Dog Years

February 01, 2023

One of Zena’s favorite treats is the “pup cups” she received from our local chain burger drive thru.  Melissa would take Zena along for the ride when she ordered, and the teller would notice her prancing in the back seat.  The pup cup was a small container with a squirt of whipped cream, and occasionally a dog biscuit stuck in the middle.  That treat is one of many things lost as we are coming out of the pandemic, and it is sorely missed by Zena.  Zena turned “1” on Sunday, January 29th and I stopped at the grocery on my way home from work to find the ingredients for a homemade version of the delicacy.  We had the dog biscuits but not the canned whipped cream.  When I got home, I whipped up my version of a pup cup and sang happy birthday as a tribute to Zena’s first year of life.  It reminded me of the saying that every human year is calculated as seven dog years.

When I looked online, I found the idea of “dog’s years” is another myth we get tricked to believe.  While it may be easy to multiply your dog’s age by seven it does not accurately convert to human years because in their early year’s dogs mature more quickly than humans.  The first year of a dog’s life is equivalent to the first 12-15 human years.  The second year of dog life equals 9-10 human years, and each year after that equals 4-5 human years.  That means a dog’s calendar year could equal anywhere from 4-15 human years.  This calculation also depends on the dog’s stage of life, as well as their size.  Smaller breeds tend to have longer life spans than larger breeds.  Small breed dogs are considered senior at the age of 7 calendar years, while large breed dogs might be considered seniors at ages 5-6.  Given Zena’s large size (80 pounds/36kg), she is already the equivalent of 15 human years.  She will be in her puppy stage up to 15 calendar months, her adult stage up to 6 calendar years, a senior until 8-9 calendar years, and “geriatric” when she is over 12 calendar years.  It was easier to just multiply by seven to find the dog years.

When I celebrated Zena’s birthday it also reminded me that January 29th is Kansas Day.  Kansas became the 34th state on January 29, 1861.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened the two territories to settlement and allowed the new settlers to determine whether the states would be admitted to the union as “free” or “slave”, making it a territorial battleground known as “Bleeding Kansas.”  A hundred years later, Kansas was a battleground of the civil rights movement with the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954.  The Supreme Court decision effectively ended the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public schools.  Kansas is also known for its contributions to jazz music, barbecue (Kansas City), and as the setting of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s book, The Wizard of Oz.  The dog who played Toto in the movie was a small breed dog who was 10 (or 56 dog years) at the time of filming.  Toto’s biography says she “died in 1945 at the age of 13 (that’s 91 in human years).”  Yet another myth perpetrated as truth.

THOUGHTS:  When I was in Elementary School the art segments of my school day consisted of coloring pictures of that had been mimeographed (look it up) by the school office.  These were then hung along the wall up for mom and dad to ooh and aah over on Parent’s Day.  That meant pumpkins and turkeys for Thanksgiving, Santa’s for Christmas, and heads of presidents in February (Lincoln and Washington) which were all relatively easy to color.  That was not the case for Kansas Day, and we were taxed trying to color the small sunflower and state seal in the center of the flag.  It was times like these I longed for dog years to give me time to finish.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

SAF

January 31, 2023

When I opened my local newspaper to the Nation & World section today, I found an AP article by Jon Gambrell on a test flight in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that used sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to power one of the two engines of a Boeing 777.  Flight 2646 flew for just under an hour over the coastline of the UAE after taking off from Dubai International Airport and heading into the Persian Gulf before circling to land.  The second of the plane’s engines ran on conventional jet fuel for safety.  Emirates Airline described the sustainable fuel as a blend that included fuel from Neste, a Finnish firm, and Virent, a Madison, Wisconsin-based company.  “This flight is a milestone moment for Emirates and a positive step for our industry as we work collectively to address one of our biggest challenges — reducing our carbon footprint,” said Adel al-Redha, Emirates’ chief operation officer.

When I looked online, I found that sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is produced from sustainable feedstocks and is very similar in its chemistry to traditional fossil jet fuel.  Using SAF results in a reduction in carbon emissions compared to the traditional jet fuel it replaces over the lifecycle of the fuel.  Typical feedstocks used are cooking oil and other non-palm waste oils from animals or plants, as well as solid waste from homes and businesses (packaging, paper, textiles, and food scraps) that would otherwise go to a landfill or to incineration.  Potential sources include forestry waste (waste wood) and fast growing energy crops (plants and algae).  SAF reduces the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide typically burned off by engines in flight.  While SAF is currently more costly than traditional fossil jet fuel, the cost is a combination of the current availability of sustainable feedstocks and the continuing development of new production technologies.

Aviation releases only one-sixth the amount of carbon dioxide produced by cars and trucks, but airplanes are used by far fewer people per day, meaning a higher per-capita source of greenhouse-gas emissions.  Jet fuel is one of the biggest expenses an airline face.  Emirates used over 5.7 million tons of jet fuel in 2022, costing US$3.7 billion out of its US$17 billion in annual expenses.  Jet fuel cost on average US$146 a barrel at the end of last week, according to S&P Global Platts.  It was not immediately clear how much the fuel used in the Emirates’ test on Monday cost per barrel.  The UAE is a major oil producer and OPEC member and is the host of the next United Nations (UN) climate negotiations (COP28) beginning in November.  OPEC has already been criticized for nominating the CEO of Abu Dhabi’s state oil company to lead the UN negotiations.

THOUGHTS:  A check online found the four major SAF companies are backed by airlines (who use the fuel) and companies who produce and refine fossil jet fuel.  The fossil fuel industry was one of the major players in alternative energy (solar, wind, and geothermal) during the late 20th century, and costs remained high and technology stilted until governments mandated a change.  If this is an example, SAF will not become viable until the public demands it and governments again step in to mandate change.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

First

January 25, 2023

The snowstorm predicted to arrive yesterday arrived.  Melissa and I had both been slated to go into the office but had opted to work virtually at home.  The storm’s arrival wreaked havoc on both of our work events.  Mine was in the morning and the internet was spotty.  One had problems getting on and another could not hear.  I tried to get the system to work for half of the one hour scheduled meeting, and finally waved goodbye and shut it down.  The on-site workers for Melissa’s meeting all arrived at 8:30 am, but the snow started not long after.  They were all sent home by noon to continue the meeting virtually.  I always loved snow days as a child.  Now as an adult it just means we switch venues, at least if the internet works.  Being at home did give us the opportunity to watch Zena’s first experience with snow.

When I looked online, I found yesterday’s storm was moving in from the south, gathering moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, and preparing to turn it into a wet snow over the Ozark and Ouachita ranges of western Arkansas.  Predictions said the rain will turn to snow around 2 pm with accumulations of 1 to 8 inches (2.5 to 20 cm) in the northwest part of the state.  This is the first snowstorm to hit at a time when we were expected to be working on-site and we wondered if we had made the right decision by staying home.  The snowfall was very wet and began to accumulate quickly.  By this morning we had received 10 inches (25 cm) where I work, 8.5 inches (21.5 cm) where Melissa works, and a respectable 5.2 inches (13 cm) at our house.  The odd part was, this was the first snow I remember where the temperature never dropped below freezing (32F or 0C).  

The forecasters had a great time reporting on our first snow of the year, and this was a “sleeves rolled up” event.  One even took a moment to explain my question about how we were getting snow with temperatures above freezing.  Snowfall happens when a cloud forms with enough moisture in an area with temperatures below freezing.  If the air from the cloud to the ground is also below freezing, the snowflakes will stay frozen.  If there is warm air between the clouds and ground, the snowflakes will begin to melt.  Depending on where the warm air is between the cloud and ground, you can get sleet, freezing rain, rain, and even snow with temperatures above freezing.  For snow with ground temperatures above freezing, you need a very thin warm layer just at the surface, so the snowflakes do not have enough time to melt completely.  As the snowflakes start to melt, they also clump together making them appear bigger than usual.  Our forecaster noted the warm air was only about 100 feet (33 m) above the ground.  While this type of snow rarely accumulates, we were the exception.

THOUGHTS:  Zena was very curious about the first white stuff she saw falling from the sky, but when I let her outside, she became apprehensive.  She could not understand why the flakes were sticking to her coat rather than falling off like the rain she loves to play in and immediately came inside.  As the snow blanketed the patio she grew more used to it, and found when she zoomed around the deck she would slide rather than stop.  It is also common for humans to fear the unknown.  When we strike out across the oceans or to the skies we do not know what to expect.  While there are hazards, there is also bliss that comes from being first to make a discovery.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Gamers

January 24, 2023

Today’s NY Times feed addressed the changes starting to happen in the world of gamers.  Until recently being a gamer was considered a niche hobby that was often associated with children.  By 2021 about two-thirds of Americans played video games, and most of them were adults.  The rise of the gaming industry is like the movie industry since the 1920’s and American football since the 1960’s.  These are now cornerstones of American life that began as niche forms of entertainment.  The abuses that accompanied Hollywood and the NFL are also found in the game industry as tales of brutal work conditions, discrimination, and harassment are told by the gamers that drive the industry. The video game industry is now worth nearly $200 billion, which is more than music, US book publishing, and North American sports combined.  The US alone employs hundreds of thousands of gamers, and the gamers are trying to fight back.

When I looked online, I found a gamer is a proactive hobbyist who plays interactive games, and especially video games, tabletop role-playing games, and skill-based card games, and who plays for unusually long periods of time.  Some gamers are competitive and routinely compete in games for money, prizes, awards, or the mere pleasure of competition and overcoming obstacles.  In countries like the UK and Australia, the term “gaming” can refer to legalized gambling (traditional and digital) through online platforms.  The Internet gave rise to a variety of gamers communities around the world on sites like Internet forums, YouTube, or Twitch virtual communities, as well as in-person social clubs.  In 2021, there were an estimated 3.24 billion gamers across the globe.  While being a gamer was originally a hobby, it has evolved into a profession, and that includes the game testers. 

The conditions industry gamers work in have prompted more workers to unionize, and Microsoft recognized its first union after video game testers organized earlier this month.  A common refrain in the video game industry is that no one goes into it for the money and it is passion that drives them to be gamers.  Workers have accused employers of taking advantage of their devotion to allow poor conditions to flourish.  One criticized practice is the “crunch”, when employees are pushed to work 60 to 100 hours a week for up to several months to hit a project milestone.  Video game companies say they sometimes need a crunch to finish projects on time and on budget but are working to minimize their use of it.  Another pervasive claim is gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment.  The companies’ responses to the complaints have ranged from saying they are working to be more inclusive to dismissing some of the accusations.  These conditions have driven more employees to try to unionize.  The total number of union members nationwide increased by nearly 300,000 last year.  Like unionization at the turn of the 20th century, workers say they are trying to help themselves, but also the gamers that come after them.

THOUGHTS:  While I have never been much on shooter games of any form, I have found myself drawn in as one of the strategy gamers.  I have followed my preferred game across six full scale revisions and innumerable updates and patches over the last 15 years.  There were times when I spent hours on end nearly every day as one of the aimless gamers.  That was mitigated when I noticed the games were tracking when I last played and the thousands of hours I logged.  Since I am not skilled enough to be paid I cut back on the hours to pursue other interests, but there are still times I get pulled back into the game.  Enjoying what you do and being willing to spend long hours doing it is not a reason for unsafe working conditions and unequal pay.  Without the gamers, you could not play the game.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Chinese

January 23, 2023

I received several texts yesterday from members of our family who were celebrating the arrival of the Chinese New Year, or the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar.  The New Year marks the end of winter and the beginning of the spring season and arrives on the new moon that appears between January 21st and February 20th.  The family festivities included wearing bright red dresses and serving traditional food.  Since this is the Year of the Rabbit, one of the plates held two rabbits (made of hard boiled eggs) surrounded by a garnish of cucumbers and tomatoes that had been made by the father-in-law.  He is an excellent cook and the entire meal looked delicious.

When I looked online, I found Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture and has strongly influenced the Lunar New Year celebrations of its 56 ethnic groups.  It is also celebrated worldwide in regions and countries that have significant Overseas Chinese or Chinese speaking (Sinophone) populations, especially in Southeast Asia.  While “Chinese New Year” remains the official name for the festival in Taiwan, the name “Spring Festival” was adopted by the People’s Republic of China.  Some in the Chinese diaspora use the term “Lunar New Year”, while “Chinese New Year” still remains a popular and convenient translation for people who are not of Chinese cultural backgrounds.  Along with the Han Chinese in and outside of Greater China, as many as 29 of the 55 ethnic minority groups in China celebrate Chinese New Year, and Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines celebrate it as an official festival.

Chinese New Year is associated with several myths and customs and was traditionally a time to honor deities and ancestors.  According to legend, the celebration started with a mythical beast who lives under the sea or in the mountains (the Nian) who would come during the annual Spring Festival and eat villagers, especially children, in the middle of the night.  One year, the village agreed to hide from the beast.  An old man appeared before the villagers went into hiding and said that he would stay and get revenge on the Nian by hanging red papers and setting off firecrackers.  When the villagers returned the next day, nothing was destroyed, and the villagers knew the Nian was afraid of the color red and loud noises.  The tradition grew and when New Year approached, the villagers would wear red clothes, hang red lanterns, and red spring scrolls on windows and doors, along with drums and firecrackers, to frighten the Nian away.  The Nian never came to the village again.

THOUGHTS:  Regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of Chinese New Year vary widely within China, and the evening preceding New Year’s Day is frequently regarded as an occasion for families to gather for an annual reunion dinner.  Another tradition is to thoroughly clean your house to sweep away any ill fortune and to make way for incoming good luck.  Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red envelopes.  While I learned about Chinese New Year long ago, it was not something I celebrated or thought much about.  Having a family connection makes this festival more significant.  When we make connections with the world’s diverse people it opens our eyes to new understandings and can bring us closer together.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Puzzle

January 19, 2023

Melissa usually lets Zena out on the patio during the mornings to burn off energy running and playing around the pool.  Zena will move constantly between the patio and the kitchen as she finds ways to keep herself occupied.  The problem arises when it is too cold (for the succulents) to keep the door open or when it is windy like today.  The wind wreaks havoc with the screen door and has already ripped one of the hinges off the jam.  In these conditions we need to keep the door closed.  That means we also need to find ways to keep Zena occupied indoors while we are both trying to work.  I played with Zena early and then took her outside to “zoom” in the yard while I got the paper.  Still, it was not enough.  When we came inside Zena was anxious to go back outside.  That was when Melissa broke out the dog puzzle purchased during Christmas but never used.

When I looked online, I found a dog puzzle is also referred to as an enrichment toy.  The puzzle can be of various types and employ diverse mechanics, have different goals, teach unique lessons, and feature difficulty levels that run the gamut of cognitive ability (for you as well as your dog).  Most dog puzzles act as a brain teaser that holds a reward for your pet once they solve it.  The two biggest puzzle uses are distraction and mental stimulation.  Instead of giving your dog a simple chew toy to keep them busy, you can present them with a dog puzzle to keep them occupied much longer without having to divert their attention.  Aside from keeping your dog busy while you try to work, a dog puzzle offers other benefits, including more mental stimulation than other toys as they require your dog to solve a problem to get what they want.  The dog finds success by doing things dogs love to do by instinct, sniffing, licking, burrowing, and chewing.  Not only do they get rewarded for their work, but they also get a serotonin boost as they fulfill their natural tendencies.

Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a monoamine neurotransmitter that also acts as a hormone.  As a neurotransmitter, serotonin carries messages between nerve cells in your brain (central nervous system) and throughout your body (peripheral nervous system).  These chemical messages tell your body how to work.  Serotonin plays several roles in your body, influencing learning, memory, and happiness as well as regulating body temperature, sleep, sexual behavior, and hunger.  The lack of serotonin is thought to play a role in depression, anxiety, mania, and other health conditions.  The serotonin in your brain regulates your mood and makes you happier and calmer.  Stimulating serotonin to make Zena calm and happier was exactly what was needed.

THOUGHTS:  The Outward Hound Brick game that we bought is a classic-style dog puzzle that acts as an advanced-level brain teaser.  You hide the treats in the board’s hidden compartments and let your dog find a way to open them.  These puzzles are better for dogs who lick a lot (Zena), as most of the moving parts require the dog to use their tongue to get the prize.  I did find there was a learning curve.  You cannot put the puzzles down and expect the dog to search on their own.  You need to interact with the dog.  Zena’s dog puzzle is like the many of the diversion’s humans find.  They can allow us to spend hours trying to fit the pieces together to achieve our goal.  They are generally not intuitive and require guidance, at least initially.  When we work together to achieve shared goals we can raise our serotonin levels, making us calm and happy.  I guess life is not such a puzzle after all.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Trial

January 14, 2023

After inspecting the electric smoker that had sat on our patio yesterday, I thought today would be a good day to try it out.  One of the things that had gotten me started on the smoker was finding a recipe for burnt-end hotdogs.  It looked easy to make and the recipe said it only took two hours.  I had the chips that had arrived mistakenly this week.  I had three pounds of ¼ pound (113 grams) hotdogs, and I had the smoker.  I thought this would be a good trial to make sure everything worked.  This also sounded like a good dish to take to the chili cookoff I was attending tomorrow (yes, I know, this is not chili).  I prepared the first stage of the hotdogs by slathering them in mustard and mayonnaise and then went to fire up the smoker.  I placed some peach wood chips in the smoke box and plugged in the unit.  It fired right up and began to heat.  I thought the trial was going great, but it turned out to be a day-long trial instead.

I checked the smoker after a few minutes to see how it was doing.  The light was off and there was no heat given off by the unit.  I did not know when it quit, but it obviously did not work now.  I was committed since I had prepped the dogs, so I turned to Plan B.  I considered buying a smoker but was torn between a good one (expensive) and one of lesser value.  I had never tried to use a smoker, and I did not know if I would carry through on my smoker challenge with my son.  I was hesitant to spend US$400 or US$500 on something that would again sit on the patio until it no longer worked.  I had read yesterday that I could use my three-burner grill by putting the chips over one lit burner and the food off set over the two unlit burners.  I ran a trial on this, and the smoke was pouring out of the grill in no time.  I put the dogs on and let them sit.  I checked the temperature periodically and noticed it was losing heat.  It seemed I was low on propane and needed to go to the store for more.  I was now three hours into the trial that should have taken less than two.

Zena loves to ride so I loaded her into the Jeep and took off for the hardware store for gas and a few items I needed to repair my grill.  I got a block away from the house and realized I had 10% rewards cards I had left at the house.  My mom taught me the value of coupons when I was growing up, so I turned around and went back to the house.  True to form, most of the discounts had expired, but there were still some US$5 discounts available.  We went to the store and searched for grill parts (did not have what I needed) before we found they only sold propane in bulk.  I took Zena home and took off for the local market (she is not allowed inside the market) which carried grill equipment and had tanks located outside the store.  They did not have the grill parts I needed but they did have gas.  It was another trial and error as I figured out how to use the self-serve feature, and a full tank of gas was mine.  When I got home the smoker was still working and the dogs were ready for the second coating of barbecue sauce.  I cut them up, tossed them in the sauce, and put them back for another 30 minutes of smoke.  This had been a day of trial.  I hoped the burnt-end hotdogs were good.

THOUGHTS:  The hotdogs turned out well, but they were hardly burnt-ends brisket.  Still for all my trouble this was not bad for my first trial at smoking meat (the dogs were all beef, ha ha).  I got some major kinks out of the way and began the learning curve that may take me all the way to a charcoal smoker.  From what I have read, charcoal smokers do the best job, but require the most expertise.  Most things you do in life take a period of trial and error before you get it right.  Even after you are an expert there are still times when you do not get the desired result.  Facing the trial and achieving your goal (at least some of the time) is what makes life fun.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Smoker

January 13, 2023

I have found that buying presents for others on birthdays, Christmas, or any time gets harder as they age.  It was easy to buy for me when I was little.  Get me a set of plastic army men (no women back then) and I was happy.  The bigger the event merely meant the larger or smaller the set needed.  As I aged, it became a more difficult buy for me (aside for the underwear and socks we all need).  That is further complicated as I probably have most things I want, and many things I do not have are for a reason.  This is true for me, as well as for others I buy things for.  The trick is to find something they enjoy, and preferably have not been doing for a long time, and buy something unique within the field.  My son and I have always liked cooking outside on the grill, and several years ago he got into using a smoker.  I know nothing about this form of outdoor cooking but did some research and came up with a variety of wood chips for his smoker.  At least it was something he could use.

When I looked online, I found grilling means cooking hot and fast over a fire, barbecue means cooking low and slow over a fire, and smoking means cooking low and slow with smoke.  Where grilling may refer to cooking meat, fish, and poultry, it can include vegetables, fruits, and other foods.  Smoking and barbecuing are all about meat.  It is the low temperatures and long cooking times that help big, tough cuts of meat turn tender and express their full flavors.  The same grill can be used to accomplish all three methods, and it does not matter whether you use electric, gas, or charcoal, you can still grill, barbecue, and smoke.  You can purchase a dedicated smoker (of one of the three heat sources) if you want to get into big time smoking or take on a large-scale project, but your grill will work. 

The biggest difference between the three forms is temperature and time.  Grilling hot and fast means cooking at a temperature of 350F (176.5C) or above for less than an hour.  For steaks and chops temperatures should approach 450F to 500F (232C to 260C) to allow for short cooking times.  There is not a lot of finesse in grilling steaks, but that is not the case with fish, vegetables, or poultry.  For more delicate foods it’s often better to use a lower temperature.  Barbecue is where you get into large cuts of meat like whole pork shoulders, beef briskets, rib roasts, slabs of ribs, or a whole turkey.  Big cuts need low temperatures, or between 190F and 300F (87.5C to 149C), although you see recipes calling for between 225F to 250F. (107C to 121C), and cooking for several hours.  The trick is to keep the right temperature for the duration of cooking.  Using a smoker is like an extreme version of barbecuing, and you cook the food with smoke from smoldering chunks or chips of wood rather than direct heat.  Smoking occurs at an even lower temperature than barbecue, between 125F and 175F (51.5C to 79.5).  Any hotter and the outer parts of the meat will cook too soon, forming a barrier the smoke cannot cross.  Cooking at this temperature means cooking times of 24 hours are not unusual.  Of the three methods, smoking requires the most expertise.  I have been grilling hamburgers and hotdogs and barbecuing ribs for over 30 years.  I guess it is time to step up a notch with a smoker.

THOUGHTS:  When I ordered the wood chips, I mistakenly sent them to my address.  I canceled the order, but they showed up anyway.  My father-in-law had a smoker that has sat on our patio for the last four years.  On inspection it turned out to be electric (the easiest to use).  I found the cord and issued a challenge for a smoke off to my son.  While I am not sure how we will judge our results when we live 1,500 miles (2,414 km) from each other, I look forward to the competition.  Making and sharing food can be a blessing, especially for those living in food deserts or struggling to find food to eat.  While this is remembered during the holidays, the need is year round.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Comparisons

January 10, 2023

After blogging about my food preparations for the College Football championship game yesterday I would be remis to not follow up with the results.  Or according to your perspective, the lack of results.  Georgia beat TCU 65-7 to secure the program’s first unbeaten season since 1980 and a place in history as back-to-back national champions.  The Bulldog’s were the first team in playoff history to score 17 points in the first quarter and were ahead 38-7 at the half.  Georgia had 354 yards of offense in the first half, scored points on its first six possessions and did not punt until the third quarter.  Quarterback Stetson Bennett completed 18 of 25 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns and was named the MVP in the final game of his college career.  While the Bulldog defense had been torched by LSU in the SEC championship game and Ohio State in the Peach Bowl, they bottled up the Horned Frogs, allowing just 188 yards on 3.7 yards per play with three takeaways.  Comparisons are being made between Georgia and the greatest teams ever.

Georgia has already secured a place in college football history as only one of three teams to win back-to-back unshared national championships since 1957.  The other two are Nebraska in 1994-95 and Alabama in 2011-12.  Unlike the Cornhuskers and Crimson Tide, the Bulldogs did so under a playoff format (started in 2014) that required wins against two of the best teams in the country in just over a one-week span.  During their 15 win season Georgia beat five ranked teams, beginning with a 49-3 destruction of the Oregon Ducks in the opener.  Most consider the best individual teams during the playoff format to be 2019 LSU or 2020 Alabama.  This team may be no comparison with these two teams as best, but what the Bulldogs have done across the past two seasons cannot be overstated.

Despite the 58-point loss in the championship TCU ended with a magical year.  The Frogs were picked to finish seventh in the preseason Big 12 poll but came within a win of both the Big 12 and National championships.  The Frogs’ season brought credibility to the Big 12 and illustrated the transformative power of the transfer portal.  TCU won just 5 games in 2021 but added immediate-impact players to remake the roster in a single offseason, as well as a first year coach in Sonny Dykes.  TCU’s run will allow other Power Five teams to dream big.  Hoping for comparisons, if the Frogs could go from mediocracy to the doorstep of the national title, maybe they can as well.

THOUGHTS:  Football pundits love to make comparisons between teams who have never played each other.  I made my own comparisons of how K-State handled TCU (the second time) for the Big 12 Championship, how TCU upset Michigan in the playoff semi-final, and how Michigan destroyed Ohio State in the last league game week of the Big 10.  Ohio State’s narrow loss to Georgia hinted at the possibility of another TCU upset, despite the Bulldog’s being a two touchdown favorite (-13).  My comparisons even suggested the possibility for my K-State team to have had a similar chance at the upset, even though the crushing loss to Alabama suggested otherwise.  Over the years I have heard comparisons about the state of the economy, politics, and relationships.  I have found most comparisons to be similar.  Until the game is played you never really know the outcome.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Chex

January 09, 2023

We are getting ready for the Championship game of the 2022 college football season which airs tonight.  I had not thought much about the game until Melissa asked if we were going to have snacks for supper.  I have mentioned snacks and sides are our go to meal for most of the big games (and often holidays) we celebrate.  Since Melissa is working and on a day long Zoom call, that meant I needed to see what we had available, and what else I might want to prepare to get ready for the game.  When I looked in the pantry, there was not much.  I noticed we did have leftover boxes of cereal, nuts, and the spices I used to make Chex Mix.  I poured them all together in a large bowl and added the seasonings.  As I mixed it together and put it in the oven, I realized this was probably the last time I will make this snack until the next Christmas season.

When I looked online, I found the preferred form of Chex mix is oven-baked.  When you bake the mix in the oven it transforms into a toastier, crunchier version of the classic, and makes the flavors of the spices pop and become bolder.  The trick to getting the mix perfectly crisp and golden is to toast it at a low temperature.  Most recipes call for baking at 250F (121C), which for some ovens is the lowest temperature it will go.  If your oven only goes down to 275F (135C) it can still work, but you need to watch to make sure it does not burn.  Baking low-and-slow helps the moisture in the butter evaporate to let the mix get crispy.  Baking at higher temperatures can allow the nuts and cereal to burn and will make the mix bitter.  I have found that making Chex mix is a lot like making ribs.  Low-and-slow allow the ribs to cook while forming the bark from the rub, yet keep the insides moist.  Like many tricks of a chef (do chefs make Chex Mix?), it does not take long to learn this wisdom. 

I have found the best part about making Chex mix (aside from eating it), is you can make it in a variety of ways and it still comes out great.  It is a good thing too because the wheat variety of cereal is rarely available during the holidays.  It always comes out featured as an endcap at our local markets, but by the middle of November it is gone, period.  That included in all seven different stores of three different chains where I searched.  I checked with my sister-in-law and she confirmed there were no boxes on the shelves around her either.  I did try another wheat cereal last year, but it was full of sugar.  I do not like to mix my sweet and savory when it comes to the mix.    

THOUGHTS:  The directions on the boxes all specify three cups of each type of mix.  Since this was my final attempt at making the mix, I just dumped whatever was left in the two boxes I had and added more butter to the sauce.  This came out tasting great, (who can go wrong with butter?) but ended up making a double batch of the cereal mix.  While this was not my intent, it just means more for me to eat.  After all, this is probably the last time I will make this snack until next Christmas.  Traditional foods are often used to help define an event and set the mood.  Whether this is pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, Challah bread for Hanukkah, or (for me) Chex mix for Christmas, enjoy the flavors of the season.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.