Monday, June 30, 2008

The Horror!

Well, we had fun this weekend. We went to the annual Flashback Weekend horror convention with Ken's friend Brian and his little boy. I decided to goth it up for the occasion, digging out a black and white dress that I bought for a wedding, originally, a necklace from a renaissance fair, some crazy looking fishnets and some long black boots. All things I own but had never before worn together. I topped it off with green eyeshadow and pink spray-on hair color, and you know, I was the belle of the ball. Got compliments all day, even from the contestants in the zombie pin-up girl contest.

We met local Chicago celebrity Svengoolie, and got him to autograph a rubber chicken for us. Brian's son got a glow-in-the-dark zombie action figure playset. We got to meet zombie movie legend George Romero. We saw (but didn't meet) Elvira. Brian got the autograph of the "Tall Man" from Phantasm, and I bought a CD from our local-access channel horror hosts Undead Johnny and Dementia of the World of the Weird Monster Show. They were great, my favorite part of the day.

Then we watched the costume contest, hosted by Svengoolie, and the zombie pin-up contest (won by the "Saint Pauli Ghoul") and called it a day.

I liked the pink hair look so much that I stopped by the drugstore the next day to get the kind you don't spray in...

What the heck, eh? Might as well enjoy being a student while I still can.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


So this weekend had two important milestones for the marathon. The big one was I passed my minimum fundraising goal, thanks to a generous contribution from my parents. Note the keyword "minimum" though... The Boys and Girls Club is an incredibly good cause, and I'd like to raise more than the minimum if I can.

The second involved running my longest distance so far, twelve miles or so, to Wrigley field. I listened to the Chicago Cubs play the Chicago White Sox on my headphone the whole way there, and arrived in the 8th inning, in time to see Carlos Marmol get the second out, though the doorway that was recently cut in the outfield wall. Then I hopped on the train to beat the rush home, because you'd better believe that when the Cubs play the White Sox, the trains get crowded.

Never mind that Marmol had some trouble getting that third out -- the Cubs swept the Sox in three games at Wrigley. And I made it there to see a tiny part of it, to be a tiny part of what most of Chicago was watching. View from the corner, literally. (Also, milestones... Literally.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Alternative Cinema

We really like unconventional movie-going experiences, Like, recently we've seen 21 (great), Iron Man (rocked), Indiana Jones, (awesome), The Incredible Hulk (great until the big climax, which was lame), the new Adam Sandler movie (sucked)...

What's so unconventional about those? Well, we saw them all either at drive-in theaters or the local "Brew and View."

At the drive-in, we bring a picnic and a couple of baseball gloves for playing catch.

We take the train to the Brew and View, because driving back would be an issue.

Both let you see two movies for less than the price of one at the local multiplex. Both let you actually connect with the rest of the audience. (A stranger joined in our last game of catch.)

And the Brew and View is actually held at a Victorian opera-house turned concert-venue, where, it so happens, we had seen a concert the night before. The incomparable "Ladytron."

Really stadium seating is nothing compared to having your own table or car. We may never see a movie at a real theater again...

Of course, this might also having something to do with why, in spite of seeing dozens of movies last year, we hadn't seen a single one of the main Oscar contenders...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Thing About Having a Blog...

The thing about blogging again is that I sort of feel compelled to comment on stories about forced labor in the US, (although I did read they've now ended their hunger strike) or Supreme court threats to habeas corpus (although they were the minority opinion...) Like -- these stories need more attention.

But I'm not really very knowledgeable, so I think I will simply link to those links and comment on something I really do know a lot about -- kitschy television.

With the new Incredible Hulk movie and the Get Smart movie coming out this summer, two of my favorite childhood TV shows are getting tributes (yes, they were both in re-runs, but that didn't stop me loving them). Add into that the new Indiana Jones movie (which incidentally, I loved), the Bionic Woman revival (which I watched all of before it was cancelled, but couldn't stand) and the new American Gladiators series, and I'm practically reliving my preteen years. I even watched an episode of the new Knight Rider -- I assume that's already cancelled?

Anyway, I think this means two things. One, I am now a part of a demographic that has money and indulges in nostalgia. And two, someone really needs to make movies of MacGuyver and Quantum Leap.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Geeky Thought

Something I think about while waiting at intersections -- if two people try to go through an intersection (one going north and one going west, perhaps) then they are both going to have to go through the same point, the center of the intersection. They are both going to have the same "x" and "y" coordinates there.

Now if you don't want them to collide, there are a couple of things you could do. One option is to build an overpass, as people do on highways. Then the two cars can have the same "x" and "y" coordinates, but different "z" coordinates, different heights, and there is no collision. The bridge artificially increases one car's "z" coordinate.

Or, you can put in a traffic light. What does that do? It means that they will both arrive at the center of the intersection, with both have the same "x" and "y," but at different times. I picture their paths plotted on my old graphing calculator from high school -- the paths cross, but in "parametric" mode, you could run a little cursor along the two paths, and show that the "t" value at the center the intersection is different for the two different paths. Same "x" and "y," but by making one car wait, you are artificially increasing the "t" coordinate it has when it reaches the center of the intersection.

Sort of like how the bridge increases one car's "z" coordinate.

Bridge: same "x" and "y," but one car has been raised to a higher "z." Traffic light, same "x" and "y," but one car has been raised to a higher "t".

A traffic light is sort of like a bridge though time!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Training Runs

It turns out, if you're running a marathon, you're supposed to train.

I'm trying to follow this program, from a guy named Hal Higdon, who, the internet tells me, is not a crank.

It's an eighteen week program, which has you running 3-5 miles most days (this is in line with my normal runs, which are four miles) and then bumping it up for a "long run" once a week, and a medium-length run in between. The long run gradually increases as weeks go on from eight to twenty miles, and the medium run from five to eight.

Anyway, that's all fine with me, and I've been keeping up with the program, more or less. I have so far followed his advice that: "You can skip an occasional workout, or juggle the schedule depending on other commitments, but do not cheat on the long runs.

I have no problem with the runs. The hardest thing for me are the "rest" days.

Now, Mondays I'm usually out at Twilight Tales during my evening run time, so I don't have a problem missing workouts those days. But other days...

I finally made myself exercise consistently only by making it a mindless habit. I discovered, when I started running, that if I ever gave myself permission to sit at home, then I would end up doing it more an more often until my good intentions petered out to nothing. So it had to be an every day thing. No excuses. Automatic. If the weather is really too bad to go out in, or I get home too late at night, then I can substitute the excercise machines in our living room, but not slack off.

Okay, sometimes I'm genuinely sick, but I'm honest enough with myself to know the difference between that, and just normal workday cruddiness, and the latter does not cut it as a reason for missing a workout.

So the whole idea of just sitting at home, resting, scares me. What if I get lazy? What if I get out of the good habits I've formed? Rest? I can't do that! It's against the rules.

So far, with the long runs still relatively short, I haven't really been following that rule. I think it's okay, since the intermediate schedule has only one day of rest built in, and I'm already taking that. (Albeit on Mondays, not Fridays.) But we'll see what happens when I get up to the 18-20 mile long runs...

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Well, I'm rebooting the blog for shameless fundraising reasons: I'm going to be running in the Chicago Marathon in October, and I've got to raise money for the charity I'm sponsoring.

So why run a marathon? Well, because right now my life is still in a sort of holding pattern (which was the reason I stopped blogging to begin with) and while I'm waiting to find out where I'll be living and what I'll be doing next, one thing I've got a lot of is time. I probably won't have it, later. I've got my health, too, and I know well enough that it might not last. I've already been running for five years, first to lose weight (it works), and then just because it made me feel better. So, one reason is "Because I can."

And, y'know, to impress myself, and people I know. 'Cause it's a freakin' marathon, so they'd better be impressed.

But I like to think there's a little more to it too.

I say on my fundraising page that living in Chicago has made me a different person. Maybe this is a good place to explain what I meant by that. Living here during the 2003 Cubs almost trip to the World Series made me like sports for the first time, and better yet, like sports fans. It was the sense of community that got me, if I can say that without being a cliche. All of the sudden I had something to bond with strangers on the train over. Riding the "L" here taught me the joys of people-watching and gave me a huge variety of people to watch, not to mention windows to spy into. Running in the lakefront parks let me see people at their happiest and most likable. And then there are the festivals -- Taste of Chicago, free concerts all summer long, the lights and the giant tree and ice skaters in Millenium Park and the Marshall Fields/Macy's shop windows at Christmas time, the giant parties where everyone in the city is your friend.

I joined Twilight Tales and started hanging out in the coolest bar in the city (the closed-for-remodelling Red Lion, in case you're wondering.) And I met my husband here in Illinois. He's taken me to the Air and Water Show and the movies in Grant Park, not to mention all three local drive-in theaters, a whole bunch of sports games, to the Arlington Park horse races this weekend, to the Blue Man Group, and all the best deep dish pizza places, and whole host of other attractions downtown and in the suburbs. Mostly he's made me take myself less seriously, and learn to have fun for fun's sake.

Since I've lived in Chicago, I've become more athletic, less snobbish, more outgoing, less insecure. I'm still socially awkward, but I like other people more, and that makes a huge difference. Chicago unpinched a nerve somewhere in my psyche, and now I'm a much happier person.

But it just doesn't look like we're going to find jobs in Chicago, and so I have to accept that we're going to have to move, probably within the next year or so. And then the life I've been waiting for begins in earnest... My feelings are little more mixed these days. I'm not so eager to get on with "real jobs" making "real money" (although I would really, really like dental insurance) and a nicer place to live and maybe start a family. I still want all of that, but I don't really want this life in Chicago to end. I'm pretty ambivalent about the idea of moving on, right now.

Anyway, the Chicago Marathon struck me as a way to say goodbye to this city. It's an awesome course. They close off streets downtown and you get to start along the lakefront and then run through all the distinctive neighborhoods that give Chicago its personality (sometimes practical, sometimes whimsical.) There will be forty-five thousand runners. That's more people than Wrigley Field holds, even after the renovations.

What a way to make memories, eh? I mean, I never feel I know my way around a place until I've navigated it on foot, so this should help me know Chicago better than ever. I generally am on foot when I'm downtown anyway, but I don't usually go 26 miles.

I got obsessed with this idea all in an instant, and I can't even remember what made me think of it, now. But once I had, I couldn't let go. I waited a few days, to see if I would come to my senses, but I didn't.

The only problem was, it was already too late to register. Who'd've thought an event in October would be booked up by the middle of April. But there was still a way. I could do it in support of a charity.

I researched all the charities they listed, not sure if I was willing to bet $500-$1000 (the range of the required fundraising minimums) that I could do this, and get other people to support me in it. I decided I would only do it if I could find a charity that would use the money to help people in the city who are poorer than me. (No "research" charities for me right now -- not that I oppose supporting my fellow grad students, but this is about saying thank you to the city, where there are people who need help on a much shorter timescale than research requires.)

It did a lot of reading and some e-mailing, looking for a cause that would be worth the risk, worth the effort, and finally found the Union League Boys and Girls Club.

Membership fee:
$5.00. No child is ever turned away for inability to pay—there are several ways for children to earn their membership by helping out around the Club.

That's $5 for the year. And what do they get for their money?

Core program areas:

* Character & Leadership Development
* Outdoor & Environmental Education
* Education & Career Development
* Sports, Fitness & Recreation
* Arts & Cultural Education
* Health & Life Skills

Well, that's pretty vague. It sounds good, but what does it mean?

Well, "Character and Leadership" means teens run a working credit union for other Club members, gaining work experience while their customers learn to save and manage money. At least, that's one of their programs; there are more.

"Outdoor & Environmental Education" means they run a summer camp in Wisconsin, which is the first chance a lot of these city kids have to get out of the city.

"Education & Career Development" means homework help, tutoring, computer training, and job skills.

"Sports, Fitness & Recreation" means:
Kickball, soccer, flag football, hockey, games room and tournaments, penny carnival, back-to-school block party, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Party, swimming, sports skill clinics, movie time, summer picnics and trips, daily gym, Nike Go Program, urban fishing, three-on-three basketball, intramural sports, varsity teams in football and volleyball, basketball games and tournaments, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Teen Center, and much, much more.

"Arts & Cultural Education" means dance, theater, music, talent shows, and painting, sculpture, murals, and print.

And "Health & Life Skills" means they give the kids healthy dinners and snacks at the clubs, which guarentees they're getting healthy food somewhere, at least. And they have basic health training too.

I can't imagine a better way to help make Chicago and the world a better place, than by helping out these guys. Seems to me they do everything you could possibly ask for. And they do it for 10,000 kids, for $5 a year.

So I'm supporting them. And I hope you'll support me. Donate here, and help motivate me through mile 26.

I'll be posting updates on my training (and probably links I find cool and neat things I do on the weekends, because this is still a blog) as October approaches.