Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To have a new post

I've been neglecting ye olde blog, here for about a week, so I guess I need to put something up here. It's so much easier to post stuff on Facebook ... sigh

The last of our company left Saturday. We drove them out to Little Rock to catch their flight. Next time we're gonna have to get folks to fly into Memphis! Little Rock's not too bad a drive, but it is three hours, one-way. Enough whining. We had a good time with all the family and they are already missed.

I have a link of the day: Johnny Depp is rumored to play the title role in a rumored Doctor Who movie. In a way, I'm happy that there's enough interest for a movie to be made, but I really don't want a movie to be made. I mean, why? Why do it (other than the obvious money reasons)? The series is great and rather cinematic. However, it would be nice to see the Doctor in action on the big screen, and I'm sure Johnny Depp would do well.

The biggest problem with the proposed film is that Russell T. Davies may write the screenplay. Expect a movie full of hope and promise that ultimately leaves you feeling bitter and unsatisfied.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Uncanny valley and botox

The other day, my wife, sister-in-law and I were talking about plastic surgery and how unreal a lot of people are beginning to look because of botox and the like. We discussed how that unreality kind of inspires an unconscious revulsion in some people – admittedly, this is not a universal reaction, but I would argue there are enough to make the statement valid. Thinking along those lines, I was reminded of the theory of the Uncanny Valley.

Please take a moment to check out the link – it’s a quick read – but, basically, the Uncanny Valley theory deals with robotics and animation. It postulates that when robots and animation look *almost* like humans, it inspires revulsion. TV Tropes has a good section with some practical examples. Thinking in terms of animation, there’s a reason why animators cartoon-up their products. Think about the movie the Polar Express or the CGI in Beowulf – they were both *realistic* but still not quite right. For a lot of people, this was a huge turn off.

Now, to take this a step further and into the realm of plastic surgery, think about stars who have been accused of using botox (or Google). The Wiki Uncanny Valley link has this to say about the phenomenon as it pertains to what they call transhumanism:

According to writer Jamais Cascio, a similar "uncanny valley" effect could show up when humans begin modifying themselves with transhuman enhancements (cf. body modification), which aim to improve the abilities of the human body beyond what would normally be possible, be it eyesight, muscle strength, or cognition.[29] So long as these enhancements remain within a perceived norm of human behavior, a negative reaction is unlikely, but once individuals supplant normal human variety, revulsion can be expected. However, according to this theory, once such technologies gain further distance from human norms, "transhuman" individuals would cease to be judged on human levels and instead be regarded as separate entities altogether (this point is what has been dubbed "posthuman"), and it is here that acceptance would rise once again out of the uncanny valley.[29] Another example comes from "pageant retouching" photos, especially of children, which some[30] find disturbingly doll-like.

The TV Tropes link specifically mentions botox in their categories of where to find examples of the Uncanny Valley:

Botox (or any plastic surgery disasters for that matter) tends to send a real flesh and blood person sliding into the Uncanny Valley. Examples: Dolly Parton, Joan Rivers, Dr. Frederick Brandt (who is a client to his own products).
- Collagen injections make some vict... er, patients have faces bloated like someone with a shellfish allergy at an all-you-can-eat shrimp bar.
- You've seen nothing. Say "Hi" to Marijke Helwegen, a walking advertisement for plastic surgery.

All this to basically say that I’m fascinated by all of this. It makes perfect sense to me and it explains exactly why you can look at a photo of a recently botoxed film or TV star and think they look great, but feel quite put off when you see a video of them. Because that’s another part of the theory – the uneasiness is far more extreme in motion than in stills.

Again, I’m not really going anywhere with this. Just thought it was interesting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Michael Yon still isn't right

There are those who are calling the Rollng Stone article on Gen. McChrystal proof that everything Yon has been saying the past several months has been true. Maybe Yon called it on McChrystal, I think the jury's still out on that, but maybe. A Blackfive author has come out in support of Yon and U.S. Report has gone as far as calling Yon "prophetic." Again, maybe he was right about McChrystal. However my beefs with Yon (here and here) have nothing to do with his feelings about McChrystal and everything to do with his presentation of himself, his professionalism (the lack thereof) and the fact that he will not legitimately debate any point but rather launches attacks and slings expletives at those who would dare question him.

Take a moment to check out this audio clip from the G. Gordon Liddy show featuring Yon and Blackfive's Uncle Jimbo: LINK. Does Yon actually say anything here?

I must again say that I have been a fan of Yon for a very long time and it pained me greatly when he started launching all these attacks against the "crazy monkeys," etc. I would so like to see him go back to reporting, letting us know what the guys on the ground think. He needs to get his voice out of the story. And just one bit of advice for him: If it seems like the world is out to get you, maybe you need to think about why.

UPDATE: OK, maybe they had a little to do with his feelings about McChrystal, but it was more about the way he presented them than how he actually felt. One day he was praising McChrystal as brilliant, the next day (after losing his embed) he's criticizing him and the "crazy monkeys."

Findings on the Square

I spent the majority of this past Saturday in Mountain View, AR. I had never been there before and it is quite a lovely little town. I was there for a barbecue contest, but what really captivated me was their old-timey town square. I wish I had gotten a better picture of the square, but all the barbecue teams were set up around it and I didn’t really have a good shot. This pic of one of the square’s main drags kind of gives you an idea of what’s going on there – all the little, eclectic shops right in a row.

After the judges’ check-in, there is usually an hour or so to kill before the competition starts. That’s usually spent shooting shit with your fellow judges or walking around and seeing what teams are competing (though we’re not allowed to fraternize with teams on judge day until after judging), but this time, with so many cool shops offered, I decided to walk around and see what there was to see.

There were a lot of flea market style stores masquerading as “woodworking,” “general store,” and “military surplus.” In the military surplus store I stumbled upon something I’ve been kind of craving for a while – old school cast iron pans. Anyone who has bought cast-iron cookware recently is familiar with the texture of modern pans. It has a rough, pebble-blasted texture that is nothing like the smooth finish of pans our grandmothers used. So, to find some old Griswold pans (stacks of them!) in this store was quite the find. Better than having found them was the price. I picked up a 10-inch skillet and almost dropped it on my foot when I saw they only wanted $22 for it.

Now, did I buy any? Of course not. I pretty much had gas money for the day and couldn’t really see myself spending the money for something I don’t really *need*, but, man, it was hard not to.

Sometimes window shopping has to suffice. But there will be future trips to Mountain View. Blanchard Springs Caverns is only 15 miles north of the town. It’s only a three-hour drive, so that’s a perfect family trip on a long weekend. Caverns and cast iron sounds pretty cool to me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I've got company

The mother-in-law and sister-in-law arrived Saturday and are staying two weeks. The brother-in-law and my three nephews arrived yesterday.

My house is exceeding max capacity.

It's cool though because we don't get to see everyone very often. It's been a year since we got to see MIL and SIL, about that long for BIL and longer since I've seen my nephews (tehcnically, I haven't seen them this time yet either, they got in after I went to bed last night).

The next few days should be quite interesting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy 235th US Army

I am proud of my 9 years out of that 235. I miss a lot of things about it. And there are a lot of things I most certainly do not miss. What's weird is that a lot of the things I find myself missing now are things that, at the time, sucked the most.

OPSEC, Michael Yon and STFU

Uncle Jimbo at BLACKFIVE has yet another piece up concerning Michael Yon.

Please go read it, but for those of you who don't Yon received an email from a troop in Afghanistan who completely violated OPSEC by telling Yon all of the flaws in the security at the FOB where he is posted. Yon, rather than informing the chain of command, goes and posts it for the world to see on his HIGHLY-TRAFFICKED website and Facebook pages.

Now, for whatever reason, OPSEC tightened. Did Yon's post have anything to do with that? Who knows? But the truth is that this might embolden other troops out there to attempt the same thing. Or worse. And eventually this is going to bite us in the ass.

I’ve got personal ties to both fronts of this war, but OPSEC doesn’t only matter when someone you know has their neck on the live. It should always matter.

The soldier out there in the sand knows better and Yon should damn well know better too. Yon continually beats up McChrystal and Army PAOs for being kicked off embeds. Well, after publishing crap like this it doesn’t surprise me one little bit. Hopefully Yon never finds his way back onto the battle field. Dude went from being one of the greatest voices for our forces in the war to being a huge liability.

The trials of barbecue judge

Barbecue contest number four took me to Nesbit, MS, on Saturday for the 2nd Annual Desoto Shrine BBQ contest. It was a lovely area and the Shriners have quite the compound out there. The contest was part of a larger event - the Shriners had a car and tractor show and a concert for the evening. I didn't stay for any of that - just the barbecue - but I got to see some nice cars and cool, old tractors.

It was kind of intimidating to be honest. The Shriners' compound was, as my choice of the word "compound" implies, a fenced-in area with several buildings. There were a lot of bikers helping control the influx of vehicles. Once parked though, they had tractors pulling trailors of hay bales giving rides to the back of the compound where there was a little pond where they held the contest. It was within walking distance of the parking lot, a good walk, but still a reasonable one, but the heat was so extreme that the ride was welcome. Temps were in the mid-90s Saturday with a heat index making the "feels like" temperture soar to the mid-100s. Fortunately our judging was inside where the AC was kicking.

We're not allowed to photograph any of the entries, so this is as close to that as I can get. My judging plate, scoring slip, pencil and water - all the essentials - are ready to go. Unfortunately, the fact that this was still a young event was pretty evident. There were a few experienced teams out there, but my table didn't seem to get any of their entries (except maybe for the pork category). Overall the entries we judged weren't as good, on average, as my previous three competitions. But none were as bad as the worst I've had, either.

According to the contest reps, this was the first year the event was sanctioned by KCBS, so I guess it's to be expected that the majority of teams were going to be newer to the competition circuit. The event itself was very well organized and went off without a hitch on our end of things. I plan to judge the event again next year. Hopefully it will pull some teams away from some of the other nearby events that go on the same weekend. This has a superior prize purse to some of them. We'll have to wait and see.

Next weekend - Mountain View, AR.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Plug and a post

The plug: Hey, check out the snazzy new poll I posted today in my sidebar. Let me know what you use to cook out with.

The post: Earlier J-Mom called me to let me know that my son, yet again, was being cute.

Some background - The Boy has never approached playing with toys quite the same way I did as a youth. He's always thought of playing with toys as "making movies." He'd set everything up and play with them, but he wasn't "playing" he was shooting his movie. At first, he wondered why he couldn't see them on TV, but has since come to realize that he has to shoot them with a camera, etc.

Over the past couple of days, he's gotten very interested in the concept of making real movies. He wants to make a movie that pits his hero - All Powers Man (who he portrays), against the villain - some kind of guy who freezes things (portrayed by me, apparently). He was talking to J-Mom about the costume - see, All Powers Man cycles through his powers by punching a button on his costume.

He's four years old, people. OK, almost five. But still.

Is this what a budding filmmaker looks like? If so, it’s pretty freaking cool in my estimation. I think we’ll be breaking out the Flip cam over the course of the next few weeks and see what we can do with it. I have some video editing software too, so we may even be able to add some special effects!

I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Making better barbecue part 4

Having covered some of the essentials in cookers and cooking (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I thought I’d cover some outdoor cooking accessories that, while not necessarily essential, make outdoor cooking easier.

You have a cooker. You have meat, rub, sauces, etc. You’re ready to get your barbecue on! And, well, that’s pretty much true. But what I’m about to list are some items some pitmasters consider indispensible while some are just nice to have.

Monday, June 07, 2010

One-handed handstand FTW

Daughter Number 2 is awesome.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Making better barbecue pt. 3

In Part 1 I talked about the various types of barbecue smokers and some of the pluses and minuses of the different types. In Part 2 I talked about meat prepping and cooking. In this installment, I want to talk a little about seasoning. In the barbecue world that means rubs and sauces.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Making better barbecue pt. 2

This one is about meat. Oh yes. Meat.

In Part 1, I covered educating yourself about types of smokers, learning to control your temperatures and practicing. Now, assuming you have a grill/smoker, have good temperature control and/or are ready to practice getting there, today we’re going to cover some basic tips concerning meat preparation and cooking.

Better barbecue

I am working on part two, but it is taking longer than I thought and I've been busy doing real work and getting my teeth scraped. Hopefully I'll have something up tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Making better barbecue pt. 1

Memorial Day kicks off the summer season in the U.S., and the week after is traditionally heavily focused on grilling and grilling accessories. So I’ve decided to devote this week to barbecue and grilling related posts.

Grilling and barbecue is taken pretty seriously here – in the U.S. and in Tennessee. Regardless of the alleged Caribbean origins of barbecue, the process as we know it today spawned out of the slave culture of the Southern States both as ways to preserve meat and to render tough, cast-off cuts of meat edible.

Making better barbeque prologue

To help kick off the grilling/barbecue season, I’m going to put up a series of outdoor cooking tips.

The first is this: The best, easiest, and MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do is to stop using lighter fluid!

Buy a chimney starter or use Weber’s lighter cubes. There’s not much worse you can do to your coals than dousing them with that nasty stuff, and this is coming from a recent convert! I didn’t used to think there was much difference until I honestly did some comparisons. You won’t believe how much cleaner your food will taste.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Grill pizza

As I said in the post below, I grilled some pizzas this weekend. I had a fellow BBQ forum-er ask me for the recipe, so I complied and decided to go ahead and blog it also.

The great grilling weekend

Ah, Memorial Day. A time to remember our veterans, and a time that Americans traditionally fire up their grills and smokers. Now, I'm a year-round outdoor cooker, but that doesn't mean I don't capitalize on the spirit of the weekend!

The weekend's cook focused on the beef ribs pictured here. That was what I barbecued on Saturday (Smoke Day VI). They were wonderful. It had been years since I cooked beef ribs and they have quickly become my favorite rib to cook. So flavorful.

On Sunday, I grilled up some chicken tenders. A quick affair, but they weren't really planned for Sunday night. No, I had Monday in mind - I fired up the grill once again last night for Grilled pizza! I've been playing around with grilling pizza for the past few months, but last night I finally nailed it.

I made four pizzas, two pepperoni, one cheese, and one barbecue chicken, bacon and onion. They all came out so good. If you haven't ever grilled a pizza, give it a go. It's the only way you'll want to cook a pizza in the future.

Hope you all had a good weekend!