Saturday, June 30, 2007

Softball, softball, softball

Today was nothing but softball. Unfortunately, our tournament was played on just one field. I believe there were eight teams so our schedule was: play game one at 10 a.m.; game two was at 1 p.m.; game three was at 4; game four was at 7 and then every hour from there on. This is the problem with playing on only one field: we had played only three games in the first 9 hours that we were out there. If you remember two weeks ago in Champaign, we played 6 games in 8 hours....much nicer.

You might think that we'd like the rest and sometimes and hour off is good, but it's really easy for the muscles to start tightening up if you're in a multi hour layoff. Really, just playing back to back to back is much better than over 9 hours. Plus, if (heaven forbid) you lose twice, you still have the rest of the day to do stuff.

Well, we went 3-2, which doesn't sound impressive, but it got us third place. The two teams that we lost to were playing in the championship game, so that's some consolation. We didn't have a full squad though and didn't play as well as we should have played. While sometimes brutal in the field and sometimes spectacular, I was 13-18 at the plate for a robust .722 average, including 6-7 in our final two games. Not a bad day at all. Lots and lots of sun!!!

Friday, June 29, 2007

"Today is my casual sex day."

That's what I read on a shirt in a store window. Laughed out loud as I walked by, so now even more people in my neighborhood think I'm a little off.

Had to sleep in today after a long night of drinking and good times with friends and business associates. I'm fortunate to have that ability, because today I really needed it as exemplified by not getting up until 10! Since I have a softball tournament on Saturday, I had to do laundry to get my uniform and other articles clean. Some business calls and a conversation regarding another new door that I need installed and it was already time for the Cubs game. The pitcher for the Cubs, Rich Hill, gave up five runs to the division leading Brewers from Milwaukee in the first inning, so watching the game was no longer a priority.

What was a priority was getting rid of my damaged carpeting and figuring out how to remove the last of my wet padding that was sitting under my desk. In order to do that though, I needed some help and Naperville Greg was just the man for the job. Despite being tired from a long week of work, he volunteered to come over and help with whatever I needed done.

Our first task, take the removed carpeting out to the curb. With two people, it wasn't too bad. By yourself, it ain't gonna happen. Next step, was to cut and remove another large piece of carpeting that I've decided wasn't going to be useful to keep. Again, with two people working on it (one holding the carpeting taunt and the other cutting from the back) the process was pretty quick. The final step was to remove the padding under my desk, while keeping the carpet at least for the time being.

If you think about my "L" shaped, very heavy desk, moving it all at once would actually require three people to do effectively. I really only needed to get at half of the padding under my desk as the water didn't reach all the way to the wall and the second side of my desk. So as Greg put up with me making various suggestions about how to move the desk, he said "Why not pick up one side and push the edge of the carpet past the edge of the desk? Then you can rip out as much as you want without moving the desk." I tell you what, that made the whole night successful!! I never would have thought of it. After moving some other furniture around, we were done and off to grab some Thai food and a few beers. Tomorrow's story: what we talked about over dinner.....or at least one of the topics.

The Cubs came back to win the game on a two run home run by Ramirez in the bottom of the ninth, 6-5.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not much going on but water.

As you know from my previous postings, my basement flooded. It's really annoying more than anything as I have to rip up the carpet and padding underneath only after moving everything around to dry "land". Unfortunately, some things are a little too heavy or awkward for me to move, including my desk at which I'm not writing. Is there wet padding underneath my desk? Probably. Will it mold if I don't rip it out? Most definitely. How am I going to move it? I have no freaking idea.

My desk is an "L" shape or more like a spread out "v" with the computer at the apex. It's probably three feet on either side and heavy as all get out. Even with two other people, all of the cords and things would make it really difficult to move. I'm going to have to do it though, but it'll be a chore.

Since I didn't have a dehumidifier at home, I borrowed the one from the office (which was installed to fight the flood aroma there) on Wednesday night and have emptied the little monster several times a day since then. At least now I can sit down here and work without sweating from the 80% humidity (no joke!) and suffer from the musty odor (most of which is gone).

I'm going to call upon Greg from Naperville to come over and help me take outside the carpeting from the back room and maybe get this last bit of padding up around the desk. Hopefully we can do both things relatively quickly and then grab a beer. Saturday brings a softball tournament for me, so at least I'll have that distraction.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yesterday in more detail

Here's what I was writing yesterday before I came across my flooded basement.

Where to I start today? Well, maybe with yesterday when my "check engine" light came on. My five year old Camry has never had that light come on, so I was concerned immediately. I knew I had to bring it in to have it checked, but when? el supremo de NM is coming to town Tuesday night and we're driving around until I drop him off at the airport on Friday. So I decided to make an appointment for this afternoon but later in the afternoon.

Today started by heading into the office to get working on various client stuff. After being fairly successful, I headed back home the two miles straight north. Now, the temperature was 91 and humid as all get out as I left the office. It took me about 15-20 minutes to get into my neighborhood and the temperature had dropped down to 78!! Then the rains came.....and they came.....and they came....for a solid half-hour at least.

After the rain ended, or what I thought was the end, I headed down to Starbucks for my afternoon coffee. Unfortunately the rain started up again and it poured....and poured....and poured some more. Finally, I had to leave otherwise I wouldn't make my car appointment three miles north.

I thought I'd just hop on the Lake Shore Drive and head north. Unfortunately, the underpasses that allow you to get onto LSD were flooded! The water in Irving's underpass actually had whitecaps on it!! Worse yet, it had a van with water over the hood of the car stuck underneath. I tried the next underpass with the same results....exactly. Another van stuck in the same spot underneath the overpass. So I decided to head inland and took Broadway up north instead. That's right, I said I decided to head inland. Crazy.

Pick up the story today:

Well, I made it to the car shop and spent $330 for repairs to my thermostat which controls the coolant to the engine (seemed like something I should have fixed). Then I headed home. It was all of three hours after the last deluge that was so intense it had caused manhole covers to flip up and go askew. Now however, it was like nothing happened. Maybe my basement didn't flood, I naively thought.

Well, it did and I spent the next six hours vacuuming up water so that I could tear up the carpeting so I could vacuum the pad underneath so I could tear it up and throw it out. You can't move the carpet if it's soaked and you can't pick up enough padding wet padding to make progress, so you have to use a wet-vac on both before you do anything with them. Ugh. Made enough progress by midnight though that I was ready for a hot shower and bed. Plus my back couldn't take anymore.

So I turned on the water and waited for it to get hot...and waited....and waited...and waited. Fifteen minutes later I realized something was up and it was probably the pilot light. Bingo. We have two water heaters for the building and both pilot lights were out. After another fifteen minutes, I was able to get one lit. The other remains unlit to this very moment. We can get by on one as long as not everyone is showering at once. Didn't help me at 12:30 a.m. though as it takes a while to reheat that much water and for it to reach me, so it was a cold shower and then bed. Not ideal by any stretch.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Flood Cometh

Had another entry almost written, but then I found out my basement flooded. Ugh. Now I'm working on ripping up the carpeting and the padding underneath.

Thanks to stef for picking up el supremo de NM at the airport so I can continue to clean up!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fired from volunteer service!!

Busy day today working with the Red Cross. I head up the investment subcommittee of the finance committee. We had a meeting for the subcommittee prior to the regular meeting, so it ended up being a four hour trip altogether. Interestingly enough, I was told at the finance committee meeting that no one from the finance committee was returning to the finance committee at the September meeting, because it was just passed down from the national office that all finance committees of local chapters will be made up of board members from that chapter in the future. At first I said, fine; it's not like I was getting paid or anything. Then I thought, everything we did on the finance committee had to ultimately be approved by the board, so now they are going to really have to be leery of group think since they are going to be doing the work AND approving their own work. Yikes. They want me to stay on to head up the subcommittee, but homey don't play that.

Afterwards, I hit the gym, running my two miles and then lifting some weights. By the end of my workout though, it was 4:30! Then I had to get home, have my afternoon coffee and make up for lost time. Ugh.

If you didn't see the Cubs game, they were killing Colorado 8-3 going into the ninth. Colorado scored 6 (six!) times in the ninth to take a 9-8 lead. Nice job Bob Howry. Technically he only gave up three of the runs in the ninth after Scott Eyre had already given up one and had let two more guys get on without getting anybody out!! Howry obliged Colorado by serving up fastballs over the heart of the plate to allow not only the two guys on base to score, but three more runs. Ugh. Fortunately, with two outs and one on, the Cubs got a single and then were the beneficiary of an error before Alfonso Soriano (0-5 up to that point) hit a single to right to score two runs and pull it out. The place went crazy!!!

Hey, Stephen Colbert just did a bit on the killer sand story which I reported last week. Ha!!

In honor of me being fired from the Red Cross, I pass along these pictures which were just sent to me this evening by coincidence. Subheading for pictures: "The reason why you are escorted out after being fired as opposed to just finishing out the day."*

*Thanks Pop.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Gay Pride" or "Why didn't I go golfing again today?"

Today was the 38th annual Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. Even though I've lived in the 'hood for about 18 years now, I've actually only hung around to see the parade about three or four times. Though I didn't watch the whole thing today, I did see a good chunk of it. Local politicians, some walking, others on a float. One guy, the recorder of deeds, was just sitting in his van and waving periodically. Didn't see anyone LESS interested in being there than him. The Grand Marshal was John Amaechi, the ex NBA player who came out earlier this year. Somehow I missed him ride by.

I started off standing by the Starbucks at the end of my block (the parade route went up Halsted at one end of my street and down Broadway at the other end of my street). For some reason there were tons of people right there at the intersection though and I couldn't see anything (which, in some cases, was a good thing). Seeking a better vantage point, I moved north on Broadway behind a bus stop bench. Perfect. The bench gave me some personal space and provided some space for viewing purposes.

"Hey Joe." I heard after about five minutes of standing there. Uh oh. Who could I know here? It was Ms. Maria's brother and three of his friends. We haven't gotten along in the past, a long involved story, but we've become fairly cordial in recent years (possibly because Ms. Maria and I are no longer dating). It was actually good to have him and his friends there because next to wearing very little clothing and/or buttless chaps, the gay community loves to form organizations and use acronyms. "PFLAG" for instance is Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. I mean c'mon, do you really need a group for them? Hell, a McHenry County online support group had their own float in the parade! I can't remember what they were called, but even Ms. Maria's brother didn't know that one.

Shirt sayings I read today:

Worn by a girl: "I like girls who like girls."
Worn by a guy: "Oklahomo"

Saw several women with unattractive chests exposed (isn't that the way?), but I did see one woman who I think was heterosexual flash some people up on a balcony. She was alright. That took place on my way to get some food. On the way back, the same balcony of people got some guys to drop trow. Fortunately my view was blocked.

Best marcher was a guy with a sign that said, "I survived a hate crime attack." That takes guts....and some built up hatred I imagine. And of course, the parents of homosexuals also have a group and they always get a big round of applause. Heck, I even clap for them. Tom Skilling (long time weather man in Chicago and brother of ENRON CEO Jeffrey Skilling) was on the WGN float waving and having fun. He seems like a nice guy. Oh, and of course, my favorite float person was Anna Davlantes from NBC. Yowza. She makes a pair of jeans look really good.

All in all it's a fun day, but the neighborhood is treated like a garbage can first, a urinal second and a parade route third. If not for the amount of taxpayer dollars spent by the streets and sanitation department using brooms to push the garbage into the street so it could be picked up by a fleet of trucks and street cleaners and then the over-the-top police coverage (at weekend overtime rates no doubt) it wouldn't be so bad. I'm not a parade goer, but the fans of this parade can make a mess in four hours like nobody's business. Ugh.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Golf Day (Sports entry!)

Today zoomed by as I slept in and didn't have much time before I had to leave for my golf outing with a shotgun start at 2:30. It was raining all morning and while we were at the practice range on the course, but after the second hole or so, the rain stopped. We were playing on the far south side of Chicago at a Cook County course called George Dunne National. The course itself is very challenging and they have even considered holding PGA events there.

We were playing a scramble format where everyone hits a shot, goes to the best one, hits from there, goes to the best one, hits from there, etc. At other courses, my team's average score is -20 or so. Today we were only six under par and it didn't look good for us to repeat as champions of my church outing.

As a side note, in addition to sponsoring my foursome, The Podolny Group sponsored the outing as a whole!! It would have been bad to NOT win while being the sponsor. Two guys on the team were new in that I haven't been in a scramble with them before. On the front nine I really carried the team unfortunately. It's not bravado that I mention this point, but to point out how you DON'T want one person carrying the team, unless that person is really good (which I'm not). On the back nine, two of the guys stepped up and did the majority of the work and we ended up shooting -3 on both the front and back. Some better putting and we would have been at -10 pretty quickly.

As I said though, we were -6 and as it turns out, we won by two strokes with that number!! Yay!! Hopefully I'll be able to post a picture soon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pie Hole

As many of my faithful readers know, I live in the heart of Boyztown. As Sunday is the Gay Pride Parade, it's particularly appropriate to mention this fact. One of the fortunate things about living in my neighborhood is that soooooo many things are within walking distance. Today I was walking back from the bank and saw a sign out in front of a local pizza place called Pie Hole. Actually a pretty cool name for mostly sub-standard, over priced pizza joint.

Now, you have to understand this neighborhood fully to really get the whole picture. On two of the corners next to Pie Hole are two gay bars (Cocktails and Roscoes). Next to one of Cocktails is another gay bar called Sidetracks. Across from Roscoes is an eclectic clothing store best used by straight folk for Halloween costumes, but can become every day attire for homosexuals in the neighborhood. Across from there is a 7-11 catering to all of your condom and gay porn needs....oh and milk if you run out.

So I'm walking by Pie Hole and they have a sign out: "Our hole is always open." Nice.

Yesterday at the soccer match they kept showing ads for Comcast Sports Net, the local sports cable channel. The ads are showing up on the tv screens all the way around the stadium. Who is on the ads? None other than Peyton Manning, the quarterback who embarrassed the Bears in the Super Bowl. And in the Bears' home stadium no less!!! Unbelievable. Naperville Greg and I were appalled.

Finally found out how I did in the tournament last weekend from a hitting perspective. My On Base Percentage (OBP) was .737 as I was 14-19. That was second best on the team and .100 pts better than the #3 guy. Most of the team hit between .500 and .600, which is expected when we're hitting well and playing against good teams. Not bad for a 41 year old!!

Today I had a great, reaffirming luncheon with a client. Actually it was the new COO hired by a client. She and I went to Cafe 28, a nice little Cuban themed restaurant near their office. She said the owner spoke so highly of me (and el supremo de NM) that she wanted to have lunch and talk about what we were doing as well as how that would dovetail with what she was working on. Like I said, it was very reaffirming that a client would vocalize their appreciation of the work we do...if not to us, at least to someone else. Good stuff.

Tonight dejesus freak and I went to the bars for some grub and beer. I really need to do this more often, both go out with df and go to the bars. There were plenty of attractive, eligible and interested women there and df and I had some good conversation as well. To tell you the truth, I was too tired to make much of an effort going after the women, but it really wouldn't have taken much. However I did find out that df and I had very similar quasi-relationships lately. Interesting when you hear about someone else going through nearly the exact same thing that you have gone through.

Anyway, since the place was pretty open (windows and doors) and there was good air circulation I wasn't overwhelmed by smoke. If not for me being so tired, who knows what could have happened.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Maple Leaf in a Bear's Den

Tonight was an evening that I've been awaiting for a few months. Some time ago I was given the chance to buy tickets to either two CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final games or the final game. I opted for the double header, 8 rows up and just off midfield. It was pretty cool!!

Joining me for the evening were Naperville Greg*, his wife Kleveland Kim and Ms. Maria*. We met near NG and KK's home south of Roosevelt on Michigan avenue, a short walk from Soldier Field. We met at some nautical themed bar called Weather Mark Tavern. It was actually not a bad place at all. Dry Dock, you'd love it!! In the bathroom was a nautical map of northern Lake Michigan which included Beaver Island, a summer vacation haunt of mine growing up in and around Detroit.

First up was USA versus Canada. After going up 1-0, the US team was awarded a penalty kick after a cheap shot by the goalie on one of our players on a break away. Donovan successfully converted the kick to go up 2-0, a virtual blowout by soccer terms. Canada came back with a goal in the second half to make it 2-1 and that's the way it ended. The stadium slowly filled throughout the game, but even at the end of the USA game, the stadium was no where near as full as it would get.

The second game started at around 9:00 and showcased Mexico and Guadeloupe. By game time of this second game, the stadium, while not completely full, had way more fans than for game 1. The Mexican fans were out in droves!! One cute little section of Guadeloupians (that's what I called them) were just a section over from us. I was all set to cheer for Guadeloupe, until they read off the name of the lineup. They were all Frenchies!! Lord knows I don't like the French...or French colonies.....or French territories....or French fries!! Ugh. I still cheered for them a bit as the massive underdog, but I wasn't happy about it.

Since we weren't going to get out until late (11:30ish), my assumption was that NG and KK, both of whom had early wakeup calls potentially, were going to leave early and possibly not even see the second match. We were having so much fun though, their leaving was never an option. They are fun to hang out with, so I was happy they stayed!! I knew Ms. Maria was going to hold out until the end as she's a Cubs season ticket holder so she's used to attending sporting events until the bitter end.

*I was remiss in wishing both Naperville Greg and Ms. Maria a "Happy Birthday" here on my blog, so while it is belated, it is still heartfelt....Happy Birthday!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Threat Below

The predator lurks close to shore....waiting....waiting. The average victim is a male and around 12 years old. You've seen the victims, usually sitting on the waters edge building sand castles or digging holes in the sand.

In the United States alone since 1985, at least twenty victims have been confirmed. "That's only one a year", you might say. Why is this blog worthy? Well, first of all, I've written about far, far, far less interesting topics. Second, this story is pretty horrifying when you think about the number of times you've been walking along the waters edge, oblivious to the looming danger. Hell, I was just in Sarasota walking along the beach-Gulf of Mexico border, completely focused on shelling and not considering my possible demise. Prior to that I was in The Turks and Caicos and we not only walked along the beach, but were swimming and kayaking in the ocean. As it turns out, actually being IN THE WATER was the safer place to be.

You see, the predator was not sharks. Nor was it jellyfish or any other type of fish or even animal. And it's not waves or riptides. The deadly threat is simply......sand. That's right, sand. From 1990 to 2006, there were 16 deaths related to sand holes or tunnels. During the same period of time there were only 12 shark related fatalities in the U.S. So stop worrying about being chum or mistaken for a floating seal and start worrying about walls of sand collapsing on your sorry ass as you fall into a hole dug by the rugrat the next cabana over.

Sammy Sosa hit home run number 600 guessed it.....the Cubs, the only team he had not hit a home run against ironically enough. Plus the pitcher who threw the homer was wearing Sammy's old number while with the Cubs. Coincidence? Destiny? You decide. By the way, I happened to be watching it at the time and Tivoed it, so if you want to watch it the next time you visit, just let me know!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

So much success, so little time to f@$#% it up.

So you're a professional NFL player. You've been fortunate enough to have moved on from high school to college and then from thousands of college players to make it to the big time. Unfortunately you're not a star. You got drafted in the 7th round, the end of day two of the draft. After one full season in the league, you only had 2 carries at running back for a total of two yards. Clearly you're hanging onto your position in the NFL by a thread. Off the field, over a 14 month period, you see nine of your teammates get arrested....NINE!! Now it's the weekend, you're celebrating a wedding at a bar downtown at 3 a.m. Sunday morning and the police show up to disperse the crowd. Do you:
a) Realize that your career and way of life certainly hang in the balance and do whatever the police say.
b) Run away and avoid getting identified (though this is in effect what the cops want i.e. you to disperse)
c) Fail to disperse, resist arrest and obstruct justice by trying to prevent the police from arresting your friends thus becoming the 10th player on your team arrested.

Well, if you're Quincy "the idiot" Wilson and play for the Cincinnati Bengals, you opt for 'C' and I would bet effectively end your football career. Nicely done. Unbelievable.

If you have 8 minutes, you couldn't spend them any better than watching this video called The Battle at Kruger. New Jersey Ken sent it to me today and it's unfreaking-believable. It's the natural struggle of life and death between a herd of African Buffalo, a pride of Lions and two Crocodiles. No matter what you think of me while watching it, watch it all the way through.

I'm looking forward to Thursday when I'll be attending two CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer games at Soldier Field. It should be awesome as U.S. is playing Canada in game one and Mexico is playing Guadalupe in game two. Sweet.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Traffic sucks the life out of you.

Today, in an effort to AVOID traffic, I tried to leave my house at 3 to get out to Naperville so I could take my parents out to dinner. Unfortunately, due to Manual Labor Mike's hangover and late start, I couldn't leave the house until 3:30. The impact? It took me two hours to get out to my folk's place. Ugh. How the hell do people do that on a regular basis?

Sunday I drove back from Champaign, almost three hours. Today it was two hours to Naperville (then back home). Now tomorrow my softball team wants me to go to Glen Ellyn for a double-header, another hour plus drive. That's too much time in the car for me.

Found out today that my parents are going up to their cottage for a month! The only weekend that I don't have a softball tournament is the weekend that my sister is already going to see them. Crap. Maybe I'll go during the week or....gasp....miss a tournament.

People often ask me about investments and stocks in particular. Well, today I bought shares is a company called Fastenal (ticker: FAST). What do they do? They make fasteners. All sorts of fasteners. You couldn't get a more boring business. However, they are profitable and have a lock, pardon the pun, on the market. Morningstar uses a lot of factors to determine a good price to buy and a good price to sell based on current information including current estimates of future earnings. Based on these machinations, Morningstar says you should buy this stock up to about $53 a share with a fair value of $63 and consider selling it around $83 a share. The current price? Under $42 a share. Seems like a good bet. There you go. Don't say I never gave you anything!!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Experiences, not possessions, make the memories.

Sorry for the hiatus from writing the last couple of days. My softball team was playing down in Champaign-Urbana on Saturday, so I drove down Friday night to ensure that I was well rested for the tournament to be played in 90+ degree heat. As it turned out, the rest of the team drove down Saturday morning, a 2 1/2-3 hour drive depending on traffic. The $100 for an extra night in a hotel made everyone but me opt for the Saturday morning drive.

Well rested, fed, stretched out and hydrated is definitely the way to go into a tournament let me tell you. We ended up playing six games in eight hours and going 4-2 while finishing in second place. Our first loss didn't come until the semi-final game and we tied that game in the bottom of the seventh against Burton's Drywall and went into extra innings before losing. In a double elimination tournament, if you make it to the semi-final game, the loser (us) plays the winner of the losers bracket (teams with one loss already). We won the game against the loser bracket winner and then went back to play the team that had just beaten us. Down by five runs in the bottom of the last inning once again, this time we scored six runs to win and force yet another game against Burton's Drywall. In our third game against them on the day however, we were just a little too tired and couldn't get it done. Still, all in all, a good tournament and I hit pretty well. Not sure what my OBP was, but I'll find out.

Saw an article while reading the Chicago Tribune that talked about experiences, not possessions, being the stuff that memories are made of. In essence saying you should spend money on DOING things instead of BUYING things. Granted, the story was in the travel section of the paper and I've had tons of memorable experiences due to my big-ass tv, but I get the point. Travel has indeed created some fine memories for me, but I don't think it's limited to just travel and the article doesn't say that it's limited just to travel. Doing positive activities of any kind, not just travel, lend more memories than buying a lamp or computer. Still, you need that lamp and computer.

In honor of blogger Alexis, I make special note of this interesting article regarding biking in Amsterdam. I found it fascinating that there are 800,000 bikes a year stolen in Amsterdam. Yikes!

Hope you dad's out there had a great Father's Day!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Slow start to the day....worse finish.

This morning came early as I had to get up at 6:00 a.m. to drive out to the burbs for a day long seminar. Woody Allen said, "half of life is just showing up" and that's what I was doing today. And guess what? He was right.

I arrived at the breakfast before the conference, sat down at a table with a few guys at it and struck up conversation. Turns out one of the guys is a speaker later in the day and the other guy is from Detroit (my hometown if you didn't know). Shortly thereafter two other guys sat down; another speaker who was from Michigan and a guy who has recently done a large amount of business with Morningstar. Too ironic.

A year ago last summer, I had the great fortune of having dinner with Ernie Harwell, the long-time Detroit Tiger's announcer. To people who are baseball fans or who lived in Michigan, this is a pretty huge deal. The breakfast table was enthralled with the story, which led to more questions about what I do ("other than dine with famous baseball figures"). Suddenly I was networking. Half of life is just showing up.

After a long day of seminars, I stopped by the house before heading over to a client's open house for more networking, or more appropriately client contact. As you know, I'm replacing the baseboards and doors throughout the house. Upon entering my humble abode, I was welcomed to this site:

It used to be neatly painted and NOT have holes in the wall. Ugh. Turns out the job of removing the trim was much more complicated than it first appeared as the remodelers from twenty years ago decided to nail the hell out of the baseboard to the point where the wall was actually moving while Manual Labor Mike was removing the baseboard. Plus it took much longer than he expected, so the other stuff he was supposed to have done was delayed.

Fine, on to the client's open house, where both clients and their employees were having cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. A bunch of the client's employees were in from out of town and I was able to meet the new COO. And then, as if the day wasn't long enough, I was off to meet a date.

Well, I should have quit while I was ahead (or possibly I was already behind). While this young lady showed promise (we've had several very positive dates), surprisingly tonight was the last. Back to the drawing board!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Joe the prognosticator!!

Ok, maybe not a prognosticator, but lately I've had a knack for seeing people just before it becomes very difficult to see them again. In the past, it's been with baseball players who then die (yes, a little morbid I know). A few years ago I decided to try to get the oldest living negro league player's autograph, so it was skewed sample. Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe (just "Duty" to his friends) was the first unknowing victim. Ted passed away shortly after I almost got his autograph. He was followed up by poor Buck O'Neil, who passed away right after I got his autograph. And now I see General Peter Pace speak, just before he doesn't get reappointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the first such non-appointment since the LBJ administration. So next time you want to have a meeting with me, make sure you're healthy, avoid motorcycles and lengthy trips. Watch out Mr. Navarro.

Tonight I'm heading out to see the Cubs game with Naperville Greg and his wife Kleveland Kim. Should be fun! Tomorrow I have an all-day seminar followed by a client's open house for their new office. So if I miss posting tomorrow, please excuse me!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Much less expensive day today.

After the trip to the hardware store yesterday, I was looking forward to a more laid back kind of day which included golfing and then dinner with some ex-coworkers. Dinner was canceled though due to the need for one of my mates to attend a wake, so I opted to fill in at softball. A very athletic day. "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter!" (Name the character and movie.)

All I wanted to focus on in golf today was to hit fairways with my drives. Sounds like an obvious thing, but it's not always obvious and it's a little harder than it sounds. You will use a driver or long iron on 14 of the 18 holes. Normally I hit about 7 fairways, or 50%. Today I really wanted to hit 10 fairways and see how that might impact my score. More fairways means I should hit more greens in regulation (second or third stroke) and then let my putting take over. Well, after four holes I had only five putts as I was chipping and putting well. Unfortunately, I only hit 2 fairways for the entire day!! TWO!! Good Lord. Not a good start to my day, but it was a beautiful day for golf.

Oh, and the cicadas!! They were everywhere!! Twice they flew at my face as I was preparing to hit. The sound of the cicadas was like a constant car alarm, but lower in pitch and slightly quieter. It was pretty cool. I was playing just north of where I was playing the other Sunday and where I heard all the cicadas.

Then it was home for a few hours before heading to softball. Due to the Cubs game, it took a while to get out of my neighborhood and almost an hour to get to the fields in Itasca (a suburb past O'Hare). The reason I wasn't going to play initially is that it's so far to drive and we only had one game. My effort was rewarded by our team getting hammered when the other team scored 14 runs in the fourth to go up 18-4. Ugh. We didn't score in the fifth (despite my second hit in three at bats) and the game was called early due to slaughter. Back in the car and another long drive home.

So not the best athletic day, but at least I didn't spend nearly as much money as yesterday!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Expensive Morning.

What a morning today. I set my alarm for the plum-early time of 7:30 (shut up!) to get a jump start on the day and have breakfast on my back porch. Unfortunately, my body just wouldn't get out of bed until 8. The delay meant I could still have breakfast on the back porch, but I only had time to read the front page of the newspaper and the front and back page of the sports page. Why? Where did Joe have to be?

Well, I was meeting my contractor, Manual-Labor Mike, at 9:30 at my local hardware store (a large regional chain) to buy more baseboard and order closet doors. My closet doors are bi-fold doors and upstairs they are 8' high instead of the traditional 7'. That meant that I needed to get the doors custom made. Ca-ching! In keeping with the style of regular doors in my condo, I'm making them six panel oak as well. They should look fantastic when they are done, but the cost.......well, I dropped $2,000 today on doors and baseboard and they still have to be stained and installed. Unfreakin' believable. It wasn't even 10:30 yet.

While lamenting my purchases, I sat down with coffee to watch some television and continue to seethe from the horribly unsatisfying ending to The Sopranos. Don't even get me started. Anyway, while watching television, I saw a commercial that really puzzled me. It was for the Ford Escape. Their slogan was, "The mileage of a sedan; the excitement of an SUV." Really? The mileage of a sedan is a good thing? Now I have what is technically called a sedan, but no one riding it in would call it a sedan. And I don't get tremendous mileage, maybe 28 mpg? And then "the excitement of an SUV"?? Since when are SUV's "exciting"? Motorcycles are exciting. Only crazy people drive them, but they are exciting. A 1960's Mustang, that's exciting. A Porsche, exciting. An SUV? That's the new soccer mom car. Hardly exciting. Boo Ford.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weeding.....Therapy or the Beginning of Senility?

Not as many people read my blog on Saturday (or Sunday for that matter), but don't miss yesterday's entry. It was pretty useful and, hopefully, interesting.

Yesterday afternoon I was feeling kind of blah, probably from drinking too much on Friday and then getting up early on Saturday and actually having to think. Still having a desire to be productive, but not wanting to think, my options regarding activities were somewhat limited. One alternative was to weed the front garden area which had become, essentially, a few old rose bushes and a bunch of weeds. As I found out, there was 1/2 of a city garbage can of weeds in there. Tell you what though, I felt better after I finished.

Rented Borat last night to round out the day. I'm thinking the DVD was better than the actual movie because of the extra scenes and the whole presentation. The DVD itself looks like a bootleg with just "Borat" written in black marker across the disc. Pretty funny. The movie, itself had me really laughing out loud probably two or three times. It was mostly just mildly entertaining. The "wedding sack" was pretty good and the description of his family was relatively funny. The black whore friend on the electric bull was funny. The real funny stuff was the unplanned scenes: chasing the guy in a blue suit through the streets of NY trying to hug him and the churchgoers in Texas or New Mexico who were at some crazy-ass freak church and were running across the sanctuary periodically as "the spirit moved them". All-in-all it was a decent rental.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Investing and hedge funds

The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind so to speak. Not so much because of the gusty winds, which thankfully have subsided, but due to one of my investments: a hedge fund run by an ex-coworker and good friend of mine. The Sellers Fund is named after the manager, Mark Sellers. Today he had their second annual meeting in downtown Chicago. Yesterday though, events were held geared towards out of town investors.

First we took a tour of the CBOE. It was fun to see and then we took a short class before going down to the pits to "trade" puts and calls on a fictitious stock. It was really pretty cool. There was a trader handling the public "book of orders" and then other traders helping us out. It's a simulated session that they've run before, so they know where the stock is moving (it had some wild fluctuations over 30 minutes or so). We started with a position in both puts and calls and were supposed to end the day closed out. We could just close out our positions right away, or add other positions and close them all out later. The traders were having fun helping us (mostly helping the more attractive women in the group....hmmmmm) and then would get on each other about crazy-ass bids they were making and such. It really was neat to see, but also pretty confusing at times.

We headed back to the hotel which was the main base for a change of clothes before heading off to the Sox/Astros game. I knew people who were going to be tailgating, so instead of taking the bus with the other investors (a ride that took about an hour), I hopped on the Red Line at Lake Street and got to 35th street in 9 minutes flat. Nice. That allowed me about an hour of drinking and eating before heading into the game where the other investors were sitting.

This morning was the annual meeting starting with breakfast at 7:30. The meeting actually started at 8:30. Our fund is invested in about 5 stocks right now, that's right FIVE, with about 50% of the $100 million in assets invested in one stock: Contango Oil and Gas. Is that risky? Why yes, it is. But Mark has a great track record so far being up about 35% annually for the last 5 years. Smartly, he started off with the current year's performance which was up 25% net of fees through June 1. That's outstanding!!!

The stock concentration issue led Mark to talk about mutual funds in general. Most funds, he contends and I agree, do not have an incentive to significantly BEAT their benchmark (usually the S&P 500 or some other such index). They are incented to only slightly outperform their benchmark or really just not UNDER PERFORM. If they take a big risk and it doesn't pay off, people will leave their fund and the management team's pay will drop. If a fund has $500 million in assets and they charge 1.2% in fees each year, they bring in $6 million a year in fees. Why put that at risk if your benchmark is the S&P 500 and all you have to do is buy those stocks and be right on one smaller bet which puts you ahead of the benchmark? Why hold less than 100 or so stocks if you don't have too? There's no incentive. Probably 80% of the fund companies operate this way, but they don't want you to know it.

And for a lot of investors, it's not a terrible way to go. If I've ever worked with you on mutual fund selection, you'll recall some points that I will make are that you don't want to buy load funds (funds that charge you money just for the privilege of buying them), you want funds with low expenses (typically under 1%) and you want funds that have outperformed other funds in their category, not funds that have necessarily outperformed their index. So what I look at is how those funds have done compared to funds trying to achieve the same investment allocation goal. That way you have a better chance of ending up with funds that outperform like funds at a lower cost. Win-win!!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Warning: Sports Entry and Bears QB bitching!

The NFL draft makes much more sense now than it did a month ago. If you recall, Brady Quinn was expected to go no later than #9 to the Miami Dolphins. When the Dolphins passed on him for Tedd Ginn, Jr. ( a huge stretch at #9 by all accounts), Brady entered a free fall that lasted hours and became the subject of much drama and many articles.

Why wouldn't Miami, who had a fairly obvious need at quarterback, take Brady? Well, as I had indicated here on my blog, Miami was looking at Trent Green from KC which would free up Daunte Culpepper (whom I thought would land with the Raiders who would trade out of the #1 pick or select Calvin Johnson and leave JaMarcus Russell for the Lions at #2 with Brady Quinn going to Cleveland at #3). Well, that didn't happen. The Raiders stood pat and took their QB of the future leaving the Lions with yet another first round wide receiver.

And now, finally, the Dolphins have acquired Trent Green from KC and will release Culpepper tomorrow. Soooooo, can anyone think of a team that could use a 6'5" 270 l.b. quarterback with 5 full years of playing experience and 129 TD's and 75 picks in though seasons? Sure, he's been banged up the last two seasons and had knee surgery. Culpepper on crutches is better than Grossman 100% healthy. But who is looking at him now? Baltimore with Steve McNair, Kyle Boller and Troy Smith. Maybe we can get one of their castoffs as any of the three would probably be better than Grossman in 2007!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A whole lot of nuthin'

Geesh, no wonder people with full-time jobs don't blog as often as others....nuthin' happens if you're working! The last two days I've gone into the office with Ricardo to get some work done. It's been good, but it keeps me from my creative inspirations for my blog. That's not entirely true of course, but it does occupy my mind.

In Anderson Cooper's blog, which I don't normally read, it is mentioned that some scientists believe the answer to global warming is a pandemic. At first, the thought seems crazy. Slowly though, it seems to make sense. Fewer people, by millions, tens of millions, means fewer everything that contribute to greenhouse gases. Is this the way Mother Nature might take care of herself? It's an interesting theory, but it seems like it would only make a dent in the problem, not fix it.

Still no cicada grubs. No rat stories to talk about. I got nuthin'.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Getting that stroke back.

Cicada watch in downtown has turned up nothing, yet again. I'm not really sure what the deal is, though I guess it's just a week or two off from what was predicted. Seems like they should be showing up though. Tonight I was heading out to Itasca (about 40 minutes west) to play softball so I figured I'd see plenty of cicadas out there. Heck, they might even hinder our game!

However I was disappointed yet again. No cicada sightings at all.

For the last month or so, I've been really struggling hitting. Occasionally I would have a good day, but most days my on base average was down in the .300-.400 range. When I have my stroke, my on base average (OBA) is closer to .700 if not over. Well, when you're 41 and playing with mostly twenty-somethings, you need to excel at SOMETHING to keep your spot on the field. Those areas include: speed, hitting, fielding, throwing and being versatile to play various positions. I was never blessed with speed, so I always worked on the other four areas. Last year though, we added some new players who admittedly had similar if not better fielding skills and arms. So that left me with hitting and being able to play several positions, but hitting is the real key for me.

Even without good speed, I've batted near the top of the order because I find a way to get on base for the people behind me so they can knock me in. If my OBA is .300-.400 though, I'm getting on base (by any means in our OBA calculation) half as much as I was previously. Even for players who don't pay attention to stats, my absence from the base paths has been noticeable.

Tonight though, I focused on a few things: take more pitches, keep my hands back and hit the ball where it is pitched (outside then to right, inside then to left). As a lead-off hitter, which I am not lately, I would take pitches and work the count to make the pitcher throw me a pitch where I wanted it. Then I could just hit it to whichever field was appropriate. As I've dropped out of the lead-off spot though, I find myself up with people on base and trying to hit behind the runner, even if the pitch dictates otherwise. Plus I wasn't taking as many pitches (for no particular reason), so more often I was hitting the pitcher's pitch instead of a pitch to my liking.

The result tonight was 4 for 7, a .570 clip, no walks, an another hard hit ball on which the centerfielder made a diving catch. That one diving catch kept me from being over .700, so in my mind at least, I hit the ball well and feel like I have my head around this thing now. The big test will be the week after next when we have a tournament in alma mater!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Well sure, I COULD do that, but that would be easy.

As you know, I have sink problems. What has made the problem worse is that I'm willing to pay the money to get it fixed, but no one can help me. Yesterday I received a phone call from Sue and Joe, the hairless salon owner (HSO). They were right outside my condo with their two kids. After going out to talk to them, I invited them in to see my new doors (and's been a while since they came over!). While explaining my dilemma with the sink, I mentioned that there isn't any name on the sink. Sue said are you sure? I said yeah, it just has this on it "C-Tech-1". She says, "Why don't you Google it and see what comes up?" Yeah dumb-ass Joe, why don't you? Ugh. Of course I was able to find the manufacturer with little problem and the drain is on its way. Sometimes you just need someone to point out the trees through the forest.

While doing laundry yesterday, I realized I had a pair of pants that are dry clean only. Unfortunately, I realized this AFTER I had washed the pants. No sweat, just need to take them to the cleaners and so today I did. Not really exciting, but even though I've been going to this dry cleaner for a decade, they changed systems recently and needed my information. Though it is a stereotypical Chinese managed dry cleaner, the person waiting on me seemed Asian but not Chinese or Japanese. In any case, she didn't speak English very well. So she asks for my phone number and give it to her, leaving off the area code. I mean, she doesn't need that right? I live right around the corner. There are probably 5 dry cleaners within in four to five blocks of my condo if not more. Within my area code, I can't even imagine how many dry cleaners operate. Not getting my area code first though completely threw her off and we spent, literally, three minutes just trying to get my phone number into her computer. I almost jumped across the counter to enter it all myself!! Is there anyone in the free world (or even the enslaved world!) who has to leave their area code to find a dry cleaner? That's just ridiculous. Cell phones might be the reason, but it's still a little crazy.

Finally, I watched the MTV Movie Awards show. The show was pretty ho-hum except for one puzzling category: Best Movie You Haven't Seen Yet. So these are movies that the audience has only seen commercials for: Transformers, Simpsons The Movie and others. HOW is this appealing? Is it really just for drumming up interest in these movies? C'mon, that's pretty weak.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Any golf is good golf, but can you stop the putting green from spinning?

What a busy, busy weekend. I hope you enjoyed yours!

Saturday we had our softball tournament and we decided to go with a split squad (entered two teams). Most of our tournament starters were on one team though, but we just weren't hitting well. I'm as much to blame as anyone as my bat has gone ice cold the last few weeks. I'm working on ways to get out of it though.

After the tournament, I met Ricardo and his wife up in Lincoln Square for Mayfest, again. This time though it didn't rain. Since I knew I had to get up at 5 a.m. to make a golfing tee time up in Winnetka with a client, I opted to take a few precautions against drinking too much. One precaution was to buy the smaller mug for getting refills instead of the bigger mug which holds probably three of the little beers. Small mug, check. Then I wanted to make sure that I had plenty to eat while at the festival. Food, check. Avoid being out with Ricardo because it always ends up with me being drunk somewhere. Avoid Ricardo....uh oh. Missed on that one and it was the biggee. Then my "Thuringer Dinner" didn't have a bun with the sandwich portion of the meal and I was counting on it soaking up some serious alcohol. I did try to substitute a pretzel though, but apparently that wasn't enough. And the small cup would have worked......if I hadn't gone back for refills 3 times as often!!

Now, I'm not saying I'm completely without blame as it relates to Ricardo, but he and his wife are a lot of fun and usually there is alcohol around which, in turn, leads to a lot of drinking. Plus he has friends who are big drinkers, other than me. Well, long story short, I'm stumbling down Lincoln Avenue at 12:30 trying to find a cab with a million other drunk people. Great. When I finally get home, I have just enough time to set my alarm clock, strip down and hop into bed.

For future reference, golf is best played on more than four hours sleep. Plus, the client I was shooting with likes to walk the course and I don't even know if they have gas carts. Needless to say, I had a lot going against me, but I still shot reasonably well (85) which included two triple-bogeys on the back nine when I was even more tired.

One definite positive for the round was the number of cicadas that I saw!! They were everywhere. The client hit a tree, on purpose, with his club and the cicadas just flew everywhere. Tons of them!! Oddly though, just a few trees away would be a really old tree that had no cicadas on it at all. How strange is that? Still no cicadas downtown though, so who knows what to think.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What is it with me and rain/water?

An eventful day today that started with taking el supremo de NM to the airport at 7:30, the heart of rush hour. Fortunately, for whatever reason, traffic wasn't unbearable as I would expect.

Being up and about, I decided to hit the gym upon my return (instead of going back to bed!). Because the Cubs game was at home at 1:20, I opted to ride my bike to the gym for the first time this year....which meant I had to put some air in my tires. After having the same problem last year, I opted to purchase a hand held pump and it came in handy (pardon the pun) today.

Feeling rather proud of myself for working out and conquering my bike, I headed for the Cubs game with a client and two of his guests. One of the two guests was an attractive woman who showed up at Goose Island a little bit late. Not 10 minutes after sitting down, she said, "Do people tell you that you look like someone famous?"
Ugh. "Yes.....they do....far too often."
"Who do they say you look like?"
"Well, now they say I look like Chris Elliott."
"THAT'S who I was thinking too!!"
"Great....really great."

I mean really, what the heck am I supposed to say? "Thanks for saying I look like a balding, overweight slob"? She even pulled the "You also look like Paul Giamatti." Fucking wonderful. I'm not sure he's any better.....has a little more acting talent though.

There was a chance of rain for the game, so I wore tennis shoes instead of sandals because I hate walking in sandals in the rain. Nothing but bright sunshine during the game though. Afterwards we went to Murphy's Bleachers and met some of the guests' coworkers and, coincidentally enough, some people with whom I had previously worked while at Morningstar! It's a small world.

After leaving the bar and getting my afternoon coffee, I took my THIRD shower of the day before heading to Lincoln Square for German May Fest. This time I wore sandals instead of tennis shoes. Guess what happened? Yep, it rained. Damnit!! I did briefly hook up with el supremo's daughter Alexis though before the rains forced everyone under two tented areas. The place was packed! Unfortunately, Alexis and I were separated after the rain started as her an her girlfriend were looking for someone. I saw some old Morningstar people and talked to them briefly, again before the rain forced everyone inside.

Unable to find Alexis again and having a break in the rain clouds, I headed home, via train. I'm happy to say that I did not get rained on during the walk home. I have to say though, I felt a little like I was wearing a Cubs hat!