Quirks about St. Louis

I guess one thing I like about St. Louis is that it isn’t completely cookie-cutter yet–I can still go to a place called MacArthur’s for a better doughnut than a Krispy Kreme and a much better sandwich than Subway, or to The Concord Grill for a much better hamburger than Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s, or to Fortel’s for the best pizza, period–but St. Louisans themselves have some delightful quirks to make fun of.

You can tell I’m not a St. Louis native because I haven’t asked you what high school you went to yet. You might be 48 years old and the president of the company you work for, but for some reason that’s more important than your name and what you do for a living. Because, after all, St. Louisans measure the quality of their weekend by the number of former classmates they ran into.

When Dick Gephardt decided to run for president, I’m sure the first paragraph of the news story read, “Southwest High School graduate Dick Gephardt announced Tuesday his intention to run for president–of the United States–in 2004.” The second or third paragraph should mention he graduated in 1958. And somewhere buried in the middle of the story, there’d be a mention that he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 26 years. The mention of minor details such as his political party was probably cut to make room for a bigger photo of Southwest High School.

And the only quote from Gephardt ought to talk about how he manages to keep in touch with his old classmates from Washington D.C. and where to get a good pork steak outside of St. Louis.

At least that’s how I would have run the story if I’d been the editor and wanted St. Louisans to read it.

And I never have figured out what you’re supposed to do with a pork steak. Put it in your baseball glove for extra padding? What a true St. Louisan does is throw the fat- and gristle-laden thing on a grill, dry, cook it until charred, then wave a little bit of Maull’s over it and call it real BBQ.

No wonder Kansas City is on the opposite side of the state. It’s trying to stay as far away from that vile dish as possible.

Sorry about that. I got rolling in an e-mail message this morning so I’m cheating and posting that. I’ll answer someone’s writing and publishing question later this weekend.

I’m in debt

It’s official. I’m a debtholder.
And a homeowner.

And after the brouhaha around my downpayment, I understand why my mom’s whole side of the family hates banks. It’s my money! Not yours! Gimme!

So here’s what I learned:

1. Banks don’t talk to each other. That’s fraternizing with the enemy.

2. In this age of computer automation, it can–and will–still take days for a check to clear. Give your brain-dead financial institution a week to sort it out. Don’t count on them getting into the 20th century before your closing date. (Yes, I am aware that it’s now the 21st century.)

3. Try to keep your money in the same institution as your family members, just in case they need to quickly loan you what you put in limbo by writing a check (ha ha!). You know that computer system it refuses to use to quickly transfer money to and from other banks? It will use it to at least check account balances and verify that the money you say is there really is there.

4. Keep as little of your money as possible in banks. My stockbroker/money manager/whatever-you-want-to-call-him gets money to me faster than my banks do. And he beats the tar out of the interest rates a bank pays.

5. You say it’s your money? Possession’s 9/10 of the law, pal.

But anyway, that’s over. I signed my name a few dozen times and around 8 pm I got a key. I drove over. I had a few things with me.

My mom wanted to know what the first thing I’d bring in was. Well, I figure you’ve got two hands. So, since I’m the greatest writer who ever lived, I brought a bronzed copy of my book, Optimizing Windows, and the Nov. 1991 issue of Compute, which contained the first published article I got paid for.

Actually, several of my friends are under orders to shoot to kill if I ever do anything like that. And, for the record, the greatest writer who ever lived was F. Scott Fitzgerald.

So what’d I really bring in?

In one hand I brought in a pewter cross I received on March 18, 1999, the day my membership became official at my current church. (But its main significance is it’s the only wall-hanging cross I have.) I hung it above the fireplace. In the other hand, I brought a framed copy of my dad’s senior picture. I set that on the mantle.

Then I brought in some old stuff. I brought in the sign that hung outside my grandfather’s office (“Dr. Ralph C. Farquhar Jr., Osteopath”), and I brought in a box. The contents of the box:

An apothecary that had belonged to my grandfather
A medical instrument that had belonged to my grandfather (whatever that thing’s called that he uses to look in your ears)
My great-grandfather’s microscope
Dad’s camera (a Minolta) and a couple of Kodak lenses
Dad’s wallet
A can of Farquhar’s Texas-Style BBQ Seasoning

I arranged those on the mantle as well. They look good there.

Unfortunately, since my dad was a radiologist, it’s hard to find anything that symbolizes what he did for a living. But soon I’ll be getting the OMT table that had belonged to Dr. Ralph and then to my dad. OMT is an osteopathic practice similar to what chiropractors do. Dad used to give OMT treatments to his friends after work in our basement. So the OMT table is going in the basement. Then, this house will be home.

The giant homo sapien conspiracy against me

I’m confused, I’ve finished my book (reading one, not writing one–that’ll be the day), and I’ve found I’m in no mood for P.J. O’Rourke. Meanwhile, my readers are egging me on.
It’s part of a plot. I can tell. It’s part of that huge homo sapien plot to take over the world. You gotta watch them homo sapiens.

I learned yesterday than I’m no good at plotting. I’m no good at conspiring. This surprised me. You see, at the age of 23, my next-door neighbors decided the whole world was a huge conspiracy–though they weren’t quite smart enough to figure out that it was the homo sapiens behind it, but you’ll find that out soon enough–and somehow, even at my very young age, I’d managed to rise to the very top of that conspiracy.

They didn’t get out very much. They also happened to believe that the X-Files was really a documentary. You see, constitutionally, the government is required to disseminate that information. So they dress it up like fiction. That way, they’ve fulfilled their constitutional duty in an underhanded way. But really smart people (like them) could see through the whole thing.

Well, I’m not sure if they actually ever said that, but I sure did get sick of listening to UFO conspiracy stories. I can’t remember if they ever went so far as to try to tell me the X-Files was real.

I came out of that experience feeling like I had connections and conniving ability, like I could conspire if I really wanted to.

So as a friend and I started to weave this vast conspiracy, this person asked me a question that let all the air out of my balloon: What if [the person we were conspiring against] already has plans?

Dang it. I didn’t bother finding that out. I just assumed this person had nothing better to do than to fall into my carefully laid trap, which I’d been carefully laying out… because… I… No, not because I didn’t have anything better to do. I had lots of better things to do. I just didn’t want to do them.

Why doesn’t anyone believe me?

You’re in on that homo sapien plot too, aren’t you? You gotta watch them homo sapiens. They’ll take over the world if we’re not careful.

But I just went off on one of my really long digressions. Or maybe it was two of them. So, Steve DeLassus takes offense at me using the word “litter” and implying the trademark “White Castle” in the same sentence. Obviously, Steve’s forgotten one important thing. I’m a transplant to St. Louis. I’m not a native. I’m native to Kansas City. And let me tell you something about Kansas City. White Castle went to Kansas City… and flopped. No grace about it. We’re talking a big, messy belly-flop right onto dry, hot pavement.

Evidently, in Kansas City people wondered the same thing I did the couple of times I’ve had occasion to eat a White Castle. I wondered whether the little cardboard box the thing came in would taste better than the smelly, greasy thing they tried to pass off to me as a hamburger. I know it would be easier on your digestive tract and on your arteries.

White Castles are obviously a creation of the homo sapiens. But not even their most carefully laid plot could save them from the discriminating palates of Kansas City. Good on them. The Kansas Citians, that is.

The St. Louisans aren’t doing such a good job of staving off the plot. White Castle isn’t even a St. Louis creation.

Which leads me, somehow, to Bruce Edwards’ question. Evidently, where he used to live there was a chain of White Castle clones. We had one of those, in Columbia, where I went to college. It opened up the first semester of my freshman year. They bought a tiny drive-thru, painted it pink, and hung out a big pink-and-green sign that read in neon-style letters: Grill ‘n Chill. Their specialties: cheap belly bombers and thick milkshakes. The student newspaper I was writing for at the time reviewed it. “Completely unoriginal,” the reviewer said. I never bothered to check it out. To me, it seemed like cloning a Yugo. Why bother? Not that I had much of a chance to check it out. Within a couple of months, the venture went belly-up, and the atrociously colored pink building stood there vacant for years, a painful reminder of the failed venture. Well, I guess it wasn’t so painful if you remembered your sunglasses. I used to have a neat pair of black wraparounds. I think one of my ex-girlfriends took them. She never did like them. I think she was a closet homo sapien. That would explain a lot about her. Like how she walked upright, breathed oxygen, communicated using spoken words… I never did try to sneak out with any of her genetic material–you know, a bit of hair, or some nail clippings–to test, but I’ll bet she was carbon-based too.

And there I’ve gone, and taken the question and made it all about me. What, do I look like the guy on a date?

I blame the homo sapiens. They keep distracting me. They’re all around me. They’re everywhere, you know.

Anyway, back to the question, which I hadn’t even finished writing out when I got so rudely sidetracked: Some of his coworkers offered him $100 plus the price of the (ahem) food if he could eat 100 belly bombers in a 24-hour period. Bruce asked how I’d respond to an offer like that.

Well, I’m thinking that in exchange for three meals at Smokestack BBQ in Kansas City and $100, I might be willing to think about the sight and smell and taste of 100 belly bombers. But one would have to seriously raise the stakes for me to eat 100 of the wretched things over the course of a day. I get sick to my stomach if I take my vitamins too early in the day.

And that has absolutely nothing to do with homo sapiens. Which surprises you, I’m sure. I know it surprises me.

So, no, I’d tell my friends they could spend all weekend getting acquainted with their toilets if they wanted, but I sure wouldn’t be joining them.

Steve then made the smooth (as a gravel road) transition to the subject of Pepsi and toilets. About a year ago, Steve got one of those annoying forwards that clog up everyone’s inbox (if that’s not a homo sapien plot, I don’t know what is) that was something like 25 things you didn’t want to know about cola. It talked about how you could dissolve a nail in a can of Coca-Cola inside of a week, and other weird stuff. Well, I had a two-liter of Pepsi in my fridge. I’d had company over, and whoever it was only drank one or two glasses, leaving me with most of a two-liter that I had no intention of drinking, because when I want caffeine, I generally want coffee. One of the claims of the message was that a can of cola would do a very nice job of cleaning your toilet.

Now, knowing that if I read it on the Internet it must be true, I took the advice to heart. My toilet was badly discolored because I’m a bachelor and out to impress no one–or I figure if I’m going to impress someone, it won’t be with my toilet. Now, it’s never been as bad as that “worst toilet in Scotland” scene in Trainspotting, but I thought I had a pretty formidible test for that quantity of Pepsi. So I poured it in one morning before I left for work.

I came home about nine hours later. I stirred the contents of the bowl around with my toilet brush, but couldn’t get a good look at the interior. I guess it was a little cleaner. But I decided to let it sit a while longer.

Finally, around 8 p.m., I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had two choices: abandon the experiment, or use the sink. I’m not that much of a bachelor. (I’ve managed to fight off some of that homo sapien influence that so pervades our society these days.) So I flushed the toilet. And you know how they talk sometimes about “ring around the toilet?” I definitely had one of those. But the dirty part was the top of the bowl.

So forget about those fancy-dancy, high-fallutin’ blue things you hang in your toilet. Once every couple of months, buy yourself one of those 59-cent two-liter bottles of generic cola. Take it home, dump it in the bowl before you go to work, and let it sit. It’s cheaper than those blue things and it’s a whole lot easier than scrubbing. Does a better job too. And it’s better for the environment too, since there’s no poisonous bleach involved. Moby would be so proud of me.

I’m sure those homo sapiens don’t want you to know that.

Recovery time.

Taxes. I think I’ve actually filed my taxes on time twice in my adult life. This year isn’t one of them. I filed Form 4868, so Tax Day for me is actually Aug. 15, 2002.
In theory Uncle Sam owes me money this year, so I shouldn’t owe any interest. I’ll have a professional accountant test that theory soon. Make that fairly soon, because it’d be nice to have that money, seeing as I expect to make the biggest purchase of my still-fairly-short life this year.

Some people believe filing a 4868 is advantageous. The thinking is this: Let the IRS meet its quota for audits, then file. That way, the only way you’re going to get audited is if you truly raise red flags, which I shouldn’t because I’m having a professional (and an awfully conservative one at that) figure the forms. That’s good. I’d rather not have to send a big care package off to the IRS to prove I’m not stealing from them.

Adventure. Steve DeLassus and I dove headlong into an adventure on Sunday, an adventure consisting of barbecue and Linux. I think at one point both of us were about ready to put a computer on that barbie.

We’ll talk about the barbecue first. Here’s a trick I learned from Steve: Pound your boneless chicken flat, then throw it in a bag containing 1 quart of water and 1 cup each of sugar and salt. Stick the whole shebang in the fridge while the fire’s getting ready. When the fire’s ready, take the chicken out of the bag and dry thoroughly. Since Steve’s not a Kansas Citian, he doesn’t believe in dousing the chicken in BBQ sauce before throwing it on the grill. But it was good anyway. Really good in fact.

Oh, I forgot. He did spray some olive oil on the chicken first. Whether that helps it brown or locks in moisture or both, I’m not quite sure. But olive oil contains good fats, so it’s not a health concern.

Now, Linux on cantankerous 486s may be a health concern. I replaced the motherboard in Steve’s router Sunday night, because it was a cranky 486SX/20. I was tired of dealing with the lack of a math coprocessor, and the system was just plain slow. I replaced it with a very late model 486DX2/66 board. I know a DX2/66 doesn’t have three times the performance of an SX/20, but the system sure seemed three times faster. Its math coprocessor, L2 cache, faster chipset, and much better BIOS helped. It took the new board slightly longer to boot Linux than it took the old one to finish counting and testing 8 MB of RAM.

But Debian wasn’t too impressed with Steve’s Creative 2X CD-ROM and its proprietary Panasonic interface. So we kludged in Steve’s DVD-ROM drive for the installation, and laughed at the irony. Debian installed, but the lack of memory (I scraped up 8 megs; Steve’s old memory wouldn’t work) slowed down the install considerably. But once Debian was up and running, it was fine, and in text mode, it was surprisingly peppy. We didn’t install XFree86.

It was fine until we tried to get it to act as a dialup router, that is. We never really did figure out how to get it to work reliably. It worked once or twice, then quit entirely.

This machine was once a broadband router based on Red Hat 6.1, but Red Hat installed way too much bloat so it was slow whenever we did have to log into it. And Steve moved into the boonies, where broadband isn’t available yet, so it was back to 56K dialup for him. Now we know that dialup routers seem to be much trickier to set up than dual-NIC routers.

After fighting it for nearly 8 hours, we gave up and booted it back into Freesco, which works reliably. It has the occasional glitch, but it’s certainly livable. Of course we want (or at least Steve wants) more features than Freesco can give you easily. But it looks like he’ll be living with Freesco for a while, since neither of us is looking forward to another marathon Debian session.

Nostalgia. A couple of articles on Slashdot got me thinking about the good old days, so I downloaded VICE, a program that can emulate almost every computer Commodore ever built. Then I played around with a few Commodore disk images. It’s odd what I do and don’t remember. I kind of remember the keyboard layout. I remembered LOAD “*”,8,1 loads most games (and I know why that works too, and why the harder-to-type LOAD “0:*”,8,1 is safer), but I couldn’t remember where the Commodore keyboard layout put the *.

I sure wish I could remember people’s names half as well as I remember this mesozoic computer information.

It stands on shaky legal ground, but you can go to c64.com and grab images for just about any Commodore game ever created. The stuff there is still covered by copyright law, but in many cases the copyright holder has gone out of business and/or been bought out several times over, so there’s a good possibility the true copyright holder doesn’t even realize it anymore. Some copyright holders may care. Others don’t. Others have probably placed the work in the public domain. Of course, if you own the original disks for any of the software there, there’s no problem in downloading it. There’s a good possibility you can’t read your originals anyway.

I downloaded M.U.L.E., one of the greatest games of all time. I have friends who swear I was once an ace M.U.L.E. player, something of an addict. I have absolutely no recollection of that. I started figuring out the controls after I loaded it, but nothing seemed familiar, that’s for sure. I took to it pretty quickly. The strategy is simple to learn, but difficult to master. The user interface isn’t intuitive, but in those days they rarely were. And in those days, not many people cared.

Oh yeah. I have a Web site.

You ask me how I am
And all I can say is I still exist…
–lyrical snippet I wrote in 1997

Yep, I’m hacked off and moody, and when I get this way, it’s best if I say little more than yeah, I still exist. I know I won’t regret saying or writing that.

BBQ. I know I cut way back on my red meat intake–I may have managed to eat none at all in October, I’m not sure–but I have this fantasy of moving back to Kansas City, buying a house next door to Gates BBQ–no relation to that scumbag Billy Gates in Seattle–setting up an expense account, and eating BBQ three meals a day. BBQ for breakfast? Don’t dis it until you’ve tried it. But make sure it’s real BBQ. Here in St. Louis, restaurants tend to do Memphis-style BBQ, which is where you cook the meat without sauce until it’s good and dried out, then you splash some spicy sauce on it and call it BBQ. Kansas Citians know real BBQ is cooked long, slow, and in sauce. It adds a little flavor and keeps the meat from drying out as much.

Gates three times a day. Sounds like a great solution to any problem. Or at least a nice distraction.

Music. I’ve been listening to a CD my sister sent me by a band called claas-p.jambor. I know nothing about them, because their Web site xeptional.com is a Flash site and I’ve removed that blight from all my PCs, permanently. (Now if I can just get them to quit prompting me for the plugin…) Well, I do know this: Their music is awesome. Ever listen to a CD, then come to a song that makes you just stop the disc and put that song on repeat play for a couple of hours? “Open Skies” is one of those songs. I know I’m not the only one like that: when Beavis and Butthead saw a video they really liked, they said MTV should just play that video over and over. Beavis and Butthead wouldn’t like claas-p.jambor though. Too punky, and they’re Christian.

But three-chord Christian punk seems to be just what I’ve been looking for.

Blogging. Dan Bowman sent me a link to a site that looks promising. If you like it when I go off on my non-computer tangents, you’ll probably find him interesting. If you wonder what it’s like to be a Catholic priest, or a former Catholic priest, you’ll probably like it. He’s only been at it for a week or so. I like him. He shoots straight, makes me think, and holds just enough back to keep an aura about him. I think he’s more enigmatic than I am.

Effective e-mail communication. I guess I have to do a little computer stuff, huh? Here’s a snippet from a piece of e-mail I sent this morning, to someone who’s about to attend a seminar on effective communications:

“Dave’s rule #1: Make sure what you’re trying to communicate will actually be delivered. Therefore, you should avoid Outlook at all costs.”

To which he responded, Outlook is effective for sending mail bombs, viruses, Powerpoint presentations and Flash animations. I’m sure it transmits Anthrax just fine too. But I’ve had three, maybe even four people have Outlook just flat die in the past week. The answer is sometimes to run nfclean.exe and scanpst.exe. Sometimes I have to delete the user’s NT profile and import their PST. Sometimes I have to completely reinstall.

I hate Outlook. I hate Windows. And I can’t have another Amiga.

Give me Unix or give me death.

Hello from the land of great barbecue

I’m in KC. Home of barbecue, the Kansas City Royals, and way too many country music stations. I miss the barbecue and the Royals. So. I’m gone. Gatermann’s in charge.
What am I saying!?

Actually I’ll be checking in periodically. I may even write some stuff up the couple of days I’m gone. Not sure yet. I won’t be checking mail though, so if you have questions, use the comments here or the forum.

It was a decent drive up. I stopped at my usual place, Biffles BBQ in Concordia, Mo., for some brisket. The Royals game was on the TV in the bar, so I stayed and watched an inning. They ended up winning the game 12-4. I don’t get it. The Royals can beat the first-place Twins about as well as anyone, but they can’t beat any other team.

03/04/2001

PC building sanity check. I’m getting really tired of reading hardware forums because I keep seeing the same awful advice over and over again. One of the fairly big vendors, I forget who, is offering 128-meg DIMMs from some outfit called Zeus Components for $25, and 256-meg DIMMs for $57. One person who bought this wrote in talking about how it was a no-name PCB with no-name chips on it (a sure bad sign if there ever was one) and how great it is.

Reality check: Why would anyone spend good money on decent components, then cripple them by putting bottom-feeder memory on it? Stability will go down the toilet. Performance won’t be as good as it could be–memory performance is overrated, yes, but so is CPU performance and the same people who cry about how miniscule the gains from using quality memory are often the same ones who waste a weekend by trying to milk an extra 25 MHz out of their CPUs. Getting memory that runs at CAS2 instead of CAS3 makes about as much difference as that extra 25 MHz does, and it won’t burn out your system prematurely either.

Let’s consider all of this, and use numbers to back them up. I just priced a Gigabyte 7ZX-1 motherboard with a 700 MHz Duron CPU. This is the slowest, cheapest Duron that’s still available everywhere. Price, including fan: 165 bucks. The motherboard is respected as a stable board, priced nicely, and includes Creative audio onboard. A decent Enlight midtower case that won’t slice you up and a 300W power supply is $62. A 32-meg Guillemot GeForce256 card–not state of the art, but for mid-range gaming and anything I do, it’s drastic overkill–is $80. So you’ve got a foundation for a system that was absolutely unbelievable just 18 months ago, for 300 bucks.

Considering what you get for $300, I think you can afford to put something other than $25 128-meg DIMMs in them. Save those for some other sucker.

The same vendor had 256-meg CAS2 PC133 Corsair DIMMs for $129. Corsair’s not my first choice and Crucial is offering free shipping right now. A Crucial 256-meg CAS2 PC133 DIMM is $96. The highly regarded Mushkin high-performance DIMMs (latency of 2 all around, so they’re great if your motherboard allows you to adjust all your memory timings but admittedly they’d be overkill on some of the boards I have) are $150.

So we’re at $396 for an awfully nice PC that just lacks storage. CD, DVD, and floppy drives are pretty much commodity items these days. Buy Plextor, or buy whatever’s available at a decent price and doesn’t look like it cost $12 out of the back of a van parked at an abandoned gas station. That leaves hard drives.

Now that memory costs next to nothing, a lot of people think real computers have to have 768 megs of RAM. Really, you get diminishing returns above 128 megs. Two years ago I was ridiculed for suggesting people should get 128 megs of RAM. Now people are routinely buying six times that amount. Trends. (sigh.) Since a 256-meg stick costs around 100 bucks, fine, get 256 so you can run any OS you want and run it fast. But really we need to be thinking about hard drive speed. Sure, a hard drive doesn’t do anything for Quake frame rates, but for everything else it does, and if you’re like me and actually use your computer, you’ll appreciate a fast disk really quickly.

The IBM 75GXP is currently the fastest IDE drive on the market. At $135 for a 30-gig model, it makes absolutely no sense to buy anything else, period. If you need more storage than that, a 45-gig costs about $150, a 60-gig $215, and a 75-gig $275. The sweet spot seems to be 45 gigs.

But if you’re going to run Linux or NT or Windows 2000 and you were ready to buy 768 megs of RAM anyway, why not look at SCSI? An Adaptec controller will run you $200, while a Tekram will start at around $100. You can get a nice 10,000 RPM drive from IBM, Quantum or Seagate for around $235. Now we’re talking a 9-gig drive here, but speed’s more stem out with a $33 LG Electronics CD-ROM and a $14 Panasonic floppy drive. The damage? $844. That’s without a keyboard, mouse, or monitor, but seeing as everyone likes different things there, I always leave those out of base pricing. And of course you still have to buy an OS.

That’s an awful lot of computer for about $850. The components are high enough quality that they should be good for 4-5 years, and I suspect the system won’t be a slouch by then either. The specs will be laughable, but if someone sits down to use it, they’ll have difficulty believing it’s “only” a 700 MHz computer. And if you want to upgrade it down the line, it’ll continue to be worthy of your trouble for a long time to come.

I think I found my new hangout. Well, in about five weeks it’ll be my new hangout. I was going to give up using Windows for Lent–not that I enjoy using Windows, but not using it would be a terrible inconvenience, and the purpose of Lent is to give up something that reminds you of what Jesus gave up. Since Windows is an everyday part of life, it would suffice–I could use a Mac at work, and just run Linux on my PCs at home. But since my job is partly fixing PCs that run Windows, or writing about Windows, I can’t very well do that. So instead I gave up meat. All meat. If it used to be an animal, it’s meat–no using seafood as a loophole.

So, Penny’s BBQ, a little place I stumbled upon yesterday, won’t be my hangout until Lent’s over. I love BBQ–must be because I’m from Kansas City. My favorite R.E.M. song is “The One I Love,” which Michael Stipe wrote after his favorite BBQ joint burned down. Listen to the words really carefully sometime. He’s not talking about his prom date.

I always get sidetracked when I’m talking about BBQ. Penny’s is about 10 minutes from home, depending on how obnoxious St. Louis traffic feels like being. It smelled good outside the place, which is always a good sign. It’s tough to find BBQ in St. Louis, let alone good BBQ. But Penny’s turns out to be comparable to the typical fare you find at every other stoplight in Kansas City, I’ll be a very happy camper. But that’s easier said than done. I’ve never really understood it, because there’s plenty of good BBQ in Chicago and in Kansas City and, frankly, throughout Missouri. If you’re ever driving through Missouri on I-70–my condolences if you are–in a tiny little town about an hour east of Kansas City named Concordia, there’s a BBQ joint called Biffle’s that’s nearly as good as the best places in KC, and it’s easier to get to and not as crowded. I plan my trips to KC so that I end up driving through Concordia around meal time.

The downside to giving up meat is I can’t really write about it, beyond that. Had I given up Windows, chances are a lot of people would have wanted to read about how it was going and what I was finding. Oh well.

Heh heh heh. Need a cheap computer for someone? How’s a Tekram Socket 370 microATX board with built-in audio and video sound? Promising? You bet, especially considering its $35 price tag here. Put it in an inexpensive microATX case, drop in a $50 Celeron-533 PPGA (this board only works with Celerons with the old Mendocino core, not a Coppermine) and a $50 Crucial 128-meg DIMM, add your favorite hard drive, and you can have a really nice system for $350 or so. Or if you’ve got parts laying around, you know the drill.

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