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My Grandfather's watch This picture is of Anthony (Tony) Basso my Grandfather. Unfortunately, I can't remember too much about him on a first hand basis.
Is Twitter a Dirty Bird ? The first time I heard about Twitter I thought it was a stupid idea for stupid people.
The Lake One of the smartest things I have ever done in my entire life was to buy the house I have lived in for many years.   When I first bought the house it was too small for my wife and two sons.

Pasta and BBQ

Some of my relatives came directly from Italy so I should have known a lot about pasta. However, the fact is I just didn't know good pasta from bad pasta. So a little bit ago I started doing some research on pasta. In learned that the best pasta is made from the best grade of stone-ground duram flour from hard winter wheat and pure spring water. In Italy, spaghetti is generally cooked al dente, just fully cooked and still firm. I also learned that pasta needs to be air dried for a long time. Also in Italy the best pasta is extruded from brass dies that gives it unique properties.

So armed with that knowledge I started looking for a really good grade of pasta. I found it on amazon.com and bought some. It seems that they only sell the best in quantities of about four one pound package at time. So ,after two purchases I had eight pounds of pasta. My wife thought that was a bit too much but I assured her that dried pasta is good survival food and she knows that I am stock piling survival food and other items. We immediately found that buying this pasta was a good move. We both agreed that it was really good and we didn't want to eat any other brand except "Rustichella" brand in the future.

So we have been eating more meals centered around pasta. We have been trying different dishes like pasta salad, pasta with meat sauce and others. This week I decided that a great meal would be linguine, drizzled with olive oil, a bit of garlic fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and smoked ham. I shredded the ham and chopped it into about one inch pieces. Then I sprinkled the smoked ham on top of the pasta. I didn't use much smoked ham maybe two or three ounces for the two of us. I added bit of ground black pepper and a little Fleur de sol sea salt. I wish I had a picture to show you but it was so good we at it all. So guess what I am having next week. The same thing only this time I will use some smoked brisket and then some pulled pork.

Now if you try this be sure to use really good pasta and don't cook it to much, follow the directions on the package. It really makes a big difference.


Fire Stuff


Swedish Firesteel - Army Model

Amazon.com Product Description

Originally developed for the Swedish Department of Defense, the FireSteel is a flash of genius. The FireSteel is intended to replace matchbooks, lighters, and other fire starters, providing a 3,000-degree C (5,432-degree F) spark that makes it easy to build fires in any weather, at any altitude. The FireSteel is a breeze to use: just pile up a small quantity of dry grass, paper, or other flammable material, and then force the included striker down the FireSteel. The resulting spark will create a fire even when wet, letting you light campfires, stoves, and gas barbecues at a moment's notice. Used by a number of armies around the world, the FireSteel's dependability has already made it a favorite of survival experts, hunters, fishermen, and campers. It's also found its way into cabins and backyards as a foolproof fire-starting tool for tough conditions. You can even use the bright spark as an emergency signal.

This Army version of the FireSteel, which comes in several handle colors, is designed to last for 12,000 strikes and is approved by the International Survival Instructors Association.

They really work and everyone should have one.  

Light My Fire TinderSticks

Fire building made easy, the pure and natural way. Don't build your fire with noxious fumes or harmful chemicals. Use the time-honored, organic method. A technique that resembles the centuries-old art of the native fire-builder. From the heart of the ancient Mayan Empire comes the remarkable product known as TinderDust. TinderDust is made from Pino de Ocote, a fatwood pine cultivated in the highlands of Guatemala and Mexico. With the 80% resin content, TinderDust is easy to light, and produces an extremely hot flame. Use just a pinch to quickly light your fire.


How I saved some money on my cell phone bill

The headline indicates, that I'm going to tell you how to save money on your cell phone bill.  I'm going to do that, but I have to tell you about some changes I had to make to get there.  First I have to explain the situation I found myself in, that allowed me to save money on my cell phone bill.  I run an Internet business.  I do a lot of things on the Internet  I work a lot of hours every day and I have a lot of Internet projects going on all the time.  I work in my in home office with five computers and I keep them busy most all day long.  I work well into the night many days.  So my Internet connection has to be rock solid.  My main  Internet connection is through Comcast.  I chose them because they have a very fast connection and for an additional ten dollars I was able to bump speed up even more.  Speed is important to me because time is money and I don't want to waste any of it.  As good as Comcast has been, at times, the network goes down sometimes.  Most of my outage problems, with Comcast, occur late at night and that's some of my most productive time of the of the day.  So to keep my blood pressure under control and get a lot of work done I have to have a backup Internet provider.  

My backup Internet provider used to be with AT&T and it was a DSL connection.  It was relatively slow because I did not want spend a lot of money for just a backup.  Recently I discovered another Internet company called Clear Network and after investigating it I decide to go with Clear instead of AT&T.  I was paying $40 a month for the AT&T DSL service.   So, I moved to Clear, which cost me $60 per month.  At this point it sounds like I'm not saving any money but spending more money.  I also needed an Internet connection for my laptop when I leave my office.  With Clear I was able to get a modem that works in my home plus a mobile hotspot, in the same deal, to use when I'm away from home.  When I changed to Clear as my Internet provider I also received a bump up in speed of nearly 5 times over the old DSL connection. 

Next, I took a look at my six year old routers and the wired connections in my office.  My old routers were wired only routers which worked OK in my office but I wanted some wireless connections.  So, I bought a couple of new Netgear wireless routers from Amazon and at the same time I replaced my cables with new higher speed Cat 6 cables.  Now I have routers that are capable of producing either wired or wireless connections.  After a bit of experimenting I soon found the wired connections were going to give me the fastest connections possible.  Now, it is not unusual for me get Comcast wired connections of 35 M/bs and better, so I use them on my main work computers.  The wireless connections from the same routers are given me about 10 or 15 M/bs.  As a result of changes I now have much faster Internet connections in addition to having the mobile hotspot for $20 a month more than I was spending on the DSL service.

The next thing I did was to take a look at my cell phone.  My cell phone is a Samsung Vibrant with T-Mobile.  I did have an unlimited Internet package on that phone that was costing me $30 per month.  I now have started using Wi-Fi on the cell phone, while in my office and the mobile hot spot while away.  So, I dropped the unlimited T-Mobile connection and use the much faster Wi-Fi services.  The mobile hotspot allows me to hook up several devices at the same time, and that's good because I am planning on buying a Wi-Fi only I Pad or Android Tablet sometime this year.  In addition to that I've started using Wi-Fi only on my Kindle reader and again I'm getting the benefit of faster downloads and that makes me happy.  So take a look at where your spending your money and you can probably save some cash.

If you don't have a mobile hotspot you still should look at using all the Wi-Fi you possibly can.  Turn Wi-Fi on when you're in your home and set up any other Wi-Fi connections you might encounter during your day.  Android 2.2 will automatically pick up the Wi-Fi connection that is strongest wherever you go, if you have selected Wi-Fi from the settings menu.  Then if you run out of the Wi-Fi connections completely it will then switch to your cell phone carrier Internet connection.  To set up Wi-Fi on your phone all you need to do is click on Settings, then Wireless Network, and then Wi-Fi settings.  Once  you have the Wi-Fi settings open make sure that Wi-Fi is checked and network notification is checked.

Next you should install another app on your phone to check the speed of your Internet connection.  I use an app from speedtest.net and it works just fine.  So, what you do is you open this up and you run a test of your cell phones connection Internet connection and see how fast its operating.  Then turn Wi-Fi on and run another test to see what how fast your Wi-Fi connection is.  I think that if you do this you'll sfind that the your Wi-Fi connections are going to be running something like three or four times faster than your cell phones Internet connection through your cell phone carrier.

So just remember to turn Wi-Fi on all the time and leave it that way, if you're using android 2.2.  I also suggested to turn GPS on all time.  The GPS will automatically shut off when you're not using an application that requires GPS.  After you've done all this keep track of how much bandwidth you're using for a month when leaving Wi-Fi turned on as much is possible.  Then check with your cell phone carrier and see if you can reduce your data plan and save some money.


Professional BBQ Judges?

About seven years ago while talking to an official of the Kansas City Barbeque Society I said that someday KCBS would need professional judges for their contests.  After hearing me say this he said "it will never happen."  The growth of prize money at contests had prompted my comment.  As the prize money has continued to grow, it’s just a matter time before the judging comes under more and more scrutiny.  I think the sponsors of these contests will require that the judging be beyond reproach.  Also contestants will want and demand the best judging possible because of the large cash payouts for the winners of the contests. 

Now don't get me wrong, I think KCBS is doing a good job training judges, but from the input I am hearing it could be better.  The certified judging program that KCBS has put together seems to be very good, but there are occasional problems.  One of the main comments I am hearing is judges need to be held more accountable for their scoring. In addition I think were already at the point where things like celebrity judges, and pulling people off the street to judge is not going to be good enough.  I don't pretend to know all the answers and have all the answers.  I wrote this because I thought it was the proper time to start thinking about actions to prevent trouble in the future.  A recent poll that we ran on The BBQ Forum indicated that a lot of people felt some of the judging certainly could be better.

Judging barbecue contest can never be perfect because it is being done by people and people are imperfect.  Anyone who has ever watched a pro football game knows that their judges make mistakes and they are the "best of the best."  However, the competency level of the professional football judges is good enough, coupled with instant replay to allow them to get by.  It seems to me that barbecue judging problems could possibly be mitigated with a very high number of well trained judges at the contests.   The "targeted percentage" of certified judges at each contest could be set with the aim of increasing this percentage each year. 

If judges were compensated then there would be more control on them.  If there was an organization that was set up just to provide professional judges at contests, I think it would be a good thing.  I would consider a professional judge to be someone that was highly skilled and is being compensated for their efforts.  If judges are compensated for their efforts then there would be certain standards that they could be held to, but that's difficult to do if they're not getting paid.  For example someone should tracking the performance of all the judging results and compare them to the results of their peers in past contests.  If this review process revealed that a judge was grading far differently than everybody else you could set that person down and have a conversation with them.  There needs to be some control over the judge that consistency scores lower or higher than other judges. These are just examples of controls that probably should be looked at and I am sure there are others.

Just the increased presence of highly qualified professional judges would be a good influence on the judges that are not as qualified.  An example of this, while different, was apparent at the last Pitmasters cable television series.  This series featured three judges; one highly trained knowable person, a football player and a chef that knew a lot about cooking but apparently not that much about barbecue.  The knowable one, Myron Mixon had a noticeable effect on the comments of the other two.  This effect would also be seen in situations where there were a large number of professionals on a smaller group of lesser qualified judges.  Contest promoters could lend credibility to their events by making know the percentage of professional judges that will be at their contests.

I understand that there probably are not sufficient funds to support something like professional judges at the present time.  I have been told that sanctioning contests and judging is not a big profit center, but it could be.   What if sanctioning contests and providing judges was spun off from KCBS as a for profit corporation?  Properly managed by the right people I bet this could be turned into a profitable venture that would be good for all concerned.   Over the years there have been proponents of making KCBS a for profit organization.  I understand the reluctance of some to this "for profit" idea.  But even the "neigh-sawyers" would have to admit that the organization could be run more efficiently as a corporation.  I believe it is possible for a non-profit organization to spin off for profit ventures.

Anyway these ramblings of mine have probably placed me "in way over my head."  I probably don't know what I am taking about but this has been rattling around in my head for years and I just wanted to throw it out there for discussion. If nothing else I hope this serves as a start for discussion and eventual improvements in the judging system.  It's time for reformation in a system where sometimes people feel that it is a "crap shoot" as to who wins a contest.

Ray Basso


Why I started the Ray's Comments web page

Why would I build a web site that it entitled "Ray's Sometimes Controversial Comments?"  Well, I have wanted to do it for several years and I finally decided the time was right so here it is.   Actually I started this web site in the year 2000 as a place on The BBQ Forum where I could say some of the thing I wanted to say.  

I am and have been, the creator/moderator of The BBQ Forum, since 1995, the first and largest forum on the Internet about barbecue.  As moderator I have always felt the I should remain in the background of the BBQ Forum.  I never have thought that I should post a lot of messages to the forum and try to influence the content with my posts.  I have always felt like I should just steer the forum and let the people who post on the forum decided the direction of the forum.  There have been almost 800,000 messages posted to the forum and I have been kind of quiet.  As a result I have been a bit frustrated because in reality I am quite an out spoken person.

Around the year 2000 I wrote a few articles that were linked to the BBQ Forum.  A lot of people told me that the articles were interesting and that made me feel good.  However, I soon became so busy that I had no time to write and so I discontinued the "Ray's Comments" section.  So now nine years later I have decided to resurrect the the comments in the form of this web page.  I am busier then I was when I stopped writing the comments, but I think and write a lot faster than I did back then.  Maybe the fact that I quit drinking several years ago has something to do with my "enhanced writing skills."  In the future I plan to write my comments and views on many subjects and publish them here on this web page.  Now I must warn everyone that reads these comments that you might not like what you see written here at times.  I plan to say what I feel (with some constraints) about a lot things.

I only hope that I am up the the challenge that I have given myself by starting all of this.  I hope to entertain you and stimulate you and to expand your views and knowledge on the subjects that are of interest to me.  In return I hope to grow with the feedback I receive from you there readers of my ramblings.  I hope that I don't "come-off" and an all knowing smart ass.  I will do my best to entertain you.


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