The Media in general, these days.

I don’t read newspapers anymore.

Nor do I watch network news, or even cable news.

Why?

They lie. And it’s too much work to figure things out. You have to visit many internet sites, and see a bunch of media before you eventually get the gist of what happened. The clue here is to hit the sites from other countries. They generally don’t have a dog in the fight, so what you’ll get is more factual than not. Then, compare it to the American sites and media. Eventually the truth seeps out, but it takes time.

When a big story hits, what I find is:

  1. It’s probably not happening at all, or anywhere near like they are reporting.
  2. If it did happen, it probably has been going on sometime and the media has ignored it, or covered for someone.
  3. The amount you should care is inversely proportional to the intensity of the hysterics from the left.

Take this week’s immigration fiasco, for instance. #1 – I know people in law enforcement, and various Christian and Catholic ministries. You aren’t being told the scale, or the nature of the problem, and haven’t been since like 2013. That covers #2 as well. This was happening in Obama’s administration, an no one said or did jack about it. What they did was outsource the problem to various christian ministries to deal with. #3, All I can think of is Nancy Pelosi moaning about inherent human dignity when responding to Trumps “animals” remark about MS-13.

As Victor Hanson said – “When was the last time a dead body turned up on your property?” He’s had several, thanks to California’s malfeasance dealing with illegals. Hell, even my well healed hometown in Northern VA has had a gut-full of it. One of the reasons we moved was the high school my kids would attend sported like four different gangs. This, in an upper middle class enclave of DC.

The amount of propaganda these guys have been spewing would make Goebbels blush.

Bottom line is thus:

  1. Through incompetence or malfeasance, both the legislative and executive branches has created an enormous problem.
  2. You aren’t being told about it, and haven’t been for nearly a decade.
  3. Immigration is broken. It’s too hard to come in legally, and too easy to come in illegally.

I use occam’s razor. The simplest solution is the best – turn them away – all of them. Period. Go back, and do it right. Every country in the world works this way. Keep in mind that since…uh…forever (at least since the potato famine) unchecked immigration knocks the citizens already here off the bottom rung of the ladder. Always has.

I’m not anti-immigrant by any means. My grandparents were immigrants. When I started in IT, I worked with Vietnamese and Middle Eastern dudes that put the bar so high that it was nearly unreachable. I’ve never worked with such skilled, hardworking, great people before or since. When I was working with them they were better friends and mentors than I deserved. And I’m better for it.

But you’d never know that unless I said so. Because these tools in the media are the last people to tell you what is really happening.

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter

I grill. A lot.

And when I moved to the new place, I passed along my 20 year old (or so) Weber Genesis to a friend, And now do strictly charcoal in a Weber Kettle, or wood in a smoker. I’m a big Weber fan, since they work well and you can get parts for the things, making them last indefinitely. I recently replaced the grill surface in my kettle with an improved version, which sports doors in the grill that allow you to add coals without disturbing your food. I think I have a total of $120 in the thing, all in, and it’s worked flawlessly.

I also read a number of fine cooking magazines and web sites. They have great recipes, but I can do without the PC crap. The first step is always “Start the coals using a chimney”, as if at my age I don’t know how to prep a charcoal grill. The theory is you won’t get any taste of the lighter fluid on your food.

Uh-huh.

For the record, although my taste buds are forever ruined by cancer, I can taste petroleum products. None of which I’ve ever detected when I start the grill urban caveman style by using copious amounts of lighter fluid. Typically, I arrange the coals where I want them, squirt a third of a bottle of lighter fluid on them, then “Flame-ON” as I enjoy a beer while the coals ready. Not.Rocket.Science.

But, what the hell. I’ll give it a shot, and here’s why – when I use the smoker , I find I need to keep some coals in the firebox to keep the heat consistent, and starting them in the grill and moving them is a pain in the balls. So I reasoned, maybe I’ll try a chimney. I used to use one long ago, but forgot when I gave up on it. Probably when I went propane. So I waddled down to Lowes and picked up a Weber Chimney. Long story short, I should have bought the cheaper one. Hell, I should have bought a big ass can of beans and turned it into a chimney.

I’ve used it three times so far, and the heat has beaten the crap out of the metal. Meh, for $14, I’m not expecting too much. However, my last one was painted black, and seemed ot last better.

So without further ado:

Pros: 

 

It works reasonable well. It manages to start enough charcoal to do a Weber Kettle justice.

You wind up with a well lit grill, and very hot, while retaining the vast bulk of the charcoal, allowing you to cook longer. Or rather, as long as you need. You seem to have plenty of coals for as long as you need. I did chicken last night, and had heat enough left to grill some zuccini.

Doing this, as opposed to starting the coals and letting the flames hit the grill surface keeps the grill part more or less intact. As opposed to overheating it and damaging the surface. Bad part is, it doesn’t burn off the schmutz from your last BBQ.

And if you empty it correctly (use gloves), You can get the coals where you want them without too much re-arranging. Even though I have BBQ tongs, the coals are nuclear hot, and moving them without gloves is tough.

Cons:

The Smoke. Sweet Jesus, it fills tIMG_0134he back with tons of smoke. And it’s not nice “Hey, someone is barbecuing smoke.

It’s “Hey, there’s a newspaper plant on fire somewhere” smoke.

It fills the back yard with a fog of acrid smoke. And if it’s near the patio, like it was the first two times I used it, the dog starts freaking out, goes round the house to the kitchen window, stands up, looks at my wife working at the sink and barks – “Holy shit the back yard’s on fire and I can’t get back into the house!”

Maybe it’s the quality of paper I put in it.

Here’s the rub, I don’t get a newspaper. So I use the newsprint ads I get as junk mail. But the smoke lasts long after the paper is consumed. So I guess that’s the other con – no paper, you have to hunt for something to start the thing.

It also has taken a mighty beating in the three times I’ve used it. The finish is burnt off, for the most part, and the grill surface that separates the coals from the newspaper is already beaten and rusty.

All in all, it has a slight edge, – hotter coals that seem to last longer (probably because they heat up faster). Another pro would be that the dog now stays in the house the whole time the grill is out.

In the end, it’s worth the $14. I’ve produced 3 for 3 great meals using it.

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“Fastest Car”, Netflix

I love car shows.

I’ll binge watch Top Gear. I’ll hit Grand Tour the day the episode posts. I’ll watch nearly every episode of a car or bike builder show.

So I was plodding around Netflix and stumbled onto “Fastest Car”. The premise is simple, throw a random three cars up against a super car in a drag race, and at the end, take all the winners and race. Meantime, load up with idiocy and drama. The Real Housewives of drag racing.

First, there’s this random matching. The last episode before the final race sported:

  • An extra cab diesel pickup
  • A Mazda RX-2
  • A ancient Datsun, powered by a homegrown electric setup
  • And a Lamborghini.

This one was especially funny, since the Datsun lost it, hit the Mazda, spooking the woman in the Lambo, allowing the stupid pickup to win.

There’s a reason cars are classed in racing. Just like boxing, you don’t pick a fight out of your weight class. Pick the top supercars, pick the top of each class, then go at it. And really, they should have either limited it to those that raced, or picked drivers. The first place to start would be a race stats from a drag strip. 90% of the show could have been done with math.

Second, Speed is just a question of money. How fast do you want to go? For the most part, a lot of the cars that raced were hopeless. You really think you’re going to take a junkyard 80’s Cutlass and in a few weeks with little money beat anything? I think that guy DNRed (did not race), as did the dude in the supra, Because he couldn’t keep his car running. The supercars are purpose built for speed and endurance. They are expensive for a reason. Sure, the owners didn’t put “blood, sweat, and tears” into their cars, but a team of engineers and craftsman certainly did. Interestingly, the dude that came in second was in a T-Bird he custom built to race – because he races. It was stripped of everything not needed to race and still be road legal.

Third, every non-supercar that was anywhere near competitive used Nitrous (NO2). NO2 is the steroid of racing. That’s like me juicing up, then snorting coke and saying I’m a premier athlete. If your car can’t be competitive without NO2, it’s by definition not the fastest car.

Lastly, their definition of “sleeper” is a little wide, to say the least. Very few of the non-supercars were sleepers. If a car is sitting stupid on bad suspension work, with oversized tires, a hole in the hood with a scoop or other BS sticking out, and a sound like a garbage truck with a missing muffler, it’s not a sleeper. You know all what that dude is about.

Awhile back I was tooling along a huge tollway in north Texas on my way home and I had a bit of a race pass me. I heard it before I saw it. A custom corvette, weaving down the highway way to fast, with what turned out to be a BMW 328 on his ass. Let that sink in. A custom chunk of american pig iron couldn’t outrace a 2.8 liter beemer.

Or a bike. My last bike was a Yamaha FZ-1. It would go 0-140 in seconds with my fat ass on board. For all the street race bravado, I’ve never seen one of these guys beat a bike. They’ve always wound up in my rearview, far behind.

After a few episodes, it descended into farce, and was really just stupid. At that point it was worth it just to see it end, even though you knew the supercars and the pro racers would win and place.

Apple Watch, Series 1

I’m not an early adopter.

It’s not because I’m some sort of Luddite. I’ve seen my early adopter friends pay too much for new tech, only to have better and cheaper show up in a year or two. I had a friend that bought a Cd player when they first came out. Manual feed, one dist, slow rate, and he blew $600 if memory serves. A few years later, I picked up a JVC 6 CD changer for like $150. Nowhere is the ass ache worse than with personal electronics.

It started with the electronic address books. They were an absolute pain in the balls. Entering all that data, only to have a new one come out and have no way to import the data to the new device. Enter the Palm Pilot. I’ve had many, So I can say with some authority that, other than giving you something to do while waiting, they were useless. Every time I’ve needed them badly for a number or email address, they somehow became stupid, and usually when I didn’t bring a cable to resync. When smartphones showed up, I didn’t need to screw with them any longer. Starting with Blackberry, I’ve had them all, luckily provided by my employer, for the most part. I have two iPhones now.

Enter the Apple watch.

When they first came out, like most apple devices, I had to wonder who in the world would want such a thing? They were pretty pricey too. I had a fitbit my wife gave me, so I’ve learned that I don’t give two shits about tracking my activity. So  in addition to having one or two friends express some buyers remorse, having spend a few Benjamins on a cool apple watch only to wonder later why, I had a jaundiced eye for Apple watch.

But, then the price came down and I leaped.

First thing is they tie seamlessly into my iPhone 6s. There’s a lot of customization you can do. And, since they’ve been out awhile, you have a vast array of bands you can buy on the cheap. In my case, I bought a black series 1, with the dopey rubber sports band. Then, hit Amazon for a cool metal band for like $12. I think I paid $250 or so , only to be told by my daughter that they were at WalMart for $150. Whatever. I scoped some on Ebay for that price. I think the real deal from apple is probably worth the dough. Who knows? Damn $150 watch could be a clone.

What I like:  There are some apps that are really handy.

  • I like the timer app, especially when I’m steeping tea in the morning.
  • I like the stopwatch to do my neck exercises,
  • While driving, It’s bad ass to see a text, and reply with a response you can craft on your phone.
  • While in a meeting, It’s nice to get a text or call that you can handle. It’s still more socially acceptable to look at the watch vs. the phone.
  • Ditto for emails and calendar appointments.
  • I hooked up a Bluetooth interface for a wave radio on my patio to listen to tunes. When I’m streaming tunes from my phone, I can control them with my watch. Cool.
  • The alerts, or “tap taps” on my wrist when I get a call. For the most part, my phones sit on stands on my desk. I may be screwing with a server in another room, or taking a spell with the dog on the patio and won’t hear the call ring. It’s nice to see who it is calling and decide whether it’s worth picking up.

What I don’t like:

  • The activity reminders, of which I don’t give two shits. “Hey! Time to stand!”. Fuck you. I’m working. Just like the stupid “Sleep” reminders in iPhone- I’m an adult, thank you. (I know, I can turn them off. But busybody is apple’s default).
  • The battery lasts like a day and 2/3 rds or something inconvenient. I find when I have to lam out to an appointment the damn thing is dying. My bulova has a lifetime battery.
  • Big F-ing brother. It popped up today with a reminder that I’m 4 mins from the Church I attend on Sunday. Yet, I went last night. Why did it tell me that? It’s tracking my habits, that’s why. Who are they sharing that data with? This is why I didn’t buy the series 3. Most assuredly, if shit ever hits the fan, I’ll attach it to my dog.

So there it is. The positives far outweigh the negatives for at least the series one. Cheaper than a really good watch. And the bad is easily handled by some configuration, if not on the device, by you network. Buy the cheap one, get a cool band.

 

Montreal Canada, Sector 21 Building 2071 Room 1401

Every so often I get to travel internationally, in this case to Canada. I enjoy Canada. Every-time I’ve been there I liken it to the movie “Demolition Man”. Clean scrubbed, well dressed people walking around greeting each other ‘good morning citizen’.

So this week finds me in Montreal Canada. My previous trips have been to the British rather than French side. Montreal is completely different than my travels to the Brit side. Regardless, this time of year presents a challenge to traveling to the great white north. It’s 85 degrees where I live. It’s 30s up there. Carrying a coat with your bags in the Texas heat at DFW sucks. I picked my motorcycle jacket. It’s the least bulky jacket I own.

Let’s start with the flights. Most left way, way too early for me. The others arrived way, way too late.
So I flew out on Air Canada, on a rather cozy Embraer 175. Bad thing about Air Canada is it leaves out of terminal E at DFW – The Chump Terminal. It’s also the only one I’ve seen here that is bifurcated. I found that out when the parking dude dumped me off a mile from check-in. When I got my boarding all sorted I headed to security, and showed them my passport and boarding pass. The genius asked if I were Canadian. Without missing a beat, I asked “If I was can I go in that line? (pointing at the priority line). He let me go. A nice touch that got me more time at the bar, sitting next to some marketing chick with a horrible, annoying vocal fry.

This flight had the most civilized boarding ever. I’m used to fighting a scrum of group fives and sixes to board. It helped that the plane was only half full, another thing I haven’t seen in years.

Customs was reasonably efficient. Scan the passport, the machine prints a declaration. The agent gives it a cursory “meh” and sends me on my way.

No car this time, since we were booked near the office. So first thing I realized was that my mobile was now roaming. Bob and Jerry’s wireless offered me a data plan. Luckily, Montreal airport has free wireless, so I hit that to sort things out. Second thing I figured was that my cards had expired in my apps. So Ubering to the Hotel was going to be an issue. I plopped in my digits, and soon enough an Uber driver whisked me away to the hotel. Note to self, check that stuff before you get on the plane.

Another thing to do is tell your credit cards that you are going out of the country. The only one I don’t have to do that with is Amex. Needless to say, I forgot to do that and had to do it later.

First surprise was, this is a fairly ugly downtown area. Sort of like Pittsburgh, if it were built by the soviets. Lots of raw concrete buildings, including my Marriott. I wasn’t sure if it was retro seventies, or they simply hadn’t updated it since. My kitchen area looked like one of the shitty condos my daughter was looking at in urban Dallas. It sported a scary balcony overlooking the street. No way that exists in the US. I went out to size it up and scared myself. I’m not squeamish of heights. But I was on that. Something didn’t seem right. My coworker told me later his wasn’t level, it pointed down. I figured it had to have been an apartment building they converted. One of the desk agents told us it was, in fact, an apartment building before becoming a hotel. Still, it’s a Marriott, and has nothing if not consistent good service. Cool view too. This trip was the first time I’ve bothered with the Marriott App. I must say, it was cool checking in on the way there, and having things in order when I arrived.

Montreal is of course in French Canada, and while somewhat bilingual, they start of every interaction in French, assuming you speak the language. I don’t.

So there’s this funny thing where they babble in French. You gurn at them and say something in English, and they start talking in English.

This happened the second I hit the streets looking for grub. I really got myself in a bind, not having told my MasterCard I was out and about in Canada, and when I did, there was a time period before the notification hit. This left me with Amex. Unfortunately, many many places outside the US shun Amex. So I had to pick a place that looked big enough to maybe accommodate it.

So I picked a sports bar. I waddle in, tell the hostess, “One. It’ll just be me”, whereupon she commenced talking to me in rapid-fire French. I smiled, so she went on and on. Finally, I laughed and said I didn’t speak French. “Oh! Ha ha! I’m sorry! Well, you can sit anywhere, follow me!” So I sat and she handed me a menu and took off. The menu was in French.  I know enough Spanish that I can sort out the root of Latin based languages, enough to ID the meat type and whatnot. We had this issue nearly everywhere we went.

And we went to some really stupid places. The worst had to be what I would call a “utility” sushi restaurant. To be honest, it was gross and we should have known better. Our plate showed up, all stuck together. I could barely identify what we ordered. The spider roll was most assuredly wrong. At that point I looked around and noticed too many pale faced hipsters and zero Asians. That was a clue we somehow missed. You’d think three hardcore travelers would have noticed that walking in the door.

Couple funny things I picked up on:

  • Most of the cars I saw were missing hubcaps. I asked the clerk at the hotel why this was, and she gave me a long winded explanation along the lines of they don’t like them. I figured it was that they would be destroyed by the snow.
  • People are very orderly here. It’s funny to see a line queued up for the elevators. Everyone seems to stand in their place and take their turn. Never see that in the US.
  • Speaking of standing, the random people I ran into would stand in front of any kind of counter, oblivious that you were waiting. Like at the coffee bar in the hotel. There they’d stand, right in the middle, pour coffee, pick up condiments, casually fixing their drink. Everywhere else, one pours coffee, and moves out of the way for the next guy while applying fixings. I can’t tell how many times “For chrisstsakes, get the fuck out of the way” had to be choked off in my throat.
  • The three of us seemed to tower above the general population and are used to being assertive while travelling. Walking head up, scanning for a bar, looking people in the eye seemed to make the male population (at least where we were), quail around us. Sort of like we were Huns. I’m 6′. My buddies are 6’4, 6’5 and look like trouble. It was odd to be in a large city and not run into one dude that you’d just as soon avoid. I didn’t see one male that intimidated me in any way. Apparently, thug life is not a thing there.

At the end of our week we hit an Uber to the airport and mostly went our separate ways. I was flying back on American, and unlike with the trip out, the trip back was a scrum. I knew it was coming when I saw the obligatory dozen or so first classers hovering a half hour before boarding. I’m flummoxed why they do this. I myself sit until the group before mine is called, then move into a strategic spot for when my group is called. It’s typically group 5, roughly translated as “priority access”. Normally, I’ll find a path to get where I need without cheezing someone off.

The first leg was a typical American flight, blissfully free of drama. I connected through Pittsburgh. This was when I knew I was back. The crowd hovering at the gate was nothing short of astonishing. I picked a strategic spot in a front chair, facing the gate. For a plane that seats something like 220, I counted maybe 40-50 keysters in seats. The rest were all standing in a crowd at the gate, blocking the hallway. It’s sad that in older airports like these, they have those seats in rows. Everyone sits in every other chair. This time, I had zero compunction about plopping down in-between people. In this case, between a business traveler of some type, and an old Chinese woman, who appeared to be group 9. (I look at boarding passes, often wondering why they are hovering with that high a number.)

Sure enough, when group one started boarding, the old woman gathered up her stuff and elbowed her way into line, only to be rebuffed and turned back. It honestly warmed my heart that in the this scrum, they were enforcing the rules. When they called the group before mine, I had a clear shot and made it on the plane with ease.

Luckily, another uneventful flight. Until the end, of course. Turns out we either left late, or had to wait to take off. Whichever, there were a number of the wretched that may miss connections. The stewardess attempted to address this by helpfully announcing that there were wretched aboard, and could we all wait to exit so they could make their connections? What happened next wasn’t a scrum. It was a pig-pile. Only a lucky few that had their shit and were ready to git got anywhere near the exit before the works were absolutely gummed up with douchebags that sought to gain advantage. How do I know? I saw them after I deplaned, taking their time in the restrooms, standing in line at food stands.

There is no queuing with the commoners in the US, only the pig-pile or scrum. This woman should have known this, and known DFW. If you think you probably will miss your connection, you will. Most assuredly. It’s a huge airport, each terminal is something on the order of 35 gates, nearly 1/2 mile long. And unless you are fit, and you connection is in the same terminal, you are doomed. There’s no doing a “Go OJ, Go!” between terminals at DFW. See the gate agent, make arrangements.

Having carried on, I sauntered out of the plane, hit the head, and walked out into the Texas heat.