Thursday, November 30, 2006
Not something that happens every day...
What many, many folks simply have no concept of is the scale of horrors that were perpetuated upon prisoners of war and normal citizens by the Axis Powers in World War 2. I sincerely wish more of us here in the USA could get a grasp on this. Carl just met a person that gave him the tried but not true "Rumsfeld = Hitler" bumper sticker line. Well I think Tojo and the Japanese = Ted Kennedy. Not really, but both statements show how ridiculous things have really gotten in our discourse.
The bridge over the River Kwai was just one of many projects that the Japanese used POW and slave labor on in Burma. They built an entire railway there for military purposes. The prison camp that was situated by the Kwai River bridge was like most other Japanese POW camps - a killing machine. The producers of the documentary refreshingly didn't pull any punches - four of five people that entered that prison camp died there. At times the living couldn't keep up with burying the dead. The Japanese regularly beat the prisoners and civilians that were there, especially when they couldn't keep up with work loads. They even beat the WOMEN AND CHILDREN that worked there. In the video the reporter that was doing the narrative actually had to stop several times to gather his composure as the historian (very matter of factly) told him of the atrocities that happened at this series of camps along the railroad.
Of course this is just one hundreds (thousands?) of examples of how the Japanese treated the people they conquered militarily and of how they treated POW's. A sad chapter in human history indeed.
I was actually moved a moment when they were interviewing a British POW who survived the whole ordeal. They asked him how me made it through. He stated that the only thing that kept him going was sheer bloody hatred for the Japanese that were doing awful things to him and his pals.
When you look at just this one incident - just this one - it is mind boggling that the human can lower himself to these levels of depredation. Yet this is how our friends on the left view things. Lets conveniently forget the actual things Hitler and Tojo and Stalin did, yet compare them to Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney.
To me those on the left have sunk into the same depths - mentally - as the Axis.
*Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz discussion forum.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
In a totally unexpected turn, they may be right – it may be a conspiracy – but a conspiracy on behalf of oil users, consumers, and SUV’s.
In this article, a “security adviser” to the Saudi Arabian government talks about their options should the US withdraw from Iraq. The Saudis are Sunni Muslims, just like the Sunnis who have provided the backbone of the resistance against the US (and democracy) and are virtually at war with the Shiites and the Kurds. The worry from the Saudi side is that if the US pulls out the Shiites will take revenge against the outnumbered Sunnis and Iran will wield huge influence in the region. Per the article:
or the Saudi king "may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half ... it would be devastating to Iran ... The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shi'ite militias in Iraq and elsewhere."
How is that for irony? That the result of the Iraq war would be reduced oil prices for consumers everywhere? That CHEAPER oil could be a weapon that would be wielded in this battle for Muslim supremacy?
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
In purchasing circles you often hear the term "the China Price". The China price basically means that if you can't meet it, we'll take our business overseas.
For the US worker, who is relatively high-cost, "The China Price" causes a lot of worry. In order to be competitive, the US workers have to be very productive and utilize the advantages of our physical location which means that logistical costs can be minimized and time to market improved.
From the consumer perspective, however, "the China Price" is good news. A friend of mine, Elton, was out of town and I had a key to his condo so as a positive practical joke we decided to put up a Christmas tree in his apartment. The 4 1/2 foot tree (pre-lit), ornaments, and a tree skirt came in at about $55 dollars.
If you look at the tree (below), it looks very nice in the condo, against the window with the view to the East of the Chicago skyline. Not bad for the price...
But now I look at these dates as challenges. All of the standard gifts have been given - chocolate, sweaters, gift cards to nice stores, etc. I have started to move on to the more unique.
It is interesting to see which way the retailers want to push you. But first things first - lets take this from the top.
I usually start searching for gifts for my wife by trying to think of things she likes, but has maybe shied away from buying in the past because they cost too much. Truly, that is the definition of a gift to me - buying something for a person that they WANT, not because it is something they NEED. Of course there is no need to make this happen all the time, but for Christmas, Birthday and the Anniversary you can really hit some home runs thinking this way.
So off to the online retailers I go. I usually know a certain "class" of gift that I am searching for - usually womens fashion. The front page items are all higher profit items for the retailers (and usually junk, forgotten in a day) and you really have to dig to find something nice.
I dug around Saks website for a while and found a unique gift (can't tell you here, she might see! Email me if you want to know and I will send you the link). They have a lot of nice things and I had them gift wrap it for me. That Saks gift wrap will have her wondering all the way up until when we open the presents.
But besides the standard online retailers I try to think of things she may have said in the past year or so. One year she said that she missed her friends - so I secretly invited them up here to Madison and surprised her at a restaurant for her birthday. That was a homerun to say the least.
One year I remembered my wife's fondness for pastries - so I got her a pastry of the month membership from a small bakery, and you can see it here.
For her birthday she always eats crab legs and they are among her favorite foods. She came home one day recently with some that she found on sale.
Remembering this I went over the top and for Christmas this year had ten pounds of Red King crab legs flown in from Alaska for her to enjoy over the coming month. Look at the size of these things!
Yes, they were expensive, but you are going to spend that type of money anyway so why the hell not? If you are interested I ordered them from here. We usually get one "nice" thing for each other and then a few other little things for Christmas. This is her "nice" thing and I intentionally ordered them before Christmas so she could enjoy them over the whole month.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the gifts that are the most fun to give and are the most appreciated are the ones that you actually took a little time to think about and maybe went the extra mile to arrange. Doing something nice for your significant other like maybe doing their chores around the house for a week or being the cook for a few days is just as good a gift in my opinion as buying that person yet another useless trinket.
Gift giving to me has become more fun looking at things this way.
Monday, November 27, 2006
The heading on this New York paper says it all:
"Jeeted - Anti-Yankee YOKELS cheat MVP Derek"
I am emphasizing the work yokel, which pretty much means "us" here on the blog. Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins won the award, beating out Mr. Jeter in a closer than usual race for AL MVP.
Now it is not every day that I rise up in defense of the Minnesota Twins, since they have been mortal enemies of the White Sox for years. The Minnesota Vikings, or "Vi-queens" as we call them, are bitter rivals of the Bears, where Ditka famously "flipped off" the crowd in what is one of the all-time best NFL photos.
But the Yankees and New Yorkers ought to think twice before they call the Twins yokels. The Twins won World Series' in 1987 and 1991; the Yankees won in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 (I am talking recent history here, the last 20 years or so). The Twins have been playing tough in the regular season, this year the Yanks won 97 victories and the Twins 96 - but the Yankees have a payroll of $194M while the Twins have a payroll of $63M. Plus, the Twins play in the ferocious AL Central with the White Sox, Tigers and the dangerous Indians (yeah, KC is also there, but you have Tampa out in the East, too).
It can be safely said that the Twins get as much "bang for the buck" out of their payroll as anyone. The Yankees buy their talent, used, from someone else while the Twins develop their own talent. Oh, and did I mention that the other "yokels", the Bears, beat up the Giants and Jets back to back in NYC?
But on to more serious fare...
A while back I was talking with someone at a party who moved to Chicago from NYC. She was in the real estate business. One (fairly) unique item about NYC compared to the rest of the US is that their housing is mainly of the co-operative rather than the condominium format. From wikipedia, here are four distinguishing features of a co-operative unit:
Reasons suggested why cooperatives are relatively more common than condominiums in the New York City area are:
- Cooperatives appeared as least as far back as the 1920's while a legal basis for condominium form of ownership was not available in New York State until 1946
- The cooperative form can be advantageous as a building mortgage can be carried by the cooperative corporation, leaving less financing to be obtained by each coop owner. Under condominium ownership only the separate condo owners provide financing. Particularly when interest rates are high, a conversion sponsor may find unit buyers more easily under the cooperative arrangement as buyers will have less financing to arrange on their own; the apparent purchase price of a unit in a cooperative building holding an underlying mortgage is lower than a condo purchase. Cooperative unit buyers may not accurately weigh their share of the building's mortgage.
- Also, later in a building's life after conversion, major new investments required to repair or replace building systems can be raised by a new central mortgage in a cooperative, while in a condominium funds could only be raised by onerous assessments being required of each individual unit owner. However, the New York State's condominium law was amended in 1997 to allow condominium associations to carry building mortgages.
- A coop building's board can impose restrictions and legally discriminate in their selection of new tenant owners.
In addition to being able to legally exclude people for any reason whatsoever, they could also make the argument that co-operatives required owners to put up a significant portion (or all) of the purchase in the form of cash (rather than a mortage), so they had a double justification for keeping people out - these people can't afford to live here...
I don't know why more people don't talk about this blatant discrimination; I can't think of other areas where this type of behavior is tolerated. It is a story that deserves a lot more digging, and a lot more self-reflection among those who installed these barriers.
At this point they have "won" because even if they just allowed ANYONE in who could afford it, the costs are so high that it would have the same practical effect as it did when this format was originally implemented.
Back to the land of the "yokel"...
Sunday, November 26, 2006
This group looks to be a front organization set up by the utilities, which is clearly within their rights to do, since electricity is, at heart, a matter of public policy. Their main opponent is the "Citizen's Utility Board" or CUB - here is a link to their web site.
Ameren and ComEd (who supplies electricity to Chicago and Northern Illinois) want to increase rates 26% to 55% due to the new reverse electricity auction approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission (their site here).
For someone who knows history, it is kind of funny that the utilities in Illinois are betting on the side of the ICC. The Illinois utilities used to be at war with the ICC, back when the high cost of their (terribly run, at the time) nuclear plants were pushing Illinois to some of the highest electricity rates in the nation and threatening them with bankruptcy. The utilities have always been mortal enemies of the ICC, like a snake and a mongoose.
This full page ad cites some decent members and a lot of fluff. It is not surprising that the head of Constellation NewEnergy supports this effort, after all their company stands to make a lot of money off electrical supply. There are a few random community organizer types that I assume signed up for some sort of donation. However, they do have the head of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, which are credible people.
I read through the CORE site and the ICC site and the CUB site and sadly, no one has any real solutions. CUB and the politicians know that rate hikes are political suicide and are pushing for a continuation of the rate "freeze". The ICC and CORE are calling for the increase due to supply costs that depend on where you live (central and southern Illinois are going to be hit harder because they had lower rates to begin with, and the rates are more or less going to be equalized for the state in terms of energy supply, or generation).
The REAL solution, as anyone who has read this blog knows, IS TO BUILD MORE GENERATING PLANTS. They need to build COAL and NUCLEAR plants to supply the growing electricity demand in Illinois. They also need to BUILD TRANSMISSION LINES across the state so that we can tap into low cost generation from other states (like Indiana) and drag up their electricity rates, as well.
I think businesses are kind of giving up on any kind of realistic strategy; most new businesses now don't even hope for reliable energy and build backup supply. They also know that Illinois politicians, among the most spineless in the land, could never band together long enough to build new generation or transmission lines in the face of the fanatical howls of the NIMBY crowd. Since solutions are impossible, it seems better for them to raise rates than the "real" plan B, which I have also cited on this site before - that the state of Illinois seize the generating plants owned by Exelon (who owns ComEd) and just stop pretending that we have any sort of market at all, since we really don't. Letting the state of Illinois grab a semi-functioning business sets a bad precedent for business in the state and they probably think this is the lesser of 2 evils.
Another reason that the utilities are running scared is because Blogo was re-elected and he is essentially at war with them. Blogo is the man who tried to replace all the ICC members and is leading the new rate freeze scheme. Like most Democrats, Blogo is a man who is focused on his electability and he knows that rate increases are POISON. To him, anything else is better than running the risk of becoming a new Governor Davis (the California governor who was recalled over the power fiasco) and he will explore all options, no matter how onerous, before it comes to that.
Let's stay tuned and see how this plays out, while everyone does everyting but FIX the problem by adding generation or transmission capacity. SIGH...
A book recently was issued about the history of SPY magazine called "Spy, the Funny Years" and it has a lot of their great articles and cartoons. This cartoon is from the book - if you can't quite read it the artist is asking the man in the suit "Can I have a grant so I can finish my art". Other funny highlights include their photo of Hillary in a bondage outfit (kind of attractive, actually) and their constant insult of the rich and famous in NY including describing Donald Trump as a "short fingered vulgarian". I still love their review of the movie "The Marrying Man" with Alec Baldwin which they wrote before the movie even came out that was short and to the point - "Soon to be Disastrous".
That book is a good holiday gift for the sarcastic person in your life who was reading current events in the late 80's and early 90's...
One refreshing thing has happenned though. I have a new hero and it is Urban Meyer, the head coach of Florida.
If you remember, he coached the Utah Utes to an undefeated season and got hosed out of a national title game because of...the BCS. But look at what he said yesterday after beating Florida State, from this article:
Yet when No. 4 Florida took over the ball on downs at the Florida State eight-yard line with :58 to play and a 21-14 lead, Meyer forgot all that. He wanted to put another touchdown on the scoreboard so that voters across the country would see a 28-14 victory that might camouflage how much the Gators struggled to put the 6-6 Seminoles away. "I thought about it," Meyer said. "On the headset, I said, 'Let's go score.' Somebody said, 'What are you doing? Let's win the game and get out.'" Florida's BCS standing had Urban Meyer thinking about trying for a late score against FSU. That somebody was offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who saved his boss from his impulse.And then this in the post game press conference:
"Here's our style," Meyer said. "Let's see, you got at Tennessee, you got Kentucky, who's 7-4 [7-5 after the loss to Tennessee on Saturday], you got Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Auburn and at Tallahassee. So much for style. You want to put that against anyone in the country, let's go ahead and go. … The style points? That's what's wrong with it. [If] that's what making decisions, I want to stand by my comment a week ago. Implode it. It's over. If that's what making a decision, style points, which that's what I imagine it is, you got a problem. Let's call it winning and losing and playing a difficult schedule."
That kicks ass. Finally somebody with enough stones to openly challenge the stupid BCS. He isn't the only one. Other coaches are calling it BS too.
Here is a wild thought I had. The people in the South are so football crazy that they may just pull out of the BCS. Maybe do their own bowl or a playoff. If anyone could pull something like that off, the SEC could.
Oh well. At least now some coaches are openly bitching about the BCS and not just me.
Friday, November 24, 2006
One of my nieces recently moved into her own room, which is great. However, it is by the stairs to the attic and a bit creepy (remember when you were little hearing noises at night when you were trying to sleep?).
So I saw this teddy bear online at Costco for an amazingly low price (not why I bought it, but a bonus) and it has a light inside that changes colors softly and then turns off after about 30 minutes, by when hopefully she is asleep. Here are some of the colors that it turns as it goes through the cycles - lots of fun! I hope the batteries still work when I give it as a gift because it is a lot of fun to use myself at night.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
About five years ago the Bears built a new stadium with the help of a hotel tax and some other concessions from the government. This is one of my soap box topics. It is my feeling that the government should NEVER give ANY money to build a stupid sports stadium, that benefits a multi millionaire owner. I don't see the government lining up to help me expand my business. But that is most certainly a different topic. The bottom line is that the stadium deal got done.
Along with every new stadium for an NFL team comes the PSL. The PSL is a fee that a season ticket holder pays for the priviledge to purchase the tickets. In other words, you pay a one time fee up front to reserve your seats. The Bears didn't make their whole stadium PSL. The west upper deck is not PSL, and neither is part of each end zone. The rest of the stadium is PSL. Here is the map if you are interested.
I am really not going to 'dis the Bears for implementing the PSL, as they are doing nothing unusual or odd here. And if they can get the money, that is great. My "line in the sand", is the PSL. I just won't pay it. I also think it stinks that the people that sat out there and watched the Bears in that terrible stadium (Old Soldier Field was undoubtedly the very worst stadium ever) and earned the good seats (many probably watched the Bears at Wrigley Field) were slapped with a PSL or booted to the upper deck with the rest of us peasants. But nobody ever said NFL teams cared about the fans, nor did anybody ever say that we HAVE to go.
You would think that these PSL seats would entitle the holders to some sort of premium treatment. They do not. The lower end PSL seats ($750-$2500) have crappy seats and use the same crowded bathrooms as the non PSL seats. The upper end PSL seats do have one benefit, which is admission to the Club Level. This is a huge bar area that wraps around the east side of the stands with a decent view of Lake Michigan.
The reason I am bringing up the lack of benefits to paying a PSL is that the Super Bowl is coming up. You would think that the PSL members that paid all of that money (for each seat) would be able to call in a favor. Sorry, Charlie.
I just received my playoff ticket invoice and the method of choosing who and who does not go to the Super Bowl (if the Bears go) is incredibly fair - FOR ME.
For the Super Bowl, here is how the tickets are distributed - there is NO public sale of tickets to the game:
AFC Champion 17.5%
NFC Champion 17.5%
Dolphins 5.0% (3,700 tickets)
Other 29 Teams 34.8%
The stadium holds approximately 75,000. Lets do a little math, then I will explain how the Bears are going to do the ticket raffle.
17.5% of 75000 is 13,125 tickets. It is literally impossible to say how many the Bears will make available to the season ticket holders. I would assume all of the big shots that rent skyboxes and luxury seats will get a pair along with all of the Bears team family members and other important business connections. Mike Tice of the Vikings got famous a while back for scalping many of his allotment of 12 Super Bowl tickets.
I saw that the Seahawks when they went to the super bowl offered 75% of their 17.5% to the season ticket holders, which would equal this year 9,843 tickets. I couldn't find how many the Steelers alloted to their season ticket holders last year but I will assume it is a similar number. Knowing how things in Chicago work, I will round the number of actual tickets DOWN to 9,000. I believe face value on the tickets is about $750 each. By the way, the cheapest tickets available through scalpers for the last Super Bowl was around $2500. If the Bears go to the Super Bowl I predict demand will be so high that you would have no chance on scoring tickets for anything less than $4 grand.
So here is the way the Bears are going to NOT reward their high dollar paying PSL holders. Each seat (or season ticket) gets one "chance" in the lottery for Super Bowl tickets. PSL seats get one "chance" just as I do. The only preference shown is those in the club level, who get two "chances" per seat. As a reference, I used to own a pair of tickets in the upper level of the Jacksonville stadium (don't ask me why). My odds were 20-1 there as the drawing was heavily weighted toward the higher prices PSL and club seats.
Looks like my odds may be better than that 20-1 long shot I had before. More math.
66,000 seats = 66,000 chances for about 9,000 tickets. I think there are about 10,000 club level seats. That adds 10,000 chances (remember they get two chances per ticket) for a total of 76,000 chances for 9,000 tickets. I own four seats or chances. Of course the odds change as the chances are selected - the Bears say that if you are selected for a pair of tickets that your other chances in that account are eliminated at that time so SUPPOSEDLY each season ticket holder would only get one pair of Super Bowl if selected. Geez. That is an equation that I am just not able to do. My calculus is rusty to say the least.
Well, just one more reason to not own a PSL with the Bears - no preferential treatment when it comes to - anything.
ADDED: That equation gets more complex the more I think about it. Not only do the odds change as season ticket holders are eliminated after they get picked, but the odds change each time one pair of tickets is selected. For example if there are 9,ooo tickets available at start and 76,000 chances - after the first selection there would be 8998 tickets available and 75998 chances IF the season ticket holder had only a pair of Bears season tickets. If the season ticket holder held four, it would be 8998 tickets and 75996 chances. I think it may be very well impossible to put odds on this.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The world has collective amnesia. In the
For a brief moment in the 90’s democracy seemed ascendant. Even countries that used to be under authoritarian regimes such as
What has happened since then is that democracy and rule of law has generally gone backwards in much of the world.
Americans who think Bush tramples on their rights are really missing the collective point. For true stripping away of rights, let’s look to the future…
In most of the world, standing up for what you believe or criticizing the government can lead to your death. In the
A problem is that many Americans can’t see the wolf outside the door, nor understand that the default state of the world isn’t some sort of Western European socialist utopia but of a brutal world where the have’s stomp on the rights and lives of the have-nots. These facts used to be painfully obvious in the world of fascism and communism, and are quite visible in the chaos of
Without understanding the dark side of human nature nor comprehending how difficult it is to maintain freedom people miss the entire point.
Unfortunately, by the time they figure out, it is usually too late, and then the vast majority of people fall into line under the odious and brutal people in power. Fighting the government, when it is armed and ruthless, is great in comic books and TV series, but extremely dangerous and often futile in the real world.
In most of the world, this is the future...
Monday, November 20, 2006
HERE is a CLASSIC! The famous CCCP North Face jacket on a cameraman that inspired one of my better post and a million loonies when it was picked up on a major blog. And where else would this guy show up but an Obama rally!
We sat next to a nicely dressed woman who was very polite. It was interesting to sit next to a radical Democrat, in the flesh. Some highlights:
Her - "Everyone is talking about trying Rumsfeld for war crimes"
Me - "It will never happen"
Her - "He is a war criminal, just like Hitler"
Me - "That is the worst analogy I have ever heard"
Her - "They are both war criminals, there is no difference"
Me - silent (what do you say to idiotic comments like that...)
Amazingly enough, we talked a bit later, and she talked about Carly Fiorna, the ex-boss of HP that was booted out for poor results and then wrote a dishy, tell-all book (no feminine stereotypes there).
Her - "Carly had a lot to answer for"
Me - "Like what? Running the company into the ground and then writing a tell-all book?"
Her - "No, for saying that there isn't a glass ceiling"
Me - "Oh..."
Her - "And not specifically reaching out to minorities"
then, a few seconds later we started talking about Condi Rice, who spoke at a different event sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Events.
Me - "Did you see Condi" (for god's sakes, I was at the event and had identified myself as a die-hard Republican)
Her - "No I could never bring myself to see her"
Can you believe the irrationality? Condi is the first African American woman as secretary of state and a huge achiever... but this doesn't count because she is a Republican. CRAZY!
Then we got to the saddest part of all... we pretty much agreed on Illinois politics. She said that Ryan's release of death row was a terrible publicity stunt and that she didn't even vote for Blogo (voted Green, said she knew she was throwing her vote away). She even pointed out that when Stroger got sick he didn't even go to the (public) hospital that he was named after... he went to a good hospital where he had a chance to actually get better.
Left, right, middle - Illinois politics makes everyone sick.
I went to see Obama at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at the Hilton on South Michigan Avenue. The tickets were $60 / each for someone who was a member of the Council, which I recommend because they get a lot of great speakers.
There were 125 tables at the affair and it was PACKED. We were there right when the door opened and still had difficulty finding 2 seats next to each other in a table for lunch. I will write a second post on the loonies I encountered during the luncheon, but this post focuses on Obama and the overall event.
Obama was received by the crowd like a rock star. As many have pointed out better than me, this is for a junior senator with only a few years of experience who hasn't really done anything, yet..
Obama got right down to it. This speech was about Iraq, and he mostly made sense, surprisingly. There was not much Bush-bashing at all, only briefly poking fun at the slogans of "Stay the Course" and "Cut and Run". He was very serious and steadfast throughout, and even said nice things about the troops.
He said that he didn't agree with why we went to war, but that didn't matter, because the issue was how to do the best we can with the situation at hand. He said that there weren't any "good" options, however.
In general, his theory was to have a phased withdrawal. His point of view was that if the Iraqis thought we were leaving they would be pressured to reach a "political compromise", which he feels is the ultimate solution.
Interestingly, he also alluded indirectly to the best solution; the partitioning of Iraq. He said that our forces should be withdrawn "over the horizon" to be available to act as needed; by this he said "in Northern Iraq". Who lives in Northern Iraq? Why the Kurds, of course. And why can we put our forces there? Because the Kurds are friendly to us, because we liberated them from Saddam and punishment from the Sunni and Shiite forces in Iraq. To me, it is a "pipe dream" to imagine that the three groups will ever reach a true "political solution" - it never happened in Yugoslavia, instead you ended up with separate states for Croatia, Serbia and others, via the extremely messy and unfortunately effective tactics of "ethnic cleansing".
Overall, Obama was acting like a statesman. He was attempting to provide solutions, not just knock current policies. He recognized that we are at war, and even specifically noted that we must retain the right to unilaterally strike when necessary, although he said that having our allies help was a "force multiplier".
While Obama was acting like a statesman and taking on tough questions, I was struck by his bio that was provided with the luncheon. His highlights all involve helping people get more moneyh from the government, whether through tax cuts for the poor or helping veterans get disability, with the obligatory reference to the environment.
As always, if you listened to him talk and his achievements you'd never think for a minute that free enterprise drives the success of the United States and its dynamic economy; government is the solution, and re-distributive policies are always the best way to provide "social justice", not growth, hard work, and excellence.
If you read his background you can see why; it cites his work as "a community organizer, civil rights attorney, and leader in the Illinois State Senate". Not a good foundation for economics and market policy...
All in all he definitely knows how to speak and put on a good show. He didn't appear partisan, and he didn't jump on obviously non-productive Democratic party threads. He was on time and seemed respectful of his audience.
He will be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination for President, and would be a strong opponent to the Republicans, in my opinion, as long as he ignores his base and focuses on the broad "middle" of the country. His base is in his pocket, anyways.
Interesting to see that this speech was picked up by the national media right away - on the front at the Chicago Tribune and all over the news wires...
Bet you never thought you would see that hated little drunk Irish bastard on this blog did you. But for my eeeeeeeeevil plan to come to fruition...
...I need USC to lose one more game, and they play the Irish this weekend. As it stands now, it is still OSU and Michigan 1-2 in the stupid BCS. Look at this grumbling already from todays paper...
Florida coach Urban Meyer says a rematch for all the marbles would make the need for a playoff immediate:
"If that does happen, all the (university) presidents need to get together immediately and put together a playoff system".And Tommy Tuberville, the head coach of Auburn:
"I think it would be ridiculous. I think Arkansas or Florida should get that opportunity. It shouldn't even be close".I love it. I knew if Michigan and Ohio State could play twice that the other conferences would go ballistic. I just need a little help from the Irish.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
My post here doesn't have much to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most know where I stand on that issue.
Instead, this essay has more to do with the way people act and speak. Here is the key quote from the article. To recap, the writer went to an awful play about Rachel Corrie and participated in a question and answer session with her parents afterward:
I took advantage of the opportunity to revisit my question, so I looked into her face and said I felt for her loss (which is true) and knew she wanted peace (true) and asked her if she really thought the Palestinians didn't bear any responsibility for their situation. Her response was about as rambling and disconnected as Mr Khatib's; any Palestinian responsibility acknowledged must be immediately matched and overmatched by Israeli responsibility. Palestinians have first dibs on compassion and understanding. (They have compassion for the Israelis as victims too, but in the way that you have compassion for a sinner in order to bring him to Jesus. They just don't see the Palestinians as sinners.) She did manage to say that the Kassem rockets were "illegal," adding that they had only killed 10 people. I made the obvious point that if you randomly bomb civilian areas, the purpose is to make it impossible for people to conduct their lives. We have all already had this inane conversation about Lebanon, give me a break. (I didn't say that, I got the impression it would be rude to disturb the loving motherly Corrie ambiance.)It was all pretty sick-making.
Give me a blatant hater any day.
Maybe it is my Midwest sensibility talking here, but I could totally relate with that last part. I have never been big on the soft sell, nor am I one into giving the soft sell to others. Most everything is black and white to me. There aren't a lot of frilly edges.
The vendors that I hate most are the ones with sales personnel that soft step hard questions. I cannot count the number of times that I ask very easy, pointed questions and get wishy-washy answers and I get completely infuriated. It seems that this is happening more as time goes by.
If I ask a salesperson how many I need to buy to get the best price, I want (need!) the sales person to give me a NUMBER, not a speech. I can't count the number of times that I have to ask questions that pin people down into yes or no answers just to keep my flow of work moving.
"Do you have these in stock?"
"We are supposed to have a bunch coming in very soon."
"OK, that is a no. When?"
"Very soon, more than likely the next few days."
"Can you give me an exact day? My customer is trying to schedule his work."
"Within the next 3-7 days."
"I need to speak with your manager."
This brings me to the above quote. I would much rather you say that you simply hate Jews and want them all dead rather than giving me stories about the "cycle of violence" or trying to justify the shooting of rockets into densely populated areas of cities, disrupting the inhabitants lives.
Or, if you are a vendor trying to do business with me and you have no idea when the product will be coming off the line, just tell me that! I much prefer someone that tells me the truth right off the bat rather than making me do the dance for facts.
I think it was Steven Colbert that started his interview with Tim Robbins with the question "why do you hate the troops?"
Nothing like cutting to the chase, I always say.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I have written a number of posts on taxes. These include 1) social security 2) the AMT 3) withholding 4) state income taxes 5) taxes under the Democrats. This post is focused on corporate income taxes.
Corporate income taxes are levied on corporations. Many businesses use different legal structures like an “S Corporation” or “Limited Liability Corporation” (LLC) rather than setting up as a Corporation (or C-Corp as known in the tax world). The LLC or S-Corp structure means that whatever money the company earns passes through to the owners of the company and they report it on their regular tax return.
People use the LLC or S-Corp structures to avoid the US Federal Corporate Tax liability. The C-Corp tax structure means that income is subject to “double taxation” – it is taxed both at the corporate level and then taxed AGAIN when cash is passed down to the ultimate owners of the corporation in terms of dividends. Individuals who own shares in the corporation are also taxed via capital gains taxes whenever they sell the shares that have appreciated in value.
For the purposes of this post I am going to focus on the corporate tax system, and not the other S-Corp or LLC tax structures which essentially go under the Federal tax system on individuals.
HOW THE CORPORATE TAX IS CALCULATED
US Federal Corporate tax rates are “graduated” just like they are for individuals; however, for the largest corporations, you can assume that they generally are near 35% (for all amounts > $18M in income) and everything > $100,000 is at or more than 34%.
Companies calculate their net income for financial reporting purposes (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or “GAAP”) and this is the starting point for the US Federal Corporate tax return, analogous to how the state income tax returns start with the Federal tax form for individuals. There are a number of adjustments where the US Federal Tax code differs from GAAP – most notably depreciation. When stock options are exercised there is also a tax deduction that is not present for GAAP purposes; thus the recent shenanigans with options price back-dating (where executives retroactively chose dates that were favorable to them for option pricing) is causing massive tax headaches and restatements at companies where the executives exercised those illegally backdated options. By illegally pricing the options, the companies effectively over-paid their taxes, because companies get a tax deduction based on the gain when options are exercised by employees.
Corporations fill out a tax form 1120. This form follows a typical income statement with revenues less costs of good sold, deduct other expenses, and determine net income. Schedule M3 is used to reconcile the book to tax differences listed above, plus many more.
While the differences from GAAP to tax are complex enough to fill several hundred blogs, in general if you apply the Federal tax on corporations plus state taxes you get an “effective tax rate” of approximately 39% (corporations can deduct state taxes on their Federal returns, and state taxes average about 6.6% on top of the 34% rate, which works out to about 39%).
On the company’s income statement you can see the “provision for income taxes” which is calculated at the “effective tax rate” which is used for GAAP financial reporting as well as “income taxes paid” which is a note below on the income statement. Exxon, for example, had a provision for income taxes for the 9 months ended 9/30/06 of $18.2 billion dollars and actually paid taxes of $18.6 billion dollars during that same time period. The closeness of these 2 numbers can vary by company.
Corporations are different than people is that they can run a loss and pay no taxes at all. Individuals can be in a situation where they don’t owe taxes, but that is usually only because they are making a tiny amount of money (or are a student). Generally, individuals make money, and they owe taxes (whether it is withheld or paid at the end of the year). When a company starts up, it is assumed that they will lose money for some period of time, and will begin making money later. When the company starts making money, they can “net” their prior losses against their current income in what is known as a “tax loss carryforward”. There are limits on this capability, but broadly speaking if a company loses $10M one year and makes $10M the following year they will be able to apply the loss from the prior year to the current year and minimize their taxes paid to the government.
CORPORATE TAX REVENUE FLUCTUATIONS
While the corporate tax rate and rules have remained generally consistent over the last decade or so, the amount of tax PAID fluctuates significantly along with the economy. When the economy is performing poorly, such as it was in the 2002 time period, corporate tax receipts by the Federal government are lower because corporate taxes are lower. In recent years, corporations have done well in the United States, resulting in significantly larger payments by corporations to the Federal government.
Federal tax collections hit bottom at $148 billion in 2002; in 2005 collections surged to $278 billion dollars, almost doubling in three years. The rates and policies were pretty much unchanged during the period; the increase was almost solely due to higher corporate profits. Corporate taxes as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) hit a low of 1.4% in 1984; in 2005 they were up to 2.3% of GDP, and 12.9% of total Federal receipts. See this excellent article from the tax foundation (a non-profit group dedicated to tax reform and optimal tax policies) for additional data. The state portion of the corporate taxes also fluctuated significantly during this time period.
Planning for state and Federal entities is difficult when the revenue base is subject to fluctuations. Compared to other sources of revenue, such as property taxes and sales taxes, corporate taxes are the most likely to vary significantly from plan, which can cause budget deficits or unexpected surpluses.
CORPORATE TAX COMPETITIVENESS
Although sometimes this seems like news to the Democrats, in fact behavior changes due to incentives and the world is not static. In the same way that retirees and the wealthy flee states with high state income tax rates for states like Nevada with more favorable tax rules, corporations change their mix of activities in order to minimize their tax liabilities. In fact, corporations are duty-bound to conduct their activities in a way that minimizes taxation, within the law, of course.
The Unites States used to have a favorable corporate tax policy, but now the US has the WORST tax regime of all the OCED (developed) countries. According to the Tax Foundation:
“We’re number one… Today, the combined U.S. corporate tax rate stands at 39.3 percent. That means America now has the highest statutory corporate income tax rate in the world—even higher than socialist Sweden and welfare-states Germany and France.
According to the tax foundation, the US would need to cut our tax rate by 25% just to be in the “middle of the pack” among industrial countries.
One of the sad failures of the Republican congress was their inability to address this issue of competitiveness while they had control of the legislature. With the Democrats in control tax return or improving the competitiveness of our tax policy is nowhere on the horizon.
It is unbelievable that even socialist countries such as Germany and Sweden have grasped the fact that high corporate taxes impact investment and jobs but the United States, the leading free market nation in the developed world, has not. But sadly, this is the case.
Other countries have prospered by lowering the corporate tax rate, notably Ireland with a 12.5% rate and Slovakia, which rescued its floundering economy by implementing sensible flat tax policies. This trend has taken hold worldwide but not in the United States, for whatever reason.
Of all the failures of the Republican congress, their inability to set long term policies in place that contribute to our productivity and competitiveness is one of the worst. Our corporate tax policies, at the worst in the OCED, really tell the tale.
Friday, November 17, 2006
"This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine." (go here for lots of other cool quotes from the movie)
I can say the same thing about cactus. There is a whole state full of cacti down in Arizona, but this cactus is on my little patch of land.
One thing to recommend about buying land in Arizona is that it doesn't cost a lot to maintain. You really can't get much hardier than a cactus; you don't have to water it, mow it, or anything else. And dirt is OK, too.
I was wandering through Borders the other day when I saw this CD in the new arrivals bin. Apparently it was remastered with a couple of bonus tracks and new packaging.
PRIMUS! The bass-heavy, very weird band from the grunge era. Sure, they started stinking with their last few albums and then Les Claypool went all "jam band" but this album is gooooood stuff.
The classics are of course "John the Fisherman" and "Harold of the Rocks". Lots of other great tunes on there, but these are the standouts.
Made me want to put my flannel back on...
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I think I am the only non-female member of the site but I am a big fan of shutterfly, the online photo service. If I go somewhere and have some photos I will just upload them to shutterfly and then have a couple of 4 x 6 prints sent to someone. They are usually very grateful, because they don't have a lot of physical photos anymore, for the reasons listed above. You can also send bigger pictures, like 8 X 10 pictures, since the resolution on digital cameras is increasing day by day. They also have something called "photo books" which are hardcover books where you upload photos and insert captions; these books are great for either a big trip or amassing a series of family photos. Give one to your mother and I guarantee she will cry.
One day on the site I saw that they had "matte" prints. These prints are 36'' by 24''. You take a photo of high resolution and shutterfly will print them for you on canvas. The canvas is wrap-around so you don't need a frame, which is a big savings. Here are 2 prints I have on my walls, one from Shutterfly and another developed by a good friend of mine from another service (he put the photos together from the Chicago air and water show and they look great). I highly suggest that you check these out; art is expensive and it costs hundreds of dollars to frame something large professionally; upload something yourself and get it printed and sent to you directly. You won't regret it...
It is hard to believe, but this blog is now two years old. Not as old as some, but probably older than most. And better than almost ALL.
Thanks to Carl and PS for their contributions here and thank you to our readers and commenters.
1,160 posts, including this one. That is a lot of spilled pixels.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I think I am going insane. There, I said it.
Today I perused Besty's Page and it is just as awful as it always has been. I have seen rave reviews about Betsy's Page before on the interwebs and thought that the reviewers were nuts for raving so about the Page of Betsy. What does she add to anyones life? Here, let me try blogging Betsy style.
That Murtha, what a piece of poo (insert loooooooooooooong column cut from someone else here).
I still think that people that visit that blog are nuts.
Maybe that is because I am nuts.
She is selling ads on her blog for two hundred dollars a week and has 3500 readers a day.
Good for her. I just don't get it. How do folks like Betsy who simply link and say "I agree" and folks like Glen Reynolds (Instapundit) who does the same thing get so many readers? How can you possibly go to Betsy's Page and actually go back?
Because I am crazy, that's why. Bat shit crazy. I have come to realize that I simply don't understand what the masses are doing because I am totally and completely nuts.
Can you believe some of the officials we have elected to represent us in the Congress of the United States? Harry Reid? Charlie Rangle? Herb Kohl? Nancy Pelosi? Trent Lott? Teddy Kennedy? John Fucking Kerry?
We most certainly get the government we deserve. I have resigned that if our government goes too far, I will explicitly and implicitly disobey said government and run my life according to our Constitution. The Constitution that our Founding Fathers wrote and meant for me to enjoy and live under. I will not surrender any of my firearms. I will not live my life according to anybodys religion but the one I choose or do not choose. I will not have my right to free speech trampled upon.
There is only so much I can take, then, as Jim says, all bets are off.
Perhaps it is part of my going crazy that causes me to feel as though I am turning into a shell of an American, a poor rendition of what James Madison and the rest thought I should be.
As I sat in the waiting room getting my oil changed the other day I stared at the wall. It had hanging on it a very large plasma screen TV with Fox News on. Two older women were in the room with me. The ticker raced across the bottom of the screen. A news anchor spouted meaningless headlines. Nothing in that 45 minutes that I heard or read affected me.
The blank wall next to the TV contained my reality. Something I could touch. It was here with me as I sat there, waiting for the technicians to finish their award winning service.
Images from thousands of miles away that everyone has forgotten already were pumped into the room and through my eyes. Dialogue between persons not knowing their ass from a hole in the ground is stowed away in the Fox News vault, never to be read or seen again. Empty words from empty people. Forgotten pictures, deleted tape, erased audio. One woman read a magazine, the other stared at the empty wall, much the same way I was.
The wall...the wall held reality.
She said to me that the coffee sure was good. I said that it sure was.
Where are you from originally?, I asked her. Kansas, she said. Lost her first husband in the Korean War I came to find out.
Funny how her reality is so very different from mine.
As someone who lives in a high rise in a densely populated area of Chicago and walks to work as well as to pick up groceries and other essentials (see my exciting Saturday night here), I am somewhat inclined to like a lot of the ideas in this philosophy.
However, I also know something that these New Urbanism people don't know... that, in the main, they are getting their butt kicked by plain ol' SPRAWL.
If you drive out of Chicago in any direction corn fields are being turned into immense developments. With VERY few exceptions, these developments ignore ALL of the core principles of "New Urbanism". They have cul-de-sacs, they are residential only, and EVERYONE drives. You can't even consider not driving everywhere in these developments, the kids don't even walk to school. They are further and further from the city center, meaning that you have to drive to work for an unbelievable amount of time each day, kicking up fossil fuel fumes along the way. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can take the train, but train lines are not near most of these developments, so it is either drive or be unemployed. Likely, your job will be in the suburbs anyways, so even if you were near a train, you couldn't get to your job via mass transit anyways.
What I don't like about "New Urbanism" or similar types of philosophies is that they disregard the motives of WHY people move to places like this. In this way, they are similar to socialism where someone "smarter" than you is helping you to make a better decision. People move out 1) to find affordable housing (the city and nearby areas are EXTREMELY expensive) 2) to find schools for their kids that are paid for with their property taxes (you need to pay for both property taxes AND school fees in the city in the vast majority of cases) 3) to find a yard for kids to play in and feel safe.
New Urbanism can't fix any of these 3 items. The safety issue is just that in the city you are cheek to jowl with the types of people that would be arrested the SECOND that they stepped in most "nice" suburbs - the loose nuts, the homeless, the poor, etc... And the schools are basically un-fixable, at least if you want your kid to go to college or something like that (there are a few exceptions, of course) and the prices are SKY HIGH.
New Urbanism can make some of these new subdivisions better, if both sides compromise. There could be more parks, and schools could be built in the subdivisions. "Real" streets could be used, instead of cul-de-sacs. Some retail could be built in the subdivision, so that you wouldn't have to drive EVERYWHERE. And some of the locations could be built closer to each other so it is more compact and thus accessible (try walking through the cul-de-sac maze...).
But, likely there will be no compromise, and we will have die-hard philosophers on one side and the market, in the form of sprawl, on the other.
Sprawl will win by a landslide...
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
“The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.”
In a convenient bit of timing, the 2006 hurricane season is ending on November 30, 2006. And what happened???
2006 is shaping up to be one of the lightest hurricane seasons in history!From wikipedia, if you look at the 2005 hurricane season in the Atlantic damages totaled an estimated $120 billion along with approximately 2300 deaths.
However, the 2006 hurricane season is one of the weakest in years, with $183 million in damages and 11 fatalities.
Won’t Al use this to “educate” people on his call for action?
On a more serious note, it is sad how little attention the media has given to the fact that there haven’t been any major hurricanes. As we know, the media swarms over bad news but ignores good news, and ignores trends that point to overall good things happening.
As they say in the media business, “if it bleeds, it leads”.
I will go back to blogging for free, trying to tell the truth as I see it…
You can see the transition from orange (Halloween, duh) on the left as it goes to the traditional green / red combination that indicates that it is time for everyone to start revving their engines for the consumer frenzy that is the holiday season.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Recent events including the Democratic take over of the House and Senate have compelled me to look at the possible implications for US tax policy.
To jump threads for a moment, there was a singular moment of clarity recently when Iran’s president “spoke into the microphone” as the face of evil when he called for the destruction of Israel and denied the existence of the Holocaust. Another singular moment occurred when Putin called the break-up of the Communist dictatorship in Russian “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”
A similar moment of “I can’t believe they said that” (although the stakes are admittedly a bit lower) occurred when I read this article in the Wall Street Journal on November 11, 2006 titled “Ex-Treasury Head Rubin Urges Democrats to Mull Tax Increase” which had this INCREDIBLE line in it:
‘But he said Democrats should rest easy about what impact any tax increase would have. "I think if you were to increase taxes right now you would have probably about zero negative effect on the economy," he said.’
Really, Bob. This is what you’ve learned through all of your years of experience as an executive and public policy maker. You believe that taxes have no negative effect on the economy? From an economics viewpoint, this type of talk is as insane as the Putin comment above was from a human-rights perspective. Remember, Bob Rubin isn’t some kind of guy out on a limb; he is probably the de-facto spokesman for the Democrats on taxation policy and the only Democrat who is remotely credible with Wall Street.
I will say one thing for these Democrats - they have learned that “raising tax rates” is political poison. This lesson took a long time in coming but the Democrats are nothing if not politically savvy; they basically won these elections by saying nothing of substance.
This doesn't mean that they "get it" as far as economics... but they know that they need to wrap their de-facto tax increases in a different package. For example, look for them to "close loopholes" or "roll back the tax cuts for the wealthy". As sad as it is, this is a leg up as far as Democratic understanding of economics goes.
So what is likely to happen? Here is what I think will happen:
1) the AMT will come under heavy fire. The AMT is pounding the "blue states" because so many of them have punishing state income taxes and high property taxes (remember, they are mostly run by Democrats, so this isn't a surprise), and under the AMT, you can't deduct these taxes against your Federal tax liability. It will be very difficult for them to substantially alter the AMT, however, because it brings in BILLIONS (or up to a TRILLION) dollars of extra Federal revenues over the next decade or so. They probably will stick to "indexing" the AMT brackets so that the less-wealthy blue state people can escape for a while longer; the self-loathing super-rich of NY and California won't notice the money being gone, anyways
2) the roll-back of estate taxes is probably dead in its tracks. The really wealthy all avoided estate taxes through trusts and complicated devices; it was the pretty-rich (small business owners and farmers) who were punished. Since these people are about as likely to be Democrats as I am to be struck by a meteor reform here is dead until the Republicans come back into power
3) the reduced capital gains tax rate (15%) and the dividends-received deduction (reducing the double taxation of dividends, once for the corporation and again for the shareholder) are at risk. Of all the dangerous ideas of the Democrats, this one is the riskiest, because it can explode in their face as the economy recoils. Sadly, it won't even furthur their goals of increasing revenues; changing the capital gains rates will cause people to go back to tax minimization strategies that you didn't have to do with the relatively lower rates so the Treasury will receive LESS revenue. Sigh...
4) any meaningful tax reform is also probably dead. There is no one of stature on the Democratic side to pull anything like this off and bi-partisanship is a distant dream. Unfortunately, the code will get more complex because the Democrats will LOVE to tinker with it to give treats to their vast clientele... the full-employment act for tax accountants and lawyers is bound to continue
They profiled a website called "A Second Life" (www.secondlife.com). The site is being heralded as a cross between "MySpace" and "The Matrix."
"Basically, players create alternative reality versions of themselves and then live out their lives in new digital versions online. They can make or visit friends, have sex, and get married. They can build a house, test drive a car, or buy virtual goods for actual money. Individuals are represented as "avatars" or animated alter egos."
Right now, access to this site is free but it costs $9.95 for the right to build objects or purchase property. That's just for the right! It will set someone back $1250 for a small island in this digital world plus a maintenance fee of $195. Also, it costs money to outfit your avatar in fancy clothes, go to casinos to spend money, or join a sex club.
According to RedEye, Second Life has 1.3 million members.
I don't what to make of this. Or, I'm sorry, I do. This last election cycle tells the whole story.
I would argue, most Americans don't want to have to deal with the reality of terrorism. When you think about it, most Americans don't want to have to deal with reality in anything! The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are distractions from their lives.
Or what I meant, their digitial lives.
Its really hard to spend time with their digital friends when a war's going on. Somehow, it makes it less fun. Better to pull the troops and leave those "Arabs" to fight among themselves. Someone else will protect us from the terrorists.
After all, there's a digital girlfirend to see, a digital Sour Apple Martini to slurp, a new fancy digital restaurant to try out . .
I love this country. GOD Bless America !!!
(By the way, that would be the real GOD and not a digital one).
What they taste like most of the time is shredded pork drenched in bar-b-que sauce. That couldn't be the right way to do it. Of course the way I made it produced shockingly good results.
Somebody really should stop me before the cholesterol police come a knockin'. As always click on the photo for a larger version.
Anyway the first thing you need is a good pork shoulder. You should try to get one with the bone in. I had a couple in the freezer, and I pulled one out and thawed it in the fridge for a few days.
I followed this recipe.
The first thing I had to do was marinade that baby overnight as the recipe says. The marinade included fresh thyme and rosemary and garlic - a great combo that made the whole house smell wonderful. Here is a shot of the roast on top of the bed of apples and onions.
First you roast it at 450 for a half hour uncovered to brown the outside.
Next you have to add the wine, cover and slow roast for three more hours.
After that time, I let it rest for about 45 minutes covered. After uncovering, take a two forks and "pull" the pork off the bone. There really isn't much pulling to do, it basically falls off.
Just slap it on a bun and eat. Incredible. You can taste all of the herbs, garlic, apples and everything else in each bite. And all of that fat is mixed in there to boot. My kids devoured it as well. I think someday I should flambee this mess in some Jim Beam a la Steve H (he actually uses Jack Daniels). But I wanted to try it as is this first time. If you want you can take the leftover apples and onions and drippings and make a gravy, but I didn't want to bother this time around.
To boot, I made dessert also, some soon to be famous baked apples.
Just core the apples (NOT all the way through or everything will leak out) and stuff with brown sugar with a tablespoon of butter on top. Sprinkle cinnamon on them and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes (this will vary according to the type of apple used). Then dump the caramel into a bowl and cut the apples up. Top with vanilla ice cream.
Time to hit the treadmill and weights hard this week.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I went to the range today with my father and my friend Elton who actually knows many facts about guns (my military knowledge is an abstration, impractical, like strategy stuff). We went to GAT guns in Dundee per usual, a place I highly recommend, since they have a range and a huge selection of firearms and a knowledgable staff.
The first gun listed is a Beretta Type 92 that my father purchased a LONG time ago (more than 20 years? still investigating) but never used. Elton pulled it out, cleaned it, and it was ready to go.
I was anxious to try it. I am not much of a shot but getting a bit better. The Beretta holds a 15 round magazine and you can see the results of one of my better rounds (this was after I practiced for a while). Out of my 15 shots, all of them hit the target "page" and only 2 of the 15 were out of the ring. Not too bad! It was a lot of fun firing the gun and I plan to do a lot more of it.
Of course Elton blows me away. He has some sort of high-tech scope on his gun that puts a red dot on the target, but only in your scope (not one of those laser targets). Here is the pattern that he was able to do with his .22 caliber pistol... very impressive.
Finally, there was an older obviously embittered woman at the range. You can see her target - she put a photo of her ex up and she was just blasting away. Above the photo you can see the plastic "target holder" tube out of PVC pipe - well this woman was so fired up she shot her target holder TWICE and had to go back to the desk and get a new one. It is embarrasing enough to do that once, but twice is terrible. Note to self... don't get your face on a target in the range.
Speaking of people whose face would be a likely target on the range, I bought the book by Tucker Max called "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" and read it (in about 30 minutes) and it was damn funny.
My eeeeeeeeevil plan is coming to fruition. That big gap between Michigan and Ohio State and the rest of the field (see latest BCS standings) is making it more likely that they may play for pride this week, and the national championship in a month or so. The BCS will be made a mockery across the nation! HAHAHA!!!
For 4 seats, without parking, for 81 home games, the cost is about $8600. That is a lot of money, as a sports fan.
Let's see what that buys me... how about Mr. Jermaine Dye, one of the best White Sox players and an all-around stand up guy. He will make about $7M / year. Thus if you divide that by the number of home games, he makes about $86,000 a game. Thus my $8600 buys me about 10% of 1 home game of Mr. Dye's time, and I am going to be generous and round up and say that buys me an inning.
What might happen in my inning? Well, since he is in the outfield, he might catch a ball. Probably the odds of that are about 10%-20%. Sometimes he makes a good catch, although most of the putouts over there are routine, if they occur in MY inning.
At bat, he has about a 40% chance of coming up. If he comes up, he has about a 1/3 chance of getting a hit or getting on base. So maybe he has a 10% - 15% chance of being involved in something exciting, like getting on base or getting a run.
Note how I picked a GOOD player that everyone has positive things to say about, who had a great offensive year, and that is what it buys me. I didn't pick someone who bombed, like most of our relief pitching, for instance.
This is for a team that won 90 games and is expected to contend for the playoffs next year. I can't imagine what your ticket dollars would buy for you if you were lucky enough to purchase Cubs season tickets. Would they buy you part of a rookie pitcher? Or a botched infield play? Or an expensive pitcher on the DL? Can you watch Prior or Wood getting worked over by the trainer?
I guess there is some other entertainment, too. The Sox have great fireworks after home weekend games, timed to music, that I highly recommend. Sometimes I sit in the upper deck for those games and the kids just LOVE those fireworks, so I am getting a bit of bang for the buck from those dimensions. One of the best games of the year was a late season weekend night game when Dye came up with 2 outs in the ninth and tied up the game with a heroic home run. We lost the game in extra innings, but the fireworks were spectacular and the weather was beautiful.
I hope the inning that I am buying next year is one like that...