Saturday, November 21, 2015

When It Took Guts To Live Your Music

Some nights when I have time to kill I just put on a recorded music video show from MTV2 or Palladia and fast forward until I see something that looks interesting. I stopped briefly on a new band out of the UK that looked like half glam / half punk just long enough to get a screen shot... I'm don't even care enough to spend ten seconds looking on the internet to figure out their name.

What I really thought about was that once it took guts and rage to look different from everyone else and music / lifestyle / looks were one in the same, not just an act that you put on like makeup. If you want to read about that in action, try "Get in the Van" by Henry Rollins, the iconic lead singer of the seminal Southern California punk band "Black Flag".

Growing up we listened to Black Flag all the time, especially the iconic "Damaged" album. I was too young (and too chicken) to go see them in concert, but reading "Get in the Van" book really brought home all the violence and flat-out deprivation that it took to live that lifestyle, with Rollins completing a set after being punched and kicked and often drenched in spit. We also forget that Rollins was one of the first individuals to get interesting tattoos in addition to his hairstyle and overall look, which constantly got him in fights everywhere he went. If you want to read about a real and dedicated artist, not some band that was prefabricated for TV and the internet, just read anything Rollins writes but start with "Get in the Van".

Reading the book prompted me to get back in the spirit and listen to my favorite Black Flag albums. However, they've been lost from vinyl to cassettes to CD's and I'm pretty much done with physical media anymore. So I just signed up for Apple Music and there they all are - the whole catalog. Kind of ironic to listen to music that was made and played with fire in such a bloodless manner as through my iPad and bluetooth speaker...

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Lighting the LED Way

Recently I posted on the fact that they don't stock old-school light bulbs in stores anymore and wanted me to replace my track lighting with LED bulbs, which would not have been right for my situation (because I won't be here long enough to earn a return on the electricity savings and want my living room to have soft lighting). It also turns out that those bulbs I bought on the internet say "not for use in the USA" which makes me an EPA rebel.

But that doesn't mean I am a total luddite. While I was laid up back in April after some minor surgery I had some time to kill and I bought an LED package from Hue which contained three cool bulbs and a home hub that connected to my router. I use two of these bulbs in traditional lamps in my office and the third one I have fun with in my dining room by turning it alien colors like green or purple in an older "globe" lamp I had that was left over.

I highly recommend buying one of these systems. You can use these lights as "regular" lights and put them on dimmers but you also can control them from your phone or tablet via an app and set up different sorts of colors and combinations. If you want to pay a bit more for apps you can even synch them up to your music or have them change colors like a disco (I am standing by the old school color model for now).

They have cheaper bulbs that are "white only" if you don't want to pay $200 for the three bulbs and hub. Buy one and have fun with it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Holiday Spirit Peaks Early

Growing older hardens most folks. Like me. Finding reasons to get excited about wintry seasonal milestones becomes more difficult. Holiday Humbug? Not this year, not for me. Here are two two examples.

Example One

Red and green make the holidays festive. Saving green brightens any day where I come from.

Well lookie right here. $1.85 for a gallon of gasoline?

Filled my truck up this morning and had enough change left over for a Strawberry Slushee, a bag of Jack Link Beef Jalepeno BeefJerky and a few bags of peanuts too! Maybe we will see $1.50 per gallon by the end of December.

And to think I ordered a full size pickup truck with the 3.5 liter economy engine currently averaging 22 mpg. Knowing this I should have upgraded to the gas-guzzling power rich 5.0 litre V-8. Why? Because I am an ugly carbon spewing, earth destroying, speed loving American white male of privilege. Got problem with that?

Example Two.

What warms the heart of any 2A supporter more than three gift boxes within a gift box wrap of the ever rare .22 LR ammunition? Glory be, give the gift of ammo! 300 rounds total. Don't shoot y'er eye out kid!

Not only is the gift box designed in traditional holiday style and color it says tight on there label, "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year", not Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays or "Happy Festivus". Who knows, next year maybe they will consider adding a Nativity Scene.

It gives me comfort to see such un-pc statements on a modern day gift package. Let's say I have been bitten with the holiday spirit.

Anyone who is offended by this can kiss my mistletoe.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Light Bulbs and Economics

The absurdity of the new light bulbs has been a meme in popular culture for a while so I am not mining new ground here. However, recently one of our track lighting bulbs failed which caused our dimmer to burn out and it has been ten years so we decided to consider replacing all the bulbs. I headed over to my local Ace hardware store and could not find any non LED bulbs that fit my (standard) 750 W floodlight.

We have 9 of these to replace so I bought a couple of the LED bulbs at $35 / each and brought them home. The LED bulbs had less lumens (about 700) than the prior bulbs. Per the guy at the hardware store the chains like Ace and Home Depot aren't stocking the old bulbs anymore, likely for "environmental" reasons.

We decided to look it up on the internet and we could buy 6 of the older bulbs for about $45. Thus we could get 9 bulbs for the price of about 2 of the LED bulbs, and the older bulbs are brighter and look better.

I looked on the internet and there are a lot of "calculators" out there that show how long it takes to pay off moving to an LED bulb. They said LED bulbs last for 30,000+ hours while my bulbs were supposed to have a 1000 hour life. This didn't make any sense because we've had the bulbs for 10 years and use them all every day for likely 8+ hours and none of them have failed until just recently. By my math they lasted for tens of thousands of hours (at least 20,000+). In addition, our electricity bill is very small - under $40 / month... and I'm sure our refrigerator and other appliances and television consume a large portion of that usage. Those calculators are insane because I don't see the bulbs paying off even over five years and many of the analytics would show them paying off much more rapidly.

These calculators also don't take into account the fact that the LED bulbs make your house look terrible and harsh compared to the traditional lighting.

Not to beat a dead horse but I'm glad I can at least still find these bulbs on the internet and I'd recommend that you too look them up before heading over to a big chain store that is choosing not to stock them anymore.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Chains 2015

It has been a long time since I have done a post on the Chains and it is probably time for a refresh.  I used to do one every year.  It is still as maddening to me as ever when the two guys with sticks and a hunk of chain come across the field in a football game to measure ten yards.  There aren't too many technologies from the 20s that you can name that are still in use today in major sports that haven't evolved in some fashion.

The NFL is an innovator in a lot of ways.  This country is completely football mad and it is due to things like the NFL Redzone, mobile apps, the NFL Network, and other media plays that keep the news front and center 24/7/365.  Want stats?  They got 'em.  Trade info?  You can find it anywhere.  And on and on.

The game has evolved over a century with many rule changes to keep progressing with the times.  Things like the play clock and forward pass completely changed the way that the game was played.  However, some things are stuck in the mud, and there really doesn't appear to be any good reason for it.  The Chains are obviously one thing that is still around from the OLD days.  However, the whole system of spotting the football where the player is "down" is completely random and arbitrary.  I have been over it before, but I think it would behoove us for me to go over what a standard set of downs looks like again before we begin discussing where the Chains come in during the process.

First, there is a kickoff and a guy runs up the field and is gang tackled by 4 guys.  A linesman 15 yards away who is standing on the sidelines (typically not at a right angle from the player) runs over and spots the ball down "here".  On first down the running back slides out of bounds - again, a linesman (not at a right angle from the out of bounds action) puts the ball down "here".  On second down there is a run up the middle and the runner is buried by 7 guys.  The umpire standing in the middle of the field (inexplicably) is not allowed to put the ball down, but a linesman on the sidelines moves in a few yards, puts his foot down and says the ball is "here". 

Before we get to third down, I need to note what is easily the most infuriating play in all of football - even worse than the chains.  When a team is on the 1 yard line and there is a run up the middle into a huge mass of men, the umpire who is STANDING RIGHT THERE is apparently unqualified to put his two arms up in the air and signal touchdown or not.  We have to wait for the linesman who is literally 25 yards away standing on the sidelines to run into the pile (which has shifted for about 5 seconds now) and FINALLY tell us what is going on.

Now on third down there is an incomplete pass so the linesmen get a rest (note - if you watch carefully you will see during a game even on an incomplete pass the spot of the football will shift).  On fourth down there is a punt but the punter skies it over sidelines.  The linesman marches up the sidelines and says the ball is out "here".  So you have had at least four random events in a standard series of downs, and all of this inaccuracy sometimes gets measured by two sticks and ten yards of chain.  And don't forget that the chains are placed down on the sidelines where a guy EYEBALLS where they should be in the first place.  Incredible. 

The question I keep asking is why are we doing it this way?  Solutions have been proposed many times in the past.

While that is probably a question that is unanswerable, maddening and baffling all at the same time, we can take a look at history for some Chains nostalgia, and one guy on the field who is part of the chain gang and who you may not even know exists.  More on him in a bit.

First, my all time favorite Chains play since I was actually watching it live and laughed my ass off.  I am sure this game was fixed.  Michigan pulls a fake punt on South Carolina in the 2013 Outback Bowl and the guys is down about a yard from where he is actually marked.  As if that isn't bad enough, they measure, Michigan is short, and the ref  STILL gives them the first down and Steve Spurrier (correctly) blows a gasket.

So where did the chains come from?  Per this article:

“To assist in measuring the progress of the ball it is desirable to provide two light poles about six feet in length, connected at their lower ends with a stout cord or chain 10 yards in length,” read Spalding’s Official Foot Ball Guide in 1907.
Yep, 1907.  They honestly haven't changed much since then.

It is difficult to find footage of Chain Gangs from the past since they weren't typically on the sidelines.  I am honestly not sure how it all worked back then.  Here is an interesting bit of footage from the Harvard Yale football game from 1927.  You can see how the refs really inserted themselves into the action and were immediately able to spot the ball when a carrier was down.  Also, if you freeze it at 41 seconds, look how close the linesman is to the players.

You sharpies out there probably noticed that there are no hashmarks on the field.

Here is Oregon vs. UCLA from 1928.  This clip doesn't have anything particularly remarkable in it (as far as the chains are concerned) but while I was searching for items for this post I was pleasantly surprised to see at 1.28 the UCLA Bruins pep squad actually has a real BEAR on the field (holy sh1t awesome!).  Those were the days.

But back to the chains.  Here is some action between the Chicago Cardinals and Chicago Bears from Comiskey Park in 1929.  I can't really see any measuring devices of any kind on the sidelines, but at 1.50 you can see a guy crouching on the sidelines with what looks to be a stick of some sort.  This may be my first sighting of what are supposed to be the Chains.

Turns out I was right.  They used to crouch, and the sticks used to be shorter, about 3 feet tall from what I can tell.  Look at this footage from Duke vs. North Carolina from 1941.  First off, you gotta see the kickoff at .39 - they try the old "dipsy doo" on the runback with, shall we say, unsatisfactory results haha.  But at .51 you can see a guy crouching on the sidelines with a stick.  At .59 it is confirmed.  You can see the second guy crouching with a stick ten yards downfield.

Now that I know what I am looking for, it is likely that I can probably find older footage of guys crouching on the sidelines.  Some of the old footage I looked at only had one guy so maybe they "staked" the one end while the other end was tended by a guy, making it a one man (chain) gang.  So to say.  My research continues.

But what about that one guy who I mentioned earlier in the post that is part of the chain gang, that you probably have never heard of? 

He is so obscure, I couldn't even find a picture of him.  If you look closely at the next game you watch, you will see a guy who is the "drive starter marker" for lack of a better term.  He holds a stick and stands where the drive starts until the next drive begins, when he walks down there and plants his stick again, and remains until that drive is over.  I have no idea why we really need this guy (can't someone mark down where the drive starts for the stat guys?  Computers?) but he is there.

My misery every football season continues all because of two guys holding sticks with a g0ddamned ten yard length of chain in between them.  Every time they bring on the Chains, part of me dies.  Just ask Carl - he sees my anguish up in the cheap seats at Soldier Field.

See you next year.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

A Favorite Annual Event

Injun Summer is happening now. Addled white leftist types hate that term.

So how about "Native American Post Equinox Weather Phenomenon"?

For years The Chicago Tribune published this John T. McCutcheon illustration annually. It was part of Americana, tradition and as apple pie as anything Norman Rockwell painted. I have published it here before skipping a year or two. Just hanging on to the past I guess.

Injun Summer always takes me back to my childhood. It was then that this illustration captivated me. I wanted to draw like that. Just looking at it I can smell the leaves burning in the acrid, decaying autumn evening air. After school we played football in a nearby field with that same sky in the background, that same smell in the air and the early evening darkness eventually chasing us home for dinner.

By definition Injun Summer is the first warm spell following the first frost. The frost came and went last week surrendering to a warm trend this week with temperatures in the 70's.

In honor of Injun Summers past, I will go out at sunset tonight and burn some leaves.

The text for that illustration also written by John T. McCutcheon follows….

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

FanDuel Won't Leave Me Alone

As you may know, I cleared out my FanDuel account of the funds after losing $21 last year, but left it active.  Seeing an empty account there, FanDuel gave me a free dollar twice and two "free rolls".  I lost every time.  I always play 50/50 games, where half the teams win and half lose.

Last week FanDuel gave me $2 to play and I won - finally. 

Along the way they have been giving me my 4% bonus, so you are looking at a guy with $4.08 in his FanDuel bank account as we speak.

But wait!  There's more!

I forgot that I had accrued my FanDuel points.  So this week, I have done the following:

Played a $2 football game
Played a $2 hoops game (which I know absolutely nothing about) for free

The free hoops game is because I was able to use my FanDuel points for that entry.

If I lose both, I will have $2 and change left in my account to likely lose next week.

Obviously I am hanging on with this because I like the technology and eventually I am hoping to get invited to the inevitable class action lawsuits so I can view the legal strategies when this whole thing is proven to be a giant scam.

In some of these leagues there are literally tens of thousands of players - there is no way you could keep track of them all.  It would be super easy to let the games play out and later in the day set up a new entry from the inside and win.  How would anyone know?

Add this thought to the fact that some employees were using inside information to profit, plus the feds getting into the action now and I think the end will be nigh.

But I am still entertained.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Zebra Lounge

The Zebra Lounge is a little piano bar in the lobby of an apartment building near The Rush Street bars.  We had a fun Saturday night and he played some great requests including "Song for the Dumped" by the Ben Folds Five.  Highly recommended!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fan Duel Billboards

Dan's the expert on these sports betting fantasy sites but not only are they everywhere on TV, now they have ubiquitous billboards too, including right in River North. Oh well, I guess it is better than that v*agra commercial we see literally every 15 minutes with the woman in the football jersey waiting for her man to come home...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cubs Mets Series

I watched most of the Cubs-Mets series with great interest.  I have a few thoughts on it.

In general, post season baseball is regular baseball on crack.  So many substitutions.  So many pitching changes.  I much prefer the regular season, with the easy flow of the game, pitchers forced to work their way out of tough situations, warm weather, and all the rest.  The fans are different too.  Playoff baseball fans are obnoxious.  In playoff baseball, something simple like a single gets a deafening roar from the crowd, when during the regular season on a pleasant summer day the fans would simply stop their conversations for a second, give a few claps and get back to sipping beer or eating a hot dog.

The Cubs were completely outclassed in this series.  They remind me of a softball team.  Swing hard in case you hit it, as Hawk Harrelson says.  The Mets on the other hand combine strong pitching with an acute focus on the fundamentals of the game.

I was continually impressed how the Mets kept constant pressure on the Cubs and if there was just one slight error, the Mets would immediately penalize the Cubs.  A split second costs you a base.  An error costs you a run.  All of this adds up quickly.  In one game I counted five bases that the Cubs gave up either from incompetence or due to errors forced by the aggressive play of the Mets.  The Mets are a baseball team.  The Cubs are a bunch of hitters placed in a lineup.  The Mets throw leather.  The Cubs make errors and take awful chances in the field.  It was clear from the first game who was going to win the series.

And that pleases me greatly.  I used to be a White Sox fan from when I was a kid, but abandoned the team after the White Flag Trade.  Not being able to cheer for the Cubs the next closest team was the Brewers, who have been my team since.  I know.

TBS had interesting announcers.  I can do without the play by play guy (can't remember who it was and too lazy to look it up) but Ron Darling and Cal Ripken Jr. provided very insightful color commentary.

It was great watching the Mets take the Cubs to skool.  Maybe the young Cubs will learn something - maybe not.  All I know is that all of my Cub friends know...wait 'till next year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bears Deafen Fans, Crowd Quiet

Dan and I attended the last Bears' home game against the Chiefs and for a variety of reasons, we were stone sober. Mostly because we had listened to the Rolling Stones with our good friend and Author of America 3.0 the night before. It was a beautiful day.

Being sober, we were continually annoyed by the super-loud announcements and music from the Bears PA system. It was frankly deafening. The crowd, by contrast, was totally dead. This was the complete opposite of Seattle that I visited as an "away" fan a couple of weeks prior, which was crazy loud but it was all crowd noise and occurred throughout the game. We complained a few times through the texting system to no avail.

I bought this sound meter and will take it to the next Bears' game and we can document how loud it is up in the cheap seats. Here is a simple list of common tasks / situations and how they link to decibels. My guess is that it will routinely go above 100 decibels in the cheap seats. We will see next time there is a home game (unless the confisticate it on the way into the stadium). I will tell them that it is an asthma inhaler or something ha ha.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Go METS!!!

Being a lifelong White Sox fan following the Chicago Cubs was something I tried. For a short time. And failed. Their fans would not allow me to be a fan of both.

For decades working in downtown high rise office spaces we Sox fans were in a minority. We were often ridiculed, punished and even shunned for it. Why? As if what was going on on the north side was something to be proud of? Well, they had bars across the street from the stadium, rooftops and a charismatic blabbering drunk posing as an announcer and ringleader suffering from dementia in Harry Carey. And. And. Oh yeah, they wore the "Lovable Losers" tag proudly.

Similar to the Jedi mind trick used by democrat politicians, the local media have Cub fans believing they had something very special. Celebrities would show up at games to be worshiped and generate publicity many of whom were't real fans anyway.

My only respect that franchise has is smart marketing. Filling a stadium with mouth breathers worshiping a terminal losing effort isn't an easy feat.

Why can't I be a fan of both Chicago MLB teams? I would rather piss into Buckingham fountain at noon on the 4th of July than wish the Cubs any success. It's not anything against the owners, players, coaches or the guys who roll out the tarp. It's the fans. More obnoxious than Packer fans they are.

Into the post season they go and what I knew would happen is happening. The local media is slobbering. Every news story has a Cubbie angle. The only reason I watch Chicago news is for the weather.

For the next week or so I will swear off watching or listening or reading any Chicago based news. If they pull this one off and win the whole thing the rest of the year will be unbearable.

(written 10-17-15 scheduled for publishment 10-18-15)

Crescendo of Doom (Beer)

I was walking through my local Binny's emporium when I spotted something that stopped me in my tracks... a beer called "Crescendo of Doom" which of course is a reference to the Squad Leader expansion pack for the British and French circa 1939-1942

Something like this of course halts me in my tracks. How often do you see a Char B1, the famous French heavy tank with a 75mm howitzer in the body of the tank and a 47mm gun in turret, on a beer can? Never! And the grim looking French and English soldiers in early war uniforms, to boot.

Just thinking of Squad Leader brings back memories. That game system changed the world of gaming and spawned multiple expansion packs including Cross of Iron (the Russian front), GI Anvil of Victory (the USA and Britain), and Hollow Legions (the minor Axis allies). Back in 2008 I did a post where we bought an old Squad Leader (original game) version online and set it up and had some fun. I haven't gone back to it since, sadly.

My recommendation to anyone is that when you see a beer can with a French tank circa 1940 and a reference to Squad Leader expansion games is "BUY IT NOW"!