Monday, August 31, 2009

Good Advice.

I have had a weekend full of it.  Full also of argument, insomnia, despair, softball and barbeque.  So it all kind of evened out.

Trying out social network aggregator FriendFeed for the past week, I am convinced there is something of value there, but perhaps not for me.  One great feature is a weekly email summary of the 10 most “popular” (linked to , commented on) items in your feed that week.  As my second week of sitting behind a desk immersed in the colossal murk of an interactive Web drags into a third, I am realizing just how important such a filtering system is.  Working out on a job site all day, I’d come home and be lucky to catch up on the posts of the few people I followed.  Given the ability to not only stay current with them, but to see who they follow, and at least read if not participate in the resultant comments, I’ve become overwhelmed.  So many ratholes to head down, one can lose track of the big picture. A weekly email pointing out what the most active conversations have been is a help.  I also keep the Twitscoop column open on Tweetdeck, for a moment-by-moment version of the same thing on a massive, if self-selected scale.

What does this have to do with anything?  The downside of something like the Friendfeed weekly email is that it filters, yes, but is still presenting you with new material.  This can lead to its own rathole.  Which I experienced this weekend, here, in a conversation that began with the mildest of political takes on Ted Kennedy’s funeral, and ended…well, it’s not over. (Oh wait, it is, read on…)

“What Are You Doing?”

Back to advice: “What are you doing?  This is ridiculous.  There’s no filter on who can post in those things. It’s not a real sample of what everyone thinks. You’re never going to change someone’s mind in an Internet comment thread, just let it go.”

Paraphrased, true, needed and the reason, I suppose, one marries.

The Power of Kennedy

Ted Kennedy’s death sparked all sorts of predictions, revisionisms, recriminations, most of which will be gone by today.  It also sparked another good piece of advice, couched in the wisdom of the Long View.  It started when I read this piece on the Kennedy Funeral and Twitter:

Kennedy funeral rings with hope, Twitter with vitriol

Which prompted this unsolicited correspondence pratfall towards a few of my friends:

“I don’t know what to do about this piece that just made its way to the top of my google news feed. It's not just the piece, which is, whatever, but the comments thread. And ALL the comment threads I've been reading. I don't want to post it (to Facebook)...but I was almost in tears by the end of the thread.
I have no idea where I'm going with this, but even in the darkest days of the Bush administration, I never felt this discouraged about the future of the country. I'd have to go back to Reagan for a time when the craziest, most ludicrous shit in the world seemed not only possible, but inevitable.
Ahh, whatever. It's probably due to the fact I've been between projects for two weeks, sitting in front of the computer for hours a day for the first time. I probably don't have strong enough Information Filters, or Armor, or whatever. Kind of drowning in a sea of What the Fuck Are These People Talking About?
…Okay, now I'm going to go stick a beer can up a chicken's butt, throw it on the grill and make some coleslaw...that always helps.”

Well now of course I have posted it here-proving you can never trust an alcoholic who tells you he just can’t stomach another drink-but only as needed background, and in a different, better frame of mind due to the advice above, some unprintable advice, and this amazing response from an old friend I pass along as I think others might benefit from the perspective it provides:

“I'll confess to sharing some of your despair. I don't mind if people disagree about how the health care system should be run. I just can't stand the lies and hypocrisy and cowardice, which seem poised to carry the day.

But if you need a brief sanity check, pick up a history book. Lies, hypocrisy and cowardice have been part of the political establishment since the political establishment was established.

And consider that deep hatred of government action in times of crisis is also relatively ancient. I'm thinking of my mother-in-law's uncle, who in 1932 vowed never to shave while Roosevelt was in office. Thirteen years later, with the Depression and fascism overcome, he had kept his word, and still would only sputteringly refer to FDR as "that man."

And yet, progress is made. Sometimes. Maybe it will be this time, too.

I respect you for giving a damn, Don. I wish more people did. Also, I would be interested in chicken-grilling tips. We're having drumsticks tomorrow.”

Sage advice, and certainly advice worth crediting if they will allow me to do so.

I have resolved to leave the up-at-night portion of my concern over health care reform in last week.  That will involve some internet discipline, some calm in the face of the knowledge there is someone out there right now writing something, somewhere on the Internet so egregiously fool headed it merits traffic accident-style rubbernecking.  But that’s okay, I don’t need to read it.  There was a huge motor sport event this weekend, consuming the interest of tens of millions of people world–wide.  I have no idea what it was called.  I am sure there are message boards full of ignorance and hate and fear dealing with that motor sport event.  They would be interesting to read, but I won’t, and it won’t bother me.  I need to spread that around a bit.


I am afraid I am late in giving back after receiving such good advice, drumstick night was last night.  I don’t have any specific tips for drumsticks anyway, besides “do not, due to fear of Plague, pre-boil them to a mushy mess before grilling,” but I think that advice may only apply to my mother.   I have learned a few things about modding a Brinkman smoker, which I am trying to cobble together into a little How-To page. 

My barbeque tips, such as they are:

  • If you are not grilling, but smoking or BBQing with indirect heat., buy an electronic thermometer with two probes.  I wasted extra money on one with a separate wireless display/alarm.  Sadly, the “wireless” range is well within the limits of my “I can see the readout on the actual goddamned unit from here” range.  One probe goes in the meat, the other is placed next to the meat to get the ambient temp. in the cooking area (which can be the top of your closed Weber).  The meat thermometer is self-descriptive, the ambient thermometer allows you the opportunity to see and correct charcoal intensity disasters in their early stages.
  • Cherry makes a great wood to toss in there for smoking.  If you know a local furniture or cabinet maker, they have a garbage pail full of hardwood scraps.  Try some.  They are also a mellow and friendly lot who spend a lot of time alone and enjoy visitors.
  • Try clams.  Super easy.  I use the cornstarch-in-the-pail method to get the sand out, then clean them.  Then I put them on the top rack and throw some cherry woodchips on the charcoal for smoke.  When they open, take them off.  I like to let them smoke in there for a minute or so after they open. Be careful when you take them off to keep them level so as not to lose the juice in the bottom of the shell. Have not had better clams.
  • Try this recipe for Beer Can Chicken.  It is the only one I’ve used, but it was amazing.  Personally, the next time we make the rub I will back off a little on the Cayenne and Rosemary.  The rub is delicious, but I thought it overpowered the chicken a bit.  I used Porkslap beer.


Most Life Changing Advice of the Year

I have probably already bent your ear with this, but the most life changing advice I have received all year came from our New Age-y Vet at Hope Vet.  Henry had to go on some medication and change his diet, which led to….difficulties.  She recommended a couple spoonfuls of canned pumpkin in each bowl of food and that has brought thing back to normal.  Living in a city where you pick up each deposit by hand, in public, that advice was important.