Categories
DIY

Hosting migration complete

For a couple of years, I’d meant to migrate my domain name and host to better companies. Now I have! I think everything on my blog made it through: posts, comments, images, subscriptions. Please let me know if anything seems off. Feeling proud of myself for navigating nameservers, file permissioning, etc.

The only intentional change is that I’m trying out the latest theme from WordPress, “Twenty Twenty.” Plus I have the latest versions of WordPress and PHP and my site now supports https.

After surveying my options, I went with A2 Hosting (that’s my referral bonus link, why not). They had good reviews from friends and reasonable pricing. As a bonus, my blog is now locally-hosted: A2 is shorthand for Ann Arbor, looks like they’re based over on Hogback Rd.

Categories
ruminations

Celebrating Eyedea, the greatest to ever freestyle

Today I remember Eyedea, aka Micheal Larsen, who died ten years ago. “Who’s the best rapper ever?” is an unanswerable question, but when it comes specifically to freestyling, Eyedea is the Greatest Of All Time.

As a hip-hop-loving teen in the early 2000s, I traded Eyedea’s mp3s on peer-to-peer sharing services like Napster and KaZaa. He was only two years older than me and yet by 18 he had already vanquished all comers to become the undisputed champion of battle rap. He got bored of battling and moved on, but his freestyles never got old to me. Here are some of my favorites, both battles and whimsical freestyles. If you never heard them, you’re in for a treat. Even a layperson can appreciate the greatest of all time putting on a master class, in anything.

Battles

CityPages has a list of five great Eyedea battles, with embedded videos. The first one listed, from HBO’s Blaze Battle tournament in 2000 (which Eyedea won), is a classic. When his opponent starts dancing to distract him, Eyedea immediately builds his final rhymes around that: “this cat wants to be my backup dancer!”

This is the best part of Eyedea’s freestyles: they’re so clearly extemporaneous. So many recordings and appearances billed as “freestyles” are obviously pre-written. No surprise, as even skilled rappers struggle to make up decent rhymes entirely on the fly. Eyedea’s flows are indisputably improvised, as shown by his ability to respond to opponents in battles (and friends in cyphers).

Friendly freestyles

The greatest freestyle session ever recorded is also a settled matter: the 2000 KFAI Orphanage freestyle. Here’s Blueprint’s description of the legendary session, but more importantly here’s the recording: 45 glorious minutes of freestyles, as indie rap icons trade the mic back and forth.

Categories
Cooking Recipe

The essential lentil stew

This is the recipe I’ve cooked the most times in my life and my comfort food. It is the perfect bean soup, which is the perfect food. I’m amazed how flavorful this dish is despite being virtually unspiced.

Time: 55 minutes. Serves 8.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery (optional), chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz, including the juice
  • 1 lb regular brown lentils
  • 8 cups vegetable stock. For me, that’s 2.5 bouillon cubes from Edwards & Sons + 8 cups of water, thrown directly in the pot.
  • A dash or two of smoked paprika or smoked salt (optional)

Saute the onions in ~4 tbsp (1/4 cup) olive oil for a few minutes. Add carrots and celery, cook for a few minutes. Add the can of tomatoes, cook for a few minutes. Add the lentils, stir, add the stock, add the smoke if desired. Cook until the lentils are soft, check around ~30 minutes but it may take more like 40-45. Adjust levels of salt, pepper, smoke. The smoke is optional, skip it or keep it very light – it’s just providing a faint background note.

Optional additions that work well at the table are parmesan cheese and lots of black pepper. Freeze the leftovers.

Notes & Tips

This was a standby of my mother’s. She got it from Marcella Hazan and when I first lived on my own she photocopied the recipe for me:

Categories
Cooking Parenting

An Ode to Bean Soup

Fall in Michigan means it’s soup weather! I make a lot of bean soups (and related soups). I think I’ll write some of them up on this blog. It’ll be a reference for me, at least, when I can’t decide what to cook next. Maybe others will find it useful, perhaps even my kids someday.

Bean soup is the best genre of food. It’s not close. It checks every box:

  • Tasty. My reasons below are practical, but they would be for naught if the soups weren’t delicious.
  • Easy. They usually involve little or no chopping, few ingredients, and a single big pot. Add an easy carb like bread/rice/ pasta and a vegetable side and it’s a meal.
  • Kid-friendly. My kids like or love most of my bean soups and they make a great early food for babies.
  • Scales up. Because there’s little chopping, it’s as easy to make 2, 3, or 4x as much at once. That gives you 1, 2, or 3 bonus nights where dinner is already in the fridge, ready to go. And it…
  • Keeps well. It’s as good days later as fresh, and freezes perfectly. When I want to bring a meal on short notice to someone ill or grieving or celebrating, I grab a couple of quarts of frozen soup.
  • Healthy. They’re low in fat and carbs and high in fiber and protein, which is nice because they’re also..
  • Vegetarian or vegan. These are protein-heavy, savory, rich dishes that won’t leave omnivores feeling like the meat is missing.
  • Gluten-free. If you’re serving a crowd whose dietary preferences you don’t know, like at a potluck, it’s inclusive to make a dish that is vegan and gluten-free without compromising.
  • Made from nonperishable ingredients. Most soups are made from things that last indefinitely in the pantry. And when you don’t have something, they’re..
  • Forgiving. You can skip a vegetable, use powder instead of fresh onions, and change spices or even the legume. And the cooking techniques are hard to mess up – it’s hard to burn a soup, even if you’re not paying attention (though I’ll tell that story when I get to that soup).
  • Cheap. About as cheap as good healthy food gets.
  • Local. I can get Michigan-grown beans and lentils. And even if beans aren’t local to you, growing and transporting dried beans is very climate-friendly.

Bean soup may be the best class of food, but even it has a few limited downsides:

  • Not great in summer. People don’t want to eat hot soup when it’s sweltering out. Summer is the off-season for me, when I cook solid food. Fortunately, I live in Michigan, where it’s soup season from September until May.
  • People sometimes want solid food. I can eat soup every night when it’s cold, but I find that I can only cook soup so many consecutive days before someone in my family says they miss the sensation of using a fork and chewing their food. So I take care to throw some non-soups in the mix regularly.

Even in writing this I remembered more soups I’ve not cooked recently. Let’s see how many I can catalog as I cook my way through another busy soup season…

Categories
Gardening ruminations

Invasive plant sukkot

I write this during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. “Sukkot” is the plural of sukkah, the temporary hut that Jews construct for the fall harvest holiday.

I had an epiphany this year: build the sukkah out of buckthorn! Common buckthorn is an aggressive invasive species that plagues the city of Ann Arbor, the state of Michigan, and the Great Lakes region. Since a friend showed me some growing near my house, I notice it everywhere and take pleasure in removing it, as outnumbered as I am in that fight. I’ve cleared it at my previous home in Scio Township, at my in-laws in East Lansing, and now pull it from city parks.

A sukkah needs a roof of s’chach, or cut plant matter. Buckthorn is perfect for this: it’s slender, long, and leafy. In fact, it could do double-duty: it’s ideal for the roof but larger, thicker specimens could also make up the frame of the sukkah (which can be reused from year to year). At the end of Sukkot, the buckthorn can be disposed of in municipal compost carts, where any berries will be destroyed in the heat of the city’s compost piles.

Categories
Beer Homebrew Recipe

Batch 83: Barrel-Soured Witbier

I took a pause both from brewing and keeping up with my notes.  This batch I brewed the last week of December 2019.  It was the eleventh batch of the Knob Creek barrel project.

Barrel participants all brewed different witbier recipes.  Mine was a 22 gallon batch – one share each for me & Spencer, a bonus one for the angel’s share, and one to bottle and drink clean.  Recipe:

Categories
Jokes Writing

Hamilton walks in the woods

Alexander Hamilton finished writing his paragraph, drained his water glass, donned his top hat, and stepped out of the door. He checked his watch – he’d be late to the gala, even if he hurried. He walked quickly, resisting the urge to run. He wished to show up composed and if he went too fast, he’d sweat through his finery. And he was wearing his best summer suit.

Halfway there, all the water he’d gulped while immersed in writing caught up with him. He stepped to the side of the road and gingerly waded through the bushes, only going far enough off the path to attain the privacy required for a gentleman to relieve himself. He carefully picked his way back out to the road and brushed himself off, as to leave no trace of this errand.

Much relieved indeed, Hamilton picked up his pace and arrived at the ball only a little later than was fashionable. He had flushed cheeks and rapid breathing, but was pleased not to have made a scene by being any later.

Thomas Jefferson spotted him: “Mr. Hamilton!” Jefferson walked over to shake his hand. Hamilton apologized for being late, admitting that it was hard for him to take a break from writing. Jefferson looked him over and winked, remarking “oh? It looks to me like you were enjoying a walk through the woods on the way here. Perhaps you had more urgent business to attend to?”

Hamilton was aghast. He’d stepped with such care! He blurted out, “whatever gave me away?”

Jefferson chuckled and pointed to Hamilton’s ankle: “Your undoing? Why, an errant burr, sir!

Categories
Biking How-to Parenting

Bike camping from Ann Arbor to Pinckney Rec Area

COVID-19 shattered my “fun aspirations for 2020” list, but one survivor is bike camping. I’m planning that trip (this weekend). It will be my first time camping via bike so I’m reading up and asking questions. In particular I’m focused on getting there and back, with two kids and our gear. Here are some notes on routes and logistics, to help me & others in the future and to see if anyone has other ideas.

Where to Bike Camp around Ann Arbor

The closest campsite to Ann Arbor that I’m aware of is Crooked Lake Rustic Campground, at Pinckney Rec Area. I’ve camped here via car several times so know what I’m getting. But I’m curious to know of other camping options within ~25 miles from Ann Arbor.

Getting There via Bike

For this post, let’s assume a starting point of Michigan Stadium. Google Maps suggests taking Dexter-Ann Arbor road to Dexter, then Island Lake Road to Dexter Townhall Road. Total 18.5 miles. This is the route I use to drive there.

Default path from Google Maps
Categories
Local reporting Politics

The national story behind the 2020 Washtenaw County prosecutor’s election

To fully understand the 2020 election for Washtenaw County Prosecutor, it must be seen in the national context, where a split over how to improve the criminal justice system is playing out in prosecutorial elections in counties all across America. Ours is just one of those.

In the last few years, activists across America have sought to elect progressive district attorneys who come from outside the system and openly pledge to disrupt it. The highest-profile case is that of Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner, who compared his 2017 election as district attorney to “the pirates taking control of the ship.”

Here’s his response after already assuming the role of Philadelphia’s district attorney – as to what the role of prosecutors has been in the disaster that is the criminal justice system in America:

WATKINS (Interviewer) : Prior to this you were a lifelong defense attorney and something of an antagonist of the system. You had a front-row seat to what you’ve called in a couple places, “the slow- motion car crash of the criminal justice system.” What role do you think prosecutors played in this car crash, one I suppose we now call mass incarceration?

KRASNER: I would say that they built the car, maintained it poorly, tuned it incorrectly, and deliberately drove it into the wall at the highest speed possible while intoxicated. I would say they played a pretty big role in causing a slow-motion car crash and they did it in their capacity as prosecutors working in the office. But also very often, they then went on into politics where they had sway over legislation or where they had discretion as elected officials to do things in positions other than chief prosecutor, and frankly, continued to do bad things.

Categories
Parenting ruminations

Prediction: Ann Arbor Public Schools will be completely virtual for the 2020-21 school year

It suddenly seems clear to me that plans for in-person instruction this year are wishful thinking at best and a distraction at worst.

A viable plan for in-person school would require (a) re-imagining how schools operate and (b) additional funding for implementation. The district probably can’t pull off the first on its own and the second is definitely outside its control. In a better world, leadership at the state and federal levels would contribute ideas and funding. In such a world, we might even contain COVID-19 to the point that kids and teachers can return to school without imaginative plans.

But based on the last few months and where things stand now, I bet kids won’t set foot in Ann Arbor Public Schools classrooms this entire school year.  Anyone want to wager I’m wrong?

Here’s hoping I can return to this post in coming months and laugh at how foolishly pessimistic I was.  But in the meantime, I’ll plan for the worst.