Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Prediction time

You've been waiting breathlessly for me to make my selection for Sunday haven't you? Okay, probably not, but you have been waiting! Well, wait no more. I actually bet on the Bears while I was in Vegas, so hopefully I didn't jinx them (since I was 9-1 on teams I DIDN'T bet on). And now I will officially predict that the Bears will beat the Colts outright. Who will be the difference makers? On offense, Grossman will have a passer rating over 80 and we will run the ball 35+ times. On special teams, both Robbie Gould and Devon Hester will have big days. On defense, we will have at least two turnovers, but I'm not good enough to predict who will get them. Here's a clue though:

Nothing too crazy or out on a limb. I am on record though! Oh, and the over under last I checked was 48.....I like the under.

While surfing the web the other day, I came across a banner ad for It was on CNN or Yahoo! Finance or something like that. Banner ads don't normally even get on my radar screen, but this one did. How? They had a goose-stepping cheerleader! Swear to God. This cheerleader silhouette was goose-stepping across the ad. Unbelievable. Who is that appealing to by the way? Poor nazis? C'mon site operators, at least look at the crap going up on your site.

After surfing the web, I surfed some tv channels. There I came across the history channel and a blurb about a first century inventor named Heron (AKA Hero of Alexandria). This guy invented all sorts of things, but the aeolipile, see diagram on Wiki's site, is just a short jump away from the piston engine! Imagine if the Greeks had the piston engine 1700 years before it was actually invented and used on steamboats and such. Wow. So close. Even so, his works had a great impact on science and astronomy in the future as well as how I get the occasional can of Pepsi. Yep, he invented the first vending machine as well. His dispensed holy water though, not a stale bag of Doritos.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Unconditional Love?

Hmmmm, wonder where Joe is going with this one. Has he gone soft? That's what she said, but I digress. This story is actually from last week, but it happened just before the trip to Vegas, so I didn't have time to write I'm not really sure what to think about the whole thing.

So last Wednesday morning I go down to Starbucks per usual to get my morning coffee. Since the weather has become very wintry, I was hunkered down with a big scarf, my Wallaroo hat and my "McCloud" coat. The point being that I wasn't the most approachable of people in that look......or maybe I was, but I wouldn't think so. The baristas at Starbucks aren't fans of the look because they feel I'm "trying to hard" for the cowboy look. Yeah, that's what I want, look like someone out of Brokeback Mountain in my freaking neighborhood. No thanks. It's a coat and hat that I like and they go well together.

After visiting Starbucks and catching my usual abuse, I headed to the video store to return "Crank", which should be watched by no person......stupid, stupid movie. Or maybe it was just the acting. Some of the filming methods employed were actually good and they seemed to carry the movie. Though I guess the story itself seems appealing, but the movie just didn't work overall.

On my way to the video store, I came upon a woman coming out of the garage parking. She came up in front of me and was carrying a little, shiny red gift bag (you know the kind that you give birthday gifts in when you don't want to wrap them?). So she comes up to me and says, "Please take this token of unconditional love." I've stopped at this point and I look at the bag and then into her eyes and she gives me a little wink and a nod as if to say, "Go ahead, take it. You're a nice guy." And take it I did, saying thank you as I departed. At the video store I opened the bag to find a little potted plant and a little head piece with hearts on springs so when you wear it, they bobble around.

One of my favorite things is to just do something nice for someone who I either don't know or do know but who is not expecting anything. For instance, I've helped push many strangers' cars out of snow banks, given them jumps to start their car, bought them coffee and once even bought a couple their dinner. That stuff is just fun for me. So when this woman gave me this bag, I could really appreciate it. The plant is blooming in my kitchen and the head piece, well, I really don't have much use for it at this point, but who knows? It's the thought that counts right?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Solid Vegas Trip

One of my best trips to Vegas! Probably the second best without a girlfriend. I'm one of those odd guys that would prefer to have a girlfriend with them in Vegas. So what made this trip fun? Well, three days of golf is a good start. The second day we played Reflection Bay (the $300 course) which turned out to be just down the street from the hotel where my softball team stayed while we were there in October. Though my swing "left me" (golfers know what I'm talking about), we did have fun and we saw Natalie Gulbis! Who is that you ask? Here are pictures:

She was standing at the halfway house when I came out of the bathroom. What a smile she gave me!!! Yowza! Turns out she's the LPGA Pro at the course, which tells you how difficult the course really plays.

Anyway, day three we played a course called Paiute Resort (pay-ute) which is about 10 miles north of Vegas and significantly colder and windier than the strip. While trying to stay warm, I found my swing again. Actually, one of the guys brought a camera and took a movie of my swing which we looked at on the computer back in the room. Fixing my swing was easy once I realized the problem. So I went from shooting something like 110 with a crap load of penalties for hitting out of bounds, to shooting 89 only because I couldn't get a putt to fall. On the 18th though, I did get a putt to fall; a six footer for par which won the hole and about $20 for me and my teammate. Not bad.

The nightlife was mostly spent in the casino after long dinners. The guys I went with were all successful: one owns his own company, one is an orthopedic surgeon and the other owns his own dental practice. Money in Vegas usually has a lower value than everyday money, but this trip made it even less valuable.....rooms at the Mirage, $300 rounds of golf, expensive dinners....not my usual trip. However, I also won $350 at the black jack table and $100 playing roulette, so I offset some of my expenses.

Here are some pictures of the Paiute course and club house. I didn't bring my camera the first two days, so I have to wait to get copies of those pics from one of the guys. The course is really just out in the middle of the desert. No homes around, nothing. You either hit the fairway, or your ball is in the desert somewhere. Good fun though!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Quick Vegas Post

Well, the weather was great here today; 65+ and not a cloud in the sky. But when the sun started to set, the temperature dropped like crazy.....probably 15 degrees easy within 30 minutes. At some points on the golf course, the temperatures would drop 10 degrees on different parts of the hole! Hit from the tee box and it's ok. Go to the fairway to hit your second shot and it's 10 degrees colder. Wow.

That's not why I shot terribly today, but it didn't help. I couldn't hit a putt and drove balls out of bounds....not a recipe for success. Fortunately, I didn't hit a 7 on any hole, so we thought that meant I should play craps tonight (since a 7 on anything but the initial roll is bad). My scores were 3 through 10, but no 7. So on the craps table I did shoot and rolled really well for at least 20 minutes while people made money left and right. However, I ended up down $20 on craps for the night. Black Jack saved me though (over at the Hardrock) where I decided to make a final $100 bet and won. Nice.

So what will $12 buy you in Vegas? Guesses? Here's what I found today: a breakfast buffet at The Mirage, internet access for a day at The Mirage, a sleeve (three balls) of Pro-V1's and or a Caesar salad at Stack (a restaurant at The Mirage). The buffet is really the only one of the three that's worth it.

Golfed today at a course that replicates holes from courses in England. It was pretty cool. I'll post pictures when I get back. Tomorrow, Friday, we play what is supposed to be a fantastic course that is only.....ONLY.....$300 a round. Holy shit. If I play lousy, it's $3 a shot. That ain't right. I could get some generic well drinks for that price!!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hitting Vegas

Hey all! Kind of in a panic because I'm heading to Vegas tomorrow for three days of golf, haven't packed, have plans tonight and I only know one of the people with whom I'm going. Crazy, but it'll be fun. Weather in the low 60's.

Anyway, I'm taking my computer so hopefully I'll have access in the room and update you on my escapades. If not, I'll see you when I get back!!

Let me know if you want me to put any bets down for you!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

O.M.G. That's all I can say.

The best football game I've ever been to and just one heck of a great time tailgating. We rolled into the lot around 9:45, well ahead of the 2:00 start. Because of the crowds though, we were all going to head into the game around 1:00 to make sure we didn't miss the player introductions.

Benny "The Drunk" and Andy

The whole spread

Bundled Maria and Chris

First the tailgate: despite the change in starting time, the menu remained the same except for two notable alcoholic changes: Bahama Mama mix and Mai Tai mix, neither of which I brought (knowing what a bad idea it would be). The food was pretty darn good, as usual, and no one was left hungry. Our neighbors had some jambalaya that was pretty good as well. The two huge bottles that you can see in the pictures are the two mixes that Andy and Benny basically drank themselves. As you might expect, taking in that much alcohol (they had rum in them already and then they added MORE rum) did not do good things to their systems. Benny not only got sick in his seat at the game, he also passed out by the colonnades for most of the second quarter. He also missed most of the tailgate afterwards by passing out in the car.

On the plus side, my three-pepper chili turned out great (and was much easier to prepare...see below) and Mr. Heater was cranking away keeping us toasty warm. Everyone agreed that even on medium, you had to move away from it after staying in front of it for a while. Nice to have. Plus it's a chick magnet for cold women who are walking by......better than a puppy!!

On to the game. While the Bears dominated the first half, the last drive before half-time by the Saints which ended in a touchdown and which cut the score to 16-7, really seemed to change momentum in favor of the Saints. Apparently the Saints made better second half adjustments too, because they dominated us during the third quarter. At the end of three quarters, we were only up 18-14 and the game was VERY MUCH up for grabs. Then, in a four minute span, we scored a touchdown, caused a fumble and scored another touchdown and the game was really over. Four minutes, that's all. Wow. If you went to the bathroom and/or to get a beer during that four minutes, you basically missed the whole game!!

Now for some knew it was coming though didn't you?......Big Joe goes 9-1 in the playoffs with both wins this weekend. Damn!!!!

On a small side note, my chili was so much easier to make because of a purchase I made at Target of the Vidalia Chopping Wizard. After gutting and quartering the the peppers, I let the Chopping Wizard take over and what normally takes me about 45 minutes, took only about 10. It was pretty amazing. It handled chopping the sweet onion without a tear too!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A small town mayor

First things first: I've waffled on the Patriots pick over the Colts. Home field, four problem Patriots, all the talk of Peyton doing it this year or forget about him ever getting to the Super Bowl, a resurgent Colts defense, it's just all too much. I'm taking the Colts. Sticking with the Bears though.

If you recall, in an earlier entry, I broiled something on a cookie sheet and it pretty much destroyed the everyone else but me would have expected. Since I'm not a particularly easy guy to buy presents for, I held off replacing it until after Christmas. Today I waited no more and bought a kick-ass one, at least to the novice baker. A seemingly small event, but with appetizers to make for the Bears game, it's already been put through its paces and performed outstandingly.

The Mayor of Chicago......Richard Daley.....a busy man with important issues to consider: Chicago was rated as "unprepared" to handle a major catastrophic event. Winter has set in, finally, and roads need to be salted and streets need to be plowed. The recycling program is getting completely overhauled. The Aldermen have gone nuts and banned everything from smoking to foie gras. And Richie is pissed. Why? Because the parking lot managers at Soldier Field raised the parking fee for the Bears games from $35 to $60. How awesome is that? The dude has all this other crap to worry about, but he comes down like a hammer on these clowns. Sure, they got away with it for the first game, but after Richie found out about it, the raping was over. Nice. It's like having a small town mayor for a city of 3 million!

Finally, the cold weather and my illness has given a rebirth to a long since forgotten household item: my electric blanket. One of the wonderful byproducts of women is their wonderful ability to basically heat an entire room at night, or at least it seems like it. All I needed though was a warm bed and the women previously in my life had provided that (and much more of course!). Now however, I have to rely on less natural means to get the bed warm and my electric blanket was brought out of retirement and has worked like a trooper! Nothing better than a toasty warm bed when you're sick and it's cold as hell outside. Another little thing that makes my day(or night) so much better.

Friday, January 19, 2007

"Please answer these questions, or we can't take your money."

Had lunch yesterday with dejesus freak back our favorite spot, The Bagel. We even had my favorite waiter, Gus (yes, I finally learned his name!). Actually, dejesus called me up just to see if I wanted soup from The Bagel since he new I was sick and was staying inside mostly. What a nice guy! Who does that? Very considerate.

When dejesus called, I was on the phone with my new money market company, Capital One. I was trying to get the account set up online, but there were several problems along the way. At one point they tell me to get my account number and go through this other link. Fine. "What's my account number?"
"Well, we'll have to ask you some security questions first."
"Fine. Shoot."
"You lived at 3130 North Lakeshore Drive. What city is that in?"
"Chicago." Is that really a "security question"?
"You recently were making payments on a car. What type of car was it?"
"2002 Toyota Camry."
"There is someone in your life named Therese......Kung? Keung?"
"Do you mean Therese Kueng?" (pronounced King)
"Yes. Which age group does she fall into....42-47, 48-53, 54-60, 61-67 or 68-74?"
"Are you serious?"
"Do you know that Therese is my ex-mother in law from over 10 years ago? I didn't know how old she was when I was married to her freakin' daughter!"
"Well, we need an answer."
"Fine, 54-60."
"Ok, the system indicates that you missed a question, so we can't give you your account number today, you'll have to call back tomorrow."
"You're kidding right? You're not going to give me my account number because I don't know how old my ex mother-in-law is?"
"Well all of the questions are from publicly available records."
"Well then how are they 'security' questions? Why ask me something that everyone else knows but me?"
"I'm sorry sir."
"Me too. Goodbye."

Unbelievable. I still don't know the correct answer!

On a lighter note, I'm waffling on the Patriots pick. I read that, Rodney Harrison, one of the cornerbacks might not play and that three of their starters have the flu. That's possibly four starters down or not playing at 100%........that might be enough to swing the game the other way. Tune in tomorrow for my final call on that game.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

When will we stop noticing?

No black NFL head coach has ever won the Super Bowl, or even GONE to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, many people who are only casual football fans know this truth. One of Martin Luther King's hopes, I'm sure, would be that at some point, we as a society would NOT even think of this statistic. That it would be so common place, like black baseball players, that to see the occurrence would not even stimulate a conversation. This weekend, two black head coaches have a chance to be the first of hopefully many to follow, to make it to the Super Bowl: Lovie Smith of the Bears and Tony Dungy of Indianapolis. Good luck gents.

As of now, both teams are favored to win, but what really matters is what teams I'm predicting to win (please reference my 7-1 playoff record). After much consideration, I have to pick the Bears over the fan (pundit and country) favorite New Orleans. The way I see it, the Saints defense isn't particularly good; 23rd against the rush and 11th overall. Offensively, they are #1 overall however, but are only 18th in running the ball while the Bears are 15th. They are however #1 in passing and the Bears defense is only 11th in defending the pass (but 6th against the run).

So all of that analysis says if the Bears can run the ball better than the Saints can throw it, the Bears will win. I'm betting that outside in mid-January along the lakefront leans in the Bears' favor. Also, our special teams are ranked #1 while the Saints are ranked 11th. Look for a big return to be a key play for the Bears.

Down highway 65 in Indianapolis, the Colts and Patriots square off. Every bone in my body says pick the Patriots....which would be a rematch of the 1986 Super Bowl if the Bears win....but all of my common sense says pick the Colts. After going through the rankings, the Colts #2 passing attack against the Patriots 12th ranked pass defense is the only thing that really stands out. So there's that and the Colts are at home. Meanwhile the Patriots have Tom Brady and Belichik. Something has to give.....more stats: Brady is 10-0 in domes, but the Colts are 9-0 at home this year, but the Patriots are 8-1 on the road and beat the Chargers who were 8-0 at home.

So I go back to Manning's poor play against 3-4 defenses, which the Patriots play, and I have to pick the Patriots in an upset. We'll see a replay of that famous Super Bowl in 1986! Where's the Fridge?

Best Video You'll See Today. This video was taken of a very unhappy deer stuck on a pond in the usually not so cold Norman Oklahoma. Finally, a good use of a television news crew:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Delayed Winter

Still sick today, though a little better than yesterday. When I woke up this morning, I thought I'd be able to be productive, but then one of my business partners called and I could barely focus on what he was saying. That led to a trip to the sofa and a nap, which seems like overkill after sleeping 10 hours last night (thank you NyQuil!!).

Late last week the cold air and snow came to Chicago and the cold has remained. Mid January is a fine time to start winter in my book, in fact, it could wait a little longer. Weather across the country is screwy though and some of it has been caught on film. My buddy Rich sent me this link. The video is absolutely hysterical!! It looks like the first guys never steps off the gas!

Yesterday, while wandering the dizzying aisles of the Jewel-Osco searching for Puffs with Aloe (they just rearranged the store and have me all confused), I ran across the child of an old friend. Not a real kid was baby T-Rex Rat trap!!! They are used for catching for mice instead of rats and are pretty adorable. These look much closer to T-Rex than the one at the store, but the store children are beige too.

Also, I've opted to open a "money market" account with Capital One. It's really a high yield savings account, but it works basically the same way. Check off another resolution on the list!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Maybe the Seahawks brought the Avian Flu into town least that's how I feel today. Somehow, Thursday or Friday, I must have picked up a bug but was successfully fighting it off until Sunday night. Yesterday I woke up not feeling well and by the end of the day it was lights out for Joe. Ugh. Fortunately, I was able to sleep, but only about an hour or so at a time.

Many topics to talk about and my mind isn't sharp, so I'll just throw them out there and see what sticks on the wall.

While driving around listening to my AM sports radio stations, I sometimes flip over to WBBM, "all news all the time" just to catch up on the rest of the world outside of sports (I hear one exists). Lately I've noticed that they say they are "Now broadcasting in HD!" What? High definition RADIO? What the hell does that even mean? So where do we go when we have a question class? Buehler? Buehler? Buehler? That's right, Wikipedia. It's a pretty interesting piece, so in honor of Learning Tuesday, here you go:
Last night, even though sick, I went to a little presentation from the Lund Company, a toy designing firm who are the brains behind the 10 generations of Tickle Me Elmo and "Baby goes Boom" (which does not in fact, blow up, it just falls down and gets back up). Pretty interesting stuff. They only have like nine employees half of which are designers and they turn out about 50-100 new toy prototypes every year. Only about 15 get pitched to and picked up by companies. If one of them hits though.......kaboom!
Saw a stat yesterday on television that a single woman at age 40 has a greater chance of being a victim of terrorism than of getting married. Now, I'm not sure I believe that entirely, but what if it's true?! I'll have to do some more research.......

As a sports fan, I tend to be a little over critical of my favorite teams. I would venture to guess that most sports fans are probably the same way. Even now that the Bears are in the playoffs and doing "well", however you want to define it, I tend to turn a critical eye to the porous defense and basically rookie QB. However, the last time I looked, they don't award style points for football games....."the other team outscored you by 10, but you looked good running the ball so we'll give you an additional 11 points, so you really won." Nope, doesn't happen. The final score is an absolute, whether we like it or not. But if we play poorly and win, I'm definitely not happy. Why not? Especially when the team is in the playoffs with home field advantage and one win away from the Super Bowl. Shouldn't I just live in the moment and be happy the team is doing well and I have something to do on a Sunday afternoon in late January other than watch OTHER people's teams playing? I think I should. So I'm making a conscious effort to just be happy about the W and cheer them on Sunday so maybe they can get another one. If it doesn't work, well, it was a good season. Maybe next year right? God knows we Cubs fans have said that enough over the years!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy MLK Day and maybe I am Nostradamus

Hopefully you'll take a minute today to reflect on the life and times and influences of the late Dr. Martin Luther King. One of his more popularized moments is his "I have a dream" speech. You can't really help but getting pumped up while even reading his speech, much less actually listening to it. Here's a link that provides both for your viewing and listening pleasure. Take a moment today to relive the part of that day in August of 1963.

The results are in from the weekend and I went 3-1 on my predictions for the NFL games, though the wins could have easily gone either way. The Bears played ok, but the defense was more like a sieve than a wall. A 49 yard field goal, with the wind, in overtime proved to be the winning play. Fortunately I was celebrating in the parking lot outside Soldier Field, so I didn't get to see the Patriots Chargers game except for the last 10 minutes or so. From what I've heard and read though, the Chargers pretty much handed them the game (or at least the opportunity to win the game) with dropped passes and dumb plays.

So in the two weeks of playoffs, I'm 7-1 and still haven't made a nickel off of it. As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "Idiot!"

The tailgate went very well and we ended up being just a few cars away from the four guys who sit in front of me at the game. The food was tasty and Mr. Heater was up and running full blast. The chipotle cheddar cheese on the egg sandwiches was a big hit! The whole morning would have gone without a hitch at all if one of my guests actually showed up on time instead of 20 minutes late. I was this close (imagine me with my index finger and thumb about a half inch apart) to leaving without him and making him take a cab to the game. But I shook it off and played on, in part with the help of my ex-gal who I invited to sit in the section with me. My other two tickets were sold to guys on my softball team who had gone to many of the games during the season. A good time was had by all and we spent a good two hours in the parking lot after the game continuing the celebration. You just can't beat fun at the ol'ballpark.

Next week the game is at 2 on Sunday, which means if we leave at 9 again and arrive at 9:30, it'll be 4 1/2 hours of tailgating before the game even starts!!! That would be awesome. It's a little early to get pumped though, especially since I'm still exhausted from yesterday. By the way, to Ken in NJ, I was barely able to talk today from yelling so much yesterday. Fortunately, they were cheers of celebration.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A split, but c'mon!!

Short entry today as I prepare for the Bears game and the tailgating associated with it. Today I split the games, losing the Indy/Baltimore game and winning the Saints/Eagles game. That Baltimore game though had some plays that went against me that could have easily made up the 9 pts the Ravens lost by:

1) Todd Heap, the Ravens all-world tight end, fumbled for the first time in over a year. C'mon! I can't predict that!

2) Baltimore's QB, Steve McNair, threw an interception on the 1 yard line. C'mon!! That was going to be a sure 7 points. Damn.

3) Indy's kicker, the great Adam Vinatieri, hit a 51 yard field goal that he caromed off the goal post. C'mon! He's good, but I bet even he didn't call the "bank". Bastard.

Well, the big game is about 13 hours away. On the menu: egg, cheese and ham sandwiches on English muffins (with chipotle cheese!), maple flavored sausage, bloody Mary's (or bloody Maria's if I make them with tequila), three-pepper chili (made with red, green and yellow peppers as well as both ground beef and spicy breakfast sausage) and afterwards, we have more chili along with chicken fingers and spicy chicken wings. Should be good eating!!! The weather is supposed to be bad, but we'll prevail. Go Bears!!!!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bangladesh, gifts revisited and a waffle

So I'm reading the paper the other day and I hear that there has been a state of emergency declared in Bangladesh. This prompted me to figure out a few things: 1) where the hell is Bangladesh? 2) What do they mean by "state of emergency" and 3) why is this happening?

First things first, Bangladesh is almost entirely surrounded by India, except a small border with Myanmar....."You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me." --J. Peterman. Check out the Wikipedia entry:

Second, and intriguing, is the state of emergency declaration. According to the article I was reading, it sounded like in addition to a curfew, the government would strip its citizens of many civil liberties. That sounded pretty dramatic to me. According to Wikipedia though, "..the state of emergency suspends some basic rights provided by the constitution, such as the freedom of movement, assembly, and speech." Since there's the threat of violence and protests, some of that seems at least somewhat reasonable. But no freedom of speech? Why do they need to suspend that? According to the article I read, the news stations could only relay information pre-scripted by the government. Yikes.

Third, why this is happening seems very complicated. Near as I can figure, one party was leaving office and there were supposed to be elections, which a second party hoped would be beneficial to their cause. However, now the second party believes the fix is in and is rallying it's proverbial troops. Ugh.

How do you feel about this if you're India? It's like if Ohio decided to suspend all civil rights while they elected their governor. Except with Ohio, it's probably a good idea given Cleveland's population. Ha!!

On December 6th, in the Tempo section of the Trib, this was the lead story:

Hopefully you can blow it up and read both sides of the "gift card" vs. "present" debate. Too funny. I had the same discussion five days earlier here on my blog. I'm scooping the Trib now!

New England's postseason record with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (11-1) is starting to make me think maybe the the Patriots can pull this out. Schottenheimer is 5-12 in the playoffs and his QB Phillip Rivers is 0-0. Those are daunting numbers. So I'm officially flip-flopping on that pick and taking the Patriots in an upset. Probably should stick with my first thought, but what fun would that be?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Time to pay the piper

No, my Christmas shopping bill hasn't arrived. The title has to do with it being time to make my football picks for the weekend. As you recall, last weekend I was 4-0. You probably also remember that I predicted a Bears loss. So, how can I, in good conscience, pick the Seahawks knowing that I might get them all right for the second week in a row? I can't. So here are all of my picks for the weekend:

The home teams won all the games last weekend and I'm going that direction again this weekend. The home teams also happen to be the favorites. Ravens over the Colts. The Ravens defense, should be able to stop both Manning and Addai and I can't see the Colts defense playing well two weeks in a row.

New Orleans over Philly. The feel good story of the Saints should continue on to next week. With Lito Sheppard's injury for Philly, their defense backs will be undermanned against a high power throwing offense.

Bears over Seahawks. There I've said it. I mostly believe it too. It's tough to believe that Grossman won't suck again, but I'm drinking the Bears kool-aid and hoping that he won't! Plus I'll be at the game cheering my heart out, so I don't want to cheer against my own record for the weekend.

San Diego over the Patriots. Could be the best game of the weekend, which is why they moved it to the last game of the weekend. Hopefully I'll still be in the parking lot getting loaded on Bears victory fluids and eating charred Seahawk. Belichek could pull off some genius strategy to keep it close, but I think LT is too much and Brady is not enough.

Look for a non-sports entry tomorrow!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A sad day for tv watchers around the world

Just received word that we lost a beautiful actress who is pictured below in a 1948 photo.

What a beautiful woman! Can you guess her television character? If you know her character's name, do you know her stage name? If you know her stage name, do you know her real name? the answer is at the bottom of yesterday's blog.

Virtually everyday now, and for some time in the past, I get on the web and visit various sites. You have them too I'm sure. Your favorite sites for news, sports, entertainment news (gossip), crap for sale, my blog (!). Well, if you don't already go there, here's a site that you should visit daily just for a fun spin on the news. It's a hoot and you get some of the craziest stories: If I'm not mistaken, dejesus freak introduced me to it several years ago. It's pretty addictive, so be careful.

Also on the web front, it shouldn't be news to many people but the website is a great resource for: buying and selling anything from collectibles to furniture to cars, want ads, services ads, pretty much anything. It's like your local newspaper's classified section only electronically, updated by the minute and you can access everyone else's classified section in the country. Good stuff. It's been the subject of at least one movie as well. You can read more about it at:

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The ol' pop-in

Sometimes I let the sports side of me take over what seems like my entire being, including my blog, so for that I apologize. Unfortunately, what I know better than just about anything else is sports, so I have a bit of a bias especially when the Bears are doing well. So Kel from D.C., thanks for reminding me that some people don't care all that much about sports and much less my opinion on them. The blog is a constantly evolving beast and skewing one way or the other was bound to happen. That said, someone sent me this picture that sums up the Bears/Packers game two weeks ago and I couldn't agree more:

If you're a Seinfeld fan like I am, you'll remember the "pop-in" references. When you live in a big city like Chicago, the pop-in really doesn't happen that much. Out in Naperville where I grew up, we'd have pop-ins all the time. You just show up at someones door and say, "Hey, what's up? Want to do something?" It's actually one of the things most memorable from my childhood. One family in the neighborhood, more so than any other including my own, really welcomed pop-ins to the point of almost inviting them. And what a great feeling everyone in the neighborhood had towards that family, including the parents. We knew we could always just head down to their house and most of the time not even knock, though we would in the evening when we were sure the parents were home. But during the day, you'd just go over, walk in and say "Hi Mrs. S." and head downstairs to where the sons usually were (they had three and two were close to my age).

THAT's the positive image I have from the suburbs and a closer knit neighborhood. THAT's what would get me back to the suburbs at some point in the future.......oh, and the schools if I had a kid. But I wonder now if I'm just being nostalgic and that world doesn't exist the suburbs or the city. Hmmmm......

Well I do know that dejesus freak just popped in right here in the city! He lives down the street and there's really no reason we shouldn't have pop-ins all the time. Of course, you can't just walk in, but we probably walk by each other's place fairly often and there's no reason to not just ring the buzzer and say, "Hey, what's up? Doing anything? Doing nothing? Can I join you?" That's awesome. Sure, some of the time they aren't going to be home or will have people over, but a good chunk of the time nothing will be going on and they'd probably welcome the company.

Actually across the street from dejesus freak is a couple with two kids whom I've known for a while and whose company I enjoy. We try to have the same type of beer (Chimay) on hand, if not cold in the summer, just in case the other stops by. That's what neighborhoods should be like and back in the day, fifty years ago, I bet there was a fair amount of that going on.

So to Kel from D.C. and dejesus freak down the street, this entry's for you! Thanks.

For tomorrow's "who is this person?" entry:

Monday, January 08, 2007

Why 4-0 will lose you money in Vegas

Yes, I did indeed pick the winners of all four playoff games this weekend. I'll wait for the applause................thank you. However, against the spread set by Vegas odds makers, I was only 2-2, which is exactly what Vegas loves to see. On my wins, I'd still lose the vig, or about 10%, to the house. That's why I said don't go to Vegas with my picks.
I'm not sure if there would be a place that would take the wagers straight up, without the spread, but there might be if you picked all four. dejesus freak will probably know.

My DirectTV installer showed up at 1:00 on the button, the front end of the 1-4 window. How sweet is that? And man was he a quick working, solid pro. Good stuff. Turns out he doesn't work for DirectTV at all. He was an independent contractor because working for DirectTV directly, "Doesn't pay well at all." Well, this guy was certainly better than the DirectTV guy that came out three times to get me up and running initially, so I'm happy! He even ran another line to my second television where I moved my first Tivo recorder. So now I have an HD recorder and a regular DVR! Sweet!!!!

Ok, now my thoughts on next week's Bears game. The Seahawks looked pretty dismal against the Cowboys in winning 21-20 on Romo's dropped hold (thank you Ms. Underwood!). It turns out (and somehow I missed this while doing research to make my picks), the Seahawks had two cornerbacks that were out of football only two weeks ago! So of course you think the Cowboys are going to throw to T.O., Terry Glenn and Jason Witten and just scorch the former self proclaimed "America's team". Nope. The Cowboys barely did anything through the air. The real funny thing is that I'm hearing how the Bears are going to take advantage of the "banged up Seahawks secondary" and how we need to "establish the run but don't forget to throw against the banged up secondary." Ugh. Those three Cowboy receivers are ALL better than any of our receivers. We've got no shot through the air, especially with Grossman.

I'm actually feeling better about the Bears chances, but it has more to do with how bad Seattle played than how well I think the Bears can do. Now I hear Darrell Jackson will be back for the Bears game, after aggravating an injury that caused him to miss three games. Shaun Alexander didn't play the first time around, when the Bears won 37-6, and neither did Jerramy Stevens. More importantly though, the first match up was when Tommie Harris was in the lineup and Mike Brown was yet to be hurt. We were getting a lot more pressure on the QB (5 sacks that game with 2 by Harris) and really haven't regained that look in almost two months.

I'll be at the game cheering, but it could be a long day.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Late Saturday Night

This time last week I weighed in at 200 pounds. This morning I weighed in at 192! Steadily throughout the week I've been dropping pounds and was at 194 yesterday morning. My 192 reading today was probably a little misleading because I had a softball game last night that didn't start until 11:30. Yes, 11:30 PM. It didn't finish until 12:30 am and I didn't get home until about 1:30. Anyway, actively that late, especially running around as much as I was probably deflated my weight through water loss.

Actually, most of what I lost this week I imagine is water, but that means it was water that I gained.....more or less. Either way, it's still going to help me be a little light on my feet playing softball. This afternoon I'll go to the gym to keep the muscle mass up.

On my way home from the game at 1:00 AM, traveling about 65 MPH, four souped up Honda Civic's blew by me at about 80-85 MPH (that's about 10,000 KM per hour I think). Nice, I thought, hopefully they'll get into an accident and once again Darwinism will win out. No such luck. Instead, they decided to take up all the lanes by spreading across them and then proceeded to throttle down to 40 MPH. Eventually of course I caught up to them and of course was pissed. A recipe for disaster. I contemplated many things: pulling up close behind them with my brights on, laying on the horn, even pulling up close and bumping one of the punks. Discretion was the better part of valor though and after a few minutes they exited. It's easy to see how a professional athlete in the same situation though, all roided up and with a firearm in their car (and possibly a drink or two in them) could easily turn that situation into something really, really bad.

Let's look at my Saturday game predictions. While Peyton didn't "eat up" the Chiefs, the Colts did indeed win and Peyton played decently. No one predicted the rookie runningback Addai would be the difference. LJ was held to under 40 yards. I didn't predict that, but I knew he wouldn't be enough for KC to win. How do you not get a first down in the entire first half though?

The Dallas/Seattle game was much closer than I thought, mainly because the Seattle defense is a lot worse than I thought. It did come down to a botched play by Romo though and I bet he was thinking about diddling Underwood at the time! Ha!

Joe is 2-0 so far in the playoffs, but I'm wondering now if Seattle CAN beat the Bears. Then I remember how poorly Grossman has played and I think, YEP, they can beat us. I heard today that Grossman had a passer rating over 100 for 7 games (most in the NFL) and had a passer rating under 40 for 5 games (also most in the NFL). Which Grossman will we get next Sunday?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friend or no Friend? Here's a strong test.

As you know I've purchased a big-ass television with HD capability, yet I have no HD signal reception ability. The odd thing is, my television viewing experience has declined (except for one glorious football game in HD) because all of the non-HD programming becomes so much more apparent on a bigger screen. Anyway, in order to take advantage of the HD functionality, I need to get a new dish and a new receiver. Both were ordered last week from DirectTV.

They said, "We have an opening on the 8th."
Joe said, "Well that doesn't work well for me. What else do you have?"
"February 15th."
"OK, the 8th it is." Unfortunately, I really am working during the installation time, so I needed to find someone to house sit for me. That person is my buddy Rich. Is there a better test of a friend than sitting in a house for a four hour window waiting for the cable guy? It's certainly one of the better ones.

If you didn't see this article, take a gander. It's pretty cool and it directly ties in with a similar invention that I thought of for your computer.
Imagine, you have to blow into a breathalyzer before your computer will start! That would be awesome, at least for us single folks. No more 2 a.m. drunken emails to ex-girlfriends or people that stood you up on a date or co-workers or bosses. I'm telling you, it's a gold mine!!

Here's another "how does Joe get through the day?" story. Wednesday I came home from the office and my new caller i.d. said that someone called but there was no message. What follows are my thoughts over the next few minutes:

"Let's take a look at the number.....773-540-!@#@.....hmmmm, who is that? Let me grab the phone and give it a call. Oh shit, my cell phone is ringing. Hang up the handset and grab the cell. Damn, just missed the call. Isn't that the way? The bastards hung up. Let's see who called."

Yep, you guessed it. I was calling myself. Unbelievable. I didn't even recognize my own cell phone number!! How retarded do you have to be to have that happen? Ugh.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Day three, a little harder than days one and two

Sooooo much to write about, I'll have to save some for tomorrow.

This morning my alarm went off at 7:30 and I promptly turned it off, not to get up until almost 10! Yikes! I owe my slothfulness to two things: the lower calorie diet and hitting the gym two of the last three days (now three out of four after going today). No, I'm not over doing the diet thing. It's just the circumstances of the week that allowed me to go to the gym. Anyway, I'm a little lethargic and the workout today wasn't as good as I had hoped, but I think it's just a temporary adjustment that my body is making.

New year's resolutions never work for me, but this year I decided to make a few. They are as follows:
1) Take a vacation somewhere warm this year (haven't done this in a couple of years).
2) Obtain my F.O.I.D. (Firearm Owner's ID).
3) Find a good money market account.
4) Lose this 10-12 pounds that I've gained over the last two years.

So I've started on #4 and yesterday I took big steps towards #2 and #3. Completing #1 is in the works as well with a trip to Turk and Caicos possibly in February with my buddy Ken from NJ.

Now why get a FOID you ask? Most people know that I don't carry a gun nor do I have one in the house. However, after the Tank Johnson incident(, I decided better safe than sorry plus it allows me to shoot in my own lane at the firing range with my dad as opposed to having to share a lane with him. It's the little things really.......

When I decide which money market account works best for me, I'll let you know. It's not a bad way to store excess cash.

Finally, I thought today would be a good day to release my playoff picks for the weekend. I'm not saying go to Vegas with these, because I'm not betting against the line, but I'm documenting my thoughts on the winners. Here we go:

First up, Chiefs at the Colts. Many thoughts here. Colts can't stop the run and KC has the number two back in all of football (Larry Johnson), so everyone is saying the Chiefs are going to dominate and this is the favorite upset of the week pick. I don't believe it for a few reasons. First, KC sucks on the road and Indy is no picnic for the opposition. Second, the game isn't about LJ, it's about Peyton. The only time Peyton struggles is against 3-4 defenses (three linemen and four linebackers). He struggles because he doesn't know where the blitzer is going to come from unless the defense tips him off early. KC plays a 4-3 so Peyton is going to eat them up.

Second, Cowboys at the Seahawks. I refuse to believe how little respect the Seahawks are getting in this one. Solid RB, solid QB, nice TE and good enough defense. The Cowboys have a QB who is diddling Carrie Underwood. Which would you be thinking about: Carrie or the game? 'Nuff said. Seahawks could kill them.

Third, Jets at Patriots. Best game of the group without a doubt. The Patriots have been struggling, but I wouldn't want to face them in the playoffs. Currently the Patriots are favored by 8 1/2. The Jets lost at home in week 2, 24-17, then won in the rain week 10 at NE 17-14. NE didn't have either starting safety in the second game and should have at least one back. Belichek can't stand Mangini because he bailed on NE to take the Jets job. Look for payback, but that spread seems high, especially if the weather isn't nice.

Finally, Giants at Eagles. Philly has won five in a row including thumping NYG 36-22. The NYG have lost six of the last 8. Look for Philly to dominate at home.

Rainy and 52 in Chicago today. Go global warming!!!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Start of Low Cal New Year

Yes, I have officially joined the majority of Americans who are unsuccessfully concerned about their weight. In an effort to drop 10-12 pounds or so (gained over the last 2+ years), I investigated several diets and food supplier options including: Nutrisystem (endorsed by Dan Marino and everyone even remotely associated with the NFL and currently not getting a paycheck from anyone else), Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating (c'mon, I'm in the name for crap sake!), Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers (long associated with women).

The conclusion I arrived at was that weight loss is about expending more calories than you take in. Rocket science right? No one ever called me bright. However, there is a proper nutrition aspect to the whole deal which is how SSHE and Nutrisystem make their money. SSHE provides relatively fresh food twice a week and you supplement it with dairy and fruits/vegetables. Nutrisystem sends meals weekly I believe and they are vacuum packed. Both seem reasonable, but are about $100 a week or so. Can't I do this on my own? Well, I think I can get close and the Lean Cuisines I just bought were on sale for $2 a piece which means I can have 50 of them this week alone for the cost of the other plans. That MAY defeat the purpose if I eat them all however.

My buddy Rich is trying to drop a few as well, so he is quasi joining me on the venture. Yesterday we just had soup for lunch and last night I had a Lean Cuisine that was pretty good actually. Without the additional energy though, I'm dragging a bit today, though that could also be from working out two days in a row too.

Learning Tuesday has been missed the last few weeks, so I'm making an entry today. You hear about Indonesia all the time in the news and still few people have a clear idea of where it is and what islands make it up so I'm attaching a pretty decent map. Most recently, a plane went down there, but you'll also notice that many of your Starbuck's coffee beans are grown there. How many coffee blends can you find?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Christmas Cards Extraordinaire!

If you've been to the house I grew up in (in Naperville), you'll notice a bevy of mounted and framed Christmas cards with dates and names on them. These cards are the annual winners of the Sutton Family Christmas Card Contest. Every year since 1973 I believe, our family has gathered together sometime in January and voted on the best Christmas card sent to my parents. It's kind of a fun little thing and I even produced a story for NPR about it complete with taped interviews and back ground sound of the event taking place. It's fun, though there are rules to prevent cheating, which my sisters will attempt at any opportunity (JK gals, or am I?). One rule is that you're not allowed to vote for your own card until later in the narrowing down process. There's a whole list of them which maybe I'll post tomorrow if I can find the file.

So in honor of that event, here are the best cards I received this year:

Since I sent a ton of cards this year, I also received a ton. These were just some of the best. The Santa suit card is actually a little cut out glued to the top of the card. Pretty cute, thanks Dan and Katie! The dog with hat card is just damn funny. Inside was a picture of Maria's dog also wearing a hat!! Very funny. The two dogs on the sled might be odds on to win the Sutton household competition this year, so I can't reveal the sender. Same with the dog pulling the bells. One of our many rules for selecting Christmas cards is that you're not allowed to look inside to see who sent it. My sister Lori is a frequent abuser of this rule.
The Cubs player in front of Wrigley was sent by my fellow Cubs lover, Dez. We played co-ed softball together and I think she has season tickets. The last two cards were both entries from my Jewish brethren! The penguins on the hill came from a long time friend and past coworker, Laurie. The tree in winter card came from my business partner (Michael) who is also the parent of frequent poster Alexis. If I had to bet though, I'd put money that his wife Gloria picked out the card. Ha!
That's it for today. Hope you were able to see the Boise State versus Oklahoma game last night. If night, search it out on ESPN on reruns. It was one of the best football games I've ever seen and the ending (the last four minutes of regulation and then overtime) couldn't have been scripted better! Just fantastic.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Blackhawks, Investments and Bears, Oh My!

Happy New Year to everyone! 2007 doesn't have the cache of a 2005 or 2010, but the year of James Bond has arrived and hopefully you're expecting big things out of yourself this year.....or a bunch of really good small things.

Last Friday I did something ELSE that I hadn't done in a while: go to a Blackhawk's game. The Boston Bruins were in town, so it was a match up of two of the original six franchises. There was a huge crowd there and the ticket lines for walk up sales were about 30 people deep. Though the Hawks were down 3-0 after one period and 4-0 after two, they came back with three goals in the first ten minutes of the third to make the game exciting. They lost 4-3, but it was a victory for the Wirtz family from a financial perspective, which is all they care about.....but don't get me started on them.

Saturday, after sleeping in, I went to my buddy Rich's party for his wife who graduated a masters program. If I'm not mistaken, I was the first non-family member there and the last one to leave. Rich is such a bad influence on me. :-) Now that I think about it, I might have been there for like 10 hours! Arrived before 4 and left somewhere in the 2 range. Wow, no wonder I was so tired on Sunday and why at 7 a.m. when they delivered my new television, I was pretty incoherent.

Briefly about the television delivery, I purchased my new plasma from Tweeter on Thursday evening and wanted to set up delivery as soon as practical. Turns out they deliver on Sunday and I found out on Saturday that they would be there between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Who would have thought they'd actually be ringing the buzzer at 7! Ouch. They unhooked my old TV, moved it upstairs, hooked up the new TV, tested it, programmed it and gave me instruction on how to use it. Then, as they were leaving, one guy noticed this old pair of "rabbit-ears" like device that I had hooked up to the old TV at one time. He hooks it up to the back of my new TV and I can actually receive some stations in HD! Who would have thought? Best $60 delivery charge I ever spent.

So for New Year's Eve, I opted to sell my Bears tickets and go to two parties instead. Since I was driving (and because I was out partying on Friday as well as Saturday), I took it pretty easy on the celebrating last night. Though I appreciate the concern from those who asked me to take a cab (it is nice to be loved!), I probably passed two hundred people on my trip home that were trying to flag cabs. It was tough to pass them all up actually without offering them a ride (especially some particularly pathetic looking attractive women). The neighborhoods that I was visiting really don't get a lot of cab traffic, so if I was going to keep a schedule and make it to both parties, cabs were not an option.

Take THAT, NFL. Bastards. It was silly to move a game to the evening where one team had nothing to play for and the other most likely was not going to have anything to play for. Just silly. There were four or five better games on paper that could have been moved instead, including the game I suggested (Pittsburgh and Cincy) which ended up going into OT. Nice call boyz. The networks could protect two games, but that still left a bunch of other games that were more meaningful. And the Bears are just not good. At best I think we're a 9-7 team and possibly only an 8-8 team. They displayed that last night: can't consistently stop the run or pass and the offense can't play consistently mistake free. Run the ball and stop the run, that's how you win championships and Seattle is going to show the Bears that when they come to town and beat the Bears on January 13 or 14.

Finally, it's inevitable that people will ask me this time of year about investments and where they should put their IRA contributions or annual bonuses. So this year I'll just post the list of funds that I like, with their ticker symbols, and you can see if any of them fit your needs. These funds aren't for everyone, no fund is. Generally, these funds have superior management with low fees that produce above market returns over a period of time. Will they in 2007? As I've already said, I'm not Nostradamus. I have no idea if they will outperform the market or comparable funds this year, but I'm betting with them. Don't wait to make your IRA contribution by the way. After you pay your credit card bills, or if you know you'll have the money to do it, make your contributions asap. You'll thank me come the end of the year. Here's the list:

Weitz Hickory WEHIX

Dodge and Cox International Stock Fund DODFX

Dodge and Cox Income DODIX

Mairs and Power Balanced MAPOX

Mairs and Power Growth MPGFX

Stratton Small-Cap Value STSCX

Oakmark Select I OAKLX

Oakmark I OAKMX

Oakmark Equity & Income I OAKBX