Cutting the cable

“Rescue Me” is what planted the seed for me. I’d never watched the engaging drama when if first aired, but a few months back I started watching it on Netflix Instant Watch through my AppleTV. It was an intriguing show, and it got me thinking about how much good TV I’ve never seen that’s now available at the touch of a button. I remember thinking that the Screenwriters Guild is in trouble. A writers’ strike will never have the same impact. There’s enough good television already available through Netflix and Hulu Plus to last a lifetime.

It was a short leap from there to wondering why we kept paying for cable TV. My family doesn’t watch much regular TV. My wife and I mostly watch movies and the Daily Show. My son watches cartoons on Netflix. I’m a Walking Dead fan and have been watching Season 2 of Game of Thrones on DVD. None of us are into televised sports, except maybe the Super Bowl, which I watch mostly for the commercials. Most of my television viewing lately has been catching up on series that I didn’t watch when they originally aired: Rescue Me, Breaking Bad, Mad Men.

I called up the cable company and asked how much it would chop off our monthly bill to shut down the TV and just keep Internet service. I was shocked when the operator told me it would save us about $100 a month. That’s with no premium channels. A subscription to Hulu Plus will cost about $8 a month and give us access to The Daily Show and a bunch of other television shows. We’re already paying for Netflix. The Walking Dead just wrapped up its season. When it starts up again, I’ll be able to get a season pass from iTunes for less than $50 — about half a month’s worth of cable for a season’s worth of episodes.

So we cut the cable. So far, the main impact is we no longer have a clock in the living room.

Though I will admit that last night, after a long day of work and driving and a long weekend working on the basement, I was tired and brain dead. When I sat down to veg in front of the TV, I didn’t really want to scroll through all the choices on Netflix or Hulu to find something to watch. What I really wanted was to channel surf. See if some movie I’ve seen a hundred times before (Roadhouse, Shawshank Redemption, Die Hard) was on. Something I could watch without thinking about it. Sure, I could have streamed any of those movies from my home computer, but that required more deliberation than I felt like exerting.

Yeah, there’s tons of great TV on Netflix, but I wasn’t in the mood for great TV. I was in the mood for mindless surfing. I settled on watching an episode of the old Mission Impossible television series.

I can’t say that I won’t miss cable at all. I’m sure, though, that I’ll figure out an alternative to mindless channel surfing.

A few days after I took the cable boxes back to Cox, I got a text from a friend of mine. He’d just started working for Cox, and one of his first jobs was switching off my television. “Small world,” he said. My thought was that he was probably going to have plenty of work to keep him busy.

At least for awhile.

The cable television industry — like the music industry, like the publishing industry, like the newspaper industry — has failed to adapt, to give customers what they want, how they want it, at a reasonable price. Lots of people are figuring out there’s an alternative.

Now if only there was more competition for high-speed Internet service.

The Bacon Explosion: As awesome as it sounds

First, a layer of bacon.

First, a layer of bacon.

Years ago, I came across something called the Bacon Explosion on the Internet. It was one of those things that sounded so completely over the top, it had to be wonderful: A layer of bacon and a layer of sausage topped with — naturally — more bacon. Roll it up, smoke it for a few hours, then feel your arteries start to harden.

Interlaced to make a tight weave.

Interlaced to make a tight weave.

Every once in a while, I’d talk about actually making it, but I didn’t think it would ever happen. But this weekend, a friend was coming into town to help with drywall, and we started talking about actually making one.

We decided it to do it.

Sprinkled with spices.

Sprinkled with spices.

I bought two pounds of thick-cut bacon and two pounds of spicy sausage from Fresh Market, along with a bag of hickory chips.

The night he got in, I laid out five strips of the bacon, then weaved more strips to create the first layer. The recipe called for a barbecue rub, but I didn’t have one. We improvised and sprinkled cayenne, paprika and chipotle powder over the bacon.

Then, a layer of sausage.

Then, a layer of sausage.

The sausage went on top of that, along with more spices. My wife fried up the rest of the bacon. When it was good and crunchy, we crumbled it up and layered that on top of the sausage. I mixed up a spicy barbecue sauce with some Wild Turkey barbecue sauce, and poured that over the top.

Sprinkled with spices and crispy bacon.

Add spices and crispy bacon.

Then, I separated the sausage from the bacon weave and rolled it up tightly.

Next, I rolled the sausage back, pulling the weave up around it.

Roll up the sausage.

Roll up the sausage.

More spices went on the completed roll, and we wrapped it up in foil and put it in the refrigerator for the next day.

Roll up the weave.

Roll up the weave.

The next day, we fired up one burner on the grill. My friend divied up the hickory chips, which we’d soaked early, into foil packets. We put those over the burner and waited for them to start smoking. When they did, we put the Bacon Explosion on, and went back to the drywalling.

Make sure the weave is tight.

Make sure the weave is tight.

A couple hours later, we checked on it. It was cooking slow. I checked the internal temperature, and it wasn’t even up to body temperature yet. I turned the burner up a bit, and we went back to the basement.

Smoke for three hours or so.

Smoke for three hours or so.

An hour or so later, we were done drywalling for the day. The Bacon Explosion was just up to body temperature, and it was closing in on dinner time. We turned on another burner and put the Bacon Explosion in the warming rack so the bottom wouldn’t burn. But fat was dripping, and when I looked out a few minutes later, flames were shooting out the grill.

Glaze with barbecue sauce and honey.

Glaze with barbecue sauce and honey.

“Water,” I said to my wife. “I need water.” She brought me a pan full of water, and I got the flames extinguished. We kept a very close eye on it from there on out, and put some foil under the roll to keep the drippings from catching fire again. In the meantime, we put some biscuits in the oven.

Cut into half-inch rounds.

Cut into half-inch rounds.

Finally, the Bacon Explosion was up to a safe 165 degrees. We took it off the grill and glazed it with the rest of the spicy sauce, mixed with some honey. We packed everything up and went over to my brother- and sister-in-law’s new house.

Serve on a biscuit, with some salad to make you feel like you're eating healthy.

Serve on a biscuit, with some salad to make you feel like you’re eating healthy.

We cut half-inch rounds and put them on the biscuits to make a sandwich. My wife had made a couple of different salads to give us a small illusion of healthy eating.

So, how was it? It was every bit as good as I imagined it would be. It was salty and spicy and delicious.

I’ll probably never make one again. But it was a food experience I’m glad I had at least once.

Mitt Romney and unicorn farts

In a comment I made on a blog after the final debate, I wrote this:

Obama ran away with this one. Romney looked weak and hesitant. How many times did he say, “I agree with the president” only to go on and suggest that somehow, most likely by harnessing unicorn farts, Romney would somehow improve on Obama’s policies.

I don’t what made me think of unicorn farts. I was trying to think of something imaginary and ridiculous. Unicorns are imaginary and, well, unicorn farts are ridiculous. The image of Romney harvesting them is even more so.

Mitt Romney’s agenda for just about everything is equally ridiculous. As Paul Krugman said in a recent column:

Well, as I’ve said before, Mr. Romney’s “plan” is a sham. It’s a list of things he claims will happen, with no description of the policies he would follow to make those things happen. “We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget,” he declares, but he refuses to specify which tax loopholes he would close to offset his $5 trillion in tax cuts.

I think unicorn farts sums it up pretty well. How will Romney offset his $5 trillion in tax cuts? Harvesting unicorn farts. How will he save Medicare? Get rid of $750 billion in savings Obama put in place … and harvest unicorn farts. How will he balance the budget while increasing defense spending by $2 trillion? Weaponized unicorn farts.

What was he smelling in that picture? You got it. Unicorn farts.


Manipulating the everlasting salmon

I bought some salmon to grill for dinner last night, but was feeling uninspired about how to prepare it. I did a Google search for grilled salmon and came across this wonderful example of poorly written link-bait, one of those pages on a popular topic thrown together to try to get some click-throughs on ads.

Clearly, English was not the first language of the person who wrote the content:

Whether you possess a charcoal or gas grill, it’s simple to manipulate everlasting salmon every time. Be surely to demand your fishmonger to preserve the skin on your salmon when you purchase it, but the primary is not to overcook. You might be in the midst of a big, boisterous barbeque, but don’t have too caught up in the merriment of grilling with a group & convey distracted from your fish.

As a bonus, there’s a section on grilling chicken in which you learn that “studying how to grill chicken is one of the more than difficult grilling acquirements to dominate.” You are also advised to “grill to the full thawed chicken only, and hold the chicken frosty until it’s sentence to manipulate.”

Of course.

When the Web becomes 90 percent this and 10 percent usable information, there might be a renewed demand for real writers and editors.

What were they thinking?

Apparently, there are quite a few people underwhelmed with the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Count me among them. Noah Kristula Green has an interesting visual takedown of the monument, which compares it to several Soviet/Communist statues.

This critique misses the worst part of the statue, I think. The worst is this: Who could look at that statue and not think, “Oh. They’ve encased him in carbonite. He should be quite well protected. If he survived the freezing process, that is.”


I hope that was a non sequitur

Ed Rollins, likely campaign chief for an improbable but likely run by Rep. Michelle Bachmann for president, said this on CNN in defending the bizarre, far-right-wing congresswoman:

There’s no question. And at the end of the day you’ve got to be 100 percent accurate or whatever you say, and I think the key thing here is she — if she does become a candidate, which I think she will, she will have a good team around her and will basically make sure that everything is fact checked and obviously she’s smart, she’s on the intelligence committee, you know, so she can talk about a lot of different things. (emphasis added)

Ok, someone tell me that Ed Rollins, a long-time Republican strategist, knows that the intelligence committee has oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies and that membership thereon is actually no indication of the member’s intelligence.

The next leader of the free world?

This is just one more reason that I don’t take anyone seriously who takes Sarah Palin seriously.

Update: The inability to admit a mistake is also an attractive quality in a prospective leader, don’t you think?

Dukakis redux?

Perhaps the appeal of Sarah Palin simply escapes me. But while some were praising her look during her participation in Rolling Thunder (which she apparently crashed):

All I could see was this:

This is just sad

I think I’m going to leave Don Surber alone from now on. The poor guy has gone over the edge. This morning, he’s ranting about how $4 a gallon gas is a conspiracy theory designed to herd Americans into cities where they’ll be easier to control. He appears to be serious. (Though, who knows, he said he was serious when he said the IRS, in an attempt to enforce tax laws was sending “Mafia-like letters.” That must have been a joke. Right?)

I’d look through his blog archives, but something tells me Don didn’t push such screw-ball theories the last time gas was this high and a Republican was in the White House.

Surber used to be a fairly decent editorial writer. I disagreed with much of what he wrote, of course. But he wrote with passion and wit, and he wasn’t silly.

Now he spends most of his day writing ludicrous blog posts based on right-wing talking points and misinformation. He has no interest in reasoned discussion or debate. He’s a right-wing caricature. But, after reading that last post, I almost feel sorry for him. If he’s serious, he needs advice from a mental health professional. If he’s just playing a part, then he’s nothing but a shill who isn’t worth anyone’s time or attention.

For some reason, this line from the original Toy Story keeps going through my head: “You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.”

Nothing can go wrong … go wrong … go wrong …

Google wants to turn the highways over to robotic drivers. Speaking at the Maker Faire 2011 Saturday, Sebastian Thrun, a Google scientist and Stanford University professor, said robotic cars that drive themselves would make far more efficient decisions and allow far more cars to pack highways with far more cars without slowing down.

“Think about the car as a medium of mass transit: So, what if our highway-train of the future meant you go on the highway, and there’s a train of very close-driving cars with very low wind drag, fantastic capacity, is twice as efficient as possible as today, and so there is no congestion anymore?” Thrun said.

I’ve long dreamed of a car that would drive itself. Just think if you could tell your car where to go, and it would take care of getting you there. You could read a book, talk to a friend, play a video game – whatever you want, while the electronic chauffeur got you where you’re going. Shoot, on a long trip, you could take a nap.

There is resistance to the idea, of course. Some people don’t trust computers to drive safely. Software glitches could cause horrible accidents.

Me? I’d take a computer over most of the drivers I see on the roads today.