Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Best of the blog - 2005 (1 of 2)

Following up on my "best of the blog" series I am taking aim at 2005. There will be two posts in this series (it takes a while to get through the process since we have a lot of good ones to choose from, but I am looking for "the best"). It is fun going through the old posts... I have fun reading a lot of them and honestly have forgotten a few of them that spark a laugh.

July 2005

  1. "Negotiating With Terrorists" - Carl says that while the terrorists can hurt us superficially, in the long run they will lose because their negotiation strategy basically comes down to "convert or die", which is unpalatable to everyone in the West
  2. In "My Wrists, My Wrists" Dan profiles his new, smaller revolver
  3. In "First Responders... and More" Carl says that you need to rely on yourself and your neighbors more than the police, fire, etc... and that a low respect for the collective intelligence is a hallmark of the liberal mindset
  4. Dan explains how "Foam" and out-of-control environmental regulations doomed the space shuttle
  5. There were a few good photo essays... Dan biking in southern Wisconsin, Dan at the fair, and Carl with llamas
August 2005

  1. Carl is confused and jokingly asks whether the "IAEA" or "IKEA" has more influence on events in Iran today, and Dan obligingly visits the super-efficient IKEA retailer
  2. Dan writes a long post with many photos of his Ruger 77 at the range
  3. Is it tax time yet... Carl gets ahead of the tax season with "The AMT is the New Tax Code" and points out the tax that ensnared millions in 2006 and will again in 2007
  4. Carl laughs at "Cthulhu is my Homeboy" and remembers HP Lovecraft
  5. Dan takes the Lake Express across Lake Michigan with tons of good photos (and a few blogger teething problems, since resolved)

September 2005

  1. With "The Chains" Dan takes aim at the maddening way that football measures the spot... now an annual tradition
  2. Dan comments on Katrina in a series of posts here, here and Carl chimes in here
  3. Carl loves list with the "Most Important Individuals Since 1500" and the "Top 500 Songs of Your Lifetime" (since 1980) from Blender
  4. Dan visits Philadelphia and the title "Filthadelphia" says it all
  5. Dan and Carl both talk about markets and oil markets in particular in light of Katrina and NIMBY policies

October 2005

  1. Canada flexes its awesome political muscle in "Canada Speaks Out About Iranian Evil... and No One Cares"
  2. Dan tees off on "The Sham of Gun Buybacks and the Invasion of Privacy" in Madison
  3. Dan creates his first podcast and meets stunningly inept retail help at Radio Shack
  4. In light of Roman Polanski being a scumbag child molester Dan pens a letter to Sony
  5. Carl predicts fireworks (that haven't come yet... but it isn't over) for Exelon in Chicago in light of Illinois botched energy deregulation
November 2005

  1. Carl points out that the idiotic Fois Gras ban in Chicago causes an uproar while eating sushi from women's naked bodies barely elicits a snicker
  2. Carl notes that the French have problems too comparing Katrina with their riots
  3. "Concealed Carry in Wisconsin" is on Dan's mind here
  4. In "Speedtrap, Shmeedtrap" Dan laments the speed trap and one guy who tried to help
  5. The European diplomatic initiatives uselessness is noted by Carl in "Engagement = Appeasement"
December 2005

  1. Carl does some investigative reporting in "The Worst Intersection In Chicago"
  2. In "Other People's Money" Dan sheds light on a charity scandal in Madison
  3. Dan refuses to play along with Freakonomics in "Merry Incentives, Baby"
  4. Carl asks to call it what it is in "Need to Rename the Anti-War crowd"
  5. In response to a lame article on Chicago Carl says "Pathetic Article on Chicago Patronizes Everyone"

Big Animal Cage

The best part of history is to see an old object or to be in a place and imagine what happened with the object or what occurred at the place you stand in. For instance I remember walking the battlefield of the Battle of New Orleans and trying to see in my minds eye where the Brits were coming from and how the Yanks had cover, interlocking lines of fire and other strategic strongpoints.

When I saw this cage at the "circus" on Sunday, I for a moment tried to imagine what sort of animal was in here at one time.

Although it doesn't say what type of animal once resided in that cage, there was some good history on it. It is called Barnum and Bailey Circus Cage no. 89, and this history from the placard that was standing next to it.
The orange and silver cage wagon was one of a set of 13 Cage/Tableau wagons built for the Barnum, Bailey and Hutchinson Circus in 1883. Of the original 13 wagons, only 2 have survived and both are in the collection of the Circus World Museum. This spectacular wagon was part of the Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth that traveled throughout Europe from 1898 until 1902. After the big show gave up street parades, the cage was put into storage until it was employed by the Christy Bros. Circus in the late 1920's. In 1936, Ken Maynard, a popular movie cowboy, thought he would form his own Circus, and several wagons were purchased. After a few shows on his California ranch, the idea was scrapped, and the wagon was sold for use as a prop in Hollywood movies. It was later purchased by Walt Disney Studios and used in the film "Toby Tyler". The wagon was donated to Circus World by Disney in 1962.

Cool! This thing was even more amazing up close.

Cute Chinese Kidz

From the "circus" I went to last Sunday.

I was entertained.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I took this video of the ringmaster playing the calliope at the "circus" I attended last Sunday. I didn't know it at the time but it is pretty funny. You can see the man trying to talk to the ringmaster and the ringmaster can't understand a word he is saying. The youtube puts the video and sound just a bit off, but if you listen close you can hear the ringmaster turn off the calliope at the end, lean over, look the man dead in the eye and say "WHAT?". Pretty damned funny and too bad the video didn't go up to youtube exactly how it is on my PC.

Here is what the placard said about the wagon the calliope was on:

The origin of this red and gold pony wagon is uncertain however it was known to be on the Yankee Robinson Circus in the 19-teens. In 1923 it was on the World Bros. Circus and on the Robbins Bros. Circus from 1924-1931. It appeared with the Cole Bros. Show in 1935 and 1937, and then with the Robbins Bros. Circus again in 1938. The wagon has contained three different musical instruments over its varied career, including a set of shaker chimes, which sounds like a "metal Marimba". It also contained an Una Fon, which is a set of electric bells played by a small keyboard. Both instruments were made by the J. C. Deagan Company of Chicago, IL. The wagon now contains a Tangley Co. Air Calliope from the 1920's, which was an air powered instrument based on the larger steam calliopes most often associated with the circus. The Cole Bros. Air Calliope was found on a farm near Rochester, Indiana in the 1960's. When found, the open sides were boarded up and the wagon was being used as a coal bin. It was restored by the talented craftsmen of Circus World's wagon restoration center.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hangover Helper

In River North we have a lot of high rise buildings. Often they are retrofitting older buildings when they repurpose them from industrial to residential. On other occasions, the developers apparently don't care if they build the whole damn building and then need to make the neighborhood feel like an out-take of Apocalypse Now as helicopters hover a few feet from your windows for hours on end.

This post is from my friend Elton (at large?) who brings the recent events to light...

At 8am I awoke to the sound of a helicopter right outside my window. The copter landed in a parking lot on the lower right near the "L" tracks and it was a wonder that he didn't hit anything in the swirling winds. He picked up a couple loads of supplies and an air conditioning unit and delivered it to the (presumably freezing and hung over) workers on the roof in the second picture below. If you click on the picture and bring it to maximum size you can clearly see that the helicopter pilot has his head sticking out the window like some kind of cheesy lego chopper pilot... he just needs a Snoopy scarf.

You can see the guys on the roof and also a cool view of the Montgomery Ward building in the background - that building was turned into condos and they replaced the original windows with ones with an interesting blue tint.

Not a fun way to wake up on a Sunday morning...

Chicago Blogs

"Chicago" magazine recently had an article called "Look Who's Talking." This article covered some blogs that focused on Chicago.

I thought that their blog choices were kind of interesting. They included:

  • is part of a "chain" of blogs that focus on different cities including New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, etc... According to the article they have 25 freelancers working on the site. It looks pretty much like a newspaper, and most posts have a photo by them to grab the eye. The blog didn't seem to have too much soul... I'd probably just read the Tribune or the Chicago Reader instead. They deserve some props for attempting to flat out create an entire paper, however. I also like their little icon that comes up on the Internet tab. According to the article they have 150,000 unique visitors monthly and use movable type
  • looks more like the Chicago Reader than the Chicagoist (which resembles the Tribune). Gapersblock has 20 people working on it. The posts seem a bit more edgy and less comprehensive than Chicagoist, which is probably more "blog-like". According to the article they get 93,000 unique visitors a month. They are using movable type for their blog
  • Chicago is like Chicagoist in that it started somewhere else and they kind of franchised it for Chicago. I keep having trouble loading the site... don't know if it is me or Mozilla or what. When it comes in it is a pretty interesting site, with seemingly random posts that are mostly about Chicago or the arts in Chicago. Seems like they have 10 or so bloggers and they use movable type. The article didn't mention how many hits / month that they receive
  • is the blog I find the most interesting of the ones on this list. I will start reading it regularly. They have a much more offensive vibe and are actually pretty funny. There are about 12 regulars and one dedicated blogger, who treats this as his day job. Kind of what you'd expect to hear while bs'ing at a local bar. I used to live near the Beachwood Inn in Wicker Park Chicago, and as I suspected they reference it a few times in the blog. I couldn't seem to figure out what technology they were using to power their blog. According to the article they get about 7000 unique visitors monthly, which works out to about 250 / day, or twice what we get, which is surprising because they seem to be a very "full bodied" blog. Highly recommended for snarkiness and humor, although their politics is the usual "Republicans are fascist" crap livened up by some pro-Bears humor
  • is more focused than the rest of the blog choices on this list, but the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) provides a rich vein of anecdotes about their chronic failures and soon-to-be-disastrous plans. They also have a bunch of great photos, and I like the little CTA train icon that comes up in Mozilla for their site. The blog seems to be run by one guy and he is doing a pretty good job. According to the article he gets around 10,000 visitors / month. It looks like he is using movable type, too.
The article was kind of strange because it didn't focus on their blogging from a "blog" perspective, it focused on it from a newspaper perspective. By this perspective I mean that they kept asking each of the bloggers whether they "broke" a story and whether or not they considered themselves "journalists". I don't think that people get into blogging to "break" real news, but they use blogging as a format to add analysis to various events and their own slant on reality. The news is out there on the standard sites, and you'd have to be kind of nuts to think that you were going to somehow "scoop" the major services with their remote correspondents and massive resources. However, you can focus on what they ignore, and add commentary where they fear to tread. If bloggers really thought they were journalists they'd probably go work for a paper; unpaid intern positions (probably the closest thing to being a blogger) can't be too hard to find, after all.

I also learned that a lot of the blogs are using pretty sophisticated features, features that Blogger doesn't support. I can't complain since we pay ZERO to host on Blogger and if we ever decided to use advertising (which isn't remotely in the future) it would be a snap to hook up to Google's immense ad markets (and then we could earn $4 / month or so that our hits would be worth).

The feature I find the coolest is the little icon that comes up when you go to their site - check out the CTA site or the Beachwood site to see what I mean. It isn't much but not in the cards for blogger since it needs to be in the root and we would have to host the site ourselves and use blogger, which sounds like a lot of trouble for not much extra return.

In thinking about a "Chicago" focused blog I can see that it would be quite limiting. There are only so many posts you can do about Chicago without your blog looking like a local restaurant guide plus Bears / Cubs / Sox coverage. That isn't too exciting - if you look at the posts on our index you can see that we are all over the place. We can talk about whatever the heck we want, and that is pretty cool.

I also am kind of proud of the hits we get when compared to a lot of these sites that are very good, such as the Beechwood Reporter site.

A Day at the "Circus"

I believe it was Friday night that my wife proposed to me that we go to a benefit for the Circus World Museum that was going on here in Madison at the Monona Terrace on Sunday. I balked at first, then thought it was a pretty good idea and that the kids would like it so we went.

A digression. Circus World Museum is in Baraboo, Wisconsin. If you are ever in the area of Madison or Wisconsin Dells, I highly recommend that you make a side trip there. We have been there several times. I can't imagine a place that is more unique - especially if you are a history buff like me. They have many of the original wagons, posters and other historical artifacts that made up the huge circus trains of old. And there is lots for the kids to do, of course. I plan on going there by myself somday to read all of the displays and other information there as it is difficult to do when your kids are riding elephants.

Anyway the lovely wife sold this to me as a benefit for the museum so we went. What we were met with was totally and typically Madison. Circus world was represented there, but wasn't the main attraction. This was actually part of the Celebrating Youth festival. There were everything from Chinese dancers to Tibetan drum bangers, to the Ho-Chunk indians to the Trinity Irish Dancers. There was modern dance which I really didn't understand and booths for all sorts of "progressive" activities. There were even a few booths that really didn't have anything to do with youth or celebrating, rather were hawking holistic crystals and other flim-flam.

Upon entering this "circus" I encountered a ten foot doll made of paper - Sorry about the out of focus photo.

Next was the Tibetan dancers that gave all of us a crushing headache with those damned drums - the DRUMS!!! AHHH!! I made a great joke to the person next to us about how the UW spirit squad had certainly gone to the dogs, but that person didn't like it. You can also hear me say "is that for here or to go" in the video. I thought that was pretty funny too, but the wife didn't.

We went into the next room, where they had the ultraviolet experience, complete with UV fairy telling stories while the children sat on ultraviolet mushrooms.

After this activity I turned to my wonderful wife and said to her "Hon, this is the most bullshit circus I have ever seen - what have you gotten me into here?"

From living with me for the past twelve years my wife knows I don't like two things but can handle just about everything else. I don't like

a) surprises and

b) bullshit, in that order.

I could tell from the look on her face that this was not her intent, that she really did think we were going to a traditional, three ring "step right up" honest to god non-bullshit circus. So I got my "charcoals" in order and decided to play along and have the best time I could possibly have. The kids seemed to like it so what the hell. The plastic streamers hanging from the ceiling held fleeting entertainment value.

We then proceeded to a clown booth where the kids got their faces painted like clowns and they enjoyed that immensely. While this was going on, luckily for us, the Ho-Chunk indians were doing their thing - MORE DRUMS, thank you very little. Here is a shot of the indians whooping it up, with the Irish dancers in the foreground.

I thought for a while how those people could stand the drumming - I mean this isn't the only time they sit around and pound the things, don't they practice too? That puts all of the speedmetal concerts I attended at the Metro in my younger days to shame.

On the way to the main "circus" show, they had this thing, with no placards or description of what it was.

Then there was a parade of all of the circus "acts" that wound about the convention center and ended back at the ring where we watched the weirdest circus that we have ever seen. It was called the Hoopla circus and featured mostly kids, but some adults doing modern dance, gymnastics, and other time wasting acts. Again, the kids seemed to like it so we sat through about three quarters of it at which point our smallest child began to melt down and we had to leave.

I did get some nice photos of the convention center and of some of the actual Circus World displays and will be trickling those out in the next few weeks. Again, the kids loved it so even though it was rough around the edges, it wasn't a total...

But as always I was my outgoing self and made a new friend, and a fascinating individual he was. He knew a lot about baseball so we got along great.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Botching the Banner

I saw this horror show on Althouse's blog Sunday:

Of course I hate Hillary and most of the crowd that hangs out here does too, but now I can hate her for this horrific rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It's like she is almost trying to hose it up. And the hoooooooommmeee of the braaaaaaaaaaaaaave.

One of my pet peeves is people who try to sing the Star Spangled Banner who clearly cannot sing a note, or if they do sing, try half assed or get the words wrong. There is no excuse for getting the words wrong.

I have been to literally thousands of sporting events of all types and if someone gets the song right, it can be uplifting. Wayne Messmer is by FAR the best singer of the Star Spangled Banner I have ever seen. I have seen him at Blackhawk and Bear games, and I think an Illini game or two. Lets try this out.

Geez thats more like it. If I am not mistaken the Star Spangled Banner is one of the hardest songs for anybody to sing, much less a post like Hillary. It is because of the incredible range you need, two or three octaves if my memory serves. I prefer the sax or some other instrument to a botched vocal anthem any day.

Beyonce did a pretty damned good job before the Super Bowl last year, which the Seattle SeaChickens lost. Not Messmer quality, but very good nonetheless.

Added - whoops, my bust, this was the super bowl before last year, not the one that Seattle lost.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sweatin' to the Oldies

When I posted that picture of my bike on the trainer in my basement here, some noted that they couldn't do that because of the boredom, a legit gripe.

All I need however is an iPod shuffle - I thought for kicks I would list the songs that played on the shuffle during my workout today. The total workout was about an hour, and in high gears most of the time. I averaged just over 17 mph, brutal on a trainer for sure. I overdid it, but what the hell.

So here we go...

  • Foo Fighters - Monkey Wrench
  • Metallica - Blackened
  • Husker Du - The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill
  • Pantera - A New Level
  • Motorhead - Iron Fist
  • Rollins Band - Starve
  • Smashing Pumpkins - Siva
  • Superchunk - Water Wings
  • Black Flag - Slip It In
  • The Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin' Beats
  • Everclear - Heroin Girl
  • Poster Children - Sugarfriend

Verification Off

To try to solve the disappearing comment issue I have turned off the word verification feature on the comments. The comments come in on a secure server, and hopefully google/blogger has enough anti spam software running to keep it out. The first sign of trouble and it goes back on and I will have to try a different tack. Thanks to all for your patience. The comments are one of the best parts here and I want them to work properly.

Investing - Percentage Return (and other lies)


Recently I completed a series of posts on taxes. Thanks to Dan's meticulous and dogged work, all of our posts are categorized on the left side of the page. I will also be getting back to the topic of taxes a bit later when tax season starts in February after all my documentation has been received.

I am going to be adding a new series of posts on investing. As you can see from a cursory review of the blog, we don't have any advertising, and we aren't soliciting or selling anything. The investing series will be about a variety of topics that have interest to me. Another possible benefit is that I am friends with a number of people who know far more about investing than I do; perhaps these posts can "draw them in" to adding their insight.


Let's start with an example of my "prowess". Here is a ticker for a mutual fund VIGRX. This is the Vanguard Growth Index Fund. This fund invests in growth stocks, and is run by the mutual fund giant Vanguard. Thanks to the Internet, it can't be easier to see financial performance information. I just typed in "VIGRX Ticker" in the google search bar and it pops right up.

Hmmm... looks like I am doing pretty well, at first glance. The fund was up 9% in 2006. That is the type of information that funds and investor groups publish to tout their performance, the prior year's return. They also publish the 3 year return and the 5 year return... for 3 years it had an average performance of increasing 6% / year and over 5 years it averaged an increase of 4% / year.

But let's look a bit deeper. Three years means that the stock "bubble" is ancient history... and five years is only the tail of the bust.

Today the price of this mutual fund is $30.18 / share. There are two main components of return - price appreciation (the share price goes up or down) and dividends paid out per share. If you elect to receive your dividends in shares, the number of shares you own increases over time, or you can receive it in cash that you can you to invest elsewhere.

When did Carl purchase this mutual fund? Let's look at that:

Date # of Shares Price / share Amount

3/28/2002 buy 76.511 $26.14 $2000

4/6/2001 buy 81.5 $24.54 $2000

4/7/2000 buy 48.12 $41.56 $2000

4/12/1999 buy 56.12 $35.64 $2000

Thus from some simple math I bought 262.2 shares of VIGRX and paid an average price / share of $30.51. I started buying shares in 1999 and stopped buying in 2002.

So, what happened to my investment from 1999 when I started investing to today, in early 2007, about 7 years later? Jack squat. Other than the fact that I received 15.7 shares in dividends over the years, bringing my # of shares owned up to about 278 shares, my investment returned NOTHING. The total is about $8400, meaning I put in $8000 and returned a measly $400 over this time span, all of that really in the form of reinvested dividends (as you can see the share price is pretty much flat). Note - the reason it was $2000 / year is that this was an IRA I set up... this isn't indicative of my overall investment portfolio, and I mainly left it there because it wasn't material to my overall portfolio.

Now no one is trying to deceive anyone in this case, but as you can see, the % return is not what matters. What matters is the total that you invest and what it is worth today; if you buy at the peak (like me) you can have one or two years of savage falls... then it is easy to rack up % return gains in the intervening years since you have a much lower base.

This phenomenon is exaberated by people who "chase" returns; in this case, jumping on the "growth" stock bandwagon AT ITS PEAK, lured by high returns. In fact, this is a terrible strategy, since you are buying at the top and are likely to get savaged unless you are ready to jump back out as soon as it starts falling.

Percentage return for 1, 3, and 5 years, while easily calculated, can also be extremely misleading, as the real life example above shows. Don't blindly jump on the % return bandwagon, especially when an investment is recovering from earlier significant losses.

Please don't put a bunch of comments about mutual funds, etc... on this post - it is just focused on the mis-interpretation of the % return. I will get to all those topics later.

"Häyhä basically just ran around doling out head-shots like the ice cream man gives out Dove bars on a hot sunny day in the Sahara desert"

Sometimes you see something and rather than blog about it, you just need to link it and let everybody else read the story. This one is about Simo Hayha and his Mosin-Nagant M91.

Comment Issues

A few people have commented/emailed me about issues with the comments. I understand that they are clunky - I can live with that in exchange for the security. However some have mentioned that they have had comments go into the "black hole" once submitted. I haven't had this problem.

I would like some people who have had this happen to please - if you can - leave a comment and explain to me in detail what is going on so I can make a request to the Blogger guys to fix it. I think it may be a function of entering the incorrect letters in the anti-spam box, but just don't know. Any help is appreciated.

If you can't leave a comment, please email me. You can find my address on my profile page, just click on Dan from Madison on the top left of this blog, under contributors.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Chance for Redemption

The second air pistol "postal" match is underway at the Chicagoboyz forum. This time we are using standardized targets that you can purchase anywhere. The last time we printed our own with fairly lame results.

If you don't own an air pistol, get off your butt and get one so you can practice your shooting at home or work! All you need is a lane, a pellet gun, and a pellet trap of some sort and you can enjoy shooting sports virtually anywhere.

We are shooting for pride, recognition and praise and the right to display this on your blog until the next match.

My targets are in the mail - I use Alco target company and they do a pretty good job.

Hookers and Blow

I usually don't post youtubes unless I have a pretty good reason as they typically are a lame substitute for blogging, but what the hell. Here is one more. Because the greatest rock band ever is getting back together in its appropriate form, with David Lee Roth at the front. I will be attending this tour for sure. The boys over at the Astronomicon recommend it be called the "Hookers and Blow tour" since that is probably where the band spent every last cent it ever earned. As we who attend Bears games know, any old Van Halen is the official music of the Chicago Bears as witnessed in the infamous South Lot tailgating paradise. A selection, for your enjoyment.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Bad Girl

Oh make me over, I'm all I want to be,
A walking study, In demonology

Every time I see Courtney Love I am reminded of this strange base instinct I have always had for the bad girl. You know, the one that gets drunk, swears, is loose. The party girl. Along with that is the even more strange concept that I could actually date and change the bad girl.

Hey, so glad you could make it,
Yea, now you really made it,
Hey, so glad you could make it now

Fortunately I never really "dated" these bad girls. Mated, maybe, but never dated. Most of the ones I was attracted to were actually nice enough to realize that they were bad news. How weird that a girl would tell me that I was wasting my time on them, that they were trouble. But it happened more than once. I still liked them. I still like Courtney Love.

Oh, look at my face, My name is might have been
My name is never was, My names forgotten

I don't follow Hollywood too much, but Courtney has always caught my eye. In the video for Malibu she looks stunning. Take a taste.

The bass player is gorgeous as well.

When I wake up in my makeup,
Its too early for that dress
Wilted and faded somewhere in hollywood,
I'm glad I came here, With your pound of flesh
No second billing cause you're a star now
Oh, cinderella, They aren't sluts like you
Beautiful garbage, beautiful dresses,
Can you stand up or will you just fall down

But lately my favorite bad girl has fallen into the abyss of drug abuse and who knows what else. Too bad because she has a beautiful girl of her own. I have seen some awful photos of Courtney, the weight she has added, the drugs taking their toll. Her weight has been up and down, but mostly the photos aren't pretty. I still root for her.

You better watch out
What you wish for
It better be worth it
So much to die for

It must be the power of the drugs. Someday I would like to be walking past the magazine racks and see a photo of the new, old Courtney, the bad girl I used to love.

Its all so sugarless
Oh, just go nameless
Honeysuckle, shes full of poison
She obliterated everything she kissed
Now shes fading, Somewhere in hollywood
I'm glad I came here, With your pound of flesh

I wish Courtney would get it together. I miss her.

You want a part of me
Well, I'm not selling cheap
No, I'm not selling cheap

Teeny Tiny Doses

The other day I had a few spare minutes and as I am likely to do I went to my library and picked up a book. I am about halfway through the Black Book of Communism and decided to pick it up again for a chapter. I think it would be impossible to read the whole thing without taking breaks once in a while. That is why it has taken me over a year to plow through this thing.

Last night I poured a nice scotch and read the section on the Spanish Civil War. It is as sad and repetitive as all the rest. Misery, death, torture, show trials, the whole works.

I am not even up to China yet.

I recommend that everyone read this book eventually over their lifetime. After last night, I think I will have to put it back on the shelf for another month or so.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Where's Carl?

A while back Dan put up a post explaining his whereabouts since he hadn't been posting as much as usual. He said people had been asking... and no one was asking about me, but in case they were...

Guitar Hero II! For xmas I received a Play Station II (not the new fancy one) and the game Guitar Hero II which also comes with a "guitar" controller (the Gibson SG format). Guitar Hero II (check out the good wikipedia post here) lets you play along with a song and you hit the frets (the big buttons where my fingers are) and you pick the notes with your other hand and hit the whammy bar for more sustain.

There was a bit of a debate on the web as to whether or not being able to play the Guitar makes you better at the Guitar Hero game. My opinion, as someone who used to play guitar and bass, is kind of. On the one hand if you play guitar / bass you instinctively try to "learn" songs that you are listening to, which is helpful. However, the notes aren't exactly like the real notes on the guitar, they are kind of a representation of both the lead and rhythm guitar which throws me off because I listen for one or the other.

No matter how you slice it, the game is fun. It is fun because if you "miss" notes, the song sounds terrible (you hear the 'clank' of missed notes) and the crowd starts booing and then you get booed off the stage if you don't hit enough correct notes. There is an "easy" level which anyone can play on and do pretty well up to "expert" which is flat out impossible (for someone like me who doesn't have 24 hours a day to play videogames anymore). I play it on medium and practice a bit on hard (I stink) and play it for fun sometimes, but I haven't focused enough to get really good at it. I haven't gotten to the level with "John the Fisherman" the Primus tune Dan and I love that Paul hates...

The odd thing is, as soon as I picked up this (fake) guitar and started playing along, it was like I was instantly put into a time machine, remembering all the years I played in a band in high school. We used to struggle to learn the songs (back then the song books didn't have the actual "notes" that were played, they just had the chords, which was useless when you were trying to learn hard rock tunes) and then play them together. We were terrible, and got a bit better. Some of the people I was in a band with were quite talented, although you don't have to be very good if you are willing to be the bass player and / or bring the PA system.

We used to just crank the amps and play in tiny rooms; you couldn't even hear the damn drummer who was 5 feet away from you banging as hard as he could; just put that drummer in your face and you will be deafened. Of course, we weren't very smart and quite hard headed. Our parents were saints for putting up with us.

The other thing you remember, right away, is lugging gear around. It sucked. We put everything in the car and then took it out, set it up, put it back in the car, and dragged it around. Our whole house had nick marks along the doors, stairs, etc... where my amp or case ran into the walls. And it was far worse for the drummer...

A lot of memories for one fake plastic little guitar.

Get Set Up

I started biking about three years ago. My dad got me started and now I have to admit it is one of my very favorite things to do. Winters kill much harder and faster than they used to.

I shopped around for a bike for quite a while. I was not treated very well at any place until I visited my local branch of Eriks Bike Shop. The person there listened to what I wanted and placed me in the perfect bicycle. I am primarily interested in road biking, and hit the occasional crushed limestone trail. The selection for me was the Specialized Sequoia Elite, 2004 model. I cannot say enough how happy I am with this bicycle.

The person at Eriks measured me properly for the bike. Unfortunately he didn't set me up properly. After even short 10 mile rides my knees were swelling up like grapefruits. I was getting desperate and thought I was just "weak" and that biking may not be for me. After talking to many people, I was referred to the guys at Cronometro here in Madison.

After setting up an appointment I showed up with my bike. The guy who helped me, Craig, set my bike up on a trainer and I started pedaling. Craig watched me for a while from many different angles, then started making adjustments. The good news was that the salesperson at Eriks had me on the correct bicycle for my size and height. The bad news was that nothing was adjusted properly. The cleats on my shoes that clip onto the pedals were wrong. The handlebars and seat height were incorrect. The pedals themselves were not hooked up properly.

So we spent about 3 hours and after that it has been wonderful. No more knee swelling. In fact, no pain at all, even after century rides - well a little ass pain, but not too much. I am set up in a powerful streamlined biking position after that session with Craig and he single-handedly saved my biking career.

The best $200-$300 you can spend if you decide to get into serious biking is to see a professional and get yourself properly set up on your bicycle. When (if) my Specialized bike ever fails I will be buying my next one at Cronometro as a reward for what they did for me several years ago.

Joel Osteen and Religion

Last weekend I spent some time with my family at a waterpark in Wisconsin Dells. It was a welcome break from the winter. The water was warm, most people were in a good mood and I enjoyed the water rides and splashing around for a while with my kids.

Sunday morning I was flipping around the channels in the hotel room after our morning dip and happened upon Joel Osteen preaching to his massive congregation in Texas. The congregation is so large at this point that they moved into the Compaq Center (used to be called the Summit) in Houston which used to be the home of the Houston Rockets.

I am not a very religious person, however run my life by a set of rules that are based upon Christian faiths. I don't kill, steal, cheat, lie (most of the time) or swear. Maybe not that last part. Anyway.

I find Osteen a very interesting person. He may very well be the next Jimmy Swaggart and could be stashing money away in his private accounts like it was going out of style. But maybe not. The bottom line for me is that Osteen's message is always POSITIVE, that is, every time I have seen it.

Sundays sermon was about honoring your parents and taking care of them when they get old. Also he mentioned things like sticking together as a family when things go into the crapper and that your true friends will also stick with you when you are in the dumps. He also mentioned that it is OK to love your country and that you should thank those in the military, even buy them dinner if you see some military persons out eating. He spoke about a few other things as well that I can't remember at this time.

Lets contrast this with the message presented to my daughter her very first day of Catholic school. They told the story of John the Baptist. My daughter didn't really understand what was going on, but my wife was present during this story and was shocked, shocked at this situation (if you don't know the ending of the John the Baptist story, he gets beheaded). My wife did not have the upbringing I had. When she told me about it, I basically gave the shoulder shrug and said "the more things change, the more they stay the same". You see I was raised not as a Catholic, but a Baptist - and they are also famous for lots of Hell, Fire, and Brimstone in their teachings. I suppose the message is that they want to scare the shit out of you to be a good Baptist, or Catholic or whatever.

Back to Osteen. If you watch one of his shows, he is a very comforting guy. Always smiles. Neatly coiffed, never yelling, always encouraging. Like I said, I am not a religious guy, but I wish that I could have had more of that sort of thing as I was growing up. The positives of Christianity are so many! More should be like Osteen and preach those things instead of Revelations and the end times constantly.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jerky Is As Jerky Does

I am entered into the first annual Skaterat Memorial Jerk-Off.

Myself and four others need to make jerky and send samples to each other. Then the others all vote for their best to worst, ranked 1-4. You cannot vote for your own.

It is a jerky making "contest" where the grand prize is much praise and pride. I have never made jerky before and it is interesting. I tried a couple of times in the oven at home without much luck. Time was fleeting (deadline is the Super Bowl) and I really don't have a lot of spare time at home, so I took a different tack.

I purchased a dehydrator from Amazon for $35, delivered.

Last night I cut up strips of flank steak and marinated them in the following:

  • 2/3 cup worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp onion powder

  • 1 tsp black pepper

  • 3 tsp tabasco

  • 3 tsp crushed red peppers

  • 4 tbsp barbque sauce (famous dave's rich and sassy)

I took a generic recipe and just kept thinking about different things I liked and that I thought would be good in jerky and added them until I thought it tasted right. The meat is drying right now, hope it is good because it is the only shot I have.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bears vs. New Orleans

Today I went to the Bears game vs. New Orleans. Unfortunately Dan couldn't attend. The game was CRAZY. The fans were into it from the opening kickoff. Every time New Orleans got the ball people went wild to try to impair their ability to call audibles at the line.

Snow started falling pretty heavily during the second half. It actually was kind of cool to watch at night, illuminated by the lights.

We stayed for the end when they presented the NFC championship trophy. That was the first time I've heard the McCaskeys' get any kind of ovation in my entire live.

On the way home the city was lit up to support the Bears. Due to the fact that visibility was poor it was difficult to get a clear shot but I really liked the way that this building was lit up, with not only the words but the Bears' logo.

See You In Miami

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bears vs. Seahawks Recap

Last week I went with Dan to the Bears game vs. Seattle in Soldier Field (along with someday blogger Elton and another friend of ours who let us hang out in his condo near the game).

I have been to a lot of Bears games including last years' playoff game but I haven't seen this much excitement from the crowd. Check out this movie - people were just going nuts leaving the parking lot and filing through the tunnel towards the stadium.

The excitement continued for the fans as they neared Soldier Field. About this time most of us got separated and I hung with Elton for a bit. There were some completely obliterated fans around; one guy was so drunk that he was falling down and almost taking a swing at the officers - he didn't even have a coat on and was flailing in the mud. Some guy walked by and said "Damn give me your ticket because you are not getting in to the game for sure..."

Before the game there was a flyover by 2 jets and some cool fireworks on the field. Everyone is pumped up!

In most Bears games people are generally paying attention and focused on the game but this time it was very intense. Everyone around us was a die hard fan. Of course, this led to horrendous lines at the restrooms because that means that 95% of the attendees are male and everyone packs into the mens restroom at the quarter's end. They even had washroom attendants so that there were no sink utilizers which made it even more crowded...

After the game everyone was going nuts and people started throwing bottles and debris through the crowd. Hey, there are some advantages to having seats way up there...

Dancing in the Streets

I noticed that Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas has died. For some strange reason I have always liked them. Here is my favorite song of theirs, which I thought was the original version for quite some time. Unfortunately Cass is at her most immense here:

Here is the original by Martha and the Vandellas of course which I think I like better than the Mamas and Papas version:

And who can forget this absuolute travesty of the song by Bowie and Jagger:

But we all know who did the most kickass version of all, and that was Van Halen - can you believe I couldn't find a youtube of that? Oh well.

All Your Calves Are Belong To Me

If you don't understand the title of this post, you need to read this.

This weekend I am off to Wisconsin Dells to the Flakeout Festival, and waterpark fun. Along with that I get one of my favorite meals at a local German restaurant, the infamous veal shank:
I like to call it the "Fred Flintstone" because it has that immense bone sticking out of it. The preparation I receive won't be even close to as elegant as this one, but will be just as good, if not better. Served with it will be red cabbage and a big black beer off the tap. In general I eat very well, but hey, you gotta live a little and I have been working out like a madman lately. Can't wait.

The Taboo of Sports Betting

The world of internet gambling has been shaken up quite a bit over the last several months. Chris Masse over at Midas Oracle has been doing a bang up job of covering it. He is mostly interested in real money prediction markets but those, of course, intertwine with sports betting.

Without getting into too much detail (Chris has it all covered if you are interested) the basic thrust of what is happening is that the CEO's and other primaries of these companies are getting arrested when they step on US soil. They aren't doing anything illegal in the countries they reside in, but in the US these types of activities (internet gambling in general for that matter) are prohibited. I am not sure if it is legal for me as a US citizen to bet on one of these sites, but I am not going to find out because...if I were to place a bet on a football game, and I am not saying that I would, because that would be illegal...I would just go to the bar right down the street.

That last run on sentence was pretty messy so I think I will back up a bit.

Billions and billions of dollars are wagered on sporting events every year in the United States and most estimates put about 1 (ONE!) percent of these bets are done "legally", that is, in a properly regulated and taxed casino. The remaining 99 percent are done either online or the old fashioned way, through a bookie, typically at a bar.

With the Super Bowl coming up, you will no doubt be seeing those charts coming around that look like this:

The idea here is that you sign your name to a square and place your bet for that square, typically $10. Then after all the squares are filled, the numbers on the side and top are drawn at random. As you can see this chart represents the AFC team on the left and the NFC team on the top row. Those numbers represent the last digit of the scores that you hope will come out. For example the square in the very top left - he hopes that the AFC team ends up with a score ending in 2 and the NFC team score ending in 8. It doesn't matter who wins the game. So if the AFC team has 32 and the NFC team has 28, he is a winner. Typically there are payouts after the end of each quarter and the end of the game. I have never participated in this type of illegal gambling activity so am going off of what other people (criminals!) have told me about the Super Bowl squares.

Here in Madison, you can go to practically any bar and simply ask for a parlay card. Here is a good explanation of what a parlay card is and they have a link to a picture of one so you can see what they look like. By the way, I found this site by google and the parlay card they took a picture of is EXACTLY like the ones you find here in Madison. Not that I would know what one looks like, as they are illegal to place bets with, but people who have seen them before tell me that it does, in fact, look identical to the local ones produced here.

From what I have heard all you have to do is enter any bar, request a parlay card, place your bet and give the bartender your cash and selections. You may come back the next week to collect your winnings. Typically there will be a central bookie that runs the parlay cards for many bars - you can also get in touch with him to place straight up bets, or simply attach your straight up bet (Bears plus three for example) to the parlay card if you like to place your bet that way. The bars typically don't profit from this activity, merely provide it as a service to their normal patrons. In all my years I have never heard of a bar getting busted for offering parlay cards.

For the more serious gambler, of course, there is always the option of going online to place bets or contacting a bookie directly to participate in this action. Since I have never used a bookie to place a bet on sports since it is very illegal I have been asking others how they do it. To my surprise I have found out that there are many bookies in town that would be willing to help me place a bet if I were to so choose.

The purpose of this essay, I suppose, is basically to say that by not opening up gambling options to those that would like to engage in them (not me, for it is illegal) the government has encouraged - more like created - an immense illegal gambling enterprise. Certainly organized crime is involved somewhere down the line.

So why not open the damn thing up and let market forces work their magic? The "invisible hand" as Friedman used to call it. Imagine the tax money the states could rake in if they had a legit sports betting system. I know the casinos and their parent companies have pull, but this much?

The market would certainly choose which internet gambling platforms are the best - very quickly - if allowed to.

It is bizarre to me to think about this statement. In England, any person can sit down at their computer and place a bet on any game, political market, weather event or just about anything else. In the United States, we have to fly to Vegas or Reno or some other gambling mecca to do the same thing. And we are limited to sporting events for the most part.

I hope that the US government is happy that all of those who choose to place wagers on sporting events are supporting organized crime. Not me though, those activities are illegal and I would never do anything like that.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Results Are In...

...and James Rummel of Hell in a Handbasket is the World Blogosphere champion, air pistol, five meter division. I held the title for a very short two days, until Rummel placed his crushing winning entry pushing me to the runner up position. Congrats to James. I will put up an announcement of the next air pistol contest when it begins and don't forget, there is still time to enter the current .22 match.

Hassle Factor = Immense

I like to peruse the Chicago Bears message boards on occasion. Right now, with all of the NFC title game talk and Super Bowl talk it is even more entertaining.

I own two pairs of season tickets.

The lottery for Super Bowl tickets has already taken place. I know that one of my pair is definitely not a winner. I haven't heard about the other pair. For those who don't know, you get one chance per non PSL paying seat in the lottery for tickets, and two chances for each PSL seat. I have made the PSL my line in the sand as most who read this know.

Anyway, through the message boards I have found out the procedure to pick up your tickets if you win a pair (that is, if the Bears go to the Super Bowl). You have to go down next week on Thursday, Friday or Saturday in person to Soldier field with your identification and $1210 for your pair of tickets. Thats right, $605 per ticket. The only acceptable forms of payment are money order or cashiers check.

Am I really going to have to do this? I am a very busy guy and am not even going to the game this weekend because of lack of time and energy to battle that whole Chicago scene.

Do I want to even go to the Super Bowl in the first place? There really won't be many fans there from the teams, mostly sponsors and lackies of the NFL. And how do I get to Miami on that weekend exactly? Most of the flights are booked already, so I would have to DRIVE and probably stay somewhere around Atlanta. Sheesh, I don't think so.

But you never know, I may decide to buy the tix and scalp them. If that is the case, Carl will be receiving my ID in the mail and picking up the tickets. After all, he is white and has glasses - that should be enough to pass for me to a ticket clerk.

Addendum: on the message board, there is already an offer made by someone to accompany anyone down to Soldier Field with two thousand dollars in ca$h - the season ticket holder picks up the tickets and exchanges them with the other party for the money on the spot - I will stongly consider something like this if the time comes. Not a bad haul for a Saturday, and tax free to boot. Honestly though I would charge more like $2500 for the pair - these tickets, if the Bears go to the Super Bowl will have the highest demand in my opinion ever seen in the world of sports.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Best of 2006... part two

Here is the follow up to the "Best of 2006" part one...

July 2006

  1. "It Really Is No Big Deal" - Dan responds to the fallout from all the heavy traffic we get from Carl's CCP post... and Carl responds to the loonie commenters with his own (mostly unnoticed) post "Fascists and Communists"
  2. "Kids Say the Darndest Things" - Dan answers his daughter's question as to why they are all shooting each other in the Middle East
  3. "Wants... and Needs" - Carl can't take people who can't tell the two apart
  4. "The Chicago Tribune Can't Connect the Dots" - in Chicago we just take it for granted when armed felons kill innocent people, and don't ask why it has to be this way
  5. "Madison Gas & Electric Marketing Genius" - Dan stands in wonder at the marketing that his utility bills are generating, while Carl asks about "The Real Conspiracy" in electric power... not who you'd expect
August 2006

  1. "World Trade Center Part One" and "World Trade Center Part Two" - Carl visits the site of the World Trade Center to see how little has been accomplished since 9/11/01
  2. "Terms, Models and Economic Conditions" - Dan sees his customers in a new light
  3. "Santa Barbara Poor" - Paul feels for those that don't have $1M for housing... not. He also says "Send Her Back" to those that can't be bothered to learn to speak English
  4. "Chicago Air and Water Show" - Carl catches a great air show from his balcony
  5. "Paper Tiger" and "Paper Tiger Part Two" - Dan examines China's challenge and looks into his own inventory to bolster his opinion
September 2006

  1. "Jackass Drivers on the Edens" - Carl catches some looney-tunes going backwards on the Edens
  2. "James J. Woods" - Dan participates in an Internet blogger project to memorialize the 9/11 victims, and Paul joins in with "A Loss of Humanity" on the nature of evil
  3. "Electricity Deregulation and Impending Chaos in Illinois" - Carl says that the rate freeze is ending and Illinois isn't prepared for the future
  4. "Ruminations" - Carl sees a review for "The Road" and reflects on the Hell on earth
  5. In "Progress in Women's Rights" and "All I Need to Know I Learned From Bitch Magazine" Carl talks about the HP scandal and women's rights from a bent view

October 2006

  1. "A Century Apart, Same Themes" - Dan ties together the logistics of the Plains wars and WW2 in the Pacific
  2. The Bears inspire Carl's best photo ever with "Bum Stylin' At the Bears", Dan's great Ribs recipe in "Gameday Ribs, Part One" and Carl marvels at the drunkenness in "Bears Fans Gettin' Faced"
  3. In "The Alternative Minimum Tax" Carl describes the AMT and how it could be a "retarded stepson" of the flat tax (which is kind of a good thing)
  4. In "Madison Good, Madison Bad" Dan ruminates on the big city / small city elements of Madison
  5. "Sad" and "War in the 21st Century" Dan covers Stalingrad and Paul imagines fighting it with today's media

November 2006

  1. More cooking with "Gameday Ribs Part Two" and "Gameday Ribs Part Three" on Dan's awesome recipe
  2. "Sprawl Wins, Again" where Carl sees the endless fields becoming suburbs
  3. In "Taxes and the Democrats" and "State Income Taxes" Carl analyzes taxes and their impact on behavior
  4. "The Right Tool for the Job" has Dan's new air pistol for NRA qualifications and gives a demonstration while Carl has a more jovial time at the range
  5. Carl ruminates on being a Yokel in "Why We are Life in the Great Midwest"

December 2006

  1. For "Trans Fats" Dan does his own research on this now-banned substance
  2. Paul bemoans our missing beer in "New Glarus Blues" and has a fish fry to sample the local color
  3. In "Energy, Taxes and Expropriation" Carl asks whether or not it is a good idea to defer taxes after all... or they'll just take it later
  4. For "No Perspective" Carl comments on frustration with the pace of our current war
  5. In "Ikegwuono Reinstated" Dan points out the rampant lies that power college football as well as dukes it out with some commenters on the company's dime

Prepping the Patient

As a Christmas present to myself, along with my new (old) Ruger Single Six I purchased an accurizing kit for my Ruger Mark 3 Hunter. Click for larger.
I also purchased the volthane target grips you see in the lower right. I have read in the forums from many people that have installed these that the kits really help make the trigger pull much "cleaner" or "crisper". To boot, I will now have pre and over travel adjustments, something I was introduced to when I purchased my Baikal pellet gun.
The items were purchased from Volquartsen over in Iowa. Now I just have to find a couple of hours where I can be alone to get this surgery done.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Best of Life in the Great Midwest in 2006... part one

Since Dan went through all the trouble of classifying the posts with the upgrade to the new version of blogger, I thought I'd do the service of highlighting some of the best posts (in my opinion) in 2006. Going through all the posts is a bigger job than I thought so I am starting with the first six months of 2006... and will follow up with a second post for the rest of 2006.

January 2006

  1. "The Epic Scale of Corruption in Chicago" - how our local law forces stand idly by in the face of pervasive malfeasance
  2. "A Real Academic Debate Topic" - was Stalin really planning to attack Hitler, and if so, was Barbarossa Hitler's best option, and not a military mistake?
  3. "Terrorist Repellent" - Dan buys an entire pig and processes it himself
  4. "The Haj and Crowd Dynamics" and "The Sea of Desolation" - deconstructing the madness of the crowds at the annual pilgrimage to Mecca
  5. "Carnival of Cordite - .45 Edition" - good photos of Dan's newly purchased .45

February 2006

  1. "Midwesternness" and "Midwesternness Part 2" are Dan's and Carl's posts on what it means to lead a Midwestern life, which are key to this blog
  2. "Madison - State Capital at Night" - Dan's photos of the capital illuminated at night
  3. "Swedish Fish and Odd Synchronization" - a brief post on linked things that aren't quite right
  4. "Oly!" - linking that famous (low grade) brew and the every four year extravaganza
  5. "The 2% Option" - Paul from Indy joins the blog and says his piece about the leveraged mortgage craze

March 2006

  1. "Income Stream" - Dan summarizes 1) why he blogs 2) why there is no point in polluting our site with ads
  2. "A Liberal Education" and "A Liberal Education Part II" and "A Liberal Education Part III"- Carl starts a firestorm by comparing the (pathetic) reality of most liberal education curriculum today against both the "classical" liberal education as well as the job market
  3. "When The Rolling Stones Were Great" - Carl's favorite Rolling Stone album Let It Bleed gets 4 of 5 stars and riles him up
  4. "I See Myself" - Dan finds himself in Albion's work
  5. "Gridlock Around the Clock" - is there a problem with a speed of zero at midday? Not in Chicago, apparently

April 2006

  1. "A Little Off the Top, Bottom and Sides, Please" - Dan starts a fashion revolution and blog-storm by shaving his head... one of our most popular posts ever
  2. "Madison Gas & Electric" - Carl from Chicago summarizes his memories of Dan's local utility and being a FIB
  3. "Why I Hate American Idol" - Paul vents about this smash TV show
  4. "In the Eye of the Beholder" - Trent Reznor wants it to mean one thing, but Carl sees something else
  5. "Culling the Herd" - Dan runs his business his way

May 2006

  1. "Ron Burgundy and Metaphysics" - an offhand movie reference moves into moral issues (and littering...)
  2. "Buying A House" - Carl takes on the prevailing wisdom of home ownership
  3. "You Can't Be Serious" - Dan takes on psychics and flying monks
  4. "A Classic" - the immortal tilt-a-whirl
  5. "Memorial Day and Deconstruction" - this one is hard to summarize in a sentence... starting with Memorial Day and working into French philosophy

June 2006

  1. "Photoessay at Sunrise" - Dan at large at daybreak in Madison
  2. "Sincerely, George McCaskey, Director of Ticket Operations" - the Bears insanely request "voluntary" personal site license payments
  3. "Can Mitzie Have A Side of Asparagus" - Paul comments on inane Chicago policies
  4. "Boycott the North Face Over CCCP Clothing" - like Dan's shaved head post, this brief post by Carl starts a firestorm of comments r/e communism
  5. "Coastline" - Dan looks for bearings out there...

Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks

A little while ago I revisited the woes of the Chicago Bears at the quarterback position and listed all of them that we have had start since Brett Favre took over in Green Bay in 1992.

I was taken aback when I heard from some Browns fans that we could be challenged for the right to have the very worst list of quarterbacks since 1992. Either Snake or JTC mentioned this and I am not sure where. So I did a little digging and for your enjoyment I have amassed the list of Cleveland Browns quarterbacks since Brett Favre started playing for the Pack in 1992. The list is a little shorter than the Bears because the Browns didn't play from '96-'99 after they moved to Baltimore.

Bernie Kosar
Mike Tonczak
Todd Philcox
Vinny Testaverde
Mark Rypien
Eric Zeier
Ty Detmer
Spergon Wynn
Doug Pederson
Tim Couch
Jeff Garcia
Kelly Holcomb
Luke McCown
Trent Dilfer
Charlie Frye

While there are some real stinkers in this list, I don't really think you can compare it to the Bears list for true sucktitude.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I was fooling around with the camera, taking different types of photos while doing my "winter biking" post. I decided to take a closeup of the rear gearing. Yikes! Before I go out this spring this looks like a full afternoon of cleaning - I may as well take the whole damned thing down and do it right. Click for large version of nastyness:

Bye Bye BP Browne

As previously noted here with Home Depot, the departure of a CEO may cause the stock price to rise. This is a funny concept, given that many CEO's are paid tens (or hundreds) of millions to do their job.

The CEO of British Petroleum (BP) named John Browne recently announced his departure and the stock price rose 3%. BP has recently had a series of mishaps, from a Texas refinery explosion, a pipeline leak, and investigations into market manipulations.

This fall is particularly satisfying because Browne was pretty much a hypocrite. BP is just a giant energy (oil and natural gas) company that battles Shell, ExxonMobil and the various national oil companies in the marketplace. There is nothing wrong with this, the world needs energy, and we need companies to deliver the energy. However, BP had a public relations campaign calling themselves "Beyond Petroleum" touting their (relative to other initiatives) miniscule solar and wind initiatives. On the other hand, Lee Raymond, the famously irascible CEO (since retired) of ExxonMobil, never bowed down and pretended to be anything other than a giant energy company CEO who pocketed hundreds of millions and left a booming stock price as his legacy to shareholders.

Unfortunately, we won't get straight shooters like Lee Raymond anymore, we'll get PR spinners like John Browne in the future. The problem with the PR guys is that they start to believe their own nonsense and this is a bad trend that can impact decisions and ultimately stock performance. Stick to the facts, it is what it is. When you run a giant oil and energy company, get a thick skin, and get down to business. Bye bye John Browne...

Winter Biking in Madison

My threshold for biking is around 65 degrees. Anything under that and I just can't handle it. Thank god for this contraption:
It is a fluid filled trainer. As you increase your speed with your gearing, it increases resistance (somehow). So you can train in your basement (in my case) in the winter, and still replicate hills or flats. I have to admit I sweat more on this thing than running on the treadmill. I am not sure what it is, but I am just dripping when I am done with a 45-50 minute ride. I do the same amount on the treadmill and I sweat - but nothing like with riding on the trainer. To boot this is a good way to squeeze more value out of my worn out tires.
Only four more months and I am back riding outside. Ugh sometimes I hate living in the upper midwest.