Thursday, July 30, 2009

Global Whoreming?

Inconvenient, but true.

Chicago will go on record tomorrow as the first July without a 90 degree daytime temperature and the coldest July in 64 years. The average temperature this month was 68.9 degrees. We’ve been sleeping with the windows wide open since mid June.

Out here 55 miles southeast of Chicago we have run the air conditioner only five days this year. Five days! We’re sure to be saving hundreds of dollars not to mention wear and tear on the central a/c.

Hell, not only are we saving money we’re saving the planet if our energy consumption from evil coal generating utilities is way, way down.

This follows a winter of record snowfall due to the lake effect here in northern Indiana. The first snow last season fell the first week of November and snow cover lasted until mid March.

I’ve seen the above image on the internets before. It’s most appropriate now. Don’t polar bears know that penguins should be plucked before cooking?

These bears acted stupidly. Then again, I am not known to calibrate my words.

•••UPDATE•••WGN weather forecaster Tom Skilling on his noon weather report today, July 31 said that July 2009 is officially the coldest on record since temperatures have officially been recorded in Chicago. That's over 100 years.

Cob Snob

I love living in corn country. On the coasts they get excellent seasonal sea food at great prices. But here in the Midwest for about four months we get my favorite fresh vegetable, corn on the cob. I am definitely a fresh corn cob snob and cannot get enough of it while it's in season. It makes winter a bit more tolerable.

Nothing beats fresh corn cooked the same day it’s picked. I’ve been known to drive to the farm stand on summer mornings at sun up when the pickers haul it in then quickly drive home to cook some for breakfast. If you’ve never tired this it’s indescribable.

I’ve boiled it, microwaved it and grilled it. It’s all good as long as it’s swimming in a pound of butter and dusted with a heavy coat of salt.

For years I bought corn from a farm stand about two miles away called Keel's Kountry Korner.

Ever since Pa Keel died two years ago I now have to drive a ways to find premium, same day sweet corn on the cob on a daily basis even out here in corn country. There’s a tent that sets up in a parking lot in town and the corn is good. It’s fresh picked daily but I miss going to the country farm stand, talking to the farmer folks and selecting my own corn from the big bin. Pa Keel had fresh corn each year from the 4th of July all the way to the first frost. First pickings were always the best, sweetest of the year. Pa rotated his plantings so there were different varieties through out the summer months. He even grew some rare Japanese hybrids that I swear were the finest kernels I ever sunk my teeth into.

The tent people in town bag it for you and I can’t blame them. Rude people will tear open the husks looking for the perfect ears tossing back what didn’t look perfect to them.

Who wants corn that has been mauled, abused and assaulted? This has to piss off most farm stand people. But at Keel’s Pa didn’t care. Any corn not sold went to feed the livestock.

Maybe some of it was shipped to the folks who brew Carl's favorite beer. Who knows?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Blatant Hypocrisy of Sports Organizations

News today from ESPN that the sports leagues and the NCAA are suing the State of Delaware, trying to stop them from implementing their much needed sports betting racket. The article at the link is uncharacteristically good for ESPN - and particularly stands out since it is from an AP feed.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think that the State of Delaware (or any state for that matter) should be getting involved in setting up a sports book. What really chaps my hide is the blatant hypocrisy of the sports leagues trying to get them to stop. The Vegas lobby has more power than we think, I guess.

It isn't like point shaving and/or throwing games has never happened before. One of the claims by the leagues is that this sports bookmaking will affect their games, and/or add suspicion to the results. Well DUH that isn't happening now??? I could provide a thousand links that add fuel to this fire, but anyone that even causally follows sports knows about the NBA ref scandal, and the list of illegality goes on and on and on.

Here is a great money quote from the article:

In a letter to Goodell, obtained by The Associated Press, Democrat Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, the lead House sponsor of legislation bringing sports betting back to Delaware, mentioned:

• The annual Las Vegas Bowl college football game.

• The Maloof family, which owns both the NBA's Sacramento Kings and the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

• A marketing and promotional partnership between the New York Mets baseball team and casino company Harrah's Entertainment at the Mets' new ballpark, CitiField.

• The NHL holding its annual awards ceremony at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

• Promotion of gambling on NFL games on the Web sites of networks that broadcast the games. Schwartzkopf's spokesman cited point spreads and game picks made on the sites.

This is just the tip of the ice burg, but Schwartzkpof hit the nail on the head. Today's sports and the betting world are irreversibly intertwined. Why don't we all just get over it and let private companies set up nice, cushy sports books like they have in Vegas? Anyone who wants to bet can bet already at a bar, or with a bookie, or on the internet, or they can just as well head off to Vegas for a weekend of debauchery and place their bets there.

Why, Oh Why?

I am not much for political posts as they always draw flies. But this has me totally outraged.

Our fearless leader will be hosting a black guy and a white guy to waste a bunch of time on a NON FEDERAL issue. Guess The One really put his foot in it this time.

I don't really have the time to care about that, but I do need to comment on The One's choice of beer for the "beer summit". BUD LIGHT.
Bud Light did make it to the final 8 of the CBC, but dammit, dude - the leader of the free world and that is the best you can do? How about some New Glarus or Sprecher, or ANYTHING DRINKABLE? Sheesh.

Note - several more parts are done on the CBC, and will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Click any photo for larger.

I am not sure how these people got my name. Probably the Bears sold my name to them from their season ticket list.

Anyway, I received this package of sh1t from a company called Before even looking I am going to guess that this company is from a different country. More on that in a minute.

Internet gambling is pretty much illegal here in the States. I think this is because there isn't yet a good mechanism for the feds and states to get tax revenue, but that is a different discussion for a different day. The fact remains that the casino lobby and others have squashed internet gambling for the moment as far as legality goes.

This company was kind enough to even send me their pinup of the month - they didn't even have a made up name for her and they didn't even give her a title - like model of the week or something. Just a plain old photo of her on the outside of part of this flyer. On the reverse of the pinup girl is this years NFL schedule.

What made me even open this packet of crap up was this bastardization of the NFL logo on the front of the envelope.

Now if there is one thing that the NFL won't stand for, it is the tweaking of their logo. I think that this snafu will get in more hot water than all of the other betting revenue they are hauling in from the NFL productions.

Also on the reverse of the pinup girl, they actually used a photo of an NFL player (it happenned to be a Dallas Cowboy) and the word "NFL". Usually they use generic terms such as "football".

Many advertisers around Madison participate in giveaways associated with "Green Bay", as they don't want to pay the NFL or the Packers royalties to use their names. And they NEVER use the trademarked Packer or NFL logos in these contests. It is always "win a pair of Green Bay tickets" or something like that.

So lets check out from their own website: games are fully licenced by the Government of Curacao Netherlands Antilles, are subject to the laws and regulations of the Government of Curacao Netherlands Antilles. The Curacao standard of regulation is largely consistent with that of the United Kingdom, though does more than meet the stringent conditions laid down by the Government of Curacao. Furthermore, the company adheres to the code of behavior defined by the Government of Curacao which prescribes rigorous standards with respect to security as well as a responsible attitude towards issues such as protection of minors or gaming addiction.
The Government of Curacao Netherlands Antilles. That is a mouthful. I like the "stringent conditions" part.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Weird Chicago July 2009

More weird Chicago pictures for July 2009...

On the upper left - one of those Chicago trolleys, carrying a wedding party during the middle of the day. Sometimes at night I see the bachelorette parties renting them too, with blow up dolls to boot, but I am not a fast enough photographer to get those shots. On the upper right - Agent Provocateur has a Chicago store on Oak street on the second level and the ad display is a bit "cheeky" to continue the bad pun... and what is it with those crappy plastic chairs out front? If you link to their site my recommendation is that you don't do it from work.

Lower left - if you are going to buy a car that lists for more than $170,000 new, a Bentley Coupe, for God's sakes PLEASE learn to park it. Note the rear wheel completely up on the curb - I can't imagine what replacement wheels and rims would be for this car or what kind of hair-raising noise that type of parking job would have made while it occurred. Lower right - DAN - seeing as how Miller Lite won its round against pathetic competition in your crappy beer challenge, apparently we all have to "protect" our investment.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Whiting PierogiFest 2009

The annual Whiting PierogiFest was held again in historic Whiting Indiana this weekend. It gets better each year. We went Friday night and had a ball. Everybody was drinking and that’s not unusual but when more than half of the crowd is over 50, that’s really something to see.

This year Mr. Pierogi was sporting a soul patch.

The Polish 1%’ers showed up.

So did the headliners of a titty bar from north Hammond who brought along their fake pierogis.

CBS2 Chicago weatherman Steve Baskerville serves as the annual Grand Marshal.

Coach Lou Holtz made an appearance.

My favorite is Ted Tomczak’s Take Five polka band.

I think of it as an Eastern European Bloc Party. The past few PierogiFests were documented here here here here and here.

The best part is Friday’s Pierogi Parade. People of American-Polish, American-Slovak and American-Czech descent all show up to make fun of ourselves. In these politically correct times more Americans of ethnic heritage should lighten up a bit. But that’s not to be since politicians aided by the media play identity politics in order to divide and enrage those among us who feel entitled to special treatment due to their ethnic origins.

While growing up during the 50’s and 60’s in a very ethnic enclave in far northwestern Indiana the elders in my family held on to their Polish traditions. I am ½ Polock and ½ Slovak. Every wedding reception was held at an American Legion post or a VFW hall and I went to dozens of them as a kid.

Every wedding reception had a live polka band performing and I remember the events fondly. An accordion or two, a sax, trumpet, base and drums was good enough but what tipped it in was the bad vocalist. I think my wedding in 1976 was the last one I have been to that had a live band. They played polka music too.

Polka music brings back youthful memories of overweight sweaty drunken relatives dancing in an in an old rental hall with no air conditioning and thick tobacco smoke hopping around and drinking shots of whiskey or brandy between tunes. Blue hair old ladies with thick ankles and old men in pastel leisure suits could sure cut a rug after chugging a few. Real polish sausage, galompkis and pierogis swimming in carmelized onions and butter were always served as the bill of fare. People were in deep conversation peppered with deeze, dems and doze. As in “doze guys over by dere ain’t got nuttin on deeze guys over here”.

Polka music is similar to Cajun and some Mexican sounds due to the similarities in instruments used. If you're in an area with live polka music and you don't feel like drinking heavily and acting like a fool then someone needs to hold a mirror under your nose.

This Frank Yankovic video is the closest thing I could find to replicate all those weddings I went to as a youngster.

Hoop dee doo, hoop dee doo....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Around Chicago

This is something you don't see in the suburbs every day. Apparently someone smashed the window of this car and stole the city sticker. They must have replaced the window and then they just put that sign up saying that their sticker has been stolen for the police. Funny.

Whenever I see a moving van like this I think to myself "someone is having a worse day than me".

Millenium Park Free Concerts

At Millenium Park in Chicago they have great free concerts on the lawn most nights during the summer. Here is a list if you are interested. On Thursday it rained a bit but cleared up and they had a world music concert. Even if you aren't a big fan of the music you can picnic and have a glass of wine (they now have a restaurant stand near the stage and you can buy a cold beer or glass of sangria if it is hot - sometimes that is better than wine). Note that if you double click on the photo above so that you can see the detail and look at the Smurfit-Stone building in the upper left (the white building with the two triangle tops that are "split") you can see some scaffolding up there - apparently they are fixing windows or something - must be interesting to work up there.

The world music concert seemed to bring out the "twirlers" and people were having fun. I haven't been to a "jam band" concert in forever so maybe this is common but I hadn't seen it before. A good time was had by all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Conflict Avoidance

Tam puts up a pretty darned good post about self defense. In it is nothing that talks about what type of gun or knife or baton to carry. Instead it talks about where you should NOT be. Great advice, I encourage you to go read it. Many people don't realize that self defense starts in your head - staying out of potentially bad situations is your best weapon imho as far as self defense goes.

This is the money:
So, there you go: Stay away from people who habitually break laws. Stay away from places where people who are breaking laws tend to congregate. If you want to move on to being an advanced practitioner, we can start talking about alertness color codes and training and carry permits and such, but the above steps should have you well down the road to a safer life.

I have come to realize that in the life I live the chances of a random act of violence are pretty slim. But I live in a nice area of the country, with low crime rates.

This is no excuse to not be in shape (run like hell is my best defensive technique) or train for self defense (at least I have my MT). But you gotta think about where you are. Having a fondness for the occasional rock show and/or cocktail at a local tavern are my highest probability places for getting in a confrontation, and these days I am much more careful about where I end up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


And the livin's easy...

Cracker at River North Fest

The River North Association in Chicago sponsored one of those outdoor festivals that are everywhere in Chicago in the summer (the few months when the weather is tolerable). They set up tents and had a band and beer trucks at Erie Park which was constructed along the Chicago River across the water from the giant Chicago Tribune printing plant. Unlike most of the fests, where the food consists of the usual items like corn on the cob and hamburgers, there were a lot of choices from good local restaurants and for alcohol they even had Sangria and what looked like an OK wine selection (for outdoors, y'all).

The band on Sunday night (when I took this photo) was Cracker, that band from the early 90's. As I was listening, the first thing I thought of was "where do you find a band like Cracker for your local fest?" - is it on Craig's list or something? Do you post an ad? But my skepticism was soon won over as I realized that I actually liked and remembered a lot of their songs.

My favorite is "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" for the great lyrics
Cause, what the world needs now
is another folk singer
like I need a hole in my head.

Cause what the world needs now
is a new Frank Sinatra
so I can get you in bed.
Even though this song is getting up in age (17 years old!) that is a solid sentiment... now that I have HD I tape the HD Videos on Palladia and there seem to be a lot of the new generation of sappy folk type singers with an acoustic guitar sitting out on the sand... can't fast forward through them fast enough.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Beer Synchronicity

Here is Budweiser out of a plastic cup...

Weird Colorado

Here is a bar in Glenwood Springs Colorado named after Doc Holliday the famous gunfighter. Unfortunately no sound effects along with the shooting.

Here are some other oddball sights... in the upper left - EVERYTHING apparently costs more in Aspen - even their water (poor Boulder, CO). In the upper right - aliens have commandeered the house out in the sticks outside Crested Butte - although I'll bet that alien is disguised as a dirty hippie in there if you look really close. In the middle left - the "Love Shack" is right in down town Crested Butte and it even has a web site right here; might be fun some time (and well located). I don't know exactly what the "pig truck" is trying to accomplish in Leadville, but am mildly amused by the handicapped sticker on this monster(ish) truck. On the lower left - they are very particular about their altitude in Leadville, noting that it is TWO miles high as far as liquor goes (the mile high baseball field in Denver has a line in the upper deck indicating there mere one mile status). And finally, in the lower left, that species known as the coug*r (don't want the traffic) await Kevin Costner's band in Aspen... I didn't even know he played (hasn't had a movie hit in a long time).

Cross posted in Chicago Boyz

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Welcome To The Wonderful World of Blogging

A blog I read on a fairly regular basis had a very strange quote on it the other day. I won't repeat it word for word to avoid any searches, but the gist of the quote was that this person needed a break from blogging. One main reason was to take care of other pressing business.

OK, I understand this perfectly. On this blog you will see one of us authors disappear for a week or two at a time for vacation, because we are busy, or for whatever other reason. What the heck - we aren't getting paid for this.

However, the main reason the author seemed to need a break was that this person didn't like it when simple, stupid posts had a large trail of comments, but posts that took a lot of time, research and emotion dumped into them would have two comments.

I had to laugh. But I was a bit perplexed. This particular blogger was one that I considered pretty sharp and talented. Maybe just talented.

I can't count the number of times that I have done hours and hours of research on a post, only to get one or two comments.

Conversely, I did a stupid post on my shaved head that got picked up by a couple of large blogs for whatever reason, and to this day (several years later) we still get traffic from it. I call them Br1tney posts. Br1tney posts ALWAYS get more comments than Einstein posts. Unless you are some sort of established political blogger or hot shot journalist that has a blog, your comments will usually be limited - unless you are talking about Br1tney (some people call it cat blogging).

When blogging on an amateur level, i.e. not for money, every post you put up should be for one reason and one reason only. To further yourself. Anything else you get is just gravy.

And in the end, we are all sort of working on our best buggy whips. I really don't think I see blogs even around in 5-10 years.

Texas And London

I am a subscriber and a regular reader of the Economist despite their maddening tendency to recommend US presidential candidates that are left-leaning. The Economist is very useful on business and international issues and their US focused articles sometimes have a candor and simplicity that is lacking elsewhere.

A recent cover story titled "America's Future - California v. Texas" described the falling fortunes of virtually bankrupt and high-tax California against the high flying economy of Texas. In typical Economist style, there is a one-page editorial type summary of the article in the front of the magazine and then two special sections on California and Texas, respectively.

One critical element of the story, however, is mentioned nowhere in The Economist's article - that is of personal freedom vs. state control.

London, as anyone who has visited recently will tell you, is completely blanketed with security cameras. Virtually the entire city is under surveillance. At the same time, London has completely disarmed its residents of any firearms. Even the police, for the most part, are unarmed (although they do have heavily armed police at the airport and on call for other types of engagements). And building anything in London is difficult and slow, with myriad restrictions; notably they limit the heights of buildings and also require extensive open spaces outside the cities. London also has a famous congestion tax, which hits all drivers who enter the city limits and is managed through a vast system of security cameras, as well.

It isn't fair to say that everyone in London is behind all of this; but these facts are generally accepted by the populace and aren't likely to be changed any time soon.

The Economist basically reflects many of these views; they support free markets but with a huge dosage of state control. They have limited use for other types of freedom, such as the right to bear arms, or to live your life in private, or to drive where you please without paying inordinate taxes.

In these items they can feel a similar kinship with the liberals that run California. California has implemented their own "green" policies and controls on businesses where ever possible. Gun control and limits on ability to build or expand properties (except those that they already own, of course), are their stock in trade. California has high taxes (like London) and is marked as the least favorable business climate in America. Unions are viewed positively overall (or at least accepted) among the California liberal elite as well as London.

The interesting thing is that as The Economist looks to Texas, they miss out on the larger context of what "freedom" means. While London has no guns, Texas has essentially empowered their own citizens and businesses to arm themselves. When I lived in Houston about a decade ago, not only was concealed carry widespread, most larger businesses (pretty much every large grocery store or big restaurant) had an armed security guard at the door. Other laws, including "stand your ground" have been implemented in Texas in one of the most liberal senses in the US. A local bank near where I lived had a guard who was lauded because he saw robbers (guys wearing masks) coming up towards the bank and he shot them in the driveway before they even entered the bank. There were so many stories like this down in Houston that I don't even think they all made the paper - most of what I heard came from friends or colleagues.

In addition, Houston had no zoning whatsoever when I lived there. Near my apartment was a home for the blind, a large factory, and other buildings inter spaced together. Not far from our apartment was a 60+ story skyscraper, sitting virtually alone in a business neighborhood. Zoning in other parts of Texas was limited, as well.

Since there were no unions in the construction trades (that I was aware of), buildings were put up in an unimaginable time. In the mid-1990's I saw a PF Chang's on Westheimer Road built in what seemed to be just DAYS - they put up spotlights and worked around the clock - it was amazing. One week I left to travel and it was a parking lot and I came back a week later and the exterior was largely completed.

Texas has always leveraged its energy resources - laws are friendly to drilling and oil and natural gas are a backbone of the economy. California, by contrast, does all it can to ensure that no one drills offshore or otherwise extracts or transports energy in the state. Texas also "walled off" their electric grid from the rest of the US and worked to ensure that there was adequate capacity, while California failed to invest and actively tried to shutter key electric plants (such as their nuclear plants).

I think that there is a lot more to the changing of the guard in America's economy from California to Texas than The Economist understands - they ought to move down to Texas for a few years and get a first-hand education. Freedom includes the right to bear arms, a lack of unions, and a general freedom to improve your property without intrusive state control. Also note that freedom includes a limited role for the state, and California has the highest personal income taxes in the nation while Texas has no income tax.

It is hard to believe that they wrote these articles without highlighting these key differences as to why California was declining and Texas rising - they mentioned demography (net inflows and outflows of residents) - but they didn't discuss the CAUSE of the demographic changes, which include:

- high taxes vs. low taxes
- minimize energy use vs. leverage existing resources
- heavy business regulation vs. light business regulation (unions, zoning)
- limited rights to bear arms vs. highly armed populace

The Economist should open their eyes to the full picture of what works and what doesn't. A heavy handed state drives away new business and entrepreneurial leaders, and unions and government squeeze the rest until it all falls apart.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Camp Hale Colorado

Recently I was in Colorado and drove past what was "Camp Hale", which is where the US 10th Mountain division trained during WW2. There are a few nice historical signs on the site for those that don't know the history of this division, which fought in Alaska (when it landed on an island recently evacuated by the Japanese) and Italy during WW2. Here is an excellent chronology of the division in WW2. On page 30 of that PDF, you can see the casualty figures for the 10th Mountain Division - over 25% of the division's men (including replacements) became casualties during the late 1944-early 1945 battles in Italy.

There were 4 plaques by the side of the road - here were the first 2, one with training and one with their WW2 activities in Italy.

It is hard to imagine today that once this base housed almost 16,000 fighting men. Today there is only a lush valley with a few trailers and odds and ends remaining. Apparently there was an effort to remove unexploded ordinance in 2003.

The area in Colorado where the 10th Mountain division trained seems kind of remote even today. It must have been difficult to build and re-supply this many men in the dead of winter with pre-interstate travel in Colorado in that mountainous area. The logistical achievements of WW2 were immense... and to think nowadays we can't site a road or power line without going through a thousand hoops and taking a decade to do so.

Cross Posted at Chicago Boyz

PBR in Colorado

You can tell you are getting older when you can't understand what the "young kids" are doing these days. About 5 or so years ago, when I noticed a resurgence in just-out-of-college age folks drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon out of cans, I had one of those moments.

For some reason PBR was KING in many areas of Colorado on a recent trip. It was everywhere. Here in Leadville at least they got the price point right... you may have a vile metallic taste in your mouth and a dire headache the next day (or even immediately while you drink it) but at least you aren't paying a lot for that muffler, so to speak.

Hunting For A Dog

The point in life has come again for me to hunt for a new dog and that’s not an easy thing to do right now. I am a dog person and being without one leaves a big hole here in the old country bunker.

My best friend and gun dog Speck passed away on June 2. She was my third bird dog so when I say she was a very special dog it’s from years of experience. For another dog to take the place of that kind of exceptional companion takes time because she is one hard act to follow. Just any dog won’t do. The first thing that needs to be dismissed in my mind is the desire to replicate Speck. As much as I would like a duplicate of her that would be asking for the impossible.

Here's Speck on point, backed up by two outstanding English Pointers

This past week the wife told me that living without having a dog in the home was getting old. She was the reason I have not started seriously looking for another dog. She had to be ready because Speck’s passing hit her especially hard. At first we thought it might be best to get a different dog in the sporting breed category. I prefer sporting dogs to all others and have my reasons.

We thought that having another English Setter may bring too many thoughts of Speck so we considered Brittany Spaniels. They’re cute, cuddly, friendly and will hunt their brains out all day long. Many non-hunters asked if Speck was a Brittany due to her orange and white coat. I also like English Pointers (look like setters but with very short hair) and German Shorthair Pointers (similar to English but much larger) because I have hunted over them many times and they are both outstanding breeds. But she doesn’t like short hair dogs.

Our dog must be a dual purpose pet, it has to be a cuddly and affectionate house pet and a hard nosed bird dog too. Many say you can’t have both but my last two setters proved that to be wrong. She told me last week that she’s ready for another dog so it's time to get started.

My friend and hunting buddy Scott recently purchased an English Setter because he was so impressed with Speck. He gave me the name of the breeder who lives about 25 miles south of Valpo. I had no idea a good breeder lived that close so I called him last week and made a date to visit on Friday afternoon.

His farm is at about the same latitude as our farm. The terrain looked familiar as we up drove to his place which was settled in the woods at the end of a long gravel path off the main country road. Scott was correct, Bob was a very serious breeder of champion setters judging by the looks of his layout. Sitting on 120 acres the farmhouse was new-ish and very clean. The outbuildings and barns were well-kept and the grounds were well groomed. Much of it was fenced in because he also breeds horses and uses them with his dogs to compete in national field trials. He even raises game birds used for dog training. It felt as if I were on a Texas ranch or an Alabama plantation. But I was at home, here in Indiana.

People who think of English Setters think of the bench variety as seen in AKC competitions. These are called the Laverack variety. They are larger, have thick long coats and long noses. They’re beautiful animals but not too bright when it comes to sniffing game birds. Besides, combing burrs out of a long hair dog would be a huge pain. The bird dog variety often referred to as a Llewellin style has been bred through careful selective breeding for their smaller, more muscular bodies, shorter hair and sharp sense of smell. English Setters come in mostly white, like Speck, or a combination of white and orange, white and black along with white, orange and black which are called tri-color. My first setter Mookie was a tri-color setter.

This is Buddy, Bob's #1 stud dog.

Bob’s dogs were unusual to me. I haven’t seen many setters that were about ½ orange and ½ white, some appeared to be jumbo Brittany’s. His kennels were clean and the dogs were feisty. Beyond the color of the coat I could see Speck in the face and eyes of these dogs especially the few that were white.

Being in a clean barn with tack and saddles neatly arranged and organized also said a lot about Bob and his commitment. I’ve been to breeders where the strong stench of urine and piles of crap alone chased me away quickly.

He introduced me to the dogs, there were about sixteen of them. He told me a story about each one and before I knew it 30 minutes had passed. Bob trapped a few quail, placed them into a pouch and took me to a field with Buddy, his #1 stud dog. It was so impressive to me being with a true professional dog handler and a dog that was a textbook field champion.

He asked what I expected in a setter and listened intently as I described my expectations as we walked along a dense summertime prairie thicket in full bloom. Buddy staunchly pointed a quail and as Bob kicked it into the air Buddy may as well have been a statue, waiting patiently for Bob’s command to break with a bird in the air. They call this being “staunch on point” and it’s such a beautiful thing to see.

When we parted Bob explained that he breeds once and maybe twice per year. This is definitely not a "puppy mill". But he had a friend about 20 miles south who had a litter “on the ground” with his female and Buddy as the stud. They are three weeks old and in another two weeks we may head out there with Bob to take a look. Bob said he would pick the best female for me.

I may have a new companion by the end of summer but if not so be it. I won’t hurry an important decision like this. It's not the same as buying anew car.

It bothers me when I see people buy a dog having no idea what to do with it. Soon the dog will become a nusance to them because it chews furniture, bites the kids, craps on the carpet and won’t obey worth a sh!t. Some buy expensive exotic breeds because they happen to be trendy and are looking for a conversation piece, an accessory. Others go to the pound or shelter and adopt mutts. I personally have no problem with either type of dog but I have some real problems with people.

Sooner or later people who don’t know what to do with a dog will give them up because the dog becomes too inconvenient for their precious lifestyle. The dog goes to the shelter and if not adopted we know what happens, it’s just so sad.

I can’t say enough about obedience training. If done properly on a daily basis the first year of work will yield a lifetime of pleasant companionship. The methods are uncomfortable for many and the time involved may eat into personal leisure hours but it is well worth it. I’ve done it and I know. What sickens me is the person who has no patience and abuses the dog. I would do unmentionable things to someone like that.

If you decide to purchase or adopt a pet know what you’re getting into and make the time to train it. If you don’t have the time take a pass on the dog and buy a cat or a hamster. Set up an aquarium or a birdcage if you want a conversation piece or a fashion accessory but please don’t own a dog.

Dogs deserve time, care and affection and in turn they give much more back. Dogs will talk to you with their eyes, ears, facial expressions and body language. In my case, my dogs help put meat on the table and I love them to pieces for it.

Dogs are not for selfish people.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dark Arts For Good Guys

My daily routine is pretty simple. I go to work, I come home - with some gym time thrown in there a few times a week.

The most dangerous thing I do is drive. I also like to enjoy the occasional cocktail in a social setting. My days of hanging out in bars late at night are mostly done, so the danger in that activity is extremely limited.

Next to driving, biking on narrow roads in the woods of Wisconsin is a relatively dangerous thing to do, compared with sitting on the sofa watching TV. It does get a bit hairy sometimes when you are cresting a hill and a car is coming over at the same time - they typically don't see you so well.

I would say that biking on roads is more dangerous than my Muay Thai experiences. I haven't had a serous crash yet on the bike (knock on wood) but wiping out on the bike on a downhill going 30 or 35 mph will hurt if it happens to me someday.

In all, I exist in a pretty safe place. This isn't a reason to be complacent, but in general I don't have too much to worry about.

But many parts of the world are different, and the things there operate much differently than things do here.

To that end, James turned me onto a blog that gives you some great advice on how and what to do in certain situations. Straight Forward in a Crooked World has had three parts so far on the "Dark Arts for Good Guys". We have already had Bribery parts one and two and we are now onto Flight and Fight. I highly recommend this blog and this series in particular. Much of this information applies to the US as well.

Disclaimer - I don't know the guy who is writing at SFIACW so can't vouch for him. But the advice sure sounds like it is written by someone who knows what he is talking about.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just Another Day at the Office

Wowsers was last night a long one at the gym.

I got there at 5.30 and ran our best fighter through five 5 minute rounds of pads. If you have never held pads for that long, it was tiring. He is in training for a BIG fight coming up in several weeks. Our fighter class is typically from 8-9, but he has been coming in early since he just had a kid. I was happy to help him get his work in so he could get out of the gym and home to his new baby. One of the higher ups in the gym pulled me aside and thanked me profusely not only for the work I have done with him, but all of the work I have been doing in general. It was a good feeling.

After that I did our strength training. Then was my normal MT class. We are doing some advanced flying techniques, and BOY do I suck at them. I really will need to work on them a bit before class in the future.

Then while the instructor was doing a demo he got a bit lazy and kicked me in the chest. I was holding the pads correctly, but his kick was low and slid under them (we were demonstrating a jumping thai kick) and crashed into me. It took my wind for a minute or two. The instructor realized what he did immediately and apologized. It reminded me what lunatics the guys who get into the ring and do this stuff for a living really are.

A bit later in class, I was holding the pads for what we call an "excecute kick". This kick is where you take a full step to the right or left and try to bury it into the opponents thigh. You hold for the kick by holding the pads behind you, right around your butt. The kick should come in an up to down arc, as if attacking the thigh. Well, my pal did this execute kick with everything he had right into the small of my back. I had to take another moment. He also apologized profusely.

So after all of this, I ran the fighters class as we are down an instructor. The owner of the gym thanked me profusely again. I was sore but happy. I don't get paid anything but the satisfaction of great workouts and being able to help the gym. And seeing my fighters win.

But MAN will I need the Advil today. Oh well, nobody ever said that MT was a non contact sport.

On the bright side, my sparring went extremely well yesterday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

IF You Can’t Say Anything Good…

…don’t say anything at all.

So here goes.

I do not agree with this man whatsoever. But one thing I like, and IT IS ONLY ONE THING PERIOD.

We both like the Chicago White Sox.

Tonight The One Who Must Be Obeyed threw out the first pitch in the MLB All-Star Game wearing a White Sox warm-up jacket. B.O. is a southpaw. Who knew?

Oh well. Polyticks makes strange bedbugs.

ATC, Getting Things Done

Usually Carl is the one with the interesting energy posts, most of which are about the doom and gloom that is going to befall us here in the US since we, in general, are not creating any new plants, nor upgrading our transmission system. I should start off by saying that I am no expert in this field, just a reporter on events.

I have noted in the past that here in Wisconsin I believe that things are better than in most places. The reason I say that is because of companies like ATC.

After five years, ATC has finally been granted permission for a new transmission line across Dane County, following the Beltline route.

For those that don't know, Dane county is the home to Madison, and the beltline is the major east-west highway that crosses it. I don't know how ATC keeps getting things done, but they simply do. All across the state of Wisconsin they are able to get their transmission projects through. They must have the determination and courage of a pitbull. I don't have the stones to go up against the boatloads of enviro types here in super liberal Madison, much less in more remote areas. I just couldn't stand the heartburn. I am sure that the enviros took some hide out of ATC along the way with lawyer fees, but ATC must have thought that it was worth it. The line will be 32 miles long, and is a 345k variety.

From the pamphlet:

The line will be above ground, and as part of the approval, the PSC [Public Service Commission] required the use of shorter poles near the UW Arboretum, required a crossing to the north side of the Beltline near High Point Road, and alternate pole designs and additional landscaping near the Odana Hills Golf Course to minimize the line's visual impact.
That is probably the tip of the iceburg as far as the concessions ATC had to make, but the process has begun and the project is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

As you can see from their website, ATC has a lot of projects going on right now, completed and in the works.

Transmission is an extremely part of our energy needs for the future, and I hope more companies like ATC can start to make headway against those who would try to choke the US off of cheap, plentiful energy.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Madtown Throwdown Trials

Click any photo for larger.

The Madtown Throwdown is a series of MMA events that has been held in Madison for quite some time now. They do it about every three months or so.

In addition to this, they have begun some smaller events. This one was called "Trials". There were 9 fights scheduled, and there ended up being 8 total. It never fails, someone always is a no show.

This fight was originally scheduled to be held in Columbus, WI. For reasons unknown to me, it got moved to the CC Riders Motorcycle Club here in Madison. More on that in a minute.

This was my first experience "cornering". For those who don't know, I got to help out one of our fighters in the pre fight prep and walk down with him to the corner of the ring. It was a really cool experience.

Here are a bunch of fighters in what I believe is a storage room at the CC Riders clubhouse. You can see the guys getting their hands taped.
This is usually a family blog, but I couldn't resist taking a photo of this sign in the storage room.
The venue was outside, and it was a glorious evening. I thanked a bunch of the bikers for hosting the event.
They had a bar set up outside serving beer and other refreshments to the crowd.
It was a small crowd, I would guess 500 at the most. A bunch of military were there so that was cool too.
Our guy won in convincing fashion.

I really liked the amount of respect the fighters showed to each other - even though everyone shared the same locker room there weren't any puffed chests or anything like that. Most of them were talking to each other and joshing around after they had just fought. I did see one bit of poor sportsmanship after one fight, but I guess that is to be expected. Always one bad apple.

One thing I have never seen before - I saw a fighter walking around outside having a smoke before his fight. He was not in tip top shape, to say the least.

A really great experience and one I hope I can repeat soon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Tale of Two Players

2009 stats:

Player 1:
70 games played
33 runs scored
2 home runs
15 rbi
.281 batting average
.354 on base percentage
fielding percentage .986 career
2009 salary: $1 million

Player 2:
77 games played
47 runs scored
14 home runs
32 rbi
.231 batting average
.294 on base percentage
Fielding percentage .970 career
2009 salary: $17 million
So who is the better player?

Lets break it down a bit further into intangibles. I have seen player one hustle every single play he has been involved in. He storms into second to break up double plays. He turns a double play playing second base better than most. Each and every at bat he works the count. On top of all of this he is an old man.
I have seen player two about a half dozen times this year. He routinely misplays balls in the outfield. He stikes out all the time. I once saw him this year literally quit running going from first to second to avoid breaking up the double play. This was unfortunate as the third baseman dropped the ball, but still threw to second for the force out. This is a pattern I have seen with this player over the years.

So now for the reveal:

Player 2: Alfonso Soriano
Player 1: Craig Counsell

I swear to god I would rather have hard nosed, gritty player like Counsell that hustles every play than a showboat like Soriano who strikes out all the time and doesn't try his hardest - offense be damned. And look at that salary difference! Nice value, Cubs.

I am going to the Brewer game today, hope Craig is in the lineup. He is my favorite player in the big leagues right now.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How I Got My Glock Back

Don’t ever do this, kids.

Last December I went duck hunting in southwestern Illinois. My Glock 22 was loaded and in the armrest compartment where it is on every trip. I could care less if my Indiana CCW permit is void in states I pass through and Illinois is one.

Anyone who has read any of my writings on guns knows I am not a collector, fancier or expert on guns especially handguns. I don't pretend to be a know-it-all as some gun bloggers do. I shoot for fun and practice. I hunt a lot and have the right to self protection. My guns get used and I don't care if they get scratched or the wood gets nicked. My guns are tools and I only own as many as I need.

On the final day of our stay I showed the Glock to my buddy Nestor. He asked if he could give it a few pops since he lives on a farm with nobody nearby, so I said sure. He has many fine handguns in his vault but never even touched a Glock. He explained that he thought they were ugly, plastic, and just wasn’t interested in them at all. We were called in for breakfast so I set it on a high shelf in his barn.

After a classic country breakfast with our wives we said goodbye and ventured on back to the free world of Indiana with plenty of duck meat in the cooler. Once past Springfield I realized we never shot it and it was probably still on the shelf in his barn. A quick phone call confirmed it was still on his shelf. Sh!tdamn!

I told him to have fun with it and he said he would. I explained to him that a Glock has no mechanical safety, knowing he never shot one before. With a round in the chamber it’s hot. That was news to him.

The next day I inquired on how to ship a firearm. This was new to me since I never purchased a firearm that had to be shipped. Legally, I was told by my local gunshop, it must be shipped overnight FedEx from one FFL to another FFL. It would cost upwards of $150. Fonk that. I do have a backup.

After another phone call he promised to bring it with him on a goose trip south of Joliet in January. We would meet up and he would give me the gun. The trip was cancelled.

Well last week he called to tell me his daughter was traveling to Chicago for the weekend and she could meet me near where I-80 and I-55 meet. Yesterday I drove to an undisclosed location where I got my Glock back. There was no problem with his daughter carrying it. She hunts goose, duck and deer and knows her way with weapons. When she handed me the bag with the gun I asked if it was loaded. She said, “of course not, my FOID card expired and I forgot to renew it”.

I’m sure what we did was illegal in the People’s Republic of Illinois. I believe with oppressive Illinois laws if she was caught with it the police would have taken her in, confiscated my gun and she would have paid one hefty fine. Oh well. at least it’s back in time for Gunstock, the annual LITGM firearm meetup.

One last note. Nestor liked shooting my Glock 22 in .40 cal so much he went out and bought one for himself. He now prefers shooting it to his other favorite handguns, one of which is that widely worshiped, mighty John Moses Browning 1911 in .45 ACP. So there ‘ya go!

That’s almost as unlikely as a PC slave buying a Mac. Welcome to simple, easy-to-use modern technology bud!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rainbow Over Trump

Yesterday there was an amazing sight... a rainbow directly over Trump Tower. I could even see the entire rainbow from my balcony. I made a movie out of it because I couldn't get the rainbow in a single photo from end to end.

New Fighters

We seem to have a bumper crop of new fighters at the gym. As always I am there to help.

Speaking of, I have a reward of sorts coming. One of the best fighters at the gym has an MMA fight this Saturday night. He asked me to be part of his crew. I will be one of the guys who gets to walk to the ring with him, and will help out cornering. More than likely I will be the one who carries the water, towels and stuff, but I was honestly pleased that he asked me. I have trained this guy on the pads pretty strenuously for the past several months and this was his way of thanking me. I am totally stoked as I have never been ringside for a fight, and can't wait to hear the leather snapping into the flesh and bones of the poor opponent. The concensus in the gym is that this one doesn't go past one round.

But back to the new guys. There are a lot of guys training at the gym for some fights in September - our gym usually does what is called a "12 week camp" for most fights. Some of the new guys look pretty good, some look not so good. All are a bit out of shape and need a lot of work. We will get them in order, of that I am confident.

The first few rounds of training, we did some basic drills. We are still teaching the new guys how to hit pads, and what drills we like to put them through. After that there was sparring. Pretty ugly stuff. But they are new and I remembered how I looked when I was sparring early on. Timid. No self confidence. Afraid to unleash my techniques. Scared. Tight.

I couldn't take it any more and told them that they each had to go a round with me, and the others had to watch and learn. And learn they did. The new fighters were presented with a blizzard of punches and kicks from me. One of the larger guys thought he could throw me to the ground in the clinch, but my strength training paid off and he quikly found out that the clinch was "my house". The new fighters all tired toward the end of the round and then I picked up the pace.

It was a good exercise for them. They don't know yet how to be confident in their abilities. They need to get off on their angles; just walking forward and putting out techniques is so 70's.

All the time I was very encouraging and pumping them up on the good things that they did. And they did some good things. But they have a long way to go. I can't wait to see them in 12 weeks for their fights.

I told them last night that they will hate me in training, but love me when it is time for the fight. And that is true.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Chicago River Revitalized

One civic renovation project that I wholeheartedly support is cleaning up the Chicago River. The Chicago River runs right through downtown, and in fact the "River" in "River North" means, obviously, that we live north of the Chicago River.

I didn't live in Chicago decades ago but apparently the Chicago River used to be in terrible shape. Famously, the flow of the Chicago River was reversed so that foul water was pushed away from Lake Michigan (where it impacted the water supply) and down towards... well... St. Louis. Wikipedia has a nice page on the Chicago River, along with information about all the bridges that line the river and of course the St. Patrick's Day tradition of dyeing it green.

Colorful kayaks are a common sight on the River, when it isn't frozen, of course.

Here is a photo I caught recently of a wedding party that took a photo by the abandoned bridge (in the perpetual "up" position) on the Kinzie bridge. They probably had their reception at the East Bank Club which is only a block or so away (I don't think that the bride walked that far in her dress).

Finally - here is something odd. A "fish hotel". I saw this near a bridge and down by the waterline and had no idea of what it was. A guy seemed to be "sweeping" the water near the edge. I looked online and it provides sanctuary for fish - here is a link to an interesting web site describing the function, which apparently has been going on for several years, since this site references 2006.

Realism on Alternative Energy - Wind Power

Today Reuters posted a story called "Pickens backs off wind farm project"
Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens has called off plans to build the world's biggest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, the Wall Street Journal said.

Pickens said the wind farm project was scuttled partly because of the lack of adequate transmission lines to carry the electricity from remote locations to cities, according to the paper.

The oil tycoon had hoped to build new transmission lines but could not secure financing, the paper said.

This paper neatly summarizes the impossible economics for most of these large scale alternative energy projects, focusing on areas that aren't usually covered well by the media or academics.

One of the favorite alternative energy projects involve wind energy, basically giant windmills / turbines that generate electricity when the wind blows. Wind energy viability is determined by a lot of factors, including:

1. how much the wind blows, or more accurately, how "steadily" the wind blows at a relatively high rate of speed
2. cost of the turbines / windmills
3. reliability of the turbines / windmills (one of the major manufacturers out of India has been recalling and having issues with the blades)
4. ability to find permits to site the blades (famously the Kennedy's are blocking them for damaging the "view" off their compound on the East coast)
5. amount of subsidy that the state power commission / Federal government is providing for the energy (else they generally aren't financially viable)
6. access to transmission lines to bring the electricity back to the urban areas that are most likely to utilize this electricity
7. access to funding (debt and equity) that allows the developer to build and secure the land, materials and equipment to complete the job

Of all these items, people tend to focus on items 1-4 above, with some understanding that without 5 (subsidies or requirements to "source" a certain percentage of generation alternatively), it isn't going to just happen.

However, #6 and #7 are actually the biggest bottlenecks right now, and tied to long term items that the state, local and Federal authorities are doing the least about.

Item 6 - I would view our transmission grid the same way that you'd view the layout of factories during communism; based on a blueprint of assumptions from a methodology long since passed by. Back in the days when you could actually BUILD a transmission line, before you had to snake it around every coyote, plant, and sign of human habitation, the lines were built to connect the power sources at the time (hydro, coal, nuclear) with the population centers and large industrial areas at the time. Basically, we are talking about the 60's and the early 70's. This grid is what it is - in some places it makes a lot of sense, in some places (like near high growth areas in Nevada and California) it makes little sense - but you need to understand that it simply can't be "fixed" by a policy paper or by throwing a few billion dollars at it here and there - it would take a major project, on the order of construction of the original interstate highway system, to fundamentally "fix" the grid to map it today where the people, industry and power sources of the FUTURE will lie, and require massive amounts of political will to fight NIMBY's every step of the way to make it happen. Basically, this means we have what we have and, with only minor changes and upgrades along existing "rights of way", it isn't changing.

Item 7- access to funding for transmission is VERY difficult, for a host of complex reasons. Basically the underlying financial support network for many types of projects was taken away by "deregulation" (I use the words in quotes because it wasn't deregulated, just regulated differently), where utilities in MOST areas could recover these types of infrastructure costs in the "base" rates charged to customers. Today generation has been mostly deregulated (meaning no one is building anything except for "toy" alternative projects and gas-fired peak plants) and the local distribution company (which is saddled with buying power and makes little money in the best of times) has to front the bill for transmission. Building transmission is a lonely business - it costs billions, and all it does is lower the price of power to the end customer and can reap a "toll" along the way between the generation site and the power user. Back in the old days, utilities would invest in transmission because it is critical to reliability and allowed them to expand their revenue base, but today these super high risk investments, which face fanatical opposition from local residents, are generally beyond the pale.

Pickens basically gave up because #6 and #7 were not viable.

Reality is going to hit all of the alternative energy concepts, sooner or later.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Single Family Mansion

An interesting pastime of mine is walking past the various real estate signs in my neighborhood watching them "one up" each other. Here is something even I saw that struck my eye for a condominium development - a single family "mansion".

Here is an example of a single family mansion (that is part of a condo development) in River North. You can see a building that looks like a two flat on top of the parking lot in this building, about 10 stories or so off the ground.

That would be ODD to live there. You would go into a condominium entrance, get on an elevator, get off, and go into your "house"? Who are your neighbors? It just seems like a really strange idea. Why wouldn't you just buy a mansion "on the ground?"

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Very Best Burgers On The Grill

Everything I grilled and BBQ’d last weekend went far beyond my expectations and those of my guests. What stood out most were the humble burgers.

Burgers on the grill can be tricky. I have experimented with every suggestion that has come along from mixing spices and vegetables in the meat to grinding my own cuts to using butcher shop "gourmet" patties formed from steak tips to adding bacon, andouille sausage or even extra pork fat. Results were mixed.

Through trial and error I found it best to leave the lid off and grill them over open hot coals since covering the grill was guaranteed to overcook them. I would flip them only after juice oozed out the top of the raw side. After flipping I would wait for the ooze again and remove them from the heat and quickly serve and eat. This is grilling, not BBQing and burgers must be closely watched and coddled. The results were always a guess.

There were times when the meat was dry and hard to swallow, other times the center was raw. About 50% of the time they came out perfect. That’s a ratio that’s unacceptable to me even if the meat is cheap. My goal is 100% outstanding meals each and every time. My guess would be I am at about 90% there, not bad but not good enough.

Being a subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated I remembered a past issue with a recipe for well-done burgers. Of course it was dismissed by me even if Cook’s published it. Well-done? HA! From the bible of outstanding homemade cuisine? Well-done meat?

Undercooked ground beef can be dangerous, I know. Been taking my chances for years without incident. But due to my inquisitive food nature this well-done burger recipe deserved a shot

The Cook’s article by Matthew Card claims, “the reason a medium-well to well-done burger becomes dry and tough is because collagen, a protein in muscle fiber, seizes when heated beyond 130 degrees, squeezes the meat tissue, causing it to expel it’s juices.”

With pork and fowl brining is the best way to keep meat moist and tender, brining beef does not work the same. What to do to avoid eating a hockey puck on a bun? Card had the solution. Add bread and milk. Yep, bread and milk. Sounds like meatloaf.

But wait, there’s more! Here’s what to do for outstanding, beefy-flavored burgers that turn out delicious. I know, I overcooked them according to directions and they were by far the best burgers I ever made.

Take a slice of plain white bread and cut into ½” squares discarding the crust. add 2T milk, ¾ t salt, ¾ t pepper, one clove chopped garlic and 2 t Worcestershire sauce. Mash all ingredients with a fork.

Take 1 ½ lb. ground beef (I used 85% lean ground round) and break it up into small pieces over bread mush and mix together. Form patties (I prefer ½ lb. monster patties).

Pile coals on one side of the grill leaving a section of no coals, the cool side. Grill over hot coals for about 4 minutes, flip and wait 4 minutes more. While the onions grilled and the buns toasted I placed the patties over the cool side of the grill for another three minutes.

My daughter, who is more of a food perfectionist than I am, said these were very juicy and beefy flavored. She gave me four stars.

I suggest you give this method a try. It’s simple and doesn’t take a lot of prep. There is no way you would know the bread/milk/spice mixture was added.

Beef. The original red meat.