Monday, February 26, 2007

Late Homework

I crunched these numbers last October, but I never bothered to blog them. I had my memory jogged by this Charlie Sykes podcast on the consequences of the Wisconsin Supreme Court race on the business climate in the state. I believe this information is still relevant and is still disturbing.

In June 2006, Sykes wrote about business expansion data published by Site Selection magazine comparing business expansions in Wisconsin with four neighboring states.

Last year, there were 55 announcements of new manufacturing plants in Illinois; there were 72 in Michigan, 35 in Minnesota, and 34 in Iowa.

In Wisconsin, there was a grand total of five.

According to a report for Competitive Wisconsin released last month, Wisconsin lagged behind the rest of the Midwest across the board.

In 2005, there were 75 announcements by companies that they were expanding their manufacturing operations in Illinois; 180 expansions announced in Michigan, 36 in Minnesota, and 64 in Iowa.

In Wisconsin? Six.

It actually gets worse. When announcements of other business investments and expansions are also included, Illinois saw 510 announcements of business expansion; Michigan 505; Minnesota 176, Iowa 135, and Wisconsin…a mere 15.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The answer is that more is wrong than Sykes thinks.

The raw data from Site Selection fails to tell the whole story. To do that, the data needs to be normalized by population to better compare the performance of large states like Illinois, with smaller states such as Iowa; and the 2005 numbers needs to be separated from 2003 & 2004. The results look like this.

When the data is processed, it shows that Wisconsin lagged it's neighboring states in business announcements in 2003 and 2004, with only about half the number of the four state average and about two-thirds of the next worst state.

But in 2005, the wheels fell off for Wisconsin business. While the neighboring states showed modest growth for both the average, plus 6%, and worst case, plus 9%; Wisconsin had a 90% reduction of business announcements. Wisconsin went from 56% of the four state growth average to 6% of that average in just one year.

What changed? We are much the same tax hell and have the same regulatory and environmental disincentives for business expansions as before. The difference is the Wisconsin Supreme Court's rulings lifting liability limits and lowering the bar to prove liability.

In siting a new or expanding business, the risks and consequences of being sued apparently do matter.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Anna Nicole Post

The most amazing thing I took away from the A. N. Smith probate trial is that this man ...

... found a way to give this man ...

... a worse name.

I did not think that could be possible.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Hero

I'm willing to bet that
this gentleman is a retired Marine.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- An American tourist who watched as a U.S. military veteran in his 70s used his bare hands to kill an armed assailant in Costa Rica said she thought the attempted robbery was a joke - until the masked attacker held a gun to her head.

"I thought it was a skit. But then he pointed the gun at my head and grabbed me by the throat and I thought I was going to die," Clova Adams, 54, told The Associated Press by telephone Friday from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship.

Adams was with 12 American tourists who hired a driver to explore Costa Rica for a few hours. They were climbing out of the van to visit a Caribbean beach when three men wearing ski masks ran toward them, she said. One held a gun to her head, while the other two pulled out knives.

Suddenly, one of the tourists, a U.S. military veteran trained in self defense, jumped out of the van and put the gunman in a headlock, according to Limon police chief Luis Hernandez.

Hernandez said the American, whom he refused to identify, struggled with the robber, breaking his collarbone and eventually killing him. Police identified the dead man as Warner Segura, 20. The other two assailants fled.

This guy defines stones. Hoorah.
TC Self Check Time

Gentlemen, I don't intend to be a pest, but if you believe that you are too old to develop testicular cancer, you are wrong.

Although the disease is the most common cancer in men between 15 and 35, the risk continues past age 35. In fact, the more virile a man is, the higher his risk at older ages (at least that is my conclusion based on anecdotal evidence).

Perform a self-check monthly for life.

How to Do a Testicular Self Examination

The Testicular Cancer Resource Center
The Science of Global Warming is Settled Fact.

It is due time for Al Gore and all other science ignoramuses to shut up. Science is not settled by popularity and politics. Today I see another example.

Just as science book publishers are rewriting texts to say that there are eight planets instead of nine, they may have another edit to contend with - this time about the first inhabitants of the New World.

Since the 1960s, archaeologists have argued that the Americas were populated by one group of hunters that crossed a land bridge connecting Siberia to Alaska 11,500 years ago. The descendants of this population then moved throughout the hemisphere, taking up residence across North and South America.

But research published in this week's issue of the journal Science casts doubt on that scenario, supporting the long-standing arguments of David Overstreet, an archaeologist at Marquette University and the College of Menominee Nation, and Daniel Joyce of the Kenosha Public Museum.

For decades, these two scientists have shouted from the fringes of academia that the Clovis First theory was flawed. They pointed to sites across Wisconsin - Schaefer, Hebior and Fabry Creek - that showed that people were here before Clovis.

Each of these examples was settled fact for decades. No theory or computer model for global warming can even be validated when compared to the historical weather record.

The science of climate change is not settled.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The search for barbecue nirvana

I judged my first barbecue competition on Sunday, a non-sanctioned event at the River Rand Bowling Center in Des Plaines, Illinois.

I have a two reasons that persuaded me to become a Certified Barbecue Judge. First, I am generally disappointed with the quality of barbecue available from restaurants and want to try better offerings. Second, I want to taste first hand (first tongue?) how the barbecue I produce on Salivator Senior compares to competition quality barbecue.

The Winter Burn Off Barbecue Contest is in it's second year. They had six teams in 2006 and 18 this year. In order to avoid frostbite, the meats are limited to those that can be prepared in one morning - sausage, chicken, and ribs. A Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned contest includes four meats, two of which take overnight cooking - pork and beef brisket - along with the chicken and pork ribs.

Above are the six sausage samples that I judged. I found out something right away. The level of seasoning and spiciness that I prefer in barbecue does not win barbecue contests in the Upper Midwest. My choices of favorites for each category were 180 degrees off from the consensus of the other five judges at my table. One of the judges was also a competitor and said that he has to tone down his seasonings in order to place well in contests. The idea is to offend as few judges as possible.

The good news for me is that a barbecue contest is a "meat" contest. Not a contest for the best sauce or other seasonings. On that score the entries were excellent. Wonderful smoked flavor and good cuts of meat presented well. The ribs in particular were almost all cooked perfectly. With the right amount of smoke, they were moist and not overcooked.

Judges also get to keep their leftovers. Ziplock bags work great for this, my 17 year old son was the beneficiary of chicken and ribs, but not much sausage.

Another brush with greatness

Present at the Burn Off, but not competing, was the reigning Jack Daniels World Barbecue Champion, Scottie Johnson of the Cancer Sucks Chicago team. Scottie was kind enough to stop for a photo. That's his traveling trophy from The Jack under his arm. I'm not sure that he ever puts it down.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

UPDATED & BUMPED: No cooking this weekend

I'll be kept busy judging a barbecue contest this Sunday.

STOP THE PRESSES. Baked Potato Soup is on the menu tonight.

Homemade bacon being fried for topping the soup.

The finished product.

Drat, there will be no leftovers.
A visit to my Oncologist

I had follow-up appointment with my Oncologist yesterday. It is now almost three years since the diagnosis of my testicular cancer. The results of my CT scan and tumor marker tests were all satisfactory. Blood work and follow-up appointments are now pushed out to every six months. CT scans will be once a year. Smile with me.

My Oncologist came close to saying the other C-word (cured), but there is still time for caution. I hesitate to say that word, too. Knock on wood.

Live Strong.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

No explanation needed.

From: Proflowers Customer Care
RE: Thank you for your ProFlowers order
Sent: Wed 2/14/2007 4:13 PM

Thank you for contacting us in regards to your order. Upon researching your order, I have determined that it encountered a rare system error, which prevented the grower from receiving the necessary information that would have initiated the fulfillment process. We deeply apologize for this inconvenience.

As we have worked hard to build our reputation on exceptional quality and because we are honored that you chose to send your gift from ProFlowers, we are eager to reschedule the delivery of your order courtesy of the team at ProFlowers. Additionally, we would be more than happy to call your recipient with our apologies and an explanation for the delay. Please let us know if you would like us to do this.

In order to reschedule a delivery of your gift, we will need the following information:

1. Which flower arrangement you would like (of equal value to the original item),

2. Your preferred date of delivery (Tuesday-Friday, excluding holidays).

3. The recipient's name and complete address, including daytime telephone number,

4. A card message (if desired).

Once again, please accept our heartfelt apology concerning this order. You are important to us and we look forward to your reply. We greatly appreciate both your trust and business and hope you consider giving ProFlowers another opportunity to fulfill your future floral giving needs.

Best Regards,

Customer Care
The Art of Fresher Flowers

I need more than to make up for this fiasco.
Is there a

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Re: Hello McFly? Anybody home? Huh?
Think, McFly. Think!

I have given some more thought to the proposed Pewaukee baseball stadium.

I wasn't too thrilled when I learned that the 60 acres of corn and soybeans across from my home would be replaced with a city park featuring a huge soccer complex. The increase in traffic and noise could be substantial. But Pewaukee is making an effort to minimize the impact on nearby properties and I can rationalize the park's use for taxpaying citizens and their children. Simply put, it is for the overall public good.

I see no similar rationale for the community's interest with this baseball stadium. It is privately run and built for the benefit of a few exceptional college ballplayers from throughout the nation and their corporate handlers. Very few Pewaukee residents will know or care that it is here, or ever visit the ballpark. In addition, since the soccer fields are to be located in a remote area of the park, the stadium would have to be located in the front yards of several taxpayers.

The MJS story also mentions using 6 acres for the stadium. It does not say how much more acreage is needed for parking. With 1250 seats, at least 500 parking spaces are needed - imagine the parking lot at a very large high school. Stadium lights, crowd noise, tailgate parties, traffic and litter all near the flood plain of Spring Creek and right outside my bedroom window. I don't think that is a good idea.

story also says that the promoter is "looking for a private-public partnership with the city." Are these code words for city owned - privately controlled and operated? I think it means no property taxes on this stadium and Pewaukee residents can forget about ever using the ballpark.

If the City of Pewaukee is giving away land, I should ask for some acreage for my Short-Game Golf Center business plan. At least a large part of the population has an interest in golf and participates regularly. Who do you know that follows minor league baseball? Especially when there is a major league franchise within 15 miles of the bush-leaguers.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hello McFly? Anybody home? Huh?
Think, McFly. Think!

Some minor league baseball promoter is peddling his idea for my neighborhood.
Pewaukee looks at baseball plan
Group wants to build stadium

Chad Bauer, Lake Country Baseball Group president, said he is looking for a private-public partnership with the city. He wants the city to approve using about 6 acres of city park land for the stadium, which would be built by private investors.
Hey Chad, Pewaukee is within 20 minutes of Miller Park. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. MILWAUKEE BREWERS. Have you heard of them?????

Okay, stupid ideas get pitched to municipalities all the time. Here's the city's initial reception to this guy.
"Being a baseball person, I think it would be an absolute gem for the community," Del Kaatz, the city's representative to the Tourism Committee, said about a proposal by the Lake Country Baseball Group to build a stadium and have a Northwoods League team play there.
Isn't that sweet.

Chad & Del, I've got a much better idea for you. You are the baseball lovers, build the freaking ballpark by your homes.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Bipartisan solution to Social Security reform

Last night at Boots and Sabers, Owen pointed out this post by WILLisms showing the performance of a theoretical personal account had Congress reformed Social Security in 2005. Owen's conclusion:

Note: This is a bipartisan failure. Neither party has done squat about it.
But there was a bipartisan solution in 2005. Being an email hoarder, I never deleted the email exchange that hammered out the agreement.

The solution was developed in the course of four hours between me and my leftie friend. My leftie friend's credentials:

  • Has aways voted Democratic
  • Union member
  • State government employee
  • Works in Madison
  • Adores Jim Doyle
I could go on. Here is the historic exchange.

-----Original Message-----
From: Headless Blogger
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 8:56 AM
To: Leftie Friend; Innocent Bystander
Subject: A different way to look at things

A couple observations from Thomas Sowell:

"Raising Social Security taxes today will not leave a dime more to pay pensions to future retirees. Right now there is more money coming into the system than is going out -- and the difference gets spent on other things. Higher taxes now would mean a bigger excess to be spent on other things, leaving nothing more for the future."·

"People who oppose the privatization of Social Security call it "a risky scheme." But is anything more risky than turning money over to politicians and hoping that they won't spend it before you retire? They have been spending the "trust fund" for decades."

-----Original Message-----
From: Leftie Friend
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 9:04 AM
To: Headless Blogger; Innocent Bystander
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

He's right in many ways. What they should do is stop raiding it and then use professional investment boards to invest a portion of the total fund not on an individual basis but as a whole. Just like many states do with their pension funds i.e. Wisconsin State Investment Board. That would address all of the concerns about the personal accounts.

-----Original Message-----
From: HB
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 9:40 AM
To: LF; IB
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

Your idea would be a good start (I still believe that higher SS taxes and lower payouts to rich guys --- like you & me --- are inevitably needed to balance things), but then someone will raise the concern about the government investing in private markets and disrupting market forces. The Trust Fund could be turned over to private investment firms to get around that. Someone else could also claim that it is still "a risky scheme."

I agree that your plan does the same as the private accounts, but the private accounts make future raises in SS taxes an easier sell to the public.

Your plan also requires a change in the law that requires all excess SS funds to be "invested" in Gov't securities (i.e., spent now on other things). This may be Al Gore's Lock Box idea, if so, he did a lousy job of selling it.

-----Original Message-----
From: LF
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 9:53 AM
To: HB; IB
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

I think it was Al's idea. Like most Democrats, he's a poor salesman. I think it has to be a government investment board with GAO/DOJ oversight, too much chance of abuse otherwise.

-----Original Message-----
From: HB
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 10:34 AM
To: LF; IB
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

The oversight is not a big deal, they can just do it like they do with the current Federal retirement program (their version of the 401(k)).

Re: Al being a salesman --- it is a lot easier to sell "Private Accounts" than a "Government Controlled Lock Box" to the majority of Americans (51% to 48% when we last checked in November 2004).

Another point, regarding Privatization (or your Gov't controlled account - let's call it the "Investment Option"): Since (by law) the "SS Trust Fund" is comprised solely of US government securities, the "Trust Fund" is nothing but a promise made by the government to tax future taxpayers. These taxes will be used to pay back the moneys (with interest) which were collected from current taxes to pay future retirement benefits (& spent by Washington on other things). The Investment Option removes these funds from use by the government for pork and other spending (name your own pet peeve here) and forces Congress to raise current taxes if they want to maintain their current levels of spending.

-----Original Message-----
From: LF
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 10:54 AM
To: HB; IB
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

You got it. This is just another way to shrink the federal budget or balloon the deficit.

-----Original Message-----
From: HB
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 11:09 AM
To: LF; IBSubject:
RE: A different way to look at things

Are we agreeing?

Seriously, if "WE" can agree on this, we might have come up with a way to sell it to both Congress and the Prez. I think our only disagreement is whether there are to be Private or Government accounts. Is this something that could be left as a choice to each citizen (you are pro-choice!)?

They could choose from A, B or C:

A) Remain in current SS system (for codgers like the Innocent Bystander)
B) Join government controlled investment system (for the risk-adverse)
C) Establish Private SS Retirement Account (for gamblers)

I'll forward this thread to Paul Ryan.

-----Original Message-----
From: LF
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 11:38 AM
To: HB; IB
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

I think option B is the only choice so the system is even for everyone and more importantly to minimize future law suits. Include all of the Senators/Representatives.

-----Original Message-----
From: HB
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 12:11 PM
To: LF; IB
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

I think I see your point, but we have to get away from the current system of benefits, because a Ponzi Scheme cannot be indefinitely self-sustaining.

How about a government controlled investment fund, with two options?

A) Current defined benefit plan for codgers (with a means test and increased taxation).
B) A defined contribution plan for younger workers, with asset ownership by the worker of their portion of the government fund.

-----Original Message-----
From: LF
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 12:59 PM
To: HB; IB
Subject: RE: A different way to look at things

Sounds reasonable. My state pension is similar to choice B. I have two fund choices to put it in, a fixed rate fund (The ten-year (compounded) average annual Fixed Trust Fund effective rate is 11.3%) or a variable rate fund (The ten-year (compounded) average annual Variable Trust Fund effective rate is 10.7%). For 2004, the fixed effective rate is 8.5% and the variable effective rate is 12%. These returns are after management fees are taken out. I do 50% for both for investment diversity reasons. Not the greatest returns, but very consistent over the long term.

-----End of Email Thread-----

I forgot to forward the thread to Congressman Ryan. It is my fault this solution was never implemented.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My Fetish with Peameal Bacon

Peameal bacon is North America's best kept culinary secret. A staple in Ontario, it is unknown in most of the United States. Peameal is great stuff any way it is cooked. Sliced thin and fried, cut in chops and grilled, or cooked as a roast - the meat is juicy and tender by any method.

I was introduced to peameal bacon while traveling to Canada on business. On one trip to Ontario, I purchased a fully cooked peameal bacon roast from a butcher. It was the best "Canadian Style Bacon" I had ever eaten. A lesson on peameal bacon basics is provided at the BBQ Talk Canada forum.

I didn't have a chance to get to a butcher on my next trip, so I purchased a package of uncooked cured boneless pork loin for a grocery store. I didn't even get a blink when I carried my 1.5 kilo piece through Customs. It is a fraction of the cost of the mail order stuff sold in the U.S.

When I got home, I tried it sliced thin and fried right away and it was great. I also smoked a piece of it over apple & hickory, which was excellent.

I was next encouraged at the Canadian barbecue site to make my own Canadian bacon. There is a detailed recipe for Dizzy Pig Cow Lick Canadian Bacon online. I followed the recipe, except for my addition of a cornmeal coating to make my own peameal bacon.

My homemade version was very good pan fried. But, I'll be sure to soak it longer after brining next time to remove more of the salt.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Insert your favorite overused NASA quote here.

Am I the only man in America who will admit to thinking Lisa Nowak looks kind of hot in that booking photo? Come on, admit it. She's got that bad girl, 200-Mile High Club look going on.

She also is giving new meaning to the term 'ridden hard and put away wet.'

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Periodic Random Food Image

Hey Sean, I call the Lamb Stew and raise you some strip steak and barbecued brisket chili.

Partial antidote to minus two Fahrenheit

I just watched the DVD from the 2006 Thompson Antique & Classic Boat Rally held last August in Marinette. The 1959 Sea Coaster we
restored in 2005 made the trip. It was so chilly that I had to buy long sleeved shirts for my wife and myself. It must have been in the 60's. I felt warmer just viewing the DVD.

In September I bought our next project, a 1962 Thompson Sea Mate. This boat is in wonderful condition and only requires new paint on the hull and resealing of the keel. Another fun project for warmer weather.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Emulating Gary

On my weekly commutes to SW Michigan along the Chicago Skyway I have noticed the METRA commuter railway continues into Indiana. With the rush to build a similar line to Milwaukee, the significance of this rail line struck me. As usual, Milwaukee isn't being original. This time the city is trying to keep up with that boomtown of the Midwest - Gary, Indiana.

A little research showed that this isn't METRA, it is the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District rail line. The entire system route map is here - NICTD System Map

A comparison of the routes shows that Gary is close to the equivalent distance of Kenosha from downtown Chicago, while Milwaukee is a similar distance as South Bend. In addition, Amtrak runs trains from both South Bend and Milwaukee to Union Station, although the Milwaukee trains run much more frequently. A ridership comparison of these Indiana routes should provide some useful information for projecting ridership on the El-trains to Milwaukee.

Overall ridership on NICTD is booming, surpassing 4 million passengers in 2006. The Milwaukee commuter rail proponents should be embracing these numbers for projecting use of their rail line extension. Where are the projections?

I'll keep looking. Something tells me the South Bend to Gary route isn't the bulk of those 4 million riders.