Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quote of the Week

This from a comment thread over at Althouse today, written by one "Simon":
Lookit, just because someone has a right to believe something unbelievably uneducated that flies in the face of physical laws doesn't mean that they deserve the dignity of being treated like their loony idea is worth taking seriously enough to debate. That's something these 9/11 "truth" folks - as, with unbearable arrogance, they term themselves - need to realize. They're like flat earthers demanding that intelligent people meet them on the field of debate - or the High School football team from nowhere, KS, who demand that the New England Patriots are clearly an inferior football team since they won't come out to Kansas to prove that they're better (bold mine).

More on this at ChicagoBoyz.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Smoked Ham Hock Hominy Stew

Recipes that fascinate me the most are ones that not only taste good, but are cheap, and provide lots of food. This recipe fits all three criteria perfectly.

I found it over on Epicurious, a site that hosts tons and tons of recipes. Here is the recipe if you want it.

I was inspired to cook something with ham hocks since Steve H. was talking about it the other day. Before this dish, I don't think I have ever had a ham hock, at least not knowingly (how bad could it be, it is part of a pig for goodness sake!). For that matter, I had never had hominy either. I tasted some right out of the can, not too good. But when it was cooked up in this dish, WOW I will definitely have it again. Here is what you need:

2 tbsp oil
1 large onion
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
.5 tsp crushed red pepper
2 pounds smoked ham hocks
2 - 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
1 - 14.5 oz can stewed sliced tomatoes
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 - 15 oz cans golden hominy, drained

All you do is heat the oil, and sweat the onions down with the cumin, thyme, bay leaf and red pepper for five minutes. Then toss in the ham hocks, broth, tomatoes, and garlic. Here is what you have at this point, click to enlarge:
You will notice that the liquid doesn't cover the ham hocks. It didn't matter, I just turned them a few times in the cooking process - you simmer the works for 1.5 hours. I wish we had smell-o-vision, what a wonderful batch of aromas. At the end you take out the ham hocks and strip them of their meat, and throw the meat back into the pot, along with the hominy. Simmer for another 15 minutes and you are done. Now you have this:
Note how far down the liquid level has reduced - the flavors in that pot are extremely intense, with the spices mixing with the broth, pork fat, and everything else. The hominy sucked up a lot of the moisture as well, creating a perfect stew.

The total cost of this dish was about $7 - $3.50 for the smoked ham hocks, and a few bucks for the hominy and tomatoes, a buck for an onion and that is pretty much it. The spices I already had in the cabinet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Changes In the Middle East

One day I was sitting with a few friends of Indian / Pakistani origin at lunch. We were making random small talk and someone (not from the region) brought up Gandhi.

Now to those in the West, Gandhi is a noble figure who sought change without violence. If you asked 100 random people on the street in Chicago what they thought of Gandhi you'd probably hear 100 positive comments, much of them from Ben Kingsley's portrayal in the iconic movie. You wouldn't think that to bring up Gandhi would be to invite controversy any more than it would be to talk about your golf game the previous weekend.

However, in this crowd, Gandhi was a hot topic. It broke out instantly between the individuals of Indian (Hindu, although there are many Muslims and other ethnicities in India) and the Pakistanis and the Sikhs. Apparently Gandhi is viewed very divisively (by some people) for "allowing" the country to break up and how the partition was handled, along with the resulting chaos that followed, in 1947-8. See this wikipedia entry for a summary.

While India and Pakistan split into two countries, ultimately "East" Pakistan became a separate country, Bangladesh, while "West" Pakistan is the Pakistan we know today. This second split occurred in 1971.

In some ways I see parallels in the recent events in Gaza with the 1971 split of Bangladesh into a separate country. Gaza is now "governed" by Hamas and the West Bank is governed (a bit better) by Abbas and the remains of the PLO (or whatever they call themselves now). These two pieces of land (I hesitate to call them countries, but some would) are geographically separate and have little direct contact.

Hamas in Gaza recently breached the wall with Egypt, allowing their residents to go into Egypt in search of food and fuel, as well as (likely) to try to escape that impoverished, war-ravaged, and poorly governed land which is virtually in the grip of a civil war between rival gunmen for or against Hamas. Egypt reacted with alarm, since they have many problems of their own without being flooded with poor and radicalized Palestinians eager to push them into bad relations (and possibly war, if they had their way) with Israel.

It is interesting to see how Egypt has treated the Gaza strip over the years, and also the difficulties between the Palestinians on the West Bank and their watchful neighbor Jordan. Apparently it is easy to say that you are in favor of the Palestinian cause, but less fun to have these individuals amongst your populace (see "Black September").

Whatever you may think about the region, this split between the West Bank and Gaza will likely have unknown repercussions just like the split between Pakistan and Bangladesh did in that part of the world.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

IF YOU LOVE CHILI Please Pay Attention...

You must try this recipe if you love chili. WOW! I made it tonight and it just blew me away.

I once considered myself a chili God in my own mind. Admit it, there are a lot of chili recipes and experts out there. They hold intimidating competitions and if you watch The Food or Travel Channels they make you feel as if your personal culinary concoction, taste and effort is not worth half-a-shit and you are less than a man. Bobby Freaking Flay, I challenge YOU to a Chili "Throw Down" whatever the hell that means. And IF you piss me off I will kick your pasty-white freckled ass all the way back to Manhattan. Tonight, I claim to be the new chili king of all time. But I had some help.

One day in the mail a new magazine arrived. It was a trial issue and contained all of the usual solicitation cards and stuff. It had color photos and a format that suggested “retro” in color and design. Once I took a close look it was published by…Chris Kimball, the editor of Cook’s Illustrated. This publication is very different from Cook’s. The recipes featured are quick ‘n’ easy and don’t take a lot of work. They are filling a food void for the home kitchen and I am sure this publication will be another hit. It’s called “Cook’s Country”. Here is one recipe that really caught my eye.

It’s not as if I discovered some new secret to chili heaven. I have about five different chili recipes but rely on two of them to make me really happy. One is a chemistry experiment and the other is a Greek recipe made famous in Cincinnati. I wrote about it a while back and the response here on the blog was a huge snore.

I am a huge fan and subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. They also produce “America’s Test Kitchen” a television show broadcast on PBS. It’s shown locally in the Chicago area at 2pm on Saturdays. Check your local listings.

I rarely miss a show especially during the winter months. It’s THE Consumer Report for those of us who love to cook. They publish the magazine in two colors, black and white. No color photography at all probably because they want to remain impartial. No ads either. They test recipes and cooking tools well before publishing and recommending a winner. They take the guesswork and experimentation out of cooking great food at home. I have followed many of their recipes and have never been disappointed.


OK, get ready for some kick-ass chili. First, gather all ingredients and start the prep. If you want to save time, having everything ready sure beats wasting time fumbling around for stuff.

What attracted me to this recipe were the words, "First, chop and cook some bacon". As Emeril would say, "PORK FAT RULES. BAM!" Here is some pork fat rendering in all it's lusciousness. I usually gather the ingredients ahead of time in order to expedite my humble religious sacrifices to the Gods of the Scoville scale. Let's get it started, uh huh. First chop the bacon and render the fat. Oh, the humanity of it all!

Now toss in the cubed chuck. Just like this...

When the meat is ready combine all ingredients and draw the fire down to a low simmer.

Serve with fresh onions and the grated cheese of your choice. I was too busy eating this stuff to finish the post with a final photo. Sorry. Maybe next time.

Here is my final review.

-This Chili had tons of flavor
-It was a bit thin, could have used another hour or so of reduction
-The spicing was perfect.
-Tomorrow I will re-evaluate the flavor and texture because chili always tastes better the next day
-I will try a bowl with macaroni and cheese, just for chili-mac shits and giggles

Podcast #7

Above is my Blue Snowball mic. The best thing to hit podcasting since people hosting them for free.

Annie inspired me to do a podcast, which seems to be an annual event now. I was doing about one a month when I started, but the last one I did was March 2007, and the one before that was a year previous. Oh well, time flies. This time I do an epitaph on the Bears terrible season and look forward to next year, and take a look at the Brew Crew. Also I talk about the cougar in Southern Wisconsin, do a segment on jerky and one about the Big Ten Network. I have a random segment as well. I even have a guest appearance by the Chicago Symphony and chroal group.

Of course I will mix some tunage in there for good measure. 50 minutes of podcasty goodness here, along with all of my other podcasts. You can listen from the page or download for later. This is my longest and best podcast to date.

Warning - I am a little more liberal than usual with the bad language so maybe not one for the kiddies.

Added: There are apparently issues with downloading the mp3 of the podcast if quicktime is your default media player. Here is a link to the solution to that.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I was walking through a mall recently when I saw a sign that used to be quite common but is now rather rare. They were closing the store to take "inventory" overnight, and the store was scheduled to re-open in the morning.

As an accountant, the word "inventory" immediately perks me up. Way back when I started in accounting, computers were in use for a variety of purposes, such as plant accounting and financial reporting, but they hadn't really penetrated inventory at retail. Why? Because computing power was expensive, and they didn't have a solid methodology for tracking individual items (i.e. the bar code sticker and reader).

There are two main ways of tracking inventory: 1) periodic 2) perpetual. Under the periodic inventory methodology, you started with a balance by product (i.e. we have 10 pairs of jeans at this certain size) and when you conducted an inventory and found 6 pairs of jeans in the store, then you'd know that you'd sold 4 pairs. There are a few "classic" inventory methods, being "FIFO" (first in, first out) and "LIFO" (last in, first out) that are used for valuing the items that have been sold.

This perpetual methodology is more of the "stone age" method; in the last decade or so, point of sale (POS) machines are now ubiquitous and do a pretty good job of tracking inventory as you go along; in this case your system might have 5 or 7 pairs listed, and when you found 6 pairs via a physical inventory, the remaining 1 pair difference would be charged to costs of goods sold. The real usage is to true-up the perpetual inventory to what is really on-hand; the difference is often caused by "shrinkage" or theft / shoplifting in the real world.

The perpetual or real-time inventory has pretty much taken over everywhere except where inventory is consumed without passing through a formal "check"; for example, if you have a pile of coal outside your power plant and you burn this coal, there isn't really a formal inventory check as you load up the coal, rather you periodically take inventory of the pile and then apply various valuation methodologies to determine how you determine the cost of what has been burned as well as the cost of what remains.

I remember when I was a budding or basically inexperienced accountant and they sent me to Michigan for an annual inventory at a phone company. I arrived on new years' eve and when I came in, pretty much everyone stopped what they were doing in mid-action like some sort of cartoon when someone said "the auditor is here". I paused for a minute and then just said "go back to what you are doing" since I had no idea of what I should actually be doing there. In general, people assume that just because you have a CPA you know what is going on, but when you first graduate from college as a CPA you don't really know much of anything; most everything is learned on the job. This is particularly true of tax accountants; once you say you are a CPA people ask you tax questions but often the tax information that a CPA knows is too general to be of use to the layman (unless they specialize in taxation, of course).

Inventory control is absolutely critical to running a retail operation; you need to determine what items are sitting idly taking up valuable shelf space and which items are "flying off the shelves". Wal-mart revolutionized the industry by using vast data warehouses to allow the vendors to manage the inventory themselves; they could see what was being sold in which location and then they could re-order the goods themselves to ensure that the shelves were always full.

I don't know if this Calvin Klein outlet store just has a crappy inventory control system, lots of shrinkage, or this is just a periodic check of their systems, but I rarely see signs like this anymore. Ah, memories of being an accountant...

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bulls Entertainment

It has been a dismal year for basketball in Chicago and Illinois this year. Tonight I went to the Bulls game vs. the Bobcats which gave me a moment to reflect on how far we have sunk.

Last year the Bulls started slow but had a huge surge to compete with Cleveland and Detroit in their division. They had an historic collapse against the Pistons in the playoffs in a game they were leading but came back to win before finally losing the 2nd round series.

The Bulls were supposed to have a big 2007-8 season... another year under the belt of Hinrich, Deng and Gordon and the Bulls were going to make a run against the Pistons for the conference title. But something went awry; even before the injuries to Deng and Gordon the Bulls were listless and routinely losing, looking slow with bad defense. Even firing Scott Skiles during the holiday season didn't do much to revive these Bulls. And to think that at one point they were thinking that this team didn't NEED Kobe Bryant to compete... yes why would a team that can't score at all need the leading scorer in the NBA.

To top it off the Illini basketball team is terrible. About the only thing I can hope for is that this bad year allows Weber to shut up so that his throat can heal; he has that terrible, scratchy voice that makes you hurt just listening to it. It seems so long ago that the Illini basketball team had players like Deron Williams, a huge comeback vs. Arizona, and took NC to the title game.

The photo above of the Bulls Tyrus Thomas just standing around says it all... losing to the Bobcats is the stuff of a dismal season.
But at least the Bulls have some decent entertainment. This guy does a one-man Village People show that is amazingly good; they dance, moonwalk, and sing. He is definitely doing something right; he doesn't have to split his check five ways; he can float the fake cowboy and cop. In a way he is the Jack White of entertaining (just pay Meg White her hourly rate for morbid drum beats and the rest is yours).

One last semi-random note; I remember being a kid and going to Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors and they had an ice cream tie-in to the horrendous movie "Can't stop the music" by the Village People; it was called "Can't Stop the Nuts". The double-entendre references in that ice cream crack me up to this date.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

River North Sunrise

After getting some encouraging comments on my River North photos I decided to push my luck and put some more photos up. We had a beautiful sunrise recently on a clear (cold) day and I took a couple of good photos right out my window. There is a ledge above the pain and I just set the camera on the ledge (no flash) and I had remarkably little glare in return from the window. This is a lot easier than standing out on my windswept porch, and the angles are better, too. Up above you can see the Hancock on the far left and the Rock N' Roll McDonalds in front.

This photo looks further south with the same sunrise. You can see the Trump building under construction to the right, behind the iconic IBM building.

Temperatures Going Down To -2 Tonight

Last night it was -4. It's January, so what's new? I look forward to this heat wave tonight.

Valparaiso got a few inches of lake effect snow last night but not much, just enough to add to the salty slop on the roads already turning my dark green Jeep Wrangler into a white frosted rust enabler. On top of the 5-6” already down it’s not unusual for this time of year. East of here near South Bend they got whacked with 8-10” in the last 24 hrs. Better them than us.

I have been going into the city a lot lately to work. One company wants me working on-site and the only problem I have with that is commuting in weather like this. Guess I am turning into a weather wimp in my older age. My claim for years has been that there is no such thing as cold weather, just bad apparel. Thank you, Cabela’s.

It is rare for me to come home and start a fire on a weeknight after working on location all day. But tonight I needed it for warmth, reflection, relaxation and atmosphere. It is my way of making the best of the hazards living in an area of the country with variable seasonal climate anomalies. Tonight I just needed it. It feels good too.

I have made it no secret here on the blog that the widespresd hustle known as man made climate change (Gorebal Warming) provides me with amusement and fear at the same time. Amusement because the “Warmists” have sub-zero credibility with me. All you need to do is look at who is behind the effort and follow the money. It scares me because a large segment of the population is buying into this "Man-Made Warming" scam, fueled by the non-stop agenda-driven mainstream media propaganda. People are bad for the planet, you know?

Yesterday a published web article got my attention. Too bad that facts and common sense like this does not get the attention it deserves. The piece was written by someone who knows a bit about physics and provides solid facts to debunk the Warmist nutbags. Check it out here:

By Monday a typical January thaw will bring us up to predicted 50 degree temperatures locally. So I have no ambition to clear the concrete of snow this weekend. And that is my convenient truth.

Random Musings on Movies & Economics

There is a viral campaign for the movie Cloverfield. This movie has been getting a lot of press for its hand-held camera style and guerrilla look modeled after "Blair Witch Project", except with a bunch of special effects for the monster (they spent more money - Blair Witch was almost filmed for free).

The economics of Cloverfield will prove bountiful for the producers on a couple of categories 1) they used all unknown actors 2) they cut the movie running-time down to about 90 minutes. How did they cut down the movie running time? They eliminated almost all of the background on the characters and narration type activities (i.e. the scientist in the white coat speculating about where the monster comes from).

A lot of the film critics are irked by the fact that the movie just jumps right into everything and doesn't bother with classic movie elements like back story. However, the writers knew exactly what they were doing - the kids who go to the movie absolutely don't care about any of this and just want a thrill ride, which is exactly what the movie supposedly delivers (I haven't seen it, so can only speculate).

Filming a short movie just has to be cheaper than filming a longer movie. There are fewer shots, less special effects, and less to edit and anguish over. Of course you could have an expensive short movie and a cheap long movie; but the point is, everything else being equal, a shorter movie probably is less money.

The fact that the actors are unknown probably helps the urgency of the movie; I remember watching "The Bourne Identity" while the star (don't want the traffic, you know who I mean) goes through customs and skulks around undetected while all I can think of is "I can't believe no one is recognizing this movie star!" But if you are an unknown and this is a home camera movie, it makes a bit more sense.

From the movie theater OWNER perspectives, shorter movies HAVE to be more profitable than longer movies (unless you get something like Titanic). The owner is paid by the movie; a shorter movie obviously allows you to pack more showings into the day than a longer movie. In addition, the high-profit popcorn and drinks are probably not purchased as a function of time; they are purchased as a function of entering the movie (people don't usually leave mid-movie to fuel up on more snacks; they buy them walking in).

Finally, I recently watched Chinatown, the classic. The movie has a lot of interesting elements and I like the period LA decor. The traditional view of this movie is that the greedy developer ruins everything; but really (to the extent that it is true) it is the story of a visionary that brought water to the valley and extended the residential footprint of LA. It is confusing to me why orange groves (non-native) are "pure and good" but diverting water for residents is "evil and bad". As I note here water is usually drastically mis priced when used for agriculture, and city dwellers will actually use water more effectively than farmers because they are charged a market-based per unit fee.

Since the villain is a businessman he has to be the most vile man around; in this case he has an incestuous relationship with his daughter (when she was 15) resulting in the birth of his granddaughter (and kills his business partner). I was scratching my head thinking why in the heck this is in the movie and then it hits me; the director Roman Polanski was going after underage girls and he just figures if he is doing it, everyone's doing it (see Dan's post on him here). Note that Roman has a cameo in the movie as the guy who puts his knife in Jack's nose and cuts it as a warning to stay away from his investigations; too bad he never received like treatment in return.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wildlife Comeback

My blogmate Gerry is the hunter of this blog and I am sure gets into the great outdoors more than me, especially around hunting season. I do my fair share of getting outside though during the warm months. I enjoy beach vacations and bike riding. The bike riding here is absolutely great. As a matter of fact, I spend as much time as I possibly can outside in the summer just because our winters are so harsh here (gorebal warming and all that). This winter we already have more snow than most average winters and super cold temps to boot. The low tonight will be MINUS 11 degrees. If you have never stepped outside during that type of cold, it is insane. Your lungs literally hurt when you take in air that cold. Also, the moisture in your nose freezes instantly, and you have little icicles in your snout. Fun stuff to be sure.

I am going to go out on a limb here and give you some anecdotal observations I have had over the past year. I would have to say that wildlife in general is making a comeback. I make this observation based on my time outside and a couple of articles I have read. Riding on bike paths and rural roads also gives me opportunities to see a lot of land.

I was scared sh*tless last year when I was riding on a bike path at the crack of dawn (I start early on my long rides) and a huge buck was standing right on the path, sizing me up. Thank god he didn't charge me or I would have been toast. As he would be tearing my a** up with his huge rack I would have been able to scream and strike him with my tire pump or kick him with my clip-in shoes. Maybe spray him with some water from my bottles. Anyway, the point I am making is that I see deer all the time, everywhere; I see them on bike paths, in fields, in the city, all over the place. Car deer accidents are up bigtime. When we had heavy rains, I saw a couple deer in my parking lot here at work - I assume the water displaced them from their home (which, obviously couldn't be far from where I work - which is an industrial park). Just the other day I saw a carcass on the busiest highway in Madison, the Beltline.

Over the past year I have also seen an astoundingly high number and great variety of birds. We put up a couple of bird feeders at my house last year and I was stunned to see almost immediately the amount and different types of birds they drew (and b*stard squirrels, but that problem was taken care of courtesy of Gamo). I think I like the goldfinch the best.

Just looking around my neighborhood last year saw many animals I haven't seen in person in years. I live in a mature wooded subdivision, that abuts farmland on one side. I have lived there for almost 8 years, but last year for some reason I saw some new types of animals on top of deer. I saw turkeys (in my back yard, no less) a red fox, opossum, raccoons, and the usual assortment of chipmunks, mice, rats, and squirrels. On top of this, I have seen snakes and the highlight of last year was when I actually saw a coyote sauntering across the road.

There isn't a ton of development going on where I live - these aren't displaced animals wandering around my house and the surrounding communities, they are new. Or at least new to me.

Today this story comes out. Looks like there have been some possible cougar sightings in Southern Wisconsin. That is awesome! According to the article the North American Cougar hasn't been seen in these parts since 1908. I bet up north where there is still logging going on there are some of them in the woods.

So, in total, from my perspective, it seems that the animals are staging some sort of comeback, and I think it is awesome. I really don't want to see any cougars on the bike paths though.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Downtown Chicago views

There has been a great full moon lately. I actually dusted out the tripod for this shot of the moon over River North.
This shot was taken on one of the very cold nights recently looking at the Sears Tower and the newly christened Chase building (formerly Bank One).
Here is a view looking down on Navy Pier, lit up for the winter.

This is a photo of the Spire under construction (the new 150 story high rise being built in Chicago). You can see part of the site where the cranes are on the lower left corner of the photo. The Spire's lot is unbelievably small; when we are driving down Illinois avenue towards Lake Shore Drive during the trip to the Bears game I point out the tiny site and people can't believe that a 150 story building is going there. Check out the site for the Spire and then click on "panorama" to see the view from 140 stories... it is amazingly high up there. You need to see it to really "get" how tall the building is.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Exotic Meat? Hell, I’m Game!

On Saturday night Dan went out to dine at a new Ruth’s Chris in Madison, WI for a prime slab of gastronomic lusciousness. He wrote about it too. I’m jealous.

A tender cut of prime beef gets no argument from me. Nope. I have had lunch at the Ruth’s Chris location just north of the river in downtown Chicago a few times. They do something to that steak before they serve it that gives it a very unique flavor I have not noticed at any other prime steakhouse. Everyone should try it. My bar on steaks is set quite high and Ruth’s cooks one of the finest.

At about the same time Dan was feasting on prime beef last Saturday night a cousin of mine was hosting a wild game dinner in Highland, Indiana. Our get-together was a far cry from the luxurious ambience of a Ruth’s Chris as you can get. Picture a cinder block unfinished basement with a vintage 10’ mahogany slate bed snooker table with leather net pockets as the main point-of-interest on a concrete floor in a home more than 40 years old. Stereotypical Indiana living at it’s best I tells ‘ya.

In the past I have made it well known that hunting and fishing are traditional, wholesome outdoor activities that are a passion of mine since I was a ten-year old brat. Not only do these activities provide a pleasant way for me to enjoy the outdoors and relax during free time, the real reward is to cook and eat my final results. This is food you cannot find at the local grocery or megamart. PE*A extremists be damned!

My cousin, Dr. Bob is about eight years older than me. He is a dentist. Being a part of our Polish–American family (love using that hyphenated ethnic reference, how liberal of me) he and the others also love to hunt and fish.

Ever notice how dentists seem to have a six-foot marlin, sailfish or other stuffed wildlife hanging in the waiting room? Dentists for some reason have a unique connection with outdoor activities other than golf, which most healthcare professionals seem to prefer.

SIDEBAR: Greg Knowles is a writer who has published his adventures and fishing experiences in Northwestern Ontario with his dentist buddy, Doc. It’s a very funny book with stories I can personally relate to since I have fished those same waters for years. The appropriate comic illustrations in the book are done by (who knew?), another dentist dude. Check it out at:

Dr. Bob and his brother Butch were always known as passionate fishermen and when hunting their game of choice was rabbits. Rabbit is a meal I had not enjoyed for a decade or more. When I first heard they were gathering the usual suspects for a wild game dinner I had a feeling that rabbit would be on the menu. They did not disappoint me.

When first contacted about this feast over a month ago no mention was made about the menu items at all. Why ask? Another item I had a feeling would be on the menu was elk. In the past they often spoke of having elk roast on Christmas Eve at their traditional holiday dinner. Yep, My guess was correct. Elk roast was also on the menu. Hot Dayumn!

They served a buffet style choice of:
-Buffalo Chili
-Venison Meatballs
-Braised quail with wild rice
-Elk roast with noodles and gravy
-Braised rabbit

Here is my wild-ass culinary review. Four dots (••••) being excellent

•••Buffalo Chili.
Robust, with a very meaty flavor. Spiced a bit light as I would have kicked it up a notch or two. BAM! Served with onions and cheese it was just the way I liked it.

••Venison Meatballs.
A bit on the dry side but tasty. Venison must be cut with lots of fat be it beef or pork since it is an extremely lean meat. When using venison as ground meat adding fat is a must. Be it meatloaf, sausage or in this case meatballs, venison begs for moisture. Grilling venison steaks or chops over an open flame should be grilled as you would beef, no additional fat enhancements are necessary. These balls needed some juice.

••••Braised Quail with Wild Rice.
This was the best of all. Quail is prized by culinary experts and rightly so. But partridge, especially chukkar partridge, is my personal favorite game bird of all.

•••Elk Roast with Noodles and Gravy.
The roast was a touch overcooked for my taste but surprisingly tender and juicy. If Doc would have taken it out sooner it would have been the hit of the feast. Elk is kind of a cross between venison and buffalo. I could not believe how tender it was.

••••Braised Rabbit.
If you have ever heard the comment “tastes like chicken” it definitely applies to rabbit. Probably because the texture is so much like chicken. The taste has more flavor than chicken as you know it. This was one bunny Elmer Fudd did not miss. What's Up, Doc?...WHAP!

The event was most enjoyable even if I had to travel 25 miles in sub-zero Gorebal Warmth. Doc had a few others over whom I did not know but along with the usual suspects we all had two things in common. We all love hunting and fishing along with the enjoyment of consuming the fruit of nature.

Good friends, good sportsmen and good food. Yes.

This was truly an experience of Life In The Great Midwest!


The Green Bay Peckers lose to the New York Giants in overtime on a Giants field goal as I hit the PUBLISH POST button.

Brent Farve...NO SOUPerbowl FOR YOU!

Ruth's Chris Madison

Last Friday night after a very loooong couple of weeks the wife and I decided it was time for a celebratory steak. A Ruth's Chris just opened here, the only one in Wisconsin. It is a franchise operation owned jointly by Barry Alvarez and an ownership group.

The place is a freaking palace with beautiful stone work and architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, flat panel TV's, posh chairs, and it even has a smoking room. Even the john had a flat panel in it with a game on.

Ruth's Chris is actually in Middleton, a small town just outside of Madison so no smoking ban. Cigar smoking is encouraged in the smoking room, and they have many cigars for sale. In the cigar room there is a lot of Alvarez memorabelia, including championship rings and plaques from his days at Notre Dame, Iowa, and of course, Wisconsin.

I have been to a few other Ruth's Chris places before, in Chicago, Minneapolis, and one other I can't remember where. This one is the most luxurious I have been to by far. Barry and his investment group did it right.

When we walked in, we saw Barry sitting at the bar with a couple of friends. He is very recognizable. My wife and I sat down for some wine and had the carpaccio appetizer - awesome.

Later, we had great steaks and Barry went around to all of the tables to talk with the patrons. He was a genuinely nice guy. We had a good conversation at the table, then talked to him a bit afterward in the bar on our way out. This place is "bigtime" as Barry said. They did a beautiful job and I hope the place lasts. Another high end steak place, Fleming's, just came and went in less than a year. Time will tell.

The only minor nit I have is that the dining room got a bit loud at times. I think that is a Madison thing though, not a design flaw.

I will say this - Alvarez was very nice to us and the place he helped build is awesome. Not a cheap date, but great for a once in a while treat.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Kindness of Others

Click any photo for larger.

A week and a half ago both of my children had a visit to the hospital to have their tonsils and adenoids removed. What a remarkable difference in their breathing! They have healed wonderfully.

When we arrived at the hospital, there were a couple of things waiting for us. Each kid got a new toy, and each kid got a hand made blanket. The blankets were an instant hit and made the kids feel better about all of the machines in the hospital room and the flurry of activity around them with nurses taking vital signs, asking the parents questions, etc.

I thought that the toys and blankets were simply a wonderful gesture. These activities were done by volunteers who donated their time and energies to make my kids feel better - and we were total strangers. The blankets were made through an organization called Project Linus.

From their website, here is the mission of Project Linus:

Project Linus National Headquarters is a non-profit organization with a two-fold mission: First, it is our mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer "blanketeers." Second, it is our mission to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.

An organization can't really do better than that, imho.

As you can see above, the blankets were made by some people at the Tiger's Eye Temple. At first I thought that it was a branch of the Shriners. They are always using crazy names like that for their branches and members. But I looked up the Tigers Eye Temple online. Here is their site. They are pagans. I don't really know much about Paganism, but I think it is people who worship things that are not supreme beings. I read through a lot of their pages on the site, and a lot of it just doesn't compute. Here is the Tiger's Eye Temple mission statement:

Tiger’s Eye Temple exists for the purpose of bringing together people from many different Pagan beliefs. We strive to unify, educate, and serve our Pagan community specifically, as well as the non-Pagan community in general. Our hope is to diminish prejudices against Pagan faiths, ease the discomforts of people in need through our community service, and to strengthen our faith and ties with others of a similar mind. This we will do while building and maintaining a growing Pagan and Pagan-friendly community.

Eh, OK. I looked through their schedule as well and they do things like practicing divination, and study other things that I have absolutely no idea about, or am interested in. To each their own.

They also seem to want to do a lot of things for the needy, and I respect that a lot. I tried to send a thank you email to them for making these blankets for my kids, but the email bounced. Hopefully someday they will google themselves and be pushed to this post. To the Tigers Eye Temple people, thank you very much for volunteering your time. My kids loved these blankets and they still use them at home all the time. The blankets were very comforting - and they are made beautifully to boot!
I will be making a donation to my local chapter of Project Linus in the very near future.

A January Fireside Report

The reason I have not blogged for a while is because my independent small business has been “Much More Better Than Good™”.

IF you listen to the whistle-ass mainstream media blowhards and expert financial media consultants you would think the economy is totally in the dumpster. Not from my perspective. The past three Januarys were dead for me work-wise. But the following months were good enough to reach my yearly goals.

Election cycles can be concocted media harbingers of doom if you give time and attention to that crap. Self fulfilling prophesies so to speak. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

My blogging has been light because I have worked non-stop weekdays and weekends for the past three weeks. Between an on-site daily contract job in Chicago and other client commitments I have been working nights and weekends at home and lucky to get four hours of sleep nightly.

Cha-Ching! Been making hay while the sun shines or not.

I have been busier than a one-legged cat trying to bury a turd on a frozen pond.

Speaking of which, sub zero temperatures are expected here in rural northern Indiana this weekend. Maybe the local small lakes will freeze thick enough and allow me to drill an icy hole or two and do some serious ice fishing for those tasty cold water bass, bluegill and crappie.

With Goerbal Warming being what it is in the past few years our local lakes have become hesitant to freeze thick enough to support my ample weight. In addition I have not seen one Polar Bear for years. Sad, really.

So goodbye Gorebal warming! See ‘ya. Don’t let that door hit your fat fargin’ ass on the way out, Algore!

Until this deep freeze subsides I plan on spending this Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. three-day holiday weekend sitting by my fire, watching the NFL Conference Championship games with a tasty cocktail or ten, cooking some genuine midwestern comfort food and reading books about black history in my spare hour or two.

In addition to all that joy I have at least 30 hours of billable work from home booked for this weekend too.

The best news is I have been billing at least 12 hours a day, every day since January 2nd. Sure hope work dies down in time for the 2008 walleye opener.

WOW, the NFL Playoff games last weekend were some of the best ever! NFL Playoffs sure beat The NBA Finals, The NCAA Final Four and The World Series combined. Except the 2005 World Series when The Chicago White Sox just kicked ass! BTW it has been 100 years since The Chicago Cubbies won a World Series. Heh.

Tomorrow a cousin is hosting a true wild game dinner at his place. I will gladly make time for an event like that! Chomp!

Photos and commentary of the event will follow.

BTW, that ten point trophy buck over my fireplace was shot by my grand dad in northwestern Ontario, Canada during the early 50's. One day I will get my own. The photo on the right of the mantle is of my father-in-law's B-17 crew. They killed more Nazi's than they could count and lived to tell about it. True American heroes they were. One day in the future I will scan and post that photo as a tribute.

Stay warm!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matt Dahl's Podcast

One of the wonders of the internet is the relatively large reach of our semi-obscure blog. For xmas I bought the blog the extended version ($6.95 / month) of the sitemeter tool, which allows us to gather some statistics about who is visiting the blog and what they are doing while they are here.

If you type in "Matt Dahl" in Google my little post here at LITGM jump to the top of the page. We also see a decent amount of "click through" traffic on people looking at Matt Dahl from Google (don't know what they think of the site once they get here, but hey, it's free).

Matt Dahl went off the air when they changed format at 105.9 here in Chicago. Now he is broadcasting from a podcast that you can download from iTunes. Here is a link to his site where you can get the link and latest on the podcast.

Matt Dahl used to broadcast for a couple hours during weeknights in the evenings and then on Saturday morning, when they inevitably seemed pretty hung over (mostly that didn't detract from the show). Now the show broadcasts "live" over the internet at noon every week day (unless he is out snowboarding or at a wedding or something) or you can just download the latest podcast from iTunes (or directly from his site, I just use iTunes because it is easier for me since I am already on and synched up).

It is interesting listening to the show via iPod because even though it is an hour long it is probably about as long as the two hour show without commercials. It is much more fun to listen to the iPod version because the commercials used to jump in and they were deafening and usually directed at the lowest common denominator (not their fault, this was a 105.9 staple). We just hook it up to our tivoli radio (photo) and an hour just flies by, usually while reading the paper, brick breakin', or putting up a blog post. All of his friends are there, including "party girl" and "story time", when he reads the lyrics to some insane rap song to the cheers and "awwwss" of the children.

I hope Matt can find a way to make some money. This blog is free (and sometimes worth that) but us posters at LITGM are not exactly counting on this to pay the mortgage. On the other hand, he is trying to parlay this into a radio gig, and hopefully he gets one. Maybe he could put some advertisements within his show or do some sort of product placement - maybe for the fryer that he uses for "frydaddy friday". Best of luck to Matt...

Lake Geneva

A running joke on the blog is the relatively low quality of my photos and my inability to properly work a camera (or read the manual). This one is a pretty good photo (at least I think) taken from my window in Lake Geneva.

If you are looking for a bed and breakfast anywhere (in North America, at least) I highly recommend Select Registry, a service that certifies inns that meet certain criteria. We stayed at inns recommended in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Kentucky and they all worked out well. You really can't go wrong (based on a sample size of five from my side, at least, which is reasonably large). That's how I found the view up above.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

College Football?

We all know that college football is the best sport ever. I plan on keeping up with cfb news at the football blog. I just wrote a short essay on an interesting development in the Rodriguez case if you are interested. Here is the link.

auf Wiedersehen, and Buon Giorno

Click any photo for larger.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going to give it one last try with my HK USP.45 Compact. I did. I tried the thing with pretty much every type of .45 ammo out there and I still couldn't hit sh1t with it. The compact nature of this gun made it too difficult to handle for me. The muzzle flip was insane and when practicing my double taps or Mozambiques the second shot was hardly ever even on the stupid paper. So goodbye to my first semi-auto pistol. I have nothing against this pistol. The fit and finish and overall quality of the gun are superb, and I never had a failure of any kind with it - I would ballpark that I must have had somewhere in the range of a thousand rounds downrange with it. Try as I might, I just could not get it to work for me. Someone else will no doubt enjoy this pistol.
So while trading it in, I couldn't leave the gun shop without looking at the new semi-autos out there. I held pretty much every single production 9mm in my hand. I decided on the europellet simply because I don't have much experience with it and want to try somthing new. Also I wanted less kick. Lastly, I wanted full sized to cushion the ride some more. So I held, pointed, dry fired, and held some more the current models from Ruger, CZ, Glock, HK, Smith and Wesson, Taurus, and I think a few more. The winner? A model that has been made for decades, the venerable Beretta 92FS.
Millions of these are out there all over the place in the hands of law enforcement and military personnel. This is a design that hasn't changed too much over the years. Preliminary inspection shows a very high quality fit and finish on this pistol. From what I have seen so far I would put it at the top of the heap along with my previously owned HK.
I liked the trigger on this gun a lot. It has a very long, light pull about three quarters of the way, with a heavier pull when you get to the business end of the trigger.
I really liked the night sights as well.
This gun fit the palm of my relatively large hands extremely well. I also like the fact that although Beretta is an Italian company this gun was made in the good 'ol USA.
I have been really busy the past few weeks so haven't been able to do much with it other than take these few photos. I am looking forward to getting to the range soon to put this thing through its paces.

I don't plan on using it as a CCW gun as it is too large and bulky. But then again, the HK was as well. I will get a holster for it though. It will be my doomsday gun, as my HK was. In other words, if we are under attack and I need to get to my family or friends, having it prominently on display on my hip may make someone think twice before they mess with me. And I could still carry it in winter under a heavy coat. But I would never do that because CCW is illegal in Wisconsin, right? Right.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Spices and Wine

Over the holidaze I received two books as gifts. I finally finished the second one yesterday.

The first one I read was The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice. This book is about how cities that gained large shares of the spice trade were able to turn that trade into bigtime wealth, prestige and power. Firstly, the book dives into the tale of Venice, which is by far the most interesting of the three, imho. The author does a good job of describing just what exactly the old maritime empire of Venice did and how they did it to become one of the most powerful middlemen in history. He also does a fine job of describing how folks way back then used spices in their cooking - not an easy task with a small stack of literature to choose from on this topic that is available.

Next, the tales of Lisbon and Amsterdam are told. These, to me were not as interesting as the one about Venice, but still interesting nonetheless. Seems Lisbon did the most with the least, and the story of what is basically the first modern day company, the Dutch East India Company is fascinating.

The book did tend to repeat itself and drag on at times, but not very often. There were a few sentences the book did not need that trashed the good 'ol USA a bit as well. If you can look past these things, you will enjoy this history of the spice trade. It is incredibly interesting to me to see that a lot of what was done almost one thousand years ago is still done today getting things like pepper, ginger, mace, cardamom and other spices from the fields into my spice cabinet. As I have grown older I have for some reason or another needed more spices in my cooking. Not necessarily heat, but spice. This book is a good gift for anyone interested in food, history, or (as in the case of myself) both.

The second book that I just finished is To Cork or Not To Cork. This is literally one of the best books I have read in the last five years that is not a military history book. The author writes extremely well, and that helps the book read fast. He takes the reader through the many sordid tales of woe that wine manufacturers and wineries have with regard to wines that go bad. Some wines are "corked", some are oxidized, others are just flat out dead. Some of these stories make you feel really bad for the wineries - in some cases whole vintages have been discarded or sold off at pennies on the dollar to fortified wine makers all because of a poor closure.

The book takes you through all of the different stoppers on the market such as cork, plastic, screwcaps, combinations, glass, and many more. I had no idea that the market for stoppers is many, many billions per year.

There is a lot of science in this book as well. The author makes it easy for someone who doesn't know a lot about chemistry to understand a lot of the studies and reports that have come out about wine taint, and why it happens and how. I learned a lot about wines, how they are made, and why sometimes they taste "off".

As of the last few years my wife and I have been drinking a couple of bottles of wine per week, usually with dinner. We like to go to a local liquor store and go to their "wall of 10", which is literally a wall of wines that are under $10 per bottle. Since we don't cellar, we buy our wine to drink and it is fun when we find a real gem at that price point. It would be fun someday to take a class on wine appreciation I think.

Anyway, this book about wine closures is excellent and I highly recommend it if you are interested in wine, science or both. Sprinkled in the book are stories about wines ruined by failed stoppers that are also interesting and make the book a little more personal.

I can't recommend "To Cork or Not To Cork" enough.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Strange Diversions

I have never been able to play a musical instrument. I tried a couple times when I was little, like most kids do. I originally wanted to play a flute, of all things, however I had an awful overbite and physically couldn't play the darn thing. I settled on a cornet, and drove my parents crazy with that for a few years. That was pretty much the end of my musical career.

But I have always listened to music, and lots of it. I appreciate just about every type of music, except those types of music that don't take too much talent to create. Like almost all pop music. But I even sometimes enjoy those types of songs as well.

One thing I have always been able to do is separate the different instruments in my head. In other words, if a song is playing, I can isolate the bass, guitar, drums, and vocals if I want, or just listen to the song as a whole. Typically I will "separate" out the drums. I have always loved drums and percussion - but never have laid a stick to a skin.

As I am wont to do during my battles with insomnia, last night I was perusing youtube. I swear there is more to see there than I will ever be able to digest. What a great time waster. Better than TV imho.

I stumbled upon this kickass video:

That is one "Machine Gun" Smith, drumming over Iron Maiden's "The Trooper". I dove a little deeper into Smith and found that he has spent a lot of time doing these types of videos. Here is a link to all of his stuff, check out what he did to a famous Kelly Clarkson song (it is on page 2 of the profile) and don't miss what happens when Charlie Brown meets "Machine Gun" Smith on page one. Awesome.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Those that can't... consult

Periodically I can't resist poking fun at "traditional" journalism, where they take a simple thesis, "humanize" it with an interview of example, and then roll to a simple conclusion. The conclusion is often driven by the all-too linear narrator, who tells a story that is supplanted by corroborating facts.

In the usually-vapid managing your career section in the WSJ (these sections are much less illuminating than their hard-news elements) a recent article was titled "How one executive used a sabbatical to fix his career".

While the article ostensibly showed the linear story of a person who was 1) having a hard time with their career 2) took a sabbatical 3) then performed better, the real story "behind the scenes" was much more interesting. Let's review...

The protagonist is a consultant at Mercer, a company that specializes in human resource consulting. He starts by saying how burned out he was and waking up in a hotel room not knowing where he was after going to three clients in three cities in three days.

This type of totally dysfunctional situation is typical of your major consulting firms. When I worked for one of those firms I once sat next to a partner who called in his itinerary for the week to come; he was going to be in six cities in six days, covering the whole country east to west coast with a stop in Mexico. This schedule was so impossible that once he completed his over one hour call to the office to put this in motion, the admin actually told him that he was insane to plan such a week. I wasn't surprised because every time he showed up to my job site he was a distracted zombie; no one can actually add value when they spend 90% of their time travelling and the rest trying to find a Starbucks. Of course, this didn't stop him from charging an extortionate hourly rate (over $700 / hr, although we didn't collect that) which also probably was something close to the rate of the protagonist up above.

Back to the story; our protagonist is disillusioned by the pace and decides to take a sabbatical. Here is where the funny start begins:

"Professionally, he explored teaching part time at UCLA's business school, invested $125,000 in two young unprofitable businesses ("I wanted to put myself in an uncomfortable position and try new things," he says), and played in the World Series of Poker. He says the Las Vegas event helped him realize he should focus on what he did best -- advising corporate boards."

This is a howler - what is the connection, however tenuous, between playing (presumably losing, since he doesn't mention winning) in the World Series of Poker and deciding that he should focus on advising corporate boards? Also - he is stating that he invested money in businesses without stating the outcome - I will "read between the lines" and assume that his vapid corporate-speak pronouncements didn't help the start ups and he lost his $.

When he goes back to Mercer consulting, he immediately falls ill (don't blame him there, I'd probably fall ill if I went back to 5-days-a-week traveling vapid management consulting jobs, too). His "sabbatical adviser" says that he failed because "he didn't make a substantive, written evaluation of what he wanted from his job, his colleagues and his work environment." This is complete drivel and nonsense... what does this even mean?

In the end he goes to a small firm where he finds a better life balance. Note the key here - working for a smaller firm, where you can just bring in some money and not engage in vast interstellar travel and inordinate politics, but the money and upside is smaller, too.

In reality, the sabbatical wasn't the issue, it was the fact that he needed to go to a smaller firm which was a better fit in his life.

Also note that he is 51 years old and single (doesn't mention a relationship with anyone else). Couldn't he have used his 8 month sabbatical to get a date? He says he bought a puppy, so I guess sublimation is the answer.

At least he had the insight to realize that he better stick to consulting, since he doesn't know how to run a business, play poker, or even teach. Consulting, by comparison, is easy $.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

"Cult Fiction"

Another book off the shelf for the LITGM book club... in this case it is "The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction" which has the subtitle genre benders, beats, gurus, drunks, junkies, sinners and surrealists. This book isn't a coffee table book, more like a book you might keep in the bathroom amongst the magazines since you can turn to almost any page, read a brief & biased bio (all the more fun), and then get up and leave.

The other fun part of this book is that you can get the same feeling you'd get from reading a cult novel without the hours of tedium (and potential flash of insight) that this generally implies. The little blurbs are kind of a cross between a biography of the oft whacked-out authors along with their best works, those they influenced, and those that influenced them.

A typical blurb about an author I know well is on p165 for H.P. Lovecraft with the tag line "altogether ooky" (no, I don't know what it means, either).

"His decided British style... has a ponderous hypnotic rhythm of unavoidable evil about it." Now that is a good summary line. I remember being in high school and showing a passage of his work to a teacher and her telling me it was absolute crap, and then pretending to be joking about it, when of course she was probably (mostly) right. For a bit more on H.P. check out this post and here is an hilarious t shirt (it is much funnier if you switch to the baby model).

Another good summary is on p76 for Philip K Dick "who, by embracing drugs as an aid to imagination, wrenched science fiction from the hands of little green men and chisel jawed heroes". This is a good summary because old science fiction is a lot like old westerns... hoary plots with rocket ships and aliens blasted into little pieces. The drugs did NOT do him a lot of good, however - "Dick had what sounds like a psychotic episode, triggered... by an amulet worn by a pharmaceutical delivery clerk." Dick is a giant; Blade Runner is based on his novel along with a host of other movies; his visions of paranoia and alternate reality couldn't contrast more with the linear plot lines of Asimov or "traditional" sci-fi.

I recommend the book because it is fun, and you might find a book here or there that you may be inspired to purchase. Worst case, it only takes up a small portion of you coffee table, because it is pocket-sized.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Chicago By Night

Here is the Merchandise Mart by night... the storms have passed and the water was completely placid.
There is a cool bathroom store near my condo with a wall of blue lights.
Here is the Trump Tower, still underway. They are about to occupy the lower floors right now, which seems odd because they are clearly still constructing the upper floors. I have never heard of a building being opened to residents in this condition.

Tonsils Part II

As I read Dan's tonsil post the first thing that came to mind was "I wish he'd talked to me first". Why? Because I went through all the same things...

As a kid I had terrible allergies. Imagine when you have a cold, you can't breathe through your nose, and you are just sitting there in bed, breathing out your mouth. You have post nasal drips, you are uncomfortable, and hoping you fall asleep soon.

That was me for all my life until I was about 15. At that point I went to see an allergist, who said I was literally the most congested person he had seen in his entire life. I received rounds of shots over a couple of years (which I am about to start again) and realized what I was allergic to, so that I could avoid those activities, like cutting grass, cats, etc...

A few years later as I entered college I began having tonsilitis ALL the time (sorry about the gross photo on wikipedia, but it is all too true) where my throat would constrict more and more until I couldn't swallow and could hardly breathe. I would go to the doctor and they would tell me to gargle with warm salt water until I would flat out tell them to go to hell and just give me some antibiotics to make it go away. I probably had tonsilitis 20 times over 2-3 years before I started to go crazy, because I knew that being on antibiotics all the time would just generate super-bugs inside my system.

What was the answer? Get those damn tonsils removed. Like Dan, I went to the doctor, who said that removal of tonsils was "not medically necessary". I basically told him to go f**k himself and got another opinion. The second doctor wasn't in favor, either. Finally I found a third doctor who went ahead with the operation.

The operation was no cake walk. I don't know for sure but I have been told that it is a bigger procedure when you are an adult compared to being a kid. I was completely miserable after the surgery and was in major pain. My father, who knows how medical institutions worked, talked to the nurse about pain medication, and of course she ignored me. Finally my father said that he worked for the government and he knew how things worked; if she didn't help me he would write 100 letters, to the institution, each of which they'd have to answer, and plague her indefinitely. Shortly thereafter they gave me Demerol, which totally threw me for a loop. My throat had just been through surgery and I was vomiting which was particularly bad and I was so high from that drug that I distinctly remember believing that I was levitating over the hospital. Reading the wikipedia entry I noted that Demerol isn't in wide use anymore and is banned in Australia... good to know.

In any case, even taking into account my semi-horrendous surgery experience, getting out my tonsils was AWESOME because I went from having tonsilitis almost every month to NEVER getting tonsilitis. The cause turned out to be my tonsils, nothing else, and this should have been obvious to the doctors, except that they were blinded by the "not medically necessary" tag line.

Dan, you made the right choice.

Phalanx Gun

Usually this is the time for Carl and Gerry to blog, but I can't sleep. I worry about my kids in the hospital recovering from tonsil surgery. They are fine, but I still can't sleep. Today was a long day.

Most of you have seen or read that some Iranian boats buzzed a few of our ships that were steaming in international waters near the Straits of Hormuz. The US ships were a cruiser (USS Port Royal, CG 73), a destroyer (USS Hopper, DDG 70) and a frigate (USS Ingraham, FFG 61).

Here is some raw video of the incident:

Maybe it is because I am not as charitable as most, but I would have 100% for sure put those tiny craft on the bottom, right into Davy Jone's locker. The video shows those boats, of which I have seen faster on Miami Vice, approx 500m from our warships. Screw that.

Lets take a look - yep, all three of our ships have the Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapons System). That would have sunk those pieces of crap quick and easy. I love that damned gun. 3,000 rounds of 20mm per minute with automatic fire control from the computer controlled radar. You want demo's? We got 'em here at LITGM.

Here is test firing of the Phalanx:

Here is the Phalanx showing what it can do on a floating target in the distance. Imagine this is one of those cigarette boats:

Hard to say why the commanders of our ships were being so charitable. All I know is that if it were me, I would blow those jerks out of the water.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Tonsils and Adenoids

An interesting experience this past week.

Both of my children went into the hospital to have their tonsils and adenoids taken out this morning. Those links go to wiki photos that are very good by the way that help you to see what exactly these things are.

Over the past week or so I have spoken to a lot of people, and many don't have theirs out. Both my wife and I had ours out when we were little. She remembers a lot of her procedure, I don't remember much of anything, just sitting around in my hospital bed a bit.

My youngest has always had a very hard time breathing, especially at night. I have lost tons of sleep over the years hearing her cough, hack and wheeze through the evenings. My older child has always snorted and snored a bit. It takes her a long time to get over colds too.

Well, when we took them both in to see the doctor, it was a no brainer that the younger child had to have them out. The older one, we were told, needed them out as well and made a referral to another doctor. We decided to do both on the same day, to make one hospital trip instead of two. As time went on, the referred to doctor said that the older child's procedure wasn't medically necessary. What? Now he was putting the onus on myself and my wife to make the call. He even had the b*lls to say to my wife that if any complications arose that we would have to live with it for the rest of our lives. He is fortunate that I wasn't in the room at the time. My wife was a wreck. What to do?

Upon looking at our histories and the condition of our child we decided to do it. Everything came out OK this morning. I spoke with the surgeon afterward and asked him about the older child's tonsils in particular. He said that he completely disagreed with the doctor who said it wasn't medically necessary. The tonsils were huge, each one about the size of a marshmallow! He told me that if they weren't removed now, there certainly would have been trouble down the road.

The only thing that went through my head was that the doctor who scared the crap out of myself and my wife was a...well...lets just keep this a family blog.

I can't believe that the doctor wouldn't help us make the call any more than that. Are all doctors so scared now of liability and lawsuits that they have to be in CYA mode all the time?

I simply can't imagine giving my customers an answer like that.

Struggling over this decision cost us several night's sleep, but we feel great about it now that we have been vindicated.

Time for me to go visit my kids at the hospital tonight, and everyone comes home tomorrow. We will have a miserable weekend, but the kids get to chow down on popsicles as much as they can. The long term benefits will be wonderful. I am about six years down on sleep and need to bank some for when they grow up to be teens.

As a side note, everyone in the hospital was absolutely great from the nurses to the surgeon to the receptionist. They had toys and blankets waiting for the kids when we checked in. I plan on making a donation to both of the organization that provided those things as soon as I have time.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"Compact Houses"

I pulled one of my favorite books off the shelf recently for our next LIGTM book club selection. The book is "Compact Houses" by Cristina del Valle, and it focuses on "over fifty houses, each with no more than 1,300 square feet, that are unique for their versatility and ingenuity, and that offer many clever solutions for designing a compact house" (p7).

The book is very well laid out with excellent pictures, cross sections, floor plans and diagrams. You can't build off these plans, but they certainly would be a good start and a great source of ideas.

For years I have been entranced by modern architecture, particularly modular or pre-fab buildings. I would like to have a custom house that is quick to build, made of modular parts, and yet modern and attractive. This type of architecture is commonly found in magazines like "Dwell" and is all over the web, although I tend to rarely find these types of buildings in reality, since they often are impractical when people just want to build what commonly sells.

Some of the houses are as small as 300 feet; it seems that around 800 feet or so is when they become practical for a couple or a very small family (maybe a couple and a dog). The floor plans often feature a lot of natural light & windows and are well integrated into their lot lines.

The house on the cover is my favorite - a single family home and studio in Falkensee, Germany and built in 2003; this house is 1292 feet. I don't know how practical the "all windows" side is, but it certainly looks cool in the book.

I was saddened that so many of the cool houses were in Europe and Asia; very few were in the United States. I don't know if this is something to do with our building codes or the innate practicality of Americans, but I wish that we had more of these in the USA.

If you have a coffee table this is a fun coffee table book; for $35 it will start enough conversations to make it all worth while.

While we try not to talk too much politics here at LITGM I find it odd that more of those that profess worry about the environment don't move into smaller houses; this is the best way to limit your "footprint" as well as to consume less energy. I just like them because they are cool and eye-catching.

They Talk About The Weather...

Sunday night I had a nice fire going. It was not necessary since temperatures were in the upper 60's. In January. In the Indiana snow belt. I watched over a foot of snow disappear in two days. Gone, thank God.

I burn a lot of wood. It's free for the most part since I cut it myself or get it cheap from locals who want it removed. Chopping wood with a chain saw is about as manly man of an activity as you can get, third only to shooting high power firearms or blowing things up on the Fourth Of July. Folks who go the wood delivery route pay well over a hundred dollars for a face cord of seasoned hardwood, especially in Illinois. Now that’s money to burn.

They say wood warms you three times, once when you cut it, once when you stack it and once again when you burn it. It's true. It's also a good workout for the back muscles.

My fireplace has glass doors and an exterior air feed so it is as efficient as a fireplace can be since it does not suck air out of the home. But in no way does it heat the house. It's strictly for atmosphere. At my old place I had a Vermont Castings cast iron airtight wood stove. That thing helped heat the house and had a lot of charm too.

Gas log fireplaces are for weenies. Sorry. Nothing beats the aroma and feel of burning real wood on a cold lazy winter weekend especially wild cherry, my favorite. Second would be ash followed by oak as long as it is well seasoned wood and by that I mean it needs to sit at least a year to dry properly. Otherwise your chimney sweep will love your frequent cleaning calls. A creosote loaded chimney scares the hell out of me, My chimney is 40' high so cleaning it is something I am not about to take on.

Last night we not only has temps in the upper 60's but nasty ass thunderstorms as well. In Wisco they had tornados. Everything OK, Dan? Here is a radar shot. I drove through that mess on the way home from Chicago. Blinding rain and wind.

That brings me to the subject of man-made global warming. In recent years whenever weather phenomenon (Katrina) occurs the 'truthers' like to crow about it being amother sign of man-made global warming. The end is near. Carbon butt prints and all that. I say bull. I prefer to call it Gorebal Warming since an overweight ex vice president is using it to gain attention and worshipers. To me IT IS HUGE HOAX. It is another guilt ridden hustle and a scam from the far left.

The earth has been warming since the ice age and man can do nothing to reverse the effects unless we launch a space shuttle toward the sun and blow out solar flare activity, which has been on the increase. Who's getting on THAT bus?

In my observations as an avid outdoorsman and conservationist the climate has been changing a bit. Seasonal animal behavior has become more unpredictable. Fish spawn is off the traditional schedule and migratory birds are acting differently. For instance, I was supposed to be goose hunting in southern Illinois this weekend but the geese have not made it that far south yet. Same thing happened last year at this time when my goose hunting trip produced nothing due to an ice storm that was bringing down trees and power lines.

Last year we could not keep jumbo perch (up to 14") off our hooks on southern Lake Michigan. This year the prevailing winds came from the northwest making perch fishing very spotty all summer. Climate change or natural order? Who knows. One thing we do know is that the scientific community is still debating the cause of "climate change". I say it is in the hands of God and nature.

I do everything I can to conserve. I recycle and never leave anything but my footprints on nature. I ride my motorcycle in the summer to avoid wasting fuel. It's because I am frugal more than anything but I believe in being a compassionate conservationist taking nothing more than I can use. It's all we can do.

But if those whistle-ass Gorebal Warming kooks get their way we will all suffer economic impact. I just don't think it's worth it and it won’t solve a thing.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Taxes In Chicago and Illinois

The tax situation in Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois is unsettled.

On a semi-humorous note, the City of Chicago proposed a 5 cent / bottle tax on bottled water. Apparently the goal is to reduce consumption of bottled water since it is bad for the environment (compared to tap water, I guess). The real goal of course is to raise money, and as this article from the Chicago Tribune points out, a 5 cent increase in a vending machine isn't a big deal but on a case of bottled water a 24 pack case would go up from $3.99 to $5.19, which is effectively a 20% increase (19.4% for sticklers out there). The City of Chicago claims that this tax would raise $10.5M, which is I guess 210M bottles of water annually or about 70 for each citizen on average (I guess you need to include tourists and commuters in the calculation, so that is maybe 50 per permanent citizen. The article claims that this might create a black market in bottled water, which is plausible, and in any case it would be interesting to see if the revenue target is achieved or if people find ways to avoid it.

And another funny note is that a tax on str*p clubs (don't want the traffic) also was thrown out by an appellate court; apparently small clubs were exempt from a tax but the city tried to apply it to these types of enterprises.

It appears for now that the proposed 2% sales tax increase (to 11%, effectively the highest in the country) is dead. This article describes the recent measures that county government are starting to consider in order to deal with these cuts, including reducing their fleet of vehicles, thinking about new fees to pay directly for services (like court fees), and some more e-government opportunities.

The city council of Chicago passed the mayor's budget featuring $83.4M in additional property taxes over the 2007 budget. The budget also features numerous "fee" increases such as the bottled water tax listed above totalling $276.5M.

For the State of Illinois, we are still hearing about "doomsday" predictions of reduced service for the CTA due to a lack of funding. There were two previous dates listed but emergency funds postponed the day of reckoning; the latest day scheduled (fliers are up all over the city and the message drones over and over on the buses and trains) is January 20th. The CTA claims it would have to eliminate 81 of its 154 bus routes and raise fares, among other cuts. No one knows what is true or not and how much of it is posturing, but it is already growing tedious.

It is unclear what is going on with the state of Illinois. Apparently the Governor's gross receipts tax is dead; when I google it the links return right back to this blog where I wrote about it in the first place and I can't see any recent references to it. Here is the most recent budget article I can find... I don't know how this solves the situation yet.

I will update the posts when I figure out what is going on with the State of Illinois and the CTA. Of course we are doing NOTHING to fix our pension situation (check the link, it is a great article, definitely a post in of itself)... since we rank last in the nation by most measures. The key is to leave the state before it all melts down, I guess.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz