simplicity

I believe the first place I saw instructions for making a slow cooker whole chicken was in the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. They were, after all, interested in interested in selling their giblet-free whole chickens. It said, in essence, put the chicken in the crock pot and turn it on. That was pretty much it.

I have done this a few times, and I don’t know why I don’t do it more often. That was, however, our dinner yesterday.

slow cooker chickenThe closest Trader Joe’s is a half hour away in the very congested town of Temecula. (I don’t know how you get from one block to the next in Temecula without getting bogged down in complete gridlock. Somehow, though, you eventually get to where you’re going.) Fortunately, however, our local Sprouts here in Hemet sells giblet-less small organic chickens, and that’s what I bought.

Shortly after eleven in the morning yesterday I put together a slightly modified mixture of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Blend and rubbed it on the chicken. I put the chicken in the slow cooker and set it to low, so it was in the crock pot before eleven thirty. I then left it alone.

Around twenty to seven in the evening I put a rice mix on the stove and at seven o’clock I checked the internal temperature of the chicken. It was well above the required 165° for chicken. I put everything on the table.

It was a delicious dinner. The Jamaican jerk seasoning was great. And there was enough left over to seal up and freeze for two more dinners.

Sometimes a simple approach produces great results.


Something Deeply Hidden

Something Deeply Hidden coverSomething Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime
Sean Carroll
Narrated by the author
Penguin Audio, September 10, 2019
$14.99 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, but this is the second audiobook on quantum mechanics that I have listened to in the past couple of months. The previous book was What is Real?. The books cover some the the same material, but are really quite different.

The author of What is Real, Adam Becker, has a degree in physics but works as a writer and journalist. Sean Carroll, author of the present book, is a working physicist, although he is well known for his popular books on science. Becker discusses the history, people, and politics around quantum theory in addition to the theories themselves, while Carroll sticks mostly to the science, touching on those other matters when necessary. Becker tries for a balanced approach to the various theories, which can get confusing. Carroll, on the other hand, openly advocates one theory, which can get confusing.

The dominant school of quantum mechanics is the Copenhagen interpretation, while the school that Carroll advocates is known as “many worlds.” The Copenhagen interpretation says that we should accept the the mathematics of quantum mechanics and not try to understand what is actually going on behind it (“shut up and calculate”). The other schools, including many worlds, try to explain why we get the results that we do.

The book is capably read by the author. Since he wrote the book he knows what to emphasize and what requires less stress. You can hear in his voice when he is frustrated or exasperated by a particular approach or theory.

This is not light material, and is perhaps better read in print (paper or electronic), but it’s all fascinating stuff.


Summer of ’69

Summer of '69 coverSummer of ’69
Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown and Company (June 18, 2019)
433 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $21.21

This novel has an interesting structure. The matriarch of the family in the story, Exalta, has a daughter named Kate. Kate has three daughters: Blair, Kirby, and Jamie. Each chapter is told in the third person, but in a rotating manner from the perspective of Kate and each of her daughters. With the exception of a short prologue and epilogue, the entire novel takes place in the summer of 1969, although there are many references to past events. The action is focused in and around Exalta’s summer home in Nantucket and on Martha’s Vineyard where Kirby has a summer job. There is, by the way, no scene in the book that remotely resembles the cover illustration.

Hilderbrand effectively interweaves a fictional family saga with actual events of that summer, including the war in Vietnam, the moon landing, and the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick incident. Kate’s son Tiger was drafted and is serving in Vietnam, Blair’s husband is a scientist who is at Mission Control in Houston for the moon landing, and Ted Kennedy is a guest at the boutique hotel on Martha’s Vineyard where Kirby works.

The novel maintains momentum throughout; it rarely if ever lags. Hilderbrand reveals some interesting twists near the end and ties things together relatively well. Summer of ‘69 is good summer escape reading even in December.


why we still get a print newspaper

At our house we spend a lot of money on our print newspapers. Getting a newspaper delivered has gotten quite expensive in the past couple of years, and we’re spending more than I would like, but we persist.

One reason that we persist is that newspapers are part of our daily routine. We read the Los Angeles Times and the Riverside Press-Enterprise weekday evenings when we put our feet up and enjoy our aperitifs. Another has to do with the cartoon below. Newspapers do a public service in their reporting, even if the newsrooms are severely scaled back from what they once were.

Then there’s the fact that our democracy is in danger. Newspapers can help protect it. That alone is reason enough to subscribe.

cartoon about newspapers


NPR’s Book Concierge 2019

Book Concierge listI write about this every year, but it is well worth the annual mention. NPR has released its 2019 Book Concierge, and it is delightful as always. If you haven’t checked it out before and you’re a book lover you are in for a treat.

National Public Radio compiles all of the books it has reviewed throughout the year and assigns multiple categories to each. You can then view the books by category. But what is really cool about the book concierge is that you can mix and match categories. For example, you can select Staff Picks and For Music Lovers. Or you can select Book Club Ideas and Historical Fiction. With 369 books in this year’s catalog, that’s a lot reading choices for you.

My favorite category is Seriously Great Writing. What surprised me was how many books in that category I have read this year. Here’s a rundown of the books I’ve read in 2019 that NPR considers Seriously Great Writing.

  • The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison – To me this was a sort of mixed bag. There are many genres in this collection: essays, speeches, and meditations as the subtitle indicates. I suspect that I might have chosen another Toni Morrison book to find the best of her writing, but as a memorial to someone we just recently lost The Source of Self Regard belongs in this category.
  • Horizon by Barry Lopez – Lopez is, after all, the dean of living nature writers and this book is a highly readable account of his sojourns in the last couple of decades.
  • The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine – This is an absolutely delightful novel about twins who were born sharing a private language, grew up loving words, and took different paths in their language journey as adults.
  • Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino – I listened to the author read her own essays in the audiobook version. If you think think that millennials are not up to standard as generations go, read this book. You will change your mind.

And then there’s:

  • Floating Coast by Bathsheba Demuth – I read the prologue of this history of the Bering Strait as a Kindle sample, bought the e-book, got part way through the first chapter and returned it for a refund. There was just too much about how whales and other mammals are killed for survival and for profit in the region. But, yes, the writing is seriously great.
  • Nobody’s Looking at You by Janet Malcolm – I read the Kindle sample and decided that the subject matter didn’t interest me. But that’s no reflection on the writing.

Yes, that’s only a handful of books out of eighty-eight, but at least I seem to be making some good choices with regarding to my book reading.


those new eyeglasses

You may recall that I was looking forward to picking up my new eyeglasses. I had ordered two pair, progressive and single-focus for the computer. The verdict after a couple of weeks: I am delighted.

new glassesFor the progressive lenses I ordered a slightly larger frame than what I had before, so when I’m driving I sometimes need to move my eye to a little different spot on the lens, but that’s fine. In church I realized that I can hold the hymnal or the Book of Common Prayer out in front of me rather than trying to peer out from under my glasses. And it’s more pleasant watching television.

My new computer glasses make sitting at my desktop PC very pleasant. It’s now most enjoyable to work on my blog there. Using my iPad with my lap desk while sitting on the bed in the evening is also much more comfortable.

I made sure the frames were different enough to easily distinguish between the two. My computer frames have a somewhat rounder shape than the progressive ones and they also have an additional bridge piece across the nose that is not on the progressives. If I have taken both pair off I immediately know which one I am looking at. (And in any case, if I get up and walk around using my computer glasses I definitely know that I am wearing them. With the previous pair I could get up and take Tasha for a walk and be halfway up the block before I realized I had my computer glasses on.)

I’m pleased.


trying to get back into the routine

Map My Tracks screen shotFor the past several months I had not been very good about exercising. The heat we had in mid and late summer gave me an excuse to avoid going out walking. But it was just that: an excuse. For a short while I went to the gym here at Four Seasons and did a circuit on the weight machines (as I had done before my surgery), but that did not last very long. There was no good reason for my lapse; I was simply being lazy. I continued to do yard work every Tuesday, but that was the extent of my exercise.

Last week I decided to snap myself out of it. The weather had cooled down sufficiently for me to start walking again, and I did so. I got in three walks last week. I walked Monday of this week and did yard work as usual yesterday. I feel better so I trust that will be incentive for my keeping up the momentum. The Map My Tracks iPhone app, pictured here, gives me good feedback on my efforts.

I’m going to have to be flexible about my routine and not commit to certain days of the week for my walks, or so it appears. We had a couple of days of rain last week, we have more rain coming in today and tomorrow for Thanksgiving, and it looks like there’s another chance of rain for early next week. With any luck the storm door will be open this winter and we’ll get regular precipitation. I certainly hope so, and if that’s the case I’m perfectly happy to mix up my walking days. And even go back to the gym if we get an extended storm.

Regular rain and consistent exercise. That would make for a good winter.