Friday, April 30, 2010

The Cupcake Craze

I dig a good cupcake as much as the next girl, but I was rather stunned last week in DC when I heard my colleague, Marsha saying that "the cupcake guy promised he'd make us his first stop after the scheduled deliveries".

"You know the cupcake guy?" I asked.
"No, he posts on Facebook."

Curbside Cupcakes is the company we are talking about here.  They take their pink van around town, park it somewhere, and a line forms until they run out of cupcakes.   No kidding, people.  I got the word he was there, went downstairs to see what all the fuss was about, and he had already run out.  It was not 10 minutes.  I am pretty sure I once read there was a "cupcake factor" involved in measuring the progress of the economic recovery.  But I don't remember if it was "more cupcakes = small luxury to make us happy when we have no money" or "more cupcake = we are spending our money on dumb things because we have it again".

It seems that Cinnabon has also started making cupcakes.  I first saw it at the airport on the way home.  I think that is a great idea for them - get a bit further outside the breakfast model.   So the next time I was in a shopping mall, I grabbed one.  Unfortunately, I was not impressed.  It might have been that it didn't taste entirely fresh.  Also, I think they might have used the cinnamon roll frosting on the vanilla cupcake.  Didn't taste quite right in its solid (as in non-melty) form.

Now I am all jonesing for a decent cupcake.   I should probably just stick with Deerfield's.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Talking Poetry (sort of)

It seems I like to get my homework done early...

Weekend Assignment #316: National Poetry Month

As April wraps up, let's not let it get away without celebrating National Poetry Month. For this assignment, please share with us something about poetry. Tell us about your favorite poet, or quote us a few lines of your favorite poem, or if poetry doesn't happen to be something you enjoy, tell us why!

Extra Credit: Write a Haiku!

I was thinking of writing something about the smart, snarky, tortured lady poets: Dorothy Parker, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton. But the truth is that I don’t much do poetry. I like character development.

I remember studying Beowulf in high school. That was pretty cool, but I imagine if Mr. David Mullaly taught quantum physics I would have thought it cool. Which is kind of how I ended up reading Paradise Lost a couple of months ago.

I purchased a copy many years ago, when I went through a phase I call, “I have finished my Bachelor’s Degree and no one is ever going to make me read a book again.” It was really a panic. That if I didn’t make myself read the things one is supposed to read, I will have missed something. And become a Jello-head.

Seriously, people.  I went through 13 years of public school and four years of college and didn’t manage to read To Kill a Freakin' Mockingbird until it was the pick for One Book, One Chicago.

I wanted to read Paradise Lost, but every time I picked it up, I would think about how much more fun it would be to read with a real teacher. You know, that knew stuff. Then I discovered Academic Earth. And it had an entire course on John Milton. So I finally read it. And the “sequel”. And some other 17th century English stuff about politics and virtue.

Here is what I wrote about the epic and here is what I wrote about the course.  Good times.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I came home from the Rescue tonight, all excited to see how Kiwi and Sigmund did with their new foraging toys.  Sigmund hadn't touched his.  Here is what I found in Kiwi's cage:

Instead of twisting the face of the toy until she could reach each of the treats, she removed the screw so the face dropped off and she could reach all of them at once.

I was able to put it back together, and refilled the thing.  When I put her back in her room and came upstairs, she was dutifully manipulating the appropriate pieces.  I am counting the minutes until I hear the crash.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh. How True.

Robert Bianco, a TV writer at USA Today, does a regular column called Critic's Corner.  It is basically a What to Watch.  He made a comment today for the Wednesday post that rather hit home for me:

"David Tennant stars as Hamlet (PBS, 8 ET/PT, times may vary) tonight in this Great Performances filmed-for-TV version of the Royal Shakespeare Company's modern dress production, with Patrick Stewart as Claudius. There was a time, back when cable was young, we all thought classics like Hamlet would find a regular home on an arts-oriented basic network — like one of the ones that offer Dog the Bounty Hunter, Top Chef Masters or Hoarding: Buried Alive tonight instead. But it has become abundantly clear that if PBS doesn't do it, no one will."

Seriously, I can't remember the last time I watched something on Bravo.   Now I am going to go set my DVR.  Hang on, though:

Ooh, and check it out: my new Amazon Associates toy called it right up.  That's just good marketing.

Rotating Toys

This is Kiwi the Grey's favorite foraging toy:

I say it is her favorite because that is where the pine nuts go.  She is ridiculously proficient with it.  The idea is that the treats go in the hole and the bird must twist them around the maze until she can reach them.  Just to keep her sharp and, I don't know, tick her off, I ordered her a new one.  Same theme, slightly different execution.

The last time I bought Kiwi a new foraging toy, it took her all of two hours to figure out.  We'll see how this works.  And in the meantime, Sigmund can borrow the "easy" one.


It occurs to me that I haven't actually told you about my new niece, Ashlyn.  She was born Monday the 12th, when I was in Seattle.  Last Friday, I headed over to spend a couple of hours, as my brother had been out of town and wasn't returning until late that night.  Becky's mother had spent the week with her, but was heading home after she picked up Alex from school.

So Alex wasn't home yet and Ainslie was asleep and Becky gave me the napping baby while she stepped outside to talk with a neighbor.  I was reading my book when Ashlyn started to squirm.  I knew she wasn't hungry, so I put her on the floor to do a diaper check and before I could grab the diaper bag she had fallen asleep again.  Good timing because that was about when Ainslie, age 18 months, woke up.  Oh, but I snapped this pic first:

Yeah.  She's a baby.  So Ainslie and I read a magazine and then she got up and started running around and just as I was starting to worry about watching them both...everyone else came home.

Three kids, man.  Seriously.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

When The West Wing ended, I was thrilled to hear that creator Aaron Sorkin was writing another series. It was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a behind-the-scenes drama of an SNL-like show. That premiered at the same time as that Tina Fey show.

I cannot express the love I had for The West Wing in its heyday. I am, however, a sucker for the majesty that can occasionally be found in Washington. Studio 60 was to be my test for whether Sorkin could keep my attention with something else. Here is my verdict:

Sorkin at his best can, I swear to Yoda, make you cry.

This series only lasted one season. It just couldn’t pick up an audience, and it seems the networks don’t give scripted shows much of a chance these days. I was grateful that NBC let them finish the story arc. I picked up the DVDs for some road entertainment, which was silly with my overflowing DVR. But one season isn’t much of a commitment.

Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford played the lead roles. Best buds who returned to run the show that started their careers. Whitford, of course, came straight from The West Wing and Perry did a few episodes there after Friends ended. Timothy Busfield, who rocked my world in his recurring role as a reporter, came with them.

The pilot does not disappoint. The hook, provided by Judd Hirsch (and ohhh, was I hoping he would come back for another guest shot), was great and the pace was…so Sorkin. I swear that DVR was invented by someone that wanted to hear a piece of his dialogue one more time, every single week. The guy is all about the dialogue. The criticism is it is so sharp that you don’t believe real people are that sharp all the time. I don’t care. It is sharp.

For those looking for something juicy, it might please you to know that the relationship between Perry’s character and Sarah Paulson’s is based on Sorkin’s relationship with Kristin Chenowith.

Not every episode is great. The sending a coyote after a something that went after a ferret that went after the snake underneath the stage…even Busfield couldn’t save that thread. But you put up with that stuff in order to be there for the Christmas episode. It took me a week longer than necessary to finish these DVDs because I had to watch it three times. And I am pretty sure I watched it three times when it was on the air.

(sigh) I hear Sorkin is working on a new series, and he wrote the screenplay for the Facebook movie that is coming out this fall. Thought I was going to skip that one. But for now, I’m going to think about Sports Night.

Fostering Parrots: Sigmund Revisited

I brought Sigmund the African Grey back to the rescue for the duration of my road trip.  I may have mentioned that we have done a lot of talking over there about how long a time is appropriate for a foster and the reasons that a bird is being fostered in the first place.  We do not have hard and fast rules, but I make it a habit of taking a bird back to the rescue when I am on the road.  A few reasons:
  1. When I am out of town, my mother is caring for the dog, the cat, and Kiwi the Grey.  Asking her to care for my foster parrot is a lot.
  2. The rescue needs to keep track of the progress of each bird, and my regular travel schedule is a good opportunity to evaluate.
  3. I don't want the bird to get too attached to my house, or for my house to get too attached to a bird.
  4. When a foster family starts dodging requests to bring the bird back, it makes everyone jumpy.  I want to set an example for how it should work.
In my two longer-term foster assignments, there were good reasons.  With Manu, the Amazon, the rescue facility was under construction for a really long time.  The more birds in foster care, the fewer cages we were tripping on at the facility.  I fostered him to adoption and it was fabulous.

My second long term foster was Eloise, an African Grey.  She had been ill, was on long term meds and did much better in a home environment than at the rescue facility.  I sent her to another volunteer's home when I learned there was mold in my house last summer.  (She was already on anti-fungal meds, so thankfully she was protected.) 

I brought Sigmund home this weekend when I returned from DC.  He had done fine most of the time I was gone, but started picking his feathers again a couple of days before.  He seems happy enough and comfortable at my house and we want to see if we can get him to leave the feathers alone.  He is a great bird - incredibly adoptable - he just looks funny.

He has long been a feather-picker, so that might not change.  But he doesn't ask for much: just some good food and good company.  I am sure we can find a great home for him.  Here's hoping.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ophelia, by Lisa Klein

Book 17

Ophelia, by Lisa Klein, is another alternate point of view of Hamlet

The book opens with a letter from Horatio to Ophelia with news of the deaths of Hamlet, Laertes, Gertrude and Claudius.  Oooooh, a suggestion of an alternate history from the onset.  But will we buy it?

The story begins with the lady's early life, without a mother, and how she landed in the Queen's service at a young age.  By the end of Act One, she and Hamlet have secretly fallen into their forbidden love (inasmuch as her "lowly birth" makes her unfit to marry) and suddenly, the King is dead.

Act Two is Shakespeare's play, as told by Ophelia.  There is no good way to summarize and I would prefer not to spoil some things.  And Shakespeare gets complex enough without adding the differences here.  I will say two things: first, Klein is careful with the original.  She makes sure that when she spins a different story that it does not directly contradict anything from the actual text.  Ophelia is alive because she faked her death.  Using that potion that makes everyone think you are dead.  Hey..Juliet had it!  Oh, and she made sure that Horatio dug her right back up after they buried her.  And Horatio is so honorable that he doesn't tell his best bud, the prince, that his one true love is alive because she asked him not to.  Second, and this makes all the difference in my opinion of the characters, Klein asserts in her version that Hamlet was pretending to be insane with the endgoal of Vengeance.  And he went mad.  Ophelia pretended to be insane to manage her escape.  She escaped.

Act Three is Ophelia leaving Denmark and hanging out at the nunnery.  There is a point to Act Three, but it dragged on a bit too far for my taste.

Overall, it was well done.  Convoluted in the Shakespearean spirit without sacrificing everything that makes the heroine likeable. 

The Secret is Out

And I am going to complain, which will only make it worse.

After my trip to Seattle, I officially banked enough Marriott points to cover my hotel room on a return trip to the Big Island.  I was thinking Same Time, Next Year.  But I'm not quite sure I will have the airline miles.  So I went to to see how much it would cost to just pay for a ticket.  The answer:  $1,000.

I could have sworn it was only $700 the last time I checked.  What happened, exactly?  Perhaps the economy (and tourism industry) turning around.  Perhaps the cost of gasoline.  And perhaps "volcano tourism is suddenly hot", as USA Today Travel reports:

"To ashen travelers stranded across the globe by belching coming from the depths of an unpronounceable Icelandic glacier, the prospect of communing with an active volcano may be as enticing as spending the night on an airport terminal floor.

But to legions of thrill seekers, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull is the latest advertisement for the greatest show on Earth."

And they called out Kilauea. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Was a Real Commuter

By "real commuter" I mean that I used public transportation to go back and forth between my suburban homestead (in this case, the Marriott Courtyard in Alexandria, Virginia) and my office in the city.

When I was in school - that would be The American University - I lived on campus all four years.  I know it sounds lame, but my closest friends were those in the dorms and my room was my room and it really was so very convenient.  But AU's campus isn't exactly an urban environment.  It is up Embassy Row, and Tenleytown (the closest Metro stop) is the last stop in the district before you hit Maryland.  Because I never bothered to snag one of the fabulous internships on which AU recruits, I was only using the Metro on weekends.  Hardly the same experience.

As I've said, I am now in Washington DC several times a year.  But generally, I stay at a hotel across the street from the office.  I roll out of bed, get dressed, stop at Starbucks and walk to work.  Because my regular hotel was booked, I took a look at the Metro map, logged on to and found something suitable.

It was a short walk to the station.  A bit over half a mile, I think - contrary to, which said .3 miles.  The hotel had a shuttle, but the first thing I learned is that the shuttle is never there when you need it.

No, I probably learned that in college, too.

The second thing I learned is that I really don't want to lug the laptop back and forth to the office when I am climbing the highway overpass every day.  And OMG, going on the train with real luggage was a pain.  But the great thing is that my pedometer read one mile by the time I reached my desk in the morning.  Further osbervations:

  1. The power commuters live even further out than the end of the line.  So the cars are half full before they ever get to the second stop.  Thus, it really helps to leave the house earlier.
  2. No one can hear you, they are all wearing iPods.
  3. The Metro takes credit cards!
  4. The elevators are always out somewhere.  Handicapped accessible stations are a myth.
  5. Walk left, stand right .  For serious.
OK, that last one I already knew, too.  But as long as I have a teaching moment, that is a good rule.  Follow it at the airport, too.

It was good to know that if I ever had to, I could do the public transportation thing every day.  But I still love my car.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Time Suckage

Weekend Assignment #315: It seems that we're all too busy these days to get around to everything we'd like to do, even if we had the money and means to do them. Is there a particular activity that takes up far too much of your time, and thus prevents you from getting around to other things?

Extra Credit: What is the #1 activity you wish you had more time for?
Two words: The Internet.
I cannot count how many nights I have said I was going to finish a book, or start watching those back episodes of Chuck, or go to sleep early and ended up spending four hours online.  Then it will be - oh, I'll just check in on Facebook one more time - and it will lead to a link that keeps me there for another 30 minutes.  Sometimes on a Saturday I will get online and forget that I was going to go play with Kiwi the African Grey or do the grocery shopping or cook something for dinner.  Or clean out that closet or do any. single. productive thing all afternoon.
It goes like this: I check Facebook, then the regular blogs, then look at the headlines from MSN and the Trib and USA Today...
Then I check my other e-mail address and see that Barnes and Noble has sent me a 15% off coupon, so I go spend 20 minutes on their website - then I might go to Amazon to comparison shop, or see what the Kindle freebies look like this week.  Which leads me to check the Amazon page for the Library's Used Book Store to see if we have sold anything lately.   This is all assuming that I don't have any real online shopping to do.
I keep saying that I want more time to read books, but when I have the time, I am always online.  Like right now.  Still.  You see?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You Know You Have Been on the Road Too Long

I have probably mentioned that early in my career, during a conversation with some of the Road Warriors in my office, I was told about a strange phenomenon that sometimes strikes them:

Waking up in a hotel room and not knowing where you are.

My colleague, Teresa, said that the experience can be really frightening and she always kept the notepad on the nightstand to tell her where she was, just in case. 

The first time it happened to me was five years ago, in a hotel in St. Louis.  My employer was running a conference.  I had been in Washington the week before and somewhere else the week before that.  I am forever thankful for that original conversation, because I was able to tell myself:

This is what Teresa was talking about.  You are where you're supposed to be.  Just think for a minute and work it out.

And I did.

So it happened again Tuesday morning.  Besides being Week 3 of being On the Road, I was staying someplace different because my regular hotel in DC was booked solid.  Damn cherry blossoms.

I am not yet to the point where this is a regular experience, but some of the other things are becoming more regular.  Like finding extra hotel keys in my luggage.  All the time.  Or trying to charge my breakfast to the room number from the week before.   Or forgetting my office key at home because it was packed in a different bag.  Today I had a new one:

I handed the TSA security agent the boarding pass from the last trip.

I think it is time to stay home for a bit.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blogger's Blog

John Scalzi at Whatever pointed us to Weekend Assignment, a website that sets up blog topics once a week for when we feel like we have nothing to say. 

Would you believe the first topic was on books? 

I am not committing to doing this for real every week, but it is a nice idea.  So in the spirit of participating..the topic is:

...share with us the kind of summer reading you look forward to the most.

You've all heard me say that when I was in school, I reread Gone with the Wind every year.  The last couple of summers, while on break from new degree program, I read some modern fiction epics: The Winds of War and The Thorn Birds

This year, the summer reading I most anticipate is the doing more of it.  I like to think that once the TV season is over, I will spend more time with my books.  I have often commented that my To Be Read pile is a seven shelf bookcase.  I just purged a pile from that bookcase to take it from "overflowing" to "full".  Then I picked up three more at Half Price Books.

I also buy books as souvenirs when I travel.  I just read one from Seattle.  I have two more from Seattle.  At least three from New Orleans.  One from Franklin, Tennessee.

I am going to go from "looking forward to" to "setting a goal".  This summer, I am going to take them all out.  By Labor Day, I will have read all of the books purchased while travelling.  This will include anything I pick up in Toronto.

And maybe I'll think about doing some better writing, too.

Putting in Some Time

After dinner with my brother's family Friday night, I headed over to the Library's Used Book Store.  Glad I did, since I had more sales in 90 minutes than on my average Thursday night shift.  I happened to see in the notes that the Library is purging books in anticipation of the Big Move - which appears to be on schedule for November.  So we have a bunch of empty shelves that we can fill with the Library's withdrawn books and sell them.

Our director sent an e-mail to that effect yesterday, and since I remembered seeing her name on the schedule for today, I went over to see what I might be able to accomplish in a couple of hours.  So I ran my Sunday morning errands, had lunch at Noodles and headed into downtown Glenview.

Then I remembered The Dairy Bar reopened last weekend.  They should really put up a website - they have two locations now.  So I stopped for a cone.  Standing at the window was a man with a chocolate labrador.  The lady was handing him a small vanilla cone.  He struggled for a minute with his wallet and the leash and said, "Will you please hold it for a minute?  The second I take it in my hand, she will jump for it."  Then I realized that I had seen this guy before.  He comes here to buy ice cream for the dog.

How cool is that?  So he got all of his stuff together, took the cone and gave it to the dog.  She downed it in about two bites.

So. Into the Library.  Where the Saturday volunteers had pretty well set up what the Library has given us so far.  And even then, I found so much to do that two hours went by before I even noticed.  I got home just in time to see the Cubs lose and now I am packing to go to Washington.  Again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Insider's Tour of the Pike Place Public Market, by Michael Yaeger

Book 16

There was no Amazon Associates picture for Insiders Tour of the Pike Place Market, by Michael Yaeger, so I had to go back to the old way of posting for today.

So I was wandering around Pike Place Market and saw some books in a corner space with some watercolor prints.  A very nice lady started talking with me and I learned three things:

  1. She is originally from Glencoe
  2. Her husband wrote the two books that were in my hands and;
  3. She was the artist
It was Sarah Clementson, whose website I am now plugging because I liked her work but really couldn't justify buying any of it.  Because, you know, I insisted on the paintings from New Orleans.

So, about the book.  I really should have read it before getting on the plane back home.  Michael Yaeger literally walks the reader through the geography of the market.  The landscape changes pretty regularly, and the book was written 15+ years ago, but there were several things I recognized.

The second half of the piece included interviews with a whole bunch of local proprietors and supporters of the market.  You hear some of the scoop regarding the quest to save the public space from developers.  The words "from New York" seem to be an insult, which amused me.  The only disappointing thing was that the interviews were so dated.  I hope an updated edition is in the future.

And P.S. to Mr. Yaeger:  I felt like I got a really great deal on your books - $20 for two "local author" book when I am travelling makes me very happy.  But if I may make a suggestion - you should really sign them.  The tourists dig that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am home from Seattle and really tired and feel like I should write something, but I have nothing to say.  So I am looking at Blogger and see that they are partnered with to allow for some monetizing on my little blog.  There is even a tab called "Monetize" on the Blogger dashboard.  So I start fooling around with it.  Then I set up an account.  They have a tool in the Posting that allows a search for an Amazon product.  Pretty cool.  So when I post my 50 Book Challenge stuff, I can use this feature and it is way faster than copying images over from Librarything or wherever.  And if someone happens to click and purchase, there is some kind of commission.

When I set up this blog, I said that if my Google Ads ever made any money, I would donate the proceeds to the two places where I volunteer: the parrot rescue and Friends of the Glenview Library.  I will do the same if Amazon ever sends me cash.  In the 2+ years I have been writing here, I think I have about 20 bucks banked from those Google Ad clicks.  Google doesn't pay up until I reach $100.

So here I am testing...Ragtime.  Last book I read.  Hm.  Not as easy to move as a picture.  I wonder if I can use this in What I'm Reading Now.  Going to check.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow

Book 15

Ragtime is the second book I have read by E.L. Doctorow and I must say that I love this guy.  Despite the fact that the copy I found at the Used Book Store was underlined and contained notes from someone that was clearly...not that bright.  She would write a couple of lines at the end of each chapter, summarizing the plot and regularly circled words and added a question mark, as though she did not know their meaning.  Words like "urchin".  Her summaries indicated that she clearly missed the point of the story, like when she wrote "families improving" when the father returns home from his voyage to find that the mother has taken up management responsibilities at his office in an attempt to divert disaster and taken in a young mother and her newborn baby, who was found half buried in the vegetable garden; and his brother-in-law has buried himself in office work because he is suffering from a profound depression as a result of a broken heart.  OK, enough.

Doctorow does a brilliant job of weaving the story of this family with other fictional families and also with historical figures under a backdrop of turn of the century New York.  Like all such historical fiction, I find myself wondering about the accuracy of the portrayals.  Like - was Harry Houdini really so obsessed with his mother?  I'm not sure I needed to know that.

One of those historical characters is the anarchist Emma Goldman.  I am not particularly impressed with anarchists, but Doctorow made her a relatively sympathetic character.  She is actually the voice of reason in a couple of scenes with the fictional characters.  In one case, she is arrested in connection with an outbreak of violence.  She had nothing to do with the crime, but had the moment to speak, almost like a narrator, about why such things happen in this country (spoilers):

"I am sorry for the firemen in Westchester.  I wish they had not been killed.  But the Negro had been tormented into action, so I understand, by the cruel death of his fiancee, an innocent young woman.  As an anarchist, I applaud the appropriation of the Morgan property.  Mr. Morgan has done some appropriating of his own...The oppressor is wealth, my friends.  Wealth is the oppressor.  Coalhouse Walker did not need Red Emma to learn that.  He needed only to suffer."

Actually, the oppressor was racism with a huge dose of apathy.  But her perspective added an interesting element to the narrative. 

Doctorow has written tons of books and is still publishing.  You do not know how excited I am by that thought.

The Minister's Wife

The Chicago Tribune reports that Writers' Theatre is sending another show to New York - The Minister's Wife.  It is a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Candida.  It was produced last Spring.

I wrote about it last year and I remember it more fondly than it appears.

This isn't the first production from Writers' Theatre to be picked up in New York.  They did a new adaptation of Crime and Punishment that went Off Broadway a couple of years ago.  I am always glad to hear of these successes, although it means Michael Halberstam will spend a whole bunch of time in New York.  I hope he doesn't start to neglect the projects he develops for Writers' Theatre.  I've said it a hundred times - I don't love everything they do, but I love that they do new things I would never otherwise experience.  Michael has always made that happen.  This makes me think of something I once heard in New Orleans:

I was taking one of those cooking classes and another student asked what the instructor thought about Emeril.  The answer has stuck with me for years (obviously):

"Emeril has done great things for the culinary industry and great things for New Orleans.  But I wish he would spend less time on television and more time in his own kitchen."

That was the judgement of a peer.  This is only the anxious thought of an admirer.  Here's hoping Michael doesn't bail out on his own kitchen.


I went to the Mariners game last night with Joy and some other colleagues.  Safeco Field is a perfectly nice stadium and it was a lovely night.  The retractable roof was open and it was the second home game of the season.  The place was probably more than half full, but not by much.

The seats and aisles were clean and apparently well-maintained.  The bathrooms were decent.  There were plenty of concession stands.  Generally, I am not as much a hot dog snob as many Chicagoans, but I refused to purchase one in a stadium that had a stand for sushi and sake.

Joy did.  She said it was fine.  I got a hot pretzel.

Then we took pictures so that we could upload them to Facebook like giddy little children.

We had a discussion about visiting other parks.  What is the etiquette of rooting or not rooting for a team on another field?  On one hand, it is kinda cool to watch a game and not be emotionally invested.  On the other hand, I like being emotionally invested.  I also think it is only polite to root for the home team, unless the other team is actually yours.  I once went to a game in Champaign - Illinois vs. Michigan.  I am a Wolverine fan and the Wolverines were pounding on the Illini.  I was never so quiet during a sporting event in my life.

So I rooted for the Mariners.  Minus Milton Bradley.  I somehow think that worked for him.

Several of us got up in the sixth inning for refreshments.  OK, fine.  It was cold, I didn't have my Soldier Field gear and I wanted a hot chocolate.  Which I found.  Graham (from Chicago) and David (from Louisiana) came back saying that there was no line for beer, but the Starbucks line was seven deep.  They almost took a picture, it was so odd.

In the end, Milton Bradley, who was such a useless punk as a Cub, won the game for the Mariners.  He had a good catch and a clutch throw to home plate, stopping a run from scoring.  He hit a double.  Then in the 8th inning, he hit a three run home run.

I wouldn't normally seek out a ball game in another city, but it was a good time and I am glad we did it. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Seattle City Tour

The tour was ok.  For fifty bucks, I was hoping for a bit more history and a bit more..getting out of the bus.  There was a lot of driving around the residential areas, which didn't particularly impress me.  Especially since I didn't get to get out and take a picture of the bridge troll.

There was a nice park in Pioneer Square where I saw a bar next to a book store next to a fireworks store.  None were open that Sunday morning, but my brother would have gotten a kick out of it.

We also saw the Locks, which is the place where the boats are moved from the salt water sea to the fresh water lake.  And apparently the salmon go through there, too.  They have an observation deck, but I didn't see any salmon.

At the end of the tour, we got the money shot.  Except I do not work the camera phone well enough to get it right.  From Kerry Park:

The weird thing for me about Seattle (besides the hippies) is that the water is everywhere.  The only way I can pretend to get around my own city is to know where the water is.  Maybe they ignore the water and find the mountains?

Nice place to visit, but I could never live here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Seattle, Take 3

Another conference in Seattle.  We are at the Marriott Waterfront, which is a decent hotel.  Walkable to Pike's Market and the Waterfront Grill of the Baked Alaska.  Interesting hotel room view:

But I am feeling decidedly cranky at the Internet fee:  12.00 per day is insane. 

Our first meeting was today and Joy and I are going to do the City Tour tomorrow.  Because I am a big nerd.  Perhaps I will think to take a decent picture.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Die a Little, by Megan Abbott

Book 14

Utter_scoundrel recently recommended Die a Little, by Megan Abbott, and he is the master of all books that can be described as "noir" "pulp" and "hard boiled".  What the hell does "hard boiled" mean, anyway?  It happened to be on my bookshelf.

Lora King's BFF (and roommate) is her brother, Bill.  Bill marries Alice, the charming young lady with the dark past of the L.A. nightlife variety.  The story is about how it catches up with her and how Lora deals.

What makes this book absolutely rock is that no one is drawn in black or white.  The good guys aren't always good and the bad guys seem relatively reasonable.  No one turned me off with outright stupidity.

Mike Standish, the guy Lora dates (or whatever) is a great example.  You know he is sort of ...sleazy isn't quite the right word.  Slippery?  Slick?  He is into some bad stuff, any way you look at it.  But at the same time, I rather believed that he genuinely liked Lora.  As opposed to overtly using her, or keeping an eye on her or keeping her out of the way.  Or even taking advantage of her.  His motives are never exactly clear to the reader, and I suspect they weren't entirely clear to him.

And you might say that about every character in the thing.

I like that the relationship between the sisters-in-law is slightly complicated.  They both want to like each other and both seem to make an effort.  Abbott avoids the obvious "I never trusted her" attitude in favor of something more subtle.  "I knew she had a past."  But Lora never questions Alice's feelings Bill. 

The pacing is also really good.  It is slow to set the stage.  It builds the relationships.  Then it hits the moment of "here we go" and I didn't put it down again until I was done.

I like those books.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Downtown Owl, by Chuck Klosterman

Book 13

I picked up Downtown Owl, because I read Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs a couple of years ago and liked it a lot.  Downtown Owl, however, is a novel about small town North Dakota.  Not sure what my fascination is with North Dakota.

It is one of those books that changes Point of View each chapter.  The main three characters are a high school jock, a new-to-town teacher and a senior citizen who prefers to mind his own business.  So.  From these three people, and a few interjections from a charming cast of supporting characters, a tale is told.

The climax of the book is a blizzard hitting town on what had been a warm February day.  Wait - I thought - the novel is set in 1984.  Wasn't there a big, bad blizzard... (goes to check the Internet)?  Yes.  There really was a big, bad blizzard in 1984.  Either way, I knew that what remained of this book wasn't whether Julia bags Vance Druid or whether Cubby Candy can beat up Grendel.  It is who lives and who dies.

I read The Children's Blizzard a couple of years ago - a non fiction about the Midwest blizzard of 1888.  So named because it came on so suddenly that the children walking home from school were caught and many died.  The end of Downtown Owl felt like reading that again.  Who lived and who died?

Klosterman did a fine job of making me care.  Bastard.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Like most people my age, I do not understand why A Nighmare on Elm Street required a remake.  I saw the commercial during the Michigan State game, which made me go online and find the full length trailer.  The first half-minute made me think.  A prequel would have been downright terrifying:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Quiet Night at the Library

And I guess I feel the need to start babbling.  First, the conspiracy against my ever trying to eat better and get some damn exercise:

I have long noted that there are a minimal number of places one can walk to for lunch from my office - so I spend way too much time at Taco Bell.  As the weather got better, I decided I was just going to go to the Starbucks down the street and get some oatmeal.  And a giant iced latte.  Starbucks is being renovated.

Fine.  I turned around to go to Jamba Juice to get some oatmeal.  Know what's going in between Starbucks and Jamba Juice?  Meatheads.  Of the fresh cut cajun fries and cheese sauce.

And do you know what my mother said?

"Poor Joy."

Apparently, I will be dragging Joy with me every time I have the urge for fresh cut cajun fries with cheese sauce.  I guess you don't have a problem unless you eat cheese fries alone.

I did manage to walk a lap around Lake Glenview after work today.  I looked ridiculous in work clothes and gym shoes, but didn't much care.  Except for the fear that the wind might catch my skirt the wrong way.  What are you supposed to do for that?  Sew rocks into the hemline or something.  As if.

The exterior of the new library is looking great.  Almost like the drawings.  And according to the website, the inside is starting to come together, too.  You can see inside the current building that shelves are starting to empty - the purge has begun.  I had a fit about a week ago, after hearing that some library employees were turning down donations to our Used Book Store "until the new building opens".    We went from having absolutely nothing in storage to having half a dozen boxes and I don't even know how many bags to sort.  I don't want to think of what we might have missed.

In other news, two weeks from now, Alex and Ainslie's sister will be here.  One at a time, I can handle.  Two is hard - toddlers have so much stuff.  Three?  Um.  Let's just watch a movie.  Which leads me to:

Alex wanted to watch Sleeping Beauty.  I hardly remembered Sleeping Beauty, so I agreed.  We get all the way to the part where the princess meets the prince in the forest - which I seem to have blocked out.  Then I remembered the rest of the story..what with the princess-victim that has to be rescued by her one true love prince.

Dude.  I don't want my nieces watching that!  So I asked Alex why he likes this movie.  He didn't know.  Is it the singing?  No.  The bad guy?  "It's a bad girl."  And no, he doesn't like her.  She isn't funny.  Well, what?

Then the fairies started their little wand war and he laughed his head off.  And that was just about when I went home.