Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Greatest Spectacle In Racing – 3 of 3

During my formative years automobiles were a big part of life and still are. Friends owned sport roadsters and muscle cars, most of them used. I had my ’67 Pontiac Tempest, which was a whisker short of a GTO. A few friends were good with a wrench and owned real performance machines that they would run at "Smokin" US30 Drag Raceway.

In the late 60's and early 70's all week long commercials like this would air on local top 40 radio and television during summer months.

On hot summer Wednesday nights US30 would hold “Run What Ya’ Brung” events before the pros took the track. This is where anyone could pay a fee and run the quarter mile in your own hot rod or dad’s Buick, if you wanted. They would qualify your car, enter it in an elapsed time slot and later you could run in elimination heats. Later on in the evening pro-stock, rail and funny cars ran the quarter mile under the lights. I still recall the sweet aroma of nitro methane from those top fuel monsters. The big names in NHRA history would show up like "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, Kelly Chadwick, Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick, Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowney, Bill "Maverick" Golden with his "Little Red Wagon" and others.

Fast cars fascinated me then as they do today.

My first Indy Car event was at Road America in Elkhart Lake WI. It had to be almost 20 years ago when CART was the sanctioning body for the upper echelon of open wheel racing. I was hooked.

Then came the CART/IRL split. This happened coincide with the rising popularity of NASCAR. The results weren’t good. My bro and Harold said it would ruin open wheel racing and claimed CART would win out. They were partially correct but I said no. The IRL is THE premier racing venue in the world and it wouldn’t be long before CART caves because the owners and drivers live for racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Even NASCAR drivers want to run at the IMS and now they do. I was right.

They still argue that it’s not the same since all engines must be normally aspirated (no turos) and the choice of chassis and engines are limited the cars aren’t as fast. Fast? Qualifying times were 226 mph+. I think that’s fast. And loud.

Another thing about motorsports is you can usually get up close to the drivers and owners. During qualifying it’s not hard to hang out in the pit area and stand feet from the cars and crew. Drivers and owners are friendly and will sign autographs and talk to you. On race day you need a paddock pass to do so and I have had them. I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with Paul Neuman, Mario Andretti, Roger Penske, etc. Try that with the NFL, NBA or MLB. Get too close to an NBA player and you risk getting spit on. Motorsports professionals are way more fan friendly.

I have no problem with NASCAR but it’s not as exciting as open wheel cars to me. IRL cars look like hybrid race cars while NASCAR cars look like dad’s Buick. When they go three wide on a super speedway it looks like the Dan Ryan expressway. When two NASCAR machines touch they usually motor on. When IRL cars touch it could mean instant disaster. You don’t see many IRL cars with fender scrapes and dents. If you do they’re on the back end of a hook. To me there’s a lot more skill, finesse, and danger in open wheel racing. Besides, they just look sexier…and faster.

I’ve been to major sporting events including a Super Bowl and nothing, I mean nothing beats the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day.

This year the weather was perfect. It was a bit humid but by the start clouds set in keeping my skin from becoming charred.

Our tradition begins with tailgating at a church parking lot about six blocks west of the track. Bloody Mary’s, top shelf tequila, chips and salsa and huevos rancheros on the menu. We do our best to turn tailgating into an art form. Only the best.

No grills necessary for a breakfast tailgate.

Our seats are in the sunset terrace which allows us a great view west as the drivers come into turn one, turn two and down the back straightaway. Did I mention it is loud? We all wear ear protection.

This year’s race had too many yellows for me beginning in the first lap right in front of us. All in all we probably saw four incidents within our range including Vitor Miera in the A.J. Foyt ABC Supply car. Later it was reported he fractured two vertebrae even though he was able to walk away.

My last two entries on Indy focused on the odd behavior to be seen around the event. On race day, in the stands, most spectators are focused on the cars. These are serious motorsports fans. One in our group was keeping a scorecard, similar to baseball.

Unruly behavior in the stands is rare. The track holds 250,000+ and in my observation the IMS is more orderly than other pro sports events especially considering alcohol is much more abundant here. Think 5 Soldier Fields worth of inebriated fans. This is looking south down Georgetown Avenue after the race.

We’ll be back next year and I can’t wait.

The Greatest Spectacle In Racing – 2 of 3

The snake pit lives on, kind of.

I love this race. As a youngster it was hard to get tickets. Well, if one wanted to get in there was always “the snake pit”.

Here’s a photo from the old Indy snake pit grabbed off the internets.

The snake pit was a designated area on the south infield between turn one and turn two where general admission was charged. Today the general is $25. and that area is now heavily patrolled by security. The reason is because the snake pit was once an area of total debauchery. Bikers, prostitution, public nudity, alcohol and drugs could be found in abundance, or so claimed friends who had been there. A friend told me one could always find a few R.V.’s parked on the infield where sexual intercourse could be seen openly through the front windows. This happened because back then, nobody cared.

All that changed in recent times when the George family, who owns the IMS, decided to clean it up and promote a better family image. Since they were building more seating they wanted to fill the track and with that snake pit reputation they felt the need for a total clean up. But that doesn’t mean people behave. Unlike the NFL or MLB most motorsports venue ticket holders are allowed to bring alcohol into the track but no bottles. Every group that goes through the gate drags those soft sided “wheelie” coolers loaded with alcoholic beverages. We did too. And nobody was checking them.

Once we are in the grandstand it’s about an hour before the green flag so I headed out to the infield to soak up the culture. The first thing I notice are some twentysomethings with an eight-hose beer bong, they called it an octobong. I asked if I could take a photo of it and they did me one better, they demonstrated how it worked. Here is a better application for Dan’s MPCB’s than pouring it down the drain.

Here is a young…ahem…lady that was traveling with the beer bong guys. I told her what a handsome tattoo she was exposing and asked if she would allow me to take a photo. “Sure!”, was her perky response. Not long after I got on my knees to get this close up shot she exposed even more. WOW! I have to draw the line somewhere so we’ll settle for this much safer image. The spirit of the snake pit lives on!

Here’s an older guy with too many tattoos on a chopper style bicycle. My guess is that his license was revoked due to too many DUI’s and he needed some way to get to and from the bar.

It baffles me that individuals will wear obscene t-shirts in public. What amazes me is the messages on them. Guess I don't have the guts (or stupidity) to wear (let alone own) something like this.

Here’s a few young gals that wore obscene stickers. They looked like real next-door types but allowed me to take the photo, unashamed. I asked where they got the stickers and one said, “um, like, some dude is walking around passing them out.”

The Greatest Spectacle In Racing is just that. As I said, it’s a target rich environment for the Jesus guys. Good luck, fellas.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Carl's beer challenge

In response to Dan's classic beer challenge I am going to celebrate his bravery by doing something that isn't brave at all - I am picking up a beer at Binny's near my house that is highly rated (they put those ratings on them from 1-100 with the good ones being in the 90's or near 100, I think this might have been a 100) and drinking them in response.

I think this beer cost like $5 / bottle (don't know because I was buying a lot of other stuff). I bought a single bottle, warm and put it in the fridge and saved it for the weekend. It is called Orval's Trappist Ale and I think it was brewed by bona-fide monks and sent here from Belgium.

Unlike Dan's crappy beers the head on this beer is immense. The taste is great, and there is no lousy aftertaste. The only aftertaste is that you want more...

Also note the glass that I am drinking it out of. Dan sent me a Miller Lite and a Miller High Life glass to celebrate my love of "corn water".

Boyhood Hobby Revisited

When I was a kid I liked to shoot off model rockets. My favorite was always "Der Red Max".

I recently asked my children, both girls, if they would be interested in model rocketry. Of course, the question was loaded, since I was really the one that wanted to buy them, assemble them and shoot them off. The kids are merely for recovery purposes. Well, they thought it was a neat idea, so I mail ordered the kits and am all set up. They still make Der Red Max! Here it is below, ready for it's maiden voyage.
As I was putting this thing together, I was amazed at how much more patience I have now that I am an adult. I actually put three coats of paint on it so it looked top notch. And I even let the coats dry overnight each time. When I was little the object was to put the damned thing together as fast as possible to get it out to shoot it up. Frankly, at this point, I don't really care if the thing blows up midair as I have gotten several hours of enjoyment from putting together this $15 pile of cardboard and balsa. But we will see.

I remember when I used to shoot these things off when I was a boy, that the little rockets usually got shot into oblivion and were never seen again. For this reason, I got a bunch of rockets that have max altitudes of approx. 600 ft.

I am really interested in one particular rocket, that carries a motion camera aboard. It takes a 10 second video or photos that you can upload into your computer. Here is an example. I purchased one of those rockets as well, video to be uploaded here as soon as possible.

Wet Madison Sunrise

Click for larger.

Friday, May 29, 2009

TGMPCBC Part Four - Region One

Here are parts three, two and one.

Click any photo for larger.

Well, I have been staring at these sixteen sh1tty beers in my garage fridge for long enough, and they are menacing my good beers's on like Donkey Kong!

Last night I powered my way through the Region One tasting. Below we have the match ups, with Coors Light up against PBR (with the bottle advantage) and in our other match up, Milwaukee's Best Ice vs. Bud.
I had my wife do the pouring so the tasting was blind. Every beer instantly foamed up and then just as fast lost all semblance of head. I had to have a little something in between tastings to "cleanse" my palate. We don't have chips or other junk like that in the house, but the wife did have these snapea crisps. They weren't too bad, looking back. I am not sure which beers are pictured below, but it doesn't really matter. They ALL LOOKED THE SAME.
So on with the tasting. I made notes while I was tasting before the winners (and losers) were revealed.
  • Coors Light vs. PBR:
  • Beer 1 - looked flat, smelled first a very mild flavor, followed by an aftertaste that was indescribably bad.
  • Beer 2 - looked flat, smelled like mold. Hardly any flavor, with a nasty, "flooded basement" type of aftertaste at the end. Probably one of the worst beers I have had.
Winner - Beer 1, because of the sheer totality of the crappiness of Beer 2 - amazingly, the winner is PBR! PBR advances to play the winner of Milwaukee's Best Ice vs. Bud. Coors Light is easily one of the very worst beers on the planet. I mean, it made PBR look GOOD, which says a LOT.
  • Milwaukee's Best Ice vs. Bud:
  • Beer 1 - Musty smell, flat - really flat, flatter than all of the rest. Why are these beers not carbonated, I wonder? Anyway, I could literally not taste too much of anything, and there was a bitter kick in the pants at the end to boot.
  • Beer 2 - Strong Metallic smell, but had a bit of a darker color, had a little flavor, and almost tasted like a real beer.
Winner - Beer 2 easily. Milwaukee's Best Ice advances!
  • For a berth in the final four, Milwaukee's Best Ice vs. PBR - by this time my taste buds were reeling from the cornwater and moldy smelling, bitter beer assault, but Milwaukee's Best Ice pulls out the victory.
Here I am, after suffering through Region One, proudly posing with the first entry into the final four:
But in the end, all of these beers, as you know, are true losers, and ended up where all loser beers deserve to be, unless you are making a brat hot tub.

I am halfway surprised that the dishes in the sink didn't melt. Region Two coming soon...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Around Chicago

Recently I accumulated some photos around Chicago.

This guy stands on the bridge in brightly colored suits and twirls for passenger boats as they go by. Sometimes his suits are brightly colored (like this green one), and sometimes they are metallic. He also stands in front of the news many nights where they have glass windows downtown. They are making a movie about him - see the trailer here - he is a technology worker in the city whom I believe works for a government agency, and this is what he does for fun.

A different bridge... note the guys fishing down there. The waters have been made immensely cleaner over the years (from when it was a foul sewer) but I don't think it is recommended to eat the fish (yet). I see kayakers all the time and I even took a canoe trip up the Chicago River once, too.

Maybe this is a play on the economy, or something. Trouble in Subway land...

While visiting a friend's family they pointed out the family of baby birds that lived on a wreath by their front door. I held the camera up and took a picture of the little birds in the nest.

The Greatest Spectacle In Racing - 1 of 3

The word "spectacle" will be defined in the next three posts.

My Indy 500 trip this year began late. I was on assignment so departure was set for Saturday morning at 4 am. I missed a pizza party with friends and a few drinks Friday night. No problem, early Saturday before the parade we start with a margarita breakfast at Acapulco Joe’s, a restaurant one block off the square. It’s a tradition.

The food is OK, the drink a bit too sweet but it’s convenient to a parking lot across the street where we have a post parade tailgate.

The same band plays on this same corner each year. It’s a Jesus band that travels from Oklahoma just to save souls at the Indianapolis 500 with Christian music that has a country and western slant. Men associated with the band will stand nearby to pass out “repent now” pamphlets to passersby. I noticed a larger presence of soul savers downtown this year, more than usual. In the next post it will become clear why they come, it's a target-rich environment for the saviors.

This guy looked Amish, holding a bible and screaming as loud as he could about risky behavior and going to hell. But Amish don’t have moustaches. They believe a moustache to be a military symbol. Ammies don’t preach, preferring instead to stay in their enclaves. I think he was just possessed.

Most of the of soul savers were chased off the street by Indiana’s finest right in front of me, since they were not registered participants. They just jumped into the street and did their thing. Most of their focus seemed to be about marriage and sexuality.

Some, like this group were quiet and let his t-shirt do the talking.

This guy let me take a photo of his sign but would not show his face. My guess is he was Hispanic and in his early 20’s.

In my observation most soul savers I saw were either older in their 60’s and younger in their 20’s. There were very few women as far as I could tell. Maybe men feel the need to repent and save more souls than women do.

As a final note I want to go on the record. By posting these photos my intent is not to ridicule anybody. Most photos I took of individuals I did their with permission. There was no heckling directed at any of these people from the parade crowd. They have as much right to express their feelings as anyone.

I am not taking any side on the issue, just relaying my observations at the 2009 “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” from Indianapolis. When you have 500,000 people on the streets and at the track for a weekend you see everything and I DO mean everything.

In my next entry you may see why these soul savers pick this event to do their thing. Some images will be very unusual and possibly shocking. Again, it’s target rich environment for the Jesus folks.

They don’t call it “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” for nothing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Around Madison

I was recently in Madison, Dan's town, and took a few photos. While I am always getting lost attempting to drive around the city because of the lakes and the fact that the Capitol building makes all the roads crazy downtown, the Capitol is a great looking building with a lot of style. The wikipedia page on the Capitol is very interesting - it burned down in 1904 (and was rebuilt in its current state), a few weeks after they canceled their insurance policy.

On State Street, there are no cars, only buses, police cars, and this guy. He was standing on his bicycle and riding down the street; he fell not too far from us but was not hurt too badly. Definitely entertaining.

This view shows the capitol in the background with the Overture Center for the Arts in the foreground (the cool looking glass building). Dan wrote about financial issues at the facility way back when this blog was in its infancy - here is a link to the facility today.

No place is immune from the recession, I guess. Check out this photo above - a Ben & Jerry's ice cream store went bankrupt and is for lease in Madison, a place where its hippie-vibe should be striking paydirt. I guess they need to save up money for didgeridoo lessons (some guy was playing one of those right up the street) or something like that.

Monday, May 25, 2009

HMS Belfast

When I was in London recently I went to the top of the monument to the Great London Fire of 1666 (the site is cool; it has history information as well as a view from the top of the monument, updated every 60 seconds). From the top of this tower I saw what I was looking for - a great place to get a photo of the HMS Belfast, a British cruiser from WW2. The wikipedia site for HMS Belfast is a good place to start for information about this hard-working vessel - I was going to classify her as a "light" cruiser (due to the fact that she carried 6 inch main guns, while heavy cruisers carried 8 inch guns) but I read that after repairs from 1939-42 (after she hit a mine) she had been rebuilt and was the heaviest cruiser by tonnage in the British navy at the time, so I will just call her a cruiser.

While I have been to many museums in the United States that feature large WW2 and Korean era warships, such as the carrier Midway in South Carolina and the carrier Intrepid in New York, among others, there are comparatively few large ships that have been preserved in Europe and Asia. I believe (and semi-confirmed from this site, which is interesting) that the HMS Belfast is the only big-gun ship that has been preserved from the world wars in all of Europe. I heard a rumor (can't find the link) that there even have been calls from Germany to bring back the Prinz Eugen (currently upside down at Bikini atoll, where she was blasted after WW2 in atomic bomb tests) back to Germany as a museum (very highly unlikely, of course).

There are many logical reasons why there aren't museums for Germany and Japan - their capital ships were mostly bombed to oblivion by the Allies in WW2 or confiscated after wards, which is how the Prinz Eugen ended up all the way across the world in the Pacific. Italy is slightly more complex, since some of her ships made their way to the Allies after she switched sides in 1943, but they clearly had bigger problems than retaining capital ships in the years after WW2. France had some surviving ships that served with the British, but none of the major ships were preserved, and there weren't that many to begin with. The Russians were never a big naval power in the first place, and nothing big from WW2 was preserved (although a lot of their fleet is rusting in place today). Of the big maritime powers, only the US and the UK (along with Canada and Australia) weren't occupied (or almost totally occupied, in the case of Russia) at some point along the way, which is why their ships are all gone.

I think that something important was lost when all of these big-gun ships were scrapped or destroyed. The HMS Belfast, in London - is about 10,000 tons - a relative pygmy compared to even the smallest battleship or even a major ship from WW1. The German WW1 battleships scuttled outside Scapa Flow in 1919 (they were sent to England as part of reparations) were over 20,000 tons apiece, for example. Here is a link of some cool videos that divers have taken of these WW1 German battleships which still lie in the mud off Scapa Flow.

These ships were amazing technological marvels - they often had more than 1000 sailors and required a vast industrial capability to construct the engines, turrets and steel plate for protection. These ships also required large drydocks and the ability to make wartime repairs - for example the HMS Belfast required 3 years of repairs after she hit a mine in 1939 and they were able to bring back ships from the mud of Pearl Harbor and float them after being torpedoed in Taranto, in Italy.

As a kid growing up I read everything I could about the WW1 and WW2 heavy cruisers and battleships. I found them to be beautiful and fascinating weapons, and played encounters between them, real or imagined, in board games, miniatures, and finally on the computer. But they are all gone now, at least in Europe and Asia (except for the Belfast), and that makes me kind of sad. But the world changes, and we move on.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Blogging and the Law

The Wall Street Journal article titled "Bloggers, Beware: What You Write Can Get you Sued". The article started with a discussion of a woman who was sued because she was in a dispute with a software company over accusations that customer data was compromised in an online forum. She was sued for defamation and she claimed protection under the "shield laws" which protect traditional (print, television) journalists. Her insurance company, Allstate, was paying for her legal costs under her "umbrella" insurance policy which is designed to fill in for potential issues not covered under auto and home owner policies.

Traditional issues with the web related to copyright infringement issues; one time I ran a different site that was hit with a "cease and desist" letter for publishing data about a certification process (not specific testing information) - I took the information down and posted the letter on the site instead. Nowadays it seems that much of the copyright infringement issues have migrated to downloading music because of the revenue losses; the newspapers and other institutions don't seem to be going after blogs much.

One useful tip from the WSJ article was to talk to your insurance company for a rider as part of a special addition to your homeowners policy that will cover what you say or do on the web (within reason, of course). The WSJ said that this might only cost $30 / year, which may make it worthwhile. One element that could possibly make a difference is whether you are blogging as a "business" with advertisements - at LITGM we don't have advertisements (forgoing the $2 / month we might earn) but there are some at Chicago Boyz.

Another related item is posting a retraction; when I recently put up an article about a US Democratic congressman driving a gas-guzzling SUV I received comments from the US House of Representatives (we can see where the IP addresses are coming from) - I retracted my specific post but then did more research to clarify that the situation was still essentially the same as I had originally reported (the US Democratic Congressman drove a substantially identical SUV per a local TV station). I don't know if publishing a retraction helps you or not but it seems like a reasonable place to start.

Figuring that bloggers have a lot of time on their hands and like to put stuff up on the web I did a tiny bit of research and found an excellent site at the Electronic Frontier Association that covered the types of issues that bloggers typically face and possible solutions. I am going to research this issue further and may consider joining this organization. One key item that they are fighting for is to get bloggers covered just like journalists as far as protection under the US Constitution.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Memorial Day

Just got back from the Indianapolis 500. Took over 200 photos. While sorting them I saw images of these two fine men.

While walking around the infield prior to the race there were representatives from all branches of the military. They were to be on the track prior to the start for an honors ceremony. The IMS and the city of Indianapolis go all out to honor the military during the weekend from the Saturday parade through race day and to remember the ones who have passed.

When I saw the sarge he had the appearance of a stereotypical soldier. I approached him and asked if I could take a photo. He asked why and I told him because he looked like a real soldier. He smiled and said he WAS a career soldier and a photo was fine with him. I thanked him for what he does, shook his hand. It was a lump in the throat moment.

As I walked on I came across this sailor. Again, to me he looked so much as you would expect a sailor to look with the bleach whites, the ribbons and such. It's common to see soldiers and marines here in the midwest but sailors are rare, especially officers. He seemed flattered that I would want a photo. I thanked him as well.

As a kid there was a time when every man capable of serving had to enlist for two years. My dad prepared me for it saying that everyone, even Elvis had to go into the service. It was fine to me. Travel, camping and fabulous toys to play with. Then came Vietnam. I was in high school and saw the war images on television so it all became less glamorous. Then there were anti war protests and chickensh!t lefties bashing the military, meeting them at airports spitting on them, you know, the baby killer remarks and all. It mattered to me a lot at the time. How brave men were drafted, went to fight, saw their buddies die and when they returned these azzholes disrespected them. It helped shape my appreciation and respect for them even more.

Then came my turn. In 1972 while attending an art school in Chicago but still living in Indiana I got a letter from the defense department requesting my presence at a warehouse in the west loop for my military physical. A friend and I had the same date so we went together to Hammond IN to get on a military bus to be transported downtown. At that time there was a military draft lottery. They drew birthdays and ranked the dates each year. The news media would cover the lottery and the rankings were published. I drew # 18, when I was 18 years old. If your number was under 100 you were sure to be drafted, over 100 your chances were less and if your lotto number was over 200 it was less likely one would be drafted.

Some of my friends (who had higher numbers than I did) decided to enlist in the reserves. This meant that one would be on safe, active duty in the states for two years and then serve two more years as weekend warriors with a one month duty each summer. Some enlisted in the Navy because the Navy didn't have much of a combat presence in Vietnam. I decided to take my chances. If I was drafted I was going in. The war was winding down so I figured if I was drafted by the time I had been through training my chances of seeing combat were low, at least that's what I did to convince myself of not dodging the draft or running off to Canada. Another option was to walk in and enlist. In doing so one would serve a four year term but most who enlisted spent time in Germany, Japan or Korea, avoiding combat zones. Not for me, two years would have been enough.

At the warehouse we registered and were processed. There were many colored lines painted on the floor with arrows. We were told to "follow the (insert color here) line" and proceed to the next station.

Urine tests, blood tests, hearing, eyes, they did everything. We took IQ tests, filled out forms and the ordeal took the entire day.

Some wiseguys had taken drugs and did everything they could do to fail the exams. Some talked about it openly. What they didn't know was if they failed a test they were put up in a fleabag motel on the west side, sequestered, and tested again the next day.

We got on the bus had headed back to Indiana. Two weeks later in the mail came my draft card listing me as 1-A. It appeared as if I was going into the military when the letter told me to call a phone number if I intended on being out of town for more than three days. My dad, who was a staunch conservative, told me that he would help me if I didn't want to go. His comment floored me since I knew how he would cuss out the "filthy *#!**dam*(&@" peacenik hippies" demonstrating on television. I told him thanks, but no. If they wanted me I was going and no way would I sign up for the reserves. I would take my chances. A month or so went by and President Nixon decided to end the draft, preferring to go with an all volunteer military. He earned my vote in the first election I was eligible to vote in.

To this day I always felt as if I missed out on something not being in the military. I would see reserve units driving in convoys during the summertime going on training mission and it left me with an empty feeling. I always liked camping, guns and fun toys.

To any current or former member of the military who may read this you have my total respect. Thank you for all you do.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

NFL Flip Flops

Just a bit ago I wrote about how the State of Delaware approved parlay card type gambling on NFL and NCAA football games. Both the NFL and the NCAA were upset at this, and the NCAA has threatened to remove championship games from the state (if they haven't done so already). So what does the NFL do next?
Well, of course, they approve the Redskins to put their name on an instant lottery ticket of some sort in the state of Virginia. As a matter of fact, the NFL, being starved for revenue, has said that any team may do this.
So let me get this straight - it is OK for the NFL to market it's teams in a state lottery where people pick stupid random numbers, but it is horrible for the NFL to market it's teams on parlay cards? Whatever.

Farmer Dan - Hay and Pork

A little while ago, I purchased a small parcel of land, just under 20 acres. This was a big deal for me, as my whole life I have pretty much banked every single penny I have ever made, preferring to "live small". On this parcel are a few buildings, one of which we are rehabbing (the old barn). Oh the surprises you run into when rehabbing an ex-dairy farm. But those stories are for another day.

Approximately 15 acres or so will be farmed as hay. We expect 2-3 cuts this year. The entire crop is pre-sold. We are paying a local farmer part of the crop to cut and bale the hay. I quickly have found out that a lot of bartering is done in the world of farming. "I will do this for you in exchange for that" goes on quite a bit - and neither "this" nor "that" are actual money. Typically these are labor for product exchanges. As a matter of fact, my hay crop is being sold to a person who we are not receiving money from. We will be receiving services instead.

I like these sorts of transactions, since it takes me to places where I normally don't go - in my daily life, it is all about exchanging product for money, or money for product. Both types of transactions (money for product and labor for product) are interesting informational exchanges.

It has always been important to me to have my house looking top notch outside. Now that I have fields, I want them to look top notch too. I contacted the UW Ag College here in Madison to get information on my hay fields. After getting footballed around a bit I was finally referred to a local expert on these matters, who agreed to meet me at the farm (I almost hesitate to call it a farm, it is so tiny) and look at my fields. As a great bonus, he will be writing up a report for me, and this activity is all TAXPAYER FUNDED. He is going to list the different types of species of grasses that I have, recommend fertilizers if needed, and suggest other field management techniques.

My alfalfa hay is a typical hay/grass mix and I was told that it looks pretty darned good. The mix is alfalfa, orchard grass and Kentucky bluegrass. I was amazed that there was Kentucky bluegrass, but apparently it is very common in hayfields in this part of the state.

That mix covers about 12 acres of my production, and I have a pure grass field (no alfalfa) on the other 2-3 acres. I was not sure what to do with this as most cattle farmers/horse people prefer alfalfa hay. I was very interested to know that my options are many with this grassy area. I had a great conversation with the "hay dude" and he informed me that most horse owners are under the impression that alfalfa hay is the bomb for their horses, when grass hay, like I have a couple of acres of, will do them just fine. The problem is convincing the horse owners of this. Beef cattle eat grass hay in and around this area as well. The hay dude told me that there are farmers that would probably do a "come and get it" bargain, where they would harvest the grass hay and take it away in exchange for the product (labor for product, again). It really isn't worth much on the open market. The alfalfa hay is worth a decent amount.

So, in the end, there are a lot of things I can do with my grass hay area, from finding people who want it for horses or cows, to having a controlled burn, to managing it as a birding/wildlife area. This idea is appealing to me as I love birds and know that I have pheasants on the land as I have several photos of them on my wildlife camera.

For those who don't know, a wildlife camera is one that you mount to a tree or something, and takes photos activated by motion. I usually leave it out there for a week at a time. Wildlife cameras are also good for monitoring activity on your property and it is good to get the license plate numbers of those who trespass.

I can also "nuke" the whole grass hay field with a chemical like Roundup and plant an alfalfa/grass mix there for more income. Time will tell.

I also mentioned to the hay dude that I have seen many farms cutting their hay already for the first cut - he said that they were nuts. The alfalfa he looked at on my farm was a good 7-10 days from maturity. Those who cut already have lost a lot of tonnage. But if you wait too long, the alfalfa is harder to digest for the horses, who apparently have weird digestive tracts anyway. Oh well, I will leave it up to the farmer I have hired to harvest it to do it right, and I am glad that he hasn't harvested yet.

I am very grateful for the time that the hay dude took to educate me on the species on my land. He was a great guy and had a lot of good advice - I think he was happy that I was taking such an interest in doing things correctly. And what the hell, I am paying his salary anyway, I guess he should be nice to me.

Also on the ag front, I was perusing the weekly Moo and Oink ad and noticed that they had "Danish" spare ribs on sale. I thought this was some new marketing technique so did some digging. No, they are really from Denmark. I did a little more digging and found out that the Danes have an immense pork industry and that they export all around the world. This is a short writeup by some folks from Iowa State University that visited there. I may have to give the Danish ribs a try just once to say I have had them, if I can find them around here. I would bet dollars to donuts that the difference in taste (if any) won't justify the trouble, even though they look to be .30 per pound cheaper. Odds are I will need to go to the Moo to get some.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Random dining thoughts

Dan has become a healthy zealot with food. I used to remember him eating a burger and fries but you won't catch him doing that nowadays. Last time we went out to a Chinese restaurant he ordered TOFU (great restaurant, by the way).

While I am nowhere near Dan's status I am trying to watch what I eat. In particular, I try not to eat what I know is bad for me or make me feel like a big bloated sloth. I was recently at Chipolte where I usually get a burrito "bol" which means that you don't get that white flour burrito, you just get the stuff inside the burrito (and I don't usually order the white rice either) which is relatively healthy or at least doesn't make you feel like you are going to explode immediately after eating. But this time... I got what I really wanted, which was a big ol' steak burrito with bad white rice inside and I just ate it up. I think that it weighted about 2 pounds in my hand which means a big pile of bloating. It tasted good on the way down but I was in for trouble, just as I expected, and most of my day was shot as I barely functioned.

But times like that are less and less frequent, even I can learn at some point.

While this has nothing to do with the post above I had to laugh in my tiny jewel when I saw this cereal box... I thought of the scene in "The Ice Storm" when the 70's sw*ngers (DEFINITELY don't want that traffic) pulled their keys out of a big bowl... and then mayhem ensued.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One Fine Day On The Deck

With hickory smoked spare ribs, one of my specialties.

Four hours to porky paradise via my Weber.

Even with many hours of commuting, spreading mulch and general garden chores, last weekend we finally found time to smoke some spare ribs. Lucky me.

Beat me daddy, eight to the bar.

I prefer the “burnt ends”. It’s a Kansas City thing. If you don't know, don’t ask.

Heading to Indianapolis for the the big 500 race this weekend. Look for quirky images to come.

Don't forget to remember and honor our fallen war soldiers.

God Bless those fine men...and may God Bless America!

Bears Season Ticket Holders Are Screwed

Interesting timing. I received this email today for both pair of my Bear season tickets. Oddly, I received this email even though my seats are non PSL's.

May 21, 2009*** Do not reply to this e-mail message as this is an unmonitored mailbox ***Account #: xxx

Dear Mr. xxx:

A letter was recently sent by the City of Chicago's Department of Revenue alleging that amusement tax is due on Permanent Seat License (PSL) transfers. It is our understanding the letter was sent to approximately 2,900 Bears PSL owners/ Season Ticket Holders who had a PSL transferred into their name between 2004 and 2008. If you are an original PSL owner, or a non-PSL Season Ticket Holder, you should NOT receive the City's letter. During a routine city tax audit of the Bears, the City requested names on PSL transfers dating back to 2004 (which we were legally advised to provide) and informed us of their intent to assess amusement tax on these transfers. The letter was sent without our knowledge or input. We have requested a meeting with the Chicago Department of Revenue in order to provide you with information and guidance. Your frustrations and concerns are understandable. We will communicate with you prior to the City's response deadline. We appreciate your patience.

Theodore P. Phillips
President & CEO

Oh Ted, this one is a laugher. What are you going to do in your meeting??? I simply cannot believe that the Shitty of Chicago will get away with assessing BACK TAXES on these PSL's in the guise of the amusement tax. But from the tone of the letter, it looks to me like the Bears are taking a very neutral stance on the whole thing. So screw you PSL holders, pay more or tell the Bears and the Shitty of Chicago to take a flying leap.

Cross posted at Fire Ron Turner.

Bear Down…And Gimme Your Wallet…Sucker...

Bend over and spread 'em.

For over a week I traveled to an on-site assignment working at a design firm in Naperville, IL. Driving 160 miles round trip took 1 ½ hours each way but the money was good. Never could I do that on a daily basis but as a freelance contract worker it was not a bad assignment.

There is a new Illinois toll road called I-355 that connects I-80 to I-90 far west of the city which made the trip easier and shorter than the terminally congested old I-294. This trip would be considered a commute between exurb and exurb with no need to go anywhere near Chicago (it’s bad enough traveling through The People’s Republic of Illinois). On this route I experienced NO CONGESTION, none.

I-355 did have a toll. Since I had no I-Pass the toll plazas charged $6 total, round trip on I-355. Add to that $1.20 for passing through a small section of I-294 and $1 on the Indiana Toll Road. The total added up to $8.20 per day. The MX5 took the trip well and driving on cruise control at 60 mph got me 31 mpg (it is claimed to get 28 mpg on the highway), not bad. All added up, one commute cost me about $16, only $2 more than a round trip from Valpo to the city on public rail transportation.

I-Pass is something I never considered since my toll road travels are few. I have read stories about the I-Pass module being able to track your travel information such as speed, destination and location. This also helped keep me away from having one. Knowing there would be at least 10 round trips deep into enemy territory I bought one. It reduces tolls by 50% making the trips less expensive than public transportation. What’s nice is not stopping to pay cash which probably took ten minutes off my travel time. Compared to the city commute it is a better deal. It takes less time but the stress of driving that far each day makes a city commute on a train more favorable, even if it takes longer.

So I will give Illinois an I-Pass on this one.

But each and every week I read about how Illinois politicians find creative new ways to dig deep into our wallets.

Today in the ChiTrib a story appeared in the sports section on how the Shitty of Chicago is set to impose a retroactive amusement tax on Bear fans who purchased personal seat licenses five years ago. A PSL back then cost $900 to $10,000 per seat and all this buys is the right to purchase season tickets for the good seats. Season ticket holders paid a 7% amusement tax on each ticket back then but now pay a 9% rate.

Dan and Carl own seats but I don’t believe they have PSL’s to own them.

How low can the Illinois government go to fleece the voters who keep electing them? Consider if you purchased a car five years ago and suddenly the city (which is looking at a $200,000,000 revenue shortfall) decides the city sticker that you purchase each year isn’t enough so they retroactively tax you on the purchase of the car. Don’t put something like this past those Crook County pudknockers.

So let me get this straight. Chicago sold the rights to the Skyway to a private firm for one billion dollars. They then sold the rights for parking meter maintenance to a private firm for over one billion dollars. Dick Daily is also considering selling Midway Airport to another private firm for even more billions and he still can’t steal enough from the taxpayers to fund a $200 million budget deficit for one year?


On top of all that the Cook County Board just voted for raising another county tax. Oh, and on top of that the new Governor Quinn wants to raise income tax on Illinois residents by 50%.

Good Lord how long will it take for Illinois voters to start stringing up the ropes? Not soon, I’m afraid.

Here's the money quote on the PSL tax from Chicago alderman Joe Moore: "They are picking a group pf folks that aren't going to get a lot of sympathy from the public".

That's the plan. Pick on people who work hard, save money and try to enjoy themselves. That's the big "FU*K YOU" from your Illinois politboro.

I am now convinced that Illinois taxpayers are so conditioned to being raped they are taking Coach Bob Knight’s advice: "I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it."