Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year ('s Eve)!!

Hopefully the skies will be clear wherever you are tonight and you'll be able to see the "Blue Moon"! Yep, it's the second full moon this month and that makes it a blue moon, from whence the saying "once in a blue moon" is derived.

A blue moon (using the Gregorian calender definition as opposed to the Farmers Almanac definition) occurs roughly every 2.5 years in any given month and occurs on NYE once every 19 years!!!

Here's some info on how the term came into common parlance:

Sky and Telescope calendrical misinterpretation

The March 1946 Sky and Telescope article "Once in a Blue Moon" by James Hugh Pruett misinterpreted the 1937 Maine Farmers' Almanac. "Seven times in 19 years there were — and still are — 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon." Widespread adoption of the definition of a "blue moon" as the second full moon in a month followed its use on the popular radio program StarDate on January 31, 1980.

What the Farmer's Almanac really said was:

Farmers' Almanac blue moons

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Maine Farmers' Almanac listed blue moon dates for farmers. These correspond to the third full moon in a quarter of the year when there were four full moons (normally a quarter year has three full moons).

The power of the media I guess. Anyway, Happy New Year to all my readers!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mea Culpa

Good Lord, it's been almost a week since I last posted and that's unacceptable!!

Christmas Eve was a busy day with LL and me exchanging gifts in the morning and then heading to her folks' place for dinner and more gift exchanges. Later on was midnight service at her pagan, I mean Presbyterian, church. After a hearty breakfast in Joliet, we headed 30 minutes north to Naperville and Christmas day with my parents.

Joisey Ken came in on Saturday night and though the flight threatened to be three hours late, it turned out to only be an hour late or so which was not bad considering it snowed all day. With my shoulder, we couldn't do as much as we normally might, but we did go to the Bears/Vikings game on Monday night, a 36-30 overtime thriller. We were just hoping the Bears would play a good enough game to keep it close, especially since the Vikings were 11-3 and headed for the playoffs while the Bears are already thinking about the draft next year. It was indeed a great game, probably the best Bears game to see all year. Oddly, despite the Bears being out of it and the temperature being only 15 degrees, the stadium was full and virtually nobody left early.

Here's Ken all bundled up in our seats.

Benny Baseball and Andy The Sausage King joined us at the game. It's always good to see those guys.

Ken left yesterday afternoon. I'm already looking forward to his visit next year!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Did I overdo it?

My shoulder has been really sore while sleeping and first thing in the morning. It starts to loosen up as the day goes on, but it's pretty painful in the morning. Unfortunately, I think the cause (other than only being two weeks from surgery) is that I'm not wearing my sling hardly at all during the day and maybe I was overdoing the passive motion machine with my new arm rotation.

So today I decided I would wear my sling and not move up the intensity of the machine at all. Well, I still really didn't wear the sling all that much, but I did wear it for a bit.

LL and I are going to go to midnight mass at her church on Christmas Eve and then go to my folks' place from their house in the morning. Unfortunately, my church dropped their 7:30 a.m. mass on Christmas morning, which I would have drove home for, so I won't be doing Christmas mass at my church at all. To make up for it a little and to see the church in it's Christmas glory, I went to mass tonight at 6. Unfortunately, they were having choir practice in the main church, so we had mass in the lower church, which isn't decorated or anything. It was a fine mass, but didn't have the ambiance I was looking for today. Oh well. I may go Sunday morning before Joisey Ken comes in.

Oh, did I not mention that? Yep, Joisey Ken is coming in on Sunday and we're going to the Bears/Vikings game on Monday Night. Ken's a big Vikings fan and I have Bears tickets so he flies out every year and we go to the game. This year is even more special because: 1) it's so close to Christmas, 2) he has a daughter now who's 6 months old and 3) his birthday is on Tuesday, when he'll be traveling home. I'm very happy he's coming out!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Return to the past.....again

First, can I tell you that Showtime is absolutely lousy? Direct TV set me up with 3 months free and there are about 15 channels in the package. The best thing on there has been four year old re-runs of Arrested Development. The movies are horrible!!!

The other day at Starbucks a barista asked me if I had seen Juno. Immediately I knew where she was going. Yes, there is some resemblance between me and the father in Juno, JK Simmons.




















Some day I'm going to go to an autograph session of his and see if people ask him if he knows that he looks like Joe Sutton. :-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Return to bed

First, a shoulder update. Friday I had my stitches out and achieved 160 degree rotation on my shoulder, which is basically straight over my head. That was the goal for the first 2 weeks, which is today actually. So I continued rehabbing at that level all weekend and today I got my new rotation program. Now instead of moving my arm up and down in front of me, the machine will take my bent arm and rotate the should up at the elbow and then rotate the hand back. So with your elbow buried in your ribs, move it away from your ribs. That's the first motion. Then rotate your hand upwards at the same time.

This weekend saw a return to sleeping in my bed!! It's no less comfortable than the chair at this point, so I made the switch.

Saturday, we used my Hawthorne day at the races package which I won or bought at a charity auction this year. Yes, despite the snow, they had live thoroughbred racing. Good fun!!



Here's the picture of the winning horse in the Sutton-Caisley Group Race, the 6th race. Yep, I go to name the race too! Then our group had our picture taken in the winners circle with the jockey. He's tiny!!! It was good fun. Dinner was included as well so it was quite the package.

Oh, and I don't think anyone in our group won money on our race!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Those were the days?

Did you know the Joe who didn't own a cell phone and refused to get one? How about the Joe that had a cell phone, but never had it on? People mostly thought I was a bit of a loon for not being reachable 24/7, but that's how I liked it. My phone was for MY use and MY convenience. It wasn't for the benefit of others. The phone plans I had were mostly a small $15 monthly fee and then pay as you go for usage.

And now I have an Iphone with a $125 a month bill, which I happily pay. How did this come about? Technology. For me, technology finally got to the point where the phone speedily allowed me to do things other than just answer and make phone calls. It allowed me to access my email and the internet as well as find the nearest Starbucks or give me directions when I'm lost. So it's not just a cell phone for me, it's a portable computer.

Just a thought I had as my phone bill came in yesterday. It'll be paid today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Progress

The shoulder is progressing nicely.....I think. Today, as scheduled, I added another 10 degrees of motion to my passive shoulder motion (basically picking it up straight in front of me) so now I'm at 140 degrees. At 180 degrees, my arm would be straight over my head, so it's pretty good progress. The point it to keep scar tissue from forming and retaining my full range of motion.

Also, I didn't take any vicodin today and took only two on Tuesday. That's good on several fronts not the least of which is that I won't drink alcohol while taking them, too much liver stress. So my pain has been control just by icing after my hour long therapy sessions.

Once I get to 160 degrees, they start me with another motion on the machine....something to work the side muscles I think. Friday I have my follow up appointment and hopefully get my stitches out. Then I'll be able to shower without getting it wrapped!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Day

My days are somewhat more interesting than you might think even though I have a bunch of rehab and icing to do on a daily basis. Well, maybe they aren't actually. Guess I'll let you make the call.

Today, which started at 7 a.m. for me, LL wrapped my shoulder before she headed out to work so I could shower. Showering and drying with one hand is an issue, but I succeeded. My clothes are still limited as I can really only get into either baggy clothes or button up shirts (which are only dress shirts for me). Then I had to get dressed (in coat, gloves and shoes) and head down to Starbucks. It was another freezing day in Chicago, but I managed. It's surprisingly difficult to get dressed and undressed, and the additional clothing required because of our lousy weather doesn't help.

After an hour on my passive motion machine and an hour of ice (while I watched an episode of Barney Miller and the movie Kite Runner), followed by some time on the computer, I headed out to lunch where I ran into Eric, who is a....what are we Eric?.....almost business associates??.....something like that, but he also reads my blog. It's just crazy to run into someone out of context like that. Here I am focused on getting to and from my lunch spot without freezing or losing feeling in my right hand, and there is someone I know.

Post lunch brought more time on the PMM followed by ice (where I watched a Nova special on Lizard Kings-Monitor Lizards) and the start of addressing my Christmas cards. One more trip outside for afternoon coffee, stamps and a refill on my vicodin and that was it: in for the rest of the day.

After a small dinner, there was another session on the PMM followed by ice all while I watched Pelham 123, the remake of the movie from the 60's or 79's with Walter Mathieu. Pretty good.

Now LL is back over and we'll watch some tv while I ice my shoulder a little more, then early to bed.

So did I have an interesting day? Well, it was fairly entertaining and productive for rehab AND I ran into Eric. So there you go!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's been almost a week

A week ago I was leaving Las Vegas and heading home for my surgery. By the way, I found out that the team we lost to in our first game (with whom we were tied up late), went on to win the tournament. Sometimes it's just a matter of how unlucky your draw is.

Anyway, my recovery is going pretty well. I'm able to sleep about 7 hours straight now and I'm taking vicodin every 5-7 hours now instead of every 3, though I'm still icing my shoulder most of the day and night.

Laura has been great in taking care of me. Everything from getting my coffee in the morning, to helping me get dry when I come out of the shower, to helping me put on my socks or tie my shoes. She's slept over on the sofa for six days now. What more could a guy ask for??



Here's a picture I took with my cell phone from the prepping room. Yes, that's a Bears Breathe-Right strip. I wore it through surgery and it stayed on through the night and next day! These are the new super strength strips. They get my approval!











Here's two pictures of your typical prescription bottle. The first one is with the cap in the childproof position. The second one I didn't know even existed. If you turn the cap upside down, it just screws on and off. Nice! I had no idea. It's really useful for me being one armed and all.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Much less pain

Blogging is still short because typing is tough. Short words are favored over long and I'll be succinct.

Slept really well on the recliner last night. Soooo happy with my purchase.

Up to 80 degrees of angle on my arm extensions. 70 degrees more to go.

Much less shoulder pain today, a lot less. Very happy about that! Also very happy that LL is here to help and lift my spirits. She's great!

Winter has landed in Chicago and it's nasty.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Holy crap does my shoulder hurt

Vicodin or not, my shoulder is in pain!!! LL is laughing that I'm blogging about it. Thought you might want to know, though.

By the way, the recliner worked like charm after trying to sleep in the Bedlounger first. Looks like the recliner is it from here on out.

Thanks for all your well-wishes!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Quick post

Surgery went well and I'm home. Not much to do now but heal.

Last night, I got in from Vegas around 7:30 and have been preparing for surgery since.

The yeam went 1-2 in softball, but I hit almost .700 including two doubles while batting lead-off. nice incentive for rehab!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Collecting Chairs

Tomorrow I head to Vegas for a softball tournament this weekend. Should be fun. Today though I was scrambling around in preparation for leaving and being laid up next week after surgery.

This morning brought a new chair:


This bad boy is where I'm going to spend 6 hours a day doing rehab. Yes, SIX hours a day: 2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon and 2 at night for at least the next 10 days. The machine attached to the chair lifts my arm up from 30 degrees to my goal of 150 degrees. It should help prevent scar tissue from forming. Oh, and insurance doesn't cover it. Nice. $27 a day though at a discounted rate (down from $70 a day).












And this beauty is my sling. It has a large black pad that keeps my arm an appropriate distance from my body. It's pretty cool. My arm will go into the blue sleeve with my hand at the top of this picture and my elbow at the bottom. There's even a ball attached with velcro which I'll need to squeeze as needed to keep circulation flowing.













LL and I as we left our first Christmas party of the year. It's the annual affair that a law firm we work with throws. Good stuff. Right off the bat, we ran into the husband of one of LL's best friends! Too funny. Food was great, but I can't even begin to go into all of what was available.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Winter arrives in Chicago

Tonight the temperatures are supposed to drop to the low 30's high 20's and there's a possibility of snow. The 15 day outlook shows temperatures dropping from a high in the 40's to a high in the 30's. Winter has arrived in Chicago. Ugh.

LL came over and sat in the new chair. She thinks it's super comfy too and is confident that I'll be able to sleep in it. Hopefully my Bedlounge will arrive before Tuesday though and I'll be able to use that instead. The chair is just for insurance.

One more day then Vegas!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Chair Acquired


Friday I head to Vegas for a softball tournament, return on Monday and then have surgery on Tuesday. Because of the tight schedule, I needed to resolve my potential sleeping issue quickly. If you're not familiar with rotator cuff surgery, sleeping is often a problem; a problem resolved by sleeping in a recliner or with lots of pillows propping you up in bed. The pillow solution, according to accounts on the web as well as from my doctor, doesn't always work well.

So I went onto Craigslist, as well as doing several searches for rentable recliners, and found this chair for $150. It's super comfy and I can just sell it again in 6 weeks if I want. Nice!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Unusual Football Thought

On Sunday I was watching the Colts play the Texans in Houston and they flashed up on the screen one of the owners boxes. In addition to Prince being there in one box, George Bush Sr. was in another box.

At that moment, I, a registered Republican, was overcome with a wonderful warm, happy sense as I thought, "George Bush (Jr.) is not our President any more."

I'm not writing this to be inflammatory towards my Republican friends. It was simply such a great feeling and I was really surprised by it in both the timing and the intensity.

Of course the smile didn't last long as the Bears game started shortly thereafter.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Worst Decade Ever?

Will this have been the worst decade ever? Check out this Time article discussion of the topic. They also have a photo essay of the 10 worst things about the decade. Wow, it really was a pretty lousy decade in general. No complaints from me personally, but it's not like I wasn't impacted by the general crappiness. Some of the things, heck MOST of them, don't come to mind on a daily basis for me or most people probably. Still, this decade sucked.

On a lighter note, I now have 18 kills in Basra, though the rat holes have continued to emerge even though I fill them in after each kill. Filling in the holes will tell me where the rat was living and which holes are still active. Yes, I devote wayyyy to much time to this, but they haven't come back into our yard, so I must be doing some good. No troops were available at Fort Dix (translation: Menard's was sold out of T-Rex). Reinforcements are needed and will hopefully arrive soon.

One last topic: Games!






Do you remember the TV show? Very fun. "Big money and noooooooooo Whammies!!!" Can't imagine what this version is like.












And then there was this game. It was out at Yorktown mall in a toy store. It's called "Don't Drop The Soap" and is about going to prison. Yep, it's true. I can't make this shit up.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Only x left!"

Normally I don't go shopping on Black Friday, not because of the crowds as they don't bother me at all, but that I usually have something more interesting to do and there's still a whole month before Christmas. Unfortunately, even though I slept in until almost 9, I still felt like I was fighting off a cold, so laying low was the order of the day. As such, what a great time to shop online!

And shop I did. All told, I bought 9 gifts today. Not too shabby. Twice today though before I had completed my order, a message came up underneath the product I was buying "Only x left". That's just a phony sales thing right? But if it's not, what a great idea....though not ethical by any stretch unless it's true. They do that on those shopping network shows I guess though. They have that little total of how many are sold or countdown how many are left. Builds the drama....I like it! Sadly, it did make me buy earlier than I might have otherwise. One was a larger ticket item that I was pondering whether to get or not, but if they would have sold out, I would have been pissed.



One can imagine the internet queue might have looked something like this scene. Around dinner time, I decided to head out and see if there were any deals to be found in some stores. In a relatively short amount of time, I hit Menards (a regional hardware and sundry store), Home Depot and Micro Center (an electronics store). Target was on the agenda as well, but I ran out of energy. This picture was from the huge line at Micro Center. HD and Menard's had customers, but nothing like this.







As promised, here are some pictures from Thanksgiving:




The table getting set. No paper plates Jodi!! Only the good stuff for us this year. :-) It was quite the spread again.

















Here's Pops and bro-in-law getting the turkey ready. We cooked a 17 pound bird this year I heard. Mmmmmmm....











Here's the whole family along with in-laws and my niece.













Earlier, there was a slight accident as some gravy spilled on the stove and filled the room with smoke. Doh! It's sort of hard to tell from the picture, but the smoke was pretty thick.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ripping some discs

Do you remember when I wrote about seeing a very strange bird on my way home from Starbucks not too long ago? I thought it was a Curlew Sandpiper, but it turns out the bird I saw was an American Woodcock, no snickering please. It's migration pattern leads it right across Chicago too! Nice job mom for finding that picture and description.

Went over to Ricardo's last night for a little soiree and took it easy on the drinking so I'd be ready for football this morning. Unfortunately, I should have probably spent more time drinking!! Football did not go well for my team and the cold and wet weather didn't help my passing game as QB. Still had fun though!! Anyway, at the party, Aussie Rick mentioned how he uses Windows Media Player to rip songs from cd's he owns to create MP3's . Though Rick would have no reason to lie, I was skeptical.....maybe I'm always skeptical though. Anyway, it's absolutely true and I was able to rip 20 or so cd's tonight without much trouble at all. It's very fast!!

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving pictures!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not enough time

...so many things to write about, but no time to do it. Hopefully tomorrow. I have to get up early to get to my Turkey Bowl football game, so I need to hit the sack.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In the news

Sure, I've reported news to my readers which I've heard elsewhere and find interesting. And sure sometimes it's before the mass media picks it up, but I told you about this a full week ago!! What the hell?? C'mon Yahoo, get on the stick.

This story is very disturbing. Our modern economy and way of life really, has been based in large part on home ownership, building wealth slowly and having a house for retirement. It's no coincidence that 30 year mortgages are standard: buy when you're 30, have it paid off by the time you're 60 and mostly done working. Here's a blurb:
In a sign that more foreclosures could be on the horizon, 23% of people with
mortgages owe more than their home is worth, according to a report released
Tuesday. Almost 10.7 million U.S. mortgages were "underwater" as of September,
said research firm First American CoreLogic.

So this Thanksgiving, if you're in the 77% of the fortunate people, remember to give thanks for it.







Before the game on Sunday, LL got caught cozying up to the Geico Gecko.









Today I went to court with Ricardo as his corrupt, stealing and lying developer was going through Federal bankruptcy court. The bank was trying to take over the four units the developer owns in Ricardo's building plus two others in hopes of recouping their money. Good luck. Even though this trial went well including Ricardo's testimony as the condo association President, it will likely be 6 months before they can get him out of the building....and that's if he doesn't actually make any more payments at all.




This was the judge and room the trial was in today. If you're scum, you could do a lot worse than getting her as your judge. She's ridiculously lenient to those who have run afoul of the laws. Geeez. Two and a half hours of detailing how this guy lies and doesn't pay his debts and has no way of repaying them unless he cheats someone else, and the judge throws him yet ANOTHER life line.....after three years of this crap. Unbelievable.












But I did like these urinals!! Those judges get first class treatment!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where does the time go??

Last week was busy which ended with jury duty on Friday. Fortunately I only had to be there for a half a day as six cases were settled prior to going to trial. Apparently many cases are settled when both sides are finally faced with a judge and a jury pool.

After cooking bay scallops and pork chops for myself and LL Friday night, it was go, go, go for the rest of the weekend. Saturday morning brought a trip out to Naperville for a family photo by a professional photographer. Always good to get together with the family, even though I'll be seeing them on Thursday.

Saturday night was a party at LL's prior boss' house on Ashland....that's right, a house on Ashland. Very nice place and the host, also named Laura, was very pleasant. She had a friend doing most of the cooking and it was quite the spread. Much to my surprise, the first dish out was bacon wrapped dates!! You know how I love things wrapped in bacon.

Sunday morning was church followed by grocery shopping for the tailgate for the Bears game at night. With just enough time to cook the chili, change clothes and load the car, we headed to the game around four. We had a good tailgate, which might be the last one I throw this year, pending how Joisey Ken feels about packing and setting everything up with my limited, one-armed help (plus depending on the temperature for that late December game).

Next thing you know, it's Monday morning and I'm cleaning up from the night before. Where did the weekend go?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thinking about the surgery

It's less than three weeks until my shoulder surgery, so I've started thinking about my recovery and such. Some of the basics are going to be tough: showering, typing, going to the bathroom, shaving, driving.....seems like just about everything will be tough for six weeks while my arm is in a sling.

In addition, sleeping is apparently a huge issue. It's supposed to be particularly painful to roll over and move around (and ill advised in fact). One answer that people on the internet have found is to sleep in a recliner. A bed with lots and lots of pillows to prop you up can work too, but that probably won't work in my case. Soooo, now I'm looking for a recliner. While I would like to just rent one, I might not be able to do that, though I am trying. So if I need to buy one, which must have either no lever or a lever on the left side, since obviously I won't be able to use one on the right side, I'm unlikely to keep it long term. What would have a good resell value? Maybe one of these?


































Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A little work talk

Oddly, I don't talk much about my job (or jobs) other than when ESDNM comes to visit monthly and he forces me to eat and drink way too much in addition to getting up at ridiculous hours of the morning. Tonight though, I'll take a slight departure and actually talk about one client.

This client is a manufacturer related to commercial construction. For the last year or so, their sales have been drying up and competition has increased. The patriarch also started suffering dementia and now has Alzheimer's. The matriarch now not only has to deal with a flailing company, but a faltering husband. Ugh. Their eldest son is in his 30's and completely dependent on his parents due to poor health and drugs. Personally their financial situation has deteriorated as well.

We became involved while the patriarch was developing dementia and we were able to provide support for the matriarch as well as re-organizing some of the corporate documents to allow the company to run more smoothly.

Now they have a plan in place for making dramatic cuts in the company to survive on sales volumes that are 20% of what they were only last year. Personally the matriarch has a plan for creating liquidity and avoiding bankruptcy.

So today ESDNM and I met with this client and basically fired ourselves. We said, you have a plan in place for the business and a personal plan as well. Now you just need to execute and you shouldn't be paying consultants to do that for you.

That's what happens with my clients though. Interestingly, I received a message from a woman whose husband just recently passed away and left her with a 100 year old business to run. Now she wants to sell and get out. Hopefully we can help her out. Funny how one door closes and another opens though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Make your own luck

It's a phrase people know and hear at least once: you make your luck. But people often complain about how unlucky they are or how things don't go their way. So if you can make your own luck, why are some people unlucky?

"90% of life is just showing up." Commonly attributed to Woody Allen. One way to make your own luck, is to JUST SHOW UP. Do something at least. Make an effort! If you work hard and put yourself in the position to be successful, guess what? You might just end up being successful. But it's not guaranteed unfortunately. One thing is almost assuredly guaranteed though: if you don't put yourself in the situation to succeed, you won't.

Changing topics; Starbucks has decided to increase their prices. Oh, the recession MUST be over. Why else would a company pass along an over 5% price increase on a product that's 99% water and can be made at home? I, for one, am glad to see the recession end. I mean, it has to have ended right? Housing foreclosures doubled the number of foreclosures in the 3rd quarter last year? Unemployment has topped 10%? Oh.....maybe Starbucks is a dumb-ass insensitive company. With sales of over $10B, if we say half of that had a price increase, then they just increased revenues by $265M. Wow.

Lastly, how would you like to buy a 127 plot of land with a building covering half of that property and is located near a major city? How about if I told you that you could buy it for the cost of a house in some areas, $583,000? Now what if I told you that the building on the property cost $55 million to build in 1975 dollars? Sounds like a sweet deal huh? Well, it's true and it just sold. The Pontiac Silverdome was sold to a Canadian company for about 1/100th of the cost to build it. The catch of course is the $1.5 million in annual upkeep. Still, seems like a steal for a 80,000 seat stadium where the biggest indoor crowd ever saw Hulk Hogan beat Andre the Giant in a wrestling match.

Starbucks could have bought the Silverdome and paid for the repairs for the next 175 years based just on their 5.3% increase. Again, wow.

Monday, November 16, 2009

One less rat in town, or is it a wash??

An update on the war in Basra: 15 rats dead and down one trooper. Yes, we lost one T-Rex just today. Nothing escapes the T-Rex as it's the ultimate rat killing machine, but it does have a weakness. Its attacks are so violent that sometimes parts can break off and that's what happened today. It's sad and I gave it a proper send off. Reinforcements from the independent country of Home Depot are on their way.

Just before my shoulder surgery in early December, I'll be going to Vegas for a last softball tournament. So that means at least weekly practice leading up to the trip. Tonight was one of those practices. It's been at least a month since I've thrown or hit a softball, so my shoulder was a little rusty to start. After 45 minutes or so, it had loosened up pretty well and I was back to be able throw decently again. The hitting came back pretty quickly.

ESDNM is in town, so that means work and gluttony over the next few days. We'll see how it goes though as his main accomplice, Ricardo, is sick. Tuesday is an 8 a.m. meeting, so it's off to bed for me!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wood, wood and more wood

In what has become an annual tradition, I spent Friday and Saturday cutting, splitting and moving wood up at Ricardo's country house in Wisconsin. Poor Ricardo was sick with a cold, so he could only help out a little bit, so the task was mostly left to Bill the Bear, Smitty and myself. We did have help on Saturday from another friend of Ricardo's who came for the day, Tony. The weekend started out rough with Ricardo being sick and the TV being out. We weren't going to watch a lot of TV, but it's nice to catch parts of the college football games. So we were a bit behind the 8-ball. But enough words, pictures tell the story best:



The objective: fill this shed with split wood. There are two rows in this picture and the full shed has three. We'd have to move this wood out and put the freshly split wood in the back and then ensure that this wood was used first by stacking it in front. In retrospect, since the wood we were splitting was four years old, we probably could have left it there.







Three of the men for the job: Smitty, Bill and me. The brand new log splitter is about to be christened with a beer bottle.













And Ricardo is added in this picture....in all of his sickness glory.











But how exactly do we start it? Where are the directions?? Have no fear, we got it running in pretty short order.










The first big load we split, was the equivalent of one good sized tree.....about 75 feet long I'd guess. We gave that wood to Ricardo's 70+ year old neighbor who decided not to split wood this year because it was just "too much" for him. He has helped out Ricardo often over the years.














The other four loads were with a slightly smaller trailer, but still quite a bit of wood.

















Though there was wood to split which had been cut last year, we opted to split all of these huge pieces laying around the bottom of this picture. The median piece of oak was 3' in diameter and 2' thick. they were big and heavy, which is exactly why they had been sitting in this wood "pile" for four years or so. We decided to have at them though and save all the stacked wood for splitting next year.





The after photo! What a difference!!














And of course the goal of filling the shed was achieved. Ricardo and wife (and guests) will not be cold this year!! Now if only I can get up there on a weekend OTHER than wood cutting weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Knight Rider

This afternoon I was walking down the street and saw a guy who looked a bit like Newman from Seinfeld. Interestingly, I thought to myself, "There's Newman!! What if I yelled "Hey Wayne Knight!"?". The interesting part to me is that I actually knew his real name. It just popped into my head. In realizing that it is not the norm, I decided to think of the other characters real names: Jerry Seinfeld (duh), Jason Alexander (George) and that was it! I couldn't even come up with Julia Louis Dreyfus as Elaine or Michael Richards as Kramer. Mind you I watch a show with Julia Louis Dreyfus in it every week! The mind is an interesting and funny thing.

Last week's game for the Bears against Arizona was very telling historically. The Bears lost to go to 4-4. Since the advent of the 16 game season, teams that start 5-3 make the playoffs 65% of the time. Teams that go 4-4 make the playoffs only 36% of the time. Another sign that I'll be saving money on playoffs tickets this year.

Tomorrow I leave for Ricardo's cabin in Wisconsin, so I probably won't be posting over the weekend. Hopefully everyone has a great weekend though.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Erie Veterans Day

Busy day of work today with a meeting in the burbs, so with the commute, I was occupied all morning. The meeting went well at least.

LL and I went to dinner at Erie Cafe to celebrate 10 months together and had my favorite waiter of all time, Hugo. He understands what being a good, no great!, waiter means: don't interrupt, know the menu, be honest, know when to be attentive and when to leave the diners alone, get some extras when asked for and clean up a bit. Hugo gave us measures of a 20 year old port as an aperitif and it was tasty!

On a separate note, Ricardo, who spent Monday and Tuesday in Atlanta, is now sick. We were supposed to go up to his Wisconsin home and cut up trees and split logs for the winter. Since he is pretty sure it's just a cold, we'll probably still head up there, but maybe not if he doesn't come around.

Two more kills in Basra last night by T-Rex! That brings the total to 13 for the latest surge. The last 4-5 have been juveniles, but a rat is a rat. Not as many of the holes have been re-dug after I closed them up. You have to close up the holes to see which of the holes are still active. If the holes reappear, then they are active. You don't want to be baiting too far from the active holes otherwise the rats will never get to the trap: there is easier food to be had in the garbage can. Part of the problem now is that some of the active holes are in the middle of the yard and the traps work best near walls and where I can tie them down. Still, if the active holes are in the yard, then that's where T-Rex will go!

Finally, I was happy to see this story have some closure for the families. The murdered girl's sister is my age and was in my school at the time. Naperville was a much smaller town back then, probably less than half the size that it is now. The murder really impacted people throughout the town.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catching up on pictures



I guess this isn't catching up, but look what walked across the first hole at Glencoe Golf Club today. If you can't see it, blow up the picture. It's a deer. He walked right across the green (that picture didn't turn out as well) and was probably within 15 yards of me as he decided to head down the second hole. Later, I think I heard him scraping against a tree. And Naperville Greg goes to Wisconsin to hunt deer!










Here's most of the crew at the tailgate this weekend against the Cardinals. Bill the Bear is in the middle of the picture with the beard. Andy "sausage" is next to him in the Tillman jersey. The two guys right of Bill are Nick (a coworker of Bill) and Nick's brother. Suburban Sean and his crew are in the left side of the picture. What a gorgeous day for a game! Too bad we got crushed.

Bill had not been to the new stadium or to a Bears game since he was a kid. He was supposed to join me last year when I had my Meniere's attack but I had not given him his ticket in advance so he couldn't go. This year I gave him first pick of games and he chose the Packers game. Unfortunately, that will be post surgery, so I gave him the option to switch to another game and he did. It worked out well because LL couldn't make this game due to a baptism.


The Friday before Halloween, LL and I got tickets to see the Blackhawks play. They beat the Montreal Canadians 3-2 in an exciting game.

Lots of people were in costume, including the chicks that skate around during stoppages in the game and clean up the ice. Here's their pick with some guy.







Look at this dude!! Holy crap. The grim reaper with a hockey stick. Yikes. He's like 7' to 8' tall!







By the way, one more rat killed by T-Rex in Basra. That's 11 now. Making progress!!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Chuck Lorre

Chuck Lorre produces some shows on CBS which I watch and have written about before. Actually, that's an interesting entry from over a year ago. He had a vanity card (which shows up at the end of the show during the credits, think "Sit ubu, sit. (Bark) Good dog.") today after The Big Bang Theory that really struck a chord for me. Here it is:

CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #111

This is the official "I have nothing worth writing about" vanity card. It will run whenever I have nothing worth writing about. Don't be surprised to see it quite a bit. From now on, when our schedule requires me to deliver a new card and I'm empty, I'll simply say, "Run one-eleven." A check of the one hundred and ten cards I've already written will quickly demonstrate that I should have written this card a long time ago. Why didn't I? Vanity. I had become vain about my vanity cards. I was determined to write a new one each week because, well... I'm just that kind of guy. But I'm older and wiser now. I know when I have nothing to say. And that knowledge is freedom. Freedom from the constant need to win your approval. And more importantly, freedom from the obsessive and relentless need to end each vanity card on a joke. Glenn Beck is sober.

I'm wondering if I should have a "I have nothing worth writing about" entry? Or maybe an "I'm to drunk to write an entry" entry? Interesting concept. Don't be surprised to see it!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A drinky weekend

Wow, sorry for the posting silence. It was one of those fun weekends that involved a lot of drinking, which I actually haven't had for some time.

Friday, Ricardo, LL, myself and a client went out for happy hour at Emmitt's Pub. They cook a mean fish and have Goose Island Matilda on draft. Yummy! It was apparent that I'm getting old though because I was home by 9:30 and exhausted! We started at around 4:30 or so, but still.

Saturday brought preparation for the tailgate on Sunday and an evening bowling fundraiser with Ricardo and Ricardo's wife, who sits on the board of said charity (Kaleidoscope, which benefits abused children). The event was at Southport Lanes, a bar with four lanes on it. They actually have manual pinsetters still so you can only bowl on any two lanes at one time. The oil on the lanes was inconsistent so it was hard for me to control my finger tip hook ball, but it was fun nonetheless. I'm looking forward to maybe going bowling again here in the next month before my surgery.

Also, in the morning, LL and I drove up to Wheeling to this place where I get free bagels every month (something I won at a charity event). So it's a nice relaxing drive in the morning, which was gorgeous by the way, and we had brunch there too. A nice way to start the day!

Sunday was the Bears debacle and tailgating. Bill the Bear joined me as LL had a baptism to attend for a friend of hers. Benny Baseball and Andy "The Sausage King", were there as well. We had good fun and were joined by a guy who used to play softball with us until he got married and had two kids. Now he lives in the far, far, far, western burbs. He still makes a few Bears games though...good fun.

The war in Basra is going well with 10 troops killed so far. That's right, 10! In just under a week. Sweet. The holes I've collapsed have not reappeared, which means I may have killed their habitant. I'll keep at it and see what kind of progress I can continue to make.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Redirection

Had another busy work day today without much inspiring to write about, so I'll defer all attention to Alexis in Amsterdam who got engaged!!! Whoop-whoop!!! Congratulations!!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Un"Bear"able

First, there are two fewer rats on the planet after last night. That's five in two nights. Like 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, it's a good start.

The Bears have many deficiencies this season and the game against the hapless Browns did nothing to alleviate concerns. This year, the Bears did not have a first round draft pick and they traded out of their second round pick for more picks later in the draft. Let's examine those picks:

Rnd 3 Jarron Gilbert, DE. Hasn't done squat or seen the field on defense. He's on the roster, but no one is sure why.

Rnd 3 Juaquin Iglesias, WR. Hasn't seen the field on offense. Seems like a bust if you can't break into the starting lineup with this weak receiving corp.

Rnd 4 Henry Milton, DE. On injured reserve, but didn't do anything worth talking about prior to his injury.

Rnd 4 DJ Moore, CB. Yet another player on the Bears from that great football powerhouse, Vanderbilt. Like those before him, hasn't seen the field on defense with virtually no competition to beat out.

Rnd 5 Johnny Knox, WR. Got the pick as part of the Cutler trade. He's been a great find in the 5th round.

Rnd 5 Marcus Freeman, LB. Not in football.....at all.

Rnd 6 Al Afalava, FS. A huge find for the 6th round. Starts and plays the run well.

Neither 7th round pick has seen the field and one was cut.

So why the analysis at this point? Next year the Bears again do not have a first or second round draft pick, however theyalso don't have the extra picks that they had this year (in the 3rd, 4th and 5th). How are the Bears going to fill all the holes they have if they continue to draft like they did above? You're not likely to find an impact defensive lineman or a lock down corner if you're not picking until the third round. Maybe you can find a solid offensive lineman that will be an upgrade, but that's questionable too. Can you find another Johnny Knox? Maybe, but that's banking on a hope and a prayer.

The Bears have a lot of holes and not much chance of filling them through the draft. Trading hasn't been successful for them either: Omiyale just got benched for the starter from last year and Orlando Pace gets beat by everyone not shaped like an elephant. Cutler is certainly an upgrade and would be even better if he had anyone to whom he could throw.

So 2 out of 8 draft picks are decent players (values based on where they were picked) and the two trades which weren't a can't miss (Cutler was a can't miss) both missed. That makes it tough to plug holes and get better.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fewer rats today than yesterday

The first night of T-Rex reinforcements in Basra was a huge success....sadly. Three T-Rex traps, three solid kills. There's never been such a successful night. Unfortunately, it means that there are probably a crap load more rats than normal, but the holes have pretty much already established that fact. So it's good and bad...though it's tough to say three dead rats is bad in anyway now that I think about it. The T-Rexes will be reloaded and out again tonight. Hopefully I can make a dent in the rat population.

Today was day one of bringing my own cup to Starbucks and being greener. By latest count, I spilled the coffee while drinking it three times. Argh. Fortunately, I missed my shirt all three times, which was good because I was headed to a client downtown.

October is over and good riddance!!! According to Tom Skilling at WGN, October was the 3rd cloudiest, 9th wettest and 11th coolest October in 139 years of official observations. Good Lord. After the lame-ass, cold summer we had and the really nasty, snowy and cold winter, 2009 is a weather year best forgotten.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Forced to go green(er)

On my way back from Starbucks this morning I saw a very strange looking bird land on the sidewalk in front of me. It's bill was much longer than it's head and it was plump, like a dove. Very odd. After looking it up online, I think it was a Curlew Sandpiper. Very interesting bird.

Went back into Starbucks this afternoon for my second cup of coffee, decaf as of late for health reasons. They gave me the refill price, 55 cents as usual, but told me they had to give me a new cup due to recent health code interpretations by some health departments. If you've gone to get coffee with me, you know I normally have them double cup my coffee due to the temperature and the flimsiness of the cups. I've always felt bad about going through two cups each day due to the waste, but I really haven't found a good travel mug and I wasn't sure they'd give me the refill price in the afternoon. Now I don't really have a choice. Tossing out FOUR cups a day would not be acceptable from a garbage standpoint. Change is forced upon Joe once again.

The rat situation in Basra has gotten out of control. Basra, if you remember, is my neighbor's front (south) yard. It's an apartment building and the owner doesn't seem to care about the rats at all. So I decided to take a video to show you what's going on.

video

Due to the proliferation, I've launched a new T-Rex attack. We'll so how we do against this new generation of combatants.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Tiring but very fun weekend

Boy am I going to sleep well tonight. It's been that kind of weekend.

Friday night the weekend was kicked off with a hockey game at The United Center pitting two original six teams against each other, the Blackhawks and the Canadians from Montreal. The good guys won 3-2 and I belted out the Canadian national anthem as I always do when afforded the opportunity. Good fun! We took the shuttle from The Beer Bistro where we had some dinner and then took the shuttle back after the game. Very nice way to get there and back.

It wasn't the usual rowdiness at The UC though as I had to get up at 6:30 a.m. to get out to Naperville for a golf outing/fundraiser for my softball team which had a shotgun start at 9. After surviving the cold (low 40's), wind 20 mph easily and general dampness on the course (cartpath only because it was so wet) for 4 1/2 hours, we were rewarded with a decent lunch and free booze for an hour. Lunch consisted mainly of the biggest bread bowl I've ever seen and ample amounts of chili. My bad for not taking a picture of the bread bowl. It had to be 8-10 inches high and 6-8 inches wide. Unbelieveable.

When I got home, it was time to shower and warm up, maybe get a little nap in. By the time I was ready to go to the grocery store to buy food for the tailgate the next day, the cops had blocked off my street so cars couldn't get through due to a Halloween parade. So I could either wait until 9 p.m. to get started on cooking, it was about 6, or I could walk and carry my grocerys back home, which I did. Fortunately though I needed a lot of stuff, it wasn't particularly heavy.

The cooking was finally wrapped up around 11:30. The additional hour of sleep because of daylight savings time change couldn't have come at a better time. It was a 6:30 wakeup call again, but this time so I could leave by 8 for tailgating.

Mission accomplished though and LL and I were at Soldier Field with the grill going by 8:30 a.m. We were visited by 17 guests over the course of the morning, the majority not making it in time for breakfast, which I cut off at around 9:45. The breakfast sandwiches were particularly tasty and the maple sausage links were a positive change from the sausage patties I normally cook. They didn't burn as easily and were delicious.

All things bacon wrapped were up next: waterchestnuts and shrimp which both were doused in barbeque sauce and figs. Yum. We ate about a pound of shrimp, two pounds of bacon, one can of whole waterchestnuts and probably half a pound of figs.

The homemade chile came next. The chili is made with a pound and a quarter of ground beef and a tube of spicy breakfast sausage. Combine those with an onion, three peppers, tomatoes and three kinds of beans and you have some damn good chili. It was good by itself, but after the game we put it on cheddar cheese filled brats. Yum again!!

Tomorrow, I have to deal with the clean up!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brown Deluge

Kind of a gross sounding title huh? Brown deluge. Yikes. No flooding, don't worry. Nope, it's regarding the Bears/Browns game on Sunday at noon. As of now, it's looking like there will be something along the lines of 13+ people at my tailgate! Yikes again!!! So what am I going to cook for all of these folks?

Well, I'm thinking about starting with the traditional breakfast sandwiches and sausage links instead of patties. Then I think we'll ease into some bacon wrapped products....shrimp, water chestnuts and maybe figs. Not sure if I'll break out the chili then or go with meat sandwich products of some sort: burgers, cheddar brats and/or sausages. Some sort of pork sandwich or chicken nuggets are an option too.

It should be good fun, despite the numerous Browns fans! Not too happy about possibly being outnumbered at my own tailgate!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Post Vacation Stress Syndrome

Been so busy trying to catch up with work and things this week. It makes me wonder if vacations are worth it at all!! Then I remember the nice time I had down in Mexico and realize I'm being silly. However, it has been pretty stressful and finally today I was able to make it to the gym for the first time. After 10 days of not working out and some type of flu-like disease though, my workout was lethargic at best. Still, it wasn't awful.

Anyway, so I'm a bit stressed and tired and staying up until midnight tonight isn't helping!

After my trip to the gym, I made tacos for dinner for LL and myself. Good stuff that hit the spot.

For Bears fans, Omiyale has finally been benched for Beekman!!! That over paid jack-ass is done being a turnstyle at left guard for now. It was the classic situation where the GM didn't want to be shown up for making what turned out to be a bad offseason move. Beekman started all 16 games for us last year with no problems. Omiyale gets the big contract, so the coach feels like he HAS to start him. He does for 5 games and the guy is awful. Thankfully they pulled the trigger this quickly.

If you recall, I had the Bears starting at 3-3 and ending up at 10-6. So they are 3-3, but some games left on the schedule are looking a bit more difficult for us and if we ended up 8-8, it wouldn't be a huge surprise.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A little more Mexico




Ahh, now THAT'S the kind of deal worthy of a sale sign. Same product that was only $.16 off last week. Ha! Maybe Jewel reads my blog too.













A little more about the trip to Mexico. The lagoon at which we snorkeled on Saturday is called the Yal-Ku Lagoon. The water was very calm and the fresh water/salt water mixture was pretty cool to be snorkeling through. You could really feel the cooler fresh water springs as you swam over them.

Sunday morning, when we left Mexico, was a little crazy. First, Mexico fell back an hour Saturday night at midnight. Unfortunately, our Apple representative told us to move our clocks FORWARD an hour. Fortunately I thought about it and realized he's a dope.

Though our flight didn't leave until 9:30, the same Apple rep (Arturo H.) told us we had to be in the lobby at 4:30!! There were only 5 of us going from the resort in a van, no stops at other resorts and the trip to the airport only takes 70 minutes. I was livid , but couldn't find Arturo in person or by phone. Fortunately for him, he called while I was in the shower and the much calmer LL spoke with him.

So this van picks us up and we go to get the other three people in a different lobby and they are all screwed up (also because of Arturo) so we're delayed 20 minutes. Even so, we got to the airport by 6:15. The trip to the airport was not without incident either though. The van driver kept falling asleep!!! He was drifting all over the road and then would almost come to a stop as his foot came off the peddle and then he'd speed up again as he woke up. LL was pretty freaked out by it, but he was doing a surprisingly good job and keeping the van between the lines, so I was intrigued. Then he called someone to help himself stay awake.

That part of the trip ticked me off though, so now I'm filing a complaint with Apple. We'll see how it goes.

Finally, here are some pictures I took with my underwater camera. Not bad for a $25 camera!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mexico!

So much to talk about for the week, but I'll try to hit the highlights.

We left by limo at 4 a.m. on Sunday. Did you know that limos are 30% more before 4 a.m.? Flight was at 6 and we made it to O'Hare in about 20-25 minutes. The limo was actually 10 minutes early, so we were all good (he didn't charge us more).

Arrived at the NEW Cancun airport: air conditioned, more booths to check your passport, just a much smoother, nicer process. Two hours after landing we were at the hotel, the Gran Bahia Principie in Akumal (about 75 minutes south of Cancun).



Here's our villa. We were on the second floor on the right end. We agreed that it's the best villa on the nearly mile long resort grounds. Though there isn't a beach right outside our villa, there is the ocean. I think they ended the property here because the beach becomes large rocks, which of course means no tourists! Nice. It's very quiet and away from the main pool areas.







Our room from the porch looking in. You can see our towel origami, a new one of which was presented every day.

















The rocky area outside our room. See those waves? It was pretty windy most of the trip while right at the beach. They made nice background noise for sleeping!
















Here's the view out our porch. Notice the lack of people? Eggscellent.
















Part of the actual beach where we would sit when not at the pool.














Typically we would get down to breakfast by around 9:30 or so. Often we didn't eat lunch, but would still have dinner at a relatively normal time somewhere between 6:30 and 9. Part of the reason for no lunch is the amount of food we would eat at breakfast and then we'd be sitting around the pool have mojito's or something all afternoon. Still, I went to an all inclusive for a week and lost 4 pounds. Very odd. And I drank LOTS of water.

On Tuesday night, after two days just like the above description, we had dinner and decided to do some tequila shots.





Outside of the restaurants are seven bottles of flavored tequilas with salt, limes and shoot glasses. So we tried three flavors: strawberry, lemon and coconut, by doing just half shots of each. Unfortunately, that led to my worst bout of heartburn in the last two weeks. I barely slept at all on Tuesday night and that led into me feeling bad on Wednesday.







After breakfast on Wednesday, I headed back to the room for a nap and LL went down to the pool. Unfortunately, I was not just tired, but about to be sick too. A fever hit me hard and fast, a symptom of the H1N1 as I've recently discovered, so there I was under the covers with socks, sweat pants and two shirts on when LL came to check on me. That night, my fever broke and the Thursday I felt pretty good, but we took it easy anyway. Friday and Saturday I was back snorkeling: Friday in a cave and Saturday in mixed water lagoon where fresh and salt water met.




This is the dining room we ate in most of the time, or at least the ceiling of it.











This is one of the restaurants we ate in at night. There are three buffets, a 24 hour snack bar and at least 6 restaurants to choose from every day.













One of the lit up lobby areas. There are three of them which are all about this size. Below are the other two with LL in the pictures.




































These fellas were a common sight, including one that would visit the pool area and scared the bejesus out of LL. In fact, this guy isn't far from the pool.