“Ballers” is Better Than Nothing

I’ve been wishing someone (and not Aaron Sorkin) would bring back Sports Night for a while. There are even more cultural issues in sports, media, and the intersection to discuss than there were in the late 90s/early 2000s — or at least there seems to be an appetite for serious discussion of those issues.

Ballers, the new Dwayne Johnson show on HBO, is not that show, but it’s fun enough and just complicated enough that I’m interested. The New York Times article linked here explains that it tries to tackle some of the flip side issues of the exorbitant expenditures we associate with wealthy athletes. It also, in the first two episodes, tries to squeeze in some concerns about substance abuse and even — in what I think is its most interesting potential storyline — the identity issues that plague a person who’s been defined almost solely by physical accomplishment.

So I guess I’ll keep watching. I expect to be let down as this dissolves into an Entourage festival of low stakes and degraded women, but maybe they’ll get to some good stuff before then. Maybe?

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Random Happy Bits from #MarriageEquality Day

I learned:

That Detroit offers mass weddings every Friday in the summer at 3 p.m.:

The Wayne County clerk in downtown Detroit was ready for the decision with gender-neutral applications and affidavits. But so far, no one has arrived. If people want to marry here on Friday, they can take advantage of 3 p.m. mass ceremony that the clerk has, for years, offered to everyone in the summer.

That Joe Biden continues to be awesome:

tweet from Jill Biden

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Skip Entourage, but read the reviews (for fun!)

A.O. Scott:

Watching the movie is like finding an ancient issue of a second-tier lad mag — not even Maxim, but Loaded or Nuts — in a friend’s guest bathroom. You wonder how it got there. You wonder how you got there.

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When is it time to resign?

I’m riveted by the drama in my own statehouse, where Governor John Kitzhaber seems to be considering (and reconsidering) whether to resign while allegations mount that his partner, Cylvia Hayes, traded on her position as First Lady for personal and professional gain. (Hayes and Kitzhaber both face media charges, as well, that she influenced state policy while being paid to support certain ideas/issues). I’m a fan of the governor’s, and I’m particularly interested to see that elected state Democrats seem sad about the situation. It tells you about their expectations for Kitzhaber’s fourth term: they expected more, and they seem to still feel that he has more to give. There’s also a sense that this is a terrible way to end a storied and worthy career. We mourn for not just what might have been but also what this scandal will do to what has been — devalue decades of public service.

I’m curious about this now because resignations, suspensions, and retirements are all over the news. Outside of Oregon, Brian Williams is finding himself without an anchor’s desk at NBC, and Jon Stewart has announced plans to leave “The Daily Show” later this year. How do you know when it’s time to move on?

In Williams’s case and Kitzhaber’s, it seems like that the decision to resign will not be entirely an individual choice. Kitzhaber will have to resign if he loses the confidence of the legislature (ok, technically, that’s not true, but practically, it might be), and if criminal charges seem likely against either Hayes or Kitzhaber, I can’t imagine he’ll stay at the state’s helm.

Williams, I suspect, will cling to his position, if not his actual job, for as long as possible. His suspension won’t preclude him from popping up on camera in the future. In fact, I won’t be surprised when we see Brian Williams, on-the-ground reporter, turning in strictly monitored, factually accurate pieces come October.

But would it be better if he quit? Will things be improved by Kitzhaber’s resignation? I don’t know. I doubt they know. There should be a guide or a checklist, something where you can select “criteria under which my career is effectively over,” that you sign before taking on a big position, like a Living Will for My Career. For most journalists, it seems that line is “I’ve become the story.” Williams, though, who has been an entertainment figure beyond his news-reading workday, has already blurred that line, so it’s hard to know what his criterion might be.

Most politicians who resign in disgrace include the idea that the surrounding scandal has become too much of a distraction to allow them to serve to their fullest abilities. I believe it’s absolutely possible that this is true, and I think it also rarely matters. In the short-term, sure, maybe your power is reduced by how little anyone wants to sit at your lunch table, but in the long-term, everyone still needs your vote or your signature to get things done. Plus, I believe that a person who rises to a position like Williams’s or Kitzhaber’s is probably a work-a-holic, someone who finds comfort and identity in the tasks and requirements. That’s a person (like Bill Clinton, for instance) who will be hyper-focused by scandal. There’s an argument to be made that these types of leaders perform better work when they’re under close scrutiny like this.

Can we make that argument about Kitzhaber? I don’t know, but I’m riveted.

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Quickly: Quick Bread #3 and #4/50

I fell behind on writing about this, but I haven’t fallen behind in actually making quick breads. The winter break from school and some food donation boxes required me to try 4 new recipes, 2 of which came from this handout.

I made most of these in 5x8x3 pans and got four mini breads from each recipe.

#3: Baked Apple (#2 in the 50 list). 

This bread asks for 3/4 cup of applesauce and 1/4 cup of apple butter. However, what I had on hand was cups and cups of apple butter (and pear butter), so I just replaced the whole amount with apple butter or pear butter, and I cut out the pumpkin pie spice. It was great! The bread is sweet and the outside gets a little bit crunchy — not actually crunchy, but it has a sugar-caramelized darkness to it. The rum-soaked raisins are good, too, but if you’re a real raisin lover, either chop your raisins small to get some in each bite or double the raisins.

I made this twice with an unsweetened version of pear butter, and it was very good, so I don’t think having a sweet sauce to add is really necessary. You do still add a significant amount of sugar in the batter, so I think using a less-sugared apple or pear butter will make for a better bread.

#4: Chocolate Peanut Butter bread (#19/50)

This is also very good. That’s saying something; I think chocolate muffins in general are weak in the chocolate department, depending on chocolate chips to lend flavor. This bread does pretty well on its own (though the chocolate chips do help). The chocolate bread recipe overall is solid; the sour cream makes the bread moist and smoother than the other recipes, more cake-like. I don’t know what else to say about this other than we’d love to eat it almost all the time so I can never make it again. Ha!

This would be great for kids and great in muffins (assuming no one has a peanut allergy). The only peanut butter chips my store had were the Reese’s brand, so it really tasted candy-like. Oh! I forgot the peanuts on top, but they’d be a nice salty accompaniment if you like peanuts.

The other two breads I made came from my mother (her banana bread recipe is great) and the Kitchn, which has an excellent buttermilk quick bread recipe. Maybe I’ll post those as an interstitial before the next round of Food Network candidates.

But: Up next, Chocolate Stout Quick Bread!

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Quickly: Quick Bread #2/50

I had to take something for an informal lunch-time potluck. I wanted to bake because I’d had a bad day. I also didn’t want to pile on to the sweet-overload I knew awaited us all at this meeting (because everyone in this department is having a bad day). So, I turned to my 50 Quick Breads booklet, and I found the savory savior: #45, Buffalo Quick Bread.

45. Make Parmesan-Herb Bread (No. 42), omitting the Parmesan and herbs. Add 3/4 cup shredded Jack cheese, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds to the dry ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons Buffalo hot sauce to the wet ingredients. Sprinkle 1/4 cup shredded Jack cheese over the warm bread.

I admit, I saw bread that contained Buffalo Hot Sauce and I was skeptical. I shouldn’t have been. This bread is very tasty.

I made only one substitution: I used pepper jack cheese instead of plain jack cheese. That, I think, was a good call, but I’m sure regular jack would be just as good. I think the vinegary hot sauce changes the texture a little, and the bread tastes almost a little grainier than the usual quick bread. This could also be because it’s the color of cornbread.

Either way, definitely good. I would make this again.

Another note: the smoked paprika is VITAL here. Do not substitute regular stuff. Please. Please.

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Quickly: Quick Bread #1/50

Having almost nothing to do with anything else that I usually write about, I was given (and enjoy) a Food magazine subscription two years ago. In every issue, there’s a little booklet that gives you 50 variations on some food or recipe. For instance, they’ve done 50 Burgers, 50 Potato Salads (a favorite), 50 popcorns, etc. This month, they had 50 Quick Breads.

Now, I like quick bread. It’s quick. It’s bread. It’s also, traditionally, either banana or pumpkin, with various mix-ins, at my house. So I was happy to see this little booklet, and I think it may be the one I finally use completely.

The first one I made, on pretty much the day I got the magazine, was Earl Grey Tea bread (No. 31). It’s a variation on their basic vanilla bread that uses strong Earl Grey as the main liquid and is supposed to have a tea-and-honey glaze. Sounds good, right?

This bread was… meh. My tea-and-honey glaze never set up, so it just soaked into the finished bread. I think I didn’t make my tea strong enough, either, as the flavor didn’t much come through. Next time, I’d try at least two tea bags/two teaspoons of tea per boiling cup, and I might brew the tea well in advance (I admit, I did it as part of the cooking process).

But hey, good idea.

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So, I read The Skimm every day, and today they had this as the end note:

#X: If someone texts you that, it’s not a typo, a drug reference, or something involving porn. It’s a hashtag PSA that people use via text to let you know they’ll be radio silent while on the road. Ex: “Getting on the road #X” Don’t text them.

I can’t tell you how tempting it is to make “#X” my e-mail signature line. I’ve never had one. Maybe now is the time?

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Recipe of the Night: Sweet potatoes with roasted grapes, honey, and goat cheese

I think I found this recipe by searching for things to do with goat cheese. Goat cheese is one of those items that we buy in big logs whenever it’s on sale, or whenever a recipe calls for even a small amount, and I always have really good intentions of using it up. Then, a few weeks later, I end up scraping a moldy log into the trashcan. So, after using half of it to make an uninspiring vegetarian lasagna the other night, I decided to be vigilant and find a good home for the rest of it.

That home, it turned out, was on a sweet potato.

sweet potato

If you want cute photos, visit the original site. This just serves as proof that I made it.

I microwaved my sweet potatoes instead of baking because it’s summer. A very large one took 8.5 minutes; regular-sized potato took 5-6, and baby potato took 3-4. Next time, I’ll be sure to leave one side (the bottom) unpierced to make these better shells. I used regular canola oil because I have neither the time, patience, or funding to stock grapeseed oil and my high-heat avocado oil seemed inappropriate to the task. Everything else was in proportion, and this wound up taking about 30 minutes total to prepare, though that was all pretty much hands-on time (nuking potatoes at the same time the grapes roasted). The grapes took a little less time than advertised, and I eventually had to turn the heat down to keep them from burning.


Everybody liked this for different reasons. I liked it because, well, it’s like eating dessert for dinner. C liked it because he said the tangy goat cheese with the grapes was unexpectedly good. Our two-year-old liked it because the mix inside the potato ends up feeling like Play-Dough that can easily be smashed and thrown on the floor, to great effect (parent exclamations).

This ended up not being as messy as I’d feared. Anytime honey gets involved, it gets dicey in my kitchen, but because this is just poured into a recipe it worked out fine. The pan I roasted the grapes in, however, is a total disaster area.

I’m curious about whether cream cheese could fill most of the functions here in the future. The goat cheese broken up on top could be replaced with something else tangy/salty, like a dollop of sour cream. That would make these an even easier/cheaper dish with very common ingredients, and a good way to use up leftover grapes.

So, we’d do it again. Yay!

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Battle For The Net

I’m all for Net Neutrality. We’re a fairly Internet reliant home, and we’ve been under the thumb of the least fair of the Internet players for years (hiya, Comcast). So I take this all kind of personally, with a heaping helping of dread.

Do better, FCC. Please!

Battle for the Net says:

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

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