Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The journey and the destination

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home.” 
Anna Quindlen
How Reading Changed My Life, 1998

Monday, September 18, 2023

Small Batch Chile

This is one of my favorite recipes. It's hearty and easy, can be as meat-heavy or vegan as you want, and is super satisfying. Honestly, a ten-year-old could make this, and it's also super affordable.

I make this in a small one-quart slowcooker, but you could easily scale it up to 8 quarts without changing the process at all. The process can be spread over a few days for easy make-ahead preparation. The final step only takes a couple hours of unattended warming, but you won't regret letting it cook all day while you're off doing other things. Reheats well.

Serve it with bread and milk, or beer if that's your thing.

The Beans
Any dried bean will do. I haven't tried this with lentils yet, but you absolutely could. Red beans, kidney beans, black beans, whathaveyou. Put the beans in the crockpot (or boil in a pot on the stove or a rice steamer for 3 hours; ratio of 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup dry beans. Lentils cook much more quickly, 20 minutes or so on the stove.) For a small batch, I cook 2/3 cup beans in 3 cups water in a one-quart crock pot overnight. White beans are my favorite. When the beans are soft enough to smush, rinse and set aside.

The Base
Rinse the crock pot out and put in a healthy amount of olive oil, one chopped onion, one clove of garlic finely cut up, and as many chopped chile peppers as you feel in the mood for (Storing chile peppers in the freezer makes them much easier to work with). Add at least 1 tablespoon cumin, or chili powder if you prefer. (Chili powder doesn't marry as well with white beans, but goes nicely with dark red beans or kidney beans.) Stir to coat everything in the oil and add a bit of anything that seems to need more. Let simmer on high for at least an hour to marry. When the onion is transparent, add the beans and stir to mix. Add any crumbled or diced meat you would like. For a white bean chili, I like to add shredded chicken, or to leave it with no meat at all -- it's still flavorful. Stir to combine. Add liquid (beef or chicken broth, or vegetarian broth, tomatoes or paste, or just water) to  just the top of the mix. Cover and simmer for another couple of hours on high (or at least three hours if the meat is uncooked), or 8 hours on low. 

Perfect for game day, winter snow days, and any time there's a chill in the air.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

What's it like to be a librarian

Lots of people assume that being a librarian is getting to do lots of research, reading, and writing. More often it's filled with mundane things like shelving and hunting down books for patrons. 

And then there's this guy:

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Southern Politics in State and Nation

In his classic 1949 study, Southern Politics in State and Nation, V. O. Key characterized the Byrd organization as an oligarchy in which power was maintained by a remarkably small portion of the electorate. Fewer people voted in Virginia than in any other southern state, with only 10 or 12 percent of adults casting votes during the heyday of the Byrd Organization. This meant that the organization needed the support of only 5 to 7 percent of the voting-age population to control party nominations, which nearly guaranteed election in most districts in most elections. “By contrast,” Key memorably wrote, “Mississippi is a hotbed of democracy.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Education in Virginia

The public schools enroll 1,274,000 students: 52% White, 23% African American, 13% Latino, and 6% Asian, with 40% living in poverty, and 8% learning English. The State spends $10,960 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)

“That free government rests, as does all progress, upon the broadest possible diffusion of knowledge, and that the Commonwealth should avail itself of those talents which nature has sown so liberally among its people by assuring the opportunity for their fullest development by an effective system of education throughout the Commonwealth.” Va. Const. art. I, § 15.

“The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.” Va. Const. art. VIII, § 1.

“Standards of quality for the several school divisions shall be determined and prescribed from time to time by the Board of Education, subject to revision only by the General Assembly. The General Assembly shall determine the manner in which funds are to be provided for the cost of maintaining an educational program meeting the prescribed standards of quality, and shall provide for the apportionment of the cost of such program between the Commonwealth and the local units of government comprising such school divisions. Each unit of local government shall provide its portion of such cost by local taxes or from other available funds.” Va. Const. art. VIII, § 2.

In 1994, in Scott v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Supreme Court declared education a fundamental right under the State constitution, but also held that the constitution does not require equal per-pupil funding or equal programs in school districts across the state. The Court concluded that “Section 2 addresses the two essential elements of quality education: standards and funding. By the terms of § 2, the General Assembly is empowered to make the final decision about both standards of quality and funding.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


I'm going to have to write a whole short story about this picture.