Neighborhood Watch

April 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Humans are creatures of habit and pretty much all of us have our usual morning workday routines.  If you’re someone who drives to work every day you probably don’t notice the same people each morning (or maybe you do, in which case you should probably be paying more attention to the road) but if you walk and or take a train, you might  see the same not-so-shining faces day in and day out.  Here is a list of those early commuters who don’t even realize they’re a part of my life:

  • The woman with the two little yappy dogs who can be seen walking every morning, followed by the woman with the very well-behaved Golden Retriever that gets a treat every time it stops before crossing the street.
  • The guy in the long trench coat who always seems overly concerned with his hair.
  • The annoying teenagers on their way to school, including the couple that apparently can’t walk more than 20 feet without hanging all over each other and the group of girls who yak so loudly I feel as though I need ear plugs.  I can only hope I wasn’t that obnoxious as a high-schooler, though I’m sure I was.  Probably worse.  Yikes.
  • The elementary school girl wearing an uncomfortable-looking uniform who gets into the taxi cab her father (or the older man I can only assume is her father) drives.  This makes me wish I had a free cab to take to work every day and yes, I’ve considered asking him for a lift.  Especially on cold/rainy mornings.
  • The woman who carries a large purple bag and reminds me of my mom.
  • The blond girl who carries a store-bought coffee every single morning as she passes me by.
  • The guy with the mustache who catches my train.  At first I thought that abysmal looking thing was for No-Shave November but when he kept it, I realized he must just make poor hair related choices instead.
  • The tall girl who reminds me of my old roommate, Sarah.  We always seem to pass each other on the exact same street corner.
  • The dark-haired girl who wears a fuzzy purple coat that must make pimps everywhere green with jealousy.

Strangers in the night...I mean morning

After cataloging all of this, I have to wonder at my stalker tendencies.  Am I the only one who notices these same people every day?  Do they notice me?  Am I a creep?  It’s not like I can just shut my eyes and pretend I’m not seeing the same faces on my walk each morning.  And it’s not as though I’m telling them things like “Oh, I like your haircut” or “You know, that color doesn’t really look too good on you.  You should stick to the shade you were wearing yesterday”.

Yet.  Perhaps after a few more months I’ll feel so close to these strangers that I won’t be able to keep my mouth shut.  I’ll keep you all updated on my forthcoming restraining orders.

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April Book Club Review

April 27, 2012 at 11:05 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The ladies and I spent this past month reading Blindness by  Portuguese Nobel-prize winning author Jose Saramago and for dinner/drinks we checked out Haymarket Pub & Brewery in the West Loop.  Blindness is a stream of consciousness story (meaning no actual dialogue or quotes were used and everything is described from various points of view instead) of a pandemic of blindness that spreads by contagion.  It starts with a man sitting in his car at a stop light who suddenly loses his vision, and a passerby who helps him home becomes blind himself.  Soon, there are hundreds of newly blinded individuals living in an old mental hospital as the government has decided that quarantine is the best solution.  The people in the hospital quickly revert to primal human beings who fight for food, beds and sex.  These people lose their dignity and every comfort they’ve ever known.  It’s a really interesting concept and I think the anthropologist in me especially enjoyed thinking about the breakdown that society would face if something like this were to actually occur.  The book was fairly long and dense as the style of writing didn’t include many paragraph, page or chapter breaks, and sometimes the lack of dialogue caused me to have to stop and think about who was saying what.  I found though that I actually really liked the style (not all of the other ladies felt this way), as when I write stories myself I don’t use a lot of dialogue either.  There were two of us out of the four present who finished the book and while the other girl felt the ending was too expected and easy, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing and really enjoyed the whole book.

You might not be able to see me but I give this book two thumbs up

Apparently there’s a sequel called Seeing, but I have yet to read that.  Blindness was also made into a movie staring Julianne Moore (whom I love) and I watched that last weekend.  It wasn’t exactly a light, feel-good film but it did do justice to the book and Scott (who hasn’t read the novel) really liked the film.  It was interesting to see some of the buildings described but watching the movie just didn’t capture the horror of the situation like reading the book did.  All in all though, I’m glad I experienced both.

I’m also glad I experienced Haymarket Pub & Brewery, which is just a short walk from my office.  I mean, who doesn’t love a good brewery?  This place is a lot bigger than it looks and was full of dudes watching the Blackhawks hockey game, which we didn’t actually anticipate before booking our reservations.  So the place was a little (lot) louder than we expected but we managed to make ourselves heard.  I ordered a brew called Lucy’s Belgian Style Abbey Trippel, which was a delicious golden ale that shared a name of a good friend of mine (I thought of her when I ordered it and she would’ve loved it too).  I also had a veggie burger that put many other bar veggie burgers to shame, as well as some amazing sweet potato tater tots.  Can’t go wrong with tots and I’m a big fan of incorporating sweet potatoes into things (such as falafel – there’s a place near the office that does this amazingly).  Another gal ordered pizza which had an unusual sauce that made the whole thing superb and everyone left the night feeling full and satisfied.

Yet another successful book club meeting has come and gone and I believe this next book should be a quicker read, so as soon as the library gets it ready for me I’ll be checking it out.  In more ways than one (see what I did there?).  I’m currently about 40 pages from finishing Catch-22 and I’ll probably write another post about that but it won’t be so complimentary.  Seriously, this thing has taken me forever and I actually put it aside to read Blindness.  So you can look forward to that and I’ll be thankful that I have the eyes to read, even if I am reading things that drive me crazy.

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Going Up

April 25, 2012 at 11:44 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

One would think that working in a well-known building such as the one formerly known as Sears Tower would mean that everything would run a little more smoothly than your average small office.  I mean, it is probably one of the most recognizable buildings in Chicago, if not the United States, right?  And with that comes a certain amount of prestige?

Yeah, not really.

What a nightmare.

One day I’ll write a whole list of the pros and cons of working in this building (and the weird Easter rabbit yarn balls may or may not be on it) but for now, I’d just like to vent about the fact that we haven’t had fully functional elevators/escalators all year.  There are six elevators on the ground floor and one escalator that takes you to the second floor, where six more elevators await.  All of these elevators only go to specific floors (none go all the way to the top) so you must transfer somewhere along the way to a second set of elevators if you want to go beyond the 31st floor.  The escalator on the lobby level was broken for roughly two months and it seemed like there were just dudes who hung out in the demolished stair pit with wrenches chatting this entire time.  It wasn’t a huge deal as a broken escalator just turns into stairs (thanks, Mitch Hedberg) but it was still a bit of a pain.  I have no idea how many people work in this building but I bet it’s a lot, and most of us begin at 8am.

So finally the escalator was fixed but now elevators are down.  Specifically, there are two down on different floors that I pass every day on my way in and out of the office.  It causes a general mess at 5pm when everyone is trying to squeeze into the remaining elevators and it’s not a fun way to end your day.  On top of that, I can’t help but feel slightly apprehensive at all of the maintenance being done on these modes of transportation.  I tell myself that it’s just a routine check-up but the giant plastic dividers they have up to hide their work beg to differ.  My own personal hell involves being trapped in this building in an elevator 50 floors above the ground with a bunch of suits and all of the stuff being “fixed” doesn’t exactly alleviate my concerns.

What’s a girl to do when stairs are simply not an option?  Close my eyes and hope for the best, I guess!

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Questions I Wish I Could Ask My Cat

April 23, 2012 at 11:44 am (Uncategorized) ()

  • Why must you insist on staring me in the face 2 minutes before my alarm goes off and meowing pathetically, as though you’re about to die of hunger at any given moment?  You have food.  You have water.  You have many warm places to sleep.  Do you somehow sense a disturbance in the air before my alarm rings and therefore try to beat it to the punch?
  • Also, why do you look so evil in photographs?

    What’s so fascinating about the water in the toilet bowl?  Is it really that fun to watch or do you somehow think it’s going to transport you to a new dimension full of catnip and mice if you can manage to hurry up and splash it at just the right time?

  • Could you perhaps try not to be such a night owl?  I realize cats are nocturnal but your playtime coincides directly with my bedtime and you don’t seem to appreciate the fact that I need sleep if I’m not going to punt you across the bedroom when you wake me up so damn early.
  • How on earth did you manage to teach yourself to open doors?  Thankfully you’re not strong enough to turn the knob (yet) but just catching you on your hind legs with your paws on the handle was enough to make me consider extra padlocks.
  • Where are you hiding my straws?  Just because Mommy enjoys a stiff drink some nights is not an invitation to steal straws and use them as playthings to your hearts content.  Where’s your stockpile?
  • Why haven’t you started doing dishes as I’ve repeatedly asked?
  • How is it possible to sleep for 21 hours a day without slipping into a coma?  And can you teach me?
  • What is it about my couches that makes them so much more desirable to scratch rather than your scratching post?  That post was not cheap and is still almost brand new.  It’s scientifically designed for you to scratch.  Don’t you understand that every time you scratch my couch an angel loses its wings?
  • Do you really think I won’t notice or care when you’ve knocked over one of my plants?  What is that about?
  • How on earth can something your size eat so little yet poop so much?  Are you somehow enlisting the help of your friends and then collecting all samples and depositing them in your own litter box?  I think you crap enough to be considered one of the Modern Wonders of the World.
  • Do you like your new home and living with us?  Because regardless of the little things that drive me crazy, I’m awfully fond of you.  Our apartment sure beats living on the street.  Right?  Right?

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Sounds of the City

April 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

My previous post highlighted an interesting visual experience here in Chicago and a walk I took down State Street yesterday during rush hour provided a few more.   I think I noticed all this more than usual because I was on my cell phone at the time and could barely hear a thing.   If you’re familiar with the city then you’re probably familiar with some of these people/events but even if you’re not, hopefully it will show you a little of what goes on on a typical downtown Thursday…and teach you not to try to talk and walk when it comes to State Street.

  • Trains, overhead and everywhere.  The noise echoes through some of the streets.
  • Some random art installation that lit up various bulbs as it blared AC/DC to anyone with working eardrums.  This was in more than one area and I was lucky enough to pass these pieces at least three times.

    Not exactly Lamb Chop

  • The elderly gentleman who plays a violin on the street corner.  He’s usually accompanied by who I can only assume is his wife but he was performing solo yesterday.  Which makes me hope she was out shopping the Magnificent Mile and nothing more serious prevented her from making an appearance.
  • A bicycle cart that doubles as a puppet stage, where puppets put on a dancing and singing show for anyone who wants to stop and watch (see photo).
  • Sirens and taxi’s honking as if their lives depended on it.  Wouldn’t be a day in any city without that.
  • A group of probably 9 middle school kids playing drums using upside down large plastic paint gallons and wooden drumsticks.
  • Greenpeace Workers trying to sign up every Tom, Dick, and Harry so they can meet their daily quotas (I’ve had Greenpeace friends, I know how it works).  I’ve pledged before and these days I just try to keep my head low and eyes averted as I pass them by.
  • The mass confusion overheard from a group of tourists who were trying to find the recently-moved Garrett’s Popcorn.
  • The preacher who stands with a microphone and amplifier and denounces things like  homosexuality, birth control, premarital sex, puppies, ponies, TV, chocolate and just about anything fun (this list might not be entirely accurate, but it’s close).  Yesterday there were actually three guys holding signs that said “God Loves Gay People” right next to the preacher and so of course I (and many others) gave them a high-five as I passed.  This did not phase the preacher but it helped anyway.

And this was all in just about ten minutes.  Needless to say, my conversation got put on hold until I found a quieter part of the city (read: when I left downtown and got back to my own neighborhood) but I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m also thankful I do not live in this area and that the most annoying thing in my street is the occasional cop car or drunken group missing a trolley.

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Oh, Balls

April 18, 2012 at 11:39 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

These are currently sitting outside of my office building:

Yeah, I don’t know what they are, either.

I do know what they look like though – giant droppings from the Easter Bunny quickly spring to mind.  They’re all covered in yarn and if you look closely at the trees, you’ll see that yarn adorns there as well.  Are these the world’s largest cat toys?  A teaser for some weird new movie?  An art installation by a group of grandma’s?  Discrete and pretty containers used to house the remains of problem clients?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I suppose they’re sort of nice looking but I think they’re more confusing than anything else.

Chicago, you crazy city you.

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April 17, 2012 at 10:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Things may not always be hunky-dory here in the United States but I’m often reminded that we have it better than most.  Case in point:

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — At least 140 Afghan schoolgirls and female teachers were admitted to a local hospital after their drinking water was poisoned, health officials say, laying the blame on extremists opposed to women’s education.

The victims range in age from 14 to 30 and were taken to a hospital in Afghanistan’s northeastern Takhar province on Tuesday after their school’s water tank was contaminated, according to provincial health department director Dr. Hafizullah Safi.

No deaths were reported, but more than half the victims partially lost consciousness, while others suffered dizziness and vomiting.

“Looking at the health condition of these girls, I can definitely say that their water was contaminated by some sort of poison,” Safi said. “But we don’t know yet what was the water exactly contaminated with.”

Local officials say they are investigating the incident at the Rostaq district school and are searching for the perpetrators.

“It is the work of those who are against girls’ education and peace and stability in Afghanistan,” district administrator Malem Hussain said.

Many Afghan girls were not allowed to attend school during the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, but girls’ schools began reopening after the regime was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion.

Observers say, however, that abuse of women remains common in the post-Taliban era and often accepted in conservative and traditional families, where women are barred from education and commonly subjected to domestic violence.

Female educational facilities, students and teachers have come under vicious attack as the insurgency has spread outside Taliban strongholds in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.

In 2010, more than a hundred schoolgirls and teachers were sickened in a series of similar poisonings.

I may complain about the injustices American women face but it’s absolutely nothing compared to this.  At least I have the freedom to learn and my knowledge is seen as a boon, not a hindrance.  I hope that these girls recuperate as quickly as possible and then get back to the books, as that’s the best sort of rebellion that they can show.  After all, knowledge is power and those in power try to keep the rest ignorant so that power is not dissolved.  It happens all over the world and hopefully one day knowledge will be broadly shared instead of broadly feared.

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The Perks of Being a Docent

April 16, 2012 at 11:38 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )


(noun) –

  1. A person who acts as a guide, typically on a voluntary basis, in a museum, art gallery, or zoo.
  2. (in certain universities and colleges) A member of the teaching staff immediately below professorial rank.

There are perks to being a museum geek!  Last week was the annual Member’s Night at The Field Museum, which is when all of the collections that are normally locked behind closed doors are opened to the general public for our inspection and awe.  I’m not technically a member anymore but since I’m a docent I get most of the same privileges and I’m not complaining.  99% percent of the items that the Field has acquired are in their collections, which is a mind-boggling figure when you think about it.  However there’s only so much space to put things on display so to the basement the rest goes.  The Member’s Night was on both Thursday and Friday and Thursday I spend hanging out at my specialty, the Maori Meeting House.  It was pretty quiet as most people wanted to see the special collections and not an exhibit that’s on permanent display, but I did have a few groups wander through and at least one family who made a special trip just to see the Meeting House.  Of course they loved it, and me as well.

I would not eat this even if I were a carnivore.

I was planning on checking out some of the behind-the-scenes stuff myself on my way out but got sidetracked talking to two women who work in the ECCodepartment, which is made up of scientists who study and research specific areas in efforts to conserve them for the future.  It’s a really interesting process and there’s actually a brand new exhibit at the museum highlighting all of their work.  I got so caught up in discussing the cultural and socio-economic aspects of small Peruvian villages that I lost track of time and wasn’t able to explore anything else.  But I made up for it on Friday!

To be completely honest, the place was packed and as such, Scott and I probably spent more time standing in line than anything else.  It was still really cool though and one room we visited had artifacts such as marble baths and totem poles that went back to 586 AD.  Another room had millions of snakes in jars (no, not alive) and one python head that was roughly the size of a large grapefruit.  Freaky.  Then we got to go to a different room where I touched a dead shark’s head, took a supremely cheesy photo that is now my Facebook picture and learn all about coelacanths while looking at a specimen.  I was also able to procure extra tickets for a friend of mine and his ladyfriend and they seemed to have a pretty good time as well.  We got to see a little more before they closed the doors and we hung around as late as we could.  Not your typical Friday night but very well spent, nonetheless.  I’m already looking forward to next year!

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Home Sweet Home

April 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

It seems like everyone I know is settling down.  While I was visiting home last weekend, I went to a housewarming party for a high school friend of mine and saw her first ever purchased home.  It was really, really nice and the pool table in the basement/woods in the backyard/1950’s refrigerator were all nice features.  The next day I viewed the brand spanking new house of my cousin and her growing family and again, was blown away by the space and newness of it all.  Something else I was blown away by was the price – realizing that monthly mortgages on homes run roughly what I pay in rent for my one bedroom apartment was a bit of a rude awakening.  Sure, these houses are in Southern Indiana and I’m in the heart of Chicago but still.  The truth sometimes hurts.  I could own my home in Chicago for these prices but I’d be neighbors with hobos and my garden would be growing under a bridge.

Which direction are you going in?

Not to say people don’t buy in Chicago.  A few of my close work buddies own condos and a good friend of mine who is in the midst of planning a wedding is also now planing to purchase a place (in my neighborhood, which is awesome).  It’s exciting to talk about this with people but I still don’t know if it’s for me.  I like the idea of being able to call someone when my dishwasher stops working or my drains get backed up and I really like the idea of someone else shoveling snow off my front walk.  That being said, the older I get the more I see the benefit of owning your own home.  But the problem is this – as old as I’m getting, I still don’t feel old enough to do it.

Fixed mortgage rates?  Brokers?  Itemized deductions regarding your home on taxes?  Association fees?  Equitable assets that could demoralize your life savings?  I’m not even sure these are all really things but given the knowledge I have on the subject, they very well could be.  Why isn’t this type of stuff taught in high school?  Or perhaps it was, and I skipped that day.  Whoops.  Regardless, this is all serious business and it makes me really applaud the people who have made these types of purchases.

As for me, I’m glad that Scott and I just renewed the lease on our apartment.  After all, my dishwasher isn’t going to fix itself!

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Go Universe Go!

April 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Just a little something I found to be pretty great:

Los Angeles (CNN) — The Miss Universe organization announced Tuesday it is ending its ban on transgender contestants after coming under scrutiny recently when a Canadian competitor was told she would be disqualified because she was born male.

Miss Universe officials insist the change is in spite of, not because of, legal threats from women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred made on behalf of contestant Jenna Talackova.

“We made the decision two days before we even heard that (Allred) was involved,” pageant owner Donald Trump told CNN Monday. “Had I known she was involved, maybe I wouldn’t have made that decision because she’s easy to beat.”

Allred launched a blistering attack on Trump at a news conference a week ago, saying his pageant had no right to question Talackova’s sexuality.

“She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally born man or to see photos of his birth to view his anatomy to prove that he was male,” Allred said.

In a Twitter posting Monday, Trump called Allred a “third rate lawyer” who “actually hurts Jenna.”

“Is Gloria a man or a woman????—- few men would know the answer to that one,” Trump tweeted in a personal retort to Allred.

Allred did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for a response to Trump’s attack.

The Miss Universe Pageant announced last week that Talackova, 23, could compete provided “she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.”

Allred had criticized that announcement, saying the conditions were “ambigious.” Trump later said Talackova could compete without conditions, but stopped short of a permanent rule change.

Miss Universe President Paula Shugart, in a statement released Tuesday, said the credit for lifting the ban should go to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), not Allred.

“The decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD and not Jenna’s legal representation, which if anything delayed the process,” Shugart said. “We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously.”

Shugart joined GLAAD in a joint announcement Tuesday that the Miss Universe Organization “is close to finalizing an official policy change that will allow women who are transgender to participate in its beauty competitions.”

Discussions between the pageant and GLAAD began last month after news reports that Talackova had been disqualified from the Miss Canada Universe competition after winning a regional title, the joint statement said.

The resulting change opens this fall’s 2013 pageant season to transgender women, it said.

“For more than two weeks, the Miss Universe Organization and Mr. Trump made it clear to GLAAD that they were open to making a policy change to include women who are transgender,” said GLAAD spokesman Herndon Graddick.

“We appreciate that (Trump) and his team responded swiftly and appropriately,” Graddick said.

Talackova, a 6-foot-1-inch blond Canadian, underwent sexual reassignment surgery four years ago. In a 2010 interview, she said she knew she was a girl at age 4. She said she started hormone therapy at age 14 and underwent sexual reassignment surgery at 19.

She won a regional beauty crown qualifying her for Canada’s national title, but she was then told the Miss Canada Universe pageant in Toronto on May 19 was only open to “naturally born females.”

“I am a woman,” Talackova said in a prepared statement she read to reporters in Allred’s conference room last week. “I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust.”

It doesn’t matter if you don’t really understand the whole transgender thing – the point is, they’re allowing women to compete who deserve to compete.  And while I get the point of the arguments made in this article, I never ever ever want to see proof that Donald Trump is male.

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