Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Energy Meat Bars, and Some Info About an Upcoming HWA Event

     A trend has started that I wasn't really aware of.  Both various types of meat jerky (usually beef, but sometimes others) and granola-type, fruit/grain/nut bars have been popular for quite a while, and will presumably continue to be.  But, some folks have evidently been clamoring for a combination of the two.  Something that contains the high protein of animal flesh with the carbs of a grain, constrained in a convenient, easy to carry and eat bar.  These meat energy bars are avidly consumed by both athletes and paleo dieters (see December 13, 2015 post for more information on this phenomenon).
     While shopping at the sublime Wegman's supermarket recently, I came upon some of these.  Alas, I was only able to get meat bars from one company--Epic, out of Texas.  Fortunately, though, at least they had several varieties--I ended up with four different kinds.  I had somewhat mixed feelings buying these,  On the one hand, my preferred breakfast and lunch while at work in the field is some kind of granola/cereal/fruit bar--they require no preparation, no utensils or plates, and are so portable I can stick them in a pocket and carry them around with ease.  On the other hand, I'm not a huge fan of preserved, jerkied, meats.  Some are okay, but many aren't.  Quite often they remind me unpleasantly of chewing on shoe leather which has had a ton of pepper dumped on it.  (One notable exception is Perky Jerky, which is made from turkey (and now a new beef variant that I haven't tried yet) and is somehow still enjoyably moist and not overly chewy.)
     Anyway, here's what I thought.  All of these Epic bars were 1.5 ounces (43 grams), and were billed as being 100% natural, whatever meat that was used.  Also gluten-free.  I'm using the usual U.S. scholastic system of rating--"A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as necessary.

Epic turkey/almond/cranberry bar.  150 calories, 6 g. fat, 14 g. protein, some calcium and iron: B.  Looks like a granola bar made out of meat.  Wet, greasy texture.  Mostly taste the turkey flavor, with lumps (the cranberries?) noticeable too.  Good.

Epic beef/habanero/cherry bar.  190 calories, 11 g. fat, 13 g. protein, some "B" vitamins: B-.  Darker in color than turkey kind.  Not as tasty.  Despite having hot peppers, wasn't that spicy.  Still pretty good, though.

Epic bison/bacon/cranberry bar.  200 calories, 12 g. fat, 11 g. protein, some iron and "B" vitamins: B+.  More of a sweeter taste (from the cranberries, presumably), which works for it somehow.  Perhaps the bacon is improving the flavor, too.

Epic chicken/sriracha bar.  100 calories, 4 g. fat, 15 g. protein, some calcium, iron, Vitamin B-12: A.  My favorite of the bunch--pleasant but not too much spice bite, chicken really nice.  Also the one with the lowest calories and fat yet highest protein of the four types.

     So, as you can see, I rather liked these.  Even the worst one was still pretty decent.  If you like jerky in general, you'll probably enjoy these as well.  One down side--they're pretty expensive, being $3-4 per bar.  But aside from that I do recommend them.

     Switching topics, the Horror Writers Association, to which I've belonged for nearly a year, is holding a Halloween-themed blog event during all of October. It's called Halloween Haunts, and consists of a special blog post every day of the month.  As with the Coffin Blog Hops I participated in from 2012-14, these posts will include information about the author's creative works, and will have some contests where readers can win books, etc.  One of my posts might be appearing on it (they haven't announced the full lineup yet).  I'll provide more detail in a few day.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Thai Sweets

     I'm labeling these foods as Thai because they were all made in Thailand.  However, it's a bit more complicated than that.  Of the two companies whose products I'll be discussing, one of them, Lotte, was started by a Korean man, Shin Kyuk-ho, while he was living in Japan.  The two main headquarters of Lotte are therefore in Korea and Japan.  The other one, Ezaki Glico, is a Japanese company.  But, clearly, both of these companies have manufacturing centers in other places, including Thailand.  I sampled the chocolate and green tea flavored biscuit sticks from Ezaki Glico, and the chocolate creme and strawberry creme cookies from Lotte.
     The Koala's March cookies from Lotte take this theme pretty strongly.  Each cookie has a (edible) drawing of a a koala bear on it, in various poses and moods.  Some are scuba diving, some gardening, some hula dancing, some sleeping, and their moods range from happy to pissed off.  (Some appear to be male, and others female, additionally.)  The company also supports the real animal, as they're part of the Australian Koala Foundation.  The company's name is not a Korean or Japanese word or person's name, but is short for "Charlotte," a character in Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther" (1774). which founder Shin Kyuk-ho was quite the fan of.  (Classic horror readers may recall that this book is one of the three that the Monster found, and learned from, in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," the others being Plutarch's "Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans" and Milton's "Paradise Lost.")  Returning to the cookies, alternate flavors include vanilla, honey, cafe latte, and banana.
     The Ezaki Glico company was a target of a bizarre terrorist group back in 1984-85.  First the president of the company, Katsuhisa Ezaki, was kidnapped, but managed to escape.  Then the company received letters from a person (or more likely, a group) billing themselves as "The Monster with 21 Faces" (after a character/group in the famous Japanese detective series written by Edogawa Rampo) threatening to put Glico products on shelves that were laced with deadly cyanide.  No poisoned confections were found, but the company lost an estimated $21 million when they were compelled to pull their products out of stores.  Further taunting letters were also sent to the police and the press.  Then, the group switched to the Moringaya candy company, and this time poisoned candy was actually found.  (Oddly, the tampered packages were marked, "Danger: Contains Toxins.)  No one died from these, but again, sales were clearly adversely affected, and people were understandably frightened.  Still other food companies also received threatening letters from this terrorist cabal.  Finally, a police superintendent, Yamamoto, evidently out of shame about not finding the group and bringing them to justice, committed suicide in an especially disturbing fashion, by self-immolation.  This seemed to placate The Monster with 21 Faces group, as after a final letter they stopped their communications and activities.  And they got away with it--good suspects were found to have airtight alibis,  Video footage was recovered of a man putting a poisoned package on a shelf, but he wasn't identified.  Another man was followed as he was acting suspicious near one of the ransom drops, but he also got away.  The statutes of limitations have since passed for all the group's crimes.  So kind of a Japanese version of the poisoned Tylenol scare in the Chicago area in 1982.
     But I've gotten off track.  Back to the innocent confections.  I'll once again use my typical ratings  based on the U.S. scholastic system--"A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, and "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as necessary.

Lotte's Koala March cookies, strawberry creme flavor: A-.  These cookies are small, and shaped like bow ties.  Very good,  They reminded me of similar flavored wafer cookies.

Lotte's Koala March cookies, chocolate creme flavor: B+.  Fairly similar to their strawberry sibling, a little less tasty.  But still better than average.

Ezaki Glico Pocky biscuit sticks, chocolate cream flavor: B.  These are skinny, rod-shaped sticks, with about 80% of the stick being covered in a chocolate coating.  Very good as well.  (It's hard to mess up a treat covered in chocolate, I guess.)

Ezaki Glico Pocky biscuit sticks, green tea flavor: C-. Looks like the chocolate kind, only mostly coated in green. Tastes like green tea, to the snack's detriment--I don't particularly like green tea, and thus this stick.  Also had a rather unpleasant, lingering aftertaste.

     I forgot to mention earlier, but other flavors of the Pocky sticks include milk, mousse, honey, coconut, and then some stranger ones--sweet potato, and corn on the cob.  Also, the kind with dark, bitter chocolate is called, "Men's Pocky."  (Which is an odd title to me, since I've known many women who prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, and bitter flavors in general, like IPA beers, maybe even more so than men.  But whatever.)
     So, to sum up, I liked the Lotte cookies, and would snap these up again, or additional flavors.  Don't think I'll buy the Pocky sticks again, unless it's another flavor (especially the vegetable-flavored ones, more out of morbid curiosity than actual interest.)
     If any readers have more detail on the "Monster with 21 Faces" case, I'd certainly be interested in hearing about them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Best Regular Season and World Series Hitting Pitchers

    Whenever you watch a National League Major League Baseball game (or an interleague game played in a National League city, or during World Series games in National League parks), you almost always see a rather pathetic sight--a pitcher trying to bat.  If there are men on first and/or second, they'll probably attempt to lay down a sacrifice bunt (and sometimes look helpless and awful even doing this).  Otherwise, they'll take their hacks, and the result is typically dreadful--terrible swings, often late, at pitches, or alternately, no swings at obvious strikes in the hopes of drawing a walk.  The overwhelming majority of pitchers are "easy outs," and in the rare instances when they get hits it's usually a big surprise.  Which is probably the main reason why the American League went to the designated hitter (or DH) in the 1973 season, to try to increase offense for ratings and fan interest.  This designated hitter bats instead of the pitcher, and doesn't play a defensive position.  In addition to all regular season games between two American League teams, the DH is used in interleague games in American League parks, and also in World Series games in American League parks.
     But, there are some pitchers who are average, or even good hitters.  Today I'd like to mention some of these guys, and include some records.  To do this, I looked at my copy of "The SABR Baseball List & Record Book," along with my Baseball Encyclopedia and the list of Silver Sluggers (this is the yearly award since the late 1970's which picks the best offensive players at all positions, including pitchers).  Also, I checked various articles online and checked the stats with   But statistics about pitcher's hitting prowess are a little spotty, so this list isn't necessarily comprehensive.  I welcome more info and opinions from any interested readers.
     Also, bear in mind that most sources don't separate hitting statistics achieved while pitching from those achieved during pinch hitting, except for most of the home run totals in the SABR book.  I've eliminated players who obviously played significant time at another position, but many of the pitchers mentioned here did pinch hit at least several times because they were so good at it.  I more or less arbitrarily came up with 200 at bats as a minimum for these records and lists.  Clearly, starting pitchers in the first half of the 20th century, and especially those before 1920 pitched way more complete games and innings, and also started more games period.  Meaning they then batted way more than most of their modern contemporaries.  Therefore, they have a distinct advantage in cumulative stats like hits, home runs, and rbi.  The flipside is that they had to bat effectively over many more at bats, meaning modern day pitchers may have an advantage in non cumulative stats like batting average, on base percentage, slugging, etc.  Pre-1900 pitchers pitched even more ridiculous numbers of games and innings, and the game itself was more different, with different rules, etc.  Therefore, I'm not including these players, with the exception of Cy Young, who played about half his career before 1900 and half after (1890-1911).  Judge his stats accordingly.  Finally, I'm just starting to get into more advanced stats, like WHIP and OPS, etc.  Some readers may prefer other, even more advanced and detailed statistics, which they feel may be more illuminating.  Hopefully I'll continue to progress on this front, but for now I'll stick with the more basic ones I'm familiar with.  But let's get to the guys with the following lifetime batting records, as best I can determine.

Highest batting average:  .289 George Uhle
                                         .283 Micah Owings
                                         .280 Wes Ferrell
                                         .275 Jack Scott
                                         .272 Les Sweetland
Highest on base percentage:  .351 Wes Ferrell
                                               .341 Les Sweetland
                                               .339 George Uhle
                                               .338 Don Newcombe
                                               .328 Schoolboy Rowe
Highest slugging percentage:  .502 Micah Owings
                                                 .446 Wes Ferrell
                                                 .406 Ken Brett
                                                 .389 Red Ruffing
                                                 .388 Carlos Zambrano
                                                 .386 Bob Lemon
Highest OPS+ (on base percentage plus slugging average, adjusted for time period, ballpark, etc 100 is average for a position player.)
                                                    106 Micah Owings
                                                    100 Wes Ferrell
                                                      95 Ken Brett
                                                      88 Schoolboy Rowe
                                                      87 Tim Lollar
Most home runs hit:  37 Wes Ferrell ( 1 more as a pinch hitter)
                                  35  Bob Lemon (2 more as a pinch hitter)
                                  35  Warren Spahn
                                  34 Red Ruffing (2 more as a pinch hitter)
                                  33 Earl Wilson (2 more as a pinch hitter)
                                  29 Don Drysdale
Most hits:   623 Cy Young
                   547 Walter Johnson
                   521 Red Ruffing
                   393 George Uhle
                   378 Grover Cleveland Alexander
Most rbi:   290 Cy Young
                  273 Red Ruffing
                  251 Walter Johnson
                  208 Wes Ferrell
                  190 George Uhle

     Now let's move to World Series hitting records by pitchers.  Single series ones first.

Most at bats: 18 Deacon Phillips, 1903 Pittsburgh Pirates (series was 8 games, best out of 9 games)
Most hits: 5 Jack Coombs, 1910 Philadelphia Athletics
Most runs: 3 (tie) Jesse Barnes, 1921 New York Giants, Dizzy Dean, 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, and Mudcat Grant, 1965 Minnesota Twins
Most doubles: 2 (tie) Dizzy Dean, 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, Marius Russo, 1943 New York Yankees, Murray Dickson, 1946 St. Louis Cardinals, Ken Holtzman, 1973 Oakland Athletics, Orel Hershisher, 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers
Most triples: 2 Dutch Ruether, 1919 Cincinnati Reds (bear in mind this was the infamous "Black Sox" scandal Series, so many of his opponents weren't playing their best!)
Most home runs: 1 (I'll list all 15, by 13 different players)
                   Jim Bagby, 1920 Cleveland Indians
                   Jack Bentley, 1924 New York Giants
                   Rosy Ryan, 1924 New York Giants again
                   Jesse Haines, 1926 St. Louis Cardinals
                   Bucky Walters, 1940 Cincinnati Reds
                   Lew Burdette, 1958 Milwaukee Braves
                   Mudcat Grant, 1965 Minnesota Twins
                   Bob Gibson, 1967 St. Louis Cardinals
                   Jose Santiago, 1967 Boston Red Sox
                   Bob Gibson, 1968 St. Louis Cardinals
                   Mickey Lolich, 1968 Detroit Tigers
                   Dave McNally, 1969 Baltimore Orioles
                   Dave McNally, 1970 Baltimore Orioles
                   Ken Holtzman, 1973 Oakland Athletics
                   Joe Blanton, 2008 Philadelphia Phillies
Most rbi: 4(tie) Dutch Ruether, 1919 Cincinnati Reds and Dave McNally, 1970 Baltimore Orioles (McNally hit a grand slam)
Batting average (3 at bat minimum) 1.000 Orel Hershisher, 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers (he went 3 for 3)

Now on to lifetime World Series hitting records by a pitcher

At bats: 49 Whitey Ford, all with the New York Yankees
Runs: 4 (tie) Ken Holtzman, Oakland Athletics, Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals, and Whitey Ford, New York Yankees
Hits: 9 Christy Mathewson, New York Giants
Doubles: 3 Ken Holtzman, Oakland Athletics
Triples: 2 Dutch Ruether, Cincinnati Reds
Home runs:  2 (tie) Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals and Dave McNally, Baltimore Orioles
Rbi: 6 Dave McNally, Baltimore Orioles
Batting Average, minimum of 10 at bats: .417 Jack Bentley, New York Giants
(5 for 12),
Slugging percentage, at least 10 at bats: .833 Ken Holtzman, Oakland Athletics
On base percentage, at least 10 at bats: .462 Jack Bentley, New York Giants

     Finally, I'd like to end with brief profiles of (arguably) the 20 best hitting pitchers, all time, not in order.  Some who just missed the cut were Mike Hampton, Carlos Zambrano, Gary Peters, Don Robinson, Rick Rhoden, Les Sweetland, and Jack Coombs.  "Slash" is batting average/on base percentage/slugging average, with OPS+ (adjusted OPS) and then home runs, rbi and total hits.

1) Wes Ferrell, 1927-41, with several teams, including the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.
     .280/.351/446, 100 OPS+, 38 home runs, 208 rbi, 329 hits.

2) Bob Lemon, 1946-58, with the Cleveland Indians.  Hall of Famer.
     .232/.288/386, 82 OPS+, 37 home runs, 147 rbi, 274 hits.

3) Red Ruffing, 1924-47, with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Chicago White Sox.  Hall of Famer.   .269/306/.389, 81 OPS+, 36 home runs, 273 rbi, 521 hits.

4) Earl Wilson, 1959-70, with the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, and San Diego Padres.
       .195/.265/.369, 76 OPS+, 35 home runs, 111 rbi, 144 hits.

5) Walter Johnson, 1907-27, with the Washington Senators.  Hall of Famer.
       .235/.274/.342, 76 OPS+, 24 home runs, 255 rbi, 547 hits.

6) Jack Harshman, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954-60, with four teams, including the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox.   .179/.294/.344, 73 OPS+, 21 home runs, 65 rbi, 76 hits.

7) Schoolboy Rowe, 1933-49, with the Detroit Tigers, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Philadelphia Phillies.
       .263/.328/.382, 88 OPS+, 18 home runs, 153 rbi, 239 hits.

8) Jim Tobin, 1937-45, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Braves, and Detroit Tigers.
       .230/.303/.345, 83 OPS+ 17 home runs, 102 rbi, 183 hits.

9) Don Newcombe, 1949-51, 1954-60, with several teams, mostly the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers.
      .271/.338/.367, 85 OPS+, 15 home runs, 108 rbi, 238 hits.

10) Micah Owings, 2007-12, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, and San Diego Padres.   .283/.310/.502, 106 OPS+, 9 home runs, 35 rbi, 58 hits.

11) Tim Lollar, 1980-86, with several teams, mostly with the San Diego Padres.
       .234/.286/.377, 87 OPS+, 8 home runs, 38 rbi, 54 hits.

12) George Uhle, 1919-36, with several teams, including the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers.
        .289/.339/.384, 86 OPS+. 9 home runs, 190 rbi, 393 hits.

13) Carl Mays,, 1915-29, with several teams, mostly the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
        .268/.313/.350, 82 OPS+, 5 home runs, 111 rbi, 291 hits.

14) Claude Hendrix, 1911-20, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and with 2 years in the competing Federal League.  .241/.275/.366, 86 OPS+, 14 home runs, 97 rbi, 222 hits.

15) Don Larsen, 1953-67, with several teams, most notably the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants.  .242/.291/.378, 81 OPS+, 14 home runs, 72 rbi, 144 hits.

16) Jack Scott, 1916-29, with several teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Braves.
       .275/.319/.354, 84 OPS+, 5 home runs, 73 rbi, 187 hits.

17) Sloppy Thurston, 1923-33, with several teams, including the St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox.    .270/.299/.383, 79 OPS+, 5 home runs, 79 rbi, 175 hits.

18) Ken Brett, 1967-81, with 10 teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals (also he was Hall of Famer George Brett's brother).    .262/.291/.406, 95 OPS+, 10 home runs, 44 rbi, 91 hits.

19) Dutch Ruether, 1917-27, with several teams, including the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees.   .258/.314/.335, 76 OPS+, 7 home runs, 111 rib, 250 hits.

20) Dontrelle Willis, 2003-11, with several teams, most notably with the Florida Marlins.
      .244/.319/.378, 75 OPS+. 9 home runs, 39 rbi, 95 hits.

     Oh, and one more bit of trivia, the record for home runs hit by a pitcher in a game was 3 by Jim Tobin (see profile above).
    So let the arguments begin, I guess.




Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Quenepas

     The local Shop Rite in New Jersey paid dividends once again.  While cruising through their rare and strange fruit section last week I came upon a new one--quenepas.  As with many other foods I've talked about in this blog, quenepas go by more names than a secret agent in a Cold War thriller.  Some of the fruit's aliases are Spanish lime, genip, chenet, limoncillo, skinip, and mamon.  Even, in a couple of places, ackee, which is very confusing, as to most people this refers to an entirely different kind of fruit (see January 16, 2014 post for more on the "real" ackee).  Nowadays quenepas are grown throughout South and Central America, Mexico, and various Caribbean islands.  Originally they hailed from parts of Northern South America.
     Quenepas are considered to be very healthy.  They have decent amounts of fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamins A and C.  Some alternative medicine folks credit them with being able to lower blood pressure and aid with asthma.  One site even mentioned that their lysine content would help with "proper growth and for preventing herpes."  (Which made me recall the safety strategy for the dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park."  Were these creatures especially susceptible to this disease?)
     Most people eat this fruit raw.  When ripe, of course.  (This is rather important, too, as websites noted that unripe quenepas are toxic.)  Consumers bite into one, breaking open the rind.  Then the inner pulp-covered seed is popped into the mouth, and the pulp essentially sucked off (one of the fruit's many names is a local word meaning, "to suck").  In Mexico chili powder and salt are occasionally added, to give the fruit some bite.  The juice is infamous for its brownish stain-causing attributes.  In fact, traditionally it was even used as a dye.  The seeds are edible, too, after drying and roasting, typically.
     The quenepas I bought were still on the vine.  They were small, dark greenish, somewhat shiny fruits, about the size of a cherry tomato (about 1 inch in diameter, or 2.5 cm.).  The pulp was a yellowish-orange in color, and soft and almost gooey in texture.  I did as was suggested and just popped the seed and pulp in my mouth after I bit it open.  Then I basically melted the pulp off the seed, which I then spit out.  (Given my severe aversion to cooking or food preparation I didn't even try to cook and eat the seeds--I threw them out.)  The taste was alright.  Fairly tart, with a mealy, crab apple-like texture.  But here's the thing--the seed is huge.  Like 80-90% of the space under the rind.  One would have to eat like 50 quenepas  to get a decent amount of the pulp.  All in all, I didn't find it to be worth the effort.  They were also quite pricey, being $2.99 a pound (my 7 individual fruits set me back about 50 cents).  Therefore, I don't think I get these again.  Maybe if I could buy the separated pulp or juice, I might consider it.  Although that would presumably be even more prohibitively expensive.

     On an unrelated pro football note, the Carson Wentz era starts in a few days for my Philadelphia Eagles.  Hopefully he's more like Donovan McNabb, or even Randall Cunningham, and less like Bobby Hoying or Brad Goebel.