Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year ('s Eve)!!

Happy New Years to all my readers!!

Sunday turned out to be a great day to tailgate and take in a football game. The temperature got up near 40, topping out at 37 or so I believe. I had Mr. Heater on, but mostly just because I had gone through the trouble of bringing it.

We had 10 people at the tailgate at one point, so I was basically a short order cook. Lots of eggs going for breakfast sandwiches and a lot of coordinating with the Canadian bacon, muffins, cheese and eggs. It's all good though. I enjoy entertaining even if it's in a parking lot in near freezing weather.

The breakfast portion was followed up with chili and hot dogs (or chili dogs for most people). It's pretty basic, but I didn't think people would have their gloves off, so I didn't make appetizers. Oh well, everyone had a good time.

After cleaning up and finishing the last bit of food, MWrigley and I missed the opening kickoff and first few plays. The game was fun to watch and we had a good time, but Gar and the Boyz who sit in front of us weren't there and the usual suspects who sit to our right weren't there either.

We stayed until the end of the game, but then left instead of tailgating afterwards. Turns out that a few of the guys gave MWrigley a hard time for having us leave the Denver game which ended in a 14 point turnaround for the Bears to force overtime and then the Bears won in OT. On the way home from that game, MWrigley said she was secretly cheering for the Broncos because she didn't want to be the reason I missed the end of a great game. So THIS time she stated several times that we weren't leaving another game early. Lesson learned!

Six of the guys at my tailgate were doing the Bears game and then going to see the Black Hawks at night. They thought I was going to stick around and tailgate after the game too, which I have done in the past about 80% of the time, but I had other plans this time. MWrigley's mother and step-dad had been in town for a week and finally left Sunday morning. That meant she and I haven't had much alone time for the last 10 days or so since she was sick briefly prior to their arrival. As a further result, we decided to go out for a quick dinner (sushi) and then stay in for NYE, light a fire, watch a movie and have champaign. A very nice, quiet evening.

Coming soon: how my recommended funds last year performed and what funds stay on or fall off the list for 2008.

Confidential for Steve: Congrats on the new job!

Happy Birthday to Joisey Ken! He's a great guy and an even better friend.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum.....

How long do you leave your Christmas tree up? The city of Chicago recycles on the 12th of January, but that seems like a long time to have a tree up. Don't most people take them down around the first of the year? Hmm, seems like the 5th would have been a better recycling day.

I don't think I wrote about it, but if you had waited until the Saturday before Christmas (maybe even the Friday or Thursday, I'm not positive) you could have bought a Christmas tree at Menards for $5!! Any live tree they had left. Fir, Balsam, Spruce....$5. That's a thought next year for you Chicagoans trying to save money.

I just love this story. What kind of message are we sending our youth if this prize is allowed to stand??

Sunday is another Bears home game, the last one of the season and I'll be out there tailgating at 9:30. The weather should be much better than last could it be worse??

Friday, December 28, 2007

A White Dusting

We were supposed to get a nasty snow storm today in Chicago, 3"-6" of snow and it was snowing at 8 a.m. when I woke up. It snowed most of the day until about 5 or 6, but it hasn't really amounted to anything here downtown at least. Good for us!

With the impending "storm", I recalled T-Rex from Basra. He had be out the last two nights with steak gristle as bait. Unfortunately no kills or much movement at all from what I could tell. With the fresh snow though, I'll be able to see which holes are active. Maybe T-Rex will be redeployed tomorrow.

Comics status update: I didn't get quite caught up. As you recall, as of Christmas I was supposed to have been all caught up in my comic reading by reading an additional day's worth of comics in the morning. As of today, I am only four days behind, so not caught up, but not bad!

Read in the paper the other day about inventors who died during 2007. I wonder if it was an odd year for this sort of thing or if 2007 was extraordinary? Inventors who passed away invented these things:
Nautilus exercise machines
The remote control
Modern hot air balloon (with liquid propane burners)
Gatorade (after wondering why members of the Florida Gators football team didn't pee after practices)
Instant Ramen Noodles

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Question and answer session

What's the best "deal" that you've gotten on something you bought before Christmas (but FOR Christmas) or in a post-Christmas sale?

As one might expect, pre-Christmas I didn't get too much in the way of deals. There was a coat from Eddie Bauer that's supposed to be really warm and it was down to $100 or so from over $200. Oh, and I bought a gel bicycle seat cover and it only cost me $10. I don't think it was on sale, but I felt really good about it!!

Is anyone really working this week?

Why were there no football games on Christmas day? Anything would have been nice.

What percentage of your gifts did you have to take back? I think I'm at about 20% or looks like 3 out of 15 or so.

Does anyone have luggage that they would actually recommend to someone else to buy? I'm pondering just going to and buying something from there.

What are people's plans for NYE? I have like four parties to go to, one out of state and two in bars that are larger group events (the kind where you can drink all you want for $85 or something) and I'm not sure what to do. MWrigley has left it up to me to decide.

Sunday is another Bears tailgating day! MWrigley will join me this time as well as two guys from my softball team (Sausage and Benny Baseball) and a co-worker of MWrigley's will probably stop by as well. Let's hope for very little wind!!!

Final Holiday catalog count: 24 (a little down from 30 last year)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More Christmas

While writing this I'm watching my recording of the Bears game from Sunday.

Shit was that cold. I must be crazy. One of the stats coming out of the game though was that Kyle Orton, the Bears QB, was 8-14 for 101 yards and a QB rating of 103. So all you Grossman lovers out there who continually fall back on his three October 100+ rated games from last year as reason for him to start in the Super Bowl after sucking for most of the year and as a reason for him to start this season, just about anyone can get a 100+ QB rating. Orton didn't do anything on Sunday except not throw a pick. I'm really intrigued to see what the Bears do at QB, RB and OL next year.

Back to Christmas. Last night, MWrigley and her mom cooked four or five appetizers and that's what we had for dinner. Now, I had already had a ton of food at my folks place: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes laced with Bush Mills whiskey, salad and pie. So appetizers were about all I could handle at this point. Here's a picture of the festivities:

The main sweets: my mother's "wreath" and cherry wink cookies.

The whole crew sans Joe.

The small tree this year. Ma wasn't feeling as "Christmasy" this year so she didn't toss up the big tree with tons of decorations.

Boy does it look nasty at that game......the Bears just fell on the GB punter after he dropped the ball.

The appetizers we had were as follows as best as I can remember. I did not take pictures unfortunately. Sorry. What I liked the best was bacon wrapped bits of chicken in some kind of rub. Wow was it good and I KNOW things wrapped in bacon. My second favorite was a teriyaki shrimp dish. Some of the folks liked it the best actually. Third on my list were MWrigely's mom's famous egg rolls. They are lighter than traditional egg rolls and they made a sweet sauce for dipping.

McClover just blocked a punt at the five yard line.

The fourth appetizer was crab cakes. Again, the ladies made a sauce for dipping. Mmmmmm.

Orton just put the ball between Muhammad's 8 and 7 in the end zone on 4th and goal from the three and he dropped it. Ugh.

The last appetizer, which was still very good, was a vegetarian cake of sorts with mushrooms, onions, lettuce and some other stuff. It was actually pretty good, but I guess it was a lot of work to put them together and relative to the other appetizers, maybe it wasn't worth it so I don't think it's going to make the cut next year.

Ryan Grant just ran for a long touchdown and the Packers lead 7-6....what would be their only lead of the game.

Another shanked punt by GB.

Some clarifying notes on the clothes MWrigley bought for me after we talked about the day (not just our gifts) last night around midnight for about an hour or so. SHE likes on men the following: khaki's with no pleats and no cuffs, a certain style of jeans, pullover/sweaters with zippers at the top, untucked dress shirts and doesn't like a guy in jeans and tennis shoes. I like pleated pants (they just fit my body better) with cuffs, baggy jeans, crew neck sweaters and tops and I'm ok with jeans and tennis shoes, but rarely wear them short of to a ball game in the summer. So what did she get me as gifts? Khaki's without pleats or cuffs, jeans worn by guys on Entourage (seriously, they actually say that on the tag), two zipper up pullovers, a dress shirt designed to not be tucked in and a pair of shoes that I can't even begin to describe but were given with the thought of wearing them with jeans.

So were these gifts for HER or ME? It's akin to me buying her two tickets to opening day at Wrigley. Sure, the tickets are for her, but who really enjoys them? Were the tickets something SHE really wanted? I think that explains it pretty well.

Tillman just blocked a punt and the Bears ran it into the end zone. Sweet.

That all said, I don't want to sound like an ingrate. Just the fact that she invited me over to meet her folks and spend Christmas eve and Christmas evening with them really was the only gift I wanted. We had a wonderful two days together and I look forward to 2008 with her. She's already talking about how she's going to pay more attention to things I want during the year so she can get those types of gifts next year.

Here's my sole Christmas decoration this year:

My mantel upstairs with most of my Christmas cards. I left off a good number of the family picture cards and cards that are just pictures of the kids. They are appreciated too of course, but they don't sit up well.

Urlacher's interception and touchdown....the icing on the Christmas cake!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!

Had a very nice time with the fam today out in the 'ville. Everyone seemed to enjoy their gifts, especially Bee (fourth row tickets to Blue Man Group on a Saturday). Mom and Pops were happy too with their dinner at Catch 35 and 36" television (ok, it was really my old one....shhhh). Just kidding, it was my old one but they knew about it and it just happened to fit perfectly where they had a 27" one previously. The 27" is now going to their place in Michigan. The food was delicious and I'll post pics of the event tomorrow.

I've been up since 6:30 (to hit 7:45 mass) and didn't sleep well. Met MWrigley's parents last night and this evening. It was a little hairy for a bit last night, but all was good today. They even bought me presents! I'm not sure how often I'll be able to see M this week, but I'm hopeful. She loved just about all of her gifts. Almost all of her gifts to me were clothes that she likes, so apparently she doesn't like the way I dress. :-P

Here are trees from around the world, courtesy of Joisey Ken.

The Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., is decorated with 3,000 ornaments that are the handiwork of U.S. schoolchildren. Encircling evergreens in the "Pathway of Peace" represent the 50 U.S. states.

Moscow celebrates Christmas according to the Russian Orthodox calendar on Jan. 7. For weeks beforehand, the city is alive with festivities in anticipation of Father Frost's arrival on his magical troika with the Snow Maiden. He and his helper deliver gifts under the New Year tree, or yolka, which is traditionally a fir.

The Christmas tree that greets revelers at the Puerta del Sol is dressed for a party. Madrid's two-week celebration makes millionaires along with merrymakers. On Dec. 22, a lucky citizen will win El Gordo (the fat one), the world's biggest lottery.

A token of gratitude for Britain's aid during World War II, the Christmas tree in London's Trafalgar Square has been the annual gift of the people of Norway since 1947.

"Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree": Even in its humblest attire, aglow beside a tiny chapel in Germany's Karwendel mountains, a Christmas tree is a wondrous sight.

The world's largest Christmas tree display rises up the slopes of Monte Ingino outside of Gubbio, in Italy's Umbria region. Composed of about 500 lights connected by 40,000 feet of wire, the "tree" is a modern marvel for an ancient city

In addition to the Vatican's heavenly evergreen, St. Peter's Square in Rome hosts a larger-than-life nativity scene in front of the obelisk.

The largest Christmas tree in Europe (more than 230 feet tall) can be found in the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal. Thousands of lights adorn the tree, adding to the special enchantment of the city during the holiday season.

A Christmas tree befitting Tokyo's nighttime neon display is projected onto the exterior of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka.

Before the ball drops in Times Square, the Big Apple turns on its holiday charm with the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. This snow-globe-worthy scene celebrates its 75th anniversary this season.

Against a backdrop of tall, shadowy firs, a rainbow trio of
Christmas trees lights up the night (location unknown).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Now THAT was cold!

If you happened to watch the Bears game on TV or live in Chicago, you know what kind of weather we had on Sunday. In a word, brutal. It was cold: a high of 20 or so. And windy: 40-50 mph gusts and a sustained wind above 25 mph. That's pretty damn cold when you get the wind chill involved.

But we were still out there tailgating!! Yes, my softball buddy, Sausage, joined me for breakfast in the parking lot followed by chili dogs. It was so cold, even my Newcastle beer was more like a beer slushy.

When I had feeling in my fingers, early on, I took some pictures to share with you. Actually I wasn't too cold at all. With my layered clothes, hand warmers, toe warmers, Mr. Heater pumping away and The Cadillac Club at half-time, I was in pretty good shape.

On to the pictures!!

Here's Mr. Heater working away. When it's windy, the flames can get blown out. In an effort to fight it, I bought a piece of metal duct to protect the heater. I clamped the duct to the heater to keep it secure and it worked like a champ! Nice going Joe!!

Here's how windy it was. Those are pretty big flags! See the U.S. flags in the back ground? It's like they are starched.

Here I am with my Bears Santa hat on over my face mask hat. Oh, and I'm standing next to Mr. Heater and the piece of duct.

My buddy Sausage. He's not looking too happy at this point. He didn't complain about being cold at all though.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A little of this, a little of thwack!!!

Here's a cool link about medical myths. Even I thought that turkey led to sleepiness. Not true, at least relative to beef or chicken.

On Thursday, a fairly significant event happened in sports that probably went unnoticed by most folks, unless you were watching ESPN. Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild in the NHL, scored 5 goals in one game (two of them he knocked out of mid-air). In the NHL, that has happened 55 times (the last time in 1996). Similar events in other sports: a player scoring 60 pts. in an NBA game has happened 59 times, a quarterback throwing for 450 yards has happened 44 times, and a MLB player has hit two home runs in one inning 52 times. However, these stats don't incorporate how many games have been played in each of the leagues to obtain these marks. There have been far fewer football games for sure and many more baseball games as well. The number of NBA games could be comparable though.

Today the high in Chicago, that I heard at least, was 47 degrees! Awesome for late December. Unfortunately, overnight tonight, the cold is-a-coming. Tomorrow's HIGH is going to be 27 with super high winds. Spectacular. I'm going to the noon Bears game with my buddy, Sausage. We're going to meet one or two people too, but mostly it will just be the two of us. If it gets too cold to tailgate, even with Mr. Heater, we might head in early. In preparation though, I have my patented two meat-three pepper chili and we'll have Nathan's hot dogs too. Because of the winds, I've bought some four foot pieces of duct to provide a barrier and possible a way to retain some of the heat from Mr. Heater. The wind can blow out the flame, so hopefully this metal box idea will work. I see a serious burn in my future though.

T-Rex struck again last night in Basra!!! Due to the warmer weather this week, I decided to set him out on Friday night. He provided an early Christmas present for me and the neighbors. Kill #6 in his latest trip to Basra. It's been almost a month since his last kill, but I haven't been setting him out because of the snow and ice. Oh, the bait dujour is.......cheddar cheese. Too funny.

Busy Thursday!

Sorry folks, had a really busy day Thursday that culminated in a trip to a steakhouse for a Christmas dinner with the fellas'. The restaurant du jour was Sullivan's Steakhouse downtown on Kinzie. The atmosphere is, well, smokey. There's no other way to say it. Upstairs is a bar area where cigar smoking is allowed. We found out that you could also smoke at the bar downstairs. The restaurant is in a third room where, while there was no smoking per se, plenty of smoke made it's way. I didn't think it would be too bad, but my clothes wreaked of smoke when I got home.

The funny thing about me wreaking of smoke, is that I spent virtually no time in either bar area! Ricardo and I left from the office, valeted the car and went in to find one of the boyz. We did and so I left Ricardo, a cigar smoker, in his capable hands while I went to find stocking stuffers for MWrigley. Upon my return about 45 minutes later, our fourth arrived and we went to eat.

The wine was unbelievably overpriced! A bottle of Estancia was $50 and there was nothing less expensive on the list (and few choices for under $100). We went with a Stag's Leap Cab I believe, which was a 1.5 liter bottle for $175. Still, yowza! The escargot and French onion soup were very good and the steak was pretty darn good...even at $38.

The most interesting part of the meal happened when someone who just arrived two tables over, fell backwards in their chair and toppled into the table next to us. This table had 8 people at it and the force of the guy falling caused their wine and all their drinks to spill. The maitre d' rushed over with several helpers. First, they checked on the guy who fell. Turns out he was drunk and they ushered his party (of 6!) out. Then they turned to the party of 8 asked them to move to the bar for a few minutes. In that time they stripped down their table, changed everything, brought out new drinks and new food, all in about 10 minutes. Pretty nicely done. So the restaurant, while smokey, does get kudos for service.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Where have all the horses gone?

Least surprising tidbit of information of the year: Lynne Spears' parenting book put on hold.
Second least surprising tidbit of information of the year: Jamie Lynn Spears (16) is pregnant.
Good Lord. Those Spears girls are pretty and all, but are they really THAT much of white trash? Guess so.

It's that time of year again. Sure, there's gift giving and good spirits, but I'm talking about the time of year to taken by swindlers. Number one on my list: the International Star Registry and it's mouthpiece Rocky Mozel. This ass-clown advertises on the radio almost exclusively about "giving the gift of a star" to someone you love. So these guys pick a star that's been charted and allow you to name it after a loved one. They then put the star and the name in a book and file it with the U.S. Copyright office. All for only $54 to $480!!! This, my friends, is a miserable scam.

Only the I.A.U. has the authority to name stars. "Filing" a book with the U.S. Copyright Office provides no protection to you, the "star holder". It only protects the publisher from someone stealing their content. Sounds good though doesn't it? Or at least official. Unbelievable. That people still get sucked into this scam, which has been going on for almost 30 years now according their website, is amazing and depressing to me. Can't they be shut down?!?

My picture of the day is a Christmas card that I received from my cousin in Pennsylvania:

Nothing out of the ordinary huh? Maybe even a bit trite. So why would I post it? Well, for almost 20 years now, I've received a Christmas card from this cousin and EVERY SINGLE YEAR, without fail, she sends a card which in some way has a horse on it. She used to own a horse and did for a long time, so she loves horses. This year, no horse. Whazzup with dat?? I had to look at the card twice just to make sure it was actually from her!!

Next, from poster Bee, we have a picture of T-Rex's next victim. Holy smokes, look at the size of that thing!!!

I had one of these today with lunch. Actually, I had the Creamy Red version. Pretty tasty stuff. It was a total impulse purchase as I walked through World Market this morning. My grandfather, while walking through the woods with me in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania, would strip off pieces of bark for us to chew on to get that birch flavor. A good memory for me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Further explanation

As so often happens with my missives late at night, I'm not sure I tied my subject matter in to my title in yesterday's entry. Yes, the weekend did go better than I could have anticipated, but why?? Did I think we would have a good time together (MWrigley and I)? Obviously. Did I think we'd enjoy the outdoors together? Sure. Did snuggling by a roaring fire sound appealing? What, am I suddenly gay? Of course it did. So why was it better than expected?

Well, for starters, I'm kind of a low expectation guy. If you keep your expectations low, then you're less likely to be disappointed. My expectations were easily exceeded.

Second, the trip up there itself was really enjoyable. We didn't even turn on the radio for the 3+ hour trip. We just chatted away and commented on various things we saw and generally just enjoyed each other's company. It didn't hurt that we both had somewhat eventful things going on at work and in our personal lives that were comment worthy. I didn't expect the ride to be that much fun, but it really was!

The highlights of MY weekend were the little moments and when she did nice things for me. For instance, she had prepared all of the ingredients (or almost all of them) for three dinners from food she just had in her house. That's pretty amazing to me, being a fairly typical guy in the amount of food I have that can be turned into a meal that's not chili. Another example is when she would wake up in the morning and I had a roaring fire going in the living room and she would wander out in a daze with her pj's on and just curl up in a ball either on me or next to me. That's just nice!

The highlights of HER weekend were when I did little things for her like preparing breakfast when she got up and having the firing going. Leading the way on our hikes, nearly tragic as they were, was also something she found appealing. And preparing the cheese, sausage, crackers and wine for our pre-dinner snack.

It was all just so nice and Currier and Ives-like. Though we did have a disagreement or two (dejesus freak will be happy to learn that she finds my anti-chair-in-the-snow policy very unappealing as well), but we worked them out rather quickly and nothing lingered. That was refreshing. When we were at the bottom of an icy ravine with no sure way out and her claustrophobia setting in despite being outside, not so much as one derogatory word was uttered. Similarly, while looking at piece after piece of a puzzle over hours and days, nary a mean spirited word came from my mouth. Neither case was as much about self restraint as it was about caring for the other person I think.

So THAT's why the weekend exceeded my expectations.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Weekend in Wisconsin......Better Than I Could Possibly Expect!

Hello all! Yes, I missed you too. That's ok. Absence makes the heart grow fonder at OUR stage of our relationship (as writer and reader). While I had no computer access, I still did think about things that I would write and pictures I would take to show you all.

The trip actually started with a little stress as there was a lot of snow and ice up in Merrimac, WI over the last few weeks. As it turns out, the "driveway" to Ricardo's cottage house (which is about 75 yards long or so) had 6-8" of snow on top of an inch of ice which covered a few more inches of snow. This was going to be impossible for me to traverse in my Camry. Fortunately, his very help neighbors, Dick and Mary, know a guy (Len) who, though being 85, is still out clearing driveways. Best $100 I ever spent! I didn't reach Len until Thursday morning, but he was on it first thing on Friday. Whew! When I arrived at the entranceway and started heading down the driveway, it was like being in a bobsled.....or at least how I would imagine a bobsled being....where as long as you have locomotion, you're going to end up at the bottom of the driveway because there was no moving left or right. Pretty cool actually.

So now the weekend in pictures! I'll throw in a story or two as well.

This is what we left for Ricardo for allowing us to use his cottage for the weekend! Thanks Ricardo! I'll tell you where we hid it so "other" people don't get it first.

Yeah, the picture is dark, but you can see MWrigley in the corner chilling on Friday late afternoon if you blow it up. This is the main living room of the cottage.

Yep, that's me in my "wood gettin' " outfit. The main fireplace is right behind me in this pic. There are two other wood burning stoves in the cottage and I had all three going on Friday. By Saturday I was already down to just the main fireplace as it was really the only one that impacted our temperature much.

Here is dinner on Friday night. Mmmmm. It was a garlic and herb, tri-tip roast (I think that's right at least) and veggies. Very tasty. It looks like we had my favorite wine as well, a sweet Hungarian wine. MWrigley had brought all the ingredients for our dinners and lunches and I took care of breakfast. The food was great all weekend!

For entertainment we played Trivial Pursuit, The SNL Edition with DVD questions. Very fun, but we both struggled to come up with the names of characters and products on the show.

The other activity was puzzling! We had a 750 piece puzzle of a box of chocolates to put together. It took us until about 2 a.m. on Monday morning to actually get it done! I'm not particularly good at puzzles, but I started off strong. In the beginning, it was 65-35 as far as putting pieces together in favor of MWrigley. After a bit I faded and she did most of the work, maybe 85-15. Then I came on strong at the end again with some good contributions, maybe 70-30. MWrigley is a little OCD with that kind of thing, so she was all over getting the puzzle done. This picture is the puzzle mostly disheveled.

The finished puzzle!!

But we didn't stay in all day. On Saturday we went hiking, more about that later. On Monday, we decided to go snow shoeing before packing up and heading home. Here's MWrigley out on the trail doing her best Suzy Chapstick.

So on Saturday we decided to go for a little walk into the woods after seeing Dick and Mary (the neighbors). One neat aspect of the land around the cottage is that a river runs through it and there's actually a cool water fall. So I was taking MWrigley to what I believe is the highest point on the property where there was a nice view of the falls. While up there, I thought it might be fun to slide down the snow and ice to the bottom of the steep hill we were on. So I went down and MWrigley followed. It was indeed fun, however, we found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep hill and the other side, which didn't look steep from atop the other hill, turned out to be VERY steep as well.....especially when covered with 6+" of light, fluffy snow on top of ice. Suddenly, this "walk" took a nasty little turn.

After much walking to find a shallower slope to ascend, we finally bit the bullet and tried to scale the hill just past the end of Ricardo's property. It was very slippery, as ice tends to be, and it was slow going. About half of the way up, I realized that if I really stepped hard with my heel, I could crack the ice beneath the snow and create a little foot hold. MWrigley could then follow my prints without a little less effort. Though we joked about nearly dieing out in Ricardo's "back yard", we both knew that while dieing wasn't an outcome, a long cold night certainly was. I'm not sure how far we would have had to walk until we found flatter, more easily traversed land. And then we would have had to walk back from there! Ugh. Still, we went snow shoeing on Monday.......guess I didn't scare her enough with my outdoors skills!

I'm not sure how this picture ended up here.....or am I??

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Decorating time!!

What happened to my Wednesday post? To tell you the truth, I'm not sure. I thought I wrote an entry and.......I guess I just didn't! Part of my reason for messing up might have been that in the early afternoon I drove el supremo to the airport and I called MWrigley on the way back. Turns out The Wrigley Company gave everyone the rest of the afternoon off for making something like $5 billion for the company. That's worth an afternoon off I think.

Anyway, MWrigley and I were going to get together anyway, but this pushed the schedule up a few hours. What were we going to do? Well decorate her Christmas tree of course! And decorate we did. Here are some pictures.

Here's the new tree before the branches "fell". Ricardo turned me on to using hot water in the base to start with. I think it worked well.

MWrigley messing with some garland strings. She eventually took them off the tree completely. I didn't like them anyway and haven't had garland on a tree in years. Just lights and ornaments for me!

Oh, and she was pissed at me for taking the picture. Doh!

The completed tree in the dark before the presents were brought out.

Nothing better than a lit tree WITH presents!! I'm told that most of them are for me. Yay!!

Here's the tree using the flash. It still looks pretty!

I'm going to be away from a computer at Ricardo's cabin in Wisconsin until Monday, so my postings are going to be on hold for a bit. I'm already looking forward to writing when I get back though!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fukudome: What is it?

There seem to be many possible answers. Here are three:
1) A perfectly natural sexual act conducted in an indoor sports arena;
2) How Katrina victims now refer to the New Orleans Super Dome;
3) The new right fielder for the Chicago Cubs.

I'll let you figure out the right answer.

Last night we held our wine tasting event at a new venue, Randolph Wine Bar. We moved from Just Grapes because of their lack of entrepreneurial spirit and unwelcoming attitude.

Lots of professionals were supposed to attend, but the threat of nasty rain/ice/snow made for some last minute cancellations. Still, we had about 20 people there altogether. Ricardo made name badges!

Several tables were reserved for "Richard". No last name, no Podolny Group, nothing. Very odd.

Champagne and seven bottles of wine set up for the tasting. I really enjoyed almost all of them!

One crowd picture after Ricardo made me go take a picture of the crowd. He's so pushy!

Moments later from a different angle. Is that Mrs. Ricardo?? It is! And dejesus freak is in this shot too.

Last group shot from the other side of the room.

Here's a cool, romantic corner taken with the flash on.

Same corner with the flash off. Somewhere there's a happy medium for my basic Cannon digital camera, but I don't know enough to figure it out.

This is at Alahambra restaurant not to far from the bar. Overpriced middle eastern food, but the decor is awesome!!

Stef's main dish came out in this container. It was scallops and they were outstanding (I had one).

el supremo had a similar dish set up, but he had the leg of some animal. Can't remember which one.

New Bears Quarterback!!

Yessss!!! Ok, I've had this discussion recently with el supremo de NM, yesterday in fact, regarding Lovie Smith. Bears head coach, and his tenure with the Bears. Lovie is under contract for four more years for $5 million per year. That means, with Bears' ownership, that he'll be the head coach for at least three more years. While some people are calling for his head, why am I not upset?

Well, it's fairly simple reasoning actually. For the most part, he thinks and/or acts like a fan. Now, whether he should act this way or not is debatable. Yesterday was the latest example. Lovie named Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback. Now, I would have done this a few weeks ago, but he opted for reinstalling Grossman at that point. Many of the fans I know wanted Orton then, so maybe Lovie wasn't acting completely like a fan, but he at least makes decisive changes like a fan. I'm not going to AGREE with everything a coach does, but it just bugs the crap out of me when what they do makes no sense or it takes forever for them to make a move. Last year, while marching to the Super Bowl, I wouldn't have been playing Grossman because I thought (and still think) that he sucked. But I understand why he was playing Grossman.

Other examples of Lovie's fairly decisive action: splitting carries between Benson and Peterson; benching Grossman relatively early in the season; putting Idonije in at defensive tackle when the rest of the line was ineffective; incorporating Hester into the offense (though he clearly showed he's unable to understand too many plays); using Hester on both punts AND kickoffs; and benching Archuleta. He might take action slower than I would like, but it's not my job on the line either.

(end sports)

On the non-sports front, I was appalled to find out while walking through a BlockBuster the other day that Steven Seagall had another movie out! Who the hell is hiring this ass-clown? His latest is called Urban Justice and I don't even have to tell you what the storyline is because it's THE SAME DAMN STORYLINE AS HIS LAST 30 MOVIES!!!! Unbelievable. Now I find out, according to IMDb, there are three more movies on the way, including one where he plays a guy named Cock Puncher. Yeah, Cock Puncher. I can't make this shit up folks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Secret Santa Operation Foiled!

One of my posters, DogBrian, sent me a Secret Santa gift which I received today. If it's a Secret Santa gift, how did I know that it was from DogBrian?? Well, the company sending it, Plow and Hearth, included their name on the shipping sheet as the sender, just above the message about the gift being from my Secret Santa. Not the brightest people working in the shipping department I suspect. That said, they saved me a TON of angst about trying to figure out who sent it, which of course was DogBrian's angle the whole time. An excellent effort.

As el supremo de NM pointed out in the comments yesterday, I didn't tie in MWrigley's burning of the roof of her mouth to events which transpired later on Saturday. Since her mouth was soooo severely burned, she couldn't eat much on Saturday night at the beer bash, the only food there was pizza. So she only had a half of a piece of pizza before having to give up. Drinking, however, was not inhibited by her burns and she was drinking Goose Island with me instead of Miller Lite, so she was subsequently hammered almost beyond recognition by night's end. Sunday, her chosen day to bake about five kinds of cookies for office mates, was not the most pleasant of days as she baked and fought off a hangover. Poor thing. She ended up finishing baking around 1:00 in the morning.

I also forgot to mention that after Delilah's, most of the guys on the softball team headed to Mad River (on the site of the old Brother Jimmy's if you are familiar with the area) for some more beer.......and some dancing. That's right, ol'Joe brought out the dancing shoes, in this particular case they were hiking boots. Now, I wasn't out there for an hour or anything, but we probably danced to about 5-7 songs or so. MWrigley, though hammered, hid it well and was fairly adamant about hitting the dance floor. The things we do for women! Actually, I don't mind dancing as long as they are playing songs that I know and like. Both were happening with great frequency on Saturday, so it was a pretty easy sell to get me on the floor.

Apologies to dejesus freak who was nowhere to be found when we left Delilah's and who had to call and text me three times before I realized someone was trying to reach me. Eventually I was able to communicate our location and he found us.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. We don't need no roof let the M-Fer burn!

Fun link of the day!

Friday night was the holiday party for two of my clients and Randolph Wine Bar upstairs. Ironically, it's the same place that our networking event is going to be on Tuesday. These particular clients are really nice guys and their employees are pretty cool. They welcomed MWrigley and me and we had a very nice time. Unfortunately, the appetizers were few and far between early on and we were really hungry. Finally though, more started coming out of the kitchen in greater quantities and very, very hot. Poor MWrigley got one filo dough cup filled with something with hot cheese on top, popped it into her mouth. Unfortunately the cheese started to burn the roof of her mouth, but she didn't want to be rude and spit out. Ugh. This incident became more significant on Saturday.

First thing in the morning, MWrigley and I prepared to go Christmas tree hunting. We weren't sure if we wanted to go to Menards, where Balsam's are about $30 for an 8' tree, or to a private lot. As this was MWrigley's first tree in Chicago, I pushed her towards spending a little more and going to a private lot where you can see the tree better as they are often already unwrapped. So we drove around her neighborhood until we found a lot that looked good. We ended up just south of Chicago and Damen and for $50, we found a pretty nice looking 8' Balsam. We hauled it home and up to her apartment without much trouble. Next: the decorating!

Saturday night I had my Beer Bash at Delilah's Bar: 2 hours of free beer for my 30+ guests and pizza which I had brought into the bar. It was fun, but short and the beer, Miller Lite, wasn't what I was expecting. Still, it was fun. In preparation for the event though, I decided to trim my goatee like I do every other day or so. Unfortunately, I didn't have the trimmer guard on it that regulates the hair height, so for about 1.5 seconds I completely shaved off a portion of my goatee!!! Ugh. So I had to trim the rest of my goatee to match so I didn't look like a doofus. Oh well, it's just hair and will grow back eventually.

Nothing new with T-Rex as he's not doing well with the snow. I need to get new bait too as peanut butter seems unappealing below 30 degrees. Ideas on bait are appreciated!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gay Men: Shitty Drivers??

Here is what I'm giving out for Christmas. Hope you like it!

The other day, after a five inch snowfall, I was heading into the office in my car and was trying to make my way to what I hoped would be snow free arteries. To get there though, I had to head down a side street or two. The first one I turned onto had one relatively apparent problem with it. A car, almost all the way at the end of the the one way street, was trying to get out of it's parking spot but was stuck in the snow. Unfortunately for traffic (me), the car was half in the spot and half out. The clown driving the car, a gay guy according to my gay-dar, was somewhat trying to rock the car in and out of the spot but was hitting the gas wayyyyyy too hard. He wasn't going anywhere and was literally spinning his wheels.

Naturally I got out and pushed his car out, for which he offered thanks. But I couldn't help thinking to myself, what a dope. I must know a dozen women (much less the hundreds of straight men) who would have been able to get their car out of that spot and it led me to ponder the title of my blog. I'd have to say the answer is yes at this point.

My Bears are done. Stick a fork in them. Actually, you could have done this a while ago, but now you can do it and probably be mathematically accurate as well. At a pathetic 5-8, even worse than I thought at the beginning of the year, there are 8 non-division leading teams with a better record. Some of them are 5-7 so those teams could fall into a tie with us, but the reality is that 8-8 is not going to get you into the playoffs this year, even in the bad NFC. My wild card bets are the NY football Giants and the Vikings. Yep, the Vikings. If you can run the ball, you can win games. The Bears can't, so they don't.

Christmas party tonight at a client. Yes that's right, CHRISTMAS. It's not a "holiday" party or an "annual" party, it's a Christmas party. God love 'em for having the balls to not go PC. I'm sure they'll be sued soon enough and I'll lose a client, but at least I'll be going to Christmas parties until then!

MWrigley and I give the Christmas tree shopping a shot tomorrow morning again. It'll be her first tree here in Chicago and she's jacked about it. I get one just about every year and I enjoy it, but there's a little stress in finding a good one. It's sort of like the tree hunt in A Christmas Story........still one of my favorite movies.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Basra in Pictures

Can't believe that I forgot to mention our dinner on Saturday night. One of my teammates, JC, had a friend drive down from L.A. for the weekend. This gent knew a big whig at The Wynn and got us one of the high roller tables up front in SW Steakhouse. The five of us all had a really nice meal and the whole thing was comped!! Holy crap!! It must have been close to a $500 bill I'm sure.

No Christmas tree shopping last night. Unfortunately the Peapod delivery was delayed and it was really cold, so we just put it on the back burner until Saturday morning.....when hopefully it will be slightly less cold.

Tonight was a law firm's holiday party. Ricardo and I attended and munched pretty good food. Two of the attorneys are going to attend our wine event next Tuesday. Last year, this party kicked off my 25 days of drinking without two consecutive days off. It looks like I'll have Sunday and Monday away from the booze, otherwise I'd be off to a similar start! Not nearly as many parties on the docket this year though. That's probably best for everyone!!

In response to a tremendous ground swell of curiosity about Basra, I've attached the following pictures. These were taken yesterday after a fresh snow and you can see the trails left by the nasty varmints.

Here are the trails going from their holes, under the bush and through the front "yard". Yep, that's the garbage can on the other side of the metal fence.

Here are some prints leaving its hole.

And here's one of the holes. Down to four of them at this point.

If you blow up this picture, you can see all of the foot prints from the little buggers. Ugh.

Holiday catalog count: 18

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rest of Vegas Trip

Yesterday's entry was long wasn't it?? After writing it I was like "holy shit, no one's going to read all of that." Sorry about that. In a nutshell, we finished 7th out of 55 teams and I performed reasonably well.

So what ELSE happened in Vegas? Well, MWrigley came along with me as you know and it was our first weekend away together. We got into two short spats (one was her fault and one was mine...probably) that we talked through after a short cooling down period and all was good again. I think that's a healthy part of any relationship....or at least not a bad thing.

MWrigley had only been to Vegas once and it was for work, so she hadn't done much gambling. She watched on Saturday as I played black jack and taught her some of the basics. After a while and a few coffee and Baileys (yes it was cold in Vegas), she sat down and played like a champ. She wanted to go back and gamble on Sunday, but I was playing softball from 7:30 am until 10:30 pm and had to get up at 6:30 the next morning again. Plus, after sitting in the 45 degree weather on Sunday for three games over several hours, she was feeling a little tired, sore and cold so she took a hot shower and lied down for most of the evening while I played my last two games. She was almost asleep by the time I got home and showered.

Still, all in all it was nice to have the quality time together that we had. On Monday we had lunch in the revolving restaurant on top of the Stratosphere hotel. That was pretty cool and the food was actually good.

On the plane ride there and back we watched movies which is my new favorite past time for plane rides. I have a portable DVD player with a 17" screen so it's a good size, but lighter than a computer and good resolution. Durable too as I've dropped it a few times. Doh! On the way there we watched Evan Almighty (big Correl fans) and Knocked Up on the way back. I'm not sure if we were giddy or what, but we laughed almost constantly watching Knocked Up. Very funny lines in there.

Once home, I went out to do a "fly by" on Basra. The holes I collapsed before leaving remain collapsed, but a new hole with some serious digging appeared. That should make it easy for T-Rex. However, we had about 5 inches of snow last night and the weight of the snow triggered Mr. Rex. I had to reset him and reposition him based on the trails in the snow. It looks like there are four active holes right now. I'm thinking about getting another T-Rex.....sort of a troop surge. Too funny.

For the second day in a row I heard an ad on the radio for Evelyn Wood's Speed Reading. I remembered the commercials and such for her classes and I think I even went to a free seminar once, but I hadn't heard anything about them in a decade. Now, suddenly, there's a resurgence. Seemed like a scam for the most part to me, but if it was a scam, it was a good one because she made a ton of money off of it.

Tonight: Christmas tree shopping......pending Peapod delivery.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Report on Vegas

Sorry about my inability to post this weekend, but hopefully you were able to keep tabs on our progress through the link I provided on Friday.

Sports first and then the other stuff tomorrow.

It turned out to be a pretty eventful tournament. Las Vegas had a ton of rain on Friday and Friday night, causing our games on Saturday to be pushed back four hours. To compensate for the loss of playing time, the organizers decided to change the rules a bit to catch up on the schedule. So on Saturday, we had our first "game" at 12:30 instead of 9. I say "game" because the rules were changed to speed up play. First, there was a 35 minute time limit per game. That's half the amount of time and for a national tournament, it's ridiculous. Then they instituted a "one pitch" rule. So as a hitter, you were getting one pitch. You either walk if it's a ball, are out if it's a strike or you hit it into play. There are entire tournaments that are run this way, but you shouldn't invoke the rule just to catch up on missed games. It's Vegas, people are going to be up late anyway!!

So when and if you lost on Saturday, that would be it for Saturday and you wouldn't play again until Sunday. If you went 6-0 on Saturday, you wouldn't play again until Monday! Well, we didn't have to worry about that as we lost our very first game, I think 7-5. Ugh. The good news is that we were in Vegas so there was plenty to do during the day and evening on Saturday. The bad news is that Sunday was going to be a long day if we were going to make it to Monday.

In Vegas, 6:30 rolls around pretty early, or pretty late, depending on your mental (and financial) state. For us, it was pretty damn early. Our first game was at 8 in nearby Henderson. Traditionally, we have not done well with the first game in the morning because 1) we have some older players like myself who take a while to get moving and 2) we have some young players (unlike myself) who stay out all night drinking when they are away from home.

As the sun was still low in the sky, our hitters were face-on into the sun. Any pitch arcing over 6 feet or so would go right into the sun and would be virtually unhittable. We prevailed however, 13-9 against a team from (Carson City, NV, the state capital) though I'm still not sure I saw any ball that I actually made contact with. Ugh. The game didn't mean too much actually because this tournament is a three game guarantee, so even if we lost, we'd still play another. Lose THAT game though, and it's a quick flight home.

Our next game was at 10:00 and thankfully on a more sun friendly field. We were playing a team from Yuba City California, right outside Sacramento (also a state capital!!). We won 10-9 and I can't remember a single detail about the game. That's a shame because a 10-9 game sounds pretty exciting.

Next up was Smashmouth, not the band, but a team from the north side of Vegas and we beat them 15-12. If you notice a trend of close games here, you're dead on. This was probably one of the most talented tournaments we've played in. Very few blowouts.

So we had played at 8, 10 and 2 and had won all three. We would still have to play at 6 and at 8 and win both if we wanted to make it to Monday. The game at 6 though went to a field that, surprise, surprise had the sun in our hitters' faces as it set. Nice. We get the sun in our face in the morning AND the evening. It was really, really hard to see and I don't do well under those conditions. My game is more of a place hitter than a power hitter, but it's tough to hit a ball in any regard if you can barely see it.

We won our 6:00 game though 20-10 as the sun set 3/4ths of the way through the game and allowed our offense to take some shots. Every game was a huge game at this point because we could go home with any loss....or at least back to the casino.

Our last game of the day, our fifth by the way, was against the team that beat us to start the tournament and we had revenge on our minds. This team, from Hayward California, were a bunch of jag-offs and poor sports. We jumped to an early 5-0 lead and built it to 9-0 by the end of the 4th inning. Back they came though and they made it 9-9 after 6. We scored two runs in the top of the seventh and blanked them in the bottom half to exact our revenge and head into Monday morning at 5-1.

Another 8:00 a.m. start did not sit well with the team, especially in day three of a Vegas tournament, but most of the team, while sore from playing 5 games on Sunday in 45-50 degree weather, were in decent shape. Our next opponent was from Bakersfield CA and had put up 34 and 22 runs on two different opponents the day before. We were going to have to be hitting and playing defense to win this one.

After starting off the tournament in the middle infield, I had shifted to third base for the last game on Sunday night and started there on Monday morning as well. The first guy up to bat for their team essentially bunted the ball at me, which is illegal in softball, and ended up on second after I threw the ball away...not a good start. Every time after that however, I played between home and the third base bag daring him to try it again. He flew out twice and grounded to short for what should have been an easy out if the the new shortstop didn't boot it, so we controlled him pretty well after that initial questionable at bat. When someone tries to cheat like that, it can really fire up the other team, as it did for us. We hit pretty well again as a team and would end up at around a .600 average, as we won our sixth game 14-10.

Our eighth game of the tournament and second of the day on Monday morning was scheduled for right after our last game and against a team from Illinois against whom we've played several times. An out of state rematch was not to be though as they had already headed for the airport! For reasons beyond my comprehension, they scheduled Monday morning flights even though the championship game wasn't until 3. So you could have this great run (let's say you even have the luckiest run EVER) and your team bails because of their flights. Unbelievable. So our seventh victory, appropriately enough, was by forfeit 7-0. I played outstandingly. ;-P

The opposition for the ninth game was ready and waiting for us though and we started 15 minutes after a forfeit was declared our last game. This team was from San Jose CA and had only given up 7, 5, and 4 runs in it's last three games, so their defense was solid.

There was controversy almost from the very start. We were home team and they put up 5 runs right away. Our first hitter came up and hit a ball to center field and the outfielder made a leg first sliding catch. It was clear from our angle in the dugout that he caught it, but the umpire called it a trap, meaning no catch and the runner was safe. It was a big break for us. The other team, justifiably, was absolutely livid though. And then the umpire did something I've never seen an umpire do before in my life: he called over the outfielder in question, looked him in the eyes and asked him if he caught the ball. The player said he did and the umpire reversed his call!!!! Can you imagine what sports would be like if this EVER happened???!!!! Unbelievable. Now WE were livid! Correct call or not, you just don't ask a guy if he's lying and then believe whatever he says because you "can tell by looking him in the eye" if he's lying or not. Needless to say our coach was kicked out for arguing, but it was the umpire that should have been tossed. Coincidentally enough, a second umpire came out to umpire the calls on the bases in the very next half inning. A little too late my man!

Our shortstop booted some balls again during this game which should have been routine plays and you just absolutely need to make the routine plays in games like these. He was moved from the outfield because he had played shortstop in college, but I don't think doing it during a major tournament like this is the right idea. He hadn't played that position for us all year and is a bit of a head case anyway.

Meanwhile, at third, I made one of the catches of the tournament on an absolute bullet off the bat of a left-handed hitter which went right down the line. I dove across my body and made the grab, saving a sure double at least and a run. Guys on the team were still talking about it in the airport later in the day and the guy who hit it even came over to me and said "nice play" when I was on the base paths.

Anyway, we were trailing the entire game and it was 21-9 going into the bottom of the 7th. I led off the inning with a fly to right on a nice play by the right fielder. Even with the sun-field at bats (where I was 1 for 5 I think) I still hit .583 for the tournament, which was pretty respectable for this quality of competition. Only one more of the next 10 batters made an out however and we had pushed across eight runs to make the score 21-17 when I came around in the batting order again. After fouling off the first pitch, I bared down and made the pitcher throw me a strike, which he couldn't do and I walked to put runners at first and third. The next batter walked also to load the bases for our lead-off hitter, who also happened to be the shortstop. Unfortunately he could not come through, hitting a lazy fly ball to center to end the game.

It was a great tournament for us though going 7-2, having the third most wins of any team in the tournament, playing the third most number of games by any team in the tournament and finishing in seventh place out of 55 teams. Not too bad.

Tomorrow: what ELSE happened in Vegas? Basra, the reconstruction. And Evelyn Wood. What? You're kidding me right?