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.