Saturday, November 28, 2009

One More Crazy Bears Jersey

In this particular case the jersey isn't what is odd - it is the SIGNATURE. This jersey is signed by the McCaskeys! What an odd thing to do, on purpose.

More Obscure Bear Jerseys

With the Bears having a miserable season we have to entertain ourselves and one of those ways is to play "obscure Bear jerseys".

Out of these 5 odd ones there are some standouts - WHO would buy a Garrett Wolfe jersey? Only immediate family members? No, really, who ran the business case that there were enough Garrett Wolfe fans out there to bother printing up his jersey, for the 3rd string running back (OK now he is hurt and for a bit he was 2nd string but that was only because AP was hurt).

And Brian Griese? The guy who was one of our hack QB's in the era of Orton, Grossman and Griese? That guy? He had his best game AGAINST the Bears when he played for Tampa Bay and threw for 407 yards in one of the most shameful defensive games that the Bears ever played. He was a guy out of gas the day he arrived at the Bears.

Ayanbadejo? The special teams guy? OK he was good on special teams and made the pro bowl but really, he's been gone for a while, and wasn't exactly the most important guy on the field.

Then you have Perry. We all know #72 for his weight, jagged smile and tenure with the 85 Bears. But that was almost 25 years ago, and he wasn't that critical a guy relative to Dent, Payton, etc... more remembered as kind of a goofball joke than anything.

OK, Grange was a superstar. But look at the age of the guy with the jersey, a relatively young guy with hair and everything. What makes you pull out a Grange jersey, except to show that both the University of Illinois and the Bears both once had a running game. Really? If you were never alive to see him play even on TV as a little kid then I think you ought to put that jersey back on the rack.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Week At Winamac 2009


We just wrapped up four intense days chasing ringnecks at the WSFWA. Each year select Indiana state managed land is opened for a one week pheasant season during Thanksgiving week.

As I will always point out, hunters, fishermen and trappers add more to proliferate wildlife habitat than the collective urban “greenie” asshat movement ever will. I took this photo while driving, sorry for the poor quality.

It was a tough outing this time but at least I had the pleasure of spending quality time with my fellow bitter clingers. The weather was great and the usual suspects all showed up.

Long time bird hunting buddy Scott and his coworker friend Fred were there. Old retired John from the Indiana side of the metropolitan New Buffalo, MI area showed up too. The bro was there as well.

After hunting the Winimac state preserve for so long I recognized many other groups of hunters who were strangers to me years ago when I was a stranger to them as well. All are mostly northern Indiana boys. Their names may have been forgotten but the faces are not. When we meet we talk. We bond. As usual.

We talked about our dogs, who got their buck, the size of the rack and how big it dressed out. Some b!tched about minutiae such as a repair bill on the F-250 and the ammunition shortage last summer and that sad state of our elected fedrul gummint.

Here is an unusual pickup truck decal I spotted in our parking lot at area 9.

These are my brothers, these are my guys. We’re traditional Americans who love to hunt and fish and enjoy the spirit of the wild. For these short moments in time we were one with the ancient black earth inhaling the scent of moist fertile land with each step on a fresh new day. Sunlight pierced the early morning mist as the bells that hung from the dog collars led us through the thickets and woods in pursuit of our avian conquest.

Damn! Now I’m getting like her again. I must stop reading her blog. Somebody stop me.

OK. I’m back.

This year my buddy Scott brought his young English Setter, Penny, along for her first season at sixteen months old. Scott was so impressed with Speck in years past he was determined to have his own English Setter. He picked up his pup just days after Speck passed away. We planned on having two setters to hunt behind this year but that was not to be.

His dog Penny and my new pup Dottie share the same daddy. Next year should be a blast with two fine setters leading the way.

For some odd reason the birds at Winnie this year were widely scattered and they ran. Penny got a real workout. She had made many false points at spots the birds had recently hunkered down, that’s normal for a young setter. Experience will teach her to distinguish between weak and strong scent not wasting time where birds have left. She enjoyed every second and so did we. We needed to hunt three or more hours each day to approach our limit of two birds each per day. I was skunked twice this week, which has never happened in my sixteen years hunting Winamac.

I can’t blame it on the birds or a young setter. My shooting was awful, just pathetic. My past few months were so busy I have not practiced wing shooting at all. It showed.

This season I handed the whistle over to Scott. It was officially his hunt. He and Penny decided which areas we covered since he handled the dog.

We had a group of at least three hunters along for the ride each day and Penny impressed us all not only with her natural abilities but her discipline as well. She did as well as any first year gun dog possibly could and Scott now has a fine young dog all his own with many years of enjoyment to come. He didn’t show it but I knew he was very proud. He should be.

All the other groups of hunters we met up with in the field and afterward said they also were also having a tough time. Two hunters we know and speak with each year had four well-trained setters with them this week and told us how hard they had to work for their birds as well. I felt their pain...especially in my old feet and knees.

All in all it was a fine few days walking the late autumn fields and woods of Winamac in 2009. It’s an American tradition that I would only give up when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

While we are all about value with our cheap booze posts here at good 'ol LITGM, I simply couldn't let Carl's post about cheap, crappy wine sit up top during this day. Happy Turkey Day to you and yours from all of us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not Good Enough

Whenever I am in some area where I don't expect to see a winery (like Cedarburg Wisconsin, Carlsville in Door County, and at the Iowa state visitors' bureau) I either ask what their best LOCAL wine is or try to buy the most expensive wine they have (an admittedly imprecise measure). I don't buy the wines that they make with imported grapes, because that seems to be kind of cheating.

Well in this case... not so good. Sorry Tabor Home, but I did like their web site it is quite homey. This one went down the sink after 1/2 a glass like the "vanquished" (and the "victors", for that matter) from Dan's crappy beer challenge.

Black Belt

I have another MT test coming in a few weeks. We are spending the bulk of our classes reviewing the information we learned in the past 5 months, and perfecting some flows for the test. I predict I will do well on this one.

Tests in general are not a part of traditional Muay Thai. The traditional path was that you earn your Thai Shorts, and that is it. After that, you are what you are - either good or not at MT. But us westerners adapt and change things to suit our needs.

I have been in many discussions over the years about the pro's and con's of testing in MT. For a guy like me who will never get into the squared circle, it is probably the closest thing I will ever have to a fight. After showing our instructors all of our techniques and the flow for who knows how many rounds, we spar and do some more conditioning to show that we are in shape. Our tests really are exhausting.

I used to worry about them a lot more than I do now. But the fact of the matter is that if you have been to classes on a regular basis, you will pass the test. If you suck in the test the instructor will usually call you out, but I have never seen anyone fail. Typically, they do not let you test unless they feel you can succeed.

Sounds convoluted, but that is the way my gym works. It is universally known that we have the best MT instructors in the area at my gym, so I play by their rules. Testing is a good way to keep people focused and to keep your curriculum organized. On the other hand, there really is no such thing as rank or testing in MT. So there you have it. Problem UNsolved.

I have to admit I like advancing on the "color chart" of sashes at the gym and you get an interesting unsaid bit of respect from the beginners when you show up and strap on that sash that indicates that you have been around for a while. It hasn't changed me or my attitude a bit though. I try to be especially nice and helpful to the newbies, as I know that they are the revenue stream for my gym (so are tests - $50 each person) and I simply don't know what I would do if the gym closed. This is very UNlike how I was treated by the advanced guys when I started out 2.5 years ago. They would routinely beat me up and treated me like shit. But screw them, most (all?) of those guys are long gone and I am improving since I spend so much time in the gym. I would wager that if all of those guys showed up today I would put some kind of beating on them if we sparred. Don't get me wrong, there are some guys that have been at the gym who have been there longer than myself who have always been great. But most of them had their own little cliques and wouldn't be bothered by a beginner just trying to learn basics. I feel it is the duty of the advanced people to teach and help.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Receiving my black sash in another 3-4 years will be a big event for me. By that time, I will be the third or fourth in the gym to have that distinction. Speaking of black sashes and belts, I noticed this story today from South Korea. Yep, The One gets a TKD black belt to go along with his Nobel Peace Prize.

Nice. I would think it is disrespectful to even begin to think of accepting an award like this to all of the other guys who have been practicing TKD for many years, and don't have their black belts yet. I will note that the Prez has his right hand down - that stance (and TKD in general, imho) is so seventies. But I digress.

Hopefully this is some sort of honorary black belt. Many people take sashes and belts very seriously and train very hard to achieve those goals. It isn't that big of a deal for me to move up the color scale, but it does show progression at my gym. Accepting a black belt (if real) by our President is akin to me kicking the golf ball out of the woods for relief when not allowed. Sure your score is lower on your golf scorecard, but you know in your head that you did not earn that par, birdie, or whatever. Obama may be the holder of a black belt, but in the end he knows as much about martial arts as I do about being the President - which is to say, nothing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More City of Chicago Sweatin' the Details

Since rights of way are typically under the streets they are constantly being torn up here in the city of Chicago. The City isn't too concerned about the details, though... just throw some giant metal plates over it and leave it for a few months. As the cars drive over you hear the "cuh-chunk" of the plates banging against the cement over and over and over again. And then they kind of do a patch job, and the winter comes, and enormous potholes sprout up again.

Or this - this wooden plate has been "fixing" a hole in the sidewalk on Wells street north of Hooters for many years now. No need to do anything more than this, I guess.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Not The Hermitage

While it might not strike a note with the average reader, most people visiting this blog would recognize the Hermitage as a famous Russian museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Per wikipedia, this museum has the largest collection of paintings in the world. Many of these classic masterpieces were acquired by Catherine the Great. A film called "Russian Ark" famously went through the museum in a single take.

While walking through River North in Chicago I noticed a particularly ugly, pockmarked condo building of the hated beige variety. And what was the name of the building... the Hermitage on Huron!

Ha this must be some sort of revenge of ours against the Russians because this building is an architectural crime. Note the crap on the balconies including the satellite dishes and the particularly cheap plastic chairs that start out white and usually end up some sort of shade of dismal grey.

What's next, the Louvre on Lincoln?

Power and Demand

Over the long term, electricity use has been closely correlated with the general growth in the economy. Due to the fact that building power stations, transmission lines and siting locations for distribution facilities has a long lead time (sometimes measured in decades), utilities have to plan ahead.

One of the major pillars of electricity demand is industry. Many facilities use large amounts of electricity, such as steel & aluminum, paper and pulp making, and manufacturing plants for autos. Some facilities use so much electricity that they build their own power plants, and / or locate their facilities near cheap power (which is why a lot of the aluminum industry and aircraft manufacturing is in the Northwest, where cheap hydro power was available).

This latest recession has caused industrial usage to plummet to an unprecedented degree. The article above was in the Wall Street Journal titled "Weak Power Demand Dims Outlook". Per the article:
Electricity sales remained weak in the third quarter, prompting speculation that the sluggishness could persist even after the U.S. economy rebounds. Some utilities don't expect power sales to recover to pre-recession levels until 2012 -- if at all -- because so many factories have closed.

Some of the major utilities, such as AEP out of the midwest and Southern Company in the Southeast are seeing demand reductions for industrial use in the 15-20% range. These types of reductions are out of the historical norm for a recession.

While industrial demand is falling primarily because of a decline in industrial activity, consumer and household demand has been falling (at a much slower rate) due to a heightened customer awareness of electrical usage and also the recessionary impact on individuals.

Both of these trends will effectively put a halt on any major new generation investment in the short and medium term, I predict. If the utilities were able to run before, and 20% of their industrial capacity is gone, this will buy them a lot of time to defer costly improvements. It is true that a reduction in industrial demand doesn't necessarily translate into a corresponding reduction in "peak" demand, since many industrial users are on "interruptible" contracts already which allow them to cycle down on peak residential days (i.e. the hottest or coldest days of the year, depending on how the local market is configured), but it does represent a significant reduction.

Thus I would say that the recession has helped us to dodge a bullet as far as electricity supply goes. Companies will be able to linger on without new generation for a while longer since incremental demand has evaporated.

Along with recent reductions in the price of natural gas caused by new drilling technologies, which makes comparatively easy-to-site natural gas plants even more cost competitive with coal and nuclear plants, it seems even more remote that new coal or nuclear base load will be built except in rare circumstances. Whatever is built is unlikely even to make up for what is going out of service due to age and obsolescence. Without significant increases in demand projected, and with the prices of electricity down as a result, new capacity coming on line will likely be severely limited.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz


A few days ago I put up a rant about how bad the Illinois footbal program has been in the last 15 years. A .500 season and a crap bowl is VERY successful season for Illini fans. We are so scewed in what constitutes a good season vs. other real teams that it really is hard to fathom.

On the complete other side of this is Notre Dame. They have had a tradition of excellence pretty much forever, until the last decade or so. I hate to lump them into the terrible Big Ten conference, but it seems that they need to be, as far as comparisons go. As Gerry has said, it appears that the Midwest teams are doomed to second tier status to the Southern and West Coast teams (for a variety of reasons).

One stunning fact that I found out yesterday - if ND wants to shitcan Charlie Weis (I nicknamed him bucket o wings a long time ago - something I regret) after the end of the season, they will have to pay him EIGHTEEN MILLION DOLLARS. Also, if they totally want to start over and fire his staff, they need to buy out those contracts as well. The grand total to buyout the whole shebang and completely start over would total around FORTY MILLION DOLLARS. I understand that these coaches want a safety net of sorts, but holy cow. Why are universities signing these contracts with such immense buyout clauses?

Even more astounding is that I have heard that Notre Dame has no problem with this as they have basically unlimited money, and that their alums are an endless source of revenue. Sheesh.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Unlucky Buck


Last Friday I had a call from the bro. Cousin Tom was looking for a spot to set up a stand on the opening day of the Indiana deer firearm season. He had an alternative but our farm was much closer. He called to ask permission and to find out if anyone else was given permission to hunt the farm. My old deer hunting buddy Doug has a son who was given the keys to hunt the farm a few years ago. I gave the bro Doug’s number because Doug's son had placed a few stands on the property this year. They eventually connected and Tom was given the green light. Doug’s son was taking his chances elsewhere on opening day. Bad move.

Most deer hunters spend weeks scouting their locations and spend a lot of time and money looking for more than one prime spot to concentrate on the way Doug's son did. That's the way Doug and I always did it. Tom and his buddy Matt were going rogue. They were just out to “be there” on opening day of gun season. They spent no time at all scouting. They took a chance. While Tom knew the property well he had not spent any time studying and observing local deer behavior this year.

About mid morning (the bro can correct me here because I have not spoken directly with Tom), Tom’s buddy spotted an eight-point buck exiting the wooded hill across the harvested field from his stand. He took a shot and it was a long one.

Dan and Carl may recognize this spot. It is directly northeast of the hill where we hold Gunstock.

After Matt shot and dropped the buck they used a rangefinder to estimate the distance. It was well over 100 yards.

Muzzleloader, baby, yeah!

No way would Matt have had a chance to hit that buck with a shotgun. No way.

Tom and Matt are both hard-core law enforcement professionals. Good on 'ya.

A nice buck indeed. Congratulations, Matt!

You lucky a$$ sumbitch!

I am waiting for the freezer donation. That is all.

WSJ And Music

A recent WSJ article about Tom Petty and how he is perceived relative to his rocking "peers" caused me to instantly grimace thinking about the time a couple of years ago when I saw The Strokes open for Tom Petty in Chicago at Northerly Island and The Strokes just blew Petty off the stage. We left after a couple of Petty's songs... it was about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Well then the WSJ put together a matrix ranking Petty's peers that made me almost throw up in my mouth a bit. Everyone on that list was ancient, and very few were even creating new music anymore (or at least music that anyone was listening to). Of the individuals on the grid I wouldn't even cross the street to see 90% of them for free. And this is "rock"?

So I decided to make my own grid of actual rock music out today, with bands that are actually touring and still putting out new music that is at least somewhat relevant. I've seen lots of these bands at Lollapalooza, for which I already bought my 2010 tickets. That WSJ list of "rockers" shows the worst of music - aging nostalgia shows and useless crap. But there is a lot of stuff still going on, and a few of the old war horses constantly re-invent themselves. I had to put that grid together just to get the thought of those old fogies pushing stuff into the ground out of my mind.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Real Medical Innovation, and Closed Systems

One of the biggest follies in the health care legislation is assuming that America is a "captive system" or a "closed system". In these sorts of models (probably Hawaii is a good example) you can implement change and individuals don't have a lot of choices and thus fees or taxes can be used to subsidize wholesale change.

The truth is much more complex; individuals are intelligent, many choices exist, and people respond to incentives. In addition, companies and even entire countries take different approaches to profit from opportunities that arise from these sorts of captive assumptions.

This article from the Wall Street Journal titled "The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery" analyzes a company in India that is pioneering economies of scale on heart surgery by 1) building huge facilities 2) focusing on reducing all costs throughout the system from medical equipment to sutures 3) hiring surgeons and having them perform the same types of complex surgery over and over to become experts on that specific task 4) changing the hours of use and of doctors so that expensive medical equipment has a higher utilization rate which reduces the average cost / use.

This medical complex is already larger and performs more surgeries than their equivalent leaders in the US. The mortality rates also appear in line, although this is a difficult item to measure "apples to apples" (because it depends on how sick people are when they enter the facility).

Individual doctors at this facility also have performed the particular, complex and unique surgeries more times than their equivalents elsewhere; often surgeons do many types of surgeries rather than focusing on a single type because there aren't enough patients with the exact same malady. As surgeons do the same procedure over and over, they get better at it and outcomes improve.

There is a GIANT productivity gap between services and manufacturing in the United States and around the world. Manufacturing often measures defects using 6 sigma, meaning one error for every 300,000 or so events; from my encounters with the medical system, I would say one error for every hundred or so events would be more probable (and this is optimistic). Not only are error rates higher, but utilization rates are poorer - giant facilities that are closed at night and on weekends, leaving expensive equipment idled. Huge overheads of staff and lavish offices and inefficient billing and tracking mechanisms exist (which often get squeezed out of cost-conscious manufacturers), and the absence of standardized procedures and methods is commonplace.

The funny thing is that hospitals and most of the service industry have been this way for so long that they don't even realize that there IS a gap. Per an interview in the article:
My only issue with it comes from the fact that if you pursue wholesale volumes, you may give up something - which is usually quality

If you said this to a manufacturing expert they'd stare at you blankly; moving up to large scale production in a consistent and controlled manner will increase quality relative to do something in small batch scale in an independent manner. At least the article had the common sense to talk to others.
But Jack Lewin, chief executive of the American College of Cardiology says Dr. Shetty has done just the opposite - used high volumes to improve quality... surgeon Colin John, for example, has performed nearly 4,000 complex pediatric procedures known as Tetraology of Fallot in his 30-year career. The procedure normally repairs four different heart abnormalities at once. Many surgeons in other countries would never reach that number of any type of cardiac surgery in their lifetimes.

As far as machinery, the article notes that expensive pieces of equipment are used 15-20 times a day, at least 5 times more than in an American hospital.

The company described in the article is planning on opening a large hospital in the Cayman Islands, an hours' flight from Miami, intending to attract Americans looking for elective procedures or self-insured. There is a large profit in this sort of activity, assuming it is well planned-for and efficiently run.

Our debate on the medical bill is stifled by having the wrong goal - universal access. This sort of access to our small-scale and inefficient medical sector will just cause costs to soar and break the public purse.

Not that it would ever happen, but a better model would be to break down the current inefficient small scale model and build an efficient public model from the ground up, probably based on the VA model but also consolidating procedures, utilizing equipment more efficiently, and cutting costs throughout the system. In parallel, a private system would rise up for those who want to opt out for more customized or personalized care.

The reality is that you can't mandate what people do for their children, or in life-or-death situations. Public schools exist everywhere, but many / most people with opportunities to avoid it don't send their kids to those schools where they are poor. People move when neighborhoods get bad; you can't mandate that people live in Detroit or Cleveland (the city proper); thus problems there compound and spiral.

If the government really takes everything over then there will be giant opportunities for offshoring medical care - don't want to wait in line? Leave. And if the system wants to tax everyone as a percentage of income to pay for medical insurance, then the wealthy will have a huge incentive to leave since the actual cost of medical bills (ignoring the subsidization of others) is far lower than what
they'd pay if a 10% surcharge was put on their income all the way up.

It is sad that America, a nation of invention and entrepreneurs, is being passed up by others in the area of structural medical innovation. Certainly government intervention on a large scale will only make the problem drastically worse.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

A Christmas Brew - Part 2

Now we're brewing.

Part one is posted directly below.

I love watching the bubbles percolate through the gas lock. At times I will cup my hand over the lock and take a snort. Yummm.

A Christmas Brew – Part One

Each year the week before Thanksgiving I begin brewing two 5 gallon batches of homebrew, each one week apart. The process takes one month from brew to finish. The results are Christmas gifts for clients, family and friends and a few left-over creamy-headed pints for me.

If you really want to understand the difference between your modern bottled beer and appreciate what real beer was before megabreweries took over after prohibition, homebrewing will allow you see the “light”.

I have been homebrewing for fifteen years, the first five with so-so results. Then I discovered Bob at Kenneywood Brewing Supply Co. Kennywood began as an e-commerce site operated by Bob out of his basement brewery. Upon finding his site and realizing he lives within 20 miles away I called him to see if I could save shipping costs by picking up my supplies and he said sure. It also allowed me to pick the brain of an experienced homebrewer.

Bob is a very serious brewing hobbyist who brews a wide variety of styles and recipes for his personal use. His rye beer was by far the best beer I have ever tasted. Recently he opened a retail store in Crown Point Indiana, on the square. Last weekend I paid him a visit at the store for the first time to pick up supplies, talk about brewing, hunting, his new venture as a retailer and anything else that came up.

I settled on my old standby, India Pale Ale (IPA) and bought two kits. These aren’t kits that come in a package from a manufacturer. Bob measures a special combination of 2-row malted barley, malted barley extracts, yeast and palletized hops for me. Bob and most real homebrew hobbyists go the all grain route, no extracts. That’s a lot more work than I have time for so he puts together a sort of hybrid offering. By roasting and milling some barley and adding it to a sparge bag soaked before the boil it adds a bit of that all grain mystique and smoothness. The results are better than most beer you can buy in a store and good as any from a microbrewery. That’s why I prefer to brew my own. I want to give the best to my customers, family and friends at Christmas.

One trick Bob passed on to me early on was to pre-start the yeast culture 24 hours before brewing. Not only does this get the yeast very happy and full of love it ensures the raw beer (wort) will begin churning alcohol ASAP. Pitching in yeast that is too old or less active can ruin a batch. This happened a few times in my early brew years. Quality ingredients are important but without a very fresh, active yeast culture the end results can (and have) been disappointing. I avoid dry yeast and run with the chilled liquid based products from Wyest or White Labs. There are probably hundred different strains made for lager, pilsner, ale, porters and stout. I let Bob make the reco, He's a pro.

The grain is grown in and malt processed by a company in Wisconsin called Briess. The hops are conveniently measured and pelletized. For this IPA recipe it’s one oz. Northern Brewer and one oz. Cascade. IPA is traditionally a very hoppy brew. These hops come from the Pacific northwest. I use purified bottled water from the grocery store.

On brew day the yeast must be cranking in the chemistry flask sealed with a one-way gas lock before proceeding. At this time the most important thing is to sanitize all the equipment to be used before brewing. I use Isophor, an iodine based concentrate. Contaminated equipment promotes mold growth, not unhealthy but any mold would give the entire batch a foul taste.

Using a propane burner (the same one I use to fry turkeys) and a cheap aluminum pot from Wal-Mart I get 2.5 gallons of the water boiling. Tossing in my grain stuffed sparge bag when the water is cold and waiting until the temperature gets to 160 degrees before removing is the rule. Before the boiling point is reached I stir in the liquid and powdered malted barley extracts. This makes for a liquid sugar-bomb perfect for rapid yeast action. This is also where a boil-over hazard may occur. If the boiling point is surpassed by a degree or two the pot will boil over. It’s not a safety hazard, just a sticky, icky mess. This is why I brew in the garage. She would murder me if I boiled over on the kitchen cook top again.

Just before the boil I add the Northern Brewer hops. Boiling brings out their bitter best. The Cascade hops go in at 45 minutes after the initial boil. I could add another ounce of hops when I transfer the brew to the second fermentation but this recipe is hoppy enough. That is what I believe Miller Lite refers to as "triple hopped". Mmm...OK.

After one hour I have 2,5 gallons of “wort” or raw beer.

The wort is added to the fermentation bucket along with the additional 2.5 gallons of cold water and a copper coil. The coil is called a “wort chiller”. With one hose connected to a water source and the other a drain the coil chills down the hot wort in 15 minutes. Using the laundry tub works just fine.

After a one hour boil the 5 gallons of wort must be chilled as rapidly as possible to avoid contamination and bring it down to 70 degrees, perfect for adding the yeast culture. After pitching in the active yeast culture the bucket is ready for sealing topped off with a gas lock.

This weekend, I will be transferring this brew from the fermentation bucket into a 5 gallon glass carboy for a second fermentation and then starting the second batch.

Illinois Football - A Legacy of Failure

I have put up a lengthy post at Fire Ron Turner about the joke that is the U of I football program. Go here if you are interested.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Industrial Park Wildlife

Click photo for larger.

I have written many times about how amazing I think it is that wildlife can thrive in urban settings. In my industrial park I have seen all types of crazy things that seem certainly out of place. This time of year the geese show up, migrating from the north. We are near several bodies of water and I think they use this area to take a break from flying.

I have seen woodchucks, skunks, tons of rabbits, squirrels, racoons, coyotes, deer, ducks (etc.) and just last week these two.

This is a baby red-tailed hawk. GREAT rodent control. He is sitting on top of my eco-friendly H3. We have these on our farm property. Hopefully this guy will grow up to be as big as those - I would guess the full grown ones that I have seen are about three times this size. I absolutely love birds of prey.
My wife needed to come to the 'hood the other day and snapped this photo - this is right around the corner from my workplace (again, in the middle of an industrial park). It is a giant red fox.
We have these in my residential neighborhood as well. I would be interested to hear of wildlife that you have seen that seems out of place.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Profoundly Depressing Book

I enjoy perusing bookstores and recently saw this book that caught my eye - The "SAS Urban Survival Handbook". Readers of the blog know that the SAS are the British equivalent of the US special forces military units.

Since the book's theme is intentionally downcast and "worst case" (i.e. urban survival) I was prepared for a list of disasters and potential bad things that could happen to you. The book spares no situations, focusing on getting attacked and what to do when everything goes awry.

Through the book they also offer "sensible" solutions to avoid getting in harms way in the first place, such as not frequenting dangerous areas and particularly for women and the elderly, who are likely to lose in a typical encounter with an angry urban male, to practically stay at home or only go out in groups. And why is this? Because no one is armed, so in Britain if something goes wrong and you are smaller or outnumbered you are in big trouble. There are certainly clubs (the mayor of London recently went after someone with an iron bar) and knives and similar-type weapons but no firearms.

And here is what the book has to say about firearms, after showing page after page of fighting techniques (noting that you are in big trouble if faced with multiple attackers, or someone with a knife, or are physically smaller than your assailant):
Firearms represent more of a risk than a serious form of protection... attitudes to arms vary enormously around the world... the legal requirements in Britain, however, probably give the safest guidelines for owning and storing weapons.

This paragraph would offer more comfort to those that aren't martial arts experts and physically dominant if it wasn't preceded with page after page of dire outcomes for those that aren't big and trained to fight. Violence is certainly not rare, and it is a strange society that basically tells you to run for it and hole up in your home with extra deadbolts and not even to be outside in the first place in many situations. These are "safe guidelines"?

A sad book, indeed.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

State Tax Policies

Tax rates vary significantly by state. The states with the lowest income tax rates, and most importantly the lowest "marginal" rates (the tax rate on your last dollar of income) tend to attract the wealthy and entrepreneurs and have higher rates of growth. Florida, Texas and Nevada in particular benefit from this type of tax regime. As an Illinois resident, virtually the only positive element of the tax situation in Illinois is that we have a "flat", non-graduated state income tax rate at 3%. In all other areas (property taxes & sales taxes in particular) our rates our onerous and damaging to the business community. To see the income tax rate on a state-by-state basis, check out this site here and put in your state to see the tax brackets and the marginal tax at the highest income rates.

As states get into financial trouble, the situation is getting even worse. California has very high marginal rates, and continuous attempts to raise taxes (although the fact that tax increases must be approved by 2/3 of the legislature gives Republicans some say in that state), at a top rate of 10.3%! Admittedly this is a bit of a simplification, because states with progressive tax brackets like California typically allow for more deductions, while Illinois at 3% pretty much just takes your Federal taxable income and applies the rate with few distinctions. Changing Illinois to a graduated rate requires changing the state constitution, which is a big barrier to never ending schemes to move to this type of arrangement. Another factor on state taxes is that they are deductible against Federal taxes, although in fact the amount of the deduction is lower than it may appear because you have to cross the standard deduction before you can deduct the taxes, and there may be other income limits on deductions.

For wealthy individuals, the problem is acute. If you live in California, you may be taxed at up to 10.3% on your last dollar of income, while across the state border in Nevada you face ZERO state income taxes. This can be a big difference.

A recent Wall Street Journal article was titled "Wealthy Eye Rising State Tax Rates" and describes the impact of these policies:
The topic of high state-tax rates come up most often when a client is selling a business. Though a hasty move to low- or no-state-tax states such as Florida, Texas, Washington or Wyoming can be tempting, advisers say states have grown more aggressive about tracking down and collecting from former residents.

If you KNOW that you are going to have a high-tax event, such as selling a profitable business for a lot of money that has a low tax basis, then the wealthy are considering moving out of state at the time the taxable event occurs. This makes a lot of sense depending on the size of the gain and how the deal is constructed. Rather than being more competitive, this article points out that states are just getting more aggressive at counting the days in-state for people claiming out of state status and trying to shake them down for additional taxes.

The Tax Foundation is a great site that is highly recommended and has many excellent articles about tax policy. I am going to send them a donation tonight, since we are coming up on year end anyways and it is time to start getting my tax records and donations in order. If you are interested in this topic check it out and recommend that your elected representative do the same.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Trust Funds for Kids

Over at another site I run called Trust Funds for Kids which is conveniently located at

I updated performance on the portfolios that I run for my nieces and nephews when they get to be at an age where I figure that they can understand investing.

Portfolio One has been running the longest - a decade - and I am pretty proud to have a 4.6% annual return on that one, considering that the DOW has been flat over that decade (of course they have some international stocks in there so that the DOW isn't a perfect comparison group, but it is still decent).

If you are interested in investing you might want to head over there and check it out. I also have spreadsheets that I built that are pretty complicated - they measure performance including dividends, interest on money market, factor in commissions, calculate returns, etc... and a nice summary page.

Also throw in a comment or two. I built that site using Word Press and per Dan's instructions I turned on Askimet, their spam comment catcher. That service is amazing - it has caught over 1400 spam comments to date. I literally have had like 1 legitimate comment in over a year. Sigh.

Around Chicago

The guy in the Rubik's cube costume caught my eye and when I got home and blew up the photo I realized that they were protesters. Note that they were covering their faces.

It is about the season when the Christmas lights come on. Caught this photo in the North Loop.

Recently I have seen a lot of wedding parties about. This was on Saturday in mid November and the temperature was 65 degrees, which is highly unusual. I feel good for them because they could have been in snow given how lousy the weather was last winter.

This one caused a big laugh for Dan and I at the last Bears' game. Miller Lite is available in "select" bars... ha ha about 600 of them within 3 blocks of my condo.

They had an interesting display of art at Millennium Park, including these dinosaurs from China. Everyone was out for a nice Saturday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coyote Ugly Replacement

The Coyote Ugly franchise went dark here in Chicago. It used to be a lot of fun (no cover charge) and packed and then it fell apart and I think about 1/2 the franchises are dead now. The funny part was that they had a "closed for remodeling" sign up for a while which is hilarious because there was literally no furniture in there just a banged up bars where boots "scooted" and some tables that looked like they were garbage picked. The bathroom was pretty much a hole in the ground but they had an attendant sometimes, which also was ridiculously out of place.

So where to go when you just want to have a couple of bars without a lot of frills? Well there is the Boss Bar. First off, most everyone in there is "eyes back in head" drunk, which makes for entertainment. There are about 5 bartenders packed in a tiny bar so you can get a drink quickly. And they have a pool table, too.

I played a great few games of pool there after the pre-season Bears games but now my game has fallen on hard times. I went with a friend of mine and we got smoked on doubles. Lots of goofy characters there I think a few of them are outright professionals. Also decent jukebox someone always gets hammered and puts on lots of hardcore and metal, which is good while drinking the corn water and shooting stick on a battered pool table.

That pool table is one of the better pictures I've taken, quite a shot in the dark for me and my crappy tiny blog camera.

City of Chicago Sweats the Details

The city of Chicago seems to be replacing every curb on every corner. When I wrote about this recently someone commented that it was part of a legal settlement to make the curbs more wheelchair friendly by fixing the angle and installing these bumpy red squares on the end.

In typical City of Chicago fashion, they are hardly sweating the details. They obviously didn't guard the pavement while it was drying or put it up late on a Friday when a million drunks were going to stumble by so this is what was carved in the freshly drying cement.

The sad part is that this is the sidewalk directly in front of the Contemporaine, a cutting edge condominium that won project of the year a few years ago (here is the building and the award summary).

Oh and while we are at it someone was apparently thrown out of their apartment or office and all the belongings were just piled along a super busy street on Grand Avenue across from the Humane Society. This stuff sat out there for days and days. Thankfully it wasn't winter or else it would have been covered into a big block of debris-ice and sat for the season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009



On this night Mr. Cutler had a chance to earn his knipple against the Singletary 49'ers. After all, isn't that what a "franchise quarterback" is paid millions to do? I thought we had one.

The leaves are gone. Apples have been picked. The crops are in. The woodpile is full. Bloody Mary's are being poured. The rut is in full swing. The Bears are cooked.

That does it…I’m going hunting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Before and After

Today is Veterans Day, so be sure to give thanks to any vet if you run into them. Technically today is Armistice Day and I am always reminded of WW1 when I hear that term. And when I think of WW1, I think of misery and destruction - below is the famous before and after photo of Passchendaele, click for larger.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Seen and Heard at the Bear Game

As usual, there were a lot of interesting things to see and hear at the Bear game last Sunday. While not everything has the high honor of being posted at the most important site on the internet, Drunk Bear Fans, these are some interesting odds and ends.

Click on any photo for larger.

Below you see a Red Explorer with a guy standing there. These guys made the COLOSSAL mistake of ridiculing a Chicago Police officer while he was clearing traffic. The cop finally said to them "YOU WANNA BE A MAN, COME OVER HERE! YOU WANNA BE A LITTLE BOY, GO HOME". Whatever that means. Anyway, if these guys were sober they are easily the stupidest group of people I have ever seen. And if they were drunk, they are still pretty stupid.
We got to the game early as this year we park at the Adler Planetarium. By getting there super early we avoided 1) the insane cash parking line and 2) got this cherry spot right on the park. This photo sucks, but right behind those out buildings is the beach and Lake Michigan. I don't think there is a better spot to tailgate at Soldier Field than this spot.
Some parents don't even pretend to get their kids involved in the tailgating, just hope they keep themselves busy.
As you exit the lot you can't bring any bottles or cans - not sure if you can bring a cup of beer. Looks to me like Miller Lite is winning this battle royale of the crappy beers. Also, seems that the learning curve is pretty flat - wouldn't want to provide a dumpster for these empties or anything, just keep putting the same old one barrel there to get overflowed in three seconds. Then again, it is the Chicago Park District so what do you expect.
I thought this guy was super creative - rather than buying a new jersey, just get out the old duct tape and magic marker and -poof - new jersey, changed from Berrian to Bennett. Love it.