Normandy Scholar Classes

First of all, please forgive me for my lax posting schedule. I have been adjusting to school et al. and loving it, but I haven’t exactly carved out a blogging time.

So, here’s one!

The first thing to know about my classes it that they all deal with World War II history, because I am in the Normandy Scholar Program.

The second thing to know about my classes is that they are extremely reading intensive, and that’s coming from someone who prides himself on his ability and voracity to read. If someone asks me what I’m doing, a statistical pie chart of my life would reveal that I’m most likely in the library.

The final thing to know about my classes it that they’re fantastic.

So, without further ado:

1. Remembering World War II (DeBacker): This class is by far the easiest of my five, and that’s because it is intended to be so. This class studies monuments, scupltures, art, museums, film, and music that was created during WWII, regarding WWII, or memorializing WWII. However, this class also serves as French 101. Every Tuesday (1/2 of our two-day-a-week classes) we learn French.

Straight up French. In fact, this Tuesday I have a quiz on some of the basics. I was so excited when I heard that we’d be learning French, because everyone is a beginner (those with experience take a seperate class), the professor is a sprightly, youthful French woman who is remarkably sweet, and French is beautiful. I already know a lot of the words for food and different cooking dishes, but apparently there is more to learn that that.

2. France in World War II (Coffin): I have two female professors out of the total five, and they both teach classes regarding France; however, Professor Coffin is much different that Professor DeBacker. Coffin is all business. She certainly knows her French history and her material is very interesting. I have a slight advantage over the rest of the class because last semester I took a “Western Civilizations” class that was just a French history class in disguise. Accordingly, most of what she says conjures up a dull echo in my mind, and I have been able to impress her mildly (very mildly [radically mildly?]) with my knowledge.

So far, this is my least favorite class, simply because it’s the least interesting. Make sense? This class is brilliant, it just has stiff competition. I am interested in learning about the Vichy government though, and so I think I will begin to like this class more as we progress further into the girth of French history.

3. Germany, Hitler, and Nazism in World War II (Crew): This class is my first taught by a male professor, a man named Professor Crew who radiates erudition, but not pretentiously so. Germany is probably the most dynamic piece in the diplomatic dance that led to both World Wars, and so this class has been more interesting than I thought. It’s important to mention that we’ve started with World War I in all of my classes, because the professors insist that we understand the foundation on which World War II began.

I am ecstatic to begin learning about the Nazi regime and life under Hitler, because I’ve always found that area of history intriguing. There is so much to learn about Nazism and the crazy things that happened to Germany in a period of seven or so year, and there’s even more to learn about Hitler himself. Make no mistake, I do not idolize or adore Hitler in any way, but studying Nazism is fascinating to me for the same reasons that Greek mythology is interesting to me. Did people really believe this stuff? If you think you know a lot about Hitler and Nazism, you probably have just spied the tip of the iceswell, and there’s much more  mind-blowing information to be found.

4. America in World War II (Stoff): I had the pleasure of being a student in Professor Stoff’s U.S. History class last Fall, and that experience was one thing that prompted me to apply for the Normandy Program. He is, unequivocally, the best lecturer I have ever heard. He teaches history like it’s all one big bed-time story that he’s just letting us in on. In addition, U.S. history holds an important position in our minds because our engagement in WWII has affected contemporary war policy and culture.

Speaking of culture, I also am writing a twenty-page paper on butter. I wanted to focus on war-time rationing during WWII in America, but Professor Stoff recommended I focus on one commodity. Hopefully there will be enough information on butter to write the necessary length; regardless, I’m looking foward to the task.

5. The Soviet Union in World War II (Wynn): My favorite class so far for various reasons. First, Professor Wynn explained to us that Russia’s role in the war has been deliberately downplayed in Western education as an attempt to deligitimize what was once the West’s most potent rival for power. Because the U.S.S.R. was Communist, our education regarding the Soviet’s role in the war is purposefully shirked, to the point where I am surprised everyday in that class.

Also, the reading in that class has been fascinating and vivid. Long have I heard about Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky, but I had never been given the opportunity to learn so much about them. Finally, all these dark gaps in my brain are being filled.

Normandy Scholar Classes

Return to Austin

The first thing I did in Austin? Concert
A band called "Starfucker," who is one of my favorites, and ironically, not obscene at all
The next day I went job hunting at some of my favorite restaurants in Austin, and I started with Walton's
This is the one restaurant, out of all the ones I applied to, that might actually hire me
Bar Congress, one of the nicest restaurants in Austin, will not hire me. But they will let me fill out an application!
I really just wanted a legal excuse to go inside.
Yes, it's famous for its bacon, but it has vegetarian options.
Also, it's one of the best restaurants in Austin
I ate here with my parents once and loved it, and the manager was nice and so I'm cautiously optimistic
Haven't applied here yet, but I'm going there tonight, because they open at five. Won't get hired here.
Vegetarian and vegan, the best in Austin, closest to me. Won't get hired.
Possibly my favorite restaurant in the city, returning there today in order to drop off my resume'. Won't get hired.
Return to Austin

“We’re Eating Less Meat. Why?”

From Mark Bittman, a columnist and writer for the New York Times and part-time professional cook.

Also, more importantly, a vegetarian.

Americans eat more meat than any other population in the world; about one-sixth of the total, though we’re less than one-twentieth of the population.

But that’s changing.

Until recently, almost everyone considered their dinner plate naked without a big old hunk of meat on it. (You remember “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” of course. How could you forget?) And we could afford it: our production methods and the denial of their true costs have kept meat cheap beyond all credibility. (American hamburger is arguably the cheapest convenience food there is.) This, in part, is why we spend a smaller percentage of our money on food than any other country, and much of that goes toward the roughly half-pound of meat each of us eats, on average, every day.

But that’s changing, and considering the fairly steady climb in meat consumption over the last half-century, you might say the numbers are plummeting. The department of agriculture projects that our meat and poultry consumption will fall again this year, to about 12.2 percent less in 2012 than it was in 2007. Beef consumption has been in decline for about 20 years; the drop in chicken is even more dramatic, over the last five years or so; pork also has been steadily slipping for about five years.

The report treats consumers as victims of government bias against the meat industry. We’re eating less meat because we want to eat less meat.

Holy cow. What’s up? It’s easy enough to round up the usual suspects, which is what a story in the Daily Livestock Report did last month. It blames the decline on growing exports, which make less meat available for Americans to buy. It blames it on ethanol, which has caused feed costs to rise, production to drop and prices to go up so producers can cover their increasing costs. It blames drought. It doesn’t blame recession, which is surprising, because that’s a factor also.

All of which makes some sense. The report then goes on to blame the federal government for “wag[ing] war on meat protein consumption” over the last 30-40 years.

Is this like the war on drugs? The war in Afghanistan? The war against cancer? Because what I see here is:

    • a history of subsidies for the corn and soy that’s fed to livestock
    • a nearly free pass on environmental degradation and animal abuse
    • an unwillingness to meaningfully limit the use of antibiotics in animal feed
    • a failure to curb the stifling power that corporate meatpackers wield over smaller ranchers
    • and what amounts to a refusal — despite the advice of real, disinterested experts, true scientists in fact —  to unequivocally tell American consumers that they should be eating less meat

Or is the occasional environmental protection regulation and whisper that unlimited meat at every meal might not be ideal the equivalent of war? Is the U.S.D.A. buying $40 million worth of chicken products to reduce the surplus and raise retail prices the equivalent of war?

No. It’s not the non-existent federal War on Meat that’s making a difference. And even if availability is down, it’s not as if we’re going to the supermarket and finding empty meat cases and deli counters filled with coleslaw. The flaw in the report is that it treats American consumers as passive actors who are victims of diminishing supplies, rising costs and government bias against the meat industry. Nowhere does it mention that we’re eating less meat because we want to eat less meat.

Yet conscious decisions are being made by consumers. Even buying less meat because prices are high and times are tough is a choice; other “sacrifices” could be made. We could cut back on junk food, or shirts or iPhones, which have a very high meat-equivalent, to coin a term. Yet even though excess supply kept chicken prices lower than the year before, demand dropped.

Some are choosing to eat less meat for all the right reasons. The Values Institute at DGWB Advertising and Communications just named the rise of “flexitarianism” — an eating style that reduces the amount of meat without “going vegetarian” — as one of its top five consumer health trends for 2012. In an survey of 1,400 members, more than one-third of home cooks said they ate less meat in 2011 than in 2010. Back in June, a survey found that 50 percent of American adults said they were aware of the Meatless Monday campaign, with 27 percent of those aware reporting that they were actively reducing their meat consumption.

I can add, anecdotally, that when I ask audiences I speak to, “How many of you are eating less meat than you were 10 years ago?” at least two-thirds raise their hands. A self-selecting group to be sure, but nevertheless one that exists.

In fact, let’s ask this: is anyone in this country eating more meat than they used to?

We still eat way more meat than is good for us or the environment, not to mention the animals. But a 12 percent reduction in just five years is significant, and if that decline were to continue for the next five years — well, that’s something few would have imagined five years ago. It’s something only the industry could get upset about. The rest of us should celebrate. Rice and beans, anyone?

“We’re Eating Less Meat. Why?”

A Mental Health Day

I had an off-day today, but not “off” as in bad, “off” as in not “on.”

Make sense?

I didn’t have work, nor did I make plans to see anyone, go anywhere, or do anything I didn’t want to.

So, I baked my first goods of the New Year.

Why are they called “baked goods?” It seems cocky to me.

They could be bad.


(They weren’t).

Bagels are one of my favorite things to bake, because there’s very little baking.

You make the dough and let it rise, per usual, then shape it and let it rise, per usual.

The unusual part is that you boil the bagels.

Most bagels you find at the grocery store haven’t been boiled, just baked. Not boiling them changes the texture completely, making the bagels bready, instead of plump, very chewy, and crispy on the outside.

It’s a totally different product.


So, after they’re formed and risen, you boil them.

One minute for semi-chewy, two minutes for very chewy.

I boiled mine for three minutes.

I love masticating. Judge me.


I made four plain, four cinnamon-sugar, two minced onion, two minced garlic, two poppyseed, and two sesame seed.

I also made biscotti, too! Chocolate hazelnut biscotti.

I used half hazelnuts and half almonds because I’m racy and edgey and don’t do (exactly) what recipes tell me to do.

Hoodrat, I know.









Not my picture, but that’s how they looked. I swear!









There’s espresso powder in them, along with cocoa powder, obviously, so they taste good by themselves. but even better with coffee.

Trust me. My friends liked them. Too much…


(Bagels again).

Post-boil, pre-bake.

Isn’t that a music genre?

(plain and cinnamon-sugar)


Same musical genre here, but featuring different artists.

Here we have the new single by The Bagels, featuring plain, cinnamon-sugar, poppy seed, sesame seed, minced onion, and minced garlic.

Tasty new jams, good with jam.


Post-boil, post-bake, pre-eating.

I used the same parchment paper that I used to bake the biscotti. The Environmental Justice Friends would be proud of me, but Smoky the Bear wouldn’t.

Almost caught fire.


I love homemade bagels, and I could see myself baking these bad boys when I’m older and looking for something to do besides find new tennis balls for my walker.

Or I could change my last name to Steinberg, open a bagel deli, make millions, and buy a lot throw-pillows.


Hands down: the dopest dope you’ve ever smoked. Hands down, dopest dope.


A Mental Health Day