Saturday, February 06, 2016

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Tributosaurus Plays Queen and We Are Twisted F'ing Sister Movie

Tributosaurus is a Chicago based band that selects various musical acts and puts together musicians to play the songs like the records, note for note. This means that if there are guitar overdubs, they bring on 4 or even 5 guitarists so that it can sound exactly like you remember. Recently they played the band Queen at the Copernicus Center near the blue line station in Jefferson Park and the show was fantastic. They played a wide range of songs from their career and even strange ones like "Bicycle Race" and "Stone Cold Crazy" (but no "Dragon Attack"). The crowd skewed older (their songs are almost 40 years old!) and everyone had a great time; the venue is also used for local Polish events so they had many bars set up and it seemed that everyone was in during intermission grabbing a few beers to bring back to their seats. The highlight was when they played "Bohemian Rhapsody" with a 20 person chorus; they played the song once and told the audience not to sing along "because they had worked so hard practicing" and then they played it again with ONLY the audience singing, which was great because everyone was on their feet, almost 2000 people, singing along to that classic song. Highly recommended - catch Tributosaurus any time they are playing a band that you are interested in seeing.

On another random music note, recently I saw the "We are Twisted F'ing Sister" movie with a lot of hipsters in an art house movie theater. It was a great movie! Rather than the debauchery you would expect, it was a thoughtful treatment of how a band that started out covering David Bowie and other similar artists put on a huge live act and turned into the band we know Twisted Sister. Their story of attempting to get a record deal is epic; I love the one agent who helped them who was told that "if he ever mentioned Twisted Sister again he would be fired".

Here's the trailer for the movie.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Not THAT OLD Gun Show Loophole EXCUSE Again...

If this video hasn't gone viral it should at least go bacterial...or microbial...or some other cute new age social media term.

Note at 04:30 when the Crown Point Gun Show excuse nonsense begins.

I report…you regurgitate : )

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The 10 Minute Pizza

Before mastering outstanding pizza dough at home not too long ago I settled for using store bought dough substitutes. Found on store shelves (such as Boboli) and freezer sections there are many offerings for pizza dough. Other substrate options would be english muffins and split sub rolls. Pedestrian as they were they made quick and easy meals. Not bad.

As documented on this very blog I have struggled to perfect every style of pizza imaginable. Chicago Deep Dish, Pan Pizza, St. Louis style, New York Thin Crust and Bar Pizza (very popular in New England and my favorite home pizza). We have mastered them all. How about ultra thin cracker style pizza crust? Here's a new simple and easy solution we recently discovered.

Ditch the cookie sheets, deep dish pans and baking stones. Forget the stand mixer and rising time. For this unusually flavorful and simple pizza we will use a humble cast iron skillet and flour tortillas. This is way too easy and requires hardly any cleanup.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

New Era Drugs and Death

One of the most fascinating shows that I watch is called "Drugs, Inc." on National Geographic, which describes the "business" of drugs from its creation (chemicals) or growth (agriculture), through transportation (to America or Europe) and then to distribution (street level), along with interviews with drug abusers and their families.  I did a blog post about this show here if you are interested.

Unlike television shows with a "narrative arc" of redemption, the business of Drugs, Inc. shows users as ever-insatiable and ever-addicted to the various drugs that are investigated by the show.  Drug dealers are meeting demand that exists and is never questioned; the only risks to the dealer are competition from other cartels / distributors or the police.  The fact that demand will always be there assuming the quality of the product is solid is taken as a given.

When they interview addicts their lives are not glamorous and often are morose and filled with regrets.  The addicts may take an hour to find a place on their body to inject the drug, they steal from their own families, and they live brutal and dangerous lives in order to acquire the cash to make the next fix.  The traditional high school movies that tried to scare you off drugs have nothing on this systematic and pragmatic approach to just watching the destroyed lives of drug users as they live to support their next fix.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saturday Night Horns

River View

We recently went to the Holiday Inn in River North which has a fantastic view south and east along the Chicago River. Lately the view has been changing as new buildings are constructed en masse in this area. This view looks south and you can see the distinctive "V" base at the bottom of the William Blair building being constructed along the river next to the railroad tracks.

This view is looking east along the river with the venerable Merchandise Mart on the north side and a raft of new and improved buildings along the south side of the river.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How Not To Buy One

Background checks are in the news. A National Instant background Check System has been imposed since 1998 to screen criminals from obtaining firearms. Beyond a doubt criminals refuse to obey the laws and will generally take the route of least resistance in order to accomplish their goal. The best example is the straw purchase.

Being in the business of selling firearms and executing background checks places me on front line of defense against a criminals making that straw purchase. It's a role I am proud to take on for a number of reasons. First, I am a law abiding citizen, an advocate of strong law enforcement and harsh punishment for law breakers. Second, I despise criminals. No way in hell would I allow a crook to ever get the best of me in any way.

Successful straw purchases happen because the criminal element is accomplished at it. They know how to appear, how to behave, what to say and what not to say. Some are able to fool the most observant and experienced dealer. Some of them will slip through the system no matter how hard the most observant and experienced retailer tries to detect them. The system isn't perfect and criminals will exploit the weaknesses. I have had a few illegal straw purchases happen in the past and was able to detect them in time.

On the other side some potential legal firearm buyers are oblivious to the rules and regulations regarding the federal background check process. Some with a clean background fail to realize how seriously regulated purchasing a firearm has become. Their words and actions make them vulnerable to rejection even before the background check itself takes place. I once wrote about it here. Below I submit two recent examples I personally experienced. Were they or weren't they? I report, you decide.

Straw 1

The day after Christmas three underage waterfowl hunters (their apparel gave it away) show up with their Dad. They were looking at the far end of the rack behind the desk where shotguns decorated with factory wetland camouflage finishes were located. These are specialized shotguns used by turkey hunters and water fowl enthusiasts.

Dad admitted to me he was not a firearms owner, never used a gun and does not hunt but was interested in buying a new shotgun for his son the avid waterfowl hunter. I asked the father for his photo I.D. Store policy is to ask each customer for I.D before they are allowed to inspect a firearm. Dad complied.

One young man asked me since the price included two barrels and three choke tubes could he examine
them all. I took a moment to explain the legal realities to all four men. Yes, a father is within his legal rights to purchase a shotgun and give it to his son. Dad was allowed to take the shotgun from my hands. I am not permitted to directly hand any firearm to an underage individual but dad could allow his son to examine it after I had manually and visually cleared the magazine and chamber to be void of ammunition before handing it over directly to Dad.

After locking the shotgun back into the display rack behind the desk I proceeded to retrieve the original container from the vault so they could examine the extra barrel and choke tubes. After a few nods between father and son Dad decided to make the purchase. Store rules are to keep all containers in the vault at all times so I left the sales area for a moment once again. When I returned the transfer went south.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fulton Market District

Recently I was out in the city's new hot spot, the Fulton Market District.  Hard to miss.

It is the home of a lot of new and hot companies including Google.  This is a "We Work" facility, where you can rent a desk or a few desks and co-work with other companies.

There are a lot of hot eateries in the area. This sign is from "Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken" which just opened up in the area and seems to be always swamped with patrons.  Good if you like spicy fried chicken.

Gridlock in Winter

I don't know exactly what is going on but traffic in Chicago today was complete gridlock downtown even at 7pm.  It was difficult to even WALK through the blocked intersections.  Perhaps it was a lack of faith in public transportation because it is very cold with a below-zero windchill since problems have occurred in prior years.  In any case it was a mess.  Waiting for the recession to come and thin it out...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bye Bye David Bowie

A lot of people will talk about Bowie and their favorite songs. While I have a lot of them - this is my favorite - off the album "Station to Station" - called "Stay". I love the guitar, even though this is a newer version (without genius Mick Ronson), but the sound quality is better.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Saturday Night Horns

Blackberry's Fall... and Apple Watch Part II

As I watched the movie "the Big Short" (which I highly recommend) one item I noted was the ubiquitous nature of the Blackberry. Everyone on Wall Street lived on their Blackberry, and much of the action took place via a Blackberry (phone conversations, updates via email, watching stock prices remotely, etc...). A book was written called "Losing the Signal" that covers the rise and fall of Blackberry.

While I haven't read the book I am intimately familiar with Blackberry, having owned one for many years and waking every morning to see the blinking red light which indicated that I had new emails outstanding. I had an early version with the combined numeric / letter keyboard, which meant you had to hit the button multiple times (with delays) to type a "C" for instance. Like everyone else I was soon able to type at a rapid clip in this insane method and it seemed like an enormous relief when this was replaced by a "full" keyboard.

Blackberry also was a pioneer in instant messaging, another technology whose power I underestimated when I initially encountered it. A co-worker tried to connect to me by messenger and I just didn't see the use - why not just send an email? Of course nowadays it is completely obvious why messages are useful and email is mainly "just for work" and overtaken by reams of spam. And initially when texts were expensive (remember when your phone plan limited the number of texts?) this enabled text messaging that was essentially "free" (if you owned a phone already). But when you watch the complete and utter fall of Blackberry it must be remembered that not only did they invent and perfect the phone / email hybrid but they also had a head start on messaging, another multi-billion dollar technology.

My Blackberry was more reliable than my iPhone - I received email quickly and with more certainty, especially when compared with the wonky iPhone connections to outlook. However, with the lack of an "App Store" and no touch screen, the Blackberry was doomed by both iOS and Android. Reliability and a keyboard lost to an open system, a touch screen, and a seemingly infinite number of apps from third party programmers. You could look to a Blackberry as a lesson for Apple and their iPhone dominance, but Apple does a lot of things well that Blackberry never did, such as let vast numbers of third parties program for their platform, and continually evolve their platform with new tactile features (touch, GPS, etc...).

It is possible that if the fall of Blackberry occurred later, that their security features could have provided some "breathing room" since Android and iOS both fell short of Blackberry on those features and levels. Today Android and iOS are heavily engaged in security and this differentiator of Blackberry isn't enough to resurrect demand for the device.

Apple Watch

I recently bought an Apple Watch and wrote a review here. I am still wearing the watch and one benefit I noted that I hadn't fully anticipated is that having the watch on your wrist lets you be aware of phone calls and catch some critical calls that you might otherwise have missed. If your phone is in your jacket or bag, for instance, you probably won't go rummage through and pick it up if you are more than a few feet away (either you won't hear it or you will let it go to voice mail). However, since the Apple Watch is on your wrist, it is easy to see who is calling you and you can choose whether or not to pick up and do a "Dick Tracy" and talk into your wrist (that analogy will likely be lost on younger readers). While the sound quality isn't great in a crowded or loud facility, it is certainly adequate enough if the call is important, and this is great if for instance someone is "locked out" or there is some sort of emergency. I was recently at a gym with my phone in my jacket pretty far away but I was able to get a call and take it on my wrist and immediately respond when it would have been another half hour or more otherwise.

Most people don't use their phones for calling much anymore and thus calls are now the exception and not the norm, and people are more familiar with the "interrupt" type of communication (messaging / email) than the "continuous" type of communication (calling and interacting with another human). However, in case of a delivery from a third party, an emergency, or some other type of time sensitive communication, being able to interact through your wrist is a useful feature. This isn't a "killer app" for the Apple Watch but is a subtle and important benefit that could be very useful for some people.

One "complaint" I hear a lot is that the next generation watch will be more useful because it will be able to do more (connect wirelessly) without being "paired" to your phone. Frankly, this reflects a misunderstanding of the watch and what it can and cannot do well. In general, the watch is only useful for tasks or items that take a few seconds (a glance or a couple of taps) and for notifying you that something has occurred (such as receiving a text message or key email, or a notification of sports scores, etc...). Anything that you are doing on your watch that takes more than a couple taps SHOULD BE DONE ON YOUR PHONE. The Apple Watch (or any wrist computer) makes a very poor substitute for your phone and should be viewed as a complementary device, not a replacement. Thus anyone who thinks that the lack of independence from your phone is kind of missing the point - this could be a benefit in some situations, but isn't a game changer given the very limited screen real estate on your wrist in the first place.

I am getting my money's worth at $299 and it is nice that the watch doesn't cost anything per month. I probably will get a later generation watch when it has longer battery life and then pass this one on to a family member who will like free electronic gadgets. I don't think it is worth too much more than this, however.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Monday, January 04, 2016

Bears Flyover

There hasn't been too much to cheer about this year with the Bears except that the weather for most of the home games has been nice. For one of the games we ended up driving up right before the game from the south and I got a couple photos of the planes for the flyover as they came overhead.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Great Song and Video

This is a great song and bananas video from the metal (?) band Clutch.  I saw these guys with Dan at Riot Fest a couple years ago but didn't fully appreciate them at the time.  Now with Apple Music I am going back through all their old albums.