Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Pictures

My Christmas weekend in pictures.

In an effort to fill the gaping void left since the crazy house in Downers Grove is apparently no longer being excessively decorated, I went in search of some good Christmas lights. This is the best I could find:


My kitty took over my bed and my cozy down comforter


Cute kid


My white elephant gift in the dumpster


My cousin and her husband tend to get really unusual (crappy) gifts from his parents, so this year they gathered them all, threw them in a big bag and gave them as their white elephant gift. Everyone was curious about it, but nobody was picking it so when my turn came around I took one for the team and chose it. In it were a number of random items. There was a brand new knife set and some cookie cutters that I kept. Among the dumpster items where some barbeque flavored peanuts that may or may not be 5 years old or more, a taco tray, a number of ugly candles, and a basket of fruit. I ate one banana and dumped the rest.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas at CTI

It's been a magical Christmas at work. I decorated my cube:


I put up some nice lights and the fabulous pink Christmas tree that Emily gave me. My Wizard of Oz people are decorating it.

Then some unexpected visitors showed up in our Nativity scene on the filing cabinet:


Yep, the dinosaur is eating the lamb and the monkey is smoking a cigarette. They're courtesy of Todd. A couple days ago, a few of us just moved around the regular Nativity pieces ... Mary turning her back on the baby Jesus, Joseph running away, etc. Some ladies came by and saw it and were appalled. They put everything back, so we decided to step it up with the addition of a dinosaur. Then a monkey. Then something most disturbing happened. A coworker walked by and noticed the dinosaur and proceeded to explain to someone else that whoever did it was copying Mr. Bean. NOOOOO I was screaming to myself in my cube while listening to his grossly mistaken explanation!! I hate Mr. Bean!! I'm terrified that something I've been involved in is now being compared to Mr. Bean's idiotic antics. To make matters worse, this same coworker sent the following email to others sitting in our area:

Some folks are wondering why there's a T-Rex with the Nativity scene on the filing cabinets by the CT copier.

Mr. Bean fans already know the answer. But for the initiated, here's the (very funny) explanation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z42AxgFMb8k&mode=related&search

No, no, no, we are NOT copying Mr. Bean. Todd just had the dinosaur and we thought it would be funny! I desperately want to tell them the truth, that it was us that did it and it's not because of stupid Mr. Bean, but I won't.

By far the best part of Christmas at CTI for me, personally, is the acquisition of my own office. Temporarily. I've had an office mate for quite some time, but she moved on to another job and now I have the place to myself. What's more, the office is still divided with our cubes so there's a big cube wall blocking the doorway. I'm completely hidden. No one even knows I'm there. This makes it ideal for napping and breaking out into dance whenever I feel like it. And I do feel like it. Regularly. And for the next two weeks, we get to wear jeans every day. My job is the best!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stupid Writers

These dang writers on strike are driving me nuts. I've been trying to ignore the whole issue, but now it's gotten out of control. We all know they're making substantial amounts of money, living in their fancy California homes, going to their fancy Hollywood parties. I don't feel bad for them. Plus, there hasn't been a new episode of The Office in forever and I'm getting cranky!

The only way this could be a good thing is if it goes on forever and Hollywood implodes. That would be cool. But until then, I'm just going to be bitter. Or maybe this is my chance to finally break into the comedy writing business.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Theater Weekend

This weekend was basically amazing.

Friday night I saw Meet Me in St. Louis on stage at Drury Lane for my company Christmas party. I was a little nervous that it would be a huge disappointment, seeing as it's one of my favorite movies, but it wasn't bad. Of course the girl that played Esther was no Judy Garland, but still, I enjoyed it.

Saturday I saw The Phantom of the Opera at the Cadillac Palace Theater. It was amazing. More amazing than I thought it would be. I'd seen the movie and I have the soundtrack, but this is the first time I saw it on stage. Way better than the movie. I also came to realize that basically everyone in this musical has severe mental problems. Except maybe Raoul. But really, the fact that he keeps hanging out with crazy Christine says something about his own mental state, I think. The Phantom is insane for obvious reasons (not that I'm not a little bit in love with him at times). Christine thinks that her father sent her an Angel of Music that she's never seen, but has taught her to sing. And she thinks this is perfectly normal. Does her deceased father have any idea how crazy he made her? They're all nuts. I actually feel a little nuts for enjoying it so much, but I can't help it. It makes for an entertaining show, and the music is great.

To top it all off, on Sunday I had the pleasure of viewing Meet Me in St. Louis on the big screen at the Tivoli. That's right, two Meet Me in St. Louises in one weekend. Doesn't get much better than that!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Santa

As promised, here is a picture of Santa as seen at Wynonna: Tribute on Ice.


It's a little dark, but you get the idea. He definitely saw us taking pictures of him, but I say if you have white hair, a long white beard, and wear a red sweater, you must expect people to take pictures of you!

Here's a picture of the ice skaters, just for fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sick!

Tuesday before Thanksgiving:

I went into work feeling a little funny. As the day went on I started feeling downright crappy and, seeing as all my work was done, I went home. I don't get sick often and I'm just not used to it, so I decided to stop at Walgreens on the way home to pick up something to make me feel better. I perused the drug aisle with no idea what to buy, so I just went with some Cold/Flu stuff. I wasn't sure exactly what I was coming down with, but I figured that would cover everything.

I got home, took my Cold/Flu medicine and tried to desperately to nap because that evening I had tickets for Wynonna: Tribute on Ice. I did not want to miss that.

A couple hours later, I got up and felt pretty nauseous. I prayed (I really did) that I wouldn't feel nauseous anymore. I really wanted to go to Wynonna. I thought maybe a shower would help, so I got in. And then God answered my prayer. There's really no way to say this delicately ... I puked. In the shower. 3 times. Everything that was inside of me which, incidentally, was mostly stuffing that was left over from our church's Young Adult Thanksgiving dinner.

The problem is, I never throw up, so it's rather disturbing to me when I do. I'm still not really over it. On the bright side, I didn't feel nauseous anymore. I did feel weak and shaky and I couldn't decide if I should go to Wynonna, but finally my mother convinced me to go. I know what you're thinking, shouldn't my mom have convinced me to stay home and rest? No, not my mom. She knows what's best for me.

And she was right. Wynonna was amazing. Also, Santa was there (pictures coming soon). I would have been devastated if I had missed it.

Unfortunately, this all led to me not being able to eat dinner on Thanksgiving. And I may never eat stuffing again.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Computer Paranoia

My computer at work has severe paranoia.

What happened was, my work computer broke on Tuesday. Well, it got some virus that wasn't detrimental, but should be removed. So Computer Services told me it was going to take an entire day to fix and asked if I had any vacation days coming up. I didn't, so I just decided to take yesterday off. I have a million vacation days to use up anyway.

So I come into work this morning and I have a brand spankin' new computer. Brand new for our company anyway, which means it's probably a few years old. I was very pleased nevertheless, considering my original computer was about a million years old and still had Windows 2000. I always knew the only way to get a new computer around this joint is to break the one you have, but I'm not computer savvy enough to break my computer without it looking intentional. Luckily, I managed to break it unintentionally ... or so they think.

My new computer is great. It's fast and it has Windows XP which is slightly less ugly than Windows 2000. But still ugly. Anyway, it has only one issue: Extreme Paranoia. This thing won't do anything without my consent. For example: I went to open an Access file from our company network. A little window popped up asking me if it was OK to open this file, seeing as whoever I got it from could be attempting to destroy my computer with their shady Access files. Of course it's OK to open it! I clicked through all the folders, found the specific file, and double clicked on it! What kind of idiot does this thing think I am?

Then I made the mistake of trying to use Outlook. I can't make a move in Outlook without it questioning me. Am I sure I want to open this email? Do I know that this email has an attachment that may ruin my computer beyond repair? Am I sure I want to view the images in this email? Do I know who this email is from? Am I sure I even want to receive emails? It might just be safer to use the phone.

Perhaps I can understand where it's coming from if it's aware of the plight of its predecessor. But I'm to the point where I don't even read the stupid warnings, I just click through them, thereby defeating the purpose. It's like the boy who cried wolf. It's just going to keep asking me about the most ridiculous things and I'm going to keep dismissing it until one day when there is an actual threat and I ignore it and my computer explodes. And I get a new computer.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Harriet Carter

You know when you go to a garage sale and you wonder where in the world these people got this junk that they thought was cool for about two days and then wanted to throw away once they realized how embarrassing it was that they even owned it? I found the source ... Harriet Carter. I discovered the Harriet Carter catalog yesterday at my mother's house. It's incredible. I want to know who orders from this catalog and why. But apparently people do order from it as it's been around since 1958. Here are some of my favorite items:




I'm pretty sure if I was awoken by monkey sounds, the last thing I would do is laugh.




I like that the description specifies that these can be used for a "boy's birthday celebration." These lights are not for girls!


Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekend in Pictures

I had a rather eventful weekend, and I took a lot of pictures. It was fun. You'll notice that I'm not actually in most of these pictures and that's the way I like it.

On Saturday morning I headed out to Indiana with my friends to visit my roommate's parents' farm. On the way, we stopped at an apple orchard. Apparently we were a little late in the apple picking season as all the apples were either picked or on the ground.



Luckily, we got a tractor ride, so it wasn't a waste.



They also had some spectacular pumpkin and apple cinnamon donuts.



We then stopped at the Albanese Candy Factory. They offer a tour of the factory and we were excited to get started, with visions of a magical Willy Wonka-like experience running through our heads. We were quickly thrown back into reality when we realized the "tour" consisted of a ramp leading up to some windows where you could look into the basically empty factory. I think I may have seen some gummy bears on a conveyor belt.

The disappointment over the less than impressive tour was quickly remedied by the fact that they let you sample any candy you want to. A very nice feature.



After we were all satisfied with our candy choices, we headed out to the farm for some chilli. This was followed by a ride in the back of a truck (for the true farm experience) to go see the cows.





Then the cows ran away and we went back to the house to prepare for our bonfire and hay ride.



I do not have pictures of the bonfire or hayride because it was dark out and I was sick of taking pictures. After that, we settled in for a movie and went to bed. I don't think I really slept all night.

Sunday morning we had fabulous buscuits and gravy for breakfast and we headed home for church. Sunday evening my roommate and I hosted our monthly Old Movie Night. This month's feature was Psycho. My roommate had the brilliant idea of squirting ketchup all over our shower. So we did.



In case you're wondering, I'm in a 50's housewife dress. It was my Halloween costume. Old Movie Night was a huge success as was our ketchup covered shower. However if you're considering copying our brilliant shower idea, keep in mind that a large amount of ketchup squirted in a small enclosed space gives off a vomit-inducing odor.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mystery!


Last Friday when I came into my cube at work I noticed a yellow award ribbon tacked to my bulletin board. This was definitely a new addition to my cube. It said "Good Eater Award" with a picture of a monkey eating a banana. I'd never seen this ribbon before in my life, it just magically appeared in my cube. I naturally assumed that it was left by coworker Todd because he is obsessed with monkeys and he's caused a disturbance in my cube before. However, when I confronted him about it, he denied it. I'm still assuming he did it though, mostly because I don't really have any other ideas.

Anyway, Wednesday morning when I came in there was another bulletin board gift waiting for me; a kind of scary football guy wearing a pink tutu. I don't know what that's about. I'm kind of hoping that there are more to come and when complete, they will uncover a secret message of some kind. But somehow I doubt it. I don't think anyone who has a picture of a football player wearing a tutu is smart enough to pull that off.

This morning I received yet another gift. It's a button that says "Not Until the 10th." Don't know what that means exactly. If it's referring to October 10th, it's a little late.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mutemath

I feel the need to publicly declare my love for Mutemath. They're basically all I listen to these days. I saw them the other night at the House of Blues in Chicago for the second time and it was fantastic, as expected. The first time I saw them, I only knew one of their songs because it was on American Idol (yeah, I watch American Idol. Shut up), but some coworkers were going and they strongly encouraged me to come. They insisted it was the best live show I'd ever see, and they were right.

Here is a sampling of what goes on at a Mutemath show:

- When the drummer comes out on stage, he puts his headphones on and then duct tapes them to his head. He gets a little hyper. So hyper that he broke is drum pedal in the second song.

- The lead singer plays a variety of "instruments." My personal favorite is the keytar. He also has a little keyboard/piano thing that sits front and center on the stage; sometimes he plays it, sometimes he does flips over it, and sometimes it's played like a drum by various members of the band. In the final song, he ends up playing an inexplicable piece of machinery that is sort of played like a guitar but basically just plays sound effects. Also, the lead guitarist plays his pedals sometimes.

-As you can see in the video, there is general destruction of the stage and everything on it at the end of the show. They weren't quite as destructive this time as they were the first time I saw them, which was mildly disappointing, but I think I'll get over it.

So there you have it. Mutemath does not disappoint. We may have stood a little too close to the speaker and I think I might be deaf now. But it was worth it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Crazy Neighbors, Part 2

Just when I thought the neighbors couldn't get any crazier, I came home the other night to be greeted by a pick-up truck on the front lawn. I believe this officially makes us the Naperville hillbillies.

Meanwhile, I found out that they do own a used car dealership in Indiana, hence the plethora of cars parked in any available open space on our property, now including the front lawn.

To top it off, the other night I was watching TV, minding my own business, and I hear quite a bit of yelling and fighting below me. About a half hour later, the high school aged girl that lives below us rings my doorbell and asks to use my phone to call her dad who I knew from a previous conversation was in Indiana. So I let her use my phone, she gets the answering machine, leaves a message in another language (most likely Chinese or something, the mom is Oriental), then leaves. I debated whether or not I should ask if everything was ok, but she didn't seem upset and I didn't want to get involved. An hour or so later, my roommate comes home and I tell her this slightly unusual story and she informs be that the girl is sitting out in the backyard with the dog. So I'm pretty sure that this girl fought with her mother, possibly about the annoying dog, and her mom threw her and her dog out of the house. I really have no evidence that this is what happened, but it makes sense.

To top that off, I saw the dad yesterday at church. He breezed right by me, and I'm not sure if he saw me, but I didn't say anything because I forgot his name. Now I feel like I to be nice. Not that I was planning on being mean or anything ...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Go Cubs GO!

I would be remiss if I didn't write something about my beloved Chicago Cubs today as last night they became Division Champs. Good job, guys. I wrote about my feelings towards the Cubs back in June when I went to a game.

The most fun part is watching the crazy fans on TV. They're so hopeful. It's not that I'm not excited. It's just that I don't get my hopes up much anymore. I simply try to enjoy the winning when it happens.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You Might be Obsessed with Apple if...

I was looking at a website today and on it, someone was giving away irises. At first glance, I got a little excited because I thought it was an Apple related product...an iRise. Something to place your monitor on perhaps, fashioned to match your beautiful Mac. Much to my dismay, I soon realized they were talking about the flower.

Crazy Neighbors

I'm sorry, but this post is strictly for complaining purposes. You don't have to read it if you don't want to.

We have some crazy neighbors ("we" being my roommate and I). These are the people that live below us. We live in a cute little house on the top floor. It's very adorable and I love it, however we can't seem to get away from weird people.

When we first moved in, there was a couple living below us that we spoke to maybe once. We never really saw them coming or going from their apartment, but we know they did because their car was gone sometimes. They also had a car sitting in the garage with all flat tires. They had an aquarium and some garbage cans sitting behind the car in the garage. When they moved out, I opened the garage one day and the aquarium and garbage cans were in the exact same spot, but the car was gone, as though it had magically been lifted out of the garage without disturbing anything. I can only imagine this may really be what happened seeing is the car had no working tires.

Anyway, now we have a new family downstairs consisting of 2 parents, a daughter who's probably jr. high or high school age and a little boy who's maybe 7. He's always playing outside by the garage. I've almost hit him with my car maybe 10 times now. At first, they all seemed fairly normal. When they moved in, they had two cars; a ghetto old pick up truck and a van with lots of dents. Then one day, another ghetto old car appeared. Then another. Then one day I pulled into the garage and there was a nasty old Jeep parked in their spot that I'd not seen before. That adds up to 5 cars. They have 5 ghetto old cars packed into our small little parking area behind the house. I imagine they won't be bringing anymore cars home only because they won't actually fit anywhere!

Then, the other day my roommate came home and informed me that they had a dog on a chain out in the backyard and he was sitting on top of his dog house, Snoopy style. I was a little surprised that I'd not seen or heard this dog at all. He just magically appeared. Kind of like their cars. Is there going to be another dog tomorrow? Probably. Anyway, I didn't really care about the dog thing as long as it wasn't annoying, and it hadn't been, so fine. Then, this morning, 4 a.m., I hear freakin' barking in the back yard. I thought for sure they would hear their stupid dog barking, but either they didn't hear him (which would mean they're all deaf), or they chose to ignore it and he continued barking for at least an hour.

During this hour, I went through many options in my half asleep head. I considered going downstairs, knocking on their door, and insisting that they shut up their stupid dog, but I was too lazy and it's kind of creepy outside at night. Then I thought about calling the cops. Then I thought I'll wait till the morning, knock on their door and tell them I'm going to call the cops if it happens again. Then I came up with what I believed to be my best option. Go Seinfeld on the stupid dog and take care of it once and for all. This was clearly the most fun and violent option. I just needed to find a Newman of my own. Apparently I'm a very angry person at 4 a.m.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Garage Sale Fun

This morning I shopped a few garage sales with my mother and my friend Emily. We found one particularly impressive estate sale in an old house with lots and lots of old (and some weird) stuff.

I enjoy estate sales immensely because you get to actually go through other peoples' houses; houses that usually belonged to an incredibly old person and are filled with furniture from the 70's and gaudy wallpaper. Such was the case at this particular house. It was amazing. I was highly successful at this sale; I purchased The Wizard of Oz sountrack on vinyl, a cubs pennant that's gotta be from the 60's, and a People magazine from 1985 with Bette Davis on the cover. Amazing finds, I know.

Anyway, the best part of the estate sale was not what we bought, but the disturbing conversation we had with a fellow shopper. Emily and I had made our way into a small bedroom inside the house filled with a bunch of clothes and other random junk. There was a very small closet with a few clothes items hanging inside, one of which was some sort of fur shawl type thing. While we were rummaging about in this room, a woman came in, maybe in her 60's, and started trying on this fur thing. She was rather pleased to find it and starting telling us this story about how she once bought a very small fur shawl for $.50 at a garage sale for her granddaughter to play dress up in and she went on to sell it at an antique store for $30. She was very proud of this and told us the story a number of times while we smiled politely.

After she stood there staring at herself in the mirror wearing the shawl for a few minutes, her husband showed up in the doorway and their conversation went as follows:

Woman: Honey, should I buy this?
Man: -grunt-
Woman: Remember when I bought that really small fur and sold it at the antique store for $30?
Man: -grunt-
Woman: What if I get naked and wear only this?
Man: -grunt-
Me (in my head): WHA?!

The rest of it was kind of a blur (I was mostly in shock) and Emily and I desperately looked for a way to exit the room. Somehow we managed to get out of there without bursting into fits of laughter (or throwing up).

We finally checked out and got in the car where we could laugh sufficiently. We found out that my mother was in the next room during all this, heard it all going on, and laughed out loud.

A bit later on, we arrived at a "multi-family" garage sale which actually only consisted of two houses. Somehow we'd gotten back on the subject of the naked fur lady and as we got out of the car and walked towards the garage sales, we were joking and giggling about this poor woman and her uninterested husband. Seconds later we looked up to see that our very own naked fur lady was at the garage sale next door. I sincerely hope she didn't hear us talking, but if she did I don't feel too bad. Perhaps she will be more discreet next time. Nobody needs to know about her kinky fur-filled sex life.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One Movie I Will NOT Be Seeing

If I have to hear about this Mr. Woodcock movie one more time, I think I'm going to vomit. It all started the other day when I saw a preview for it on TV. I was disgusted, but I didn't worry about it too much seeing as it looks to be possibly the dumbest movie ever and hopefully I would never hear about it again. I was terribly, terribly wrong.

Part of my job is formatting a Movies Newsletter. As I started looking through the new movie reviews to go into the newsletter today, much to my dismay I found that Mr. freakin' Woodcock was part of the lineup. This doesn't really surprise me as we review most new movies. Of course, we did not give it a good review. But still, I had to hear about it again, which was unfortunate. And I had to see the poster image which was even more unfortunate. Out of good taste, I'm not going to post this image here.

So I finished my newsletter, hoping to never have to hear about this movie again, when I find an email sitting in my inbox from New Line Cinema informing me that "Mr. Woodcock is now in theatres." Fabulous. Thank you for letting me know.

Now, why do I hate this movie so much? Besides the fact that it basically slaps you in the face with obscenity, what really upsets me is that it insults my intelligence and the intelligence of the entire world. If the mere title is so painfully obvious in its attempt to be funny, that it turns out completely unfunny, what are we to expect from the movie itself? Do we really have to be so blatantly obscene in order to be funny these days? Is this the only way we can get attention? It reminds me of this exchange between Bart and Homer Simpson one day when Homer is looking after Moe's:

Bart: I'd like to speak to a Mr. Tabooger, first name Ollie.
Homer: (excited) Ooh! My first prank call! What do I do?
Bart: Just ask if anyone knows Ollie Tabooger.
Homer: I don't get it.
Bart: Yell out "I'll eat a booger"
Homer: What's the gag?
Bart: Oh, forget it...


When you have to be that obvious about a joke, it's not even a joke anymore!

Needless to say I do not plan on wasting my money on this film, nor can I fathom how anyone would want to, though I imagine there are millions of 12 year old boys out there (and possibly adults with severely underdeveloped senses of humor) who cannot wait to see it. I pity them.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why Can't a Woman be More Like a Man?

So I've had a few ... interesting conversations with some of my girlfriends lately, and today while listening to my My Fair Lady soundtrack, I actually found myself relating to Henry Higgins. I think he was onto something. While I don't necessarily approve of his women-bashing, and most of the things he praises about men are completely untrue, I have to agree with him on this: women are too dramatic. I'm a girl and I can't even deal with the drama! It's just not me.

Why did I turn out this way? I really have no explanation. I have too much common sense, and let's face it, most women don't make sense. And they confuse me. So when they get overly dramatic, I just nod and smile and try not to make them feel like they're crazy, but it's honestly hard sometimes.

Now I'm not saying that I haven't had my fair share of girly moments, because I have. But I quickly realize that I'm being irrational and I snap out of it. It's not that hard. And I'm not saying that men are perfect by any means. I'm just saying that women could stand to be a little more like men. And certainly men could stand to be a lot more like women, but Henry Higgens didn't sing a clever song about that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Sound of Music

Contrary to what the title may imply, this post is not going to actually be about the movie The Sound of Music. Not that I couldn't write a post about it, because I could. It's just that I'm going to see it in Grant Park tonight and I'm a little preoccupied.

Anyway, real topic of this post: Why am I so affected by music? It's really becoming a nuisance. Sometimes when I'm at work listening to my beloved iTunes, a particular song comes on that's so amazing, I have to stop working and just listen. (I would like to take this time to say that before some of you go making bratty comments about me not working, I do get my work done regardless. I'm just that good.) This, however, is not the biggest problem I have. (Again, keep your bratty comments to yourself.)

When I was very young I received, as a gift, a little music box that played "My Favorite Things." I was too young to know what song it was; to my ears it was brand new. What I did know was that every time I wound up my music box and it started playing, I cried uncontrollably. The tragedy was that I really loved this song very much and I didn't understand why it made me cry. I remember staring at the music box with disdain wondering why I couldn't just enjoy it like a normal child. I proceeded to shove it away in a drawer, refusing to ever listen to it again. Thus began my strange, sad life of crying for no apparent reason at completely random songs.

Luckily as I've gotten older I've learned to control this impulse, though there are still times where a certain song will get me. What is that about?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Door County Tales

Seeing as I enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Door County last week, I thought I should share some Door County stories from this year and years past. We stay in a resort (The Rushes) where my grandma owns a timeshare; one week a year. We share the week with my mom's three sisters, so technically we only go every 4 years. We stay in a nice condo that is very near the beach and boat area. It looks like this:



I've been vacationing in this same place for basically my whole life and, as you can imagine, some crazy things have happened up there. I thought I should get some of these stories down on paper (internet paper).

Story #1: One of the many activities at The Rushes that we enjoy is ping pong. They have an outdoor and indoor ping pong table. Pretty fancy, I know. Anyway, we were enjoying a friendly doubles game with my cousin and I playing against our moms. After a missed ball on our moms' side, I stopped paying attention for a moment while they retrieved it. All of a sudden, I hear some high pitched squealing and I see my mother flailing about out of the corner of my eye. Having no idea as to what could have caused such an insane reaction, I asked what happened. All she could manage to say was, "He was looking right at me!" with wide eyes and a terrified tone of voice. I immediately thought there was some crazed lunatic killer stalking us during our ping pong game, but I quickly found out she was referring to a freakin' little ground squirrel that had climbed up the tree beside her and stared down at her. This immediately brought me back to one fateful night when my mother fled into our house, abandoning me on the patio when she thought a squirrel was going to attack us.

Story #2: This happened sometime when I was in high school, and it involves again, my mother, my aunt and 4 of my cousins. We went to this state park kind of thing on Lake Michigan that also had some woodsy spots you could hike through. We set out on our hike; myself and two of my cousins making our way through the woods getting quite a bit farther ahead than the others. Suddenly we hear my mother (why is it always my mother?) yelling to us from rather far back that we need to leave. They all made their way quickly out of the woods while my two cousins and I rolled our eyes and strolled leisurely behind them. When we were out of the woods and gathered together, they explained that they had heard a growl possibly from up in a tree. Thus began in intense investigation by my mother and aunt to find out what kind of animal this could have been. Their first instinct was a bear, but after a few employees at this park told them there had been cougar sightings, they settled on the cougar theory. We still argue to this day about whether or not a growl was actually heard, but one thing I do know is my mother made a b-line out of those woods leaving me, once again, to get attacked by a wild animal.

Story #3: The Rushes also has a number of organized activities throughout the week. We never bothered involving ourselves in such things until a few years back. The first one we tried was the Wine and Cheese Party. It's one of the first activities they have; it's supposed to be a way to get to know some of your neighbors. Now, I don't like getting to know people, but I heard there was going to be food. So we ventured over and sure enough, there was wine and cheese along with a number of other drinks and goodies. It was great. We got a little carried away and may have eaten through their entire supply of meatballs. Luckily, this year when we went they had more than enough meatballs on hand. The only other activity we participated in a few years go was Bingo. It was a huge disaster. My mother kept calling Bingo when she didn't have it because the lady running it kept making shapes other than lines (boxes, "C"s, etc...). The prizes for getting Bingo were completely lame, and someone even stole my aunt's stupid trail mix that she won. Meanwhile, I did not win one single game the whole time and I was getting rather disgruntled. But then finally God smiled on me and I won the final "grand prize" game and I got a bottle of wine. It was the least lame prize all night. I was mildly pleased, but it didn't really make up for the complete boringness of it all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mars Cheese Castle

If you've ever driven north on I-94 towards Milwaukee, you've no doubt been at least a little intrigued by the enormous, ghetto sign for the Mars Cheese Castle that appears to have been standing there, untouched, since 1953. It's impossible to miss; soaring high into the sky right next to the expressway.



I've been driving to Wisconsin on a regular basis for basically my entire life and never have I stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle. That's not to say that I didn't desperately want to. How can you not at least want to see what it's all about? But alas, I've always managed to keep on driving by. Until this weekend.

After a failed attempt to find the perfect cheese on our vacation in Door County, my cousin, a great cheese lover, decided we were desperately in need of a stop at the Mars Cheese Castle on our way home. We made our way through Milwaukee, anxiously looking for any sign of the Cheese Castle. Finally we found it, Highway 142. We got off on the small exit, passed Mike's Ghetto Cheese Stand (not the real name) and pulled up to our destination. It was everything I hoped it would be.

Inside it was significantly more crowded than I anticipated, filled with tourists scurrying about looking for their favorite cheese. And they did have every kind of cheese you could ever hope for; string cheese, cheese curds, cheddar, swiss, muenster, along with cheese in the shape of a cow, a beer bottle, or the state of Wisconsin. But that's not all! In addition to their gigantic selection of cheeses, they also offer every kind of wine you could want to go with your cheese, a deli, a bakery, and a little gift shop with some typical cow/cheese/Wisconsin themed gifts. My favorite was the large cheese shaped fart noise maker that said "Cut the Cheese" on the side. I almost bought it, but it was $12. The most disappointing thing was the sign forbidding you to actually blow into one for sanitary reasons. How can they expect anyone to spend $12 on it when you can't even preview the farting noises? I'm pretty sure I can find a cheaper source of fart noises if the need should ever arise.

By far the best part of the Mars Cheese Castle was the plethora of free samples. They offered samples of a good number of cheeses and being the cheap (frugal) person that I am, I took advantage. Then I got a little nauseous so I stopped.

Later that evening after I got home, I was watching the Food Network and much to my pleasure, they just happened to be visiting the Mars Cheese Castle! It was thrilling. It became significantly more thrilling when they showed an old lady actually blowing into one of the fart noise makers. It made my day truly complete. But I still wouldn't buy one.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pink Shirt Guy

This is Pink Shirt Guy


Pink Shirt Guy currently lives on my bulletin board in my cube at work. He originally came out of a "clergywear" brochure that we received at work. I had no idea there were so many wardrobe options for clergy people these days. It's rather impressive.

The models in the brochure were fascinating. There was one fellow that was clearly the professional model. He appeared several times, young and handsome, and posing like it was going out of style. Then there were a number of other men who I can only imagine were either actual clergy, or just guys off the street.

I would guess that Pink Shirt Guy was one of the latter, but I was so impressed with this gentleman for having the guts to wear the hot pink clergy shirt. I imagine there aren't many men who are confident enough to appear in such things. While all the other men in the brochure were wearing the blue and black shirt varieties, this man wore his hot pink shirt with pride. Well done, Pink Shirt Guy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Me + Kids

I think it's safe to say that I don't really like kids all that much. They're generally annoying and are usually emitting an offensive noise/smell. Kids seem to like me though, I don't know why. It's like when a cat demands attention from the one person in the room who's allergic to them. I don't mind holding a baby or having a short discussion with a preschooler, but after a few minutes, they need to leave.

This doesn't mean that I haven't spent much of my life voluntarily spending time with kids. I worked at a toy store for 5 years! A toy store that had demo toys out on the floor, encouraging hyper active children to run around and make a mess. It also (not on purpose) encouraged parents to leave their children playing at the store while they went shopping at Kohl's.

While I got paid for dealing with children at the Zany Brainy, I did not get paid for the countless hours I spent helping in the church nursery and Awana. Kids are everywhere at church. You can't get away from them. I also helped my friend Joyce in her Sunday School class full of 1st graders (I think). This was the most fun church/kids experience because I got to hang out with Joyce and I convinced all the kids that Jesus' favorite color is blue. Suckers! In all the cheezy Sunday School curriculum, Jesus is always wearing blue. One day, the kids were painting pictures of Jesus and I told them that it was clear that Jesus' favorite color is blue, so they better paint him blue. They all believed me, which I wasn't really expecting. (Kids are so gullible!) However, there was one little boy that as annoyingly defiant, and he challenged my theory. He boldly stated that he was not going to paint Jesus blue, but he was going to go with purple. I told him that purple is just blue and red mixed so, technically, he's still kind of painting Jesus blue. Yeah, I won that argument.

There are some children that I do like a lot. They are: kids in my family and my friend Joyce's kids. Joyce's kids were the only kids I consented to babysit in high school, and it was fun. They were well behaved and I taught them all kinds of wonderful things.

My cousins' kids are starting to get a little older and it's highly entertaining. My oldest cousin has twins, a boy and a girl, and they're hilarious. I spent some time the other day playing the piano with them. We took turns playing songs and I was impressed with the fact that they did not merely slam on the keys when it was their turn to play. They actually played individual notes. Then I played the easy piano version of the Entertainer and they were thrilled. At least someone is impressed with my piano playing abilities.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Venetian Night

On Saturday, I attended my first ever Venetian Night in downtown Chicago. It was great! I had no idea how fun it was. This year was the 50th anniversary, so it's possible that it was a little better than other years, but I really don't know. It's basically a parade of decorated boats along the lake front followed by a wonderful fireworks display. Thanks to some friends that headed down there early, we got an amazing spot right on the water.

The theme this year was "Chicago's Finest Moments" so there were boats dedicated to all our wonderful sports teams, a couple Chicago Fire boats (not sure that should be considered a "fine moment" but, whatever), and some dedicated to the 2016 Olympics even though it's not even a Chicago moment yet. There was also a Little Mermaid boat. It was very well done, but I have no idea what it had to do with Chicago.

Here are a few highlights in picture form:


Yes, this fellow's shirt says "This is what cool looks like." Finally, someone is brave enough to show the world what "cool" really is.


This is the Cubs boat. They did a pretty good job, but apparently did not consider what might happen when the wind catches their rather large scoreboard. They almost crashed into the shore. Leave it to the Cubs boat to crash.


This was a pretty classy boat. They had a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "My Kind of Town" and a old guy in a tux lip syncing to it.


A fabulous tribute to Marshall Field's. Oh Marshall Field's I miss you so!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zany Brainy

This is a random post about my job at Zany Brainy. I worked at Zany Brainy in high school and some of college. It was possibly the best job ever. I love my job now, and my Classic Cinemas internship was great, but seriously, what beats working in a toy store?

I actually started working at the Noodle Kidoodle in Woodridge. They were basically the same store, but Noodle Kidoodle was far superior to Zany Brainy. Alas, not long after I started, Zany Brainy bought out Noodle Kidoodle. So that was that. Then one day, FAO Schwartz bought Zany Brainy. This was fun because we got some cool FAO Schwartz toys. But they were outrageously expensive and no one bought them. So they closed our store. This was sad because I pretty much ran that Woodridge store. It was basically just one big huge good time. On the bright side, we had to liquidate the store which meant lots of cheap toys. The even better part was FAO Schwartz sent us all these weird random things that they wanted to get rid of. So, I purchased an amazing Judy Garland doll, I Love Lucy doll, and embarrassing amounts of Hello Kitty merchandise...all for 80% off.

Anyway, after the Woodridge store closed, I transferred to the Oak Brook store which was staying open because in Oak Brook, people spend significantly more money on toys. But apparently not enough money. That store closed about a year later which mean more liquidation and more cheap toys. Sweet!

Here are the highlights of my Zany Brainy experience:

- After having built up a decent amount of seniority, I began to take complete control of the music and movies that were played in the store. We had a "theater" area in the back of the store with a large TV, and we had a CD player up front where we could change the music as we pleased. When my dictatorship of the in store media was fully realized, the only movies playing on that TV were Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Parent Trap. And the only CDs playing were, Broadway Kids, A Child's Celebration of Broadway, A Child's Celebration of Showtunes, Bedtime with the Beatles, and The Parent Trap soundtrack (the new one). It was so amazing.

- I am a master gift wrapper. I can wrap in record time and I can wrap just about anything. The giftwrapping was my favorite part of this job. Christmas was the best because I would actually be assigned to doing nothing all day except giftwrapping. It was heavenly.

- I built a K'nex Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster. It was so fabulous and it worked perfectly. The only problem was that it was displayed in the store within the reach of all the little brats that came in and felt the need to touch it and break it. Sometimes I stood guard and gave them evil looks if they came near it.

- Working at a toy store during Christmas is incredible. My Christmases have not been the same since then.

- When the Woodridge store closed, I took the Girls bathroom sign. It had a little Noodle Kidoodle girl on it and it's very cute. I hung it on my bathroom door at home and my friend brought her son over once and he wasn't sure if he was allowed to use that bathroom seeing as it had a "Girls" sign on the door.

- This job is the reason I'm obsessed with Hello Kitty. It's also the reason I'm not actually any more mature today than I was when I was 15. Actually, I think it may have de-matured me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cubs Win!


The Cubs won yesterday and I was there. It was a good game and the weather was perfect. I had the day off work because we're doing an almost all office move and those of us who are moving got the day off so they could move all our stuff. Now I'm only moving one cube over, but they still insisted that I'd be in the way if I came in. So I can't argue with that.

I was especially excited because this is the first game I've gone to since I got my jersey, and I wore it proudly. I got this jersey a few months ago at Marshall's. It's a boys' and it's Greg Maddux who's not even on the team anymore, but I don't care because it was $10. That's right, $10. So I was very pleased with that purchase and even more pleased that I finally got to wear it to a game. I just pretend like I bought it when Maddux was actually on the team.

We have a bit of a tradition for our Cub's games in my family. We like to head to Wrigley Field in the morning, get a free parking spot on the street, head to the box office to hopefully get some tickets, and then hang out at McDonald's. It's a very nice routine. Yesterday we just bought some cheap tickets and our seats were way up high, but it really doesn't matter to me. It's fun no matter what. There was a mexican man that sat beside me. He kind of tried to make conversation, but I mostly didn't know what he was saying so I just nodded politely.



The best part of the day was Mark Grace throwing out the first pitch. I did not know he was going to be doing it and I was overjoyed. I love that guy. It was a little strange because we were playing the Diamondbacks, the team he played for after leaving the Cubs and I believe he announces for them now. Awkward! But it was still fabulous. Meanwhile, when did the Diamondbacks change colors?? I was confused when I saw them out there in their red uniforms. You can't just go changing colors whenever you feel like it! What about all their fans that spent tons of money on turquoise and purple apparel, and now they can't even wear it anymore.

I would like to take a few moments to talk about being a Cubs fan. I was born a Cubs fan which means that sometimes I really don't follow them at all, but I'm still allowed to call myself a fan because I come from a long line of Cubs fans. That's just how it is. And I'm a great loser. I'm pretty sure that being so loyal to a losing team has made me a better person. I've also been raised to believe that their losing could be directly related to any given action of mine. For example, a few weeks ago I was watching a game and I decided, having just purchased my jersey, that I should wear it while I watched. Perhaps it would help them to win. However, shortly after I put it on, they started playing pretty badly. Needless to say, the jersey was soon returned to the closet. This has been the story of my life. I'm just trying to help. Now, I don't really want to admit this, but sometimes I feel the need to get God involved in the action. When I was 5 years old it was just kind of cute and acceptable to pray that the Cubs would win. At 24, I'm pretty sure it's anything but cute or acceptable, but I can't kick a lifelong habit.

There's really nothing better than a game at Wrigley Field. Especially when it's full. There were 41,071 people in attendance yesterday. Way more exciting than watching it on TV. I was really hoping they'd win the World Series next year seeing as it would be 100 years since the last time they won, but I'd be ok if it was this year. 99 years is long enough I think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bikini Potbelly

I have to confess, I use Google Analytics to track the comings and goings on this website. It's a lot of fun. It tells you how many people are looking at your site, where they are located, how they got to your site and all kinds of crazy info. I don't really pay that much attention to it, I really just like to see how many people are reading and how they found the site.

The most fun part of it is you can see what keywords people are searching for in any given search engine to find your site. I had no idea how amusing it would be to see what people are searching for. What have I learned? People search for weird stuff.

I was poking around in my stats today and I noticed an especially interesting Google search term. Bikini Potbelly. At first I was slightly confused as to why, in heaven's name, my blog would come up for that term. Then I remembered; my Pool Fun post! Yes, a post all about potbellied old people wearing bikinis. Makes sense.

I decided to do my own Google search for "bikini potbelly" to try to figure out exactly what this person was looking for and why they chose to click on my blog. Here's the search result that came up:


Wow. I don't know how anyone could resist clicking on that. And apparently, they couldn't.

Now I'm just dying know why anyone would do a Google search for "bikini potbelly." What, exactly, were they hoping to find? I can't imagine they were expecting an embarrassingly silly blog post about fat old people at the pool, but that's what they got.

So, bikini potbelly person; if you're out there, and you ever come back to this blog, please, please will you tell me what inspired this particular search?

The best part is now that I've titled this post "bikini potbelly" and have used the term an embarrassing number of times, I've no doubt that if anyone else ever searches for that term, this post will hold a prominent spot in the search results, the searcher will not be able to resist clicking on it, and I will know exactly how many people search for "bikini potbelly" every day.

That's right "bikini potbelly" people, I'm watching you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Regression

I'm regressing. Church music-wise. I grew up in a fairly small church where I knew just about everyone and we sang hymns on Sunday mornings accompanied by a piano and absolutely no drums. As I got older, the church got smaller and the hymns seemed to get old and boring. 80% of the regular attenders were over the age of 60 and as a result, the music never changed (with the exception of the nixing of the organ at some point). This always made me so angry. They were basically ignoring the rest of the world and not even worrying about the fact that young people were leaving the church and we were attracting absolutely no new people. We did start to sing some "choruses" instead of hymns and we eventually dropped the hymnals for slides projected on the screen, but the music was still uninspiring. There were so many new worship songs that they refused to acknowledge. Not to mention the fact that it seemed very little work was put into changing the music in any way from week to week (or year to year). There was one woman who played the piano and had been doing so for possibly 250 years. Every so often there would be a random wind instrument and sometimes even...gasp!...a guitar, but basically these songs were being played the exact same way they were played 50 years ago.

So I left that church (not just because of the music issue) and I started attending The Evangelical Free Church of Naperville. This place is amazing and I love it. I was especially happy that they offered two services with two worship styles: blended and contemporary. I realize having two worship styles is pretty typical, but I hadn't had that luxury before. So I started attending the contemporary service—it was everything I'd ever hoped for. The music was excellent, and I loved the new songs.

Then something went awry (not in the church ... in my head).

I've been attending the contemporary service for at least 3 or 4 years now and I'm officially admitting today that I want to sing hymns again. What's more, I'm now complaining about the very things that I got so mad at the old people for complaining about at the old church. This is disturbing to say the least. I'm not sure what's happening to me. I remember when someone complained about the fact that we stopped using the hymnals and it seemed so silly to me. But lately, I've found myself missing the hymnals! I kind of like opening them up, finding the song, and having all the music and lyrics right there in front of me. (When I was a child, I thought it was funny to sing the words to the wrong verse. For example, the church would be singing verse 1, while I'd be happily singing verse 3. Ah, the things we do to entertain ourselves in church.)

One of the things I really love about my church now is the orchestra. I've played in it for the majority of my time at EFCN and we generally only play in the blended service. I've been able to enjoy some hymns that way, but I rarely get to actually sing them (though I can sing the flute parts to most of them). So I think I'm ready to make the switch. Contemporary to Blended. Can I do it? I'm not sure. All my friends go to the contemporary service. Even my own mother prefers the contermporary service. I'm going to be sitting alone, singing hymns with a bunch of old people. Plus, the blended service is earlier, which is kind of rough. I have enjoyed being able to sleep in a bit on Sundays. But I have to at least give the blended service a try. I never thought I'd say it, but I can't wait to sing hyms!

So there you have it. I've regressed. I can't say it's surprising considering most of my interests resemble those of an 80 year old. In fact, it's probably more surprising that I've been going to the contemporary service for so long.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's iPhone

Ok, I was really trying not to be impressed by this silly iPhone business. Being the Mac Geek that I am, I've been reading about it from the beginning, but it never really excited me that much. Mostly because it costs about a million dollars. Also, I really didn't see a need for such a high tech mobile device. My phone makes calls and that's all I really need. Or so I thought.

I was doing good until I started watching all these silly videos on YouTube. It's so cool! And now I want one, even though there's no possibility of me getting one in the near future. I'm hoping that in 2 years, when my contract is up, it'll be cheaper and better. I can't wait.

Even better than the demo videos are the ones making fun of the iPhone. I very much enjoy Conan O'Brien's iPhone commercial, and of course Stephen Colbert's review is fabulous.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pool Fun

Tonight at the pool, there was a woman who looked like Robert Redford and talked like Jane Fonda. It was fascinating. While this provided me with a few minutes of entertainment during my usual pool exercises, I realized that a trip to the pool is no longer what it used to be. I'm afraid an era has come to an end.

Over the past few years, this pool at my mom's condo has hosted a miriad of colorful characters that never failed to entertain and disturb me. There was one rather tight-knit group, comprised of elderly, super tan, pot-bellied, skantily clad future skin cancer victims who lazied around at the pool for hours on end. I'm only assuming that they went home when the pool closed, though I can't be sure.

There was one fellow that was clearly the leader of this pack. The others followed him around like he was the cool kid and they were his possie attempting to benefit from his coolness. Unfortunately, he wasn't cool. I'm not sure I ever saw this man wearing a shirt. His pot belly looked as though he was pregnant with sextuplets and his limp man boobs were in desperate need of some support. In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, his favorite topic of conversation was his latest sexual excapade with some hoochie down the street. His possie hung on every word of every story he told, attempting to live vicariously through him and bring some excitement into their dreary, 18 hours a day at the pool, existence. He was often liquered up (when I say often, I mean always) which brought a distinctive slurriness to his relentless babble. As a result of his grotesque conversation and affinity for curse words, he earned himself the nickname Pottymouth.

Pottymouth had one follower that was especially attentive and clearly aspired to be just like Pottymouth himself. Much to his pleasure, I'm sure, he had the pot belly to match. He just needed to work on the drunkeness. We called him Pottymouth Wannabe. Pottymouth Wannabe had a girlfriend with a pot belly that put the men to shame. Nevertheless, she insisted on wearing a bikini every single day with no cover up in sight. We named her Pottymouth Wannabe's girlfriend. Together, these three provided hours of entertainment and caused me to have to dive into the water to hide my giggles on more than one occasion.

All this to say I'm rather upset as I haven't seen one of these special people at the pool this year. Either they all died of skin cancer over the winter (highly likely) or they moved away. In any case, though they were generally disturbing, I kind of miss them. The pool just isn't the same without their off-color conversations and definite lack of appropriate clothing.

So now the pool is merely a gathering of kids and relatively normal adults with their non-obscene conversations and modest swimwear. Yes, every so often a Robert Redford lady will come along to amuse me for a short time, but they will never be able compare with the legend that is Pottymouth and his possie.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Guide to Kid's Meals

I'm here to tell you that you should all be buying kid's meals anywhere you eat. They are the best. I know you think they won't fill you up, but they will. You don't need a whole meal. It's too much food. It's sad that we've been lead to believe that we need so much food. We're spending too much money and getting too fat and the food industry is profiting from our stupidity.

Ordering a kid's meal can be tricky, depending on where you are. At McDonald's it's certainly easy to order one. They don't care that you're 25. Some places are not so lax in their age restrictions. But the first thing to remember is that even if there is an age restriction on the menu, it's probably not enforced. So don't let it stop you. The secret is confidence. When you order just say, matter-of-factly, that you want the kid's chicken fingers. If you don't act like it's strange, nobody else will think it is. This strategy holds up for many other circumstances as well—such as explaining to people that Judy Garland is your favorite actress.

You can usually tell if it's going to go well or not during your first communication with the server. Is it a guy or girl? Are they a slave to the rules and regulations of the establishment? Are they friendly or grumpy? All of these things will factor into your ordering strategy. If they are of the opposite sex, a little flirting never hurts. If they seem to be in a good mood, it's probably pretty clear sailing. There will be times that you'll get a stuffy, grumpy server who's to afraid to break the rules and they'll refuse your kid's meal. Don't be afraid to show your displeasure. There's no reason they should be forcing you to order their huge meals. In retaliation, maybe order just an appetizer and make sure to only order water. Also, leave a crappy tip.

Speaking of tips, if you do order the kid's meal, make sure to leave a tip for a full priced meal. You want to reward the server for their courage in standing up to the establishment.

Now, onto the best kid's meals in the Chicagoland area. I want to point out that all the good kid's meals come with a dessert of some kind. My absolute favorite place to order a kid's meal is Fuddruckers. It's $4 and you get a cheeseburger, fries and a drink. The burger is smaller than their usual burgers, but their burgers are HUGE! The kid's one is just right. You also get a kid's cookie.

I recently discovered a new kid's meal at the Atlanta Bread Company. You get a half sandwich, chips, a drink and a delicious big cookie. All for around $5. I also recently discovered the Culver's kid's meals, with which you get a scoop of custard.

In the sit-down restaurant category, Friday's has never failed to give me the kid's meal, and they're good. I've also done pretty well at Applebee's, though I think they denied me once. But their kid's chicken fingers are good.

So start ordering kid's meals. Show the restaurant industry that you're not going to stand for their over-sized meals and their ridiculous prices. Kid's meals are where it's at.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stephen Colbert

Just a quick note to say Stephen Colbert is quickly becoming my favorite person. I ran into some videos of his show and they're hilarious. This one is my favorite. haha! He was always my favorite person on The Daily Show. Apparently he's Catholic. You gotta love a funny Catholic.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Cicadas

Ok, I finally got the chance to experience the attacking cicadas first hand yesterday. I had been told by a few people that they literally fly right into you but I didn't believe it until it happened to me. There still are very few by my house, mind you. However, there are a couple suburbs that have been hit rather hard and I had the misfortune of having to walk through one of them.

I was taking the train into the great city of Chicago from Westmont where cicadas have successfully taken over the town. Walking to the train station, at least 5 cicadas ran directly into me. Due to some scheduling problems, we had to wait longer than expected for the train, all the while trying to fight off cicadas. It was treacherous. One landed on my nose. They fly around as if they're drunk; crashing directly into just about anything (buildings, cars, me) and often bouncing off and landing on the ground. As a result, there are tons of dead cicadas all over the ground. So not only are they flying around like they've had a few too many, they're also strewn about the ground, crunching as you step on them.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Surprise!

I have some pretty great friends. Last Sunday, a nice little surprise birthday was thrown in honor of two of my friends and myself. It was very sweet, but then I realized that I had been lied to non stop all weekend, and that I'm possibly the most gullible person ever. Here's how it went down:

Last week, my roommate informed me that her parents were going to come in and spend the day on Sunday and she was going to make some barbeque pork for them. This is not unusual as her parents do visit once in awhile and she's basically always making food. So I said fine and went on my merry way. The next day, I get an email from our other friend, Janelle, telling me her husband is having a guys night at their house on Sunday night and she's going to be kicked out so she wanted to go shopping. That sounded good to me, so I went with it. On Saturday, I found out that the roommate's parents decided not to come in, but she'd already started making her barbeque pork, so she was just going to make it and have it for the week. This didn't seem strange to me, she often makes food in large quantities so that she can have it throughout the week. Saturday night, I came home and a pleasant aroma filled the house. I told my roommate it smelled like food, assuming she had made something, but she denied it and told me that she'd gotten a new vanilla scented plug in thing. I'm sorry to say, this satisfied my curiosity, and I went to bed. On Sunday, the roommate informed me that she was going over to Janelle's to do some laundry since our dryer isn't working, and as payment for using their dryer, she was going to bring her pork over there for guys night. I'm pretty sure this should have seemed a little strange to me, but still, I suspected nothing. She does some weird things sometimes, so I just don't ask questions.

Sunday night, I made my way over to Janelle's to start our dinner and shopping night. This is when things got a little odd. The guys hadn't arrived at their house yet, so Janelle and I sat on her porch swing for a bit before they got there. I asked her if the roommate was there doing her laundry or if she'd left. I got a rather blank stare from Janelle followed by a slightly confused look and an answer of, "no, she wasn't here." I will admit that this seemed odd to me, I had watched the roommate walk out of the house with her laundry and pork. Nevertheless, I didn't bother thinking about it too much. Note: If you're going to throw a surprise party for someone, make sure everyone involved has the story straight. Not that it really mattered in this case.

Soon the guys arrived for their guys night and Janelle said she had to run into the house to get some things before we left. It was a lovely day, so I decided to just stay on the porch swing and wait for Janelle to come back. A few seconds later, Janelle popped her head out and told me I could come in, it was going to take her a minute to find what she needed. Still, I didn't suspect anything fishy so I got up and walked inside. As I walked towards the back of the house I caught a glimpse my roommate's head bobbing around in the back door window. She saw me and rather obviously attempted to hide. Also, she was wearing a party hat. I turned to Janelle and said, "Oh, there's Grace...and she's wearing a party hat." It wasn't until I said it out loud that I realized what was going on. I made my way to the back yard and the other two birthday guys followed. We were greeted by a few of our good friends, and yes, sitting on the table in front of us was the beloved barbeque pork I'd been hearing about all weekend.

More Google Madness

Well, everyone seems to be jumping on the "Google taking over the world" bandwagon these days. Probably because it's true. Here is a rather comprehensive list of ways in which you can effectively allow Google to take over your life. What's up with the "Almighty Google" heading at the top. Feels sacrilegious.

Friday, June 8, 2007

McDonald's Thinks I'm Crazy

I really like McDonald's Happy Meals. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I love them because they contain just the right amount of food, but more importantly, I love them for the toys. Yes, often times the toys are really lame, but every once in awhile they come out with something fabulous.

Anyway, last week some coworkers and I were contemplating a trip to McDonald's for lunch and we quickly began to discuss the current Happy Meal toys. They're an important factor when deciding whether or not to visit. If you're going to risk your life by eating some McDonald's "food", the toy better at least be good. This led to a conversation about how silly some of their toys have been and how upset I was that the Queen was left out of the Shrek toys this month. There were three baby Shreks, but no Queen. Who the heck wants three baby Shreks??

While I don't really care that much about this toy issue, I thought it would be funny to pretend that I did. As a result of reading this website too much and apparently having nothing better to do, I shot this email off to McDonald's:

Dear McDonalds,

As of late, I have been perplexed by your choice of characters for your Happy Meal Toys. I was thrilled when you offered the Wizard of Oz toys, but I was rather confused as to why the Wicked Witch of the East was part of it. Have you seen the movie? She's hardly in it except for her feet sticking out from under a house! There are a number of other characters that would have made much more sense, namely, a flying monkey! They are much more recognizable than the Wicked Witch of the East considering that no one has ever actually seen what she looks like above her knees.

Then came the Shrek toys. While they are well done, I cannot get over the fact that The Queen was left out of the lineup. She's Julie Andrews for heaven's sake! I for one, would love to have a Happy Meal toy that talks like Julie Andrews. I'm confident that she would have been the most popular toy.

One more thing, when I went into my local McDonald's today for lunch, I was greeted with a sign for the new Swamp Sludge McFlurry. It looked so amazing I had to have one, but when I went to order it I was told they didn't have the stuff to make it. What is that about?! If you're not going to have the ingredients to make a Swamp Sludge McFlurry then quit slapping me in the face with advertising for it every time I turn around. I was disappointed.


The McFlurry thing is true. I couldn't believe they didn't have the "stuff" to make it. And it gave me a reason to write the email...I was really hoping for a free McFlurry out of it. But apparently McDonald's is not as generous as I'd hoped. After about a week of waiting I finally heard back from the McDonald's people:

Hello Kim:


Thank you for contacting McDonald's to share your comments about our recent Happy Meal toys. I'm sorry you were disappointed with the theme of this Happy Meal. I hope you will accept our apology for our delay in responding to you.

You may be interested to know that our Marketing staff reviews several different criteria when designing toys -- playability, durability, safety, quality and popularity with children just to name a few. The latter is always a challenge given the number of Happy Meal toys we offer every year. We often offer toys from kids' favorite television shows, retail toy lines and movie or television characters.

Please know that we would never intentionally upset our customers. Your comments are important and have been shared with our Marketing staff for their review. They've assured me they will consider your feedback when planning future Happy Meal offers.

Once again, thank you for letting us know how you feel. We hope you'll enjoy our future Happy Meal promotions.

Elvin
McDonald's Customer Response Center


Seriously? Nothing free? I'm more than a little disappointed. Certainly they could have spared a McFlurry for my trouble. On the bright side, I'm highly amused that someone named Elvin wrote to me. I'm considering replying and beginning friendly correspondence with this Elvin. He sounds like fun.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Cicada Mania

I was starting to think this whole cicada thing was just a big hoax until this weekend. I still think it's a hoax, just not such a big one.

If you don't know the story, this is the year that the Chicagoland area is going to experience a cicada invasion of biblical proportions. These are the cicadas that live underground for 17 years and then come out, have sex and die. They leave their nasty brown shells all over the place, then fly up in the trees, make a lot of noise and just cause chaos in general.

The newspapers and T.V. have been all over the story; it's getting almost as much coverage as Lindsay Lohan going to jail. They all agreed that May 22 was going to be the big day; the cicadas were going to emerge from the dirt and have their way with our beautiful suburban ecosystem. Well, May 22 came and went, and I didn't see one stupid cicada. I got all riled up for nothing. I'm not sure whose fault it was really; do the news people have no idea what they're talking about (likely), or are the cicadas just taking their sweet time? As time passed I started hearing a few stories of cicada sightings, but nothing monumental and all rather disappointing.

Finally, on Friday night, I saw my first live cicada during a bonfire in a friend's backyard. It was crawling up a little tree stump. I made the mistake of calling attention to it which set the guys off into a frenzy of cicada hunting in the backyard. They found maybe 8. I was led to believe we'd be scraping them off the sides of the trees, hundreds at a time. On Sunday, we saw approximately 10 cicada skins and a whopping one alive cicada near my mom's. She was rather excited and got some "amazing footage" with her video camera. Then I drove through Westmont which for some reason does seem to be ridden with them. The noise was quite impressive, but I'm not satisfied with the fact that downtown Westmont is the only place they seem to be. Where is the invasion I was promised??

So far the press is rather slow to admit what a huge disappointment this is. Probably because they're the ones that made it such a big deal in the first place and Lord knows they're not going to admit they may have exaggerated just a bit. I've only found one legitimate article (if an article from a DeKalb newspaper can be called legitimate) admitting that the "invasion" is not all it was cracked up to be.

Meanwhile, the Brookfield Zoo got their hands on some cicadas and is now feeding them to the animals. They're also providing video to make sure we are sufficiently grossed out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sweet Home Chicago


I had a fun Chicago-filled weekend (if you count Monday as part of the weekend).

On Saturday, my friend and I went to the Chicago History Museum. I've loved Chicago history ever since I took a sociology class in high school that included a section on Chicago. At the museum, I learned about Chicago's rich history of disaster, crime, dead animals and rioting. It is a magical place. You know a city is destined for greatness when it's built on a swamp.

My second fun Chicago excursion was the Google Adwords Seminar for Success on Monday with a coworker. The seminar was great, I learned good things, and it was at the Drake Hotel. Very classy. Plus we got a free USB flash drive and a Google mug and pen. I love free stuff. This was all well and good, but by far the most exciting and terrifying part of the day was our taxi ride to and from the hotel. We took the train into the city, but the walk to the hotel was a bit much, so we opted for the taxi. Now, I've not experienced a taxi ride in any other city so I'm not sure how they compare, but a taxi ride in Chicago is not something you'll soon forget. Basically you're first filled with intense fear for your own life, followed by intense fear for the lives of any pedestrians that may get in the taxi's way. It's quite the adventure, one that everyone should experience at least once.

Seriously though, I love Chicago. I love the buildings, the lake, the street musicians, the shopping, the history and all the busyness going on all the time. A walk along the lake is so beautiful and especially fun when the weather's nice and the bikers and runners are out. As long as they don't run into me.

Random Items

Two things I need to say:

1) Google is now openly admitting that they are taking over the world. This is what they wrote in a recent blog post:

Not only do we offer email, calendaring, and document creation and collaboration services (and more!) for individuals, but with Google Apps, businesses, schools and other organizations can customize these tools and use them as their own internal systems.

Yep, they're infiltrating our school systems. The future of our country is now owned and operated by Google.


2) A few months back Microsoft introduced the Zune, their lame answer to the iPod. There was a good amount of hype surrounding it's release, and there was some talk about their iPod wannabe commercials, but I'd never actually seen one. Finally, tonight during American Idol (nothing Paula said tonight made ANY sense, by the way) I saw my first Zune commercial. Now being completely objective, putting my feelings toward the Zune aside (feelings such as disgust, embarrassment and pity), this commercial was awful. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be about really, but it mostly just looked like Zunes are being used as headstones at a cemetery. Headstones that play music and video. Is this what it's supposed to be portraying? Can anyone shed some light on this? If they are supposed to be headstones in a cemetery, I'm not sure that's the most effective advertising strategy. Is the Zune dead? Does it represent dead people?

That concludes my random thoughts for the day. I love blogs.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Attack!

Awhile back, McDonald's was giving away the Madame Alexander Wizard of Oz dolls in their Happy Meals. Being the Judy Garland-lover that I am, I had to collect them! I got all of them except the Wicked Witch of the East. Why she was even part of it, no one knows.

Anyway, I started setting them up in my cube at work in various scenes...Dorothy beating up the Wicked Witch, the Cowardly Lion hiding behind Glinda, etc... They were living peacefully for quite some time, until I came into work one morning to find that some Terminator action figures had taken them hostage.

This meant war. So I turned the tables and made my Wizard of Oz friends take hostage of the Terminator guys. It quickly got out of hand, and this is what I saw when I came in this morning:



What's not pictured is the dinosaur biting off Dorothy's arm and the Terminator monster stabbing the Wicked Witch. So before I left today, Glinda had taken over the Star Wars...thing...and was shooting the Storm Trooper down. Dorothy had taken down the dinosaur and the Wicked Witch was chasing the Terminator monster with his spear.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dwight K. Schrute

Just a quick note to say I love Dwight Schrute and his blog that he doesn't update nearly often enough. But it's still amazing. I was delighted today when I saw his latest post on ninja preparedness.

My favorite Dwight Quote: "Whenever I'm about to do something, I think, 'would an idiot do that?' and if they would, I do not do that thing."