If You are Voting in Illinois on Tuesday..

We pause for a brief public service announcement.

For readers in Illinois (I love you two!) Tuesday is election day. The absurdity of election day at the coldest point in Chicago's winter was a puzzler for me and Jason when we moved here...until we realized that low voter turnout often favors incumbents, so now wonder the Chicago politicians scheduled it that way. Crafty.

I don't like turning up at the polls uninformed, even with my mother's instruction that when in doubt, "Vote for women and democrats." But even more, I don't like not turning up at the polls at all.

So for you in Illinois, I recommend the CBS 2 Voter Guide. It's a brief read for each candidate, giving you their positions on hot issues like gambling and bringing over prisoners from Guantanamo.I also now know that Governor Pat Quinn's favorite food is chili con queso. Dan Hynes favors his mom's chicken vesivio (aww...) and he can also recite every line to the movie Caddyshack (and most other movies starring Chevy Chase).

Good to know.

And *Breaking Election Update* candidate for Senate Robert Marshall is an Oberlin grad!

My Last Business Trip

This is much like my last business trip, dramatized by a Japanese cat.

Reason to Stop (& Shop)

Here are the facts:

1. Chicago traffic is terrible. I remember feeling actually *intimidated* looking at the traffic report on the hotel room tv when I was here interviewing for the job that moved us here.
1b. Chicago traffic is worse on Fridays. (And whenever there's a Cubs game.)

2. I have an 8 am meeting tomorrow. With people whose names come with initials like M.D. and Ph.D. Also a little intimidating.

3. My normal train gets me to work by 8:15 am.

4. The earlier train is known as "The Sunriser." Because I'd have to hop on board before 6 am it's also known colloquially as "The Insane Train."

For this reason I am thinking of driving to work tomorrow. What do I hate more: waking up at 5 am or sitting in over an hour of traffic at night?

But here's lovely #5. Between work and home there's a big mall, as well as strip mall with The Container Store, Trader Joe's, and Loehman's. How about a half in traffic, interrupted by a lace shopping basket, and then another half hour in traffic?

I think the basket, with strap removed, might be nice in my workroom. (Nicole might have helped sell me on it.)

State of the Union

Not that I am drinking alone, but I do have a large jar of jellybeans that this game might be played with.

I hope someone will explain why Nancy Pelosi, Michelle, and even Joe Biden are wearing purple tonight. (Did Obama calls dibs on red, white, and blue?)

Those politicians look super old and glaringly white on HD!

The Gypsy Life for Me

After getting inordinately fired up hearing a story on Morning Edition about people just "walking away" from their mortgages*, and then later dealing with a disagreement over our new car lease, I was fed up.

The final bonus was a comment after discussion regarding whether it would be insensitive to ask new salespeople to be away from home for a week over Good Friday, Easter and Passover. After a colleague weighed in to say Easter was important in her family, another said, with a tone that gave her the final word, "Well primarily, it will have to come down to whether we can reschedule the conference room space. We might not be able to find a room." Really? We'd like to be sensitive to people's beliefs, but it'll require a conference room? How many months away is Easter??

It left me ready to leave Chicago, head to Eastern Europe and become a gypsy. No home. No car. Just traveling around, maybe joining the circus.

Maybe it was foreshadowed by my enjoying the Flickr Carousels set the other night.
(*Regarding the mortgages: while it's appropriate to blame the banks, anyone who thought they could really magically afford a home far outside of their income should be held at least somewhat accountable. And to walk away hurts other homeowners like us who lose value in our homes with nearby foreclosures, and condo members who have to take over more of the common expenses. Everyone: stay in your homes! Especially if a bank is giving you a deal on a 2% interest rate!)

Now, I have a horse to ride off on.

Borrowed Mix Tapes

There's little point in my ever offering a mix tape of my own, since I think I've found a new music muse at Bleubird Vintage. Her Mixed Tapes are just sound I'm in the mood for these days. The artists include the last two bands whose entire albums I invested in: Phoenix and Passion Pit.

Here's her latest (follow the link above and you'll be able to hear each song yourself.)

1. passion pit - moth wings
2. los campesinos - there are listed buildings
3. sarah blasko - all i want
4. frightened rabbit - swim until you can't see land
5. white denim - i start to run
6. best coast - sun was high, so was i
7. grizzly bear - two weeks
8. woods - rain on


1. monsters of folk - temazcal
2. diamond rings - all yr songs
3. fever ray - when i grow up
4. phoenix - 1901
5. band of skulls - i know what i am
6. white rabbits - percussion gun
7. neon indian - deadbeat summer
8. elliott smith - miss misery

Cyber Wandering

Reading reports of the Haitian earthquake, I noticed the byline of the news story reflected that the reporter was in Port Au Prince. With the challenges we've heard of getting aid into the airport, a number of reporters seem to have effectively gotten through. (Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric...) I'm a little conflicted on this point, since it is their job, but wonder if it was a hassle and they and their luggage took the place of more valuable aid. But then again, without their reporting, would we being texting to give money to Haiti nearly as often?

There's some quote about the sign of an intelligent man being the ability to hold simultaneously opposing points of view on an argument. That's where I am.

I wonder how many reporters will still be in Haiti 6 months, a year, from now. Will we hear how it's going?

With this in mind, I went to see if I could take a walk through the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. After typing "lower ninth ward, New Orleans" into Google Maps, and employing the Street View function, I was there. I don't know exactly when the photos were taken, but approximately five years later, it was weird to see how spotty the streets were. Houses that still bore the spray paint of rescuers. Some repaired, some eerily vacant.

Most fascinating were the spots where someone had uploaded an immediately post-hurricane photo, so I might compare it to where I was standing (at least approximately.)

On a related note, I was reminded today that Chicago was founded by a Haitian immigrant, Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable.

Unexpectedly Good

I don't watch movies that often. It's hard to sit still on the couch and pay attention to only the television. I'm usually multi-tasking (which explains many of the grammar and spelling errors here) so following a movie plot is tricky.

But for our flight to Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl, Jason downloaded a movie to pass the time. We were utterly absorbed by a movie I hadn't heard much about when it was in the theaters, but it's one of the best I've seen in a very long time: District Nine.

There's no actor in it that you will have ever heard of, but that's often the way with the superb movies you never expected.

The summary from IMDB explains the sci-fi plot: "In 1982, a massive star ship bearing a bedraggled alien population, nicknamed "The Prawns," appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-eight years later, the initial welcome by the human population has faded. The refugee camp where the aliens were located has deteriorated into a militarized ghetto called District 9, where they are confined and exploited in squalor. In 2010, the munitions corporation, Multi-National United, is contracted to forcibly evict the population with operative Wikus van der Merwe in charge. In this operation, Wikus is exposed to a strange alien chemical and must rely on the help of his only two new 'Prawn' friends. "

You may doubt it, as I did initially, but it's really, really good. Your sympathies shift as the plot unfolds and it leaves you still thinking about it the next day. I told Jason, and he said, "Me too."

A sequel would be very helpful.

My Deeper Thoughts

Taking the blog as a sketch of my character, you might be inclined to think I'm pretty frivolous and maybe even shallow.

I do consider things of greater significance.

I worry when things are going so well that they might not last. I am lucky, so very lucky. Sometimes, I just want to freeze time and stay here, so that I won't have to think about the future, or fret about the past.

I think about trying to be considerate to strangers and animals.
When someone makes me mad, I try to see things from their perspective, and usually it calms me down. I want to be a better person tomorrow than I was today. (But I will still indulge in grumpiness, when it's called for.)

I'm not sure we should have ever gone to Iraq or Afghanistan, but it would seem unfair to just leave abruptly.
I like how the military is helping out in Haiti, so that hopefully the world can see our military as a a force for good too. (And maybe our military's focus might someday be able to shift further in that direction.) I am really impressed by the men and women that join the military and their work, even if I'm not sure I could ever surrender to so obediently following orders. Teachers are very cool too, even if my stability might crumble as the only adult in a room of seven-year-olds for the whole day...although some meetings rival this experience.

I want to understand the stock market better, and fluently comprehend the forces that caused the recession, before it's all over. (Unfortunately, I probably still have some time on this assignment.)

I'm not making any resolutions this year. I want to be happy with who I am and who I'm trying to be, new year or not. But I should read more.

And I'd really like to go see "The Young Victoria" movie soon. But that's unimportant.

The Classics

As we have established in previous chapters, Jason is an avid early adopter. Claire is not. Jason identifies the best AT&T location for a short line and gets an iPhone on day one. Three years later, Claire is still reconciling herself with the lack of an instruction book accompanying her new smart phone.

Jason asks Claire multiple times whether she would like a kindle for Christmas. Claire shudders.

I beg that I prefer the feel of a book in my hand. The challenge and heft of a big, thick 500-page tome, or the easy-breezy lightness of a quick read.

The thrill of turning down the corner, even when I know many people are maniacally opposed to this practice. The split of the paperback spine, even more insulting.

The smell of a new book's pages.

The stack on my nightstand.

The fading inscription signed inside a used book, "To Betsy with love, from Donald" or catching a fleeting memory of my mother by seeing her maiden name signed inside the cover of an old book with the year, circa 1970.

I've felt for some time that Amazon might win me over more easily to the electronic Kindle if they could at least offer a Kindle cover made of soft worn leather, with gilt embossing. (They do apparently have a futuristic Cole Haan cover but, $119? Ouch!)

Books are more of an old-world luxury for me. Reading can be about "unplugging" so I'm wondering how that works with something so electronic.

I was much more happy to receive a volume from the Penguin Classics Library this week from Amazon. Look how great the covers are!
(There might be reason for hope, Etsy has a nice selection of kindle covers, like this one.)

My Most Corporate Day

Today two individuals with the words "vice president" and "president" came to my office to offer decorating tips before our division head does his "white-glove inspection" of our workplace.

I wish I were kidding.

I asked for their interior design portfolio, a joke that might have put my career on the line, but they took it in stride, and then quickly fingered a piece of paper taped to the wall for removal. Ironically, it was a print-out of our division's guiding principles.

Office chatter suggests it would have survived, had it been framed.

They let this artwork go, but I still placed it in a little less conspicuous place under the overhead cabinets. And repeated its mantra in my head.

Later, the VP stopped by to admit it was a little ludicrous, but --he suggested-- necessary. I tried to chuckle and organize, but accidentally hit my paper clip holder... which began chirping. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up, little bird!" I thought frantically. He looked down, but at least he laughed and the bird was spared the executioner.

The Streets of Philadelphia

Tuesday was one of those "road warrior" days when I flew in and out of a city in one day. To my good fortune, it was Philadelphia. Flying out at 6 am afforded the opportunity to meet with family friend, Evelyn, in the morning, take care of business midday, and see Juliet and baby in the afternoon, before leaving for the airport around 6 pm. I grabbed soft pretzels for dinner to complete the day's visit.

I paused to take a picture while crossing through the courtyard of City Hall. (Somewhere inside was Uncle Paul who was too busy with his own meetings to grab a cup of coffee...next time!)

In Case It Ever Comes Up

In a mortar and pestle, the grinder tool is the pestle and the receptacle within which you are grinding is the mortar.

We were debating this over the weekend after using ours to grind up some dried catnip leaves for the kitties. And spending nearly fifteen minutes laughing as we watched Teedie put his large face, full on, into the mortar in hopes of getting the final flakes of leaves, or at least a good whiff of catnip. Cheap thrills for the weekend.

Anyway, in case it ever comes up, now you know.

(This cute mortar and pestle set via Amazon.)

How Will I Be Remembered?

It might cross your mind once in a while, while gazing out the window at a red light maybe, "How will I be remembered? How am I remembered today by the people who knew me years ago?"

I've often been told that my laughter is distinctive. People insist that it's in a good way, but I do sometimes worry if I'm one of those people that you just don't want to say another funny thing to for fear that their whooping peals of laughter will kick into overdrive.

Reconnecting with my third grade best friend offered the chance to hear the answer to this question.

I was remembered for my cool Japanese pencil cases, stuffed toy cow (Moo-Moo, because he moos when you turn him up and down) and wearing knickers.

Knickers! When I review the embarrassments perpetrated upon me by my parents, knickers is in the top ten, maybe even the top five. So I was a little ambivalent to learn that this was a signature memory of Claire.

I remember having at least two pairs: one of a red, yellow, and green plaid and another of lavender corduroy...with ruffles on the pockets. It's unclear which was worse than the other.

But it was with some affectionate nostalgia that I saw these at Anthropologie this weekend: corduroy "Ha'penny Knickerbockers." Maybe I should have tried them on, since they are part of my signature style. Maybe with boots, or a solid tight? With this adorable little jacket, that I also left in the store?(And Moo-Moo is still around, by the way.)

A Snuggie I Might Snuggle Up To

I scoff, often loudly, at the Snuggie phenomenon.

Who needs a blanket with sleeves? Who's so lazy that they can't reach their hand up from under the blanket to get the remote? They also kind of remind me of the troll from He-Man (Orko.)So, it's disturbing that first page of Google results for snuggie contains all serious links, and not spoofs or fellow scoffers. And indeed, maybe years from now history students will observe that the Snuggie was something we were drawn to in a time of uncertainty and economic distress, just like everyone became conservative and home-focused after WWII.

Innumerable Snuggies have likely been purchased half in jest, and half out of secret curiosity.

But for me, I'll skip the sloppiness of a cheap fleece blanket. Instead, I could find myself in this smart little robe. It seems like it'd be super comfy, like a big billowy comforter to walk around the house in...and also easy to reach the remote. A tailored, fashion snuggie, sort of, with pert mandarin collar..Machine-washable and monogramming is available. My favorite color is the whisper peachy-pink, "Teaberry."

Too bad I'll have to wait at least 30 years for this to be age-appropriate.

S'no Problem

There's snow covering the ground tonight in Chicago. I was one of a small handful of folks making it into work today, mostly due to the trusty railroads. Taking the train is the best on snow days. But it's as crowded as church on Christmas and Easter, with all the people who normally drive to work choosing instead to hop aboard the train.

But good news, the check cashing place is still open. They are always open. I'd much prefer it if these other places were open 24/7 (or at least later into the night):
- Post office
- Hair salon
- Dentist or doctor (I am disgruntled to call for an appointment when all they can offer is a 2 pm appointment.)
- Auto repair shops
- And regular banks that won't hit you with a huge fee just to cash a check

Little Things I Love at IKEA

It's true that our new car choice was mildly influenced by its capability accommodate self-assembled Swedish furniture. (That and the 4 wheel drive and heated seats to get us through winter.) I've already been to IKEA where my friend and I fit in 1 cabinet, 1 CD tower, 4 bar chairs, and 3 magnetic bulletin boards. With room to spare!

However, as much as I love the BIG things at IKEA, it's the little things in the IKEA marketplace that I look forward to collecting as the trimming on my shopping cart.

Here's my favorite find this time:$1.99 each! They look like far more expensive pottery.

I also liked this basket, but couldn't figure how it'd fit into our decor. The cats would probably try to make it their bed.
Two flower posters
(also couldn't figure out where these go, so they'll just decorate this blog post instead.)Plant pots in all of my favorite colors. Had it been springtime, or any other season where potting plants on the deck was bearable, these would be in my home right now. And also $1.99. What a magical price.

Next time, I think I should go through IKEA backwards so that I don't rush myself through the trick-or-treat-like experience at the end.

Get Thee to the Getty!

A whole additional (wonderful, sunny) day was added to our trip to Los Angeles for the Getty Center.

If this were a "How I Met Your Mother" episode the narrator would begin by saying, "Kids, if there was one thing your mother wanted to do on the West Coast, it was the Getty Museum. A lot of that was due to a navigation mishap a few years before..." And then the episode would open to us driving around Santa Monica and showing up at the Getty Mansion years earlier...when it was closed. Very frustrating!

But at long last: the Getty! The long line of cars entering the center, the spiraling drive down through the parking garage, and the line for the tram couldn't dampen my enthusiasm. My glee soared when we arrived at the top of the hill and could take in the Getty campus. I think Jason was pretty impressed too. The views to the Pacific and across to the LA skyline were astounding. The well-tended grounds include a zig-zagging path that creates a sound sculpture of the stream that babbles down through it, over well-placed rocks and boulders. (This was another moment where I craved to be alone, maybe in the moonlight, just the two of us, because the jabbering tourists were not part of my sound sculpture!)
A meticulously manicured floral maze fills out the center. There was art and furniture inside too, but there was no flash photography and I couldn't see how I'd value those photos later, so you'll just have to get there yourself to see the grandeur indoors. The collection of gilded and otherwise ornate French furniture and home accessories may help you understand why the French Revolution happened.

And finally, here are a couple of snaps from the rest of the day wandering L.A. The afternoon included visiting Amoeba Records (a music store so big we didn't know what to do with ourselves!), the best mac & cheese I've ever had at Kitchen 24, and Jason's apt intuition of where the Hollywood sign could be seen. He said, "I bet it's over there,"... and there it was. I am so bad at directions and mapping my location, it must be why I married him. (Just one of the reasons!)

Game Time!

Although we missed him the parade, we arrived for the start of the Rose Bowl Game to see Captain Sullenberg flipping the coin and settled into our seats for an exciting game.We were in a "mixed neighborhood" of Ohio State and Oregon fans, which offered the opportunity for a little bit of bantering and ribbing with the opponents. (Jason did the talking, I did high-fives and giggles.)This was an interesting game from the cheering perspective, with "Go Ducks!" sounding very much like "Go Bucks!" and it seemed we were all fighting over ownership of a big letter "O." More perplexing: a Michigan fan, in an Ohio State sweatshirt, applauding the Buckeyes.This was my first time seeing the Ohio State Marching Band, recently featured in the New York Times as one of the best in the country (or "the Best Damn Band in the Land" as locals know them.)For the second half there were some tense moments, as these profiles in courage suggest.But as the sun set victory felt more assured, and the game ended with the flurries of scarlet and grey confetti. The following night, Jason asked if we could watch it again online.

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