28 February 2005

Act like you've got some sense.

Jamie Foxx's speech was definitely tops for the night in my opinion. His grandmother's 'acting' lessons were great. Act like you've got some sense. Act like you've been here before. He seems like a classy, fun, thoughtful individual. I love that he brought his daughter as his date. I was very happy he won.
He was one of the 10 picks that I got correct. I think that tied me for last or second to last. I also liked Morgan Freeman's speech. It was brief and he used an all-encompassing 'thank anyone and everyone involved with the creation of this picture' which was very nice, especially in comparison to those who name every person that can think of off the top of their head (lawyers, agents, managers, caterers, camaramen, makeup, friends, family, etc.) I also like Jorge Drexler singing for his acceptance speech for Best Song. The foriegners always bring some fun into it (a la Roberto Benini). And I thought Chris Rock did a good job. His opening monolouge had me laughing several times.
I thought Hilary Swank's dress was different, interesting but not my favorite. It did show off the physique she'd worked so hard for, though. I wasn't sure about Morgan Freeman's scarf-thingy he wore. Oprah looked wonderful. Scarlett Johannsen's hair was poor and detracted from her overall beauty. Natalie Portman's dream for some reason reminded me of Star Wars. Laura Linney's hair was too flat, gelled looking. Leo's date, Gisele Bundchen looked marvelous, but then again, she is a supermodel. Kirsten Dunst looked good, good hair, good eyes, great dress. Salma Hayek looked good. Charlize Theron looked great but didn't get much airtime. Top marks go to Catalina Sandino Moreno. I thought she looked absolutely stunning. Her face just looks so fresh, her hair looked great and it was just pulled straight back in a ponytail, her jewelery wasn't overdone and her dress was angelicly all white with jeweled straps.
Our food spread was again achingly gargantuan and delicious. My stomach hasn't been that painfully stretched in a long time. Much fun was had by all.

24 February 2005

Sinn Fein/IRA investigation

This story encompasses bank robbery, a gargantuan money-laundering business and murder. Not that the IRA and any of those three items have ever been strange bedfellows, but the scope and impact of this investigation is mammoth. I was reading the Belfast Telegraph yesterday while I was at Ginger's waiting for the Chelsea vs Barcelona soccer match to start. Pretty much the entire front section of the paper dealt with this incredible story and its far-reaching impacts. Incredible stuff. There is no doubt that this will change the face & direction of not just the peace process but also of the government in the Republic and the North. There are so many different stories on it all, I can't link to them all. This link is the special report on the bank heist and all the ensuing news. There was an incredible story in the paper about the property-development side of the money laundering ring, but I couldn't see to find it online. The IRA is the largest owner of pubs in the Ireland, and the article stated that there are some towns where every drinking establishment is owned in some way by the IRA. another article.
(on a side note....$188 one way, chicago to dublin on aer lingus!!)

Prices fall on iPods

Apple lowered prices today on some of their iPods & introduced three new hues. The mini, which holds 4 gig, dropped from $249 to $199, and they are introducing a new 6 gig size priced at the $249 mark. And the 30 gig size of the iPod Photo (holds music AND pictures) decreased to $349 while the 60 gig size plummeted from $599 to $449. The standard iPod (20 gig) is still priced at $299. Plus, teachers get a discount! Free shipping & laser engraving at the iPod store.

22 February 2005

Mom's Weekend Visit

It is more like, "what DIDN'T we do?"

We had so much fun and saw so many things and yet still had time for some relaxing, talking and tea drinking at my apartment. I met her at the airport and we took the train to the Shedd Aquarium where there were A LOT of kids, but we checked out the Wild Reef exhibit & got a late lunch and watched the Beluga whales being fed (Mom's favorite...I think she had Raffi's 'Baby Beluga' song in her head for the rest of the weekend) and the sea otters and penguins (my favorites). Then we headed to my apartment to drop off bags and regroup, before leaving for a fun dinner at Bob Chinn's out in Wheeling. Mom had a great link to read about the restaurant but I seem to have lost it. Anyways, it is a HUGE restaurant that seats close to 700 with a massive menu and uber fresh fish. Trucks come from nearby O'Hare four times a day. I had Florida grouper with a great rub on it. Mom had seared Hawaiian Ahi tuna and Dara enjoyed a fish sampler plate. My favorite item, though, was the order of sweet potato fries that we shared. Yum, Yum, Sweet! We also split a Mai Tai in a cool tiki mug! Nearby Woodfield Mall beckoned afterwards, and Mom found a great new pair of Nike running shoes and Dara picked up a couple of pants that were a steal on the sale rack at Urban Outfitters. Once we got home, we decided to watch "Out of Ireland", a documentary from Netflix on Irish music from the 1930's to present. We only got 30 minutes into it before Mom nodded off, so we put a hold on that and called it a day.
Saturday brought nice weather as we headed to Letiza's Natural Bakery, a place that I had been wanting to check out for months now. We got quite a selection of items and a couple Naked juices. Raspberry tort, hazelnut cookie sandwiches, sugar cookies, an apple turnover that was straight from the oven and the highlight of the stop, and two muffins (rasperry almond and cranberry). Then we headed to the Museum of Science & Industry. We arrived after a 'low-fuel on the South side' panic and were greeted by a crowded lobby of people getting tickets. The exhibit, Body Works, has gotten a lot of press here and is much talked about, so I think a lot of people used the 3 day weekend to go check it out. The lines were nothing compared to what they looked like when we left, though. They had easily grown 3 or 4 times. We both LOVED the exhibit. It is simply amazing and awe-inspiring. Over 200 human body donors were involved in the creation of the exhibit. They way they have been displayed is great, it is like you stepped into your science book. It shows each body system and the way they have extracted each system is incredible. I HIGHLY recommend it. The afternoon brought us checking out a knitting shop (bust), a used book store, Whole Foods and a quick tour of the YMCA. We stopped in to Arturo's for a quick taco. Mom had a chicken taco and a avacado taco and I had a barbacoa taco and a chorizo gordita. Great stuff. We found some time for some rest and recovery at my apartment and later went to Tony's to get some groceries for our cooking the next day. Saturday night we were able to finish up our Irish music film, which I thought was highly informational and interesting but we both were bemused and puzzled by the glaring omission of the Chieftains.
Sunday, I wanted share the Maxwell Street Market with Mom, but when we got there, it was only a shred of what it was when I had been there in the fall. It might have something to do with the fact that it was February and icing/raining. So we headed to Borders to hide from the rain and we surrounded ourselves with stacks of books & hot chocolate. I love spending Sundays in the book stores, and even more so when it is with my family. We shared about all kinds of teacher books, reading books, and kids books. Then we checked out Sur La Tabla & we got new scrubbees! Nina's was next and it was a knitting shop that made up for the bust the previous day. It was a very cool funky shop with kind, knowledgable, helpful people and great yarns. I had to pull Mom out before she mortgaged the house for more yarn, but we had a great time. Back to the apartment to drop our bags, relax and Dara came over and played Mom in chess before we zipped over to evening Mass and then to the Abbey (an Irish pub) for a pint and an Irish music session. Very fun and good craic.
Monday sadly brought the end to our fun whirlwind and the start of my workweek. I will be recooping until the next visitors come!!! Thanks Mom for a stellar time!! And Happy Birthday!

16 February 2005

Chess sucks

I suffered my first defeat with my new chess set last night. Dara took control of the board early & I couldn't ever seem to get back on the offensive. Three or four hastily thought out moves spelled my doom. I must regroup, rethink, and return!


So as I left my apartment this morning, I took out my trash with me to put in the dumpster behind my building. I drove around and stopped, put it in park and hit the unlock button and went to get out and almost dislocated my shoulder against my door as it was still locked! I tried it 5 or 6 more times and it would not unlock! I think the cold must have impaired my power locking mechanism or something. So I tried to roll down my window to reach around and open my door from the outside, but the window was frozen in place. So I tried to roll down my passenger window to just chuck my trash out the window at the dumpster, and again, no luck! So I had to open the passenger door, lean over and toss my trash out. Then, as I was about half way to work I heard a thunk and that was the lock in my door releasing. When I parked at work, I was able to vacate my car without climbing over any seats.

13 February 2005

Mustang for me! Posted by Hello

@ Chinatown Posted by Hello

Chicago Auto Show '05

Only 4 or 5 blocks from Chinatown was McCormick Place, the venue for the Chicago Auto Show, so we headed over there, found some parking and joined the steady stream of people trekking to the entrance. Walking in we decided we would each pick 1 vehicle for our favorite 'realistic' vehicle and 1 favorite 'dream' vehicle. Once inside, we checked out almost every manufacturer's display, listened to the presenters praise for their new vehicles, played video games, sat in all our favorites, and collected lots of pamphlets, in doing so I am sure we walked like 5 miles beforing leaving 3 1/2 hours later. When we got back to our car, I decided there was no way I would be able to pick only 2 cars from the hundreds we had seen, so I compiled the following:

1. Ford Mustang GT - I actually saw the '05 Mustang at last year's auto show for the first time and it was my favorite then too. This car was BY FAR the most visible car at the show. It was everywhere! I must admit, I've always been a fan of Mustangs, so I may be a bit biased, but I LOVE the retro look of the shark-nose. I sat in a couple and, I think the car was wispering to me to stomp on the gas pedal, maybe it was just me. Ford's redesign of this classic is a home run. No room in the backseat, but that is not why you buy this vehicle. And talk about a chick magnet, as soon as I got behind the wheel and shut my door, a young girl opened the passenger door and sat down. Just like that! Wow. Around $26,000 for the GT.
2. Dodge Charger - the return of another American muscle car classic. It's design is very cool, especially the back edge of the rear door/window. I think it is a very sharp, four door car, plus it is Hemi powered, who doesn't want to be able to say that? Due out in production in 2006.
3. Chrysler 300 - The car just scares me to look at. It is tough, intimidated and evokes thoughts of Prohibition-era gangsters. It is so low, square and solid, is just looks mean. Eron & I have discussed our appreciation for this vehicle before. We decided there is no other vehicle we would rather pull up in for a business meeting where we have to nail a big deal. $27-$29k for the V6, 3.5L model, with 250 horsepower OR you can (and should) go for the 300C with the Hemi powered 5.7L V8 with 340 horses for a couple thousand more - $33k.
4. smart fortwo - This car was all over in when I was in Europe & Ireland, now they are planning their American rollout. I am sure it will blow-up and be the next Mini Cooper. VERY small & lightweight, it is ideal for urban areas. Parellel parking would be a dream. Fun interior styling. Fun color combinations for the exterior panels. Built by Mercedes, so under the DiamlerChrysler label. estimated to start ~$12,000
5. Jeep Gladiator - This one is only a concept car, but I liked it a lot. I like the utilitarian, no nonsense look of it. It looks like a worker.
6. Volkswagen Toureg - It was our favorite midsized SUV that we looked at. The interior was very upscale, (as is the price ~$55k nicely equipped), and it just looks and feels like a premium vehicle. It is tough, because we weren't able to compare it to the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, or Mercedes' SUV, since those posh manufacturer's didn't unlock the doors on their models. But very nice, and, hey, for $55k, there is a 'ski bag' in the back where you can slide your skis in and it keeps them from dripping snow on to your seats as you wheel to your apres-ski.
7. Ford Escape Hybrid - I include this auto because I am happy that Ford leading the Hybrid push into SUV's. The styling and interior is nothing memorable, but it isn't bad either. The miles per gallon are great, 36 city/31 highway, WAY better than any other truck or SUV (and no, that is not a typo, it actually does get better mileage in the city than on the open road). ~$31,000. (skip the intro to speed it up if you view the website on this one)
8. Chrysler Crossfire - I think it is a new and original American roadster. Fun and classy at the same time. And affordably priced at $33k. (In my mind though, why not save a couple thousand and get a Mustang?)
9. Stow & Go seating - I realize this is not a car, but it is so great, I wanted to include it anyways. No wrestling with heavy seats to get them in and out, they easily fold and go in the floor. And when they are upright, you have great storage space in your floor!!

That's the best of them....
Some honorable mentions are Pontiac G6 (two-door version), Saab 9.3, Chevy Hybrid pickup, Dodge Nitro (concept car), Ford Syn US (concept car), International RXT (concept truck), Pontiac Solstice (concept car).
The only stinkers I could come up with were....the VW Ragster (a poor, unoriginal excuse for a concept car), the Dodge Magnum (too long & ugly), new VW Jetta (lost its VW look, bland).

Gung Hay Fat Choy

which means something like Happy Chinese New Year. We went down and checked out Chinatown yesterday and it was a fun, chilly time. It is great to see how they have used some of the aspects or flourishes of Chinese architecture on the buildings. We browsed through some of the markets and laughed as our stomachs turned upside down as we walked by the tanks of live frogs, eels, fish heads, chicken feet, all sorts of intestines, fish split in half and not cleaned at all, blood and guts still sitting there. The produce aisle was very differnt too. A lot of greens that I was unfamiliar with. We went into herbal shops that had bins and bins of different ginseng's, dried seahorses, dried fish of all kinds, dried mushrooms, and some wierd things called ablone, which is a form of sea cucumber or something and ranged from $350 - $990 per lb!!! We window shopped a bit, then went to eat. I had read about a place called Lao Sze Chuan and so we went there. The menu was HUGE and wide ranging, from disgustingly bizarre to standard fare. They also offered a Hot Pot option, where they place a burner on your table, bring out a bowl of simmering broth and you order platters of stuff to cook in it, thinly sliced meat, strips of steak, all kinds of veggies, cellophane noodles. The Greenleafs did this while they were in China & had told me about it. The table beside us had it and we were very interested in it and stared at them for quite a while. We ended up ordering Mu Shu Beef for Dara and Chef's Special Diced Beef with Tofu for me. The Mu Shu was good, it came with the wraps separate and you get to make your own little wraps. The tofu used was soft tofu, not the 'extra firm' stuff you buy in the grocery store. The consistency and texture was more like soft custard, a little wierd, but not bad. The biggest difference was the dish came in a big bowl and the sauce on it was not like Chinese takeout thickness. It was very thin, like a broth, but quite oily. It was fun to check out, but for my tastes, I'll take China Gate anyday.

"Permanent Collection"

Dara scored a couple free tickets for us to go check out a play Friday night called "Permanent Collection". The theater group goes into schools and puts on some presentions or workshops, and her class will be attending the play we saw, so we were really scouting it out. It had been described to Dara as a look at the argument between ancient art and modern art. That description would be like saying the Godfather movies were about Italian food, it was probably mentioned a few times but is in no way the main theme of the work. This play was focused on racism. The art definately placed a secondary role. The acting was very strong (the lead actor had parts in Ray and the Matrix movies) and I did enjoy the play, but the themes and some F-words and the N-word left Dara wondering how her students were going to do with it. As I was reading the Newcity paper the next night, I was very surprised to see "Permanent Collection" listed on the Hot List of 5 plays that they put out each week. This article outlines the true story that this play is loosely adapted from. Pretty interesting!
It was a fun time and I love seeing plays and who can beat the free ticket?!

11 February 2005

It's been....1 year,

FYI....Tuesday was my one year anniversary as a Chicago resident. I celebrated it by cooking a wonderful Indian meal for 2 friends. I made Chicken with Tomatoes and Garam Masala, Lentils with Ginger and Spinach, Rice with Peas, and Spicy Cucumber Wedges. It was a great meal and good fun. The past year has been a incredible growing, learning, testing experience and has helped me choose a path on the crossroads in my life (to quote Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman"). So, thanks for a wonderful 365 days, Chicago!

From Odessa with love,

Yesterday I received a package from Odessa, Texas. It was my Educator Chess set, packaged in this week's Odessa American paper. I was VERY happy to get it. Thanks very much, Eron, for the tip!!! For $3 (plus $7 packing/shipping) it was mine. The only sad part is that the red plastic holder piece that fits in the bottom of the box was not there. :( That's what you get with used stuff, I guess. I was so excited to get it, that I called my friend Dara and had her come over so I could try it out. She did, and it works just fine (I was victorious). I am very happy to have the set and think of all the fun times it will bring. I hope I can teach my kids how to play on it.

09 February 2005

Soccer player profile

Andy Ried is a rising star on the Ireland national team, and I thought this article about him was very complimentary on his character. And, I included it for Luke, because of his comments about getting a new Martin guitar at the end.

08 February 2005

Lenten Plans...

What are people doing for Lent this year? If it is a private matter, that is fine, but if it isn't I thought I'd put a post out there for people to share what their plans are for the Lenten season.
For me, I am planning on giving up Whole Foods. This could prove difficult. It is right next door to the Y and a very handy place to go for a snack or for lunch when I forget to pack my own. But I thought that it would be a good thing for me to abstain from, something that I will think about each day (well, weekdays at least) and I'll have to go without the snacks and walk a block or two further to get lunch.
I am also hoping to attend daily mass once a week. I have tried to add this one the last couple years and done very poorly at it, so I am hoping with a number of churches to choose from that I can do better this year. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, I want to take a few minutes each day and read from the little Lent book and pray. That is something I need to develop a habit of doing.
Oh, and I also want to find a parish that has good fish frys on Fridays. :)

05 February 2005

Sue him, Sue you, Sue everybody

After reading this story and then this one, I am had to laugh and shake my head at our society. If we can think of any way to make some quick easy money off someone else, then let's sue and do it. Especially in the second story, the girls' families offered to pay for the medical bills, which to me seems generous, but the older lady declined and sued them. Come on! I know whose house I would be avoiding on May Day!
And the dentist suing for $50k, despite plenty of notices, disclaimers and warnings of the danger fans are accepting with their ticket, what kind of a example is being for his kids?

Taxicab confessions?

This story is crazy! The perpatrator sounds like he was either on drugs or drunk or has a serious anger management problem. While I was reading it, I just kept imagining what it would've been like to witness the whole scene. I always thought that being a cabbie would be a somewhat scary career, lots of drunks and wierdos. I would be packing heat if it were me.

04 February 2005

ESPN2 in Grinnell?

It was quite a fun shock to turn on ESPN2 last night to find out who was playing in the college basketball game and to see Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa playing Beliot. I had read about Grinnell's system as they would have articles about it every so often in the Des Moines Register. It is a totally new theory of offensive basketball. The coach has written a book on it and produced a videotape. Some of it's guidelines are to take a shot within 12 seconds (even though the shot clock allows 35), have more offensive rebounds than defensive, subbing in groups of 5 every 1-2 minutes, and shooting A LOT of 3's. They've won the NCAA scoring title the last 11 years. Last year they averaged 126 points per game. Crazy stuff.
Even though the Pioneers did not have a good night shooting the rock (they scored a season low 85 points), it was still great to see them on national TV and the crowd that turned out was great. Great representation of both schools. There was a line for 4 hours before the doors opened at the gym. Kudos to ESPN for doing something fun, new, and out of the ordinary.

02 February 2005

American Girl moves to the 'burbs

This story was being talked about on the radio here yesterday. It is a bit of a slap in the face to the Pilsen neighborhood, but hey, the truth hurts I guess! I also think the story of the founder of the company is pretty amazing. Gotta love that capitalism and the American Dream!! $84 a pop, and that is just for the doll. Then you have to get the outfits, and the matching outfit for your daughter, and the books, and the movies, and lunch at the Tea Room....Dara and I were in the big American Girl store a year ago during the Christmas shopping melee and that place was out of control. They couldn't take the people's money fast enough!

01 February 2005

Chicago Museum attendance

I thought that my move here and all my museum visits would've offset any declines in attendance. Guess not. The Frida exhibit would've been nice to see. One thing I thought was interesting was the figure provided at the very end of the story, that the museums collectively contribute ~$500,000 to the local economy. That seems incredibly low to me. 7.5 million people and they only contribute $500k?!?