Friday, December 28, 2007

Of All The Years That Have Been, This Was One Of Them

Happy New Year Everybody!

I'd like to pause from my quiet and comfort on this cozy winter day off of work to reflect on the year just past and give thanks that it is over. 2007 was a tumultuous year. I think it was a year of disaster and scandal and inane distraction. It was also the year that aired the last new episode of The Gilmore Girls.

With the democrats in control of congress, Lindsay Lohan was finally sent to rehab, a troop surge stabilized certain areas of Iraq, and nobody, not even General Petraeus knows definitively how to proceed. OJ Simpson resurfaced in another embarrassing, illegal and immoral incident and astronaut Lisa Nowak gave the space program something to be proud of while giving young girls everywhere something to aspire toward in a strange soap-opera story that rivals any fiction out there.

The label, "made in China," no longer consoles us with visions of dollars well spent and a booming third world economy dancing in our heads and dog food is now unsafe for even dogs to consume. Utah had a mining tragedy and Minnesota had a bridge collapse; February was cold and August was hot.

There was some sort of dispute over an American Idol contestant named Sanjaya that I didn't follow, but the noise about it was so strong I thought it needed to be mentioned here. Jim and Pam finally hooked up and somehow The Office is still funny. This summer's blockbuster hits were all riding on the successes of years past as Pirates of the Caribbean, Bourne, Shrek and Spiderman gave us their threequels.

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, Tony Blair stepped down as England's Prime Minister after a decade of service, and Alberto Gonzales trumped all by hanging onto his job for longer than the story was entertaining. There is babel about possible steroid use in baseball, lewd behavior in men's restrooms has finally reached the highest echelons of society, and Harry Potter survived all seven of his creator's books.

Osama bin Laden is still apparently alive and well, the Iran nuclear issue is "now closed," it is predicted that as many as 2 million home owners may lose their homes in the next few years, and leggings are back "in." Britney Spears attempted a comeback performance but we were all too consumed this year by Anna Nicole Smith's untimely death to make proper fun of the pop star.

Author Kurt Vonnegut died, as did Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and Russian political leader Boris Yeltsin. Virginia Tech was victim to the worst shooting rampage in U.S. history, Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run, and adventurer Steven Fossett went missing in September. I didn't even know the world still had honest-to-goodness adventurers anymore. I thought they were all playing video games or engaging in adventure-like lifestyles on Second Life.

The dollar lost value in 2007, campaigning for the 2008 presidential election has long since been underway, Gardisil now protects against HPV, and the iphone and white sunglasses are in style. Last year I gave thanks to the notice that Americans were finally paying to their own responsibility in the world and this year, as Americans have taken more of that responsibility on themselves as individuals, LED lights have become more popular.

Despite the blatant idiocy displayed by the Miss Teen USA contestant from South Carolina, more Americans seem to be paying attention to the rest of the world. After a long stint of isolationism by the general public, the faraway countries that used to effect us so little have now at least taken solid form in our periphery. I think we will be forced this year to revamp our ideas about the rest of the world and hope that they start to do the same about us because it doesn't seem like we can afford for them (the rest of the world) to continue harboring this unfortunate and not inaccurate idea of us (Americans). Here. I'll start the revamping with this tidbit. Both Paris and Berlin ended 2007 by banning all smoking in city cafes. I'm not sure it isn't a joke though.

In more personal news, I am now living in and around Chicago, have taken up jogging, drink no more or less than I did last year, and am devoting this next year to learning as much as I can. My husband is moving to Greenland where he can witness global warming first hand while continuing to help the military machine function as we need it to. My puppy is now two years old, I am reading and practicing the piano, and am completely disengaged from pop culture - I still have not seen a single episode of Lost. I have learned how much can change in a mere year and have high hopes for 2008.

The Thirteenth Tale

I recently read the book The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This book is a gothic-style story for the book lover. On the one hand it feels a bit cliche because of the nature of the story, and on the other hand, it is charming for its allusions to classic gothic novels.

The heroine of this book, Margaret Lea is a biographer who has been chosen to write the biography of one of the most enjoyed authors of the time - Vida Winter. Everyone has a story - yet nobody knows Ms. Winter's. In a ridiculously large mansion on the outskirts of civilization with only the mysterious novelist, a butler, a housekeeper, a hidden inhabitant and the ghosts of Ms. Winter's tales to keep her company, Margaret sets out to hear and discover Ms. Winter's tragic story.

It was a quick and fun read, which I found to be perfect for this time of year.

In other news: The Stained Glass, in Evanston, right by the el, is a great place to get a delicious meal and a fabulous glass of wine (I recommend the escargot); Oscar Peterson, the famous jazz pianist has died at the age of 82; A man sends Christmas cards to his friends months after his death; and Lindsay Lohan's father is offering spiritual advice to the Spears family in their time of embarrassment. Heh.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Bowl of Hot Chili

Apparently we might not have to worry so much about polar bears with our current global warming situation. I feel that by saying this, I might be grossly simplifying the article I just read, but I was having trouble concentrating because Bill O'Reilly is currently calling Helen Thomas a pinhead on TV.

North Korea sent an invitation in August to the New York Philharmonic and the orchestra has accepted. They are to play a concert there in February. Who could imagine a cultural exchange of this sort between our country and theirs?!

There are five hundred billion billion ways to arrange the pieces on a board in a game of checkers according to Popular Science Magazine.

And according to Harry Porterfield of ABC News, a certain someone in my family is someone you should know!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Globe Trotting

Are you tired of the same old? Are you in your twenties or thirties and feel as if you have only done what is expected of you? Have you ever dreamed of getting away to live a different life just for a while?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you might want to keep the following in mind:

In sunny, picturesque Colorado Springs lies a house - a home, in fact. One with three bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, a two car garage, a fenced in back yard, and new floors. It also comes with adorable neighbors, a charming pink door, and a spot of sunshine that falls across the livingroom and kitchen just so. This house is available for rent (furnished or unfurnished) this January for a little over a year.

If you can see yourself taking that time to see another part of the country, to explore the pleasures of hiking, skiing and climbing and to invigorate yourself with fresh air and over three hundred days of sunshine, let me know! I'd love to give you the opportunity!

The Holidays

No people, no food; just a pretty table.

In other news: A satirical musical based on Jerry Springer's talk show exists and has since January of 2005, though I'm only learning about it today; Condoleeza Rice is in Ethiopia to discuss some of the largest conflicts in Africa right now and none of the region's leaders are going to be there; and teaching four year olds to play Christmas music on the piano takes away from the joy of the season just a little bit!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Good Stuff

Yesterday, I drank way above my means. Thanksgiving Day errands took me both to Sam's Wine and to Binny's looking for various items to add that little bit of kick to today's meal. I thought these errands would be quick, but upon entering the first store, I was waylaid by a representative of Macallan's. Polite and informative, and generous with his pouring, we ended up talking for quite a bit. (Talking = drinking.)

I got to try the Macallan 17, 18, and 21 years. Mmmmmmmmm. The 18 year was probably the most interesting, though not my favorite. It was a lot sweeter because it is kept in both sherry and bourbon barrels. Though I'm not usually a fan of the bourbon taste, I've never found anything wrong with a Macallan scotch! The 18 was smoky, with a strong nose, a very sweet finish. I thought it was strong and steady in its development.

The 21 year had a very strong opening to it, and aside from its sweetness, had a crisp, fresh taste to it and a very long finish. Similar to the 21, the 17 had a sweet nose that was candy and floral, a smooth palate, and a quick finish (I tend to like the ones that linger). So, THAT was a successful trip!

Next we went to Binny's looking for the perfect scotch tasting glass and hoping to pick up some beer (New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado is now shipping more of their beers across the Mississippi so Chicagoans can now enjoy more than just Fat Tire). But waylaid again we were! This time by a representative of the Speyside Distillery. And boy, did he have some treats for us! The first that I tried was the Speyside Single. Better than I thought it would be, it was sweet, opened up quite a bit with a few drops of water, and this one is kosher too! The Speyside rep also had several bottles from the Scott's Selection, which I must say - were fabulous.

The Scott's Ardmore 1977 at first was very Laphroagy (medicinal and peaty), but with a drop or two of water, it turned out to have a much more interesting taste and finish than the nastiness I expected. And though I cannot find links or pictures, I swear the following two exist and are well worth the money spent on them (unless of course, you're diligently saving up for gas and food and other things like that). Scott's Longmorn Glenlivet 1968 is hereby the best scotch I have ever tasted. It was smooth, yet sharp, had a long strong, citrusy finish - almond, nutmeg and sherry. A close second was the Scott's Longmorn Glenlivet 1971, though very different, tasting of marzipan and grass, it too was complex and wonderful.

Now however, it is Thanksgiving, and I must be off to shower, help with potatoes and put my pies back in the oven. This year it is apple spelt and cranberry apple with a whole wheat crust. I hope everyone enjoys their holiday with family!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Los Pajaros

This evening I took my Dad to see The Birds - a play done by Hell in a Handbag Productions and loosely based on Alfred Hitchcock's movie by the same name. I hadn't been to a play in a long long time and this one was one of the most entertaining evenings I have had in ages.

The screenplay was clever - an incredibly original psychological drama which incorporates scenes from the movie as well as a "behind the scenes" story for a fast paced, hilarious and all around creepy play. Though the play was written so well, it is the actors and actresses that really made the evening spectacular. With musical numbers, high energy, and a perfect setting (the coach house of an old mansion on Sheridan Road) I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

The other night I tried a new scotch. Dalmore 12 year. My Dad got it for his birthday and shared a bit with me. What really stood out to me about this particular scotch was its saltiness. It smelled like crackers, had a strong sweet and salty taste and a very long finish. I think it would go very well with Indian food, and I know it goes very well with Pinot Noir.

In other news: It is actually the law to put your right hand over your heart during the National Anthem - it isn't really news because it has been the case since 1942; Britney Spears runs over another foot; and I'm sick. How many of you get flu shots? And for how many of you does your place of work provide them for you? Just curious. I have over 60 students - what do you think my chances of getting the flu are this year?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Scotch Review

It has been ages since I last blogged about the varieties of scotch I have tried. You are likely to think I had stopped drinking! Well, let me catch you up.

A lucky bottle I bought and just recently finished (thanks Dad) was the Balvenie double wood 12 year. I enjoyed this scotch as a dessert often enough and found it to be very sweet, with a spicy and citrusy taste and a short, tingly, warming and nutty finish. For its price, it is a really great buy!

To replace my newly polished off bottle of Balvenie, I purchased a bottle of Cragganmore, 12 year. This also is a hit (thank goodness - since I bought the bottle!) though I think it is quite different. It is a speyside so it tends to have a taste of foliage that I find in most speysides. This time, it reminds me of palm trees. It isn't as warming as many of the scotches I like but the taste develops slowly in your mouth. I think it is also minty and has a very long finish.

I was lucky enough to get to also try a Macallan, Cask Strength. Now cask strength means that the whiskey hasn't been diluted at all and is often times more potent than the regular stuff. You might choose to dilute it a bit yourself since some whiskeys open up in taste with a little water. I however, chose not to. It was the right decision because this Macallan was butterscotchy, snickerdoodley, syruppy and intense. Yum!

There have definitely been others that I have tried, but these are some of the highlights, and more unusual buys that I wanted to share. To all the scotch drinkers out there - Cheers! - and if anybody has a bottle of Rosebank, I'm dying to try it and they're very hard to find!

In other news: According to an English study, giving children drugs for ADHD works no better than doing nothing in the long-term; tons of fuel oil leak into the Black Sea as a Russian tanker is torn in half in a storm that sinks four other ships; Paris Hilton filed a lawsuit against Hallmark for using her likeness on a greeting card without her permission; and you can download free audiobooks to your computer, mp3 player or ipod from LibraVox!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

For a Long Time, I Used to Go to Bed Early

Goodmorning. I know that isn't one word, but I can't seem to help it. I've been up for over an hour and haven't spoken to anyone. My bedroom door is still closed. Curry and I are having a quiet Sunday morning after a rather taxing day yesterday. I wonder how long I can keep up this muted rejuvenation? Probably only until I open my door.

Tilt your head to the left.

Above, is a picture I took at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass at Navy Pier.

Now you may straighten your head.

Above, is a feast I shared at the Ethiopian Diamond on Broadway in Chicago. I love this place. We had lamb, beef and chicken, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, carrots, salad, beef sambusas, and red lentils. Get the red lentils if you go. They're my favorite.

There is no other news today; I haven't left my room.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Consumer Advice

In lieu of blogging about my gorgeous trip to the Morton Arboretum, or the stained glass Museum at Navy Pier, or the Murray Perahia concert I went to last Sunday, I'm going to share a few items out there that give me a bit of delight (I might come back some day and tell you about my above mentioned adventures).

First however, I'd like to share with you my delight with Kashi Frozen Meals. I just had the lemongrass coconut chicken with quinoa. It has 18g of protein and 7g of fiber and tastes terrific! And only four minutes in the microwave? Score!

Also, not new to the market, but new to me is the Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner. Not only is it so very cool for cleaning your shower for you, but it has its own domain name! How hip is that?! [Warning - according to my step-mom, you should not open the shower door or curtain while the shower cleaner is operating.]

And in the spirit of being helpful, here is a link for how best to use Halloween candy.

In other news: Doll-housing crisis set to worsen, mean older brother says (the onion), while Sales of existing US homes fell by 8% in September, the biggest decline in 16 years; Britney Spears is a model parent; Twenty One candidates in Columbia for positions such as governor, mayor, regional assembly members and municipal officials have been murdered in attacks along the campaign trail; And the Museum of Broken Relationships is a hit in Berlin!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Behind the Scenes

Al Gore and the UN climate control panel have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Do you think we should start taking them seriously?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

59th Street Bridge

I recently, with the prodding of my parents, purchased an ipass. (A small device that you attach to your windshield that automatically deducts the cost of toll money from your account). I did this to save a bit of money (eighty cents can be a lot sometimes), though I now have no idea how much each toll is costing me. Happily, I am able to zip down the highway without worrying about changing lanes to go pay tolls or having correct change.

However, lately I have had this niggling feeling that I'm missing something. Last night, driving home in the solitary shelter of my mini-van - my personal mobile world - I passed a tollbooth on I-88. As I zipped by in the dark, I wanted to strain my eyes to peer into their boxes. I recognize these people; I have talked to these people; I know these people! But I couldn't make any of them out because I was moving too fast.

In other news: A bunch of hooligans punched a hole in a Monet at a museum in France; Malaysia's first astronaut is set to blast off for a voyage to the International Space Station; Accusations of failings in Sunday's Chicago marathon won't affect the city's 2016 Olympic bid, organisers say (thank goodness, huh?); Britney Spears' new album is coming out early due to demand; And scientists have repaired the nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis in lab experiments on mice.

Friday, October 05, 2007

An Old Blog I Never Posted

On my day off, when I ought to be lesson planning, I stayed in bed for two hours this morning after waking to read a children's book titled The Princess Academy. I started it when a student didn't show up for a make-up lesson and I was left in my studio with a basket of books I have for siblings. Hehe. I found myself taking every spare minute that day to get in a little more reading. Children's books are so compelling. Their stories are so tidy, they are emotionally uncomplicated, and they communicate very clearly with the reader. There is never any confusion as to what the reader is supposed to take away from the experience.

I learned, from this book, that hard work pays off, that families are important, that sticking up for what you believe is right will win you friends and respect, that marrying a prince isn't every girls dream, and that friendships are opportunities that should never be passed up on.

I love children's books.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Will the smile on my face turn to plaster

I have read about this before, but just today came across this article in Wired. It is all about emotion recognition software which has been put together at the University of Amsterdam. I find it hilarious that we are always so insistent on getting machines to do what we do so well instinctively. According to this "emotion recognition" software, the subject of the Mona Lisa is 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller was a lovely little book about society in Europe in the 19th century. James brings two characters together - Daisy, a young and vivacious American girl on a tour of Europe with her family, and Winterbourne - an English student who moves in societies most exclusive circles. Daisy's flirtatiousness and Winterbourne's sense of decorum clash a bit in their courtship and the books ends in tragedy.

Henry James meant, in this book to write about the effects of Americans and Europeans on each other as well as the ideas they had about themselves. I think the only thing that got in the way of this being very successful is that the European character was distinctly male and the American character female.

This is the only book of Henry James that I have been able to complete because I usually find his writing to be so convoluted. I just began Washington Square and am reminded of the stilted style he writes in and only hope the story is as compelling as Daisy Miller was in order to keep me reading!

In other news: The seasons are visibly changing; The president vetoed a bill which would have expanded health care for children; France plans on using DNA testing to test would-be immigrants from Africa who are trying to join their families in France; Britney Spears loses custody of her children; Paris Hilton is an idiot; and Zimbabwe's bakeries are running out of flour.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'll Take You There

It has been years since I read anything by Joyce Carol Oates - and I think until this point, it had always only been short stories. I just finished her novel I'll Take You There and find myself to be satisfied and just a little disturbed.

A first-person narrative, I'll Take You There's narrator is an intelligent, obsessive, needy, and slightly off-balance girl in her college years. With sometimes brutal self-awareness, the narrator seeks to define herself through her surroundings. Though the "self" is something too complicated to understand itself, she tries by turning to other girls her own age, to other intellectuals, and to family - constantly reinventing herself as other might see her - trying to learn who she is by who others think she is.

While riveting, I did not like that the cover of the book is pink and purple with flowers. It looked like a romance novel, and while there were some sordid parts, they were more of the intimate, merciless commentary on female intelligence and social affairs in the sixties sort.

In other news: BBC news is still reporting on Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty's public kiss with Richard Gere; Two U.S. computer engineers are charged with conspiring to steal microchip designs to sell to China's army; And bridges collapse in Vietnam too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Yesterday, at a Starbucks downtown, in a tight corner with room only for me, and a great window for people watching, I finished the book The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco. I enjoyed this book. It wasn't one that compelled me to read above all else, but when I thought I might sit down and read, it was always a pleasant thought to remember what book I was in the middle of. It was a fun shout out to all your history, comic-book, old movie, and Catholic dogma trivia; this book strings together all the incidental things that we absorb and make us who we are.

The premise is that a man, through some accident has lost his memory. He remembers events as one would have read about them but not as he experienced them. The book is his quest to restore those memories. He delves through old books, papers, records, comic books, etc, hoping to glean a bit of himself from them. In the minor details of political history and cultural iconography, he pieces together what kind of child he must have been - but he has no idea what kind of man.

Eco writes philosophically of the banality of individual lives and the trivial manner we have of living them. Though it wasn't as good as Foucault's Pendulum (one of my favorites) or as gripping as The Name of the Rose, it was a very fun book to read.

In other news: Mattel, not China, is responsible for the flaws that led to recalling more than 20 milion toys; Violence has soared in Afghanistan this past year - and the past two days have seen heavy fighting between US-led forces and Taleban militants; There is such a thing as a cadaver sniffing dog; and the word of the week is proglottidean (i have no idea how one would use it in a sentence).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Art of the Day

Well, shoot - all that time in Colorado and I could have been using my time like this:

This guy (who lives in Colorado) is an etchasketch genius! I'm just so impressed.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Last weekend, in Omaha, I finished the book Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. I really enjoyed this book - it made me feel like a kid to read it. It felt like the telling of old fables and fairy tales with a tinge of eastern mythology. Haroun is the son of a story-teller who has lost the gift of gab. He goes out on a bizarre and beautiful quest to return the gift of story-telling to his father and restore happiness to his home town - a town so sad it forgot its own name. A thoughtful adventure story - Rushdie writes exciting and unusual characters and fantastic plots with a quirky sense of humor that makes it so enjoyable to read.

Word of the week: Fungible (adj.) - interchangeable.

In other news: We send just as much junk to China as they send to us; Your seatbelt isn't working properly if you are riding in your car with your seat reclined; The world is standing still until General Patraeus delivers his report on the war in Iraq; And for a satisfying coma I recommend trying pancakes and scotch.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Midwest

I have been meaning to blog about this for some time now, but I have been too busy to even shower lately! Tomorrow I teach six group classes and have seven new private students. Yikes!

Over Labor Day weekend, I drove to Omaha to meet Monte and Curry. Omaha as a destination spot for a weekend getaway? Well, let me tell you a thing or two about Omaha! Kool-Aid is almost from Omaha but it's not (it is from Hastings, NE). And that isn't even what makes Omaha cool!

Omaha has the prettiest and most interesting chocolates I have ever tasted (they even beat out chocolates from Altman & Kuhne in Vienna):

They are so cool and laid back that there are bookstores that allow dogs in them:

And there are bubbles.

And my sister. Needless to say, I had a great time.

But now I'm back in Chicagoland with Curry and am enjoying/resenting my first week of teaching.

In other news: Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti died at age 71; Parents are advised hyperactive children may benefit from fewer additives after new research is published; The mosquitos are out of control out here; New versions of the iPod are unveiled including one with a touch screen and a wi-fi connection; and the 3.2-million-year-old fossilized remains of Lucy, the most intact human ancestor ever discovered, began a six-year tour of U.S. museums starting in Houston, despite much controversy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnik

I should be lesson planning but I don't know who my students are. I should be practicing but my piano is still out of tune. I should be learning the rest of the songs for my BabySteps classes but I've had "Shake Those Eggs" in my head for too many days now.

Instead, I finished a book I had found on Lydia's shelf and started reading last week. It was called Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnik. This isn't a book I'm going to go around recommending to people. It was the type of book that satisfied me when I needed something light and uplifting. And it did the job. It did give me wee morsels of things to think about - helping autistic kids, appreciating friendships, having a hobby..... but now I'm going to get back to my REAL reading (that is to say - the kind of important fiction that makes me feel better about reading for pleasure when I should be reading more about music and education). I hear Cormac McCarthy's book The Road just won another esteemed literary prize. I could read that. The second volume of Proust's collection is still sitting on my desk. I could read that.

In local news: Storms ravaged parts of the North Shore this past week leaving towns without power and trees strewn about normally neat looking neighborhoods.

Both of these images are of my mom's neighborhood in Glenview.

In other news: England beat India at cricket; Seats on the first commercial flight of the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger plane, are being auctioned on eBay; Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers;

And sometimes other people's puppies are cute too.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kung Pao Chicken

Today, as a part of my effort to tour the exciting museum circuit, I visited the Museum of Contemporary Photography. [I wanted to visit the Shedd Aquarium and see the new baby beluga whale but the cost of admission is TWENTY FOUR DOLLARS AND NINETY FIVE CENTS. I'm sorry, but that is ridiculous.]

The photography museum (which is free) is hosting an exhibit called "Loaded Landscapes" right now. These are beautiful and still views that are rather savagely altered in the mind of the viewer when the captions are read. All of these locations are the sites of tragedy and violence. So, while some of it was quite powerful, it was not the most uplifting morning.

Another set of photos were beautiful and disturbing in a different way. Pictured below is a portion of the wall Israel is building to section off towns and groups of people - under the guise of protecting them from suicide bombers.

This Israeli wall, while very damaging, is decorated in such a way to make it substance for art.

And lastly, over a year ago, American troops started training for battle in mock-Iraqi villages. The same thing is going on over there in Israel and Palestine and the photo below if of one of these villages. Once I knew what I was looking at, it was nothing but creepy to me.

In other news: Iranian police close more than 20 barbers' shops in Tehran for offering Western hairstyles for men; The US state of Texas executes its 400th prisoner since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976; Bill Murray is given a DUI for reckless driving of a golf cart; and I finished reading the last Harry Potter book last night.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom’s birthday. If you know her, please wish her a happy birthday! Last night we took her out for a lovely dinner at Karyn’s in Chicago.

Left to Right: Luke, Tim, Mom, Me

After enjoying all sorts of raw entrees (Luke's entree pictured below), we finished up her birthday meal with some sweet treats.

Ravioli with a tomato olive sauce

Carob Mint Cake (we ordered two of them)

Recently also, I made my way to the museum of contemporary art, started learning Arabic, started the newest Harry Potter book, and spent a little bit of time with my aunt and her grandson (pictured below).

Jordan, age two. Adorable. Funny. Not amused by my computer camera.

In news on this day: In 1866, an eight-hour workday was first mandated in the U.S.; the first around-the-world telegram was sent in 1911; Minimum wage was increased in 1996.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Can I buy you a soda?

Some people diligently check my blog and have become frustrated at seeing a sideways picture of my zen alarm clock every day. So, here are some new images (all right-side up too! I'm as surprised as you are.):I've peed in the ocean before, but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with a bunch of fish in my toilet.

The Field Museum is hilarious. A plaque in the Egypt exhibit says, "The basic needs of a dead person did not change much over the centuries." Hahaha!

I encountered this fellow on my recent trip to Champaign. I was too weirded out to try kissing him.

A Green River Phosphate. When was the last time you had one?

I am enjoying my zen alarm clock. In fact, I have had a few zen mornings which I like to think were precipitated by the clock. I'm not sure how well it is helping me to transition out of sleep with improved awareness, have a greater focus on goals, and have increased self-knowledge though. For example, this morning, with the first "bong" of the clock, I smiled, stretched, and fell back asleep content that I could trust my clock to bring me into a fully conscious state in a comfortable amount of time without oversleeping - only to DREAM of the next bong, and the next and the next as my wicked inner ear sent me messages that the bongs were getting closer and closer together and were increasingly insistent that I get out of bed. This I did for three minutes and forty-eight seconds before I was woken up by the second bong. Sigh. I hope I'll get better at this.

In other news: Number crunchers were dismayed to find out that an avatar on Second Life uses as much real power as the average Brazilian; The average blogger is a 14 year old girl talking about her cat who will most likely give up her blog in less than two months; The under-resourced war in Afghanistan is now starting to turn around for the better; And one can develop a chemical dependency on light supporting the idea that tanning is addictive.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saturday Presents

I just received a present in the mail from Monte. It is a Zen alarm clock - one which I have been wanting for years. It is beautiful and I can't wait to use it. Of course, I do usually wake up before my alarm, but if I don't, this alarm clock should promote in me gradual awakening, diminished grogginess, improved awareness of dream life and increased self-knowledge, improved self-esteem, greater focus on goals, elimination of bad habits, improved quality of meditation and all sorts of stuff. I can't wait for all these things to start taking effect.

Darnit. I still haven't figured out how to rotate my pictures when I put them on my blog. So, tilt your head to the left, and you'll see what I've been talking about. I think I should take a nap.

In other news: If you go here you can find some helpful tips on how to escape from a sinking car; Leaders from Darfur's fractured rebel movement are holding their first main day of talks in Tanzania, aimed at finding common ground; my sister is moving to Omaha, Nebraska.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I Am Sunburnt

I went to the zoo AGAIN! This time though, I didn't go IN - no - I have had enough of bus loads of sweaty kids at zoos recently. Instead I merely biked there and back. Merely?!?!?! That is seventeen miles! I'm proud of myself because it is hilly and I think I'm a bit out of shape since I've been so busy with other stuff and am no longer a member of a gym. So, while to you, seventeen miles may not be much, to me it warrants a nap.

a stupid polar bear purse you can get right now a Brookfield Zoo if you hurry!

And yesterday I got another job. I'm cobbling together something like full-time work. We'll see, in the fall, how successful I have been. Until then, my summer to-do list is calling.

In other news: Australian schools are beginning to require that students wear sunglasses on the playground; Exciting advances in electrode stimulation may help many people while helping us understand how sad things have been for many people considered brain damaged all along; The suburbs make you fat - type in your address here to find out how walkable your area is! (my dad's house scores a 49 out of 100 - not good)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Zoo, Raw Foods, and Life

So that you don't think I've been a hermit, or only reading, or gorging myself silly, or driven past frustration by my parents' piano, I'll tell you a little bit about what I've been up to:

I went to the zoo:

Brookfield Zoo, unfortunately, has become one of the most gimicky places I've been to visit since my adulthood (which I'd say came about in June). It is the perfect place for a field trip. However, since it is so close to where my parents live, I decided to visit for old time's sake (and to see the giant gorilla that throws poop). It turned out (once I found the animals) to be quite the adventure! Here are some pictures as proof of my recent trip, and testimony to the adventure that it was:

an okapi

I ate raw food:

There is a restaurant in town called Karyn's. I've blogged about it before. However, since I attended a raw foods class and consider myself a bit of food snob, I have to include it here (plus, it was one of the healthiest meals I've had in a while). Pictured below is a zucchini pasta

with a macadamia nut cream, tomatoes, basil, and pine nuts. Mmmmmmm. There was also a pretty good stuffed pizza, a ginger rejuvelac beverage, and a fabulous tiramisu dessert:

Oh. And I got a new laptop. A MacBook. And I'm really awful at using it. This is why my tiramisu is on its side. Help?

In other news: Though he previously stated that England and the U.S. would be no longer joined at the hip, England's new PM Gordon Brown has reaffirmed strong relations between the two countries; Liberia has lifted the diamond mining ban that was imposed during their civil war; Britney Spears causes all sorts of trouble; I am disturbed, yet still laughing at Scary movie 3.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When the Messenger is Hot

I very recently finished reading the book When the Messenger is Hot by Elizabeth Crane. This book is a collection of short stories, and as I have claimed recently, I am NOT a fan of short stories. When I told this to my friend Michelle, who was trying to get me to read the book, she sat me down and read one to me aloud. (she is persistent) That was enough for me! Based on only that reading, I wanted to read them ALL!

Less of a collection of short stories and more of a collection of creative wishes/dreams/fantasies/alternate realities possible for this woman's life, When the Messenger is Hot is about identity and isolation – as far as I can tell. Though I don't claim to be able to classify the threads and overall meaning of this book, I found it to be charming, quite insightful at times, and thoroughly enjoyable. The author explored, through her quirky story-telling, ideas of self-worth, position in society, how relationships reflect our ideas of ourselves, and how we see how others see us at times. Really, getting into town, the last thing I wanted to read was a bunch of short stories written by some woman in the Chicago area. Thank you to Michelle, because this was JUST the book for me. If any of you end up reading it, let me know what you think!

In other news: Authorities in India's north-eastern Manipur state have begun killing poultry after an outbreak of bird flu; A European heatwave is killing the elderly in Greece where temperatures yesterday reached 113 degrees; Paris Hilton has bought another Chihuahua; and a Tsunami warning has been issued in Indonesia.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A serious day off

I am currently trying to get back under my fingers Beethoven's Bagatelles Op. 124, the last set of pieces he wrote for piano. I need to demonstrate my artistry for a school downtown I am hoping to get a job with. However, the piano I have here at my disposal is inadequate. It is going to be a challenge to practice artistry when currently the notes aren't even sounding right! And to boot, my dog is now living in Colorado. To cheer myself up, I went to the Art Institute of Chicago today and browsed around watching people as much as looking at the artwork.

The painting below is one by Paul Klee, a Swiss-born painter and musician of the early 20th century. Though I have seen his paintings several times hanging at the art institute, I never really took much notice of them until today. Klee's colorful, and sometimes childlike art is supposed to have political dimensions (which I don't understand) for which he was labeled "degenerate" by the Germans post World War I (go figure).

I don't know the name of the above painting, and couldn't find it online. But his art reminds me of the stories of Brian Andreas.

I was also able to find one of my favorite paintings, done by John Singer Sargent, an American Impressionist and contemporary of Whistler. I love how brilliant the whites are in the portrait, especially as how it usually hangs by such stiff-looking American art.

The Fountain, by John Singer Sargent.

Not having to walk my dog, I'm not sure what to do with myself in the evenings! Maybe I'll go on a bicycle ride. Sigh. Maybe I'll go back to practicing the "piano."

In other news: Somalia, who hasn't had a functioning government in the past sixteen years has scheduled a peace conference - Islamist opposition members refuse to attend because the venue isn't neutral - the president says the talks will occur regardless of violence in the area - and they are postponed. Mary-Kate Olsen needs new shoes. And former Prime Minister Shimon Peres is formally inaugurated as the ninth president of Israel - he is eighty-three years old.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pre-pre summer reading

I am now living in the Chicago area (it has been pointed out to me that while I tend to blog inanely about food and books, I tend to leave out important things such as big changes, my daily existence and where that might be). I've been busy. Too busy to eat. Or read. Really. I have been attending the Suzuki Institute in Deerfield, Illinois, and learning how to teach the Suzuki method to piano students ages three and up. For more information on how this works and how amazing it can really be, I recommend you read Nurtured By Love by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. He was a very generous and inspiring man and he has quite a following today!

I did finish the book Deep Economy by Bill McKibben. I did this while sitting in my car and eating my lunch (I'm a bit of a hobo now, so this is quite a typical activity for me). This book was a simple and quick read that really took a look at how we live our lives today - the American way - the values that set us apart from the rest of the world in many good ways, and many destructive ways. It was a nice compliment to The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I read last November. Bill McKibben, in this book, studies the effects of many of our lifestyles on the world around us in terms of food consumption, energy consumption, and the values we have adapted ourselves to which have completely changed the structure of our communitites.

I also read The Unknown Masterpiece by Honore de Balzac. This is a really great short story that was translated by Richard Howard. Four characters are drawn together by their passion for art. One of them - the inspired genius - or the humiliated failure is the center of the work and who has served as an inspiration to artists as varied as Cezanne, Henry James, and Picasso. This short story is a bit of a study of the philosophy behind modern art and is supposed to be read with a rather tragic short story titled Gambara, also by Balzac. I have yet to read this story, but it is on my list of stuff to do.

In other news: President George Bush refuses to rule out pardoning ex-White House aide Lewis Libby, convicted of perjury; eight people arrested in connection with failed car bombings in Glasgow and London all have links with the National Health Service; Jessica Simpson has monster calves; and Slate has a Summer Reading list that I think we should all check out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The New Seven Wonders of the World

Check it out. If you have time online and would rather not read about Paris Hilton or Iraq, vote for the new seven wonders of the world:

Happy Twenty-Ninth Birthday!

I had a birthday last weekend. I turned twenty-nine. For my birthday, Monte took me out to Boulder, Colorado to go gliding. The experience was ........ hmmmmm...... let me try to be eloquent about this.......... so cool.

Me, and my pilot, Gary, strapping me in so I'm SAFE for the flight!

Our tiny little glider! Now, that is a landing you can feel! My butt is practically on the ground!

Us, being pulled by the tow-plane heading for those mountains over...... THERE!

Some mountains.

A postcard I bought. Just kidding! I took that picture!

lunch. very important.

In other news: North Korea has reportedly tested a missile, as US officials say it now has access to funds frozen for years; Claude Monet's painting Waterloo Bridge, Temps Couvert doubles its estimated selling price at auction (18 million pounds); Lindsay Lohan has cancelled her 21st birthday party; and the US military says 10,000 US and Iraqi troops are moving against al-Qaeda networks north of Baghdad.