Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Little Story (anonymous guest post)

(The following is a little story about yours truly as a very little girl, told me by someone who knew me sort of ... peripherally, as I was growing up. I should add that I have no memory of this incident, but at the same time, it rings very true. I won't say it is to my credit in any way, but I thought that it might amuse.--Z)

Once upon a time, not long ago and not far away, there lived a pleasant little girl on a pleasant little farm on a pleasant little hill.

She ran out in the fields and she played with the chickens, and in the mornings when the long yellow bus labored up her little hill, she hopped in at the appointed time and rode down the hill to school.

She was a smart little girl; everyone could see it. Whatever she set her mind to, she could do. Any task her teachers gave her was dispatched without much effort, so they sent her to the class for people like that on the far side of the playground.

The smart little girl was perhaps a bit distracted on the day that she was told what she should do. She should research a little project and provide an oral report, not much more than just a sentence or two. The subject she was given, something about a Martin Luther, was perhaps not at the center of her interest. Or perhaps she felt rebellious and refused to do her homework. I'm pretty sure we will never know.

The intelligence of children is not the wisdom of the innocent. These ideas live on separate planes.

On the day of the assignment, she began to have second thoughts, as the other students gave their talks about their subjects. It had not occurred to her that public humiliation lay in store for the unmotivated as far as speaking assignments were concerned. And she became more than a little nervous.

What could one say about Martin Luther King, given that one had researched not a whit? No problem - she was smart - surely there were a few morsels of fact that could be gleaned from that name. Or at least a sentence? Right?

Well, finally her turn came; she stood up and cleared her throat. And she began:

"Martin Luther King ... was a _very_ good King. He ruled his country well and wisely..."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shedd Aquarium

I had only been to the aquarium in Chicago once, and it was four years ago. Pocket of Bolts tried to go about a week ago, but the line was so long and the day so hot that he and our visitors decided not to go after all. We still have so many other friends coming this summer that finally we decided it would be good to get a membership. Then we wouldn't have to wait in line and we'd also be able to get our guests in free.

So I went today with my visiting friend Baka Sensei (yeah, I know what baka means in Japanese; he's not really baka, it's just a silly nickname they gave him in Japan), and got a membership. I really only have to go once or twice more this year to make it pay for itself. And now that it's walking distance, why not?

I think my iphone takes pretty neat pictures here: lets a lot of light in, and no flash to reflect off the glass. The creatures in the above photo are lungfish, which have both lungs and gills. The spotted one has been in the Shedd Aquarium since 1933. That means he's nearly 80 years old!! I could hardly believe it. How many people he must have seen.

We were looking at the big central reef tank and a diver came out to do some feeding. Immediately the big floppy rays started dive-bombing him. They looked like big straw hats. I was trying to imagine what it must feel like to have the strong fishy flaps flap all over your head.

The diver is still in the picture directly above. He is just being swarmed by so many things you can hardly see him. Meanwhile, a big ray is flapping gracefully toward me. They are really cool and wonderful.

Another thing I was very impressed by was the nautilus.

They were in a nighttime tank downstairs. But, I had no idea they were so full of ... stuff. And they moved surprisingly fast. I guess somehow I thought they were like snails, but they were not like snails. They were like... I don't know, little flying saucers or something.

Anyway, it looks like it's going to be a hot summer, and the aquarium is a cool and soothing place to visit. So, there's definitely going to be more of that coming up...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Pocket of Bolts, Strongman

Okay, almost no one reads this blog who doesn't read facebook, except perhaps for my parents. But, parents, this one is not to be missed. Also, it just makes me exceedingly happy. I have watched it about 10 times already.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mama in Chicago

Mama came to visit me in Chicago. I rode the train to O'Hare to go meet her. But, O'Hare is big, and she got in a little earlier than expected. We both had cell phones, but still it took us a while to identify a unique place we could both find our way to.

The above picture is us on the train back downtown. Mama had some blueberries from Oregon. She had packed a lot in her lunch, and had some leftover. I ate them all up while we rode the train. Some people say we look alike. Some people say we don't.

We are only 24 years apart in age, which seems like a smaller gap with every passing year!

The first thing we did, the next day, was a midday excursion to the Field Museum.

Mom liked the elephants. I like them too. We saw the Mammoths and Mastedons exhibit, and the thing I liked best was their molars.

Just one big molar on each side. They lived about as long as we do (now), and ground through all three sets of molars. It's strange how we usually have our third molars surgically removed. It's too bad we can't save them for when we're old and our teeth start falling out, making room for them.

That night we went to Tapas Valencia for dinner. It was very crowded, so we sat on one of the front tables by the bar. Not quite as comfortable as the dine room, but we had our own little alcove. We got too much food, but it was really good: gazpacho, scallops with couscous, sliced duck breast, lamb on wild mushrooms, shrimp with garlic and lemon, stuffed portabello, sliced ham with a salsa-like relish, paella, sangria...

The next day we were having a potluck in the evening. We got some lettuce and cherries at the farmer's market, then the rest of the supplies at the grocery. We cleaned and cooked in the morning, then Pocket of Bolts and I watched the US get crushed by Ghana in soccer. Mom took a funny series of pictures of us. This is the last one, when the defeat is starting to seem inevitable.

At least the party cheered us up some. It was a good party!

On Sunday, we went to Ikea, always a treat! Mom and Dad were buying us a house-warming gift, and we were pretty keen on getting a new dining room table. Our old one is very nice, but just doesn't fit our place very well stylistically. Here's the new one. It will look better when we get the detritus from the old table out of the way, but this is a first look. We also got the chairs. They are surprisingly comfortable, and we thought they looked really cool. The effect in general is to make our dining area look much bigger and brighter.

(If I look a bit gloomy in the above picture, it has nothing to do with the table... just a hard day at work on Monday!)

As you can imagine, getting the table and all the chairs, plus other purchases, into the back of the rented Honda Element was quite the challenge. Here's me holding up many pounds of glass and metal while things get slid under it.

The other thing we got at Ikea, long overdue, was some storage solutions for our lousy master bedroom closet. We were thinking about replacing the whole thing, but I convinced Pocket of Bolts that we should first try a less radical solution. I wish I had before-after pictures to show what a hideous mess it was initially... But in any case, so far our new (and quite cheap) solution is working very well. Pocket of Bolts gets the bins on top, which only he can reach, and I get the bins on the bottom, because I am lower to the ground.

We had dinner with our neighbors in the building, but both Pocket of Bolts and mom were feeling a little under the weather. Also, our neighbor talks like crazy!! It's strange, the feeling that someone is really not all that interested in anything you have to say, just mostly in talking at you. I felt unusually frustrated with it. Often, it's kind of relaxing (so little expected of you, you can just kind of sit back and listen). But there's a certain emptiness in such unidirectional communication. It makes you feel like you might as well be watching TV or something.

Monday I went to work all day. I felt bad about it, but it was the end of the fiscal year, and there was a bunch of stuff I had to take care of. Mama is so self-sufficient, though--she got herself to Millennium Park to look at the Bean, and then went on the Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour. She seemed to have had a good time--a better time than I had stuck in my office, for sure!

I stopped and got steaks on the way home. Mom went to a yoga class one of my other friends had invited her to. If she lived here, she would make friends a lot more quickly than I have! I have so many opportunities to make friends--just not even a fraction of her level of social energy.

Tuesday we went to the Art Institute. It was lovely as always. Pocket of Bolts and I are *both* members now, so I got mom in free and we also had coffee in the Member Lounge when we got tired. We looked at the Chinese collection, which is like an old friend to me now, and then at the impressionists and other modern-ish stuff. Here's a picture of mama with Ganesh:

I also particularly liked the "Beggar with Oysters (Philosopher)." I must have seen it before, but it made much more of an impression on me since I've been wanting so much to eat oysters lately!

Tuesday night we saw a very lovely movie at the Siskel, The Secret of Kells. It was hand-animated and so beautiful. It made our eyes all starry, so that everything we saw afterward looked especially wonderful.

On the way to dinner, we happened to encounter the Chagall mosaic. Mom liked it a lot.

Pocket of Bolts doesn't like Chagall, but consented to have a photo taken in front of it anyway, ha ha.

We had dinner at a venerable old restaurant called Italian Village. Maybe objectively a little cheesey, but on that particular night really quite charming. The food was very tasty too, fried calamari, salad, canneloni with cream sauce, shrimp on angelhair pasta, and chicken stuffed with prosciutto. For dessert, a cannolo, a tiramiso, and some spumoni (for me, because I was way too full for anything solid!). Here's what the restaurant looked like, just a cell phone picture, but you kind of get the idea.

Wednesday, mama's last full day in Chicago, we dropped by school so I could show her my office, then went off the Willis Tower (Sears Tower). I had never been on the glass ledges before. I was not at all scared, really more like thrilled.

Mama looking out over the city.

Later we went to the zoo. A thing we saw that I had never seen before was the pygmy hippo! Usually it just looks like a tank full of fish! The pygmy hippo was very cute but it did something extremely rude in the water shortly after these pictures were taken. The crowd scattered, shrieking.

The giraffe was stretching its neck up as high as it could get and still not reaching the lowest branches. Not an accident, I assume, since all the ones it could reach had already been eaten. Still, it looked neat.

After the hectic zoo experience, we spent a little time relaxing in the conservatory. I love going to the zoo, but it always makes me deeply tired. I think it's the vast number of moving parts all moving in one's visual field. The plants were very still and nice.

Last picture, of mom chilling with the Bard.

It was really fun having her visit, not least because it motivated me to go out and see a bunch of stuff I would not ordinarily have seen. But now I am extra tired!!