Sunday, May 30, 2010

Intel kills Larrabee



I'm laughing my ass off right now.

Years ago, when I was knee deep in 3d visual effects as my hobby, I was much more into hardware than I am now. Hardware really mattered. No matter how much you had, it was not enough to get the job done. As a result I tracked improvements in the state-of-the-art very closely. Don't get me wrong, I've always loved hardware. I've always been a detailed guy in this respect, but never so much as when I was doing a lot of 3d every day.

Something like 3 or 4 years ago, Intel basically announced that they were going to kill Nvidia and ATI. They were going to introduce their own 'discrete graphics processor'. The project was code-named Larrabee.

They had reasons to plan such a move. ATI was on the verge of merging with AMD. AMD, arch-rival of Intel was about to bring one of the two premiere graphics vendors in-house. Also, Intel's laptop accelerators were the laughing stock of the industry. We hardware enthusiasts could not say enough bad things about Intel's so-called GPUs.

Everytime Anandtech or Tomsharware.com published a GPU round up, the benchmark specs clearly showed Intel at the very bottom of the heap. It wasn't even close. Intel routinely showed performance benchmarks between 6% and 30% of comparable nVidia or ATI solutions.

When Intel made the Larrabee announcement, a lot of hardware fanboys shook their heads in disbelief. "Not again!" we all said. The last time Intel entered the discrete-GPU market, it was with a notorious market-failure called the i740. That chip was a pussy, and it remains the core architecture of their present integrated solution, which remains a pussy. Quite simply, none of us believed that Intel had the nuts to accomplish this mission.

It turns out we were right. Here we are something like 3 or 4 years later and the announcement has come "Intel has shelved the Larrabee project." We knew it. I told you so.

The announcement does quite a bit of spin-doctoring. They make constant allusions to a subject I will soon blog about: The arrival of super-compact computers on a chip; the sort of thing that makes Android 2.2 and the iPhone possible.

They also make near-direct references to AMD's upcoming fusion processor. This is a new hybrid chip that will incorporate both x86 instruction processing, and full-bore GPU processing in a single core. This is the most exciting project in development right now. If AMD can bring it off, Intel is in a lot of trouble.

Excuses, excuses! We know you failed. I know your internal benchmarks of the prototype demonstrated that you could not compete with nVidia and ATI. You knew your were going to introduce another spectacular market failure, and take a bath. You cut your losses.

The mere attempt to enter the discrete market messed-up Intel's relationship with nVidia, which was warming for the first time in history at that moment. It turned the two of them into phony-competitors. This wasted spectacular amounts of HTML code.

I think this announcement augers bad things for Intel. Next time I blog, I'm going to talk about the sub-super-compact little computers we are now carting around in our hands these days. AMD's Fusion processor has the potential to make that market really explode. AMD has been working hard on this project for something like 4 years. Right now, Intel does not have an answer for this product. The failure to plan for competition in the segment, the failure to correctly track the evolution of this segment, just might lock Intel out of the most spectacular growth segment of the market.

That would be a bad thing... A really bad thing.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Outlook: The object of ridicule among Microsoft programmers

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with some of my favorite Podcasts. These include such stalwarts as .NET Rocks, Hansel Minutes, the Polymorphic Podcast, and Java Posse... among others.

I was impressed by the number of Outlook jokes these programmers were cracking. What is an Outlook joke? Any joke which sticks a thumb in the eye of the designers and programmers responsible for the Outlook application. The suggestion is always the same: They did an outrageously bad job on this application, they obviously don't know what hell they are doing, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Example: Anders Hejlsberg, probably the greatest genius at Microsoft, is being interviewed about the future direction of the .NET programming platform. He is the man most responsible for setting the course in programing systems at Microsoft. Anders is explaining the sorts of strides that must be made with programming languages, techniques and tools to support the multicore present and future. Anders believe that the .NET development team must revisit the basic design of threads in .NET. When a user says something like var x = new Thread(); the CLR initializes such a threat with a 2mb logical address space. This would mean only 2048 threads in total would be possible in a 32 bit address space, and frankly you'll never get close before memory will become so congested that problems will strike.

Richard Campbell, cohost of .NET Rocks seizes the opportunity to strike: "But that would mean we can only run Microsoft Outlook on our machines with 4GB and then we are all done?!?" This brought howls of laughter. Anders did not really want to comment. It would be tough to venture a defense. Believe me, if there had been something to defend, he would have mounted a defense. Anders is extremely knowledgeable and fair minded. He loves to argue. The fact that he dropped the subject speaks volumes.

Anders motto is "I think we can do better." He is always seeking to "do better". Believe me, if Anders was tasked to run the Outlook group, he would kick a lot of asses right out the door. He might recommend the dreaded EOL logo also.

I heard several other jokes on the other Podcasts. Those would be more difficult to explain. Even the Java Posse, a group unrelated to Microsoft, were wondering aloud why Microsoft programmers continue to suffer Outlook when we hate it so. The answer is simple: Because bad men with MBAs continue to ram it down our throat. Believe me, we would burn it, if we could.

Folks, I want you to know that Outlook is a bad joke among Microsoft programmers. It is a byword meaning "everything done wrong" from the programmers point of view. It is a detestable, reprehensible, object of hissing and horror. None of us can understand why the bloody bastard has 32-46 active but idle threads open when you are doing nothing with the application. We still can't understand why Microsoft would ever have though that modules of Visual Basic behind your eMail (Active Mail) was anything but a virus writer's wet dream.

Folks, it goes deeper than that. All groupware fuctions can be performed in a web environment. No client-side tool is necessary. Microsoft has a fully-orbed web-based system themselves with Outlook Web Edition (OWE). They should have placed Outlook in the EOL (end of lifecycle) category and deprecated it immediately when this web edition hit the streets. Microsoft Live! has even better implementation for most of us. Google long-since crushed Outlook with their Gmail-based suite of scheduling and groupware tools. Mail and groupware is simply the perfect case-study for the "software as a service."

It is conceptually wrong to build a thick client, or maintain an existing thick client, for the purpose of doing mail, schedule, and group actions. If you go to Visual Studio and select File->New->WinForm Application, and begin to write any sort of thick client for eMail and groupware, you are instantly wrong. You have made a mistake. The mistake isn't that the niche is filled. The mistake is that there is no niche in the first place. These apps should not exist.

There are many pieces of evidence for this. I know many scores of Mozilla Firefox users. I know of no one in my circle who uses ThunderBird. Oh, what's that? You've never heard of ThunderBird? Excellent! That's precisely my point. Thunderbird is the Mozilla mail client.

When I ask Mozilla fans why they don't download and use ThunderBird for free, the answer is always the same: I can see no use for the application. Now that we have webmail, who needs a mail client on the machine? These individuals are thinking correctly. Their conclusions are well merited and valid.

Outlook is evil. Outlook should not be used. I am not the only Software Engineer who thinks so. If you are dependent upon Outlook, you are wrong, period. Get right. If you have built a business around Outlook, you have built your business poorly upon shifting sands. You are also wrong and should correct the situation as soon as possible.

Friday, May 28, 2010

That is not The Wolfman (2010)



Much to my surprise, a copy The Wolfman (2010) was circulating around the lunch tables of Calabasas Commons today. A certain vendor we have relations with was passing the movie around on a USB 2.0 memory stick.

I was stunned, not that somebody had a movie on a stick, but rather that a file was floating around so soon. The Blu-Ray is not scheduled for release until Tuesday.

"This must be one of those filmed films, right?"

"Nope it is a Blu-Ray rip!"

"But the Blu-Ray is not out yet."

"Somebody nailed it early."

"Really?"

I grabbed a copy from another associate who had his laptop with him. An hour or two ago, I plugged my USB 2 stick into the PS3 and began to watch. It didn't take too long for the howls to ensue... from me.

THIS IS NOT THE WOLFMAN I SAW IN THE THEATER!

No, this is the unrated director's cut. Gone is the lean, mean, fast-paced, sparce, simple tale I enjoyed very much. Welcome to a long, bloated, slow-moving, cut with contradictions and lots of bad creative ideas.

This cut is basically 2 hours. The theatrical is about 98 minutes on my clock. It looks to me like they cut the right 21 minutes. 7 of the first 9 got cut. It was a very wise decision to leave that rubbish on the cutting room floor. There is nothing to see there folks. Just move along. Not since Star Trek Voyager has cuting 7 from 9 looked soooo good to me.

What do you miss? Well... lets just say it this way... Benicio was the weak link in this movie. Even in the theatrical cut, his weak and somewhat off key performance comes through. The first 7 of 9 aggravate the situation to an ungodly level.

We actually hear Benicio recite the "Alas poor Yorick... I knew him, Horatio" speech from Hamlet. Believe me, I have seen 12th graders at Bullard High School in Fresno California do it better than that. This was downright obnoxious. It was a very good thing for Del Toro's career that the editor left that footage on the cutting room floor. You can't let that kind of crap get into the final cut. I think it is a very bad thing for his career that they put this footage back in for the Blu-Ray release. Most actors walk through life terrified that the world will unmask them as the frauds that they are. I am warning you, this Hamlet bit is going to unmask you...

And it's a terrible thing for the movie too.

Apparently, after performing Hamlet, some of the actresses are feeling a bit Randy backstage, and it looks like they would like to start up an orgy with their leading man. Just as everybody begins to start up a groove, Lawrence's would-be sister-in-law kills the buzz by knocking on the door and announcing she needs Lawrence's help in tracking down his missing brother, Ben.

This is a wretched stock scene, where the soon-to-be-hero is caught with his pants down, turns down his heroic calling rudely, and his soon-to-be-love finds him disgusting. Of course, all great love & hero stories start this way, right? Nope. All the bad ones do.

Until you see it, I cannot explain the level of damage these 7 minutes do to the whole movie. It derails the whole thing. The editor was a good surgeon. He surgically removed the tumor, and patched the (w)hole extremely well. If you leave this cancerous 7 minutes in body, the following hell ensues:
  • Lawrence is no longer a sympathetic character. He's now just another debauched asshole actor with serious childhood issues. There's nothing for me to cheer for there folks. How about you?
  • The fact that Emily seeks his aid makes no sense. What help will a debauched alcoholic bohemian with serious psychological issues be in tracking down her missing fiancĂ©e? Nope, he's no help at all.
  • The fact that Lawrence immediately turns around and breaks his contract to look for his brother really makes no sense.
In the theatrical, we see Benico performing Hamlet, we do not hear him. Over the top of his performance, we hear Gwen narrating her letter to Lawrence. It's a simple letter to a man she does not know at all; a guy who should have been her brother-in-law, and a guy who... maybe... can help. Chicks think like this in desperate moments. Lawrence doesn't do anything overt to disgrace himself, or come off as a bastard, ergo a romance now seems plausible.

With the 7 minutes of cancer cells extracted, we get off to a nice & clean fast start. With the cancerous 7 minutes in, we are already in a train-wreck condition.

Those who read this blog know I was a big advocate of the theatrical release. I bitch-slapped the critics online, at work, in front of family, and friends. I spread good word of mouth for the theatrical release. I dragged brothers, coworkers, friends and former room-mates out to see the movie.

I'm going to tell you straight-up: I hate the director's cut. If this Blu-Ray is like the wretched Daredevil Blu-Ray, and does not contain the theatrical cut, I won't buy it. If you won't release the theatrical cut, I will never buy it. The directors cut is already a fuck-up.

Big question for Universal Studios: why did you release this shit? This never should have seen the light of day. You did a great job in burning the dead bodies and burying the ashes. Why issue this full-confession now? The Top-Kill succeed until you blew the concrete cap off the well. What the hell's the matter with you? What were you thinking?

In any case I now understand several things:
  • I understand why Universal went into panic when they saw the first (Director's) cut of the movie. I would have also. In fact, I did.
  • I can understand why the project got pushed 16 months while rescue-editors worked to save the patient's life on the table. I would have made the same command decision had I been in charge.
  • I can understand why there was conflict. Apparently, the director fought Universal. He didn't want to give up on his little darling scenes. He somehow... The stupid bastard managed to get these turds back into the Blu-Ray.
  • Joe Johnston is apparently a very, very stupid bastard. I can't believe he actually directed Hidalgo and the Rocketeer. Those were actually good movies. Hidalgo was very good; one of my favorites. Just call him Sloppy Joe the Hoe.
  • I can see why Joe Johnston has not directed many movies in his long career. He looks like a stubborn fool, unwilling to receive good, constructive criticism when it is offered.
Anyway, steer clear of the download copy. Wait for the real thing. The Director's cut is a raw-red bloody abortion. You don't want to see this. It's downright ugly. See the theatrical cut. Universal got it right. Joe Johnston got it wrong.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

My apple pie theory has been confirmed.

I promised to report back to you with results of the Poppy Seed crust. It worked. I completed a 30 minute burner workout on the bike, and had a pretty good sized ache and pain in my left hip and knee. I ate a nice sized slice of my pie. Now I don't have any pain in my hip and knee. The Mu receptors have been blocked. Right now I am pain free. I was a bit spacey there for a minute. I am sure that was the accelerated dose dump.

Bow down to me, Alton. You have met a worthy chemical opponent.

Apple Pie






So last night I took my second swing at the Alton Brown version of the good 'ole American apple pie. The results look good. I don't yet know how they taste. Why is that, you ask? Well let me tell you about it.

The fully-authentic American apple pie is not fast food. I now scoff at the Bullet Express infomericials which seem to indicate that you can whip-up an apple pie quickly. Bullshit! You may get some crust with some apple in it, but this is hardly a classic american apple pie. The real thing takes time. Considerable amounts of time. What does the time table look like?
  1. After whipping up the crust dough, you need to put it in the frige for two hours. I do mine over night in the frige. It turns out much better that way.
  2. You need to peel and slice your 3.5 pounds of apples. This is a laborious process. You can get a partial short-cut by using a good apple slicer which automatically cuts the apple into 12 equal slices, however, this doesn't really save that much labor. Slicing apple is the easiest part anyhow. The apple slicer is mostly used for consistency of thickness, not time savings.
  3. You have to place your apple wedges in a colander, sprinkle 2 or 3 ounces of sugar on them, and allow 1.5 hours for "apple collapse". The sugar basically sucks large amounts of apple juice out of the slices. This juice should be allowed to drain into a mixing bowl... you'll need it later. If you skip this step, the wedges will expand like crazy in the heat of the oven. The result will be the dreaded pie-dome, which is not good eats.
  4. An absolute minimum of 2 hours after start-time, you can begin assembly. Believe me, it will take longer than that. If you are assembling anything short of 3 hours after start-time, you probably skipped a step or did something wrong.
  5. The next step is to roll out your dough. For me, this has been the most challenging portion of the show. I hate wax paper. I haven't owned any in 20 years. Believe me, you need wax paper. Next time, I am buying wax paper. Pie dough is not like pasta dough. It does not hold together well. There isn't much gluten there to hold it together. If you glutenize your flour, you will get tough--not flaky--pie crust. That ain't good eats. The problem is that good pie dough, rips and tears and falls apart under little stress. The answer is rolling in wax paper... that has been flowered... in rice flour... not wheat.
  6. Then you must assemble the ingredient for the filling. Alton Brown recommends your sugared, collapsed apple wedges, apple jelly, apple cider, salt, tapioca, lime juice, more sugar, and the Grains of Paradise. More about that later. No fucking Nutmeg. No fucking cinnamon. No fucking cloves. No fucking Allspice. You may use Caraway as an alternative, but this is not recommended. Toss it all together in another mixing bowl, stick your Pie Bird dead-center, and pack your filling into your pie crusted-tart pan. More about the Pie Bird later. More about the Tart Pan later.
  7. Slap your wax-paper cover of pie crust over the top, poking the Pie Bird's little head out of the middle, seal it good.
  8. You need to reduce the apple juice you got from your "apple collapse" in a sauce pan--or plain pan--down to a jelly glaze. This takes 10 or 15 minutes under low heat. Get out a nice barbecue brush, and brush that glaze onto your pie crust. This sugar will caramelize on your crust, and give you some nice brown flavors.
  9. The first time I did pie, I used my regular gas-oven. I set the temp at 400 degrees, extra-high because my oven sucks, and cooked it for 50 minutes. It didn't work out so well. The whole pie was under-done. My regular oven does not hit or maintain its target temperatures well at all. This is why I bought a NewWave Oven Pro in the first place. Last night, I dropped my loaded tart-pan inside my NuWaveOven Pro for 50 minutes at 90% power. It looks like it worked out extremely well. The crust seems very flaky and I got a very nice browning effect. Remember color = flavor. You want lots of nice brown caramel flavors. I should have known a convection infrared oven would kick-ass in this application. A lot of bakers absolutely demand convection ovens.
  10. Once you do that, you set the pie out to cool for no less than four (4) hours. If you skip this step, the whole frickin' thing will fall apart into rubbish as you slice it. It will still taste good, but you will be eating hot apple cobbler. They call it apple cobbler because to you cobbled it down before it was ready. As Alton says, your patients will be rewarded.
So reckon 3 hours before you can begin assembling. One hour to assemble, if you are fast. One hour to cook. Four hours to cool. We're talking about a 9 hour project to make just one fucking pie. Better make two while you're at it. Now I remember vividly how my grandmother used to get up early on Thanks Giving day and start the pies. I know why she did this now.

I made my pie last night. I let it cool over night. It got more than 4 hours of cooling. It was ready to eat this morning, but I didn't want to slice into it. Apple pie for breakfast just doesn't seem right to me. I want steak and eggs. I put my pie in the frige to cool some more. It's going to be great tonight.

So I deviated from Alton's program in a couple of key ways:
  1. I put some poppy seeds in the pie crust mix. Poppy seeds are good. They add a lot of flavor, and they do contain those narcotic opiod alkaloids known as morphine, codeine, thebaine, and papaverine. That is not a joke. They really do. Old people eat poppy seed baked goods all the time. They do so for because of their arthritis. I have advanced osteo-arthritis in my knees. You don't get much of the good stuff in poppy seeds, but every little bit helps.
  2. I refused to settle for just the Grains of Paradise in my pie. I like a little cinnamon, Allspice and Caraway in my apple pie. I hate cloves. No cloves. I therefore ground up a blend of these spices in my Magic Bullet. It worked like a sonofabitch the first time. The pie was very fragrant, and it had a lot of flavor. I was a bit more conservative with the dosage this time. I wanted subtly. There is a synergistic effect here. Be cautious.
  3. I cannot find Apple Jelly anywhere on the frickin' local market. This really pisses me off. No, Whole Foods does not have it. Trader Joe's doesn't either. Neither does Gelson's. Neither Sur Le Table. Neither does Bristol Farms. If you want Apple Jelly, you can make it yourself. Therefore, I substituted Apple Butter instead. There doesn't appear to be any negative consequences from this substitution. It works fine.
  4. I like a mixture of corn starch and tapioca as my thickening ingredients. Maybe I am just a poor-boy, but I was raised on corn starch, and it tastes better to me. Tapioca is a bit funky.
  5. Of course, the NuWaveOven Pro is not precisely as per the SOP. We'll see how it works out. It looked great.
  6. I did not like the size of the full apple wedges. I cut them in half. A little smaller is a little better. You can pack more weight in there that way.
Otherwise, I did it the Alton Brown way. So now for a few of those key items Alton insisted on, and which I have never seen before:
  1. The tart pan. This is a special pan with a wrinkly outer wall and false bottom. It has to be 10 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep. That is not easy to find. Sur Le Table came close, but no cigar. I had to order a pair of these items through Amazon.com. Both turned out to be different and excellent. One was aluminum and the other was titanium.
  2. A Pie Bird is a ceramic (usually porcelain) little bird with his head stuck high in the air. It looks like something you might hang on a Christmas tree. The correct term in engineering vernacular is a steam vent. It belongs to a bygone era when people used to make everything ornate. I think it is a pretty cool throwback. If you don't use a Pie Bird, steam pressure will build inside your pie, and you will get either a pie dome, or a dripping mess. Sing a song of six-pence. Four and twenty black birds baked in a pie.
  3. Grains of Paradise is a very strange little spice I never heard of before. Shortly after seeing the apple pie episode of Good Eats, I noticed Samuel Adams is brewing a beer with Grains of Paradise. It is also known as Melegueta pepper and Alligator pepper. It looks like pepper and tastes like pepper to me. I got mine from Whole Foods. I think Caraway tastes better. There is something a bit weird about pepper in an apple pie. I am a major fan of heat also. I am currently growing Naga Jolokia and Bhut Jolokia in my hydroponic garden. It doesn't get hotter than that. Even so, I find pepper in my apple pie weird.
About the Pie Crust

For me the most surprising and amazing aspect of the Alton Brown apple pie is the crust formula. Alton gave us the following items:
  1. 12 oz (by weight) white flour.
  2. 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon of salt
  4. 6 oz (by weight) of unsalted butter (1.5 sticks of Challenge)
  5. 2 oz (by weight) of vegetable shortening (Crisco)
  6. 3 oz of Apple Jack.
No water. No egg. Little gluten. That's the objective. You mix the dry ingrediants in your food processor. I have a KitchenAid which is decent. You add the butter slowly as it blends. You add the vegetable shorting. Finally, you pour in the Apple Jack. Your food processor will turn it into a dough ball.

As noted above, I added some Poppy Seeds.

Just what the hell is Apple Jack? It's not your childhood cereal, that is for sure. It is the original, and most preferred, alcoholic beverage of the founding fathers. George Washington used to brew it. Abe Lincoln used to sell it in his Tavern in Springfield. It doesn't get more American than that.

Apple Jack is basically Apple Brandy. It is mostly ethyl alcohol. Ethyl Alcohol does not combine with wheat protein to form glutens. There is still some water in that Apple Jack, but not much. Apple Jack adds apple flavor to the crust, and makes it light and flaky. This is the secret ingredient, the quintessential element, the missing 5th element of the apple pie.

The 6th Element

I put the 6th element into the crust with the Poppy Seeds. Ethyl alcohol has some interesting interaction effects with Opiates. Some fools crush Vicodin tablets and drink them with Scotch Whiskey. The ethyl alcohol is an accelerator of the hydrocodone. They call this "dose dumping". This puts all of the hydrocodone into your blood stream immediately, triggering a bigger reaction.

I'll tell you what happens when you bake Poppy Seeds in a pie crust with Apple Jack tomorrow. You see, Alton Brown is not the only sonofabitch around here who knows something about chemistry. I am perfectly capable of adding some wrinkles here you just can't and won't believe.

You see! This is how I stay out of trouble. There are no Kevin Ellison stories with me because I stay home and bake apple pie. There are no Sean Payton stories with me, because I am busy baking apple pies. There are no Gloria James Delonte West stories with me, because I am home in the evenings baking apple pie.

Now I just need to invite Eva Mendez and/or Paz Vega over for a slice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In Honor of New York Getting the Super Bowl


I have decided to recast that magnum opus known as Escape from New York. I know this has to be on everybody's mind now that the NFL has fucked up big time and awarded Super Bowl 48 to New York... or Flushing Meadows NJ... or whatever. Turd, crap, shit, it's all the same material anyhow.

Of course, this is a necessary chore now that the powers that be have announced that they are going to commence production on the remake of Escape in 2011. So here is you doubly-linked list of players:
  1. Snake Plissken => Kurt Russell => Jason Statham
  2. The President => Donald Pleasence => Kevin Space
  3. Hauk => Lee Van Cleef => Michael Ironside
  4. Cabby => Ernist Borgnine => Danny DiVito
  5. The Duke of New York => Issac Hayes => Laurence Fishburne
  6. Brain => Harry Dean Stanton => Edward Norton
  7. Maggie => Adrienne Barbeau => Eva Mendez
  8. Rehme => Franke Doubleday => Timmothy Olyphant
  9. Girl in Chocked Full o' Nuts => Season Hubley => Lindsay Lohan
  10. Rehme => Tom Atkins => Ray Winstone
I really wanted to cast Paz Vega as Maggie, because it is my goddamn movie, and Paz Vega just might be my favorite chick in the whole damn world. However, I was convinced by others to go with an American Actress having somewhat better acting chops. You can't go wrong with Eva Mendez. That's one hell of a woman there.

Super Bowl in New York... in 2014?

Damn... this is just dreadful news. Well, I can now say--for the first time--that I am pretty damn happy the world is going to end in 2012. This is very important if we are to avoid having a Super Bowl in New York. The ancient astronauts will return and save us from having a Super Bowl in New York by blowing up the Earth.

Incidentally, I have never been to New York City. This is not by happen chance. I have deliberately stayed away from that operational definition of Hell on Earth. I don't need it and I don't want it. I hope never to journey there at any point in the future. It would be an excellent thing to die without every having breathed in the wretched air of New York.

Did I mention that I just purchased Escape from New York on Blu-Ray? That's a great movie, and it should inspire everything there to escape. I intend to escape from New York by never going there in the first place.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The High-Tech Paella




So this week, I am going to nail down the Spanish paella dish. Paella is basically a rice casserole dish. It was developed on the east coast of Spain, in a strip of Mediterranean coastline known as Valencia. The Valencians use a lot fish and shell fish in their Paellas. The rest of the Spaniards tend to prefer chicken and rabbit.

I am not a big fan of sea foods. I was raised in the desert of California. We don't eat a lot of funky fish products there. For this reason I think I am going to go for rabbit and chicken. I think I ate rabbit once in Germany. It was good. It was breaded with seasoning like shake-n-bake chicken. I enjoyed the flavor.

I have never attempted to cook the old hossenfeffer. This will be a first. I am sure somebody in Los Angeles sells rabbit meat. I just don't know who. This will be a challenge.

Besides the rabbit meat, there are a number of other key ingredients which you have to obtain, or you won't have a legit Paella. Here they are enumerated:

1. Calasparra Bomba rice.

So-called Bomba rice is a variety that was developed in Calasparra under the Moores. It is a short grained rice that takes a long time to grow, vis-a-vis other rice varieties. This stuff is expensive. I just bough 11 pounds (5 kilos) of imported St. Thomas Calasparra Bomb rice imported from Spain. It set me back $70 bucks. Most Asians in California would scoff at that.

It is a big chubby grain. It is the preferred type of rice in Valencia. It has two key characteristics: It can absorb 300% of its mass in water, and it is very non-sticky. Ever since I've been cooking rice, I've added water and/or broth at a 2:1 ratio. Not with Bomba. Bomba requires a 3:1 ratio.

Bomba is unique among rice because it can suck up 150% of the liquid other rices can without getting sloppy. It's the ShamWow of rice. It can absorb more chicken broth, of clam stock, or beef broth, than any other variety of rice. If you intend to use chicken stock, and I do, this means more flavor in every grain of rice. Cooks shower this rice with praise, calling it the rock-n-roll star of the rice world.

2. Smoked Spicy Paprika

I am told that Paprika is the staple spice in the Spaniard's diet. Consider it like black-pepper in our American diet. You throw it on everything. I find Paprika to be very weak, even in the hottest form. You have to add a punch, like two tablespoons full, to obtain a result. It adds color, but not much flavor unless you heap it on. Then you should expect everything to be red. I am told you add a full tablespoon or more to a good 15 inch Paella.

3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (cold pressed)

We like to season a fry pan with butter here in America. Not so in Spain. You do it with olive oil, just as you would in Italian cooking. The Spaniards claim they have the very best olive oil. The Italians dispute that. I cannot tell whether there is a difference between the two. Rather, let me rephrase that. I have cooked with both, and I cannot taste or smell any differences in the end product. I would rather use California olives not exposed to Chernobyl radiation.

I think an olive is an olive. As long as you make sure you get extra virgin cold pressed oil, your good to go.

4. Slow Roasted Roma Tomatoes

I am not buying them canned. I am going to roast them myself. It's pretty easy. You just set the NuWave Oven on low and let it run for 60 minutes. Roasting vegtables has a way of browing the skin, adding flavor, and evaporating water, concentrating the good stuff (sugars and oils). This brings out a lot of flavor.

5. Broth/stock

Paella is not cooked in plain water. Broth gives it distinction. The broth you use depends on the Paella you are going for. Sea food Paella should have fish stock, or clam stock, or something like it. Chicken based Paellas should have chicken stock. A beefy Paella should have beef stock.

6. Roasted Piquillo peppers

Supposedly, these need to be imported from Spain. I don't think so. I think red bell peppers and red Serrano's will work just fine. I might even try an Anaheim here. They're all going into the NuWave Oven Pro. I am roasting them myself.

7. Saffron

Now we come to the real featured performer of the show: Saffron. In their most honest moments, Spaniards will tell you that you can mess around with all the ingredients of the paella except two. Two are sacred. The first is the Bomba rice. The second is the Saffron. Without these two ingredients, you just didn't get it right, and the product cannot be called a Paella.

Just what the hell is Saffron, and why does it cost $300 per ounce? Saffron is a spice derived from the Saffron Crocus (Crocus Sativus). Flocks of Spanish women walk over the hillsides where millions of these flowers grow, and they hand-pluck the stigmas out of the carpel of these flows. Each flower has only 3 stigmas. The stigmas are dry roasted, mostly by hand.

When you buy Saffron, the good vendors will literally send you a bunch of dried out flower stigmas in a tin can or a bottle. Saffron has long been the most expensive spice in the world. Once again, the Spaniards claim they have the best stuff, despite the fact that this flower is native to Asia. Spain is European Union country. They get paid in Euros, and they have a pretty outrageous set of labor laws that make any kind of work, expensive. So get ready to pay through the nose, consumers.

When you throw a bit of this stuff in your Paella (1/4 teaspoon for a 3 quart dish) it will color your entire rice dish saffron-yellow. It also adds a lot of flavor. People who try it, like it. I find Turmeric does a fine job coloring rice yellow, and adds a better flavor, but I wouldn't dare mess with the tradition. My dad claims Saffron is 90% bullshit hype; but you have to put some Saffron in the dish. You can also use some Turmeric.

Traditional Chinese medicine declares that there are 252 medical aliments that can be treated with Saffron in your diet. Consider this a bonus. Western medicine has determined that Turmeric has the greatest cancer-fighting power of any dietary product known to mankind. Consider using them both together. They are good for your health.

Prep-tech

Paella is supposed to be cooked out-doors, over an open wood fire. It takes a long time; 3 hours in most cases. They usually use a cheap steel Paella (which litterally means pan). It is typically made out of a low-grade of stainless steel. This is not 18-10 culinary stainless surgical steel.

I'm not going to go that route. I have picked out a 5 quart casserole dish from Le Creuset, which is made out of enameled cast iron... of course. That puppy is going on top of a Fagor portable induction cooktop I have. This sucker cranks at 1600w and turns the entire pan into a heating element. It destroys gas in terms of CO2 output, and crushes electric radiants in terms of energy efficiency.

I am banking that enameled cast iron and induction will combine to produce the best results. A Paella purist would not approve, but I don't give a damn about that. I intend to get better results.

Paella is a dish that is cooked in an open pan. Unlike almost every other rise dish known world-wide, you never cover the paella pan. Let the water evaporate off naturally in an open pan. This dish is cooked over low heat for a long period of time. Typically it is brewed over a small open-fire at low temperature for something like 2-3 hours. This is a comparatively slow cooking process.

Set your induction cooktop for something like 150 to 160 degrees.

Update

I just found a source of rabbit meat. The source is Harmony Farms 2824 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214-3499. The also claim that they have Alligator meat. I suppose that is legal. There are now too many of those critters dwelling in limited habitats in the south. To prevent incursions into human territory, they are issuing licenses to commercial hunters.

Adding some Gator to the Paella would be interesting. According to the rumor, Gators have the most succulent meat.


The High-Tech Paella




So this week, I am going to nail down the Spanish paella dish. Paella is basically a rice casserole dish. It was developed on the east coast of Spain, in a strip of Mediterranean coastline known as Valencia. The Valencians use a lot fish and shell fish in their Paellas. The rest of the Spaniards tend to prefer chicken and rabbit.

I am not a big fan of sea foods. I was raised in the desert of California. We don't eat a lot of funky fish products there. For this reason I think I am going to go for rabbit and chicken. I think I ate rabbit once in Germany. It was good. It was breaded with seasoning like shake-n-bake chicken. I enjoyed the flavor.

I have never attempted to cook the old hossenfeffer. This will be a first. I am sure somebody in Los Angeles sells rabbit meat. I just don't know who. This will be a challenge.

Besides the rabbit meat, there are a number of other key ingredients which you have to obtain, or you won't have a legit Paella. Here they are enumerated:

1. Calasparra Bomba rice.

So-called Bomba rice is a variety that was developed in Calasparra under the Moores. It is a short grained rice that takes a long time to grow, vis-a-vis other rice varieties. This stuff is expensive. I just bough 11 pounds (5 kilos) of imported St. Thomas Calasparra Bomb rice imported from Spain. It set me back $70 bucks. Most Asians in California would scoff at that.

It is a big chubby grain. It is the preferred type of rice in Valencia. It has two key characteristics: It can absorb 300% of its mass in water, and it is very non-sticky. Ever since I've been cooking rice, I've added water and/or broth at a 2:1 ratio. Not with Bomba. Bomba requires a 3:1 ratio.

Bomba is unique among rice because it can suck up 150% of the liquid other rices can without getting sloppy. It's the ShamWow of rice. It can absorb more chicken broth, of clam stock, or beef broth, than any other variety of rice. If you intend to use chicken stock, and I do, this means more flavor in every grain of rice. Cooks shower this rice with praise, calling it the rock-n-roll star of the rice world.

2. Smoked Spicy Paprika

I am told that Paprika is the staple spice in the Spaniard's diet. Consider it like black-pepper in our American diet. You throw it on everything. I find Paprika to be very weak, even in the spice form. It adds color, but not much flavor unless you heap it on. Then you should expect everything to be red. I am told you add a full tablespoon or more to a good 15 inch Paella.

3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (cold pressed)

We like to season a fry pan with butter here in America. Not so in Spain. You do it with olive oil, just as you would in Italian cooking. The Spaniards claim they have the very best olive oil. The Italians dispute that. I cannot tell whether there is a difference between the two. Rather, let me rephrase that. I have cooked with both, and I cannot taste or smell any differences in the end product. I would rather use California olives not exposed to Chernobyl radiation.

I think an olive is an olive. As long as you make sure you get extra virgin cold pressed oil, your good to go.

4. Slow Roasted Roma Tomatoes

I am not buying them canned. I am going to roast them myself. It's pretty easy. You just set the NuWave Oven on low and let it run for 60 minutes. Roasting vegtables has a way of browing the skin, adding flavor, and evaporating water, concentrating the good stuff (sugars and oils). This brings out a lot of flavor.

5. Broth/stock

Paella is not cooked in plain water. Broth gives it distinction. The broth you use depends on the Paella you are going for. Sea food Paella should have fish stock, or clam stock, or something like it. Chicken based Paellas should have chicken stock. A beefy Paella should have beef stock.

6. Roasted Piquillo peppers

Supposedly, these need to be imported from Spain. I don't think so. I think red bell peppers and red Serrano's will work just fine. I might even try an Anaheim here. They're all going into the NuWave Oven Pro. I am roasting them myself.

7. Saffron

Now we come to the real featured performer of the show: Saffron. In their most honest moments, Spaniards will tell you that you can mess around with all the ingredients of the paella except two. Two are sacred. The first is the Bomba rice. The second is the Saffron. Without these two ingredients, you just didn't get it right, and the product cannot be called a Paella.

Just what the hell is Saffron, and why does it cost $300 per ounce? Saffron is a spice derived from the Saffron Crocus (Crocus Sativus). Flocks of Spanish women walk over the hillsides where millions of these flowers grow, and they hand-pluck the stigmas out of the carpel of these flows. Each flower has only 3 stigmas. The stigmas are dry roasted, mostly by hand.

When you buy Saffron, the good vendors will literally send you a bunch of dried out flower stigmas in a tin can or a bottle. Saffron has long been the most expensive spice in the world. Once again, the Spaniards claim they have the best stuff, despite the fact that this flower is native to Asia. Spain is European Union country. They get paid in Euros, and they have a pretty outrageous set of labor laws that make any kind of work, expensive. So get ready to pay through the nose, consumers.

When you throw a bit of this stuff in your Paella (1/4 teaspoon for a 3 quart dish) it will color your entire rice dish saffron-yellow. It also adds a lot of flavor. People who try it, like it. I find Turmeric does a fine job coloring rice yellow, and adds a better flavor, but I wouldn't dare mess with the tradition. My dad claims Saffron is 90% bullshit hype; but you have to put some Saffron in the dish. You can also use some Turmeric.

Traditional Chinese medicine declares that there are 252 medical aliments that can be treated with Saffron in your diet. Consider this a bonus. Western medicine has determined that Turmeric has the greatest cancer-fighting power of any dietary product known to mankind. Consider using them both together. They are good for your health.

Prep-tech

Paella is supposed to be cooked out-doors, over an open wood fire. It takes a long time; 3 hours in most cases. They usually use a cheap steel Paella (which litterally means pan). It is typically made out of a low-grade of stainless steel. This is not 18-10 culinary stainless surgical steel.

I'm not going to go that route. I have picked out a 5 quart casserole dish from Le Creuset, which is made out of enameled cast iron... of course. That puppy is going on top of a Fagor portable induction cooktop I have. This sucker cranks at 1600w and turns the entire pan into a heating element. It destroys gas in terms of CO2 output, and crushes electric radiants in terms of energy efficiency.

I am banking that enameled cast iron and induction will combine to produce the best results. A Paella purist would not approve, but I don't give a damn about that. I intend to get better results.

Update

I just found a source of rabbit meat. The source is Harmony Farms 2824 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214-3499. The also claim that they have Alligator meat. I suppose that is legal. There are now too many of those critters dwelling in limited habitats in the south. To prevent incursions into human territory, they are issuing licenses to commercial hunters.

Adding some Gator to the Paella would be interesting. According to the rumor, Gators have the most succulent meat.


5 Wins for the Rams in 2010...?

On last Friday's edition of ESPN Live!, former Corner and Head Coach Herman Edwards made a bold statement: A franchise quarterback means 4 more wins for your football team. He didn't give us examples, or statistics, he just left that apple tart for us on the table.

From now on I am going to call this Herm Edwards' law: A franchise QB means 4 more victories.

This created some echos and reverberations around the NFC West, a division thought to have no franchise quarterbacks... but a division which is hopeful. Now that they are running a considerable number of spread-like plays and formations, the 49ers have seen Alex Smith begin to blossom. The Seahawks just made a very strange trade, and they are hopeful. The Cardinals have been developing Matt Leinhart for some time now. The Rams just invested the absolute #1 pick in the 2010 draft in Sam Bradford. You know what they are thinking.

ESPN has a good blogger named Mike Sando who is extremely performance-simulation oriented. I like reading his stuff. He always points at some pretty interesting quantitative analysis or simulations. A while ago, Sando blogged that 10,000 reps of the NFC West schedule for 2010 produced some 7,300+ division titles for the 49ers. As many of us suspect, the 49ers have to be favored to win the division this year. The same simulations showed 4 victories for the Rams in 2010. This was the most common outcome. The Rams rarely won less than 3 games, and very rarely managed 6 wins.

Let's put it all together an extrapolate:
  • The Rams had no franchise QB in 2010
  • We want to believe we have one now.
  • We won just a single game last season (1-15)
  • Herm Edwards says a franchise QB adds 4 wins to your record
  • Sando's favorite simulations say that the Rams are likely to win 4 games
So, if Devaney is right, and Sam Bradford is a franchise-making QB, we should win 5 games in the 2010 season. 1 + 4 = 5. For some this will seem plausible. For others it will not.

I am skeptical. I am usually skeptical. It is in my scientific and philosophical training. Leave no postulate unexamined. Don't presume math is reason. Never assume the model takes everything into consideration.

Here is some food for thought with this theory in mind:
  • If Sam Bradford should play in 16 games, and we accrue 5 wins, I will be willing to say Devaney's big-time gamble appears to be paying off.
  • If Sam Bradford should play in 16 games, and we accrue 5 wins, it would appear Herm Edwards' Law looks reasonable.
  • If Sam Bradford should play in 16 games and we accrue 5 wins, we will have exceeded the computer projections by 1 game. We'll give that one to Sam. He will get credit for beating the spread.
  • If Sam plays 16 and we get 6 or 7 wins, I think everybody will know what that means. He will have busted the ceiling in this case. Just remember, we're going to have to score more than 300 points to get to the 6 or 7 mark.
  • What will it mean if Sam plays 16 and we win 1 or 2?
  • What if Sam doesn't start until week 8 and we are 0-7 at that point? What if he managed 3 wins in the last 9? What will we make of this outcome?
  • What if Sam doesn't start until week 8 and we are 0-7 at that point? What if he wins 5 of the last 9? I think we will know what to make of that outcome. There will be some celebration.
  • So here is the goat-screw scenario: Suppose we start A.J. Feeley and we open up 4-0? What do we do then? That would not be such a good thing, eh?
Let me give you my personal thoughts about all this.

Troy Aikman is a name that seems to keep coming up in connection with Sam Bradford. That's not just because they are both from Oklahoma. It's not just because they are both accurate. It's because Aikman is the only absolute #1 QB pick to trigger a turn-around from kaput-worst to dynasty. Devaney knows that. I reminded him of that. He's using this imagery as propaganda to inspire us.

With that in mind, let's remember that Aikman was 0-15 during his first season as a starter. The 1 victory the Cowboys got during 1989 occurred with Steve Walsh at the helm. The Cowboys did not panic. Neither should we.

Pat Shurmur is going to be the limiting factor that busts the deal in 2010. I have not complained at all about Spagnuolo because I see him doing a tremendous job with very limited talent on the defense. Our defense rarely or never looked stupid last season. They were overwhelmed several times. Our D was betrayed many times by a pathetic offense that turned it over deep.

The offense was the problem in 2009. I can say, with great confidence, that I know our defense will be better in 2010. They are getting it. They have bought into Spagnuolo's system. They are playing like they have great confidence in their coach and his scheme. They may not be that talented a unit, bu they are trusting each other and handling their responsibilities.

I can't say any of these things about the offense. Shurmur did not manage a weak offensive unit nearly as well as Spagnuolo managed our weak defensive unit. Our offense looked downright stupid many, many times last season. This had much to do with Shurmur's lack of game management, and lack of skill in play-calling.

The offense played with enough confidence to leave a Dristan capsule half-empty. They didn't look like they understood what was expected of them. They looked like Keystone Cops in October against the 49ers. They didn't look to me like they had any confidence at all that the scheme would work. It looked to me like they were going through the motions, just trying to get the season over-with.

All of these things are a dreadful reflection on the OC.

Do we believe Shurmur is suddenly going to find his sea-legs in 2010? Do we think he is going to command the respect of the troops, and inspire them to greatness?

Do we think Shurmur will call a mean-game, like Mike Martz would? Is he suddenly going to diagnose precise weaknesses in the enemy D and viciously exploit them through well-constructed mis-matches, as Martz would?

Shurmur gave me many indications last season that he is a ridged and inflexible system guy. He is probably going to rely on the adaptation built into the WCO passing scheme to do his work for him... When he is not running the football.

Unfortunately, this is an out-moded and out-dated offense which has been systematically rendered infective by the Belichick Box. If Shurmur doesn't step outside his comfort-zone and bring some opponent-specific strategies to the table in 2010, we're not going anywhere.

This is why I want Shurmur fired. I have no confidence in this guy's ability to construct an adaptive game strategy for specific opponents.

Until we unload Pat Shurmur we need to be very cautious about calling 4 or 5 wins for the Rams in 2010.

Friday, May 21, 2010

About Sam Bradford, the young man, not the draft decision



So they had just a bit of footage from the Rams' OTAs last night on NFL Total Access. The focus was on the question "Why is Sam working out with the 2nd string right now?"

It was false drama by the media. All of us know why. The team is trying to pretend they aren't going to throw him head first into the shark tank immediately... sink or swim. We all know the truth is a little bit different. Jason La Canfora said as much, but he put a tad bit of spin on it, saying something along the lines of:

"They're taking it one step at a time. They want him to feel that he's earning it. Everyone expects him to be the starter by the time the games start counting. They describe his workouts as 'awesome.'"

Setting aside all my disputes with Devaney's judgement and draft strategy, which are numerous, what do I think of Sam Bradford, the player, the guy in a Ram helmet, right now?

He looks pretty good in a Ram uniform. He's not the skinny as a rail kid he was a few years ago during the BCS championship game. His throwing motion looks a lot faster as well. He always had a nice fluid throwing motion, reminiscent of Jim Plunkett at his best, but I don't recall his motion being quite this snappy before. Maybe he's self consciously trying to decrease his release time. Maybe his release has gotten faster as a result of the muscle weight and strength increase. I don't know.

We all know a quick release is good. Dan Marino, John Elway and Brett Favre had the three fastest releases I've ever seen in my life. Some say Elway was the fastest. Some say Marino was the fastest. It doesn't really matter now. They are both in the Hall of Fame, and they are both legendary figures of football folklore.

I would really appreciate it if our friends at the NFL Network or ESPN would put the super-high-speed cameras on his motion, and get out the laser speedometers, and clock Sam's throwing motion. Somebody probably already did that during the draft, but I did not see any results published. Also, I would like to see how Sam's new and faster release compares to Elway, Favre and Marino's.

Maybe I am a stupid homer, but it looks to me like his release time just might be down there in the lower milisecond regions, where the aforementioned great-ones dwell.

If so, this bodes extremely well for my Rams. I know for a fact that a slow-release doesn't kill you in the NFL. Many HOF QBs had slower releases. However, I know for a fact that a quick release does help. It's a positive. It's just like having quick feet. It's a good talent to have, if you've got it. Not absolutely mandatory, but it is to your advantage.

I think it has more to do with a QB's instant reaction to a situation than surprising defensive backs. I still don't believe NFL Corners can read the QB's throwing motion and react as quickly as they say they can. One thing we have to remember: defenders are always full of bravado and bullshit. This is true of Nose Tackles also. Defenders claim they can do all sorts of things they cannot do. You might call it "talking shit" but it's more like "believing shit."

Each time I see the kid on film, and I've only seen about 5 minutes of practice film, he looks very good. He looks better than most QBs I've seen practicing in these OTAs. Maybe it's just because he's deadly serious, and others are taking it easy. If so, there's nothing wrong with that picture. Can't complain about that.

Honestly, we can't tell until the regular season strikes, but so far he looks good. You know I am hoping and praying I am wrong about his career. Nobody will be happier than I will be if I turn out to be wrong here. The problem is the percentages are not good.

Everybody else seems extremely bullish about Sam Bradford. Just two days ago, I watched a couple of old episodes of Path to the Draft and Draft Recap. They said some terribly flattering things about Sam. Our two GMs, Michael Lombardy and Charlie Casserly, were very high on Bradford.

Casserly, in particular, said remarkable things. Just what did he say?
  • "Bradford is one of the best QB prospects I have scouted in the past 10 years"
  • "If I was a Ram fan I wouldn't question this selection. I would take heart and be excited about this choice. You're getting a great quarterback."
  • "Bradford is the best player in this draft. He is the number one athlete, and he is going to be the #1 pick by the Rams."
When scientifically comparing the QB prospects from 2009, 2010, and 2011, several of the commentators on draft-recap believed Bradford is the best of the breed. This was particularly clear in Casserly's case. He favored Bradford's accuracy over Stafford's raw arm strength. He favored both over Jake Locker, who he seems to view as non-No.1 absolute. Mike Mayock seems to favor Stafford based on his 'generational arm', or arm strength alone.

[The logic of Mike Mayock's argument is not particularly sound. You never favor a dude on arm strength alone. If so, JaMarcus Russell would actually be a quarterback, and not an unemployed civilian. I should also caution you with the fact that Cassely doesn't think Tebow is a natural passer who can read coverage. That is bizarre notion, as Tebow is the NCAA's most efficient passer ever, even over our own Sam Bradford.]

All of these glorious statements can be challenged by a skeptic. Follow some of these statements to their logical implications. If any of this is true, do you know what it means? It means that Bradford ranks along side of guys like Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, etc." Do you think that's right? I'm just asking. I don't know the answer yet.

We should caution with the following fact: Casserly also said Ben Roethlisberger had to be preferred over Sam Bradford. This was based on concrete achievement. Don't forget the Steelers were prepared to trade Roethlisberger and sweeteners for our Bradford. That's based on disgrace.

If these statements are true, Bradford is a better athlete than Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Do you believe that is true? I'm just asking. I don't know the answer yet. I find that difficult to believe. Let's remember, Mike Mayock kicked off the draft season by saying that this was a bad QB year, and two men stood head and shoulders above the field: Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Somehow he changed his tune with the "Franchise Quarterback trumps alls" motif.

If just some of these statements are mostly true, this would strongly imply that my Rams just got away with the best QB prospect in the past 3 years. We'll also have a better one than will be available next season. He'll also be 1 year ahead of Jake Locker in experience during 2011.

One fact cannot be disputed: We are not well setup to receive a young man who has had injury problems at the quarterback position.
  1. We had a bad line that gave up 44 sacks last season
  2. We jettisoned two bad starters in Icognito and Barron. This is good, but...
  3. We are rejiggering the line, switching a Right Tackle Sophomore to left, and a freshman Left Tackle to Right.
  4. We're plugin in our reserve tackle Adam Goldberg at right guard.
  5. We don't have terrific receiver threats. They are better than some think, but worse than the homers would have you believe.
  6. Steven Jackson is coming off back surgery. The presumed security blanket may not be there.
  7. Steven Jackson has no competent backup.
  8. We do not have a running back committee, as we should have.
  9. This cannot be remedied by signing Michael Westbrook, presuming he will sign with us, which is a big "IF".
  10. We're running the WCO, which is an outdated and outmoded offense; a scheme that has been systematically defeated by the Belichick Box.
  11. We've got Pat Shurmer as our OC... Nuff'said.
  12. Whatever else you want to say about it, durability is the paramount issue. You can have fantastic size, strength, speed, lightning fast release, laser-guided accuracy, a brilliant mind, etc. If your body breaks down, your career goes up in smoke. My worst fear is that Sam lacks the physical durability necessary to make all of his other gifts work for him in the NFL.
All of these are great obstacles Sam is going to have to overcome. I hope he does so, for all our sakes.

I hope this is the turn of the tide. I hope we have a deadly franchise QB. I hope we have the next QB everybody will be raving about. I hope he triggers the establishment of a new dynasty and 10 years of glorious winning. I hope he's the QB every wide receiver wants to play for, just as Kurt Warner was in the early stages of this decade.

There is a lot to love about this kid. I just hope we are not responsible for destroying this young man with bad draft decisions, bad coaching, and bad personnel misses. One of the things that pisses me off is that Devaney took this kid, and then passed on coaches and tools that would make him successful. That has to change really damn quick.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Passer Rating App



When Dallas Braden pitched his perfect game a week or so ago, the NFL Network celebrated that achievement by counting down the top 10 perfect Passer-Rating games of all time. This, of course, begs the question just what is a perfect Passer-Rating game anyhow?

Of course, this doesn't mean no-sacks, no-interceptions, no-incompletions, and no QB penalties (such as intentional grounding) as I think it should. I think we would still be looking for that first perfect performance if such was the case.

Rather, a perfect passer rating is defined by the passer-efficiency formula. There is a hard-cap of 158.3 on that formula, but it is not imposed by the formula. It's just imposed by rule. You can read these formulas here.

Fran Charles showed us the formula on screen and declared "If you can understand that math, you have a large amount of money in your future." Not being a man given to math anxiety, I wanted to have a good look at it, so I hit the pause button. 'Twas nothing! The formula is piece of cheese cake with some cherry sauce.

When I saw that, at around 12:30am in the morning, I had to fight the urge to flip open ye old laptop and scribble some code. I figured I could code it in under 20 minutes. I had some down-time at work this morning, as per usual, and I decided to give it whirl. The class which does the calculation was trivial. It was more effort to rig the WPF test form than the class which calculates the formula.

Just 75 lines of code, no mas. It could have been smaller and more compact, but I decided to put in some luxory items, like the NCAA passer rating formula, and the passer's first name and last name. I didn't have to do that. There it is in nice shiny Microsoft C# 4.0 code.

Grad total of effort: Maybe an hour and a half. It could easily be converted to Java in 20 minutes or less. Mayhaps I will do that with NetBeans tomorrow. Same goes with Visual Basic.

So I suppose the main question is this: Does NFL.com have a WebService API and can lock-on to and feed my app. I can do real-time passer ratings with this app if I take it a step or two further. It would make a nice Google Android app.

So Tebow's biggest problem is that he is left handed, eh?

BleacherReport.com sent a newsletter to me this morning on the Denver Broncos, now officially my second favorite team. One headline boldly declared: "Tim Tebow's Biggest Problem: He's Left Handed."

The URL pointed towards a blog by Bill Williamson on the ESPN website. He would appear to be an official blogger on the subject of the Broncos for ESPN. He gave us a number of factoids to start off:
  • Only 12 Southpaws have started 50 or more games in league history. This includes such illustrious names as Chris Simms, Michael Vick, Frankie Albert & Bobby Douglass.
  • Only one Southpaw is scheduled to start in 2010: Matt Leinart.
  • Only two Southpaws have won a Super Bowl: Stabler and Young.
Then we get some very bizzare information here which points at everything that is wrong about coaching in the NFL. Do you want to hear this?
  • There are coaches and teams that aren't open to the prospect of going with a Southpaw. I'll bet that's my Rams.
  • Many coaches don't think they can coach a lefty. There are certain challenges that coaches don't want to deal with. I'll bet that is Dick Curl.
  • There are scouts who won't touch a lefty because OCs feel that a Southpaw could mess up their offense. I'll bet you anything that OC is Pat Shurmur.
  • Then there is the flip-flop of blindside protectors. The ROT is the blindside protector if your QB is a Southpaw, not the LOT. Many OCs don't like that flip-flop at all.
I don't doubt there are such OCs in the league. I am sure there are. I merely want to go on the record and say that these are the types of coaches should be fired if you have one. They really should not be hired in the first place.

Everything about that sort of thinking is utterly wrong from the inception point:
  1. Southpaws have a huge advantage. They flip the entire defensive pressure scheme upside down. Most defenses have big trouble with this.
  2. Doing everything in reverse, and putting a reverse spin rotation on the ball does funny things to the minds of defensive backs. They read Southpaws more slowly. I believe there is a 12ms delay in the defense when they are forced to read a southpaw. This can make the difference between 18 inches of daylight, and a 1.5 yards of daylight.
  3. This Southpaw advantage has made modestly talented QBs such as Ken Stabler and Boomer Esiason very successful in the NFL.
  4. You never adapt a player to your offense.
  5. You always adapt your offense to your players.
  6. If you are a ridged system guy, you are no damn good to God or this country. We need to round you up, and shoot you down like a dog.
  7. If you are a coach who is unwilling to stretch a little to gain the Southpaw advantage for the team, you're a faggot, and we don't need you.
I am almost certain I am speaking of Guys like Dick Curl and Pat Shurmur there. God damn them both to Hell. May they burn forever.

Yes, I am still smoldering over our draft decisions in 2010. I don't like 'em. I don't like those decisions at all.

I'll tell you what I really don't like about these choices. The hired guns like the GM and the OC will get fired, their affiliation with the Rams will end. They will probably be glad they have been relieved of the rebuilding duties. They will go on with their lives. We the permanent Ram-fans will be left with the wreckage and consequences left behind.

Just remember: There is no team loyalty at the management level. That concept does not exist.

Anyhow, I am still stunned that Mr. McDaniels stood up and grabbed Tebow. I hated this guy with a passion for breaking up a promising Bronco team. I still think he is making some wacky moves. The firing of Dick Nolan is truly inexplicable. Nevertheless, any guy who knows Gold when he sees it in Tim Tebow can't be all bad.

I would rather have Josh McDaniels as my OC than Pat Shurmur, that much is for certain. How about head coach? Well... I don't know about that. I like Spagnuolo just fine, and I fear what this McDaniels kid does when he is unleashed. Now, if we could get McDaniels to work under Spagnuolo, that would be a good tandem. It would be fitting too, as Spagnuolo's defense thumped McDaniels' offense in Super Bowl 42.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Enameled Cast Iron?





Lately, I have been looking into upgrading my cookware. I do a lot of cooking for myself. Pretty soon, I will have to cook all the time. When I have that Gastric Bypass surgery, there will be no more adventures out for eats for yours truly.

The educational courses I have already had warn us to forget about eating out for about a year or so after the surgery. There is no way it will ever work out. You will either have to carry out 80% your food, or you will throw up. In either case, you will be malnourished. You have to watch your micro-nutrients very closely when you have this surgery.

We have been warned they everyone throws up at least once. Sooner or later, your co-workers lure you out to McDonalds for a Happy Meal. Surely you can eat something as small as a child's happy meal, right? Nope. The grease will make you sick immediately. Remember, they bypass the upper intestine where that grease is processed. You will throw up violently, and then the mere smell of McDonald's hamburgers and fries will make you sick.

No more ventures out for food. Consider cooking for the rest of your life. It will workout better for you that way.

Well... if I am going to cook every damn meal, I intend to get the most out of it. I am going to do the gourmet thing. I am watching the Food Network now more than ever. I am mastering at least one new dish per week. This week I am cheating. I'm learning Alton Brown's apple pie.

Next week Paella. The week after that, engagement chicken.

This brings us back to the topic at hand: Enameled Cast Iron. Just what the hell is it? I am sure you all have seen old-fashioned black cast iron pots and pans. These are the ones traditional american settlers used to cook on the Prairie.

Enameled Cast Iron contains the same core black iron pot or pan. The difference is that they coat it with a robust layer of porcelain enamel. We're not talking about just any old enamel either. We're talking about the good stuff; the same material they make Glock handguns out of. The same material dentists use to make the most robust surgically implanted artificial teeth.

Why would anybody coat iron in enamel? First of all, you get the toughest non-stick surface you've ever seen. It's much more robust than Teflon, which is a cheap substitute. Second it is way more non-stick than Teflon. Teflon is easier to clean than Steel or Iron, but it still isn't easy to clean. Enameled Cast Iron usually wipes clean with a plain cloth. I'm not joking. I tried it. It's stupid easy to clean these things. If you hate washing the pots and pans, try this. It will take the surgeons 3 hours to get the smile off your face.

Just think of how easy it is to clean your toilet brilliant white. With a simple spray and a quick wipe, it's clean. Just think of what it is subjected too. This is what porcelain is capable of doing for you. Toilet porcelain is not good quality stuff either. This is cheap porcelain.

Second of all, enameled cast iron works with induction. I am going to have to write a piece about induction cooking soon. Suffice it to say that electrical coils and gas ovens are obsolete. You know that Viking Oven everybody used to want? Forget it. Totally outdated and outmoded.

Induction is a trip. You put you pot or pan on top of an electromagnet cranking waves at up to 1,800 watts. The electromagnet never gets hot. The pot or pan does. The pot or pan is the heating element. The entire pot or the whole pan becomes the heating element. It doesn't have one hotspot. Chefs who try it praise the amazing evenness of the cooking they get out of induction. They usually switch.

Now the problem with using electromagnets to heat metal is that you must use a metal that responds to magnetism. You have two options: Iron and Steel. No bloody Aluminum. No bloody copper. No bloody glass. This is a shame, to a certain degree, because copper has marvelous qualities to recommend it.

Enameled cast iron is iron. It works fine with induction. You'll love it.

There are some other reason to go with enameled cast iron: acid and base. Lime and Lemon are two very important ingredients in a lot of recipes. Oranges and tomatoes are also. All of these pack a corrosive whallop. They will degrade Teflon and Iron. Tobasco and hot sauces will rip these materials to shreds. Stainless steel is mostly immune if it is good quality stuff. Enameled cast iron survives just fine thanks.

For a guy like Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, or Alton Brown the choice is simple: 18-10 Culinary Stainless Steel. They claim they don't like anything else, although everyone of these guys has at least one enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Every time they have to braise something, the enameled cast iron comes out from under the counter.

Some of the cooks on the Food Network have been making the switch to enameled cast iron lately. Giada DeLaurentis has been using this gear for her latest shows. She has good reason too. This is is really good gear.

So why the hang-up on stainless steel? There are some reasons, good and bad:
  1. Stainless can take pretty extreme heat. This is presuming your recipe requires extreme heat, which is almost never. This also presumes your grill can produce extreme heat, which is almost never.
  2. Alton Brown claims that you cannot make a pan sauce on a non-stick surface. He's mostly talking about Teflon. He's partially talking about Porcelain. You need sticky steel to produce all that good nasty brown stuff that makes a good pan sauce. I will admit: I like a nice pan-sauce, but I am not at all certain it is impossible to do with a porcelain surface.
  3. Stainless is the traditional weapon of choice. A deep bias in favor of Stainless steel is bred into professional cooks who go to cooking schools. They demonstrate this bias every day on the cooking shows. The bias is passed on.
  4. Steel heats faster than iron. Enameled cast iron takes longer to heat than regular iron. This is mostly a thing of the past. If you intend to use induction, this is not much of an issue. Enameled cast iron heats up very fast under induction.
Personally, I have gotten to the point where I have been convinced that enameled cast iron is the way to go. If you are going to get an induction cooktop, or if you have one already: Consider enameled cast iron.

So how did I discover enameled cast iron? Two pathways of research simultaneously converged on enameled cast iron. First, I was looking hard at induction cooktops. Second, I discovered this French brand of enameled cast iron cookware called Le Creuset at Whole Foods.

Le Creuset pots and pans sell for outrageous prices. The tags say $200 and $300 per piece for each one of these things. I wondered just why the hell rich people would be stupid enough to spend that kind of money for colorful cookware. Well, it turns out there are a few reasons. They claim these enameled cast iron pieces are so durable they will last for generations. Your grandkids can use them. Second, they work with induction. Third, they wipe clean with a paper towel. No need for the washing machine.

It turns out there are several more vendors of enameled cast iron out there in the world. There is a little Tennessee company called Lodge that has been in business for over 100 years that does this cookware also. They do it for a fraction of the cost of Le Creuset. They make good stuff also.

So I am going to buy a bunch of Lodge enameled cast iron and help Tennessee to recover from the flood.

Putting the band-hammer down on Microsoft Outlook

So, I guess the economy must be rebounding or something like that. Not only have the Rams selected a QB who will cost 256 times per year what Vince Ferragamo once cost, but my relatives are now contacting me about the prospects of building new computer systems for them.

I used to build computers for fun. There's nothing to it really. If you can snap together Legos as a kid would, you can assemble a computer these days. You just put the round peg in the round hole, and the square peg in the square hole. It is amazing what a challenging concept that is for some people. When I was a 6 year old kid, I was asked to perform a series of stupid tasks like this in an IQ test at Fresno State. I rang the bell at the top. The Ph.Ds were very excited. My grandmother was stunned.

I still have no idea what they were going on about. A fool could do what I did then.

But now I am going to withhold my lego snapping skills for cause. I am going to flat-cold refuse to build new computers for these relatives. I am going to do this for a very important reasons: The folks are using Microsoft Outlook.

Yep, that's right. Because they are using Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, they get no love from me. They are on the contraband list.

The last time I built machines for my mom and cousin-in-law, I had weeks of headaches with one phone call after another related to one fucked up piece of shit program: Microsoft Outlook. Toss Outlook in Express in there also. The difference between these two is the difference between colon cancer and anal cancer. About 6 inches of distance mayhaps.

There was nothing wrong with the hardware I built for them. The machines were humming along superbly. The build was flawless in both cases. No, these two users were experiencing software problems related to exactly one piece of software: Outlook. For this reason, they called me repeatedly with question after question about Outlook.

This pissed me off to no end. You have no idea how much I hate Outlook. I never use Outlook, except at work, where I am forced too by very poor management decisions. At work, I use the disease as little as possible. As far as I am concerned, Outlook is the worst application ever devised by mankind. There is no piece of software more poorly conceived, more poorly designed, or more poorly implemented.

Asking me questions about Outlook is like asking me questions about Gay sexual techniques. I don't know much about the subject, I don't want to know what I do know, and I am certainly not willing to learn more about it to help you get it right. Don't ask. Don't tell.

Being an Outlook user is a shameful thing. If I was an Outlook user, I certainly wouldn't tell anybody about it. I would hide that fact in the closet and never admit it. I certainly wouldn't ask for help in continuing with this problem. I would seek help in kicking this habit.

Take this to heart, Outlook users: Be ashamed of yourselves, be every ashamed. Shame on you. You are bad; very bad.

Outlook is the worst application Microsoft ever did, and that is saying an awful lot because they also wrote Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer and Outlook are the two greatest security holes Microsoft ever invented. Most of the alleged security flaws in Windows itself are really problems with Outlook and IE. If you never use either application, your probability space for infection by malware shrinks down to almost nothing.

With Outlook the problems run much deeper than mere security holes. Outlook is a pure waste of skin. It is an app without a purpose in life. It has no reason to live. There is literally no purpose in putting a local database of eMail and contact information on your computer. There is no logic in it at all, ever, under any circumstances. This is a completely outdated and outmoded approach to doing business. If you have a local database of such information, you are wrong, full-stop.

All of that stuff should be handled in web-based systems like Gmail, or Microsoft Live! There are no exceptions to this rule. In this way, you never experience problems in moving from computer to computer. There is no need to synchronize databases between a laptop and a desktop. There is no reason to worry about what will happen to your email or contact book if your hard disk crashes. All of these problems go out the window. Asking how you synchronize Gmail between two machines is like asking how you rewind a DVD before returning it to the rental store. The problem does not exist.

Amazing how entire categories of problems can be entirely avoided if you merely don't go there and don't do that. Just say no to Outlook. You will be grateful you did.

I'm putting the band-hammer down on Outlook. I'm going to leave these relatives hanging. They can stay in these current machines until those hard disks die. They can loose that entire database of mail and contact information. At that point, they will experience excruciating pain, and I will be there to tell them "I told you so."

I know they are not backing up on a regular basis. I know that asking a user to backup on a regular basis is a very unsound approach to doing business. I know they will loose mission critical information they can never recover when this eventuality happens. I know that is going to hurt like hell. I will be there to tell them "I told you so."

It's going to take a pain-event like that to make them kick the Heroin habit. I just saw fragments of "Requiem for a Dream" last night. Absolutely disgusting movie, and I hated it. However, it did demonstrate that Jared Leto had to lose his entire left arm to infection before he could begin the process of quitting Heroin.

Outlook = Heroin. Kick the habit.