Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Never in life...

...Have I seen such well spread bullshit from an ammo manufacturer... and that's really saying something (actually I'm not sure how much of this ad copy is from the manufacturer, and how much is from CTD):
"DRT is it the Most Accurate Ammo Ever?

This might be it, both in accuracy and terminal ballistics!
This ammo has been hush, hush for over four years. We saw it being tested at the Military Proofing grounds and everyone said, "that is not possible" after they saw the results! The DRT name stands for Dynamic Research Technologies, or as the guys shooting the M24 Sniper Rifles say, "Dead Right There"!

This ammo does the exact opposite of what you would expect. These rounds will shoot through a telephone pole, but it will not shoot through the average house cat. Here is the best part, these are ideal for crowd control, home defense, or close quarter combat, the bullet will hit the target and dissipate inside the target, killing them instantly without going through and injuring an innocent bystander.

How is that possible?
It is in the core. Totally different than anything on the market, a powder, not a solid lead blob, but a fine powder mixture.
Here is how it works;

If you filled a 55 gallon drum with a zillion number 9 shotgun pellets and then shot it out of some space age rail gun with the round spinning at 160,000 RPM, you would have a very deadly round. That is kind of what is happening but, then enters the dynamics of the fine powder! When it hits solid objects like a telephone pole, it stays together and passes right through. When the bullet hits a steel plate it leaves a hole that looks like a cutting torch was used.

The magic occurs on an Organic Target. The fine powder is as fine as talcum powder. When it contacts the organic target, the powder is spinning at such a high rate it instantly disperses, creating a crater in the target resulting in Instant Death. The wounds are typically 5" deep and 5" wide. A full 100% energy dissipation as the bullet totally disappears to invisible dust. Even a .50 caliber round will not penetrate a deer.

The accuracy comes from two attributes; First is extreme attention to detail in the manufacturing process, much greater then even handloads. Second has to do with the powder core. Solid lead cores are never perfect, they are off center or not symmetrical and when spun at 160,000 rpm, they fly off course and then at 1,000 meters your groups never get much better than 10". With the powder core, the material finds its center when spinning, improving the accuracy. Besides, this fine powder is heavier than lead, so a standard weight projectile is smaller offering a lower wind profile and enhanced accuracy.

So guys, this is it. The most accurate ammo we have ever seen; and the most deadly. We have been asked not to tell stories of this ammo being used in the big sand box, but the stories are getting out and the unheard of results have increased demand for this one of a kind - the only ammo you ever need to own, DRT ammunition.

Demand is tight and we only have a few boxes of DRT Ammo to sell."
Ok, aside from the hyperbole, the technology they are talking about is blended metal (which they insist is not sintering, but in reality it pretty much is); and it does work to an extent.

What they do is take a mixture of very fine powdered metals, mix it with a binder of some kind, then form it under extremely high pressure and moderate temperature; to produce a semi-solid mass... like a sandcastle with a little glue mixed in to keep it from blowing away.

When the blended metal bullet impacts a hard surface, the mass remains compacted because it is in effect a non-newtonian fluid (technically it's a colloidal suspension. The metal is suspended in the binder matrix, much like cornstarch and water, where when you slap it hard and fast it feels solid).

When the bullet hits something less rigid however; like other non newtonian fluids, it will act like a standard liquid and disperse... in this case rather rapidly, and the energy has to go somewhere.

So, yes, it is an effective technology within its limits. It is however unproven (sorry guys, the stuff has only been around like 10 years, and not very much of it has hit the field, that's still unproven in the ammo world).

As to the claim of it being "instant kill" and "deadliest in the world", that's total bullshit. Yes, you get a substantial energy dump when the round disintegrates; but it's a shallow (though large) wound cavity; and there are no secondary wound track because the dispersing powder has effectively no mass.

This wounding mechanism CAN produce a very effectively disabling wound, however it can also produce a very messy and painful wound that leaves an assailant fully functional; even with good shot placement. Also, the very design of the round means that it will not break bone under any significant amount of flesh, nor will it penetrate very deeply after punching through bone.

This means that you can forget about the heart as a primary target area. What you want to do here is go for the liver, kidneys, and diaphragm, or the head (it should punch through the bone, and then disrupt the brain quite thoroughly). You MAY get a good disrupting hit on the heart from shock; but you wont get deep penetration to perforate the muscle.

Also, the technology behind it has nothing to do with accuracy; in fact it is more difficult to make a very accurate rifle round with this process (frankly for pistol rounds the kind of tolerances were talking about don't matter much).

Oh and did I mention they are EXPENSIVE.

Obviously there is a lot more materials science and manufacturing technology going into making these bullets. Also the manufacturers (there are only two that I know of... maybe only one, operating under two names even) know they have a very short window of opportunity to maximize their profit before the stuff is no longer the "revolutionary new" and before someone commoditizes the process... and that's presuming it proves to be worthwhile after all is said and done; which is a pretty big, and not very safe presumption.

So, if you want to sell me some, great; I'd love to test it out, even if it is VERY expensive (actually one of the manufacturers offered me the chance to do a factory test a few years ago, but I wasn't able to work out the details.); but please stop trying to dazzle me with mall-ninja bullshit.

Honestly, this ad sounds like the guy down the end of the bar who was totally a SEAL but his records were destroyed and he can't talk about it "but trust me, we used this ammo in asscrackistan and it blew guys legs clean off".

Yeah, you don't want to sound like that guy.

The Gun Counter

So... big day today...

This morning, Kim and Connie DuToit announced that they would be "retiring" from blogging (does it count as retiring if it isn't a job or a sport?) on November 30th.

Well, I'll be sorry to see them go. I'll certainly miss seeing Kims wit employed on a daily basis, against those who deserve it most.

...But that's not why I'm busy right now.

As part of their retirement, the DuToits will also be closing down the gunthing.com forums; which I have been a member of since the day they opened (I wrote the 4th new topic posted) jsut over four years ago.

I've had the pleasure of moderating the forums for most of the past four years. I was the first moderator that Kim and Connie tapped, when it was still directly attached to Kimdutoit.com. I was the sole moderator for about a year, then we re-organized as the Nation of Riflemen forums, and I was joined by CombatController and 308Mike. Finally we split the Naation of Riflemen off into a separate site, focused on educating new shooters; and continued the more random forum as the gunthing.com forums; soon after which, Randy joined us as a moderator.

I think that in those four years, we've built the best internet community I've ever been a part of. I've made more friends from this group of people than at any other time in my life except the Air Force; and I've met more great folks through our community than at any other time and place in my life.

I'll be very sad to see the gunthing.com forums close down.

Thankfully, many of the members of the gunthing community don't want to see it go away. We've formed a tight knit community, and we'd like to keep it together. So, I, and the other current moderators of the gunthing.com forums, CombatController, 308Mike, and Randy; will be opening, and running a new community site, forum, and wiki, for the members of the gunthing; and for anyone else who cares to join, is interested in the community, and is willing to follow the (pretty simple) rules.

Let me be clear, this new site is only affiliated with the gunthing.com in that we will share some members. theguncounter.com is not owned, operated, or affiliated with the DuToits in any way, nor do they endorse it etc... They said they were retiring, they meant it.

Also let me say how thankful I am to the DuToits for initiating this community, and for supporting and helping to build and maintain it over the years. They've done me personally, and I think the gun world as a whole, a great service.

Well, I guess it's time to get our butts in gear then isn't it.

When the gunthing.com forums were first split off from the Nation of Riflemen site; we sort of chartered oruselves as a place where people could go and talk about... well, all the things that you would talk about standing at the counter in your local gunshop... except without the tactical tommies, and the nosales people (if you don't know what either of those are, you really do need to join our community).

I thought that gun counter metaphor was a pretty good one for the kind of community we've formed. It really captures the type of talk we do... A bit of bragging (not too much), a bit of joking, a bit of pride in our toys and our kids, and our hobbies and adventures ... and a WHOLE HECK OF A LOT OF ARGUING... In a good natured way of course.

So, we've registered theguncounter.com (as of 7/29/08 just a placeholder), and over the next few days and weeks, we will be building the site to host our community.

As of right now, we aren't looking for any money; and hopefully we won't ever need to. The hosting is being generously provided by CombatController, who happens to own a small ISP. I'll be doing the primary administration work (yeah... I've got time for that... somewhere... it's not like I sleep), and the current moderators of the gunthing.com forums will be moving to theguncounter.com as moderators.

At some point, we may be asking for some time from some folks; to try and get some content or formatting and themes generated; and we've already got several volunteers.

Thanks guys, we definitely appreciate it, and when we're ready we'll come calling.

Right now though, what we need from you is patience while we get things up and running. It can be fiddly business building a community site that is secure, robust, functional, and attractive.

In the mean time, the gunthing.com forums will be up and running until the end of November, and we're still partying on over there (or is it ranting on... or maybe doddering on... I get confused sometimes).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Household Appliance

There has been a serious deficiency in our household for the past couple months.

For the past few years, I've had a lovely little Marlin 880sq; a heavy barreled target .22 boltie, with a low powered fixed scope, and a reasonably comfy synthetic stock.

Sweet shooter, if a little muzzle heavy; as you would expect with a heavy barrel and synthetic stock. Of course that just made it more stable; and it was very nice off a rest or a bipod.

I say was, though that is inaccurate; it still IS a sweet shooter, but it's no longer MY sweet shooter.

Really, it was only temporarily mine in the first place. A few years ago, Kim was selling off some of his guns, and I bought it (and a 625) from him; with the proviso that whenever he felt like it he could buy it back.

Well, in March or April, he dropped me a line to say "hey, whenever you can arrange it, I'd love my marlin back"; and in May, I sent it on its way to him.

This unfortunately left us without any kind of .22 rifle; a critical household deficiency indeed.

This weekend, we corrected that deficiency, with one of these (Big 5 had them on sale for $60 off list):



Yes yes I know, everyone and their grandmother has a 10/22... which is kind of why we got one actually; because they are so popular, there's so much stuff for them. Everyone has parts, everyone makes accessories, everyone knows how to use them, work on them etc....

Fact is, there isn't a semi-auto .22 out there I'm particularly fond of and the boltie I want is a bit steep at the moment (a CZ452 lux, at around $400, plus optics, a new barrel, and trigger work). Since there is no particular model that meets exactly what I want, out of the box, and the 10/22 is the AR of the rimfire world, might as well have a go. Want a better barrel, done. Trigger, a snap. Stocks? Whooo boy do they have stocks.

In fact, I've already started customizing... Right now, there's already optics on the gun. Bass pro had a nice price (same as SWFA actually) on the Nikon Prostaff scopes, so I grabbed a set of QD rings, and this:


It's the Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40; in matte black, which I think looks better in contrast to the stainless, than a silver would matching it.

Honestly, it's more glass than I need, even if I put a match barrel and trigger on the rifle. The problem is, trying to find a decent, reasonably priced, fixed power scope of medium power and medium size these days, seems damn near impossible.

I wanted more than a 4x... I was hoping for a 6x42 actually; but other than expensive tactical scopes, and pistol and muzzleloader specific scopes (who needs a fixed 6x pistol scope?), I couldn't find one.

So, I made what I hope was the next best choice, and went for the 3-9x40. It's nice and clear and bright up through 7 power; with just a LITTLE bit of light falloff at 8-9 power; but it maintains good sharpness throughout.

Now, one of the reasons I also went with the 10/22, is because I've already got an E.R. Shaw threaded 10/22 barrel on the way (through Tactical Innovations); and I didn't have to pay an outrageous amount for it, or wait three months (have you tried getting a gun smith to do any small work lately? Best of luck friend). My barrel should be here before the weekend; and I hope to be able to take it out next weekend to test with my .22 suppressor.

Believe me, there's not much more fun to be had shooting, than with a semi-auto .22, heavy subsonic rounds, and a suppressor.

I've also ordered the standard extended mag catch, bolt buffer, and automatic bolt release; now I just need to pick out a stock, and decide what I want to do with the trigger.

I'm not sure exactly what I want yet, and basically everybody makes 10/22 stocks; but I'm kinda thinking something like this one from Clark Custom (the top one):


I may even splash out on one of Clarks barrels; though they DO have an eight week minimum lead time if I want one threaded (I called and asked), and they charge $75 on top of the $225 for the barrel... which is quite frankly a bargain considering you're getting a really great barrel, worked PROPERLY. Besides, Lilja, Volquartsen and Shilen want even more for their barrels (unthreaded); and I'm not convinced you're getting more.

Now the trigger... I'm really not sure. Volquartsen, Clark... lots of other for that matter; all do trigger, sear, hammer etc... and a couple do drop in triggers (Kid, JARD, others). At this point, I'm really not sure who to go with.

The factory trigger isn't totally awful, it's pretty crisp, without any creep or stack; but it has a distinct step or hitch in the pull just before release that I really dislike (it's typical of Rugers machining though). Also, I'd estimate the weight at 6lbs; though I haven't had a chance to get my trigger scale on it. For a .22 rifle, I'd consider anything above two pounds excessive.

Anyway, I'll have pictures and a review up as soon as I pick out and fit the rest of my parts; because after all, who needs just another 10/22 review? At least my review should be of the stuff that makes mine slightly different.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Most Useful Thing I Have Ever Seen on Video



The person who gave this lecture, is an amazing, brilliant, inspiring man; who I would have felt honored to have as a professor. I've had some good ones, and I'm lucky for it; and from what I can see he was one of the best.

I say was, because earlier today, Randy Pausch succumbed to the cancer that he mentioned early in this video.

Several sites have linked to his now famous "Last Lecture" today; a 76 minute talk he gave after he found out about his illness... basically on the subject of how to live your life. Originally I hadn't wanted to post it here, because it WAS everywhere else today, but I've changed my mind; and I'm going to embed it here as well.

I'd watched it when it was first released to the internet some time back, and it is a really great talk. Listen to the man for he knows that which of he speaks.



However, I think that in terms of pure utility, the first video I embedded; has to be the most useful presentation on time management and organization, that I have ever seen (and unfortunately, that's not a small number)... Certainly it's the most fun, and the most interesting.

Watch them both. Yeah, they're long, but there is no question they are worth it.

Oh and just for us gunnies, take a good look at the mans belt.

An unfortunate casualty in the battle to keep the boys refreshed

When it's 106 and 40% humidity out, certain measures must be taken to avoid... Chafing of the delicate bits shall we say. However the following things should NEVER be associated with each other: gold bond green, and the human eye.

Yeah.... That sucked.

Don't ask.

Really.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Damn busy

Ok, so I know I promised y'all some yummy yummy content this week; and I've got some coming, I've just been too crazy busy to write it all up.

So far this week I've had 28 meetings; and it's only mid way through Thursday. And hey, some of those meetings were even useful... not many, but at least some.

So, I've got a post on building a hackintosh, a post on building a home NAS, backup, and media server setup, and an iPhone review coming. I just need to get the time to finish them up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Comic Books, Superheros, Lovem or Hatem, See Dark Knight

Because it's just a damn good movie.

I'm not going to be able to write much of a review here without spoilers, so I'll keep it brief. I've heard people saying this is the best comic book movie ever, or the best superhero movie ever... and I disagree with both of those (those are a tossup between "Sin City", and "300"; and "Iron Man" respectively) but only just off the mark in either case.

The important thing to note though, is that whether you like comic movies and superheros, or hate them; if you like good movies (as opposed to "fine cinema") you're going to like Dark Knight.

Note perfect performances; the only problem being, there are so many great characters there, that there isn't enough screen time for any of them (including the two leads by the way)... In fact I'd say the real star of the pic is Gery Oldman as Gordon, rather than Christian Bale.

There were only two plot devices, one that showed up twice, the other just once; that made me hit my suspensions of disbelief wall... which for a superhero movie is pretty damn good by the by. One was simply overly and unnecessarily complex and elaborate, and unnecessary to use when they did (being cool for coolness sake is somtimes OK; this time it didn't work); and the other made me yell out in the theater "Damn... physics just got made batmans bitch".

There are some DAMN good twists... not exactly completely unpredictable (especially if you know the comic), but very well executed.

Oh and a semi-almost-kinda-littlebitofa spoiler here for just a second. For those of you upset about a particular twist... Remember, there was no body, and the joker is twisted enough to have done any sort of thing... so don't count on what you saw being what you saw.

So, seriously, just go see it. At two and a half hours, it was still too short. I could've at for another half hour and not cared... maybe another hour... it was that good.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama, Jesus Christ, or Marilyn Monroe... I can't tell who they're talking about

McCains campaign just released this great little video:

Sadly, not far from the truth

From Andy Borowitz, via Yahoo News:

"Saying he is "sympathetic to late night comedians' struggle to find jokes to make about me," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) today issued a list of official campaign-approved Barack Obama jokes.

The five jokes, which Sen. Obama said he is making available to all comedians free of charge, are as follows:

Barack Obama and a kangaroo pull up to a gas station. The gas station attendant takes one look at the kangaroo and says, "You know, we don't get many kangaroos here." Barack Obama replies, "At these prices, I'm not surprised. That's why we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

A traveling salesman knocks on the door of a farmhouse, and much to his surprise, Barack Obama answers the door. The salesman says, "I was expecting the farmer's daughter." Barack Obama replies, "She's not here. The farm was foreclosed on because of subprime loans that are making a mockery of the American Dream."

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" Barack Obama replies, "His jockey just lost his health insurance, which should be the right of all Americans."

Q: What's black and white and red all over? A: The Barack Obama issue of New Yorker magazine, which should be embarrassed after publishing such a tasteless and offensive cover, which I reject and denounce.

A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, "This joke isn't going to work because there's no Muslim in this boat."
Award-winning humorist, television personality and film actor Andy Borowitz is author of the book "The Republican Playbook."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Seriously Exhausted

So since Friday I've only had about 8 hours of sleep total. I've been building systems and playing with the iphone and taking pictures etc.... all weekend, and I'm going to be writing it all up shortly.

...But for now, I need to sleep. Really really need to sleep badly. Seeyas all tomorrow.

Fuck You Democrats

Iraq is so dangerous, and the surge has failed so desperately that Fallujah now has a KFC.


FALLUJAH, Iraq – Only a short time ago the city of Fallujah served as stronghold for insurgents. Daily skirmishes, improvised explosive device detonations and public unease made operating a business in the city very difficult.

Today, with improved security throughout the region, the low price of 4,000 dinar, or $3.50, will purchase a full meal at the recently established Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Hey Al Dubat area of the city.

The KFC is the first to open for business in the city. Before improved conditions in the city, insurgents threatened business owners, demanding money to support acts of terrorism.

After a quick visit to the Fallujah Business Center during routine operations July 16, Marines with Regimental Combat Team 1’s Security Platoon and with Information Operations, talked with employees at the franchise to evaluate its success.

“We stopped to check up on the KFC to see how things were going,” said 1st Lt. Michael C. Bryant, platoon commander with Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, RCT 1. ”You can tell that the area is returning to normal, especially when you see fast food places in the area doing so well.”


I foresee much of their profits coming from soldiers and contractors, and a welcome infusion of capitalism to the region.

Mel

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If I were a woman I’d be pretty PO’ed as it appears that “secular progressives” within America have succeeded in making young women known and appreciated only if they’re a mud flap girl, a veritable catch rag for our orgasm-obsessed Onans. The empowered woman of today, dad, is the girl who wears a Hustler T-shirt, will strip on command and has no problemo whatsoever in turning her vagina into a Jiffy Lube. Good job, you secular “progressive” weeds."


Doug Giles, "Fathers: Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Britney"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

JohnOC once asked me...

Why I like the tv show "The Big Bang Theory" so much.

My short answer? Because I KNOW these people.

For example, Sheldon in the nameless big box electronics store bears quite a resemblence to Chris at Best Buy, Costco, and Fry's Electronics:



I've lost count of the number of hours I've spent looking at random stuff in a store because Chris has run into someone who needs his help (Fry's is the absolute worst for this of course).

Then of course there were all the guys I hung around in high school (and hang around with today.

I've been put in Penny's situation before:


This is entirely too believable to me:


Of course not all of the best clips are on youtube yet. For example, the scene at the end of Episode 2 where the guys "improve" the entertainment center they are assembling for Penny... let's just say the engineers around me come to mind.

If you are at all geeky (and most of our readers are) I can't recommend "The Big Bang Theory" highly enough.

Mel

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yeah... That Just About Covers It

Been There, Done That

Dammit, I'm not done yet

...with various pieces I'm writing, and various tasks I'm performing that I'll be writing about that is.

I promised a piece on building your own NAS box today (since people have been asking me for one for months), but I didn't get around to actually building the box today, so I can't exactly write about it.. Well I could since I've done it... Oh I dunno a couple hundred times maybe? But it wouldn't be as interesting as writing about what I'm actually doing right then... but anyway.

Tomorrow, we will have had our iPhones for a week. I was originally going to post a review immediately, but I decided on Friday afternoon to give it a few days, so I could live with the phone for a while.

Anyway, That'll be out tomorrow, mid morning or so I hope.

I'm planning on building the NAS box tomorrow, and writing it up over the weekend to be published on Monday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A bit of Windows MetaGeekery


What you're looking at is a picture of my desktop from a little while ago.

What you see here is my desktop (a tri boot Windows Vista, Linux, and Hackintosh) with a GoToMyPC session running to my father in laws PC 90 some miles away (we built him a whole new office network this weekend and he needed some software support), an UltraVNC session to my laptop (in the same room as me) with a virtual image of my work PC running.

What you can't see here (since this is a windows post) are the Solaris and linux VMs that are also currently running on two of these computers, the SSH session to my other Linux box, or the web session to my storage and archive server (a linux based appliance, now doing duty at my father in laws hangar - he's an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic).

I've got to build (and have the hardware sitting and waiting for me to do so) a new storage server (post about that coming tomorrow), and a dedicated hackintosh.

Reminding me thereof, what do people use for remote desktop with their Macs?

At any rate, I'm running 8 boxes from this one login right now (all but two of them in the room with me)... and I suppose I could do like 12, counting just my personally owned systems (obviously I don't count the many many work and customer systems that I could be remotely accessing).

Some Theme Music

From the inimitable, irrepressible, incorrigible, irreplaceable, Joe Bethancourt:

Hmmm... Pithy


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Waterfalls

Beautiful in nature... not so much in your utility closet; though honestly we're talking more like cascading sheets than so much a "fall".

Lemme splain...

First, for those not in the know about our local climate; here in AZ we are generally among the driest climates in the world; however for two to six weeks twice a year (in the spring and fall), we have generally quite heavy daily rain, and thunderstorms.

This we call our "monsoon"; and while certainly nothing in comparison to the south Asian phenomenon from which it draws its name, we can see a few weeks at 85% relative humidity, and some days receive as much as 8 inches of rain (and two inches is not uncommon).

Just as an example, as I am typing this, it's just before 9am, just under 90 degrees, and about 60% relative humidity outside (and quite cloudy). Three weeks ago, before the start of the current trend line, this same time of the morning would have seen somewhere between 100 and 105 degrees, and between 5% and 15% humidity.

Thankfully due to the wonder of air conditioning, my office is a lovely and cool 72 degrees and 36% relative humidity.. technically, just about perfect for an office environment given the electronics etc...

So I've mentioned before, I live in a 55 year old house, poorly insulated with original doors and windows (yes I'm working on changing all that); and as of last September, a new but undersized ( for the house, area, and insulation level - thank you home warranty company, who ONLY size by the square foot without considering any other factors) air conditioning unit.

Basically the AC runs 24/7 from May through September (with the old AC unit it was from April through October) ; and some time in June we turn on our supplemental in wall unit. We also have a third portable unit we can wheel out if we need to.

Yup, we take our AC seriously here.

We had our ducts and air handler cleaned and sanitized last month; one, just because they were all crudded up and needed it badly; but also because we knew the monsoon was coming, and we wanted to have the thing cleaned out and sanitized when the humidity hit, to avoid mold problems (the dust is REALLY bad here, and it carries heavy loads of mold spores. Any humidity or dampness anywhere, and there's mold INSTANTLY).

Unfortunately, over the last few weeks, since before we had our ducts cleaning in fact, the AC performance has been poor. It just hasn't been keeping up. Since this is our first year with this AC unit, and the old unit was far worse; we just assumed that it was because the unit was undersized and the house was under insulated. Doing the duct cleaning helped a bit, as airflow and air quality improved significantly; but the air just wasn't as cold, nor was there as much of it as we would have liked.

As the humidity has increased, this problem has become worse. This is of course to be expected, because the AC has to work harder as the humidity increases; but I was starting to suspect something was wrong.

Also as the humidity increased, I started seeing some condensation on our tile floors. This is normal for this house; having a tile floor that can be 20+ degrees cooler than the surrounding air, right in front of the poorly insulated closet where the AC air handler unit sits. It seemed there was an excessive amount of it this year however.

Well, last night, as I went to bed, I noticed the airflow out of the AC ducts... or rather I noticed the almost total lack of it.

I figured the air filter had clogged up (it was brand new a month ago, btu as I said, we have a severe dust problem here), and went to check it. I shut the AC and fan off, and the first thing I heard was the sound of flowing water. Now a little tiny trickling is normal when you turn the AC off on a very humid day, condensation being what it is; but this was no trickle., It sounded like a babbling brook.

The next think I noticed now that the roar of the AC unit was gone, was the tiles in front of the AC closet went "squish" when I stepped on them.

Tiles are not supposed to go "squish".

Awww crap.

So I opened up the AC closet; and the air handler unit is sitting in about 1/2 inch of water.

Oooh boy.

I pop off the covers, and water is just POURING down the insides of the air handler; and pooling up anywhere it can; making little waterfalls inside my climate control system.

Nowhere near as pictureseque as they are in nature; especially when live AC lines are submerged.

When I changed the filter after the duct guys came, I noted there was a little moisture around; but it wasn't a huge, or abnormal amount. Well, since then not only ahs the amount become abnormal, but apparently it's been there long enough to grow algae. Oh yes, this water was slimy.

So of course I unplugged the air handler immediately, and grabbed my wet dry vac.

I should note, this is at about 1am by the way.

I sucked out what standing water I could, sprayed the whole thing down with dilute bleach, and started checking for leak sources.

Hmmm... not so much sopurces as one big general leak really. Every seam of the air hundler had water seeping from it.

I felt up the heat exchanger duct work, and instead of being flexible and hollow; and slitghtly cool, it was icy, and absolutely rigid.

Oooh boy fun.

In the humidity, my heat exchanger had not only built up an ice dam, the whole thing WAS an ice dam. Seriously, the entire 2 cubic feet was one big ice cube.

No wonder there was no airflow.

Next step, check and see why the condensation drain isnt draining. I snaked it up from the outside, and it was clear, so I had to get my recip out and cut the air handler end; and there was nothign but a trickle coming out the drain.

AH HAH.

I slid my snake in there, and in just a few inches I pushed through an obstruction and water started GUSHING out the drain like a faucet.

Thankfully I had my wet dry vac right there, and I started sucking that water out, while I I finished snaking. Then I went around and closed all the vents but one, kicked the furnace on to high, and held the vac on the end of the condensation drain for a full half hour; actually having to empty the vac in the process.

Yes, it filled my shop vac. Actually it almsot filled it twice.

Once the giant ice cube had melted, and the whole house was up to 80 degrees and 80% humidity (not quite that bad but almost) I temporarily reconnected the air handler to the drain line with duct tape, and switched the AC on; setting it for a temperature I was sure it wouldnt be able to get down to, just to make sure it ran continuously to clear things out.

I also set up one of our big Patton fans, on high (which could lift Sally Field off the ground), and opened all the AC vents (we usually leave a few of them closed) to circulate air through the house.

Turns out I was wrong.

At 6:54 this morning, my AC unit shut off by itself for the first time since April. It was 86 degrees outside, and 56 degrees inside.

That ice dam must have been building for months, and because we were so used to the old AC units performance we didn't notice how poorly the new one was performing.

Now we just need to deal with the water damage... tiles aren't supposed to go "squish" when you step on them, remember?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Few Quick Movie Reviews

I realized that we've been remiss in posting reviews of the movies we've been to recently. For the most part sheer laziness is to blame (well... sheer laziness, AND a lot of "life stuff" and "work stuff")

So, just some quick hits.

  1. Kung Fu Panda:

    Best animated kids movie I've seen since "The Incredibles". Fun every minute, attention grabbing, beautifully animated without drawing attention to the animation. Yes, the story is cliched, but actually, that in itself is a bit of geeky metahumor, as an homage to classic Kung Fu movies.

    Also, the voice acting was great. Dustin Hoffman was BRILLIANT, and Jack Black was fun, and funny, without being irritating.

  2. Wanted:

    This is without a doubt the best gun movie since "Equilibrium". Is it ridiculous? YES! But in a good way.

    The stunts are definitely over the top, but it fits with the rest of the movie, the style and the substance; and it all works. Jolie is great, in an atypically understated and quiet kind of way, and James McAvoy was great fun to watch, as he goes from Tobey Maguire to Jason Statham over the course of the picture. Oh and a couple of real fun "Tyler Durden" moments.

  3. Get Smart:

    Funny, sweet, action packed, very human, never sappy or irritating. Steve Carrel and Anne Hathaway were damn near perfect . They didnt try to replace Don Adams and Barbara Felden, so much as to respect and honor them. Some of the writing (especially the pacing) could have been a bit better, bit the chemistry, wit, and performances made up for it.

    Out of this list, if you arent a comic book fanboy, this is the movie I'd see.

  4. The Hulk:

    Nowhere near as good as Iron Man, but fitting in with the Marvel universe very well. Edward Norton was Edward Norton (sweet, "complicated", sarcastic, wry etc...), Liv Tyler was Liv Tyler (think "Armageddon"). The bad guys are VERY VERY BAD AND EVIL, the good guys... Well, there really aren't any good guys, except in relation to the bad guys.

    I'm making it sound worse than it is; it's a good movie, worth seeing, but neither a great movie, nor a great comic book movie. It's really more of a setup for the expanded Marvel universe movies coming over the next three years.

  5. Hancock:

    Holy crap this was a fun, and funny movie. There were moments when I was literally reduced to tears of laughter, as was the whole theater with me.

    Will Smith was completely perfect; managing to mix humor, with anger, and loss, and grit... GREAT performance. At first I thought Batemans performance was a bit awkward.. more shades of "Arrested Development" than what it should have been, but over time his character grew on me.

    I wasn't too impressed with Charlize Theron here; I felt she was a bit one dimensional, both in writing and in performance. Not entirely her fault, but Smith and Bateman did a good job with equally one dimensional characters.

    The only real problem with the movie is a lack of depth. Most people went into this movie presuming that it was based on a long standing but obscure comic book (as "Wanted" was for example). In fact, the movie was written as sort of an excercise "what would you write, iif you were to write a comic book movie from scratch, without any source material". So, you end up with a lot of potential there, that is wrapped up a bit neatly, and left unexplored.

    Some critics found this aspect of the film disappointing enough to review it poorly. I say, treat the film as a traditional short form science fiction story (which is basically what it is), and you'll love it. Expect too much out of it... well, this isn't exactly "The Dark Knight Returns".

  6. Hellboy II:

    Don't let what I'm about to say put you off this movie...

    I was disappointed.

    Don't get me wrong, I really liked it. The movie was beautiful, and fun, and exceptionally well acted by the leads. Ron Perlman put in a more human, and funnier, performance under all that makeup, than most actors are capable of on their best day. Selma Blair was a bit one dimensional, but had a great (and VERY sexy) presence and chemistry with Red.

    I was also greatly impressed by the performance offered by Luke Goss (an actor I generally don't like) as Prince Nuada; who again played off Perlman very well; though it should be noted they worked together in heavy makeup before (in Blade II).

    Also both the cinematography, and the general run of the direction, were excellent. It was a beautiful movie, at the same time both large, and claustrophobic (intentionally). There were a couple of really great set pieces.

    Where I was disappointed, was in the story. There was SO much potential there, that just wasn't realized. The depth of the backstory is in the character, and the storyline explored here, to really have made this a classic of the genre...

    Which may in fact have been part of the problem. The thickness of that back story may have got in the way of the storytelling a little bit; because Del Toro wanted to touch all sorts of areas; but couldnt go deeply where he needed to to make those areas important... or in some cases even make sense.

    Honestly, there were SO many plot points raised, and dropped. SO many unfollowed leads, or story elements jsut barely touched and either abandoned or adressed shallowly; that it hurt the movie.

    What bugs me the most though, is that the quality was there, what they really needed was more time to explore; and they could have had it. The movie was only 110 minutes with credits; and audiences in this genre are fully prepared to sit for 150 plus credits. If they had taken the 150 minutes, this movie would have been spectacular. As it was, it was just OK. A competent sequel that you should see, but nothign to write home about.

    Here's hoping for a directors cut.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Walk the Line

It's 5:28 am, a time I generally prefer to be asleep; but here I am, awake, and up and about.

It's been raining all night, sometimes quite hard; and Mel and I are on our way, with the girls in tow (they were already awake actually) to get in line for our new jesusphones.

"Too bad there's not an Apple store nearby to go and laugh at the fanboys"... well there is, but it's about 20 miles out of our way.

We picked an ATT store reasonably close by; but a fair distance away from ASU, the apple store, and anyplace particularly trendy. We pre-qualified the other day, and have a ticket waiting to go; we just need to go stand in the line.

Here's hoping our hydrophobic arizonans didnt feel like getting wet.

I may liveblog from the line if anything interesting happens.

After Extensive Study...

Windows Vista doesn't suck.

No, really, it doesn't. If you turn off all that stupid, slow, 3d transparent desktop crap, and tweak the services so that most of them aren't starting up every time you boot up; it's at least acceptable.

But MAN is it a resource hog.

Basically because I was irritated at how little free physical memory my computer systems with 3 or 4 gigs of RAM actually have while running Vista, I decided to figure out just how small a footprint I could get Vista down to.

Unsurprisingly, the answer was "not very small".

A default OEM install, with nvidia drivers, but with no extra applications or services running, starts over 120 processes, with over 1200 threads; and a physical memory footprint in excess of 1.5 gigabytes.

With superfetch enabled of course that footprint will simply grow larger over time, until the memory is at least 2/3 filled with crap.

By uninstalling every single thing not necessary to the operation of the computer, and disabling every single service that could be disabled and still have the computer function properly (including sound and network), I was able to get down to 40 running processes, with 650 threads, and just over 700mb memory footprint.

That by the way, includes shutting off every little bit of the graphical stupidity of vista; which reverts to a Win 2k style interface; along with all the "protect myself from myself" features like the automatic backup functionality, the indexing server etc... Basically all the power hogs on a system.

The hard disk footprint of this stripped install, not including the pagefile or hibernation file (but including all current patches, and windows updates, with their install files deleted) was 18gb.

Jesus H. Frikken Christ on a Pogo Stick.

Now, this was on Vista home premium, 32 bit. I have another machine running 64 bit, but it's a laptop so there is a little bit of extra crap that has to run in the background, but the big difference is that Vista 64 runs more and larger threads by default, because it runs 32 and 64 bit threads for many different processes.

By default, running as booted without any extras starting up etc... The system runs over 110 processes, and over 1200 threads; with a memory footprint of around 1.7gb.

Ouch.

After judicious trimming, uninstalling all unnecessary programs, and stopping all unnecessary running proceses and services; Vista 64 still leaves a footprint of 45 running processes, 60 running services, 580 running threads, and 900 megabytes of memory.

I just happen to have boxes here running XP and several versions of Linux for comparison.

Not that XP was any speed demon, and lord knows it can have very high process counts as well; but I know from previous tests, that I can get a fully stripped XP install down to about 14 processes, and under 64 megs of memory used; with a hard drive footprint of under a gig (though it wont install unless it has something like 1.4 gigs available).

That's a ridiculously stripped down image though. This machine, jsut running standard XP sp3, with all patches and updates, has a footprint of 21 processes, 310 threads, and just over 100mb of ram; with a windows disk footprint of 1.6 gigs.

Now, it's not exactly fair to compare Linux and windows, for one thing, Linux manages processes and threads very differently; so the process counts are much higher. That said, we can compare memory footprints quite easily.

Right now, today, I can run a fully functional linux distro, with a standard desktop environment and window manager, and all the normal processes and services running, (and I do, with a testing virtual machine), in just over 128 megs of RAM, and 500 megs of hard drive space.

A more "normal" desktop install runs with about 300 megs of RAM used, with a BUNCH of stuff running in the background, and normal desktop type applications. The total hard drive footprint on that install is just under a gig.

Our computers today have over 6000 times the processing power (and that's not hyperbole) 8000 times the memory, and over 1,000,000 times the storage capacity of the original IBM PC; and yet our basic tasks are only marginally faster.

Ok... a fairer comparison...

When I first got "broadband" in my home, almost exactly ten years ago, in the spring of 1998 (I had a high bandwidth connection from college, the Air Force etc... long before that, but not in my home); I had a 300 mhz PII, with 512mb of RAM (a huge amount at the time) and two 32gb hard drives.

That was pretty kick ass at the time by the way.

I tri-booted windows NT 4, windows 98, and slackware.

As of today, my primary desktop is a 3ghz Core2 quad (that's effectively four processors), with 4 gigs of RAM, and three 500 gigabyte hard drives.

Oh and I dual boot Win Vista, and Kubuntu; with Solaris, Ubuntu, Redhat, FreeBSD, and XP virtual machines using virtualbox (I can't get the hackintosh disk to install on a VM yet)

So in ten years, my processor has become 10 times as fast (actually a lot more than that with the efficiencies of new microarchitectures), I've got four of them in one box, I've got 8 times the memory, and 25 times the storage.

Thing is, for all my basic tasks: Checking web pages, checking email, writing documents, listening to music etc... my actual speed to perform these tasks hasn't become appreciably faster.

You can't even make the claim that I'm seeing far more features etc... Because really I'm not. I'm using pretty much the same features... and often the same programs, though of course greatly updated versions.

Now some things are FAR better, like video encoding and playback, music encoding and playback, and game performance (well... game performance isn't better, but games are doing 10 times as much graphically and with their artifical intelligence so it comes out even); but still, the same old office and network apps, still run the same old way in the same old time. The only real change, is that I can have more windows open at once without slowing down or crashing... usually.

This is the dilemma that has faced the PC industry since the massive spending orgy that was Y2K. Lots and lots of folks upgraded for y2k to the best thing they could afford, and then, instead of upgrading every three years as had been the previous pattern, they basically stopped upgrading.

Most people who bought a computer in 2000 or 2001 didnt bother upgrading until 2005 or 2006. If they bought in 2003, they probably haven't bothere to upgrade until.. right around now, if at all.

No-one who isn't a hardcore gamer, media freak, or early adopter/gadgethound has really bothered to upgrade their 2ghz machines with 2 gigs of ram, running XP; that they bought in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, or 2007 (yes really, that was pretty much the default config for a full four years), and which still run just fine today.

Now, as of this month, XP is officially no longer being sold; and as of August of 2009 all support for it will be dropped; theoretically forcing everyone to upgrade.

Of course many large corporations have announced they won't be doing so even if MS tries to cut them off; and I'm sure many consumers are going to follow suit.

So MS... please tell me why Vista is SO DAMN HUGE? ...I mean other than because it had to be, to force consumers to upgrade; thus continuing your cash cow cycle with major system vendors paying the microsoft tax, as we consumers are forced to fork over our hard earned cash for ever decreasing efficiency.

UPDATE: Just today, I had to wipte and install a system for my father in law; and I took the opportunity to use a slipstreamed OEM install with asolutely NOTHING in it.

After disabling all unneccessary services and background processes, I was able to get down to 32 processes, 490 threads, and 390mb memory footprint, with a total disk footprint of abouyt 7 gigs.

Now remember, that is literaly nothing else installed but windows; not even the drivers for the machine.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 27 - That's too turducken hard

Ever had turducken? For that matter, do you even know what one is?

Well, first, a turducken is a deboned chicken, usually stuffed with cornbread, sausage, rice, and beans; stuffed inside a deboned duck; stuffed inside a deboned turkey; rubbed with spices, then smoked, or roasted until fully cooked.

My god that sounds good doesn't it?

It is. No question... Man, they're good...

... BUT ...

They are WAY too much damn work.

It takes about 8 hours just to prep one to cook it; and that presumes you're an expert in gloving a bird (that's a technique of deboning, without cutting through the bird, thus leaving a whole bird with no skeleton) which takes some degree of knife skills and practice.

Then of course once it's prepped and stuffed; you have to actually cook the damn thing; until it hits 160 degrees all the way through into the stuffing; which can take 8 hours...

Yeah...

No, I don't think so, thanks for calling.

Of course, the... popularizers lets say (They got John Madden to shill for them on air at football games)... of the turducken recognize that most home cooks don't want to go through that much work; so they sell pre-prepped and par cooked then frozen birds, that they ship to you via fed-ex.

For about $100...

Again, no thanks bubba... or I guess in this case Boudreaux, since it IS a Cajun thing.

Oh and in case anyone thinks this is just some redneck excess; the technique actually dates back to the middle ages, where stuffing meats with other meats or surprising ingredients, was a common "fancy" for the very wealthy. This culminated in the 18th century French (always noted for their excess) "rotil sans pareil" (roast without equal); which featured 17 different birds, from a small songbird, up to a giant bustard; stuffed inside one another.

Now, for those of you who want to do the "real thing", I cannot recommend highly enough that you buy my friend Steves book "Eat What You Want and Die Like A MAN"; not just for the turducken, but also for... well, everything else really; especially for the delicious delicious snark that goes along with all the spectacular food.

In fact, buy it even if you don't like turducken... hell, buy it even if you don't like FOOD. You can live on the meaty snark alone.

However, if, like me, you are too busy (or too lazy) to spend 16 hours preparing just one bird (well... three birds technically, but still) there is another way.

My way... the kitchen cheaters way... the REAL mans way.

Alright, let's do this thing.

Ok, first things first, lets break down what goes into the dish, so we can work on it in pieces.
1. da meat
2. seasonings
3. cornbread stuffing
4. rice and beans
Ingredients:
The Meats

1 large full skin on, breast of turkey (both sides, as big as possible)
1 large full skin on, duck breast (both sides, as big as possible)
1 large full skin on, chicken breast (both sides, as big as possible)
1lb smoked and peppered bacon
1lb andouille sausage

Simple Spice Rub

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup medium ground black pepper
2 tblsp ground hot mustard
2 tblsp garlic powder
2 tblsp cayenne powder
2 tblsp smoked paprika
2 tblsp chipotle powder
1 tblsp onion powder
1 tblsp celery salt
1 tblsp cumin
1 tblsp ground fennel
1 tblsp dried thyme
1 tblsp dried oregano

Herb Rub


8 tblsp fresh sage, finely chopped
4 tblsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 tblsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 tblsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
4 tblsp fresh basil, finely chopped
4 tblsp fresh marjoram, finely chopped

Trinity and a Bit (optional)

2 clove garlic, crushed and minced (optional)
2 mild chili peppers, finely chopped (optional)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped (optional)
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)
1 rib of celery, finely chopped (optional)

Cornbread Stuffing

1lb stale cornbread (home made with bacon grease please)
1/2 lb bacon, made into bacon bits
1/2 of the crisped poultry skin (see below)
1/2-1 cup turkey stock
6 tblsp bacon grease
4 tblsp herb rub
4 tblsp spice rub

Rice and Beans

1 cup wild rice, or basmati rice
1 cup red or black beans
3 cups turkey stock
1 lb sliced and lightly fried andouille sausage
1/2lb bacon made into bacon bits
1/2 of the crisped poultry skin (see below)
2 tblsp herb rub
4 tblsp spice rub
6 tblsp of bacon grease
Preparation:

Ok, first, since we're making beans; you're going to want to soak them overnight in cool water; with maybe a little bit of salt and a little bit of vinegar in it (some people don't bother with a brine and just use plain water).

Also, you're going to want to make your cornbread the day before (home made, with bacon grease please), and leave it out all day and overnight to get stale.

I'm not going to teach you to make cornbread here. I've done that in other recipes, and there are about a million recipes out there; just use whichever one you like... Or hell, use Steves, it's pretty good.

If it's too humid to get fully stale where you live, leave it out anyway, then before you go to make your stuffing, stick it in a 200 degree oven until it's nice and stale. You can also use this trick to make the cornbread in the morning, and the stuffing in the evening; but it needs a few hours off the heat to air out.

On the day, you're going to want to get the seasonings prepped first, because we're going to use them throughout the dish. In this case I'm going to cheat even more; because the basic spice rub I'm using here is the same as my smoking spice rub (I've just scaled it down here), and the herb rub is my standard thanksgiving turkey herb rub scaled up a bit, with parsley added (cuz it's Cajun cooking I tell true).

Well, why not? They're really good in other dishes, who says you need to make up all new stuff for another dish?

Now if you want to be a bit more Cajun about this thing, or if you just like the flavors for that matter, you're gonna want to make up a bit of trinity. Trinity is the foundation of most Cajun sauces etc... and consists of about equal portions of diced onion, diced bell pepper, and diced celery.

I also like to add a little garlic, and chili pepper to my trinity, for a bit of extra kick. If I was doing this for myself, I'd actually just leave out the trinity entirely, and stick with the garlic and chili pepper; but I'm allergic to onions, and don't like celery (except in stocks).

Anyway, chop it up, mix it up, and keep it off to the side.

Next up, we're going to dice up our bacon, and slice our andouille into bite sized pieces.

Also at this point, we're going to want to peel the skin and fat off our duck and chicken breasts; and slice the skin into thin strips.

In a large, deep walled sauté pan or skillet (a skillet has curved sides, a sauté pan has straight sides. I prefer a sauté pan for this.) crisp up the bacon and render out the fat; then pull the bacon out and keep it off to the side, covered (to soften them up a bit)

Then, VERY LIGHTLY fry the sausage in the bacon fat, rendering out a little more of that lovely lovely porkfat and blending the sausage and bacon flavors; and reserve the sausage off to the side, covered, to keep them from drying out.

You don't want the sausage fully cooked here, just nicely starting to brown up on the outside; and remember it will keep cooking when you pull it out.

Now take your poultry skin, and drop it into the hot frying grease. If you can get some extra duck fat add that in too. Fry up the skins until very crispy, and reserve them off to the side, uncovered (or they'll get soggy).

Now pour off the rendered fats, reserving them off to the side.

Ok, at this point you've got a good two hours worth of work in, and you've got to be thinking to yourself "this is the EASY version?"

Yes, yes it is. This version takes maybe 3 hours of prep, the real thing takes about 8. You're lucky I took out the part about making a pate with the livers, cremini mushrooms, and a duck and turkey leg confit.

Next on to the stuffing.

An important thing to note; this isn't quite like a normal turkey stuffing. You want to keep the cornbread relatively dry here, because you're going to be crumbling it up.

So, take your fat, sauté up your trinity, then deglaze the pan with the turkey stock. Crumble up the corn bread completely (into very fine crumbles or even crumbs) into a good sized bowl, add the herbs and spices and mix them in completely. Then, evenly pour the pan mixture into the bread, mixing it up as you go.

What you want here is lots of small crumbles, mixed completely with the fatty flavorful liquid, and the herbs and spices. It's important to use a large bowl so that things don't clump up. This is also why we're only using a half cup of liquid to a pound of bread.

Now, take the stuffing, and spread it out into a thin layer on a sheet pan, to rest. Sprinkle half the bacon bits, and half the poultry cracklins over the top; and move on to the rice and beans.

Drain and wash your beans, then drain again and pat them dry.

Again, take some of your fat, and that same big sauté pan, and get some high heat going in there.

Sauté your wild rice to the point just before the lighter grains are really "browned"; then throw in the trinity and sweat it a bit. You may need to add a bit more fat depending on your rice.

Toss in your beans, and sauté them a little bit as well. Finally, throw in the sausage, the herb mixture, the spice mixture, and toss throughly over the heat; before pouring in the turkey stock.

You should simmer the rice until the moisture is just about fully absorbed. It's important to note, I used a relatively low amount of liquid here, because we don't want the rice to be completely done yet. It should still be somewhat firm when you take it off the heat.

Were done with the pan now, so you can leave the rice off to the side, uncovered, to rest. Sprinkle the remaining half of the bacon bits and poultry cracklins over the top of it.

I should note, if you couldn't find skin on breasts, that's OK. You can do without the cracklins, the dish is just better with them (and with the flavorful fat as well).

And remember, this is the EASY version.

Now we get to the actual meat; and this is where things start to get tricky.

First thing you're going to need is either a ton of extra heavy duty plastic film; or some very large plastic sandwich bags, slit open along the sides to make sheets.

What were going to be doing, is pounding out the poultry breasts between two layers of wetted plastic, and we're going to do each separately so you can't reuse the same plastic over again. In fact we're going to need that plastic to help us position and roll and stuff the "bird".

So, take your full turkey breast (that's both halves of a full breast; hopefully still connected in the center, hopefully with the skin on), lube the bottom layer of plastic (water works, but you may want to use pam or something similar, or even just olive oil) then lay the breast on it skin down. Lube the top sheet and cover; then POUND THE EVER LIVING HELL out of the turkey breast, until you get it as thin as you possibly can, without punching through it.

Ahhhhh, there now, wasn't that cathartic?

Next pull off the top layer of plastic, and lightly dust the turkey meat with the herb rub, and the spice rub. Then, evenly spread a thin dusting of VERY FINE CRUMBLES of the cornbread stuffing. Were talking light snow on a parking lot here folks; or maybe "dandruff on a black shirt"; not "covered with cornbread". Also, very important, keep the edges of the turkey clear back about 2" or so on all sides.

Once that's done, you're going to repeat the exact same process with the other two meats (except we've already taken the sin off of them to make cracklins).

Once we have our thin layers, with a light dusting of cornbread stuffing on top of each; it's time to combine them. This is where your preplanning and lubrication of the plastic sheets pays off.

Now, there's two ways to arrange these layers. You can either center the layers on top of each other (like nested Russian dolls), and then when you roll the thing up, you roll straight on; or you can index them all to one corner, and roll on the bias, like a croissant.

Either one works; neither makes a HUGE difference as to how the bird cooks, they look a little different... but really it's a matter of personal preference, and how regular a shape you were able to pound the meat into.

Ok, so now you have three distinct layers of poultry, with flavorful breadcrumbs in between; we're going to finish it off by covering with plastic one more time, and we're going to GENTLY pound them together this time. I say again GENTLY. We're just trying to make them stick real good; not pound them into mixed bird pate.

Almost done here folks... and yes, I'm serious, this really is the easy version.

Now we're going to toss the rice around the bowl to loosen it up, and mix in the cracklins and bacon bits. Then, form the rice into a loose "log", either a couple inches in from the edge of the meat straight roll, or a couple inches in from the corner for a diagonal roll (obviously, placed at a 45 degree angle so that the "log" becomes the axis of the roll).

The rice "log should be no more than about 2 inches thick, and it should extend to about 4" from each end of the meat.

If there is any cornbread stuffing left, scatter it around the sheet of poultry, but don't get any closer than about 2" from the edges.

Finally, we're going to tightly cover the rice log with a flap of meat, and then VERY TIGHTLY roll the whole thing up, using the plastic sheeting as an aid.

Once a tight roll is formed we're going to tuck in, or tuck under (depending on how long and thick they are), the ends of the roll; and truss tie the whole thing (look it up online. It's what you do to lamb roasts and the like, and it's not hard).

Once it's trussed up, rub the whole thing with butter, and the herb mixture; then sprinkle the spice rub over it (all of the above, on all sides).

Now, take some more of your fat, heat it up in the biggest damn skillet you can find; and we're going to sear off this bad boy on all sides.

Now at this point you have a choice. You can smoke the thing, which is AMAZING, but takes for frikken ever (About 2 hours per pound); you can roast it at around 325-350 (which takes about a half hour per pound); or you can wrap it up tightly in a double layer of foil, and deep fry it from the outside in, which only takes about 15 minutes per pound.

Any way you do it, you have GOT to get to an internal temperature of AT LEAST 140 degrees all the way through (and once you hit that temp you have to stay there for at least 10 minutes); and 160 is what the health nazis recommend.

How many does this serve? Well that all depends on how big the breasts you got were. I can't imagine it serving less than 4, 6 is probably reasonable, and it could probably stretch to serving 8.

And be sure to check out:
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 26 - Hot Smoke
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 25 - That's a Spicy Polpette
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 24 - It's Meat, in Loaf Form
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 23 - Some Like it Hot
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 22 - Full Fat, Full Dairy, All Killer, No Filler
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 21 - Forget About the Dough Boy
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 20 - QDCBS (Quick and Dirty Chili Bean Stew)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 19 - Chicken Salmonella
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 18 - I'll give YOU a good stuffing turkey (1)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 17 - REAL Coffee
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 16 - DTG (Damn That's Good) dip
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 15 - More Chocolate Than Cookie
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 13 - Mels 10,000 Calorie Butter Cookies
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew

A Hell of a Way to Describe the Dilemma

"When it comes to picking our next president, I can't decide if I prefer the smooth-talking, inspirational candidate who promises to give my money to people who don't work as hard as I do, or the old, short, ugly, angry guy with one good arm who graduated at the bottom of his class and somehow managed to shag a hot heiress and become a contender for president. It seems dangerous to underestimate that guy."

-- Scott Adams

Monday, July 07, 2008

In a Nightmare on Elm Street Movie?



Chiffonading by the way, is a knife technique that produces thin "shreds" of whatever it is you are slicing.

I imagine getting chiffonaded would be quite unpleasant.

I'm sure what the person intended to say was "where can I get chiffonaded parsley" or maybe basil (both are very common ingredients in recipes. The answer is, you don't. The don't generally sell chiffonaded herbs, because the technique would make the herbs wilt in the packaging and go black.

It's a simple technique by the way. You roll the material up tightly, and slice (technically chop, because it's a push cut not a draw cut, but it's a very controlled chop) the roll into very thin strips, across the width

The Line

This applies to almost all of the men I've ever known, plus at least half of the women.

From Military Motivators

What's the big deal about Elvis?

You have got to be kidding me.

I had a kid say that to me the other day; and he was actually serious.

What's the big deal?



The day Elvis released his version of that song, do you know what the most popular song in the country was?

"16 tons", as sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, or maybe Dean Martins "Memories are made of this" depending on the chart you were looking at (Billboard didn't standardize chart format until the end of 1958).

Alongside it were the Sammie Davis Jr. version of "That Old Black Magic" (probably most famous as a Sinatra tune today), Mitch Millers "The Yellow Rose of Texas", "Sincerly" by the McGuire sisters, and Tex Ritters "Gunsmoke" and "Remember the Alamo" (Tex Ritter was John Ritters dad by the way).

Imagine listening to Sammy Davis Jr. singing a crooners tune from the 1943, and then all of a sudden, "Tra-aaain traaaiiin, co-homin rown-hown the beh-hend...."

Elvis is the point where R&B, and the blues, and gospel, and boogie-woogie, and early rockabilly, all came together, and made rock and roll (fairly or not; little Richard has a hell of an argument, but the charts don't lie).

Yes, Elvis was ballads, and teenage girls swooning and all that; but Elvis was also himself, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black, pumping out rocking and rolling tunes like "Mystery Train".

Elvis's first single, released July 8th 1954; was, as almost everybody knows, "That's all right Momma", a straight up blues tune by Arthur Crudup:



...and it was competing against The Crewcuts singing "Sh-boom".



A little bit different eh?

By the time Elvis released his first full album, March 28th 1956, he was already on his way to number one in the charts with "Heartbreak Hotel". The followup single "Hound Dog", debuted at number 20 in the singles charts, on its way to number one; unheard of, as there were no Rock &Roll charts yet, and it was competing against the powerhouse that was "Round and Round":



By the by, that sentence might be taken as snarky, but it isn't. Round and Round was the number 1 pop song of 1957 when covered by Como; and it is an absolutely perfect pop song, sung by one of the greatest pop singers who ever lived. Perry Como was a bigger star in his day, than Madonna, or Britney ever were.

This isn't to say that Comos music wasn't good; in many ways it was the continuation of the storytelling song traditional to American music (a tradition that has unfortunately been abandoned by pop music, and now resides almost exclusively in country music). There were a hell of a lot of excellent singers, songwriters, and musicians doing traditional American pop music.

What you can't deny though, is that Rock and Roll really changed everything about popular music; seemingly overnight. Although pop standards survived on the charts through the late 60s (in fact, on occaison Tony Bennet releases a hit even today; and Rod Stewart has launched a second career in pop standards); the dominance of rock and roll was sudden, and nearly complete.

I'm going to share a little list with you. It's all the number 1 singles from 1953 to 1957, and I want to see if you notice a pattern:












































TrackArtist
19541954
----------
"Oh! My Pa-Pa (O Mein Papa)"Eddie Fisher
"Secret Love"Doris Day
"Make Love to Me"Jo Stafford
"Wanted"Perry Como
"Little Things Mean a Lot"Kitty Kallen
"Sh-Boom"The Crew-Cuts
"Hey There"Rosemary Clooney
"This Ole House"Rosemary Clooney
"I Need You Now"Eddie Fisher
"Mr. Sandman"The Chordettes
19551955
"Mr. Sandman"The Chordettes
"Let me go Lover"Joan Weber
"Hearts of Stone"The Fontaine Sisters
"Sincerely"The McGuire Sisters
"The Ballad of Davy Crockett"Bill Hayes
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White"Perez Prado
"Rock Around the Clock"Bill Haley and The Comets
"The Yellow Rose of Texas"Mitch Miller
"Love is a Many Splendored Thing"The Four Aces
"Autumn Leaves"Roger Williams
"Sixteen Tons"Tennessee Ernie Ford
19561956
"Sixteen Tons"Tennessee Ernie Ford
"Memories are Made of This"Dean Martin
"Rock and Roll Waltz"Kay Nelson
"Lisbon Antigua"Nelson Riddle
"The Poor People of Paris"Les Baxter
"Heartbreak Hotel"Elvis Presley
"I was The One"Elvis Presley
"The Wayward Wind"Gogi Grant
"I Want You, I Need You, I Love You"Elvis Presley
"My Baby Left Me"Elvis Presley
"My Prayer"The Platters
"Heaven on Earth"The Platters
"Hound Dog"Elvis Presley
"Don't be Cruel"Elvis Presley
"Love me Tender"Elvis Presley
"Any Way You Want Me"Elvis Presley
"Singing the Blues"Guy Mitchell
In 1955, the pop standard ruled the lists. In the middle of 1956, basically overnight; Rock and Roll took over the number one spot in the person of Elvis Presley, and didn't give it up until the rise of Disco 20 years later.

From the time Elvis hit number 1 with "Heartbreak Hotel" on April 21st 1956, until the end of that year, there were only 11 weeks he was not in the number one slot. He spent 8 weeks on top with Heartbreak Hotel, then after just a 4 week break, another week at #1, then a two week break, and then 16 weeks consecutively at number one (with several different songs).

In fact, the streak continued all through the next year as well, with 7 different number ones in 1957, and a total of 26 weeks in the number one spot. There were 7 more in 1958; amazing considering from March 24th 1958 until May 5th 1960, Elvis was in the Army; then on his discharge, he had four more songs hit number one in 1960, for 14 weeks in the slot. Between 1956 and 1962, the only year Elvis didn't have a number one, was 1959, the year he spent entirely in the army in Germany.

"Elvis Presley" was the first rock and roll album to ever hit number one and it didn't even have his three big singles on it (as was the practice at the time). Every single album in any popular music category made after it, was changed forever.

Only one other popular musician post war could make the same claim; when the Beatles had a similar effect from 1964, to 1970.

It's no coincidence, that Elvis, and The Beatles, are most frequently mentioned in the same breath, as the greatest artists in the history of Rock and Roll.

I should note, I'm not making a qualitative evaluation of Elvis as an artist; personally I like him a lot, but from a purely technical and artistic standpoint he was no better or worse a singer than any other major pop star of the time. In fact in many ways, Pat Boone, or Perry Como, were better singers (certainly Perry Como was). Certainly Little Richard, and Chuck Berry were greater innovators in Rock and Roll.

...But Elvis was white, and Elvis had soul, and he had heart, and he was sexy, and he could move, and he could present himself... Elvis was danger, without being TOO dangerous. Elvis was accessible. Elvis was able to change our culture in so many ways, because he was all of these things.

The big deal, is the IMPACT Elvis had on American popular music.

Oh sure there were better singers, better song writers, better musicians; but no-one else change the face of music the way Elvis, and the Beatles did.

Here's a few more of my favorites from Elvis:



"Elvis aint dead... He just went home..."



The original, not the remix; though I like both.



How is this not the greatest vegas song ever? Oh wait, it is.



One of the earliest REALLY rocking, swinging, hard driving tunes out there.



A lot of folks think it's cheesy, but really get into the groove; and it works.



This one is just plain one of my favorites. I've always loved it.

Independence Day AAR

This past Independence day we partook in the great American summer pastime, the barbeque; in our case a genuine one which means meat slow cooked over wood smoke, not just burgers and dogs on a grill.

Let me tell you, I will never regret the day we bought our smoker; nor the fact that we bought a sidebox smoker, that's also a convertible grill.

We had 6 adults over (JohnOC, his parents, a friend of his from college, Kommander, and one of my co-workers), plus me, Mel, and the kids, for a total of 10; which is just about right for our indoor common space (you could pack in maybe 16 if you took up every spare seat in the main area of the house).... oh and of course the dogs, who take up a fair bit of airspace themselves. Anyway, I never was one for a crowded party. I like things quieter, where people can actually converse.

The day started with Mel and I getting up early to start the smoker, and get the meat on... Actually you might say it started the day before, when I prepped all the meat by dry rubbing it with my smoking rub; then foil wrapping it, and letting it "steep" in for 24 hours.

We had a 12lb whole ham (on the bone), a 6lb point brisket (with substantial fat cap), and a couple racks of loin ribs (basically babybacks with more meat on them. They're only called baby backs if each rack weighs less than 3 lbs); plus a couple dozen bacon wrapped shrimp that went on later.

Mel also made a fresh fruit salad, with pineapples, pears, peaches, strawberries, and grapes; and let it sit overnight for the flavors to blend.

After getting the meat on, around 7:30; Mel and I cleaned up, readied the house, prepped the potatoes for the potato salad, and tended the smoker; til our guests started arriving, right around 2.

We were planning on starting to eat around 4, with mains around 5; and one of our guests was bringing salmon, which usually takes about 2 hours to smoke, so that timing should have worked out great. Unfortunately that guest ended up arriving about an hour late, so there wasn't really time to smoke her fish.

The biggest difficulty with smoking, is the timing. Generally speaking, with a medium temperature smoke (180 to 220 degrees), you want about two hours minimum (no matter how much, or how little something weighs), plus two hours per pound of meat (past the first) on the smoker; so a 12lb full plate and point brisket, with fat cap, should take about 24 hours for example. Of course this varies with the type of meat, the cut of it (the thickness mostly), the amount of fat and connective tissue, and how you like your meat done; but it's a pretty good rule of thumb. For a hotter smoke, at 220-250, it's more like two hours, plus an hour to an hour and a half per pound.

You have to be careful to choose the right smoking heat for your meat though, because too high, or too low, and you won't dissolve the connective tissue, or render the fat properly; and you'll end up with tough, or dry meat.

In this case, I was smoking three different kinds of meat, at three different weights, and three different thicknesses. For that, I started off with the longest cooking meats, at the highest temperatures; and got cooler as the day went on, adding the shorter cooking pieces as their time came up.

So I put the ham and brisket on right away at 7:00, and started them off with a hot smoke at around 250; planning on taking the smoke down to 220 or below when I put the ribs on about 90 minutes later; then to drop the smoke to the 200-210 range for the shrimp and salmon, about two hours before service time.

This should've got the whole mess up to about 165-175 degrees internal temperature right around 4:30-5; enough time to start my first course at 4, and be ready to eat the main when it was ready to come off the smoke.

By the by, 170 degrees is HORRIBLY overdone when you're doing any kind of cooking, other than slow smoking (or braising... BBQ is effectively braising with hot flavorful smoke instead of hot flavorful liquid). If I cooked a steak on the grill to 170, it would be beyond well done; dry, tough, and inedible. But with brisket on the smoker, 170 is the minimum temperature to have all the connective tissues dissolved, and fats mostly rendered; which keeps it juicy and flavorful (and ribs are similar).

Well, as it turned out, we were right at 170 degrees at 3 pm, instead of 4:30. I'm not sure why that happened; I had very good temperature control on the smoke (I have a remote smoker thermometer with overtemp, and undertemp alarms. Makes it easy) but the internal meat temperature just rose faster than I expected; in fact had been doing so from the moment I put the meat on. I had noted this as the day wore on, and kept dropping the smoke temp, but my meat just wasn't slowing down.

The thing is, my thermometer and my gut, were telling me two different things. The feel of the meat (except the ham of course, which started off partially cooked anyway, and just needed to be brought up to the proper internal temp) was just not right. The rib bones weren't quite twisting free; and I cut the brisket, and I could tell it wasn't 100% ready just from the feel under the knife; but I figured I was off in my own instincts, since the thermometer was telling me a different story.

So, I went against my gut, and decided to take the meat off the smoke; but not to stop the cooking completely. I wrapped it all very tightly in foil, with some hot, wet, sauce slathered all over each piece, and stuck them in a 200 degree oven to continue cooking off until I was ready to serve. That would be roughly equivalent to continuing the smoke at 180 degrees, but should prevent the meat from drying out.

Then I turned to my opening course. I was waiting for my late guest to arrive to start the shrimp; and as I said, they didn't get in with their salmon until it was too late to smoke either seafood bit; so I put them off for a few minutes, and made my famous warm potato salad, mixing it up a bit with some carmelized onions, and diced fresno chilis.

The salad went over quite well (I of course didn't have any, because I'm allergic to onions; but everyone tells me it was great); as did Mels fruit salad, which we had as a palate cleanser before the seafood (and which I DID have. It was great).

Next course Mel wrapped the shrimp in applewood smoked black pepper bacon for me, and skewered them. She then trimmed some asparagus spears, which I tossed in a little olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. I dusted the shrimp skewers with a little salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic powder, and cayenne powder; then had JohnOCs dad take over for a few minutes and VERY GENTLY grill all of the above over the pecanwood fire (until the bacon is just crisping up and the shrimp are completely white, but not completely red; and the asparagus gets just a tiny bit of char on the ends).

While my guest chef was grilling off the shrimp, I was preparing his wifes salmon. She's apparently on some no-red meat "lifestyle change" not-a-diet thingie, and would not be partaking of our smoked meat feast; but I wanted to at least bring some of those flavors in, without overwhelming the rather nice piece of alaska salmon she had brought for me to perpare for her.

I decided to make a bit of a beurre noir; sauteing thinly slivered then crushed garlic in butter I had heated to the nutty brown stage, and tossing in the last little bit (perhaps a teasooon full) of my diced fresno peppers. Then I seared the salmon filet, skin on, until it was just as the lady wanted it (cooked completely through, which to my mind is over done); and had a nice crisp browning on the flesh. In the last two minutes I tossed in a bit of fresh rosemary and thyme, and squeezed a half lemon over the filet.

Finally, I plated the salmon, then deglazed the pan with white wine, and finished the sauce with a tiny tablespoon of cream; reduced it a bit, and finished the salmon with the sauce, and a crudite side salad.

Apparently it was good, as the dear lady said she enjoyed it very much.

Finally, it was meat time.

I heated up some more of my home made BBQ sauce (which I had also used to glaze the meat while cooking) and we put out the platters of brisket, ribs, and ham; while Mel prepared her home made fresh and hot flatbread.

As it turns out, my instincts were right, the meat was definitely NOT done when the thermometers said it was, because after over an hour in the 200 degree oven, the ham and ribs were PERFECT; and the brisket was good, but to my mind still not done. I couldn't cut it with my fork when sliced in 1/4" slices; which is the proper doneness for BBQ brisket.

It was hover moist, and mostly tender; and everyone else really liked it... I'm just a perfectionist. Of course by the time I got to my brisket, I was too full to finish it anyway, having underestimated just how good the ham and ribs would be, and eating my fill of those first.

Finally, when we could all move again, we had chocolate chip cookies that my co-worker had baked that morning; and an American flag cake that Mel grabbed from Costco (huge cakes, pretty good, cheap prices). Then we settled in for the night, and played rock band and watched Casino Royale on BluRay.

All in all, a really great time, with good friends.

Now, given that we had 30lbs of meat and fish, plus side dishes, for 10 people; you would have thought we'd have had more leftovers... Not a chance bubba. There wasn't a rib left, there was MAYBE a pound of brisket, and maybe a pound and a half of ham left over from all that.

... so I guess I really AM just overly fussy about my meat and it was as good as they said it was...

Yesterday, I took that leftover brisket, chopped it fine, and used it as the beef in my 2lb meat sauce. Along with that I used some nice hot Italian sausage that I was going to make as an appetizer for the BBQ but never got around to, the last of my fresh chili peppers, and the half bottle of left over red wine.

Oh my GOD that was good. The spicy smoked brisket and chilis gave the sauce a new kick, and depth of flavor that is just awesome.

Of course the best part of barbecue, is that all that food, including the shrimp and the sides (but not the desserts, or the brought in salmon filet), for 10 people, was less than $50 (we added it up; it was $48)... and we've still got leftover ham, and the meat sauce.

Nope, never going to regret buying that smoker one bit.