Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The bar brought back some memories. The floor was completely sticky and covered with spilled booze. A guy over by the darts was apparently chewing tobacco (we thought he was just getting sick) and spitting down on the floor all afternoon. Someone threw up in the urinal and I'm guessing it is still there even now.
On the sign behind the bar is a note that Monday's is cash-only. No credit cards. Beneath that message was a sign that says "binge responsibly".
This guy was the bartender and we sat next to him. He was pretty good-natured, especially because we were likely the only people tipping him in the bar (this is college, remember).
We were literally astounded by how ferocious the drinks he was pouring were. He made "s*x on the beach" which was FOUR shots of liquor and a bit of mixer. We could tell that they were strongly alcoholic and not just water... because the drinks literally reeked of booze and we could smell them as they got passed by like a giant shot.
We noticed women (the guys bought beer) coming up at 1/2 hour intervals to get more drinks... that is about 8 shots an hour, enough to stun a large herbivore. We started talking to this bartender and he said that those drinks (s*x on the beach) were crap... a chance to get rid of his rail liquor. He seemed pretty proud of his craft. We named him the "poison apothecary" since he clearly knew what he was doing.
Part of getting older is when you try to give advice (that no one wants). After a while I was mildly trying to talk some of the completely inebriated folks out of getting another 4-shot drink... to no avail, of course.
Then a fight broke out right behind us and some totally drunk f*ck took a swing at a monster guy next to him... the bouncers did a great job and had the drunk in a headlock and dragged him out in an instant. The big guy was saying that he needed his revenge but the bouncer handled it well, saying that the little(r) guy was on his way out and no need to do anything. Later Dan and I commented that the bouncer must have had psychological training or something because he handled the situation very well.
Reviews on the web:
12/09/2007 Posted by badgergirl85
Drinks are Unreal. Staff is Awesome. Atmosphere is really fun. Best place to party in Madison, hands down.
Pros: Ridiculously strong drinks and fun bartenders
Cons: You won't remember most of your night
Amen. And the poison apothecary means to keep it that way.
This year my mailbox has been stuffed with campaign literature more than I can remember. Probably because Indiana is considered a toss-up this year.
This one caught my eye today.
I have received many NRA mailings around election time but never one from the Indiana SRP. When you count how many people hunt each year it makes a lot of sense.
Sure hope more people come to their senses next Tuesday.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Recently I met up with Dan in Madison to watch the Illini vs. the Wisconsin Badgers (we lost). Dan and I talk a lot via the web but usually only see each other a few times a year (during Bears games) but we correspond a lot. Any reader of this blog knows that Dan is quite the fitness fanatic / zealot and has really done a lot to get in tremendous shape over the last few years.
Seeing Dan reminded me of some research that I saw on friends... from this BBC article (a reputable source)
"Fat Friends Can Boost Your Size"
"The work, by scientists at the University of Warwick, Dartmouth College, and the University of Leuven, is being presented to an economics conference in Cambridge Massachusetts. They suggest choices about appearance, on which decisions such as job offers or being deemed attractive are based, are determined by the choices others around you make. So, if people around you are fat, it is permissible for you to be fat too."
Thus hanging out with Dan reminds me that while I am getting a bit smaller, I have a long way to go. One thing that isn't helping is the AMAZINGLY large portions of food that are dispensed to me continuously. Above is a photo of food from a local Italian restaurant (a chain) called Maggianos - these is one HALF order of pasta and meatballs with a HALF order of stuffed mushrooms. We take the 1/2 order and cut it into essentially quarters and it is still too much food (we won't get those mushrooms again... they expanded like balloons in my stomach). This is for two people. Who needs to eat that much food?
Maybe if I had different friends...
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Basically, the concept is to teach people how to save, knock down their debt, and generally help them to not waste money (things that many modern day Americans are horrible at). I can't really see a downside to this. The site is sponsored by the American Institute of CPA's. I am not sure why they put up the site, but I wholeheartedly support it.
I give the site a big thumbs up, but think I will give their choice of advertising venues a small thumbs down. I was reminded this morning of Feed the Pig while listening to Bloomberg Radio on XM on the way in to work, getting my business news for the day.
**Quick aside: I have three choices of business news to pick from on XM: Fox Business, CNBC and Bloomberg. I choose Bloomberg because it is just the facts, with interviews sprinkled in - and the interviews are with interesting and smart people. In addition, the interviews are always respectful and low key even if people are disagreeing, unlike some of the other places where there are a bunch of idiots yelling and screaming at each other. In other words, Bloomberg Radio seems more professional to me.**
I really don't think that anyone who seeks out Bloomberg Radio doesn't understand the simple concepts of saving and debt that Feed the Pig is trying to teach. I just think that these are wasted advertising dollars. A better target IMHO would be radio stations, magazines or TV networks that reach places where the people are perhaps not educated or are unaware of the concepts that Feed the Pig is educating people on.
It is almost like putting ads up for scrap booking during an NFL football game. Not the right demographic.
Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Well, not really a blizzard but outside my office window this afternoon were falling balls of ice crystals. That's snow to me. I think is is being caused by the lake effect. Look hard, it's there.
This morning at the mini-mart granny told me that at 5am when she opened the snow was coming down hard.
Tonight and tomorrow night the temps will drop below 30 so haul in the garden hoses.
This growing season is...OVAH!
Friday, October 24, 2008
I am a fan of Iceland for a number of reasons:
1) they refuse to change the name of their country from "Iceland" to, well, pretty much anything else that would be more inviting than to imagine an ice-covered land (at one point North Dakota was going to change their name to "Dakota", which I thought was selling out)
2) they have great geography, including thermal power that allows them to produce steel and other heavy industry at cheap (er) costs
3) there are many Nordic blonds there (check out the site) - and what's wrong with that
Iceland has been in the news lately because they basically went bankrupt. For a while it appeared that Russia (of all places) was going to flex their muscle by bailing them out - but now they received a loan from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) that will keep them going for a while and get them back on their feet.
I also like Iceland because of puffins. Iceland has many, many puffins. I also run a site with Puffin Movies called, well, www.puffinmovies.com which has movies from my puffin-related visits.
In reading the news on Iceland I read about a local music festival (Iceland has produced a number of successful bands, most notably the Sugarcubes which gave us Bjork) and found this paragraph:
"Another Icelandic rock band, Dikta... "
Whoa - they have a band called DIKTA... that is almost like naming a band after Da' Coach, which is very cool. Another reason to like Iceland...
For some reason (don't ask me why) on Thursdays I sneak out of work a little early and go to my favorite watering hole, the Great Dane. I always sit there for one beer, an ESB, and to read my favorite paper, The Onion. The bartenders know me there now and like me for some reason - they think I am entertaining. I have them snowed (I figure I would say it before you put it in a comment).
Outside is a parking spot reserved for Bret Beliema, the UW football head coach. He does a radio show from this bar every week. They were there last night for some reason - it was a pretty quite crowd as the Badgers are having an off year.
I love how they hold down his sign so it doesn't blow away - Wisconsin ingenuity at its best.
And here it is. The wonderful ESB and the Onion. Look at that headline by the way. Funny stuff. If you don't read the Onion, you should.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
In my last rant it was noted that a campaign sign was stolen from my property the night after I planted it. No big deal. One gets stolen and another goes up. I am a passionate sum’bi^ch when it comes to my freedom of speech and the Bill of Rights.
There have been many stories recently published about similar occurrences. Here in town it was reported that a garage door was vandalized with spray paint due to the owner’s expression of free speech by planting the same sign I did. The words they sprayed on his door do not deserve repeating.
After my last rant this image was pointed out to me by three different sources.
One late commenter reminded me that I had said I would offer up my version of the “CHAN@E” signs, t-shirts and stickers through an online vendor widely known for custom one-offs. Well, I tried. The vendor for the online graphic wearables turned me down. The content was judged as inappropriate and they claimed it violated their TOS. Sure thing. I closed the account before trying to find a compromise. No thank you.
I did not misuse any trademark. The files I uploaded were void of the “O” logo. The font did not match and the colors were close. Other than that why would they refuse my artwork for reproduction when they offer many other images that are in obvious violation of federal trademark regulations? Use your imagination. It shouldn’t be too difficult.
So here’s the deal. Shoot me an email and I will send you a reproduction quality file of my version of "CHAN@E" artwork that you can probably reproduce at a local QuickPrint shop for less money if you like. I can provide a .pdf, .png, .tiff, .jpg or any other format you wish.
FREE. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.
If you experience an election that lasts more than four hours please see a community organizer.
To preface, Nop is a Buddhist, and believes in reincarnation. He feels that each of us carries over some things from previous lives. He goes on to say:
We believe that your interest, your inclinations, are a direct results of your past experiences. You eventually get drawn back to things that feel familiar, things that you love, even your friends… The idea is that we’ve all met before some place else.
Interesting quote. He then puts forth a question to his MT community asking what drew you to MT and why. The post just went up, but I expect comments to be long and lengthy on that one. Mine got too long so I morphed it into a post as I usually do so as not to pollute the comment section over there.
Oddly enough I got into MT to supplement my biking. Being a distance cyclist I was looking for ways to strengthen my core for longer rides. At one time I was considering training for double centuries, but I don't think I have time for that anymore, and besides I miss six months of riding each year from the weather. I am a biking wimp - under 60F is a no go for me.
So one day I announced to my wife that I wanted to take up Muay Thai in my basement, and teach it to myself with some books. What the heck, I buy a couple of bags and I am off and running, right? Heh. Wisely my wife put the brakes on that doomed to failure plan and told me to join a gym.
But why Muay Thai? I have always been fascinated with martial arts, MT, and fighting in general. Growing up I used to buy martial arts magazines and look at the guys they were featuring, and look at the different weapons for sale like throwing stars, nunchaku, etc. I never did buy any of them. But I did enjoy looking at those magazines and always wondered about taking karate, taekwondo, or some other martial art.
I am not a fighter - it just isn't part of my personality. Even in situations (and there were a few) when an aggressor bullied me around I always walked away (or ran). I still do this today, and was very happy that I did last year in Minneapolis. At this point I have a lot more to lose than some drunk a-hole hassling me in a bar. And I have no reason to send someone to the hospital, which is exactly where this intoxicated person in Minneapolis would have ended up.
In fact, I have never been in a fight in my entire life (and hopefully never will), but ring sports have always been of interest to me. Since I was a wee lad I watched boxing, as that was available on TV. ABC used to have the title fights on at night, before cable and HBO got big. I never had cable growing up, but finally got it in college, and started seeing different types of ring sports on TV such as UFC, Muay Thai, and other types of things. Back in the 90's, UFC didn't have organized rules (you could hit each other in the sack!) so that turned me off big time. Guys like Tank Abbot would simply run across the ring and crush an opponent. It reminded me more of a street brawl than a ring sport. But Muay Thai always fascinated me. Muay Thai showed itself to be an extremely brutal sport (at times) with decent rules and lots of technique. To boot there was a lot of respect and traditions that were shown in the ring. I always kept it in the back of my head.
And the time finally came. When I was 38. Muay Thai has gotten me in the best shape of my life and I have gone places I never thought I would. I am a certified pad holder for professional fighters, and see how hard they train. I know how little most of them get paid too. It is an immense commitment that very few are able to make a living on.
I am not a deeply religious guy nor am I superstitious. But something I made up a while ago keeps coming forward when I think of where I came from and where I am going with regards to MT. I give to Muay Thai, and Muay Thai gives back to me.
I always show proper Thai respect when sparring, or teaching, or receiving instruction or whatever. It is part of the tradition, and I love traditions and history.
MT has given me a lot of benefits.
- Outstanding physical conditioning - I had no idea how cardio heavy MT was until I actually got in there and started. Now I am doing strength training as well and am built pretty well. The Wife gives this the big thumbs up. Winters are much more harsh on me now since my body fat is so low.
- A feeling of self appreciation - In my life there were very few things that I accomplished totally 100% on my own. This is one thing that I never had any help from anyone at and I am being successful in.
- More discipline - I am a fairly well disciplined individual, but going to class takes it to another level. There are a million reasons that I can think of to NOT go to class, but I always go. It doesn't matter if I am tired, sick, hurt or whatever, I always go.
- Self defense - Muay Thai is not the best self defense martial art out there, but there is a lot that can be used to defend yourself if in a predicament. I will say that it is more practical than Karate or Taekwando or some others, but it doesn't come close to Jeet Kune Do, Krav Maga, and there are probably more that I have missed. I am not here to bash any martial art and encourage people to do what they enjoy - Muay Thai is not for everyone. In the end, if you are dedicated to any martial art you are far ahead of 99.999% of the population - not only for your physical fitness, but because you can bring that dedication to your art into your personal life. I am very confident in my ability to defend myself in a hand to hand confrontation with most assailants, if nothing else due to the fact that I have been hit, kneed, elbowed and kicked for the past year and a half and know what it feels like and how to react. But if you don't keep up with your art and stay in shape, I don't see you using a martial art in a self defense situation. If I quit today and got attacked five years down the road I don't know how I would do.
Muay Thai teaches respect for your instructors, sparring partners, and people in general. What I like is that it doesn't go overboard with hero worship (we don't have sensei's or crap like that). Outside the classes and in breaks, we just call our instructors by their first name. I have made a lot of friends at the gym outside of my normal circle of people, and that is great for me. I am in the best shape of my life and am confident that using my skills and fitness that I can defend myself in a hand to hand situation if it were to occur. Being dedicated to MT requires a lot of discipline and effort, but is so rewarding in the end.
I give to Muay Thai, and Muay Thai gives back to me.
The Citizen's Utility Board or "CUB" is a non-profit group that represents the consumers of the state of Illinois against the interests of the electric, gas and telecom utilities. Their web site is www.citizensutilityboard.org and I recently joined their membership ranks so now I see their periodic newsletter. David Kolata is the Executive Director of CUB (his photo is on the article, above).
HISTORY OF CUB
CUB was started in the mid-80's. While there are many elements to CUB, the most relevant was their opposition to the big electric rate hikes that ComEd (now Exelon) was pushing through in the 1980's, as their giant nuclear plants, plagued by cost overruns, came on line.
How the "rate setting process" works is that the utility will come forward and request a hike in rates, as well as the changes in rates by customer classes (business, residential, etc...). The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) typically decides whether or not the rate hike will be allowed and how much of the utility's request to grant. CUB was established to represent the citizens of the state and generally this means fighting to keep the rate increase as small as possible. Typically the utility asks for $100M, CUB says give them nothing (or they owe us a refund), and then the ICC makes a decision somewhere along the continuum.
Utilities are a local monopoly so they need some sort of process for setting rates else they could essentially charge whatever they'd like (there is no competition). In practical terms, very high prices encourage customer "substitution" such as is occurring today when high gas prices are impacting behavior (driving less, selling less SUV's, taking public transportation), so their pricing power isn't unlimited, but it would be very large unless constrained by the state.
In addition to fighting on pricing, the utilities also often provide poor service. Since they are a monopoly, you can't "drop" ComEd if you are a residential consumer so without pressure from groups like CUB the utility could pretty much operate with relative impunity, although the ICC would certainly step in if the situation was dire (i.e. blackouts).
I like the above message that describes what CUB is supposed to be about:
"CUB's mission is to lower your gas, electric and phone costs"
This is a great mission - however, the mission is getting caught up in politically motivated issues. For instance a recent newsletter says that "CUB gets 'green' to save you green". Per a recent article:
"So our money-saving mission is the same, but now we have a powerful new weapon in the fight - energy efficiency".
While energy efficiency is always a good thing, all else being equal, it isn't clear how energy efficiency saves in customer bills. The best thing for consumers is having cheap, base-load power, coming from coal or nuclear plants. These plants have the lowest marginal cost of producing energy. Gas fired plants, on the other hand, are subject to fluctuations in the cost of natural gas, and often "set" the price of power which is done based on:
Demand on a given day - at the point where supply is offered - the cost at the point where demand = supply, the price of THAT megawatt per power sets the rate for the entire pool of power. Thus if demand can be set using base load power, the rate is far lower than the demand rate that would be set for natural gas.
As far as efficiency, it is a good thing, except that it costs money. Want to install real-time meters - well who is paying for that? There are 1 million + customers in ComEd's service territory - if these meters costs hundreds of dollars each (plus installation labor) who is going to fund these efficiencies - why the distribution utility, of course, which in turn is paid for by consumers.
CUB is scared to talk about new generation because it is politically incorrect to do so, so it is looking at the next best item (but unfortunately it is far less "good") which is conservation. But if CUB really wanted to stick to their mission, they'd focus on adding base load capacity for coal and nuclear plants (Illinois has plenty of coal reserves and more nuclear plants than any other state in the nation, so this isn't as much of a stretch as it seems).
Just don't hold your breath on that.
CUB should change their mission to
"Doing what sounds politically correct while ignoring the core problems of not building new power generation."
This is sad because CUB has done a lot of good for Illinois, acting as a check on the power companies who were often ill-managed and who had the regulators in their pocket. But now they can avoid the real problem and dance around on the margins, while Illinois uses up its spare capacity and heads towards spiraling power costs.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I have a lot of experience in consulting at a number of different organizations. If you are interested in the challenges (and opportunities) of running or being part of a professional services organization, I suggest that you read "Managing the Professional Services Firm" by David Maister.
The types of examples given in the book are staffing a web services engagement in the Philippines; there is an expensive (high ranking) consultant on the bench (meaning - unassigned and not currently earning income for the firm) in a faraway country vs. a less skilled (and cheaper) local consultant who could also be assigned to the job - which to choose? This is the type of "problem" that the program is supposed to solve. The implied conceit is that consultants are interchangeable, and you can just build a team out of individual skill sets, have them show up at the work site, and pull off the engagement.
When I worked at one of the large consulting firms, in order to save space, they went to a "hoteling" concept. Since consultants were usually on the road and not in the office, some bean counter figured that it would be cheaper to not give anyone a permanent office and just have them occupy whatever space was available on the occasion that they had to work in town. The company did attempt to link your phone to your location and sometimes even had a nameplate ready for you, along with a little cart for your office supplies, so you were able to get started working with a minimum of effort. The company only had to have office space for the people likely to show up, which was maybe 25% of the total staff on a given day, saving them in rent money.
What is interesting is that both of these examples treat consultants in a similar manner; as cogs in a machine, or interchangeable parts. This is a terrible assumption; consultants are human beings, and they don't automatically function as a team just because you put people in the same room and give them an overall objective (a consulting engagement). In the case of technology consultants, which is most of what IBM offers, the problem is even more acute; even a casual reader of Dilbert or viewer of the classic movie "Office Space" knows that technology staff often have poor or difficult interpersonal skills, and so throwing together random staff in a room and assuming it will work out smoothly is just bananas.
As far as the office hoteling went, it was a disaster. Many times I went to the office and I knew absolutely no one; every time I sat next to a random cluster of refugees. The only constants were the executives (they had permanent offices); a few times I attempted to converse with them but it was pointless as they viewed me as a random intruder. There was no camaraderie; no team spirit; I just started working from home if I wasn't on site (which was rare).
Why would a business that is ostensibly about people (the famous line that all their assets walk on the elevator each night) not even think for a minute about the basics of getting people to communicate, work together, and focus on teamwork? The article never really touched on this "broken" aspect of their business model.
Another element of this business model that is terrible is that it ignores the reality of time and space. If you are running a job as a consulting manager in say, Memphis, your staff comes in from around the country on Monday morning, bedraggled, and everyone finally is sitting in their seats around noon. No one works on Friday at a job site anymore; they all start leaving on Thursday in the early afternoon. Thus, best case, you get 1/2 day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and 3/4 of Thursday. This totals up to 3 1/4 days out of a 5 day week; but of course you charge the client for 5 days anyways. In addition, travel costs money - typically you'd add 15% - 20% onto total charges (client billings) for travel - and while this money is expensive to the client and costs the same to them as "consulting dollars", it doesn't add anything to the bottom line of the consulting firm.
The assumption also is that these consultants, who arrive on the job site not knowing one another, have some sort of common knowledge base and training, or understanding of the processes needed to run the engagement. This is usually wishful thinking; central training is not very robust, and just keeping up with the barrage of memos, expense policies, and personnel reviews consumes a lot of time (and adds nothing to the quality of the engagement).
What is the alternative to this model? One alternative is the "local office" model, where a local city like Chicago would hire their own staffs based on the needs of their customer base. These consultants know each other, and learn to work like a team. The local office invests in training unique to their needs, and staff can have local mentors. Travel is less painful; 5 days of work is received by the client rather than 3 1/4, and the staffing levels are much less variable (sometimes people don't make it in at all in bad weather).
The "local model", however, has problems - it is impossible to staff locally in a manner that leverages everything that is on the web site for services that IBM offers. For example, the web site touts services from supply chain management to specific types of technological consulting. On top of this, IBM claims industry expertise in a variety of areas, meaning that they need to provide 1) specific technical expertise 2) specific industry expertise 3) project management / consulting partner leadership in order to successfully complete the consulting job.
Thus in many instances the local office will be forced to bring in staff from outside the geographic vicinity in order to complete the job (as advertised; they could offer a more limited menu of services, but this typically isn't done), and some other bean counter figured that it would be more efficient to leverage idle staff sitting elsewhere rather than to leave potential billing dollars unused.
I don't blame IBM for attempting to put some rigor into their exercise of deploying consultants around the world in a more systematic manner; however, the real question is - what is accomplished by this activity, and is there a better way to meet the client needs (primarily local staffing, which may leave some holes in the skill set?)
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
A plague commemorating the USS Juneau, of course. The USS Juneau was a US light cruiser of the "Atlanta" class, and was relatively small in size. "Light" cruisers at the time generally carried 6 inch guns, and "Heavy" cruisers carried 8 inch guns (for comparison, battleships carried guns in the 14 to 18 inch range). The Atlanta class light cruisers had five inch guns, in twin mount turrets, and in some ways were just larger destroyers. On the other hand, they were revolutionary in that they were Anti-aircraft cruisers, similar to the British "Dido" class, which performed valuable duties especially protecting the Malta convoys which ran through heavy Axis air attack routes.
After this event, the armed forces started enforcing the "surviving son" policy which made sure that brothers did not serve on the same ship and that if enough sons were killed that the survivors were brought home or taken out of danger to the extent possible.
I guess this is what makes me a blogger... sitting in down town Juneau during a beautiful day and I am caught up thinking about World War II and all the impact from the sinking of this ship named after the local city.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Monday, October 20, 2008
This year the Chicago White Sox over-achieved and made the playoffs where they faced the surprising Tampa Bay Rays. Being a White Sox fan, my heart sank when I saw who they brought out in middle relief... it was Chad Bradford. If you read Moneyball there is a classic passage on Chad Bradford:
"The first question Billy Beane will ask Art Howe (the manager) after the game is why the f*ck he'd brought Magnante into a tight game. In tight situations Art was supposed to use Chad Bradford."
Well, he was a solid middle reliever and was lights out against the White Sox. This time I was quite unhappy to see that Moneyball was right, again. He also pitched well against the Red Sox, too, helping to boot them out of the playoffs.
It will be just off the capital square downtown, so the whole isthmus will be a disaster for pretty much that whole day. For those unfamiliar with Madison, we have a lake to the north, a lake to the south, and a strip of land inbetween called the isthmus. You can see the location of the airport in the upper right section of the map, it is those gray lines criss crossing just to the southwest of the 90/94 signs.
Here is what the K*rry rally looked like in 2004:
It is going to be a huge mess once again.Fortunately my business is on the east side, and my house is in a 'burb' south of the city so my commute and business day SHOULDN'T be too affected, unless they take the candidate there in a circular route, which might screw up the traffic patterns elsewhere. I hope they just take him from his earth polluting private jet straight downtown, and back again. It will surely be a miserable day to get around the isthmus. Or an exciting one, depending on your political leanings.
I am not sure why they are holding this rally but I will put forth a few thoughts.
Super liberal Madison never disappoints when guys like N*der, K*rry, or others have come through before. These rallies make for good pr shots on the national media. I honestly don't think that Wisconsin is in play in this election, as Mc*ain has pulled a lot of advertising dollars out of the state. Then again, maybe I am wrong.
I just hope that some smart investigative reporter will look into how much this rally will cost the taxpayers (and I am one of them) of the city, and how much the city will be compensated by the O*ama campaign. I am not holding my breath to see that story any time soon.
I am glad that I have pretty much sworn off talking about politics to anyone. I have been approached by many people over the last few months to have these types of conversations and have politely brushed them off each time. It has saved me a lot of hand wringing and possible confrontation by insane, excited people on both sides of the aisle.
In other interesting Madison news, this weekend the beloved Illinois Fighting Illini come to town to play the Badgers in the very first Big Ten 'Carbon Neutral' game. I am not making that up. That is Madison for you though.
Carl and some friends will be joining me for that one, and hopefully the Illini can keep Wisconsin's season circling the toilet. But Camp Randall is a tough environment, and you never know what can happen.
Any way you slice it, the city crews will have a lot of work to do here after this week is over.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Andrew Lahde, a hedge fund manager, has called it quits. That isn't such a big deal, but his letter is. Read it. I would vote for him for president, but it sound like he is taking some time off. Probably to smoke dope, but whatever.
Do you remember that a-hole Morgan Sp*rlock and the movie he did about eating McDonalds every day? Well, a person is taking up that sort of challenge, but doing it with Starbucks. Yikes. D'oh! She only made it seven days! But entertaining anyways.
Nopstar has been putting up great fights over at My Muay Thai. This one is Kaew Fairtex vs. Lerdsilla. Last week I received a couple of accidental kicks without shinpads, as well as a couple of knees and one elbow. Even tapped lightly they hurt. I honestly don't understand how these fighters can take this sort of punishment. They go five rounds, and many of these guys fight over a hundred fights. If you have any interest in fighting or Muay Thai at all, take 20 minutes and watch this whole fight for some incredible technique. You will need veoh to watch it.
Do you own a Smith and Wesson firearm that you would like to know the history on? Go to the Smith and Wesson page, download the form and send them the $50 for a Roy Jenks letter. With this letter you will see the original configuration of the gun, where it was originally sold, and the date of sale. With a Jenks letter there is no arguing about the specifics of your gun and it is an interesting trip back into time. He doesn't have much time left at S and W, so if you have a Smith and Wesson piece, do it now! You won't regret it.
I have been recently adding to my stock holdings with the wild downturn in the prices. The yields on some very solid companies are just too much for me to resist. But don't believe me, this guy knows a lot more about it.
Quote of the day from Zenpundit in his own comments section:
Having pushed Obama with favorable press since his first run for State Senate, the Trib [Chicago Tribune] could hardly stop now. About the only topic on which the editors are more fervent is confiscating everybody’s firearms.
Friday, October 17, 2008
On October 1, Schlitz was re-introduced to beer consumers in my city. For all of its quirks and lunacy, we really do drink a LOT of beer in Madison, and in Wisconsin in general.
There was a major ad blitz in newspapers and internet media. Certain bars were the first to receive their deliveries of Schlitz, and many of them had it on tap. They used vintage sixties and seventies cars to deliver the beer, which is also a cool hook. The makers of Schlitz have re-introduced the beer in its original form. In other words, they are using the old recipe, not some modern day chopped down cornwater like Miller Lite. It had me sort of excited. I love history, and throwback stuff is always interesting to me.
I am not one to enter the fray with these sorts of things (you will NEVER see me wait in line for a movie ticket either) so I decided to wait a week or two and then pick up a sixer at my local liquor store. I like the packaging very much (click for larger). On this, they did a fantastic job.
But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and man does this beer suck out loud. This is really the "Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous"? It is brewed by Pabst now, so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. Drinking it is OK, but the aftertaste is something I can't describe. Almost like having a sweaty t-shirt in my mouth or something. If this is really the original recipe, I wonder how it lasted so long. Oh well, I will still force down the remainder of this sixer, but for my light summertime yard work brew I will be sticking to the High Life for now.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
After an election I go out and rid the countryside of this environmental pollution since they seem to stay up for weeks. Considering that they contribute to environmental harm and Gorebal warming it is my civic duty. Someone needs to clean up the mess.
A week ago a B.H.O campaign sign went up on my street. I was shocked considering my neighborhood. So I immediately went into town to the county R.H.Q. to get my own sign and proudly displayed it in front of the old country bunker.
The next day…it was gone. Stolen. Swiped. Ripped-Off.
I would never tamper with a sign until the election is over and I would never remove a sign from private property at any time period. It’s not right and as far as I am concerned it’s a crime.
Another trip into town and I picked up a half-dozen so if it happens again the sign will be promptly replaced.
An interest in politics and understanding the issues in the upcoming national election is very important to me and should be to you, if you value your liberty and freedoms. The leftist culture war against American traditions and the Constitution is in a battle for the ages right here, right now. The socialists among us want to take more of my money and all of my guns. They are in the best position ever to do so.
Remember the “bitter-clinger” comment by B.H.O.? Did you see that guy Joe The Plumber in a video exchange with B.H.O where The Almighty One told Joe point-blank he wanted more of Joe’s money to “spread the wealth”?
The socialists are doing everything possible and even breaking laws to gain power. Voter fraud, outright lying, media manipulation and celebrity hack endorsements is bad enough, stealing my lawn sign from private property before the election has me completely outraged. Was it a neighbor or a paid operative of the democrat party sent out to engage in this type of behavior? I want to believe it wasn’t a neighbor.
If it happens again I am making my own signs and putting them up also. It will look exactly like this:
I truly hope more Americans are like Joe and see through the lies and contempt these socialist douchenozzles have for our priceless way of life and select the only candidate who will defend truth, justice and the American way.
The opposite will truly be tragic.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
This is the last part on the Gunstock '08 series. Once again, thank you a BUNCH to Gerry and his family for hosting us on their land. I am bringing more sh*t to blow up next year.
This is a short video of Elton shooting a .50 cal muzzle loader. There were several of these out there this fine day.
"Even Carl can shoot that gun" you can hear me say at the end, and Carl agrees with me. Also note my encouraging tone "horrible!", but Carl had the last laugh with that one as the bullet went right through the target - I think it was a can or water bottle. He is shooting my Ruger 77/22 boltie with awesome Leupold scope.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I have been meaning to blog about this for quite some time.
About a month or two ago my dad and I went back to Road America. You may remember the posts I did about the vintage motorcycle races that we saw.
This time we went for a different reason. A business associate of ours actually has race cars and invited us up for a ride. A group that our associate is involved in rented out the whole track for the weekend. I will give the details as I start rolling out these posts.
This was easily the most impressive car at the track. It was a Ferrari that was raced at LeMans (and other similar courses) at one time. I was informed that the purchase price for one of these used race cars is well over one million dollars. That is more than I make in a whole month of work!
This video isn't action packed, but the sound is awesome. You can hear me say "damn!" at the end for obvious reasons.
On the track the owner didn't open it up all the way, just played nice with the peasants who were on the track at the same time. I think if he opened this thing up we would have just seen a red tracer going by.
Monday, October 13, 2008
I can walk to work from a few different directions and I took a detour and headed south on LaSalle street. Just north of the Chicago River there is a refurbished office building with a large photo essay on the Eastland disaster. The S.S. Eastland was a passenger ship that capsized in 1915 and killed 845 passengers along the Chicago River (near where this building stands today). The exhibit is called "A Day Unlike Any Other".
What does this essay say about America, and why are we "A Lucky Country"? As a history buff, when I see any date from the time period 1914-1918 only one thing leaps to mind - World War One. While the United States did participate in World War One, we declared war in 1917 and only had sizable forces on the ground for the 1918 German spring offensive and the subsequent Allied counterattack.
Thus while 1915 is "A Day Unlike Any Other" (and even the wikipedia page on this date, July 24, points to the Eastland disaster) in America, let's put this in perspective.
According to the time line of World War One (a great service by wikipedia) for the year 1915, here were events near that date:
- the British and the Turkish forces fought "The Battle of Gully Ravine", one of the brutal battles in the ill-fated invasion of Gallipoli pennisula, battles so intense that they helped to weld together the Australian and New Zealand nations and are still mourned as part of "Anzac Day"
- the Italians and Austrians (a German ally) fought pointless battles in the unforgiving terrain of the mountains that separated the two countries "The Second Battle of the Isonzo". These DOZEN battles caused terrific casualties on both sides and were in a stalemate until the Germans intervened in 1917 in the rout at Caporetto which was part of Hemmingways "A Farewell to Arms"
- At this time the Russians began "The Great Retreat" of 1915 which had them leave Poland and Eastern Europe - their 1914 offensive had ended in a German victory (but had likely saved Britain and France from defeat because the Germans panicked and sent forces Eastward, weakening their thrust towards Paris). The amount of ground that was covered in this retreat is vast and hard to contemplate today given the primitive roads and infrastructure that existed at that time
- during this exact date the Western front armies, the British, French and Germans, were exhausted from their 1914 battles. The British were preparing for the Battle of Loos, which occurred in September 1915, featuring the first British use of poison gas (which fell back on their own lines) and typical WW1 slaughter for virtually no gain. In the notes in Wikipedia they refer to a movie about this battle called "Oh What a Lovely War" and per Wikipedia:
"The battle was referenced in the film Oh What a Lovely War. During the upbeat title song, sung by the chorus of officers, a scoreboard is plainly seen in the background reading "Battle Loos/ British Losses 60,000/ Total Allied Losses 250,000/ Ground Gained 0 Yards".
Thus at the time that Chicago and all the US was contemplating the Eastland disaster, the Anzacs were dying on the shores of Gallipoli, the Italians were locked in the second of twelve pointless battles along Austria-Hungary's borders, the Russians were ceding virtually all of Eastern Europe in an enormous retreat, and the British and French were preparing for another slaughter in the West featuring poison gas, trench warfare, huge casualties, and nil results.
That is why we are a lucky country.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Here is a view of one of the top leaders heading south on Wells. The leaders all appeared to be Kenyan and were far, far from the pack by this point in the race.
Here is a view of the mass of the runners going south on Wells.
Here is a view of the runners about to turn off Wells.
The organizers were out there early with bullhorns. I think that they started barking orders through megaphones at about 4am below our building. They played music to "pump up" the runners and it was like being in an 80's disco - a lot of early Madonna ("Holiday") and here it is just like a wedding with "Celebration". Later they played a bit of AC/DC to try to push the stragglers along.
A friend of mine was tracking a few runners along and their technology seems pretty cool. All of the runners had a chip in their shoe and you could see their pace as they went along the various mileage markers in the race.
All in all it seems that this marathon was a lot more successful than prior years, which is great for Chicago.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
One of the many mysteries of Bear games is the jersey. As a rough guess, I would say that at least one fourth of the people attending a Bear game (maybe more?) are wearing a replica jersey. Almost all have the name of a former or current player on the jersey.
This practice of wearing the jerseys can be easily explained by the rabid nature of the Bear fan. What cannot be explained is why they would continue to wear a jersey with the name of a player who is currently on another team, is totally washed out, or sucked out loud from the get go. Like Rashaan Salaam. Note in this frame you can also see three Urlachers, a Butkus and a Hester in the distance if you enlarge the photo.
The Saalam jersey is clearly the king, but there are many others that are close. I have seen a Curtis Enis here and there, and I believe a Cade McNown once. There are always a few Jim Millers around as well.
This guy got lucky. He has probably had that Marty Booker jersey for five years, and by a freak of nature, Booker is now back with the Bears, and doing mostly nothing, like he did the first "tour".
A very large amount of the jerseys are for players from eras past, such as Marcus Robinson.
Some are totally unexplained, like the Steve Walsh jersey. Note the Hester, a couple of Walter Paytons, and I think the sleeve of a Gary Fencik in the frame as well. That was not intended, but shows the density of jerseys at any given time.
And some jersey wearers are nostalgic. We usually see a lot of Butkus. Not too many Luckman's though, this is the first. Note the Olson jersey down a few rows. Ugh.
Usually the defense jerseys are by and large the most prevalent, but people keep trying with these hilharious offensive player jerseys. I haven't seen too many Ortons yet. And hardly any Grossmans except for the one that Carl wears.
Friday, October 10, 2008
It was a beautiful day yesterday in northern Indiana. Temps in the 70’s, very low humidity and windless. Today was a clone.
Indian Summer is technically the first warm spell after the first frost. No frost here, not yet. Today was as close as it gets to Injun' Summer.
The modern day politically correct term for Injun' Summer is "Native American Post-Equinox Warm Weather Phenomenon". Use your own judgement.
In the early century an artist named John T. McCutcheon working as a staff artist on The Chicago Tribune created an illustration depicting Injun’ Summer. The story is here:
I remember the Trib reprinting the illustration every year at this time. Not long ago political correctness inhibited the Trib editorial staff and yearly reprinting of this fine work of art ceased. How sad is that? Artistic freedom permits and almost encourages artists to deface the American flag in public art museums that are partially funded by American taxpayers. Some freedom of speech. These fools trash our American heritage and promote their form of American hate in the name of “art”.
The McCutcheon illustration brings back seasonal memories as I remember them from my youth. School teachers would display the art as part of their fall-themed bulletin board display along with cardboard pumpkins and fake colored leaves.
Raking leaves when I got home from school was a chore. Burning leaves on crisp evenings at sunset was fun. Everybody did it at the same time and the smoke would hang in the air on windless October nights.
On occasion I will burn a small pile of leaves this time of year just to stoke some memories. It’s like being in a time machine.
Last summer I grilled some K-Bobs, took photos but never published them. As a memory of summer grilling here was the result.
So long summer. With the first frost we will rid the outdoors of these damn mosquitoes.
Thanks to the Chicago White Sox for being a nice surprise last summer. Onward to autumn it is. Go Bears!
Hunting time is here too. My Belgian Fabrique Browning 16ga. is oiled and ready. Bring on the birds.
One thing is for sure. In all my years not one seasonal change has ever stopped me from grilling.
I love the change of seasons.
It's the only CHANGE I can believe in.
Here I am shooting the .357 boomer. It is a S/W Model 13-2 that was manufactured the year of my birth. It is my first gun, and probably one of my favorites. It seemed to go over well, especially with the .357 ammo in there which makes for a lot of fire and brimstone compared to the .38 practice ammo.
I am shooting at a small water bottle from about 25 feet. It made a much lamer display than I thought it would when I hit it on the third shot. I think next time I will bring some cheap carbonated pop to blow up. Those will make a much better show.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Here is a view of the Grand station on the "L". This is one of the oldest underground stations and they are finally rebuilding it after all these years, although it causes a mess of construction at Grand and State avenues (right by Rock Bottom brewery). The station used to have dripping crud from the ceiling like an ancient cave and was completely dilapidated.
Here is the first of 2 pictures from my balcony showing what greets me early in the morning - construction. The lit up building on the left is blocking the view of Marina Towers and I think will house a big law firm (probably Jenner & Block). In front is a large 60+ story building that is right across from the Merchandise Mart. These buildings will likely struggle for tenants in today's climate, but an even more powerful effect will be that they will suck tenants out of the older buildings into the newer spaces and make the old buildings less viable. If you think about 60 stories and 100+ workers on a floor what firms need to house 6000 employees (across all the floors)? That's a lot of workers in today's crappy economy.
Here is a view of that same building across from Merchandise Mart and you can see another building peeking up over the top of the Merchandise Mart. This building is right behind the iconic 333 W Wacker building that curves along Wacker Drive along the river (it is green). Even more tenants to fill...
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Presidential candidates and others make pronouncements on nuclear power, such as John McCain's call to build 45 nuclear reactors by 2030. Obama isn't calling for a specific number of
nuclear plants, but doesn't dismiss plans outright.
WHO CAN BUILD A PLANT
All of these discussions, and phony debates, ignore a critical element - nuclear plants don't get built because politicians or activists want them (or even because we are running out of power) - nuclear plants get built:
1) when the regulatory climate in a particular state allows for recovery and financing of these costs
2) when individual utilities are financially strong enough to incur the debt and raise the cash to see through the 10+ year process from site selection through actually powering up the reactor and delivering power into the grid
Let's tackle #2 first. The estimates for building a nuclear plant are between $5B and $12B. Note that this doesn't take into account the "time value" of money - you need to get this money up front now and pay interest on it for all the years until the plant starts earning its keep - and this will substantially increase the cost. I don't have specific information but when I was in the industry I was told that on the plants built in the 70's maybe 20-40% of the total cost was "capitalized interest", or the interest on the construction debt while the plant was being built. It is true that the 70's were a time of high inflation, but we are seeing rising prices (and scarce availiabity) of key construction materials today, too. Let's say that for discussion purposes this $5B to $12B becomes $7B - $15B in costs in nominal (not real dollars, but nominal dollars are the ones that you have to pay out).
OK, so now you need $7B to $15B to build a plant. How are you going to raise that money, and how big do you have to be in order to do this? Going to yahoo finance under electric and diversified (electric & gas) utilities (which is pretty cool because you can quickly sort by market cap, and see debt / equity or leverage ratios) here are the possible candidates that have market values > $7B:
$20B - $30B
Dominion Resources, Inc.
Duke Energy Corp.
$10B - $20B
FPL Group Inc.
American Electric Power Co. In
Progress Energy Inc.
$5B - $10B
Xcel Energy Inc.
DTE Energy Co.
The AES Corporation
Allegheny Energy Inc.
Exelon - $37B
$10B - $20B
Public Service Enterprise Group
PG & E Corp.
Consolidated Edison Inc.
$5B - $10B
Wisconsin Energy Corp.
To really build one of these without stretching yourself too far (remember, these giant companies need cash for transmission, distribution, and other generation projects, as well), you'd probably need a market cap > $20B. Another element to note is that these companies are ALREADY burdened with debt; thanks to the yahoo analysis tool, you can see that almost every company has a debt to equity ratio > 1, and many are closer to 2. This means that if you have a $20B market cap, you have $20B - $40B in debt BEFORE you even think about financing a nuclear plant.
So who can do this without breaking the bank? You are down to the "big four"
Exelon (Illinois, Pennsylvania, large nuclear operator)
Southern Company (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida)
Dominion Resources (Virginia, North Carolina)
Duke Energy (Indiana, Ohio, Carolinas, elsewhere)
Now you need to combine the financial heft (above) with #1 - do their regulatory environments support building nuclear power plants and passing on to consumers the monstrous costs of construction?
You can pretty much cross off Exelon right there - they operate primarily in Illinois, which is sadly enough, about the least functionally sound state in the union. Pennsylvania isn't much better.
The south is better placed to support generation; they haven't dismantled their regulatory systems to the same extent as they did up north (preserving their cost advantage vs. the rest of the United States). On this score Southern Company has a decent shot, although Georgia has some strange state-run institutions. Duke and Dominion also would have options to do this, but for various local reasons they are less likely to champion nuclear.
The states that historically were most favorable to this type of regulatory environment were Florida, except that their utilities are smaller and it would be a big stretch for them to raise that much cash. Texas utilities are now on their knees based on deregulation, the fact that TXU went private (they'd laugh in your face if you mentioned nuclear; they want to make money TODAY), and they are also paying for hurricane damage. Wisconsin and some other states also have good regulatory regiemes, but they'd have to really stretch to finance a new plant.
Government entities of various stripes exist in the US. The Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA, would be counted on to build a nuclear plant if anyone would. Don't ask why the generation for the state of Tennessee is essentially run by the Federal government, but it is the case, and they have turned around their plants and would be game for more investing of your Federal tax dollars. There are other potential candidates but they are all less likely than TVA, and I wouldn't bet on any of them raising the money and pulling it off, espcecially since most of the available funding of the US Treasury is likely to be stuck propping up our moribund financial sector for some time now.
In conclusion, very few utilities have the financial heft to fund even ONE nuclear plant, and if all the cards broke in an optimistic fashion, we wouldn't even be able to bring enough capacity online to offset the nuclear capacity that is going out of service because it is reaching end of life. These companies would essentially have to bet everything to pull off the construction, unless state and Federal entities under-wrote the costs, which is getting less and less likely by the day.
Many of the regulatory environments that are most favorable to this type of future investment have small(ish) utilities that would be hard pressed to come up with this investment, and it would burden them to the edge of extinction.
Once again - I am a big proponent of nuclear power - but people have to be realistic about the high, high hurdles that these plans face. They simply are not realistic.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz