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


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.