Sledgstone

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Blog Entries posted by Sledgstone

  1. Sledgstone
    This service was done on 07-17-2010
    The miles were at 4928 for it's first oil change and tire rotation! Because this is a new car I'm only going to use full synthetic oil for the life of the vehicle to make sure the engine lasts as long as possible.
    The dealership also finished one more pedal recall that I wasn't aware of. He told me to disregard the letter I'll get in the mail this week because I'll already have it done.
    On a side note, the discount card I bought at the dealership for $200 when I bought the car is going to pay for itself pretty quick. It already saved me $100 off the rust proofing job and all full synthetic oil changes get $25 off and tire rotations are $13 off. It was only $42 yesterday. For the price of the oil and the price of the oil filter, the oil job is pretty much done for the same price it would cost me to do it myself, but I don't have to! ahha. My tools will be sitting gathering dust for quite a while now.
  2. Sledgstone
    Instructions to make:
    A marinade that can tenderize beef chuck steaks and other cuts.
    Amount: Enough for 2+ steaks.
    Ingredients:
    - 1 cup corn oil (or vegetable oil)
    - 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    - 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
    - 3 tablespoon worcester sauce
    - 1 teaspoon pepper
    - 1/4 videlia onion sliced
    - 1 tablespoon garlic powder
    - 2 teaspoon salt
    - 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    Instructions:
    1) Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
    2) Rinse off two beef chuck steaks (or other cuts) and pat lighty with paper towels to take off some of the excess water.
    3) Put your steaks in a bowl or in large ziplock bags and pour the marinade over the steaks. Flip the steaks a bit to make sure they are fully covered. Then either seal your ziplock bags or cover your bowl and refrigerate your steaks for at least 5 hours.


    4) Cook your steak. I cooked mine at a high temperature on the grill for about 8 minutes or so. If you grill yours, be careful if you pour the leftover marinade on them, the marinade has a tendency to flare up some strong flames.
    (The woman's plate, she likes hers well, well done.)


    The steaks turned out quite tender for a beef chuck. There was still a little bit of chew to it, but not nearly as tough without marinade. If anything, let those steaks marinade over night or for 12 hours.
  3. Sledgstone
    If anyone can remember the old bulletin board software wars from years ago, you would remember an old major player called ikonboard. This software was a phpBB, UBB and vBulletin rival back in the day. But after they got purchased by a bigger company they lost alot of their users when the old developers of ikonboard broke away and created invision power board. Shortly after ikonboard became pretty obsolete.
    Now the same thing is happening with vBulletin. vBulletin was purchased by Internet Brands and became more commercial and money hungry. The main developers of vB left the company and just recently announced that they are making a new forum software called xenforo. Which can be found at http://xenforo.com/
    Could this possibly be history repeating itself? Will xenforo replace vbulletin in the near future just like invision power board replaced ikonboard? Only time will tell.
  4. Sledgstone
    Instructions to make:
    Juicy Lucy burgers
    Ingredients:
    - Hamburger meat
    - Seasonings
    - 2 slices of american cheese per burger
    Instructions:
    1) Mix up your hamburger meat with some seasonings like season all, maybe some chopped onions. (look at my other burger recipes in this blog)
    2) Make some small hamburger balls to form into patties, one slightly bigger than the other. You have to make them smaller than normal because you will need two hamburger patties per burger.

    3) Use the larger ball of meat and make hamburger patty, then break up two slices of american cheese per burger and put it in the middle.

    4) Now make another patty and place it over the cheese and work the edges so the two burgers will cook together as one.


    5) Cook those burgers over a medium to high heat to make sure the inner part of the burger cooks all the way through.

    6) The burgers will shrink when cooking and the cheese will get very hot in the middle helping to cook the inside of the burger. One of my burgers busted at the seams. Instead of using 80% I should have gone with a 90% to reduce meat shrinking.

    7) Let the burgers cool a little so you don't burn yourself on the hot inner cheese.

    I spread the cheese around so you can see the cavity in the burger that is created when cooking them like this. If you can eat these burgers at the perfect cheese temperature, the cheese will flow with every bite and taste great.

  5. Sledgstone
    So lady's laptop has had a power jack issue for almost a year now, but almost a week ago it got even worse and would hardly stay plugged in or charge unless the plug at the back of the laptop was pushed and held into place just right. I've seen this issue before with a PS2 and I was able to fix that by re-soldering the DC power jack connection to the motherboard. Well, turns out that getting access to the DC power jack on a laptop is a hell of a lot more complicated than a slim PS2. I have to give credit were it is due, and this website had a complete walk through for her exact laptop with pictures:
    http://www.insidemylaptop.com/
    I was able to finally get to the motherboard and the DC power jack after 18 steps of disassembly. x_x I re-soldered the connection and her laptop powers up perfectly again. I also cleaned out a major blockage of dust and lint out of the cooling fan area. Its practically running like new again and doesn't kick on the fan after 20 minutes of use anymore. Yay.
    Here is a pic of the inside of her laptop with a circle around the DC power jack. A pain in the ass to get to, and the part I had to solder was only about 1-2 cm big, but we saved over $100 because thats the cheapest price I found to get it fixed at a shop.

    For my own records, I fixed this on 10/06/2010. Hopefully it will be a permanent fix, because if not I'll have to replace the power jack itself next time instead of just fixing one solder point.
    MAKES
  6. Sledgstone
    I didn't take pics of this fix.. but thanks to this website:
    http://anythingbutipod.com/2008/03/creative-zen-disassembly/
    I was able to figure out how to take it apart. Those are some really really small screws.. and thankfully her mp3 player only had a loose battery. Whenever the mp3 player was lightly shaken the power would cut off and only come back on after it was connected to a computer usb. After taking it apart, the solder connections were fine, but the battery wires seemed to be loose on the battery itself. Probably because the battery was floating around dis-lodged from its seat.
    After I fixed the connection on the battery and re-glued it into place (with double sided heavy duty glue foam), it works fine now. I wish I had an actual plastic tool for removing plastic shells because now the seem looks a little marred, but at least its working fine now.
  7. Sledgstone
    Instructions to make:
    Sledge's Sweet and Spicy Rib Rub
    This dry rub can be used on pork or beef ribs, chicken, chicken wings, beef, pork, steaks, etc!
    Ingredients:
    1 1/2 cups brown sugar (firmly packed in measuring cup) 1/4 cup white sugar 1/3 cup paprika 1 tablespoon ground black pepper 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder 1/4 cup + a little over.. half seasoned salt, half bucks seasoning 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper Instructions:
    1) Mix all the ingredients together. If you don't have a food processor to mix it with, then use your hands and really work the mix in a larger bowl to break apart the brown sugar so everything is equally mixed in.




    2) This recipe will yield a good sized batch of rub that should last you all summer! Just remember to separate the amount of rub you plan on using ahead of working with raw meats or other foods so you don't cross-contaminate your main batch! So when you are ready to start cooking, set a small bowl of your rub aside and store the rest of your rub in an airtight container. Or do what I do and put your rub mix in a freezer bag and store it out of the way on a refrigerator door shelf. It does not need to be refrigerated, but it will stay fresh longer in the fridge! But keep in mind, regardless of how you store the rub mix, the brown sugar in this rub will cause the rub mix to re-clump after it has sat for a few days/weeks. This is normal, just simply break the clumps apart and its ready to be used again!

  8. Sledgstone
    Instructions to make:
    Sledge's Grilled Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings
    Ingredients:
    - Chicken Wings
    - Sledge's Sweet and Spicy Rib Rub
    Stuff you will need:
    - A good knife
    - Aluminum foil
    - Ziploc gallon storage or freezer bag
    - Grill
    - Tongs
    Instructions:
    1) Prepare your chicken wings! I consider one batch of wings to be about 2 or 2 1/2 pounds. This package is enough for two batches of wings.

    2) If you have never cut chicken wings before, start by grabbing the tip and stretching out the wing.. the muscle structure of the wing will stay stretched out while you hold it allowing for an easy cut.


    3) If you do not have a sharp knife that will easily cut through bone, then grab the wing and snap the drumette away from the wingette in the opposite direction you were cutting, like in this pic.. the bone will pop out of the cartilage thus separating the two pieces.

    4) Now just cut the skin/meat that is still connecting the two pieces.

    5) Now cut the wing tip off and discard it.


    6) Cut the rest of your batch of wings the same way and place all the pieces on a paper towel covered plate.

    7) Get a small bowl of Sledge's Sweet and Spicy Rib Rub ready and get a gallon size ziploc bag for shaking your wings in. Now use paper towels and dry each wing individually and place them in the ziploc bag in rows. Drying the wings can take a while, so go ahead and start your grill and get it heated up and cleaned.

    8) Sprinkle one side of the wings with the rub so they are coated, flip the bag over and coat the other side too.

    9) Close the bag with a bit of air in it, and shake that bag to make sure the wings are fully coated.

    10) You will want to cook your wings on the grill with indirect heat. Line up your wings on the grill on one side, then set the burners on your grill to high, except for the burner your wings are sitting on, turn that one off.


    11) After letting them cook for about 20 minutes, you will want to flip them over and let them cook another 20 minutes.

    12) Use a meat thermometer if you unsure if the wings are done or not. Chicken is done at 170 degrees. Depending on your grill and the temperature it is maintaining, you may have to cook them longer or shorter. Once they are done, put them on an aluminum foil lined plate and then cover them with another layer of aluminum foil and let the wings sit for a good 5-10 minutes. This way the wings will rest and retain their moisture.
    And here they are done!

    Additional tips:
    1) You can cook them faster by cooking them over direct heat, but you will have to flip them very often and the more you flip them, more of the seasoning will be burned off onto the grill surface. That is why I cook them slower to retain the most flavor.
    2) You can get the wings crispier by turning the burner underneath them on in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Just keep flipping them. But because this rub has sugar in it, the wings will want to burn quickly! So keep an eye on them and if they start charring up, lower the heat or take them off the grill!
  9. Sledgstone
    vBulletin has updated their vBulletin 5 Connect demo.. Heres a prime example of the horrible crap of vbulletin's sofware and one of the obvious reasons we stopped using their product.
    vBulletin custom page example:
    http://www.vbulletin.com/vb5demo/custom_page
    Yay, I could have put text on a page.
    Here is an example of a random test page that I made on ipb:
    http://www.ancientclan.com/test.html
    I have the ability to put anything from the database onto any page I want and in whatever format I want it to appear in. Huge difference. Sure vb allows custom blocks and html, but if it was anything as advanced as IPB, you would think they would have made a better example.
  10. Sledgstone
    vBulletin went straight from beta 28 to Gold release with no release candidate versions and they even upgraded their official forums to it. WTF. There is no member list, no users online list. Notifications are horrible, its buggy as hell and looks like crap.
    http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/
    The only thing it has going for it IMO is that the mobile version looks decent on a cell phone screen.. but even then I came across some 503 errors and pages that failed to load. So buggy. They say "Enjoy a clean, up-to-date design that supports easier forum navigation for members and visitors alike." I don't care for their idea of 'clean, up-to-date' it doesn't look up-to-date to me at all. In fact the page navigation floats at the top of the screen in large forums with multiple pages of topics. It took me a minute to even realize it was there. For a basic default skin, this looks horrible.
    It has less than half the features of vB 3.8 and searching doesn't work. All the search results are "unexpected_error"
  11. Sledgstone
    The improvements they are making to IPB look really great. Some of the highlights for me:
    http://community.invisionpower.com/blog/1174/entry-9537-ips-40-editor-part-1-content/
    Embeds will always work. Now that is a huge difference.
    http://community.invisionpower.com/blog/1174/entry-9538-ips-40-editor-part-2-uploads/
    Drag and drop images right into the editor. I've been waiting for this feature. No more having to click attach and then navigate to the right folder where your image is.. just drag it right into the editor.
    http://community.invisionpower.com/blog/1174/entry-9539-ips-40-editor-part-3-customisation-and-bbcode/
    This is a big change and I hope they pull it off correctly. All our custom bbcodes will be negated. But the only custom bbcode we actually use is the spoiler tag, which will now be a default feature. All other custom bbcodes will now have to be created as CKEditor plugins.. but there are already a lot of ckeditor plugins available. So I could technically add a variety of new editor features.
    http://community.invisionpower.com/topic/388306-ips-40-editor-part-4-special-features/
    Very very nice. I like this.
    Good! No more having to click the load saved content option. Simplifying this will make the auto save much better.
    Oh! and the editor will now be fully skin-able! The editor won't have to be glaring white on a dark theme anymore.
    Also, the current skins that we use are going to be upgraded for IPB 4.0. We won't have to change the entire look of the site.
  12. Sledgstone
    I haven't liked vBulletin for some time now and mostly put that forum software behind me except for the occasional jab about how bad their software is. I came across this interesting update from PC Gamer the other day... with a part that I emphasized:
    http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/07/26/why-forums-and-comments-are-still-offline/
    http://mos.futurenet.com/forum/
    I don't visit PC Gamer's website, so I'm not certain what version of vB they were using, but this is pretty huge. The took all of their entire network's vBulletin powered forums offline because it was exploited.
    Well PC Gamer, I suggest you switch to Invision Power.
    vBulletin has really gone downhill and I'm glad we stopped using their software when we did.
  13. Sledgstone
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57526994-94/android-users-outraged-over-motorolas-broken-promise/
    Next phone I buy will be an HTC or a Samsung. I will never buy a Motorola phone again. I specifically bought this phone because it was on sale, it had basically the same specs as the samsung galaxy at the time and it was guaranteed to be upgraded to the latest android operating system.
    I never got that upgraded operating system. Android 2.3 is so outdated, that numerous apps are not even available for it. I cannot even run Google Chrome.. wtf. No Vine, no Time Warner app, etc. Numerous basic features on all phones are not available to me because I bought this phone with the belief that I'd only use the old operating system for another month or so. I remember when my brother's Nexus got upgraded to android 4.1, he was talking about how it was like a brand new phone again.. I was looking forward to this upgrade for so long.. and then my hopes were crushed.
    Say no to Motorola. Don't even bother buying their crap, because its completely unsupported.
  14. Sledgstone
    I was looking through my old blog posts and I see this:
    http://www.ancientclan.com/blog/1/entry-33-worst-case-scenario-for-us-by-end-of-2008/
    I was watching way too much MSNBC in 2008. Back in the day I used to watch Fox News. I thought Bill O'Reilly was great with how he interviewed politicians. The no spin zone was a concept that I liked. My dad would listen to Rush Limbaugh and I'd hear many of his broadcasts. Years later I moved to NY. Democrats are more popular in this state. I ended up eventually watching some MSNBC instead of Fox News or CNN. After a few years and a presidential election I realized that all media is biased. Looking back on my days of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh I used to vote party line all republican. I didn't even know who any one was.. just the fact that it was republican was good enough for me. When I finally started voting in NY I eventually voted the same way. Party line democrat.
    Looking back on it all, I was controlled. Based upon the biased news I'd hear, I was manipulated into thinking a certain way without being out right told to do so.
    I no longer watch these channels when I can avoid them. Instead I'll look at twitter, see some headlines, then google search those words and read the news from a couple of random sources. I get a much better view on whats real this way. And if I see an article that is highly motivated towards a specific party then I disregard that website or channel and try to avoid them.
    I was easily manipulated for years by a one sided argument against the other political party. They are like religious leaders. Preaching their story and telling you how to think and behave but never telling you about the good things the other party actually does. Like religion, everyone is expected to pick a side and all other views and opinions are blasphemous and should not be considered or even listened to. I believe, because of my religious christian upbringing, I was, in essence pre-programmed as a child to accept things that are presented to me and keep coming back for me of the same speech. As well as stay true to the person or in this case, channel, giving me my information.
    I can honestly say that most of the reliable news I get comes from NPR. I can fact check a variety of stories or search for different views on some subjects they cover and they are not biased or necessarily pro government. Any other website or news source that says other wise is the equivalent of a pastor reprimanding you for looking into or asking about another religion. If you don't get your news fix from only them, then NPR and all other news is corrupt. What a load of shit.
    What also kills me is the ridiculous unchecked comments. Everyone has comments, but no moderators. I've seen sites where pro democrats say they'll move to canada if a republican is ever elected president again. I've seen fear mongering from democrats basically stating that many right wing nuts are about to push the boundaries for starting a civil war.
    I've also seen comments from pro republican sites where people talk about the day the south will eventually rise again and reclaim america, "but not in a racially motivated slave way".. I've also seen where people want to force god back into the country but refuse to admit that the founding fathers were secualrists.
    All of it is dumbfounding. US citizens are basically sheep following a flock. I'm just glad the flat earth society was never main stream. Imagine if I fell into that way of thinking.. lol. People alive today still believe the earth is flat. wtf.
  15. Sledgstone
    I received this email today:
    After logging into vbulletin's site, I changed my password and checked out the client forums. vBulletin's software was compromised, again.
    Earlier this year, PCGamers forum was hacked and then earlier in July, Ubuntu forums was hacked. And just the other day vbulletin.com, vbulletin.org and MacRumors were all hacked. All of the sites were running vbulletin software.
    References:
    http://blog.canonical.com/2013/07/30/ubuntu-forums-are-back-up-and-a-post-mortem/
    http://www.macrumors.com/2013/11/12/macrumors-forums-security-leak/
    https://www.facebook.com/inj3ct0rs/posts/611793255548704
    http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/forum/vbulletin-announcements/vbulletin-announcements_aa/4007195-important-message-regarding-your-account
    http://www.vbulletin.org/forum/showthread.php?t=304626
    I'm glad we stopped using this software when we did. vbulletin.org runs vb 3 which is what we were running in the end before switching to Invision Power Board. If vb3 is now vulnerable, then all the numerous sites still using it are at risk. Anyone that has used the same password on all sites, should not use any password they have previously used on any vBulletin site.
    The Ubuntu and MacRumors sites were hacked because a moderator account was broken into. The vBulletin.com and vBulletin.org sites have not stated how they were hacked into, nor do they have a fix for this exploit because it is "being looked into."
  16. Sledgstone
    I took a series of pictures of Ditto's catnip box during the summer of 2013. He really loves his catnip. Watch the slideshow by clicking this link:
    http://www.ancientclan.com/gallery/slideshow/album-84/

  17. Sledgstone
    Invision Power Services has launched their test site for their new 4.0 software that we'll be upgrading to sometime after they release it and a new skin is available (most likely the same skin / theme we are using now). Its interesting as I didn't know what exactly to expect. I knew they were recoding the entire platform so all their products can be used separately, but I was kind of expecting some new eye popping layout or something. When compared to their current forum, it actually looks very similar:
    Current forum running IPB 3:
    http://community.invisionpower.com/
    Test forum running IPB 4:
    http://zend.ipsdevserver.com/ips4/
    Once a good skin is installed, I'm sure it'll look fine, just like how AC currently looks very different from the regular IPB3 skin.
    It does look like some nice features have been added and the software works much better on mobile devices now, including mobile image uploads. According to their admins, they have spent a long time making the new core software to give them a solid platform to add many new features and functionality to for years to come. I look forward to seeing what this software is actually capable of. I've been holding off on doing any major renovations to this site because I've been waiting for this new version. As of this post, they have still not revealed the new content management system (CMS aka IP.Content), and that is the primary piece that I'm most interested in and how the new version of it will affect the way articles are handled on AC.
  18. Sledgstone
    Doctor Who has always been one of my favorite shows, but this last series with Peter Capaldi has hit a new low for me. I loved Matt Smith and David Tennant as their own respective doctors, but Peter Capaldi's doctor is so bland. He might be a better doctor if the show actually had decent writers though. In all of time and space to travel to, the doctor has spent about 90% of that season in the school where Clara works.. Surrounded by children, Peter Capaldi's age is even more pronounced and he is often seen as an old cranky man that only listens to his grand daughter's (Clara's) opinion. After talking with my parents, they seem to enjoy him as the doctor, and if anything, that was the goal of this last season.. to appeal to the older, original audience base of the show. But in the long term that won't work out good for the show seeing as the older audience base eventually lost interest and it lead to the inevitable cancellation of the show.
    Also.. Clara.. so much focus on Clara. They should have made the doctor a woman for this series considering how much they have focused on her over the actual doctor. I knew the show was going downhill when, in one scene on the moon, the doctor jumped into a cavern to investigate some giant bacteria.. and just when I thought the episode was going to get interesting, the camera doesn't follow the doctor, instead it goes right back to Clara again.. who is just walking somewhere. Who cares what the doctor is doing.. they should just rename the show "Clara Who?". I was hoping they'd kill off her character so the show could focus on the Doctor again.. but that doesn't seem likely any time soon. Maybe the show will get better, but unless they actually explore space and time again, I'm going to eventually lose all interest.
  19. Sledgstone
    In my previous blog post I showed my new smoker:
    New Brinkmann Smoker (ECB) El Cheapo Brinkmann
    But the smoker didn't work out all that good right out of the box. These are the following modifications I've made to it:
    When I first got my smoker I put a grate at the bottom of the charcoal pan because I read that a grate will help in keeping ash buildup from blocking the air flow. This was not entirely correct. What I needed to do was have the grate about an inch off the bottom so that air flow can reach every piece of coal while allowing ash to sift down to the bottom. So my first modification was to use some pliers and bend the air fins open more to allow more airflow. Because I'll be able to control the airflow with another modification, I wanted to make sure the airflow would not get restricted by ash buildup. The second mod I did was to install three carriage bolts with nuts 1 inch from the bottom of the pan. This allows me to set the grate on the bolts and gets me the airflow I want. Before doing this, I attempted to use 3 equally sized rocks to lift the grate up.. Not a good idea. It worked but it didn't. The rocks change the flow of air and also absorb heat and break. Installing permanent bolts was the only real solution. Using a drill I made three holes 1 inch from the bottom and installed the bolts. I didn't want to use carriage bolts but they were the only ones I could find for the size and length I wanted to use at the local hardware store. These bolts worked out fine in the end because they didn't sit to far away from the pan's sides to affect how it sits in the base pan.

    The next modification was the most time consuming. I needed to control the airflow of this smoker. This smoker has two vents. The bottom vent which is a hole about 2 inches in diameter and the other is the gap where the lid sits on the body of the smoker. The lid does not go on with a solid seal and is designed that way so there is no need for an air vent on the top. I have seen other people modify their ECB lids by installing an oven gasket around the rim to make it have a solid seal and then installing an aftermarket weber charcoal damper on the lid. However, I did not do this.. I am more concerned about the airflow coming into the smoker at the bottom than restricting or increasing the airflow from the top.
    Here is what I did.. I drilled three holes into my base pan. One of those drill holes was a mistake which I'll explain in a bit. I used one bolt along with a washer, lock washer and lock nut to connect a pickle jar lid to the base of the pan. I needed to drill 2 holes into the jar lid. One to keep it connected to the base pan and the other to act as a slot for the metal control rod. Using a washer, lock washer and lock nut, the lid will stay connected without unscrewing the bolt due to repeated opening and closing. I drilled another hole into the side of the base pan to allow the metal rod to protrude out the side. This is where I messed up. I drilled the hole too high up. Once I had everything in place, I put the charcoal pan into the base pan and realized it was weighing down on the metal rod preventing me from using it correctly. So I drilled another hole right at the bottom of the side and then the pan fit perfectly. Of course this left me with a hole I had to plug up. Thankfully I the smoker came with some extra bolts and nuts and I simply used one of those to seal off the hole.
    The biggest problem with this was the metal rod I was using. I had an old metal sign holding post that I decided to use because it was tough and it already had one end of it bent into a crude loop from a previous project. This was some sturdy metal. After cutting it to the right shape, I was unable to bend it by hand. My bolt cutters have metal bending rods on it and I was able to use those to bend the metal into the angles I needed. This was a pain. I forgot to take a picture of the underneath of the base pan. Its basically a piece of metal bent in three places. Once at a 90 degree angle to fit through the jar lid hole, then another bend to keep the metal from scraping the ground, and then a third bend to keep the metal from scraping the bottom of the pan. In the end it worked out good because the piece of metal has just enough weight to it that it feels sturdy and it won't disconnect. With this done, I now an adjustable damper and I have full control over the airflow.


    A different angle:


    Now that I can open and close the damper to whatever amount of air flow I want to allow in, I need to be able to tell what the actual temperature of the smoker is. For this I needed to add a new thermometer. Adding a new thermometer was easier than I thought it would be. All I needed to do was drill one hole and then use a piece of simple lamp hardware found in my local hardware store's electricity aisle. Its a threaded feed-through with 2 nuts. I can't remember what the actual thing was called on the package in the store, but its basically a brass tube that is threaded for nuts to attach to it like a bolt. Its lamp hardware because electric cords usually go through the opening to the light bulb. But for me, the opening will be for my new thermometer. The hardware store only sold the things in a pack of 8 in varying sizes and the nuts were on the shelf just below them, also in a pack. I used either a 1 or 1 1/2 inch feed through with two nuts. Using a couple pliers I tightened the two nuts and kept the bulk of the feed through on the inside of the smoker to keep the thermometer level. I've seen some people recommend candy thermometers, but I chose instead to get a new Weber thermometer off amazon. Because the thermometer itself isn't installed, I can take it inside and clean it after every use.
    Outside look. I installed it right above the charcoal door:

    Inside look. Two nuts holding it in place. Pretty simple. I also bent this slightly downward to make sure the thermometer sits a bit more tight.

    This new thermometer is significantly better than the one that came with the smoker. I can now get the smoker up to 250 and using the damper on the bottom, I can make small adjustments to the airflow and maintain a constant cooking temperature.

    And here it is all completed:

    Resources I used for this project:
    http://home.comcast.net/~day_trippr/smoker_mods.htm
    http://brinkmannsmokermod.blogspot.com/2011/01/simple-modification-to-brinkmann.html
  20. Sledgstone
    Back in May of this year I bought a new Smoker because I've been thinking about trying out smoking food for a couple years now. I've gotten pretty good with a standard grill, but I wanted to improve my slow cooking skills and try something new with different flavors. After watching numerous seasons of BBQ Pitmasters, I became inspired to finally try out charcoal smoking.
    Instead of buying something expensive, I shopped around, looked at reviews, different makes and models and I decided to go with a vertical charcoal water smoker. A vertical water smoker works by having a heat source at the bottom, a water pan in the middle of the smoker that provides hot moisture, and two cooking grates. One directly over the water pan and the second at the top of the smoker. Because the water pan is almost as wide as the smoker itself, it causes all the food in the smoker to be cooked with indirect moist heat. Vertical water smokers are also cheap. Some offsets are cheap also, but many of the low end vertical water smokers are under $60.
    After reading many reviews, I decided to get a Brinkmann Gourmet Charcoal Smoker. There is a large community of people that use this exact smoker and have shared numerous modifications they have done to improve it's performance. After reading about smoker modifications I was a bit concerned. Why would a new product need modifying? Well, I found out the answer.. If I wanted a smoker that would work amazing right out of the box, I'd have to pay $300 for a Weber Smokey Mountain. So, no.. I decided to go with something cheaper and modify it if needed, hence why these Brinkmann ones are nick named the ECB (El Cheapo Brinkmann). I'll only be using this smoker about 5 months out of the year and not even every week. For what I wanted to do, I figured $90 on amazon was good enough. For that price I also got the smoker cover, which turned out to be better material than I thought it would.
    Unfortunately, amazon shipped this smoker horribly. The box looked like it was kicked a few times and I had to hug the metal of the body and the lid back into a fully circular shape. As well as bending the door into a shape that would close correctly.. I also needed to use a rubber mallet and hammer out one ding in the body. I was not please with the condition, but after full assembly the smoker looked great.
    Here are some pictures of the Smoker new and in use for the first time:
    I never used charcoal before so I had to buy a new charcoal chimney starter and some charcoal. I decided to get the weber chimney and go right for the royal oak lump charcoal. After reading all the safety information about charcoal lighter fluid and how you need to let the charcoal burn out for at least 20 minutes, etc. I had no interest in using it.. thats why I got the chimney starter. Along with some newspaper I'm able to get any charcoal started burning safely. That and I have a friend that uses the same style of chimney to start his charcoal grill. Very simple to use.


    The bottom of the smoker is a charcoal pan with air vents on the bottom. Charcoal is controlled completely by air flow. I added a grate at the bottom because I read that burned charcoal ash will build up and block the air flow which would smother the remaining coals.


    Now that the coals are ready, I put the body of the smoker on top of the pan, then add water to the water pan, put on the grates and add the food. Put the lid on and its done.

    As you can see, this style of smoker is noticeably smaller than an offset charcoal smoker that can usually be about the size of a normal grill.

    For my first use, I went big. I put a pork shoulder on the bottom grate and a rack of ribs on the top. I figured I'd get a good feel for the smoker with two different things cooking at once.

    I also put a couple aluminum foil packets of soaked hickory and apple wood chips onto the charcoal.. Here is where the smoke starts rolling pretty good:

    About 4+ hours later here are the results:



    The end results were not what I was expecting. Because this smoker has no airflow controls, I could not regulate the temperature. Also the thermometer is horrible. It doesn't even have temperatures.. only "warm, ideal and hot". The ribs turned out ok, but overly smoked. The smoke flavor was so pronounced that I couldn't eat the smaller ribs. And the pork shoulder was not even cooked all the way through. I ended up finishing the pork shoulder on my propane grill because I already used 2 chimneys full of charcoal and I didn't feel like setting another to burn. The pork shoulder was not cooked correctly but the smoke flavor was good for it. Because it was thicker, the smoke didn't permeate as much into the meat.
    I'd say this smoker was a failure. But I didn't give up. I decided to make a few modifications, which I'll go over in another blog post. I can say that I would not recommend using this smoker without modifying it. Or if you do use this smoker without modifications do not use lump charcoal. It burns far hotter and faster than kingsford briquettes and with no airflow controls, the lump burned incredibly fast. Also, use almost boiling water in your water pan, and only fill it half way. The water I used was hot from the tap and because of the volume of water the pan holds, most of the heat that would have cooked the pork shoulder was absorbed by the water that was sitting directly under it.
    And for anyone wondering, was the smoker worth it? The answer is yes. Once I had the proper modifications done, I have been making some of the best barbeque I've ever eaten. Definitely worth it. It was quite a learning experience too. Practice makes perfect.
  21. Sledgstone
    I saw these at the store a couple weeks ago and decided to try them out. Cheetos Mix-Ups Cheezy Salsa Mix sounded like a nice mix of heat that would give my taste buds a good work out. Unfortunately, they left much to be desired. While the packaging looked great and the claim of hot spiciness lured me in, these cheese poofs did not deliver.

    Upon opening the package the smell was odd. A weird combination of aromas that I was not expecting. This product features 4 different flavors, Cheddar, Jalapeno Cheddar, Salsa Picante and Chipotle Cheddar.

    I'm a fan of the Cheetos Puffs and Crunchy Cheese Flavored Snacks, but this "Cheezy Salsa Mix" was disappointing. First off, because this bag features 4 flavors, all of the residual seasoning is coating all the individual flavors. The normal Cheddar Puff is coated in such a mess of flavoring that it tastes nothing like a normal cheddar puff. Thats one flavored ruined. Next up is the Jalapeno Cheddar.. the little green ones.. when eating jalapeno, I expect a bit of heat, but these puffs had nothing but a mild hint of jalapeno flavor. As for the Salsa picante.. based on the packaging, I was lead to believe these would be the hottest puffs. But no, while they had a nice flavor, there was no heat. At all. A single drop of tabasco sauce is hotter.
    The only thing this bag of snacks had to offer what the Chipotle Cheddar puffs. This was the most unique flavor I have tasted in a snack in quite a while. Unfortunately, the texture of this puff was horrible. The waffle shape along with the size of the bite wasn't all that great. In fact, I'm not entirely certain if I would like it as a separate product because of all the other flavors in the bag skewing my tastes.
    Should you eat this?
    No. I will not buy another bag of these and I don't recommend you even try them. It claims to be spicy, but this is not spicy at all. I did not care for this mixture of flavors and textures whatsoever. However, if Cheetos made the Salsa Picante or Chipotle Cheddar puffs into crunchy versions sold separately, they might have a decent product.