Thursday, February 7, 2008

R.I.P. Bacon Dogs

I saw - and devoured - my very first bacon-wrapped hot dog three years ago, standing on the subway platform outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I was attending the 2004 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), one of the largest video game shows in the world. While riding the subway from our hotel down to the convention center, someone mentioned that they were looking forward to getting some after the show let out, and I replied that I'd never had one.

When my friend Andy, who was MyGamer's Editor In Chief at the time, heard this, he said in his wonderful Brit accent: "Ooooh... nevah had a bacon-wrapped hot dog? Fookin' unacceptable! We'll fix that directly, just you wait".

For those that have never had this particular delicacy, let me paint you a picture:

The proprietor, usually a middle-aged Mexican women or youngish man, wheels an improvised cart (the one outside the Staples Center was a converted wire grocery cart - the same kind you used to see elderly Russian babushikas wheeling back and forth to the Jewel supermarket) down the sidewalk, surrounded by a cloud of bluish, mouth-watering smoke. Some chant. Others let the aroma speak for itself. To its top is affixed a metal cookie sheet, under which one can see the blue flames of a cheap propane camp stove.

The bacon-wrapped tube steaks (sometimes referred to as "heart attack dogs", other times "those fucking delicious hot dog things" by my fellow E3 reporters) rest on the sheet, hissing and popping in lakes of bubbling bacon grease. You can smell them all the way from the front door of the convention center, a quarter of a mile away, I kid you not.

Then they top the thing with onions, mustard, tomatoes and a big, honkin' chili of some sort,and hand it to you with their bare, wrinkled brown hands. "Gloves? we don' need no steenkin' gloves!" Helpers (I suppose I should call them "accomplices" now) stand further down the block, and will run up with a cold soda or a bag of chips if you want them.

Perhaps it's because I went it college in Chicago, a town famed (and rightly so) for the quality of its meat-sicles, but I consider myself something of a gourmet when it comes to processed meat products packed in a casing. My expectations for this pork-wrapped, mutant street version were low, Andy's praise notwithstanding.

However, biting into my first bacon-wrapped hot dog, eyes rolling back with raw, animal pleasure as bacon juice, mustard, and God-only-knows what other fluids ran down my geek-approved black Alienware t-shirt, all the while packed cheek-to-jowl with hundreds of other gaming journalists, many of which had their own dogs clutched in their fists, all alike in our shared looks of orgiastic pleasure, made me love them. I was sure to seek out the vendors when I returned the following year, so I could do it all over again.

Given the questionable cooking practices these street vendors employ, I suppose it was only a matter of time until LA not only made them illegal, but also began to crack down on the vendors that sell them. Too bad, because I list my first "heart attack dog" as one of the best things about that E3 trip - and it was a very, very good trip. Too bad, as well, for the City of Angles, for as the LA Weekly rightly points out:

To get them, "I go to places like the 99 Cents Only store in Reseda or other Hispanic working-class neighborhoods in the Valley. Parks are good too. It's the only street food L.A. can really claim as its own," Lin adds. "It's illegal and yet it's a ubiquitous part of L.A. culture."
I wasn't able to attend E3 last year, but I was hoping to in 2008. If I end up going, I'm sure I'll have a blast, as usual, but I'm certainly going to miss getting my afternoon "heart attack fix". Too bad - I sort of liked feeling like Conan in his cinematic debut, waving his "lizard on a stick" and proclaiming "It's guud", only to have Subotai respond, "You have no idea how long it's been there!"

Good times. Thanks, Andy, for broadening my horizons and making me feel, even for a moment, like a proper barbarian.

Alas. R.I.P. bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

That's it - I'm changing my OS

Longtime friend and "Constant Reader" Jen sends me the best reason to upgrade to Linux that I've yet heard. I'm not even going near the Xbox comment, though - those guys are brutal.

Thanks, Jen!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Superman vs. Lightsaber: and the winnah is...

Thank God - I can finally sleep at night!

All hail the interweb!

EDIT: Right after posting this, I found another article that talks about this burning subject as well. It's good to know I'm not alone with thoughts like these. I'm just glad I can have them AND I've kissed a girl. More then one, even.

Not bragging - I'm just sayin'...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Home Cinema to the nth Power

OK, I gotta admit, I was left momentarily breathless at the sight of some of these setups.

10 Stunningly Geeky Ultra Home Cinema Setups.

My favorite: #2 - the Batcave. My inner film buff was sporting some serious lumber, lemme tell you..

Cheap(er) Hydrogen?

Holy shit. I'm no rocket scientist, but this sounds promising. I blame the sci-fi geek in me, but this is really cool.

I've been kinda-sorta following the whole hydrogen fuel thing, but was aware of the problems faced in its manufacturing. Now, scientists may have found a way to use sunlight (which, let's face it, ain't running out any time soon) to split water and harvest the hydrogen.

If it works as expected, the technology could help address one of the fundamental problems with using hydrogen as fuel. Hydrogen is attractive because it is light, and burning it only produces water. But today most hydrogen is made from natural gas, a process that releases considerable amounts of carbon dioxide. The other main option is electrolysis. But even if it's powered by clean energy, such as electricity from photovoltaics, electrolysis is inefficient and expensive. Guerra says using strained titania, and Nanoptek's inexpensive manufacturing process, makes the process cheap and efficient enough to compete with processes that create hydrogen from natural gas. What's more, Guerra says, the Nanoptek technology can be located closer to customers than large-scale natural-gas processes, which could significantly reduce transportation costs, thereby helping make the technology attractive. And if in the future carbon emissions are taxed or regulated, Nanoptek's carbon-free approach is another advantage.
Of course, making the fuel is only part of the challenge... Car manufacturers must be motivated to produce engines that use the fuel; fueling stations must re-tool to store and distribute it; regulators and government officials must be properly greased... erm, I mean "briefed" on the safety and benefits of this, all in the face of the immense momentum (and lobbying capital) that's been generated by Big Oil over the past century and a half.

Still, the idea of driving a car that produces only water as exhaust, all while cutting off the balls (as it were) of hostile nations that every day are trying to keep America and the rest of the civilized world over the (oil) barrel is immensely appealing.