Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday

This story is a little to close for my comfort. I was there what, two weeks ago!!

I'm writing my Sunday entry a bit early today as it's Super Bowl Sunday and I'll be gone from noon until 10 or so at a fundraiser for my softball team in the burbs. So as much as I'd like to write about the game and the commercials, I'll have to wait until tomorrow.

For today, I'll write about the nice respite we've had in the weather the last two days. It's reached 40 degrees both days and that's unbelievably nice. I noticed that I was actually walking down the street with a spring in my step. From a historical perspective, to date, we're having the 10th coldest winter in thw last 124 years and the 6th snowiest. 10th and 6th out of 124!! No wonder I'm thinking of moving somewhere warm!!! On average, we still have 17 inches of snow to go.....crap.

Enjoy the Super Bowl and commercials!!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


This is an awful story, but it would make an outstanding movie. My angle would be that sepsis is encoded in our dna as a way to protect the human population during our evolution. If an infection gets bad, then to protect the healthy population from that infection, the sepsis kicks in and kills you. What if the bar for activating sepsis was reduced to say only needing to have a common cold before it kicks in ( I realize a cold is viral but bear with me)? Interesting.

I'm looking for a bookie or someone going to Vegas to drop some money on the Steelers this Sunday. The money line, last I checked, was -$235. That means if you think the Steelers will win, you can win $100 for every $235 you bet. I REALLY like the Steelers in this game based on some statistical information that has been accurate on 21 of the 25 Super Bowls in which they have indicated the winner this strongly. There are 12 catagories that were used in the analysis and 11 predict the Steelers would win. While in the 5 Super Bowls that one team has 11 of the indicators in their favor won by an average of 21 points, I don't want to give the 7 points to the Cardinals. So I'm looking at the money line where I don't have to give points; just pick the winner. So if you're going to Vegas or a bookie, get in touch with me!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ESDN-m is in town.....there goes the diet.

It was a long Podolny day today, starting with running late to pick up el supremo de NM (ESDN-m) (sort of like ESPN but not). We had a tiny bit of snow and traffic was a nightmare. There probably was an accident on the Kennedy so people took Elston instead, which is the street I needed to take. When I got near Stef's place, I took a side street to bypass the traffic and ran into school traffic by an elementary school. Those damn parents are THE WORST drivers and most inconsiderate people ever. Just stopping in the middle of the street to drop off their little urchins and coming out of nowhere from an alley without regard for normal traffic.

Fortunately our first client was very understanding. The meetings during the day went well and we wrapped it up with a networking meeting with an attorney at Japonais. Ironically, we came home (ESDN-m is staying with me on this trip) and went to Kanok, a sushi place around the corner! Bring on the pictures:

ESDN-m with our BYOB of choice. We didn't want to open more wine, since we had some at Japonais. I was all out of my "good" beer. Schlitz is still pretty refreshing though.

You can click on the menu and see our options, but it was $22 per person, all you can eat. Only thing is that you have to eat everything you order or you'll get charged full price for what you didn't finish in addition to the $22. I made out like a bandit!! I ordered a dragon roll, a catepillar roll, an unagi roll and two pieces of unagi. Not to mention the miso soup. Mmmmmmm.

Our chefs for the night. I didn't get their names, but they were really nice. Yellow tail tuna isn't on the list for the all you can eat deal, but they gave ESDN-m a piece anyway. Very nice of them.

Thing I'm grateful for:
#76 that I have a byob sushi, Italian, Chinese and Thai restaurant all within walking distance.
#77 that I have a job where I can help out business owners who wouldn't normally be able to afford consulting assistance.
#78 flannel pajamas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Work and Charity

It was an early call for me today, 6:00 a.m., as I had our now biweekly finance council meetings for the church. We're trying to implement purchasing procedures and prioritizing repairs to be made. It's been the most beneficial work we've done as a committee and we seem to be clicking. I ALMOST don't mind getting up so early.

After a mid-morning nap and a conference call with lawyers, I had a networking luncheon with a banker. I could clearly hear the review this banker had from her supervisor: "Our goal is $x million in new loans and you didn't meet last year's goal. You need to network more!" As far as easy people to network with go, I'm a sales person's dream. I may not provide a ton of business, but if you're looking to go through the motions, I'm your man!! :-) That said, I actually DID refer her some business early last year.

Catfish, acorn squash and potatoes for dinner tonight. Mmmmmmmm.

Things I'm grateful for:
#73 Steve Sabol's football films including the Super Bowl highlights that he and his father were in charge of shooting and which they edited. It's great to see the footage of Super Bowls past.
#74 Pretzels. Baked bread with salt.....but I love them so.
#75 Electricity. Damn, it really makes life easier.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Miles to go before we sleep.....

Am really getting tired of the cold and ice already. Even with the trip to Vegas, two days just wasn't enough. Fortunately, February has trips in store for me to Florida for a wedding and to Arizona for a softball tournament. Those are good to look forward to. Not to mention the Super Bowl, which doesn't take me anywhere warm....except mentally. Go Steelers!!!

Today I had a meeting with the finance committee of the Chicago Chapter of the American Red Cross. I'm not formally on the committee, but I head the Investment Sub-committee. Yeah, odd, I know. At each quarterly meeting though, I do present a status update and information that I feel is relevant. Well, what information is relevant to present when ALL investments have gone to hell? Fortunately we had a 30% allocation to bonds, which is currently closer to 40%. It's long term money, so we're hopeful of a recovery at SOME point in the future. Still, it's no fun to present awful news to a charity organization. Ugh.

Things I'm grateful for:
#70 The calmness of a walk in the winter night.
#71 Living so close to grocery stores. It's nice to be able to walk there when I'm out of stuff.
#72 That the Red Cross exists to fill the gap in care just after a tragedy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No football. :-(

Lots happened this weekend, but one thing that didn't happen was football. For the first weekend since August, there was no football to watch. One of the saddest weekends of the year for me.

Friday I went to my favorite Indian restaurant, Hema's Kitchen. Sadly, it was closed! They closed the entire building down for some reason as I found out. Fortunately, just south of Hema's, across Devon, is my NEW favorite Indian restaurant: Bhabi's Kitchen. Awesome selection of naan (bread) and Bhabi seems to be very detail oriented about his dishes. And it's byob!!

Saturday I went out to see my folks. It was 16 degrees in Chicago when I left and 7 degrees when I got out there. By the time I left, it was 2. Ugh.

Today I ended up playing floor hockey for the first time in years! A buddy of mine and coworker at Morningstar, Adam, is on a team with a bunch of guys who played real hockey in high school. We had fun, but the first string and second string goalies were out, so Adam ended up in net. He did a great job, though we lost 9-4. Imagine if he didn't do a great job!! I scored a goal, had an assist and set a screen, so I was on the floor for three of our four goals. Unfortunately, I was also out there for three of their goals and could have done something about two of them. Well, it's week one for me, so we'll see how I do in the future.

Look at this picture closely. I saw this truck in front of them the other day and snapped the pic.

I bet you see these out West all the time.

This pic was taken at a Starbucks where I met CMU Katie for coffee on Saturday. Haven't seen her in a long time and she's gone through some big changes during that time. It was good to catch up.

Anyway, I LOVE this artwork on the wall. It's ivy in some kind of pressed glass and hung in an homage to Wrigley. The 368 is the distance to left and right center at Wrigley. I'm wondering if it would look good on my exposed brick either downstairs or in the hallway. Anyone know where I might be able to get something like this made? The Starbucks folk think it was done by a Starbucks designer.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Women's shelter visit

Here's an interesting short article about retailers that are in trouble. I have a few ex's that are going to be unhappy about Ann Taylor's potential future. It sounds REALLY bad for Eddie Bauer. Anyone need prime retail space on Michigan Avenue? I love Eddie Bauer, so I'm NOT happy.

Today I headed down to the true south side of Chicago (3000 east and 8700 south) to check out the Rosenthal Family Lodge, one of the locations supported by Family Rescue, a woman's shelter which I've supported for about a dozen years now. The head of fund raising (and I think she has other titles as well) T.D., took me around the lodge in return for lunch (though lunch was also for her birthday two weeks ago). I took a few pictures, but missed the first part of the tour before I remembered to do it!

Here's the name of the facility.

I love this marker board in the main room. Everyone staying there (there are 32 beds) has to clean their own room and has chores to do on a daily basis. It's more than just a shelter!

The building has three or four floors and a basement. This is a computer set up in the basement.

The main living area (see the marker board in the background?) with thin cushioned seating and a television.

Downstairs next to the computer area is another small lounging area.

The kitchen! Two years ago, our golf outing raised enough in extra donations to buy the stove in the picture. The other one actually had a small explosion and then stopped working.

The playground in the back yard. It's not big and the swings are broke, but the rest is in tact.

Notice there are no women in the pictures. I wasn't allowed to photograph anyone at the shelter, but there were quite a few people and kids there (teacher institute day). The bedrooms all have bunk beds, usually two sets but the larger rooms have three sets. It was nice to see the fruits of what I've been contributing to for so long. The shelter does a great job of protecting the women initially and then helping them get integrated into a different life. The usual length of stay is from overnight to about four months. They try to get the women into their own housing while helping them with restraining orders and child custody documentation filing. You can imagine how intimidating that type of thing can be for someone who is not so educated and in an abusive relationship.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.

Well this explains a hell of a lot. Maybe not though....I don't drink THAT much coffee, but I still hear voices.

Oddly, my sleep pattern has been messed up all week. You'd think that by now, I'd be back to normal after a trip to Vegas. I'm just not there yet though. This week I've stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning and have slept in way to long and had to take naps in the afternoon. It's crazy.

While in Vegas, as I mentioned, I would spend the morning reading the paper in the nice morning sunshine and sipping my coffee. On one of those days, I read an article by Mary Schmich. She wanted to describe the Bush presidency in 10 words (the same number of words as the title of this entry by the way). It's sort of like a marketing slogan exercise, only not (10 words by the way). As she pulled out Ben Franklin quotes that were 10 words (he had many), she also made several efforts on the Bush front. Here are a few:

Bush leaves us with the rule of law in shreds.

A weak leader with strong opinions led the country astray.

A cowboy fired at the world and wounded the nation.

One she didn't create but added:
We can't fully know the present while we're in it.

For you creative types, what would you write?

Things I'm grateful for:
#67 My legal experiences that allow me to be able to read legal documents and interact with lawyers without feeling the need to kill them or myself.
#68 Portable DVD players with noise canceling head phones. Watching movies on an airplane has never been more enjoyable.
#69 Free hotel shampoo. Actually, I gather them up during my travels and donate them to either The Ronald McDonald House or the shelter at my church.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Analysis of a hand

Well, I've written about seeing The Hoover Dam while in Vegas and the movies I watched on my way to Vegas. So what did I do while IN Vegas? Short of going to the dam, I pretty much gambled and the game of choice was blackjack. Four hours on Friday and six hours on Saturday. That's a lot of gambling, let me tell ya.

So did I win? For the entire weekend, I was winning money for a grand total of 15 minutes. Unfortunately, it wasn't the LAST 15 minutes that I was gambling. In fact, it was the first 15 minutes. It's tough to quit while ahead if you know you're going to be at the table for another 10 hours. Actually on Saturday, about three hours into my time at the table, I came near to breakeven for the DAY, but was still out my losses for Friday. So I kept playing and lost my limit for the day. Good fun though. You meet a LOT of fun people at a table in Vegas if you're there for six hours.

After winning almost every time I played last year, how did lose? Hands like this one:

Dealer has a 4 showing.

Great card for me as there is a good chance that the down card is worth 10 giving the dealer 14. An 8 or higher and the dealer would bust. Nice.

My cards are 8 and 8, and I'm playing the hand for $15.

So I split the 8's into two separate hands for another $15 (you can do this if your two cards are the same but you don't HAVE to do it).

First card on the first 8 is a king. 18.
Sweet. Likely a winning hand even if the dealer doesn't bust.

First card on the second 8 is ANOTHER 8!
So I split them again for another $15. The people at the table are loving it because they know the odds are hugely in my favor.

First card on the second 8 now is a 3, giving me 11. I double down for another $15!!! When you double down you only get one card, but chances are it will be worth 10 (any face card or a 10) and that would give me 21.

The dealer gave me a 6 though. Still, 17, not a bad hand, and I'm still betting that the dealer will bust.

The next card on my third 8 is a 7, giving me 15. No biggee. I could hit, but the dealer probably has 14, so I'd rather see her take the bust card.

So all totaled, I have $60 out on this hand.

The dealer turns over her hole card:

and it's an ace. So she has 5 or 15, still not great.

She hits.

It's a 5. She has 20. I lose all the bets. Unbelievable.

Those are the hands that if you win for the weekend, you need the dealer to bust two or three times. Last year, that was happening. This weekend, the dealer turned more 13's, 14's and 15's into 20's and 21's than I've ever seen. Ugh. Truly traumatic. These types of hands cause people who are watching you play and thinking about sitting down, to head over to the craps table instead.

Things I'm grateful for:
#64 Goose Island brewery and in particular Pere Jacques beer. Mmmmmm.
#65 Facial tissue. In particular, Puffs Ultra. Good stuff.
#66 My friends who are all good, well intentioned, nice folks. Guess that's why they are my friends!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Movie Review

Ohhh, so many things to write about. Let's see if I can narrow it down.

I want to start with and focus on the Vegas trip. First, I watched three movies on the flights: Wanted with Angelina Jolie, The Happening by M. Knight Shyamalan and In Bruges with Colin Farrel. Wanted seemed like a good action flick and, well, c'mon, it had Angelina Jolie in it! Sure, she's an emaciated stick figure person now, but she's still pretty hot. The movie did NOT disappoint. The story was unique and surprised me and the acting was pretty solid. The action was amazing. Big thumbs up.

In Bruges was Bruges, Belgium. The story was very compelling, the background (Bruges) was beautiful and the dvd included one very cool extra: a boat ride around Bruges via their canals with interesting facts along the way. Very cool.

The Happening was a horribly cast movie around a somewhat compelling story line. An unexplained natural event kills (I'm assuming) millions of people on the east coast. That's compelling. Mark Wahlberg as the lead actor in sort of an apple pie role was terribly miscast. M. Knight believed having someone who exuded a positive, lighter appearance in contrast to his dark story (random death). Instead, it just seemed like a terrible mismatch. The lead actress, Zooey Deschanel, was even a worse choice. Her eyes are electric and she's very.....bright looking. The contrast was just too much. It could have just been the makeup on the two in retrospect.

One thing I really enjoy doing in Vegas is to grab a paper, a cup of coffee and then sit outside in the morning sun. It's soooo nice. I noticed Monte Carlo employees going in and out of fire doors, so naturally I followed them. Turns out there's a nice break area for the staff that's outside and there are other benches further away from the doors as well. I chose one of those furthest away as my spot in the morning. It's a nice memory now.

More on Vegas tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My trip in pictures

...more verbiage tomorrow.

Saturday, I finally visited a place I've really wanted to see in person for some time, but for one reason or another, did not. While on my own in Vegas, it was the perfect time to go see The Hoover Dam. It only took four years to build, though there was infrastructure going into place many years before the dam was even constructed.

Some facts about the dam that I knew I wouldn't remember, but were conveniently place on a plaque for me to take a picture of.

This was taken from the bus on the road leading to the dam. There's a security checkpoint on either side of the dam where they search your car/bus. Then you drive across the dam and play "dodge the pedestrian". In the summer, I'm told, it backs up traffic for miles. They are building a bridge to bypass the dam and will alleviate stress from a lot of people's lives.

The dam from the observatory deck. It's big.

From the dam looking down. Wow. It's high.

Nice pic with the sun there I thought. The structure on the right is the beginning of the bridge they are building which I mentioned above.

Here's the bridge they are building on the other side. The two will meet in the middle. It looks to be mostly cement.

The turbine rooms and bottom of dam as taken from the observatory deck.

The circular structure is the observatory deck as taken from the dam itself.

The Dam and Lake Mead in the background (only a little). Yes, it was a nice day in the upper 60's. Apparently in the summer, it routinely gets to be 115 degrees as the cement retains the heat and makes it even hotter for longer.

The impact of almost 10 years of drought and a booming population in Vegas and downstream of the dam.

If you click on this picture, you can see the brown high water marks (actually where the white stops). It's amazing how much the lake has been drawn down.

On the bridge is the division between Arizona and Nevada.

Don't believe me? This tower is in Nevada and it's 3:00.

This tower is in Arizona and it's 4:00. Ha! It did take me 5 minutes to walk between the towers on either side of the dam though.

The dam, which is in Black Canyon as opposed to Boulder Canyon (the project was originally called The Boulder Canyon Project), is compared to other structures on this plaque including the Eiffel Tower, The Arch in St. Louis, Washington Monument and the pyramids in Egypt.

I like this plaque because it shows the tunnels that had to be built to divert the Colorado River around where they wanted to build the dam. They actually built a smaller dam as well to help while they built the base of the Hoover Dam.

The vast Lake Mead. It backs up for 110 miles!

So those are my dam(n) pictures.

Here's the Monte Carlo, where I stayed. More on the hotel tomorrow.

Think the Strip is built up already? Bzzzzz. Wrong. Look at all of the new construction!!! And this is just within view of my hotel. Wynn built his new hotel and then put up a duplicate hotel called Encore. All the big hotels have expanded or added separate buildings. The economy does not seem to be hurting in Vegas at all. Except in the residential real estate sector. Speaking of which, land is very expensive there. Know why? Because there is a huge reserve for endangered species that we are not allowed to build on. Pretty interesting.

Hopefully you celebrated Martin Luther King Day today. If not, take another read of his "I have a dream" speech. Pretty inspiring.

Things I'm grateful for:
#61 Vegas baby!! It really is fun to visit there periodically.
#62 That, at least around me, racism is not anywhere near as apparent as it used to be.
#63 The end of the Bush administration.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Leaving Las Vegas

Hey everyone! Sorry about the radio silence, but I'm in Vegas without my computer. I'm entering this from a kiosk!! The weather has been great, mid to upper 60's, but my luck has been shit. Worst ever actually. Guess that "free" ticket wasn't as free as I would have liked. Doh! Not sure there is ever a free ticket to Vegas though. Lots of fun though! I hooked up with T-Rex Tim last night and we had a good time. The guy is a bad influence on me. I was ready to go to bed after spending 6 hours at the blackjack table. He nagged me into going out instead. Surprisingly, I'm relatively awake! More tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unforeseen consequences

So as you know, I added insulation to the boiler pipes running through my entire downstairs area. Previously I had 1/2" insulation on about half of the 4" pipe running through the basement. Basically the bedroom was taken care of but not the living area. The insulation that I added however, was 1" insulation and extended out into the living area as well and I even had a few extra pieces that I used to cover pipes in the boiler room.

The average temperature in my basement dropped from 78 degrees to about 71. Awesome. I can even use the fireplace again! However, yesterday I received a call from a neighbor who was having trouble with her radiator spitting out water through the steam release valve. This was on the heels of the neighbor directly below her also calling me with a similar problem. No, I'm not a plumber and I don't fix these things, but they were panicking so they called me. I directed them to the right resource and the problem is fixed. However, I didn't off that it might have been my insulation that caused the problem!!

Think about it, the water going through my unit is much warmer now as it didn't release the heat into my basement. The hotter water and steam then make their way up to the radiators on the other side of the building, which have, until recently, received decidedly cooler water. Doh! I feel a little bad about it. Should I?

If you ever watched Fantasy Island, like I did religiously, or if you became familiar with " Corinthian leather...", then you'll be saddened by this story.

The Blackhawks destroyed the Buffalo Sabres 4-1! Sa-a-a-a-w-w-w-e-e-e-e-t-t-t!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vampire's in a new light

I was reading the comics the other day and saw one that was particularly funny or at least thought provoking. The crux of the comic was: if moonlight is simply sunlight reflected by the moon (which it is as the moon is not a light source in and of itself), why can vampires come out at night when they are killed by sunlight?? Better yet, since the story of vampires have been around for eons, how did this fairly basic thought escape movie makers and book authors? I won't be able to watch another vampire movie in the same light.........get it? :-)

Know what's worse than a 7 a.m. meeting? Nothing. Ugh. I'm still trying to recover.

Things I'm grateful for:
#58 Electric blankets. Very nice when it's this cold out.
#59 That two years ago, the government didn't let us have control over our retirement benefits. They would be worth 40% less now! Boy was I pushing for that too. Huh.......
#60 That I don't live in Iran. Good Lord. Those people are crazy. And what about the guy who crawled out of his grave??

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sooo tired

There's a blizzard here, I'm tired and I have a 7 a.m. meeting, so my post is going to have to wait until tomorrow. Check back mid-day, Central Time.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Card ALMOST Forgotten

When I made my post about my favorite Christmas cards for 2008, I scanned in the card you see here, but forgot to post it! Doh! It's especially egregious of me to leave it out because it's from my niece!!! She made the card, water color painting I believe, but it could have been done in crayon. Her school then posts the student's artwork and you can buy it on various media.

A very nice card!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Success and issues in the basement

The temperature in my downstairs is unbelievable! Previously, the living space down there could reach 82+ and would rarely drop below 75. Today I've measured the temperature four times throughout the day and each time it's 70 degrees! That's amazing to me. I didn't think there would be that much of a drop.

In fact, the temperature dropped so much, I noticed that there was a draft coming from around the windows. Previously I must not have noticed because it would have been refreshing. The installation of the window casing was done on the cheap though and it's not easy to interlock metal and brick. The gaps are hidden by some wood covering, so it wasn't an obvious thing.

So it was another trip to Home Depot for Joe. I picked up some hi-end Great Stuff (called something else) and insulation, took off the window casing on the three windows, sprayed in the Great Stuff and then packed it with insulation. It's working well! Now I've found another cold air leak NEXT to the windows coming from behind a furrowed out wall with a light switch and outlet on it. I'm thinking I'll pop that out tomorrow and see what's going on back there.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Working for cooler temps

Yeah, that's right, COOLER temperatures. Why would anyone do such a thing in Chicago in January?? Good question. The answer is, that one of my plumbing contractors turned me on to a wholesaler who would sell to me, and had in stock, the 4" pipe insulation that I needed to insulate the pipes in my downstairs living area. These pipes run straight from the boiler and shoot all of the hot water to the radiators to heat the building. At 6 1/2' off the ground, the pipe is pretty warm and just above your noggin.

For the better part of 15 years, I've just opened a window because I couldn't find the insulation that I wanted anywhere. I knew it existed, or at least used to exist, because the previous owner had left a few pieces and I put them up in the bedroom downstairs. The pieces I bought yesterday were even better though, a full 1" thick insulation. Nice. Here are some pics:

Notice they are pre-formed and 3' in length. They also have a self sealing strip so they are pretty simple to use (have to be for me!).

Here's the pipe from the boiler room going through the back bedroom. I took off one piece of insulation before I took this picture.

The rest of the back room, pre-installation of the new stuff.

The back room after the new insulation has been installed!! Doesn't look THAT much different in the pictures, but it makes a big difference in temperature.

The new living room insulation. I didn't buy an elbow piece, though I might go back and do that. It doesn't really bother me though.

There are no radiators downstairs so these pipes were heating the basement area. Now they are 90% covered and not emitting much heat, so I can walk through my entire house now with a sweater on!! Yay for me! I also had the broken valve on the radiator in the guest bedroom fixed and the heat turned off in there as well. Three radiators heat my place up just fine upstairs and it's significantly cooler downstairs.