April 2009 Archives

Ever the entrepreneur, I launched a new "business" on Tuesday. Mainly, I have too many books for my bookshelf, so I decided to sell all of the books I no longer want. On Tuesday, I signed up with Amazon.com to become a book seller, and then went through a few shelves, pulling off all the books where I would rather have money than the book... an amazingly high percentage of my books.

Listing the books with Amazon was pretty easy. You just type in the ISBN number, record a few comments on the condition of the book, and then pick a sale price. But, here's where I was really disappointed. Amazon charges a per book fee plus a percentage of the sale, so selling books for a penny as the real book merchants do, would dictate that you're selling your book for a loss after taking into account the cost of packaging and postage (much less my time.) Fortunately, unlike eBay, you don't have to pay the fee unless the book sells.

So, even though I listed all the books I want to get rid of, none are priced less than $3.99 (plus the standard $3.99 shipping fee), which means a lot of them will never sell. Still, I had a copy of 'The Nine' by Jeffrey Toobin (a good book about the Rehnquist Supreme Court that I read while in Cabo), and the prices on Amazon were around $7.50. I listed mine for $7.40, and went to sleep.

The next morning, I got an email from Amazon telling me my book had sold. I momentarily panicked, not sure I was ready to deal with this so soon... but it's not all that difficult. I checked out their shipping tips page and immediately started worrying whether I would need to buy a postage scale, labels, all that stuff... but I'm keeping things low volume for now as I don't expect to sell many books.

To take care of packaging, I stopped at a Kinko's on the way home from work and bought a mailing envelope, then, I went to the post-office and sent the book via media mail. Here's the accounting.

$7.40 - Sale price
$3.99 - Shipping & Handling charge
$11.39 - Total Revenues

$3.45 - Amazon fee
$0.99 - packaging expense
$2.58 - postage expense
$7.02 - Total Expenses

$4.37 - Gross Profit

What you will notice is missing is any discussion of the cost of acquiring the book. Yes, I did pay more than $4.37 for the book, but I can't get that money back now, so it's a sunk cost. What I'm happy about is that I now have one fewer book on my shelf, and $4.37 more in my pocket. Ain't America great?

Stay away from the financials

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Mood: A little tired, but happy... also hungry.
Music: "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" - Jim Croce

My new TV has a feature that will automatically turn it on in the mornings. Think of it like an alarm-clock radio, but a TV instead of a radio. Anyhow, it's a mildly pleasant way of waking up (as far as methods of waking up go), so now I watch a little TV in the mornings.

Yesterday, CNBC was on and I saw that The Northern Trust was down 12% in pre-market trading, and I've liked their bank so I said, "Maybe I should take a look at Northern Trust." Then, as if scalded by a hot stove, I realized what I was saying, slapped my hand, and began screaming: "Stay away from the financials. Stay away from the financials!"

Yes, I've been burned... repeatedly... as the financial stocks have plummeted in the last two years, and so my reaction has been to just ignore them. I don't particularly care if I think there's a fortune to be made in them... I've also thought that repeatedly over the last two years. Anyhow, to wrap this up. Here's the link dujour: 10 reasons why investors should avoid banks stocks.

Oh, and Northern Trust? Up 9.6% since I slapped my wrist.

Around the neighborhood

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Living downtown, there's a lot that goes on in my neighborhood, and I don't always hear about it... so, you can imagine my surprise when I saw a breaking news story that a woman had died falling out of a high-rise downtown apartment building. There's not that many of them, so I clicked on the link and discovered that a woman fell out of an apartment window one floor above me, on the other side of the building. (Link)

The details are sketchy, but from what I've heard, it was some sort of house party that went late into the night on Friday and ended in tragedy. And, for those that have been up to the Keep and poked their head out the window... almost everyone's initial reaction is a little fearful and disbelief that the windows open as far as they do. It really is quite disturbing to think that something so horrible happened in my building.

In lighter fare, having Googled the story, I finally remembered to Google 188 W. Randolph St. All I knew about the building is that the entire skyscraper has been empty and boarded up since I moved about a block away. I'd originally gotten interested in the building when I learned that there used to be an affordable gym in the building... and since then, I've always noted how ugly all the scaffolding is that obscures the beautiful facade. Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed that lights were peeking out of a few of the windows. My first thought is that maybe squatters had moved into the building, but perhaps it's a little better development. (Link) Apparently, we're maybe going to get another apartment building in the area, and the ugly scaffolding would come down. I also found this, so for some background information on 188 W Randolph, check it out.

Post-tax day

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Yesterday was tax day. I was tempted to go join one of the tea parties being hosted in Chicago, but ultimately did not because there was a lot more being protested than just high taxes... plus the real protest needs to be against absurd spending by the government, not necessarily our taxes. In other news, Texas Governor Rick Perry, has suddenly become an 'up-and-comer' in the GOP for suggesting that Texas still has the right to secede from the nation... an implied threat that Washington needs to cut taxes or else.

Obviously, I'm not in favor of secession... and I'm not all that enamored of any politician who talks about tax cuts without talking about the necessary spending cuts that should be attendant.

Alright, enough politics. Work has been a healthy kind of busy. My boss is going on maternity leave soon, and I'm scrambling to get on-top of my own work so that I can handle the extra questions/projects that will soon be coming. It's a refreshing stretching of my skills, and I'm as happy at work as I've been in about two years.

In other news, I've been working on The Cubdom a fair amount today. I woke up early to start work on updating the Rooftop Page, and found an email in my inbox from one of my advertisers asking not only to renew their agreement, but to expand it. This was great news as I've been bleeding ad revenue since last September.

That said, my revenue projections for 2009 look like they may be marginally higher than '08, due mainly to the full year effect of some advertisers I picked up in the first half of 2008... and the good news is that new revenue streams usually come on during the baseball season. So, if I don't lose any more advertisers, it looks like my web income won't take too bad of a hit from the recession.

Link dujour: My crush deepens yet again - she's a baseball fan!!!

Makin' Pasghetti

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Dad: He is risen.

Byron: He is risen indeed.

I don't know why... I think it's the true joy my Dad has for that customary Easter greeting... but it's one of my favorite things in life. The greeting, with anyone, is special... but with my Dad (for me at least) it takes on added significance.

Anyhow, I took the South Shore back in from Valpo and I'm enjoying a leisurely Sunday evening, watching the Cubs. And for Dinner, I made Pasghetti.


In part as a response to the recession (and in part due to my tendency to eat poorly when I buy my lunch), I have been bringing my lunch to work this year. Some weeks I'll go to the deli and get sandwich meat, and some weeks I'll make a family sized portion of food and then bring in tupperwares for the next few days.

Pasghetti is my favorite of these meals... because it's tasty, and very easy to make.

1 pound of Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti
1 or 2 Jars of Spaghetti Sauce - Barilla is my favorite. (1 jar is pretty dry, 2 jars is a little runny)
1 pound of ground beef or ground turkey

If necessary, take the meat out of the freezer and defrost in Microwave
Put 4 quarts of water on the stove, high heat
Brown meat in pan
Dry out water measurer thing... take hand fulls of spaghetti and break into three or four sections. This shortening of the spaghetti makes it Pasghetti
Empty jars of Sauce into sauce pan.
When meat is browned, add meat into sauce, put saucepan on med/low
When water boils, add Pasghetti... make sure to set microwave timer for 6.5 mins
Stir both sauce and Pasghetti periodically
When timer rings, drain Pasghetti in the sink, then dish up into four Pad Thai-to-go containers. Take Sauce, and split into the containers.
Enjoy one Pasghetti, put the tops on the other three, refrigerate, and nuke when it's time to eat.

Easy as pie, takes about half an hour to cook... and you get three lunches and a tasty dinner.


And will I eat Pasghetti for lunch tomorrow? No! I'll be chowing down on burgers, brats, and dogs on a rooftop across from Wrigley Field, watching the Cubs open their home season against Colorado. Woot! I can't wait.

Mood: Full of Pasghetti, giddily excited about tomorrow.
Music: Listening to Pat & Ron call the game on WGN-AM, watching on ESPN. (Can't stand Joe Morgan!)
Link dujour (for Mom): Far Away From Wall Street, a Herd Gets Gored.

Holy Week roundup

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Sunday is Easter, so this week has been Holy Week, and today is Good Friday. I'm planning to attend the Good Friday service at my church tonight, and then heading to Valpo-town sometime on Saturday... hopefully arriving home before 3 pm, or leaving Chicago after 5:30. (Fire @ San Jose).

Work today is interesting (by that, I mean horribly dumb). It's 'jeans day' and we're discussing how KPMG charges it's employees $5 on jeans day for a sticker that says they donated to some charity. KPMG then turns around and donates the money... but the tax credit goes to KPMG, which naturally flows to the partners. (Nothing like donating other people's money and nabbing their tax credit.)

Mood: Meh. I think the only people at work today are support staff... with no one to support. At least we get off early.
Music: "At the Zoo" - Simon & Garfunkle
Jonathan Edwards references so far today: One. ("Sinners in the hands of an angry Judge")... funniest person in the world... in my head.
Link dujour: The Plane that Drives

Comment Saga Update: I've found a way to get a comment up on the site. If you click on comment now, it will take you to a form and you can comment. The trick is that you must preview the comment before submitting. If you try to just submit the comment, there's some error... but if you preview it first, then you can submit the comment (on the weird looking page.)

This one's for Myles

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Mood: None. I'm feeling nothing but a faint headache.
Music: I had to put something on so it didn't say 'silence'. "One Less set of footsteps" - Jim Croce.
Cubs: 1-1 in a four-way tie for first.
Fire: 2-0-1, 7 points, tied for first in the East, 2 points behind Seattle and Chivas USA

Link dujour (for Myles): Police, who everyone knows are crooked, search Blogger's house in retribution for blogger's exercise of first amendment rights, under the guise of some other nebulous 'investigation' - take wireless router and cable modem - and everyone knows nothing is stored on either of those! - Proletariat Arise!

Link dujour II (longform version): How (and Why) Athletes go Broke.

• By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

• Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

• Numerous retired MLB players have been similarly ruined, and the current economic crisis is taking a toll on some active players as well.

An unsettling funny

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Funny in the same way that W. wasn't.

Not so much "funny ha-ha" as "funny this-isn't-nearly-as-far-from-reality-as-it-should-be."
Hot Air

Whirlwind = Weekend.

I like to take things easy. Generally two social engagements in one weekend is plenty enough for me... but even by an outgoing person's measure, I've been busy.

On Friday, I had plans to go see a school play (Chicago Hope academy) with my Friend Joe, but something came up and he couldn't make it, so I did Pizza with Adam and his brother Bill. On Saturday, Adam, Jarrett, and I caught a matinee showing of "I Love you Man." It was funny throughout, but incredibly stupid and more than occasionally crass. I'd give it three of five stars. Then after the flick, I hung out with Adam all day as we prepped for his Final Four party on Saturday night.

The Final Four Party involved a bunch of Adam's friends from LaSalle St. Church... and me. Since I hang out with Adam a lot, I'm starting to get to know them, but at the end of the night, I was ready to head home.

On Sunday, the Fire opened Toyota Park for the year with a 1-0 win over the NY Red Bulls. The weather was inclement, and I was cold. However, my new hat, which I refer to as the 'dead rabbit' was a God-send.


After the game, I had just enough time to buy groceries before it was off to Keystone for dinner. Then, when I got home, I had to clean as my cousin Tiffany is visiting tomorrow, and the place needed a little help. (In my defense, after only 75 minutes of cleaning, the place looks really good, so it wasn't all that bad to start with.)

Alright, time for bed. It's Cubs' opening day tomorrow!

Listening to: Fernando Ortega
Mood: Weary but smiling
Link dujour Fire 1, Red Bulls 0

Mood: I'd rather be outside.
Music: Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin

Coke bust at Amtrak station

Police were patrolling near the Amtrak station located at 401 W. Adams on March 13 at 8:25 p.m. when a witness approached them and said he saw three men smoking marijuana outside of the station. Police observed the three men smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. The officers approached and asked them if it had an illegal substance in it. The men said, no, it was just a cigarette. Police then asked the men if they had any illegal substances or weapons on their persons. One man said he had a bag of cocaine in his jacket pocket. Police arrested the man and transported him to the 1st District police station for processing.
Linky Linky


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Listening to: Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) - Peter Sarstedt
Mood: Happy and Hungry

Link dujour: Warning sought for Monster Burger

In other news, the Justice Department is withdrawing its case against former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens because the prosecutor failed to turn over all of the necessary evidence to Stevens' defense. It doesn't actually make him not guilty, he's just going to get away with it. In other words, another corrupt politician allowed to get away with it. Now that's change you can believe in! Grrrrrr....