Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Evidence

I'm sure lots of you already knew, but here's the official results:

60% Geek

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Andy

And sometimes Christmas carols just bring tears to your eyes:

Through the years we all will be together,
If the fates allow...

Still miss you, man.
Always will.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Save the Vocabulary, Save the World

I'll be short so that you can spend more time saving the world... and building brain power. Check out this site:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Coming up Roses

Since NaNoWriMo is over and yesterday brought fabulous news from the world of college football, I thought I'd try my hand at poetry:

Roses Are Orange,

Violets Are Blue,

I'm going to California to see the Illini in the Rose Bowl!!!

How about you?


Friday, November 30, 2007

LisaWriMo: I Won!

I officially won NaNoWriMo by writing my 50,000th word at 5:01 pm yesterday! *Happy dance!* Even more exciting though was that at 8:43 this morning, I finished my novel. *Happy Dance! Happy Dance! Happy Dance!* My final word count is 51,200 though I'm sure that will be altered with the quantity of editing the story requires. Lots of people have asked me "So, what's it about?" And it's a simple question with a not so simple answer. When I mention that it's about a girl working in research lab they assume it's based on real life experiences. Maybe it is a little but it's also entirely fiction. I like what author Katherine Patterson said,
"Thus, in a real sense, I am constantly writing autobiography but I have to turn it into fiction to give it credibility."

Some characters started off as patterns of people I know but many of them took on their own unique personalities throughout the story and ended up looking nowhere close to who I imagined them as. In a few scenes I found myself unintentionally paying homage to authors I admire - towards the end I found I had written shades of Edward Cullen and Boo Radley into two of my players. I borrowed some names from old friends, and have since reconnected with a few while offering my thanks (you rock, Tonya). Most of them are common enough to never be traced back to individuals but one of my challenges was creating believable names for the cast - though Clarissa and Pablo really had to be Clarissa and Pablo. And I butchered science. I didn't intend to, and I feel a little bad about doing so, but it made for a much more exciting story. That's why it's fiction, right? I'll be curious to see if the minor flubs are caught or if it's only through close technical knowledge that things appear ridiculously fake. I'm still pretty genre-less. I classified myself as Mainstream Fiction because there was no listing for Scificklysterymance (that's sci-fi meets chick-lit meets mystery meets romance. It's no coincidence that that describes my reading tastes too.

But the bottom line is - it's done! I finished! I wrote a novel! I won! As part of the NaNo celebration, once I validated my word count I got a pdf file of a winner's certificate. I like the description they give on it (emphases theirs):
This literary honor is bestowed but once a year upon the bravest, most dedicated, and GIFTED of writers who have achieved their creative potential in ONE absurdly challenging month. The bearer of this certificate shall forever occupy a revered place in the firmament of HIGH-VELOCITY NOVELISTS, and his or her work shall stand as an INSPIRING testament to what can happen when one courageous writer triumphs over the naysaying and self-critical voices that stymie the flow of ART AND MERRIMENT in the universe. Congratulations, novelist. The Office of Letters and Light salutes you.

Of course, I almost wish I had been able to read that piece of encouragement before I started. "absurdly challenging month...."; "Revered place in the firmament...."; "stymie the flow of art and merriment...."; those are some great noveling words... I might have to keep them in mind for November '08!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

LisaWriMo: Progress Tracking

Here's a Word Count Widget if anyone wants to track my progress to the end. Sorry I didn't get it up here sooner!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

LisaWriMo: Almost finished!!! (...Sort of?)

As of this morning my word count stands at 47,441. On Monday I broke my record for a single day's word count with 2634 words. On Tuesday I broke Monday's record by plugging out 2990 words. (I almost wish I had written 10 more just to have a 3K day.) It's highly likely that I'm going to hit the coveted 50,000 tonight or tomorrow morning...but you'll notice that I'm not claiming to finish tonight or tomorrow morning. I'm going to revel in the success of "winning" NaNoWriMo very soon but an even bigger joy will be completing my novel - which will likely take an extra couple thousand words above the 50K mark. It would be awesome to complete the story by November 30th but I don't want to rush the ending too much. I posted another excerpt - there are several now if anyone's interested - but even cooler to read is the latest author pep talk by young adult and sci-fi writer Garth Nix. The full text isn't available online yet but as I did with the supremely awesome Neil Gaiman, here's my favorite highlight from the pep talk of Mr. Nix:

"...remember that being published is not a necessary validation or a path everyone wants to take with their work. Writing---and finishing---a novel is a great thing in itself, whether or not the book is published or becomes widely-read or not.

"Finally, I think it’s always best to write the story that is currently strongest inside you, the one that won’t go away, regardless of its genre or marketability. If you are true to your inner vision, believe in the reality of your story and write the book you want, you will bring it to life."

It really answered my inner doubts about whether or not my story had any "readability" and also acts as a nice little answer to those who want me to seek editors and publishers immediately. I might not be a great writer. I might not even be a good writer. But I have a story to tell and I think I've done a pretty fair job at bringing that story to life.

Stay tuned for copious amounts of celebration and a plethora of joyous salutations when I hit the big 50K!

Monday, November 26, 2007

LisaWriMo: The Final Countdown

I have written - I have HAND-written - over 42,000 words. That puts me a mere 8000 words shy of the goal. That's 84% done. *Insert squeals of delight.* For those of you that stuck with me through my "I-hate-my-novel" and excessive use of rubbish and it's synonyms in describing my writing phase, I thank you profusely. This is the downhill stretch and yet it's also the climactic rush that's providing some of the most dramatic and fun to write material so far. Wish me luck on the home stretch!

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions, feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you only you can let it in
No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open

...Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

LisaWriMo: Overdue Update

I figure I'm well overdue for an update on here. I'm over 30,000 words into my novel. I know that should seem like I'm on the home stretch but I still feel like I'm heading "into" instead of out of this project. The last few days have been especially daunting - I dropped below the daily minimums for the first time all month - but after a few marathon writing sessions I'm back on pace to make it 50K in the next ten days. Thanks to all who have been wishing me well - from the encouraging friends to the emailed pep talks from famous authors that NaNoWriMo provides - I really couldn't persevere without my cheering team! I actually had an "I hate my novel" moment this weekend and a perfectly timed email arrived from Neil Gaiman - many know he's one of my favorite authors and you can read his appropriately suited for the moment words in their entirety here. My favorite part was:
You're in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone.... You don't know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you're pretty sure that even if you finish it it won't have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began---a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read---it falls so painfully short that you're pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Welcome to the club.

That's how novels get written.

I'm still on the fence as to how much sharing of my work will be done. More on that to be discussed later, I'm sure. Until then I'm over 60% done... here's to pushing through to the end!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

LisaWriMo: First Milestone!

I hit 10,000 words on my novel this morning!

I sort of promised not to refer to it as my really crappy novel. I guess it's not entirely rubbish.... Sorry I haven't had more blogging time lately. Anyone craving lisa writing can follow the link above to my latest Novel Excerpt.

But in other news Pace Bus Services that were sure to be eliminated on November 4th are miraculously still running. The new threat is to eliminate them on January 1st, 2008. In the past month, many of you heard my passionate ranting on why many suburbs *coughcoughnapervillecoughcough* would be shooting themselves in the proverbial foot if these cuts were allowed. (And 400 extra drivers are supposed to park... ...WHERE?!?!) My new rant involves how annoying and distasteful I find the political pandering and scare tactics involved with approving budgets.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

LisaWriMo: Hit the ground Running!

Okay well NaNoWriMo started today and though I wasn't in the group that began at midnight, I was scribbling away on the train this morning. I'm up to 1,053 words (goal is around 2000/day) so I'm feeling like that's a good start. Check in HERE throughout the month to see my progress. You'll find my current word count and you can also get a brief (*very brief*) excerpt of my writing that I'll try to update every day or so. Thanks to all who wished me luck, I really appreciate the encouragement. And super awesome thanks to my Official Writing Buddies - Laura (Starzgirl), Katy (kasjer2911), and Emily (Nekonezumi) - you guys rock my world!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pine Cones

Saturday Tony and I took a day trip out to Starved Rock. It was a fun and relaxing time to be outdoors in beautiful weather with the fall colors all around us. If you've never been to Starved Rock I highly recommend taking a trip there - assuming you like hiking and outdoorsy stuff - especially this time of year. For me the most memorable part of the day was when we were hiking to my favorite spot in the park, LaSalle Canyon. As we walked along the sandstone path leading up to and behind the waterfall (there's a reason it's my favorite spot) I started to study the trail we were walking and noticed pine cones all over the path. Taking a look around I did a mental survey of the trees near by - Maples and Oaks and is that an Ash? I pointed out the pine cones to Tony who also looked all around us without seeing any conifers. We came up with various theories about dispersion by wind and animals to explain the presence of the pine evidence. As we proceeded through the cavern beneath the waterfall and emerged on the path opposite our initial trek, we reached higher ground and stared up at the sky. To our surprise, high on the top of the bluffs above our incoming path was a grove of white pines.

I had to share this story because it really made me think about God. Firstly because of the beauty in nature that I will ascribe only to His creation. There was something else though that really struck me. The pine cones on that path were a good analogy of God's presence in my life. So often I'm staring all around wondering where God is. Yet it's only when I slow down and reflect on my life (the path I'm walking) that I start to see evidence of Him all around (pine cones). I can get frustrated because I can't see Him (the pine trees). I'll even try to ascribe the good in my life to other things like luck or hard work (wind and animals). I can convince myself that God's far away and not really concerned with my everyday life, but like the trees high on the bluffs, He is always nearby. Just because I can't see Him directly doesn't mean that He's not surrounding me every step of the way.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Night at the Museum

A Long Time Ago in A Science and Industry Museum Not To Far Away....

C3P0, Princess Lisa, Tony-Wan Kenobi and R2D2

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More on Dr. W (or maybe moron Dr. W?)

As cool as it was to meet and see a lecture by Dr. James Watson, I'm glad to have gone on the record as saying early on that as much as I admire his scientific research, I don't agree with his personal views. At his U of C lecture he made some very strong claims supporting atheism. Keeping in mind that U of C has one of the oldest, largest, and most prestigious divinity schools in the country this wasn't exactly a smart move, but few feathers were ruffled as it was not a University sanctioned lecture, but rather sponsored by a bookstore. I've since learned (as offal seems to have hit the proverbial fan) that Dr. Watson apparently enjoys making edgy, controversial and even inflammatory comments during his presentations. At Berkley a few years ago he angered audience members by giving a lecture that many students found offensive and sexist. And yesterday in the UK he topped that incident by delivering a talk that now has him labeled as a racist. It seems atheism is only one of his personal opinions that I find quite distasteful and I'm not the only one currently holding that view:
Berkeley genetics professor Thomas Cline said Watson's lecture "crossed over the line'' from being provocative to being irresponsible because the senior scientist failed to separate fact from conjecture.

"If he wants to give a talk like this in his living room, that's his business, but to give it in a setting where it's supposed to be scientific is wrong,'' Cline said, adding that listening to Watson at the podium was "more embarrassing than having a creation scientist up there.''

Ah yes, the creationist is not as embarrassing as a racist. Score one for Intelligent Design? I probably shouldn't joke about that, but the comment did amuse me. It just goes to show that there's more to being "smart" than just IQ and it seems even in the scientific world, intelligence stands for little without compassion, sensitivity and - you might go so far to say - the whisperings of the heart.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NaNoWriMo Ponderings

This year I'm going all in with NaNoWriMo. If that sounds like some alien language, I'll clue you in that it's actually an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to take the month of November and write approximately 1700 words every day and produce a 50,000 word novel (about 175 pages) by the end of the month. Bring on the Q & A:

Question: Lisa, why in the world would you undertake such nonsense?
Answer: I've had at least three people whose opinions I value tell me in the past month, "You're a really good writer". I appreciate the compliments but in truth, I don't believe it. I read A LOT and to me "good writer" classifies authors that are way out of my league. Yet at the same time, the only way to make myself a better writer - and possibly even someday ascribe the "good writer" title to myself - is to get some practice and actually write.

Question: What is your novel going to be about?
Answer: I'm still working on that but as the advice I've most often read for new writers is "write what you know" there's pretty good odds that it will at least take place in a lab and might even be marginally biographical. Probably a good mix of genres since that's my reading style too.

Question: Why are you announcing this now?
Answer: I figure there's a two prong advantage if I get the word out that I'm participating, first, some of you might be crazy enough to try it with me and second, this way if I put the expectation out in public I'll be less likely to chicken out like I did last year when my inklings to do this were all in my head.

Question: Does this mean that we'll all get to read your novel on December 1st?
Answer: Fat chance! I've never tried this before and haven't actually written fiction since end of high school/early college. That means that there's a very high probability of producing 50,000 words of garbage and the amount of readers I pass my work onto will be inversely proportionate to the level of crap that deem it. There's only two people right now that are guaranteed a peek at what I come up with (you know who you are!). Of course, I may add people to that list if they (1) attempt NaNoWriMo with me or (2) are extraordinarily supportive of my pursuits. No guarantees though.

Question: Is there I way I can check in throughout the month and see how much progress your making?
Answer: As of November 1st there will be (hopefully) daily word counts and maybe even an excerpt posted on my NaNoWriMo Profile page (user: elbakerone). I'll also try to blog occasionally and let y'all know how things are going and if I freak out and quit half way through I'll shamefacedly admit that here as well. Until then, wish me luck!

Question: What if I have more questions about NaNoWriMo?
Answer: They have their own Q&A site. Find all your answers here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lisa and the DNA Man

Call this a big time "Nerd Alert" if you like, but Monday night I got to meet James Watson! That name might not mean too much outside of biology class but he's one of the men who won the 1962 Nobel Prize for discovering the Double Helix structure of DNA. (If the names Watson & Crick sound familiar, he's THAT Watson). He was giving a lecture on a new book he wrote at the U of C campus so my coworkers and I decided to go see him. The cool part was that we got there early and he was just hanging out so we got to sit and chat with him for a while before the talk. And he signed a copy of his book for me!

He's a pretty funny guy too. The title of the book is Avoid Boring People - he goes on to explain that boring is both an adjective and a verb. When you're young, he told me, don't waste your time with people that aren't doing interesting work and when you're old he says to avoid being a bore by keeping yourself involved with the work young people are doing. Also cool was the fact that he held a Q&A session after his talk. It was weird because every other time I've been to a scientific lecture or conference one of the first few question askers usually says a quick thank you to the speaker (sometimes EVERY person asking a question thanks the speaker) but five or six people asked questions without thanking him so I got in line. I said something like "Dr. Watson, first off I'd just like to thank you for coming. It really is an honor to have you here. You mentioned that you always knew you wanted to go into science I'm curious about when you first decided to become a writer." (He's written eight or nine books now varying from biology texts to biographical work and some other stuff that's more stories from his labs.) Anyways, he went on and on in his answer and all my coworkers told me that I had the best question of the night. I think he was just happy to be thanked and I also figured it was maybe something that he didn't get asked a lot.

He had a lot of cool things to say and aside from one of his responses where he presented his EXTREMELY atheistic views on the importance of science over religion, I really enjoyed his talk. I'm not sure why so many top level researchers can't find a coexistence between faith and reason but the more time I spend in scientific circles the more I realize that following Christ places me in the minority among scientists. As much as that is a frustration, I also see it as something of a "reason why I'm here". As awesome as it is to explore pursuits of the mind, they mean little to me without the whisperings of my heart. :)

Again, this probably much cooler if you're a big nerd (like me) but it really was a great opportunity. Just take my word that James Watson is to Biology what Albert Einstein is to Physics!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Sigh and A Shoulder Shrug

The Cubs are done. Again. And without even winning a single playoff game. It's sad, disappointing, frustrating, annoying and a slew of other adjectives that aren't fit for publication here.

"There's Always Next Year" doesn't seem much comfort right now, but somehow the Bears beating the previously undefeated Packers does act as something of a balm on the current Cubbie heartache....

But still. *sigh* It's gonna be a long winter.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Book Blog

Many of you are familiar with my obsession fascination with a website called Library Thing (LT) - provider of my supremely awesome Blog Widget for Recently Read Books. In the true tradition of The Best Just Got Better, I signed up for a program they have called Early Reviewers. The deal is that publishers come to LT and offer up free copies of their books and LT goes through and "matches" the books offered to readers based on what's already in users libraries - sort of a smart selector for book reviews, "if you read x, you might like y". The selected readers then review the book and offer their review back to the publishers for publicity purposes all for the fair price of a free book that usually is not yet published. This past month I scored my first free book. Aside from a few political books in my catalog, I'm not certain how I matched to it but as I am always up for new (and free) books from any genre complaints were the last thing on my mind. The book is called Red Zone Blues (subtitled A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge) and is written by Asia Times journalist Pepe Escobar. It was a pretty decent book and I thought I might as well share my review here and if anyone else is interested in reading it, I'd be more than happy to pass it around (which is also true for any and all books I own so if there's something in my catalog that you want to borrow let me know - I'm working on adding an "own" tag to distinguish books that are in my actual possession versus ones I've borrowed from friends or the local library). Anyhoo, before I get too rambley, here's my Red Zone Blues Review:
Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge is an insider's look at the past, present and future state of life, war and politics in Iraq. Parts of the book are highly critical of American foreign policy, yet Pepe Escobar focuses not on the US military, but on the Iraqi people. Stories are told of the leaders of the factions fighting for power as well as the heart-wrenching narratives from everyday people struggling to live within and around the war zone.

Each brief chapter of the book presents a different point about the conflict or current Middle Eastern politics. I found this format to be a bit distracting, as I had expected a more cohesive account. Although he warns readers that he is writing the "Blues" about the horrid state of Iraq (and constantly reiterates the popular idea that US occupation in Iraq must come to an end), Escobar could have provided his own suggestions or solutions to restoring Baghdad to stability. With the opportunity to present his own editorial, he instead chooses to remain amid the dismal facts and offers no hope for Iraq's future. Perhaps his stance is best summed up in a quote from one of his interviews stating, "[s]ome think it's better for the Americans to stay, otherwise there will be civil war. Others think they should leave. There is no united opinion."

Escobar's writing provided thought-provoking insights with every turn of the page. I most enjoyed the human perspectives and reading the interviews that Escobar, at times, risked his life to conduct. Whether or not readers agree with Escobar's views, I would recommend this book to anyone strictly for the factual information about US foreign policy and the current state of the Middle East. Red Zone Blues is an intense but satisfying book and the straightforward journalistic style will cause many Americans to evaluate, and possibly re-evaluate, their views on the war.
And I should add the disclaimer too that I'm still learning the ropes for writing good book reviews. My style and format tend to vary a lot but any feedback or polite critiques that people want to provide is more than welcome.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Commuter's Rant

I'm not normally one to complain, but just take this as a blowing-off-steam rant. A little taste of my morning:

A ride on a CTA bus.
A 35 minute ride on a CTA bus.
A 35 minute ride on an overcrowded CTA bus.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride on an overcrowded CTA bus.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing on an overcrowded CTA bus.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning in 85 degree weather.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning in extremely muggy 85 degree weather.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning in extremely muggy 85 degree weather with seated men that don't offer their seats to ladies in high heels.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning in extremely muggy 85 degree weather with seated men that don't offer their seats to ladies in high heels and can't figure out how to open the windows.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning in extremely muggy 85 degree weather with seated men that don't offer their seats to ladies in high heels and can't figure out how to open the windows so that you feel dizzy by the time you get to work.
A very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning in extremely muggy 85 degree weather with seated men that don't offer their seats to ladies in high heels and can't figure out how to open the windows so that you feel dizzy by the time you get to work but you're simultaneously so glad to finally be done with the "very bumpy 35 minute ride standing in heels on an overcrowded CTA bus without air conditioning in extremely muggy 85 degree weather with seated men that don't offer their seats to ladies in high heels and can't figure out how to open the windows so that you feel dizzy by the time you get to work" that you're able to put the dizziness aside and get on with your day.

Friday, September 21, 2007

If not me, why not you?

Okay so it's a pink vacuum cleaner and maybe that's not your thing, but it's pretty darn cool and they're giving it away for free! Let's see.... which one of these things makes it most attractive to me? It's a Dyson... It's Pink... It's supporting cancer research... It's free... Uh, yeah. I'll go with all of the above.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Dread Pirate Brody's Real Name?

My pirate name is:

Mad Bess Flint

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network
So my original pirate name (back in '02 when only the fiercest of us had even heard of TLAP Day) was The Dread Pirate Brody (long story) but I guess Mad Bess Flint has a certain ring to it. Maybe Mad Bess Flint Brody works. Go ahead and take the quiz and let me know your own pirate name!

Happy Pirateering To All And To All A Sword Fight!*

*Yes, I just coined that phrase. Consider it my own personal trademark.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Because It Nev-arrrrgh Gets Old


The Dread Pirate Brody's Official Pirate Day Archives:
2006 (The Best of Movie Pirates)
2003 (Pirate Jokes)
2002 (The DB article that started it all)

I was a pirate before pirates were cool.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another LOL

I'm always amazed at how many different things LOL can stand for. Any onliner will associate it with "laugh out loud" and my college crew will recognize it as the header of my old weekly/monthly email updates in which it stood for "life of Lisa", "Lisa on life" or "Lisa Online". I've often signed greetings to friends and family with "lots of love" and also had the St. Patty's day interpretation meaning "lots of luck". The abbreviation can represent Jesus as "Lord of Lords" or a spicy grandma who wants to be a "little old lady" looking for a new "lease on life". Regardless....

This past week I've made an acquaintance with a new organization that's commonly referred to as LOL: Locks of Love. Many of you know that I've been growing my hair out for a few years in order to take part in an interesting form of charity - and this week marked the day I "made the cut". Locks of Love is a nonprofit group that accepts hair donations in order to make wigs for children with hair loss (most people assume it's only for chemotherapy patients but there are also many genetic diseases and auto-immune disorders that cause baldness in young people). The donation guidelines are a little strict in that at least 10 inches of hair are needed to make the wigs so you can imagine that it's a pretty drastic change in my hairstyle. My mom treated me to a cut and color with her favorite stylist at Zano salon which was a wonderful experience. Any haircut that includes a neck and shoulder massage gets a two thumbs up in my book! So far I like my new look and it's been met with pretty positive reviews (assuming that "Oh my gosh! I didn't recognize you!" can also be considered positive) from family, friends and coworkers. I'm still getting used to having a much chillier neck but there's great advantages to going from 40 to 4 minutes in my necessary use of a hairdryer. To anyone with long hair that's debating making the chop, I highly recommend the experience! Check out for more information.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Vermont and Wisconsin Bithday

My birthday took place neither in Wisconsin nor Vermont, and although I have friends in the former and a teddy bear from the latter, WI and VT are meant a little more metaphorically in this case. Wisconsin as all midwesterners know is famous for cheese and no pancake lover will deny the association between Vermont and maple syrup. So in saying that I had a very Vermont and Wisconsin birthday I mean that it was sappy and cheesy - in all the best ways possible. I mentioned before that I had a really fun family party on Sunday. Unfortunately the Bears couldn't gift a birthday win for me but it was all in all a fun time hanging out. Monday was a really awesome time too. My coworkers surprised me with a candle laden coffee cake instead of our traditional Monday morning lab meeting bagels. Then around 1 Tony came to pick me up and not only did I have the joy of a half day off work, we got to walk around the U of C campus and visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. Then we skipped over to the Science and Industry Museum and saw a really cool Omnimax show about Mummies, Pharaohs and Ancient Egypt. Yes, this is further evidence of what a supreme nerd I am because it was 110% educational and I loved it! (Hey, I warned you it was cheesy!)The really awesome part of the day too was that Tony took me out for a surprise dinner at Catch 35, a really fancy seafood restaurant. We'd both been wanting to go there for a long time and it was excellent! The food was supreme, the service was great and the fact that it was Monday night made for a very non-crowded romantic dinner. And as if that wasn't amazing enough, Tony had flowers for me delivered to the restaurant so that when we were seated at the table I noticed a card from him in the middle of the gorgeous centerpiece. What a guy, right? (Hey, I warned you it was sappy, too!) Hard to believe the years are flying by but if the birthday sets the tone for the year, I'm in for a wonderful time as a 27-year old!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Driving in Cars With Balloons

Wow! What a weekend! I had a super fun birthday celebration with my family today but I spent most of Saturday in the hospital. Don't worry, I wasn't IN the hospital, rather I was visiting my sister who was having a baby! She delivered a happy and healthy baby girl. She's quite the cutie, just like her mom. ;) I had an interesting time getting to the medical center though because I made the mistake of buying balloons ahead of time. Financially this was a wise move as party stores achieve the accounting miracle of making a profit while charging less than a third of what hospital gift shops deem reasonable. And balloons really are an ultimately ideal gift for a new arrival, but there is a slight issue in transporting them. I was too afraid of poppage to put them in the trunk (those who have ever seen the cluttered pit that is my car trunk will understand) so I designated the backseat as the bouquet containment area. I should probably explain that there were only two balloons but that one of them was a jumbo sized pink foot emblazoned with the phrase "It's a Girl!". (I'm not entirely certain why a foot is the new universal symbol for "baby" but it was a cute selection.) If you've never driven with balloons in your backseat, I'll explain that there are only two positions the helium filled atrocities will occupy: blocking the rear view mirror or obliterating your blind spot. And more often than not there will be multiple transitions between these placements as the trip progresses. And of course due to construction, ridiculously slow drivers, and a brush collection truck that was pelting my car with sticks I had to change lanes about eight times. That is, I had to change lanes about eight times while having pink mylar monsters flying between my rear view mirror and my blind spot. You can imagine me driving: one hand on the wheel, one hand on the turn signal and one hand frantically swatting balloons out of view. You're probably thinking that that doesn't add up - and you're right. Amazingly I avoided both accidents and traffic tickets but my inability to read the proper signage left me parked at the exact opposite end of the hospital complex from the Labor and Delivery entrance but I suppose I'll leave "Riding in Elevators With Balloons" for another time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Downward Dog Ate My Homework

I went to a yoga class at Lifetime last night. *waiting for laughter to subside* I'm serious. I, the queen of clutz, was learning to stretch, balance and breathe my way into the relaxation that can only come from transforming oneself into a human pretzel! Tony has still been having back pain from his car accident and with my copious amounts of joint problems (my knees and hips tend to do random impressions of popping corn), we thought yoga might be a good habit to start. So we ventured over to the health club - side note here: What happened to the 80's when you could go "exercise" at "the gym"? Now it's all going to "work out" at the "health club"... anyways - little did we know that "Fitness Yoga" would be much more the former than the latter. Gone were my previous experiences of gentle stretching and calming breathing. This was an all out kick-your-butt stretching and straining of muscles I forgot I even had! I knew it would be rough when we started with a sequence of four moves (that we returned to several times throughout the class). The first is Downward Facing Dog - a pretty basic move with your palms and feet flat on the floor and your butt up in the air with your arms and legs straightened so that if you strung a line between your elbows and knees it would be an accurate impersonation of the letter A (no comment on the fact that people were not designed to be shaped like letters other than I). It's not too difficult but when you focus on keeping your heels flat to the ground it provides a somewhat pleasant stretching to the shoulders and quads. From Downward Dog the instructor shifts us to Plank. In Plank you are on your toes with your palms still flat and arms straight but your back straightens so that you're essentially in the up position of a push up. Then comes Chaturanga. If you've never done yoga, fear the Chaturanga. Chaturanga means "Four Limbs" and comes from the words "chatur" meaning "four", and "anga" meaning "oh wow, I found my triceps!". Your hands and feet keep the same position as Plank but you bend your elbows and bring them into your sides and balance with your nose inches from the ground for an undetermined length of time (see painful picture at right, well, maybe it's not painful if you look like THAT but for us normal humans....ow!). Yeah, it's basically like doing the first half of a push up but you're supposed to be all slow and graceful and if you're like me and haven't really done push ups regularly since high school, it starts with a slow burning in the triceps and moves into all out agony by the eighth time through the sequence. The last pose is Upward Dog and it took all my reserve not to ask the instructor or fellow pretzel people, "What's Up, Dog?". Yes, it's pretty much a reversal of Downward Facing Dog, in that your back is arched with your chest up, hips lifted and head back, but a more appropriate title would be The Little Mermaid pose. Really, no one's done it better since Ariel and you can see from her expression (at left) that she's extremely excited to have been relieved from the agony of holding Chaturanga for too long. I suppose it's also saying something that I need to take flexibility lessons from a cartoon character...

The other thing I should mention is that Lifetime Fitness does a really cool thing when the weather's nice - they have Yoga Under The Stars by the outdoor pool. It was a nice evening and I thought this feature would enhance the relaxation aspect of the class but a more accurate name for it would be Yoga Under the Stars Obscured By Light Pollution or even better Yoga With Our Friends the Mosquitoes! I was doing pretty good with some of the other crazy balance moves we tried except it's quite difficult to stand in a position like the triangle (at right) and try to focus on relaxing and breathing when a mosquito and three of it's buddies are feasting their way up your ankle and around the circumference of your elbows! And then, since the insects were out in full force their predators joined us too - and really is there anything more calming than staring at a sky filled with swarms of bats?!??? Every time we hit Upward Dog I found myself fearing a face-full of guano. *Eeeeuuughhhh* But the bats left us alone and I suppose I've done worse then sixteen mosquito bites in a night. I'll keep you all posted into my further ventures of human pretzel-hood in the future but for now all I can say is: Beware the Chaturanga!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I can't remember the last time August has been this rainy. No...change that. Rainy would be okay. Stormy is more appropriate and explains why I'm not enjoying it. I've never liked thunderstorms and I've never understood people that find them relaxing. Loud noises, bright lights, drenched in 30 seconds - you might as well call a techno rave relaxing. I would blame my anxieties on my recent forensics class where they shared with us all the lovely pictures and beautiful details of what happens to people killed by lightning, but I think my dislike of severe weather goes back even farther. When I was little my parents used to have to tell my siblings and I that thunder was the sound of the angels in heaven going bowling (as my parents and their friends were on a bowling league this did provide some appropriate comfort - but I still recall being frightened by the sights and sounds of storms). You can imagine my displeasure at being greeted almost every day this week by forecasts of "Heavy Thunderstorms", "Scattered Thunderstorms" and "Isolated Thunderstorms". Not my cup of tea. Yesterday was probably the worst. Supposedly there were record numbers of felled trees and power lines. Traffic was screwed up royally and it was on my more than double its standard length of time bus ride that I got a glimpse of this:

I had never seen lightning strike the Sears Tower before. (I need to put in the disclaimer that I didn't take that picture, it's from WGN's weather site - you can pretty much bet that my camera was the last thing on my mind while witnessing it.) I'm sure strikes like this happen a lot but this was my first good view of the phenomena. To the storm lovers out there, I will admit that it was a pretty awe-inspiring sight but at the same time I was glad to be in a bus... far away.... and (most thankfully!) on the ground.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thanks for your concern...

...but this was not me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

DM of the Rings

Perhaps I just needed a good laugh during a crazy rough week but this site had me cracking up big time. I guess that probably says a little too much about my nerddom with roots in D&D as well as LoTR... (Oh and maybe I should warn you that if you're asking what all the acronyms stand for, there's a good chance you're not going to be amused - but for those that recognize and admire the 20 sided di, by all means, click away!)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

One Week of Impact

So my church is helping to sponsor a City of Lights Workcamp over in East Aurora this week. Students from all over the country are coming together to repair houses - fixing porches, building wheelchair ramps, painting - of residents in need. It's a pretty amazing event! There's an article all about it in The Beacon News and you can also read more about the project on Kirsten's blog. The whole thing reminds me a lot of a service experience that Tony and I helped out with in college when we took a trip to Memphis and did repairs on inner city houses there. Not only did we get to do some great work (bet ya'll didn't know I had drywall installation and roofing skills?) but I really liked how we got to know the homeowner (Mary) and how she would pray with us and talk to us while we worked. I hope this week is an equally fun time of growth for the students working in Aurora. What's really exciting too is that even though most of us working stiffs are stuck in jobs while all this great stuff is going on, this Saturday our leadership teams have put together a work day with two elementary schools in the community. We'll be paining, mulching, gardening, power washing and repairing fences. It should be an awesome day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tell Me A Story

I came across this article the other day and it seemed like one of those things that would make a great premise for a short story. It was an item that might belong in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a picture book by Chris Van Allsburg with imaginative drawings meant to inspire creativity. (In middle school we used to choose random pages from the book as short story prompts which started some of my best creative writing days.)

In hearing about the mystery woman in white, my imagination took off and I was instantly formulating a Stardust meets Little Mermaid meets Princess Bride fantasy tale of mystery, lost love and high adventure. I should have struck while the iron was hot and written something but I missed my chance. Today I read the follow up article and it came as a not so pleasant reminder that reality is far too eager to dispel imagination. Real life always has an explanation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

HP Predictions

Okay. I just finished HBP and I feel the need to set forth some predictions for Deathly Hallows. This isn't me being psychic and these aren't spoilers because I have no inside information (even though I have tried unsuccessfully to convince Tony to plan a Mission Impossible style coup to break into the Scholastic warehouse and smuggle me out a book), these are plain and simple guesses similar to my Deathly Hallows - Horcrux connection of my previous post. In other words, this is how I would write it if I were J.K. Rowling. And for those not into the whole Harry Potter craze, I'll be back to normal ramblings soon.

***NOTE: If you haven't read Half-Blood Prince, this might give some things away so stop reading now.***

Severus Snape - As far as the friend or foe debate goes I'm fully voting for the friend category. (Tony's betting foe so we have an official wager going) My evidence is that Dumbledore trusted him fully regardless of what anyone else said or did so if Snape really is evil you're basically saying that Dumbledore (the cleverest wizard in Rowling's universe) was fooled. I hate character inconsistencies like that so if Severus is a baddie I'm going to be more than a little miffed - plus I'll lose a bet. Also, Snape hated Harry's father which explains his animosity towards Harry but it's worth noting that in the final scene, Snape prevents Harry from performing unforgivable curses - if Snape was evil wouldn't he want Harry to join the dark side? Plus, Snape was also protecting Draco. Which leads me to my next speculation...

Draco Malfoy - Come on J.K. You've set the kid up to be entirely one dimensional with his Potter rivalry and Mudblood loathing. This might be too much wishful thinking but I'd love the final book to bring some sort of redemption or enlightenment to his character. Oddly enough we saw a caring side of Draco's mother in book 6 and even though Lucious is a total tool I think there could be a really cool story line involving the youngest Malfoy's conversion. And speaking of characters that will surprise me....

Regalus Black - If you haven't read the books lately you might not even remember the name Regalus, but he's the briefly mentioned brother of Harry's godfather Sirius. I'm pretty convinced that he's going to be important because at the end of Half-Blood Prince there's a note with the fake Horcrux signed "R.A.B" Anyone else catch that? This either refers to Regalus or to some yet-to-be-introduced new character, the former being the much less cheesy option. We're meant to assume that Regalus is dead but in the world of "If I were J.K. Rowling" he would be secretly hidden by the Order of the Phoenix - there's a bit of dialog between Dumbledore and Draco where Dumbledore talks about the Order's ability to hide people from Voldemort by making them appear to have died. It would be supremely cool if this was actually significant dialog and not just filler. But about not quite dead people....

Albus Dumbledore - Unfortunately I think he's really gone. I'd love to be wrong on this one but keep in mind that previous headmasters have spoken to Harry through their portraits before so even without a LOTR-ripoff Gandalf-style resurrection we can bet that Dumbledore will still be around to give Harry advice and guidance. So the main question is not who's not dead but who's going to die....

??? - I really don't know. Despite what rumors say I don't think it will be Harry. Or at least I really hope it's NOT Harry. Rowling's written some downer books but I can't see her ending the whole thing with the death of her hero. More likely I think the tragedy will strike Ron or Hermione (if I have to place a bet it's on Miss Granger - sad!) and I would suspect that some other minor characters might be leaving too (Hagrid? McGonagall? A Weasly brother?). If Harry and Ginny make it I think I'll be able to cope but dang it, Rowling, why ya gotta play it like this??!?

So there you have it. Let the record show that I'm writing all this down before the book release so that I can say "I saw that coming" or "WHAT?!?!!" with accurate honesty. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Second Time Around

I've been reading a slew of good books lately. Including but not limited to 1776, The Thirteenth Tale, and Farewell Summer - the last being the sequel to Dandelion Wine (much to my shock to see it on the library shelf and exclaim "There's a sequel to Dandelion Wine?!?!" but my fascination with Bradbury and DW is a story for another time). Most recently, I've picked up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the second time. Yeah, I know I'm being overly trendy by rereading it before Deathly Hallows comes out (very, very soon!), but I find that I'm seeing the book in whole different light than the first time I read it. I originally marked it with a LT 2 star rating but now I think I may have been too harsh. I won't give away any spoilers but I think on my first read the ending was a bit too traumatic and I just brushed off the rest of the novel as crappy due to my disappointment. It makes me realize that there are probably a few more books out there that I judged too harshly too quickly and a more objective second read through them would probably be a good thing (unless it's by Dan Brown because I refuse to waste any more seconds of my life on poorly written over-hyped fluff....too harsh?? Uhhhh...sorry?). But on the other hand there are countless good books out there waiting to be read, so why should I waste my time on something that didn't impress me the first time around? The ultimate dilemma.

On a side note, about Harry Potter (and this is really not a paragraph worth reading if you're not an HP fan) - it really bugs me that people keep calling the last book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows when in actuality it's Hallows. This leads to the instant debunking of the theory that Godric's Hollow has anything to do with the title. So to all the thirteen year olds that actively subscribe to and propagate that myth, I just want to say "You're wrong!!!" Okay, I really only want to say it to the junior high kids heatedly discussing the issue on the Metra last week but anyways.... *deep calming breaths* So what are the Deathly Hallows? Well, my suspicions are that if you consider "hallows" from the origin of "holy" we're talking about some sort of sacred (but deathly!) items or objects. Horcruxes, anyone? Oh well. Guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Happy reading to all and to all a book light!

Deathly Hallows Countdown:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

That Time of Year Again

I know last year I had a huge list of reasons why I love the Home Run Derby, but watching last night's slugger show-down gave me even more. First off , I love that it's all about the families. The narrowly third place finishing Matt Holliday's pitcher was introduced as his brother and there's something just way too cute about seeing big-shot ball players hanging out with their kids. The look on Albert Pujols, Jr.'s face as his dad won a hit-off to qualify for the second round was indescribably adorable. And equally awing was the older Albert celebrating with his pint-sized biggest fan. I also love the casual atmosphere that surrounds the event. I joked that you could take an interesting survey of favorite Gatorade flavors from the scenes of the athletes hanging out "drinking" with each other. The cameras are pretty much unable to capture faces that aren't smiling and joking and for a season marked all too often by anger and fighting (for the Cubs, especially) it was a refreshing change. Some might even argue that winner Vladimir Guerrero took the trophy because of a bat kissed by slugger David Ortiz. After Vlad's first three outs, Ortiz made a hilarious show of presenting the new bat to Guerrero who proceeded to enter the next round with five homers - including a crushing 503' shot! It's still every bit the competition, but it's nice to see players and fans unwind, let loose and just truly enjoy baseball.

Congrats to Vladimir Guerrero - winner of the 2007 Home Run Derby!

As much as I would have loved to see a Cubbie in the race, or to have Pujols take the win as a "nyah-nyah" to everyone who hates the NL Central - I can't say that I'm at all disappointed by the outcome of the night. I mean, I gotta cheer for Guerrero, right? ;) I see the picture above and, to me, it captures everything that the HRD is about: A swing, a hit, and a huge smile.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 7)

The singing Cows alone made it worth the stop....

...on our way to here. Yarrrr!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 6)

"Jim's at Fourth and South: best cheesesteaks in the city."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 5)

"I want to be a part of it: New York, New York!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 4)

Time to tour the capitol. And because I'm a nerd, what would vacation be with out some educational stops?

Even when you think you learned a lot about something in school, it's amazing how much you discover you didn't know. And because a day like that needed a more positive note.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 3)

Monday, must be Virginia. A day for an amazing tour.
Wow, I could live here.... Yes, Mister Long Dead First President, I'm extremely envious of your home.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 2)

Day two placed us here.
Breathtaking and amazing! Yes, that is a house on top of a waterfall. Pennsylvania - who knew??!?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 1)

In case anyone's wondering why I haven't blogged in a while it's cause I've been on vacation (say it with me "Ahhhhhh!") Maybe someday I'll supplement this with cool photos of my own but for now here's the scoop day by day - back logged to the day it actually happened.

On the first day of our vacation Tony and I went here.
And also here.

And of course to a super awesome wedding - Congratulations Beth & Rob!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Tale of Two Songs (Part 2)

This entry won't make much sense without reading Part 1 before it, but here's the second song.

The cross before me, the world behind. No turning back,
Raise the banner high - It's not for me, it's all for You.
Let the heavens shake and split the sky, let the people clap
their hands and cry - It's not for us, it's all for You.
Not to us, but to Your name be the glory.
Our hearts unfold before Your throne the only place
for those who know it's not for us, it's all for You.
Send Your holy fire on this offering let our worship burn
for the world to see - It's not for us it's, all for You.
Not to us, but to Your name be the glory.
The earth is shaking, the mountains shouting - It's all for You.
The waves are crashing, the sun is raging - It's all for You.
The universe is spinning and singing - It's all for You.
The children dancing, dancing, dancing - It's all for You.
My all for You.
Not to us, but to Your name be the glory.
~ Chris Tomlin, "Not To Us"

I first heard this song (performed by Chris Tomlin himself) at an i-life conference called ignite at the end of 2002. The lyrics are pretty self-explanitory as to why I would call it representative of my life but little did I know that two years after I heard it, it would come to mean even more. Tony and I picked this song as the recessional song at our wedding. After we were announced as Mr. & Mrs. the opening bars started up and Tony and I joined hands and turned to face our cheering friends and family. "The cross before me the world behind, No turning back" was a perfect phrase for that instant of starting our life together and I'm reminded of that moment every time I hear the song. As much as I like to think about our wedding as the ultimate party it was really an offering to God. Not about us, but rather about bringing glory to the one who gave us life and brought us together. So where the first song I picked was about living a life and relationship filled with prayer, this one is about living a life and relationship focused on worship*.

*Okay sidenot that I had to add: I'm always a little amused too when we sing this song at church and people at the service can be completely unemotional. Granted, I probably have more of an attachment to (and thus involvement in) the song than most people, but there's quite the juxtaposition to singing the phrase, "the children dancing, dancing, dancing" while standing stock still. I know there's no right or wrong way to worship but when it comes to God sending "holy fire on this offering" I much prefer the fireworks display rather than a simple tea light.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Write Stuff

In case you're wondering Part 2 is coming but I came across something oddly blog worthy and just had to point it out. I sometimes entertain weird dreams of writing something really worth reading but when I peruse even the idle thoughts of true writers I find myself too in awe of their talents to count myself anywhere close to them. Case in point, Neil Gaiman. (For the non neo-goth-pulp-noir fiction lovers that missed the gem of a film called MirrorMask and sadly don't recognize Mr. Gaiman's name, expect to hear more about him this summer with the film premier of his novel Stardust - if the movie is half as good as the book it will be a real treat.) I know he's not Twain, Steinbeck or Keats but he's one of those authors with a gift for finding the perfect words to describe the ultimately mundane things of this world in a way that brings you a glimpse of a new sort of reality and makes you wish you could describe life as he does. On his blog he describes the simple task of walking his dog like this:
"Tonight we walked under a sky hung with a million billion trillion stars, and a perfect crescent moon, and watched the constellations of fireflies blinking greenly and magically in the trees and hedgerows like a tiny magical cityscape. Other fireflies would fly up, and arch across the sky and come down like falling stars."
It's the kind of description that just made me sigh pleasantly. His true genius though lies in following up a poetic piece of prose with something like this:
"I sang Stephin Merritt's song "100, 000 fireflies" as we walked, or all of it that I could remember. Dogs don't mind if you forget bits, and the fireflies were too busy flashing and floating and glowing and dreaming to care."
I count it as a sign of literary greatness to bring me to an image of peaceful serenity and then make me laugh out loud.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Tale of Two Songs (Part 1)

A friend asked me the other day why I don't blog about personal stuff very often and my obvious response was "Because it's personal". The further question raised was why I don't blog very much about Tony. I thought about it and came up with the very astute answer of "I don't know". I mean, sure, I mention him in passing plenty of times but I guess there's two pitfalls that I can fall into with a topic such as him. First off, I don't want to be one of those overly sappy people that's constantly gushing about how wonderful my husband is. Don't get me wrong, he is wonderful, I just naturally assume that those who know me have heard me say it and the rest of the world probably isn't too interested. The second reason is that although mine works pretty darn well, I don't want to come across as having some secret to a great marriage that I really can't explain. What I will do, though is explain our relationship in the context of two songs.

Not knowing how true it would come to be, I once told Tony that a song to describe our relationship should be Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer". Granted it's long held a place on my list of "Best Songs Ever Written" but in a sense it has come to describe Tony and I pretty well. See, we got in the habit of praying together - A lot. I don't say that to be some sort of uber-Christian boast, it's just a fact. Every morning when he drops me at the train station we pray for our upcoming days and every night we pray before bed thanking God for the day and both times we'll lift up friends and family too. We also do the usual praying before meals and at church but it's this morning and night routine that I know has strengthened our relationship to a huge degree. Before you roll your eyes or think that we're just weirdo religious people, think about 12-step programs. Anyone with addiction problems, grief or other life issues is encouraged to take the first step of Recognizing a Higher Power. Who among us can claim to have an issue free life? Everyone has "stuff" going on and even if you don't want to call yourself a Christ follower, hopefully you can see my view that there is benefit to connecting with something larger than oneself. It takes selfishness out of the relationship and we lift each other up and recognize that our marriage is about more than just us. But back to Jon Bon. For those unfamiliar with the song (go out and download it now, please!) the chorus goes:

We've got to hold on to what we've got.
It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not.
We've got each other and that's a lot
For love - We'll give it a shot!
(Woah...) We're halfway there, (Woah-oh!) Livin' on a prayer.
Take my hand and we'll make it I swear:
(Woah-oh!) Livin' on a prayer!

And though I'm pretty sure it was never intended as a religious anthem there is some good stuff in there. "We've got to hold on to what we've got" in a sense could say that we need to cherish and value our friends and family and each other, knowing that it's the intangibles that make life so precious. "It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not" sounds morbid but in terms of eternal life, it's a way to recognize that this world is not all there is - we have life forever with God ahead of us. "We've got each other and that's a lot" speaks to the idea that valuing each other in our marriage is a way to glorify God so "for love we'll give it a shot" and try our best to emmulate Christ each and every day. So then to say that "we're halfway there" can mean that following God is a journey. Our ultimate goal is to see God's kingdom on Earth and although that's difficult to realize, we can make progress if we try to depend on God and be "livin' on a prayer". When there are difficult times to get through we can join hands in prayer and trust God to always see us through ("Take my hand and we'll make it I swear: Livin' on a prayer").

I'm going to save the second song for another blog because this got a little too long and probably a little too cheesy too. Stay tuned for the second song and please note that the picture above is over three years old but it's the only one I had handy right now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


No not the kind you get in your hair. And not the children's magazine either (although I used to love the hidden pictures...) Rather I want to wrap up a lot of what's been going on without the time for full stories. Previously known as "Unplugged" I give you the highlights of the week.
  • I'd be silly not to start with my grandmother's health. She was in the hospital for most of last week but is back at home and quite a bit better. It just goes to show that there really is power in a praying family.
  • I'm also done with classes and am soon to receive my "Professional Development Certificate in Forensic Science". *cue the CSI theme song* Hard to believe thirty weeks have gone by just like that. I've learned an immense amount of information, met some amazing people that I might never cross paths with again, taken four exams and written a term paper. Will the experience change my future career path? No comment. Or should I say stay tuned...
  • And then there's the Cubs. I'm starting to think a winning streak is harder to find than good shocks on a CTA bus. But just when you want to write them off for the season they do something crazy like play well against the Astros.
  • Finished a great book called Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. It's a really well written biography chronicling the life and times of Nelle Harper Lee author of To Kill A Mockingbird. Sort of makes me want to sit down and write a book that will change the world. Sort of.
  • Also finally read Ptolemy's Gate, the last book in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy. Really excellent YA fiction - fantasy blended well with humor, adventure and politics if that makes any sense at all. One of those books with the perfect ending that has everything you didn't want to happen but would not be a good book if it ended any other way. (LibraryThing is down otherwise I'd add cool links.)
  • Gearing up for a much needed vacation, too. It's going to involve a minimum of four states - more likely six or eight - and an undisclosed number of stops and sights. Hardest thing about spontaneous road trips? Not planning them.
I'm sure that's not all but it's enough for now. Smiles & sunshine!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Silence of Cicadas

I've come to the conclusion that cicadas are the Spinach of 2007. The media has once again made us panic and essentially freak out over something that has turned into a minor ripple of consequence. In fact the spinach debacle of 2006 was actually more detrimental to health and picnics than the nonexistent plagues of noisy insects are turning out to be. But one thing is annually constant in the world of summer annoyances: train delays.

Seriously folks, I can ride the train ten or twelve times a week for eight months out of the year with naught but a minor impedance but once summer, or at least late spring, attacks say goodbye to being on time. Oh sure, it might be worth a minor complaint if trains were a few minutes off schedule once or twice in a week, but as I all too fondly recall the middle of June last year and the ever so insane Stearic Acid incident, I find that warm weather seems to incur multiple and increasingly lengthy (often half hour or more) alterations for expected arrival times.

Case in point this week. As I was taking the late night train home after class on Tuesday, we were less than ten minutes out of Chicago when the train stopped. It was the bad stop too. Ride the train long enough and you can tell the difference - the normal "good" stops are pre-announced where as the alternative are preceded by a distinct hiss of emergency breaks and generally occur without a station in sight. What made matters worse and exceptionally more frightening was the voice from the walkie-talkie of the nearest conductor that proceeded to tell everyone within earshot, "Looks like someone's laying on the tracks." Trust me, not the words you want to overhear especially when they're followed by the loudspeaker announcement of, "Sorry for the delay here, folks. We may have run over something... or someone. We're sending some officials to go check it out. Thank you for your patience." And I'm really not sure why they were thanking us for patience because really, what choice do we have other than to be patient when stranded between stations on a train that may or may not have just killed someone?? But regardless it was later discovered that the "someone" in question had fallen asleep on the middle track (there's a three track system inbound and outbound on the outer tracks with the middle for freight and transfers) and was perfectly fine with the exception of being startled at awakening to train conductors and railroad police asking if he/she was alright. It was later announced that the individual was "in no condition to be left alone" so the train backed up to allow the sleeper to board and then kindly dropped him/her off at the next station (to an awaiting ambulance and ERT). The story speaks volumes to the compassion and efficiency of Metra staff and I guess also proves that it's possible to hail a train instead of a taxi cab. It's by far the most interesting train story I've had all year but as it was followed yesterday by a train striking a car at a crossing (with an assumedly less happy ending) I have to wonder at the effect of the warmer weather on increasing the incidence of incidents.

So I guess what I have to say is don't be stupid around trains. Maybe when it's warm people think a stroll along the tracks - or even a little nap on the rails - is a good idea. Maybe in the summer rush they they think their car can make the crossing because it's hot and they don't want to wait. There's a reason though, that Metra has begun making the morning announcement, "Did you know a train hitting a car is the equivalent of your car running over a soda can? Look, Listen, Live!" Seriously, they say "soda", not pop. What's the deal with that? But seriously, seriously, it's not really something I should joke about. I hate being late to work but even more than that I hate the thought that summer brings out recklessness that leads to injuries or deaths. Be safe people.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A New Leaf

I've had a mini hiatus from blogging (never fear, I have returned...obviously) but I'm back on track with a lot of new stuff going on. I've officially left Northwestern with only a slight bittersweetness to the farewell. I'm now set up on the opposite side of town at the University of Chicago. Esentially the same job with a much more impressive title yet only a meagerly more impressive paycheck. The campus down here is really nice, though. In a sense I feel as if I'm back in college. At NU the atmosphere was much more big-city-posh-rockstar-lifestyle with Water Tower Place and Michigan Avenue and all that fun stuff. Now as the weather - if not the calendar - reflects the heart of summer, I find myself trading noontime shopping trips for lunchtime walks on the quad. Yes that's right, we have a quad! Complete with SAGE-loving quad squirrels! (SAGE as you'll recall was the unofficial U of I group: Students Against the Gluttony Of Squirrels - the E stands for "of squirrels".) Everything is very green and with plenty of ivy-covered stone edifices one could stare at the walls and almost imagine being at Wrigley Field... and one could also imagine up a much better season for the north-siders... but I digress. Overall it's looking to be a wonderful transition and I'm perfectly excited for the opportunities before me. Here's to a new place and a new leaf!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


My horoscope du jour:
"Just because you have a high level of integrity and are willing to do the spiritual work required by your beliefs, don't think you are better than everyone else. Be careful about self-righteousness; it will only isolate you from those you love. It's healthier to realize that everyone is on their own path and is exactly where they should be at this time."

Friday, May 18, 2007

On Page or Screen

I just finished a delightfully charming book - Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. Set in 1792, it tells the story of an Englishman who sets out to smuggle French royals out of France to save them from the guillotine during the French Revolution. He is a master of deception and disguise and his identity is known only to his closest comrades - to all others he is simply The Scarlet Pimpernel - a nickname granted from the symbol of the small flower (see left) that he signs to all his messages. ***Warning Spoilers Ahead - if you want to read the book or see the movie without knowing anything about it stop reading now!*** The book follows the tale of Marguerite who secretly admires the Pimpernel while scorning her foppish husband Sir Percy Blackeney. Astute readers (or those that have seen a film or stage version prior to reading it) will easily deduce that the effete Percy and the daring Pimpernel are one in the same. Oddly enough (or shall I say "Odd's Fish!"), one could easily argue that the 1905 novel created the original model for a superhero with a secret identity - over a decade before Johnston McCulley's Don Diego de la Vega, aka Zorro. Plenty of literary critics have compared Percy's witless persona with the mild-mannered Clark Kent or have noted that as one of the wealthiest men in London, the Blackeney fortune is similar to that of Bruce Wayne's.

On reading the book, I was far from new to the tale of the Pimpernel. Sometime in high school I watched the 1982 version of the film The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Anthony Andrews as the lead with supporting roles by a very young Jane Seymour and a dark haired Sir Ian McKellan. (I also saw the 1999 version that was on TV, but I think I liked the '82 film better. And no I haven't seen the musical but I'll jump at the chance to if it comes back to Chicago.) I can't say the I preferred the book or the movie - both are equally charming - but as I read the novel, I had a very clear picture of Anthony Andrews playing Percy. And it brought up some interesting thoughts of the Books vs. Movies debate. Would I have liked the book as much if I had never seen the movie? Would I have pictured a different Pimpernel without the preconceived notions I had in my head?

Generally, I'm a Read the Book Before Seeing the Movie type of person. Mostly because I would rather hate a movie that butchered a good book rather than being disappointed by a book that wasn't as good as it's on screen counterpart. Anyone else have any thoughts on the matter?

As a random side note, I have a "movie" tag in my LibraryThing library and it's interesting to see that over 40 of the books I've read lately have had movie tie-ins. Not sure if this means that my book choices are getting too Hollywood inspired or if screen writers are just getting kind of lazy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Defining Moment

I need to take a moment to define something. What does the word Christian really mean? In a recent series at my church two brothers from our creative arts team put together a series of videos parodying the Mac/PC comercials. The first went like this:

Yeah, we're a weird church. Some people have taken the whole thing to be rather offensive and it's raised a bit of controversy but if you watch the whole series (and the video in the previous link) you get the point that people oftentimes have a negative association with the word Chrisitan. For further evidence, think about people's views of the late Jerry Fallwell. Here's a man who supposedly wanted to represent the kingdom of God in the politcal arena and yet few would aver that he had God's love at the forefront of his actions. Somehow a word which used to mean good, honest, loving people has become tainted into describing a hypocritical political party. When most people hear the word "Christian" they don't think about Jesus. They don't think about people who give their lives to missions in impoverished countries and they don't think about people who daily sacrifice for their neighbors. They don't picture the family that prays for each other through any type of crisis and draws strength from each other and God's love. But those are the Christ followers that I know, love, admire and emulate. And "Christian" just doesn't describe them accurately.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

And now for something completely different...

Okay. So it's been a rough couple of weeks. But as my seven year old cousin Brian said (at his older brother's funeral), "I don't think Andy would want you to be sad." Beyond sweet, right? He also went on to explain that Andy's up in heaven right now and "he probably has super powers!" So we all agreed that now Andy can run super fast, fly and hopefully have all the super-cool moves of his favorite X-Men hero Colossus. *sigh* Out of the mouths of children. (That's a pic of Colossus/Andy at left for those non-comic geeks out there.)

But life has also been more than a little chaotic because my lab is gearing up to move at the end of the month. It's been craziness all around - I'll spare you the story of the four day old decomposing mouse flesh *ewww* - but things are especially nuts for me since I'm doing the job transition along with wrapping up my class work. I only have five more weeks of my Investigation of Death Scenes class and then I'll get my Forensics certificate. (Woohoo! Lord only knows what I'll do with it...) Overall, it's been a fun series of classes. I might actually miss the cool stuff we've been learning, but I will definitely NOT miss the very late nights.

Although last night - even with class - I was home in time to see the end of the Cubs game... that is, I was home in time to see innings 12, 13, 14, and 15 of the Cubs game. I shouldn't be surprised that they lost (of five extra inning games this year they've only won one) but with games like that you can't help holding on to hope. The highlight for me was when announcers Len Kasper and Bob Brenly decided to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame as a 14th inning stretch. Some may argue that they're not the most insightful commentators out there, but you have to hand it to them that they know how to have fun.

Not much else to say at present. Had a great weekend - saw Spiderman 3 (Good flick - my only complaint was that there seemed to be too many conflicts for one movie: Superhero v. Supervillain ; Superhero v. Self ; Superhero v. Former Best Friend ; Superhero v. Alien Life Form. Still entertaining though and if you liked 1 and 2 you'll probably enjoy it.) Also went to a really fun Cinco de Mayo party at my sister's house. Margaritas, games and karaoke but perhaps those should be stories for another time.