Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Gaine du Oeufs et Jambon

(A recipe from a good friend who lives in the countryside of France - basically Spaghetti with Ham and Eggs)
  • Butter
  • Cooked Spaghetti (leftover is great)
  • Ham (prosciutto, cappolina, country ham, Canadian bacon, etc. - something flavorful and ultra thin)
  • Whole eggs
  • Greens (spinach, arugula, endive, kale, cooked collards, beet greens, dandelion greens, watercress, chard, etc. - whatever you can round up, something a tad bitter is best)
  • Garlic
  • Capers (if you have them - be sure to rinse them)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Limes
  • First decide how you want to cook the eggs. The traditional way is to poach them. But that's a PITA. So the easiest way is to melt a good bit of butter (2 tablespoons per egg is about right, yes, tablespoons) over medium low heat. Crack just a couple eggs in at a time and let them cook slowly w/o touching. Traditionally the eggs are served w/ runny yolks. So you'd cook them sunny side up. In a pinch you can also soft scramble them but it makes for a mucky presentation.
  • Once the eggs are done, if you cooked them in butter instead of poaching, drain the remaining butter from the pan and leave a light residue. This saved butter will become your sauce. If you poached, well tackle the butter in a few minutes.
  • Now, heat minced or pressed garlic over medium low heat (you don't want it to brown). Once the garlic is warmed through to take the edge off of it, add the greens, ham and red pepper flakes. Add the rinsed capers if you have them. Heat over medium. You just want to ever so slightly wilt the greens and start to warm the ham through. Dump the wilted greens and ham into the same bowl as the pasta - we'll mix and heat it all in a minute.
  • Pour the butter back into the pan (or if you poached your eggs melt about 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter per serving) and heat over medium until the butter starts to brown. The butter solids will turn a caramel brown. Be careful. The line between brown and burnt is a very thin one!
  • Once the butter gets brown immediately dump the spaghetti, greens and ham into the pan and toss to coat. Warm everything through. You can add a splash of olive oil if you didn't have enough butter. Place the whole poached or sautéed eggs on top of the spaghetti and cover with a lid if possible to let them warm back up.
To serve:
  • Each serving gets an egg and the pasta and greens mixture.
  • Make a nest of pasta in a bowl or on a plate and place the egg in the middle. Top with chives or diced red onions and chopped parsley or cilantro. (red onions and cilantro are my favorite)
  • Splash with the juice of a lime wedge and add a wedge to the side of the dish. Lemon will do also. Just need something to cut the sweet taste of the brown butter.
  • Caramelized onions are a wonderful addition.
  • Anchovies or sardines instead of ham.
  • Really crisp bacon works well. You can use some of the bacon fat instead of butter. Use lemon instead of lime though since the lime fights with most bacon flavors.
  • Fresh pico de gallo works well as a garnish.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

It's 'da fees stupid

Overheard: "Wonder why our phone bill is more expensive this month? We didn't make any long distance calls or anything."

Well, it took all the will power I had not to butt into the conversation with "it's the fees stupid".

Take a close look at your latest phone bills - cell phone, land line, all of them. You're likely in for a rude awakening.

I had the opportunity to price out new cell phone service for someone in the Dallas Metroplex and was astonished. For 1000 minutes w/ unlimited nights and weekends, the monthly fee was great - $45. But then when the bill came we were astonished to find an additional $15 in taxes and fees. That's basically a 33% tax rate!

Here is the detail for the bill in question:

Taxes, Fees and Surcharges

Item Amount

Government Fees and Taxes

Federal Excise Tax 1.29

Federal Universal Service Fund 1.16

State Sales Tax 4.96

State Universal Service Fund 3.02

TIF Reimbursement 0.98

City District Tax 0.80

Local Sales Tax 0.80

State 911 0.50

Regulatory Programs Fee* 0.86

Taxes, Fees and Surcharges 14.37

*Fee we collect and retain to help cover our costs related to funding and complying with government mandates, programs and obligations.

No wonder SBC and Verizon want to keep their monopoly position so radically protected against municiple providers here in Texas. That $4 in Universal Service Fund money goes right back to them in one form or another. Simply amazing.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Things you didn’t know about VoIP

DMNews.com has put together an interesting list of things we probably did not know about VoIP. For instance, in April 2005, there were 1,229,411 searches for VoIP on Yahoo Search. Or that at present, there are seven companies paying around $4 per click for the term VoIP, and that’s on Yahoo network alone. The new math of new VoIP-con-omy is that old fashioned phrases like “phone service” gets a max bid of $2.92 and that’s from Vonage. “Verizon” keyword costs $1.19 while “Vonage” cots $2.19.

Two points
  • The only people making money from VoIP: search engine and text ad companies.
  • Secondly, given the lack of awareness of VoIP, I wonder if these keyword prices are all screwed up. Shouldn’t “phone service” be more expensive? After all people looking for phone service are not going to type VoIP!
Ironically, the fastest growing VoIP service, aka Skype, doesn’t do any advertising…. yet!

(Thanks to Om Malik for today's musing.)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Farm Kittens. $25 reward to the first person who can accurately determine who the tom cat was that fathered them.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The FCC Finally Looks at the USF

A decade of fraud and billions in misdirected funds later...
Written by Karl Bode
A significant portion of your monthly DSL and landline bill goes to the Universal Service Fund (USF). Critics across ideologies have long charged the system is corrupt, dysfunctional, poorly managed, and/or a slush fund for the bells. After years of debate, the FCC has announced they'll finally take a look.

The USF was created as part of the 1996 Telecom Act, with the intention of subsidizing affordable telecom services to the nation's less connected schools and communities. The act declared that providers of telecommunications services should contribute to the fund in an "equitable and nondiscriminatory manner".

When the FCC later ruled cable was an "information service" and largely exempt from contributing, that idea was seemingly thrown out the window. The ruling fueled legitimate complaints from the bells, and forged the Brand X court case, which challenges that ruling and should be decided on by the Supreme Court this month.

Even if there were equal contribution, the fund is so poorly managed, nobody knows where the money goes once it leaves your pocket. The system is plagued with little documentation, and even less FCC oversight.

Bell critic Bruce Kushnick complains that lack of oversight has allowed the USF to become a massive slush fund for the telecom industry, where money goes in - but nobody knows (or cares) where it comes out. Kushnick claims that roughly 60% of the total collected goes right back to the bells as profit; he's long championed a complete USF audit.

Lets assume - for the sake of argument - the money leaves your wallet, works its way through the Bell coffers untouched, and winds up where it's supposed to.

Forty percent of USF fees go toward funding the E-Rate program, which is supposed to wire schools with broadband. The program instead has been exposed as a poster-child for fraud and waste (see Christian Science Monitor).

A recent study by the GAO slammed the FCC for mismanaging the multi-billion dollar E-rate program. Of particular concern was the complete lack of any monitoring system to ensure it works. Of 122 audits done over the past year, about a third revealed substantial violations. School officials in Puerto Rico spent $101 million to wire only nine schools. In other cases hardware was purchased, then mysteriously disappeared.

So a decade and billions in misdirected funds later, the FCC announces it's time to take a look at the USF (pdf). Good thinking. But, like Sean Connery in the Untouchables, are they willing to go all the way?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tell State Leaders to Continue to Stand Tall on Special Interest Phone Legislation

Big phone companies sent over 160 lobbyists to the Capitol this spring with an agenda to increase phone rates, reduce service quality standards, continue unjustified subsidies and prevent Texas towns from offering affordable high-speed Internet to their citizens.

At the end of the regular legislative session last week, key state leaders stood tall and told the phone companies to take a hike.

Now the phone companies are pressuring state leaders to add their special interest legislation to a special session called on school finance.

Please take action to stop this right now by using this link to contact the Texas state leaders!


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

National Muni-Ban Proposed & Response

It was only a matter of time before the state level community broadband bans being crafted by incumbents went national. Save Muni Wireless reports that HR2726 would ban communities from wiring themselves unless there was "market failure". How is that failure defined? A private business can't be offering anything remotely resembling broadband anywhere nearby. Not surprisingly the author of the "Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005", Rep. Pete Sessions, is a former SBC employee.

My Personal Response to Congressman Pete Sessions

Dear Congressman Sessions,

I'm writing about proposed legislation H.R. 2726 - which is ironically entitled the "Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005".

After reading the text of the proposed bill via Thomas Register, it appears this bill will actually provide an exclusive monopolistic arena for telephone and cable companies. At the same time it will lock out localities, municipalities and cities from outfitting themselves with a viable Internet service when the incumbent fails to adequately service the area. This is especially true for rural and smaller communities that the phone and cable companies find econonmically unattractive.

I have yet to hear anyone articulate a well reasoned argument for these sorts of limits. This seems like purely big-business, lobbyist driven legislation.

As a moderate republican in your district, I am strongly apposed to big government moves such as this one. Stay out of the business of municipalities, cities and their citizens. This is a local issue that needs to be handled by the local populations in the areas in question. Please stop trying to hamstring the ability for localities to serve their constituency.

I would also suggest that you contact Texas State Sentor Troy Fraser and spend a few minutes listening to his even handed and well researched opinions and suggestions concerning telecommunications legislation.

In closing, I would encourage you to listen less to the the your former employer, SBC, and their cohorts. Now, after losses in Texas, Florida, and Indiana, they're trying to make it up in Congress and apparently they are hoping you will be their whipping boy in Congress.

Quite a Mad Constituent
Dallas, Texas