souper man

I posted earlier today on Facebook that one of the grocery items in my second-ever Jet order was a bag of Hurst’s HamBeens 15-bean soup, which I think I’m going to make tomorrow, while I’m recuperating from a late night at the show tonight. I’ll have it to and enjoy over the rest of the holiday weekend, and then a little extra to go into the freezer.

I have blogged about this product in the past, but it’s been a while, and so I’m going to wax poetic about it. It’s been a favorite of mine for many years.

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You can find it in the dried bean aisle of the supermarket, because that’s basically what it is – dried beans, plus a small packet of a smoky seasoning. You add other ingredients to turn it into soup – meat (ham, hamhock or smoked sausage), water, a can of diced tomatoes, garlic, onion, a little chili powder and the juice of a lemon. This leaves room for some experimentation, of course. It feels more like a recipe than like processed food.

It’s easy to make, but slow-cooking. You have to soak the dried beans overnight, then you cook them with the onion and with your meat of choice, add the other ingredients and the little seasoning packet, and cook some more. The combination of different beans gives the soup a great texture – you have just enough creamy thickening from the beans that break down, while you still have individual beans in there to give the soup a hearty, meal-worthy bite. Don’t skip the lemon juice – it adds just the right little bit of tanginess to perk up the slow-cooked flavor.

It’s wonderful the night you make it, and – like many soups and chilis – even better when you reheat the leftovers the next day. It also freezes well, as long as you use it before it gets freezer burn. (I miss my FoodSaver. I need to get a new one the next time I get a tax refund or something like that.)

In addition to the basic product you see above, they make other flavors. I’ve tried the Cajun flavor, which is fine, and so is the beef flavor.

On my Facebook post, Donna Brock asked if I was going to have cornbread with the soup tomorrow. That would have been a great idea, and I wish I’d thought of it while I was at the store. Instead, I already bought some canned biscuits. They’ll be good too.

It feels like summer today, but as the weather starts to cool off, and it will, this is the perfect fall meal.

Book, interrupted

I was in the middle of reading Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years by Michael Shelden, which I’d bought on sale for my Kindle. A few weeks earlier, with nothing to read, I’d gotten onto the waiting list for a few books at the library lending site for Kindles, and one of them, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman, suddenly became available. So I had to put Mark Twain aside and read the Offerman book while it was available.
It’s an interesting book — not for all tastes, and there were a few things that annoyed me, but I definitely enjoyed it. Nick Offerman is a comic actor best-known for playing the taciturn character Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation.” In real life, Offerman — the husband of comic actress Megan Mullally — is an accomplished woodworker. When he goes to visit one of his favorite authors, Wendell Berry, Berry’s granddaughters know him from “Parks & Rec” but Berry’s son knows him from articles he’d written for a fine woodworking magazine.
He’s not exactly like Ron Swanson, but the character drew on certain aspects of Offerman’s personality.
“Gumption” is a series of profiles on people the real-life Offerman admires. The list starts off routinely enough, with founding fathers, Frederick Douglass and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others. But it takes a left turn about the time we get to Tom Laughlin of “Billy Jack” fame, and some of the other honorees range from Carol Burnett to Willie Nelson.
The book is written in a humorous, self-deprecating style (Ron Swanson was never self-deprecating), but underneath the humor, Offerman appears to be deadly serious about some of the qualities he’s trying to highlight. You may not agree with all of them, and some are overstressed, which in some cases may have been intended for comic effect.
There’s an argument about religious proselytizing in the second half of the book that gets driven into the ground to the point of annoyance. Yes, we get it, Nick. You don’t like people telling you what to believe. We also get that many people who identify as Christians don’t seem to have much connection to the actual teachings of Jesus. But aren’t you trying to proselytize people to some (worthwhile) ideas in your own book?
But that’s a quibble. I gave the book a good rating on GoodReads, because I think it’s an enjoyable and provocative read.
I have not read Offerman’s earlier book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living. He makes reference to it in “Gumption” as having been more risqué than the second book.
Getting back to the Twain book (and I have gotten back to it) it’s terrific as well. It’s a biography focusing on the later years of Samuel Clemens’ life, which attempts to moderate the common stereotype of Twain as universally bitter and miserable following the death of his beloved wife Olivia. Yes, he was deeply affected by her passing, and Shelden doesn’t dispute this. But he points out some of the triumphs and pleasures of this stage in Twain’s life, when he was one of the most famous and admired Americans, a sort of beloved national mascot.
The title, “Man In White,” is a reference to the trademark white suit in which most of us imagine Mark Twain. But that suit did not become his trademark until age 71, at the beginning of the period covered by the book. Twain wore it as an intentional attention-getter while testifying, in the dead of winter, before a hearing in Washington on copyright issues, and it worked so well he began wearing it frequently. When he traveled to England to receive an honorary doctorate from Oxford, some people wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing the white suit.
I may have more to say on the Twain book once I’ve finished it.

Not the one McCartney was singing about

Jet is a new Internet startup that has been getting a lot of attention — it’s sort of a cross between Amazon and Costco/Sam’s Club. There will eventually be a membership fee, but right now if you go there you can get a free six-month membership. The six months don’t start until you actually place an order.

The pricing is a little strange — most items have a price but also say that your total order will be discounted by such-and-such, so I suppose the real price is the first number minus the second number. But the discounts are fluid — they go up the more you order. Orders of $35 or more (and that $35 is figured before the discount, which is good) ship for free. Grocery and household items tend to have two-day shipping, and they have other items for sale as well.

You get an additional discount for using Visa or MasterCard instead of AmEx or Discover. The company claims it’s selling you everything at cost and will make its money exclusively from the membership fee.

I just ordered some non-perishable groceries — stuff I would have bought anyway, and just barely enough to cover the free shipping — and once you figure in all the discounts, the prices seem good. My order before the discount was more than $35, so it qualified for free shipping, but after the discounts the total order came in at just under $28.

Jet had been in an invitation-only beta test but is now public. When Amazon did its big “Prime Day” promotion a month ago, some commentators speculated that Amazon was worried about Jet in its rear view mirror and wanted to try to get more people locked in as Amazon Prime subscribers before they got the chance to sign up with Jet.

DISCLOSURE: Like many websites, this blog is part of the Amazon affiliates program, which means I sometimes have product links in blog posts and get revenue when someone buys from them (which does not happen very often). As you can tell from the above, I don’t let this arrangement affect my content.

Harriett and Samantha

It was Harriett Stewart and Samantha Chamblee who, four years ago, first asked me to serve on the American Cancer Society Relay For Life committee in Bedford County. At the time, Harriett was our ACS staff partner and Samantha, a volunteer, was our local committee chair.

Since that time, a lot of things have changed — Harriett was transferred to another job within ACS and then ended up retiring. Samantha, on the other hand, ended up taking a job with ACS, and now she does what Harriett used to do for several counties in the area.

All of this makes it delightful that both women are now involved in Bedford County’s Relay once again. A reorganization of ACS territory means we are now one of Samantha’s counties. (Many thanks to our previous staff partner, Mackenzie Evans, who was also a delight to work with. Mackenzie is still with ACS and will be working with several college-based Relay events.)

Harriett, even though she lives in Lebanon, still has a special place for Bedford County’s Relay in her heart. When several of us from Shelbyville went to her retirement party a year or two ago, as soon as the people from other counties found out where we were from, they noted how often and fondly she spoke of the Bedford County crew. Anyway, Harriett will be working with us as a volunteer this year, helping to recruit sponsors for the Bedford County event.

Here’s Harriett, in the foreground, with Judi Burton, another known troublemaker:

A photo posted by John Carney (@lakeneuron) on

Both of these things were announced Monday night at our first committee meeting to start talking about the 2016 Relay. I think very highly of both these ladies and am looking forward to working with them in the coming year.

Technically, the 2015 Relay year has not ended yet. If you still want to give to this year’s Relay, you can do so between now and the end of the month. I’d be honored if you gave towards my participation.

this was my jam

I’ve enjoyed participating in the music sharing service This Is My Jam, and I always thought it would catch on.

The premise was simple – as often as you liked, but at least once a week, you would pick a song as your current “jam.” You could share your jam over the major social networks, or put a widget displaying it on your web page. You could follow people whose tastes in music you admired, and like or comment on their jams. Or you could just go to the web site and browse to see what jams were popular.

Unfortunately, the site never quite caught on – or maybe they never figured out a good way to monetize it — and they sent out an e-mail a week or two ago saying that they would soon suspend the ability to choose jams. The site will continue as an archive of past jams, but I went ahead and deleted my account, for security reasons, since I don’t see much value in the archive.

I can – and sometimes do – use the share function in Spotify to post a social media link when the mood hits me, but I really liked the concept of This Is My Jam and will miss having to pick a song every week.

how he got in my pajamas, I’ll never know

Well, it was a little over a month ago that I was complaining about never getting to see most of the Paramount Marx Brothers’ films, and now I can’t complain anymore.

This Friday, as part of TCM’s “Summer Under The Stars,” they’ll be doing a day-long tribute to Groucho, which will include all of the Paramount Marx Brothers movies I wanted to see. I have already set my DVR accordingly.

Someday, I’d like to see this fellow, about whom Mark Evanier frequently gushes at his blog:

know your own sin

Mt. Lebanon UMC

August 2, 2015

David was only Israel’s second king, and he is considered its greatest king and the royal ancestor of Jesus. The gospels take great pains to point out that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, David’s home town, and that Jesus was descended from the house of David.

David was praised for his devotion to God, and this simple shepherd boy survived the wrath of Israel’s first king, Saul, and became a powerful and successful king on his own, and the founder of a royal dynasty. Continue reading


I have a lot of lines in “Don’t Drink The Water.” I haven’t counted them; it’s probably not as many lines total as I had a few years ago in “Cash On Delivery.” But it seems like more, and in Act 2 I have several extended speeches. It will all work out, but at this stage of the game it always looks like a mountain to climb.

Monday night’s rehearsal was a table read-through, and I recorded it on my smartphone, making a separate file for each scene. I had to use Audacity on my desktop computer to clean up each file — taking out long stretches in which I have no lines, as well as cutting out parts of the readthrough where we got diverted. (We’ve eliminated a minor character, and so we had to reword a couple of lines referring to that character.) If I started out saying a line the wrong way and then corrected myself, I cut out the bobble (or else I might wind up memorizing the wrong word!).

I got Act 1 finished and loaded onto my phone Monday night, and so I was able to listen to my lines while doing my daily walk yesterday and today. Now, tonight, I’ve finished with Act 2 (and it’s a two-act play, so I’m done). Being able to listen to this recording is part of my strategy, and it’s worked well for the last few plays I’ve been in.

I think we have a really funny cast, and it will be fun to see things come together over the next few weeks. But “hell week,” and the production itself, will be here before we know it. I just hope I’m ready.

Cue at the Trib

From early April until mid-June, I was a temporary fill-in at the Times-Gazette’s sister newspaper, the Marshall County Tribune in Lewisburg. It was a fun experience. I’d worked at the same newspaper for my entire 30-year career (30 years this month, by the way), and so it was a new experience to go into a newsroom and a community where I really didn’t know anyone. The rhythm of a twice-weekly (Lewisburg) is also quite different from the rhythm of a daily (Shelbyville).

The Tribune hired a new editor, and I got transferred back to Shelbyville, during the week I was at Mountain T.O.P., so I never really got to say goodbye to the Tribune staff, all of whom had welcomed me with open arms (and a couple of whom kept making noises about keeping me).

Two of the Tribune’s reporters are about to head off to college. Ivory Riner has been with the paper for a while as she earned her associate’s degree from Columbia State. (Lisa Brown from the Tribune’s front office would sometimes have to remind her it was time to go to class.) Now, she’s getting ready to go west to Arizona State, where she will pursue a degree in broadcast journalism. (Never heard of broadcast journalism, but they tell me it’s a thing.) Madeline Lewis, the paper’s summer intern, will return to Knoxville, where she’s a student at the University of Tennessee. The paper had a farewell luncheon for them today, and it was the perfect time for me to head over and say hello (and goodbye) to everyone.
That’s Ivory in black, Madeline in white. At left is my high school classmate Becky McBee, who serves as business manager for both the T-G and the Tribune. Becky arranged the luncheon, which featured barbecue from Lawler’s. (If you are in Lewisburg, by all means get barbecue from Lawler’s.) She also had the idea for this cake:
It was fun seeing everyone. Jennifer Vendro was showing me photos of the new home she and her husband are buying in Hohenwald. Annie Stokes joined the news staff while I was there, and she’ll have to pick up some of the slack from Ivory and Madeline’s departures. The crowd even included some former staffers — Angela Brown left not long before I did. Jim Ward had already retired as the Tribune’s general manager before my temporary assignment there, but I dealt with him frequently when he was there and was delighted to see him, too.
I’m so glad I went over. It rained while I was there, or else I’d have been tempted to take one last walk on the Rock Creek Greenway, just for old times’ sake.

the new pew review

Last weekend, during worship at Shelbyville First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Lanita Monroe introduced our new minister of children and youth, Alden Procopio. I decided I needed a photo for the church Facebook page and so I got up and scooted down the aisle to take a photo, using the camera in my brand new Lumia 640XL phone.

I got to thinking about that later. I like putting photos like that on the church Facebook page. I wondered if it might be less disruptive if I just sat down front to begin with. We tend to get used to our pew locations, but this morning I wandered down front and sat on the second row, on the left of the aisle. My old regular seat had been about halfway back, on the right side of the aisle. The reason I moved from right to left is because sometimes when the kids have special programs or presentations, they tend to sit in the first couple of rows on the right side.

I asked Donna Brock if anyone regularly sat right in front of her. She said the seat was open, and so I took it. She did warn me that I’d have to crane my neck to look at lyrics and readings on our projection screen, and she was right about that.

Ironically, I didn’t get very good photos this morning, and no video. I had taken one quick test video last weekend, but I hadn’t tried recording any video since I upgraded the phone from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10 for Phone Preview a few days ago. There’s some sort of problem – a glitch I’m sure I’ll figure out eventually, or maybe just a bug in this version of the preview software – which caused the video function to lock up the camera app. I wasted so much time fiddling with this that I missed getting even a still photo of the kids when they were standing up in front of us singing their song from Vacation Bible School. The only photo I got was of them seated on the steps as Lanita spoke.


The fellow on the right was this morning’s guest speaker, the Rev. Dietrich “Deech” Kirk of the Center For Youth Ministry Training, the organization which has placed Alden Procopio at First UMC. Rev. Kirk gave a great message about the state of Christian faith among teenagers and youth, and what we as a Church should do about it.

I did actually get a couple of photos of him in the pulpit. The nice thing about the new phone is that it has such a large image size you can crop in quite a bit and still have a halfway-decent photo:


Anyway, camera problems aside, I liked the results of my pew relocation experiment and think I’ll go back there next week.