Friday, August 29, 2014

Steak Or Stakeout?

Having recently completed the past six weeks of my grilling for one basic training here at The Country Bunker™ my mission requirement for now is to focus on...Tactical Grilling.
With all the violent confrontations globally and domestically one never knows when some peaceful protesters may show up one night to loot the backyard of patio furniture or lawn gnomes while one is busy flipping a protein rich slab of animal flesh over hot coals.
Imagine for a moment that one evening a white Toyota pickup truck with a .50cal belt fed mounted on the bed and loaded with hungry Muslim terrorists holding RPG's pulls up in the driveway to confiscate that whole leg o'lamb self-basting on the Weber rotisserie.

I know it and you know it, now is the time to grill tactical. Introducing…The Tactical Grilling Kit.
What would constitute a Tactical Grilling Kit I ask? Let's see, in my world it would have a kevlar bullet-proof lining. That is an important consideration when cooking for the entire SWAT Team in those demographic changing small suburban towns. It should be fireproof too. Fireproof would be a must-have tactical feature for fending off lamb fat flare-ups or the occasional Molotov cocktail tossed when encountering peaceful protesters spilling out of a community organizing rally.

Check out those loops for holding beer cans (BUD LIGHT WTF???). One of the loops could double as a holder for a tear gas canister making for rapid deployment if an unarmed backyard BBQ pool party got out of hand late at night when the beer keg goes dry or when those peaceful protesters show up to loot the pool cabana. Those are a few things I would consider. Here's some more intel.

From the page:

"Constructed of 1000D Cordura, the Tactical Grilling Apron features three rows of modular attachment across the waist and two rows across the chest. These PALS/MOLLE compatible attachment points allow your Tactical Grilling Apron to accept any of your current kit, whether it be a holster, mag pouches, general purpose pouches, or a med kit, the Tactical Grilling Apron can fit your mission requirement: Steak or Stakeout."
Now there we have it, that makes perfect sense after all. I knew this must have a dual purpose. Just what the busy multitasking special operator/grill tender could have asked for. This would serve as a nice gift for that friend or relative who takes his role in law enforcement or special ops seriously, or for your prepper buddy who desires total concealment when tending a smoky Weber while casually basting that WORL end of days squirrel meat. But wait, there's more:

"More importantly, the Tactical Grilling Kit INCLUDES accessories from Tactical Grilling! First, is the Tactical Beer Shingle. If you’re not grilling with a Tactical Beer Shingle, you may as well go home. Grilling the old way, without a Tactical Beer Shingle on your Tactical Grilling Apron, is like going to the range without ammo, bringing a knife to a gunfight, or spitting into the wind: it just doesn’t make sense. Plus, you also get a Tactical Spatula Sheath to keep your grilling utensils close at hand. Both mount securely to your Tactical Grilling Apron OR any PALS/MOLLE compatible platform. NOTE: No patches included"

No place for a bayonet or machete? Handcuffs? Taser? Not to worry folks, with the PALS/MOLLE compatible system this apron does it all my friend. No patches? Well, in the sidebar "others who have purchased this item also bought" there it was, the MEAT POPSICLE duty patch.
Yes folks, everyone is going tactical. Everything is tactical. Get your tactical stuff today!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Massive Disruption To The Cable Industry Coming

Things that are often obvious in hindsight don't seem so clear at the time. For instance I didn't understand why anyone would want to send around a PDF file when you had Microsoft Word. And it wasn't obvious to me that mobile phones would completely displace land lines.

We are about to see something similar happen to the cable industry, which is at its oligopolist apex right now.  I don't know when or how long it will take to have an effect, but in the end I believe that the outcome will be significant.

MICROWAVE FIXED WIRELESS

For large condominium buildings in Chicago, it is now the norm, not the exception, to go with Microwave Fixed Wireless for internet in the building, rather than fiber. Here is one company (I just found them on the internet, don't know anything about them) that attempts to describe the benefits:
Telephone and cable companies have been positioning fiber optics as the ultimate internet technology for some time, but the truth is that fiber has some inherent disadvantages that have been addressed by wireless microwave-based internet solutions. Experts across the globe are starting to acknowledge what the engineers at JAB Broadband have long been touting: microwave is a faster, lower latency, lower cost alternative to fiber and you don’t have to wait until someone decides to light up your building.

Not to be confused with the appliance you use for heating your leftovers, microwave wireless networks transmit and receive radio signals through the air enabling high-speed data transmission with very limited latency. Benefits include:

Limited infrastructure required on site
Faster speeds because data travels over a direct path (point-to-point)
Low logistical and operation costs
Expanded availability
Low latency
There are many companies in Chicago that provide this service for condominium buildings and businesses. You need to have a rooftop with line of sight access to a provider and you put a dish on the roof. This dish connects to the main network of the building and is distributed just like internet service that you'd receive from a standard fiber optics provider (such as a cable company). The traditional downside of microwave transmission was unreliability - if the line of sight was obscured by heavy rain, for instance, then you don't receive any signal. This happens today with DirectTV if the weather is bad - you receive the "all or part of this program did not record" message when you pull it up on your DVR (or it is jumpy and impossible to watch if you are looking at "live" programming). Note that DirectTV has a much more complex problem to fix with its satellites than a condo building does in Chicago because their satellites are in orbit rather than nearby with simple line of sight needs, so these problems are conceptually similar but actually very different in terms of difficulty to solve.

The reliability issue has mostly been solved and barring catastrophic weather, your point to point wireless internet is as reliable as fiber brought into your building. Don't forget that fiber, too, can be cut by local construction crews and other means and is also susceptible to failures of various sorts.

Once you cut over to Fixed Wireless (microwave transmission), you have effectively moved out of the cable orbit as far as internet service.  Many facilities offer 10 meg, 50 meg, and even 100 meg connections for each condo unit, which means that the provider needs to bring that speed times the number of units with some overall reduction since everyone won't be using the full internet all the time.

IMPACT ON CABLE... AND 4K

Once you have a super high speed connection, you need programming, and most people still get that through cable or satellite.  However, there are many online services available, and they are getting stronger in terms of content.  There is Hulu, Netflix, Chromecast, Roku, and myriad others.  Some leagues, like baseball, will sell you a package available through the internet or Roku as well.  This will only grow in the future since many other entities like Netflix and Amazon have a strong desire to battle the cable providers, as well.

The set top box, provided by your cable or satellite provider, is another anachronism of the past.  The box allows you to store shows and connects cable to your TV.  However, this can all be accomplished virtually, such as via this cloud-based set-top box called Nimble TV.  Note that Nimble TV today works WITH the cable providers, but it wouldn't be hard for someone else to use a similar concept without going to the cable providers at all.

What is a DVR doing, anyways?  It is recording programming locally for you.  So what?  If there is one copy of every program that ever existed out there on the internet anyways, and if you have a 100MB connection, why store it locally?  Just go out and bring me that program?  This is why my DVD player is gathering dust and I probably will throw it in the trash - anything I want is probably out there on demand or on the internet so why bother with physical media.

Another thing your set top box and cable provider does is stand between you and higher resolution content.  Cable has a myriad of customers - some on standard definition - and doesn't want to lose them when they upgrade.  Thus they upgrade slowly, and look closely at what it costs them to upgrade and what they can pass on to subscribers.

The internet, on the other hand, can agree on a new standard like 4K, and then it just needs to be recorded in 4k and it is streamed out on the internet to anyone with a high enough bandwidth connection (and a device to play it on).  To the cable companies this is a double problem - they need to upgrade the internet service to allow them to play ultra HD (or 4k) and then they need to upcode the content as well, and they have to do ALL of this for a region before they can effectively roll it out.  Thus you are waiting behind grandma who doesn't care about 4k and is just fine with standard TV.

I was reading articles about 4k TV (now Netflix streams "House of Cards" in 4k) and the expert said it ruined him to go back to his HD TV, the same way that you'd cry if you had to go back to standard definition TV.  The TV's are here, but it is the content and the distribution that is in the way.  Netflix and other internet streaming providers are already on this.

DirectTV does this too - my DVR is hooked up to my high speed internet and this is how they are delivering on demand shows to me.  They are now the gateway and they are bypassing some of their own infrastructure to do this.

To get 4k you need a machine that can play it and a device to play it on - some of the new monitors are 4k (and reasonably cheap, under $1000) and you could hook up your MAC or other computer to it by Thunderbolt or HDMI cable and you can bypass the huge costs of the most modern TV's.  But none of this is going to be an option even in the relatively near future from your cable or satellite provider - you need to go around them via your high bandwidth connection and then use a device like a computer (or some TV's build it in) to utilize the 4k content.

CHERRY PICKING

As major buildings and more sophisticated business users detach from cable and go to fixed wireless, which can be set up and upgraded in a fraction of the time as cable, then you will start to see other effects.  The "network model" means that everyone pays in and then they spread the costs across a huge base of users.

The other model is when the bigger and more sophisticated customers defect and leave behind the slow adopters and less wealthy customers.  Whole buildings can offer 4k TV as a service perhaps and maybe buy a bundled series of programs (or enable on demand or custom packages) and then as the internet gets faster, go to even greater levels of resolution or capabilities.  Meanwhile, the pokey cable company is for those that don't or can't upgrade, and their costs will go up while their best customers leave.

CONCLUSION

There are a lot of complicated threads being linked together here.  Key points:

  1. Microwave Fixed Wireless will steal many major cable customers
  2. Microwave Fixed Wireless will offer substantially higher bandwidth which will enable additional services such as 4k TV
  3. Third party services are growing to enable users to get content w/out going through a set top box.  They can use dongles or features built into the TV
  4. You may not even need a TV in the future depending on how monitors evolve and the capabilities of laptops / chromebooks / tablets / MACS.  May be easier just to go through your device
  5. In all of these cable is stuck with a huge infrastructure, many older customers who do not want to upgrade, and they won't be able to compete with high bandwidth solutions on features
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Great Video

I saw a link to this over at Metalsucks.net and this is a hilarious cover of "The Trooper". Sorry about the dumb ad you need to sit through for the song that is just modern Youtube I guess... but it is worth it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Different Views of Fashion and Beauty

The supplement to the NY Times has a fashion magazine which is a large, thick magazine featuring hundreds of models with clothing of all types and shapes, and the naturally beautiful models to boot. And this is what they picked out FOR THE COVER:

All I could say was WTF? Her hair and makeup are intentionally messy and she is wearing what appears to be a shapeless drab winter coat. Of all the women in this magazine and all the fashion that was available, this was the "best" for the cover?

The answer is clearly yes, because I'm certain armies of editors and "experts" chose this cover carefully and sweated over every single photo shopped detail. This answer, however, is because THEIR idea of beauty and fashion is completely opposite from not just middle America but of most Americans anywhere. However, we aren't the audience for this magazine, so our opinions are utterly irrelevant.

I am still astonished that they could take such a beautiful woman and make the entire shot so unattractive. And to go further, this was one of the most attractive shots with this model (she appears to be wearing a shapeless sack in other photos). But obviously, it isn't aimed at me, so what the heck do I know.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Head in the Sand on Dams and Hydropower

The popular (untrue) image of the ostrich as a bird that puts its head in the sand came to mind as a I read a recent NY Times article titled "Large Dams Just Aren't Worth the Cost". This article describes the usual culprits that plague dam construction:

1. Cost overruns
2. Dams take much longer to construct than originally planned
3. Dams displace local residents (many in impoverished third world countries) who rarely thrive in their new locations
4. Dams that are paid for with foreign loans (for many years the World Bank provided funding) often do poorly because the dam revenues come back in local currency and the loans are denominated in dollars; thus even if they hit their "nominal" returns, they don't reach their "planned" returns when adjusted for currency depreciation

These are all true objections to dam construction. However, these same criteria can be applied to virtually any energy construction project, from coal plants to nuclear plants to major LNG efforts.

One key point that the article completely misses is that dams don't require spending for "fuel" once they are up and running, and often it is fuel and distribution of fuel that bankrupt energy companies in the third world. The dam requires rain / water to generate power, and if this changes significantly, it can change the amount of power provided, but this is still generally better than "nothing".

There simply would not be electricity in many areas of the third world without hydropower, and the choice really isn't between other alternatives and dams, it is a choice between power and no power. Once a dam is built they often can be run with a few individuals and if there are major problems you can bring someone in to fix them. You don't need to find coal or fuel oil (which moves in price and is denominated in dollars that the country often doesn't have). On the other hand, complex machinery and distribution systems can't be left in the hands of areas with revolutionary governments and broken economies because in short order they are often taken apart and destroyed.

Many of the problems with dams being unprofitable are actually the fault of the local un-functioning and corrupt economy. In third world countries ill-enforced laws encourage people to "steal" electricity and prices are often kept low to avoid unrest (who really cares if that loan to rich countries is repaid, anyways?). These problems are endemic to all of the alternatives and are "a feature, not a bug" of any of these local projects.

As far as the damage to locals and their livelihoods, this is true and absolutely sad. However, since Western companies have largely gotten out of the dam building business (due to environmentalist pressure), the actors that have come into this space have zero compunction about locals as long as they don't actively destroy the site with military tactics. From the article.
All this runs directly counter to the current international dam-building boom. Chinese, Brazilian and Indian construction companies are building hundreds of dams around the world, and the World Bank announced a year ago that it was reviving a moribund strategy to fund mega-dams.
Thus by forcing Western companies out of the act of building dams, all of this business just migrated to comparatively ruthless firms from China, Brazil and India. While these countries are nominally "non-aligned" and the left loves them for tweaking America, in practical terms they just partner with dictators, have little compunction about offenses that get Western firms in hot water (like bribery or displacing local tribes), and build the same exact dam, anyways. This compounds the economic model where Western firms can't compete in the third world because of our restrictive laws, and then the Chinese and other unchecked state sponsored or ruthless firms just fill the vacuum. As a result, the West goes from having SOME influence to having NO influence, and the same exact dam is built anyways.

The article should have focused on the advantages of dams which are:
1. They require little local skills once completed, which is often a big benefit in countries where experts leave or are replaced by political appointees
2. They require nothing for fuel to keep running, meaning that it will keep running even when the country runs out of dollars to purchase and transport fuel
3. They leverage local assets, which are the river, and turn them into something useful for the country, power, which is absolutely needed for everything from cell phones to modern medicine to the basics of a functioning economy

And finally, they should have noted that the "West" does not have a monopoly on construction skills or funding and as soon as we abdicate the field, any ability to impact the morality or processes involved with dam building exits and we hand it over to ruthless state sponsored and funded enterprises who will build that same dam.

The final impact of all this is that these third world economies are all enmeshed in the orbit of state actors from other countries that pay lip service to human rights in public (at the UN) but pay little respect to them in actual practice.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Night Flyover Country

First…a word from my sponsor…



now…back to my regularly scheduled programming

We Are Saved

By the ten thousandth Starbucks near where I live.  I always think of the line from the movie "Best in Show" where the husband describes aeeing his wife as she sat in a Starbucks across the street from the Starbucks he was sitting in.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shark Week


Fooldjah. It's grouper not shark. Wild caught from Florida waters by a very good friend. To me this is the finest tasting fish there is. It has a delicate flavor, not too strong at all. I refer to it as the walleye of the sea.

What I have learned after years of experimenting with grilled fish.

-Always, always always coat fish with oil as it helps keep the flesh from sticking. Vegetable oil works best, olive oil has a higher burn temp and will retard the more desirable browned crispness. After experimenting with many different spice coatings the best one for me is Jerk seasoning. I like using Penzey's. Use sparingly to avoid covering up the natural flavor.


-A very hot fire is best. Flip fish only once after observing the flesh the change in appearance from transparent to opaque. 2-3 minutes per side depending on thickness. It's a visual decision, not judged easily by a timer or thermometer. Undercook and letting fish rest will retain desirable juiciness. To make handling easier cut filets into manageable pieces. Fish baskets are awkward laid on a Weber, better for holding over an open fire.

-Fish from fresh water (salmon excluded) are best batter or crumb coated then deep fried. No matter how hard I have tried they stick to the grill too easily and much of the filet becomes either mutilated or destroyed, some will fall through the grate too. My luck with thicker fresh water fish has been better and if you have a secret then share it with me.

-Salt water fish are more firm and will remain in one piece easier. They also have more fat and will retain a juicy and flaky texture, much easier to flip with a spatula.

-The same technique works very well with salmonids from fresh or salt water.

-Avoid any farm raised fish entirely. Farm raised fish swim in and consume a concentration of their own waste. Yuuuuuukkk.

Good fishin' to ya!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Florence, Italy - Il Duomo

In April I travelled to Italy. We landed and took off from Florence. I was astonished by the beauty and cleanliness of Florence, at least in the places we visited near downtown and in the hills above the city.

While in Florence the size and scale of Il Duomo is staggering. I recommend reading in detail about the construction of this amazing cathedral since it took centuries and was extremely complicated and advanced for its time.



As a layperson however I was amazed at the facade and its beauty.





At night the views were spectacular, as well. The entire city seemed to gather near the cathedral with vendors, tourists, and students mingling and having fun.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, August 16, 2014

MJ Image on Prudential Building

They did a great job with the MJ images at the old Prudential building.  It isn't just the windows being lot or dark - they also cut some of the corners to round them further.

Damn it is cold out for mid summer.   I hope this isn't a forewarning of a winter like last years'.

Saturday Night Flyover Country

45 years after...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Grilling For One

It's been a boring summer here at the Country Bunker Bar & Grill since she has gone on a liquid diet.

Her two per day health shakes and daily exercise is to be commended. Sweets and desserts were her weakness and it showed. She even bought a special blender that chops up nuts and fruit rinds into a foamy yogurt slop. It's hard to argue staying slim and fit in old age but it leaves me with a conundrum.


What can I grill for myself? It is summer and it's enjoyable to remain outdoors each evening with the perfect weather we've had. I must have flame cooked food or I will die.

Favorite BBQ and grilling masterpieces have been off the list. Ribs, pulled pork and my favorites are a no go. It's been a one man show on the deck with the Weber.

The favorite slow cooking selections can be made but only when others are over so leftovers are kept to a minimum. It's been a rotation between grilling a single chicken breast sandwich, brined pork chop, brat, sausage or the humble burger. While they may be simple foods but I can honestly say they are by far the best tasting simple single serving grilled foods I can make. It has been a challenge and one I have overcome by necessity.


I tried using the Smokey Joe at first and it's fine in a pinch or for tailgates but controlling the fire so it is just right is difficult. The solution is using the full size Weber and building a very small fire on one side. When the flame gets too hot the grill can be spun away from the heat source to calm down the flames if necessary. I have discovered that grilling is all in the timing. Why does this seem so new to me? It's confounded me due to one single item on the grill.

For years grilling has been more of a challenge than BBQ but through necessity I have learned the trick. Four minutes over a hot flame on each side and two minutes off the flame to rest. It's all juicy, tender and well seasoned and damn it does taste great. The cover is only used to extinguish the fire. BadaBing!

I do miss my slow cooked summertime BBQ so. I miss the scent of hardwood smoke wafting in the gentle summer evening breeze. I miss everything about it. This cannot go on forever. She has to get tired of eating that smoothie slop but how can I ask her, "Would you please gain some weight already?"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lori's Amish Peanut Butter Cookies

Continuing on the theme of recipes from my grandmother's recipe box, today we have Lori's Amish Peanut Butter Cookies.

I honestly have no idea why these are "Amish" - I guess Lori got the recipe from an Amish woman somewhere along the way.

First off, the ingredients:

1.5 cups shortening
4 tsp vanilla
2 cups crunchy peanut butter
2 cups sugar
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups brown sugar
3 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, well beaten

There were no instructions on this card, so I just began mixing stuff together.  I finally used my grandmother's old standing mixer, pictured below.
I am guessing it is from the 60's but don't really know.  It is a heavy beast - that much I do know.

As you can see from the ingredient list above, this recipe is GIANT.  It barely all fit in the mixing bowl, and I needed to use my hands at times to prevent all of the batter from overflowing, but it all worked out in the end.

The card then said make loose balls with a tablespoon and flatten them with a sugared cup.  Bake @350 for 8-10 minutes.  I made mine a little larger and ended up with about 85 cookies.  Here are most of them.

These are outstanding and will not last long.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.