The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Be careful, for tomorrow could be Sorrowing Day—the 5th of July

My friend Hoade sent me several stereoscopic pictures (and a viewer) for Christmas. One struck a chord with me:

[For some reason, this reminds me of Bunny and her brother.  I don't know why ...]

(and yes, I'm trying to give you, the reader, an impression of viewing a stereoscopic picture on the Intarwebs)

On the back is written:

No 1128 (b). SORROWING—JULY 5.

This is the same little boy who started out to make so much noise and smoke yesterday celebrating the Fourth. In the United States in one year, according to the figures gathered by experts, there were 168 boys and men and a few girls, too, who, like this boy, started out celebrate [sic], and wound up by leaving sorrowing friends, for that many were killed by explosions or died from lockjaw as the result of celebrating just one July 4th; and besides that, there were hundreds upon hundreds—something like 7,000 boys and men and girls maimed and crippled in that same celebration. Most of those who died were killed by lockjaw, one of the most terrible of diseases.

Perhaps five whole regiments of young men and boys are killed or injured every Fourth of July by fireworks and revolvers and mostly by toy pistols that shoot caps and torpedoes—for these cause most of the lockjaw.

Is it worth while to celebrate that way, and kill and maim in a celebration so many whose lives are useful to their country? Would it not be better to leave the fireworks to those skilled in handling them, and instead of devoting July 4th to fun, to make it a day of patriotism, to teach to all Americans what the Declaration of Independence means?

No year is given on that particular picture, but some of the others have “1925” so I guess they are all from about the same time period. And given the number of times “lockjaw was mentioned, it appears it was a grave concern at the time.

Nowadays, you have to concern yourself with burnt hair from overzealous neighbors.

Be safe, and remember, there's a reason professionals exist.

Oh make a little smoke, make a little fire, get BBQ tonight! Get BBQ tonight!

Last week I decided I wanted to do barbecue ribs for dinner tonight. And by “barbecue” I mean “barbecue,” with real smoke and everthing. Bunny got two racks of ribs, and yesterday, I spent some time doing some prep work.

First, we need some chunks of hardwood to produce the smoke. We have a bag firewood Bunny brought some time ago, so I grabbed half a log, and on the table saw, split it in half, and then cut it into four chunks.

[It's log, it's log,/it's big, it's heavy, it's wood./It's log, it's log, it's better than bad, it's good.] [It's log!  Now with chunks!  Fun for the whole family!]

I wanted to use the bandsaw, but unfortunately, the tire on the lower wheel disintegrated, rendering the bandsaw temporarily out of commission.

[Thank God it was just the tire!  The sounds and vibrations it made just before it gave out was horrendous!]

I can't say I enjoyed using the table saw for this, but using the The Gripper for splitting the log, and the cross-cut sled for the chunks certainly helped to keep my fingers safe. But for wood sold to be used in a fire, it was very nice wood.

[This wood is good enough for a wood working project.]

Then, just before bed, I spread some yellow mustard over the ribs—this will help the rub to stick. Then, the rub (brown sugar, salt, many, many spices—there are plenty of recipies out on the Intarwebs), then wrapped the ribs in foil and placed into the refrigerator overnight.

[Don't ask me what's in the rub.  I'd have to marry you, or kill you, and I'm already spoken for.] [I don't think you need to go overboard with the mustard.  I just used plain old yellow mustard here.  The rub has plenty of spices.] [Don't be stingy on the rub.  Go wild!  Coat those suckers!]

Around noon today, I started the barbecue. I don't have a smoker, but I do have a classic Weber Kettle Grill, which can do the job in a pinch. The method I'm using is the “snake method.” You arrange charcoal around the edge of the grill:

[It's just like playing with blocks!  Only blocks that leave your hands black as coal.  But whatever you do, don't play with the grey blocks.  Trust me on this.]

I placed one layer two bricks deep, then another layer on top that was two bricks deep. On top of that, the wood chunks are placed to provide the smoke. And yes, three chunks was more than enough to impart a smokey flavor to the ribs. You only need a few hot coals placed at one end to start things off. Over time, the coals will slowly catch fire down the snake and if you get it just right, you won't have to add any coals at all (the above lasted 4½ hours, which was enough to cook the ribs—more on that below).

I do recommend using a starter chimney:

[It's worth using, even if you have to put up with Dick Van Dyke and his awful “that is NOT a Cockney accent” Cockney accent.]

All you do is spread some vegetable oil on some newspaper (makes it burn longer), wad it up, place it in the bottom of the chimney and light it on fire. Then walk away. Just walk away. It'll light the coals and when they're starting to ash over, pour them out at one end of the snake.

Once that's done, add a foil pan with hot water (I placed the pan on the level with the coals, then used an electric kettle to boil the water and pour it into the pan). This not only helps with the smoking, but it also helps to regulate the heat during cooking. Place the grill grate on the grill, and slap those ribs on it, as far away from the heat as possible.

[You can see the pan of water just below the ribs. That thing in the upper left portion is a digital thermometer.] [If you look closely, you can see the snake is half burned, along with the chunks of wood.  They did their job.] [Lip-smaking barbecue-ribby goodness.  These are ready to come off the grill!]

Place the lid on, with the hood vents placed as far away from the heat as possible. This forces the smoke across the ribs. Also, you'll want to adjust the vents on the top and bottom to keep the tempurature as close to 250°F as possible (220° would be ideal). This may require some fiddling until you get it right. I checked on the them about every hour for the first three hours, then every 30 minutes thereafter. You can tell the ribs are done by sliding some tongs along the length of the ribs about half-way, and lifing them up. If the meat “cracks” then they're done. Slather any barbecue sauce you want on them, place the lid back on for another 5 to 10 minutes, then pull them off.

[That's our largest cutting board.  It's also our heaviest cutting board.  It takes a small crew of men to carry it around.]

All that's left was to carve them up and eat.

[Home barbecued ribs and home made potato salad (totally---even the mayonnaise is home made).  How can you go wrong?]

As a first-time experiment, they were good, but there are a few things I will change for next time. First, the ribs were tender, but not “fall-off-the-ribs” tender, and I think that's because I left the rub on just too long. I think I would go no shorter than an hour, no longer than two, before cooking. Second, our grill was barely large enough to handle two racks of ribs (and I suspect these were larger racks—between the two of us, we only ate about 2/3 of a single rack), so next time, one rack.

Other than that, I think this was a success.

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