Friday, March 11, 2011

Business Casual: Casually Stupid

I am unsure how it got so popular. Apparently, over 40% of people who aren't self-employed exist in a "business casual" dress code environment (in the US and other White Collar western nations, anyway).

It is also not considered a uniform. This is news to me, because 90% of the people I see on the train look like some variation of this:


Or, this:
Khakis and collared shirts can be cool. But no one seems to want to try, it makes me sad.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Italian Beef, You Say?


Wikipedia describes an Italian beef sandwich in the following manner:

"An Italian beef is a sandwich of thin slices of seasoned roast beef , dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll, believed to have originated in Chicago, where its history dates back at least to the 1930s. The bread itself is often dipped (or double-dipped) into the juices the meat is cooked in, and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style giardiniera (called "hot") or sauteed, green Italian sweet peppers (called "sweet").

Italian beef sandwiches can be found at most hot dog stands and small Italian-American restaurants throughout the city of Chicago and its suburbs. They are difficult to find outside the Chicago metropolitan area. However, Chicago expatriates have opened restaurants across the country serving Italian beef, Chicago-style hot dogs, and other foods original to the Chicago area."

What this fails to mention is how incredibly awesome this sandwich is. Seriously, it's a death row meal. Unlike many other sandwiches the secret is it's simplicity. It doesn't require cheese, or any other condiment to make it tasty. The meat, the juice, the bread - it's enough. I prefer my sandwich with giardiniera, but I'll eat it plain, if it's a good sandwich. That's the other side of the knife edge; while a good beef is sublime, a bad one is horrendous. It's not like pizza or a burger, where even a bad one is edible. No, a bad Italian beef sandwich is an affront to the palate, a disgrace to tradition.

My personal favorites:

  • Al's Beef - This is tops on my list, just about. Great gravy, great thin giardiniera. Also makes great Italian sausage. But, one word of warning. Go to the original on Taylor, or the one on Ontario. Ignore the rest.
  • Johnnie's Beef - I can't believe they don't have a website. Great traditional style beef, with clear, gray-brown juice. And a phenomenal sausage; order the combo. Also, go when it's nice out, there isn't any indoor seating.
  • Joe Boston's Italian Beef - This one is a recent addition to my list. I had seen it for years, but never went in to try it, even though it was in my neighborhood. My mistake - while the fries are often lackluster, the beef itself is tasty, juicy and delicious.
  • Portillo's - It's tasty, delicious and everywhere. 'Nuff said.
Some people might ask, "Why isn't Mr Beef on your list?" I'll tell you. It's for tourists. It's tasty enough, but their giardiniera is totally week; it's celery in oil. Let Jay Leno have his Mr Beef. Any of the above options leave it in the dust.

And now, for some food porn:


Now - go get yourself a sandwich! "One beef, hot; dipped."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

First Watch on the Moon


As the years go by, and I edge, inexorably, towards forty years old (yikes!), I find myself attracted to all sorts of things that I never would have been attracted to in years past. Expensive watches seem to be the latest thing.

I love mechanical watches. There is just something about a device that requires no electrical power source to work. Poetry in the machine, I dunno.

Anyway, the Omega Speedmaster - that's what I want. It was worn during the first American spacewalk during Gemini 4 and was the first watch worn on the moon during Apollo 11. NASA was serious about making sure the watch could handle space. These are the conditions they subjected all the watches they tested to:
  • High temperature: 48 hours at 71° C followed by 30 minutes at 93° C
  • Low temperature: Four hours at -18° C
  • Temperature cycling in near-vacuum: Fifteen cycles of heating to 71° C for 45 minutes, followed by cooling to -18° C for 45 minutes at 10-6 atm
  • Humidity: 250 hours at temperatures between 20° C and 71° C at relative humidity of 95%
  • Oxygen environment: 100% oxygen at 0.35 atm and 71° C for 48 hours
  • Shock: Six 11ms 40 G shocks from different directions
  • Linear acceleration: from 1 to 7.25G within 333 seconds
  • Low pressure: 90 minutes at 10^-6 atm at 71° C followed by 30 minutes at 93° C
  • High pressure: 1.6 atm for one hour
  • Vibration: three cycles of 30 minutes vibration varying from 5 to 2000hz with minimum 8.8G impulse
  • Acoustic noise: 30 minutes at 130db from 40 to 10,000hz
The evaluation concluded in March 1965 with the selection of the Speedmaster, which survived the tests while remaining largely within 5 seconds per day rate.

I'm pretty sure the watch could handle whatever mundane nonsense I could throw at it. I mean, it could handle this:


I know there are other watches that get more notice these days - James Bond's Rolex Submariner leaps to mind, but for me, the Speedmaster is it.