Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Who Knew? ...

J-D, my hair architect, says I have wavy hair.

And he's right, of course.

But today was a whole new hair experiment.

After he put in some sunnier color (I'm heading toward blonde again, in honor of the arrival of spring) and he did his cutting magic, he dried my hair with a diffuser, to keep the wave intact.

And then he used his super-special, secret-agent curling iron to curl my hair and then he fluffed it up with some kind of hair powder and wow, I had serious movie-star hair going on.

I picked Dave up on our way to lunch. Dave always notices my hair. He's that kind of guy. (No, not gay. Attentive.)

"Wow," he said when he got in the car.

"J-D felt like curly today," I said. "I don't really have any say in what he does. Today, curly. But it'll be straight by the end of the day."

Except, it's not.

I can't take a picture that adequately conveys the curliness, but it looks pretty much like it did nearly 12 hours ago.

Maybe this cold weather is good for something after all.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chicago 2007 3-Day ...

Well, I'm at it again.

Today, after braving the cold to shovel the fluffy Hollywood snow off my sidewalk and driveway, I plopped myself down in front of my computer to register for the Chicago Breast Cancer 3-Day.

In August.

Yep, I'll be walking 60 miles in Chicago.

In August.

I think I need to get shoes made out of silicone to ensure that they don't melt on the pavement.

But I'm excited at the prospect of walking, as I am every year.

It's such a remarkable experience, one you never get used to. Every walk is more amazing than the last: more-amazing stories, more-amazing people, more-amazing acts of kindness.

It's selfish, really, my involvement in the walk. Yes, it raises money for a very worthwhile cause, and yes, the blisters I sustained last year were not fun. But that memory has faded and this year, I'll finish the walk with a smile not a wince.

E-mail requests for support have gone out to many friends and family, but I invite everyone to contribute.

Someone is diagnosed with breast cancer every three seconds. It's a disease that affects us all.

If you'd like to help out, visit my web page.

If you'd like to walk, drop a line my way (my e-mail is in my profile on this page) and I can help you get started.

Love and thanks,
Beth

This is Shelly, Erin, Mike, and me on last year's walk. You can read about it here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Filled With Horror ...

My friend Marc is always good for sharing kitschy crap.

Today, he sent me a link to this video, with a note that read:

"I am traumatized and filled with horror, so I'm going to make you suffer too. With no warning at all, I was subjected to the cheesiest music video ever made. This is simply shocking beyond belief. It makes Moskau, Moskau look like high art.

Check out the evil laugh but knowing smile of the keyboardist. Make sure you're sitting down and not drinking anything when the Apache maidens emerge from behind the teepee.

I'm going home now to drink a bottle of bourbon."

I was busy when he IMed me, but how could I resist that tease?

So I clicked. And I watched. It truly is rather astonishing, the height of cheesiness that was achieved.

Dave is the keyboardist in his band. I forwarded Marc's note to him with the caution, "Don't ever wear fringe." (My fringe-wearing readers needn't get themselves in knots as they did over my male-leggings post. I was telling Dave not to wear fringe. If the rest of you want to wear it, yee-haw, darlins.)

Marc, who does in fact have a job, also shared this link, everything I've ever wanted to know about "Apache" but was afraid to ask.

What that site does not mention is that the melody of the tune is the theme to a local PBS show called "Wild Chicago."

Ah, the '70s. There was a time when my father wanted to construct a lit dance floor for our den. Thank God his Saturday Night fever broke in time.

Apache

Coming Up For Egg Yolks ...

Whew.

The past few days have been a bit of a blur.

Mom turned 65 on Saturday. My mother is a terribly hip woman. No one believes that she's 65. She wears nearly no makeup but is strikingly beautiful with a mane of silvery hair she keeps pulled back in a ponytail. It used to be a braid, but two months ago she had 10 inches cut off and donated it to Locks of Love. So she's letting it grow out again. She has a simple, unique sense of style. She's often complimented on her clothes. She's the kindest person I know, always willing to lend a hand. Everyone she encounters on the street is left with an "Enjoy your day." I believe many people are taken aback by her friendliness in this world in which so many seem not to care.

Instead of cake, mom wanted tiramisu. Well, I'd never made tiramisu before, but she had and promised it was easy. So Thursday night, I bought the ingredients, and Friday afternoon, I made it. A lot of it. Tiramisu recipes have rather large yields, I now know. And there was a moment when I thought, "Ah, crap, that can't be right," after I'd cooked six egg yolks and a cup and a quarter of sugar over a double boiler. But it all came out OK in the end.

Tiramisu, if you hadn't already surmised, is not good for you. Health-wise. A lot of egg yolks and heavy cream and mascarpone cheese. Yes, health-wise, it's a nightmare. But it's terribly good for your soul.

So, with a vat of tiramisu in the fridge, I headed out to my favorite florist to pick up some flowers for her. Mom always buys me flowers for my birthday. I don't always buy flowers for hers. But this birthday was especially special. I took the vase to her house, a simple little arrangement of roses and her favorite fillers, and mom, being mom, almost started to cry. She's inordinately unaccustomed to kindness, despite being so kind herself. She never expects it in return.

I picked her up an hour later and headed downtown. I have a subscription to The Goodman Theater and Friday was the second play in the series. Mom wanted to go. We walked down Dearborn, past the theater. Mom pointed to the building. "Aren't we going in there?" she asked.

"No," I said. "We're going to dinner. Curtain's not until 8."

Her face brightened. "Oh! Where are we going?!"

I took her to The Grillroom Chop House, because it's relatively close to the theater and because I can always get a reservation there without much notice. And, there, lamb is on the menu. Mom loves lamb.

She ordered chicken.

We both loved the play, August Wilson's Radio Golf, his last play. The set design is amazing. The best set I've ever seen. I must drop a note to the set designer with my compliments.

The next morning, I called her early. I headed to the bakery that makes her favorite long john (an oblong donut with vanilla glaze, for those who've never heard of them) and thought, "It doesn't look open." Oh, no, it wasn't. It's so closed, it's for lease. So much for that idea.

But another bakery was able to meet my needs, and provide an apricot cheese danish, besides. Mom loves apricots. Mom loves cheese danish. Score!

I took her presents and cards to her house along with the treats. Dad had already procured chocolate donuts and an almond crescent. It was a weekend of food. She opened her presents - a cookbook I knew she'd like (because I want it, too) and a book on learning to meditate and a CD to aid in such, and a book on creativity (because hers needs a jumpstart). Her favorite thing? One of the cards.

Card shopping can be a joy or a chore. You have to be in a card-buying zone. Friday, between the tiramisu and the flowers, I found the perfect card. Doreen's rule - a good one - is one funny card, one mushy card. I found a suitable mushy card, too. A "Mom" mushy card, not "Mother." Do that many people really call their moms "Mother"?

But back to Saturday: I came home for a bit while Dad got ready and mom ran to church. As I was leaving to pick them up, I noticed my mail had arrived. There was a large padded envelope from L.A. Dave. He sent my mom a card and CD. I put them on the passenger seat of my car, facing the door. When mom went to get in, she saw the card and looked at me. I shrugged and smiled, as if to say, "Gosh, I don't know how that got there." She was very touched that someone she's never even met would take the time to send her birthday wishes.

We headed to our favorite Chinese place. It's New Life on Irving Park Road, but we call it Mama's, because every time I go in there, the cute little Chinese woman asks, "How's your mama?" Mom took Mama flowers. Mama returned the kindess by sending home extra takeout. We ordered three things. She sent home five (the extras were egg rolls and an order of pork fried rice, because she knows I love it). Mom wanted to buy boxes of tea. Mama wouldn't let her pay for them. And she included three packages of almond cookies, too. We left her a big tip. "Why you leave me so much?!" she asked. "Because you gave us so much!" we said.

What goes around truly comes around.

She told my mom, "I love you!" and hugged her, five times.

Mama, by the way, told us that she might have to close, that business just isn't the same since she moved to that location. She used to be on Waveland and Halstead, right by my first apartment. I've been going to Mama's for a long time. We cannot fathom a Mama-less world. So, if you live in Chicago, start going to New Life. It's truly the best Chinese food I've ever had. Help save Mama's!

After an afternoon of shopping (Dad was thrilled, I'm sure, acting as our bank!), we headed off to my friend Nick's coffee house, Humboldt Pie (at the corner of California and Augusta, if you'd like to go - free wifi and great pizza, but the pizza's not free) to see Nick and have a beverage.

Once home, and hungry, mom decided she wanted pizza for dinner, so Dad called to order her favorite and we came to my house to have tiramisu while we waited for the pizza to be ready. Dessert first, as it should be.

And then we ate pizza and watched "Superman Returns."

Yesterday we had leftover Chinese food and pizza for brunch. And we finished the movie (we were all falling asleep Saturday night and threw in the towel). Mom and I attemped to do some shopping, but the snow that wasn't bad at her house was nearly a blizzard near the mall, so we headed home. When you can't see stoplights until your practically on top of them, you shouldn't be on the road.

So, the marathon birthday weekend is over. And I've returned to my blogging duties. I was telling my friend Jeff yesterday that I try to write every day. Jeff bookmarked my blog while we were on the phone. So if he checks, there will be something new for him to read. I used to work for Jeff, many years ago, when he was an advice columnist for the Sun-Times, a job he got when he applied to get a good angle for a Wall Street Journal story. Today, he's back at the Journal. He keeps telling me that I should be writing something that will pay.

As soon as I think of what that is, I'll do it. In the meantime, here I am.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dave-fecta ...

What's in the air that L.A. Dave, English Teacher Dave, and Dave all called within three hours of each other tonight?

And what's with my Spidey sense that I thought of Dave seconds before my phone rang, which means I was thinking of him as he was dialing my number?

Maybe my psychic side (what Barbara calls my witchypooness) is more keen in the cold.

When Wishing Works ...

When I was younger, I wanted green eyes.

My coloring takes after my father's side of the family, the Polish-with-a-smidgen-of-German side. Fairer skin, fairer hair. My eyes were always a variation of bluish-grey. Sometimes more blue, sometimes more grey. It depended on the weather.

But green eyes seemed so exotic. So out of the ordianry. Most people have blue eyes or brown eyes or hazel eyes. Very few people have green eyes. People I know, anyway.

And besides, green is my favorite color.

So, I wished for green eyes.

And then, one day, I had them.

I don't know what makes your eyes change color. I'm guessing that wishing isn't all that's involved. They're not emerald green. Which is good, because then people would presume I was wearing colored contacts. They're sage green. Gray green. The color of my bedroom. The color of my formerly favorite sweatshirty thing that eventually got so washed out and worn out that I had to throw it away. But I loved that shirt. It was so comfy. And it matched my eyes perfectly.

My friend Barbara noticed them one day at the Tribune. I was leaning on her cube wall, wearing a different sage-green sweatshirt, this one hooded, chatting about something completely unrelated to work, I'm sure, when she realized that my eyes matched my shirt.

And Dave noticed them one day in "our" Starbucks. He was fond of the irony of the Starbucks with the view of Cabrini Green, so we went there often. I happened to be sitting under a downlight. Dave and I were chatting. He stopped talking. I looked at him as if to say, "What?"

"Your eyes!," he said. "They're the most amazing shade of ..." He leaned closer. "Green, is it?""

Indeed.

And I was never a big fan of my hair. It's kinda ashy blonde, kinda brown, surely boring. And straight. Straight and mousy. Nice. I wished it had some character. Not A-list hair, necessarily, but not Second Girl in Coffee Shop hair, either.

J-D, my hair architect, takes care of the color (and will work his magic again next week!), and told me a couple years back that I have wavy hair.

Uh, no I don't.

Yes, you do.

Nuh uh.

Next time you wash it, he said, just let it dry. You'll see.

Well, of course he's right. He's my hair architect.

I washed it last night. And then I went to bed. This morning, I looked in the mirror and wow, I have wavy hair.

When the hell did that happen?

And it wasn't just kinked from sleeping on it. It stayed wavy all day. It's still wavy. Wild.

I need to wish for stuff outside myself.

I wish to meet Liam Neeson. (It could happen. We have a mutual friend.)

I wish to see Kevin Spacey in "A Moon for the Misbegotten." But that's a given. Tix are already on sale! New York, here I come!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

iTunes, I Ching ...

As I've written before, I'm convinced that iTunes is synced up with my brain.

Once upon a time, Thomas Pecora did my charts. At the time, he called himself an "intuitive astrological consultant." I don't know if he still does. He seems to be focusing on music these days. But during our consultation, he brought up what I can do to develop my intuition and psychic abilities. (We all have abilities, some are just far along in their development while others don't even know they have them.) "You can get addictive on things," he warned. "Especially answers."

Well, I don't own a tarot deck or throw coins or read tea leaves, but every so often, because I find it amusing, I pose a question to iTunes and start clicking through the songs for "answers."

I feel a shift happening lately. I'm emboldened. I'm starting to say what's on my mind and discovering that it doesn't spell the end of my world. Most people take what I have to say in stride. But I'm also sensing that it's time to step away from some relationships. Maybe not forever. Or maybe. But it's time let go and see if the relationships still stand without me propping them up.

So today I asked iTunes if me and a certain someone are meant to take a break.

Here's what it "said." (Artists included in parentheses, for those who care.)

1. Don't Push (The Exit)

2. Who Are You (Tears For Fears)

3. Wishlist (Pearl Jam)

4. Modern Love (David Bowie)

5. So May It Secretly Begin (Pat Metheny Group)

6. In The Evening (Led Zeppelin)

7. Ominous Drums (Alex Parker & Jake Parker)

8. Bedroom Toys (Duran Duran) (This one cracked me up.)

9. You'd Better Run (Robert Plant)

10. Tunnel of Love (Bruce Springsteen)

11. Hotel California (The Eagles) (So I can check out of this relationship any time I want, but I can never leave? Hmm.)

12. All Alone (Gorillaz)

13. Don't Get Me Wrong (Howard Jones)

14. 'S Wonderful (Rod Stewart)

15. Someone To Watch Over Me (Chris Botti)

16. Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Elton John) (There's a joke to be made here, but I'll refrain. It's a family blog.)

17. Io (Helen Stellar)

18. If I Should Fall Behind (Bruce Springsteen)

19. Looks LIke We Made It (Barry Manilow) (Yep, I have some Barry in my iTunes.)

20. Gone (Lisa Marie Presley) (Yep, I have some LMP in my iTunes.)

21. Like To Get To Know You Well (Howard Jones)

Apparently, iTunes is just as confused as me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Say What ...

At lot has been made of Isaiah Washington making a bone-headed, bigoted slur, not once, but twice. Rightfully so.

Some stars, asked about the controversy, have said that political-correctness has gotten out of control and people need to relax.

Um, not in this case. Because, as others have pointed out, is roles were reversed and T.R. Knight called Isaiah Washington the N-word, no one would say that the world's just gone too P.C.

Some people say too much. Others, not enough.

Sometimes, it's hard for me to say what I really feel.

I spend too much time worrying about what people will think of me, too much time considering other people's feelings, even at the expense of my own.

Yesterday, that changed.

That's not to say I'd never spoken my mind before. I have, but with more pre-speaking angst.

This time, I still took several days to muster the courage to send the e-mail, but once I did, I felt a sense of relief wash over me.

How nice to do something because I wanted to do it. Or, in this case, not do something because I didn't want to do it.

The power of "No." Teeny-tiny word. Huge power.

How nice to stop worrying about someone else's reaction and just stand up for what I know is right for me, for this time in my life.

Still, I wasn't as blunt as I could have been. I was friendly and kind while saying, "No."

I wavered, though, wondering. Everything happens for a reason, I believe. So what was the meaning of what I faced?

Was I meant to follow the path to see where it lead? Was that the test?

Or was the test whether I'd be true to myself and say "No" to something I longer wanted in my life or if I'd buckle and acquiesce so as to not risk hurting another person's feelings?

It's a no-lose proposition, I figure. I'm proud of myself for standing up for myself. And if I was meant to follow the path, it will present itself again, another way, another time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Woot! ...

I'm not a huge football fan, but I started watching the Bears game earlier and then had to run a few errands and I LISTENED TO THE GAME IN MY CAR.

At home, with my car in the garage, I waited for a break in the action before scooting into the house to turn on the TV and just watched them clinch the NFC.

Twenty-one years ago, for Super Bowl XX, Tracy and I watched the game in her parents' apartment in Calumet City. At the half, we went to Jade Tree to get Chinese food. I have no idea where her parents were that day.

Twenty-one years ago. Sheesh.

It would have been a cool-as-hell Cinderella story for New Orleans to make it to the Super Bowl this year, but the Bears are goin' to Miami!

Almost makes the desecration of Soldier Field worth it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Also Just Spotted On Craigslist ...

Someone who can write

I am looking for someone to do some editing and writing for a small start up company. You would need to know formal business letter format, contranct expereince a plus. We need someone who can become formiliar with a business model and be able to take a ruff outline and turn it into a compeling letter to a prospective client.



If you'll excuse me, I have to go break out in hives now ...

Amen! ...

Seen on Craigslist, just this moment, in City of Chcago > Writing jobs:

Decent-Paying Writing Jobs Wanted

Wanted: writing jobs that pay more than an insulting amount, such as $50 for a thousand words. Looking for employers who understand that professional writers take pride in their craft and deserve to make a living off it, and that paying peanuts means that you will most likely be getting a terrible or inexperienced writer.

'A Scanner Darkly' ...

Um, OK.

Pal Ethan recommended this film for my Netflix queue. He writes mini movie reviews on his site and I usually agree with his takes, so I put it at the top of my queue. It arrived. I popped it in. I settled onto the couch with a basket of popcorn. And ... ew!

I'm sure I've never told Ethan that I have a big aversion to bugs. I'm seriously creeped out by the idea of a bug crawling on me. I'm not a big fan of bugs crawling on my walls, for that matter. I've gotten pretty good about killing them, as I live alone, and there's no alternative, but I tend to haul out the vacuum and suck 'em up more often than smooshing them in a Kleenex.

So the opening scene of the movie set a tone: A dude covered in creepy-crawly things. A dude's dog covered in creepy-crawly things. A dude's house teeming with creepy-crawly things.

Bugs are bugs. Even animated bugs. "A Bug's Life" was fine, because those bugs were cute and said funny things, but realistically animated bugs are just about as bad as the real thing. So I'm not fan of those Flash ads online that have bugs crawling around my screen.

Blech.

Bugs aside, it was hard for me to get past the effects in this movie. I suppose the only way to make a film about a cop who wears a suit that constantly morphs into pieced-together likenesses of other people to hide his identity is to do an animated film, but the "it's kind of animated, it's kind of real" thing got on my nerves.

Oh, and then there's the story: Drugs are bad. Oh, and the people you think are there to help are often the villains. Gee, we never see that in fiction. Or in real life, for that matter. Big Brother is watching. Yeah, no kidding.

This movie is set seven years from now. It was releasd last year. So now, I guess, we can say it's set six years from now. Except that we don't have to wait that long for some of the cynicism in this movie to manifest itself. It already has.

RottenTomatoes.com gave it a Fresh rating, which means more critics liked it than didn't. On Netflix's five-star scale, I'll give it three, just for the attempt at something different. But when it comes to movie effects, I was much more impressed by "Sin City." And the trailiers for "300" are knocking me out.

And I bet there will be many fewer bugs.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fashion Update: Tee Hee Hee ...

Everyone who knows me knows what a slave I am to fashion. Yup, that's me. Prada. Jimmy Choo. You name it, I don't own it.

I think fashion - season-by-season fashion - is ridiculous. Oh, look, a skirt for $1,800! Why, I'll take one in every color! And tell me, are they disposable? Because they'll be "out" in a couple months.

Of course, I could certainly pay a little more attention to my wardrobe. I confess that I trend toward boring. And working from home is certainly no incentive to shop. I'm currently wearing what I slept in. Well, I slept in the sweatshirt. I pulled on my yoga-y pants when I got out of bed because my office is an outside room and a bit chilly these days, even with the heat on.

But a story out of Milan caught my eye today: The new fall must-have for men? Leggings. Yeah, you heard me. Leggings. LEG-GINGS. Oh, puh-leeze.

OK, girls, I know what you're thinking: Men in tights! Why else do we go to the ballet? Alas, the designer is one modest step ahead of our depraved little minds. These leggings appear to be plenty snug around the legs but not around the, uh, hips and male frontal region.

Of course, these are the trend for fall. When it's colder outside. Which probably helps the situation, if you know what I mean.

But I ask you: What man is going to jump on this fashion train?

I know some men who can wear the hell out of Armani, but are they gonna be caught dead in these? Yeah, I don't think so. I can't help but think that the only boys who are going to wear barn-red leggings are the models being paid a few grand a day to wear 'em on the catwalk.

Every other guy I know would fear the revocation of his man card if he stepped out of the house in leggings. Hell, they'd probably even be ridiculed by their wives. Or girlfriends. Or partners. Or pets, for that matter.

Not that I expect all men to wear 501s. A long time ago, I fell in love with Iva Davies wearing jodhpurs in an Icehouse video. Dear God, that was a good look on him. Not that I expect men to start sporting jodhpurs off the polo field, but men + leggings = absurd. And check out the loafers with no socks. Can Miami Vice-wear be far behind?

Please, my fashion-conscious friends, let this one pass you by.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Random Notes ...

♪ This morning's musing about my beloved treadmill was my 700th post. Holy crap. That's a lot of drivel! I could say that it makes me a member of The 700 Club, but Pat Robertson is a lunatic, and who wants to be associated with that guy? (If you're bored, Google Images has a smorgasbord of Robertson fun!)

♪ So much for life-long buying habits: Not only have I recently switched dish soaps (I know! Alert the media!), I've recently kicked my childhood peanut butter to the curb. Jif, chock full o' nasty trans fats (I boo trans fats louder than the audience booed Roseanne Barr when she sang the national anthem) is out, Skippy Natural is in. For kicks today, I did a little taste test and yup, I like the new kid way better. Peanutty goodness.

♪ Speaking of trans fats, how does Crisco continue to justify its existence?

♪ Entertainment Weekly gets big kudos for putting Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, and Meryl Streep on its cover this week! And they're not even airbrushed to within an inch of their legendary lives.

♪ At night, apparently, the neighborhood cats use my deck as an Arthur Murray dance studio. It snowed a bit last night and my deck is almost completely covered in paw prints.

♪ Hooray for Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy, two of my favorite Brits, and their Golden Globes!

♪ What was Cameron Diaz wearing last night? And did she pay someone to make her hair look like that? Ditto her makeup artist?

♪ Ticketmaster continues to send me e-mail about "My Little Pony Live!: The Worlds Biggest Tea Party." (Ponies don't know how to use apostrophes, apparently.) How the hell did I get on *that* list?

♪ Naomi Campbell pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor assault in the case of throwing a cell phone at her maid. Campbell says it was an accident. Her punishment? From the AP: "In exchange for her guilty plea, Campbell must pay Scolavino's medical expenses of $363, do five days of community service and attend a two-day anger management program." So, I'm wondering: What medical expense these days costs only $363?

Walking In Place ...

Today is Day 7 of treadmill heaven. It was delivered last week (by two guys who appeared to be German, one of whom was quite tall and reminded me a lot of G) and set up in about 10 minutes. They showed up nearly an hour early. So much for delivery windows. Glad I was home.

Now, logically, my treadmill should go in the basement. My basement is finished, so it would be a nice environment in which to walk. It's not like I'd be treadmilling next to the furnace, amid cinder-block walls. But basements, you may have noticed, don't have very high ceilings most of the time. The deck of the treadmill is at least six inches off the floor, which means that treadmill + basement = Beth's head touching the ceiling. Which also means I could never use the incline settings. So, not wanting to cut a hole in my basement ceiling for my head to pop through (which my brother did in his basement for his elliptical machine - but his basement isn't finished), my new baby had to reside on the main floor.

But where? Both bedrooms were out. Ditto the living room and kitchen and dining room. Which left the TV room. Which is a very nice room, with bookshelves and a fireplace. Plenty of ceiling height in there. But you know what?

This treadmill is kinda huge.

It didn't look quite so big in the big store, but in a small space? Big.

I didn't get a foldable treadmill because the fitness guy, Todd, didn't recommend them, and really, who am I kidding? I'm the kind of person who sometimes leaves my luggage by the front door for a week after a trip. Like I was really going to fold up my treadmill and put it away every day? No, I was going to leave it set up for walking the next day.

So he steered me toward the higher-end treadmills (as any good salesman would do), and once I was on it, I was sold. It's so solid. And hey, the Chicago Bears use these treadmills (though I'm sure they have the super-duper models). But mostly, I dig the fact that every inch of this thing comes with a 10-year maintenance-free warranty. Yup, don't do a damn thing for 10 years except walk. If anything goes wrong, someone comes out and fixes it for me.

I made room for it before the delivery guys arrived and have since put the room back in order, but what I really need to do is swap out couches between the basement and the TV room, as the one in the basement is smaller and the one in the TV room is larger.

So my basement will, at long last, become a space I use on a regular basis for lounging, and my TV room, with the bookshelves and fireplace, will become my de facto exercise room with plenty of floor space where I can start learning the yoga moves on those DVDs I bought a few months ago.

It's 18 degrees outside right now. No way I'd be going for a walk this morning in the freshly fallen snow. But I'll happily don my bouncy shoes and walky pants and red wife-beater tee (thanks, Doreen!) and spend an hour walking in place, rolling my eyes at morning-news segments and bidding my butt goodbye.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fruit Stripe Bastards ...

I was recently talking with someone about Fruit Stripe gum.

I loved Fruit Stripe gum as a kid. Especially the green-striped gum. Lime. I love lime. Not so much real limes, as they taste too much like lemons, but fakey kelly-green lime? Sign me up. Green LifeSavers. Green suckers. The Green Chuckle. Green River.

So today, walking through one of those mega-stores - where you can buy groceries and shoes and craft supplies and motor oil and plant food and vitamins and sweatshirts and lamps - I spied a huge display of Fruit Stripe gum. Woo hoo! I grabbed a pack and handed it to my mom. "Do you really want this?" she asked.

Duh! It's FRUIT STRIPE GUM!

She was actually buying something, so instead of two transactions, I just let her pay for it. Mom is good about stuff like that.

"Gum!" I said, as we walked through the store on our way to her car. She fished it out of the bag and handed it to me.

Once opened, I pulled out a green-tipped stick and unwrapped it. It was orange. Yellow with orange stripes. What the hell?

I read the package: Wet 'n Wild Melon, Cherry, Lemon, Orange, and Peach Smash.

What the hell?! Peach?! Who the hell wants peach-flavored gum?! Where the fuck's my lime?!

The package is the same: red, yellow and green stripes with the stripey zebra guy. It's very misleading. The green on the package corresponds to nothing inside.

I read the label. "Product of Mexico."

"Mexicans like lime," I said. "They use it in cooking all the time."

But not in Fruit Stripe gum.

Bastards.

The only potential good thing about the entire experience was that the wrappers are now printed with tattoos of the zebra guy whose name, apparently, is Yipes. Yipes? Rhymes with Stripes? How about Gripes?

As mom pulled out of the parking lot, I licked my hand and stuck the gum wrapper to it.

"This better work," I said, sounding more than a little peeved.

Mom was cracking up.

I pulled the paper back. The tattoo was really blurry.

Dammit.

And the flavor lasts approximately 20 seconds. I spit my so-called gum into the spent wrapper-cum-tattoo.

I just tossed the pack in the trash. No more Fruit Stripe gum for me. I'll have to relive my childhood another way.

'Snakes On A Plane' ...

Well, that was quick.

I was able to watch the whole movie in about 20 minutes because I skipped through most of it.

I don't know what I thought I should expect. Snakes. Check. On a plane. Check. Lots of shrieking. Check. People getting bitten. Check.

Next?

Even Sam Jackson's infamous line fell flat because I heard it a thousand times before the film even opened.

Clearly, I never got around to seeing this in the theater. Thank God. I hate walking out of movies. And I surely would have walked out of this one.

Uninspired Lately ...

Blog ideas just aren't coming to me lately, and one of the first rules of blogging is not to post unless you have something to say. Writing posts about not having anything to write about are the red-haired stepchild of the blog universe.

I've been plenty angry this week about goings-on in the news. Yes, about Bush and his "new" plan for Iraq, but also about numerous stories of senseless crimes related to guns. I won't launch into a tirade about the need for gun control in this country, but I will post this gem from Eddie Izzard, which I just read in my Quotes of the Day and which made me chuckle:

"The National Rifle Association says, 'Gun's don't kill people. People do'. But I think the gun helps."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Here's A Thought ...

Note to all media: Maybe the way to make Rosie and The Donald stop sniping at each other is to stop reporting on it every day.

This morning, every morning news show I checked was reporting on the "latest" Rosie and Donald exchange.

Oy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Flashback To The '80s ...

It was the decade of big hair - and I would know.

I was in high school and college in the '80s. (I finished college in March of '91. Yes, March. My school was on quarters at the time. I was done a bit early.)

Music, as it does now, played a huge role in my life then.

I'm fascinated by music and its ability to instantly transport you to a time and place. I'm fascinated by my brain's ability to instantly recall the lyrics when I hear a song I haven't heard in 20 years. Does the music unlock that part of my memory? If someone asked me to recite the lyrics to a song, I probably couldn't do it unless I played the song in my head.

So today, in the mail, I received a few CDs from BMG Music Service. BMG can be vexing in its dearth of current titles, but you can't beat 'em for beefing up other aspects of your CD collection. (A year or so ago I filled in U2 and Pearl Jam holes.) Some artists are lacking on the site, but I was able to get Ray LaMontagne's latest disc for Kelley. I already have it, but she turned me on to Ray's music, so I scored the disc for her. Ray's not exactly Jessica Simpson, so BMG is good for some artists beyond the uber-commercial.

Though speaking of uber-commercial, I also got Madonna's "Confessions on a Dance Floor," because it was essentially free and from what I've heard of it, it's a good, fluffy disc that renders its listeners incapable of sitting still. So $2.79 for shipping and handling is about what I'm willing to pay for Madge's dance disc, and I put it on today and, yep, in fact, I found myself dancin' around my house like Ellen DeGeneres.

But the point of this point isn't Ray or Madonna, it's the other two discs: a collection of Simple Minds hits (I had a Simple Minds disc once; I loaned it to Dave, who is a very good friend but who is also my black hole of media) and a collection of singles by The Smiths.

I put it in my CD changer, cranked my stereo to 60, and the moment I heard the guitar open of "How Soon Is Now?" I was in high school again. I practically remembered my locker combination. Ah, and who could forget the animal squeals on "Meat is Murder"? Tracy and I tried to be vegetarians in high school. I remember cheese sandwiches at The Sub Port.

My 20th high school reunion is this year if anyone bothers to pull one together. And if anyone even remotely cool is in charge of the music, this song should be on the playlist. Probably right after MC Hammer.

I wonder if anyone will show up in parachute pants.

Color Your World ...

Who decides this stuff? I just found out that it's National Delurking Week.

Delurking. I love that word.

Like most bloggers, I have a few readers who comment on a semi-regular basis, but my daily number of hits suggest many more people are reading and I've never heard from them.

So I'm gonna poach Whoorl's idea and ask "What's your favorite Crayola crayon color?" There's a chart at Wikipedia. Ah, Wikipedia. How did we ever live without it?

See? Nothing too personal. Nothing too taxing. Feel free to simply list your favorite color. If there's a story behind it, feel free to leave that, too.

As I commented on Whoorl's site, "When I was little, and I had a bigger box of crayons, I loved Blue Green. But of the core 8 chunky crayons when I was little little, I loved Green the best. And these days, having seen the chart, I think I gotta go with Asparagus. I wonder if it makes your pictures smell funny when you color with it ... : o )"

This is the first picture I colored in kindergarten, which I started when I was 4 because of how my birthday fell. Yes, I spelled my name wrong, but hey, my mom taught me how to write my name when I was 3. And I have a lot of letters in my name. I used to like to use a different color for each letter, but with a name so long, I usually stuck to a single color, because with 9 letters and 8 chunky crayons, I'd have to repeat a color, and who really wants to use brown and black in their name rainbow anyway? The first "e" in Ellen should be capitalized, but no one ever gets that right. It's even wrong on my college degree. But I digress.

I remember the day I colored this. I remember, particularly, being distressed that I had such limited options. The Red, Yellow, and Green crayons for the lights themselves, those were all well and good, but the casing of the stoplight left me flummoxed. In my world, stoplight housings were Yellow Orange in Crayolaland, but I had no Yellow Orange crayon. I could have used orange, but it wasn't exactly right, so I decided to be completely contrarian and use Blue instead.

Clearly, I was really into the idea in the upper-lefthand corner, but eventually got fed up and finished with a few rudimentary scribbles. That, and I was probably running out of time. I'm sure I spent too many minutes lamenting my limited color choices.

I'm sure that coloring episode set the tone for all my future frustration as an artist. : o )

At least I got an "Excellent" star stamp.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Driven To Distraction ...

Funny thing: Even though we use very little of our brains - and some even less than others - sometimes there's very little room for more than a single idea.

Today I met my mom at the hospital. My father was scheduled for an angiogram. His second. His first was before his triple bypass in 2001.

I've spent far too much time in that hospital in the past five years. Knock wood, I've never been a patient, always a visitor. But the waiting, as Tom Petty says, is the hardest part.

I brought a book with me today, knowing full well I wouldn't read it. Sure enough, it stayed in my purse the entire time. We hung around the surgery waiting room for an hour before we were allowed to see my dad in pre-op. Shortly after we were shown to his "room," his nurse arrived to wheel him to his procedure. In a hallway intersection, she said, "OK, this is where we part ways." We wished my dad well and went to the next waiting area.

Could those chairs be any less comfortable? Maybe they could make them out of cinder blocks - with a few nails sticking out. That might do the trick. I mean, I don't need a Barcalounger, but sheesh. Next time - if there's a next time, and I hope there's not a next time - I'll stop in the gift shop and see if I can buy one of those inflatable donuts.

Speaking of donuts, the one good thing about this hospital are the chocolate donuts. Whatever bakery supplies them, they're fabulous. Shortly after I arrived this morning, mom sent me to the cafeteria to see if there were any left. I scored two, along with a "cappuccino," which, near as I can tell, is hot flavored water. There doesn't seem to be anything resembling coffee or espresso anywhere in the mix.

Once we arrived at the second waiting area and I made a quick run out to mom's car to dump off my father's coat which she'd been lugging around, we noshed on our donuts. The sugar buzz did nothing for mom's state of wakefulness. She woke up at 3 a.m. today, so I patted my shoulder and she rested her head against it for a few minutes. Then, in need of coffee, she sent me back to the cafeteria. She reached for money.

"I've got it," I said.

"No," she said. "I have a ton of singles. Here, take some," she said, thrusting a handful at me.

"Were you planning on hitting a strip club later?" I had 10 ones in my hand.

I returned with coffee and a report on the day's "specials." Cheese lasagne. Cheese sticks. Tortilla soup (which, I believe, is made with cheese). Potato bar (with a steaming vat of "cheese" sauce). Healthy much? Drumming up business for the cardiology department?

The nurse/gurney driver from earlier appeared to tell us that my dad was back in the surgery waiting area, that all went well, and that his doctor was filling out some paperwork and would be by to chat with us.

We love my father's cardiologist. I interviewed him for a story for the Tribune following my dad's open-heart procedure five years ago. Essentially, everything's fine. But my father has some lifestyle changes to make. Well, he's had some lifestyle changes to make. He just hasn't really made them yet.

Thanks to a nifty new procedure, angiogram patients can be discharged shortly after the procedure, instead of lying prone for six hours as they had to in the past. So I was home much earlier than I anticipated.

I fired up the computer and realized that I had next to no capacity to focus.

It felt like that delayed emotion you feel when someone dies: Somehow, you manage to keep everything together during those initial days, and it's not really until the services are over and the relatives are gone that your brain really processes the loss.

In this case, though, relief, not grief.

I had nothing pressing for work so Kelley prescribed an afternoon off with a half-bottle of wine.

I skipped the wine but it was good to turn off my brain for the day. And make coffee at 4:30 in the afternoon. Mom came by for a bit and had a cup.

Decaf.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sweet Dream ...

In one of many dreams last night, I was sitting in my car in my garage. I have a single-car garage in real life, but in my dream, it was a two-car garage. To the right of my car was a Land Rover. And walking around the Land Rover, for whatever reason, was Bono.

I climbed over to the passenger side of my car, opened the door and popped my head up. "How's you day, love?" I asked. Bono and I, apparently, are mates in my subconscious. Mates like friends, not like spouses.

He smiled and walked over to my open door. I retreated to the driver's seat and he got in the passenger seat. He was wearing his trademark glasses, sporting his shorter hair. And then he hauled out a movie theater concession stand-sized box of Dots, which we proceeded to eat while we talked.

Now, yesterday, I was in Walgreens with my mom, and as we walked past a table mounded with boxes of candy, she asked if I needed Dots. I love Dots. Naked gumdrops, really. None of that sugar coating.

But Bono? Why I dreamt that I was hanging out in my car - in my garage - with Bono? No idea.

Later, Sting showed up in my dream. My mind swapped out Bono for Sting. It was a rainy night. We were in the parking lot of a strip mall. He sat in the back seat because I put my CD rack on the floor in front of the front passnger seat.

And of course, the reason I was dreaming of Sting is because of the real-world rumor that he and Andy Summers and Stuart Copeland are reuniting this year for a tour. The Police, together again. It's blowing my mind. I think I'll start camping out for tickets now.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Zounds! ...

No, this is not advertising. It's a testamonial. An unsolicited endorsement. A product review. And a nudge.

For Christmas, my nephews and niece (via my brother and sister-in-law) gave me Zoundz, "an interactive fusion of light and sound."

When I tore the paper off the box, I didn't know what I was looking at at first, but my brother popped in the batteries and gave me a quick tutorial and it's really, truly cool.

An opaque white plastic amoeba-shaped platform has three hot zones onto which you place the differnt pawns to make different sounds - the orange, spiky dude is percussion, the cube can be used to record a voice, etc. Each hot spot causes each pawn to create a different sound and, using controls on the platform, you can adjust the volume and tempo and echo and reverb.

Which means that you can create a lot of very cool tunes.

So what, you ask? Well, if you create a particularly cool groove, you can save it. For what, you ask? You can go to sleep to your music, using a built-in sleep timer, or wake up to your music, using the alarm feature. And each of the hot spots glows different colors in time to the music, so you not only get a cool groove, you get a groovy light show to go with it.

Long ago, Dave turned me onto an iTunes streaming radio station called Groove Salad.

I was playing with Zoundz on Christmas Eve night, completely addicted to moving the pawns around in different combinations and creating new tunes when I realized that what I have is a Groove Salad machine.

My brother is a partner with Big Monster Toys. Big Monster Toys partnered with Zizzle to create Zoundz. But that's not why I'm plugging it. I'm plugging it because it's seriously cool.

Update: I finally had the chance to show this to Dave a couple weeks ago after my recording session. He'd come in to do some work. I showed him the functions (which takes all of 10 seconds) and let him start playing. He found a sound he liked, turned to his keyboard, and started composing around it. Completely fascinating to watch his musical brain work. He picked up the base and examined it for an output - no such luck. He suggested any future iteration of Zoundz should have an output so he could record the sounds into his computer. He's not alone. Several commenters on Amazon said the same thing. Even three months later, i still totally dig mine. It's a great distraction on my desk.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Media Conglomerate That Couldn't? ...

How's this for a morale crusher?

The Columbia Journalism Review has published an editorial suggesting that it's time for Tribune to "sell itself out of the newspaper business."

I used to work for the Chicago Tribune. It's hard for me to fathom that I left the paper nearly 10 years ago, but I was there for nearly five. I never planned on staying that long, but, well, life happens.

The year I left the paper, the Tribune's slogan was "We mean the world to Chicago." Hubris? You betcha. Tribune was buying stakes in anything that would sit still, expanding its empire from print and broadcast television to cable and the Internet. The ostentatious Tower seemed as full of self-importance as ever. Most of the editorial operation was centered on the fourth floor. Some offices operated on the fifth floor, which looked like something out of a Mickey Spillane novel.

The fourth and fifth floors were remodeled. The editor's office was placed smack dab in the middle of the action, where the wire room once sat, a lovely wood and glass facade looking out on the bustling 4th-floor newsroom, made pretty for its television debut, complete with a camera in the corner for live interviews and commentary straight from the source. One of my friends, whose back was regularly seen in such shots, suggested he should sell advertising space on the back of his shirt.

My chronology may be fuzzy, but around that same time, I seem to remember that the paper was closing bureaus around the world. "Bureaus" might be a misnomer in today's news world. In more far-flung reaches, a bureau might be an apartment for one reporter. But if the Tribune meant the world to Chicago, how could it close foreign bureaus? One of the paper's selling points was its pride in gathering its own news, unlike its tabloid competitor on Wabash which relied heavily on wire copy.

When I made the decision to leave the company, my announcement was met with both bafflement and secret applause. Management was shocked that I was leaving, my colleagues all but carried me out on their shoulders. But when your job has you swigging cherry-flavored Mylanta straight out of the bottle you carry with you everywhere, it's time for a change.

I'd interned at Chicago magazine (now owned by Tribune) and worked two summers at the Chicago Sun-Times and realized that, for most, working in the media is a plain old job. For most, the hours suck and the work is thankless. You churn out content day after day that gets slightly more than a passing glance by the readership. And the digital age has made newspapers all but obsolete. News programs, too, for that matter. I watch World News with Charles Gibson and I usually know all the stories in the line-up. What I get from the nightly news is analysis, chunked up for me in easily digestible sound bites.

Analysis is what newspapers purport to offer in this immediate-news age. Context. Well, that's great. If people are going to take the time to read it. But who does? There's a reason RedEye exists: It can be scanned on a 20-minute L ride. And it's full of fluff, because, gosh, like, the world is just too serious, you know?

Still, some news orgs are doing things right. The New York Times, the successful older brother that the Tribune has always tried so hard to emulate, is moving into new digs. Its web site is my home page. I bristled at first at the debut of TimesSelect - paying for content?! - but hey, newspapers need to make money online, and advertsing isn't the end all, be all. Classified advertising is a revenue stream that's slowing to a trickle thanks to some guy named Craigslist.

So I've known for a long time that most of my Trib pals aren't in love with the hallowed halls anymore, but the suggestion that the Tribune "sell itself out of the newspaper business" makes my jaw drop. While I was there, the paper celebrated its sesquicentennial (that's 150 years). Ten years later, the stock is struggling and the company is putting assets up for sale.

As a former Tribunite and current friend just wrote:

"In search of a focus right now the Tribune is an entertainment/consumer rag. They play up the Bears, the Cubs (of course) and the hottest band in town or the best face cream. Articles are insipid. There is no vision or leadership.

But was there ever? The Tower will have great condo views."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Truce! ...

Hi, friends:

Whew! The last couple of posts have incited a bit of a comment war. I haven't had this many comments since I wrote about Wal-Mart. Interesting what will bring people out of the woodwork.

In response to Anon's latest comment, let me say "thank you." I appreciate the apology. I did indeed take the original comment personally as I was the implied subject of it. And then there's just the plain ol' limitation of the written word: Without inflection, sometimes it's hard to gauge what's really intended.

I absolutely welcome comments, and while I've said that I'd prefer them to be polite, I won't censor anyone. (Well, unless I get spam comments. Those I delete. But the word-verification step seems to do the trick.) It's just that the world can be such an harsh place. So much vitriol is spewed every day from so many sources. I'd like to steer clear of it when I can. But everyone is entitled to their opinions and everyone has the right to express them.

And so allow me to apologize to Anon for calling him an ass in my response to his first comment. (I just get the feeling Anon is male, hence my repeated use of "his" and "him.") What's that saying? Be the change you want to see in the world? If I hope for less conflict in my blog, I shouldn't fan the flames, so to speak.

It's the morning of January 1. I'm looking forward to a truly exceptional 2007. I feel emboldened to take some leaps that I've been too timid to take in the past. My ducks are in row. The future looks bright. And I feel like whatever I do today helps set the tone for the year. Toward that end, I just had my last biscotti from the Christmas batch with my morning decaf and goo (that's flavored coffee creamer, for those who don't know that I call it "goo"). I think having biscotti in the freezer is a damn fine plan for 2007.

I wish everyone a healthy, happy, fulfilling, peaceful new year.