Friday, July 30, 2010

No excuses.

Missed a day of blogging as I was working and then was just pretty tired at the end of the day. This weekend is a State softball tournament in Troy, IL, so hopefully we'll return champions!!

Have a great weekend everyone and I'll talk at you next week!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A long night and day

Last night we had our usual 8:30 and 9:30 games in Arlington Heights, this time against our rival Amish Mafia (yeah, I like their name too). After being up 17-5, we eked out an 18-16 win. In game two, it was much closer during the game, but we pulled that one out 12-11 or something like that, another close game. As it turns out, they only needed to beat us one game to take 2nd place in the second half of our league play. We needed to beat them twice to take 2nd and $200!! Sweet.

Even though I was on my way home at 11:15, I didn't get home until almost midnight and still had to shower and unwind before bed. Ugh. Revelry was at 6:30, so a little more than 5 hours of sleep is all I got.

At 8:00 I picked up ESDNM and only then realized that the destination for our 9:00 meeting was only 15 minutes away. Ugh again. I could have had another 30 minutes of sleep and that would have made a big difference.

The meetings during the day went well and we finished the day off with drinks and a meeting at Wilde (a bar new to me but only a few blocks away) and then dinner at The Counter, where you can build your own hamburger. My choice was only 1/3rd pound (you could do 2/3rds or a full pound) on a pretzel bun, with Danish blue cheese, applewood smoked bacon, pickles, grilled onions and roasted red peppers. ESDNM brings out the worst in my gastronomically speaking.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The calm before the storm

Today was another busy day, but this time because of work. Lots of things to do in preparation of ESDNM showing up tomorrow: scheduling meetings, printing documents, creating agendas. There was also some client work that I had to get done and mail out to banks in hopes of getting some proposals. Busy, busy, busy.

But I have some pictures!!

Clean hands save lives!! This bathroom message speaks the truth, especially if you work in a hospital or food service. Since it was posted in a Marshall's department store though, I'm thinking it might be a little alarmist.

This trailer is parked semi-permanently on Cub's property outside of Wrigley. It prominently features three players: Carlos Zambrano, Kosuke Fukadome and Derrick Lee. Zambrano is a huge disappointment, not earning even half of his $18 million a year contract and was just forced to go through anger management training. Fukadome is a thorn in the side of the team with his paltry on base percentage combined with his lack of power and bloated salary. The team would love to unload him, but there are no takers. Lee has fallen off the edge of the planet this year in every offensive category. He was likely considered trade-bait, but there were no takers for him either. Nice marketing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Now that's interesting....

Today was a super busy day as I had to drop my car off to get the oil and transmission fluid changed, plus I wanted my guy to look at the rotor on the wheel that had the flat since the car rolled forward on it. The rotor and everything is fine and the work was done without a hitch, but getting there and back takes some time as I have a 6 block walk or so to the train and then have another 3-4 blocks from the train to the shop.

Being busy did not deter me from getting a good workout in though. I ended up doing 14 different exercises as it turned out. Tomorrow I'm going to run and then have softball late at night. That's going to be tough since I have to get up early on Wednesday with ESDNM in town. Wednesday is going to be a lonnnnngggg day I fear.

Today was so busy, I forgot about dinner completely until about 4:00 when I was at the gym. Doh! What could I make? Well, LL and I both really liked that rub recipe so I could try that on some chicken...maybe buy some broccoli tops....have a salad.....and have pita and hummus for an appetizer. Just like that I had dinner planned and was ready to go!! It's so nice to have a quiver full of ideas... or at least partially full, where I'm confident enough to make certain dishes with regularity. The rub and chicken turned out great as did the whole meal!!

This rub is so good, I'm sharing it with you. I've tried it on ribs, pork and chicken now and it tastes great on all of them. It just seems like something I shouldn't keep to myself, so the more the merrier! Hopefully you have a great meal because of it too.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rain, rain go away.

Boy oh boy did we have some torrential rain on Friday night and Saturday morning. Yowza. Fortunately no flooding in my building, but many people in the Chicago area had flooding in their basements and in general had a clean-up weekend. Ugh.

For me though, the biggest problem was that it caused me to miss softball on Saturday. Our tournament, which was to start at 9, didn't start until 2 and I could only play in the morning as LL and I had plans in the burbs with some friends of hers. So I was up at 6 a.m. on Saturday and showered before I saw the text messages saying the tournament was delayed. Back to bed for me!!

Saturday night we went to Oak Brook and had dinner at Uncle Julio's Mexican Restaurant. They had great margaritas and ok food. Afterwards we went bowling! Yes, bowling. It was fun even though I bowled like crap. The first game was about 40 pins below my pre-surgery average and my second game was 50-60 points below (I was so disgusted I didn't even know what my final score was!). Good times cheering for each other though.

Sunday was just a gorgeous day and I chillaxed the whole day until it was time to go play in a 40 and over game in the burbs. After my miserable performance last Sunday, I was anxious to redeem myself. This time there was no blown tire, so I went 3-5 (my two outs were one great diving catch by their CF and the other I tried to jack and just missed hitting it solid), caught a liner and turned a double play. After singling in my last at bat, I tagged up on a short fly and made it to second and then did the same with third on another short fly. I scored easily on a short single.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ok, pictures aren't really aplenty.

Yesterday I went golfing as I mentioned I would on Wednesday. The day started at 5:30 a.m. and ended when I got home just before 1 a.m. It was quite the day. For pictures, check out this entry I made in August last year. The pictures would have pretty much been the same, except Principal Chris was wearing a blue shirt this year, the same shirt I was wearing in fact! We bought matching TPC at Deere Run shirts last year and wore them this year.

We ended up playing 36 holes, which makes for a long day. The first 18 were fine, but warm so we took a quick shower to cool down in the nice locker rooms in the clubhouse and I changed my sweaty under garments. Fortunately I had packed two changes of clothes in case we had sporadic rain and I wanted to change before the second 18. The rain held off, but it was warm. Then the wind kicked up for our second 18, which changed our club selection and ball flight, essentially making it a different course!

After cleaning up again, we headed to Jim's Ribs in Rock Island. While the ribs were good, I feel like the ribs I made the other day were better! Interesting. Afterwards we hit Whitey's for ice cream and then headed home. It was a long, but fun day.

Rest day on Friday and a small softball tournament on Saturday before going out for dinner and bowling with some of LL's friends on Saturday night in the burbs. Should be another fun day!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Long Day of Golf on Thursday

Tomorrow is going to be a long day of golf and ribs with my buddy Principal Chris from the burbs. We're making our annual pilgrimage to the TPC Course at Deere Run in Silvis Illinois. We're leaving at 6:30 to get out there for our team time and have a replay time set up for the afternoon...if we survive the first 18. After the second round, or at least 9 holes, we'll head for our traditional rib dinner. Pictures should be plenty!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finally some pictures

Today I was surprised with an early call from the Goodyear dealership where I was getting my new tire installed. The tire was there and was ready to be installed whenever I could make it. Great! Since I had softball in the burbs tonight I wanted to make sure I had the new tire installed, not because I don't trust my spare, but because I didn't have a spare while I was USING the spare.

It's all good now though. The dealer even replaced the spare in the trunk where it should be with all of the tools replaced. Nice! When I got home, I got onto the IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) site and found out how to get a claim form. Yes, that's right, I'm making the State pay for my damn tire. I pay taxes, a lot of taxes, in part to drive on nice roads, not have the roads rip a three inch hole in my tire. We'll see how far I get.

The other day while walking to Starbucks, I took these pictures which I thought were hysterical:

The fender on this car is being supported by red duct tape. Somehow it's actually working!

As I walked by the car, I realized it had a Club on the steering wheel. Seriously?? Who the hell is going to steal a car with a fender attached by tape? It made me smile.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day off? Not really.

After the fun but exhausting weekend, today offered little relief. Fortunately, there wasn't a lot of physical things for me to do today...just thinking things. A client is having some issues that required more time than I'm getting paid for and tonight was my monthly church financial council meeting which went from 7 until past 9. The good thing about that meeting is that it WASN'T at 7 a.m. which is the normal time. Still, a long meeting.

In addition to the meeting and client issues, I did laundry and had to reassemble part of my dishwasher which I took apart so I could fix it. A lamp in my family room fell over the other day and part of it became disassembled, so I had to put that back together.

Toss in an email chain about softball woes from this weekend and a trying to figure out if I'm eligible to participate in a lawsuit against a mutual fund company from 6 years ago and it was another exhausting day.

Hope your Monday was fantastic and not stressful!!

Is it Monday yet? I need a break.

What a busy for weekend.

Friday night was a casual cookout over at Ricardo's place that ended early because of my Saturday planned events.

Those events involved getting up at 5:45 a.m. to drive 90 minutes to Kankakee to be ready for batting practice at 7:30 and for our first game at 9. We started off on the right foot by winning game one and were hoping to make a run through the winners bracket, but we lost game two after an absolutely awful call by an umpire in the field turned an out into two and almost a triple play. Mentally we didn't recover and lost. We won our third game with a nice rally where we sent 12 or 13 men to the plate in one inning. Our last game was being played short-handed though as we lost one of our better players after he ran into the chainlink fence in the outfield, another good hitter pulled his calf muscle in the batters box, a third player (and probably the best guy on the team) was suffering from heat exhaustion and could only bat (though he was awful in that capacity as well) and a fourth good player got ejected after both umpires missed the other team's third base coach grab one of his players as he rounded third base to stop him from running into an out. What they were watching, I'll never know.

Anyway, it was a hot day and even though I had the Bears canopy deployed, we were pretty tired after four games. But the day was not over for me and LL. We headed back to the city, changed and headed up to swanky Winnetka for an engagement party for my buddy Sausage. It was a very nice party in his future in-laws' house. There were at least four servers catering to our needs.

Sunday provided just a little rest, but I was heading out to Naperville (about an hour away) to play in one softball game in a 40 and older league. I'm on the roster, but haven't made any games yet this year. I almost didn't make this one either. On the way out, while going about 70 m.p.h. on highway 55, I hit a bump in the road (a reverse pothole of sorts) and my tire blew. Fortunately I was able to navigate it to the very wide shoulder on the left side of the road where I was driving.

First I tried a can of Fix-a-Flat which partially inflated the tire. It got me about a mile and half to the next exit before the tire completely blew (big hole in it now). So I jacked up the car and took the old tire off not realizing I was on a slightly downward incline. You guessed it, the car rolled forward off the jack. Ugh. Nobody was hurt and I don't think the car was damaged, but time will tell. Now I had to jack up the car back closer to the rear tire because the jack would no longer fit under the front of the car and then slid the old tire underneath the middle of the car for support. That allowed me enough room to re-jack the car (this time with the parking brake on) and complete the tire change.

Finally we rolled into the softball game when they were in the fourth inning. The coach put me in right away and I proceeded to record only one of five putouts that I should have made as well as hitting two weak grounders, on the first of which I did a face-plant on my way down the first base line after stumbling out of the box. Not a great game.

We weren't done though! We came home after the game and went to a charity event at The Elbo Room where some bands were playing. Sometime around 11 or so, we finally rolled back home. What a weekend!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An interesting entry to come....

....but I'm a little tipsy and very tired! I'll post it in the morning.

Friday, July 16, 2010

World Wide Weather

So far we're experiencing the 10th hottest July on record in Chicago. It feels like it, but as always, it's the humidity more than the heat. But you'll hear no complaints from me. Unlike many of my Chicagoland brethren, I remember the weather in January and February and will take these days over those days anytime. Snow sucks!

The British Open is going on and invariably I get the question from friends who know I golf whether I've ever gone over there on vacation. Here's the thing: the weather in England and Ireland sucks. Some people can go over there and get decent weather for their week-long stay, but there are certainly no guarantees. Yesterday morning, it was relatively nice over there at St. Andrews Golf Club and then in the afternoon the wind picked up and the temperature dropped 10 degrees. Today it's been blowing at 30-40 MPH and everyone has on coats and knit hats. Plus it's rained so much that there is standing water on the course. What the hell is appealing about that? No thank you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Dim Future?

If you follow sports at all in the US, you heard about LeBron James leaving Cleveland to go play in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (two other super stars). Apparently they all played on the 2008 Olympic team together and discussed joining forces and playing together after they could leave their teams in free agency. Bosh didn't want to play in Cleveland (where LeBron played) and Bosh was in Toronto, so Miami, where Wade played, was the obvious choice for them to converge.

So what does this mean for the future? Is it an anomaly or will players continue to dictate where they will play? Granted, they have to become free agents first (various by sport but is 5-6 years usually), but that's when most players are really becoming "stars".

Contracts in most sports are becoming shorter and shorter as they are, other than the NFL, guaranteed. It's easy to see a scenario where every couple of years the stars decide to create "super teams" to almost guarantee a championship. To counter this trend, the owners could try to lock up stars for longer contracts, but will they opt for getting stuck in Kansas City or Toronto and guaranteed money or will they choose to play for teams where they can win?

This could really be an interesting next decade in sports from the perspective of free agency. I'm concerned more than anything because while team owners haven't had a great track record, at least they are business people with some common sense. Having players dictating things would be like inmates running the asylum.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

First Timer

Tonight I decided to make ribs on the grill for the first time ever. In fact, I've never cooked ribs using ANY method. So today I went online to get a recipe and settled on this one. The rub I chose was a sweeter rub with brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, pepper and garlic powder. Some other ingredients, like salt, were called for, but I left them out because there's plenty of salt in the sauce anyway.

And they turned out fantastic!! I was really, really happy. The slab was cut in half and one half did have some sugar burn on the bottom (I think from the apple juice/rub combo), but the other half did not. I even made mesquite wood smoke bombs as called for in the recipe and they worked like a charm.

I can cook ribs!!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The missing generation

As you probably know, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup this year. Though I've always enjoyed hockey, I really became a fan recently. By "fan", I mean REALLY a fan. Probably what normal people might consider a little over the top type of fan. The kind of fan who goes to the game, records the same game and then comes home and watches it for anything he missed. For the Bears games, it's a given that I'll watch the games at least once and I started doing the same thing with the Hawks games.

So that's what I am now. Another example of my disease is that I've been sending emails discussing the Hawks salary cap issues and players going to arbitration and their contract status. Again, this is something I do routinely for the Bears. It's something I USED to do more regularly for Cubs and Sox players, but it became pretty complicated and players move so much that it's tough to care as much. Not that I'm not a passionate baseball fan, but just not of the entire league like I used to be. Now it's more just a few teams.

Why am I late to the game in hockey? I watched a ton of hockey as a kid growing up in Detroit, but when I moved to Chicago there was a hockey vacuum caused by Bill Wirtz. This guy was perennially rated as the worst owner in all of sports...not just hockey. Wirtz made his money in real estate and being a liquor distributor, which is a huge racket by the way. That's a story for another time though.

Anyway, Bill wouldn't televise home games and was ahead of his time with his own cable channel for his team. Unfortunately, charging for something that has been free is not where you want to be on the vanguard. So the team's following waned and suffered for a good chunk of 30+ years. Bill was too stubborn to change. Imagine not watching any home games on TV. That means when your team scores, you never get to see fans cheering. The only games you get to see are when they are on the road and there are just a smattering of Chicago fans. It was pretty ridiculous. Then Bill didn't invest in the team at all, usually being outspent by 2 to 1 versus a team like the Redwings.

Bill passed away in September of 2007 and his son, Rocky, took over. Immediately some home games were put on TV and the next season all games were on TV. He's also reached out to past players and honored them and welcomed them back to the family. Bill always thought it was the ownership that should be worshiped, not the players.

It seems to me that there are a lot of people like me who were disenfranchised with the Hawks and are coming back into the fold (or are here already). Welcome back to the missing generation!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Softball and Parkways

Thursday I went golfing in the late afternoon with Bill the Bear, Smitty and one of their co-workers, Nick (who I'm going to call Markakis for reason that make no sense). Markakis and I shoot similar scores as to Bill and Smitty, but Markakis has a much better swing than I do....smooth and effortless. He's pretty young and so he'll only get better if he keeps playing while I'm probably going to stay at the same level and then will drop off over the next 15 years or so.

Anyway, I shot well (an 80 with two birdies and 32 putts....2 or 3 fewer putts and I'd be well into the 70's), but it was an exhausting evening because of the heat and humidity. Afterwards, we hit a pub on the way home and had a few beers. A fun afternoon/evening!

Friday was going to be a hydrating day for me as I had a softball tournament to play on Saturday in more heat up in Crystal Lake (about 90 minutes away). Unfortunately, some work was going to be done on our dirt parkway on Saturday where we've been unable to grow grass or do anything that looks remotely attractive. Since I couldn't help out, I was going to be home to accept delivery of the materials. Here's what we were dealing with:

This is the way one side looks now, which is how the other side looked except for a small tree. Anyway, the dirt on the other side needed to be turned so I did that Friday afternoon, which didn't help with my dehydration. The dirt was all packed down and useless for pretty much anything. Just before I turned the dirt, Home Depot delivered 3 palates of materials!! Unfortunately we have no space for three palates of anything even if we could move them, which we really couldn't. The guy delivering them had a huge, three-wheeled forklift that looked like it it should have been part of the moon landing. Pretty sweet. It was too big to move the palates any closer than the curb though, so we were going to half to leave some of the stuff out over night and hope no one would steal it. Fortunately, nobody did.

So Saturday brought softball for me and we played at 9, which meant batting practice at 8:15 and that I had to leave before 7. Ugh. Getting up at 6 on Saturday is not my favorite thing. It was my first tournament at third base since my should surgery and it felt good to be back "home". The game moves too fast to think most of the time, so you have to compete on instincts which get altered if you switch positions. We lost our first game, won the next two and then lost our last game to a team we play all the time, Amish Mafia, 11-8. I think we were just tired as a team for that last game.

When I got home, still a relatively early 6:00 or so, this is what half to the parkway had transformed into:

Pretty nice huh? We're going to do the other side as well. All of the neighbors are raving about how good it looks, but truly, the bar for improvement was pretty low. We're going to put more green ground cover type of plants in between the rocks. It should look pretty nice when it's all done.

On a completely different topic, LL and I have been dating for 18 months today. We've come a long way from our first meeting at a Starbucks followed by brunch on a cold January morning.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Band is Back Together

Here's one last picture from Mackinac Island.

I just loved that "Gifts" is in quotes. Inside the store? Future garage sale items, so the sign is appropriate.

I received a call yesterday around 6:30 or so from my buddy Naperville Greg (husband of Kleveland Kim) saying that their band's drummer was in town so they decided to have a jam session at a rented studio. The band, Humpback Wail, broke up about 4 years ago, so it's been a while since they've played together, but it was just like old times when they were playing. I've never been a huge fan of live, original music, but I grew up with two of the guys in the band so it makes a difference for me. Anyway, LL and I soaked them up for 90 minutes or so and enjoyed them. Maybe they'll get back together permanently!!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Pictures as promised

Pictures from my trip to: my folks, Higgins Lake and Mackinac.

This is a birch tree in my parents back yard. Look at the work the woodpeckers are doing!!

Here are some pictures of deer that were MUCH closer to my car than the pictures would indicate. There were three in all, but the third one dashed out after I started to drive off.

I saw the deer right outside where I dropped off LL with her parents at Higgins Lake. Here's our picture on the swing chair at Higgins.

It's Turtle Fest!! Turtles I saw on the golf course at of my favorite places to play. The turtle is in the water on the first picture, a big one, just above the stick in the water. The other guys are sunning themselves on the branch.

An interesting sight on my way to Treetops: the 45th parallel! Halfway between the equator and the north pole.

The puzzle-picture/surprise notice that the anniversary was going to be on Mackinac and that we all were leaving the next morning!

Here's St. Anne's church on the island. The last of the triptych is an outdoor stations of the cross. Pretty cool.

Ok, I can't move OR remove this picture of LL and I. Not sure why, but blogspot crashes when I try to do anything with it.

At the hotel, Mission Point Resort, our bell hop, Curtis, gave me a lift down the hallway on the dolly. Ha!

Here's the "real" anniversary dinner in a private room at the hotel. Very nicely decorated.

Views from the veranda of the hotel. Also, there are two huge tankers that look like they are going to collide!!

A narrow miss!

And here are some fireworks shots from the display on the island. We were also able to see the fireworks from Mackinac City, which were pretty damn awesome by the way.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Pictures to come

There are lots of pictures of my week long trip to my folks' place, LL's parents rental cabin, Mackinac Island and Grand Rapids. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get them posted AND that they will be fairly decent. No promises!

Just to clarify about my entry yesterday, I actually had a very nice time on the island and with LL and her family. However, Mackinac is not a paradise and not without it's warts.

At the anniversary dinner for LL's parents on Friday, their kids gave them a picture that had been cut up into a puzzle, you know those picture-into-a-puzzle things you can get at Walgreens. On the picture they had written what their real present was, which was the trip to Mackinac with the kids and an uncle and his family. There were 12 of us in all, so there was lots of coordinating and planning involved, all of which went very well! Actually, the only problem (which turned out to be very funny) was that the location of the fake anniversary dinner on Friday had closed down at some point in the last two years. Too funny. Our entire crew showed up in the empty parking lot of the restaurant (empty except for some couple who had stopped to change their baby's diaper) at just about the same time. Fortunately a back up plan was in place as no confirmation of the reservation could be made and there was some question about the restaurant being closed (though not before we actually left for said restaurant).

Over the weekend we shared meals, flew kites (I watched), took a carriage ride, walked around downtown and watched the fireworks from a very nice vista (behind St. Anne's church if you're there in the future on the 4th). LL and I also rented bikes and rode the 8 miles around the island. It was a fun ride: no accidents (though there were some close calls) and my butt wasn't sore!

On her parents actual anniversary, July 4th, we got a private dining room at the hotel which the siblings decorated up and we had a nice private meal. There were appetizers and drinks before the meal in the room too and we were able to wander around the private balcony as well. Good times.

Tomorrow: pictures and Grand Rapids.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Some Notes on Mackinac

Mackinac Island is that pretty place at the northern tip of Michigan, actually just off the coast, where the sailboats race. Their big claims to fame are: the old buildings, no cars and fudge. All are true.

There are no cars, but there are thousands of inexperienced bikers.

There are no cars, but there are far too many precariously ridden tandem bikes, usually by overweight, older couples.

There are no cars, but there are tens of thousands of pedestrians all of whom think they have the right of way.

There are no cars, but there are hundreds of horses and horse drawn buggies and carriages.

There are no cars, but there are also sidewalks which are far too narrow for the summertime crowds.

There are no cars, but there is a whole lot of horse crap.

There are no cars, but there are a bunch of people with the most secure and least desirable jobs I can think of: cleaning up the horse crap.

There are old buildings, but there is no air conditioning (and yes, you do indeed need it. Don’t believe those bullshit lies.)

There are old buildings, all of which have paper thin walls.

There are old buildings, many of which have insufficient water pressure.

There are old buildings and if you want to live in even just part of one, be prepared to shell out $500k minimum.

There is good fudge and about 30 stores that sell it over a span of 3 blocks.

There is good fudge and it ain’t cheap.

There is good fudge, but not enough places that let you sample the 20 different flavors they offer.

There is good fudge, but for every fudge shop, there are two stores that sell lame knick-knacks.

Yes, Mackinac has no cars, old buildings and good fudge and I'll go back at some point, but I'm not in a huge hurry.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy Holiday Everyone!

Since I'm up north and went golfing today, there's not much to report. More golf on the agenda tomorrow!

Happy 4th to everyone. Safe travels and we'll see you on the other side!