Autumn Brew, aka. Oktoberfest Beers

We had a great dinner last night with family and friends at Howells & Hood (which by the way boasts the largest draft been selection in Chicago).  But when the hostess brought out seasonal, autumn beer list, entire table let out a collective sigh.  Chicago summer is now officially over…  Much to our delight, the list did not contain too many hackneyed (not to mention over-played) pumpkin stout or any other pumpkin varietal.  A couple of my favorite darker ales of the fall –

  • Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewing – it’s heavy in alcohol (almost 7%) so perfect for slightly frost-bitten evenings when you feel like ribs or other sauce-rich meat comfort dishes.  It’s deceptively creamy with light on bitterness and after-taste.
  • Indian Brown Ale by Dogfish Head – if you like dark, bitter brew with thick foam resulting from heavy does of molasses during the brewing process, this is the fall beer for you.  Great with rubbed / smoked meats and vegetables.

What are your favorites?

That’s Why You Play the Game!

I have to admit, I am a football junkie…   College, pro, high school, Canadian, it does not matter.  Nothing better than plopping down for the weekend watching back-to-back-to-back games (of course, have not had that in a while since kids arrived but that’s another story).  There were a few surprises the past weekend, as there usually are every weekend.  First college – did BC really beat USC and South Carolina the same to Georgia (as close as it was)?  I love seeing / hearing so called experts predict how Texas will beat UCLA and conversely how the Bruins offense will finally wake up and trounce the Longhorns (UCLA beat Texas by 3 by the way which guarantees they’ll further drop in the ranking).  Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s why they play the game.  But what cracked me up the most…   How so called Chicago Tribune sports reporters (obviously not experts) all started the season with 0-2 in their resumes.  Yes, every one of them – Brad Biggs, Matt Bowen, Rich Campbell, David Haugh, Fred Mitchell, Mike Mulligan and Dan Wiederer – predicted that the Bears will beat the Bills and the Niners will trounce the Bears.  I especially loved David’s quote “Nobody expected the Bears to start 0-2 with a loss to the Bills, but a Bears defense that came to the Bay Area a day early will remain a step late in losing to the 49ers.”  Cute play on words, David…   That’s why you get paid to write, and I do not.  And that’s why you play the game!  Go Bears!

Fall’s Best Draws

 

Excerpts from the fall 2014 addition of Men’s Book…

The most luxurious way to draw out the cast of fall’s flavorful air is through the leaf-wrapped tobacco of a fine cigar.  The best stogies manage to magnify the season’s crisp, smoky air while heralding the rich complexities beneath.  But which smokes go the extra mile?  Some of the well-known Chicago cigar shops weighed in.

  • Up Down Cigar (www.updowncigar.com) – Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Aniversario Toro; one of the most flavorful medium-bodied smokes, its aged wrapper and filler tobaccos are all from the Dominican Republic.  It has leathery notes and saltiness often found in Cubans.
  • Iwan Ries & Co (www.iwanries.com) – Crowned Heads Las Calaveras; robust flavors provided by the refined Ecuadorian wrapper and the Nicaraguan filler, it has oaky, crispy and buttery flavors that pay homage to the festivities of Dia de los Muertos.
  • Hubbard State Cigar (www.hubbardstatecigar.com) – Ashton Virgin Sun Grown; the long-lasting, box-pressed cigar in a good-looking Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper draws like a slow drive through delicious bouquets of almonds, cedar and roasted molasses.

My favorite?  Partagas 1845.  Asides from its hearty Ecuadorian wrapper, Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan fillers aged in Dominican rum barrels, every time my business partner and I smoke one with prospects / clients, we seem to close a new deal…

Writing Tips 101…

 

Let’s get to the point – I am a poor writer.  When friends find out that I contribute to an SMB blog, they usually do a double-take and ask, “say what?”  I am Jamaal Wallace in Finding Forrester where Sean Connery shoved a typewriter to the shell-shocked African-American teenager and yelled, “just freaking write!”  I would write a paragraph and instead of keep on writing, I’d go back to the same paragraph to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed (there, I did it again).  So for all those Jamaal Wallaces and Richard Lees out there, below are some quotes from best-selling authors and luminaries that may help you.

  • “What a writer has to do is write what hasn’t been written before or beat dead men at what they have done.” – Ernest Hemingway
  • “You have to show up.  If you show up, the creativity will show up.  If it doesn’t, I take a walk or meditate.” – Laura Benedict, author of Bliss House
  • “Tell a story.  Everyone loves stories.” – Stu Perlman, now retired 9th grade English teacher at Washington High (Fremont, CA).  A side note – I would not have gotten into college without taking and passing Stu’s English 101 class
  •  “My advice is not to wait to be struck by an idea. If you’re a writer, you sit down and damn well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.” – Andy Rooney, ’nuff said
  • “I would not get into a car unless I Knew where I was going.” – Peter James, creator of the Roy Grace series, comparing driving to working with outlines or other forms of plotting
  • “Just write, maybe in bullet points.  It doesn’t even have to make sense in the first pass.” – Jason Busch, Group Managing Director and Chief Editor of Spend Matters and MetalMiner
  •  “Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.” – Peg Bracken, author of humorous books on cooking, housekeeping, etiquette and travels
  • “I have a self-starter—published 20 million words—and have never received, needed or wanted a kick in the pants.” – Isaac Asimov

So which quote above resonates with you?  What’s your motivation for writing?  Mine – I suck at it, and I’d like to get better.  Not sure about getting better but since I’ve been writing for a few years, I find the process rather therapeutic…

Hope everyone’s having a great long weekend  🙂

EBONY Wealth Challenge Wrap-up, Part 2

Continued…

  • Develop a side hustle – explore a field related to what you already do for a living to develop supplemental cash flow, e.g. teacher giving private tutoring sessions.  Obvious downside – what you gain in discretionary income, you will lose in available free time.
  • Find extra money at home – in addition to selling unwanted furniture, clothes, etc. at one of many popular sites, take a hard look at various services you have including cable and cell phone.  Everything’s negotiable – give customer service a call and ask if there’s anything they can do to keep you as a customer.
  • Develop passive income – somewhat related to the first bullet above, this entails creating multiple revenue streams that’s truly passive, e.g. does not necessarily depend on your time such as owning a rental property.
  • Save for retirement – company pensions are gone with the dinosaurs and you should not rely on social security for retirement anymore.  Take advantage of 401K matching if available where you work.  While many personal finance experts advocate 20% savings of household income, I’d say save something every month regardless of how small.  We all have to start somewhere.

EBONY Wealth Challenge Wrap-up, Part 1

As published in the most recent issue paraphrased….

  1. Get your mind right:  Wealth begins in the mind and ends in the purse.  If you want to earn more, you must learn more.
  2. Lower your bills:  Renegotiate the terms for your car note, cable bills, utilities and cellphone bills.  Be pleasant – everything’s negotiable.
  3. Automate:  Pay your bills automatically each month by setting up electronic withdrawals to eliminate late fees, avoid credit score issues and reduce postage costs.  And even if you are late, negotiate elimination of late fees.

To be continued…

Customer Service and Manners

CaptureGreetings from SFO Red Carpet Club.  There were days, pre-marriage and definitely pre-kids, when I enjoyed flying, whether for work or for leisure…   And the Star Alliance network, led by United Airline (now United Continental Holdings) provided the widest reach.  Fast forward a few years (after a couple of 200K+ annual air mile years and joining million miler club) and marriage and kids, I now fly only when needed and necessary.  So when I logged on almost 50K miles in the last 60 days (no I am not trying to reach 2MM miler club), it was like learning a new trick all over again.  Here’s what I’ve learned…

  • Automatic Premier Gold status for million-miler does not get you whole lot, except for premier check-in line.  No wonder while back, a United million-miler sued the airline for breach of contract (before the merger, million lifetime miles got you premier executive, not premier gold status).  I feel like I’m treated better by Star Alliance member airlines when I am traveling abroad that United, which I have most loyalty to.
  • US flight attendants really do need a lesson in customer service.  Just because you start the sentence with either sir or ma’am that does not excuse rest of the sentence / paragraph that comes out of your mouth.  Specifically, a couple of flight attendants in my recent flight from ORD to SFO were behaving like two frat boys at division II schools.  It was embarrassing…
  • My recent flights on KAL, Singapore and Asiana served to only affirm my view.  Of particular note, I caught an Asiana flight attendant cleaning the lavatories during downtime so that the customers can have more pleasant flying experience.  25+ years of flying domestic airlines, I’ve never seen any domestic flight attendant do the same.

I can certainly empathize with tight margins and cut-throat environment that depicts the airline industry (I was an early guy at Orbitz so I do have some insight).  But it just seems like many US flight attendants, especially those with senority, have given up and are just going through the motions and are waiting for retirement (with apologies to those flight attendants who care and bust their butts to do their job right)…  Much like networking, customer service is just good humanity.  It has to be something you want to do and take pride in.  So what’s my solution?  Depressed million miler benefit combined with poor customer service, I don’t have much choice except to fly Star Alliance network airlines instead of United on international flights.  Then again I do have 500K miles on American…  Perhaps time to try a different domestic airline?

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