Friday, July 03, 2015

The "Amazon-ification" of Retail

A while back I was talking to a friend of mine and he said
A package from Amazon shows up at my doorstep every day of the week
At the time I thought my friend was exaggerating, or perhaps a little bit crazy. But now it has moved to the point where I usually receive 1-2 packages each week from Amazon and now the yellow "minion" boxes abound in my condo.

What happened? I started to realize that with free shipping and the fact that my iPhone is usually nearby, whenever I am "out" of something around the house or need something that is unavailable, I just pick up my phone, type in a description in the App, and buy it immediately. Then I typically forget about whatever it is that I bought until I open up one of the regularly arriving Amazon boxes and go
Oh, that's what I needed
You can buy pretty much everything that isn't immediately perishable on Amazon, except for a few things like liquor. Thankfully I live near an enormous liquor store (but unfortunately not a high end grocery store, River North lacks a Whole Foods or Mariano's) so that's covered.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Another Indiana Business That Is Booming

Independence Day is synonymous with fireworks. It gives me an excuse to blow stuff up and nobody can do anything about it. With two days to prepare it brings back memories.

Today the local news reported how well the fireworks business is in Indiana especially in locations directly adjacent to the Illinois border.

Every summer the Illi-No residents flock across the People's Republic of Illi-No border to buy a little slice of freedom to celebrate what little freedom and independence they still have over there. And each year the Chicago media reports on Illi-No State Police undercover spies hunkering here in Indiana parking lots relaying license plate information to road block partners on the other side where the cars are stopped and searched then passengers arrested after confiscating the illegal booty and then fined. Revenue generation at it's best. I suppose any Illegal Mexicans caught crossing the border back to Illi-No are allowed to go free since Illi-No has declared itself as a "sanctuary state".

We did a lot of dumb things with fireworks as kids such as…

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Optimal Gin and Tonic

Recently I wrote about service sector productivity... and my inability to get a Gin and Tonic the way I wanted.  Tonight I went to The Betty - a bar in Fulton Market - and got a first class gin and tonic!  It was like a build-a-Bear with some sort of bitters (the red eye-dropper), grapefruit (the other eye-dropper), custom tonic water, high class gin, a silver tray, and some sort of advanced stirring spoon.  It was $16 but it was quite a lot of fun.

Perhaps like Kramer I should do a coffee table book about my elusive quest for a correctly made gin and tonic...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Service Sector Productivity

Recently I went on a diet and began ordering specific drinks ordered a specific way - generally gin with a "splash" of tonic (because tonic has carbs and I want to minimize carbs, but need something to cut against the alcohol). This order, however, has become a running joke among my friends because no matter what I order I usually get the same drink every time - which is a "standard" gin and tonic (see below, the wrong order per usual).

Unlike most people who would shrug it off or get angry, to me this is really an economics issue and not just a "bad order". When you work with bars and restaurants and other similar industries, if you do anything "outside the norm" your odds of getting it "right" are often less than 50/50. Which leads us to the title of this post...

Margie's Candies Is Highly Recommended

Recently I was on the "606" Trail and visited one of my favorite spots in Chicago - "Margie's Candies". Margie's makes incredible ice cream sundae's that must be seen to be believed - and they come with an actual silver pitcher of hot fudge that you can pour on the ice cream yourself. Usually I would start with a photo of the restaurant but I wanted to make sure that the "money shot" is above the fold.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Black Flag Art

Recently I was walking past the upscale furniture store Minotti in River North in Chicago when a print immediately caught my eye.

Why did it catch my eye? Because it was the iconic "4 bars" of the Black Flag logo, of course!

I don't know if they paid for rights or not but a blogger right here at LITGM has contacts who can find out. You heard it here first...

On a similar note, I saw an interview with Rob Halford of Judas Priest where he noted that the gap had "borrowed" the iconic front cover of "Screaming for Vengeance" for a t-shirt.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

25 Stories About Work - From College to Work

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Chicago, early 1990's

Today it seems like everyone goes into college after taking many Advanced Placement (AP) courses with a lot of college credits. When I did this in the late 1980's, however, it was much rarer. I was able to cut out an entire semester with credits from high school and with summer school and a heavy course load I was able to graduate with an undergraduate and graduate degree in accounting in four years.

I remember finishing college at the end of May. Back then we didn't have air conditioning in our house nor in the buildings on campus and I remember just sweating so much that my arms stuck to the coursework. In graduate school we had a number of group projects which were harder to schedule back in the day before email and cell phones; we had to pick a time and actually stick to it in order to collaborate. Exams were long and we had to turn in all of our projects and I was kind of exhausted.

Immediately after completion of exams I took the CPA exam. Today the exam is much different and it is commonly taken "in pieces" but back then most people sat down and in two days tried to knock out all four sections at once; you needed a score of "75%" to pass each section and I passed all four the first time, although one of the sections was right on the edge with that "75". The exam was in McCormick place south of the loop and on Friday around 6pm I decided to take side streets (Ashland) up from the south loop to the North Side. That turned out to be a terrible decision; at that time Chicago was extremely dangerous and this was before gentrification of the south and west Loop; there were large groups of people milling about in the street and burning trashcans like that scene out of "Rocky". I got through it but it was something I'd never recommend trying again.

By the middle of June I was starting my first job. The accounting firm tried to get me to start in the fall, when the vast majority of new staff joined, and I asked me why I didn't want to just take the summer off.
"Because I don't have any money" was my answer

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saturday Night Seventies

Puck Dynasty

Ice hockey isn't a sport I participated in as a kid. Oh I strapped on some figure skates, bought a stick and played around at it when the vacant lot across the street flooded and froze over during winter with a few friends but that was about it.

That may explain why it's hard for me to become excited about the sport of hockey. My interest in any sport is because I once played it myself.

Northwoods Notes - 2015

Enough about the northwoods vacation experience. Fishing is what we came to do but it's not the be-all or end-all of our trip. At least that's how we approach it. Fishing isn't for everyone but for those of us who don't worship golf it's a great way to spend leasure time.

There is no such thing as a consistently lucky fisherman. We make our own luck.

As a result, we caughts us some real big-ass fishes this year.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Northwoods Notes - 2015

Some sport fishermen enjoy the activity so much they leave camp at sunrise, arrive back at sunset and beat the hell out of the water in-between. Not us. Sounds too much like work and our fishing trip is a relaxing vacation.

Our fishing day doesn't begin until about 9am after a big breakfast and coffee. The first order of business after that is dragging the gear down to the boat and starting the motors, a trip to the gas dock for refueling and making sure we have enough bait.

We will stay on the water for 3-4 hours before returning to relax for lunch and a beer or three. The break can last 2-3 hours before going out to fish again for another 3-4. We always manage to catch more than our share and have enough time left over for a fish fry…

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Northwoods Notes - 2015

Another June came and went, another Canadian fishing trip has ended. After over 30 years some experiences are expected and surprises will be dealt with accordingly. We have had our share of surprises.

Due to the northern latitude we never know what nature will throw at us when it comes to weather at this time of year so packing more than necessary is necessary. Mechanical breakdowns are the main concern especially on route to the destination. A blown tire or even worse a blown trailer bearing eats into valuable vacation time. We've dealt with those before so carrying extra bearings, grease and tools is a result of lessons learned.

The boat is 25 years old this year. Cleaning it after each use and storing it in the garage keeps it looking like new. The motors run, the trailer has little rust. Yearly maintenance buys peace of mind. While the boat may appear dated there is no reason to trade it in for another. It was paid for long ago. Keeping it updated with the latest equipment is a selective choice.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On the 606 Trail

The "606" trail in Chicago opened recently. It follows an abandoned railroad track that starts in Bucktown / Wicker Park and heads west from there. I am very familiar with this track since I used to live in Bucktown a decade ago and stared at the crumbling bridges that split the neighborhood.

The trail is named after "606" which is the first 3 digits of the zip code in these neighborhoods. I guess that is an OK name but it's kind of an obscure reference. Does anyone even send mail anymore? The park is sometimes compared against the High Line trail in NYC but the High Line is way cooler since it moves through a heavily urban area. But the 606 is a massive upgrade from just a crumbling set of train tracks.