Can Christmas please be over already?

It’s been a weird Christmas. I think it’s the fact that Thanksgiving came so late and also that the world is basically a hellscape. It’s kind of tough to get into the holly-jolly mindset when every morning feels like “what fresh hell is this?” Turnout at all my events have been a little lower than usual (with one notable exception).

This weekend I’m doing two more “Pictures with Your Pets and Santa” sessions at Feeder’s Supply in Walton. And then that’s it. Done for the season. Ironically, last weekend at Feeder’s was the one event that beat previous years. The money goes to support the Boone County Animal Shelter, so if one is going to go right, that’s the one I’d pick.

One first for me this year: Someone brought in a python for pictures! It was extremely cool. Here are a couple of shots. I look a lot more nervous in the second shot than I felt. He stuck his head right up against my nose and I was really taking it all in. And check out the bow!

Mini Spoiler-Free Review of “Knives Out”

I remember a time they used to make movies like this fairly frequently. Now we’re in sequel-and-remake Hell, so this film doing well is important. Go see it. It’s both A Good Movie™ (in the Scorsese-sense) and fun. Actual laughs. Actual suspense. Great misdirection. Every performance — no matter how much screen-time — excellent. It’s a throwback in terms of quality and style but this is a movie definitely set in today.

True to the genre? Yep. Formulaic? No. I will say Daniel Craig’s low-country accent takes a couple (but only a couple) of minutes to adjust to, but it’s true to establishing his character. If it weren’t for those piercing eyes, you’d forget who he was. In a cast full of powerhouse box-office names, the movie lives or dies on the performance of Ana de Armas. I’d say “remember her name,” but I suspect we’ll all be seeing a lot of her, and that’s a great thing.

I’ll watch it again. And I bet I see something I missed before.

Can’t recommend it enough.

Life after social media

(Spoiler alert: it just keeps going.)

It’s been just over a week since I killed off my social media accounts (the ones I remembered anyway) and it’s been … fine. I already knew I spent way more time on both Twitter and Reddit than I should have. I’ve had some withdrawal symptoms, but they’re fading pretty fast. No, I’m not as plugged into the zeitgeist as much as I once was, but the zeitgeist never seemed to care much whether I was there or not. So I’m not seeing the downside. There are still plenty of places for me to go if I want to despair about the state of humanity. (I call it “going outside.”)

The dumbass in the White House has said something or tweeted something or done something stupid today. His enablers have done something evil. My congressman failed a Turing test again. These are all safe bets. Here’s how they affect me:

  1. I don’t know what it is.
  2. I can’t do anything that changes anything about it.

This was the list as it existed while I was still on social media:

  1. I can’t do anything that changes anything about it.

It’s a subtle, but important, difference.

I’m compensating in a number of ways, but that’s not exactly new. I think that’s the story of my life since roughly, oh, I don’t know, 1968. I’ve dusted off the blog, obviously. I’ve sought out some of the survivors of the Great Blogging Outbreak of the late 1990s. Some are still around. And I’m finding others. And Carla is still on social media so I see pictures of cute kids and animals. Oh yeah, and family news. That, too.

This picture is why I’m going to keep the blog:

Me as Santa in a fire truck
If you’re dressed up as an imaginary character, is it still a selfie?

It’s kind of hard to tell, but that’s me about a year ago getting ready for the City of Florence Tree Lighting. I’m sitting in the cab of a Florence fire truck. It. Was. Awesome. I will never forget it. I’ll also probably never do it again because the process of getting my fat ass into the cab was this weird mash-up of raising the flag in Iwo Jima and the Hunny Tree scene in Winnie the Pooh. It took three of Florence’s Finest to get me in there. No one needs to go through that again.

I often joke that the purpose of my life is to serve as a cautionary tale to others. How can I fulfill my purpose without a place to tell the stories? So I’m keeping the blog. And — because I don’t want to post my email address for all the world to see — I’ll eventually get comments turned back on (once I get a minor spam-protection issue worked out). Being off social media has taught me that I never really cared that much if anyone saw what I wrote. I just wanted someplace to put it.

By the way, this year’s lighting is December 3 back at the Florence Government Center. No fire truck. I’ll post all my public Santa gigs before Thanksgiving.

Missing Twitter

So I have no idea what the ‘ aside’ post-type looks like. So I’m finding out.

Maybe I’ll make my pithy observations here. At least it allows editing.

Done with social media

New technologies only allow people new opportunities to be people. Thus it is, thus it will always be. And people are, by and large, shit.

I’m starting the process of disabling all my social media accounts. I don’t want to have to pay for spam protection, so I’ve turned off comments here, too. I may decide it’s not worth the money to maintain this either, but for the moment it’s how I’m letting people who I don’t see regularly where I went.

If you need to get in touch with me and I have any interest in talking to you, you already know how to do it.

I’d say it was fun, but it wasn’t.

Ribs preparing to cook on the Big Green Egg

A Day for Ribs

It’s hotter than hell out there, which I suppose is appropriate since there’s plenty of evidence that’s where we live There’s way too much depressing shit that I’ll probably pontificate about some other day, but for today I’m trying to look on the bright side. The Astros have been in a funk that — of course — started when they came to town and we had tickets. I’ll admit it. It hurt to see the Reds sweep. But they played better, so no excuses. We’ve had to go 10 innings and call on Yuri Gurriel’s hair to win it for us the last two games, but wins are wins. As I write this we’re up 2-1 in the 1st, and we’ve already won the series. I’m not going to say I don’t want a win today, but sweeping is always hard, our recent experiences excepted, of course.

We bought a couple racks of ribs for this weekend, but after getting the first rack prepped yesterday (a little fat trimming and the silverskin membrane removed on the back, then a rub I threw together) I decided to just do the one and save the other for the 4th. When it comes down to it I don’t really do ribs that often. They aren’t a ton of work, but they’re enough. I’ve gotten pretty good at country ribs (which, of course, aren’t ribs), and they usually scratch the itch.

I’ve had a hankering for real ribs, though, and it’s probably because every time I open the small fridge we have in the basement I see a bottle of sauce from L’il Porgy’s in Champaign & Urbana, Il (the one in Urbana is the one we usually wound up at, but both are good). Since we’re not driving up there to see my father-in-law (since he’s here in town) we’ve not had any reason to go. I love their ribs. The sauce is really good. I tend to be a dry-rub guy by nature, but these will get blessed with L’il Porgy’s sauce in their last hour. Because I want to.

Overview of cooking temperatures

Of course I’m using my Smobot. Those probes you see in the photo are the two food probes . I’m trying out a new (to me) brand of lump (B&B) and I’ve been happy with it. I’d been using GFS, but the last couple of bags I’d used had been abused pretty badly. Small chunks, which isn’t the point of the stuff. This bag has been handled more gently, and I like the size. Nothing ginormous, but good sized lump. That, combined with the brand-spanking-new gasket you can see in the big photo, led to that little overshoot. The Smobot is supposed to compensate for an open lid (and I’m sure it did), but a lot of lump lit when I had the lid up and it appears it was a little generous with the damper when I closed the lid. There is a way to turn off the open-lid compensation, and there’s always a chance I might have done that. I’ll check the next time I go out. (Spoiler from the future: I didn’t turn it off). You can see, though, that it was settled down in about half and hour and there was no damage done.

I know a lot of people swear by what’s called the 3-2-1 method, but I have an aversion to wrapping anything I’m smoking. I know why people do it, and I’d never give anyone doing it the side-eye. It’s just not my thing. Like I said earlier, I don’t do real ribs all that often, so when I do I want the whole experience. To me (and it’s only a personal opinion) part of the experience is not knowing for sure how long it’s going to take. A typical rack of St. Louis-style spareribs will take between four and six hours to be finished. Beyond that, it’s up to the ribs. I’m not working blind, though. With some data and an understanding of what’s going on inside the smoker, they’re perfectly happy to tell you when they’re done.

The bottom line on ribs is that you want to keep them between 165º F (~74ºC) and 195ºF (~91ºC) for as long as possible. That’s when the collagen melts and the ribs turn into, well, ribs. But you have to balance that with the meat drying out. Once you get much above 200ºF (~93ºC) you start running that risk. Pulling them off at 195ºF lets carryover happen without (much) danger of drying out. The wildcard in the equation is our old friend the stall. I obsess about the stall, but to my way of thinking, the stall is what separates real barbecue from just grilling (a noble pursuit, just something different).

Detail of cook

Check out this screenshot. It covers about 40 minutes about an hour after the screenshot above.

  • Food 1 (pink) is the probe on the right in the big picture at the top of this post. The meat there is a bit thicker.
  • Probe 2 (shown in yellow and on the left in the picture) is a bit shallower and the meat isn’t as thick there.

When our story opens (on the far left of the graph) the relative positions of Food 1 and Food 2 are about to switch positions, which is significant. Why? Remember there is less meat surrounding the probe on the left, yet the temperature is cooler. Why? Evaporative cooling. The cause of the stall. The thinner end is throwing off moisture, and the shallow depth of the probe is more susceptible to showing the cooling effect. The deeper Food 1 probe is also throwing off moisture, but the depth of the probe masks the cooling. Think of being at the entrance of a cave versus being deeper in. The deeper you go, the harder it is to change the inside temperature, so it never happens fast.

Notice, though, that there’s a point where Food 2 starts rising faster and overtakes Food 1. That means the thinner end doesn’t have the moisture content to cool the surface at that point. The meat on that end is starting to dry out faster than the thicker end. That’s my cue (my ‘que cue?) to slather some sauce on it to add some moisture. Note that I’m not adding moisture to the meat. No matter what you’ve been told or what you believe, you can’t do that. Moisture moves one direction when heated inside food: out. The moisture in the sauce is acting as a vapor barrier. The liquid in the sauce is evaporating and leaving behind a thin layer of particulates that makes if more difficult — but not impossible — for the moisture in the meat to escape. You can’t stop the evaporation, all you can do is slow it down. You can see from the graph that the added moisture kicked the evaporative cooling effect again, but it’s relatively short-lived. About 30 minutes after I added the sauce, Food 2 has overtaken Food 1 again. I plan to let it go.

We’ll see what happens. At this point it’s just a matter of waiting. When Food 2 hits 195 I’ll pull and wrap them in foil. I’ll let them sulk for about half an hour to distribute the heat. And if I need to tweak anything in my technique, I can try again on Thursday.

Oh, and the Astros won. Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

Final product
Postscript: they turned out fine.

Another Outbreak of Blogging

Mia outside a box and Dunkel in one
On the whole we’d be better off if we’d just realize how awesome boxes are.

So I gave up Facebook. It’s been just over a month, so my account is gone for good. Whatever “gone for good” means in Zuck’s warped worldview we all have to live in. I’ve got no illusions I’m not being tracked a million ways from Sunday. I mostly don’t give a shit. I don’t make any secret that I think most things are crap, so I’m not sure what great insight anyone plans to glean from my online behavior other than I think everything sucks. Let’s face it: chances are I dislike you. If you wonder if I dislike you, the ambiguity means I probably don’t. I’m not really all that subtle. Very, very, few people ever look at this blog, so if you’re reading this the odds are in your favor that I don’t dislike you. But there’s still a chance.

There was really nothing special about the argument that made me say “fuck it.” Of course it was an argument. What the hell else happens on Facebook? On the Book of Faces it’s either look at pictures of cute kids, cute pets, cute kids with cute pets, ugly kids with cute pets, or it’s a hellscape of looking into the empty souls of people you either never want to see again or regret having ever met. The two groups are largely made of up of different sets of people, thank God, which is the only thing that kept it even marginally tolerable. Carla still shows me the cute kid/pet pictures, so I’m good on that. And the kids are all legitimately cute, by the way. I think I’d un-followed the one person with the ugly kid a while back.

I’m still on Twitter. It’s a hellscape, too, but somehow it doesn’t bother me as much. Makes no sense, but there it is. I’ve started looking at Reddit a bit more than I used to. I don’t see me ever becoming a heavy user, but I’ve been fairly narrow in the subs I follow and none of them seem to have devolved into what Neal Stephenson has dubbed “the Miasma” in his latest doorstop … er … book Fall, or Dodge in Hell.¹ If they do, I’ll stop going there, too. It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been watching — and participating in — online arguments for more than 30 years. The biggest difference I can see between then and now in terms of online discourse is that back then people were dicks to each other for free. Now it’s pretty much built into everyone’s business model. And, as we all know, if the right people can make money off it, it’s OK.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

So I’m dusting off the old blog again. I’m not making any promises to anyone that this is going to be a regular thing, but every once in a while I just want to write. The odds of anyone seeing this are fairly low, but are non-zero, and that’s enough. Sometimes 280 characters isn’t enough to get people pissed off at me. Sometimes I need a bit more elbow room.

Can’t say I’m all that enamored with the new WordPress user interface. But that’s a post for another day.


¹ About halfway through, thanks for asking. It’s OK. It’s no Anathem or Snow Crash, but it’s not Seveneves either, thank God. It kind of wraps up (I’d assume) some things that have been cooking since Cryptonomicon, and it’s a sequel to Reamde inasmuch as it’s set in that world. Enoch Root shows up. That’s kind of cool. Maybe it’s his hobby of fighting with period-accurate swords, but somewhere along the line editors have apparently just quit suggesting to Stephenson that he should tighten up his plots.