16 December 2008

Party Down

I had my first corporate Christmas (whoops, sorry, "year-end") party over the weekend and I learned three things.

1. Some people have really lame significant others. I am continually amazed by people who physically appear to be adults, but proceed to sit silently like children. There's really nothing quite like saying "oh, Nicole, it's so nice to meet you, Bill tells me you're from Colorado?" and get "mm-hm" in return. Aaaaand, thanks for playing. I've really never been so happy to be single in my whole life (well, and that time at the grocery store when this couple was having this awful passive-aggressive argument over what kind of cereal to get)

2. Apparently, I am fun. It was always my impression that the band is the point of these things. We had over 1000 people there, so mingling wasn't really the order of the night and besides, the band was too loud for that anyhow. And good! A nine piece band with four singers playing crowd pleasers all night - awesome! But out of those 1,000+ people, there were only about 30-40 dancing. So I thought that was sad. The food really wasn't good enough to justify coming if you didn't plan to dance.

3. When I need to be, I'm quite the actress. One skill I really am developing is the ability to play a certain part in work-related social interactions. You know, the "fun but not too fun, funny but not too funny"...I bet everyone thinks I had a great time at the party. Mission accomplished!

In other news, Mary Poppins was on TV tonight. I think that just might be my favorite movie of all time. If I have children, I'm definitely going to raise them to a) like classic movies and b) not be too self-conscious to dance.

23 November 2008

Look Out World!

A New York Times article by Jeff Zeleny. Couldn't have said it better myself.

A New Wind Is Blowing in Chicago

SO long, Crawford, Tex. Even before President-elect Barack Obama takes office in 61 days, effectively crowning Chicago as the site of the Western White House, the city is basking in a moment of triumph that is spilling well beyond the confines of politics.

A bid for the summer Olympics in 2016, which once seemed like a fanciful pitch, suddenly feels far closer to a sure thing. (No, the ban on lobbyists at the White House does not apply to a little presidential persuasion on the International Olympic Committee.)

A spire is finally poised to be placed atop the Trump Tower here, bringing the skyscraper to 1,361 feet, the tallest American building since the Sears Tower was built three decades ago.

A new Modern Wing for the fabled Art Institute is set to open next spring, including a Renzo Piano bridge to Millennium Park, which sat in the distance of Mr. Obama’s election night victory speech here.

Yet this moment of renaissance for Chicago is about much more than architecture and athletics. For the first time in the country’s history, an American president will call this city home. And as he moves to Washington, a dose of the Chicago mood is sure to follow.

“We’re not Little Rock and we’re not Texas,” said Rick Bayless, a friend of the Obama family, who owns Frontera Grill and is among the city’s celebrity chefs. “It’s easy to put on your cowboy boots and eat all that barbecue. You can’t do that from Chicago. We’ve got a lot of muscle and it’s far too complex of a place for that.”

The complexity of Chicago, a city that is multiplying in its new diversity even as it clings to a segregated past, is rooted in the 200 neighborhoods that make up the nation’s third-largest city. America may well know Oprah Winfrey, who became a billion-dollar name through her rise to fame here, but the city holds a far broader identity.

One sign that the Obama brand is replacing the Oprah brand? The talk show tycoon is not mentioned in the city’s new tourism campaign, which invites visitors to “Experience the city the Obamas enjoy.” Ms. Winfrey’s studio is not mentioned along the list of stops, which range from Mr. Bayless’s restaurants to a bookstore in the Obamas’ Hyde Park neighborhood to Promontory Point along Lake Michigan. And souvenirs are on sale across town, with Obama shirts, hats and knickknacks arriving just in time for holiday shopping.

“It seems like there are eight million people walking around here congratulating each other,” said Scott Turow, the best-selling novelist who was born in the city. “Chicagoans are unbelievably proud of Barack and feel of course that he’s ours, because he is.”

Catching himself, he added: “I guess I should get out of the habit of calling him Barack.”

The marketing pitch, in the wake of Mr. Obama’s victory, offers a window into the two-fold psyche of the city: It is a big enough metropolis not to be easily fazed by events, though the fabric of the community is stitched just tight enough to burst in a rare moment of giddiness.

Chicago has long been a place that seems comfortable — or, at least, well adjusted — to losing, a place where you put your head down and shoulder through whatever hand is dealt you. (How could it be otherwise, considering all the practice that the cursed Chicago Cubs have provided over the years?)

In 1952, when an article in The New Yorker derisively referred to Chicago as the Second City, little offense was taken. It became a marketing pitch, with the thinking that second fiddle was far better than no fiddle at all.

But that gawking, out-of-town amazement — gee, there really is a city here! — has long outlived its currency. Well before Mr. Obama was elected as the nation’s 44th president — a fact that was proudly amplified by Mayor Richard M. Daley, who ordered up banners with a sketch of the president-elect to hang throughout the city — Chicago was experiencing one of its most blossoming periods in food, fashion and the arts.

Now, people around the country and the world are simply noticing.

Jeff Tweedy, the leader of the band Wilco who grew up in downstate Illinois and lives in Chicago, said the city never felt the inferiority complex that outsiders spend so much time musing about. Still, he said, the election of Mr. Obama, a friend for years, has given an unusual boost of confidence in a city that is usually nonplussed.

“I think people really do enjoy the idea that we’re living in the center of the world all of the sudden,” Mr. Tweedy said. “There have been all these prevailing stereotypes, and people don’t know how big and urban Chicago actually is. People think of it as being in a cornfield.”

If the country is set to see more of Chicago over the next four years — many people across the city here are too humble, nervous and practical to automatically assume Mr. Obama will be in office for eight years — at least one introductory lesson is in order.

If you had always assumed that Chicago earned its nickname as the Windy City from the chilly gusts coming off Lake Michigan, you would be wrong. The city is windy, according to most local legends, because of the hot air bellowing from politicians.

That was among the early lessons about Chicago that scores of young political operatives may have picked up when they moved to the city nearly two years ago to work in Mr. Obama’s headquarters. But while his campaign was located here — largely to escape the tentacles of Washington — the around-the-clock hours kept few of his young aides from truly experiencing the place that helped shape the next president.

“There is a really strong sense of self in Chicago: People aren’t defined by wealth or by work or accomplishments, but rather who they are,” said Alex Kotlowitz, an author who makes his home in Chicago because he believes it is a place to peer into America’s heart. “Obama seems so comfortable in his skin and with who he is. That’s so Chicago.”

It remains an open question just how much, if any, of Chicago will rub off on Washington. For starters, perhaps the president may be less inclined to shut down his government when a few flurries of snow are spotted. Mr. Obama has already lived in the capital — for a few nights a week, anyway — since arriving in the Senate four years ago.

The Obamas are, however, taking a bit of Chicago with them.

Michelle Obama’s mother is moving to Washington. (No, she is not living in the White House.) So Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, aren’t alone, a family that lives near the Obama home in Hyde Park is also moving, so the girls have built-in friends in the new world surrounding them.

And, friends say, look for them to spend at least a bit of time back in Chicago. (There is, after all, no Crawford ranch available to this first presidential family.)

Lois Weisberg, the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the city of Chicago, is a bit worried by the entrepreneurial rush surrounding Mr. Obama’s election. She hopes that while the Obamas are away the city remains a dignified tourist destination, not where buses are simply hawking rides around Obama points of interest.

“It’s too much luck for one city,” Ms. Weisberg said. “You get the president, you get the tourists, you get the Olympics. There is a wonderful feeling. I don’t think there was anything wrong with us before, but I think we’re better now.”

11 November 2008

The Risks of Naming Your Kid Buck

The Longhorns had a little blip last week. In case the post has been taken down or for those who are too lazy to click, the short version is that backup center Buck Burnette was kicked off the football team after posting the following post-election message on Facebook:

"all the hunters gather up, we have a #$%&er in the whitehouse"

Yup. Apparently he got it as a text message (and later apologized up the wazoo: he didn't write it, just thought it was funny, should have thought first, he understands that he represents Texas, spreading hate is bad, etc.).

There are a lot of comments on the Deadspin story, many debating the extent of freedom of speech, some dumping on Texas, others positing that the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

But for me, I see two issues. The first is that Texas' football team is largely black. They had to kick him off the team - how could they expect that segment of the team to consider him a teammate??

It does bring up the race vs. gender issue though. When I was watching the election coverage (and again, it was touching. I already said this and I don't want to take away from that), I couldn't help but wonder how the coverage will compare if and when we have the first female president. Will it have the same historic feel, the same nationwide...jubilance?

You can draw your own conclusions there, but I have a similar question about good old Buck? If he had called Sarah Palin a c&^t, would he have been kicked off the team?

05 November 2008

The Dawn's Early Light

I wrote once before of a longing for some magic in the world. I think we got a little Tuesday night. Whatever your political leanings, if John Lewis talking about the bridge in Selma juxtaposed with Barack Obama's acceptance speech doesn't get to you, I don't know what could.

I was watching the election returns at a friend's apartment and she had a long, skinny, scroll-like poster of Abraham Lincoln (I think it was from a library event of some kind) posted not too far from the TV. And when Obama quoted Lincoln: "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection," I looked up at him and I'm pretty sure he winked ...

I'm trying hard to separate this feeling, this excitement, from simply being on the winning side. After all, this is the first time I've been part of an electorate that didn't choose George W. Bush. But there's more to it this time. There's a unity that I hope everyone can feel, Republican or Democrat. It was palpable; even McCain felt it (if he had campaigned as eloquently and sincerely as he conceded, he might well have been elected). I hesitate to draw this comparison, but it reminded me in some ways of the immediate aftermath of September 11th. Of course, this was positive while that was horrific, but that's the last time I can remember feeling so emotional, connected both to those around me and those who lived before, and above all, so American.

This was a watershed moment in American history and I feel humbled to have been both a spectator and a participant. It's a turning point, hopefully not just because the president-elect is black (and believe me, there's a not so hidden part of me that wishes he were a woman instead), but because he'll be everything we hope he is. All partisanship aside, it's hard to deny that it has been a pretty difficult couple of years for all parts of the real America (sorry, couldn't resist!) but as I heard many people said Tuesday night, I've never been prouder to be an American.

Side note: Did you all catch Chicago on TV Tuesday night? Looked beautiful, as always ;)

29 October 2008

A Better Life

I read this article the other day and it really strikes me how little I identify with most of the people in these all too frequent 'my financial world is collapsing' stories. I can understand the medical hardships or trying to help a family member or whatever, but these are people with two kids and a mortgage who quit jobs with no other plans, people who didn't read their mortgage contracts, who essentially took on credit without considering that they were eventually going to have to pay it back. Everyone's whining about how Wall Street should have taken more responsibility...let's start at home, eh?

All personal responsibility ranting aside, financial decisions weren't what really made me want to write about this. Here's what was: there's a couple on the second page who lost their home after the father was demoted. They were allowed to arrange a short sale so they wouldn't have foreclosure in their credit history, which is great. They then found a rental big enough for them and their two children, ages 12 and 9. They've now been in the rental over a year, yet the mother has not bothered to put up any curtains, saying, "it's not our home...it's not my home."

I think this is inexcusable. It *is* your home, and much more importantly, it's your children's home. When things get tough, you commiserate with your husband, your parents, your friends. Not your kids. You don't have to pretend everything is perfect, but not creating a home for them is a pretty large offense.

Everyone always talks about how surprising it is that you need a license to drive, but not to have kids. I'd propose a test evaluating your sense of responsibility. We could use it to flesh out credit reports as well.

18 October 2008

Debate Team

I don't really understand the point of the presidential debates. This is, of course, only the third election I've been old enough to vote in (or pay attention to), but I have to wonder if the debates were always so canned. The moderator asks some totally obvious question, at which point each candidate launches into a pre-planned speech written for him by his campaign. Sometimes, the speech doesn't match the question, but this doesn't seem to matter either. Even the audience questions feel like plants that allow the candidates to outline their health care/foreign policy/tax/whatever plan for the fourth time of the night. I keep wondering if the candidates are using the teleprompter. They probably should be, as it would make the whole night go faster.

After the second debate, one of the criticisms of Obama's style was that he "took too much time to think after the question was asked." One analyst complained that "[Obama] seemed like he was considering all the options before he answered." What? How is this a problem? Failure to apppropriately memorize the canned speech?

In some ways, I suppose it makes sense. Being president isn't a pop quiz. You're allowed to (in fact, it would be best if you did) talk to your advisers, to come to a decision only after gathering all of the relevant information. So maybe a spontaneous debate is a silly way to differentiate candidates anyway.

But if this is the case, why bother having the debate at all? We could simply hand the questions over to each campaign, print up the transcript, and save ourselves the TV time. Less than three weeks to go.

09 October 2008

Break's Over

Bathroom-related humor never fails. I've been saving this one for a while (apologies to the one person who already knows about it).

Prior to August, any woman who began work on the 6th floor of my building was warned not to use the second stall in the bathroom. Nothing was wrong (or disgusting) about it per se, but there was an unfortunate structural stall defect wherein opening the door of the first stall created a squish effect that opened the door of the second. So you didn't use the second stall unless there was no other choice and even then, you had to be in a state of cat-like readiness so you could slam the door shut when it opened to avoid suddenly having a clear view of the handwashers in the mirror.

But then one day in August, I had no choice (it seems somehow too awkward to wait in line to pee when there's an empty stall), so I walked in and sat down with one hand waiting for duty (hee hee, duty). But then something white in the upper right hand corner caught my eye. Someone had macgyvered a little door clasp out of a plastic box. One side had been removed so it could be slipped on the door and a little handle was added with a utilitarian note reading "slide me to the right to close door"

And you thought people who work in finance weren't creative. Sky's the limit when it comes to peace in the bathroom.

18 July 2008

A Fashion Post?

I wore capri pants today, I think for the first time in my life. I guess they probably looked fine, but I felt completely ridiculous all day. Like I forgot the rest of my pants, or was deliberately trying to even out the knee sock tan.

Contrary to popular opinion, I actually do appreciate the idea of expressing myself through my clothing. And on occasion, I even do it fairly well, in a rather clean-cut, maybe a little too laid back kind of way.

But, just like in the rest of my life, I'm in a I-know-what-I-know rut. I really don't have any idea how to a) branch out in terms of style or b) how to dress up. This has become obvious when there are events where I have to look like a grown-up. Oh yeah, and I have no taste in jewelry. Not bad taste, no taste.

I think this is probably part of the final frontier where the growing up process is concerned (I'm about to turn 26, you know). Well, that and grown-up furniture. I'm on that too though!

11 July 2008

An Open Letter to My Friends And Family

Yes, I'm still alive, thanks for asking. Here's what's been up lately:

The weather has been generally beautiful this summer (and yes, the whole 'moving to Denver' thing does have a weather component to it - it's less at the forefront when it's sunny), but unfortunately the only rain seems to come when we're scheduled to play baseball. We've had eight scheduled baseball days since the beginning of June: 3 rainouts, 2 rain delays. Bad luck. But all the rest has certainly made my knees and shoulder feel better, so I guess there's an upside.

I have tried twice to get the cat to the vet and been thwarted by her sudden intelligence in avoiding the crate. It took three years to come out, but she's apparently an evil supergenius. Try #3 is on Monday, so we'll see how we go.

I also found a new apartment! It's about a half mile east of where I am now, which will improve my location in terms of transportation, restaurants, and especially work. I think I'll probably walk home from work whenever the weather's nice. Move should be mid-August so the packing begins in earnest this week. I'm getting rid of some furniture, so that should make it easier, but it's still always a process.

Other than that, work is better, or at least I seem to be doing better at it and I'm playing soccer on Tuesday nights. And I'm headed to NYC in about 10 days to be the maid of honor in a wedding, Door County the week after that, and Denver over labor day. Somewhat of a busy summer, I'd say.

So now we're back in business, eh? See you soon

08 June 2008


I doubt anyone would describe me as absentminded. In fact, I tend towards the other extreme (nitpicking, of course). So sue me, I like things to be right :)

Furthermore, it's rare that I forget things and even rarer that I lose things.* I figured out recently that between the ages of 10 and 18, I was probably at about 500 softball games and roughly the same number of practices. Through all those gear transportings, I forgot my glove once (I got it back from an extremely surprised coach the next day) and my shoes never.

But in the last two months of baseball practices/games, I've left behind: my jacket, my sweatpants, my water bottle, and finally, my glove. I got all of them back except the last (and most important). I need a new glove anyway, but this wasn't exactly my plan. Plus, now I need to do it quickly, so I'll probably just have to do a stopgap.

This reminds me of one time I was listening to the radio and they had a little competition to see which caller was the most stressed out and one woman said she couldn't find her keys anywhere one morning and finally found them in the freezer. She won.

Is my suddenly losing things meaningful? And why is it always at baseball?

*Exception to the rule: winter hats. I've lost at least five of these. The little buggers just won't stick around...

29 May 2008

Have Some Respect

Hiya. I was going to take a full one month break and show up again on June 1, but well, I guess this is how breaks cure writer's block.

Remember that annoying guy that does that really good impression of John Madden? His name is Frank Caliendo or something like that and his commercials were run about every three minutes during the NFL playoffs.

Recently, I've been noticing a new (well, new to me - DVR changes everything) commercial of his where he impersonates the president in an effort to sell...well, something. Dish Network, maybe? And as you might expect, he behaves like an idiot, gives that silly little Bush smirk/grin and just generally echoes all of the general criticisms of our 43rd president. While Frank whatever his name is really does an excellent impression, and I don't really like the president any more than anyone else, this doesn't really sit right with me.

Apparently, I think it's important to respect the office even if you don't really respect the president. It's one thing to tell jokes with your friends and even for a sketch show to have a 'guy' assigned to impersonate the president for a laugh. But for a business to use the stereotype as a shill? If you met the president (say you were an NCAA champ!), you wouldn't, say, throw water balloons at him, would you? I imagine it would be kind of fun in the short term, but that's a pretty big middle finger to your country, no? Let's just hope we're not really that much of a joke yet.

30 April 2008

One Nation

I was out in Las Vegas the week before last visiting my parents. There are a lot of non-TV reasons I love hanging out with them, but HBO is certainly a perk. This winter/spring, HBO ran a miniseries called John Adams, which covered the events of about 1775-1805 from the perspective of Mr. Adams himself. Though it did sometimes hilariously remind me of the musical 1776 (Sit down, John, Sit Down!) and it had too many Hollywood types involved in it which resulted in annoying cinematography...decisions (somehow, I don't think the late 18th century was tilted...), it really was a fun and sometimes even poignant look at early American history. If they could condense the four episodes I saw into one hour (I liked it as is, but I'm a history buff...), I might even suggest it be shown to every American alive today. Seems like we could use a reminder about what it means to be an American.

Though the scenes between John and Abigail (played by Paul Giamatti and the always fabulous Laura Linney) were great, I think the most memorable moment for me involved a discussion between the second president and the third. (Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, respectively...please tell me you knew that). Said discussion took place during the presidency of Mr. Washington (everyone in the miniseries always referred to each other as Mr. this and Mrs. that...it was kind of nice). The United States was being drawn into the seemingly unending British-French conflict and a split arose over this between two groups who had already begun to grow apart: those who believed in individualism as the guiding principle for society (the Republicans, who sided with the French), and those who saw a need for greater governmental involvement (the Federalists, who were beginning to advocate joining the war on the side of the British).

Jefferson, if you know your history, was an unapologetic Francophile and a staunch Republican, and while Adams certainly did not wish to drag the new nation into a war, he was swayed by the potential he saw in a strong federal government and the National Bank idea in particular. The two former friends were clearly headed down different ideological paths by this point and had drifted apart socially as a result, but there's a scene with them walking down the street having an honest conversation about why each believed as he did. And it was striking to me because it made me wonder if this ever happens anymore. I know that Democrats and Republicans occasionally (though rarely) work together on bills and appear together for photo ops and things, but is there any effort to understand each other, to come together?

I'm a pretty solid Democrat, but it seems to me that if I were in the Senate or the House, I'd look for the most intelligent, most logical Republican I could find and make friends. We are (or were!), after all, working toward a common goal, even if our methods are different.

22 April 2008


I don't know if anyone besides me saw the NCAA Women's Basketball quarterfinals (judging by the ratings, that's a no), but there was an incredible display of toughness, possibly even "heart". Tennessee's Candace Parker dislocated her shoulder reaching back to steal a ball. Somehow, she actually came up with the ball and proceeded to dribble halfway down the court with one shoulder hanging out of its socket. She went to the locker room shortly before halftime, where they put everything back in its place, then came back in the game! At which point, it popped out again when someone tossed a pass directly into her outstretched hand. Once again, they put it back and once again, she returned and played the last 10 minutes. Pretty bad-ass, eh?

So later in the week leading up to the Final Four, I read a shorty article on espn.com about her injury status and how likely it was that she would play (she did in fact play, and win a national championship). The article mentioned her toughness and her decision to forgo her final year of college eligibilty (she got a medical redshirt for her freshman year) for the Olympics and the WNBA. In short, it was an article you wouldn't be surprised to see setting the stage for the men's Final Four, but it was kind of nice to see it done for the women.

I never really click on the comments pages, but I do tend to read the few comments that are stuck at the bottom of the article. On this article, one said, and I quote, "yawn. i still won't watch."

Now, I realize that the internet is not known as a forum for politeness, but this seems above and beyond to me. Why even bother? Are you such a pig that you can't even stand women getting any attention at all? Do you think women's sports are inappropriate? Taking up space on espn.com? How could you not have better things to do with your 30 seconds? And the kicker? YOU READ THE ARTICLE! How bored could you be with it?

As I've said before, thanks for being rude for absolutely no reason.

30 March 2008

Quicker on the Draw

I was on the bus recently, sitting near the front, when a woman got on, walked just past the card reader and began digging through her bag for her CTA card. After about 45 seconds of digging, she started to look around nervously and it became clear that she didn't have that card with her.

As she started to see what kind of coins she had in her bag and everyone else on the bus (me included, unfortunately) listened to iPods and stared blankly, a woman sitting 2 seats closer than I grabbed her own card, stepped up to the reader, said "I gotcha" and swiped her own card.

A nice warm fuzzy for $1.75

19 March 2008

Man Up

It's possible that this is slightly colored by my intense hatred of all things Notre Dame but this article really yanks my chain.

Kyle MacAlarney, a guard on the ND basketball team, was caught with a small amount of marijuana at a 1:30 AM traffic stop the night of a game during the 06-07 basketball season. Apparently, he never thought he'd get caught because he had a clean record, "only one detention throughout my high school career." [Editorial note, Kyle: most of us have zero]. Like most upper middle class white kids caught with pot, he was allowd to enter a pre-trial diversion program, but it was up to the school to decide his fate on the basketball team. They dragged their feet in handing down the punishment, but ended up taking the heavy-handed route and suspending him for the rest of the semester.

He left in a huff, didn't even say good bye to his teammates and went back home to Staten Island thinking he'd never set foot in South Bend again. Luckily, a visit from his coach and phone calls from a couple team dudes convinced him to come back to show that he was the "bigger person." So he worked out alone for like three months, then went back to campus. Author Adam Rittenberg says, "he has earned the right to be cast in a new light." Notre Dame coach Mike Brey adds, "he's been a role model for other kids...great story, great kid."
[really, read the article, there's even more of this, and I couldn't make this crap up if I tried]

Ugh, even rehashing it, I'm about ready to vomit. Want a scholarship to come play basketball at Notre Dame? This is a Jesuit school, so you're going to need to keep from breaking the law. This is someone who had everything handed to him basketball-wise and threw it away, then dragged his feet and hung his head when he had to face the consequences. And when he didn't like those consequences? He was ready to leave his team without a word. This is not a role model, this is a child.

People make mistakes, I get that. But he didn't handle it well and judging from this article (and another almost copy of it that was posted on ESPN a couple of weeks ago), he hasn't even taken any responsibility for it. I would be willing to bet quite a bit that he still smokes pot. Worst of all, the article treats it like it was 'adversity to overcome', comparable to someone's brother being seriously injured in a car accident or Hurricane Katrina destroying your house. This was a choice MacAlarney made, not an unfortunate occurence.

MacAlarney's ability to hit three-pointers (when it doesn't count...zing!) notwithstanding, please don't tell us what a wonderful kid he is. There are plenty of kids working their butts off to be at Notre Dame who *didn't* try to toss it in the garbage. I'd say they have a leg up in the role model category.

11 March 2008

Just Ask the Chocolate

Things are still a little chaotic. Car is fixed though I'm scared to be in it and just generally need to get my driving mojo back, heat is still iffy (fear of exploding ensues), had a little argument with the insurance company, issues with tournament I pushed my baseball team into, my knees hurt like I'm 50 years old...you get the idea. And while I consider myself a fairly well-adjusted person in general, I'm not oblivious enough to think I'm not also moody, and well, these things pile up.

On an unrelated at first glance note, I keep a bag of Dove dark chocolates at work, you know the kind with the weird sayings on the wrappers? I think the funniest one ever was 'Be your own Valentine'. Recently, I kept one that said 'Keep the promises you make to yourself', which seemed kind of poignant.

Anyway though, I unwrapped one today and it said (drum roll please): 'Don't think so much about it.' Good advice, eh?

02 March 2008

When It Counts

Things that have gone wrong in the past week:
-2 of my car tires had nails in them
-my car broke
-my car broke again (actually it's the same problem, but it was taken to a mechanic in between, so it counts again)
-the circuit board on my furnace that controls the fan crapped out (since fixed, though part of the solution seems to be that it now makes a really high-pitched whine. awesome.)
-my iPod stopped working (since fixed)
-I found a pair of mesh shorts I liked (this is really hard for women, trust me) and the first time I washed it, the stitching came out of the hem
-my cable stopped working (since fixed)
-my CD player inexplicably shorted out (seems to be fine, but had to be reset)

This is a bad week. Really bad. The first time I've ever wished to be 17 again (weren't things easy then? no?)

One moment of clarity though. Last night, I was on my way to see a movie with B, one of those friends who generally means well, but can really get under your skin. I got about 5 miles out on the highway when the car went nuts and revealed that I had given the mechanics $480 to do something I could have done, which is NOT fix the car. I was nervous about the extra RPMs and jerky shifting, but it didn't seem to be in danger of not running at all, so I continued to her house and asked her if she'd drive to the movie and dinner. Ten minutes of venting about how there are no experts anymore and I was free to enjoy the movie (Juno - it was great!).

When we got back to her house, where my car was parked, she said, "Are you sure it will work? Do you want me to follow you?" And right before I opened my mouth to say "I'm sure it will be fine and I have my phone so I can just call you if there's any problem", I looked up and caught her eyes and saw that not only had she offered to follow me 20 miles home, she absolutely would have done it.

How many friends do you think you have that would not only do it, without complaining, if you asked, but would offer on their own? If you have more than a select few, consider yourself very, very lucky

26 February 2008

This Week's Sign Of The Apocalypse

Anyone read Sports Illustrated? If so you'll recognize the title.

Anyway, background knowledge: I am managing a project in which we provide a data feed of fund prices to a newspaper. And this is mostly an email conversation.

E: So, A., the following 10 funds are missing 2/18 prices. Did the fund companies report?

Me: Yep, the 2/18 prices are in our database.

E: Oh, that's weird. They're not in the feed. Why don't you ask J. what's going on?

Me: J., how come the 2/18 prices are in the database and not in the feed.

J: O, how come the 2/18 prices are in the database and not in the feed?

X: O.'s out of the office so I'll have to ask A2. A2, how come the 2/18 prices are in the database and not in the feed?

(16 hour pause)

A2: Oh, because 2/18 was a U.S. holiday and they're U.S. funds.

Me: They're not U.S. funds

X: They're not U.S. funds.

Me: Wait, so you're saying the feed never happened because it was President's Day?

A2: Yes

Me: The database took the day off?

X: Essentially yes.

A2: I'll manually overwrite it because these are offshore funds. But for U.S. funds, the database can't work on U.S. holidays.

See, this is what happens when you give computers too much information.

19 February 2008


I have these two...well, friends would be a strong word, but definitely acquaintances I'm friendly with who are married to each other. It somehow came about once a few months ago that he and I watched a football game together. Originally, I thought she was coming, but it turned out she was out of town visiting a relative. Seemed maybe a little strange to me, but hey, despite some evidence to the contrary (#1 aaaaand #2), I've always thought that there's no reason guys and girls can't be friends, particularly if the boundaries are obvious.

And we had a pretty good time. There were a few awkward moments, including the fact that he really didn't seem to get the cue to leave once the game had been over for several hours and I was literally standing up for the last 40 minutes, but in general, we made pretty good football buddies.

A few weeks later, he called and kind of implied that we do it again. I told him I would be watching a certain college football game and that he could join me if he liked. He did. Again, we had this loooong period after the game was over where we were chatting and I was wondering when he might think it necessary to leave.

Then, he moved closer on the couch and kind of put his arm around me. I was almost totally frozen for I think about a full minute. The first 30 seconds in shock and the next figuring out what the hell I was going to do to get out of this one.

So I got up and walked over the counter and puttered around with something or other to buy some time. At which point, he apologized for making me uncomfortable and said he didn't know how he could have misread the situation. How the last time he left, he felt like I "expected something", that maybe he was letting me down. I was still pretty stunned, but I managed to get out something about didn't I see him as taken by someone else? And what had I done except agree to hang out a couple of times at *his* suggestion.

Then he said he hoped things wouldn't be awkward (we will certainly see each other again). I said I was of the opinion that things were always about as awkward as you allowed them to be and that I could act normal if he could. Then, after about five minutes of complete silence, I suggested that if he wasn't going to talk to me, he might want to leave. Which he did.

I saw him (and her, actually) for the first time since recently and though I behaved appropriately, I discovered I'm pretty darn angry.

I'm annoyed by his incredible arrogance and his assumptions about my behavior. Maybe they have some sort of weird arrangment or whatever, but I certainly don't know anything about it, and I really don't like the implication that I would be a willing participant anyway. It makes me feel like I need a shower.

Less importantly, he thinks that sitting six feet apart on the couch drinking a beer and yelling at football while petting the cat is the way I interact with guys I like?!? Listen buddy, if I wanted to sleep with you, you'd know it. I'm no delicate flower, so don't mistake my moderate friendliness for something that it isn't. Especially when you are 100% taken and you KNOW that not only do I know that, but I like your wife.

It's very sketchy ethically, both during, and now after when I have to wonder if I should say something to her. I won't, both because nothing actually happened, and because we're not really good friends and I would hope that she'd choose his word over mine, and because we all have to see each other.

13 February 2008


I don't anticipate too many more posts about politics. For someone who can get really into things (and jumps to conclusions a little...), I'm not all that political.

Throughout the democratic race, I've found myself very solidly behind Hillary Clinton. This sets me apart from many of my friends, in part because we're young, and likely in huge part because many of us are from Illinois. For the record, I think Obama is very likely a honest man, a smart man, and a good choice. Should he win the Democratic nomination, I'll back him 100% against the goof on the other side (McCain seems like a nice guy, but come on...). But as I said, he's just not my first choice.

For the last few weeks, I've been really trying to examine whether or not my position is because Hillary is a woman. After all, she and Obama have very similar ideas (well, we think. it's a little difficult to tell what Obama might do if elected) and platform is really not an easy way to separate them. I'll admit that Hillary's gender doesn't hurt, but I've also had this heretofore inexplicable...something...tugging at my sleeve. Something bothered me about Obama's campaign and I couldn't figure it out. Until now.

Remembering again the similar platforms of the two Democratic candidates, I though about what Obama was selling (I don't mean that in a bad way - they're all trying to sell themselves). He's big on the non-Washington insider thing and it's been pointed out many times by better theorists than I that his affability might even rival JFK's.

The 'new guy' thing has never really held much sway for me. After all, isn't the president's job essentially to work with people in Washington to effect change? Our political system is set up to change slowly (if at all!). Large-scale, rapid sweeping reforms are not in our history and they won't be in our future either.

The 'good guy' thing is generally well, good, but in combination with the above, it raises a serious red flag for me. I can think of someone else, someone pretty darn recent, who ran on the basic platform of down-home-nice-guy and inexperience in national politics. I'll give you three guesses.

I'm not saying they're the same by any means, but the similarity makes me nervous and I do wish people wouldn't be so darn quick to leap. These are important times.

07 February 2008


Does anyone know why some people lose their voices all the time and others don't? Weak vocal cords? This is something I would like to know.

Yesterday, I took my first sick day in 3.5 years of work. People really aren't kidding when they tell you there's nothing on TV during the day. And I really should have taken Tuesday instead, but I didn't realize that until lunchtime and by then, well, you're already there, so... Wednesday was a chance for more sleep and the possibility of saving my voice (it kind of worked, as I have a voice. not my voice exactly, but it could be someone's so that's better than nothing). So I was up around 11 or so, and did some laundry, which really took a lot of energy, but not a lot of time. In all honesty, I was kind of bored. It does shorten your week though, I'll give it that.

Point is, though, I actually missed something at work. Without boring everyone, I'm the contact for a a few hundred fund managers and one of 'em is upset because their fund is showing up on a site it shouldn't be showing up on. And everything kind of came to a head yesterday, which I knew because I checked my email (told you I was bored). So I kind of felt like I was missing something. Which was awesome! What a pleasure it is to have a job where it would matter, at least a little, if you fell off the planet.

Guess all you have to do is threaten to move...
And to all the people who have asked recently, no I'm not moving. Not now, anyway. Good to know you're reading though!

29 January 2008

American Idealist(s)

So I just finished watching American Idealist, this excellent documentary on Robert Sargent Shriver, whom you may or may not know as an in-law of JFK and the main shepherd of the Peace Corps and a whole host of Great Society programs (JobCorps, VISTA, HeadStart, Upward Bound, Community Action, the list goes on). Good old public television.

Though I admire people's willingness to volunteer in unfamiliar places, I've never been the biggest fan of the Peace Corps, mostly because I think there's plenty to do in this country (if you're looking for a task...). After seeing the documentary, however, I can see another angle of it. Though the Corps was certainly as much a play for power in the Cold War as anything else, it put a phenomenal amount of trust in young people. Really, all of Shriver's programs put trust in previously underrepresented constituencies (young people, black people, poor people, slum-dwellers) in an effort to empower the average American citizen and end poverty once and for all. Most of these programs were all but killed by the diverting of funds to Vietnam, but Shriver's legacy is still an interesting one. I'm not sure there's been that kind of hope or that kind of shift in power since.

Which brings me nicely to the Kennedy family. In 1968, Shriver was very close to being chosen as the running mate for Hubert Humphrey. Incredibly, his candidacy was basically derailed by the Kennedy family (his in-laws, remember) because, just a few months after Bobby was shot and killed, the Kennedys worried that Shriver could hamper Ted's chances at the presidency in 1972.

This is all well-timed, since an editorial in support of Barack Obama appeared in the New York Times this week by none other than Caroline Kennedy. Now, Caroline seems like a nice woman, and we're all certainly sorry about the tragedies that seem to befall the men in her family, but with all due respect, who the hell cares what she thinks about who should be president? Her only experience in politics beyond being a Kennedy figurehead was interning with her Uncle Teddy. I think she's smart and all, but how is her opinion any different than what everyone else thinks? Talk about a succession. And though I do see the irony of perhaps Shriver's best political move being his marriage, this kind of old guard glad-handing is something I can only hope Shriver would not want.

*For the record, Bobby's kids (her cousins) have come out in support of Hillary Clinton. And again, who cares?

21 January 2008


I have a friend who recently moved to Denver. And loves it. Which, from what I hear from people who have been there, isn't surprising. And she thinks I would love it as well. I'm not so sure about that (I don't ski. Who ever heard of someone living in Colorado who doesn't ski or camp?), but I've heard enough similar sentiment lately to get me thinking.

I've always liked Seattle and I certainly wouldn't turn down the sun in Las Vegas, and then there's this whole Colorado thing and for the first time since junior year of college, I'm honestly considering the possibility that I could live somewhere else. I wouldn't say I'm unhappy here by any means, but in some ways it isn't quite what I had in mind either.

While this will always be home in some sense, my family isn't here anymore. I have a crapload of acquaintances and a few real friends that I love, but there are still times when I feel that in the majority of my relationships, I'm the one doing the work. I'm working on staying in touch and making plans and remembering birthdays and siblings and...food dislikes. Which is probably unfair, but that's how I feel. I realize that people aren't necessarily here to be my family, but I'm that kind of friend when I choose to be, so I don't know why I shouldn't expect it from other people.

Actually, sometimes I wonder if this is related to most people's lack of general togetherness. I think I like to have very close friends and family because my own thoughts and experiences aren't really enough to occupy me 24-7. Despite being perfectly happy spending time alone, other people genuinely do interest me. I enjoy trying to figure out what their families are like or what they think of federal holidays no longer being observed (or whatever. this just comes to mind today). But for a lot of people I know, it seem to be all they can do to keep their basic day-to-day from falling apart. And I guess I see, then, why they seem to prefer acquaintances. And that's not a judgment, really. But boy, are they bad choices for me.

Back to the point, there have been three job searches with varying and ultimately disappointing results, a host of mildly fun sports teams, and way too many nights where everyone around me is drunk. And with my only other experience being in a rural college town, it's hard for me to decide whether any of these things would be different in another city. But I guess what it all boils down to is that the next time I look for a job (likely late this year), I will look in other places. And maybe there's a time limit on this whole Chicago thing. Or at least a time to actively make a decision about it. Like 2010, which sounds like a time sufficiently in the future (despite the complaining, I know it would be tough to leave). I was surprised to find myself thinking that in the car the other day.

15 January 2008

Christmas in...January

My company is going to move into the new Block 37 location sometime this year and someone in HR decided it would be a good bonding experience for the company to maintain a blog with all sorts of information about the new location. And I'm basically a writer who spends most of the day cleaning up hedge fund data points, so I volunteered. Thought you kids could read it.

And bonus fact, since this is sort of a cop-out blog post: this year, the Smurfs turn....50!!

If youth is wasted on the young, Christmas is wasted on the old(er). Pretty much the second you hit junior high, you discover the truth about Rudolph, your gift requests suddenly go from five dollar action figures and make believe paraphernalia to electronics, and then one day your dad tells you that if you want to leave cookies out for Santa, you’re going to have to eat them as well because you kids go to bed too late now and he’s sick of getting up in the middle of the night and walking all the way downstairs for a few bites of cookie. Or something like that…

Though credit cards and the ability to use the oven without adult supervision do add somewhat to the season, there’s nothing quite like the chance to experience it through the eyes of a child. Don’t have a little rugrat waiting for you at home? The next best thing is the Christkindlmarket, a German Christmas festival that runs from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve at the Daley Center Plaza.

Whether you wait for a one of the warmer days or simply decide to bundle up and risk it, your eye will first be drawn to the four story tree on the South side of the plaza. The ornaments are similarly oversized and the effect, though slightly like Honey I Shrunk the Kids, will make you feel that child’s sense of wonder, even as your eyes search the crowd for Rick Moranis. If you brought the rugrats with you, give ‘em a good look at the elaborate model train in the shadow of the giant tree.

After you finish discussing how that tree could possibly show up every year without witnesses to its setup (elves, perhaps?), take a look around at the booths set up mostly by Germans living right here in the city of Chicago. Now, the Germans aren’t a fantastically religious people in general, but they know Christmas and they could make even the Grinch feel like having some egg nog. You’ll see everything from cozy cashmere scarves (nicely priced if you’re looking for something to get your sister) to elaborate one-foot-tall lighted houses (I guess they’re decorations? I was never too big into transforming my living space by season, but if you are, you’ve found your home planet!) to hand crafted beer steins perfect for the more refined fraternity man on your list.

All that scrutinizing tchotchkes in near freezing temperatures will likely leave you with a noticeable emptiness in your stomach, so take a moment to survey the food offerings. It won’t take you long to notice that they’re German to the core, with potato pancakes, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and even leberkaese, that strangle amalgamation of pork loaf and beef loaf. Like many German foods, it doesn’t exactly whet the American appetite, but ends up tasting pretty darn good. You can warm your belly with some hot chocolate, cool it again with some authentic German beer, then warm it up a final time before making your way home with some hot mulled wine. This year, the wine came in a commemorative boot. Is there a better commemorative item? I think not.

Despite the prior existence of Mayfest and Oktoberfest (held in September, don’t forget!), I had been thinking that another German cultural festival was exactly what this city needed. As it turns out, one can be found in the heart of loop a stone’s throw from the Block 37 location. And for Christmas spirit, it can’t be beat.

14 January 2008

Hee Hee, Doody

Whoa, long break. Sorry about that. Traveling, work, general winter laziness, etc. Happy New Year!

So, we've decided to have a player-run league for baseball, which I think is fantastic. I was about at the end of my rope for being treated like a child (by someone you may remember), and I think this presents us with a much better chance to build a sustainable organization.

But it does create more work in some areas. And it absolutely shocks me how little loyalty some people have for a cause. Everyone seems proud of themselves for engineering this newfound independence and there are about 90 voices in the circle when it's time to announce our success or plan barbecues, but ask people to make some cold calls or schmooze a little and all of a sudden everyone has plans.

I mean this in the nicest possible way, people, but grow up! If you want independence, you will occasionally have to do things you don't want to do. And furthermore, you have to kick ass at them the same way you would on things you do like. I'm younger than most people, but I feel like I'm welcoming them to real world sometimes: newsflash: this is what grassroots organization is like. Not all peace pipes and celebrations.

I'm baffled by people who seem to be utterly missing a sense of duty. Though I am starting to realize that it's the reason many of these people can't be confident that a player-run league will work - if they were running it, it wouldn't!

(Nicest possible way, remember. I'm proud of ALL of us!)