Monday, September 10, 2018

What I'm Reading Now -- Lands of Lost Borders

I picked up a habit from dad of trying to read a book about a place that I'm traveling to.  For those of you who don't know, S and I are heading to Cambodia for our honeymoon.  The trouble with books about Cambodia is that there aren't many.  And of the ones I've been able to find, they typically fall into one of two categories: (1) extremely dense history tomes that were probably PhD dissertations at one point in time, or (2) tales from the genocide.

Neither of those were what I was looking for.

Instead, I ventured a bit farther afield and decided to try Lands of Lost Borders.  We're way north of Cambodia, in the Tibet/Mongolia/China area of the world, but the tale seemed suitably adventurous, so we'll give it a go.

If you have any suggestions for Cambodia-related books that are not in either of the above categories, I'd love to hear about them!  I have two Cambodia-related books on the registry which, though fiction, hopefully give an entertaining taste of life: Holiday in Cambodia and A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree (from the Detective Singh mystery series).  I did pick out one relatively dense-looking history book as well, Cambodia's Curse.  That may be my airplane reading for the trip over.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Goals 2018 -- September Edition

Well guys, it's here.  This month, I'm getting married!  I feel like that's all the goal I need for one month.  The end.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Goals 2018 -- August Recap

The month started off with a bang!

I got to spend a lovely weekend with my sisters and mom in Minneapolis!  This was in lieu of other wedding-related festivities, which I'm either too old for (ahem, bachelorette party) or find unnecessary (I'm looking at you, bridal shower).  That trip will be a separate post, so you can read all about our fun when I get around to posting it.

S and I worked a volunteer shift at the PGA.  I wouldn't call it fun, but it was certainly an experience.  That very hot and sweaty experience was tempered by a lovely evening birthday party for our friend M.

My friend L and her husband came in town for a weekend.  The Sunday they were here was PGA day, but we did get to spend Saturday with them.  We ate some tasty meats at Duke's BBQ Shack, then ventured off with the canoe and some floaties to enjoy a very still stretch of the Cuivre River.

We wanted to go hear a lecture about cryptocurrency at the Fed, but by the time I got around to trying to register, it was booked.  So instead we made our own date night, with pizza from Marco's and viewings of two documentaries about Bitcoin.  One of them was Banking on Bitcoin; I can't remember the title of the other one, but S will know.

We went to a charity happy hour at The Royale, where the more you drink, the more money the charity gets.  We were very helpful there!

One thing I didn't get to do a lot (or actually any) of this month was biking.  I was very busy on the weekends, doing a combination of helping S work on the camper, doing wedding stuff (including finally mailing our invitations), and moving to a new office location.  All that took quite a bit of time.  But, there's always September -- which is when cross season starts anyway!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry -- Take 2

Let's not pretend that I understand astrophysics. I do not, even after having completed my read of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.  But it was terribly entertaining and also enlightening.

One of the things I so adore about Neil deGrasse Tyson is his totally unashamed amazement with all things astrophysical.  It would be easy for someone who is as knowledgeable and well-regarded as he is to become insufferably dull, but he manages to maintain his curiosity and sense of wonder at just how big it all is.  That makes him a joy to read, listen to, or see live and in person (if you're lucky!).

Back to the book.  It really doesn't have a plot.  Each chapter is a brief lesson in astrophysics, going more or less from the merely immense to the truly boundless.  The spaces and ideas are so big that it can be difficult to get your mind around them, but it sure is interesting to try.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Language of Children

My friend L said something to me the other day in passing, which didn't catch my attention at the time.  We were having a very adult conversation about the pros and cons of bar shampoo (as opposed to liquid), and she commented that she and her husband tried bar shampoo because "the kids use a lot of shampoo, for potions and stuff."  Sure, they're kids.  Kids do that kind of thing.

But the next day, for some reason, the word "potion" came back to me.  As an adult, when was the last time (excepting your most recent Macbeth study group) that you used the word "potion" in regular speech?

I started thinking about it.  What about the word tattle?  How often do adults still do that to one another, even though we never use that taboo word anymore?  Monster, yucky, magic....  There are loads of nifty words that fall out of the lexicon as we age.  Which ones should we bring back?

Saturday, August 18, 2018


I lived in Chicago for a few years, but I don't think that I appreciated at the time what a cool town it is. Now I relish the opportunity to go back every chance I get.  Imagine my delight when S expressed his concern that if waited until the first available Global Entry appointment in StL, he would not get his card in time for our trip.  His first idea was to take a mid-week day trip up to O'Hare (where appointments were immediately available), but instead we decided to set up a Friday appointment and spend the weekend in the city.  S spent lots of time planning our activities, so we jammed a lot of stuff into a short amount of time.

Once we cleared the interview process, we headed in to M&Ms new house in Ravenswood.  We dropped our things, chatted a bit, hopped on our bikes, and headed down to Revival Food Hall to try out a hot dog pop-up joint that S found there.  Duck Inn Dogs was the destination, and I had (of course) the The Original Chicago-style dog.  I say "of course," but I did give some serious thought to the cheese curds.  I would have gotten both, but we were only a couple of hours from dinner.  For his part, S had the K-Pop dog, and we each got a cocktail from the bar, although S ordered so he would have to tell you what the drinks were.  (Revival Food Hall, I learned, is a bit like a tiny and non-grocery version of Eataly in the Flatiron District, if that means anything to you -- and in looking for that link I also found out that there is an Eataly in Chicago.  Next time!)

After our delicious dogs, we headed back up north to catch up with M&M at the Square Roots Festival for some local beer.  The "admissions" people are way too aggressive, given that's it's a festival on a public street, and basically demand money from you.  Also, the ticket tent which promises "credit cards accepted" does not take credit cards.  But we did eventually get the beer, which was quite satisfying after all the trouble.

Dinner that evening was fetched my S and me from nearby Dante's Pizzeria -- big, NY-style slices, albeit a little cold by the time we got them back to the house and ate them.  But we washed them down with -- act surprised! -- even more delicious beer!  Then M and I engaged in some light crafting in an effort to create a construction barricade out of a sawhorse and some construction paper for their 3-year-old's birthday party the following morning.  It was entertaining, as was the el which runs through their backyard, and which S waved enthusiastically at every time it went by.

Our initial plan the following morning was yoga and beer (for charity!), but the tickets were sold out, so we stuck around and helped with party prep.  About the time the kids started arriving, though, we headed out, off to a great find of S's called Mortar & Pestle.  (We actually first went to Batter and Berries, but the line was ridiculously long and the interior of the restaurant was looooouuud.  So we picked a different place from the list he had put together, scooted over there on our bikes (which were basically our mode of transport for the weekend -- I love Chicago!) and got a great seat with no waiting, outside on a lovely side patio.  It did drizzle on us a bit at one point, and the waitress hurried out to see if she could move us to a table inside.  "No thanks," S politely said, informing her that the rain cooled things off a bit and was hardly reaching us anyway because of the trees overhead.  She admired our tenacity, delivered our breakfast cocktails (Bloody Mary for me, Old Fashioned for S), and left us to enjoy them.  And enjoy them we did!  Bloody Marys can be risky if it's a restaurant whose recipe you're not familiar with, but M&P nailed it.  Breakfast, which we split, was the decadent grilled cheese and the foie gras and eggs.

We perused the goods at Pastoral before heading off to the Southport Art Festival.  Though the skies looked ominous for most of the day on Saturday, aside from the brief drizzle at brunch, our time at the art festival was the only time it rained with any intention (which is not to be confused with intensity).  It was a fairly small festival, but about the right size to spend 45 minutes to an hour poking around.  By that time, I had caught up with L, and we made plans to meet at the zoo, where she had never been.

S and I beat her there (again, yay bikes!), so we spend a lovely 15 minutes or so gazing at the beautiful gardens in Lincoln Park.

We didn't have a lot of time to spend at the zoo because we also heard back from S's aunt, who was on her way up to meet us at Navy Pier (another place L had never been), and since she was on foot, it was going to be about an hour walk to get there.  We got to see (again) the lake shore from the bike path, and that in the summer is such a wonderful place to be.  Plus, I had enough time to snap a pic of one of the classic hotels in such an iconic spot:

Once we got to the pier, and on the advice of Aunt K, we pushed out past the crowds and stalls hawking cheap junk to the end of the pier, where you get the lovely lake breezes in your face and have a wonderful view back up the shoreline towards E-Town.  Our plan for that evening had been to hit up the Red Stars game, but by the time we realized that we needed to get moving, it was too late.  Instead, we grabbed early dinner at Al's Beef, followed by a worth-the-$10-but-not-much-more comedy show at the Under the Gun.

Second dinner that night was carry out pizza at Spacca Napoli, recommended by L.  The pizza was good, the quiet evening patio was good (although they were closing up as we were eating -- we barely got our order in before closing time), and the bike ride there on the largely deserted streets was lovely.  After that it was off to see L and J's new apartment (they are recent transplants from the NYC area), and then to bed.

Sunday morning breakfast was at Quiote in Logan Square.  We had planned to go to somewhere else, but L insisted that this place was delicious.  My pork belly chilaquiles speak to the truth of her statement.  It really should have been two meals, especially since I ate about a third of S's yogurt and granola and one of his Rajas tacos.  Okay, now that I think about it, it probably should have been three meals.  But we were getting ready to head home and I hated to let all that deliciousness go to waste.  Plus, we had done so much bike riding!  I'm sure I burned off all those calories, right?  Right?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Quote of the Day

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."
  -- Louisa May Alcott

Saturday, August 11, 2018

What I Watched -- The 40-Year-Old Virgin

My relationship with Steve Carell's comedy is similar to my relationship with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  They don't sound particularly appetizing when I just think about them, but then as soon as I have one, I remember how good they are.  As with Steve Carell.  When I think about his acting, I think, "Eh.  He's okay, but I'm not a huge fan."  But when I look back at what I've seen of his, with the exception of Anchorman, I like it: The Big Short, Foxcatcher, The Office, Crazy Stupid Love, Little Miss Sunshine, and even Bruce Almighty

And, perhaps not surprisingly when I look at how much of his other stuff I liked, The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  His dopey, slow humor is perfect for the dopey, slow character.  When his co-workers at the electronics store discover that he's a virgin, they make it their mission to find him a woman.  The movie is drastically improved, in my mind, by the inclusion of Paul Rudd in the cast, whom I adore.

Fun fact: way back in the day, Steve Carell was in Curly Sue, but I don't remember his role in it, so I can't comment on whether I liked it or not.

Bottom line: goofy fun.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

What I Watched -- Joe Dirt

A friend convinced me some time ago to watch Archer, swearing I would find it hilarious.  I did not.  Upon reflection, I concluded that I was entirely too sober to find it amusing, and I have not attempted it again since.

Luckily, I was not quite so sober when I watched Joe Dirt, which made it reasonably amusing.  The whole thing was probably helped by the fact that I find David Spade amusing, even if the film is stupid.

He plays Joe Dirt, white trash, but a nice guy.  He was abandoned by his parents as a child, and has spent the intervening decade and a half trying to find them, and get the story behind why they left him.

Bottom line: the movie is stupid.  It's frat boy humor at best.  But if you're in the mood for stupid, frat boy humor, it fills the bill.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Quote of the Day

"The two worst things we have in life are routine and fear -- the things that paralyze us."
  -- Francis Mallmann