Saturday, June 28, 2008

Greetings, Malvernia.com!


Many of you who saw "The Lamb Experiment" on the Malvernia.com website have to be asking yourselves, "What was THAT all about, and where did it come from?" Well, after seeing it myself, I can't say I blame you. At the request of one Mr. Kent Hertz, and at my blessing, I'm now apparently linked in to that fine online publication from my hometown. That is to say, you're stuck with me, I guess. Consider it the 2008 version of "Grannies Have More Fun". Only I'm not a Granny. And I don't play Bridge. Crap, that's two strikes. But I digress.....While I cannot promise you timely news on any and all things Malvern, Iowa, I hope I can be of some small contribution to the overall experience.

Ahhh, who am I kidding. I'm just a former native with a new "toy" at my disposal called a blog. But hopefully with Kent's help I can spare you many of the irrelevant posts that you will undoubtedly be dumber for having read, and post the good stuff. The Malvern stuff. Experiences, personal history, old war stories, and the like. So please bear with us, and we'll get you through it. I'd hate to have such a good website be tarnished by such an utterly useless blog (Hence, the name).

But one thing should always be noted. While I make my residence elsewhere, Malvern is, and will always be home. Many of you are a big reason for that.

And by all means, try the lamb.....it's breathtaking.
UPDATE: This blog has been temporarily taken off the malvernia.com site, at my request. If I hadn't been reprimanded yet for off-topic or questionable content, it was bound to happen soon. Kent will be rolling out with a new & improved Malvernia site soon, and we'll see where this blog fits in at that time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Lamb Experiment

From talking to a bunch of people, there seems to be this "love it or hate it" thing going on with eating lamb. I think it comes from our days being brought up on relatively bland cuts of chicken and pork. Face it...Momma only had so many ways to dress up chiken & pork. I can't say when I've really had lamb meat before and remembered it. I certainly haven't had a personal "Tequila moment" where I could never even look at it again.

Apparently, some have. I threw out the idea of smoking some lamb to my mom for Memorial Day back home. After about 7 seconds of silence on the other end of the phone line, Ida says, "I'll get some hamburger."

Now I don't count gyro meat as true lamb meat (you know those ginormous molded hunks of God-know's-what rotating on spits....Like this little guy here in NYC>>>). It's good eats, I know. I just know it's got a little of everything in it, with the occasional scrap of lamb tossed in. I had done some reading on some guys smoking lamb and having some good success with it. So while perusing the meat aisle at one of the many friendly Hy-Vee stores in the Greater Lincoln Metroplex, I came across a discounted hunk of leg of lamb, partially bone-in. Just over $5, for all this? Sold.

After tucking it away in the freezer for a while, and with a free weekend at hand (finally!), it was time to throw this bad boy on the smoker. A rub down with fresh herbs from our massive garden plantation (thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano), some salt & pepper, and we're off. Roughly 6 hours on the hickory smoke at 225-ish. These all seemed like reasonable guesses to me as to how to make it.


Well, the results were spec-freaking-tacular. When you cut into it, it looked a lot like beef brisket, with that bright red smoke ring, and the gray flesh of meat. The flavor? Hmmm....beefy, but with a faint livery taste to it. Some might say it's "Gamey", but that term is pretty relative, I think. It was my kind of meat. I can see why some may shy away from it, because it's very different from out standard beef & pork fare. Now, how to serve it.....Well, I just had to go Greek for my first time. Whipped up some yogurt sauce, some tomato, some greek potatoes, and there you go......heaven on a plate. I came up with a new ad campaign for the much-maligned meat.

Lamb: Don't be scurred.....nuh-uh....Don't be scurred.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Agony of Becoming an Early Riser


One of the great pleasures of life is the simple act of watching the sun rise. The range of colors and beauty can only be matched by is close relative, the sunset. There's nothing quite as exhilarating in the morning.....not even a good cup of joe.


Okay, maybe a good cup of joe.


Problem is, last time I checked, sunrises occur early. Like, painfully early. It seems there are currently two ways for me to wake up early and not be suffer horribly for the first half-hour. 1.) I'm leaving town and the departure time is early, or 2.) It's the weekend and I'm looking forward to some coffee and some reading material on the patio.


There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles and blogs on the subject of becoming an early riser. As far as why many of us suck at it, the articles get into all of that. For me, when I'm tired, I go to sleep. Could be 10, 10:30, or as in last night, could be Midnight. (Damn you, Greensburg!)

The goal is to be up & at'em by 4:30 AM everyday. Why? Well, because I know that when I've done it in the past, with a purpose in mind, I've been so much more productive, whether with exercise, my work, reading, things around the house. The daily morning rat race to get to work on time has finally driven me to set this early-rise goal and attain it. In my rationalization to figure out just how to get over the "there's only so many hours in a day" syndrome, becoming an early riser seems to be the logical solution.


Here's a good article from Zen Habits that I'm getting a little friendly advice from on this little excursion. It's got all of the good early-rise reasons & benefits, as well as how-to tips, that I don't want to regurgitate.


Now where's my &$#%#!' coffee......

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Brisket Pizza Experiment

This weekend I'm working on what I'll call the Lamb Experiment on the smoker, but about a month ago I had one of my proudest moments in home cuisine. We had made brisket for the weekend, but it wasn't the right cut for good barbecue. The only cut they had at this particular grocery store was suited more for corned beef, I'd say. No fat layer, small, just not right. Nevertehless, I made it, and it was pretty average.

So on the drive home from work on a Monday, I was thinking about what to do for dinner. Leftover beef brisket. Okay.....now what? And then it hit me.

Cooked entirely on the Traeger smoker/grill, the pizza tasted just as good as it looked. No recipe, just an idea. A good one, if I may say so.

Friday, June 20, 2008

If you're curious at all....


Many of you probably know from various conversations or eavesdroppings that when Spring time rolls around, my attention (ADHD) shifts towards any and all things severe weather. THis has been the case for about as long as I can remember, ever since I was probably 7 or 8 years old. My first indoctrination into Reality TV was watching non-stop coverage of a severe weather outbreak, glued to the TV watching Jim Flowers (then with Channel 7 in Omaha) pointing out the peculiarities of a particular red blob on his radar screen. I daydreamed incessantly about having a TV monitor installed in the wall of our dining room, hard-wired into the bowels of the Channel 7 Weather Center, showing nothing but live radar.


Flash to present day: I'm still the little kid at heart when it comes to severe weather. Only these days, when time and work provides, you'll find me within a half-day's driving distance of home, trying to find some of nature's best. As the late storm chaser Eric Nguyen said, "In storm chasing, you have the chance to see a pageant of power and elegant form unfold before your eyes, even in the absence of the ultimate: a tornado." I've had the opportunity to see some absolutely amazing and humbling scenes while out roaming the Plains. I've also met some great people, as well. One of which is someone who's work you've probably seen over the past few years, although you may not know it.


Mike Hollingshead is one of the most humble men I know. The only attention he seeks is from his parents' dogs. Okay, that's not entirely fair, as he has been self-employed since 2004, living life as a full-time storm chaser. He makes his living from video and still photography, mainly of severe and extreme Miswest weather, of which he is in a very small but exclusive class of the very best. So good, in fact, his work was pirated and misrepresented dozens of times as being Hurricane Katrina Ccoming ashore, extreme African weather, and I believe one 4-H boy in Michigan won a county fair photo contest with one of his pictures (that's no shit!). He partnered with the late Eric Nguyen and has co-authored what I consider the best book (photography or otherwise) on storm chasing, titled, Adventures in Tornado Alley: The Storm Chasers.


While I very much try to downplay my little hobby of storm chasing when it comes up in casual conversation, once engaged, I tend to proceed to bore people to tears about what it's all about. But if you're at all curious about what it's really like....the endless miles of driving (usually all for nothing), the intensity of being up close to something very dangerous (only if you don't know what you're looking at), and the sheer beauty of what happens when warm air collides with cold...... If you want to know what storm chasing really is, buy this book.


And if you read this, H, I especially enjoyed the May 10, 2005 chase account. ;) One of my all-time favorites, as well.




Guy walks into a blog.....


So I’ve been toying with this idea for a while now. With so many people drawn aimlessly to the two largest online human-mind bug zappers of the internet, namely MySpace and Facebook, it is no surprise that the concept of a blog has become intriguing. It’s not like a blog is radical new technology, but the concept of even timidly sharing even a fraction of your life (or lives, depending on who’s in the picture) across the abyss of the internet is a bit intimidating. But screw it. Sometimes you just can’t get to everyone you want to, either via email or phone, or the newest mind-draining concept, the oh-so-personal text message. While still avoiding those other online cesspools like the Plague, I think this sort of medium will fit the bill.

Of course, many of you know that when it comes to interests and hobbies, the metaphor “all over the map” may not do justice. (Is “all over the map” a metaphor or a euphemism?? Let me know on that, please. Thanks in advance.) As time goes, it should be pretty obvious what many of those likes, hobbies, interest are. The theme for this landing pad of randomness comes from many road trips where the rules of the game were to name the tune on the radio in the fastest time possible, preferably without the help of lyrics. My obvious skill at this prompted the utterance of the title of this page: Utterly Useless Knowledge. This phrase has also been used to describe my odd ability to cross-reference Iowa towns with their school districts, so greetings to all you Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn readers out there, of which I know none of you!

I’ve taken more than my share of heat for being a bit of a storm chaser. There’s also a few (a few!?) other things that can hold my attention for short, brief spans at a time, such as: being enthralled but completely sucking at GTD (just google it), starting books and never finishing them, knowing entirely too much about cigars, being proficient in the national dirt late model racing scene, making noise on the drums in our basement, trying to learn to be a decent photographer, the trials (there are no tribulations) of the Kansas City Royals, eating entirely too much barbecue, being a closet addict of the Food Network, golf (and actually becoming worse at it), and God only knows what other marbles that come falling out of my head.

As you can clearly see, it shall me my goal to reinforce the title of this blog with every single addition to the page. That’s my commitment to you, the reader.

So come on along…..