Author Archives for mprest13

About mprest13

I am a professional at the University of Central Florida who likes entertainment, politics and sports.

Its time to bring back the test . . .

“A curious peculiarity of our memory is that things are impressed better by active than by passive repetition. I mean that in learning (by heart, for example), when we almost know the piece, it pays better to wait and recollect by an effort from within, than to look at the book again. If we recover the words in the former way, we shall probably know them the next time; if in the latter way, we shall very likely need the book once more.
– William James, 1890

I will be the first to admit it. I was a testing hater. When I first started teaching graduate level courses at the University of Central Florida I wanted to “test” the system and ban the information recall kind of evaluation in my classroom. I felt that it promoted memorization, was a lazy way to assess learning, and kinda made me less cool. So I assigned more group assignments, research projects, writing assignments, and other kinds of assessments of learning. Of course these all have their merits and I will continue to use them. But I have started to learn that a class without come recall assessment promotes laziness a bit. Continue reading

The 20 – Best Novelty Songs of All-Time

So the other day I was driving in my car and the song Do The Bartman come on the radio. It sent me to a moment in time. I knew then I had to do a countdown of the top 40 novelty songs of all-time. Here are the rules . . .

A novelty song is:

  1. A song that was made specifically to promote or advance something.
  2. Almost exclusively made by a group or act not looking for further fame or hits.
  3. Reminds you of a time gone by . . .
  4. People were kind of into it. It was a hit.
  5. Look, we all know what these look like okay . . .
  6. This list is not in order, but how I thought of them.

So here is the list.

20. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Elmo and Patsy

19. Monster Mash – Bobby Pickett

18. King Tut – Steve Martin

17. Who Let the Dogs Out – Baha Men

16. A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy

15. Super Bowl Shuffle – Chicago Bears

14. The Ketchup Song – Las Ketchup 

13. They’re Coming To Take Me Away – Napoleon XIV 

12. Star Wars Disco – Meco

11. Disco Duck – Rick Dees

10. Gangham Style – PSY

9. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie – Brian Hyland

8. The Macarena – Los Del Rio

7. The Chanukah Song – Adam Sandler

6. Basketball Jones – Cheech and Chong

5. The Curley Shuffle – Jump in the Saddle Band 

4. The Homecoming Queens Got a Gun – Julie Brown 

3. Jock Jams – ESPN

2. Barbie Girl – Aqua

  1. Cotton Eyed Joe – Rednex 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biggest Challenge.

So, this was my lunch today. From a calorie standpoint, not too shabby. 450 total calories and surprisingly low fat. It was actually quite yummy too. But deep down inside I know that these choices are killing me, slowly. Look, I have acknowledged that despite any of my best efforts I am certain to not be the first human to avoid death. It will happen someday. But I do plan to make my life as vibrant and complete as I can. So I need to make some changes. The first, most obvious place I can begin this transformation is through my diet.

Which is, in a word – horrible.

I am a fan of overly processed, salted, and carbo-loaded foods. Afterall, my lunch consisted of;

Shelf meat – my chicken breast and dressing had a best by date of July 2019!! Not to mention it is meat that can be stored on a shelf, at room temperature.

Flaming Hot Funyuns – I know they are irresistible but anything that starts in a powder form and turns into food cannot be good. And the sodium alone is terrible. Afterall I am taking blood pressure medication. Damn it, am I mental?

Oikos – I know Greek yogurt is good for you (I think) and this is likely not a bad choice in the long run but I have to think that cow’s milk is not for us. Not sure how I kick my cheese habit but I really don’t like milk anyway so that is a good thing.

So here is the plan. I have been looking over two major sources for dietary change. The first is the Slow Carb Diet by Four Hour author Tim Ferris. I like his approach of slower (no no) carbs, lean protein, and eliminating the sugar, salt, and other additives. I also appreciate the one major cheat day a week to find my food joy and keep me on task but not miserable.

The second is using many recipes from the Forks Over Knives website and meal plan. I think my best bet for variety and also systemic change is by looking at becoming a part-time vegan. I don’t plan on going all in because, well, BBQ and steak, on occasion are amazing and I just don’t buy the whole total vegan thing. But I do know I eat WAY too much animal protein. And I also know this is selfish. I am not really an animal rights guy because I am okay with meat consumption but I also know that we cannot sustain our planet if I am eating meat during 16 or 17 of my 21 meals a week. So I am going to try to flip that and consume meat maybe 3 or 4 meals of my 21 per week and find meat alternatives to fill in those gaps like beans, grains, tofu, and such. Go like 80% plant based foods.

There is one other reason why this appeals to me. I notice that I eat the same foods over and over again out of habit. This new way of consuming can add tremendous variety and force me to eat some new foods and in different ways. This struck me as important about a month ago when I ate a stuffed grape leaf at a dinner. Where have these tasty little things been my whole life? I never knew I liked them so much. There has to be other foods that I think or thought I did not like but now I love. What else is there out there!?

I also recognize that this could also mean savings for my wallet. By purchasing whole foods, making them in sizable batches and eating reasonably I can stretch my budget as my waistline hopefully shrinks. From time to time I will post on how my diet is going, the foods I am exploring and how I am doing.

Confessions of a Southern Gothic

Good evening. I am very likely at the mid-point in my life. I am 44 years old and if I am lucky I will make it to the same age as Adam West, who died today at 88 years old. Of course this is barring an intervention from Singularity or a confirmation that God is a real thing or there is some force I am not aware of that will allow me to exist beyond this brief time on earth. It is a little humbling to realize that I am half way home. That between myself and an eternal blanket of darkness is likely just 44 short, tumultuous years. It is both beautiful and places me in a harbor of anxiety and fear. I cannot believe I got here so fast.

But I have to admit this is an amazing life. I am a person who works in education for a living. I get to travel, think, and write for a living. I get paid pretty well. I live a solid middle class lifestyle and get the honor to be married to a beautiful woman who has been my wife for 20 years whom I met in college and fell in love with since moment one. We have a daughter whom we do not deserve because she is stunningly beautiful, smart, witty, funny, and caring. I live in a great community in a nice house with a beautiful back yard and it is in a safe and diverse town. So far, things have been pretty good.

Sure it was not always that way. I am a child of divorce, my father died 12 years ago from decades of substance abuse. My family did not come from money nor did they get classical educations. My mother has worked for too long and too hard but is now doing as well as she deserves. She is finally getting the respect that she should. I have seen 49 of the 50 states and have lived all over. But what I keep coming back to is that I am a southerner first.

And that is the point of this post and will be the point of this blog, from now on. I am a committed to the idea of being a Southern Revivalist. I believe that for my 44+ years left to be of value I need to rediscover my personal and regional roots and understand who I am as a man and a southerner. Just so you know, when I say Southern Revivalist I am not interested in the racist, hateful past of the south. I am not a Confederate. I believe that that south has a hurtful and shameful past that we must speak about in the open. I am a classic Southern Liberal who believes that we must own up to our past. But this blog is going to be about all of the things that make being a Southerner a wonderful thing. So I am going to revisit my personal history by exploring and learning how to do the following well. I will write about them on my blog. They are as follows:

  1. Food – there is a beautiful cooking culture in the south. A combination of African, French, English, and Latin roots this food is delicious and satisfying and should be refined and respected. I am going to learn how to make classic Southern food that reflects the entire region.
  2. Drink – from sweet tea to craft beer there are endless options and I want to enjoy most of them and let you know about it.
  3. Music – pretty simple, no South, no Music. Blues, R&B, Country, Rock, and Jazz were all born here. I will listen and write about them.
  4. Books – Southern writers are amazing. I will read their books and learn from them.
  5. Travel – There are so many beautiful towns from Charleston to Chattanooga there are great places to live, work, and play. I think it is important to visit them and learn from their history and culture.
  6. Education – s many great American universities are located in the south and there are so many options. As topics on education arise I will write about them from a Southerner’s perspective.
  7. Lifestyle – Being a Southerner is a matter of lifestyle including diet, exercise, gardening, football, basketball, politics, and other topics on being a true southerner.

I want to learn about where I came from. I want to be more connected with my past, my present, and my future. This shall be a labor of love. I have never been so aware of where and how I need to express myself and live my life. You don’t have to read it, you don’t have to like it, you don’t even need to know it exists but this blog is going to be a catalog of my Southern Gothic life. I will cook, listen, think, and work to better understand my roots and myself. Because I suspect outside some sort of medical miracle or just being wrong I will only be here for so long. I need to use that time to better understand who I am, and to catalog it.

Why the Twister Soundtrack is Damn Near Perfect

The movie Twister is 21 years old. Old enough to drink. I have to admit that it is one of my all-time favorite popcorn movies and is still in heavy rotation on channels such as TNT. The reason is simple. The acting is good enough and offers up an ensemble cast of characters who were both established, up and coming, that guy, and comeback? Actors like Helen Hunt in her first big role outside of Mad About You, Bill Paxton in his maybe fourth best role after Aliens, Titanic, and Weird Science. There was Phillip Seymour Hoffman in an early role, Cary Elwes (Wait? What?), Cameron from Ferris and that guy from The Single Guy. And who could forget Jami Gertz, brat packer and deliverer of the iconic line; “I can’t talk now, we got cows!” The movie had action, it had romance, it had Dorothy the tornado seeking robot. I love it!

I have to admit, what I love more than the movie is its near perfect soundtrack. If there ever was a 90s soundtrack this was it. Chock-full of original music from both up and coming and established artists it mirrored the movie in every way. The songs, as one would do in the 90s were featured throughout the movie but really this soundtrack can stand on its own. Here is a link to it on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/album/6nhPA9JUFlmBiFASeD3Esb

The soundtrack opens with a late Van Hagar track Human Beings and it is solid late 80s OU812 VH. Sammy Hagar is yelling, Eddie Van Halen is guitaring like he always does and it just sets the album on fire.

The second song is Virtual Reality by Rusted Root. This song not only featured the it hippie act of the day, Rusted Root of Send Me On My Way fame but also was a song about a thing we thought was going to take over the world at the time (it didn’t) certainly after Demi Moore just killed the idea in the trash movie Disclosure. While that movie was 1994, we still had some sense that was still a think in 1996.

Tori Amos gave the album maturity and 90s ballad sensibility with her song Talula. She was the soundtrack “it” girl of the 90s.

Perhaps my favorite song on the album was Moments Like This by Allison Krauss. It is a beautiful song about living in the moment and not letting go that introduced me to this amazing talent. It is the one song I cherish most that likely does not belong on this soundtrack because it is too good.

Darling Pretty by Mark Knopfler was great and a huge break from his Dire Straits music. He was coming into his solo own at the time and this was a great artifact of that. It sounded like Irish Dance music.

Not sure many of us remember how big Soul Asylum was for like a year but in 1996 they had a string of hits and their song, Miss This was vintage Soul Asylum. It was all parts Runaway Train and if oft forgotten and it shouldn’t be.

The other really “it” band of the time was the group Belly. Their hit Feed The Tree had gone to the top of the alternative charts and their song on the soundtrack Broken was slower but had the same bones.

The other song that did not belong on this Soundtrack was K.D. Lang’s Love Affair. Bottomline, this girl can sing! She has this vocal range and softness that you rarely find and the song is just beautiful sadness. I love this song so much.

The soundtrack just keeps going and going. There is new stuff that sounds like the old stuff by the Goo Goo Dolls (who, by the way, I went to see in Carbondale, Illinois in 1996. Bush and No Doubt were also on the bill.) The Red Hot Chili Peppers made a sold addition, Shania Twain did her thing, and even Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham added a song.

I will close this post by giving a shout out to Lisa Loeb. I truly think she is vastly underrated and this song is proof. How is beautiful and sweet and makes me smile. I just love this album. Take a listen, watch the movie, pop some popcorn and enjoy. It is so 90s you will freak out.

Why I am taking a Facebook Vacation . . .

So earlier today I announced a summer vacation from Facebook. I am planning on taking about 100 days off until Labor Day and then I plan on implementing new habits to stay social media slim. Here is a disquieting truth I had to face. I LOVE social media. I love debating people I don’t even know, I love posting, I love the endorphins from getting likes and shares, I even like it when haters come around. I love being in touch with so many friends past and present and I love how it is a chronicle of my life. But, alas, I sometimes like it too much. Quite frankly I just spent too much time using Facebook. So just like eating too much pizza or ice cream I needed a diet.

So now is the time. But what am i going to do with all of my newly found time and energy? I got some ideas. Here is my summer vacation bucket list.

  1. I want to get better at cooking. I think my daughter Caroline and I are going to start doing a lot more real cooking in the kitchen. Fresh food and taking our time. I am going to start on the New York Times cooking site and just start making things happen. https://cooking.nytimes.com/topics/what-to-cook-this-week?mcubz=1

  2. Write more. I want to write more for my profession but also get around to some personal projects. Like getting a lot of distance on my Preston Top 1,000 Album Reviews. I hope to spend at least one hour per day getting better at writing.
  3. Get back to my crossword puzzles. I loved doing them, they are fun. I should do them more. Period.
  4. Become a coupon person. I love saving money so I am going to dig deep into the Penny Hoarder website, clip my coupons, and check the sales and see if I can readjust our budget.
  5. Get back to spinning class. I love spinning class and I stopped going. I need to get back to it. I find it so much fun! And it might get me back in shape.

There are other things I want to do but these are the big ticket items. So, I know there are lots of doubters out there but this is pretty important to me. I hope I can stick to it. If I am successful I think there can be some real benefits and maybe I can learn to go back to Facebook without spending too much time. We will see. I am excited to see what is possible.

Sometimes Patience is the Hardest Part

In higher education it is not the lack of ideas that is a problem, its allowing the good ideas the space to grow and develop. Change in higher education is one that takes time, patience, and tremendous coordination. That is why when I get frustrated I try to find pioneers who have led the way to help me when I get frustrated. You see, I am the Executive Director of the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities. This is a small start-up with big dreams. We consist of Florida International University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Florida and we are working together to help more underrepresented students graduate more often, with less debt, and into higher paying jobs. We believe that while we are told to compete, compete, compete for limited state resources, for talented students, and for program prestige. The idea of educational collaboration is not usually seen as fruitful.

But this blog post is less about our journey and more about how do we get there from here. Well, we can look to our pioneers to see how patience paid off. Recently I watched a video for my higher education policy course that felt really showcased how hard change can be and what it takes to make it all happen. It was a video produced by The University of Illinois on Dr. Karol Kahrs, the first Women’s Athletic Director at the college. The video spans her over 30 years of work for Illinois and how they went from a budget of just over $60,000 and three sports to the top flight program it is today. I think there is a misconception that when Title IX was first implemented it just opened the floodgates for equal access. That is simply not true. It took years, decades. I think the Florida Consortium has a similar path. Its going to take years. So when I have set backs, when I don’t see a path forward, I just remember Dr. Kahrs. You can watch it here: