Friday, October 31, 2014

Filling A Freezer - Step 1

The rut is on. Finally.

Recent trail cam images have shown most activity happening late in the day and under my single seat tree stand on the southeastern side of the alfalfa field. Earlier today I left the bunker at noon thirty for a two pm start time.

It was the type of day made for comfortable tree stand hunting. There was hardly a breeze out of the southwest making my eastern stand a choice spot. After taking a Jeep tour of the property perimeter to examine fresh markings I parked behind the hill where we shoot at during Gunstock. All my hunting garb is stored in a plastic tub after having been washed in spacial no-odor laundry detergent and dried with a no-odor sheet in the dryer. Good to go.

I am very freaky about scent. Over time many whitetails have busted me due to careless preparation concerning human aroma. The deer appears and is coming into range, cautious as ever. Then it happens. It will catch a slight whiff of the trail I walked and suddenly bolt away. This season would be different in that regard. I have spent way too much time, effort and money to neglect something as simple as odor control.

Before leaving I shower with no-odor soap. The Jeep tank is full so handling fuel will be avoided. On the drive down to the farm all I wear is my under armor long johns, a jacket and comfortable shoes. Once on location I open the tub and begin adding layers depending on the weather. After my camo coveralls and neoprene rubber boots are on and before heading to the stand I rub the bottom and sides of the boots with a product called Ever Calm. This is a new concealment product that is made from a private deer heard bedding area. Applied in the form of an under arm stick deodorant it is a waxy substance that has the aroma similar to a stable. This should mask my trail. More than one successful deer hunter I know swears by it. It's said to make deer relax. We'l see.

On the way to the stand I drag a piece of felt connected to a rope. The felt has been dipped into a bottled commercial deer urine product taken from penned up does during the estrus cycle. Don't ask me how they get it. The idea is to drag the horny doe urine scent along a line leading near the tree stand but stopping short about twenty yards away with the intent of drawing in usually wary but suddenly horny bucks during the rut.

Settling into my stand it seemed to be a perfect mid autumn day to hunt. There was a very slight breeze from the south if at all. An overcast sky made it dim. It was unusually quiet. Once up in the stand I settled in and cocked the crossbow before inserting a 300 grain carbon fiber bolt tipped with stainless steel razor sharp 100 grain three blade solid stainless steel broad head from G5. I don't trust those mechanicals to either open up or open up too early.

For the first two hours in the stand I watched some big fat fox squirrels in the ground nibbling on nuts and making the only sounds other than a the faint humm of a passing grain truck passing on the highway or the grind of a combine in the distance. It was pleasantly peaceful and serene. This was my fifth time out this season and each of my past hunt days were windy and chilly. On my first day I was interrupted when harvesting equipment came in to make the final alfalfa cut of the season not long after daybreak. That killed the day. Many weeks remain in my new elongated season since I am now able to hunt the early archery segment with my crossbow.

Once comfortable up in the stand discipline is important. This is what many beginners who hunt deer have a hard time doing. Little movement. No noise. If I played this out properly my scent is covered. All that remains is my concealment. Eyes and ears play tricks after a few hours. A distant object looks like a deer. Squirrel sounds like a deer.

Deer are like ghosts, they suddenly appear many times without any warning especially during low light hours. They just manage to show up usually taking me by surprise and today would be no different. My watch claimed it was about 3:30 and there was another 2 1/2 hours of shooting light left when something caught my attention to the right.

A very large doe bounded out of the woods and into the alfalfa about 100 yards to my left, then stopped. She slowly surveyed the field. I wasted no time slowly getting in position, one eye in the scope and the other free to switch into a full view. Damn it was a large doe. I wanted this one. She passed over my estrus scent trail and showed no interest since it is intended to interest the bucks. This big doe headed into the center of the field and slowly turned east toward my stand. I switched the safety to off and kept a steady bead on this one. As she slowly grazed while continuing east another deer was to my rear in the woods. The crunching of leaves was way too loud and fast to be a smaller critter but I could not/would not dare make any attempt to turn my head to investigate. I wanted this doe so badly and any movement would give away my position even sitting 18' high in a tree.

Earlier this year I placed small utility flag markers in the field at twenty and forty yards away in three different directions. These serve as my Polish range finders. She took about ten minutes to walk and graze the fifty yards or so close but not quite to my forty yard marker in the center of the field. I trust my crossbow because the scope is dialed in so tight I can hit a forty yard group of three in two inches easily. As she appeared to be coming right to me she stopped. She hunched down and looked right at me.

I've seen this routine before. This deer sensed me and I don't know how. They just do. I may have moved ever so slightly because it wasn't my scent and my camo is insanely great. We stared each other down - her at me and me at her but I was looking through my scope zeroing in her center mass using my third mil-dot reticle, the forty yard point. She was a good five to ten yards farther than my forty. Was I busted? Seemed so but I have ultimate confidence in my crossbow and my abilities in training to his a forty yard shot.

As she made a slow right turn I took a bead on her left side directly behind the leg. She gave me a clear broadside opening. I squeezed the trigger before she could bound. A split second after the crossbow released I saw and heard the bolt smack that doe exactly where I wanted it and it sounded as if I had hit a pumpkin. As she bounded away in high leaps I could see the arrow sticking out so it didn't pass through as I hoped it would but it hit the high lung area and that was as good as it gets.

About a hundred yards away she bounded into the woods near where she came out. I like that spot so much I placed a two man stand in the woods right there to serve as my second option tree stand. I sat in the tree for a moment and said a prayer of thanks. My heavy breathing had yet to stop.

I climbed down and went to the point of impact to look for the beginning of a blood trail There was no blood but I did see her tracks. They were deep from the hoof pressure and the dirt was scattered sue to her strength and speed. As I took a WAG measurement I had indeed taken a 45-50 yard shot. That is about the limit of my crossbow's effectiveness. Could be the reason my bolt didn't pass through the body is because the velocity at that point had slowed and losing trajectory. After zig zagging through the field I could not find one drop of blood, this is not good. I passed the point where she bounded into the woods and headed for the Jeep. I was sweaty and wanted to peel off some layers. Then I drove the Jeep to where I believe she bounded into the woods. The thought of a long night of searching or possibly not finding it at all depressed me momentarily. 

It was about 4:30pm and with sunset at 5:45 not a lot of time was left to track my deer. The first thing I did was zig zag looking for blood covering small patches of woods at a time. It wasn't too long before I spotted a good size spot of blood. And then another. Looking up, there she was. Dead doe down.

She dropped thirty yards into the woods. What a relief after anticipating a long stroll through some thick briars and potentially losing a nice doe with what I first thought to be a poor shot without enough penetration to do the job. In hindsight it was a textbook deer hunt and it all went perfect taking only three hours.

I took photos and sent them via text message to the bro, my buddy Doug, the wife, my son and my neighbor Wayne, the well seasoned deer hunter and mentor of the whitetail woods. The bro called and asked if I needed help. I did. And for good measure he brought his buddy Don who guts and butchers a lot of deer.

Before they arrived I dragged the doe out of the woods in five yard increments and then over a barbed wire fence to the open field for easier field dressing. The Jeep was positioned such that the headlights would be available if necessary for the task at hand. Did I mention this was a very big doe? And I dragged it thirty yards before field dressing. 

Once dressed I guess she goes 130-140 lbs. andWe hoisted it onto the hitch rack on back of the Jeep and tied her down. I filled out the DNR transport tag to be 100% legal. Heading north on I-65 passing trucks and cars honked in approval.

After I arrived home the wife refused to come out and take a look. I flopped the doe onto the driveway to hose out the cavity of excess blood. One neighbor walking his dog came by to examine the beast. When Wayne came over he confirmed this was probably a four year old doe judging by her size and length of the nose and confirmed my 140lb best guess once dressed.

For now she is on a tarp on the garage floor since the night will be cold as will tomorrow when snow is predicted. I'll decide the next steps tomorrow.

Right now I am heading for bed and dreaming about the next two deer I am allowed to take between now and January. It's getting late so I'll hit the publish button in the morning.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fall Colors at Their Apex

Last weekend we were in southern Wisconsin. Periodically we attempt to drive up and look at the fall colors but often we get there just a bit too early or a bit too late. This time we drove down a winding road and the colors were at their absolute apex - big golden leaves falling down right on the car.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Thursday, October 23, 2014

25 Stories About Work - Lost Productivity and Typing

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)...

Vermont, the early 1990's

When I was interviewing for my first job I had a chance to visit IBM in Burlington, Vermont. At the time IBM had a large contingent of workers and management staff at that location. On an unrelated note, IBM still has about 4000 workers in the state, and recently offered a company $1B TO TAKE THEM OFF THEIR HANDS. To confirm, they were willing to sell this business for negative one billion dollars (to quote Dr. Evil). And the sad thing is that the "buying" company wanted IBM to PAY THEM two billion, so they rejected the "offer". Read about it here.

I had been on a plane maybe once or twice previously and was completely clueless about what to do. I packed my bags and took a cab to the hotel. In the morning, before my interview, I got into the shower and turned on the water. I did not think to check what the temperature was before I got into the shower and it happened to be set on a scalding level; I ended up falling back out of the shower, grabbing the curtain on the way down, and scattering the shower curtain rings throughout the bathroom. I wasn't seriously hurt. To this day I always check the shower temperature while standing outside the shower stall (or tub) and I only go in when it is at an appropriate level.

The day started out on an ignominious note (with the shower incident) and the interviews were a disaster. I think we ended the day with a discussion that maybe someday I would at least utilize IBM equipment (they were primarily a manufacturing company at that time) since it seemed obvious that I wouldn't get a job offer in Vermont.

What I remember most of all was the endless sea of desks. IBM had workers that manually calculated their managerial accounting reports and they sat in a giant room that seemed to go on for infinity. I don't have a photo but in my head it looks something like this...

When people gnash their teeth over job losses for some reason they always bypass accountants. Managerial accounting work used to be done by hand, with hundreds of individuals using whatever computational tools were available (the accountants drove the use of the first mainframes and tabulating machines, for example) to create the reports that were used to manage our pre-internet economy. When I was at IBM I gazed out at the (modern looking) cube farm that did all of this (semi) manual work. Today, of course, these jobs are long gone.

My first job was in auditing. When we prepared annual reports for small governmental entities, we wrote up the financial statements BY HAND and took them over to the typing pool. The ladies (they were all women) would look to see if they could find the template from the prior years' audit. If not, they would manually type the financial statements including all the notes and all the numbers (in column). They weren't typewriters, but they were early generation computers that were sort of dumb terminals. At least they didn't have to use white out.

When the reports came out, you had to manually check every word and every letter and every number on every page. It was very tedious. After the report was completed, you had to "page" through every copy when they produced them to make sure all the pages were bound together (it wasn't as thorough, but it still took a while). You had to re-check every column and re-total them because this was long before the days of spreadsheets.

The typing pools were replaced by the time I left that audit firm and the administrative assistants on each floor, too. I remember when they fired all of the administrative assistants - that was a sad day because they were among the few constant people on a large floor when everyone was traveling and going from town to town.

Rarely do you hear anyone lamenting all of the lost jobs from accountants and typists doing manual work before computers were widespread but it was a bloodbath.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Signs Of Stupidity

Somewhere in north central Indiana.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seen In The Middle Of The Road.

Returning from a recent hunt something up ahead lying in the middle of a county road ahead caught my eye.

What could it be?

An incumbent democrat politician? Hmmm. It did resemble Ex-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich somewhat but he's alive and living in Colorado now.

How about Chicago Bears Elite QB, Jay Cutler after an incomplete pass on a crucial 3rd and 1 and just short of a first down? Nope, but close.

Oh no, could it be someone's little kitty? A photo exploration was in order.

I report, you decide.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

25 Stories About Work - "Don't Hang Up" and the Recruiter from Detroit

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)...

Champaign, early 1990's

As I graduated from college in the early 1990's, I went through the interview process on campus. About half the companies really liked me and about half the companies hated me. I guess I was a polarizing interviewee but who knows I had little idea about what to expect in an interview or how to behave. I do remember buying a suit with my mother for about $400 which seemed like an astonishing amount of money at the time.

In addition to the on campus recruiters, I also fielded some phone calls. Looking back before the age of cell phones it is amazing that anyone ever got in touch with anyone else - they must have called me in my dingy hellhole of an apartment in the 5 minutes that I happened to be there in between class, prepping for the CPA exam, and going out drinking. I guess we had an answering machine but I'm not even sure about that and my roommates at the time weren't exactly the most reliable.

I was enamored with the idea of work and getting the heck out of Champaign so I was like a happy puppy when anyone called. The joke is that I would select the last recruiter to call. One day I did receive a call: Hello. I'd like to talk to you about a job opportunity in the transportation industry, he said. I was interested. I was always interested. Then he said something I'll never forget.
The job is in Detroit. Don't hang up!
The recruiter combined both sentences into almost a single thought, with urgency, because he apparently was used to people instantly hanging up as soon as they heard the job opportunity was in Detroit.

I didn't hang up. But I surely did not pursue that opportunity. Because it was in Detroit, of course. No wonder that city went down the drain...

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Night Flyover Country

Tributosaurus Plays "One Hit Wonders of the 80's" at Copernicus Center in Chicago

Tributosaurus is a Chicago cover band that has been around over a decade and has covered an astonishing range of songs and artists. When they cover a song they go to great pains to sound as close as possible to the original song - this usually involves multiple guitarists to do overdubs which are tracked in the studio, horns, strings, and an array of drummers, synthesizers and backup singers. Here is their web site and they are a lot of fun. I have seen them do XTC, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, and most recently the "One Hit Wonders of the 80's" at Copernicus Hall at Jefferson Park in Chicago (it is a few blocks off the blue line stop; we took the train and walked).

Here they are at the start of the show. Later they bring on the horns, the strings, more backup singers, and more of everything. It was a lot of fun - they played a lot of forgotten songs like "This Beat Goes On / Switching to Glide" by the Kings which got the whole place rocking (it was a huge hit in Chicago) and also Dexy's Midnight Runners with real banjo players.

The show was great with a lot of fun energy. The crowd was up and dancing for most of the show. My significant other thought they needed more songs sung by female singers - they just did 99 Luft Balloons (she looked great in hot pants) and I Want Candy.

Highly recommend that you go out and see them when an artist you are interested in is being covered. You will definitely get your money's worth!

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Thursday, October 16, 2014

25 Stories About Work - Office Hoteling and the Elusive Consultant Desk

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)...

Chicago, the 90's...

When I first started out as an auditor I had a tiny cube that consisted of just a desk and a chair with a big phone in a giant warren full of other cubes. There was a big bay window that let in the sun and lights far overhead. I didn't know anything and was happy just to have a place to call my own.

How accounting worked at the time was that you were assigned to clients and were "on the road". If you were in the office you charged a code for down-time and struggled for something to do. You could take a training class, do research in the library, or more often than not you'd be assigned some sort of drudgery administrative work. Most of the time I ended up photocopying our audit files when clients transitioned to new auditors, which is much more work than it sounds because you had to dis-assemble the work papers, copy them, and then re-assemble the files again. The copier tended to regularly jam and you soon learned how to take that copy machine apart, as well. Not a good use of a masters' degree...

After a while the managers learned who was good and who wasn't and I was constantly busy as a result. We worked and traveled all the time and often I had overlapping clients, meaning that tasks I couldn't complete onsite piled up for me at the little cube while I was at a different client. This was before any concept of telecommuting and we didn't even have our own laptops. The only way to get work done was to show up at the office (on Saturday or Sunday, since I traveled all week) and do the remaining tasks.

One time our office engaged in some sort of ISO process and they decided that having a "clean desk" was mandatory. So the (usually worst) staff that were in the office packed up everyone's desk and sent it off site so that when the office tour occurred, my little rat cube was completely clear. Thus when I showed up on a Sunday a couple of weeks later to follow up on some annoying task from a parallel client, all of my papers were gone and that was an entirely wasted day. The fact that I still remember this over 20 years later shows how angry I was at this bureaucratic stupidity.

In the late 90's I was a manager when a different firm I worked with went to "office hoteling". This plan is designed to save on real estate costs and you reserved a cube or office depending on your needs and level if you were in the office. The logic is clear - since most of the staff are out traveling with a client and are rarely in the office, why spend all that money on idle real estate - just give them a space when they are passing through and be more efficient as a result.

At the time, however, my experience with office hoteling was miserable. I was on the road all the time but had a couple weeks down time so I reserved an office in Chicago. It turns out that I made some sort of clerical error in the ordering and a woman (who presumably was in the office a lot, because she seemed to be a dolt) kicked me out of that office and made me sit in a cube outside. At the time I was relatively new and trying not to make waves so I let it happen. Then she picked up the phone and I could hear her multi-hour conversation about the annoying "Behind the Music" TV show on VH1 and all of her personal errands as she prattled on all day long. Glad she kicked me out of the office for that.

One element of a consulting firm is "group cohesion". Although you were part of a much larger firm, you tended to only know the few people that you worked with on an individual engagement. Thus while there may be thousands of people at the firm, you might only know a handful and since communications were abysmal you survived on scraps of gossip and myth. This situation was far worse for someone like me that entered as a higher level manager - many others crawled through the ranks and made connections and understood how everything worked "behind the scenes".

Given the hoteling culture, however, it was impossible to make any NEW connections. I went around and tried to talk to my adjacent office mates or go to lunch and they were all heads down and trying to get out of that office as quickly as possible. At least when I had my tiny cube in the rat warren I knew adjacent people and we could commiserate or figure out what was going on. The very act of attempting to reach out was viewed with suspicion - we were just random souls waiting for the next job and what was the point of even trying to talk to someone. In my head I think that office hoteling contributed to the downfall of that firm, but likely it is just my old-school need for order, cohesion, and some sort of overall plan for everyone, which that firm clearly lacked. Office hoteling certainly didn't help, however.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Fill'er Up!

One of our big expenses is fuel. We spend much more on fuel each week than we do on food and food is costing more each trip to the grocery.

Usually I fill up three times a week and with hunting season now included maybe 4-5 times. This week unleaded fuel dipped below $3/gal in northern Indiana. From what I am being told it go as low as $2.50 before the Christmas gouge.

Without getting into why the price is dropping a fill-up isn't making me grit my teeth as much.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FanDuel Analysis

So while watching your favorite team this year, you have no doubt seen some yokel spouting about how much money he won playing on FanDuel.  I think my favorite ad is the guy who says he won SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Through this post I offer an analysis of FanDuel, try to dispel some of the myths about it and tell you how it works - and how it doesn't.

For those who don't have a lot of time, I will give the short version first.  It is just another way to gamble, and it is likely rigged, similar to everything else in the world.  For those who would like some details, you can read on below.

FanDuel is a website that lets you play fantasy sports with real money (or free, if you prefer).  In most cases, their rake is 10% (more on this later).  I actually looked into investing in the company, but it appears to be privately owned by some venture capitalists.

I signed up for FanDuel because the guys at Over the Cap, a site which I read religiously, set up a league there.  It is a 50/50 league (more on this later as well) and they got a small royalty for people who signed up using their code.  It was the least I could do, as I have learned a lot about the NFL and in particular the salary cap from that site.  I set up an account and deposited $100.  You can also cash out instantly through PayPal, which is very nice.  With some of the older online poker websites back in the day, you had to wait for a check from some indian tribe (where the servers were hosted) and that is a joke, of course.

First, I would like to give a helicopter view of the site, and then I will drill down into some statistics.

Up front, how did FanDuel even become legal?  Well, in 2006 there was a carveout in the "Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act" that allowed for fantasy sports to be played for money across the country.  It is considered a game of skill, and therefore got the exemption.  Of note, FanDuel is still illegal to play for real money in Arizona, Iowa, Montana, Louisiana and Washington.  In short, FanDuel uses the "pari-mutual" model, where all of the bets are collected, the house takes it's cut or vig, and the rest of the money is used as winnings.

The site is very well made and works quickly on a PC or my phone.  I was looking for an app but realized soon that it doesn't appear that they have one - their site works seamlessly depending on the device.  That was pretty cool.  Also, the results are pretty damned fast.  I had a fantasy team playing last Sunday, and the time it took between my guy scoring and the site to be updated was around a half minute.  They must have some very good server power on their back end.  They have hired Stats, Inc. to do their numbers, so I imagine that company has some good servers as well.

One thing I really like about FanDuel is that there is basically no long term commitment.  They offer no season long leagues.  If you feel like playing, you play that week.  If you don't, you don't so there is no need to keep up all season long on all of the (dumb) league stats and injury reports.

The interface is very easy to use, and is graphic rich. 

I funded my account through my PayPal account (I never trust gambling websites - more on this later, as well) and it was set up instantly. 

FanDuel is very up front about their rake.  It works like this (from this page):

General Leagues

Buy-InRake %Odds Equivalent
$1 to $5010%-125

Guaranteed Prize Pool Leagues

Buy-InRake %Odds Equivalent
$1 to $210.4%-126
$5 to $1010.5%-127

To keep it simple, I will just talk about the "General Leagues" as that is the easiest to get the mind around and I will, for now, ignore the odds equivalent, although that is part of what I am going to get to further down in this piece.

I would imagine (although I don't really know) that the vast majority of the business that FanDuel does is the smaller dollar leagues, in the $1 to $50 category.  I am guessing this because the number of these leagues on the FanDuel website is WAY larger than the more expensive ones.  So as you can see, the FanDuel rake is 10%.  The league I participated in with the Over the Cap guys was a 50/50 league.  This means that 50% of the people get paid, and 50% of the entrants do not.

Simple math time.  In the Over the cap league which I played last week, each player had to pay $2 to enter.  There were six entrants, so the total prize pool was $12.  The payout worked like this:
First place - $5
Second place - $3.50
Third place - $2.30
From this, as you can see, the prize money totaled $10.80.  The total entry fees were $12.  $12 - 10% = $1.20.  $12 - $1.20 = $10.80.   FanDuel earned $1.20 for this league with their 10% rake.

The Over the Cap league was a "salary cap" league - we were allotted a certain amount of money and had to pick players.  I don't follow the NFL that damned closely, so I just went to some website, found some recommendations and picked those players.

So now it was Sunday and it was go time.  As I mentioned before, as the action started, the stats in the league began to update very quickly.  It was interesting to watch the points pile up and see who was in what place and how many guys they had left to play.  That said, fantasy football is probably one of the stupidest things ever invented and makes you start to cheer for outcomes and things that you wouldn't normally do.

Even though my wager was extremely tiny, I was playing for pride, so I was shouting at the TV for Cutler to throw to Martellus Bennett, the Bears tight end, on every play, since Bennett was my tight end.  At one point my wife said "STOP SAYING THROW IT TO BENNETT".

At the end of the day, I was in third place, which was in the money, but was in trouble because two teams behind me had their quarterbacks left to play (you choose a qb, two rb's, three wr's, a tight end and a defense) and one guy also had a receiver.  Well, both of the guys had Eli Manning, sadly, and he laid a giant egg in the game Sunday night.  So Monday night, I was still in third, ahead of a guy who had Brian Quick of the Rams at wide receiver.  So, of course, I am sitting there Monday night rooting for Quick to get injured.  Quick has been hot lately, but the Rams qb didn't throw it to him at all so I was safe.  I won $2.30. I basically got my entry fee back, plus $.30 profit.  My account the next day showed that I indeed had $100.30 in there. 

But wait!  I forgot that when I signed up, I received a "double up bonus up to $200".  Upon reading the fine print, the deposit bonus is paid in real cash at 4% of the entry fee of the contest you enter.  So, $2 x .04 = $.08.  Indeed, I had hauled in another $.08 - making my grand total in my account at the time of this writing $100.38.  So, in the end, I had won thirty eight cents for my fine work, and some pride.

Now that you understand sort of the lay of the land, know that FanDuel offers fantasy hockey, baseball, hoops and has other types of leagues.  They even offer college leagues.

The glass always being half empty to me, I decided last night to poke around a little bit.  I figured very quickly when some yokel is on TV telling me that he won six hundred thousand dollars that there is a scam in there somewhere - and it appears to be the case.

First, the odds.  If the 10% rake sounds familiar to you gamblers out there, well, it should since it is close to land based sportsbooks.  If you go to Vegas or Reno or work with a local bookie, typically you will wager $110 to make $100.  This means that you have to win 52.4% of the time to break even.  Anything lower and your gambling money will slowly wither away.

At FanDuel, the best odds are playing in a head to head league.  That means that you are playing against one other person.  One wins, one doesn't.  But remember, you are still losing that 10% rake every time you play.  By the math, this means that you need to win 55.5% of the time to break even (I will save you the math on this one, just trust me).  So in reality, you are paying an up charge vs. a land based casino or bookie for the convenience of gambling at your house or on your phone.

So some of you may think you are smarter than "one other guy".  But as I mentioned earlier, the glass if half empty to me.  So I started poking around the internet a bit.  Surely as the sun rises in the east, there are a lot of scams out there.  FanDuel allows you to "clone" your lineup and set up as many challenges as you want against others.  If you are just a guy having fun and you are up against a guy who studies fantasy stuff all day while he is supposed to be working, you are at a serious disadvantage.  Further, there are things online popping up indicating that there are actually pros that are getting and paying for information directly from team staff such as trainers or other handlers as to the condition of athletes.  I have also seen stories of the "gatekeepers" of information getting a cut of the pot.  This is a big problem. So you may think you are up against some dude still living with his mom sitting around on his sofa with the online name of "12BudLights" but in reality you could be playing against the FanDuel equivalent of Warren Buffet.

Just like local guys can get the good information on their local college team from people they probably know and try to cash in on it, I have a sneaky suspicion that information networks are already set up to try to game FanDuel.  It was quickly found out that online poker website players were using things like Skype to tell each other what cards they had to pin down the other sucker at the table and then split the winnings.  While a scam like that isn't as easy to replicate on FanDuel, information is always king when betting on sports and always will be.

In the end, I think FanDuel is fun if you want to get a bunch of guys together and have some fun in a private league.  But it is in essence just another (dumb) way to gamble and it is just a matter of time before you start reading about the scams that will eventually come out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Great Video - Lots of Bass

Here is a great video from a band called "Death from Above 1979". They are a 2 piece band with a bass guitar tuned to be kind of like a regular guitar and a drummer / singer. Have to love the economy of this. The bass player also was in a bunch of other groups including MSTRKRFT which put together some other great stuff. Check it out.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Still Get Real Letters

Gathering in a private remote rural environment to Celebrate Peace, Love and the Second Amendment© is easy for me to take for granted. Having the ability to do so is out of the reach of most Americans for many reasons, none of them good.

Once a year we open up our farm to share the Gunstock experience with others. Many years ago it was just a few hunters tuning up for the upcoming season during September. Then it grew when I invited friends from Chicago who legally owned firearms but had no place to practice with them. After joining this blog we opened it up to Carl and Dan and their relatives and friends.

Soon other close acquaintances of the bro who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights and enjoy a country cookout afterward helped Gunstock to grow to what it has become. This year was no exception.

The other day a letter addressed to me arrived in the mailbox. Yes, in the old school mailbox. The one that sits on top of a post near the road in front of The Country Bunker™. 

I am publishing this letter of thanks from this first time participant who brought along his boys for a first time shooting experience. It is the first time anyone has taken the time to send a thank you note. A handshake and a thanks is usually enough so it's kinda' special to me.

You're welcome fellas. It was a pleasure to have you there. See you back next year.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

25 Stories About Work - New Mexico Is Part of the United States

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)...

El Paso Texas, the 90's...

I supported a financial analytics system for a utility based in El Paso, Texas. Before I visited El Paso for work I knew virtually nothing about the area, the economy, or the people. One of the most interesting and unexpected benefits of my career was the opportunity to extensively work in areas of the USA that I never would have visited otherwise.

One thing I did know is that 1) Texas has its own electricity grid that 'walls it off' from the rest of the USA called ERCOT 2) the El Paso area was "outside" of that grid. Thus while Texas may be its own separate country in their mind, El Paso was something else entirely.

Another realization when you are working in El Paso is just how damn big Texas is. It can take longer to drive from El Paso on the western side of Texas to Houston on the eastern side of Texas than to drive from El Paso to Los Angeles. It was also extremely hot and the sun was blazing; some of the women brought umbrellas to shield themselves from the noon-day sun.

The managers I met in El Paso said it would likely make more sense for El Paso to be part of New Mexico, rather than Texas. Many of the managers lived in New Mexico. A funny story they told was how many Americans believed that New Mexico was NOT part of the United States, and stories like this were collected in the back page of a local magazine and they were often hilarious.

While flying to New Mexico one day I sat next to a gentleman that was frequently in El Paso for business. At the time, Ford Expedition SUV's were all the rage. He said that the last three times he visited El Paso, he selected an Expedition from the local rental car affiliate, and the car was stolen (and likely driven over the border into Mexico). I didn't ask him why he was so stubborn and kept renting them.

While shopping in El Paso or eating in a restaurant it was common for wait staff to first address you in Spanish and then switch to English if you didn't speak Spanish. I was usually working with someone from El Salvador so he took over when we met people that spoke no English at all. This happened occasionally.

At night you could see Juarez over the border, and people seemed to traverse the border frequently. Juarez was booming at the time, and El Paso's economy seemed stagnant. Things have changed greatly in the 20+ years since I worked in El Paso and I think things have reversed.

We drove out to Cattleman's Steakhouse, a restaurant with a large outdoor area that also doubled as a movie set, about 35 miles outside of El Paso. I remember driving through the desert which was a trip since it really seemed to be the middle of nowhere.

As I wrote this article I realized that one of the few pieces of original art that I have ever purchased came from a small shop in El Paso - it is called "The Long Haul" and I paid $20. At the time when I was there the Mars Volta was big and there was a burgeoning art scene...

Cross Posted at Chicago Boyz