Homemade Hot Pockets

•April 11, 2012 • Comments Off on Homemade Hot Pockets

So I’ve recently started playing Global Agenda again.  It’s fun, but it’s not overly deep or enlightening.  Hot pockets, though, go great with games such as that, but they aren’t great for you.  This dough is my default pizza dough, so it isn’t as flaky as regular hot pockets.

(Makes 8 hot pockets.)


1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 nice glug of olive oil (couple tablespoons, I never measure.)
1/2-3/4 cups cornmeal
Enough flour to make a dough (about 2-3 cups)

Dissolve yeast in warm water, then add sugar, salt, olive oil. Then stir in the cornmeal and the flour 1/2 cup at a time until you’ve got a nice dough. Knead until smooth (flouring your surface). It should be a bit stiffer than bread dough.

While you prepare your fillings, let the dough rest for 5-15 minutes in a warm place.

Fillings:  I used chopped, leftover ham and grated cheddar cheese.  You can use whatever you want, but it seems like canonical hot pockets use some sort of cheese/meat combo.

Working with half your dough at a time, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch or so.  Trim it into rectangles (each half of dough makes 4 hot pockets.)  Then lay your filling on each rectangle, fold over, and seal with a little water.  Turn up the edges and crimp with a fork.  Poke the top of each hot pocket a few times with a fork, so they vent. (Mine still burst, so I’m not sure what the solution is.)

Bake in a 400-450 oven for 15 minutes or so until brownish on top.  If you want them browner, use an egg wash.


Nerds or Jocks?, part 2

•March 10, 2012 • Comments Off on Nerds or Jocks?, part 2

Another blurring of the lines between jocks and nerds.  It takes some serious muscle memory to be able to prepare for one concerto, yet have to play another in a rehearsal.  (Which looks to be more along the lines of an informal concert.)  She nails it.

The Secrecy of Evil (TW: abuse)

•February 10, 2012 • 1 Comment

By now, everyone and their cousin has seen the video of the dad, who shot his teenage daughter’s laptop because she posted a restricted rant about her parents on Facebook.  Having gone viral, thousands of people are congratulating Jordan about being a good father, while others are (justifiably) horrified. (It should be mentioned that the daughter bought the laptop, herself1.) My stomach has been in knots all day because of it.  When you come from a similar situation, you can spot a dysfunctional or abusive dynamic a mile away.

Teens can be brats.  Let’s get that out of the way.  They don’t quite know how to express themselves, and they’re trying to expand their boundaries, so some of it can’t be helped.  That having been said, it’s the adults’ responsibilities to provide good role models in how to negotiate these situations.  Jordan failed utterly in this regard.  All he taught her was that she has no reasonable expectation of privacy, no respect for property, no boundaries, and nobody who is supposed to be responsible for her will give a damn about her.

The daughter, Hannah, broke the cardinal rule of abusive relationships:  she dared bring to light the abuse.  Abusers keep power by keeping up the sheen of normalcy.  They’re the parents praised as “good” parents, and the majority of abusive parents aren’t the stereotypical parents, who beat their children in the middle of Wal-Mart.  The abusive parents I’m talking about are the ones you’d never expect.  You see their children, and remark about how well-behaved they are.  These parents are those who you see sacrifice for their kids to give them everything they need and want.  So if they discipline their children, the kids must deserve it, right?

Evil needs secrets, and history is littered with stories of those who thought they were acting in the best interests of their culture and society, only to do unspeakably horrible things.  I’m sure Tommy Jordan was raised thinking such things were acceptable and that he’s doing the best he can for his daughter.

At first living in such a situation isn’t so bad.  You think everyone’s families are that way, so you don’t consider anything else.  In a sense, you’re numb, and there’s a lot I don’t remember now.  Like during “discussions,” which were my parents grilling me for hours about how horrible I was, my brain sort of clicked off.  Now I understand that was a survival mechanism, as are some other things I still do.  But when you’re in such a situation, you don’t recognize how screwed up your life is compared to other people, because it would make things impossible to withstand.

But little by little, you do realize how wrong the situation is, and that you have no privacy, no boundaries, no respect, and that you aren’t safe2.  When you get to that situation, usually as a teen, you also discover that the people you’re taught to go to–adults–won’t protect you, or even believe you, since they’ve bought into the myth that your parents are wonderful.  I don’t think I can adequately describe the hold an abuser has over the abused.  If anything in this world is demonic, it’s close.  I went to a teacher–my orchestra teacher–in high school when I’d finally had more than I could cope with.  His response?  Parents have a right to discipline their children.  This, from a mandated reporter3.

The response of my former orchestra teacher is the same as the thousands of people posting in agreement on Facebook.  They, like my former teacher, have been tricked into believing lies.  They’re the same ones, who will discount this entire post, saying that I’m only reacting to the video the way I am because I was abused.  No, it’s because I was abused that I can see through the layers of secrecy and expose the abuse for what it is.

1 https://www.facebook.com/tommyjordaniii/posts/299559803434210
2 My abuse was physical, mental, and emotional.
3 I investigated legal options, but it wasn’t able to be prosecuted, since the statute of limitations had expired.

That Tim Thomas Thing

•January 25, 2012 • 2 Comments

So for those that don’t know, one of the Bruins’ goalies skipped out on a recent trip to the White House honoring them for winning the Stanley Cup.  You can find all the details, statements, etc over on:  http://nhlbruins.tumblr.com/

On the one hand, I can’t agree with Thomas’s politics.  I’ve never been a fan of the libertarian viewpoint, although I can’t disagree with them, when it comes to civil rights.  I think Thomas and the Bruins’ PR people handled the whole thing badly, and keeping him from the Boys & Girls Club event after made him look even worse.  I think he missed an opportunity for dialogue–it’s our duty as citizens to engage in that, and he had an opportunity few do.  I also think he let his team down, since I’m sure he’s not the only one on the team with conservative political beliefs.  (Granted, most of the team is Canadian, and Canadian politics is left-of-center, with their conservatives being more like our moderates.)

On the other hand, while I disagree with Thomas’s viewpoint, I absolutely support his right to have that opinion.  It’s not right that the media is trouncing him as badly as they are, when some of the Red Sox refused to visit Bush (and didn’t get quite the response from the media.)  Truth be told, if I had an opportunity to visit the White House, I don’t know if I could.  I’m pretty damn pissed off about the war in Afghanistan, the constant drone wars, the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open, and the fact that nobody has been held responsible for the policy of torture the Obama administration inherited.

In the end, though, is this really any different than the libertarians on my Facebook feed?  They make a statement I disagree with.  I can respond or not.  I make a statement they disagree with, and they’re free to do the same.  In the end, the things I admire about them still outweigh the things I disagree with.  We agree to disagree about a lot, and life goes on.

Is this any different?  Thomas is a gifted athlete.  I admire his origin story, since it parallels mine.  I love the fact that he’s got an English degree, and that his recommendation for the Bruins summer reading list (for kids) was The Lord of the Rings.  In the end, though, he’s a person just like the rest of us: uniquely gifted and flawed.

In another sense, I’m not owed more of an explanation.  To demand more feels like sinking into fan entitlement.  While what I do as a composer is overtly political–all art is political–hockey isn’t.  If I put a piece of music out there and someone like Thomas questions my politics in it, he/she is free to do so.  I’d also hope that it transcends politics and speaks to something else.  That having been said, while we can discuss the statement Thomas made, pointing to his performance as a goalie doesn’t hold up in the same manner.  There’s a clear line between politics and hockey that doesn’t exist between art/music/literature and politics.  If I want what I do as a composer to speak to more than just the people who agree with me politically, I have to extend that to others.  In the end, while I find Thomas’s statement problematic, we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

Risks, Jocks, and Nerds

•November 4, 2011 • Comments Off on Risks, Jocks, and Nerds

So based upon some conversations with the hockey player, Ian Laperrière on twitter, I’m having a few thinky thoughts about injuries, jocks, nerds, and the line between the two.  The point Laperrière has been making is that, yes, we should prevent injuries, but also that people take risks to play at such a high level.

Enter the recent discussion on NPR that had little to do with sports writing. It devolved into a panel discussion of how horribly violent hockey is.  Nobody is arguing that point, but the attitude of the story was that the sport isn’t worth it (and that hockey is mostly fighting, which is another argument for another time.  Short response: they haven’t been watching the same games as I have this year.)

But it got me thinking:  What would that panel have thought about the scads of musicians that suffer career-related injuries? RSI’s are legion among musicians, as is hearing loss.  (Ask any violist what they think of the brass section behind them. Those sound barriers don’t block a whole hell of a lot.) You see the same kind of attitude here, as well.  If a rock musician is injured, it’s their own damn fault, whereas an oboe player with a crippling case of tendinitis is somehow nobly sacrificing for his/her art.

Before I got into composing, I was a violinist.  I played semi-professionally all through high school, and I was well on my way to being a gigging musician.  I wasn’t soloing with orchestras or on the solo concert career circuit, but–to be honest–I was pretty good.  Then in my sophomore year of college, I developed tendinitis in my shoulder during a marathon 3-performance weekend of most of Handel’s Messiah. I was on the “scratch list” for most of that weekend and on NSAIDs and muscle relaxants.  Because teachers and professors weren’t overly understanding of the effects of RSI’s back then, it only got worse until I was in the middle of a premiere of a piece by Robert Ashley a few years later in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. (I’ve broken bones before, and I think they hurt far, far less than bad tendinitis.)  My playing career was over.

In hindsight, it was a good thing that happened to me.  It freed me to fully pursue composition, which I dearly love.  While I liked playing the violin, I didn’t like practicing much, and I can’t think of anything more mind-numbingly boring than a 3-hour orchestra rehearsal.  (And that includes having my own pieces played.)  A part of me misses performing.  There’s no bigger endorphin rush of giving a great performance and connecting with an audience.

But back to Laperrière’s point:  people take risks to play at such an elite level.  I remember back in high school people telling me that a career as a musician was a “waste” for someone like me–who was academically gifted, a nerd.  They told me that I wasn’t a jock, and had options.  First, this is pretty insulting to both groups:  there are nerds who’re athletically gifted, and there are jocks who’re intellectually brilliant. But beyond that, we’re not dealing with normal people.

If a child is gifted at something, be that music, sports, or whatever, it’s cruel to enforce “normality” on them.  They aren’t ever going to be normal, and to withhold the training and competition they need to hone their craft isn’t helping them. Yes, athletes retire, and so do musicians.  But the best thing that can help either isn’t to harp on what they expect to do after retirement, but to encourage them upon the way there.  It’s a very long road with hours of training to get at the point where a person is offered an NHL contract or a chair with one of the “big name” orchestras.

I can’t speak for other athletes, because I’m not them and their world is different from mine, but for me the transition from gigging musician to composer wasn’t that difficult precisely because I had taken the risk.  I knew who I was.  I knew what I was capable of, and–more importantly–I learned my limitations.  That never would’ve happened, had I played it safe with an escape route planned out in some career I had no interest in.

What do we take away from this?  Prevention is a worthwhile goal.  What happened to me, for instance, was preventable.  This happened in the early days of the 1990’s, so medicine hadn’t quite caught up to the epidemic of computer-related RSI’s.  I never should’ve been pushed to keep playing as much as I did when the injury happened.  But also: we can’t wrap people in bubble wrap.  Shit happens, and bodies aren’t machines.



Still Alive

•May 2, 2011 • 3 Comments

Still here.  Still alive.  Big move.  Different area.

How’re you?

•March 23, 2010 • Comments Off on


I’m still here.  I’m in the final throes of my dissertation, so I’m kind of wrapped up in that.  Hopefully I’ll have time to blog on some stuff in the near future, if I still have any braincells left.

By the way, cleaning one’s bathroom is a perfectly acceptable method of procrastination.  Let’s just say I’ve got procrastination down to an artform.