Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Dogs of Babel, by Carolyn Parkhurst

Book 21

The Dogs of Babel was another book club favorite, and written by Carolyn Parkhurst, an AU alumna. I picked it up at the Library's Used Book Sale. The premise is that a lady was found dead in her backyard having apparently fallen out of her apple tree. She was discovered by a neighbor that heard her dog barking when he arrived home from work.

The death is ruled an accident, but the husband, Paul, starts to think it might have been a suicide. He determines that the dog is the only witness and decides to teach the dog to talk.

OK - so this is a book about crazy-grief. And a dog named Lorelei.

I liked the concept, but was not half-way through before deciding that the wife was a nutjob and the husband a fool. Then I got to the part about the criminally insane people using surgical techniques to get dogs to talk. Then Lorelei disappears and I don't care about what shocking thing might have happened in the next flashback because all I want to know is if the dog is ok.

She was. Mostly.

The conclusion was incredibly anti-climactic, but even if it weren't, I left the book feeling utterly disgusted.

Photography in Jackson Square

I tried to keep to something resembling my average weekend schedule while on vacation, so I was pretty much up and out around 8:30. As Rich and Jodi are rather nocturnal types, I was on my own for breakfast.

Rule #1: Skip the beignets at breakfast time. CafĂ© du Monde is a mob scene first thing in the morning and anyway, there is no way to avoid spilling powdered sugar all over one’s fresh black clothes.

I happen to have a favored coffee shop on Chartres Street that has chocolate croissants. Except I couldn’t tell you the name. The locals were chatting with the staff about a shooting on Bourbon Street the night before. It sounded very much like the average CPS gang event in Chicago and the lament was that it happened in the "tourist mecca". Anyway:

After coffee, I headed to Jackson Square to read my book in the park. I walked by a guy sitting on a bench. He was eating an apple and looking at a camera on a tripod several feet in front of him. I hoped it was his tripod.
As I’ve said, I have been to New Orleans several times before, but I hadn’t taken any pictures. I felt lame taking the standard tourist shots, so I decided I would take pictures of things I hadn’t seen (or hadn’t seen quite that way) before. I recalled Jodi saying when she first arrived that she had expected to see trees like those in Savannah – I presume she meant with Spanish moss – but instead she saw the palm trees. I thought that I couldn’t quite recall having seen palm-like trees in New Orleans before, but there they were.

So I took a couple of random pictures with my phone and then sat down to read.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw tripod guy get up and walk over to his tripod. And look through it. And sit back down. And do it again. And stand around for a minute and then sit back down. He must have been waiting for the sun to do something on the statue, but I have no idea what it was. I was tempted to ask, but was afraid that one of two things would happen:

1. He would peg me as a bourgeois touriste and give me the stare of disdain, or;
2. Go all artiste and explain it to me in all sorts of detail

So I read my book for awhile. When I decided that I had been in the sun for long enough, I packed up and left. He was still there.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje

Book 20

I was in the local section of a book store in the French Quarter. I should do a full post about the bookstores in the French Quarter. Michael Ondaatje is actually Canadian, and is most famous for writing The English Patient.

Coming through Slaughter is a much earlier piece. It was in the local section because it is a speculative piece of fiction regarding the mysterious life of Buddy Bolden, a rather famous musician at the turn of the century who is credited with pioneering, if not outright creating, jazz music. You know what? The book summary can do this better:

"At the turn of the century, the Storyville district of New Orleans had some 2,000 prostitutes, 70 professional gamblers and 30 piano players. It had only one man that played the cornet like Buddy Bolden. By day he cut hair and purveyed gossip at N. Joseph's Shaving Parlor. At night he played jazz as though unleashing wild animals in a crowded room. At the age of 31, Buddy Bolden went mad."

These appear to be the facts. Bolden was never recorded and there is only one, poor photograph existing of him. Ondaatje imagined the rest.

The other cool thing is that this piece appears to be an early attempt of a poet branching out into narrative fiction. So besides being not entirely linear, the perspective changes. There is also train of thought and script dialogue and lyrics. It is a short enough piece to pull off the effects rather well. From Bolden's perspective:

" with a brain no better than their sad bodies, so sad they cannot afford to feel sorrow toward themselves, only fear. And my brain atrophied and soaked in the music I avoid, like milk travelling over the boarder into cheese."

He was talking about the prostitutes. The end doesn't tie things up very nicely, but that is both true to the history and true to the poetry. In the end, it just feels sad - in the "we missed out on something great" way.

Amazing What a Coat of Paint Can Do

While I was in New Orleans, we boarded Kiwi and had some painting done. I don't mean to turn this into the Home Renovation blog, but I suspect my mother sent me all of these pictures so that she could just send my link to her friends.

I believe I mentioned that we finally dismantled the old formal dining room and made it into a bird room. Before:


And since Kay couldn't let the red go, the kitchen went from periwinkle (with Eloise and the pizza):

to chili pepper (with Kiwi on the fridge):

Finally the family room that went from 1977 dark wood paneling:

To some dull thing called "camel" which will be covered with art. Darth Vader has been banished:

Someone that is clearly not me decided that the furniture should be moved.The point is that a new paint job can do wonders for one's perspective and I think in a cost/benefit analysis of happiness it really can't be beat.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Liquor, by Poppy Z. Brite

Book 19

I hadn't read any of Brite's books before, but there was an essay in one of my New Orleans books so I thought I should check her out. Liquor is the first in a series of at least three. The plot involves a pair of childhood friends - now lovers - that have an interesting concept for a restaurant. They have just been fired from a restaurant that is clearly based on Margaritaville. I am embarrassed to say that I have eaten there.

As luck would have it, they know a guy that is friendly with a guy so clearly based on Emeril that even I spotted it. The Emeril-guy goes in with them as a silent-ish partner.

So. A funny/satire/kinda suspenseful book about the New Orleans restaurant scene? I am in.

The characters didn't suck, the plot was only half-convoluted and I was really interested in the commentary on the industry. I particularly like the contrast between cooking for the locals and cooking for the tourists - apparently the locals take issue with Emeril catering so completely to that crowd.

Hello. That's where the money is.

I learned that the strawberry sno-cone is the official hangover treat of the gods. I learned that a new restaurant has to be tough with the vendors right from the start or they will be supplied with bad tomatoes for all eternity. I learned that some people will really try anything.
And it was a lot of fun.

Three Roads to the Alamo, by William Davis

Book 18

The concept of this book was to weave the personal history of the three famed heroes of the Alamo - Crockett, Bowie and Travis - from birth to the main event. There was a lot of myth-busting.

Because Travis was younger, the first third of the book bounced between Bowie and Crockett. Crockett, as we know, was a congressman. His schtick was to be the Western Everyman - very Jacksonian. Except that he was far too independent for the true Jacksonians and they managed to have him voted out of office, which is how he landed in Texas. A lot of that "I'm my own man" stuff was a bit too much for me on the heels of McCain.

Bowie was a land speculator. Perpetuated major fruad against the federal government. I felt sleazy just reading it. Went to Texas when his other deals fell through.

Travis was a young lawyer so far into debt that he fled to Texas, abandoning his wife and two young children. Nice.

Suffice it to say that the Alamo redeemed them all.

This was not my normal pick for subject matter, but I was at the Alamo in January so I gave it a try. It was well-written, but now I am done.

Voodoo Museum

I have been to New Orleans plenty of times, but this was my first visit to the Voodoo Museum, which is pretty lame of me since it is in the French Quarter and most of my excuse for not doing things is, "I didn't set foot outside the Quarter". But Voodoo has always scared me.

Upon entering the building, I was greeted my a very nice man with a very thick southern accent that gave me the short-short version about how voodoo came to the U.S. with the enslaved people from west Africa. Of course they weren't allowed to practice their own religion, but they found enough similarities between voodoo and Catholicism to be able to hide it in plain site. The nice man continued on to say that voodoo traditions deal mostly with calling upon the spirits for good things like love and good luck and prosperity and it is really only Hollywood that makes it scary and evil. Then for five bucks I went back to see the artifacts. The nice man said that I could take pictures.

This is an alter to Papa la Bas, who seems to correspond to St. Peter:

Then there was the man with the alligator head, surrounded by lots of bones:

At his feet was another alter-like display. I forgot its significance:

They had a wishing stump with instructions and everything. I considered using it, but you have to write your wish on a piece of paper and leave it in the stump. I can't think of anything more embarrassing that having my wish read and mocked by a voodoo queen.

Anyway. I was all about the beauty of hiding one's faith in the traditions (superstitions?) of Catholicism. But I don't see why it requires so many carcasses. I didn't even take pictures of the worst ones, but when my friend Rich tried to tell me that it all made sense because Catholicism was all about a gruesome medieval torture device, I countered that a model of a crucifix was not the same as have an actual petrified cat hanging from the wall.

On the way out, there were voodoo dolls and books. And snakeskins and chicken feet. And I saw a sign in the window that suggested the nice man that gave me the short history was also a practitioner available for consultation.

Then I got the hell out of there and went for some iced coffee.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Read Some Books, Spent Some Money, Drank a Lot of Iced Coffee

And now I am going to bed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Heading Out

With all the music and the drinking and the festivals, and the food, when I think of New Orleans I always envision Jackson Square. Even if I remember to take pictures, I will never remember to take them at night so I stole this from the CVB.

I left work early to get my allergy shot. I dropped Kiwi the Grey and Eloise the Foster Grey off at the Refuge so that my mother could get the house painted. Packing up Kiwi is a pain in the ass between the toys and the treats and her food.

Rich and Jodi have already checked in and Jodi is very pleased with the oysters. I am now packed and fussing over the Blackhawks. In overtime. Again.

I am so tired that I can't even say I am excited. I just want to read books and drink margaritas.

Hopefully, I will come back with something good to write.

Too Much Responsibility

Last night, while I was at the library, my mother sent me an e-mail saying that my friend Jodi called and asked me to call her back when I got home. I am flying to New Orleans to meet Jodi and her husband, Rich, tomorrow and my mother was worried that something might be wrong.

I wasn’t going to make a call from the desk at the library, but I checked my Blackberry to be sure I had her number. I could tell that the home number was old which made me less sure of the cell phone number. I checked her Facebook info. The cell number is correct.

Then I saw that she had posted an update. She was on the train. I forgot that Rich doesn’t really like to fly so they compromised – train on the way down and fly back home. And if she was on the train, I could presume that everything was fine.

Kay thought that was the best use for Facebook that she had ever heard. Alert the press.

So when I got home, I tried to call and left Jodi a message. Then I started staring at my bookshelves. What should I take with me on vacation? I posted that thought on Facebook. This morning, I saw Jodi had sent a message that she forgot her book and I should bring her something good, too.

Am I a freak or is that serious responsibility?

First, she might hate a book that I pick. If I give her something “good” in the universal sense – not up for debate, we have all agreed teh book is good – it might not be vacation material. If I give her an Oprah book, she might roll her eyes. Or think I am judging her an Oprah-type.

Oh, and then calculate the percent probability of getting back books that you lend to people. Modify for the fact that Jodi lives in Milwaukee and I don’t see her very often at all. I don't want to lend her a really good book.

I am tearing my hair out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. Mostly it is because I have read an awful lot about the way the corporation treats employees and I do not approve. I also learned – in school – about the Wal-Mart model of vendor relationships, which are designed to keep the prices low. I remember thinking that Wal-Mart sounded to me like a big corporate bully.

(She says as she types in MS Word for publication in her Google blog).

However. I have always supported Wal-Mart’s decision not to carry certain types of entertainment that it finds graphic or offensive (or whatever). Not because I believe in censorship, but because I believe in capitalism. If Wal-Mart thinks something is dirty, and doesn’t want to sell something dirty, then Wal-Mart can choose not to sell it: just as I can choose not to shop at Wal-Mart.

What has happened, though, is that Wal-Mart will say, “OK, Eminem, we’ll sell your CD if you clean it up to our standards.” Is that ok?

Hm. I still think it’s acceptable. Lame, perhaps, but not evil. No one is making an artist change his or her work. Just saying that if you want to do business with this company, you must play by its rules. Again, it is Wal-Mart’s prerogative to distribute or not and the artist’s choice whether to comply or walk away cashless.

Green Day just told Wal-Mart where to stick it. According to the AP:

“Green Day has the most popular CD in the country, but you won't be able to find it at your local Wal-Mart.

The band says the giant superstore chain refused to stock its latest CD, "21st Century Breakdown," because Wal-Mart wanted the album edited for language and content, and they refused.”

Excellent. That is how it is supposed to work. Green Day can find other businesses to sell its album.

Billy Armstrong gave a “what about the little guy” quote. I considered it, but don't agree:

"If you think about bands that are struggling or smaller than Green Day ... to think that to get your record out in places like that, but they won't carry it because of the content and you have to censor yourself," he said. "I mean, what does that say to a young kid whose trying to speak his mind making a record for the first time? It's like a game that you have to play. You have to refuse to play it."

What does it say to a kid? It says this is a business. Art versus profit is a conflict older than Green Day and older than Wal-Mart. “A young kid trying to speak his mind” can speak his mind. A young kid wanting to make money and become a rock star can play by the rules.

The great thing is that no one in this conversation is talking about bans or boycotts. No one is calling names. And anyway, I thought the kids were all downloading from iTunes these days.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

State of the DVR

I cleaned out my DVR yesterday. Mostly it was deleting episodes of my “must see” shows that I watched in real time. But I also deleted all of those Grey’s Anatomy episodes – I think I will just skim through Television without Pity. I didn’t delete Private Practice yet, but I can’t say I am rushing home to watch those, either. I deleted Ugly Betty because I literally didn’t watch all season.

I have 17 episodes of Chuck. I think I will watch them.

I have seven movies recorded from when Showtime did a preview weekend. Six I haven’t seen before and one was the last Highlander movie.

I deleted the three Star Wars movies that I recorded from Spike TV, just in case I was bored. And too lazy to walk down the hall and get the commercial-free DVD’s?

I went from 29% capacity remaining to more than 50%.

And then I watched hockey.

Guillermo the Awesome Terminix Guy

Sunday night, I saw some ants on the floor of my bedroom. I have wood laminate floors in the bedroom, so they were very easy to spot and smash. By the time I had killed six, I pulled out the pet friendly Orange Guard (pictured because I couldn’t make myself post a picture of the actual bug) and sprayed. I believe I killed two dozen ants in my room that night.

Monday night, there were a few more ants and this other tiny bug that I didn’t recognize. Then, when an ant crawled across my computer keyboard, I went crazy. I sprayed every corner of the room, then stripped my bed and changed the sheets.

Then wiped up the spray, per the instructions and vacuumed.

My mother asked me to bring her one of the “new” bugs. She got online and searched and thought it might be a carpet beetle. She called Terminix. The front office said that our guy, Guillermo, was scheduled to come out on Friday to do a regular outdoor spray and couldn’t come any sooner. As if I would last that long. She called Guillermo’s cell phone. He said he would stop by after his last appointment.

Moral of the story: always know how to reach your guy directly.

Guillermo arrived as promised, identified the bug as a carpet beetle (even though there is no carpet in the room) and mixed his spray of perfectly pet friendly stuff to stop the madness. I told him how irritated I was that the first time since I have lived in this house I have a relatively clean bedroom and this is the first time bugs have invaded. He assured me it was nothing that I did and they probably just hatched somewhere.

We asked if he’d been busy lately. Crazy busy, apparently. Mice or bugs? Both. Plus rats and roaches. I didn’t ask any more questions – just felt grateful.

Terminix service costs a couple hundred dollars a year. Right now I am feeling like it was a great investment. As long as we can reach Guillermo directly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Working in HR means that I receive calls – by the dozen – every day from recruiters wanting to place candidates with me. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them that my turnover is incredibly low and that I have a list of retirees that I call when the receptionist goes on vacation.

I’ve stopped returning the calls. I know they are only doing their jobs and they know I am not likely to call them back. Most just want to make sure I remember them just in case.

Even so, I still have some negative feelings from a decade ago, when I went to half a dozen recruiters in my job search. It took me nine months after graduation to find the perfect job – and I found it by answering an ad in the Chicago Tribune.

I felt the recruiters were either trying to place me in positions that I didn’t want or ignoring me altogether. One started ignoring me five minutes after I quit the job that she pressured me to take. I wish someone had given me this advice (from MSN Careers):

Louise Kursmark, author of "15-Minute Cover Letter," says the most important thing to remember about recruiters is that they don't work for you; they work for hiring companies.

"They are not 'your' recruiter and will not try to 'find a job for you.' That said, recruiters can be your best friends during a job search -- provided you have the skills, experience and industry expertise their client is looking for," Kursmark says.

This piece of advice has come back to me in several forms over the last few years. In any business relationship – financial planner, attorney, recruiter – make sure you know who is footing the bill. Whoever is paying is the true “client”. That knowledge makes a big difference in perspective.

I am not saying that recruiters are bad, or that they won’t care about you. Just that understanding their purpose, which is to find candidates for hiring employers, might save you some frustration. In the scope of a job search, recruiters are just one resource. My advice is use it, but don’t count on it.

You can read the full text of the article here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Changes at MNF

I like Tony Kornheiser, but he made me crazy on MNF. So I am not sorry to see Fox Sports reporting that he is giving it up. And Chucky is replacing him! Kornheiser says:

"If I could handpick a replacement of a football guy, I would cast a net and drag in Jon Gruden," Kornheiser said in a statement released by the network. "He is the two things you most want — smart and funny — and has the two things I don't — good hair and a tan."

And that is why I like him. He says that he looked at the schedule, saw how much flying he would have to do, and turned in his mike. He is afraid of flying. And he is no John Madden.

Maybe it was time for Gruden to leave Tampa, but you have to give him credit. He turned a perennial loser into a perennial contender. I remember the year they broke the they broke their curse – they had never won a game when the temperature was below freezing – on the Bears. In Soldier Freaking Field. I knew that day they were going to win the Super Bowl.

So welcome to Chucky! Be nice to the Bears.

Open House - Games

My friend Noah is a serious gamer. He is a perennial game master and plays in one other game that I know of. He is the reason I tried role-playing games in college and got all sucked in to playing Vampire.

When we were in college, he and I had a running game of gin rummy. Noah carried around the score sheet in his wallet and whenever we were bored, we played a quick game.

These days, Noah has an open house every couple of months where people gather at his house to play board games. Because my weekends have been tied up with homework for about ever, Saturday was the first tie I was able to attend.

I was the first to arrive. Noah’s two young children were having Quiet Time in their rooms and Noah and his wife, Jenny were playing Guitar Head. When they were done, Noah made an X Box avatar for me, just in case we decided to play video games. He gave me Princess Leia hair.

Noah has every board game under the sun – most things I have never heard of – and he knows all of the rules and can explain them. I love that he always knows whose turn it is and what actions they can take.

There were ten of us playing and I stayed for two games: Pandemic, which is a cooperative game where you try to eradicate diseases before they take over the earth. We lost that one; and Power Grid, where you compete with the other players to provide electricity to the entire US. Noah won.

One of the things that has gotten better about board games – or maybe this is how Noah chooses his games – is that there is less “elimination”, where the last man standing wins. The games have a point where they end for everyone and there is different criteria for winning. That way people aren’t sitting around waiting for others to finish. We had a good time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another Thrift Shop

Friday, on my way to the Library to help set up the book sale, I passed by a new resale store. I forget the name but it had a big tarp sign that didn't even cover the outline of the old sign - the place used to be a Curves gym.

Resale stores are popping up right and left these days. Besides the recession trend, I imagine it is a renter's market right now, making set up pretty cheap. A couple of years ago, a used book store landed in Randhurst mall. They were practically giving books away and I couldn't believe they would be able to stay in business. My mother reminded me about introductory rental rates, and we later found that Randhurst was getting ready to close for construction. So if one has a mobile-ish business, I guess there are opportunities.

Some of the stores are raising funds for charities. WINGS has had a resale store in Palatine for about ever and now there is one near the Golf Mill mall. They might even have a third by mow, raising funds for victims of domestic violence. Another new one in Glenview, Full Circle was written up in the Glenview Announcements recently:

Rather than dilute the growing market of resale shops in Glenview, Solyst and Brechlin believe each is finding a niche for specialty items. The Village Treasure House has the most furniture and home accessories, the resale shop at the Glenview Community Church has a large variety of clothing and Full Circle offers a lot of purses, jewelry and accessories.

I stopped in a couple of weeks ago and bought this:

I had a hook in the ceiling where a lamp used to hang, so for $8.00, this fits. Although as you see, I don't know what the basket should hold.

I drove by the new one today. Closed on Sundays. Hm. Charities can get away with Closed on Sundays. Not sure about a real for-profit retail establishment.
We shall see.

The Dentist

USA Today ran another of those “what are we spending our money on during the recession?” articles. No surprises, really, but here was a good point:

Still, when the economy grinds to a halt, people clench their teeth. That could mean spending money at the dentist.

There's no statistical evidence, but dentists such as Dr. Matthew Messina in Cleveland, Ohio., are seeing more people with tooth-grinding injuries.

"The body responds the same way to a real threat, 'There's a burglar in the house,' as it does to a perceived stress like 'I'm worried I'm going to lose the house,"' Messina said.

Going to the dentist is something people skimp on when money is tight. While there is no statistical proof that tooth-grinding injuries are on the rise, I am pretty sure there is statistical evidence somewhere that skipping dental cleanings will cost more in treatment later on. And treatment is unpleasant.

My parents were always having dental issues when I was a kid. On top of that, I had two bad experiences in my youth – where the dentist did not listen to me and pain and fear ensued. I went six or seven years without going to the dentist. Finally, I knew I had to go back. And I was terrified.

My father gave me an awesome piece of advice:

“You are an adult and you are the client. No one gets to touch you without your consent. If the dentist isn’t listening, you get up out of the chair and walk out the door.”

I’ve never had to do that, and for all practical purposes, it isn’t quite…practical. But the thought was empowering nonetheless. I found a dentist in my neighborhood that is about my age – which was to minimize the feeling of “must obey this authority figure” anxiety. His assistant is fabulous.

I am a convert.

If you don’t have a regular dentist, please find one. And if you have one, please don’t skip cleanings. And remember to floss!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Check Out My Backyard

Why, you ask, is a lone adirondack chair sitting in the middle of the lawn? It is covering this:

The other day after work, I hear my mother scream. Which is not unusual. But this was something slightly more panicked than normal and I thought it might have involved the dog's name so I dragged myself outside to look.

He had killed a baby bunny. This is a baby-bunny hole. Some mama bunny thought the middle of my damn backyard where Shadow the Dog lives would be a good place to plant the babies.

And P.S. - a cooper's hawk lives in the neighborhood.

So we put the chair over the hole and have been walking Shadow on a leash. How long before baby bunnies leave the nest?

Talking TV

I haven't watched Grey's Anatomy in months. Since that one that ended with McDreamy and McSteamy pummeling each other on the mezzanine. Grey's is on while I am at the library, so I had been watching the Tivos on weekends. Except that I started choosing homework over Tivo and fell behind. I happened to tune in for the last 30 minutes of the finale - which was great - so now I am all caught up.

It's like when I used to keep up with General Hospital by reading the recaps online.

Lost, on the other hand, I watch in real time. The season has been up and down, but the finale was pretty good. Except when Juliet punked out.

I am supposed to believe that she is going to blow up the island so that she never has to meet Sawyer so that she never has to lose him? First of all, that's lame. Second of all:

"I saw the way you looked at her"?

Bee oh oh atche oh oh. (Is that how you spell "H")?

As far as I can tell, the guy has been nothing but awesome to you this entire time. He has done every. single. thing. you asked of him. And even the things you just manipulated him into doing. He hasn't gotten pissy with you once - even when you deserved it. Since the second Kate walked back into Dharmaville, Sawyer has talked about nothing but what a great life he had with you. Five seconds before decking him, Sawyer told Jack to walk over there and get Kate back. He has been the very definition of commitment.

I don't care if he is carrying a small torch for some chick he knew for three months - three years ago. Actions speak, Lady.

(Yes. I would have gotten on the plane with Victor Laszlo.)

OK. Now I am done. Let's talk about the important stuff:

I was thinking that John was an even bigger ass once he got back to the island. Now we know why. The best reveal for me was that Ben wasn't all messed up about Roger Workman. He was all messed up because of Jacob.

I cheered like it was football season when I heard Vincent. Which reminds me of something funny that Maureen Ryan said at the Tribune. She was quoting the great lines in the episode and said:

Miles to all: "I'm glad you all thought this through." Miles should go live with Rose and Bernard, honestly. And I would watch that show.

I would also watch that show.

24 is the show at which I am really rolling my eyes.

I am vaguely interested in seeing what Aaron does. Although that means watching more of Sherri Palmer jr. (who is so weepy and annoying that she doesn't even deserve the nickname anymore - suggestions for something better?). I would also like to know what happens to Tony. Anne's judgement is that he can live, but his girlfriend must die - she is responsible for the recycled Kim Bauer plot.

House. he didn't detox. Or do the other stuff. So now he is going to detox. Really - I'm pretty sure we have been here before. I mean, the ride down is cool and all. But I was expecting a game-changer. I think it is too bad Kal Penn had to bolt out the door because I think they used their best material in those couple of episodes.

Now. I have tons of books to read and many movies to watch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Speaking of obnoxious things people do with their cell phones, ran an article called, Are you App-noxious? that listed a whole new type of offensive behavior that I didn’t even know existed:

“Three of my colleagues purchased the iPhone calorie counter app and are constantly talking about what they ate and how many calories everything is,” says Renate Raymond, a 37-year-old arts administrator from Seattle. “And now they’ve started circulating around the lunchroom analyzing the calories that everyone else is eating. You’ll be eating a burrito and they’ll sneak up and punch in ‘burrito’ and tell you that you’re eating 550 calories. They’re driving everybody nuts.”

There was a related article about the most offensive iPhone applications that makes me very glad I do not have an iPhone.

I’m just going to read a book now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Best Movie Candy Ever

I forget why I was in Walgreens on Friday, but I decided to pick up some candy for watching Star Trek. Walgreens is bringing back some "classics" and I picked up the old "jawbusters". The mini version of these can still be found - in little green boxes. I like how this "classic" is Gluten Free. Warning: I had to be careful to open the little wrappers during the loud parts.

Sorry about the glare.

I had my first experience with utter_scoundrel's pet peeve: the texting in the theater. I was sitting in the front section. There were about a dozen of us, each sitting alone at the 1:15 showing of Star Trek on Friday. There were a few dads with kids behind us. Mr. Texter was in the second row and I could swear he took bootleg video of the opening sequence.

I am not going back to the movie theater.

Murder on the Orient Express

I picked up the PC game Murder on the Orient Express at Half Price Books just before the end of the semester. I enjoyed the first Agatha Christie game and this one features Hercule Poirot. Awesome.

The PC is not Poirot, but a young lady named Antoinette that is an employee of the train line. She is a mystery fan and does the leg work for Poirot, who may or may not have sprained his ankle when the avalanche hit the train.

This was pretty basic mystery-game stuff. Question the suspects, search their rooms. There is always a weird way to take fingerprints. In this case it was taking a piece of coal from the engine car, crushing it with a hammer, putting the dust into a turkey baster found in the kitchen and then using tape.

Would not have put that together without the cheats. Or, by the way, how to use the little statue and a punch bowl filled with orange juice to fix the ham radio. Puleeze.

I liked that I was not worried about saving the game all the time. I liked that Poirot was all validating. I did not like that the game forces the PC to validate clues that we already had. For example, we interrogate the Countess and find her true identity. Then we have to research it on the ham radio. Then we are forced to confront her again before moving on. I suspect glitches like this are because there was less structure to the timeline than in many games. You'd think I'd appreciate that.

Anyway, the game did a fine job of sticking to the spirit of the novel as I remember it without the novel giving away the whole thing. For the eight dollars paid, I am happy to continue playing this series.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Did I Miss It?

Several years ago - either 2001 or 2002 – I missed the whole summer. I probably took a vacation of some sort, but somehow, when the fall came, I realized that I didn’t remember the leaves coming back to the tree in my front yard. And they were falling again. I realized that I hadn’t seen a single firefly that year. Needless to say, I’d been having a killer time of it at work.

Also needless to say, the vow was that it would never happen again.

Last week I was walking around Lake Glenview and the Canada Geese were leading the babies around the water. I had a moment of panic – was I missing it again? No, I realized. It was the first week in May. That was about when the goslings hatched and that was about when the tulips bloomed and that was about when the leaves started coming back to my tree.


It’s like I’m some bizarre kind of Springtime Scrooge.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

That Star Trek Movie

It was really good. I didn't watch the original series - I was a fan of The Next Generation. So I spent more time than most trying to figure out what was the original canon and what was alternate reality. (Did Little Spock really beat the crap out of a Vulcan kid in school?) But I wasn't hung up on it.

I had a headache by the time it was over, which may have been dehydration but I am blaming on the cinematography. The reviewers are right - it is heavy on the close ups.

I am very glad that I saw that annoying preview of Kirk on the Hoth system because I knew exactly when to take a bathroom break. And it is a good thing I was quick about it, because Nimoy shows up immediately thereafter. Do not miss that part.

Dumbest Anne moment:

Watching the destruction of a planet, my first reaction was that wasn't how Alderaan looked. I had to remind myself Alderaan exploded and this one imploded.

Anyway. I went home and told my mother about it and she had no interest until I looked up Bones on imdb and figured out how I knew him. King Eomer.

The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler

Book 17

The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler, was a One Book One Chicago pick last year. I find it an interesting choice, in that these book club picks generally have something to say about race relations or the immigrant experience of one culture group or another. Chandler doesn't even write about Chicago. I can't figure out why it was chosen other than it rocks.

So Chandler's (anti) hero, Philip Marlowe, gets sucked into to a multi-death mystery. It was never much of a paid assignment for him, and Marlowe picks and chooses what he shares with the cops, so part of the fun is trying to figure out where his moral compass actually points. It isn't quite Right and Wrong, but he does pursue truth. It might have just been for his own amusement, but justice is pretty well served by the time he is finished.

The other interesting question is what he actually thinks of women. Chandler spends an entire page describing sterotypes of women with blonde hair before deciding the one he was looking at was none of them. But you can't really call him misogynist when he is just as contemptuous of so many men. This line, to the drunk writer (a suspect) is:

"Nothing to get sore about. I'm just listening to you hate yourself. It's boring but it doesn't hurt my feelings."

I can appreciate that.

Compared to the Chandler novels I've read before, this was a rather long and complicated plot. But I certainly followed it to the end.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

CBS News Reporting on Parrots

This report was from Los Angeles, so the Refuge didn't participate, but I thought it was very well done for a short spot.

Storm Defender

I forget where I first read about The Storm Defender, but it is a special cape for dogs with a phobia of storms.

Like many dogs, Shadow's phobia has gotten worse as he ages. When we are home with him during a storm, he sits in our laps until it is over. 60 pound dog and it could go on all freakin' night. It is worse, of course, when we aren't home. He has locked himself in bathrooms and chewed his way through the doorknob into the garage. We had to put a bolt on the door to the basement and remember to leave the shower curtain open in my bathtub. We are so past the point where this was funny.

The cape designed to "discharge static electricity that builds up in the fur". The theory is that the static is what freaks out the dog, even before the noise. And because the static is often present even before the rain, the dog learns to dread the feeling and that's why it gets worse as the dog gets older.

So for 70 bucks we are giving it a try:

He doesn't seem to hate it. We'll see how he gets through the week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dracula 3 - The Path of the Dragon

Just to get it out of the way, “The Path of the Dragon” sounds like a Bruce Lee film, not a vampire game. “The dragon” in this case is Dracula himself and “the Path” is the way to find him. To put it simply. Some people might call it the Path to Immortality, but whatever.

The interface (I think that’s what it is called) is very similar to the first two games. But happily, there is also an “objectives” feature to which a player can refer so that she is not required to cheat quite so much. The player-character also gives more hints for things like, “I’d better call the bishop now” so I wasn’t wandering around trying to figure out how to get to the next stage.

While the second Dracula game was a sequel to the first – which featured the Harkers of the Stoker novel, this third game calls the Stoker novel fiction. It does, however, speculate on the extent to which the fiction is based on reality (or game-reality as it may be). It calls Stoker on the obvious – if everyone from whom Dracula drinks became a vampire, why aren’t we are world peopled with vampires?

The PC is a priest sent to Transylvania to investigate whether a local doctor should be canonized. It is 1920 and the town was left in ruins after the war. And, of course, one of those ruins is the castle of Vlad Tepes (as pictured). The original investigation is quickly resolved when the PC discovers the doctor was fighting vampires. But now the Vatican wants an investigation into the existence of vampires. You know, to prove that they don’t.

So the story was good with the usual quirky characters and betrayals. I wish there had been better continuity with the landscape of the previous games. In the castle, for example, I didn’t recognize anything and it would have cool if I had.

I liked that you don’t actually see Dracula until the end. I like that the PC is dealing with science and history and actual people screwing with him for most of the way. Traditionally, Dracula’s minions just freak me out. But when that confrontation happens…well first, the character of Dracula is nothing like he was in the previous games. And he actually has blood on his face. His voice is all wrong and his wording seemed off.

I found the puzzles tiresome, so that’s where I did most of my cheating. One was so annoying, even with the cheat, that I thought I might quit so I read ahead to see if it was worth continuing. Unfortunately, I read how to win the game when I might have figured it out myself.

I liked that when something killed the character, the game sent you back to try again. There was only one time where it didn’t help – I had to reload because I messed up something before the return point.

Overall, it was decent. But I’m looking forward to getting back to the Agatha Christie games.

Star Trek

I just read the Tribune’s review of Star Trek. I might have to see it. But here is my favorite line:

At times you think you’re watching trick-or-treaters dressed as Sulu (played here by John Cho), or Chekov (Anton Yelchin, making hay with the Slavic accent). But only at times.
Interestingly enough, I asked my boss if I could take off on Friday because I’ve been feeling burned out and my vacation is three weeks away.

I hadn’t thought I’d go to the movies. I haven’t been in a theater since The X-Files last summer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Once a Year

The Board of Directors is in town for Big Meeting today. We were all asked to clean up our workstations. Carpets were shampooed, so no boxes were allowed on the floor. I even dusted my Legos:

Don’t they look cute by my very official-looking certifications?

I really took the pictures so that my mom would believe that My Room is All Clean.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

About Leonard Cohen

My brother and I discovered Leonard Cohen in a Christian Slater movie. Pump Up the Volume, 1990. Actually, that’s also where we discovered Concrete Blonde. Seriously, folks, that was the best soundtrack of my teen years – including everything from the Brat Pack.

Anyway, sometime last year, Scott picked up a two disk compilation from Cohen. I borrowed it and never gave it back. There are songs I am still trying to figure out.

The Chicago Tribune ran an article today about Cohen that said his masterpiece, Hallelujah, has 15 pages of verses as written (as opposed to recorded). This YouTube clip has some of the (new? alternate?) material:

Cohen is going to be in town this week. We thought for five seconds about getting tickets, but concerts aren’t my favorite thing and they started at $250.00. But seriously, 15 verses? I am going to be meditating on this guy for the rest of my life.

Now excuse me while I get on the Internet to find the entire text and try to analyze it like The Rime of the Ancient Freakin’ Mariner. (Was it Rime or Rhyme in the Ancient Mariner?)

Anne's Chopped Salad

I made a chopped salad for dinner. My mother asked where I got the recipe.

"There's no recipe. It's a salad!"

OK, fine. For your amusement, here's the salad for lazy people that are also picky eaters:

1 bag of romaine lettuce - because I don't like that goofy "field greens" stuff

1 package Purdue Short Cuts (the pre-cooked and sliced stuff), oven roasted

1/2 package reduced fat blue cheese - I forget the brand

Some shredded carrots

One cucumber



Salad dressing of choice - I used reduced fat Hidden Valley Ranch

So. First I dump the bag of lettuce into my biggest mixing bowl. Then I cut up the cucumber the way my daddy taught me (before seedless cucumbers were invented). Use a carrot peeler to peel the skin-

I read somewhere that if you are not eating the skin of the fruit/vegetable, that organics are really unnecessary because the bad chemical-whatever doesn't get through to the actual vegetable. I just don't enjoy the texture of cucumber skin.

Then slice it in half, long-ways. Take the utensil of your choice and dig out the seeds. I once used a spoon, but am now too lazy to walk acroos the kitchen to get one. So I used the knife, making my mother happy about washing one less thing. My father would hate it because he is convinced that I am going to slice off a finger, the way I cut produce. Good thing he didn't see me with the chicken and the kitchen scissors. Once the seeds are out, slice in half long-ways again, then chop. Repeat for the rest of the cucumber.

Toss in shredded carrots. I just bought a bag, but I am not above using my baby Cuisinart for the job.

Add bag of chicken. After I used the kitchen scissors to open the package, I used them to chop up the chicken a bit further. Because it is a chopped salad.

Add blue cheese. I used less than half the container, in fear of overdoing it. But half the container would have been fine.

Add in some craisins. Enough so the pretty color stands out. Or something.

I mixed the salad up and then filled a bowl so that my mother could take some to work tomorrow. Before croutons and dressing.

Then I added croutons and dressing. The secret, for me, to the salad dressing, is use less than you think you need. Because you can always add more.

Then I mixed it all up and this is what it looked like:

Actually, it looks pretty pale. But that's what happens when you use ranch dressing. But I thought it was very tasty.

I had a bowl, my mother had a bowl, there was the one I set aside and there was some left over. So I am going to say this makes four bowls of salad. We also had some odd, but good pumpkin bread from a new bakery in town and it was a nice, light spring dinner.

Spring Cleaning

Some people clean out their closets and air the place out. I cleaned out my car. Things I found:

  1. Notebook from Principles of Marketing (Winter 2008)
  2. Notebook from Operations Management (Fall 2008)
  3. Every insurance card my car has ever had, including the temporary one (April 2003)
  4. Every annual registration my car has ever had (April 2004)
  5. Dried out container of car wipees - you know, like Lysol wipes, but for the car
  6. The first hat I ever bought, to go with the first sun roof I ever bought (April 2003)
  7. Mapquest directions to Nicki and Jerry's house (December 2007)
  8. Sunscreen stick (date unknown)
  9. Water damaged book by Richard Feynman - my mother left it in the passenger side door
  10. Various parking lot tickets for my allergist's office
  11. Business card and list of needed documentation to re-finance my mortgage
  12. Liz Phair cd in Trans Siberian Orchestra case
  13. The Joshua Tree in Liz Phair case

I was expecting to find a pair of summer loafers that I lost last September, but no luck.

Anyway, the clutter is gone. Which, of course, doesn't mean the car is clean.

Dropping Books

I can't tell you when I last put a book down for real. So as not to finish it and start something else.

Wait..ok, I can. Bill Clinton's autobiography. And the Alison Weir about Mary Queen of Scots. And that other one about Queen Victoria's death.

But I am going back to those. Every single one. Someday.

I read five or six chapters of Alice Sebold's book, The Almost Moon, and was so disgusted that I dropped it. I am not going to finish it. It is going straight to the pile of donations for the library book sale.

What went wrong here?

Nevermind. This is not worth lamenting. I have got to stop choosing material based on what all the books clubs are reading.

But you know, I really chose it because I read Sebold's first two books - The Lovely Bones and Lucky, the memoir - and enjoyed them both. My to-be-read bookcase is filled with material that I chose because I liked the author's other books. Ann Patchett, Solzhenitsyn, Ward Just...and oh, my. So much Philip Roth.

I am disillusioned.

So I pulled Raymond Chandler off the shelf. Should've done that in the first place.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Did I Mention I Hate Overtime?

You know – when I tell the Bears that I am tired of overtime, they just go ahead and lose. The Bulls, on the other hand, mock me.

I left for the library without my laptop last night. I decided that I was going to ignore this game and it would be all over by the time I arrived home shortly after 9pm. I sorted some books, listed a few on Amazon and read. It was most pleasant.

When I got home, I found my mother watching basketball. “So what happened?” I ask.

They were in overtime. I rolled my eyes and sat down. I could watch for two minutes.

Double overtime. I think, “Geez, guys. The dog really has to pee and I want to take a shower.” And by that time I was online tracking the Blackhawks, too.

Triple overtime. She let the dog out and I took that shower. I was back in front of the television to see it: Joakim Noah stole the ball and slammed it in. With God as my witness, I will never call him “hair-boy from Florida” again.

I have to wonder, though. Whichever team wins tomorrow night – how are they going to get through Round 2?

I hate overtime.