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  • Cooking Hotdogs: A Memoir

    Posted by Jonathan on November 12th, 2008 (All posts by )

    This is interesting.

    A friend of mine and I did the same thing when we were kids. I don’t remember if we used instructions from an old DIY book of children’s science projects or if our science teacher told us how to do it. We drove two large nails through a board. (The details are fuzzy in my memory, but I think we took a lamp cord, stripped the ends, and wrapped each end around the base of a nail before driving the nails through the board.) Then we pushed the ends of a hotdog onto the points of the nails so that it formed a bridge between them, stood back and plugged the lamp cord into a wall socket. The hotdog was cooked in a few seconds. One of us ate it, then we repeated the process with additional hotdogs. It was fun. We were careful and didn’t electrocute ourselves.

    A few observations:

    -They don’t make kids’ DIY science books like they used to. Or science teachers.

    -I would not attempt this as an adult. OTOH, I don’t need to since I’ve already satisfied my curiosity.

    -There’s a lot to be said for trying stuff. The trick is to know how far you can push it without getting hurt. Sometimes the only way to learn how far you can push things is to try them. Sometimes you try things and find out that they really aren’t very risky.

    -Risk perception is very much a cultural construct. Our culture has changed substantially even during my lifetime. We are now generally more risk-averse and expect less individual responsibility.

    -Don’t try this at home, at least not without a circuit breaker.


    15 Responses to “Cooking Hotdogs: A Memoir”

    1. John Says:

      Risky? Hell, this was the project in the electrical shop class in junior high in the mid 50’s. A school sanctioned project that might hurt someone. Now that is something todays educators would crap a brick over.


    2. Jimbino Says:

      Two problems with the modern policy of avoiding risk:

      1. The risk-averse force their caution on the rest of us by means of insurance and watered-down education.

      2. The dumb among us will now survive and breed, making the world a dumber place.

    3. Edward Rasimus Says:

      Recently a best-seller was Conn Iggulden’s “Dangerous Book For Boys” which reminisced about the things we all did growing up and in the process became smarter, more mature, better able to cope with life.

      Today we’ve got feel-good games with no score-keeping so self-esteem isn’t injured.

    4. Larry Says:

      This reminds me of a similar project I did as a kid (60s) that I’m pretty sure my parents knew nothing about. In my case, I wired the ends of the electric cord to two of the carbon rods you can get by stripping a D-cell battery. By mounting the carbons in flexible wooden sticks, and providing suitable shielding, you can create a wonderful arc lamp. I don’t even recall blowing a fuse. And I just recalled why not: you have to put a saltwater rheostat in series. Lit up the garage where I also made my first batch of (not-very-good) black powder.

    5. Jimbino Says:

      The worst thing we ever did was drill out the hole in a spent CO2 cartridge and fill it with paper match heads (DON’T try this at home). Once properly lit, it would blast through a wall and might probably kill somebody. As a rocket, it goes hundreds of yards. In college we used them to hold off the guys at the other end of the hall who were lighting lighter fluid they had squirt under our closed dormroom doors.

    6. Tyouth Says:

      “Risk perception is very much a cultural construct.” sayeth Jon

      I see middle school kids riding their bikes to school these days decked out with helmets. It’s probably just the way me and my pre-adolescent companeros were at that age that makes me think the helmeted kids look like they are a sad-looking part of the “special education” group.

      I also note that a number of kids will strap the helmets (I assume once they get out of sight of their parents) to the handlebars of their machines; a good sign of independent, practical, and confident youngsters, it seems to me.

    7. Jonathan Says:

      I’m sure that I would have benefited from bike helmets when I was a kid. I’m for risk taking, but it seems to me that if you’re going to take a risk and safety equipment is available there’s no reason not to use it.

    8. Shannon Love Says:

      Hah! I grew up on a farm with ready access to firearms, accelerants, chainsaws, motorcycles, horses, bulls and jumpable gullies. You wouldn’t believe the mischief myself and my cousins got up to. My spouses face never fails to turn pale when I relate some childhood yarn.

      Good times.

    9. Tatyana Says:

      Growing up with younger sister didn’t prepare me to my son’s aversion to risk. By the time he got his serious BMX I learned to never ask him to show me his progress. And when I wait with a thermos at the bottom of the slope, the trick is to look up in sort of cursory manner, never focussing on exact technique.

    10. Sidney Says:


      Speaking of trying something.
      It’s not a weiner but it could
      be considered a constant.
      Try hooking-up to xxxxxxxxxx.COM
      while you’re looking at the site
      put a pot on the stove, boil the
      water. Pass the mustard Chicago,
      your hotdog has made it to Washington
      the picnic awaits. Heavy on the
      onions please.


      [Comment edited by Jonathan.]

    11. Tatyana Says:

      “attraction”, not “aversion”.

      It’s getting worse…old age.

    12. Shannon Love Says:


      Chicagoboyz charges $1500 per display for posting advertisements in our comments

    13. Jonathan Says:

    14. Sgt. Mom Says:

      So… hearing about all the times that my brothers and sister went tearing down steep hills on bicycles, or on a little red wagon… a hill that ended in a busy four-lane road… that would be out? Or bring my parents up on retroactive child-neglect charges for even letting us do such reckless and ill-considered things?

      Oh, the many times that I took my hands off my little brother’s stroller, and let it roll merrily along, down that same steep hill…

      What about how we learned how to set fires with a magnifying glass, and my brother and I rolled a cigarette out of tissue paper and dried elm leaves (OK, so it LOOKED just like a cigarette!)
      Put me off smoking for life, that little adventure did. A wonder we all survived, but we did. I think it taught us all boundaries. Better skinned knees and a broken wrist from wiping out at the bottom of the hill on bicycles at the age of twelve, than with a serious auto accident and a prolonged hospital stay at twenty-two.

    15. fp Says:

      I remember doing stuff like that. In fact, I recall one experiment with a propane torch (a plumber’s torch) that I thought to myself “I’ll do this until I get hurt.” That may have been the beginning of some sort of adult sensibility.