Monday, May 25, 2015

Visiting Gerry at the Range

Gerry put up a great post about the Indiana outdoor range near his house a couple years' ago which is great especially for Memorial Day check it out here.  In the post he explains the history of the range and the cool setup, especially for someone from Illinois who knows his state wouldn't dream of doing something like this.

My Glock was jamming and although my dad diligently cleans it out Gerry disassembled it (I love the Glock diagram, too) and cleaned out all the parts including the ejector and now it fires like a dream.

At the range Gerry fired his Russian rifle for the first time.  It amazes me that this rifle from 1938 (it has the date imprinted on the barrel) made it all these years and he used the Russian ammo which can be purchased for a veritable song.

Here are the sights and Gerry's still working out the targeting.  We laughed because the gentleman next to us had a semi automatic AR15 type weapon and he was shooting next to us not only with no scope but with NO SIGHTS.  At 50 yards he was probably not even hitting anywhere near the targets and bringing it to a range like that was pointless.

Boy did that rifle have a kick.  I shot three rounds (no where near the target) and my shoulder was aching.

Thanks to Gerry for fixing my Glock and some time this summer I will come down with my dad and Gerry can help by disassembling his Glock, too, and we can go to the $4 shooting range and have some fun.  It was a beautiful day and we couldn't have asked for better weather.  And read Gerry's post that I referenced (here it is again) for the history of the range.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Not A Story About Work

Well, sorta.

The year was 1989 and I had recently taken the job of Exec Art Director at a Chicago office of Young & Rubicam in the western suburbs. Clients were arriving for meetings the following day and we were busy preparing our presentation.

Later in the evening we were meeting the clients in Chicago to attend an advertising awards event. It was a Chicago only awards competition sponsored by Advertising Age, the top trade publication. At the last minute our clients phoned in to say they would not be arriving in time to attend the event so our GM decided to invite a group of four employees from our creative department, genuine knuckleheads all, to fill the client's seats.

What began as what could have been a boring evening of a well behaved and posturing group of business professionals suddenly became an unexpected party night that would exceed my wildest expectations.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Carl's Random Music

About a year ago I stopped buying new music, just listening to Sirius XM and the various channels that they have on offer.  A few nights ago I sat on my porch and started going through the songs that I had bought over the years and picked out a few of my favorites.

Here's one.  Lots of folks talk about Dave M and his opinions on politics and music and everything else.  But this song... is perfection.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Two Kinds Of Deer

In my carnivorous and predatory world there are two kinds of deer. Them that are in range. Them that are out of range.

On the way to the store Sunday morning a doe was standing in the middle of a county road. As I slowly approached she wandered into the woods. Standing on the other side of the road in short grass was a fawn no larger than a medium size dog.

Neither deer were going anywhere. Does with fawns can do little when they sense a predator. Totally defenseless all they can do is run when threatened and this one would wait to see what would happen to the fawn. All the fawn can do is drop to the ground and hope the predator will not spot it.

Bambi's dad was nowhere to be seen.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trains are Indefensible

I remember as a kid watching "Lawrence of Arabia" where he led Arab raiding parties against the Turkish train lines in WW1.  Per this PBS article about Lawrence:
With the Ottoman army spread thinly across the empty vastness of the Arabian Peninsula, the Hejaz Arabs found it relatively easy to strike and sabotage Turkish lines of communication and supply. With the Red Sea firmly in British hands, the Turks had no option but to use the Hejaz railway to move their men, supplies and munitions.  
Lawrence and the Arabs spent much of their two years on the road to Damascus destroying sections of the railway. Small units of men laid charges on the track. Then as the Turks defended the track, Lawrence's men formed large moving columns capable of rapid hit-and-run operations. 
In the recent train crash in the East Coast there are discussions of a "projectile" hitting the train and distracting the conductor.  While this hasn't been confirmed, it is relevant to consider how difficult it would be to secure train lines from attack or sabotage.

This discussion is much more relevant in the context of "high speed trains".  There is a broad theme among many that the US is behind because we have not invested large sums of public money in high speed trains, that we are "falling behind".  Per wikipedia the Japanese high speed trains (similar to the Chinese high speed trains) typically have more than 1000 passengers on each of their trains.

The USA has far larger distances than the Japanese trains.  If you built a train from Chicago to New York, for example, it would be almost 800 miles long.  This is for a single rail line.  Obviously to connect the major cities of the USA you'd have thousands of miles of train lines.

How would these train lines be defended?  It would be easy for a terrorist to just cut through the fence somewhere and park a cement truck on the tracks, for instance.  The ensuing carnage would easily accomplish what 5-10 hijackings could accomplish.

If you think that the Homeland Security plans are over-reaching, just wait to see what it would take to defend hundreds or thousands of miles of track.  Instead of having a bottleneck at the airport, the entire line would be a potential point of attack.  Even if defenses were erected, they would only have to overwhelm them at a single weak link in order to assault the train.

No one is incorporating this into their cost estimates for high speed trains; they likely have fences and barriers but are not contemplating stopping a determined, armed attack by terrorists.  They should, because after one such attack a giant post-hast effort would emerge kind of like our early days of the TSA.  They should contemplate and include a giant, armed, unionized Federal bureaucracy in their midst and add this into their cost estimates and see how it compares against highways and aircraft.  The numbers, already dubious, would then be far, far in the red.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Night Seventies

Airline Competition Has Been Crushed

If you've flown much in the last few years, you've probably seen what I've experienced, as well - completely full planes, high prices, and aggravating extra charges for baggage, wi-fi, etc... This is really a symptom of what has actually occurred, which is that airlines have finally moved past an era of competition into an era of oligopoly.

The real indication of their new status isn't the high prices and full planes - it is in the stock price.
Here you can see the major carriers which have survived and consolidated the US market - Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, and United / Continental. For years and years the stock prices of major airlines have languished - per Warren Buffet
He said that a durable competitive advantage in the airline industry “has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down,” he joked. “The airline industry’s demand for capital ever since that first flight has been insatiable. Investors have poured money into a bottomless pit.”
Each of the major airlines has predominantly broken their strong unions and taken medicine from bankruptcy to mergers in order to restore their finances. Instead of a focus on expansion, they are operationally focused in terms of filling every seat on every plane at the highest price possible, in terms of ticket costs and extra fees. Today they charge you for every sort of upgrade; "economy plus" which is a seat that you can sit in and get work done, costs extra, as well as for checking bags.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a company doing all they can to maximize profits, especially after savaging investors for many years with poor stock prices and a lack of dividends (and the high risk of total financial collapse). The airlines have finally figured out technology as well - if you want to upgrade any element of your flight experience, from business to first class to economy plus to a daily club pass - it is all right there as long as you are willing to give them your credit card number.

The airlines have also figured out that their frequent flyer programs provide benefits but also can be a millstone. Rather than rewarding miles, they are looking at the prices of the tickets paid by each traveler which rewards those that actually provide the greatest benefits to the airlines. If you've tried to actually use your benefits (except for Southwest), you'll find that seats are very limited and you need to plan far in advance to receive benefits from these perks.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Most of the tributes you see and hear today about BB will feature crap like “The Thrill Is Gone” and that terrible song he did with Bono. This is the real deal and is what I cut my teeth on when I was discovering the Blues. You can thank me later. Godspeed.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Дешевые История

Powerful. Accurate. Fun. Cheap. These are words my customers use to describe their Mosin Nagant 91/30, a vintage Soviet mil-surp rifle from WWll. With these rifles being inexpensive and available I finally decided to get in on powerful, accurate, fun on the cheap.

Priced at $160 my Mosin Nagant M91/30 uses 7.62x54R ammo, another in the 30 caliber family.

Left To Right: .300 Blackout, .308 Win, 7.62x54R, all in the .30 cal cartridge family

Think of it as a .308 caliber and then some. These Soviet infantry rifles were packed in cosmoline (a waxy petroleum based rust preventative treatment) and stored for almost seventy years in some Soviet eastern bloc warehouses after the war ended. Why would I want one of them? Because they're powerful, accurate, fun, and they still shoot. Did I mention they are cheap?

As I watched customers gobble them up as soon as they arrived for the last three years the Mosin finally  got my attention.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Saturday Night Seventies

Payback Time Revisited

I'm officially a new member of the federal government's Social Security ponzi scheme. Wrote about it here.

Recent factual information emerged recently claiming the whole hustle may come crashing down sooner than we are led to believe. The authors claim SS will crash in 2033 when payroll taxes will only cover three quarters of the payout.

In 2033 we will be 78 years old if we last that long. Until then the nice folks at the SSA are encouraged to keep sending my checks to me, here at the Gerry From Valpo country retirement bunker.

Don't count on politicians of either party to fix this impending crash. Currently they're too busy figuring out how to give away a sizable portion of your money to illegal Mexicans.

If you become eligible sooner than 2033 here is a book you may want to read.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Crappy Beer Take Down

I highly recommend watching John Oliver on HBO with "Last Week Tonight". Warning he tends to use a bunch of NSFW terms in there I think it is part of his liberation from basic cable to HBO (kind of like when Howard St*rn first went to Sirius XM from terrestrial radio).

Rather than linking because the link will just get taken down in like ten seconds just go to you tube and type
"John Oliver Bud Light"
And go past the part about their advertising campaign and then go to the really funny stuff about how terrible Bud Light actually tastes. It is a send up on the "up for anything" campaign where once you drink a Bud Light a bunch of cool stuff happens to you that evening as part of an elaborate setup.

What happens is 3 guys at a bar absolutely refuse to drink a Bud Light if that's what's needed to be "up for anything" and then they go on and on with how terrible it tastes with increasingly grotesque and absurd references. Very very funny.

Editor's Note - I used to be able to drink Miller Light (a never ending source of disgust for Dan since it too, is vile) but now I've broken up with beer due to my diet so now I can "throw the first stone" so to speak ha ha).

Monday, May 04, 2015

Around Chicago

On a Saturday night... a chilled glass of gin on the rocks with a twist. A work of art!

On a Sunday morning... walking through River North with debris from last nights' partying not yet cleaned up. Local business associations in Chicago often pay for additional clean up beyond what the city would normally provide and this type of garbage usually is picked up quickly.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

25 Stories About Work - It's All About Cash Flow (Part II, Large Companies)

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

The USA, early 1990's to mid 2010's

When we have new staff I usually orientate them on the concept that
You should assume that many outside vendors who bill us don't care about getting paid
Although this concept seems astonishing and against basic capitalist principles, it is often the case.  While each vendor is different, a share of the vendors bill us months and months after the fact and often the bills are incorrect and  incomplete.  Sometimes we have to initiate the process and call the companies to demand the invoices, so that we can match them to the purchase documents and receipts, as well as check the taxes, quantities and costing components.  If we don't reach out to these laggard vendors and push for complete and accurate billing, we will have a crisis on our hands quarterly when we attempt to accrue for what we are owed and sort through months and months of late and incomplete bills and partial payments.

The only time some of the vendors start to care about collections is when the bills are so delayed that the sales teams' commissions are at risk.  At that point the company typically springs into action and is "Johnny on the spot" attempting to reach out to resolve any issues because the sales teams at the vendor have significant power in the organization and complain with vehemence whenever their compensation is at risk.

While some vendors are laggards on collections, they all are focused on closing deals at the end of each quarter so that they can "book" these deals as revenue per accounting purposes.  There are criteria that must be met (the hardware must be shipped from their dock) but the firms will generally stay up all night or jump through whatever bureaucratic hoops are necessary to complete the deals for that quarter.

These notes specifically apply to public companies that aren't in major financial distress.  These companies are aligned to GAAP principles, which focus on earnings and not cash collections, so they often don't stress timely and accurate invoicing and collection of their bills.

On the other hand - private companies or those that have been taken over by hedge funds and other sorts of shrewder operators, are completely focused on cash flow.  If you are a private company, earnings matter (especially if you are "prettying" it up for sale) but CASH IS KING.  Private equity investors like to pay themselves cash dividends out of the companies they acquire, so they definitely sweat the timing of payments and keep a close handle on cash flow.  These same private companies also work strenuously to minimize taxes which stand in the way of dividend payments to the owner.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday Night Flyover Country

This will be my last entry under the topic "Saturday Night Flyover Country" for a while.

Hold your applause, please!

My final country entry was probably published before under this topic but is one of my favorite country tunes of all and these guys aren't even from Texas. In honor of Kentucky Derby Day…ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.