Saturday, March 06, 2010

We Ran Out Of Chili

Can You Say...MOB?

Sorry I didn't write anything earlier, but I was absolutely dead when we got back from the Chili Cookoff after being awake since 1 AM

I ended up passing out falling asleep in the middle of changing clothes for dinner...which I'm just now warming back up as the other guests are leaving...I hear the microwave beeping...hang on...

The good news is we pounded out 15 gallons of the "Jamaican me Cajun Green Butt Chili" in the allotted time, but (but not butt) the bad news is not enough of the locals and tourists were impressed with a pork based chili to net us any of the tasting prizes.

And the Chili Shack looked to follow when I get back to my own computers on Sunday...but the same team that beat us last year with their booth did another good one this year and walked away with the "Best Theme" prize.

Otherwise the event was a HUGE roaring success with a record attendance of over 2000 people showing up, and with only 27 teams this year everyone ran out of chili before the 2 PM cut off time.

Even though we made about 15 gallons...three gallons over the mandated 12 gallon quanty..we were actually out of the Green Butt Chili by 1:15 and had to stand there and apologize to people that still had tickets and were voting for the "Peoples' Choice" prizes.

Lesson learned...

John invited me back to cook again next year and we agreed that we'd probably go back toward a traditional top round beef based chili with red beans and give up making white chili from here on out in an event were everyone else's chili looked almost identical.

All and all, in the end we had a LARGE time and it's important to not miss the concept that the prizes are secondary to raising money for local charaties.

Time to go read the internet news and catch up on my fellow bloggers now, y'all have a LOVELY balance of the weekend and I'll report back in once we get through vibrating our way up the interstate to Knoxtown.

It's All Over But (But Not Butt) The Shouting

Massive Quantities Of Chili Ensue...

So we swept up the sawdust and other trash and stacked up all of the prefabricated and painted wood and foam panels and skeleton parts about 4 PM yesterday (I was too busy to take pictures.)

After working all day again like a Madman myself, with John and Pat wielding paintbrushes and the Turbo Pup standing guard over the proceedings, we then ran home and showered and cleaned up and came BACK to the restaurant with our housing hosts, Bruce and Ski, and John then fed us a feast fit for a king.

I had a beef tenderloin that had to have weighed 3/4's of a pound...the Turbo Pup got to finish it when we tumbled and stumbled back home, partially as a reward for her Sentry Duties but mainly just because she's spoiled rotten.

Now I've had a few hours sleep and had time to answer a bunch of business related e-mails...we landed another order during my absence from the office...and after a little more Googling and news reading I'm going to catch another few hours of sleep and then get up and be back at the Blackwater Grill at 6 AM ready to make two or three trips over to the scene of the crime Chili Cookoff venue.

I forgot to mention that we drew numbers at the "Captains Meeting" last night and we managed to get an excellent booth location, about twenty feet from where we were last year, right across the common area from where my Buddy Kimbo's band the "StringRays" will be playing music all day.

I just ran the numbers in my head and with 25 teams (down from 32 last year) cooking at least 12 gallons of chili each (we're doing about 15 gallons,) there will be THREE HUNDRED GALLONS OF CHILI cooked and consumed on St. Simons Island in the next 12 hours.

I swear that you can't pay enough money to buy stuff and do things that's this much fun, but still I have to be going now and get ready to try to win....

(drum roll please...)

People's Choice (First or at least Second Place)
Most Unusual Chili
Best Booth/Theme
Best overall Chili--By the Judges

Even if we just end up coming away tired with nothing but an empty chili pot the day will have been a success, because all of the proceeds from the entry fees and tasting tickets go to local charities.

Wish us luck...if you will...and Regards Y'all...

Friday, March 05, 2010

T-Minus One Day And Counting

Trying To Stay Cool Here Boss...

OK, ok, Ok OKAY...I admit it...

I can't leave "Good Enough" alone...things went like this since I started construction yesterday on the "Jamaican Me Cajun Green Butt Chili Shack."

My chili cooking partner John and I met for breakfast at the local Huddle House, an Island "Institution" since a place called "Poor Richard's" closed down about a dozen years ago, ran to Ace Hardware and bought funky pastel colored blue and yellow and pink paint, did the local Island lumber yard for sticks of wood and slabs of foam sheeting, and by 11 AM I was making sawdust on the back deck of the restaurant.

My friend Jamie, the head chef over there at Blackwater Grill, already had 80 pounds of Boston Butt cooked down to where it was falling apart, and the resulting 8 GALLONS of stock from the cooking was cooled and skimmed and de-greased so I was confident that what I was looking at was basically a construction project for Thursday and Friday before putting the Chili Shack and the final "Green Butt" Chili concoction together on site at the "Rotary Red Hot Chili Cookoff" on Saturday morning.

Then as is usual, me having spent months drawing hand sketches and twenty five pages of AutoCAD drawings, once again I couldn't help starting to improvise here and there with some things that caused me to end up using up an hour and one half of unplanned time thinking about and revising my sketches, and then in the end cutting up and running out of lumber before I had the entire framework put together.

And we ended up not smearing a single ounce of paint on anything by the end of the day either.

At least Pat and the Turbo Pup got to act like they were on VACATION, but all I did was look at the marsh behind the restaurant deck and stumble around tripping over my power cords in full blown panic mode by 3 PM.

So any way, after spending time re-planning and regrouping I'm getting an early start this morning by going BACK to Ace Hardware for a few items and BACK to the Lumber Yard for some more boards.

Then after giving me a head start making more sawdust John and Pat are showing up about 11 AM to begin smearing the base coat of paint on the parts of the structure I have finished.

Then this afternoon I will come back across everything with a roller or paint brush doing details and highlights and generally trying to make things look like an old weathered beach bar/"Tiki Hut."

And even though the process will possibly take most of the day, I know that we'll be finished and can proudly use whatever we have as a finished product Saturday morning, because most of the teams just set up a portable canopy tent and hang up a sign and slop chili around for three or four hours.

I MIGHT actually make it to the beach for a few minutes over the next two days, but then again I MIGHT NOT.

After all, I came down here this week to cook chili, and everything else is a bonus.

How do you say that in Latin?

Vedi, Veni Vici?

Virgil Freakin' Crazi?

OK, I give up...I'm taking ideas if you have any...

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Coastal Induced Coma

Just Report Me "Missing"...

Well, we made it... nearly 8 hours and 550 miles later.

We delayed our departure a few hours yesterday morning, for what turned out to be no good reason, because the stupid weather and news people were yapping about Chattanooga getting SEVEN INCHES of snow and our path between Knoxtown and the Georgia Coast intersected with that area on the interstate and we didn't want to be fighting with tractor trailers while things might be below freezing.

Thus we arrived about sunset and missed happy hour and had to go straight into dinner mode with our Friends Bruce and Ski.

I swear I feel fifteen or twenty years younger when we turn left off US 17 and start driving east across the marsh and we can see the bridge over the Inter coastal Waterway and the Island on the horizon spanning north...all eleven miles worth...and Jekyll Island south of the ship channel and St. Simons Sound.

It was nearly 60 degrees outside and we had the windows down in the car on the way across the creeks and marshes and the Frederica River.

Even the Turbo Pup seemed to really understand where she was going.

I wish everyone could have the opportunity to find somewhere like this that they really, Really, REALLY love being at/in. And I know many others do, but so many people don't because they either have no choice of where they're born or where they live or else they're just afraid to step out into the world and seize the moment and make a change in their existence and lifestyle.

We've done it before and I hope to be able to move back here permanently in 2011...only time will tell.

Some people might consider me to be a bit unreliable or distracted or unconventional, but based on what I've seen and done over the past fifty years I say that looking at things from my own life perspective, tempered with my personal near-death experiences over the past twenty years, that I've struck a pretty reasonable balance between "shoulder to the plow"..."nose to the grindstone" and my own "Devil May Care" philosophy.

And tomorrow at 9:30 AM I get my first look at my 80 plus pounds of cooked Boston Butts, greet my friend John Howton, and I get to see the components of last years "Bayou Chili Shack". And after a trip to Home Depot for paint and foam board and some lumber I'm going to spend three days doing EXACTLY what I would rather be doing...something that most likely can't be done anywhere else in the world on March 4th, 2010...except on our Little Island.

Wish us luck...if you will...and photos to follow...Y'all...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

If The Spices Don't Get You...

The Static Electricity Will

I have to warn everybody that there's all kinds of crazy stuff going on here in the wee hours of the morning at the Turbo Pup Compound on the banks of the mighty Tennessee it's best you keep your distance...

For instance, I just had to put together this pile of stuff in support of this weekend's exercises:

That would be a picture of what I technically call "Spice Blast #1", a mixture of the following ingredients...and it's only ONE HALF of the seasonings going into 15 gallons of my soon to be intergalactically famous Chili...

There's 7-1/2 Table spoons each of:

Cayenne pepper
Plain old Kroger Brand Chili Powder
Fancy "Pendries" brand Cumin from Texas
Garlic Powder
Dried Onion Flakes
Fancy "Pendries" Brand Smoked Spanish Paprika (the dark red color you see there on top)

Now all of that mixture is sealed up in a container in preparation of the drive later this morning to the Georgia Coast, and there's another container containing almost as much similar stuff, but I'd have to kill you if I told you what there is in that mix before we cook on Saturday (once we win or lose I'll publish the details.)

Meanwhile, I have to report that stuff like this was going on in my living room last night...

That would be our little Missy the Turbo Pup taking a break after I wallowed her around on her blanket and she got a bad case of "static head".

She's ready to go to the BEACH....and so's her Dad...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Snow Again In East Tennessee

Trip To The Potty

The good news is that tomorrow afternoon the Turbo Pup's footprints will be on the Beach!!

Top Ten Things You Never Want To See On a Menu

Sorry...I'm Getting A Little Crazy Due To Sleep Deprivation...

Ok, ok, OK...I admit that I made this list up myself in about five minutes while reading about food safety this morning. I was inspired because some of the articles are so incredibly stupid...telling people simple stuff like to wash their hands and warning people with deadly incurable diseases to stay out of the kitchen and stuff...

Any way, here top ten list of things I never want to see listed on a restaurant menu:

1. Seeping Abscess Sauce

2. Sauteed Festering Fistula

3. Rendered Glandular Secretions

4. Ovarian Ham Omelet

(Tie) Thinly sliced Post-partum Depressions

5. Phlegm Flan

6. Renal Retinas in Cataract Shiitaki Au Jus

7. Braised Hemorrhagic Hysterectomies

8. Gelatinous Genitalia Gelatin

9. Compounded Corpuscular Butter

10. Vienna Sausage & Vegetable Vasectomy Medley

(I left out "grilled testicular rectalosis" which came in a close #11 in the polling.)

OK, everybody issue a collective Eeeeewwwwwwwuuuuuuuu!

But still, imagine a menu with those words on it somewhere in...I don't know...San Francisco or Berkley...could happen?

Monday, March 01, 2010

My PLC Is Haunted

I'm Calling In Technical Support...

I'm still not quite sure what's going on, but I've got this one IR sensor that, if it didn't cost nearly $400, I'd have already thrown out in the driveway and run over it with the car a couple of times in a screaming conniption fit.

The stupid thing is programmable about a zillion different ways, but all I want is for it to look at something that's between the range of 32 degrees F and 300 degrees and tell my software when it sees something out of range (moving past in the plant on a conveyor at about 5 bottles per second) and trigger a relay contact.

Simple stuff like this happens all the time every day in control panels in manufacturing plants all around the world....

but not in my basement so far in the past week.

I set the thing up, verify the settings, unhook it from my Laptop, hook it to the PLC panel, and it keeps losing it's silly little electronic mind.


I'm giving things until the end of the day, then I'm calling in a consultant I guess.

Someone like this guy may be able to help me...

Please call if you know anyone that's local or you can give me a reference so I can fly them in for a consultation...

Down To The "Wire(ing)"

Self Imposed Fire Drills and "Stuff"...

So I finally got the old HP laptop and my custom PLC panel and both Micro Epsilon non-contact IR sensors back into the same room--my shop--in the basement on my test bench last night after dinner and a nap.

I figured I'd fool around tonight for a couple of hours with some final software modifications and fine tune the instruction manual wording, and then toss everything into cardboard and bubble wrap and hit Fed EX tomorrow afternoon.

If you agree with my optimistic summary of my progress, you'd be...

W R O N G!!!

As of about 15 minutes ago I've got one Infrared sensor that's losing its proverbial mind with it's 0-10 volt DC output jumping all over the place on the chart looking at exactly the same spot in the shop as the other sensor which is working fine.

It did the same thing a few weeks ago before I shipped the first panel to Kansas City, so I replaced it with another sensor on that panel, and when I hooked it back up on this system which is ultimately headed to calmed down some and I thought I was going to be able to fine tune the programmable outputs to something usable.

Now I don't know, and I only have about 48 hours to get things straightened out.

Stuff like this drives me crazy, but if I'm an expert at anything in life it's being guilty of severe but somehow well intended procrastination...just ask my family and friends and ex-wives/girlfriends.

I tend to get ahead on a project and get all pompous and confident, and then I end up fooling around doing other non essential crap and wake up in the end running in circles screaming like my head is on fire.

Thus, today and tomorrow are going to be days of that sort, so if you don't hear from me just go outside and look on the horizon toward Knoxville, Tennessee...or possibly watch the Weather Channel or Fox NEWS and see if there is some instance of some middle aged guy spontaneously bursting into flame.

Why do I continue to do this to myself???

I'm supposed to be lounging around getting ready to cook massive quantities of know?

OK, time for another nap now because I have to get going before 10 AM if I'm going to get help from the IR sensor customer support people and not risk bursting a blood vessel in the process.

Regards Y'all...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

We Might All Be Going To Hell In A Basket...

But At Least I'M Enjoying The Ride!!!

First of all...let me offer a hearty "I told you so"...

I direct that commentary toward those of you who read my blog posting from EARLY Saturday morning and then ended up wincing your way along with me through the mindless, never ending, meaningless coverage of the the Chilean earthquake and "potential Tsunamis" on every TV channel including CNN and FOX News yesterday.

By 8 AM Saturday morning anyone with any sense knew that the Tsunami threat was pretty much over based on what happened on the northern coasts of South and Central America and the Mexican Baja Pensula, but the "TV News Networks" insisted on holding out...praying for a disaster...and televising a mind numbing, second by second, "live-on-the-scene" report from Hawaii of people standing around babbling and waiting for a four foot wave to arrive on the scene.

I'd rather spend my time watching important things like paint drying and Pizza dough rising...

and I, personally, am ready to buy an expensive ticket, go get on an airplane and set about to find Hernando Revolver Geraldo Riveria and sneak up on him and strangle him to death with his own microphone cord.

There's probably a Nobel Prize or an Emmy or some kind of award available for anyone that can save the TV viewing public from the guy...

I'm sorry folks, but that SOB gets on my last nerve every time I see his stupid moustached face on TV because he just can't freakin' shut up after telling you what has or will happen on/in any given "news story."

Gretta Van Sustren runs a close second yapping away about Natalie Holloway and the other "missing/murdered/abused woman/child du joure" but I respect women enough to not threaten to lay a hand on her although I could find myself yelling at her to give the story a rest every now and then.

You know?

But Hernando Geraldo is different...

the man just bothers me with his style including things like the famous empty Al Capone's vault episode back in 1986:

So any way, I'm having a hard time staying focused this morning, having basically wasted Saturday doing nothing but going last minute grocery shopping for things we need to drag with us down to the Chili cookoff this week (check out Goya Recaito Cilantro Cooking Base) and cooking a giant portion of my soon to be internationally famous Horseradish crusted pork tenderloin for dinner with our neighbors.

On the professional front, the good news is that I got the HP laptop fired back up with the arrival of a new AC adapter via Fed Ex this morning, so I'm back in the PLC programming business in time to meet the deadline. Unfortunately now the battery has also been proven to be a casualty of the AC supply malfunction also but I can live without it for the time being and as long as I have 110 power my life will go on uninterrupted.

All that said, I absolutely have to get my head focused on finishing the Phase II PLC programming and build another four pneumatic valves...preferably today and Monday, because I don't want to be answering the phone and worrying about that kind of stuff while out of town trying to cook Chili and sit around the pool and on the beach.

It's tough being me, but I made my bed...and I guess I have to lie in it now...