Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm Baaack
Briefly, I just got back into Chicago after another uneventful 12 hour drive. This time I listened to this really awful audio book of the crime novel genre. It was terrible, but I was in no room to choose since radio choices were lacking so I faithfully listened to 12 of 14 hours of this crap.

But I had to blog one of the actual lines from the book before I forget. I heard it, and my eyes started rolling uncontrollably so much that the car may have swerved on Rte. 90 East. Are you ready for it? I may paraphrase here, but this is 98% it:

She was like Miss Marple, except with a great set of breasts.

I'm so not even kidding you.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Um, I am stoopid sometimes

Happy birthday TODAY, Annie!

Friday, July 27, 2007


Happy Birthday yesterday, Dad!

Happy Birthday today, Annie!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I road tripped yesterday and it was a fun, little package of a day. First, I drove a couple of hours to the rolling green hills of Charlottesville to visit Madeline. Madeline, having finished up her residency at UVA, is getting ready to pack up and move herself to Chapel Hill. It was great to see her and we spent a couple of hours catching up in person and munching on pumpkin seeds. I also learned a lesson about Yahoo Maps: don't trust them completely. Madeline owns a little townhouse in a relatively new development and while Yahoo Maps purported to recognizing the address, they left out a few relevant details in terms of getting there.

Then I climbed back into my wee Civic and zoomed along 64 to Richmond to visit Emily. Emily is my old roommate, a compadre from my college job at Baskin Robbins (the 3rd busiest in the nation, people!), and one of my dearest and most erstwhile friends. I hadn't seen her in over two and half years and we picked up as if we hadn't seen each other for a few minutes. Except we had a lot more to catch up on. She and her husband bought the sweetest little fixer upper in Richmond's Southside, and from the look of their almost finished kitchen and their totally finished pantry, by the time they get done with everything I'm totally packing my bags and moving in. She even started a little vegetable garden in the backyard complete with her own baby pumpkins and fledgling green peppers. It was great to re-connect and I left feeling sated and with mental resolutions to stay in more regular touch.

I've also managed to see DC-area friends too and it's been wonderful. Dinner and a DC-monuments walk with Annie, brunch with Des and Bryan, and dinner with Anne and Nate (who I finally met, and it every bit as great as I've heard).

I also climbed on the scale at Em's house after eating a big salad for lunch and it read a number down three and half pounds since last Wednesday! Hooray! I needed that reinforcement since I was tempted many times this past week (especially walking into Lost Dog Cafe with Anne and managing not to grab one of their fresh baked pizzas or sandwiches and cramming it into my gaping maw).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Little Brother Can Cook
So, my baby brother cooked tonight and he made lamb chops served along side a red pepper sauce as well as a fresh mint sauce. In addition, he served fresh stuffed tomatoes overflowing with parmesan cheese and garlic. It was pretty awesome. So good in fact, that it warrants its own blogpost.
This cracks me up
Todd wrote me this today describing a crazy guy that he and his friends met when he ate at a neighborhood place we'd always passed by:

Hey! Oh man, what a story. The crazy dude, whose name is king david, walked up to us saying "I'm gonna go get my .38 and kill all those motherfuckers! Some guy hit my car and i told them (pointing to police station) and they do nothing! Man, it was a hummer, just crashed into me then took off!" So we told him that it was a bad idea to kill all of them with his .38, and he was easily convinced, because jesus wouldn"t do it either. Luckily, all he really needed to get was a "couple of bucks" for the bus so Mark gave him about a buck in change and he was our best friend for a couple minutes before he took off. Here are some things he has on the hopper:

- He can get us guns and knives if we need them.
- He's the head of the latin kings, and if we need any protection, we just need to ask him.
- He's going to start up a new restaurant on Milwaukee and Kedzie that is cheaper than Pancho.
- He can hook our car up with hydraulics if we want
- He can build condos.
- He's going to start up a football team, and on the back of the helmet will be a big JC for Jesus Christ.
- His mom named him King David.

Then he took off, just after asking us again if he should kill them all, and saying "oh yeah, I shouldn't, because of Jesus. Thanks guys!" It was a pretty weird scene, with the backdrop of those neon palm trees outside Pancho and all.

Friday, July 20, 2007

SBD Update
One week down! One more week of Phase I to go! It's been challenging at points and continues to be. But, at last check I'm down four pounds and my pants by which I measure progress fit *an iota* better. Progress is progress, and I'll take it.

My observations that I end up saving money on this diet because I don't drink when I go out and I can't partake in some (delicious) tortilla-chip and cheese laden appetizer. So that's cool, and that money went to my tolls coming home yesterday.

The diet isn't very fun, though. I mean, I like the foods that I make but they can be time-consuming to prepare and I no longer just dig in and have that handful of chips that tastes like heaven and is such a fast snack. I saw Kevin the other night and he held up a quesadilla in one hand and a beer in the other and was like: "So, you don't eat these?" And I fixed my saddened, bovine eyes on him and and shook my head no. And then I sipped my ice water.

So, sticking with it and feeling good. I no longer feel uncomfortably full, which is nice. I'm about to head to the grocery store to stock up on food for my parents' place.
Reading Report
I discovered the graphic novel area of the nice regional library near me and it was all over. I cleaned that place out. I really, really, really love graphic novels and if I had lots of cash I would stock my library full. In the meantime, the library is a nice option. And while graphic novels bring me absolute joy, it's a little bittersweet because more often than not, one goes through them very quickly.

So since Wednesday, I've read three (I got like seven). Here's the run-down:
  • Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. Delisle worked as an animator in North Korea for three months in early 2001 and drew an account of his experiences there. It's all charcoal and observant and funny and really goddamn great. In comparison to someone like Joe Sacco, though, Delisle is less about trying to get find out the true story (less of a journalist) and more about quick observations and impressions. Still, really good and highly recommended. He wrote one about working on Shenzhen and I totally want to read it!
  • Mom's Cancer by Briend Fies. When his mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, he started a comic strip about it and this little book is the finished product. It's fast, but honest and powerful. And the ending is kind of happy.
  • Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi. It's a quick little read about an afternoon tea among her family of Iranian women where conversation is funny, juicy, and pretty progressive. A totally fun book.
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson. This one is more of a novel form (it's a brick!), but it's still a fast read. Thompson writes autobiographically about his childhood a teen years, his struggles to fit into his rural Wisconsin background, his inner debates regarding religion and finally his teenage first love. It's good and smart and honest, but Thompson's character was kind of a fox, let's be honest. Not sure if he meant to draw himself that way, but that's the way it turned out, so it's harder to really get that he was terrorized in high school. I had also read Ariel Shrag's illustrated novels about her high school years (one for each year) and her junior year novel is mainly about her first love. While she doesn't tackle as many issues at Thompson, I think that her description of a first love gone awry can't be beat.
Back to da East Coast
I drove back home yesterday to visit the family and see friends (and to meet a certain friend's BF). It was an almost 12 hour drive, and I didn't hit any traffic to speak off but I got home and I was wiped out. I ate dinner and then went to bed. At 9pm. Eastern time. It was worth it, though, because while it's good to be home, it's much better to be home when I have my own transportation.

The night before I left, I went to meet Todd downtown to see one of the free concerts held in the Pritker Pavillion (the crazy Gehry-designed bandshell that looks out onto the expansive green lawn in Grant Park). The city holds various free concerts over the summers in its parks. I had joined Jenny and Pam for one last year and I was so impressed: everyone is allowed to bring in picnics and wines and it's free. It's even more impressive to sit in the Pritzker Pavillion because you're looking up at all of the impressive Chicago architecture looming over you. Plus, the night we went last year, the weather was perfect, and we got to watch the free fireworks over Navy Pier. I really wanted to come again this year.

So we did. We came to see the Decemberists play with the Grant Park Orchestra. I had never heard them, but it sounded good to me. Me and about fifteen billion other people because that place was packed. Rich ended up coming with and then we ran into my grad school mate, Jennifer, and her sister, so we all walked over together. We found some free lawn outside the actual pavillion and kind of beside/behind the bandshell, but none of us really cared about getting all up in there. so we sat. I had brought a thin little sheet on which to sit, which was an outrageously poor decision since I didn't take into account that it had *poured* that morning so the ground was akin to a water-saturated sponge. Needless to say, our bottoms were all soaked within about 0.3 seconds of sitting. Then it started to sprinkle...and then full-out rain. We opened up umbrellas and sat talking while nibbling on crudites. I was proud of us because we stuck it through and waited out the rain, ears soaking in some escaping music from the Decemberists (the bandshell does a nice job of keeping the sound enclosed, and since we were outside that enclosure...it was a little muted).

We ended up leaving toward the end of the set in order to beat the el crowds (successfully!). Good thing too because as soon as we got home the sky cracked open and the full-fledged pouring commenced. Glad that we didn't end up waiting for the fireworks. I would definitely do it again, but will choose a less popular evening and will check the weather forecast.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I have a new love
It's the OXO salad spinner. Now, rather than tediously drying out all of my romaine and spinach leaves, I just press and watch the water collect at the bottom of the bowl.

Seriously, it is one of my all-time favorite purchases.

Happy 18th, Little Brother!
Now you can vote!
Days Blend
That's what happens when summer school ends and I'm on vacation of sorts. It's kind of great.

Friday brought in a slight relief from the heat and it made for perfect weather for going to the Pitchfork Festival that evening. We saw Slint and Sonic Youth play and it was cool and crisp and pretty goddamn awesome outside. Todd drove and I was happy because I cannot describe the lines of people we saw who were waiting to walk up the steps to the el platform. We only went on Friday this time, as compared to Sat and Sun last year. I had been struck by how orderly and peaceful the festival was for the past couple of years (no lines to the portapotties! no snaking queues for beer and food! water for $1! no crazy and obnoxious drunkenness!). It was still pretty orderly this year, but the lines were insane for the beer and food and I definitely observed some obnoxiousness in comparison to no obnoxiousness from last year. I thought that Todd was going to pop one of the dudes with popped collars who talked very loudly and raucously to one another during the entirety of Sonic Youth's set and who were standing directly in front of us. I'm no Nazi when it comes to talking during live music, but even I know that if you want to chat then don't stand there up front by the music.

Saturday was lazy and I seriously can't remember what I did.

Sunday we went to the Oldtown School of Music's Folk and Roots Festival which was in the park by my house. It was a super-duper cute festival teeming with fat toddlers waddling under your feet. We sat and watched the fiddling contest and I got a slight burn, but it was worth it.

SBD Update: I managed to avoid MAJOR temptation this weekend and I am immensely proud of myself. I was starving Friday night during Pitchfork and the almonds that I had brought along weren't doing a lot for me. I didn't buy the delicious looking flatbreads and spinach pies that were at the food stands, though and I am glad.

Yesterday at the Folk and Roots festival was tough too because: festival food smells good. I really, really wanted to get some of the seafood quesadillas on sale. I also really, really wanted some of the sangria that they had. I balked at both.

And I'm happy to say that my weigh in this morning reads a three pound loss since Thursday. I know it's water weight, but it's encouraging at least.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Getting back into it: Day 2 of 14
I decided to enter Phase I of the South Beach Diet again in hopes of getting back into fighting shape by Fall. I did it a couple of years ago and really like the eating plan since it's pretty delicious while still being healthy. The first phase is the one where you cut out sugars for a couple of weeks altogether. After the first couple of weeks, whole grains and wine are allowed back in.

So I started yesterday and forgot just how much prep it is. I eat a lot of produce as it is, but when your diet is only proteins and produce, I go through it even more quickly. I went to the store again today to load up on fresh vegetables, and then spent about 20 minutes chopping and prepping for lunch. It's a lot of work, but you end up eating a lot less processed foods. I just had some turkey rolled up in crunchy romaine and red peppers and a spinach salad for lunch, so I know officially I am in the land of SBD. It's really not bad, though.

I'm blogging about it to add more accountability for myself, so I'll check in later on my progress.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Has anyone else watched the show "Hey Paula" on Bravo? I think that she has approval of it or something, but still she comes off as a shrieking harpy. Watching it, you really perceive her as a truly a wretched human being. You get the feeling that she okayed having the reality show in the hopes that she would come off as a little loopy but more lovable than anything else, when in actuality she comes off as a hellish employer and a stoopid lady.

I'm totally watching the rest of the season too.
..with summer school. It went by quickly and there was a flurry of paperwork by the end, but it was outstandingly easy work and I will definitely sign on to do it again next year. It's kind of like being on vacation, but having an excuse to wake up in the morning. I was done every day by 11 a.m., people. Just in time to listen to Fresh Air on NPR on the way home.

I finished Courtroom 302, which was great. Really, really interesting and I learned lots about the criminal court system (for instance, I hadn't realized what a teeny-tiny percentage of cases end up going to a bench or jury trial). It was written in the late 90s, so there were historically significant cases going on. I was sad when I turned the last page and need to find some more non-fiction like it stat. Bogira, the author, delved in the background of the people in the cases as well and it was downright fascinating.

Speaking of "fascinating," my Mom told me the other day that my blog entries have been on the drier side of late, so I commit to try to inject more zest.

So, I'll share a description of my totally favorite kid on my caseload this summer. He is five, short, and has a body like a round rubber ball. He sports a loud, hammy personality which is communicated through his deep, almost guttural voice. He is crack at recognizing the slightest trace of a voice. If I happen step in the room and whisper to his teacher, he stops what he's doing and yells out in a staccato manner: "Ms. M_! You there?! Ms. M_!" One day I was working with him, and while usually a bit lazy he was working like a maniac because his teacher promised him potato chips afterwards (or, "putatah ships," according to him).

I was describing him to Todd, who was like "Is this kid Redd Foxx?" And it hit me like a message from the heavens, because he nailed it. This five year totally is Redd Foxx re-incarnated. I was treating language (while verbose, he can't answer wh-questions well) but this kid is also vision impaired. Our friend is going to start work as a vision teacher with the school district, and I *pray* that this student ends up on his caseload because I wan to hear about him for years to come.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Williams Syndrome
This week, The New York Times Magazine has a long article about Williams Syndrome, which while I hesitate to call it "my favorite," definitely stands out as one of the most interesting to me.

People with Williams Syndrome tend to be cognitively low and are characterized by love, love, loving social interaction but having nary a clue as how to read social signs or dynamics. Really interesting stuff, so read the article to find out more.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Book hangover
I've been reading like crazy. I finished Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven this past weekend. It was pretty engrossing and he has an easy, informal manner of writing that makes it easy to dive into the subject matter. It was enjoyable and I learned more about Mormonism than I knew before (which was not much). After reading it, I feel like everything is about Mormonism now: HBO's Big Love, NPR pieces I've been hearing recently, Mitt Romney.

This morning I finished wolfing down Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here, which was really powerful. He followed two young boys in the Chicago projects for a couple of years in the mid-80s and there's a lot of heartbreaking stuff in there. Your heart yearns for good things to happen for the boys, but there's a lot of emotional beat down. I tried to google the boys' names to see if I could find out what's happened to them since, but nothing. The epilogue does say that the profits from the book was used to set up trust funds for the boys after they finished high school. They've got to be in their 30s now.

I started Courtroom 302 today, about a year in a courtroom in Chicago's Cook County Criminal Courts (alliteration, anyone?). I love hard-nosed social issues reporting, and so far this is in that vein. So far, so good. In fact, I'm about to take a shower right now and then head out and read in the sun now.

Further books on my list: In Cold Blood, Helter Skelter, and Ordinary Resurrections.

p.s. Funnily enough, as I was scanning the channels this afternoon, the 1993 TV version of "There are no children here" is on Oxygen, starring Ms. Winfrey herself. I hadn't even realized that they made one! I've been watching for it for the past three minutes, and it's definitely drama-ed up. Meh.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wolf dude.
(via NG)
You must watch this:
A Man Among Wolves, which I watched this past weekend on National Geographic. It's crazy.

Brief synopsis is that this guy raised a pack of wolf cubs for the past few years and basically spent all of his time with them apart from a couple of hours here and there. Interestingly, there's some sort of nature preserve in the UK that lets him roll around with them, feed with them, and the public watches. He didn't have any prior scientific training, but knew enough to teach his wolf cubs different kinds of howls and different wolf behavior.

One highlight is that when we first meet him, he is the alpha male in the pack so is entitled to the heart, lungs, and liver in the kills. So, since he can't digest the raw meat of these organs in the various dead animals he hauls in, he goes in beforehand and cuts out those organs, goes home and fries them up a bit, and then inserts them back in to the guts of the dead animal. Only then does he bring in the feast for the pack and he gets down in there and rips out those organs on gnaw on. You have to see this.

The other highlights is footage of him with the cubs when he first adopts them teaching them to howl. Baby wolf cubs learning to howl = ultimate in cuteness.