Chicago Boyz


Recommended Photo Store
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading? Click here to find out.
Make your Amazon purchases through this banner to support our blog:
(Click here if you don't see the Amazon banner.)
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Author Archive

    The Republican Debate

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 29th October 2015 (All posts by )

    I actually watched the Republican “debate” last night. What follows are my thoughts. Before we get to that, you should know that I generally don’t pay too much attention to politics and really don’t know what I am talking about in this arena. Which probably makes me an equal to most of the talking heads. My impressions.

    “Winners” – before we get to my list of “winners”, maybe I should explain why I put it in quotes. By “winning”, I mean to define someone who I actually remember today that they said something instructive or constructive last night. Or they looked or acted sincere.

    My big winner was Ted Cruz. He seemed passionate and sincere – a true believer. I loved the way he blasted the moderators for what were, at the least, obtuse questions. They were obviously trying to stir up the hornet’s nest and were also trying to damage the candidates for the future. Cruz saw through it and called it out. Bravo.

    Another winner was Carly. She answered each and every question very succinctly and came up with some very intelligent, thoughtful answers very quickly. She adeptly brushed off the “you tanked HP” crap from the moderators.

    I also liked, but didn’t love, Rubio. Another person who I feel is a true believer. Very well spoken and put Jeb in his place when attacked. Quick on his feet.

    Didn’t win, but didn’t lose category:

    John Kasich – I have followed Kasich for a while now and he has a lot of great ideas, but he is clearly uncomfortable in a suit. He always looks awkward. I think he would be great in an administration, but I don’t know if his goofy persona will play in a general election.

    Huckabee – I think Huckabee is a good and honest person, but I can’t really remember anything specifically he said last night. I do remember that he is eloquent and speaks clearly and slowly and methodically. I would love to have him as an uncle.

    Ben Carson – I am not really feeling the almost asleep method of how he speaks, but when he does speak, it is pretty intelligent. No clue how he is topping the polls in Iowa. I think he would be a fine president, but I just don’t really get it at this point.


    Rand Paul – While the Libertarian in me likes what Rand Paul has said in the past and said last night, he totally fell flat. I get why he doesn’t want to get into the scrum, but I feel like he sort of mailed it in. Probably the next exit from the race.

    Chris Christie – You might disagree with me, but I don’t like the east coast asshole schtick. I am from the Midwest and I deal with my share of East Coast people, and many of them are rude and want to steamroll me and I hate that. He said some great things, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t like the delivery.

    Jeb – You could tell he was desperate from the get go. He said nothing witty or remarkable. Probably time for him to pack it in as well.

    Trump – same ol same ol. He’s just a blowhard. Says some good things about taxes and actually does a good job answering the questions. But I have always hated him so I probably am not giving him a fair shake.

    Well, there you go, a totally amateurish take on the debate last night. Let me have it in the comments.

    Posted in Politics | 34 Comments »

    Celiac Disease and the “Worried Well”

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 23rd October 2015 (All posts by )

    My oldest daughter just got diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Maybe it really isn’t called that, but she had a strong reaction on the test. She was feeling sore in her joints and they decided to give her the test. We will be having her re-tested to be sure, but are already taking appropriate steps with her diet.

    I have had a discussion over the years with my better half that the whole celiac thing is overblown and that most of it is b.s. So this is a funny diagnosis in a goofy sort of way. My wife and I pretty much eat anything and everything and had passed that along to our kids. There are literally only four or five things I don’t like to eat and my wife is the same way. Protein, starch, vegetables, fruit, all in moderation. A balanced diet. Seems to work for us.

    A friend of mine on Facebook posted something interesting about some research that is proving that most people when they are lied to about what they are eating and given placebos, feel “better” or “worse” depending on what they THINK they are eating. I completely believe this. One doctor (or so he said he was one) provided this comment, that to me, became the quote of the day:

    In my practice I frequently see people who have NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM but who have a strong need to assume the role of a patient with some kind of diagnosis. I encourage them to go see “alternative medicine” practitioners. Indeed, the great benefit of alternative medicine is to provide the “worried well” with a pantomime theater of treatment.

    While my daughter’s diagnosis could be true, I still believe that the vast majority of people who are going “gluten free” are doing so out of misinformation or wanting to be part of a fad. Just for kicks, my wife and I are getting tested as well. We hear that it is hereditary. But we both feel fine. Maybe we need to get our chakras in order and everything will be OK.

    Posted in Medicine, Personal Narrative | 19 Comments »

    Learning On My Time

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 30th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Recently I have been to the south of France four times to enjoy cycling vacations. The people there are super friendly and happy to have our tourist Euros. The food is outstanding.

    I took French in high school and for a couple years in college, but dropped it. I have recently picked it back up and am learning every day – literally.

    I have been using a free app called DuoLingo. It was pretty cool to see what I remembered after twenty something years.

    I set a goal to do some French every day. The app rewards you for hitting your daily goal. I made it realistic – equivalent to about 20 to 30 minutes a day. I am on a 92 day streak as of this writing. I am competitive with everything, especially myself.

    It is amazing how far I have come already. Now that I have knocked down most of the basic vocabulary and tenses, it is getting more difficult – but I am learning quickly. The app works you over in several ways. It says something that you have to write, or shows something that you have to translate (English to French and French to English) or shows you something that you are supposed to say into the voice recognition.

    While the app isn’t perfect, it is very, very good. I feel at this point if I could get someone to slow down while speaking that I would have a pretty good chance of getting around, ordering in a restaurant, reading basic travel information, etc. Someday I want to buy a little place in France so obviously learning the language is key – not to mention fun (to me anyways). I would recommend DuoLingo if you are interested in refreshing your language skills – it works on all of your platforms, and if you are in a place where you can’t speak, you can simply turn off that function.

    DuoLingo isn’t perfect – at a certain point down the road I will likely have to find a new app or hire a private tutor to perfect my conversational French, but for these basic building blocks, it is fantastic.

    But this particular post isn’t necessarily about DuoLingo – it is about learning on my time. In the past, something like this would be unimaginable. You would have to hire a private tutor or go to community college. My life isn’t structured that way. I am a business owner with kids all over the place so I need to approach learning French when I have 20 minutes here or there. I recently looked at the local community college for French courses and they only offered it at 6pm to 8.30pm on Tuesday and Thursday night. Not gonna happen.

    With DuoLingo, I hit it when and where I want to. Waiting for a kid to get out of dance class? DuoLingo. Someone is late for an appointment or maybe I am early? Same thing. I don’t have 2.5 hours to sit in a chair twice a week, away from my house or work.

    There are a lot of apps out there, and like with the first inning of the game, Khan Academy, I am excited to see how these new learning methods and interfaces come to fruition in the future.

    We aren’t there yet, but I think eventually kids graduating high school will be able to say “why college?” – and I think that is a great thing.

    Adults who want to simply further themselves no longer need to sit around at the local community college.

    Posted in Education, Internet, Tech | 11 Comments »

    Number Gut, Continued

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Years ago, Shannon Love did a series of posts on these pages about “number gut”. From this post:

    A number gut is an intuitive feel for the possible magnitude of a particular number that describes a particular phenomenon. A good number gut tells you if the results of some calculation are at least in the ball park.

    My number gut (or b.s. detector, in this case) went off today when I saw this story. Here is the money:

    Chicago Public Schools officials on Monday proposed a $5.7 billion operating budget for the upcoming school year…

    Holy crap that is a lot of money. There are 396,000 students in the CPS. $5.7bb / 396k = $15,447 per student. Really.

    From this article from 2014 about the most expensive private schools in Illinois, it looks like all of the students could go to Loyola Academy, and can almost all go to St. Ignatius College Prep for that kind of money.

    Just sayin’.

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Chicagoania, Education | 15 Comments »


    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th June 2015 (All posts by )

    From this:

    To this:

    I am guessing he caved to some large Hollywood donors, but I don’t really know for sure.

    Posted in Obama | 15 Comments »


    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    I have written about optics before and am going to take another trip down this trail.

    The prison escape in New York has my interest. I am sort of rooting for the bad guys. But not for the wrong reasons. The reason I am rooting for the bad guys is that I believe that folks need to understand that they need to be prepared to take care of themselves in emergency situations, rather than relying on “professionals”. In the end I want the murderers caught, of course, but in the meantime, we have some delicious drama brewing.

    As I wrote back when the Boston police and others make a Keystone Cops type showing trying to chase down the Tsarnaev brothers, these are some pretty poor optics for the police, but they are doing everything they can to make it look better. I see the same old nonsense on TV – a line of cops saluting and marching down the street, all to make a show to the locals and/or folks watching on TV that they have overwhelming force and are going to catch the bad guys. This was done in Boston and also in Baltimore. Who put this in the official police manual to handle a crisis? I wonder if the manual looks like this:

    Step one. We have a crisis. Everyone line up, salute and march down the street.
    Step two. ??
    Step three. Crisis solved. Praise all and treat everyone like a hero.

    This is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen so far from a few days ago:
    What on earth is going on here? Is the sniper actually looking to fire at something? Why aren’t the other guys at all concerned? Why is he laying on top of a van?

    I keep hearing that the man hunt is “intensifying”. How much more intense can it get? They have all sorts of Hummers, choppers, sniper gear, and cops from who knows how many districts all looking for a couple of guys who are either laughing their asses off somewhere in Mexico, or very much hurting by now somewhere in the woods. Somewhere in the woods that all of these forces gathered have missed several times now.

    I am sure it is super pleasant to be living in these towns right now.

    What on earth was Cuomo touring the escape site supposed to prove? He will have zero involvement in the investigation or manhunt.

    I know a thing or two about mechanicals, tools and steam pipes – we are not hearing half of what these guys did do get out of the prison – much of what the media has reported doesn’t make sense at all. I understand that the media is on the cops’ tether at this point, but I will be very interested to someday read just exactly what these guys did to escape. I imagine it took them years of planning.

    If they get caught, we will hear some Seargeant or whoever claim how heroic everyone was, just like always.

    I hope the public gets the sense that just like when the Tsarnaev brothers were keeping thousands of “professionals” at bay, just like these escapees are that they need to prepare to be on their own just a bit. But I won’t get my hopes up. So far, I would say that the cops have some pretty bad optics going as of now.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events | 17 Comments »

    BB King RIP

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 15th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Most of the tributes you see and hear today about BB will feature crap like “The Thrill Is Gone” and that terrible song he did with Bono. This is the real deal and is what I cut my teeth on when I was discovering the Blues. You can thank me later. Godspeed.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Music, Obits, Video | 4 Comments »

    Chicago – A Once Great City That Generations of Democratic Leadership Have Run Into The Ground

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Moody’s has downgraded the rating of the debt of the City of Chicago to “junk”.

    This triggers all sorts of crazy swap termination fees, accelerated payments, and the like. The damage of the downgrade is in the billions of dollars.

    The City of Chicago has been in a death spiral for a while now, and I think it is probably time to just go all “Detroit” and get it over with. The bondholders will get a haircut, as well as the pension funds and everybody else.

    But that aside, here is yet another case where if the Republicans were smart, they could simply run on a “we’re not them” platform. Every single thing that has happened in Chicago has come under the Democrats’ watch. There is no way out for them. They created it, they participated in it, and they kicked the can down the road for the current generation to watch it all implode.

    I have written about this before, but either the Republicans are too nice, or don’t care. It is so easy to put this at the Donks’ doorstep. I just don’t understand why the Republicans don’t do it.

    This implosion of a once great city is disgusting and should be front page news. But it isn’t.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Politics | 37 Comments »

    Rockford – At The Top in Illinois

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 4th May 2015 (All posts by )

    I grew up in Rockford, Illinois in the seventies. I lived what would now be considered a pretty rough existence. I ate hot dogs a lot, all of my “new” clothes came from the Salvation Army, our house was perpetually cold in the winter since we couldn’t afford to turn up the thermostat too high, etc. etc. But we all understood what we had to do, and I was never wanting.

    I sincerely feel that growing up in that sort of environment prepared me very well for my later life. Through a lot of hard work, I have become relatively successful, but remain rooted in reality – I would say that I am frugal, but not cheap. I hate waste.

    My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to a private Baptist school, and I later attended a private Assembly of God school. In the seventies and early eighties, certain areas of Rockford were very rough. I saw the neighborhood I grew up in transform from one that would be considered your typical All American Neighborhood, to one that had half torn down houses, open air drug dealing and all the rest. We left that area for a better one out by the airport. When much of the heavy manufacturing base left, so did many of the good things that came with it in Rockford. But the people didn’t really change that much.

    Boy was I in for an awakening when I moved just 70 miles to the north to Madison, Wisconsin. Completely different deal to be sure. It was really quite the culture shock. I still laugh to myself when I see things in Madison that I consider strange. But I digress.

    The video below talks about some of the old manufacturing base in Rockford and even shows the (still) beautiful Sinnissippi Gardens, along with some of the hotels and other buildings that I recognized from my youth that were repurposed by the time I was growing up, and have been repurposed again since. My wife and I had our first real date at the Sinnissippi gardens where I bought her a – hot dog – for lunch. Rockford wasn’t all bad. I made it work.

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Video | 14 Comments »

    Poor Optics

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th April 2015 (All posts by )

    As we all know, Baltimore is going through some interesting times. I sat down for a bit last night and popped on the news to watch the spectacle. One thing I noticed right away was the optics. I don’t want to get all crazy about the mayor saying it was OK for the cops to let the fine, upstanding citizens of Baltimore destroy their own city. Many, many others are doing that just fine. I wanted to comment on the optics of the situation and how bad they were. Here is the original press conference from a couple days ago (the “destroy” part is around the 7.30 mark)

    What is she dressed in? Why is the pastor dressed with the odd black top and leather sleeves – and what in the world was he talking about? What on earth is the guy in the hoodie with “true religion” emblazoned across the chest doing there? To say that this doesn’t exactly instill confidence in being able to handle a situation of this sort would be quite the understatement. This is the mayor of Baltimore’s inner circle?

    Here is the presser from last night, where the mayor announces the week long curfew:

    Ah hah. Someone got a phone call. She now has make up on, jewelry, a nice top. Guys in suits and uniforms around her appeared later in the presser. The optics have certainly changed.

    Then the governor of Maryland came on:

    He is in a suit, tie and is surrounded by well dressed people (i.e. adults) and a person in a military uniform. He is decidedly overweight and looks pretty bad, but that is getting a bit off track. The Maryland governor stated later that he signed the emergency orders “about 30 seconds” after the mayor of Baltimore requested it. I imagine it was before that, but whatever.

    Tonight is another night, and I assume the optics of that first presser won’t be seen again.

    Posted in Current Events | 20 Comments »

    Make Them Own It

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Today we see that the latest bond offering from the Chicago Board of Education will be priced at over twice what a BBB offering demands. That is brutal. I still won’t touch that with a ten foot pole.

    It is inevitable that the State of Illinois and City of Chicago and their organs will be having major financial issues, to say the least, within a year or two. It could be Detroit on an inter-galactic scale.

    My question is this – why don’t the Republicans make the Democrats own these massive boondoggles? I understand that in Illinois, many of them are in on the fun – however, the State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Detroit have all been essentially run by Democrats for literally generations – and it is all blowing up.

    Is the issue too complex for Joe Six Pack to understand or care about? Are the Republicans afraid to be held to a higher standard? I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t shout from the mountain tops at how much graft, corruption and incompetence it takes to completely tank a city with as much potential as Chicago and a State with so many potential positives as Illinois.

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 36 Comments »

    Before and After

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Winter has a lot of negative effects on our property. As is the rite every Spring, we need to fix things broken, ground that has moved, fencing that has shifted, and other items. The maintenance of the coat of Jameson The Hundred Pound Dog (we have been calling him, more appropriately, the Jameson Experience) is among these tasks. No matter how hard we have tried in the past, this long haired mutt just has no hope when it comes to his long coat. We always wait until Spring to shave the mess of matted hair and dreadlocks that he accumulates over the Winter. That way we only have to do it once, and he doesn’t have to shiver when outside in the cold season. Before:

    jameson before
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Jameson, Photos | 22 Comments »

    Gift Card Drainer Tip

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 4th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Over the holidays my daughter went to London on a trip with her band and marched in the New Years Day parade. As Christmas presents, her grandparents wanted to send her over with some spending money. I didn’t trust her with cash and didn’t want her to incur the expense and hassle of currency exchange, so we bought her prepaid VISA gift cards. When they got spent down, there was a couple bucks left on each. What do to.

    It is difficult to transfer the funds to a bank account without incurring expenses. I found out that Amazon will allow you to purchase a “gift card” for yourself in any amount. We just did that for all of the gift cards and it worked very quickly and to perfection so we were able to drain the cards and can now cut them up and use the funds.

    Posted in Internet, Personal Finance | 1 Comment »

    El Caminito del Rey Update

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th March 2015 (All posts by )

    One of the best vacations I ever took was with Jonathan as we tackled the famous El Caminito del Rey. You can see footage of that glorious day here:

    For those who may be a little less adventurous, parts of the route have been re-built and are now officially re-opening. You can see a website on the Caminito and the restorations here.

    Posted in Diversions, Europe | 8 Comments »

    The Next Big Thing

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th February 2015 (All posts by )

    A few weeks ago while sitting around, my wife and I started discussing the Next Big Thing. My new smart phone is simply an improvement over the last one – that isn’t it.

    I will tell you what is the Next Big Thing – driverless cars.

    I had heard about them a few times before reading America 3.0, and they are mentioned in that book. I send Lex links about testing and we have both come to the conclusion that the big hurdle with them won’t be the technology – it will be regulatory hurdles. But this is coming faster than we all think – and there really won’t be much anyone can do to stop it since the demand will be intense.

    I imagine the cops will be trotting out “safety” issues when the real reason will be that their days of writing dumb speeding tickets will be over. That revenue train, along with the DUI industry, will take major hits. I imagine they and others will fight this to the end. Insurance companies will likely see damage done – as crash rates go lower, they will be forced to drop premiums, or people will just go to a simple liability policy and chance the crash.

    As for me, I lose 70 minutes a day of productivity sitting in my car. All isn’t lost since I listen to Bloomberg business news, however if I could have that 70 minutes to catch up on email, or to simply further myself by reading a book it would be a huge plus in my life. How about being able to have more than one glass of wine with dinner with my wife at a nice restaurant or at a wedding reception and not having to worry about a DUI?

    Elon Musk says that we will be ready, tech wise, in five to six years:

    Mr. Musk expects autonomous driving to be safer for riders and pedestrians by a factor of 10.

    I absolutely believe this. In addition, when the computer gets traffic reports, it will choose the quickest way to the destination, and will choose the speed to use the least amount of fuel.

    This article is interesting from CNBC. Here is a quote:

    But for some mass market brands like Chevy, Honda or Volkswagen, Winterhoff says it will tougher to compete and win in a world where self-driving cars usher in the idea of mobility on demand.

    “Autonomous drive vehicles will mean many families will need fewer cars and if you only have one car instead of two, you will likely make it a premium brand,” he said.

    Imagine having only one car for a family of four. In my life, it would drop me off at work, head home and transport the wife if she needs to go somewhere, pick up/drop off a kid at school, head to the market where my groceries will be loaded by a clerk there that I have already paid for with Google Wallet, etc. etc.

    When you get talking heads speaking about winners and losers, you can feel that it is on the way. I just can’t wait.

    Posted in Big Government, Personal Narrative, Tech | 66 Comments »

    Photoshop 25 Years Hence

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 21st February 2015 (All posts by )

    My blogmate Gerry has put up a fascinating post about Adobe Photoshop and its history as relates to Apple, Ad Agencies and advertising. You can view it here if you are interested.

    Posted in Tech | 2 Comments »


    Posted by Dan from Madison on 5th February 2015 (All posts by )

    jameson toy
    Chicagoboyz contemplate where the Jameson Experience begins, and ends.

    Posted in Jameson | 4 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – The Furnace Toboggan

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th December 2014 (All posts by )

    Carl’s great stories have inspired me to share a few of my own. First some background.

    I work in HVAC/R distribution. HVAC/R means Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration. The function of my company is to house manufacturers goods on a local level, mark them up, sell them to licensed HVAC companies and facilities, and then collect the money. It sounds simple, but that is what I do. In general, we get paid to come up with solutions to people’s problems – sometimes very quickly. If you are suffering because of the weather, I am happy because the extremes make me money. Nobody cares about me when it is 75 degrees outside. However, we also have a commercial refrigeration piece, and that business is year ’round.

    HVAC in general is a relatively tiny part of our economy, and most numbers I have heard put it at around $25bb annually here in the USA. My job is very demanding, requires long hours, and is extremely competitive.

    Everyone has had an experience or two with their climate control systems. When I go to parties and people find out what I do, the conversation always ends up with me in the basement looking their mechanicals over and giving a recommendation or two.

    I have a lot of friends when the weather gets below zero or above ninety degrees.

    For those of you who have never experienced weather below zero degrees, I actually recommend you travel somewhere and see what it is like. Just once.

    I get lots of calls from people wanting me to open up the shop after hours. One frigid night back in the 90s, a good customer called and needed a furnace. This night, it was a blizzard (and I mean a literal blizzard where you couldn’t see anything) on top of the extreme cold temps. It was mayhem. I questioned the guy on the phone and said “really it can’t wait for tomorrow”?

    Well, this furnace apparently heated a tiny room at a very large insurance company that housed their servers. If this area wasn’t heated up and the pipes burst it would cause untold millions of dollars of damage. They had redundant heating systems but those had failed too. I sighed, kissed my wife goodbye (hopefully not for the last time) and got in my vehicle for the long drive to work to open up the store.

    Normally the drive took 15 minutes but this night it took almost an hour. It was the craziest thing I have ever done. A cop pulled me over on the way and asked me what the f@ck I was doing (he literally said that) out in this blizzard and I told him and he understood and let me go.

    When I got to work the wind had been blowing so hard that my parking lot was encased in three feet of snow and ice. I had to park on the street. I walked up to the front door and dug it out and opened up the shop. My customer arrived a few minutes later. As I was gathering the things he needed for this furnace changeout, I asked him how the f@ck were we going to get the stuff from the building to the street? After talking a bit, I came up with the idea of the “furnace toboggan”. I had a bunch of cardboard in the warehouse and strapping material. We wrapped the furnace in this cardboard and pushed it outside to the lot and pulled it through the snow down to the street (approx. 50 feet). We repeated the process with the rest of the materials he needed for his job. He thanked me profusely for what I had done for him and offered me a (terrible, canned) beer from his truck. I said “what the heck” and had one with him – we were both exhausted from pulling the heavy toboggan through the snow twice and needed an attitude adjustment. He is a good customer to this day for saving him that account although I do not support boozing in your vehicle especially when you are going to soon be wiring and gas piping. I found out a few years ago that he had quit drinking – obviously he had a problem.

    On the way home I got stuck twice and pulled over by the same cop who laughed when he saw it was me again on the way home. He said the only other people he has seen on the road are drunks, which I believe since they are probably the only people crazy enough to be out there in that mess – besides an HVAC distributor helping a customer out of a bad jam.

    Next episode – Tormenting a Fortune 500 CEO.

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work | 10 Comments »

    Short Book Review – Lone Star Sons by Celia Hayes

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 14th November 2014 (All posts by )

    Lone Star Sons by Celia Hayes (buy direct from the author)

    Lone Star Sons by Celia Hayes (Amazon)


    Back in September, our very own Sgt. Mom, aka Celia Hayes, was shamelessly plugging her new book, Lone Star Sons. I bought a book and was pleasantly surprised to find what appears to be a personalized inscription on the inside:

    It says:

    Low Dow –
    Our Mom in Madison!
    Wide op predator –

    Undeterred by what appeared to be a cipher of some sort, I forged ahead and read the book. I really liked it.

    I don’t read much fiction, but if I do, it needs to be historically based, and Hayes does a great job of really bringing you into the time period of old Republic of Texas. The descriptions of the scenes were very realistic and I could almost smell the stews that the Mexican ladies were making on the square on a daily basis.

    Lone Star Sons is six short stories of Texas Ranger Jim Reade and his Indian helper/comrade Toby Shaw. They travel far and wide on their assignments which vary from murder investigations to search for buried treasure.

    The end section was most enjoyable for me, as Hayes explains what parts of the short stories were hers, and which were historically based.

    The book reads very quickly, as once you start getting interested in the characters, the book is difficult to put down. I would highly recommended it if you need a good idea for a stocking stuffer for someone who likes these type of frontier stories.

    You can order Lone Star Sons from the Amazon link above, or directly from Ms. Hayes here. You can order her other books here.

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 15 Comments »

    On Walker

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 6th November 2014 (All posts by )

    My comment in Carl’s previous post was getting a bit long and morphed into this post.

    “First off, I want to thank God. I want to thank God for his abundant grace and mercy – win or lose, it is more than sufficient for each and every one of us”

    The above quote is how Scott Walker began his victory speech Tuesday night, after winning here in Wisconsin for the third time in four years (Gov. in 2010, recall in 2012, and Gov. in 2014). Here is the clip if you care to watch:

    When I was watching it, I was sort of sitting there, mouth agape. What a way to start your speech. While I am not the most devout of individuals, I can appreciate a politician who answers to a higher and just power. The rest of the speech is good, after all of the thank you’s. Rebecca Kleefisch, our Lt. Governor is looking good out there too.

    I have been emailing and texting Lex Green back and forth over the last few months about Walker. His campaign was one of the most interesting that I can remember. He simply circled the state nonstop. He shook hands and took photos at businesses for ribbon cuttings, job announcements, and the like. He stopped at farms to talk to people. He went to diners, restaurants and broke bread old school style. There were very few massive rallies. But every single day Walker was out there rubbing shoulders with, as O’Reilly calls them, “the folks”.

    In contrast, his opponent had giant rallies with Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, and President Failure himself. The rally with the President was toward the end of the campaign and I think was a desperation “Hail Mary”, so to say. Walker’s opponent was one of the few Democrats that wanted a photo op with the President toward the end of the campaign. Walker actually took time to take a photo with the President a few months ago when he was in the state. At that time, Walker’s opponent was still at arm’s length from the President – what a juxtaposition.

    The polls were always wrong. They were pegging the race as a dead heat, but I called it from the start – Walker was ahead comfortably. I think he knew it from his internal numbers. He never showed any sign of desperation whatsoever. So this could be just bad polling data, or the polls could have been in cahoots with the media to sell more ads, and/or the Democrats to help pull their (bad) candidate over the line.

    For the last four years, Scott Walker has been subjected to the very worst of the worst. The capital building packed with “protesters”, dumb drum circles, and all the rest. They even came out with some sort of “freedom flotilla” and were shouting at the executive residence from Lake Mendota. The politically motivated John Doe investigations failed. Act 10 stands. The whole state of Wisconsin is still run by Republicans; Governor, Assemblly, Senate, AG, and now even Treasurer. I love the Republican who won the office of Treasurer running on the platform of eliminating it since it is basically a symbolic office. I hope he actually does it.

    The bond rating for Wisconsin over the last several years has gone to practically gold status, relative to other states, and on the 10 year, the spread to AAA is only around 25 basis points. Compare that spread to Illinois at 156 basis points. Wisconsin’s pensions are 99.9% funded, number one in the US tied with South Dakota (compare to Illinois at under 40%). Wisconsin is running a gigantic surplus, and through Act 10, the cities and other municipalities aren’t locked into monopolistic negotiations with the government unions. And on and on.

    Through all of the attacks, Walker has come through them with the sort of class that I have rarely seen. If people were threatening my family, I would just start shooting and ask questions later, in a figurative sense. I think Walker actually just sits down and prays for them. It is readily apparent that he is driven by religion and actually cares about people and the State.

    I would be sad if we lost him to the job of President, but I think he certainly has the stones for it after what he has been subjected to here. The state would be left in good hands with Rebecca Kleefisch, but time will tell to see if she could win an election. I always think of this clip of Walker during the “protests” when he was handing out awards to Special Olympians and some sort of zombie protest entered the ceremony. It is easily the most disgusting event of the whole “protest” deal.

    I would have gone nuts. But he just held his own and continued. Pretty amazing.

    I hope he can convince you to vote for him if he decides to run. You won’t be disappointed. Then again, it is early, and I imagine there might be something in Walker’s past that might hurt him, but at this point, after all the angst we have seen in Wisconsin, I am having a hard time imagining what that may be. Time will tell, as always.

    Posted in Politics | 12 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake XVI

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 24th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Over the past year or so I have been dinking around on the banjo. I bought a decent instrument along with a couple of books and have been watching a few youtube videos here and there. In general, along with getting some basics down, I am trying to listen to bluegrass songs to try get my ear put together. I am stuck for time – running a business, raising kids, running a tiny farm and all the rest and didn’t want any big commitment – so when I feel like playing, I play. When I don’t, I like looking at it in the corner of the room. After I get some decent basic technique put together and know basic cords, and have some extra time, probably in 2024 or so, I may start taking some lessons.

    The banjo is a surprisingly fun instrument to play, and even when you miss, the mistakes aren’t really cringeworthy, like if you were playing a clarinet or trombone. Progress has been slow, but I probably have 25 or 30 years left on this mortal coil to perfect my skills – or not.

    Anyways, on the way home from work, after I get the financial headlines from Bloomberg on XM, I typically flip it over to the Bluegrass channel. A few days ago I heard this remake of a (bad) familiar song. The original, from The Proclaimers:

    I really have always hated that song.
    This is the remake I heard, by Wayne Taylor and Apaloosa:

    Obviously, this is the way this song was meant to be played.

    Posted in Music, Video | 3 Comments »

    Market Shrugs Shoulders at Ebola

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 17th October 2014 (All posts by )

    One of the ways I like to put “disasters” into perspective is to try to understand what the markets, in general, think. This from today’s Bloomberg Municipal Market Brief:

    Debt issued for Texas Health Resources is gaining even after the death of a patient from Ebola and the infection of two nurses raised questions about practices at one of its 25 hospitals. Bonds sold through an agency of Tarrant County, Texas, that mature in February 2021 traded Wednesday at an average yield of 0.55 percent, or 0.09 percentage point above benchmark munis, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the smallest yield spread in at least 20 months. Obligations due in 2036 and 2040 changed hands this week with the least extra yield since last month.

    Hospital debt has gained 12 percent this year, better than any other investment-grade area of the muni market, Barclays Plc data show. Texas Health has the fourth-highest grade from Moody’s Investors Service, which said in August it could raise the nonprofit’s rank. That was enough to make David Jaderlund of Jaderlund Investments LLC a buyer Wednesday. “I’ve been following them for years and they continue to have
    strong debt coverage — I’m really not worried,’’ said Jaderlund. “I’ve been a buyer of that hospital for years and will continue to be. I’m not concerned and the market doesn’t seem to be either.’’

    Well, I guess, at least for this company, Ebola doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, for now anyways.

    Posted in Ebola, Markets and Trading | 9 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake XV – Deconstructing Metal

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 3rd September 2014 (All posts by )

    As I was growing up in the 80’s I listened to heavy metal music of all types and had a great time doing so. I went to a lot of shows as well and that is part of the reason that my hearing is fading at an early age, I assume. No regrets.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Music, Video | 8 Comments »

    Lori’s Amish Peanut Butter Cookies

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Continuing on the theme of recipes from my grandmother’s recipe box, today we have Lori’s Amish Peanut Butter Cookies.

    I honestly have no idea why these are “Amish” – I guess Lori got the recipe from an Amish woman somewhere along the way.

    First off, the ingredients:

    1.5 cups shortening
    4 tsp vanilla
    2 cups crunchy peanut butter
    2 cups sugar
    5 cups flour
    1 tsp salt
    2 cups brown sugar
    3 tsp baking soda
    2 tsp baking powder
    4 eggs, well beaten

    There were no instructions on this card, so I just began mixing stuff together. I finally used my grandmother’s old standing mixer, pictured below.

    I am guessing it is from the 60’s but don’t really know. It is a heavy beast – that much I do know.

    As you can see from the ingredient list above, this recipe is GIANT. It barely all fit in the mixing bowl, and I needed to use my hands at times to prevent all of the batter from overflowing, but it all worked out in the end.

    The card then said make loose balls with a tablespoon and flatten them with a sugared cup. Bake @350 for 8-10 minutes. I made mine a little larger and ended up with about 85 cookies. Here are most of them.

    These are outstanding and will not last long.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Recipes | 10 Comments »

    Maxine’s Fresh Orange Squares

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 4th August 2014 (All posts by )

    I have mentioned before that my grandmother died a few years ago and one of the best things I received when we were cleaning out her house was a giant box of recipes. In the box are some recipes from her friends as well. Yesterday I tried Maxine’s Fresh Orange Squares and they came out pretty well.

    I bought a giant bag of oranges from Costco last week and frankly, they are pretty bad. I hate wasting, so went to the recipe box to look up a recipe to try to use a few of them.


    1 cup packed brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 cup flour
    2/3 cup finely chopped peeled orange (about 1 large)
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts
    Orange glaze*

    *Orange glaze: Mix 2 tbsp. grated orange peel, 1/3 cup sifted confectioners sugar and 2 tsp water until smooth

    Heat oven to 350. In small mixing bowl, beat sugar and egg on high for 3 minutes. Stir in flour, orange and nuts. Spread in greased 9x9x2 pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. While warm spread with glaze. Cool, cut into 1.5″ squares.

    Здесь можно купить любые HD экшн-камеры: gopro, sony, sjcam, hp

    Below is the finished product:

    The squares were pretty dense. I substituted almonds for the walnuts because that is what I had laying around and it worked fine. The orange glaze is delicious on top. I imagine this would be even better with good oranges.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Recipes | 13 Comments »