Friday, November 30, 2007

Oklahoma, Part Seven

Here are parts one, two, three, four, five, and six. Click any photo for larger.

Not far from the ROTC building on the OU campus was the football stadium. Some of you may remember that I have mentioned before something about my childhood. For whatever reason when I lived in Rockford, IL we always received the Big 8 game of the week. Probably a result of how the TV deals were structured back then, before the days of ESPN and other cable networks. In fact, we didn't have cable at all where I lived. IIRC Keith Jackson usually did the play by play and these games were usually on ABC.

As a result of this I got to see Oklahoma a lot and became somewhat of a fan. These Big 8 games were my first introduction to big time organized college football. I absolutely loved the wishbone offense that OU ran. To this day I am still a huge fan of the "wish" and any other offense that utilizes some sort of option. Needless to say I am thrilled with the Illini's offense this year, an option attack (it is almost like a T formation at times) combined with the occasional pass play.

With all of this rolling around in my head I came upon what I remember as being called "Owen Field" as a youngster. The name has changed a bit, but the place is the same. The first thing I saw was this memorial to the fallen of OU in all wars.
It was a somber place and reminded me that football isn't the end-all, ever. I think it was a nice gesture to put this place next to the football stadium so lots of people have to walk by it every football Saturday. This day, a Monday, I was alone in giving the dead a moment of silence.
From the memorial I moved forward to the main gate. The Gaylord Family must have thrown a ton of money into their stadium renovation fund as that name was plastered all over the place.
I went inside and saw a security officer at the front desk. I politely asked him if I could enter the stadium and snap a few quick photos. He was less than enthused about this and I just said "never mind" and walked away. I had my own plans.

I remembered that the previous Saturday there had been a game between OU and Texas A and M. The cleanup crews and maintenance people were all over the place and nobody really seemed to care about what I was up to. The doors were wide open, so I simply walked in. Here is a shot of the underside of the east stands. It would be pretty cool to park INSIDE the stadium on game day, but I can't imagine how much those spots would go for. They are probably all for staff anyway.

The ramps to the seating areas were all gated shut so I sauntered through here for a while looking like I owned the place, waving to security guards as they passed. They waved back and really didn't seem to care about me too much. I finally got to the end of the stadium. No luck getting in for a few photos.

Then I stood around at the end of the stadium and observed. Students were using a short cut through the end stands to get from one place to another. I followed one and before I knew it, voila! I was in. More to come.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oklahoma, Part Six

Here are parts one, two, three, four, and five. Click any photo for larger.

Today we continue my stroll through the Oklahoma University campus.

Not studying...just daydreaming.
As I kept walking through campus I came upon the ROTC building. And what is this in front? I know what it is...75mm pack howitzer!
I knew where it was made, but just to satisfy my curiosity I took a photo of the plate. I was right. Rock Island Arsenal. This one was made in '43.
Here is a shot down the barrel. Interesting that the rifling ends pretty far from the end of the barrel, approximately a foot or so I would guess.
And a side shot. This damn thing is extremely heavy. I tried to lift it but it wouldn't budge. I would hate to be lugging this crap all over the countryside (like in ww2) while enemies were firing on me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

River North Views

Above is a view from the balcony overlooking River North. You can see the Rock N' Roll McDonalds in the front and the Hard Rock Cafe just past it. There is a great full moon and the Hancock in the upper left is lit up green and red.


We have fall colors in the city, too... just happens to occur in the median of the busy intersection on LaSalle Street.



This "Yellow Tail" advertisement is on the side of a building in River North. The tail on this clock "ticks" from side to side and it is a very eye catching advertisement.

Stocks In November

INVESTING BACKGROUND

I run three trust funds for my nephews and nieces that are old enough to understand the concept of saving, investing and stock selections that are documented at the site www.trustfundsforkids.com. I don't mind directing people over there because there are no ads and it just describes what the funds are about, our selections, and our returns. Here is a post with more background on the topic.

RECENT EVENTS

For anyone who has been following the markets this year, it has been a roller coaster ride. The US stock indices were up for the year with some decent gains but have recently given up almost all of those gains and seem to be in a state of flux right now. High oil prices, the falling dollar, the credit freeze, housing woes, and finally massive write-offs in the financial sector have taken their toll.

Another important element that is coming to light is that profits for US companies are down significantly; per Barron's the Q3 EPS for companies reporting are down 8.5% from the prior year - this is a big downturn, comparable to the quarters right before prior recessions (1989 and 2000). Without profit improvements, hiring and capital spending tend to fall in a bad spiral.

One term to keep in mind when investing is "negative covariance" - in layman's terms this means that "bad things tend to occur at the same time". Thus everything is fine, and then it's not. For instance, the housing market goes down, liquidity evaporates, banks make huge write-downs, and then the companies that guarantee or eat these debt instruments struggle to understand the damage. These items were all related, and while models may value the probabilities of each individually, they all work together (in a bad way).

The stock markets recently went down about 10% - this is now officially a "correction". No one knows if this is the start of a long swoon or a "buy on the dips" opportunity.

FOREIGN MARKETS

To a significant extent our trust funds have shied away from these issues by investing in foreign stock markets (check here for a recent post on the topic). For someone starting out today, I would recommend that a decent portion of the total portfolio be in overseas markets since the US economy is a declining share of the total world GNP and much of the growth is occurring overseas.

With this recommendation, of course, comes caveats. Many of these markets have a history of boom and bust, and while improving, their financial reporting and investor protections are not always as strong as the traditional US / UK financial markets.

We made some selections in the overseas markets, notably China Mobile (CHL) and ICICI Bank (IBN) in India, as well as BHP Billiton (BHP) in Australia. Each of these stocks had a great ride upward and then I put in stops and we sold recently rather than (potentially) watch these gains evaporate. Of course, I can't see the future any better that anyone else, and potentially we gave up some big gains in the future, but I thought that the China market in particular was giving off the odor of a "bubble" and figured that it was best to be prudent.

RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS

The problem with selling and gains (beyond paying taxes, which I describe in the site and also will document on the blog in 2008 when I need to make the calculations) is that the money needs to be put back to work. I realize that true market-timers might say that this is a good time to sit on the money (and I personally have been putting more into cash right now) but for the purpose of these funds they have a long horizon and I need to keep investing for the long term, which means stocks.

Thus I had to scratch my head and come up with some more recommendations, featuring a lot of companies from Japan and Mexico which I think have a lot of room to grow (along with their economies) and also some potentially undervalued or reasonably stable US companies. Since the portfolio horizon is long, I also try to encourage selecting some high growth (high risk) companies that might make a big return or be a flop.

One of my stubborn relatives was scoffing at putting the money to work when the indicators were down (newspaper headlines) and I told him that the damn money mostly wasn't in the US anyways, so he was looking at the wrong headlines. Also, if he or anyone else is smart enough to market time god bless them they should be on an island somewhere like at the end of "Trading Places" because that is where you'd end up if you had that kind of power over time and space.

For some reason blogger doesn't allow linking to PDF files as if they were pictures so here is a link to the recommendations PDF file that is out on my other web site. I also include past recommendations so you can see what you think and come up with your own conclusions as well as see performance of the portfolios so far on the site. The items in RED are recommended and the rest are there for completeness sake.

As always, do your own homework, and I am not recommending that individuals select stocks as opposed to market tracking ETF's for their own purposes. Due to the unique nature of these trust funds and the fact that I am trying to use this as a teaching experience as well as an investing vehicle, individual stocks make more sense than using hard-to-conceptually-understand ETF index tracking funds. I also know that these trust funds are not the most tax-advantaged investing vehicle, but the fact that ownership is clear makes up for this impact (in my mind, at least). Go to LITGM and check the "taxes" or "investing" sidebar for more articles on these topics.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Could Happen

Above is a photo of the 1984 Rose Bowl, the last time the Illini played in the granddaddy of them all. Its been a long time.

Three or four years ago Carl and I took a trip to California and watched Illinois lose to UCLA at this very stadium.

Anyway,here is what needs to happen this weekend. Oklahoma NEEDS to beat Mizzou in the Big Twelve title game. An alternative would be for West Virginia to lose to Pitt, but WVU is a 28 point favorite. Oklahoma is favored by three over Mizzou. This puts the Ohio State University into the BCS title game (again). More than likely the Rose Bowl would then choose Illinois to be the Big Ten representative, probably to play USC. But USC has to get past UCLA first this weekend. That is no gimme either, as with rivalry games you can always throw the records out the window.

Also, we need either Tennessee or Boston College to lose. It is probable that BC goes down, and also probable that a pissed off LSU team beats the snot out of Tennessee. That would pave the way for the Illini to move up to #14 or higher in the final BCS poll, which makes us eligible for a BCS game (hopefully the Rose).

The worst we will do is the Capital One Bowl, probably against Florida. This is the game everyone in Florida wants as the hatred will flow from a jilted Zook. I assume everyone in Florida still hates him, even though they won a National Championship with his recruits last year.

But I will be honest, I want the Rose Bowl. So I have one thing to say...GO SOONERS!!!



Oklahoma, Part Five

Here are parts one, two, three, and four. Click any photo for larger.

As I strolled around the beautiful OU campus, I came upon this Time Capsule. I absolutely love these things. Unfortunately most of the ones that are opened have the contents destroyed, rotted or otherwise mangled. Still, I think they are fun. I had no idea what was in this one.

What a great place to study. You can see the football stadium in the background.
Everything on the campus looked so new, like the day they built it. No grime on the buildings, no garbage, everything spotless. This building I assume was built a long time ago, but looks like it was just put up yesterday.
Here is another example - with more of the flowers I was talking about in an earlier part.
Speaking of flowers...
Gawd I wish U of I looked like this.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blender's 100 Best Indie-Rock Albums

Blender magazine recently published a list called "The 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever". I enjoy these sorts of lists and wrote about their top 500 songs here.


I was interested in how they defined "indie" rock. I didn't like the Blender description so I went to wikipedia's entry which I thought made more sense. From their description, the key elements were 1) some sort of rock, generally guitar driven 2) artists signed to independent record labels 3) artists attempting to control the content of their work 4) often the work is "counter-cultural".

This definition is kind of interesting because it not only represents the type of music, but also the state that the band is when the album was recorded. For instance, under this type of definition, the FIRST Nirvana album (Bleach) would qualify for the list, but the latter albums (post major label signing) might not qualify. Nirvana is probably a bad example because under this definition "Bleach" qualifies, "Nevermind" doesn't, but their third album "In Utero" probably could if you stretched the definition a bit because they brought in an uncompromising producer (Steve Albini) and fought to make it as unprocessed as possible, which might overcome the major label "stigma".

Generally Blender did a pretty good job. The main albums that I like and would consider "indie" are here including:
  • #3 Replacements - Let It Be - a GREAT album, especially "I Will Dare". Their other albums were good up until that last crappy major label one, too
  • #4 REM - Murmur - before REM became a bunch of issue-driven freaks, you had "Radio Free Europe" and a bunch of tuneful mumbling
  • #5 Pixies - Surfer Rosa - Dan's favorite
  • #6 Arcade Fire - Funeral - I was really surprised by this choice... the rest I could "phone in" - but this is a great and unique album. Good for Blender. Saw them on PBS recently in "Austin City Limits" a great live show check it out or Tivo it
  • #11 Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime - famous generally for the Jackass theme off this album, these guys were pioneers but it takes a lot of effort to sit through this whole thing
  • #12 Dinosaur Jr - You're Living All Over Me - gets on the list for the title alone, one of the best rock titles ever. Also love "In A Jar" for insane bass riff and the nonsensical part where someone talks over the song in the studio. Skip the remake of the Cure song...
  • #13 - Husker Du - Zen Arcade - you'd get no argument from Dan or I on this one, a great album, the first side just one long song. I guess the only argument would be how this is ahead of New Day Rising, the album I'd probably put in the top #1 on this chart
  • #17 - White Stripes - White Blood Cells - good album but I have to fault them for not having a bass player (as an ex-bass player) - but they made up for it with their next album (non-indie since it was major label) with Seven Nation Army
  • #18 Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures - for the Goth's
  • #29 Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes - this album could be an entire post by itself. Simply a fantastic album end to end, totally original. Should be top 1-3 in my opinion, for Add It Up, Blister In the Sun, many more
  • #35 Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville - pretty dirty for a North Shore girl, lost my copy and never bothered to get another one
  • #38 Strokes - Is this It - I can't like those guys just because they have models "living all over them" to quote Dinosaur Jr
  • #40 New Order - Power Corruption & Lies - the ex-Joy Division guys just reform and create an entire genre of music out of thin air with "Blue Monday"
  • #43 Black Flag - Damaged - a great album, TV Party Tonight, and a ton of other songs. I have a hard time thinking of them as "indie"...
  • #46 Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand - another good album, very entertaining
  • #53 Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights - another good first album, the new Joy Division
  • #53 Smashing Pumpkins - Gish - the first album by Smashing Pumpkins, when they were independent, and before Billy Corgan was a pompous bag of wind
  • #59 Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine - a fantastic album, if ranked on merit would be top 5 in this list. In some ways Trent Reznor is completely "indie", with his hatred of his record company, drug abuse, and self-loathing... but I just have trouble thinking of him as a jangly "indie" prototype guy
  • #61 LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem - another great album with "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" and other good songs but isn't this guy more of a DJ, not an indie?
  • #67 Husker Du - New Day Rising - a classic album, probably one of the best on the list. How was this not near the top? It was still on SST, not a major label. I remember being in high school and staring at this album cover, knowing it was hip, but not yet ready to buy it. Biggest Blender beef - didn't mention "Celebrated Summer" as a recommended download from this album
  • #77 Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not - have trouble understanding how some young lager louts out of modern England are indie... but another good album
  • #83 Misfits - Walk Among Us - OK, now if you are saying the Misfits are an indie band, why not GWAR? Come on... but I guess it is because the Misfits were 1/2 punk, 1/2 metal
  • #92 Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables - this is certainly an independent label (hell, they basically invented the independent label) and counter cultural... but "indie"? OK, well if you let in Black Flag, then you have to let in DK's, but is that right? If so, then this album needs to go way up the charts because it is a classic. Maybe it is down towards the bottom because Blender isn't sure, either?
What about the rest of the chart? Lots of bands I haven't heard of, or the country-fried indie stuff that I can't stay awake long enough to listen to.

Out of the top 5, what's #1? Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted. Boring. I had a CD of this and lost it and never even thought to replace it. It sat unopened for a long time. But in some ways this is the prototypical slacker indie album, boring and obscure to all but the initiated, and loved by critics.

#2 is Sonic Youth "Daydream Nation"... Sonic Youth has some OK albums until they intentionally got obscure, kind of like Neil Young when he was sued by his own record company for doing the same.

What else is missing? It depends on your definition of "indie". If it includes the Misfits, well then it probably ought to include the first Metallica Album "Kill Em All". But "bad case makes bad law", and so I won't go down the metal route to look for the missing. Let's figure the Misfits are there for their punk side, not metal side.

I would say that the first Beck album "Mellow Gold" with the track "Loser" has to be on this list, maybe right near the top. It probably didn't make it because by then he was signed to Geffen records, but come on...

I think Wilco ought to be here somewhere, along with Son Volt, if you are including boring critic-driven stuff that seems indie. I am too indifferent to note which albums and where but they sure seem indie.

So what would the top indie records be? It depends on how you are evaluating them.

If it is true "indie-ness" meaning critics loved them, they were kind of whiny and droning, and their music had not too much grand impact, well then you have to like the #1 choice Pavement, and throw in Sonic Youth too, and Yo La Tengo and the rest of that.

Once you start bringing in the UK bands, which don't seem too indie to me, then you have to start adding the Smiths, New Order and Joy Division right to the top, along with a bunch of other ones I don't know much about.

As far as the US "indie" scene AND albums you might want to listen to, then you have Husker Du, the Pixies, the Replacements, early REM, and Violent Femmes. Since they included Nine Inch Nails on the list, you need that first album which is great end-to-end (although I never think of them as "indie").

If you are going to start picking up the punk albums and calling them "indie", then you need to add Black Flag (although TV Party does sound a bit dated) and the Dead Kennedys at a minimum to your own list.

For rebellion, Dead Kennedys have to move to the top. DK invented the independent label, one that is still thriving today (here is a link to the FAQ's on their Alternative Tentacles site, very funny, note that about 1/2 way down someone asks the question "Is Jello Biafra gay?" and they answer "no", that is punk). They also got sued by everyone and had internal legal conflicts that they never sorted out.

The point of a list is to take a large, abstract topic and attempt to bring order to that topic, weighting factors that maybe shouldn't be weighted, yet trying to cover all the bases. And probably to start people talking, or thinking.

From that aspect, this list succeeded.

New Release From Electric Six

Electric Six, or as I like to call them "The Most Important Band in the World", just released a new album titled "I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master".


The new album is just about what you'd expect from Electric Six - disco rock with completely insane lyrics by Dick Valentine apparently sent to him from another dimension. As soon as I heard these lines, sung in an inexplicable song called "Randy's Hot Tonight" I laughed out loud and very hard:

"If you live in Japan, you're Japanese
If you live in Canada, you're gonna freeze
If you live in a plastic house, you'll never die in a fire
If you work in television, then you're a f**king liar"

Also a big hit on iTunes is the song "Down at mcdonnelzzz" (apparently they don't want the golden arches coming after them on copyright violations or something) with the key line "everything's coooooollll". Spend 99 cents and give them a try, for god's sakes.

Dan and I are big fans of Electric Six and always go see their live shows when they are in town in Chicago or Madison if we can make it. The last show I saw had 3 bands and was only $15 so they are a bargain, to boot.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friends You Can Trust, Places To Hunt, And Other Great Life Experiences…

Another pheasant hunting season at Winamac is over. It was as good as any. The weather cooperated on the days I had booked, Speck was outstanding and the birds were there. What’s not to like?


My brother could not make it on Saturday and neither could my new neighbor so my friend Scott took the spot I booked. Scott works at the old Bethlehem Steel Mill in Burns Harbor IN. Scott changed his work shift to hunt birds with us at the last minute. He was not booked for the Saturday hunt due to his earlier work commitment but he managed to make it happen. What a guy! Scott is truly a man in control of his own domain, for sure!

Today’s hunt (Sat 11-24-07) took a bit of work. Speck pointed and flushed three different birds that either flew into the woods, into the sun or over other hunters so we did not take those shots. We managed to get our four-bird limit in 75 minutes, all roosters. They were big birds averaging at least three pounds each with nice long tail feathers and big spurs too.


I have hunted many times by myself but prefer when others come along. It’s more fun and Speck gets a chance to work more birds. The ammo companies love guys like me.

We first met up with Scott at Winamac years ago. Speck and I hunted alone that day. We bagged our two-bird limit within a short period of time and headed back to the Jeep where I always have at least one celebratory cold beer per person waiting along with plenty of water for Speck. Speck and I drank together while we sat outdoors enjoying the woods and prairie after a successful hunt. Quiet, peaceful, reflective times like that are too rare to waste.

Scott came walking up to the parking lot with his neighbor that day, both were total strangers to me. They didn’t have a dog and they had no birds after walking the field unsuccessfully for over an hour. Hunting birds without a dog is like fishing without a depth finder. You may get something…just maybe. We talked and after a while I offered to guide for them with Speck so they could get their birds. Speck approved.

Hunting with strangers is taking a real chance. You just never know how they will behave while carrying loaded guns while shooting at moving objects on irregular terrain but I had a good vibe. It turns out that they were responsible hunters too. Speck and I helped them bag a quick limit and they were thankful. Bird dogs needs to work as many birds as possible each year to keep them sharp and I love any and all outdoor experiences so it was our pleasure to help them out.

Over the years Scott and I have kept in touch and coordinated the booking of our annual Winamac hunting dates so we have been hunting there together for some time. While neither of us can both make it each day during the short season we always manage to book a few days together. Scott is good people and good with a gun too. He carries a 1940’s vintage Browning Belgian Fabrique 12 ga. It’s a lot like my Sweet Sixteen on steroids.

Yesterday my beloved Browning Sweet Sixteen jammed toward the end of the hunt. My Browning 12ga. pump was at the gunsmith getting tuned up for waterfowl season since it had been jamming in the past. For one rare day in my life the name Browning was being cursed bigtime! I own other shotguns but none suitable to hunt pheasant with.

When I arrived home yesterday the gunsmith had called and left a message that my Browning 12 ga. BPS was ready to go. Excellent timing!!! Today we took it along. A 30” barrel with full choke is a bit much for upland game so I screwed in the modified choke tube and waited on my shots. I wanted some meat to take home and any close shots could result in wild poultry hamburger loaded with lead along with unwanted guts and feathers attached so I had to let the birds get down range a bit before I shot. It worked out just fine.

I want to say a few final words about this year’s experience hunting the publicly owned Winamac Fish and Wildlife Area.


We have hunted Winamac for over 12 years. Most deer hunters, bird hunters and their dogs we have met are just like me and Speck. All we ask for is a convenient, local, pleasant, traditional outdoor experience in a place that holds wildlife and we’re willing to pay for it. Today we saw two deer dart across our path in close range. It was breathtaking to see this happen in a wild environment instead of watching in horror while driving my SUV going 60mph on the highway.

Other hunters we met today told of seeing woodcock and quail too. Rarely do we encounter ass-hat hunters at Winamac. It’s a real brotherhood of friends.

Wouldn’t it be great if organizations such as Gre*npeace, for instance, would spend their money and efforts to propagate wildlife and preserve more wild habitat instead of disrupting commerce and harassing the hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts? It would give them some credibility as a true environmental organization in the eyes of many more potential donors. Instead, they prefer to be confrontational with an agenda that is much more political than environmental.

Winamac and other public wildlife areas exist because hunters and fishermen pay to support them. Gre*npeace and the other environmental wacko groups won’t see one cent from me, or others who hunt and fish. We number in the millions and we’re quick to part with a buck when it comes to propagating wildlife and preserving wildlife habitat.

We’re concerned environmentalists too! Can’t we all just get along?

CTA At Work... Not



On Saturday morning I was out meeting some friends for lunch and we walked by Bed Bath and Beyond to pick up a housewarming gift. Out front of the building at State and Grand was a CTA truck parked halfway up on the sidewalk, with its usual lack of respect for the city or pedestrians.

And why barge up on the curb and park your truck? To take a nap, of course. This hard at work CTA employee was sleeping on the bench in the Bed Bath and Beyond lobby... it wasn't just a quick nap, either - he was down there when we went upstairs, selected our gift, paid for it, and came back down. In this picture you can see the reflection of his truck on the corner - usually the glare from store glass hurts the photo but in this rare case it worked in my favor.

Cross Posted at Chicago Boyz

Another Limit at Winamac


We hit Winamac again Friday (11-23) and another great hunt was had by all. It only took thirty minutes to bag our six-bird limit thanks to another outstanding performance by Speck. Take a look at the 3" of Indiana lake effect Gorebal warming in the back of Scott's pickup truck from Thanksgiving day. He lives just south of New Buffalo MI on the Indiana side. It snowed all morning in Valpo but to the east of us there was a lot more accumulation.

Speck was injured after last Sundays hunt. Her paw was bleeding and she had a few ticks but did not appear to be hurt. On Monday she walked with a gimp and spent most of the day on her couch. We had another hunt booked for Wednesday but she was still favoring the paw so we stayed home.

Yesterday my brother Terry, friend Scott, Speck and I left the parking lot of area 9 at Winamac at the 9 am (eastern) trigger time. Area 9 is my favorite spot. It has a good variety of fields, woods and some hills. Since the Indiana DNR now uses online registration for these hunts instead of first-come-first-served at the check in shack the regulars dribble in after the 9am start time. We had the whole damn place all to ourselves. Nice. Speck’s first point was on an injured hen from the day before. We let her be. The coyotes need to eat too. Moving on she pointed up a nice rooster and it flew in such a way that nobody had a clean shot through the woods.

This bird cackled a lot after it landed so we headed in that direction. As we approached more birds were cackling in the same area. When we got there we stumbled into a pheasant convention. Speck pointed one, flushed it and Terry got it with one shot. As he was loading the kill into his vest Speck pointed up another rooster and both Scott and I shot. Done! As I was putting this one in my vest Speck pointed another that Scott blasted. Then another, and another and another.

On the fifth bird my Browning Sweet 16 jammed. This never happened before with this gun so I decided to take photos of Speck pointing instead of screwing around with the gun in the field. The others would shoot the last bird. It would be a hen. Here's Speck pointing the hen, which is hard to spot in the photo.


Here is the same photo digitally enhanced and enlarged. Hens are very well camo’ed and hard to spot anyway. You can barely make out the eye and beak.


All that activity happened within thirty minutes. We headed back to the lot. A fabulous hunt on a very nice late autumn day.

One more hunt is reserved for tomorrow and my Winamac season will be over. Next stop, Jacksonville Illinois where I plan on waterfowling with my old friend Nestor. He has access to some of the best blinds on the Illinois river flyway and more decoys than you can shake a stick at.

Oklahoma, Part Four

Here is part one, two, and three.

As I got further into the Oklahoma University campus, things looked familiar, even though I had never been there. I started dusting off memories in the ol' cranium that hadn't seen the light of day in a long time. I remembered myself in my late teens with backpack, shorts and a t-shirt tromping across the U of I campus, learning not only facts and figures, but about life. Relationships. Socializing.

One constant at the U of I quad was what we called Bible thumpers. They would set up shop and usually start accosting people as they walked by, calling the women whores if they weren't dressed like Puritans, and telling the guys that they were going to hell for a variety of reasons. They usually got a "fuck off" from most people (including myself).

Eventually a crowd would gather and start asking the preacher questions and making arguments.

Some things haven't changed on college campuses from the time I went to school 20 years ago.
video

Friday, November 23, 2007

Oklahoma, Part Three

Part one is here, part two is here. Click any photo for larger.

I was starting to get concerned after hoofing it for a long way that I wasn't on the right path to get to my ultimate goal which was the Oklahoma football stadium. This building and surroundings look very college like, but I still wasn't sure I was going the right way.
But then the debris field, sadly, began expanding. When I started to see an ever increasing amount of garbage on the ground, especially the beer cans, I knew I was on the correct path to the stadium. I knew that just two days ago there had been a game there (against Texas A and M). My sense was correct, as you will see in the next few parts of this series.
This shot is on campus, and I was there during a full in session school day. The fringes of the OU campus were not remarkable in any way.
But the central campus itself was absolutely stunning.
There were beautiful flowers everywhere on their "quad", or what I would call a quad. I kept walking and walking and the place just sparkled. No garbage, beautiful trees and flowers everywhere. Quite a different place than the U of I, which was basically a concrete slab. Many more photos and much more to come on the OU campus.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Valuing Your "Stuff"... Near Zero

One trend in housing is the ever-increasing size of the average American house. A drive through any city or suburb will show that new houses are growing larger, right up to the lot lines, and buyers perceive total square feet to be an important amenity. If you took the typical suburban family and put them in the house that they originally grew up in they'd generally shudder - only one bathroom for all those people, sharing a bedroom, and hardly any closets! Closets are viewed as a key amenity, with the ability to store racks and racks of shoes and clothes for all seasons is a virtual requirement.

In parallel with this is the growth in off site storage. When I was growing up it seemed that few people I knew had off site storage, but it seems much more prevalent today. Storage for furniture, hobbies, collectibles and everything else that people can't bear to throw out.

While houses are getting larger and in particular storage elements & off-site storage is a growth industry, a different trend is going the OTHER way. Deflation, or chronic price reduction, is occurring with most of the "stuff" that people are storing.


Here is one example - my new "blog" camera with a small footprint (it is pretty slim although the lends does pop out when you turn it on) was only $212 and it has 7 megapixels and a bunch of cool features, like when you tilt the camera 90 degrees the photos switch from landscape to portrait in "view" mode. This camera blows the doors off previous digital cameras that I paid over 600 dollars for just a few years ago.Fry's, the gargantuan electronics store, has its post-Thanksgiving sale on Friday, and I can hardly believe how cheap everything is. For example:
  • A Sony 7.2 Megapixel digital camera for $77
  • A 32" LDC HDTV for $377
  • A camcorder for $157
  • A Samsung 800-watt DVD Home theater system with DVD player, stereo, and surround sound speakers, for $219
  • A 700 watt microwave for $19
  • A cordless phone system with an answering machine and four remote handsets for $79
Where does this all lead? Well it leads to this...


"Get a phone for less than you paid for this paper" (which is $2, I think at the news stand).

When you are justifying that big mortgage don't justify it by the requirement to store all of your stuff... you'd be better off just throwing most of it out and buying new stuff, at least from a financial perspective. The cost growth has been in services, taxes, land and commodities, not hard goods.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

THE BEST TURKEY OF ALL!

This year we will be host to over twenty guests for Thanksgiving. We have had up to thirty-five guests in the past but the Lord has taken a few. We take time to pray for them and remember them all and not just on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving always gets my culinary juices flowing. Since we need a lot of bird to feed the crowd it has been my intent to offer up three types of turkey for all to enjoy, being a pro-choice kinda’ guy and all.

We oven roast one bird that is currently sitting in a brine solution over night. Brining allows the flesh to absorb moisture and retain it while cooking. Oven roast is what most folks will cook tomorrow but many are not yet hip to brining. I pity the fools.

A cousin brings one turkey to the table that he smokes in his homemade cold slow smoker the day before. It is as different as it is delicious.

But the hit of the party is always the deep fried turkey. There are never any fried turkey leftovers and that’s OK with me. Before frying I inject a spiced butter mixture into the bird. I also dust it generously with a Cajun spice rub inside and out

.
Deep frying is very dangerous. Safety precautions must be taken. I happen to own an authentic asbestos lined NASCAR approved chef’s jacket for occasions like this.


Here is what a perfect deep fried bird should look like. BTW, these photos are from last year when it was sunny and in the upper sixties.


I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to Dan, Carl and all the readers of LITGM.

All the best to you and yours. May God bless you all!

Happy Thanksgiving

Give thanks for all we have this holiday.

We are thankful to you, the reader, for sharing your time with us.

From the writers here at LITGM, Carl, Gerry, and Dan.

Giving Thanks

Click photo for larger.

Tomorrow is the day we give thanks, but today I give thanks for...beer! My friend Astro lost a bet to me on the football blog (as usual) and decided instead of packaging the winnings himself and sending them to me from the local post, to use a company called Liquid Solutions. He customized a twelve pack for me. You can see the professional packing job below.
And what a twelver! This receipt is nice so I can take some notes on each one. I plan on reviewing them after they are all gone, which will probably be after Sunday. Good god I simply can't wait. Thanks Astro!
Hopefully Astro could drop in a comment or two that would tell us the cost and how long it took to ship the order so others may use the service.

Oklahoma, Part Two

Part one is here, click any photo for larger.

I arrived in Norman after about a 30 minute cab ride from the Oklahoma City airport. I stayed at the Sooner Legends Inn and Suites. I was dreading the worst as it was $69 per night, but was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the accomodations. I guess your buck goes further in OK than it does here. I heard that the hotel used to be a Holiday Inn and that it got renevated a few years ago. I believe the owners have connections at the University of Oklahoma, as they employed football players at the facility. It really is amazing how big football players are up close.

The hotel was Sooner stuff from top to bottom, inside and out. It was done very well. All through the hallways there were photos of Sooners from days gone by. Carl will like this photo in particular - "Adrian (Petersen) is better than Cedric (Benson). Always was, still is.
I had a half day to myself and decided to take a walk to the campus. I pointed myself in what I thought was the right direction and started to hoof it. On the way I spotted this business. I love companies whose names describe exactly what they do for a living.
From this photo below you can see that Norman could be pretty much anyplace, USA. If you didn't know where I was when I took this shot it would be pretty tough to guess where the photo was taken.
Of course, there was the ever present Sooner merchandise stores. I like this dilapidated Sooner Schooner.
This store was a few blocks down from the Sooner Schooner. I still don't understand the pig on top with the OU symbol painted on it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

3 Years Old

Well, this blog is officially three years old today. 1,856 posts and countless photos, videos, and words. I would like to thank all of the readers, and also the other contributors here, Carl and Gerry. This place is a lot of fun for me and I hope to continue the high quality blogging here in the future.