. (Actually, I am probably looking forward to the next Harry Potter book myself as much as they are. I don't think Harry dies, but I do think that in the end, someone will die in his place.)

I have been reading all I can about Auburn's upcoming season. The general consensus is that Auburn will finish 2nd in the West Division behind LSU. Auburn is expected to win all eight of its home games, but the four away games (LSU, Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia) are seen as too hard for Auburn to survive. (Granted, Florida also had four away games last year that were seen in the same way.)

Personally, I think Auburn will have a wonderful season, but I can't see an undefeated one. Every expert picks Auburn to lose to both Florida and LSU, meaning that we will win at least one of those. I think we will exact revenge on both Arkansas and Georgia, especially Arkansas, though D-Mac will make it hard at the outset.

Book 7 of the Harry Potter series is not the only Harry Potter related item debuting soon. The movie, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (based on Book 5), debuts next week. The last time a Harry Potter movie debuted was the third week of November 2005, the same weekend that Auburn made it four in a row over Alabama. The bowl game performance notwithstanding, Auburn did better that season then expected. Let's hope the magic continues.
I live in the Atlanta area, which means I have a sizable commute for my job. It wasn't originally that way. When we first moved here, we chose a house so close to my job that I could come home for lunch. However, the first position did not work out and I ended up taking a new position elsewhere.

In getting used to my commute, I noticed that the speed limit on Atlanta highways is 70 in most places; however, the sizable number of delays mean that you're doing 70 half the time and 20 the other half. When I started my new position, I was getting just under five round trips per tank. However, when the price of a gallon of gas surpassed $3.00, I finally decided to do something about it. I try to maintain my speed at no higher than 60 miles per hour. While I do get passed when the traffic is at full speed, I end up arriving at the next bottleneck probably only a minute later than everyone else. My trip takes only five minutes more at the lower speed. Now, though, I get over six round trips per tank as opposed to just under five.
Welcome to my blog. Glad you came. Hope you'll return. As I develop this space, I plan on concentrating on the following items:

1) Auburn University sports - Auburn in my alma mater. I particularly enjoy Auburn-related college football discussions and will also talk about other SEC schools as well.
2) Other sports - mostly the Atlanta Braves.
3) Energy - A pundit whose name I can't recall at the moment once commented that this country has energy politics, not an energy policy. It is an accurate statement. Each side expresses zealotry for its side while demonizing the other. Here, all ideas are on the table.
4) Life's lessons in my humble opinion.

Thanks for coming by. The items for discussion are Auburn football, our nation's non-existent energy policy, and anything else.