Monday, October 29, 2012

Businesses I want no part of

First I want to post this picture from the Monday night Bears game. It's great because it encapsules a ritual that we have at my tailgates: the grill stand race. In this race (Sausage against Benny Baseball), the participants each have to completely lower one leg of the stand before the other person. Seems easy, but it's harder than you think.  This was a qualifying race to see who would get to race me at the next game when the three of us are there which is in two weeks on Sunday night. Should be fun!

So I've been thinking about this next topic for a while: businesses that I want nothing to do with. Mostly I don't want any investment in them because they are going away completely or mostly. For your consideration I present: Businesses that Suck to be in.

1) Pay phone manufacturers. I'm not even sure who does this, but you KNOW someone still does and it's a crappy business that will go away. Heck, I wouldn't even want to be in the handset business. Those are going away as well.  Everyone has a cell phone.

2) Watches. I'm sorry you watch wearers, but you are a dying breed. Women may wear them for a bit for the jewelry aspect, but even those are going to be fewer and fewer. There's just no need. Again, cell phones.

3) PC's. Specifically desktop PC's. Their sales are already down this year and the need continues to slow as, again, cell phones do more and more. Then through in a tablet here and there and you really don't need a PC at home much anymore. Maybe for a while still, but your definitely investing on the down slope if you buy into these companies.

4) Newspapers and magazines. Yeah, couldn't be more obvious right?  At least with the newspaper part of it.  But what about magazines? Newsweek just stopped printing their magazine and went solely digital. That's going to happen more and more. Newspapers are already consolidating and going under and the trend is going to continue.

5) Cigarettes. I have no problem investing in these companies and collecting the dividends, or at least I did about 10 years ago.  Now though, with the anti-smoking campaigns, sin taxes even foreign countries starting to ban cigarettes in public places, this is an industry in trouble going forward.

Those are a few, but I feel like I'm forgetting some. Thoughts?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's never too late to learn

However it does seem like it's too late to learn to blog on a regular basis! I have been in a serious blog writing void. Not sure why to tell you the truth. Yes, I'm busy, but I've been busy over the years and have never been this bad at updating. Oh well. I'll just try to do better.

Today was another Bears game, a short week after the Monday night game, and the game was at noon which meant we were at the parking deck at 8. LL did not feel like she could enjoy herself over an 8+ hour period while fighting off nausea and the cold weather. As she has been feeling nauseous over the last few weeks and getting along in the pregnancy (20 weeks today), I realized I was going to have to find alternate company to the Bears games. But who? And what if LL actually got over the nausea and is fine to go to the game? Substitutes were definitely needed, but they had to be last minute substitutes potentially. Markakis filled this role for me last year quite admirably, for at least two games, but I wanted to spread around the invites this year so I sent out emails to 9 friends and asked if they were interested in being on the list to be a last minute sub. Eight of them said yes, which led to another problem: how do I choose? To the internet! 

It's amazingly easy to find a random number generator on the web, so I gave each friend a number and ran the program. It spat out Ricardo as the first candidate. Unfortunately for Ricardo though, he was going to be in Wisconsin at his cabin this weekend. On to number 2! And the winner was: Markakis! Too funny. And as an added surprise, Benny Baseball and George bought tickets from E-Money and joined the shindig today. Here's the pic!

That's Benny Baseball, George, me, Markakis, E-Money, Dougie Jr. and Jonathan (his brother) with John in the background there in the gray hat. Good times!

Part of the good times was due to the booze of course, but it was also the food. Today, since we were there early in the morning, I went with the Hogs in a Blanket (sausage links wrapped in a croissant), cheesy-sausage-bread (recipe from Blind Mender's mom) and the traditional egg McMuffin like sandwich. Good stuff for the morning, especially when mixed with hot cider and rum. It was my first time making the bread and I had to cut down the recipe (to only a third of the batch) to make it more manageable for the tailgate. One pack of sausages (14) for the Hogs worked out perfect as well. I mention the numbers because I'll probably forget next year! For after the game, it was bacon wrapped dates and figs (one pack of bacon worth only) and then hamburgers. 

One of the guests brought jalapenos stuffed with chorizo and cheese and wrapped in bacon. They were awesome, but they gave me the hiccups! How crazy is that? Apparently not crazy at all. So that was something else I learned (in addition to making the bread for the first time). In addition to those things, I realized that I could clean my grill more easily if I brought my metal brush scrubber from home that I use on my big grill and clean the portable grill's grates while they were hot. It worked like a charm! Cleanup was sooooo much easier! Forty-six and still learning!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MNF Bears!

In an effort to not miss a crap load of days in my blog again, I submit the following: BEARS!!!!

My last post was Monday and I have no idea how I had time to post it. Work was busy including a 90 minute conference call around lunch and then off to the Bears tailgate at 3. The tailgating started at 3:30 and I was the first of our group to get there. The day and evening threatened rain with a relatively warm and humid outlook. It's the kind of warm and humid that you just KNOW in the fall is going to turn into rain and cold at some point. We were lucky though and except for a brief drizzle during the game (our seats are out of the rain so we didn't even notice it at first) there was no rain until we were on our way home 8 hours later.

It was great fun as it was an Andy (aka Sausage) and Benny Baseball game. They buy half the season from me for my two extra seats and it's always fun when they come out (which is why I sell to them!). E-Money (Eric) also was there though along with his girlfriend Little-E (Erica). Since LL was in New Orleans still, I invited one of my clients, Tom, to join me. He came down for the wedding as well. Some of Eric's work mates also made an appearance and of course we were next to our buddies the Punke's and across the aisle from Gar and his posse (literally 20 people).

A mini-highlight of the pre-game was when the Bears Chairman of the Board, George McCaskey, walked by and I flagged him down. Of course he didn't remember me (even though we've met three or four times, I can totally relate to not remembering names!) but stopped and chatted for a bit as I re-introduced him to Punke Sr. whom he had met before as well. It was a fun little break and I didn't make an ass of myself, which is always possible! George was just out taking a walk through the Waldron Deck and into the South Lot and then back. Sounded like he does it for a lot of the games, so maybe we'll see him again!

The food of choice this time was chili, the first appearance of the year. It was all the first appearance of bacon wrapped shrimp, dates and figs. Good eating! And good drinking, which had to happen outside because INSIDE they allowed Miller to buy out the beer rights. Yeah, Miller. Ugh. So no more Sam Adams inside the stadium. Crap. They do have Leinenkugels Oktoberfest though, which wasn't awful. Actually it was even good, but not REALLY good. That's probably for the best anyway though. Nobody wants me looking like this before I head home:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Missed posts!

Wow, what has happened to my posting?? Crazy. Sorry, I need to be better.

LL's been out of town since Friday in New Orleans for a conference and I played softball all weekend, though not very least hitting. It was a different style of pitching than we played all year and my timing was off. While I played well on defense, it was my worst outing in memory on offense.

The highlight of the weekend was a visit from Naperville Greg and Kleveland Kim on Saturday night (Sweetest Day of all days). They were in the neighborhood and gave me a call to go out to dinner. Actually, I think they wanted to go out to dinner with LL, but she was gone so they took what they could get! We went to a restaurant called Deleece on Clark and enjoyed, among other things, lobster mac and cheese. Yes, it was as good as it sounds!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A little less pain

Yesterday I went to the gym again and went through my normal routine: 2 ibuprofen, 10 minutes in the dry sauna laying on my back, shooting some baskets or throwing a 10 pound ball up in the air and catching it, then stretching on a foam roll for 2-4 minutes before lifting some weights and doing exercises prescribed by my physical therapist. It has done wonders for the pain from my herniated disc. I guess the two weeks I went without going to the gym is what contributed to much of my pain. It wasn't all my fault though as I was supporting Ricardo every afternoon in his court case. Totally worth it.

It may be a little boring to read, but it's important for me to keep track of my health here on my blog. At least I'll be able to go back and reference something.

Time for pictures!

On Friday and through Sunday, we had Pam visiting us. As I think I mentioned, she moved up here from Carbondale and was getting set up in her apartment but didn't even have a bed yet! So she stayed with us while getting some things done and before her trip to Geneva Switzerland for work on Tuesday.  Minnie is the woman on LL and is one of the owners of Rollapalooza. We love Minnie!

Then Saturday morning we went to the Bongo Room in the south Loop to have breakfast with Pam's brother. I don't think my pictures do these serving sizes justice. I had a chorizo omelet that was delicious.....

 .....and Pam and her brother had these pancakes. That's white chocolate and blueberry sauce on one and white chocolate with caramel sauce on the other. That was just too much sugar for us, but we did our fair share of sampling!

Last year, LL's mom made a calendar of wedding pictures for us and it's been a nice reminder of our fantastic week every month! Here are October's pictures. My folks, sister and brother in law are the top pic, LL's aunt, uncle and cousins are the bottom left and our friends from Ann Arbor (who just visited two weeks ago!) are the lower right.

Here's another Halas Hall picture. We had another season ticket holder advisory group meeting at the Bears HQ. As usual, it was pretty productive and I think they got a lot of value out of our contributions.

We meet in the special teams room, which is pretty interesting. All sorts of boards and stats line the room. I decided to take some pictures this time.

This is an Offensive Game Goals board. Interesting.

Here's a special teams board which I think delineates good tackles or plays for loss. All the ones in the endzone are of the kicker, Gould, for when he kicks it out of the endzone.

Crap, I didn't get a title for this one. Oh, I think it might be a summary of the board above.

During the meeting we got to see a bunch of the new add campaigns going on. This was our favorite as a group and my personal favorite as well, so much so that it's my computer wallpaper now!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

No softball for me!

Sometimes the weekend doesn't turn out as you expect. This weekend for example I was supposed to play in a softball tournament up in Waukegan, IL, a little more than an hour away. For this particular tournament, I was subbing in for a third baseman who was injured.  Not JUST injured though. He had slid into second or third during a tournament, ripped up his leg, didn't take care of it and then had to have emergency surgery to clean out the infection. Apparently he was just a few days away from losing a good part of his leg. How crazy is that??

Anyway, that's what I was supposed to do, but it was a rainy weekend and the tournament director cancelled the tournament early on Saturday. So my weekend was free! No it wasn't. Well, it was AND it wasn't. We had a house guest, Pam, who is LL's friend from Carbondale and who has just moved to Chicago to take LL's old job. Pam is great and you couldn't have a better house guest. She even brought us gifts! Friday we went out for sushi to our favorite sushi restaurant and introduced Pam to Minnie and Eric at Rollapalooza. The food and service was great as usual. For the first time since they opened, there were reserved signs on many of the tables, which is great to see! I joked with them as we were leaving that pretty soon I wouldn't be able to go there anymore because they were so busy. Minnie said we'd ALWAYS have a table there. Very nice!

The eating fest was just beginning though as Saturday we went out for Indian food up on Devon at Hema's Kitchen.  For the first time ever, the service was pretty bad.  The food was good, but the service was bad.They didn't get our appetizer order entered and then tried to charge us for two of them and we had to ask repeatedly for rice and for water refills. Not sure if it was because it was Saturday or what the deal was, but it better change. They get one more shot because they've been good for so long.

During the day on Saturday I was able to clean up my work desk at home. It's going to sound crazy, but ever since last Christmas, I've had TWO computers on my desk: a new one that was a gift from LL and the old one that I need to copy and erase data from.  With all the rain this weekend, it was a good time to get that done and I did. It's crazy how much room is on my desk now!

On Sunday LL took Pam out to buy a bed and they really wanted me to go. I really wanted to stay home out of the rain and watch football, but went along for moral support, to drive and to possibly negotiate stuff. Did I mention that Pam and LL are SUPER nice and might not be the most effective negotiators because of it? It's true, but I wouldn't change anything about them. I'm fine being the heavy. After a while in the first store I ushered them out of the store and told the salesman that we were going to another store to compare products and prices. At the second store, Pam found a bed she was pretty happy with so we decided to make a purchase. The salesman had already made a big deal about throwing in a bed frame for free (seriously?), but that wasn't going to cut it. We had another store on the list and I made sure the salesman heard me calling them. When Pam was set on her choice, the three of us huddled and I said I can negotiate, but you have to be ready to walk. She was ok with it and we ended up knocking down the price $100, to less than the bed in the other store that she didn't like as much. Good stuff!

Finally we stopped at our storage unit and got some bar stools, dishes, pots and pans for Pam furnish her new apartment. Felt good to help someone out and clean out the storage unit at the same time.

We finished off the day with some good Thai food from Star of Siam on Illinois which is not far from Pam's new apartment. A very busy weekend, but much different than I was expecting.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A little fire

After some consideration about the pain in my shoulder (related pain from my herniated disc), I've come to the conclusion that I need to go back to the gym after missing two weeks. One of the exercises I perform at the gym is to stretch on a roll. Prior to going to court with Ricardo every day last week, I was going to the gym a few days a week, doing the stretch and doing exercises from physical therapy as well. This week I've been catching up and had lots of work to do, so today I'm going to hit the gym for sure and follow that up with two trips next week at least. If, at the end of next week, I'm still in so much pain, I'll call the doctor and set up an appointment with surgery in mind. We'll see how it goes.

Last weekend was fun, but cold. Driving out to softball Saturday morning, it was 37 degrees. Brrrrr. We played four games with basically an hour off between every game and I was gone from 6:30 til 6:30.  Yes, it was a long day. LL had two of her friends in town from Ann Arbor (they came to the wedding as well) so she was not without things to do. Then on Sunday I had golf scheduled for 10:00 with Ricardo, Markakis, Smitty and Bill the Bear. Unfortunately the course was over an hour away and once again it was about 40 degrees in the morning. Ugh. After golf, we hung out in the course bar and watched the Bears game. Good fun!

On Saturday I brought Mr. Heater out with me to the fields to provide a little warming spot for players and to help the guys on the bench stay warm.  At one point I was fiddling with the propane/air mixture and heard from behind me, "Joe, you're on fire!" Which I thought was either a joke or they were commenting on how I was hitting (2-3 with 3 2-out RBI in the first game). Neither was true. I was actually on fire! The sleeve of my turtleneck had touched the heating element of Mr. Heater and lit up! I had a long sleeve underwear shirt on underneath though, so I didn't even notice that I was on fire. It was quickly doused however and all was good. I was not the last person to get lit up though as Blind Mender wandered into it and burned his pants as well as someone else. Too funny.

We went 2-2 and lost the last game to a team that was supposedly a level below us so we had to give them 2 runs. We lost to them 13-11. That team however was made up mostly of players from two teams AT our level, so we shouldn't have had to give them any runs. Their center fielder was the best player on either team, but the tournament director did no research and just accepted their statement that they were a level below us. Crap.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Have I been THAT busy? Yes, yes I have.

Wow, an entire week without posting on my blog! Better get caught up!

Last week shouldn't have been busy, but I was providing moral support for Ricardo as he went to court every day in an effort to resolve an 8 year conflict with his condo building developer. Yep, 8 years! Six of those years involved a legal battle. Since the developer (who basically stole money) still lived in the building, it's been a tough row to hoe for Ricardo and wife as they would periodically run into this guy who had stolen from the association and then had the audacity to counter sue Ricardo for about $400k. Yeah, pretty insane. So Monday through Thursday I was down in the courtroom from about 12:30 to 5ish. That meant I had to make up for work during the evenings. You'll be happy to know that justice was served at least in the sense that Ricardo was cleared. Unfortunately it's not real justice as the case shouldn't have gotten as far as it did and Ricardo is out a bunch of legal fees. Ugh.  Still, for the first time in a long while, the case is not hanging over his head.

In celebration, we went out for drinks on Thursday night, courtesy of the lawyers, and were out for a bit too long. Fortunately I was taking the train home. Oh, and did I mention I went out Monday night for the Bears Monday night game? Yeah, with Sausage, Markakis, Smitty and Mrs. Smitty. Good fun!

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the weekend!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Getting older

It beats the alternative doesn't it?  This year though, it's been more difficult to get older. The herniated disc in my neck has been causing me pain every morning and at night. During the day I can manage the pain somewhat with some ibuprofen, but for how long do I want to take it? Will it get better?  I'm not certain it will unfortunately. I think it's time to call the doctors again and discuss the prognosis.  Surgery isn't out of the question for me if it will help. It's just a timing issue.

Hair loss. It's been bad this year. Not that I had a ton to work with to begin with, but it definitely took a turn for the worse this year. Sigh. Oh well, I'm looking forward to the Mr. Clean look. We'll see.

Eyesight. For the last 10 years or so, since having lasik surgery, I've had 20-10 eyesight. That's right, not 20-20. 20-10. That means I see at 20 feet what others see at only 10 feet. It was that good. It seems to have reverted a bit this summer though. Where I used to be able to easily see anything on the television across the room from my desk, now some of the things I have to squint a bit to see. I'd like to find an eye doctor anyway just to check on my eye health in general, so maybe this will be the impetus to get that done.

So there we are....I'm getting older. Maybe this year though I'm aging more than normal?