May 312008

We keep a nice charcoal grill at work. We have three or four team-wide barbecues a year, and we use it for those. And sometimes our tech support guy decides it’d be a good day for burgers, and does them for a smaller group.

I saw him grilling bacon a couple of weeks ago, which is something that had never occurred to me. It’s really tasty that way. So I tried it at home for burgers, and it came out great. Then I did it for BLTs, again satisfactorily. Grilling bacon isn’t difficult, but the window of perfection is small. Too cold, and it takes forever; too hot, and it burns (and it goes from marginal to gone in a big damned hurry).

So, with two successful outings, ahem, I know what I’m doing.


When I tried it again for Sunday breakfast, I destroyed two pieces completely (ash); four more were predominantly black; and the rest was fine, once you pinched the burned spots off the edges.

Lesson: on a grill at 400 ºF, you have to turn bacon every two minutes. Two and a half is too long. Meta-lesson: do something much more than twice before you decide you know what you’re doing.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at that experience after I prepared our blackened mahi-mahi tonight. I’m a novice blackener. Tonight was the third time I’ve ever done it. The first two times, I upped the butter a little bit, lowered the heat a little bit, and used a teflon skillet. It was lovely, if a little worse for us than it might have been.

Tonight, I went authentic. Cast iron, just a brush of butter, and go.

Oh, wow. That’s some smoke, folks. That’s freak-out-the-kids, throw-open-the-windows, go-out-for-some-air smoke. Although, the smoke alarm didn’t go off, which is vaguely troubling. The air quality and visibility were both definitely compromised. I’ll have to do some diagnostics.

In any case, the fish was delicious, so at least I didn’t mess that up. I think I’ll stick with the cast iron skillet, but it’s definitely going on the grill next time.

‘Cause, you know, now I know what I’m doing.

 Posted by at 8:11 pm
May 302008

Well, Lea’s out for Sex and the City tonight.  After that, she might see a movie.  Ha, ha!

So am I the only straight guy on the planet who wants to see it?  The media coverage certainly supports such a supposition.

I loved the show.  I thought the writers and players did a marvelous job of portraying growth in the characters over the six seasons, while keeping them the same people.  Also, it was wickedly funny.  Miranda was/is my favorite—mostly for her cynical wit, but also because she was so genuine and vulnerable whenever she finally did allow herself emotion.  Plus, what a cutie.

I’ve not yet read any reviews, but I suspect the film will hew fairly closely to the show’s format.  Its rhythm was remarkably consistent, and as well as it worked, I doubt they’ll get squirrelly with it.  Plus, it’s not like the big screen opens any content avenues that weren’t available on HBO.

I’ll probably wait for the DVD.  I don’t usually go to the cinema unless I’m pretty sure the big picture and sound will add considerably to the experience, and I just don’t see that here.  The show wasn’t dripping with car chases and explosions, after all.

 Posted by at 8:27 pm
May 302008

The Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world. It is native to southeastern Asia, but did you know it was living wild in the United States as well?

Almost certainly as a result of careless owners releasing unwanted pets, the Burmese python is living and breeding in both the panhandle and peninsula of Florida, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

There is a press release on the problem here. In the Everglades, where the first breeding population was confirmed in 2003, it competes with the American alligator for the apex predator position. Officials have confirmed more than one occurrence of a python successfully consuming an alligator.

It’s also notable that the press release discusses containment and management of existing populations, as opposed to eradication. Though the piece doesn’t say so, I suspect it’s too late to feasibly consider getting rid of them.

This map shows the locations of known breeding Burmese python populations in the United States:

This map shows the potential suitability of the United States for the Burmese python. Areas that climatically match its natural range are in green, and represent habitat that definitely could sustain the snake. Areas in yellow contain habitat that may be able to sustain the snake:

The Burmese python can reach 30 feet in length and weigh in excess of 200 pounds. Large ones can take prey the size of pigs and goats.

Have a nice day.

 Posted by at 5:13 pm
May 292008

I’m so pleased to be alive in such an emotionally enlightened age. Our emotions are to be explored and processed without end, so that we may experience their pure nature. Everything we feel must be fully experienced, lest we be emotionally neutered. The world is a better place when we all act on every emotion we have. It’s better that way.

For example, I don’t like this club, and I want to leave. Yes, I know I’m out in a group of six people, but I’m not having a good time, and as I’m the most in touch with my feelings of any of us here, my feeling should carry the day. I wish to bend the wills of everyone else in the party to suit my whims, and if I do not get my way, I shall pout and damage everyone’s evening. It’s what I feel, so it is, by definition, valid.

I think I’m going to sleep with that new woman in HR tomorrow. Of course it’s the right thing to do. I mean, what if she’s my soulmate? I can’t let that go. That wouldn’t be expressing everything I’m feeling, and it could damage me emotionally forever. I’m feeling like I want to, and such a feeling must be answered. For all I know, I’ve made a huge mistake in marrying and having children with my wife. I can’t know unless I proceed, and my happiness deserves all of the exploration I can give it. As everything I feel is valid, I must sleep with the new woman in HR. Because I feel it. So it’s valid. Soulmates.

Oh, and by the way, I’m sorry I was a jackass to you on the telephone earlier. You see, my grandmother died. Well, yes, it was some time ago, but still, you know, I’m working through some stuff. I need to get to that healing place, do you know what I mean? That’s what’s most important. It wasn’t really me calling you a bitch; it was my emotions. And as I’m in still in that exploratory phase, experiencing all of their depth and wonder, I’ll trust you understand. That’s what a true friend would do. That’s also why I need every thought and deed we experience together for the foreseeable future to be about me. If you’re not willing, then you’re just not as emotionally pure as I am. That’s what I feel, so it’s valid.

Unchecked emotional exploration defines ultimate validation. I’m so pleased we’re alive in a society, in an age, in a time, that understands that.

Group hug. Fuck you.

 Posted by at 12:58 am
May 282008

I’ve made passing mention of my affection for wristwatches. I really enjoy them. Collecting, wearing, learning about, and admiring them gives me as much pleasure as any hobby I have.

As with many such passions, they make little sense. Sure, some people jog with them, and a pilot might use a watch with an E6B bezel, and such. However, most people don’t need one. Got a cell phone? Then you have a reliable clock with you. Sit in front of a computer? Have a gander at the lower right corner of the screen. What’s that on the instrument panel of your car, up between the vents in the center console? See?

I’ve worn a watch since I could tell time, and I’m thoroughly trained to look at my wrist for the time, even in the presence of other clocks. Generationally, I’m probably at the tail end of folks for whom that’s true. I suspect that sometime in the near future, they’ll be more curiosities than anything, like pocket watches are now.

The second way watches don’t make (objective) sense is in the relationship between price and utility. You use a watch to tell time, right? So better watches are more accurate watches, right? Thing is, it’s often true that the more expensive the watch, the worse its timekeeping ability. North of a few thousand dollars, it’s practically a certainty that a $15 Casio from Target is a better timekeeper.

Just about any watch available today is either quartz, using an electronic oscillator regulated by a quartz crystal; or mechanical, with a movement that includes a mainspring, an escapement, and a balance wheel. Odds are good that any watch you’ve ever owned has been a quartz watch, and even the best mechanical movements can’t touch them for accuracy. If all you’re concerned about is knowing what time it is, that $15 Casio is your best bet. Even a really cheap quartz can usually manage to keep time within 30 or 45 seconds a month, whereas a high-quality mechanical watch would be doing well at double that.

Most inexpensive watches are quartz, but not all quartz watches are necessarily inexpensive, depending on how you define the term. Seiko and Citizen dominate a middle range of nice quartz watches, say $200-600, that are definitely not cheap, but well short of luxury watch pricing. Some luxury nameplates have ultra-accurate quartz watches on the market in the $2,000-$3,000 range that keep time to within 10 seconds a year or so.

And that’s about the upper limit for quartz. Consider the little miracle of the Casio G-Shock watch, with alarm, stopwatch, electroluminescent backlight, and so forth. Now make it water resistant and shock resistant. Now make it solar-powered—never needing a battery—and make it synchronize daily with the U.S. atomic clock, so its inaccuracy is always less than a second. Did you know that you can buy such a watch for as little as $40 now? How cool is that? And if you only need to know what time it is, that’s exactly what you should do.

Now if you want to step off into an abyss of lunacy, get into mechanical watches.

There are some great, high-quality mechanical watches out there too, sharing that same middle pricing territory described above. I play there. (That’s one of my favorites above—a black Seiko Monster diver, expertly customized by Bob Thayer, Jr. to my specifications.) I’ve played a little north of there a couple of times, actually. But the truly silly pieces—I mean, watches that cost more than cars and houses—are all mechanical, and therefore all inferior timekeepers to the lowly $15 Casio cranked out by the bazillions, mostly in China.

I guess this is as good a time as any to mention the R-word. Ladies and gentlemen, learn, live, and know this: there is nothing magical about a Rolex.

Mind, the company has done some significant things. They introduced the water resistant watch, they were the first company to offer a watch with the date on the dial, and they improved and popularized (but did not invent) the self-winding watch. But here, now, know that Rolex is a mass manufacturer (about three-quarters of a million watches every year; forget all the “hand-crafted” nonsense) of good-quality mechanical wristwatches that, in my view and the view of many other enthusiasts, are priced double to triple what they’re worth, compared against other offerings of similar quality from other manufacturers.

Rolex isn’t even particularly expensive, relatively speaking, and is considered a bit of a poseur brand in the true upper echelons of luxury watches. I’ll post more about the silly-expensive mechanical watch sometime soon, but there are many watches on the market with six- and even seven-figure price tags. Such implements, of course, make no practical sense whatsoever. They are purchased as art, as displays of wealth, or both.

I passed “long” some time ago, so I’ll stop there for now. I can talk about watches pretty much indefinitely, and as I typed the above, about ten ideas were trying to get through my keyboard simultaneously. That just means “more to come,” mainly. For now, take away these two things:

  • You probably don’t need a watch. If you look at your wrist reflexively for the time, you’re a dying breed. (But I am too, so you’re in good company.)
  • Cheap watches keep better time than expensive watches.

Horologically yours, and until next time,

 Posted by at 11:02 pm
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