Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's time for... post-season!!

Who's excited??

Okay, Eric is.

Anyone else? :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Scientific observation...

This morning on Facebook (ever the source of fascinating conversation), a friend of mine commented on how much she hates fire. Which prompted me to vehemently concur ("I concur, vehemently!" Any Bones fans out there? Yes? No? That's probably my favorite line from the entire span of the show...). It also reminded me of a couple high school science experiences, which I will, of course, recreate for you here...

When I was a sophomore, I took biology with, I can only assume, a classroom full of biology-challenged individuals. There were only two people in that class who ever managed decent grades -- me, and a girl named Sara. Every now and then, our teacher would allow us to complete some assignment on our own during class -- a situation I normally embraced in other classes with pen in one hand and book in the other, secure in the knowledge that my shy, quiet self could simply do what I do best: work quietly on my own to the betterment of my good grades. In biology, however, my quiet, solitary study time at my desk would suddenly morph into a group of desks gathered around me like metal to a magnet... and, a few rows away, Sara would be surrounded by her own group of desks. We had (unfortunately for me) gained reputations as the only two people who understood what we were doing, and that, in turn, meant that we were unwilling (at least on my part) group leaders.

But Sara and I recognized that perhaps our mutual affinity for the subject could be beneficial when it came to choosing a lab partner for our once-a-week lab work. We paired up, of course, which I assumed could be nothing but positive for me and my biology grades. And then I discovered something about Sara that I hadn't previously known: she was insanely, ridiculously, acutely afraid of dead things. And you can't avoid dead things in biology lab. At first, it wasn't so bad... okay, I thought, I can dissect this earthworm on my own. No problem. Okay, I can manage this frog. (And really, the frog was pretty cool -- those little tiny frog organs are so nice and neatly arranged... they're even color-coded... it's really quite fascinating to dissect a frog...)

And then one day we walked into biology lab and found ourselves face-to-face with sharks -- not big sharks, of course, just little foot-long baby sharks... but sharks, nonetheless. They were slippery... they were rubbery... and they may have been babies, but they were still the biggest dead things we'd had on those biology lab tables. And Sara, as usual, flat-out refused to go near it. I attempted to shove a scalpel in her hand and coax her into TRYING, at least. "I'm not doing that," she stubbornly insisted. "You do it." And I have to say -- cutting open that shark was one of THE most unpleasant things I've ever done. Unlike the nice, neat, color-coded frog, the shark burst open like a rubbery gray balloon full of nasty gray liquid and mushy gray rubber entrails. (What the HECK was inside that thing???) But eventually we made it to the end of the year, Sara and I receiving the highest grades in the class (and frankly, I should've been given extra credit for completing the brunt of the lab work).

The next year we moved on to chemistry, where dead things were replaced with dangerous chemicals and Bunsen burners. The gas for the Bunsen burners was turned on with a lever at each chem lab table -- the only problem was, you could never really tell how MUCH gas was flowing until you held a sparking flint over the gas and lit the flame. If you weren't careful, that flame would shoot toward the ceiling, causing our chemistry teacher to run over and adjust the gas before anyone singed off their eyebrows. I HATED lighting the Bunsen burners, because I've always been insanely, ridiculously, acutely afraid of fire... you can see where this is going...

Once again, Sara and I paired up for lab (although I'll admit my comprehension of chemistry is not quite as stellar as my comprehension of biology...). And I soon discovered that Sara was not too fond of fire, either. This time, however, as we prepared for some experiment or other and the Bunsen burner was required, I was unwavering. I shoved the flint in her hand and told her to light the Bunsen burner. "I'm not doing that," I stubbornly insisted. "You do it." And EVERY time we needed the Bunsen burner in chemistry lab, I would think back to that horrible, squishy, rubbery shark... I would cross my arms, stand back, and make sure that Sara had the honor of lighting the burner. (Force ME to dissect a disgusting shark, will you? Fine. If your hair catches fire, I'll be sure to think about putting it out...)

Yeah, I guess I have a pretty lame idea of "retaliation." But as I watched that flame shoot toward the ceiling and stood back as our teacher adjusted the flame, I couldn't help but feel the tiniest bit of satisfaction... :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The wrong size... but in a good way...

Today was one of those rare, magical days that comes along once in a blue moon... when all the planets align (even Pluto, because Pluto will always be a planet to me), and the universe is in perfect synchronicity. I like to call it, "the day that I tried on those pants that used to be way too tight and now they're way too loose." I just LOVE days like this...

It started out as just another "tidying up" kind of day. I've finally managed to clear all of the winter clothes out of the bathtub... What? You don't keep your winter clothes in the bathtub?? Actually, I don't usually keep my clothes in the bathtub, either, but that happened to be where I tossed everything when we first moved into this condo and I had to put all our clothes in the bathroom when our hardwood floors were being refinished. (The bathrooms being the only rooms in the house with doors... and doors were needed to keep the wood dust at bay...) I eventually found storage for all of our warmer weather clothing, but, since we moved into this place in July, I sort of found myself ignoring that giant pile of bathtub sweaters that I walked past every day...

Recently, however, the temperatures have been dipping lower and lower, and the need for sweaters is about to be a daily occurrence. So I figured it was time to delve into the pile of bathtub sweaters and start organizing them. And today, as I gathered the last few items to wash/fold/stack in the closet, I noticed a pair of pants at the very bottom of the pile. I recognized it as a pair that I'd bought a couple years ago for work, but I'm not sure I ever actually WORE them because they were a bit too snug. So I figured, why not? Might as well try them on... And they fit perfectly -- maybe even a bit too big...

This, of course, prompted me to try on OTHER items of clothing in my closet -- in particular, I was interested to try on a pair of gray pants that I used to wear to work. I HATED those pants, because they kept shrinking the longer I worked... but I kept wearing them now and then, just because I didn't want to show up to work in the same outfit every single day. By the time I quit my job, those pants were my least favorite thing to wear to work... every time I wore them, I was reminded of my failure to eat nothing but celery sticks and lettuce leaves, and my obvious lack of motivation to work out for more than an hour a day. But today, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and, at the risk of feeling inadequate and unworthy of the chocolate chip cookie dough I just made, tried on the much-too-tight gray pants...

And not only did they zip right up, but they literally FELL OFF even when I had them buttoned. So now, instead of being unable to wear those pants because they cut off my circulation, I am unable to wear them without risking arrest for indecent exposure. I like the second option much better than the first...

So now, newly motivated, I am off to work out. And I may even indulge in a celery stick or two before dinner tonight...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This never happens in suburbia...

I spent part of the afternoon watching a group of loitering police officers out on the street corner outside my building. Eventually, I realized there was also a group of officers a block away, and a block past that, too... And then a bunch of Traffic Management Authority workers started appearing on various corners, wearing their neon orange vests and halfheartedly directing traffic even though the lights were working just fine. I also noticed blue police blockade barricades sitting in groups on the sidewalks, and I finally realized what was going on: An Important Person motorcade was about to come by.

We noticed the first Important Person motorcade a couple weeks after we moved into this condo. We were sitting on the couch watching TV one evening, and I noticed that the street outside had been blocked off. My first thought was that some kind of construction was going on... but then I saw about five cop cars fly by on one of the cross streets a block away outside... shortly followed by a line of black, official-looking cars... followed by more flashing blue and red lights. I texted Eric, since, as a police sergeant, he tends to be privy to Important Person information -- and he told me that Joe Biden was in town.

So when I saw all the cops and barricades outside this afternoon, I texted Eric again -- and it turns out Biden was in town again. So I hung out near my window for a while, waiting to see the motorcade. I assumed it would be just like last time, when the cars traveled down the cross street down the block. But when the motorcade finally made its appearance (and seriously, those poor cops were hanging out on the street for an hour and a half before anything interesting happened), it made a turn directly onto MY street and headed RIGHT past my living room window. I fumbled with the camera on my phone, attempting to turn it on before the cars passed by... but of course I was too late.

So when, a couple hours later, I noticed that the cops were STILL hanging out on the street corners, and, what's more, they were starting to set up street barricades again, I deduced that Biden's motorcade was about to retrace its steps. And THIS time I was determined to be ready -- I got my camera and stood at my window, waiting for an opportunity:

Hey, I may not have voted for the guy, but he's still the Vice President of the United States. And this is the closest I've ever been to someone who is in charge of running my country in some way... (And what I don't have a picture of here is the ambulance that was following the whole motorcade -- is that just in case Biden has a sudden heart attack?? Or in case of some other unforeseen misfortune?)

And that was my excitement for the day... :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekend randomness...

* It was beautiful here yesterday -- sunny, not a cloud in the sky, 60-something degrees -- and then today was cloudy, rainy, and cool. It's hard to believe that autumn isn't actually HERE until Friday... I'm so used to 90-degree Septembers that this new-found "fall weather" thing is quite a novelty. And I have to admit I'm quite looking forward to the fall colors on the trees -- since we didn't move up here until November last year, we missed most of the autumn foliage and started right away with naked winter trees.

* The chairs that we ordered when we bought our kitchen table FINALLY arrived the other day, after being backordered for months. We had to assemble them ourselves (and can someone tell me why we keep buying furniture that needs to be assembled?? If I ever see another allen wrench, I'm going to scream...), but we finally have a complete kitchen table set. One of these days I'll get some pictures up on the blog...

* We went to dinner last night with Eric and Faisal, and sat at a table next to a big window by a neon sign. I noticed a couple little bugs flying around, no doubt attracted by the neon light, and flitted them away with slight annoyance. And then, not too long after we'd ordered our food, Faisal looked up at the window near the ceiling with some mixture of fear, disgust, confusion and trepidation. We all followed his glance up the window until we realized there was a HUGE spider in a web -- INSIDE the window, no less. Somehow, he ate his entire dinner with that thing hanging over his head... of course, it led to an evening full of the old "use your hand and pretend it's spider on the shoulder of the person next to you" trick... and Eric and Faisal pointing to the wall behind me and inquiring how the spider managed to climb behind me so quickly... and something about spiders in my hair... needless to say, the next time I eat there, I'll be checking the area around my table for uninvited guests...

* Why does it seem like there are NO good movies starting anytime soon? I guess it's because we're past the summer blockbuster season, and we've moved on to the boring, lame movie season. And then right before the end of the year, we'll have all the Oscar contenders...

* Every now and then, as I look at the top floors of the Hancock building, I'll see a camera flash. Probably someone in the Signature Room on the 95th floor. And I understand that people want to take pictures of the view from up there -- it's a great view. But what, exactly, do they hope to accomplish with the camera flash?? Are you expecting to illuminate the entire city with that tiny little thing? Because it's not gonna work... sorry... Lately, I've also been wondering why the lights on top of the building are colored green at the moment -- they usually change the colors according to the season. But green? Green seems more suited to March. September seems like more of an orange or yellow kind of month.... But maybe it's just me...

* I just made chocolate chip cookie dough for the week. A few months ago, I came up with the brilliant idea of making a batch of cookie dough and freezing it, and then just making a few cookies at a time. This way, I take away the temptation of eating fifteen cookies at a time, and I control my cookie portions. How smart is that?? I am a genius. (No? You don't think so??) I always want to eat some cookie dough, but I restrain myself with thoughts of salmonella. I mean, the chances of actually getting salmonella from the raw egg in cookie dough are pretty low, I suppose... but I just never want to risk it.

* And speaking of cookies, I think I'll go eat the few I made tonight. Hope everyone had a good weekend...   

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happiness is...

I'm drinking coffee with a splash of past-the-expiration-date milk. I think it's making my coffee taste a bit off... that's not bad, right? I won't die from drinking slightly "off" milk, will I? Nah... I'm sure it's fine... (This is more a testament to my addiction to caffeine than my nonchalance towards possibly spoiled food. I'm actually rather OCD when it comes to slightly spoiled food... therefore, I obviously REALLY love my caffeine...) I wish I was like my dad and Rick, who have developed a taste for black coffee... but I still prefer mine with milk, even if the only milk in my house has been around since the Revolutionary War... (I know what you're all wondering: "Why didn't you just walk down to that Starbucks on the corner, Lisa? They have coffee AND fresh milk..." Yes... that would've been a good idea. Oh well...)

And speaking of things you find in a kitchen -- this morning I was reading some of the healthy foodie blogs I like to read, and someone was expounding on the benefits of a "kitchen work triangle." She recently bought a house with a U-shaped kitchen, after living with a galley kitchen for years, and apparently the new layout is much more efficient. I, myself, have sort of an L-shaped kitchen with an "i" next to it... (I just need to work in an "s" and an "a" so my kitchen will spell out Lisa... :))

I'd never heard of this "kitchen work triangle" thing, so I googled it and found this article on People have actually done ergonomic studies to suggest that ideally, the refrigerator, sink, and stove should form a triangle. And what's more, there are actual "principles" to adhere to with this work triangle idea:

  • Each leg of the triangle should be between 4 and 9 feet
  • The total of all three legs should be between 12 and 26 feet
  • No obstructions (cabinets, islands, etc.) should intersect a leg of the work triangle
  • Household traffic should not flow through the work triangle 

Amazingly, my tiny little Li-shaped kitchen manages to meet these requirements (although just barely), which is good -- because, as the article says, "an efficient kitchen is typically a key point in having a happy life." Uhhh... what??? My kitchen layout dictates whether or not I have a happy life?? Really. The kitchen. If I have a triangle layout in my kitchen, I have a better chance of having a happy life. Forget about my family and friends and relationships and contentment and security and love and fun and adventure and chocolate (sorry Rachel -- chocolate post is coming soon, I promise! ;)) -- when you get right down to the basics, it's all about the kitchen. Wow... I've been waaaaaaay off...

Personally, I think it's more about coffee than the kitchen... well, as long as you don't use slightly off, possibly spoiled milk... 

Sunday, September 11, 2011


All week, I've thought about what to say today, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and honestly, I've had a hard time with it. I mean, here I am, a supposed "writer" -- someone who can form "profound" statements out of a clever placement of carefully chosen words -- and yet I'm drawing a blank. 

Not that I can't think of a million things to say... I can remember where I was that morning... I can remember that my first thoughts when I woke up and walked out into my sun-filled living room were something along the lines of, "what a perfect day." Isn't that crazy? My first thought on September 11th was that it was a PERFECT day. That changed much too quickly...

I can remember seeing those images of the planes hitting the towers, aired over and over and over on nearly every channel imaginable... and, consequently, I STILL can't watch that footage without breaking down. I saw it too many times that day... I saw it so many times that it's been burned into my memory. I tried not to think about what the people on those planes must've been feeling, when they realized the path their hijackers were flying... and yet I still had nightmares for weeks afterward that I was a passenger on one of those planes -- thankfully, I woke up from that terrifying nightmare when my dream-plane hit the building. The fact that people had to literally live and die that way is more horrible than I want to imagine...

I can remember that I spent much of September 12th logged onto the internet, searching for information about Islam to counter my ignorance and the inevitable rumors and accusations that would follow... searching for verses from the Qur'an... searching for an explanation for the nonsensical ramblings of Nostradamus (how many ridiculous internet rumors were flying around about Nostradamus and 9/11??)... searching for ANYTHING that had absolutely NOTHING to do with the attacks. I must've watched more of the Travel Channel than I'd ever watched in my life... and I've watched a LOT of the Travel Channel...

But I can also remember the hope and the determination that slowly returned to everyday life... I remember my first trip back into the city after 9/11, for a Yankee playoff game, in a stadium filled with fans who just wanted to be excited about our national pastime -- and that game is still THE most awesome baseball game I've ever attended. I remember eventually feeling like the world was NOT coming to an end, and like perhaps we DID have a future of some sort. 

And I remember wanting to get back on a plane and see the world, without letting what happened on 9/11 scare me into a life limited to ground travel. That can never happen. I will never be deterred from exploring this planet and all it has to offer. I will never allow the cowardice of a few who claim to speak for an entire group to prevent me from learning the truth from those who are willing to teach me.

And yet none of this truly does justice to this day, or to the people who lost their lives, or the people who lost loved ones, or the people whose lives have been affected in a myriad of ways. 

And, to different extents, perhaps that is all of us.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

When is Eat Chocolate Day?

Apparently, yesterday was "Read a Book Day," and I didn't even realize it. It makes sense that the day after Labor Day would celebrate book-reading, considering yesterday was probably the first day of school for many kids around the country. Or at least many of the kids in the north -- down south, school generally starts sometime in the middle of August. (But summer vacation starts earlier, at the end of May. It's early summer vs. late back-to-school. And after experiencing both, I believe I liked late back-to-school better... :))

So in honor of a belated Read a Book Day, here are a few quotes from some of my favorite books:

To Kill a Mockingbird:

  • "If you shouldn't be defendin' him, then why are you doin' it?"

    "For a number of reasons," said Atticus. "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again."

    "Atticus, are we going to win it?"

    "No, honey."

    "Then why-"

    "Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win," Atticus said.

(Atticus Finch, by the way, is, unarguably, the greatest lawyer in the history of literature. Seriously, you can't even argue with me, because it's just a fact.)  

  • "The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box."

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
  • There was a lust of wandering in his feet that burned to set out for the ends of the earth. On! On! his heart seemed to cry. Evening would deepen above the sea, night fall upon the plains, dawn glimmer before the wanderer and show him strange fields and hills and faces. Where?

  • Away! Away! The spell of arms and voices: the white arms of roads, their promise of close embraces and the black arms of tall ships that stand against the moon, their tale of distant nations. They are held out to say: We are alone. Come. And the voices say with them: We are your kinsmen. And the air is thick with their company as they call to me, their kinsman, making ready to go, shaking the wings of their exultant and terrible youth.... Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Brick Lane:

  • What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne. This principle ruled her life. It was mantra, fettle, and challenge. So that, at the age of thirty-four, after she had been given three children and had one taken away, when she had a futile husband and had been fated a young and demanding lover, when for the first time she could not wait for the future to be revealed but had to make it for herself, she was as startled by her own agency as an infant who waves a clenched fist and strikes itself upon the eye.
  • "Oh, Karim, that we have already done. But always there was a problem between us. How can I explain? I wasn't me, and you weren't you. From the very beginning to the very end, we didn't see things. What we did -- we made each other up."

The Shadow of the Wind:

  • “Every book… has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens… When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”
Now everyone go read a book! We may be a day late for a Read a Book Day, but better late than never... :)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Getting comfy with comfortability...

So, one of the fun things about Blogger (apart from the fact that they recently changed their interface and I'm all confused now... wait, is that fun??), is that you can see which of your posts are popular with the masses. The "masses," in my case, being the ten people who read my blog on a regular basis, along with the random people who stumble upon it from day to day.

And what I find amusing is that, without a doubt, the MOST popular and MOST read posts on my blog are those that have anything to do with my favorite made-up word, COMFORTABILITY.

Go ahead -- type, "is comfortability a word?" into Google and scroll through some of the results. Somewhere in that list, you'll find a link (or possibly two) to my blog. And while I just can't quite bring myself to completely concede and allow Faisal his fake word, I suppose I must admit that its exclusion from legitimate dictionaries has resulted in increased blog traffic. So it's good for something, at least... :)

And speaking of comfortability -- I am still amazed at what a wimp I've become after less than a year in Chicago. I just spent more than a week in the oven-like temperatures of Austin, and yet it STILL feels hot here when the mercury climbs up to 90. Although I suspect the humidity is a big culprit here, since Austin has absolutely nothing in the way of precipitation, even in the form of air-suspended water vapor. The dry air makes quite a difference in Austin. And the humidity makes quite a difference here in Chicago. I'm trying to decide which is better -- oven or sauna?? Hmmm... with an oven, you can bake cookies and chocolate cake... but with a sauna, you just get all sweaty. Yeah, I'm gonna have to go with oven. :)

I shouldn't complain about the heat, though -- because sooner or later (and I have a feeling it will be sooner), summer will be over and I'll be wearing sweaters again and warily eyeing my winter coats in the closet, wondering when I'll need to pull them out. How did the summer go by so quickly?? I theorize it's because we were so busy during the late spring and early summer -- searching for a condo to buy, taking care of the purchase, moving, trying to get settled... which, to be honest, I'm still working on. If I can feel completely settled in by the first day of autumn, I will consider it a success.

And settling in, of course, requires a certain amount of comfortability... but if comfortability doesn't really exist, how can I ever get settled?? Does this mean comfortability DOES exist???

Darn it, Faisal... you win again.

Just kidding -- "comfort" still works just as well... ;)