A date and a tough brisket

On Friday night I took Elise out on a date. I woke up on Friday morning, got ready for work, kissed Elise goodbye and told her we were going out to dinner that night.

My wife loves Italian food so I planned on taking her to Vespaio. We got to the restaurant at a quarter to nine and there was a two and a half hour wait. We turned around with no back up plan. We ended up at the Tree House Italian Grill on S. Congress. Elise had the roasted pork loin and I had the veal saltimbocca. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. We should have waited until midnight to eat at Vespaio.

On Saturday we shopped for deck furniture.

I woke up early on Sunday set on smoking my first brisket. For many years I have sought true culinary enlightenment. I am a die hard Texan. I have never smoked a brisket.

I bought a small brisket the last time we went grocery shopping because the cut of meat looked so nice. It also provided me the opportunity to learn to smoke a brisket.

I did a little research last week and found what seemed like a great way to smoke meat. We don’t own an electric burner or have any spare terracotta pots so some supplies were needed.

While shopping on Saturday I looked for pots, grates and burners. I couldn’t seem to put together the smoker. We held off on shopping makeshift smoker supplies as we were deck furniture shopping. I decided to hold off on Sunday morning to get my supplies.

I woke myself early on Sunday with a vision. It wasn’t necessary to buy anything. I could make my own electric smoker. I wrapped my electric crockpot in foil and put it on the bottom of our gas grill. I ran an extension cord and plugged the crockpot in, put wood chips in crockpot, cranked it up and waited. I put the brisket in the grill and monitored the temperature with the remote thermometer that Steve and Joanne gave me for Christmas.

A few hours later, no smoke. An hour later, no smoke. My temperature was perfect but no smoke. I didn’t want to bake my brisket. If I did I would have done it in the oven and not out in the 100-degree outside heat.

My brisket needed smoke pronto. I hopped in the truck and headed to the ol’ HoPot. My plan was to buy a chiminea or a vase-like terracotta pot that would pipe smoke from its top. I would then use some sort of tubing to channel the smoke into the gas grill. I figured this would require some complex engineering, beer and duct tape.

I walked into HoPot and realized that this project would 1) be too involved 2) relatively expensive and 3) look pretty white trash. So I took the money I would have spent and put it toward a pre-assembled Char-Broil smoker. Man, that thing smokes.

Earlier that morning I rubbed the brisket with salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne, garlic, fennel, brown sugar and coffee. I was envisioning the perfect brisket.

My first smoked brisket looked great but it was tough. Now it is my goal to smoke a tender, melt-in-your mouth brisket. I’m completely open to suggestions…

Smoke ring


I hate breakfast. Back in 1996 I had an oral surgeon crack the front of my upper jaw back into place before the Novocaine set in. That was more fun than any breakfast I’ve ever had.

I’ve never been a big fan of breakfast, but now I just don’t like it. It’s not so much breakfast itself, it’s the foods that are generally involved.

I woke up this morning and started smoking a brisket. That’s why I’m wasting a post on breakfast foods – because I woke up early, cranked up some Jimi Hendrix and started toking on the Angus dooby. No, really, I have a slab of beef on the grill with a makeshift electric smoker (more on that in a later post). I decided to cook a standard American breakfast for the wife and myself: scrambled eggs, toast and bacon.

What’s with scrambled eggs? Chicken embryos that are quickly stirred into a yellow snot and heated to the point where they become a solid that have no signficant protein strands to make worthy of even chewing. And the taste – how would you describe the taste of scrambled eggs? Eggy? So we add salt and pepper so we can eat salty and peppery eggy nothingness that requires little more than a tongue and gums to pass through the food tube and into the stomach. I know there are dietary values of eggs but that’s not the point. I’m going on 30-years-old and I’m questioning the really important issues these days.

Toast? It’s really just a big crouton. Not much flavor there either if you’re using plain ol’ bread. Most people put butter on their toast. That takes so much time. And what if you just pulled a stick of butter from the freezer? How are you going to butter your toast? Now you have to chisel shards of butter into some sort of vessel so you can microwave it. You microwave your butter and now you have soup because it’s early in the morning and you don’t want to take the time to reprogram the microwave so it cooks at 24.67% power. Now you have to pour your salted milk fat soup onto your crouton so you have a soggy peice of charred bread that has the same consistency of your salty, peppery eggs.

What about jams and jellies? Some call it “preserves” – those are “preservatives” – so you have a soggy crouton with a sweet, gelatinous embalming fluid spread atop.

I cooked bacon. Now I like me some bacon. Bacon’s probably the best invention since the pig. But what is bacon? It’s pork belly. A fried-up swine’s digestive sack that’s 86.42% fat and pumped full of water, sodium nitrite and phosphates.

When I think of food, I don’t think of waffles, French toast, toast, bagels, pancakes, scones, fritters, scrambled eggs, Girl Scout cookies or Pine Sol.

For breakfast yesterday I had barbecued pulled pork butt, a beef rib and blackened chicken with a jerk barbecue sauce. Then I went outside and worked on my motorcycle. That’s breakfast in my book.

Brunch? Don’t get me started.

Deck Furniture Shopping

Elise and I spent all day shopping for deck furniture. We searched south Austin for manufacturer-direct locations with no luck. We did however witness a middle-aged woman on a pocket scooter tooling around the sidewalks. It was hilarious… I can’t put it into words, you had to have been there. Not but ten minutes later we saw a guy riding an old mountain bike while carrying a chainsaw. I kid you not. Man, this town is so awesome.

So we drove down 71 and stopped in at L&L Furniture to find patio furniture that was way out of our price range. Swivel rocker chairs were ~$500. We looked around the store and found our way out relatively quickly.

We drove down 620 and stopped in at Chair King. The prices were similar to L&L’s. Next we stopped at Sandy’s Burger Hut for two lousy, overcooked burgers. Then it was futher north up 620 and we drove by two other places that were similar in price range for furniture. We drove down 183 to 360 and stopped at the Container Store so I could get a desk drawer. No desk drawer. Nothing good from this outing thus far aside from crappy burgers.

We drove down 360 to Barton Creek Square to look for furniture at Sears. Nothing good there. Onto Garden Ridge. Nothing at the GR other than Christmas decorations. Remember, it’s August… time to start thinking about Christmas at Garden Ridge. Then to the ol’ HoPot on Brodie Ln. Nothing there. Then to Wal-Mart. We were exhausted and about ready to settle on anything at this point. Elise saw some wicker furniture that she thought she could settle on. I personally don’t like wicker. I decided that we would go back to the Chair King and pay a huge amount of money for deck furniture.

Back to the Chair King we go. Keep in mind we’ve circled the entire city of Austin in search of furniture – six hours have gone by and all we have are crappy hamburgers sitting in our stomachs. We’re at the point where we just want to buy something to make it a fruitful day out and be done with deck furniture shopping.

We get to Chair King and check everything out again. We look and look and look. I finally sit down at a display with a 72″x 42″ boat table with two high-back swivel rockers and four dining chairs. All have back and bottom cushions and they’re awesome. Price? $2,459. For patio furniture. There were some other set ups that were similar but these were, what we thought, the most comfortable. I spent a month building a deck so we could have fun with friends out in the backyard. I figured I’d make an investment in furniture as well.

We were both tired and done looking at patio furniture. I wanted to be done with this shopping outing. I have no problems spending money (luckily I married who I married) and was ready to spend $2,500 on stupid furniture that sits outside to get moldy and rot just so I could get home in time to watch Cops.

My wife said, “I’m not going to do what we did in Cabo. So, NO!”

I concurred. We walked away. I’m glad I listened to my wife.

We headed back down 620 and as a last ditch effort we stopped at the HoPot in Lakeway. We walked out to the garden section and found a display set of chairs and a rectangular table. This End of Summer sale was marked down 50%. The only problem was the set was missing one chair. So I had the HoPot kid go ask his manager if they could take $50 off the set since it was missing the one chair (yeah, me, Mr. Bargain Hunter who was about to drop $2,500 on patio furniture). The discount was approved contingent upon us taking the set tonight.

We loaded up the truck with a big, rectangular table and five fine rocker chairs for $200.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese

This is probably going to make John’s weekend and get a reaction from my mom that wouldn’t be much unlike telling her I’ve decided to become a lesbian

I think I’m going to switch. I came home this evening and turned on the PC in the office so I could print an e-mail. “Can’t access mail.janicek.com”. I checked the LAN settings. “Limited or no connectivity”.

I power cycled the modem and router. No luck. I swapped CAT5 cable. No dice. I had the iBook in the office with me so I could research my dilema. I found a couple websites that I thought might help.

So I download the Windows registry patch on the iBook, load it onto my thumbdrive (instant process) and inserted the thumbdrive into the PC to open the .reg file (not-instant process). I install the registry update and reboot the computer. I pinged Google and got a response. I opened Thunderbird and retrieved my e-mail veeerrrrry slllllllloooooowllllly. I tried to open the e-mail that I wanted to print. I think it’s still retrieving as I type (on the iBook).

For kicks and giggles I opened Firefox. I have Google.com set as my home page. Google’s header image is still trying to load. You know Google.com, that search engine website with the graphic intense 10k header image!

The Windows PC in the office is a great machine. It has a 2.8GHz Intel processor, 1GB RAM, a couple huge hard drives. Windows XP SP2 had to be installed a few times for the system to work like it should… but it’s all been a royal pain in the ass. What makes a pain in the ass royal anyway?

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many phone conversations and e-mails between my mom and I involve reinstalling XP or reformatting a drive. My mom’s a computer nerd/wiz, by the way.

So I’ve decided that I’ve done my time. I’ve built computers from the ground up. I’ve troubleshooted hardware, software and networks. I’ve collectively spent more time working on Windows-based computers that I have actually using them.

It’s true, Macs just work. (shut up John)

Without going into great detail, I can vividly remember the last September when Elise gave me the iBook. I plugged it in, turned it on and it just worked. The first thing I did was opened Safari and started surfing. I think OS X’s Network Utility popped up and asked me if I wanted to join my wireless network. Since then everything has been smooth sailing. The iBook did crash once… that was when John was doing something Super-Mac-nerdy on it.

I’ve really grown to enjoy the Mac experience since having purchased an iCurve and an Apple keyboard. I’ve never owned a notebook computer so getting 1) my first Mac and 2) my first notebook made for some frustration – primarily due to unfamiliarity with a trackpad. Now that I can use the iBook in a desktop environment the experience has been more than great.

I’ve really enjoyed having an iBook and have even been seriously considering a Bluetooth dongle mod (if that’s not a cool name for a rock band, I don’t know what is).

So what ties us to Windows? Familiarity? Market share? Compatability? Microsoft Office? I can use my Mac for anything. I bring it to the office all the time. I don’t have Quickbooks installed so I don’t do company finances, but I could. I have Microsoft Office on the iBook so I can open, edit and create anything work- or home-related.

My Fulfillment Manager asked me on Tuesday what she should purchase as far as a laptop. She said, “Josh, what kind of laptop would you buy?” I asked if it was for her. She said yes. I sold her on a new 15″ iBook. She was worried about things like Microsoft Office, e-mail, usabilty, etc. She’s going to the Barton Creek Apple store tomorrow and buying one. Her “friend” (I don’t know if he’s a boyfriend) received the advice I dispensed and researched new iBook because, so I’ve been told, he’s a computer nerd. Now he’s thinking about getting one as well.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to wait until Apple begins shipping units with Intel microprocessors and most likely get myself a nice, large iMac.

With said new iMac I’m going to use GarageBand to produce Bluetooth Dongle Mod’s first single.

Refurbished Airport Express

I bought an Airport Express almost a year ago because I’ve always liked to play music on the stereo from a computer. In the past six months the AE has been like a dog with a gimp leg – it cut out on my so much that I pretty much gave up on it. Well, the gimp-legged dog died on me while we were on vacation (when we got back I noticed that the green light wasn’t on). I took the dog to the Apple store and after a week and half, I had a refurbished Airport Express. After a quick setup using OS X’s Airport Setup Assistant I’m streaming music to the stereo again.

I’m dualy excited because now I can now run speakers out onto the deck. I almost had Elise convinced that we needed an Altec Lansing IM7. She told me to hold off to see if I could work something out by running speaker wires from the stereo in the living room out to the deck. Now that I have a rejuvinated Airport Express I can have tunes out on the deck. This weekend’s project will involve running speaker wire through the attic to the outside.

[an hour later: The AE is ‘skipping’ again. I posted a thread on MacNN’s Forum (after fabricating an aluminum foil satallite dish to bounce back cordless phone signals) to see why I can’t get constant streaming music. I hope I get a better response than this.]

Come Dell or High Water

Dell sucks

I’ve severely disliked Dell for a long time now. I don’t like Dell. I’m stuck with a Dell server and desktops at the office but I will never buy another Dell product.

We paid off all of our bills and got out of all of our lease contracts months ago. That was a joyous time – we all celebrated in that we would never have to deal with Dell again.

Today Dell called and stated that we owed them money. Dell called a month ago on an invoice for two Inspirion notebooks that we didn’t purchase.

Two laptops were fraudulently purchased on our account in early May. We disputed the charge.
Dell’s not-for-free tech support was called in the middle of May. The call today was to pay for the tech support phone call.

Dell is like a scab – it’s annoying, bleeds if you pick at it and you can never seem to get rid of it. And it tastes bad.

Slow weekend

The work week ended late on Friday after a company meeting. I left the office at 7, got home at 8, changed clothes and drove over to John & Christine’s. Christine made an enchilada casserole for dinner. John showed me his finished office in the backyard. I told John and Christine about the massage I got in Cabo San Lucas.

I woke up on Saturday and jump started the trusty Shadow from the Jeep. I unclamped the jumper cables and the Shadow just would go. It was like a sickly dog. It spat and spittered. I tried to ride it up and down the street to get it juiced to no avail.

Elise and I drove over to Kasson’s, picked up a new battery and stopped for lunch at Rosie’s Tamale House. Seeing how it was tax-free weekend we went to Academy so Elise could pick out some new tennis shoes. Seeing how I’ve tennis shoe shopped with my wife in the past and know how intense a process it is, I dropped her off at Academy and I spent an hour at CompUSA.

I called Elise to tell her I was on my way to pick her up. She had narrowed her choice down to two pairs of shoes. She made her decision shortly after I arrived to pick her up. We went home, I poured the sulfuric acid into the new motorcycle battery and realized that I didn’t have a charger.

The day went away and that evening we went to Brad and Kim’s wedding shower at Michelle’s house.

We got up on Sunday and I went over to John & Christine’s to borrow John’s battery charger. We loaded trash from John’s garage into my monster truck and we hauled it to the dumpster behind the Salvation Army.

I went home and made the mistake of letting the wife find the remote for the TV. I was subjected to two hours of a show called Bridezilla! on the Women’s Entertainment Network. I guess I could have gotten up off of the couch and done something but the cat was laying on my stomach and we were putting off going grocery shopping.

I couldn’t tolerate another episode of Bridezilla! so we went to the grocery store. Grocery shopping on Sunday is always a pain. Everybody grocery shops on Sunday and the HEB we shop is always packed.

We went home, put away groceries and I smoked a beer can chicken while Elise made a corn and basil soup.

In the nick of timeshare

Elise and I spent a week in Cabo San Lucas last month and we had an absolute blast. We had so much fun that we decided that we will one day return to Los Cabos. So much fun and a desire to return that we bought a timeshare…

You’re probably thinking, “WHAT?!?!”

Yes, we bought a timeshare. We toured a beautiful resort, were subjected to an extremely high-pressure timeshare sales pitch and were sold. We signed on the dotted line and I put a significant down payment on our credit card.

The whole process took approximately four hours. After signing our names stating that we agreed to this, that and the other, we got up from the table and started to make our way back to our hotel. We looked at each other with puzzled looks on our faces.

“Did we do the right thing?”

“Sure. I think. Yeah. I don’t know. Did we?”

We went to the presentation having promised each other that the final word would be “no”. That didn’t happen. My gut told me “no”, but I didn’t listen to my gut. Neither did Elise. Our salesperson was awesome. She got us hook, line and sinker.

I had buyer’s remorse the moment pen hit paper but the devil on my shoulder told me we could do it.

We returned to the States and reality set in. I told Elise we weren’t buying a timeshare. We discussed the issue briefly and Elise was behind me all the way. Now it was time to go to battle.

I e-mailed the customer service manager at the resort. I wrote a polite and professional claim letter stating that I wanted our down payment returned and that we wanted to cancel our contract. I stated the reasons for our decision and documented everything perfectly. It was the perfect claim letter.

Three days later I receive a response stating that according to our contract we could not get out of the timeshare. I was kind of expecting that sort of response. I was still dead-set on not paying a single red penny (or peso). I was started doing a little legal research and was psyching myself up to hire a lawyer.

I did some extensive research and came across a great article from the L.A. Times. I followed a few links and found the most helpful information at Mescam.

Luckily I was immediately proactive in the pursuit of cancelling our contract and retaining our “earnest money” when we returned home. Mexican law states that timeshare buyers have a five day “cooling off” period. During that time the customer can cancel the contract with little or no questions asked.

In the meantime there had been a few exchanges of e-mails between the timeshare resort and your humble narrator. My e-mails were very polite and professional. The responses I received were blunt. The last rebuttal I received from Mr. Customer Service was, “I am sorry but there is not much to discuss, please look at the New Owners Verification Form Number 10..” That basically meant: “You’re screwed, we got your money and you’re going to have to pay.”

The gloves came off:

I am writing you again today to cancel Josh and Elise Janicek’s contract #XXXXXX for one Bi-Annual Junior Suite at the XXXXXX Resort and Spa that was purchased on 7/25/2005 and to get a FULL REFUND for the $X,XXX.XX which you have already charged to my MasterCard; account ending in XXXX. I am providing you with notice that I have cancelled this contract within five working days from (the delivery of, or the signing of) the contract IAW Article 56 of ARTICLE 56 OF LEY Federal de Protección al Consumidor. (Article 56 of the Federal Consumer Protection Law states: “The contract will be perfected within five working days from the delivery of, or the signature of the contract, which ever occurs the latest. During this period, the consumer will have the right to revoke his consent without any responsibility. The revocation will have to be by means of warning or delivery of notice, in person, by registered mail, or another method of average reliability. The revocation according to this article, will terminate the contract. In this case, the costs of shipping and insurance will be the responsibility of the consumer. If the contract is for services, this article will not be applicable if the date of receipt of the service is less than ten working days from the date of the order of purchase.”)

I am aware that my right to cancellation and a full refund is non waivable (the buyer cannot give it up) and even if the buyer is convinced to sign a document to give it up (waive the right) that waiver is not valid and the buyer still has the 5 day right. Any argument you have claiming that my enrollment fee is non-refundable is invalid according to Mexican law and this has been verified with PROFECO.

I have been in contact with other Americans and know what my rights are under Mexican law. If you plan on sending me an email stating “As indicated in our agreement – you may cancel your membership at any time but the enrollment fee is non-refundable”, I am afraid I cannot comply with your request. You must comply with this request by law or face fines. Please do not send me an email saying that filing a complaint with PROFECO will tie up my refund for months. I know this is not true.

Any attempt to refuse this request will be immediately forwarded to PROFECO. I am also sending a copy of this e-mail and previous correspondences to PROFECO.

As indicated in the dated e-mails below, I have made a good faith effort within 5 working days to resolve this issue and request a full refund in a professional, polite manner and with full intent.

Please comply with the law, cancel my contract and send me my refund immediately.

Your timely response is greatly appreciated.


Half an hour later I get this response:

“The refund of the deposit will be issued within the next 15 days as stated on the contract.”

I called the credit card company, told them what I was doing and disputed the charge on my account – just to be safe.

We learned about timeshares the hard way. I’m sure I’ll have to deal with this for a while longer. That’s okay, I was prepared to battle for a year.

Los Cabos is beautiful as was our vacation. I was scared that we were going to be left to look back on our vacation in a negative light.

I’m pumped to do the Cabo Wabo again. Next time we’ll go to timeshare presentations. Hell, we’ll go to ten presentations and hoard all of the free goodies like deep sea fishing, sunset cruises, ATV tours, parasailing, free food and drinks.

Next time we’ll say “No”.

Elise should work at the Genius Bar

I check Apple’s website every so often because I’ve grown to like not having to worry about viruses and spyware on my iBook – that and I really enjoy the iLife suite. I checked Apple’s site yesterday and got excited about the new Mighty Mouse. I got over that pretty quickly as I realized Apple is years behind in mouse development.

So after ten months I decided to hook my iBook up as a desktop. I connected my monitor and mouse and soon realized that switching to a Mac would be so much easier if done in the desktop environment. I walked into the kitchen and told Elise about my new dekstop experience with the iBook. I Googled Bluetooth mice and keyboards and found myself on Apple’s website again. I decided against Bluetooth peripherals and checked out new iBooks.

“DAMN. Elise.”

“What?” She proclaimed, thinking that I was really upset about somthing.

I read off the specs for the current iBook.

Elise said, “See, I told you. I knew I should have waited to buy you the iBook because one day they’d have the G5 thing with a 66-inch monitor, built in toilet and a thing that changes your oil.”

I’m still laughing…


I’ve worked in the restaurant biz, off and on, for approximately five years. I’ve asked three people: a general manager, a clubhouse manager and an executive chef what the origin of the term “86’d” was. I know in practice it means that your out of an item, nix, no more.

Chefs would yell, “86 the t-bone”. That meant the kitchen cooked the last t-bone and the waitstaff needed to know this should a customer try and order it from the menu.

But where did “86” come from? Here are some interesting answers from Restaurant Report

The term 86’d goes back to the first restaurant Delmonicos. It refers to the ribeye steak that was sold there. It was item 86 on their menu and was sold out one night, hence the term 86’d.

The reason is because of the old specs used to bury the average person—-the hole is “6” feet deep, and is “8” feet long. Hence, being called “86d” was not a good thing…but a “gone” thing…

[I]t was borrowed from the policy of “86ing” someone when that person has had too much to drink. He/she is no longer being served. 86 refers to article 86 of the New York State Liquor laws that define when someone should not, legally, be served in places that sell alcoholic beverages.

In the old days of soup kitchens they prepared enough soup for 85 people. Obviously if you were # 86 there was none left. Since the use of 86 to denote a menu item that is not available.

Returning to work from vacation

Returning to work today, to put it lightly, sucked. Big time. Hard core. Grande. Mondo bollucks. I remember being a kid and how I would wimper myself to sleep on that last August night before having to go catch the bus in the morning for the first day of the new school year.

Today I woke up a few minutes before the alarm. I could feel the glow of the blinds from the early morning through my eyelids. I was hoping that I would wake up and hear the waves crashing onto the beach in Cabo. No luck. The alarm sounded and I immediately rolled over and kissed Elise on the head and told her that I loved her. Vacation was officially over.

I walked to the beach, err, shower and started my Monday.

I soon found myself in the truck driving to work. I didn’t bother turning on the radio. I didn’t want to hear the usual morning crap banter from the Austin a.m. shmucks. I didn’t want the distractions. I didn’t want the stress. I didn’t want to think about anything much more than what Saul told me when I asked when we were going to start catching fish… “No worries”. I left the window cracked and drove the hour to work, listening to the wind and thinking about the awesome vacation Elise and I had last week.

I let work creep into my thoughts a few times and crushed those thoughts with the notion of trying to maintain a philosophy of not letting a job define who I am.

I got to work and said hello to everyone. Everyone asked how the vacation was. I showed them all a few pictures and told them the high points of the trip. As quick as it started the excitement died down and it became a typical Monday morning. It was as if I had never left – which is good. The staff handled everything very well while I was away and I wasn’t left with too huge a laundry list, although my e-mail inbox was about to explode. I decided to hold off on dealing with e-mail until tomorrow.

I was updated on the going ons of the past two weeks – a lot of what was brought to my attention was exactly why I went on vacation, completely forgot about work and why I think everyone should take more vacations. People get so caught up in work to the point where it consumes and defines them.

When I was getting ready for work this morning I really thought about what Saul said and what is printed on a lot of t-shirts in Cabo. So when I got dressed, I put on my pressed khaki pants and a nice button-down shirt. I took a few deep breathes before kissing Elise goodbye for the day and taking on the Monday.

My flip flops and I walked to the truck and headed out to take on Monday.

With no worries.