Monthly Archives: November 2006

Welcome to TextDrive

Due to unfortunate events, I had to move my webhosting today and I picked TextDrive, the “thinking man’s webhost”. I paid for a year up front and got up to 5 sites, email and well, the works.

Sorry about the transition issues. Hope you all made it over just fine.

Thanksgiving Birds on the Smoker

A couple of months ago, I promised that I would do turkey on the smoker for Thanksgiving. I had no idea it would be so easy! Last night, I stopped by the store and picked up two “self-basting” store brand turkeys, each 13.75 pounds. I partially thawed them in our kitchen sink, immersing them in running cold water for two hours. At the crack of dawn (6AM Central Time) I was out of bed to finish the job.

I had two hours to:

* finish thawing both birds
* prep each bird
* light the smoker and bring it to temperature

The turkeys needed to be on the smoker for a total of 4 hours so that meant “lid on” at 8AM (Central Time again) which made for an exciting ballet of prep work. First things first: get the water bath running again. Both turkeys went into the sink full of cold, running water. Next, I reassembled the smoker with only the bottom rack in place and the top rack set off to the side. I checked the fit and positioning of the center section and verified it was good so I separated the sections again. I lit one chimney of charcoal and went back inside, prepping some spices and oil that I’d need for the birds.

At 7AM I started to wrangle one of the still slightly frozen birds out of it’s packaging. Leaving the other to continue the thaw, I pulled the neck and giblet pack out of the center and started trimming neck fat, extra skin and “other” parts that needed to be out of the way. A through rinse was next, then draining, then drying with paper towels.

For the first turkey, I used Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning blend, a favorite of Tammy and I’s and something that’s rapidly becoming my trademark flavor. Northwoods went under the skin by the breast meat, and all over — inside and out. The final touch was an over-ripe pear, quartered, placed inside the cavity.

The second turkey was done thawing (it’s 7:30 at this point) so I stopped the water and went outside to assemble the smoker. I poured the fully lit charcoal in the ring and then filled it to the top with unlit briquets. This would allow the lit charcoal to slowly light the unlit charcoal over the four hour cooking time. The last step outside was to assemble the cooker and let it heat up. That gave me 45 minutes to finish the prep on the second turkey still thawing in the sink.

Turkey #2 was simple: oil on the skin and sprinkle with cracked pepper. This bird got two over-ripe apples inside the cavity, the idea that the apple flavor inside would combine with the apple-wood smoke during the cook.

By this time, it was 8AM and time to load the birds. I didn’t use a probe thermometer because I knew that I would need at least three hours to cook. Instead, I monitored the upper vent temperature and the temp at the access door. The cooker was 350?F when I loaded the turkeys and after one hour, it had only dropped to 310?F, a good sign but not right. At an hour and a half in to the cook, I propped the access door open by turning it upside down and using a branch of my backyard maple tree. That gave me about a 1/2″ inch gap at the bottom, just enough to boost the cooker temp to 375?F to finish the cook.

At the three hour point (11:15AM) I checked the dark meat at the thigh and drumstick and it had made it to 160?F so I knew we were close. Here’s a [picture of the turkey]( when I pulled it. Yum!

Right now, they are both wrapped in two layers of aluminum foil and towels to try to keep the temps up. I figure they will be fine until 1PM when we’re ready to carve.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Sky and Solstice evolve for the better

Autoblog: “Rather than wait until the new model year, the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice are getting ‘continuous changes’ such as a power door lock button and an electronically height-adjustable driver’s seat.”

This is truly extraordinary for a car marker to embrace criticism and roll out changes so quickly. Welcome to the world of weblogs and what it can do for you (other than give you a place to talk about deviled bones, of course).

My brain is Cisco-certified

Since I started a new job, I’ve been studying for something that I’ve put off for too long: a Cisco certification. Two weeks ago, I hit that milestone with a successful test for CCDA–Cisco Certified Design Associate. It was hard and forced me to focus my brain on what I could remember and what I could learn in only two months.

I’m proud of myself for making the goal. I used my fair-share of test aids, but I also spent time inside some rather large (and boring) textbooks to get there.

Next stop: CCNA

I'm on my way – I'm making it.

I’m working on a new life. I know it sounds weird, but since I started my weblog, I’ve been evolving as a person. I’ve learned to write and speaker better. I’ve learned more about who I am emotionally and spiritually. I’ve also *learned*. In the last two and a half months, I’ve learned (and remembered) more about networks and engineering than I thought possible.


I’m going to make content changes in houseofwarwick, the weblog. I’m going to be talking about food more than anything because talking about technology is something I do all day. I’ll post more recipes and how-to type articles because that’s what Google is telling me: people come to my site from searches about “how to do” something.

What would you readers like to see?

I for one welcome my new HDTV overseers

I bought a new television Tuesday night, a Westinghouse 32″ HDTV (32w6 if you keep up with that kind of thing) and I love it. It’s a great TV and at a great price. It’s the dirty secret of the LCD-TV world because a good portion of it appears to be made by Sony or with some Sony parts. I’m told the LCD is similar or identical to the one in 32″ Sony displays and the video circuitry is just step below, too.

I set up the TV and read the brief instruction manual. A couple of quick menu choices and it was happily sniffing away at my cable connection. I chose the automatic detection settings and I was not disappointed. I found hundreds of digital channels but most were block or contained no content. It did find all of the standard channels without problems and it was at this point that I got my first glimpse of what analog TV really looks like: yuk!

I was wondering if my money had been spent in vain when I hit channel 16.1 — my local NBC station broadcasting in 1080i, the highest resolution/quality my new baby could understand. It was near midnight and Conan O’Brian was on.

It was stunning!

I sat slack-jawed, stupefied at HDTV. It was so clear, much clearer than anything I’d seen before, even in the demo rooms and back wall of Best Buy. I found myself not listening to the words and instead staring at the textures of the clothing, the curtain behind Conan (you could almost see the fabric texture) and the color blotches on Robin Williams’ face.

When done right, HDTV is marvelous. I know now that I will have to replace all of my standard stuff for HD. A Series 3 HD TiVo is $799 plus $199 to transfer the lifetime subscription. That’s a little rich for my blood right now, but I’ll keep an eye on it in case I can find a way to pick one up on the cheap.

One of the best parts was connecting my original Xbox up to the component video connectors. I reconfigured the Xbox to display 480p (a higher resolution than standard) and made it aware that I now had a “16:9” TV. Combine that with the DVD kit and now I’m watching DVDs at probably twice the clarity that I had before.

It’s three days later and I’m still marveling at the quality. If you’re on the fence, buy a HDTV and you won’t be disappointed.