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More “00” Flour Pizza

by A.J. Coltrane

I’m continuing to work through the 22 pounds (10 kg) of “00” flour that Iron Chef Leftovers gave me. That’s actually more than it sounds like — a typical pizza uses ~300 grams of flour.

150225 pizza

Caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, red sauce with a little sausage, and feta. The onions are hiding under the sauce, away from the heat.

The dough formula:  350g flour, 210g water (60% hydration), 7g kosher salt, 10g olive oil, 1 tsp instant yeast, and a splash of white wine. Baked in a 500F oven on a baking stone for 12 minutes total. The cheese was added with 4 minutes to go.

The post-mortem:  350 grams of flour makes for a fairly thick pizza. Most likely I’ll cut it back to 250-275 grams next time.

The “00” flour is crazy extensible. The dough was kneaded for 10 minutes, and did a “stretch and fold” on it probably 20 times after removing it from the mixer and it was still super duper stretchy. This time I patted it out on the counter, then carefully tossed it between my hands. There were some really thin places in the finished dough, so I clearly need more work on technique.

The pizza was very light and airy, which was probably partly due to all the “stretch and folds”, and partly the “00” flour. It was fully cooked, though next time I think I’ll let it go another 2-3 minutes for more color and snap. The caramelized onions really “made” the pizza. Tasty!

Bonus girl cat pic. She’s nestled in somebody’s lap, and on her favorite blanket to knead. Check out those claws:

150225 girl cat

My High School Teacher Was Right

by A.J. Coltrane

I had a teacher in high school who said that [paraphrasing] “football is only about being fast and big.” That quote has stuck with me all this time..

Yesterday I searched for a graph showing speed vs weight results at the NFL Combine and came up empty. FiveThirtyEight obliged today.

Observe:

speed vs weight

The image is taken from a two-part piece that documents how the Madden player ratings are created. Unfortunately, Walt Hickey seems to be a complete non-athlete. He can’t throw, kick, or catch. (During tests, he kicked the ball 11 yards, and threw it 20. If you click on part two of the piece you can see his sad “kicking and throwing motions”.) I would have preferred that they at least tested a reasonably competent amateur, like a guy in his 20’s who was nothing special, but good enough to start at linebacker at a medium-sized high school (or something). Anyone closer to average might have provided more informative results.

Still, the articles are an interesting snapshot of the process of how the ratings are assigned.

The graph offers three takeaways:

1.  Note the Quarterback position. (purple) They’re just a little slower and lighter than everyone else.

2.  The offensive and defensive linemen cluster into two groups. The lighter group can run a little bit. The heavier group, not so much.

3.  A regression line wouldn’t wind up quite linear — it tails downward towards the right-hand end. Evidently there’s a limit to how much weight the human body can carry and still retain any mobility.

I didn’t quite believe Mr. Marsh in high school. Now I believe he had a point.

For Entertainment Purposes Only

by A.J. Coltrane

 

2015 championship odds:

 

MLS Cup Odds
L.A. Galaxy 3/1
Sounders 9/2
Super Bowl Odds
Seahawks 6/1
Patriots 7/1
Packers 8/1
World Series Odds
Nationals 6/1
Dodgers 13/2
Angels 10/1
Cardinals 12/1
Mariners 14/1
Red Sox 14/1

 

The Mariners over/under for 2015 wins falls somewhere between 85 and 87.5, depending on the Vegas source. FanGraphs pegs them at 87 wins.

It should be a fun year all around.

Recommended Game — 7 Wonders

by A.J. Coltrane

7 WondersTitle:  7 Wonders

Game Type:  Card Drafting/ City (Civilization) Building.

Number of Players:   2-7

Complexity of Rules:  Medium-Low. With a little explanation it’s a good gateway game. (A gateway game makes for a good introduction to “modern” boardgames, without being too crazy complicated or having a million rules.)

Time to Play:   60 Minutes. The box says 30 minutes, which might be true with just a few players if everyone recognizes all of the cards and their implications on sight.

The Concept:   7 Wonders is centered around Card Drafting. What that means is that each player starts with a hand of seven cards, selects one to become part of their civilization, and passes the remaining cards to the player on their left. Rinse, repeat. Many of the cards have a cost (in wood/ clay/ gold, etc.) that needs to be met in order to buy them. The strategy is to purchase cards that help you advance your civilization the most and deny cards that help your neighbors.

7Wonders Cards 2

Why I Like It:  Like any good game, 7 Wonders requires a series of interesting decisions. There are lots of ways to win — players can receive victory points by focusing on any of:  Improving Science, having a powerful Military, becoming an economic juggernaut, building an ancient Wonder, building Civic structures, and more. Or by doing any combination of those things in the right doses. The trick is that it’s a multiple player game — you have to decide how much you want to screw your neighbor at your own expense, and what form that screwing is going to take. You can lose both by ignoring your neighbor, or by giving them too much attention. It’s a balancing act.

I’m big fan of limited downtime, and in 7 Wonders all players make their plays in unison. The decisions to be made aren’t simple, but they’re not crushingly complex either. As a result the game moves reasonably briskly — our 2nd playthrough with three players took an hour, and that was with us consulting the “Description of Symbols” sheet on multiple occasions. The symbols can be somewhat arcane early in the learning process.

7 Wonders is fairly easy to learn, and we’re a long, long way from mastering it. It’s the #17 ranked game on BoardGameGeek and the winner of multiple awards. Highly recommended.

Bonus Flowchart from BoardGameGeek. It’s funny if you’ve played. Focusing science is a high risk/reward strategy:

7 Wonders Flow Chart

Cheap Seat Eats Turns 5

by A.J. Coltrane

Well, we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

Five years is a long time. Cheap Seat Eats is older than some of the neighborhood kids.

Even one year is a long time — my comments under the four-year anniversary post referenced Bill Cosby. Cosby was funny, but I’ll likely think twice before linking to him again.

It’s now 1,279 posts, 1,027 comments, and over 266,000 sp*m later. I touched on what I’m personally thinking about the blogging thing here, here, and here.

TL;DR:  More Food posts. Fewer Sport posts. I’ll be making an effort to write more posts about Games.

Other than that? Who knows where we’re headed?

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read posts. Extra thanks to everyone who comments. It’s nice to know the blogging isn’t happening in a vacuum.

Backwards Through The Telescope — Food

by A.J. Coltrane

(a.k.a. — Part III of Where I’m At With Writing About Things. This time, Food.)

Food. By far the subject receiving the most attention at Cheap Seat Eats, including an incredible 237 “Beer of the Week” posts written within a 10-month window by Iron Chef Leftovers. (October 2013 to July 2014.) Add to that 142 “Recipe” posts, 92 “Gardening” posts (all since April 2013), and 60 “Food Humor” posts… we’re clearly inspired by food and food related things.

For me, the Food posts represent the best use of the blog as a journal of what worked and what didn’t, whether it’s when baking, cooking, or gardening. The pictures make for a great “memory jog” when I look back at the old material, and I think they add visual interest.

Going forward, I know I’ll be writing posts focused on baking and gardening specifically. I feel like I’m just starting to get an idea of what I’m doing with respect to those two subjects — there should be plenty “burnt toast” pictures in the future.

I don’t have any pictures of burnt toast, so:

far side 150215

Backwards Through The Telescope — Games

by A.J. Coltrane

(a.k.a. — Part II of Where I’m At With Writing About Things. This time, Games.)

I can’t write fiction. I can’t write poetry either.

To some degree it feels like writing the Games posts draws on that same part of my brain, which may be part of the reason why only 71 out of 1,277 CSE posts have been about games. (About 5.5% of the total posts.) Well, maybe that, and it’s easier for me to bake something, take a picture, and do a post-mortem. And I get to eat the something.

I’m even getting a mental block about writing about writing about games..

..I think it’s one thing to break something apart and examine the pieces. It’s something else altogether to describe the whole. Ideally when describing the “hook”, or what makes a game fun — that thing that keeps me coming back to a game — it’d be nice to create a vibrant picture of what it’s like to be playing, and how the game hits the same chemical receptors that create a drug-like high… even if it’s just a nice, low-level buzz. Given my writing ability, I think my best case scenario is “loose approximation of a vibrant picture”. I’m not sure that’s good enough for me to be putting out there.

Another issue is that I tend to fixate on one game for a while. I could write about a game We’re Not Currently Playing, but, out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

In any event, the category Games has seen about one post per month. I can see that increasing a little bit.

Maybe the right answer is to have a “Game Session Sunday”. Pick a Sunday afternoon and a game we like but don’t play much and do a post about it.

Not a terrible idea!

 

Backwards Through The Telescope — Sports

by A.J. Coltrane

CheapSeatEats is almost five years old (February 18). I thought I’d post about where I’m at personally with the three Pillars Of Leisure that form the foundation for writing here, starting with Sports.

You may have noticed that I haven’t written many posts about sports lately — July through October saw two or three each month, and none since November 12. Three months and no posts about sports.

I don’t think that I’m burned out on sports posts so much that the ecosystem around the blog has changed. Even over the last five years there has been a massive proliferation of sports writing on the internet. Large conglomerate sites compete for clicks with mostly unpaid content that to mind my isn’t original, and the writing often would benefit from some serious editing. Much of the writing is about as informative as is the average caller to the local radio sports talk show. I’ve never had any use for any it.

At the opposite end there are the highly researched sites like Fangraphs, Football Outsiders, Kenpom, and so on. If there’s a way to skin a cat they’re doing it. Those sites can provide excellent analysis of what’s really going on. And if breaking down trades and acquisitions is your thing… such as a math based article focused on the trade of Big Bat Billy for League Average Larry and a Package Of Prospects — they’ve got it covered. Those articles almost write themselves.

[Aside:  At some point in the not too distant future a lot of sports writing, or a least the reporting on games will be done by a computer. I know it’s being worked on. Realistically, game summaries are basically just Mad Libs with sports verbiage and a few quotes to fill in the blanks. Just run your spider program over ESPN and away you go. Free content.]

Sort of like this:

sports xkcd

I’ve also found that I’m not going back and looking at my sports posts from some time in the distant past. Sports writing is like taking a picture of a river, and the water in the photograph is now long gone.

What I’ve found I am doing is using the blog as a diary to track how I’m approaching baking, cooking, and growing things. I get value out of the old posts on those subjects, even if it’s been awhile. A written record, often with pictures, is very helpful to have around. That even applies to the gaming posts — I look at those strategy posts and wonder “What was I thinking?!?”

So.. I have no real desire to add to the endless Garbage Content pile. I’m frankly not educated and/or informed enough to add to the Excellent Content pile. I’ve absolutely established that I’m not a Unique Snowflake, at least when it comes to writing about sports.

What falls closer to Unique Snowflake status is me writing about me, and what I think I’ve learned while attempting new things. At the very least, having a record about what I did, or what I was thinking about the process of doing it has value to me. I know I learn a lot on the internet from watching people try, and sometimes fail. Just taking an aggregate of what worked means that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

There’s often no better teacher than negative stimulus:

mistakesdemotivator

I try to avoid being the captain of that ship, but when it happens, then hopefully someone else will learn from it.

TL;DR —  Going forward, I’ll still be doing sports posts. I’m guessing many of them will come about because I’m convinced the world is wrong and I’m right. Or they’ll be gambling related somehow. Which is sort of the same thing, isn’t it?

The Spring Seed Catalogs Are Here

by A.J. Coltrane

Territorial Seed sent a 2nd Spring Catalog. NW Edible just posted “To Do In The Northwest Edible Garden: February 2015″.

I am *so* not ready for spring.

Maybe eventually I’ll stop being surprised by the seed catalog and instead view it as the first sign of the changing of the seasons. As of right now we have zero seedlings started inside, though almost all of the EarthBoxes contain cool-season greens and vegetables. The planned winter harvest never happened. Very few of the plants grew large enough to be useful, and I’ve learned that I’m not real inclined to go tromping out into the cold and rain to gather a few spinach leaves or whatever. The upshot is that we now have many plants in varying stages of development, and I’m hoping that they’ll go nuts over the next few weeks.

What will we plant this spring? The leftover seed from 2014. Last January we spent around $50 on seeds. As everyone but me was aware, that’s a lot of seed. I’d guess half of it is still stored in the wine refrigerator. We’ll need to figure out where there’s room to sow — the overwintered plants include cilantro, parsley, pak choi, spinach, mache, scallions, garlic, arugula, and a hodge-podge of other stuff. A few carrots and maybe some radishes overwintered as well. At this point I’m inclined to give the overwintering plants and dormant seeds until around late February to start doing something. At that point we’ll plant as much of the remaining seed as will fit.

On the bright side, there’s no shortage of seed to fill the containers.

How do I Hate Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

By Blaidd Drwg

 

Super Bowl 49 is a worst case scenario for me – the two teams I despise the most are playing each other in a game that I couldn’t give a crap about. I figured that I should pick a team to cheer for, but every fiber of my being is telling me I should be rooting for a giant space rock to destroy the stadium with both teams in it.

So, absent the space rock, who do I choose. Let’s figure out which team I hate the least.

Coaches – I cannot stand either Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll. Both will do anything they can do to gain a competitive advantage (i.e. cheat). Belichick has gotten caught taping the opposing team’s play, is suspected in deflate gate, will find some obscure formation that is technically legal to confuse the other team (well, I have to give him credit for that one) and that is just what he has been caught doing. Carroll broke just about every rule at USC and then bailed just as the NCAA was going to come down on him and his entire defensive game plan is to commit offsides, holding and/or pass interference on every play knowing full well that the refs are not going to throw the flag on every play. Think I am just making that one up? Well check out this article. I have the feeling that this is the game that the lets commit a foul is going to come back and bite the Seahawks. Belichick has a tendency to get inside the refs heads so I expect to see one of 2 things – either the Hawks get flagged on 3 consecutive plays and then back off their “style” of play or they keep getting flagged on critical plays. Either way, Belichick is smarter than Carroll, even though I can’t stand either of them, so that gets the Pats a rouge. The score: Pats 1, Hawks 0.

Players – The Seahawks players are a bunch of whiny douces who are basically hated outside of Seattle. Sherman does not know how to stop talking, Lynch acts like a freaking 5 year old with his antics around the media (although he seems to have no problem speaking when he is getting paid for it), the comments about the random drug testing (which I am shocked that none of the players who were tested got nailed for anything, although it was probably their first offenses which don’t get reported), and just the general idiocy of what comes out of their mouths. Quick – name another player on the Patriots besides Brady and Gronkowski. I bet you can’t without looking it up. The Pats get a field goal for just keeping their mouths shut. The score: Pats 4, Hawks 0

Cities – Boston is an historic town that is famous for things like Paul Revere, clam chowder, baked beans and the Standell’s “Dirty Water”. Seattle is famous for Bill Gates, smoked salmon and Nirvana. Boston educates the smartest people in the country and then they all come out here and work for Microsoft. Seattle has the reputation for being rainy and Boston is snows, sometimes a lot. Both cities have a major inferiority complex to a neighbor to the south of them. Having lived in both places for roughly the same amount of time, weather trumps history and gets the Seahawks a quick strike touchdown and the PAT is good. The score: Hawks 7, Pats 4.

Nicknames – the team nicknames are both appropriate for their regions the Pats harkening back to the American revolution and the Hawks representing the plethora of raptors in Washington. The Seahawks get the edge on the better current logo (although the Pats would win for the old Pat the Patriot logo), but I do love that the Pats are referred to as the Flying Elvii on ESPN (with that in mind, tell me the face on the Pats logo does not look like Elvis). The Pats are going to win this one for on simple reason – the Seahawks fly a raptor before every game. That bird is an Augur Hawk. Why does that matter. It is a bird that is found in Africa and is a plains hunter. I find it horrible that a team that is named the Seahawks has a mascot that is a bird from another continent and lives nowhere near water. The Pats score a safety for just sticking with a mascot with a giant, oversized head. The score: Hawks 7, Pats 6

The Bet – every year the governors of the state the teams are from make a bet. This year the Massachusetts governor is betting baked beans against the Washington governor betting…wait for it…calm chowder? See my previous point about the cities. You are going to give a city that is known for clam chowder, clam chowder if they win? Washington is known for a lot of things culinarily – salmon, cherries, apples, hot dogs with cream cheese, but really, chowder? Not that it matters, but the food is going to be donated regardless of the outcome of the game. And what is up with the New Hampshire governor getting involved in the bet? That mess is going to penalize both teams minus 10 points with the Seahawks losing another 5 for the stupidity of sending clam chowder to Boston. The score: Pats -4, Hawks -8.

Fans – the fans are obnoxious, whiny, boorish, and a bunch of band-wagoners. Which team am I referring to? Both of them. Boston sports fans are among the most obnoxious in the world and I am embarrassed most of the time to be around Red Sox fans in other cities. Patriot fans are actually more obnoxious, if that is all possible. Seahawks fans claim the unoriginal 12th man, which they actually stole and currently license from Texas A&M, and are mostly a bunch of band wagoners. How band wagon? They were one of the last NFL teams to not sell out a game (which is really hard to do), the almost failed to sell out a playoff game when they went to the Super Bowl in 2006, there was no season ticket waiting list until 3 years ago and they were actually leaving the game 2 weeks ago when they were down 17-0 to the Packers. Most Seahawks fans couldn’t tell you who the QB was before Russell Wilson let alone who their QB was in 1992. The best thing about Boston fans is that they don’t live in Seattle. The problem is they just never go away since they do travel well. At least Seattle will go back to not giving a crap about the Seahawks once this stretch of them being good is over. I hate sore winners, and that describes both groups of fans. Both sets of fans are annoying to the point of me not being able to stand either of them, so no one gets any points for this. They are both lucky that I didn’t dock them both about 1 million points, so lets say negative 6 TD’s for the Pats and negative 8 for the Hawks. The score, Pats -40, Hawks -56

Intangibles – Usually my playoff cheering hierarchy is determined by A)the steelers are in the playoffs, B)The team with the most Boston College alumni on their roster C) which team I dislike the least. This year, the Steelers got eliminated, neither NE or  SEA have any BC Alums on their roster (although Seattle does have Kevin Pierre-Louis on their IR) and I hate both teams equally. I guess I can award a safety for having a BC Alum on IR, but he is not active, so there is no automatic rooting for the Hawks.

As the horn sounds, the final score is the Pats -40, the Hawks -54.

The conclusion is that I am rooting for the giant space rock first and then, very reluctantly, the Pats. At least with the Pats, I can just ignore all the Pats fans I know Facebook posts. I don’t want to go through another 2 weeks of Seahawks obnoxiousness if they win. My guess, the Pats win this bad boy 23-20. Go Flying Elvii, I think.