Thursday, July 31, 2008

Best Drill Ever

The past month or so has been great at the gym. For starters I have begun to do the circuit training for strength offered and I can see results already after three weeks. I remember when I began the circuit training how difficult it was and how sore I was the days afterward. Now I am not sore anymore, and the training isn't as tough as it used to be. Not to say it isn't hard. It is still exhausting, because of the water weight we lose during the circuit since it is so hot during the summer. We never get A/C at the gym, our instructor is old school that way. I like it.

On top of that, the first month of the new curriculum block is boxing, as always. I have really found my niche in Muay Thai. Don't get me wrong, I like clenching, kicking, elbows, knees and the rest, but the boxing is my favorite. It is the worst part of my game, unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, my boxing is good, just not perfect yet. I am pretty hard on myself.

When people hold pads for me they constantly wince and groan because when I box, I BOX. I have great power in my punches, but they still are not whip like enough, nor do I use my body as properly as I should. I am not worried, I have only been boxing for a year and a half now, and from where I was, well, lets say I have come a long way.

We did a great self defense type drill in class the other day that had to do with boxing. It was a situation/conditioning drill. One person had to act like they were hit and stunned and had to slump against the ropes. The other person had to keep punching them about 50% all over the place, rapid fire, for thirty seconds. The person on the ropes was not allowed to return punches, and had to cover up - AND keep their eyes open and imagine places where they could hit the attacker back if they were allowed.

Keeping my eyes open while someone was punching at me rapid fire was a great exercise to go through. It really helps to imagine someone flailing at me during an attack. In a self defense situation such as getting slugged at in a bar or something, knowing how to "ride it out", then come back with a flurry is a great thing.

I have taken a private lesson with my instructor on boxing before, I think I need another one. I did receive my boxing stripe on my orange sash, signifying that I passed this block of boxing curriculum, but I know I could be so much better. And I will be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Jeep Is Dead. Long Live My Jeep.


After 115,000 miles and ten years I knew the end was near. I take damn good care of my rides. To me the most economical way to own a car is to pay for it, keep it ten years and let it go. I am not a wrench and the need for a car that goes when I need it to is vital. My life is too busy to screw around fixing old cars.

I have owned a 4WD vehicle since 1980 and they sure are fun, especially on a snowy day when I can out-accelerate any Corvette. Those days are officially over.

It became obvious last spring when the Wrangler lost it’s (rear axle) bearings. No longer would it be a dependable and trustworthy ride ready to go whenever I was. This weekend the old Wrangler would not start. The battery would not take a charge so I bought a new one. Instant start. Done. Well, not really.

Sunday night I pulled it into the garage. Fine. Monday morning it was dead when I needed it to head for Chicago. Electrical problems are where I get the schpilkies. In my experience electrical problems can either be fixed quickly or it can be a trip to the wrench every week or so. The Jeep is now dead to me. Dead I tell you, dead. Whimper. Sniff.

Yesterday afternoon it was towed to my local mechanic. She'll live for a long time but not in my garage. So long, sweetie. It was a blast!

Since I reached double nickels (55) last May the midlife thingy is in full swing. What if I bought a sporty two-seater? I never owned one. What about an internal combustion sporty metal shot of Viagra to get me around? Sounds good. Where to go from here?

Hell I have the 4WD Ford Exploder to drag the boat and pack up my favorite setter for a hunting trip. The Exploder can haul a deer or two, dozens of decoys or even help relocate one of my kids if they need it. After a lot of thought my desire for another 4X4 has waned.

Being a frugal sort the price range I want to spend on a vehicle is rather narrow. Why spend a shitload of cash on the most depreciating object I can invest in?

The plan last spring was to replace the Wrangler with…another Wrangler. This Jeep was the best value in an auto I ever had. It never gave me any problems. A 2008 Rubicon model goes for about $29. The Sahara is at $27. I have no interest in the X model. So IF I wanted a slick two-seat roadster $30 would be the max.

After doing a lot of research on the intertnets it was surprising to find a nice selection of new roadsters to choose from in that price range. The hormones I still have were on full tilt.

A Corvette was out. It is over $50 and way too much. What about the insurance and fuel price? Not worth it. The Porsche Boxter was out too. Same reasons. Audi TT? Nope. Nissan Z? Not my style. The BMW Z4? Out of range too. I decided to draw the line at $30. Here is what I narrowed my choices to:

The Pontiac Solstice.


This thing is pure sex on wheels. The lines are out of this world. The turbocharged GXP model is within reach too. 260 HP? Galloping gonads! This thing gives the boxter a run for the money? TT? Buh-bye!

The Saturn Sky Redline.


This is basically a Pontiac / GM Solstice frame and drive train with body lines similar to a Dodge Viper. Nice.

The Mini Cooper.


My brother’s brother-in-law has one. I like the MPG rating and it fits like a glove. Front wheel drive is the difference and it’s not a true roadster. But four seats (the back two are absolutely worthless) bring down insurance costs and can hold a Kroger sack or two, maybe a cooler.

The Mazda MX5.


Initially this was called the Miata. I was never a fan as it looked like a “chick” car. Too soft in the lines. Underpowered. Sweet in the twisties. Never considered trying one. Oh well.

After test driving a few here is my personal review of each.

The Solstice.

I wanted to hump this little bitch. Damn. I went to the local Pontiac dealer to go for a test spin. I was only interested in the GXP turbo model. Once inside it was downhill. Almost.

My size limits me. Being 6’3” and 245lbs not a lot of roadster cockpits will hold this old body. The window frame lines were thick and obtrusive. And they have to be in order to save my bacon in a rollover (good luck). The sides were quite high, too high for even my ape arm to hang out the window comfortably. The legroom was very narrow and the ignition key with the remote door lock was rubbing my thigh (ooo). Not good.

The cockpit length was short for my long wheels to stretch out. The sight lines were obstructed by a windshield frame that was right at my eye-level and as thick as Hillary Clinton’s calves. Once the top was up I had to duck to see out the tiny side windows. Visibility was nil.

Once on the road that turbo kicked in and it was warp speed ten, Scotty, all the way. This thing had real shit-n-git! Wow! Every gear was a pleasure. I took it on some nearby twisties. What this car lacked is what I had read about in reviews. Sloppy. Not a lot of feel. Easy to over steer. Besides, after a 20 minute test drive my legs hurt.

A Solstice may be nice for short folk but not for me. Still, I just loved that turbo boost. Nothing like it. Whap!

The Sky Redline.

Like I said, this is a Solstice dressed in a Viper-like skin. After calling the nearest Saturn dealer he told me they were out of stock and would not be getting any until ’09 I figured this would save me a 30 mile one-way drive.

The Mini Cooper.

I have sat in a mini that belongs to Harold, my brother’s brother-in-law. He has a convertible in the S class. This is a really sweet little car. Quick, nimble and front-wheel drive.

The mini problem is that there are no dealers within a hundred miles of my country bunker. Sorry. Done.

The Mazda MX5.

Originally called the Miata, the original Mazda concept was to build a classic early 60's British roadster in the style of MG and Triumph. The original design style was quite feminine to me. It looked like it could be Barbie’s toy car. I never paid it much attention.

In researching the best under $30 roadsters it showed up, on top at Edmonds, Motor Trend and US News.

http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/rankings/Affordable-Sports-Cars/

I had to take it for a spin, just to make a comparison. After looking at the images on the internets it looked nice. It was similar to the BMW Z4 and kind of like the Boxter and similar to the Audi TT. It is in the 3rd generation of engineering and styling. They say over 800,000 have been sold.

A Mazda dealer was less than three miles away. Why not?

Once inside the demo car I noticed a lot of room in both width and length. It was similar to the Solstice without the cramped feeling and obstructed view. When it was fired up the exhaust had a nice hummm.

The clutch was easy, the shift throws (6-speed manual) were effortless and the giddyup was quick. It was nothing like the Solstice turbo but so much better to be a part of. It just fit. It had some nuts too. It also had trunk space after the top went down. And best of all, this little thing was absolutely glued to the road.

The results?

I signed the papers today, I am now the proud owner of a Mazda MX5. They will be delivering one in black on Thursday and it will be in the garage on Saturday morning. At 28mpg highway I will be driving it all day on Saturday, just to break it in.

The 0% 36 mo. financing is nice too.

Anyone want to buy a 1998 Jeep Wrangler Sahara? $5000. A young kid with a wrench and another $3 to spend on rehab will be getting a fun, well cared for 4X4.

Badger State Trail, Part Two

Just south of the city of Belleville is this tunnel. Obviously this was a train tunnel at one time. This tunnel is, I am guessing around a quarter to half mile long. Inside it is DARK. You would never make it through without a flashlight, as it bends around a hill. Also inside it is wet, soggy, cool and clammy. I saw a few rats and a bat or two in there. The surface wasn't horrible though - I rode my bike through it VERY slowly, although the state website says to walk through.
Here is a video. Turn it up in the beginning and please tell me what kind of animal is making that crazy sound. I call this place the devil's basement.
video

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pierogi Fest 2008 – The Food


Whiting IN – Friday, July 25, 2008

This thing is getting huge. It is more crowded every time we go. There was a noticeable attendance boost this year. It made Oprah’s list of ten things to do this summer. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

http://www.pierogifest.net/


I must say the pierogi’s are usually disappointing. Not bad, they’re just not my style of pierogis. Maybe these were the Slovak style of pierogis since Whiting has a large Slovak heritage. My ma still makes the best pierogis. She never fried them like the vendors do at this party. Ma’s were roasted in the oven covered with a ton of carmelized onions and about ten pounds of butter. Being a third generation Polak I have been eating them since forever so I know a little something about pierogis, at least the way I like them. I have made them on occasion, it’s an all afternoon job but well worth the effort. We usually make enough for three meals and freeze the excess.

What culture does not have a version of cooked dough encrusted medley of textures, meats, vegetables, spices and flavor? Italians make ravioli, Mexicans make enchiladas, in South America they make epinadas and Orientals make pot stickers just to name a few. These are all similar to pierogi's.


I tried pierogis from three vendors. The price seemed to be fixed at $1 each or three for $2.75. And they were all small. My vote for best pierogi for 2008? Dan’s pierogi’s. Dans were large, stuffed to the max and Dan’s had the largest variety to choose from. I refuse to trash the other vendors. They were good but Dan's had the biggest and the best.


We don’t go so much for the food but to watch the odd variety of people who show up. Since I hate Taste of Chicago so much this is my only chance to gape at some very unusual human behavior.



This is my plate or Dan's potato and cheddar pierogis. I added the pepper. I put pepper on everything I eat.

Pierogi Fest 2008 – The Parade

I don't know the story behind Steve Baskerville being the annual Grand Marshall of the Pierogi Parade that kicks off the event on Friday evening. Steve is the weatherman for CBS2 in Chicago. He's a nice guy and does a good job. But I don't get his connection to pierogi's. When I called his name as he went past Steve smiled and posed for a photo for me. I asked that he hold up the most popular t-shirt seen at the event. Thanks, Steve. He is a class act all the way!


What makes Pierogi Fest an event I like to attend is that it is definitely politically incorrect. Here is a large group of ethnic eastern European immigrants and the subsequent generations making fun of their heritage. How refreshing is that? What's wrong with a good laugh at ourselves? But recently something unusual has happened. There seems to be more and more men cross-dressing. I don’t know what to make of it but guess I should check it off as simple outrageousness instead of latent homosexuality. NOT that there’s anything wrong with THAT.


I have no explanation for this. None.


Czechs, Slovaks, Polaks and BoHunks of all kinds coming together for the common good. What's not to like?


Hey, the tailgate this weekend is about 100 miles south in Bourbonais. Maybe they got lost in traffic on the way to watch Devin Hester collect an honest paycheck.



Maybe they just wanted to say that Da'Coach showed up at Pierogi Fest 1008.

Pierogi Fest 2008 – Polka Party

In the 60’s when I was young every wedding I attended was a traditional Polish wedding and every one had a live Polka band. Most were held at an American Legion or VFW hall. No air conditioning. There were crowds of beer-swilling, sweaty older folks spinning around between gulps of beer and shots of Seagram's 7. Today weddings have “disc jockeys” who play recorded music tailored to the taste of the bride and groom. Live bands cost too much, I guess. Too bad, nothing like live music. Call it progress.


A traditional Polish wedding was special back then. I know places like Buffalo NY, Pittsburgh PA, Cleveland OH and Detroit MI all had Polish populations where immigrants came to work in what they now call the rust belt industries. Back when the older generation was still tied to the old country ways a live Polka Band for the wedding was a no-brainer.

Pierogi Fest is dedicated to preserving those days in a twisted and fun sort of way. We have been going for about five years and this band always has the Friday night opening bill.

Take Five is as good as they get. I mean these guys are really good. Three horns, two accordions and a drummer get that good old sound and is sure is fun. It’s happy music, festive and upbeat. No ballads or drum solos. And no rap crap. The accordion player in the middle is as animated as they come. Few rock guitar players come close to his energy and showmanship.


This old dude is there every year and I think he wears the same outfit too.


He must be over 80 and he dances like he is 30. I am 55 and can’t match his energy. He reminds me of some old relatives of mine who are no longer with us.

This is why I am drawn to Pierogi Fest. It reminds me of a different time and a different place. It was a better time and a better place too.


Pierogi Fest 2008 was a bit more crowded, the food was so-so but the people were delightfully unusual and the music was outstanding. A good time was had by all.

I will be back.

Badger State Trail Part One

Click any photo for larger.

Sunday I decided to do something I have wanted to do for a long time, and that was to ride the Badger State Trail. It starts (or ends, depending how you look at it) here, about six miles south of my house. I almost missed it the first time I rode by, it is sort of hidden around a corner.
You will note that it is a crushed limestone path. My bike is a road bike, but I never had any issues riding the Military Ridge trail up here, and that is also crushed limestone. Well, this was a bit of a different deal. I will get back to that in a minute. The trail itself and the scenery is stunning. Everything is very lush around here from the torrential spring rains. At times I felt as though I wasn't even in Wisconsin.
A ways south, I came upon Belleville and this immense granary.
I am pretty sure that most of the path was an old rail bed, as this bridge would indicate.
I can't remember if what was above was a road or a train track. But pretty cool looking either way.
The path itself was not the best. I almost wiped out three times or so from loose limestone or mud. I was a total mess when I got back - I felt as though I had brought back half the trail with me.

It hasn't rained around here in a couple of weeks, but the ground is still saturated from the floods back in May and June. I would not recommend a road bike for this trail - a cross or mountain bike is much more appropriate at this time.

One other recommendation - KEEP MOVING. AT ALL COSTS. Each time I stopped to take a photo I was besieged by stinging bugs of all sorts. Mosquitoes, biting flies, you name it - a total Algore created ecohorror. It was like nothing I have ever seen. The only way I could stop to get a bite was to pull onto a farm road and cruise into the open air a bit. Scary video from the tunnel in the next part.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Madison at Large

Click any photo for larger.




Madtown Throwdown 16

Muay Thai is dead, Long Live Muay Thai!

Last night was Madtown Throwdown 16, and it was a very good show. The fights were of a very high quality. I have written about this event before, and I am glad that they are getting higher quality fighters. Even the ring girls were better. Thank god.

I don't know if they are paying the fighters more or if the all around level of MMA in the country is higher. I have a feeling it is a combination of both. All I really care about is getting my $25 worth, and that I did get. There were fighters there from all around the midwest.

We had three people from our gym fighting, and only one won. Eh, sometimes that is the way it goes. I don't help the MMA guys a lot holding pads or coaching, but I still see them around the gym and they are my friends. They did well, and I always congratulate them for getting into the ring, something I will never be able to say that I have done. We had a lot of people from the gym there to support them last night. It was fun to shoot the shit with my gym mates outside of the usual environment. As an added bonus I ran into a guy who used to come to the gym, but now goes to a different one. After I told him how I became a certified pad feeder and coach he tried to recruit me to come to his gym. I told him I appreciated the invite, but I am pretty happy where I am.

MMA is such a different game than Muay Thai. In MMA you must have all of your ducks in a row - you need a good stand up game, as well as a good Jiu Jitsu game for the ground. I admit that I was disappointed in the lack of good clench work I saw at the Throwdown. I saw unlimited opportunities for knees and elbows. Then again, what the hell do I know? I don't know squat about take downs, or the leverage required to execute them, or if a Muay Thai knee would throw someone off balance.

In several discussions with my gym mates, we all agreed that we would probably never see a Muay Thai event with the appeal of MMA. MMA has become so hugely popular that MT is just part of MMA now. I hardly ever see professional Muay Thai cards ANYWHERE in the US. The money just isn't there. It is in MMA. The only pro MT cards I have seen are on the coasts, and those are few and far between. There is the occasional one in Milwaukee or Chicago, but those don't feature enough pro fighters to make it worth most people's while. There seem to be a decent amount of amateur cards around, and we have a lot of people training for those at the gym, but I don't see how you could ever make any money at all even to cover your gas fighting MT in the USA.

Ah well, MT still has my heart, and I love it when I see a perfectly executed MT move at the MMA fights that I attend. I won't ever give up on MT, even though the USA pretty much has.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hester. Prynned.

It’s that time of year again. The visible signs are everywhere.

Let's see. Back-To-School advertising appears, Menards puts those gaudy outdoor Halloween decorations up for sale, images of hurricanes show up on the national doppler weather radar map and NFL players hold out for more money.

Yep, it’s late July alright.


Devin Hester, the sensational kick return specialist for the Bears decided that he needs more money. His paltry $650,000 a year contract is no where in line with his talent, contributions and potential. He is the latest Bear training camp holdout who is under contract to play. To me he is definitely worth a lot more. But he did sign a contract so there's no sympathy from me. You can find sympathy in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.


Just take a look at his ride. A Chevy Impala? It may be pimped out but shouldn’t that be a Cadiallac Esarape or an exotic Italian race car like the one Lance Briggs trashed last year at 2am and then took off to avoid the dreaded breathalyzer test?? Hester's homeys in Miami must be laughing out loud at this sad chump. A ride like that suits an Englewood crack dealer just fine but an NFL Superstar?

C'mon! With $650,000 per year he can't do better than that? Maybe he is buying a firearm collection like Tank Johnson. Maybe he spends it clubbing with bitches and ho's and gambling boats. Maybe he bought his own boat just like Cedric Benson did.

No wonder he’s a no-show at training camp in Bearbonais. He’s embarrassed to park that ride in the team parking lot next to tricked-out Hummers and exotic italian jobs.

Dan Pompei is a sports journalist and a damn good one. He covers the NFL for The Chicago Tribune. This morning while reading his latest I was shaking my head up and down.

YES! Make Hester trade bait while his value is high. What do you think, Dev?



Here is Dan’s idea and I agree with him 100%.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/cs-080724-dan-pompei-devin-hester,0,129102.column

With Hester the Bears may go 8-8 to bear-ly miss a wild card spot. Without Hester the Bears should go 6-10 to miss the post season for sure. And I am being generous here.

If Bears management is smart this is exactly what they will do. But then again, the current Bear administration’s sense of judgment in compiling a winning roster is about as good as O’Bama’s judgement in selecting ministers, terrorist buddies, real estate partners and eventually a cabinet. (Wretch).

Some NFL owners with fat wallets and inflated egos would love to have Hester. Some would benefit immediately to have this weapon.

Now compare Dan’s idea with the one published yeaterday in The Chicago Slum-Times by Jay Mariotti. Old baloney brain says to pay the man.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/mariotti/1072152,mariotti072408.article

Jay Mariotti is the worst Chicago sports writer of all time. He cannot carry Dan Pompei’s jock. This is just another example of Jay's observational ineptitude.

Sweep Completed!

All Star left fielder Ryan Braun watches the ball in the ninth inning yesterday in St. Louis. As Bob Uecker would say - "Get up, get outta here, GONE".
And the Crew complete the four game sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis. Glorious! Three this weekend with the Astros, then four with the hated Cubs. All we have to do is split those four with the Cubs and we are on our way.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

River North Black and White

Here is a moon peeking up over construction in black and white. The moon was so bright it was a big blob in color. It is great how the moon arcs across the sky silhouetted by the various buildings.

HOT!!!!

Who is the hottest team in all of baseball right now? Well that would be none other than the Milwaukee Brewers, now only one game behind the most hated Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. CC Sabathia tossed a beautiful complete game shutout yesterday, for the Crew's third win in a row against the Cardinals, and today we go for the four game sweep. That is Sabathia's third straight complete game, a feat almost unheard of in modern baseball. The Cubs better look out, it is only a matter of time.

And the series at Miller Park between the Cubs and Crew July 28-31 will be HUGE. Four big games. All the Crew needs is a split and we are on our way. I went to the Brewers site and the only tickets available for the Monday game are standing room. That place will be rocking.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Proper Nutrition

This post is a long one about my fitness regimen and how I have needed to change my intake of food to supplement it. I understand if you don't find this interesting, so stop here if you would rather not hear a long and drawn out (and sometimes mildly scientific) discussion of fitness and food.

With summer arriving, it has been hot at the gym. My instructor never turns on the A/C in there - he is old school that way. That is fine with me, but it makes me sweat even more than I already do. My workout schedule on a weekly basis now looks like this.
  • Monday - one hour strength circuit training, one hour muay thai class, one hour of pad holding for fighters (this is more tiring than you might think) or body boxing with fighters if there is an odd number
  • Tuesday - off day
  • Wednesday - same regimen as Monday
  • Thursday - off day
  • Friday - off day or optional light five mile run (all miles under 10 minutes)
  • Saturday - one hour muay thai class, optional light bike ride in summer (20 miles or less)
  • Sunday - long bike ride in summer, always over 50 miles, sometimes hill work. In winter, treadmill for 5 miles (all miles under 8 minutes) and light muay thai workout
As you can see, in summer I am churning and burning the calories. I always sweat a lot in my workouts, and the level of sweat is increased the hotter it gets. I noticed on Monday after an extremely active weekend that my weight was pushing below 170. I also was feeling ragged - looked like a million bucks, but this situation isn't good. Several people have told me (most importantly, the wife) that I need to stop losing weight and they are right. I think 175-180 is a good weight for me. The only thing is that I am eating everything in sight and still losing the battle. After thinking about this for a while I figured out that my workouts are so intense that I am basically eating myself internally. This is a hard realization to come to for a guy who has been overweight almost all of his life, but it is true. I simply can't eat enough food to give me what I need in my current regimen. I decided to talk to my muay thai instructor. He recommended I talk to the person who sells him his supplements and I did. It was quite revealing.

First off, as I had thought, I am eating myself inside out. Adding the strength training to my other things (which were high cardio to start with) was what pushed me over the edge. After discussing my diet and what I ate with the nutirtion guy, he basically said that I was shorting myself ONE COMPLETE MEAL PER DAY. I knew that I needed to eat more, but not that much. After discussing how the body breaks down food, and the hows an whys of a lot of other things, he came to a few recommendations.

I feel pretty good about these recommendations since I was referred here by my instructor. It is always nice to have a connection.

I still can't believe how far I have come with this fitness thing. When I started riding bike five years or so ago, I weighed around 225. I am now around 170 (that will go up soon) and rock solid. In the end, I will end up eating MORE than I ate before. Pretty weird.

So here is what I am going to try.

Monday and Wednesday heavy workout days:
  • Breakfast - instant oatmeal
  • Mid morning - 10-12 oz. yogurt, mixed with one scoop whey protein and a handful of blueberries mixed in
  • Mid afternoon - one bagel, sliced in half longways, cream cheese on top of each half, with 2-4 oz smoked salmon on top of each half
  • During strength training workout - Endure mixed in with my water
  • After workouts - if hungry, banana or other healthy snack

Off days:

  • Same breakfast
  • same mid morning snack
  • for mid afternoon - back off to one half bagel open faced with cream cheese and salmon
  • normal dinner portions with family at home

I will probably have to back this diet down just a bit in winter, as the bike riding goes down considerably.

So here we have it:

Now a few words about the supplements.

Whey protein - the brand that I bought will give me an additional 23 grams of protein per serving (one scoop in with the yogurt). I am told it is a pretty basic product that many people use. I was also told that many women in particular use this as a meal replacement to lose weight. The scoop is only 120 calories, 20 from fat. But that 23 grams of protein is 45% of your daily requirement if you are on a 2000 calorie diet. Which I am not going to be on. But with my new diet this will help immensely. The only non natural ingredient in the whey protein is sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener to make it palatable.

Endure - this product is a little more exotic than the protein, but is needed to rebuild my muscles after strength training. The guy I spoke with said that the newest research says that you need to start rebuilding your muscles as soon as you are done working out, and that the best way is to ingest this stuff during your workout. He claims that the product will even give me an energy boost during the workout - that remains to be proven. It looks to be basically an amino blend that aids in the recovery of muscles. I don't know a lot about the science behind it, but did a little research on L-Leucine, one of the main ingredients. Looks legit from reading about it here, and here. There are also a bunch of others in there, like L-Valine, L-isoleucine, and others. I am basically going to trust the guy. The product looks to be very popular in certain circles.

Hopefully this new diet and supplements will help me improve my muscle mass and have more energy. And gain weight. I never thought I would have to say that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Around River North By Night

River North has a big concentration of furniture stores, tile stores, home stores, and the like. I used to joke that if you had to take a trip in the wilderness and could only shop around here you'd die in about 2 days because there is literally nothing to purchase within 5 miles that is essential for human survival.

Many of the stores, especially in the Merchandise Mart, are paranoid about letting you take pictures, as if it contains state secrets or something. I had a guard tell me to put away my camera while taking a picture of a window display one time. I didn't know that high end furniture and housewares was so cloak and dagger...
This store has some sort of weird kitchen "pod" from the future.
Hastens Beds... they actually sell a sixty thousand dollar bed (although I don't know if it is in stock in the store, since I have never set foot in the place). They have a big show room and a flat screen TV in the window showing a video of how the beds are constructed, by hand. If you check out the link to their site it is pretty racy on the front page, not sure if I understand the connection but I'll take it.
Here is another weird trend... furniture about 2 inches above the floor. This is a very high end place and I can't read the tag so I am sure that you are paying big $ for these couches. Note the weird color patterns, too.

Long Day, Long Night

Saturday I literally lost five pounds. Let me give you the secret to quick and easy weight loss.

Sweat.

I had Muay Thai "camp", which was a three hour seminar at the gym. We went over a lot of techniques that we hadn't gone over before, and it was great. The only problem was that is was sweltering at the gym, and I could not stop the sweat faucet. Once we began our rounds, it was all over. I wasn't the only one suffering with the sweat rolling into my eyes. There were about 30 people at the seminar, from all around the state.

At the end we were supposed to have sparring rounds, but that was cancelled, as it was far too hot for us to continue. Our technique rounds were pretty laid back, but sparring is always a little more physically demanding, something we really didn't need.

So home I went for chow and a shower, and back to the gym for the fights. They lasted almost 4.5 hours, I think there was something like 22 fights in all. Some were kids, most were novice adults, and we had a few full amateur rules.

Novice is no punching to the head (kicks to the head are OK), no elbows, wearing shinpads and headgear, and 50% contact. Full amateur is everything goes, except elbows, and everyone is wearing shinpads and headgear. There were some wars in the amateur class. I had designs at one point to try getting into the ring someday, but this night has totally convinced me that it isn't in the cards.

I missed a lot of the fighting as I was in back holding pads and warming up fighters. The fighter that I did corner won in a third round knockout, where he delivered a crashing right cross "down the pipe" as we like to say, right on his opponents chin. Awesome!

There was a pretty good crowd there, and a lot of fun was had. Nobody got seriously hurt, but a lot of people were pretty banged up. Ah, fight night - like nothing else.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Day On Lake Michigan Part 1

Today it was my plan to publish an illustrated essay on the fine points of grilling walleye filets. Plans change. And that's a change I can believe in.

Today we went out for perch on Lake Michigan. Damn good thing too. IF we got a limit it would have been perfect. While we failed in quantity we gained in quality. Here is the big one, a 13” super jumbo.


While dragging the boat westbound on I-80 making my way to Pastrick Marina in East Chicago IN at 6:30 am my bro called form the Mik-Lurch bait shop on US 41 near I-80 in Hammond IN, where he was getting our bait. The bite was on at Calumet Harbor just west of the IN-IL state line. At least that was the word at Mik-Lurch. The big perch were finally in they claimed. Their advice was to launch at Hammond Marina on the IN/IL state line instead of launching at Pastrick Marina in East Chicago where the bite was slow. It would also save fuel running west from Pastrick,Marina, about ten miles east. We were going to fish on the IL side with IN licenses.

Oddly, the IL DNR has perch closed in IL waters during July. Why? Conservation? Since Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin DNR don’t close the season in July who the hell knows. Fortunately since Calumet Harbor enjoys a reciprocal agreement between IL and IN DNR we can fish there with IN licenses and take a 15 perch per day per person limit in IL. Let’s go.

We never have done this and it's news to me. Call it my small revenge on the Crook County Pirates. Heh.

Weather was iffy. Forecasts have been screwy lately with rain on days when not predicted and no rain on days when predicted. And the media is convinced that man-made Gorebal warming is sure thing? They are predicting atmospheric conditions a decade out? What a hoax.

On the drive west the sky was blue, the air was dry for July and it looked great. With a south wind for three days it was the perfect set-up for perch on our end of the lake. As I approached the state line with boat in tow low clouds blanketed the lake. While the scene looked grim it never did rain. With a solid cloud cover fishing should be good and I would be able to forsake slopping SPF 40 grease on my skin.

Calumet Harbor is where large ships enter the canal leading to the Port Of Chicago. And we sure saw a lot of large ships coming and going. We headed for the 20+ boats fishing a small area outside the entrance to the canal.


So we hooked up, dropped our minnows and commenced to hackin’. The drift was perfect, a light S – SW wind allowed us to go near shore and blow out slowly, covering a lot of territory to find the schools of perch. We watched many boats anchored nearby hauling in jumbo perch as we passed, slowly drifting by. Frustrating it was.

On one drift the bro suggested anchoring near the other boats who were scoring jumbo perch within sight. Since I was in the wheelhouse my plan was to blow farther off shore just for shits and giggles. Let's fish where they ain't. It paid off. This time.

Pow, Bing! Two jumbo perch hit my offering well beyond the anchored boats.

Two minutes...two super jumbos going 13". Fish on!

The bait-swiping fish were there too. The Round Nose Goby. A shit fish. Good for nothing but trouble in the Great Lakes. Originally from the Caspian Sea these invaders came into the Great Lakes via the dumped water ballast from Russian freighters. Here’s a Goby.


The sun came out around 11am, the wind died and the fish shut down. Been there, done that.

We stayed out until 1pm and our take was 10 fish total, far from the 30 we were allowed. It was a fine day and it was just great to be on the water again.

A Day On Lake Michigan Part 2

Watching large ships pulling in and out of the Port Of Chicago was interesting. This is a freighter loaded with illegal Mezcicans headed for good paying jobs that Canadians don't want in Quebec.


We kid.

We figured that boat was loaded with midwestern grain headed for an overseas profit.

At one time we watched two tug boats leave the canal and stop offshore not far from our boat. They stayed for almost an hour.


Then a large cargo ship pulled in. This was a real show. The ship was empty judging by how high it sat in the water. Our guess is that it was coming in to haul out more midwestern grain.


As we watched one tug pushed the bow of the ship out, away from the harbor.


The other tug went behind the ship and attached a line. Soon it became obvious that the tugs were going to pull the ship into the canal stern first. They did.


Since we usually fish away from any ports this was a new experience and made for an interesting day on the water.

For the near future, if the bite is in Cal Harbor we'll be back.