Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Time in the 205/285

In the fall of 2006, I was starting my sophomore year of college at Purdue. It was to be a very important year for me, in several different ways – and most of those ways hinged on a couple of very important classes.

I was clearly awesome. And hella skinny.

EDCI 205 (Exploring Teaching) and EDCI 285 (Multiculturalism & Education) are two required courses for education majors at Purdue. I believe 205 is the first early field experience education students participate in although I could definitely be wrong about that. 285 basically exists to make us aware as human beings (but mostly as teachers) that we will come into contact with many different types of people, and how all these cultures will mix together in different ways but we have to teach them anyway. Or something. It was a long time ago.

The important thing about these two classes in the fall of 2006 is that they were being taught by two friends, Bruce and Sybil, who decided that instead of teaching two separate classes of the same group of students, they would just teach their sections together. I’m not sure if it was the clear enjoyment of what they were doing they brought with them every day, the in-depth discussions about our field experiences, or the frequent debates which would inevitably erupt between Bruce and members of the class who didn’t totally agree with his point of view (always fun to watch), but that class has cemented itself in my college experience.

logoenlargedOf course, it’s also the class where I met Mike – who I soon found out was in the Crazy Monkeys, an improv comedy group I saw during my freshman year and for some reason thought to myself “yeah, I could do that” despite having done nothing like it ever before. Becoming good friends with Mike during our time in the 205/285 led to me auditioning for and becoming a new member of The Crazy Monkeys later that semester. It is completely fair to say that my life would be absolutely different than it is now had I not met Mike and made that decision to try out. Almost all of the friends I either regularly hang out with or stay in frequent contact with came from my time in the Crazy Monkeys. To say it was a major component of my college experience is an understatement. It defined who I was and who I would become in many parts of my life, and I am very grateful for the time I had with the group. Improv is still a huge part of my life, and I am not sure what would have replaced it had I never tried it out.

But wait! The 205/285 Mash-up Bruce & Sybil Variety Hour was also the class where Mary and I met each other, and through a mutual friendship with the aforementioned Mike, became close friends. Most of our time together was doing mutual friendship things, like getting McDonalds Happy Meals or going to see comedy shows on campus. It wasn’t until the spring semester that things got real real. Bruce announced at some point during the fall that he would be teaching a different class in the spring – EDCI 490 (the title was something like “Continuing Issues of Multicultural Education”) and that we were all welcome to take it – and that it could be worth graduate credit if we didn’t have an elective slot for it to fill.

So I decided to take that class – and so did Mary. And probably nothing would have happened between us at all but for one tiny thing that happened one day. Mike maintains that he had some kind of behind-the-scenes puppet master nonsense going on – which may have been part of it, admittedly. The catalyst for what would come next, however, came one day when I got to class and saw that Mary had sat in my seat. For whatever reason, we always sat with our desks in a circle in that class – I think Bruce liked having discussions better that way – and I always sat against the back wall near an audio cabinet. There was no real reason, it was just where I sat the first day and things like that have a way of staying.

Anyway, Mary was sitting in my seat. And I said “Hey, you sat in my seat!” And she said “So just sit next to me.” And I did. And so in February 2007 we were dating, in June 2008 we were engaged, in June 2009 we were married, and in August 2013 we had a son.

I’m not sure if the content of the classes was that memorable or had any profound effect on me as a person. The field experience was just visiting a school – and having been in school all my life, it was about what I expected. Learning about different cultures is always important, but not only was I attending a fairly diverse campus, I have been brought up to be a tolerant and accepting person (or so I like to think), so it was just reinforcement of what I already practice and believe.20130922_095607

What really made the 205/285 important for me was who I met and where they led me. Meeting Mike and Mary took my life where it needed to go, and I would have neither the friends nor the experiences that surround me now. I would be a completely different person, and I am not confident he would be the better for it.

In fact there’s absolutely no way.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chili. Again. I know.

IMAG0789All right. I know I’ve blogged about chili once or twice before. But my recipe for chili has gone through a few changes for the better. When I read that original recipe, posted long-ago, I shudder to think that someone might have read it and actually made that pot of muck. It’s not actually that bad, but there are some order and technique issues that I have since figured out and improved upon. As my wife said earlier tonight – my chili is a metaphor for my ascent into adulthood.

I am pretty sure she was kidding.

Anyway, I made chili tonight. It was excellent. I have leftovers if you want some.


  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 jalapeƱo
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • spices:
    • chili powder
    • cumin
    • garlic powder
    • garlic salt
    • oregano
    • thyme
    • dill
    • bay leaves
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 lb ground beef (85/15 or higher)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
    • ground chipotle pepper
    • cocoa powder
    • cinnamon
  • 12 oz beer
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans
  • 2 (15 oz) cans great northern beans


1.  Chop up the onion and peppers.


Use a jalapeno’s worth of canned slices if you don’t have a fresh pepper. No biggie.
Try to get the dice fairly small, but not tiny. It all depends on how big you like the chunks of things in your chili. I’m okay with some chunk.


2.  Combine them in a medium-to-large pot over medium-high heat with some cooking oil.

IMAG0762 IMAG0763

Add the minced garlic after a couple of minutes, when the onions and peppers start to soften. Let that cook for about five minutes, stirring fairly often.

3.  Add the meat and spices.

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Chunk the meat up and mix well with the onions and peppers. Liberally add spices to your heart’s content. Do not skimp on the chili powder and cumin. You can never have enough. I promise. Cover the lid and ignore that pot for about 5-6 minutes. Lift the lid and your meat will be cooked! Magic.

4.  Add the tomato paste and SPECIAL SPICES.


I know a lot of people who use tomato sauce in their chili. They’re wrong. We’re not making minestrone here, people. Stir the tomato paste until it coats the meat, and now is when we add the special biz.

Add a good heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder (trust me), a good heaping tablespoon of cinnamon (I promise), and add a nice coating from one end of the pot to the other of the ground chipotle (zomg). OH YEAH. Stir that biz in.

Let it cook for a solid 5 or 6 minutes, still at medium-high heat. We want to cook off most of whatever liquid we have left and let the tomato paste get a nice toasted flavor.

You’ll smell it when it’s ready.

You’ll know.

5.  Pour in the liquid gold.

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Not Velveeta! I swear, if you put Velveeta in this - -

Pour in a can or bottle of whatever blue-ribbon-winning beer you happen to have on hand. It will help to de-glaze the bottom of the pot, and it will make your chili damn good. Put the lid on and let that cook down for around 15 or 20 minutes. Stir it during commercial breaks.

6. Tomatoes, Beans, and Bay

Bay is bae IMAG0790

Add in your tomatoes, beans, and a bay leaf or two for your grandpa to find in his bowl. Stir it in, turn it down, and let it sit. Cook this for at least half an hour (more is better) on low heat. Stir it during commercial breaks, or when you get spawn-camped. I like to leave the lid cracked open so the steam can escape and the chili can reduce. The longer this cooks, the more liquid is released, and the better it tastes. What you’re eventually left with is a nice, thick chili with a smoky, deep flavor from the chipotle and chocolate – with a little spice kick from the cinnamon you won’t even consciously notice but will definitely appreciate.

7. Eat Dat Chili


Serve it up with some crackers, sour cream, and sharp cheddar. Eat like a king for a week.