Archive for April, 2010

Hot Dogs – A link to my past

April 22, 2010

My wife doesn’t understand; hotdogs are food from the gods. Weiner and Frankfurter only hint at the history of the ‘dog. They are bigger than those Austrian and German cities that have tried to claim them. Homer told the story of men eagerly roasting sausages over a great fire, talkin’ smack about some beyatch named Helen; Nero’s cook prepared this delicacy for the emperor (no mention of fire or fiddle) and in the 7th century there was a miracle tale involving sausages with mustard. Hallelujah!

That only touches on the importance of the hotdog to the world, to my world, to me. We know how memories are shaped, the associations that are made. The smell of pine and your brain is ready to open Christmas presents; the sound of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” and it’s a ski trip in the station wagon. A taste of the mighty dog and there is simply bliss. Hotdogs equal happiness. Do they serve hotdogs at funerals? No, you get finger sandwiches, which is just creepy in its own way. Hotdogs are served at carnivals, ballparks and cookouts. Hotdogs are fun food.

Growing up I never knew if I would like what was served for dinner, except for Saturday night. Saturday night was beans and franks. Always. Like death and taxes. Consistency is important to a child and, on Saturdays, the hotdog would be nestled in a sea of B&M baked beans for me. If it was an extra special Saturday night, my mother would add New England brown bread to this menu. Sometimes my dad would take us to Hot Dog Annie’s for supper. Sometimes would always be a Wednesday when the “four for a buck” special was on. We would sit with our feast in the station wagon at the end on the main runway at Worcester Airport and watch the planes. My dad knew how to get the most out of his entertainment dollar!

There would be the summer cookouts in between playing badminton or croquet. We would have hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill. Everyone wanted a hamburger. (Actually, everyone wanted steak; hamburger was a budget concession) The dogs would burst waiting for someone to pick them. To me that burst was like spots on a banana, that’s when you know they’re ripe. I would pick the blackened skin ones, all split and bubbling underneath, stuffed it into a grilled roll, New England style, with a couple of forks full of piccalilli and a squirt of yellow mustard. Nirvana! Ooommmm.

To be clear – the blackened dog is not how I liked them originally. The change came, like so many others, with puberty. In my younger days, the dog had better not be split or blackened – boiled was best – and the roll came straight from the package so it was still squishy. And that would be topped with ketchup. That is part of what makes the hotdog the perfect food; it can be prepared in different ways to suit each stage of life, yet still retain its essential hotdog-ness.

My first job, my first step into the world of pocket money, was selling hotdogs at Holy Cross football games. These were the natural casing Kayems steamed in giant, industrial pots, The salty mist that rose each time I filled a customer’s order would transform a cold November day from miserable to magical. (“How many wid? Wid out?” -“Wid” was mustard and was almost always for the adults. “Wid out” was for the kids and puritanical ladies). And the best part? Dogs were free for those who worked the concession stands. I would eat 6 or 8 every game and all broken ones at the bottom of the pot. Since college games were on Saturdays I would still go home to beans and franks. Fall Saturdays were transcendent.

Later, I learned the subtleties of the preparation. Some places had those rollers the dogs would turn on, a kind of prayer wheel concentrating good karma into the dog. Others places kept the dogs slathered in butter on the griddle and kept them from slipping away by placing a flat scraper on top. Flo’s of Maine puts 50 at a time into their steamer and serves them with mayo, Flo’s relish and celery salt. Hot Dog Annie’s would dip them in their BBQ “sauce” after coming from the grill. Two kids that had a pushcart on Park Ave during the summer steamed their dogs in beer. (At least that’s what they told the cops when they were found to have a six-pack tucked in with the canned soda in the chilled section). An Orange Julius “Wisconson” dog, a Fenway frank, one wrapped in foil from the street vendor in every big city; these were not just vehicles for condiments, but transportation to inner peace.

And then there is the dog itself – Natural casing or skinless, pork or beef (let’s not talk turkey or chicken) and all the brands. If variety is the spice of life then let them eat hotdogs. Currently I am a fan of Pearl’s, but only for the griddle or grill. If I’m steaming or boiling give me that Kayem Old Tyme or Nathan’s. Each has its own character. My winter treat is to cook the dogs in a pot of B&M baked beans, letting them absorb the flavors; in the summer it’s grilled Pearl’s on a buttered and grilled roll with Howard’s red pepper relish and brown mustard.

This is what my wife doesn’t understand – No matter how exhausting a day it’s been, no matter how frustrating, no matter any of the myriad of things that suck the life out of you; the hotdog is a little bit of enlightenment banishing the bad by replacing it with all the good embodied in a perfect tube. And need I mention they are the perfect compliment for beer? I think she’s jealous.

Just say “NO”

April 18, 2010

Is there any question that the Republicans have taken Nancy Reagan’s famous slogan to new heights?

Listen:

1) The free world would come to an end if Obamacare became law. They had to say “NO!” to a bill that was the Republican counter to Hilary-care from back in the day.  Then it was the “reasonable” alternative; now it’s a commie Trojan horse.

2) A terrorist being tried in our civilian justice system is tantamount to giving Miranda rights –oops, strike that – citizenship to the entire universe of enemy combatants/illegal aliens under Obama. Just say “NO!” – unless the same thing occurred when the president was a Republican and then it is a shining example of American fairness.

3) Obama’s negotiates a reduction of nuclear stockpiles with Russia and holds a summit to limit nuclear expansion. He is showing his hate for America, leaving us defenseless against the Islamofascists (with whom he is secretly in cahoots). The Republicans have no alternative; they have to say “NO!”

Now there you go again…

Wasn’t ridding the planet of nuclear weapons a goal of Ronald Reagan, the Zeus in the pantheon of Republican gods? Now that this lofty goal is being met by a Democrat it has become spoiled meat. There is a pattern here…

I like tomatoes, you like tomahtoes

Obama says po-ta-to, McConnell says po-tah-to

Let’s call the whole thing off.

So far Obama has been a Republican president. Really. He hasn’t ended the war, closed Gitmo or opened the borders. He has been conservative in his approach to the wars and his dealings with the economy, choosing to be pragmatic with slow changes to the Bush policies. He has couched every initiative in trying to find a middle ground between the Democrats and the Republicans. But the Republican tactic has been to be Lucy to Obama’s Charlie Brown at the start of every football season. No matter how much they talk about it, no matter how much Lucy promises she’ll cooperate; she still pulls the ball away when good ol’ Charlie Brown goes for the kick-off.

The claim that Obama and the Democrats are ruling against the will of the people is just another falsehood that even with repeated chanting still does not make it true. Obama and the Democrats were elected by a majority of voters to govern. The Democrats won and the Republicans lost. Obama’s problem is that he is not the second coming that some thought he would be. The ball belongs to the Democrats until the next election; so now Obama needs to run with it and not worry about what the kid with the loud mouth has to say.

Some Bits are More Equal Than Others

April 9, 2010

Does anyone remember Jay Gould? He was one of the most notorious of the robber barons during the later 1800s. Today we are reacquainting ourselves with his progeny. They are named Comcast, Cox, Verizon, Charter, Time-Warner and CableVision. There are others, but these are the biggest, the new Goulds. With the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling the FCC did not have the authority to enforce its policy of net neutrality they have ushered America into a new Gilded Age.

The fleecing of Americans that created the first Gilded Age began to come under control with the passing of the Interstate Commerce Act, ending the special deals the railroads gave to favored customers (the ones they held interests in) and the business manipulations that created monopolies. This new court ruling legalizes the special deals and monopolies for America’s new robber barons, broadband Internet service providers. The FCC had tried to enforce a policy that service providers treat one bit the same as any other bit; to deliver these bits in the order they were requested and with the same zeal regardless of content. This policy is called net neutrality. The court has pronounced “policies” are just suggestions and not enforceable.

Breaking this policy brought Comcast before the House subcommittee to explain why they were not doing this; why they slowed down the bits that make up the movies and TV shows their customers requested from the information superhighway.

“Why do you do this?” the committee asked. Comcast said, “To improve our customers Internet experience.” Honest. The technology is very complicated. Follow this closely: Movies and TV shows from the Internet damage the experience of the entire customer base by hogging bandwidth, essentially clogging the pipe. Some customers selfishly ask for this programming to the detriment of their neighbors. Those customers are selfish pigs. Bad customers. They don’t deserve bandwidth. However, by applying the latest technology, these same programs can arrive over the same cable with no undo harm. To process the data an additional $60/month is sent to Comcast. This $60 is used to lubricate the pipe to let all the bits fit in, to fit in deep, to really pack it. Now that’s Comcastic!

This technology solution was also used to cure a similar problem Clearwire and Madison River were having when their customers tried Vonnage or other Internet based telephone services. Those alternative phone services ruined their customer’s experience. For their sake, they had to block those services, until they developed a phone service of their own that included the special lubricant for just $30 a month. No new wires, no serious infrastructure investment, just green technology – Now that’s innovation!

Think about it this way: You pay a company to deliver flowers to your special someone on an important anniversary. You buy those flowers from a shop down the street because you like their arrangements. The delivery service picks them up and puts them on the truck where they sit until they wilt because the trucking company has a deal with 800-FLORALS whose products will be delivered first. If you had only ordered from 800-FLORALS you wouldn’t be in the doghouse for sending crappy wilted flowers.

This is what the railroads did to the small farmer back in the day and this is what you’re cable/internet/telephone provider is doing today. The companies have negotiated monopolies in virtually every market they are in, so if you want to play you’ll have to pay. At least the last robber barons built enormous mansions with our money that we now can visit in awe. The only thing this new group is just providing is a larger bill for increasingly poor service. This is the cable version of “green” technology.

We pay on average $17 more a month than they do in South Korea and, for that, we receive slower connection speeds. The people of Greenland and Australia, along with 15 other countries, have better access to broadband Internet connects than do Americans. We are a gracious people and do not want to embarrass the world by showing off, but to hear these robber barons tell it, they can’t feasibly match this level of service without even more of our money. Want to see if your local retailer of has a product in stock and what the price is? Good luck, because only the national chains will have the money to assure their listing comes up first (hijacked browsers and search engines have also been documented). The small business with the better idea, the backbone of America, will be frozen out; stuck because they can’t afford the lubricant. This is just one of the many things that will be lost if we lose net neutrality.

(I’m not one for public service announcements, but this issue can be easily cured. Contact your representative and ask that they demand the FCC reclassify all these companies as being in the telecommunications business. With that change the FCC has clear regulatory power. Also contact the members of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet and let them know your concerns. – Thanks!)

UPDATE: 5/6/10 – Someone was listening! The reclassification has begun. Check out this article from CNET. Prepare for a propaganda campaign like no other. Remember, these are the folks who have recordings that thank you for “choosing” them while you’re on hold waiting to be hung up on by service people who deliver anything but service. Monopolies have such a wonderful sense of the absurd…

UPDATE 6/11/10 – The monopolies have won on an end around! Please contact your representative and voice your displeasure. You can also sign a petition here:

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/74_dems/?rc=fb_share2

The Atheist and the Believer – A Parable

April 1, 2010

The Atheist and the Believer – A Parable

An atheist was thinking hard about some things Glenn Beck said on his radio show the other day. He said something that made sense to the atheist and that rarely happened. Glenn said you should leave your church. To an atheist that is a good thing, but this was really confusing because Glenn was always going on about how he finally found peace through Jesus.

I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. ~ Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! – Glenn Beck 3/08/2010

Social justice? Economic justice? Code words powerful enough to have holier-than-thou Glenn tell people to leave their church? The atheist thought he should find out about these words. Was this common ground between Glenn and the atheist?

It was going to take more research than cheaping out and looking up “social” and then “justice” in the dictionary. That wouldn’t give him the whole answer. Glenn said the code was in those two words, together. The key must be putting the phrase in context and context needs a running start. That means looking into the past, finding a history.

Social justice is mentioned in the Federalist Papers. Number 7, one that Hamilton wrote. Hamilton wanted a national bank and somebody else’s wife. He must be a fascist and a cad. Discovering what “social justice” is is going to take a lot of time, so what about “economic justice?” If anyone should know, one of the most prestigious universities in the country would. So the atheist looked to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. There he found lots of stuff cross-referenced having to do with “economic justice.” There were entries for “Distributive Justice,” “The Philosophy of Economics,” “Libertarianism,” “Exploitation,” and some guy named John Rawls (the only Rawls the atheist had ever heard of was Lou). All he wanted was a simple answer and what he was finding were pages and pages and books upon books to read.

As luck would have it (according to the atheists) or, maybe, it was a godsend (according to believers), an amiable Christian came along. The atheist thought he would ask him. He questioned the believer about the two phrases that were codes according to Glenn. This believer was shocked to hear what had been said. He then quoted from his Bible:

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James. 2:1-4)

The atheist asked what that meant and the believer said that people shouldn’t treat rich folks better than poor folks and just thinking less of someone because of their circumstances was evil. The atheist said it just sounded like you should treat everyone equally and he tried hard to do that. Equality is at the heart of social justice the believer said.

Then the atheist asked if the Bible had anything about economic justice and the believer then quoted this passage:

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:33-35)

So you believe it is good to give people who need it a hand up? The believer replied affirmatively and told the atheist that he believed God profits those who eliminate poverty around them by bestowing His grace upon them. The atheist thought about that and realized it always felt good when he could help people out. So economic justice also seemed like a good thing.

The atheist and the believer agreed that social and economic justice really were good things. The atheist then had one last question for the believer. Why he had not left his church as Glenn had commanded? The believer said that this was the easiest one of all to answer and that if the atheist would just look into his own heart of hearts that it would come to him. The atheist looked deeply and then the tight lips and furrowed brow that had strained his face since he had heard Glenn were replaced by a comfortable smile.

“Is it because Glenn Beck’s a complete douche bag?”
“Exactly!”

And off they walked arm in arm into the warmth of the sunset knowing they had more in common with each other than some radio guy and reality.