Monthly Archives: September 2010

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.

EA Tech Support Run by Morons

I’ve been playing Burnout Paradise on my computer (the old one and the seemingly cursed new one) since August 6th.  As of last week, the game started giving me an error that I couldn’t buy any downloadable content, due to one of four possible reasons:

  1. I was too young.
  2. My account was not allowed to purchase content.
  3. The content was not yet released.
  4. I was not signed in to my account.

So far as I could tell, none of those things applied.  I’m certainly above the age where I need permission to purchase anything, I was signed in and the content was not only released a year ago, I’d seen it offered for my purchase just last month.  I certainly hadn’t blocked myself from purchasing anything, but I also could find no information about that in my account one way or the other.

After 3 days of email, and one 40 minute chat, here are the tasks which I’ve been asked to accomplish under EA’s direction, while telling them at every step that my ACCOUNT must be borked on their end and maybe there’s a setting in there which they could check:

  • Clear the cache of my internet browser.  Since they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me which browser engine is used for the in-game store, I cleared ALL of my caches in all 3 browsers (and both the 32- and 64-bit versions of IE).
  • Buy content from the Playstation store. Neat trick for a PC game.
  • Delete everything from my Windows temp directory. Sure, whatever.
  • Kill every process running on my machine other than Explorer and Taskmgr that weren’t owned by System. Right, let me kill 90 processes – some essential – just for fun.
  • Open 50 different ports in my firewall. Sure, whatever.
  • Uninstall and reinstall the game, erasing all traces from the registry as well.  That took a while.
  • Log in to the game. Duh?

Not only are some of those things bad ideas, some are even impossible or ludicrous.  If I killed every process owned by me that wasn’t Explorer, I’d effectively kill the browser I was using to communicate in the chat, as well as destabilizing my audio, video, and other hardware that has helper software.  Buying content from the Playstation store for my Windows game seems bizarre in the utmost.  I did uninstall and clear all registry bits and reinstall, as that MAY have been of some use.  I also cleared my caches, although the utility of that option still escapes me.

Naturally, after all this time and effort, including re-downloading a 3 gigabyte file, the game still won’t allow me to purchase any DLC.  I’m not even really planning to buy anything right now, I just figured after three days of seeing an error which I hadn’t seen the previous three weeks, there must be something WRONG that might need seein’ to.  This morning, they finally elevated this to second-level tech support.  WTF?  You would think my telling them that purchasing Playstation content for my Windows machine was ludicrous would cause them to elevate it, but no.  What finally put it over the top is when, on email #10 or so, the tech dork actually said I had to log in with my email address to access the game.  This is after I’d told them many times that the GAME was fine, the online-gaming portion was fine, the in-game browser was fine, it was just the in-game store which was broken, and gave an error indicating an ACCOUNT problem.  Finally, after that email where I told them they were ridiculous for thinking that I’d somehow logged in with someone else’s email address (which the game won’t allow and the game doesn’t use email addresses anyway), they finally said, “Oh, let me elevate this.”

I think the takeaway from this experience is, “If you buy an EA game, hope you never have problems.”

Reliability Monitor

So, think there may be something amiss with my computer?

BSODs for all!

There are several computing devices in my house, ranging from a Nokia N770 to a 2006-vintage eMachines to a netbook to a DVR to this monster machine I put together.  This is by far the least reliable and most powerful of the lot.  Rather distressing, really.

We’re not as bad as the other guys

I found it disturbing when people would defend some of our mistakes in Iraq by claiming we were better than Saddam, as if our goal was merely to be somewhat less evil than an authoritarian dictator who gassed his own people and ran rape rooms in his torture prison.  It appears the Democrats are using a similar strategy going into November: at least we’re not as bad as the GOP, right?

When DNC chair Tim Kaine was on the Daily Show a week or two back, Jon Stewart rightly lambasted him for the absurdity of their “Don’t give them the keys” approach.  Kaine had no real retort other than the tired statements of GOP perfidy.  Sure, the GOP did a lot of stupid venal petty shit during their years in power.  So, Dems, what are you doing different? They don’t seem to have a very compelling argument in their favor.

I could list all the ways in which I’m disappointed in the current administration and the Democrats in Congress, but Glenn Greenwald has a great piece today which has many nice links and great points to make.  Unlike some of his articles, this one is not biased against the GOP.  Greenwald is very clearly documenting the failures of the Democratic party, and even if you’re happy to see the Dems fail, it’s interesting to see in one place all the many ways in which they are using fearmongering and low expectations to try to hold onto power (power they haven’t really taken advantage of while they had it).

Change you can…definitely not see.

Jeep Destruction/Construction

The jeep was out of the Army inventory before I enlisted (I saw lots of CUCV and HMMWV and tracks and the occasional deuce and a half or five-ton), but they were legendary for their ease of repair.  These guys make it look incredibly easy to rip one apart and put it back together, in less than four minutes.  I think they’ve practiced.

New Computer

I haven’t built a new computer since January 2006, when I put together my MythTV box. I haven’t bought a new computer for myself since March 2007, when I bought a refurbished eMachines T6536. Since then, I’ve upgraded both of those boxes, with the eMachines ending up with two additional hard drives for a total of one terabyte of storage, an Nvidia GT220 video card and a PSU to handle it.  All that and it still only gets 67296 on the Crystalmark benchmark.

I just finished putting together a new machine, with parts purchased over the past 8 months or so. With a quad-core Athlon 635, 4 gigs of PC1333 RAM, Radeon 5770 video card, and two 500 gigabyte hard drives, it gets 186731 on the Crystalmark test. Sweet.

Now, to take on the crazy people in Burnout!

iPod iPod iPod

Because the only significant story in the tech press today is about Apple (as is true every time Steve Jobs gets on a stage), I have become far too aware of the various iPod and iPad updates announced.  I find it interesting that Apple chose to replace the most popular model, the nano, with a version completely unlike the one which sold so well – it now has a touch screen and no buttons. Since the iPod classic was not mentioned, one assumes it is being led out behind the barn for an Old Yeller moment.  That leaves the iPod Shuffle as the sole remaining iPod with buttons.  Apple has decided that you can either have buttons or a screen, but not both.

I personally use my Sansa Fuze in the car, and the tactility of the physical buttons is the only thing which allows me to jump past a song while keeping my eyes on the road.  I’ve heard that people who listen to their music while exercising are also quite fond of physical buttons.  Would those people now have to resign themselves to the screenless shuffle (4 gigs of music without a screen? Ick) or does Apple just not care if some portion of their market jumps to a Samsung or Sansa or Creative player instead?

Of course, this assumes that Apple purchasers are sane humans who weigh the balance of features they need and desire against the value proposition they’re offered.  I’ve seen no evidence that is the case, so Apple is probably safe in betting that everyone they’ve already hooked will wander into an Apple store in a hypnotic trance and buy the latest doodad that Steve says they want.