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…

Growing Up

At the grocery store last night, a leggy blonde in a VERY short tight black dress and high-heeled boots (with a thigh tattoo peeking between the two) strolled past, drawing the eye of every straight man in the parking lot. The Boy said, “That’s not a very practical outfit.” He obviously doesn’t like girls yet.

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.

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.”