Saturday, July 31, 2010
I understand it isn't called bw3 anymore, it is officially "Buffalo Wild Wings". But I am an old school type of guy.
I got there around 7pm and the bar was packed, but I did see one seat. I asked the woman parked next to it if there was anyone that the seat was saved for. She said no and somewhat reluctantly and with apparent great effort moved over a bit to let me in. I plopped down and noticed that she had a pretty big rack. She had a low cut shirt of some sort on and so did her friend. They had short skirts on too. Ah, summer.
Hey, I am married, not dead.
The woman I was now next to and her friend were hammered. Like slurring hammered. Happy hour indeed for them.
I ordered up a beer and got a menu. I am not sure what the menu was for - I already knew what I was going to have - the same thing I always do (one dozen, hot, traditional). After the beer arrived and I had two gulps or so of the heavenly hoppy brew down the hatch (Capital Amber this day), the woman next to me and her friend decided to open up a conversation with yours truly. Most of it was them bitching about their husbands. They had a shot. Some sort of girly thing with whipped cream on top.
My wings arrived. I dove in and for some reason remembered what Voltaire said:
"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." My mind is a wasteland of nonsense.
After wing four or five I noticed that the two women next to me were packing up their stuff. Fine with me. Frankly, I was more interested in devouring the flesh in front of me than hearing them beat up on their husbands.
I like the visual of the cleaned wing bones piling up. It makes me feel like a caveman.
The woman next to me then asked me the following question: "Would you like to watch us make out?"
I hoisted my head out of the pile of wings, cleaned up the sauce that was now all over my face and said what any red blooded American male is supposed to say - "well, duh!".
The two women then proceeded to kiss each other three times at the bar, each kiss being about ten seconds in length. No tongue. They were drawing a crowd.
After this little show, the woman that I was sitting next to gave me a look as if she was saying "what did you think about that?" I wiped the hot sauce off of my hands and said "you know, that wasn't really making out, that was just kissing".
They then left me alone to enjoy my wings and the rest of the Brewer game.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
For the past three days The Collings Foundation set up their traveling air circus here at the local Valparaiso airport. From their website:
The Collings Foundation is a non-profit, Educational Foundation (501-C3), founded in 1979. The purpose of the Foundation is to organize and support "living history" events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation.
The Collings Foundation hosts a traveling tour of historic military aircraft that hop-scotches the country, parking at airports, offering walk-in tours of the aircraft on the ground and selling passenger rides for donations to help keep them flying. For instance a 30-45 minute flight on the B-17 goes for $425. I took the flight on it about six years ago when it cost $350 and was worth every cent. Along with eleven other passengers we wandered around the waist and bombay area as well as the nose once in flight. I even had a chance to sit in the bombardier seat and looked through the bomb sight mid-flight. It was nothing less than awesome.
The Collings group shows up at the Valpo airport each summer for a three day exposition. Mr. Collings graduated from Valparaiso High School in the 50's and I am sure that's why we are always one of the scheduled stops. The tour usually includes a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator bomber. Last year they brought along a B-25. This year what I was most interested in seeing was their newest addition, a rare P-51C Mustang. This plane is credited with winning the air war in Europe. Without the P-51, our bombers would have continued to be big, fat, slow floating targets before they reached their objective.
The P-51 was the first fighter aircraft with enough range to accompany Allied bombers from bases in either England or Italy to reach industrial German targets. They had the speed and agility to outmaneuver and defend against the Luftwaffe fighters that made our bombers big, fat, slow floating targets. The P-51C was an earlier model best distinguished from the P-51D by it's "fastback" canopy. More about the P-51 variants are here. The P-51C was the variant flown by the famous Tuskege Airmen. The P-51 is my favorite WWll warbird of all just in front of the Vought F4U Corsair. Damn, that Mustang is one sexy plane.
On Tuesday I traveled three miles to the airport with the intent of photographing close-ups of the shiny silvery Mustang. The bombers were on the tarmac and on display for many who were milling around. The P-51 was not there. I prefer to photograph the aircraft without the interference of onlookers that may add visual perspective but to me, clutter up the scene. Just as I was about to leave, the P-51 was landing and I took these shots of it taxiing toward the display area. The pilot was giving someone a ride in this two-seat configuration. The cost of a 30 minute "stick-time" flight was $2,200. A full hour went for only $3,200.
Early this morning I drove to the airport early with Nikon in hand ready to snap a few shots when spectators were not around. When I arrived the P-51C was nowhere to be found.
I asked a member of the traveling crew where the Mustang was. He told me it was in the adjacent (closed) hangar and would not be wheeled out for another hour or so. My time was short so instead I took a few shots of the B-24.
I spoke with the crew member for a while. I asked about the ride in the Mustang. My question was if the ride included maneuvers. His response was that If I told the pilot I wanted him to do loops, barrel rolls, stalls, dives and strafing runs he would take me on a trip guaranteed to make me vomit and/or crap my pants. Hell, I can vomit and probably even get laid at a Chicago nightspot with $2,200. in my pocket and have change left over. Crapping my pants was out of the question. Maybe I
didn't want it bad enough.
My mother's uncle Ed was a B-24 pilot based in Italy and lived to talk about it. She has little documentation of his exploits but when prompted likes to relate Crazy Uncle Ed stories. Uncle Ed was a career Air Force madman and pilot until the day he retired. He was also an incurable alcoholic.
As a child we visited him a few times while he was stationed at Selfridge Air Force base north of Detroit. Uncle Ed married a German woman named Gertrude while stationed in Europe after WWll. Selfridge was where he trained for WWll.
They lived in a farmhouse on an approach to Selfridge. Fighter jets, cargo planes and even bombers were constantly flying into the base at very low altitudes over the farmhouse. Capturing my imagination would be putting it mildly.
Aunt Gert worked at a local German theme restaurant called Old Heidleburg and they owned a viscous Doberman. They were quite the couple.
My father-in-law was a navigator on a B-17 based in England. I don't know how many bombing runs it took before the officers and airmen were dismissed and shipped back to the states but he served his full duty before being shipped back to teach younger navigators bound for Europe. Oddly, he never wanted to talk about his service.
I guess knowing he helped kill hundreds if not thousands of people on the ground was not something he looked back on with fondness. One thing he did tell me was, "It was not unusual for the crews lucky enough to return to England to have filled their pants, it was not an embarrassment at all." There's that "crap your pants" thing again.
This is a photo of Lt. Charles Johnson and the crew of his B-17. The frame occupies a special place on our fireplace mantle.
To all who have flown in combat you have my utmost respect. And especially to LITGM friend and active fighter jet pilot, Snakeye, thank you so much for all you do.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
It's hot, hot I'm tellin ya. Why it’s so hot the chickens are laying hard boiled eggs.
Are you kiddin?’, it’s so hot that I saw two trees fighting over a dog.
Ooo it's hot, why it’s hotter than a hooker on dollar night.
Oh it’s hot, it’s hot alright, so hot the local rehab center called and said, “screw it, drinks for everybody”.
Thanks Rod. I Seriously, it was so hot last Friday we decided that after six years or so we would not be going to the opening of PierogiFest in Whiting IN. The past few years the opening Friday night of PierogiFest was so hot we swore we wouldn’t do that again if the temp was over 90 degrees.
Last Friday the heat index was 105. No thanks, I can’t handle that oppressive humidity anymore. Not looking forward to my electric bill either, the AC has been on full time for over a month. One of our past PierogiFest experiences is here.
Then I remembered last Easter we cooked home-made pierogis and made too much filling to so we froze the leftovers. My two favorite fillings are potato, onion and kraut, the other is cheese, onion and potato. So the containers were thawed and after a trip to the grocery for more onions, butter, milk and sour cream it was time to make fresh dough in the cool, air conditioned kitchen.
Making pierogi are is a laborious task, which is why only old-world eastern Europeans like me will take the time for a taste remembered from my youth and another reason why I like to attend PierogiFest in Whiting each year.
Years ago my mom, aunts and grandmothers would take a whole day (usually near a holiday) to tag-team the pierogi making task. One would make dough, another would cut dough, another would stuff and another would boil. And that’s after making the fillings. But they were preparing a holiday meal for over twenty other starving polacks.
Think of a pierogi as a ravioli. In China they are called pot stickers. It’s simply dough stuffed with any ingredient you wish. Some like traditional while others experiment with exotic fillings. At PierogiFest I have had a Gyros pierogi stuffed with onion, lemon, lamb and goat cheese. It wasn’t bad but it was not a pierogi to me.
Here’s how it’s done.
Note: Since there were ample fillings already prepared it cut about 2 hours off of a total of a 4 hour prep time if starting from scratch. But the amount results in days of leftovers so to me it’s worth it.
1). Place a stick or two of butter into a large frying pan. Allow the butter to melt over medium heat and then throw in at least six large onions. Salt and pepper well. This will be cooked for over an hour, stirring occasionally. The results are the most decadent carmelized onions in butter sauce ever. These buttery, sweet morsels of lust and melted butter is the secret to most excellent pierogis. It will be used to lube the baking dish and applied between layers and finally placed on top before baking.
2). MIx the dough: 2 c A.P. flour, ½ c whole milk, 2 T sour cream, ½ t salt, 1 whole egg, 1 yolk and 1T melted butter. I let the Kitchen Aid stand mixer do the work, other methods may take longer. Tip: the dough hook will not work so use the paddle attachment. Add flour and salt to the bowl, mix at #3-4 speed, slowly add the milk, sour cream eggs and butter. Let it beat for 2-3 min. Each batch of dough is good for a dozen pierogis. I made four dough batches. Avoid combining batches, even the big stand mixer will stall and potentially burn out.
3). Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Add flour to the surface before rolling and use flour on the dough ball as it will be a bit too sticky. Roll until thin, but not too thin, we’re not making phyllo dough here. This dough recipe is nothing more than a simple egg noodle recipe. Leftover dough can be used for soup noodles too, they are incredible. Once the dough is rolled out use a 3” cup, glass or whatever to cut circles. 3” is just the right size.
4). Stuff your dough. It’s better to under stuff than overstuff. The goal is to pinch the dough edges so it becomes water tight. Place a tablespoon of stuffing in the center and stretch the edges. Then fold in half pinching the edges. If any stuffing is between the dough edges the edge will not seal. You should end up with half-moon shapes and there you have a pierogi. Stuffing the dough is the most laborious. Having an extra hand or two helps.
5). Boil the pierogis. Boiling cooks the dough. It also enlarges the size of the pierogis. Bring pot to roiling boil and add 6-8 raw pierogis. The water will settle and when they float to the top they’re done boiling. Don’t let the water come to a full boil again, it could rupture the dough and make then tough. Remove pierogis from water and strain in a colander.
6). Prep for baking. By now, the onions are carmelized. Rub a layer of onions and butter sauce into a baking dish like Corningware or Pyrex glass. Add a layer of boiled pierogis, you may need to blot them with a paper towel. Extra water is no good at this point. Add more onions and butter then another layer. Two layers is perfect, three is pushing it and four is a no-no. Top off the full dish with onions and butter, you can never have enough of this stuff.
7). Bake. Cover dish in tin foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dish on middle rack and bake for 20-30 minutes.
8). Eat. I can eat about six pierogis before saying uncle. These are very rich, filling and eastern Europealicious. The kraut, the onions, cheese, the dough it’s an indescribable but mild flavor that is the opposite of most spicy foods I like.
A good compliment to pierogi is a good German or Polish lager such as OKOCIM distributed in Chciago by Stawski Distributingand can be found at both Binny’s and Sam’s for sure. It is an outstanding beer, try it.
My family holiday dinners are usually pierogi with baked ham and/or genuine Polish sausage, not those seasoned hot dogs sold under the Vienna label they sell as Maxwell St. Polish in Chicago. While they’re good it is not the real deal. Real Polish comes from ethnic butcher shops that know what they’re doing.
On the interwebs a decent fresh Polish and smoked Polish sausage can be ordered from Bobak’s. Their store is near Midway airport and whenever I travel stopping at Bobak’s on the way home is a must.
The very best Polish sausage comes from a small meat market in Calumet City IL called Misch Bros.
So that was my private PierogiFest this year. It was too hot to go outside last Friday and was raining like hell Saturday so most of the weekend I was house bound. At least I had a lot of leftover pierogi to snack on.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Well, I just watched the final stage. It is about 4pm on Sunday, I watched the replay of the final stage on the Champs-Elysees on Versus. Oh man do I wish I could ride that.
As an aside, THANK YOU VERSUS for the great coverage again this year.
I got in a sweet 60 mile ride in today myself, from my house to New Glarus in a roundabout circular way on some nasty hills and back. I have to admit I am really starting to arrive with my cycling. The hills don't seem as tough as they used to. On the flats my average speed is much higher than it used to be. I am pretty excited.
But this isn't about me, this is about the pros and this years tour.
Subject number one - Lance.
Well, what to say. Lance himself said that he was in winning shape for this thing, but it was not to be. He still finished in the 20's, not a bad accomplishment for an old man! Such bad luck. Flats, crashes, so many things went so wrong for him - I won't complain about his performance. By the way, do you know what team won the team competition? Thats right, Team RadioShack! They won by 9 minutes over Caisse d'Epargne. I am extremely pleased with that result.
Subject number two - the chain.
In stage 15, Andy Schleck experienced what is called "chainsuck". I don't want to get into a detailed explanation here about chainsuck, but lets just say that there was a malfunction. Biking forums and mechanics have been going nuts over the interweb on the subject. It basically - and I mean basically - cost Andy Schleck the tour.
There are a lot of things in play here. I will first talk about Contador's reaction. To make it short, he wasn't exactly the most sporting about Schleck's misfortune, but there is no rule against it. For those who don't know, Contador was about 50 feet behind Schleck when the mishap happened, and Alberto put on the gas and blew by Andy when the incident occured. Contador did absolutely nothing wrong. There is no rule against it.
In the Tour, in the past, riders have slowed down to help their competitors who may have suffered bad luck, to make the event more sporting.
My take is this - where do you draw the line on this stuff? Nobody slowed down when Lance flatted on the cobbles this year. How long do you stop? These races spread out over several kilometers at times. Another point - it is literally impossible to say when a crash or mishap is caused by the rider or the equipment. Which brings me to another point.
Who is to say that Schleck didn't screw up? Chainsuck can be caused by offsetting your front and rear cogs so your chain is way off angle. Even as an amateur cyclist I know to avoid having the chain on small-small or big-big combinations. I have read a lot about Schleck's problem and a lot of people who know a lot more than me think he plain old screwed up.
In a NASCAR sort of way, isn't the equipment part of the game as well? The chairman of Cervelo said that maybe Schleck's team, Saxobank, perhaps used equipment made by the company that would puke up the most sponsorship money, rather than something of higher quality. In NASCAR people don't stop because someone blows an engine or has some other mechanical difficulty.
This discussion will go on for a long time.
Subject number three - the champion.
He deserved to win. Andy could not shake him on the Tourmalet, and Alberto killed Andy in the last ITT. I don't like him, but he is the champion, and so it goes. Team Astana was WAY better than anyone thought they would be.
Last subject - I think every pro cyclist is on dope in some form or another. The times they put up are inhuman.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Upper left - the rain this year has been incredible. This is from an earlier storm but today the major highways are shut down from flooding. I took this picture with a flash and you can see the huge raindrops. Upper right - a great shot of the moon looking off to the west. Then you get two shots of River North by night anchored by the Trump Tower - in the right photo you can see the reflection of the moon on the side of Trump Tower. The next two photos show some of the crew of girls that walk in our neighborhood - I remember when one of my nephews was here in the evening and he asked why they don't wear much clothes and I just chuckled - but the difference now is that they are all on their ubiquitous smart phones / iPhones continuously, and the second photo shows them in motion with the inevitable glow of light. Lower left - if Binny's leaves their gates open all night long they get a steady stream of disappointed would-be booze buyers, and on lower right, cleaning up at O'Leary's at the end of the night.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Above, Fat Lou figuring out Tuesday's lineup during batting practice
Lifetime Cub fan from Lake Forest and current Wrigleyville resident 27 year old Phil McCracken along with his 26 year old room mate originally from Keokuk Iowa, Caleb Grayson, both Northwestern University MBA graduates expressed their extreme disappointment after the game.
Between sobs Phil said, “Lou was the best losing manager we ever had, why does he have to leave?” Caleb commented between entering his iphone tweets and checking in on Facebook to verify, “it’s true, Lou’s gone, he was the worst manager we ever had and damn, we’re going to miss him.” “But I did get some good photos and video of Lou on my new 4g iphone so I can worship Lou and tweet about him forever.”
Left to right above, Phil McCracken and Caleb Grayson suffering through the incredible loss of their losing hero, Lou.
While falling in love with each and every incoming Cub manager with a previous winning record has become a regular tradition in Wrigleyville bars, Lou meant something very special to the left field bleacher bums and out-of-town tourists. He seemed more than willing to give up.
“He has an incredible and insatiable desire to lose, he was so uninspiring to his unmotivated team and now this?” asked Phil once he regained composure. “What are these new Ricketts wankers doing to our tradition? “Don’t they realize that by getting rid of Lou we need to find another previously successful manager who must learn how to give up?” “How can these evil owners let the big fish get away so soon, Lou hardly had a chance to prove he could lose more than anyone else”, Caleb lamented. “It’s all Zambrano’s fault.” We were once Trusty In Dusty groupies but Lou had that built-in losing instinct."
Above from left to right, north shore residents still living at home with their wealthy parents are Blythe Ashby, Ashton Mitchner and Bree Collingsworth.
Inside Wrigley Field the scene was similar. Blythe Ashby from Winnetka IL along with her friends Ashton Mitchner and Bree Collingsworth from nearby Glencoe IL refused to leave the park upon hearing the awful news. “I can’t speak for Blythe because she’s had too many Jager shots but to me and Bree this is nothing less than horrifying news”, claimed Ashton. “How can we uphold a tradition of drinking a shot for every Cub player left on base if some new manager comes in, pays attention and starts to win, he could ruin everything!”, Ashton added. “Does this mean we are going to have to pay attention to the games now?” “And no, Blythe didn’t soil herself, some vendor spilled a beer in her lap after one of the Cubs hit a single with two outs and five runs behind in the bottom of the ninth and a nearby fan got a bit too excited”, according to Bree.
We caught up with two Cub fans leaving the game during the top of the sixth at the corner of Addison and Sheffield who would only identify themselves as Drunk and Boozer. They were heading to the bar to continue their gameday binge with Boozer’s girlfriend, Tanqueray.
Above from left to right, dedicated die-hard Cub fans Drunk, Boozer and Tanqueray
I asked Mr. Drunk why they were leaving the game early. Drunk quickly chirped, ”we need to grab three stools at the bar before the main crowd shows up.” Tanqueray added, “after the third inning the women’s toilet at Wrigley get so yukky the urine is, like, over the top of my flip flops like deep.” “I just like need to wash my feet, just, like, yyuuuck!”
So who will the next Cub manager be? Could it be one-time Cubs catcher Joe Gerardi who is having success as manager of the New York Yankees and in the last year of his contract? Not too likely he would leave NY to lose in a smaller market. He has too much pride and most likely could give a flying fig about the small town Cubs. I could be wrong. Big money talks and with the track record of paying huge bucks to soon-to-be has-been players and managers, the Cubs offer may be too enticing for him to resist. Why win when Cub fans love to watch a loser?
How about Cubbie fan favorite and hall-of-famer Ryne Sandberger who is currently managing the Cubs AAA team in Peoria? He’s a proven loser with a lifelong Cub tradition and has a track record for cheerfully playing on a rotten team his entire career. That may not do for the fans since he is not a proven winning manager willing to come to the north side to lead the losing tradition for the new century.
Many are betting on current television color announcer Bob Brenly to become the next Cub manager. He won the MLB World Series in Phoenix and has not worked on the field since. He knows the current overpriced talent with long contracts well so I like the possibilities.
I say sign Bob Brenly before he thinks about it too much. Now THAT could be the losing ticket.
This morning, SunTimes reporter Rick Morrissey runs down the list of potential Cub
The money quote: And for a baseball man, there's the most intoxicating drug in the world: the thought of being the manager who brings a World Series title to the North Side for the first time since 1908.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. "Sell The Dream, Deliver The Turd" brings in the Cubbie fan suckers year after year.
Last week I went to the Dane County Fair with my youngest while the wife and oldest were away doing other things. We had a great time. I always have fun at fairs. The latest and greatest are bogus nerve analysis machines folded into chiropractic sales gimmicks. Nothing like a good scam to get me laughing.
They had this Tilt-A-Whirl in the midway. I walked around the entire machine but could not find a serial number plate.
This model was clearly newer than many I have blogged about in the past.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Upper left - one thing for sure is that any festival will have long beer lines, especially in the hot sun. People were generally not too unruly and they deserve kudos for dropping the price of water to $1, and $5 for a Heineken wasn't too bad. Upper middle - Union Park is on the near West Side, a place that you couldn't run out of fast enough even 10 years ago. To have a big show there is an amazing turn about for the city, the vibe seemed to be like Wicker Park had about 10 or so years ago. You can see the top of the Sears Tower looking east towards the lake. Upper right - for some unknown reason someone brought a People magazine to the hipster show and it was on the ground while I sat down and had a beer in a bit of shade. At least they were smart enough to take their name off the mailing label. Lower left - that woman was wearing the hideous "visible backbone" shirt along with designer jeans that I was informed cost > $300 / pair. My inside joke to Dan is that she probably is from Baltimore and this is hiding her skull tattoos. Lower middle - if you look at the guy's shirt in the middle of the photo it says "Do I look like a F*cking People Person?". Nice. Lower right - I guess if you bring a baby to the show at least bring ear protection, but it seems kind of nuts to do that in the first place.
Upper left - LCD Soundsystem put on a great show. This photo came out clear and you can see the front man Murphy on the close up screen to the left of the stage. LCD is one of the most important electronic bands and Dan would like Murphy because he practices martial arts and is a damn smart guy. Their song "All My Friends" was #2 on the Pitchfork list of best songs of the 2000's and "Losing My Edge", the story of an aging hipster no longer the coolest, was #13. Upper right - the Green Line was totally packed after the show lots of people tried to take public transportation and it was a beautiful evening. Lower left - marketing girls were handing out some awful energy drink in front of the Cobra Lounge... just what you need after midnight, I guess. Lower right - Cobra Lounge is supposed to be a rocker bar but I saw a bunch of guys texting on their iphones in tables outside that wasn't too metal. I liked the cowboy dude, though. He apologized for "blocking my picture" and I said, "You ARE the picture". Check out their reviews on Yelp I got a laugh. I like this one:
If you want to get drunk and start a fight or screw someone in the bathroom - this is the spot for you. I've been here a handful of times, and every time I'm there, something insane happens. Someone picks a fight with a UFC/MMA wannabe dude (or his girlfriend), someone gets wasted and ends up in Greektown with no wallet/no phone/no idea where they are, or someone (ahem) gets roofied and shows everyone in the bar their t and a. Literally, every evening here starts out cool enough...there's a diverse crowd despite the look of the place, the bartenders are nice enough and the drinks are strong, the music selection is awesome....and yet somewhere around the 2 hour mark, sh*t pops off. It's a phenomenon I can't yet explain, but you can bet my (sweet and likely visible) ass I'll keep going there until I figure it out. Annnnnd probably after. What can I say? I love trouble.
Walking home maybe I was pushing my luck because a CTA bus rolled to a stop and offered me a ride, figuring maybe I shouldn't be out walking in that 'hood that late (note - that generally doesn't happen). But I didn't have my CTA card with me and later got in a cab because it was hot out and I was sick of walking.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I had an excellent example of these services on Sunday.
The wife had gone upstairs to take a nap and the kids were contentedly watching TV. I was doing some work on the computer. All of a sudden I heard my wife yelling my first name. DAN! DAN!!!
Now my wife never calls me by my first name unless there is big trouble afoot so I ran upstairs to see what was the matter. I thought a mirror fell or something. She told me that there was a tree in the street. Indeed, a dead tree (how did me miss it and not take care of it sooner?) had cracked, fallen over and was halfway in the street. It knocked down the stop sign on our corner and bent the bike sign as well. My wife said she heard the loud crack and bang. I probably did too but more than likely attributed it to our next door neighbors - they are loud all the time.
So the street was about 3/4 blocked. I went out there and cleared the major stuff from the street so cars could get past. My wife called the cops since the stop sign was knocked down. Here is what we had out there (click any photo for larger).
As you can see, the tree had broken off and was now being held up by another tree. The situation was a little precarious. We were glad nobody got hurt as our street is very popular for walkers, runners and bikers. We called the cops, and they called the city streets department who showed up in 45 minutes (this is on a SUNDAY at 4.30pm), along with a private contractor to haul away the downed stuff. I was informed that anything in the streets was the street department problem, but that anything in my lawn was my problem. These street guys were efficient as hell, and the streets guys and contractor worked very well together. It was sort of a tree removing ballet. They didn't really talk, just knew what each other needed to do. I am sure that they had worked together before.
It was determined that the tree was a hazard and that it threatened the street - again, the street dept. responsibility. They went to get the "clam". While they did that, two other guys roped the tree to a couple of others so it wouldn't fall. The clam showed up in 20 minutes. If you enlarge this photo you can see the clam opened up to grab the tree.
Below is a video of the clam pulling the tree away from the others it was tangled up with. After he laid it in the street, they chopped it into smaller pieces and put it on my lawn.
The private contractor came back on Monday to chop up and clear away the tree and repair other trees that got damaged when this one fell. From the time that the tree fell to the time that everyone left on Sunday, the total elapsed time was under 90 minutes.
Although I will be saddled with a bill from the private contractor, I guess I can't complain that hard next time I pay my tax bill.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
On summer Sundays during my youth my grandparents would pick us up in the Cadillac and drive us out to the family farm where we would shoot his many guns. He was very careful to teach me respect for firearms and started me on small calibers before working up to the big guns a few years later.
My son Andy called today and completely stumped me.
He told me he was going to buy a gun soon and asked for my opinion.
If you read my blog entries you would know that I do not pretend to be a firearms expert. I am not a collector, competition shooter or John Moses Browning 1911 worshiper. I do not own military-style weapons. I am a hunter and recreational shooter. My guns are tools. My guns provide me with enjoyment outdoors and help put food on the table. I do however own two handguns for self-protection.
In raising our children we decided to never force them into any activity but to allow them to choose what they wanted to do.
Andy has shot my rifles, pistols and muzzleloader many times in the past. I taught him gun safety and respect for firearms at a young age. He’s hunted birds with me and downed more than a few pheasants too. He also hunted deer with his bow for a while when he had the opportunity to hunt productive land. He is no stranger to firearms but never was very interested in having his own gun. He usually borrowed one of my shotguns when we went on a hunt together.
Now he wants his own handgun and called to ask which would be the best for him. He mentioned his interest in a Glock 9mm.
Being a proud dad but a common sense gun owner my first comment was, “what will you be using the gun for?” Then I thought, why ask? He’s 27 years old, has handled firearms before but for some reason the father instinct in me caused some concern.
He seemed to be in a hurry to buy his first gun. There are tons of guns for sale cheap in the interwebs he said.
My advice to him was to go to a reputable local gun store with a range (he lives in Indianapolis). I told him to speak with the guys behind the counter and inquire about taking lessons in firearm safety with a licensed professional. Then he told me of his recent experience at a local gun shop. He explained that the guy behind the counter tried to sell him a gun on the spot, as if he were buying a used car. My response was when encountering this type of behavior to turn around and walk out.
He agreed that buying his first gun was not something to do in haste. I referred him to some gun blogs and encouraged him to read up on and study the vast variety of weapons available but most important was for him to shoot a few different types of handguns before making a purchase.
Suddenly I remembered that the annual LITGM event Gunstock lll is coming up on September 26 on our family farm in Newton County Indiana.
Since the guys bring out a variety of fine weapons to shoot it would be a good opportunity for him to try out many fine guns from small caliber to large, from revolvers to semi-autos. Andy could try out all sorts of handguns and find out what he was most comfortable with from grip to caliber to recoil.
He agreed to hold off on his purchase decision and would be studying and learning all about guns until then. He will be coming back for a visit soon and when he does we’ll go shopping and shooting at the local range and making shopping trips to the Gander Mountain, Cabela’s and the Bass Pro Shop gun departments.
If he were to go out and buy a gun tomorrow my advice was for him to buy a Browning Buckmark or a Ruger Mark lll .22 before spending a lot of money. .22 ammo is cheap and either gun would allow him the opportunity to send a lot of lead downrange for less than the range fee. It would sharpen his eye and make him more comfortable shooting, cleaning and properly storing his weapon. After a while he could upgrade to a more substantial carry piece since here in the free world of Indiana it is legal for us to do so.
I’m very pleased that he called and asked for my opinion. It says a lot about how he was raised and it makes me a very proud dad. This kid is alright.
I know many of the LITGM readers are gun enthusiasts. Your advice would help him (and me). He reads the blog often, which is one reason why I blog.
So here’s the question, if you were the father of a responsible young adult with some firearms experience and suddenly he had the urge to buy his own handgun what advice would you give him?
Any and all advice or opinions will be greatly appreciated : )
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Bought me some spare ribs last weekend. It was the first time this summer for me and my Memphis style of BBQ ribs. It’s getting hard to find fresh trimmed spare ribs these days. Most grocery stores now stock processed ribs that are injected with a pre-brine and packed in vacuum sealed cryo-paks by food processing factories. Avoid these as they can be too salty and not too fresh. They have a long shelf life, which is why mega grocers like to stock them.
Spare ribs are my choice because there is ample meat and marbled fat unlike the lean and un-meaty baby back ribs. Spare ribs are a large manly rib. Spare ribs are the traditional southern pork ribs with lots of meat on and around the entire bone and most often used in the Memphis-style BBQ that I prefer by far over all others.
I will now humbly attempt to debunk the many myths about home cooking low and slow BBQ ribs.
Myth: The meat should fall off the bone when eating.
Truth. Traditionally, tender, juicy BBQ ribs on the bone MUST be gnawed, much like an animal would.
Myth: Baby back ribs are the best.
Truth. Of the many cuts of ribs, spare ribs are much meatier and cheaper when compared to back ribs. St. Louis style ribs are nothing more than spare ribs that have been trimmed, leaving about 3-4” slabs of fine meat. I have no issues with St.Louis style spare ribs. But you will pay $1 more per pound to have the unionized butcher run a spare rib slab through a band saw to trim off the tips. The cast off is not included in the package but sold separately as rib tips, highly prized by inner-city pork enthusiasts and for good reason. They are delightful, but also take some work while eating. To me, it’s well worth the effort. Let’s just say that St.Louis ribs are for girly-men. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Big food processors and restaurant marketing efforts have convinced white Americans that they want their baby back baby back baby back ribs. Problem is that baby back ribs are costly due to low supply and high demand caused by restaurants and food marketers. Expect to pay well over $3. per pound for a lot of bone and very little meat. This is similar to what restaurants and marketing has done to another once cast-off product known as chicken wings.
For years I BBQ’ d nothing but back ribs. For years try as I would to make them juicy and tender many of my attempts ended up in failure due to lack of fat and meat. The result was often a dry spicy meat encrusted bone product. At times these expensive slabs had paper thin meat and when holding them up outdoors the sunlight would shine through. Bare bones usually show on both sides with a thin layer of lean meat acting as a connective membrane holding them all together. They are very difficult to BBQ without drying them out and burning what little meat is on them. Not good.
Myth: Par-boiling the ribs before grilling makes them more tender.
Truth: Some folks par-boil their ribs, grill them for a while but to me that in itself is a crime against BBQ. This often leaves a swiney flavor that’s hard to disguise even with a very thick spicy sauce. Never, ever par-boil ribs. The exception would be braising pork roasts such as when making carnitas.
Myth: You get what you pay for.
Truth. The slab of spare ribs I found this week went for $1.65/lb.
These were fresh and shrink wrapped on a styro tray by the local butcher and bore the sticker that said “A Product Of The USA”. Did you know that more than half of all back ribs sold in the USA are imported from Denmark? Look it up. “A Product Of The USA” means local and fresh.
Lately, most cryo-vac spare rib slabs come from domestic mass producers such as Cargill, Smithfield and Hormel. Check the price then check the label. Unlike lean cuts such as pork chops, spare ribs need no pre-brining if cooked properly. You could pay more but why?
Note that the butcher cut the rib tip portion away from the slab and packaged it up with the spares. Look for this when buying spare ribs. While others grab for the big bones at the table I tend to focus on a smaller slab of tasty tips. Sure, there’s some gristle and bone but the meat is so sweet to gnaw at. Hawww!
Myth: Remove the skin from the backside of the slab.
Truth: Not necessary. The membrane acts to keep juices in the meat. Begin the BBQ by placing the membrane side down for a more tender slab. If you wish a spicier slab remove the membrane so that the rub contacts the meat on the underside. It’s up to the individual pit master.
Myth: Rub the ribs with a spice mixture the night before.
Truth. Definitely use a rub spice mixture. A few hours is fine, overnight is unnecessary but do it if you must. Using a store bought rub mix is expensive but works fine if you are pressed for time. Note: if you are pressed for time forget the ribs and grill a hot dog. After years of testing many rubs I have found that Emeril’s Rustic Rub is my favorite and I mix it myself saving even more money. When I do I make a large batch and seal in an air-tight container. Here it is if you wish to give it a try.
There’s no need for brown or any type of sugar in the rub and it’s not in this recipe. Sugar burns.
Rub ribs, wrap slab(s) in foil and refrigerate for about two hours. Overnight is overkill. After that let the slab sit on the counter to gain room temp for an hour or so before BBQing.
Myth: Use a special grill brush to remove crust from the previous cookout. Wipe hot grill with oil using a paper towels before adding meat.
Truth: I prefer a cheap industrial wire brush found at any Ace hardware store or Home Despot. They cost about two bucks and last for years if you keep them out of the elements. Go ahead and pay ten or more bucks for a special grill brush with a long plastic handle that will last one season or two.
As far as wiping the grill with oil that’s fine for seafood. Most meats need no lube. But if Bobby Flay told you to use oil then go right ahead and do it.
Myth: For true BBQ flavor you need a specialized cooking device.
Truth: In a word, NO. Here’s my plain old Weber kettle grill set up. On the lower rack, keep the fire on one side, foil on the other. Ribs go over the foil. Set the leg with no wheel into the wind, the legs with wheels go downwind. This promotes a smoky flow of low heat caressing your bones of paradise.
Myth: Soak the wood in water for an hour or so before adding to the grill.
Truth: Forget about soaking the wood in water. Waterlogged wood promotes creosote buildup that will add a bitter off flavor. Trust me, soaking the wood is a myth. I prefer hickory or sassafras wood (my favorite but hard to find).
Myth: Add wood to the fire often.
Truth: Adding wood for smoky flavor happens during the first 1-2 hours. After that adding more wood makes for a slab that is way too smoky for most folks. BBQ contest judges are not my customers and I have learned that any pork that is too smoky turns most folks off, myself included. Be careful not to let the smoke overpower the meat flavor. I prefer large chunks to small chips. My slab will get no more than two chunks of wood added to the fire. It's best to keep the lid closed as long as possible.
Myth: Build a small fire for low and slow BBQ.
Truth: To me, a hot fire with one big wood chunk at the beginning is best. It almost sears the outside of the slab and lets enough smoky goodness permeate the slab. In my set-up above that is all the coals I use the entire time.
Myth: Hardwood chunks are better than briquettes.
Truth: Hardwood chunks burn very hot and burn out fast. This is fine for grilling steaks and burgers and weenies but the fact is, briquettes burn almost as hot and burn much longer than hardwood chunks.
Myth: Add BBQ sauce for the final 30 minutes.
Truth: Go ahead if you must but this is unnecessary. I prefer using a mustard and vinegar mop sauce. The total time for cooking this slab was 3 hours. I baste with the mop sauce for the last hour and baste it well at least three times. After two hours the collagen in the slab has begun to melt and the mop sauce hastens the process. This is the secret to rib tenderness.
My mop sauce formula is one cup cider vinegar, one tablespoon table salt and ¼ cup cheap yellow mustard. Whisk until well blended. The mop tool is best but if you don’t have one a large spoon works fine. Use copious amounts.
Do not add any BBQ sauce to the ribs while cooking. After three hours has passed wrap slab and tips in foil and place in a 175 degree oven for ½ to one hour. Add BBQ sauce after removing ribs from the oven if you wish or just dip ribs in sauce when eating.
My own homemade BBQ sauce is outstanding. I also like Bullseye Hot & Spicy but my favorite is Sweet Baby Ray’s Hot & Spicy. So good.
Lightly dusting the final product with leftover spice rub before basting with BBQ sauce is encouraged if you desire an extra kick.
The ribs last weekend were nothing short of heavenly. No photos of the end result were snapped. The light was too low and I was too busy eating the best ribs ever. Trust me. If Bobby Flay ever showed his pasty white face in my backyard and issued a BBQ rib throwdown he would lose.
So get it on already. BBQ some spare ribs using my way and let me know if they are not the very best.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
For sports figures, there are two elements to taxes; if you are on the road you have to pay taxes in all of the cities you visit at local rates. These dollars are collected and I'm sure all the major sports leagues have processes to ensure that this occurs (through withholding). Athletes are high profile individuals and they will be spotted if they don't comply with a policy that is otherwise observed only in the breach (the fact that if you spend more than a few days in a state you need to pay taxes on the apportioned days at local rates).
Thus half of your taxes as a sports star depend on the cities you visit and half depend on your "local" city. Beyond that, any endorsement income you earn (which is a much greater component for many athletes) is taxed at your "home" rate. It is no accident that Tiger lives in Florida where there is no state income tax. He would have been insane to set up shop somewhere like NYC.
This article in the WSJ is titled "LeBron's Tax Holiday" and it describes the tax benefits from living in Florida compared to other states. While there is tax information in the article I am choosing just to use the excellent resources at The Tax Foundation where on this page you can see rates by state.
- Ohio 5.925% on all income beyond $200k
- New York State is 7.85% on all income beyond $200k plus 1.7% for NYC and it gets complicated... so let's just say the burden is beyond 10%
- New Jersey 8.97% on all income beyond $500k
- now if he chose to be like the hedge fund people and live in Connecticut (hard to believe, but more efficient from a tax perspective) he'd be taxed at 6.5% above $500k (but he would still pay taxes at NYC rates at all home games so he'd only be better off for endorsement income)
- California 10.55% on all income beyond $1M
- Illinois 3% (NOTE this is one of the FEW things that Illinois does correctly, and our legislature seems committed to raising this rate since we now have the worst credit rating in the nation)
- Florida has NO state income taxes
If you took the "advanced" class you might want to locate yourself in a state with low taxes and then near a conference with other states that had local taxes; perhaps a league heavy in Texas cities and Florida cities would compete for the tax-savviest athletes. Stay out of NYC and NJ and ALWAYS California. This would give you the "home" bonus and also the "road" bonus.
This could have been a "teaching opportunity" on the effect of high taxes (that are controllable, Federal taxes are inescapable) but it was mostly lost in other elements of the public spectacle.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Dan and I went on a trip to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the US military museum in Maryland, back in 2005. While going through old photos I saw this one of "Anzio Annie", one of the 2 surviving German WW2 railway guns. The gun was named "Leopold" (which you can see in white paint on the side in the famous font everyone who grew up building WW2 plastic models remembers) and per the wikipedia page the US re-assembled this gun from parts of two damaged guns found on railway tracks in Italy after the fall of Rome. These guns were the equivalent of the 11" naval guns used on the German battleships Scharnhorst, and discussed here as part of my post on the Norwegian coastal artillery.
Since the gun was on a railroad track it could apparently only be brought out at night or during poor weather else it would be subject to Allied air attack. After the landing in Anzio in early 1944 this gun, along with other German heavy artillery, repeatedly struck the Allied beachhead. I was looking for documents on the effectiveness of this weapon when I found this article online.
By 2 February the Germans had brought down from the north several railroad guns to counter the naval gunfire that Salerno had led them to expect. The largest was the 280-mm. rifle, nicknamed Anzio Annie or the Anzio Express by the Allied troops. With a barrel 65 feet long, Anzio Annie was drawn by a diesel-electric locomotive and accompanied by four cars, one of which bore a turntable on which the gun was mounted to obtain traverse when firing. Another was an air-conditioned car for carrying powder. On 7 February the Germans used 280-mm. guns to shell Allied ships off Anzio and Nettuno. After that date the weather began to clear and the monsters were so vulnerable to air attack that they could probably be used only sporadically if at all. They may have been sent back up the coast as protection against the threat of an Allied amphibious assault at Civitavecchia, which the Germans continued to expect. Two 280-mm. guns were discovered on a railroad siding at Civitavecchia after the fall of Rome. Their names were Leopold and Robert. Leopold was shipped to Aberdeen Proving Ground, where careful study of several unorthodox design features led to the development of the postwar U.S. 280-mm. "atomic gun."Cross posted at Chicago Boyz
Monday, July 12, 2010
If you need coffee so badly that you CANNOT WAIT IN LINE there is an even faster way to get your caffeine buzz on, apparently.
The Transformers movie is closing down LaSalle street in the loop over the weekend. Here they are driving away some of the props on the back of a semi. I like the ancient file drawer I think some of my old expense reports are in there.