Baby Booze

While taking a moment to powder my nose in the ladies room of a local drinking establishment (ok, going to the bathroom at the bar), I enjoyed reading the following fable on a public service ad:

Once upon a time, there was a big pile of laundry. The pile was made up of all different colors. A mommy decided she would play a game. Red! she said to her child, holding up a red shirt. Red! the child said. Mommy put it in the colors pile. Whites went in another pile. Green like a frog! White like ice cream! And so it went. Colors, whites. Colors, whites. And on the very last thing – a bib of blue – the child pointed to the colors pile. You should’ve seen the smile on mommy’s face.

Aw, shucks, what a cute message, and how nice that there is an organization out there encouraging parents with ideas to help their kids learn. And I had to appreciate that they had given me something a little interesting to read while --ahem-- powdering my nose.
But I then I stopped and considered the subtext, made more explicit by the location of this ad and to whom it might be targeted, "Hey Ma, get out of the bar and go home to your kids."

Post-Script Follow-Up: To those of you who might be following the Star Jones story, although never admitting it, Mo Rocca has a funny little commentary on it here.

Shamu Beats Maureen Dowd

It's just a fascinating curiosity that "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage" has been at the top of the New York Times Most E-mailed Articles List since Sunday. From a glance at the headline it didn't seem like the article would be that interesting or relevant: I'm not married, and I've never considered Shamu as a potential mentor. Swim instructor, maybe.
However, I usually enjoy The Modern Love column - it's a nice realistic counterpoint to the wedding announcements that are so vain and self-congratulatory. 'Cept Abby and David's though, theirs was down-to-earth and lovable, just like them. (I only have four readers, I can't risk losing one or possibly two!)
As Shamu persisted at the top of the list, and I eventually found his imaginary black shiny flipper beckoning me to click through and read. The author explains that in the process of writing a book on an exotic animal training school (I guess lions aren't just born jumping through flaming hoops) she found that she was penciling emphatic notes-to-self in her notebook margins about trying the training techniques on her husband at home. "The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't. After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband." It's a funny and potentially useful piece, but now that I've blogged it, I'll find it harder to surreptitiously apply all the little tricks on Jason. And I'll likely be suspicious that he's trying to condition me.
Which made me wonder, if this article has been so e-mailed across America for so many days, who is sending it to who? (whom?) Are wives e-mailing it to their hubbies as a home study assignment? Maybe not, it seems like the behavioral objectives are best achieved when the training is blinded. Are friends and sisters e-mailing it to each other? Mothers e-mailing it to their daughters? ("Get that no good so-and-so you married to take out the trash sometimes!") Are men e-mailing it to each other as a fraternity brother warning system so that counter-strategies may be deployed? If only Shamu might tell me.
Now, it's worth pointing out that the New York Times Most E-mailed list is not necessarily an endorsement of the most intellectual or educational articles upon which the New York Times would base its character and reputation; today "Star Jones Reynolds's Departure From 'The View' Was in the Works for Months" was number 9. Shame on you if you're about to click the link for that story!

Takin' it to the Streets

Under the long list of 'things that I didn't know about Chicago' is the many, many, many street festivals. Every weekend there are at least one or two. The downside is that this inevitably means running into traffic disruptions every weekend too, so there's nothing better than a street festival that is just a block and a half away. And when a band you know from home is playing, even better. (Jason and I spent much of the set debating whether this band had gotten away from its hippie band roots. I argue that the organ ties it to its past, and its die-hard ponytailed fans.)
Our little first annual Clark Street festival showed the diversity of our fledgling neighborhood. I thought this photo provided an apt juxtaposition.
(Hey, but that doesn't mean we're beyond stereotypes and labels.)
Here are a few more photos of the scene, as well as the little guy who was waiting for us when we arrived home. I love neighbors with puppies. All the love, none of the pooper-scooper.

Pup Post

Our little dog neighbor, Winston, is growing quickly. But he's still looking pup-like, especially with those baby blues. Cat, Teedie, is getting carefully more familiar. Usually it's a little bit of a stand-off on the back deck, as you see below with Teedie on left and Winston on right. Teedie relies on the protective column of terracotta pots and the fact that Winston is safely tethered by his leash. (Note that Teeds has one paw on the floor, ready to beat it outta there, should Winston get too friendly.) On occasion there's an arched back and a unfriendly hiss. The tradition of isolationist USA continues. (Teedie is, after all, named for one of its presidents.)

Blah, Blah, Beige Sheep

It's true, I've learned many a lesson about big corporations with my recent career change. In big corporations, it may take an entire day for IT to get your Lotus Notes password. You are also granted a UPI #, the Unique Personal Identifier which you will use for all your mandatory online corporate ethics training modules. Your company stock ticker is on the homepage for your web browser. You get a 20% discount at LensCrafters. This week, we even had an entire day scheduled for cleaning our desks. And people actually compliantly cleaned their desks.

There's good and there's bad. And then there's also a lot of beige. I find it pretty narcotic, lulling us into corporate calm. The culture shock comes from the contrast from the advertising agency where I used to work. The floors and conference rooms were color-coded. On the Red floor you could be having a meeting in Red Rum. Orange Floor? Then your meeting will be in either Great Pumpkin or Orange Crush. By comparison, the pale wash of beige that covers the ceilings, walls, floors and furniture of my new corporation is just numbing. I made a little photo essay to emphasize my point. Even the bathroom tile is beige.

Is this part of some corporate policy? More beige, less rage?
I think I need a house call from these "Cube Fabulous" guys. If they are even for real.

The Ex

Am I the only person in America who maybe feels a little guilty that I'm enjoying The Colbert Report more than The Daily Show? That the Daily Show with Jon Stewart is now just the intro to The Colbert Report? That The Daily Show seems actually kind of serious (and not fake) compared to The Colbert Report?
Stephen Colbert is just so ridiculously funny. He calls Bill O'Reilly "Papa Bear"! He has a baby eagle -- a "steagle" -- at the San Francisco Zoo named for him.

But now who do I think is cuter: Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert? I think the answer is: Jason!! (Love you, babe. U R the best! :)

Post-Script: In doing the Google image search to complete this post, I ran across this photo (below). Is this not the epitome of the celeb photo op? Fans flank on the left and right, gleeful to have caught celeb and asked and been accepted for a photo; celeb with tight-lipped smile, thought-bubble nearly visible, "Ok, I got stuff to do today, can we get this over with already???!"

Post-Script: I'm clearly in the company of great journalists. The New York Post covers Meow Mix House.

Getting our Kicks

Beaten Badly? It's World Cup time, folks! And our next game is Thursday versus Ghana.
Team USA's showing to-date in Germany hasn't been so great. We started with a sobering 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic (I remind you that I am half SLOVAK.) And it was Italy who accidentally put the ball in their own goal, allowing us to tie our second game. We did play well considering a couple of our players were tossed out with red cards, so holding to a tie was very good. And we played hard, I mean we're good enough to have at least gotten to the World Cup, right?
It is a curious thing to watch any sporting event where the greater likelihood is that we, the all-powerful --in fact, Super Power of the World-- may not win. We might be beaten. We might be beaten badly. (In soccer after all, a score of 3 is like a buzillion in any other sport.) That easy, nonchalant confidence in our superiority is humbled. Where else in the world will Ghana most likely trounce the United States? (I could be wrong... I was pretty surprised to discover that USA is officially ranked 5th by FIFA, and Ghana a low 48th.)

For US sports fans it must be isolating; you have so very little to connect and vest you with the teams that will most likely win. In baseball, I will root for the Phillies, since I am from Philadelphia. But if they drop out, then I might cheer on the Indians, since I went to college near Cleveland. I can quickly rationalize a personal reason to root for most any team. But what can I say about watching a soccer game between South Korea and Togo? Except that it might be fun to cheer, "TOGO! TOGO! TOGO!" (Togo sadly has the lowest ranking of World Cup teams though: 61st.)

Post-Script: You may have wondered if you'd arrived at the right blog when you saw the sports content. I'll try to keep both the uninformed sports commentary, and the cat photos, to a minimum.

Double-Boiler Deserving

In an impulse towards healthful eating, I was looking to steam some vegetables for dinner last night. This task required pulling the inherited double-boiler pan out of the cupboard. The banged up, seen-better-days, double boiler. Upon closer inspection: the chipped, wouldn't-use-it-in-front -of-company, stuck together double boiler. After much tugging and grabbing I couldn't get the steamer portion unstuck from the base, which was inconveniently stacked above the steamer. (So even if I were desperate enough to fill the bottom without removing the top, I couldn't do it, since Bottom was stuck on Top.) I realized that this was a pot in such shabby condition that if I were to de-accession it from my kitchen collection, I would not even give it to the Salvation Army. Even those who don't have a proverbial pot to you-know-what-in, might think twice about this sad little guy.
What makes this old double-boiler both curious and endearing is that it also reflects a little bit of my father's ingenuity, driven by frugality. If you look closely at the photo you'll see that in place of the traditional pot lid handle there is a little furniture knob. Just the kind you'll find at Home Depot, appropriate for a bedroom dresser or folding closet doors. And I grew up with the pot always being this way. It's functional, yes. But really, could we not afford a pot with a normal handle, without a screwed-in, "found" object?
So with the delight of an official adult, I think I will now invest in a shiny new double boiler. It's tempting to keep the lid as a souvenir of Dad's inspired fix-it attitude, and my mother's tolerance, and likely bemusement, of it. (Or at least I'll print out this post and place it in a keepsake box...with the lid, if it'll fit.) But the stuck-together-bottom will definitely have to go.
Farewell, double boiler. Archeologists may find you in an excavation years and years from now and wonder if our race died out because we couldn't stack our pots together in the correct order and thus starved, since we could steam no vegetables.

I'm Thinking "Meet the Press" Party for Me!

Any kid raised on PBS has to wish we had been invited to Henry Schally's birthday party. The three year old overlooked SpongeBob, snubbed the Wiggles, and selected the dark horse, Jim Lehrer, to inspire the theme for his birthday party. Or as he is more familiarly known by little Henry: Jimmy Jimmy BoBo. I think I'll have to giggle every time I watch NewsHour from now on, thinking of my news being read by Jimmy Jimmy BoBo. Now that Lizzie Lizzie VaVa has left ABC News. (That'd be Elizabeth Vargas, now replaced by ChaCha Gibson -- Charlie Gibson. Although it seems like he's going by Charls Gibson now that he's made it to the nightly news. Surely he'd shudder at ChaCha.)
But back to the social event of the PBS season: Henry's party, which featured party hats with faces of the staid and serious anchors, as well as signed photo from Jimmy Jimmy BoBo himself, even got coverage in the Washington Post!

A Little Local Tourism

We took a jaunt down to our neighborhood beach for some community creativity today, the Artists of the Wall Festival. Each year the cement benches lining the beach of Lake Michigan are painted by neighborhood folks. Yeah, it's kind of a hippie community that way. We purchased ice cream sandwiches from the vendor walking his cart down the path, its bells tinkling to catch the ears of the kids playing nearby. Walking down our beachside gallery, we watched artists put the finishing flourishes on their masterpieces.
Anyone can sign up for their piece of the bench wall, and many people paint together as families. (One mom was slathering her baby's foot in yellow paint so that he could leave his footprint on their bench, just above a "Happy Father's Day Baba!" message.) It must be nice to be able to come back to your part of the wall over the summer to visit. Maybe Jason & I will do it next year, since it seems like talent isn't a requirement, just a little enthusiasm with a paintbrush.
Baby's Bench
Friends on the beach

Reality TV Takes a Strange Turn

First to Go

It had to happen, in its evolution reality TV starts to make inroads where there were none before, even to species who don't watch TV and have little to no consumer buying power. I give you: Meow Mix House. 10 cats, from shelters across the country, compete to win the coveted position of VP of R&D for Meow Mix. Sadly, the cat from Philadelphia, Belle, was the first one voted off. No tears th, this just means she was adopted by a family from her hometown. However, she'll enjoy less time in the kitty heaven digs, which we can all visit via webcams. And each cat has their own blog. I wonder how they adapted the keyboards to accomodate the paws?
Before owning my own cat I'd find this to be complete lunancy. Now it is still a little crazy, but hilarious... and really good marketing. I wish I worked in cat or dog food marketing. People love their pets. How hard is it when all you have to do to get attention is find an adorable pup or kitten and make them your cover girl?
Post Script: Aaahh, you must watch one of the episodes of Meow Mix House, just for the goofy intro and jingle.

Could a Pinata Be More Adorable?

It's an elephant, wearing striped pants and suspenders. (This comes from a post from apartment therapy about how to enjoy the outdoor life while the sun shines. Don't scroll down once you've hit the link if you've already grown affectionate towards Mr. Elephant and don't want to see the pinata carnage
This reminds me that it's been too long for me not to have gone to the beach. Who thought that'd it'd take moving to Chicago to live blocks from a beach? I need a kite.

Make Me Proud, Arlen

For a Repbulican, I do have to like Arlen Specter sometimes. I think he may be one of the few, (maybe two?) GOP votes I've ever cast. (You have to hang onto those pro-choice Republicans.) I am especially pleased with his recent vote against the gay marriage amendment and also the efforts he's made to investigate that telephone surveillance that the government thought it could get away with under the loose guise of national security. Arlen makes me a little proud that he's from Pennsylvania, and so am I. But before I get too weepy or braggadocious I do have to remember that 1. he's a self-important politician just like all the rest of them, and 2. he might be getting a little funny in his old age. (See commentary from Wonkette to support both one and two.)
I briefly shuddered when I heard Chris Matthews reflect that he grew up with Arlen as a fixture in politicis when he was a kid in Philly. Me too. Has Arlen really been around that long?

Clean As Though Company Were Coming

Today I addressed the feeling that creeps up sometimes that there is just too much junk lying around. The magazines, the papers, and all other daily nonsense that accumulates, threatening to suffocate a room. So I cleaned; I tidied our living room to the "as though company were coming" standard. Let's all be honest that we hardly ever clean as hard for ourselves as we do for our visitors. No wonder, there's a proverb that hones in on the reason (or fear): "A guest will see in thirty seconds, that which you won't see in thirty years."

Recently moving into a new apartment is even more motivating, since it's satisfying to feel like you've eradicated all the dirt from the previous residents, making the place entirely yours. Other people's dirt (or stale french fries, as was the case with our oven) are so gross. And when we learned that a family of 11 had lived in our apartment prior to us (yes, 11, plus 2 or 3 dogs!) the cleaning efforts hit hyperdrive.

Another good cleaning maxim to follow: Never leave a room empty-handed. Certainly there will always be something in the living room that needs to be put away in the bedroom or visa-versa. That's something Isabella Rossellini's mother, Ingrid Bergman, told her when she was little. See, even the glamorous clean. Although I never believed it when Matt Lauer chatted one morning on TV about how much he loves the new Clorox toilet wand. While I'll believe that Ingrid might have picked up a wine glass and taken it to the kitchen (no doubt after some intriguing dinner conversation), I don't think Matt really spends his Saturdays cleaning his toilet. Unless he's way behind Katie Couric on the wage scale. But those toilet wands are pretty nifty.

Don't Speak, Too Cute For Words

This will not turn into a 'how-cute-is-my-cat?' blog, promise.

Bumper Obligations

Chicago drivers, and it seems those in our neighborhood in particular, have a charming practice of taking every intersection as an opportunity to get ahead. "Snaking." You're stopped at a red light, blithely watching traffic go by, when another car creeps up on your right. But there's no right lane ahead, just a row of parked cars, you think to yourself, showing your fresh to the city naivete. And the guy to your right, no, he's not turning. You learn quickly that he's just looking for a little chance to get ahead by speeding ahead of you just as the light turns green.
Once in awhile I sigh and just say, "All right, your boldness deserves a little props. Go ahead." Particularly when my fellow driver is at the wheel of a dented Dodge Diplomat, and I'm not willing to risk the game of chicken.
But the practice is highly unethical, (as if the DMV offered a code of ethics) so I was perplexed, and then perturbed, and then just angry, when I saw a shiny red SUV employ the snaking practice at three successive intersections the other morning. Each time, as they zipped ahead of the rest of us, my fellow motorists and I were left watching their bumper pass us by with its little Christian fish magnet above it. Huh? Now that's not driving like a considerate, love thy neighbor, Christian, is it?

In fact, I'd argue that their aggressive driving merits another kind of fish magnet, something along the lines of survival of the fittest?

Post Script: Now that my "I'm Not Laughing at You, I'm Listening to Car Talk" license plate holder was clipped off by the leash of our neighbor's exuberant dog, I am released of any obligation to tell corny jokes. But you can still enjoy them.

My Appointment with Mr. Tut

Yesterday was the much anticipated visit to see the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the Field Museum. An appointment with destiny it seemed, as I've been fascinated by the whole King Tut thing ever since fourth grade Egyptian history classes. I shared my own personal mummy history with Jason, prior to our tour. When I was 9 each student of Mrs. Weissinger's class made our own Tomb Book. Shaped like a mummy, we designed the cover as we wanted our sarcophagus to look, complete with our name in hieroglyphics. Inside we detailed the items that we wanted to take to the dead with us (for me: cabbage patch kid, Mac Plus computer, diary, etc), the meal we'd wish to have every night in the afterlife (lasagna, Pepsi and mint choc chip ice cream) and crafted a curse to doom any thieves and intruders to our tomb. So it was neat to see the little figures placed around real Egyptian tombs carrying authentic curses. I think the wickedness involved appeals perfectly to fourth graders... and some adults.
What appealed to the adult in me who now has to run errands, clean the house, and do the laundry was the small statues call shabtis, figures that magically performed any labor required of the dead, allowing the deceased an afterlife of leisure. Wonder if those work for the living.
However, do you see that mask that's featured so prominently on the banners on the entrance of the museum, and all other collateral materials promoting the exhibit? Yeah, it's actually far, far, far smaller than imagined. What a bummer. My hopes of truly coming face to face with the Boy King, looking eye to eye, (as the brochures promised) were not fulfilled in all their glory. That piece is a case that's about 15x smaller than the mummy mask you'd expect. What's pictured is the case that holds the King's liver. Face to face with an internal organ holder is not nearly as magical.
Also, after growing up being taken to the U of P archeology museum I was primed to see a decaying mummy, which was not in attendance at the Field (You can write your own name in hieroglyphics on the U of P website, by the way. Start designing your own sarcophagus now!) But I guess the life size mummy mask and King Tut mummy itself might be so valuable and delicate that they don't travel well.
However, the tour ended with a chuckle in the gift shop, with the pharaoh tissue boxes. Re-live the mortuary practice of pulling the mummy's brains out through its nose every time you sneeze! Fun!

You Go Girls!

I was happy to hear this news today: "Women now earn the majority of diplomas in some fields men used to dominate — from biology to business — and have caught up in pursuit of law, medicine and other advanced degrees." It's pretty awesome progress.

There's also news that boys are dropping out or never even starting in college programs. I couldn't believe the speculative line as to why, "One reason is a failure by schools to teach boys well at an early age, leading to frustration by high school." Huh? Why do they put lines like this in news articles and fail to explain them? After reading books about boys eating worms and boys and their dogs in grade school, I remember asking my mom why all we got to read were boy books. The answer she volunteered was that girls will more easily read boy books than boys will read girl books. What a bad lesson for girls, you will have to accomodate while we tailor the learning environment to the boys. Ugh.

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