Friday, May 28, 2004
Just when you thought Twinkies couldn't get any grosser
I found this today:
Check out the recipes page, and prepare to be... well, repulsed and fascinated. You know you're in for a taste sensation when the first line of the recipe is "Mash Twinkies in bowl until desired consistency is reached." Be sure to read about Twinkie sushi, which is wrapped in green fruit roll-ups. Most of the recipes boil down to "Take item, add sugary things. Serve."
Today is one of those gorgeous clear-skied sunny cool days that make me feel happy to be alive. The sky is intensely blue, so blue that if I saw a photograph of it, I'd scoff and say it was doctored.
On the El: A man who kept sneezing and then groaning "Oh, god" after each one.
On Federal Plaza: A group of Chinese people protesting an atrocity in China. They wore bright yellow fleeces and stood motionless, their arms arced above their heads like a frozen moment of t'ai-chi, while the orange Calder sculpture loomed vividly overhead. Dammit, WHY don't I carry my camera around with me??
For lunch: Schlotzsky's. Oh how I love Schlotzsky's. I even walked the 1 1/4 miles from there to work, to make up for the decadence.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Exercise in futility
We're appealing our property tax assessment. I'm not convinced we have any grounds for our appeal, but it's one of those "worth a shot" things. Unfortunately, by this morning I wasn't sure it really was worth the shot. It seems I neglected to read the paperwork until last night, because I am a property tax research goddess and why would *I* need to prepare??, and discovered I needed photos of my comparables. Not the on-line assessment photos, real ones. Funny, but photos are harder to take after the sun sets! And of course, one camera had no batteries, and the other was nearly out of film, and we are driving a dealership loaner right now and I'm wary of driving it to the land of bad drivers (i.e. Jewel). So, at the crack of dawn this morning I was out wandering the neighborhood, taking the pictures with the last of the film, hoping nobody was looking out their windows at the well-dressed stalker with wet hair. I went downtown, dropped the film at the 1-hour photo, wandered around bored for an hour, got the pictures, huddled in a corner of Border's and put together my evidence, wandered around bored for another hour, and finally went to my appointment.
I had "I Love Rock and Roll" stuck in my head at the time, thanks to Marshall Field's. Lucky, lucky bintie.
The hearing wasn't quite like I expected. The waiting room was filled with an interesting cross-section of county homeowners, some well-dressed lawyers and lots of little old ladies. When I was finally called, I went to a counter and met a nice man named Dan, who walked me through the process. He clearly had a script he had to follow - he more than once resummarized the things I'd handed him, and then asked "Do you have any other evidence you would like to present to the Board?" He made no judgments, had no opinions, and just *looked* at me during my verbal explanations, then explained that he would hand off my evidence to the analysts and we'll see what happens. Next time (ugh), I will remember: anything I want to say, I have to put it in writing. I don't get to talk to the person who does the analysis. Live and learn.
I left feeling oddly disappointed. I'd pictured myself making these impassioned and well-reasoned pleas, with interactive maps and pie charts, before a skeptical-but-then-convinced Board. Think Jimmy Stewart with frizzy hair.
And speaking of frizzy hair... I stopped at Marshall Field's to kill some time, and bought a strange but cute hat. People with hair like mine need all the hats they can get.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
What century is it again?
Book banning, or attempts thereat, continues. The details are irrelevant (the library wins and the book will stay on the shelf, and overprotective mommies will be forced to make their own individual decisions on what material they will expose their kids to) but here's a great quote from the head of children's services at the Evanston library:
A good library collection should have something to offend everyone.
Survived a very stormy weekend in Michigan. Narrowly avoided being barfed on by an unhappy, hungry, storm-freaked greyhound. Ate at Mongolian BBQ and smiled at the teens in their prom dresses and tuxes. Was referred to as "the lady in purple" by an employee at the restaurant. Almost had my bowl of food knocked out of my hands twice by a waist-level jet-powered air conditioner located in the doorway to our seating section. And, got to see the tiniest little baby deer I've ever seen, up close and personal. It was much smaller than my very deer-like dogs, and probably wasn't more than a couple of days old. It lay motionless and trembling on the lower branches of a rather prickly spruce tree, watching us with its dark blue eyes. The father-in-law got a couple of pictures before it finally got enough courage to totter into the interior of the tree on impossibly thin legs.
I'm annoyed by the CTA's smartcard thingie. I have yet to get it to register on the first try at the Irving Park station. I'm still trying to find the perfect swiping-while-walking rhythm, but in the meantime I have to hold up the line as I fumble ineffectually at the plastic touchpad and generally look like a suburbanite. The main reason I succumbed to the card was that the CTA has eliminated the fare bonus on the old cards, but I am so far unimpressed.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
A bug's life
The news today: the 17-year cicada is emerging this year! But on further investigation: not *here*. Here's what I have learned:
There are 12 broods of 17-year cicadas and 3 broods of 13-year cicadas, staggered such that at least one emerges nearly every year in late May and June. Brood X is to emerge this year, covering much of the eastern U.S., but only goes as far northwest as Gary or so. Brood XIII is the one that we have in Chicago; it will emerge in 2007. Cicada populations tend to be largest in places with old trees, such as, oh, Irving Park? "Annual" cicadas come later in the summer and are the familiar ones that the dogs and birds love to snack on. They're not really annual, though - they live 2-8 years. They just aren't synchronized like the 17-year ones. None of the cicadas are harmful or destructive, and I've found a recipe book on-line that I will not be trying out.
So, looks like I'll have to wait three more years for a chance to get some cool pics of emerging and molting cicadas. Bummer.
Really really terrific Cicada website
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Nothing says Asian-American heritage like an Elvis purse
Daley Plaza hosts an endless stream of low-budget festivals, mostly for the amusement of the lunchtime crowd. This week, it's the Asian-American Heritage Festival, which sounds like it should be a blast but in fact is... well, not. I was heading for the El and thinking about how nice a drink would be, when I saw promising white tents and a colorful banner. It took all of 3 minutes to browse the festival wares, which included some very pretty jade carvings, a disturbing carving of two mating elephants, a motorcycle made of bent and twisted wood and wicker, and a display of cheap purses and hair clips. The three food booths all had the same array of pad thai, tempura, egg rolls, and crab rangoon. I got a plate of pad thai (with cilantro, which was puzzling but tasty) and tempura and a Dew, and sat on the plaza to ponder whether anyone in Thailand ever actually eats broccoli or carrots. I also may have glared at a mommy who was encouraging her passel of children to run through flocks of pigeons. Just what I need when I'm eating is airborne pigeon schmutz.
Monday, May 17, 2004
The less mowing, the better
The solution to all my problems was so obvious, and I made it a reality yesterday in a flurry of digging, yanking, and biomass relocation. We now are the proud owners of a new shade garden, in the shady zone between houses, and into it I put every unfortunately-located shade plant we have. Now, the ferns, hostas, and bleeding heart blissfully coexist in a wet, shady spot that Mark didn't enjoy mowing anyway. All I need is a nice anchoring rhododendron for the corner, and I can declare it a rousing success!
Next up: Tear out the dwarf junipers, plant the new heucheras, and move the crowded viburnum, weather permitting.
Cubs are tied for 1st place after sweeping the Padres. Seems like half the starters are injured, but the depth of the bench has been astounding. I've been muchly wanting a Zambrano jersey, but I probably can't justify spending the $$ :(
Saturday, May 15, 2004
And in other news...I spent yesterday driving to Urbana, meeting with folks, and driving back, in pretty much non-stop rain. I got all giddy every time I passed over an obvious moraine, and waved at cows and calves, and sang entire CDs of Duran Duran and White Stripes, and was amused by John Williams on WGN (His home repair tip: If you can't fix it with paint, sell the house and rent instead). Saw a series of signs along a cornfield that evoked the old Burma-Shave signs, something like Do you have corn/In your car/Gasohol/Will drive you far! Never mind that gasohol production is so costly that the net energy gain is only something like 30%. Ah, farm subsidies.
Sleep is overrated
So, I've been up since 2:15 this morning, after staying up late to listen to the Cubs beat San Diego in their first visit to Petco Park. (Petco!! I wonder how the food is there? :P) It seems that the guys across the street had a party and someone got into a scuffle over how someone else was treating a girl. One guy was taken away in an ambulance with a bandage wrapped around his head. Others yelled at, and were yelled at by, several bored cops. An ET came and took some pictures, and various neighbors walked by slowly, sometimes with dogs, and pretended like they always are out walking at 2:30 in the morning. The highlight of the night was our next door neighbor, a mom of three who did NOT appreciate the loud voices and profanity, and calmly walked over there in her bathrobe to tell them so. The residents were appropriately contrite. They're not bad guys - I think their mamas taught them well. They're just high-spirited. It is a bad sign though - they've only lived there 2 or 3 weeks and they've already hosted a crime scene.
Anyway, we couldn't sleep after that, so we read, watched Angel, watched the morning farm report ("send us your photos of old tractors!"), watched the sky go from orange to pale grey as the sun came up on an overcast city. Now Mark is off helping a friend destroy an innocent deck, and I'm hoping it gets warm enough to go outside and plant my new little green friends. The Chicago Botanic Garden plant sale is a dangerous place.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Sorry, wrong kind of doctor
My office phone number is one digit away from one of the university pharmacy numbers, and also apparently from some medical office's number. I routinely get calls from folks needing drugs or medical attention, so I patiently inform them that they have the wrong number, and then roll my eyes as the phone rings again because of course when you have a wrong number, hitting redial automatically corrects your mistake for you. The most baffling are the voicemail messages, like the one this morning from a distraught women needing to schedule some kind of test. What went through her head when my voicemail announced that she has reached the Institute of Government and Public Affairs? Does she really think that sounds like the kind of place that will do an MRI or biopsy or whatever?
On a different note, I finally finished Connie Willis' Passage. I found it exhausting at times, with endless descriptions of the Titanic and running jokes that ran on and on, and you can't skim through any of them because the most trivial things will come back and be important later. However, the theme of metaphors as ways our brains make sense of unrelated ideas was pretty interesting, and I even like the ending (no details here since someone else might want to read it). Ms. Willis writes such amazing stories where a dozen disparate threads tie together into a cohesive tapestry that, when you finally see it, makes you go "Oh, wow."
Now I'm reading Devil in the White City, about a serial killer stalking the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. And wouldn't you know it? A handful of pages in, they talk about the Titanic.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
I am now the proud mommy of a pair of very cute red Converse hi-tops. Oh! Oh! I should post a picture.
Work is dreadful this week. I'm slogging through legislation and school budgets, trying to answer the unanswerable, and wondering how the hell anything in this state ever actually gets accomplished. I wouldn't be a legislator if you paid me. However, my eyes are on the prize: Friday trip to Urbana for the spring CMC meeting (including my customary stop at Dairy Queen to offset the dreariness of the 3-hour drive home, and my customary ice-cream-in-the-lap incident), Friday night plant sale at the Garden, and Saturday relaxing at home while hubby is out cutting up a friend's deck (and hopefully no nearby body parts) with a circular saw. Oh, and the neighborhood garage sale, where I may find a bargain or twelve. Just what our house needs: more STUFF. What I really need is a bag of holding, but I guess that's what basements are for.
Monday, May 10, 2004
Mommy Day 2004
Hey, any occasion highlighted by prime rib (Gale Street!) and ice cream is okay in my book. I kept making involuntary yummy noises during lunch, but really, with steak that good, who could blame me?
Spent Saturday afternoon up to my knees and elbows in the Skokie River (and I use the term "river" loosely, as it's been reduced to a severely channelized stream). We dredged up crawly things from the stream bed and counted them using eyedroppers and ice cube trays (ah, the high-tech trappings of the scientist). I found a leech, lots of caddis fly larvae, bloodworms, and funny little fast-moving scuds. Remind me not to walk barefoot in any streams ever again.
Saturday, May 08, 2004
Fillmore quote of the week:
Garden Club president: How he loved tending his sunflowers. He called them his "sunflowie dude friends."
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
One exam down, one to go. I spent so much time studying biochem the other day that during a news report from Washington, I caught myself mentally tacking -OH groups onto the corners of the Pentagon emblem. I just wish this exam was over with because I have so many other things I want to do! Whenever I try to study, I keep getting distracted by the interesting plants sitting on the dining room table. I will call these my Zuzu moments:
Zuzu: I don't want to study. I want to look at my flower.
Recovering today from a thankfully non-crippling migraine, and having serious chocolate/caffeine cravings. A Coffee Coolata may be in order after work.
Saturday, May 01, 2004
It's May 1, and I was wearing freakin' *long johns* today. What is up with this weather? I could really go for some global warming right about now.
We did a water testing lab at the Garden, and we also learned how to do soil component testing with a jar and a bit of fabric softener. Next week we'll look for crawly critters in the river. Hopefully it will be over 45 degrees.