Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cigars All Around!

Lookie here - an Easter present for the farm.  Introducing Dexter.  We think.

We were lucky enough to receive this bundle of joy on Easter Sunday.  It comes right up to humans and other cattle alike.  Pretty friendly.  We think it is a boy, which is awesome.  A dun bull calf is highly prized in the world of Scottish Highland cattle, and there are already breeders and others sniffing around the farm to take a look at him.  If it is a boy, this will be the first one we outright sell for breeding purposes, and his name will have our farm's prefix in it, and so will his descendants, which is pretty cool.  It also saves us the hassle of us castrating him.  Which isn't that big of a deal, but still.  We won't have our normal beef haul from this guy, but the money we will get for him will more than offset that little inconvenience.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Glassware Synergy

Dan and I often go back and forth with awesome (or awesomely awful, such as a great beer in a Coors Light cup) glassware synergy. Recently I was in Brooklyn, New York and found two great examples.


This glass is from a "Kolsch" beer. The guy next to me at the bar started telling a story that in Germany, Kolsch is barely even considered beer, and you have to put your coaster atop your glass else they will just keep filling it indefinitely. Funny I was able to "authenticate" that story on the ol' intertubes here. I really like that Kolsch beer and would be glad to find somewhere around Chicago that has it on tap; I also really dig getting Kronenbourg 1664 on tap, as well (a French beer).

The second is from Ommegang Abbey Ale. I took the photo from my mobile so it isn't perfect on the logo but you can definitely make out the dancing monks.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I'm Done with Baseball

Often someone sums up what I'm trying to say better than I could say it. "The Heckler" is an awesome former newspaper like the Onion that is now on the web. This is how they sum up the Cubs season so far...

CUBS PROMISE TO SPEND AT LEAST 10 INNINGS AND 4 HOURS ON EVERY LOSS is the title of this brief but perfect post that sums up baseball here in Chicago today.
After an 0-2 start featuring a 10-inning and 16-inning loss to the Pirates, the Cubs announced their intention to lose every game of the season in a as drawn-out, dramatic, and ultimately futile as humanly possible, promising to ensure that each loss goes into extra innings while taking up at least four hours of their fan’s time.
Baseball in Chicago is now dreadful. I couldn't get anyone to go in with me on White Sox tickets (even a smaller package like 7 or 14 games) and other than opening day, which was nice, the weather has been awful. Deadspin has regular articles showing how small the crowds are at US Cellular Field.

Baseball games are getting longer and longer, and the games are more and more boring, and more likely to go to extra innings. The contrast between a baseball and football game is now dramatic; the crowds are dead and there are few exciting moments, just lots of pitching changes, delays, and a long day gone bad.

The saddest part is that we KNOW baseball won't do what is necessary to fix itself. It is futile to even put it up here but here's my two cents of how to fix it:

1. Make the season about 100 games, starting in May and ending in August (that is 4 months)
2. Start the playoffs in September, and end them by early October, when the weather is still nice
3. Find a way to make the games 2 1/2 hours or less. Reduce all the substitutions and if needed make the DH mandatory. Who cares about all those subtle strategies anyways
4. Who cares about spring training. Make that shorter, too. Nothing is more useless than the pre-season in any sport, that's Dan's rule of thumb and a good one. Or if you have a pre-season, don't talk about it much, because it is boring
5. Stop being so obsessed with the past. It is obvious that many / most great athletes aren't even playing baseball anymore. The top guys in the NBA / NFL would be fantastic baseball players, if they grew up playing the game and actually cared about it. But they don't. So re-baseline on what baseball is now and make it great and stats before non-whites played the game and it was actually "America's Pastime" don't matter. Give it up
6. For God's sakes fold franchises where there are no fans. That's Houston and Kansas City and many other places. If the White Sox don't get their heads out of their rear ends they should be on the block, too
7. Break the players union. The NBA and the NFL already did it. There is like zero sympathy for the players anywhere in any league. Cut the players' salaries so that the owners' profit margins can stay the same with 40% less games on the field
8. Find some way to make the playoffs meaningful. Maybe shorter series. I don't know. But hardly anyone watches the games anymore. Partially because they take 5 hours and are played after midnight in November, so doing the other things above would help more. But I know you aren't going to fix anything else and you think "more games = more money" so it is hopeless

Of course none of this will ever happen. Baseball owners are 100% dinosaurs. They feel that losing any of the 162 games costs them money, although in the long term this idiotic season and post season is killing the game. I have no idea why they can't break the players' union since they could replace all these guys with new guys from central America in a heartbeat and the average fan wouldn't know the difference.

Baseball, you've lost me. Bye-bye.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Night Flyover Country

Bohemian Hall Queens

Over the years I've traveled to New York City many times but never the borough of Queens. In your head you have a mental picture of the NYC map as if Queens has a "hard" border but really it is just attached to Long Island which goes out to the East.

We met a friend in Queens and went to Bohemian Hall which is one of the best beer gardens in New York City. It is over 100 years old and was built by immigrants from Eastern Europe. We went straight outside since it was a beautiful day in 70 degree weather (one of the first nice days of the year in mid April) so I didn't see the interior of the building.



It opened at noon and soon was full of young and trendy new York types - not the downtown all-in-black types, but the borough crowd that was forced out by incredibly high costs and also those with young children. We saw a lot of strollers and kids running around, it sort of reminded me of Wicker Park over the last few years.



We had lunch and it was a great platter. They also served beer by the pitcher that wasn't the usual Bud / Miller corn water. All around a great time and highly recommended. It was only a $2.50 train ride from Manhattan and the walk from the train stop was only a few blocks.



This is a video of the beer hall in action. Now I can say that I've been to Queens.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Friday, April 18, 2014

On the Internet

Recently a few loose threads have come together on the Internet and some "old school" high tech companies.

Yahoo! - Yahoo! (I guess I need the exclamation mark) has a value that is less than the sum of its component parts. The market capitalization of Yahoo! comes in the fact that it owns a significant portion of two Asian internet companies. Per this pithily titled article "How Is Yahoo So Worthless":
Yahoo is huge. It is the fourth-biggest Internet domain in the United States. It is the fourth-biggest seller of online ads in the country. It is the most popular destination for fantasy sports, controls one the most-trafficked home pages in news, and owns the eighth-most popular email client. In the last three months, it collected more than $1 billion in revenue. It's very rich.
It's also totally worthless.
Technically, it's worse than worthless. Worthless means without worth. Worthless means $0.00. But Yahoo's core business—mostly search and display advertising—is worth more like negative-$10 billion, according to Bloomberg View's Matthew C. Klein.
The math: Yahoo's total market cap is $37 billion. Its 24 percent stake in Alibaba, the eBay of China, is worth an estimated $37 billion (Alibaba hasn't IPO'd yet, so this figure will vary), and its 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan is worth about $10 billion. That means its core business is valued around negative-$10 billion.
This isn't just a random business article; there is some actual financial science behind this analysis. At my trust fund site Yahoo! is one of the stocks I selected since I believe that their new CEO Marissa Meyer is a badass but according to the math she is still losing the battle.

At one point in my career I worked for a public company that had $300M in cash on hand and a market value of $200M. Your business plan could be to fire everyone and drink in a bar all day and you'd be much closer to $300M than $200M (after all, how much can you drink). The market is anticipating that bad things are going to happen or that Yahoo! won't be able to successfully sell and repatriate the cash for these investments. It is like that famous postcard my relatives in Montana had that said "If I won a million dollars I'd just keep ranching until it was all gone." That is what the market today thinks of Yahoo! - even if they successfully extracted the cash from these investments, they'd invest it into something of less value (by $10B or so, apparently).

The Death of the Web - Another interesting view is that 1) everything is now mobile 2) mobile is really a lens through which either IOS (Apple) or Android (Google) dominate. We've basically given these two companies the gateway path to the internet.

Per this article, 84% of the time on your mobile you are on apps and only 16% of the time are you on the open internet. I have seen similar discussions elsewhere, although the numbers are always a bit different (and vary by country). This article by an Andreesen Horowitz venture capitalist talks about the potential pitfalls of this approach:
[Apple and Google] reject entire classes of apps without … allowing for recourse (e.g. Apple has rejected all apps related to Bitcoin). The open architecture of the web led to an incredible era of experimentation. Many startups were controversial when they were first founded. What if AOL had controlled the web, and developers had to ask permission to create Google, Youtube, eBay, Paypal, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Sadly, this is where we’re headed on mobile.
This is something to think about when you look at your own information consumption; are you working through an application or on the open web? And how much of your time is spent on a desktop vs. Laptop vs. Tablet vs. Mobile. The trend is definitely towards apps across these platforms and almost no one uses a desktop for much besides work anymore.

AOL Had the Future in their Hands, But Dropped the Ball - in the wake of Facebook's purchase of What's App messaging service for $19B, it is interesting to consider what "might have been" had AOL realized the power of instant messaging when they had that market mostly locked up. AOL could have built Skype or some other sort of calling application, or it could have just bet on messenger entirely and moved it onto the phone. People often talk of "first mover" advantages and AOL definitely had that, along with a large installed base that could have jump started a messenger only approach. While people remember AOL for their disastrous merger with Time Warner and other illogical items such as paying hundreds of millions for the Huffington Post and pouring millions into the "patch" local internet effort (with real human reporters, no less), these items should also be stacked against the lost opportunity of the enormous IM app that "could have been". While it is hard to top the Time Warner merger (one of the dumbest mergers, ever), the lost tens of billions of opportunity for messaging is another giant air-ball.

Silicon Valley TV Show - there is a show on HBO called "Silicon Valley". It was written by Mike Judge who created the famous "Office Space" and after seeing the first two shows I think it is great. While I am not an expert I know enough about these internet companies to recognize the stereotypes of executives, engineers, wealth, and the entire tech industry. Highly recommended, and only a half hour long to boot. This article explains how they created the milieu and over-the-top ethos of the office layouts and even the extremely narrow car that one of the big VC drives.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two For One

Two separate emails came to me over the weekend from two different sources that tie together in a way. I thought both are worth sharing.

The first is one of those emails that get passed on and forwarded a lot. The claim is it was written by  Clint Eastwood. Generally these types of emails leave me skeptical of the authenticity. Using a celebrity name gets attention. There is no way to confirm if the claim is true without a lot of search engine work and I have no time for that. I report - you decide.


Here's the content.

My Twilight Years ~ Clint Eastwood

As I enjoy my twilight years, I am often struck by the inevitability that the party must end. There will be a clear, cold morning when there isn't any "more." No more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat. 

It seems to me that one of the important things to do before that morning comes, is to let every one of your family and friends know that you care for them by finding simple ways to let them know your heartfelt beliefs and the guiding principles of your life so they can always say, "He was my friend, and I know where he stood."

So, just in case I'm gone tomorrow, please know this.

I voted against that incompetent, lying, flip-flopping, insincere, double-talking, radical socialist, terrorist excusing, bleeding heart, narcissistic, scientific and economic moron currently in the White House!

Participating in a gun buy back program because you think that criminals have too many guns is like having yourself castrated because you think your neighbors have too many kids.

Regards,

Clint

I have doubts this originated with Mr. Eastwood. It appears to be a late night rant by a person who had one too many. Then again Mr. Eastwood's speech at the RNC convention in 2012 tailed off into a series of addled or boozy connections so who knows. The content of the letter did reflect my sentiments so it resonated with me no matter who it originated with.

Another email on the same subject brought my attention to an online blog dedicated to reporting on random violent crime in the City of Chicago.


One claim made on this site is the local Chicago news media and Chicago Police Department are burying more than future dead democrat voters. They are burying number of documented violent crimes by having them reclassified. Doing so keeps the true numbers of random violent acts lower. Politicians prefer that facts not get in the way of their precious tourism business.

Most surprising is the reference link to a very revealing investigative article printed in Chicago Magazine, a publication that began decades ago as a tony north shore lifestyle magazine usually loaded with restaurant reviews, social event calendars and advertisements for fashions, furs and jewelry along with BMW and Bentley dealerships. The surprise to me is they were gutsy enough to publish something the mainstream Chicago news media would prefer to ignore. 

The site keeps a count of weekly, monthly including a special category of weekend homicides. You can track where and when these homicides occur, male and female criminal statistics and at-a-glance geographic stats revealing what most of us have already figured out.


I had a good chuckle at one statistic listed under the category of "shot placement". This is a monthly count of people "shot in the ass" complete with a graphic titled the "Shot-In-The-Ass-O-Meter". Are the gang bangers such poor shots they miss the vital area of the middle back when a victim is fleeing or are the shooters are making some sort of gang punishment statement to their peers?

Yes, it's true, my Chicago neighbors are having too many kids. But don't expect me to schedule a doctor appointment for my outpatient castration procedure anytime soon.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Great Midwest Fight For Growth

Before getting into this allow me to say this is not a rant, means of ridicule or insult to my good friends living in Illinois. There is so much good about Illinois. We lived there for nearly twenty years and enjoyed all it had to offer. But as it was obvious to us back then the state was heading for trouble. At that time it was beyond our imagination just how much trouble Illinois would eventually find itself in today.

As an Illinois refugee it's comforting to know we made the right choice by moving back to our home state of Indiana over twenty years ago. When the time came to relocate and upgrade, our evaluation of real estate opportunities, government, state economy and quality of family life influenced our decision to head back to Indiana where we grew up. Our choice to invest and relocate here was a wise one and we have no regrets in our ongoing search for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


Forbes online has written a brief piece outlining the sharp contrast between Indiana and Illinois regarding state government fiscal health and its impact on private sector economic growth. I became aware of the article through an email from one of my wise old superiors named Tom who is now fully retired and residing in Chicago's western suburbs.

Tom is one who can now well afford to enjoy a fine quality of life but is disgusted with where his state is heading and how his rights - constitutional and non-constitutional - are being compromised. He sees more and more of his wealth confiscated by a perpetual ruling class of re-elected cleptocrats. This was his way of congratulating me again via email for my choice to bolt Illinois long ago.

Back then Tom and some others at my agency thought I was foolish to leave for a state the Chicago media elite depict as a dirty rusted industrial landscape filled with trailer parks, rednecks and rubes and worst of all a state that lacks (gasp) diversity, culture and (yawn) urban enrichment. They would tell me I made enough to afford a nice place in the northwestern suburbs or a near north side brownstone. It was beyond their comprehension to see a successful ad executive make the choice I did. I had my reasons and kept them to myself.

Seems Illinois may soon force middle class residents to pay yet another tax, an obscene progressive income tax rate hike scheme to offset the state public union pension disaster and spending catastrophe created by individuals in the government they continue to choose. This is on top of what Chicago residents may be forced into paying regarding their property taxes to cover for their past government malfeasance. Many more businesses and residents have been fleeing the city and state for Wisconsin, Indiana and other less "progressive" states recently. It is becoming very obvious why. Tom sees it now and feels screwed by staying put.

The Forbes article Tom sent to me is titled is "Border War In The Midwest: Indiana And Illinois Fight For Growth"

From that article:

Last week, the Indiana state legislature passed further reductions in corporate business tax rates that, within eight years, will establish the Hoosier State as having the lowest business tax rate in the country. Indiana Governor Mike Pence has said that he plans to sign it into law. The bill will lower the corporate income tax rate each year through 2022, when the 4.9% rate will become the lowest corporate rate in the U.S. It also provides three options for local governments to lower the business personal property tax.

This is good news for Indiana, which is rapidly becoming a pro-growth model for states that are looking for ways to compete for employers, jobs, and tax revenues. Smart fiscal policies are improving the lives of workers across the state. Indiana now creates one out of every ten new jobs in America and actually rebates surplus funds to its taxpayers.

Unfortunately, this is bad news for Illinois, Indiana’s neighbor to the east. Illinois is wrestling with an unfunded pension liability of $187 billion, a recent ranking of last place in job creation with an anemic growth rate of 0.98, and the highest jobless rate in the Midwest. Even more troubling, Illinois’ paltry 11% increase in manufacturing jobs since 2009 has kept families who are struggling to make ends meet tied to unemployment lines. Compare this with Indiana manufacturing jobs’ recovery rates, which are close to 50%, and it is easy to see why the stakes are high for Illinois workers this election cycle.

The Forbes article is loaded with links so if you are interested click them to find out more. I swear, the Illinois ruling class seems destined to tax themselves into oblivion instead of turning their political clown car around.

The article describes how many middle class families have fled the City of Chicago over time. Many of them to Wisconsin and Indiana. I have met and known many of these other refugees and we meet we commiserate. Their chart illustrates "the demise of the foundation of an American city". While the results may not be exactly the same it's not much different from what happened to Detroit in the seventies.

If so many have left who is replacing them? Is anyone replacing them? How sad is that?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Big Ten Expansion Plans

A day or two ago I wrote about a hilarious article at ESPN that stated that the Big Ten only wants to look at AAU members to add to the conference (unless they bring in a ton of ca$h, like Nebraska).

Well, it is easy enough to see who the expansion "targets" are, so lets analyze it a bit.  Here is the current list of AAU universities.  We will keep the conversation to football, as that is where the lions share the money is anyways.

There are a total of 49 schools in the AAU that are not currently in the Big Ten.  Of the 49, 9 don't have football programs at all, bringing us to 40 candidates.

Of the remaining 40, 6 play football in division three, 2 play in Canada in small venues, and 7 are in the Ivy league.  I think it would be safe to exclude these from potential candidate$ for the Big Ten, so this leaves us with 25 schools left.

Of the 25 schools, I think it would be safe to eliminate Mizzou, Florida, Texas A and M, and Vanderbilt, who have sweet deals with the SEC.  This leaves us 21.

Similarly, I think it would also be safe to eliminate the PAC 12 schools that are left from the list of potential candidates to join the Big Ten with their AAU credentials.  These schools are Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Cal, UCLA, USC, Stanford and Washington.  We are now left with 13 schools.

We now can eliminate those schools playing in the FCS, which used to be called Division 1-AA.  They are just not big enough and wouldn't being the dough and fan base needed to join the conference.  These are Stony Brook University (who knew?), and UC Davis.  Now we have 11.

We are now down to 11 candidates that play football in Division 1, and have AAU credendial$ that make them "eligible" to join the Big Ten.  I think we can now safely eliminate a MAC (Mid American Conference) team.  While I love the MAC since it is based with schools in the Midwest and never outgrew itself by expanding in dumb, far away markets, it is a relatively tiny conference and really, there is no place for these schools in the Big Ten.  We have one school from the MAC, Buffalo.  We are down to 10.

CUSA (Conference USA) schools face the same fate as the MAC schools for the same reasons.  We will toss out Tulane and Rice now.  Down to 8.

Of the 8 schools left, five are in the ACC and three are in the Big 12.

From the ACC:
Duke
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Pitt
Virginia

From the Big 12:
Kansas
Iowa State
Texas

The ACC has been under assault the last half decade or so, and is a little more loosey goosey than most conferences.  The Big 12 is even worse, with recent losses of Texas A and M and Nebraska really hurting them.

Texas in particular is an interesting case, as they have by far the largest athletic department in the nation, with probably one of the largest fan bases and even have their own network (the Longhorn Network).  The deal would have to be really, really sweet for them to join the Big Ten and share their revenue.

Kansas, while making an empire in hoops, has stunk up the joint in football for a long time.  The Big Ten might be interested in them for the basketball piece, and to give the top dogs in football more to feed on in the basement of the conference on a yearly basis.

Iowa State is really the school without a home.  They don't naturally fit into the Big 12, and they are likely not wanted by the Big Ten because they have a (relatively) tiny fan base and a small TV market.

As far as the ACC schools go, of the lot of them I could see Pitt making the jump to the Big Ten if they were asked - five years ago.  But they just signed a huge deal with the ACC with a LOT of TV money (via ESPN) and they would have a GIANT penalty (buyout) if they jumped that ACC ship. Couple that with Notre Dame halfway joining the ACC and all the fans and money they bring (like them or not) and that is a lot stacked against not only Pitt, but any of the other ACC members leaving.

So, in the end, I think realistically, if the Big Ten stuck to their guns and only allowed AAU schools to join (lol), the most obvious targets are the three from the Big 12, especially Texas.  But there are pros and cons to all of this and you never know what can happen.

My bet would be that the next member to join the Big Ten will be...not an AAU accredited institution.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

It Is Or Isn't

hmmm….that's interesting….

That is a common response heard in trendy galleries or modern museums when viewing works of art. I've heard it more times than I can count. In my experience it is said most by those who lack the knowledge, expertise or the ability to bullshit their way in describing what they don't understand without self embarrassment. Smart choice.

Me? Whenever I have been in that situation and asked if I like something I say so. If I don't I say I don't like it. But that's just me. I prefer keep my mouth shut if I don't understand it and neither hate it or like it. Unless I had too much wine, then I didn't give a crap what I said. Art galleries are places where posers feel the need to act like experts. It's not too hard to spot them.

One sculpture I drive by each day captures my attention and my imagination. Don't know why I like it but I do.
The sculpture in the above photo resides at the entrance of Purdue University's North Central extension campus just south of the Indiana Toll Road (I-80) on SR421.

My son went there for a year or so before committing to the West Lafayette main campus to serve out the remainder of his sentence. PU/NC has a few other sculptures along the road but I don't care much for them. Most are abstract interpretations of some industrial flotsam or jetsam, some could be interpretations of a female or male, whatever.

What I see in this particular Purdue sculpture projects movement, strength, progress and in a way, intelligence. There's a flow to it that seems casual and free, happy, almost lifelike. Static it's not. I see jaunty without swagger (gawd I hate that word). The bare metallic luster and the angle in which it was placed catches sunlight ever so perfectly as the sun passes east to west creating stark contrasts and casting unusual shadows. Not many modern sculptures impress me as this one does. It is interpretive yet it has a realistic quality that suggests something to me without being able to tell just what that is. This sculpture seems very well thought out and quite appropriate for where it stands.

For the most part public sculpture bores the hell out of me specifically the ultra modern interpretive stuff. A lot of it looks like a waste of money. Like that innocuous "Bean" in Chicago's Grant park or those rusty legs without torsos farther south. That Bean thing reminds me of a kitchy old backyard garden reflecting globe so popular back in the 60's that happened to distort or melt. And that Picasso thing that occupies space in Daley Plaza is nothing but a rusty pile of awfulness. Interesting? No.This may place me in a minority but I think all those are a big waste of time and money.

That Purdue sculpture is much more than interesting…to me.

Money and the High and Mighty Big Ten

I try to follow the (miserable) football news about my beloved Illinois Fighting Illini and today I stumbled upon this article on ESPN.com.  It is really, really stupid (and shows how great the politicians in Illinois are at wasting money - but that is a different subject for a different day), but I read it anyway.

Most of the article is laughingly dumb, but here is the part that stuck out to me:
For starters, the Big Ten has made it clear that candidates must be part of the Association of American Universities to gain consideration. The only Illinois schools in the AAU right now are Illinois-Champaign, Northwestern and the University of Chicago, a founding member of the Big Ten that stopped competing in the league in 1939. 
This struck me as odd, so I took the liberty to launch a full out investigation that took approximately five seconds of my time (google) and found this page, that lists the current AAU members.  Among them are:

Indiana
Michigan State
Northwestern
Illinois
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Rutgers
Maryland
Iowa
Michigan
Minnesota
Wisconsin

That is 13 schools.  Anyone missing?  Beuller?  Beuller?


Well, I will give you the answer.  NEBRASKA.  That's right, Nebraska is not an AAU member.  So next time you hear the Big Ten getting all high and mighty about not wanting anymore teams that are not AAU members, lets just put an asterisk there and make a footnote that says "unless they bring a ton of ca$h to the conference".  Of course ESPN would never say something like this for fear of losing access, but I guess that is my job.