Wednesday, April 30, 2008
First off we had my regular class. This has been clench month, and my body is an absolute wreck. But this night we were being evaluated for a stripe on my yellow sash so we had to show the instructor the things we learned all last month. It was rockin' from the get-go and I was a sweaty, tired mess by the end. My clench work has improved immensely and is now one of the best parts of my MT game. I did get my stripe. In just six more weeks we all test for our next level sash. I am going to BLOW that test away. My skills are very sharp right now. I am not going to win any world championships, but I look so much better than I did one year ago, when I started. Yep, one year ago today I began my Muay Thai classes. What a journey.
It is interesting how my goals have changed since then. Back then everything was working toward the physical goal of earning my Thai Shorts. Now, I just want to improve myself and get better, faster, and stronger. The physical rewards are now secondary. It will be cool to see myself progress along the color ladder of the sashes, but it just isn't as important as being a good martial artist, staying in shape, and improving myself in my art.
But back to last night. After clenchwork, I had my test for padholding. I have taken a six week course to be certified as a level one pad holder and assistant coach for the fighters. This test was so long it was crazy. We went over almost every single thing we did over the last six weeks - and a lot of stuff I had forgot. At one point we were supposed to do a drill. Rather than watch my classmates and cheat, I simply stood there, not knowing what to do with my fighter. The instructor asked me what was wrong and I told him that I would rather fail the test than cheat. He respected that a lot, and gave me a quick reminder of the drill, and I went right at it. I messed up a few other drills, but it is impossible for me to remember all six weeks of the course without a sheet to study off of. Such is life.
But wow did we get compliments. The fighters had never seen advanced pad feeding like we were providing last night and it really showed. Everyone was totally fired up and very complimentary to all of us. My fighter was totally blown away at the different ways and combos that I was feeding him. We all held pads for three different fighters - each of my fighters gave me a 10 out of 10. That made me feel pretty good.
About 90% of the way through the test the inevitable happened. One whole year and no major injuries from banging my way around the gym practicing Muay Thai. I have been telling myself for a long time that a major injury was going to happen some day and last night was my night.
We were doing what is called a "flow". This is a string of about 20 techniques, all done in succession. I had a fighter who is known through the gym as being an animal, sort of wild and out of control - and strong as an ox. One part of the flow has the padholder moving in, and the fighter clenching him. Then they wrap one arm, place the other glove behind the pad holders head and do a side knee twice. When we did this slow I told the fighter that the sideknee needs to be placed well to the outside of my HEAD and he did it right. Well, when we sped it up, would you like to guess where that knee got landed? Not on the pads. This clip from my favorite movie should give you a hint.
CRACK, one sideknee delivered perfectly to my snout. I blacked out for about a second and dropped to my knees, but quickly regained consciousness. As I sat on my knees, I looked at the moon and stars for about ten seconds, then figured out that I was OK. I waited for the eventual gush of blood from a broken nose, but it never came. I only got a drop here and there, and this lasted about an hour. The instructor asked me if I was OK, and I took about a minute and went on with the test. If I could move, there was no way I was not going to finish the test, pass or fail. So I did. And I passed.
I am now a certified level one pad holder and member of the fight team as an assistant coach. It was another proud moment. When I slipped on the fight team jacket, it was second only to the day I put on my Thai Shorts for the first time. Nothing will ever beat that, but this came pretty close.
As far as my nose goes, I had minor swelling and a headache last night but no real damage seems to have been done. No racoon eyes yet either. I think in a few days all of the swelling will be gone. Holy cow was I lucky. My wife didn't notice the difference until I pointed it out to her so I am sure nobody at work or anywhere else will notice. Sometimes it is nice to have a big nose, I guess. That was my day to be hurt and I escaped. I will do some thinking about how that happened for some time - and it won't happen again. Hopefully.
Last night was a very long night at the gym, and tonight I will celebrate with a few glasses of wine since I couldn't celebrate last night, not wanting to thin my blood for obvious reasons. Yikes, I deserve a bit of celebration for this.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Looks like they have made it to Michigan.
Reader Mike Doughty sends this link to a super looking workshop if you live in the Boise area. Open to the general public.
Mike Doughty also sent me a link to a list of cougar attacks from 2001-2006. It is a bit graphic (photos) so beware. Here is the link.
If you are interested in hunting cougars or any other game, here is a great article from Chuck Hawks on what caliber of weapon you will need. I am considering hunting for deer next fall, and will either take with me my K-31 carabiner, or will purchase a used .30-06, of which there are millions floating about. Either will do the job on a cougar if I happen to see one and it is threatening me.
It appears that there are cougars in Oklahoma now.
This is a great map from the Cougar Network of all cougar confirmations, along with their normal territory. The Cougar Field Guide is a great read if you are interested in learing how these animals live, hunt, and survive.
The Wisconsin DNR has a great page all about cougars and it features the confirmed sightings here in Wisconsin as well as pictures of animals frequently misidentified as a cougar.
Still no word on if the cougar that was shot by the CPD in Roscoe Village is the same one that was confirmed in Southern Wisconsin.
Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.
His name was Merle Ellis. He was a professional butcher and authority on all things “meat”. His column was simply called “The Butcher” and it appeared in The Chicago Tribune each week in The Food Guide.
Merle Ellis and that old Cajun, Justin Wilson, taught me how to cook food that had bold flavors. Both aired on cable back in the early 80's
Merle’s mission was to educate us on how to distinguish traditional cuts of meat from meat marketing gimmicks to save money. London Broil, for instance, is a way for grocers to charge more per pound for common flank or thick round steak. London Broil is a preparation technique, not a cut of meat. Labeling a meat cut such as London Broil allowed the store to charge more per pound. That was typical Merle.
Merle once demonstrated the way to prepare delicious BBQ pulled pork without the use of special smoker devices. It can easily be cooked in a Weber® kettle grill. We have been making this for years. It is an all day effort so do it when you have a relaxing day at home or working in the garage or yard.
A pork shoulder roast can go as low as 89¢ a pound. It is also refered to as Boston butt, pork butt and another roast you also could use for pulled pork called a “picnic ham” which is from the pork shoulder area.
If you roasted this in an oven as you would a beef rib roast you may get a tasteless hunk of tough and fatty muscle mass unless you braise it or make it in a crock pot. So cooking over low heat for a long time is the trick. Using the low-and-slow BBQ method you end up with tender, tasty BBQ that southern folk have been cooking for decades.
Here’s how to make your own smoky southern “pulled pork”
Get a 4-6 lb. pork shoulder roast. One day in advance, apply a rub it as you would a rack of spare ribs. My rub recipe follows. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
When I get up on a BBQ morning, before I shower and shave, before I walk the bird dogs, the first thing is to start up the Weber® Kettle grill. Do it like this.
Load up the starter chimney about ¾ full. Fire it up. You will need charcoal (I prefer lump charcoal) some hardwood (I like sasafrass best but hickory works fine). Many will tell you to soak the wood. I don’t. It’s not necessary. In my experimentations the smoke from wet wood is sharper, stronger, more acidic and not as sweet.
Build a hot side / cold side fire in your grill.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: If there is a wind blowing, point the leg of your Weber® that has no wheel into the wind. The way Weber® manufactures their grill there are three legs. Two have wheels, one does not. Pay attention to this feature when cooking low and slow. The bottom vents relate to the legs as there are spaced evenly between the legs.
The lid has one vent. When smoking, the lid vent should be positioned over the end with the rear legs, which will be facing down wind. Keep the lid vent open ¾ while cooking and the bottom vents open full. This will allow the fire to burn at a low temperature and the smoke will swirl around your roast, adding flavor.
Repeating. Your fire will be built over the up wind front leg end and the roast will be positioned over the cool rear end. Place a pan (I make one out of foil) over the cool side. The butt will cook over the pan.
I use special Weber® coal baskets but this can be done without them.
To be continued....
Add a few hunks of hardwood to the top of the hot coals and cover the grill.
Have a beer.
Every 60-90 minutes, open up the grill to add more charcoal and more hardwood. Do this for about eight hours.
After eight hours bring the roast in, wrap it with foil, place it into an oven safe pan and place it into a pre-heated 200 degree oven for two hours. This final step, a semi-braising technique is what will soften and moisten the meat and will allow you to shred or pull the meat apart with a fork.
There are many ways to enjoy your pulled pork. Here are a few.
1. Mix in your favorite BBQ sauce and serve it on a toasted bun. An option form the south is to add pickle slices. Some add cole slaw to the sandwich.
2. Eat it plain with BBQ sauce and a fork
3. Make grilled Quesadiallas. That’s what I intend to do with the leftovers one night this week. When I do look for the recipe. I don’t use this term loosely, but this is AWESOME!
Enjoy the best part of summer. BBQ OFTEN!
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Here’s my favorite rub:
¼ c paprika
1 ½ T fresh ground black pepper
1 ½ T brown sugar
1 ½ t celery salt
1 ½ t cayenne pepper
1 ½ t dry mustard
1 ½ t garlic powder
1 ½ t ground cumin
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Mayor RICH Daley is steamed. So steamed he is pissing down both legs of his pants.
Over a Sunday morning freedom toast breakfast THIS Chicago Tribune article caught my attention. I almost choked on my cranberry juice.
Police are outgunned? By semi-fully-automatic weapons? What an ass.
I cannot remember any news reports where police recently engaged in a gunfight with anyone except a defenseless wayward cougar.
The hip-hop gang-bangers thin out their herd and cops show up to scrape the goo from the street.
I can’t stop laughing.
The C.P.D. should be armed with the finest weapons available. Give them grenade launchers too. Bazookas? Fine. Chicago's finest should be equipped with the finest. If I were a beat cop you couldn't send me into Englewood in nothing less than a fully-armored Bradley fighting vehicle.
You deserve this ill-informed, lie-spewing, gun-grabbing fool, Chicago.
Re-elect him again. Go ahead.
Callahan? Paging Inspector Harry Callahan. Party of one. Your table is ready.
NOTE: I wrote this piece early this morning. Since Dan popped up first with the Bears draft post it was my intent to publish this at a later time. Carl then checked in with the Madison stew-bum story. This is not meant as a response, just an observation of consistent liberal political Illinois numb-nuttery ; )
The article states that there are 224,000 people in Madison and 3,400 homeless. By some simple math that means that 1.5% of Madison's total population is homeless, if these statistics are correct. Per the article:
"A backlash against street people is under way in this renowned liberal college town after an uncharacteristically violent turn of events. Two unsolved murders in the span of a little more than two months have shaken Madison's secure sense of small-city living and, even though no suspect has been named, the eye of suspicion has been fixed on panhandlers who work the streets."
To put this in perspective, there are 800+ murders in Chicago every year. However, even in Chicago these types of murders would count as "news" because they involve attractive college students who are presumably not involved in criminal activities themselves (and not the usual gang bangers and people living in areas that gang bangers tend to shoot up).
The article doesn't dwell on some unspoken items. First of all, since Madison is a very liberal place and people tend to think that everyone who is homeless is there because of the guy in the White House who just doesn't care enough, their generosity and social benefits are very attractive. It is a commonly whispered item that homeless and the jobless move to Wisconsin to take advantage of a far more liberal system of subsidies when compared to Chicago (where we don't really even pretend to care about them, and can't take down the projects fast enough).
Since virtually every student in Madison dreams of working in some non-profit and "changing the world" maybe living among a sea of alcoholic, mentally unstable lunatics can give them some hands-on experience of what their policies bring. Remember, all the lunatics were let out of institutions because the left didn't want to limit their potential and believed that their human rights were being violated (and also because the Right didn't want to foot the bill anymore, and all these people weren't exactly going to be let out in the conservative neighborhoods, anyways).
But who could have guessed living among a sea of bums lured in by feel-good policies would have consequences? And it is only the definition of irony that they are preying on the students in this liberal area, whose belief that everyone is a victim can reach its logical conclusion. And hey, they aren't armed, either, because no one needs guns, so they can call the police while a large man is threatening them. Women in particular are at risk because unless they are very skilled at self defense the fact that they are outweighed and the guy attacking them is mentally unstable or on drugs puts them at a massive disadvantage.
Obviously not everyone in Madison is a liberal and Madison is an island in the sea of generally conservative Wisconsin. A lot of the students are studying constructive topics like business, engineering, and science, and just going to school there because it is a high quality school and a great value for in-state residents.
But it is instructive that the school leadership, which is unabashedly liberal, and the sea of liberal arts students, can now contemplate the embodiment of their policies.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
So the Bears locked Ron Turner out of the draft war room and hit the ground running in the draft. Round one we get a quality offensive tackle, and round two my dream pick, none other than Matt Forte from Tulane. You may not be familiar with him, but I followed him all last year because Astro from the football pool is a Tulane alum. Pack your stuff Benson, it is all over now but the crying. Mercifully.
I wanted Mendenhall for sentimental reasons, but we needed a lineman too and I don't think Rashard was worth a first round pick (he was drafted in the first round by the Steelers). I can't wait to see Forte with that C on his helmet at Soldier Field next year.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
What did they teach instead of history? From what I remember it was mainly "sociology", which according to Wikipedia is "the study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture". I don't remember learning too much, except that every page of the book featured multi-cultural interactions and photos; really that was all I remembered at all.
It is ironic that the study of history fell off the map (except for alternate histories where everything that the USA has ever done was crap, i.e. Chomsky / Michael Moore) and this sort of social "imagineering" picked up the pace, because, in reality, history of course moved on in completely opposite direction.
This months' issue (March / April) of Foreign Affairs punches that issue right in the head with an article titled "The Clash of Peoples - Why ethnic nationalism will drive global politics for generations".
There wasn't a lot in the article that shouldn't be familiar already with those that are students' of history and especially European history; but unfortunately there aren't that many of us so I will give a brief summary:
- Europe used to have mixed states and polyglot nations that were large in scale and size and mixed religions, races, and homelands. Classic examples including Austria - Hungary, which included a mix of German and other nationalities, along with allowing for high level intellectuals to flourish including Freud and Kafka, as well as the Ottoman Empire under Turkey, which actually had a reasonably high level of functionality and intellectual achievement before ossifying near the end
- these nations could have been a poster-child for those sociology books I perused as a child, since they had all kinds of different groups packed together with some overarching institutions (the army, the bureaucracy, the church)
- at the fringes of empire, particularly in the Balkans, embryonic nation states were often the spark that led to war, in particularly with Serbia in WW1 and even Danzig in WW2. True, these wars were often inevitable in any case, but these sorts of displaced and minority populations definitely contributed to the ensuing fire
- over the last 150 or so years, all of these nations have either broken down into their smallest, national parts or are in the process of doing so. In the rich West it often wasn't that violent (Czechoslovakia splitting into Czech and Slovak republics) or it was explosively violent (Serbia / Croatia) on the fringes
- some of these splits happened earlier on; such as the war between the Greeks and the Turks immediately following WW1, and some happened since the fall of Communism in the 80's and 90's
- Even in those states that are classically thought of as solid like the UK there is continuous talk of splitting off Scotland; and Spain has a long-simmering low grade war with some of their ethnic minorities
- Belgium is barely holding together; they practically had to put out a press release saying that they were remaining as a state (the main sticking point is what to do with Brussels)
- The Netherlands isn't much better; when you are there you can see the major dividing lines by ethnic groups, as well
Thus if you were keeping score, the "nation state", the crucible of nationalism, has completely swept the board in Europe. Whenever people have been given a choice of living with people from another nationality, they said "no" (or Nyet or in myriad other languages). There are a few holdouts, like Belgium, but even they seem to be swimming against the tide.
A lot of this is likely due to the lack of an outside military threat; for other than economics and scale, it is the threat of an outside military power (like the old Warsaw Pact, which today seems strange to say since Poland is a bulwark against communism) that brought people together; while they might not like their neighbors, they liked the Russians even less.
Although the article doesn't go further, the nation state is of course rising elsewhere. Many Asian states are facing this issue; look at the China / Tibet issue as a case in point. India is an amazing country in that it holds together at all; you could view India as a giant map of Europe as far as the mini-nations in its midst and the number of people in each. Within Pakistan and Afghanistan there are also mini-nations fighting it out; if left to its own devices (and the prospect of war wasn't ever present in that area of the world) likely you'd have many more states in that region, as well.
The purpose of this post isn't to say that the rise of the nation state is a good thing; it is just to state, baldly, that it has mostly swept the table in the developed world and that this fact doesn't seem to have been reflected in the popular understanding of the way the world works. While the US is vilified in our own textbooks not to mention others, we are in fact one of the few polyglot nations left, and in a distinct minority in this regard. We may ultimately be one of the few nations like this, perhaps with Australia and the UK (should they hold together) as brethren.
If you taught history today (which they don't) and started with the facts as they are, not the way someone would imagine them in an ideal state, you'd have to say that the axis of history over the last 150+ years says that the world will break into smaller and smaller states of ethnically and religiously homogeneous peoples, and those few countries that don't do this (the US, China, India) are exceptions either economically or doing so for military or specifically historical reasons, and in fact the tide bets against those countries in the long run as staying together indefinitely.
Sociology as practiced in the 70's textbooks I remember is an alternate universe, one not fettered by reality.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
The fedrul gummint has decided to revive the economy by giving us more of OUR OWN MONEY BACK! Thanks for that. And good luck reviving the economy with such a grandstanding political move. I have faith that the free market economy will revive itself as it always does. But I will take whatever I can get.
Whenever the gummint sticks its nose into private business we get…high corn prices…global food shortages...and ethanol. But that is another subject.
It has me thinking about what I will do with MY OWN MONEY that seems to have been found under the cushion of my ultra-plush leather easy chair.
GWB and crew want us to spend it to stimulate consumer confidence. They fear we will invest it. To me investing is spending with the option of a greater return. It sure beats blowing it at some Dime-Store Indian Casino. That's nothing but a tax on the working poor.
Here is a short list of things to do with MY $600.
- Buy a new gun. Kind of a spite purchase to get under the skin of the gummint gun grabbers.
- Stockpile more ammunition. See the above.
- Buy a 50lb. sack of rice at Costco before they outlaw that too.
- Save it for future gas increases.
- Invest it. Find a “penny stock” that looks good and go for it. PMCS and CBZ look good for under $10 a share. Check 'em out.
- Give it away to some ner’ do well wine-o on a street corner in Chicago. Right!
- Buy a new GPS/Depth Finder or underwater television camera for the boat. This sounds good. I’m liking this one
- Landscaping down payment. My lawn looks like crap. Think of how many illegal Mezcicans I can hire to resod the land around the country bunker.
- Donate it to the O’Bama Indiana campaign fund. Ha-ha, made you look.
- Buy a lifetime NRA membership. Hmmm.
- Let my wife go on a shoe spending spree. Made you look again!
- Donate it to the Chicago Bear Buy-A-Real-Professional-Quarterback fund.
- Buy two tickets to the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field sponsored by Bud Light®. I could also use it to pay my bar tab at the Cubby Bear bar which would be half the cost of a Cub game day experience. I could also use it to bail my ass out of jail for urinating in public at Cornelia and Sheffield while looking for my car after the big loss.
You can do what you want with your $600.
I already have a lot of healthy investments so this $600. will be patriotically spent at retail. You know, to help the economy.
Is that a new Browning .22 caliber LR Buck Mark semi-auto pistol that suddenly showed up in my vault?
This mansion is the John B. Murphy memorial and used to be the home of a medical college which moved across the street (behind the photographer). It is great for Chicago that they left this older building and obviously invest time and care in it, as well.
If you see the paps-type blogs (won't mention them here because we don't want the traffic) but in LA there is a big craze with different types of yogurt shops. This shop just opened in Chicago called "Berry Chill" and it was already picking up gawkers and seemed to have some hipsters inside. This place will likely be mobbed when the weather gets better.
They are building a new hotel / spa in Chicago called the"Dana Spa Hotel" and it is a high rise. The building is under construction and from the front it looks OK but the view from my condo (I am west of this building) is a big concrete slab with no windows... from our side the building looks half constructed. When it rains the water drains down the side of the building to make it even uglier. I don't know if they are going to leave it like this but it looks like something Stalin would have constructed. We'll see if they are going to do anything with the back of the building but if not then this architect created a real eyesore.
Here is a quote from the post:
But that is impossible! Guns are very carefully controlled in Illinois, and they are even more restricted in Chicago! They are so worried about illegal guns that even my own concealed carry license is null and void in the state, and I have to leave all of my perfectly legal guns at home if I visit my fellow Chicago Boyz! Must be a miracle, all those guns just falling from the sky like criminal manna from heaven.
Naturally, this weekend politicians and community leaders are hastily trying to come up with solutions so another fifty people don't get gunned down.
But of course Daley, after dispatching SWAT teams to patrol certain streets took a shot at gun manufacturers. The only problem is that, as Rummel pointed out above, ownership of handguns is illegal in Chicago. But that hasn't stopped criminals from getting guns, only law abiding citizens AS USUAL. I am quite positive that Daley's personal security force has plenty of guns. As always, do as I day, not as I do.
That aside, all of the handwringing and SWAT teams and copters in the air won't stop the violence this weekend. The weather will take care of that because it will be colder. You can take that to the bank. Things will be back to "normal" in a few weeks and the gangs will continue the slaughter.
But everyone wants to do everything but talk about the elephant in the room, which is the sad fact that the family unit in Chicago where most of these crimes is taking place has virtually disintegrated. That is the problem. You can ban guns all you want but that genie escaped the bottle long ago. The guns aren't just "going off" and shooting people. Misguided, ignorant people who were not raised with any morals or any firm belief system that tells them what is right and wrong are what is killing and shooting people in Chicago. Children raised on a steady diet of abuse, Fifty Cent discs, MTV and gang related unsupervised activities (since the kids don't have parents to monitor them!) are simply doomed.
All other supposed reasons behind these shootings are pure and utter bullshit. Chicago is simply reaping what it has sowed.
Having recently attended one of Duke Roufus's productions, I have a few thoughts - sort of a compare and contrast if you will. The crowd at the Throwdown was definitely more trashy. At the Gladiator production that Carl and I attended a few months ago, people were more dressed up, and some even had dates that were dressed up as well. It also seemed that every single person we saw or spoke with was an athlete of some sort - a pretty good looking crowd. Maybe it was because it was Muay Thai instead of MMA like the Madtown Throwdown - I don't know. As you can see in this picture, this crowd was certainly not well heeled (click for larger):
Not to say that it is bad, just different. The crowd at the Throwdown was well behaved, as always. I have never heard of any major issues at any of the Throwdown events.
The Gladiator production in Milwaukee had tons of good looking strippers waltzing through the crowd selling all kinds of liquor and whatever else in between holding the ringcards. The Throwdown event had a couple of nasty looking broads that they got from who knows where. I would like to see them maybe plunk down a couple hundred for a some women who I wouldn't cringe at when their bare ass walks by. It was really sad. At that point it is just annoying to see an overweight ringcard girl with a thong walk around the ring - I would just prefer the announcer saying what round it is than look at a horrible sight like that.
All the Throwdown had to offer for booze was Bud and Bud Light. Yuck! I actually bought a Bud Light and had to toss it away - I just drank water the rest of the night. This may be a function of the facility, but the Gladiator production had a full bar, with quality beers if you wanted. Bud was a sponsor of the Throwdown, but come on - they make other stuff too like Michelob that actually tastes somewhat like beer.
The fights themselves were much better than the last Throwdown I attended, as I mentioned. It was well worth my $25. So in the end, the Throwdown production is more spartan as far as conveniences go, but is worth it to buy a general admission ticket if you want to see some good MMA action.
A couple more nitpicks - the website for the Madtown Throwdown is awful! And they should provide a one page paper with all of the fights listed on it for the patrons to look at. I always find it interesting to see who is fighting from where, and what gym, etc. They did provide a fight card at the Gladiator event.
And finally...my biggest nit of all. A local gym provides a lot of the fighters and when they introduce the men from this particular gym there is always a huge entourage (coaches and gymmates) to escort the fighter to the ring. Seriously annoying. This guy had one or two fights under his belt and has a posse bigger than Tyson in his heyday. Hard to tell from the video, but there are about 20 guys coming to the ring with him. To his credit, he did win his fight. You can sort of hear me bitching about the entoruage halfway through this video.
In a funny episode later on, they had even MORE guys come out for one other fighter, and the fighter was entering the ring before all of the mob had even exited the locker room. Weird.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The picks were classified by the journalist as "Hits (4)", "Misses (13)", and "Still In Mix (5)".
In a classic example of "defining deviancy down", in the immortal words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, here are the SUCCESSES of Angelo:
- Greg Olsen, Tight End - yes I guess he was a success but had only a middling impact on the Bears' offense last year. They didn't even seem to know that they had a tight end on the field. His blocking certainly didn't help our pathetic running game
- Kyle Orton, QB - oh come on. Kyle is not a success. He is a QB that exemplifies the phrase "just good enough to lose"
- Bernard Berrian - WR - OK, he is good, even if he is critically underused, and our scrambling, nearly useless QB's won't plan on using him any time soon
- Adrian Peterson - RB - maybe - he is OK on special teams and he isn't a TOTAL stiff like Benson but I wouldn't consider him an NFL success... you probably couldn't trade him for a used gym sock but hey he isn't dragging the Bears offense down. I won't even COMPARE him with the guy from Minnesota with the same name who blows him off the field
There is one bona-fide success, of course, and that is HESTER, but he was drafted as a cornerback and not as an offensive player.
What about Angelo's offensive FAILURES? Well, that is pretty much everyone else and an incredibly sad litany. Look at the article and weep. I can't bear to even lay out the names of guys like Cedric Benson.
The draft is coming and probably some more horrendous picks from Angelo... he won't take Mendenhall, from Illinois, because why would the Bears need an impactful running back who would instantly be a fan favorite? If we are lucky he will take an offensive lineman who hopefully won't turn into a stiff.
More likely, he will just pick defensive players, AND GO WITH WHAT WE HAVE! Dan has predicted this grim scenario; I am choosing to put it out of my mind.
But read it and weep... I am going blind looking at it...
Here in Chicago it is very surreal because both the White Sox and the Cubs are winning, and winning big. After a rocky first few games they are among the two hottest teams in baseball. Even though I know it marks me as a freak, I am a fan of both the Sox and the Cubs and am glad to see them doing so well.
The best part of all this is that I can see a lot of the Billy Beane tactics in the Chicago teams' recent successes, including:
- Billy Beane hates stolen bases, because his statistics show that they are not effective overall. The Chicago White Sox have only two stolen bases this year, but it hasn't hurt them a bit. The Sox instead are adopting more like Earl Weaver's old tactics with the Orioles and putting men on base and then knocking out home runs
- Billy Beane also wants hitters that chew up the count and get on base a lot; while there are a lot of knocks on newly acquired Swisher (doesn't hit for power or average, or steal bases) in fact his best gift is to go deep in the count and walk a lot and get on base and he has been great for the Sox. Recently his batting average was around .225 but his on base average was almost .400
- Fukudome, the newly acquired Cubs outfielder, is another great hitter that Beane would love, a patient hitter who also has power. The contrast between him and the expensive, showboating, and idiotic Soriano (who hurt himself doing that stupid "hop" when he catches the ball) is immense. Fukudome has a great eye for the ball and is willing to take a walk when offered... the fact that he has power and can even bunt his way on base requires the opposing team to take him seriously
- the Cubs have finally discovered walks; they currently are second in the major leagues in walking - this from a team full of hackers who never used to take any walks (Corey Patterson). I think I even saw the Sox hacker Uribe take a walk - I had to rub my eyes on that one
- for pitching, Beane tried to get pitchers that had proven success at the college or major league level rather than taking chances on unproven young pitchers through the draft. Both the Cubs and Sox benefit from having an experienced bullpen relative to the disastrous methods that they used in prior years; while this too will likely collapse at least it is a step in the right direction
I know it's early and the Cubs, in particular, have played some lousy teams (the Pirates) for most of their victories. But the point is that they are starting to wake up to the tactics that it takes to win, which are the tactics of Moneyball and of the Boston Red Sox (whose GM uses a lot of the same types of tactics). Don't listen to the announcers; they don't know what they are talking about most of the time, and their commentary is mostly useless.
Our embattled governor recently named a new head of the Illinois Power Agency. Per this article from the Northwestern School of Journalism:
"Gov. Rod Blagojevich tapped Mark Pruitt, 39, an energy procurement specialist with the University of Illinois at Chicago's Energy Resource Center, to be the first executive director of the newly formed Illinois Power Agency. "
One thing about those journalism students, they get right to the point. That sentence above is the first sentence of the article, here is the second:
"But Pruitt declined an invitation Tuesday to explain exactly how the new agency will carry out its price-stabilization mandate."
An excellent question. How can the agency meet its mission of stabilizing prices WHEN THERE IS NO NEW GENERATION BEING BUILT? To their credit, the Illinois Power Agency and the State of Illinois are building a new coal plant called "Prairie State" in Southern Illinois, but this is a drop in the proverbial bucket and is far from the heavily populated areas of the state.
One item that they ought to consider doing is not allowing Exelon to "spin off" their nuclear reactors into a separate, publicly traded company, like Entergy is doing. The best chance for the State of Illinois to at least limit the damage of our botched deregulation process is to force super-profitable Exelon generation to remain "glued" to their money-losing brethren ComEd, the local distribution company. This way Exelon can't squeeze the golden goose too hard with high power rates because the distribution company will go belly up as a result. Of course I don't know how Mr. Pruitt's mandate or power would allow him to do this, but it is something he ought to consider, and fast, because if Exelon gets wise and follows Entergy it is all over but the shouting. Per Entergy's latest earnings release their nuclear spin off is on track for late 2008.
Even if he had a mandate, the poor state of Illinois' fiscal health and our broke-down government model will likely slow any substantial solutions from being implemented.
But good luck to this guy for trying and taking on the post! He will need all the luck he can get.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The first White Sox game I attended live was with my grandfather in 1961, I was eight years old. One of the 12 immutable laws of marketing is that being first usually wins. Statistics prove that most male consumers will be loyal for years to the first name brand product they experience or purchase in a given category such as the first beer, first car, first razor, etc. Marketers go after the young audience to this day based on that fact. I guess that explains my loyalty to the White Sox.
I remember being in second grade. He always preferred going to Sox vs. Yankee games. Two years earlier he and my dad attended a 1959 World Series game against the L.A. Dodgers. The Sox lost. I begged him to take me to a game like the ones I saw on television.
He took me to my first game via the South Shore railroad. We boarded in East Chicago Indiana and got off at 63rd and Cottage Grove in Chicago where we went down to street level. From there we walked one block up some stairs to the Jackson Park CTA elevated station. From there we rode “The El” to 35th and State. We got off in the middle of a neighborhood known as Bronzeville. From there I remember walking a few blocks west across a bridge where below was a large trench that would eventually become the Dan Ryan Expressway. Across the bridge was a huge white brick structure with green trim surrounded by towers holding the lights used for night games. Comiskey Park was as big and shiny as Emerald City to me that day.
After purchasing tickets at a small shack outside the park we entered behind home plate. Directly ahead was a curved liquor bar, the only place where hard liquor was sold within the park. The bar wrapped around the home plate end of the diamond under the grandstand. Inside were men, some in straw hats wearing sport coats and ties. My grandfather had a tie on too. He always wore a tie. And a hat. The men were all drinking shots of whiskey and he had one too.
He bought me anything I wanted. A bat pen, check. A cap, check. Cotton candy, check. A hot dog? Many checks.
There was this aroma that never leaves you. It was a mixture of cigars, hot dogs, mustard, hard liquor, stale beer and mustiness (I was used to this type of aroma because my other grandfather owned a tavern where I spent a lot of time, we once lived above that bar).
From there we proceeded to walk under the dark and musty grandstand to our seats. Turning left into a passageway and up a flight of steps where a massive expanse of daylight and vivid color, mostly green, opened up to a whole new world. But what stood out most to me was the scoreboard. Previous owner Bill Veeck installed this huge lighted billboard to display the scores and to hold acres of advertising messages.
If you are a male you were probably exposed to this same sensory experience on your first trip to a major league ballpark be it in Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, New York, St. Louis or wherever. I don’t have any idea what it was like at that other ballpark in Chicago, but I can imagine it was similar.
As an eight year old kid there were way too many distractions to keep me interested in the game. I do remember names like Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Tom Tresh, and the pitcher that day could have been Whitey Ford playing for the Yankees.
On the Sox side were names like Al Smith, Sherman Lollar, Jim Landis, Mike Hershberger, Luis Apparicio, Nellie Fox (my favorite player) and manager Al Lopez. Some names may be incorrect for the roster that year, I did not google to get any of these names. They all come from an aging memory.
He wrote in the lineups and tried to get me interested in keeping score on a grid located in center of the program. Forget it. I never, ever kept score. Bo-Ring.
I cannot remember who won. I do remember going outside after the game (as we did each game after that) to stand at the gate of the players parking lot. Other fans were there with us to get autographs from players. Some were kind enough to stop their cars and sign the programs. We got a few too.
What made me think of this is tonight the Sox are playing the Yankees. Right now it is in the bottom of the 6th inning and the Sox are winning 3-2. Memories have a way of staying with you, all they need is a visual or audio cue to get the juices going.
I wish he were here for the 2005 World Series. He was born in 1903 so he probably experienced the excitement before. But over the course of my life I never thought I would see the Sox win the big one. They did. I thought of him at that time and all those games he took me to. Tears.
Names like Nellie Fox and Al Lopez are replaced with new names. Names like Jermaine Dye and Ozzie Guillen. A.J Pierzynski, Joe Crede and Paul Konerko. Mark Buhrle, Jose Contrares and Javier Vasquez. Together these men won a World Series for Chicago and I watched many, many televised games in 2005 including the entire playoff series. I knew it was a special year early on. I remember my brother coming over for a Mother’s Day cookout and the first thing I said to him was, “have you seen what the Sox are doing this year? I think they are going to the playoffs”. Understatement.
This year as in 2005 nobody picked the Sox to do shit. Paid experts they are. This year it was all Cleveland and Detroit. And the Cubs.
We’ll see. For now the Sox look like the surprise team of the year. Looks as if it will all come down to the final weeks of the season in the AL Central.
Update#1: Tonight's final score. Sox 5- Yankees:9
Update#2: The Hildebeast won the Penn Dem Primary too.
As I said, we’ll see.
But it looks good from here. In baseball, at least.
I have always been amazed at how cheaply you could eat if you needed to. I am not talking about USDA prime cuts here. If you were down and totally out and needed to resort to cheap food just to sustain, you can get by on just a few bucks a day. Mac and cheese is .59. A loaf of bread is still under a buck. Fruit and veggies are still relatively cheap compared to other foods.
Back about 15 years ago I attended a seminar put on by Honeywell. The presenter arrived with several loaves of bread and brought the receipt from the store for them. This initiated a discussion of the whys and hows of choice, and marketing. Some people want more expensive bread because of the ingredients, some want a healthier fortified bread for the nutrition, and some people just want the cheapest thing they can find, any quality perceptions or realities be damned. I don't remember what the point of the seminar was, but I always remembered the bread demo. I recently ran into this gentleman at a convention and he was happy that I recalled him as "the bread guy".
Shaving is one of those things that I hate to do. It takes valuable time out of my day, and I still get cut on occasion. I have been shaving for approximately 20 years now, every day for six days a week. Sometimes I must shave twice a day if the wife and I are going out to a formal gathering late at night since I now have a pretty decent 5 o'clock shadow. That means that I have shaved my face a staggering 6,240 times as of now (approximately). About 15 years ago I declared Sundays as "universal shaving amnesty day", at least in my house. Hey, I am just following instructions. It is in the Bible, you know:
Genesis 1:31: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Genesis 1:32: And God was most pleased with what he hath made, and declared the seventh day to be without shaving. And the angels on high did sing and rejoice: "Hallelujah, we rejoice in the celebration of shaving amnesty day". And God did then create the holiest sport of American football which didst occupy all of man for most weekends between the holy months of August and January. And the angels did celebrate once again.
Since I have been shaving my face for so long (I don't know how women can stand shaving their legs, btw) I have had the opportunity to try just about every product on the market ever made to help a guy get through his morning misery of shaving. I have settled upon the traditional shaving cream and razor. At Walgreens the other day I was blown away by this:
I decided to try a can, just to see the quality of the stuff. This is great shaving cream, somewhat similar to my usual shaving cream of choice, Barbasol. It is very foamy, which I like. There is a LOT of shaving cream here, enough for several months of shaving. I went back a day later and bought six cans (only $1 each!) and have enough for several years of shaving now. I could see that others didn't have the same opinion of the stuff, because the more expensive shaving creams seemed to be picked over more (remember the bread demo?) than this brand on the bottom shelf.
I guess getting back to the main theme of this rambling post, I can't believe that a manufacturer in Canada can make this stuff, ship it to a Walgreens distribution center somewhere, then they can send it to Madison, stock it, charge me one thin dollar, and still make money. I suppose it could be a loss leader, but I can think of lots of products that would be better than this one for a loss leader.
Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.
Monday, April 21, 2008
There was a time when flying was a real adventure for me. I have flown in small aircraft for pleasure and loved every flight. Flying in small aircraft gives one a much better seat-of-the-pants flying experience than jet liners. You feel every thermo, every cross breeze and occasional weightlessness. Sitting in front gives one the sensation of piloting without the burden of concentration.
My father-in-law was a partner in a civil engineering firm and they owned a Cessna Skymaster. Cool plane. It had a split tail with one engine in front and one in the rear. Pilots referred to them as Mix Masters. Danny Glover flew one in the movie Bat 21 where he was a spotter for a downed B 52 Vietnam war pilot played by Gene Hackman. It was based on a true story.
We took many trips in the Skymaster to condos they owned in top vacation spots in the USA. Their company pilot was a veteran Korean War fighter pilot and he let me take control of the plane many times. He let me take off in the Skymaster once but never did let me land. Go figure.
A boyhood friend of my brother is a bush pilot near the end-of-the-road in northwestern Ontario. Bro recently gave me some old photos to scan and those trips came back so vividly. We went up there on fishing trips and Rob would fly us on day trips to remote lakes, once with boats strapped to the pontoons and outboards in the cargo area. He flew us to where walleye fishing was nothing less than fabulous. His aircraft was a vintage 50’s DeHaviland Beaver float plane and those trips are my favorite flying memories. Taking off on the water on small lakes with a rocky shore and towering pines growing nearer before lift-off is an experience that would make many crap their pants. Especially sitting in the front seat. Rob knew his plane and flew it well. He had to.
One of his horror stories involved being in thunderstorm clouds and coming out into clear air inverted. There are no air traffic controllers in the bush.
This plane had a huge radial engine and it just roared. Nothing beats looking down at miles of forest, logging roads and glaring lakes. I would do it again tomorrow. Not only because fishing in isolated lakes was so incredible. It was a flight experience that seemed so primitive and dangerous.
In my full-time business career there was a ten-year period in the late 80’s and early ‘90’s where I flew twice a month to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA from Chicago O’Hare. United owned a lot of the routes and gates to John Wayne at first and then surrendered many gates and routes to American Airlines. Why and how, I do not know.
United flew Boeing 737’s and 757's while American flew MD-80’s exclusively. I am not a fan of either airline but preferred the Boeing's over the MD's for personal reasons.
I was a superstitious business flyer. While I had racked up hundreds of thousands of miles, which could be exchanged for first-class vouchers, my preference was to sit in the rear on coach flights. I felt safe there since most crash photos always showed the tail section intact.
What bothered me about the MD-80 was a noticeable leak over the galley in the rear of the plane. Water dripped throughout most flights to the point where the aisle carpeting was soaking wet. When I asked the flight attendants about this the reply was that it was normal.
NORMAL? Water dripping into the plane was NORMAL? I avoided the MD-80 as much as possible.
As it turns out that chronic water leak never led to a mishap. But recently American had grounded hundreds of planes and cancelled thousands of flights in the past two weeks. MD-80’s were the suspect planes. While a lot of the bad press has dragged Boeing (I am a shareholder in BA) into the mess the plane was manufactured by McDonell Douglass which merged with Boeing in 1997. Boeing is responsible for parts and maintenance of MD 80’s.
I do not miss flying for business anymore, not one bit, nosir. There is nothing glamorous about flying in an airliner and in my semi-retired career I do not need to. Flying is a transportation choice for my vacation but nobody will ever, ever force me into flying for business again.
This book received good reviews from many sources and I was eying it for a while; recently I have been down for the count and had a bit of time to catch up on my reading so I pulled it off my shelf and read it cover to cover.
I used to work at something "close" to an ad agency; during the height of the dot-com boom many firms were gluing together their existing consulting and technology practices with ad agencies to put together a dot-com sheen that led to high (short term) market values. Thus I have some level of experience with the environment that Ferris is describing.
Ferris is pretty funny when he describes the camaraderie of a small firm, the petty infighting over titles, and the need to "look busy" especially as layoffs claim more and more victims. His fictional firm gets smaller and smaller by the day as staff and supporting functions are reduced in size; security, the partners, and the office coordinator are mostly what's left at the end.
We had this too; as we lost clients supporting staff like HR and payroll were fired along with any consultants "on the bench" (not billing). This type of activity is like eating your seed corn; you are eliminating any chance of coming back later if there isn't any infrastructure in place.
As in the book, huge swathes of territory (floors) were abandoned; you could walk around and just see tangles of network wires where the machines were disconnected and a bit of detritus and personal effects.
There is an inherent dread in knowing that you can be fired at any time; it brings out the worst in anyone. As in the book, the smallest events like how you conduct yourself at a meeting or the perceived quality of your latest, insignificant assignment might be the difference between staying and leaving.
Our firings were more chaotic in real life than they were in the book; people did cry, and they also stole whatever they could get their hands on. CD burners and laptops were of high value back then and a frequent target of ire. In the book they also received organized severance packages; towards the end my company didn't even pay the medical insurance dues, as I found out to my dismay.
Another part of the book that rang true was the meet-up at the end; one of the advertising employees was an author at a reading and everyone got back together to discuss their lives after all the layoffs were done. Most of them went back to similar jobs at other firms, and life went on, but a few left the business entirely for dramatically different occupations (one joined the military).
In the book, most of the people (with a couple of exceptions) spent most of their day gossiping and scheming, and telling stories. The fictional agency did not seem like a well run place; this matched my experience of dealing with the "creatives". I had the hardest time trying to get them to write proposals, describe their deliverables, and execute on their plans. Much of this work that was fetching top dollar during the dot-com boom (and able to support big buildings, many executives, and lots of staff) melted away with the dot-coms. Consulting, too, took a horrendous hit during the downturn, but was able to reconstitute itself by going back to system implementations and "body shop" tactics. I haven't been with the "creatives" since, but I tend to think that they haven't come back close to their 2000 'ish' heyday.
The weakest parts of the book concern a detour into the lead partner getting sick and questioning her commitment to a life of work... yawn. Much funnier are the fictionalized rant of a corporate malcontent who goes off his rocker and spends all day on elaborate pranks and even comes back as a clown with a paintgun after being fired.
Cross Posted at Chicago Boyz
To many people, myself included, any time stocks rise at this rate without "fundamental" positive changes to the environment, it smells of a bubble. Remember prior to 2000 when the dot-com stocks were going to remain at a "permanently high level", or that the economic cycle had been tamed? These thoughts were shattered when the NASDAQ swooned 78% from peak to trough during its brutal fall.
I run some individual stocks for my nieces and nephews at this site and let them select from a list of stocks; in recent years there has been a strong emphasis on these well performing overseas issues. One stock that had a meteoric rise was China Mobile - the largest wireless firm in China (and the world) - whose stock went from under $40 / share to over $100 / share in about a year - remember this stock had an enormous market capitalization to begin with and anytime a large company has this type of stock performance it is extremely abnormal. We took our winnings and left; the stock has subsequently dropped significantly.
This chart from the WSJ article "China Stocks, Once Frothy, Fall by Half in Six Months" shows clearly the runup in the China index from 2006 (near 1000) to almost 6000 in late 2007, down to near 3000 today (April 2008).
It is a sign of progress in my mind that China isn't intervening to "fix" the situation; while these losses must be painful for many Chinese citizens (many individual investors probably piled in and invested near the peak so they didn't get the gains on the way up but are getting hit on the way down) the government seems to realize that there aren't any simple fixes other than letting the market work itself out.
Bubbles are bubbles, where-ever they reside. We had the NASDAQ bubble, and now we are about to go through the worst phases of the real estate bubble. As someone who has been through a couple of these, my advice is to keep your wits about you and realize that they all come to an end at some point; so take your winnings and limit your exposure even if you end up leaving some $ on the table.
Cross Posted at Chicago Boyz
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Today I was reading the Sunday Chicago Tribune real estate section when I noticed an article titled “Credit Getting Even Tighter for Condominium Buyers”. If you own a condominium and are interested in its value or are consider buying a condominium I strongly suggest that you research this issue in greater depth.
The first issue is regarding mortgage insurance or “PMI”. “PMI” is typically needed when buyers (or individuals refinancing their existing loans) don’t have 20% equity in the unit. According to the article:
“AIG United Guaranty… no longer will write coverage on condos in hundreds of ZIP Codes that it designates as “declining” markets. Applicants’ credit scores, assets or equity stakes don’t matter; Even in the healthiest real estate markets, United Guaranty will require buyers to put at least 10% down and will reject applications in buildings where more than 30% of the owners are investors.”
I don’t know how widespread this issue of not issuing PMI is across other insurers but it clearly is an important element in many markets; if other insurers follow this lead then many buyers will be effectively shut out of the market if they can’t put 20% down.
The second issue is that Fannie Mae, the government backed mortgage insurer (along with its cousin Freddie Mac) has issued new underwriting requirements that loan officers are required to verify before it will take the loans (i.e. without their approval they are non-conforming loans and command a higher interest rate, if you can get one at all). Per the article, loan officers will need to verify the following:
-Association operating budgets must have at least 10% of their dues going towards deferred maintenance or capital improvements
-The percentage of owners late on their payments
-The percentage of space allocated to commercial development
-The percentage of units owned by investors (who presumably rent out the units)
While all the criteria aren’t listed, it is safe to assume that there will be percentage measures for the above items and if these percentages are breached then the loans will not be considered confirming by Fannie Mae which is bad news for potential purchasers, since this drastically reduces the odds of getting a loan at all (much less one at a good rate). Per the article:
“Even if you had an 800 FICO score and put 50% equity down you still might not be able to get a condo loan” per one broker.
You can also see that Fannie Mae is trying to shift the underwriting and due diligence efforts back to the loan originators. They are required to legally stand behind their analysis and presumably will be subject to court action if the claims turn out to be false. At a minimum, this will result in much more paperwork as the loan officer will have to pore through condominium documents in order to do the analysis prior to going forward with the loan. I am only speculating but likely the loan officer won’t even bother unless there are enough units potentially for sale to make it worth his / her time – for example if you have a ten unit building why spend hours on analysis plus the legal risk when the same work would allow you to make loans on a 100+ unit building?
While these items will immediately impact those that are trying to refinance and those interested in buying a condominium in the near-term, there is a significant underlying impact on the owners of existing condominiums. Elementary supply and demand says that when demand is taken out of the market (buyers not able to qualify for loans), the price of the remaining supply will fall.
While these items will immediately impact those that are trying to refinance and those interested in buying a condominium in the near-term, there is a significant underlying impact on the owners of existing condominiums. Elementary supply and demand says that when demand is taken out of the market (buyers not able to qualify for loans), the price of the remaining supply will fall.
Beyond the "general" market impacts of this change, these items will likely impact the weakest developments the hardest. For example, if you are in a development with a high percentage of renters, you are likely to be banned from PMI and confirming Fannie Mae loans which will seriously impact your ability to sell your units, and for the developer to sell off their remaining units. At this point the project, which is likely teetering on the edge of bankruptcy anyways, falls over entirely and then you are stuck in a miserable process where an overworked bank tries to figure out what to do next. Do they finish the building? Do they sell it off as-is to another developer? If you are in a unit waiting on the developer that is a bad place to be, because you can't sell since no one in their right mind would buy from a bankrupt developer except at the most fire-sale of prices.I don't want to sound too apocalyptic but this seems to be a terrible blow to the condo market, especially in the hardest hit areas which are already teetering on the edge of mass bankruptcies (which push units out into the market at fire sale prices, thus damaging everyone else's unit values in the process, and causing more marginal borrowers to fail).
Also note that this is your government at work - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government sponsored entities that are supposed to promote home ownership (especially in times of crisis, like now) are pulling up the rug on a whole swath of projects and leaving everyone involved in dire straits, so that they can limit their losses and thus earn more profits.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Recently I was out walking in River North. There is a new building going up in the lot next to the iconic AMA building at State and Grand Avenues. There used to be a little park next to the lot and that is where they are constructing the new building.
The AMA building is very interesting because it is a triangle on the front part of the lot. There is a "cut out" on the top of the building. I hope the new building in the lot doesn't totally block the view of this building, because it is great to look at. What would be cool is if it was the opposite, like two pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, but it probably is going to be a regular building.
Here is a view looking West on the Chicago River with the NBC building up front all lit up and the construction of the Trump Tower in the background.
Growing up we could look from the suburbs straight East and see the Sears Tower, the John Hancock Building, and the Amoco Building (now the AON Building) from 20 miles away on a nice, clear day. When the Trump Tower gets built up to its maximum height it should be visible from that far away, too, and probably the Shangri-La Hotel, as well.
In the pad holding classes there are only four of us so half the time we are holding and half the time we are hitting. We are practicing some high level drills for the fighters during this. It is good to actually hit the drills like the fighters will - this will help me be a better holder for them as time goes by. But as this was rolling along I began to notice something - my boxing really sucked. I don't know what happened - everyone tells me that I am hitting hard, but I just didn't feel right. My balance was off, and I felt that I was pawing to hit the pads rather than naturally using my reach to connect. Here is what it is supposed to look like - this is Anuwat, known as one of the hardest punchers in all of Muay Thai.
It was time for a private lesson, which I had yesterday. Most of my suspicions were right.
The first thing we did is dial in my footwork. I wasn't stepping as I was supposed to and was sort of "landlocked". Thai boxing is different from Western style boxing because we have to shift our center of gravity frequently because we are worried about knees and kicks coming from the opponent, where this isn't a concern to Western style boxers. But there are some similarities to Thai and Western boxing as well.
I wasn't stepping forward with my jab at all, and I was reminded that I need that half step forward to deliver it, and need to touch my shoulder to my cheek. Even though I am left handed, my jab or lead hand is my left. Then on the cross, or cobra as we call it, a small step OUT is required - this is to facilitate me turning my shoulder over. We also talked about technique with my body as well. Punches start at your feet and work their way up to the fist. Feet, hips, shoulders, hand. The power difference I felt was instant and amazing. Sure, I hit hard before, but now I was starting to feel a burn on my knuckles - I realized that I will need to wrap my hands more in the future.
We then worked on my hook which is probably the toughest punch to master, and my worst by far. It has a long way to go, but is much better than it was. My uppercuts were pretty good as I use my hips well to generate power with those.
Then we put it all together and I was basically a new man after an hour with the instructor. Money well spent.
It is strange how badly my boxing fell apart, but when you are practicing other things like elbows, kicks and clench, there just isn't time to do the other stuff. I am glad I took this private lesson. As always it was exhausting, but I am used to that.
For the first time in a long time I am taking off Saturday from Muay Thai. All of the padholding in combination with clenching in curriculum has taken its toll and I need a day off. And I took a private lesson so I have my three workouts for Muay Thai in this week as usual. Sunday morning I will do my usual treadmill work - and practice my boxing.
I videotaped myself a few weeks ago to check myself out - I think I will do the same thing this week and look at a before and after with my boxing - I bet the difference will be startling.
Friday, April 18, 2008
This time I was able to take a quick photo (sorry for the lousy shot) to prove that I wasn't just imagining how stupid this is... and then when I got home I looked it up on the internet.
The name of the product is "cruzin cooler". Here is a link to their web site.
Damn are we Americans getting lazy and fat if we can't even carry a cooler...