Hot Pepper Action (2008 Garden Update #6)

Hello gardeners and hot pepper fans. It’s time for the sixth update for the 2008 garden season.

When I posted Garden Update #5, we had just about completed the final transplant for most of the peppers, going from cell packs to styrofoam cups to 7-inch pots, and finally landing in assorted 5 to 7 gallon pots.

It has been about six weeks since then, and everything is going very well. Vigorous growth continues on most of the plants, bacterial spot has been kept mostly at bay, and insect pests are almost non-existent.

And man oh man have we already harvested a ton of peppers! We’ve given them to three of our neighbors, the owner of a local restaurant where we eat, and all of Jaime’s coworkers. We had a hot pepper taste test with my my nieces and nephew (age 8,9,10– and they all loved the peppers, the hotter the better). We’ve cooked a ton of hot food, and we’ve made some tabasco-style hot sauce (only 10x hotter).

Time for the photos.

First up, my makeshift drying station. Yeah, yeah, it’s a card table and a black trash bag. But hey, it’s going to be 101 today. It seems like a good time as any to start drying the paprika peppers, and the other peppers we harvested over the weekend. Since we harvested these a few days ago, I can’t send them out to friends because they would be rotten by the time they arrived. I can’t stand to let my peppers rot in the kitchen, so time to dry.

Working from top to bottom, left to right:

Hungarian Sweet Paprika (2 rows)
Spicy Mustard Habanero (far right)
Tabasco Pepper
Thai Chili
Long Red Slim Cayenne
Grocery store variety (but homegrown) Scotch Bonnet
Hot Paprika

Once the Paprika peppers are dry, I plan on smoking half of them before grinding, leaving me with hot paprika, sweet paprika, smoked hot paprika, and smoked sweet paprika. Mmmmmmm…!

These next two shots are of the main pepper rows, one from each end:

White Habanero:

Spicy Mustard Habanero:

Caribbean Red Habanero:

I had some shots of the fluorescent purple pepper, but they didn’t turn out too well, as were the pictures of my medusa pepper. I’ll get some new shots soon.

And by the way, if my pepper plants look wet in those pictures, that is because I had just completed my weekly spraying. I’ve made my own special spray that I’m trying out. 2 tablespoons liquid copper as an anti-fungal, 2 tablespoons paraffin oil as a pesticide, and 2 tablespoons fish emulsion as a foliar fertilizer to one gallon of water.

And by the way, if you’re interested in my soil mix, I ended up settling on:

5 gallons potting mix (Miracle Grow or Sta-Green)
1 gallon perilite
2 tablespoons controlled release fertilizer with micro-nutrients
2 tablespoons bone meal (for calcium and phosphorous).

That’s all for now. Update #7 coming in the semi-near future!

HEALTHY LIFE! HAPPY LIFE!

A couple of weeks ago, Jaime and I stopped at a dollar store that was in the process of going out of business. They had slashed prices and were now a half-dollar store.

We bought one of the items shown below. They’re sink screen, and we’re using the larger one in our claw foot cast iron bathtub to prevent hair from clogging the drain.

The packaging on this is classic lost-in-translation:


(Click to Enlarge)

HEALTHY LIFE! HAPPY LIFE! will take your health responsibility by the superlative quality

Well thank goodness– I’ve always wanted to take my health responsibility to the superlative quality, and this seems like just the product to do it!

Haha!

Only in Georgia

Get this.

We bought a brand new car, as you already know if you read my blog. We bought the car down in Jacksonville, mainly because we had a straight-forward salesman (Bobby Mitchell from Hyundai of North Jacksonville) and because the dealership had a huge selection of Elantras.

When we bought the car, we were told to wait a week or two before we headed to the DMV to get our license plate. I waited… uhh… 29 days. My temporary tag was to expire after tomorrow.

I went to the DMV today to get my plate transferred to the new car, and the title information has not yet been sent to the State of Georgia. Fine, no biggie. I suppose I can understand the delay when a Florida dealership is sending tax money (determined by county) and title information to a different state.

So I hand over my Florida temporary tag to the nice lady at the DMV, and she exchanges it for a Georgia temporary tag that is good for 30 days.

Now here’s the funny part.

The Georgia temporary tag is basically made out of the same material as a manilla folder– that card-stock like material that is a quite a bit thicker than normal paper, but not sealed in any form or fashion.

The lady at the DMV says something like, “Now, Georgia law requires that you put this on the back of the car where the license plate belongs, and not in the window. Since it’s made of paper, it will get ruined if it rains. You probably want to go to Kinkos and get it laminated.”

Whaaaaa…?!?! You mean to tell me that either some genius in the state legislature or some bureaucrat, or some combination of both, have mandated temporary tags that absorb water must be displayed on the outside of the car, exposed to the rain…?

Unbelievable. Believable.

My Last Breyers Brand Ice Cream Cone

Well, I just ate my last Breyers brand ice cream cone. I have no intentions of purchasing their ice cream again at any point in the future.

See, back in 2006, Breyers was acquired by Unilever, the same company that owns Ben & Jerry’s, Klondike bars, and the Fudgsicle and Popsicle brands.

A couple years back I noticed that my favorite Breyers flavor– coffee– had changed. I had been eating it as long as I could remember, and for some reason it seemed different. Unconsciously, I stopped buying it. I didn’t know exactly what was different about it, but to me it seemed as though it was more ice milk than ice cream. The creaminess was gone, and the flavor was off. I figured that they had started whipping more air into the product (I’m not going to call it ice cream), and that accounted for the change in texture and flavor.

Well, the other day, Jaime and I picked up a half gallon of Breyers, which in actuality is 25% less than a half gallon, coming in at 1.5 quarts by volume. I say by volume because they certainly are whipping much, much more air into the product than they used to. It’s pretty obvious– if you put your lips up to a cone and breath in, well… you can breath in. It’s definitely much, much more airy than it has ever been.

She hands me my cone the other day and says, “I had a hard time scooping it. It wouldn’t come out of the scoop like it normally does.” Now, when Jaime says that, I believe her. She worked at Baskin-Robbins for a while when she was in college, and I am absolutely certain she knows how to properly scoop ice cream.

So I scooped up a cone last night, and noticed the same thing. Granted, I’ve never scooped ice cream professionally, but I’m pretty sure I know how to ball up a scoop of ice cream. I’ve got lots of experience. When you scoop Breyers, it just doesn’t form into a nice ball like real ice cream should. It kind of flakes away and shreds up as you scoop, and getting it to take on any shape is virtually impossible.

As I walked upstairs with my cone last night, the Breyers had chunks fall off the cone four times. I had to stop, head back to the kitchen, get a paper towel, and clean the floor as I walked. Something was definitely wrong.

I ended up doing some research. At some point, Breyers changed their recipe from the standard ingredients. Instead of being pure, clean ice cream consisting of cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla, Breyers now adds something that they call “tara gum” to their product. Tara Gum, it turns out, is actually a product formulated from Caesalpinia Spinosa, which is some sort of tree or shrub. Either way, tara gum is not cream, it is not sugar, and it is not flavor; it has no business being in ice cream.

I did a search for something like Breyers doesn’t scoop and ended up at this page, a post from a site called A Daily Scoop. The post details the addition of tara gum and the company’s supposed reason for adding tara gum, and has a couple hundred comments from people who have no intentions upon purchasing Breyers again. If you are (were) a Breyer’s fan, it is definitely worth a skim.

Breyers says that the reason they added tara gum is that during shipment, ice cream that dips below the appropriate temperature and then is subsequently refrozen has a poorer texture. They say that they reformulated their recipes due to customer complaints. Well, the logical solution in that situation is to not let a dairy product such as ice cream get to a temperature that does not maintain its state of frozenness. Instead, though, Breyers has added tara gum instead of making sure their products are properly handled during transport. Likewise, my bet is that tara gum is cheaper than cream, and allows them to whip even more air into their product, thereby charging us for more air than cream.

I went over to as site run by Breyers, Ice Cream USA, and read the FAQ. I was always under the impression that FAQ stood for Frequently Asked Questions, but I can only deduce– from the number of comments on A Daily Scoop– that Breyers FAQ is actually Frequently Answered Questions. There is no mention of tara gum in their FAQ, no mention of the change in texture, and no mention of why the ice cream just doesn’t taste like it used to taste. Obviously, this question has been asked of them time and time again, yet it doesn’t make it to their FAQ.

Anyway, I’m not buying Breyers anymore. The flavor is different. The texture is different. It is just not right, at least according to my memory.

So what ice cream can I buy? None.

I can’t buy Ben & Jerrys ice cream because they’re owned by the same company, their products are way overpriced, their ice cream is loaded with too much crap like candy, swirls, and other kid-only ingredients, and I personally just don’t like their founders’ politics.

I can’t buy Häagen-Dazs, and it has nothing to do with their ice cream. A couple of years ago, I signed up for a coupon for a free container of their product. Like most free offers, I signed up using an email address that I could trace back if I were to receive spam on the account. To this day, I still receive email to haagen-dazs at mydomain.com. They obviously sold my email address, or had their mailing list servers compromised. I contacted them and they not only denied that they sold my information or had some sort of a security breach, but they denied they ever even offered a coupon! Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiight– a spammer just happened to make up the email address haagen-dazs. Pfft.

So, I’m planning on buying an ice cream maker. I’m not really interested in one of the makers that require you to freeze a container for hours on end. Those manufacturers of those machines don’t tell you that most residential freezers have to be set as low as possible, and likely can’t even get cold enough to properly freeze ice cream. Likewise, I’m not interested in some sort of salt-and-ice combo just to make some ice cream.

Here’s what I want: Cuisinart ICE-50BC Supreme Ice Cream Maker. Plug it in, add your ingredients, and turn it on. Once it’s soft serve, pop it in the freezer until it’s rock hard (that’s how I like my ice cream).

Either that or I’m going to have The Plush Horse pack some ice cream in dry ice and FedEx it to me.

I haven’t decided. But Breyers is definitely out for me, and if you like your ice cream to actually resemble ice cream, it should be out for you too.

2008 Presidential Debates: McCain vs. Obama

I’ve setup a page with information regarding the 2008 presidential debates between John McCain and Barack Obama. If you’re interested in finding more information about the debates, check it out:

Presidential-Debates-2008.com

The page is still in active development. Here is the current to-do list:

  • Fix navigation in IE6. Test(/fix) in IE7.
  • Restyle top table on opening page for easier reading.
  • Incorporate topics from AmericasDebate.com’s Election 2008 forum.
  • Add more comparison links.
  • Add to FAQ as necessary.
  • Further cross-promote America’s Debate, America’s Debate Radio, and the America’s Debate Chat Room.

You can also access the page by going to Obama-McCain-Debate.com and… uhh… since the Democrats had a hard time picking their candidate, Clinton-McCain-Debate.com. They’ll be forwarded over shortly.

I would really appreciate it if you could link to the site. Here’s some code you can use, or feel free to make your own:

<a href=”http://www.presidential-debates-2008.com” name=”Obama vs. McCain: 2008 Presidential Debate Information” title=”Obama vs. McCain: 2008 Presidential Debate Information”>Obama vs. McCain: 2008 Presidential Debate Information</a>

The link will appear like this:

Obama vs. McCain: 2008 Presidential Debate Information

And if you just want to link to the site without all the extra text, you can use:

<a href=”http://www.presidential-debates-2008.com” name=”Obama vs. McCain: 2008 Presidential Debate Information” title=”Obama vs. McCain: 2008 Presidential Debate Information”>Presidential-Debates-2008.com</a>

…and it will appear like this:

Presidential-Debates-2008.com

As American as Baseball and Balut Pie

Major League Baseball had this promotion wherein if you voted in the All-star game final vote, you would receive MLB.TV for free for seven days. MLB.TV allows you to watch pretty much every game, with the exception of games blocked by blackout restrictions.

So I voted the maximum number of times, even though their system didn’t tell me when I hit the limit. I counted, though– I voted 50+ times, and 25 was the max. I voted for Jermain Dye, who deserved to win but was bested by some freaking rookie.

Anyway, I received my email for the week-long MLB.TV promotion, and it had a link to click to activate the promotion. I clicked the link, and the page read: The redemption code you provided has already been used. Please verify and try again.

Odd. That was the first time I clicked the link. I tried playing the game, and it wouldn’t work. It was asking me to start a paid subscription.

So, then I thought that maybe the problem was that the email address I used was a disposable-type address (allstarvoting@mydomain.com), but my account was my generic info@mydomain.com. I created a new account for the allstarvoting address, clicked the link again, and tried to play the White Sox game. Nope, no go.

I tracked down the support phone number, buried in the website, and gave them a call. I held for 30 minutes before my call was answered. I knew they were getting slammed over this promotion.

Now, here’s the part that inspired the title. We all have heard the cliché. It’s as American as baseball and apple pie. Well, apparently the MLB needs a reminder of that phrase.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed to find out that MLB has outsourced their customer service, but I would also be lying if I said I was surprised. It’s got to be hard to make ends meet for the MLB. They only make what… $25 minimum for a nosebleed seat at a taxpayer-subsidised stadium? They only charge what… $5 for a bottle of water, $6 for nachos, and $7 for a beer. I can see how they can’t afford to pay minimum-wage Americans to answer their phones, particularly when you consider the notoriously low salaries of the massively underpaid players.

Sarcasm, obviously. My meter is off the charts.

I mean, come on– the people whose organization consists of the American League and the National League certainly can’t be expected to employ Americans in the nation of America.

I ended up getting nowhere in my call, being told that I would have to check every 30 minutes to see if the video started working, or as an alternative I could check back in 24 hours. Good solution.

As the call wrapped up, I asked the guy to whom I was speaking where he was located. He hesitated, and reluctantly stated “the Philippines.”

Yeah. The MLB: As American as baseball and balut pie.

What a shame, what a shame. I’ll never, ever pay for MLB.TV so long as their call center is outside America. Hell, Canada would even be acceptable to me. But the Philippines?

I. Don’t. Think. So.

Congressman John Barrow Sucks

EDIT: So, my it turns out that my voting numbers were based on “test data” that was not marked as such. Grrr. Oh well, Barrow still sucks.

So I’m stuck being in John Barrow’s “district.” I put it in quotes because Congressman Barrow was originally elected as my representative when his home was actually located in the district. Unfortunately for him (and us), our district was redrawn.

So in 2006, Barrow had the option, from what I understand, of either remaining in his home and running without the benefit of incumbency, or moving in order to remain in the district to which he was elected to represent and take advantage of his incumbency.

Obviously, he chose to turn his back on where he actually resided and instead chose to exploit the power of being an incumbent, even if it meant having to move his home.

Well, he’s running for re-election. He’s obviously worried. Very worried. If early voting in Savannah is any indication, he won’t make it to the general election on the Democratic ticket. He’s losing to Savannahian Regina Thomas by a 2-1 margin in the Democratic primary.

Well, Barrow is currently and repeatedly shooting himself in the foot, and when you shoot yourself in the foot, it hurts.

He has a group of telemarketers– I’m not sure if they’re an outside firm or campaign volunteers– calling the residents of Savannah to convice them to vote for Barrow in the primary. Here’s how his callers appear on my caller ID:

Unknown Name
000-0000

First call, yesterday at 2:45PM. I didn’t answer.

Second call, yesterday at 4:16PM. I answered, and politely informed the caller that I didn’t like the fact that they spoofed caller ID data while calling constituents, and asked that they not call again.

Third call, today at 5:55PM, while I was eating dinner. I answered, “Is the the John Barrow campaign?” The caller was stunned. She said nothing. I asked, “Who is this?” She said, “I’m calling from the campaign to re-elect Congressman John Barrow…” I cut her off.

I informed her that I did not appreciate that they were fraudulently spoofing caller ID data, didn’t appreciate that they called me again after I asked them not to call again, and informed them that legislation has already passed the House outlawing caller ID spoofing with intent to defraud or cause harm (HR251, June 12, 2007, Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007). If the house actually had a recorded vote, my bet is that Barrow voted for the bill, but the ever-transparent and practically-zero-approval-rating Congress did a “voice vote,” where members’ votes are not recorded or available to their constituents.

Was I defrauded or caused harm? Well, it took my time to answer the call again. My dinner got cold. I had to go through the stress of informing my congressman’s campaign that they were being dishonest. Am I nitpicking? You bet. But the fact is that levels of “harm” are not differentiated in the bill. Causing me to, for example, have to pay 1/1,000,000 of a cent extra on my electric bill to charge my cordless phone after Barrow’s three calls is harm, just as much as if he were to come burn my house down. Harm is harm, and the bill fails to differentiate levels of harm.

So, Congressman Barrow, if you want my vote, and if you want to fight the stereotype of dishonest politicians, I recommend that you behave and conduct your campaing in the most honest possible fashion. And that includes making sure that people who work on your behalf are 100% honest as well.

Oh, and by the way, I’m on the do not call list. How nice that Congress exempted them from that law.

Since when is not attending a sporting event an affront to an entire nation?

So our future most recent ex-president has decided to go to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

He is quoted in numerous news articles as saying that if he were to miss the opening ceremony, it “would be an affront to the Chinese people.”

I want to point out that according to both Jaime‘s and my research, Bush did not attend the opening ceremony for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Likewise, Bush did not attend the opening ceremony for the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

Was his lack of attendance at either the 2004 or 2006 Olympics an affront to the Greek or Italian people?

No. It was not.

Earth to President Bush: Nobody freaking cares where you go. Barring one final executive power grab– which I wouldn’t rule out just yet, alleged war on terror and all– President Bush has less than 200 days left before he, as I said earlier, becomes our most recent ex-president.

Likewise, numerous sources quote Bush as saying that his absence at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games would make it “more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership.” I fully understand that Bush needs as much help as he can get in his attempts to speak frankly with anyone, let alone the Chinese government.

I am yet to see, however, any evidence that Bush will attempt to conduct anything that resembles open and/or direct discussions with the Chinese government. He’s had seven years to initiate these frank discussions, and hasn’t acted. What are the odds he’ll initiate these frank discussions with the Chinese government before he declares “let’s roll” to the Texas-bound parade of moving vans parked in security zone in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

My bet? Slim to none.

I wish he would just be frank with us, the American people, for once. It would be amazing if he came out and said he wants to go to the Olympics because he knows his term is coming to its close, he won’t have free access to his own taxpayer-funded jet come 2009, and, once he leaves office, he won’t be able to launch a war against China if they decided to ban him from China.

Georgia Power Sucks Sucks Sucks!

Yeah, that’s right. 3 Sucks. And that’s letting them off light.

Several years back, Georgia Power took over Savannah Electric, and since then, prices have been steadily increasing while quality of service has been in rapid decline.

Earlier today, July 5, my power went out. It also went out on July 3. It also went out on July 2. It also went out on July 1. It also went out June 30.

That means that so far in July, it has gone out four out of five days, and it has gone out five of the last six days.

I’ve checked with my neighbors, and their power has gone out as well, so it’s not just me– it’s everyone in my neighborhood, or at least on my block.

Every time the power goes out, I have to go around and reset clocks. Lots of them. Fridge, coffee maker, radios, etc. It’s a real pain in the butt. Every time the power goes out and comes back on, it puts extra and unnecessary strain on my home electronics, causing all my computers to forcefully shut down and then power back on when the restored power surges down the line. Every time the power goes out, my house heats up very, very fast, and my air conditioning has to work extra hard and extra long to return my house to the pre-power-loss temperature. Every time my power goes out, my freezer stops making ice, my fridge cools, and my food starts to spoil.

It doesn’t make sense that the power went out in the last five out of six days. The temperature and humidity, in Savannah terms, has been low. 90 degree days, 80 degree humidity. We’ve only had one storm. At the end of June, we had a good week-long run where it was in the high 90s, and we didn’t experience a single outage.

Beyond that, Georgia Power has this crazy graduated billing wherein during the summer months, they nearly double the price once you meet a certain threshold (very easy to do in a big old inefficient house like ours and all our neighbors’ and, well, just about all of our Established-In-1733 city).

Furthering the suckedness that is Georgia Power is their bills. Their bills are miserably inadequate at best. Basically, the bill consists of four line items:

  • Current Service- The amount due for the actual power used (although this is very, very misleading, and fails to include hidden fees– one of which happens to be 46.5% of the actual energy cost).
  • Environmental Compliance Cost – A tariff implemented to allow for recovery of costs related to environmental controls mandated by state and federal regulations. This charge is 6.1246% of the “Base Charge” ($7.50/month for the pleasure of doing business) + Current Service + DSM charge (Demand Side Management Residential Rider– whatever the hell that is)
  • Franchise Fee – Compensation paid, apparently for the city of Savannah, for utility companies’ use of city property and right of way. 2.5084% of the total revenue.
  • Sales Tax – We all know what this is. But the nice part is that we pay sales tax on the Environmental Compliance Cost, along with the Franchise Fee. Gotta love being taxed on taxes.

On June 30, I emailed Georgia Power to ask them exactly how they come up with my bill. They told me they would get back to me within one business day. They never did. Here is my email:

Hello,

I searched all over your website and cannot find the answers to my questions. Your prompt response is appreciated in this matter.

I am trying to figure out how my bill is calculated because, according to my math and information provided by the Georgia Public Service Commission, it appears as though I am paying more anticipated.

Can you please tell me how the “Current Service” total from my bill is calculated?

Please be sure to include the Base Charge, the price amount I pay per kilowatt hour (including variable pricing due to usage levels), as well as the Demand Side Management Residential Rider amount, the Fuel Cost Rider, and any other fees or charges that impact the “Current Services” field on my bill.

Additionally, please include how the Environmental Compliance Cost is calculated, as well as the Franchise fee, and the tax rate I am being charged.

Thank you,

I have to go now, for it is raining lightly and I expect the power to go out any moment. Coming in Part II of Georgia Power Sucks, Sucks, Sucks: A detailed breakdown, the best I can, of the exorbitant fees Georgia Power includes as part of our “Current Service.”