Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Shovel Ready" stimulus



Recently I went to the Chicago Dog show and then down to Hyde Park, where our president used to live, to eat at a restaurant I saw on the show "Check Please" called Calypso. The restaurant was a Caribbean restaurant and the food was excellent. It seemed nice to get some sun and imagine I was in the tropics, if only for a minute.

While driving home on East Hyde Park Boulevard, a major street in Hyde Park, I was driving with a car right beside me and I came up to a monstrous pothole. Since there was someone right next to me I tried to swerve and slow down but still ended up in the hole. The depression was very large and the edges were completely jagged - it was more like a construction site than a pothole.

My tire was flat in a matter of seconds. I pulled over in a residential neighborhood and with the help of some friends along for the ride (I am not a particularly handy guy, although I was game to get out there and do the work) we changed the tire and put on the little spare.

Later I heard that the City of Chicago will reimburse you for pothole damage but I wasn't able to find the link on their site. I will look into it a bit more but I am not too hopeful that our maze of bureaucracy would be paying me out in my lifetime.

I was looking to get new tires for my car, anyways, since the damn Altima will live forever (it is going on 10 years) so I wasn't really out much. Glad I didn't replace the tires FIRST because there was no way any tire could have survived that ditch.

The ironic part of this is that city mayors are scrambling to figure out what to do with the windfall of cash and they can't even bother to plan to fix a major pothole right near the President's house.

At Least One Person Agrees With Me

Just a little while ago I posted on how sick I was getting with the political correctness. I am glad there is one person who sees it the same way.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Important Self Defense Video

The past year or so I have been watching some videos and reading some blogs that concentrate on self defense. Some give great information, some, well, lets just say that they take themselves a little too seriously.

Being a practitioner of an open handed martial art, I think it is good to read up on different techniques used in self defense, and try to incorporate those techniques into my art. I also like looking at simple ways to defend yourself, such as the ones Bas Rutten has on Youtube, as they are real life, and strictly street scenarios. There are many others out there that do a great job.

I have also been doing some reading and watching because I have no ground game. This isn't the end of the world, as I read somewhere that more than 70% of all fights do not go to ground. If I were in a situation where I went to ground, I like to think that I at least have a couple of things I can use, such as knowing how to do a simple arm bar, or knee bar. I still hope I never go to ground in a self defense situation, as my comfort zone is obviously standup.

Run like hell is still my number one preservation technique, but that is not possible if I am with my family. I must stand and fight, and try to take my opponent to Hades with me if need be.

Of course, the video below shows the best way to defend yourself. Which is a right that I do not have in the great state of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shoot It Or Lose It.

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As if I need another reason to stock up on ammo.


A friend forwarded an email to me that got my attention. Is this real? it's the first I have heard of it. Check out the link. You be the judge. Here is the email:

It has already started... Ammunition Accountability Legislation. Remember how Obama said that he wasn't going to take your guns?

Well, it seems that his allies in the anti-gun world have no problem with taking your ammo! The bill that is being pushed in 18 states (including Illinois and Indiana ) requires all ammunition to be encoded by the manufacturer and to maintain a database of all ammunition sales. So they will know how much you buy and what calibers.

NOBODY CAN SELL ANY AMMUNITION AFTER JUNE 30, 2009 UNLESS THE AMMUNITION IS CODED. ANY PRIVATELY HELD UNCODED AMMUNITION MUST BE DESTROYED BY JULY 1, 2011. (INCLUDING HAND LOADED AMMO.)

They will also charge a .05 cent tax on every round so every box of ammo you buy will go up at least $2.50 or more! If they can deprive you of ammo they do not need to take your guns!

This legislation is currently pending in 18 states:
Alabama , Arizona , California , Connecticut , Hawaii , Illinois , Indiana , Kentucky , Maryland , Mississippi , Missouri ,
New Jersey , New York , Pennsylvania , Rhode Island , South Carolina , Tennessee , and Washington .

Send to your friends in these states AND fight to dissolve this BILL!!

To find more about the anti-gun group that is sponsoring this legislation and the specific legislation for each state, go to:

http://ammunitionaccountability.org/Legislation.htm

So there ya’ go.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Venison Chili

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Last weekend a friend and hunting buddy we will call “Big Dave” held his annual wild game feast in Whiting Indiana (home of the world famous PierogiFest). It’s a pot luck dinner where hunters grab something they harvested from the freezer, cook it and bring it along. He also provides grills for on-site grilling.


While attending these dinners over the years I have tasted pheasant, duck, goose, dove, quail, venison, elk, rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, beaver, tiger and bear. As far as seafood goes we have had perch, bluegill, walleye, crappie, catfish, pike, salmon, trout, dorado and mahi (my bro makes excellent fish tacos, just ask Dan and Carl).

I will say this again, you need no special recipes to cook a great wild game dinner. By using your favorite recipes a fine game feast can be had but there are times when minor adjustments are necessary. My chili recipe is one where such an adjustment needed to be made.

Chili has so many spices and ingredients added that one could use polecat meat and nobody would know the difference. My chili recipe is unlike traditional Texas chili, it would not win the Terlingua National Championship. Like I care. I make no claim that my chili is a prize winner but it’s damn good to me.
My chili has a solid TexMex flavor but the texture would lose the contest since mine is a bit thin. Using venison is easy, getting venison flavor is easy too if you know what you’re doing.

My Chili Recipe:
3 lb coarse ground chuck roast (do it yourself or ask the butcher to do it) hamburger is OK…I guess.
2 lb cubed chuck (½” cubes)
1 c vegetable oil
2 huge white onions, diced
1 red bell pepper
2 cans diced green chilis
1-2 jalapenos diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 c water
12 oz of your favorite Miller High Life beer
1 12oz can diced tomatoes\1 can tomato paste
9 T chili powder
2 bay leaves
4 T ground cumin
1t ground oregano
½ t coriander
½ t beau monde spoce mixture
1 t Tabasco sauce
1 t ground cayenne
1 T honey
1 T beef bullion granules
1 T paprika
½ t white pepper
1 T salt
1 t coarse ground black pepper

Prep Notes:
Cut all ingredients ahead of time and have them ready. Same with the spices, have them mixed in bowls and ready to go. Have everything nearby for easier cooking. You want to focus your attention on cooking, not measuring and cutting. This is where many cooks screw up and say that they are not good cooks as an excuse for unsatisfactory results.

Step 1.
Heat ½ c veg oil in a large pot (LeCruset is my favorite). Set heat to medium high. Add onions, red bell pepper, jalapeno, green chilis and garlic, sautee until soft. Remove from pot, drain some oil and reserve.

Step 2.
Add remaining ½ c oil to the pot, set heat on high and when oil is hot enough add the meat and keep stirring meat to keep it from clumping. Brown meat. Drain off the oil and fat.

Step 3.
Add vegetables to the pot with meat along with 3 c water, can of beer, tomato sauce and paste along with the chili powder. Bring to a boil and stir then simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 4.
Add remaining ingredients and 1 c water, bring to a boil and simmer over very low heat for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally.

Option:
Add 1 T masa harina (corn flour) to the last 1c water if you like your chili thick, it also adds a slight tortilla note to the dish.

Venison Option:
Add the ground venison for steps 1-3. Reserve the cubed venison until the last ½ hour of cooking time. Brown first then add. The cubed venison will allow the chili to gain that venison flavor, otherwise you would not know the venison from beef.


Serving:
I prefer to top my chili with fresh finely chopped onion and jalapeno with grated sharp cheddar on the very top.


My favorite is to add noodles (spaghetti noodles or rotini pasta) to the bowl and top with chili. A spin in the microwave warms it all and then I top it with the aforementioned ingredients.


It's is much better than good.
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Chicago IKC Dog Show

On Sunday I attended the IKC Chicago dog show at McCormick Center. The fun part of the show is not the judging or the agility contests like they show on TV but it is the fact that you can walk through and see all of the dog owners grooming and preparing their dogs prior to the show. It is also interesting to walk down a row and see lots and lots of dogs of the same breed, even if it is a rare one. I highly recommend attending - pretty much everyone there seemed to be having a good time.



The little dogs and the big dogs are a lot of work to prepare for judging. The effort spent on getting their coats ready to go takes hours.



I use Picasa 3 which is a google product for photo editing and made this you tube video of all my pictures. I originally had "hound dog" by Elvis in the background but You Tube stripped that out so now it is silent - use your own music. It is just a couple of minutes long and very family friendly so watch it with your kids or kids who aren't yours for that matter. It is about 2 minutes long.

A Certain Mindset

I recently accomplished something that was pretty remarkable for me to do, if you were able to consider my state of affairs several years ago. I did it to zero fanfare. Nobody saw me do it. I received no cheers or pats on the back when I was done. I also received no encouragement while I was in the midst of doing it. I was not coached or motivated by anyone.

Many people just do not operate in this fashion. It isn't good or bad, right or wrong, just the way it is. I have always been a bit of a loner, and had no problem sitting by myself reading a book, biking alone, or just tinkering. Once a week I stop at a bar on the way home from work and get a beer or two, alone. I am fabulously comfortable by myself, for whatever reason. In the winter I train in my basement, alone. In summer, I usually ride my bike in distance events alone, or end up hooking up with other riders I am hanging with. It is OK with me, I can do it either way.

I know a lot of people who I call "herd people". They absolutely must be in a health club to work out, or be with someone else on long runs or rides. They need to be coached, motivated and encouraged. Again, I don't see anything wrong with this, it is just that different people are wired differently.

I do wonder if a different type of mentality causes one to be able to push themselves farther than they normally would. If you are the type of person who needs to be in a health club to workout, will you push yourself as hard when you have nobody to please? It is an interesting question that has rolled around in my head for quite some time. In other words, if you run a 5K in the gym on a treadmill in front of a coach, do you know how to push yourself during that 5K run on the streets? Here again, coaches are indeed necessary for people to improve their form in whatever sport or activity they are engaging in, but they can't be around all the time.

My thesis is that those who need a herd would have a tougher time outside of the herd than those who don't need the herd at all. This isn't to say a "non-herder" doesn't need a coach, or to be motivated on occasion.

Last Sunday morning I went into my basement, stepped on the treadmill and did not step off until I had completed a half marathon, and I averaged under 8.5 minute miles (my actual total time was 110.695 minutes - and I have proven that my treadmill clock is a bit slow, so I may have averaged 8.25 minute miles). The last couple of miles I had a blister on my left foot, and my legs were aching so badly it was incredible. Probably a function of never having run half that distance before, and running it too quickly. But I did not stop, and I ran the whole way. I have a certain mindset that I can push my body to do things it doesn't want to do and I can power through adversity. That's just me.

I signed up for the Madison Marathon in May (I will do the half). It will be cool to run all over the city, and to see how I will do after I get some more miles in my legs.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Morning Random Thoughts, Rants And Grunts

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Item #1. Oscar Awards.

Tonight is the telecast of the Oscar awards. Yaawwwwnn. I detest most Hollywood types and their shameless self-aggrandizement. For the past week media hype for this event has been unavoidable. It's obvious to me that watching this opulent and excessive display of limousine liberals preen for the cameras is for women and gays. None for me, thanks.


The last time I voluntarily set foot in a movie theater was when I took my young son to see the first Batman movie (whatever happened to Michael Keaton?). Movie theaters were never my kind of place. Sticky floors, the obnoxious overpowering odor of popcorn smothered in rendered and artificially flavored turkey fat, $5 candy bars, rude people and uncomfortable seats jammed way to close for my knees kept me away. Sure, there are now theaters with larger seats and more legroom but that’s not enough to get me in the door.

Movie theater loving people can go waste their money at the box office. Me? I am saving as much of mine as possible to buy more ammo and bugout box supplies. I can watch it when it comes on (somewhat) free cable. Hollywood sucks it.

Item # 2. The Tea Party Is Real

I’m mad as hell too, and I’m not going to take it anymore either.


Since I have been home a lot lately I have been watching a few TV programs daily. Opening Bell on CNBC is one, it airs between 8 and 9am daily along with Closing Bell between 2:30 to 3pm. Last week I was watching when Rick Santelli did his scheduled report from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. It was unusual to see something like this live on CNBC where the on air reporters are rarely this emotional and politically motivated as Santelli was that day. It got me fired up but never gave a thought that his brief moment of outrage would take on a life of it’s own. Santelli’s opinions are usually strong financially but now he’s going very political.

If you haven’t already heard, Santelli went into an all-out rant against Obummer’s socialist home mortgage bail-out plan before trading began. The content caused an immediate sh!tstorm throughout the media, the youtube link has gone viral on internet news sites and with right-thinking bloggers. Rick suggested hosting an event similar to the “Boston Tea Party” to protest and halt socialism, American-style. As lefty journalists would say, he is "reaching out" and "creating awareness". Heh. This is great!



Rick has become a folk hero overnight. Late Saturday I discovered that Rick has set up his own websites outlining plans to hold official Tea Party protests this summer. This is for real. Right now he is looking for folks to sign a pledge to attend, I already did and strongly urge anyone who is able to attend to do the same.

http://www.officialchicagoteaparty.com/

http://www.reteaparty.com/#mc_signup_form

Oh boy, a protest even I can finally get into! I don’t think what’s been going on lately and so quickly is what the “History Makers” had in mind when they voted for this overtly socialist tool last November but many of us knew all along. If “spread the wealth around” wasn’t a clue you were truly clueless.

Just the thought of socialism turns my stomach. A lot of damage can be done in the next two years. It’s time to get busy.

Read this only AFTER you have enjoyed your Sunday brunch and Bloody Mary:

http://www.ibdeditorial.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=320027936229029

See you in Chicago on the Fourth Of July!

Item #3. Lacrosse

Last year in a Chicago bar I noticed a college lacrosse match being broadcast on ESPN2. It reminded me of my younger days when two friends were sent off to east coast prep schools. One went to Portsmouth Priory in Rhode Island and the other to Cranwell Academy near Boston. Their parents had deep pockets. Face it, sending your teen off to be boarded at a prep school is nothing more than an excuse to boast at the office, cocktail parties and family get-togethers. There's one in every crowd.

When both of these guys came home for the summer each brought home their Lacrosse helmets and sticks. They would practice together in front of the rest of us. Lacrosse was originally played by early American Indians and is known as the oldest American team sport. Lacrosse is played at east coast Ivy League schools but of little interest to the majority of sports fans. Our collective interest was ho-hum. The rest of us went off to play baseball. Joe and Mike enjoyed showing off their newly acquired east-coast snobbery to us teenage Midwestern bumpkins. We weren’t impressed.

This morning a Sunday newspaper retail advertising insert for Dick’s (love that name) Sporting Goods caught my eye. It was an ad for Lacrosse equipment. I have never seen Lacrosse equipment being offered at a retail store or in retail advertising before. Could it be that Lacrosse is actually becoming popular nationwide?


Call me a skeptic but now it’s all beginning to gel in my mind. Lacrosse may become the new Ice Hockey. In the past decade ice hockey has become the snob appeal sport for yuppie parents with deep pockets looking for ways to separate themselves from the unwashed masses. I have a few..umm…acquaintences who send their boys to play ice hockey. One dad boasted to a few of us that he spends anywhere from $3-4,000 a year for each son to play hockey. This includes rink time, equipment (which a kid outgrows each year), league fees, and instruction. He refused to estimate how much he spent on transportation and lodging to attend weekend tournaments in remote hockey meccas like Minneapolis, Duluth, Rochester and even Vancouver. Guess it all depends on his bar tab.

Lacrosse is less expensive and in these hard economic times it is still more exotic than baseball or basketball. Less expense, more exotic, separates and provides yuppie parents with cocktail party and office boast material? Makes sense to me. Well, kind of.

Hey dad, are we having fun yet?

That is all.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Someone Finally Getting It

I have written in the past about ticket scalping. I see nothing wrong with it, yet in many locales there are laws against it. Why is this? Simply because a team significantly under priced their ticket for the current market. And had enough political muscle to deny people to sell their private property (ticket) to make money on that certain team. Of course, it is OK for the team to do it themselves, but not OK for you to do it.

When you have season tickets, especially in football, you automatically may under price - or over price - your late season games. If you have your season ticket priced at X and your team is in the playoff hunt late in the year and have an important game with a division rival, the true worth of that ticket at kickoff for that game is more than likely X + Y. Also, any game with certain teams with an insane fan base is always worth X + Y, such as the Steelers and Packers. Or if you like college, Florida, Oklahoma, and many others.

Conversely, if you price a season ticket at X and stink up the joint for the whole season, the market for those tickets is almost always X - Y (again, this doesn't usually affect value of certain teams, mentioned above).

Football has a lot of teams that sell out every game and there are very few games to start with - only 8 regular season games per team. Baseball is not so fortunate. 81 games over six months = the need to generate a lot of walk up sales, especially when it is cold, or during the week, or when the kids are still in school. Not to mention the fact that many, many teams are totally out of the playoff picture by halfway through the season. In football, if you are 3-5 at the halfway point, you still have a shot at the playoffs. In baseball, that same winning percentage at the halfway point gives you a record of approximately 30-51 and virtually zero chance of making the playoffs. Attendance will decline. Especially if the Pirates, or Royals, or some other crap team is in town.

But the Cleveland Indians are doing something that every team should do, except maybe the Yankees. Variable pricing. The Brewers started doing something like this last year, as they upped the price for the Cub games at Miller Park. It worked - the place was still sold out for every Cub game, and there was still a dramatic influx of Cub fans from Chicago that came to Miller Park. Through statistical analysis the Indians have tried to figure out what keeps fans away (cold weather, rain, weekdays, crappy opponent) and tried to adjust their prices. Very interesting stuff and I would imagine they will be successful putting more butts into the stands for those games where they would usually have very few. Everyone likes a bargain, and if you have empty seats, why not give them away for a fiver and get someone there to buy parking, hot dogs, beer and whatever else? Better than zero.

An Offer You Can't Refuse - Kyle Orton Jersey!

Click photo for larger.

I am always amused by the ridiculous correspondence I receive as a Chicago Bear ticket holder. I documented well the letters I received from the Bears when they rebuilt (poorly) Soldier Field and soaked everyone for a PSL except those of us in the West Side Upper Deck. Then again, if they got enough suckers to pay the PSL, more power to them.

I received this one with my season ticket renewal form. They must understand that people are having hard times since they have offered you a way to finance your season tickets, if you sign up for the NO ANNUAL FEE (I love the capital letters) Chicago Bears Mastercard with Extra Points Rewards. Who says there isn't credit out there to be had?

But man, what a hook with the bold print - As a bonus, apply now and receive a FREE* Kyle Orton Signed (I will note that it doesn't say "signed by Kyle Orton") Replica Jersey - Size L or XL after you make qualifying transaction(s) totaling $200 or more with your new Chicago Bears Extra Points MasterCard credit card! Now if that isn't a hook, I don't know what is. On the reverse of this document is a whole page of fine print, of course.
I seriously wonder if neckbeard will even start this year. Will he be on the team? Oh well, in a year or two, he will join the legions of jerseys we see at Bear games and laugh at. I would wager that Drunk'n Idiot will have more name recognition in a couple of years than Orton.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Am Not A Musician

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But if I was I would like to hang with these guys.



I’ll drink to that!
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More Onion

Here is a great video from Onion sports. The best part is the end where you can hear the NASCAR coach telling his driver what to do. Don't get me wrong, I am not bashing on NASCAR fans - this is just funny sh1t, especially to guys like me who watch the sport when there is nothing else on, or have it in the background.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Onion and the NBA

Here at Life in the Great Midwest we used to put up on the masthead that we "shill for nobody". Of course, we like to shill for some causes - such as The Onion, that hilarious online parody newspaper.

Recently I saw a post that about made me fall over with laughter called "NBA To Experiment with 3-Minute Games"
"Nobody, including the players, cares about those first 45 minutes anyway," said Stern, adding that video analysis of prior NBA games consistently showed that players don't play defense, run, or show any amount of passion until the game's final two minutes. "This gives participants one whole minute to get the feel of the game, which some think is still a waste of time. Hopefully this will all work out so we can get the entire season over with by March."

I was recently at the Bulls vs. Pistons' game at the United Center and when I looked up at the score I noted that we could have exactly followed the Onions' advice since the Bulls were up 10+ points at the end of the first quarter and down by over a dozen in the fourth quarter but... here we were with about three minutes to go, and the game is finally on.

I love The Onion...

Rib Tips

Click any photo for larger.

A while ago I mentioned that my next quest on my food journey was rib tips. I always love the cheap, plentiful, great tasting food. I purchased a 10 pound box of tips from Moo and Oink. I had to have it shipped, so the cost was a little higher than it normally would be. If you can get there in person, it is only $10.99 for a 10 pound box. $1.10 per pound. I am certain I can find something equivalent locally. It's the economy, stupid!

I decided to do them the basic same way that I prepare my world famous Game Day Ribs. Here we have two separate piles of tips, on the left you see them prepared like Game Day Ribs. On the right we have simple salt and pepper. I have to cook for kids and I thought that the Game Day Rub might be a bit much for the little ones. These photos are after the tips sat in the fridge overnight in their respective rubs.
I did what the Moo and Oink site said and cooked them at 300 in my oven. I went for 2.5 hours, in a covered container. These would be better grilled, or at least finished on the grill, but I didn't want to deal with the nasty cold weather. Below are the plain salt and peppered tips ready for serving.
Here is the end of one of the tips that had the Game Day Rub on them.
Here is some of the carnage - look at all of that juice.
And here is a closeup of one of the tip sections with the Game Day Rub.
As you may imagine, these things turned out FANTASTIC. There is a bit of a catch though. Tips are a bit more of a challenge to eat than the standard rib. There is a lot of cartilage and other stuff in there that you have to work your way around. Also, the fat content in these things is AMAZING - you can overdose on it if you are a fat eater like me. The meat has an almost smoky flavor to it. Just wonderful.
What a success. I will be making tips again this summer when things warm up so I can finish these on the grill. I think a little smoke on them would be all that I could add to make them better.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Shovel Ready" Transmission

HISTORICAL VIEWS OF THE TRANSMISSION GRID

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the nations' electrical transmission grid. The transmission grid connects the power stations to the local distribution network. The transmission grid also allows utilities to "interconnect" and exchange / sell power between different entities.

Upgrading the transmission grid would have many advantages to the United States. Many of the lines are older and don't have much spare capacity, or they are less efficient than new modern designs and waste less electricity along the way.

The transmission grid also does not connect to where the "new" sources of generation may lie. For example, the grid was designed to match fossil fuel / nuclear generating stations to major population centers, or to bring power from large hydroelectric facilities to the cities, as well. In some instances the grid was designed to "interconnect" major power companies to one another, such as on the East Coast.

As you can imagine, these reasons for building the original grid aren't ready-made for new, "renewable" sources of energy. If you want to connect up a wind farm or a set of solar panels in the desert, it doesn't matter how much power you can generate unless it can be brought onto the grid and transmitted to the cities (without excessive line loss).

When I was in the utility industry working as a consultant one time I went to an EEI conference (the big electrical utility conference) where I heard one of the CEO's at the time talk about the transmission grid. The topic was how to value the transmission grid assets. His response was
The value of the transmission grid is infinite and unmeasurable, because we could never obtain those rights-of-way to rebuild them at any price


TRANSMISSION GRID TODAY

Since the greens and democrats have come into power energy topics are back in vogue. For a little while there was a romance with nuclear power (which will never materialize, see here) and now we see a wave of interest in transmission. Now that the democrats have to govern the country they realize that they have to actually govern and not just throw stones at a republican administration and that these are issues that require policy and resolution.

This map below shows a proposed transmission line in California (from The Economist dated February 14, 2009), designed to bring power from the desert where solar cells will be installed to the rest of the line and major cities. Note that this line is PROPOSED - this writer and most readers will likely be deceased before this line ever is accepted, built, and comes into service.



But you can see from the PROPOSED line how many compromises are needed in the current political climate. The line has to snake around any sort of park or Indian tribal area. The line is clearly not the most efficient route from point A to point B, and since you pay for transmission lines by the mile, this is going to make the cost of the line much higher than it would be otherwise.

Not shown is all the money that must have been spent on lawyers and lobbyists just to get to this pathetic compromise. Siting a line like this takes years and years of studies, and at any step along the way some judge or lawyer or politician can shut it down for almost any reason.

The most famous example of this is an undersea electric cable that connects near New York City - the line was approved, built, and ready for use when a judge shut it down and now it lies unused, in an area that desperately needs the power.

What you will see is something like this photo that I was able to snap (without killing myself) while driving near Chicago. The photo shows a new, modernized transmission line being built alongside an interstate, taking the place of an older line. This sort of transmission upgrade is possible, because there are no "rights of way" issues to resolve - the utility is just replacing existing infrastructure.



This is the only "shovel ready" infrastructure possible to deal with our transmission crisis, and ironically it generally does nothing to push forward the idea of using renewable power because it doesn't expand the grid to connect these new energy sources.

In any case the current administration would have to be in power for decades in order to make an appreciable dent in our electricity transmission infrastructure because of the infinitely long siting process needed for these new lines, which can easily take 10 years of effort. And note that this legal process doesn't improve the line plans - it just makes them worse, causing detours, compromises, and raising the cost.

While there are other critical issues to resolve, including incentivizing the power companies to build these systems and finding a way to finance the construction, the most difficult problem relates to the incredible legal thicket put up in the United States and the power of lobbying organizations and politicians to put a stop to these types of projects, or delay them infinitely.

Don't count on any of these issues being solved any time soon - they aren't even on the radar of the current administration, and in fact represent a core element of their constituency. You'll see them take on the teachers' unions before this.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

When Dads Are Left Alone With Kids

Click for larger.
Not pretty, but functional - it kept her hair out of her face for a whole hour of gymnastics.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Johnny Kerr Tribute



Recently I had an opportunity to attend a Chicago Bulls game against the Detroit Pistons. We had amazing seats - not the from row Hollywood star ones but one row behind that, on the floor. You can see the view from there as they shot t-shirts into the air.



This woman (cougar?) kept wandering around courtside. For some reason I don't think that this is the first time that she has danced in public, or for consideration (cash or tickets).



As it turns out, it was a tribute to Johnny "Red" Kerr, the former U of I star who was the Bulls announcer for many years, most notably during the Jordan era when the Bulls won 6 championships. Many Bulls stars came out during half time, notably the man who needs no introduction, in a green suit.



Pippen was there, too - you can see him sitting next to Jordan. He looked in fine shape, like he could jump back on the court. Even though no one expected Kerr to say anything, he took the microphone from his son and you can hear that he spoke clearly and convincingly from this clip.



They even had a tribute from Obama up on the jumbotron. It was quite a nice little speech.



Here is a photo of Jordan leaving at the end of the half time festivities. He walked right past near where I was sitting.



In the end the Bulls managed to pull out an improbable comeback and beat the Pistons at home, with Gordon pulling out a 4 point play at the end of the game.

Lousy Month, Excellent Meat!

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February sucks for so many reasons. Her birthday is on the 10th, Valentines on the 14th, and the 28th is our anniversary. Oh…my…aching…wallet.

My son came home from Indy yesterday to help ease the pain, I mean to join in the festivities. Since it was a special occasion it was time for me to thaw out the very best there is, venison backstraps.

This is the Tenderloin Au Bambi. The meat of all meats. Venison Filet Mignon, the tastiest and most tender of all cuts no matter which beast it comes from. This is the kind of meat that makes Ted Nugent’s eyes bug out.



Ted tends to get carried away. I am not a big fan of name calling but Ted will be Ted. He means well.


When friend and neighbor brought me a large box of frozen, vacuum-sealed deer parts it was a huge surprise to see these in the mix. All his kills were within ten miles of where we live, that means local corn and bean fed lusciousness. Thank you sir may I please have another? Most hunters are wiling to part with some meat but rarely, and I do mean rarely will a hunter share his backstraps unless it’s at his home for a special dinner. Venison backstraps account for about .5% of the meat from one deer.


Anyone can buy venison tenderloin, it goes for only $24. per pound on the internets. All things considered its most likely cheaper than the cost of hunting them unless you live on or have access to some very productive property as friend and neighbor does.

http://www.venisonsteaks.com/Whole-Venison-Tenderloins-45-lbs-or-more-_p_2-8.html

They look similar to pork tenderloins and much smaller than beef tenderloins. One can easily toss these on the grill, pay attention and end up with God’s gift to cuisine. I prefer a method that keeps them moist and protects the tender protein fibers from charring too badly. Of course, we want them to be rare so this helps.


Simply cut the muscle into 2-3” slices. Next let them soak in apple cider for about three hours. Start the charcoal, grilling over hot coals is the only way to maximize the flavor of Bambi’s finest.

Before grilling I like to wrap each piece in a strip of bacon and fasten with a toothpick. The bacon will take the char and the fat will keep this extremely fat-free meat moist. Pork fat rules!



Next up, venison chili. Recipe coming later in the week.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cool Knife Block

We watch "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS. Now that we have upgraded to HDTV it looks even better. Gerry also mentions in his post that he likes their recipes, too.

If you have ever watched the show you know that there is a segment where they review various food items (like instant cocoa or olive oil) and also various kitchen gadgets like knives, pans, etc... In one of those segments we saw them review an interesting knife block with no slots. Since there are no slots you can use it for mixed knife sets since the block often comes with the knives and then when you buy a new knife there is no where to put it.

The block is made by a product line called "Kapoosh" and here is a link to their knife blocks. We bought one and it is very cool and I recommend it. The first time you try it - seems very odd - but then you get used to it. We bought ours on Amazon for $30.

Back to college

While I was in Wisconsin with Dan we stopped by a bar right next to the basketball stadium called the "Nitty Gritty". One of their themes is a birthday bar so if you are having a birthday nearby and you want to get extremely intoxicated this is the place for you...

Last time Dan and I went out in Madison we met the "poison apothecary" over at Mondays bar but this time the focus was not on the absolute potency of the drinks but the sheer quantity of the drinks. I didn't realize the special and it was 2 for 1 and of course since we were the only people tipping in the sea of humanity the next thing I know our little table was covered in about a dozen beers. Oh well I think I spent about $50 the whole night which seemed very reasonable. The place was completely packed and jumping on a Thursday night and everyone seemed prime to go out much later while Dan and I headed off to our respective places that night. I forgot what it was like to stay up super late and sleep in until noon... can't do that anymore. Good times, though.

Feeling Saxy?

Very cool video to a very cool Coltrane song.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Private

I am very pleased at how my Muay Thai is coming along. I am almost among the elite of the gym. There is a layer of guys who are clearly at the top, but I would rate myself a strong second layer at this time.

I have a private lesson tomorrow with the head instructor. My kicking and clinch game is pretty damned solid, but my boxing is suck! So tomorrow I have a full hour just concentrating on three punches. Jab, Cross, Hook. Over and over and over. Maybe someday I will look halfway as good as this professional boxer Nop brought to me a day or two ago. This guys hand speed is simply amazing. I would just get out of the way and try to knee or clinch him.

Venison Pot Roast

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Hey! It’s game time! Here’s a wild game recipe you might try this weekend. If you don’t have wild game then use beef round, it works just fine. Just so you know what you’re missing here’s what a thick venison round steak looks like, almost 100% fat free.


The deck has finally thawed and the Weber grills are accessible after weeks of trudging through three feet of heavy snow dulled my interest in outdoor grilling. Soon grilling and BBQ’ing will be a daily affair but for now I am enjoying comfort food way too much. And that means weight gain. Oh well. That also means more soups, stews, chili, pasta, pizza and braised pots of beef and vegetables. Hawwwww!

Here’s a very tasty pot roast I highly recommend. Oddly enough the recipe comes from the Weight Watcher’s cookbook. This style of cooking is called braising which means placing all ingredients in a cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid into a 350 degree oven for a few hours. Tonight’s recipe called for a beef round cut.

As I have noted before, any recipe that calls for beef round is perfectly suited for ultra-lean whitetail venison steaks or roasts. Elk or antelope rounds work equally as well.

As luck would have it I have one top round steak of venison in my freezer that weighs almost two pounds and is 1½ inches thick.

Prep time is about 30 minutes and cook time is 220 minutes. Here goes.

Ingredients

Pam or store brand oil in an aerosol can
2 lb well trimmed thick-cut top round of beef or venison
½ t cracked black pepper
¼ t table salt
2 large onions sliced
2 C water
I packet Lipton’s onion soup mix
1 ½ T balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 t dried thyme
8 small or 5 medium uncooked red potatoes quartered
1 lb carrots (we use baby carrots)
1 T chopped parsley for garnish

Place oven rack in lowest position then preheat oven to 350 degrees. Next, coat a medium to large Dutch oven (iron pot with a lid) with cooking spray and place on the range over medium high heat.

Salt and pepper meat, place in pot and brown, about three minutes per side. Remove meat from pot and reserve. Add onions to pot, brown onions stirring occasionally for about eight minutes, remove onions. Mix 2c water with onion soup mix, vinegar and thyme. Add liquid to the medium-hot pot to deglaze residue. Add onions and meat back to pot. Bring all to a boil. Cover pot and bake in the oven for 90 minutes.

CAUTION: DO NOT CLICK ON IMAGES if you are somewhat hungry.


After 90 minutes remove the pot, place carrots and potatoes on top, quickly cover and return to the oven.


Cook for 1 ½ - 2 hours more until vegetables are tender.


This is an outstanding recipe, one already enshrined in the Bambi section of the comfort food wing at the Gerry From Valpo Culinary Hall Of Fame.


Let me know how yours turns out.
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A Shovel Ready Rant

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Lately I have been hearing and reading so much about the crumbling roads and bridges, the decaying infrastructure. This makes no sense to me at all. Why do radio traffic reporters need to remind me to add 30 minutes of travel time due to road construction more often than not? In fact it seems as if the Chicago area roads are always under construction even when they don’t seem to need repair. Isn’t it odd how that works?


Which is worse a road so choppy it makes you reduce your speed or orange barrels that cause mile long backups? Ever notice that those lane closure barricades, infoboards and construction speed zone $375. penalty signs seem to go up a month before the workers and equipment bother to show up?

Recently our decaying infrastructure has made a lot of news. Consider the roads and bridges around the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

Within the past six years I-94 has been rebuilt completely from the Wisconsin border all the way east past Gary, IN. and expanded to five lanes in most areas. To accommodate the extra lanes in both directions all the bridges had to be reconstructed.

The Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road have both been sold to private investors. Just last year the total reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago was complete including most bridges and overpasses. That one took four years and made it harder to get to and from Chicago White Sox games. The city and state also hauled in a revenue bonanza by handing out tens of thousands of construction zone speeding violations, a $410. fine when court and clerk costs are added. Do the math.

Locals say Chicago has only two seasons, winter and “road under construction”.

When politicians along with their media lap dogs repeatedly tell me that billions are needed to replace our “decaying infrastructure” it makes my brain hurt and my engine overheat.

This thing they call stimulus is worse than pork, it’s staring down a charging 300 lb. wild hog with sharp fangs and all we have is a pea shooter.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Smart cars at Binnys



Within my household there is a strong fan of the "smart car" concept. The main attraction is that you could (theoretically) park head-on in a street spot that would usually require parallel parking, or if not being so bold at least fit into spots that other cars cannot. Or you could theoretically park two cars (tandem style) in the space of a single spot. While neither of these two ideas is too practical, generally I will be buying a small car of some sort, not bigger than my current Altima, when that old Nissan dies, just for the sake of being in the city and having to get around in our parking garage.

Down at Binny's the lot is usually a complete zoo - sometimes they even have a guy out there directing traffic - so I chuckled seeing the small size of the Smart car next to a full size one. They definitely could pack in more liquor-buyers if everyone drove a tiny car like that, but maybe it would be partially offset by the fact that you'd have to carry your case of beer on the passenger's lap due to low cargo space. Someone needs to do an equation on that. For me, I just walk and even got a custom "Binny's" nylon carrying bag to reduce the pile of white plastic bags cluttering up my condo. Reuse and repeat.

Coyotes in Madison

A while ago I posted about the strange sound I heard leaving the gym one night - coyotes howling. They are here, and they are multiplying.

I was shocked, shocked last night while watching the news when I saw this story. Click the video and watch the sad, sad people. Poor Puff became coyote dinner. Buddy came out in better shape.

Honestly I feel bad for those people in that neighborhood (a neighborhood I used to live near). Do you like the DNR guy's solutions? Air horns. Wish I was kidding. This is the solution I am after...too bad you can't discharge a firearm in the city limits. I don't think you can anyways.

As I said to my wife last night watching this news report after we were done laughing at the air horn guy...THAT is why they make different calibers of ammunition.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz.

A Good Example and a Poor One

I did the grocery shopping last Sunday. The wife was swamped with some other things so I took care of it. We have been doing our grocery shopping at Target of all places. Right by the house, good selection, competitive prices, why not?

While I was filling the cart I was stopped by the "chip dude". He was an employee of the local Frito Lay outlet, and he was busy filling shelves. I think it must be part of the deal between grocery stores and some vendors that the vendor fills and rotates the stock. I was a night stocker in college, and never remember doing the chips and a few other items. Anyways.

Why was I stopped by the chip dude? I was wearing the jacket of my gym. This guy was 43 years old I later found out, and was a black belt in Karate, and practiced that art for 13 years before he hurt his knee a few years ago. He was looking to get back into a gym and told me that he missed martial arts and the whole scene. We had a nice ten minute conversation or so and I told him all about the gym, what we do and how we do it. He seemed impressed and told me that the price was certainly right. That was good to hear. The local Karate place charged $50 more per month and the classes were not unlimited like at my gym. You can literally go to my gym and practice martial arts six days a week for several hours a day if you want to, and it all falls under your standard membership.

I hope to see him again. He knew I wasn't bullsh1tting him and he also seemed to know a lot about the standup portions of martial arts. He would have to pick up Muay Thai, that being the only standup art we offer at the gym but he seemed OK with that. Although not familiar with MT he seemed OK about picking it up. He was also impressed that I became an assistant coach and that I train the pro and amateur fighters.

I always try to be an especially good example when I wear my gym jacket for just such occasions. I am very proud of what we do at the gym, and how hard I have worked there and want more people to come and enjoy it.

Now for the poor example. I was happy to see a new woman in our advanced class (we had three already, this one will make four). Even if it is a small cut of the population, it is good imho to see women pick up something that might help them in a bad situation (self defense).

I always rush to introduce myself and welcome new members to the gym and this was no exception. After the pleasantries, I noticed that she had on Thai Shorts, and that the head instructor had awarded her with a green sash, equal to mine. She stated that she had been with a different local gym (a horrible place) for a year, but before that was at a very well known gym from the Midwest for some time. I was impressed and I assumed that she was quite skilled. But I could immediately tell that she was not in the best shape. A bit of chub in the face, a little too much around the midsection. This was going to be a long class for her, as our Wednesday night classes are always tougher than most.

I paired up with her and as we started drilling with the Thai pads I could immediately tell that something was wrong. She had never done an overhand before. Nor a spinning backfist, nor did she know how to hold Thai pads correctly. When holding for my kicks she was practically getting knocked over. I kick hard, but this isn't the first woman who has ever held for me; while I am sure it stings them a bit, they don't FALL OVER.

We weren't exactly doing super complicated stuff, but it was a trainwreck. I was encouraging and trying to help her the best I could, but no dice. She simply wasn't skilled enough. At the end of class we sparred, and that was a complete joke - she didn't lay a hand on me and I pointed her up one side and down the other. Toward the end of the round, when my cardio usually shines, I took it easy on her. It was clear that this person needed to be in the beginner class for a several months to get the rust off. Either that or she flat out lied to me about her "experience".

Later on, while talking to my instructor I mentioned this and he sort of put his head in his hands and said that this well respected gym basically lied to him, and that is why the woman was in with the advanced class. Oh well, that doesn't exactly say a lot of good about the other gym. Either that, or the people that they think are skilled simply are not - or the people our gym is putting out are amazingly well skilled. I believe it is the latter, and a lack of attention by the other gyms that doomed the woman. At the end, I really laid on the encouragement for the woman because I want her to keep coming back, get in shape, and get her skillset up where it could be. I think she will come back. I hope so anyways.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Carl's finest

Recently I was on my way up to Madison and stopped just short of town to fuel up the ol' Altima. I went inside to look around and found out my true calling! Apparently it is to have a gas station named after me that only sells the finer things in life... such as Miller High Life. The positive thing about something like Miller High Life is that while it may not be very good, you can make up for that with low price and high volume, such as these 30 pack cans, which by my math comes out to a little more than 50 cents a can. That is a lot of corn-flavored water.

Around Chicago

Last weekend was beautiful in Chicago and it prompted me to go outside and catch some rays to clear up my lack of vitamin D and take some photos, too.



Here is a view on Michigan avenue looking up at the top of the Hancock. A person close to me was up on the very top of the roof one time looking at equipment and said that at the time (this was 15+ years ago) there were no handrails around the edge, it was just straight down.



Here are two new towers that were built right along Lake Shore Drive. I wrote about these towers back in 2006 in a post titled "ruining it for everyone" since they will block the sunshine at Oak Street Beach, which is a great little beach near down town Chicago. I hope the developers go bankrupt.



This is a view looking north from Oak Street Beach. I tried to follow Jonathan's advice and put my camera on something solid and it worked out nicely.



Here is a view of the ice breaking up in Lake Michigan. I really liked the way that the colors turned out in this photo.



Finally, this is my favorite photo of the bunch, which I would title "Skyscrapers and Snirt" if my photos were worth titling. I especially like the plane right above the buildings, too, in the clouds. Pretty much sums up this winter so far.

A New Beverage Sensation

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Each morning I scan my favorite sites and blogs on the internets. There is a list in my favorites folder that includes about fifty sites. Who doesn’t have Drudge as a favorite bookmark? I check it out every day.

In case you missed it, this Drudge link caught my eye this morning.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/article5707554.ece


It makes me wonder which one, Miller Brewing Company or Anheuser Busch, will win the battle to become exclusive North American distributor of this new beverage sensation.

It will be interesting to see how they will go about branding it.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Illini at Wisco

Dan and I recently attended a game in Madison and watched the Illini get stomped on the road.



It was a nice day out, especially for Madison. I don't know how Dan can take the cold out there, especially with about 0% body fat. Here was the weatherman telling everyone that it was a nice day for Madison - it was almost 40 degrees out, about 60 degrees warmer than it was a few days prior when it was far below zero. And don't forget the wind chill...



Brent Musberger, the TV analyst, was there to call the game for ESPN. That guy has gotten BIG over the years. He looked like a mudslide.



While checking out the stadium, we noticed this strange flag in the rafters. What is with the extra red stripe on top? I have seen a million US flags and this is definitely not regulation.



Prior to the game the flags came out and there were a lot of fans in red to watch the game. They definitely support the Badgers in Madison, and everyone was excited.



This was the highlight of the game for the Illini, the national anthem. It was all downhill from there. Weber is in the back.