Black Friday At Toys ‘R’ Us

Richard spent Black Friday at a Jacksonville, Florida Toys ‘R’ Us and wrote a good story about how Black Friday is changing for the Florida Times-Union.  On his Twitter account he reported that he was amazed at how little the store layout had changed from the last time he went to Toys ‘R’ Us as a kid.

The mention of Toys ‘R’ Us made my skin crawl and brought back some memories — all of them unpleasant.  I absolutely hated going to that store — in our case, the outlet near the intersection of Sawmill Road and 161 in northwest Columbus — and ‘m not sure exactly why.  Maybe it was the greedy, screaming kids who always seemed to be found there in terrible abundance.  Maybe it was the fact that all of the products for sale seemed cheaply made and grossly overpriced.  Maybe it was our bad luck in always getting a shopping cart with a broken wheel that stopped rotating when we were on aisle 3.

When you are a parent, you go through a number of rites of passage with your kids — some good, some bad.  When Richard and Russell were past the age when they wanted toys, and we were blissfully relieved of the need to every again go to a Toys ‘R’ Us, it was a milestone worth celebrating.

Dissing The American Dream

An economics professor at the University of California Davis has crunched some numbers and concluded that the American Dream is a myth.

In fact, Professor Gregory Clark’s review of the data concludes that there has been no more social mobility in America over the past 100 years than there was in medieval England or pre-industrial Sweden.  Hard work, education, seizing opportunity, and saving doesn’t make a difference, he says.  Instead, the socioeconomic status of your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be closely related to your status.

IMG_3184Professor Clark’s students apparently are skeptical of his data — how did he get it, how did he analyze it, and did he manipulate it? — and his conclusions.  So am I.  The reason for the skepticism is that many American families have featured living examples of the American Dream who lifted themselves up by their bootstraps and radically changed their circumstances.

In our immediate family I can think of at least two:  my grandfather, who was born into a Kentucky hill family so poor he was thrilled to get a single orange for Christmas, moved to Akron because there were jobs there, took a messenger job with a bank, rose through the ranks, and retired 55 years later as the bank’s president and chairman of the board; and my father, who made it through law school without buying a book because he couldn’t afford it, had a facility for numbers, and achieved great success as a businessman that allowed him to retire at an early age.  I don’t care what Professor Clark’s numbers say — I know from direct family history that America is truly the Land of Opportunity.

Professor Clark seems to think he is some economics truth-teller who is bursting the bubbles of his students.  He isn’t, because family example is far more meaningful and real than an economics professor and his dusty statistics.  The American Dream is powerful precisely because we know it has happened.  It sounds like Professor Clark could stand to do some dreaming himself.

We Don’t Give A Damn . . . .

For the whole state of Michigan . . . obviously.

We’ll happily take wins over the Michigan Wolverines every year, from now until the end of time.  Any member of Buckeye Nation who lived through the terrible ’90s will never take The Game against Michigan for granted, nor will we fail to appreciate a victory in the greatest rivalry of them all.

IMG_2016And this year, the fact that the Wolverines fought hard — as any follower of Big Ten football knew they would — and the Buckeyes won the game with Cardale Jones, their third-string quarterback, at the helm, with the clinching touchdown coming on a gutsy fourth-down running play call with Ezekiel Elliott racing to the end zone, just made the win all the sweeter.  42-28 is a pretty good score for a win over your hated rival, particularly when one of their scores comes after The Game was effectively over.

It’s tough that J.T. Barrett got hurt, and I fervently hope that this fine young man is OK.  He has had a terrific season, and it is a shame that he did not get to be on the field to take the knee after the game was on ice.  But his play helped the Buckeyes win The Game, and I hope that he can take some pleasure in that accomplishment.

Now, it’s on to the Big Ten Championship Game.  Let’s hope that this year the Buckeyes get a better result than last year.  For now, though, it’s time to celebrate another win over That Team Up North.  Treasure them, Buckeye Nation!

Good Football Weather

When I stepped outside for my walk on this morning of the Ohio State-Michigan game, I immediately thought of my father.

IMG_1875It was because of the weather — crisp and clear, with the stars sharply outlined and the steam from breath rising upward into the chill.  Those are the kind of conditions that would cause my father to lean back, sniff the air, nod approvingly, and say:  “Good football weather.”

Every Midwestern football fan knows exactly what that phrase means.  It means dry conditions, because no one wants to watch football or play football in a downpour.  It means a day that is not too windy and where there is a significant difference between being in the sunshine and being in the shade.  It means a temperature that is cold, but not too cold; in the 30s or 40s, where you can bundle up and layer against the chill and a few hours outside will bring color to everyone’s cheeks.  The kind of day when you enjoy having your core warmed by a well-prepared toddy, or Bloody Mary, or Irish Coffee at a tailgate and can hear the crack of the pads echoing through the stadium as the crowd roars.

Yes, it’s good football weather today for The Game.  Go Bucks!

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2014

With Thanksgiving behind us, and the tryptophan coma starting to dissipate, it’s time to think of the crunchy, sweet, delectable items we all associate with the next holiday.

IMG_2238This year exigent circumstances will require a new, more focused approach to my holiday baking, but I’m always on the lookout for some new recipes that add a new twist along with the old favorites.  This year, making something with coconut and chocolate sounds good.  I found this recipe on an internet cooking website and am going to give it a shot:

Chocolate-Drizzled Coconut Macaroons

Ingredients:  1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 4 large egg whites, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, 7 ounces sweetened shredded coconut (about 2 2/3 cups), 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Fill a large saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low so the water is just simmering. Whisk sugar, egg whites, honey, vanilla, and salt in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until sugar has dissolved and the mixture looks thicker, paler, and is hot to the touch, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove bowl from the heat and stir in the coconut and flour. Cover and refrigerate the dough overnight.

Heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir the dough and drop level tablespoons onto the baking sheet about 2 inches apart then bake on the middle rack. Bake until cookies are light golden brown around the edges and set in the centers, rotating the sheet halfway through, about 12 to 15 minutes total. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the cookies sit for 1 minute. Transfer the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely. Using a cooled baking sheet and the same sheet of parchment, repeat with the remaining dough. Set aside the parchment to use for drizzling the chocolate over the cooled cookies.

Place the cooled cookies on the reserved parchment sheet (they can be touching). Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave.) Dip a fork into the chocolate and drizzle it over the macaroons in a zigzag pattern. Let the cookies sit at room temperature until the chocolate has set, about 30 minutes. Store the macaroons in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2012

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2011

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2010

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2009

When Black Friday Comes

Black Friday can bite me.

I’m tired of hearing about it, tired of the spectacle of grown people embarrassing themselves and acting like idiots to try to get the latest hot toy or specially priced flat-screen TV that will only be available to the first 50 customers, and tired of the talking heads talking, talking, talking about how important Black Friday is to the health of our economy and its retail sector.

Go out and buy, buy, buy!  Curse the lack of parking!  Groan when you see the length of the check-out line!  Feel the surge of anger when some jerk cuts in front of you or blocks the aisle or doesn’t watch their bratty kid who is knocking items off the shelves!

So today you won’t find me at the shopping malls.  When I think of Black Friday, I think of the classic tune from Steely Dan’s Katy Lied, performed live below in 2006.  My favorite lyrics from the song have a certain resonance on Black Friday, the dreaded shopping day:

When Black Friday comes
I’m gonna dig myself a hole
Gonna lay down in it ’til
I satisfy my soul
Gonna let the world pass by me
The Archbishop’s gonna sanctify me
And if he don’t come across
I’m gonna let it roll