Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Occasionally I like to stick my neck out and try something new. Call it culinary research. New recipes are always an adventure but I can look at a new one and quickly tell if it is worth my time and effort. One important qualifier, it has to have meat as the main ingredient.
We have numerous chili recipes and few get the nod when it comes time to enjoy the best and most trusted comfort food when it counts.
Today the outdoor temps never made it onto the 60’s. Comfort food weather time is here. One chili recipe that recently caught my eye came in an annual award issue of Bon Appetite magazine. Two things stood out among the usual chemistry experiment instructions known as the combination of herbs and spices and variety of exotic peppers and liquids such as broth, beer and/or tequila.
The first is that it called for beef brisket, not the point cut but the flat or first cut specifically.
The second was instructions for cooking the ingredients in a covered cast iron pot in the oven at 350 degrees for hours.
For those who don’t know this is a cooking technique called braising. Most chili recipes call for simmering on the stovetop for liquid reduction in order to condense the flavors. Why not give this method a try?
Braising is simply putting browned meat into the covered pot with other sautéed veggie ingredients and allowing it to bake in the oven low and slow. With this technique any tough meat is completely tenderized and the fat is rendered in such a way that it permeates every bit of solid food mass. The result is a flavorful bowl of lusciousness. It works. Think crock pot.
The first clue to a great recipe is to render a half pound of diced bacon in a large cast iron pot, in my opinion, the enamel coated Le Creuset brand is best in class. HAWWWW! Add bacon fat, onions, garlic and browned meat. YES!!
This recipe called for a slurry of spices, herbs and liquids (beer is one) to be added before tossing the pot into a 360 degree oven.
One ingredient causes some concern. Butternut squash. I am not a squash fan. Who knows? She likes squashy things, I don’t. We’ll see. I can always pick mine out of the bowl and feed it to Speck.
Getting ready for a big Sox game right now. The Bacardi is going down fast. Gotta’ slow down if I want to see the celebration. This should be good.
This is not chili as you know it. It’s more of a stew with a hell of a lot of flavor. Unbelievably tender meat. I dusted my bowl with cayenne powder to give it some zip. The squash is more like sweet potato. Not bad at all.
HOLD ON! Thome hit a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh! Sox lead 1-0.
Back to my bowl. Most chili I make has a lot of gravy, sauce it you will. This one has no traditional chili flavor cues like chili powder, cumin and heat. It’s drier but the beefy flavor makes it worth the effort.
Next time I know what to do. Improvisational culinary instincts will take over. It is well worth making again.
HOLD ON! Bottom of the eighth inning and the Sox turn a double play. Hope this is over soon. Think I will have another bowl of red, and another rum head banger.
BOBBY JENKS TIPS IT IN!
SOX WIN, SOX WIN, SOX WIN!
DANKS. THOME. JENKS!
They earned this one too. So long Twinkies. Bring on the (Devil ) Rays!
Screw you Cubs. Bring on the White Sox post-season!!!!
All bets are off.
Hope my more than loud fireworks display disturbed the neighbors.
In the pre-season nobody predicted the ALCD title could be won by Minnesota or Chicago. Back then it was all Detroit and Cleveland. Some predicted that Minnesota could be a dark horse but few thought Chicago had a chance.
Early on when the Sox surprised many by earning first place in the division I heard Ozzie claim in a radio interview that the ALC championship would come down to the final series. I can't prove it, Al, so just trust me. He said it.
I have remained quiet about the Sox here on the LITGM blog. Why jinx it? My feeling all along has been that the Sox were not that good this year but the division was weakened by early season injuries to key players in Cleveland and Detroit. Still, I watched a lot of games. Some were great and others embarrassing, like most games against Kansas City. The results during the last two weeks of the season proved my feelings were correct. Just by playing and potentially winning this game tonight, the Sox have done far better than anyone gave them credit for myself included. Hell, after losing Contreras, Crede and the "phenom" aka Quentin how anyone could predict a post-season for the Sox had to be delusional as any drunken, die-hard, frat-boy Cubbie fan urinating in public outside a bar on Sheffield St singing "GO CUBS GO". BTW, isn't that the most insipid team song ever?
So here we are. Last night could have been the end of a long ’08 Sox season in a special add-on game and the Sox blew away Detroit and Freddy Garcia. Freddy? The pitcher who won the final game of the 2005 World Series against Houston? Yep, THAT Freddie.
Tonight the Sox play the Twins in a winner-take-all game for the ALDS. How it came to this I have no idea and I really don’t care. All that counts is that they have a 50-50 chance and that works for me.
I watched the game yesterday and will be watching again tonight. So will John Kass, Chicago Tribune opinion columnist who is also a true White Sox fan. His column today describes better than I ever could about being a Sox fan and how this past season played out. It's a good one.
If the Sox win their division it will be much more than satisfying to me. If they proceed to the ALCS or the WS, hey! Great! Who knew? Sox fans are always cautiously optimistic. It helps that the 2005 hangover is still with us especially in the wake of a successful ’08 Cub season.
Now, I couldn’t finish this essay without wishing the Cubs well. I sure hope they win at least one game in their NLDC series with the Dodgers. Who will be the goat this time, HUH? Will it be a player, some poor fan or some dumb animal's ghost?
All season long the local media and the delusional Cub fans have had the 2008 World Series championship locked up. They do have a good team, possibly the best Cub team in years. Like 100 years.
Do I wish the Cubs well? Absolutely not. No way, no how. No freaking way! It is my hope that the Cubs gag against the Dodgers early, bigtime! What goes around comes around. Cub fans were more than obnoxious to me in 2005. Screw you all.
Last week a misguided Mayor Daley requested that bars close alcohol sales after the seventh-inning of a possible Cub post-season championship. This is typical Chicago government intrusion on the private lives of citizens and small businesses. Comrade Daley actually had the nerve to claim the bars had already made enough money. He would do a lot better to place the city under a suicide watch. For the "greater good". Cub fans will no doubt die of mass alcohol poisoning win or lose.
Here is a t-shirt I have taken the liberty of designing. It should sell like nickel-beers around Comiskey Park next season. I am taking orders.
This is a shot of Gerry shooting the .50 cal muzzle loader at an empty Heineken keg. That was a great target.
And here is the exit wound. Ouch. It made for a great show as the keg jumped several feet in the air after absorbing that hit.
The rest of us had fun with that keg afterwards.
Here is a selection of the shotguns that were used. There were some real beauties. I think this is almost all of them with a few missing. I didn't get any shots of the trap shooting at all, and my video of it was horrible as well. Sad.
This is a photo of the long range rifles that were used. On the left is Terry's lever action Savage .300 that is approximately sixty years old. I fired that one and almost hit the bull from 100 yards. It didn't kick too bad, but after five or ten I bet it would hurt. It had a metal buttplate and would be a nice ride if I would have had a sissy pad. The one on the right is a pre-64 Winchester .308 iirc. It is Gerry's and he could correct me if I am wrong. Both guns are beautiful. I am jealous.
A few guys also shot .50 cal muzzle loaders from this distance and did well.
Due to a messed up series of events that included everything from missed flights to injuries to car failures, there wasn't a teacher available for the beginner class last night. After my strength circuit, the only person there with any type of authority, the kids teacher (who is a serious bada** in his own right), asked me if I could teach the beginners. I was the only person there who was advanced. I said 'sure', why not.
We are starting clenchwork for October, and when I looked at the curriculum, I quickly realized that it was stuff I have gone over many, many times. So we did as we always do - salute the Thai flag, salute the instructor, and start class. I put them through ten rounds or so of different basic clench drills, trying to make it fun and encouraging them along the way - and giving them pointers! I had no idea just from being in the advanced class for a while how much knowledge I have to share. I was pretty proud of myself.
Clenchwork is no party - in fact, it is probably the roughest, most brutal part of Muay Thai since you add knees to the clench later on. It is never fun to have a guy pulling your head down for 45 minutes. In fact, it sucks and you always feel as though you have been hit on the shoulders with a 2 x 4 later on that night. But we have to do it, and we did. I have that 2 x 4 feeling today, as we did clench in the advanced class later on. It seriously sucks when you are partnered up with another person who is good in the clench and you are both trying to work it - it is absolutely exhausting and demanding.
After the clench drills I put 'my' students through the usual allotment of cardio and ab work and that was it. Then we saluted the flag, the instructor, and we were out of there. I received compliments from the students, and the lone staff who was there thanked me profusely for filling in for the missing people. As a joke I might leave a bill for $50 for the owner next time I am at the gym.
It was really fun and educational to be the instructor and I was glad as always to be able to give back to the gym and to Muay Thai.
Monday, September 29, 2008
As mentioned, Gerry and his family were kind enough to host everyone for a day of shooting on their land in bf Indiana. I estimate I put over a thousand rounds downrange - I almost forgot to eat I was having so much fun. Again, major props to the Indiana natives for hosting us.
The day started out cool, but warmed up nicely. There were bugs, but they didn't totally kill us. Here is a table of goodness ready for everyone to play with. This isn't even all of the handguns we had.
Here is Elton showing off his championship form.
And here is Carl with my .357 getting a taste of the big whoomp.
This is Gerry, just after shooting the .357. It is a load, as evidenced by the muzzle flip.
This is what Elton's shotgun patterned out at 25 feet. Shooting these paper targets with a shotgun was great fun. Click the photo to see all of the little pellet holes.
Many more photos and video to come over the next few days.
The Ranier beer is a tasty treat from that region, I assume similar to PBR or Old Milwaukee around here. You will note only five in the photo - that is because I got a little too aggressive with the knife and pierced one of the cans while opening the package. I smell like I had a liquid lunch now here at work.
So thanks JJ - you and JMAC keep up the good work over there.
After work Thursday I hauled a** down to Olin Park to participate in a walk to battle leukemia. While I was there I spotted a certain mascot for a certain home town team. I needed this photo - I simply couldn't help myself. I even give him a "W" to show my spirit. He didn't know that I am actually an Illini fan, but we were all Badger fans that day. Part of the band showed up too. All hamming around aside, I thought that it was a nice gesture by the University to send Bucky and part of the band to the event.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Hoppe’s No9, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of Hoppe’s No9 in the morning.
You know, yesterday we had Gunstock ’08, for eight hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' paper target made it.
The smell, you know that Hoppe’s No9 smell? The whole garage.
Smelled like … victory.
Today an article appeared in the Chicago Tribune titled "A Big Game? Better Believe It". The article went on to discuss the importance of winning today, not only so the Bears end up at 2-2 instead of 1-3, but also to get some tie breaker leverage against likely wild-card candidates.
Starting in the second column of the article, the usual Chicago press over-focus on defense begins. In focusing on why the team lost against Carolina and Tampa, they look at:
- Ogunleye questions his team-mates focus and the late lead
- Vasher is upset at being replaced by Tillman in late game situations
- Tommie Harris was mad because the Bears let go Mark Bradley (another Angelo bust) - OK, this is offense, but why the heck are they asking Tommie Harris?
- Lovie was criticized for his defensive coordinator Babich
- Then the article talks about Angelo's bad draft picks
- Then they talked above the fact that McNabb will be harder to sack than Griese, and the Bears defense didn't even get one sack against Tampa
- Then they talked about Philadelphia's game plan, figuring that the Eagles defense could blitz and confuse Orton (unfortunately, very likely)
- Then they mentioned that the Eagles defense would try to spoil Forte's homecoming
- FINALLY - out of the 4 columns of this big article, abut 1/2 way down - they start discussing the offense
What do they say about the offense?
"Who would have guessed that the Bears' offense would be the team's most predictable unit?"
THAT'S IT! No mention of the fact that Turner's style has been all over the map with each game, from an effective mix of runs and short passes (aided by Hester and special teams) in game one to a "no chance bomb" fest in game 2 to a TON of missed opportunities in game 3, which led to a focus on a penalty in OT on Tillman rather than the fact that the offense missed a lot of chances to put the game away. This is an incorrect statement, to say that they have been the most predictable, and then where is the journalistic "digging" to come up with an actual statement on the offensive game plan?
AN EXAMPLE IS RIGHT BESIDE YOU!
If you look at the box to the left in this article, there is an article on Florida's upset loss to Mississippi at home. The article is essentially 100% about Florida's OFFENSE, as their quarterback Tim Tebow took responsibility for the loss and it focused on late game offensive calls.
THIS IS WHAT CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER AND TOP NFL FRANCHISES FOCUS ON - OFFENSE!
Do you think that in Dallas 90% of the column inches are devoted to defense? No way! Why did the Pats almost make it to the end last year - they picked up Moss - and then it was Eli of the Giants with Plaxico that sealed the win on offense.
STOP FOCUSING ON DEFENSE!
Cross posted at Fire Ron Turner
I personally want to thank Gerry for letting me crash at his place and feeding me on Friday night. His house is beautiful, and it was a pleasure to meet his wife and daughter.
I will be posting pics and video of the event over the next week or so.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Berkshire Hathaway made a lot of its money in the insurance business (GEICO). They like the steady returns and solid, understandable business model behind insurance. Also, due to Berkshire Hathaway's AAA rating (VERY few US companies have this rating), they have a very low cost of capital which gives them a significant cost advantage against competitors.
The US utility industry (electricity) is an area where Berkshire Hathaway has made investments over the years. Berkshire Hathway bought up a group of Iowa utilities (where I used to work) that were rolled up into a company called MidAmerican Energy. Berkshire Hathaway has a very long time horizon (other CEO's have to hit immediate earnings targets and are impatient) and thus they can be opportunistic, holding on to their (vast) cash until the right target comes along. Berkshire Hathaway jumped on Pacificorp, which had previously been bought up by Enron, when Enron's finances imploded.
Recently Berkshire Hathaway bought up Constellation Energy, which is the electrical utility with nuclear plants that serves Maryland and Baltimore. Constellation Energy had a large energy trading arm that was intertwined with Lehman; when Lehman went bankrupt Constellation was going to be forced to put up more collateral and faced a downgrade in their credit ratings. Their stock plunged from $100 / share in early 2008 to as low as $13 before Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy them; the stock is now at $26 / share and the company is worth $4 - $5 billion.
Constellation Energy was one of the "dreamer" companies that was thinking about taking advantage of US government tax breaks to re-invest in nuclear power. As I have noted previously, don't bet on any of these plants getting built (maybe TVA builds one and someone else another one; this is not going to even cover those plants at end-of-life and being retired from service, much less constitute a renaissance in nuclear power).
Per a September 26, 2008 Wall Street Journal Article titled "Buffett Could Reshape Nuclear Power Industry" -
Uh, why would that be? Why would a man revered as being one of the greatest financial minds in history (and who apparently escaped this whole economic panic unscathed) not want to invest in nuclear power, which has made a "comeback" in the popular press?
"For Mr. Buffett, price has always been the major sticking point. His energy company, MidAmerican, formed a special unit last December to explore possible construction of a nuclear plant at a site in Idaho. That created a flurry of excitement as people in the industry believed that Mr. Buffett might finally throw his weight behind the technology. But MidAmerican pulled the plug seven weeks later, saying it was too costly."
I get it... Warren Buffett understands basic economics and probably looked at this for five minutes and told his minions to give it up. Let's run through the "business case":
1) whatever you do will be fought fanatically by every NIMBY across the nation
2) construction will be measured in geological time (didn't we start that plant in the Cretaceous period?)
3) costs will start in the billions and go up from there... no one really knows
4) everyone who is working in the nuclear power industry in the US is about 15 minutes from retiring (remember, the Simpsons have been on almost 20 years, H*mer is getting long in the tooth)
5) technology is in transition from the older proven technology to the next generation, which may be a lot better or may not prove viable at all
6) if you do spend billions and take the decade or so to get the plant done, there is no mechanism to recover these costs and get them back from ratepayers
It probably took about 30 seconds for Warren to laugh out loud and tell them to get out of his office he has better things to do. Probably when Warren was listening to this business case he was asleep like that scene in the new B*atman movie where Bruce naps through the business pitch. Remember, he just spent $5B to get a big chunk of Goldman Sachs, and $5B likely wouldn't even buy you 1/2 a next generation nuclear plant. Oh, and Constellation Energy's market value at the time of collapse was under $5B.
The final, saddest part for nuclear plant dreamers is that about the only person in the land who could have financed one of these things is Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway. They have the AAA rating to raise money in these dark times and they could just finance it themselves if they wanted to out of the billions just sitting on their balance sheet.
While I personally think that nuclear power should be built for the United States my point is that this NEVER was going to happen and Mr. Buffett, who could finance one of these in a heartbeat and could have pulled it off, just put the final nail in the coffin.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Last spring I posted an account of some shooting the bro and I did on our family farm. Years ago when I worked full time downtown Chicago there were friends of mine and co-workers who owned guns but had no place to shoot since they lived in the city. Some went to Bell’s in Melrose Park, the only Illinois gun range near the Chicago city limits. Some would make occasional trips to Buffalo Range, a public outdoor range far southwest of the city. Here is a photo of the first time I held a farmshoot with the original attendees.
Mark on the left is a huge muzzleloader fan. Michael (The Squire) was a British artist from Liverpool and claimed to have seen the Beatles live in the Caverns as a teen. Next is Wolf (his real name) who was a Vietnam vet and a total gun freak. I am on the right holding Wolf’s HK93, I chopped that small tree down with one clip of 223.
It soon became an annual event and grew in popularity (up to 24 one year). Some left town, others retired or got out of the business, job changes and unfortunately one passed away. The farm shoot interest waned and soon September was a time when only local friends and myself went out to shoot clays at the farm as a tune up for the hunting season.
In emails with Dan and Carl they mentioned that they would like to visit the farm and get in some trigger time. September is the best time to be out there. The insects are down and the weather is generally mild.
On Saturday, Dan and Carl will come on down to rural Indiana for this plink-a-thon. Regular contributor Annie was invited but had a conflict so I will miss seeing her fine weaponry and getting a lesson from her on pistol shooting (I suck with a pistol). Carl is bringing some of his friends. My bro and a few friends will be there too. About a dozen or so gun lovers and bitter-clingers will be in attendence.
It is not intended to be a competitive shooting match at all. It’s strictly for fun and practice. Last Saturday we set up some boards in front of the hill to staple targets on, with ranges at 100 and 200 yds. There will be a short range set up for pistols and .22 rifles. Finally there will be mechanical launchers for shotgun clays. When the weapons are stowed away there will be burgers, brats and beers.
Hopefully this will become an annual blog event. In preparation I have been thinking of a name. What first came to mind was LITGMGF (Life In The Great Midwest Gun Fest).
After some thought and an attempt to come up with something more memorable and cute I named it “GUNSTOCK”, after that musical hippiefest of the late 60's, “WOODSTOCK”.
Sure hope nobody gets nekkid and jumps in the pond.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
When I first started working after college I was an auditor for a "Big Six" public accounting firm. Through the (bad) luck of the draw, I was assigned to work on utilities and government institutions. Since utilities are distributed across the United States geographically (unlike finance which is concentrated in New York, for example) I had to travel across the midwest in order to serve my clients.
On one of my first trips I sat next to a couple, a mother and a young son. After a while we started talking a bit on my way to Sioux City Iowa (to see Iowa Public Service, which has since been bought up by Berkshire Hathaway as part of MidAmerican Energy). They asked me why I was traveling to Iowa (a good question, actually) and I said that I was an accountant working for the local power company. The child piped up and said:
"Are you the man who turns off the power?"
The mother was embarrassed and we immediately changed the subject but clearly their family had their power cut off for non-payment at some point in the past and that is how the child knew of the power company. We had some stilted conversation from then on but the encounter has stuck with me for years.
If you ever work at a power company (gas, electric, water) you can see the difficulty that the poor face in trying to pay their bills. Unlike other bills (credit card, banks, etc...) if you don't pay your power bill, they will cut off your service. There are rules that the utilities can't cut you off in the winter (so you don't freeze to death) but you can bet that come spring they will be out there turning off the juice, so to speak. Not only that, but if you are a poor credit risk they make you put down a deposit. Once when I was a renter in a tony North suburb of Chicago they made me put down a cash deposit before they'd hook me up; just by being a renter I was tarred as a bad credit risk.
This article, "Affordably green", is from the Sunday Chicago Tribune. The article is full of smiling families about how green technology is being applied to all kinds of income levels.
The one line which stuck out to me, however, was:
"Lower income families spend nearly 17 percent of their income on energy costs".
The price of electricity, gas, and water is not "progressive" like the income tax. Every household pays the same rate for use, whether you are rich or poor. On a per-unit cost basis, the poor actually pay MORE than other types of users because large volume industrial or commercial users receive a discount due to their purchase volumes. For gas prices at the pump, the cost is the same for everyone, and particularly damaging to those living pay check to pay check.
Ever wonder who pays for all those law suits the environmentalists come up with to sue the local power company? The customer. Ever wonder who pays for all the emissions clean up (scrubbers, clean coal) and for the more costly technologies like natural gas against plentiful US coal? The customer. Who pays for the fact that it takes 20 years of red tape and permits to build a transmission line? The customer.
Not only that, but the grants that fund all these non profits usually come from cities, counties and governments. How do they pay for this? Tax revenues, and utility taxes make up a sizable portion of their take from the public. Look at any utility bill and you can see that it is riddled with tax after tax, and you can't even see the impact of other taxes levied on the utility (property and sales taxes) because these are built into the rates.
Thus I would love for all those doe-eyed environmentalist believers to go to a utility and volunteer THERE at the customer service window for a while and watch the poor decide whether to pay the power bill or buy medicine. They can watch people decide on back to school clothes and supplies or the gas bill. These are real choices, and they will become more and more evident should the economy go into a spiral.
There are no two ways about it - 17% of the income of the poor goes to energy bills which are VASTLY inflated by taxes and regulation, without which the cost of energy would probably be 50% lower (or more... we are the "Saudi Arabia" of coal). Think of this next time they volunteer at a soup kitchen or go on a clothing drive... couldn't they accomplish the same exact thing by working to lower the costs of energy for the poor so that they'd have more income in their pocket?
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
At various points I have discussed the utter ineptitude that marks the Bears tailgate experience. Whomever runs the parking lots at Soldier Field (I thought it was the Chicago Park District but a commentator on this post said it was a private company) is literally the worst company known to man. The Bears recently implemented some new rules to crack down on rowdy fan behavior - one of which is to limit tailgating at various points before, during and after the game. OK, then, let's start... we showed up a bit before 8am and they enforced a new rule that you can't get into the lot before 8am. So they made us circle around the lot and park in a random cul-de-sac and wait until 8am. As we drove back near the lots, how could they make this more ridiculous... oh wait... let's bring out the buses (I think they ferry fans back and forth) right across the line of cars that you made wait in the street. This made for a crazy instant gridlock situation.
We had to drive PAST the lots and then turn around. Where? People started turning around under the 18th street bridge. Many of the cars had a poor turning radius as you can see from the shot above (dark because we were under the bridge) which added to the madness (luckily Dan's truck can turn on a dime). Note the employee in the yellow vest standing idly over on the right of the photo.
Ah. Among the madness, nothing better than to see an idle employee standing around like there is nothing to do while traffic is snarled all around her. This is the classic "huh" look that they all seem to have.
As a thought experiment, I was wondering what sort of cosmic guidance these Soldier Field tailgate employees get before the game. See gridlock? Do nothing, check. REPEAT EACH WEEK. And don't even get me started on the cones...
After all that we pulled up and started tailgating. It was a beautiful day and Gerry & his brother had some GREAT food. Then the game started, and it all went downhill...
I have never had an energy drink before today. I have seen them all over the place, and they seem to be taking up more and more space at the convenience stores that I frequent. Even at the check out counter there are those 5 hour energy bombs. I am pretty scared of them. I have never even tasted a Red Bull before.
In the vendoland at work they put in this Full Throttle stuff. I usually only go to the vendoland to have a diet coke midday, but I thought I would try one of these to see what they are all about. The taste was like Mountain Dew jacked up with sugar. It drifted into an artificial citrus type of flavor. Yuck. But I choked it down just to see what would happen.
I haven't had a cup of coffee in a couple of years, having quit back when I was sick. So to say the least, this 16 oz. chemical slurry affected me in many ways. I am not exactly more alert, but more jittery than anything. No way could I take a nap, something I desperately need. It isn't like I can take a nap at work anyway - but if I were home and could lay down there is zero chance I could go to sleep. I have been making some very poor judgement calls over the last week and I attribute a lot of it to lack of shuteye - I am just not thinking straight. Not making excuses for myself, just sayin'.
As a matter of fact, I get more of a "buzz" when I am working out intensely, the runners high, as they call it. This runners high feeling is more of a "high" than a buzz. With the Full Throttle, I almost feel like I have had a couple shots of Beam washed down with three cups of coffee, if that makes any sense. I assume when I crash from this in a few hours I will be a wreck, face down at my desk in a pool of saliva.
I am probably more sensitive to this crap than most having never had one before and not having any caffeine of volume in quite some time. Any of you drink these types of products? How do they affect you?
I remember being a little kid and watching boxing matches on TV. They would have the heavyweight championships on at night, and usually they went for 15 three minute rounds. These fights typically ended sooner, but on occasion they would go for the full 15. By then the fighters were usually just laying on each other and nothing was happening. Back to this in a moment.
I had a rotten day yesterday for a variety of reasons. I was tired, and not really interested in going to the gym, but I dragged my butt in there. I am glad I did. About 20 minutes into my strength circuit, all of the stress and sh1t of the day started to melt away. As I was huffing and puffing, my mind became clear and was working on the task at hand. It was really amazing. If you don't currently exercise, you should start - it will help you with a lot of things. But enough preaching.
Afterward there was a smattering of fighters looking for training. There was an odd man out so I stepped in for some body boxing. I clashed knees with a guy and OUCH did that hurt. It put both of us down for a minute. I am none the worse for wear though. I just figured it was a continuation of my crappy day. Then I received instructions to hold pads for one of our pro MT fighters. We only have a couple pro MT guys. It was great. We went 5 three minute rounds. Then I held for an amateur for four rounds, a different amateur for three and then a pro for four. A total of 15 three minute rounds holding pads, and I took one round off somewhere in the middle as a break. I was pretty damned tired. Everyone was very complimentary of my pad holding. It is clear that I am the very best in the gym holding pads. I haven't seen what other gyms have going on, but I would wager that I am one of the best pad holders in the state at this point. I should video one of my sessions sometime.
In curriculum, we are going through a mind bending blizzard of combos and techniques and I am not fully grasping them all. The only good news is that I am not the only one. The stuff we are doing is very advanced - and I hear this from guys that have been at the gym much longer than myself. I still am TOO TIGHT - I need to relax a lot more when sparring and running my techniques. That is the magic pill - the correct balance between strength and technique. I am still too afraid of getting hit and need to work on my techniques more. I should just let my defenses come instead of getting so tightly wound. It will happen.
Monday, September 22, 2008
While out there we visited our farm friend across the road. His family has done the actual planting and harvesting at my dad’s place for decades.
We got a look at his recently purchased classic muscle car, a 1971 Boss 351 Mustang. Ford produced this model for only one year and the coupe versions are rare to find, most were fastbacks. They are a dedicated Ford Mustang family, his wife’s new Mustang GT is parked in the background
This one wears the classic 5-spoke Cragar chrome mag wheels, These were THE custom wheels on muscle cars of the late 60’s and early 70’s.
He took me down the road for a few burn-outs. It took a few hours to get that aroma of burning Goodrich out of my sinuses. They wuz sssaaamokin’!
Few born after 1970 have had the thrill of riding in and driving these neck-snapping vehicles of mass acceleration as I did back then. They were everywhere.
Today many think of a BMW or Porsche as a high performance vehicle. They may be but nothing like those classics were for brute force straight ahead speed. In the 70’s the only BMW we knew of was the motorcycle. One friend owned a used BMW 2002, can’t remember the year. It was just butt-ugly. At least the American automakers still make fine muscle cars like the Viper and Corvette. Ford is offering a new 500 HP Shelby Mustang like this one I saw in Chicago about a year ago. I would love to at least ride in a Viper or a new Shelby. One day, maybe.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Tomorrow Dan, Gerry and I (and Gerry's brother) are heading over to tailgate at Soldier's Field to watch the Bears home opener. We are always hopeful that the Bears will win and it looks like beautiful weather - supposed to be 72 degrees and partly sunny for the noon kick off. Dan brings the truck, Gerry the food, and I bring the beer. Will be a lot of fun. We always leave my place in Chicago by 8am to avoid the crazy, congested crowds at the parking lot as well as to leave time for the least competent employees in the universe working at the lot to let us in.
Here is a shot of our flagpole with the Bears flag and the "Don't Tread on Me" Navy Jack. While we have left a few things behind at these events thankfully the flags have made it all through the years. Probably less alcohol intake now because Dan is a fitness fanatic (as in zealot) and I have to keep my wits about me to "score" Ron Turner's performance (here is his miserable scorecard for game 2), although Dan rightly thinks that some drunken fan behind us is going to spill beer on me and ruin the score sheet and I'll have to re-do it later from Tivo (maybe that would make it more authentic).
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Since I am not an NFL junkie or Fantasy Football freak I am not familiar with team rosters beyond the Chicago Bears. The above story is about a Redskin player who exposed himself in a photo posted on his web site.
His excuse was that he “wanted to show the readers of his popular blog some of the study materials the players were given by coach”
The player's name was unfamiliar to me. His excuse in the article seemed lame so I did a google image search and found some images but not the one in question. Here's what I found...
In an era when athletes are wearing baggy shorts almost too long to be called shorts this guy is wearing hot pants in practice. It appears he is the only one. Is he trolling for chicks or what? I can only hope so.
There have been NFL players who were “pretty boys” and proudly flaunted their physical superiority in photographs. No problem. Joe Namath once posed wearing pantyhose in a reclining position for an advertisement.
If this player is known to practice in hot pants and posts a naked image of himself on the interwebs was it a simple mistake? Is this a Will Farrell bit that I am not getting?
Maybe the team from D.C. can finally make the politically correct move and rid themselves of that offensive slur to Native Americans.
I suggest they change their team name to the Washington Foreskins. Imagine what that new helmet logo would look like.
Monday, September 15, 2008
We really didn't know what we were signing up for. We crossed a couple miles of very smooth sailing and a cold ocean and really were heads down, focusing on paddling (it was a double). When we returned from the round trip we were thankful that we were back on solid ground. When you are out there you get a brief taste of how big the sea is and the fact that you are in a tiny boat and it isn't a good feeling.
About ten years ago we were in Australia and spent some time in Tasmania. Tasmania is south of Australia and you can reach it by ship (ferry) or by plane. We went by plane after hearing tales of how wild the seas are down there.
I am watching a documentary about Andrew McAuley, an adventurer who went by sea kayak through the thunderous seas not from Australia (mainland) to Tasmania but from Australia to New Zealand. This is 1600 km (1000 miles) and he got to within 80km of his destination before his customized kayak with capsule turned over and he fell out and his body was never recovered.
Hat's off to that guy for having so much guts to take on that challenge... unfortunately he didn't make it and left a 2 year old son behind.
My tiny sea kayak experience is infintesimal compared to his efforts, just enough to give a tiny taste.
A while back we had a bug where only visitors to the blog using Firefox could visit Life in the Great Midwest. This bug was caused by Site Meter, a program that we use to track the number of visits and what referrals are to this blog.
There are a couple of ways to use site meter - there is the "free" version where you can see it on the sidebar of your blog and it saves limited information and the "full" version where it saves more information and also shows search words and other items that are interesting. Of course, since we don't advertise on the site, it doesn't really matter what our traffic is anyways, but it is good to find other sites linking to us, for example (which explains when we get a surge of comments).
We pay for the full version (about $7 / month - Dan is too stubborn to pay for this crappy tool so I did it instead) and it is always having trouble. On Sunday I tried to log in and this was the response that I received (the photo above).
How can they be such a mistake-prone company? Their only product is a web analytics tool and for some reason or another they don't test it before release. It's not like they are too busy doing other stuff back there? Oh well, at least they didn't block visitors to the site.
Here is a term that you can use site meter -
QUALITY ASSURANCE. I even linked to the wikipedia definition, just in case you haven't heard of it.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Just returned from a decent fishing trip. The trip was cut short by this pesky rain, which would not stop. I hate fishing in the rain.
We left for home Saturday about noon, two days short of the plan. My backyard digital rain gauge registered 6.8” in 24 hours when I arrived Saturday afternoon and it is predicted there could be 4-6” more Sunday. This is an incredible amount of rain, like nothing I have ever seen. Even if my fourteen year-old sump pump makes it, tomorrow it gets replaced for peace of mind. We built the country bunker on high ground so it is not too troubling.
A relative has this cabin on Magician Lake in southwest lower Michigan, a little more than an hour from here. We generally make 4-5 bass fishing trips a year but this season has been so busy for me this was my first to Michigan. Since my work has slowed it is time for me to play. That’s my plan for semi-retirement. It’s working. So far.
The usual suspects were there. My dad, the bro, our host (also named Gerry who is a cousin-in-law) and his buddy Danny all showed up. We drank, ate great food and had a lot of laughs. We did some fishing too. The weather up until Friday was just great. We enjoyed blue skies, dry, pleasant and mild weather in the low seventies.
We used our tried and proven fishing methods in places that were successful in the past. The target was bass and pike. The bite for big fish was slow. We caught a lot of undersize fish but it was still fun.
This summer Danny and Gerry took their boat to nearby Paw Paw lake near Watervliet, MI for the first time. These guys fish a lot of lakes in SWLM. They found Paw Paw to give up more and larger bass and pike than Magician and other local lakes in recent years. Since both are fully retired these guys spend a lot of time on the water. Paw Paw is 800+ acres and has outstanding structure with deep holes. Dense weed beds are everywhere but not one inch of shoreline is vacant. There are way too many many cottages and condo developments, but on weekdays after Labor Day the traffic is light. This is one very fertile lake.
On Friday my bro went with Danny and his boat to Paw Paw Lake. Danny is one of the best bass fishermen I know. His method? Get out on the water early, cast your wrists off and work the heck out of every weed bed. Not for me. That’s too much like work and my trips are as much for relaxation as they are for hauling in fish. I rarely go out on the water for more than four hours.
They left at 5am Friday and came back at 1pm fishing through a light rain. Their results were good. One 30” pike and a bass that went about 18”. Not bad. But eight hours on the water? No thanks. Me, Gerry and dad stayed and fished for about four hours on Magician Lake. Then the canarbles and polish sausage started biting quite well in the cabin about 11am. We caught a few pike and bass too, here are the combined results.
This is Danny.
I blurred his face because I did not get his permission to post his image on the internets. He is about 5’3” and is a childhood friend of our host. He’s one tough customer. His fingers are gnarled from arthritis and it’s hard to walk with knees like his. It amazes us how Danny can cast for bass almost each day during the season for hours on end. We all have a ton of respect for his determination to catch bass, even if he may be a bit crazy. It’s more than a passion with him. It’s an obsession. Danny is fully retired. I love this guy.
Since work has slowed down for me we’ll be back to Magician and Paw Paw lakes a few more times this fall.
Why not workout in my room instead of the workout room, right? My other thought was that I could hire a personal trainer for a short period of time that may come right to the room for some strength training. I figured it would be good to get another person's opinion of my workouts and to possibly show me some pointers. So lets call the hotel to see what it is about.
Me: Good afternoon. I am calling to find out what the in-room workout is. I saw it mentioned on my confirmation and couldn't find anything about it on your website.
Hired Help: Oh, that means that you have a treadmill in your room.
Me: Is it extra money?
HH: Yes sir, and we have only two of these rooms in the entire hotel.
Me: Doesn't sound like it would be worth it, I guess I can walk down to the workout room.
HH: Yea, most people do. Only extremely obese people usually request the treadmill in the room.
Me: OK, thanks for the info.
Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Lou is doing some of the best Hurricane Ike blogging around. I am very glad he reopened his blog. He shares this video:
That is AWESOME. That reminds me of another bear from last year, probably my second favorite of my cast of characters in the South Lot, second only to Mayor Daley - here is Carl's video of Hester Bear.
Much art, however, is aimed at a strange insular world of elitists. The arbiters of taste for art are generally on the coasts and inevitably extremely liberal. To say that their tastes are out of the mainstream is a vast understatement.
This article, which I clipped from the Chicago Tribune book review about 6 months (sorry, it sat in my "blog folder" and I recently found it) inadvertently captures this elitist gap with a non-ironic subtitle:
"Photographer Gregory Crewdson's America is filled with people and places that reflect life at its most hopeless"
While I think whomever wrote that subtitle (I guess it was Jessica Reaves, the author) has never been to sub-Saharan Africa or maybe she'd have a better perspective on what hopeless means, that quote perfectly captures exactly what they're going for - the view from a glass tower high above those struggling souls in small towns and suburbs across America.
From looking at Mr. Crewdson's bio he'd probably agree with that subtitle... but what leaps into my head is WHY this is something worth setting as a goal, except to subtly (or not so subtly) look down on the lives of others.
One day when the 2nd Iraq War was starting there was a protest march in downtown Chicago. I am still kicking myself because I didn't have my camera with me as I walked by the local art school and they put a sign on the door saying that classes were canceled since everyone was over at the protest. But of course...
Wasn't art supposed to challenge the status quo? But much of today's art panders to the same sad stereotypes of Americans as dullard hicks living meaningless lives, unenlightened and far right. Probably the most "artistic" thing an artist in one of today's schools could do would be to be a Republican - this would shock everyone far more than the usual antics.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Jamie Dimon is the CEO of JP Morgan Chase. The bank that he runs has mostly escaped the recent credit crisis and CDO issues without major damage. His story, which was well told in the Fortune September 15, 2008 issue, is that by avoiding risk, he saved his bank to become much stronger than its competitors. His bank pulled out of underwriting dodgy mortgages and issuing CDO's when they felt that the returns weren't worth the implied risks (which they measured in the credit default market, among other places). At the time, JP Morgan Chase had a market cap far below their peers and were being punished by stock analysts for not leading in these high growth (and ultimately disastrous) categories.
If you look at the graph above, JP Morgan Chase now has a market cap bigger than its competitors, which didn't happen by raising their stock value but by avoiding a catastrophic hit that their peers faced. While "Losing Less Means Winning" is a polite way to say it, I'd prefer "Let's Suck Less" which is a more accurate term (since JP Morgan Chase did take multi-billion write downs, after all).
This should be a standard and oft-mentioned case in the business school literature, because it highlights the real benefits of chasing the latest fads even if the market is punishing you for it in the short term. In the 80's, the markets demanded conglomerates, and companies went out and bought other companies in unrelated industries. Later, the market changed its mind, and companies shed these subsidiaries and focused on their "core" business.
Another element in all of this is the fact that Jamie Dimon sweats the details and didn't farm out everything to his lieutenants (although some of the other guys in trouble also behaved this way, but famously the head of Bear Stearns went on vacation & played golf and bridge while his company was circing the drain). However, he relies on a cadre of advisors that he has brought along with him for years, and they have open discussions of difficult topics rather than acting as a legion of "yes" men and women.
These basic, seemingly boring elements (avoiding risk without sufficient reward, retaining solid talent and having open communication) should be basic B School elements, rather than shooting for the sky with risky investments and punishing those that don't take risks. But since this seems rather sensible (do I need an MBA to learn that?) don't expect to see it any time soon.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
I am pretty impressed by a lot of the modern rock bands. The songs have good lyrics and driving beats. Here is one good example, Rise Against - The Good Left Undone:
In fields where nothing grew but weeds,
I found a flower at my feet,
bending there in my direction.
I wrapped a hand around its stem
and pulled until the roots gave in,
finding there what I've been missing.
And I know....
So I tell myself, I tell myself, it's wrong.
There's a point we pass from which we can't return.
I felt the cold rain of the coming storm...
All because of you,
I haven't slept in so long.
When I do I dream
of drowning in the ocean;
longing for the shore
where I can lay my head down.
I'll follow your voice;
all you have to do is
shout it out!
Inside my hands these petals browned;
dried up falling to the ground,
but it was already too late now.
I pushed my fingers through the earth,
returned this flower to the dirt;
so it could live, I walked away now.
But I know...
Not a day goes by when I don't feel this burn.
There's a point we pass from which we can't return.
I felt the cold rain of the coming storm...
All because of you,
I haven't slept in so long.
When I do I dream
of drowning in the ocean;
longing for the shore
where I can lay my head down.
I'll follow your voice;
all you have to do is
shout it out!
All because of you
I believe in angels.
Not the kind with wings,
no, not the kind with halos;
the kind that bring you home
when love becomes a strange place.
I'll follow your voice;
all you have to do is
shout it out!
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
I am so used to running, biking, practicing Muay Thai and training our fighters at the gym that my cardio is huge at this point. I really hadn't thought much about it. I think the reason that I haven't thought much about it is that on the fight team we are all on a pretty high level of fitness. Holding pads is no easy task - it is actually quite a workout when done with a professional fighter. And some of the insane things I have been doing with MMA padholding (shooting and wrestling with pads) are adding to the workouts.
My epiphany came when we had a new fighter come into the gym for training. He hadn't done anything yet that evening. I had already done an hour of strength training, one hour of MT class and an hour of padholding and sparring with fighters. I was my usual sweaty mess, but none the worse for wear. The head instructor told me to pair up with the new guy and go "four threes no counters" (four rounds of three minutes each, with only techniques coming from the guy hitting the pads, no fighter defense and no padholder hitting back or kicking). This is somewhat of a vacation for me as I am now used to the five minute rounds (all out) that the MMA guys need for their training. So I said OK and got to work with the new guy.
This guy was totally gassed after about the first two minutes, and I was taking it very easy on him. He struggled through the last minute of his first round - and I had to encourage him A LOT to get him through it. After the bell went off he was totally gasping for air. I simply stopped, put my hands on my hips and looked at him (I said to myself in my head "huh"). I almost felt sorry for the guy. But part of the job of the pad holder is to encourage and motivate - so I told him not to worry, he would get there. The bell went and he huffed and puffed through the second round. This time the guy let out an audible sigh of relief at the end of the round and I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Again I told him to take it easy, "you can't get in shape after one night". I went even slower the third round - it was almost painful how slow I had to go, but this guy was a wreck. He kept dropping his hands, he stopped frequently to gasp for air, and at the end I think my daughter could have kicked his a@@.
At the break of this round I thought my fighter was going to puke. The head instructor happened to be nearby and asked me how things were going. I said "He Can't Go Another Round". After a little more discussion the head instructor and myself agreed that pushing this guy any further would have been counter productive. I wasn't even breathing hard.
I have to admit, it was pretty cool to see a young guy be brought to his knees by a 39 year old man and I was taking it easy on him. I couldn't stop smiling on the way home.
Hope he gets in shape soon. Either that or he will run screaming from the gym. And me in particular.
Today the local newspaper announced the arrival of a vintage B-17 WWll Bomber.
For some reason the Valpo airport attracts old war birds all summer long. There is a small aviation museum located there where they display a P-51, a, F4U Corsair, a Steerman biplane, an old British jet and a Navy trainer. The owner will take you up in for rides, the P-51 costs $900 for a one hour flight complete with maneuvers.
Some years back an organization called The Collings Foundation flew in a B-17, a B-24 and a B-25. I went for a ride in the B-17. It cost $300 for a one hour flight and it was well worth it. Collings flies around the country giving rides to fund their squadron of vintage warbirds. The one I rode in was the “109”. They return to the Valpo airport each summer, usually in the middle of the week.
The B-17 shown here is owned by the EAA out of Oshkosh WI. They are doing something similar to Collings.
If I wanted to go up in the “Aluminum Overcast” today the price is $400. I talked to the pilot for a while. He has 1200 hours behind the stick in this plane.
Seeing something like this in person is something I always make time for. It’s surprising how small it is in person. And it’s scary. Looking at all that twin 50cal hardware makes me think how brave flying an ME109 into a group of them would be. I would kraut my pants for sure.
A friend’s dad flew the split-tail twin-engine P-38 Lightning in the Pacific. He said flying into a group of Jap planes had his seat soiled by the time he headed back to the base. According to him the opening engagement with an enemy squadron was the most confusing, dizzying experience in life. Planes often ran into each other unexpectedly. He said no pilot was ashamed to soil a seat, because they made it back.
My father-in-law was a B-17 navigator out of England. He survived the 25 missions and returned to the States to train young navigators. Chuck would never talk about his experiences no matter how much I asked. His son told me he heard only a few. Seems Chuck had to live life knowing he felt responsible for killing hundreds, if not thousands of Europeans. He knew many were innocent civilians. He passed away three years ago.
I have such great respect for him and all the insanely brave military pilots and airmen. R.I.P