Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ponzi, Fonzi, schmonzi

If you've been aware of the news over the last few weeks, you know of Bernard Madoff and the Ponzi scheme that he employed to bilk $50 billion out of investors internationally. All sorts of famous people and asset funds were victims, including: Steven Spielberg, a Nobel Laureatte, The Royal Bank of Scotland, large banks in Switzerland, France, Spain and Japan the family foundation of New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg. He must be quite the con-artist.

It made me think about the origin of the term Ponzi Scheme and lo and behold, CNN did a story about it. Clarence Barron, owner of the WSJ and founder of Barron's, was the guy who busted Charles Ponzi. It's all in the article and is a compelling read.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bats in the Belfry

As you know if you've been reading my blog for a while, I relish giving fun Christmas gifts. Preferably, it would be a gift that someone would actually like to have, but wouldn't buy for themselves. A few years ago, I bought a great gift for my dad that took the better part of a year to collect. Then I bought automatic car starters for a few people. Those are the good ones. I'm sure there have been bad ones too, but I can't remember them right now. Maybe that could be another entry??

So this year I bought bat houses for three people who could actually use them: Ricardo (for his cabin up in Wisconsin), Naperville Greg and Kleveland Kim (for their hunting grounds up in Wisconsin) and for my parents who have a home in northern Michigan. Each of them could benefit from a reduction in mosquitoes and other flying insects that would be associated with bats. Plus, bats are just freaking cool!!!

Here's a picture of the house:







It can hold up to 300 bats, has a mesh “landing area” at the bottom where the wood sticks out and has echo location slots (for easy finding by the bats). There are two chambers inside of it as opposed to it just being hollow.






Here are some bat facts:

Can bats have Rabies?

  • Yes, but very rarely. All mammals are susceptible to Rabies.
  • Infected bats are rarely aggressive and quickly die from the disease.

Are bat droppings a threat to me and my family?

  • Bat droppings are no more of a threat to you than those of any other animal.

Why will bats choose my Bat House to live in?

  • Mainly because, as we humans continue development, bats lose natural habitat.
  • Bat houses provide bats with warm, safe places to live and raise their young.
  • Bat houses are designed to be easily found by bats.
  • Bat houses are designed for bats to easily land on and roost in.

Are bats a threat to me and my family?

  • Bats do NOT attack humans
  • Any wild animal is a possible threat to humans.
  • Bats found on the ground are likely to be sick or injured and
    should NOT be handled as they may bite in self-defense.
  • Bats do not attempt to get into people's hair.

A single bat can eat 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes a night.

Mother bats usually have only one offspring per year.

A baby bat is called a pup.

A single bat can live over 20 years, but the bat population growth is limited by the slow birth rate.



Happy Birthday to Joisey Ken!!!

Things I'm grateful for:
#46 my training in college as a Resident Advisor which urged me to take action in various situations. There are several people who might still be stuck in their cars in icy parking spots if I didn't.
#47 decaffeinated coffee. Sometimes I just want a warm drink!
#48 my dad's ability to make a turkey and my mother's mashed potatoes. Yum!!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

It's a sad day in Chicago

The Chicago Bears played today with two chances at making the playoffs: win and the Vikings lose and they're division champs; win and have Dallas and Tampa lose and they are the wild card. All of this could have been avoided save for 11 seconds on a warm day in mid October in Atlanta. Kyle Orton had led the team on an 11 play, 77 yard drive for a touchdown and a 20-19 lead with only 11 seconds to play. A poorly executed squib kick and even worse coverage by the Bears secondary (specifically a rookie who was out of position) and a 48 yard field goal as time expired and the Bears snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

There was some thoughts of that game today, but as we gathered at the local pub, we had nothing but playoff thoughts in our heads. The Giants were going to show up on the last game of the season because that's the way Coughlin coaches them. Dallas could easily lose to Philly, in Philly. We weren't sure how Tampa was going to lose to Oakland in Tampa, but Oakland beat the Texans the week before and that's who the Bears were playing this week, so maybe there was a chance.

Then Danieal Manning entered the picture.

With the Bears up 10-0 in the second quarter, Manning went to cover the short zone while the best receiver on the Texans ran by him wide open and uncovered. He was out of position. Just as he was out of position against the Colts in the Super Bowl when he also allowed a touchdown. Still up 10-7, he then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and gave the ball right back to Houston in Bear territory. 14-10 and all of the momentum changed. The defense couldn't recover and the offense couldn't score enough points. You can take the easy way out and blame the whole defense or the whole offense or say there was still a half of football to be played or that Gould's onside kick was horrible. But the reality is, Manning lost the game with those two plays.

So now the long offseason begins. We'll watch the playoffs, if convenient. We'll celebrate the Super Bowl and it's commercials. Then we'll anticipate draft day and the start of summer camp.

Only 99 days until opening day for the Cubs.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Digging out

Much of the snow melted recently as snow showers turned to rain. Unfortunately it didn't all melt and then the temperature dropped dramatically, creating an ice skating rink out of the city.

On my way to get coffee, I saw three people carrying gifts, being led by an elderly looking woman who was loaded down with bags like everyone else. Yep, you guessed, boom, right on her keyster. Actually, she didn't go ALL the way down, but most of the way. I ran over and grabbed her and then took her bags from her so she could start to get up with my help. Her granddaughter was close behind and her daughter was with the car at the curb. After re-establishing her balance, I took her to the entryway to their building and set the gifts down inside and told them to be careful.

On my way back from getting coffee, I see the daughter attempting to maneuver into or out of a parking spot which she shouldn't have tried to negotiate. The granddaughter was trying to push the car back out into the street. The wheels were turned one way, they weren't rocking the car, it was a mess. Don't people know how to do this? I've already helped one guy out of a spot this year and anticipate several more before the winter is out. You HAVE to know that the only way to move a huge freaking car without traction is to get it rocking back and forth and hope that you can push it onto something the tires can grab.

This woman was clueless. She was gunning the tires so all they did was spin. She would hit the brakes while we were rocking the car (that started to piss me off). She went forward instead of backwards (which almost ended up with Joe getting run over). Finally, with two other guys who stopped when they saw me pushing, we got the car out. I took the opportunity to explain to the mother and daughter that they need to find a parking spot without the huge ice bank to climb. You wouldn't think you'd have to explain that to someone, but you'd be wrong.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Church and Velociraptors

How long would YOU last with a velociraptor if you're both chained to the same bunk bed? I lasted 1 minute 35 seconds. Very fun little thing.

Just a few more pictures of the church renovations. By the way, our kneelers are installed and are awesome. I'm very happy with the way the church has turned out.



Here's a scene from the old church during renovation. Most of the bad looking stuff in the picture is actually just the way it was!!













That same area, or just to the right of it I think, now! Very nice!!









The right side of this picture is where the cross outline used to be. Much nicer. That little vestibule was a mess too.












This is the new crying room area in the back. Carpeted and enclosed.

















This picture is from the crying room looking into the church.

















Forgot to wish my father a Happy Birthday yesterday, so I'm putting him up here today! He's a spritely 72 and is looking BETTER now than five years ago. His eyes are better, so no glasses except for reading glasses. He's dropped 30 pounds so far I believe and is looking to drop 30 more. With help from my mother, there's a good chance that he'll do it!!

Final Catalog Tally: 25 Total to beat: 24 Last year, 30 all-time
So 2008 beat 2007 by one catalog! I didn't include the two catalogs that came with gifts when they were delivered. That's not the spirit of the catalog tally.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yes, I'm alive!!

Apparently last night was the coldest home game in Bears history (since records started being kept in 1963, 2 degrees at game time. It was the second coldest wind chill at -13. And yes, I was there and it was indeed very, very cold. When I got home, I jumped into a nice hot shower and thawed out. We were dressed appropriately though, so it really wasn't all that bad. You just start to get achy because you can't move around due to all the clothing. It was worth it though.

Somehow, Benny Baseball, Sausage King Andy and I made the intelligent decision of NOT tailgating and instead going to a bar before the game. Cooking in that cold temperature just didn't seem like it was going to be any fun at all. My guest was Australian Rick who was attending his first Bears game. And what a game it was!! If you haven't heard, it was a 20-17 Bears overtime victory on a Robbie Gould field goal. And for the second week in a row, I picked the score on the button and this week even said it would be a Robbie Gould field goal that would win it!

Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures, just this one of the fireworks before the game. Rick had his camera along though, so maybe he'll send me some pics.




















When I got home, about 12:30 or so I think, there were several packages waiting for me from UPS. One was unexpected and was shipped from NBC Studios. Odd, I thought. I'm not very bombable (Seinfeld reference), so I opened it.




Much to my surprise, Dog Brian sent me a replacement Dwight Schrute bobblehead!!! As I wrote last week, my current one had his head sliced off by my very James Bondish headset cord.

Thank you again Dog Brian and Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Go Bears!!!!

As I wrote the other day, the Bears can make the playoffs as either a wild card or as division champs. First and foremost, the Bears have to win their last two games which would put them at 10-6. Then the following scenario was what I copied from the Tribune:

If the Vikings, Cowboys, Buccaneers and Eagles all win their games, the Bears are eliminated. The Bears will have to pull for the underdogs to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Dallas (9-5) vs. Baltimore (9-5): The line: Dallas by 4.

Minnesota (9-5) vs. Atlanta (9-5): The line: Minnesota by 3 1/2.

Tampa Bay (9-5) vs. San Diego (6-8): The line: Tampa Bay by 3 1/2.

Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7): The line: Philadelphia by 5.

As it turns out, ALL of the underdogs won!!! Whoo-hoo!!! So not only are the Bears still alive for the division with Minnesota's loss, but they can still steal the wild card spot occupied by Dallas currently. For that to happen, both Dallas and Tampa would have to lose next week. Tampa plays Oakland who played tough today and beat Houston (the Bears opponent next week) and Dallas plays at Philadelphia (who gets in if they win, Tampa loses AND the Bears lose). I'm still hopeful that we'll win the division as the Vikings host the NY Giants next week and we go to Houston after playing Green Bay tomorrow.

Regarding the Bears game, due to the EXTREME cold (-20+ wind chill and single digits), we may be calling an audible on the tailgating. It's been suggested by Benny Baseball that maybe we should go to a nearby bar and maybe tailgate for a little bit, but not three hours. The suggestion is under review......

Things I'm grateful for:

#43 All of you!! And I wish you a very Merry Christmas!!

#44 That I can wrap gifts somewhat competently. It's a real skill!!

#45 Housing and insulation. On nights like this, I really, really am grateful for them!!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hitting the gym

With a Saturday off from softball, golf and my usual warm weather activities AND without getting a vertigo spell AND without MLM in my house working on something, I decided to hit the gym again. It's been a while since I've been to the old gym due to various ailments: foot, finger, shoulder and vertigo. Though I took it easy, it was actually a decent first trip back. I'm looking forward to the next visit.

The rest of the day I cleaned up around the house and wrapped some gifts. I'm going to watch Dark Knight later on and am excited to curl up on the sofa and enjoy that movie.

While cleaning up, I found receipts for my laser eye surgery. I had the procedure done 8/10/01. I had no idea it was that long ago!! And I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

For dinner I cooked a rainbow trout fillet and had some corn. Good eating.

Not much else to report on another day in Chicago where it snowed with more on the way. It's getting old and it's not even technically winter yet. Ugh.

Things I'm grateful for:
#40 Grocery stores. Seriously. I went and bought a trout today, along with the fixins for chili. Can you imagine if you had to go catch your own food or grow it or trade services instead of money? What a pain that would be.
#41 Saunas. The dry heat kind, though I like the steam saunas sometimes too, so I'll include them. Boy does the one at my gym feel good on my back when I lay down on the hot wood planks. Sigh....
#42 That my parents are still alive. Without a spouse in my life, I'm can't imagine what I'd do if they weren't here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Last Christmas Party of the Year

Had a client party tonight and it was great fun. I always enjoy hanging with my clients. If they weren't good fun, they wouldn't be one of my clients....at least not for over two years like these clients have been (there were actually two at this party).






The Festivus Tree at the client.

















The food spread. I wish I could remember it all because it was pretty damn good. The sushi looking rolls were really cheese risotto rolls. There were Caesar salad cups. Prime rib sandwiches. Salmon puffs.....good Lord...it just went on and on.







Just a picture I thought would turn out fun. Seems ok.


















The Client company employees: average age...seemed to be 22.












The clients. They have packaging from their gifts on their heads. I wasn't the only one taking a picture, so I got a flash in my pic.














If you only read one article about how the first $350 billion of the bailout was spent, read this one. You should understand when someone says "AIG was bailed out" or a bank was bailed out, what really happened. Getting preferred stock is not a bail out. It's an investment. If Warren Buffet would have done it, I think it's safe to say that the U.S. government was ok in doing it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The end is near

Probably not the end of the world or anything, though an ice storm is going to hit Chicago over night. No, I'm talking about the football season. We're in week 16 of a 17 week season. Sure the playoffs follow, but if your team isn't IN the playoffs, then they aren't as much fun to watch. Mind you, I'll still watch them, but they won't be as high a priority. Here is the scenario that allows for the Bears Monday night game even to be meaningful (from the Tribune):

If the Vikings, Cowboys, Buccaneers and Eagles all win their games, the Bears are eliminated. The Bears will have to pull for the underdogs to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Dallas (9-5) vs. Baltimore (9-5): The line: Dallas by 4.

Minnesota (9-5) vs. Atlanta (9-5): The line: Minnesota by 3 1/2.

Tampa Bay (9-5) vs. San Diego (6-8): The line: Tampa Bay by 3 1/2.

Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7): The line: Philadelphia by 5.

In addition, the Bears have to beat Green Bay on Monday night and then win their final game in Houston. So cheer for the underdogs this weekend!!!

Friday morning I have a follow up doctor appointment with my ENT about my Meniere's disease. Question is, will the ice storm allow me to get there at 8:30 a.m. or not? And I was hoping to just stay home all day.......

Things I'm grateful for:
#37 My eyesight. I have 20/10 vision, but even if it weren't that good, I'd be happy to be able to see.
#38 Snow in the trees reflecting the moonlight.
#39 Being able to shop online.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hobson's Choice or Morton's Fork? Or Gibson's knife for steak?

So I was watching a new, fairly intriguing sitcom called Gary Unmarried. It's about Gary (Jay Mohr) plays a divorced father of two who shares the kids with his wife who was recently engaged to be to the guy who previously was Gary and his wife's marriage counselor. One of the kids is a girl, about 10, and described as a "precocious environmentalist". The scene goes like this:
Gary in the kitchen of his wife: "Are you ready to go Louise?"
Daughter: "Yes. It's better than watching mom murder that fly." (the ex-wife was trying to kill a fly in the kitchen.)
Gary: "Do you know how many flies we kill with my windshield on the way to the recycling center?"
Daughter: "Classic Hobson's Choice."
Gary: "Is that how our arguments are going to go? I make a point and then you say something I don't understand?"

Well, of course I HAD to look up Hobson's Choice. Now, I've never heard of this term which is why I thought it interesting to write about. From Wiki:
"A Hobson's choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered, and one may refuse to take that option. The choice is therefore between taking the option or not taking it, colloquially formulated as "take it or leave it."
So then I have to say, did they get it right? Was going to the recycling center and killing flies a Hobson's Choice? Is take it or leave it correct? I thought maybe not quite. Certainly it doesn't seem "classic". What about this Morton's Fork mentioned on the Wiki entry. Well, that's not quite right either. Both outcomes have to be unpleasant for Morton's Fork to apply.

It seems more just like a dilemna (
Such a choice between two options of nearly equal value is more properly called a dilemma)
, but that's equating the flies lives with recycling. That doesn't seem right either.

Maybe they were right with Hobson's Choice. She can take the recycling and kill flies, or not take the recycling. The decision has a bad outcome in either case though, so maybe Morton's Fork IS right after all.

Things I'm grateful for:
#34 The decision I made some time ago to use a cleaning lady. She came today while I was working and my house is awesomly clean, my bed linens are fresh and my laundry is done.
#35 Whoever figured out that salt melts snow. It makes dealing with the snow so much easier.
#36 It sounds insane, but the US Postal System. For 42 cents I can mail a Christmas Card anywhere in the country. Shouldn't it cost more?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dinner and Church

Not much time to write as it's late and I still have work to do.

El Supremo, Ricardo and I went to Custom House, a great restaurant just south of the Congress on Dearborn. As a result, I've been on the go since 6 a.m. and it's now 10:15 p.m. The huge amount of snow that we received in Chicago also has thrown a bit of delay into the day. Even at the end of the day while we were crawling along 94 at 9:00 at night, the snow was causing delays. I also had to clear it out of my parking spot.....sigh.




My duck with apples and pomegranate. Good stuff.











The Custom House bar view from our table.














Custom House view out onto The Congress. Snowy night!











Here are some pictures for your perusal. I took them after church on Sunday. Here's what some of the before pictures were.








The new ceiling...or part of it.













The choir loft ceiling and new "crying room" in the back of the church. A great addition.












The new main aisle....carpeted!! Previously it was bad tile. The pews were redone as well and new wood floors. Great job!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm tired and it's late

....and el supremo de New Mexico is town, which means mucho work for me. PLUS I have a meeting at church for the finance council at 7 a.m. Ugh. So it's off to bed with me, but I leave you with three things for which I am grateful.


Things I'm grateful for:
#31 That I don’t smoke and have never smoked…..anything.
#32 The wonderful smell of pine trees. Can you smell it by just thinking about it?
#33 The technology of flight.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Lost Photos

No, they aren't from the Kennedy assassination or anything like that. Just pictures taken by Ricardo at the Bears game on Thursday.


This is the Punke clan, the folks that bought me the cool helmet/hat and who sit next to me. Doug SR. is on the far right, Doug Jr. is next moving left. Daughter Doug (Jessica)and then, I think, Jr.'s wife (Sara) if I'm not mistaken. Good folks all of them!!









Yes, I had a few beers. How about that football bottle cozy? Saweeeeet.












View from the seats taken by Ricardo on his camera phone.








So those were pictures from Thursday. I slept in really late on Friday and then had a ton of energy around midnight. Saturday I went out and bought my Christmas tree!! As usual, when I decide to buy a tree, I headed out to Menard's, a large regional Home Depot competitor. I have gone to Home Depot as well, but Menard's seems to have a better tree selection. So I got this beauty for $14!!!


It's just over 6' tall and hasn't "fallen" yet in this photo. I should take another one now. It's really pretty nice!! Purplish lights adorn it this year with white lights elsewhere in the living room. I lower the blinds too so I can share the festiveness with my neighbors!!












Then Saturday night, I headed out to dinner as a seventh wheel. That's right, me and three couples. Fortunately I know them all pretty well and it was more like just a group of friends. We went to Carmichaels, a hoity-toity steak and seafood place near where one of the couples lives. Here are the pics!




The menu cover.















The whole group, including me poking my head out from around one of the Aussies.









Bill the Bear, Ricardo and Aussie Rick. Here's what is going on with Rick: he's not a citizen, lost his job, had a birthday, got married, listed and de-listed his condo. That's quite a busy month or six weeks. He'll get another job quickly though, even in this economy.








Aussie Deb (recently married, not a citizen and also recently unemployed), Ricardo's wife Jodi and Bill the Bear's "significant other" Nadine.


Even though we had five bottles of wine for the table, I only had a glass and a half or so. Just wasn't feeling the "get really drunk it's Christmas" thing. Probably because of being sick last weekend. We had a very fun evening though and laughed a lot!



Things I'm grateful for:
#28 My awesomely warm Eddie Bauer coat that I bought last year for next to nothing. So warm!
#29 The NFL. What would I do with myself on weekends in the Fall without it?
#30 My recently cleaned out tool and storage closet. Just cleaned it out today and I'm very happy with it!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Man Down!!

The week has been so crazy with my vertigo and all, that I haven't even been able to write about another tragedy. My phone cord, actually the headset cord, somehow got wrapped around my bobble head Dwight Schrute from The Office and when I stood up, it beheaded Dwight!! Mind you, Dwight didn't FALL OVER and break. Nope. His head was sliced clean off!! It's pretty amazing if you think about it. I was so amazed that I really wasn't even pissed off initially. Poster Dog Brian had bought it for me for Christmas two years ago, so it had some sentimental value...in addition to just being awesome.


Here's the top view of "Beheaded Dwight".












Beheaded Dwight from the side. It looks like I can't super glue or gorilla glue him back together. The severing was right across the main neck arteries and is the weak spot of the figure. Plus it's a bobble-head, so you can't really have a sliced neck and have it function. Damn it!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm Baaaaaackkkk!

It was a long night on the lakefront! If you watched the game, you know how exciting it was, a 27-24 win for the Bears in overtime, which by the way, was the score I predicted!

Most importantly, for me at least, I had 5 or 6 beers on the evening and did not feel dizzy at all. It was important to determine if I could return to my "normal" life or if it would have to be altered significantly. I might still make some changes, in addition to carrying my meds around with me, but at least that I don't have to make significant changes.

So, without further adieu (is that the right word? Should it be "a do"?), here are some pictures from last night.




The evening started at around 4 with Benny Baseball and Andy the Sausage King tailgating with me. We took two cars and arrived together so we could park together. Outside the stadium it was a bit windy, but inside it really wasn't. The temperature was about 30 or so at this point, not bad at all. Windchill was colder of course. The lot was only about half full up to 45 minutes before the game. We were embarrassed for Bears fans.



One of the highlights of the tailgate was the first appearance of the year of Mr. Heater and the windshield which I constructed for him! He was a huge success!!










Joe drinking responsibly....medicine in hand! Of course, I didn't want to stray too far from Mr. Heater. Sausage found a way to sneak into this picture too. Nice focus Benny!











The wonderful family that sits next to me at the Bears games (four seats), bought me this great old school Bears hat/helmet. The leather version is what they used to play in and I commented early in the season that I thought they were really cool. So they bought me one for Christmas!! The dad, Doug, also paid me the $100 we bet because the Bears exceeded 6 wins. Whoo-hooo!!! They stopped by the tailgate too, but I didn't get a picture of them. Damnit.





The hat from the top.













The hat from the back. Very warm by the way!












Things I'm grateful for:
#25 Mr. Heater and it's buddy, propane. Portable heat....nice.
#26 A warm shower after hours in the cold. There are few things more enjoyable.
#27 The ability to show restraint when needed. Whether it be in alcohol consumption, food consumption, hitting stupid people, it's good to be able to say, "That's enough." Many people can't: see drunks, really fat people (it's not glandular) and OJ Simpson.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First gift has arrived!!

No, no. No one has sent ME a gift yet. God forbid if THAT should happen. :-) Nope, this gift is what I'm getting for someone. My first online purchase of the season, though many more have followed. So it's kind of like Christmas everyday for a while now....except you're not quite sure you're going to get something when the postman arrives. Not to mention Christmas cards! I love this time of year.

So Thursday night is a big test for me. Apparently, the first three days after a vertigo attack are crucial as to whether or not it will repeat immediately. I've made it past those three days and am feeling pretty good. Thursday though is a Bears home game, so I'm going and I'm going to tailgate. My medicine will be close at hand, but I'm tailgating. If I get dizzy, then I'll be quick with the meds, but I need to be able to evaluate whether I can live a normal life or not. Ricardo will be there, along with his wife Jodi and my two good buds Benny Baseball and Sausage King Andy. The latter two will most likely be hammered out of their gourds, so I'll have to rely on Ricardo is something goes seriously awry.

We've all heard about Governor Rod getting nailed yesterday. How interesting that today is his birthday. Posting bail is not the best way to celebrate one's birthday. If Rod, let's call him J-Rod for "Jail-Rod", does go to jail, that will mean four of the last eight Illinois Governors have done time. That's ridiculous. Can't we just get an honest Governor ever?

Jailbird Governors from Illinois:
Otto Kerner (D) 1961-68, jailed for bribery, conspiracy and tax evasion
Dan Walker (D) 1973-77, jailed for "improprieties related to his savings and loan business"
George Ryan (R) 1999-2003, jailed for racketeering
And that's been it since 1818. That's a rough 50 years for Illinois Governors.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Being grateful...defined?

Stef asked in yesterday's blog if the "Things I'm grateful for" section is making a difference. It's an interesting question that needs to be answered by answering other questions.

What was I hoping to have come out of the "Things I'm grateful for exercise"? Well, according to the studies in my original entry, I would generally perceive myself and be perceived as being, healthier and happier after doing this for some period of time. The studies, I believe, were longer term in nature, so it's probably way too soon to note any measurable difference.

How different is a "difference" for different people? (nice sentence huh?) My life, by all accounts, has to be considered as pretty fortunate. Nine days out of ten I don't HAVE to be anywhere or doing anything. Not a whole lot of people have that ability at any age, much less at 42. So I would suspect that I might be happier than the average person (and probably healthier too, but the average person doesn't have random vertigo attacks so I'm leaving that on the shelf for now). The grateful exercise would make a much greater impact more quickly if my life were more average in nature I have to believe. For me, it's been a good daily reminder that "hey, I have a pretty good life during a period in history when it's pretty darn good and fun to be alive". Even aristocrats 600 years ago had issues with the plague or could be killed by the flu and didn't have microwaves or mechlizine, so money isn't everything. It's a confluence of circumstances.

So has it changed me yet or are changes readily apparent? No, I don't think so. But as a guy who can be overly critical of his sports teams and stupid people (not always two separate classes by the way), the more chances I have to be positive, the better. That's part of why I like to surround myself with positive, happy people like Ricardo, esdnm, Benny Baseball, Joisey Ken, Sausage King Andy, etc. They're not only good, fun people, but they are pretty positive as well.

Things I'm grateful for:
#22 Good friends who are positive, funny, intelligent people.
#23 Being able to shop online. What a time saver!! You can't just get those hours of your life back normally.
#24 Golf. Boy do I miss golf. I want to be warm again.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Feeling much better thank you very much!

It is amazing what modern science can do for ailments that are really bizarre. Vertigo is one of the most bizarre, though clearly not normally lethal (freezing to death in a Dominick's parking lot excluded). On Sunday, I took my medicine twice and then went to bed at 9:30. This morning I woke up at 9:30. It's been a while since I last slept 12 hours. Vomiting, passing out and getting bags of saline solution can be exhausting.

While I missed the Bears game on Sunday, they play again on Thursday and I'm hoping to be ready for that match up! Hell, I have all of the tailgating stuff already!!! Which reminds me, I now have leftover breakfast food for six, so if you'd like me to cook you breakfast, just make the trip over. Spending the night before is optional, but encouraged. :-)

One thing I've been eating more of this weekend as well as in the weeks leading up to Saturday, is oyster crackers. When I say oyster crackers, everyone knows what I'm talking about right? Those little hexagonal crackers that you toss into soup by the handful. They are my ultimate comfort snack food. However, the containers that I've seen ACTUALLY say "oyster AND soup crackers". So they aren't "oyster crackers"; they are crackers that you use with oysters AND soup. Well WTF?? Has anyone ever used these things with oysters?? I haven't used these or any other cracker with oysters, though Ricardo mention that he has had oysters on much larger, more Saltine-like crackers.

According to Wikipedia, they have an interesting history and were indeed served with oysters once upon a time. I'll buy that they were served with oyster STEW, but with oysters? Really? I'm not buying that. Shenanigans!!!

While researching the origins of "calling shenanigans", I took a little Wiki-trip (following links within links within links on Wikipedia entries) and came across The Dreadnought Hoax. An interesting little story.

Things I'm grateful for:
#19 Mechlizine. It's my vertigo medication. It's saved my ass from some of the worst hours of my life twice now.
#20 While a close in relation to #16, I'm going with cell phones specifically. While sitting in the parking lot of a Dominick's in 15 degree weather, sweating and throwing up, not one person stopped to even ask if I was ok or needed help or anything. There was no way I was going to be able to get out of my car, find a pay phone, get coins in the slot and dial for help. Nope. I most likely would have just froze in my car.
#21 Warm flannel pajama bottoms. When you're sick, there's nothing like them.


Catalog Tally: 23 Total to beat: 24 Last year, 30 all-time

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Saturday night at Lutheran General

Nope, it's not a new television series and Lutheran General is not a stand-up comedy club. LG is indeed a hospital and it's where I was for 6+ hours on Saturday night.

First, I'm fine now.

So how did I end up there? Well, after preparing for the Bears game (making chili, inviting people, building my screen so I could use my heater in the wind, etc), I headed out towards O'hare to meet a friend for some food and watching the Big 12 championship game (college football). As I approached the entrance to the highway, I checked my blindspot by turning my head and noticed that I got a little dizzy. After merging and driving for a bit, I noticed that turning my head at all was becoming a problem. I got off at Cumberland and pulled into a Dominick's. My thought at this point was two-fold 1) only two days ago I had thought about putting some of my anti-vertigo medicine in my car in case I was out and about and started to feel dizzy, but I didn't; and 2) Dramamine is an OTC equivalent, though not as potent.

So I stumbled into Dominick's, found some chewable Dramamine, opened it up in the aisle and chewed and swallowed the pills. After some water at the fountain, I paid for the pills and headed out to the car. Then it started getting really warm. The temperature outside was about 15 or so and I had my coat off and took my sweater off as well. After getting to my car and sitting down, I called my friend to say I wasn't going to make it and why. Then I called my folks to see if maybe they could come pick me up. During that call, the attack hit, vomiting ensued and my sweating turned into something much more intense.

Fortunately I was still able to communicate a bit (this ability becomes greatly diminished as the attack progresses), so I was able to tell my mother where I was and what medicine I needed. She called 911, got transferred by the Naperville 911 to the Chicago 911 (mistakenly) and then transferred to the Park Ridge 911. They finally dispatched an ambulance. All the while I'm in the parking lot with my door open, in the second parking spot from the store, but 30 yards from the entrance, throwing up and periodically closing the door as the sweat all over my body was making me really, really cold when it contacted the 15 degree air. Of course it didn't keep me from sweating even more though.

The ambulance arrived and I used my last bit of energy to lay on the horn and stick my hand up (which of course induced more vomiting). One of the big problems with vertigo is that when you move your head AT ALL, it tends to induce vomiting. Not fun. Some interesting/ridiculous things happened before I even got to the hospital. The EMT's first wanted me to get myself out of the car. Now, if you can picture the scene in your mind, what would lead them to believe that I could get myself out of the car? And they asked several times. They asked me a bunch of other questions, most of which I could not respond to. I remember vividly in the ambulance, eyes closed because now even SEEING things moving caused me to vomit, they asked me which hospital I wanted to go to: Lutheran General or Resurrection. Really? WTF? Does that really matter to people who are nearly unresponsive? Then the EMT's got a call from 911 saying they had my parents on the line and wanted to know which hospital we were going to. So they ask ME where my parents are coming from so they can pick a hospital. Seriously?? Am I only the only one noticing me vomiting every two seconds and my head looking like I just got caught in a tsunami??

Finally I got to the hospital, as did my parents, and I was given an IV. Well they tried at least. One hole in my right arm. Didn't work. One hole in my left hand. Didn't work. Finally the third try was a charm and I got the IV with the much needed anti-nausea medication. As it turns out, the anti-vertigo medication only comes in pill form so they have to stabilize me first so I can consume a pill without throwing it up.

Then the chills came. I was shaking like a leaf despite the 8-10 pre-warmed blankets thrown on me. Why? The IV drip is room temperature, say 70 degrees, and my body is at least 98. Doesn't it make sense to warm the IV fluid a bit so your body doesn't shiver so much as the fluid entering your body? Once the bag was empty, the chills stopped for a bit. After one bag of fluid, I was able to take the pill medicine and so they then started a second bag. More chills.

So after 6+ hours of this, I was finally discharged and went home with my parents. Meanwhile, my car was still at the Dominick's so they have to be called so they wouldn't tow my car. I had one guy meeting me at my house in the morning for the Bears game, so he had to be called. And two other people were meeting me at the game that had to be called. Fortunately one of the residents-in-training knew how to use an iphone so I could direct him how to retrieve the necessary phone numbers.

All in all it was quite an ordeal. Of course endless thanks to my parents for staying with me through the ordeal. Thanks to my sister Lori to who brought over Gatorade and spare pajamas for me to sleep in and my niece who lent me her stuffed koala bear for moral support while sleeping.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

How do I top Miss Illinois?

Not every day is a blogging "winner", like meeting Miss Illinois and a double rat killing by T-Rex I would contend. Today was filled with work and emails and phone calls and a topic is somewhat eluding me. Partially to blame is Ricardo.

Yes, the same man who drank wayyyy too much this past weekend and then bailed on a swank holiday party last night changed his tune today. Mrs. Ricardo is off to NY for the day, so he decided that we should go out for a drink at a new bar that opened up near his condo. Being the GOOD FRIEND that I am, I said sure: even though HE bailed on ME last night and I have a party Friday and the Bears game on Sunday. Two whiskey and ginger ales later, I was feeling a bit off, so we called it a night. Not sure what's wrong, but the ol'noggin is spinning a bit.

On a completely unrelated note, three people died on the Friday after Thanksgiving in shopping related accidents. Three people. I don't like those odds. If I were up at 4 a.m. and at a Walmart or something, chances are somebody else would have died: me or the first person that pushed me from behind. Yet another reason for me to sleep in the day after Thanksgiving.



Catalog Tally: 21 Total to beat: 24 Last year, 30 all-time
Big catalog days the last two days. It looks like beating last year is a given.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Rocky again and Ms. Illinois

So tonight was the first of several Christmas parties which I get to attend because of work. Yes, even though el supremo isn't in town, he's still ruining my diet through working with him. :-)

It was held at The Standard Club which is pretty close to where I first started working for Morningstar: the Monadnock Building. It's one of the few old school clubs still left in the city. Valet is included for the party. You must have your coat and bags coat checked downstairs when you first enter. Men must wear jackets. Very swank.

Here are some pictures from the Horwood, Marcus and Berk holiday party:




The stairway up to the party rooms. Very nicely appointed.












The mantel which I thought would make an interesting picture. It kind of did.













The big spread in a circle in the middle of the room. I can't even go into what all was being offered really. There was duck, prime rib, pasta, fish.....geesh, all sorts of stuff. And then wait staff were walking around with finger food. And of course there was free booze!!! 12 year old McCallan ESNM!!






And what party would be complete without Miss Illinois!! That's right, Katie Lorenz, Miss Illinois complete with tiara and sash and all. Naturally, I had to get my picture taken with her. Interestingly, she's not allowed to be photographed with food in her hands! Her handler made sure that she start to put it down. I told her I would hang on to it for her during the pic.

Interestingly, there are only three people in the country who know Katie's schedule for tomorrow and Katie is not one of them. Her handler, her handler's boss and the National Director are the only people who know her schedule due to crazy stalker-like people who might meet her at events and then follow her around even though they swore they wouldn't and really just had one too many whiskey and ginger ales......wait.........

So that was fun and T-Rex Timmy came out to meet me for a drink or two before the event closed down. Ricardo got too hammered this weekend and decided to tone back his drinking for a while. Nice.

Speaking of T-Rex, we had a double kill in eastern Basra last night!! Rats two and three of the most recent surge were taken out. Without the shrubs and ground cover, it's difficult to place the traps where the rats are willing to stop and nibble on the bait. I was twice successful last night though!! Whooo-hooo!!!


It's that time of year again. Schiesters make their into your home through television and radio. Good ol' Rocky Mozel of the International Star Registry is back at it schleppping his "name a star after a loved one" spiel. Again, this is a crock of shit. Rocky, nor anyone else short of The International Astronomical Union, can legitimately name a star after anyone. The fact that he files it "in copyright form" with the Library of Congress is just insane. Anyone can file any original document with the Library of Congress for a fee, I think it's $20. Big whoop. It doesn't prove anything. So save your $54. Rocky is a scammer who has skirted the law for years.

Things I'm grateful for:

#16 This amazing electronic age in which we live now that, among other things, renders most of the Seinfeld episode antics obsolete. Give those people a new iPhone and most of their story lines go away.
#17 That I've maintain many very good business relationships over the years.
#18 That orthotics already exist and that I have new ones for my shoes. Does wonders for my lower back, though my left foot still hurts every morning.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Joe Versus the Ceiling Fan

Remember that movie Joe versus the Volcano? It had Tom Hanks AND Abe Vigoda. Talk about a great "Six degrees of separation" factoid. Nice. You can thank me later. My story tonight was much less interesting and the movie wasn't that interesting to begin with!

My ceiling fan remote needs to be replaced, so I bought one made by the same company, took down the ceiling fan and started to go through the directions. Everything was fine until I got to one red wire which had no other wire to which to connect. Black with Black. White with White. Red with.....there's nothing. There should be a black/white combo wire, but there wasn't. Damnit. So I call tech support at Hunter, the ceiling fan company, at around 4 last Wednesday. Closed until Monday. Call on Monday at 5:30....long wait. Call them today at 3 and got through. The remote won't work with my model ceiling fan. Great.

So I came home, reassembled the fan. Re-wired it. Re-hung it. And it didn't work. Cut the power, redid the wiring, reassembled, re-hung...nothing. One more time....nothing. Double damnit. Not sure what to do at this point.

Maybe that WAS as interesting as the movie. :-)


Not too long ago, I wrote about Ryan Leaf in comparison to Peyton Manning. Now they've made a movie about him and his dismal career.

Things I'm grateful for:

#13 a willingness and patience to undertake household projects.
#14 the comedy of Lewis Black.
#15 access to healthcare when I want it, even though it ain't cheap!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Some pics

Though I was somehow able to write my blog entry yesterday after watching the Bears game with Benny Baseball and Sausage King Andy, I forgot about the pictures I took on my phone. Nothing startling, but since I took them, here they are!

Even though Benny and I had pizza before hitting Casey Moran's, Andy and I had barbecue chicken fingers there too. Then Benny ordered wings. Apparently they were finger lickin' good. The young woman drinking in the background is Meetra, one of the bar keeps who had her shift cut short because the three of us were 50% of the crowd.

By the look on Andy's face, the game was not going well at this point.






There's Meetra smiling for the camera.

















Kendra, yes, like the playboy bunny, was not as open to having her picture taken. I tried to get her face in the mirror shot. Ha!














Today I went to see my doctor for a check up. I hadn't seen her in almost two years, so I thought it might be good to go back, especially since I already met my deductible. Everything seems ok though my cholesterol edged up and specifically my bad cholesterol. It's possible that it's somewhat seasonal as my other bloodwork was done during the summer or spring while this one was done two weeks ago. Why does that mean anything? Well, my diet gets decidely worse during football season and we're 14 weeks into it. That said, I'm probably going to make some changes. The good news is that my blood pressure is fine at 122/69.

Anyway, while down at the University of Chicago Hospital, I took in two sites:





First was the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House. No reason to stop and look other than that it was there.








My "closeup".















From Wikipedia. A better picture clearly.













Second was the Starbucks just down the street. It was a Magic Johnson Starbucks. MJ has put these stores in poorer neighborhoods in an effort to rejuvenate them. Though my coffee was free, I would have been happy to support them!







Things I'm grateful for:
10. Indoor plumbing. It's nasty cold and snowy outside in Chicago right now. An outhouse would NOT be enjoyable.
11. The wonderful female relationships I've had over the years. Sure, I'm single, but the women have all been pretty good people.
12. My very fortunate upbringing: great parents, normal sisters, nice neighborhoods and excellent schools.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What to do, when there's no softball.

Tonight I hooked up with Benny Baseball and the Sausage King Andy at Casey Moran's near Wrigley to watch the Bears game. We lost, in awful fashion with Orton throwing 3 interceptions after not having thrown one in 205 passes.

Anyway, Benny told me he was working on Thursday, yes Thanksgiving, and was doing something else on Friday. But Saturday came and he didn't know what to do. We didn't have softball and the weather wasn't nice enough to be out and about. So Benny sorted through his old clothes and sent off stuff he didn't wear to Salvation Army. It got me to thinking about the things I've been working on during this four day vacation span without sports events to participate in. This weekend I: actually reviewed and created several documents for work, ordered replacement glass from a hardware store for my jalousie window, purchased a sheet of plywood in order to build a wind screen to use for tailgating, started assembly of said wind screen, built a website and figured out how it could be hosted for free and re-initiated my fight against the rats next door. Softball really does take a lot of time. It's worth it, but it's good to remember that I can be productive when I'm NOT playing softball.



Things I'm grateful for:
7. ESPN and other sports networks. Because of them, Notre Dame isn't the only game in town, which means recruits can go to other schools because they'll STILL get on television and Notre Dame gets exposed as the shitty, obnoxious-alumni, fraud athletic program and school that it is. It's been a long time coming.
8. Having taken typing class in high school.
9. Oddly enough, a relatively creative mind.



Catalog Tally: 15 Total to beat: 24 Last year, 30 all-time

Friday, November 28, 2008

"You Towhead!!!"

Sister Bee used the word Towhead yesterday in reference to two of The Bobbsey Twins. Have to admit, I'd never heard the term before and if my sister were to call me towhead (pronounced "toe-head"), I would have been offended. No need it seems. Interesting derivation of the word though!!

While up in Wisconsin at Chateau Lanissimo a few weekends ago, we tossed some wine bottles into the fire pit we had going. Why? Mostly because the person doing it was drunk (MLM). The next three we tossed in were science experiments however. The bottles melted. Yes, melted. I'm not sure if I've done that before, but the next morning I checked out the carnage. There was no trace of one bottle. Another bottle still had part of the next left, but otherwise was melted into a puddle and melded with the coals. The other bottle was just a solid puddle. According to what I could find on the web, that means the fire was most likely around 1,475 degrees. Yowza!!!

While in Naperville for Turkey Day, I filled up my car for $1.73 a gallon. Sweet. I'm not even sure when gas was that low.....seems like many, many years ago. After some quick research for Midwest retail gas prices, it looks like April of 2004 was the last time prices were that low. Four and half years ago. Wow.

I apologize to you, me and the blogging Gods for missing my "grateful" entries yesterday. It will become a habit, but late at night I'm not my best when writing.

Things I'm grateful for:
4. That I can get together with my parents and siblings for holidays or for no reason at all.
5. That I can still play football, QB no less, and still get it done.
6. That I don't need to drink to enjoy my relatives.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gobble, Gobble Everyone!

With all of the economic problems, experts are expecting retailers to really discount merchandise this holiday season. It was quite a surprise though to see sale items already though when I went to Home Depot the other day. Then again, I wonder if this is really a sale??






I'm thinking I could pull some shit out of the ground in front of my house and sell it for 75% off too!!












Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope your travels are safe. I'll be playing football at 9:00 a.m. down in Matteson Illinois with the guys who sit in front of me at the Bears game. It should be fun and hopefully injury free.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wasps, I'm grateful that I didn't get stung by one today.

As I wrote last week, one of the topics I was going to write about this week was wasps. What the hell is wrong with you Sutton? Why wasps in the middle of winter (ok, technically not winter yet, but it feels like it), you ask?

Well, when I went up to Ricardo's chateau in Wisconsin, there was a huge hive for something hanging from a round electrical box high up a telephone pole. Apparently there was a circuit breaker for the area attached to the box as well. Anyway, it was one of those round, garbage can sized electrical boxes and the nest took up the entire bottom and hung down in more or less a cone shape. Of course though I had my phone AND my camera, I forgot to take a picture. Damnit.

So the discussion point came up as to whether Ricardo should somehow take it down so they didn't come back next year, or if it would be abandoned and was no longer a threat. Today I did some searching on the web to figure it out and came up with little information. It was certainly NOT a paper wasp nest as I thought it might be. Wiki has some great pictures of what these look like. I'm inclined to think, like Bear Bill, that the nest was a hornet's nest. Only the fertilized queen hornet will survive the winter months. All the other wasps will die in the cold. Everything starts all over again the next spring. Crazy huh?

Today I also read a summary of three studies involving keeping a "Gratitude Journal". A GJ is where you write down five things every day for which you are grateful. Apparently people who did this, compared to control groups who just wrote a journal and who wrote negative statements, they went to the gym more often, ate better and were deemed generally happier, healthier and less stressed.

So I thought I'd start writing three things for which I'm grateful at the end of every entry I make. Let's see what happens!

1. I'm thankful for the invention of Tivo. You thought I was going to go "sappy" off the bat didn't you?
2. I'm thankful for living in a city with a wonderful diversity of quality restaurants.
3. I'm thankful for being in pretty damn good health.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Movie Reviews and the Bears

So I did indeed watch Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Tropic Thunder. Joisey Ken had given me a warning about Tropic Thunder describing how, despite a huge tv screen and a surround sound system, he and his wife and another couple fell asleep watching it. Not promising. But it has Jack Black playing a heroin addict. Ben Stiller, playing a typical Stilleresque doofus character. Robert Downey Jr. playing an Australian actor playing a black soldier.....yeah, it was as bad as it sounds. At least his character was. The concept of the movie wasn't all that bad. A reenactment of Vietnam war hero's story. Then the shoot goes awry and the actors are dropped in Laos or some place drug infested and think they are still shooting the movie, even though the director gets blown up right in front of them when he steps on a landmine. There are few compelling reasons to see this movie, but one is to see Tom Cruise as a balding, overweight, hair armed movie producer. He was pretty funny. The movie all in all is a snoozer, though I didn't actually fall asleep.

Hellboy II was very different though. If you haven't seen the first Hellboy yet, then this one might not be interesting to you. If you saw HB though, the sequel is top notch. Guillermo del Toro and Brooke Burgess make a compelling team with their attention to detail. If you rent this movie, you need to see the extra cut where GdT takes you on a walk through the Troll Market. Awesome scenes and detail. The special effects are outstanding as you might expect. A very entertaining film.

Switching topics to the Bears! Yes, we had a solid win over a terrible team, but a win is a win. We're 6-5 and tied for the lead with Minnesota. Green Bay is a game behind at 5-6 after getting absolutely spanked by New Orleans. So next week we go to Minnesota with first place on the line. Though we beat Minnesota in Chicago, it will be a tough chore to beat them in Minnesota. It should be a good game, but it might hinge on on Orton's ankle. If he's healthy and they can move the ball on offense and keep Minnesota's offense off the field, we'll have a chance. A special teams score could be the difference.

Tonight I downloaded my first songs to my iPhone! Very excited by that accomplishment. Baby steps.....baby steps.....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bathroom, a retrospective

Instead of just posting pictures of my finished bathroom, which I did include at the end, I figured walking you through the long journey would be more fun. So
here we go!





The shower, sans the door, as it looked in January. Yes, January. I realize how long it's been, believe me, I know.

















Here is the wall where the new window was installed. The new toilet and old toilet are in the same position.
















That wall stripped away to show the opening for the window.











The ceiling full of debris! I took all of that crap out before construction began in July.












The old vanity. The new vanity is in the same position. The old shower basin is on the right.












That vanity removed with the wall that I removed and the pipes which we did not have to move.












The old wiring and ceiling supports. All of that was taken out and I raised the ceiling.











Towards the end of may, a guy from the burbs installed the glass block window inexpensively and efficiently. It would prove to be the only such thing in my bathroom!

















The finished window furrowed out. Looking sharp!
















The new ceiling light, electrical and exhaust vents. Not sure why it rotated on it's side when I uploaded this picture. Well, you get the idea.


















The crazy pink, rubbery sealant used to super, duper waterproof the seals. Crazy looking, but it works.


















And here's the finished product!!! The door is a pocket door by the way. This picture is from the hallway, rather obviously.














The new toilet, vanity and cabinet.



















The cabinet and new window.

















The mirror, vanity and new, higher shower door!


















The new light fixtures.



















The shower, from inside the shower!


















The back wall of the shower with the new built in ledge for shampoo.












So that's it. It's been a long time coming. I started the project on January 29th, and it was officially done on Friday the 21st of November. So that's what, 10 months? Ok, it was a little long in coming, but it's sweet!!! With two other bathrooms to use, I guess it wasn't a huge priority for me.