'Cause I Said So…

Scott Conant is a Pompous Ass

Posted in Food, Media by kevinsoberg on July 27, 2011

The other day, I was watching an episode of the Food Network show 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. The host is Scott Conant, a chef/restaurateur. Before he got this show, I was not a big fan of his. Conant had been appearing on the show Chopped as a judge. He may be a great chef and have a great restaurant, but he is a pompous ass. Whenever he was judging, I felt bad for the contestants, especially if they made the mistake of cooking any form of pasta.

Mr. Conant’s big thing is pasta. It seems he went to Italy to study pasta for a while, and he thinks he is the end-all-be-all of pasta. Well, good for him, but that’s no excuse for being an ass. Everybody didn’t go to Italy to study pasta. Everybody hasn’t dedicated themselves to “perfect” pasta. Actually, I know plenty of Italian grandmothers, and none of them is as “fussy” about pasta as this guy. It got so bad I began referring to him as the “Pasta Fascist”, and people knew about whom I was talking. That’s pretty bad.

Anyway, he began hosting this new series 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. Two teams compete to open a “restaurant”, from concept to menu to decorating to service within 24 hours, for a monetary reward. It was a fairly entertaining show. Conant didn’t go off on anybody about their pasta. I started to not dislike him after a while. Of course, he had to go and ruin it.

The other day, I watched an episode from June. I had DVR’d it, and I could find nothing else to watch. The episode had two teams doing Texas-themed concepts, “grilling” versus “smoking”. The smoking team gave them a “traditional, Texas, relish tray” along with their appetizers at the beginning of their service. The relish tray had sweet and dill pickles, raw onion slices, and smoked sausage. Well, Conant and this other jerk, who co-founded Outback Steak House, were two of the judges. They went on about how they hated raw onion, and how it should never be served to a table. Then, when the team came out to get feedback from the judges, this impolite, rude pair ridiculed the team for having been served raw onion.

So, in addition to being rude and impolite, these two showed themselves to be ignorant as well. The team’s theme was “traditional, Texas barbecue”, and that is exactly what they produced. You cannot go to a local barbecue joint in Texas without being given dill pickles and raw onion. They had best consider themselves lucky they weren’t served a half loaf of white bread along with the “relish tray”. (Eh Gads!) The most celebrated barbecue places in Texas have you stand in line (no waiters) for custom cuts of meat served on butcher paper with the usual condiments at a separate station for you to take as you want.

Recently, I had my wife’s family reunion catered by my favorite local barbecue place. Guess what. That’s right. A big jar of dill pickle slices, two plates of white onions cut into rings, two squeeze bottles of yellow mustard and four loaves of white bread were sitting at the end of the service line of smoked beef brisket, chopped barbecue beef, pulled pork, smoked quartered chickens, and smoked sausage. (I don’t know about you, but that’s good eatin’.)

What most upset me was the way the judges so readily dismissed the traditional accoutrements of Texas barbecue as beneath them. Oh, really? I bet you a MILLION DOLLARS that if you were to take either of these jerks to some obscure, foreign, ethnic restaurant which served gelatinous lamb ovaries as a condiment they would go on and on about how “authentic” and “rustic” the meal was (however much they may or may not enjoy it). Guess what? I’m not saying they shouldn’t. My point is that they should show the same respect to the regional cuisines of their own country.

You don’t have to like it, but be respectful. When they tell you it is “traditional”, don’t be so quick to mock them. Just because you don’t know about it (and they are rednecks) doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Get over yourself and your cultural superiority.

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The Truth About Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Posted in Environmentalism, Global Warming by kevinsoberg on July 12, 2011

Way back in February, I was listening to the previous day’s podcast of The Mark Levin Show. In the second hour of the program, a caller challenged Mark on his opposition to the theory of anthropomorphic global warming induced by increases in atmospheric Carbon dioxide. The caller claimed some astronomic figures on the amount of carbon dioxide released each year. When Mark asked the caller for the source of his figures, he claimed it was from “science”. Well, of course Mark would have none of that. So, of course, Mark blasted him and dropped him. Rightly so.

As several of Mark’s subsequent callers corrected the false figures, I don’t have to get into the minutia concerning these numbers. Spend some time and look them up yourself. Anyway, discussing numbers without the proper charts make them hard to conceptualize. Instead, I want to put the idea of atmospheric Carbon dioxide in its proper perspective.

What I’m about to say was taught to most of us in our Earth Sciences class in middle school. Along with plate tectonics, the “greenhouse” effect, Earth’s rotation, and the Moon’s effects on Earth’s tides, we learned some interesting facts about “free Oxygen” in Earth’s atmosphere. These facts are:  Earth contains the largest amount of free Oxygen as a percentage of its atmosphere of any known planet, before the appearance of life there was only trace amounts of free Oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, and almost all of the free Oxygen on Earth exists as the result of photosynthesis.

At one time, almost all of Earth’s atmospheric Oxygen, which currently makes up 20.95% of Earth’s atmosphere, was bound to Carbon as the gas Carbon dioxide. If there had never been photosynthetic life, Carbon dioxide would have continued to constitute about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere, instead of its current 0.039%. When you do the math you find that over 99.998% of the earth’s atmospheric Oxygen has been freed from Carbon dioxide. How much less Carbon dioxide do the unthinking want there to be? It is already a trace chemical in the atmosphere. There is almost twenty-four times more Argon in the atmosphere than there is Carbon dioxide.

Now, what is meant by “free” Oxygen? Oxygen does not exist in monatomic form, as a single atom. Elemental Oxygen is only stable as diatomic and triatomic molecules (O2 and O3), having two or three atoms of Oxygen chemically bound to one another. Both forms of molecular Oxygen are very reactive, apt to combine with other chemicals to form new compounds. In fact, Oxygen is so likely to react with other chemicals we have multiple names for the process: oxidation, rusting, tarnishing and burning. Oxygen’s high reactivity is why we find it necessary to limit its contact with metals to prevent their degradation. Oxygen’s reactivity is also why we are able to inhale oxygen (O2) and exhale carbon dioxide (CO2).

If all of the Carbon dioxide broken down by photosynthesis to create Oxygen were quickly converted back to Carbon dioxide on a one-to-one basis to fuel our existence, then where is all the Carbon dioxide? Shouldn’t there be a lot more Carbon dioxide than the 0.039% in the atmosphere? Given Oxygen’s high reactivity, how did almost all of the Earth’s Carbon dioxide end up converted to Oxygen? Wow, those are all good questions.

Here is the answer… All of the Carbon once present in the primordial atmosphere is now present in your body, the structures of every other living organism, and the remains of previously living organisms.

The carbon released from Carbon dioxide is not only used for fuel. Much of it is used by living organisms to create their physical structures. When you look at a tree, you are really looking at Carbon which has been captured from the atmosphere. When you look at your food, you are looking at Carbon which once was in the atmosphere. When you look in the mirror, you are looking at Carbon once in the atmosphere.

So much Carbon has been removed from the atmosphere that it is now a limiting factor for the growth of plant life. More atmospheric Carbon dioxide would actually increase the growth rate of photosynthetic life forms. So, if you’re worried about potentially rising levels of Carbon dioxide, I wouldn’t bother. Photosynthetic life removed it once. It will remove it again.