Monday, September 27, 2004
T minus 7 games and counting
I've left off talking about the Cubs lately, but here's an update for the record. I'm not feeling nearly as stressed as I was last September, possibly because this feeling of rooting for a winning team is more familiar now. The Cardinals ran away with the division win a long time ago, but the Cubs are in the lead for the wild card with 7 games to go. They just lost two very unfortunate games to the Mets of all people, but are home for the rest of the season against the Reds, who should be a cakewalk, and the Braves, who won't be. The Giants are half a game behind us, but are only 2.5 games behind the Dodgers and could conceivably switch places with them during their remaining series against each other. The Astros are right behind them at 1.5 games behind the Cubs, although I think nobody is really taking their threat seriously. So, we need to get our offense back on track to match what has mostly been stellar pitching, let the Dodgers knock the Giants out of the running, and waltz to a clinch sometime this weekend. Back to back winning seasons for the first time since 1971-ish! It's the beginning of a new era!
Am listening to Launch at the office today since I'm the only one here. I have a class tonight at the Botanic Garden, much as I don't want to go. I'd rather watch the game. Maybe I'll go to the truck and check the score at break.
Today's on-campus t-shirt sighting
"I am the man from Nantucket."
We had an interesting experience in the depths of the North Shore last night. As guests of my friend Betsy, who is a staff person at the Lake Forest Open Lands Association, Mark and I got to attend the highly-coveted Bonfire and Bagpipes event at the Elawa Farm restoration in western Lake Forest. Just driving up there was an adventure in covetousness; we passed by house after house big enough to fit *our* house in the foyer. The event site was surrounded by the mansions of lucky folks who managed to snag building lots adjacent to land that likely will never be built up; imagine having a clear savanna and wetland vista to the western horizon, in one of the most rapidly-growing counties in the state.
The event itself was pretty cool, although we couldn't help but feel out of place at times. Our jeans and t-shirts put us in the bottom 5% on the dressiness scale, and we were seriously deficient in angelic blond children. We witnessed some fine examples of parenting, though, including the mom and dad who were entirely incapable of getting their little blonde daughters to stop yanking the plastic cordon into people's (read: OUR) legs, and the general blase attitude towards piles of romping children only a few yards from a pond in the pitch dark. We were amused by the dad who very knowledgeably informed his son that the hot air balloons were full of helium, and a woman who was explaining to her friend that the plan was for her to get pregnant in March so that her other activities would fit properly around the pregnancy. Nothing like spontaneity, you know? We also overhead an older woman sourly telling her husband that she can't believe people would even dare ride in the hot air balloons - I mean, they have open flame in those things! I don't know why they don't just burn up!
We ate much food (all free), drank bottles of water from the open bar, and watched frisbee dogs and Highland athletes. We had nicknames and backstories for many of the Highland athletes, including Mr. Green Jeans and Fingers (as in "I hurt my...!). The caber toss scoring was mystifying to us. We also met several birds of prey, including a teeny little owl that may or may not have been like Pigwidgeon, one of my favorite Harry Potter characters, and a barred owl that was old and bitter and secretly plotting our untimely demises. The barred owl handler said that Spring Brook nature center does raptor workshops, which we might look into. That would be so much fun, handling raptors and getting to know them. I wish the city were more conducive to owls and hawks.
Then, the piper band marched in and performed in full kiltie regalia. A lone piper perched atop the brushpile for Amazing Grace, and as the sun set over the Middlefork Savanna (and let me mention here that the place is absolutely breathtaking), two folks dressed as Indians ran from the prairie with torches and some accompanying children lit the brushpile (after the lone piper climbed down, I hope). The Indian thing was vaguely offensive and is strongly opposed by many in LFOLA, but tradition trumps correctness on the North Shore. The brushpile burned with the heat of a thousand suns, and looked gorgeous from a distance with the rising full moon behind it. Overall, a very fun evening, and we had to grudgingly admit that all that money flowing around has really gone to a worthy cause. It's just hard to see such an insular, white, rich community that has *all* the advantages of life, including these amazing open lands, and not be resentful. It's not really jealousy, though. I envy them some things, but I wouldn't want to live among them. I've grown accustomed to variability in the people and places around me, and Lake Forest seems too surreal, like something out of a movie.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
I yam what I yam
It took, oh, about 30 years to figure this out, but I have to admit, it's been liberating. Two things just happened this week that made me think of it, and I want to write it down so I can be reminded of it later if I need to. It is just this: I am who I am, so why fight it? Seems rather trite, I know, but it's so freeing to just admit it to yourself. No more fretting about trying to change yourself for the better, no more jealousy of people who do things and go places and know stuff you've never even cared about. Just acceptance. It's yummy. I've borrowed my outlook on life from Popeye. Go figure.
So, the two things that happened are these:
1) In class yesterday, we talked about "revealed preference", and how it relates to ecology, specifically foraging behavior. Animals tell you how they rank food sources just by their behavior. It is the same with people, although we like to delude ourselves into thinking our real preferences are different from our revealed ones. Do I like going to plays? Yes, of course I do, being an educated and literary urban woman in a city bursting with excellent theater. When's the last time I went to a play? Well... No counting Blue Man Group, the last play I recall going to was a comedic Hamlet, and I think we still lived downtown when we saw that. Clearly I don't like the theater as much as I say I do, or I'd work a little harder at actually going once in a while. Apparently, I prefer reading, watching TV, and mucking around on the computer. Sad but true.
Why this is relevant right now: I'm really just not into big chunks of the field of ecology. Seed dispersal - yawn. Foraging - whatever. Competition - don't care. Am I therefore not an ecologist? No. Am I a bad ecologist? No. Should I fret about it? NO. My battles will choose themselves for me. I will read an abstract about pollinator-flower coevolution and it will tug at my brain in a tantalizing way. I just need to be aware of the tugs.
2) Much less worldview-shaping but equally revealing: I read a mention of an author who writes highly-recommended books, so I took a peek at a review. The reviewer mentioned that this author writes things set in India, and my interest promptly vanished. Then I felt ashamed of being closed-minded, unwilling to try out some great books and maybe learn something about the world. After that, defiance kicked in. So what if I don't like Indian, Japanese, and various other cultures or histories? It's not my job to try to like and understand everything on the planet. I like enough. I don't have the time or energy to be completely cosmopolitan. I am who I am, and I should be happy with that.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. Oy. I spent much of it being bored on campus, because there was a power outage on the east side and yet we were told that seminar at 4:00 would not be cancelled. Turned out it *was* in fact cancelled, and if I hadn't been so cruelly misled by a professor who shall remain nameless, I could have gone home at noon instead of sitting boredly in the library and reading bits of books I intended to check out anyway. Or, you know, I could have gone shopping for a birthday present for myself. Anyway. We ran around packing the delicate stuff from the freezers into the deep freeze with dry ice, had class in SES (which still had power), and had lunch at Quiznos.
At least the evening was fun; we went to the Cubs-Pirates game (Clement vs. Fogg; why do we ALWAYS end up with Clement??), and after a frustrating lack of offense, Corey hit a pop-up that somehow caught a breeze and sailed into the basket to tie the game late. The crowd was totally pumped after that, but the offense still couldn't get the job done, and finally Corey gets back up to the plate and takes care of it himself with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th. Woo! I love when grown men act like little boys and gather into a big jumping celebratory knot at home plate. Some blonde chickie grabbed Corey immediately afterwards and hauled him off for an interview, but before the interview was over someone came from the dugout and doused his head in shaving cream. Boys will be boys :)
Today, we play hooky. I won't go to the lab unless I find that I don't have what I need to finish my homework for tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Time it was, and what a time it was
Have been shopping for bookends so my collection of books at the office doesn't tip over and kill us all. I have a plain metal one that I have no idea where I got it, but since it's likely that I'll be living at that desk for a good five years, and I am an adult with strong nesting inclinations, I want pretty bookends. I'm funny that way. So, I remembered that I've seen some different styles of greyhound bookends online, and went searching for them. I found a nice photo of a pair of bookends holding up some books. The accompanying text: "Books not included." I'm so sad for a world in which those words actually have to be said.
Monday, September 06, 2004
"Living is not enough... One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
--Hans Christian Andersen
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Having a going-away party long after you've actually gone away is *totally* the way to do it. I met up with the gang from IGPA at Jak's after our lab meeting today, and I got presents (yay!) and people said nice things about me. I swear I only got weepy once, although I did save the cards to read at home because I'm not crazy. They gave me an autographed Ryno baseball, which is VERY cool and has supplanted the Cubbie bears on the cabinet in the dining room. I've never had an autographed anything before! Dave gave me paper on which to write my dissertation, on the condition that when I need more, I have to let him read what I've written so far. Also, chocolate! Therese gave me movie tickets. I was really touched by the effort everyone went to for me; I think I sometimes failed to notice that they were more than my colleagues, they are my friends. It was a bittersweet occasion, but I think it also provided some nice closure and our working relationship ended on a positive note. Plus, I am sure I'll occasionally return for lunch. I love my labmates but the girls just eat too darned healthy!