Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Super Bowl Trip

It's safe to say that when you count all the NFL football fans only a small percentage have had the opportunity to attend a Super Bowl.

Currently and in the future, most true football fans will need to get some of that government stimulus porkulus to afford a trip to a Super Bowl. The face value of SBXLlll ticket alone is $1,000. not including travel expenses. Want to buy one? Check out the prices.

I was lucky enough to attend a Super Bowl. It was SBX at the Miami Orange Bowl in 1977. The matchup was the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys. First a little background.

In 1976 I was 23 years old. My employer at the time, a small Chicago marketing agency, had the McDonald’s account, the Big Mac guys. Our responsibility was to invent promotional programs to generate in-store traffic and sell burgers. We also had responsibility for all food photography, on-site signage and promotional material. I was a jr. graphic designer. Soon, Happy Meals would be part of my design responsibilities but that’s another story.

Our agency negotiated the original NFL sponsorship rights for McDonald’s. They asked our agency to come up with an idea to leverage the NFL sponsorship at their restaurants. To make the long story short, we developed a very successful Super Bowl promotional retail game (similar to the scratch off lottery cards) that led to a long term relationship between McDonald’s and the NFL.

Right after the Christmas break the man who owned our company, Bud, called everyone involved on the Super Bowl project into the large conference room for a meeting. He asked each of us to write our names on a small piece of paper. The names were placed into a football helmet and his secretary drew four names, each name drawn would win a trip to Super Bowl X at the Orange Bowl in Miami with all expenses paid courtesy of the McDonald’s Corporation. The NFL gave our client a dozen tickets and they were kind enough to give us four.

My name was the first one chosen.

An account executive, a secretary and a project coordinator were also chosen, two men, two women. Many of the other male losers were disappointed that women were included for obvious reasons. I had a few offers to sell my ticket but Bud would have fired me if I did. BTW, face value on the ticket was $20.

One problem we had was that all the hotels in the Miami area were booked by mid-January. We managed to get a flight into Ft. Lauderdale and reservations at the new Radisson across the street from the beach. Hell, I never had been to Florida and never traveled on an airliner. One more thing, the following February 28th I was getting married. Our honeymoon was a trip to Ft. Lauderdale for a week in my future father-in-law’s ocean front townhouse to the north near Pompano Beach. I was about to make two trips to Florida within one month during a very cold winter. Was this luck or what?

On Friday afternoon I traveled with the secretary on an Eastern Airlines L1011 Whisperliner. It was my first ride in a commercial airliner. We smoked and drank and ate a meal. Lots of laughs too. They had silverware back then even in coach class. Her name was Kathy and she told me she had no interest in football and was also using the trip to meet up with friends who lived in Miami. In today’s terms she would be called a MILF. I was traveling in style. Oooh yeah!

Once in Ft. Lauderdale we met up with the others, rented a car then went to the hotel. After we checked in it was time to hit the bars along A1A. One bar I think was named the Red Button. All I know is it was made famous in a movie called Where The Boys Are, a 60’s spring break flick. It was a disco and I hated discos but made the best of it dancing with Kathy.

Florida was unusually chilly with temps in the low 60’s. Not good beach weather. All I had with me was two days worth of clothes, a swimsuit and a jean jacket.

Ft. Lauderdale seemed to be the place for Steeler fans. RV’s cars and trucks loaded with Steeler fans paraded up and down A1A all weekend long with hardly a Dallas fan in sight. They wore ironworker helmets with “Franco’s Army” decals. They were a rowdy bunch holding six pack stringers of Iron City Beer. Carl wrote recently about the Steeler fans. He was correct.

Saturday night we were instructed to meet the McDonald’s marketing folks at the Miami Jockey Club and attend the Commissioner’s Party. Here I am with jeans and a jean jacket, would they allow me to enter? Of course, they said. You’re going. I was just a kid and very nervous. Once inside the Jockey Club ballroom the buffets had to be fifty yards long with NFL logo ice sculptures and official Riddell team helmets scattered about. Lavish food with lobster tails, steak tartare and even sliced beef tongue were there for all. Pete Rozelle was there and many ex-players mingling about. I was the only one without a suit, which drew some attention. The McDonald’s guys didn’t seem to care. There was a large group of Japanese men from Sony and other international corporate marketing people representing their corporate sponsors. I never truly realized how fortunate I was to be there until many years later. It was a big game alright but without the massive hype and excessiveness you see today.

On Sunday we started out for the Orange Bowl before sunrise to beat the traffic and to absorb as much of the scene as we could. The temperature that night dropped to 32 degrees in south Florida. We were all quite cold. Kathy the hot MILF secretary left message that she was ill and couldn’t make it. Oh well, we had her ticket and I knew what she was up to. We parked in the Orange Bowl lot and walked toward the stadium. Our first task was to scalp her ticket. We finally found a buyer and sold it for $40, which we would use for our Sunday night dinner.

Since we were not prepared for a tailgate and were thirsty for a beer we wandered to a nearby Cuban neighborhood. There was a bar open so we went in. We were the only non-Cubans in this place. The floor was dirt, real dirt! Beer was sold in cans with paper cups for obvious reasons. We slammed down a few and went back to the Orange Bowl.

As we walked around the stadium a bus pulled up with the Pittsburgh Steelers team right in front of us. We stood near the bus door and watched Mean Joe Green, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and the rest file into the stadium. I was in absolute awe standing within three feet of these larger than life figures.

Once inside we found our seats. They were halfway up on the 45 yard line. The McDonald’s guys showed up not long after. Before the game the Goodyear blimp literally entered the stadium, creeping over the eastern endzone at a very low altitude. It hovered above midfield for a while before departing. They were filming footage that would end up being used in a motion picture called Black Sunday. The plot involved a terrorist who was threatening to blow up the Super Bowl. This was in 1977 not long after the Munich Olympics where Palestinian terrorists murdered Israeli athletes.

I placed a bet with Dave, the McDonald’s marketing guy that Dallas would win. It was his bet and I swallowed it. Dallas had a hot year and I felt they would win. Being an NFC fan had something to do with it. Dumb. Never bet money based on your allegiances.

Prior to Super Bowl X most of the championship games were considered lopsided and dull. This one wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter. Afterward the media experts called it the most exciting Super Bowl to date.

During halftime I headed to the men’s room. Celebrities were everywhere. James Garner is one I remember best because he shook my hand in the concourse. But the best, I mean the very best was when I was standing at the urinal and heard someone say, “Hello Mr. Hallas”. I turned my head to see the old man himself, fedora, trench coat and all standing there urinating right next to me. With business in hand I said, “Hey, Mr. Hallas, I’m from Chicago, when are you bringing the Bears to the Super Bowl?” He turned to me and said, “hello son, we’re working on it”. We didn’t shake hands and I don’t remember if he washed his.

The game wound down. 4th quarter. Bradshaw to Swan. Touchdown. Game over.

After the game we drove to the Miami Beach hotel where the McDonald’s guys had rooms. It was a night and day difference from Ft. Lauderdale. This is where the wealthy Dallas fans were staying, cowboy hats, fur coats, the whole schmear. I, along with those in my group were drunk and I mean really drunk. We ate in a hotshot hotel restaurant and I don’t remember much more than that. We spent more than our $40. from the scalped ticket, that I do know because when we got back to Chicago I had to pay up for the remainder of my diner tab AND for losing my bet.

At the time I had no idea what a big deal this was. I do know that the following year when the Super Bowl was played in Pasadena there was no drawing in the conference room. The agency partners grabbed the tickets and that was that for the following years.

I have no idea where my souvenir ticket and program are. I saved them for years. I think they probably got lost when we moved to Valpo. But I still have the memories, which will be with me always.

Today the Steelers are favored. I wish it were the opposite but I would never bet against the Steelers in a Super Bpwl again. I have no money on this game but I like the once Chicago Cardinals to win. They have a good chance to make it a close game.

So, Go Cardinals!


During Blogo's numerous press conferences prior to his impeachment, he hammered on a few themes that I started to think may be a precedent for the nation as a whole.

From his impeachment speech (whole text here):

And then I would say to all of you, think about the things we've been able to do together. Health care for all of our kids, first in the nation

In speech after speech and interview after interview he hammered home the "fact" that he had granted insurance coverage to so many in Illinois, through various means.

How has this actually been implemented in Illinois? State payments to medical providers has been dramatically slowed. From this article titled "State Owes Area Health Care Providers Millions"

"This is the worst it's ever been it's historically been this way, nursing home providers have had to in this kind of environment in Illinois for quite a long time"

I have personal experience with the State of Illinois delaying payments (I used to be an auditor) but apparently the situation is worse than ever for health care providers. When watching the local PBS news program "Chicago Tonight" (which I have been following during the impeachment process) I noted many legislators from the State of Illinois house and senate saying that they had to intervene with the State of Illinois to expedite payments to some of their local hospitals that were on the verge of major financial distress since they hadn't been paid.

Note that delaying payments is "net" the same as reducing reimbursements since the state doesn't really catch up for a long time. Thus if the state moves from a 60 day payment cycle to a 90 day payment cycle that is essentially a permanent reduction to health care providers. Also, the variable nature of the payment delays ensures that rational health care providers need to hold a big "rainy day" fund since ostensibly their employees want to be paid cash rather than IOU's (like the State of California recently did with tax returns).

There is little that these medical providers can do except complain to their local legislator. You can't "sue" the State to make payments happen faster, and if you do the state doesn't care. Unlike insurance, which may be (popularly) perceived as unfair, there are no avenues of appeal if you feel the state is killing your business.

In this way the US will likely move to some sort of backwards medical socialism program - by increasing coverage under existing programs and then squeezing providers with reduced and slowed reimbursements, or by not increasing Federal transfers to states to make up the difference on the unfunded mandates.

You will watch a version of this unfold at Illinois and other states that increased insurance coverage at state expense, as medical providers begin to financially crumble and move away from treating state and Federally insured patients, or do it in the most bare-bones and cheap manner possible.

The parallel process will occur as people with means move out of the state and Federally controlled medical industry where possible and necessary to preserve their health, with ultimately a two-tiered system emerging with failing public facilities and walled-off private facilities. Unlike Canada, where it is illegal to practice private medicine, in the US those types of laws won't get widely passed, and a backwards two-tiered process will stumble into being.

Watch it first in Illinois, then the nation. Sadly enough we are the bellwether.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

I'm Offended

Rant warning...

Actually, I am a very hard person to offend. I have wondered over my lifetime if it is because I grew up in the Midwest. Most people I associate with take offense pretty well. Maybe it is the hard winters that steel our souls.

The humor I like is mostly about things that are not politically correct. I love the show Reno 911. I like Sanford and Son, and that show makes fun of me, whitey, all the time. Irreverent, biting, satirical humor is where it is at. Put me in front of the TV watching most of today's sitcoms and I look like a stone idol. Put Reno 911 on and I am a laughing stooge. Well, some would say I am a stooge anyway.

I just get soooo sick of the political correctness that surrounds us. It is ratcheted up to another level in super liberal Madison, but I am used to that by now. I see and hear it in the national media too. When I was a kid I had black friends. No more, they are African Americans. I still have to catch myself before saying "black guy". Call me insensitive.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would tease and make fun of each others nationalities all the time. Remember Polack jokes? God bless 'em I absolutely love Polish people, hope I didn't make any cry back when I was ten. Do kids have any fun at all anymore? I know that my kids don't sit "Indian style", it is "criss cross applesauce". I sh1t you not. But in my house, those kids are sitting INDIAN style, dammit. Hey, I didn't kill any injuns, so anyone who thinks it is racist or whatever, GET OVER IT.

Over the past year or so the English I have been hearing is nearly all code words. People aren't even short any more, they are "vertically challenged". Not to me. The dude is short. Like I said, Madison is REALLY good at this sort of thing. It is almost like we are trying to make everyone sound the same or look the same, even if we are so very different. The examples of this trend abound.

Well some people are taking offense to a game. I actually played it, it is pretty cool, I landed the jet safely the first time. Here is the game, give it a try! Are you f*cking kidding me, people are taking offense over a computer game? A game that simulates an event where nobody died? Have they ever seen WW2 computer games? What about the feelings of those who actually participated in an actual horrific event like WW2? What a bunch of crap.

Play the game. Have fun. Screw political correctness. The dude is short. We sit Indian style. I am white. I am a kraut.

Everyone needs to take a deep breath and buck up a bit and quit being offended over the lamest crap. Lame, lame, lame. Rant over, back to our regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress.

Take Your E-Petition and E-Shove It

I sometimes refer to myself as the "King of Spam". I get assaulted daily with requests of all sorts from all types. Included in these are what I deem to be one of the biggest wastes of time in the history of mankind - the e-petition. Baiscally, I can't sum it up any better than Annie did. And she created a word that I will be using a lot in the future - Slacktivism. Best invention since the six pack - Brilliant!

Friday, January 30, 2009


My brother brought this to my attention. Notice a similarity?

Is it a coincidence that NBC has the Super Bowl telecast this year? NBC may as well be the National Barack Channel. This means Costas. And Olberman.

The thought had not occurred to me.

Excuse me while I wretch.

"Your Karate Gym"

Yesterday one of my good customers came in to my place of business and said to me that he had done some HVAC work at "your Karate gym". Madison is a pretty small town. I am sure that the owner of the gym dropped my name to the HVAC technician and I was right. That is fine, it happens all the time, especially in a town as small as the one I live in. I try very hard not to piss people off because you never know when it will come back to bite you.

After the technician told me he had done this work at my "Karate gym" I instantly - and I mean instantly - said to him that we do absolutely zero Karate there. He had a very "deer in the headlights" look about him. I had to regroup a bit.

It is incredibly difficult to explain just exactly what Muay Thai is to the uninitiated. Most people lump all martial arts into "Karate" or "Kung Fu".

The biggest savior to Muay Thai has been the UFC. So I asked him if he ever watched UFC. He replied that he had. I said do you remember what it looked like before they hit the ground? He nodded. I said THAT is what we do at my gym, and others take self defense courses (our gym offers JKD) and others yet take BJJ. In addition to that we train fighters for MMA fights, both professional and amateur.

Guys like Anderson Silva have given Muay Thai new life in the states. Silva is arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world right now. Rare are the guys like me that do Muay Thai exclusively, but without it you are toast if you want to be an MMA fighter. Here is Anderson Silva showing his incredible Muay Thai skills.

Lucky for Muay Thai, guys like Silva are becoming the kings of the ring. There is really no other way to explain Muay Thai in a quick fashion to people who have never really studied a martial art other than to say it is the standup you see in the UFC. To succeed in MMA you must have great standup, and Muay Thai rules the roost right now for that.

The guy who said that I worked out at a Karate gym really meant no harm, but I had to set him straight. I don't do Karate. I really don't want anyone to think that I work out at one of these rent a dojo's who give out belts and certificates for nothing.

I did a little youtubing and found this video with a couple of guys sparring Karate.

This is actually very good stuff. They are sparring in a controlled manner and not out to hurt each other which is great. I do note a few differences between what these guys are doing in sparring and what we do in Muay Thai sparring.

First, no leg kicks. I don't think they have shinguards on, but they do have foot protection. Maybe Karate guys concentrate on those strange snap kicks more. Notice I call snap kicks strange because we kick with our whole body in Muay Thai. I will let Duke explain it.

Even in light sparring those low kicks on the thigh are murder.

Secondly, I noticed the Karate guys really didn't know what to do in the clinch. As a matter of fact they just sort of walked away from each other when they got close. We spend a LOT of time working on our clinch in Muay Thai. In true Muay Thai matches the referee will let the clinch go on for a looooong time. All the while you are trying to work your elbows and knees into your opponent while trying to aviod the same fate. Clinchwork is absolutely exhausting.

I would love to spar a Karate guy sometime, but I think they would consider my sport "dirty" from the use of the elbows, knees and clinchwork. Not to mention that every time they lead with that goofy snap kick I am going to catch that kick and cut their rear leg, dropping them to the floor.

But you know, I really shouldn't bash Karate too much. I have always said that if you take a martial art and enjoy it and are getting in shape, it is WAY better than nothing at all and I still maintain that position. And in the end, a guy who is a top level Karate guy could probably kick my ass. It really isn't the art, it is the practitioner.

But the second my customer said "your Karate gym" I instantly bristled. I don't do Karate, I am a Muay Thai guy. And I have the bruises, callouses, scrapes and deadened shin nerves to prove it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Go Figure

There are times I try so hard yet cannot understand what I did to screw up a project since the parts were at hand, directions were carefully followed and the proper tools were used. Other times something turns out to be incredible no matter how hard I try to screw it up.

Tonight I made the tastiest scratch pizza possible at home without consulting my recipe and created a visual masterpiece as well. No store bought crust, no canned pizza sauce and nothing used to make it was pre-frozen. No special technique or treatments were used to make it look good. It came out so magnificent that I thought it deserved a photo worthy of publishing on the blog.

Maybe next time I will try to create one of those "pizza pull" shots where the cheese stretches in strings when a wedge is lifted off the pie with a spatula.

I made two pizzas since most leftovers can be as good if not better than the original the day after. Here’s how:

Heat a non-stick skillet on the range. Add leftover pizza slices and cook covered over medium-low heat for about five minutes. It works for all pizzas. It melts the cheese and crisps the crust unlike reheating in a microwave where the crust becomes flacid and acquires an off-taste. Give it a try. This tip comes from Cook's Illustrated Magazine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sunrise at Trump mid-winter

It is hard to imagine just a few years ago that the Trump Tower was the forlorn Sun Times building. Recently we had a beautiful sunrise and Trump stood out amongst the vivid colors.


Today the crazed Illinois governor Blogo went on national TV to attempt to sway public opinion. We taped the various shows, and having watched Illinois politics for a lifetime, sat down and watched this totally amazing spree.

Geraldo ambushed the governor on the way to "The View" and actually let him off pretty easy. On his lawyers leaving:
It was like rats jumping off a sinking ship!
On "Chicago Tonight", the great Chicago public television news program, Dennis Culloton, who represented our former incarcerated governor George Ryan as press secretary, when asked if he'd represent Blogo:
I would have to say no for the same reason his attorney Ed Genson pulled out of his case last Friday. He strikes me as someone who will not listen and who will just impulsively dive headlong into whatever crazy idea happens to come before him rather than try to approach this with some modicum of dignity

Then on Chicago Tonight they had an interview with Daniela Schreier who is a clinical psychologist who specializes in psychopaths. Here is a link to her profile. Here is her comments on whether or not he is truly a psychopath (she said he seemed to ACT like one, and looking into his blank eyes it seems like the truth):
Complete lack of remorse... very shallow effect... he is a great showman

He was also on with "The View". When he said that he was interested in picking Oprah, Joy Behar said:
Oprah will just give you a car!
And then she touseled his hair and told him to put up his arms like Richard Nixon saying "I am not a crook."

There were some actual journalists involved. Barbara Walters actually tried to ask him tough questions, and so did Diane Sawyer. But Blogo doesn't even pretend to answer them, he just sticks "on message" with his rambling that 1) the trial is unfair because that he can't call witnesses 2) the "fix is in" because he fought the state of Illinois.

From all of this he fails to point out that impeachment is a political process, and not a legal one. He doesn't have the same rights as a governor as you'd have as a criminal defendant. He is not being charged by Republicans... he is being charged by everyone in Illinois.

This is an insane process and it is hard to imagine how even Saturday Night Live can improve on it. They probably will just play it straight.

A sorry, sorry, sorry day for Illinois.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trump Sunshine

One good thing about the cold weather is that it makes for great pictures - here is Trump Tower in the sunshine. I recently visited a friend who has a great view from atop their condo and took the movie below. You can see the pumping station out in Lake Michigan looking to the Northeast and then the movie pans to the south.

Chicago Pizza And Oven Grinder

One of my favorite places to eat in Chicago is a pizza place called "Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder". It is on Clark Street near the lake in Lincoln Park not far from the park itself. The building is famous - they say it used to be the lookout for the St. Valentines' day massacre which occurred right across the street.

The restaurant is in a 2 flat at 2121 N Clark Street. The restaurant part is in the downstairs level (why the photo is pretty dark, there isn't much natural light) and there is a waiting area (enclosed) in front, which is necessary because the place is usually packed. You can walk up to the bar and get a drink and then relax out front (or at the bar) until you are called.

A few things to note 1) they only take CASH (don't be like that famous scene in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" where the guy doesn't have enough cash on his date) 2) they don't write down your name when you walk to the front - the guy just remembers you. For some, that seems unreliable, but it has worked well enough the 50+ times I have been there over the last 15 or so years. If you have a pretty girl with you have her talk to the Maitre d, that can't hurt either, since all things being equal the male mind is built to remember females.

That bar was the first time I had a Hacker-Pschorr - the wheat beer with a lemon in it where they "roll" the bottle so that you get the last few drops in your glass - and it seemed very exotic at the time. The employees must be like family - the bartender (he's blurry) in the picture has been there since the first time I've visited, and that was a long time ago.

As for the food, they have very good pizza, which is served upside down in a bowl. The waitresses have custom oven mittens with a thumb to "flip" the pie out of the bowl. They come in 1/2 pounder and 1 pound size - half pound is probably good for most people. Their salads are big, and they have a cool wheat flatbread that you tear with your fingers, as well. I used to get their meatball grinder on wheat which is also excellent. I have never had dessert there because I usually stumble out so stuffed that I need to take a nap for a week.

Pretty much any time you go there I would expect a wait. Have a beer, relax, and if it is summer, sit outside on the steps. They'll find you eventually. Highly recommended.

To Boldly Go...

This morning I ran on the treadmill the furthest distance I have ever run. 10K. I decided to try it since I am thinking about entering the Shamrock Shuffle, in the 10K distance. I very much enjoyed the five mile race I did on New Years Day and plan on doing more races this spring/summer.

My normal Sunday morning runs are 5 miles in under 40 minutes, and the 10K only adds about another mile and a quarter to that.

I did my 10K in 50:40 and I was fine cardio wise, but my legs ached a bit. That is an average of about an 8 minute mile for each mile, for those metrically challenged (like me). I decided to look at how the winners did last year in the Shamrock Shuffle, and the winner did it in an amazing 33:25. All I can say about that is wow. As an aside, the female winner in the 5k division is my masseuse.

The time I posted this morning would put me almost exactly in the middle of the pack for the male 40-49 age group, and I am pretty proud of that, seeing running isn't the only thing I train for.

I actually have it in my head to try a half marathon this summer. I am pretty sure I could do it, if I went at a nice leisurely pace. My time sure would stink, but it would be neat to say I did it, if nothing else.

As I have been getting in better and better shape I have been reading interesting things about fitness in general. One thing I have gleaned is that to be a well rounded athlete you should take on different things. The cardio required to fight in the ring is a much different cardio than you need for distance cycling or running. There are many different types of cardio training. I think that the mix I have right now is really helping me become a nice, well rounded athlete. Muay Thai for high intensity cardio (and self defense to boot), running and cycling for long duration cardio, and strength circuits to build muscle mass.

There is so much research being done and that has been done on different ways to train it is mind boggling. Food intake is very important too. The internet has tons of great info on how to eat and what to eat. I guess it is up to each athlete to decide what they want.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Whack TV Setup - and Whack TV

I am doing my part for the economy and finally moving to digital TV and upgrading my system. It is happening in pieces and I started with a new set of furniture (the old TV used to be in an armoire) and the TV should be coming any day now from I bought a 46" Samsung TV for about $1000 with free delivery and no sales tax (that isn't a small matter since it runs over 10% in my part of town). But for now we have the old TV that we used for work out DVD's (a 13" TV) and that will do until the new one comes in and gets set up. It looks ridiculous for now, I'll grant you that.

The reason that we can't go too long without TV is that now we are addicted to watching Blogo on television. There is a TV show in Chicago on public television called "Chicago Tonight" on PBS at 7pm (for those who don't time shift everything) and it is great - they bring on major figures in politics (not just talking heads, for example they actually have the attorney general of Illinois on in an interview). They show entire interviews with Blogo, for example, which are even more eerie than the short sound bites, with his beady, rat-like eyes and his insane poetry readings.

Apparently Blogo will be boycotting his own impeachment trial, and his lawyer just abandoned him. But all is not lost - he is appearing on the View, that talk show in the morning which is frequently mocked on "The Soup" a clip-fest which is "must-see" TV for me. Now we have to tape the view (that time only) and just see how Blogo comports himself with that crowd.

Practical, Tactical or Fanatical?

I don't really know what to make of this thing. It seems like overkill (pun intended).

I am a dedicated Apple user but fall short of the Apple Zombie category. Innovative, simple, productive and intimate is how I would describe their computers. Along comes the iPod and iPhone, both of which I can live without which probably places me in a minority. None of the gun blogs I have seen recently has shown this item but a friend sent an email to me regarding an iPod app to improve the accuracy of firearms. Being a so-so marksman maybe I should get an iPhone sooner rather than later.

More info:

Friday, January 23, 2009


The 100 Day Burpee Challenge rolls on. I am blogging about it here, and I am also blogging with a bunch of people I have never met about it here. Today I filmed myself in the office at 5am doing 21 in a row. Man, it was TIRING! After looking at it you could barely slip a dollar bill under my leaps toward the end. You laugh? Try it yourself and see if you need a breath at the end.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


A while back Dan wrote about the zombie re-animation of Schlitz (which he goaded me into drinking at a Bears game tailgate). When I was at my friend Elton's he pulled out a PBR from his refrigerator and started drinking one, along with a story about a relative who toiled at the factory. My response is glad that he didn't work at a sewage treatment plant...

This is something that Dan also referenced in one of our most famous posts (oddly enough).

I told Elton that PBR is even better coming out the next day, some nasty gas.

Blood and Guts

The level of training we are doing in MT class has definitely been amped up a notch this year.

The system is a bit tweaked. You can tell that the instructor was very disappointed at the shape some of the other people were in at that last test, so now every class is ending either with sparring or conditioning. Next week we are evaluated for a stripe on our sashes. That will be a no brainer for me.

We are doing a lot more sparring in class now. About 70% of the advanced class dons the headgear right now. I just won't, and I can't. If you do not have headgear on, you are limited to what is called "body boxing", where your hooks go to the shoulders instead of the head, your jab goes to the chest, and so on.

I need a broken nose like a hole in the head right now. It does sort of make me feel a bit wimpy, being one of few in class without headgear on, but so it goes. Wimpy is sort of a relative term. I still get hit in the head on occasion, and, of course, get kicked and punched everywhere else on my body. Not to mention knees and other fun stuff in the clinch. Sparring is 100% exhausting.

The nights are very long at the gym. But in a good way. After my strength training I have class, then fighter programs. I have been running the fighter programs as we are short one instructor at the gym right now. The guys and gals really seem to appreciate the fact that I am doing it for them.

In sparring, the fighters are really going at it - at times I have to tell them to back it down. Even with the headgear on, bloody noses are a normal, every day occurrence. Not for me.

I am noticing my weight starting to go down again to levels I am not comfortable with. I will need to ramp up my food intake another thousand calories or so to make up for the insane amount of work I am putting myself through. But I enjoy all of it, and the people at the gym are becoming like an extended family to me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Winter in Chicago

One of the horrible visitors along with winter are potholes. In Chicago they spring up overnight with the snow. These potholes on Grand Avenue are slowing traffic but only a taste of the glory that awaits at Grand and Milwaukee (heading West on Grand) - it is difficult to determine if a road even exists at that point. According to this article in the Chicago Tribune titled "A Never-ending Fight to Fix Roads":

There's a reason drivers say it literally feels like the roads here are in much worse shape: The resurfacing of arterial streets in Chicago has ground almost to a halt since 2006 because of a cutoff in funding for capital projects like road repair by the state.
Hmm... I thought the road builders were paying off Blogo too, apparently not enough to get some funding.

I saw this SUV parked in front of a high end restaurant. It literally was so filthy that I had no idea what the real color of the truck was. I could see allowing a $1000 car to get this dirty, but it looks like this is a recent model year truck.
Here is a bit of fun - ice skating out in front of "The Bean".
These icicles were simply amazing. On Illinois street near LaSalle these giant icicles threatened passerbys. I saw them and got my camera later because I was going to send them to my alderman to try to get them fixed but then someone put out yellow police tape which at least was a start.

Winter in Chicago! Not as nice as Gerry's photos, but a bit wacky.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Clobbered With Snow

For the past 21 days my guess is there have been four days without snow. This is hardly the Rockies but it seems as if we are living at a ski resort. The driveway needs clearing almost daily with totals between 2"-8". Last week we had 6" overnight for three days straight. Some of it is from organized winter storm systems and some from lake effect. We call these "perm-a-flurries". Today there is at least 26" on the ground and snow is falling as I write. It makes for some interesting natural landscapes.

The first photo looks like two suns rising piggy-back style. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Bloody Mary Morning

What a great way to start any NFL Playoff Sunday... a glass of vitamins!

Getting ready for the NFL playoffs to start here at the country bunker. The fire is going and I am on my second Bloody Mary. It’s 11:30 central. It is so good I want to share the recipe with the regulars here at LITGM.

Willie got me started on these years go. Give a listen.

The recipe is so simple and takes so little time you will be spoiled. From now on you will tell Mr. & Mrs. T and Major Peters to take a hike. Major Peters...heh. I bet he gets Major Wood.

This recipe came from a brother-in-law who got it from his sister who got it from the bartender at the Four Seasons in Manhattan. So the story goes. Wherever the hell it came from all I can say it’s the best Bloody Mary I ever had.

This recipe is for a large batch, just divide it in half for personal enjoyment or the whole batch for a tailgate party for six or more, depending on the crowd mood, of course.

Bloody Mary
2 cans or jugs of V-8 juice. I prefer the Hot Picante variety
1/3 c Worcestershire sauce
½ T Tabasco sauce
1 T celery salt
1 T fresh ground black pepper
Juice of one lime
Horseradish to taste
2 cubes beef bullion

Add all ingredients except bullion cubes to a large pitcher or jug. Boil ¼ c water in a measuring cup in the microwave, add two bullion cubes to dissolve and add to the pitcher. Stir very well.

Add ice cubes to a large glass. Pour in your favorite mid-priced vodka (I never waste top shelf brands like Stoli in a cocktailiimix) into the glass and fill with Bloody mix. I mix mine half-and-half for the full hit-by-a-freight-train effect.

Be as creative as you wish with the garnishes. I have used shrimp, spicy pickled string beans and asparagus stalks at times but good old celery is the traditional favorite.


NFL 2008

Today the NFL season comes to an end. For me. The NFL playoffs have proven over time to have the best matchups, upsets and playmaking in all of football. This is my favorite football to watch, college bowl games don’t even come close. The earlier games prove my point with three teams nobody picked that are still in.

While I will always watch the Super Bowl (can we say that without potential litigation?) it’s usually a snore and the game itself is a sideshow to the entertainment extravaganza. The entertainment sucks too. I was in attendance live for Super Bowl X (Dallas v. Pittsburgh) in 1976 at the Orange Bowl in Miami. It was a bit different back then. Maybe I will tell the tale on Feb.1.

Today I will entertain myself with a modest solo indoor tailgate beginning as soon as I finish hitting the publish post button. A fire will be blazing in the fireplace. A Bloody Mary will be slurped about 11am just so I can say I drank before noon. Some snacks will be around but nothing elaborate. A ham, potato and cheese au gratin that is out of this world for dinner will be pulled from the oven and consumed with the family probably between games. The games will be great before I even watch them.

It will be hard for me to pull for one team since I have no Bear in the fight. All I can say is I hope the team named after a red bird that once played their home games in Comiskey Park on Chicago's South Side wins the remaining two games.

Not being a very good gambler and a lousy sports prognosticator here are my unscientific picks for the games.

Arizona @ Philadelphia
A tough pick. Who’s this McNabb guy? I like Warner due to past experience in big games where he performed in the clutch unlike the mama’s soup guy. It will all come down to defense as it always does. I say both defenses are equal since this game is being played in Phoenix. I hope it’s a tight one. Cardinals 21 Eagles 20.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Both teams have one the big one, Pitt more than once (SB X, I was there). Pitt has Ben who has been there and their defense is on a roll. The Baltimore defense is very good but will not quite stop the Pitt offense in a close game till the end. Steelers 27 Ravens 20.

Here's a photo of the Cardinal's Mr. Warner holding a real trophy. Priorities.

There it is. Excuse me while I head for the woodpile.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I thought this was a cool photo of Chicago winter weather near the train station.

LITGM words

Dan recently wrote about our 200k visitor milestone. In that post he estimated that we could have posted up to 1 million words.

When I first saw that estimate, I didn't know what to think or how to test it. So I did a little bit of math and analysis (and a LOT of estimating).

On the side bar you can see how many posts have been written, since WAY back in 2004:
  • 2009 -34
  • 2008 - 577
  • 2007 - 675
  • 2006 - 571
  • 2005 - 611
  • 2004 - 44
TOTAL - 2,512 posts

Then I randomly selected some months in each year and 10 posts in total and counted the words in these posts. 1 in 2009, 1 in 2004, and 2 each in 2005-8. The average number of words in the (randomly) selected posts was 325 words. For those with a statistical bent, I selected 10 posts out of 2,512, so my sample size was pretty small (and probably not "significant", I must admit).

Thus 325 words / post * 2512 posts = 812,000 words.

WOW that is a lot of effort that has been put forth towards a blog that we never intended (nor have we) even made 1 cent.

We hope that you enjoy it. We certainly like the opportunity to present what we think on issues of which we have some expertise (and NOT politics, of which we have MUCH expertise, but can't stand the troll-like discourse level).

Olympic Cycling in Madison?

I just read something very exciting it the paper today. It has been announced that if Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics, three of the five cycling events will be held in and around Madison. The time trials will be held downtown on the isthmus, the mountain biking events will be held at Tyrol Basin, and the road course will start on the isthmus and end up at Blue Mound State Park. I looked at the route and anyone who is familiar with the Wright Stuff Century (I have ridden it three times) will see that this road course will be challenging to say the least. I have ridden much of the route.

This would be awesome for me to be able to watch some of these events, and the best part is that I won't have to pay for it, just pull my truck alongside the road, grill out, and wait for the athletes to come by, or park downtown and hike over to the time trial site. The mountain biking doesn't interest me as much. The Olympics can take a hike as far as getting any of my money is concerned.

This would be my once in a lifetime shot at seeing the most elite bikers in the world up close and personal. Many of the Tour de France riders will be there. Most of whom are only about 16 or 18 years old right about now.

If Chicago gets the Olympics Carl's life will be miserable, but mine will be better. My wife even has a connection to some of the equestrian events. So, GO CHICAGO!

Friday, January 16, 2009


Recently I went out to a nearby Starbucks in the cold and snow to attempt to connect wirelessly to my iPod Touch (a separate topic). I got into Starbucks, bought a coffee and a newspaper, took off my fifty layers, and sat down at the store at Chicago and Franklin, near the "L" stop.

On the way over I noticed that a lot of workers were out in the cold, shoveling the sidewalk in front of various businesses, and laying out salt. As a kid I used to do the same thing, and winter was a time (like grass-cutting season) where you could earn a few dollars. Many sidewalks, such as the one in the photo above, sat un- shoveled and full of snow, turning away customers and creating a liability risk.

At the Starbucks were a bunch of foreign tourists (it was Saturday morning) and the usual contingent of bums. Now I use the word "bums", not homeless people, for reasons that will become clear soon.

The bums were taking up half the tables at the Starbucks, and talking to the tourists. They brought up the usual bum gambits - "got a cigarette", "got change for a five" (which means you at least have some singles, their prime target), or the ever-popular "can I ask you a question?"

The tourists, being polite and all (and probably not from a city full of bums), were easy marks. They struck up conversations and of course eventually money and cigarettes were had. The bums didn't bug me since I was a local and not an easy mark.

After the tourists were chased out, the bums sat around and started talking. It was the usual topics - 1) how much money they just got 2) some other place they could hustle 3) just general ranting crap.

While I sat reading the paper and dinking around with my iPod they just kept talking for a while (and coughing, which is why I eventually abandoned my project and left) and never once did they even think of crossing the topic of EARNING ANY MONEY. Snow was piling up all over the city, and shoveling snow doesn't exactly require a PhD, but that wasn't even a topic that they were remotely considering.

Near my health club is a church where 2-3 homeless men lurk outside at most days and nights. They take up most of the sidewalk so lots of people cross over to the other side of the street to avoid them, although I haven't seen them cause trouble directly. That church has a big sidewalk that is often choked with snow. I guess it hadn't occurred to them that perhaps they could try to do some work for the church in exchange for food and shelter.

While there are many sad stories out there of mental illness and people losing their jobs we need to take pains to split our sympathies between those down on their luck while trying and those who aren't even thinking of trying. I wonder what the people outside shoveling snow in the freezing cold for not too many $ / hr think of these bums not even trying, in fact driving away customers whose business allows their employer to hire them to shovel in the first place. Can't be positive thoughts...

200k and 2500

I hate to toot my own horn, but Carl thinks it is noteworthy. We just passed 200k visits a few weeks ago (along with 330k page views), and also passed the 2500 post mark. And I even reset the darned sitemeter once a long time ago.

We now average around 250-350 hits per day. Pretty small beer in the blogosphere, but pretty good for some folks who don't get paid to do it and intentionally drive away traffic and idiots by misspelling popular and/or political names.

I wonder how many words are on this blog, along with the hundreds and hundreds of photos and video (original and youtube)? We have to be approaching the millions of words mark, if we are not past it already.

I am very proud of the body of work here and would like to thank Carl and Gerry for their great posts - and more importantly, for their friendship.

And THANK YOU, readers, commenters, and lurkers. You know who you are.


Over the next few weeks or so we are going to be working on a little facelift for good 'ol LITGM. In the past we have concentrated on the material, and it is time to spruce the joint up a bit - maybe get rid of the dirt floor, and put up a wall hanging or two. So don't sweat it if some things seem wonky from time to time. You will be happy with the end result, I promise.

Wisconsin Economic Forecast Luncheon

Yesterday I attended the Wisconsin Economic Forecast Luncheon. I was invited by a financial institution that I work with, who had a table reserved. The purpose of the meeting was to network, and to hear speakers talk about the forecast for the future as far as business goes. I would guess that there were about 500 people there representing all types of business across Wisconsin. There were lawyers, bankers, construction company owners, and many other business represented. Also attending were mayors of some cities, and many state representatives and senators. There were two speakers. The first was Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. I had no idea that he would be there, but he was. He opened up the luncheon with a 45 minute speech.

Doyle is a rather poor public speaker. I remembered this because many years ago I attended the "State of the State" address at the capitol here in Madison and it was brutal. Yesterday was about the same. He stuttered a lot and there were a lot of uhs, ehs, erms, and other filler. It is very annoying. Maybe others don't find this distracting, but it bothers me.

After you filter out all of the nonsense, Doyle's talk boiled down to two main points.

  • In fighting Wisconsin's massive deficit, he will not cut education. This is not surprising, seeing Doyle's wife is a teacher, and he has always been a slave to the teachers unions.

  • Doyle plans on helping the state by trying his best to get in line for Obama's infrastructure money. He mentioned his pipe dream of a Midwest fast train system. This idea has been thrown around for at least 20 years and it pretty nuts if you ask me. Doyle mentioned he would love to see a Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison to the Twin Cities train, with a spur to Green Bay. That is fine and dandy, but nobody I know (and I mean NOBODY) commutes TO these places FROM these places to get to work. I actually knew one guy who drove from Madison to the Western suburbs of Milwaukee for work, but I can't imagine that a high speed rail is going to all of a sudden open the spigot for people who live in Madison to work in Milwaukee. Or vice-versa.

That's it, unfortunately. Everything else Doyle said was fluff or gimmick, typical politician speak.

Next up was Dr. Charles Evans, CEO of the Fed in Chicago. I was really looking forward to his remarks.

Boy was I disappointed. Dr. Evans basically gave a short 30 minute talk in which he described things that happened over the last quarter of last year, such as the meltdowns of Lehman, Bear, AIG and others, and what the Fed did. He also talked a bit about policy right now (he is on the board of the FOMC). I didn't learn a thing. In fact, I would guess that anybody that follows financial news even on a casual basis didn't learn anything. I understand that Evans needs to keep his cards close to the vest on some things, but for a man of this stature to give a speech and not even get to some meat is a bit puzzling to me. Honestly, if you read Bloomberg or Yahoo Financial or the WSJ on a semi-daily basis you knew this speech inside and out. I was very disappointed. There was a short Q and A after the speech, and Evans tap danced quite a bit, almost as if he was acting like a politician. Maybe his position is more political than I realized.

I was glad I went, if not for the speakers, for the conversation at the tables with other business people. That was worth going. The speakers were not.

To sum it up in a few words, this was an afternoon wasted. And I had to walk a block in the blistering -15 cold to boot.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

River North Construction Continues

As anyone with any access to media knows the real estate industry is in difficulty. Values are falling, new capacity is coming online in areas with too much inventory, projects that are under way are being halted, and yet construction on some places somehow continues.

For example here in River North there is a condo under construction called "Silver Tower". It is difficult for me to believe that the developer can make money on this development, since there is so much inventory already on the market of newly built units. As a local, I fondly hope that it gets completed because looking at the abandoned shell of a building for years to come, and I have no reason to believe that it won't get completed.

You can look at the web site for the development here - "Silver Tower". Looking at the web site is like going back in time, as it talks about the neighborhood, unit finishes and design, amenitites, and how nice it would be to live there. They even have a link to a developer blog at the site with photos of the building and units under construction (that is kind of cool, because the web site has the "brand" and has to be carefully tailored but is relatively expensive / complex to update while any joe blow can run a word press blog).

I recently wrote a post about an Irish tycoon and potential marital difficulties with his likely bankruptcy here and have recently been following the Irish real estate market a bit since this article piqued my interest. Check out this prophecy:

In a presentation that drew several collective intakes of breath, Mr Kelly predicted that house prices would fall by 80 per cent from peak to trough in real terms.
Mr Kelly is an Irish economist and this is from the Irish Times newsletter not some blogger (like this) spouting off.

Hopefully River North in Chicago never sees that kind of fall, but since we aren't leveraged up and like the neighborhood (don't plan to leave) we won't have to sell into those kinds of headwinds, whenever we consider selling.

Sad, But True

Jonathan posted this wonderfully simple and true graphic over at ChicagoBoyz. I typically don't get involved in politics/controversial items (that is, controversial to some) at this blog, but I am sort of hoping this thing goes viral so am posting it here. Click for larger.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When Worlds Collide

Anthony Bourdain is a chef made famous by authoring a book titled Kitchen Confidential, not by being Food TV how-to cooking show host or winning the James Beard award. It was a quick read because I could hardly put it down. My preference is for books like his since I am not a big reader of fiction.

The book recounts his life as a professional chef, his travels and interesting characters he met along the way. Most interesting is when he reveals what goes on in restaurant kitchens. One tip of his I remember is never, ever order the special of the day especially if it’s a seafood item. This is a way the kitchen staff gets rid of items about to spoil or go bad.

Bourdain currently hosts a travel channel program where he travels to interesting places and eats interesting things. He’s glib and witty and fun to watch. Since he spent most of his career in places like Boston and New York you can bet he's a liberal. This past season he paid a visit to see Ted Nugent and film an episode for his show.

Ted is a famous for being rock celebrity from the early 70’s but gets most of his attention from hunting exploits and his passionate public support for the second amendment. Ted may go “over the top” when appearing on news programs responding to topics such as gun laws and hunting. He’s also glib and witty and fun to watch. If a person can enrage the gun grabbers, animal rights wackos and leftists of all stripes like Ted does then he’s my guy. He has the guts and knowledge to publicly confront any of these types and force truth down their throats and up their a**.

When Bourdain went to visit Ted it was a television program I would not and did not miss. Today I happened onto it at youtube. We know where Ted stands and I always figured Bourdain to be in the category of northeastern elite liberal types by the nature of his business. I was correct.

They talk, Ted plays a number and they grill wild game in Ted’s backyard. After Ted takes Bourdain to his outdoor range for some tigger time Bourdain turns to the camera and says, “I am going to be shuned for this.” Guess he has to go back to Manhattan and face his lefty friends. Oh well, he did a fine job with the guns.

At the end of this video they are firing automatic weapons in the countryside. It reminded me of last summer’s LITGM GUNSTOCK ’08 but with way cooler guns on full auto. Check it out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Watching 24

The new season of 24 premiered last night. Not being a huge fan of many modern day television shows this is one that has the magic four ingredients necessary for me to stay tuned in: guns, explosions, torture and treachery, Hollywood good-guy style. 24 is just another mindless way to kill time after dinner and escape reality. It works for me.

In the lead role Jack Bauer uses many fine weapons while he hunts down foreign terrorists and American traitors (he seems to lose his weapon often so at times he will pick one up from a dead bad guy and skillfully use it) and his sidearm of choice is the H&K USP Compact. It’s hard to tell what caliber Jack uses but it obviously does a good job for him. I always like to count the shots in televised gun fights and at times I swear the HK USP Compact Jack Bauer uses holds over thirty rounds.

"Let's see, did he fire thirty rounds...orrr only twenty?"

While googling around I discovered the Jack Bauer Action Figure. Get a load of this.

Why any self-respecting male collects action figures is beyond me. The term "action figure" is a slick marketing name for man dolls. I never owned one, not even a G.I. Joe. Collect metal NASCAR scale models if you will, that's fine. Action figure collectors wave a red flag to me, not that there’s anything wrong with THAT.

This particular action figure struck me as funny because of the way he is effortlessly kicking in and shattering a wooden door with one leg. Hollywood entertainment factor = + 10. Realism factor = -10.

While googling around I saw many reviews of the Jack Bauer HK USP compact and all were quite good. I have fired HK carbines in .223 and in my opinion they are the finest most accurate assault weapon made. HK is a quality brand and I am sure the USP Compact is a fine tool even if it is a bit expensive. Ohhh…to own a full-auto HK MP5 (swoon) :)

While poking around the internets reading more about the HK USP I came across a lot of anti-Glock propaganda on many gun blogs. How strange is that? People actually take the time to ridicule a brand of gun for whatever reason.

When I was shopping for a combat-style sidearm I remember narrowing my choice between the HK, the Sig and the Glock. My selections were based on reliability, quality and modern technology, not classic collector pieces that looked pretty. I never owned a sidearm before then but since moving to Indiana and obtaining my permit to carry I became interested in owning a few. My cousin who is a law enforcement professional (local patrol, SWAT and Metro Drug Task Force member) and other friends I consider sidearm experts (meaning they know a lot more than me) all recommended the Glock for a number of reasons. What helped make my decision was when one friend took me to the local gun range and allowed me to fire his. The thing fit my hand so well and was easy to shoot. The lightweight balance in a full-size sidearm was just right for me. I liked the wide, flat sight plane and sights. It has fewer moving parts and easy to take down for cleaning. It has been subject to incredible stress tests and has been found to be nearly indestructible. It is truly a firearm designed for the 21st century. Even better, the price was a hundred or two less than HK and SIG. So I made my choice, done.

I didn’t think twice about how the Glock looked, in fact I found it quite sexy. It rests in a drawer near my bed so I rarely take it out and stare at it. It’s very easy to take down and clean, though I have also been told it doesn’t need cleaning as often other models do (all my guns are put away cleaned and well oiled after each use).

Here is a video on the complete take-down of a Glock model 22 in .40 S&W. I have executed this procedure and can safely say that I would never attempt to do this with any other gun I own without special tools and instructions.

Those were my reasons to buy a Glock and never have I had one regret. Then again, my experience with it has never involved protecting my life or property but I trust that it will if and when the time comes.

After six years and thousands of rounds of firing I would not give it up in exchange for another brand, not that I have a problem with other brands at all. After reading many, many gun blogs over the past few years it amuses me how so many gun owners detest the Glock. It seems that there is a very dedicated number of sidearm owners who worship at the altar of the 1911 .45 ACP and everything else is sh!t. Some call the Glock ugly, plastic, euro-made, etc. That and yo’ mama has a butt so big that it’s _ _ _ _ _ _.

Please, spare me.

There are snobs for every item made by man and when guys get together and begin to debate in a fully engaged snob-fest I tend to walk away. What’s the use? Ford v. Chevy v. MOPAR. Harley Davidson v. everything else (and I own one). NASCAR v. IRL. Setters v. Pointers. Domestic beer v. imports. I just don’t care. I buy what I want because I like it and everyone else who doesn’t like it can blome. I don’t judge one by the gun he or she owns but by the way they handle it, care for it and shoot it.

Then there is the argument over caliber and knockdown power. That’s another debatable category of pure nonsense. Don’t get me started.

It’s silly to debate things such as this when we all should worry most about potential new laws restricting our right to own, defend and carry firearms.

That day may be closer than you think.

Re-Evaluating Massage

A month or so ago I received a five pack of sports massages for my birthday. I have had three now, and I like them very much.

My initial perceptions going into this thing were many, and very different than they are now. I was of the impression that massage "pushed out" lactic acid and other waste materials from the muscles, and that is why you felt better afterward.

But after three massages, I have to admit, I felt better, but not THAT much better. It isn't like it was a miracle to sore muscles or anything. There is no question that it is relaxing and feels good to have yourself stretched out. But what now?

My curious mind got to thinking and I started asking the professional athletes at the gym why they got massages. All of them said the same thing - to "get the lactic acid out". I smelled a myth.

It just sounds too simple. Pushing the bad out. Too easy. Massages are not cheap dates either. I have seen prices anywhere from $50 to $100 for one hour sessions. So I better be going for the right reasons.

I started poking around the intertubes and the overall sentiment seems that the lactic acid thing is a myth. This article is pretty interesting. Not only does it thoroughly debunk the pushing out of lactic acid factoid, it gives reasons that they think perhaps massage is good. I like these quotes from the article.
  • It floods the body with new sensory input. We are using the nervous system to reset the muscle to greater relaxation.
  • In my observation, fatigued muscles tend to remain hypertonic and shortened. When we cajole specific muscles to relax and lengthen via mechanical and neurological input, we reduce their metabolic activity. When the muscle relaxes, it's not using energy as much, not metabolizing as fast, not producing waste products and because it's more relaxed, it's not compressed and not exerting pressure on surrounding tissues. This means circulation is better. It's not because we're pushing fluid around. It's because we've put the body in a more optimum state, so the body naturally increases circulation on it's own. By massaging muscles and adding input to the nervous system, we are facilitating the body in recovering faster from exercise. It's not the massage that's doing the healing, it's the person's body.

There are many other interesting quotes in the article as well, and they center on the EMOTIONAL side of massage. The hypothesis is that if a person feels cared for, they automatically feel better. I believe that, but it doesn't work on me.

The soreness I feel after a tough workout isn't lactic acid, it is damaged and recovering muscles.

As a matter of fact several interesting things I have read have shown that excess lactic acid levels go down from walking (active recovery) just as well as massage or anything else.

In several studies (here is one example) this point about lactic acid recovery is proven.

Here is another article from last year that mentions Michael Phelps, Dana Torres and other swimmers who get regular massages. It also bring up football players that get massages. They all say it helps, but still the reasons how and why are a little "mystical" for me.

I guess here is what I have as far as massages go.

  • It seems that muscles don't pool lactic acid if you use active recovery, even mild active recovery like walking or swinging your arms around
  • Massage doesn't "push out" the bad stuff
  • I think massage DOES increase blood circulation to the affected points and THAT may help clean up and repair distressed muscles
  • There is no doubt that to me, getting a massage is VERY relaxing and feels great, and that is worth a lot of $ right there
  • I think a lot of the benefit of massage may be mental, and that the level of mental benefit varies from person to person
  • I only feel marginally better after a massage, physically. Mentally, I feel very relaxed.

I guess after these five massages are done I will evaluate and decide if I want more. I probably will, just not as often as I have been. As an added bonus, the person who does my massages is an elite triathlete, so we have a lot to talk about as far as training and muscle recovery goes. So that is a plus as well.

Muay Thai Cat

No Fan of the BCS

Here at Life in the Great Midwest we aren't fans of the Bowl Championship System, or BCS. Dan in particular is a big fan and very smart guy on college football, but even I know enough that it is a bad idea and that a playoff would be a huge grand slam in the ratings and for the nation as a whole.

On SNL they did a skit last weekend about the BCS that was pretty funny (like most skits, it was half unfunny, but hey that is a decent batting average). The guy LOVES the BCS and then he sings about a bunch of other things that he loves, too, like:

- stepping in crap
- hanging out at the DMV
- Robert Mugabe

I don't know who put the STD awareness up before the link but I am not pointing at any known blog readers here. Sometimes you just take what You Tube gives you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mood Food

Here’s a recommended wintertime weekend recipe. It’s different. It’s not a stew or a soup. It reminds me of a pepper steak recipe we have but this is much better.

This recipe called Mood Beef came from Emeril and we’ve made it a few times before. This weekend I used venison as a substitute for beef so I'll call it mood food.

Mood Beef

¼ c olive oil
1 ½ lbs round steak strips sliced thin
1 ¼ t salt
¼ t pepper
1 onion sliced thin
1 lg green pepper
6 cloves garlic diced or pressed
6T tomato paste
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 ½ c beef broth or water
1 bay leaf
½ t crushed red pepper
1 c ditalini pasta

Heat oil on a large dutch oven. Season meat with salt & pepper then saute in small batches until browned.

Transfer meat to plate or bowl. Add onions and green pepper to dutch oven (add a little olive oil if necessary) and cook for 5 minutes.

Add garlic and stir cooking another minute or so. Add tomato paste, stir and cook another two minutes.

Add crushed tomato, broth or water and herbs with ¾ t salt. Return beef and bring to a boil.

Simmer partially covered for 1 ½ hrs. Add pasta and cook another 25 minutes.

That’s it. The venison is a perfect substitution for beef in this recipe if you can get it. The flavor of venison came through but was subtle enough not to overpower other flavors.

To compliment the meal we uncorked a rare bottle of homemade Mead. Venison and Mead, how’s that for a medieval feast?

My good friend from high school, Chris, sent me a bottle for Christmas. He makes it from scratch and I had some during a visit with him in Colorado two years ago. It is an interesting departure from beer, wine or liquor. It is commercially made but not a big seller. As trends come and go Mead one day may be the next wine cooler or hard lemonade, who knows? You can find it in better liquor stores like Binny’s and Sam’s in Chicago but homemade Mead is like homemade beer. It’s much better than commercial.

Without getting into Mead specifics it is similar to wine but brewed using special yeast, water and honey. Its origins date back to 1700-1100 B.C says wikipedia. Mead is easy to make but it takes a year for it to reach maturity for bottling. The bottle Chris sent was ten years old. It’s damn good and with this dish it was perfect.

Thanks, Chris. The Mead was nothing less than outstanding!

How's Your Winter Going So Far?

Don’t know about you but it's the weekend and I definitely ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Just like one of my all time favorite tunes. Crank it up.

There was another snowstorm Friday morning good for an inch or two. It let up for a few hours but overnight it dumped about 6” more. Saturday afternoon it dumped another 1-2” more. I just can’t deal with constant street slop anymore, or as Dan calls it, snirt.

Sure wish I had some venison for a nice winter stew tonight. Wait…I do have some venison!

I have a freezer full of wild duck and pheasant but I’m in the mood for Bambi tonight. Luckily, friend and neighbor shares his venison bounty with me. He stuck five nice Bambi’s last season. Not bad for a 70 y/o guy, huh?

Let’s see, driveway cleared? Check.

Fire in the fireplace? Check.

Venison? Check.

Note that my venison is free of marbling and all fat. If you ever get some venison to cook make sure any and all all fat and connective tissue is removed, that’s where any “gamey” flavor will come from. Ditch the bones too. Most folks who have eaten wild game and complained of the gamey taste has ignored these basic rules. I could easily forget beef all together if venison were readily available. It has so much more flavor and very little fat.

A recipe I want to experiment with comes from Emeril. He called it mood beef and we have made it before with beef round. If beef round is extremely lean then venison should be a good substitute, right?

When someone asks me how to cook a great wild game dinner my response is first you need to shoot the game. Cooking wild game is very simple, just use wild fowl in a recipe as a substitute for chicken and use venison as a substitute for domestic beef. Use your favorite recipes, ones you have already tested. There are no “wild game cooking secrets” other than what I have already said. Buy wild game cookbooks and you’re not really wasting time and money, they’re just not necessary.

An illustrated recipe will follow in another post.