Time-shifting and place-shifting

The demise of soap operas (of which I was never a huge fan anyway) prompted me to write a rather long-winded piece recently, wherein I decided that DVRs were the final nail in the coffin of long-form serialized daytime dramatic television. Since then, I’ve been thinking a bit more about the disruptive technologies of the recent past and how my childhood differed from my son’s. I was interrupted in this reverie by a phone call, which ended up serving as a perfect example of the major differences.

Caller ID (didn’t exist for my childhood) showed me that The Boy was calling from a friend’s phone. The Boy requested that I bring him a particular toy from his bedroom. I wandered down the hall on my cordless phone (didn’t have that when I was a kid), and found the toy. I said to the child, “You’re at Friend’s house then?” Oh, no – they were at the park. And there went another piece of the implied landscape of my youth – a phone belonged to a location, not a person, when I was a kid.

We had a phone for the family, not for each member of it. We called people at home, and expected the person answering the phone to not necessarily be the person we were going to converse with. This seems to affect telephone etiquette, or my son’s peers are all just clueless gits. I presume the former, out of generosity. When I answer the phone when one of The Boy’s friends calls, it is almost painful to get out of them anything like a coherent statement. You know the kind we were taught to use as kids; something along the lines of, “Hello, this is Gary, I’m calling for James.” What I get now is some sputtering where, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to pick out the name of the child calling me. More often, it’s incomprehensible or a demand to speak to The Boy, with nothing like an introductory preamble. I’m convinced that all of his friends have their own personal phones now, so they just know to start talking when they answer. *Ring Ring* Look at phone, see it is James. Hey, James, what’s up?  That sort of thing is so completely foreign to us old geezers, even if we are cell phone users. Think about it, how many times do you know who is calling you, and yet the person still goes through the (now old-fashioned) introduction? I predict that the “Hello” when answering the phone may eventually die out entirely, as nobody needs to just answer as if they don’t know who is calling them.

Meanwhile, people talk on the phone an awful lot more than we did. If you were lucky enough to not have siblings screaming at you for their turn, you might be able to have a half-hour conversation on the phone in the 1980s. That was probably all you’d get for a day or more. It’s not that we didn’t have more to say, we just got tired of sitting in the one room where we had a phone for so long. Now that phones are completely untethered from a wall, much less the house itself, why ever stop talking? And so we have people who stick their phones to their heads the moment they are no longer prohibited from doing so. Hey lady, just do the grocery shopping, stop discussing your latest sexual conquest at HEB, huh?

As everyone from Ogg the Caveman until the end of humanity notes, Things Are Different Now. Listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe recently, the youngest member of the crew had no idea what “F Troop” was. Nearly everyone from my generation and before knew the same television (and radio prior to TV) shows as everyone else in their generation. After all, we only had three channels. Shoot, even PBS has only existed since 1970, and for most of its early existence was consigned to the UHF dead zone.

So, we all watched Gilligan’s Island when we came home from school, oblivious to the fact that the show had been cancelled before we were even born. We knew all the characters in the Addams Family, which also ended four years before my birth. Such was the nature of the highly-syndicated rerun system of 1970s afternoon television, in the days before cable.

In pursuit of the desire for more options in entertainment and technology, we seem to have lost most of our generational shared experiences. Just about the only thing that seems to remain is popular music. Whether you like the songs or not, if you’re remotely aware of the outside world, you’ve probably heard Cee-Lo’s F You, or Pink’s F-ing Perfect, or Enrique Iglesias’s Tonight (I’m F-ing You). Yeah, I chose those examples because of my amusement at how far we’ve come in pop music. Not that any of those three actually has the F word in the radio version of the song, but what the heck?

If you ask someone born around 1940 what they remember from their childhood, many of them would reference “Fibber McGee and Molly” on the radio, listening to Bo Diddley and Elvis, and the films of Hitchock or stars like Cary Grant, and of course Sputnik and Apollo. When you ask someone born around 1970 what they remember from their childhood, you’ll get references to “The Brady Bunch;” listening to Joan Jett,  Johnny Cougar (neé Mellencamp), Madonna, and Michael Jackson; movies like Star Wars, ET, and the Breakfast Club; and the space shuttle (first launch and the first explosion). When kids today look back in nostalgia at the early 21st Century, will any significant percentage be thinking of the same things? Will the customized nature of modern society mean the end of common experiences? And is that even a bad thing anyway?

Best Meal of 2011 so far

Kat and Alex both agree – this is the best meal so far in 2011. Sage, shallots, and butternut squash in crispy wontons, all sprinkled with parmesan and toasted walnuts. I have no problem backing this determination, and combined with the return of the In-N-Out burgers just one week ago, I think I may have peaked too early this year.

Valentine 2011

I’m not sure what it says that my darling bride requested, as her romantic V-Day meal this year, In-N-Out double double animal style with onion rings. They turned out really well, especially the gooey grilled onions on the burgers. I really need to get a deep fryer to handle the massive temperature problems with my stovetop to avoid the burnt onion rings. *sigh*

All that being said, it’s great to share a night on the couch, watching our favorite sitcoms, sated and full of grilled meat products. It’s been nearly 4 years since Kat came into my life, and I’m thrilled to be able to say we still have the most conflict-free and loving relationship I’ve ever seen or heard of. I can’t imagine life without her. If this is too much sweetness for you, you’re a cynical blackhearted bastard.

Love and light, all.

VDay 2011

[Ed: in case it’s not obvious from the “posted by” tag, this is written by Kat. Gary does not speak of himself in the third person frequently.]

From the red token on my purse from the Winchester museum to my entire left arm commemorating our honeymoon (and in many incarnations in between), I have never wanted to celebrate a relationship so fanatically. The funny bit is, I don’t need reminders of the good times. They are all good times. My behavior simply demonstrates my constant joy. To prove his awesomeness even further, he is making one of my favorite meals tonight: an In-n-Out Double Double animal style with onion rings. Nothing says love like an In-n-Out animal burger. I love you! Go Bearcat! CAn2!

Ruined Forever

You’ve surely heard the phrase, “he/she ruined x for me,” usually in some pejorative food context. For instance, many people are loathe to partake of asparagus or pork chops, because of some long ago culinary disaster. In our house, the phrase has a more upbeat meaning, however. Kat keeps telling me that I’ve made it impossible for her to enjoy various dining establishments, due to her preference for some new meal I’ve pulled out of a cookbook. So far, this has included steakhouses (at least for steaks) and any place that serves ribs. This week, she added another one: Wienerschnitzel. This is problematic for me, as the silly A-frame hut is my go-to destination whenever I don’t feel like making any effort at a meal. They are conveniently located, and I inhale their fries as well as the bbq bacon hot dog (or chili cheese dog).

What caused the dear lady to declare Wienerschnitzel off-limits? The Circus Dog, found in an old issue of Cuisine at Home magazine. Starting with Boar’s Head frankfurters (the only ones I can find in this misbegotten burg that have actual casings), wrapped in parcooked bacon, grilled to perfection, placed in a broiled cheese-lined bun and topped with a honey-mustard cole slaw, they have now been declared the perfect hot dog.

Guess I’ll have to sneak my hot fast food dogs unDER the radar from now on.  *sigh*

The Cape

Part Batman, part Dark Angel, part every cop show ever made, and a little bit of Robocop, the new series “The Cape” began this week.  So far, it’s a bit of a cliche-filled mess with one-dimensional characters.  On the other hand, Summer Glau.  Maybe we’ll give it another week to see what they make of the show.

Legend:

Orwell = Lucius Fox (Batman)/Eyes Only (Dark Angel)
ARK = OCP (Robocop)
The Cape = Batman

Predictions from 2010

Last year, I made a set of predictions for 2010. Let’s see how badly I did this year.

  1. I assumed tablet PCs would remain a niche nobody had heard of. Assuming you count the iPad as a tablet PC (I don’t), this is obviously false. Less obviously, everyone has at this point at least considered a tablet PC. I’m counting this as a miss, but with the caveat that tablet PCs are probably never going to catch on – what we’ll have are tablet devices (which are not PCs).
  2. President Obama has, if anything, grown even larger horns in the eyes of the right-wing media and punditocracy. Considering that he’s also become something of a punching bag on the left for not actually having a spine or delivering on many of his promises (States Secrets, Gitmo, whatever), it’s almost painful to watch. Definitely got this one, although it was kind of a no-brainer.
  3. I heard the GOP did ok in the midterms, so I suppose this one is a hit as well. Again, not really a tough call – the non-Presidential party almost always gains midterm seats.
  4. The economy is improving, by some measures, but most people will still look at their bank accounts and pay stubs and have a hard time believing it. I missed this one, and it makes me very sad.
  5. Yeah, still no crypto that anyone uses, and boy are the leaks popping up everywhere!
  6. The ebook readers continue the trend of walled gardens – stupid move, in my opinion, but a hit for my prediction ability!
  7. Sarah Palin is the worst game of whakamole ever. Please someone make her go away.
  8. TSA flight restrictions pissed people off and made headlines, but somehow the airlines look to actually be profitable this year. Miss, but barely (In May, the IATA predicted losing billions).
  9. The weather was indeed remarkable, and the denialists continued to pretend that there was nothing wrong anywhere ever. Another sad hit.
  10. Another year without any substantive disagreements between my lovely bride and myself. Yay!

My hit rate this year was less than impressive. I got 7 of 10, slightly worse than last year (and it’s 8/10 if you don’t consider an ipad a PC – neener).  Somehow, we’ve made it over one decade into the 21st century, and we haven’t seen flying cars, jetpacks, or even aquatic aliens on Jovian moons.  *sigh*

Merry Christmas

This has been a great Christmas morning.  I got five new books, Alex seems to like his new skates, Kat and I have been having a blast with her Buckyballs, and breakfast was awesome.  Kat found a great recipe for salmon hash and asparagus.  Served with a fried egg atop the pile, with mimosas (and faux-mosa for the boy) on the side…such decadence!

We wish you and yours a great Christmas and a great new year!

Stupid Computer Tricks

I built a computer in August, which was intended to be a reliable and semi-powerful machine, to play current games and work in Premiere and Photoshop.  Instead, I’ve been plagued with random shutdowns, crashing programs, and a growing hatred of technology.  The most recent issue is that downloaded games no longer work.  I buy most of my games via Direct2Drive or Steam or Impulse – I tend to buy older games on sale and boy are some of the deals awesome.  I grabbed Bioshock for five bucks last month, downloaded it, installed it, played it nonstop, and then I was done – all in one week.  I know, there is replay value by playing as a jerk instead of a nice guy, whatever.

Anyway, last week two games popped up as good deals online – Crysis and Bioshock 2.  I bought both (one from GamersGate and the other from Direct2Drive), and began the download cycle.  Both games are approximately 7 gigabyte downloads.  I’ve now downloaded Bioshock 2 seven times, and Crysis four.  I’ve downloaded them to my C drive, my D drive, to Kat’s computer.  Bioshock 2 has multiple methods of downloading the ZIP file – Comrade, Download Manager, and browser direct.  I’ve used each method at least twice.  Every time, I get a corrupt download. I’m using a computer with a direct ethernet connection, not wifi.  The download manager says the download is done and correct. But, once it unzips and begins installing, it craps out with a CRC error.

Same with Crysis, but there’s only one method of downloading that game from GamersGate.  I can only assume that two different games, from two different sources, must indicate there’s something wrong on my end.  Darned if I know what, though.  Anyone have six hundred bucks so I can get a rig from Cyberpower?  No?  Darnit.

Airport Review – LAX

Finally, the third of my three airport reviews – Los Angeles International (LAX). Holy crap, what an awful experience. I didn’t have to opt for the nudie photo or sexual assault, because it appeared the nudie photo machines were down on my security line. The counter agents and TSA employees were all quite polite, but there is obviously a serious infrastructural or procedural problem with LAX’s checkin process.  Since I’ve not been through LAX in many years, I assumed it would take twice as long to get through all the hoops as I was accustomed to in years past.  I was pretty close to accurate in that assessment, and I could imagine that there are times when my estimate would have been an underestimate of an order of magnitude.

I arrived four hours before my flight was due to takeoff, because I had run out of things to do in my hotel room and I can read at the airport just as well as anywhere else.  It took over 30 minutes just to get my bag checked, and then I had to carry it myself to the security scanners.  It makes me wonder what those giant conveyor belts behind the ticket agents are for.  Not to mention, since LAX is one of the growing number of “self check in” airports for American Airlines, the name “ticket agent” may be inaccurate as well.  The counter agent merely prints out the label that goes on the bag, after you’ve already verified your identity and printed out your own boarding pass at a kiosk that seemed to drive many people insane with confusion.

After that bizarroland detour, which was leavened by a trio of children who wanted to share all the details of their Disneyland experience, I was directed to the security line.  The security line started outdoors.  It started down the sidewalk.  It actually started near the neighboring terminal.  Thankfully, it only took 45 minutes to get through that line, which was a surprise of inestimable proportion.  It looked like the highest-volume day at Disneyland, waiting for Splash Mountain.  Insane.

Finally, I arrived at the top of the stairs where I could just see the security machinery.  The line bifurcated, then bifurcated again.  Each of those four lines went through a screener who made sure your ID and boarding pass matched. Then, each line split into 2-6 more individual lines.  Since I have a netbook which is listed on the sign as one of those items you don’t need to remove from its case, I didn’t.  That was wrong.  Take it out. Don’t put the case on top of it.  Give me your book.  It was weird as hell, but ultimately just a little more useless security theater.

Now I’ve entered the concourse, past the TSA employees who think they’re cops (no law enforcement function is endowed in these people, no matter what they dress up like).  I’m sipping an iced chai from Starbucks, and wishing that LAX was enlightened enough to have free wifi.  Just as in DFW, the options are T-Mobile or Admiral’s Club, which are both fee-based.  Unlike DFW, they don’t even have a wired free internet option available.  Considering the sheer number of business travelers through LAX, you’d think free wifi would be one of the most obvious things in the world.  *sigh

Airport Review – DFW

I didn’t have to go through security and check-in at Dallas-Fort Worth, so I can’t address those portions of the airport experience. The terminal is bright and easy to maneuver through, with two counter-rotating monorails zipping you around. There are CNN Airport News screens all over the place, but not too loud. The one closest to my connection looked like someone had tried to silence it with a shoe – the LCD had lots of nasty lines in the picture.

There was a Smoothie King right next to my gate, so that was nice. Opening up the netbook to make an entry was a bust, though. Unlike the tiny SJT, the massive DFW charges for wifi. Strangely, they provide several “free charge and internet” stations around the concourse. I don’t understand large corporations.

I’ll address LAX when I head home – it’s hard to get a flavor of an airport when you’re arriving. All I did was leave the plane, get my bag, and hop on the Enterprise shuttle.

Cheers.

Airport Review – SJT

As this is the first time I’ve flown since 2002, I am seeing three different airports with relatively fresh eyes. This morning, I started the journey at San Angelo Regional Airport (SJT), which is not the smallest I’ve been in (hello, Sierra Vista!) but it’s only got one airline and you have to ring a bell to get them to come to the counter.  They appear to have no more than 6 employees, who work as counter help, baggage handlers, and general support staff all.

SJT has free wifi in the lobby and in the concourse. Strangely, they are two different networks. They’re both “protected” by iPrism software, which has decided that I can’t program my DVR, read Gizmodo, or see images or CSS from Ars.Technica. I also can’t get to Livejournal because it’s a “web log” site, but I can get to Facebook just fine. This comports with my usual assumption that blocking software is based entirely on capricious decisions with no rational basis.

Security at SJT is relatively quick and painless, with no back-scatter body scanning and nobody I saw get groped. So far so good.

One great aspect of the SJT concourse and lobby is the complete lack of CNN Airport News. Those blaring idiot boxes with no means of escape are possibly the single longest-running aggravation of the traveler. I hated any layover when I traveled for work – even the airport employees seem to have no control over the volume on those things, because that would intrude on some revenue sharing no doubt. Anyway, SJT is quiet enough to hear all the cell phone conversations around you.

And the plane should be boarding soon, so off I go…

Burger Rot

My new best imaginary friend, Kenji Lopez-Alt, has completed a four-week experiment to determine what truth the “McDonald’s Burgers Don’t Rot” meme has behind it.  Most serious speculators assumed that the burgers and buns dried out in the air-conditioned interior of an average home. Surprise, surprise – that’s exactly what Kenji discovered. There’s nothing magical about it, just small burgers in a dry environment. Science!

Patty Melts Are Awesome

In previous installments of “Gary cooks whatever Kenji does,” we’ve tried the Double-Double Animal Style and some sliders. The latest was the patty melt. I’m a big fan of patty melts, so making them at home with two kinds of cheese seemed like a winner of a plan. They were yummy, and the onions ended up so caramelized they stuck in my teeth like the halloween candy we’re noshing on this week.

In a stunning upset, the sliders remain as Kat’s #2 choice of the three, while the Double-Double of course reigns supreme.  The Boy and I both prefer patty melts over sliders, but agree with Judge #1 that In-N-Out rocks, even in clone form.

Maybe I’ll try that Roast Beef Poboy next, that looks like an interesting sandwich…

Paper?

As much as I’d like to think Gary and I have been married for 10 years, it has only been 2. 2 years of his recipes out of Cuisine magazine, gifts for no reason, always opening my car door first, paying for my tattoos, taking care of my every whimsy and never saying no. Okay- he did discourage my lip piercing which my piercer forbade me to get and refused to do anyway. Whatever.

At the risk of his old flames or wannabes reading this, I can say without a pause that your loss is my gain. Gary, or G-fly as I often refer to him (you’ve heard him rap, right?) is the best human I’ve ever met. Best friend, best lover, best driver, best travel companion and in a couple years, best roommate to have in California. 2 down and a lifetime of anniversaries to go….. Go Bearcat!

Halloween Not Scary

Halloween is this weekend, and with it come all the various modern changes to the traditional Trick or Treat. We have “Trunk or Treat” where kids wander a parking lot. We have “Safe Trick or Treat” where kids make a lethargic loop of the mall, behind a veritable conga-line of hundreds of other children. We have a bunch of sanctioned, known-safe haunted houses. We don’t have the near-universal Trick-or-Treat participation that most of us adults remember from our own childhoods, though. Although to watch any evening news broadcast would lead you to believe we live in a ridiculously dangerous time, the opposite is really true.

The rate of violent crimes is the lowest it has been since 1973, the rate of property crimes the lowest since 1968. Children are almost never kidnapped by anyone, and when they are it’s almost always by a non-custodial parent (about evenly split between women and men). The only time a child has been poisoned by Halloween candy, it was his own father who gave it to him to collect the life insurance money (father of the year was executed in 1984).

If you’re avoiding taking your rugrats out to beg for candy because you think your neighbors are going to try to kill them, don’t worry.  Have fun, try not to eat so much sugar in one sitting, and have a great weekend!

Sliders

Following the success of the faux Double-Double, last night we attempted to duplicate Kenji Lopez-Alt’s slider recipe.  OK, recipe may be overstating things, how about method instead? I thought it odd to make fried burgers last time; you can imagine how difficult it was to get past the concept of steamed burgers. And, 1.2 pounds of meat to make a dozen burgers? That can’t be right.

Anyway, they turned out quite like the sliders you may love or hate – oniony, cheesy, moist, and a little messy with a pretty high bun-to-meat ratio. Although sliders were Kat’s idea, she found them to be not as much to her liking as the In-N-Out style burgers – I wholeheartedly agree.  Alex, on the other hand, ate four of them. The sliders do have the benefit of being much easier to make, with far fewer ingredients to juggle (making your own secret sauce, slicing tomatoes, leafing lettuce – none of those are needed for sliders). But, the D-D have the benefit of being quite a bit tastier.  Sliders are a bit of a one-note song, while a nice Double-Double Animal Style is a near-symphony of ground meat goodness.

Next on my burger hit parade?  Maybe patty melts.  I love me some patty melt…

Messy Burger Experiment

Although I consider myself a West Coast guy, somehow I’ve always made and most appreciated East Coast style, thick hearty flame-grilled burgers.  These meat bombs require a little attention to ensure they get seared on the outside yet don’t have a cold uncooked center – a combination of direct and indirect heat and a lot of watching.  Patience is a virtue.

I recently came across the Burger Lab on Serious Eats, and was inspired to duplicate Kenji’s Double-Double clone.  Tonight was burger night. I’ve got to say, I’ve never made such THIN burgers before. It’s a different approach, requiring not patience but a quick spatula. I’m sure they could have burned very easily. I put together some blanched and double-fried potatoes to go with the burgers, and we ate them so quickly there is no photographic evidence – sorry.

We learned very quickly the reason for the paper wrappers at In-N-Out; those things want to disintegrate and drip all over the place.  Kat and Alex agreed that they were amazingly yummy and almost replace going to In-N-Out. The dogs wanted to know why we don’t make them burgers and fries.

I highly recommend reading through some of Kenji’s posts – that man is obsessive about his food, particularly burgers.