Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ahhhh, beautiful weather returns to Chicago

The weather is great today with highs in the 70's. For the first time in 5 to 6 months, I'm able to wear around a short sleeve shirt. It's also making me painfully aware of how white I am. :-)

Yesterday, after physical therapy, I hit the gym to do some more weightlifting in addition to exercises I was doing in my session. For the first time in memory, I completely ran out of gas on the eliptical and lifted weights until I just couldn't do any more. It wasn't a great feeling as I thought I should do more of both, but it also wasn't as bad as I would have thought. Maybe I need to position lunch between my therapy session and the gym.

The Chicago Blackhawks are struggling. Ugh. They've lost 3 in a row and have been brutal since the Olympic break, when we sent more players than any other team to Vancouver. But the problem isn't being tired. It's the defense. We lost one defenseman to a broken clavicle when he got hit by a cheap shot. Another one has missed 8 games with an "upper body injury". That means we've had to bring up two relatively inexperienced players to take their place. When a third defenseman went down with a leg injury, we moved one of our forwards back to help on defense. The defense was the key to our winning for the entire season and now we're hurting in a big way. Sadly I don't see much room for optimism in the situation. Until this veteran defenseman comes back, we are going to struggle. Hopefully it won't be too late.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Second Swiss video up

Here's the second video. I had to upload it to YouTube. It's about 4 minutes and is just over 2 GB, so I guess it was too big to load onto Blogspot.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Swiss Video

Two video selections for today. The first is from the bass of Mount Saleve where we took the cable car ride. The second video is actually of the ride up. Pardon the poor production quality and my attempts at zooming in. The zoom function didn't work as well as I had hoped.


video

Oh, it looks like only one video could load. I'll try the other one in a separate post. Shoot!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Friday night and more pictures!

A quick update on my shoulder. This month I've started working on strength as my mobility seems to be fine. While progress the first three months seemed to make playing at the end of May a no-brainer, the lack of significant improvement the last few weeks has put it in question. At my doctor's appointment though, I discussed this thought with my doctor and he said that it's fairly typical for recovery from my kind of surgery. In two weeks, due to scheduling issues, I'll probably start doing therapy twice a week instead of just once, to make sure that I'm getting the maximum workout in that I can in preparation for playing. The doc also said that I could start some soft tossing and even start swinging a bat. Unfortunately he said I can't face live pitching yet because if you swing and miss, it could cause a strain. It makes sense, if you're anticipating some resistance from the ball and you don't get it, or if you lunge for a ball, a strain could occur.




This was on an easel on my way to the doctor. I just laughed.










Last night LL and I headed to the near burbs for a minor league hockey game. The Chicago Wolves put on quite a show in the family friendly atmosphere. It was a Friday night during the NCAA tournament, but there were still something like 10,000 fans there. Not bad. A few minutes in, there was an awesome brawl between two heavy hitters, complete with a squaring off period of about 10 seconds while they danced and sized each other up. Good stuff.

Here are some pictures:



The flames going off during the Wolves intro.















More orangy flames.











Even the scoreboard explodes while it's going on!














And apparently the scoreboard shoots fire too!













Here's the view we had. Decent seats for freebies. I picked them up through a charity auction with a dinner gift card which we also used. A nice night.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Last Swiss Post

A few more pictures from the trip.




Thursday night we had dinner with LL's business associates at Les Armures, a pretty nice restaurant near the Maison Tavel, the oldest home in Geneva which has a museum of sorts inside now.








Here's the menu, not a very exciting, picture, but something I wanted to capture.


















And here's what I ordered, chicken stuffed with prune and duck liver. Those two sides are different kinds of polenta. Tasty meal.












One of the sites we saw on Friday was Central Perk, named after the coffee shop on Friends! The inside didn't really resemble the shop too much, but they did have sofas.









Look at this crazy crossing sign. They are very common in Geneva. Which one is for the pedestrian? It's that little one across the street which you can see is green when I took this picture.
















Here's one of the towers of the main cathedral in Geneva, St. Pierre. We climbed up the narrow, circular staircase up the north tower and then walked down the south tower. Here's the south tower from the north tower I believe.


















This picture from the tower shows how high up we were!















A shot of the city and fountain from the tower.










After getting some help from our concierge, Lionel, a very helpful guy, we took a free 25 minute bus ride across the city and country side to the French border and within a 10 minute walk of Mount Saleve. We got off the bus and walked to the border crossing. Unfortunately, as soon as we got off the bus, I realized I had forgotten my passport!! Doh! I was prepared to ride the bus back and forth, but decided to see if the border was actually guarded. Success, it wasn't. Getting back of course could be a problem.





Looking up at the end of the cable car ride on the top of Saleve. Yes, it was a bit cloudy on Saturday. Excellently clear weather up until Saturday though.
















A picture from the cable car looking back down on Geneva. It's 3,600 feet up the mountain.













LL on top of the mountain with Geneva in the background. You can see some of the Alps in the background too.










ESDNM would have been jacked to hike this trail! It's on top of the mountain and is supposed to be a 30 minute walk. We walked about 15 minutes on it though and it was still going down hill. We're not dumb. We know we were going to have to walk back UP at some point and there is really something to that altitude training. Yowza.







Just a picture of the grounds at the top of Saleve leading out to the trail.













We rewarded ourselves with a nice late lunch at the top. Here's what LL had. She ordered off a price fixe menu.











I ordered my own combination, with an entree of mushroom stuff mini-raviolis. Delicious and filling.










This was the view out the window while we ate. Not bad.


We headed back down towards the border and found a shortcut to get there more quickly, thus eliminating most of the time for anxiety to build up while walking towards the border. Fortunately there were no guards again and we strolled through. LL was joking most of the time about how of all people, I was going to be stuck in France.










After hiking around the rest of the afternoon and nearly getting trapped in France, we built up a hunger later in the evening. Going back to the area of St. Pierre and Maison Tavel, we found this place. It was the first reasonably priced meal we had the entire trip! Remember, a coffee, tea and two muffins at the Starbucks was $18. No kidding and no exchange rate issues. Unbelievable.





This is what they served up. Sort of a small menu but they do it well. A half chicken, pommes frites and a salad for something like $14. Not a bad deal at all. The place was packed and people were waiting out the door to get in. We just barely beat the crowd and were seated immediately. They even had locally grown wine AND tap water!!







On the way back to the hotel, we were rewarded with this stunning night view of another fountain, this one in Place Neuve.


Overall a very nice, but short trip. Swiss Air constantly fed us on the flight and were very nice. The plane seating was 2-3-2, so there was only one strip of middle seats. You had your own screen so you could watch one of several new movies, tv shows, or play games. Much better than our airlines.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day two/three of Geneva pictures

More pics of the trip to Geneva.


Here's the lobby of the Beau-Rivage Hotel, where we stayed through LL's work. The room was $575 a night!! Insane right? And other than the bidet, there wasn't much special about it. The staff was very nice though.
















Remember that $30 lunch I talked about? Here it is. The pizza is really thin, but you can't really tell that from here. It was delicious though. The restaurant was Cafe Espresso oddly enough.











This is the inside of the bar we went to on the Place Molard. The amber beer was very tasty and LL liked the blanche.











Now for the fun pics. Here's the urinal in the bar....very much ala Wrigley Field. Ha!

















A Lamborghini and a Colt. Two horse logo cars....not really the same though huh?











If you're from Chicago, you probably know the upscale restaurant March`e. This is what I found in Geneva:





























This is probably the scariest mannequin I've ever seen. Really, really spooky.















Another funny doggie bag dispenser. Look at that tiny little mutt. Just like the French.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Geneva, day one or so

Here are a few pictures from day one and two of the trip to Geneva. LL was still working those days, so I was on my own.



The alps from the plane as I approached Geneva. The flight path was interesting as we took off from O'Hare and then headed north east over Grand Rapids, north of Montreal, across Greenland and Iceland and then south. Odd. Flight there was 8.5 hours and the return was 9.5.







The Geneva airport is filled with chocolate! It's all very expensive though, as you might expect in an airport. Following some internet advice, I bought most of my chocolate in the supermarkets: same stuff, about 1/4th of the price.








They don't just make chocolate bars or bunnies there though; they make some serious works of art. Here's one of the more simple chocolate designs. This was one of the really, really less intricate designs. They had scenes from movies set up and all sorts of stuff. Crazy.













Here's the big fountain for which Geneva is known and a Youtube link to it in action. The Jet d'Eau shoots an impressive 460 feet in the air. Many swans and ducks surround the lake too. They love tourists, who tend to feed them.






















As I sat on a pier in the middle of the lake and sipped a coffee and read a book, I thought it would make an interesting picture with the lake and Alps in the background. It probably would have been interesting if I had a camera and not just my phone, or if I had a modicum of photography talent. Sigh.



















Geneva is serious about a few things: chocolate, pedestrians having the right of way and picking up after your dog. To that later point, they have doggie bags all over the place and garbage cans too.

We pay lipservice here that pedestrians have the right of way. When you're in the hospital or in court after getting hit, the judge will say you had the right of way, but over there, the cars actually stop! It's amazing. In fact, if you stop and don't cross and let cars go first, it causes all sorts of problems because they don't know what the hell you're doing. More than a few times we caused some delays by not crossing. Doh!







Here's a big wall that was part of the fortress surrounding Old Town. Pretty cool, unless you need to get to the shops on the other side, then they are a pain in the ass.






One of our favorite places to visit was Place Molard. Not only did it have a bar with it's own brewery and some tasty beer, but at night, this is what it transformed into:



















Each of those little bricks had a saying in some language and it would light up. How awesome is that? Look how pretty the plaza looks at night. Just beautiful.

Much more to come!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Switzerland (at least some of it)

Sooo much to talk about related to Switzerland, or at least Geneva. Many, many pictures to come later on Tuesday after I have some time to put them together.

Most of you already know that today was my birthday, my second golden birthday. I was born on the 22nd, so my 22nd birthday was my first golden birthday. I figure turning 44 was twice the number so twice as good, right? And it totally was! LL got me great birthday gifts including a Patrick Kane Olympic hockey jersey. Sweet! Then it was off to the Field Museum of Natural History. It's been a long time since I was there and really enjoyed the Lions of Tsavo (saw the movie), Sue, a new diamond exhibit and a 3-D dinosaur movie. Awesome.

The night was topped off with dinner at Sappori, a great little Italian place which is owned and operated by chef Anthony. Not only was the food just absolutely outstanding (possibly the best grilled calamari in the city, though I think Erie Street Cafe might still be better), but he gave us a wonderful bread pudding desert and glasses of Champaign. Very nice touch. Yay for me!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Fine Day in Geneva

Another beautiful day weather-wise here in Geneva. LL and I took the water taxis back and forth across the lake in order to save walking a few more blocks than necessary since it was so nice on the water (where it could be a bit chilly I imagine). The highlights of the day were the big fountain and climbing the very narrow towers in St. Peter's Cathedral. Awesome, awesome views and I was able to post a picture to my facebook page. It and the rest will get posted upon my return.

Again we had Italian style pizza, which you actually CAN'T get in the U.S. to my knowledge, certainly nowhere that I've seen. LL didn't get to go there yesterday, so we went back for her to try it. Turns out my pizza from yesterday had squash on it, not cucumber. Not bad.

We started the day by moving hotels, leaving the Beau-Rivage at $575 a night to the much more affordable Hotel Tiffany. The rooms are little different, maybe a little bigger at BR, but certainly not worth 2x+ the price. For dinner we went to a place called The Pigs Foot in English, and they actually had a pigs trotter dish, but we couldn't do it. At $30+ a plate, we couldn't bring ourselves to try it. I had chicken stuffed with prunes and duck liver while LL had a duck dish (a l'orange?).

Afterwards we headed back down to the Mollard Square where a nice pub is which we visited yesterday too. In a foreign land and already settling into a routine. Sweet.

Tomorrow, weather permitted, we're going to take a bus to the France border and then a cable car up the side of a mountain. Should be fun!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day of wandering around

Just some quick notes as it's after midnight here on Friday morning.

LL was still working today, so after sleeping in, I headed out on my own for the day. Starbucks coffee and a low fat muffin to go, $9. Yikes.

Good fun walking around and taking lots of pictures. I made the public transit system my bitch already and took a water ferry 3 or 4 times across the lake. Good stuff. Already bought some chocolate, mmmmmmm.

Lunch was a highly recommended pizza place and also on the "low budget" Wikapedia Travel site. Dandy! Menu in French, sole server only speaks French, so Joe ends up with a pizza with pesto, some kind of salami and some kind of squash or cucumber on it. Odd. But it was delicious! I ate the whole thing. Cost? With water, it was $30. Yeah, freaking crazy I know, and that was the LOW BUDGET option. It gets ugly fast in this town let me tell you.

More over the weekend I'm guessing. I can't upload pictures, so those will have to wait until Monday's entry.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A-OK!

Made it safe and sound to Geneva. Didn't sleep on the plane as anticipated...not sure why. Maybe I needed just a little bit more room and it would have worked. Slept when I got to the hotel before a nice dinner with LL and her work group. Tomorrow I'm on my own to walk around, have chocolate and drink coffee. Sweet!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

As you know, it's been three months since I've been able to work out regularly and I've just recently started up again. After a few successful trips on the elliptical machine, today I decided to hit the tread mill for the first time. The results were not great, but I'm happy to have tried it. It'll be a tough road to hoe, but it starts with that first step, right? The weight lifting is coming along as well. It's kind of funny when I was doing bicep curls at weights much lower than I'm used to doing. My right arm would require a bit of effort while my left arm would just snap the weight up and almost go back through my shoulder. It kept asking for more weight and more challenge, but I have to work it the way I work my right arm, otherwise I could end up like a lopsided Popeye.

So the big flight to Switzerland is Tuesday night! Very excited. It's 8 1/2 hours, but the seats on my Swiss Air flight are 2-3-2 and I have a window seat. The seat also has it's own screen for movies. And there's dinner and breakfast served. Nice! Basically I wake up in Zurich, go through the airport and take another flight to Geneva which is only like 30 minutes in the air or something silly. Wednesday and Thursday the weather should be nice, but Friday and Saturday the outlook is for rain. I'm sure we'll find something to do regardless, but I'm taking an umbrella with me!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Short Changed

Today is one of the worst days of the year in my opinion. It's not because of anything in particular that happened, though the Blackhawks losing 4-3 after having a 3 goal lead through two periods didn't help. No, it's that whole time change thing that gets me. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the fall back portion of daylight savings, but the spring ahead side of it kills me. It's only an hour, but it screws up my entire day. Even as I write, it's 10 o'clock and it feels much earlier.

The last few days, and sporadically prior to that, I've spent a lot of time thinking about things related to my trip to Switzerland with LL. She's on the flight right now in fact, if you read this in the next 8 hours or so. Since I'll be on my own for one day and we'll be hanging out for two days together, we don't have a ton of time to see what we should/want to see. There are the obvious things like the big fountain on the lake and the flower clock in addition to old town. We'll see what we end up touring. It might just be that, a tour. Either way, it's going to be pretty relaxed. They just opened up a tram that goes up a mountain that would be fun. It's only open on weekends now, but when it's warmer, it will be open every day. I imagine the views from there are unbelievable. We'll see!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Gloom, Boom and Doom

There was an interview on yahoo business with Marc Faber and Mike "Mish" Shedlock, the later being the editor of a publication called "Gloom, Boom and Doom". They discuss, in essence, our economic world collapsing in the not too distant future and that there's nothing the government can do about it. They want you to do some of the typical things to protect yourself like investing in gold. They also want you to do some less conventional things such as: move away from major cities (crime will go out of control), buy farmland (you'll need to plant something to eat) and buy assets outside of the U.S. Pretty radical. They, especially Shedlock, have been espousing Chicken Little like collapses for some time and since they've been right once, now they are getting lots of press coverage.

While I give them very little credence, I do find it an interesting supposition. What if our monetary system began to collapse and inflation went out of control and unemployment hit 25% (not actually espoused by Marc and Mike but it's implied)? What if the major cities had crime that tripled in frequency and significantly in degree? What if gold went to $5,000 an ounce?

Again, I don't see these kinds of things happening, but we can get a glimpse of some of what we might look like if we watch the news out of Greece. Granted, there are many, many differences between our country and theirs both economically and historically, but the environment I think would look similar if these things came to pass. The police get paid so poorly because their state equivalents are broke too, that some of them are crossing the picket lines!! You could easily see that happening in Chicago or NY or LA. There is more rioting in the big cities than elsewhere in the country and they are being led by students who don't have jobs and not a lot of options connected to a lot of frustrations. It's very interesting to keep an eye on.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Ahead

For those of you who roll their eyes when I talk about the hicks in south, I offer further evidence of Americans who have yet to evolve.

Over the last few months, I feel my entries have been less.....substantial. Clearly not every day is going to be a novel or wonderful piece of writing, but it's clearly been slipping. My blog is more of an online journal of what I'm thinking on any given day as well as a documentation of what I've been doing. It seems that I've been doing more of the later and less of the former. Why, I ask myself? A good portion of the reason is, I think, that I often don't write my blog until after 11:00 at night, just before bed. Like most people, I'd bet my brain function isn't at full tilt just before going to bed. So I'm going to make a concerted effort to write before dinner. When I look back years from now, I think I'll be happier with the results.

Julius Peppers, the new Bears free agent, has taken #90. Who is your favorite Bears #90 of the past? Al Harris? Joey LaRocque? Alonzo Spellman? Jarron Gilbert? Antonio Garay? No threat of retiring THAT number.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Texas Ranger

Just read that Chuck Norris turned 70 today. 70!!! Holy cripes.

Today was a busy day which included a trip to the office and a meeting at a client. Neither were particularly taxing and they did get me out of the house into the wonderful 60+ degree weather. Unfortunately, I was pretty sore today from working out on Monday and then a hard PT session yesterday. Thursday will bring both a work out AND PT on the same day, but the PT session will be a bit easier as most of my at home work is stretching and mild strengthening.

Another note on my shoulder, I'm just past 3 months now from surgery! Full recovery is supposed to be 4-6 months. Next month, I'm hoping to be able to start some light tossing and then swinging the bat a bit. We'll see though, I'm not going to rush it.

A very fun Hawks game tonight!! Two fights, which I think are just one of the best things about the game. Good times. One of our players, Adam Burrish, came back from injury and he said he wanted to get a goal and get in a fight. He got in the fight and got an assist, so mission nearly accomplished. I had tickets for the game which I bought from a season ticket holder as one of four games which he could not attend. Instead of going though, I sold them to Bill the Bear for what I paid. It's harder and harder to get tickets at any reasonable price, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Turned out to be a great game to attend!!!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What's that number again?

Yesterday I hit the gym for the first time in three months and what was my biggest issue? The damn lock combination. Arrgggh. After using it several times a week for several years, it slipped my mind. Fortunately, I remembered what it was, or a close proximity thereof and was able to open it. After trying it a few times to make sure I had it down, it was off to the elliptical machine. The workout went pretty well, though I was focused on my aerobic exercise and working my legs.

Some Oscars talk. What happened to the tributes to Farrah Fawcett, Bea Arthur and Ricardo Montalban?? WTH? They mention Michael Jackson and leave these stars out? That's appalling. How long would it have taken to add those three to the In Memoriam section?

Though I haven't seen The Hurt Locker, it gives me pause that the highest grossing movie OF ALL TIME didn't win best movie of the year. Not best director? Fine, even though Avatar took 4 years to make and pushed technology to the limits through Cameron's direction. But no best picture? It doesn't make any damn sense.

Finally, the Bears don't have a first or second round draft pick in the upcoming draft, so they had to do something in free agency which began at midnight last Thursday night. On our way to Ricardo's cabin in Wisconsin, I had the sports radio on to see if the Bears made any acquisitions. Due to some technical issues, a mess of players who should have been free agents were relegated to a lesser status thereby limiting the pool of available players. It turns out that the Bears made a few pretty huge moves though and their future for the next couple of years should be significantly altered, so remember this day! They signed the most in demand free agent available, Julius Peppers, a defensive end. If he can put pressure on the opposing team's quarterbacks, our defensive backs and corners will be better since they won't have to cover for so long. It's like the goalies for the Blackhawks: if your two defensemen are good enough, you can get away with lesser goalies.

In addition, we signed a bruising runningback, Chester Taylor, who not only helps our running game, but it hurts a primary divisional contender, Minnesota. Finally, we signed a big blocking tightend, Brandon Manumaleuna, who should help both the running game and our passing game as he can provide more protection than our current group of ends.

Without draft picks who can start right away, we needed some players to fill holes and contribute right away. Looks like the Bears brass has done just about as much as they could given the situation.

Monday, March 08, 2010

limited post today

Lots to talk about, but I took my computer in to a local repair guy to see if he can get it souped up again. It's been running slow and crashing periodically, so I think it needs more memory. We'll see. So I'm on my laptop and the keyboard isn't ergonomically correct, which means it's considerably less comfortable to type on. So this is all you get today folks. Sorry. More tomorrow though!!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Wisconsin Weekend

LL and I headed up to Wisconsin, just north of Madison, for a nice, albeit short, weekend at the second home of Ricardo and wife. While there, we went to a fish fry with my good friends Portage Terry and Sharon and their daughters. Good fun. The restaurant? Hooker's on the River.
Suggestive name, but AWESOME place to go. You can cook your own steak or take part in the all you can eat fish fry, which gives you your choice of cod, walleye, blue gill or frog legs. Very, very tasty.





















Here are some pictures I took with my phone of our walk through a state park in the area. The rocky first picture has a piece of wood with a chunk of snow on it that is just laying there unaltered by the waterfall going on around it. We had a really nice weekend and stay up wayyyy to late drinking wine by a very warm fire. Good fun was had by all.

























Last week, while shopping at Yorktown Mall in the burbs, I decided to grab something to eat. Faced with all sorts of bad alternatives, I thought I'd go with Arby's. Their food seems not too gross or offensive at least. Here's a picture of what was on the tray. One penny off coupons for meals. I know it's a marketing ploy, but I think it's a bad one.

Finally, I looked up online what was the nutritional content of my food. Some of you are going to say, "Joe, duh. Of course it's bad." But I didn't think it was this bad. As you know, I'm watching my sodium intake and so all I had was a medium beef and cheddar. BAM!!! 1640 mgs of sodium. The RDA is 2400 mgs. Unbelievable. And I thought I was doing something good!! This is why, in part, that we're getting fatter and less healthy. Even a reasonably intelligent person doesn't have a chance without the information. Putting it on the internet is a start, but let's have it posted AT THE RESTAURANT. Then we can make intelligent decisions before we consume. That's the key.