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Spicy Chili

For the Saints game on Sunday i had a few people over and decided to make use of my newly bought Lodge Dutch Oven.  I bought it as kind of a "trainer" for when i want to shell out the money for a Crueset years down the line when this one breaks down.

What i ended up deciding to make was a spicy chili based on this recipe.  It ended up being a huge hit even with a few picky eaters, so I think it's something i might try to hone and tweak, thus i want to write it down and then write down my thoughts about it.

I changed the base recipe in the following ways:

1. used tasso instead of Italian Sausage.  next time i'm going to get two packs.
2. used one jalapeno and two serano peppers.  This added kick to the beginning of the flavor but then it calmed down and didn't end up being spicy enough for my taste.  Granted -
3. i forgot to add the chili powder, although i did add some cayenne pepper.
4. when i browned the meat, i added a bunch of spices to that in the browning process, which included my standard stuff - basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

I also added carrots to the stew because i decided i wanted more vegetables.  The texture of the carrots ended up being pretty close to right - not raw, but not completely soft.  I feel like i need to do the same thing with the bell pepper in the future too in the same way that i already do when i cook with my pressure cooker - i want there to be a little crunch to my bell pepper, so on first serve it might go in later rather than the beginning of the 30 minute simmer.

It definitely needs more kick to it too, so i think next time i'm going to do three jalapenos along with the seranos.  I thought about cutting out one of the cans of stewed tomatoes too because i put part of the blame for the kick not being strong enough on that, but for quantity of everything else i think the ingredient to stewed tomato ratio would be too weird.

Also contemplating using more onion and garlic, and throwing some of that and some of the spice into the browning process as opposed to after.  I'm a little undecided about that.

We'll see what happens when i do it next.  And also how i feel about the leftovers i have tonight because sometimes the leftovers are a better gauge of what needs to happen than "just served".

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Gotham (episode 1) (2014)

i like Bruno Heller, i'm a pretty big DC fan, so Gotham was pretty intruiging when i first heard about it.

The result is satisfying, but only just, and is wroth with contradictions.  The actor who portrayed Penguin did a great job, but the interpretation of Penguin's character in this realm in the more Danny Devito style is annoying.  The writing of James Gordon is pretty great, but the actor who portrayed him only did an okay job.  The plot was a little overblown and obvious, but there were streaks of subtlety in there that's pretty great.  A decent script line here followed by stupid cliché and predictable script line there.  And there's plenty more examples of that sort of contradiction everywhere.

Ultimately I can see that there's a long game hidden in there somewhere.  Harvey Bullock comes off as being a straighforward crooked cop kind of character, but that's how he starts off in the comics too before things Change, and that's a prime example of the setup of Gotham as a whole that gives it a lot of interesting potential.  Heller did a pretty decent job at set up when it came to The Mentalist, and that carried through pretty well for the first three seasons of that show (and season five too in my opnion), so i tend to trust in his vision for the show and the Batman mythos despite my general skepticism of how anyone does it when Bruce Timm has set such a high bar.

But then again a lot of that skepticism is borne out of the portrayal of Batman and Bruce Wayne as a central character - something that no live-action movie portrayal has gotten right in comparison to his animated counterpart helmed by Timm.  Gotham kind of takes that out of the equation since Bruce Wayne is just a kid, so it's possible that the building of the universe around him through the eyes of Gordon will be done well enough, so long as the actor that portrays him can do so more convincingly.  Then again, maybe it will just be boring.

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hair lotto - revisited

so it was roughly a year ago that i started my hair lotto thing.  I started posting pics of the random number program i used to get it to happen.

i got to the point where the number hit 9 and then made the decision to stop it.  because i've decided to keep it long for a while.

in that way, the lotto achieved exactly what i wanted it to do.  There were quite a few months in the 11 months that i didn't cut it that i wanted to cut it.  desperately.  but when i was going to do the lotto for 8, i came to a sudden realization that i liked my long hair and wanted to keep it for a while.  it feels comfortable in a way that i'm not going to disrupt right now.

i will cut it eventually again - probably over christmas depending on my christmas plans.  No deliberate chaos/random number generator involved there.  but maybe not.

But i do know that when i do, i'm not going to pretend that it will be the last time, because i could see myself growing it out again.  We'll see.

10 books

I got tagged on facebook by my friend Caylie to do this, and i thought i'd post it here because it seems to fit a blog entry better than a facebook status. The tag was: list ten books that have stuck with me. these are in no particular order.

1. Emotion and Meaning in Music by Leonard Meyer - which engrained in me the concept of expectation and how to mess with it which has defined a lot of my musical voice and also how i try to live my life.

2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis - a book that captured my imagination as a child.

3. The entire Khaavren Romances by Steven Brust - a series written in the style of Alexander Dumas that is absolutely outstanding, and one of the few series whose ending made me cry when reading it.

4. No Limit Hold 'Em: Theory and Practice by Ed Miller and David Sklansky - maybe the fourth or fifth 2+2 book i read in my formative poker education years.

5. Witch Week by Diane Duane - where Harry Potter came from as far as i'm concerned. I read this over and over again in my youth.

6. Cold Days by Jim Butcher - the entire series is great, but Cold Days sticks out to me because of how absolutely vast it is.

7. New Voices: American Composers Talk About Their Music by Geoff and Nicole Walker Smith - hearing what Steve Reich, John Adams, John Cage, etc. had to say about their craft of composition highly inspired and influenced me when i first started to go down that path.

8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - a classic tale with amazing storytelling.

9. The Belgariad by David Eddings - classic fantasy storytelling. A little cliché when i go back and read it now, an old school tale. But incredibly memorable to me.

10. The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein - because come on. How can any of those books by Shel Silverstein not stick with you?

Broadchurch - series 1 (2013)

I came across Broadchurch pretty much by wiki-hopping. Chibnall was supposed to write episodes for series 8 of Doctor Who and a line about it said that based on the success of Broadchurch (which he helms) and its renewal for a second series, he might not have the time to do that. I've never liked what Chibnall had to offer on Who or Torchwood, but i thought, "it seemed to be a big hit, it's only eight episodes, David Tennant is the lead DI, let's see what it's about."

And overall i'd say it was a pretty damned good.

Sure, it has some standard mystery-murder tropes that i had problems with - the main one being that if you paid close attention to how the whole series was shaped, there were really only two people that were realistic suspects by about the mid-point. (i had this fear at some point that there was going to be a twist-answer, a Hot Fuzz kind of answer, but thankfully that didn't happen.) Sometimes the gradualness of information revealing - both relevant and irrelevant - had this level of artifice to it, a "we need to fill out eight episodes, so let's meander this way to fill time" feel to it. And the whole tone of the series was all deep tragedy with hardly any light-heartedness in it whatsoever and that's not generally my sort of taste - the main reason i could never get into the new Battlestar Galactica.

But those quibbles ended up falling to the wayside because the story was absolutely gripping and many of the main characters and their development in that short span of time were pretty outstanding. Tennant and Colman's characters and how they played them were pretty brilliant, as were Jodie Whittaker, Pauline Quirke, and David Bradley specifically. For me, Bradley shone in particular since the few things i've seen him in otherwise were more minor or comedic roles in which his age stereotype was played pretty hard, but in this, he had a huge spotlight and he did it well.

There's an american remake of the series that's set to air in October called Gracepoint, and although Tennant is still the lead and Chibnall and James Strong are leading the helm, I feel pretty skeptical about how it will turn out. I'm pretty sure that i won't watch it because i'll just get distracted by how it differs from its UK counterpart and not be able to judge it on its own merit. Maybe i'll make someone else watch it for me and tell me if they think it's good.

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Steven Moffat and gender

It's been remarked in the past by some that Steven Moffat has misogynistic undertones in his script writing. There's no doubt that gender stereotypes is something he reveled in when he wrote Coupling, but i think that that's forgivable in some ways because that's kind of what the show was about - amplifying and making humorous the differences between men and women and how that created push and pull in the various relationships in the show.

While i'm a much bigger fan of Moffat's executive decisions regarding Doctor Who over his predecessor Russell T. Davies, I can't deny the fact that his scripts can definitely have sexist undertones in a way that's more disturbing since at heart, Who is still a children's show. Moffat has strongly denied allegations that he's sexist or misogynistic and has essentially tried to pawn it off as people blowing his throwaway lines out of proportion, but i always found it difficult to ignore various throwaway lines that he would put into his scripts that to me definitely sounded misogynistic. In Let's Kill Hitler, it was the line that the Doctor said directly to Amy, "To be fair, she is a woman," followed by an immediate excuse line, "Oh shut up, I'm dying!" In The Time of the Doctor, it was the line of "Now that is a woman!" when Tasha Lem was able to fight back against the Dalek inside of her - which regardless of it being used as more of a compliment in that way still reeks of gender separation to me because it shouldn't have mattered whether or not she was a woman or not - the line would have been better delivered if it were more of a "Now that's an amazing human being!" or something that didn't try to amplify the strengths - or weaknesses - of one gender over another. There are a few other examples that i can't think of right now.

But it wasn't until I watched the most recent episode (Deep Breath) that i had to revise my opinion slightly. Prior to Capaldi's debut, i would have begrudgingly admitted that i thought that Moffat was at least mildly misogynistic. After watching it, i now think he might be merely sexist - not specifically towards women, but towards both genders. What brought this to light was a specific exchange between Jenny and Madame Vastra:

Jenny: "So humans are monkeys now, are they?"
Vastra: "No, my love. Humans are apes. Men are monkeys."

This exchange is the first that i remember Moffat ever wrote that used gender to deliver an insult to a male as opposed to all prior examples that were female, and that's what makes me think that he's merely sexist. He doesn't take a look at someone and think "person" before he thinks "woman" or "man", and that gender separation is something that he can't get out of his head, therefore it creeps into his scripts.

Don't get me wrong, i don't think that that's better. Highlighting the differences between the two in any context like that is a bad idea even as a throwaway line. Go back to the South Park episode "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000" for reasoning on that. It's just interesting, and a little disheartening. Despite Russell T Davies's flaws as a script-writer, very few of his writing ever had gender banter or gender separation. I wish that Moffat would do the same.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

the movie pretty much boiled down to some genuinely great moments surrounded by an absolute mess - clunky plot, clunky dialogue, and clunky transitions. there were too many times that i groaned inwardly at all of the Dramatic! Acting! and too many times when i was annoyed at plot-moving points that made no sense whatsoever.

almost all of the action scenes were boring and predictable, and there was never any real tension in the film with the one exception of the "prison breakout plan", and that tension was built up in an annoyingly superficial way. there is absolutely no reason for a commander to take five plus guys with rocket launchers and say, "let's just fire one at a time for a few volleys and then i'll give the real command to have everyone fire all together just in time for there to be a solution."

and it's frustrating because beneath it all there was potential for something really great there and i bet with a better director it would have been. it wasn't quite Michael Bay, but i could be convinced that it was a distant cousin.

fails the bechdel test. the two named female characters do have some decent dialogue moments, but all of those moemnts were essentially pissing contests about who's the better daughter.

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change.

i've said this many times and it won't be the last time: the greatest part of the personal and professional relationship that i have with mark is how we complement each other. he has strengths that are my weaknesses, he has weaknesses that are my strengths, and everything in between. and the bottom line has always been one of profound mutual respect and trust, especially in the knowledge that even though we approach our teaching in different ways, ultimately the bottom line is we always have the same goal of creating the best experience for our students as possible.

it was three nights ago that Mark had his last night as a full New Orleanian resident. It still doesn't feel quite real, but tonight (when i was walking to the grocery store to get supplies for cooking of all times), the sadness of it hit me ever so slightly. Of course there's excitement - excitement for his new adventures in portland as well as for the rest of his family, and excitement for myself to take on the new challenge of stepping into his role as the assistant director of bands. But the vacancy of their presence in New Orleans is a jarring one and will continue to be as new things remind me of them.

as it relates to the tulane job, i'm already starting to make adjustments in the way that i approach decision-making and responsibility, and i'm mentally preparing myself for the new stuff as much as i can, as much as i can absorb at once. There's so much for me to learn, and a lot that i'm not good at - and that's the stuff that i need to focus on, force myself and train myself to get better at those things. You don't come out of a percussion performance degree by just playing that one instrument that you excel at, you don't win DDR competitions by just playing Max 300 over and over again, you don't become a better poker player by ignoring your leaks and how that affects your profit.

of all of the challenges that i'm preparing myself to face, there are two that are the big ones. One i can't talk about unless i put this entry behind a friends-cut which i'm not going to do - that may go into a separate entry. The other is that right now we're not planning on hiring a replacement for my job until sometime in the spring, and while i already have in place a person who will take over my duties with the drumline, the administrative aspects of my current job will stay with me on top of all of the administrative duties i absorb from mark's job.

it's daunting. it feels beyond me and makes me nervous in a way that i haven't felt in a very long time. and that's awesome. because it's driving me, making me demand of myself that i rise up to that challenge. i know i won't suck at it. but being merely good at it is not an option. I need to be great. I have to do justice to Mark's legacy and dedicate myself to the student experience and to the program's success.

And somehow write a wind ensemble piece by january in my spare time.

It's a'comin'.

time to see what i'm made of.

Black Dynamite (2009)

When i watched this movie, i couldn't help but compare it to Napolean Dynamite. It has that characteristic, where the universe is over-the-top ridiculous and the characters are over-the-top ridiculous and that creates for some great hilarity and some amazing laugh-out-loud moments.

Napolean Dynamite is a better in its construction in a few ways - plot development, because some of the twists and turns in Black Dynamite don't make much sense even in the context that it's creating for itself. Character development, because there's a pivotal moment in Napolean Dynamite where, even though Napolean himself doesn't change the person that he is, the perception of who and how he is changes drastically to his peers - which is the big payoff moment in the movie that still makes it one of my favorite movies of all time.

That said, Black Dynamite is a fun romp - well-constructed in its own right, top to bottom in its details and the genre of film that it's mimicking/paying tribute to. Its ridiculousness is a craft that is strongest in the beginning of the movie, but still sustains pretty well throughout even after the viewer gets used to it, and it hits the mark much more than it misses in a lot of its individual moments even if the bigger structure doesn't sustain as well as it could.

fails the bechdel test. despite there being a few prominent female characters, no two female characters ever talk to each other, and in fact, almost every instance of a female character talking at all is conversation with Black Dynamite that ultimately is about how awesome Black Dyanmite is. But the whole movie pretty much functions like that anyway - kind of like Jack Reacher, except that in Jack Reacher, you're supposed to take the movie seriously, which is absolutely ludicrous. Tom Cruise at his most serious has nothing on Michael Jai White at his most ridiculous.

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flabbergasting poker hand.

in about 2.5 hours i had already built up my initial $200 stack to $1000 because people were being pretty stupid against me - none of it was me getting lucky or them getting unlucky, it was all things like, "i just flopped the nut straight" or "i flopped the nut flush" and i would somehow get three-way all-in action. I also had AA twice and stacked my opponent both times - one who had about $200 and had KK, another who had about $450 and had QQ.

But the most flabbergasting hand of the evening was one against a quiet asian guy sitting immediately to my right. He was clearly a green player not just to the casino but to poker in general i think because he kept on doing strange sorts of actions. Some simple stuff like betting $5 into $75 pots or trying to make illegal raises - there was one point when someone had raised to $10 and he tried to raise to $15 (this is on a 1/2), but he did it as a string-raise, and didn't understand and tried to argue with the dealer when the dealer told him that he a) did a string raise and b) it wasn't a legal raise in the first place.

So in the hand in question, he had about $225 in front of him and in early position he raises to $10. I look down and see AhAc, so i raise to $30. Everyone else folds around to him, and he calls.

Board comes AK8 with a club draw. He checks. I bet $40. He calls. Turn comes 5d. He checks. I bet $60. He calls.

River comes 8. The guy immediately FLIPS HIS HAND OVER. He has KK. He looks at the dealer (Brandon) and taps his hand as if to say, "this is the hand that i have." It clearly wasn't a check. He thought that the action was complete.

I'm shell-shocked. Brandon looks at me with laughter behind his eyes. I say to him, "i have no idea what to do here." Because i kind of felt bad. This guy is clearly has no idea what's going on, and the extent of how much that was true was shown in this moment. I stare at Brandon and then at the player for about another ten seconds, not even quite sure if action was actually on me, and what i should even do about it. For a fraction of a second i consider checking, but then i come to my senses because that's fucking stupid. i throw in a green stack that clearly puts him all-in. He gathers his chips up slowly into a single stack and then pushes it over the line. I flip over my AA. Brandon takes his KK and folds it, and the player doesn't object, but is also looking at my hand and at the dealer as if he's unclear about whether or not all of the chips are going to go my way or his. The chips go my way, he stares at the board again and at my hand as if he doesn't quite know what just happened, and then he gets up and leaves.

Brandon left the table soon after. After about five minutes, i went to the table where he was dealing and discovered that he had just finished telling his current table what had happened. They're all "wtf" and ask me to confirm the details, so i do, and we all laugh.

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