Sunday, March 25, 2012

A lovely sunny day

What a lovely day!  Yesterday was overcast and foggy, the heavy lakefront fog of Friday evening hanging over to the next day, although the sun broke through in the late afternoon.  Today started lovely and clear, without the mid-to-upper 80s of the previous week.  There was to be birding.

But not for me.

Instead, I got whatever it was my coworker had and today it decided to blast through.  (On Friday I told her I had what she had, she said I didn't, I said I did, and this went back and forth as we've known each other for many years and our relationship is like that of a big weird dysfunctional family where no one looks alike and people say what they think.)  I knew it was coming so I did some needed grocery shopping at 645 a.m. and advised the birders that staying in was in order.

Long story long:  things got worse, a nap was taken, I was awakened by breathing that sounded like a combo of bagpipes and maracas and it was my own breathing.  A call was made, followed by detailed descriptions, with antibiotics and what my doc called "Jewish penicillin" prescribed.  I got the J penicillin at the local Polish grocery and the antibiotics (and some hair product that was on sale buy-one-get-one (I'm sick not stupid) and I came home.  (Done on foot, y'all, because it would have been a much bigger pain to take the car.)  I advised my supervisor of my health situation in case I have to call in tomorrow, I had some of the J penicillin, and took the first dose of antibiotics, and will have some of the lovely cough syrup in a few minutes with every intention of knocking off early.

I am hoping that next week we can get back to just regular talking and maybe I will share how someone at work agreed that Tim Tebow is a terrible quarterback and he is lucky to have gotten any sort of trade at all (even though he will probably sit on the bench for every single game).  Ooops, too late.  There goes that topic!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

And so this is winter

As one of the birders said today, when it's winter in Chicago, everyone swears they hate it and they are going to move out of this town with its weird, bad, icy winters and move somewhere better, but as soon as spring comes and the sky is blue and boats drift or motor easily on the lake, everyone is just so glad to be here.  When the weather's nice, Chicago is spectacularly great, especially on the lakefront.

For those who don't know, Lake Michigan is immense and it's like living on an ocean without the bother of tide.  When there's some breeze, there is very good windsurfing to be had and giant sailing vessels can easily maneuver and go great distances with ease.  It, and the other huge lakes, are called the Great Lakes for a reason.  Chicago is right on Lake Michigan.  At many spots on the lakefront, the various skylines are fantastic, and, from the shore, the lake is every bit the same.  There are beaches for swimming, several harbors for pleasure craft to dock, and a beach where there are dozens of beach volleyball nets for those with a hankering for wearing bathing suits in teams of two.  It is cooler in the summer by many degrees and warmer in the winter.  It's an inland sea and if you've never seen it, when you do you won't believe your eyes.  Spring comes late in Chicago and lasts for about 3 weeks.  Suddenly everything is green!  And in full blossom!  And then it stays green and the buds fall off and it's about 90 degrees and the humidity is 95% which lasts for several months (unless it doesn't because it's Chicago and we don't live here for the weather).

Not this year.  This year, it came in early March and has been hanging pleasantly around.  The magnolia trees are in bloom as are the red bud.  What are those zany little blue wildflowers?  They're out, too, along with daffodils.  It is scary -- come on, it's 30 degrees above normal in the middle of March -- but it is also so glorious that those of us who know our bug population this year will be insane are almost willing to just shut up and enjoy it.  (Almost but not quite.  As many bugs as we're going to get can't be forgotten.)  We never get as many lovely days as this in regular spring or summer or fall.  Everyone is loving it.

Redwing blackbird, lookin' for love
This morning, the birders and I went to the Magic Hedge which was hosting the return of many robins, redwing blackbirds (looking for mates, preening, and flitting about), mergansers and mallards on the water.  There was a rumor of a shrike but we didn't see a shrike.  We saw a cockatiel.  Yeah, you heard me.

I used to own three cockatiels:  Miss Snr, Mars, and Mumtaz.  Mars and Mumtaz were mates.  Mumtaz was one of the prettiest birds I've ever seen and was so loud it could split your head in half.  Mars liked to trade wolf whistles with me.  Miss Snr thought I was her mate and liked to do the wild thing on my leg (don't get me started).  Cockatiels are Australian flocking birds and they call to each other.  High.  Clear.  Loud.  If cockatiels are on TV and one of the TV cockatiels calls to another, the ensuing noise is mind-boggling.  "Mickey's in TROUBLE!!!  We're here, Mickey!"

Escapee: Cutie.  Whereabouts:  Montrose Harbor
One of the birders who'd come to the lakefront with his dad or father-in-law or neighbor said, "I think I see a white-winged dove," to which I replied, "Did she sing a song sounds like she's singing?"  He said, "I honestly didn't think of that."  Then he put up his binoculars and said, "No, that's a cockatiel."  We raced over and I wolf-whistled at it and held out my hand and said, "Come here, birdie," (of course it didn't), but I didn't want to take it home (no cage, no cuttle bone, no wish to commit to a pet) nor did I want to think how it was going to be dinner of that shrike or one of the several hawks or peregrine falcons hanging about today, so we walked on.

Little Miss or Mister Cockatiel Thing was an escape and his owners probably wonder what happened to him.  Hey!  He's at the Magic Hedge, hanging with the robins and the killdeer and the kingbirds and the fox sparrows, until, like that Western Thrasher from last year, he isn't any more because nature, while serene and glorious on a warm day in what should be winter, is a fickle and hard hearted bitch,  and with no known North American predators, everyone is your friend until it turns out they are not, and then you, my pal, are dinner. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Early voting and why I love it

Illinois is the proven most-corrupt state in these United States, with Chicago being a very forward player in the corruption.  The expression, "Vote early, vote often," originated here.  When I first moved to Chicago, there was often a news story about someone having cast a ballot who was later shown to have been deceased for years and years.  When I'd been living in Chicago for just two years, I asked a friend in an Improv class, Al, if he'd voted that day.  "Several times!" exclaimed Al.  (Of course he hadn't, y'all.  Al is a great improviser and law abiding.)  So taking all that jolly corruption into mind, I now share that since things have gone electronic, I suspect it's mighty hard to vote and vote and vote again.  (I would've thought it was hard before, but then I am law abiding and can't wrap my head around why one vote per person isn't enough.)

A few years ago, Illinois instituted Early Voting.  Instead of having to say you were going out of town or having surgery and having to get an absentee ballot, these days for a few weeks prior to the general election, polling places are open up around the state -- libraries and the building housing the Board of Elections in Chicago, for example -- for citizens to simply go and vote in their own good time.  Do you know who you like?  Avoid getting up early or racing to the polls after a long day at work and do the deed ahead of time.  Take your time in the booth because the lines aren't very long.  What?  That's NOT your congressional district?  They have the time to recheck and then the time to call down to the Board of Elections to double-check that yes, your Congressional district has indeed changed and you are now in the 4th and not the 5th.  The people from the Board of Elections even said to me, "We are happy to check.  We want your voting experience to be a good one."  They complimented me when I left because I came prepared with lists of qualified candidates for the many judicial openings in Chicago (but I did fess up to having just winged it in the past).

At a past election, I wanted to shop downtown and went to the Board of Elections, one block west of Macy's on State Street.  Apparently, it was a slow time of day because when I walked into the room, there were plenty of employees but just me voting.  "May I help you?" called out one of the workers, I said something sassy back, everyone chuckled, and we went about getting the process rolling.  In late October 2008, I went to a library on the Northwest Side and they asked me to remove all my political buttons as it could be construed as trying to influence other voters (I took them off without hesitation but put them on as quickly when I left the polling place).  For the primary in 2008, I could not decide for whom I would vote.  I ground it around and around and around in my head.  "I voted this weekend," said my friend, Mike, because he knew who he wanted.  I could not get my head around anyone for sure but I had it down to three.  When I finally decided, it was too late, and early voting had closed, forcing me to get up at 5 a.m. so I could vote before going to work.  I am not enamored of the the serious, ultra-focused retired people, called Election Judges (equal numbers of each party affiliation), running the show in the basement of the parochial school lobby but I don't mind the lone policeman to whom I nod on the way out, and I detest the phalanx of ward bosses standing the appropriate number of yards away from the polling place, telling me who it's important I vote for.  (Yeah, I tell them I vote for whom I want.)  But I went and cast my ballot and survived and got to work on time.  Trust me, there's been several elections since then and for each one I've done early voting.

People often discuss what made America great.  I think one of the things is choice.  Americans love options; not just one kind of detergent but as many as the market will bear; not just one candidate, but a whole mess of people all espousing their views.  Early voting gives the voter choice and choosing which polling place on the day it's available while you choose which candidate is a delightful option. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Things we love that we didn't know we loved but there you have it

Sometimes something comes along that we didn't know existed, or maybe we heard rumors that it might be true, or it existed but it wasn't for us because we would never be in a place or time or situation to experience it.  Sometimes things just pop up right there for us to experience or technology changes and the thing becomes a part of our lives.

About 14 years ago, I was having a discussion with my sister and I said I thought it would one day get to the point where we would be able to buy any song we wanted, that any song could be made onto a musical compilation, probably on a CD of some sort.  Knowing that I am not technologically clever, she asked, "You've heard of this?" (We use very good grammar in our family.)  I said I hadn't but it wasn't hard to imagine.  If someone could make a mix cassette tape, the time had to be coming to not just made mix CDs but to buy songs individually.  Sure enough it happened.  I had nothing to do with it and I would never have been able to have anything to do with it (although I might have been able to issue the ticket that got the whizzes from Point A to Point B to perform their tech tricks had they been my clients) but I was pretty stinking sick of buying CDs for just one song.  That whole thing worked out pretty well for all of us, hasn't it?

Fantastic water pressure and water that can be made any temperature you like gives you a shower that borders on a religious experience.  The steam, the pressure, the size of the shower head, the perfect temperature that's been chosen just then and has a number (which you can't remember because it was in centigrade and you might be a Fahrenheit person) can turn the morning cleansing into a head-clearing, body-energizing, eye-opening wash of transcendence, peace, and clarity.  Such was the shower I had at the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong.  Separate bathtub, y'all, with a TV built into the wall of the bathtub.

If your sensibilities are delicate, I apologize in advance for the video below.  Clearly, not everything is for everyone and not everyone wants to talk about each thing that happens.  Sometimes I cannot resist.  Sometimes I am just a big old bonehead with friends who are also very sharp but have the bonehead in them, too.  So we can freely discuss the miracle of the heated toilet seat at the Kerry Hotel in Beijing.  We will glance over the rainfall showerhead plus the optional handheld shower wand that was the entry into the bathtub which was deep and long, we will hardly mention there was a clock and a TV built into the mirror of the bathroom, we will barely discuss the 24-hour bar in the lobby -- Beijing's first 24-hour bar -- serving crazily innovative drinks at any time, day or night, a room so hip that I'm surprised they let me darken the doorway.  The miracle is below.  It makes any other toilet situations seem sad and neglectful.  That it exists makes me very happy indeed.