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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Banjo's Insight - Dining In Charleston SC

This page supports links to reviews of restaurants based on our dining in Charleston.

Note that these are not in any particular order, except that restaurants we won't be going back to, and that are not recommended, are at the end of the list.

  1. Bowen's Island Oyster Roast April 2011
  2. The Glass Onion April 2011
  3. Cypress April 2011
  4. Blossom April 2011
  5. Hominy Grill Oct 2011
  6. Pearlz Little Oyster Bar Oct 2011
  7. The Fleet Landing Restaurant Oct 2011
  8. Fast and French Cafe Oct 2011
  9. Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) Oct 2011
  10. Social Wine Bar Oct 2011
  11. Fig Restaurant Oct 2011
  12. 82nd Queen Not Recommended Oct 2011

These restaurants are near Charleston

Monday, June 27, 2011

Banjo's Trading - Adding New Hardware

My trading platform consisted of a gigabyte mother board, several large hard drives, two 23 inch Samsung monitors, and a video card with dvi and vga output.  I had 8 Gbytes of memory.  I had set the Java configuration to 1.28GBytes for the trading platform I use (TOS), but would still get system slowdowns when I had a lot of charts I was monitoring.  I found the app's system utilization to be typically around 600 meg, with 600 meg left over, but other times I would see I only had 100 meg or less remaining.

I found that I needed more screen realestate.

I debated on swapping out the graphics card for a 4 channel card, which would drive 4 screens, but I was a little concerned about the slowdown I was already experiencing, so wasn't sure this would work well.

I had an old Dell computer loaded with Ubuntu, but it was an older version of Ubuntu.  However, it had 3Gbytes of memory, dual core mcu, and a dual video card.

Since I already had all of the hardware, except for the monitor, which I was going to have to buy anyway regardless of which direction I went, I decided to give the Dell Ubuntu an OS upgrade and see how well it would work.

I bought a Samsung B2330HD monitor/tv for the display.  I can also connect a tv signal to it when I don't want to use it as a computer monitor, so I was good to go with the display.

I downloaded and installed Ubuntu 11.04.  It was easy to install and get running.  I downloaded and installed my trading platform, TOS.  Since TOS Is written in Java, it will run on any Linux system.  I had already confirmed that TOS would let me have multiple sessions up from the same IP address.  Since my system is proxied behind a router, all of the PCs on my home network appear to all have the same IP address to TOS, so I can run as many on as many different computers as I want.  This meant I could run, realtime, the TOS software on Ubuntu while it was also running on Windows.  Since it would be on multiple computers, I would have some redundancy in case of computer issues, as well as offloading some of the work so it would be split between 2 computers.   I already have a Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200, which gives me a redundant Internet connection via cell towers should my cable modem crash or a neighbor cut my cable with his shovel.....again.

Everything was up and running within an hour, with the monitor.  I placed the new monitor on the existing Windows system, as in the past I've been aware that Linux lags in device drivers.  It may have worked OK on the Ubuntu system, but it wasn't an issue to place this on the Windows system and move one of the older monitors (Samsung 23") over to the Ubuntu.  This worked without any issues.

This Dell Ubuntu system is slower overall than my Windows system, but then it is a couple of years older and only cost 1/3 as much!  

During the day, I place my more static charts onto the Dell Ubuntu system.  By this, I mean I have 10 - 12 charts that I don't change, so they are just running and showing the chart.  I have 6 futures that I set to 'Daily' chart, (/cl, /dx, /es, /gc, /si, /zt), and then the others are for stocks I currently own, for which I have these set to 15 minute intervals.

The Windows system, being the fastest, and most stable (have noted some screen color issues on the Ubuntu), so this side has news, cnbc video, trading, and multiple sector windows, as well as any charts I'm working with while analyzing and determining whether to make a trade.

I also have a small switch box, where I can select either "System 1 or System 2".  When in "System 1", the mouse, keyboard, audio are all connected to the Ubuntu system.  When in "System 2", these devices are connected to my Windows system.  Therefore, I only need a single keyboard, mouse, and set of audio speakers.

Now, on to getting my Ubuntu system recognized by the Windows Workgroup, so I can share files, music and movies.....

Banjo's Insight - What I'm Reading


  • Techniques of Tape Reading - Graifer, Schumacher.  ISBN-007-141490-8.  Banjo's Review: Reading, no conclusion.




Banjo's Trading Insight - Volume

Market Volume
For too long I had a tendency to look only at the price a stock was trading at.  I would primarily look at daily charts, then switching down to 15 minute charts if I was going to day-trade this stock.  If my goal was to swing-trade, then I would stay with the dailies, except for the actual execution, where I would switch to a 5 minute chart after first reviewing the 15 minute chart.

During all of this, I might glance at the volume, but I never really took a deep look, or study, at it.  I believe now that my trading suffered as a consequence to this.  Since paying more attention to volume, my trading, as measured by my profits, has improved.

I believe that volume leads the price, at least in terms of importance.  If I can locate an unusual volume in a stock, then I want to know what the stock is doing - is it going up, or is it going down.  The increase in volume says that something important is going on.  Once I know something important is happening, then my next question is, what is going on?  This is answered by looking at the price; is it going up, is it going down, or is it trading very close to the same price.  All three of these can happen on a change in volume.

The first assumption, with respect to volume, is that it has to have increased, above its normal value (an average), for it to be important.  However, it is also important to recognize if a volume has significantly dropped below its normal value.  This should also be taken in context of the market volume (e.g., SPY) as a whole, with a good idea to take a look at the sector this stock belongs to and its volume.

Volume Increasing, price going up - under construction

Volume Increasing, price staying the same - under construction

Volume Increasing, price going down - under construction

Volume Decreasing, price going up - under construction

Volume Decreasing, price staying the same - under construction

Volume Decreasing, price going down - under construction

Volume Average, price going up - under construction

Volume Average, price staying the same - under construction

Volume Average, price going down - under construction

An Analogy - restaurant volume and trading insight
After watching some of Gordon Ramsey's "Kitchen Nightmares" shows on TV, we have started to avoid restaurants with low customer volume.  On Ramsey's shows, invariably those restaurants with low customer volume, are trying to hold over their food far past the dates when the food should have been discarded for safety reasons, let alone taste reasons!

So, while I was tending to ignore volume in my trading, I was paying increasing attention to volume at restaurants.

And this leads me to my analogy on trading and restaurants!

Assume I had only had access to the average price paid for a meal at a restaurant, but no information about the number of customers that bought meals that day.  Charting the average price of meals at that restaurant, assume my chart shows this daily meal price average to be $12.50.

On this new day, assume they only had one customer for the entire day, and he spent lavishly, paying $100 for lunch.   The average price of the meals for that day would be $100.  So, looking at my charts for the average daily sales price of meals, I would observe a huge spike in the price - from $12.50 to $100!  I would be very interested in stock for this restaurant!

However, by adding volume into the information I'm obtaining regarding the sales of meals at this restaurant, instead of being interested in buying the stock for this restaurant, I might have an entirely different opinion: I might conclude this restaurant was dying, as it only had a single customer for a whole day!

So volume adds a significant amount of relevant information to the information I use to consider whether to buy or sell-short a stock.

Volume allows me to have confidence in the price I'm observing.   Not enough volume, then my confidence in the price being accurate goes down.  Average volume, and my confidence in the price being accurate goes up.  A significant change in the volume, and I'm interested in knowing more.

Daily Volume
Sometimes, such as today (Monday, June 27, 2011), on a daily chart, I noted a huge volume spike in CHSI the previous trading day (Friday, June 24, 2011).  This looks odd - a huge volume spike yesterday, and no increase in volume today.  Investigating further, I switched to a 15 minute chart, and saw the truth.  On Friday, at the end of the day, there was an increase of 10 times normal volume for this time of day.  Meanwhile, the price range was within normal for the day.  So there is a disconnect between the price movement and the volume movement.  So, the volume, since it was a spike and not uniform across the day, leads me to discount the quality of this information - I don't think I can effectively use this increase in volume.  This, coupled with a non-linear response in the price, where it didn't also move considerably, again leads me to conclude there isn't much tradable information being presented, so I do nothing with this stock.

Today, this stock is continuing in its normal trend, which it started on Thursday, on average volume.

Banjo's Insight - My Trading

This will be a page where I update my experience and thoughts with respect to trading.  I primarily trade equities (stocks), but also occasionally trade futures (e.g., currencies, S&P, silver).

This will be a main page of collected information rather than a series of pages.

Insight Pages

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Banjo's Most Interesting Sites

Things I've come across that I find to be unusually interesting.  I may not come back to this site again; it could be static in nature, but I found it to be very interesting.

  1.  An interesting way to look at movie loops.
  2.  There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years.

Banjo's Favorite Sites

Favorite Sites.  I return to the sites listed here frequently.  They are not a static site.  No news sites, but rather associated with subjects I find interesting.  It may be a site aggregator of other sites.
  1.  Site aggregator.  BTW - "hacking", in its original context, is putting anything together in a cheap, fast way.  So, 'to hack together' is to put something together fast and inexpensively, or to adapt something to a new usage.  A great site for scientific builds.  Hackaday presents links to other sites that center around constructing scientific devices.  I do a lot of work with Microcontrollers, such as the Arduino, and this site has links to items such as this.  It also has links to many other things.  It is very interesting to browse.  The liberal news media, being ignorant in all things technical, corrupted the meaning of this term (to hack) to be associated with something illegal such as breaking into a site - it doesn't always mean illegal.  My wife was a little concerned about this until I explained the difference.  So this site isn't about the illegal breaking into sites.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Banjo's Diet - Some interesting new information

My diet, which is modeled after information provided by the USDA and Alton Brown (of Food Network's TV show Good Eats, where he's lost 50 lbs), has increased the consumption of nuts.

This recent Harvard Medical study indicates that nuts are superior to assisting with keeping weight off.  Other superior foods includes yogurt.  It also notes the amount of weight added by eating potatoes.

My diet, based on the USDA's suggestion for reducing protein and increasing fiber rich foods, includes:

  • Eating 3 meals per day, each with 500 calories.  This is 7 days per week, or 21 meals per week total.
  • 1 meal per week that includes beef
  • 1 meal per week that includes fish (not fried or breaded)
  • 1 meal per week  that includes pork
  • 1 meal per week  that includes chicken (not fried)
  • 7 meals (breakfast) per week of steel-cut oatmeal.
  • 14 meals per week containing vegetables (2 meals per day)
  • a daily snack of nuts (about a handful); pecans, walnuts, pistachios (shelled), sunflower.
  • high fiber foods such as beans.  This really helps with hunger.
  • fruits
  • 3 cups per day of fat-free milk
  • 3 meals per week are all-vegetable, supplemented by nuts.
So far, following this plan, I've lost 1 pound per week, with a total of 13 lbs lost so far.  My blood pressure and cholesterol have both dropped.  However, it appears the sarcasm remains.

Please see other 'Diet' listings to the right of this post.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Keurig Model B60 Coffee Machine - Broken!

See this update - we give up on new replacement machine.

In a previous post, I had noted our Keurig Model B60 coffee machine had become slow to dispense liquid into the our mug.  I thought this was caused by a plug, but I was mistaken.  It was caused by a failed air pump.

How to test for a clogged cup holder.
Where you put your kcups, water is forced into the kcup from a top needle (in the machine's kcup holder area) that punches a hole in the top of the kcup.  This is where the heated water is forced, under pressure, into the kcup.  There is another needle at the bottom of the kcup holder area, that also punches into the kcup.  This is the drain from the kcup, which is draining coffee from the kcup to your mug.

How the machine works
You place water into a reservoir tank on the left side of the Keurig Mldel B60 Coffee Machine.  There is a water pump that pulls water from the water reservoir tank and pumps it into a water-heater-tank.  Water in the water-heater-tank is always heated - this is so you have a quick response to making your cup of coffee - it's already heated and waiting.  There is a small air-pump that pumps air, under pressure, when you push one of the 'brew' buttons, into the water-heater-tank.  So the water-heater-tank is not only heated,  but when you push 'brew', air is forced by the air pump, into the water-heater-tank.  This pressurizes the water-heater-tank, which forces the hot water in the water-heater-tank out and into the top needle and into your kcup.  Flowing under pressure, it pressurizes your kcup coffee, forcing the hot water into your kcup, then out through the bottom needle and into your mug.

Our Machine - Broken
In the case of our machine, no coffee was flowing out of the kcup.  I thought this was caused by a plugged bottom needle drain, but this was a silly mistake on my part.  If I had taken the time to think about this, I would have realized I could have tested this conclusion by not putting a kcup into the holder, and selecting a brew button.  With no kcup in the holder, the water does not exit through the bottom drain needle; it just exits straight out of the bottom, bypassing the needle drain.  So I could have tested this by not putting a kcup into the holder, and selecting brew.  If water had flowed out the bottom into a mug, then I could have correctly concluded the exit needle was clogged.  When I tried this today, water did not flow out of the bottom, even when it was bypassing the needle drain, so I can conclude the needle exit was not plugged; instead, no water was being delivered to the kcup.  So, either we had no water in the reservoir, or there was a leak, or nothing was pressurizing the water, the pickup line inside the water-heater-tank was plugged, or a line from the water-heater-tank to the kcup was plugged.

I spent a lot of time trying to take this machine apart gracefully without doing any damage.  In my opinion, there is no way to do this without damaging the parts.  It may be that there are some special-designed tools that would allow you to get into the machine without damaging it, but none of us would have these tools, even if they exist. The problem is that there are keyed pieces that slip into holder.  These keyed parts have tabs on them; they will push in, then spring open, so they cannot be pulled out without depressing the tabs.  Without some sort of special tool, you can't get to the inside where the tabs are to depress them, so you are locked out.

I wanted in to see what the problem was
At this point, the machine was worthless.  We may have had a unit still under warranty, but we weren't interested in having our machine going down (and gone) for possibly months.  We would rather just buy a new one.  So, that meant this machine was destined for the trash, and I could tear into it - tabs or not!  So tear into it I did!

What I found

  1. Water is pulled (sucked) from the left-side water-reservoir and pushed into the water-heater-tank by a small water pump.  
  2. Once water is in the water-heater-tank, it is heated.  It is always heated and ready to go whenever you drop a kcup into the holder to make coffee.  This means you don't have to wait while the water for your mug is heated - it's always heated and ready to go.
  3. When you put a new kcup into the holder and close the top, two (2) holes are punched into the kcup: one on the top (water entry), and one on the bottom (coffee exit).
  4. When you press one of the 'brew' buttons, a small air pump is started.  This air pump pushes air into the water-heater-tank, which pressurizes the water-heater-tank.  
  5. Water in the water-heater-tank is forced out of the tank by the air pressure being applied to the water-heater-tank by the air pump.
  6. The water that is forced out of the water-heater-tank flows through a tube, through the entry needle into the kcup, where your coffee is, under pressure.
  7. The water mixes with the ground coffee in the kcup, and becomes coffee.
  8. The coffee flows out of the bottom of the kcup through the exit needle, and down into your mug.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Diet - Review after 60 days - 441 days to go!

Starting Date: April 18, 2011.
Time on diet: 2 months
Starting Weight: 261 lbs
Current Weight: 248 lbs
Target weight: 185
Weight lost: 13 lbs
Remaining Weight to lose: 63 lbs
Estimated remaining weeks to reach target weight: 63
Estimated remaining days to reach target weight: 441 days
Estimated remaining years to reach target weight: 1.2 years

I'm proud to say I'm still on my diet!  I started on April 18, 2011, so I've been on it for a little longer than 60 days or 2 months.  I've made an adjustment to my target weight, setting it at 185 so this has changed the remaining time for the diet.

So far I've lost 13 lbs.  That may not sound like a lot, but here's a comparison: a gallon jug of milk or water weights 8 lbs, and you know how heavy that feels?  Well, I'm not lugging it around now.  I left it behind.  So every step I take, I'm not carrying that gallon jug of water around!

This is not a fast diet, nor was it my goal.  My goal was to lose about 1 lb per week.  The first week is always a lot more weight loss than subsequent weeks.  I now appear to be losing about the 1 lb of weight per week that was my goal, although recently the rate of loss has slowed a little, as it has taken me two (2) weeks to lose the last pound.  I think this has been caused by gradual inattention, so I'm going to redouble my efforts to make sure I don't go over my caloric limit each day.

I'm targeting a loss of 500 calories per day.  Normal caloric consumption for a man in my classification (low energy output) is about 2,000 calories per day.  So I'm targeting about 1,500 calories per day, which is a net loss of 500 calories per day.  7 days at 500 calories lost per day is 3,500 calories, which is the amount of energy in 1 lb of fat.  So 3,500 calories lost per week is 1 lb of weight lost per week.

Faster weight loss is harder on our bodies.  I would be dealing with a lot fewer calories, feeling a lot more hungry and have a lot less energy.  And, a slow weight loss means I'm not on a hunger strike and thus it's a lot easier to stay with the weight loss diet.

My diet (please see posts from April 2011 for insight) uses recommendations from the USDA for a man my age, and incorporates their recommendations on increased fiber, increased fruits and vegetables, decreased fat, decreased protein.

I think the high fiber is helping to keep me from getting hungry.  Hunger has not been an issue, which makes this a stress-free diet, and one that I am confidant I can stay on for the next 1.5 years that it will take me to lose all 76 lbs of weight that I want to drop.  That would be the same as 9.5 gallon jugs of water that I would not be lugging around with each step I take.  I can't imagine what it will be like to not have those strapped to me!  I sometimes imagine that the jugs of water are in my backpack, and every 2 months I get to take one out and leave it behind.

Every day, with a few exceptions, I try to eat 3 meals of 500 calories each.  That has several benefits:

  • I get used to the same portion size for reference.  Since all the meals are about the same caloric size, I find that it's much easier to estimate how much to put onto my plate.
  • My body is only anticipating 500 calories, so when I've had that much, it's not yearning for more calories.
  • Three meals a day are keeping me from getting hungry and preventing the urge to over eat when I do eat.
  • My energy level stays pretty constant, as there aren't big dips.
  • I don't short-cut myself and deny myself a 500 calorie meal.  When I've done that because of some interruption in my day, rather than over eat on the subsequent meals I've just ended up more negative for the day.  On that particular day it's not a problem, but I've notice the next day that I'm much more hungry and it's much more difficult to stay with the diet on that next day, so when that happens, I might have a small snack of nuts later that evening to help out with the next day, and return my daily intake back closer to the 1,500 daily target.
  • Our food bill has gone down since we have cut out a lot of prepackaged meals and are cooking more vegetables and fruits and a lost less protein.
  • Frozen vegetables, when fresh is not available, are pretty good now.  Some brands are better than others, so try some different brands.  I think these are better than canned.
  • Since I'm not eating special foods, like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, I'm confident that when I do come off of the diet I will be successful eating normal food.  I'm also not paying their premium prices for food, and I have the whole world of foods to choose from.
  • I'm only drinking 2 alcoholic drinks per week, as those are a big source of calories, and I'd rather have the food.
I don't avoid any foods, with a few exceptions:
  • I don't eat French Fries.
  • I don't eat biscuits.
  • I don't eat fried chicken.
  • I don't add butter to anything.
  • I cut the fat away from all meats.
  • No gravies.
Some rules of thumb when eating out:

  • I try to be sensitive to what I'm choosing and keep in mind that I'm on a diet, so I look for things that are lower in calories.
  • I avoid all chips at Mexican restaurants, except for 2 or 3 to sample.
  • I ask for a take-home-box to be delivered when my food is delivered, and I place 1/2 into the box when the meal is delivered so I'm not tempted to over eat.
  • If possible and the restaurant posts their calories for each meal, then I use that information to help make a choice.
  • I typically don't eat bread with the meal, even if its part of the meal, so I can avoid those calories when I don't know what the meal calories are going to be.
  • I don't buy any alcoholic beverages, which leaves me more calories for food and reduces the cost of my meal.

So far, I've been very pleased!

See you next month!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Banjo's Insight - Bonds

Yesterday I posted an article about "Pocket Swapping", which had some information about bonds in it.

A lot of people are confused about bonds, so I thought I would put forth an example that I hope will explain it for people.

Most everyone has a general idea about how rental houses work.  You know, for instance, that someone first buys the house, then rents it out and hopes to collect rent money.  They hope to receive a yield on their investment.

So here's the example.  I'm going to use simple numbers, which probably won't reflect the rental information in your area, but I want to keep it simple.  We're going to really keep it simple - no taxes, no mortgage, no insurance, nothing except the bare necessities.

  • I buy a house for $100,000.  I invest $100,000.  
  • I rent the house for $1,000 per month.
  • In 12 months (1 year), I collect $12,000.  I receive $12,000 from my investment.
  • In 1 year, I made $12,000/$100,000 or 12.00% return on my investment.
Now let's look at a slightly different investment.  My investment will cost me twice as much ($200,000 instead of $100,000), but I will still receive the same amount of $12,000 per year. I'm receiving less return on my investment.
  • I have to invest $200,000 instead of $100,000.  I invest $200,000.
  • I rent the house for $1,000 per month.
  • In 12 months (1 year), I collect $12,000.  I receive $12,000 from my investment.
  • In 1 year, I made $12,000/$200,000 or 6.00% return on my investment.
Now a final example.  I only invest half as much, $50,000 instead of $100,000.  I will still receive the same rent return of $12,000 in a year.
  • I have to invest $50,000 instead of $100,000.  I invest $50,000.
  • I rent the house for $1,000 per month.
  • In 12 months (1 year), I collect $12,000.  I receive $12,000 from my investment.
  • In 1 year, I made $12,000/$50,000 or 24.00% return on my investment.

Investment.....Received.....Yield or Rate of Return
$50,000 .........$12,000.......24.00%

Notice as the investment cost goes up, the yield or rate of return goes down.  It's costing me more, but I'm not getting any increase in the dollars I receive in return, so my yield or rate of return is going down.

Bonds are auctioned with a yield, or Rate of Return.  The yield is the same, but the price you pay for the bond can vary because of the auction.  That means the Rate of Return will vary based on the amount you pay for the bond.

In the house rental example, you are buying a yield.  The yield you are buying above is the rental income of $12,000 per year.  However, you are paying different amounts for that yield ($100,000, or $200,000, or $50,000).  The amount you are paying is different, but the payment to you remains the same, so your rate of return is different.

  • If, as above, you pay more for the bond, your yield, or rate of return will go down.  If you paid $200,000 for the house and it paid you $12,000 per year instead of paying $100,000 for the house, then your yield after receiving $12,000 on an investment of $200,000 is less than it would have been if you had only paid $100,000.
  • If you pay less for the bond, your yield or rate of return will go up.  If you paid $50,000 for the house and it paid you $12,000 per year instead of paying $100,000 for the house, then your yield after receiving $12,000 on an investment of $200,000 is more than it would have been if you had to have paid $100,000.
You can buy bonds in different ways.  You can buy them from a bank, or you can buy into a Bond Fund, such as an ETF.  Since you can buy them, then you can also sell them.

The price of bonds fluctuates day-to-day with the auction process.  That means the value of your bond changes.  The payment you receive will stay the same, but if you have a bond and decide you need to sell it, and you paid $100,000 for it, but now the market says it is only worth $90,000, then you will lose money on it if you do in fact sell it - you will lose $10,000.   $100,000 (purchased) minus $90,000 (received from the sell): $100,000 - $90,000 = $10,000 loss.

When someone creates a bond, they are creating an IOU.  They are exchanging the IOU for dollars.  They have to pay interest on the IOU in exchange for the use of your dollars.

The US Government's Department of the Treasury creates bonds known as Treasury bonds (or Treasuries).

At the time I write this, the Federal Reserve of the US Government's program known as Quantitative Easing II (QE2) will end on June 30, 2011.  Under QE2, the major buyer of Treasuries has been the Federal Reserve.  When QE2 ends, the Federal Reserve will no longer be buying Treasuries.  Instead, the open market (other nations, big banks, you, me...) will be the buyers.

Since the major buyer is leaving the market for Treasuries, there will be a reduction in the demand for Treasuries.  We all know from Economics 101 that reduced demand means lower prices.

As we say from the rental house example above, lower prices means higher yields.  So the Dept of the Treasury will be receiving less money in return for the bonds it is selling.  This is the same as paying a higher yield, or higher expenses.  So the cost of borrowing money via selling bonds is going to go up for the US Government.

If it's going to cost the US Government more, then that means it's going to cost you - the taxpayer - more.

If you already own bonds, and you need or want to sell them after QE2, then you are going to have to match the current going yield investors expect to receive.  That means you are going to have to lower the price you are willing to receive in exchange for your bond.  The value of your bond is going to go down, as it has to be since the yield is going up on the bonds the Treasury is creating.

Since the US Treasury bonds are considered the most safe investment available (well...we haven't defaulted on any yet), other things are going to start going up.  A simple example - Certificate of Deposits (CDs), issued by banks, will have to increase in yield in order be attractive against the Treasury's bonds.

Banjo's Insight - Pocket Swapping

For insight into bonds, see this post.

I just can't get my arms all the way around this problem.  I think that's because it must be a circle.  I start off in one direction, go all the way around, and end right back where I started from.

The US Treasury has been writing IOUs in the form of Treasuries (bills, notes, bonds - however you want to think of them).  They need someone willing to buy those bonds.  Sometimes other nations, like the Chinese, buy these bonds.  Sometimes big banks do.  Sometimes poor little wage earners buy them.  Anyway, the US Treasury sells these promises to pay interest in exchange for the money they receive.

I like to think of this as the US Government (Treasury Dept), using it's left hand, pulling bonds (IOUs, notes) out of their left pocket and waving them around in the air while yelling "Bonds for your cash!  IOUs for your cash!  Notes for your cash!"

Meanwhile, the US Federal Reserve, in the form of QE1, then later QE2, is printing money to buy these bonds!  I like to think of this as the US Government (Federal Reserve), printing money and placing it in it's right pocket.  Anytime it wants to buy something, it prints more money and places it into the right pocket.  It reaches into this right pocket, pulls out a wad of cash, and buys US Government (Treasury) Bonds!

Sit back and think about this for a minute.  The US Government, wearing a pair of bib overalls, has a wad of notes for sale that it prints and keeps in its left pocket. The US Government also has a wad of cash that it prints and keeps in its right pocket.

When the time comes that the US Government (Treasury) wants more cash to buy more stuff, it pulls out a wad of notes from its left pocket, then reaches into its right pocket and pulls out a wad of cash, and then exchanges them - it moves the cash from the right pocket to the left pocket, and the notes from the left pocket to the right pocket.  So now the US Government's (Treasury) left pocket is full of money, whereas before it was just a bunch of IOUs.  Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve, which had money in its right pocket, now has a wad of IOUs instead.

Betcha didn't know that, didja?

So, the US Government, printed cash and exchanged it for IOUs that it also printed.  It manufactured money!  Guess who has to pay off all those IOUs?  You've got it - the American Taxpayer.

But isn't that a lot of debt?  Yes - I saw some reports this week that said it amounts to $500K per household.  That sounds crazy to me, so I don't know.  But moving stuff around in pants pockets and calling it business sounds crazy too!

We all know about supply and demand.  If we've got too high a supply of something, then the price of that thing falls.  If we've got too high a demand for something, then the price of that thing rises.  With that understanding, let's look at the pocket swap.

The  US Government (Treasury) has been printing all the IOUs that it can print.  All those little fingers have been busy over at Treasury!  With so many IOUs being printed, then there must be an oversupply, so this means, as we noted above, that the price must surely fall.  But!  As it turns out, the demand for these Treasury notes/bonds/IOUs is even higher than the supply!  Yup - the demand from the US Government (Federal Reserve) is even higher than the supply from the US Government (Treasury)!  Why, the demand is so high, the prices have been rising!  And rising bond prices means low interest rates!  Yup!  That's the way bonds work!  So the interest rates the US Government (Treasury) has had to pay in order to obtain the cash has been held down because the demand is so huge!

So, the US Government (Treasury) has been printing IOUs, and the demand from the US Government (Federal Reserve) has been insatiable, so the amount of interest being paid on this debt has been low!  What a deal!  The more bonds/notes/IOUs the US Government (Treasury) has been printing, the less it cost them in interest!  Wow!  Is that slick, or what?

What happens to the value of our dollar?  We just went from $100 dollars to $200 dollars because we printed up a bunch of them.  They got pushed into the market place.  The good 'ol USA just doubled the amount of dollars it has!  We are twice as wealthy as before!  Yippee - ain't it grand, ain't it great!  Oh, wait - dang; that's what we did during the Vietnam war under President Johnson - printed up a bunch of dollars that were suddenly chasing the same amount of goods - twice as many dollars, same number of things for sale - why, heck - I remember prices going way, way up before Reagan kicked Carter's ass out of office and killed inflation!  So all this printing, won't that lead to a bunch of inflation?  Oh hell no.  That's not going on, why I just bought a tank of gas for my truck....dang, why did that cost more again?  Well, anyway, I just bought some produce and ... dang, why zakly did that cost more again?  Heck, that's not inflation - that's just prices going up - don't have nothing to do with inflation.

All that printing of IOUs and dollars - that was what has been going on with QE1 and QE2 (Quantitative Easing - the pocket swap deal).  Now the US Government (Federal Reserve) is saying, "we aren't going to do QE3", and that means - tadah - no more pocket swap deal!

But the US Government isn't suddenly going to stop needing money!  Not with all those people with those great big salaries and benefits - it is still going to need more money then it is collecting in taxes.  So it's going to continue printing IOUs.  Only now, instead of the buyer being the other pocket of the same government, it's going to be other governments (China?), other people.

So, see, we're going to sell all these IOUs to other people, other nations.  But isn't that what Greece was doing?  Spain?  Portugal?  Italy?  Selling a whole lot of IOUs while they had a really, really good time?  Aren't some of those IOU customers, like China, getting a little wary of IOUs?

Well, China is complaining, so maybe they are!  They are complaining that the US Government is devaluing the US Dollar by printing so many of them.  And they are complaining that this means the US Dollars they hold will be worth less, and the debt they hold will be worth less.  And if there's one thing a communist country appears to know, it's what the US Dollar is worth, and they appear to be complaining.  Why, they are even talking about getting rid of the US Dollar for international exchange!  Well, aren't they a bunch of party poopers?

But we'll fix them!  We won't do QE3!  Hah!  We won't be buying no more stinking wads of IOUs from our left pocket with our freshly printed dollars in our right pocket!  Hah!  We'll just quit buying our IOUs with OUR dollars!

But won't that mean the supply is going to jump way up, because we are removing a whole-damn-load of demand from the auction?  Well, I expect!  We're just going to take our demand and go home with it, leaving that old US Treasury to sell all those IOUs to those other suckers.  Course, with the excess supply, the price is going to drop, yup.  And, with the drop in the prices the Treasury can get for the sale, why - they're going to have to pony up to pay more in interest on those IOUs.  Yup.

So that debt, it's going to get harder to pay?  Yup.  It's going to cost more to pay that debt.

Are you telling me that the amount of debt is going to get bigger, and at the same time, the interest is going to get bigger, so the taxpayer is going to have to pay a whole lot more, just like in Greece, where they are having riots?  Yup.

Well, that sucks, for sure.  But we can depend on our politicians, because they are going to get us out of this - they are all smart, just like Senator Weiner.

Well, let me see.  The debt is getting bigger, and its going to cost more to pay it off, right?  Yup.

So we're going to tax everyone more, right?  Well, you see, that's going to be kinda hard; notice how hard it is over in Greece?  Over in Spain?  They don't appear to be happy about lower wages and higher taxes.

So I don't think our politicians are going to do that.  And if they don't do that, then there is only one other solution: to inflate the debt away.

So, just how, zakly, does one go about inflating the debt away?

Let's talk about buying a car and taking out a loan to buy it with.  Remember President Johnson printing all of those dollars for Vietnam, and the inflation?  A new Ford Fairlane 500 car with air conditioning and 396 CU Inch motor in 1967 was $3,600.00  By the time inflation was finished, a new car in 1981 was going for $12,000.  So inflation meant you had to have a whole lot more dollars to buy the same thing.  So, somehow, from 1967 to 1981, or 14 years, a car cost more than 3 times as much.

In 14 years, people would have thought paying $3,600 instead of paying $12,000 was a bargain!  Yet, because of inflation, they were the same thing.  A debt of $3,600 in 1967 was  about the same thing as a debt of $12,000 in 1981.  That debt of $3,600 got a whole-lot-cheaper, and it got cheaper because we were paying it with cheaper dollars.

So what does this have to do with the debt we have incurred under QE1 and QE2?  Our politicians can't tax this amount of debt - it will mean they get voted out of office.  So the only solution left to them is to inflate the dollar, so the debt gets cheaper.  And while the debt is getting cheaper, the dollar is getting cheaper, and the salaries are going up, and more taxes are coming in from the increased salaries, and the debt is getting cheaper, and everybody is happy happy happy!

Except, of course, retired people that can't earn higher salaries.  They are going to get squeezed out.  Everything is going to get more expensive.  And that $250,000 they socked away for retirement, why that might not even buy a used car.

So, by not having QE3, we're going to have inflation?  Yup, because we can't afford the debt.  And if we have QE3 we're going to have inflation?  Yup, because we are printing more dollars.

And what's going to happen to the debt?  We are going to inflate it away.  And it's going to ruin some people.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Banjo's Insight - why does a grill have a dome, and when would I use it?

Better grills have domes.  But when do you use one?  It depends on what you are trying to do!

A grill, by itself, is a single point of high energy heat.  It will cook the bottom of a piece of food, subjecting the food to a blast of high heat.  Meanwhile, the top of the food is not being subjected to any heat energy, so it is not being cooked (OK, a little bit by hot gasses moving past the food as the heat move upwards).

By placing a dome onto our grill, we create an OVEN.  And when we are in oven mode, we are cooking food from all sides - by the heat source, which may be directly under the meat (but can also be on the other side away from the food - which would even more closely simulate an oven), as well as from the metal walls, lid, and air.  So with the dome on, we have an oven, and it cooks like an oven.

So when would you want to turn the grill into an oven by placing the dome onto it?  Primarily, when you have large pieces of meat that require a long time to cook, so you want to transfer the heat at a rate that will allow the heat to migrate through the entire piece of meat.

So when would I want to  use the grill as an oven when I've already got an excellent oven inside?  You would definitely want to use the outdoor oven when you are wanting to import any flavors from the heat source, such as from lump charcoal, wood chips, etc.  Also, if you are quick browning the outside of the meat, you would want to place the meat directly over a high heat source when you browned it, then transfer to the side of the grill not directly over the heat source, close the lid to create an oven, then allow sufficient time to allow the interior of the meat to come up in temperature.

By the way - a better way to cook steaks, but seems not to be understood, is to first cook the meat in oven mode until it is almost at the desired temperature, then move it directly over the fire to blast it with high heat for a short amount of time - not long enough to over cook the interior.

Banjo's Insight - why we cover pans and pots

Why do we cover (put a lid on) pans and pots when cooking?

Well, certainly one reason is to reduce the splatter - to contain it within the pot instead of having it splatter all over the stove.

However, from a broader perspective, we place a lid on a pan or pot in order to:

  • Keep the moisture from evaporating.  If we cook mashed potatoes on the stove, but didn't cover, then all of the water could evaporate before we actually got the food cooked to the point where it was tenderized.
  • On the stove, it creates a small oven so all of the food is cooked from all sides.  The lid will keep the moisture in the pot, where it will collect between the surface of the food being cooked and the walls and lid of the pot.  This water vapor will contain more energy than will dry air, so the top of the food is being cooked both by heated air (instead of having the heated air escape up and out of the pot to be replaced by incoming cold air to replace the air that moved up and out), as well as being cooked by the heated moisture in that heated air.  So we are cooking the food from all sides, not just from the bottom.
  • So why do we cover a pot in the oven, which is already an enclosure?  It's because it will allow the moisture to stay in the food's environment instead of evaporating into the oven, and to reduce the splatter inside the oven.
  • So why do we use terra cotter bowls to cook some foods in, inside the oven?  The clay absorbs heat energy from the surroundings, which it radiates to the food.  Since it is closer to the food and surrounds the food, it is possible to more evenly heat the food, while retaining the moisture. 

Banjo's Insight - Heat migration in food - oven vs pan

Heat migrates.  That means it moves.  The popular notion is that the heat moves from the heated part to the coldest part.

Douglas Baldwin, in his book "Sous Vide for the home cook" has some formulas which you can use to determine the amount of time needed for heat to migrate from the outer point to the inner point.  But that's more detail than I'm trying to convey.

I'm just trying to convey the concept, so you know how to use it in your cooking.

When I first started cooking, I didn't understand why sometimes we cooked items in an oven, and other times we cooked it on the stove.  I also didn't understand why we covered it sometimes, and left it uncovered other times.

If we put a big piece of meat in a pan and place it on the stove, then turn the heat up on the stove, the pan will get hot, it will transfer the heat to the outer surface of the meat where it is in contact with the meat.  Soon, some oil and fluids will come out of the meat and coat the pan, which will improve the rate at which heat is transferred from the pan to the meat.  Before long, the outside of the meat will be browned, and we will need to rotate the meat if our purpose is to brown the entire outside of the meat.  However, if we were to cut the meat open at this point, it would be almost as cold as when we started.

So we have meat that has become much hotter on the outside where it has contacted the pan, but virtually no heat has made its way to the center of the meat.

We have applied too much heat, in too short of a time.  The outside of the meat has absorbed virtually all of this heat, while almost none of it has moved (migrated) to the center.

If our goal is to heat the entire piece of meat, then we need to apply the heat at a rate that better approximates the rate the heat can be transferred from the outer surface to the inner part of the meat.  Our solution here is to slow down the rate at which we apply heat to the meat.  This can be done in several ways: we can reduce the heat applied to the pan, or we can move the meat into an oven.

An oven applies heat to meat in a manner different than that of  a pan. A pan obtains heat directly from flame, so it can get hot really fast.  An oven however, first heats the air in the oven, then the walls of the oven are heated by this air at the same time the air is heating the meat (by the way - this is why we preheat the oven; we do it to get the walls hot).  Once the air in the oven, and the walls of the oven are all up to the heat, the meat can begin to absorb heat energy from the air and walls.

This energy is not transferred to the meat nearly as fast as from the pan.   Think about this: you can't put your hand into boiling water ( a temperature of 212 dF at the pressure of sea level), you can't put your hand onto a pan heated to 200 dF (ouch!), but you certainly can stick it into an oven briefly, as long as your hand is only in contact with air - as soon as you touch the rack, pan, or wall, you've been burned).  So you've just demonstrated to yourself that the heat isn't transferred as fast within an oven as it is on a stove top.  It's possible to get the pan up to 400 - 600 dF.

So, if we've got a big piece of meat, placing it on a pan on the stove will transfer too much energy too fast to the surface of the meat - faster than it can migrate to the center of the meat.  By moving the meat to the oven, we slow down the rate of heat transfer from the oven to the meat, so it more closely approximates the heat transfer rate of the meat.

We want the inside of the meat to reach the desired temperature without over cooking the outside surface of the meat.

So we cook in the pan for minutes, but cook in the oven for hours.

If we want the meat browned, we can then introduce the broiler once we have cooked the meat - this blasts the meat with a high amount of energy, which causes the surface of the meat to be browned (it's getting heated really fast, and that's heat's not really transferring into the center of the meat very quickly).  So the outer surface will brown, giving us that great flavor.

We can place meat in a pan in a liquid, such as water, to increase the area of the meat that is being subjected to the heat (braising).  The water spreads the area of the meat in contact with the water out considerably, as compared to the single points of meat in contact with the pan with no other liquid.  So this helps transfer more of the heat energy into the meat.  However, we adjust the heat so the temperature of the water is below boiling, to a simmer, which is around 185 - 200.  So we are again reducing the amount of heat being applied to the meat while in the pan, from 600 dF to 200 dF, which allows for more time for the heat to migrate to the center of the meat.

Banjo's Insight - Searing the meat to lock in juices

A lot of old cooking and grilling references will tell you to "sear the meat to lock the juice/moisture in".  This is hogwash.

But I don't want you to just take my word to this - I want to lead you through a thought process that will prove to you this is hogwash.

I know that you already know that if you heat something, it expands (except ice heated up until it melts to water - it shrinks in size).

A piece of meat is made up of lots of cells.  Each cell contains fluids, which are held in by a cell membrane.

If you have a piece of meat, and you heat it up, then the fluid in each cell is going to expand as it heats.  Ultimately, this expansion will be too much for the cell membrane, and the membrane will rupture, allowing the fluid to escape out of the cell.

Fluids flow from high pressure to low pressure (well, anything actually moves from a point of high pressure to low pressure, not just fluids, providing you apply enough pressure to overcome the resistance holding the item in place).  Heating a fluid creates a higher pressure in the fluid, so it both expands out of the membrane, and flows out of the meat (which is heated and therefore at a higher pressure) into the surroundings.  So the fluid is going to flow out of the meat.

Since all of the meat is being heated, all of the muscle fiber (which is what meat is) is expanding, so there's no where for the fluid to go except to go out of the meat - it's sort of like you squeezing a water-soaked sponge - the fluid is going to be forced out of the sponge.

When you 'sear' the outside of the meat, all you are doing is heating the cells on the outside surface to a high temperature much faster than the cells deeper within the meat are being heated.  This means the outside cells next to the heat source are going to rupture first, spilling their fluids.  This fluid will evaporate in the high heat, leaving behind any non-water substances that will stay on the meat; these will brown (Maillard Browning).

However, these browning substances aren't water tight - they will actually dissolve in water.  If you heat the meat up enough, all of the water will flow out of the meat, and the meat will be dry, dry, dry.

As the interior of the meat heats up, the meat will heat up and expand, those cells will rupture, and you get the same reaction as squeezing the sponge - the space holding the water (the meat) is expanding, forcing (wringing) the water out of the cells, and out of the meat.

So searing doesn't "seal in the juices".  It does, however, cause the browning, which increases the flavor.

So we sear to increase the flavor.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Is there anyone more ignorant.....

Is there anyone more ignorant than a TV news announcer?   I'm not talking about the weather man or woman - they do have some knowledge.  I'm talking about the sheet-readers.

Can someone explain to me why some dipshit with a microphone is automatically given our spellbound attention to listen to their every word?  To accept what they say as though it is right, and important?

Do you ever listen to these clowns?  They don't know their ass from a hole in the ground!

They ask questions.  They don't know enough to give insightful answers.  They don't recognize them when they hear them.  The questions don't have to be smart - they just have to ask it.  They don't know if it's been answered or not, any answer will do.

They think function follows form.  Or they would, if they knew what it meant.

Biased?  Not them!

Sous Vide - Vacuum Pouch Insight

When I first received my Sous Vide Supreme, it came with their vacuum sealer.  Note: they've since come out with a vacuum chamber sealer, but it's too expensive for me - I hope it's chump change for you!  I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out how to use the vacuum sealer without sucking fluid out of the meat and into the vacuum.

You do not want to suck fluid out of the meat and into the vacuum!  It will coat the inside of the vacuum pouch, preventing the ability to heat it enough to seal the bag, and it can destroy the vacuum motor, air seals, and will harbor bacteria, so don't do it!

I was very frustrated by this.  I did a lot of searching on the web, and found some insight, which I'm going to present here as well as have some links for you.

In using the vacuum sealer that came with my machine,  there are several approaches (this works for any type of FoodSaver vacuum sealer device):

  • If the meat contains a lot of fluid, then place it into the refrigerator to chill it enough so the fluid is more viscus and will move slower, hopefully it will take so long for it to move to the top of the bag while sealing that it will have sufficient time to draw the vacuum and seal the bag before the fluid coats it.
  • Make your bags longer, and place the meat as far away from the sealing point as possible, so the fluid will have further to travel before it gets to the area where you are sealing.  Longer distance to travel = longer time to get there.  Making my bags longer helped a lot.
  • Tilt the front of the vacuum machine up, so it creates a hill to climb for the fluids.  This won't stop the fluid from climbing because of the force of the pressure flowing out of the bag and into the vacuum sealer, but it will take longer, and longer time to travel helps.
  • Place a folded up paper towel between the meat and the seal point so it will absorb the fluids.  Hopefully, it will absorb enough so none is left to get to the seal point.  Or, it just might slow the fluid down long enough in its travel.
  • Freeze the fluid into cubes and drop into the pouch to seal.  They won't unfreeze fast enough to cause a problem.
If none of those methods work, then switch to a Zip Lock Freezer Bag and use the Water Immersion method.  This involves placing water in a deep bowl, deep enough to hold the water and most of the Zip Lock Freezer Bag.  Close most of the Zip Lock Freezer Bag (leaving one end open to let air escape from the bag), then slowly immerse the bottom of the bag into the bowl containing the water.  Tilt the Zip Lock Freezer Bag so the open end is at the top, then immerse the bag.  The water will exert pressure on the side of the Zip Lock Freezer Bag, forcing the air out.  Just before water will flow into the Zip Lock Freezer Bag, finish sealing the bag.  Here's a video of a person doing this (about 2:00 minutes into the film).  

Banjo's Recipe: Brining Pork Spare Ribs

Why do we brine?

We brine meats in order to impart moisture, and sometimes flavors, into a meat.  This is particularly useful for meats such as turkey breast, which can be very dry after cooking.  In this case with pork spare ribs, I've cooked them many times but I have never tasted how one tastes after brining, so that's what I'm going to do!

Brining Vs Marinating
Brining adds moisture into a meat by osmosis, which is the cell's attempt to balance it's internal salt content with salt content outside of itself.  The meat is put into a liquid bath that contains a high percentage of salt.  As the cell attempts to balance the salt levels, moisture is drawn into the meat, swelling the cells with the additional moisture.

Marinating is similar to brining, but has a higher acid content, in an attempt to tenderize the meat.  Since my meat will be cooked via Sous Vide, which will tenderize the meat via time and temperature instead of acid, there is no need to marinate the meat.

I had wondered whether or not a brine would contain worcestershire sauce or soy sauce, as both are high in salt.  I have a lot of worcestershire sauce that is getting close to its age-off date, so I was interested in using it before having to chunk it.  However, in my research, I kept coming across worcestershire and soy being used in marinates, but not in brines.  Since I know both to be high in salt, I began to wonder, what is the difference between a brine and a marinate?

Research showed a marinate to be high in acid in an attempt to tenderize meat.  I checked a USDA source for the ph level of foods (ph is a measurement of acidity), and found that both worcestershire sauce and soy sauce are about as acidic as vinegar, so that explains why they don't show up in brines (salt, not acid) but do show up in marinates (acid and salt).

So, while either worcestershire or soy sauce can be added to a brine for flavor, I don't want to add so much that I've changed it into a marinate.  Dang - thought I was going to use up that worcestershire sauce!


Note: I prefer to use distilled water as our water has a lot of fluoride in it.
Note: I do not have a 6 qt lexan container, so instead I use a water cooler.  I use a water/ice mixture (just enough water to fill up to the ice) in the cooler instead of just water.  This also means I don't have to find room in the refrigerator!

I'm going to brine the pork spare ribs for 48 hours.

  1. Mix the brine ingredients into a container large enough to hold two (2) racks of pork spare ribs, about 9 lbs of ribs.
  2. place spare ribs into brine container
  3. Place container into refrigerator, which should be at a temperature of 40 dF or below.
  4. Leave in brine for 48 hours.
  5. At the end of 48 hours (or there about - not critical), remove ribs from brine.
  6. Blot ribs dry with paper towels (do not rinse off).
  7. Your meat is ready for use!
Brine Recipes
Alton Brown's (note: we are using his Boston Butt recipe):


  • 8 ounces or 3/4 cup molasses
  • 12 ounces pickling salt
  • 2 quarts bottled water
  • 6 to 8 pound Boston butt
  • Combine molasses, pickling salt, and water in 6 quart Lexan. Add Boston butt making sure it is completely submerged in brine, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. 12 hours is ideal.

Brine in a 7–10% salt, 0–3% sugar water solution (70–100 grams salt and 0–30 grams sugar per 1 liter) in the refrigerator for 12–24 hours.


Banjo's recipe: Pork Spare Ribs with Sous Vide

I picked up a package of Spare Ribs from Costco.  The package weight about 9 lbs.  This contains two (2) whole racks.

  • Prepare the brine (Banjo's Pork Spare Ribs Brine).
  • Cut the pork spare ribs into sections small enough to fit into several vacuum pouches.  I will not place into the vacuum pouches at this time because I want to brine them first.
  • Place the spare ribs into the brine.
  • Place brine into the refrigerator for 48 hours
  • After 48 hours, remove spare ribs from brine and blot ribs dry.
  • Prepare any special sauce and place sauce into vacuum bags where you will be putting your spare ribs.
  • Place ribs into vacuum bags and seal.  
  • Note: if you have difficulty with this step with applying vacuum without sucking fluids out of pouch, then use Zip Lock Freezer Bags gallon size to put sauce and ribs into, then use 'water immersion' method to evacuate the air, or leave the sauce out.
  • Note: if you prefer, you can put a dry rub on the meat instead, which should allow you to use your vacuum device to seal.

I will be brining the pork spare ribs.  Here is Banjo's Recipe


  • Cook for 48 hours at 135 dF.  
  • Note: if this is your first time cooking Sous Vide, or low temperature cooking, then don't get alarmed about the low temperature for pork.  We are cooking the meat for a long enough time at this temperature in order to pasteurize the meat and to also tenderize it.  It will be slightly red in color because it will come be medium well when we take it out at 135 dF.  There are two things associated with this cooking - pasteurization and tenderizeation.  Per Douglas Baldwin's book, pasteurization will take 1 hour at 130 dF for meat 1.25 inches thick.  Notice we are above this temperature, and at a much longer time, so we are definitely pasteurized!  However, we are going this extra length of time in order to tenderize the will be "falling off of the bone tender" when we are through.  
  • If you will be 'toasting' the ribs on a grill-with-a-dome, then 30 minutes before taking them out of their pouches, heat up the grill, placing your charcoal on one side of the grill while leaving the other side open so your ribs won't be directly over the hot coals (indirect heat).  I try to get my dome up to 400 dF or hotter - you aren't going to cook the ribs because they are already cooked - you are just trying to toast the outside, so hot and fast!
  • In inclement weather I will toast our ribs under our oven's broiler. Simply place them in a pan to catch the drippings, meat side up, about 4 inches below the coils.  Place it on "hi", and monitor.  Since they are already cooked, I'm just toasting.  I leave the door open so I can watch to decide when to pull off.  This probably took at least 10 minutes (sorry, I forgot to time this).
  • Remove ribs from  vacuum pouch.  You can either eat them at this point, or continue on with 'toasting' to brown.
  • Toasting: Rinse the ribs off so you get the salt off of the meat.  (I didn't do this the first time, and they were too salty).  Blot the ribs dry, (this is important as it help speed up the process of toasting the meat) then place the ribs onto the side of your grill opposite the hot coals.  I like to put a aluminum drip pan under them to keep the oil from getting all over my grill.  Toast for about 10 - 20 minutes, or they acquire the browning you desire.  Your goal is to not leave them in the dome for very long, as you are wanting to toast the outside without additional cooking on the inside.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Neighbor Never Stops Talking

My neighbor never stops talking.  There's no point in even trying to communicate with her - she will talk over you anyway.  She's obviously not interested in anything anyone else has to say.

My sweet wife just said: "There's more mouth on that woman than ass on a goose!"

Banjo's Review: Bub-Ba-Q BBQ, Woodstock Georgia

Today, I'm meeting someone for lunch at a local BBQ restaurant.  I've seen it riding by several times, and it also showed up on a national program for BBQ contests, so I've been wanting to try it for some time.

Today's the Day!

Bub-Ba-Q BBQ!

I've been and returned!

I went for lunch on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

My friend and I both are experienced BBQ smokers, (over 25 years smoking BBQ for me), and have frequented BBQ establishments all of our lives.

I first went around back to see what they were cooking with.  The are using wood, and they have a little separate smoker with exhaust.  So it looks like the real thing.  That's good!

I purchased a combo pulled pork and ribs for $11 something; their web site is down at the moment so I can't get the details.  I also added a brisket for $3.95.  This came with 2 sides; I chose collards and green beans, and a thick slice of toast.  The sides were pretty small portions, nondescript but OK.  I didn't try the bread, but it looked good.

The ribs were good, the brisket was pretty good, but the pulled pork was on the weak side for my tastes - it was somewhat dry, and only had a slight wood flavor.  It also didn't look anything like the picture on the web site.  There was no 'bark' at all, but this place may hold it back like other places, in case you don't want it.  I don't usually ask for it when I'm trying it for the first time, so I can see what it will be like for most people.  Frequently, if you ask for it, they will provide some on your plate.

My friend had a combo - pulled pork and and chicken.  He said his opinion was the pulled pork was OK, but he didn't care for the chicken.  He didn't elaborate.  I don't ever get chicken at a BBQ place, since BBQ is pork, and if in a generous mood, you can include brisket, so I wasn't too interested.

Here's my opinion.  
I base mine on 10 points.  10 is top, best I can find, 0 is the worst I've ever had - I've never had a 0, and I would go outside and puke if I did.  5 is neutral - it's OK, neither particularly good or bad.  3-4 would be something out of a can.  I wouldn't ever go back to anything below 5 unless nuclear event.  I've never had a 10 at a commercial establishment, only at home-cooked BBQ, and that's understandable - they are trying to provide you with a good product for a good price, and they simply can't put the time and effort into it that someone at home can do.  So that really will usually leave you with 6 - 9 for most establishments.
  • Pulled pork - a little dry, but OK.  Some smoke, but needed more smoke flavor.  I'd say 6.5 out of 10.  But this is just the first time, and no one is 100% consistent, so next time will be the charm.
  • Brisket - pretty good, tender and flavorful.  I'd say 7.5 out of 10
  • Ribs - this was the best part of the meal.  Not the best I've had locally, but I liked it.  I'd say 8 out of 10.
  • Sides (the only two I had were collards and green beans) - I'd say 5 out of 10.
  • Would I eat here again?  Yes
  • Would I recommend it to BBQ afflicted?  Yes
  • Service - good.  Quick, efficient, friendly.
  • Ambiance - typical strip mall BBQ joint.  Clean, busy, smells pretty good with hints of smoke.
  • Value - very good.  Less expensive than some places I've been.