Columbus — A “Place To Go”

DJI_0109-Credit2520Aerial2520Image2520Solutions

Every once in a while the New York Times Travel section publishes an article that tells people “where to go.”   The 52 Places to Go in 2019 article came out this week and our city — Columbus, Ohio — actually made the list.  It’s number 47, right there between Houston, Texas and Plovdiv, Bulgaria.  The article notes Columbus’ innovation, food scene, and cool districts and neighborhoods, including our own stomping grounds of German Village.

The article poses the following question about Columbus:  “Is this the American city of the future?”  The honest answer is:  “Who knows?”  But Columbus is definitely a good place to live — as well as a “place to go” — and it’s nice to see it getting a little bit of recognition.

(In case you’re interested, Plovdiv is described as “a city ready for the spotlight.”)

Advertisements

QB U

Many people think that all football players are knuckle-dragging dimwits.  That may have been the case back in the leather helmet days, but it hasn’t been true for a long while — and it’s particularly not true these days, with the complicated offensive and defensive schemes found in college and professional football alike.

If you don’t believe me, watch the Big Ten Network segment above, in which former coach and BTN commentator Gerry DiNardo sits down with Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins to break down a few plays from this year’s Ohio State-Michigan game.  You can’t help but be impressed by how Haskins analyzes defensive coverage, sets offensive blocking schemes, and evaluates his various “reads” — and then explains it all in a coherent, step-by-step fashion using the special vocabulary of football.

Ohio State used to be called Football U.  That’s never been true, not really, but even if it were it’s clear that Football U. does in fact involve a lot of teaching, and a lot of learning.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018 (II)

Every would-be cookie baker needs a taster — that person who will sample your fare and tell you whether the batch is brilliant . . . or a bust.  I’m blessed to have the greatest taster of all under our roof, so when Kish sent along some holiday cookie recipes from the New York Times I had to pick one to try this year.  I like coconut, so this was my choice.

Toasted Coconut Shortbread

merlin_146903328_7ae9fcfc-36b5-47f1-b4da-ae60eb1a466d-articlelargeIngredients:  2 1/4 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; 1/2 cup granulated sugar; 1/4 cup light brown sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus more for rolling); 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 large egg, well beaten; sanding sugar

Using an electric mixer and medium bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Use a spatula to scrape down sides of bowl, then put mixer on low speed and slowly add flour, followed by 1/2 cup coconut and beat until blended.

Divide dough in half and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap.  Sprinkle each piece of dough with half of the cinnamon, then fold plastic over to cover dough and use your hands to form dough into a log shape about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Chill logs in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours, until they are firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Brush outside of logs with egg wash, then roll logs in unsweetened coconut.  Slice each log into 1/4-inch rounds.  Dip each round on one side into sanding sugar and arrange on backing sheet, sugar side up, 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until edges are just beginning to brown.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

Conference Room Music

Yesterday I was at a conference at one of those ginormous conference centers you find across America.  That means that, during breaks and when waiting for the meetings to start, I’ve been exposed to conference room music.

wasgn_meetings_breakout01There’s a spectrum of music played in public places in America.  At one end of the spectrum — and unfortunately, very rare in my experience — are actual, recognizable songs, whether it’s classical pieces, or rock music performed by the artists who made the songs a hit, or jazz from John Coltrane or Dave Brubeck.  As you move away from that end of the spectrum, generic elements are introduced — for example, by having a song that you know covered by some unknown band whose rendition sucks the life out of the tune and renders it inert, so that it takes a while before you recognize what you’re hearing as a dim, distant version of Foreigner’s Hot Blooded.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is elevator music and telephone hold music — music that is specifically calculated to do nothing except provide soft and low background noise while you are unfortunately waiting to move on to your day.  Conference room music is a notch up from elevator music.  It’s never a recognizable song from a recognizable artist, because the music may have to cut off at any minute when the meeting starts, and they don’t want the meeting participants to be disappointed that they didn’t get to hear the guitar solo on Pink Floyd’s Mother.  So it’s inevitably some random piece, usually jazzy in nature with keyboard and horns, but more upbeat than elevator or hold music.  It’s designed to keep you awake and alert while you sip your generic coffee and glance around at the generic conference room fixtures and decorations, but leave no lasting impression whatsoever.

No one leaves a conference room humming a few bars of conference room music or asking the concierge what was playing before the meetings started.  You’ve utterly forgotten the music the instant the meeting begins, just like you immediately and irretrievably forget the wisps of the dream you were having when you wake up in the morning.

When you think about it, there’s some talent involved in being able to create music that is so consciously bland.  You have to wonder:  do musicians deliberately set out to write conference room music, and do they think with satisfaction that their creation will be the perfect complement to the metal coffee urn, the spread of breakfast pastries, and the always uncomfortable conference room chairs?

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

The calendar — and, unfortunately, the too-early winter weather — confirm that it is indeed December.  In fact, it’s December 5.  December 5!!  That means it’s high time to start collecting the Christmas cookie recipes that I’ll be baking this year.

If you like Christmas cookie recipes, the internet is truly a mixed blessing.  It’s great in that there are countless cookie recipes that can be called up by running a simple Google search for “Christmas cookie recipes,” which will give you awesome variety and concoctions that you’ve never even thought were possible.  It’s bad, however, because at many websites Christmas cookie recipes are classic clickbait, and you need to click through multiple pages to finally get to the recipes.  If you hate the constant clicking, as I do, because you believe the website is treating you like a pawn in an advertising game whose time is of no value, I recommend the iambaker.net website, which allows you to get directly to the recipes like the one below.

Peppermint Meltaway Cookies

peppermint-meltaways-blog-300x300

Ingredients:  For the cookies — 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature; 3/4 cup cornstarch; 3/4 cup confectioners sugar; 1 tsp. McCormick pure peppermint extract; 1 cup all-purpose flour 
For the glaze — 2 cups confectioners sugar divided; 6 -8 teaspoons whole milk divided; 1/4 -1 teaspoon of McCormick pure peppermint extract; McCormick green food color optional
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix the butter and cornstarch until well combined and lighter in color, then turn the mixer off and add in confectioners sugar.  With the mixer on low, add the peppermint extract and mix until ingredients are fully incorporated.  Turn mixer off again and add flour, then with the mixer on low to medium-low, mix until the dough comes together and pulls away from sides of the bowl.

Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop or a tablespoon measuring spoon, remove about a tablespoon of dough. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart. Once the cookie sheet is full, gently roll each scoop of dough between your hands until it is a smooth ball.  Bake 9 minutes at 350 degrees.  Right out of the oven take a glass with a flat bottom (that is smaller than the cookie) and gently press into the cookie.  Allow cookies to cool for about 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. Make sure cookies are completely cool before adding glaze.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2017

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2016

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2015

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2014

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

Memory Lane

We were up in Akron today for a funeral service for an old and dear family friend.  It gave Kish, Cath and me a chance to visit the Webner clan lived in before we moved to Columbus, see some fondly remembered acquaintances again, and visit Portage Country Club, the Tudor-style building where we had countless family gatherings — including weddings, showers, and birthday celebrations — over the years.

I had to take a look at the “Board Room,” pictured above, where Grandpa Neal hosted annual luncheons that featured lots of revelry, Baked Alaska for dessert, and Grandpa’s remarks in which he gave a recap of the year and, speaking totally from memory, recounted the highlights for everyone in attendance.  I looked at the table and thought that, if we were to try to convene that gathering now, many of the chairs would be empty and those of us still around would look a lot grayer and more bowed than we once did.  As we left Portage Country Club, I wondered if this was the last time I would pass through its big wooden doors.

They say that funerals are a time for remembering, and our visit to Akron today certainly set me to thinking back to old times.  It was a wistful experience, but I enjoyed taking a little trip down memory lane.

Dow And Up And Dow Again

I don’t know what’s harder to read about right now:  political news, or the stock market.

dreamstime_xl_29871962-customSince I don’t want to lose any readers, we shan’t be talking about political news.  But checking out what’s been going on in the stock market recently is equally stomach-churning.  October has been one of the worst months in the stock market in a very long time, generating talk that we’re in the midst of a dreaded “correction.”  Even after springing back up by more than 400 points yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is still down almost 6 percent this month, making it the worst month since August 2015.  The news for the S&P 500 has been even worse:  in October its down almost 8 percent, its worst month since May 2010.

And for those of us who aren’t working on Wall Street, the movements of the markets seem random and inexplicable.  Stock are down, then up, then down again — sometimes, all on the same day.  On Monday, the Dow surged upward, then plummeted, and ended up covering more than 900 points in its abrupt mood swing.  You read the reports on the markets that try to make sense of the movements — on Monday, for example, the stated culprit for the downturn was concerns about new trade actions with China, and on other bad days it’s those nefarious “profit takers” — and you really wonder if anybody knows why the markets move as they do.  And this shouldn’t come as a surprise, either:  after all, the markets are the sum of the actions of millions of individual investors, mutual funds, trading bots, institutional investors, portfolio traders, brokerage firms, foreign investors, and countless other actors.  It would be an unusual day, indeed, when all of the disparate participants in the market are motivated by the same news to take the same actions on the same day.

So, what’s a small investor to do?  I think the key is to not overreact, and to realize that investing in the market is supposed to be a long-term thing.  The little guy is never going to have the information the big players do and can’t plausibly time the market or anticipate the abrupt movements.  If you’re in the market long-term, don’t get distracted by the sickening plunges or the big climbs, because you’re really focused on what’s happening over the course of years.  And if you can’t take a long-term view, maybe you shouldn’t be in the markets at all.

Ignoring that stock market app on your phone helps, too.