29 December 2007

a sandy christmas

at some point last week i decided to hold off on my music list extravaganza until my friends and i have completed our work making the annual meta list, so if you were holding your breath waiting for my top albums list, well, i hope you gave up or have exceptional lung capacity.

in the meantime, here's a post from sunny san diego. (actually, it's not exactly steaming hot down here, but when i talk to my med school friends who didn't leave the chicago area for christmas i make it sound like it's a non-stop sweatfest down here, just for the jealousy effect.) and since i'm mentioning med school, all the grades came in, and thus far i am still on my way to being a doctor. i can definitely say i've never been happier to get passing grades, so i guess this semester has whatever dubious distinction that honor bestows upon it. (and since i'm writing convoluted sentences i'll note that now when i write any sentence too far outside the standard style i try to guess how strong a candidate it is for another of kim's polls, and how many people i think would be able to ascertain my meaning if a poll were made. and speaking of--i'm sure some of you are wondering who "won" the bet or what have you...unfortunately, the parameters of what, exactly, is being bet on or what would comprise a victory are never as clear once the results are in as at the beginning, so it's hard to say. for example, kim had originally predicted that 9 out of 10 people wouldn't understand the sentence, which i am now to understand meant "wouldn't understand upon first reading," so in her eyes the fact that most people had to read it two or three times clearly means she foretold correctly. whatever the case, though, it seems pretty likely that i'll continue to write these sort of labyrinthine sentences every now and again, and when i do the end readability will not be a high priority for me. take it as a challenge, or safely (correctly?) assume it's not particularly important and move on.)

this was going to be about my break, though, and that's where the above photo (shot by mr. michael chan) comes in--here is our day after christmas beach football game documented in all its sandy, oceany glory. the blurry figures in the background are the "old people" team (which i was surprised to grouped with--when did that happen?), who overcame their alleged aged, creaky bodies (and my inability to catch the ball for most of the game) and won the day. i proudly pledge my allegiance to the old people. hail, old people!

most of break has been similarly enjoyably spent (but with much less physical activity since then, as my efforts at the game made me so sore i've needed assistance to get into or out of cars or beds (old people, i embrace your traditions! i am one of you now!)), and today my family joins us out west for what will certainly be even more adventures.

17 December 2007

music week, part 1

ah, freedom! i have emerged from my spot in the library and into the bright and blinding light of snow and sunshine. it's a lovely world out here, and i'm pretty excited to be taking it all in. and of course on this first day of vacation i'm spending it supine on the couch under a blanket with coffee, music, and my blog. well...the great outdoors can wait a bit, can't they? i should think so!

sometimes i think it would have been pretty cool, from a strictly music geek standpoint, to have been alive (and of the proper age) in the 60's. obviously, i'm a big nerd for music, and it would have been just amazing to have lived during rock music's creation and defining first years. can you imagine living through the beatles and the beach boys fighting for the right to author rock's defining moment? or living through a year in which the beatles and jimi hendrix released monster double albums, cash did folsom prison, the velvet underground released an album that even further pushed the limits of what rock music could or could not be, and also the kinks, simon and garfunkel, and van morrison (to name a few) all released albums that would all ultimately be considered classics? amazing, right?

well, in a way i've got it even better. a few years back i experienced pretty much the equivalent of the entire bob dylan discography being released in the same calendar year. before that i lived a year when radiohead released kid a alongside the white album and the flaming lips' the soft bulletin, which was obviously a pretty good year. so in celebration of the 50 years of rock behind us, i am going to kick off a week of musical musings by presenting you all with a list i've wanted to make in past years but never got around to, which i have decided to title "best albums of the year (not of this year)". the criteria is simple enough: my favorite albums i heard for the first time this year that came out previous to 2007. so here are a few i loved:

Lilly Allen, Alright, Still (2006)

this is an album i missed last year and picked up when i heard a 5 second clip of "LDN" as a radio show's bumper music. (the part where she's singing "sun is in the sky, oh why oh why would i wanna be anywhere else?" at the end of the song, with the horns and the layers of vocals). that was all i needed to hear--i was hooked. i had to find that music, and i did, and then for about 3 weeks that was all i listened to. i'm happy about myspace's democratization of music, but to be honest, the back story of this album was one of the reasons i didn't hear it sooner--it seemed like every time i read an article about her during the year it was talking about the "myspace sensation" or something, and always the actual music a sideshow. fortunately, i finally heard the music, and the music definitely merited all the excitement.

Stevie Wonder, Talking Book (1972)

you know in "high fidelity" when barry makes fun of that guy for trying to buy his daughter "i just called to say i love you", and barry asks rob "top 5 musical crimes perpetuated by stevie wonder in the '80s and '90s, go. sub-question: is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?" when i saw "you are the sunshine of my life" as track 1 on this album, i figured this album fell under the latter day sins category--i can't stand that song's creepy keyboard part and that woman's cloying voice singing those creepy, cloying lyrics. i should have stayed all the way through the credits one of the 15 times i watched that movie, though, because if i had i would have heard album closer "i believe (when i fall in love it will be forever)", and then i would have realized how (to quote rob) unassailably cool the REST of the album is. stevie wonder has an amazing voice and a crazy knack to put sweet pop melodies over the top of really funky rhythms and make it work. this is old news and you probably already knew this, i guess. (i'm imagining my more senior readers chuckling at my "discovering" stevie wonder. i should have known--i mean, "superstitious" is on this album. what more proof did i need?)

Stars of the Lid, The Tired Sounds of the Stars of the Lid (2001)

every so often, my friend andrew lawton will emerge from a month or so without communication to announce on my voicemail or in an email that he has found some music that i must hear. this year's biggest musical discovery by way of andrew was stars of the lid. if you look up information about this band, the adjectives you're most likely to see are words like "drone", "ambient", "sleep", etc. it sounds probably a little boring--there is very little emphasis on melody, and unlike a lot of bands that use lots of expansive sounds, there is no climax here. whereas some music gives you the distinct impression of flying great distances, the world far down below, stars of the lid lifts you several feet off the air and just holds you there, wieghtless. the sounds simply float from the speakers and after several minutes seem to retreat back from where they came. as study music, as de-stressing music, as white noise to blot out the sounds of the outside world for a mid-day nap, this band was a fortuitous find for this, my first year of study-filled, stress-inducing, sleep-deprived medical education, but this music also exists on its own merit, and not simply as a utilitarian means to an end. after all, levitation is not something you just experience every day.

Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

i'd been hearing about this album for awhile now--it shows up on a few best albums of all time or best albums of the 70's lists, which it will probably not surprise you to learn that i actively seek out on the internet and in magazines, so when i stumbled across a used copy at the record store, i decided to check it out. and you know what? worth the hype. kim says it sounds like a musical, which i have to agree about (sometimes), but with the caveat that it sounds like that rare song from a musical that's actually good and is sung by someone NOT trying to put so! much! energy! in every word and e-nun-ci-ate every syllable like they're teaching english to immigrants. there's definitely a lot of drama in his delivery (like on "without you" (saved by the bell flashback!!!)) and in the arrangements, but never so much that it outweighs the songs themselves, which on this album are uniformly excellent pieces of pop delight.

The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle (1968)

awhile back, a new friend of mine mentioned that this is one of her favorite bands of all time, and i could only think of two singles that i knew they'd done. i clearly needed to do some research, so i read up, did some downloading, and found probably one of the best albums of its time. this album is perfect. i mean, every song. this album is the reason i made this list--i just wanted to celebrate it in some way, and now i'm finding myself incapable of thinking of words to extol it. the songwriting, despite 30 years of influence on a whole bunch of music i've loved for a long time, feels fresh and surprising. i almost can't highlight a particular song because every song merits mention, but...gosh, the jilted desperation of "maybe after he's gone", the melancholy reminiscence of "brief candles", the giddy exuberance of love in "i want her she wants me", and the sultry sexiness of "time of the season" are all prime examples of how well pop songs can capture each of those parts of the human experience. "friends of mine" makes me wish i had some context in which to perform it publicly, and i'll either play "this will be our year" every year on new year's or on kim's and my anniversary, because i just like it that much, and i think it ought to be a part of the fabric of life. the melodies are frequently heartbreaking, as is the vocal delivery. the lyrics are touching but not sappy, classic without being cliched. almost every song has a moment, usually in an explosion of aaaaah's and soaring harmonies in the chorus, that makes you feel...something (sometimes joy, sometimes melancholy) so strongly that you're just so happy to be alive you almost feel silly. as much as anything that came out this year, this album will in many ways define 2007 for me, and i'll probably always remember the way i felt the first time i heard this music, that transcendent rush of joy, that excitement of discovering something wonderful that makes me glad i've got 50 years of hidden treasures from the past to discover over the next 50 years.

so there it is, part 1 of the list extravaganza. did you all make any excellent discoveries this year? hollah in the comments section! and check back on wednesday for the next installment in 2007 music documentation.

10 December 2007

A Small Poll

I am conducting a poll.

But first you have to read Jeremy's blog post, that comes before this one. Then come back.

::: (I am waiting. I will be here when you return.) :::

Welcome back. What a nice blog that was. I especially liked the part about me.

Here is the poll:

Do you understand the sentence quoted below? If so, please translate. Please answer YES or NO, with modifying comments if necessary. (We are betting money on this, so don't leave without commenting!) And drumroll....

"i won't say i want to do this, but i will say i'd rather do this than be utterly lost when the second half of the year i can't wait to pair in sentences with past tense verbs starts."

Thank you for your participation.

next week daydream

this morning i took a test for my physiology class. it was ok. wednesday i have a nutrition test and then friday is the physiology final. after that, barring disaster, i will have survived the first semester of medical school, and passed everything, too! i will count this as a victory and be pretty happy about it.

i'll also be pretty happy about break, which starts on friday after that last test. you may have heard med school can be a rather intense experience, and if you have, you have heard correctly. that makes the non-intensity of breaks even more refreshing. so that's what i'm usually thinking about while staring blankly at whatever textbook page is in front of me. it makes my brain salivate. i've never really thought about it before, but i guess if the brain salivates it salivates from its pituitary gland. (oh, great--more than a month away from the blog and i'm already making med school jokes in my first post back.)

anyway, as i've been thinking a lot about what i'll do when break is done, and also about how i wish i'd been blogging more this last semester, i thought i'd combine these two thoughts into one action: a blog about what i want to do over break, which i'm going to go ahead write as a numbered list, it being december and all (see #1).

1. first of all, i plan to take part in my favorite december tradition: the making of lists. this year i plan to make at least three lists (which you all can look forward to showing up here in the near future): a top 10 2007 albums list, a top 2007 songs (not on top 10 albums list) list, and a favorite albums of the year (not of this year) list. as a preview to all of that (i realize this is more for my benefit than yours), i have added that flash widgety thing on the right sidebar of what i've been listening to lately (now you can always know!) and also the picture there, which is i think all the 2007 albums that'll be in contention for those lists.

2. lately, i've been noticing strange changes around my apartment--things aren't where i left them, the dishes keep getting cleaned, and sometimes the toilet seat is inexplicably left down. apparently, my wife also lives where i live. high on my list this break is investigating this fact and perhaps even getting to hang out with this wife person. i expect that together fun will be had. and...

3. also i expect there to be some together enjoying of the city i've been seeing the tall buildings of while riding my bike home each night. looks like a fun place--i think i'd enjoy visiting.

4. i want to play my guitar. i haven't done nearly enough of that lately. i would like to play the guitar, and perhaps even make up things to play on my guitar. and then play them.

5. unfortunately, i am going to be reading about neuroanatomy during the break. i won't say i want to do this, but i will say i'd rather do this than be utterly lost when the second half of the year i can't wait to pair in sentences with past tense verbs starts.

6. i bought myself a christmas surprise last week, and provided it arrives next week, i plan to open it and see what's in it. at this point all i know is it's someone's entire record collection which a friend rescued from certain trash. there will almost certainly be pictures of this excitement when the time comes. obviously this will be a several day project of cataloging, careful listening and evaluating the quality of the records and the music, deciding which to keep, and possibly reorganizing of the collection, should the number of keepers necessitate more space.

i have 1 week in which to do this, and then kim and i are going to california to celebrate christmas with BOTH our families. we're pretty lucky it worked out this way, so it'll be great to be able to see both everyones and also to sit on the sand and relax. that'll be pretty fun.

so, in summary: i'm almost done with the first semester, expect more posts over the next couple weeks, and also sorry about all the not posting.

15 November 2007

Kim vs. The Chicago Transit Authority

Dear long lost friends -

Please forgive our great delay in the land of blog. Mr. Howe Jr. has science-y factoids coming out of his ears and is in no state to compose witty blog posts. Recently he has become addicted to the soundtrack for the musical Wicked, and yesterday I overheard him in the bathroom singing something along the lines of "anterior pericardiacophrenic-fraschia minor" to the tune of "Popular." (Now that I think of it, that DOES sound like something the Wicked Witch would say.)

And I, dear readers, have been studying for my own upcoming test, because - being a chronic biter-off-of-more-than-I-can-chew - I am applying for grad school as well. Marriage, med school, new job, new neighborhood, grown up life... it's just not ENOUGH!

And as a super awesome bonus to these already super things - we also experienced several tragic deaths this month: jeremy's laptop and our transmission are both in technology heaven, to the tune of of $2000. [Update: Engine mounts now... make that $2300.]

Anyway, those are a smattering of excuses for the great delay in our blogging.
But we don't want to leave the people's votes unanswered, so without further ado...

Kim vs. The Chicago Transit Authority
* * WARNING * *
Includes language inappropriate for children under 18 or parents over 50.

Several weeks ago my job took a field trip, as we often do. The purpose of this particular excursion was to familiarize ourselves with the buses and trains that service our worksites, even though none of us would actually be using these particular buses or trains to get to our worksites. That's just what we do. Don't ask questions.

We were a group of 12; 10 of us had the normal cardboard passes, and 2 of us had those newfangled plastic psychic cards that are connected to your bank account and which the CTA has been pushing for "convenience and ease of boarding."

I got on the bus last, waved my psychic card over the "magic spot," and went to sit down. About halfway to my seat, the driver called me to come back.

Me: "What's wrong?"
Mr. Driver: "You have to pay."
Me: "Oh, sorry. I thought I did." (waves card again)
Mr. Driver: "Your card doesn't work."
"But I just used it on the last bus like two minu..."
"You can't do that."
"Do what?"
"You can't use it like that."
"Like what?"
"You have to wait 20 minutes." (not true)
"Uh... how are you supposed to change buses if you have to wai..."
"You can't do that."
"Okay. I'm a little confused. What's the problem here exactly?" (she says, politely)
"Your card doesn't work."
"Well, how do you know? What does the machine say? It is invalid? Or just not deducting? Overdrawn? Does it SAY it was used too recent..."
"Pay the fare, ma'am."
"This is supposed to be a transfer from the last bus! I shouldn't have to pay again if you can't even tell me why!"
"Pay the fare or get off the bus!"
"You are freaking kidding! Unbelievable!! FINE!"
(And she stomps to the back of the bus to beg change from her coworkers.)

At this point, the slow forward momentum of the bus comes to a screeching halt, and I nearly fall down in the aisle.

Mr. Driver is standing at the front of the bus, feet planted like a gunslinger, pointing at me and yelling: "PAY THE FARE BEFORE I CALL THE POLICE!!"

Me (shouting back across the length of the bus and over several Mexican women): "I'M COMING, FOR F***'S SAKE!!"

Marching back to the front of the bus, I end up nose to nose with Mr. Driver, and holding my two dollars above the machine, I whisper in a voice of barely suppressed rage:
"Here's your two dollars. But I shouldn't have to pay this. I already paid, my card works, and you are rude and an idiot."
(money enters machine)
Mr. Driver: "Get off my bus!"
"No. I already paid."
"Well then find it."

And we stood there glaring at each other, while the rest of the bus waited for the climax of our epic faceoff.

Eventually I spotted his badge number and ferociously scribbled it down while I scowled at him, and then stomped back to my seat, while he continued glaring at me in the rearview mirror.

The best part: A few minutes later the old lady sitting next to me leaned over and whispered, very knowingly, as only old ladies can, "He's kind of bastard..."

About a week later, after calling twice and sending two emails and a letter to the CTA, I received the following note: "As soon as your initial complaint was received, it was immediately forwarded to the General Manager of the garage where the #60 route originates to begin an investigation. That review showed your card actually did register the 25-cent transfer fee when you boarded the #60 bus at about 2:47 p.m., so we will have to check the farebox to see if there was a malfunction."

And that's basically the end. I guess this story is a bit anticlimactic after all that shouting' and stompin'. It would have been better if we'd had a throwdown in the aisle, and then Mr. Driver went unconscious after my wicked pile driver, and then I'd commandeered the bus and given free rides for everyone. And tootsie rolls. Yeah. That would have been awesome. Maybe next time.

Next up: Sleep Talking or Cadaver Life (or Living Cadavers Talking in Their Sleep... one of those).

26 October 2007


this blog is hardly a current events-linking kind of place, but since i went on at length about it as recently as last week, i thought i'd update you all with this bit of news.

like i was saying, that was some monumentally bad coaching there. restore the order, US soccer!

for the record, when callahan gets fired at the end of the season, i probably won't post anything about it. but i will be pretty happy about that, too.

25 October 2007

Plugs for Blogs

Faithful readers, while we wait for the final results of Jeremy's reader poll, a commercial break...

At the request of my dear, dear friend, the elusive and perhaps fictional Mr. Derrick Fudge, who is trying to take over the world, I am informing you of the existence of his collection of blogs, all of which fill my days with meaning and make life worth living. He is currently in a push to more effectively spread his propaganda across the cyber universe, and he needs more of the masses to read. So, masses, unite!
Please note, the Howe Jr. family cannot be held responsible for any brain damage resulting from exposure to these blogs. Enter at your own risk.

P.S. Mr. Jeremy Pietsch/Derrick Fudge. I now consider my debt to you paid in full, you treacherous fiend.

20 October 2007

life imitates art

the votes are in, and...US women's soccer wins. i'm not gonna lie, i'm kind of surprised. suddenly i feel a little self-conscious, like i made the title too interesting and only disappointment can follow. but i'm telling myself that if this is boring it's your fault because you picked this topic.

this is now old news, but i guess that's the advantage of writing about the women's world cup--for all you know, the final is going to be played tomorrow night in pakistan (actually: last month in china). so just in case you didn't get up at 5am during the tournament to catch the US attempt to win their third world cup (did you know we're actually good at women's soccer? this is hopefully not the greatest success that feminism's struggle has brought our country, but it's a nice bonus), here's the story:

the united states played well, but perhaps not as dominantly as many had expected, in winning their first round group. they advanced to a semifinal game against brazil, which was certain to test the team more than any of their first games had. just before the semifinal, US coach greg ryan made the unexpected move of pulling starting goalkeeper hope solo for 36 year old backup briana scurry. after allowing 2 goals in the first game of the tournament (while the US played short one player), solo had strung together some 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal, and by all accounts was in excellent form (she also started almost all of the 50+ consecutive games they'd won coming in to the semi). scurry, on the other hand, hadn't started or played in months and was doubtlessly rusty. coach ryan made this decision because he believed scurry would be good at the kind of reaction saves brazil's insanely loaded and creative offense would presumably necessitate. he based this on scurry's performances against brazil, especially what was probably the best game of her career in the olympic semifinals three years ago. to say this decision was risky is to say it's reckless to drive 100 mph through downtown chicago. without a seat belt. drunk. blindfolded. and...with really hot coffee in your lap. as most people might have predicted, the US fell apart and lost badly (4-0), the team's unity was shaken, solo criticized her coach, and was completely ostracized from the team.

because the idiocy of the decision was so mind-boggling, and because just saying "worst coaching ever!" didn't quite satisfy my need to quantify the truly awe-inspiring display of incompetence, i found myself struggling before the game to think of an analogy, or a corollary, or some famous previous blunder for comparison. i thought there wasn't any, but then i remembered the simpson's episode where a bunch of major league all-stars play for the springfield power plant's softball team. remember that one? in the last inning of the championship, the game is tied and the bases are loaded, and darryl strawberry is up to bat. but then montgomery burns, acting as manager, benches strawberry for a drunk homer simpson, who's been sitting in the dugout drinking beer all game. strawberry protests that he's hit 9 home runs in this game. burns says "you should be very proud" and then explains that the opposing team's pitcher is a lefty, so in sending a right-handed batter to the plate, burns is playing the odds. in addition to being an excellent episode, this episode provides a precedent for our coach ryan. the sheer number of analogous factors makes my toes wiggle with satisfaction. in the show, homer gets beaned, passes out, and springfield wins the game. unfortunately for the US, nothing really exciting happens when you get hit with the ball in soccer (although even that would have necessitated scurry reaching the ball before it went into the goal), and the US suffered its worst loss ever, lost a shot at winning the world cup, and risked losing one of the best goalies in the world.

"this is all well and good, jeremy, but i've just spent 10 minutes reading this--do you have a point?" that is an excellent question, and i'm glad you asked, reader! i'm not sure, so here's a multiple choice-style conclusion to this post:

a.) coach ryan is maybe the worst coach in the history of women's soccer. he may also be the worst coach in the history of coaching, women, and history.
b.) there's a simpsons reference for everything that happens in life!
c.) apparently there's world cup for women, too.
d.) none of the above. and i want my ten minutes back!

also, i sort of liked the way this voting thing worked, so i think i'm going to make it a permanent fixture. some titles will change, some will stay, and new ones will be added. so pick your favorite...

1. sleep talking
2. faq med school [include a question]
3. kim vs. the chicago transit authority
4. critical mass [formerly known as "biggest bike ride ever"]
5. my life with a cadaver

05 October 2007

the interactive gimmick blog post

last weekend kim and i went with some med friends to a show called "too much light makes the baby go blind". it's a theatrical production consisting of 30 short (about 2 minutes) skits. at the beginning of the show, each audience member is given a list of the titles of the 30 skits, and are invited to, at the end of each skit, shout out the number of the skit they want to see next. the first number a cast member hears will then be performed. it was a really entertaining evening, and while there were mixed results, i thought overall it was a pretty cool setup. so i've decided to rip off the concept for the blog, which lately has been in need of a shakeup.

so, since just going by who says something first would result in the much less gratifying result of only having one person respond in the comments box, this is going to be a vote. below i have the titles of several potential, prospective blog entries, and you all must now decide which one gets written. so shout out a number and i'll write the winner:

1. security nazi
2. biggest bike ride ever
3. sleep talking
4. jeremy talks about music he likes lately
5. life imitates art: the women's world cup and the simpsons.
6. i've found that some effective study habits developed in kindergarten are also pretty good for med school, too.

12 September 2007

life in the city

when i moved out to chicago, one of the big exciting reasons for being here was the rock shows--chicago is obviously a big city, but it's also a music city, so there's a non-stop supply of excellent shows coming to town. and when i got here i was not disappointed with what was on offer. among others, i saw modest mouse, bjork, menomena (to name three bands i'd never seen before but really wanted to), and have just really enjoyed the scene out here. what i hadn't thought of, though, is how hard it is to be in a town with all those great shows and be so busy i can't go to them. last weekend the flaming lips, bloc party, and andrew bird were in town, for example. meanwhile i had a physiology test to study for. or a really great show will come to town (the national and st. vincent next saturday), and i will be unsure of my schedule and the show will sell out by the time i know i can go. (sad!)

while missing the music is sad, though, i also hadn't thought much about all the soccer that would come to town. this sunday kim and i and some M1's from school went to see the US play an awesome game against brazil. i high-fived and hugged friends and strangers, i screamed until my voice was hoarse (and screamed some more), and left feeling pretty good about US soccer again. we played really well, taking the early lead, and then pulling even again at 2-2. and when ronaldinho scored on a curling free kick to make it 3-2, the disappointment of going behind was eased by the excitement of having seen such a wonder in person.

in other headline-worthy news, last night the new stereo finally came in the mail. you may recall, as part of God's "happy birthday lightning extravaganza" package, i got the opportunity to replace my fried stereo with something new. and behold the wondrous result:

look at its switches! its knobs! its needles! it's so glooooorious! after a couple weeks without music in the house (an eternity!), kim and i celebrated our new arrangement (which also includes a new replacement wireless router with wireless music capability) by setting up camp on the couch and listening to music (well, and sleeping) for a few hours. yay, music!

08 September 2007

Adulthood Update

Hello family and peeps around the world.

I have some big news. I am a grown up now and I have proof. Hard evidence in the form of an annual salary and a health plan.

As of Monday, I will be starting my first ever full-time adult-type job. Of course, I haven't been sitting around twiddling my thumbs, but until now in my life, people have overlooked that little part about adequate reimbursement. Usually around April 15, the IRS sends me a little note that says, "We are sorry about your sad situation. Here's some money for groceries."

But after much looking, I've been hired by the University of Chicago as faculty in their Literacy Department. Basically, in the mornings I'll be working at Head Start locations with a team of Americorps volunteers, teaching English to the parents of Head Start kids, and in the afternoons I'll focus on mentoring the Americorps folks, who are all local community members - GED students, moms whose kids are in school, etc.

So it'll be a really great blend of classroom time and relational focus, with lots of strategy and challenge. AND, I work like 5 minutes from Jer's classes, am on an academic schedule (so we get the same breaks), and get FREE TUITION at UIC! Whee! Higher education, here I come! And of course there's that bit about having a real income for a change.

Plus, to top it all off, in congratulations for getting the job, the Howe parentals sent me a lovely houseplant (the houseplant of my dreams!) so not only do I have a job, I also have a kick-butt plant.

Really. Could life get any better?
(Yes. But it would involve more houseplants, probably.)

26 August 2007

the first week

i have now completed one week of medical school. that is to say, i am now a medical student, for real. i guess this means i have a career track--i am ON a career track. i will one day, barring lots of persistent failing of exams, be a doctor. i'm not sure if that's scarier for me or for my future patients, but it's not all gloom and despair--it turns out med students know how to party, too.

so on saturday night kim and i went to a party thrown by a fellow m1 here in our neighborhood. there was tasty food and drinks, lots of mixing and getting to know new friends, and discussion of how fast the lectures move, and the homework, and so on. but then, as we all stood on our second floor apartment deck chatting in the evening air, a group of neighborhood kids walked up the back alley armed with water balloons and unloaded on us. one of my classmates tried to catch them to throw them back, but a much more resourceful student began throwing chicken wings and sandwich squares until they ran out of balloons and fled the scene. these events repeated themselves about a half hour later, this time with more words exchanged. a particularly mouthy 11 year old boy responded to some taunting from the students by shouting "don't make me go stone cold steve austin on you!", which left pretty much all of us on the deck speechless--how do you respond to that kind of threat?

a bit later, a kid from the group came alone with a plastic bag and walked away. the bag was full of several filled balloons, a bag of empty ones, and those faucet adaptors that seem great in theory but never really work out--they were inviting us to join in the arms race toward some wonderful kind of mutually assured saturation, and we were more than willing.

it was a pretty good first week, and a pretty great party.

23 August 2007

26 and On Fire

Yesterday was Jeremy Howe's birthday.

And for his birthday, he got hit by lightning.

Well, not so much HE personally, as the apartment in which he resides with his lovely wife.

About 11 pm last night a huge storm was circling our neighborhood, when suddenly it felt like we were inside of a firing gun or the exploding part of a firework. Crazy flashes of light, huge cracks of noise and sizzly sounds, and phantom smokey smells. It made the hair stand up on your arms and your heart skip around inside your ribcage like a wee bunny rabbit. It hit like 5 or 6 times, and all I could think was, "This seems like it should hurt." Like afterwards you ought to check and make sure none of your organs have liquidized.

We have (had) a turret with a weather vane on the roof right above us, which has now been exploded and had its shingles tossed across the street.

But the most interesting part of the whole event is the fact that we have teeming multitudes of insects that happily co-habitate with us, and when the lightning hit, they all simultaneously dropped out of the air, twitching and dead. CRAZY TIMES my friends. Crazy times.

So for Jeremy's birthday, we got our whole apartment building turning into a giant candle, and a free pest extermination.

The end.

17 August 2007

Kim vs. The Produce Manager

Jeremy has requested that for my inaugural blog posting, I tell you all how I was forcibly removed from a local establishment this morning. As you can see, he enjoys a) having an outlaw for a wife, b) her public humiliation.

I've been purchasing my own groceries for some time now, and generally can distinguish an "expensive" grocery store from "my" grocery store ("my" grocery store has at least three aisles completely in Spanish). However, I've never really known what stuff is supposed to cost - just how good of a deal am I really getting? A gallon of milk... $1? $2.50? Tomatoes... $.30/lb? $1.50/lb? It's an uncharted area of financial mystery which I usually just leave in the hands of the sullen smock-wearing employees with pricing guns. But today was the first official shopping trip of Howe, Inc. and having recently married a bottomless pit of a stomach, I anticipated a pretty sizable grocery investment. So I thought, today's the day. I will know what everything costs and darn it all, I will get a good deal. So armed with shopping list, pen, and paper, I set out for some hardcore research.

First stop, my old reliable supermarket. I've shopped there for the last 2 years and even supplied our wedding with mountains of lunch meats from the deli. I was halfway through the veggie section, noting with some suspicion that red peppers cost more than green, when I felt a tap on the shoulder.

Stranger: "Can I help you?"
Me: "Um... no?"
"What are you doing there?"
"I'm writing down prices. Is that a problem?"
"Yes it is. We can't have people writing down prices."
"Um... I don't understand."
"Who do you work for? Why are you doing that?"
(Feeling hot under the interrogation lights...) "So I can get a good deal? How else should I do it?"
"Show me your list."
I was feeling a little flustered at this point, so I handed over my notebook, though this was clearly a violation of some federal grocery-privacy act. He proceeded to rifle through the pages.
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave the store."
"Excuse me?"
"You're writing down everything in the store."
"I am not! I skipped the whole cactus and lentil section!"
"These things are obviously not all for you."
"It's our first shopping trip! We eat a lot!"
"I'm sorry ma'am. If you continue to write down prices, you're going to have to leave."
Me: "(mumble mumble)...unbelievable!...ridiculous!... (mumble mumble)" But I dutifully put my paper away, albeit with much show of grumbling and stomping about. (As is my fashion.)

Fast forward to 20 minutes later, having sneakily carried on in the deli section, and then not so sneakily in canned goods, and downright obviously in dairy.

"Ma'am. I'm going to have to escort you out of the store."
And that was it. And all in the name of fiscal responsibility.

Was it worth it, you ask?
Well, let me pose to you THIS question: Should I buy those pork chops for $1.88/lb? Those blueberry pints at 2 for $4? Well, should I?!

Heck yes! And now I know! And knowledge is power--take THAT, The Man!

13 August 2007

the end of our endless numbered days

this weekend we took our last trip of this summer, this time to maine, to see my friends chris and tarah get married on the ocean shore. it was pretty much as cool as that sounds--maybe i'll show you some pictures in a minute. and it was a great weekend.

since tomorrow is the start of orientation for med school, kim and i had been planning on getting home and falling gratefully into bed, resting up for the first of many long days. but instead, we opened the door of our apartment and were greeted by the rich aroma of natural gas, so i figured i'd write a blog while we wait for the gas people to come and fix the leak. hey, it's a science experiment--let's see if i write more or less coherently under the influence.

the night of the rehearsal dinner, chris and tarah had me sing a song, which i did at the beach. check out this cool blue atmosphere!

here's the wedding itself. here we see tarah ('s veil), chris, brian the pastor, and tarah's sister ashley and friend megan, who we thought was a pretty great person to know and hang out with. i'm representing for the groom on the other side of the beach, but you just saw a picture of me playing guitar, so i figured you'd be ok not seeing that.

the day after the wedding, chris and tarah and megan and kim and i went whale watching. the boat went fast, which blew our hair back and apparently made me squint my face awkwardly. they say the camera adds ten pounds. and the wind, it adds a good fifteen just to your neck. in pure neck fat.

speaking of fat and all, here's a whale. this is the blue fin whale, which is the second largest of the whales. "whale watching" means riding in a boat for a couple hours and never seeing any more than this much of any whale at any one time. so i'm telling you that this whale is really big, but as i never saw more than this 10 feet of it, i've got to tell you i'm relying a little on extrapolation and a lot on the tour guide, who sounded pretty knowledgeable.

in three-part summary, congratulations chris and tarah; maine is cool; and if i think much about it, i'm a little nervous about tomorrow and the beginning of all that. i'll update you with all that fun soon. in the meantime, i'm gonna go get started on the rest of my life!

05 August 2007

overdue update, part 3: our apartment

editor's note: this is the third in a three part series of...overdue updates. gosh, my title was so effective this editor's note feels sort of superfluous. anyway, the other two are directly below this one. don't miss out!

after a lot of painting, hauling, throwing away, and stowing in hidden places, our apartment is finally completed. last night we had an open house so our friends around here could see us and our new place, but just in case you couldn't make it and you don't live close enough to expect you'll be able to stop by in the next couple weeks, here are some photos of our place.

when you first walk into our apartment, this is what you see. it's our kitchen, and we're pretty pleased with it. note the shelves and radical dish arrangement, which we did ourselves, and the excellent yellow ("semolina", the paint can says). also note the fire escape exit out the window, which is how you get to our excellent roof-top views of the city.

here's the other wall of our kitchen. as you can see, there's not a lot of storage space, which leads to such things as dish displays, or (as in this photo) a suspended dish-drying shelf system, which is unanimously referred to (by kim and myself) as "ingenious". hm...also, we have a mat by the sink, which is nice.

if you look to your right when you come in the front door, you see a bathroom. this one, in fact. but i mean, it's just a bathroom, so...let's move on, shall we?

don't just stand there in our front door, come on in! you could walk, for example, into our living room. it has these windows, which is pretty much my favorite part of this place. that, and the tall ceilings. it's really pretty nice. if you come over, you can have dibs on the love seat. kim made the coverings for the cushions you see here, and even though it was her first such endeavor they turned out really great. she's kind of amazing that way.

to the right of those windows is the old music corner. as you can see, i've got some more plywood crates--my dad and i were busy when i got back to nebraska. this is probably my favorite corner of my favorite room in the house. i just think it looks really quite nice. and now there's room for expansion of the collection, which is of course really important. what good is a record collection if you're not always getting more and more and more? exactly.

next wall to the right is the door back to the kitchen. don't you just love how ridiculously detailed this tour is? aren't you glad you're not here in person, and feeling obligated to say "oo, neat!" or "i love what you've done with the color in this room!"? yeah, i thought so.

i'm sure you're wondering, so i'll tell you. the criteria for the selection of records to place on a wall display is complicated, but can be broken into four broad categories: musical quality, artwork, overall value, and context. obviously, if i don't actually like the music, the album has no business being displayed. and, since it's doubling as decor, the artwork had better be pleasing to look at. value refers to a record's worth. this could mean monetary value, as in the case of that death cab album, which is both an original pressing and out of print, or to sentimental value, such as its neighbor the notwist album, which i purchased in barcelona. what a souvenir! finally, context can mean the color of the wall behind the record, or to the records around it, or to any records also being displayed. two records by the same artist just wouldn't do, for example.

fret not, dear reader, our tour is coming to its end. here's our bedroom, and the final room in our apartment. i like the bedspread, and the color, which kim selected and even painted while i fell asleep on the bed, mumbling how i'd be very happy to help her tomorrow if she'd just quit for the night.

here's a very nice piece of furniture, which we bought off the previous tenant of this apartment. not only is it full of books we love (well, mostly), it's also got a ton of character and looks just amazing. plus, we didn't have to move it really at all, since it was already in the apartment when we got here. i wish i could at least pretend to be ironically taking this much pride in the apartment, or at least in the detail to which this pictorial show is going, but...i can't even pretend!

here, for the sake of completeness, is the last walls of our bedroom. and there's our closet door! as you can see, my desk had to sacrifice its amazing paint job for the room, which was kind of sad, but ultimately i suppose the desk and i both knew that one day its wild color scheme would meet its end for some greater, more color coordinated good. all the same, i sleep better at night knowing its bright colors aren't gone forever, they're just resting beneath the olive exterior.

so that's the apartment--believe me, it's even better in person, so come by and see it (us)! we'd love to have you come visit.

and finally, this is my 100th post on this blog. i wish i had something momentous to say, but i feel like the milestone entry being one that droned on endlessly about the boring minutiae of something like home decor feels ironically, beautifully appropriate on its own, and we'll leave things at that.

overdue update, part 2: silly jobs and free things

on friday i worked for the company which had previously employed me as an international man of mystery. but my job this week was to be a street musician. i played songs downtown, and the teams had to find me, give me a dollar (yes!), and then identify the song i played to get points for that mission. this ought to be a pretty straightforward task, but i was pretty stressed the morning of the job because of my inability to identify what qualifies as a well-known song. i spend such an inordinate amount of time listening to music, or finding new music, or reading about it, that i've sort of lost track of what normal, non-music nerd people know about. add to that that the people playing were a generation or two removed from me (but not so old that they grew up on rock in the 60's), and you see why i was wringing my hands, deciding if "rebel rebel" (or any david bowie song, for that matter) is really as famous as i think it is, or as it ought to be, or if people who aren't within 10 years of me know anything by radiohead, or do 40 year olds like kelly clarkson, and so on. it was a tough job, and i hated to be so unoriginal, but i ended up using the beatles. beatles songs are pretty much as universal as oxygen, which probably means it was too easy, but at least people had fun. and gave me money.

it's very interesting to people watch whilst playing guitar in a place with lots of foot traffic. when the first group came, they gave me a cup to put money in so i could collect money from passersby while i waited for other teams. so i was able to note the before and after difference: when you play on the street without a place to put money, people look at you freely, curiously ("where's his money collection place?"). they don't mind when you smile at them and make eye contact, and they smile back, and even sometimes talk to you if you're not singing. after i got the money cup, though, some people tried to look at me without making it obvious that they were looking at me, or even implicitly admitting they knew i was there. and let me just say, most people are pretty bad at doing that. in fact, i'm going to recommend that unless you've been trained in the cia or some other spy institution/ninja school, that you should not try. you're probably not very good, either. i would quit, but like i said, i've been hired as a spy as recently as a month ago, so i'm good to go.

other people (probably people who have seen video footage of themselves trying to look without looking) tried a different sort of covert operation. as they approached, they assessed the situation: "street performer. wants my money. probably desperate. will attack me with guitar or look angrily at me if i don't pay up. DON'T want to pay." so here's the great escape plan. as they come by, they look down at the ground (the first rule is always to avoid eye contact), and then just as they pass, they reach about half the length of their fingers into their pocket as if to reach in for some money, continue by, and then once at a safe distance, remove their hand. it was funny, because it's like they care enough to pretend to want to pay, but not enough to make it convincing. it's the thought that counts, after all. and i'm not complaining at all--in fact i felt sort of guilty when people did throw a buck in my cup, like they imagined i was starving or something, and if they knew i was getting paid like $20/hour they'd feel like i scammed them or something.

speaking of scams, you know those annoying pop-up ads you sometimes find on the internet about getting free electronics? you know, the ones you don't even read, the super annoying ones that mean that epileptics can't ever be on the internet? well, it turns out they're not all evil scams at all--photographed above is the macbook kim got for free just by doing one of those things. she had to sign up for several free trials of various subscription services or credit cards or various other things, and then cancel them before she had to pay anything, and then hassle the business in charge, and they eventually sent her this little beauty, which is so much cooler than my computer that i'm a tiny bit jealous of her. actually, i guess it isn't quite true to say it was free--one of the services charged her $70 because she didn't cancel in time. but, she also got about $80 in gift cards by signing up, so she ended up $10 in the black. $10, plus one free laptop. she's a pretty smart person, even if she is crazy.

overdue update, part 1: adventures with aaron

boy howdy, things have been pretty crazy lately. since getting hitched, kim and i have been racking up the frequent flier miles: trips to colorado springs, california, and nebraska, and this week we're heading to maine to see my friends chris and tarah get married. the day after i get back, med school orientation starts. unfortunately being so busy has meant not having time to update this blog with all the excellent things we've been doing. i think my new year's resolution next year will be seeking that balance: having enough time to write on my blog, but not having so much free time that i never have interesting things to tell about when i write. ah, the zen of the taoist blogger's life. here is a story from recent life...

last weekend my friend aaron came and visited our humble abode so we could all go see sevilla, our hometown team (in spain), play soccer here in chicago. we did, and that was fun, but the next night as we walked around downtown, we came across quite a scene. policemen were running around everywhere, putting up caution tape and herding people along, trying to stop them from taking pictures. we walked a little further on, and saw the burned out body of a crashed helicopter laying on the intersection amongst all the skyscrapers.

we walked a bit further and saw an armored police van, and as we looked closer we saw where someone had shot it several times. we also saw along the side where it said "gotham police department", and then we noticed that all the cars along the street had gotham license plates on them. we had walked right onto the set of the new batman movie while they were still setting up the perimeter tape to keep us out. as we took pictures, some movie people with headsets and walkie talkies ushered us away, but not before kim talked to one of them about being an extra in the movie.

that guy told kim the name of the casting director, so with our taste for movie crashing adventure thus piqued, we walked further along and talked to another official looking person, claiming to be extras and asking where we might find that guy. our use of the name was impressive enough that that official looked us up an address, which made us even more convincing when we got to the next person, asking for an address, a name, and with a plausible movie role. unfortunately, at this point we were back to the people who had first kicked us out, so aaron and i, fearing we'd be recognized (they call it "made" in the business), walked on while kim gained access to the building where the extras go. a security guard there asked for her name, which she supplied, and when he told her she wasn't on the list, she replied "really? i was told to meet (director's name) here at 7:00 with all the extras." so security guard told her where to go, and she made it in where all the extras were waiting to film the movie's big chase scene that night. apparently, there were snacks and assorted free foods, but kim only hung out for a little bit before she left to find us again.

anyway, here's a few other pictures from the weekend:

here's the three of us post-game, after walking from soldier field to the museum campus to enjoy the skyline at night. it's really a very nice skyline--come stay with us and we'll show you!

here's aaron and i enjoying chicago dogs. because i am stuffing my face, you can't tell how happy i am to have found a hot dog eating buddy (kim is apparently biologically or philosophically opposed to "encased meats" as she calls them. see, i told you she's crazy.). plus, these were pretty good dogs.

on saturday we went on an architectural cruise, which was pretty cool. after that (and before batman), we checked out this flamenco show in millennium park. it's a nice view from here, but we mostly watched the show a little closer. like, where you could see what was happening on the stage.

after our batman adventure we grilled out (on my third story fire escape stairway), and had a sing-along time. aaron and i used to play together all the time, so he brought his guitar out with him so we could enjoy that together. hopefully our neighbors enjoyed it as well, even when it got sort of loud singing oh, darling at about 2am. well, we had fun anyway.

22 July 2007

wedding pictures and sounds

michael chan, my friend and brother in law (in law) took some pictures of the wedding and wedding time. he made a slideshow of these photos, which you can see by clicking the word "slideshow". not that one there, the first one. or you can click here. enjoy!

11 July 2007

moving in, kim and jeremy style

here's a shot of our new apartment. and our old car. and our ingenious method for moving and hauling the groceries, etc. ultimately we hope to involve several pulleys and lots of clips and wenches and things. when you come to visit us, if you don't feel like walking up stairs we'll probably just put you in the basket. it'll be fun!

things are going well--we're still getting settled in, and there's of course the decisions about the color of the paint and the arrangement of boxes and records and furniture and all of that stuff. but it's coming together. when everything is in its place kim and i will give you a grand tour of the place. it should be a good time.

oh and by the way i'm using the apple store's internet right now, where i also tried out an iphone and hot diggity they are just really, really, really neat. i realize that they're sort of a big item you've already heard about, and that i should probably have something more to say if i'm going to mention such a ubiquitous device/pop culture phenomenon, but...that's all i have to say. it's really, really, really neat. and also hot diggity.

09 July 2007

the land before time

readers of blog and fellow net citizens (i know i'm supposed to say netizens, but i just can't get myself to do it), i have undergone a life-changing experience. i have a completely new perspective on the world that will probably lead me to completely redefine the direction and meaning of my life. i'm thinking of maybe volunteering at the city rec center or an after school club or something. for behold, i write to you from a strange, foreign land. a desolate, depressing, empty land characterized mostly by a lack of information and a lack of trivial pursuits or really any fun at all. a land where messages can only come as fast as the post office delivers them, where news can only be read in newspapers.

haha, i bet you thought i was talking about marriage until that last one there! no, sadly my friends i am referring to life without internet (married life is actually pretty great, really). i have so much to tell you, so many stories to recount, pictures to upload, and so forth. but for now instead i give you this small update and the assurance that today we decide between at&t's dsl and comcast's cable. and a hope that very soon i will learn about the world's catastrophes from the comfort of my couch. until then, i guess i'll call the soup kitchen.

03 July 2007

a perfect day

so, kim and i got married on saturday. if you were there, you know the day was about as great as it could be, with nice sunshine and a breeze to keep things from getting too hot. people ate food and played park games (thanks to everyone for bringing games--especially dave, who lugged his cornhole game a whole 88 steps from his car to the park (he counted and reported how much effort it took, so i know)) and generally everyone seemed to get used to the idea of a wedding as kim and i had envisioned it, and relaxed, and ultimately enjoyed themselves. at least, the people who told kim and me afterwards what they thought of the ceremony all indicated that they thought it was a success. i guess probably most people don't go around telling the bride or groom they think their wedding is terrible while it's happening, but i'm definitely willing to take this as a positive sign. personally, i thought the thing was a smashing success, and if you didn't come you really missed out on something special. (likewise, though, i suppose the groom doesn't go around saying he thinks his wedding was a failure afterwards. but you should take this as a positive sign, too.)

although we started off designing as simple an affair as we could get away with, this wedding couldn't have happened without a whole host of talented, free labor friends. what follows is unfortunately not a complete list...

first of all, thanks to nellie chan for being the wedding coordinator, at times from as many as 5 time zones away, and for arriving at the scene calmly and coolly and making everything work. (the decorations! the food! the site! and patience and enthusiasm and panache and etc etc etc)

likewise to the entire roth family, who showed up early and moved boxes and foods and peoples around and were very understanding and cooperative in helping us make the thing we wanted to make, even if it wasn't exactly what they wanted to make.

and to the howe family for the meal the night before, for bringing friends and family together and creating such a warm environment in which everyone could meet. that was also exactly what we were hoping for, and we were so delighted with the opportunity to see our friends mix.

to our crack team of photographers, jonathon miano, ryan clarke, and michael chan, for their flexibility, patience, and understanding, and for (probably) taking really great shots. the shot above is courtesy of michael.

to all our friends who helped out the days before or the day of to make either the meal or the wedding or both work so well. slicing vegetables, cleaning fruits, organizing, arranging, carrying, cooking...and all with such great smiles and humor. this couldn't have happened without you!

we mentioned some specifics of the ceremony to carlos and janeil a couple weeks ago, and that was how we realized that we had failed to actually ask them to officiate the wedding. but they took it all in stride, and worked very patiently to discover with us what kind of ceremony we wanted, and put up with being forced into last minute preparations and then made it all come together so well. thanks you guys!

and finally, to everyone who came and participated, and helped us make the day the kind of day we wanted. we had a blast, and we hope you did too!

30 June 2007

i'm getting married today!

...that's all. hooray!

see you soon!

27 June 2007

blogs, weddings, etc.

first of all, i'd like to apologize to all my dear friends and readers for the total lack of blogging. this has been a crazy month, but that's no excuse--this blog is important! be assured that i have every intention to be a very diligent, hilarious, and insightful blogger in the coming months, when i become a newly married first year med student. i'm sure the entries will start to get very interesting in the next couple months...so stay tuned if you want to know what goes through a man twice gone crazy.

in other blog news, kim has now become an official member of this blog, thus making our holy union that much more real and binding. you can expect to hear all kinds of funny stories and musings from her life in the coming days. don't worry, though--she's not going to be some yoko type that starts to edit and limit the creative explosions of words and hilarities that you've all become accoustomed to--she'll simply add to the wonders that happen here. and when we have really passive-aggressive fights we'll probably just post insulting things about each other here, which ought to make for a pretty good read for all of you in internetland. let the adventure begin!

finally, i've heard some concerns from various people about ability to find the wedding once they've arrived at the park. i understand your fears and hopefully will clear them up for you all now. i think the best tool for finding the park is the google maps feature, and i suspect that some of those who are concerned about finding the place don't understand how the map works, so i've included an image of the map here to explain a little. click on the image here for a bigger picture of the map (you need to go to the link on the wedding website to actually USE the map, though). first of all, did you know that by clicking the picture and dragging you can move your view of the map? and did you know that the scale over on the top left can be used to zoom in and out of the picture? and finally, and perhaps most importantly, did you know that by clicking "satellite" over in the top right corner you can have the view of the park you see here, allowing a real-life view of actual landmarks and such? well, if you didn't, i hope this mini tutorial has been of some help to you and will make using the site more helpful in the future, as well as when attempting to find this part of the park. if not, the picture above is a shot taken while standing on the actual place the wedding will happen, and probably there will be signs on saturday directing folks to the location, or to a different location if it turns out we have to go elsewhere for some reason (like a bunch of puerto ricans playing baseball or some such). or call a friend or me or kim and we'll attempt to guide you if you're lost.

so i guess that's it for now--we're in the last days here, so i hope those of you who are coming out are excited for the trip and are looking forward to a great time on saturday--i know i am! hey, if you know my number, do me a favor and call me when you get in town so i can keep track of who's arrived and who's potentially lost. and plus just so i can hear your voices and say hello!

see you all soon!

03 June 2007

chicago, leading the way

chicago is a notable, leading city in many things. we've got the olympic bid, we've got the cuisine (i'd mention more than chicago dogs and italian beefs if it didn't seem so much like bragging), the architecture, the culture, the list goes on and on. and this summer we're #1 in a whole new category: gas prices. that's right, the highest! the number 1, most expensive in the whole country. in your face, everyone else!

and as if that wasn't enough, we're also at the top (or bottom) of another pile. our mail service is the worst in the country. that probably explains why i STILL can't get mail forwarded to me from my lincoln address. this honor is special, though. i mean, anybody can just jack up gas prices--shoot, i'll sell you a gallon of unleaded for $50 right now--but it takes a special something to lose letters, delay parcels, destroy postcards, (and the packages! don't even get me started on packages!) quite the way the chicago post office does. it's a real thing of beauty to behold.

so, in summary. chicago rules. we lead in so many things that we even lead in things other people don't want to lead in. because we lead. we rule.

31 May 2007

the cicadas

as you might remember from a lazy saturday discovery channel program (or wait--didn't you spend your lazy saturdays watching the discovery channel?), periodic cicadas are fantastically disgusting looking bugs that live underground for 13 or 17 years and then come up to make a huge racket, find some insect lovin, and then very quickly die as their offspring head underground for another 17 years. perhaps upon hearing this information you thought "how interesting! what a strange life cycle!" and maybe you also thought "but this information will never have any real impact on me". i did. but then, i wasn't planning on moving to chicago and getting married the summer that three "broods" (that's what they call them) would emerge from their subterranean lairs to make really noisy mating calls (they say it gets up to 100 decibels!), litter the ground with their carcasses, and gross out innocent people throughout the city and in any outdoor weddings that might be happening in any of the city parks. like the one i'm planning on having in a month, just at the height of their infestation.

we, the intrepid bandit wedding planners, are going on as planned with our wedding, plague of locusts or no. perhaps someday we'll look back at a wedding overrun with noisily horny bugs and laugh. or maybe we'll end up miserable and wonder why we didn't take God's warning more seriously. i mean, it's a plague! on the wedding day! what else would you expect?

i guess probably we'll look back and joke that we're miserable, perhaps in response to questions people ask about why we have a cicada's molten body framed on our wall (which also sounds like something else we'd do). probably we'll grossly exaggerate the number of cicadas, the noise, and how many we accidentally ate because they ended up in our sandwiches. probably i'm already exaggerating the number of bugs we'll have in our park and how loud they'll be. if you're planning on coming out for our little picnic/wedding, do us a favor and try not to let the facts get in the way of a good story. and...bring some mosquito netting.

28 May 2007

shaken, not stirred

the hotel room was in complete disarray. on one bed, the pillow had been heavily stained by something red and the sheets were disheveled, three ominous tarot cards apparently arbitrarily arranged amongst the sheets. the other bed was covered in money, poker chips, and playing cards. women's fishnet stockings and oddly colored wigs were strewn about the room, and the light bulb had been removed from the night table lampshade. in the bathroom, several lines of a white powder were neatly laid out on the counter, and the name "IVAN" had been written on the mirror, perhaps in blood. in the bath was a red-stained shirt and a general disorderliness. a knock sounded very distinctly at the door, six times, just as we'd agreed. "vladimir?" i nervously called out in what i hoped sounded like a british accent. after a moment's hesitation a woman's voice said "...yes?" i rushed to the door and opened it to a group of smiling, middle-aged businessmen and women.

last week i was an actor for go game, a company that specializes in team building and scavenger hunts--"the future of corporate play", they call themselves. i played the role of a secret agent at a murder scene--dressed in a black suit, mod sunglasses, and carrying a three-olive martini around the room with me (i don't have to tell you how it was prepared, do i?). as teams entered the hotel room, taking pictures of the "evidence" in the room, i told them of the crime boss ivan, and how vladimir was the only man who had ever seen him and lived to tell about it--we had met in russia two days prior and were meeting in chicago to review the evidence one last time before he testified in court. but it seemed as though vladimir's vices and ivan's henchmen had been his demise--and ivan would be a free man again.

i like my job as an interpreter, but even if this job hadn't paid way better by the hour, it would have been nice just to have a change of pace and pretend to be a double 0 for a day.