Tough day for Bradley, Cubs in loss to Twins

Tough day for Bradley, Cubs in loss to Twins | cubs.com: News.

This weekend my two favorite teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins, play three games of interleague baseball. The first game went, deservedly, to the Twins, who played good, clean, fundamental baseball. Kevin Slowey was impressive on the mound for the Twins, with 10 strikeouts in six innings. Mauer and Kubel hit homers and the rest of the Twins played like the professionals they are.

Then there was Milton Bradley (currently hitting .224 , when he’s not on the DL . . . so much for the big bucks we spent on him). The article linked above says it all: “There are bloopers, and then there was Milton Bradley’s day. . . . Bradley hit a two-run double in the sixth, but also made a baserunning gaffe that inning, lost a ball in the sun in the seventh and was charged with an error in the eighth when he caught a ball for the second out and threw it to a fan in the bleachers. Someone got a souvenir, and the Minnesota Twins handed the Cubs a 7-4 Interleague loss.”

There are just no excuses for anyone making that much money to play the way he (and several other Cubs) have been playing. In one of the long games in Houston recently, Soriano seemed to just lose interest in the later innings. These guys make more in one day than I’ve ever made in an entire year. The least they can do is pay attention for the three hours (or even a bit more) that it takes to play a baseball game.

The Twins organization doesn’t put up with that kind of “lolly-gagging around” the infield and outfield and basepaths . . . and it shows. Though to be fair to my beloved Cubbies, it must be difficult to come to work everyday and have to face Lou, who doesn’t seem to spread much joy or inspiration in the dugout . . .

Two more day games in this series. (The way God meant for baseball to be played.)

Pasta Carbonara & Rhubarb Cake

Okay, it’s an odd combo. I was supposed to make Carbonara last night, but had a migraine (which actually started Sunday night . . . so the week has been a blur). Plus I was kind of depressed on the one year anniversary of Mudpie’s “passing”. Anyway, was totally exhausted today after not sleeping well, but managed to do some cooking in between naps (yes, there were several).

The Rhubarb Cake I’ve posted before, but now there are pictures!

Rhubarb Cake

I’m still not totally satisfied with my Pasta Carbonara recipe, so I’m not posting it yet, but here’s a picture. Basically you cook some bacon (or pancetta), add garlic and cooked vermicelli, then stir in an eggs/cream/parmesan cheese mixture and gently cook the eggs. Depending on how you do, you either get pasta with a cheesy-creamy-egg sauce, or basically scrambled eggs & bacon with pasta. Mine tend to turn out more like scrambled eggs . . . tasty, but not quite what it’s supposed to be . . .

Pasta Carbonara

Cubs just managed to lose another close game while I was writing this . . . but the Twins game just started and will help put me to sleep . . .

Five favorite inexpensive kitchen gadgets

Hi there,
I’ve been busy with the Natoma Bay Online Logbook Project and some waste.time.com over on Facebook . . . but now that the Logbook is “done” I’ve been thinking about kitchen gadgets. I’ve already written about my love of my Cast Iron Frying Pan; today I’ve picked out my five favorite kitchen gadgets (in the spirit of all those Facebook things like “Five places you’ve lived” and “Five favorite childhood toys”, etc.

Each of these gadgets was less than $15. Each are worth their weight in gold . . .

#5 “The Boat Motor” (aka Immersion Blender)

"boat motor"

I resisted these for a long time. Eventually Emeril convinced me to ask for one for my birthday. Excellent for making smoothies (fits right in one of my large glasses, so no messy stand blender to clean), as well as pureeing sauces and soups.

#4 Bench scraper

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I don’t know how I lived without this one for so long. I used to scrape my work surface with a metal pancake turner! I mostly use this in baking (to scrape flour bits from my kneading board), but it’s also great for gathering up diced onions or other veggies and transporting them from the cutting board to the pot.

#3 Flour wand

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I can’t think of many uses for this other than in baking. Any time you need to sprinkle a counter or pan with a little bit of flour, this is the way to go. You squeeze it to gather flour in and then squeeze gently to sprinkle flour out.

#2 Ginger grater

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I do not understand why no one uses this on the Food Network! It is SOOOO much better than trying to “mince” ginger with a knife. You peel the ginger and then scrape it along the little knobules on the bottom of this leaf-shaped dish. You end up with both the pulp and juice of the ginger . . . YUMMO!

#1 Zyliss Garlic Press

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I’ve had this one for about 25 years. Before finding the Zyliss, I went through lots of crummy $3 garlic presses. This one cost me $12.98, but was worth every penny. You get all the garlic pulp and juice. Plus it comes with a little cleaning tool to poke through the holes (it’s plastic, so mine wore out long ago, I just soak the press in water until the garlic remains just float out). The newer ones are more like $15-20. I hope they are still as good. BTW, the packaging now claims that you don’t need to peel the garlic before you use the press, but I always peel it first (and NO, I DO NOT pound it with the side of a knife like they show on TV; all that does is lose the juice. The skin comes off very nicely if you just cut the root end and make a slit the length of the clove.) EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ONE OF THESE!

I’m sure after a while I’ll think of other kitchen items that I value just as highly. Certainly good sets of dry measuring cups and wet measuring cups (yes, they are different, you need both) and measuring spoons are all essential to me, but some people manage without them. I also recently bought a good digital kitchen scale, but I haven’t really “bonded” with it yet . . . .

Roast Chicken with Sage and Garlic—Recipe

Sara’s Roast Chicken with Sage and Garlic – Recipe – Saveur.com

I’ve roasted many a chicken in my day. Typically I rinse and dry the bird, salt & pepper the whole thing, stuff the cavity with lemon, garlic, and a few herbs if I have some, then place it on a rack in a roasting pan and pop it in a hot (450°F) oven which I then immediately turn down to 350°F. After an hour or so (during which I might baste it once or twice with a bit of chicken broth if I have some–or not) roasted chicken.

Yesterday I decided to try this recipe (see link above) I read in Saveur. It involves making an herb butter and placing it in pockets you make under the breast and thigh skin. WOW! By far the best chicken I ever roasted.

Of course, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. For the herb butter I combined the recipe’s lemon (which I zested rather than peel and chop) and garlic with a mixture of parsley (leaves from a couple of sprigs), sage (about 10 leaves), and rosemary (about a sprig’s worth) [for those of you following along with the song, fear not, the thyme is coming]—all of which I grinded together in my mini-chopper before blending with the butter. Then I stuffed the cavity with the quartered lemon, some sprigs of parsley, thyme, and marjoram, and about 1/4 of an onion (no more would fit!).

I skipped the veggies in the bottom of the pan, because I prefer to use a rack. Followed the rest of the recipe, though when the smoke detector went off because the oil in the pan was burning, I basted with a bit of broth and lowered the temp a bit more.

Like I said–WOW!

I’ll post pics once I transfer them from the camera, though they look pretty similar to the one included with the recipe at the Savuer.com site.

Served the chicken with green beans and a mashed turnip/potato/garlic dish recommended in Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s weekly newsletter. As someone who HATES most root vegetables, I’m happy to say that I’ve discovered that if you combine them with enough garlic and/or orange juice, they taste pretty good. This recipe has you parboil peeled turnips and potatoes, then transfer to skillet with whole garlic and some chicken broth. Once everything is soft, it’s all mashed together. Yummo!

Happy Mother’s Day!

[Update: Adding pictures on May 12, 2009]

Roast Chicken 01

Roast Chicken 01

Roast Chicken 02

Roast Chicken 02

Your Brain On Cubs—A Review

Your Brain on Cubs: Inside the Heads of Players and Fans (2008) Edited by Dan Gordon. Washington, DC: Dana Press

Cubs fans are perfect subjects for psychological study. We stick with our team despite 100 years of heartbreak. We rationalize with talk of curses. We analyze what it would take to have that perfect team who would make all our pennant dreams come true. Any book purporting to examine not only our fanatic brains, but also the inner workings of hitters and pitchers, should be a “natural” for us. As a die-hard Cubs fan and a cognitive psychologist, I thought this book would “touch all my bases”. Unfortunately, I was disappointed from both perspectives: much of the baseball in the book was not really about the Cubs and most of the science in the book was not about baseball.

The book contains seven chapters covering: the social-cognitive and neuroscience basis of fan loyalty; expertise and the brain; the neuroscience of hitting; the psychology of superstition; performance enhancing drugs; handedness; and the psychology of the euphoria of winning and the agony/depression of losing. These chapters vary in the degree to which they report actual research on baseball fans and/or players. Some seem to be pure speculation about how research in a particular field might apply to baseball. Others use research on other sports or the movements and processes that are part of baseball and try to extrapolate to the actual experience of playing or watching a game. Although most of the authors seem to be enthusiastic about baseball, and some even include moving personal stories about their connection to baseball and/or the Cubs, they vary in their ability to knit the psychological research and the game of baseball into a convincing presentation. Not all of the authors are trained psychologists, so some of the articles read more like magazine pieces than science. Other chapters read like a basic overview of someone’s specialty with a few baseball references inserted for this publication. Others seem to be stretching to find any real connection at all. The best chapters (e.g. Kelli Whitlock Burton and Hillary R. Rodman’s “It Isn’t Whether You Win or Lose, It’s Whether You Win: Agony and Ecstasy in the Brain”) integrate the experience of baseball throughout the discussion of the research and acknowledge when they are extrapolating (e.g., after describing parallels between fanship and religious faith including brain studies on religious subjects reciting psalms, they note “Ritual recitation of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ has yet to be studied.”—LOL).

I must single out one chapter that I found rather troubling. Bennett Foddy’s analysis of performance enhancing drugs and baseball “Risks and Asterisks: Neurological Enhancements in Baseball” argues in favor of the use of performance enhancing drugs. After discussing the physiological effects (emphasizing the positive and underplaying the negative) of a variety of substances in what could serve as a how-to manual for getting high, Foddy provides an “ethical” analysis using an equation based solely on benefits to the players (e.g., there are no poor MLB players so everyone can afford to take drugs = home runs = $$) and benefits to the spectators (e.g., fans want entertainment = home runs = $$) leaving out any discussion of players as role models for little leaguers, the message sent to young people by the use of performance enhancing drugs, and how the drug use filters down to the minor leagues (where there certainly ARE poor players and not everyone is equally able to afford to take drugs). The fact that Foddy holds a fellowship in bioethics may explain something about the sorry state of medical bioethical analysis today.

By far the biggest problem with the book is actually an editorial issue: the reference style. Even a science book written for the “general reader,” as this book claims to be, needs to be clear about the difference between pure speculation and statements based on scientific research. For many of the statements in Your Brain on Cubs, this distinction is impossible to determine, primarily because of an editorial decision to put all the references in the back of the book. As a scientist, when I read a statement such as “There is sufficient evidence that people integrate their personal identities with their social identities.” I expect to see it followed by either an article citation or a footnote leading me to a specific citation. In this book, there are no such indications of which statements are backed by research; instead, the references for each chapter/article are listed at the back of the book in alphabetical order. Most of the articles do not provide enough information within the article itself (e.g., researcher names) to be able to link specific statements/claims to a particular reference on the list. In fact, I suspect that most of the chapters were written in the standard scientific style and then the references were removed.

Once I located the references buried at the back of the book, I discovered another problem: most of the references are not about baseball at all. Of the 142 references listed, only 18 were specifically about baseball, 13 about other sports, 5 about music; the remaining 106 references are general psychology or neuroscience references. Perhaps the research just does not exist, in which case perhaps sufficient justification for this book is also lacking.

Your Brain On Cubs neither diminished my love of the Cubs nor helped explain it. I recommend readers buy a ticket to a baseball game and spend their time there instead of reading this book.