Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm making Spotted Dick in Custard Sauce for tomorrow's potluck... at work

So, tomorrow we are holding a potluck luncheon in honor of one of our executive VP's birthday. I am going to make Spotted Dick in (hot) Custard Sauce. Yep, you heard me right. I'm making Spotted Dick.

Spotted Dick is essentially a steamed raisin & currant cake, served on a bed of custard, and drizzled with a little more custard. It is a huge favorite in Great Brittan. They love it. I understand that Ron Weaselly (of Harry Potter fame) loves Spotted Dick. I should have known that. Did he and Harry ever officially come out of the closet? Goddamn English boy's schools. John Maynard Keynes was great lover of Spotted Dick, in more ways that one.

I recently had the privilege of seeing a classic episode of Graham Kerr's old Galloping Gourmet show in which he prepared Spotted Dick, live before a studio audience. It is considered his greatest show ever. It was hysterical. He played it for laughs. He was comedian as well as a well-connected hotel-restaurateur. The audience laughed riotously through the whole show. He knocked 'em dead.

Of course, Kerr was one of the original creators of the entire cooking-show concept, along with Julia Childs. We all know she couldn't hang-n-bang with this guy. She had nowhere near his charisma, and he was funny as hell. He was a 6 pitch pitcher, with murderous stuff, and she was a 2 pitch pitcher. In his day, the Galloping Gourmet became an international sensation. He was bigger than any of the figures today, even Giada.

I was impressed by the incredible opportunities for comedy pregnant within Spotted Dick. They are almost limitless. It is a very fertile thing, you know, that 'ole Spotted Dick.

The ingredients are easy:
  • 12 Oz of all-purpose flower (by weight)
  • 1/3 of a cup of sugar. Make it 3oz.
  • 4 oz of raisins
  • 4 oz of currants
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4oz of beef suet (that is beef tallow or lard) by weight. The mass is 1 cup.
  • 4oz of whole milk.
As always in baking, you mix the dry ingredients first. Use a food processor or a Ninja to get it done. Add the tallow next. Pulse with your food processor or Ninja until your get the crumbles. Drizzle the crumbles with milk and beat them together until your dough is ready to be kneaded.

Knead the dough until it is a little firm. Roll-out your Spotted Dick dough on a baking sheet, preferably a non-stick Silpat. Then you need spread jam on your spotted dick to make it a rolly-polly. Spreading jam on your Spotted Dick is very kinky. Chicks love it. Roll it up to form a cylander with a swirl.

Once you have rolly-polly jammy Spotted-Dick all ready, it needs to be inserted into a hot and wet steamer for 2 hours. Then comes the hot custard sauce... but not before two hours have elapsed. Yes, I know this is difficult... when you want drizzle the hot custard sauce so bad!

Keeping the Spotted Dick in the steamer for two hours without drizzling the custard sauce is difficult, so you may need male enhancement. But these enhancements have side effects. To avoid risk of permanent injury, be sure to seek immediate medical attention for an erection lasting longer than 4 hours. This is a medical emergency.

The ingredients for the custard sauce are just what you would expect for such a dish.
  • 2 cups of whole milk (you know what the Latinas say about Leche)
  • 1/2 cups of sugar (pour some sugar on me in the name of love)
  • 5 large egg yokes (that is a fertility thing)
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla. (This is a WASP thing, man!)
Bring the milk and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan. Some people use a double boiler or a water bath to ensure that you do not burn the critical substance. Whisk your yokes until they are blended. Gradually whisk your egg yokes into the hot milk. The sauce needs to register 170F to be considered safe. Use an instant thermometer. It also needs to be sticky and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon... or something else while spooning.

You need to stop the cooking quickly when it is done. Drizzle it into a metal bowl, placed inside a larger bowl of ice-water. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Whisk occasionally until it is cook. Wrap it in plastic to prevent skin from forming. Most people chill until it is cold.

Of course, it would be best to drizzle this custard all over your Spotted Dick, rather than wrapping in plastic. It tastes better that way. Most chicks like it hot.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Which grill, the decision tree

I have been engaged in a grill-quest for some two weeks now. The conclusion of the battle draws near. It could be over as soon as tonight. We will see. So how does the decision tree look? Here are the basics.

Coal or Gas?

The first decision you have to make is which fuel type you are going to run with. Do you want chunks of coal/charcoal or do you want to go with gas? For me the decision is fairly straightforward. I am not a fan of open an uncontrolled fire on the balcony. Neither am I a fan of smoke. Nor do I favor the loss of temperature gauges and controls. No, real cooking requires temperature controls and thermometers.

You need to have control. Therefore coal and charcoal can be discarded rather easily.

There is another factor: If you look at fuel prices, you discover that coal and charcoal are very expensive options vis-a-vis propane and methane. Cost estimates vary, but we are always talking about an order of magnitude difference in fuel costs.

Methane or Propane?

Once you have decided to go with gas, you need to decide which gas: methane (natural gas) or propane. Once upon a time this was not a part of the decision tree. All gas grills were powered by propane. That was the end of the story.

Now we have options, which is not to say they are good options. You can have the SoCalGas man come out to your apartment, and with your landlord's permission, he will run a methane line to your balcony. Be prepared for some regulatory difficulties if you try this. However, you don't have to run with a 20# or 40# tank containing 5 or 10 gallons of propane anymore. You can have a theoretically infinite supply of natural gas piped to your grill.

I have decided that there is simply no profit in running with methane. Propane is the fuel source. It is the source grill designers and engineers had in mind when they made all of their engineering choices. Methane is something that was retrofitted onto the system. You know what they say about retrofits?

Propane contains 2,448 BTUs per cubic foot. Methane contains just about 1,000 BTUs per cubic foot. Obviously, you get a lot more heat per cubic foot of propane. Propane provides 244.8% of the power of methane, unit for unit.

This is why several owners of the Weber Summit (650 and 670) told me (personally) that they regret the decision to run with methane. They say their grills take more than 30 minutes to hit searing temperatures, and they never seem as hot as when they run with propane. They attribute this problem to the inferior BTU power of methane. Believe me, I get that message loud and clear.

Advocates of methane will tell you methane is cheap and propane is expensive. This is false economy. Propane is more expensive per gallon, but remember, that gallon of propane is 2.448x more powerful than that gallon of methane. When this is factored into the equation, the price is just about even. On some days propane is cheaper. On some days propane is more expensive.

Frankly, I don't care about the price. I don't want to ask permission. I don't want the gas-man making modifications to my balcony. I don't want to encounter potential regulatory difficulties with the LAFD. I don't want my grill to take a long time to heat up. I want to use the best rocket fuel available. I am going with propane, not methane.

Flame or Infrared?

Gas grills divide naturally into two categories these days: Infrared and flame. It used to be that you simply had a gas flame and that was the end of it. What is this infrared jazz?

Contrary to myth, infrared grills are not powered by electricity. You do not have radiant or halogen cooking lamps in these grills. They may provide halogen lights, but that is so you can see what you are cooking a in dimly lit environment, such as twilight (not the chick flick). The halogen lights do not provide cooking heat. Infrared grills are best powered by propane combustion.

So how does this work? Infrared grills used large number of small gas flame jets to heat up a ceramic plate. This ceramic plate super-heats, hitting temperatures as high as 1,400f. I heard some claims of 2,000f at the "plate", but those claims are in doubt. Naturally, this ceramic plate begins to radiate heat upward... all the way to the grill... and your food.

Infrared grills are unquestionably the hottest grills in terms of absolute temperature. Cooking temperatures of +800f are easily possible with most of these grills. Some claim to reach 1,000f, although I doubt this claim.

Most tell me that that the conventional Webers haven't got a prayer of reaching 700f if you power them with Methane. You'll be lucky to hit 650f after 30 minutes. With propane, these conventional grills can hit around 700-720 degrees. Claims of 800f have not be validated. Youtube videos that claim to show Weber hitting 800f, do not. Look again. The hood thermometer shows 770f. The second the hood opens, the temperature plummets 50f.

Do you really want the Maillard Reaction or not?

This is the question you need to ask when you make the decision between conventional and infrared grills. Some ask the question "Do you want to do low temperature or high temperature grilling?" I consider that to be a bogus question. That question can be discarded rather easily.

If I wanted to do low temperature cooking, I would not need to purchase a grill. My stove, my oven, and my Crockpot can handle this work just fine. None of us need a grill for low temperature work. No, the reason for purchasing a grill is high-heat cooking. The function of the grill is to take over the job when other heat sources fail to provide the power required.

Folks, the real question is:
Do you want the Maillard Reaction? You might also phrase it this way: Do you really want premium steak house results? If the answer is yes, you want the hottest heat source you can get. You want your grill to be capable of extreme temperatures. This means you want a quality infrared grill.

To achieve the Maillard Reaction, and get a good searing crust on your steaks, you are going to need temperatures in excess of 600f. Most seasoned chefs will tell you that good searing only begins at 650f. It goes north of that figure in a hurry.

Good luck with that Weber powered by methane.

How the All-Pro team does it

In the past two weeks, I have re-discovered that Ruth's Criss Steak House uses a custom-made Salamander (a special class of conveyor belt grill-oven) that grills at temperatures of 850f for very short periods of time. I have been told that all of the great steak houses in America are very similar. They all grill at temperatures of +800f. Pacific Dining Car, my favorite abode here in Los Angeles, grills at +800f. Shula's Famous Steakhouse in Miami does the same. Morton's Steakhouse actually uses a TEC Infrared outdoor grill in preparing certain steaks.

The moral of the story is plain and clear: If you want to achieve professional Steakhouse results (i.e. perfect diamond shape sear-marks and a Maillard crust) you need temperatures in excess of 800f. You need high, high heat to achieve these results. The lack of high, high heat is why you fail to achieve results comparable to a good Steakhouse at home, regardless of how much you spend on steak.

Just to clinch the question, have a look at Youtube videos regarding Morton's Steakhouse, and TEC infrared grills. Sooner or later, you are going to come across several videos implicitly and explicitly showing a tall (6'10") chef prepping perfect diamond-grilled steaks on a TEC infrared grill outside the steakhouse.

Ergo Sum: You want a very powerful Infrared grill. Conventional grills can be discarded from this search.

Which Infrared Grill?

Knowledge regarding infrared grills is spotty at best. There are a variety of different brands. There are expensive models from Luxor, Solaire and TEC. There are non-so-expensive models from Char-Broil. Jenn-Air provides some infrared at a mid-range price.

Consumer Reports is little or no help in this question. The results of their last round-up seem dimly aware of the nature and character of infrared grills in general. Solaire was the only model they 'reviewed' and the claims they made were utterly preposterous. Specifically, they claimed Solaire was good only for low temperature grilling. All other reviews on the net fly in their face. The criticism of Solaire is that it is good only for high-temperature grilling, and cannot go low. Some owners of Solaire complain that they have two choices in terms of heat: (1) hotter than hell, (2) super-nova.

This is a humiliating error for a once-proud organization like Consumer Reports.

It get's worse, though. Consumer Reports seems to favor Char-Broil because of their low price. My buddies at Fry's are required to sell Char-Broil. They gave me inside word--totally off the record--that a lot of these units have been coming back in return form. It turns out that they don't work at all well with methane. Further, they break down quickly: Inside the 30 day return policy. The people have been complaining bitterly about them on web forums. I was advised to avoid this grill, despite it's low cost, by men with a vested interest in selling them. That speaks volumes.

This is another black-eye for Consumer Reports. They need to revisit their roundup of grills very soon. This time, they need a clear-cut category breakdown between Infrared, coal and gas. They also need to investigate long-term reliability, as they do with cars.

The Luxor Test Drive

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to test drive a 30 inch Luxor. It is similar or identical to the Solaire 30 inch in just about all respects, save two: (1) it's more expensive, (2) it provides 10,000 BTUs less power at full-blast.

The results of the Luxor test were pretty good. I do not like the hood "thermometer". The temperature guage only tells you you are at "smoking", "medium" and "high" temperatures. This does not tell me the temp in F or C. That's what I wanted.

In any case, the first item up for prep was Sullivan Street bakery "No Knead Bread". I placed my Lodge 5 quart Dutch oven on the grill, and fired the grill up to maximum levels. It took 16 minutes for the Luxor to pass the "High" marker on the hood gauge. Only God knows what temperature that was. I tossed my dough into the pot and covered it. You could hear the frying sizzle when the dough hit the pot. I closed the lid on the grill. I dialed the heat down to "low".

The grill temperature did not fall back much. Lesson learned: Once hot, the grill will say hot. Dialing down the propane doesn't lower temperature much.

Within moments we could smell a small degree of burning. I presumed that would be normal on such a hot grill, but I didn't want to stop the process. God only knows how hot that Dutch oven was. I wished I had a laser thermometer to measure it.

After about 16 minutes we could smell a bit of burning. We felt we better check the progress of the bread. I popped open the hood, and removed the lid of my Dutch oven. The bread had risen brilliantly, but it was char-burnt at the bottom. It had a lovely Maillard crust on top. I set aside the Dutch Oven lid, and closed the hood to let it finish.

About 5 minutes later, we smell some burning, so we decided to stop the process. I dumped the bread on the cutting board, and could see the bottom of the bread was charcoal black. The rest seemed fine. Only the bottom 1/8th of 1/16th of an inch was ashed. The rest was dandy. We committed a foul that Mr. Lahey would surely chastise us for: We cut into it immediately and sampled.

I could tell that the bread was a bit underdone internally. If we had cooked it a little lower and longer, or even let it sit and rest at room temperature for an hour, it would have been fine. Still, it was mighty damn tasty. My patrons at the grill shop loved it. For this reason alone, they were glad they allowed me a test drive.

Next came the steak. I dialed the grill back up to maximum and threw my T-Bone on the grill. It turned out well, but it could have been better. I definitely got the grill marks. I definitely charred on the diamonds. However, it would have been better if I had dialed the heat to medium and let it go for 8 minutes rather than 5. The inside was a bit too raw, while the outside was a bit too charred.

The moral of the story is clear. Like speed in football, heat on an infrared grill is a weapon that doesn't have to be used at full-blast at all times. You can dial it down just a bit. You are running a Mike Martz timing route; 3/4 speed is okay. Given a week or two of time to cook with this grill, I am certain I could master timing and technique to control this powerful beast.

Overall, I would say the results of my Luxor test drive were pleasing, although a bit haphazard.

I am currently leaning towards Solaire

At the moment, I am tracking a very hot deal on a 30 inch Solaire grill. I have not yet reached the comfort point where I am prepared to part with $1,500. So what is the hold up? Where is the objection?

I need thermometers. I need temperature gauges. By far, the greatest single design flaw of the Solaire is the lack of any grill temperature sensors, and/or a hood thermometer. Heat is a weapon that must be used at the correct intensity. I need to know when those metal grills reach 800f, so I can throw my steak down at that exact moment. I need to know what the temperature is inside the hood, so I can maintain a temperature of 550f when finishing

If I can find some 3rd party solutions for accurate measuring, I will hit my comfort point. Otherwise, I will have to let this deal go. I am still looking for an Infrared grill with high-accuracy temperature measurement.

I would buy TEC if I could find a dealer with a good price...

Several different shops advised me not to buy TEC. They say TEC actually went out of business for a period of time, and was subsequently revived. The vendors don't trust them for reasons that only vendors would care about. Vendors are looking for reliable long-term partners to grow with. I am not. I am looking for a one-off purchase.

Still, as you may surmise, this means I am having trouble finding a vendor.

TEC just won the best grill of the year award in 2009. This was largely due to their new "Red Glass" ceramic plate. The use of ceramics in cooking these days is a subject that is completely blowing my brains out. Some of the applications of glass are downright incredible. I must say, the current TEC glass plate technology is probably the most incredible application of glass for cooking yet.

The video of the Morton's Steakhouse cook grilling on the TEC really put the hook in my mouth. I know this grill is used to provide professional-grade results at reputable joints, like Morton's less than 1 mile from my apartment.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Favre Watch 2010

For those of you who occasionally tune into the NFL Network during the deep-off-season, there is one truth that simply cannot be denied. They are always conducting a Favre watch. So far, in the past two weeks, I am 4-5 in hitting the Favre watch when tuning into the NFL Network. I don't know why I am so unlucky. Certainly, they must be showing some other programming at some point... or maybe not.

Certainly, this is the most worthless story of the off-season. Not just this off season, but every off season. Jim Rome openly mocked the last event of the Favre watch stating succinctly that Brett held a news conference to say he hadn't yet made up his mind. That's it. Perfect summary. 'Nuff said.

Just to help the NFL Network understand that the Favre watch really isn't a good news story, I went around the Los Angeles area conducting interview-based research to see how much the people like this story. What did I find? It just might break your heart, Rich

In honor of the fact that Twilight Eclipse is the most important chick flick since 27 Dresses, I decided to start with Kristen Stewart. When asked how she likes the Favre watch she responded in the following manner:

I guess she doesn't like it.

So I asked a cute Japanese chick who was just a bit down the street what she thought of the Favre watch. She said the following

So I asked an old lady in the coffee shop, and she said the following.

As I began to tire of chicks throwing down the digitus imputicus, I decided to ask Sister Mary Teresa of the St. Ignatius church what she thought of Favre watch 2010.

After being shocked by this Nun's response, I wondered what Jesus would do. I went in the church, genuflected in front of the blessed sacrament, and said a short prayer. I didn't like what I saw.

I think it is safe to say that Jesus is not into the Favre watch at all. He was in no mood at all for this kind of question. I thought it would be best to ask God the Father for a second opinion.

After so many rejections I thought it would be good to ask a real football man about the Favre watch, so I went to Bud Adams, owner of the Titans.

That was downright disappointing. At that moment I was fortunate enough to bump into former POTUS George W. Bush, so I asked him what he thought of the Favre watch.

At this point I understood that the Favre Watch was in serious trouble. Trying to obtain a fresh perspective, I asked a little kid what he thought of the Favre Watch.

At that point I thought it was a good idea to ask Clyde, star of Clint Eastwood's Every which Way But Loose, what he thought of the Favre Watch 2010.

I conducted many more ad-hoc interviews, and snapped many more photos, but the results were the same in all cases. I could go on but why labor the point. Perhaps at some point I will update this piece and publish some additional results from this survey.

There is a moral to this story. I love morals. I think morals are good for yah! Don't you? The moral is simple: it's tough to trump up a non-story and make it a story. Generally, the people just won't buy into it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm loosing street cred...

So I went to lunch today with Rico Alexander and Kapil Srvastava, fellow programmers here at my company. We went to a little Indian food joint called Shalamar (not the band). Rico was going to drive, but Kapil didn't want to get in the back seat of his Mitsubishi sports car. I got elected. I have a nice comfortable new-ish 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited Edition. I think they wanted my air conditioner (its hot outside).

Rico happens to be from (East) St. Louis. This puts him on the other side of the Missouri river, in Illinois. However, he is very St. Louis focused on sports. He mentioned something about the Rams, and asked me if I had heard the news. I hadn't, actually. I told him I was kicking the Ram-habit this year.

Rico scoffed. He thought that was preposterous. "What is that jersey you are wearing right now?" It turned out that it was Chris Long's #72. I hadn't noticed this morning when I put it on. There is a perfectly logical explanation. I have a rotation. All 53 jersey in my collection get worn before any get a second turn. All teams, except Jacksonville, are represented, at least once. It is hard to find a good Jaguar jersey. I have a two closet system: Worn, unworn. It was Chris's turn in the rotation. I just grabbed the next jersey in line in the unworn collection. 53 days from today, Chris will come up again. I am able to go almost 2 months without wearing the same jersey twice.

I explained my system as the three of us walked to my car. Like most guys, I have a lot of junk riding around in my car. Rico was going to grab the backseat because he is tall, and likes to stretch out. He needed to push some junk over to stretch out. What did he find? Torry Holt's #81 in blue and an unopened Sam Bradford #8 in white, still in the shrink-wrap.

Naturally, Rico busted up laughing. He didn't stop for quite some time.

There was actually a logical explanation for that. I visited with my dad a couple weeks ago in Fresno. At that time, he returned a jersey I had accidentally left in the guest bedroom the previous time I had visited with him. That was the Torry Holt jersey. I never bothered to take it upstairs with me.

I ordered a Sam Bradford jersey a couple of months ago. My usual source accidentally sent me two identical copies. I contacted them about this mistake, they told me to keep it. You need to remember, I bought 53 jerseys from these guys. I was going to sell the spare to my apartment manager (a 40 year Ram fan). The manager's parking space is next to mine in the security garage, and that's why it was in the car. I was going to pass it on to him the next time we bumped into each other down in the garage. That was when he backed out of the deal. He doesn't think Sam is going to last long. In sooth, neither do I. Hence I still have the package riding around in the back seat. I actually forgot it was back there.

Naturally, Rico wasn't buying a word of it. He was laughing his ass off during the ride to Shalamar. "You got Chris Long on your back, with Torry Holt and Sam Bradford on the bench ready to come in case you get the slightest little stain on your jersey, don't you? You brought back up, didn't you?"

I have to say, I looked pretty bad on this afternoon. I got caught sloppy. It cost me some street-cred. Everything will be buttoned up tight after this evening. Just because I have certain tell tale signs of decades worth of affiliation, don't think I haven't quit. 365 days from today, you won't find these little tell-tale signs laying around. It takes time to expunge the archeological record.

Incidentally, Rico mentioned that he went to Stanford University with none other than Fran Charles, who also happens to be from St. Louis and live in Los Angeles these days. They knew each other pretty well, evidently. Fran was a couple of years ahead of Rico at Stanford, and was actually the class president! How about that tid-bit of information. I am not sure where François lives these days, but Rico is not far from NFL Network HQ. Those guys are on Washington Blvd in West Los Angeles, and Rico lives in Westwood.

Interesting, only 1 or 2 degrees of indirection between me and the NFL Network. If you guys want to get together for lunch at "Father's Office" I would be down for that. For those who don't know Father's Office, this is a leading gastropub near the NFL Network, featuring bacon jelly dressing for AAA triple prime steak ground into burgers. NICE!

The plot to grill...

Boy, Meats, Grill... That is the way it should be been spelled. Why didn't Bobby Flay see the obvious extra-double?

I have a confession to make: Never been much into grilling or barbecue in my life. I have no objection to eating plenty of the stuff, I just haven't cooked much of it. Yes, I know that makes me a wanton communist. You can't be much of an football fan if you don't grill. If I have an excuse, it is merely that apartment life has its limitations.

Recently, I have decided to get around those limitations. I can't precisely put my finger on the moment. Maybe it was when I learned that Paella is a grilled dish. Maybe it was when I failed to achieve the perfect Millard reaction when attempting Tyler's ultimate cowboy steak. Maybe it was when I learned that my cheap-ass, apartment provided stove had a maximum BTU rating of 8,000 per burner. In case you didn't know, 8,000 BTU sucks. Maybe it was when I learned that Viking burners can hit 16,000 BTU easy. That is exactly twice the heat of my top burner. Maybe it was when I learned that Lazyman Grills can deliver a walloping 60,000 BTU per burner, for around $400. Yep, that's right, per burner. Be careful with that, sounds terrifying and intriguing. Maybe it is the good spirited full I see Bobby Flay engaging in all the time on Grill it! and Boy Meets Grill.

So I have developed a list of good reasons for purchasing a quality grill.
  1. My stove is deficient.
  2. I am apartment dweller, and cannot replace my 'management provided' stove
  3. I have a balcony which has gone unused for three years. I've never been interested in it. It is much larger than I ever realized. I can put a grill there.
  4. A good grill is better than a good stove. No bullshit. They cost less and crank out much more heat.
  5. Propane trumps Methane. Methane is the natural gas your gas company pumps into your house. All chemists will tell you that Propane is better fuel and more earth-friendly also. Propane = 2,488 BTUs per cubic foot, methane = 1000 BTU per cubic foot
  6. If I move my cooking operation outside, I will not heat-up my apartment. The dog-days of summer are coming. I do not want heat up my apartment or pay $200 per month in electrical bills per month, as I did last year.
  7. You are supposed to grill Paella
  8. You are supposed to grill cowboy steaks
Being a fan of induction, I was originally planning to take a Fagor portable induction unit outside. That plot died for two reasons. First, the portable Fagor units don't have much push to them. The BTUs are low. Only your best-quality indoor induction cooktops can compete with a good gas-grill in terms of BTUs. Also be warned that it is difficult obtaining BTU ratings from Induction vendors. They want to quote watts, which is basically meaningless. One guy's Induction range is more or less efficient than the other, so watts don't translate hard-and-fast into BTUs.

Second, there are no electrical outlets on my balcony. Yep, I know, that's pretty wretched. I would have to run some sort of an extension cord out of the apartment to the balcony, or get the company to make a mod for me. I do not want to do take either approach. It isn't worth it. A good propane grill will out-perform the Fagor induction system, and they generally requires no AC outlet. Electrical starters are usually done with a few AA batteries. Just a little spark will do it.

I reached a series of intriguing initial conclusions:
(1) I can get a grill which is better than a stove
(2) I can get it for less than a stove
(3) I can put it on the balcony and do something with that space finally.

So now the next question that logically follows is: Which grill do I buy? This is a super question. This is the question posted on a billion blogs and reviews all over the frickin' web. I will take my swing at this question next time. You can expect me to follow a logical path to an optimal solution also.

Words of wisdom from Coach Spags...?

Of course, it is well understood that I am no longer a Ram fan anymore. I sold-out and cut my losses a few days ago. However, not every automated news service understands this fact just yet. I'll have to make some adjustments at a few web-control consoles soon.

In any case, I found this very... odd... looking piece of bacon in my mailbox this morning. "Words of Wisdom from Coach Spags."

I was a little nonplussed. I have to be careful in the way that I phrase these next few statements because I am attempted to make a very small point, not a big point, and not a slag on the Rams. Naturally, the IQ levels of most sports fans will not allow them to grasp the fact that this is a small point piece. They will naturally interpret this as an attack by a bitter ex-fan. Idiots! Morons! Buffoons! Stop reading, it won't help your situation.

The odd thing about this piece is that businessmen never quote sports icons until... well... until they become icons. They never quote the wisdom of legendary coaches until they become legendary coaches.

In my life I have seen lots of Lombardi quotes like those presented in the article. I have seen lots of Shula, lots of Walsh, lots of Parcells, and some Joe Gibbs. The last time I saw few pieces like this, the subject was "Great quotes for businessmen from Coach Bellichick".

Now, I happen to think very highly of Coach Spags. I think he is doing a fantastic job of managing razor thin talent on that St. Louis defense. I will be eternally grateful to him, as will the 1972 Dolphins, for destroying the Patriots undefeated run. The two guys most responsible for that devastating defeat of the Patriots were David Tyre and Steve Spanuolo. He more than earned that big frickin' ring. You can see what he meant to the New York Giants by what happened to their defense last season (dropped to 30th in the NFL).

With all that said about Coach Spags, I am a little stunned that St. Louis Businessmen are quoting words of wisdom from coach Spags. He's had 1 year as the Rams head coach, and we all know what happened. I am not going to explain it. Granted, this was not Spag's fault. It would have been worse without him. The Rams surely would have duplicated the Lions' 0-16 run without Coach Spags, but... that fate was only one victory away.

Anyhow it is time for me to sum up my point: It's just a little too soon to start doing this. Very small point.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This just in, the 75 inch Mitsubishi LaserVue has arrived

DOM-DOM-DOM!!! You can hear the symphonic tympani explode in the background...

Mitsubishi just dropped the H-Bomb in the rest of the league. Those who were not lucky enough to be vaporized instantly by the blast are now dying of radiation poisoning.

The market impact of the new LaserVue may not be that massive, but I think it is going to be big. The news reports in my mailbox indicate that the L75-A91 has arrived. This is in contradistinction to the L65-A90, which was the original LaserVue introduced for public consumption back in 2008.

Let me show you how to decode that nomenclature. L stands for laser. The next two digits indicate inches. 65 indicated 65 inches; 75 indicates 75 inches. A9 in the technology model. If that changes the brains and guts of the HDTV will have changed dramatically. The last digit indicates revision of the technology model.

So with that key we can see that L65-A90 indicates Laser, 65 inch, A9 technology, revision Zero. The model just introduced is the L75-A91. This indicates Laser, 75 inch, A9 technology, revision one. They increased the size 10 inches and revved the technology. Marvelous, eh?

Ready for the punch line? The 75 incher costs $1,000 less than the L65-A90 did when it was originally introduced in the year 2008. $5,999 is not to much to spend for a masterpiece like this. I am pleased by this price progress.

This news really flipped my lid and made my day. I feared that DLP was going tthe way of the dynosaurs and that Mitsubishi might just give up on LaserVue. Not a chance. They are still open for business. I am excited.

75 inches! That is just drop-dead gorgeous! It would look fantastic in my living room. I want one. My HDTV is now officially for sale. I do not want to continue with this 55 inch Luxia that still features a bit of motion blur. I want to reward Mitsubishi for this great achievement.

The one and the only disappointment is that this remains a 1080p unit. We get the standard 1920 x 1080 pixels of resolution we have always seen. I am still looking forward to the days of 4K resolution. Toshiba is doing that now, but their technology is not for me. I want Laser, not LCD. I want big, not 55 inches. 55 inches is not big.

Of course, they are touting that this is a 3d-ready unit. What does that mean? It means you need to spend another $300 or $400 to make it fully 3d functional. Why would I do such a thing? I have no idea. I give up, why would I?

The Big-12 tells the world "the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated"

More heat than light, more style than substance, more hype than reality, more drama than truth. The reports of the death of the Big-12 were greatly exaggerated. After all that high drama in the dead middle of the off-season, what was the sum-in-total at the absolute bottom line?

Let me enumerate just what happened:
  • Nebraska went to the Big-10, which actually had 11 teams because of Penn State's addition in the 1990s, thus making them the new Big-12. This reduced the Big-12 to the Big-11
  • Colorado went to the Pac-10, which then had 11 teams. This reduced the Big-11 to the Big-10.
  • Utah joined the Pac-11, making them the Pac-12. This will allow the Pac to hold a conference championship game.
  • Supposedly, the Big-10, formerly the Big-12, is happy with just 10 teams and will stay there for the foreseeable future.
  • Fans of the Big-10, formerly the Big-12, are not at all pleased by this news. They want to expand. They want to retain the name Big-12. They do not wish to yield this title to the former Big-10.
  • Over on the Bleacher Report, fans have repeatedly suggested that Boise State and BYU should be the targets of Big-12 expansion. Both teams are good, and I mean really good. They have been given short-shrift in one BSC ranking after another. Moving to a powerful BCS conference would be just the ticket to put them in contention for a National Championship.
So much for the events. What is my interpretation of these events?
  1. I think it is very regrettable that Colorado and Nebraska left the Big-12. The conference is wounded badly by these departures. I don't care what anybody says to the contrary. The former Big-12 has lost much of its luster. I don't like that.
  2. I believe that the Pac-12 has made some questionable moves. A shill for the Pac-12 laid down all the reasoning for these moves, and basically boils down to setting up a league which can mesmerize 20 million U.S. homes. This means they may be able to launch their own network. It's a copycat league. We'll see how they like it when Utah wins the conference in it's first season.
  3. I think the former Big-10 (11?) may be the big winner in this piracy. They have some serious name-brands in that conference. Ohio State, Michigan, Penn state, and Nebraska all have multiple national championships. Having these four powers in the same conference is [at least on paper] is as impressive looking as the roster of SEC powers. My money is still on the SEC.
  4. I give a big thumbs-down to the whole fucked-up debacle. Nothing really good came of any of this. There is more skulduggery and travesty than progress in these shenanigans. I don't like it.
Speaking of skulduggery and shenanigans, I think we aught to be brutally honest about this whole thing: the Big-10 and the Pac-10, old drinking buddies that they were, cooked up a little plot to raid the Big-12 and split-up the booty amongst themselves. They probably don't like the fact that the Big-12 is the other conference that puts a team in the BCS championships besides the SEC. This makes it harder for USC and Ohio State to claim one or both of these slots each year.

This whole series of machinations would have--had they been successful--utterly annihilated the Big-12, and super-enriched the Pac-10 and the Big-10. The BCS championship game may well have become the Rose Bowl 2.0 edition. Any chances of a frequent meeting of Big-12 champ and SEC champ for the BCS championship would been terminated. The Big-12 would have been knocked-off. It is regrettable that these intrigues worked at all, to any extent.

So here is a much better idea for the Pac and the Big: Why not form a new super-conference together? Rather than raiding the Big-12 cookie jar, why not combine the PAC & Big? You can hold a conference champions game every year in the Rose Bowl. The winner of the Rose Bowl will usually receive an automatic big to the BCS championship. You can all it the All-American Conference, which will piss everybody off.

It would better still if the All-American conference was divided into PAC and Big components, and they were divided into East and West divisions. You could hold a PAC-10 and a Big-10 championship game to see who would have the right to go to the Rose Bowl, which is the All-American Conference's championship game.

Do catch m drift? We're talking about potentially having 3 post-season games in a tournament like structure, incorporating 4 teams from a 24 team league. This is the root and beginning of a college playoff system. I love it. I think it is brilliant. I think I will propose it on the Bleacher Report. This is a capital idea.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 is going to be the year I kick the Ram-habit

I think 2010 is the year I am going to kick the Ram-Habit.

Most would say it's a bad habit. I've been a Ram-fan since late 1979 and early 1980. We played the Steelers in the Super Bowl XIV that year. For better or worse, the spectre of that defeat shadowed my youth. Jimmy Carter was running against Ronald Regan back in those days. Vince Ferragamo got paid $52,000 a year as the starting QB of the Rams in 1980.

I've been a fan ever since. Through two moves, oppression at the hands of the 49ers, many bad seasons, a Super Bowl victory, and another Super Bowl defeat; I've stuck with the Rams through thick and thin. I've seen us at the bottom of the league twice: 1996-1997 and 2009-2010.

Now I am calling it quits. Just pull the plug. Disconnect. Get out of the market. Pull-up stakes and leave. Legally separate. File the divorce papers. Tune out. Throw in the towel. No mas! I am done. It's finished. This is that magic moment when Sara Brightman and Andrea Bocelli singing "Time to say goodbye" on PBS.

So why now? Many would say "why not now?" It would seem like an opportune moment. The Rams are a one-victory team at the bottom of league, who just blew the big draft of the decade in which they were selecting #1 in every round. Just about all power-rankings [be they expert-driven or fan-based] have the Rams occupying the #32 spot.

That's dead-last folks. Obviously, they don't think much of Billy Devaney's 2010 Draft or free agency moves. The consensus on these moves amounts to "no felt impact in 2010". Most would say that this is a good moment to sell your stock, cut you losses, and protect assets.

Mike Mayock says that missing on an absolute #1 picked quarterback will cost you five (5) years of lost franchise history, primarily because of the money involved. That is estimated to be some $80m with $50m guaranteed. That's a lot for a small-market team like the Rams. I could hire a regiment of 1,538 Vince Ferragamos in one year for that price tag. I could also have Battalion of 256 Vinces for 6 years for that price tag. Vince was good, too.

I think we missed. It's not Sam's fault that he will become a medical bust. It's Devaney's fault. Goodness of fit is the absolute issue. Sam is a bad fit for the Rams. The Rams are a bad fit for Sam. It is a classic mismatch. I never bought into Devaney's theory. I'll tell you why, one last time.

Over the past 10 years, no team has surrendered more sacks that the Rams. Our OL has allowed 40+ sacks each year and every year for the past 10 seasons. O-Linemen have come. O-Linemen have gone. One thing has remained constant: we have allowed copious sack totals each year and every year. The reason is obvious. We are a rooty-poot organization with no commitment to building a steel-reinforced concrete bunker for our quarterbacks. That is a fact, not a theory. The facts are indisputable.

Given the proven fact that we are a rooty-poot organization with no commitment to building an all-pro offensive line, the logical mind is faced with certain absolute restrictions regarding what sort of QB we may and may not select in the draft and free agency. Specifically, the organization is restricted to fast, evasive, athletic, running quarterbacks. As a rooty-poot organization with no line, you also need quarterbacks (plural) that are highly robust mesomorphs who, like Timex, have proven that they can take a licking and keep on ticking.

This means guys like Tim Tebow... and maybe Michael Vick. Alone among QB candidates in the 2010 draft, Tebow had the unique combo of winning-character, muscle mass, speed, running ability, toughness and evasiveness to make him successful with the Rams. Tebow was never really on Devaney's radar. This speaks volumes about Devaney.

Given the robust fact that we are a rooty-poot organization with no commitment to building an all-pro offensive line, there are certain fruits that are absolutely forbidden to us. Namely, we cannot take a fragile, injury prone, surgically repaired high-precision passer with questionable ability to take a hit. If you do so, you are one stupid, drunken riverboat gambler throwing paper money (on fire) into the muddy Mississippi.

Given these lawful restrictions, what did Devaney do? He took Sam Bradford. Sam is unquestionably the worst sliding quarterback 'Chucky' Gruden has ever seen. That statement is on video-tape, by the way. He takes a lot of hits, and he gets hurt. Our line will certainly let him take plenty of hits, but maybe his body wont.

So now that Devaney has chosen Sam Bradford what has he done to logistically support that decision? Did he sign Alan Faneca? Did he sign Bobby Bell? Is he trading for Stephen Neal? Did he trade for Jammal Brown? Did he sign Flozel Adams? I could go on folks. The answer is no, no, no, no, no and no. I am tired of making suggestions. Devaney is not entertaining reason at this time. He is not open to reason.

The results are highly predictable. We are going to absolutely destroy a good kid who should have a wonderful NFL career. We are going to destroy Sam Bradford the way we destroyed Marc Bulger. In fact, no sooner had we completed the absolute destruction of Marc Bulger than we began the plot to destroy Sam Bradford.

Mike Mayock says that missing on an absolute #1 picked quarterback will cost you 5 years of lost franchise history. Ram-fans are staring right down the gun barrel at 5 years of lost franchise history. I refuse to go through this. I never signed up for this. I was against it all the way. Right up until the very last split-second, I was hoping Roger Goodell would come to the podium and announce the trade with Cleveland. I had hoped we would accept Mike Holmgren's gracious offer. I am not on-board with this decision, even now.

I want to know who the idiot was who invented the fanciful campaign slogan, "The Rams have to take Sam Bradford; they need a QB to give their players and fans hope for the future." That asshole didn't know anything about the Rams or football.

I don't want this. I don't need this. I don't like this. I was never on-board with this decision. I did not sign off on this decision. I non-concur. If this were the Senate, I would have filibustered this draft pick. I don't intend to watch this carnage. I am not going to witness this travesty unfold. I don't want to see a good kid, in flames, at the hands of a stupid GM. I don't want to be disappointed anymore. I am not going to blow another Sunday morning watching the fiasco in progress. I am resigning.

The first move is to cancel the NFL Super-Fan package. I have DirectTV. I have had the Super-Fan for the past three years: 2007, 2008, 2009. I am scheduled for automatic renewal. It's not going to happen. I am canceling. I don't want it. I don't need it. It's a small token of resistance that will certainly be lost among a slew of cancellations on the second dip of a W shaped recession. It's not much, but it is the best I can do.

Someday soon, I will be able to say with honesty and without venom "I used to be a Ram-fan, but not anymore. Now I am just an impartial football fan. I like the sport, not any particular team".

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh-oh! Look out! Bing maybe catching up to google.

Some time you should do a google search for "best cheese knife", "cheese cutting", or "best cheese cutter". I began a very frustrating search several weeks ago for such an item, using Google as my primary search tool. This is totally normal for me. I do this each time I need to make a pricey decision.

Mac-N-Cheese has become a little bit of an obsession with me lately, and I can tell you many things about the subject. I can tell you that there are two basic renditions: (1) A soul food version which uses a cold sauce and relies entirely on baking for results, (2) a French Mournay sauce approach. I can also tell you that grating cheese is a serious pain, and wasteful, even with a KitchenAid. I can tell you that cutting cheese with Ceramic Kyoceras is a serious pain. Kuro, my Wusthof Santoku, does it better, but it is far from perfect.

So I went looking for special blades that will do the job of breaking up chunks of very hard, medium and soft cheese. Google frustrated me. I found endless joke lists about "cutting the cheese". I found lots of lists of knives including every knife under the sun. [Won't just about any pieces of steel cut cheese?] I found a few specific references to products on

What I wanted was a round-up review. I wanted somebody to conduct a test and show me test results.

Amazon was much more helpful than Google. They were willing to show me lists of anything tagged with cheese. They would sort the products by price, by user reviews, etc. I was able to determine that there was a little plastic-synthetic blade called "The Cheese Knife" that created a lot of excitement among amazon buyers.

Well, to make a long story short, I bought my solutions this afternoon, but that is a subject for another post. Whilst reflecting on the difficulty I had encountered in finding my solution, I spied a commercial for Bing! the world's first decision engine. I scoffed. I wondered how Bing might have helped me make a simple decision, like "which cheese knife?"

Without further ado I went to the computer, surfed to, and typed in "Best Cheese Knife". The website for "The Cheese Knife" was first in line. This is the favorite of Amazon buyers. Bing knew that. I was shocked to find some serious forum threads with posts written by professional cooks. They gave a large assortment of options, and they didn't fight each other religiously over the suggestions.

Clearly, the Cheese Knife, the Wusthof set, and a little knife by Cutco got a lot of respect. Of course, everybody uses the Microplane grater to grate cheese. There is nothing better. Bing didn't exactly give me a pro-round up, but this was the closest thing to it I have seen. Bing would have helped to make my decision faster.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fuck vampires!

Oh, I am so and damn tired of vampire stories. The vampire v. werewolves things is getting pretty damn old also.

I would really like to see vampires go away for a long time. Hollywood should call a moratorium on vampire projects for at least 5 years. The field has to lay fallow or it will be ruined due to over-exploitation. Remember what happened to Star Trek.

I just want to say for the record that I am down with the wolf-pack. I am in the werewolf clan. If any of you faggotty-bitch pussy-boy vampires have any objections to it, why don't we make arrangements for a hoe-down.

Just remember, we don't operate solo like you fags. We run in packs. I'm bringing the wolf-pack with me. The funny thing is that I don't even need the backup; not even if you shemales execute some form of kung-fu treachery.

We all know you little bitches can't fight worth a shit. You do it all with the Svengalian eye thing. You got no pipe and humming-bird sack. You lady-boys can't scare baby hamsters. At the very bottom of his game, Michael Jackson was more manly that you are. I know that's saying an awful lot, but it's true.

Everybody knows that if there were a real war between werewolves and vampires, it would be the mismatch of the ages. We would run riot over you, and there is nothing you could do to stop it. You would be powerless cattle at your own execution.

Home Theater Magazine is manufacturing consent

Bouy... I am going to have to start a new blog called "Manufacturing Consent". After witnessing all the techniques of propaganda the NFL Network used to try to sell me on Devaney's plan to draft Sam Bradford, I have been sensitized this subject. For most people, it was Fox news trying to sell the public on Iraq II.

Often times, when confronted with a tough-sell situation, the powers that be (both economic and political) may seek the aid of major media outlets to help promoting the difficult agenda. The goal is to whip people up into a frenzy of excitement where there would naturally be none. Indeed, there might even be considerable concern, doubt and opposition to the program if the public is left unalloyed by shills.

So it is with the 3d "revolution" in home theater. Uptake is slow. Sales are slow. This is not just a function of a W shaped recession either. When purchasing new HDTVs, the buying public seems to show no preference for units that allegedly have 3d functionality. Whatever the reason may be, the public seems unwilling to spend money for the feature.

The marketing forces simply conclude that they are not doing a good enough job in pushing the technology. Enter Home Theater magazine. Witness the cover of the July 2010 issue (Volume 17 No. 7.) The cover headline says in massive letters:


Not so subtile? Yep, uh-hun. I guess they want me to buy 3d now, eh? Yes... that's it. Not to leave any stone unturned, hyper-shill... errrr... Editor Shane Beuttner delivers the big message of the magazine right up front.

Back to the Future
The 3D Era is now.

He scribes a nice shill argument effectively saying "This is not a gimmick to sell B movies anymore" and "3d his here to stay." He couches this language a bit more carefully, but I am giving it to you straight, with no chaser.

He immediately shifts to the salesman soft-pedal. To help us all get ready for the 3d era, his testers and writers have worked hard to present a series of reviews, particularly one on the Samsung 8000. This is of course, the major-model from the heaviest advertiser... er... most successful 3d HDTV maker.

Turn a couple of pages to letters to the editor and you will see the following bit of text. Steve Smith in St. Paul Minnesota basically says that he is never going to jump 3d wagon because of 3d. "I would rather see a 3d movie in the theater, but even then I am not crazy about the format." Steve is pissed that Home Theater magazine is pressing this agenda so hard when it has no benefits. Why make us unhappy with the equipment we just bought when the new stuff just doesn't add value?

I am highly sympathetic to Steve's case. However, I do look forward to my next upgrade, he doesn't. I am concerned that my next HDTV--a 4K HDTV--is being delayed because of meaningless technological masturbation with 3d.

Evidently, Shane sets aside his shill tactics and says the following in response to Steve Smith. "I'm of something of a mixed mind on this. On the one hand, I wonder too if the industry is running before it's learned to walk with 3D, and whether it's losing TV sales right now as poeple wait for more 3d HDTVs to become available from more manufacturers..."

No, no, no Steve! Say that properly. They are loosing sales right now because people are waiting to see if the industry can introduce an 3D HDTV that will actually work... errr... impress.

Note the U-Turn in Shane's rhetoric. On the shilling page, he's all in favor of it. On the heart-to-heart with a reader, he too seems concerned by the fact that the film makers don't do much with the technology. Although he would never say it, the current crop of HDTVs don't present 3d material very well either.

Nevertheless, nearly the entire July issue contains one sales-push after another. The entire issue is a substantial effort to whup you up into a state of excitement about 3d.

Home Theater is representing powerful economic interests that want to sell this technology. Home Theater magazine is trying to manufacture consent where there would naturally be none.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The NFL Network's big chill

A friend of a friend commented that I rarely mention the NFL Network these days, and wondered if my interests had changed. He said he could tell I am watching more FoodNetwork than NFL Network these days. He wondered if this was a permanent change in interests or if I would blog about the NFL Network again during the regular season.

Well... The perception is a bit off, but there are many grains of truth there. There is also an interesting blog post found in this conversation.

You probably have noted that there are more ESPN references lately than NFL Network references. I am watching more NFL Live than NFL Total Access these days. Is that just because it is the off season?

No. Let me tell you about it.

There was a cleavage between me and the NFL Network during the 2010 draft campaign. I bet you know what caused it, too! Or do ya?

During the run up to the 2010 NFL Draft, I realized several very unhappy truths about the NFL Network. Specifically, I realized that this is the official propaganda mouth piece of the 32 front-offices and also HQ. Notice I did not use the term teams. I used the term front-offices. There is a big distinction there which I am well aware of. I chose my terms carefully and with reason. I mean to say exactly what I wrote.

Perhaps I am just a slow and dull old boy, but I had formerly considered sources such as Mike Mayock, Charley Casserly reliable and brutally honest. I knew some guys on the network were glad-handlers; Steve Marucci comes to mind. However, to the very last man, I watched each one of these guys change their tune regarding Sam Bradford and the Devaney-agenda.

When the draft began Charley Casserly was adamant that you never push a guy up the board because he fits a need. He vehemently defended drafting the best athlete regardless of position. He sited case after case showing that the worst busts happen when you reach for a guy because of need. He was opposed by coach Jim Mora Jr. who said that was a management position, and coaches get fired quick because of one or two missing players at key positions of need.

Casserly began the 2010 draft cycle insisting that Gerald McCoy was the #1 pick in the draft. He didn't like Bradford because of his injuries and his background in the Spread-Offense. I saw him do a dramatic about-face during the process. Why? Because Bradford stood on the side-line during the combine with his arms folded? On the strength of just one controlled workout? Was that it?

I have--in pure digital--Mike Mayock declaring that 2010 was a bad QB year. "All the QBs are injured and questionable for one reason or another," he said. I watched him do a dramatic about-face and support Devaney with the bullshit-line "a franchise quarterback trumps all." Early in the process, he said he didn't believe there were any franchise QBs in the 2010 draft. The closest thing to it was Sam Bradford, and he was much more than uncertain about Sam.

Why did Mike Mayock change his mind? Because Bradford stood on the side-line during the combine with his arms folded? On the strength of just one controlled workout? Was that it?

Folks, I could go on. There are many more dramatic examples of dramatic about-faces inside the NFL Network regarding Sam Bradford. Were there a good reasons for this dramatic about-face? Hell no!

There was a very bad reason for this about-face. Billy Devaney informed the NFL Network--off the record--that he was going to take Sam Bradford. He probably gave Adam Schefter this news also. This is why Adam Schefter gave us this news with total conviction, early on, when that seemed like a preposterous story. Of course, they would never admit they knew. This is for the same reason the old WWF would not admit that wrestling was scripted entertainment. This would blow the illusion.

As I have stated several times lately, the NFL Network has a promotional function. This promotional function is the primary function of the NFL Network. This leads us right into the pages of MIT Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent." We should give some credit to Edward S. Herman also. He co-wrote the book.

"Manufacturing Consent" examines the propaganda model of the media. The thesis is pretty simple: Mass media supports large corporate and governmental interests. They have too. This is the side their bread is buttered on. This apparatus is used to form a soft-grip control on public opinion. It is a subtle, non-violent, means of evangelism and persuasion used to get people on board with the decisions big bosses are making at higher levels. Of course, this is better than the violent means of coercion used by totalitarian societies, but it is so unfortunate that weak minded fools repeat anything they hear through "authoritative news sources".

Everything Chomsky said in this book and movie applies triple-force to the NFL Network. I think the NFL Network was founded after Paul Tagliabue saw "Manufacturing Consent" and cried-out in joy "Eureka!"

I noted all of the elements of this propaganda model operating on the NFL Network during the 2010 draft campaign. These techniques and tactics were employed to get Rams fans on-board with Devaney's decision to draft a quarterback, and more precisely, Sam Bradford. The NFL Network is still using Chomsky-specific propaganda to do post-sale evangelism on Sam Bradford. Note Steve Wyche's recent use on the Bandwagon technique in fabulous fiction regarding Sam Bradford.

This is no conspiracy theory. The NFL Network is wholly-owned subsidiary of the NFL. It is the NFL. They do the NFL's bidding. This is all out in the open folks. This is no conspiracy. From it's very inception, the NFL Network was designed to be an NFL controlled source of information. You know that.

I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Devaney knew he was going to make an unpopular and controversial pick when decided he was going to select Sam Bradford. I know that he knew many dedicated fan-forces were arrayed against this decision, and for differing reasons. I know he felt he needed help in persuading these fans to get on his bandwagon. I am certain he went to the NFL Network, gave them off-the-record information (which makes them look like genius analysts on draft day) and (in return) asked for their help in evangelizing Ram-fans.

This is why Mayock changed his tune. This is why Casserly changed his tune. This is why Lombardi said things like "He's drafted linemen in each of the past three years; he can't go back into that locker room and say 'I've drafted another lineman'". This is why you had everyone chanting the pious cant "the Rams need a a QB to give the fans and the team hope for the future."

Am I saying that the NFL Network is the official mouth-piece of the 32 NFL front-offices? Yep. Am I saying it is part of their official function to promote the agenda of the 32 NFL front-offices? Yep. Am I saying that Devaney runs one of those 32 NFL front-offices? Yep. Am I saying a gentileman's agreement was reached? Yep. Am I saying that there was an official directive inside the building to soft-pedal Devaney's agenda? Yep. Am I saying out that they carried out that agenda, among many others? Am I saying that they are currently engaging in post-sales evangelism? Yep.

Right now just about all of the star analysts on the NFL Network are congratulating Devaney on making the right move. We will see if they saying the same thing in 5 years when we may well have destroyed a #1 draft pick kid who we were grotesquely unprepared to receive in camp.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meet Kuro and Shiro, my new Wüsthof knives!

So I decided that German steel is just too good a deal to pass up these days. eBay vendors are hard up these days, especially if they are bucking the fashion trend by selling traditional German steel. I just acquired two ultra-premium grade pieces of cutlery for a fraction of retail price.

I got two members of the Wüsthof Classic Ikon family:
  1. The 7 inch Santoku, hollow ground, with Kullens (Black)
  2. The 8 inch Chef's Knife, hollow ground with Kullens (Cream)
The interesting thing is that they do not match. The Santoku is black and the Chef's knife is off-white (cream). Why didn't I get a match pair?
  1. The deal was far better this way.
  2. These were the two auctions for the precise functional items I wanted
  3. The two vendors I dealt with were the most honest, preferred and trusted eBay vendors on the board.
  4. I have never been a guy interested in fashion design and color coordination.
  5. Ebony and ivory work together in perfect harmony, side-by-side on kitchen cutting board, oh Lord...
  6. Black and white go together just fine.
  7. These are both the same family of Wüsthof blade, right down to the grind and kullens.
So I have decided to name them Kuro and Shiro as an inside joke. What does it mean?
  1. Kuro mean black in Japanese. You may have heard of the Kuro TV line from Pioneer.
  2. Shiro means white in Japanese.
  3. These are German blades
  4. Giving a pair of German blades a pair of Japanese names at a time when the Japanese are running the Germans out of the market is ironic.
  5. There were a pair of kids name Kuro and Shiro in a famous Japanese Magna called Tekkon Kinkreet. They didn't look like much, but they were a couple of asswhuppers.
  6. I guess I could have named them Herr Schwartzman and Herr Weismann. It just doesn't roll off the tongue.
  7. I think it's cool.
Kuro and Shiro cost me a total of $160.00, all in. Either one of them would have cost that much individually if I had been stupid enough to purchase at a retail outlet like William Sonoma. This is a virtual buy one and get one free deal.

So why these German blades? Well I'll tell you... lately I have been practicing my classical knife skills. A couple of people, including a Cutco rep in my building, have given me a few tutorials. After an entire head of celery, 2 large onions and some carrots, I got the fundamentals down. Since then, I have been surprised at my rising speed... but it has not been without snags.

Regrettably, my beloved Kyocera's have become a problem. When I wasn't fast, the light-weight of these blades didn't bother me. Now that I know how to cut fast, I need the weight to maximize the speed-impact of the cutting stroke. Mass through distance = power. I need more mass. Wüsthof is nothing if not massive. They are thought to be too massive, even by great lovers of mass.

Moreover, no soon did I boast of the eternal sharpness of my Kyocera's than did my blades begin to show signs of dullness. My big Paella on Sunday contained lean, boneless chicken breast. No biggie right. I was surprised at the difficulty I had using my Kyocera kitchen knife. I switched to the Kyocera Santuko. It wasn't much better. For the hell of it, I reached for the Shun Gokujo, which is still rather new. Those breasts were cut to ribbons shortly after.

Lesson learned: The Gokujo likes lean mean, not panchetta, and my Kyoceras need to return home to Japan for a tune-up. It is going to take some time to get those two blades back from Japan. I need something in the meanwhile to cook with. My Gokujo is not enough. I could use my Kyocera Nakiri, but I think that one should probably travel to Japan for sharpening also.

Enter Kuro and Shiro. I suppose I could have purchased another pair of Kyocera's an an equal or even lesser price. I could have tried another brand of Cubic Zirconia knives like Zayka. However, have decided I want to see how the pros do it. I want to experience what they have always done. Judging from the speed Jamie Oliver shows with Wüsthof, I should be able to move pretty fast with these blades.

There is another reason. Discovering that my Kyoceras are dulling down, and realizing that I must send them away to Japan, has been a sobering and chilling experience. I have also questioned how long the blades have been tapering off before I noted there was a problem? How much extra and unnecessary effort have I expended lately?

Again, Wüsthof has an answer. Just about all Japanese blades are built with the 15 degree angle on the edge. This means few, if any, consumer sharpening solutions will sharpen them. Worse still, my lovely Cubic Zirconia will slice the bevels right off a typical steel sharpener. Tungsten Carbide is not harder than Cubic Zirconia. At that moment there is no consumer sharpening solution for Kyocera blades. Kyocera is developing one, but it is not out on the market yet.

Owning Wüsthof means having full access to a plethora of sharpening solutions out there. Just about all of them work with the 20-22 degree angle blades the Wüsthof produces. There is a benefit to conforming to standards. Owning Wüsthof and a great sharpener means being absolutely certain that your blades are always as sharp as the day you took them out of the box.

The sharpening solutions have been designed with Wüsthof in mind. Wüsthof has been designed with many sharpening solutions in mind. The two have been co-constructed, almost like C# and the CLR. If you are willing to embrace the discipline of a few honing strokes before you cut, you will always be sharp.

After very serious consideration, reading, and video watching, I have decided to go with the Furi TechEdge Pro system. This just happens to be endorsed by Rachel Ray, but this is not why I chose it. I read some fairly substantial and scholarly stuff which more than suggested that this was the top solution for less than a king's random. I'll take it.

There are even some suggestions that this unit should handle my Shun blades as well. We shall see! I look forward to this. This aught to be a good experience!

One word of advice: If you are interested in becoming a foody, and really getting into the amateur leagues, the only two blades you really need are a Santoku and a French Chef's Knife (also called a cook's knife). These are your two most valuable draft picks on the board. Just exactly like a QB and a Left Tackle in the NFL Draft, these are the two most coveted pieces that always come off the board first.

The Santoku is the QB and the Chef's knife is the Left Tackle. The Santoku is now the most valuable and the most flexible blade in the shop. You can do almost everything you need to do with a good Santoku. The Chef's knife takes over in any situation where the Santoku would be overwhelmed, which is not often.

After a lot of consideration, I think I got the best pair on the market.