Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Halloween is definitely one of my more favorite holidays. I wish I had a house that I could decorate and dress up and hand out candy at. When I was a kid, a little kid, my dad (who was basically a kid himself) made a haunted house in our garage. There are pictures of a two-year-old me wearing scary masks hanging out next to the fake dead body. Last year, Mr. H. and I decorated the door of our apartment. But we knew our neighbors then and thought they'd get a treat out of it. This year we're on the top floor and we don't know any of our neighbors. We didn't even bother to carve pumpkins or get any of the Halloween decorations out of the basement.

Speaking of the basement, the family that lives in the garden apartment have decorated as much as the little steps and landing area leading to their apartment (and the laundry room) will allow. There's cobwebs, dead bodies, talking skeletons and other creepy stuff that is just one more reason to not do one's laundry. There are kids that live in the apartment, but I'm sure that was just the excuse the adults needed to decorate.

Halloween is a weird holiday. It's strange to dress your kids up and then let them go out begging for candy from strangers. We were the kids that usually had homemade costumes. We ran the gamut from hobos to mummies. And we never missed a Halloween. One year it as raining so much, our mom took us door to door in the car. It seems silly now, but back then, it was essential. Now I'm too old to go trick-or-treating unless I'm with a little kid. Good thing I have two nephews and a niece.

If you've got access to little ones, grab 'em and enjoy the candy. If not, at least put on a spooky mask and scare your neighbors.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sledding might be an option

So there are six days left until Doomsday Part 1 arrives (no, it's not a new blockbuster movie, it's the first round of service cuts and fare hikes for the CTA). I just send pleading letter to the sate reps and governor through the Save Chicagoland Transit website (www.savechicagolandtransit.com). If you live in the greater Chicago area and use public transportation in any way (or count on others to use it so the roads aren't completely tied up), I suggest you jot off a note or give 'em a call yourself. I'm actually looking forward to the cuts. Maybe it's what we need to get (a) Rod out of office and (b) Daley out of office. I know it's not entirely their fault, but seriously, could we live in a city (and now state) that was any more corrupt?

Speaking of living in this city, lately I've been wondering if it really is that great of an option anymore. I mean (a) the city's raising taxes (b) the county's raising taxes (c) the state's raising taxes and (d) services are being cut. I know it's simplistic, and generally I'm all for more taxes to pay for services. But I'm just not seeing it. Plus, I totally don't trust our current administration to spend those taxes wisely. Apparently all of our money in Chicago/Cook County/Illinois just goes to grease someones palm (and it sure ain't mine). But where's a girl to move? I'm not sure I can handle larger than Chicago (so New York and L.A. are out). But I want metropolitan. Somewhere you can live and work in the city. So what does that leave me? Philadelphia? Boston? I'm open to ideas.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Scary Movies

Seeing how it's coming up on Halloween, Mr. H. likes to increase his scary movie watching. Below are some synopsis of some scary movies I've been forced to watch this last weekend in case you want to check 'em out.

Thursday night - Wicker Man
We started off our weekend of horror on Thursday night with this Nick Cage thriller. He's a cop who's on leave after witnessing a horrible accident. He decided to take up an ex-lover's plea for help and goes to her uninviting island community where the women rule (OK, uninviting for him, nice for me). Except not really, as these women are nut cases and seem to engage in sacrifices to ensure a successful crop. Cage is worried that his ex's little girl (you can guess who her daddy is) is this year's sacrifice. All the women speak in strange riddles and none of the men speak (pretty sure they're missing tongues). It's driving Cage batty and leave me wondering why in the hell anyone would put up with it. I'd have gotten of the island and called the police and let them deal with the wackos. But since this is a guy who like to wear a sweater under his suite jacket, even when he's excavating a grave, I don't think he's that rational. In the end though, we learn who the real villains and sacrificees are. It was pretty easy for me to guess, so I'm sure you'll get it too. It's a real sad statement when I "get" the twist before they want you too as we all know how naive I can be (oh days of The Sixth Sense where are you?). On another note, I really liked Ellen Burstyn, who seems to just be getting weirder and weirder as she ages, and the chick who played Nick Cage's ex, Kate Beahan, has weird lips. Overall, a good way to kick off our weekend of horror.
Friday Night - The Thing
If you've never seen this classic John Carpenter movie, feel free to borrow it from Mr. H. In addition to it's great cast - Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David to name a few - it's got lots of gory, gruesome, 1982 special effects. To sum up: alien lands in Antarctica (of all places) stay frozen until some Norwegian scientists thaw it out. It kills them and then moves on to the Americans. The rest of the movie is figuring out who has and hasn't been taken over by the alien and the alien systematically killing just about everyone in great, bloody scenes. The effects are a little dated, but the story line is good and there are lots of talking points for afterward including (1) why would this creature choose to be so ugly? (2) how on earth does it plan to fit back in that space ship (3) and did how did Wilford Brimley get his oatmeal while he was in Antarctica.
Saturday - The Reaping
You gotta love a movie that about the biblical plagues right? I mean, what's more fun than a unborn-again preacher and full time paranormal debunker, Hillary Swank, traveling to a little town in the bible belt where the river's turned red? Ah yes, we've got a river of blood, literally, dead fish and frogs falling from the sky. We've got cattle that are going crazy and dying, we've got boils and dead first sons. And in the end, we have a crazy bible belt town and crazy/innocent little girl at the center of it all. I'll admit, I was scared a good bit of this movie, which meant I watched it alternately through my fingers and with a blanket over my head. It was fun to figure out who really was the bad guys/girls were. Now, movies like this are what makes me happy I live in a big city where we know who the crazy folk are and if you're different than everyone else you're not chastised for it, you just move to a new neighborhood. However, like all movies with a biblical theme, there was even a lesson to be learned: never sleep with devil worshipers.
Sunday - The Plague*
What do you get when you cross Clive Barker, James Van Der Beek and zombie teenagers (wait, I thought JVDB was a zombie teenager) that's right, you get this convoluted horror flick that didn't even frighten me. OK, so here's the story. 10 years ago, all children aged eight and under fall into these weird comas. And by all, I mean all. Everywhere. Around the entire world. And new children, just born ones, they're in the coma too. So no more kids. Now, 10 years later, JVDB is out of jail for killing some guy in a barroom fight (what this has to do with the plot I'll never know) and he's coming back home to help his brother. That night (how's that for timing) all the kids wake up and start offing all of the adults. They're not really eating their brains, but putting their hands on their skulls and taking their souls (or something like that) by which they all learn what that person knows. So they have this big collective unconscious. Of course, they're fairly strong for being bed bound for 10 years. JVDB teams up with his ex-wife and some 19-year-olds (the last generation) to stop the kids. But they can't. Somehow JVDB realizes he has to give his soul willingly and it'll stop. So he does, and it does. Expect it doesn't. They're still there at the end and we're left wondering (1) why did the kids go in to the coma in the first place (2) why did they come out (3) what are they doing (4) was there a point to this movie.
* Unlike The Reaping, no mention of what exactly the plague is in this movie, plague of annoying, zombie teenagers I guess.

Shh...don't tell anyone I've gone shopping

I've signed up to be a secret shopper (and diner) with a couple of the secret shopper places. So far I've gone on two secret shops and tonight, Mr. H. and I are going to dinner. You don't really make that much money doing this (less than 10 bucks each time) but it's kinda interesting. I feel like a spy. One place I went, a popular clothing store, I didn't actually have to do any interacting with the sales people (other than to say "Just looking"). I just had to find some products and see if they had the sizes. It's funny because they make you memorize all these products types, so you can easily find them in the store. So you end up spending a bunch of time memorizing them in addition to the time in the store ( I think it took me about 45 minutes to find everything - of course, that included a 10 minute wait in the line for the dressing room so I could surreptitiously write some stuff down). So, the per hour pay isn't really that great. Plus, then there's the other types of shops, where you're directly reporting on sales people. I did this other office supplies store and I had to go around to several departments. I'm sorry to say that the employee who helped me, though very nice, and pretty much all I would hope for if I had been shopping, didn't try to "close the sale" so I had to report that. And then the person in the printing department was on break, and, of course, no one else in the store could help me, so that didn't reflect too nicely. Of course, if I had actually needed some printing done, I would have been annoyed with that. But still, it makes me feel a little bad to tell on these people who are basically working a crappy retail job that they (rightfully so) probably hate.

Tonight, Mr. H. and I are off to eat dinner at some bar/restaurant. You get a little money (5 bucks) but basically it's a free meal. And since we're trying to spend less money going out, doing these occasional dinners as places we've never eaten at before sounds like fun. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Getting to work

With the (yet once again) talks of raising transit fares ($3 a ride...are they kidding?), my desire to do some part for the environment, and my never ceasing dislike of my butt, I bought a bike and began riding to work occasionally. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I'd blog about my commute to show you what it's really like to hop and a bike and brave the traffic. This morning I finally managed to haul myself out of bed in time to do it. So here's the background information. My ride is a little over five miles, not really that far. I don't push myself to go fast because I'd rather get to work in one piece than in an ambulance. I take Milwaukee Ave. most of the way downtown. It's a pretty popular bike route, and I see lots of other riders. I see some that are already dressed for work. Now a lot of these people look like they have the types of jobs that let them wear jeans and a t-shirt, though I do occasionally see a guy that's in dress slacks. This is not me. I prefer to ride to work in sweats, get sweaty and then shower at the gym. Yeah, it means I'm at the gym a couple of times a day (three if I go to yoga at lunch and then go after work) but I'd rather do that than sit around in my once sweaty clothes all day at work.

So I did a Google map of my route. You can see it here.

So today I'm going to describe my ride from my house to Milwaukee Ave. (Follow along the map if you like).

Once I leave my apartment, get downstairs, get my bike from the basement, and hop on, I head East on Altgeld. Atlgeld is a one-way street between Fullerton and Wrightwood. Wrightwood has a shared bike lane on it, but since it's early, I just head down Altgeld to Kedzie. The only problem with riding down Altgeld is it is a narrow one way street. If there is a car behind me, I have to get over as far as possible to let them pass. If I don't do this quick enough, I will invariable get honked at or the car will pass so close to me I think they're trying to knock me over. But, I usually leave my apartment by 6:45 a.m., so there are not too many drivers.

After five blocks on Altgeld, I reach Kedzie. One of the pretty city boulevards, it's usually pretty easy to zip past this four lane street and onto Albany. Albany is a cute little quiet street that curves from Kedzie to Fullerton. It has a light at the end of the street, so it's easy for me to make the left turn on to Fullerton. After making the left, I'm on Fullerton for all of one-and-a-half blocks. I have to say, this is sometimes the worse part of my commute. Fullerton has no bike lane on it. It also has drivers that expect to be going over 30 and apparently don't have time to slow down for a bike. What makes it even more interesting is that in a couple of places, after Sacramento for example, the right lane gets pretty narrow, so cars have to go into the other lane to get around me (if there are cars parked, which there always are). I usually get honked at while riding down this stretch. Once I get closer to Milwaukee, a lot of cars will pass by me closely as they are speeding up to get in front of me to make the right on to Milwaukee. I always try to signal that I'm turning right, but it doesn't seem to matter.

All-in-all, my ride to Milwaukee takes about 10 minutes. I hope reading about it was as fun as it was riding it this morning. I'd like to make this series of posts interactive. Feel free to ask me questions about my commute and I'll respond to them.

Tomorrow: Milwaukee Ave. - Does having a bike lane make riding easier?

Monday, October 1, 2007

I added Google Analytics to my blog. So all those out there lurking but that never leave comments, I won't know who you are, but I'll know that you're out there lurking. Sometimes I think I'm just talking to myself (well and my three readers). Sometimes I think the only reason the page counter moves is because of me (and my three readers). But apparently over the weekend like six people checked out this blog (and I have confirmation from two of my three readers that it wasn't them). So thanks for coming by. One of the reasons I started this blog was to write more. And while sometimes I do write creatively (and I count my little movie and book reviews with that), most times it's just me babbling. So this week I'm going to start a story and publish it on Sunday. I'm not promising it'll be anything spectacular, just something. So I'm counting on you for keeping me to this.

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